Visiting Rite World

BookBub is a book discovery service that was created to help readers find new books and authors through curated lists of discounted titles. Lachesis Publishing used BookBub to promote some of my novels and I signed up to receive their daily mailings some time ago. Since I’ve been working on my new vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, I’ve had my eye out for vampire novels and authors I haven’t read before to see their approach to the genre. In particular, I like to pay attention to what things an author chooses to communicate about the plot, what details are left out, and how they narrate and convey dialogue. I like to compare their word usage to the usages my editors have suggested over the years. In short, my goal is to pay attention to the details and think about how I can best communicate my story. As it turns out, a BookBub mailing at the end of May pointed out that the first book of Juliana Haygert’s Rite World: Vampire Wars was available for free. The novel is called The Darkest Vampire and it looked like it would be right up my alley.

The Darkest Vampire introduces us to a young half-witch named Lavinia. As a child, her parents were murdered and she’s vowed to get revenge on their killers. The only problem is that her mother wanted Lavinia to live as a human and had her make a blood promise not to use her magic. Because of that, Lavinia’s magic is severely limited and the only person who could release her from the blood promise would be her mother. Now, out of school, Lavinia works in a Portland, Oregon tea shop. A demon arrives and says he can help her break the restraints of the blood promise as long as Lavinia steals a mysterious stone from a wealthy area man.

The temptation proves too much and Lavinia breaks into the mansion and steals the stone. However, when the demon arrives to collect the stone, Lavinia learns he had no intention of helping her and just plans to take the stone, which turns out to be more than it appears at first sight. At her touch, the stone opens up and out pops a very angry vampire, who immediately kills all the demon’s henchmen. It turns out the vampire is Killian, a high-ranking vampire who had been trapped in the stone twenty years ago by a sorcerer as part of a spell to gain tremendous power. Even though Killian has been released, he’d not completely free of the stone’s power. If he wanders too far from it, he weakens. What’s more, we learn that Killian’s brother had been killed in much the same way as Lavinia’s parents. And the same killers currently appear to be stalking the witches of Portland.

So, Lavinia and Killian work to solve the mystery of the stone while also figuring out who is killing witches and other supernatural beings. To be more effective, Lavinia also continues to seek a way to free herself from the Blood Promise she made to her mom. As part of this latter quest, the characters make an unexpected side trip to New Orleans, which I enjoyed. I did relate to Lavinia’s love of beignets, but I would have enjoyed this side excursion more if it hadn’t limited itself to Bourbon Street.

Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable supernatural mystery. At the time Killian had been trapped in the stone, he had been on a quest to destroy witches, who he saw as the enemy of vampire kind. However, through the story, we see Killian begin to fall for Lavinia. Unfortunately, Lavinia has it in her head that Killian hates all witches and every time he tries to get close to her, she dismisses him out of hand and won’t let him discuss his feelings. This last aspect was a little too heavy-handed for my taste and kept the romantic tension from working as well as it might. The vampire lore in The Darkest Witch was much like the lore in the last book I read, Chloe Neill’s Some Girls Bite. Aside from their immortality and their need for blood, these vampires aren’t much different from humans. They can eat and drink. Haygert’s vampires will be hurt if they spend too much time in the sun and they do have supernatural strength and speed. They also have, and Killian frequently uses, a strong power of compulsion. Perhaps the most amusing part of the book is how he uses his powers to avoid paying for anything.

To learn more about my vampire world and to get ready for my forthcoming novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, visit:

Vampire-Human Relations

In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marita Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, and Steven Foley put together the Vampyre Library Book Club. Each month, Steven would select a book, members would read it, and at the end of the month, Steven would interview the author and readers would have a chance to ask questions. I was honored that my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order was one of the book club’s selections alongside such works as Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, Dracul by Dacre Stoker, and The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. My wife and I participated in the club after my book was featured and I discovered a number of great books. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to wane and life began to return to normal, I wasn’t able to read every book. One of the books I missed was Some Girls Bite by Choe Neill. I finally had a chance to read the novel a few days ago.

