In Vernon, Connecticut, in an L-shaped plaza set off a bit from a smaller L-shaped plaza (they formed a kind of a box around a Denny's where I spent a lot of time, mainly ordering the two-egg breakfast with fries, joking around with my brother and our friends, and bothering an older, put-upon waitress with the unlikely name of "Kitty"), there was a supermarket, like any other shopping plaza supermarket. At the front, on the right as one walked in, they had put up framed pictures of their department managers. The meat manager looked absolutely deranged, so much so that kids tried constantly to steal the framed picture. It was like a copy of the Satanic Bible at a Waldenbooks; I'm surprised they didn't put it behind the service desk for safekeeping. I don't know if the kids ever succeeded. I would pay good money to have that to hang up in my office.
Sadly, I have no memory of what the man looked like.
I'd wanted to write a story about a mysterious or deranged meat manager for a while. I knew only one thing: I wanted to steer clear of any hint of cannibalism. It seemed to me too trite a topic, at least for this particular story. People might expect it.
One day I was visiting my grandmother down in West Hartford, and I saw a street sign that said FOXCROFT. What a wonderful name. It stuck in my head (like a bone-in steak?). Later that day, I passed a truck that said LAFOGG on the side.
The title "Carnomancer" came to me out of the blue. So, between the supermarket portrait, the two names, and the title, I set out to write Carnomancer. My "research" consisted of scoping out the meat departments of various supermarkets (sticking my head over the wall, basically, and looking at the work areas), asking some questions of Facebook friends who'd worked at supermarkets, going to a local psychic, and scoping out a really terrible local Spirituality shop. The same shop, incidentally, had somehow mistakenly charged someone else's purchase to my credit card a few years back. I also looked at a ton of pictures of psychic's shops online. As one does. And I looked up meat terms.
I also used as a character - the dancing man LaFogg sees from his bedroom window - a local man I see from time to time, heavy-set, bearded. While I was in the middle of writing the story, I saw him dancing in the rain on a street corner. It was sort of beautiful in a raggedy way, and perfect for the story.
The sort-of-twist ending to the story was something I wrestled with. It felt too neat, too "clever." But I couldn't shake it. I ended up keeping it. For better or for worse.
The Stay-Awake Men & Other Unstable Entities is available here in a limited edition hardback with a cover by Dave Felton colored by Steve Santiago, and three interior illustrations by Felton. Fewer than 30 copies remain.
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