Vampire Syndrome 2009-2019: The Long, Strange, Epic Circle-Trip

On June 13, 2009, I conceived the world of “Vampire Syndrome”, the adventures of a young man with Down Syndrome suddenly thrust into the hidden underworld of Earth’s Vampires.

It’s now June 13, 2019, the tenth anniversary of the idea’s conception. If I hadn’t conceived of this saga, I’d be…

… exactly where I am right now, but with less Facebook friends. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

In 2009, I thought all this could be my ticket out of the mundane “worker bee” world. Ten years later, though, I’ve discovered some intriguing similarities between my “work path” and my “creative path”, where lessons I learned in one also applied equally to the other.

First, “work”. I’ve never been one to let a “standard job” (a position that can be performed by another person) define who I am. I didn’t hesitate to leave a job I’d held for 26ยฝ years, even though I incurred some notable losses to do so.

The reason? I saw firsthand what happens when someone’s regular job did define who they were. I watched a man who could have retired with a full pension in 2007, and who had a paid-for house and six figures in the bank; who instead chose to literally work himself into the grave, just because he enjoyed his duties on a clinically psychopathic level. Even after he became so debilitated that his doctors prohibited him from working, he drove several miles past several other stores, just to shop in ours.

In our seniority-based system, his refusal to retire also kept those of us under him “down a notch” for six years, all just so he could soldier on in vain until the doctors said he couldn’t.

Thanks to him, I swore I’d never be a “deadwood” in any endeavor, just taking up space when I could move on and let others rise up the ladder, as they should.

Turns out that 2007 would have been the perfect year for my co-worker to retire, for other reasons. Our employer and our store went into a tailspin in 2008/2009. Not notable in itself, as this happened “almost everywhere” at the time. The real problem was, we never recovered from the Great Recession. By the time I left my employer in Jan. 2016, we had less employee hours and sales that we did in January 2009! The saddest part about my co-worker’s fate is that his demise directly resulted from the increasing stress he had to endure from 2008 onward as our employer and store declined. I believe 100% that this man would still be alive and healthy today, if he had retired after 33 years of service in 2007 as he could and should have.

So, then, why did I stay as long as I did? To vest for my full pension credit, at 25 years of service. Becoming a “deadwood” is not for me, I will collect *my* pension the moment I can, and not a second later.

Once I had hit that 25-year mark, our employer had been bought out in a merger with another chain. Two once-big names, joining together to “increase their economies of scale.” Sound familiar? It should. Studebaker (America’s earliest mass-production vehicle manufacturer) and Packard (America’s premier volume luxury car brand before WWII) joined in this manner in 1954. Sears (America’s largest department store and catalog-order retailer for decades), joined forces with Kmart (America’s largest discount store chain, for several decades) in 2004.

Studebaker-Packard ceased auto manufacturing in 1966, twelve years after their merger.
Sears/Kmart; well, if you live in the United States, you already know how that’s turned out. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ
CNBC Article “Sears was toast since KMart merger”

Thus, after the merger, I expected our new ownership to tout the new company’s “increased economies of scale”as being our salvation, and enabler of future growth. Also known as the inevitable “warning cue” that the new merged-out-of-necessity company will eventually die at some point in the future, because the resulting combined company doesn’t have the size scale that even one of its halves had at their peak (as with Sears/Kmart and Studebaker/Packard, among others).

Problem was, this time our “new” company wasn’t even pretending anything would improve (at least here in Denver), so I knew it was time to get out of there, “yesterday”. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

Indeed, by all accounts related to me by current employees and customers, conditions have become even worse since I left. I now suspect the company’s Denver arm is a prime candidate to be bought out by Amazon, who is starting a new conventional grocery chain to supplement their premium chain, Whole Foods. Amazon is slated to open the first stores in the new chain by end of 2019. And Amazon lockers are now popping up in my former employer’s stores, possibly a “clue in plain sight” as to their fate. I could have been out on the street next year, and lost out on seven years’ worth of pension payments, had I not left when I did back in 2016, when the getting (out) was good.

***

While all this unfolded, a parallel development occurred in my life. In early 2009, a co-worker lent me the four Twilight Saga books. I thought to myself, “I could write something better than that.”

So I did.

Without any objective analysis of whether such project would be commercially viable, or could even reach its intended audience.

Since I also wanted my project to be “Better than Twilight” on an actual technical writing level as well, I enlisted in a highly regarded professional writing critique group, and refined “Vampire Syndrome” to the Nth degree for three years, whilst during this same time period E.L. James was beginning to post the fan fiction that eventually begat her “Fifty Shades Of Grey”series.

