Letters From the Labyrinth 277
Things are looking up. My son is home safe from the hospital and doing better. We’re very grateful for all of your well wishes. I’m continuing to recover from the Bell’s Palsy. Scares That Care AuthorCon was a huge success (more on that below). And the kittens continue to grow and get into everything. Dallas now plays fetch as self-assuredly as any dog, chasing after water bottle caps and carrying them back to me and dropping them at my feet so I can throw them again. At night, he jockeys with his big brother Spike for a position on my lap.
Good morning. My name is Brian Keene and this is Letters From the Labyrinth, a weekly newsletter for friends, family and fans of my work. Previous issues can be read here. You can also leave comments, which I’ll read and answer as time allows.
Before I get into anything else here this week, I’d like to remind you that April 15th (next Friday) is the last day to order your copy of THINGS LEFT BEHIND. This is the first book-length collaboration between myself and Mary. It is a signed paperback, meaning every single copy is signed by both of us. There will be no Kindle or audiobook edition, and it will not be reprinted. We wanted to make a special collectible that everyone could afford (it’s only $18 as opposed to the pricey signed hardcovers). We are both very proud of the book, and consider it some of our best work. So yes, you have until April 15th (next Friday). Come Saturday morning, the 16th, the book will no longer be available. Preorder your copy here.
And yes, for those of you in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere — international shipping is expensive right now. There’s nothing we can do about that on our end. The postal service — like the rest of the world and every institution in it — is a tire fire right now.
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Speaking of THINGS LEFT BEHIND, there’s a story in the book called “The Goat”. It’s a never-before-seen, very expanded version of something I originally wrote on Patreon and for a small circle of friends many years ago — a live, minute by minute account of the very worst writer convention that ever took place, and my efforts to escape from it unscathed. Lots of your favorite horror authors appear in that story, including Dacia M. Arnold, who was very new and unpublished at the time the story was written.
These days, Dacia is an Amazon bestseller, and her new book, Dirty Bombs, is available on Kindle right now for just three bucks. Check it out here.
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THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX is a forthcoming anthology edited by myself and my pal Christopher Golden. It is a tribute to what is inarguably one of the most influential trilogies in modern literature — Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive-In series.
You can’t order the book yet. We are still quite a ways out from that. But I can tell you that it will be first published as a signed limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Books, and that we are hopeful there will eventually be paperback and e-book editions. But who will be signing that limited edition hardcover, you ask?
Here’s the line-up. All new stories by
Pretty damned impressive, right?
We suspect this will go up for pre-order in late-June or early-July, so you have some time to save up.
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Jay Wilburn’s #BrianKeeneRevisited project, in which he rereads and reviews everything I’ve ever written, continues with his revisit of TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME. Read his thoughts here.
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Currently Reading: A Little Magenta Book About A Dollhouse by Edward Lee, A Little White Book Of Ghost Stories by Rick Hautala, and advance copies of They Mostly Come At Night by Wesley Southard and The Many Faces of Beth by Carver Pike.
Currently Listening: Let’s Dance by David Bowie (the album, rather than the single).
Currently Watching: Yellowstone (streaming on Peacock)
Josh Malerman and I were talking last weekend about 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone. We both loved 1883. It is some of the best television writing in a long time, ranking up there with such classics as The Wire, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, The Sopranos, and Hill Street Blues. I expected to love Yellowstone just as much, going in, but Mary and I are four episodes into the series and we are both finding it a slog. Does it get better? Let me know in the comments section.
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As I said above, Scares That Care’s first AuthorCon event was a success — more so than we had even hoped to dream. As Scares That Care is a charity, rather than just a convention, that success directly impacts our beneficiaries. Every year, the charity picks and helps three families. Coming out of this show, we are able to immediately cut a check for one of this year’s families. Thank each and every one of you who attended for making that happen.
There was such an overwhelming feeling of community and warmth inclusion and welcoming -- and I think our tribe needed that coming out of the pandemic. (I’m told that “community” is no longer an acceptable term to describe horror fandom, but I’ve never used it to encompass everyone. I’ve always used it to describe two very distinct groups — the writers, publishers and editors in this business, and two, the people who read my books. I challenge anyone who was around the Brian Keene Message Boards back in the pre-social media days to tell me that second group wasn’t a community, and as far as I’m concerned, we still are).
But I digress.
I drove down on Wednesday, after spending $700 on new tires after I got a blow out on my Mazda. On Thursday morning, floor manager Jake and I set up the convention and began checking in vendors. Charity founder Joe Ripple rolled in on Thursday night, followed by the rest of our staff on Thursday night and Friday morning. Mary and her daughter Ada drove down with John Urbancik on Thursday, as well.
After that, things become a blur. I ran myself to exhaustion and pushed myself to my physical — if not mental — limits. But I have some fond memories that lasted through that tired haze. Below are some of those memories, and some pictures to go along with some of them. As you’ll see, while it’s still very obvious I have Bell’s Palsy, it is much better than it was).
Memory 1: I accidentally stole Todd Keisling’s pen.
I also gave Mary several pens that I accidentally stole from others. Mary then promptly lost them.
Memory 2: Joe, myself, Brian Smith, and Pam Blazi were sitting in the ticket booth, and every time Joe said something, I began playing the theme music from Curb Your Enthusiasm. I had a good deliriously tired giggle from that.
Memory 3: Occult writer and paranormal researcher Mason Winfield showed up. I’ve known him since I was first starting out. We’d lost touch over the years, mostly my fault, and partially because I’m not really active privately on Facebook, and also because my email inbox is a trash fire of 200 emails per day on average. But I thought of him warmly and often. So, it was nice to reconnect with him and get his phone number. Here is his latest occult novel, The Prince of the Air — The Memoirs of a Contemporary Wizard. I genuinely love this guy, and reconnecting with him was definitely a personal high point for me. Sadly, we didn’t manage to get a picture of the two of us. (I think Mason did, but I don’t have one on my phone).
Memory 4: In addition to Mason, I also got to see another old friend, Skip Novak, whom I served in the Navy with, back when we were barely out of high school. Now he’s a horror writer, too.
Memory 5: On Saturday evening, Mary, Paul Goblirsch from Thunderstorm Books, S.A. Cosby, Jonathan Janz, Grady Hendrix, Josh Malerman, Wrath James White, Wrath’s girlfriend Cupcake, and myself managed to sneak off for some drinks and conversation. This was something we’d all missed and very much needed, coming out of the pandemic. It was nice to once again be among friends and peers and talk shop in a comfortable, safe environment. Here’s a pic, taken by Cupcake.
Looking at the picture above, you might be wondering about my leggings. They are emblazoned with a Tales From the Crypt design, and they are comfortable as hell. I wore them all day on Saturday. I’d wear them every day if I could.
I wore them with Janz.
And I wore them with actor and author Matt Blazi.
And I wore them with Mary and Hailey Piper.
Hailey is awesome, by the way. This was her first big convention, so I placed her table between Mary and Wrath’s, figuring she’d be in good hands with them. She said she had a great time, for which I am glad. Her partner, J, is delightful, as well. Looking forward to having them visit Casa Keenegiovanni sometime this summer.
Memory 6: I got to spend a lot of time with Bear (pictured above). For new readers, Bear is author Kristopher Triana’s dog. She’s just about the best dog I have ever met. She’s been to our home. and she accompanies Kris to every signing and convention. Last year, she was diagnosed with cancer, and we did a fundraiser for her. I was delighted to babysit her anytime Kris had to go do something throughout the weekend. And she didn’t care that Uncle Brian’s face currently looks funny. She licked it just the same.
Memory 7: I was very proud of Mary’s daughter, Ada, who had such a good time. She networked and made friends and got that same creative charge all writers get from these things. I woke up at 4am on Monday, walked out to the lobby to get coffee, and found Ada still awake and writing in her laptop. That made me smile. She did her very first reading as part of Bob Ford’s workshop. People thought she kicked ass.
Memory 8: Speaking of Bob, here’s something that only he and I and Mary will understand, but it’s another fond memory from the weekend: “It smells like peace and calm.”
Memory 9: My tradition after every Scares That Care event is — after we’ve close down the show and people are heading home and the truck is loaded — to sit at “my” table in the bar and order three or four entrees and pick at them for the next several hours and rehydrate. I am always joined by friends and the staff lets me add more tables as more people show up. This is my chance to simply be quiet and still for a little while, while also being social, and I always look forward to it. This year’s group was myself, Mary, Ada, Urbancik, Jay Wilburn and his wife, Candace Nola and her family, Kristopher Triana and Bear, and…I can’t remember who else? (Told you I was exhausted. I think maybe Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen at one point? And a few other folks, too, but I swear I cant remember who and I feel terrible about that). After that, we went out and joined C.V. Hunt and Andersen Prunty in the lobby, where we all ate pizza and talked shop until very late into the night.
I have a few more pics from the weekend, but Substack tells me if I include them here, then those of you who use Gmail will get a truncated version of this newsletter, so I’ll include them next week.
So…the big question everyone has been asking is “Will the charity do another AuthorCon?”
The answer is yes. AuthorCon II will happen in 2023. Stay tuned for dates and further info.
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But you don’t have to wait until next year to have this kind of experience! StokerCon 2022 is coming up next month — May 12th through May 15th in Denver, Colorado! I’m a Guest of Honor so if you have the means, consider attending. I’ll be happy to sign whatever books and comics you bring from home. I’ll also be doing a reading (something short, due to the Bell’s Palsy) and participating on a bunch of panel discussions. Full details here.
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Work this past week was an absolute wash. Monday was spent traveling. Tuesday was spent unpacking and catching up on email. My son came home on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I wrote two introductions for Wesley Southard and Carver Pike. And Saturday was spent working on compiling J.F. Gonzalez’s next book, Maternal Instinct & Other Savage Cuts, which will collect much of his extreme horror. (It will be followed by It Drinks Blood & Other Confessions of A Pulp Writer and The Day Hannah Met Cthulhu & Other Oddities). I’m typing this on Saturday morning, right before I dive into Jesus’s estate. I’ll spend this Saturday afternoon driving down to Baltimore and getting back to sorting and valuing Dave Thomas’s books, so his estate can sell them accordingly. If consciousness exists after death (and I believe that it does) then Jesus and Dave are laughing at me right now like two spirit Tom Sawyers while I whitewash their fences.
Well played, boys. But I’ll catch up with you both sooner or later, and then you have to buy me many drinks.
I plan on diving back in to writing on Monday, and spending extra hours at the desk each day.
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And that is it for this week. Again, a gentle reminder (rather than a hard sell) about THINGS LEFT BEHIND. I don’t want you to be left behind and miss out on it. Here is the link again.
I’d like to close by repeating something that I said on Twitter and my Facebook Page earlier this week: I can’t imagine how different my life would be had I not become a writer. I am grateful for those who came before me, those who came up with me, and those who are following the path we've trod. And I am grateful for my readers. Thank you for your support. You keep reading them, and I’ll keep writing them.
I’ll see you back here next week.