StokerCon 2016

This year, the Horror Writers Association put on a new convention: StokerCon. It promised to be a great, new con with a ton of special guests and panels, as well as the Bram Stoker Awards.

And they decided to have it in Vegas, baby!

Many people, upon hearing they have an opportunity to go to Vegas, might react like this:



I am not one of those people.

At the thought of all the gambling, smoking, drinking, flashing lights, noise, ass cheeks, and excess, I felt more like this:


One of my goals is to use this gif in as many blogs as possible…

But I’d never been to that part of the country before, so I took it as an opportunity to see something new, if not partake in some of the greatest people-watching in the world.

And I was excited to go to the convention to talk about writing, sit in on some panels, and, above all, hang out with friends.

With respect to Vegas, I’d set some modest goals for myself:
1) See the fountains and glass ceiling at the Bellagio
2) See the gondolas at the Venetian
3) Maybe ride the roller coaster at New York, New York
4) Play a round or two of craps–one of my dad’s favorites–and see what the big deal is.
5) See some Elvises  (Elvi? Elvii?  Shit … they never went over how to pluralize Elvis at Boot Camp …).

Guess how many of those things I did?



I saw this guy on the Strip.

I’m not gonna lie: when it was time to leave on Sunday, I felt kind of silly. I mean, I must be the least adventurous adventurer ever. Only I can travel 2,500 miles to a part of the country which I’ve never seen and still not see any of it.


But then I thought about all the great things I did do.

It was great that the very, first person I ran into was Chris Morey, the man behind Dark Regions Press. He was super awesome and friendly. He was also the guy organizing one of the two book signings I was doing that weekend.


This was for Madhouse. Beyond me are Megan Hart & Mercedes Murdock Yardley, both talented and fabulous ladies. Photo credit: John Palisano.



This was for Chiral Mad 3. With Gene O’Neill, Michael Bailey, and Eric Guignard, three very cool guys.

It was great to have jet lag (stay with me), because I was up and out at 7:30a (seriously, stay with me) with the full intention of exploring the Strip. Then serendipity intervened, and I bumped into Gene O’Neill, who was waiting on Scott Edelman to go to breakfast. Gene and I chatted for close to an hour, and after some Abbot&Costello-esque moments, we found Scott.
Then they invited me to go to breakfast with them, and I’m glad I accepted. Bearing witness to the friendship and camaraderie between these two was a lot of fun. Scott & I had never met before, and I found him to be wonderful company. Plus, any man who brings jelly beans to a book signing is okay by me.


Scott & Gene. Such a pleasant way to spend my first morning in Vegas.

It was great to have extended conversations with Stephanie Wytovich, Kristin Dearborn, Rena Mason, and Erinn Kemper, four fun and talented women. We talked about writing and books and the con, and we shared many laughs.

It was great to meet RL Stine, to hear him interviewed by the awesome JG Faherty, to have him sign books for my kids, to tell him about the scary story workshop I did with my son’s class using lesson plans based on his books, to have him surprise the hell out of me with his terrific sense of humor.


Although I should stop being surprised by that at this point: horror writers are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

It was great meeting Eric Miller—my editor for 18 Wheels of Horror—and learning he’s just as awesome in person as he is online.

It was great to get a sweet pep talk from John Palisano after a not-so-great pitch session. But it was also great to follow that up with a much better pitch session.

It was great being with F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone.


It’s always great being with Tom & Paul.

It was great going to dinner with them and David Morrell. I’d never met David before, either. He was intelligent and kind, and also a great conversationalist. And we talked about everything from Calvinism to So I Married An Axe Murderer.


I highly doubt Rambo & Brian Dennehy were talking about Calvinism and using Scottish accents …

It was great spending time with one of my first writer friends, Michael Bailey, and his soon-to-be-wife Kelly. I had my first Irish Car Bomb with them, as well as Paul, Tom, and Erinn Kemper. Not to mention the soon-to-be-trademarked Soccer Mom Bomb. We also had a nice lunch with Tom, Erinn, and the always wonderful Jack Ketchum.


These two … so awesome.

It was great to watch Michael receive a Bram Stoker Award—the highest honor a horror writer can get—for all of the hard and beautiful work he did for his anthology, The Library of the Dead.