Some Girls Bite tells the story of a University of Chicago graduate student, Merit, who falls victim to a rogue vampire attack. Fortunately, vampire Ethan Sullivan, the master of Chicago’s Cadogan House is on the rogue’s trail, finds Merit and makes her a vampire, thus saving her life. We soon learn that Merit wasn’t the first victim of the rogue vampire. A couple of nights earlier, the vampire attacked and killed another young woman. At issue is that the vampire houses only recently made themselves known to humans and they want to show that they can live alongside humans. The vampires in the houses don’t attack people. Most drink donated blood in bags and those who drink from people, only drink from willing donors. So, the rogue vampire’s actions are threatening to bring an angry mob of humans down on the vampires.

As the story progresses, we learn that Merit is the daughter of one of the richest businessmen in Chicago. Ethan Sullivan sees her as someone who might help him maintain and hold a position of trust among humans. What’s more, Merit’s grandfather is a retired police officer who has taken the job of ombudsman between the Chicago’s supernatural and human communities. Vampires aren’t the only supernatural creatures who have been hiding in the shadows. There are also sorcerers, water nymphs, lycanthropes, and more. Still, vampires are the only ones who are known to most humans. Merit, though, doesn’t appreciate being a pawn in this developing saga of vampire human relations. She also resents being made a vampire against her will, even though it may have been the only thing that saved her life. Fortunately, after becoming a vampire, Merit has developed skills that allow her to find an important position of her own in House Cadogan.

As Merit navigates her way through her family relationships and the relationships with the vampires in her life, she learns about the vampire houses and how each one maneuvers to gain advantages over the others. Of course, now that the vampires are known to exist, they are playing politics in the human world as well. I’ve long found it interesting to consider how humans would interact with a non-human, intelligent species living in their world. Vampires make an especially interesting case, since they’re predators. Even though they’re predators, it would be a bad idea for vampires to destroy all of humankind. After all, that would destroy their food source. Whether vampires are known to humans in general or not, vampires would have to find a way to live in a world dominated by humans. I thought Chloe Neill presented an interesting vampire culture and presented ways they can be both clever and foolhardy when dealing with the humans around them.

As I write this, I’m settling in to edit my new vampire novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. My vampires live in secret, but they still have to live in a world dominated by humans. I’ve been having fun exploring how that works in this novel. I’ve been posting updates about the novel at my Patreon site, including a sneak peak of the cover, which has already been created by the talented Chaz Kemp. Also, my Patreon site helps to support this blog and keep it ad free. If you find value in my reviews and comments here, please consider supporting me there. What’s more, you can now join free for a week and take a peek behind the scenes before committing to being a regular patron. Why not go over and take a look at I’ve shared several of my novels as I’ve edited them for new editions and I also plan to share Ordeal of the Scarlet Order as I get it ready for publication. Joining up would be a way to be among the very first readers and I’d love to hear your feedback!

Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker

I recently finished the first draft of my latest vampire novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. In my novel, the vampires have scattered around the world to avoid retribution from destroying a secret military project, only to find themselves pulled back into it whether they want to be or not. Portions of the novel are set in France, Colorado, and New Orleans. After wrapping up my novel, I decided I was in the mood for another vampire novel set in New Orleans. I’d heard about Faith Hunter’s novel Skinwalker before, but hadn’t read it. Since my Scarlet Order world also touches on skinwalker legends, and since I have a novella inspired by skinwalker stories, I thought I would take a look.

The skinwalker of Faith Hunter’s title is a Cherokee woman named Jane Yellowrock who can shapeshift into a mountain lion. What’s more, the mountain lion appears to be its own individual living within Jane’s consciousness. Jane doesn’t know much about her history or where her powers came from, but she has been trained to fight and works as a professional bounty hunter. In New Orleans, a rogue vampire is on the loose killing both humans and other vampires indiscriminately. However, the vampires can’t seem to trap it or catch it. They hire Jane to do the job for them. The novel opens as Jane arrives in New Orleans and meets with her contact, a vampire madame named Katherine Fontaneau. She soon finds her search complicated by the interplay of vampire family politics and police interest in the case. Despite that, Jane begins to gather clues while making allies and enemies among the human and vampire populations of the Crescent City. Fortunately, one of her best friends is a powerful witch who has given her powerful tools to use in the hunt.

