Stoker Poker: The Art of the Vampire Story

by | January 15, 2014 | General | 13 comments

I think being the mortal lover of a vampire would be like being somebody’s pet goat.

Baby goats are very cute. As they get older they get less cute. They start to smell gamey, get creepy looking eyes, act stubborn and ornery, and look more and more like food. All your happy little goat life, the human who owns you is very nice to you, feeds you, hugs and pets you, plays with you. Then one fateful day, he comes up to you with something shiny in his hand and he’s suddenly not very nice to you. No, not very nice at all.

We’ll come back to that, but first let’s talk about the rules of Stoker Poker.

Writing vampire stories is a lot like starting a poker game, you announce the rules before you start, Five Card Stud, jacks wild. You can do this, but you can’t do that. Bram Stoker vampires are not Stephanie Meyer vampires. Meyer’s vampires sparkle charmingly in sunlight, and pose and sulk like unemployed Abercrombie and Fitch models. Stoker’s vampires burn up in sunlight, sometimes explosively. A stake in the heart is terminal. Not big on garlic. They can snack on a human, or drain them to death in a single draft according to mood and need. By Stoker Rules, to “turn” a human (beginning with Mina Harker) you have to deliberately give them vampiric blood to drink, just biting them is not enough. In some mythos such as Lingqvist’s “Let The Right One In” just being bitten, dead or alive, is all it takes. “Sookie Stackhouse” vampires are made according to Stoker Rules, “Anita Blake” vampires are Stoker Rules, more or less, and so are Anne Rice vampires. Stoker Rules vampires are usually intensely erotic on the outside but only as a means to an end. Eroticism is bait for the hook. Once they get you alone – you stay fucked.

I approached the relationship between my Bavarian vampire girl Nixie and her lover Dan with Stoker Rules. Deal the cards. Play the cards you’re dealt. Seven Stud, Stoker Rules.

In the story “The Lady and the Unicorn”, things begin with Nixie telling the story to the reader as she walks down a lonely dirt road at night in the dark. Like an exquisite bloodhound she is trailing her runaway mortal lover’s scent in the air and has almost caught up with him.

“. . . He left me during the day in a trail of strewn clothes and broken dishes all through our little house. And other things also, which he left behind and I have brought with me in a little gym bag I carry in my hand as I walk down the dirt road following his scent. Because of what is carried in this bag, I know he loves me still. He could not have left behind a sweeter valentine. . . .”

Ooo! A valentine! What can it be?  Perfume? Godiva chocolates? Fruit flavored condoms? Much later in the story, Nixie shows us the kind of valentine Daniel left behind for her:

” . . . I move in close to him, touching him again – and oh the joy to feel him against me, the heat of him – still holding my bag, but stepping close enough for my breasts to aggressively brush up against him. I’m trying to get him to put his arms around me, but he steps back and I feel his fear. “Why?” I say.

“I got to know if you’re all right.”

“No – why did you not want to be there, alone? You were afraid.”

He looks down, ashamed. And afraid.

“Why, my love? Why were you afraid?”

“I thought you might be looking for me.”

“Of course I was looking for you,” I say soft and slow, feeling the bag in my hand grow heavy. “Why would I not look for you? Why would you not want me to find you alone? I’m still your woman. Don’t you want to be alone with me?”

“I thought. . .” He is really sweating it now. It is miserable to see. “I thought you’d be pissed.”

Whispering. “Why would I pissed? Hmn. Now, let me think.”

He only looks at me with those angry frightened eyes, and I wish I were blind. This is not the Daniel I came to find.

“Why would I be pissed, kuschelbaer?” He is looking at the bag now. He knows. “Oh, I wanted to give you these. Look what I found beside my little bed.” I put the bag on the ground, unzip it and reach in. One in each hand, I show him. A hammer in one hand, I show him. A sharpened piece of wooden broom handle in the other, I show him. I hold them out to him. “Is this why I would be pissed at you? You think?”

“Dammit Nixie!”

I thrust them out to him. “What are these? What are these?”

He turns away. He can’t look at me, but I am trembling now. I can’t stop myself or what I feel. “What is this?” I shake them at him. I stamp my feet. I know I’m ruining everything, and I can’t help it. I love him so terribly I want to bite his nose. “Is it a sexy new game you want to play? You can dress up and be the fearless Mr. Van Helsing, jah? And I will be sexy little Miss Lucy, in my nightgown in my toy coffin, and you will climb in with the hammer and the stake, yes? – and we will play and do the rinky-tink together and have some fun, jah? Would you like to maybe do that now? Now is a good time. Let’s play Van Helsing – “

“Shut up! Shut up!”

