Black Sails

My fascination with pirate adventures goes back to my first visit to Disneyland around 1971 and riding Pirates of the Caribbean within a few years of its opening. I remember the pirates and the pirate skeletons scaring me on that first visit. I grew up in Southern California and had several opportunities to return to Disneyland. Despite being scared that first time, I always made a point of riding Pirates of the Caribbean and I saw new things every time. I saw the humor, the violence, the hints of history. In short, I became fascinated with the real pirates of the so-called Golden Age of Piracy which ran from approximately 1650 until around 1740. This fascination would ultimately lead me to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island.

For the last few months, I’ve been working my way through the Starz television series Black Sails, which was billed as a prequel to Treasure Island. The series is that, but it’s also a lot more. The series imagines Captain Flint, Long John Silver, and Billy Bones from the novel as pirates with ties to Nassau who sailed alongside such real-life pirates as Charles Vane, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney, Benjamin Hornigold and Edward Teach. As the series opens, Captain Flint, played by Toby Stephens, is on a quest to capture gold from a Spanish treasure galleon called the Urca de Lima. Billy Bones, played by Tom Hopper, is a member of his crew. John Silver, played by Luke Arnold, is an opportunist who happens to discover the Urca de Lima’s route.

This is all a fine setup for a high seas adventure, and there is plenty of high seas adventuring in the series, but the series doesn’t forget that Captain Flint needs a base of operations, so early on, we’re introduced to Nassau and the woman who runs the show there, Eleanor Guthrie, played by Hannah New. It’s through the interactions with Eleanor that we get to know the other famous pirates and soon they all have a hand in the adventures as well. As the series unfolds, we soon find that Nassau is more than a home base and a meeting point for our characters, its integrally tied to Flint’s motives and the reason he became a pirate in the first place.

Black Sails doesn’t try to portray pirates as fun or loveable characters out on a jolly lark. It shows us the types of crimes and atrocities they committed. It also shows us how far the colonial powers in the new world went to to end piracy. Of course, those colonial powers were authoritarian and didn’t abide people who attempted to lift themselves out of poor circumstances to a better station and didn’t abide people who refused to fit into socially defined molds. Of course, this was a society where people literally owned other people and kept them as slaves.

Of course, another truth about the so-called Golden Age of piracy is how little we actually know about these “famous” pirates. One theme of the series is that we never really learn Long John Silver’s history and he constantly reinvents his own narrative. The people around him also feed into his mythology. Captain Flint is also a persona built by a former British Navy captain who felt pushed into a course of action by circumstances. In a sense, the series is examination of the importance of story and its role in motivating others.

By nature, I’m a person who asks questions. It’s what led me to a career in the sciences. It’s also what led me to be a writer. I like to explore ideas and I don’t always accept that something is true just because someone in authority told me it was true. I expect an authority to be able to show me why something is true and to be accountable for their actions. I’m not someone who fits comfortably in a lot of the pre-defined social roles. It’s perhaps because of that I find pirate stories fascinating. Black Sails and other similar tales tell stories of those who question authority and live life by their own rules. While there’s a danger in glamorizing pirates, I’ve often found it important to ask what drove people to choose that life.

My Space Pirates’ Legacy series came out of that fascination for real life pirates and one of my goals is to present Ellison Firebrandt as a man who is driven to become a pirate by his life circumstances and the world he lives in and then look at how he finds his way onto a new life path. You can discover his story by reading the books at:


As I write this, I’m working on the final chapters of my third Scarlet Order Vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. I’m still in the rough draft stage, so in some ways, once I complete this phase, the real work will begin. I’ve been having fun with the book, but I know it needs work to make it better. While working on the novel, it was fun to learn about the movie Renfield starring Nicholas Hoult as Dracula’s famous familiar and Nicolas Cage as Dracula himself. My wife and I decided to make an excursion to see the film.

Renfield is told as a sequel to Universal’s 1931 film, Dracula. As the film opens, we find Renfield in New Orleans in a support group for people in abusive and co-dependent relationships. As he narrates how he came to be there, he tells us the story of his past century or so of existence, starting with a recreation of scenes from the 1931 film. The recreated scenes demonstrate how well Cage and Hoult channel Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye in their performances. In fact, in some ways, Cage feels like he finds a middle-ground between Bela Lugosi and Carlos Villarías, who played Dracula in the Spanish-language version of the film, shot at the same time and on the same sets as the English-language version. We learn that Renfield effectively gets super strength from eating bugs, an offshoot of how vampires gain strength and power from drinking blood.

