Serbian village hopes its vampire will rival Dracula as tourist draw

A Serbian village, inspired by Dracula tourism in neighboring Romania, is hoping to capitalize on its own vampire legend.

As yet, an unmarked grave that could be that of Petar Blagojevic, a peasant who died in 1725, is not quite the spectacle of Bran Castle, which has become known as the home of Dracula and attracts visitors from around the world.

But that is not stopping the villagers of Kisiljevo, around 100 km (60 miles) east of Belgrade, from dreaming big.

Courtesy of Reuters.

The Bewitching Time Warp of Transylvania, Romania

It’s a bright August morning, and I’ve just begun driving around this achingly scenic part of central Romania, where the green hills are dotted with giant conical haystacks. As I make my way from one hamlet to another, occasionally stopping to peek inside magnificent 13th-century churches that once doubled as citadels, the welcome is not exactly warm. Pretty much everyone I pass—farmers weeding their fields by hand, groups of kids playing by the roadside, stooped women in head scarves carrying bags of tomatoes—sizes me up with a severe, wary look that seems to be some kind of Transylvanian Death Stare. Granted, whenever I pause to speak with anyone, the stern facade crumbles quickly; one young guy in a tracksuit cheerfully shows me how to scale a stone wall so that I can look around an abandoned medieval rectory. But in the next village, the intense glowers begin anew.

Courtesy of Condé Nast Traveler.

Look Back: Top Selling Albums of 1972

Recordings made by some of the biggest classic rock artists of the era dominated the list of 1972’s top-selling albums in the U.S. The chart, compiled by the former music industry trade magazine, Record World, features several all-time classics among the year’s Top 20 sellers, including legendary albums by Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones, Yes and Neil Young.

Courtesy of Best Classic Bands.

Use a Placeholder in Your Writing to Keep From Getting Stuck

Sometimes the hardest part about writing isn’t finding ideas or knowing how to begin, it’s maintaining a flow so you actually finish what you started. It’s not quite total writer’s block since you’re already on the move, but a writer’s road block, if you will. This trick that Star Trek: The Next Generation staff writers used can help you keep on truckin’.

I do this all the time. I once had a character named Mr. French Name.

Courtesy of Lifehacker.

Sarajevo City Guide: Were to Eat, Drink, Shop and Stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Capital

This previously war-torn city suffered the longest siege in modern history during the 1990s conflict, but today there’s much more to Sarajevo than battle scars. Nearly 25 years on, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing a radical transformation and boasts modern glass shopping centres, boutique hotels and a magical old town that feels like you’ve travelled through time.

Courtesy of The Independent.

Netflix Orders Vampire Drama ‘V-Wars’ to Series, Ian Somerhalder to Star

Netflix has given a straight-to-series order to a series adaptation of the “V-Wars” book series written by Jonathan Maberry.

The streaming giant has given the drama series a 10-episode first season order. Ian Somerhalder will star as Dr. Luther Swann, who enters a world of horror when a mysterious disease transforms his best friend, Michael Fayne, into a murderous predator who feeds on other humans.

Courtesy of Variety

Read Another Excerpt from Dreadful Penny

Happy Friday! Enjoy another excerpt from Dreadful Penny. Interested? Then click here to get your copy of Dreadful Penny today!

(Read Part 1 here.)

The Browns lived in an oversized brick Colonial on Crescent Avenue, nestled in among the other mansions, some of which dated back to before the Civil War. Giant maple trees shaded the yard, even in the bright afternoon sun. A fountain burbled in front amid a small formal garden.

“Fancy,” Zed muttered as they walked up the brick pathway to the front door. “Old family. Hopefully they have old money.”

Penelope rolled her eyes at his remark. “Oldish. As Greenville high society goes, they haven’t been around that long, only three generations or so.”

“How did they make their fortune?”

“Farm equipment.”

Zed stopped. “You’re joking.”

Penelope glanced back as she continued up the steps to the front door. “Do I look like I’m joking? It’s still how they make their money.” She motioned for him to join her on the stoop. “Now come on, and remember your manners.”

She rang the doorbell. No more than a few second passed before a man with a mane of white hair and a full beard opened the door.

Upon meeting Penelope’s gaze, he broke into a warm smile. “Penelope, it’s good to see you again.” He offered his hand, but hesitated when he noticed Zed behind her. “And Mr. …”

“McKay,” Zed offered.

“My assistant,” Penelope added.

Zed held up the Polaroid camera on the strap around his neck.

Penelope took Ephraim Brown’s still outstretched hand. “It’s good to see you again, too, Mr. Brown.”