It was great to be sitting with two of his mentors, Tom & Paul. To see the pride on their faces when they realized three winners that night had gone through their Borderlands Boot Camp. I hope they feel good knowing they’ve played a role in the successes of those winners, as well as the successes of countless other writers, myself included.

So, yeah. I missed some shit in Vegas. The thing is, Vegas doesn’t care if I saw the water show at the Bellagio or lost a hundred bucks at the craps table. Vegas doesn’t care how many Elvises I saw. And Vegas will be there when I go back.

This adventure wasn’t really about places. It was about people. It was about strengthening bonds and forming new ones. It was about laughter and writing and camaraderie.

It was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

Plus, I got to see this guy:


Chiral Madness

Chiral Mad 3 is now available!


So pretty, right?

I’m psyched to have my story, “Watch Me,” included in the table of contents.

My very first published story, “Inevitable,” was in Chiral Mad, the first installment of this series of psychological horror. I’m glad to be back!

Chiral Mad 3 is edited by Michael Bailey and contains beautiful art by Glenn Chadbourne. It’s published by Written Backwards, an imprint of Dark Regions Press.

You can order from Amazon here.
Or you can order from Dark Regions Press here. At the moment, a few deluxe, limited editions are left, so get them while you can.

Here’s a list of the complete table of contents:

Introduction: Observations on Horror Burnout – Chuck Palahniuk

01. The Poetry of Life – Richard Chizmar
02. The Last Rung on the Ladder – Stephen King
03. A Rift in Reflection – Hal Bodner
04. Windows, Mirrors, Doors – Jason V Brock
05. Prayer – Mort Castle
06. The Agonizing Guilt of Relief (Last Days of a Ready-Made Victim) – Paul Michael Anderson
07. The Black Crow of Boddinstraße – Emily B. Cataneo
08. A Flash of Red – Erinn L. Kemper
09. Red Runner vs. The Surgeon, Issue 18 – Jessica May Lin
10. The Dead Collection – Mercedes M. Yardley
11. Watch Me – Meghan Arcuri
12. The Bigger Bedroom – Josh Malerman
13. That Perilous Stuff – Scott Edelman
14. Know Your Code – Ramsey Campbell
15. 3-Dot People – Gene O’Neill
16. Silver Thread, Hammer Ring – Gary A. Braunbeck
17. Those Who Watch From on High – Eric J. Guignard
18. Blood Dust – Max Booth III
19. The Offering on the Hill – Richard Thomas
20. The Whipping Girls – Damien Angelica Walters
21. Seconds – Jack Ketchum

01. Fair – P. Gardner Goldsmith
02. Fail-Safe – Jonathan Balog
03. Folie à Deux – Sydney Leigh
04. Reflecting on Reflections – Bruce Boston
05. Mirror Image – Marge Simon
06. Black River #1 – Elizabeth Massie
07. Prescience – Rose Blackthorn
08. The Speed of Sound – Ciarán Parkes
09. Welcome Home, Darling – Stephanie M. Wytovich
10. Whisper #1 (A Warning) – Erik T. Johnson
11. Whisper #2 (A Prophecy) – Erik T. Johnson
12. Put Me to Dream – Stephanie M. Wytovich
13. Recognizing Trees – Ciarán Parkes
14. Arbitration – Rose Blackthorn
15. Black River #2 – Elizabeth Massie
16. Reflections Through the Raven’s Eye – Marge Simon
17. Beyond Symmetry – Bruce Boston
18. Folie à Plusieurs – Sydney Leigh
19. Insomnia in Reverse – Jonathan Balog
20. Promise – P. Gardner Goldsmith

So pretty, right??

You’ve Gotta Write to Write

Okay … I know what you’re thinking: Who let Yogi Berra take over the blog?


No one. Although I have to say my favorite Yogism is “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

And, no, this is not one of those posts where I’m going to put on my tough guy voice and say, “If you’re serious about writing, you need to get your ass in the chair and do the work.” Yes, that’s true, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about when your ass is already in the chair, and you’re working on the genesis of an idea, the genesis of a scene.

I’ve recently started writing a new novel. It has nothing to do with the one I just finished, so I’m breaking new ground: new characters, new world, new magics, new backstory. It’s a little daunting but mostly exciting.