Authors who write about vampires have a lot of choices when they establish their rules about these creatures. There are many sources in folklore and fiction writers have just built on that. If there are real vampires, they’ve remained hidden in the shadows and haven’t yet appeared to tell us what we’ve gotten right or wrong in our depictions. Witches can be a little trickier since there are wiccans and a long, dark history of people accused of witchcraft. Faith Hunter clearly builds her own witch lore, where magical power is passed along genetically. In Diné lore, skinwalkers have a strong association with witchcraft. Again, Hunter builds her own skinwalker lore, separate from that of the Diné. Once I understood that Hunter had built her own self-contained lore, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Skinwalker was a solid thrill ride of a novel with lots of action. She gives lush descriptions of the locations around New Orleans that I’ve visited including the French Quarter, Jean Lafitte National Park, and the Garden District. She also gives us several characters we really care about, and it’s not always clear who the good guys and bad guys are. There were a few things in the novel that didn’t quite work for me such as Jane’s almost magical hair that let her store enough weaponry to push my willing suspension of disbelief. That said, I did like the witch-enchanted magical saddlebags on her motorcycle which allow her to store many items.

Die Hard with Vampires

While in the final days of drafting my novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, I had the opportunity to read Kim Newman’s novel Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju. To date, this is his sixth and final Anno Dracula novel. Set in Japan on December 31, 1999, we learn that the vampire Christina Light, also known as the Princess Casamassima, is throwing a party for New Year’s Eve in her Tokyo office building, built in the shape of a dragon. Of course, in Japan big monsters are kaiju and really big monsters are daikaiju, hence the book’s title. At the stroke of midnight, the princess plans to “ascend” and she’s invited everyone who is anyone to be there for the event. One of Christina’s vampire powers is to literally become light and her ascension will take the form of becoming a permanent part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which would allow her to become part of the whole information superstructure of the world.

Among the attendees are Richard Jeperson of British Intelligence and his bodyguard, Nezumi, who had been made a vampire around a thousand years earlier when only 13-years old. The party looks as though it’s going to be a splendid success until a group of terrorists, Yakuza assassins and Transylvanian mercenaries crash the party all led by a member of Dracula’s family who has visions of “ascending” in Christina Light’s place. The terrorists aren’t the only unwelcome guests. On the 44th floor of the Daikaiju building. Hal Takayama wakes up, not remembering his history or why he’s there. What’s more, his left hand has been replaced by a computerized glass hand called “Lefty” that seems to have an agenda of its own. Lefty effectively convinces Hal that he was Jun Zero, the most notorious cyber-terrorist of the age. Meanwhile, looming in the background of the novel is the infamous Y2K bug, which many people feared would be disastrous as the calendar rolled over from 1999 to 2000.

So far, the Anno Dracula books have tended to tell stories set over weeks and even decades, but this one is a taut action-thriller jumping character to character as Jeperson, Nezumi, and Takayama work together to stop the terrorists and understand the implications of Christina Light’s ascension. Christina Light’s story arc began in the graphic novel Seven Days in Mayhem, then continued in the novel One Thousand Monsters. Daikaiju proves to be a thrilling conclusion to the arc. Even though Daikaiju is the final novel so far, I still have one more Anno Dracula volume to go. Kim Newman has a short story collection called Anno Dracula 1899 and Other Stories which I will likely dive into while hoping he has other stories in the works for the series.

As I say, I recently finished the first pass of a new Scarlet Order vampire novel. I’m at the point where I’m setting it aside and then I’ll take a fresh look at it in a couple of weeks. I’m sure I’ll be tearing it apart and putting it back together again before handing it off to beta readers and an editor. Meanwhile, you can learn about the first two novels in the series and read the opening chapters at:


As I write this, I’m working on the final chapters of my third Scarlet Order Vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. I’m still in the rough draft stage, so in some ways, once I complete this phase, the real work will begin. I’ve been having fun with the book, but I know it needs work to make it better. While working on the novel, it was fun to learn about the movie Renfield starring Nicholas Hoult as Dracula’s famous familiar and Nicolas Cage as Dracula himself. My wife and I decided to make an excursion to see the film.

Renfield is told as a sequel to Universal’s 1931 film, Dracula. As the film opens, we find Renfield in New Orleans in a support group for people in abusive and co-dependent relationships. As he narrates how he came to be there, he tells us the story of his past century or so of existence, starting with a recreation of scenes from the 1931 film. The recreated scenes demonstrate how well Cage and Hoult channel Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye in their performances. In fact, in some ways, Cage feels like he finds a middle-ground between Bela Lugosi and Carlos Villarías, who played Dracula in the Spanish-language version of the film, shot at the same time and on the same sets as the English-language version. We learn that Renfield effectively gets super strength from eating bugs, an offshoot of how vampires gain strength and power from drinking blood.

