Letters From the Labyrinth 327
Moonlight Feels Right
I got home from the road late last Monday night. On Thursday, after taking two days to recover from AuthorCon II (a Scares That Care charity event), I awoke at five in the morning, like I do every day, and was greeted by a beautiful full moon, glimpsed through the pine trees behind our house and shining down onto the hayfields and forest. I walked out into the field to greet it, surrounded by fog, and found myself at peace. There was no one around. Not a single other person anywhere nearby. The world was completely silent. Even the animals were quiet. I was utterly alone.
And it was glorious.
I get my best writing and thinking done in those wee hours, the time between the night shift and the day shift, when everyone else is either just waking up or just going to sleep. I need regular alone time — true alone time. I’m miserable if I don’t get it, and the longer I don’t have it, the more miserable I become.
I think I would really enjoy the apocalypse.
I suspect much of that part-time misanthropic mindset comes from — like so many other things in my life — childhood comic books, specifically Howard the Duck issue number twenty-four, which I read when I was 9 or 10 years old. It’s a wonderful examination of how saving the world and being the hero can leave you exhausted, racked with self doubt, and can often lead to an existential crisis.
I, too, have found these things to be true.
Good morning. I’m Brian Keene and this is the 327th issue of Letters From the Labyrinth, a newsletter for friends, family and fans of my work.
Thanks to all of our attendees, vendors, volunteers, managers, writers, and readers who made AuthorCon II one of Scares That Care's most successful events yet. Given how successful it was, the Board of Directors decided very quickly (like thirty minutes after the convention was over) that we would do a third AuthorCon.
And so, I am happy to announce that AuthorCon III will take place in April 2024. Further details (like the actual dates, vendor table reservations, and the hotel code) are forthcoming. Please don’t ask for them yet. In the meantime, you can donate or learn more about the charity and our events here.
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Mary and I are back out on the road again this coming week. If you live in or near Kentucky, West Virginia, or Virginia, here is where we will be:
Thursday, April 13
3:00 PM 6:00 PM
Conquest Books 2824 Holt St, Ashland, KY
Friday, April 14
6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Butcher Cabin Books 990 Barret Avenue Louisville, KY
Saturday, April 15
2:00 PM 4:00 PM
Books-A-Million 1264 N Eisenhower Dr, Beckley, WV
Sunday, April 16
1:00 PM 3:00 PM
Barnes & Noble, Chesterfield Towne Center 11500 Midlothian Tpke Richmond VA
Please Note: For that Books-A-Million signing on Saturday, April 15th — Books-A-Million still refuses to stock my books (read END OF THE ROAD for what I did to piss off the chain’s upper management) so you will need to bring your books from home. They will, however, have Mary’s books in stock.
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There are only a few days left to back the SWORDS IN THE SHADOWS Kickstarter. This anthology, edited by Cullen Bunn, features a brand new story by me, as well as stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Mary SanGiovanni, Stephen Graham Jones, Hailey Piper, Steven L. Shrewsbury, Jonathan Janz, Wile E. Young and many more. Click here to back this project.
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Today is the last day to reserve your copy of the autographed collectors edition of ISLAND OF THE DEAD. You can do that here.
World Horror Grandmaster Brian Keene returns to zombies in this relentless sword and sorcery horror epic!
Einar, an enslaved barbarian, plots his escape from a war galley transporting troops and a mysterious weapon to far enemy shores. But when an apocalyptic storm at sea leaves Einar and his fellow captives shipwrecked on a strange, uncharted island, friend and foe alike must band together against a ravenous, steadily growing horde of the undead... and even worse dangers.
Not even death is an escape from the... ISLAND OF THE DEAD!
In anticipation of some frequently asked questions: This will be the first printed physical edition of the book. It has previously appeared electronically on Patreon and Kindle Vella. It will be leaving Kindle Vella permanently in 60 days. Yes, there will eventually be a paperback release, along with audiobook and eBook, but not until 2024. Again, click here to pre-order your copy.
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BRIAN KEENE LIVE - Episode 12
Splatterpunk Award and Imadjinn Award winner Wesley Southard joined me to talk about book signing tours and what life on the road is really like for an author. Watch for free here.
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There’s another new installment of Kit Power’s Exploring the Labyrinth column available. This month, he revisits the Author’s Preferred Version of TERMINAL. You can read his thoughts here.
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My dear friend and frequent collaborator, legendary comic book artist and writer Keith Giffen, has joined Instagram. Give him a follow here.
Why has he joined Instagram? Because he has a new podcast to promote — Keith Giffen’s I’M NOT DEAD YET, which is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Check it out here.
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Currently Watching: Snowfall season 6 (Hulu), Survivor season 44 (Paramount+), and Joe Pera Talks With You season 3(HBO).
Currently Listening: Brian Keene Radio
Currently Reading: Deep Waters by William Hope Hodgson and Monster Movies by David J. Schow.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — David J. Schow’s story notes and the Afterwords at the end of his various collections are always worth the price of the book alone. They’ve always been bangers, but the new ones in the Cimarron Street Books editions are especially exceptional. The Afterword to Monster Movies particularly shines. For example, look at this beautiful sentence.
‘As our idols and friends die all around us, such recollect inevitably becomes autobiography.’
That knocked me back on my heels a bit.
In the Afterword, David also talks quite a bit about Ravenseye, his former home in the Hollywood Hills, where he lived for 20 years. I remember that home very fondly, having visited there a half dozen times over the years. I always felt safe and comfortable and not-at-all a misanthrope when I was there. It was stuffed to the gills with horror paraphernalia, and for me, that place was always one half of my personal barometer on what success in this stupid business means. (The other half of that barometer was Richard Laymon and Joe R. Lansdale’s approach to the work — an approach that I adapted very early on, and which has served me very well).
Ravenseye was just magic, and it occurred to me as I was reading Monster Movies that I have emulated David just as I did with Dick and Joe, by having my what-I-didn’t-realize-until-now own version of Ravenseye, albeit an Appalachian hillbilly version. It’s made of brick, rather than plaster and stucco, and instead of a view of the Hollywood sign, downtown Los Angeles, and Beachwood Canyon, it overlooks the Susquehanna River, the Mason-Dixon Trail, and seemingly endless miles of fields and forests. But, like Ravenseye it is stuffed to the brim with horror paraphernalia, and like Ravenseye, I feel comfortable and safe here, and not at all misanthropic.
David remarks in the Afterword to Monster Movies that nobody famous ever lived in Ravenseye, but that’s silly. He lived there. And a lot of horror royalty, from both film and fiction, took shelter in those walls. And beyond horror, as well.
I hope me and Mary's place has offered that same sense of home and comfort and shelter for folks who have passed through.
Monster Movies by David J. Schow is available in paperback right here.
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This was an abbreviated work-week, given that I didn’t get home until Tuesday, and was so exhausted from AuthorCon II that I needed two full days to recharge. But the second half of the week went well. I worked on GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX, and something new Christopher Golden and I have cooking. That project will need a codename, because I can’t tell you what it really is, so let’s call it OPERATION WALKABOUT (because it is Australian themed). Chris and I also got THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX across the finish line this past week. (Truthfully, it was Chris that did most of the work the last 7 days, as I was at the convention). I also worked on a lengthy interview with my pal Wrath James White for the 2023 StokerCon Program Book, and answered a ton of email and text messages and DMs.
On the non-writing side of things, production has begun on the Manhattan On Mars editions of AN OCCURRENCE IN CRAZY BEAR VALLEY and OTHER WORDS. That latter is an old nonfiction collection that previously only saw print as a signed limited edition from Thunderstorm Books many years ago. Production has also begun on LOVE AND HATE IN THE TIME OF COVID: SELECTED NONFICTION, 2015 - 2022. As you might guess from that rather unwieldy title, it’s a new nonfiction collection, compiling a bunch of never-before-collected essays from various places, spanning from the last gasp of Nickolaus Pacione to Mary and I getting engaged.
I’ve discovered a bottleneck with Manhattan On Mars, and that is book covers. Because I’m operating on a strict budget for the first three years of this endeavor (and because I’m also paying for a wedding and a book tour), it takes me time to come up with the funds to pay the artists and designers. And once I pay them to start work, it understandably takes them time to come up with the finished covers. Hopefully, as we release more, that part of the process will get easier.
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You’ll notice I didn’t recap much of AuthorCon II earlier in the newsletter. That’s because by the time you read this, the convention will be week-old news, and dozens upon dozens of other folks have already written about it in their newsletters and on social media. But I will share a story from the convention that no one else has yet told.
Here are two pictures of me and Maurice Broaddus’s son Reese, when he was age 8 and 21, respectively.
Mary related to me that late Saturday night, Reese, our daughter Ada, the very talented R. J. Benetti, and several other kids — all under the age of thirty — were hanging out, just as we used to hang out at these conventions back in the day. They’d formed their own peer group. And the best part was that the slightly older Wile E. Young was advising them, just as we advised his peer group, and just as older authors advised us back in the day.
That should have probably made me feel ridiculously old, but instead, it filled me with ridiculous joy. Because I remember when this group, now all in their fifties except for Mary, were that group of kids.
This job can be frustrating at times. You have to contend with writer’s block and carpal tunnel. You live under a constant cloud of financial insecurity, and no matter how successful you get, it seems you will always have to chase down monies owed to you. There’s no health insurance, no 401K, and no retirement. You are only as good as the sales on your last book, and you are competing with everyone and everything. Strangers treat you like crap, peers treat you with indifference, and your non-writer family members often don’t have the tools to help us (and that is our fault, because we don’t communicate those tools to them, because we ourselves are often unsure what those tools should be). This job can lead to — or exacerbate — divorce, estrangement, alcoholism, addiction, and poor physical, emotional, and mental health.
But this job has also brought me some of the best friends I have ever known. And I would do it all over again. And again. And again. Because to not have them in my life would mean that my life would be a lot less fuller and richer.
So maybe I’m not a complete and total misanthrope after all.
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Saturday morning now as I write this final part. I’ve just come from breakfast with a childhood friend — one of the six guys that I condensed and coalesced and mashed up into the three kids from GHOUL. He and I lost touch many years ago, and it was only through coincidence or divine provenance that he happened to one day cross paths with author Wesley Southard, and asked Wes if he knew me, and thus we got back in touch. We probably haven’t seen each other in twenty years, but it was like no time had passed at all, and eventually the staff of the Round-The-Clock diner had to chase us out so they could free up the booth.
Thanks, Wes, for putting us in touch. We both owe you.
And thanks, as always, to you, dear readers. Love to you all. I’ll see you back here next week.
— Brian Keene