All submissions in these formats please: .pdf , Kindle, or print copy. If in print copy, I would appreciate it if the book was autographed by the author. I am not doing books that have a deadline at this time, unless the author wants to use my review to appear on the book itself. Please send all requests to: . If sending through snail mail, email me for my home address. Thank you!

September 16, 2011

RHA Presents Annotated Carmilla Book Tour

Growing up in the lonely forests and valleys of Styria, Laura had only her father and two governesses for company. Until she came. Carmilla. Beautiful and fragile. Kind and friendly. As mysterious as she was devoted. But also ... hungry.

For the first time since it was published n 1872, here is a complete guide to Le Fanu's classic vampire tale. Over four hundred footnotes give detailed answers to dozens and dozens of questions. Where is Styria? When is this story taking place? What is an awl? An escrutcheon? A hippogriff? Why did Carmilla seek out Laura? Also, unanswered questions and intriguing possibilities are charted out, one by one.

The Annotated Carmilla
by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Notes by
D. MacDowell Blue
Preface by
Andy Bolan
Introduction by
David A. Sutton
My Review:

I usually do not compare any of the books I have reviewed with any other books I have read. I think the book is pure genius and admire everyone who was a part of it. Sometimes words cannot  describe nor give credit to the magnificent imagination it takes and took to compose a work like Annotated Carmilla. Nowadays the spotlight is usually put on the male species of the vampire while little is contributed to a the beautiful female species of the vampire. Upon completing the book, it makes the reader or it did me, want to read more and search out more information, or let's just say made me hungry for more. If a person is a true vampire admirer/lover, they should want to know all aspects and origins of how the vampire came to be and how it has changed over the centuries. I just wish deep down that the 'vampire' as it is told in so many stories today, was a real creature...would be amazing. However, with this one, there is another book I found almost equal to this one in being informative, in depth, extensively researched, detailed, and a must have for all vampire lovers and admirers! That book is by Bertena Varney who wrote Lure of the Vampire. It takes the 'rose colored glasses' off and let's you see where the real vampire originated from, what it means and all of the history. It's nice to lose ourselves in the erotic, romantic world of the vampire that is depicted today. But for me, it's also great to see people do the amount of research it took to put these books out. If we are to love and admire the infamous 'prince of the night', we need to look into the darker realm of the vampire and yes that includes the famous 'female' vampires. For me the review on these two books were not easy and I notice that a lot of sites that have review The Annotated Carmilla say the same thing. Although I feel it is a little bit like 'cheating', I also notice they sum it up and say it just like I would like to but can't seem to do. Therefore, I am going to include some of these reviews in this portion of what is called 'My Review'.

There is more 19th Century vampire literature than one might, at first glance, think. There are some wonderfully obscure works with fabulous lore. Be that as it may there are three main works; a short, a novella and a novel that had more impact on the genre than any other piece of 19th Century literature (and, I would argue, remain the most influential works through into the 21st Century).

John Polidoris The Vampyre: A Tale created the prototype for the nobleman vampire, the story was the first English language vampire tale and in many respects it started the genre.

Bram Stokers Dracula is the singularly most influential vampire story ever. Through the book, and subsequent retellings, re-imaginings and downright alterations in other books, plays, TV shows, webcasts, movies and even breakfas... [via Taliesinttl

For fans of the undead, a favorite topic of debate remains comparing the various film versions of “Dracula.” Even limiting oneself to those explicitly based upon Stoker’s novel, over a dozen versions exist from “Nosferatu” (original and remake) to both Universal versions in 1930, both adaptations that starred Christopher Lee, all three BBC Draculas, the films starring Jack Palance, Gary Oldman, Patrick Bergin, etc. as well as different adaptations in countries from Turkey to Pakistan. Then one gets into the sequels.
But prior to Bram Stoker’s work, one of the most famous pieces of vampire literature was penned by another Irish writer. Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (1814-1873) wrote “Carmilla” a full quarter century before the Transylvanian Count ever saw print. No explicit evidence shows Stoker ever read the novella, but it is difficult to believe he did not. LeFanu’s story includes tropes that found their way into Stoker’s. A more-or-less professional vampire hunter, the idea of a victim perceiving the bite as a semi-erotic dream, doctors summoned to diagnose a mysterious wasting illness—all standards today, but brand spanking new when “Carmilla” was published in 1872.

