WHEN MY PLANE landed at LaGuardia Airport on April 7, 2005, my heart leapt — it felt like I was coming home.
It was the first time I’d been back to Manhattan since I spent a summer there as a magazine intern in NYC 18 years ago, working on 52nd Street and living down near the East Village in an NYU dorm. It remains one of my favorite times in my life.
And when I walked into the lobby of the Park Central hotel, it was like a family reunion.
Trish Cacek, Ed Bryant, Joel Ross, GAK, Brian Keene — they were all standing around already, along with some of my home crowd from Twilight Tales, Tina Jens, Ed DeGeorge and Eric Cherry.
As it turns out, there was a reason they were standing around — the bar wasn’t open until 5 p.m., and we couldn’t check into our rooms until 4 p.m. Hmmmm…they won’t let you into your rooms AND they won’t let you drop money on drinks.
Seems like the Park Central needs a new MBA at the helm. There is money being left on the table!
Anyway…GAK and I went to scout for the art room, which seemed to be missing (set-up didn’t exactly go as planned) and then I checked out Martin Mundt‘s typically hysterical reading and the “Best Works You’ve Never Read” panel with David Bell, Bev Vincent, Jack Ketchum, Tom Montelone, Mark Morris, and Bill Breedlove.
Then I tried to get some tips from the “Juggling Writing with a Full-Time Job” panel from Gerard Houarner, Linda Addison, William Gagliani, P.D. Cacek, Brian Knight and Rita Oakes. Their advice? Don’t waste time watching TV orhaving a social life. And always keep a Palm Pilot or notepad or recorder around while doing other things (like work) so that you can jot down ideas when they hit you.
Then it was off to the “Small Press vs. Large Press – Which is Right for Which Project?” session with Matt Schwartz, Tom Piccirilli, Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene and P.D. Cacek.
The upshot of that one? Publish wherever you can…and if possible, do a hardcover small press edition AND a mass market edition. Please the collectors and your pocketbook.
Somewhere along the line, I ran into fellow Delirium authors Sandy DeLuca and Kurt Newton, who I’ve chatted with on e-mail over the years. It was great to finally talk to them both in the flesh!
Finally, I was able to go down and check into my room, where I unpacked and crashed for a few minutes before heading to the pre-opening ceremonies Mixer, where I pretended that cheese and celery made for a good dinner, and met up with Kevin Filan, who I first traded e-mails with at least 6 years ago when we were both in the same (and I think last) issue of Grue Magazine.
I also met some fellow Shockliners before watching Jay Clarke (half of writing team Michael Slade) roast Grandmaster F. Paul Wilson. Strangely, the Grandmaster award was the only thing that actually happened at Opening Ceremonies — while the other Guests of Honor sat at a big table and received gifts (which remained boxed so no one could see — they were some kind of statue), none of them were given the chance to talk. After the opening, I talked to Mort Castle for a bit before hooking up with Bill Gagliani for a beer and taking some “pitch” tips from Brian Keene. Twilight Talers Steve Laurent and Ed DeGeorge joined us and soon we were off in search of the con suite for the evening’s party.
I finally met Space and Time editor Gordon Linzner at the party, and thanked him (perhaps too profusely!) for running my story “The Strong Will Survive” in his current issue (#99); I’ve been trying to crack S&T since I first started submitting fiction, in 1993. And the magazine itself is as old as I am — it was started in 1966.
While Gordon went off to give a walking tour of Central Park in the rain, I hung in the suite with Trish, Joel, Diana Barron, Yvonne Navarro andWeston Osche.
Someone noted that, Trish, Lee Thomas and I were all in the “Stoker bed” (we were all flopped up against the headboard). Lee and I both have books currently nominated in the Stoker Awards’ First Novel category, while Trish’s The Wind Caller is up for Best Novel. Eventually, Ed McMullen (Feo Amante) turned up and brought my Jack and Coke evening to an end when he started swigging directly from the bottle of Jack.
Just as well…the con was just beginning, and 2 a.m. was late enough for a first night!
