Happy post-Thanksgiving. Spike (age 7 years) and Bubbles (age 4 months) have both discovered that the tryptophan found in turkey is a wonderful source for the instigation of a cat nap.
Good morning. My name is Brian Keene and this is the 260th issue of Letters From the Labyrinth — a weekly newsletter for fans of my work. Previous issues can be found here. 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.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, then I hope that you had a nice one. Mine was peaceful. My parents were traveling, and my oldest son had to work, and my youngest son and my ex-wife were at her parents, so Mary and I spent the holiday with her family in New Jersey. It was a smaller gathering this year, rather than the normal thirty-plus people affair it usually is — just Mary, her daughter, her parents, her sister, and her sister’s family. (Mary’s other sister was sick and unfortunately couldn’t join us). Good people and good food and a good time. I spent a good portion of the day playing Mr. Potato Head with Mary’s three-year old nephew. Mary’s brother in law bought a bottle of Basil Hayden’s for the holiday, and I brought a bottle of Four Roses, so he and I got our bourbon on, as well.
I drove up Wednesday and came back home Friday, because we don’t yet trust leaving the kittens alone for longer than that. Mary drove up separately and will come back later today. Her daughter is coming with her, to spend a few days with us. I’ve been informed that Mary and my ex-wife are having girl time next Friday night — doing their nails or saging the house or whatever it is they get up to. Me? I’ll be knee-deep in work.
Last week was very productive for me, and I’m hoping this week will be, as well. I turned in the first half of the PROJECT CASTLE graphic novel. The second half (an approximate fifty pages) is still in first draft status, so this week I’ll be working on polishing those. I also finished some more RISING short stories. Only two left and then I’ll be done. And yes, they’ll all be collected in a book. (Details forthcoming). There was also a flurry of behind-the-scenes potential movie stuff in the first half of last week. I suspect that will quiet down now, as these things often seem to do between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I also worked on edits for SUBMERGED: THE LABYRINTH Book 2 (there are a lot of them, and this is still the pre-pre-reader phase, so I’ll be working on edits into next year), and worked on compiling the next posthumous J.F. Gonzalez collection — MATERNAL INSTINCT AND OTHER SAVAGE CUTS. So, yeah… busy week for me, and I finished it with a sense of accomplishment. I hope that feeling continues this week.
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In last week’s newsletter, we talked about the DARK HOLLOW film adaptation that never got greenlit, despite the best efforts of Paul Campion and myself and some of the attached actors.
But Paul turned another of my works into a movie. “The Siqqusim Who Stole Christmas” was adapted as THE NAUGHTY LIST. You can watch it for free right here.
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(The following first appeared on my Patreon)
Among the most frequent questions I get from new writers is multiple variations of "What are some good books about writing?" So, I thought I'd compile a list of recommendations in one place. All of these books are about the act, art, or business of writing (and often they are about all three). As such, they are non-fiction. (This isn't a list of books that have authors as a protagonist). Some of these were very helpful to me when I was starting out. Some are newer, but will be just as helpful to you. Here they are, presented in no particular order, other than I'll list the ones that personally helped me first.
1. THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST: A LIFETIME OF LESSONS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING by David Morrell
This is an updated and expanded version of the book that I read back in the day, which just makes it even more useful because the information is even more relevant. It is an all-encompassing volume, with a special focus on how to successfully do this as your job. Available in paperback, audiobook and for Kindle here.
2. A WRITER'S TALE by Richard Laymon
This remains the single best book about the life of a working, full-time writer that I have ever read. However, it is out of print and only available on the secondary market, where it commands a steep price, and some of the information is now outdated (since Dick Laymon died in 2001 and never had a chance to update it). If you're a Laymon fan, it is required reading. But even if you loathe his work, or have never read his work, it is an essential look at how a full-time writer actually makes their living, and how to navigate things like bad reviews, signings, poor sales, and all of the other mines and traps in our path. Only published in hardcover. There's a copy on eBay right now for $400 and one on Amazon for $500.
3. WELCOME TO HELL: A WORKING GUIDE FOR THE BEGINNING WRITER by Tom Piccirilli
Tom was one of my best friends, and he was the first among my generation of writers to pen a self-help book for writers. Which is good, because out of my generation of writers, we pretty much all agree that Tom was the best of us. He was a once in a century writer, and we won't see his talent again in our lifetimes. He was also the consummate full-time writer, and this guide is an excellent map for how to make the transition to doing that. Some of the information is now dated, particularly the market listings, but still a worthwhile read. Available in paperback and for Kindle here.
4. ON WRITING by Stephen King
Steve has two books on this list. (We'll get to the second one in a moment). Of the two, this one is probably best for those of you who are literally just starting out, or those of you who have been doing this for a long time, and are burned out and need to be re-inspired. Available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook and for Kindle here.
5. SECRET WINDOWS: ESSAYS AND FICTION ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING by Stephen King
This is the other one, and of the two, I feel this has more of the nuts and bolts advice -- stuff that will come in handy for those beyond the "To be a writer sit down and write" stage of advice. Like Dick Laymon's A WRITER'S TALE, it is out of print, however, far more copies of this exists (it was published in hardcover and paperback) and are easily obtainable on Amazon (with paperback going for less than fifty bucks) here.
6. STARVE BETTER: SURVIVING THE ENDLESS HORROR OF THE WRITING LIFE by Nick Mamatas
Want to be a full-time writer? Have you recently become a full-time writer and you're not sure where the next check is coming from? This is it. This is the book for you. One of the best guides for working writers in existence. It's no-nonsense, blunt, straight talk that pulls no punches and talks about things nobody else (other than maybe me) does. Available in paperback and for Kindle here.
7. INKSTAINED: ON CREATIVITY, WRITING AND ART by John Urbancik
Conversely to the above recommendation, if you want an inspiring book about the craft itself that will make you WANT to write, this is it. This is the book for you. A beautiful, elegant, thoughtful examination of what it is that we do, why we do it, and what the world gets out of it. I love this one so much. Available in paperback and for Kindle here.
8. THE WRITING LIFE: REFLECTIONS, RECOLLECTIONS, AND A LOT OF CURSING by Jeff Strand
One of the newer books on this list, and one that I wish had existed when I was just starting out (which is when Jeff was also starting out). It straddles the line between Laymon, King, and Mamatas's books about writing, but with a warmth and humor that only Jeff can deliver. Available in paperback and for Kindle here.
9. WRITING IN THE DARK by Tim Waggoner
This is a textbook and reference book for anyone who wants to be a horror writer. Thorough and comprehensive, it offers a step-by-step guide from writing your very first story to selling that very first novel, and everything that comes after. Available in hardcover, paperback, and for Kindle.
10. COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART by Will Eisner
The best book about making comic books by one of the all-time comic greats. There's a reason why generations of comic creators have turned to this book. It's all here between the covers. Everything you need to know. And most importantly, it's timeless advice and instruction. Available in hardcover and paperback here.
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Currently Listening: Alan Parsons Project “Psychobabble”
Currently Reading: The Rise of the Fourth Reich by Jim Marrs (research for a Levi Stoltzfus novel)
Currently Watching: South Park Post-Covid Special
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Mary and I have added a lot of new t-shirt designs to our Redbubble storefront. And if you enter the coupon code CYBER5 at checkout, you can get up to 60% off them. Click here to see all the designs.
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Last week I apprised you of audiobooks that are in the pipeline for next year. This week, I’ll give you a similar list of books that are in the pipeline for next year.
CURSE OF THE BASTARDS (with Steven L. Shrewsbury) - Paperback and e-book, (Spring 2022)
THE RISING: MORE SELECTED SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD - Chapbook and e-book (Spring 2022)
SUBMERGED: THE LABYRINTH Book 2 - Hardcover (late-Spring/early-Summer 2022), Paperback and e-book (Winter 2022)
THE NEW FEAR: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol. 3 - Paperback and e-book (early-Spring 2022)
TERMINAL: AUTHOR’S PREFERRED EDITION - Paperback and e-book (Summer 2022)
THE LEADER OF THE BANNED: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol. 4 - Paperback and e-book (Summer 2022)
INVISIBLE MONSTERS - Hardcover (2022)
MONSTERS OF SAIPAN (with Weston Ochse) - Hardcover (2022)
ADVICE FOR WRITERS AND OTHER MISANTHROPES - Hardcover (Winter 2022)
Some of these dates may get rearranged. And there are a few others things that will come out but which can’t be announced yet.
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And that’s it for this week! As always, I appreciate you reading this. Stay safe so that I see you back here next Sunday.