The reason Renfield is in the support group is that he’s dealing with his guilt over taking innocent people to Dracula over the years. Instead, he’s decided to take abusive partners and spouses to Dracula. The only problem with this plan is that Dracula has no taste for evil-doers and Renfield finds himself stepping on the toes of a drug cartel operating in the Crescent City called the Lobos. Meanwhile, a New Orleans cop named Rebecca Quincy, played by Awkwafina, will do anything to stop the Lobos, who murdered her father.

After Renfield kills one of the Lobos top hit men, Teddy Lobo, son of the cartel’s boss, is sent to dispatch him. Meanwhile Officer Quincy is on the trail of Teddy Lobo played by Ben Schwartz. They all collide at a New Orleans restaurant and Renfield saves Officer Quincy’s life. As the two get to know each other, Renfield decides to take steps to further separate himself from Dracula.

Overall, Renfield was an enjoyable horror/comedy take on the Dracula. I liked how Cage gave us a Dracula who really wasn’t at all sympathetic and I also really appreciated that the film understood co-dependent relationships. After all, the idea is that Renfield defends and supports a being who is addicted to blood. As a fan of New Orleans, I loved seeing the Crescent City in the film and recognized many of the filming locations. Tonally, the movie was a little jarring. It seemed to have trouble deciding whether it was a light horror comedy in the vein of What We Do In the Shadows or a more over-the-top bloody action romp in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Also, I felt the inevitable, final confrontation between Teddy Lobo and Renfield could have been a stronger scene.

Although this was a vampire film, I felt the clash of magic, horror, and crime reminded me most of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. You can learn more about my novel, and even see a short film based on a scene in the novel by visiting

Dracula 1972 AD and Beyond

Recently reading Fred Saberhagen’s 1975 novel The Dracula Tape, brought to mind a pair of movies set just a little earlier in the decade. These were Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula both produced by Hammer films in 1972 and 1973 respectively. These were the last two films where Christopher Lee played Dracula for Hammer. Just as Batman has the Joker, and Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty, Dracula has Van Helsing, and it’s fitting that Hammer studio’s long-time Van Helsing, Peter Cushing, was along for the ride. These movies were interesting to watch, since I’ve long cited Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula as an inspiration for the Desmond Drake character in my Scarlet Order Vampire novels.

Dracula AD 1972 opens with Dr. Lawrence Van Helsing’s final confrontation with the count. As one might gather from Van Helsing’s name, we’ve already deviated from Bram Stoker’s novel. The two are fighting on a coach when it hits a rock and both are thrown clear. Van Helsing soon discovers that Dracula has been impaled on the broken spoke of a wagon wheel! The good doctor finishes the count off. Dracula falls to dust just before Van Helsing succumbs to his injuries. Unfortunately, one of Dracula’s minions shows up and collects the wheel spoke which impaled Dracula along with a healthy sample of vampire dust. Soon, we skip ahead to 1972, where a group of young people are partying in a London estate. When they’re kicked out, the leader of the group, who looks suspiciously like the minion who collected Dracula’s remains, invites the group to an abandoned church. He wants to conduct a black mass “for kicks.” The ritual is performed. The leader, who goes by the name Johnny Alucard—another tie to a novel I read recently—succeeds in bringing Dracula back. It looks like the world may be lost, but fortunately, one of the people in the group is young Jessica Van Helsing played by Stephanie Beacham. She’s the great granddaughter of Lawrence and the granddaughter of Lorrimer who, like Lawrence, is played by Peter Cushing. In this film, Dracula seems tied to the abandoned church and relies on his minions to do all the work for him. This makes it comparatively easy for Lorrimer to track him down for the final confrontation. The movie’s pacing and style felt like a tribute to the earlier movies in the Hammer Dracula franchise, but it added little new to the lore.

Hammer followed this film with a sequel called The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The movie was retitled Dracula and his Vampire Brides for release in the United States. As one might gather from the British title, more dark rites are in process. Only this time, the people engaged in the rites are from Britain’s business, political and scientific elite. Top investigators attempt to infiltrate the proceedings to find out what’s going on. They get some info and turn to Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray who helped to crack the last weird case involving dark rituals. Inspector Murray turns to his friends Lorrimer and Jessica Van Helsing for help. This time Jessica is played by Joanna Lumley, but otherwise, our repeat characters are portrayed by the same actors as before. We soon learn that Dracula is no longer tied to the church where he had been trapped in the last movie. He’s now a top London businessman called D.D. Denham. Dracula has grown so old that all he really wants is an end to his immortal existence. However, being Dracula, he isn’t content to just find a way to die. He has to take out humanity as well and he’s found people willing to help. Fortunately, Murray and the Van Helsings are there to save the world. While the first film felt like a tribute to early Hammer Dracula films, this one played more like later films with more explicit violence and nudity. I liked the idea of Dracula as a businessman in the 20th century and Christopher Lee’s D.D. Denham certainly feels not a little like Desmond Drake from the Scarlet Order novels.

Even though the second film felt campier than the first and had several problems, I tended to like it better. The first film relied on many tried and true Dracula tropes, but the second film embarked on new territory, doing more to make Dracula himself the kind of character he would be in the present day. I only wish that Christopher Lee’s Dracula had been given more to do along with a stronger ending than the one he received in the final film. Still, if you’re a fan of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it’s worth seeking these films out.

I’ve been hard at work on my third Scarlet Order vampire novel featuring Desmond Drake, who takes inspiration from Christopher Lee’s Dracula. As of this writing, I’ve completed just over 80,000 words of the novel. If you want to be ready when the novel comes out, check out the first two books of the Scarlet Order vampire series at:

The Dracula Tape

I first met Fred Saberhagen in 1986. He was sitting outside of the Waldenbooks in Albuquerque’s Coronado Center Mall signing copies of his new book, The Frankenstein Papers. In effect, the book told the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the monster’s point of view. I was well aware of Saberhagen’s reputation as a science fiction author and a good friend from high school was a particular fan of his Berserker series, so I decided to give the book a try. Saberhagen kindly signed the book to me. I came to know him a little better once my wife and I began selling books at Albuquerque’s science fiction convention, Bubonicon, where I listened to him on several panels. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007.

Recently, a friend asked if I’d ever read Saberhagen’s 1975 novel, The Dracula Tape. It occurred to me that was a serious omission. After I’d read and enjoyed The Frankenstein Papers, I’d always meant to seek out a copy of The Dracula Tape. However, in 1986, I hadn’t yet read the original Dracula and I thought it would be more enjoyable if I had some background. Unfortunately, by the time I actually read Dracula in the mid-1990s, Saberhagen’s novel had fallen off my radar. Fortunately, Fred’s wife, Joan Saberhagen, has made certain that The Dracula Tape is still available in ebook and audio formats, so I was finally able to pick up a copy and dive into a book I’d long meant to read.

The Dracula Tape opens in 1975 England. Arthur Harker and his wife Janet arrive in a hospital after their car dies on a remote road. In the back seat is a tape recorder. On the tape within, is the voice of a man purporting to be Count Dracula. He relates the events of Bram Stoker’s novel from his point of view. It turns out that Arthur and Janet Harker are descendants of Jonathan and Mina Harker of Stoker’s novel and Dracula is on a mission which will be revealed at the end of the novel. Saberhagen’s approach works well, since Dracula is an epistolary novel told from several points of view. The one point of view we never heard in the novel was Dracula’s own. Of course, Count Dracula sees himself as the hero of the story and endeavors to paint himself as such by presenting alternate versions of the accounts as presented by Stoker’s characters without outright contradicting them. The effect is that he paints Stoker’s characters as unreliable narrators and yet, readers familiar with Dracula may wonder if the count is a reliable narrator himself.

Over the years, numerous authors have speculated about Mina Harker’s fate in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For example, in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary gentlemen series, she’s granted at least some vampire-like powers, including apparent immortality. I especially like the way Saberhagen addresses both Dracula and Mina’s fate after the events of the novel. I also really enjoyed Saberhagen’s version of Lucy Westenra’s story. I recommend The Dracula Tape to fans of Stoker’s novel who want to see a respectful and believable version of the events from the Count’s perspective.

You can learn about my epistolary vampire novel and also learn why Rae Lori recommends it at by clicking the image below:

Revisiting King Arthur

Back in my university days, after watching John Boorman’s film Excalibur, several friends discussed how much the film resembled true Arthurian legend. This set me on a personal quest to discover what true Arthurian legend actually is. One of my early finds in that quest was a used copy of Richard Brengle’s fine compilation Arthur: King of Britain. The book opens with excerpts from early histories that mentioned Arthur or events that would become associated with Arthur. It then went on to present excerpts from the Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and other canonical Arthurian tales. Another book I found in this quest was Warriors of Arthur by Bob Stewart and Richard Hook. This last book endeavored to discuss Britain from the time Arthur would have lived if he had been a real historical figure. The book also included retellings of some of the early legends I first encountered in Brengle’s book along with some memorable illustrations. One of those was a telling of the story of Peredur, a young man raised by his mother in the woods who encounters Arthur’s men and decides to prove himself worthy of joining their company. I loved the story and it has stuck with me over many years. As a character, Peredur is also known as Peredurus, Percival, Parzival and more.

It’s from this background that I discovered Nicola Griffith’s novel Spear. Based on the notes at the end of the book, it seems clear that like me, Nicola Griffith has long been a fan of the expansive Arthurian canon. In the book, she weaves several different versions of the Peredur and Arthur story into a single narrative. In this case, a young woman is raised by her mother in the woods. They possess a prized chalice but little else. The young woman learns to hunt from the animals of the forest and she encounters nearby human villages where she learns their language. One day thieves set upon a band of knights. Stealthily, the young woman helps the knights overcome the bandits. She’s impressed by the bravery of the knights and wants to join them. She also wants to learn more about the world. When she leaves her mother, she’s called spear or Peretur. Griffith tells her story in a way that retains the lyricism of the classic Arthurian texts, but yet is still accessible to the modern reader. By making Peretur a woman, we hear the echoes of many women throughout history who took up arms for causes they believed in, from Grace O’Malley to Tomoe Gozen and from Mulan to Ada Carnutt. I enjoyed the fact that Griffith included notes at the back of the novel to discuss her literary and historical inspirations and how she blended them together into a satisfying new take on the Arthurian legend.

Back when I was first delving into the Arthurian canon, I thought it would be cool to create my own version of the story based on the stories that resonated most with me and the history of post-Roman Britain. I soon discovered that many talented authors had already presented their own takes on the idea. Still, I folded some of those story ideas and that historical research into my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. You can find out more about that novel at:

Sleepless in Marine City

The first time I flew on an airplane, I was in the third grade. My parents and I flew to Seattle to visit my brother who had moved there for college. My most vivid memory of that trip was visiting the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle at the Seattle Center. I was especially excited to see a Gemini space capsule at the Pacific Science Center. Not only could you look at it, but you could sit inside and flip the switches and pretend you were on a real space mission. I had already read all about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, so I had a very good sense of how special this display was. I would later learn that the capsule in Seattle was an unflown mockup, but it still had been built for the Gemini program and it helped to ingrain my love of space exploration.

The Seattle Center as we know it today started as the fairgrounds for the Century 21 Exposition of 1962. Among the exposition’s notable visitors was Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov. This real history along with the Cuban Missile Crisis serve as the inspirations for the fourth volume of Keisuke Makino’s Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut, which was recently translated into English and released in the United States.

In this volume, computer engineers Kaye Scarlet and Bart Fifield are sent to a space conference at the Exposition in a Seattle fictionalized as Marine City. Kaye is a dhampir, a person descended from both humans and vampires. Bart is human. In the previous volume, they marched for dhampir rights in the United Kingdom, which is this alternate world’s version of the United States. They soon learn that their heroes, cosmonauts Lev Leps and Irina Luminesk, are scheduled to speak at the conference. Like Bart, Lev is human. Irina is a vampire.

The goal of the conference is basically twofold. The first objective is to hash out two competing plans to land people on the Moon. The second is to discuss cooperation between the space programs of the United Kingdom and the “Zinitra Union.” Bart and Kaye have studied the two competing plans for lunar landing and have come to the conclusion that neither will work. There’s a third plan rejected early on due to a technicality they think can work, but they have to sell it to their bosses. While all of this is going on, the United Kingdom discovers that the Zinitra Union has been building missile silos on a small island not far from the UK’s shores. This world’s version of the Cuban Missile Crisis threatens to shut down the conference and our engineers and cosmonauts begin to despair for the future of space travel and the fate of the world. As all of this is going on, Bart and Kaye begin to understand the feelings they have for each other.

