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Happy 2023--and Happy Intro to Vampires 101!

Welcome, one and all, to 2023! I hope you all had a good New Year’s and rang it in right. I spent the evening with good friends, good food, and good conversation, and while that was lovely, I’m ready to shake off the holidays and get back into the thick of things. It’s a new year! That means new projects and new horizons to explore! It felt fitting that for the first blog post of the new year I’d tease a little of both.

For this month’s blog, let’s take some time to delve into something I know a lot of you must be curious about: The Dark Vagaries universe, or DVerse, for short! This is my custom vampire universe and sandbox showcased in works like Letifer and Apotheosis, as well as a few scattered one shots that have been posted both on Patreon and AO3. There are unique bloodlines with vampires sporting a whole host of different abilities and proclivities, an enormous rotating cast of colorful characters, and myriad mysteries that allude to even more the deeper we dive into the world as a whole. It’s the culmination of several years of hard work and even more intense world-building, and it serves as the next phase of my publication schedule.

So, without any more delay, let’s get to it!

Where to start… I suppose I’ll give you all the general pocket pitch I use when discussing Letifer to new readers. The DVerse is made up of eight standalone novels, each one centered around a different protagonist from a different bloodline in a different historical setting. They can be read in any order and apart from each other, but they’re best consumed in pairs with each book having a spiritual tie-in and shared characters, plot elements, or historical significance. Each book is full of fun, deep vampiric lore, and with a cast of characters and shared history spanning more than ten thousand years, it’ll take reading all of them to fully grasp the vagaries teased in pieces throughout the eight books.

Now, I fully intend to do blog posts on every individual clan in the future. There’s really no concise way for me to give full overviews in just one of these, especially when I have so much else to talk about as well. If you’ve ever played Vampire: The Masquerade, imagine my bloodlines in similar terms. There are seven established clans and each serves a unique, fluctuating role in vampiric society depending on who holds power at that point in time, in that part of the world. There are the noble born Luminaries, the warrior-caste Triarii, the scheming Niccaive, the morbidly curious Cultists, the run-of-the-mill Enforcers, the scholarly Loremasters, and the malignly persecuted Charlatans. Each has a part to play and each experiences the world in a very different way. They’re all immense fun and I really hope to make a personality quiz with all of these as options sometime since every strain of blood skews the mind and body in certain directions. But more on that later—What’s this series ultimately about?

That's a hard question to answer at first blush. It’s a series made up of standalones, so the plots vary wildly. Even the genres vary! There are detective mystery/buddy cop vibes to Letifer, but Apotheosis is much more of a corporate thriller. The next duology contains a Prohibition Era, mafia-tinged inheritance battle alongside a vampiric political grift involving a merc team and an assassination plot. The one after that takes us even further back into the past with a murder mystery on a ship story straight out of that one chapter of Dracula alongside a 1970s-set journalist hunting down the true story behind a New Orleans folktale. The final duo is… Teehee. A surprise. These final two books involve the root of the grand mystery referenced throughout the prior books—the truth behind The Fall, an event so mired in mystery and bloodshed that even the oldest vampires do their best to forget about it.

So, as you can see, this series is hard to define. I’d say it’s largely horror of various bends. We have psychological, thriller, survival, slasher, and ghost stories aplenty. There’s gore, vore, mutilation, transformation, and loss of every variety. But there’s comedy too, and love galore. It’s a culmination of many stories that all lead back to one grand truth: there’s someone out there for everyone, so long as you’re willing to ignore death in the process.

We’re at the part of the blog where I’d probably begin discussing characters, love interests, and dynamics. Given this is an eight-part series, I can’t very well break down every single couple, at least, not fully. This is the sparknotes teaser, this blog. We’ll for sure go into greater detail later on as I begin breaking down these books into individual teasers. For now, though, I’ll give you basic blurbs about each book and its cast. With any luck it’ll be enough to whet your appetite and get you excited about individual products!