Differences abound as well, which might explain the relative dearth of filmed versions of this earlier work.

Unlike the (for the time) high-tech mystery/adventure which is “Dracula”, LeFanu’s novella feels dreamlike. Its POV remains resolutely with one narrator, the victim/lover of the title character. Laura. We never learn her last name, although she turns out to be a distant relation of the vampire. As written, “Carmilla” has only two main characters with no more than five supporting ones, fairly minor ones at that. Compare that to the crowded cast in “Dracula” that results in many of them usually ending up cut out during adaptation! Much of the excitement in the story takes place off-stage as it were. Much more time and ink ends up devoted to Laura’s dreams than to talk of the undead. Subtle and sensual details abound. The swans in the moat of the old schloss. Carmilla combing Laura’s hair for hours. The actual feel of blood being drawn, like a stream of water against the bare flesh of a girl’s breast. Whereas the latter novel clearly takes place in physical locations one can find on the map, the former seems set in a place nearly outside time or space—a schloss (castle) amid mist-shrouded forests somewhere in Styria (southwest Austria). Careful examination of the text leads one to believe it takes place around 1845 or earlier. Maybe. Probably. It hard makes much difference.
One would think a classic horror novel about a lesbian vampire would have been filmed more often, and the actual number of genuine film versions (not including a few direct-to-video movies with budgets barely enough to purchase a car) are five in number:
In 1872 one of the greatest and most influential vampire stories was published - Carmilla. The short story written by Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu is the inspiration behind countless vampires tales we all know and love. With its amazing style, wicked sense of horror and its risky use of vampiric lesbianism, it was a perfect vampire tale. A story that influenced many writers, including the legendary Bram Stoker, who according to some scholars, wrote Dracula thanks to Le Fanu.

Le Fanu definitely did his research when it came to the undead. Using the old myths and legends to make Carmilla even more impressive. His character, Carmilla Karnstein, continues to be one of the greatest female vampires of all time.
 I learned that Laura (the narrator) doesn’t seem to like men. She has kind things to say about much older members of the masculine gender—her father, General Spielsdorf, etc.—but none to say about men her own age or thereabouts. At most she withholds value judgments. But she never offers a positive word. Not once.

For another, tracking the descriptions of a full moon reveals a definite pattern. Carmilla seems to do or begin major events on or about the full moon. In the literary conventions of the time, this made sense. Vampires had come to be associated with the full moon, which in theory had the power to revive them. Bram Stoker broke with that tradition when he wrote Dracula. But reading carefully, one learns that Laura lasts at least twice as long as Carmilla’s previous victim. Why? An obvious motive lies within the text—out of feelings for her friend.

The narrator doesn’t reveal her name until about two-thirds of the way through! No wonder most film versions call her Marguarite, or Emma, or some such!

In the end, very many more questions are left unanswered about the title character and any possible accomplices than are resolved. Who was her mysterious mother, for instance? How did she come to be invited to the grand ball where General Spielsdorf’s daughter fell under the vampire’s sway? Whose face stared out of the carriage as it sped off? We don’t know. We never can know, now.

Here’s something especially intriguing. At the climax of the story, General Spielsdorf brings in official commissioners who examine the vampire’s grave and authorize what Must Be Done. Laura says she’s read the accounts. But—the tale takes place in Austria. Austrian law strictly forbade the desecration of dead bodies under the suspicion of vampirism. Empress Maria Theresa issued an imperial edict on the subject a century or more before! So what was really going on here? Who wrote those accounts really? And what actually went on in the ruins of Karnstein Castle, far from the narrator’s eyes? We only know what she was told, not the facts of what truly transpired.

Or do we know even that? I didn’t realize at first Laura is telling her tale to a specific someone. We don’t know to whom. She is female and from some kind of city, or so Laura indicates. Which brings up the question of agenda—was Laura herself telling the whole truth of what happened? Certainly many things go unspoken. As her dear friend stands accused of being a living dead monster, then her body is destroyed by stake and axe and fire, Laura never mentions her own emotions even once. What was she feeling? Laura refused to say. Her reasons, likewise, remain hidden—as was evidently her intent.

