Children of the Old Stars 3rd Edition Cover Reveal

I have been working on the third edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars. The novel first appeared in a self-published edition in 2000. I created the first cover in Adobe Photoshop using a photo of a globular cluster and a model of the Cluster, the enigmatic machine-like intelligence that invades our galaxy in the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. The novel was acquired by LBF Books in 2005 and Laura Givens created a much more professional looking cover. Given that the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels tell the story of pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his descendants, I had the idea that The Pirates of Sufiro should feature Ellison Firebrandt, Children of the Old Stars should feature his daughter Suki Ellis, and finally Heirs of the New Earth should feature Firebrandt’s grandson, Mark Ellis. So, Laura’s cover show’s Suki trying on the moon Titan trying to find out what the leaders of the galaxy know about the Cluster. The Cluster itself looms over the dome in the background.

The back cover of the novel reads as follows:

“An implacable alien intelligence called the Cluster has arrived in the galaxy and dissects almost every star ship it encounters. Grandson of an infamous space pirate, Commander John Mark Ellis is disgraced and booted out of the space service when he fails to save a merchant ship from the Cluster. Even so, Ellis believes he holds the key to communicating with the invader. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the galaxy’s leaders are withholding information about the Cluster. Clyde McClintlock believes the Cluster is God incarnate and provides the path to salvation. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own star ship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to stop the Cluster’s reign of destruction.”

In the novel, John Mark Ellis, Clyde McClintlock, and G’Liat find employment aboard a stellar mapping vessel called the Nicholas Sanson as part of their search for the Cluster. Laura’s new cover depicts Ellis and McClintlock on the Sanson along with Kirsten Smart, the ship’s corporate officer. They’re pondering a hologram of the Cluster. I think this new cover gives more a sense of colorful characters on a quest, which is what the book delivers.

Children of the Old Stars – 2021 Edition

I’m in the process of revising the novel for its new edition. I’m presenting each chapter as it appeared in the 2006 edition and discussing elements I thought worked along with ones I thought could use rethinking, then I’m giving patrons a first look at the revised chapters as I work my way through the novel. Patrons can also go back to older posts and download copies of other novels from my catalog. If you care to join John Mark Ellis and the crew of the Sanson on their journey, sign up at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Is It Worthwhile to Create New Editions?

This question has come up a couple of times in recent weeks, so I thought it worthwhile to address the reasons I decided to revise some of my novels for new editions and the way I’m going about it. In May 2017, the publishing rights to my space opera novels—The Solar Sea, The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth—reverted to me and I faced the decision about whether or not to republish them as they originally appeared, or update the novels and publish them in new editions. The Pirates of Sufiro was my first novel, originally published in paperback in 1995. Children of the Old Stars followed in 2000. The Solar Sea was the final novel of this set. It was published in 2005 and was a prequel to the other three.

The Old Star/New Earth Series in 2017

In the ten years between 1995 and 2005, I made a lot of progress in finding my “voice” and honing my writing style. In 1995, I hadn’t yet taken Stephen King’s adage “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” to heart. I wasn’t using the strongest verbs and I had a tendency to add in unnecessary hedging or distancing words. Also, while some readers seemed to honestly enjoy these novels, I noticed a few common themes cropping up in reader reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads, where the novels hadn’t quite lived up to reader expectations. What I realized about those reviews as time passed was those points were, for the most part, fixable. They came about because I rushed certain scenes or didn’t describe things fully. Sometimes emotions weren’t quite genuine or characters didn’t seem quite fully formed. What’s more, the worst issues were in the earlier books, which is a great way to keep people from continuing on to the later, better books. It seemed important to bring the entire series up to a consistent level.

So that’s why I thought of this as a worthwhile exercise.