First on the docket: Letifer

Well, first off, I really hope most of you have picked up Letifer and read it by now! It’s my latest release and is so much fun, like, SO much fun. It’s a detective story with unconventional partnerships between a rookie cop aspiring to make detective and a loner vampire who essentially works as Internal Affairs within his own vampiric society. There’s a murderer on the loose and, as it turns out, both Gabriel, the moonlighting detective-wannabee, and Nines, the Enforcer outcast with a chip on his shoulder, are on the case. It just makes more sense to work together than apart, even if they do butt heads and struggle to understand one another’s unique perspective on life, death, and how to keep moving when neither are as simple as you’d want them to be. It’s a thriller and quintessential murder mystery, and there’s some fun horror sequences just to keep things exciting. It’s set in 2020 and the most modern of all the installments, and beginning the series with this book gives us a good baseline to work backwards from as we delve into the history side of things and learn how things got to this point.

Next: Apotheosis (Soon to be renamed Skiamakhia)

This is a 90s corporate thriller! It’s about Kolton Moreau, Nines’s twin brother, and tells the story of how he met his sire and embroiled himself and his family in vampire politics after attracting the attention of Elijah Eder, the Luminary Elder of the city. But it’s not as simple as that. Kolton is a scion of his own making, and while Luminaries of the Old World were those with titles, land, and domains, the New World views its elite under different terms. Kolton has already been noticed by the undead ruling the cities after dark, and when in competition with an Elder like Elijah, anyone seeking to swipe Kolton out from under him will have to use some… less savory avenues to see it happen. Kolton, despite being human, has to fight his own battles and prove that he’s able to hold his own on the chessboard, heartbeat or not.

This book serves as a prequel to Letifer and gives so much insight into the actions and lead up we only get to see in Nines’s point of view in that book, and let me tell you, it recontextualizes SO much. I really try to explore different relationship styles and types in this series, both to keep things fresh and to challenge myself. Kolton and Elijah’s romance isn’t conventional at all. It’s closer to an arranged marriage or political partnership than anything immediately romantic, and with two incredibly cerebral characters, it’s very fun getting to see how they navigate an arrangement like this when both are more accustomed to boardrooms than casual relationships.

Next: Philaimatos

I’m super excited to begin work on this book soon. It’s based loosely off a few old ideas and oneshots I wrote ages ago involving Prohibition vampires and mafia shenanigans. This is another book with an interesting relationship dynamic. Our couple is comprised of Sammy Poe, a speakeasy owner and rum-runner trying his damnedest to maintain neutrality in a city that thrives off deals, protection fees, and mafia involvement as a way of life, and James, a freshly turned on the WW1 battlefield Triarii with a few bad feeding habits that don’t make him many friends. Theirs is a relationship of mutual benefit, but it’s also one of forced reliance. Sammy met James after straying into territory he shouldn’t have been wandering in and survived by making a deal with the half-feral James. In exchange for his blood, James would keep him safe, feed him some info, and keep other vampires out of Sammy’s hair.

Of course, it’s never that simple. They’ve got a really fun push and pull between them trying to stay at arm’s reach when circumstances bring about the opposite. Couple that with a new powerhouse entering the city and aching to shake things up and you’ve got a really fun dynamic that isn’t based on love. Turns out, sometimes necessity is stronger!

Next: Thanatoses

The old idea that became the bulk of Philamatos was actually my first attempt at conceptualizing a story in the form of a movie. It involved so many points of view and different ongoing plot threads—it became pretty clear to me that my 19 year old self couldn’t do an idea like that justice. Hell, at the time, I knew I couldn’t even attempt to write it into a book because I didn’t know how to write a multi-chaptered fanfiction, let alone a fully realized novel. Looking back, I was right, but not for the same reasons. The plot I’d originally come up with would never have worked as one movie, or one book. By that logic, the tie-in to Philamatos serves as the other half of that movie concept, but this time in a format that actually makes sense! This is a story I’d call an action-heist. It’s a prequel but also a spin-off in some ways, detailing the villains’ side of things in the form of the mercenary team hired to destabilize Chicago in order to set the stage for the big baddie. The assassination of a Luminary Elder is no laughing matter. It’s a suicidal job, but to be honest, those pay the best. These two only accept the best.

