The Space Vampires

In recent weeks, I’ve been working on a sequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which is about vampire mercenaries who learn they must stop a government plot to create super soldiers with vampire powers. Part of the reason is that vampires have a cosmic origin that gives them powers which could prove extremely dangerous if unlocked. What’s more, the government scientists creating those super soldiers are working diligently to unlock all the vampire secrets. In the sequel, the vampires have decided to unlock those secrets for themselves. This notion of vampires having an otherworldly origin has been explored in numerous books and stories, but a notable example is Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires, which was then adapted into the 1985 movie Lifeforce. I had seen the movie once in the 1980s and then read the novel in the late 1990s, but I didn’t remember many of the details, so I went back for a second look.

The Space Vampires and Lifeforce

The book and the movie start out much the same. A space mission stumbles across a gigantic, derelict space vessel. Aboard, they find several alien bodies. After some searching, the space ship crew discovers three attractive human forms, who appear to be in suspended animation. Three of the human like figures are taken back to Earth. One of them, in the form of a beautiful young woman, wakes up while being examined and sucks the lifeforce from the person examining her, then escapes and begins looking for others to feed from.

The details are somewhat different between the book and the movie. The novel is set over a century in the future and the alien ship is in the asteroid belt. The movie is set in 1986 and the ship is in the tail of Comet Halley. The aliens in the book look like human-sized squids, while the ones in the movie look like bats. Despite those differences, the book and movie are more alike than I remember. After the alien vampire woman escapes into the world, our heroes start looking for clues so they can locate her and stop her. It turns out that the lead astronaut of the expedition does have a kind of psychic link to her which helps.

The novel spends much more time exploring the issue of vampires from a more metaphysical angle. It points out that everyone on Earth feeds off life, including vegetarians. There’s also an exploration of how we gain energy from other people and that to a certain extent, all humans could be viewed as psychic vampires. I found myself thinking of Colin Robinson from the TV series, What We Do in the Shadows. There’s also an exploration of ways in which the predator/prey relationship can mirror the pursuit of sexual partners.

To give the story more visual action, the movie introduces the idea that people drained by the alien vampires come back to life as zombies two hours after they were drained and then seek to drain others. The zombies are easily stopped by restraining them, but you have to find them first. This allows for a big spectacle ending as our heroes must find and destroy the vampires while London gets overrun by zombies. The book’s ending is much quieter and, at first read, it almost seems he invoked a deus ex machina. However, on reflection, Wilson did give us a few clues about the ending, but I also thought he could have foreshadowed the ending a little better than he did.

Having watched the movie and read the book together, I had the impression that the movie’s screenwriter, Dan O’Bannon, read the novel and paid close attention. As in the book, the vampires use sexuality as a lure for their victims, represented visually by Mathilda May playing the vampire woman nude in most of the movie. Both the book and movie posit an alien origin for vampires on Earth, and as I noted, there were more scenes from the book in the movie than I remembered. If Dan O’Bannon’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the screenwriter behind Alien. The book is fun in that it gives us a light Lovecraftian take on the vampire mythos. The movie takes that idea and ramps it up with a lot of fun, high-octane action backed by a great Henry Mancini score. I wouldn’t take either of them too seriously but, for the most part, I don’t think their creators intended us to.

You can see my take on vampires and their cosmic origins in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. You can learn more about the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

Risk and Exploration

Almost two months ago, I discussed the anime series Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. The link in the previous sentence will take you to the original post, so you can read about the anime and learn more about the plot. The anime was based on a light novel series. Last month, I picked up the first volume of the series for my Kindle. Because the light novel and the anime are so strongly based on the Soviet Space Program, I took the opportunity to refresh my memory of that period using my handy copy of the Haynes Soyuz manual, which I’d purchased in 2019 at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. All in all, it made an enjoyable deep dive into both the history of space flight and an exploration of storytelling techniques.

Haynes Soyuz Manual and Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut light novel

Over the years, I’ve read numerous novels that have been made into movies along with several movie novelizations. That said, this marks the first time I’ve read a Japanese light novel that was adapted into an anime. Overall, the anime adapted the light novel almost scene for scene and beat for beat. The main thing I noticed is that the first novel only covers about half the series. So, presumably, the second half of the series is based on the second novel. I’ll have to wait until October to confirm that! There were a few minor details in the novel that I didn’t remember in the anime, but I’d have to go back and rewatch the anime to make sure they actually weren’t there, or if I just missed them in a casual watch.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut was interesting from a narrative perspective. It told its story strictly from two points of view. One was reserve cosmonaut candidate Lev Leps, who trains the vampire Irina. The other viewpoint belonged to Irina herself. Lev’s point of view is by far the predominant one in novel, with Irina’s viewpoint providing a small counterpoint to Lev’s at the end of each chapter.

Both the light novel and the anime focus a lot of their time on Irina’s training for her rocket flight. This was where the Haynes guide proved interesting. I learned that the training regimen described in Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is a reasonably accurate depiction of the Soviet training regimen. Isolation training played an important part in the novel and anime as well as real life. As it turns out, the isolation tank used by the Soviets had a high oxygen content and I learned that one real-life cosmonaut died in a flash fire in the test booth in a way similar to the Apollo 1 astronauts in the United States.

There’s an inherent drama in the conflict between pushing forward to achieve a goal but analyzing all the risks to do something as safely as possible. I used that when I wrote my novel The Solar Sea about the first solar sail voyage across the solar system. I would argue that the Quinn family, who build the solar sail in my novel, push a little too hard for their goal. Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut does a good job of showing how the Soviets also pushed very hard to beat the Americans in various space milestones, arguably taking dangerous risks along the way. That said, I strongly sympathize with the idea that it’s sometimes necessary to take risks to achieve great things. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to look at Russia’s history without thinking about current events. Invading another sovereign nation is most definitely not a great ambition for any country and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has harmed international cooperation in space, which I’d argue has been far more beneficial to the planet than the 60s “space race” ever was.

One thing I enjoyed about the novel is that author Keisuke Makino has an afterward where he discusses his inspirations for writing the light novel. He mentioned that he was intrigued by the idea of taking a fantasy character like a vampire and putting them into a space setting. It’s true, that I can’t think of another book that has vampires involved in the early space programs of either the United States or the Soviet Union, but the ideas of vampires being drawn to space and the stars is one I’ve long found fascinating. In fact, my 2010 story “Anemia” about a vampire boarding a colony ship for the stars to escape the Earth’s sun is now reprinted in the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles. Even before I wrote that story, my Scarlet Order vampires dreamed of going to space in Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

You can get the light novel Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut from Seven Seas Entertainment: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/books/irina-the-vampire-cosmonaut-light-novel-vol-1/

My short story “Anemia” is in the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/hungur-chronicles-walpurgisnacht-edited-by-terrie-leigh-relf-and-robert-bellam

You can learn more about my novels at: http://www.davidleesummers.com

A Deal on the Scarlet Order Vampire Novels

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 featuring my Scarlet Order Vampire novels, which tell the tale of a band of vampire mercenaries who use their powers to fight for human nations, until humans are in danger of succumbing to darkness themselves. The books are just 99 cents each this month, which means you can get both books for half the price of just one book at regular price!


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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.”

Get Dragon’s Fall for 99 cents this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025606


A new generation of vampires embarks on a quest to save humanity.

Opening a forgotten crypt during a military exercise, Dr. Jane Heckman is made a vampire and begins a journey to unlock the secret origins of her new kindred.

Elsewhere, solitary vampire Marcella DuBois emerges from the shadows and uncovers a government plot to create vampire-like super soldiers.

Daniel McKee, a vampire working as an astronomer, moves to a new town where he’s adopted by a family, only to have government agents strip those he loves away from him.

All three vampires discover the government is dabbling in technologies so advanced they’ll tap into realms and dimensions they don’t understand. To save humans and vampires alike, Jane, Marcella, and Daniel must seek out the legendary master vampire Desmond, Lord Draco and encourage him to resurrect his band of mercenaries, the Scarlet Order.