Executing the edits is a multi-stage process. The first part involves re-reading each chapter with both my own critical eyes and with reader reviews in mind. I start by making some notes on the manuscript as a whole and then I go through chapter-by-chapter. Followers of my Patreon page are familiar with my posts that include an original version of a chapter headed by my notes and impression of the chapter. I then make a first pass and revise the chapter according to my notes. In my second pass, I follow the guidelines recommended in Ken Rand’s book, The Ten-Percent Solution. The book presents a method of looking for common problem words and evaluating whether you can make the sentence they’re in clearer by tightening the language. Finally, I read the chapter aloud, doing my best to keep my critical mind engaged. “Would people really say that?” “Does it make sense that a character took a particular action?” “Is it clear why something happened when it did?” Finally, I pass it to my wife for one more round of proofreading. At this point, I post the updated chapter to Patreon.

But wait, there’s more! Once I get the whole book done, I read the whole book one more time to make sure everything still holds together and that I didn’t miss something between one chapter and the next. I’ve even started using text-to-speech as yet another tool. This allows the computer to read the book to me, which has helped me catch errors I’d miss other ways.

So, is this a worthwhile exercise or should I have spent my time writing something new instead? At a personal level, it has been worthwhile. I feel like each book is significantly improved. I’ll have a better sense whether this was lucrative after I finish both Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. If most people who read Firebrandt’s Legacy and The Pirates of Sufiro are sufficiently intrigued to keep following the series, then this experiment will have been an unqualified success. If you want to join me as I continue this experiment and see how it turns out, sign up over at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. There you can see me put these steps into practice and get some fun reading the books along the way.

NaNoWriMo-ish

November is the National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. During the month, many authors endeavor to write 50,000 words. While that won’t count as a complete novel for most publishers these days, it’s a large chunk of a novel. To reach 50,000 words in one month, you have to write about 1,667 words per day. You can even sign up to participate at nanowrimo.org and to find tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help you succeed. My daughter has signed up and participated for the last couple of years. Although I didn’t officially sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, I wrote two novels as NaNoWriMo challenges when LBF Books was publishing my novels.

The Solar Sea

The first of my NaNoWriMo novels was The Solar Sea, which I wrote in 2004. This is a novel I’d tried to write twice before, but abandoned both times partway through. The first time I abandoned the novel, it was because I was a young writer who lacked the discipline to see the story through. The second time, I had a sense of the plot, but hadn’t really nailed down the themes I wanted to explore. Between that and not being really certain what I audience I was writing for, the novel bogged itself down. In 2004, I had two young daughters who I wanted to excite about math and science. That and the 50,000-word goal of NaNoWriMo encouraged me to write The Solar Sea as an adventure story primarily for a young adult audience. I calculated my daily word goal and set myself a time to write each day after my daughters went to bed. Once I got into the routine, I found I could meet my writing goals pretty well each day. It taught me the value of writing each day at a set schedule. You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html

Dragon’s Fall:
Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires

I wrote my second NaNoWriMo novel in 2005. This was intended to be a prequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order which had recently been published by LBF. In this case, I knew 50,000 words would only be a little more than half the novel. When I wrote The Solar Sea, I had a clear idea of the plot and I had been thinking about certain story elements for almost fifteen years before I started NaNoWriMo. When I wrote Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires, I had a one-page synopsis. So, my 50,000 words were much more stream-of-consciousness than The Solar Sea. At the end of the month, I really liked the beginning of what I wrote, but felt the stuff I wrote at the end of the month lacked focus. Still, this gave me a solid core that I could work on and develop. It took about two years, but the novel did take shape. I added a few chapters before the original opening and then tightened the latter sections and added a solid ending. This experience helped me see that I could be disciplined while writing by the seat of my pants, and I was ultimately happy with my tale of three vampires who come form a band of mercenaries. You can learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

This year, NaNoWriMo occurred right as Kitt Peak National Observatory reopened from being shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this year. That said, I was given the assignment of writing a novella in early September. At the time, I knew Kitt Peak would likely reopen around mid-October to early November, so I wanted to get as much of the novella written as possible before work resumed and I had to settle into a regular work routine at the observatory again. To accomplish the task, I used the skills I had gained in NaNoWriMo. In this case, I wrote a detailed outline and I set myself a clear word-count goal for each day. Even though I had an outline, my characters did their own thing at parts of the story and I did have to re-outline, but I’m used to this. I managed to finish my novella by the time I returned to work at Kitt Peak. I have since turned it in to the publisher who assigned me the project. Just this past week, the publisher sent me the contract for the story. I’ll share more details about this novella soon.

