Yesterday I read Brian Keene’s latest blog post entitled The Apathy Of Autumn. As many of you know, Mr. Keene has been one of my idols for several years now. This post of his in particular touched me on a few levels. So much so that was compelled to type out a response.
Most of us may never know the ways in which we’ve touched someone, inspired them, helped them become the person they were meant to be. I hope that isn’t the case in regards to my particular situation, especially when it comes to Brian Keene. He has played more of a role in my life than he knows, I am sure, but I’d like to take a few of your precious minutes, dear readers, and elaborate on that role for my own benefit, and perhaps in the hope that Mr. Keene may one day read this posting and know how grateful I am to him.
Where to begin? Well, at the beginning, of course. Unfortunately for all of you, I’m not as skilled with openers as the man in question, though it was interesting to learn just how much time and thought go into those killer first lines. I suppose the place to start is the onset of my addiction – the sort of sappy tale of my first experience with Brian Keene’s work.
Once upon a time… What? I told you I sucked at openers! Anyway… Once upon somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years ago, I was deep in one of the suckiest parts of my life. I was working a LOT to support my (now) ex (while he remained unemployed and not really looking for a job) and I really didn’t like either of the jobs I was dragging myself to. In fact, I downright hated them. I dealt with them because they paid me well enough, and frankly, I had bills to pay. But both involved a long commute (in opposite directions, no less), even longer hours, and being ass kissy to the general public. Oh, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of working at a bank… there’s more horror there than you’ll find in any number of Mr. Keene’s novels.
But at any rate, where was I? Oh yes. Hell. Right. How could I have forgotten? So there I was: 2006. I was 23 years old. At an age when you’re supposed to be having the time of your life and raising hell, right? Instead I was stuck wearing business suits and handling irate customers at a bank by day and unloading trucks full of produce by night. Glamorous, right? I was living the dream, let me tell you. (Hey, is my bitterness showing? Sorry about that. The sweet part’s coming up, I promise. Stick with me, kiddos.) As I am sure you can imagine, I didn’t have much time to myself. What time I DID have was usually taken up by the aforementioned ex. Cause, you know, I didn’t spend enough time with him… due to working… because he didn’t have a job… due to the fact that he “couldn’t deal with people”…. Yeah. Right. So I’d work, make dinner, handle whatever chores I could manage, work, sleep, work some more… rinse, repeat. To be fair, I did put up with it. When you’re young and delusional, it’s easy to fall into that kind of a trap, as I am sure many of you know from experience. Thankfully, I am older and at least a little bit wiser now, if not more educated.
So at any rate, back to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress. Near job A was a tiny little library. It was located in a rich-ish area, populated mostly by people over the age of 65. Thus the horror section was about a 2′ long shelf squished in between Mystery and Sci Fi. It consisted of a few token Stephen King novels, some Poe, Koontz, and as I recall a Lovecraft or two. Great books, all, but mind you I had read them many, many times before. Still, that didn’t stop me. Whenever I could steal a few minutes, the library was where you’d most likely find me. That, or the sushi bar down the street… but that’s another subject entirely. On this particular day, however, I came around the corner, inhaling that rich, wonderful smell of paper, ink and binding… you know the one. If they could put that stuff in a bottle I’d wear it every day. (Hear that, Demeter?) And lo and behold… there in the distance at the back of the aisle I spotted something… something magical. A book with a bright purple “NEW!” sticker on the spine, wedged into the horror section! How could this be? Surely, one of the librarians or patrons must have misplaced it. I held my breath, preparing for disappointment as I approached, inwardly preparing my poker face lest I be confronted with some tawdry romance novel or – worse – TWILIGHT! (shudder with me now, kiddies) But instead, I was greeted by something new… something I’d never seen before by a writer I’d never even heard of. It was The Conqueror Worms by the great Brian Keene. The cover made me drool. I mean, click the link, people! Take a look! It’s GIGANTIC FREAKING WORMS! What is not awesome about that, I ask you? I eagerly flipped it over and read the back… and before I’d read the first word of the novel itself, I knew I was in love. Giant worms taking over the earth?! It sounded like one of the B Horror movies I’d grown up on – but in literary form. Unable to tear my eyes from the treasure in my hands, I made my way over to the Children’s section (where the comfy beanbag chairs where… besides, it was a deserted, desolate wasteland by that time of the evening anyway, unlike the adult reading areas which were usually busy with the after work and/or retirement crowd). It’s a good thing I didn’t walk into anyone on my way (As those of you who follow me know, I am *a bit* of a klutz). And so, savoring my joyous new discovery, I flopped down on a big comfy beanbag chair and began to read… and before I knew it I’d finished the entire thing cover to cover… and I was a few hours late to work as a result. (First, last, and only time, BTW.) All that night visions of colossal megadriles, evil sirens, and ancient leviathans danced in my head. Upon my return home, even before taking off my shoes (this I distinctly recall) I hopped online and looked Mr. Keene up on Amazon. I ordered a copy of The Rising straight away… and thus began my first step into the modern horror movement. Keene lead to others… The fabulous J.F. Gonzalez (whom I myself interviewed on this very blog!), Tim Lebbon, James A. Moore and Tom Piccirilli among them…
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Keene in person twice. The first time was at an event called Horrible Saturday. (And yes, that’s ME. On BRIAN KEENE’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE! Excuse me while I squeal like a Twilight fan in Forks AGAIN…) If you’ve never met one of your idols face to face before, let me tell you… it’s an experience. I was nervous. REALLY nervous. Right now, those of you that know me in person are asking what planet I’m from because you likely know that I don’t *get* nervous. I’ve stood on stage in a bathing suit in front of a crowd of hundreds, being judged on my appearance alone. I’ve sung my heart out in high school gyms, dive bars, and charity events. I even auditioned for CSI Miami once upon a time… and yet, being in the same room with someone I had such admiration for filled my guts with butterflies and my knees with wobbly, woozy jelly. Would I say something stupid and embarrass myself horribly? Would I come off as a psycho stalker fan girl and get his autograph only on a restraining order? Would he even acknowledge my presence?