I still consider myself to be pretty new to this whole writing thing, especially novels, so I don’t quite have a routine down yet.

I have noticed that, in the beginning, I need to allow myself some time to think. Just some pure thinking and nothing else: to tease out an idea, as well as play around with some characters, plots, and settings.

That’s good and necessary … to a point.

If I’m lucky, the first part of the thinking stage is usually pretty productive: I hear some dialogue, envision a climactic scene, start to develop a character or two.

Then invariably I hit a roadblock, become frustrated, and get distracted by this:


or this:


or this:


It took all my will not to put the bathing suit photo here …

After my internet fix/snack break/day dreams, I get back to business and think some more. Then I get frustrated again. Because it’s worse than before. This time, nothing is coming to me.

What. The. Hell?

And after another ten minutes of annoying frustration, I’m back to the interwebs/food/James Bond stuff.

Vicious cycle.jpeg

I finally shake off the distractions (again).

Then the bad thoughts come. (And they always have loud, angry voices, don’t they?)

Maybe this idea wasn’t that good.
Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.
Maybe you should go back to being a math teacher.

But before I hang it all up, a tiny little voice worms its way through all those loud, angry voices.

It says, “Just fucking write. Write something. Anything. Write about your frustration. Write out the bio of one of the characters. Write out a scene where two of your characters argue over who the best James Bond is.”


… ahem …

The angry voices say, “But this is a fantasy. They don’t even know who James Bond is!”

To which the tiny voice says, “Who gives a shit? Just write it.”

And the angry voices think:


Someone’s got a potty mouth …

Granted, it’s not the most brilliant of brainstorms. I’m a writer; I should just write, after all.

For whatever reason, though, I get caught in that crazy, little cycle, and I freeze up.

Eventually I decide to listen to that tiny voice (who now says, “It’s about fucking time!”), and I start writing. Sure, the words that first hit the paper sound like a four-year-old wrote them.

But after a few minutes, the craziest thing happens: a whole world opens up. Ideas start to jibe; characters start to develop; a plot line becomes clearer; dialogue starts to flow more easily; and random, new characters appear out of nowhere.

The writing feeds the thinking, and the thinking feeds the writing.


That sounds like something I woulda     said …

All of these things may not happen in one sitting. But they do happen over the course of
time … after I’ve made myself put the words on the page.

And before I know it, I’ve made some decent progress.

It kind of feels like this:


and I also feel a little bit of this:


… although I don’t want to make this sound like more than it really is: it’s writing fiction not performing brain surgery (or giving out cars), for god’s sake.

But in the confines of being a writer, when you’ve created something out of seemingly nothing, when things start to gel in an unanticipated way … it feels magical.

And all it took was a little writing.


Post-Con Blues: the NECon edition

One thing I’ve learned since I started writing a few years ago is that writers don’t just write. They research. They outline. They cry. They read for pleasure. They read about writing. They cry. They edit. They edit some more. They cry.


Or maybe the crying is just me. Oh god. *Is* it just me?

They also go to writing conventions.

I haven’t been going to cons for all that long, and I don’t know what it’s like when you’ve been doing it year after year, but what I have noticed is that in the days immediately following the con, I have a feeling of complete and utter elation. Euphoria.

I kind of feel like this:


Except I’m a chick, and I didn’t drown.

And this year’s NECon was no exception.

I’ve blogged about NECon a couple of times (here and here), but in case you are unfamiliar with it, it’s a small convention in Bristol, Rhode Island for writers, artists, and fans of dark fiction. It has a wonderfully mellow atmosphere, making it seem more like a family reunion than a writing convention. In fact, its nickname is Camp Necon.

Truth be told, in the days prior, I wasn’t sure how this year was going to go.

The people with whom I usually spend the most time were not going to be there.


I missed you guys.

But I really shouldn’t have worried. As I said, NECon is a lot like a family reunion. And since I’ve been going for a few years, I’ve met a ton of wonderful people.

So many things contributed to my aforementioned elation.

My roommate this year was Kristin Dearborn. It’s weird having a new roommate, as you never know how considerate the other person will be of your privacy and space. But when I walked into the room and saw her toiletries neatly arranged on one side of the sink, leaving plenty of room for mine, I knew I had nothing to worry about. She was fun, nice, and easy to talk to.