I fondly refer to this story as “my asexual hate-mance” as it’s about Felix, a Nicciave grifter, and her partner Nebraska, a trauma-riddled ex-soldier who hates vampires more than anything. It’s another odd-ball couple, but there are reasons for a human-disparaging Vampire to work with a vampire-revealing human. They work together flawlessly. Perfect synchronicity. There is no one in this world who understands each other better, who could predict the other’s thoughts better—and yet they can’t stand each other. It’s fantastic. This book also contains my FAVORITE background villain in the DVerse at large, Jericho. You’ll get to meet him a little in Apotheosis, but this is the book where he gets to shine. It’s SO exciting. I really cannot wait.

Next: Nepenthe

This is another book I’ve really found myself eager to begin. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I love locked door mysteries, and this is the book I get to finally try my hand at the story type myself. This book is the Cultist installment, and if you guys know about Cultists, you may already be looking at me with wide eyes. It’s a sort of play on that one chapter of Dracula when Dracula is on the ship crossing over to England, but tied up with a piece of New Orleans folklore that serves as the larger context of this story. Have you guys ever heard of the Casket Girls? If not, go read up on it! This book follows two casket girls on their way to the New World from France to start their new lives as married women. Unfortunately, there’s a plague-spreading vampire ghoul (also one of my favorite vamps!!) lurking in the hold, and a two month trip is just long enough to bring out the worst in humans and vampires alike.

This book is almost solely horror when compared to the others in the series that shuffle through a few genres over the course of the story. Our girls, Colette and Marceline, go through an ordeal together. Like, a survival horror ordeal. What they become at the end of it gives credence to the idea that happy endings truly may be subjective.

Next: Aletheia

As our tie-in with Nepenthe, Aletheia has some shared cast despite taking place in the 1970s. Like I said before, the story of the Casket Girls is famous in New Orleans. There’s a whole culture built around it, and for fledgling Loremaster Thea, the idea of uncovering the truth behind the story is one mystery she can’t refuse. I’m super excited about this story because it’s a mystery but also a journalistic reporter investigating an old folktale. Thea is new to the blood. She’s actually too young to be typically permitted to venture out into the world like this, but her wanderlust knows no bounds and her force of will is stronger than any elder’s could hope to be. Because of this, we have a fish out of water sticking her head into places she’d be better off not treading. We’ll get to meet so many awesome, nefarious characters over the scope of her investigation as well as meet the remnants of that fateful plague ship. This will probably have the most unconventional and strange of relationship dynamics. If you know about Cultists, you’ll automatically understand why I say that XD Just prepare yourself for the strangest threesome you’ll ever encounter. Be excited! I know I am.

Lastly: Mortigena and Dakethumos

Can’t give you too much on these books since, as I said before, they’re the culmination of all the previous books teasing the larger background mysteries lurking behind the plots. What I can tell you is that these books follow one central character, a figure who enters two men’s lives and changes them—and maybe not for the better. That character is Noel! He was a sin-eater in life and became something far different after death, but maybe not so different depending on how you look at it. Mortigena involves him and Cesare, a woe begotten Charlatan embroiled in some of the darkest points of vampire history over in Europe. Together, they change it, and maybe not for the better XD A lot of the things we’ll hear about in passing in the previous books relate to the events of this book. It’s another sort of murder mystery story but told from the perspective of the perpetrators this time, not the ones trying to catch them, or the victims themselves.

To contrast, Dakethumos is about Noel and his sire, Bennett, and tells the final story of a bloodline too terrifying to be spoken of casually. This book is the oldest in terms of setting and will be the earliest installment we get in this universe. It’s all leading up to this one, folks! There will be only a handful of characters from previous books that arise in this one. It’s also the saddest book, in my opinion, and the one with the most depressing ending. I’m hopeful that by the time you finish Mortigena you’ll know where this book is heading though. I can’t get into more details than this, but trust me, these two are going to serve as an intense conclusion to this series. I really can’t wait to get to them!