Get Vampires of the Scarlet Order for just 99 cents this month at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1038560

All Dozen Novels in Print

With last week’s publication of Owl Riders, all twelve of my novels are now in print and available for purchase. To celebrate, I’m having a special on the first and second novels of my series. Read on for more details.

Now, It may seem strange that this news comes three years after I released my dozenth novel, Firebrandt’s Legacy. The reason this happened is that in 2018, the rights to my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels reverted to me from the publisher and all three of the novels that follow Firebrandt’s Legacy were out of print when that novel was released. Then in 2020, before all those novels were back in print, my publisher released the publishing rights of my novels The Astronomer’s Crypt and my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. Because that release happened around the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I actually was able to release new editions of those three novels fairly quickly. Last year, I negotiated the release of my Clockwork Legion steampunk series. So those novels were out of print when the last of the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels became available again. So, with the release of Owl Riders, everything is available at the same time.

A Dozen Novels

To celebrate all dozen novels being in print at the same time, I am making a special offer via Smashwords. The first ebook in each of my series is 75% off the cover price for the first week of June. The second ebook in each series is 50% off for the first week of June. This is a great time to jump into my novels if you haven’t read them, or to try a new series, if you’ve only tried one or two of my series.

So, here’s a little about each series:


The Space Pirates’ Legacy Series

The Space Pirates’ Legacy series tells the story of how Captain Ellison Firebrandt and his descendants shape the future of the Earth and the galaxy by creating a colony on a new world and their struggle with one of the universe’s most ancient life forms. Click the button below to go to the series and explore it in more detail.


The Scarlet Order Vampires Series

Founded in 1067, the Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond, Lord Draco. Before he became a vampire, Draco was in the line of succession for the British throne. After becoming a vampire, he sought redemption and ultimately found the best way he could survive was to help those kings and princes whose causes he believed in. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires chronicles the formation of the Scarlet Order. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the United States government has started a program to create super soldiers, so they don’t have to rely on vampires any more. Unfortunately, this means they are tampering with powers far beyond their understanding. Click the button below to learn more about the series.


The Clockwork Legion Series

The Clockwork Legion series tells the story of how a well meaning alien came to Earth in 1876 and unwittingly unleashed the Russian invasion of the United States. In the aftermath came a world of wonders where airships and ornithopters rule the skies, lightning guns pose a serious threat, and Native Americans control powerful battle wagons that challenge the United States Army. In the heart of it all is a small town sheriff who wants to be a diplomat and the woman he loves who wants to heal the world. Click the button below to take advantage of the special on the first two novels of the series.

World Goth Day 2022

World Goth Day happened on May 22. World Dracula Day happens on May 26, because Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released on May 26, 1897. With both of those happening within one week, I’ve decided to have a week-long celebration. The Official World Goth Day site defines it as “a day where the goth scene gets to celebrate its own being, and an opportunity to make its presence known to the rest of the world.” I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a special deal on my Gothic-literature and Dracula-inspired novels Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. It’s even more appropriate, since the new novel I’m working on is tentatively titled Ordeal of the Scarlet Order and will complete the trilogy!

The Scarlet Order Books

Founded in 1067, the Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond, Lord Draco. Before he became a vampire, Draco was in the line of succession for the British throne. After becoming a vampire, he sought redemption and ultimately found the best way he could survive was to help those kings and princes whose causes he believed in. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires chronicles the formation of the Scarlet Order. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the United States government has started a program to create super soldiers, so they don’t have to rely on vampires any more. Unfortunately, this means they are tampering with powers far beyond their understanding.

From now through May 28, you can pick up the ebook editions of these novels for just $1.00.

If you prefer printed novels, I still have a great deal. Buy either one of my novels at hadrosaur.com and I’ll toss in the related comic book, “Guinevere and the Stranger” absolutely free. “Guinevere and the Stranger” adapts the chapter that tells the vampire Roquelaure’s origin story into comic book form. What’s more, you can get your novels signed, just fill out the contact form on the site after you place your order and let me know you’d like signed copies.

