I had a great time last week chatting with Jeff Burk about the 1990 classic FRANKENHOOKER. Like KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE and POULTRYGEIST, it’s a great example of a film with a ridiculous concept that its creator fully embraces and takes as far as possible. It’s also one of my absolute favorite movies.
Sometimes a tarot reading is extremely straightforward. The dude on the leftmost card even looks like me. Also, the number on the third card is the sum of the numbers on the first two. Fascinating stuff!
I asked the cards, “WTF am I doing?”
So, how did it answer? This is an easy one. Much of this year has seen me paring down my social circle, cutting away frivolous interests, and abandoning previously held ideals that harmed me. Those three tipped over cups? Those are people I’ve chosen to dissociate from, interests outside my family and creativity, and ideals I’ve abandoned such as vegetarianism. The two cups behind me, still standing, may be a smaller quantity than the cups left behind, but they’re more important to me, which is why I’m guarding them carefully. What’s in ’em? Family (which includes close and reliable friends as well as blood) and my creative endeavors.
The second card, with its three celebrating figures raising their cups and dancing circles, shows the joy that comes from focusing more on quality of relationships, interests and ideals than quantity of relationships, interests and ideals. That is, indeed, worth celebrating.
The third card, Strength, is one of the Arcana. I love the Strength card. Sure, there’s a lion in it, but it’s domesticated, cared for by the person in the image. Its message in the context of this reading is twofold. First, this paring down of my social circle, cutting away of frivolous interests, and abandoning of harmful ideals will strengthen me. But there is also a sadness that comes with separating wheat from chaff, and kindness and compassion toward myself as I mourn is also a showing of strength.
With good friends dying, I don’t have time for people who drop off the face of the earth no matter how much I like them. As there’s more demand for my work, I need to be smarter about how I spend my time creatively. When my body tells me what it needs, I must listen.
Last week, I wrote about the discussion Jeff and I had about BLOODSUCKING FREAKS for our show MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN PODCAST. Now, you can hear the full two-and-a-half hour conversation wherever you get your podcasts, or you can download the episode right here.
Made in 1976 by people mostly associated with the porn industry, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS is quite possibly the most notorious Troma movie ever, but is it any good? Listen as Jeff and Lucas deep-dive, dissect, and analyze this cult classic.
I am so excited to announce that I’ve joined the roster of amazing authors at Raven Tale Publishing for a whopping SIX BOOKS of Internet/tech horror. Think BLACK MIRROR meets AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
I won’t say much else for now, but if you’re thinking this sounds like I’ll be exploring themes introduced in GODS OF THE DARK WEB, you would be correct. However, these are not SEQUELS to that book. It’s important to make that distinction.
More news to come as it develops, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m beyond thrilled to be part of this exciting new imprint. Keep your eyes out for more news.
Last night, Jeff Burk and I recorded what I believe is our best episode of MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN PODCAST thus far. We discuss the highly controversial BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, and it turned into a discussion of extreme art as self-examination and a history lesson on grindhouse cinema. Be on the lookout for the episode on Monday.
Not gonna lie, gang. It’s been a hard week. Getting to talk about extreme or transgressive art in a nuanced way with intelligent people is the perfect salve.
I spent last weekend virtually attending Killer Con 2021. For the uninitiated, Killer Con is a convention for professionals in the splatterpunk and extreme horror subgenres. The con ended on Sunday afternoon. It’s Wednesday morning now, and I’m still wiped. It was a great time, though. Killer Con has an energy to it rivaled by no other con I’ve attended. I may be a little biased. I’m on the committee.
My personal highlights were sitting on a panel on imposter syndrome with Wrath James White, Jeff Strand, Kenzie Jennings, and Lucy Taylor; cohosting Horror Trivia with Adam Cesare; getting beat-up on during the collaborations panel; watching the Splatterpunk Awards and seeing how excited and humble all the winners were; the Gross-Out Contest won by Nigel Parkin, and the Sunday morning poetry hour with John Baltisberger, Susan Snyder, and Wrath James White. All three of the poets knocked it out of the park.
It was my first sober convention ever. Every convention I’ve attended, I’ve been under the influence of something. Usually just beer or liquor, occasionally weed. I think I brought the same (if not more) energy to this weekend sober than I would have intoxicated. It was a great experiment and one that will likely continue.
I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. There’s a school of thought where not admitting this is dooming me to failure, but in case you haven’t been paying attention, AA is not science. It was literally founded by a handful of church dudes almost a hundred years ago. There’s no denying it’s helped some people, but it’s just not my bag. I’m not an alcoholic. I just have bad coping mechanisms, but I’m working on that.
I’ve spent a good portion of the year reevaluating my place as a creator and as a human being. The White Trash Occultism sessions with Kelby Losack and J David Osborne were part of that. Writing American Garbage helped immensely too. It’s my most raw and personal work yet, and I think it helped clean some residual trauma goo from my brain. I’m also taking better care of myself. Eating meat again, exercising every day, and the above-mentioned sobriety are only small parts of this plan. I won’t bore you with additional details, but long story short: more intensive therapy and better meds.