Now he is almost crying and I am almost crying too. I shake them at him, screaming“What were you thinking?”

I hate this, to be so cruel to him. I try to calm myself and remember what it really means, finding there the hammer and the stake discarded beside my bed. “You couldn’t do it, could you?”

“I couldn’t do it. God help me, I couldn’t do it.”

I hate myself for doing this, but this is the road I must lead him down, until he is tame again. “Why?” Softly I speak, because I would be his lover again and he is almost mine. “Why not?”

He shakes his head.

“I want to hear it. Please say it. Say for it for me, please. Why couldn’t you kill me in my sleep?”

“Because I couldn’t. I love you. God forgive me.”

“Why God forgive you? What’s wrong with being in love with me?”

Nordchen, I love you with all my soul and I always will. But. But, you need. . . that is. Somebody needs to . . . you need to be put down.”

So there it is. There’s the dynamic. Each one in this relationship has a hold over the other. Each is deadly in their element. Each is vulnerable out of their element. At night, if you’re Daniel and she takes a notion to kill you, she’s going to haul off and kill you and there’s not a damn thing you can do that would stop her. She’s been killing people for a hundred years and she’s good at it. You will die at her leisure. But in the daytime, she is helpless. At your mercy. She sleeps in the same room as you and she has placed herself willingly in your hands. No secret vault. No locked coffin. No gimmicks. You’re her lover, her man, she trusts you to behave yourself in the day as you trust her with your life at night. Its not the fearless vampire hunters who could kill her, she knows how to handle them. She’ll see them coming before they see her. Its you who could kill her. Lovers are supposed to trust each other, but this is trust on a special level. She trusts you with her life in the day. You trust her with your life in the night.

It’s not so obvious in the stories, but when Daniel has sex with Nixie, his semen has an unusual composition that replaces the need for blood. I made this part of the deal in order to set up a moral dilemma. This always seemed like an intriguing sexual fantasy to me, one that was never explored by other writers. What if you were a man with unique semen that could replace a lady vampire’s need to steal blood from the living? Maybe a small harem of lady vampires? Oh, baby. For a lady vampire who doesn’t want to kill, this could be very liberating. So as long as she’s keeping you happy and keeping you coming, she doesn’t need to hunt. This is the unspoken theme under the surface of the story “Singing In The Dark”, in which Nixie struggles with her urge to attack a man in a rail yard at night. Daniel’s been fucking her regularly for a year and keeping her off the streets, so the practical need for blood isn’t the problem. But what Nixie has discovered is that she is addicted, beyond blood, to the need to kill. For its own sake.

A vampire is a serial killer with style. Nixie is a specific creature, she has a specific nature that goes with being that creature. What she discovers about herself is that she is addicted to the act itself of killing prey. She needs to roam the night and hunt and experience death because this is who she is and who she must be. Daniel’s semen has replaced her need for blood, but not her bloodlust.

Now this is a moral problem for Daniel, when he realizes this is her nature and she can’t change it. That makes him morally responsible. If your lover, the passionate love of your life, is sneaking out at night and killing people, shouldn’t you turn her in? Or “put her down” as he says. Even if the wolf loves you, don’t you have an obligation to your fellow sheep to deliver them from her? But the wolf loves you. Trusts you with her life. What are your moral responsibilities when she comes home one night covered with blood and tells you its pigs blood? You want to believe her, but isn’t that blood on your hands also? For some reason this never seems to come up much in vampire romances. You’re harboring a skilled serial killer who is perfectly capable of turning on you. And you know it. You’re responsible for keeping her in business. Wouldn’t that be a problem? It’d scare shit out of me.

Its hard for Nixie too, because the fact is loving one goat very much makes you not want to kill goats. Part of her wants to kill people, but now a new part of her doesn’t. So she’s in great turmoil over what has become a dual nature. This is why she says to the reader in Lady and the Unicorn, that for one of her kind to fall in love is a disaster, a fatal catastrophe. It is a crippling experience for a predator to fall in love with its prey. This is also why in “Singing in the Dark” she practically slaps the man in the railyard to death as she yells philosophical questions at him, deciding his fate. His fate is in fact her fate, to live or to die based on his proof of innocence.

So this character dynamics business has more than one level. There’s the more obvious “I love you, please don’t kill me.” And then there’s the one under the surface, of a higher or more universal moral question. It can get as twisted as you want to make it.

