My Life With Vampires

Today finds me in Denver, Colorado at MileHiCon 50! If you’re in town, I hope you’ll drop by. You can get more information about the event at: http://www.milehicon.org.

As we approach Halloween, I find myself looking back at how I developed an interest in vampire fiction. I think the first vampires I encountered were the Scooby-Doo episodes “A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts” and “Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats.” At the risk of spoilers, we find that both vampires are really criminals engaged in a scam. Somewhat scarier to me was the 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella. That opened up an interest in Bram Stoker’s novel, which I remember starting, but not finishing at the time because I was 12 and easily distracted.

Illustration for Vampires of the Scarlet Order by Steven Gilberts

It was another 1979 film that really got me thinking about vampires and that was Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, which I saw in 1984. The film’s atmospheric quality and Klaus Kinski’s genuinely creepy portrayal of Dracula set a standard for me. Even so, I didn’t really get captivated by vampires until I started working at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1992. At the time, the observatory had both solar astronomers working at the McMath Solar Telescope (as it was known then) and “stellar” astronomers working at night on the other telescopes. Those of us who worked at night jokingly referred to ourselves as the vampires of the observatory because we weren’t seen before sunset and went to bed before sunrise.

As it turns out, one of my co-workers at the time was a fan of vampire fiction. She encouraged me to finally read Dracula from start to finish. I read much of it during a stormy night on the mountain. Periodically I had to go check conditions outside and I kept imagining that predatory eyes were upon me. This really hooked me on vampire fiction. Soon after this, she encouraged me to read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. From there, I dove right into The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. Even so, I didn’t really think about writing my own vampire fiction until nearly a decade later.

In 1995, I had moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and soon got involved with the Border Book Festival. I hosted a panel in 2000 and afterward, my friend Janni Lee Simner asked, “What do you suppose a vampire would make of Las Cruces, the city of crosses?” She followed that with a comment by telling me if it sparked a story idea, I was welcome to it. A few days later, while driving to Apache Point Observatory, I had an idea for a story about a vampire astronomer who moved to Las Cruces. That story became “Vampire in the City of Crosses” and I sold it a few weeks later to the magazine The Vampire’s Crypt.

The story and those that followed suggested that the vampire was on a quest. His quest led him to discover the vampire mercenaries who called themselves the Scarlet Order. Those stories all came together to become the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Once I got that far, I wanted to explore how the vampires decided to fight for human kings and that led me to the prequel, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. As mercenaries who fight for human causes, my vampires aren’t the kind to sit around and brood about their immortal existence, seduce mortal girls a fraction of their age, or sparkle in the sunlight. In short, I’ve enjoyed spending time with them these last seventeen years. They make great companions in the Halloween season. If you’re looking for a good read this time of year, learn more about the books at http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order.

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A Vampire in Daylight

In my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I introduced Daniel McKee, a vampire who works as a telescope operator. In my novels, the vampires often need to find ways to earn incomes since I’ve always been a bit skeptical that it’s easy to stash away vast amounts of wealth given nothing but time. Of course, being vampires, my characters must find night work, which can be a challenge, especially in some professions. Fortunately, Daniel was an astronomer when he became a vampire, so his progression to an all-nighttime position wasn’t difficult.

Daniel is autobiographical only in the sense that he’s a telescope operator. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the Mayall 4-meter is undergoing a major refit. The entire top ring in the picture above will be coming off and replaced with a new top ring that holds 5000 optical fibers which will be used to collect light from millions of objects around the sky. Because the refit is so extensive and so time-consuming, there’s no nighttime work to do on the telescope, so those of us who work as telescope operators have been spending one shift a month supporting the refit operation during the day. I find myself wondering what Daniel would make of that!

In fact, Daniel would probably quit to find an operator’s position elsewhere. Otherwise, he might find work to do that would allow him to remain on a nighttime schedule, such as programming or manual writing. Sadly, Daniel would miss out on a fascinating engineering endeavor and some good camaraderie. In the photo above, the engineering crew is installing a scaffolding that will give them access to the telescope’s top end. However, the scaffolding isn’t just for access. It will help hold the telescope struts in place after the current top ring is removed and before the new one is installed. It will be sturdy to support people and to assure that the telescope will function after this exercise is over.