“Please, it’s Ephraim.” He stepped aside and motioned for them to enter.

The house looked exactly as Penelope remembered. Directly in front of them, a set of stairs led to the second floor while a hallway extended straight back. The dining room, to the left of the entryway, boasted an antique table surrounded by eight chairs, all dark carved wood. A china cabinet spanned one entire wall, displaying plates and cups edged with tiny, painted pink roses. A crystal chandelier caught the light shining through the large picture window and threw rainbows onto the damask wallpaper.

To the right was the formal living room, crammed like the dining room with antiques—overstuffed, high-backed chairs, a settee, and lacquered tables all arranged around a brick fireplace with a faux oriental screen. Books lined built-in shelves, though Penelope had never seen anyone read any of them. Growing up, she’d been in awe of those two rooms. The idea that a house could be so big there were rooms that were never used amazed her. Almost as far back as she could remember, she and her dad had shared the apartment above the detective agency, the apartment where she lived alone now.

“I’m really sorry to hear about your father,” Ephraim said. “He was a good man.”

Penelope nodded. “Thank you. Yes, he was.”

“I wanted to attend the funeral, but I had … other obligations.”

Penelope held up a hand. “No need to explain. Everything was so sudden. No one really had time to prepare. Besides, Dad would have hated that we had a funeral at all. My grandmother insisted.”

“Well, it must have been a difficult time for her, especially.” Ephraim shook his head. “I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like to have to bury your own child.”

“Actually, she hates funerals, too. A waste of perfectly good flowers, she says, but she’d die herself before breaking with propriety.”

Ephraim chuckled. “I do remember Mrs. Drake being a force to reckon with.”

Penelope grinned. “She still is.”

Zed cleared his throat. “I think Penelope takes after her.”

Ephraim eyed him. “I’ve heard that.” He turned back to Penelope. “At any rate, thank you for taking time to come over here.”

Penelope jabbed an elbow in Zed’s side. “Mr. … Ephraim, you said you had a break-in?”

He pointed down the hallway. “They came in through the back door. We just noticed it this morning. I can show you. I haven’t let anyone touch the door or even go near it.”

He led them toward the back of the house, past the kitchen and a family room much less formal than the two front rooms. Penelope had spent quite a few evenings there watching old movies on the giant leather sectional or playing on the foosball table, more luxuries she had always envied. The hallway ended at a door that stood ajar. Beyond, Penelope caught a glimpse of the patio, the kidney-shaped pool, and a green expanse of lawn.

She approached the door and knelt to examine the lock. “Looks like it was picked, pretty expertly, too.”

Zed raised his camera and snapped a picture of the lock.

Penelope scanned the area around the door. “It rained yesterday. The ground would have been wet, but there aren’t any footprints. I don’t see any fingerprints either, although whoever did this probably wore gloves. If I had to guess, this wasn’t his first rodeo.” She looked back at Ephraim. “You didn’t hear anything?”

“Nothing,” he said.

Penelope stood. She traded glances with Zed, who was clearly thinking the same thing she was. Something about this break-in didn’t add up.

“Have you been able to figure out what was taken?” she asked. “Your television and stereo are still here, I noticed. Is the silver accounted for? Mrs. Brown’s jewelry? Any cash you have stashed away?”

Ephraim held up his hands. “That’s just it. Nothing seems to have been taken at all.”

“Is that why you don’t want to go to the police?” Zed asked.

Ephraim drew his mouth into a thin line. “Not exactly.”

Penelope studied Ephraim. He rubbed the back of his neck and chewed on his lower lip. She didn’t need a degree in psychology to know he was debating what to say next. “Then what is it?” she prodded.

Ephraim sighed. “Penelope, as I’m sure you know, your father had a reputation for handling … unusual cases.”

And there it was. The missing piece. Penelope gritted her teeth, wondering if she’d ever be out from under her father’s shadow, but then she reminded herself that she was getting paid. “Are you saying something about this break-in is unusual?”

Ephraim beckoned to Zed. “Come here. You’ll want to take a picture of this.”

He opened the door wider. On the back, deep, rough gouges marred the wood where three symbols were carved. They looked like letters, but not from any alphabet Penelope had ever seen.

Zed snapped a Polaroid.

Penelope traced the curved lines with her finger, almost, but not quite, touching the surface of the door. “Do you know what they mean?”

Ephraim scratched his beard. “I was hoping you would.”

Penelope studied the symbols. They seemed to stare back at her, with malice. “I’ll have to do some research.”

“Please,” Ephraim said, “anything you can find out.”

Penelope and Zed spent some time sweeping the rest of the house and the back yard for traces of the burglar before they took their leave. Penelope promised to get back in touch with Ephraim once she found out anything.

As she and Zed walked back to Penelope’s car, a bright red Camaro pulled into the driveway. The engine rumbled as the car idled for a few seconds before it shut off. A man stepped out. He was a good head shorter than Zed, and to Penelope’s eye, about twenty pounds heavier than he had been in college. When the newcomer spotted them, his eyebrows shot up in surprise, followed fleetingly by a sour expression that mirrored Penelope’s own feelings pretty well.

“Bertram Brown,” she said, “it’s been a while.”

He nodded, the tart lemon grimace replaced with a bland smile. “That it has, Penelope.”

A second or two passed while they stared awkwardly at each other.

“So, what are you doing here?” Penelope eventually asked.

Bertram motioned toward the house. “Dad called me. He said there was some trouble last night.”

“No, I mean here. What are you doing in Greenville? Last I heard you were in Atlanta being a general pain in the ass.”

He shrugged. “I moved back a few months ago. Many more opportunities to be a pain in the ass right here. Now it’s your turn. What are you doing here?”

“Your dad called me, too. He wants me to look into the ‘trouble’ as you called it.”

Bertram’s smile melted. “Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

He drew his mouth into a sneer. “So you’re still playing at being a private eye?”

She crossed her arms. “I’m not playing, Bertram.”

“Maybe you leave this one alone, Penelope.”

“That’s up to your dad.”

Bertram took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ll talk to him.” He gave a small salute and started to walk toward the house. “Good to see you again, Penelope.”

“What’s wrong, Bertram?” Penelope called after him. “Why don’t you want me working for your father?”

Bertram stopped. “Don’t get all bent out of shape. It’s nothing personal. I just think maybe this is a job for someone else.”

“Like who?”

“Someone with a little more experience.”

She glared. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that this isn’t a cheating husband. You don’t want to get in over your head.”

Penelope balled her hands into fists. “I’m really tired of having this conversation with people. I’ll be fine.”

His sneer returned. “You haven’t changed a bit, have you, Dreadful Penny?”

Penelope stiffened at the name. “Excuse me?”

Bertram took a step toward her. “You heard me.”

Zed moved to put himself between Penelope and Bertram, but she waved him off. “You know I wouldn’t even be here if our fathers weren’t fraternity brothers.”

“And that’s probably the only reason my dad called, but sometimes he puts too much stock in loyalty.”

“Did it occur to you we might actually be good at what we do?” Zed asked.

For the first time since he stepped out of his car, Bertram acknowledged Zed. “And who are you? The bodyguard?”

“Zed works with me,” Penelope said. “I don’t need a bodyguard.”

Bertram took another step forward. He was close enough for her to smell the beer on his breath. “Really now? Are you sure about that?”

How the New England Vampire Panics Worked (Podcast)

In the 19th century, in isolated villages and godforsaken towns in rural New England, people began to suspect their deceased family members had become undead. Thus began everything we know today about killing vampires.

The story of the New England vampire panics was one of the inspirations for my short story “Prudence Black” in my mini collection Mischief Madness Mourning.

Courtesy of Stuff You Should Know.

Hollywood’s First Black Vampire Flick Tackled the Slave Trade, Racism and Black Love in 1972

It was one of the first genre movies directed by a black director and starring a mostly-black cast that became one of the highest grossing films of 1972, the same year that brought us The Godfather and Cabaret. I’m of course talking about William Crain’s Blacula.

This is relevant to both Daughters of Shadow and Blood and Dreadful Penny.

Courtesy of The Mary Sue.

Dreadful Penny is Here!

Dreadful Penny is out today! Click here to order your copy today from Amazon.com! Or read for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Dreadful Penny

Sometimes the skeletons in the closet are real.

Greenville, South Carolina, 1972.

Penelope Drake knows the ghosts and demons lurking in her hometown aren’t just figurative. After all, her father’s spirit haunts the office of the detective agency she inherited from him.

When Ephraim Brown, an old friend of her father, asks Penelope to investigate a break-in at his home, she’s hesitant. Breaking and entering is normally something she’d leave for the police, but with no other prospects in sight, she reluctantly agrees. The simple burglary, however, turns out to be just the beginning, as the brutal supernatural attack that follows makes it clear someone is using dark magic to try to destroy Ephraim Brown and his family.

It’s up to Penelope, along with her wily assistant Zed and her friend Charles—who happens to know a bit of magic himself—to bring this scheme of revenge and murder to a halt before it’s too late. Because if they don’t, Penelope gets the distinct feeling the Brown family won’t be the hidden foe’s last target.