There are of course so many side characters and side couples throughout these books, some of which serve almost as big a role as the main characters and couples, just on the periphery. I’ll likely delve into those side characters at a future date, perhaps in tandem with individual book teasers or even in future Patreon one shots. I’ve currently got an origin two-shot on my monthly poll regarding two very fun side characters who will otherwise never have their full story told. Perhaps after the main series wraps up I’ll get to do some small novellas with all my vampires… but I’m getting ahead of myself. With a world this big and depictions of vampires as variable as they are, I think it’s good to open up to questions you all specifically want me to answer. Questions come from Instagram, Twitter, and private messages this month!

Give Rooney Soda Tier List

If you guys can’t tell, that one is from Yougei XD Let’s ignore the fact that vampires can’t drink pop for a minute to give this question the consideration it deserves. Rooney is from the Midwest. I think his favorite pops would be as follows:

  1. Purple Faygo (homeboy’s from Detroit)

  2. Root Beer (Mug’s)

  3. Mountain Dew Voltage

  4. Mountain Dew Code Red

  5. Ginger Ale

He was a bit of a gamer before college and definitely enjoys his gamer fuel. He also really enjoyed Yoohoo’s. Please mix blood with Yoohoo so he can drink it again ;-; He needs a sippy, he’s just a boy.

What was the thought process behind the creation of the different DVerse clans?

This is a great question! It’s a bit involved, so I’ll try to be brief. Like I said above, Mortigena was the first planned DVerse book, so a lot of the initial clan development centered around creating characters for that single story. I knew right away that I wanted to try my hand at different clans and bloodlines for variety’s sake, so I aimed for a set number and then went to think of ways to divide the typical traditional vampire abilities into different specialties that could mark a bloodline.

For instance, vampires typically have superhuman strength, so I knew I needed a physical clan. That turned into the Triarii. But of course, it’s not fun if they’re only strong. I wanted them to be unique too, so I went deeper, and some of my thought process is echoed in Gabriel’s line in Letifer where he calls Triarii jocks. They are, as I always call them, “team sports.” They’re inherently loyal towards one another, capable of blood rage (‘roid rage), and their blood is so potent and powerful that even surviving it to become a Triarii is a sign that you are either immensely strong and sturdy naturally, like as a human, or you’ve got an iron will that helps you persevere through horrific ordeals.

The goal behind each clan was to avoid shoehorning each vampire into a specific personality-determined bloodline. You don’t get put into a specific clan because you behave a certain way, but being a certain clan does influence your personality at its core. Every bloodline takes one or two core personality traits a person might have and cranks it up to eleven. For example, let’s look at clans like the Nicciave or Luminaries. Just because you’re one of them doesn’t make you a paranoid scheming Machiavelli or a rich, spoiled brat. The blood, however, has its own bad influences that it passes on, and it takes a lot of strength of will and character to keep from succumbing to the racing thoughts inherent to the Nicciave bloodline. When you always know the world IS out to get you, how do you rise above that? And the Luminary blood makes it difficult for many fledglings to focus. It lowers inhibitions and makes them gluttons for instant gratification, and that sometimes only fades with age and learned restraint. When no one will tell you no, it’s difficult to tell yourself no as well.

So… it’s something like that, I suppose. Most clans came about because I needed specific types to fill character roles within a single story, and over time they got refined to work as clans as a whole. Nines' breakdown in Letifer is pretty accurate to how I went about making them all up, but a lot of credit is due to Yougei as well because we spent… I want to say about two solid days straight (literally several hours each day doing nothing else but this) work-shopping clan abilities, names, elders, power structures, and political hierarchies. A lot of it changed as I moved forward with planning out the other books, and a lot of the political details were defunct by the time it came time to write books set in vastly different time periods or geographical areas, but it set the stage for a lot of good adaptation!

If there’s more questions related to specific clans and what not, we can probably go into more detail when I do individual clan blogs in the future!

When more Ricca? Ricca? Ricca when??

Well this is a deep cut XD For those of you who don’t know, Ricca is a character who recently appeared in Apotheosis. He’s a loremaster and a friend of Elijah’s and very, very sexy. We’ll have a lot more Ricca in the next phase of DVerse books! This was just his introduction, but he’ll be a major player in the next two books, though as a loremaster, he does his best work from the background.

