Letters From the Labyrinth 273 and A Half
You may have noticed there was no newsletter last Sunday. We’ll resume regular broadcasts next Sunday. I’m sending this one today, because there’s some stuff going on that you need to know about now.
But first, say hello to Doctor Bubbles.
I say Doctor Bubbles because she has not left my side since I got home from the hospital on Sunday. I had to put this pillow next to my desk because otherwise she’d lay on the wheels of my desk chair, making it impossible for me to do things without running her over. Every 15 minutes or so, she tries to give me kisses and nuzzles and meows in concern.
As of last Thursday, I thought I'd been battling a crippling inner ear infection, with extreme vertigo, pain and nausea. And indeed, that's what the first doctor I saw diagnosed me with on Thursday night. He gave me a round of antibiotics which didn't do anything to alleviate the symptoms, and by last Sunday morning, those symptoms had worsened. It appeared as if I had suffered a stroke. The entire left side of my face was paralyzed. My eyes were no longer symmetrical. My left eye drooped far lower than the right, and I was unable to close it or even blink. The left side of my mouth hung much lower than the right, which made drinking, talking, and smiling impossible. Even my nose was off kilter, with one nostril lower than the other.
I fought through the vertigo enough to drive to the emergency room, and was admitted. They quickly determined that it wasn't a stroke. At first, they thought the paralysis might have been brought on by the ear infection pressing against my facial nerves, but then they decided the initial doctor had been wrong and I didn't have an ear infection at all. Instead, what I had was Bells Palsy -- a mysterious syndrome that strikes many people every year, and temporarily paralyzes half of their face.
They can't determine just how I got it. The most likely candidates are one of three: Lyme disease (for which they took my blood and sent it out to test for -- still waiting on the results), shingles (I had chicken pox when I was sixteen, so I know the shingles virus is dormant in my body, but to the best of my knowledge it hasn't presented itself), or that I did have an inner ear infection at some point and it damaged the nerve. They seem to think the first two options are most likely. There was a fourth option they wanted to check for -- a lesion on the brain, which can also cause Bells Palsy, but I declined to get the CT scan, since I have no health insurance and am self pay, and they seemed pretty confident it was one of those first two things, and... well, to be honest, that fourth option scares the hell out of me. My dear friend Tom Piccirilli got Bells Palsy and then soon after he got diagnosed with brain cancer, and fought it for a good couple of years, but eventually lost that battle. So I told the docs lets see how I respond to treatment, and if I don't improve, then I'll come back next month when I get paid some more royalty checks and we'll do the CT scan then.
They warned me that the length of Bells Palsy is different for every person. And indeed, since sharing the diagnosis on Twitter, I've seen that fourfold. Some folks said they had it for a few weeks. Some said they had it for months. Some for a year or two. And a few never fully recovered. And that seems to match up with what the doctors told me. Recovery time can be anywhere from a few weeks to many months to a year. And there are indeed a small percentage of folks who never recover from it. All I can do is see how my body responds to treatment as the facial nerves repair themselves. Currently I'm on steroids, and an anti-viral (in case it was shingles). If they don't work, then it's stronger steroids, B12 injections, and electro-therapy to the impacted regions. in the meantime, I’m supposed to reduce stress and just wait.
But I don't have time to wait. I'm supposed to officiate Dave's memorial service this Saturday. I've got Scares that Care AuthorCon in less than 25 days. I've got StokerCon in two months. Chris Golden and I have four final episodes of DEFENDERS DIALOGUE to record. And later this year, I'm supposed to launch the new STORIES WITH BRIAN KEENE podcast and shoot something for a ‘I-signed-an-NDA-and-can't-say-more-about-it’ TV series. This is a bad time to have a partially paralyzed face.
Although, I suppose there's no good time for that, really.
Currently, I can only eat soft foods that I can slurp through a spoon, and even then half of them end up on my shirt. Talking is an exercise in futility, unless I speak very very, very slowly, and as the day goes on and the steroids wear off, my speech becomes more and more unintelligible. I tried to smoke a cigar on my daily hike but I couldn’t hold it between my lips. And writing -- or any screen activity -- can only be done in short bursts, because I cannot close my eye and the light is like razors on it after a while.
I find myself frustrated and impatient. I swallow steroids and then go look in the mirror, demanding my facial muscles move. As I told my friend Duane Swierczynski earlier this morning -- I keep thinking back to this nurse I had in the burn ward a few years back. She was changing my bandages one day, right over the spot where my elbow had been incinerated, and she asked me if I'd ever written any Wolverine comics. I told her he was one of the characters I hadn't yet had the opportunity to write, and inquired why she asked. She said I must have his healing ability, because my body was about three weeks ahead of where it should have been in the healing process. And that was nice to hear.
But listening to myself try to talk, and eating in the kitchen so that Mary or my son don't see me dribbling food all over myself, I have to wonder if this isn't the beginning of Logan, where Wolverine has to contend with the fact that his healing factor ain't working like it used to, and that his days are numbered.
On Saturday, I bury another friend. There have been way too many of those over the last ten years, and I hear my own clock ticking now, more than ever. And louder than ever. And I do not have time to spend half frozen in place.
So I will shove my way through. Or I will die trying.
Which is what it always seems to come down to with me when thins like this happen.
But sweet Jesus and Cthulhu, I could really use a break…
Anyway, this is me now. Smiling. The patch is there to protect my eye since I cant close it.
Snake Plissken jokes and Steve from Days Of Our Lives jokes are welcome and expected. To be honest, Laird Barron and I could both probably do without the “Brian is trying to be Laird” jokes. That’s just not cool, okay? Maybe instead you can make a joke like, “Brian got so tired of people saying he and Tim Lebbon were twins that he started wearing an eye patch” or something like that.
Look. I’m not gonna lie. I’m grumpy as hell right now. And I do not have the time or patience for much. So I figured I’d beat everyone to the punch and make a Harvey Dent joke on Twitter last night, to sort of take the steam out of those sails.
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But you know what? There’s a lot of people who have it a lot worse.
Long-time reader Justin sent me a Tweet while I was in the E.R. on Sunday. His eight year-old niece, Savannah, was recently diagnosed w an inoperable brain tumor, and he is trying to raise funds for her care.
Justin set up a GoFundMe for Savannah here. If you’re subscribed to this newsletter, then I assume you’re a fan of my work. So is Justin. Let’s all come together and help this fellow fan out. There’s close to 3,000 people reading this weekly. If each of you can contribute ten bucks, that will make a difference.
Please consider it this week. And if you don’t have the means to donate, then please spread the word and share the link.
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Publisher Matt Blairstone writes: “I saw in your newsletter that the situation in Texas is near and dear to your heart. I was hoping you might use your sizable reach to help us get the word out on this anthology we've set in motion on the fly, to benefit the Trans youth of Texas. Thursday we went public with it—and the response has been phenomenal; but I think we can really reach the next level and get it beyond our Twitter audience with a little help. We're thrilled to have some bigger names from the community like Hailey Piper and Joe Koch already on board; I'm hoping some more allies can step up to amplify this as well. All proceeds will be going to Equality Texas.”
If you are a Trans/Gender or Non-Conforming creators who would like to submit your work to the anthology, click here for all the details.
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Both myself and This Is Horror co-host Michael David Wilson were guests on the latest episode of Litreactor’s Unprintable podcast with Robb Olson. We discuss the art of interviewing, and I also talk a bit more about my new forthcoming podcast. Available wherever you listen to podcasts, and also this handy link.
Of course, when we recorded this, I could still talk normally. Like I said at the beginning of this newsletter, we’ll see how long it takes me to recover. that is certainly going to impact the launch of STORIES WITH BRIAN KEENE, however.
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For the first time ever, CLICKERS III: DAGON RISING by J.F. Gonzalez and myself is available in audiobook, narrated by Chet Williamson. Click here to start listening.
They thought it was over, but the second wave was only the beginning.
In the aftermath of the Clickers and Dark Ones' siege, and a coup against an insane President, America rebuilds. Change has come, and a better future is promised to all. But promises can be broken, and there may be no future at all. Because deep beneath the ocean, a new terror awaits. Dagon, god of the Dark Ones, is waking up....And if humanity doesn't stop him, then mankind will face extinction.
Trapped on a South Pacific Island, the cast of Clickers and Clickers 2: The Next Wave join forces with a mysterious group of occult agents, to face off against the Clickers, the Dark Ones, Dagon, and an all-new threat: The deadly obsidian Clickers. The stakes have never been higher.
Dagon is rising....And humanity will fall.
Clickers III: Dagon Rising. It's more giant monster carnage, and B-movie fun, as only J. F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene can bring you.
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What follows is the finalized Programming Schedule for Scares That Care AuthorCon, taking place April 1 through 3 in Williamsburg, VA. At this point, no further changes, other than subtractions, can be made. Copies of the schedule with any last minute subtractions will be available to all attendees at the door.
You will note that Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks From Hell stage show (with special guest, comedian Will Bozarth) and the workshops being run by Robert Ford and Richard Dansky are marked as ‘Ticketed Event’. This means a General Admission ticket will not suffice for admission to those three events. A separate ticket is required. Those tickets can be purchased here.
We are looking forward to a great show. Whether you’re a fan and a reader, or a beginning author, or an established pro, we’re offering something for everyone! And, as with all Scares That Care events, it’s for a good cause! Full details on the convention can be found here. See you in less than a month!
AuthorCon Programming Schedule
Vendor Meeting – 4:00pm (Vendor Room): All vendors and Guests of Honor are encouraged to attend.
Vendor Room Hours – 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Silent Auction (Auditorium) – 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Grady Hendrix’s PAPERBACKS FROM HELL with Special Guest Will Bozarth – 9:30pm (Auditorium) Note: This is a ticketed event.
FRIDAY READINGS (Rooms A & B)
5:15pm to 6:00pm: Todd Keisling and Justin Holley
6:15pm to 7:00pm: Russell James and Clay McLeod Chapman
7:15pm to 8:00pm: Josh Malerman and Jonathan Janz
8:15pm to 9:00pm: Mary SanGiovanni and Hailey Piper
FRIDAY PANELS (Rooms 2 & 3)
6:00pm to 7:00pm: CHILDHOOD NIGHTMARES – C.W. Briar, Tara Moeller, R.L. Parker, Ally Malinenko, Nathan McCullough, and Shawn Burgess discuss their childhood fears and whether or not those memories have influenced their fiction.
7:30pm to 9:00pm: SPLATTERPUNK STRONG – Splatterpunk Award co-founder Wrath James White, and Splatterpunk Award nominees C.V. Hunt, Kristopher Triana, Jeff Strand, Kristopher Rufty, Candace Nola, Wesley Southard, Stephen Kozeniewski, Wile E. Young, Carver Pike, Aron Beauregard, Daniel Volpe, Jay Wilburn, and Thomas R. Clark discuss the current state of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror.
FRIDAY WORKSHOPS (Center Lounge)
7:00pm to 8:00pm: WRITING THE BADGE – Former Police Officer and Detective Joe Ripple leads this free seminar/Q&A on the correct way to write police procedure, tactics, and operations.
Vendor Room Hours – 10:00am to 6:00pm
Silent Auction (Auditorium) – 10:00am to 4:45pm
Silent Auction Winners Announced by Joe Ripple (Auditorium) – 5:00pm
SATURDAY READINGS (Rooms A & B)
10:15am to 11:00am: Holly Rae Garcia and Kim Alexander
11:15am to Noon: John Urbancik and Gemma Amor
12:15pm to 1:00pm: Chet Williamson and David Niall Wilson
1:15pm to 2:00pm: F. Paul Wilson and Thomas F. Monteleone
2:15pm to 3:00pm: Maurice Broaddus and S.A. Cosby
3:15pm to 4:00pm: C.V. Hunt and Wrath James White
4:15pm to 5:00pm: Aron Beauregard and Daniel J. Volpe
5:15pm to 6:00pm: Andersen Prunty and Christoph Paul
6:15pm to 7:00pm: Sonora Taylor and Red Lagoe
7:15pm to 8:00pm: Glenn Rolfe and Donnie Goodman
8:15pm to 9:00pm: RJ Roles and Tim McWhorter
9:15pm to 10:00pm: Michael Tyree and Michael Seidlinger
10:15pm to 11:45pm: CARNIVAL OF CHAOS – Jeff Strand, John Wayne Comunale, Kristopher Triana, Wesley Southard, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Wile E. Young present nearly two hours of mayhem and madness.
SATURDAY PANEL DISCUSSIONS (Rooms 2 and 3)
10:30am to 11:30am: WRITING RITUALS – Bryan Nowak, Daniel Braum, Dea Schofield, Kelly Martin, Dan Franklin, and Joseph Pesavento discuss their individual writing processes and practices, finding balance with day jobs and family obligations, and their tips for productivity and focus.
11:45am to 1:00pm: PUBLISHERPALOOZA – Join representatives from Apex Books, Apokrupha, Bleeding Edge Books, Castaigne Publishing, Clash Books, Crone Girls Press, Death’s Head Press, Grindhouse Press, Stygian Sky Media, Tenebrous Press, and Weirdpunk Books discuss the trials and tribulations of publishing, and what they’re looking for from authors and artists.
1:15pm to 2:15pm: THIS DYSTOPIAN OBSESSION – Mary SanGiovanni, Jonathan Janz, Adam J. Smith, Anthony M. Strong, and Matt Wildasin discuss why dystopian and post-apocalyptic horror fiction are more popular now than ever.
2:30pm to 3:30pm: DEATH OF THE DEAD? – Night of the Living Dead and White Zombie. Day of the Dead and Wet Work. The Rising and 28 Days Later. The Walking Dead and World War Z. The popularity of zombies runs in cycles. Matt Blazi, Jay Wilburn, Kristopher Rufty, Jeremy Wagner, Thomas R. Clark, and Anton Cancre predict what’s next for the undead. Are we approaching a downturn, and if so, will they rise once more?
3:45pm to 4:45pm: WRITING SHORT STORIES – Katherine Silva, James Noll, Tony Evans, and Joseph Sullivan discuss the tips, tricks, and challenges of crafting the perfect short horror story.
5:00pm to 6:00pm: SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE – Josh Malerman, Maurice Broaddus, F. Paul Wilson, S.A. Cosby, Wrath James White, and Clay McLeod Chapman discuss the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of what happens when Hollywood comes knocking at your door.
SATURDAY WORKSHOPS (Center Lounge)
Noon to 4:00pm: UPPING YOUR GAME: HOW TO DELIVER A MEMORABLE LIVE READING – Author Robert Ford, one of the best live readers in the business, leads this interactive workshop on ways to improve your own live reading. Attendees will participate with live readings of their own work (so please come prepared) and receive practical developmental feedback. Note: This is a ticketed event.
4:30pm to 8:30pm: WRITING FOR VIDEO GAMES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW – Video game veteran Richard Dansky (Red Storm, Ubisoft) leads this highly interactive seminar on how to write for video game. Note: This is a ticketed event.
Vendor Room Hours – 11:00am to 4:00pm
SUNDAY READINGS (Rooms A & B)
11:15pm to Noon: Rebecca Rowland and Douglas Ford
12:15pm to 1:00pm: Jacob Haddon and D. Alexander Ward
1:15pm to 2:00pm: Robert Ford and Richard Dansky
2:15pm to 3:00pm: Bridgett Nelson and Lindsay Lerman
SUNDAY PANEL DISCUSSIONS (Rooms 2 and 3)
11:30 to 12:30pm: BABY’S FIRST MONSTER – R.L. Stine. Stephen King. Leisure Books. Weird Tales. Different generations of horror fiction fans discover the genre in different ways. Hailey Piper, John Kelly, Jeremy Megargee, Matthew Mitchell, Mike Duke, and Kim Alexander discuss their introduction to horror.
12:45pm to 1:45pm: MY FAVORITE HORROR NOVEL – Andersen Prunty, Rowland Bercy Jr., Chase Will and Pamela K. Kinney discuss their all-time favorite horror novel, and the impact it’s had on them.
SUNDAY WORKSHOPS (Center Lounge)
3:00pm to 4:00pm: YELL AT BRIAN KEENE – What did you think of the first Scares That Care AuthorCon? The Board of Directors wants your honest feedback, so that we can improve the experience going forward. (Please don’t actually yell, though).
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And that’s it for this special fill-in half issue newsletter. I’ll see you back here at our usually scheduled time, next Sunday. Until then, be kind to people who are kind to you and ignore those who are unkind. And if they insist that you pay attention to their unkindness, then kick them.
— Brian Keene