International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Aaarh, mateys! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day and as a writer of space pirate fiction, I would be remiss if I didn’t mark the occasion. In fact, me hearties, I haven’t just written about space pirates, but airship pirates have appeared in my steampunk stories and the real life pirate, Grace O’Malley makes an appearance in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

According to Wikipedia, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was started by John Baur and Mark Summers (no relation that I know of) who proclaimed September 19 each year as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate. Of course, when they say everyone should talk like a pirate, they mean everyone should talk like Robert Newton who played Long John Silver in Disney’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island.

I’m a big fan of Stevenson’s famous pirate novel and I love Newton’s iconic performance as Long John Silver, so I’m happy to celebrate the day. As it turns out, Robert Louis Stevenson and I share a birthday. So, I’ve long thought it appropriate that I should include pirates in my fiction. What’s more, I can see how pirates stir the imagination. despite the fact that they steal from others to make a living and often murder to do so. If you look into the history of piracy—particularly during piracy’s “golden age” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—you find that discipline on military and legitimate trading vessels was brutal and crews were paid almost nothing. On pirate ships, the crews had more of a voice in how things were run and the booty was split more evenly.

Aside from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I’m also a fan of Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock. In Matsumoto’s stories, Harlock is a pirate mostly in the sense that he turns his back on the corrupt and decadent “legitimate” government of Earth so he can fight to preserve the planet. He fights under the skull and crossbones flag because it’s a symbol that one should fight to the death for freedom.

When I write my pirates, I endeavor to present the same kinds of ideals. My pirates are people who feel disenfranchised and are trying to make the world a better place. It’s possible they’re misguided, but they are trying to make the world—or possibly the universe—a better place.

So, me hearties, when you talk like a pirate today, try to remember the best pirate ideals. If ye find yourself in possession of fine treasure, split it fairly with yer crewmates. If ye see the world as unjust, take a stand to make it a better place. When it’s all said and done, take a nip o’ rum and settle in with a good book. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto would be good choice. You could also seek out adventures I’ve written featuring Captain Ellison Firebrandt, the samurai Imagawa Masako, or Grace O’Malley. You can find them in the following books:

Children of the Old Stars Revisited

This has been a busy year releasing new editions of my novels. Just as I was wrapping up work on the rewrite of The Pirates of Sufiro, which I started in late 2018, the contracts for three other novels came to term and the publishing rights to those novels reverted to me. As summer 2020 approaches its end, I’m pleased that new editions of all four novels are now available and it’s now time to look ahead and see what new projects I will tackle. I’ve been giving particular thought to what I would share with my Patreon subscribers for the next few months. Now, as I’ve been wrapping up these most recent projects, a couple of new opportunities have arisen and I am working on two new projects. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to speak about them in detail or share them with my Patreon subscribers until they’re closer to completion.

Children of the Old Stars 2001 edition.

As I say in my Patreon introduction video, a primary focus of the site is to fund new editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. Because of that objective and because a chunk of my time will be going into new projects I can’t speak about yet, I’ve decided to continue the deep dive through the series and start working on book three, Children of the Old Stars. In The Pirates of Sufiro, we met the Cluster. The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. As Children of the Old Stars commences, Commander John Mark Ellis is booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship. He believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. His mother, Suki Firebrandt Ellis, is a historian who believes the very leaders of the galaxy are withholding information about the Cluster. One of Ellis’s antagonists from The Pirates of Sufiro, Clyde McClintlock, believes the Cluster is God incarnate, seeking retribution. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together, they set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.

As with The Pirates of Sufiro, I’ll post a chapter of Children of the Old Stars one week along with my thoughts about it. My goal will be to post the revised chapter a week later. How well I meet that goal will depend on the other projects I’m working on as well as my evolving work situation at Kitt Peak National Observatory. That noted, I will make every effort to complete at least one chapter per month. If you want to be along for the ride, be sure to sign up as a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. If you do, you’ll not only get to see updated chapters of Children of the Old Stars as they’re posted, you’ll be among the first to get a peek at the secret projects when I can share.