While we’re talking about him, I suppose I’ll tell you guys some of his background! I feel like siring stories are always the number one way to get to know a vampire quickly and succinctly. For Ricca, he was a Swedish-American homesteader who lost his entire family while traveling. His father, sisters, and grandparents were slaughtered by bandits, and Ricca himself was grievously wounded and left for dead. Night descended and the sound of wolves spelled the end—until the sound stopped, and a new one replaced the howls. A loremaster, scenting the fresh blood, came upon the scene and realized there was a survivor. Instead of putting Ricca out of his misery, he was turned, and from there he entered the Loremaster ranks.

Ricca early on made a name for himself for his less-than-conventional methods of information acquisition. Loremasters tend to remain on the periphery of stories, observing, recording, and conveying what they learn to others of their bloodline. Ricca, though, is strong. He’s ruthless in ways a lot of his kin aren’t. He’s the sort of man who isn’t afraid of involving himself in the stories he’s meant to simply observe. As we move forward in the DVerse, keep that in mind. Ricca Alhborn is unlike any Loremaster you’ve seen yet.

When will we get more of the evil titty cabal?

-stares at my editor judgmentally- And we have an even deeper cut yet. We’re too early on in the series to fully know about the “Evil Titty Cabal” just yet, but those who are reading Apotheosis will soon meet the first member of this illustrious club, and those who have been reading my ao3 one shots may recall Charon, a very dangerous Charlatan, who is also a member. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that there is some overarching villainous group presiding over the series at large. There is no singular villain group or anything like that, and when you’re dealing with vampire politics, there isn’t so much a bad guy as much as antagonists who are going against our protagonists. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming, though.

The Evil Titty Cabal is a grouping of a handful of my favorite bad-time vampires. They’re the most Machiavellian, the ones who have the least compunctions when it comes to interfering in the status quo to manipulate it in directions they’d rather it take. They’re unpredictable agents at times. They aren’t the worst this world has to offer, but they are the closest to a league of villains who sit together in dark, atmospheric sitting rooms, swirling wine glasses of blood while looking incredibly slutty and evil XD

The main members, in a nutshell, are thus:

  • Jericho — Nicciave King Maker (the leader)

  • Keaton — Jericho’s Triarii dog

  • Charon — Incredibly powerful Charlatan (Love potion aura)

  • Count Lucius “Lucy” — Incredibly old Charlatan (Bloodmancy/Blood-based Synesthesia)

  • Zion — Amoral Loremaster

There’s also an occasional team-up with Romeo Mason, a high-ranked Las Vegas Luminary and his two pets, the human Jade and Charlatan fledgling Sterling (inhibition-lowering aura, sorta makes you feel drunk). You’ll learn more about Romeo in Apotheosis, but as of right now, his pets will probably never show up in the main series. All the others should make themselves known in various books! So, look out for their names—they’re 100% people you should be wary of.

To answer the question, I have plans for more one shots that would introduce more of the cabal members. I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to write one of these hypothetical meetings—some of these cabal members are more conceptual than canon, and several would never have any reason to actually meet one another—but I do want to. God, do I want to.

Why eight books? That’s so many. Why do you do this to yourself?

This is a hilarious question. Incredibly real though, and valid. Why eight? I don’t know. I didn’t intend to set out with eight books when I first dreamt up the idea that would later become Mortigena. Because that’s the book I thought up first. I actually wrote over 100 pages of it a few years back before realizing that the setting was so much bigger than I was letting it be. All of that will have to be rewritten, but I didn’t solidify on wanting this to be eight books until about 2018 when I began the fanfic version of Letifer. I’d just written a one shot-esque first chapter for a vampire au, more in the style of VtM than anything else. It was just something fun to occupy me one afternoon, but the response was so overwhelmingly massive and positive, and the teaser so tempting and promising, that I realized I could easily adapt it to the DVerse I’d been worldbuilding for over a year at that point. I viewed it as a test-ride of the universe, a built-in focus group to see how the lore would fly and if people were responsive to the concepts I was playing with. Surprise, surprise, they were.

