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body snatchers
NOTE: This review contains spoilers, so read only if you choose to.
Ever since the 1956 black and white classic movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was released certain phrases became part of everyday life for most folks.  I’ve heard things like:  Pod person?  Have you checked his/her basement for any giant seed pods?  So-and-so is acting weird, you think he/she might’ve been switched by a seed pod?  Dunno, if they did it’s an improvement… (this one was directed at me more than once, fyi).

But before the movie came the novel, a brilliant piece of fiction by Jack Finney (who also authored other great works such as “Time and Again”, “The Night People” and many others which I hope to read and review down the road).  However, it was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that captured the minds of readers.  Released in 1955, it was subsequently snatched up by Hollywood to be made into a movie in 1956.

Interestingly, despite the time of the book’s release Mr. Finney seems to have had no intention of making his book about McCarthyism or the “Red Menace” (referring to Russia and socialism during the Cold War).  Instead, it seemed to hint at the loss of individuality and personal freedom, as well as (from my point of view) the overuse of the planet’s resources.

Those who’ve seen the original 1956 movie already know the basic plot, a small town doctor in California begins encountering patients who swear their nearest and dearest are not who they appear.  Each of these people swear that somehow their mother/father/uncle/teacher you name it… has been somehow replaced by a doppleganger who intends some kind of menace.  The patients admit that the individual in question looks, sounds and acts like the person they’ve known all their lives, but SOMETHING is missing and that’s how they know the person they’ve loved has been replaced.  Naturally, the good doctor talks to some of these ‘replaced’ individuals and finds nothing amiss, at least nothing he can really put his finger on.  And being a man of science and medicine he chalks it up to mass hysteria, especially after referring some of the patients to a psychiatrist friend of his (unknowing of course that his friend was replaced some time back).

The doctor then meets an old flame who’s come back to town and they start dating only to notice there are some differences going on in their little home town.  Restaurants that were normally busy as can be are practically empty, some of the homes/businesses seem to be slacking off on work and even basic maintenance, etc.  Then some of the good doctor’s patients who had complained that someone close to them had ‘changed’ begin telling him (with exaggerated embarrassment) about how silly they had been acting and that all is well, etc.

Of course we the readers are fully aware that something is up and follow the doctor and company slowly catching on as well.  The final proof for our protagonists comes when a close friend summons him late at night to check on a ‘dead’ body found in his basement.  As one can surmise, the body is one of the invading pods that is slowly replicating the doctor’s friend, little by little in an attempt to replace him.  This is where the action really kicks into high gear as the pieces start coming together for our heroes and heroines.  The clock begins to tick and the horror begins to dawn on them as they discover hidden pods making these duplicates and now they must alert the town only to learn to their growing horror that they may be the last 4 normal humans who are not being targeted for replacement.

All of this can be seen in the movie, which was shot on a shoe-string budget to great effect.  However, there are certain scenes which were left out which shows that the pods were not as intelligent as many think.  The doctor speaks with a botanist who tells him about a farmer summoning him to his barn where a some strange large pods showed up amidst his trashcans.  The botanist tells the doctor that aside from the unusual pods (“…which over time I probably could have identified, but not right then…”) he saw nothing unusual except two empty tin cans of tomato sauce that looked remarkably similar, along with 2 axes with identical broken handles amidst the rubbish.

Another part that is left out of the original movie is the revelation that the pods travel through space and purposely land on various planets or astral bodies in search of things to duplicate and replace.  “The moon was quite lush at one time…” it’s revealed, “Mars too…” For me, these passages raised the threat and terror levels to all time highs.  Furthermore, the pod-people reveal that they only have a 5 year existence, and that they cannot reproduce themselves, thus they must help grow more pods to keep their ‘race’ alive.

At this point the idea of not McCarthyism or Communism being the implied threat went out the door for me.  The good doctor gets the pod people to reveal that they can duplicate anything that is/was alive and that the originals simply crumble to grey fluff after being duplicated and replaced.  Meaning grass, trees, animals, etc.  In 5-10 years time everything on Earth would be duplicated and then the duplicates would themselves perish, leaving a dead planet behind while the newest pods would float up back into outer space and find another world to drain of its resources.  At one point the pod speaker says, “How is it any different than the way your kind are using up what your planet offers?”

