Fear and Dread in the Pacific Northwest

Hello, friends and stalkers!

I don’t do many events.  It’s been about two years since I’ve done a signing, and six years since I’ve been to a convention (WHC 2012 in Salt Lake City).  Partly it’s the high price of traveling to conventions, which I love attending, but have never paid off in a substantial way for my career.  Mostly it’s because I was semi-retired from writing for the past five of those years, working only to fulfill a contract for my fantasy trilogy, The Phoenix Girls, and to write a few short stories I absolutely could not ignore.  I did try for a novel following the final Phoenix Girls book, but I’d lost my motivation, my ability to sit and focus for hours at a time, and the idea spoiled.

Last summer I began again, preparing reissues of some of my old work under my own publishing imprint, Tulpa Books, and writing a few original short stories.  Mostly a lot of editing and rewriting old stuff.

Now that most of my backlist is in print again, I’m working on a new novel, an extreme horror novel currently titled The Girl’s Got Guts (this will almost certainly change, but I have to call it something).  I have decided to shoot for a traditional publishing deal for this novel instead immediately releasing it under my imprint.  Sorry for this digression from the main topic, but you never know when someone from Deadite Press might read a post and take an interest.

Now that I’m getting back into it, I’ve scheduled my first event to launch, though somewhat belatedly, the new Tulpa paperback editions of Dragonfly, Feral, Broken Angel, and Hacks.  This will be of limited interest to anyone not in easy driving distance of Clarkston, Washington, but is still post-worthy, IMO, because even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can still … you know … buy the books.  I’ll even sign and inscribe them for you if you send them to me.  If you are close to me but can’t make it to next Saturday’s (June 16, 2008) signing, don’t worry, there will be other signings now that I’m out of semi-retirement.

Now if I could just get someone to make me a guest of some upcoming horror convention so I could justify the trip.  Man, I miss attending conventions and mingling with the other freaks and geeks.

For now, I give you Fear & Dread In the Pacific Northwest, brought to you by The Fiction of Brian Knight and …and BOOKS, too! in Clarkston, Washington.  This is a multi-author signing featuring four authors from Washington and Idaho: T.J. Tranchell, Al Halsey, Khaliela Wright, and little ol’ me.

Come by if you can!  I look forward to seeing you.

Brian Knight

My Favorite Gadget

Here’s a blast from the past, written when I was a part of author David Wilson’s Storytellers Unplugged.  It’s about the beginning of my enduring love of gadgets.  It’s all a bit dated now, my gadgets have evolved since writing this.  I have even written a 100K length novel on a tablet, which now my grandson’s favorite toy since I have upgraded again.

I have also changed my mind regarding Apple products and software.  Everything I own is Apple now.

I have not changed my mind about most of the Lewis/Clark Valley’s radio stations.

My Favorite Gadget

If you’ve read the afterword to my novella 1200 AM Live you’ll know my opinion of my local AM and FM radio stations.  For those who haven’t read the aforementioned piece, I’ll give you the short version.

I fucking hate it.

Local radio in the Lewis/Clark Valley is mostly country, which makes me angry if I’m forced to listen to more than a few minutes, or worse, top 40.  I’m not sure which I hate more, a song where even the guitars sound like they’re whining, or a song with a computerized beat and auto-tuned vocals.  Top 40 is the new disco, in my humble opinion, and country is the new … well, country.

There are a few light muzak stations, and a few rock stations, but the only good (IMO) rock station is broadcast from the city of Spokane, which is over a hundred miles to the northwest, and can only be heard clearly from the roofs of this city’s taller buildings on clear and windless days.

For a few years I contented myself by listening to talk radio instead, but too much of that fosters bizarre personal and political opinions, so I gave up listening to talk radio.  I think it was a good choice, like giving up meth or public masturbation.

For the past four or five years I’ve eliminated my dependency on local radio with a miracle of modern micro-technology called an MP3 player.  I load this wonderful little device with music of my own choosing and an audio book or two, and I’m set.  It’s very liberating, not having my ears held hostage by smarmy DJs and music that, quite frankly, makes me feel like hitting people.

