All the Books I Read in 2018

I meant to post this a LOT earlier, but the first ten days of the new year have been packed with work and family drama. Last year I read 37 books, most of it in the latter half of the year. A lot of these titles seem like they’re from an AP English reading list, and that’s intentional. I passed up a lot of these titles in my late teens/early twenties, because I don’t like being told what to do. It was cool getting around to these books after all these years. Plus, there’s some Richard Laymon, Carlton Mellick III, and books from some friends. Check it out below.

  1. This is a Horror Book by Charles Austin Muir
  2. Elevation by Stephen King
  3. I Love You When I’m Drunk by Empar Moliner
  4. Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz
  5. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  6. A Minor Storm by J David Osborne
  7. Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry
  8. Areopagitca by John Milton
  9. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  10. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  11. The Short Stories, Vol. 1 by Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  13. A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir
  14. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  15. Stacking Doll by Carlton Mellick III
  16. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  17. The Aeneid by Virgil
  18. Cold Blooded by Lisa Jackson
  19. Louisiana Stories by Kate Chopin
  20. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix
  21. Toy Cemetery by William W. Johnstone
  22. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  23. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
  24. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  25. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  26. Nightmares in Ecstasy by Brendan Vidito
  27. Spider Bunny by Carlton Mellick III
  28. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  29. Singularity by William Sleator
  30. The Metamorphoses by Ovid
  31. The Odyssey by Homer (Emily Wilson translation)
  32. Ruined by Tracy Wolff
  33. Forever… by Judy Blume
  34. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  35. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
  36. Dark Mountain by Richard Laymon
  37. Island by Richard Laymon

It’s worth noting that this list doesn’t include books I didn’t finish, or the ridiculous amount of poetry and short stories I also read. So, yeah, I read a lot last year, and a lot of it, I liked. If I do anything different this year, I will try to read more current titles. We’ll see though.

Mo(u)rning Thoughts

I used to think that making myself not feel anything made me a badass. The truth, however, is that the opposite is true. Feeling feelings takes tremendous courage.

My brother lost his dog last night. Though I now live in a different state, I’ve always had a soft spot for that dog. Whenever he saw me, he’d get so excited, his whole body (not just his tail) would wag. He had hound in him, so his barks always had a mournful, howling quality to them. My brother found him almost eleven years ago as a tiny, starving puppy and had to bottle feed him in the beginning. This feels like the end of something big.

RIP Huey, 2008-2019. I hope you enjoyed your life.

Dead Fish and Bad Dreams

One of our fish died last night. Found him in the filter. He was a black guppy that shone blue in some places when he was happy. His life didn’t live long, and he died because we’re new to the whole fish ownership thing. His name was Midnight.

Not the best way to start the morning, I’ve got to admit.

More nightmares last night. In the first, I was working on a building. My coworkers and I had too much material, but were forced to use all of it. Getting around was very hard. I ended up jumping into a nearby bay and swimming away. Massive construction cranes loomed on either side of me as I swam. When I woke up, I could still see their impressions, there in the darkness of my room until I fell asleep and back into another dream.

In the second nightmare, our fish tank kept getting larger and we kept adding more and more creatures. A giant hermit crab killed our snail. Alligators tried eating our fish. Water was everywhere. Our house became an aquatic habitat, dangerous to navigate.

In the third, I took a train somewhere I didn’t want to be and couldn’t find a train back. When I finally did, I fell asleep on the train and wound up back in the place I didn’t want to be. I woke up screaming.

This is my new normal. Good morning.

Wintry Lament

Here in Austin, it’s 73 degrees. I ran the air conditioner in my car while driving to a friend’s with my son. Tonight, Mom texted me to say she was driving home in an ice storm. I hope she made it back safely. I remember those Pennsylvania winters well, and not at all fondly.

I woke up with itchy eyes set between pressure that only comes from exhaustion. I had a somewhat decent night sleep, save for a dream in which I was boxing George Foreman on a bus (don’t ask). I woke up afterwards, at 1:30 A.M., with a pressing need to piss. But otherwise, no complaints. Still this pressure. This itch. Maybe it has something to do with the beer I had last night. I only had one, but it was of a higher proof and very heavy. Maybe it’s the winter blues belting out their ugly melody despite the warm weather. Maybe it’s the itch and the pressure I feel to get as much writing done as possible before the semester (my last semester) begins. Maybe I just want to be financially secure again.

My son is a joy that constantly breaks my heart. After he fell asleep leaving the park, I decided to take him home instead of to a friend’s. When he woke up and realized our friends were nowhere nearby, he got very upset. So upset that he wanted me to pour his water in his mouth for him, as if he were a baby taking a bottle. When we put him down tonight, he wanted to read a bunch of old books we haven’t read in a while. It was weird and sad. I love him so much and want him to be happy.

My friend gave me a copy of The Hero With a Thousand Faces the other night. I’ve read so much about the book, and indeed, I’ve had many crash courses on the hero’s journey in its many variations, but I’ve never gone right to the source. A lot of times, going right to the source is the best way to really learn. Regurgitated information is never exactly the same as the information ingested. I’ve found this to be true everywhere. In classic works of literature. Religious texts. Bills written into law. People tend to take the pieces that speak to their biases the most, and then build their arguments around that limited information. It’s fucking bonkers when you think about it. Like, is anything really fully true?

Anyway, I digress. It will be interesting to get Joseph Campbell’s argument formed from his biases and based on the limited information he provides. 🙂

I’ve been on a hero’s journey of sorts myself. Since enduring a genuine crisis at the beginning of the summer, after dwelling in the underworld for four years, it’s been all progress, save for difficult dreams, difficult news, itches and pressures. I’m happy, despite having a day in which getting out of bed seemed a horrible chore (been a while since I’ve had one of those).