Friday, April 8, 2005:
I started off my first full day of the con with business — my first pitch meeting, for a young adult “goblins” novel — was Friday morning. It was then that I realized I hadn’t actually PACKED the pitch synopsis I’d printed out at home. A quick trip (and $3) to the business office with my trusty purple USB Drive fixed that. Unfortunately, the pitch was with an agent who didn’t bother to listen to what the project I was trying to pitch him was actually about other than the fact that it involved goblins (which he said wouldn’t play well in the south, did I want to call them something else…huh???) But I did learn a lot about him. I’m guessing we won’t call each other.
I took a quick run ’round the Dealer’s Room and babysat the entryway to the Art Room for Chad Savage as he completed setup work, before catching lunch in a classic New York deli with Bill Breedlove (we had previously walked out of a place that wanted to charge $14 for a cheeseburger!!! Only in New York!). Then I caught Christa Faust‘s evocative reading from the most recent “Hot Blood” anthology and it was back to business, as I pitched a project to Leisure Books editor Don D’Auria and moderated a panel on “Building A Career in Short Fiction – A Look at Horror Short Fiction Markets” with Ellen Datlow, Elizabeth Monteleone, Jack Fisher and Gary Braunbeck.
I caught up with old friend and Morbid Curiosities editor Loren Rhoads for a drink and some dinner in a great little Italian restaurant just down the street from the hotel. Then it was a race back to our rooms to grab books for the Mass Author Signing.
Given the ridiculous state of the hotel’s elevators (in which GOH Harlan Ellison got stuck in for a half hour over the weekend), I ended up waiting more than 15 minutes to get downstairs again, which made me late to the signing…and since there weren’t enough tables and chairs set up to begin with, I ended up in the far back of the room behind a pillar, along with Brian Pinkerton, Alice Henderson, Bill Gagliani and Christa Faust.
Eventually, Martin Mundt was coerced into sitting down at the end of our little limbo tables with a stack of his amazing Twilight Tales short story collection, The Crawling Abattoir. (We later convinced Christa to buy a copy!)
Chad Savage looks on in horror as Christa Faust buys
a book from Martin Mundt.
Since we were pretty much on our own without traffic, we entertained ourselves by having Christa and Matt Schwartz pose against the white pillar, and by taking pictures of Kelly Laymon‘s butt.
Bill Gagliani and Brian Pinkerton talk to Kelly Laymon.
Christa records it in…rear focus…
Towards the end of the night, I wandered about the hall and played musical cameras to catch some pictures with Gerard Houarner, Linda Addison, Tom Piccirilli and Michelle Scalise (see first photo at top…I believe taken by Bill Breedlove, who I pressed into service) and found Tina Jens and Rain Graves hoarding some serious green.
Rain Graves and Tina Jens “show me the money.”
After the signing, I dumped my books back at the room and came back down to watch the Twilight Tales-sponsored “Flash Fiction” contest, hosted by Bill Breedlove. TT founder Tina Jens introduced the contest, which gave contestants five minutes to read a complete story (or, in Bill’s words “read like a muthafucka”). F. Paul Wilson, Jay & Rebecca Clarke (the duo behind pen name Michael Slade) and Ellen Datlow judged, and ultimately picked Twilight Tales own Martin Mundt as the champ for his S&M story that dealt, not very kindly, with a…parrot.
Then it was off for an all-night run at the Borderlands party, hosted as always by Borderlands owner Alan Beatts along with the amazing Jude Feldman and Cary Heater.
I was there til 4 a.m., listening to the WHC2006 bid take more shape and talking with Chad Savage, WHC interloper and British author Tony Richards, Mandy Slater, David Thomas Lord, Bill Breedlove, Simon Wood, The Borderlands crew and many more whose names now escape me, thanks to that above-pictured bottle of Jack!
After a late morning walk outside (mmmm, NY hotdogs with sauerkraut!!!) where I discovered we were just a couple blocks from the Ed Sullivan Theatre and the old Studio 54 building (not to mention Carnegie Hall), I cruised the Dealer’s Room and talked with Black October Editor John DiDomenico about the current issue, and its success (I have a story in it that made the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Honorable Mention list, and word on the street is that Michael Laimo‘s novel excerpt in that issue has elicited some film interest).
