I’m excited to announce that my short story, Street Preaching, is now available over at the crime fiction website, Shotgun Honey. You can read the story in its entirety right here. You’ll find it’s a departure from my usual horror fare, but it is still, nonetheless, a dark piece of fiction. At least I like to think so. It was partly inspired by a real event that took place while I was waiting for the train after classes down in Philadelphia, but, as you’ll find out when you read it, most of it is an embellished “what if?” fantasy. I hope you enjoy it.
Friends, as you know I’ve been covering this season of American Horror Story for the good people over at Biff Bam Pop. Check out my recap of the finale below:
I’m pleased to be a part of the third anthology in the crappy shorts series. The series is edited by the great C.G. Bauer whose horror novel, SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD, won second place in the EPIC Awards for Best in 2010 E-Book Horror. My contribution to this anthology is the heavy metal horror opus, “Offerings,” which features rock stars doing the usual rock star shit like pulling all-nighters, getting wasted, and making human sacrifices. For me, editor Bauer had these kind words for me:
“Lucas Mangum makes his mark in horror. Lucas can put up a very twisted Anthony Perkins smile on cue and has a scythe once used by some fairly impressionable Nebraska farm children after they came in from their cornfield.”
Aww, thanks, Chris! I think…
Anyway, the anthology groups me with talented folks like Liars Club member and crime writer Don Lafferty, novelist Kelly Jameson, David Jarret, Kimmy Dee, and Bauer himself. You can pick it up here for $1.99 (a steal!), but in the meantime, please enjoy this excerpt of “Offerings.”
I woke two nights later and Kelsey was missing from my bed. We’d stopped in the middle of the Mojave prior to the last night on the tour. Belial had suggested it’d be fun to camp out, and none of us objected. We had plenty of booze and we were in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t likely we’d get any noise complaints.
I got pretty anxious when I reached for the spot where she’d been and came up with nothing but empty bedspread. I sat up quickly and glanced around.
“Kelsey,” I said, my voice a whisper but loud enough for her to hear if she was near by.
Maybe she was in the bathroom. A sinking feeling told me otherwise. I got up and walked the length of the bus. Shaun and Paul were wrapped in sleeping bags on the floor. Everyone else was gone.
“Where the fuck is everybody?”
I stepped over my band mates, walked to the bus’s door and stuck my head out. “Kelsey! Belial!”
I listened. The dunes were grayish blue under the night sky. No one yelled back. I felt a sting in my bottom lip and realized that I was biting into it. “Kelsey!”
I let out a grim sigh and went back into the bus. Shaun propped himself up on one arm from his spot on the floor.
“What’s going on, Chet? You good?”
Paul’s head popped up behind Shaun. “Where’d the fuck they go?”
They both got to their feet. Shaun surveyed the inside of our now sparsely populated bus. “You think they’re out there fucking?”
I’d felt a genuine bond with Kelsey over the last two weeks, that maybe this could be more than a fling. The idea she could be out there screwing Belial or other members of Belial’s band hadn’t crossed my mind. “Something’s wrong,” I said. “We need to find them.”
Paul had bought into the idea and was already fully dressed.
“I don’t know, man,” Shaun said. “Who cares if they’re fucking?”
“I would, first of all, and secondly, I don’t think they are. This whole thing is weird.”
“Ya think?” Shaun hadn’t budged, still wrapped in the sleeping bag. “We stopped in the fucking desert because our headliner wanted to go camping.”
I was tired of this discussion. “Look, I’m going out there to look for them, for her. After Harlan disappearing, this whole thing doesn’t feel right. You coming with us or not?”
A howl, then another one. from which direction, I didn’t know. A coyote maybe. Probably. “Never mind, Shaun. Forget I asked. But I might just forget to close the fucking bus door on the way out. Let’s go, Paul.”
“No need to get all mean and shit,” he said, pouting. “Give me a minute.”
We exited the bus and stepped out into the desert.
The air was pleasantly warm, like a campfire on a cool night, but it was no comfort. Nothing ahead or behind the bus but an empty stretch of highway.
“We should split up,” I said. “I’ll take this side of the highway. You guys search the other. They couldn’t have gone far.”
We separated. I tried moving quickly but the sand swallowed every step. A strong wind picked up, stirring up sand and grit and the scents of desert plants I could never name. But there was something else: the smell of smoke, from a campfire. I climbed dune after dune, getting more and more uneasy, not so sure I wasn’t actually in my own alcohol-fueled nightmare. But the sand spilling into my shoes and blowing into my face told me this was no dream.
