Vittorio the Vampire

I just returned the copy edited version of The Astronomer’s Crypt to my publisher. VittorioTheVampire While working on edits, I like to read good prose, which helps me stay focused on picking the best words possible in a scene. I’ve always enjoyed Anne Rice’s prose, so was delighted to discover the last of her vampire novels that I had not read in my “to read” stack. This was Vittorio the Vampire which was the second of her two “New Tales of the Vampires” series.

Aside from a brief discussion of the Vampire Chronicles in the first chapter, Vittorio the Vampire stands apart from all of Rice’s other vampire novels. Even Pandora, which falls under the “New Tales of the Vampires” series includes events from the more famous “Vampire Chronicles” and Pandora herself is a character in a few of the Chronicles.

Set circa 1450, during the height of Cosimo de Medici’s power in Florence, Vittorio the Vampire tells the story of Vittorio di Raniari, a young nobleman educated in Florence. Vittorio’s father runs afoul a coven of vampires, who rampage through the castle and kill Vittorio’s family. Vittorio himself is spared by a beautiful vampire in the body of a young woman named Ursula.

After burying his family in the castle crypt, Vittorio travels toward Florence when he comes across a town mysteriously free of the sick and the infirm. He soon learns the vampire coven is behind this. The villagers pay a “tribute” of people to keep the vampires away. Ursula finds Vittorio and invites him to meet the coven. Once he arrives at their castle, he finds the village’s old and infirm in coops, stored away for food. The vampires invite Vittorio to join the coven, but he refuses. Instead of killing Vittorio outright, the vampires spare him, thanks to Ursula and he’s taken back to the village.

Because the vampires started to turn Vittorio, he’s not left unaffected. It turns out he now has the gift to see angels. The angels lead Vittorio back to the vampire castle to destroy the monsters. The problem is, Vittorio has become smitten by the beautiful Ursula. I’ll leave my summation there to avoid spoilers, though you can probably guess some of what happens from the book’s title. Even then, as with most good books, the real magic is in the details.

At its core, Vittorio the Vampire is simply the story of how young Vittorio became a vampire, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. It’s also the story of Vittorio and Ursula’s love and how that love story relates to God’s will as articulated by the angels. Although physical immortality is an issue, Vittorio lives in a world where it’s assumed he’ll have spiritual immortality if he follows the angels. So, for him, the choice of becoming a vampire actually becomes a choice of following God and becoming truly immortal or being trapped in a human body forever for the sake of love.

I’m a little sorry there isn’t another Anne Rice vampire novel waiting in the wings. Back in 2014 when Prince Lestat was released, there was some discussion that there might be more Vampire Chronicles. I hope that proves to be true. If not, I know Ms. Rice has many other good novels I haven’t yet sunk my teeth into, plus many other vampire and horror novels by other authors await as well.

As for The Astronomer’s Crypt, I don’t yet have a release date, but I’m told I should see galleys by early September, which is really the final opportunity to review the manuscript before publication. So, it shouldn’t be too long after that before you can read it—I say hopefully!

The Other Scarlet Order

About a year ago, I posted that I’d discovered another Scarlet Order title about vampires. At this point, all four volumes of Dance in the Vampire Bund II: Scarlet Order have been released in English and I’ve just finished reading the set. Here we see them pictured with my two Scarlet Order novels.

Scarlet Order Books

As it turns out, there are some interesting ways Nozomu Tamaki’s Scarlet Order manga are similar to my novels. In his story, the queen of the vampires, Mina Tepes, starts finding clues to the origins of vampire kind. In much the same way, the origins of vampires plays an important role in my Vampires of the Scarlet Order. In the manga series, nanotechnology is used to attack Mina’s headquarters. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, nanotechnology also plays an important role, but it’s more directly related to the origin of the vampires. Likewise, both series involve mysteries that span the ages.

In my series, the Scarlet Order refers to the team of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond Drake. I think I can say without spoiling anything that Nozomu Tamaki’s Scarlet Order refers to a new direction for vampire kind as a whole.

