Richard Laymon Lessons

A friend was kind enough to gift me with the ever-elusive A WRITER’S TALE, Richard Laymon’s nonfiction book about the writing life. I’ve been trying to make a go at this writing stuff for 10 years now, but I’m a big proponent of continuing to learn, and boy, oh boy, A WRITER’S TALE has been incredibly eye-opening. Lots has changed in the biz since the writing of this book, but you can learn a lot from history, and while I’m a big fan of innovation and moving forward, sometimes things really were better back then. Even when they weren’t, I think they still present teachable moments. So, what are the big takeaways from this long out-of-print holy grail for Richard Laymon fans?

First, write what you love to write. Be willing to learn and always be honing your craft, but ultimately, write the sort of stuff you want to read. Seriously. Hack work shows. Love Laymon or hate him, he always wrote his truth. That uncompromising approach earned him a huge following and eventually a successful career.

Second, hold onto your day job as long as you can. I won’t go into the chapter where he explained the financials of publishing, but I will point out that, according to his notes, ten/fifteen books into his career, he still had to hold down a regular job to make ends meet. Most writers do. Don’t let the success stories of King, Koontz, and Patterson color your judgment. First, they aren’t the overnight successes they appear to be. No one is. Even Patterson wasn’t able to write full-time until 1996. By then, he’d been at it twenty years. Second, their huge successes are exceptions. They achieved financial reward and levels of fame most writers don’t. Seriously, hold onto day job until it makes financial sense to quit.

Third, novels. Fucking novels. Yeah, I know. Those short stories may be fun little dopamine boosts because it’s nice to finish things quickly. They can also be a way to make fast money (depending on the market). Novellas are cool, too. They’re lean and mean and if you’re okay with haunting the small press, you can get quite a few books in print by writing them. But we’re in a bubble, gang. While we may enjoy reading and writing novellas and short stories, it’s simply not feasible to build a career on them. Novels simply sell better. This is why you (I) should …

Try new things. If you’re familiar with Richard Laymon’s body of work, you know that his first few books were short novels. They were fast-paced chillers with characters that were not one-dimensional but certainly less fleshed-out than in his later works. After he got a few of those under his belt and gained some confidence (and after some career advice from his buddy Dean Koontz), he tried his hand at writing something more immersive. The result was a book known as DARK MOUNTAIN (which I’m re-reading now). The horror elements are great, sure, but my favorite parts are his lush descriptions of nature (it’s a book about camping) and moments where the characters are just hanging out together being characters. If you’re like me and you’ve mostly only written stuff that’s 20-40,000 words, it may be worth trying to let your characters breathe and find concepts Laymon describes as “infinitely expandable.”

Lastly, learn to love the word “rump.”


My newest book, EXTINCTION PEAK, is currently available. It has no rumps, but it’s got plenty of dinosaurs and badass women. You can order it here.

31 Days of Horror, Day 1 – CV Hunt’s Horrorama

This October, I’m kicking things off right with a brand new book release. My novelette “Primitive,” as well as works by A.S. Coomer and Matt Harvey (of Exhumed), is featured in the newest Grindhouse Press release.

It’s called Horrorama and is meant to emulate a late-night horror movie marathon.

Brilliant cover design by the brilliant Rachel Autumn Deering.

“Primitive” is a werewolf story about four friends who encounter a feral woman whose looking for her werewolf son while they’re camping in the Washington State wilderness. For inspiration, I watched the films RITUALS (1977) and WAKE IN FRIGHT (1973), and did a close read of FRANKENSTEIN. I’d be curious how many of you see the parallels.

You can grab the book directly from Grindhouse Press or wherever books are sold.

While you’re at it, why don’t you listen to my Halloween playlist to get in the spirit of the season.

Bright Spots

Today, we’re going to talk about the positives.

Yeah, I know. What? How can the guy who wrote Saint Sadist write about positivity?

The answer’s obvious, of course. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.

But onto the meat of this thing. 2020 has been a terrible year, probably the first year I wouldn’t tell a doomsday-preaching evangelical they were crazy if they said we were living in the End Times. While I don’t think the apocalypse will play out quite the way they suspect, I’d say for all their years of playing this fear-mongering guessing game, they may have at least landed somewhere in the ballpark of reality.

I recently changed the name of this blog to Coping Mechanisms for the Apocalypse. Those five particular words have been in my head a lot over the last two years or so. It’s likely no accident they rose from the swamps of my subconscious around the same time I spent a long weekend in a psych ward.

There are two apocalypses. One is global and the other (and perhaps more important one) takes place inside of you. Why do most of my seemingly real-world horror stories often devolve into psychodrama and symbolism? I believe real world problems aren’t actually solved in the real world. They’re solved in our dreams, our subconscious–collective and otherwise.

The world’s on fire and everything hurts, so let’s cope together.