Again for the most part, the movie closely follows the book remarkably well.  However, the climactic finish differs wildly… and I’m NOT about to share it with you.  This is a cracking good read so I suggest you get your own novel, Kindle/Nook, or audio version of the story and let it capture your imagination.

As Stan Lee would say, “Nuff said…”


Life Gets Complicated Sometimes…


Last year ended on a few rough notes for us, namely all our holiday plans for visiting family and friends were rudely interrupted by two very nasty cases of Flu and Bronchitis.  We are happy to report that the two of us are finally on the mend.  However, life has been throwing us some other curve balls in the meantime, such as we are looking for a new place to live since our current location requires a commute to work that can last from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours one way, which means we spend a good 2-3 hours a day in the car going to and from our jobs.  This is of course leaves us very little time for writing, editing, correcting or even braining story ideas.  


Between the commute from Hell and being sick, we’ve had little or no time to work on anything lately.  Thus the release of the anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At A Time” has to be pushed back at this time.  We’re not sure when it will be released, other than the fact that it WILL come out sometime this year, the question is simply WHEN? 


Currently we have been looking at new apartments much closer to work which would leave us more time and more importantly ENERGY to write and work on the backlog of stories we have planned.  There are at least 4-5 books already under way, some are much more advanced than others.  In one case we have a complete “Untitled” 1st draft of a two book saga focusing on Brandon Elliott (the ghostly figure who watches over Cassandra in “The Bridge” and “The Ship”).  However, his story cannot be told until “The Door” has been finished and released (hopefully later this year).  The reason for the delay is the fact that certain events must unfold in the present day, before Brandon’s story, along with certain family secrets that take place back in early 1800’s, can be fully revealed.


*Note: This is not the final version of the cover

The eagerly awaited second installment in “The Vampyre Blogs” side of the Para-Earths Series is also currently under way.  Those who read the first book, already got a glimpse into where the second book will begin and we have also given readers a glimpse to the approaching danger that threatens not on Nathan and those he loves, but the entire town of Pointer.  (Click on these links to read that short story: 


Also under way, is “The Pass” my first collaboration with my old high school friend Rich Caminiti.


This has been the most challenging pieces we’ve worked on, since all of the book has been worked on by long-distance, file-sharing, and Skype sessions.  This is one of the first full-length Para-Earth entries to be set in the past where we meet people and ‘others’ from this reality taking on a threat form a Para-Earth that could not only change the course of the Civil War, but the survival off all life on this Earth.  Oriental mysticism, American history, and Native American folklore come together in this epic tale that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats.  


Finally, Helen and I have also started bringing characters from “The Ship” and “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” together in the upcoming “Misty Mountains”, which brings the readers back to the shores of Santa Cruz (where the events of “The Ship” took place).  Julie Cloudfoot’s younger brother Johnny and his new girlfriend the mysterious Michelle, are house-sitting Cassandra’s beach residence when they meet a strange fellow named “The Professor” (aka Professor Otto Hofstadter from “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”) near the tide-pools at Natural Bridges.  Their meeting becomes the backdrop of a new Para-Earth threat that has entered this world.  A threat that will place all three into terrible dangers from not only the intruding life-forms, but illegal drug wars.


So as you can see we have a lot in store for you all coming up.  But first we need to get re-settled and free up our time and energies.  We ask for your patience and understanding in the meantime and will be keeping you all updated on what’s happening and how we’re doing here on our official website.   


You can also subscribe to this website by using the sign-up link, located at the bottom of the Home Page, and receive notifications of all new updates.  We will be posting several times a month sharing information about our thoughts on the writing process, book reviews, and  of course updates on our own works in progress.


Thank you all for your continued support, and may the new year bring you all much joy and pleasure in all aspects of your lives.   