These make great gifts for the Gothic Literature fan in your life, or keep them and enjoy them for yourself! If you have both novels, but not the comic, here’s where you can find it:

My newsletter subscribers got a jump on this special. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, just visit my website: http://www.davidleesummers.com and find the signup form right at the bottom of the page.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one celebrating Goth Day this week. Tom Hutchison of Big Dog Ink is running a Kickstarter campaign for his second annual Goth Day issue. Big Dog Ink publishes the Critter superhero comic, Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, and the vampire/shapeshifter comic Ursa Minor among others. The Goth Day specials imagine the characters from the Big Dog Ink universe existing in a darker, parallel universe.

The special Goth Day issue is written by Tom Hutchison with art by CB Zane and colors by Gat Melvyn. Each Goth Day special is a one-shot, standalone issue, but Tom has made a pack available through Kickstarter where you can pick up his entire Goth Day series. Last year’s issue introduced the idea of Tom’s darker world, and a number of its inhabitants. In 2022 he expands on that world and introduces new characters and situations…including the Mermaid Princess in the banner ad!

To support Tom’s Kickstarter, visit:

Finding the Groove Again

“Write every day” is a common mantra you’ll hear from writers. Writing every day will give you practice. If you’re honest as you evaluate your writing and work with people who will give you honest feedback, you’ll grow as a writer. Writing every day keeps you in the groove. The more you do it, the easier writing becomes. However, I understand quite well how life can throw challenges to this ideal in a person’s path.

This past year is a case in point. It’s actually been rather busy on several writing-related fronts. I edited the novels Hybrid and Hybrid: Forced Vengeance for Greg Ballan. I edited the short story collection The Way-Out Wild West by Lyn McConchie. I completed re-editing my novel Heirs of the New Earth and brought out new editions of my first three Clockwork Legion novels. The fourth one is in process now. I’ve also been working on a project I can’t discuss yet. Of course, I’ve been doing all this while operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. What I haven’t done as much as I’d like is write new fiction.

This is not to say that I’ve eschewed writing altogether during this period. I’ve kept this blog going. Typically that means composing a roughly 500-word post twice a week. That has helped a great deal because it helps me think about topics and gives me practice composing articles. I’ve also written and revised scenes as part of my editorial work and the secret project I alluded to. Even if you can’t write every day, I highly recommend making some time to write each week, even if it doesn’t contribute to a project. Even journaling can help.

Daniel, the Vampire Astronomer – illustration by Chaz Kemp

I think the hardest part for me getting back into the writing groove is that I find it far too easy to be distracted by tasks such as work around the house and yard, emails, and even books to read. The first thing I did to get back into the groove was decide what story I wanted to write. In effect, this story is something of a warm-up for the vampire novel I outlined. What’s more, I have some markets in mind for the new story. Without giving too much away, I’d realized that the vampire Daniel in Vampires of the Scarlet Order was very much defined by being a vampire and an astronomer for over a century. I wanted to know more about who he was before he became either a vampire or an astronomer. Once I defined the idea, I spent some time doing some research into schools he might have attended and what was going on in the world at the time of the story, which I planned to set in 1899, and how those events might impact his life. I then went for a walk. I find walks provide a great opportunity to clear my head and I am often able to put my research together with my character and come up with a story.

Once I returned from the walk, I gave myself permission to tune out the world. I turned off my email, turned off my phone’s sound, logged out of Facebook messenger, closed the door to my writing office and told myself I would stay in place until I wrote 500 words. I did that within half an hour but once the story started flowing, I wanted to write more. I got a drink (hydration is important!) and went back to work. Next thing I knew, I had almost 3000 words. The whole process felt a lot like riding a bicycle. Now, I’m in the process of editing and revising the story. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about it and I hope I’ll have some news about it soon.

So, the keys for me were that even though I had taken a brief hiatus from writing new fiction, I had not given up writing altogether. I had kept a routine. I also had kept a reading routine, which kept my imagination stimulated. When I chose to sit down and write some new fiction, I started with a character I wanted to know, which propelled me through the writing and I gave myself permission to spend uninterrupted time with that character so they could speak to me. If you take a break from writing, you may find a whole different process will help you get into the groove, but maybe some of these experiences will help.