In the world of dark fiction, we’ve so far seen stunning debuts from Samantha Kolesnik and Jo Quenell. We got not one but TWO new releases from Chandler Morrison. We got Murder House by C.V. Hunt, a book I think will go down as one of her best. We also got another winning collection by Charles Austin Muir and new nonfiction by Brian Keene. Not bad at all, eh?

We can still stream movies and shows. Speaking of which, I recently saw a Thai film called The Pool. It’s GRUELING in the best way possible and cinematic storytelling at its best.

Lockdown sucks, but I’ve been cooped up with people I love more than anything. My kid’s at an age where he’s infinitely curious and can still hold down a conversation. My wife is the hardest working person I know and remains a beacon of light despite having her own struggles. Today is our son’s birthday and though I’m working the day job, I’m bound to get some quality time in during the evening.

I bring up The Pool because it’s probably the most apt metaphor for life in 2020 I’ve seen so far. It has lots of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire-moments, heart-wrenching deaths, impossible odds, and luck both good and bad. Basically, the main character is trapped in a deep, empty pool with a hungry, pregnant crocodile. Anything else I say will spoil it.

I feel like we’re the film’s protagonist, Day. His circumstances constantly go from bad to worse. The exhaustion and pain on his face is our exhaustion and pain.

At least we’ve got some good reading material though, huh?


Signed copies of MANIA are still available here.

My Patreon now features weekly short fiction every Thursday. Posts are open to the public. Pledging is optional. Right now, all stories take place in the Gods of the Dark Web universe, but that may change.

The first episode of the Dark Corners Podcast, co-hosted by me, is now up. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts, or you can watch the video versions on YouTube or IGTV.

Born Fighting

By now, I’m sure all of you have read my most recent blog post. Some of you have seen fit to cut me out of your life as a result, which is sad, but also hardly surprising. Authenticity is rarely celebrated or even tolerated by those who wish to preserve their own brand.

And that’s fine.

I was born fighting. At six weeks overdue, I gave my mother a less than pleasant labor experience, even by labor experience standards. Multiple times throughout that long night we both almost died. The first things I felt in this life were pain and terror.

But I also learned how to fight for my life. I learned that I could.

In the wake of that blog post, I had good people come out of the woodwork to show their support. People like that can make the apocalypse a little more bearable.

In the heat of battle, you lose friends, but you also find out who your true friends are, who has your back and who will fight alongside you.

To those who have stood by me: you are seen, you are heard, and you are loved.

Because of you, I am okay.


Signed copies of MANIA are still available here.

My Patreon now features weekly short fiction every Thursday. Posts are open to the public. Pledging is optional. Right now, all stories take place in the Gods of the Dark Web universe, but that may change.

The first episode of the Dark Corners Podcast, co-hosted by me, is now up. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts, or you can watch the video versions on YouTube or IGTV.

 

The End?

***EDIT: While I still stand by many of the sentiments in the following blog, I am not going away.***

It has been a very trying couple of weeks. Scratch that. It has been a very trying four months. The last couple of weeks, however, completely broke me.

First, I faced some drama over the cover of Saint Sadist. I won’t recap it here because I’m exhausted. Also, we managed to resolve it, even if I hate that it happened at all.

That bit of drama PALES in comparison to what else has transpired though. Long story short (and I will keep it short because it’s already been reported on extensively), the indie horror scene–like the movie industry, like the wrestling business, and like the music world–has an abusive men problem. The two prime examples are a prominent male author sending inappropriate messages to several females in our industry, then subsequently harassing one of these women for speaking out, and a renowned male bookseller assaulting his girlfriend and attempting to rape his own daughter.

To say that I now think of this so-called community as a hostile work environment is a gross understatement.

Couple this with rising COVID19 numbers in my state, racial tensions that could be eased today if our government only cared to do something about violent police, a series of transphobic comments by arguably the most powerful cis-woman in the world, rampant cancel-culture (yes, some deserve to be called out, but not every campaign is noble), our president’s constant use of the U.S. Constitution as toilet paper, my own social isolation, and the impossibility of work/life balance when my kid is home during the workday, I’m fucking exhausted.

Some things to know about me: I will never stop writing. Writing nurtures me. It cleanses and soothes me. It helps me and I used to think it helped others. Also, I am a person of my word. All preexisting obligations to publishers, even gentleman’s agreements in which I have yet to sign a contract, will be fulfilled. These include: the release of my dinosaur apocalypse novel Extinction Peak through Section 31 Productions, turning in a story for a top secret literary smut anthology, letting Grindhouse Press publish my story “Primitive” in an anthology this October, the release of a top-secret omnibus, and the eventual publication of my collaboration with Ryan Harding.

Once all these obligations have been met, I’m out. I’ve had it with the scene’s hostile cliquishness, abuse and harassment, and blatant favoritism toward people who later turn out to be abusers.

I will continue to post regular content to my Patreon. Posts will be accessible to the public, all pledges optional. I have a job. I don’t need the money, but I certainly won’t reject it either.

Also, I will continue to occasionally blog here. It can be very therapeutic and if I wasn’t always on Facebook and Twitter, I’d do it more often. Guess what accounts I’ll be staying away from for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, Sean Duregger will continue to produce excellent audiobook versions of my work and I will co-host the brand new Dark Corners Podcast with Rita Goodall.

That’s all I really have to say today. My tribe knows who they are. I would follow any one of them to the ends of the earth and I know they would do the same for me. If you are part of my tribe, thank you. You can follow my Patreon (again, pledging is optional), follow me here, support Sean’s audio productions of my work, and subscribe to the Dark Corners Podcast (all social media for the show is handled by Rita).

This is Lucas Mangum, signing off.

Getting Over

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If you know me personally, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a huge wrestling fan. I don’t get to watch it as much as I’d like these days, but I still follow AEW, NWA, and WWE pretty closely. Mostly, I listen to podcasts and watch highlights. I admire the art so much as a form of storytelling. The character work, when done right, can be even more effective and believable than what we see in movies, on TV, or inside a book.

In the business, there’s a term, “getting over,” which refers to how much a wrestler connects to the audience. Like anything, it’s not an exact science figuring out how to connect. It usually comes from practice, trial and error, and an uncanny ability for listening.

This brings me to something that happened four days ago. I saw wrestler Scott Steiner (aka Big Poppa Pump, aka Big Bad Booty Daddy, aka the genetic freak, aka White Thunder, aka the mathematician) was trending on Twitter. He was a favorite of mine when growing up. He was the type of guy you loved to hate: arrogant, unhinged, and VERY talented in the ring.

He’s also the author of the greatest wrestling promo ever spoken, the literary merit of which is indisputable.

Listen to that. Seriously. Art.

He also owns a Shoney’s. For the uninitiated, Shoney’s is a buffet-style restaurant located mostly in the Southern United States. Its food is about what you’d expect, but due to Steiner’s celebrity status and the unveiling of that glorious billboard, he was trending on Twitter.

Mostly, I tweet about books. Sometimes, I use humor. Sometimes, I shill for myself. Usually, I couldn’t care less about what’s trending, but when I saw a favorite wrestler from the glory days of the sport on the sidebar, I had to take a look. Without a second thought, tweeted that photo along with the following text: “The billboard for the Shoney’s owned by wrestler and esteemed mathematician Scott Steiner. I know where I’m going after this pandemic ends.”

That was it. No hashtags. Didn’t ‘@’ anyone.

And yet…

As of this writing, it has been ‘liked’ 591 times, retweeted 139 times, and it’s inspired 30 replies.

I never get that kind of traction.

Will it translate into book sales? Doubtful. Is it a funny observation? Absolutely.

So, yeah, I ‘got over’ on Twitter this week. Pretty dope.

Like what I do here? Buy me a beer.

I've been blogging a lot more regularly and I intend to continue to do so. If you enjoy my posts or enjoy my books, throw me a buck. You'll get a shoutout in my next post and help me buy frivolous things like beer and Halloween decorations.

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No, Antonio, the Novel is Not Dead

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Something called an Antonio García Martínez unleashed a tweetstorm which basically boiled down to three things:

  1. The novel is dead
  2. Short stories are dead
  3. People with less than 600 followers aren’t allowed to have opinions.

I’m not taking his words out of context. I didn’t even want to write about this, because I don’t want to give the jerk the attention. But you know what? If people like him, who I honestly hadn’t even heard of before today, can breathe hot air on Twitter, I can talk some shit here.

It’s MY blog, bitch!

Let’s take a look at a few things. First, what the fuck is an Antonio García Martínez?

  1. Not a novelist. He wrote a book called Chaos Monkeys, which as far as I can tell, is a memoir about his life in the tech industry. He calls it an exposé. Not a novel.
  2.  Not a short story writer. Checks his biography on his website. Nope, not a short story writer.
  3.  He doesn’t know how opinions work. Everyone has them, regardless of how many Twitter followers they have. If he’s suggesting people with less than 600 followers shouldn’t voice their opinion, that’s some elitist bullshit.

So, are novels still being written? Don’t check Amazon or Wikipedia, I’ll save you the trouble. The answer is yes. I suppose a book written doesn’t necessarily have life, so maybe all these novels aren’t being read (or consumed).

Nope! People are still reading. Those who aren’t reading are listening to audiobooks, or their watching good TV, and guess what, Antonío, good TV shows are laid out like novels, chapters, backstory, theme and all.

What about short stories? Still being written? Yup. Still being read? Not a whole lot, admittedly, but there sure are a lot of fiction podcasts out there. Guess what their content is. You guessed it: short stories.

Oh, and, in case anyone’s counting, I have 604 Twitter followers, but I had opinions when I only had 599, and when Twitter wasn’t even a thing.

Listen here, chump, just because no one bought whatever shitty fiction you undoubtedly tried to sell doesn’t mean the art form is dead. It means you suck.