I loved these new gadgets so much and used them so extensively that I wore them out.  Any new MP3 player I purchased, no matter the brand or model, had a three to four-month life expectancy.  I could almost predict the week when my current MP3 player would finally bite the dust and would start comparison-shopping in advance.

For a long time, my wife tried to convince me to buy an iPod, the Cadillac of MP3 players, and I resisted for two reasons.  The first reason was price.  Those little bastards are expensive, so why spend so much when I could almost count on wearing it out in the space of a few months?  The second, and to me more powerful argument against the iPod is that I hated Apple software.  Every piece of Apple software I ever attempted to use seemed to slow down or crash my computer.  Why in the hell would I spend so much money on a product that would probably crash my computer ever time I plugged it in before it finally wore out in three or four months?

Eventually she talked me into it.

I bought an iPod Nano, which worked flawlessly for two years before my wife bought me my new third generation iPod Touch.  The Touch was a Christmas present, and is the coolest, most useful little gadget anyone has ever given me.

The old Nano is still in use.  My oldest daughter has had it for three months now, and it still works just fine.

Truthfully, I thought the Touch was overkill.  It’s a fantastic gadget, but much more than I required for simply playing music or audio books in my car or work truck.  There was just no way I’d ever use even half the features this new toy had to offer.

Then I discovered the wonderful world of applications.  Evidently there are several million applications available to install on this little gadget, many free, most only a few dollars.

I must admit that very few are of any real interest to me.  I’m not a gamer or a social bug.  I don’t want to turn my iPod into a small hand-held heater (yes, there is an application for that), or keep 24/7 tabs on all my Facebook friends.  I’m a driver during the day and a writer on nights and weekends.  My iPod keeps me entertained while driving during my working life.  I thought it would be severely cool if I could somehow use it to write.

As it turns out, there is an application for that too. No shit!

There are probably more than one, but the one I use – I’m using it now, actually – is called My Writing Nook.  It is a cool, and extremely useful little program.  It auto-saves as you work, has an optional auto-correct function that is actually pretty good, and thanks to the third generation iPod Touch’s wi-fi capability, you can email your work to your desktop or laptop computer with the touch of a virtual button.  You can also create your own workspace on My Writing Nook’s website and sync your documents in progress.

This is an excellent tool for writers.

Recently, my wife’s favorite gadget, her mucho expensive touch screen laptop, took a dump on her.  Since she hasn’t had a desktop computer for a few years now, she didn’t have a second machine to fall back on.

I have a laptop too, a tiny little thing about the size of a hardcover book, that I do all my writing on.  Unlike her, I insist on keeping a desktop computer too, but I don’t like writing with it.  I do all my writing on the laptop and everything else, including editing, on the desktop.

Since my wife’s computer is FUBAR, she is now using my little laptop.

Have I gone back to writing on my desktop computer?

He’ll no.  I’m using the iPod for that now, and thanks to my wireless network, and My Writing Nook, transferring my work to the desktop computer for editing is actually easier.

You might imagine that writing anything more extensive than, say, a shopping list would be a pain in the ass with the iPod’s tiny little screen and keyboard, but that’s not the case.  I got used to it remarkably fast.  I still have to copy and paste my work into Microsoft Word, and there is a bit of formatting and extra editing involved in incorporating your output into your word file, but not as much as you might think.

If the My Writing Nook people could incorporate some simple formatting options and a more powerful spellchecker into the program, it would be just about perfect.  With a cost of $1.99 for the iPod application, and no cost at all to use the Writing Nook web page, I can’t complain too much.

Now my favorite gadget is my most useful one.

Uncertainty Then VS Uncertainty Now

Last year at this time I was waiting for my few remaining in print books to go out of print so I could call it a career.  I was toying with the idea of making a few of my favorites available for free as digital books, for a limited time, just so they could have one last chance to get a few new readers, but after that I was going to let it all go.

A friend in the business, a man who published traditionally, and very successfully, for decades before putting his backlist back to work for him through his own imprint, told me that was stupid (he used nicer words, because he’s a nice guy, but I got the idea).  He told me to consider self-publishing my old work.

I did consider it. I thought about it for months, uncertain about whether I wanted to invest the time and effort (and money) it would take to do it right. Whether or not I’m doing it right is still debatable, but I did decide to go for it.  In the process of revising and re-writing old material, I rediscovered my love for writing.  I’m working on new stuff now, though slowly because I’m still working on all the old stuff.