This weekend, I am at El Paso Comic Con. I have two panels today where I discuss writing. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come to the con, sit in on one or both panels and visit me at my booth in the vendor’s area. You can learn more about Daniel the vampire astronomer in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. More information at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

Nosferatu’s Centennial

One of my blog readers who lives in the shadows and doesn’t leave comments in posts recently pointed out that this year is the centennial of F.W. Murnau’s film Nosferatu. This is the earliest cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Notably it was not a sanctioned adaptation and Florence Stoker sued Murnau. All prints of the film were ordered destroyed. What we have of the film today are prints assembled from bits and pieces that survived in personal collections.

Nosferatu

I first became aware of Nosferatu around 1983 when I watched Werner Herzog’s remake of the film starring Klaus Kinski. I was captivated from the opening credits of that film, which showed rows of mummified bodies. The implication is that you’re seeing Dracula’s victims over the years. Even though Dracula drinks blood in the film, the real horror comes because he brings the plague with him, which kills far more people than he does alone. One of the things I really loved in Herzog’s adaptation is the dark, creepy ending.

I loved Herzog’s remake so much, I wanted a copy on home video almost from the moment I could afford my own home video player. I married in 1990 and my wife had not seen the film, and I wanted to show it to her. I looked, but soon discovered that Herzog’s remake had not been released in the United States. So, we decided to rent the original. By the 1990s, many prints of the 1922 Nosferatu were available. It wasn’t officially in the public domain, but it was treated as a public domain property. These were often poor quality prints with a public domain music track of some form in the background. Versions like this are still widely available both on video and on websites like YouTube. Despite the poor transfer, Murnau’s cinematography was still compelling. I loved his used of light and shadow. I enjoyed the special effects such as Count Orlock rising from his crypt or the tarp on the ghost ship sliding back and the hatch lifting on its own.

When I watched the original, I had been surprised that Murnau changed the character names. Dracula became Orlock, Mina Harker became Ellen Hutter, Renfield became Knock, and so forth. I’ve heard it suggested this was done to disguise that Nosferatu was an adaptation of Dracula, but it doesn’t seem to make sense, since all versions of the 1922 Nosferatu I’ve seen have an early title card indicating it’s based on Dracula. I’ve also seen it suggested that Murnau simply made the names more Germanic to match the German setting of his film, which seems more likely. Of note, Herzog’s 1979 remake doesn’t change the names from the novel.

Since that early print, I have found DVD prints where a serious effort is made to restore the 1922 original to the best possible quality. I have the version from Germany’s Kino Lorber, which restores the tints to the original film and made a serious effort at restoring the film. It is lovely to look at and, for the most part, the cinematography still holds up today. There are points where the acting is very broad, as was the case in many early, silent films, but there are also really effective moments. I find it striking in most scenes with Count Orlock, the other actors look genuinely afraid or worried. So, if you’re going to celebrate the centennial of this classic film, I do recommend finding the best possible copy you can.

Both the 1922 original and the 1979 remake influenced the look of the vampire super soldiers who appear in Vampires of the Scarlet Order and will also appear in the sequel that I’m currently plotting. You can explore the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

Relatable Vampires

My dad worked as a night foreman for the Santa Fe railroad when I was a kid. He would wake up in the morning and drive me to school, then go home and sleep until it was time to get ready for work. For most of my childhood, I saw him for breakfast and that drive to school. He suffered a heart attack in 1980. He was 52 and I was 13. While he was on the road to recovery, I took walks with him and, for the first time in my life, really started to get to know him as a person and not just as “dad.” A couple of months later, he had a second heart attack and died. I buried myself in my love of astronomy and science fiction as a way to cope. Eventually, I started operating telescopes for a living, working at night like my dad did. It was in this part of my life that I was first introduced to vampire fiction. Not surprisingly, part of the appeal was the notion of living forever and not being susceptible to human diseases. Plus, I was already a creature of the night, so it seemed like I was halfway there!