My apologies for not posting much lately.  The day after I made the Thanksgiving post a very dear friend who’d been fighting cancer for over a year took a bad turn and we lost her a few days later.  She’d been a part of mine and Helen’s lives for over 25+ years and had been like a sister to both of us.  We’ve been trying to help her husband who is back up in Sacramento (we’re down in the Monterey Bay area) from a distance as best we can.  We’ve been limited in what we could do because Helen just started working with the county and is on 6 months probation and cannot take time off at will, plus she had to finish final exams for her college courses.  Now she’s fighting Bronchitis as well which has made things more awkward for us.

Needless to say there hasn’t been a lot of writing being done.  However, we are still releasing the anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At A Time” on January 5th (The Twelfth Night Of Christmas) as planned.  In the meantime, we want to wish each and everyone a very Merry Christmas…

A very Blessed Yule…

A joyous Hannukah…

A memorable Kwanzaa…

And in case I don’t get to post again before the the year is out, we wish you all…

Keep writing dear friends.

When it comes to being thankful my first thought every day is about having Helen in my life.  She’s  my wife, my heart’s desire, my collaborator, and especially my best friend.

But I have many other things I am grateful for starting with the day I was brought to Joyce and Gerard Krummenacker as a foster baby (the only one they ever kept), to this moment here before my computer.  Perhaps someday I’ll share more of those personal tales, but on this day I simply want to focus on the past year.

In October of 2016, I got the call for an interview with the County of Santa Cruz and a week later I was offered the job.  I was still attending classes at CSU Monterey Bay at the time and had to sacrifice my GPA by going down in flames in two of them gradewise.  I could have simply dropped those classes but at the time we were living in campus subsidized housing and I was under the  impression that I still had to be a full-time student to keep that place so I bit the bullet.  I later found out that our “Lease” would have still been honored all the way through to May of 2017, but no one had told us that.  Still, things worked out.  We found our current apartment in early January, and were offered to sign a lease the day we looked at it.  This was after putting in application after application and hoping to hear something on a number of other units, only to receive silence in return.  Not even a polite, “We’ve chosen other renters but thanks for applying.”

I started my job on November 7th, 2016, got through my six months of probation and am solidly in with the county.  We’ve been able to get by on our own these last 12 months and have health insurance, dental, and a slowly building checking account.   Helen and I were finally feeling more stable for the first time in almost 10 years (another tale for another entry).

Then in the last month, after a succession of interviews and false starts, Helen landed her dream job as an Accounting Technician with the County of Santa Cruz.  Suddenly, the future looks more bright and hopeful for us than ever before.  We get to spend more time together since we work in the same building and take the long commute together every day.  We’re also learning ways to avoid the heavier evening traffic by sometimes bringing dinner or a picnic with us so we can eat in peace.  By the time we hit the road an hour or so later, the majority of the uglier traffic is gone.  We even do some shopping sometimes and come home with plenty of time to kick back and enjoy ourselves.  Just last night, we stopped for pizza and then wandered down to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk area and walked along the pier.  There we met nice people, listened to the waves, and watched sea lions splashing in the dark waters below.  We used to do this a lot when we lived in Santa Cruz some five years ago.  Now we’re able to do it again and its wonderful.

So much has changed.  We’re actually looking to build a retirement – something we were never sure we’d ever be able to do down the road.   Plus, we’re thinking of looking into getting a place in Santa Cruz again, which would cut down our commute considerably.  We’d thought about this before but just on my salary it would have been difficult.  But now, with her income we stand a real chance.

With fingers crossed, and a firm determination, this time next year we’ll have even more to be thankful for.  In the meantime, we will finish getting our next book out on the 12th Night of Christmas (January 6th, 2018).  We have high hopes of one or two more releases next year as well, but we’ll see how things go.

In the meantime, thank you all for your continued support and visits, and may all who celebrate this day have a very Happy Thanksgiving…

Yesterday I had an epiphany about my writing and the entire Para-Earth Series… it’s been a collaboration all along.  From “The Bridge” to “The Ship” to “The Vampyre Blogs -Coming Home”, the entire journey has been one gigantic collaboration with my wife/best friend Helen.  And I am planning on putting her name on the first two books.

Why didn’t I do this sooner?  And how did I not realize it was a collaboration all along?  Because I thought a collaboration strictly meant two people were doing the actual writing, but that’s not the only way a collaboration works.  Ideas, suggestions, helping shape characters, plot, settings, events… all of that goes into a collaboration as well.

