I’ve heard 2022 called many things. The Year of the Tiger. The End of the Pandemic. The Start of World War Three.
What it really is, is the Year of the Bastard.
Good morning. I’m Brian Keene and this is Letters From the Labyrinth, a weekly newsletter for friends, family and fans of my work. Above is the cover to the Italian-language edition of KING OF THE BASTARDS, the 2016 Imadjinn Award winning novel I co-wrote with Steven L. Shrewsbury — the first novel in the three-book Bastards trilogy. If you can read Italian, the book is on sale here.
But that’s not the only reason 2022 is the Year of the Bastard. The third book in the trilogy, CURSE OF THE BASTARDS, will be available in paperback, eBook and audiobook this summer from Apex Publications. (The hardcover was previously published by Thunderstorm Books). We are currently gearing up with the publisher for a press and promotional junket.
And while CURSE is the last book in the trilogy, it’s not the last of Rogan. Shrews just released a brand-new solo novel chronicling Rogan’s younger days called KILLER OF GIANTS. I wrote the Introduction for it. It is currently available in paperback and for Kindle here.
So, yeah. If you are a fan of our ruthless, aging barbarian who just wants to be left alone with his scars and will likely stab anyone who annoys him, then this is the year for you.
If you’ve never read the Bastards series, because you thought it was just grimdark sword & sorcery — well, it is. But we do mix a lot of horror into it, and although Rogan is Shrews’s creation, the saga ties firmly into my mythos and J.F. Gonzalez’s mythos (and I guess Bryan Smith’s and John Urbancik’s mythos now, as well. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated). The Bastards books have been a lot of fun to write. I can’t speak for Shrews, but I know that I tap into something primal inside of me when I write this character. He’s not pleasant. He’s hugely problematic, even for his time and era. But I find him endearing, despite all of that. I understand where he is in life, and I have things to say about that condition. If you haven’t yet read them, the first two books in the series — KING OF THE BASTARDS and THRONE OF THE BASTARDS — are available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook here.
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Recovery from Bell’s Palsy is progressing well. I’m ahead of where the doctor thought I’d be by now, and confident that I’ll be at full power long before the window they gave me. I can close my left eye together with my right, but I can’t close it on it’s own yet. My speech is much clearer. Indeed, I don’t slur unless I’m tired, or if I’m pronouncing anything with an “F” in it. Eating some things is still a chore, however. Soft meats like fish are okay, but steak is a lost cause. Tacos are a disaster. I still dribble coffee, water, tea and other beverages, but not nearly as bad as the previous weeks. Curiously, what bothers me the most is that I cannot whistle. My smile is still crooked, and my mouth is still asymmetrical, but as long a I can talk, I’ll take it. My big concern was being able to effectively communicate verbally at AuthorCon next weekend, and it looks like I should be able to do just that.
I gave my “please come to AuthorCon” appeal in last week’s newsletter, so I wont burden you with that again. Suffice to say, if I see you there next weekend, then know that you have scored big points with me, and I appreciate you. Seriously. If you’re there, then you’re invested in making it a success, and invested in helping our charity with its mission, and that is appreciated more than you know.
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Mary and I had lunch with Tom Monteleone earlier in the week. It was our second such public dining experience since the pandemic (the first was a trip to Fuddruckers with John Urbancik during his lunch break). We talked about what Tom has been writing. We talked about Borderlands Boot Camp, which you’ll remember Mary and I are taking over next year. And we talked about a secret novel that Mary is working on and can’t talk about due to signing an NDA. And we prompted Tom to tell us stories of the industry in the 1970s and 1980s. He has no shortage of these stories, and we love listening to them. Indeed, Mary and I have spent many perfect evenings just being very quiet and listening while Tom and F. Paul Wilson tell us stories about the business. There’s a lot of wisdom there, and a lot of warmth and humor and love for this profession and this genre. And you also come away with a deep understanding that whatever it is you’re going through as a writer — it has happened to others before. There is nothing new under the sun in this game. If you know how others survived it, then you’re better equipped to do the same.
Tom and Paul will both be at AuthorCon next weekend. If you’re a new writer or a younger reader, stop and visit their table, and buy a book, and listen to what they have to say. You’ll learn a lot.
My beard is actually not that white. I mean, I’m not gonna front. Sure, I have some white in it. But those prescription sunglasses, and that black suit jacket make it look whiter than it is in the picture.
My gut, however, is unfortunately accurate. No distortion there. I don’t get it. I lost ten pounds total in two weeks thanks to the paralysis, but none of it — NONE OF IT — was from my stomach. I hike every day, and I lift weights every other day. I also do sit-ups, pull-ups, and try to eat right. And I’ve slowly started running again (I say slowly because my feet and knees can’t take the punishment of cross-country running the way they used to, particularly in the hilly forest terrain where we live). I do all of these things and yet that gut remains.
Shrews and I missed an opportunity by not giving Rogan a gut like that.
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In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned some other newsletters by friends of mine that I read on a regular basis. In the comments section, Phil Butehorn asked if I could provide links to them, so he could subscribe. Your wish is my command, Phil, so here you (and anybody else interested) go. I should also note that all of these are free to subscribe to.
John Urbancik’s Dark Fluidity. Frequency is semi-weekly. He often includes a free story, poem, or photography.
The Jeff Strand Newsletter. Frequency is usually weekly. He often includes a free story.
Jim Cobb’s Survival Weekly Dispatch. Frequency is weekly. Packed full of feature-length articles and information for those interested in prepping and survival skills.
Jay Wilburn’s Read. Write. Edit. Play. Repeat. Frequency is weekly and it’s always chock full of fun, unique stuff.
Paul Tremblay’s Newsletter. Frequency is semi-regular. Usually has a lengthy update about what he’s working on, and a joke about John Langan. Note: When you click that link to subscribe, you’ll have to then scroll about halfway down the page until you see the subscription bar.
Tim Lebbon’s Dreaming In Fire. Frequency is semi-regular. Updates on what he’s working on and other neat stuff from pop culture and life.
Joe Hill’s Escape Hatch. Frequency is irregular, but always worth the wait. Updates on what he’s working on, as well as book and music and movie recs. Like Paul’s newsletter, you’ll need to scroll down after you click the link.
David J. Schow also has a newsletter of sorts, but it’s a Top Secret kind of thing. Totally worth it if he ever invites you to be on it, though. Frequency is daily, and it is LOADED with news and info. I always look forward to clicking on it.
If you’re an author, actor, comedian, journalist or other friend of mine in the business and you’re asking “Why didn’t he include my newsletter?” it’s probably because I don’t know about it! You should tell me about it, so I can subscribe and check it out. Either that or you are sending it so infrequently that I have forgotten all about it. In which case, think of me as your newsletter’s beta-reader. Which means your readers probably have forgotten all about it, too. Which means you need to fix that this week.
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Currently Watching: Life of Brian (Netflix), Jackass Forever (Paramount Plus), and Snowfall season 5 (Hulu)
Currently Listening: Various albums by Marvin Gaye, Prince, Van Halen, David Lee Roth, YOB, Iron Maiden, Willie Nelson, and The Thompson Twins.
Currently Reading: The Compendium of F Volume 3 by F. Paul Wilson
My eye is good enough that I can now read for short periods of time, although it tires my eye out quickly to do so.
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This past work week was productive, despite the Bell’s Palsy.
I worked on INVISBLE MONSTERS and PROJECT CASTLE (and a lot of people have figured out what the latter is, and Rich Chizmar confirmed it during a YouTube Livestream, so the heck with it — let’s dispense with the codename. PROJECT CASTLE is actually a graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX. However, it goes beyond the novella and explores the other residents and denizens of Castle Rock, and what they were up to during the time period of the novella. So, for example, while Cujo, or Deputy Andy Clutterbuck, or Frank Dodd didn’t appear in the book, they could very well appear in the graphic novel. Basically, I’ve been allowed to run riot all over Castle Rock in the 1970s, and it has been a lot of fun. We’re still a while from publication (I’m on the final draft now) and I’ll stay mum about the artist and the rest of the team (because Rich didn’t speak about any of that on the livestream).
If it seems like I’m taking a long time for a 100+ page graphic novel, that’s because I am. These aren’t my characters, and it’s a setting beloved by millions, and I am taking my time to make sure I deliver something that is respectful, thoughtful and loving of them. And I’m also fact-checking with Bev Vincent and other experts to make sure the stuff I’ve added matches up, continuity-wise. Bottom-line: if you’re hoping for Pennywise fighting Father Callahan in the basement of the Castle Rock VFW, you’re going to be very disappointed. But if you’re wondering what the Castle Rock Strangler was doing the night Gwendy pressed a button and ate a chocolate rabbit, I think you’ll dig it.
I also worked on THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX. We’re just waiting on Joe R. Lansdale’s story now, and he’s very close to completion. And then Chris Golden and I will turn the anthology in to the publisher, Thunderstorm Books. With luck, we may be able to announce the full line-up next week.
There was also a flurry of emails for various TV things and movie things and foreign language things this past week. And I’m all caught up on Patreon (I missed a few days early in my diagnosis, back when the pain was still excruciating).
And Mary and I turned in the manuscript for THINGS LEFT BEHIND (which you can still pre-order here). We’re both very proud of this book.
So, yeah. a productive week. This coming week will be less so. I leave for AuthorCon on Wednesday. Jake and I will begin set-up on Thursday morning. And the con itself runs from Friday to Sunday. On Sunday night, we’ll do the count, and vote on whether we want to do a second AuthorCon (that decision will be based on the count). And then I’ll come back home Monday. I do intend to send out a newsletter next Sunday, like normal, but it will probably be an abbreviated version.
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That second photo is especially valuable to me. It wasn’t the first time Mary and I met. We’d met a year before this, at a Garden State Horror Writer’s event. But this was the weekend we became friends. What’s ostensibly captured here is me selling her a copy of 4X4 and a t-shirt to go along with it— but what’s really captured here is the moment two people became friends. They didn’t know it when this picture was taken, but they would go on to become close friends over the years, and eventually — many years later — become more than friends. I don’t know too many people who have a picture like this. I’m reminded of The Office and Jim’s speech about how the documentary crew captured those moments for him and Pam.
Anyway, as I said, people really seemed to like these. Definitely one of the more popular pictures I’ve posted to Instagram. I have literally hundreds of pictures like these, spanning 25 years of horror conventions, parties, book signings, public speaking events, and more. And so, I’d like to introduce a new feature.
BRIAN KEENE’S TIME MACHINE
Each week, I’ll post two or three of those photos here in the newsletter (and then repost them on Twitter and Instagram later in the week, but you’ll see them first). And as long as people seem to be enjoying them, I’ll keep doing it.
Here are this week’s photos. All of these are from World Horror Convention 2001 in Seattle, and all of them are by James Futch.
Hopefully the captions are showing up in your email. If not, please let me know in the comments.
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And that does it for this week. It is Saturday morning as I type this. Later today, Mary, myself, and my 14-year old are going over to visit Wesley Southard and his baby. (His wife, Katie, will be at work unfortunately). I hope that you’re doing something fun this weekend, as well.
I’ll see some of you next weekend at AuthorCon. And I’ll see all of you back here next week. Take care.