Last Sunday, I said that I was confident that Josie Wales’ new litter only consisted of three kittens. I was wrong. There are six of them. She moved them from under the back stairs to under our front porch earlier this week, after Smoke (the guy who cuts our lawn) mowed the grass. She does not know that I know they are under the porch. I would say that I have finally outsmarted her, except she’s still wise to the fact that I’m trying to tame her enough to catch her and take her to the vet to get spayed. (For new readers, she looks with disdain and contempt at the various humane box traps I’ve set up to catch her over the past year).
Here are two pics of the new litter. I snapped these before she relocated them to under the porch. If you look closely, you’ll see all six of them. Three with white, and three gray.
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. And also for people who like pictures of cats. Previous issues can be read here. You can also leave comments, which I’ll read and answer as time allows.
These kittens will be ready for adoption in early June. Two of them are already spoken for. Let me know if you’d like to adopt one of the remaining four. Serious inquiries only.
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Reminder that preorders for the paperback and ebook editions of CURSE OF THE BASTARDS are now available direct from the publisher. Use code ROGAN30 to save 30%.
Last week, I showed you the cover. This week, here’s the official synopsis:
‘Rogan - the aging, jaded barbarian who gave up his throne - painfully realizes that his most storied childhood heroes are fading into antiquity, becoming mere ballads in the eyes of the younger warriors. And he might be next.
He stops at the hometown of his idol, but little remains to show of the man's exploits ... until he meets the hero's daughter, Roan, riding her father's infamous seven-hundred-year-old horse. Roan has a vendetta against General Tolin La Gaul, who harbors a dark secret. She tries to convince Rogan to join her in riding upon the Citadel of Nosmada in the land of Nod to confront Tolin, but Rogan has no interest in such a dicey plan. That is, until his nephew, Javan, goes missing, presumed captured. Now the Citadel has become a snare, and he has no choice but to spring the trap's jaws.
Rogan's path leads him into darker and more twisted schemes than even he could have imagined ... gods, devils, and an undead dragon, forcing him to confront not only his own mortality and place in history - but even his god, Wodan.
Steven L. Shrewsbury and Brian Keene's award-winning Bastards Saga comes to its exciting conclusion with CURSE OF THE BASTARDS!’
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Also a reminder that I’m a Guest of Honor at StokerCon next weekend, out in Denver, Colorado. Here’s my schedule. You should bring all your books from home and have me sign them! Also, Deadite Press will have all of my books through them available in the dealer’s room. For those of you watching the Bram Stoker Awards from home on Saturday night, I believe Maurice Broaddus and I will be presenting one of them together, so I’ll have to up my fashion game.
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Eve Harms writes (via Twitter): My sister-in-law’s brother is a single dad recovering from brain surgery for his cancer and undergoing chemo. He's been denied disability by the state of Utah and needs help with expenses while undergoing treatment.
Here’s the link to the GoFundMe. Even five bucks will make a difference, if you have the means. Eve’s a great writer, and one of the good folks. Let’s help her family out.
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And now, for something completely different, here’s a story from my younger years:
For those who don't know him, Brian Keene is a strong-bodied, dark-haired, affable man – unless you cross him. He was an on-the-edge figure in a black-leather-jacket when I first met him around 2000 in a Buffalo pub – possibly Franklin Street's late, lamented Goth-wizard pub the Continental – in the company of two former Buffalonians, ex-Marine/horror buff Mike Lesniak and H. P. Lovecraft-scholar and author Daniel Harms.
From the start Brian was always affable and respectful to me, even protective, but he had a fury in him as a young man that may have surfaced itself in his authorship in horror. If you messed with him, he went ballistic quickly, and backing down was an unfathomable option. I never knew him as a youth, though I bet he was one those who held court at the back of the bus in junior high. Once early in his career he was threatened by a caller as he spoke on a radio program. He gave out his phone number, email address – something with “ragekeene” in it – and his home address ON AIR and said, “Come get me, F#©ker! I can get a whole lot crazier than you.”
That’s a true story, and an excerpt from issue 48 of Mason Winfield’s Notes From the Spirit Way newsletter, which you can subscribe to for free via this link. (The essay has some other wonderful remembrances from back in the way — including Weston Ochse and Michael T. Huyck Jr. getting into a sparring match in my living room).
As Mason writes in the newsletter, we’ve been friends for many years. He knows where I’ve buried the bodies, and indeed, he’s helped me bury a few of them, as well. Give him a subscribe, if you’re so inclined.
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Ronald Kelly launched a newsletter last week, as well, right here on Substack. It’s a reboot of his much-beloved and much-missed The Fear County Chronicle. Ron writes:
Way back in the mid-1990s, during my brief six-year tenure as a mass-market paperback author with Zebra Books, I began a newsletter called The Fear County Chronicle. Like most writer newsletters back then, it mainly consisted of one or two pages of current news concerning my writing career at that point and upcoming projects and publications. And, as there was hardly any internet or email to speak of back then, it was intended as a mail-out. You’d type them up, print up fifty to a hundred copies, and mail them out, which could be pretty expensive, even at 32-cents a pop. Between 1994 and 1996, I put out eight Chronicles in all.
Now it’s back via email. Give Ron a subscribe, as well!
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Currently Reading: Timewalker by Thomas F. Monteleone
Currently Listening: Animals by Pink Floyd, O.G: Original Gangsta by Ice-T, “Just Because” by Jane’s Addiction, Witch Mountain by Witch Mountain, “Borderline” by Madonna, Wake the Sleeping Dragon by Sick Of It All, and a whole bunch of various tunes by Earth, Wind & Fire.
Currently Watching: The Northman
Mary and I saw The Northman last Thursday night. This was our first time watching a movie in a theater in over two years, as we haven’t gone since the pandemic started. I’d thought about going for The Many Saints of Newark, but opted to watch it at home, instead. And my youngest son and I ventured into a movie theater when his mother was craving some authentic movie theater popcorn, but we didn’t go past the concession stand. So this was the first actual viewing for Mary and I in over two years.
It felt weird, at first. The place was packed, with a lot of people there to see Doctor Strange 2 (including my oldest son and Wesley Southard and his wife Katie). The crowd was maybe 75% maskless? But we had the theater showing The Northman almost to ourselves. It was just us and one other middle aged couple, and we sat far enough away from them that we were able to take our masks off and relax.
When the trailers started, and the sound system kicked in with some chest thumping subwoofers? I shivered. I’d missed that sound. Missed the thrill of watching trailers on the big screen. Missed going to the movies.
Starting my senior year in high school (soon as I had a car) I began going to the movies every weekend. Didn’t matter what was playing. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Rambo: First Blood Part 2. Beverly Hills Cop. The Terminator. I saw them all opening weekend. I mean, I’d been going to the movies my whole life, but it wasn’t a weekly thing. Once I could drive, it became a weekly tradition.
This continued when I went into the Navy. For the first six months of my enlistment, I was stationed in San Diego — first for 8 weeks of boot camp and then for months of specialized training in various things. Every Friday afternoon, I’d catch a bus to the local comic book store and buy a stack of comics. Then I’d walk to the movie theater next door and catch a flick. Code of Silence. The Hitcher. To Live and Die In L.A. And so many other great (and not so great) ones. And I didnt even mind the not so great ones, because for me, it was all about the experience. Each week, when the movie was over, I’d catch the bus back to the base, and go to a little Italian place right outside the main gate, and eat a meatball parm while I read comics and thought about the movie I’d just seen. The tradition kept up when I was finally stationed across the country in Norfolk. I have vivid memories of watching Platoon with a bunch of my Navy buddies, and we left that theater just… emotionally drained. To this day, I can’t hear “Adagio for Strings” without immediately remembering that moviegoing experience. And Top Gun. Oh my God, how we all hated Top Gun. Our commanding officer flunked out of Top Gun training and got busted down the the fleet, and he was angry about it. He used to play “Danger Zone” over the ship’s PA system when we were doing dangerous maneuvers. He was universally loathed, and boy, did he hate me. To this day, I haven’t seen another Tom Cruise movie.
But I’ve seen a lot of other movies. Because that tradition continued throughout my adult life, up until a little over two years ago. I took both of my sons to their first movies. Most of the important romantic relationships I’ve had in my adult life began with a movie date. I’ve gone to the movies when I was happy. When I was sad. When I had money. When I was broke. Didn’t matter what was going on in my life — the movie theater was always there. Until Covid…
Everybody has something they missed the most during the pandemic. For me, it was going to the movies. And it felt damn good to be back there again.
As for The Northman — it’s a great film. Easily Eggers’ best so far. A loving tribute to not only the old Norse myth that inspired Hamlet, but also the lesser known works of Robert E. Howard. Solid acting, beautiful cinematography, and fantastic sound. I had a few minor quibbles with some of the plotting and characterization. (Without spoilers, the main character chooses to ignore an atrocity early in the film that made it hard for me to continue rooting for him later on, and the entire movie would have been an hour shorter if he had just used the blacksmith’s dagger or even a random rock instead of a particular sword). But again, these are minor, minor quibbles. I loved the movie, and so did Mary. Although, given that it’s been two years, the theater could have been showing us Ernest Goes To Hell or Tyler Perry’s Madea Gets A Hemorrhoid and we would have still had a great time.
If you are at all interested in the film, I would urge you to see it on the big screen, if it’s still playing in your area. It’s a movie that deserves the spectacle. It’s big and beautiful and bombastic in all the best ways.
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And now it’s time for this week’s installment of Brian Keene’s Time Machine. This week, let’s go back to the year 2002…
If you’re a fairly new reader (like say over the last decade) then you’re probably wondering who Luke is. (Jason you’ll be familiar with from END OF THE ROAD and Big Joe you’ll know from the recently reprinted RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol 2). You’ll learn all about Luke in just a month or so when THE NEW FEAR: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol. 3 is finally reprinted (after being out of print since 2008). That’s also the book in which Dave Thomas makes his first appearance.
Which brings me to…
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Work this week was super productive.
THE NEW FEAR: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol. 3 is finalized. I’ll be sending the revised manuscript off to Robert Swartwood next week so that he can begin layout and Kindleization. And I’ll also send it to Elderlemon Design so I can get a new cover. I’m happy to see this old book back in print. It will soon be followed by LEADER OF THE BANNED: THE BEST OF HAIL SATEN Vol. 4 and then, at the end of the year by OTHER WORDS, at which point all of my non-fiction will be back in print and available to this new generation of readers who are discovering me for the first time.
I posted the final two chapters of INVISIBLE MONSTERS to Patreon. I know the second draft is going to require some major rewrites, but I’m enthusiastic about them. I’ll start on that after I finish the GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX graphic novel (which is so close to being done that I can taste the Castle Rock air).
I also re-read MONSTERS OF SAIPAN and ISLAND OF THE DEAD so I can jump back into those in the coming weeks, as well.
And finally, I’ve got the start of SPLINTERED: THE LABYRINTH Book 3 all figured out. The structure of this one will be a little different than THE SEVEN and SUBMERGED (and don’t worry — I won’t spoil SUBMERGED since it’s not yet available in book form). Basically, the first part will be the solo adventures of The Exit. The second part will focus on Teddy, LeHorn, and Sarah. And the final part will feature Tony in the fight of his life. I intend to start serializing it on Patreon next month.
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And that does it for this week. A sincere happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who are reading this.
Looking forward to seeing some of you later this week at StokerCon! Don’t be afraid to say “hi!”
Apparently, kittens can be addictive. My wife and myself just adopted an entire litter of five kittens. It had started with only two, but then we couldn't resist the other three after meeting them. Now comes the hard part of agreeing on names for them all.