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.

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.