Or at least Le Fanu’s. In this case they amount to the same thing.

I learned plenty of other things as well. But you’ll have to read the book to find out more.

D.MacDowell Blue hails from San Francisco but was raised in Florida. Hence neither earthquakes nor hurricanes hold much terror to him. A widower, he is a lifelong fan of vampire stories, movies and folklore. He currently is working on an original novel, but using relatives of characters from 19th century literature as his dramatis personae—from Dickens, Austen, Collins and even Verne among others. Yes, there are vampires. His website is


- Spoilers - DO NOT read if you do not want a spoiler

The story starts off with heroine Laura reminiscing about her childhood and the nightly visit to her home in Styria from a mysterious woman who caused Laura to feel needle-like puncture wounds on her breast. About twelve years later, Laura helps out a beautiful young woman who survived a horrible wagon crash. Her name is, of course, Carmilla. Carmilla appears to be the same woman from Laura’s dreams; she also looks very similar to a portrait of Countess Mircalla Karnstein in Laura’s house, painted in 1698 (many years before).

Laura and Carmilla soon develop a close relationship, but Laura growing weak and exhausted with every passing day, suffering an attack from a phantom or cat coming into her room. Her death is prevented by the arrival of a close family friend, a general, who lost his own daughter to a woman named Millarca. It is soon obvious that Millarca, Mircalla and Carmilla are one and the same. Found in the ruins of an old castle, Carmilla is staked decapitated and cremated. Laura’s final words:

 To this hour the image of Carmilla returns to memory with ambiguous alternations -- sometimes the playful, languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church; and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla  at the drawing-room door.

- Moonlight

I give Annotated Carmilla five stars *****
Reviewed by
Nora Chipley Barteau

About David MacDowell Blue
D. MacDowell Blue hails from San Francisco, but was raised in Florida before attending school in New York City then eventually ending up in Los Angeles, California. His degree is in Theatre Arts, and he graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory. Over the years he has had several plays mounted in different venues (including one adaptation of Dracula) but these days his writing is usually found online in various blogs especially at as well as his personal blog Night Tinted Glasses. His interest in the undead dates back to childhood and watching the original Dark Shadows on television (when he and his sister could do so behind their grandmother's disapproving back). He has long wanted to write a script for Carmilla and who knows but that might yet happen? Right now he is busy at work creating a web series about vampires titled End of the Line as well as writing his first full-length novel, a retelling of the nineteenth century 'penny dreadful' Varney the Vampire.

Continue reading on Review of The Annotated Carmilla - National Paranormal Literature |

