Long Nights and Cruel Summers

It’s been a wild few weeks, gang. Hope y’all have been keeping up with the newest episodes of The Mangum Show. If not, you can subscribe here. I’ve recorded almost half a year’s worth of episodes and have been airing them a week at a time. That intensive period of recording is mainly to blame for the relative silence here as of late. But things will pick up again soon. I want to do more videos, as they seem to draw more traffic.

I’ve got two new books out. They’re novelettes, technically, but a good bit of fun, at least I think so.

The first of these is Long Night at Jade’s Diner.

It’s available wherever e-books are sold.
Click here to see the list of stores.

Here’s the back cover description: The patrons and employees of a 24-hour diner face the wrath of an unnamed woman with a gun in this story of pain and the human beings behind the statistics.

Long Night at Jade’s Diner came from multiple places. First, I’ve wanted to address mass shootings in my work for a while, but it wasn’t until I came upon this idea that I found what I thought was the best approach. Second, I read After Dark by Haruki Murakami, and really loved the faux screenplay style of the prose. I loved it so much, I wanted to try it for myself. Lastly, the story is another example of what seems to be a running theme in my work: women in trouble who have to rely on themselves or each other.

I think Long Night at Jade’s Diner contains some of my strongest writing. That’s not entirely thanks to me. I owe great debts to Dr. John Blair, Rae Glassford, and Shelby Guthrie. The former is an author and professor at Texas State. The latter two are great up-and-comers themselves.

The other story is Cruel Summer.

Cruel Summer is currently on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Scribd. More stores are to follow. You can choose your store here.

Here’s the back cover description: A compulsive voyeur named Willow films a couple making love on an empty beach. When the masked killer comes for the couple, she keeps the camera rolling, but before she can escape, the killer sees her. When Willow stumbles into the yard of Sarah, an exhibitionist swimming in the nude, the killer isn’t far behind. Now, the women must fight for survival against a desperate, powerful and dangerous man. A man who’ll soon find out he’s in for more than he bargained for.

As you may be able to tell, Cruel Summer is a bit more playful than Long Night. It’s also very sexual. My starting point was imagining what sort of work would result if James Patterson had hired Richard Laymon to write a piece with him. I kind of just ran with it from there.

You hear a lot about beach reads. Cruel Summer is a beach read for horror fans.

These two pieces represent the poles of my work. The two types of stories I enjoy telling. Long Night is experimental, ambiguous, and emotionally driven. Cruel Summer is pulpy and fun. A lot of times, I end up weaving these approaches together. With these two works, I separated them. Watched them try to stand on their own.

I’ll let you decide whether or not I was successful.

As always, love ya, Mangumaniacs. Thanks for reading.

The Kids Are All Right

I just had my short story, “Long Night at Jade’s Diner,” critiqued by my classmates, most of whom are 12-15 years younger than me. While I took this Creative Writing class with an open mind, I had no idea how these kids would react to my story. After all, it’s very violent. At nearly 7,000 words, it’s on the long side for a short story. It’s written like a faux screenplay (something I aped from Haruki Murakami’s After Dark). And it ends (and begins) rather ambiguously.

My classmates liked the story. My professor seemed to really like the story. However, this blog isn’t about that. Instead, I want to talk about some of the criticism leveled at the piece.

First, there were a few adverbs that didn’t need to be there. Some instances of “show-don’t-tell.” You know, basic early draft mistakes we all make.

Some were taken back by the ultra-violence. Now, let’s be clear: they weren’t #triggered. They, rightfully, pointed out that given the story’s more literary bent, the violence was very jarring to read. The professor disagreed, but I kind of agree with the kids on this one. The piece will likely benefit from reeling in the violence, making it less over-the-top. While gore has its place (and God knows I’ve written plenty of blood and guts stories), this particular tale doesn’t need it.

Two women called me out for the omniscient narrator describing the breasts of two female characters. If I’d been writing from the point-of-view of a character who has a fixation, the lingering might have been called-for. In this case, it wasn’t.

I’m glad they called me out for it.

When you’ve been writing as long as I have, I think it’s rather easy to get set in your ways. Weirdly enough, the professor told me early on that given my publication history, I wouldn’t likely learn anything from this class and the students who, he believes, are less far along in their writing journeys than me. But he was wrong, and I’m glad he was.

I believe you can, and should, always try to learn at every stage of your career. Like programmers who refuse to learn new software or engineers who steer clear of new equipment, the writer who stops honing his craft, regardless of their level of success, will become obsolete.

I don’t intend for that to happen until I die.