I’m not yet certain how I plan to release future original works.  I do plan on making them available as limited edition hardcovers.  I already have a reputable limited-edition hardcover publisher interested in my upcoming work, and I’ll give him any of my new stuff that he wants.  My new uncertainty is about if I want to try for a traditional paperback/digital publisher, Deadite Press comes first to mind, or just do it myself through my imprint, Tulpa Books.

One way or the other, there will be new work available, and hopefully within the next couple of years. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting my backlist out into the world again, and there is still more backlist to get through, but the bulk of it is available again so I’m going to start working hard to get new stuff out.

If you haven’t read my old work, I hope you’ll give it a shot.  You can find it all on my Amazon Author Page.  I also hope you’ll stick around for the new stuff.

Brian Knight

The Gal in the Blue Mask and The Christmas Corpse

Just a quick entry here to pimp an interview and a new short story, both now available to read at The Gal in the Blue Mask, an excellent fiction blog by Meghan Shena Hyden.  Both are part of Meghan’s yearly Christmas Takeover.  There are a lot of scary Christmas stories, and a lot of great interviews, including Mary SanGiovanni, Jonathan Janz, Armond Rosamilia, and film maker Mike Lombardo.

You can find my interview here, and I hope you’ll give my new story The Christmas Corpse  a read.  Yeah, I found some typos in the story.  I’ll make sure they’re fixed when The Christmas Corpse is included in my upcoming collection, Dangerous Toys.

Talk to you again soon.

Brian Knight

Where I’ve Been … Where I Am Now

I rediscovered my twitter account a few months ago and tweeted for the first time in a couple of years.

 “Wow, I still have a twitter account?”

I was surprised by the reply that came almost immediately.  It was from a man who I respect, whose career I always followed with great interest, and who I was surprised even remembered me.

 “We thought you’d joined the merchant marines or got abducted by aliens.”

No merchant marines or aliens, but I have been gone for a while, absent at least from the horror genre, where I was, once upon a time, considered an up-and-comer.

Where have I been?

On the outside, lurking on the fringes, watching all the writers I used to know either succeed or disappear themselves.


When I published my novel Feral in 2003, I considered myself a writer who drove truck to pay the bills, but only until I made enough money with my fiction to write full time.  Now I know I’m just a truck driver who likes to write, though there have been a few empty years where I wrote next to nothing.  This transition took a dozen years and a lot of disappointments to achieve.

I had a plan back then, you see, a plan that had worked well for others.  My plan was, now that I had a hardcover release from a respected publisher, to sell the paperback rights to Leisure.  I had every confidence that this plan would work, especially after a friend in the business, one of Leisure’s most notable authors at the time, arranged a one on one pitch between Don D’Auria and me at a party at WHC in Phoenix.

Don liked my pitch and invited me to send him the manuscript, which I did immediately upon returning home from Phoenix.  I thought things were going well.  I was young and optimistic.  The publishing business cured me of that.

I did eventually receive a reply from Leisure regarding Feral.  In 2011.  I’ll come back around to that.

Between 2004, when Don D’Auria requested Feral, and 2010, when it became clear that all of those Leisure authors I envied were being thoroughly screwed, I was invited by Leisure’s senior editor to send two more novels.  I never heard back about either, although sending those novels led to perhaps the most devastating conversation of my writing career.

Another dear friend of mine who worked at Leisure for a time (I think she read slush, edited, or both) phoned me up to ask when I was going to make the big announcement.  I asked her what the hell she was talking about, and she said she’d seen a copy of my novel Broken Angel on the senior editor’s desk with a sticky note on the cover that said, simply, “Yes.”

I held out hope for a while, even though it had been years since I sent Broken Angel, and had received no replies to my follow-ups.  I had since placed the paperback rights for Broken Angel with the original hardcover publisher, Delirium Books, but maybe Leisure would instigate some kind of constructive contact.  I never did hear back about Broken Angel, and it has since gone out of print.  I’ve considering submitting it to Don D’Auria at Samhain Publishing, but I probably won’t.

