Letters From the Labyrinth 345
The WGA and SAG strikes wind on. The nation’s top retailers report across the board that consumer spending is down. Inflation continues to rise. The parts of the planet that aren’t under water are on fire. Mental illness is on the rise. So are fungal infections and viruses. Political violence is spreading. And it’s beginning to look like our Presidential options for next year will once again be either a megalomaniac with a bad toupee and a penchant for idolizing strongman fascist dictators or a kinder, sleepier version of the grandpa from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. The heat death of social media continues, and in those death throes, it continues to exacerbate all of these things. By November 2024, America may very well be heading into its own version of Ireland’s troubles (a bloody etho-nationalist conflict that lasted about thirty years).
You’ve got to find peace wherever you can these days. I find it with my loved ones, and with this new batch of kittens, and with my daily walks. I don’t find it on social media, with the exception of Bluesky, which is still — amazingly — utterly delightful. All of your favorite authors are pretty much on there now. I’ve been collecting their spare invite codes (because it is still invite-only) so if you are a reader or a fan looking around the desolate smoking crater that used to be Twitter and wondering where everyone went, that’s where we are, and if you’d like an invite code, let me know in the comments. But please only ask for one if you intend to use it. Invites are limited and hard to come by. There is nothing more frustrating than giving someone an invite code and then it doesn’t get used, and other people who desperately want one are left waiting. We’d love to see you there, but only if you want to be there.
My loved ones are helping me find peace this week by giving me a 7 day writing retreat. Long-time readers know that usually entails me going to the family cabin deep in the mountains outside of Lewisburg, West Virginia or occasionally to an off-season beach town somewhere. This time, I’ve stayed home. Mary opted to go to New Jersey for a week, and my sons and friends are fending for themselves, so I have seven uninterrupted days of writing ahead. My focus will be the final draft of the script for Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX. I will not take unfinished for an answer. There’s no deadline for that project but I want to finish it because — quite frankly — I could use the money, and I can’t focus on other things until it’s done. Secondary focuses this week will be an Introduction for a short story collection by Cullen Bunn, an article for an outdoor magazine, and the next issue of JOBS IN HELL (which you can subscribe to here) and which I intend to finish right after I finish this newsletter (which is being written on Saturday).
Speaking of my loved ones and writing, my 15-year old sold a short story to an anthology recently, and signed the contract for it this week. He did this on his own, with no help from myself, his mom, or his step-mom (except for some help with the printer when his contract came). He did it under a pseudonym so there was no nepotism involved. I am so very proud of him. I didn’t sell my first short story until I wa thirty years old, so he’s already doing better than his old man.
He also took this picture of me and one of the new kittens earlier this week.
This new batch of kittens help me find peace simply by being kittens. All seven of them are now tamed and able to be picked up without fuss, which will make transferring them to the adoption shelter so much easier. They’re 4 weeks old now, and I’ve helped Bocephus (whom I call Bo) begin weaning them by introducing soft pate-style cat food, which they love. Their little butts wiggle as they eat it. There was a huge hawk that showed up Thursday and began stalking them, but I chased it off and it hasn’t come back since.
I’ll probably give it another week or two, and then round them up and take them to the shelter. And then… well, I’d love to get Bo fixed. She’d make a fine farm cat (although she’s too feral to ever come indoors — I suspect she would not play well with our cats. But getting her fixed requires her complying with my efforts to trap her, and she’s refused to do that so far. Ultimately, I’m going to have to starve her out. The only source of food (other than mice, birds, snakes, etc) is going to have to be in the trap. She’ll either go inside, or she’ll move on up or down the river to another food source. But that’s a problem for a few weeks from now, and one that disturbs my current peace, so we’ll worry about that later. For now, I just enjoy moments like these.
Like my loved ones and caring for wild cats, my daily walks continue to be a source of peace, as well. I shared one of those walks with the public a few weeks ago (you can watch it here) and the response to it gave me an idea.
As you may or may not know, I post daily content to Patreon: serialized versions of whatever novel I’m working on (you get to read it before it’s published), short stories, writing advice, nonfiction, poetry, behind the scenes stuff, and much more. I currently have two tiers on Patreon.
$1 per month serves as the tip jar for those who want to support me without access to the content.
$5 per month gives you full and complete access to all daily content -- including all serialized novels and novellas, all short stories, all essays, all writing advice, all poetry, and all behind the scenes material. Everything that I have ever posted there is immediately available to you for just five bucks.
Based on your feedback and responses to the Daily Walk video I posted a few weeks ago, I have now added a third tier:
$10 per month gives you -- in addition to all of the content unlocked at the $5 tier -- access to an exclusive, daily video update where I talk about what I'm working on, my creative process, what I’m thinking about that day, and more. These videos will be exclusive to Patreon and unavailable on any other platform (including YouTube). The only place you’ll be able to watch them is on Patreon.
If you are not yet a subscriber to my Patreon, why not give it a try for a month? Click here.
Regardless of which tier you choose, know that I appreciate your support and am grateful for your continued patronage.
So, yeah. Bluesky, my loved ones, feral cats, and daily hikes. That’s where I find my peace. Find yourself some, as well. We all need it these days.
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Currently Playing: Fallout 76 and Clash of Clans
Currently Reading: Book Worms issue 1 and Shards by Michael Shotter
Currently Listening: Brian Keene Radio
Currently Watching: Nothing
I added a bunch of new music and readings to the rotation on the radio station this week, so you’ll hear some new stuff.
Book Worms is a throwback to the old zines — a format I dearly love and dearly miss. It’s mail order only — no digital — which delights me even more. You can buy it for $5 via Etsy.
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Warren Lapine was one of the first editors to ever pay me professional rates back in the day, when Tom Piccirilli and I were hustling for his magazines. His wife writes that Warren “had a cardiac event on August 7th that caused his heart to stop. CPR was started immediately by a friend and he was then airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized. He underwent a number of tests that failed to turn up a reason for his heart stoppage, and therefore an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) was implanted to make sure he doesn’t die if this happens again. Since the doctors and tests were unable to determine why Warren’s heart stopped, there will be lots of follow up anointments and tests, all of which will have to be paid for somehow.
While we have one of the best insurance plans offered on the Health Care Exchange, we have to pay for 20-40% of all in-network bills, the deductible and out-of-pocket max are still quite high, and we have zero coverage for any out-of-network charges. This means that for anything that turns out to be out of network, we have to pay 100%, with no maximum, and it doesn’t even count toward our deductible or out-of-pocket max. The helicopter flight to the nearest hospital equipped to handle his situation is not covered by insurance at all, and can cost up to $40,000 (and they neither told us that, nor asked our consent to do it). And unfortunately, the combination of a recent higher-than-expected tax bill and a drastic drop in Amazon sales has left our family with little to no financial cushion. We’ve always tried to be generous and give back to our local and science fiction communities, and now we need your help to overcome this personal catastrophe.”
A GoFundMe has been set up here, if you have the means to donate five or ten or twenty dollars.
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Beyond the Bounds of Infinity is a forthcoming cosmic horror anthology edited by Vaughn A. Jackson and Stephanie Pearre. I’ve met Vaughn several times now, and I like him. He’s a good kid. I can’t remember if I’ve met Stephanie or not. I feel like I probably have, since she’s semi-local, but I am about to turn 56 and occasionally have cognitive issues that I insist only developed after the Bells Palsy but which everybody else insists is just me being tired, except for Mary, who suspects I am faking the whole cognitive thing just so I can say outrageous things and tell people what I really think about them, but if that were the case…
…whoops, sorry. I digress.
It’s billed as an anthology of diverse cosmic horror — the type of thing that would have stood old HPL on his head. It’s being published by my pals at Raw Dog Screaming Press, and features my pals L. Marie Wood, Hailey Piper, S.A. Cosby, and Lynne Hansen. (And yes, given that I know everyone involved, I must certainly have met Stephanie at some point, I’m sure. My apologies Stephanie).
Check out the Kickstarter for the anthology right here.
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I posted a two-part walking tour of the locations from my book LAST OF THE ALBATWITCHES. I show you Chickie’s Rock, the forest surrounding it, and also talk about the next two Levi Stoltzfus books, as well.
You can watch Part 1 here.
And Part 2 is here.
And LAST OF THE ALBATWITCHES is available in the following formats:
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For those asking, Survivor by J.F. Gonzalez will be back in print in time for Halloween!
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And that does it for this week. Thanks for reading this, as always. Last week’s newsletter was extra long. This week’s was a little shorter. But that’ll give you more free time today. I hope the rest of your day brings you peace. I’ll see you back here next Sunday.
— Brian Keene