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Vampire invasion for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, the second book in a trilogy about vampires living in Ashland has hit bookstore shelves.

"The Ghost Runner," sequel to 2011's "Out of Breath," continues the adventures of Kat, a young woman living in Lithia.

Lithia is a carbon copy of Ashland, so if you live here or just love visiting this town that is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, you'll enjoy reading this fast-paced trilogy.

It's geared toward young adults, but older readers will find it entertaining as well.

As with most vampire novels, there's a dash of romance, with Kat torn between Alex, an environmentally conscious vegan vampire who lives off the sap of trees, and Roman, a more mysterious vampire who is the star actor at Lithia's version of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The trilogy is fine for preteen or young teen readers, since the romantic scenes never progress beyond a bit of passionate kissing.

In the first book of the series, Kat arrives homeless in Lithia, but soon gets a job at a running shoe store that is a mirror image of Rogue Valley Runners in downtown Ashland. That book focuses on Kat's running and sees her enter a race that is similar to the annual Mt. Ashland Hillclimb, a grueling uphill slog.

In "The Ghost Runner," Kat is still running the trails that lace the wooded hills above Lithia, but this time she starts attending classes at the local college and also gets roped into a college theater production of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure."

Naturally talented, she wins a role in the play while accompanying a friend to auditions. Readers are taken inside the world of theater.

At the same time, Kat must balance her work at the running shoe store, her conflicting feelings over Alex and Roman and the unwanted reappearance of her dad in her life.

A fight with her alcoholic dad is what caused her to escape to Lithia, so she is suspicious of his motivations in wanting to see her again. Should she trust that he has truly reformed, or stay on guard against betrayal?

Kat can't turn to her mother for help because her mother died in Lithia. In "The Ghost Runner," Kat learns the truth about her mom's death.

As for the "ghost" in the title, new supernatural characters are introduced into the series in the form of ghosts, who can be murderously dangerous.

I, of course, found myself looking for "mistakes" — signs that the author doesn't really know Ashland and might just be a visiting tourist. The trilogy is written under the pen name Blair Richmond, and the only clue its publisher — our very own Ashland Creek Press — will give about the identity of the author is that she (or he) lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Whether Richmond lives in Ashland or not, she does a great job capturing the flavor, politics and issues of the town.

Lithia's water supply from Moss Reservoir runs low and the town goes into conservation mode. Some say deer in town are a nuisance while others point out they were here first. And a central theme of the book is whether Kat can save wooded land from being converted into a housing development.

"The Ghost Runner" perfectly captures its setting while adding in engaging characters and a dose of the supernatural.

Both "The Ghost Runner" and "Out of Breath" are available locally at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., and Tree House Books, 15 N. Main St., in downtown Ashland.

For more information about how to get the book in stores or as an e-book, or to download an excerpt, visit http://www.ashlandcreekpress.com/books/ghostrunner.html.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.