eSpec Books Author Reading Series

At the microphone

In my post last month about Buboni-Virtual Con 2020, I shared a reading from my story “The Sun Worshiper” which was part of the eSpec Books Author Reading Series. This has been a cool service offered by eSpec Books, giving authors an opportunity to showcase their works during the COVID-19 pandemic when we can’t get out and about. The excerpt I shared in the earlier post was from a story in an anthology published by eSpec Books called AfterPunk. The story features steampunk stories in the afterlife. My story in the anthology tells about a Victorian mummy unwrapping party gone wrong. Reading the story was a lot of fun. Several years ago, I’d created audio book editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Unfortunately, those audiobooks are no longer available, but I dusted off the equipment for this reading. I had so much fun, I hoped for a chance to do some more reading.

As it turns out, eSpec Books hasn’t limited readings to books they’ve published. They invited me to read some of my other material as well. In this video, I read an excerpt from my novel Firebrandt’s Legacy.

In the novel, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back! You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/Firebrandts-Legacy.html

I also share an excerpt from Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires.

The excerpt I read is actually the very first scene I wrote for the novel, though it actually appears between parts one and two.

This novel tells the story of three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages. Learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

Hopefully this has just whetted your appetite for more readings. You can find many more reading by visiting the eSpec Books blog at: https://especbooks.wordpress.com/. They have lots of good books as well and several of their authors have appeared in books and magazines I’ve edited. You can find my stories in Gaslight and Grimm as well as AfterPunk.

Dracul

Last month, I was invited to join the Vampyre Library Book Club hosted by Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans. The first featured selection was the novel Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker. Dacre Stoker is the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and the manager of the Bram Stoker estate.

Dracul

The novel Dracul imagines that Bram Stoker was inspired to write his most famous novel by events from his life. It’s known that Bram was a rather sickly child and there were fears he wouldn’t survive to adulthood. Instead, Bram suddenly became very healthy and, in fact, became an outstanding athlete at Dublin’s Trinity College. In Dracul, the authors imagine this happened because the Stoker family nanny was a vampire. After she saves Bram’s life, the nanny, Ellen Crone, disappears. Bram and his sister Matilda follow Ellen to nearby Artane Castle where they find a box of putrid earth. An arm rests in the dirt. On its finger is a ring bearing the inscription, “Dracul.”

The story follows Bram, Matilda, and their brother Thornley as they attempt to solve the mystery of Ellen Crone and “Dracul.” They reach a dead end as children but the mystery returns to haunt them in their 20s and they find more clues, which then lead them to a climactic encounter inspired by Bram’s short story “Dracula’s Guest.” In the afterword, Dacre shares how he has come to know that “Dracula’s Guest” was actually part of the first 100 pages of Dracula excised before publication. I found Dracul to be a thrilling and suspenseful novel and I was delighted to read Dacre’s afterword that explained several of the real life and literary inspirations.

In the afterword, Dacre discusses some of the controversy surrounding the inspiration of the character of Dracula. It’s often taken for granted that Stoker used Wallachia’s Vlad III as the inspiration for his vampire. As Dacre points out, that’s not at all a given and he argues that Bram had in mind a creature who had been living from a time much before the fifteenth century. I found this interesting. Although it has been a while since I read Dracula, I do recall noting that Bram shrouded the origins of the title character in mystery.

Dragon’s Fall

It was partly because of that and partly because my favorite screen Dracula is Christopher Lee, that I decided to explore the idea that the Dracula legend came about because people conflated an ancient vampire with Vlad III. The names Dracul and Dracula come from “the order of the dragon” a chivalric order of knights who fought to defend Christendom. This particular order was founded in 1408 by Sigismund von Luxembourg who was then the King of Hungary. However, there are other knights through the centuries who used dragons as emblems or titles and I imagined the “real” Dracula might be one of them. You can learn the full story of my version in my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. You can find all the places its available at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html. You can find signed copies of Dracul at: https://feelthebite.com/

Frightfully Good Deals

The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is underway. It gets its name because where I live in the northern hemisphere, readers are loading up their e-readers for great beach reading and vacations. In the southern hemisphere, it’s the middle of winter and people are spending time in a warm and cozy place reading. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts this month and I’ll be highlighting them all month long here at the Web Journal. If you’re looking for a specific title, you don’t have to wait for me to highlight it, just visit http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php and click on the book you’re interested in. On its page is a link to Smashwords if its available there. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device.

