Real spooky stuff for Halloween

Disney buys “Star Wars”

Random House Penguin

“Random House Penguin”: sounds like a Captain Beefheart lyric or a Zippy catchphrase, doesn’t it?

A few years from now, the people in my critique group will still be trying to get signed on HachHarpMacmilPengRandSimoSchuHouse, or whatever the “Big One” will be called. 😈

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Early version of Vampire Syndrome: Sept. 2010 snippet

Here’s a previously unreleased snippet, © September 2010,

from the original version of Vampire Syndrome:

Who’s knocking? I hope it’s not Lilly.
What’s she saying? “Turn on the juice?” C’mon, sweetheart, I’m still half-asleep.
Wait, that’s not Lilly’s voice. It’s Zetania.
She knocks again and yells, “Turn on the news, Damien.”
“Be there in a minute,” I reply
The news? Did the Normals find Jack? Holy shit.
I reach over Stella, grab the remote and turn on the TV. Stella wakes up and asks me in a groggy voice, “What about the news?”
“Next on Eyewitness News,” the anchorman says, “A rancher has reported a mysterious cattle mutilation, north of Fort Morgan.”
Stella whispers, “Uh-oh.” She’s awake now.
Great. A Pure’s out in the sticks. Hopefully just one.
I put on my pajama pants, and rush to the door. Stella’s slips on her pink silk négligée. I let Zetania in, and she places her black duffel bag on my antique wood dresser.
“Hi, you two,” Zetania says.
I glance at the TV. A used car commercial.
“Tell those damn Pures to stay in Romania,” Stella replies.
Zetania unzips her duffel bag, and reaches inside.
“I’ll tell them with my Uzi,” Zetania retorts.
Look at that. The mini-Uzi made for the Romanian Military Police. Zetania didn’t even bother to paint over the “Poliţia Militară” logo.
“Do you need that just to hunt Jack?” Stella asks.
A news reporter comes on. “Last night in north Morgan County, cattle rancher Martin Rodriguez discovered the carcass of one of his cows, Mizzy. Mizzy was last seen alive around 7PM. Martin’s daughter found Mizzy’s carcass the next morning. The eyes, tongue, udder and tail had all been removed with surgical precision. The carcass was entirely drained of blood.”
The cow’s body appears on the screen. Zetania studies the TV picture.
“See how there’s not a drop of blood on the ground?” Martin asks the camera as he points to the grass.
“The Pures may have found out I left home,” Zetania says,”and one of them might be here in Colorado to ‘welcome’ me.”
“Maybe,” I suggest, “that secret airstrip of yours isn’t secret to them anymore.”
“They’ve never attacked it.”
“They’d be smart not to. They can just watch it from a distance. I bet they saw Lilly’s Gulfstream pick you up.”
“We have Security agents all over the area,” Zetania replies. “None of them have reported contact with any Pures.”
You’re focusing on the obvious, Zetania. A Venator needs to be a detective, not just a hunter.
“In Cluj, you all expect Pures to attack you, not evade you. My worry is when they don’t attack. That means they’re up to something. And at least one of your pale white shark-toothed friends made it here.”
“Do they still hide in shipping crates?” asks Stella.
“Yeah,” Zetania and I reply in unison.
They have to. They can’t pass for Normals, and their skin blisters and pops in direct sunlight. One reason why we moved the World Headquarters to Colorado back in 1904. Three hundred days of sunshine a year, average. A Pure’s worst nightmare.
“I’m worried there might be a group of Pures here,” I state. “They might be planning to hit this compound again.”
“No way, Damien,” Zetania snaps, “When Gl’Ag’s raiding party came here in 1904, you and Lilith killed his wife and three other Pures with your Gatling guns. And now you’ve stockpiled enough weapons to arm everyone here. Over five hundred of us.”
“Gl’Ag’s not gonna try and sneak up the main road again,” I say. “He barely made it out back in ’04, and we put a few bullets in him. We chased him as he ran away, but we couldn’t catch him. I’m still amazed that he made it back to your country. Today we have two guards with Miniguns, 24-7, in those same turrets Lilly and I used.”
“Gl’Ag? Didn’t you wreck your STI chasing him last year?” Stella asks Zetania.
“He snuck up on a Roma wagon camp,” Zetania replies. “That’s why I still check up on my distant relatives. They would have been easy prey for him, if I hadn’t been there.”
“Guess what Zetania was doing when Gl’Ag came?” I ask Stella.
“What?” Stella leans head toward me.
“The Gypsies were gathered around the campfire,” I explain, “and Zetania was reading them Vampire Moonlight: Bewareness.”
Stella laughs.
“What’s so funny?” Zetania asks.
“If there was such a thing as an irony meter,” I say, “you would have broken it. A real Vampire, reading a fictional vampire book to Gypsies who tell tales about real Vampires.”
“Better yet,” interjects Stella, “By chasing Gl’Ag away, she accidentally created a new Vampire tale for Roma folklore.”
Lady Dhamphir in the Black Subaru,” Zetania replies, “I’ve overheard it twice.”
Zetania’s so proud of herself. For blowing her cover, no less.
“Lucky you,” I growl. “Gypsies don’t tell their stories to outsiders,”
Zetania smiles and extends her fangs.
“Must be nice to live around Normals who don’t run their mouths,” I continue. “That lady in Grand Junction who backed her TrailBlazer into the ditch probably called the media before she called the tow truck. ‘Oh, I was getting away from a Vampire!’ Good thing no one believed her.”
“Normals don’t know about the hideout in Colorado National Monument,” Stella says, “Damien and I went there the next day, and we had a little talk with the squatters.”
“I told them if I had to come back again,” I state, “I’d bring Lilly with me.”
That sure got those little brats’ attention.

Vampire’s Confession: Free Short Story on Smashwords

I try to get through to you, in my own special way

My short story The Vampire’s Confession: Truth Or Con Sequences is free on Smashwords.

😈
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Becoming A Vampire

Jack discovers he is a Vampire

My front teeth still feel like they’re sticking out. I better go in the bathroom and look in the mirror.
Wow, I haven’t even turned on the light yet and it’s bright in here. It’s usually a bit dark in the bathroom before you turn on the light.
The mirror.
My eyeballs are black.
That’s impossible, my eyes are green.
My teeth.
Four of my teeth are sticking out, and they’re pointy. They look like fangs. I touch my fingertip to the point of one. Ouch! It’s sharp.
They are fangs.
My mind flashes back to the crazy Mexican lady in the pink shirt. The one who bit my neck.
She was a Vampire.
No, that can’t be right. Vampires don’t exist. And I’m not dead. I can feel my heart beating. It’s beating fast right now, cause I’m nervous.
That’s why those people came up and pulled her off of me. If they hadn’t, she would have drank all my blood and killed me.
I don’t want to have fangs. I wish they would go away.
I feel my fangs pulling back into my mouth. In the mirror, my eyes are green again. Now it’s darker in here. But it’s back to normal light, not like a big fluorescent light was on.
There’s blood stains on my shirt. I lift the fabric to my nose. It’s from the steak. Oh, that blood smells so yummy.
The bathroom becomes brighter as I feel my fangs come out again. My eyeballs turn black.
No, no fangs!
My fangs slide back into my mouth.
Hey, I can do this.
Out. There they are. Nice. Bright in here again.
In. They went back in. Cool. The light’s back to normal, but I’m not.
I’m a Vampire.
Can I turn into a bat?
I flap my arms and yell, “Bat. Bat. Bat.”
Nothing happened. Guess I can’t turn into a bat.
Oh my god, I better get out of here. Coach Ron and Diane will kill me, for real. Everyone always kills Vampires, at least in the movies. I better go find some other Vampires, ’cause at least I know they won’t try to kill me.
I dash to the bedroom and put on my blue jeans. I grab my wallet and put it in my pocket. Since I can’t turn into a bat and fly, I’ll still need my bus pass.
Shirt, I need a shirt. I grab my black t-shirt from the dresser. The one I got at the 10k run in San Francisco. “Special Olympics Changes Lives.” Not as much as my life has just changed.
I run to the front living room and grab my track jacket from the coat hanger. Coach Ron has several pairs of sunglasses on the table. I grab the darkest pair and put them in my jacket pocket.
Wait a minute. Will I melt if I go out in the sunlight? I don’t think so, I’m already by the window and sunlight is coming in. I’d be burning up by now if this was a movie.

John Franklin Stephens

I wrote a novel with a Down Syndrome protagonist, and I’m proud to say my character Jack Wendell is a dignified, wise being.. just like John Franklin Stephens!