I began my own personal boycott of Leisure books long before 2010 (for the full story of the decline and eventual crash of Leisure Books, including the boycott that helped sink them for good, read Brian Keene’s Trigger Warnings – a fun and informative look into the life of one of the most influential authors of our time that happens to include a long section on the Dorchester War).  My personal boycott had nothing to do with passive-aggressively withholding my meager couple of bucks for every book I didn’t buy from them, and everything to do with the fact that I could not look at the Leisure logo on the spine of a book without seeing red.  Leisure published a lot of writers I liked personally, respected, and whose work I loved, and I could no longer bring myself to buy their books.  When Leisure finally contacted me in 2011 about Feral, after the editor who requested it had moved on and Leisure itself was in the process of moving on, my goddamn brain almost exploded.

A short but necessary digression here.  Although I didn’t appreciate being ignored for close to a decade by Leisure regarding material they requested, Don was by most accounts a fantastic editor, well loved by most of his authors.  The debacle that led to Leisure’s decline was not his doing, and from what I’ve heard he did everything within his power to do right by his authors before Leisure let him go.  The few times I chatted with him at conventions, quick and casual chats that had noting to do with me trying to pitch him, I found that I liked him a lot.  I would have liked to work with him.

I continued to write, though not as enthusiastically as before, but I read virtually nothing.  There was no longer any joy for me in cracking the spine of a book and immersing myself in the stories that had once been the most important things in my life.  In those years I published very little horror, and usually with publishers who have no real distribution or promotion.  At that point I didn’t give much of a shit if anybody bought them or not.  I enjoyed writing those stories, but I no longer had any expectations that my publisher’s could actually sell them.

There were a few non-horror novels I had very high hopes for.  The first, a novel about a repo-man / bounty hunter, perhaps the funnest thing I’ve ever written, was called Sex, Death, & Honey.  This was supposed to be the first in a series of three or four (the second remains half written on my hard drive), but it didn’t work out.  I don’t want to disparage the publisher, a man I like a great deal, but the editor who convinced me to sign had plans to promote the book that were never realized once he parted ways with the publisher.  The production values were fantastic, and the cover phenomenal, but promotion for Sex, Death, & Honey never amounted to more than a few tweets and Facebook posts. The book is now out of print, and will probably never see print again.  It’s a shame, because I am very proud of it.  I think Sex, Death, & Honey has great, unrealized potential.

I also wrote a YA / Midgrade fantasy trilogy, The Phoenix Girls.  I finished the final book this past summer and hope to see it released some time next year.  The first two books, The Conjuring Glass and The Crimson Brand, were favorably reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, but haven’t sold as well as the publisher or I would have liked.  I have not regretted writing them though, or working with JournalStone.  The Phoenix Girls Trilogy is one of my proudest achievements, and I think book three is probably the best story I’ve ever written.

When I finished PG3, my last contracted book, I had expected to quit writing entirely and get out of the business while I still had a little of my sanity left, but a funny thing happened.

I got new ideas.  Horror ideas.

I got excited.

I also started reading for pleasure again.

I have a new plan now, and this time I have some experience and a few hard lessons to inform me.  I also have thicker skin.  That’s important.

I’ve started work on a new novel, and few short stories just to help me get back into the swing of writing horror.  This next novel is going to be very nasty, very brutal, and more intense than anything I’ve written before.

My name is Brian Knight.  I’m a truck driver who likes to write.  If some day my writing allows me to quit my day job, that would be great, but I’m no longer taking it as a given.

I was gone for a while, but now I’m back.

I’ve come to scare people, and have some fun doing it.

Congratulations, you survived 2012!

2012 was a challenging year for most of us.  Economic recession, numerous professional disappointments for YHA (your humble author), political and religious crazies making a whole lot of noise and trouble, other crazies murdering, raping, and making us despair for the future of humankind.  We survived the rapture – twice if memory serves – and the end of the world – again twice.  Ever larger portions of the Earth’s population, including those from what are supposed to be the more civilized corners of our spinning globe, reject rationality and science in favor of superstition, fear, and hatred.  Those of us still lucky enough to have stable employment find our opportunities for upward mobility shrinking, and are expected to work harder and harder, generating larger profits for our beneficent masters, for shrinking benefits and wages that fail spectacularly to keep pace with increased costs of living.