So even though I did all the writing in “The Bridge” and “The Ship”, Helen gave me so much guidance like helping shape the characters personalities, questioning their actions, being my sounding-board for ideas I had but didn’t know where to go with them until she suggested details or options I never considered which suddenly put the story back on track again… you name it.  To me, she has been just as much a part of those books as I’ve been.

Now, some of you might be wondering how did this realization come to me?  Well, it had been bouncing around in my mind for some weeks now but yesterday is when it finally clicked into place for me.  As many of you should know by now, Helen just recently got offered a job at Santa Cruz County.  Well, yesterday was her Orientation Day and she officially starts work on Monday as an Accounting Technician (I’m so proud).

Well, when my day ended we were driving home and I started sharing with her that I was working on a new short story for our other blog “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition” (where we post brand new short stories involving characters from our book “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” Link:   *NOTE: Characters from “The Bridge” and “The Ship” have also appeared there and will be showing up again soon so keep an on that site).   Some time ago I had decided that Lisa (one of the main characters) was a gifted psychic.

*Note: Lisa is often mistaken for a Goth, but she merely loves old clothing styles and vibrant colors.  She’s actually into clothing design and cool make-up, including special effects*

Mind you she is not nearly as strong as Alex, Cassandra, or the Baby from “The Bridge” and “The Ship”.  Lisa’s talents show up in the form of glimpses into the near future in dreams, as well as being sensitive to strong emotions both past and present, but she’s only starting to realize it.

Anyway,  I was working on a short story with her that takes place between the end of “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” and its sequel “The Vampyre Blogs – Family Ties” which is currently  being written along with several other projects.

*SPOILERS FOR THE SHORT STORY AHEAD: Lisa’s been having dreams where she senses the danger from the first book is not completely over and that more darkness lies ahead for not only her and those she loves, but the entire town where she and Nathan live.  But that was as far as I had gotten when Helen suddenly sprang to life and suggested a scene in the waking world that indicates there is indeed a threat.  A certain modern-day life form, that is similar to the Para-Earth life-form that makes our character Nathan a vampyre, are fleeing the area.  Upon seeing this, Lisa realizes there is something coming prompting her to see if Nathan has returned or not.  This will tie into the opening scene of the 2nd novel in the Vampyre Blogs section of the Para-Earth Series.


As soon as Helen made this suggestion the rest of the story came to me in a wave.  I could clearly see the path forward and immediately asked her to help give more life to the characters of Lisa and her best friend Marisa who also will appear in the story.  She naturally agreed, having taken a crack at writing both girls recently for a story in our upcoming anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At A Time” coming in January 2018.

Now, this has been just one of many examples of how a collaboration can work when it comes to writing.  I have many more to share, including one with my other Collaborator Rich Caminit which I will share in my next post.  Plus others that I will continue to share down the road.  For now, I’m going to leave you all for now, before this entry turns into the length of a novella.  But please give thoughts to other forms of collaboration you may have encountered and please share them with all of us in the comment section below.  As I’ve already said, collaborations take many forms and the roles each collaborator takes is not simply one but many, and this is why I feel collaborations are something that should sometimes be embraced whole-heartedly.

And on a final note, don’t be afraid to share the credit for a project.  As Samuel Goldwyn the great movie producer once said…

When someone does something good, applaud! You will make two people happy.

Until next time, take care and keep writing my friends.

I’m letting one of my co-authors take the helm here at the blog today.  So allow me to introduce one of my oldest friends and partner-in-crime Rich Caminiti, as he shares with you his own wisdom about writing on a budget.  Take it away, Rich…


    Welcome my friends, and thank you to Allan for letting me write my piece for you. In his last musing, he spoke of his computer woes not only about his desktop but his laptop as well.

      Well, I too seem to have shared the same fate. But wait, I’m getting to my point! I had to wait and pick up a new laptop which some of you may have seen my post about setting it up. (To a computer technician, to get this perfected to our satisfaction takes forever!)

     When Allan needed Microsoft Office I surmise and Helen had told him about WPS Office which cost him nothing. A very excellent deal! Five second ad and all.