John Franklin Stephens: “Using The “R” Word” essay (Denver Post)

The World of Special Olympics

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

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We All Dream Of Iced Screams

Wax Audio: “Enter You”

Time for another Vampire Syndrome snippet! 😈

I’m standing near the entrance of a cave. The stars and a crescent moon are the only lights in the sky, yet I can see all the colors of the surrounding landscape as clearly as if it was daytime. Deep green grass and bright green leaves in the bushes at night. How can this be?
A man in a long black coat points toward the cave. His deep voice startles me.
“It’s time, Jack.”
Time for what? I look at my watch. Three-thirteen a.m.
I take a step, then hesitate.
Somehow, I know I have to go in there. But I don’t want to. Not just because caves are so spooky. I know something’s in there, waiting for me.
The man clears his throat and points again.
I walk slowly to the entrance. Looks okay so far. Time to go inside. It’s dark in here, but I can see everything clearly. The rock walls are filled with little sparkles of gold. Is this an old gold mine? Or maybe it’s all fools’ gold, like in the prospector shop near Buena Vista that Coach Ron and Diane took me to when I was eight.
A crashing noise, coming from farther down in the cave, startles me. Could have been a rock falling. If I keep telling myself that, I might even believe it.
The tunnel becomes steeper as I go down. A very cold breeze is blowing hard on my back. How come I’m not shivering? I don’t even have a jacket on, just a t-shirt and jeans. My brain knows how cold it is, but my body isn’t bothered by it at all.
I pass through the end of the narrow tunnel. Check it out, I’ve just entered a huge underground cavern. The ceiling is full of pointy rocks. Some of them are dripping water. This looks like Carlsbad Caverns, but without all the bright lights. How come I can see all the colors? Lots of brown, green, red, orange and tan. This place is a rainbow of rocks. The white crystal coating on top of the big brown boulders in the right corner makes them look like a giant bowl of frosted cinnamon rolls. Wish I had my camera.
To my left, one of the icicle-shaped rocks breaks from the ceiling and lands in a puddle of water. Was that the same rock-falling sound I heard before? I hope it was. Maybe an icicle rock falling on the floor of this cavern sounds different in the tunnel than it does here. At least I hope so.
I feel an urge to enter the dark tunnel directly in front of me. As if someone inside is calling out to me. But I didn’t hear a sound.
“Jack.”
I heard it that time.
No, I didn’t hear it. It’s coming from inside my mind. Am I hearing voices?
“Jack.”
A woman’s voice. Doesn’t sound familiar, but for some reason, I recognize it.
Gold and silver sparkles on the walls light my way along the tunnel. I increase my pace from walking to running with no extra effort. Feels like I’m moving on a fast conveyor belt.
At the end of the tunnel, a small cave. A beautiful woman stands before me. Her long, curly black hair covers the shoulders of her gold-trimmed black dress.
I know her, she knows me.
Her head is bowed down. Tears trickle down her face. Why is she so sad?
The woman yells, “Look behind you.”
I whip my head around.
Two pale white ghosts. One man, one woman. Both crying out, “Jack.”
It was the ghost woman I heard back in the cavern. Same voice, but now she’s speaking directly to me.
I dash in front of the sad woman. She leaps into my arms and I carry her. How can I be lifting her so effortlessly? I’ve had a harder time lifting a bag of kitty litter.
More ghosts approach us. The sad woman screams in terror. I have to get her out of here.
I run. Fast. Too fast. Even carrying the sad woman in my arms, I’m zipping through the tunnels and caverns like I was downhill skiing. Except I’m running uphill. How can this be?
The echoes of the ghosts calling out my name fade in the distance as I dash up the last tunnel.
Once we escape the cave, a crowd of people watch as I stop running. I release her from my arms and she stands up. We wave to the crowd. She leans down to hug me, her long black hair brushing against me as she kisses my cheek.
The crowd applauds and hollers. I study the people. Where’s the man in the long black coat?
Several men hoist me into the air as the crowd chants my name. Awesome, I’ve become their hero. The woman I rescued begins swaying her hips like a belly dancer. Two women join her in the dance.
I look toward the cave entrance. The man in the long black coat went in there. Somehow, I know he did. I’ve gotta get him out of there. The ghosts will get him.
A woman’s voice. “Jack?”
A nudge on my shoulder. How can that be? I’m way on top of the crowd carrying me.
“Jack?” I know her voice.
Someone just touched my hair.

***

Special thanks to Emily Guido for featuring Vampire Syndrome in Fangs and Hearts Week! 😀

Fangs And Hearts Week – Review & Interview

Thank you so much for featuring me, Emily!