What do we have to look forward to in 2013?

The cynical part of me says it’ll probably be a whole lot of the same, but a hopeful part of me continues to blindly assert that things will get better.  Hope is a good thing, so I will continue to give my inner hippie enough space to live.  Maybe he’s right and things will start to get better.  Anything is possible in an infinite universe.

There are a few good things on the horizon.

They Call us Monsters is coming soon from Gallows Press.

In 2008, the cult novelette 1200 AM Live introduced readers to the sick, perverted world of Andy Crow and Charles Green. In 2009, The Avian presented the tragic story of Jove, his mysterious curse, and his quest to find identity. Finally, They Call Us Monsters, a brand-new novella and final book of this fantasy/horror trilogy, brings these characters together and answers many questions in an explosive conclusion. When Jove and the mysterious Andy Crow finally meet, all hell breaks loose. And, for readers who missed out on 1200 AM Live and The Avian, this volume collects all three books.

This is not a novel, but a collection of related novellas that work together to create a larger story.  They were fun stories to write, and Andy Crow and Charles Green were fun characters to work with, but my writing is going in slightly different directions now, so this is the final appearance of Crow, Green, and their wacky and slightly demented adventures.

Also coming out in 2013, a book I’ve been trying to get published for 6 years.

The Phoenix Girls, Book 1: The Conjuring Glass, coming March 8th from Journalstone.  Check it out on Goodreads or Journalstone.

When thirteen-year-old orphan Penny Sinclair moves to the small town of Dogwood to live with her godmother, she expects her life to become very dull. She doesn’t expect to find a strange talking fox roaming the countryside near her new home, a kindred spirit in her new friend Zoe, or the secret grove where they discover the long-hidden magic of The Phoenix Girls.

Learning to use magic isn’t easy, though; Penny and Zoe get their magic wrong almost as often as they get it right. When something sinister threatens Dogwood, their often-accidental magic may be the only thing that can stop it.

I wrote this story a long time ago, and in the years since have come to know the characters better than any other I’ve ever written about … and that’s probably a good thing since you may have noticed the Book 1in the title.  As currently envisioned The Phoenix Girls series will run from 5 to 7 novels.  The second in the series is finished, and I’ll be starting work on the third soon.

The Phoenix Girls stories are YA fantasy – remember that new direction I spoke about earlier? – but will appeal just as much to adults.  I think the mark of a good YA or children’s book is that there is no upper age limit.  I don’t write down to a YA audience, I wrote a story that is age appropriate for them.  A good story is a good story, no matter what genre you tag it with, and I think The Phoenix Girls, Book 1: The Conjuring Glass, is one of my best.

The Phoenix Girls’ road to publication has been a long and bumpy one.  I might share it here someday.  For now, I’m letting my inner hippy bliss out on the fact that book 1 will finally be available soon.  I have never been more enthusiastic about one of my books, and I hope my enthusiasm will spread to you, dear reader.  A good story is the best magic in the world, and I think we can all agree that a little good magic would be welcome in this new year.

Brian Knight

The Next Big Thing … Bla-Bla-Blog

My good friend and fellow writer T.G. Arsenault (Tim-ay!) tagged me in his The Next Big Thing blog, a kind of viral round robin thingy where we get to talk about a current work in progress.  I, in turn, was to tag another five writers to keep it going next Wednesday.  I was only able to dig up three who were interested, had a blog, and haven’t already participated.  Seems this thing is a bit like the flu, it’s making the rounds very quickly, and it seems everyone already got it.

The three suckers who allowed me to tag them are listed below, so be sure to check them out!

Here are my answers to the ten questions.

Q: What is the working title of your book?

A: I have a few irons on the fire right now, but the one that’s closest to being finished is the second book in my new YA Fantasy series, The Phoenix Girls, Book 2 – The Crimson Brand.  That is only a working title.  As I get through the second draft a better one might occur to me.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?

A: This book is only a smaller part of a larger idea which came to me about half-formed in a moment of epiphany so strong it almost stunned me.  I remember exactly where I was when I had it, a passenger in my wife’s suv, instead of a driver which was usually the case.  Probably a good thing too.  I might have driven us straight off the road.