Life is stressful enough without baggage from the past and bad brain chemistry.
On Monday, a friend passed away after a ten-month battle with cancer. He was a smart and funny dude. I don’t think I ever had a bad time whenever we were hanging out. While I’m sure I would’ve come into this writing life eventually, his encouragement in 2010-2011 really helped set me on my current path. That was when I started taking all this stuff a lot more seriously. He had a lot of potential as a writer in his own right. I hate that we’ll never get any stories from him. More than that, I hate that his kids (5 and 2) will grow up without a father. Life can be a real motherfucker sometimes.
Lucas Mangum, myself, and Encyclopocalyse Publications are proud to present THE FINAL GATE, a fiction tribute and loving homage to the films of Lucio Fulci! Also Includes a wonderful introduction by Ryan Harding. Coming August 3rd 2021 in paperback, e-book, and audiobook. Pre-order the e-book here. Paperback will be available on the day of release. BACK […]
All authors have books they want to write. I want to write more Gods of the Dark Web books. I’d also like to try my hand at some dystopian science fiction. Maybe even some sword and sorcery. The universe behind the Gods books has an infinite amount of untapped potential. Dystopian science fiction is a genre I grew up loving. Sword and sorcery is just fucking cool.
But beyond the stories we want to tell, there are other stories. Stories that keep us up at night. Stories that fuck with our mood. Stories that won’t fall silent until they’ve been committed to the page. Not stories we want to write but stories we need to write.
American Garbage is such a story.
There’s a lot you don’t know about me. I used to be in a band. It’s not something I really advertise because it was a long time ago, a different me. We are not who we were yesterday, let alone 15-20 years ago. Still, we are haunted by the ghosts of who we were, of who we loved, of who hurt us, of who we aspired to be.
You can grow and change, build a life far different than the one you envisioned, especially if you didn’t expect to live past thirty. Even so, your ghosts never really leave.
These past few months, while hamstrung by genre and talking things through friends J. David Osborne and Kelby Losack, I planned a book untethered by conventions and tropes, one populated simply by people as real to me as those who shaped me.
That book is American Garbage. And when I say “past few months,” I mean it. This is the most organic work of mine you’re apt to read. I wrote it over the course of a month (mostly on a Neo by Alphasmart), edited it with Kelby Losack (who also made that incredible cover), and placed an order through Bookmobile.
Yes, Bookmobile. No Amazon this time around. We bitch and bitch about their business practices and monopoly on the industry, but we still buy and publish through them without batting an eye. Not this time.
Why not Audible? See above. We can’t take the power back with lip service.
What’s it about? It’s about a twenty-something trying to hold his band of burnout musicians together, while battling his own mental illness and navigating his tumultuous intimate relationships during the early years of the War on Terror.
Is it a memoir? Not quite. Call it autofiction.
Is it horror? Let’s call it horror adjacent. Picture Stand By Me in the post-9/11 landscape and you’ll be somewhat close to the mark.
Will this be my publishing model going forward? That’s harder to answer. There are other people in the community I’d like to work with, as well as some preexisting projects and agreements that won’t work with this model. Also, this is an experiment.
Yesterday, I found a pic of my oldest and me. I won’t post it here because I want to respect my kid’s privacy, but it got me thinking about shit.
It was taken exactly three years ago, less than a month before I checked myself into the psych ward. You can see how worn down I am in it. The suicide prevention shirt, the tired smile, the unkempt hair, and the darkness around my eyes (I swear I somehow have less crow’s feet now). The kid, of course, looks angelic.
It’s hard to believe how much time has passed. Sometimes, it’s like I just got out and still have a plan for recovery. Other times, it feels more like a dream.
I honestly don’t have a lot to say about it other than life has stages. I’ve spent the better part of this year re-evaluating. I think a lot of us have.
You may have seen on Twitter that Gods of the Dark Web 2 needs some more time to cook. It won’t be released until later this year. Don’t worry, though. I have other things on the horizon that I can’t announce just yet, so watch this space in the coming days.
So, why did I decide to shelve it? Simple, really. As it stands, it’s a cool collection of scenes, but not a whole lot of connective tissue. I’m not comfortable releasing it as such. Imagine a map with great descriptions of landmarks but no roads. That’s kind of how I see Gods 2 in its current incarnation. I’m not abandoning it by any means, but it will just come out a little later than initially expected.
In the meantime, my pals J. David Osborne and Kelby Losack both have new books out. David’s Tomahawk continues his excellent Black Gum cycle. Kelby’s Hurricane Season perfectly captures the surrealism of surviving a natural disaster. Far more human than your favorite Roland Emmerich movie. My friend and collaborator Eve Harms also has a badass, trans body horror novella up for preorder.