It’s worth noting that in the manga, although Mina Tepes is several hundred years old, she maintains the form of a young girl. Since she’s romantically interested in the werewolf Akira Regendorf, this creates more than a few scenes that I found uncomfortable to read and see in drawn form. That said, my Scarlet Order vampire Mercy Rodriguez was turned as an older teen—albeit one who had already borne two children—and retains that form. After all, the Scarlet Order vampires remain as they were when they become vampires. I could imagine some readers might be just as uncomfortable reading about Mercy as I was about Mina at some points.

Despite this one issue, I would recommend Dance in the Vampire Bund II: Scarlet Order to mature vampire fans. What’s more, it would be interesting to see a crossover between the two series. I think a meeting between Mina and Desmond could prove quite interesting!

You can find out more about my Scarlet Order novels at:

Finally, I’ll wrap up with some news. I just completed reviewing my editor’s second pass of The Astronomer’s Crypt. The book should be moving on to copy edits soon. I hope I’ll have a release and a cover reveal before long. Be sure to stay tuned!

Varney the Vampyre

Over the last three years or so, I’ve been reading the penny dreadful Varney the Vampyre. It’s taken that long partly because my edition is 1166 pages of tiny type and partly because penny dreadfuls were largely written to fill a weekly page count more than edited for quality. Nosferatu-Varney At times, it could be quite the slog and more than once I thought I wouldn’t bother to finish, but I finally persevered and made it through.

There’s a very good article about Varney at the Victorian Gothic Blog. I especially like their plot synopsis and definitely agree the final section of Varney is the best. Throughout the novel, the titular hero is villainous, sympathetic, romantic, and even interviewed. In 1166 pages, he embodied just about every major vampire trope I can think of. If I had to tell you what Varney most reminded me of, it was Dark Shadows—not necessarily in the sense of quality, but in the sense that reading Varney was not a little like following a Gothic soap opera!

My edition of Varney credits the writing to James Malcolm Rymer. However, the original penny dreadful contained no writing credit. There is some debate as to who actually wrote Varney. Most point to Rymer or Thomas Peckett Prest. In fact, Wikipedia says it was both. To me, it seemed like Varney must have been written by at least two people and perhaps more. Varney is a long, rambling story and parts are definitely better and tighter than others, making me think there must have been at least two, if not more writers involved.

I was fascinated to see that in the final section, Sir Frances Varney interacts with historical figures such as Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, especially since this is something I like doing in my historical vampire fiction. Although the storyline focuses on Varney, my favorite characters ended up being Admiral Bell and his steward Jack Pringle, who end up being Varney’s foils in much of the book. Unlike Dr. Van Helsing who works to outwit Dracula, Jack and the Admiral often foil Varney’s plans unwittingly by just being in the right place at the right time!

I’ve mentioned it before in other posts, but one of my favorite elements of the vampire lore in this story is that Varney requires moonlight to heal. If you shoot him on the new moon, he might die. Furthermore, he can walk around in broad daylight. However, it’s the moon that gives him his power to recover from injuries. I thought that was an interesting idea that could be used more in vampire fiction.

As you read this, I’m working my way through the second editorial pass on my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. I hope to return it to my editor by the end of next week, then it’ll go to the copy editor for final cleanup. I’ll have more news soon!

Rich Vampires

A common vampire trope I’ve touched on in some of my reviews is the notion of “rich vampires.” Count Dracula is typically portrayed as quite wealthy despite the fact his castle is in near ruins in the novel Dracula. The vampires of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are all fabulously wealthy. Jean-Claude in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels is a savvy entrepreneur. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Count Saint-Germain is rich. The list goes on.

Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Generally speaking, the idea is that the vampire either starts out wealthy or finds ways to invest what money they have and just through the act of not dying accumulates vast amounts of wealth. Now, I’ve often questioned this, because on a long timescale, banks aren’t that stable. Also, the idea of governments backing banks is a fairly recent one. Even then, on long timescales, governments rise and fall limiting their ability to guarantee anyone’s investment.