Today, I’m highlighting two of my horror novels. These are very different. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires is a historical novel that tells the story of a band of vampire mercenaries who came together during the dark ages. The Astronomer’s Crypt is a contemporary novel about astronomers, drug dealers, Apache spirits, and ghosts colliding on a mountaintop observatory on a terrible night. Pick these novels up now while the price is right and be ready for Halloween!


Dragon’s Fall

Three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages.

Marita Wowod Crandle, author of New Orleans Vampires—History and Legend calls the novel, “A journey into the time of lords, battles, sailing the seas, and vampires. A wonderful escape into historical adventure.”

Buy Dragon’s Fall for just $1.00 this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025606


The Astronomer’s Crypt

Two years ago on a stormy night, in the dead of winter, Mike Teter experienced something that would change his life forever. Mike was a telescope operator at the world renowned Carson Peak Observatory in New Mexico. We won’t tell you what he saw that night on the mountain nor what happened afterward on a dark stretch of highway, because it would haunt you just as it has haunted Mike. But what we will tell you is that Mike is back at Carson Peak. And what he witnessed that night two years ago is about to become a reality…

My novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt, is pulled from over twenty years experience operating telescopes at observatories around the Southwest. You can make this journey into the dark side of astronomy for just $1.00 this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025608

Clearance Sale

As noted in the last two posts, I’ve released new editions of two of my novels over the last week. Unfortunately, the timing of these new editions has coincided with the Coronavirus pandemic, which means I’ve had canceled and delayed events. El Paso Comic Con has been delayed until October and Albuquerque’s Bubonicon has been canceled altogether this year. Because of that, I have a stock of the first editions of my novels that I’d like to clear out to make room for the new, updated editions and this means you can get a great bargain.

The first novel I have available is The Astronomer’s Crypt. This is my story of astronomers, drug dealers, ghosts, and a monster from Apache legend colliding on a remote mountain top during a ferocious storm. It draws a lot on my experience operating telescopes around the southwest and while it’s a good spooky story, it also gives you a sense of what it’s like behind the scenes at an observatory. There are few changes in the novel’s actual text between the two editions. The primary change in this book is a new round of proofreading. The copies I have are brand new and only have a little shelf wear from carrying them around to conventions. You can pick up a copy of the first edition for the bargain price of $4.50 plus shipping (that’s 70% off the cover price) at: http://hadrosaur.com/AstronomersCrypt.php

The other novel I have at a bargain price is Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll notice that I’ve tacked on the word Vampires to the novel’s subtitle to help audiences know more what the book is about at a glance. Dragon’s Fall tells the story of three vampires, one of them known as “the Dragon” who form a band of vampire mercenaries. Staring in ancient Greece, we follow their adventures through the Middle Ages until they find themselves in the employ of Vlad the Impaler. I edited Dragon’s Fall a little more heavily than The Astronomer’s Crypt. Part of the reason is that I have learned a little more about the Arthurian lore that forms part of the story’s background and used that to enhance the mystery surrounding the vampire Roquelaure. As with The Astronomer’s Crypt, I put effort into a new proofread of the novel and I think the prose is a bit stronger, but this first edition tells substantially the same story in the same way as the new edition. You can pick up a copy of the first edition for the bargain price of $4.50 plus shipping (that’s 72% off the cover price) at: http://hadrosaur.com/DragonsFall.php

In both of these cases, I’d be delighted to autograph the books. These autographed first editions would be a great way to treat yourself in tough times or make a great gift for someone special. To request an autograph, just click the “Contact” link at the top of hadrosaur.com after you place your order and tell me you want your book autographed. If you’d like it personalized just tell me the name to sign it to.