Last week, I read Lisa Dominique Machat’s short novel, A Walk in the Sun. The novel introduces us to Nicholas Justine, a young British aristocrat in the nineteenth century whose mother died in childbirth. Justine’s father is distant and tends to only to appear at night. At seventeen, he gets word of his father’s death. Soon after, he meets a childhood acquaintance, Elena, but before he can propose marriage to her, he’s tempted to investigate a mysterious night circus for a book he’s writing. He never reaches the circus, but instead meets a vampire who transforms him. As time passes, Elena is betrothed to a man she doesn’t want to marry. Nicholas and Elena agree to run away to Paris. Paris seems the perfect place for Nicholas and Elena until they cross paths with an evil sorcerer named Count Victor Du Fay, who has his sights set on Elena.

Over the course of the story, Nicholas does learn more about his father. It should come as no surprise that I found that story arc relatable. I also enjoy stories about good vampires and I thought it was interesting to see Nicholas pitted against a very powerful, albeit human and mortal sorcerer. As it turns out, Lisa Dominique Machat is the owner of Vampire Vineyards. I was introduced to their wine through Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans and I thought there was a clever tie-in with Nicholas and the vineyards in the epilogue. There’s a time gap between the last chapter and the epilogue and certainly room for another story about how Nicholas’s connection to the vineyard came about. I enjoyed this little connection to the real world. It’s something that will make me smile next time I enjoy a glass of Vampire Merlot or even a cup of Vampire coffee. You can learn more about the vineyards and their products at https://www.vampire.com

My goal as I start my next book, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, will be to keep my vampires as relatable as Nicholas in A Walk in the Sun. You can, of course, meet Alexandra the vampire thief in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Daniel the vampire astronomer is Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

When Steampunks Discover Black

“Steampunks are Goths who discovered brown,” is a quote attributed to author Jess Nevins that was popularized by Cherie Priest. The quote holds at least a little truth from my personal perspective. I started writing short vampire fiction in 2000 and then published my first vampire novel in 2005. Although I wrote and published my first steampunk story in 2001, I really didn’t really appreciate it as a subgenre separate from historical fantasy until I was introduced to Cherie Priest’s novel Boneshaker in 2009. I was delighted to meet Ms. Priest at the very first Wild Wild West Con in 2011 just before my first steampunk novel Owl Dance was published.

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Although Cherie Priest is well known for her steampunk work, I knew she’d also written Gothic fiction, including vampire fiction. Her novel Bloodshot was published in 2011, the same year I met her at Wild Wild West Con. Given my interest in returning to my Scarlet Order vampire series and given that this week, I’ve been proofreading the new edition of my steampunk novel The Brazen Shark, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Bloodshot.

Bloodshot is a mystery thriller that tells the story of a vampire thief named Raylene Pendle who is hired by a blind vampire named Ian Stott to find and steal records that should help a doctor restore some, if not all, of his sight. The military had captured Ian and experimented on him and other vampires to find ways to develop biotechnologies that could improve the fighting skills of soldiers. Right after her first meeting with Ian, someone breaks into Raylene’s warehouse in Seattle where she keeps the stolen goods which didn’t find a home. Soon after that, she manages to open some top secret documents, which trigger the government to come hunt her down.

Raylene makes her way to a facility in Minnesota where records are literally put on ice. She breaks in and gets a lead that sends her to Atlanta, but not before she attracts even more unwelcome attention from the government. Soon, she’s working with a drag queen whose sister was a vampire in the program with Ian and wants to get to the bottom of who ran the program so he can shut them down. There’s a lot of great action along the way. Raylene is the story’s narrator and she presents herself as a loner, but reveals herself to be a little lonely and someone who cares for the other people in her life, including the homeless kids Pepper and Domino who have made a home in her warehouse.

I’ve often found it interesting how two different authors can develop similar ideas in parallel without being aware of the others’ work. Clearly Cherie Priest and I share a number of common interests and I think it’s interesting that we both wrote about a government program existing to investigate and adapt vampire abilities to soldiers. We also both explore the idea of a vampire thief. Still, there are distinct differences. In Bloodshot, it’s not clear the program actually accomplished much through its experiments. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the government did create a kind of vampiric soldier to horrific results. Cherie Priest told her story in first person. I used an epistolary narrative, which allowed me to retain first person intimacy, but explore multiple points of view. Bloodshot and Vampires of the Scarlet Order are by no means copies of one another, but it’s interesting that our related interests led us to explore a few similar ideas in our own unique ways. So now, I need to move on and read Bloodshot’s sequel, Hellbent.

