Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Deborah Smith - Vampires? What the...

I'm pretty sure I met a vampire last week.

Maybe my imagination is a tad-bit hyper. Maybe I've spent too much time working on Bell Bridge Books' vamp novels, Bite Me and Once Bitten. I've also been immersed in the Southern-gothic world of Flowers for Elvis (04/09), the scary thrill ride of Primitive (10/09), the dysfunctional family drama of Tender Graces (04/09), the dark humor of Haywood Smith's Twelve Sacred Traditions of Magnificent Mothers-in-Law (04/09), and I'm putting the finishing touches on the next installment of my Solomon's Seal ebook series, about a mythical giant.

So it could be that I'm living in a whacked-out editorial world that colors my perspective.


Nah. I still think I met a vampire. Really.

She lives in an 1820's antebellum mansion smack in the middle of an old-South historic district along the moss-draped coast. Picture a massive, street-front "porch door" of carved cypress, fronted by black marble steps worn down by nearly two centuries of foot traffic. Enter that doorway into a dark alcove at the base of the mansion's first floor. Climb steep wooden steps to an enormous, Greek-columned veranda curtained by thick tangles of wisteria; Tarzan could swing from the woody arms of these antique vines.

Heavy wicker furniture squats on the veranda's scarred wooden floor, dappled with wisteria-shaped sunshine. Ornate cushions hint that a decadent soul or two has sprawled on the wicker lounge, naked behind the veil of vines, sipping absinthe. Look up, and the veranda ceiling is painted a pale, ethereal shade of blue. A tour guide smiles nervously and explains that blue ceilings keep the "haints" away.

We step through a towering doorway directly into a formal dining room with sixteen-foot ceilings. The main table can easily seat twenty, and judging by pedestals as thick as a body, probably weighs more than a small car. Massive sideboards and liquor carts display a variety of incredible silver services, crystal decanters, elaborate ceramics and bronzes. But all of it is gently tarnished or scuffed, and the decanters look dusty, like the wicker outside. The windows are hidden behind heavy brocade drapes; a stuffed peacock stares back at us from one corner. Fading tapestries hang on the walls. The light fixtures are old, and dim. There are shadows everywhere.

Lestat could walk in here and it wouldn't surprise me at all, I whisper to my cousin.

In the midst of this shabby-chic creepy-Victorian ambience is a large oil portrait of a young woman. She perches over the mantel of a marble fireplace in a low-cut evening gown, her neck draped in long pearls, her blonde hair swooping back. She is painted in an oddly overwrought style, contemporary and campy.

The tour guide says quickly and loudly, as if to ward off more indelicate comments, "That's the owner. She's in the next room."

Sleeping in her coffin? I want to ask.

We are led through another giant doorway, entering a dark parlor where flickering candles on a gilded table give off scents of, of . . . blood, decay, undead flesh.

"I think it's just sage and lavender," my cousin whispers. But she's touching the cross on her necklace.

We stare at more tapestries, more sideboards, armoires, antique satin couches, Greek statuary, and dried flowers in funeral vases.

"Welcome," the owner says in some unrecognizable but vaguely European accent, stepping out of a dark corner. Or maybe she just floated out of her burial chamber.

We jump.

She's far less perky than her strange portrait. Sunken, darkly outlined eyes peer at us from a frame of straight yellow hair parted in the middle. Her skin is ashy. She's dressed in a snug brocade jacket and black tights. She's very thin.

Must not have fed recently, I'm thinking.

I hitch my bandana a little higher around my neck.

She politely tells us the history of the architecture and antiques. The whole time, she gazes at us without blinking. She offers no personal information.

I think of a question to ask. I'm trying to bond with her so she won't stalk me for dinner. "Are you an antique dealer?" I croak out in a high-pitched tone. I bet she can smell the fear in my Type O blood.

"No. A floral designer," she answers, still not blinking, her lips moving carefully over her fangs. She says it like this: Noi. Eh flur-all dee-sign-ar. Suddenly it dawns on me. Her accent? Transylvanian.