Dragon’s Fall Second Edition Now Available

I’m pleased to announce that the second edition of my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires is now available! This new edition has been re-edited and features a beautiful new cover by Chaz Kemp.

Dragon’s Fall is the origin story of the Scarlet Order vampires. The novel explores themes of freedom, redemption, morality, and immortality. While you will find romance in this novel, what you won’t find are sparkly vampires. Instead, you’ll find the tale of three immortals trying to find their way in the world as history unfolds around them.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages.

Marita Woywod Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans and the author of New Orleans Vampires – History and Legend, calls Dragon’s Fall “A journey into the time of lords, battles, sailing the seas, and vampires. A wonderful escape into historical adventure.”

My Scarlet Order vampires first appeared almost twenty years ago in a story called “Vampire in the City of Crosses” published in the magazine The Vampire’s Crypt. Many of the early stories from that period formed the basis of my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. When I wrote that novel, I wrote several outlines for other novels featuring the vampires, including the outline for Dragon’s Fall. I wrote most of Dragon’s Fall during NaNoWriMo in 2005. I then set it aside while I worked on other projects. A few years later, Lachesis Publishing asked if I could write a series of romantic novellas for them. I adapted Dragon’s Fall for that project. The novellas were ultimately compiled into the final published novel.

I invite you to meet the Scarlet Order Vampires. The paperback edition of the novel is available at:

The ebook is available at several ebook vendors including:

Fun with Text-to-Speech

This week, my wife and I have been proofreading the Hadrosaur Productions editions of The Astronomer’s Crypt and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires before these books are uploaded as ebooks and sent to the print vendor. Last week, my wife presented me with the code to upgrade Microsoft Office on my desktop computer. I upgraded the edition and began to look through the menus, making sure I knew where familiar features were located. Fortunately not much has changed, but I did accidentally stumble on the text-to-speech option while I had The Astronomer’s Crypt manuscript open. So, I decided to let it read a page or two to me. My first thought was that this is what it would be like for Stephen Hawking to read me a story. It was a fairly flat reading. Despite that, I found it surprisingly listenable. As it read over a section I had already approved, I noticed it skipped over a word. I looked closer and discovered that it had not skipped. I had omitted the word. Specifically it was a small one, the article “a.”

I began to think this could be a handy tool for proofreading. So I started playing it while I read over the formatted manuscript. Now then, I normally do a “read aloud” pass when I edit my manuscripts. However, if I get too much into the flow of the story, I can “read” words that should be there but actually don’t exist on the page. Also, reading it with my inflections means that I can overlook some weak, repetitive prose by placing the emphasis where I want it. The problem is, my intention may not match what another reader will see on the page. The upshot is that the flat reading of the Text-to-Speech actually proves useful because it helps me hear how well the prose itself is doing its job.

Not surprisingly, text-to-speech has limitations. If you write fantasy or historical fiction, be prepared for the program to mispronounce names. However, there’s a neat element to this. It will mispronounce those names the same way. Every. Single. Time. While going through Dragon’s Fall, I looked at names on the page and thought they were correct, but the text-to-speech program read the misspelled version differently than the correct version. This caused me to look closer. Humans have a tendency to read with visual clues, so a name like Myrinne will look very much like Myrrine when you read it on the page, but the text-to-speech program pronounces them differently.

Text-to-speech is functionality that has been part of Word processors and operating systems for a little while, so it’s possible this may not be new to many people, but if it is new to you, I recommend you give it a try and see how you like it as a tool. If you do give this a try, I recommend reading along on the page while the program reads to you. It’s hard to “hear” the difference between commas and periods, for example, but the program will make it clear when you have one of those in the wrong spot!

I have found that Text-to-Speech is enabled in Word 2019 and in Adobe Acrobat (though I found its interface is a bit clunky to use in Acrobat.) I gather it’s also enabled in the Mac edition of Scrivener, but it does not exist in the PC edition. Word 2019 gives you a nice “play/pause” button so you can stop when you hear a problem. If you get lost while the program is reading, I recommend pausing, going back to where you last were following and start again.

I’ll wrap up today’s post with an update about the books mentioned above. Lachesis Publishing has started to pull their editions of the books from publication. Last I looked, the only vendor that hasn’t pulled them down is Apple, but hopefully that will happen soon and I can begin uploading my editions.

Dragon’s Fall – 2nd Edition Cover Reveal

As with The Astronomer’s Crypt, the rights to my vampire novels, Dragon’s Fall and Vampires of the Scarlet Order revert to me next month. I’ve been working hard this month to re-edit and re-format all of these books so I can launch them as soon as possible after the rights formally revert to me. My vampire novels are older than The Astronomer’s Crypt, so they required a bit more editing. The most challenging part about Dragon’s Fall was that it was originally intended to be released as a series of five novellas and the project had two editors. One editor worked on the first two novellas and a second editor came in for the remaining three. The upshot is that I caught some consistency issues plus a handful of typos and even a couple of outright mistakes such as sunlight shining through a window at night! This is the kind of thing guaranteed to make an author cringe!

Of the Dragon’s Fall novellas, only two were released as stand-alones both featuring covers by Laura Givens that I discussed in last Tuesday’s post. The cover for the collected edition featured a stock image of a vampire woman with some nice lettering by Laura. Of course the danger of stock images is that you sometimes find them on multiple covers and, in fact, I had the experience of revealing my cover and then within the week another author revealed almost the exact same cover with a different title!

For the new edition, I chose artist Chaz Kemp to do the cover. Chaz was artist guest of honor at TusCon in 2019 and is scheduled to be artist guest of honor at Bubonicon this year. I picked him because he has a lovely character styling that evokes days gone by and a lot of his work captures the kind of mood evoked in these books. The cover is basically a family portrait showing Desmond, Lord Draco, Alexandra the Greek, and the first ever depiction of Roquelaure against a starry, autumnal backdrop.

For the first time, we see Desmond with his goatee and Chaz gave him a lovely dragon emblem, denoting is rank as one of the King’s Dragon’s in ancient Britain. Also for the first time, we see Roquelaure, whose past is couched in mystery. Although he often wears a cloak in the books, it’s noted that he could easily be confused with Sir Lancelot of legend. Chaz’s version captures that aspect of Roquelaure nicely. Alexandra looks thoughtful as she ponders the subject that she cares most about: Freedom.

I was also honored that Marita Woywod Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans and author of New Orleans Vampires—History and Legend provided a new quote for the cover: “A journey into the time of lords, battles, sailing the seas, and vampires. A wonderful escape into historical adventure.”

Observant readers will notice a subtle change to the book’s subtitle. Originally, the book’s subtitle was simply Rise of the Scarlet Order. I changed it to Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires for this edition because over the last few years, even though the cover featured an obvious vampire on the cover, people often asked if it was a book about dragons. Alas, the only dragon in the book is Desmond, Lord Draco!

You can read more about the novel and read the first chapter at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

Return to Penny Dreadful

In my post looking at the vampires who appeared in the first season of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, I mentioned that I had started the second season. I’ve finished the season, which overall, I enjoyed more than the first.

Our heroes, Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler, Sir Malcolm Murray, Sembene, and Dr. Victor Frankenstein, are all back. This time our villains prove not to be vampires but a coven of witches. What’s more, these witches, called nightcomers in the Penny Dreadful mythos, are servants of Lucifer with superhuman powers. In this season, Brona Croft is reincarnated by Dr. Frankenstein as Lily Frankenstein, meant as the monster’s bride but possessing a mind of her own. One of my favorite characters this season was Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle played by Sir Simon Russel Beale who was introduced in season 1 but had a nice character arc in season 2.

Reeve Carney is back this season as Dorian Grey. Mostly his story takes place in the background of season 2’s main action, but it looks like they set him up to take a bigger role in the third season. We’ll have to see what happens with that story.