Although I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo this month, I did assign myself the project of writing my first comic book script. In honor of being NaNoWriMo, it’s an adaptation of one of the scenes from Dragon’s Fall. I’m currently working with an artist to bring “Guinevere and the Stranger” to life and hope we’ll have something to show off by spring 2021.

MileHiCon 52

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had many fewer posts about conventions I’d be attending than normal. Some conventions have simply postponed and a few have gone to a limited virtual presence. MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado will be hosting a rather full slate of virtual programming this year from October 23-25. Because of that, you will need to pay to attend, but it is a reduced fee. If you’ve ever wanted to attend a MileHiCon before and travel or time was a limitation, this is a great chance to see what it’s like! You can get the full details and register at: https://milehicon.org/

MileHiCon goes virtual in 2020!

This year, MileHiCon has an exciting slate of authors and artists. The Artist Guest of Honor is a gentleman whose art I have hanging in my office, Alan Pollack. He’s done many covers, but I really love the cover he’d done for omnibus Ride the Star Winds published by Baen Books, which collects several of A. Bertram Chandler’s John Grimes stories. When Robert E. Vardeman sent me a cover quote for Firebrandt’s Legacy comparing my work to Chandler’s, I decided to celebrate by reaching out to Pollack to see if I could purchase a print of the cover. He happily obliged. I’m sorry I won’t get to meet him in person, but do hope to tune into some of his events.

Virtual MileHiCon also has no less than three author guests of honor: Cory Doctorow, Mur Lafferty, and Rebecca Roanhorse. I’ve read works by all of them that I admire. I’m sure the guests of honor will make MileHiCon well worth the price of admission, but if you’re not convinced there are even more great authors and artists who will be giving presentations, readings, and participating on panels. Among them are two of my cover artists, Laura Givens and Chaz Kemp. Also there will be David Boop, editor of Straight Outta Tombstone and Straight Outta Deadwood. Ian Tregillis, James Van Pelt, Maggie Bonham, and S.M. Stirling will be among the other authors in attendance.

My schedule at the convention is somewhat light, but that was by design. Kitt Peak National Observatory has entered phase 1 of restarting operations and I wasn’t certain whether I’d be able to be available, even virtually, except for pre-recorded events. It now looks like my group will start returning to the mountain the week of October 26, but that’s still subject to change, depending on how engineering tasks go between now and then. At any rate, my schedule for the convention is as follows:

Friday, October 23

12:30pm – Steampunk and Alternate History Reading – I will join Ian Tregillis and Ted Weber to read from our steampunk and alternate history works. I’ll share a chapter from my novella Revolution of Air and Rust.

1:00pm – “To See” New Earths – I will take a look behind the scenes at Kitt Peak’s NEID spectrograph which has been installed at the WIYN telescope and will search for and follow up on observations of exoplanets. I also discuss how the project will help to support NASA’s ongoing TESS mission which is finding exciting new worlds.

Saturday, October 24

1:30pm – The Year in Science – I will join Will McCarthy, Steve Wahl, Ka Chin Yu, and Courtney Willis to discuss some of the highlights and discoveries from this year in science. I’m sure we’ll also be discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted scientific research.

I hope you’ll join us for Virtual MileHiCon. I’ll be “live” at the “Year in Science” panel. The others are pre-recorded, but I’ll attempt to be live to answer any questions that may come up at the time.

Rhythms and Transitions in Writing

As I mentioned during Saturday’s blog post, I spent the summer in a particular daily rhythm, but now that we’re transitioning into autumn, I’m making some changes to my routine both because of external factors like the weather and also because of the projects I’m working on. One of the projects I’m working on is a new piece of writing. Another is revising a novel I first wrote twenty years ago.

