o, on my way to the airport on Wednesday morning, there's such a ridiculous traffic jam, that I almost miss the plane (even though I left early) and at 6 a.m. on Thursday, the first morning of the con, I'm woken up by my wife who tells me that there's an emergency back home. Then a couple days later on the way home, my bags decided to take a vacation in St. Louis. Maybe they were the wiser?
But it's all good, you see, because San Francisco -- those precious four days in between the bad bookends, is my favorite city in the world. Con Co-Chair Chad Savage even popped for a full moon while we were there (way to go Chad!) And hanging out the whole time with some of my favorite people in the world...to coin a commercial...perfect.
I spotted Kelly Laymon at the airport as soon as I hit ground and so we shared a shuttle to the hotel, where just as I was about to head upstairs on the elevator, I ran into my pals Dave Barnett and GAK. Chad Savage pushed on past us with a luggage cart of con boxes and the weekend someone had begun.
After chatting in the bar with Dave, GAK, Brian Keene, Shrews and more, I finally got the call from Alice Henderson that our dinner party was ready. She introduced me to Lucien Soulban, and along with John Hay, Maurice, Tim Waggoner we headed to Chinatown for a bite.
After enjoying a great view of the city, great food and conversation that lasted too short a time, I excused myself and headed to my favorite San Francisco club, Bottom of the Hill to see a couple bands, Aloha (Genesis-derived) and Foreign Born.
Afterwards, while the cabby insisted that my hotel didn't exist, eventually I got there and just four hours later was awoken by the story of water. But I won't bathe in that here...
nce up and around on Thursday (and inwardly torn about the home disaster) I had lunch with David Benton who walked with me almost-but-not-quite to Market Street (a longer walk than I expected...but we got within a couple blocks!). Some Thai noodles and a good bit of excercise later and we were back at the hotel and finally really, starting the con. I was debuting the new Dark Arts Books publishing venture at the con, with its first book -- the four author collection Candy in the Dumpster. So most of my Thursday afternoon was spent taking books around the dealer's room and meeting longtime email friends Larry Roberts (Bloodletting Press), Roy Robbins (Bad Moon Books) and catching up with Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman (Borderlands Books). I also got a chance to finally meet and talk with Mike Miller (who just bought my story "The Pumpkin Man" for Surreal Magazine), James Beach (who will be running a story and an interview with me this fall in Dark Discoveries Magazine) and William Jones (Dark Wisdom Magazine).
I shot some doubles pool with Brian Keene, Brian Knight and Monica Kuebler (Rue Morgue) while Chris Golden awaited the winner's match. I also finally got to meet James Moore, who offered some daunting stats on the marathon writing he did to produce Blood Red, his novel which I edited last year for Earthling Publications. Eventually, after chatting with Paula Guran, we all hopped a bus to the Borderlands Book Store for a mass signing event (where I took pix of my books on a shelf, Feo Amante, Keene and a hairless cat!)
After the bookstore event, I caught the bus back to the hotel to read at the Morbid Curiosity Open Mic -- I have a story (the emergency c-section birth of my son) in the current and final issue (#10), and so at about 12:30 a.m. (two-thirty in the morning Chicago time, aack!) I read the story of my son's nailbiting birth out loud for the first time! After a quick drink at the con suite, I called it a night.
he best thing about any con is the conversations with new and old friends. Somehow, while I was in San Francisco from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning, it seemed like I didn't get to talk to anyone quite long enough! Friday passed in a blur of conversations, a pitch session and eventually a 5 p.m. signing for Candy in the Dumpster hosted by the Twilight Tales booth in the Dealer's Room. Afterwards, Bill Breedlove (who edited the collection) and I had a couple drinks with our introductionist, Mort Castle and then rushed through a steak dinner at Ruth's Criss, across the street from the hotel, before lugging a bunch of books to the mass signing.