Although Penny Dreadful’s second season still features many characters from classic literature, they seem freed from their origins to tell their own story this season. In many ways this season felt more like a nineteenth century penny dreadful come to life. Although the series does have better writing than a real life penny dreadful like say, Varney the Vampyre, there were moments it did make baffling turns. Some of the characters’ choices seemed more designed to serve plot than make sense for what people would do when faced with these real situations. Why, for example, do the characters often go to battle the monsters at night when its known that’s when the monsters are strongest?

Despite that, there are a lot of clever plot turns and some good character moments in this season. We learn more about Sir Malcolm Murray and his relationship with his estranged wife. We also learn more about Ethan Chandler. Danny Sapani’s Sembene actually gets stuff to do. For me the standout was Billy Piper’s Lily Frankenstein. Her arc takes her from apparently lost waif betrothed to Frankenstein’s monster to woman in control of her destiny.

I’ve been watching Penny Dreadful while working on new editions of my horror novels, Dragon’s Fall, Vampires of the Scarlet Order and The Astronomer’s Crypt. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Penny Dreadful is that it doesn’t feel too bound by linear storytelling. One episode I thought was interesting in the current season involved Vanessa recounting how she was mentored by a witch. The episode didn’t bother to pop back into the present day, it just had a simple prologue of Vanessa starting her story, then the rest of the story just happened in the series’ past.

This approach reinforced a decision I’ve made for the new edition of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The original edition was told in very linear order. Events that happened in 1491 happened first. Events that happened in the sixteenth century happened next. That noted, the story’s main conflict actually happens in the present day. So, I’ve decided the new edition will start in the present day and the chapters set in the past will be told when it’s natural for characters in the story to tell them. You can get a sneak peak at the new first chapter at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO-Preview.html

Of course, the buy links still point to the original novel as released in 2008, but that will change soon after the rights revert to me next month.

Vampires on the UnXplained

Another great coincidence unfolded this past weekend when the A&E Network aired an episode of its series The UnXplained which discussed vampire and werewolf legends. The coincidence goes beyond this happening as I’m creating new editions of my vampires novels. I made a special point to watch the show because Marita Woywod Crandle was interviewed. I know Marita from doing signings in her shop, Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans. What’s more, Marita honored me by providing a cover quote for the new edition of Dragon’s Fall. Marita is not only the owner of a wonderful New Orleans boutique but an author whose work I admire. I loved her New Orleans Vampires – History and Legend and I really look forward to her forthcoming book about the infamous Carter Brothers of New Orleans.

Another aspect of the coincidence is that the show is hosted by William Shatner. Until it was postponed due to the Corona-19 pandemic, I was scheduled to speak at El Paso Comic Con this past weekend, where William Shatner was scheduled to be one of the featured celebrity guests. So, I ended up seeing William Shatner speak, even though the convention didn’t happen!

I enjoyed the show itself. As with most shows of this type, it didn’t delve very deeply into any of the legends discussed and given that this was a subject I’ve researched, there was little I didn’t know. What I found the most interesting was how much their summation of vampire and werewolf legends tracked themes I explore in both Dragon’s Fall and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. They discussed the appeal of immortality and the dark romanticism of some vampire stories. They made an interesting connection between vampires and werewolves in that both types of stories explore elements of our animal selves. Marita also talked about how vampires have almost become heroic figures and protectors. Humans may be prey, but a vampire can be a good steward of those it feeds upon.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the show to me was a story Ryan Skinner told about an experience he had on Utah’s Skinwalker Ranch. He tells a story about seeing balls of light over a field that moved around and changed size. Suddenly one of the balls of light exploded and there was a wolf very near to them. One of the aspects of my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order is that my vampires are tied to ancient and powerful technology indistinguishable from magic and this technology can allow vampires to cross dimensional planes if they know how to tap it. Whether you believe Mr. Skinner’s story or not, it struck me how much it sounded like a scene that could happen in my vampire universe.

