Fighting as Storytelling

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Photo via Showtime Boxing

I’ve been watching lots of fights lately. Boxing, UFC, and even the bare-knuckle stuff (which I enjoy, but also can’t believe it’s legal). People often ask me why an intelligent, literate dude like me enjoys watching people beat the crap out of each other. They say my love of combat sports runs in contradiction to my personality. An easy answer would be to simply say people are full of contradictions, and then just put it to bed, but this is a blog, so let’s dig a little deeper.

I’m both a storytelling enthusiast and a storyteller myself.

A fight is the oldest and most primal type of story there is.

Before I dive into this further, I want to clarify a couple of things. First, I’m not a meathead. I don’t fancy myself a tough guy, by any means. Second, I think fighting outside of a sanctioned, sporting event is almost always foolish and unnecessary.

With that out of the way, what is a fight, really?

Two combatants who want the same thing (a win, sometimes a championship). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

So, what’s a story?

Two characters who want the same thing (a win, usually some form of self-fulfillment). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

Here are some random examples off the top of my head:

In MOANA, the lead character hopes to restore the world to its previously balanced state. The lava monster Te Kā, a heartless shell of the goddess Te Fiti, also wants to balance the world. Their methods are different (much like each fighter has their own style). Moana seeks restoration. Te Kā seeks the eradication of humanity.

In STAR WARS, the rebels and their Jedi allies seek balance to the galaxy. They believe restoring the Republic is the way to do so. The Empire and their Sith allies also seek that balance, but by contrast, they believe domination and the destruction of the Jedi is the key to achieving this goal.

In my book SAINT SADIST, the protagonist sets out on the road, not just to escape an abusive environment, but to become herself. The multiple antagonists she faces aim to mold her into who they believe is the most perfect version of herself. Their methods are abusive and their visions for her are skewed because they aren’t her.

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In a mystery, the criminal wishes to get away with their crime, while the detective hopes to solve the crime. While their goals are different, they, like fighters, aim to outdo the other in their achievement of their goal.

In a romance, the hero and the heroine, are both looking for love. They often find themselves at odds with each other, because their own damage prevents them from seeing how perfectly matched they are. “Love is a battlefield,” as Pat Benatar said, and like fighters with good sportsmanship, the battle ends when the combatants, no matter how bloody, embrace each other.

I could go on and on.

Perhaps, I’m simplifying things, but I don’t think so.

 

 

Audiobooks from Hell

Last night, I appeared alongside voice actress Melody Muzljakovich on the excellent podcast, Audiobooks from Hell, hosted by narrator Sean Duregger. We discussed his narration of the GODS OF THE DARK WEB audiobook, which you can get now on Audible from the fine folks at Crossroad Press. It’s worth mentioning this new edition is the version I prefer and not just because of Sean’s excellent performance. It cracked the top 20 in Horror Fiction last week and remains Crossroad’s bestselling title on Audible at the moment. Super-cool!

Anyway, the podcast was a lot of fun to record. Melody has an audio version of SAINT SADIST in production as we speak. It was cool to hear about her process and how she interpreted the material.

Give the show a listen wherever you get your podcasts.

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Austin Comic Con

This weekend I tabled at Wizard World’s Austin Comic Con with my friends Max Booth III and John Wayne Comunale. Between meeting readers, we talked all the joys and frustrations of this writing life. We also debated Midsommar and the new Creepshow series, caught up on small-press gossip, and talked shop in general.

We met a ton of new people, some of them aspiring writers themselves and others just excited about books. I thought about giving shout outs, in case some of these wonderful folks drop by my blog but I’m bound to forget someone and don’t want anyone to feel left out.

It’s been a tumultuous eighteen months for me. Talking to my buddies reminded me I’m not the only one who’s struggled. Due to lots of ongoings in our scene and my own mental health issues, I’ve reevaluated who my friends are and who I intend to keep as mere acquaintances. When I first got into this writing scene, I wanted to be everybody’s close friend. As I’ve continued doing my thing, I’ve been reminded of how unrealistic such a goal is.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to decide whose flaws are worth tolerating and whose aren’t.

But the ones who you really gel with and don’t prove themselves toxic are goddamn priceless. I never expected to get rich doing this writing stuff but I did expect to make some of the best friends I’ve ever had. That expectation has been exceeded over and over.

I’m happy to see John Wayne doing well for himself. He’s one of the hardest working writers I know and it’s nice to see it pay off. The two secrets to his success, I think, are his positivity and his nearly militaristic organizational skills. I work hard and I’m positive. Organized? Not so much. That’s something I intend to work on once National Novel Writing Month is in the rearview.

Speaking of. That’s going well. I’ve got 21,000 words on a new manuscript and had a major breakthrough that allows me to combine two narratives I really enjoy into one book. I won’t say much except it’s a coming of age cosmic horror novel. I think there’s a lot to explore by marrying those subgenres. Lots of cool opportunities to play with opposing themes.

I grabbed and already read the first issues of Chaotic Flux, Kinetic, and Lady Frankenstein and the Mummy’s Brain, plus an old issue of Marvel’s Chamber of Chills and the first trade of a series called Cover of Darkness. I don’t read comics often but when I do, I tend to enjoy them. Indie stuff seems to be where it’s at these days, as in literature as well.

I’ve been able to write the books I want to write thanks to the small press. I hope eventually I’ll get to do this for a living but that’s still a ways off. And honestly, things are pretty good. The reviews for Saint Sadist reflect exactly what I wanted the book to do. I’ve got a decently paying screenplay gig in the works. I’ve got two releases slated for next year.

Also, this anthology just went up for preorder: The Big Book of Blasphemy, edited by David G. Barnet and Regina Garza-Mitchell, it features stories by Brian Keene, Ryan Harding, Wrath James White, Monica O’Rourke, myself, and many, many more. My story, “Sister Scar,” is basically a Hemingway-esque WWI story but nunsploitation. You preorder The Big Book of Blasphemy right here.

Last but not least, Blood and Brimstone, the sequel to Flesh and Fire has come to an end. It’s serialized on my Patreon the last few months. You can read it in its entirety here.

That’s it for now, gang. Take some time this week to appreciate the people in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, Mid-October, Mumps

It’s Friday morning on October 18th. This past Tuesday, my dentist told me the discomfort I feel on the right side of my mouth is a minor case of mumps. Despite getting an MMR vaccine as a child, I still managed to contract the virus. How weird is that? I wonder how it happened. I also wonder why my dentist didn’t find this alarming. She said I just had to take ibuprofen for the pain and get lots of rest until the virus ran its course.

Also, I have to watch my little one for symptoms. That’s a little more alarming. But she said mumps aren’t fatal so long as the symptoms are treated.

I also learned that my state has the highest rate of mumps diagnoses in the U.S. The more you know!

Anyway, in better news, I’m pleased to announce my cyberpunk cosmic horror crossover Gods of the Dark Web will get the audio book treatment by the ultra-talented Sean Duregger. You can expect this release sometime next year. I heard his audition for the book and got excited immediately. I’m glad my publisher at Crossroad Press felt the same way. There’s something powerful about hearing a gifted performer read your stuff. I hope all my writer friends get to experience it one day.

A couple crazy things happened related to Saint Sadist over the last few weeks. First, someone on Goodreads shelved it as Young Adult Fiction. Whatever you say. Wish it was making that YA money. The other thing that happened was less amusing. Someone on Reddit posted the opening chapter and went on to accuse me of child pornography. Others called me a misogynist, which is unfortunate.

While that latter development was just the work of some jerks on the internet, this sort of thing can really impact sales. I’m not a big Hollywood conglomerate. Your think-piece can do real damage to my livelihood. In fact it has. Sales have been in the toilet since, so thanks for that.

Of course, I have a day job, so you know, whatever. I will say one more thing though: pornography is written specifically with titillation in mind. I certainly wasn’t titillated while writing the scene in question. If you found it titillating, that may say more about you than it does me. Just a thought.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year as far as “problematic” art goes. I’ve lots of thoughts, though I think my buddy Scout Tafoya summed it up nicely when he said (to paraphrase), if you can’t pan a work without turning into Tipper Gore, maybe you have no business being a critic.

I think there’s something to that. I also have complicated feelings on the matter. Like, do I really need to defend Quentin Tarantino from a think-piece he probably didn’t even read? Pretty sure he was a millionaire before some armchair activist took him to task for his portrayal of Bruce Lee. Pretty sure he’s still a millionaire now, some months after the fact. It’s when such outrage targets the working-class folk that I get irritated.

Saint Sadist did, however, get a wonderful review from Lisa over at Bibliophiliatemplum, which I genuinely appreciate. She’s been a hell of a supporter these last fourteen months. I’m glad to have her in my corner.

The last bit of information I’d like to relay is I’ve begun the process of revamping my Patreon page. For just a buck a month, you can expect new serial novels and stories exclusive to the platform, film and book analyses, and writing advice essays. Less fanciness, more focus. I’ll still post chapters of Blood and Brimstone here until it’s finished, but any other fiction I post to that page will not be published anywhere else for at least another year.

I know asking for money is taboo, even when you need it–indeed, I had a friend take shots at me on Twitter over this–but there it is. I will continue to post here, though you should expect these entries to be more informal and personal. For fiction and criticism, I’ve got to charge a little. The goal is to do two posts daily, one here and one there, but I’m sure it will more realistically become a weekly affair. We’ll see.

Anyway, sorry if some of this came out as a rant. I’ve been holding a lot in lately.

Hope the rest of you out there are okay. Keep on keeping on.

Extinction Peak-A Novel of Dinosaur Horror

I’m about to make what will likely be one of my final passes on Extinction Peak, my dinosaur horror novel. Some of my work comes from my subconscious and flows rather easily. This book was not one of them. I wrote the first draft almost five years ago. The version that exists today has only the title in common with that old draft.

Weirdly, this book will likely be more fun to read than some of my other titles. It relies heavily on world-building and action, not symbology and style. That’s not to say it lacks depth. If you’re looking for it, my thesis will present itself. That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Jeff Burk made it official the Monday after Killer Con, so I’ll announce it here: Extinction Peak is set for publication in 2020 by his new press Section 31 Productions.

Killer Con 2019 Itinerary

The following is my Killer Con itinerary:

Thursday night around 7ish, you can find me at the bar.

Through most of Friday, I’ll be in the dealer’s room lending a hand to those who need one, BUT Friday night I’ll be a contestant in the Wings of Pain Challenge, which starts at 8:30. “But, Lucas, aren’t you vegetarian?” To that I say, “Shane McKenzie was kind enough to get me plant-based wings so he can punish me with hot sauce.”

Friday at 9 pm, you can find me at the Death’s Head Press party in the Convention Suite. That is, if Wings of Pain doesn’t totally ruin me.

Saturday, I’ll be supporting folks in the dealer’s room again, but after that, you can listen to me and several others as we take part in the panel How Not to Kill Yourself, which is all about staying sane while writing about terrible things. The panel starts at 6 pm.

Like last year, I’ll be participating in the Grossout Contest at 10 pm on Saturday. Unlike last year, I’m walking home with first prize this time around. At least that’s the goal!

At 1 pm on Sunday, I’ll be a part of the Clash Books reading block.

Now, I’ll be around all weekend, but these are the parts of my itinerary that are set in stone. Hope to see my Mangumaniacs there!

Want to attend Killer Con? You can register here.