In case you didn’t read my posting on it, I’m pleased to tell you that Horrible Saturday went fantastically well. In fact, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far. Brian Keene is friendly, approachable, and ultimately incredibly cool in person. He smiled and posed for pictures with me. He joked around with this odd chick he only knew via Twitter. He even paid me a HUGE compliment – He said I was awesome and that more people my age should be like me in regards to my quoting of Robert Bloch. Getting a compliment like that from someone you hold in such high regard can definitely make your millennium. It was worth the drive and then some.
Besides meeting Keene, I also met some other amazing authors – J.F. Gonzalez, whom I mentioned above, Kelli Owen, Bob Ford, and Mary SanGiovanni as well as two up-and-comers, Nikki McKenzie and Wes Southard. Being around other people like me (and yes, I did hesitate a bit before I went with that phrase, as everyone I’ve mentioned is wickedly talented) people who walk around every day with demons in their heads pounding to be set free, was in and of itself a fantastic experience, one that set me even more solidly on the path I’m on today – the path of establishing myself as a writer. I’ve already made some headway in the process. I have 3 pieces of flash appearing in Pill Hill Press’s Daily Frights 2012, due out this November and a zombie story appearing in So Long And Thanks For All The Brains coming out mid December.
The second time I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Keene was at Horrorfind Weekend this past September in Gettysburg Pennsylvania. Once again I made the trek down to PA to see amazing, like minded people and also some good friends who just so happened to be in attendance. Horrorfind was a fantastic experience. I met the one and only Ken Foree (who really liked my famed bacon brittle!) and Bill Mosely (Who liked my zombie costume) I danced with the dead at Scaryoke, Attended readings by Tom Monteleone of Borderlands Press whom I have idolized since I was but a wee monster, Bob Ford, he of the amazing transformational voice, Mary Sangiovanni, who gives all us female horror writers a level of hotness to aspire to, Wes Southard, who gives me hope for the future, and many others. Readings are great, they connect the writer with their audience in an incredibly intimate and personal way. I can’t wait for my own, which will be happening at Anthocon in just a few weeks.
Brian Keene will also be in attendance at Anthocon. He has announced that he’ll be participating in far fewer signings next year, so it may be one of the last opportunities I have to see him in person and get him to sign stuff for me. There was a tragedy that befell some of my Horrorfind purchases – Several of my newly acquired books became damaged by some sort of rusty looking gunk that leaked through the ceiling in the lair where I keep my books. Several of them were freshly signed by Mr. Keene – signatures which were utterly destroyed by whatever icky gunk that was. I’m hoping to replace those at Anthocon this year, and the tiny hopeful little girl in me dreams about the possibility of Keene actually listening to (and perhaps even liking – dare I hope?) my reading. I hope to see some of you, those I like to call my “early fans”, there as well. It looks doubtful that I’ll have anything in print to sell/sign for anyone, but I’d love to say Hi to any and all who want to attend – and I just might be bringing some bacon candy with me.
I know this post is a little rambly, perhaps even a little bit ass kissy, but I felt the need to write it. You see, one of the things that really struck a cord with me from Mr. Keene’s post was his discussion of his own mortality. As I am sure most of you know, he suffered a heart attack in September. I didn’t find out about it right away. I was dealing with some things in my own life and had taken a rare break from Twitter that weekend, but when I did find out it hit me rather hard… Perhaps harder than it should have. We as human beings often ignore our own delicate, impermanent natures. It’s an easy thing to do. But when you read that someone you’ve admired and looked up to like that has been impacted by such a scary and traumatic event, it’s not an easy thing to deal with. In a sense, it’s humanizing, but in another sense, it’s tragic. It’s like that moment in all of our lives when we stopped seeing our parents as invincible and godlike and saw them for what they were, people. Simple, mortal, imperfect, human beings. It makes us feel really lucky for the things we have in life, the things that we perhaps have taken for granted.
One thing I’ve gained this year, one big, incredible, amazing thing actually – friends. Real, actual friends. I’ve been incredibly lucky in meeting a phenomenal group of people who more or less accepted me into the fold as one of their own. (You know who you are. Thank you for everything – Proof reading, encouragement, hugs, chats, and most of all for being my friends. I’m a lucky, lucky girl to have all of you in my life.)
I read avidly, I always have. Books have served as friends, companions, entertainers, and at times, even escape for me ever since I can recall. The written word occupies a place in my heart that nothing else could or will ever be able to fill. The very thought of seeing my name in print (Which will happen later on this year! Twice, in fact! More on that in a future post.) sends a thrill up my spine much like the horror movies I watched as a tot. I owe a lot to the writers I grew up with, the ones that molded and shaped me into the writer I am today. And you know what? I’ve never stopped growing. I hope I never do.