As a reminder, supporting me at Patreon also helps to support this blog so I can continue to give you an ad-free experience.

Now, you may wonder what other projects I’ve been considering, especially since they may be back in the running after I finish my secret projects. One is a sequel to The Astronomer’s Crypt. I have a synopsis written and have given the project quite a bit of thought. There are also a handful of vocal supporters for this project. I’ve also been considering a third book in the Scarlet Order Vampire series. Now there are many vocal people who will tell me that vampires are yesterday’s genre. However, I can’t ignore that in the three weeks since I released Vampires of the Scarlet Order, it has significantly outsold every other book I’ve released this year. It’s not a statistic I can ignore, especially if it turns into an ongoing trend.

Updating Book Trailers

Over the last few months, I’ve been releasing new editions of several of my novels. Some of these had video trailers associated with them. Last month, I discussed updating the trailer for The Astronomer’s Crypt. That was a really premium cinematic trailer and the only things that went out of date were the cover and information about where the book was available. I did need expert help to fix those elements because they were so well done, but most of the trailer is just the same as it was back when it was first released.

The very first book trailer I ever made was one for my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. I was fortunate enough to have a batch of beautiful interior illustrations by Steven Gilberts to work with. One of my neighbors came over and played music on guitar and I mixed that with audio of myself reading the book description. Since the illustrations were black and white, I used filters in my video editing software to give the images some film stutter and scratches, so the whole thing looked like an old film. It was pretty cool. The only thing I didn’t like was that the audio was a little muddy because I didn’t have a great microphone and it was recorded on tape rather than digitally. Two years ago, I dusted off the old trailer and gave it a new ending because the information about the book’s availability had become outdated, but I knew the whole trailer could use a thorough overhaul.

Screenshot from the new Vampires of the Scarlet Order trailer.

This year, when Chaz Kemp did a whole new cover for Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I saw that as a great opportunity to redo the trailer. As part of his work, he sent me individual illustrations of the characters. I was able to apply filters in Adobe Photoshop to photographs I have of real locations from the novel to make them look like paintings. I then placed the characters over them. Once that was done, I read the updated book description and found some cool music that matched the mood from Keven MacLeod at http://incompetech.com. Although all the images are stills, I think the trailer has a neat animated-movie like vibe.

Once I made this trailer, I realized I also wanted to update my trailer for The Solar Sea. The original version of that trailer featured illustrations Laura Givens had made for a website promoting the novel. Also, I used her illustration of the novel’s solar sail to create an old-fashioned animation of the solar sail entering orbit around Jupiter. The only thing I didn’t like about the original trailer was that the music was a little short for the video length and I didn’t narrate it. I used intertitle cards like one might find in a silent movie. This time I recorded narration and I found a really dramatic piece of music that highlighted the narration.

I find trailers like this fun to make, but they do take time to get right. The tech required is pretty simple. I used Windows Live Movie Maker for the first video. I used the OpenShot Video Editor for the second one. This was necessary when I found Windows Live Movie Maker wouldn’t import the Movie Maker files with my animation from a decade ago. OpenShot is available at http://openshot.org

As for creating images for this kind of trailer, the best advice I can give is to get on good terms with your cover artist or an artist who can create art to match the flavor and style of your book. Make sure you’ve paid your artist fairly for their work. Recording narration is like any skill. It takes practice. Write your script. Practice reading it at the microphone and record a few takes. It’s easy to flub a word or miss the sound of something like a motorcycle passing the house or a lawnmower next door.

Finally, have fun! I had a blast creating these videos and I hope they’re fun to watch. Of course, I hope they also tempt you to learn a little more about the novels. If you would like to, drop by http://www.davidleesummers.com

Vampires in Space!

Vampires of the Scarlet Order was, in effect, a fix-up novel. The first half was composed of short stories that had been previously published and the second half was new material written specifically for the novel. However, the first time I put the stories together and composed the second half, I came up with something very different than the novel that was published in 2005 and it was all because of one story.