Where it came from … that’s a question I can’t really answer.  I have no idea where it came from.  I had toyed with the idea of writing something I could let my daughters read, they were younger back then, 14 and 11, and thought YA Fantasy would be a lot of fun.   I wasn’t looking for that kind of story idea though.  It found me, and I was happy to take ownership when it did, but that moment of epiphany wasn’t where the idea was born, just when it presented itself.  I think ideas like that one either come from a lifetime of accumulated experiences, from everything that made me who I am and how I am, or from nowhere at all.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?

A: Young Adult Fantasy, though it has hints of other genres in the story to spice it up.  There’s mystery, adventure, and just a dash of horror.  I also want to point out that I don’t think a good YA story needs to be written down to a certain level or age group.  I certainly wrote it with younger readers in mind, but I won’t insult them by suggesting in either word or deed that a story has to be simplistic or unchallenging for young readers to grasp it.  A good YA story, and I do think my Phoenix Girls stories are good or I wouldn’t be writing them, and certainly not committing myself to an entire series, is just as complex and challenging as its adult oriented counterpart.  Good YA stories are certainly capable of supporting complex characters, relationships, emotions, and ideas, and very capable of engaging adult readers.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A: Unfortunately, all of the actors and actresses I can see playing the lead rolls are already too old.  If I could go back a few years and recruit some of my favorites … Bonnie Write as Penny, Saoirse Ronan or Dakota Fanning as Katie, and well, can’t really think of anyone for Zoe.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A: A young orphaned girls loses everything she has, family, friends, home, and finds them all again in a most extraordinary, and magical, way.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A: I will not self-publish.  I flatly refuse to self-publish.  I wouldn’t be able to do it properly for one, and more importantly, if no one is willing to take a chance on it, then maybe it’s not worth taking a chance on.  Luckily that is not the case with The Phoenix Girls.

No agency though.  Agents … just don’t get me started.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A: Around a year, though a majority of the 90,000 words were done in a few month of marathon writing.  It was simply the most fun I’ve ever had.  Ever!

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A: The Harry Potter books (yeah, I flatter myself) and the Narnia books (more flattery) come first to mind.  It’s really not like either of them.  I think The Phoenix Girls is pretty unique.  Or I like to think it is.  You read it and let me know.

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

A: My daughters, and the idea itself.  Once the idea hit me, it was too good not to write.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A: Magic, monsters, bullies, and bad guys, and most importantly, I think anyway, sympathetic young protagonists who any young reader, or every reader who remembers some of the difficulties of being young, can relate to and love.

Well, that’s it I suppose.  There’s a lot more I’d like to say about this book, and series, but if I ramble too long, I’m likely to start throwing out spoilers.

Here are the writerly people I suckered into participating.

Trent Zelazny
Mark Allan Gunnells
Tim Marquitz

Maybe Someday I’ll Write a Nice Western

This is a very old blog post I’m recycling, and which is kind of apt now that I’m branching out a bit with crime and YA Fantasy fiction.

I hope you enjoy it.

Brian Knight

Greetings from Lewiston, Idaho, which, despite popular belief, is not the “Potato State,” but the “Gem State.” Have you ever seen a Star Garnet? Most likely not, because the only two places on Earth they are found in India, and the state of Idaho.

Fascinating, no?

The few of you who know a little about me are probably saying “What? I thought he lived in Washington.”

I do live in Washington, in a small city called Clarkston, right on the border with Idaho. In almost all respects, Lewiston and Clarkston are one city, but it’s a divided city, split down the middle by the Snake River, which happens to be the Idaho/Washington border. Clarkston is the poor first half of the city, Lewiston the slightly less poor second half.

Lewiston and Clarkston are named after the explorers Lewis and Clark, and at one time, Lewiston was the capitol of Idaho. Before that though, when the state of Idaho was still part of a huge chunk of land called the Washington Territory, this place’s name was Jawbone Flats.

Fascinating, no?

Well, it is to me. I love local history. There isn’t much of it here, we’ve only been around for a few hundred years, but what history we do have here is colorful.

