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Letters From the Labyrinth 257
My new alarm clock is cute, but there’s no way to set the time on it, and it just wakes me up whenever it wants to play. Or when it wants bacon. Or when it has found something interesting that it thinks I should see, like a string or a cat toy or a bug.
Good morning. I’m Brian Keene and this is the 257th issue of Letters From the Labyrinth — a weekly newsletter for fans of my work. Previous issues can be found here on Substack. If you’re reading this via email, and you’d like to leave a comment, just click that link. I’m always happy to hear from you.
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(The next few paragraphs are excerpted from a longer Writing Advice essay posted to my Patreon yesterday):
We have a family cabin nestled deep in the mountains of West Virginia. We're not wealthy, so it's a small affair -- a four room structure with a maximum sleeping capacity of five people, sitting on family land on the other side of the hollow from the house my father grew up in. (That old house is now uninhabitable, as many old houses in that part of the country are, although before the pandemic, one of my cousins had been thinking about maybe fixing it up and doing some remodeling and turning it into a bed and breakfast).
The cabin gets used by our family throughout the year. My father and his buddies stay there for a week during hunting season. My sister and her husband stay there for two weeks every summer. And I go there to write for a week every November.
People are sometimes confused by that. After all, my full-time job is writing, and I sit in my office writing from 6am every morning until 1pm every day, and then again some evenings if Mary isn't home or I'm behind on things. Why then, would I drive six hours and spend a week doing the same thing in a bare bones cabin with few amenities other than running water, in a place where cell phone coverage is nonexistent and internet service is spotty on its best days?
Because it's a place where cell phone coverage is nonexistent and internet service is spotty on its best days.
The business of writing can often interfere with the writing itself. And make no mistake about it -- writing full time IS a business, just like plumbing or telemarketing or manufacturing or nursing or any other job you can think of. It's work, and to stay successful, you have to handle the business end. That means emails and text messages and contracts and galley proofs and cover proofs and pitch meetings and edits and updating your website and engaging with your audience... and all the other things we have to do that don't involve actual writing but are part of writing for a living.
Ninety percent of the writers I know who burned out and walked away from this life -- did so because of the business side of things, rather than the writing portion.
I have found that the best way to avoid that burnout is to get away for at least one week a year. It's not a vacation, as I am still working for those seven days. But it is a break from all the stuff that drains a creator of their creativity. I go to the cabin, and because of the remoteness of the location, I have to hike down a dirt road and out onto a main road just to get a cell phone signal. This means that I can check social media and email once a day, because I'm not hiking that road in the cold, after dark, when there are bears and coyotes out in abundance (and in that area, they are indeed). As a result, my productivity increases tenfold. Indeed, I've written entire books in that seven day span. EARTHWORM GODS (the novel rather than the short story), ENTOMBED, TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, THE RISING: DELIVERANCE, JACK'S MAGIC BEANS, and all five issues of THE LAST ZOMBIE: NEVERLAND were al written in that cabin, during various week-long outings.
I'll be making my annual trip this week. I leave tomorrow. Once I get to the cabin, I'll be finishing PROJECT CASTLE, which some wily readers have figured out is a graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King and Richard Chizmar's Gwendy's Button Box, and it is... except that it's actually a lot more than that since it's going to include stuff that isn't in the novel. And yes, it is fun to play in Castle Rock. Indeed, this is the most fun I've ever had playing with settings and characters and franchises other than my own. Once the graphic novel is finished, I'll then complete the rest of the new THE RISING short stories.
And then I'll come home. And the next day, I'll be back to emails and text messages and contracts and galley proofs and cover proofs and pitch meetings and edits and updating my website and engaging with my audience... and all the other things I have to do that don't involve actual writing but are part of writing for a living.
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BRUTAL is a new Italian-language anthology featuring stories and novelettes by me, Edward Lee, Graham Masterton, Lucy Taylor, and Caleb Battiago. (My story is the first Italian translation of JACK’S MAGIC BEANS). Order via Amazon or the publisher.
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Mary and I have some new designs in our shop at Redbubble, including FOR EMMY and THE LAST ZOMBIE. Click here to peruse our line of t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, magnets, and more.
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Publisher, poet, and author John Baltisberger writes: “Someone tried to burn down my synagogue last week. It's the latest in a string of attacks/threats we've faced this last month. We've set up a page for donations to deal with the fire and smoke damage.”
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Currently Reading: The Rats by James Herbert
I first read this around age 11 or 12. I hadn’t realized just how much Herbert influenced me until rereading tis now, as an adult. He was an absolute master at introducing a character, spending a few paragraphs making you care about them, and then mercilessly slaughtering them
Currently Listening: Still Sucks by Limp Bizkit and Voyage by ABBA
Verdict? The Limp Bizkit album was worth the wait, particularly the INXS cover. The ABBA album was not worth the wait — a lackluster career cap.
Currently Watching: For Madmen Only and The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, both on Hulu. I highly recommend both, particularly if you are any type of entertainment creator.
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Author Wesley Southard is about to become a father. his wife’s baby shower was yesterday, so while that was going on, myself, authors Bob Ford, Geoff Cooper, Stephen Kozeniewski, John Boden, artist Chris Enterline, and director Mike Lombardo took him out for a nice dinner.
Wes will be a fantastic father. No doubt in my mind. But he’s also a fantastic author. if you like my stuff, you’ll like his stuff. Seriously — it’s a direct line between the two. Check out his books here.
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And that’s it for this week. By the time you are reading this, I’ll already be on the road. Remember, I’ll be pretty much out of touch this week, so I won’t see your tweets or emails if you send any. But I’ll see you back here next Sunday. Take care!