In 2001, my wife, daughter, and I made a trip to Carlsbad Caverns followed by a short jaunt to Roswell, to check out the UFO museum there. We had a lot of fun, and I came away with a story idea. It really started at the UFO museum and thinking about accounts of alien abduction and how similar they were to the way vampire attacks are often described. The aliens come into your bedroom and there’s a good chance they’ll violate you in some way. Of course, at Carlsbad, we also had the opportunity to watch the bats leave the caverns at night and I had thoughts about a vampire who decided to hide among the caverns during the day and fly out to hunt her prey at night. What if a vampire was abducted by a UFO? This whole line of thought led me to a story called “Bat Flight South of Roswell” which was published as a standalone chapbook by Anxiety Publications in 2002.

When I assembled Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I realized I had three story arcs that all pointed to some big mystery happening. I also realized the biggest mystery of all happened in the story “Bat Flight South of Roswell.” What were the aliens doing? Were they about to do something bigger? So when I first wrote the ending of the book, I set out to resolve that issue. The vampires find they have some latent ability to move between universes and can use that as a way to travel great distances. The vampires gather and travel to the aliens’ home world and stopped the threat.

I read it and I mostly liked it and I even mostly believed what I wrote could have happened in the context of the story. The problem was “mostly.” I didn’t quite believe it all the way. I wasn’t quite pulled fully into the story. A little voice in the back of my mind kept saying “this is silly.” One of the challenges as authors is knowing when to listen to that voice and when to tell it to shut up. This time I listened.

For the novel, I rewrote the alien abduction chapter. Instead of aliens abducting the vampire, it’s the military for a secret operation. It made a much stronger novel and much of that is because the settings involved were places I’d been and worked at. Much of the action is actually the same as it would have been, but it’s set at Los Alamos National Laboratory where my graduate advisor worked. There’s still some alien tech so advanced it’s almost magic, but instead of being wielded by aliens, it’s being wielded by humans who don’t fully understand it. Not only was I able to willingly suspend my disbelief, I found a way to give the book a stronger theme, and I could write about places I knew.

I also left in a hint that perhaps vampires might one day travel to the stars. After all, if vampires with all their strength and abilities would make good mercenaries, wouldn’t they make awesome astronauts? Just gotta make sure they’re well stocked with blood for the journey!

As it turns out, I ultimately wrote a story about a member of the Scarlet Order investigating a mystery in deep space in the distant future. It was called “Dark Matter” and it was published in Hungur Magazine in 2012. Unfortunately, the story is no longer in print, but I do plan to share the story with my Patreon subscribers later this week. What’s more, subscribers can go to an earlier post and get a copy of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. If that isn’t incentive enough, I’ll mention that subscribing to my Patreon helps support this blog. So what are you waiting for? Click the button below to visit the site and learn more.

Vampires of the Scarlet Order Revisited

I’m excited to announce the release of the second edition of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. This edition features new cover art by Chaz Kemp:

Vampires of the Scarlet Order Cover by Chaz Kemp

The second edition has also been reedited. As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog post, I went through the novel and corrected as many spelling, grammar, and continuity errors as I could catch. However, my edit also went a little deeper. This year, I’ve had some good conversations with some talented people about audience expectation and I realized that although the novel was generally well received, certain elements violated something that I think most audiences have come to expect.

The first edition opens in Spain during the year 1491. We meet a man named Rudolfo who seeks revenge for the death of his father. He is invited to join the Scarlet Order Vampires. We follow the Scarlet Order’s exploits for another chapter and then Rudolfo disappears. Another member of the Scarlet Order turns up in Louisiana and turns a schoolteacher named Marcella into a vampire. Then we meet a vampire named Mercy. Eventually Rudolfo reappears, but is gone some two chapters later until the end of the book. His story is important to the novel, but it’s not the driving force.