Rhythm is something we associate primarily with song or music. However, it’s easy to see how it relates to writing when we think of structured writing such as formal poetry. The formal poem will have a meter and a rhyme scheme. When you read it aloud, you’ll hear the rhythm at work. You might deliberately break the meter or the rhyme scheme if you’re trying to jar the reader or make a point.

A manuscript on the screen marked up by my editor

When writing a story or a novel, words still have rhythm. Your goal is to put words together that flow one into the other until you have completed your thought. You can check whether your word rhythms work by reading your story aloud. That helps you hear whether your sentences are clunky or too repetitive.

When I was in elementary school, and first learned about paragraphs, they gave us a rigid definition. I was told a paragraph is five sentences. For a long time afterward, anytime I wrote a paragraph it was exactly five sentences. The reason the teacher told me that is that they didn’t want us to give up on an idea after only one or two sentences. They wanted us to practice putting sentences together and make sure we followed one coherent sentence with another.

That’s not really the way it works in fiction. You write out the bones of a thought in a sentence. You put some flesh on those bones in the next sentence. You might explore how they all function as a unit and the direction they’re moving.

Until something happens. That something breaks the rhythm and becomes a new paragraph. The transition is how one paragraph ends and the next begins. In the previous paragraph, we explored how to build a complete paragraph and this one talked about moving on to a new one.

Of course, transitions aren’t just from one paragraph to another. They happen at the end of a chapter and the beginning of the next. They also happen at scene breaks. Those are the places in a book where you might see a blank line between paragraphs and the point of view or setting shifts.

As a writer, I like exploring multiple points of view. When you see a scene from one character’s perspective and then move into another character’s perspective, the reader can gain new insights. That said, some editors I’ve worked with have suggested I can be a little too in love with multiple points of view and they have suggested that I reign in the number of point-of-view characters and scene shifts. This is one of the things I’m looking at with the twenty-year-old novel I’m delving into. There are some chapters with many scenes. The goal is to make sure each scene contributes to the story as a whole, that I transition cleanly from one scene to another, and that the scene is long enough that reader forms a complete picture and has an idea about how the scene relates to the rest of the book’s actions.

It’s all about finding a good rhythm.

Rhythms and Transitions in Life

This pandemic year of 2020 brought us a long, hot, dry summer in Southern New Mexico. Usually we get some relief when the monsoon rains come in July and August, but this year, the monsoon only made a few fleeting attempts at getting started. During the long, hot summer, I fell into a regular daily rhythm. I woke up in the morning, ate breakfast and checked my email, then took a three-mile walk through the neighborhood where I plotted out my goals for the day before the temperatures climbed back over 100 degrees. I would then come home and set to work. I usually wrapped up in the late afternoon when dinnertime rolled around. Dinnertime was generally enforced by my daughter who had just graduated from high school.

All in all, this has been a healthy life rhythm. I’ve been getting regular sleep and exercise and I’ve been making a real effort to make healthy diet choices. This has paid off for me. According to the scale at home, I’ve dropped fifteen pounds this summer.

The campus observatory at Northern Arizona University

As the summer comes to an end, I find myself going through several transitions. My daughter has moved away to college. So far, her school, Northern Arizona University, has done admirably well at keeping any COVID-19 outbreaks from occurring on campus, so it looks like she’ll be away until winter break, which begins this year starting on Thanksgiving weekend. A cold front moved through, breaking the streak of hot weather. The forecast indicates temperatures will heat up again, but right now, we’re looking at 80s and not 100s. Also, I’m writing a new longer work, plus starting edits on another novel. What’s more, there’s word that Kitt Peak National Observatory plans to transition to having more staff on site as soon as local authorities give approval, so I’m on alert that I may begin shifts at the observatory again soon.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I often do my best writing first thing in the morning before I’ve had any significant interaction with other people. In short, the story flows without the clutter of other life business getting in the way. If I wake up, have breakfast, then sit down and write about 500 words, I have a much higher chance of continuing writing later in the day. Even if I don’t, I at least have the satisfaction that I completed that much. Once that’s done, I then check my mail. From there, I usually get at least one work task done and then go for my walk. All in all, it’s still a healthy rhythm, but one that may shift if I do indeed add observatory shifts into the rhythm.

