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

Textual Origami

Back in 1993, when I was first writing my novel, The Pirates of Sufiro, I created a very broad synopsis of each of the novel’s four parts. I wrote one page in a notebook describing what I expected to happen in that part of the book. Then, as I had time, I wrote the scenes that, I hoped, would bring the story to life. When I’m working on a novel, I often have a flash of a moment in a story. Back then, I was good about writing those moments down right when they happened. I would then call it a completed scene, then start thinking about the next “moment.”

Reading the novel now, over 25 years later, I realize many of those moments read more like scene fragments rather than complete scenes in their own right. The scene fragment might describe something significant that happens to a character, but it’s over and done with so fast that we don’t really feel like we spent time with the character or got to know how that fragment fit in the story’s bigger context. So, one of the things I’m doing in the novel’s 25th anniversary edition is identifying fragments that can be folded together into longer scenes, so the reader spends more time with each character getting to know them and understand their motivations a little more before moving on to another scene. I’ve begun to think of the process as textual origami.

As an example, I had a scene fragment where a colonel is watching a holographic display of a space ship. His adjutant arrives and they have a brief conversation. I then move onto another scene fragment with other characters. In the next scene fragment with the colonel, he’s still watching the hologram. Another ship arrives. Then we move onto the next fragment. It occurred to me, there’s no reason at all that the two fragments of the colonel and the hologram couldn’t be combined into one scene. The colonel and his adjutant could be talking when the second ship arrives, adding another layer to the scene.

Over the years, as I grew as a writer, I tended to get better about creating longer scenes all on my own. However, I still occasionally wrote and inserted a scene fragment here or there. I didn’t really think about my tendency to create scene fragments until I wrote my novel Owl Riders just a couple of years ago. The novel’s editor was the first editor to encourage me to combine some of these fragments into longer scenes. Once it was pointed out, it was easier to see my scene fragments in other novels.

Admittedly, not every scene fragment needs to be folded into long, extended scenes. Sometimes a fragment can help to highlight a moment or emphasize a very particular incident. With that in mind, I think the scene fragment is a very powerful tool, but its one that should be wielded carefully.

If you want to see more in-depth posts detailing my process of rewriting The Pirates of Sufiro for its 25th anniversary edition, I encourage you to support my Patreon campaign at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. Also, I should point out that supporting my Patreon campaign is also a way to help support this blog. I took the leap earlier this year to buy paid WordPress hosting for this blog to give readers an ad-free experience. A portion of the money I get at my Patreon site helps to cover the hosting fees.