You can learn about my Scarlet Order vampire novels at http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order. If you’d like to get some sneak peeks at the new book as it develops, if you just like this blog and appreciate its ad-free experience, or if you’d like the ebook of The Brazen Shark as a bonus when it’s finished, please consider supporting my Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Anno Dracula

In the past few weeks I’ve been working on an outline for a new Scarlet Order Vampire novel. Back when I first wrote Vampires of the Scarlet Order in 2004, I’d written four synopses for novels in the series. I started the prequel, Dragon’s Fall almost right away in 2005 as a NaNoWriMo project. I set the novel aside for a time, but finally published it in 2012. Recently, I was prompted to think about the series again as I brought out new editions of the novels in 2020. Also, around that time, Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans selected Vampires of the Scarlet Order for their book club. Both events reminded me how much fun I had with these characters and I went back to look at those synopses from eighteen years ago. Of the three remaining synopses, two would be historical novels and the third was a sequel. The sequel interested me most. Re-reading the synopsis, I thought there was a lot of potential to further explore concepts I’d developed in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Not all the ideas in that synopsis grabbed me, but I started playing with the plot, jotting ideas down and just about 4000 words later, I have a detailed outline that I’m chewing on and probably will pursue in the coming months.

The Vampire Marcella peeks out from the pages of Anno Dracula

Looking for a little thematic inspiration, I decided to browse my to-read stack for a vampire book I hadn’t read before. One of those books was Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula which I’d purchased on the strength of Kurt MacPhearson’s review from a 2011 issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. At long last it was time to give it a try.

Anno Dracula is set in 1888. It imagines that Dracula did not die at the end of Bram Stoker’s famous novel, but killed Abraham Van Helsing and went on to marry Queen Victoria and become Prince Consort of Britain. Once done, vampires become an accepted part of society and are seen almost everywhere. The story is set up like an episode of Columbo. The book opens with one of the Jack the Ripper murders and Jack’s identity is revealed right at the start. The twists are that this Jack only murders vampires and he’s a character from Dracula. From there, we meet Charles Beauregard, an agent for the Diogenes Club. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will recognize this esteemed establishment as the home of the power behind the British government. Among the club’s most esteemed members is Sherlock Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, who assigns Beauregard the task of solving the Ripper murders. At the heart of Whitechapel, near the scene of the crimes is a vampire named Geneviève who has set out to help the poor and destitute of the district. We soon learn she’s a truly ancient vampire with powers to rival Dracula’s.

The novel reminded me of a vampire-centric League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a mix of historical personages and characters related to just about every Victorian-set vampire novel or movie you can think of. Among the notable characters in the novel are Lord Ruthven, Florence Stoker, Frances Varney, and Doctor Jeckyll. Count Orloff, from Murnau’s Nosferatu is a creepy, silent jailkeeper. Dracula himself only actually appears in the novel’s last chapter. For the rest of the novel, his shadow just looms over everything that happens. One of my favorite character cameos happens near the end of the novel when Beauregard encounters an armadillo in Buckingham Palace, a clear nod to Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula.

All in all, I had a lot of fun reading Anno Dracula and I might well seek out some of the other stories and novels in the series. It’s clear Kim Newman is a fan of many of the same books I am.

I know some authors who avoid reading books in genres they’re working on to avoid being unduly influenced. However, when I’ve done my job as a writer and fleshed out my characters and have a good idea of what they’re going to do in their story, I find I’m not tempted to lift anything from another writer’s work. What I do pay attention to are those moments where I emotionally connect to the story. What makes me sad? What makes me laugh out loud? What makes me say “Cool!” After reading Anno Dracula, I did go back to my outline and asked, were there moments where I could do more of that? Are there moments where I could be more effective and make better connections with my readers? I did weave in a new plot thread as a result of asking those kinds of questions. And, I suspect I’ll find even more connections as I begin the actual writing process.

In the meantime, if you want to delve into the world of the Scarlet Order Vampires, click the links below to learn more about the books in the series.