These thoughts about life rhythms and transitions at a time I’m starting new writing and editing projects also has me thinking about rhythms and transitions in storytelling. I’ll dive into that subject in Tuesday’s blog post. In the meantime, remember that you can learn about my books by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com

Children of the Old Stars Revisited

This has been a busy year releasing new editions of my novels. Just as I was wrapping up work on the rewrite of The Pirates of Sufiro, which I started in late 2018, the contracts for three other novels came to term and the publishing rights to those novels reverted to me. As summer 2020 approaches its end, I’m pleased that new editions of all four novels are now available and it’s now time to look ahead and see what new projects I will tackle. I’ve been giving particular thought to what I would share with my Patreon subscribers for the next few months. Now, as I’ve been wrapping up these most recent projects, a couple of new opportunities have arisen and I am working on two new projects. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to speak about them in detail or share them with my Patreon subscribers until they’re closer to completion.

Children of the Old Stars 2001 edition.

As I say in my Patreon introduction video, a primary focus of the site is to fund new editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. Because of that objective and because a chunk of my time will be going into new projects I can’t speak about yet, I’ve decided to continue the deep dive through the series and start working on book three, Children of the Old Stars. In The Pirates of Sufiro, we met the Cluster. The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. As Children of the Old Stars commences, Commander John Mark Ellis is booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship. He believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the very leaders of the galaxy are withholding information about the Cluster. One of Ellis’s antagonists from The Pirates of Sufiro, Clyde McClintlock, believes the Cluster is God incarnate, seeking retribution. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.

As with The Pirates of Sufiro, I’ll post a chapter of Children of the Old Stars one week along with my thoughts about it. My goal will be to post the revised chapter a week later. How well I meet that goal will depend on the other projects I’m working on as well as my evolving work situation at Kitt Peak National Observatory. That noted, I will make every effort to complete at least one chapter per month. If you want to be along for the ride, be sure to sign up as a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. If you do, you’ll not only get to see updated chapters of Children of the Old Stars as they’re posted, you’ll be among the first to get a peek at the secret projects when I can share.

As a reminder, supporting me at Patreon also helps to support this blog so I can continue to give you an ad-free experience.

Now, you may wonder what other projects I’ve been considering, especially since they may be back in the running after I finish my secret projects. One is a sequel to The Astronomer’s Crypt. I have a synopsis written and have given the project quite a bit of thought. There are also a handful of vocal supporters for this project. I’ve also been considering a third book in the Scarlet Order Vampire series. Now there are many vocal people who will tell me that vampires are yesterday’s genre. However, I can’t ignore that in the three weeks since I released Vampires of the Scarlet Order, it has significantly outsold every other book I’ve released this year. It’s not a statistic I can ignore, especially if it turns into an ongoing trend.

Vampires in Space!

Vampires of the Scarlet Order was, in effect, a fix-up novel. The first half was composed of short stories that had been previously published and the second half was new material written specifically for the novel. However, the first time I put the stories together and composed the second half, I came up with something very different than the novel that was published in 2005 and it was all because of one story.

In 2001, my wife, daughter, and I made a trip to Carlsbad Caverns followed by a short jaunt to Roswell, to check out the UFO museum there. We had a lot of fun, and I came away with a story idea. It really started at the UFO museum and thinking about accounts of alien abduction and how similar they were to the way vampire attacks are often described. The aliens come into your bedroom and there’s a good chance they’ll violate you in some way. Of course, at Carlsbad, we also had the opportunity to watch the bats leave the caverns at night and I had thoughts about a vampire who decided to hide among the caverns during the day and fly out to hunt her prey at night. What if a vampire was abducted by a UFO? This whole line of thought led me to a story called “Bat Flight South of Roswell” which was published as a standalone chapbook by Anxiety Publications in 2002.

When I assembled Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I realized I had three story arcs that all pointed to some big mystery happening. I also realized the biggest mystery of all happened in the story “Bat Flight South of Roswell.” What were the aliens doing? Were they about to do something bigger? So when I first wrote the ending of the book, I set out to resolve that issue. The vampires find they have some latent ability to move between universes and can use that as a way to travel great distances. The vampires gather and travel to the aliens’ home world and stopped the threat.

I read it and I mostly liked it and I even mostly believed what I wrote could have happened in the context of the story. The problem was “mostly.” I didn’t quite believe it all the way. I wasn’t quite pulled fully into the story. A little voice in the back of my mind kept saying “this is silly.” One of the challenges as authors is knowing when to listen to that voice and when to tell it to shut up. This time I listened.

For the novel, I rewrote the alien abduction chapter. Instead of aliens abducting the vampire, it’s the military for a secret operation. It made a much stronger novel and much of that is because the settings involved were places I’d been and worked at. Much of the action is actually the same as it would have been, but it’s set at Los Alamos National Laboratory where my graduate advisor worked. There’s still some alien tech so advanced it’s almost magic, but instead of being wielded by aliens, it’s being wielded by humans who don’t fully understand it. Not only was I able to willingly suspend my disbelief, I found a way to give the book a stronger theme, and I could write about places I knew.

I also left in a hint that perhaps vampires might one day travel to the stars. After all, if vampires with all their strength and abilities would make good mercenaries, wouldn’t they make awesome astronauts? Just gotta make sure they’re well stocked with blood for the journey!

As it turns out, I ultimately wrote a story about a member of the Scarlet Order investigating a mystery in deep space in the distant future. It was called “Dark Matter” and it was published in Hungur Magazine in 2012. Unfortunately, the story is no longer in print, but I do plan to share the story with my Patreon subscribers later this week. What’s more, subscribers can go to an earlier post and get a copy of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. If that isn’t incentive enough, I’ll mention that subscribing to my Patreon helps support this blog. So what are you waiting for? Click the button below to visit the site and learn more.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order’s Fifteenth Anniversary

Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Over the past year, I’ve been so focused on the silver anniversary of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, that I almost forgot that another novel of mine also celebrates a milestone this year. With fifteen years in print, Vampires of the Scarlet Order celebrates its crystal anniversary, which seems appropriate given a scene in the novel where the vampire Rudolfo is transported to a parallel universe and encounters a world of crystal palaces.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order got its start in my Las Cruces, New Mexico home in the spring of 2000. I was talking to my friend Janni Lee Simner about writing. As the conversation progressed, the subject of vampires came up and Janni said, “I wonder what vampires would make of Las Cruces, being the city of crosses and all.” We knocked a few possibilities around and finally she said that if a story idea came to mind, I was welcome to it. She had no plans to write a vampire story. A few days later, I drove to work at Apache Point Observatory and had the idea of a vampire telescope operator who moves to Las Cruces to work at a small observatory. I wrote up the story and called it “Vampire in the City of Crosses.” In 2001, I sold it to Margaret L. Carter, editor of The Vampire’s Crypt.

Over the next two years, I wrote six more stories set in the same vampire world. “Vampires in the World of Dreams” and “The Weeping Woman” both appeared The Vampire’s Crypt. “Pat, Marcella, and the Kid” and “The Scarlet Order” both ran in Night to Dawn magazine. “The Last Conquistador” ran in Parchment Symbols magazine and “Bat Flight South of Roswell” was published as a stand-alone chapbook from Anxiety Publications. These stories became the core of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

Issues of The Vampire's Crypt featuring stories from Vampires of the Scarlet Order
The Vampire’s Crypt

Over the next year, I updated the stories, figured out how they tied together and then assembled them into the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The novel as assembled in 2005 tells the story of how a band of vampire mercenaries working for the Spanish Inquisition went their separate ways only to be reunited in the early twentieth century when the government figures out a way to build vampire-like super-soldiers who threaten world security and peace.