What’s more, observatories require more than night time staff to function. There is a large contingent of people who work at the observatory during the daytime. They support the infrastructure, such as water services, electricity, and internet. They provide engineering support, keeping the telescopes operational years after construction when original parts are no longer manufactured and the telescope must be upgraded to work with new electronics. This is a great team of people that I unfortunately don’t get to interact with on most nights because they go home right as I’m starting my work day. So it has been great to get to know some of these “unseen” co-workers.

Sadly once you become a vampire, even good people can look like a tasty treat, so perhaps it’s just as well Daniel wouldn’t interact with the observatory’s day staff, but I’m delighted I’ve had the opportunity!

You can read more about Daniel’s adventures in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Learn more about the novel at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

The adventures of the Scarlet Order before Daniel became a member are featured in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Read a sample chapter and learn more at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

I will be signing both of these novels next month on the Friday, May 25 at Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, Louisiana from 3-6pm. That’s the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. I’ll also be doing a special reading from the novels afterwards at Potions, an amazing speakeasy bar nearby. Be sure to drop by the signing to learn more about the reading. Mark your calendars!

Kreativ Blogger Award and Updates

I was honored this week to receive “The Kreativ Blogger Award” from Paige Addams. She presented the award both this site and my Scarlet Order Vampire Site. Paige blogs about paranormal romance and is sharing her novel-in-progress. She’s raised some interesting writing issues there and it’s definitely a blog worth checking out.

For those who aren’t familiar with “blog awards” they basically are a way for people to share blogs they like. The “Kreativ Blogger” award was started in Norway by a lady named Hulda and she literally handcrafted the award and posted a photo to her blog. Here’s the original version that first hit the internet in May 2008:

The spirit of these awards is to “pay it forward” and recommend other blogs you like. Let me start out by recommending those blogs I have linked in the left-hand sidebar. Ernest Hogan, Emily Devenport, Robert Collins and Gayle Martin all have great things to say at their sites.

In addition to these, I have to give a special shoutout to Emily Guido who has been a loyal follower of both my blogs. I have been enjoying her excerpts from the “Light-Bearer” series about a group of angelic light bearers and their allies, the blood hunters. She also honored me with the “Lucky 7 Meme Award” which I’ll cover as part of tomorrow’s post at the Scarlet Order Vampire’s page.

Sky Warrior Books runs a blog I highly recommend. They post news of interest to writers along with some great marketing tips.

O.M. Grey’s Caught in the Cogs is a blog worth checking out. She is podcasting her steampunk vampire novel Avalon Revisited and talks about polyandrous relationships. This last won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but she has really good advice about relationships in general.

Finally, go check out Paige’s blog. I’m truly honored that she’s enjoyed both of my blogs enough to “pay it forward” and recommend me to her readers. Thank you, Paige!

Let me close out this section of the post by “paying it forward” another way. Is there a topic you’d like me to address here at the Web Journal or over at the Scarlet Order Vampires site? If so, drop me a comment. Topics related to writing, editing and astronomy will generally be covered here at the Web Journal. Topics about vampires and horror will likely be covered over the Scarlet Order Vampires page. I’m happy to see what I can do!

Coming Soon: Dragon’s Fall

I just finished reviewing the galley proofs for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. This is the novel that tells how the Scarlet Order—a band of vampire mercenaries—were formed. It makes a journey from Hellenistic Greece through Arthurian Britain, into the Holy Land, and finally winds up in Vlad the Impaler’s Transylvania. The novel is the prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order which is available as:

Dragon’s Fall is my sixth novel. Now, if you have a copy of Owl Dance, you’ll see the blurb on the back touts that as my seventh novel. The reason for that is two-fold. First off, I finished writing Dragon’s Fall before I finished writing Owl Dance. Also, although the entire novel is just now moving into production, parts of Dragon’s Fall have been available for a while. Dragon’s Fall is a novel in five acts. Here are links where you can learn about the first two acts:

Tales of the Talisman Submissions

Tales of the Talisman Magazine opens to submissions tomorrow, July 1, 2012. We will remain open until full. Most likely that will be somewhere around August 15, 2012. We are reading for the Spring 2013 Steampunk Issue and the Summer 2014 issue. The Summer 2014 issue will return to our potpouri format of science fiction, fantasy and horror. So, all types of speculative fiction submissions will be welcome. Be sure to follow our guidelines at: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/gl.html. If you can’t be bothered to follow the guidelines, don’t expect me to bother reading your story. Simple as that! If you’re confused about a point, feel free to ask. I look forward to your stories and good luck!