A floral designer? For what . . .mausoleums?

"That's all," the tour guide announces. "Y'all have a nice day." And she ushers us out another grand door, back to the shadowy, vine-swathed veranda with its blue, ghost-be-gone ceiling, back to the world of the living and the safe, garden-variety dead.

That night, after I'd steadied my nerves with wine, I sat with family on a rooftop patio overlooking the coastal village's gothic, secretive, elegantly mysterious cityscape and the vast harbor beyond, where cruise boats filled with tourists glide alongside gigantic cargo tankers from the other side of the oceans. Anything is possible here. The Southern low-country embraces the unknown.

Flitting through the salt breezes are the misty spirits of black slaves, red natives, white belles, blockade runners, fallen women, hanged men, victims and villains, the innocent and the guilty of too many old-coast generations to imagine.

Down an alley and across a street a willowy figure glides swiftly.

I clutch my wine glass and lean over the patio rail, hoping for one more glimpse. Her? The vampire? Or just an eccentric rich woman with dusty silverware and a funky accent?

She vanishes in the blackness. Poof. I nod. She had blue ceilings and stuffed peacocks and a life filled with shades of the night.

A vampire. Yep.

I met one.


Cait London said...

Yup. Eerie. But remember, if you meet one, they usually return for you know what :)

Betina Krahn said...

Deb-- I am in such awe of your prose. I went into raptures reading your descriptions. And you know, that spooky old lady may have gone to the kitchen, after the tour left, and popped a diet Coke and propped her feet up to watch Oprah.

Or not.

Sometimes spooky people are really just what they seem to be. Which gives me chills to consider, because I've met a few wierd ones in my time.

amy*skf said...

I'm with Betina, I felt as if I had been transported to your side during this tour. This should be a story.

I want to read what happens next--plus, I want to paint my ceilings blue. And sleep with a light on...

Cindy Gerard said...

Deb - has anyone ever suggested you should write a book? Oh wait. I'm a little late with that suggestion. Beautiful post. And spooky. And you're not kidding, are you? You really feel as though you had an unearthly encounter. Tell me: How are you sleeping?

lois greiman said...

:) Good stuff, Deb, and juxtaposed against the below models... Don't they look a little blood thirsty too?

Debra Dixon said...

Only Smith would meet a vampire. Deb always has the most interesting travels and I feel as if I just don't look hard enough when I'm out and about.

Her brain is *always* going. And, I too love her prose.

She promises and swears I'm going to see a fabulous trilogy in the coming year. First book is KITCHEN CHARMS. A bakery, siblings, a wounded veteran, an agoraphobic and a street urchin. In the colorful South. Only Deb Smith could do that book the way it needs to be done. (g)

debbsmith said...

Hey, y'all

I'm not kidding you, it really WAS that creepy. I went on a historic home tour in Charleston, SC. Fabulous houses, most of them 200 years old or older. The whole city feels like a vortex to Spooky Town, lol. It's beautiful but sooo elegantly decadent. A lot like New Orleans, only drier. This particular house was just shabby enough to feel deliberately gothic; I kept looking at the dusty liquor cart (and the tiny, dim, ancient kitchen) and thinking: "She doesn't have to eat and drink. That's why none of this stuff is getting unused." LOL In other creepy news: me and the kinfolk took a cruise of Charleston harbor. Our little boat was passed by a g-normous tanker coming into the port. Which was pretty cool cause we got to watch the harbor pilot leap aboard from his tug. Guess what? That tanker the Somalia pirates just attacked? Maersk line. Same as the one we saw in Charleston. I'm tellin' ya, Charleston lives on the cusp on supernatural and international danger. And they serve a mighty fine bowl of shrimp and grits, too.

Betina Krahn said...

Okay,I forgot to say that the wisteria in the pic is fabulous and brings back memories. Front porches with cushioned swings and peeling paint, trellises, cool summer breezes, lemonade. . .