Earlier this year, my contract for Vampires of the Scarlet Order reached the end of its term with Lachesis Publishing and they returned the publishing rights to me. So, I set out to reedit and revise the novel. Even though I didn’t stop to think about this being an anniversary year, the novel is getting a special anniversary release with a brand new cover. Unlike The Pirates of Sufiro, I did not heavily revise the actual prose of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. However, given that my first vampire novel was very much a fix-up novel composed of short stories from three narrative arcs, I felt I could present the stories in a more effective order. I’ll discuss that on Saturday and show off the new cover by Chaz Kemp. If you would like a sneak peek at the new edition, and even learn how you can get your hands on an early copy, drop by http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

Powers of Darkness

When I read Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker last month, I noticed that the part sections featured epigrams from a Bram Stoker book I’d never heard of before called Makt Myrkranna. It turns out this was the version of Dracula serialized in the Icelandic magazine Falkjonan from 1900 to 1901. The thing is, this isn’t just a translation of Dracula as most of us who discovered it in English know, it’s a completely different version. The title translates as Powers of Darkness and in 2016, Valdimar Asmundsson released an English-language translation of the Icelandic text.

Powers of Darkness

To me, Powers of Darkness reads like an earlier draft of Dracula and that seems to be the conclusion of the translator as well. Some characters have different names. We meet Thomas Harker instead of Jonathan. His fiancee is Wilma instead of Wilhelmina. We meet some new characters such as an old, deaf woman who keeps house for Dracula. There are police investigators in the background, looking into Dracula’s crimes. Instead of Dracula having three brides who tempt Harker, there is a single woman who is presented as Dracula’s niece, who attempts to seduce Harker and feed upon him. Although Harker’s journey to the castle is told in the familiar epistolary format, the events after Dracula leaves his castle in Transylvania become a third-person narrative.

As a writer, I found this version fascinating. It reminded me of the work I did on my novel The Pirates of Sufiro, and I imagine someone who compared the 1994 edition to my recently released 2020 edition would find the new one richer in much the way I would consider Dracula richer than Makt Myrkranna, especially the parts after Dracula goes to England. That part of Makt Myrkranna is very brief compared to Dracula and reads like it was the first time Stoker assembled his notes on various ideas, like a very rough draft. There is also speculation that the original Icelandic publisher thought the novel was running long and the second part ended up being something of a summation, but there are still details in that part missing from Dracula, so one gets a sense that Stoker’s hand was there.

I also found Powers of Darkness interesting because I’m revising my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order for a new edition. In that case, I’m doing less rewriting than I did for The Pirates of Sufiro, but I am recutting the novel and reordering the chapters a bit to tell the story more effectively. I thought about this a lot while reading Dracul, where J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker build suspense by starting the novel in a scene where Bram Stoker is facing an unknown enemy behind a door, then going back and telling how he reached that point. In Vampires, I started with a very linear narrative, but now I start in the present and let the past unfold when characters have reason to tell it. I think the new version strengthens the narrative.

One interesting element of Powers of Darkness was that the translator took time to attempt to map out a floor plan of Dracula’s castle based on the description. The result is an interesting look inside the count’s Transylvanian abode. Another thing I thought was interesting in this version was that Dracula holds some kind of dark ritual for his followers, which seems to anticipate scenes that would appear in the Christopher Lee Hammer films of the 1970s.

I would recommend Powers of Darkness to writers wanting to glimpse Bram Stoker’s process, or Dracula fans who want to get more insight into the history of the character. If you’re a casual reader looking to read Stoker for the first time, I’d start with the English language Dracula, or perhaps the collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories by Stoker. If you want to learn more about Powers of Darkness and even look at maps of Dracula’s castle, visit: http://powersofdarkness.com/. You can learn more about my novels at http://davidleesummers.com.