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve got something to keep you warm and bright this winter. Even if you live somewhere the temperature doesn’t drop, keep the fire burning. The blues still tend to sing through the leafless branches of sleeping trees.

I wonder who’s singing them.

Sweet dreams.

The Social Cesspool

I’m sporadically posting on Twitter again. I almost returned to Facebook tonight. It’s hard not to see both moves as signs of defeat. I’m giving thoughts on how I can use both platforms in the way I used to enjoy using them. For example, I used to genuinely like interacting with people on a limited basis regarding books and movies that I enjoyed, or books and movies I could discover based on the recommendations of others.

As I began to take my writing career more seriously, using these websites became more and more of a task (with little reward, I might add). On top of that, I found myself getting more and more negative the more I continued to use these platforms (Facebook, in particular). When scrolling either Facebook or Twitter, I found myself feeling one of two things: I was either bored or angry. Neither of these emotions are things I care to feel. While I do take a small amount of pride in my crankiness (hence the name of this website), I don’t consider myself an out and out angry person.

But now, as more of my books are starting to see release, I’m feeling incredibly anxious. How will they do now that I’ve, for all intents and purposes, left the conversation? The publisher of the new edition of my collection made mention that I’m not on Facebook, and it made me feel, I dunno, weird. I’m sure he didn’t mean it in a passive-aggressive way, but still. It made me wonder: am I missing out on potential sales?

The truth? I don’t know. I mean, maybe?

If I return, which I might (despite the statement I made in my initial blog post), I need to do things differently. I’ve considered hiring someone, but frankly, I can’t afford it. I’m thinking the best thing to do is to set an alert on my phone to check both platforms once a week and post something, but then ignore the sites the remaining six days. It seems to make the most sense for me, but I don’t know. We’ll see.

Does anyone have thoughts on this? If so, I’d love to hear them.

Waking Up Screaming

I dreamed I was back on the cruise ship, and I couldn’t find our son. The next thing I knew, I was at a funeral that turned out to be his. I woke up screaming. My wife asked me if I was okay, and I told her I just had a nightmare, but nonetheless, I went upstairs to make sure our son was breathing. My chest was so tight, I thought I might have a heart attack.

I wake up screaming a lot. Antidepressants can cause nightmares.

Today, I woke up and learned a family member was given news no one ever wants to hear. Life can be a nightmare.

Always take time to let the people you love know that you love them.

Hug your pets.

Ask yourself, before you make that argument on social media, if what you’re about to say is really helpful. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

I’m often irritated by the methods employed by people referred to as Social Justice Warriors, but to pretend their grievances aren’t warranted is the pinnacle of ignorance.

I go to bed peacefully. My days are filled with educating myself, writing the stories I want to tell, and spending time with my family. Yet, I wake up screaming. I used to go to bed screaming and was blessed with pleasant dreams. I used to think life was a balancing act between light and darkness, but balance implies some sort of order. Tension between the two energies is a more accurate depiction. Instead of a yin yang, we are shifting scales on the bodies of two wrestling serpents.

We are wisdom and we are venom.

Good morning.

Black Horizon

I spent the week of Christmas Eve on a cruise ship. Between the delicious drinks and fantastic food and spending time with family, I found much to enjoy, but staring across the black water and trying to find where it ended and the black sky began brought me the most peace. Sometimes serenity comes with the focus of knowing where you’re headed. Other times it comes from the mystery of an unclear horizon, of blackness as far as you can see. The Abyss may stare back, and sometimes that’s scary, but other times it’s gaze is hypnotic and calming.

Despite making a tremendous amount of progress during the last half of 2018, I can’t say I know any better who I am or what tomorrow holds. However, I know what feels good, and what I’d like to keep doing as long as I’m able. I want to be a good father. I want to be a good husband. I want to keep writing. How I keep the lights on while doing those things is another matter entirely, though I’ve considered going into some form of teaching. I’ve learned a lot about literature and writing (both in terms of craft and the field itself) over the last ten years. I think people can benefit from that wisdom, and I think I’d find much joy in giving back.

But we’ll see. The horizon is black.

My new novel (or novella, depending on your definition) is available for preorder. At the risk of being found guilty of hyperbole, it is the craziest thing I’ve published to date. It begins in a familiar way, the sort of small town horror first popularized by Stephen King with ‘Salem’s Lot and continued by the likes of Brian Keene, Bentley Little, and Blake Crouch. However, in the second half, the story takes a dramatic turn. I guess anyone who’s followed my personal journey over the last four years or so could point to the middle of the book and say, “a-ha, this is the moment where Lucas Mangum lost his mind,” and they wouldn’t be wrong. The second half becomes more hallucinatory, drawing inspiration from William S. Burroughs and the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky. If you’re not reading close enough, the narrative may even appear to unravel, but it’s still there, even if it’s buried underneath psychedelic theological metaphor. I’m thankful Sinister Grin Press saw fit to release it, and if this crazy little book sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can read an excerpt or preorder it right here.

I caught the movie Bird Box last night on Netflix. Sandra Bullock gave a great performance. The film is full of tension and great scares, and it’s truly heart-wrenching at times. It’s basically The Road but with Lovecraft’s cosmic monsters.

Right now, I’m reading Scummer by John Wayne Comunale. If you’re into punk films like Repo Man or Combat Shock, you’ll really appreciate this book from an aesthetic point of view. Plus, Comunale’s really come into his own as a writer, and he displays impressive chops here, transcending his bizarro roots and finding horror in unexpected places.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Remember, just because the horizon is black, or you find the Abyss staring back at you, it’s possible to keep moving forward and fighting the enemy within.