Healing Halloween: Why Everybody Should Be a Vampire

At some point, perhaps before I was born, Halloween stopped being scary. All these doctors and lawyers, ball players and ballerinas, soft-bellied superheroes and skanky Strawberry Shortcakes. I did Halloween no favors when—in my younger, more naïve years—I dressed up as He-Man, Michael Jackson, and a vaguely Asian martial arts expert I called Karate Man. As He-Man, I wore one of those plastic jumpsuits (sans mask). As Michael Jackson, I wore my red leather jacket, ala "Beat It," as well as a pair of ill-fitting black pants. For Karate Man, I wore a pair a pajamas that reminded me of Bruce Lee, so, in a pinch, I figured they'd do.

While I was certainly adorable, I wasn't scary. It wasn't until about the sixth grade when it occurred to me that there was something wrong, though I couldn't put my finger on it. I'd already discovered the joy of creating my own costumes, no pre-packaged pirates or cowboys for me. A simple mask and wig will work wonders. Or some relatively simple face paint.

One Halloween, I had my brother paint a skeleton on my face; in order to insure accuracy, I brought him the "S" encyclopedia and turned to a page with a photo of a skull (as, of course, this was before the convenience of the Internet). In junior high, I took a Rastafarian hat with fake dreadlocks, pulled it over my face like a mask, and secured it by tying a bandana around my forehead; I could only just barely see through the knit cap, which made trick-or-treating a bit tricky, but, without question, mine was the spookiest costume of the night.

As I've gotten older, I continue to enjoy Halloween, but I've also become more annoyed that this fun, spooky holiday gets treated like a silly little costume party—which, of course, it is. But, it's not just a costume party. It's a scary costume party. It's why we watch horror films and walk through haunted houses, carve pumpkins and spray fake blood on perfectly good clothes. Now I know many of you reading this have sensed the same problem as me, but you don't know what to do about it. You don't know how to fix it. Well, fear not my Halloween loving friend, I've got a simple solution.

Be a vampire.

That's it. Problem solved. Whatever costume you were going to wear, no matter how un-spooky it is, doesn't have to change. Simply add vampire teeth and now, all of sudden, you're a vampire doctor or a vampire ballerina—or a vampire skanky Strawberry Shortcake. You'd almost certainly win the costume contest at your friend's Halloween party, walking away with a Starbucks giftcard worth no less then ten bucks. Picture a costume in your head—anything at all—and then add vampire teeth.

Now, for anybody who knows me, they know this is not a new idea. I've been campaigning for folks to dress up as vampires for years. And, to prove my point, I committed myself to dressing up as a vampire every year for Halloween. That was three years ago. In that first year, I was a Victorian-ish vampire, reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula, whom I called Victus. Before that day was over, I'd already decided that, the following Halloween, I wanted to be a vampire clown. And, for this year, Halloween 2012, I decided to be a vampire farmer. All of these costumes would've been terribly boring and un-Halloween-y, without the addition of vampire teeth (and, of course, some fake blood).

Were you thinking about dressing up as a celebrity for Halloween? That's fine, too, just make them vampires. You wanna be the coolest couple at the party? Show up as Vampire Kim Kardashian and Vampire Kanye West. Or maybe you were thinking about being a historical figure. Imagine how much better your costume would be with fangs. Vampire Hitler, anyone? You can thank me later.

Now, as for the actual vampire teeth, you have some options. There are, of course, the classic teeth which you wear like a clumsy, plastic retainer. You can't talk with them and you'll drool all night, but you can find them for about a dollar or so most anywhere around this time of year. There is the slightly more expensive option, which involves the frustrating and painstaking effort of of molding the vampire fangs to your own teeth. I prefer the latter, but there's nothing wrong with the former. And, of course, you'll find plenty of options in between, ranging in price and level of convenience.

So, there you have it. No more excuses. Halloween is meant to be spooky, so let's keep that it that way. And remember, when it doubt, just add vampire teeth.

A Vampire Appetizer

In the summer of 2011, I officially threw my hat into the arena of publishing, releasing my debut novel Inside the Outside. While I've spent a great majority of the last year promoting my novel, working tirelessly to build my readership, I've also been working just as tirelessly on my second novel, The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl.

When I first penned "Adam & Olivia," I wasn't sure if it would simply be a short story or the beginning of something longer.  Naturally, I began writing a second story, just to see if this vampire idea of mine had any legs. That story became "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter." Between "Adam & Olivia" and "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter," I knew I had the first two chapters of my next novel.

While I had no idea what the novel would actually be about or how Adam, Jesus, and Olivia—the vampire, the hunter, and the girl—would come to affect one another, I felt confident that there was enough potential there to warrant a novel.

Well now, here we are in 2012 and that little seedling of an idea is nearly complete. The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl is loosely slated to be released in 2013. In the meantime, I've released both "Adam & Olivia" and "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter" exclusively in Amazon's Kindle Store, as Vampire Shorts.