What’s more, if you actually adjust the markets for inflation, the growth may be less than you might expect. For example, if you invested $1.00 in 1950, you would have $7.00 in 2010 once you adjusted for inflation. Not bad, but hard to say that you’d get rich unless you started with a large investment. Also, the only reason there’s been that much growth is a period of rapid market rise in the 1950s and again in the 1980s.

This is the reason the Scarlet Order vampires are mercenaries. They needed to find a way to survive in the world of humans and fighting for human causes allowed them to do just that. Desmond Lord Draco is rich, though not fabulously so, just because he’s been good at stashing gold in out of the way places and keeping it from falling into his enemies’ hands. Other members of the Scarlet Order aren’t so financially adept.

Visiting the website TV Tropes, I discovered a new spin on this idea that I hadn’t really considered before. paperbackbookstanding_849x1126 (1) They suggest that vampires not earning an income can be a metaphor for the drain vampires would place on society. Not only do they drain blood from people, but they drain those resources people would use to survive. The Scarlet Order vampires would be offended by the idea.

If you’d like to discover more about the Scarlet Order vampires, visit my website to read the first chapters, see some reviews, and discover more about Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order and Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

The Dimidiums Book One – Bound by Love

The Dimidiums Book One – Bound by Love by DM Yates is an engaging vampire romance that features an interesting vampire mythology. Bound by Love The Dimidiums of the title are vampire/human hybrids who rely on some blood to survive, usually taken in the form of a concoction they call nectar. They aren’t immortal, but they do have extended lifespans. They have the strength of vampires and many of them work as bounty hunters. The true vampires are known as the Accursed and don’t range out during the day and simply see humans as food.

The story starts off when one of the Dimidiums—or Halblings as they also call themselves—is hired to track down a woman accused of murdering her husband. As the Halbling Trevor investigates the woman Janna, he becomes less convinced she committed the murder. He makes himself known to her and the two find a mutual attraction for each other. However, Trevor is afraid he will scare Janna away if he reveals his Halbling nature to her. A romance ensues, but before either is prepared, Trevor’s father calls both before him. When Janna admits her love for Trevor, she’s forced into the world of Halblings whether she’s ready or not.

I’ll admit, it took me a little bit to warm up to Trevor and Janna as characters. At some level, Trevor’s stubborn reluctance to admit his Halbling nature seemed almost wishy washy. Also, it was unclear why Janna was so attracted to Trevor. Setting that aside, the story propelled me along. I enjoyed getting to know more about the Dimidium/Halbling culture. I fell in love with some of the Halbling and human characters right from the outset such as Trevor’s co-worker Lainie, a Halbling raised among humans, and Fran, the no-nonsense diner owner in Worthless, Nevada.

Lurking in the background is an Accursed named Milosh, who killed Trevor’s first wife and has become Trevor’s nemesis. Milosh engineers an elaborate and ingenious plot to trap and kill both Trevor and Janna. Once he unleashed his plot, I had a hard time putting the book down, anxious to see whether or not Trevor, Janna, and the other Halblings would make it through.

I think it would be great fun to see a story where the Bounty Hunter Halblings team up with the Scarlet Order Mercenary vampires. Even if that story never happens, I still look forward to the adventures that await in The Dimidiums Book Two. You can find The Dimidiums Book One – Bound by Love at Amazon and Smashwords.

Carmilla and Marcella

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had never read Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire novella Carmilla. As it turns out, I started writing a short story featuring a couple of the Scarlet Order vampires set in the early 1890s. The story is set a few years before the publication of Dracula, but it occurred to me that characters in the story might be aware of Carmilla which was published in 1872. As such, I put the novella at the top of my reading list. Once I finished, I realized it would likely be a favorite of my vampire Marcella shown here in illustrations by Nick Johns and Steven C. Gilberts.

Marcella Montage

I found Carmilla to be an engaging short read. After a carriage overturns, the title character appears wounded and in need of recovery. She’s left in the care of a nobleman and his daughter, Laura, while Carmilla’s mother continues on urgent business that will last several months. Laura and Carmilla form an immediate close attachment, but Carmilla is somewhat of a strange character. She appears in Laura’s dreams. Carmilla often sleeps well past noon and she seems to have an almost romantic interest in Laura. In various reviews, I’ve seen much made of this relationship in that it arguably depicts one of the earliest Lesbian relationships in fiction. While I do find that interesting, it’s hard to call it a very progressive depiction since Laura finds the attraction repulsive and it seems to be one of Carmilla’s “evil” characteristics.

