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!

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Villains as Heroes

This last week saw the launch of a new trailer for Suicide Squad based on the DC Comic. For those not familiar with the comic, it imagines many of the worst villains working as a deniable covert operations team for the U.S. Government in exchange for a chance to get out of prison. I haven’t read many issues of the comic, but the trailer looks interesting and I’ll likely go see the movie.

I think the appeal of a movie and a comic book like Suicide Squad comes from the fact that none of us are entirely good or entirely bad. We all have done things we regret, but we also don’t want to be remembered as villains. Stories about villains becoming heroes reminds us that we’re all capable of great things and of being heroic.

Scarlet Order

In many ways, that’s exactly the premise of the Scarlet Order novels. The protagonists may be vampires but they have to live in the world, so they become mercenaries as a way to do good. Now, you may question whether mercenaries are capable of doing good since they, in principal, fight for the highest bidders. However, the Scarlet Order fights for causes the believe in. They are mercenaries because, as vampires, governments are typically less permanent than they are. So, while they may not have loyalty to a country, they do have loyalty to ideals.

I also explore the idea of redemption in the forthcoming The Astronomer’s Crypt. Early in the novel, we meet several unsavory characters ranging from villains to just plain jerks. Through the course of the novel, some of them have opportunities to show their better nature. One of the things that excites me about that novel is finding out which ones choose to be helpful and which ones choose to remain villains.

While you’re waiting for The Astronomer’s Crypt, you can follow the adventures of the Scarlet Order vampires and find out what causes they will fight for in Vampires of the Scarlet Order, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order, and even in the anthology These Vampires Don’t Sparkle. Who are some of your favorite villains who have found opportunities to show a heroic side?

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.

Only Lovers Left Alive

We’ve just finished Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States. For me and my family, it’s always a big movie weekend and one of the movies we had the pleasure of watching was the vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. Only_Lovers_Left_Alive_English_film_poster The vampires of this film were refreshing in that they seemed to have more in common with the best literary vampires than with most of their cinematic cousins. In fact, even though we have creatures with fangs who obviously subsist on blood, the word vampire was never used in the film.

Only Lovers Left Alive came out in 2013 and features a who’s who cast from science fiction, fantasy, and super hero films. Tom Hiddleston, best known as Loki in The Avengers and Thor plays Adam, a vampire who loves music and lives in a Gothic house in a deserted Detroit neighborhood. Tilda Swinton, who played the White Witch in the Narnia films, plays Eve, his book-loving wife who lives in Tangier. John Hurt, who of course was the alien’s first victim in Alien and recently became the War Doctor in Doctor Who plays Christopher Marlowe, a writer from history who now lives in Tangier as a vampire. Anton Yelchin, who played Ensign Chekov in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek films, plays Ian, a human gopher who gets anything Adam needs in exchange for money. And I can keep going. It’s worth looking up the movie on the Internet Movie Database just to see where you’ve seen these folks before.

One of the things I found refreshing in the film was that Tilda Swinton, an actress in her 50s, was cast as a romantic lead and paired with the much younger Tom Hiddelston. Their pairing felt completely natural, which is a testament to the actors’ skill, and was a nice change from men in their 50’s being shown romantically attached to much younger women.

The film’s plot is fairly simple. Adam finds himself in a rut and asks Eve to join him in Detroit. Just as they’re getting comfortable in his Detroit home, Eve’s sister—also a vampire—crashes at their place and disrupts their lives. She eventually commits an act that gets her booted out of the house and both Adam and Eve have to run back to Tangier, only to find that life there won’t be as comfortable as they hoped.

The vampires in this film don’t hunt. Adam purchases blood from the hospital and brings it home. I got the sense that civilized vampires don’t hunt in this world because it will draw unwelcome attention from humans. Also, vampires have to be careful about the quality of the blood they consume because diseases and drugs can affect them—an idea I’ve explored briefly in my Scarlet Order novels. That said, if I have one problem with this film, its that it relies on the old literary trope of blood being a metaphor for drugs. It’s clear that blood does more for the vampires than merely satisfy a hunger and tainted blood is much like tainted drugs.

Despite that issue, it was nice to see several interesting literary and scientific references in the film. The names Adam and Eve actually do not refer to the Bible characters. Rather they refer to Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve. The film also plays with the Marlovian Hypothesis—namely that Shakespeare did not write the plays he’s credited with, but rather they were written by Christopher Marlowe. Adam powers his house with a Tesla generator and Eve speaks about the star BPM 37093 which has a diamond core.

This is a good film to seek out if you’re looking for a smart, literary vampire drama that presents an interesting, stable adult romance rather than showing angsty teens playing at love. Its simple plot allows you to take time and savor the literary references and enjoy the compelling, Gothic soundtrack.

By the way, if you’re looking for a good deal on the Scarlet Order novels, the ebooks are available for 99 cents through December 1, 2015 at Lachesis Publishing. Here are the links:

Pandora

Back when I finished Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat, I promised I’d go back and read the two novels in her “New Tales of the Vampires” series. Pandora This past week, I finally read the first of those, Pandora. Despite being a different series, the vampire Pandora has appeared in several of the Vampire Chronicles including The Vampire Armand, Blood and Gold, and Prince Lestat. This novel is essentially the story of how Pandora became a vampire.

The novel starts out during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Pandora’s father is a senator who gained some power during the reign of Tiberius’s predecessor, Augustus. We meet Pandora herself as a precocious young girl, the sister of several brothers who are making their marks around the world in the Roman army. As a prominent senator, Pandora’s father is surrounded by many admirers and counselors. One of whom is a Kelt named Marius. At ten years old, Pandora so charms Marius that he asks Pandora’s father for permission to marry the young girl. In this case, it’s more scandalous because Marius is a Kelt than because Pandora is only ten. Marius then disappears and Pandora grows up and has two brief marriages that end when she can’t have children. During this time, Pandora begins to follow the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

In the background, the political machinations of Rome continue. Pandora’s father falls out of favor as Sejanus rises to his position as head of the Praetorian Guard. Pandora is sent away for her safety to the distant Roman port of Antioch. Soon after arriving, she finds the plot has architects much closer to home than she suspected and even Antioch might not be far enough away to be safe. What’s more, Pandora begins to dream of drinking blood and a hideous, burnt vampire is lurking around the temple of Isis. The temple priests bring Pandora into their confidence and she’s reunited with Marius, who we now find is a vampire. What’s more, he’s caring for Akasha and Enkil, the original vampires.

I loved the classic BBC series I, Claudius starring Derek Jacoby, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart, and Siàn Phillips. What I really enjoyed about Pandora was its look at the Roman Empire during much of the same time, both in Rome itself and in more distant Antioch. Once Pandora becomes a vampire, Rice gives us a look at Antioch as the city changes through the rise of Christianity and later emperors.

Cover of Dragon's Fall: Bondage

Another compelling element of Pandora was how our protagonist interacts with her slaves. Like many of Anne Rice’s vampire characters, Pandora is wealthy, even in life before she becomes a vampire. She seeks out a refined slave to head her household, one who is well versed in poetry. I found this an interesting counterpoint to the story of my own vampire Alexandra, who starts as a slave and uses her vampire powers to become a successful thief. You can read Alexandra’s story in the novella Bondage. That story is also collected in the novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Although Pandora bills itself as a “New Tale of the Vampires” it really felt like another entry in the Vampire Chronicles. The only thing that set it apart was that Lestat wasn’t a major character, but even he lurks in the background, unwilling to let Anne Rice, or her readers, forget about him entirely.

Dracula Untold

While in New Orleans, the movie Dracula Untold was recommended to me. Unfortunately, between family business and my book signing, we didn’t have time to watch there, but my wife and I picked up a copy when we returned home and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dracula_Untold_poster

Dracula Untold is an origin story for Dracula. It imagines Vlad the Impaler facing the choice of handing over 1000 boys to be trained as Ottoman Jannissaries or go to war with the Turks. Facing insurmountable odds, Vlad seeks out a master vampire and asks for help. The scene where Vlad and the master vampire confront each other in the cave gave me chills. It’s effective in its own right, but it also reminded me of the scene in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order where Desmond wakes up in a cave and meets the ancient vampire, Wolf.

In many ways, Dracula Untold tells the same story as Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order but with a slightly different premise. In Dracula Untold we learn how Vlad became the vampire Dracula. In Dragon’s Fall we learn the story of how the British vampire Draco became a mercenary for Vlad, giving rise to the Dracula legend. Many of the same historical events are used as backdrops, though the overall story takes many different turns.

Another element I found particularly interesting in Dracula Untold was the vampire Dracula could turn into a swarm of bats. The CGI was neat to watch and really makes me want to see someone visualize Drake and his ability to turn into a swarm of flies.

The movie itself has some issues. In particular, I found the enforced three-day time limit for the movie’s main story strained my ability to believe the large troop movements. Also, I found it a bit difficult to believe that even one strong vampire could decimate an entire army as much as Dracula did, though I could certainly imagine battle scenes like those in Dracula Untold appearing in a Scarlet Order vampire movie. The short run time also kept us from getting very much character depth—an unfortunately common trait in many modern movies. Despite those issues, I’d still have no problem recommending the film to someone who likes an action-oriented vampire film.

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Not only do I like vampire action, but I like supernatural myths. One of the deleted scenes showed Dracula having an encounter with the witch Baba Yaga. I saw why they felt they had to cut that scene, but I wish they had found a way to make it work within the context of the movie.

For those who would like to see my vision of vampire mercenaries and the history of the Turkish invasion of Transylvania, be sure to find a copy of Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet order. You can order signed copies at Boutique du Vampyre. Of course, you can always get the ebook at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Half off Some Scary Books

Smashwords is having a special promotion through July 31, which means this is an opportunity to grab anthologies featuring my horror stories for 50% off the regular ebook price!

These Vampires Don't Sparkle

You’ll find my story “Luftgeist” in These Vampires Don’t Sparkle. In the story the Nazi party attempts to hire the Scarlet Order vampires, but Desmond Drake turns them down, feeling Nazis are too evil for his band of vampire mercenaries to deal with. Because even vampires can be destroyed, Drake must flee aboard the Hindenburg. On the fateful flight, he encounters a strange being even more powerful and deadly than himself.

As for the anthology’s title—Sparkly Vampires? Oh Pluuueeeaasse! Since when have there been sparkling vampires? Are they a new brand of champagne or what? Vampires are supposed to be wily, tricky, and even evil. And they never, ever sparkle. In this book, you’ll find stories with some refreshing takes on vampires: vampire heroes, vampire villains, humorous vampires, among others. Check out 27 stories with the most bite by Lyn McConchie, Cynthia Ward, Lillian Csernica, Rhonda Parrish, John Lance, and other exceptional authors. Grab some garlic, wooden stakes, and crucifixes, and get ready to party, because these vampires don’t sparkle.

These Vampires Don’t Sparkle is available at Smashwords. Use the code SSW50 on checkout to get the 50% off discount.


Zombiefied 3 low res

It’s the apocalypse—again! It’s come in the form of shambling, brain eaters. What are you going to do? Pick up your copy of Zombiefied: Hazardous Material of course!

The anthology edited by Carol Hightshoe and published by Sky Warrior Publishing features my story “Born Again Miners.” The story is set in the steampunk world of Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves, or a closely related one. The mine owner Randolph Dalton finds a mysterious patent medicine salesman making a pitch to his workers. Dalton sends the men scurrying back to work but some time later, he finds the patent medicine salesman can cure what ails a mine owner losing money—he has a way to introduce cheap labor. Dalton is definitely interested, but might find the price a little more than he wants to pay!

The anthology features a total of 27 humorous, poignant, scary, and thought-provoking stories by such writers as Lyn McConchie, Cynthia Ward, David Boop, John Lance, and Rhonda Parrish. One read and you’ll be Zombiefied!

Zombiefied: Hazardous Materials is available at Smashwords. Use the code SSW50 on checkout to get the 50% off discount.