All in all, Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut continues to be a satisfying retelling of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Aside from changed names and slightly changed dates, this volume tends to stick close to the historical events. That said, events at the ending suggest that this world’s history may diverge from the history we know. This world’s Nikita Krushchev isn’t removed from power in 1964 and a would-be assassin fails to kill this world’s John F. Kennedy. So author Keisuke Makino has now neatly set up a world as it might have been. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Vampires navigating interpersonal relationships and working to understand their place in the universe are hallmarks of my Scarlet Order Vampire series. You can learn more about those books by visiting:

Johnny Alucard

I have been continuing my read of the Anno Dracula series and today, I take a look at the fourth book, Johnny Alucard. The series asks what would have happened if Count Dracula escaped Dr. Van Helsing at the end of Bram Stoker’s famous novel and married Queen Victoria, thus bringing vampires into public view for the first time in history. The series has been full of allusions to famous literary and screen vampires along with pop culture icons of the various time periods visited. In the previous novel I read, Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the count finally died for real in Rome of 1959. That noted, Dracula largely exists as a background presence in these novels, which are mostly told from perspective of one of three vampires: the elder and doctor Geneviève Dieudonné, Victorian activist and reporter Kate Reed, or socialite Penelope Churchward.

Johnny Alucard opens with a prologue in 1944 when Dracula visits his native Transylvania and turns a young man named Ion Popescu into a vampire. We then jump ahead thirty-two years to 1976. Francis Ford Coppola is in Transylvania filming his version of Dracula. This isn’t an alternate version of the one we know from 1992. Instead Coppola is creating this world’s version of Apocalypse Now with Marlon Brando as Dracula and Martin Sheen as Jonathan Harker. Katherine Reed is on hand to document the filming and serve as a consultant. Also on hand is the vampire Ion Popescu with Dracula’s blood in his veins and Dracula’s will in his consciousness. Ion is captivated by the production and over the course of this first part begins his transformation into John Popp who follows the film crew back to New York.

We then take a brief interlude into 1977 and find Geneviève in Southern California. She helps a man track down his daughter who has been taken in by a cult out in the desert. I enjoyed the cameo at a diner by a trucker known as the Duck. Through her long history, Geneviève has helped people by working as a doctor, but this episode gives her a taste for working as a private detective.

Our episodic novel next continues John Popp’s journey in America where he winds his way into Andy Warhol’s inner circle. Also in Warhol’s orbit is Penelope Churchward. Through the series, we have learned that a little vampire blood can give humans a boost of strength and stamina. It can help heal them and make them feel very good. Popp realizes that in America, people will pay for this rush and begins selling his blood like a drug. As vampire blood hits the streets and becomes increasingly addictive and expensive, Popp encourages other vampires to get in on the action. Ultimately he stops sharing his own blood and becomes something of a kingpin in the world of vampire blood dealing. Through his association with Warhol, Johnny Popp learns there’s an even better way to wend his way into the hearts and souls of Americans and that’s through Hollywood.

In 1981, Orson Welles hires private detective Geneviève Dieudonné to find out who is funding his version of the Dracula story. During this episode she gets involved with Columbo and even Buffy, or rather Barbie, the vampire slayer.

The novel continues to trace Popp’s transformation from Transylvanian peasant Ion Popescu to Hollywood mogul Johnny Alucard. Meanwhile Dracula’s influence over him continues to increase. In both the Universal and Hammer films, Dracula was often killed at the end and the screenwriters found inventive ways to bring him back for the next film. This book effectively becomes Kim Newman’s story of how Dracula can come back after he’d been killed off in the previous version. Unlike other volumes in the series, this one took me through a tour of the pop culture I actually experienced first hand. I gather the sections of the novel originally appeared as short stories and novellas. This might put some readers off, but I enjoyed this journey through the years and through multiple points of view. Overall, threads from the different eras come together at the end of the novel to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

Like the novel Johnny Alucard, my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order started life as short stories in a set of publications. You can learn more about my novel at: