Writing Update

Hi, Everyone!

Today I offer you a quick update on my current projects.

Most exciting, of course, will be the arrival of THE VAMPIRE’S WAR later this year. We haven’t started the final editing process yet, but I expect that will happen soon. I will keep you updated as things progress. I can’t wait to share the latest vampire saga with you!

The major project I am working on right now is the sequel to SANTA IS A VAMPIRE. Simon the Elf is back, commanded by Santa to go tell the Easter Bunny’s true story . . . I’m having a great time with this one. I finished about half of the first draft of this novel.

I also have two other novels in the works, but I would say I’m dabbling in them more than hardcore going after their stories. One is a rewriting of Little Red Riding Hood and the other is my first Sci Fi novel. Right now, both of these projects will be young adult.

Otherwise I tweak some short stories. And I wrote two flash fiction pieces to submit to potential anthologies. One never knows with this stuff, if it will be accepted! Both flash fiction pieces have a limit of 300 words. On the one hand, that seems easy because it’s about a page of writing. But I find the task to be a HUGE challenge – to tell an entire story in 300 words!

Thanks for checking in.

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Oscar Best Pictures 2022

One year in the late 1990s, Paul and I began a tradition of going to see all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees. We love watching movies, but otherwise I’m not sure why we began this odyssey. I started posting my ranking of the nominees each year just for fun. What qualifies me for such a pronouncement? Absolutely, positively, nothing. Zip. Nada. However, I love movies and therefore like to share my thoughts with all of you, and hear yours in return.

Therefore, without further adieu, the ten Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars, from last to first in my humble opinion:

10. “Licorice Pizza”: Paul and I share a theory that some movies receive a nomination, and often win awards, because the voters love movies that celebrate themselves. If a movie explores Hollywood, the life of an actor, director, writer, producer, or whatever – voters fall in love with it because of Hollywood narcissistic love for themselves. Why, you ask, am on giving such a soliloquy when I should be addressing “Licorice Pizza”? Because otherwise I have no explanation for why this movie received a single vote for best picture. An odd assortment of random storylines and weird plots make up a script that makes no sense, and a movie that makes even less sense. This one did not deserve a nod.

9. “Drive My Car”: There have been times in the past when a foreign language film deserved a best picture nomination, in addition to recognition in the foreign language category. “Drive My Car” is not one of them. First, here you can insert my note from “Licorice Pizza” again about voters loving themselves and therefore nominating a picture. The movie has merit, however, with the repressed emotion portrayed in the main character, and his struggle with love and life. I didn’t loath this movie. However, at three-plus hours long, someone needed to edit it down – by at least an hour. Although a solid movie about an interesting topic, “Drive My Car” does not deserve a best picture slot.

8. “West Wide Story”: We had a pleasant evening, watching this movie. It’s well done and entertaining. That being said, I am not convinced it rose to the level of a best picture nomination. I came away feeling more like I took in a date night movie than something extraordinary. And the more I thought about the movie, the more I don’t like some of the changes from the original musical and/or original movie. So then I wondered if we really needed a remake of “West Side Story?”

7. “Don’t Look Up”: Unlike the two previous movies , I very much enjoyed “Don’t Look Up” and believe it deserves a best picture nomination. Witty and well paced, its commentary on contemporary America nails our culture. The movie makes a passionate plea about climate change. A masterful blend of satire with a most serious point to make, the star studded cast delivers. However, in comparison to other nominees, the story isn’t as tightly wound and the overall “feel” less sophisticated. This is a very good but not great movie, and thus my lower ranking.

6. “King Richard”: Will Smith and cast bring passion and believability to the story about the rise of the Williams sisters in the tennis world. This story about race in America, perseverance, and resistance is well told. Smith is particularly strong in his role. The pace is fast and, even though we know the ultimate outcome, the suspense palpable throughout. Yet there is something about the overall story, and about Richard in particular, that leaves the viewer feeling a little uneasy about his motives and treatment of his daughters. Does such behavior warrant a celebratory movie? That experience left me unable to give this one a higher ranking though I think it belongs among the best picture nominees.

5. “Nightmare Alley”: I must say, I enjoy a good film noir. “Nightmare Alley” brings to us another loaded cast, all of whom perform at their very best and blend their various characters together with perfection. The writers did a nice job with the twists and turns of retelling of this story. They blended the sense of a 1940s film noir with a contemporary aesthetic in a beautiful way. The moral of the story builds to its climax, keeping you watching and wondering to the end. The cinematography, sets, and costumes were brilliantly done as well. This one belongs in the upper tier of nominees, but the fierce competition left it in the middle of the pack.

4. “Dune”: Please remember, I am a complete amateur here, with no qualifications for making this list except in our modern world everyone can share their opinion whenever they want. I preface with this reminder because “Dune” was the only “popular” film nominated among the ten, and as nothing more than a cinema fan I love a good pop movie. Without our tradition of going to see best picture nominees, this one and maybe one or two others would have been on my list to see, anyway. But “Dune” is more than entertaining, in terms of where I ranked it. The sets, sounds, and atmosphere were amazingly well done in this sci fi imagining of the classic novel. I liked how the writers told a complex and multi-layered story without losing the audience. This was no easy task, given the factions and intrigue involved in the plot. The acting was good, the action exciting, and I can’t wait for the next movie to come out and continue the story. Yeah, “Dune” aimed for a mass audience with a popular genre and cast, but in doing so the producers and director landed on a movie worthy of a best picture nomination.

3. “Belfast”: My rankings got tricky for me at this point. In fact, the top three came in neck and neck. I could argue with myself to make “Belfast” my best picture of the year, but that would make me sound like a crazy horror writer with voices in my head. “Belfast” is the dramatic story of one family’s experience in Ireland in the late 1960s, amid the brewing Protestant/Catholic civil war. The true nature of the story and its tragedy comes through, as does the family’s struggle with money and personal issues. The historian in me loved how the tale told about violence, migration and family from a personal point of view, bring to life the raw emotion and tearing apart of families and communities civil war and combat always bring. However, what elevates “Belfast” even higher as a best picture in my eyes is how the viewer experiences this story through the eyes of a child. Yes, you feel the tragedy, tension, and first experiences of loss in the young boy’s life. But the movie also conveys resilience, especially that of a child’s. There is sadness and bewilderment, along with hope and love. It’s a marvelous tale.

2. “CODA”: As with “Belfast,” “CODA” could have come in as my pick for best picture. Like “Belfast” and its child’s point of view, “CODA” does a marvelous job of telling a story of overcoming hardship through the eyes of a teenager. Ruby often seems like a typical teenager, wending her way through first crushes, school, and deciding about her future. Yet she has a very adult role in life, and has from as young age, because she is the only hearing member of her family. Full disclosure about my bias: my dad was deaf but could hear in one ear with the aid of a hearing aid. I grew up both knowing about his disability and never thinking of it as a handicap because he never acted that way. But I saw prejudice aimed at him . So having such a well written, acted, and directed movie to tell one story about the hearing impaired community spoke to me. The movie can be raw and true, while also hopeful and uplifting. I absolutely loved this movie.

My Vote for Best Picture, “Power of the Dog”: It is incredibly difficult to tell a true to life story of darkness, evil, and longing, full of flawed but relatable characters, as well as with villains and murder and mayhem. A movie can lose the audience in the vile nature of humanity or spin itself into a farce. “Power of the Dog” avoids fate – it does a masterful job and therefore received my best picture award. (I know, I know, this will mean more to the producers, directors, and actors than any other accolades.) The cinematography is breath taking, and the entire movie throws you into the world of the American west of the 1920s. The story brings to life struggles with femininity, masculinity, women, men, and sexuality. The movie is so complicated you leave wondering where to land, in terms of trying to identify the villains , and wondering whether you sympathize with them or think them criminal. The tension builds within your very being as you watch and never lets you exhale until the final credits, and then only because we have to breath or die. As with a couple of my other rankings, I do need to add a disclosure to this review: I’m a horror writer, so dark and sinister are right up my alley. And I really appreciate dark and sinister in a world that feels oh so real. Bravo. “Power of the Dog” wins my Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.

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I am having a difficult time concentrating on publicity, writing, and daily work tasks without commenting on the war in Ukraine. The Russian assault on a sovereign nation and war crimes threaten freedom around the globe. Even the most frightening horror novel fails to scare me in comparison to the horror inflicted on innocent people by Putin and his minions. I hope and pray global condemnation will continue, and with it the pressure on Russia to cease and desist. We’ve learned from history what happens with appeasement: more violence, killing, and combat in the future.

The Board of Trustees for the Horror Writers Association issued the following statement regarding Ukraine and the Russian terrorist invasion. I find the statement a perfect reflection of my sentiments as well:

“The HWA condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We stand for democracy. We stand for truth. We stand for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We support the people of Ukraine, including authors, editors, and journalists, as well as the people of Russia who are bravely protesting this attack. We hope to see a swift end to this senseless act of war.”

Writing fiction and writing accurate accounts about history demand a free society. Anyone who writes or reads should be concerned about Ukraine and the Russian attack on democracy. We live in a world bound together across oceans and borders. An incursion against freedom in one country threatens freedom for all of us. I stand with Ukraine.

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Queer Words Podcast Interview!

Hey, Everyone,

I am excited to share with you an interview I did with Queer Words Podcast!

I had a great time and hope you all enjoy our conversation:

Damian Serbu on Queer Words Podcast!

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Anne Rice Tribute

I waited a while after Anne Rice’s passing before putting my thoughts onto paper. Her death hit me as hard as any celebrity death in my lifetime. I suppose some of my reaction had to do with arriving at a time when more and more iconic people from my life will reach an age of retiring and leaving us. But losing Rice was personal to me, even though I only met her once, for about ten seconds, at a book signing she did in Naperville, Illinois.

My friend Kelly Lardie introduced me to her when I was in college in the early 1990s. She had obviously been around for a long time by then! Kelly knew I loved vampires and horror, so he insisted that I read her novels! Other people had mentioned her off and on to me, but I had never been as intrigued as when Kelly described why I would like her. At the time, I was an undergraduate studying history. I seldom had time to read fiction – but he convinced me to read her. I was struck by the idea that she played around with the possibility of same sex love in the relationship between Louis and Lestat.

Needless to say, I read Interview with the Vampire and was hooked. Quickly thereafter, I read everything else she had published at the time and waited impatiently for her next novels to come out over the years. Each new novel came into my hands as if an old, familiar, and trusted friend had come for a visit.

In the early 1990s, not a lot of “gay horror” existed. As a gay man and horror enthusiast, any TV show, movie, or novel that even hinted at LGBTQIA+ characters had me hooked. Anne Rice was charting her own way through the publishing industry and world – she defied convention and gave me a relatable universe for my interests. Mainstream media was only beginning to dabble in LGBTQIA+ material, but Rice was willing to think about it.

Because she wrote about vampires, ghosts, and witches, a lot of people, many of whom never even read one of her novels, labeled her a horror writer or speculative fiction writer, and therefore missed the depth of what she wrote. Because more captivated my attention than her mere hinting at same sex attraction. In every single novel, she captured human emotion and experience in a profound way. She wrote as if she tapped into your soul to see things even you had failed to realize in yourself. Her characters’ triumphs, sorrows, longings, and loves were yours, too. And she somehow managed to accomplish the feat with multiple characters in one book, often at odds with one another, and yet you as the reader could relate to almost all of them.

In my own writing, I never intentionally set out to mimic another author. I wanted to write my own stories and use my own sensibilities. Like Rice, I’m not a huge lover of fan fiction. But I’m not naive to the fact that my favorite author influenced my approach. Rice freed vampires from convention, and I followed her lead. One reviewer once described me as the Anne Rice for gay vampires. I’ve never been more flattered and completely uncomfortable with a compliment in my life. His uplifting of my story with such flattery was remarkable and left me breathless. But I instantly shook my head, because I am not Anne Rice. No one else writes like Anne Rice.

I also appreciated how Anne Rice took readers over the years on a spiritual journey. In my nonfiction/history world, I write about religious history. And in that profession, as well as with my novels, I contemplate religion, faith, and spirituality. Rice changed and altered her beliefs over her life, and she allowed readers to glimpse into that intimate world of hers. I didn’t always agree with her perceptions, but she mesmerized me and had me thinking about what she wrote.

I have one more book to read of hers. I find it fitting and lovely her last book is one she co-authored with her son, Christopher. I always read her stuff the minute they released it. But I can’t bring myself to read The Reign of Osiris yet, because as long as it sits on my shelf I have one more story of hers to enjoy. I will find a special time and moment to dive into it, to sit with her one more time.

Goodbye, dear friend. You connected profoundly to your readers, and none more so than me. Thank you for sharing your journey so profoundly with all of us. Your unique voice will never be matched.

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Book Banning Thoughts

A myriad of frightening things are going on in our world right now. For example, we see Americans with an affinity for Nazism, racist messaging and comments made out in the open by prominent politicians, and of course thousands of Americans deny the legitimacy of the last presidential election. I could write my concerns about all of these issues. But nothing symbolizes the moment better to me than the push for book banning.

As a professionally trained historian, I taught about and studied book banning in a number of countries, communities, and societies. They all have one things in common: the suppression of free speech and the attempt by one group to control the thoughts of everyone else. Book burning represents the most extreme manifestation of this trend, but the mere attempt to ban a book is only steps away from a conflagration of books in the town square. The open and free flow of ideas is essential to a free people and a functioning democracy.

I therefore applaud anyone and everyone who combats the specious trend of banning books. With the uproar over a Tennessee school district banning “Maus,” a lot of people have spoken out against it. I am particularly proud to be a member of the Horror Writers Association, which released the following statement:

Statement on Maus and Other Banned Books

The Horror Writers Association condemns banning books in no uncertain terms. We believe authors need to be able to tell their stories without fear of reprisal.

The banning of “Maus” in a Tennessee school district, which was done on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is nothing less than censorship and anti-Semitism.

“Maus” is not the first text to be excluded from school libraries. Recently, LGBTQ+ texts have been banned in a Washington state school district, and many other books by authors of color have been censored in districts across America. These are chilling examples of censorship, racism, anti-Semitism, and white washing. We all need to be more vocal each and every time this happens.

These actions set a dangerous precedent in a free society. They cannot and should not be tolerated. The HWA condemns all attempts at censorship, particularly these obvious attempts of the establishment to silence marginalized voices. We urge you to speak out in your local communities against such autocratic tactics that not only threaten our creative community but also make our world less safe.


The HWA’s Officers and Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees spoke for me here with their powerful words. And I am writing to you to implore all of us to speak out against such censorship. We all need to be fighting to preserve American democracy, and freedom around the globe. Resisting book bans is not an insignificant aspect of this struggle. Join the cause and denounce such behavior!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I took a couple weeks off to enjoy the holidays. If any of you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I love to decorate, as revealed in my 19 Christmas Trees. I like to get away from work, writing, and publicity to rejuvenate. I take the time off to reflect, spend time with loved ones, and bid goodbye to the previous year. And of course to have fun with all my decorations!

Now we’re on to 2022, and I am excited! Here are my writing plans:

-Most exciting, THE VAMPIRE’s WAR will come out this year!!! In the coming months, I’ll share its blurb, teasers, cover art, etc. NineStar Press recently changed the way it assigns a publication date, to give authors more lead time and certainty. However, this means it takes a little longer after agreeing to publish before we learn the exact date. This is a good thing! I am sharing that information with you because I can’t tell you exactly when to anticipate THE VAMPIRE’S WAR coming to you, but it will be 2022.

-I am also busy at work on the sequel to SANTA IS A VAMPIRE. THE EASTER BUNNY IS A WEREWOLF has already been a lot of fun to write. Simon the Elf returns, Santa makes a couple appearances, and wait until you learn the truth about the Easter Bunny . . .

-And I hope to continue to ramp up my publicity efforts. As I revealed last year, I became a full-time writer in January 2021. I think this helped me do more on the publicity front. I am still learning and growing in that department, still seeking ways to reach out to you and new readers.

Happy New Year! Let’s work together to make 2022 bright and accepting for all people.

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My Holiday Wish for You

Happy Holidays to everyone!

I wanted to take a moment to share my holiday wish for every person who reads my blog.

I wish for each of you a sense of belonging. Some people find belonging with family. Others find it with friends. Or maybe you feel alone but can reach out to one person – a lifeline to help you feel less alone. Whatever form of belonging you discover, I wish for you to feel loved and important.

Whether I have met you, please know you mean something to me. As a reader of this blog and a fellow human, I see your worth. Please join me in uplifting each other, no matter your belief system, race, sexuality, gender or class.

Happy Holidays, my friends. I love you.

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I am pleased to announce THE VAMPIRE’S WAR will be coming your way next year!

What happens in Book V of the Realm of the Vampire Council?

An enraged vampire prepares for war against the Vampire Council. Jaret Bachmann possesses the power to assist in the fight but the Council keeps him at a distance. When his lover, Anthony, disappears, Jaret takes matters into his own hands. Defying the Council, combating a violent enemy, and searching for his place in the world, Jaret must find himself and prepare for battle at the same time.

The final clash is set for Notre Dame Cathedral. Who will survive? Who will win? Find out in THE VAMPIRE’S WAR – coming in 2022!

In the meantime, please check out the other volumes in my vampire series! You can find them listed here, with a buy link: MY BOOKS!

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What?! Queer Spooky Tales AND a Great Cause?!

I am super excited to share the following anthology with you! Check it out in order to read some spooky queer stories while also contributing to a wonderful cause!

The Bay Area Queer Writers Association presents a collection of spooky tales to fright and delight you. Authors Wayne Goodman, Richard May, M.D. Neu, Liz Faraim, and R.L. Merrill have all contributed tales of the macabre for your reading pleasure. All proceeds from this inaugural collection will be donated to the The Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center of San Jose, CA. Here’s where to get it: BUY LINK!

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