I came to realize this is the story of three young vampires who start finding clues to a terrible government conspiracy. Each of them has a tie to the historical Scarlet Order and, in order to understand the mystery they’ve uncovered, they must seek out the Scarlet Order’s former leader. The book violated audience expectation in that none of the characters met in the first two or three chapters end up being the story’s protagonists, unless you consider the Scarlet Order itself a protagonist. As presented, the book was “about” the fall and rise of the Scarlet Order, but it took a few chapters to meet the novel’s true protagonists. This could be fine if there were a compelling reason to do it this way, but I couldn’t convince myself I was telling the story in the best way possible.

In the new edition, I start by introducing the physicist Jane Heckman who is peripherally involved in the research that drives the plot and who meets Rudolfo and becomes a vampire. He then tells her the story of his involvement with the Scarlet Order. Rudolfo disappears, which gives her a problem to solve. Once she seeks out Desmond Drake in Northern New Mexico, the story is handed over to Marcella, the Louisiana schoolteacher and so on. The new edition tells the same story, it just reveals the information in a different order. My goal is that the readers get to know our protagonists early and care about their story because they’re the ones who have to resolve the book’s primary conundrum. As told on the book’s back cover:

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.

I invite you to join Jane, Marcella, and Daniel on their quest.

The ebook of Vampires of the Scarlet Order is available at:

The print edition of Vampires of the Scarlet Order is available at:

If you’d like to get the first edition before it’s gone, there are signed copies at:

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

Powers of Darkness

When I read Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker last month, I noticed that the part sections featured epigrams from a Bram Stoker book I’d never heard of before called Makt Myrkranna. It turns out this was the version of Dracula serialized in the Icelandic magazine Falkjonan from 1900 to 1901. The thing is, this isn’t just a translation of Dracula as most of us who discovered it in English know, it’s a completely different version. The title translates as Powers of Darkness and in 2016, Valdimar Asmundsson released an English-language translation of the Icelandic text.

Powers of Darkness

To me, Powers of Darkness reads like an earlier draft of Dracula and that seems to be the conclusion of the translator as well. Some characters have different names. We meet Thomas Harker instead of Jonathan. His fiancee is Wilma instead of Wilhelmina. We meet some new characters such as an old, deaf woman who keeps house for Dracula. There are police investigators in the background, looking into Dracula’s crimes. Instead of Dracula having three brides who tempt Harker, there is a single woman who is presented as Dracula’s niece, who attempts to seduce Harker and feed upon him. Although Harker’s journey to the castle is told in the familiar epistolary format, the events after Dracula leaves his castle in Transylvania become a third-person narrative.

As a writer, I found this version fascinating. It reminded me of the work I did on my novel The Pirates of Sufiro, and I imagine someone who compared the 1994 edition to my recently released 2020 edition would find the new one richer in much the way I would consider Dracula richer than Makt Myrkranna, especially the parts after Dracula goes to England. That part of Makt Myrkranna is very brief compared to Dracula and reads like it was the first time Stoker assembled his notes on various ideas, like a very rough draft. There is also speculation that the original Icelandic publisher thought the novel was running long and the second part ended up being something of a summation, but there are still details in that part missing from Dracula, so one gets a sense that Stoker’s hand was there.

I also found Powers of Darkness interesting because I’m revising my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order for a new edition. In that case, I’m doing less rewriting than I did for The Pirates of Sufiro, but I am recutting the novel and reordering the chapters a bit to tell the story more effectively. I thought about this a lot while reading Dracul, where J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker build suspense by starting the novel in a scene where Bram Stoker is facing an unknown enemy behind a door, then going back and telling how he reached that point. In Vampires, I started with a very linear narrative, but now I start in the present and let the past unfold when characters have reason to tell it. I think the new version strengthens the narrative.

One interesting element of Powers of Darkness was that the translator took time to attempt to map out a floor plan of Dracula’s castle based on the description. The result is an interesting look inside the count’s Transylvanian abode. Another thing I thought was interesting in this version was that Dracula holds some kind of dark ritual for his followers, which seems to anticipate scenes that would appear in the Christopher Lee Hammer films of the 1970s.

