READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor
aswang (noun): as·wang /ahhs·wahng/us·wong/: A shapeshifter in Filipino folklore, such as vampires, ghouls, witches, viscera suckers, and werebeasts
Get ramped up and vamped up because in just a few short days Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor will be unleashed upon the world. Dive into the story of Marela Leones and her family of aswang vampires as she uproots the whole of their lives and imposes strict rules to try to keep them safe from exposure. Immigrants from the Filipines to Portland, Oregon, this novel is deeply tied to both Filipino folklore and all that is weird and wonderful in Portland.
Read the first two chapters today, and be sure to pick up your copy to follow this extraordinary family to the very end! Vampires of Portlandia is out TUESDAY!
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Barnes & Noble
Parliament House Press
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The crows arrived each season to roost, usually around late fall, when the weather dropped and the daylight reduced into long evenings. They congregated in murders, packs of hundreds if not thousands, to join in for a giant slumber party. It was as if there was an unwritten agreement between downtown Portland and the crows to arrive and to cast shadows and to sing their lullaby to locals who were brave enough to show themselves.
For the first several years the family resided in the Rose City, Percival paid no attention to the crows. With the seasons turning, however, it was difficult to not notice. They were everywhere.
The holiday season was upon Portland. Merriment was in the air, and the rush of Christmas was around the corner. It was approaching December, which meant the days were short, while the nights tended to run forever. Pioneer Square had erected the seventy-five-foot Douglas fir. People from all over the city ventured to the square to catch a glimpse of the tree. It was a tradition for residents and tourists alike, staring at the enormous tree as they stuffed their faces with sweets and such while purchasing gifts for their loved ones.
Percival pedaled his rickshaw with great force, thrusting his heels into the pedals as he scaled the slight, yet never-ending, slope of a street away from the river. As he reached level ground, a young child ran out in front of him.
He jerked the handlebars to the left, riding down a flight of stairs, each step causing a slight vibration in his wrists. He bunny-hopped a curb and then ricocheted off the side of a building to clear a right angle just to avoid a homeless tent. Percival, discomforted by the sight of a homeless woman screaming at passersby—one who, he’d noted, had misplaced her shoes and was standing in bare feet—pedaled a bit faster.
With the influx of people, the vampire had learned to navigate the streets of downtown with ease. His bike had become an extra appendage—strong and sturdy—something he could control gracefully no matter the circumstances.
Percival’s physically fit body also helped. His muscles were tone, and his hair often fell to his shoulders or blew through the wind as his speed increased. He didn’t exercise traditionally, the only workout coming from the continual bicycling. But try pedaling through a brutal wind that had appeared out of thin air, dodging people nonetheless! It was the most challenging workout you could stomach.
He was only in his early twenties and working full-time while his brother, Roger, and the twins, Geena and Marco, attended high school and grade school respectively. Although Percival knew that his siblings could care for themselves—they were vampires just like him, after all, and had extraordinary powers—he took his role of “man of the house” seriously. It was something his Lola taught him at an early age: responsibility.
As the saying went, with great power came great responsibility. The vampire didn’t have the “power” just yet; rather, he was next in line to inherit the amulet that would enable him to reign over the aswang vampires.
For now, that luxury fell on Marcella Leones, the kids’ grandmother for the last twenty-plus years. It was because of her that Percival had learned what it was like to have supernatural abilities.
Percival delivered food for a small courier company called Portland Pedal Power, riding a rickshaw up and down the streets of Portland.
With nearly seven hundred thousand residents in the downtown area—more if you counted those who commuted in—it was one of the few jobs that Percival could work that gave him a blueprint of the city. It gave him a sense of direction. It gave him the lay of the land.
He didn’t like working as a courier, but having the freedom to come and go as he pleased was much more desirable than sitting in a classroom. When they had relocated to Portland, he had done that for a good portion of his life, and suffice to say, Percival didn’t care for it.
The vampire pedaled by the square several times per day. It was a large courtyard that hosted various events—one of them being the lighting of the Christmas tree. The tree lighting was the official start of the shopping season. And it was because of this event, Percival had begun to think about presents for his family.
He’d spent days wondering what his grandmother would want. Not jewelry, he’d determined, since his Lola was immersed in Capiz shells year-round. Briefly, he’d considered a nice sweater or even a pair of fuzzy socks. But in the end, he always came up empty; what, he wondered, could he possibly give to someone who had taken care of him for his entire life?
Percival pedaled across Sixth Avenue, toward the food cart block that surrounded a public parking lot one block east. The food cart block was one of the largest ones of its kind in the area. He had just distributed his final meal of that delivery’s load—to a souvenir store for tourists—and was heading back to pick up another stack. One more delivery should do it.
The sun had set, and the night was becoming cool. The darkness glowed underneath the streetlights and store-lit displays. The temperature had dropped a few degrees, but Percival kept warm from the continual pedaling.
He had studied the patterns of the light rail train that traveled to the university and beyond, committing the train’s schedule to memory to assist in his time management. The Orange Line ran every fifteen minutes, so he used the schedule to track the time of day. Working as a delivery boy seemed to run together. Watching the trains kept him at bay. And with the night coming sooner and sooner, he managed to use the timing of the trains to mentally calculate how many hours he had worked each day. It was because of the long hours that he still hadn’t found a shop that was open late enough to find a good gift for his Lola.
Percival swerved around the stationary cars until he arrived at the food cart stalls. The huge bulbs on the top of each station illuminated the small spaces around the carts, giving customers the ability to read the menus that ran along the front of them.
A woman reading the menu of an Asian-styled food truck stood in front of the vampire, so Percival had to wait to pass. Once she placed her order, he gently nudged her. “Excuse me,” he said.
The woman addressed Percival. “I’m sorry,” she said with a blank stare. She made room for him, inching in between two people scanning the menu.
Percival flashed a smile and then wheeled the rickshaw up to the cart, walking the delivery bicycle toward the owner. Cellophane wrappers blew past him, and a couple of patrons parted to accommodate the vampire’s oddly shaped bicycle.
“Excuse me,” said Percival. “Sorry.” Embarrassed, his chin held tightly to his body, he apologized each time he passed a person. He bit down on his teeth, pushing out a smile as he approached the owner.
Amazed at the vampire’s perseverance, the owner scratched his head. “Still working?” asked the cart owner.
Percival nodded. He sighed deeply to convey how long he had been on the clock.
“This must be your, what, eighth or ninth delivery?”
“Something like that.” He was short with the owner, not because he didn’t enjoy the conversation, but because finding a present for the woman who’d raised him was burning in his mind. Shops stayed open a little later, but his work consumed much of those hours. But as always, Percival made the time for his customers.
The owner, impressed by Percival’s endurance, shook his head. He placed his fingertips on his chest in disbelief. “I don’t know how you have so much energy.” He looked around the crowded streets. The vampire followed his gaze.
Drivers in stationary cars sat hopelessly in the middle of intersections, waiting for people to cross. Shoppers walked in and out of stores and restaurants, enjoying themselves, and hungry patrons waited for dishes at the row of food carts.
The man stopped to watch a group of people stroll down the block to another store. “Just watching them makes me tired,” he said.
A group of crows cawed at the people as they flew out of the way of the hoard of foot traffic. Amused, the owner chuckled. “Even the birds hate how busy it is.”
Percival smiled. “It doesn’t really bother me.” He shrugged. “I guess the only thing that’s bothersome is the overcrowdedness when I’m trying to maneuver a rickshaw. Especially when I’m in a hurry.”
The courier observed his surroundings. One man stared at him with grand curiosity. Each time the vampire looked out into the streets of downtown, the amount of people, like the crows, multiplied. He started to see his opportunity to purchase a gift fading. He laughed to himself. Just his luck.
He returned to the entrepreneur who was staring at him. “Other than that, though, I actually sort of enjoy it. It’s much better than being in school.”
The man covered his mouth with his palm. He couldn’t believe what Percival was saying. His eyes widened, astonished at the enthusiasm of the young man. “Some of the other couriers only come by twice at the most.” The owner piled a stack of takeout boxes into the back compartment of Percival’s rickshaw. “It must be nice to be young, I guess.”
Percival blew off the statement. His face still had a faint trace of a smile. If only the man knew. “I don’t mind the long hours or hard work,” he said. “I love the tips even more.” He patted the front pocket of his pants.
The owner nodded, eyeing the rectangular bulge of money. “Oh, I bet.” He chuckled under his breath. The man then secured the load and patted Percival on the shoulder. Grateful, the cart owner smiled. “Well, just remember one thing,” said the man. “The tips are worthless if you don’t find the time to spend them. Once you have a purpose in life, you’ll find that working becomes secondary.” Once again, the man glanced out into the city, and his bottom lip curled into a frown. “I don’t want to see you working all day long, you hear me?” he threatened. “I better be seeing you inside these stores like these folks. If you know what I’m getting at.”
The vampire affirmed. He then whipped out some loose bills and paid for the meals. After the exchange, Percival wheeled his rickshaw out into an open area.
“Say hello to your Lola for me,” the man said. “Oh, and tell her that my wife loves the necklace she made for her.”
Percival nodded, bid adieu, and then pedaled up the hill, weaving around pedestrians and homeless people who crowded the sidewalks. This would be his final delivery of the long day.
The young adult continued toward his Lola’s retail outfit. His grandmother’s store was a few blocks up from Powell’s Books, just off the main thoroughfare of Tenth Avenue. There were people still milling around the neighborhood, but at this moment, none of them were in Leones’s store.
“I’ve got dinner,” Percival called out upon entering the accessories store. Geena and Marco scrambled out from behind the back room.
Geena was a petite young girl, her hair was pin straight and thick like balls of yarn. Her face was flat, and it maintained a seemingly permanent smile that stretched across her wide cheeks. The young girl was a naturally happy child.
Marco, on the other hand, was lanky and tall for his age. He towered over his sister and, at the rate he was growing, would surely tower over his brothers. Marco’s lips always seemed pursed, as if his curiosity, or criticism, was his best teacher.
The twins reached for the boxes; they were both anxious to eat, having waited for their brother since they had returned from school. Percival raised the meals high above his head. “What do you say?”
Marco gave his older brother a look, his one eyebrow raising high up his forehead. Instead of responding, he flew up off the ground, his head now even with the container, and collected the Styrofoam package with ease. His premature wings—rounded on the edges, unlike his elders who had sharper ends—uncurled like a lizard snatching an insect in flight. He hovered in the air, his wings flapping, and pulled back the lid of the box. Marco leaned in with his nose. “Thai rice with shrimp,” he said. He clicked the back of his heels together in delight. Then he faded backward in the air in happiness. It looked as if he was wading in a swimming pool. Only he was flying, and his wings were fluttering like waves on a river.
Impressed, Percival pointed his lips. “I see you’ve been working on your powers.”
Geena stood patiently, anxiously tapping the ball of her right foot. The younger vampire flashed her teeth, a large smile beaming from her face. She was smiling so much her eyeballs shrank in size. The young sister reached out her hands, palms up, and cleared her throat. “Ahem. May I please have some dinner?”