The reason Renfield is in the support group is that he’s dealing with his guilt over taking innocent people to Dracula over the years. Instead, he’s decided to take abusive partners and spouses to Dracula. The only problem with this plan is that Dracula has no taste for evil-doers and Renfield finds himself stepping on the toes of a drug cartel operating in the Crescent City called the Lobos. Meanwhile, a New Orleans cop named Rebecca Quincy, played by Awkwafina, will do anything to stop the Lobos, who murdered her father.

After Renfield kills one of the Lobos top hit men, Teddy Lobo, son of the cartel’s boss, is sent to dispatch him. Meanwhile Officer Quincy is on the trail of Teddy Lobo played by Ben Schwartz. They all collide at a New Orleans restaurant and Renfield saves Officer Quincy’s life. As the two get to know each other, Renfield decides to take steps to further separate himself from Dracula.

Overall, Renfield was an enjoyable horror/comedy take on the Dracula. I liked how Cage gave us a Dracula who really wasn’t at all sympathetic and I also really appreciated that the film understood co-dependent relationships. After all, the idea is that Renfield defends and supports a being who is addicted to blood. As a fan of New Orleans, I loved seeing the Crescent City in the film and recognized many of the filming locations. Tonally, the movie was a little jarring. It seemed to have trouble deciding whether it was a light horror comedy in the vein of What We Do In the Shadows or a more over-the-top bloody action romp in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Also, I felt the inevitable, final confrontation between Teddy Lobo and Renfield could have been a stronger scene.

Although this was a vampire film, I felt the clash of magic, horror, and crime reminded me most of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. You can learn more about my novel, and even see a short film based on a scene in the novel by visiting

Dracula 1972 AD and Beyond

Recently reading Fred Saberhagen’s 1975 novel The Dracula Tape, brought to mind a pair of movies set just a little earlier in the decade. These were Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula both produced by Hammer films in 1972 and 1973 respectively. These were the last two films where Christopher Lee played Dracula for Hammer. Just as Batman has the Joker, and Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty, Dracula has Van Helsing, and it’s fitting that Hammer studio’s long-time Van Helsing, Peter Cushing, was along for the ride. These movies were interesting to watch, since I’ve long cited Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula as an inspiration for the Desmond Drake character in my Scarlet Order Vampire novels.

Dracula AD 1972 opens with Dr. Lawrence Van Helsing’s final confrontation with the count. As one might gather from Van Helsing’s name, we’ve already deviated from Bram Stoker’s novel. The two are fighting on a coach when it hits a rock and both are thrown clear. Van Helsing soon discovers that Dracula has been impaled on the broken spoke of a wagon wheel! The good doctor finishes the count off. Dracula falls to dust just before Van Helsing succumbs to his injuries. Unfortunately, one of Dracula’s minions shows up and collects the wheel spoke which impaled Dracula along with a healthy sample of vampire dust. Soon, we skip ahead to 1972, where a group of young people are partying in a London estate. When they’re kicked out, the leader of the group, who looks suspiciously like the minion who collected Dracula’s remains, invites the group to an abandoned church. He wants to conduct a black mass “for kicks.” The ritual is performed. The leader, who goes by the name Johnny Alucard—another tie to a novel I read recently—succeeds in bringing Dracula back. It looks like the world may be lost, but fortunately, one of the people in the group is young Jessica Van Helsing played by Stephanie Beacham. She’s the great granddaughter of Lawrence and the granddaughter of Lorrimer who, like Lawrence, is played by Peter Cushing. In this film, Dracula seems tied to the abandoned church and relies on his minions to do all the work for him. This makes it comparatively easy for Lorrimer to track him down for the final confrontation. The movie’s pacing and style felt like a tribute to the earlier movies in the Hammer Dracula franchise, but it added little new to the lore.

Hammer followed this film with a sequel called The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The movie was retitled Dracula and his Vampire Brides for release in the United States. As one might gather from the British title, more dark rites are in process. Only this time, the people engaged in the rites are from Britain’s business, political and scientific elite. Top investigators attempt to infiltrate the proceedings to find out what’s going on. They get some info and turn to Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray who helped to crack the last weird case involving dark rituals. Inspector Murray turns to his friends Lorrimer and Jessica Van Helsing for help. This time Jessica is played by Joanna Lumley, but otherwise, our repeat characters are portrayed by the same actors as before. We soon learn that Dracula is no longer tied to the church where he had been trapped in the last movie. He’s now a top London businessman called D.D. Denham. Dracula has grown so old that all he really wants is an end to his immortal existence. However, being Dracula, he isn’t content to just find a way to die. He has to take out humanity as well and he’s found people willing to help. Fortunately, Murray and the Van Helsings are there to save the world. While the first film felt like a tribute to early Hammer Dracula films, this one played more like later films with more explicit violence and nudity. I liked the idea of Dracula as a businessman in the 20th century and Christopher Lee’s D.D. Denham certainly feels not a little like Desmond Drake from the Scarlet Order novels.

Even though the second film felt campier than the first and had several problems, I tended to like it better. The first film relied on many tried and true Dracula tropes, but the second film embarked on new territory, doing more to make Dracula himself the kind of character he would be in the present day. I only wish that Christopher Lee’s Dracula had been given more to do along with a stronger ending than the one he received in the final film. Still, if you’re a fan of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it’s worth seeking these films out.

I’ve been hard at work on my third Scarlet Order vampire novel featuring Desmond Drake, who takes inspiration from Christopher Lee’s Dracula. As of this writing, I’ve completed just over 80,000 words of the novel. If you want to be ready when the novel comes out, check out the first two books of the Scarlet Order vampire series at:

Flaming Thunderbolts! Terrahawks, Volume Two!

My commutes to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona from my home in New Mexico give me great opportunities to listen to podcasts, audio dramas, and audiobooks. Recently, I listened to the second volume of Big Finish’s audio revival of Terrahawks, one of the puppet shows helmed by the the late Gerry Anderson. Like many of Anderson’s shows, Terrahawks told the story of the Earth threatened by an alien menace. In this case the alien menace comes in the form of a group of alien androids under the command of the witch-like Zelda. She has a “family” of androids including her son, Yung-star, her sister Cy-star, and Cy-star’s sometimes-son/sometimes-daughter, It-star. The titular Terrahawks were the organization that stood in the aliens’ way. They’re under the command of Tiger Ninestein and his first officer Mary Falconer. Other members of the team are Hawkeye and pop-star Kate Kestrel. The Terrahawks are ably assisted by an army of spherical robots known as Zeroids, whose personality drive Ninestein crazy. Like many of Gerry Anderson’s TV series, the show was performed with puppets, although the Terrahawks and their opponents were “glove” puppets rather than the more familiar marionettes of other shows. What’s more, while most of Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows were made for an audience of children, most were played “straight” and told serious adventure stories. Terrahawks took a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. The TV series ran for three seasons from 1983 to 1986.

The audio revivals were produced between 2015 and 2017 by Gerry Anderson’s son, Jamie Anderson. Freed from the constraint of visuals, he both ramps up the speculative elements and the humor, and overall, it works well. Volume 2 gives us eight new episodes of Terrahawks. The set opens with “Sale of the Galaxy” in which both Zelda and Ninestein are invited to appear on a deadly game show. The host is played by famous British host Nicholas Parsons, who was also the real-life husband of Denise Bryer, the actress who gave voice to Zelda and Mary Falconer. Jeremy Hitchens reprises his role as Ninestein from the TV series, including his signature exclamation, “Flaming Thunderbolts!” The second episode, penned by Chris Dale, is “The Trouble with Toy Boys” and it imagines a creepy ventriloquist dummy named Timmy who bears no small resemblance to one of Gerry Anderson’s original puppet stars, Torchy the Battery Boy. In “Return to Sender” we get a romance story for Sergeant Major Zero of the Zeroids as the robots contend with a NASA probe that has returned to Earth and isn’t all it seems to be. “Renta-Hawks” parodies perhaps the most famous Anderson puppet show by imagining the Terrahawks in competition with a team of handsome young men in rescue vehicles. Unlike the young men of the Thunderbirds, this global rescue organization charges for its services and the Earth government would like the Terrahawks to follow suit.

In the second half of the series, Zelda has gone missing and the Terrahawks are under the gun to cut their budget. When a probe lands deep in the heart of Texas, Mary and Kate are sent on a quest to deal with it. In “Lights, Camera, Disaster” by David Hirsch, It-Star hatches a plot to make the androids look good. He’ll write a movie with the androids as the heroes fighting the villainous Terrahawks. It all looks like ti might work until the producers get their hands on the script and start making changes! In “Count Anaconda’s Magnificent Orbiting Circus” Tiger and Mary are invited to a show only to find this is a circus you would rather run away from.

The set finishes with an epic hour-long finale, which is arguably the best episode of the set, “My Enemy’s Enemy” by Jamie Anderson. The Terrahawks learn Zelda’s location and learn that both Earth and Zelda’s family are under threat from a common enemy, Prince Zegar of Guk, who’s descended from Zelda’s creator. During the course of the story, we learn the backstory of Zelda, Cy-star, and Yung-star. After that, we’re treated to an epic space battle that will change the Terrahawks going forward.

Volume 1 of Terrahawks on audio felt like a continuation of the series. Volume 2 gave us more of a story arc. If you enjoy light-hearted science fiction where you care enough about the characters to feel invested in them, it’s well worth checking out the Terrahawks audio series. I look forward to seeing what they do with the third and final volume. You can find the second volume of Terrahawks for download at:

Also, just a friendly reminder that May 4 is the last day you can get the Sci-Fi Exploration Storybundle with my novel Firebrandt’s Legacy along with nine other great books. Get all the details at:

Revisiting King Arthur

Back in my university days, after watching John Boorman’s film Excalibur, several friends discussed how much the film resembled true Arthurian legend. This set me on a personal quest to discover what true Arthurian legend actually is. One of my early finds in that quest was a used copy of Richard Brengle’s fine compilation Arthur: King of Britain. The book opens with excerpts from early histories that mentioned Arthur or events that would become associated with Arthur. It then went on to present excerpts from the Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and other canonical Arthurian tales. Another book I found in this quest was Warriors of Arthur by Bob Stewart and Richard Hook. This last book endeavored to discuss Britain from the time Arthur would have lived if he had been a real historical figure. The book also included retellings of some of the early legends I first encountered in Brengle’s book along with some memorable illustrations. One of those was a telling of the story of Peredur, a young man raised by his mother in the woods who encounters Arthur’s men and decides to prove himself worthy of joining their company. I loved the story and it has stuck with me over many years. As a character, Peredur is also known as Peredurus, Percival, Parzival and more.

It’s from this background that I discovered Nicola Griffith’s novel Spear. Based on the notes at the end of the book, it seems clear that like me, Nicola Griffith has long been a fan of the expansive Arthurian canon. In the book, she weaves several different versions of the Peredur and Arthur story into a single narrative. In this case, a young woman is raised by her mother in the woods. They possess a prized chalice but little else. The young woman learns to hunt from the animals of the forest and she encounters nearby human villages where she learns their language. One day thieves set upon a band of knights. Stealthily, the young woman helps the knights overcome the bandits. She’s impressed by the bravery of the knights and wants to join them. She also wants to learn more about the world. When she leaves her mother, she’s called spear or Peretur. Griffith tells her story in a way that retains the lyricism of the classic Arthurian texts, but yet is still accessible to the modern reader. By making Peretur a woman, we hear the echoes of many women throughout history who took up arms for causes they believed in, from Grace O’Malley to Tomoe Gozen and from Mulan to Ada Carnutt. I enjoyed the fact that Griffith included notes at the back of the novel to discuss her literary and historical inspirations and how she blended them together into a satisfying new take on the Arthurian legend.

Back when I was first delving into the Arthurian canon, I thought it would be cool to create my own version of the story based on the stories that resonated most with me and the history of post-Roman Britain. I soon discovered that many talented authors had already presented their own takes on the idea. Still, I folded some of those story ideas and that historical research into my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. You can find out more about that novel at:

The Nemo Trilogy

I first encountered Captain Nemo at my local drugstore when I was a kid. He was in the pages of a reprint edition of the Marvel Classic Comics adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. My mom bought the comic for me. I brought it home, and read it right away. I remember sitting stunned at one of the last panels, which depicted the Nautilus disappearing into a whirlpool. I couldn’t believe that would be the end of Captain Nemo. I was delighted a few years later to catch Ray Harryhausen’s adaptation of Mysterious Island on a Sunday afternoon and discover that Nemo had survived the maelstrom and had further adventures on a remote island with giant monsters. Sadly, he again seemed to meet his end as that movie drew to a close. Since those early days, I’ve read Jules Verne’s novels and grown even more fond of the character.

When I discovered the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, I was delighted to meet an incarnation of Nemo who felt like Verne’s Nemo and, what’s more, he’d survived the events of The Mysterious Island. Since the first graphic novel, Moore and O’Neill have expanded the series quite a bit both in the number of volumes and the years the series spans. Alas, Verne’s Captain Nemo is not immortal and they imagined that he would meet an end, but they also gave him an heir in a daughter named Janni Dakkar who takes up the Captain Nemo mantel. Recently, while getting ready for Wild Wild West Con with its Roaring 20’s theme, I started looking for steampunk or related retrofuturistic fiction set in the 20s. This led me to discover the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Nemo Trilogy. The Nemo Trilogy comics follow’s Janni Dakkar’s adventures from 1925 through 1975.

Volume 1 of the Nemo Trilogy is called “Heart of Ice” and it opens when the new Captain Nemo steals a treasure from Ayesha, an immortal woman from H. Rider Haggard’s novel She. Ayesha has strong influence with Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane fame. He sends the boy adventurers Tom Swift, Frank Reade Jr., and Jack Wright after Janni, who has decided to explore Antarctica. They all end up on a journey through Lovecraftian horrors.

In Volume 2, “The Roses of Berlin,” it’s 1941 and Janni’s daughter Hira has married Armand Robur, son of Verne’s famous air pirate. Armand’s airship is shot down while he’s raiding Nazi ships. Janni and her lover Broad Arrow Jack must go to a Berlin rebuilt in the image of the film Metropolis to rescue their daughter and son-in-law. There, they find Ayesha is collaborating with the Nazis. I found it quite satisfying to have a story where Captain Nemo and her crew take on Nazis along with figures from German expressionist cinema. I also loved that Moore gave us some dialogue in French and German and didn’t translate it for us on the page.

Finally in Volume 3, “River of Ghosts” Janni leans that Ayesha has not only survived the events of volume 2, but there is somehow more than one Ayesha. Janni takes the Nautilus up the Amazon and discovers an enclave of Nazis like the one in the movie The Boys from Brazil. Along for the journey is Janni’s grandson, Jack. Also along for the ride is Hugo Hercules, who was the first superhero to ever grace the comic pages. Their adventure takes to an enclave of creatures from the Black Lagoon to dinosaurs and then gives us an explosive climax. In an epilogue set in 1987, we find that Jack is happy to take up the mantel of Captain Nemo for a new generation.

I felt like this series released between 2013 and 2015 got stronger as it progressed and it proved to be a solid entry in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen saga. More importantly, it does my heart good to know Nemo’s story didn’t end in the Maelstrom off the coast of Norway. In fact, Jack Dakkar or his children could still be sailing the Nautilus through Earth’s waters today. Mobilis in Mobile!

My character Captain Onofre Cisneros was created as a tribute to Captain Nemo. The best place to learn about Captain Cisneros and his adventures is in my novel The Brazen Shark. Learn more at:


Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! debuted approximately two months before my third birthday, so it’s fair to say that I’ve been watching the series as long as I can remember. I loved the combination of mystery, scares, and humor that the show presented and I watched through almost every iteration until around 1979 when Scrappy-Doo was introduced. To be fair, it wasn’t just Scrappy. I felt like the show had been emphasizing the humor over the spooky, mysterious aspects. Sure, the mysteries were rarely all that challenging and you knew the monster was a villain in a mask, but sometimes that villain in a mask seemed outright creepy. A couple of years before Scrappy’s introduction, came The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt hour. Dynomutt was a goofy, bumbling cybernetic dog who worked with a superhero called the Blue Falcon. Often the Scooby-Doo and Dynomutt episodes were separate, but occasionally they teamed up and these episodes were less about mystery and more about adventure lightened with over-the-top comedy hijinx.

The original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episodes started airing regularly on the Cartoon Network when my kids were young and I discovered how much I loved the series. Just before my oldest daughter turned three, Hanna-Barbara released the movie Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, which brought the gang back to its roots and gave them a truly scary mystery to solve in the Louisiana bayou. I absolutely loved the movie. My daughter says it terrified her, but she also loves it. Even more, she loved the follow-up Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost which introduced the rock band the Hex Girls but maintained a lot of the more mysterious elements.

In 2020, Warner Brothers planned to introduce a new animated Scooby-Doo feature film called Scoob! Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented its theatrical film debut. Instead it was released as a premium home video. Based on the reviews I’d seen at the time, I decided to give it a pass. It was a new origin story for Scooby-Doo and it involved the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. In other words, it hearkened back to the era when I thought Scooby began to veer away from the formula that made it work. Recently, I stumbled across and inexpensive copy of the film and gave it a watch.

Scoob! proved to be an interesting mix of things I love about the best Scooby-Doo series and movies and things I’m not so fond of. The movie’s opening that shows how Scooby and Shaggy meet, then how on Halloween they go trick-or-treating and get caught up in a haunted house mystery with a young Fred, Daphne, and Velma was cute. I really liked how they then gave us the classic Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! opening credits in 3-D animation, presented as a montage showing the gang growing up. This part of the film was almost brilliant.

After the credits, the Mystery Incorporated gang reveals they want to go pro and are seeking investment from Simon Cowell. Our celebrity guest star loves all of the Mystery Incorporated except for Shaggy and Scooby. This part didn’t work so well for me. First of all, the humor relies heavily on Cowell being a pop culture icon and second it sets the plot in motion by relying on the tired trope of separating our group of friends and making our heroes doubt themselves just on someone’s say-so. Still, Scooby and Shaggy go to the bowling alley to console themselves only to encounter a really cool and frightening troop of killer robots who take the forms of scorpions with chainsaws. The scorpion robots corner our heroes and all appears lost until … our characters are captured in a tractor beam and brought up to the Blue Falcon’s ship.

One of the movie’s biggest surprises for me was that I actually liked its version of Dynomutt. The cybernetic dog was played straight and looked great in CG. Also great was the Blue Falcon’s highly competent sidekick Dee Dee Sykes. Less great was the Blue Falcon himself who turns out not to be the famous superhero, but the superhero’s son who has taken over the family business. Brian, the new Blue Falcon, is more interested in posting selfies to the internet than actually fighting crime. He also suffers imposter syndrome. This all could have worked well if it didn’t feel like a big movie-of-the-week lesson in how to get over yourself and become a better person.

Soon after meeting Dynomutt, Dee Dee, and the Blue Falcon, we learn that the person controlling the killer robots is none other than Dick Dastardly, a comic villain from the Hanna Barbara shows Wacky Races and Dastadly and Muttley and their Flying Machines. Dastadly was a favorite early cartoon villain, so this triggered some fun nostalgia, but I also couldn’t help but think he was just a bit of an over-the-top melodrama villain for Scooby.

Despite my issues, the movie did work for me and I actually liked it, largely because of the nostalgic elements and the way it folded together various Hanna-Barbara characters in a way that worked better than I would have expected. However, the movie fell far short of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and especially movies like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. The script had several instances where it felt like was about to get really interesting, then someone told them to throttle back and inject some humor to keep it light for kids. The thing is, I think Scooby always worked best when the mystery and spooky elements were front and center and the humor existed to break the tension. Scooby works less well when the humor takes the front seat.

DC Comics gave us two series I’ve written about called Scooby Apocalypse! and Wacky Raceland. Both are more serious re-imaginings of Hanna Barbara cartoons set after a fictional zombie apocalypse. Dogs can talk because of nanotechnology and the characters were all given more realistic makeovers. In Wacky Raceland, Dick Dastardly was imagined as a pianist with a tragic and terrifying backstory. The series only lasted a short time, but it showed a version of the character that could work in a less comedy-oriented story. In effect, it seems like Scoob! would have been better if it had been more “adult.” By that I don’t mean more sex and explicit violence. I just mean more “grown-up” characters. Sure, give us Dick Dastardly on a quest for power, but make him a villain who you really worry might get the upper hand on the Mystery Inc. gang. Give us Brian, the insecure son of the Blue Falcon, but make us like him and want him to overcome his imposter syndrome. Sure, split up the gang, but give it some real gravitas and don’t give us a mind-numbing sitcom set-up.

The Scooby gang took on a life far beyond their own cartoon universe. In Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s teammates became known as the Scooby gang because of their teamwork in solving spooky mysteries. Like Scooby, Buffy worked best when you worried about the characters but they broke the tension with humor. In that same vein, I was honored when Fred Cleaver of the Denver Post compared my Scarlet Order vampires to the Scooby gang. To my mind, that was a great compliment. You can see if you agree by reading Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which is available at:

Finding the Lost Boys

My university was in the small town of Socorro, New Mexico. We had one small theater called the Loma, which usually showed movies a few months after their release. In the autumn of 1987, I went with a group of friends to see the Joel Schumacher film, The Lost Boys, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and Jami Gertz. I was deep in the throes of working on my physics degree and much more into movies about exploring the galaxy than about vampires. I remember finding the movie a fine diversion, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I missed the Peter Pan allusions and I was a little thrown off by the notion of young, attractive vampires. Since then, I’ve become more familiar with J.M. Barrie’s classic and we’ve had numerous examples of young, attractive vampires ranging from many of Anne Rice’s characters to characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I began to think this was a film I should watch again.

Because so much film viewing is migrating to streaming services, it seems a lot of stores are reducing their inventory of DVDs and Blu-rays. I managed to find a copy of The Lost Boys at my local Barnes and Noble for just $6.00. I suspect that’s less in today’s dollars than I paid for a theater ticket back in 1987. As I sat down to watch the movie with my daughter, I realized she’s almost exactly the age I was when I first saw the film. I thought it would be interesting to compare notes. Of course, she also came to the movie with a more diverse taste in film than I had at her age and there was nothing alien to her about young vampires.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie more now than I remember enjoying it back in 1987. It was funnier than I remembered, poking fun at vampire tropes while also embracing them. The movie tells the story of two brothers who move to a coastal city in Northern California with their recently divorced mom. The younger brother, Sam, meets Edgar and Alan Frog who work at a local comic book store. They give him a comic about vampires as a warning about the local menace in town.

Meanwhile, the older brother, Michael, finds himself drawn to a woman named Star. She introduces him to her friends, who at first glance appear to be a troublemaking bike gang. They invite Michael to ride with them and they lead him to the ruins of an old beachside hotel, which serves as their hangout. Strange things begin to occur and it soon becomes apparent to the audience, if not Michael, that the bike gang is, in fact, a vampire coven.

My daughter and I both found the movie funnier and less violent than we expected. I remembered more bloodshed in the movie, but I may have been conflating the movie with others of the period. The young, self-proclaimed vampire hunters, Edgar and Alan Frog were definitely the show’s highlight, but all of the cast had great moments. I also had conflated the movie with a lot of Southern California-set beach movies of the time and had forgotten how much the movie’s setting reflected Santa Cruz, where it was filmed.

I’m glad I rediscovered The Lost Boys and gave it another chance. The movie’s blend of humor, subtle literary reference, and using vampires to cast a critical eye on a time and place are all things I like doing in my own writing. Even though the movie didn’t resonate with me much a the time, I wonder how much of its approach to storytelling managed to influence me. There’s no doubt the movie influenced works that came after it and I know many of those works did influence me.

You can check out my vampire fiction at and judge for yourself!

The Night Whispers

My mom was a soap opera fan. When I would come home from school, I’d usually find her parked in front of the television to watch her “stories.” I would occasionally watch with her for a time while waiting to claim the TV from her so I could watch afternoon cartoons on a local independent station before starting any homework I might have. While romance is a natural part of life and it’s likely to find its way into many stories regardless of genre, I suspect her love of soap operas and being exposed to them made me a little more open to including romance in my early writing, especially when I was most focused on hard science fiction.

One soap opera that has always intrigued me is Dark Shadows, which ran from 1967 to 1971. I don’t believe my mom watched Dark Shadows during its original run, but I’m not entirely sure, since I would have been rather young during its run. Still, my interest in vampires and supernatural stories has led me to seek out a few episodes and the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows. The show was centered around the Collins family of Collinsport, Maine, where a number of supernatural occurrences took place. One of the most memorable characters on the show was the vampire Barnabas Collins played by Jonathan Frid. After the show ended, Frid turned down several offers to reprise the role. The one exception was when Big Finish Productions asked him to play the part for a story called “The Night Whispers” in 2010, just two years before he passed away.

As stories based on a soap opera go, this is a fairly simple one. On a stormy night, some time after Barnabas has been freed of his vampire curse, he is sitting with his grounds keeper and servant, Willie Loomis, portrayed by John Karlen, who played the role in the series. A spirit from the past, played by horror legend Barbara Steele, insists on being heard. Steele plays the spirit of Celeste, a servant girl from the Caribbean Island of Martinique. Steele’s role is fairly short, since her spirit possesses Willie and begins to speak through him. As the story progresses we learn that in Barnabas’s mortal days, his visited Martinique with other wealthy, young men. One of those men forced themselves on the young servant woman and she died, but not before cursing the party. To avoid the curse, Barnabas takes terrible action.

Now, some two centuries after young Barnabas visited Martinique, Celeste is back to tell her story and make Barnabas pay for his role in what had been done to her. Through the telling, we get much of what I like about vampire stories. Barnabas reflects on the morality of past actions from the lens of a long and terrible history. The tale also looks at the way the rich have treated those who work for them. Is Willie just one in a long line of people who have given their loves to serve the Collins family, or have Barnabas’s attitudes to those he employs evolved over time?

I enjoyed Frid and Karlen performing a dramatic dialog. The story had a nice Gothic flavor and, as a casual fan of Dark Shadows, it took me back to that world for an enjoyable hour. If you’d like to give it a listen, this is a nice, affordable download from Big Finish at:

Another area where my mom’s love of soap operas has served me well is juggling the large cast of characters in Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, which I’m working on now. As in a soap opera, I’m following several different sets of characters in several different sets of locations. I’ve always enjoyed this kind of storytelling because I feel like no story happens in isolation. The actions of friends and enemies across town or across the country can have an impact on a story and I enjoy weaving the tapestry of complex stories through most of my worlds. You can explore my fiction at:

Interview with the Vampire on TV

When my wife and I made our foray to Tombstone, Arizona back in October, something unusual happened. We actually caught the debut of a new TV series. In this case, it was AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Interview with the Vampire. Overall, we were both captivated by the acting and storytelling in this new adaptation. Admittedly it’s been over thirty years since I’ve read the novel, but I clearly recognized the differences, the most apparent being the change in time period. The novel’s early scenes are set in the 1790s while the TV series opens in the 1910s. Also, the setting of the framing story changed from a sleazy hotel room in San Francisco to a luxury apartment in Dubai, although it’s noted a 1970’s interview did happen in San Francisco. Because we don’t subscribe to AMC, we didn’t catch any further episodes until its release through Apple in December.

Now that I’ve watched the entire first season, I see that the plot largely follows that of the book through roughly the mid-point. We follow Louis de Pointe du Lac as he balances family and work life until his brother commits suicide, throwing Louis into a crisis. At this point, the vampire Lestat, who has been hovering nearby through the early pages of the story swoops in and seduces Louis into life as a vampire. Louis’s crisis only worsens. The power of being a vampire is seductive, but the power exists to make him a predator on human life. Later, in the midst of tragedy, Louis stumbles on a moment of potential redemption. He finds a girl named Claudia on the verge of dying. He hopes to save Claudia and Lestat makes her into a vampire as well. At this point, we have the story of three vampires trying to survive both as vampires and as a family.

It’s interesting to compare and contrast my memories of the novel with the 1994 Neil Jordan film and the new television series. Obviously the series goes into much greater depth and even reminds me of elements of the novel I’d forgotten. It also expands on the novel and depicts scenes the novel didn’t include. As I say, the change in time period is an obvious difference, but I deliberately avoided referring to the time period in my description of the plot. In a way, the story’s backdrop is incidental to the core story, which is an exploration of relationships and what happens when one realizes one must prey on other humans to survive. It’s easy to dismiss that as just part of the vampire fantasy, but it’s also an apt metaphor for life in a capitalist society. The fantastic, Faustian bargain of the vampire is the real American dream, the notion of staying young and beautiful forever. Rice explores the flaws of that dreams and even explores the question of how young is too young.

I think it’s fair to question why one should adapt a story to different media. Why can’t a novel remain a novel? Obviously people like seeing favorite characters from books brought to life in media. Also, putting a story into new media takes it to a wider audience. Perhaps the best reason for changing formats from an artistic viewpoint is that it allows the people who adapt the work to explore what they found important about it. Although Anne Rice passed away a little over a year ago, she’s credited as an executive producer on the TV series. Anyone who has looked at how long it takes to develop, film, and release a movie or TV series, knows that such an enterprise can easily take several years, so there’s good reason to think she was heavily involved in the development of the script along with her son, Christopher, who is also credited as an executive producer. So, the series seems to give us another window into Rice’s viewpoint on her own work.

As mentioned, I’ve been in the throes of working on my third vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. You can get behind-the-scenes looks at my work and additional insights into the creative process by supporting my Patreon at Supporting my Patreon also supports this blog and keeps it ad-free.