Somehow the idea of a vampire lover, or any non-human lover is very romantic and erotic. Why? Why is it not in fact a huge pain in the ass? I asked this question to Charlane Harris, author of the hugely popular Sookie Stackhouse novels which became HBO’s “Trueblood” series. She didn’t know. And you’d think she’d know, because this has made her a very rich writer. She doesn’t. I asked Dacre Stoker, author of the international best seller “Dracula: The Undead”. He didn’t know either.

I think this is something hard wired into us as human beings, because its so ancient. In the old stories of Greek mythology the gods and goddesses very often came to earth and took mortal lovers into their beds, and when they wouldn’t cooperate they just raped them, resulting in semi-divine children such as Perseus and Hercules. Jesus Christ no less was the offspring of a mysterious relationship between God almighty and the otherwise Virgin Mary. In 1978 in the movies Superman flew with Lois Lane above the clouds and set women’s hearts a flutter all around the world. Nobody seems to be able to explain it, but it’s a part of being human somehow. To be chosen from the common herd of goats by the gods or the supernatural sets you apart, it means you must be somebody special.

Everyone wants to be special.

Especially if the gods and goddesses like to eat goats.



  1. Bill Olander

    Vampires really should be on higher moral ground than humans. If I want to eat a burger then I need to kill a cow. Even if it is just my one burger, the cow is dead. If a vampire wants some blood, the human just has to give up a little blood. Take the blood from enough humans and they'll barely even notice it is gone. "Don't operate heavy machinery for 8 hours, if you feel dizzy then find a place to lay down."

    • Garceus

      Hi Bill!

      They should. I blame authors more than the entity of the vampire on this. That vampires

      could live easily and even beneficially with humans is an idea I'm exploring with a story

      I'm currently struggling to write. Its just as you say – to eat a burger you have to kill

      the cow. To have a glass of milk or a cheese omelet you get the milk, the get the eggs and

      the cows and chickens are just fine. In fact you're taking care of each other. why can't

      it be like that? There is only one vampire scenario I know of that addresses this theme

      and that is the novel "Fledgling" by Olivia Butler which has been a big influence on me.

      In the premise of this novel its proposed that vampires and human in the earliest years of

      our evolution were symbiotes, two related species living in a mutually beneficial

      relationship which somehow perverted into a predator prey relationship. That makes perfect

      sense to me. Look for this novel when you get a chance. its truly unique.


  2. Fiona McGier

    I remember the idea posed by Anne Rice's Lestat when he turned his own mother in the book bearing his name. They discuss what happens to a human made immortal: Do you improve with age, becoming a "better", more humane and wise person? Or do you just become more entrenched as what you were when you had a finite amount of years? If you were a selfish jerk, would you get more forgiving, or become the biggest, most selfish jerk who ever lived?

    To me that is the most intriguing idea of vampirism and romance involving vampires. Eternity would certainly get boring if you keep falling in love with mortals and watching them decline with old age, before you eventually lose them. But if you turn them and they reject you, or you get bored with each other, then you're right back where you started. The short-lived TV show "Forever Knight", from Canada, played around with this idea endlessly. LeCroix has been around for thousands of years, but never has had a companion he turned want to spend much time with him after the initial spark begins to pale. Is the fault in him? Or is it with the tedium of eternity itself? We own the series and it bears rewatching, if only to watch LeCroix suffer in his own evil.

    Great excerpt and discussion, Garce. Why haven't you ever published your Nixie stories? She lives and breathes in all of the excerpts I've read. She deserves to have the opportunity to live in other readers' minds as well.

    • Garceus

      Hi Fiona!

      Boy, I could talk so much about Anne Rice. I still think her first novel "Interview With the Vampire" is the best vampire novel ever written, even for her. It reintroduced the idea of Vampire Existential Angst. I say reintroduced because Stoker hinted at it in a couple of wistful lines from Dracula to Harker about how all the people he knew are now gone and he's just rattling around in the world. But also in the movie "Dracula's Daughter" with Gloria Holden as Countess Zaleska, the unhappy daughter of Dracula who hates what she is and longs for her humanity. This movie equals and surpasses the original Lugosi movie it was intended as the sequel for, in terms of depth of character. Its one of my personal favorites of the old Universal monster movies.

      The issue of romance between mortals and vampires I think is one of the most intriguing issues of the genre. Rarely have I seen it done in a way that appeals to me, other than Olivia Butler's "Fledgling". I had a chance to meet and talk with Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that became the HBO series "True Blood" and asked her "What is it that makes vampires such romantic and erotic figures – and she said she had no idea! She couldn't figure it out either.