And there was that odd house down the street with the strange iron fence and perpetually drawn curtains... inhabited by an ancient brother and sister with unidentifiable accents. . . that everyone avoided in the butcher shop and post office and bank. We kids were terrified of them. Looking back, I wonder. . .

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the nice comments about the writing. However,(on a brief tangent here) RWA says I'm not a writer anymore. I'm a publisher. I'm about to get booted from general membership. It's not a done deal yet, so, fingers crossed, maybe I can talk them out of it.

debbsmith said...


I'm not "Anonymous." I just hit the publishing button by accident. LOL

Debra Dixon said...

Betina! We had that house too. Around the corner from my Mother's house. The yard was so creepy and overgrown with odd plants/trees...but kept up. They made it that way. You could barely, and I mean barely, see the house.

Trick or Treat
Trick or Treat
Trick or Treat
::skip house::
Trick or Treat
Trick or Treat, etc.

No one wanted their candy. LOL!

Betina Krahn said...

Deb, what a great description! LOL! Both verbal and visual! Trick or Treat. . . ::skip house::. . . Trick or Treat. . .

I think every small town has one of "those" houses. I think that was the whole basis for the Addams Family sit com.

Yeah. We never wanted candy badly enough to try that doorbell either.

Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, Deb, love the description of the house (also love the picture of the wisteria). I'm certain that woman was a vampire too!

Did you hear the story on NPR where the woman's young daughter called (and got through) to some Somali pirates? I'm going to have to find a link to it.

And absolutely looking forward to more Deb Smith books!

Christie Ridgway said...

Here it is. You'll have to cut and paste into your browser but it's about a 12 year old who phoned the pirates.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I was THERE with you as you toured this house. Love the wisteria on the porch picture. I could smell it.

And I agree...every town has a house like this. Somewhere here in Hot Springs, there is a old house that was renovated a few years back. Hidden rooms found, etc.

Would have loved to have see a picture of the painting over the fireplace though.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I want to go on the tour! (Right about now I'd go anywhere. Must write. Must write.) Seriously. I love spooky tours. Love the Haunted History stuff on TV. I'm not a fan of vampires, but ghosts are way cool.

Wait a minute. Did I read this right: RWA says Deb Smith is not a writer? Hand me a protest sign, please.

Tori Lennox said...

Ooooh, I'm convinced she was a vampire! What a fab description of the tour!!! I almost want to go myself. Almost.

I wonder if vampires get a sugar rush from diabetics' blood...? *g*

Keri Ford said...

Ewww! Creepy level going off (it doens't take much for that to happen).

I would have had to wait outside for that one. LOVE the wisteria. I want to plant it in all my trees!

MarileeB said...

Wow, Deb S! For not being a writer, you do quite well. Just remember, vampires can't cross the threshold unless you invite them in - something to remember if Vampira shows up on your doorstep. Of course, she could turn into vapor and slip through a crack in the window. No worries, though, I know you're up to the challenge.

debbsmith said...

Now that I edit vampire books I know the protective drill: wear silver, don't look in their eyes, carry pointy impaling devices, etc. unless the vampire is hot and adorably devoted to me, in which case . . . speaking of saving my neck, the RWA thing is incredibly frustrating. I have theories about the real reason for the tightened rules for general membership, but I'll shut up and hope for the best.

GunDiva said...

Deb, I loved your description of your tour. I so want to go! As I was reading it, I kept looking back to the top of the post to see if I was reading an exerpt from your new book.

I was trying to think of any houses in the neighborhoods I grew up in that were *that* house and I can't come up with any - does that mean that my house was *that* house? Hmmm...Having been raised with ghosts in my grandmother's house (scared the crap out of me as a kid) and living in a house that was well over 100 years old, we could have very easily been *that* house.

Anonymous said...

You still have it, Deb. Love your writing and always have. I was with you with every step through that house. You know I love the Lowcountry. Wonderful if you remember... ... winksCarol Anne