Missing in Action

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Missing in Action

I spent an afternoon recovering at the home of poet Linda Addison before my next signing at the Barnes and Noble in Tucson, and during that time, I’d begun to mull over something important. Before I tell you what it is, we have to backtrack a bit.

A decade ago, you could find my books in any bookstore. Indeed, most Borders and Barnes and Noble carried a few copies of each book in my backlist, thus creating a Brian Keene shelf, right next to Stephen King and Jack Ketchum. I can’t tell you how crucial this was to increasing my audience. If you’re a customer browsing the horror section (or even the alphabetical K section) your eyes are naturally going to be drawn to an entire row of books written by the same person, rather than a lone book by a lone author. Continue Reading

Tower of Babble

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Tower of Babble

Hello. If you’re just joining us, this is End of the Road—a weekly column in which I detail my nine-month cross-country promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. I write about what I’ve learned out here on the road, and how the horror genre, and our industry, and our country, and myself have changed over the last twenty years. We now rejoin the column, already in progress.

The drive from San Diego, California to Tucson, Arizona is a lonely haul through a bleak and desolate stretch of sunbaked wasteland that resembles the set of a Mad Max movie. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to me. So far on this Farewell Tour, I’d had partners to ride with, but Jamie LaChance and Kasey Lansdale had now returned home, and I was alone in the rental car with only my thoughts for company. This wasn’t a good thing. Anyone who truly knows me will tell you that my thoughts do not, in fact, make for excellent company.Continue Reading

Drive On

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Drive On

CD
A quick side-trip to the beach. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

Early morning in Los Angeles, and after a week, I was still on East Coast time. As a result, while the rest of the household slept, I was sitting out on David Schow’s balcony in the Hollywood hills, looking down on the city, and drinking coffee. It was the first moment of reflective, quiet, alone time I’d had since leaving home, and I was enjoying it. I watched the sun rise. I watched a coyote slink behind a neighbor’s house far below. And I watched three big black crows alight on some electrical wires just beyond David’s balcony. Squawking to each other, they looked out upon the world as if they owned it. And who knows? Maybe they did.

I sat there, quietly sipping coffee, watching three crows from the balcony of the man who co-wrote the screenplay to The Crow, and smiling at the universe’s little joke. Then Kasey Lansdale swept in like the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, and the spell was broken, and the coffee was finished, and we headed out to the next signing—at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.Continue Reading

A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank's "Horror Row"

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A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s Horror Row

Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)
Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies.
(Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

Unbeknownst to most fans of the horror genre, there is a two block stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California that serves as “Horror Row.” What follows is a brief walking tour for those wishing to experience it.

We start at 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard, the current address of Dark Delicacies. In business since 1994, Dark Delicacies—operated by Del and Sue Howison—sells horror novels, horror non-fiction, horror vinyl, horror movies, horror toys, and horror-themed clothing and accessories. It’s a popular hang-out and social spot for Los Angeles-based horror professionals, many of whom a visitor might happen to spot browsing the shelves. Dark Delicacies hosts in-store signings with authors, actors, directors, and musicians on a weekly basis. Their book selection in unbeatable—used mass-market paperbacks, new trade paperbacks, signed limited edition hardcovers, and offerings from both the mainstream and the small press. They are also a New York Times bestseller list reporting store, meaning strong sales there can boost a horror novel’s success. More importantly, Del and Sue make sure that every visitor to the store feels welcomed and special.Continue Reading

A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s “Horror Row”

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A Brief Walking Tour of Burbank’s Horror Row

Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)
Kasey Lansdale and Brian inside Dark Delicacies.
(Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

Unbeknownst to most fans of the horror genre, there is a two block stretch of Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California that serves as “Horror Row.” What follows is a brief walking tour for those wishing to experience it.

We start at 3512 West Magnolia Boulevard, the current address of Dark Delicacies. In business since 1994, Dark Delicacies—operated by Del and Sue Howison—sells horror novels, horror non-fiction, horror vinyl, horror movies, horror toys, and horror-themed clothing and accessories. It’s a popular hang-out and social spot for Los Angeles-based horror professionals, many of whom a visitor might happen to spot browsing the shelves. Dark Delicacies hosts in-store signings with authors, actors, directors, and musicians on a weekly basis. Their book selection in unbeatable—used mass-market paperbacks, new trade paperbacks, signed limited edition hardcovers, and offerings from both the mainstream and the small press. They are also a New York Times bestseller list reporting store, meaning strong sales there can boost a horror novel’s success. More importantly, Del and Sue make sure that every visitor to the store feels welcomed and special.Continue Reading

An Abundance of Bourbon, or, "Whiskey River Take Me Home"

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An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

Road
Brian and Del Howison of Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

On Wednesday morning, I woke up in Los Angeles, forgetting that I was still on East Coast time. I stumbled outside in search of coffee and couldn’t understand why it was still dark. Then I fumbled for my phone and glanced at the time and saw that it was only four in the morning. The only people awake were the homeless—and they weren’t nocturnal by choice. They were just out to beat the heat.

Los Angeles is a city that runs on automobiles. Seriously. You can’t get anywhere in Los Angeles without a car, and in truth, because of gridlock, you can’t get anywhere with a car, either. I’m told that the city offers public transit, but much like Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and Dean Koontz novels that don’t feature a dog, I have never seen it. Continue Reading

An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

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An Abundance of Bourbon, or, “Whiskey River Take Me Home”

Road
Brian and Del Howison of Dark Delicacies. (Photo Copyright 2016 Brian Keene)

On Wednesday morning, I woke up in Los Angeles, forgetting that I was still on East Coast time. I stumbled outside in search of coffee and couldn’t understand why it was still dark. Then I fumbled for my phone and glanced at the time and saw that it was only four in the morning. The only people awake were the homeless—and they weren’t nocturnal by choice. They were just out to beat the heat.

Los Angeles is a city that runs on automobiles. Seriously. You can’t get anywhere in Los Angeles without a car, and in truth, because of gridlock, you can’t get anywhere with a car, either. I’m told that the city offers public transit, but much like Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and Dean Koontz novels that don’t feature a dog, I have never seen it. Continue Reading

Into the Breach

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Into the Breach

The day before I left for California, my eight-year-old son and I spent the afternoon in the woods. After hours of swimming in the creek, avoiding snakes, catching turtles and frogs and then letting them go, and pretending we were in a “real-life” game of Minecraft, we sat down on a big rock. Both of us got quiet for a moment.

Then I asked, “So, do you want to talk about me leaving tomorrow? I haven’t done a tour like this since you were born. Is there anything you are wondering about? Are you worried or scared or feeling sad?”

He thought about it for a moment and then said, “Well, Dad, I’m worried you’ll get lost.”Continue Reading

Scenes from a Mall and a Parking Lot

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Scenes from a Mall and a Parking Lot

The authors with the staff of Bradley's Book Outlet. (Copyright 2016 Vicki Haid)
The authors with the staff of Bradley’s Book Outlet. (Copyright 2016 Vicki Haid)

In the song “Hello” (off Ice Cube’s album War and Peace Vol. 2) Dr. Dre raps, “We came a long way from not giving a fuck, selling tapes out of a trunk to moving this far up.”

The first book signing tour I ever did was for 4X4—a book I co-wrote with authors Geoff Cooper, Mike Oliveri, and Michael T. Huyck. It was published in hardcover and paperback, is long out of print, and goes for quite a bit of money on the secondary market these days. The 4X4 tour consisted of two bookstore appearances—Dark Delicacies in Burbank and Borderlands Books in San Francisco—as well as a local cable television appearance. The four of us flew to San Francisco, were joined by artist Gak and author Gene O’Neill, and then drove to the other signing in Los Angeles.

At a rest stop along the way, I managed to sell passerby copies of the book out of the back of our rental car.

That was in 2001. Continue Reading

WHC Part 3: Old Friends and Other Revenants

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WHC Part 3: Old Friends and Other Revenants

In an earlier installment of this column, we talked about the early days of the Internet. I’m taking you back now to the year 1998. There were exactly four websites dedicated to horror fiction—Horror Net (run by Matt Schwartz), Masters of Terror (run by Andy Fairclough), Gothic Net (run by Darren McKeeman), and Chiaroscuro (run by Brett Savory). Think about that. Four websites devoted to horror fiction. By contrast, nearly twenty years later, Google horror fiction and see how many websites you get. But back in the olden days, we had four.
Continue Reading

WHC Part 2: Spirits

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WHC Part 2: Spirits

The first time I ever went to Utah, it was to meet with some producers who wanted to option my novel, The Rising. It didn’t work out because we had conversations like this:

THEM: “We see The Rising as sort of a buddy road comedy starring Chris Tucker and Gary Sinise.”

ME: “But it’s a serious novel about a father looking for his son during the zombie apocalypse.”

THEM: “Not if we option it.”

ME: “I’m leaving now.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, during that trip, I also got hit by a van while crossing the street, which seems to be a common malady among horror writers. In hindsight, that wasn’t a good weekend.Continue Reading

WHC Part 1: A Brief History of the World Horror Convention

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WHC Part 1: A Brief History of the World Horror Convention

zombee03The World Horror Convention, more commonly known as WHC, is perhaps best described as an annual trade show for horror writers, publishers, artists, booksellers, agents, and others with an interest in the field. Fans of horror fiction are welcome to attend, too, and they do, but WHC is a professional gathering, and it’s expensive, and you’re not apt to see cosplayers or a guy in the dealer’s room selling bootleg copies of Manimal on DVD like you would at a fan or media convention such as San Diego Comic Con or Dragon Con. The first WHC was held in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991. There’s been one every year ever since, usually in the United States or Canada, although the 2010 event was held in the United Kingdom, finally putting the World in the World Horror Convention.Continue Reading

Making a Living in a Post Mid-List World without Borders

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Making a Living in a Post Mid-List World without Borders

So, we ended last week’s column about the deaths of the mid-list and the Borders bookstore chain with the following question: “If self-publishing, independent presses, and independent bookstores are more preferable to former mid-list authors then why are you still selling books to mainstream publishers and signing in big chain bookstores, as well, Keene?” Is the answer:

A) Money.
B) People are stupid.
C) To have a stable, secure writing career in this post-mid-list world without Borders, full-time writers of genre fiction need to diversify.
D) All of the above.

Continue Reading

How the Mid-List Died

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How the Mid-List Died

Stephen Graham Jones signed his new novel, Mongrels, at Bookworks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week. I’ll be signing at that same store next month. There’s a reason both of us—and many of our peers—chose that store. If you think of the retail bookselling market as a geographical location, it currently resembles the wasteland from a Mad Max movie. But Bookworks, and hundreds of other independent bookstores, are bright, colorful oases sprouting from that formerly toxic ground.

What happened? What caused the apocalypse? And what is allowing these indie bookstores to flourish? Two things: corporate stupidity and the changes in publishing.  Continue Reading

In Which We Answer Who, What, Where, and Why

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In Which We Answer Who, What, Where, and Why

My name is Brian Keene. I’m a writer by trade and a road warrior by heart. Neither of these things make for very wise career or life choices, but at the age of forty-eight, it’s a little late for me to decide I’d like to become an IT Specialist or an HVAC technician instead.

Both writing and the road got in my blood at an early age. My parents were transplants from West Virginia, which is like a ghetto with trees and mountains. Seriously. All of the despair and poverty and crime that plague America’s ghettos can be found in West Virginia. But, just like the ghettos, you can also find hope and inspiration (even today, when meth production has overtaken coal mining as the state’s most popular employment opportunity). Continue Reading