Perhaps my goal should have been to be technically “worse” than “Twilight”, not “better”, but that’s another story. James’ story, to be exact. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ
Don’t #AskELJames , Don’t Tell

Once “Vampire Syndrome” was completed in 2012, every ‘creative’ person I encountered gushed over this “million-dollar idea”, and I received nothing but encouragement to seek publication for it. The major New York publishers all passed on it, in their search for the next big cash cow (which turned out to be, you guessed it, “Fifty Shades Of Grey”!).

A small press, PDMI Publishing, LLC, picked up “Vampire Syndrome” in 2013, and it appeared at least I could make some sort of mark with it, in spite of the Big Five’s lack of enthusiasm for so-called “million-dollar ideas”.

The problem there was, the local bookstores for whom the small presses had traditionally looked to as targets to distribute their books to, started to turn their collective noses up to any books not published by the Big Five, dooming hundreds of small presses to their demise within a few years. In a stunning irony, the decline of national chain bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble enabled the local bookstores to take their place as relentless pushers of “Big Five books only”.
How Indie Bookstores Are Killing Indie Books

In an even higher level of irony, the local bookstores’ hitching their wagon exclusively to the Big Five also means they are quite dependent on Barnes & Noble’s continued existence as well. If the new owners of B&N ever decide to liquidate the chain, the Big Five will take a huge hit, likely shrinking to the Big Four or even Three to blood-let down to the level where local bookstores and mass retailers would be able to support what’s left of them. Which will also greatly reduce the diversity of the books on local’s shelves. The perfect karmic payback for their rejecting the small presses. All the small press books and authors they could have been selling have long since gone off to Amazon, taking with them the shelf diversity local bookstores once prided themselves on.
Kristen Lamb:
Play to Win: Authors, Empires & Why Amazon is Killing NYC Publishing
Barnes & Noble SOLD: Goliath has Fallen & What This Means for Writers

With the Big Five New York publishers’ acquisition standards becoming more and more restrictive and formulaic as time marched on, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing became inundated with books, making “discovery” a huge problem for all non best-seller authors. Just type in “vampire” into Amazon’s Search, and you’ll see what I mean. And now the Big Five’s standards have tightened to the point where authors will only send them the type of projects they think will be the next “trend” for the Big Five to acquire. If “bullying” is the next perceived trend, literary agents’ inboxes will soon be filled with queries for “bullying” novels. We have reached a point where authors will not even bother to query the unique works they created from their “heart”, leaving those works to the vast, in-discoverable voids of Amazon, and we are all the poorer in creative reader and author spirit for this.

So, once PDMI closed its doors, my two completed Vampire Syndrome Saga novels headed for Smashwords, because I admire Mark Coker’s business model and his dedication to the true spirit of independent author voices, which the Big Five publishers and their local bookstore “pets” have long since foresaken. It also doesn’t hurt my “discoverability” that there are only half a million or so books on Smashwords, versus twelve-million plus on Amazon, meaning someone is “24 more times likely” (in general statistic terms) to discover my book through a keyword search.

I did mention that other ‘creatives’ such as fellow authors, just loved my “million-dollar idea”. One of them was Joel Eisenberg, Hollywood development producer and author of his own “The Chronicles Of Ara” book series. Joel, a former teacher for special-education students, loved my character Jack Wendell, a young man with Down Syndrome, and how Jack dealt with the challenges of being accepted into a world of Vampires who were biased against him to the point of ordering Jack’s assassination.
Joel Eisenberg Review of “Vampire Syndrome”

So Joel, God bless him, pitched “Vampire Syndrome” as a television project through the inner hallways of Hollywood.

Which turned out pretty much like I suspected it would. Hollywood, like the Big Five, goes for the easy money cash cows. Sequels, reboots, etc. If nothing else, at least my project left a few Hollywood execs hunched around Beverly Hills meeting room tables scratching their heads going “WTF?”, during pitches that briefly interrupted their plans to reboot some other very-well-known property for the eighth-zillionth time. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

Same thing as the Big Five. The ‘creatives’ loved it, but as far as the “suits” are concerned, my “million-dollar idea” won’t buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The unique curse of my “million-dollar idea” was that only some other creatives were excited about it, when I had really written it to reach John and Jane Q. Public. People said they wanted something “better and more original than Twilight”; I built it, but they didn’t come. The “suits” and the public went for Fifty Shades and the endless reboots instead.

Not exactly encouragement for me to write any “hundred-thousand-dollar” ideas, is it? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

So, as I close the chapter on the Chapters and move on with my life, I can reflect on my epic, strange circle-jerk to “nowhere”; a Hunter S. Thompson-worthy grand hallucination that somehow came full circle to where I started, leaving me with a new and profound appreciation for how good my “normal” life really is. If I wish to indulge in some “vain hope” in the future, I can just buy some lottery tickets. After all, the odds are about the same as making it big in the publishing world, and it doesn’t consume a year or more of all your free time (plus editing, formatting, cover design, promotion, et.cetera, afterward!) just to write a lottery ticket. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ
Finally, I have a well-reasoned comeback for anyone who ‘critiques’ me for buying lottery tickets. A few seconds each time of handing over $5 every now and again, or years and years spent writing tales that are ignored? Damn, I might be too rational to be an author, now that I think about it. Authors always seem emotionally attached to their creations, their characters; but if no one else relates to your characters, what’s the point?

There I go making sense again…

If anything about all this disappoints me, it’s that my saga had the potential to raise general awareness about people with special needs, and possibly have opened/changed minds of some of the prejudiced. But it could not do this without reaching wide distribution, and without the ” suits’ ” support, this will never happen.

Thus, the time I would have spent writing “in vain” is much better spent by volunteering for Special Olympics and other organizations that make a real (not fictional) difference in the lives of those with special needs.

Instead of “writing to make a difference”, I will make a difference in the real world. The “sword” (physical action) is now mightier than the “pen” (ideas/concepts), in this case.

And, unlike so many other blogs from the “early 2010’s heyday of blogging” that just ceased after some random post, this one gets a proper closure.

To sum it up, my advice is “Never forget the original purpose of why you are doing something.” Keep asking yourself, “Are my long-term actions still true to my original goals and intent?” Most important, if you are no longer fulfilling your original purpose (without a better purpose taking its place), take corrective action.

There are the rare few whose long-term vocations/avocations evolve into a better purpose than was originally planned. If this is your case, you are truly blessed. Carry on!

The rest of us are still lucky to stay true to the original purposes. I joined my former employer thirty years ago, for a safe, secure career with a long-term company. Twenty-five years later, the long-term security of my career became questionable. So I quit.

My goal with writing fiction was to reach the public, cause relevant discussions, inspire people, and in the best case provide the spark for some people to overcome their prejudices. Despite the love for the story shown by a few other creatives along the way, this didn’t happen. So I quit.

Thank you to all who supported me over the ten years of this “trip”.

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Vampire Syndrome: The Spotify Playlist

All over the map, just like my Vampires.
Vampire Syndrome Playlist – Spotify

Serial Killer: How The Binging Culture Affects Serial Fiction And Its Authors

The blogging world seems to agree on one thing: Pay the writer.

And we should. Without fiction and its authors, what sort of “culture” would exist?

There are plenty who won’t pay the writer, but even those who pay the writer can cause problems.

I’m talking about the practice of waiting for a book series to be completed, before buying it.

The Netflix Binge-Watching Culture has begun to bleed into the book world, and authors and publishers are already feeling the effects of this change.

Would we be able to read the Harry Potter Series today if everyone had waited until J.K. Rowling had finished writing “Deathly Hallows” to buy the series?

No.

If “The Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone” had not sold as well as it did, Rowling’s publisher likely would have dropped her, and the rest of the series might have ended up in the endless lower reaches of Amazon KDP, waiting an eternity to be discovered.

Of late, a few people have even had the nerve to suggest that, in this binge-reading climate, that publishers should not acquire trilogies and the like, until the author has finished writing the entire series. I guess these people would have wanted Joanne to stay on the dole for years and years more than she had to. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

In these days of shrinking advances, almost all authors have to work a day job, which consumes a large amount of time that could otherwise be spent writing. The general readership, by and large, seems to be blissfully unaware of this situation, and expects authors to crank out a 100,000 word masterpiece of a sequel in a few weeks.

Holding off on buying the first volume of a series “until the author is finished”, therefore insures the author has to continue to work their day job, slowing down the writing of the sequels, and may even doom the series outright if the publisher sees this as simply “bad sales”. Publishers are becoming more risk-averse by the minute, and they want results. The Big Five New York publishers were once known for developing properties they believed in, and giving them time to grow. Nowadays, you’re lucky if any publisher will ‘invest’ in further series development if the first volume doesn’t take off immediately.

All this notwithstanding, there are some compelling arguments for authors not to shop a series around until they’ve completed writing it. Prospective publishers will know in advance ๐Ÿ˜‰ exactly how the series ends, and they don’t have to ‘worry’ about the author going off on some unforeseen wild tangent. Which makes me wonder if The Twilight Saga would have ever been picked up if they had been able to read the completed “Breaking Dawn” manuscript, replete with its gory birth scene, Jacob’s questionable imprinting, et cetera. Even if publishers reject the author’s completed series, the author can upload the whole series at once to Amazon KDP and (if nothing else) satisfy the “binge-reader” contingent.

We live in an impatient, instant-gratification culture, where authors and publishers will have to adjust their perspectives to stay relevant. We do need to educate the reader body that creating a series under these constraints in never easy, and on how readers’ early sales support keeps the books flowing. Publishers also need to keep in mind how the “binge-reader” culture affects early volume sales of serial fiction.

We may be heading for “don’t quit your day job until after you’ve finished your series” territory, nonetheless….

Five-Star Review from TV/Film Producer Joel Eisenberg

“Vampire Syndrome” just received a five-star review from Hollywood TV/Film producer Joel Eisenberg. ๐Ÿ˜€


After Reading “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome,” I Felt As Though I Had Never Read a Vampire Novel Before.
By Joel Eisenberg, Author of The Chronicles of Ara on October 17, 2015

Really, how many variations of the vampire theme can there possibly be? Surely, this genre is well-worn; what can possibly be done to rejuvenate it?

Welcome, “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome.” I promise, you have never read a vampire book like this one.

Let’s begin this way: Jack Wendell, a Special Olympics champion with Down Syndrome, is turned into a vampire (hence the Vampire Syndrome in the title). That enough? Then how’s this: Jack strives for acceptance within his new community and is immediately ordered to be killed. Read Daven’s synopsis on this site. It’s all there. He’s not joking about “space alien Pure vampires” either.

Somehow, Daven Anderson makes it all work. The story is metaphoric for sure, but man is this work compelling. There’s a good deal of tongue in cheek here but not once did I feel the author or his story pandered. This is a compelling work.

Jack Wendell is a character unique to modern fiction. Characters with Down Syndrome have been used frequently in media, see the television shows “Life Goes On” or “American Horror Story.” Autistic protagonists too have been used widely in literature over the past 25 years, but in lit circles fully drawn characters with Down Syndrome have been rare.

Here though is something different and I hope I express this as I mean to: Jack is ‘cool.’ Do I feel sorry for him as he runs from his death sentence? Of course. Am I curious about his budding friendship with Lilith, who will attempt to save him? Yes. But more than this, I lose track of any disabilities on the part of the main character, and root for him as I would for anyone. And then it comes back to me that I’m reading a tale about a boy – a vampire – with Down Syndrome and I’m compelled to credit the author all the more.

This is a special novel and certain to be a special series. Daven is clearly a unique author. He is also a special educator and knows this world well. Jack is a real person to me, in an extraordinary circumstance.

The conflicts inherent therein make for the best of fiction. This is one of my very favorite novels that I’ve read all year.

Kudos Mr. Anderson. A remarkable, fun work.

Joel Amazon Review - Screengrab

Book Signing this Saturday at 2nd & Charles FlatIron Crossing, Broomfield, Colorado

Can a Vampire with Down Syndrome survive, and even thrive?

Find out at my book signing this Saturday, April 4th, 2015, from 1pm to 5pm, at the 2nd & Charles store in FlatIron Crossing, Broomfield, Colorado. Get your copy of Vampire Syndrome signed, and check out the great selection of books, movies, games, music and musical instruments while you’re there.

2nd and Charles Signing Flyer Apr 2015 Negative

Vampire Syndrome Book Trailer

Here’s the first book trailer for Vampire Syndrome. An old-school creepy Halloween feel!

Bitten By Books – Review of Vampire Syndrome

Bitten By Books Review of “Vampire Syndrome” by Daven Anderson

I’d like to thank Marie for her honest and thoughtful review! ๐Ÿ˜€

For anyone concerned that using a character with Down Syndrome may be exploitative, do not worry. Jack proves he is capable of filling a valuable place in the vampire community, and he draws frequent parallels to the way regular society short-changes their expectations of people with DS.

As I intended! ๐Ÿ˜€

There may also be concerns that characters pan a vampire book/movie series based with no veil whatsoever on Stephanie Meyerโ€™s Twilight series.

This may also be a selling point to many readers. ๐Ÿ˜‰
I did use the in-universe “Vampire Moonlight” series as an opportunity to show how I would have written a similar paranormal romance. 17-year-old human Janet Zachary is an apprentice professional drag racer, and at one point uses her race car to rescue her vampire boyfriend. Janet would have more crossover appeal to male readers, and this setup above establishes her as a strong female, not a pushover. Instead of just criticism or satire, I use my in-universe series to suggest how (I think) that particular series could have been substantially improved. And…

…one of the strongest vampire characters loves the series and does not care what anyone says about it, so both sides are covered.

I do want to address this quote below, as this is not the first time someone has made this criticism.

(Jack) uses logic and problem solving skills I found unrealistically advanced for someone with DS.

Jack is a composite of several people that I have worked with over the past twenty years. Two of them have read my book, and they both felt I was spot-on regarding Jack. Jack’s logic and problem-solving skills are in line with those whom I have worked with, who deal with customers in a retail environment on a continual basis. I will admit that it does require a certain level of aptitude regarding logic and problem-solving skills to work in a job requiring constant interaction with the public, but this applies to people at all levels of cognition, and there are many, many people of “normal” cognition who are not at all suited to working in retail. The movie “Where Hope Grows” features a main character with Down Syndrome who works in a grocery store (and its lead actor would be a great candidate to play Jack!).