About a half block from where my mother, a paralegal, works, there is a small city park. There used to be a Boys & Girls Club there, and for at least a few summers, a kick-ass water slide. There also used to be a city swimming pool there. Those are all gone now, the buildings that housed them empty for all I know. The Hanging Tree is still there though.

I discovered The Hanging Tree when I was fourteen or fifteen, after a half day of summer school classes on the Lewis Clark State Collage campus not too far away. A few friends and I had just been chased out of the administration building after we were caught riding on the top of the building’s single elevator. With nothing else to do, we decided to go make some trouble in the nicely shaded park.

The tree had a plaque on it, telling its history, who all had been hanged there.

There’s another hanging tree not too far from where my grandparents live near Pierce, Idaho. Five Chinese men were on there way to trial for the murder of a local merchant who was found hacked into pieces after an argument with them, when a lynch mob liberated them from the Sheriff’s Posse and strung them up.

Lynching used to be all the rage in these parts. Lynching and Indian Massacres.

History is always bloody, and the history of the American West is no exception.

I’ve learned much of the local history I find so fascinating, including the story about a crazy mountain man known as Ridgerunner, from my grandpa and grandma Cole, who are in their own way as much a part of local history as The Hanging Tree only a few miles from their home. We’re even related to the famous old west outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

They are prospectors, loggers, and mill owners from a family of the same. They lived the original American Dream; independence, ownership, and family. Their dream is dead now, or at the very least it’s evolved into a New American Dream; wealth, big houses and fast cars, overindulgence, instant gratification, all served with a sloppy, steaming heap of sex.

The only respect that belongs to the hardworking family man/woman these days is self-respect, and the New American Dream is doing its damndest to kill that too.

Sorry, I strayed a little.

Or did I?

When my grandpa found out I was a writer, a thing I didn’t advertise to most of my family because of what I write, he asked me what I was working on. At that time, I was working on a novel called Feral, so I told him about it.

Have you ever been on a crowded elevator with one of those folks who only baths on February 29th, and who missed their last date with the bar of soap because they forgot to change their calendar? You know the faces the other people make as he cozies up to them, introduces himself, and begins a long, complex story about how the CIA, Forest Service, and Bill Gates are out to get us all?

That was the face my grandpa made when I told him about Feral.

My mom, who has been making that face about my writing since I was in High School, hid a smile behind a hand. My grandma continued to look politely interested, but I could tell it was a struggle.

Finally, grandpa said, “Well, maybe someday you’ll write a nice western.”

It’s a reasonable expectation, I guess. With so much interesting regional history around here to base a story on, and so much interesting family history to tie in with it, it’s probably what he expected I’d write.

I swallowed the first response that came to mind (not bloody likely) and gave him the synopsis for a weird western/horror story that’s been sitting unfinished on my hard drive for a few years now. It included a fictional member of the Cole family and a crazy Frenchman who looks like Alice Cooper and behaves like the Marque De’Sade.

Grandpa was not amused.

These days not bloody likely seems like a foolish attitude to take. Tom Piccirilli and Ed Gorman both write westerns, and Charles Grant writes romance under a pen name (or so I hear). Who am I to argue with them, especially when the mainstream has little or no interest in horror these days? I’ll mention no names, but a well-known author who’s familiar with my work once told me that if I wrote mysteries or thrillers instead of horror, I’d probably have a big fat multi-book deal by now.

I should probably be content with what I do have; a decent paying day job, some small press book deals that help me get through some of the tighter times, and just a modicum of self-respect.

I’m not content with that though. I want a bigger audience, better deals, and to be able to answer the question what do you write? without everyone looking at me like I’m a circus geek. I want to be able to quit my day job, buy a big house, and drive a fast car, instead of an old mini-van with broken door handles, broken power windows, broken air conditioner, broken heater, bad fuel injectors … oh hell, you get the picture.

And sometimes I do get other, non-horror, ideas.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll experiment and try something different, something without maniacs, monsters, or ghosts. Everyone is doing it these days. Genre bending and crossing is all the rage. I certainly have to try something different if I’m ever going to find the New American Dream.

Maybe I’ll write a thriller next, or a romance (what my dad used to call crotch rippers), or a mystery.

Maybe even a nice western.

Brian Knight