The next two hours at the signing were the most frenetic I had at the con! I usually sign a handful of things at best (and usually end up walking around the room to talk to friends more than sitting at my table) but this year, a bunch of folks came up to me and I sold a bunch of copies of Candy, my collection Vigilantes of Love, my novel Covenant and my novelette Failure. And I got to see Dave Stucky again, who made me a beautiful Gates of Hell steel case for the anthology Damned, which I had a story in. I briefly ducked over to talk to Teri Jacobs, Keene and Mike Laimo, but otherwise, I was chained to the table!
Later, after sampling some Afterbirth Beer (a brilliant marketing idea) at the Bizarro party I stopped at the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction contest and then spent the next few hours at the Borderlands Party where I was liberally served Jack and Cokes (you guys rule, Jude and Carey!)
I called it a night at 3 a.m. and managed to avoid getting too sloshed, since I knew I had 3 panels, a reading and a pitch the next day...
...so by 10 a.m. Saturday, I was sitting in the hotel restaurant with Lucien Soulban having breakfast. Then fellow Delirium and Candy in the Dumpster author Martin Mundt and I did an interview with an Internet TV show, and I did my reading ("Pumpkin Head" and an excerpt from Failure) for a decent crowd of 18 or 20 people.
At the con suite for lunch, I talked a bit with Dark Delicacies' Del Howison and pushed the right buttons to get Christa Faust ranting about House of 1,000 Corpses (I love doing that!).
The rest of the day was devoured by panels -- I had a lot of fun with Jeff Strand, Simon Wood, Robert Dunbar and Lynne Hansen on the "Marketing and Promotion for Authors" panel (where we established that winning an award is always good PR). Loren Rhoads and I ducked down the street for a beer and a catch-up chat, but then I had to rush back to moderate a panel. Fred Wiehe and I cursed our fellow absent panelists but managed to go on without them and held our own Q&A with a good-sized audience for the "Where are the New Masters of Horror?" film panel (thank God I brought some DVD cases with me as ice-breakers!).
Then my personal best moment of the con came when I went to dinner on Fisherman's Wharf with Dave Barnett, Ed Lee, Lisa Mannetti and Terry Tidwell. Lee demonstrated to me how to correctly crack open a crab in the shell (I felt stupid, but it was one of the best meals I've ever had!), and Terry and I agreed that beer is definitely the best dessert.
After dinner, I sat on the "Hauntings" panel, with Robert Dunbar and P.D. Cacek, who talked about their experiences in a haunted house. We agreed that I was no Teri Jacobs, who described her psychic experiences. Gene O'Neill and I were somewhat at a loss for content however, since while we've set stories in haunted places (which was the topic of the panel!), neither of us had real-life ghost stories to share.
I stayed a bit at the Leisure party where Keene offered tastings of grandpa's rotgut (potent, yes!) and talked with Bill Gagliani, Deborah LeBlanc and Feo, before catching the end of the Gross Out contest. I had actually brought an entry but didn't read it, because they had set up the contest with a timing and content "audition" prior to the actual contest. With time at a premium, I opted not to bother, though in hindsight I should have -- while the readers were great, there were only a handful (most were probably put off just as I was by the "pre-screening").
After the contest, we returned to the con suite for drinking and conversation that again lasted past 3 a.m. Lucien brought out some maple whiskey (which puts a hole in the gut) and I got a chance to talk more with the Bloodletting crew, and their spokesmodel Kelly -- the inspiration for the photoshoot that Jade Paris did for my novelette Failure. I also finally got a chance to talk with Debbie Kuhn, who I'd met on the Carnival of Wicked Writers Message Board and Charles Pitts. The three of us ended up sharing a cab the next morning to the airport.
There were a thousand conversations, dozens of opportunities grabbed and lost, and a week later, much of the weekend seems a dizzy blur. If it had gone on for a week, I suppose there still wouldn't have been time to REALLY catch up with everyone...but for four days and nights, we gave it our best shot!
Here are some pictures (which are not in time linear, but in alpha name order):