Each Vampire Short, in my estimation, can be read and enjoyed as self-contained stories, but they can also be enjoyed as companion pieces. And, in the big picture, I hope they will whet your appetite in anticipation of the forthcoming publication of my second novel.

10 Questions for... Gianna Perada

Gianna Perada is a dark fiction writer who, before becoming a novelist, worked for several years as a copy editor and book layout designer for small publishing houses and independent authors.

Growing up in North Beach during the late-70s/early-80s, Gianna fell in love with writing at the precocious age of seven, when her mother bought her a diary  for Christmas. Gianna used her diary to pen short stories with dark undertones, influenced by two of her favorite TV shows, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Twilight Zone, as well as her favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe.

I had the good fortune of meeting Gianna in May of 2012 at the awards ceremony for the San Francisco Book Festival, where her debut novel, Blood Life, was being honored. We got along like old pals, talking about writing and publishing and vampires, among other things. We've stayed in contact since the ceremony in San Francisco and I'm very pleased to consider her both a friend and ally.  So, without further ado, here are 10 questions Gianna Perada.

1. What would you like readers to know about Blood Life?

Originally entitled Vrykolakas, which is an archaic Greek term for vampire, Blood Life is a book I initially completed close to 15 years ago. I had serious issues with letting it go. It was an enormous part of my soul. I’ve revised and downright rewritten it countless times since, never really ready to call it done. This was my way of truly finishing it. I have a huge file of rejection letters from queries I’ve sent out over the years. I did eventually land a New York agent at one point somewhere in the middle, but after doing more work than he ever did with it in two years’ time, I terminated our contract and decided to continue myself.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities? 

Oh, so many have fueled my inner fire! Anne Rice is definitely at the top of the list. Others include Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Anne Bishop, Anaïs Nin and Pauline Réage.

3. As of this interview, your book as been honored in both the San Francisco Book Festival and the New York Book Festival. Has this newfound notoriety affected your writing? 

I don’t think it’s affected my writing per se, but it has definitely motivated me to keep writing. Every author is insecure about their first born; I don’t care what they say. And I don’t care if they’re published by a big house or self-published. All of them have reservations and anxiety at some point: How will it be received? Should I really say that? Will people understand what I’m trying to get across? Will readers be forgiving of any slights in the text? What happens when I get my first one-star review? It seems like these two little awards, which are huge to me, lessened those insecurities. I definitely feel like I won’t be quite as affected by any negative reviews or strong/harsh critiquing I receive.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Blood Life?

I created a Facebook Fan Page; I placed a very targeted ad to help build a following there (which was surprisingly affordable and nicely aimed at the right audience since I set all the filters carefully). I joined Twitter which I was totally against, being a Facebook whore, and taught myself how to use it because it looked like Chinese to me. I set up my first live book signing, which doubled as a local book release party, at my favorite local indy bookstore: Copperfield’s Bookstore in Petaluma, CA. I just signed up with Amazon’s KDP Select program; I have a love/hate relationship with it, but I decided to give it a go.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I do not outline my work. Instead, I have a few works-in-progress, or books that I’ve sat down and started writing from the beginning. Depending on the mood I’m in, I pull up a given file, sit at my keyboard, and channel the muse. Then my fingers start moving on their own and I just go with it. That is always how it is. Half the time, I go back and read what I’ve written and decide if I’m elated or disgusted and then act accordingly.

6. What separates Blood Life from the slew of other vampire novels currently on the market?

Well, the easy (maybe egotistical) answer is that I feel it is bringing vampires back around to how they were originally perceived: as manipulative predators. And mine are not sippers; they tear humans apart and drink to the very last drop. Also, I threw in witches for good measure, and the interbreeding of the two races: the Combined. New, unique, and wildly conflicted, with a Goddess of their own. It also feels like there are a zillion YA vampire stories popping up everywhere; my book is NC-17.

7. What drove you to write Blood Life?

Blood Life began as a short story I went home and started writing directly following an incident at my JC Creative Writing class. The professor, a horrible bitch that was fired the following year for having too many complaints filed against her, gave us a writing assignment and instructed the class to choose any topic we wanted. She said it just like that, too, and people ooh’d and ahh’d about it. The point was to cite references used in the paper to other writers and their respective works. So… I chose vampires as my topic and cited authors such as Montague Summers (who wrote some non-fiction on the topic back in the day) and well-known fiction authors on the subject like Anne Rice and Bram Stoker. During the oral presentation, I had the class going strong! It was great. They were very much into it and asking a million questions which I answered to the best of my ability regarding vampire lore both in fiction and non-fiction. When the class ended, the teacher asked me to stay after class. When everyone was gone, she said, “I’m giving you a D on your assignment.” I asked why and she said, “Because I didn’t like your topic. I felt it was totally inappropriate and not at all what I asked you to do.” Confused and irritated after clearly doing so well, and exactly what she instructed, I flipped her off (making sure she understood my gesture by promptly telling her to fuck off), ripped my paper out of her hand, and left that class never to return. But, lucky me, because Blood Life may not have happened at all if it hadn’t been for that incident. Come to think of it, I should hunt her down and send her a copy with a little thank-you note.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I see myself writing a minimum of one book per year, so five years from now I should be on my fifth story! Also, hopefully with a movie contract behind me because Blood Life is such a candidate for the big screen! Oh, and also a big backing publisher paying me fat advances so I can write full time. If I get that, I’ll easily give ‘em two books a year. Happily. Bring it!

9. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a book called Devendra, which is a prequel to Blood Life.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day? 

Keep writing no matter what! And have as many eyes that you trust look it over to offer feedback so you can fine-tune your craft. Don’t be afraid to say things you wouldn’t normally say in life, and never, under any circumstances, sell yourself out for fear that the world won’t accept you. They will. You’d be surprised. Your niche will come to you. Dare to be different! And READ READ READ. Reading nurtures a writer’s soul like nothing else. We all learn from each other and I love that.

And there you have it. I’d like to thank Gianna Perada for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Gianna and her writing, you can visit Gianna Perada: Official Website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

A Halloween Special: PART TWO

For Halloween this year, I was a vampire clown.

It's an idea I came up with last year, while I was working on my costume for that Halloween - which you can read about in "A Halloween Special: PART ONE." While I don't begrudge anyone their costume ideas, I've long been of the mindset that, in order to properly celebrate the spirit of the day, Halloween costumes should attempt to be scary, spooky and/or creepy. If you want to be a sexy nurse or rugged cowboy, then save it for some other costume party. Halloween is not simply a day of fantasy, but a day of scary fantasy. It's why horror movies break box office records in October and why, in Southern California, Knott's Scary Farm has been a Halloween staple for as long as I can remember.

Some time ago, I developed the theory that any costume could be made Halloween-appropriate by simply adding vampire teeth. You can, for example, be a vampire nurse or a vampire cowboy, without having to compromise the rest of your costume. Last year, as I was putting together my vampire costume, it occurred to me that I should put my theory to the test on an annual basis.

So, even before last year's festivities were over, I knew that for this Halloween I would be some other sort of vampire. And when trying to think of fun juxtapositions, I came up with the creepy idea of being a vampire clown. Of course, I didn't know exactly what this vampire clown would look like or how I would pull it off, but I was confident that, when the time came, I would figure out.

As the day approached, I began perusing the various Halloween stores that open up every fall. Many of the stores I went to had entire clown sections, which was very helpful. The first items I bought were a rainbow afro wig, rainbow suspenders, and rainbow socks. I also picked up a pair of white clown gloves that ended up being way too smile, despite being advertised as suitable for most sizes; so I cut off the fingertips of the gloves in order to make them fit. Next, I picked up some grease paint. I had no real idea what I wanted my face to look like, nor did I have any significant experience in applying makeup; I was simply hoping that, when the time came, I'd figure something out.

For the main clothes, I knew I wanted an oversized pair of clown shoes and pants. So, for those items, I went to Goodwill. I found a large pair of tennis shoes and a pair of powder blue pants with a much too big waistline. I spray painted the shoes red, which turned out to be fast and easy. For the pants, I cut them to just below the knees in order to insure my rainbow socks would be properly displayed.

Finally, because I was going to be a vampire, it made sense that I should incorporate blood into my costume. I picked up a bottle of fake blood and used it to first stain a white T-shirt I'd be wearing. I wanted the stains on the shirt to look like I'd just fed on somebody. I also used the blood to stain the pants, but for these stains I wanted to simulate the handprints of my (hypothetical) victim. So, I put on a pair of rubber gloves, spread some fake blood on the flat of my hands and proceeded to smear my hand prints down the legs of the pants.

My parent's were hosting a Halloween party on Saturday night, so that would be the unveiling of my costume. I'd been able to work out everything but the makeup. I decided, for whatever reason, I wouldn't practice the makeup, but rather I would just go for it on the night of the party. I think I hoped to discover some innate ability for makeup that I never knew I had. As it turned out, I made no such discovery.

I did, however, watch a video on YouTube for applying clown makeup. While it turned out to be not so helpful, I was at least amused by the model who seemed terribly unhappy to be in the video. My inability to apply makeup ultimately worked in my favor, as the rough application of my clown face added to the creepiness of the overall character.

All and all, the costume was a success. And, while this was validated by my winning Best Costume , the real reward came from scaring the children at the party (as well as my cousin, who, it turns out, is deathly afraid of clowns). Now, I suppose, it's time to start planning for next year. What sort of vampire will I be in 2012? I'll let you know in about 12 months.

Happy Halloween!