Of course, Carmilla turns out to be a vampire. We learn that she’s repeated her pattern of stalking young ladies over the years, taking aliases that are anagrams such as Mircalla and Millarca. It occurred to me that Marcella is a near-anagram of Carmilla and this would be one reason she’d find the story attractive. In the story I’m writing, Marcella wants to warn a human friend about the dangers of vampires without revealing herself to be a vampire. Carmilla turns out to be a good book for that objective, since it details the vampire’s strength and cunning. It also shows the lengths one must go to in order to destroy a vampire should that be necessary.

I found a couple of the vampire characteristics in Carmilla especially interesting, since they rarely appear in modern vampire fiction. First off, Carmilla seems to haunt one victim at a time, draining the victim slowly until they finally succumb to blood loss. In this sense, the vampire is almost like a ghost or a harmful spirit. Also in the novella, Carmilla seems to be able to transform into a large cat-like creature. Marcella would certainly find this interesting, since the Scarlet Order vampires are shapeshifters, but it’s a characteristic you don’t find in many modern vampire stories.

Carmilla may not be a book for a all modern vampire fans. At times, Le Fanu does ramble on and it’s unclear how characters such as Carmilla’s “mother” actually relate to her. I couldn’t decide whether or not the mother was a human thrall or another vampire. I wonder if Le Fanu had any ideas on the subject. Still, as a fan of vampire folklore and stories, I found it enjoyable and I know my vampire Marcella would be a fan, especially given a nice unsettling twist Le Fanu throws in at the end of the tale.

I’ll be sure to let you know if this story I’m working on gets accepted. Whether or not it does, I’m grateful it finally prompted me to read one of the classics of the field. IN the meantime, you can read more about Marcella in Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

We Are the Night

This past summer, Marita Crandle, owner of Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans recommended the film We Are the Night on her VBITE Webcast. wir-sind-die-nacht I finally had a chance to watch it about a week ago and found that it was an interesting film. The film was made in Germany and is presented with English subtitles. The original title was Wir sind die Nacht.

The movie opens with a lovely homage to the Demeter sequence in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The passengers and crew of a doomed airliner are all dead, except the three vampire women who clearly killed them. After they escape into the night, we meet a young woman named Lena who picks a man’s pocket, only to be pursued by the police. The night after the chase, Lena goes to a creepy amusement park that could be at home in a Tim Burton film. In the bowels of the park is a night club run by the three vampires from the beginning of the film. The vampire Louise finds Lena compelling and soon attacks her, turning her into a vampire.

As the movie progresses, we get to know more about Louise’s companions. Charlotte, who is mostly silent, is a one-time silent movie actress who left behind her daughter when Louise made her a vampire. Cheerful Nora became a vampire in 1997 and just loves to have fun. We also learn that there are no male vampires in this world.

Many authors, myself included, have used vampires as a way to explore the idea of immortality. I’ve seen numerous stories that use vampirism as a metaphor for drug addiction. This was the first time I’d seen vampires as Amazons and a metaphor for feminist empowerment. The idea appealed to me, since I’ve imagined fae as Amazons in my story “Amazons and Predators” which appeared in Bad Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory.

According to interviews, the director made a deliberate decision to steer away from Dracula references, opening scene aside, and took most of his inspiration from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novella Carmilla. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read Le Fanu’s novella, but I found it on Project Gutenberg and plan to correct that oversight in the near future.

I was also interested to learn that the creepy amusement park is a real place called Spreepark in Berlin. Here’s an article with some photos and information about the place. This looks like a terrific vampire lair!

Overall, We Are the Night was an interesting film that made me think. Exploring behind the scenes has encouraged me to read a novella that I should have read years ago. It’s hard to ask for more from a film. I’m glad I followed up on Marita’s recommendation.