My Interview with David

RHA: Where are you from?  Born in San Francisco, raised in Florida, went to school in New York City, currently live in Los Angeles.
RHA: Tell us your latest news?  I’ve got a new pair of glasses.  Plus I’ve been losing weight.  Those are both probably related to a recent diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.  Had to correct my diet very quickly!
RHA: When and why did you begin writing?  Honestly, I’m not at all sure.  Seems to me I’ve always loved stories and coming up with my own versions of different tales.  As a child I watched Dark Shadows and imagined my own member of the Collins family, who he was and what curse he might live under.
RHA: When did you first consider yourself a writer?  In college.  That is when I completed my first plays and had my first articles published.
RHA: What inspired you to write your first book?  Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Dracula, which led me to long for such a work about Le Fanu’s work.  So, I wrote one!
RHA: Do you have a specific writing style?  I hope so!  As far as defining it goes—well, I like ambiguity, the places and times between what we recognize.  Characters who are both heroes and villains, kind and cruel, brave yet cowardly.  The more I write, the more impatient I grow with the passive voice, and with the verb “to be.”  I find myself using adjectives and adverbs less with practice.  Oh, and I find myself paying very close attention to rhythm.
RHA: What books have most influenced your life most?  Interesting question!  Directly or indirectly, methinks The Bible has done a huge amount.  Looking back, methinks Ayn Rand’s Anthem had a subtle but profound impact—because when I read it something really grabbed me at the time.  A visceral lesson in the impact of words, their evocative power.  Robert Heinlein’s novels also gave showed you could be a good storyteller without turned every sentence into a haiku (or trying to, anyway).
RHA: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?  A few come to mind.  One is Shakespeare.  Then there’s Dennis Potter, late author of The Singing Detective (which is the work that introduced me to him).  Such a startling, deep, yet contemporary imagination!  Oh dear, half a dozen more just came to mind—best quit while I’m ahead!  Or behind. 
RHA: What book are you reading now?   Nearly finished with The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein, a nice coincidence since the story parallels Carmilla in so many ways—deliberately, as the narrator has read and is fascinated by the book.  But is she mad?  Or is her classmate really a vampire?  Could it be both?
RHA: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Does Sarah Waters count?  She’s only written five or six novels, right? 
RHA: What are your current projects?  Well, I’m writing an original novel—a Gothic supernatural romance in Pre-Victorian England—and working with an artist friend on a graphic novel adaptation of Carmilla.
RHA: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.  By entity do mean friends?  If so I’d say my pal Suzanne probably supports me most.  She’s not the only one, I’m happy to say.  As far as institutions go, I’d have to say the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, because it taught so much about character, about what can really go on in a scene, how to look at a story in terms of what it all means.  Then there’s the Absolute Write Water Cooler online…
RHA: Do you see writing as a career?  Hopefully!  LOL!
RHA: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?  Probably, I’d add still more footnotes.  Four hundred doesn’t quite seem enough.
RHA: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?  Not really.  Ever since learning to read and write I know my family called me a paper junkie, constantly scribbling ideas and things down.  Mostly extremely derivative stuff, but then, I was only nine years old!
RHA: Can you share a little of your current work with us?  I can tell you the novel currently underway takes the conventions of the Gothic—young governess arrives at the isolated manor to become entwined in it’s secrets—and gives them a twist.  For one thing, we don’t see the world from her point of view, but that of two other people who meet her.  One of those is a servant, of a class such works rarely acknowledge.  Plus the whole thing is seeded with hints from period literature.  Two characters are the children of a couple from Jane Austen.  A nearby city isn’t real but forms the setting for a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.  A Dickens character wanders by, as does someone from Wilkie Collins.  Hopefully, that’ll add some fun for some readers!
RHA: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?  Ha!  What don’t I find challenging?  But the big thing is to actually put one word in front of another, again and again and again and again.
RHA: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?  Don’t think I have one single favorite.  Lois McMaster Bujold writes wonderful stuff, funny and touching, with ideas that reach into the heart.  Tanith Lee manages to weave her dreams into words as few I’ve ever seen.  And so on.
RHA: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?  Nowhere near as much as I’d like!  But I have been around quite a bit and use that to my advantage.  Lived through earthquakes and hurricanes, big cities and small towns.  Travelled by airplane, ship and train.  Deserts, swamps, forests—buildings new and old.  Over the years I learned to observe.
RHA: Who designed the covers?  For The Annotated Carmilla that was me!  Hopefully I won’t have to do that many more times.  Publish on demand is fine, but so much better if you can get experts to handle the marketing.
RHA: What was the hardest part of writing your book?  Keeping track of what I’d already added as far as the footnotes go!  Didn’t want to repeat myself time and again.
RHA: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?  That unanswered questions sometimes make much better backstory than answered ones.  Thought I knew that already, but honestly, I didn’t.  Not really.
RHA: Do you have any advice for other writers?  Finish.  Once you finish it, then edit the thing.  But don’t look for perfection.  Competence in storytelling, in composing words to tell your tale, that way lies achievement.  Do your best and let others judge you as they will.  Forgive imperfection.
RHA: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?  Other than “Buy my book please?”  Well, I’d like to tell everyone to be on the lookout for a new cinematic adaptation of Carmilla currently in post-production.  Got to interview one of the writer-directors, and Styria sounds like a dream I want to have.  So looking forward to seeing it!

"O let my name be in the Book of Love, if it be there, I care not of that other book above.
Strike it out!  Or write it in anew... But let my name be in the Book of Love

--Omar Kayam
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