Toward the show’s end, author David Skaal summed up one of the reasons vampires do compel me by citing the idea that vampires can’t see their own reflections. As he says, if a vampire did see their reflection, it would be you.

If you missed the episode in first run, it’s available through various streaming services. I downloaded a copy of the episode via iTunes. Times right now are tough on small businesses. I do encourage you to support those you can. Boutique du Vampyre’s storefront in New Orleans is closed, but their mail order business continues. You can get signed copies of my vampire novel from them as well as Marita’s book. If you can’t decide what you want, you can order a vampire mystery box filled with goodies from the boutique. Here are a few links to get you started:

The Vampires of Penny Dreadful

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic closed down businesses in New Mexico, I found copies of the first two seasons of the Showtime series Penny Dreadful on the shelf of one of my favorite local businesses, COAS Books. I had watched the first season back in 2016 and enjoyed it. You can read my thoughts on my old Scarlet Order Web Journal. I’ve finished re-watching the first season and I’ve just started watching the second.

It was interesting to re-watch Penny Dreadful while re-editing and re-formatting my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires for republication this summer since the first season is ostensibly the story of how Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives attempt to rescue Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina from a nest of vampires. Sharp eyed readers will likely recognize Mina Murray as the woman seduced by Dracula in Bram Stoker’s famous novel, which fits since the series is full of references to Victorian horror. However, this time around, I realized there is no explicit reference to Dracula at all. Mina only ever refers to her captor as “the Master.”

When I’m at book signings, readers often ask me about my particular vampire mythos. They’re curious about the “rules” my vampires follow. Do they only go out at night? Are they bothered by crosses? Can they transform into other creatures? Are they more monstrous, or more romantic? One of the things I found interesting in Penny Dreadful was that in addition to never bringing up Dracula, they never discuss the vampires’ “rules.” The closest they come to this is a brief appearance by Van Helsing, played wonderfully by David Warner. One of my favorite moments in the show comes when Van Helsing is talking to Dr. Frankenstein about vampires and hands him a copy of the first installment of the penny dreadful, Varney the Vampyre.

The vampires themselves were essentially portrayed as a nest of vermin. The vampire we are led to assume is the master seemed inspired by F.W. Murnau’s famous Nosferatu, but with fewer clothes. This vampire is surrounded by a number of women, all with light hair, red eyes and similar white dresses. For the most part, they are portrayed like a rat pack. The only “power” they seem to possess is either some ability for rapid movement or projecting their image over long distance. Mina in her vampire form appears to Vanessa a few times, then rapidly is pulled away.

Both Murnau’s original Nosferatu and Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake not only inspired the producers of Penny Dreadful, but they have inspired my Scarlet Order vampires. In Dragon’s Fall, some vampires shave their heads, making them look a little like Max Schreck in the original movie. In the novel, it’s a practical decision since the vampires can’t be out in sunlight. In primitive times, often their best defense is to bury themselves in the ground. Can you imagine what state your hair would be in if you had to do that?

In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the antagonists are creating their own vampire-like super soldiers. These creatures end up looking like Max Schreck and Klaus Kinski’s interpretation of Nosferatu. To me, that image of the vampire is still one of the most frightening and I like using it when I want a creature that poses a real threat to my heroes.

Will we learn more about the vampire mythology of Penny Dreadful in the second season? I’m three episodes in as of this writing and while our primary villain does seem inspired by Elizabeth Bathory, she’s portrayed as more of a witch. I suspect the vampires and witches are more an extension of the greater evil the heroes are facing than separate forces. If you’ve seen the rest of the series, please don’t send me spoilers. I’ll likely write a review of the second season once I’ve finished.

In the meantime, you can explore the world of the Scarlet Order in the current editions of the books:

Or, you can help me bring the new editions to life by supporting my Patreon campaign. If you join, you will be among the first to get downloadable copies of the novels, sneak peeks of the new covers, and I’ll be sharing a way for you to shape the tone of the new editions soon. Click on the button below to learn more about my Patreon campaign.