     I also told my cohort that I could give him Office 2016 Pro for free, he thought about it for not even a moment and said that he wished to use WPS Office. While appreciative of my offer, he did not want to advertise something that he didn’t use himself. That’s integrity. So, I offered up an alternative to him that would forego the nag screen (the ad screen). That alternative is called OpenOffice.

    When OpenOffice was created by Sun Inc., for those who remember, it was pretty much to get back at Microsoft. It appears the two were in a battle about Sun Java and Microsoft machine Java. Well, MS won the day. So Sun went about creating OpenOffice. It not only could open MS Word doc’s, excel and PowerPoint files, but edit them and save them in the same format as well.

open office word

     So you want to write and you can’t afford MS Office, either go with WPS Office, or OpenOffice, and you wont go wrong. Take a look at the screen shot I’ve included above. You’ll see almost all the functions of MS Word. Meanwhile, take a peek at the program!

     Thank you all and keep writing my friends.



An Early Halloween Treat…


Happy Halloween

A Halloween Tale is now available for perusal over at The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition. Come on over and enjoy a brief scare by clicking on the link below…


We’re going to continue our discussion about adventures with computers.

When last I posted, I had just finished telling you all about the events involving the death of my little blue laptop and our desktop, and how we had just gotten around replacing them with refurbished computers.  In both cases, neither the new laptop nor the desktop had MS Office which meant no word processing program, excel, etc.  And since we were still on a budget purchasing would be more than a minor inconvenience at this point.  So what to do?

Well, Helen had told me about WPS Office, a system that she had downloaded onto her laptop a year ago which is fully compatible with MS Office while costing $0.00 to download.  There is one caveat however, every time you open a file in WPS Office you have to put up with a 5 second ad before proceeding.  Right off the bat I was like, “I can handle a 5 second ad, and if that’s all sign me up.”  But then a second thought occurred to me.   How how well would the files from that system would work for submitting finished books and stories to Createspace and Smashwords.

Both of those publishing systems have strict and specific submission guidelines, for those who haven’t used either yet.  In the case of Createspace, they insist on submissions being in PDF so right there I had a major concern.  However, my worries were quickly relieved when I saw that as part of their Word Processing program, there is an option to save your work as a PDF.  This was a big relief.  Furthermore, you can also save your documents as Word .doc or .docx.  Word .doc is the big requirement for Smashwords, so again a big plus.  And of course the price was right, so I went ahead and downloaded the system.

Navigating WPS Word is very easy.  The layout is very similar to the MS Word program most of us are already familiar with.

Your cut/paste, fonts, sizing, and other favorites are all there at the top just as usual.  The exact order they appear may not be identical but a minimum of patience is all that I found to be needed.   You’ll also find your little symbol buttons for save, print, go back, go forward, available as well.  Of course, to save your file in a specific format you’ll need to click on the W Writer box and select Save As… which will give you a number of options including Export to PDF, MS Word .doc, MS Word .dot, and MS Word .docx.  Which basically covers your submission needs for both Createspace and Smashwords, as I explained earlier.

The system is nearly identical to MS Office in all the respects for my needs.  Someone else may have encountered issues I’m not aware of, if you have and are reading this please share those concerns with the rest of us down in the comments section.  The reason I put this blog together to share personal knowledge and experiences in my writing journey, not just mine but yours as well my friends.  So please don’t hesitate to share yours or even some concerns you may have.  If I don’t know the answer, chances are another reader might have it.

Now as for the other programs offered under WPS Office, I haven’t worked with many of them yet but Helen has with great success.  From what she’s told me the spreadsheet and Powerpoint are on par with MS 365 Office.  If you choose to go for the WPS Office remember you can download the free version which also comes with 1 GB of Cloud space, or you can upgrade to Premium (which removes ads) has advanced features, including document collaboration.  There is also a Professional Version and a Student Version.  I don’t know too much about those last two versions so I cannot say much about them.  As I said earlier I myself stuck to the free download which is serving me just fine as I already share collaboration documents through Google Docs, and of course have Cloud storage space there.  So if you find yourself in a situation like mine, hopefully this is a viable alternative for you.  I still love MS Office, but until I get some other things taken care of like dental work, I have to watch my pennies for a while

Regardless of what Office system you use, remember to back-up your files.  I do so on Google Docs, Cloud, and on Flash Drives.  You never can have too much back-up for your work!  All of these saved hours and months of writing projects when my laptop and desktop died, I didn’t lose a single sentence, word or period.