I also talked with Cthulhu Sex Editor Michael Amorel and Raw Dog Screaming Press Editor John Edward Lawson about our upcoming Small Press panel. Then it was off to join the “Being an Author and Building a Fan Base” panel with John (who moderated) and Brian Knight, Michael Slade and Lynne Hansen. The panel was great — I finally got to meet Brian, a fellow Delirium author, and Lynne and I subsequently had several discussions about YA fiction. But the star of the panel was without a doubt Jay Clarke of Michael Slade, who told amazing stories of his fans over the years.
One fan came to one of his signings and admitted that she had foregone killing herself to come meet him that day (he made a pact with her that she wouldn’t do it as long as he continued writing). He also told of another person who attended his first bookstore reading to get out of the rain, became a fan, and years later would present him at a signing with her child — named “Slade.”
I squeezed in another YA pitch then, to Penquin (which involved running to the business office with my trusty USB drive and credit card again — I hadn’t printed extra materials!), and then moderated the “Starting a Small Press Successes and Failures” panel with Necessary Evil’s Don Koish, Earthling’s Paul Miller, Inhuman‘s Allen K., Raw Dog Screaming Press’ John Edward Lawson, Cthulhu Sex‘s Michael Amorel and Twilight Tales’ Tina Jens. While the different business models of all the different houses (some are magazines, others trade paperback publishers and others limited hardcover producers), it was a good panel with lots of info about the dos and don’ts of running a small press.
I caught fellow Delirium author Kurt Newton‘s poetry/fiction reading and then loaded up on wine and cheese before doing my own.
Having the Art Show’s reception right outside our room’s doors probably didn’t help convince people to come in and sit for a reading (nor did the resulting noise help the reading!) thanks in part to Eric Cherry who called out into the lobby that the reading was starting, there ended up being close to 20 people in the room by the end, including Kurt, who graciously brought his “posse” back.
Christa Faust, Bill Breedlove, Martin Mundt, Alisa McCune (who shot some pictures) and several people I didn’t know turned up and stayed.
I asked whether they wanted to hear a novel excerpt, or a story, and the group voted to hear a complete short story, so I read the piece that just appeared in Space and Time, “The Strong Will Survive.
Then, with a few minutes remaining, I read the prologue to Covenant.
After my reading, I chatted with Tor editor Melissa Singer and Bill Breedlove a while, checked out the art show one last time and said hi to Deena Warner (sadly didn’t get to hang with her or Matt over the weekend this year) and then headed up to the Leisure Books party. Here is where I made my first big mistake of the weekend (that I’m aware of, anyway). Assuming that Thursday’s superhuman ability to drink on a stomach of cheese and celery was still intact, I topped off my wine with some Jack and Coke and then, when that ran out, switched to the evil of vodka.
When I arrived at the latter half of the Gross-Out contest, I noticed that there were TWO Wrath James Whites in the room. A couple of Brian Keenes, too. It was then that I realized that I was not going to make it to 4 a.m. like the night before.
Fortified with a donut and coffee (and leaning heavily on the chair next to me!), I sat through the “WHC Board Meeting” and heard Chad Savage and Jeremy Lassen give their San Francisco con bid for next year. Then I caught the “Horror Fiction and Horror Art as Rebellion” panel with the hysterical John Skipp (who threw himself against the wall a couple times), Brian Keene, Wrath James White, Michael T. Huyck, Tom Monteleone, Cody Goodfellow and GAK, who came in halfway through the panel and announced that lateness was his rebellion (he forgot he was on the panel!).
I made a slow round of goodbyes through the dealer’s room, chatting with Matt Schwartz, Brian Keene and David Thomas Lord at the Twilight Tales table, then Jude at the Borderlands table and then John Lawson, John DiDomenico, Michael Almorel and Jeremy Lassen (who offered me a freebie that I couldn’t turn down — so I handed him a Vigilantes of Love to read, or burn…whatever.)
After helping Alan Clark move some of his art to the curb, I headed to the curb myself, and retraced the steps of my old walk from 52nd Street down to the East Village from back when I was an intern. It took a lot longer than I remember…but then, I was no longer a “local” — I was gaping at the Broadway signs and buildings like the usual tourist.
When I got back, around 5 p.m., I was lucky enough to spot Rue Morgue‘s Monica Kuebler and Don Koish, and shared a cab with them back to the airport. They filled me in on the early morning exploits that I snored through, and then…we were there. Back at the airport.
Another WHC over.
They go by faster every year.
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