I would recommend Powers of Darkness to writers wanting to glimpse Bram Stoker’s process, or Dracula fans who want to get more insight into the history of the character. If you’re a casual reader looking to read Stoker for the first time, I’d start with the English language Dracula, or perhaps the collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories by Stoker. If you want to learn more about Powers of Darkness and even look at maps of Dracula’s castle, visit: http://powersofdarkness.com/. You can learn more about my novels at http://davidleesummers.com.

Anniversaries and Milestones

May 2020 is a month of numerous milestones and anniversaries for me. Today, May 19, I celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of my marriage to Kumie Wise. I’ve dedicated two of my novels to her. The first is The Pirates of Sufiro which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year and the second is Vampires of the Scarlet Order which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this month. To commemorate both our anniversary and the anniversary of Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the dedication of which reads “To Kumie, enchantress of my heart forevermore,” I share this fun photo the two of us had taken at the Arizona Renaissance Fair circa 1994. In other milestones, my youngest daughter graduates from high school later this week.

The fifteenth anniversary of the release of Vampire of the Scarlet Order coincides nicely with the upcoming release of new editions of both that novel and it’s prequel, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. I hired artist Chaz Kemp to create new covers for the novels. He’s turned in the cover for Dragon’s Fall and I’ll unveil that on Saturday. For those of you who don’t know Chaz’s work, I encourage you to learn more about him at https://www.chazkemp.com/

In working with Chaz, I’ve been thinking about the characters of Dragon’s Fall and how they’ve been portrayed by other artists. The “dragon” of Dragon’s Fall is a vampire named Desmond, Lord Draco. As a human, he was one of the Dragon Lords of Duke Ambrosius Aurelianus in Britain circa 570 AD. He’s sent to raid a Saxon village. Downed by a Saxon arrow, he falls prey to a vampire who has been following the Saxons. Not one to take such an attack lying down, Draco fights back. So doing, he manages to swallow some of the vampire’s blood and becomes a vampire himself. The Saxon vampire, Wolf, takes him under his wing. Wolf leads Draco and the other Dragon Lords on a quest for the one thing Wolf thinks can bring forgiveness to a vampire: the Holy Grail. As Draco nears the quest’s end, he learns he has the ability to transform into a beast, as many vampires can. In Draco’s case, the “beast” proves to be a swarm of flies. In the years after the hunt for the Holy Grail, Draco goes on to become one of the founding members of a band of vampire mercenaries called the Scarlet Order. Here we see Draco as imagined by Steven Gilberts. I like Steve’s vision except for one minor nitpick. He gave Draco a shave! Draco should have a beard.

Dragon’s Fall actually opens with the tale of a vampire even older than Draco. This is the vampire Alexandra. When I first started drafting Dragon’s Fall during a NaNoWriMo session, I started with Draco’s story. However, Lachesis Publishing came to me and asked for a series of five vampire novellas. To make the series work out, I added Alexandra’s origin story. I entitled the novella A Gorgon in Bondage, but given that Lachesis wanted to sell the novella as erotica, they shortened the title. Still, my longtime cover artist, Laura Givens gave me a nice version of Alexandra for the cover of the novella. This novella will appear as part of Dragon’s Fall under its original title.

The final vampire who helped to found the Scarlet Order is the mysterious Roquelaure. Roquelaure is a word from the French and it refers to a type of hooded, knee-length cloak that European men wore in the 18th and 19th centuries. The cloaks were named for the French marshal Antoine Gaston Jean Baptiste, Duc de Roquelaure. Roquelaure is also the nom de guerre of a mysterious vampire that I introduced in the story “Pat, Marcella, and the Kid” first published in 2002. Until the upcoming cover for the new edition of Dragon’s Fall, no artist has illustrated the mysterious Roquelaure, so it was fun to work with Chaz to imagine what he looks like. Be sure to return on Saturday to see Chaz’s version of these three characters who appear on the new edition of Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires.

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: