October – Fall. Halloween. Scary stuff. Which means . . . time to remind you to check out all your favorite vampires for a spooky scare. Here’s a link to my author webpage at NineStar Press, where you can find all my titles! If you prefer a hardcopy version, check out Amazon! Seriously, everyone needs some gay vampires in their life in October!
So – normally I jabber on in here about what I’m up to and share my random thoughts. I’m SUPER excited to change things up today because I have a guest visitor! M.D. Neu stopped by for a chat because we both share an interest in gay supernatural stories! Here’s a Q&A for you to enjoy!
Damian Serbu (DS): As you and I have discussed, we both love Anne Rice and find inspiration from her. In writing The Calling, how do you think she helped to give you a vision for your own story?
M. D. Neu (MDN): Anne Rice is amazing and I adore her. That said, when I read Interview with the Vampire I wondered how a vampire, or vampires, could exist in our world. Don’t get me wrong she does an amazing job, but even back then when I read the book in the 80s I kept wondering if bodies were found drained of blood or someone caught something on film how could they stay concealed. Especially if the bodies piled up. Now, fast forward to today and it would be impossible to get away with it. One video uploaded to YouTube or any social media site and the gig would be up. So, there was that aspect of her story I wanted to address in my own work.
On a more positive note Interview with The Vampire gave me my first family that showed two men raising a child. Yes, they are a screwed-up family, but it was still there and that was remarkable. That was the first time I had ever seen a gay couple in a vampire story. Yes, I know it wasn’t every called out, but it was there and I’m pretty sure everyone knew it. Now, even though in my book The Calling I don’t have two men raising a child, there are elements of family that play throughout the book and continue on in the next book, which I will definitely credit Anne Rice with.
The other main factor from Anne Rice that affected my story was the elegance, the beauty, the power, the masquerade, and even the violence. In her novel vampires were more than monsters, they were people, they had character, they were both good and bad and most importantly they had style and I wanted to show that in my novel. Also, her vampires had fun and that was something else I wanted to incorporate. There was a sense of humor (albeit dark) in her book that I adored and again I wanted to reflect that in my novels.
DS: Speaking of Rice, did you find yourself needing to watch so people saw your take on vampires as unique and different, not mimicking her or other authors?
MDN: Honestly, no. First, I made a point to not read the book again as I wrote the story, I wanted to ensure as little contamination on my part as possible. I mean sure there might be bits and pieces that people may go, “oh that is kind of like something Anne Rice wrote.” Or, they may say, “that looks like something from Salem’s Lot.” And that would be more flattering then anything. But, nothing I could write would ever be like Anne Rice or Stephen King. They are a whole other level. I believe, that my story is honestly unique in that I know I haven’t read anything like it before, so I would like to think that my writing is different enough that there would never be that kind of issue. I hope.
DS: Speaking of originality . . . I really enjoyed how you constructed your own vision for a vampire world, with its rules and structure. Did you sketch that out beforehand, or did it organically take shape while you were writing?
MDN: Once I knew that I wanted to write The Calling, I sat down and wrote out the rules of my vampire world. I had to not only write out the rules for the vampires, but also the witches and any other fantastical creature that may or may not be present in the novels. This also included writing out the Immortals, the word I use for my vampires, culture and society. I had to figure out how vampires came to be, how they were structured, what their world looked like. I also had to address other mythical creatures, did they exist, if so what happened to them? What about magic? All these details where sketched out prior to the writing. So, even before I began writing the story I ended up with about 15 pages of notes (not too much, but I also had a list of websites to visit for my info), that of course has expanded as I wrote book two, but I really had to have their world fleshed out before I could start writing the story.
Of course, there were bits that came organically as I wrote. I would get to a spot and write something and think, “wow, that’s cool.” Then I would stop, frown a bit, go back to my notes ensure I wasn’t breaking a rule and then add it to my story notes so I could reference it again if I wanted to. I also would change a rule if I needed to, because I didn’t want to back myself into any corners. I found I needed to be flexible with all my world building, just in case.
DS: It’s obvious that gay authors enjoy vampires because of the theme of the closet – hiding true nature and what that means. Did you find yourself reflecting on that concept as you were writing?
MDN: I would say this probably happened on a subconscious level. I really wanted this book to be more about vampires, good and bad, etc. and not a coming out story or dealing with being gay story. I have one point early on in the novel that I basically have the main character say something to the effect of, “Why does it matter? Why does that have to be the most interesting thing about me? Would you treat me any different?” I think for me this moment is what this story is all about. Being gay is a big deal, but it’s not the only thing we are. There is so much more to use than who we sleep with. Great, we’re gay, we’re part of this beautiful Rainbow Tribe, wonderful, but what else are we? What more is there to us? And that is what I wanted to go for. So, the idea of hiding our true nature, in a closet, wasn’t upfront in my mind when I wrote the story, but I’m sure there are bits that have seeped in.
DS: Many writers make their vampires beautiful, almost perfect, to a fault, which I admit I’m guilty of doing. You didn’t! I find it refreshing how you portray Duncan as somewhat pedestrian and normal as he embarks on this journey. What made you go in that direction?
MDN: Now let’s not get carried away, several of the characters in the story are attractive, I mean Victor, Kirtus and Juliet… wow! Okay. Right. Back on point. So yes, I wanted to tell a story that we could all relate to. Not all members of our Rainbow Tribe look like they have walked off the covers of a magazine and I wanted to, no I needed to reflect that. We are not all beautiful. We come in various shapes, sizes, colors, etc. and I wanted my story to be like that. Our main character, Duncan, can be summed up as average. He’s someone you would pass on the street and not give a second thought too. Which is how most of us are. When it comes to my book’s world I hope people can see themselves in the book and relate to that. I do that with all my stories. I want to show all of us. I want to show that even average people can have an astounding journey, you don’t have to be perfect you can be who you are and adventure will find you. You just have to look for it.
DS: What do you like to read for fun?
MDN: When I have time to read, I love Sci Fi, Fantasy, paranormal books. I love stories that take me to a new world and drop me right in it so I can enjoy and experience it. If they have vampires, even better.
DS: Can you share anything you’re currently working on with us?
MDN: Well, right now I just released my forth novel; T.A.D.-The Angel of Death, which I’m very proud of. People can out more about T.A.D. here: https://amzn.to/2m1B4Nq As, I’ve alluded to already I’ve finished the conclusion to The Calling, aptly titled The Called, which is now with beta readers. I’ve also finished the third book in my Sci Fi series, A New World, which is currently titled; Conspiracy. You can find out more about the series here: https://bit.ly/2mtvljB There are a few more ideas I’m tossing around but I haven’t started working on, but those are in the very early planning stages. People can always subscribe for my weekly updates so they will be kept in the loop on what I have coming up next. I also do author interviews and share other aspects of my life. People can subscribe here: https://www.mdneu.com/contact
DS: Thanks for stopping by for a visit! I enjoyed our time, and I have REALLY enjoyed reading your work!!
More information on today’s guest: M.D. Neu is a queer Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of twenty plus years. Website: http://www.mdneu.com/
NineStar Press: https://bit.ly/2VroALu
Barnes & Nobel: https://bit.ly/2NxRypZ
It’s been a long time since I added an entry to my blog. Too long. Blog-less-ness has stuck in the back of my mind to get back on track, but alas life keeps intruding. So when it came time to sit down at long last and write for it, I knew what to share: the life of a writer and the intrusions that invade our lives!
I think every writer, or almost every writer, wishes they could write for a living and nothing else. But that reality exists for an elite few. For a vast majority of us, we work part-time or full-time jobs. So writing happens on the sly, in spare time, on the weekends, when we can steal a few moments for ourselves.
And that works for me, because I am OCD crazy disciplined, lol. I make sure to write regularly and keep on track. Which is why the last couple months bothered me so much, in terms of my writing, because I almost completely abandoned it.
Here’s the scoop: Paul and I are building a new house, which is super exciting! But it first meant selling our existing house, which was super stressful. We managed to get an offer, pack up, and sell it! Relief! However, from mid-July until the last couple weeks, that process consumed us. We either worked on something related to the sale, packing, or moving to our temporary housing, while squeezing in what we had to do to keep the new house on track. All while we both worked full time.
Please know I am not bitching about the moving! That is definitely a blessed life to live and we are so excited about this change in our lives. I simply mean to explain how no writing occurred. Almost nothing at all. And so no blog.
Why bore you with all this crap? Mostly to explain my absence. But also perhaps as a glimpse into how passionate most authors are about their writing. That we make sure it happens, despite not getting rich off it. Despite needing to work at other things. And I wanted you to know I missed you. For now, life is back on track. We’re living at a friend’s house and I will keep up with you more regularly, at least until November sometime when the new house is done!
Thanks for reading, and perhaps missing me. My readers mean the world to me. Even if I never met you, thinking that someone sits and reads my novels for enjoyment or to learn a little bit keeps me going.
I love celebrating Gay Pride Month every June!
I am not even going to address the asinine haters who question why we need Pride Month. I want my comments to go to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Yeah – we need it because we still confront oppression. We celebrate the past and those who fought for our rights! We must never forget that they literally risked their lives for it. And we remind ourselves that the fight continues. The last couple years showed us all too well that sexism, racism, classicism, antisemitism, all the hateful isms – plus Islamophobia and homophobia – still exist. Pride is a time when we tell the world we will continue to resist and fight.
It’s also a time for personal celebration. For all of us to remember the power of coming out, or to help those in the process of coming out. I went to my first Pride Celebration in the early 1990s in Denver. I loved the feeling of community, of not being alone with my thoughts, my dreams, and my struggles. That holds true today! And Pride lets the community gather to celebrate who we are, to to help us all feel less afraid and alone.
So Happy Pride Month! Let’s Fight and Celebrate and Love!! Together.
Paul and I returned this week from a vacation in Savannah, GA. I wanted to share some thoughts about being a writer, and how a trip like this means I am “working” even when chilling and having a great time!
It was a family vacation/memorial trip in honor of my dad, who passed away in Dec. 2017. Dad loved to take the entire family on vacation, so we wanted to remember him by taking a family vacation and chose Savannah. My mom, brother, sister and her family, Paul and I rented a house together. Because we wanted to feel my father’s presence, we included going to a lantern festival, which was an amazing experience. So many people gathered to remember loved ones and promote peace and togetherness. The candles floating across the water reminded me of dad, all of us of dad, and brought him into our presence in a very meaningful way. Such intense emotional and spiritual events in my life shape the way I write about such things in my fiction. At some point, I know I will recall that moment when I write, and my mind will transport me back there – the character’s view of the world will merge with my own and flow onto the paper. And Dad will again be present, guiding part of my story.
Savannah is also a charming and lovely city, full of rich history – both frightening and wonderful. I can’t imagine that this setting won’t make it into a future novel. I loved the older houses, the intense cemeteries, and the vibrant culture of the city. It’s liberal feel amid the conservative South called to me, too. The way the city has deliberately nurtured and promoted the maintenance of its historic feeling is crucial. And I appreciated that most places we visited did not attempt to – literally – white wash the history. They incorporated the history of slavery and all its horror. It was raw and genuine. For all its beauty and charm, Savannah has a dark and dreadful past that needs to be learned, remembered, and understood. All of this history, too, will make it into a story at some time.
And then there is the haunted nature of the town. At every turn, in all the old houses, cemeteries, parks, and public places, ghosts haunt the landscape. We took an amazing ghost tour, and heard about hauntings around town as we toured other locations and just enjoyed ourselves. No writer of horror could escape the inspiration these tales can give! Chills went up and down my spine, often from true stories of living people doing awful things and then the hauntings that ensued. If you like haunted places, you have to visit Savannah.
Even if you’re not sensitive to the paranormal, you should visit Savannah. It is a wonderful and amazing place. I know there are plenty of very good reasons to boycott Georgia these days. I don’t disagree. But Savannah should be exempt, because it was a welcoming and lovely place for a vacation in remembrance of my father.
The concept of “the muse” fascinates people – readers and writers alike. As if a spirit takes control of an author’s mind and body, the theory goes that a story emerges to demand attention, and the author must comply with its wishes. This idea applies to an entire novel all the way to a short story, from one character within a plot line to a whole host of characters acting out.
I wish I had a concrete explanation for this occurrence. Or a mystical revelation about it. But I don’t. I only know the truth of it – that perhaps an idea popped into my head that I own, but then the story and/or characters take it in different directions. I certainly know I control it, that it is my creation. But I also know that it goes astray sometimes; that characters and ideas decide something outside my original concept, and I lack the power to return to what I wanted.
Here’s my most recent example for you.
In January, it came time for me to start my next novel. I decided to continue the tales of Simon the Elf, because Santa Is a Vampire had recently been published and I talked to a number of people about its sequel, including those at my release party. But whenever I started to outline the plot, my vampires from the Realm of the Vampire Council interfered. I ignored them. I did research for my Simon book. I outlined it. At every step, those vampires reminded me that I left them off at the beginning of a war at the end of The Vampire’s Protege. How could I?!
I explained to them, over and over, that first we needed to do the reprint of Book III. Then I would return to their new story. So I tried to go back to Simon. But they were angry. Insistent. To the point I finally gave up. All the work for Simon’s sequel went back in the drawer, and out came the work for the fifth book in the Realm of the Vampire Council.
Every logical thought, every concept of where I wanted to go, pointed to Simon. And I’m still excited about that sequel. But the muse had other ideas. The muse pushed and pushed until I obeyed. So here I am, currently working on Book V, The Vampire’s War. Happy to say, the vampires are happy again. Or at least they stopped pestering me and instead launched into their latest stories.
Howdy, folks! I am pleased to share with you an interview I did with M. D. New, a fellow NineStar Press author. I particularly loved the personal nature of it. Instead of a mere plug for my books or our writing, we dove into more of what makes me tick and what got me into gay horror, and particularly vampires.
The WritesCast Network is a podcast collective by writers, for writers. R. R. Campbell recently hosted me on it! I was nervous because I don’t always enjoy hearing my own voice, etc. I mean, I write – to myself and then people read it. I don’t broadcast! But! It was so relaxed I really enjoyed it, and the time went by so fast.
We discussed the editing process, and specifically about self editing. While the target audience is other authors, I think readers will find it interesting to dive into this part of the process, from the perspective of authors.
Thanks for checking it out: WriteCast Podcast with Damian Serbu.
Here is the latest edition of, “What in the hell are you up to, Damian Serbu?!”
First, I continue to chug away on publicity, especially since The Vampire’s Quest came out in February! The reviews have been great so far, even better than the first time it was released.
I am also in the midst of editing two other previously published books, which are part of my vampire series. I want to submit them to NineStar for review, the first hopefully this summer. That one is undergoing such a major revision, I doubt it will smell much like it’s original by the time it gets to you.
And I am writing – wait for it – the fifth book in the Realm of the Vampire Council series: The Vampire’s War! This will be the one to follow The Vampire’s Protege. I struggled for a couple months about what to write next, in terms of a new and original piece. It was so hard to choose between my vampires and Simon the Elf. I wish I had all the time in the world to dabble in both! But the vampires won out, because there is an impending war they must fight.
Thanks for checking in! Damian
I have read quite a bit lately about authors and their relationship to one another. Specifically, the debate emerges about whether to view one another as the competition, or as colleagues. One view prompts nasty comments, spite, and vitriol. The other brings mutual support, uplift, and encouragement. I suppose from the way I just framed the argument, you already know my point of view.
I disagree with people who say this reality sprang from contemporary social media. While that has heightened the exposure to nastiness and brought it into public light, from the beginning of the publishing world authors have gone after one another and existed in tension. I get it. There are only so many readers, publishers, and reviewers out there, and we authors compete for their attention - or more accurately their dollars.
Yet I also believe enough readers exist for us to spread the wealth. I guess I don't want to build my career and following by clawing over the backs of others. I prefer to help each other as authors, with promotion, encouragement, and the understanding that we all struggle in similar ways.
For example, I recently did a podcast that will come out in April with Ryan Campbell, a fellow NineStar Press author. (Check him out at www.rrcampbellwrites.com!) We chatted about strategies for self editing, because he broadcasts podcasts that discuss the writing process, best practices, and other advice for authors. To me, his work represents the best of a win-win situation: he gets publicity as the host, and when the authors advertise their participation on his podcast. And the author gains an audience with other authors and people who listen to his podcast. It represents the best of worlds to me, and a great example of supporting each other as authors!
This doesn't mean that my reviews of other works will always be positive, because I also want to be honest. But even there, I strive for nuance and kindness as much as possible. Our world today contains a lot of nastiness and hate. A lot. I want the author community to avoid it as much as possible.
Peace out. Damian