Authors: Brian Keene
LAZY FASCIST PRESS
P.O. BOX 10065
PORTLAND, OR 97296
Copyright © 2015 by Brian Keene
Cover art copyright © 2015 Matthew Revert
“Writing About Writing: An Introduction” is original to this collection.
“The Girl on the Glider” first published as
The Girl on the Glider
, Cemetery Dance, 2010.
“Musings” first published in
, Cemetery Dance, 2013.
“Golden Boy” first published in
The Little Silver Book of Streetwise Stories
, Borderlands Press, 2008.
“The Eleventh Muse” first published in
“The House of Ushers” first published in
, Necro Publications, 2009.
“The Revolution Happened While You Were Sleeping (A Summoning Spell) – Remixed” is original to this collection. An alternate audio version first appeared on
, Medium Rare Books, 2002.
“Things They Don’t Teach You In Writing Class” first published in
“Notes About Writing About Writing” is original to this collection.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
Printed in the USA.
Thanks to Cameron Pierce, Jeff Burk, and everyone else at Lazy Fascist, Deadite, and Eraserhead; the editors who originally published these works in other forms; and my sons.
This one is for John Skipp and Alan M. Clark…
“All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses.”
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
The number one bit of advice given to all would-be writers is to “write what you know.” This line of wisdom can be interpreted in many different ways. Maybe you recently suffered a terrible heartbreak—the end of a romantic relationship or the loss of a loved one. The emotions stemming from something so painful can be mined for fiction, i.e. writing what you know. The flip side is also true. Maybe you just fell in love or held a sleeping baby. The joy those situations bring can also be used in fiction. Writing what you know can also involve your circumstances, situation, or station in life. When I first started writing with professional publication in mind, most of my characters were blue-collar young males stuck in dead end factory jobs in dead end towns. That’s because I was writing what I knew. I was a blue-collar young male stuck in a series of dead end factory jobs in a dead end town.
This is why, eventually, every writer of literary or popular fiction inevitably ends up writing about writing at some point in their career. It doesn’t matter what genre, or what style. Horror, bizarro, romance, mystery, thriller, science-fiction, graphic novels…even those seemingly plotless bestselling literary darlings that eschew genre classification and used to get cooed about on Oprah. Read enough of them, and you’ll encounter a story about a writer.
That’s because the writers are writing about what they know. They’re writing about writing, and what it is to be a writer.
I’ve done the same thing a few times in my career. In the novels
, the novella
, and in the stories collected in this book. And because my muse tends to lean toward things horrific and bizarre, it should come as no surprise that the elements of writing for a living I’ve chronicled over the years are equally horrific and bizarre. All of these stories are about writing, and all of them fall under either the horror or bizarro genre labels. Two of them—“The Girl on the Glider” and “Musings”—are meta-fiction, in which I, the writer, become a character in the tale—which is just an even deeper level of writing what you know.
This collection’s origins were sort of a happy accident. Cameron Pierce of Lazy Fascist approached me about reprinting “The Girl on the Glider” in paperback. I was hesitant about that idea for a couple reasons. First of all, it had been published in hardcover, and was also available in a paperback short story collection as well as in various digital platforms (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.). I felt it would be unfair to readers to release it as a stand-alone paperback when they could already get it elsewhere. Secondly, while the story’s length is fine for a collectible hardcover, it would have made for a slim paperback volume. So, I emailed Cameron back and politely declined. But Cameron, persistent and two-fisted editor that he is, then threw a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote at me (the same quote that is used as this book’s epigraph) and asked, “What if we collected all of your stories about writing, instead?”
And so we did.
“Very nearly all the ghost stories of old times claim to be true narratives of remarkable occurrences.”
—M. R. James,
Some Remarks on Ghost Stories
“Everything dies, but not everything has an ending.”
City of the Dead
“Chugga chugga, choo choo, spin around. Every letter has a sound…”
I dreamed about her again last night—the girl on the glider. Apparently, I was kicking and thrashing so hard in my sleep that I woke up my wife. She wasn’t very happy about it, either. The baby has been getting up between 4am and 5am every morning, and Cassi didn’t appreciate me waking her a few hours before that.
This morning, while we were giving the baby his breakfast, Cassi asked me if I remembered what I was dreaming about. I lied and told her that I didn’t.
Anyway, it’s clear that this shit isn’t going away on its own. If anything, it’s getting worse. I’m not one-hundred percent positive that I know who the girl is, or why she’s hanging out on our porch glider, or why I’m dreaming about her, but I have some ideas. The only problem is that my ideas all point to one solution. One answer.
And the answer is that I’m losing my fucking mind.
That scares me. That scares me in ways I can’t even put into words (which is frustrating for a writer). I mean, at forty-one—or am I forty-two? I can’t remember. Isn’t it funny how you stop keeping track of that shit after a certain age? Let’s see. Dad came back from Vietnam in 1967 and I came along nine months later, so that makes me…forty-one. I think. Math was never my strong suit. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I’m forty-one, which sucks, but doesn’t suck nearly as bad as being forty-two.