You can also check out my new podcast, which is gaining some nice momentum over on Anchor and Spotify. It’s a Troma retrospective cohosted by Jeff Burk and me. Don’t know what Troma is? Our show is a good place to learn some things. It’s also a good time if you’re a fan looking for a nostalgia bump.
Anyway. I know I’ve been silent here. It’s been all about family and fiction these days. I’ll try to be more regular, though, because blogging can be therapeutic. We’ll see.
Some movies I’ve watched recently and enjoyed: Mother’s Day (1980, rewatch), Mortal Kombat (2021), and House by the Cemetery (1981, rewatch).
I’m reading a lot of shit that brought me to this dance, namely King and Koontz, but also a brand new essay collection by friend Robert Dean. It doesn’t have a publisher yet, but I have no doubt it will soon. It’s very good.
I’m beyond thrilled to announce the launch of a new show. In addition to White Trash Occultism (which you can view on my YouTube channel), I am kicking off Make Your Own Damn Podcast, a show where we examine the filmography of the infamous provocateurs at Troma Entertainment with author and former editor at Deadite Press Jeff Burk as my cohost.
I’ve been a Troma fan for over two decades now. Their no-holds-barred approach to content, along with their leftist underpinnings, has been a huge influence on my work from day one. Their movies irreverent, bizarre, sexual, and gory. They have no scruples when it comes to elements that may offend. Their movies aren’t even always good, but they’re almost always interesting.
Like me, Jeff is also a longtime fan. He’s also met Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder of Troma Entertainment, on numerous occasions and even had a book he published optioned by Troma at one time.
We have two episodes in the can already. They will be up very soon, so stay tuned.
It’s occurred to me recently that I could probably write the Gods of the Dark Web books forever. If you’re a Richard Laymon fan or you remember my blog about his memoir A Writer’s Tale, you may know that one of his biggest pieces of advice was to find ideas that are “infinitely expandable.” This was a strategy he employed to turn his short, sharp thrillers into sprawling 600-page doorstoppers. While I don’t suspect you’ll be getting any doorstoppers from me, I do think the idea of infinitely expandable stories can be helpful even for a minimalist like me.
Written like a creepypasta for adults, the first Gods book had an intimate, small-scale narrative, but it also had hints of a larger world around it. With the writing of the second book, I wanted to show some of those bigger implications on the page. It led to what I’ll call James Herbert chapters. Herbert was a British author mainly famous for his nature-run-amok Rats books. He had a great knack for introducing characters and showing what’s interesting about them before killing them in spectacular fashion. This approach initially made me think I had a story collection instead of a new novella on my hands. Only when I figured out Dana’s story did the main narrative emerge.
At the same time I was writing book 2, I read a ton of comic books, specifically tie-in stuff. Think Aliens, Dungeons and Dragons, Robotech, Magic: The Gathering, stuff like that. While these franchises have established rules, they also have a ton of wiggle room. It’s not mandatory to reuse characters or continue storylines from previous books (though the occasional Easter egg doesn’t hurt). It’s more about exploring the established world, less about the sweeping arcs typically found in series like The Hunger Games or Outlander.
These observations over the last year have helped me develop what I call a FRANCHISE MINDSET.
So, what is the FRANCHISE MINDSET, how can you use it to build your writing career and how is it different than writing a proper series?
A FRANCHISE MINDSET is a larger way of viewing your content, seeing all your stories as interconnected and how they interconnect, recognizing reoccurring themes, and remembering that because all these stories originated within you the connections are not as tenuous as you may initially suspect. A strategy that helped me was opening the corkboard feature on Scrivener and putting each of my stories (written, published, unwritten, unfinished, etc) onto a notecard. I don’t use Scrivener for writing, but I plot with it often. It helps me see big picture stuff. Having all this information laid out in front of me did something to me. I was able to see how each of my pieces could connect to each other. Admittedly, not all of them worked. Some of them were even pieces I would rather forget. Gods of the Dark Web jumped out at me as having its fingers embedded in a lot of other ideas I had. From there, it was into the Mangum-verse.
How a FRANCHISE MINDSET can build your writing career is obvious. It gives your readers reasons to return. It makes your work recognizable. Because you’re not married to any plot threads from previous books, however, people can dip into your world at any given time. People like what’s familiar. If you’re a new-ish writer like me, though, you’re not a household name, so you have to build that familiarity. Finding a world or universe in which you can set stories linked only by themes and rules can be an effective way to get a good amount of somewhat related content out there, especially if you’re like me and you have reservations about writing the same type of book over and over.
FRANCHISE MINDSET is different from writing a proper series because it doesn’t obligate the author to continue stories that already wrapped up in earlier books or stick with the same characters. Sure, C or D story threads can move to the forefront (as is the case with Dana who’s a minor character in Gods of the Dark Web but a major player in Darkness Digital). Characters and settings can even pop back up as a way to reward your fans. This is something Stephen King and Brian Keene do often and well. But you don’t have to finagle them into the new book’s story just because they starred in the previous book. It’s a lot looser and a lot more interesting.