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Letters From the Labyrinth 320
In which Brian drowns not in the river, but in work...
Okay, first things first. If you are an author, an artist, an agent, or an editor who is attending Scares That Care’s AuthorCon II, and you wish to participate in a panel discussion, reading, Q&A or any other kind of convention programming, you have until tomorrow to fill out this survey. If you don’t fill out the survey, I can’t 100% guarantee we’ll have a spot for you. And when that happens, don’t yell at Sonora or Joe, because they’re going to send you to me, and I’m going to ask you if you filled out the survey, and you’re going to say “No”. And then I’ll arch my eyebrow at you.
Good morning. I’m Brian Keene and this is the 320th issue of Letters From the Labyrinth, a newsletter for friends, family and fans of my work. And work… well, “work” is the keyword for this week, isn’t it?
This week I turned in the manuscript for ISLAND OF THE DEAD, worked on the final draft of GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX, the first draft of SPLINTERED: THE LABYRINTH Book 3, the I’ve-lost-count-of-how-many-drafts of MONSTERS INVISIBLE (formerly INVISIBLE MONSTERS), and two different short stories. I also worked on programming for Scares That Care’s AuthorCon II. We had a Board of Directors meeting on Thursday night (during which the red pen I’d been using to take notes exploded all over my tablet). I worked on logistics for THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX. I signed signature sheets for the forthcoming limited edition of Mike Lombardo’s Please Don’t Tap On The Glass and Other Tales (which has an Introduction by Edward Lee and an Afterword by myself). Wrath and I finalized and announced this year’s Splatterpunk Award nominees. I did another episode of Brian Keene Live. And I posted content to my Patreon every day.
It felt so damned good to be that productive.
Now, you may think, “Busy week. he must have gotten up earlier or worked later.” And I would think that, too. Except I didn’t. My hours and my work schedule remained the same. Indeed, I actually had less work hours this week, because we had a busier than normal social life.
And that, I think, is the key.
On Tuesday, Mary and I had lunch with Chet Williamson, so that we could catch up on things and so I could give him the signature sheets for THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX. We’d planned on meeting at our usual spot (an Asian restaurant that Chet, J.F. Gonzalez and myself used to frequent weekly, and where we’ve taken everyone from Kasey Lansdale to Paul Campion), but it was still closed due to the aftermath of the pandemic. At the time, that got me thinking about the fallout from that very recent time in American history. We’re all engaged in various efforts to “get back to normal”, but that normalcy is a very personale, independent thing. One person’s comfort zone is another person’s anxiety, and what does “normal” even mean in the wake of this deadly plague? We forget about the impact these last few years have had on businesses like the restaurant. Maybe the owner is immunocompromised and just not ready. or maybe they lost half their staff and can’t find anyone to hire. Or maybe the economic uncertainty has made them unable to hire.
On Wednesday, Mary and I went out to dinner with my youngest son and his mom. Again, we had a wonderful time.
On Friday, Jeff Burk (my former editor at Deadite Press and the kid who pretty much saved my career when Leisure Books went down) and his longtime partner Liz were in town, so Mary and my youngest son and I got together with them, and Wesley Southard, and Mike Lombardo and his longtime partner Lex. And again, it was a wonderful time.
And today we have plans to get together for dinner with Robert Swartwood and his wife.
Four social engagements in one week. I haven’t done that since the pandemic began. Not since that April when everything shut down and the world went on hiatus. And I think that’s where the burst of sudden productivity came from.
Writing is a solitary act. Unless you are collaborating with a co-writer, the writing process involves you and you alone. But creativity — and creatives — require social interaction. We need that dynamic, whether we are an introvert or an extrovert. We need to observe other human beings, because it is the human condition that fuels what we’re writing about.
I talked about it with Lombardo this morning, and he shares similar observations. The pandemic rewired all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. We began to socialize more on social media than we did in real life (and if you’ve been reading this newsletter or my Blog recently, then you know my thoughts on what social media is doing to us as a society). As Mike said, “I realized I’m still living my pandemic hermit life.” And I’m realizing that Mary and I have been doing that, too. We need to deprogram ourselves. Teach ourselves that it’s okay to go outside and play again. We realize the pandemic is over. But many of us got used to not being among others the way we were before it happened. And I suspect, for writers especially, there’s been some damage done to our process as a result.
We had a group phone call yesterday between me and Mary, Kasey Lansdale, Jonathan Levit, and Christopher Golden. There was business to be discussed, but it was one of those business calls with other creatives that absolutely crackles with energy and positivity and lots of deep, deep laughs. It felt good to feel that spirit and camaraderie again. After we’d finished talking shop, we figured out when we’ll next be in L.A., which then led to arithmetic on when we were all actually in the same room together. And it was pre-pandemic.
Bottom line, if you want to write about human beings, you need to get out among human beings. And when you’re hre, you’re family.
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A lot of people have been texting, emailing and direct messaging to ask if they can send Mary and I a wedding present, and where we are registered, and all of that. And while that’s very kind and gracious of all of you, we truly don’t need anything. We have two of every appliance we could ever want. (Also, we’re slowly trying to downsize and declutter for when we move to West Virginia in a few years) Because of that, we aren’t registered anywhere. But if you really, really, really insist, then here is my PayPal. I just paid for our honeymoon, but we have this year’s book signing tour looming ahead of us, and we could always, always use extra money for that.
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Speaking of the book signing tour, the first two dates are coming up in just a few short weeks!
Saturday, February 25, 2023
11:00 AM 1:00 PM
Comix Connection, 6200 Carlisle Pike Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Mike Hawthorne signing from 11am to 1pm.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
3:00 PM 5:00 PM
Comix Connection - 150 White St #3, York, PA 17404
Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Mike Hawthorne signing from 3pm to 5pm.
Fun fact: These two signings (on the same day) will be the only place in America where you can purchase a physical copy of Mary’s new novel Alien: Enemy of My Enemy before its release in March. Each store has 20 copies of the paperback. So if you’re a fan of Mary’s or a fan of the Alien franchise, or you just want to show off on social media that you got it first, get yourself to one of these two signings.
And thanks to our old pals Bill, Ned, Justin, Max and the rest of the Comix Connection team, and our dear friend Mike Hawthorne for making Mary’s new release extra special.
Mary and I stopped by the store today so she could see a copy and hold it in her hand. While owner Bill Wahl was hooking her up with that, I bought comic books. Pretty good day, all in all. ;-)
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Mary and I were also delighted to be guests once again on Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast. (We’ve both been guests before, but never together).
“Collaborate over breakfast with horror writers Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni as they discuss how being intimidated by each other helps that collaborative process, their different tolerances for writing gore (and how that's changed over time), the romantic reason (up until this episode known to only one of them) their collaborative short story collection came about, which of them once wrote 45,000 words in a day, how they came to agree on a joint dedication, who gives each story its final polish (and who get the final say on sending it to market), how Brian attempted to bleed all over Mary's upcoming Alien novel, the way they approach their own deaths, their honeymoon book tour hitting every state but Alaska and Hawaii, their upcoming collaborative novel, and much more. Listen via Libsyn, Apple, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.”
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Brian Keene Live - Episode 6
Brian is joined by vocalist/guitarist Dustin James (Church of Disgust) to discuss touring and recording post-pandemic. Watch here.
My guest next Wednesday night is extreme horror writer R.J. Joseph.
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Wrath James White and I are pleased to announce the final ballot for the 2023 Splatterpunk Awards, honoring superior achievement in the literary subgenres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror fiction published in 2022, as well as the sixth recipient of the J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award, and the recommendation process for the coming year.
The nominees are as follows:
-- Playground by Aron Beauregard (Independently Published)
-- The Television by Edward Lee (Madness Heart Press)
-- Faces of Beth by Carver Pike (Independently Published)
-- Last of the Ravagers by Bryan Smith (Thunderstorm Books / Death’s Head Press)
-- Mastodon by Steve Stred (Black Void Publishing)
-- Ex-Boogeyman (Slasher vs The Remake) by Kristopher Triana (Bad Dream Books / Thunderstorm Books)
-- Charcoal by Garrett Cook (Clash Books)
-- Grandpappy by Patrick C. Harrison III (Independently Published)
-- Mr. Tilling’s Basement by Edward Lee (Deadite Press)
-- #thighgap by Chandler Morrison (Cemetery Gates Media)
-- Plastic Monsters by Daniel J. Volpe (Independently Published)
BEST SHORT STORY
-- “Just Another Bloodbath at Camp Woe-Be-Gone” by R.J. Benetti (Independently Published)
-- “Of The Worm” by Ryan Harding (from Splatterpunk Zine issue 13)
-- “My Chopping List” by Stephen Kozeniewski (from Counting Bodies Like Sheep, The Evil Cookie Publishing)
-- “Gutted” by Bracken MacLeod (from Splatterpunk Zine issue 13)
-- “Jinx” by Bridgett Nelson (from A Bouquet of Viscera)
-- Always Listen To Her Hurt: Collected Works by Kenzie Jennings (Blistered Siren Press)
-- Mr. Tilling’s Basement and Other Stories by Edward Lee (Deadite Press)
-- Horrorsmut by Christine Morgan (The Evil Cookie Publishing)
-- A Bouquet of Viscera by Bridgett Nelson (Independently Published)
-- Pornography For the End of the World by Brendan Vidito (Weirdpunk Books)
-- Human Monsters edited by Sadie Hartmann and Ashley Sawyers (Dark Matter Ink)
-- Camp Slasher Lake, Volume 1 edited by D.W. Hitz and Candace Nola (Fedowar Press)
-- Counting Bodies Like Sheep edited by K. Trap Jones (The Evil Cookie Publishing)
-- Call Me Hoop edited by SC Mendes & Lucy Leitner, created by Drew Stepek (Blood Bound Books)
-- Czech Extreme edited by Lisa Lee Tone and Edward Lee (Madness Heart Press)
J. F. GONZALEZ LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD**
-- Monica J. O’Rourke
The final ballot is composed of top recommendations from readers, critics, and the general public and then voted on by our panel of six judges. The sixth annual Splatterpunk Awards will take place at KillerCon in Austin, Texas August 12th. For more details, visit here.
The recommendation process for next year’s ballot is now open to readers, critics, and the general public. Eligible works must be first published in 2023, and must meet the definitions of either Splatterpunk or Extreme Horror. Email recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. The recommendation window will close at 11:59pm (EST) on December 31, 2023. THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSIONS. Thank you for your attention in this matter.
With love and respect,
Wrath James White and Brian Keene, Splatterpunk Award cofounders.
* Tie category
** The previous J. F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are David J. Schow, David G. Barnett, Edward Lee, John Skipp, and Clive Barker.
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Currently Watching: WKRP In Cincinnati, season 2 (DVD), Doctor Who (HBO Max)
Currently Listening: Harvest For the World by The Isley Brothers, Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails, Weakest Is The Flesh by Church of Disgust, and O.G. (Original Gangsta) by Ice-T.
Currently Reading: The Ghost That Ate Us by Daniel Kraus
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Bocephus Update: Haven’t found her hiding place, but I did watch her catch a rat on my neighbor’s dock early one morning this past week. She’s far more skittish and wary of me than Josie ever was. If she doesn’t go into labor, I’m going to attempt to trap her this week while the temperatures are above freezing, and get her (and her unborn litter) some help. (If she shows up suddenly having lost a ton of weight, then I’ll know she’s had the kittens, in which case I’ll hold off on trapping her until I either find them or she’s done nursing).
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And that does it for this week. As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate you very much, and I’ll see you back here next week! And seriously — GO FILL OUT THAT AUTHORCON II SURVEY!
— Brian Keene