      One of the brilliant insights that Anne Rice introduced is the question of what happens to a person spiritually and emotionally when the element of death is removed. If you;re playing by Stoker rules, death is always a factor, especially death by fire if you're exposed to the sun. If the sun is fatal to you, no matter how powerful you are you'll be extremely limited out of your element, which is why I make the point that a vampire and her mortal lover must ultimately be symbiotic, each cooperating not to kill the other in the day or in the night. Its a relationship of trust with mortal stakes (So to speak). If a vampire can live indefinately out of the sun, eventually he may just get tired of living. It bugs me a little how writers throw these numbers around about their characters, some one who has lived "thousands" of years. How do you live thousands of years and not go crazy? We're not made for that. If a person lives thousands of years they would have to fundamentally put aside their humanity to simply survive the enui of the ages without a meaningful purpose in life.

      I have had published a couple of the Nixie stories. Lisabet has followed their progress closely and one day when I was moaning that I wasn't a novelist she pointed out that if I arranged all the Nixie stories in a certain order I had the makings of a novel. So that's what I'm doing, writing Nixie's origin story. It has literally taken me years and I'm still wrestling with it.

      The excerpt in the story comes from "The Lady and the Unicorn", my personal favorite of all the Nixie stories. As`Lisabet points out it was published in the "Mammoth Book of Erotica VOL 10" and previously in the ERWA gallery where it had been voted "Best Story of 2009", which I'm quite proud of. It is available for free in the ERWA Treasure chest Archives at:

      Please read it and I hope it moves you as much as it did me when I was writing it.


  3. Annabeth Leong

    Seconding Fiona here. I really want to read this full story.

    • Garceus

      Hi Annabeth!

      When you get a chance take a look at the link I posted for Fiona and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Deep down I love nixie. There's a lot of me in her.


  4. Lisabet Sarai

    Garce, isn't "The Lady and the Unicorn" published in one of Maxim's MBBNE volumes?

    But you really need to finish – or maybe I should say – start the story cycle, and sell it as book! I'm waiting, ready to help…

    • Lisabet Sarai

      (Sorry if I seem to be nagging you! )

    • Garceus

      Hi Lisabet!

      You have no idea how much I need and depend on what you think of as your nagging. If not for you I wouldn;t have gotten this far in the story I'm working on. I missed the chance to offer it to Maxim but I'm determined to finish this draft so I can show it to you. I want this so bad.

      If it ever makes it to novel publication you'll be on the dedication page for your encouragement and insight.


  5. Fiona McGier

    Garce, just got done reading the story. Wow. Your writing is…incredible. I don't usually like first person, but here I felt like I became Nixie. I smelled the smells, felt the press of humanity crowding me, felt the joy of possibilities, only to have it snatched back by cruel reality. The excerpt you used here is so misleading–it seems to hint at a happy ending. But we all know that's not possible when an immortal loves a mortal.

    Yes, by all means, please write more of her. And when you do publish her story, I'll be one of the first ones in line to grab my copy.

    • Garceus

      Hi Fiona!

      Thank YOU for reading and for your encouragement which is precious to me.

      In the third act I was trying to depict a vampire having a nervous breakdown. I even asked a few people who had had one what it was like. That would be an interesting topic some day. A vampire going off the rails would be a very dangerous person to be around.


  6. Fiona McGier

    I think you did an excellent job of portraying a vampire having a nervous breakdown. She does things she's not even aware that she's doing, then "wakes up" to the reality of the aftermath. Being in her head while all of that was going on is a very scary place indeed.

    My Mom had what they called a nervous breakdown when I was a kid. I remember her being immensely depressed, crying a lot, then spending time in the hospital. Long story as to why. But as a kid I was freaked out that mental illness could strike someone I loved so much. Being in Nixie's head while she's freaking out makes me feel more sympathy for my Mom who had only me to talk to about her problems, and as a kid, I had no insights to give, no way to help her out of her confusion.

    Doesn't seem like Nixie has anyone around to listen to her problems either. That whole totally alone, vampire thing. Other vampires don't suffer in the same way, so they won't care. Humans can't possible grasp the extent of her guilt/pain/depression/loneliness. But you can! She must whisper in your ear a lot for her voice to be so strong.

    • Garceus

      Hi Fiona!

      I love that we're still talking about this. I think the hardship of mental illness and depression must be the isolation most of all. It would interesting to know how much of an issue depression is in more primitive or traditional societies which tend to be more socially connected. People might get depressed but they don't get depressed alone.

      Lady and the Unicorn was actually a prequel of sorts. There is another, in fact older story that follows up on the events of this story, called "The Dying Light". I'm currently writing her origin story and then will assemble them – so what you have is a novel that is being written BACKWARDS.

      That's me.


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