I want to finish by saying I haven’t actually submitted anything to Createspace or Smashwords since starting with the WPS Office system, but trial runs where I submit a file to get a preview on Createspace has met with the same success I’ve experienced using MS Office.  Once our latest project “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At A Time” is submitted, I’ll let you all know how things went.

Until then, use whatever you feel comfortable with as far as “Office” systems go.  If you’re on a budget like me, I think you will be rather pleased with trying WPS Office.  You can find it by simply Googling WPS Office.

That’s all I have for now.  Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Guess what?


September has been quite the month for me and Helen.  Some of you may remember that about a month ago, my little blue laptop became… ‘unreliable’ to the point I dared not risk any of our stories on it.  So it was sent to the wayside, leaving only our desktop (which I could not bring to work of course) and Helen’s laptop which she needs on a daily basis for her online college classes.  This put a serious dent in my ability to write or even be online as often as I wished, much less getting much writing done except on weekends.

We also had expenses to take care of, like college books for Helen which took priority over replacing my laptop.  Finally, things were looking up just on the eve of my week-long vacation at the beginning of September when illness and car troubles reared their ugly heads and forced us to push the laptop purchase back even further.  After getting the car situation squared away (over the course of most of my vacation), our desktop computer joined the little blue laptop by giving up the ghost.

This left us with just Helen’s laptop and my Kindle and little else.  Finally about a week ago, our finances were stable enough for us to purchase a refurbished desktop and a refurbished laptop together for about $300.00 (thank you Amazon, you guys are a God-send).  However, the delivery time for each computer was about another week or so, which meant I was still cut off from real productivity.  This led to a decision about pushing back the release date of our upcoming anthology book.  We had hoped to have the book ready for beta-readers by now, but with the delays in writing and the upcoming holidays, finding readers who have the time to even look at the book will be difficult.  Furthermore, the earliest we could get the book out would be a week or two before Christmas which is not a good time for indie authors to sell unless they have a huge fan base already.  It’s around Christmas the the big publishers make a massive push and getting your own book noticed at this time is a nightmare.

However, early January is an ideal time for new indie books because the holiday obligations are over and people have lots of lovely gift certificate cards they want to use on Amazon, B and N, etc.

With this in mind, we still wanted to catch some of the holiday spirit and have decided to release “The Vampyre Blogs: One Day At A Time” on January 5th, which happens to be Twelfth Night (or the 12th Day of Christmas).  This works great for us in a number of ways, especially since the first story in that anthology takes place around New Years Day (or on Twelfth Night itself, Helen has plans for a story that may be finished in time to add to the anthology… we’ll see).

There has been one other thing that forced us to push the release date of the book, namely getting used to the new computers.  Since both are refurbished, this means that all programs were erased from the hard drives and one is mostly left with whatever operating system remains.  This meant, no MS Office (i. e. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.), very basic Anti-Virus protection, or other special programs a writer might really want/need.

Now, being that we are on a budget decisions had to be made about what to load up onto our new computers.  How did we handle that?  You’ll find out in our next post, but the word “FREE” figures heavily into the solution.

Until then, take care and keep writing my friends…

The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition

    The long wait to replace my now deceased laptop has unfortunately been extended due to circumstances beyond my control like, car registration, car repairs, books for my wife’s college classes, etc.  Luckily I am on vacation this week, or rather a ‘stay-cation’ and am working hard to get our upcoming anthology edited and ready for beta-reading.  We hope to have this process completed by the end of this month.
     In the meantime, with our time and resources being a little limited, we decided to offer the first sneak peek into the anthology itself.  We hope this peek will intrigue and delight you all, since it will be the first of several leading up to the day of the book’s release.
So without further ado, here is a snippet from the first of the twenty plus tales that will appear in the collection we call:  “The…

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