I screamed Kelsey’s name, listening and looking for a sign, doing my best to shield my eyes. If she were near by she’d have heard me. I hoped how Shaun and Paul were doing better in their search.
The next dune I ascended was larger than the others and capped with large stones. By now I was hurting real bad, my legs and feet dragging, my breathing heavy, my exhaustion overtaking my anxiety. I heard voices coming from just over the next dune. The closer I got, the louder the voices. They were chanting, and it was a tune I recognized. Eerie chanting, in Latin, that served as the introduction to Belial Crane’s song, “Blessed Blasphemy.”
I thought about Harlan, what he had claimed to see, and how he was now missing. I reached the top of the dune.
A fire burned between jagged rocks fashioned into a circle. Four figures in dark robes stood around it, their hands outstretched and palms turned upward. Hoods hid their faces, but I was sure the chanting was coming from them. It was like an artist’s cheap depiction of a satanic ritual, but it was living and breathing and real, and happening in front of my eyes. Two naked figures sat squirming beside the fire. I was now aware of nothing else. I needed to stop this.
How many of my fellow writers can work while listening to music? I can barely focus without it. Even if it’s a song that I know the lyrics to, there’s something about hearing a kickass song while I’m typing away. Over the last six months as I’ve done another draft of Flesh and Fire, I’ve made a playlist of essential listening to be played while working on the manuscript. I usually have a different playlist for every project and I try to choose songs that have themes similar to the piece I’m working on.
For instance, to go with the dark romanticism present throughout Flesh and Fire, I chose songs like “Devil Tree” by Philadelphia-based band The Bailey Hounds, the acoustic version of Marilyn Manson’s “Leave a Scar,” and Glenn Danzig’s gloomy ballad, “Blood and Tears.”
Midway through this draft, my friend Shannon Lafferty released a couple of tunes via her YouTube Channel. Her song, “Till I’m Gone” has a quiet desperation to it that I just love.
No playlist of mine would be complete without David Bowie, so I chose not one, but two of his songs to help immerse myself in the writing process. The Scary Monsters-era classic, Because You’re Young, is filled with youthful vigor and all the uncertainty that comes with it, but the most fitting of the two tracks is the Gothic dirge “Bring Me the Disco King.” It appeared on the soundtrack to Underworld and features Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on backing vocals.
My friend James Manderson has a couple of tunes on the playlist as well. I write to his music, I run to his music, and sometimes I put it on just to relax. He brings a grand cinematic quality to what would otherwise be mere techno music. His song, “Hollow Earth,” puts me in the zone right away, the manuscript’s images of hell become so vivid, the characters’ quests all the more urgent. Check it out:
For my complete Flesh & Fire playlist, go here:
I’m pleased to announce that Strange World: A Biff Bam Pop Anthology was released on Tuesday for the Kobo Reader. It features my apocalyptic short story, Occupy Babylon, along with great works from Andy Burns, Ian Rogers (author of SuperNOIRtural Tales), Glenn Walker, Jim Morris (writer, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Crossing Jordan), and many, many more. It also includes an introduction by Bram Stoker Award Winner and New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. You can order the anthology right here for a little over a buck.
In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my short story, Occupy Babylon:
Eddie was halfway through the third song of his set when the door to the club burst open and one of the dead came shambling through. He barely noticed. He immersed himself in the song. At these open mic sets, he only got enough time for four. Several more bodies came shuffling into the club, and Eddie played on. He didn’t notice that there was something wrong, until he heard the scream.
Eddie raised his head and looked out at the crowd. One of the new arrivals bit into an audience member’s arm. Even from across the bar, Eddie could see the spurting crimson blood in all its vivid glory. The rest of the invaders fell upon the audience and the screams multiplied.
The scene went from the controlled chaos of a punk rock show to the frantic, desperate pandemonium of people fighting for their lives. Death had come for them. It had been out there, in the streets, on television; it had been in all of their backyards, in their own country, in the cities where they lived. But the others, like Eddie, had carried on like Death was not something they needed to worry about, like it was still distant.
But it had come. With grappling hands, blood-filled mouths, and hungry eyes, Death had arrived, and Hell had come with it. In the confinement of the small, hole-in-the-wall club, it was unavoidable. The people trampled over each other as they made for any exit they could reach. Most of their efforts were met with failure, taken down in a series of agony-filled moments by creatures that knew only hunger and that demanded to be satisfied.
Eddie thought the assailants were a mob of cannibals at first, until the first one came staggering upon the stage. It looked like a man, but its skin was an unhealthy gray. At its throat was a ragged, bloody wound. Eddie had no doubt that the wound should have been fatal, yet this man, this beast, walked towards him. One eye socket was an empty, lifeless void. Where the other eye had once been, pus oozed out and onto the man’s cheek. The man’s jaws opened and closed, biting involuntarily.
Eddie screamed and lifted his guitar over his head. When the creature got close enough, he smashed the instrument into the beast’s skull. Blood, bone, and gray matter mixed with the splintered wood. Screams of fear and agony filled the room. A foul stench of blood hung in the air. Eddie backed away from the horrid scene before him in the direction of the backstage exit.
When he bumped the door, he turned to exit and ran like hell.
I’ve been tagged by the awesome Donna Galanti in a blog game called The Next Big Thing. The game involves answering questions about your work in progress or new piece that you’d like to become the next big thing. For me, that’s my WIP, Flesh & Fire.
Is my stuff good enough to be The Next Big Thing? I’ll let you be the judge.I’m tagging five other authors to take part. So here we go:
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing
1. What is the title of your book?
-FLESH & FIRE
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
-It’s an expansion on a novella that I wrote in the summer of 2011. It was one of those wonderful ideas that all of us kind of hope for, in the sense that the story really wrote itself. I finished 20,000 words in a little less than three weeks. The idea for that came from a few places. Most prominently I was on the verge of going through a life change, which is always scary, even if its positive change, because you kind of get used to being in a certain place in your life. So I wrote the piece from a place of fear, like, what if I woke up one day in the future and realized my life was in the toilet. I would probably look back and examine my decisions that I’d made over the course of my life and the circumstances I’d encountered. I think that’s something everyone has gone through at some point. Of course, since my interests lean toward the darker side of life, I wrapped this idea up in a story about ghosts and Hell.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
-It’s a horror novel, but it contains some strong romantic elements. That may seem like a contradiction, but make no mistake, even hardened horror fans aren’t immune to getting swept up in a good love story.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
-Since my hero is middle-aged and I’m a HUGE Breaking Bad fan, I would love to see Bryan Cranston in the lead role. For the female lead, I didn’t have someone in mind until yesterday when I saw The Moth Diaries. Lily Cole embodies a perfect duality of appearing innocent and fragile, but full of dark secrets.
5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
-A successful, yet unhappy, family man’s life is turned upside down at the appearance of his undead former lover and the message she brings: she’s on the run from Hell and needs his help.
-I plan to shop it around to agents and traditional publishing houses. I have nothing against indie publishing. My mother-in-law does it, and does it well. That said, based on what I’ve read and witnessed, I don’t think it’s worth your time unless you already have at least 3 books written. Since I’m not there yet, indie publishing isn’t on the table for me. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever be, but right now, it’s not an option. This philosophy, by the way, applies to novels. I’ve self-published one short story on Smashwords, and plan to do another soon. I feel like putting short stories out there (whether independently or traditionally) can be a good way to build your brand before you get a book deal.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
-It’s original incarnation only took three weeks. The process of expanding it into a full-length novel is taking much longer, but I’m still having just as much fun.
8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
-The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker and Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
-After going to the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference this past June I was pretty juiced, and since I was pretty in love with the story contained within the novella version, I decided to go back and expand it.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
-I describe the book in my head as the existential crisis of American Beauty and the desperate romance of Bonnie and Clyde wrapped in the skin of surreal horror. If that doesn’t sound cool, I don’t know what does.
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
Donna Galanti tagged me and I’m tagging some of my favorite people.
Please visit their blogs. They will be posting their answers in week 14 (Sept 25-Oct 1)
Message for the tagged authors and interested others:
Rules of The Next Big Thing
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
Be sure to line up your five people in advance.
eBook anthology to be released in the fall, featuring 13 unique horror, thriller and suspense stories, plus an intro by New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.
August 7, 2012, Toronto, ON – BIFF BAM POP! has announced a tentative September 2012 release date for the inaugural horror, thriller and suspense project, Strange World: A Biff Bam Pop Short Story Anthology…