Empire of the Dead is a 68,000 word gothic YA novel set in New Orleans at the height of the vampire frenzy.
Mina arrives in New Orleans to spend the 1995 Vampire Festival with her older sister, Libby, hoping to close the gap that’s grown between them since Libby left for college. Still shaken by the disappearance of their mother years before, Mina is desperate to keep her remaining family relationship close. While settling in to the mysterious city, Mina is captivated by the ‘Mansion of the Macabre’, where Libby leads tourists through scenes from legendary horror movies. Libby’s co-worker, Jared, is almost too alluring in the role of the vampire Lestat, charming tourists and Mina alike.
When a vicious murder spree ravages the city, Mina realises the killers are replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural myths. Mina is shocked when her sister is thrown in jail as a suspect. Determined to prove Libby’s innocence, Mina convinces Jared and Libby’s girlfriend, Della, to help her investigate. If they are to stay alive, they must solve a series of grisly clues spread across New Orleans, before two infamous vampire brothers make them the victims of another gruesome myth.
Empire of the Dead is written from Mina’s perspective and features diary entries from the Carter brothers, two prominent figures from New Orleans mythology. It would appeal to fans of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallero or Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco.
I’m an education consultant with an English specialism and an established YA blogger. I studied law and then taught in a primary school for ten years. I’m also a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
When I visited New Orleans, I discovered that 1994 was the deadliest year for murders in the city’s history, as well as being the same year Interview with the Vampire was released. This story allowed me to explore the disturbing reality alongside my fascination with vampires, sparkly and otherwise.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Empire of the Dead
Chapter 1 – 1995
When I was five, I wanted to be a vampire. My mom named me Mina, after the contradictory heroine in Dracula, the one who got away. And so, everything that happened after is her fault.
At school, I dressed as a vampire for Halloween, stalking the Ninja Turtles and plastic-crowned princesses around the playground. Billy White told me vampires weren’t real, so I bit him. I remember the pop as skin broke under my teeth and the mean pulse of pleasure when he screamed. My mom arrived, white-lipped and fuming, but I realized a lot later she was mad at the school, not me. I didn’t recognize this as a warning sign until she was already gone.
It’s no surprise this memory surfaces on my first night in New Orleans, as we walk past a sign that reads Vampire Festival 1995 above a picture of Christopher Lee as Dracula. I’m not sure what Dracula has to do with New Orleans, but I’d take some of that gloomy European weather right about now. I’ve already peeled off my flannel shirt and tied it around my waist, where it hangs limp in the sticky heat.
“It all starts in two days,” Libby says, light-voiced and animated. This strikes me as ironic. For nearly a year, I’ve carried my sister’s absence like a stone around my neck. She had her place at NYU all lined up, and we were supposed to spend this year exploring Manhattan, just across the bridge from our place in Brooklyn. We were supposed to do a lot of things. The next thing I knew, she was leaving for college in New Orleans.
Despite all of that, she threads an arm around my waist, and I soften against her. My body hasn’t gotten the message about not forgiving her yet.
Libby stops us in front of the ugliest house on the street. It nestles between two hotels like a rotten tooth, char black and dotted with windows sliced across by silver bars. At the top is a cloudy white window that reminds me of a dead eye. I get the same delicious anticipation as I do from reading horror in bed with my torch, the darkness pressing in at the edges of the light.
“So, this is where I work. It’s called the Mansion of the Macabre.” Libby sweeps her arms out grandly, almost pulling off the breeziness until she snatches one hand back to bite the skin around her thumbnail.
“And your job is…?”
She shrugs one shoulder, the corners of her mouth forming a playful smirk. The surprise chafes against me as my theories pile up. Our mom named her after the bloodthirsty Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Maybe Libby decided to embrace her namesake and got a job in a torture chamber.
“Hey!” a deep voice calls from behind us.