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!

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.

The Casquette Girls

According to journalist and author Chris Rose, “You can live in any city in America, but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.” The statement certainly feels true for me. Although I’ve spent less than two weeks in New Orleans over the last two years, I feel like it’s become a part of me. Between the history, music, and greenery there’s an indelible life and spirit that has remained with me long after I’ve left and I look forward to my next visit. It’s even more poignant on this tenth anniversary after Hurricane Katrina. Tragic as that event was, the city’s recovery and forward march inspires me.

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During my last visit to New Orleans, I was surprised and honored when Alys Arden, author of The Casquette Girls came to the shop and bought one of my novels. I had been considering buying a copy of her book and had the presence of mind of to grab one and have her sign it for me while she was there. Now falling back into my work routine, I’ve just had a chance to read the novel and was pleased to find the New Orleans I’ve fallen in love with well represented in the novel’s pages.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The New Orleans of the novel is a wasteland that has barely survived the worst storm in the city’s history. The storm is unnamed, but clearly inspired by Katrina. What we see in the novel is the weaving of a magical, mystical, and sometimes horrific tale around the courageous tale of those New Orleanians who returned to the city to rebuild. Alys Arden creates a wonderful sense of place from Cafe Orleans to the mysterious Ursuline Convent, whose locked, top-story shutters suddenly blow open over the head of the novel’s protagonist, Adele Le Moyne, soon after she’s returned to the city with her father.

Ursuline-Convent-Day

Underlying the harsh realities of rebuilding a city and a life, Arden weaves in a story inspired by the three legends I heard about during my recent vampire tour of New Orleans. Adele’s journey starts at the Ursuline convent of the present, but takes her on a journey through her family’s past and its connections to Voodoo and witchcraft.

My only real disappointment was that the novel’s vampires, once revealed, lacked a certain gravitas worthy of the history and lore weaved so deftly into the intricate plot. I’m willing to chalk that up to a minor matter of taste, given how much the novel otherwise satisfied me. The Casquette Girls took me back to New Orleans, reintroduced me to many of the colorful people I met, carried me back in time to the city’s early days, and also to the days post-Katrina. In that trip, I felt I got to know the city, it’s history, lore, and diverse cultures just a little better. You can order copies of the novel from Boutique du Vampyre. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Vampire Music

Some of my most interesting vampire finds come from my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I was inspired to write about vampires because a co-worker referred to those of us who operate telescopes as the vampires of the mountain. This week, I was talking to a co-worker about an upcoming trip to New Orleans and a possible book signing. He asked if I knew about the song, “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting. I actually hadn’t heard it, but I looked it up and found it to be a compelling slow-jazz tune about a New Orleans vampire that seems inspired by Anne Rice’s Lestat.

Listening to the song made me curious what other vampire-inspired songs were available. A quick search soon told me there are a lot! Some are fairly obvious, like Annie Lennox’s “Love Song for a Vampire” from the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

In addition to numerous songs from the movies there were an assortment of Goth, punk, and heavy metal tunes. However, one of my favorite finds was Blue &Oumlaut;yster Cult’s “Nosferatu.” This music video featuring scenes from Werner Herzog’s film of the same name made this a real treat.

Do you have any particular favorite vampire songs? I’d love to hear about them and who knows? They may end up on my vampire play list. Also, regarding that possible book signing—things look promising and I hope to have details for you here soon!

The Scarlet Order Series

Right after I completed Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I wrote synopses for four more novels of a proposed series. Dragons Fall The first was Scarlet Order: Dragon’s Fall which told the Scarlet Order’s origin story. Scarlet Order: New World would have told the story of Rudolfo joining Don Juan de Oñate as he marched into New Mexico, and his romance with a young Spanish bride named Mercedes Rodriguez. The third novel was Scarlet Order: Revolution which would have told the story of Draco, Roquelaure, and Alexandra during the French Revolution. Finally, I imagined a sequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order called Scarlet Order: Nosferatu.

I started on the first of these novels soon after Vampires of the Scarlet Order was released. I set out to write Dragon’s Fall during NaNoWriMo in 2005. I actually did write 50,000 words as planned, but it was still far short of a finished novel. What’s more, I felt like I had written myself into a corner. As with any project like that, often the best thing to do is to set the project aside, while I worked on other things. I returned to my Old Star/New Earth series and wrote the final volume, Heirs of the New Earth, and a prequel to the series called The Solar Sea.

In 2007, LBF Books which published Vampires of the Scarlet Order, was sold to a new owner. The new owner proposed that I write a series of five novellas based on the Scarlet Order Vampires. Dragon’s Fall was intended to be told in four distinct parts, and really, each of those parts was a novella in its own right. After NaNoWriMo, I essentially had two and a half of the novellas done. What’s more, I knew I wanted to give one of the characters more back story, and that provided another novella’s worth of material, so I agreed.

Cover of Dragon's Fall: Bondage

The first of these novellas was published in 2010. Set in Hellenistic Athens, Bondage tells the story of the slave Alexandra. Sold to Theron, a mysterious banker, she wonders about her new master who is never seen during the day. As time goes on, she notices that slaves called upon to serve Theron in his chamber in the night do not return the next morning.

When Alexandra’s turn comes, she learns Theron is a vampire who binds his slaves, takes his pleasure with them, then drinks their blood. She refuses to be a victim, but as she fights his embrace, Alexandra ingests some of Theron’s blood. Now a vampire herself, she becomes Theron’s concubine. Yet even as she learns the ways of the vampire, Alexandra yearns for freedom.

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The second novel in the series was The Dragon’s Quest. In this novella, Aonghas Deas-Mhumhan — called Desmond — is a dragon lord in the service of King Ambrosius. He longs for the king’s daughter, the beautiful Guinevere. However, her heart belongs to the king’s young ally, L’ancelot.

When Desmond and his friend Arthur are sent to battle Saxon invaders, Desmond is mortally wounded. He is saved by Wolf, a vampire who is seeks the Holy Grail in hopes that it might bring salvation to their kind. Desmond knows he and Wolf cannot find the Grail alone. He returns to court where he finds that Guinevere is pledged to Arthur but still longs for L’ancelot. Now king, Arthur is anxious to remove L’ancelot from court for a time, so he agrees to Desmond’s request for aid in the search for the Grail cup.

After these two novellas were released, my publisher changed owners once again. This time, the new owners decided that rather than release five novellas, they’d simply combine all of them into one book as originally intended. So, you can find both of the novellas above along with three more in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. In the complete novel, you discover how Desmond and Alexandra meet and form a band of vampire mercenaries. All three of these volumes are still available. The Dragon’s Fall novellas are still a great way to check out the world of the Scarlet Order on a budget.

Thanks to everyone who has joined me on this ten-year anniversary retrospective of the creation of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. There are still just a few days left to enter the Rafflecopter drawing for one of my vampire books. See the first post in this series for more details or just click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Rudolfo – Where Old World Meets New

Today, I continue my look back at the origins of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. In the previous installments, I looked at the original stories set in the present day, which introduced the vampires Daniel, Mercy, and Marcella. By this point, around the end of 2001, beginning of 2002, I started to see a story arc developing. After writing “Vampires in the World of Dreams” I knew there were ancient vampires, but I had yet to explore who they were and what they did. That’s when I had the idea to introduce Rudolfo. He’s a vampire who came to the new world with the conquistadors, dropped into a long sleep and emerged in the modern world. I first told his story in a pair of stories which appeared in the zines Parchment Symbols and Night to Dawn.

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Rudolfo’s first appearance was in the story “The Last Conquistador” which tells the story of a physicist named Jane Heckman performing tests on a new explosive and waking the slumbering vampire. Hungry, he kills two of her graduate students. Angry and frightened, Dr. Heckman confronts the creature which attacked her students. Rudolfo is intrigued by the woman scientist and chooses her to be his guide in the new era. The story appeared in Issue 9 of Parchment Symbols magazine.

After writing the story, I grew curious about Rudolfo’s origins, so I wrote the story “The Scarlet Order.” This story is set in 1492, during the reconquest of Spain. Rudolfo is a poor human, whose father is a caballero blockading Granada. When his father is killed, Rudolfo seeks revenge, only to fall in with a band of ancient vampire mercenaries—the Scarlet Order, led by Lord Draco. The story appeared in Issue 3 of Night to Dawn magazine and would ultimately become the first chapter of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

Rudolfo became an important part of the Scarlet Order story. He soon becomes Draco’s second in command, which led to one of my favorite moments from the novel, which I read and made into a short film. The illustrations by Steve Gilberts are from the print edition of the novel.

As I envisioned it, the alliance of vampires was fragile at best. Rudolfo brought a semblance of stability to the Scarlet Order, but even he can only take it for so long. After about 50 years, he travels to America and joins Don Juan de Oñate in his conquest of New Mexico. However, the low population in the new world and the horrors of Oñate’s expedition drive Rudolfo into a deep slumber.

When he awakens, he finds a world he can live in, but he’s soon swept away. This leads Dr. Jane Heckman on a quest for the old Scarlet Order vampires. When she meets up with Daniel, Mercy, and Marcella, she’s not altogether happy with what she sees, but soon she learns they must stop an evil greater than vampires.

If you’d like to learn more about Rudolfo and the vampires of the Scarlet Order, be sure to enter my Rafflecopter giveaway. I’m collecting entries until the end of the month. See the first post in this series for more details or just click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway