What is END OF THE ROAD? Well, let me tell you a story…
This weekend, I was in Utah for the annual World Horror Convention, which is a trade show for horror and dark fantasy writers, publishers, artists, etc. I’ve been writing professionally for over twenty years now, and have been attending WHC for nearly as long. Both have changed quite a bit in that time. Publishing. Writing. Fandom. Conventions. Genre. Myself. All have changed. So, that’s thing number 1 — CHANGE.
I ran into a lot of people at WHC, but one person I hadn’t planned on bumping into was Richard Laymon. Richard Laymon is one of my favorite authors of all time. He was also one of many mentors I had coming up. Without the efforts of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum, I would have never sold THE RISING, and I’d probably still be working on a loading dock somewhere. Or a foundry. Or driving truck. Or in jail again.
Dick Laymon died back in 2001. I often like to picture a hotel convention bar in the afterlife, and pretend that him, J.F. Gonzalez, Tom Piccirilli, Graham Joyce, Rick Hautala, Phil Nutman, Buddy Martinez, Charles Grant, Gary Brandner, and everybody else this genre has lost are hanging out there, getting sloshed on whatever whiskey exists in the afterlife, and waiting for the rest of us to show up.
So, this weekend in Utah, when Kelly Laymon asked me if I’d “like to say hi to Dad”, I thought at first that perhaps I’d died, and Kelly was helping me along to that big hotel bar in the sky. Turns out she wasn’t. But she was in the process of moving, and all of her stuff was packed in the car, including her father’s ashes. So myself, Kelly, Jeff Strand, and Michael Bailey went and said hello. Michael commented on connections and the Butterfly Effect and how one things leads to another, and how a last-minute, impulsive decision by him to attend WHC had allowed him to share in that moment. I firmly believe that everything is connected, like a road map. So, that’s thing number 2 — CONNECTIONS.
I mentioned above that THE RISING would have never sold without the help of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum. I’ve been lucky enough to have many mentors over the last twenty years. And when we look at those connections Michael Bailey mentioned, pause and consider this: HP Lovecraft mentored many young authors, including Robert Bloch. Robert Bloch mentored many young authors, including Jack Ketchum. Jack Ketchum mentored many young authors, including myself. I’m mentoring many young authors, including Stephen Kozeniewski, Bryan Killian (who took this picture), and Rachel Autumn Deering (not pictured but in the room). So, that’s thing number 3 — HISTORY.
This weekend marked the start of my 2016 FAREWELL (BUT NOT REALLY) TOUR. That’s nine months on the road. Nine months of promoting new novels THE COMPLEX and PRESSURE. Nine months of flying and driving and writing in hotel rooms. Nine months of getting back home when I can, and falling behind on everything when I do, because I’ll be spending those stolen moments at home with my son (known to listeners of my podcast, THE HORROR SHOW WITH BRIAN KEENE, as DungeonMaster77.1).
I’m doing this tour so that I never have to do another one like it. He understands that, but he’s also eight, and I’m worried about what it might do. I’m lucky enough to have a job that has allowed me to be there for him all the time, every minute of every day, since he’s been born. We’re inseparable, the two of us, and though we’ve spent an occasional weekend away from each other, we’ve never had this extensive an amount of time apart. I worry about the repercussions. And though I’m doing this at least in part for him, I worry about the costs. So, that’s thing number 4 — TOLLS.
So, let’s add those things up: CHANGE, CONNECTIONS, HISTORY, and TOLLS.
That’s what I’m going to be writing about weekly for the next nine months for Cemetery Dance Online. For those of you who have been pleading with me to Blog more regularly, this is it. Brian Keene’s END OF THE ROAD — a weekly column, brought to you by Cemetery Dance, written while criss-crossing the United States, looking at the horror genre, and writing, and myself, and pondering how all of those things have changed over the last twenty years, and where they all might possibly be heading.
First column goes live later this week. I hope you will enjoy it.
“My name is Brian Keene. I’m a writer by trade and a road warrior by heart. Neither of these things are wise career or life choices. The tolls add up. I rode into town twenty years ago. Now I’m riding out. You’re all coming with me…”
(Thanks to Michael Bailey and Bryan Killian for the photos above).