Letifer focuses on the Enforcer bloodline. Mortigena focuses on the Charlatan bloodline. I made Nines’s brother a Luminary, toyed with the idea of a spin-off prequel, realized that at that point I might as well just write a book for each clan, and the rest is, as they say, history. I’ve written books for stupider reasons, and this way I got to actually use all the extra vampires I’d created just for fun. Making them all standalones also gave me even more freedom to publish them without so much pressure to get them out quickly. There’s no overarching story that can’t go on until the next book drops, and people can pick them up in any order, enjoy just the ones that appeal to them if they’re not a fan of survival horror or m/m relationships. I did this to myself because despite locking myself into a series that will likely take me ten years to finish, I have a lot of freedom with how I’m choosing to write this. I got to dedicate so much more time to world-building a universe than I’ve ever gotten to do before, and I’ve made more than fifty vampires that may show up in the main series, or may be the stars of future novellas should I ever decide to do short spin-offs. It’s just… fun. It’s just a lot of fun.

There’s a particular kind of sadness that comes from writing the final sentence of a series you’ll never dabble in again. When I had to say goodbye to Khouri, Navidae, and Sorin, I was incredibly emotional. I’ve still got Hiraeth left in the Tempest books, but Ruari and Corbet’s main story is already over. Once that book is done, I’ll be saying goodbye to them for good. It’s… very sad. I’ve never been good at handling loss, and while it may seem dramatic to equate finishing a book series with loss, the feeling is much the same. Eight books is a large commitment, but at least I’ve given myself an option now to continue in this universe for as long as I want. I’ve made a universe I never have to end!

It’s a little selfish I guess. I don’t know. I like vampires. I like all the vampires I got to make with my editor and Yougei. I hope you guys like them too because you’re going to be in vampire hell with me for a while XD But that’s probably enough of a teaser for now. If you haven’t yet, go pick up a copy of Letifer or check out the ongoing serialization of Apotheosis over on Patreon. We’ll be finishing it up in April, so you’ve got a large portion of the book ready and waiting already! These two serve as the first duology of the series as well. It’s a really fun start to things and will tease some of the mysteries yet to come!

I’d also like to let everyone know that I got into another convention! I’ll be attending Evillecon in Evansville, IN in late March this year, which is pretty cool since it was the first convention I ever formally tabled at! I haven’t been back since 2018—it’s a pretty long drive for me—so I’m really excited to mosey on down south and see how much the convention has changed as well as meet up with some readers who met me during my amateur days of tabling. Be sure to keep an eye on my Events tab over the next few months. More and more conventions will be announcing acceptances, so it’s sure to change as we go into Spring.

That’s it for January! One month down, eleven more to go. What are you excited about for 2023? Did you make any resolutions? How do you feel about vampires, and what are your favorite representations? Let me know below, and as always, until next time!

T.D. Cloud

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Léto Le Gaosaure
Léto Le Gaosaure

*shakes brain* I really, REALLY need to grab Letifer and get to reading, like, last year. More seriously, I'm impressed you managed to shake off enough of VtM's influence to create your own set of bloodlines and own universe. I've been trying on and off for years but it's so hard to keep myself from falling back on the same patterns xD (I blame years of VtM LARP, including two years of being Storyteller ='D) So: congrats on what you've already done, and good luck with what's still to come! And have fun, but that seems a given considering the enthusiasm dripping from this post ♥

T. D. Cloud
T. D. Cloud

It was a pretty conscious thing in the back of my mind to make sure none of my vamp clans got too close to VtM's stuff, otherwise what was the point? It wasn't easy though, for real. There's a reason it took Yougei and me literally 10 hours a day for two days straight to hammer out preliminary details and clan traits. We really didn't want to be derivative and that's hard to do when it's so present in your mind and so influential to the existence of this general idea to begin with!

I do hope you'll be able to pick up Letifer soon. It's seriously so much fun and really gives you the same feeling VtM does--that surrounded-by-people-in-a-city-but-still-so-ALONE…

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