Plus, she made these:


Kristin rocks.

I reconnected and talked shop with Bev Vincent, Tony Tremblay, Peter Argano, Jose Nieto, James A. Moore and Dallas Mayr, among many other greats.

I laughed in horror with Catherine Grant and Barry Dejasu during “The NECon Update with Mike Myers.” Mike went into great detail about his colonoscopy. He said things like–


What happens at NECon Update, stays at NECon Update…and, Sweet Jesus, you should be happy about that…

I was on a panel called The Art of the Short Story. My fellow panelists included Jose Nieto, John Goodrich, Dan Foley, KH Vaughan, and Doung Jai Piscitelli. I have been lucky enough to be on panels for the past three years. The two prior to this, although awesome, were at 9 in the morning. On Saturday. After everyone’d been partying in the courtyard all night.

So when I found out this year’s panel was at 3 p.m. on Friday, I felt like this:


I also saw the Guest of Honor panel with Chuck Wendig, Paul Tremblay, and Seanan McGuire. I always love listening to artists and writers talk about their processes, and these authors were wonderful. I laughed a ton: the three of them had a great rapport. If the writing thing doesn’t work out, they might consider taking it on the road.


All three are wildly popular and prolific writers…

As an aside, I was psyched to learn that Paul Tremblay is a math teacher. Finding a math major/teacher at a writing convention is like finding a shred of human decency in the comments section of a Huffington Post article. I was a math major and math teacher, so I related to his path and appreciated his perspective. We didn’t get to geek out too much, but there’s always time.


Math geeks unite.

The bottom line is, I had an awesome time at NECon.

But after that elation wore off, something else happened. About five days after the convention, another emotion set in. It was mean. It was ugly. It was how I feel when I look at this:


And throughout my Facebook feed, I saw other NECon attendees were going through the same thing.


Maybe it’s not just me…

After having so much fun hanging out with friends, talking about writing, drinking tasty beverages (or swallowing vodka-soaked gummies), and eating saugies*, it’s hard to return to your normal life.

But that’s the thing about NECon. It’s super awesome. And coming down from that high is completely worth it. If you ever get a chance to go, I totally recommend it.

Special thanks to Sara Calia, Mary Booth and Matt Bechtel for all their hard work in putting this con together. You guys are amazing, and I love spending my third weekend in July with you.


*saugies…hmmm…in all the photos I Googled, they looked like hot dogs, and as someone who thinks hot dogs are Satan’s food, I’d rather not subject you to that. But they do not taste like hot dogs. They taste like miracles. They taste like unicorns and rainbows. They taste like awesomeness. Or maybe that’s the 1 a.m. alcohol-induced munchies talking…


Anthocon Revisited

This past weekend, I was in Portsmouth, NH at one of my favorite writing conventions: Anthocon. Run by Tim Deal, JOhnny Morse, and Mark Wholley, Anthocon celebrates speculative writing, art, and gaming. It’s a wonderful con: small and welcoming, professional and fun.

Writing can be an isolating and lonely endeavor, often making you feel like this:


…or this:


So conventions are important, allowing you to connect and reconnect with a number of fantastic people.

As usual, I was lucky enough to hang out with a lot of Borderlands Boot Camp friends, including Michael Bailey, Kelly Rumble, Olivia Monteleone, and Gard Goldsmith, as well as two of our instructors, F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone.


Back (L to R): Kevin Lucia, Me, Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, Olivia Monteleone, Bob Meracle Front: Michael Bailey and Gard Goldsmith

Being with the Boot Camp people is important to me, because if it weren’t for them, my writing would be the literary equivalent of this:


I was also able to spend more time with the lovely and talented Marianne Halbert, April Hawks, Diana Catt, Errick Nunnally, and Tony Tremblay, strengthening friendships old and new.

And I met a ton of other wonderful people. Too many to name. But if you ever get to attend this con, you will be surrounded by awesomeness.

As in years past, the con was well-organized, offering interesting panels and ample opportunities to hear readings.

One that stands out (probably in all our minds) is Tom Monteleone’s reading of “When I Was.” I have heard Tom read before, and he never fails to impress. It’s really more of a performance piece than a reading. He, literally, cannot sit still while he’s doing it, and his accents, his inflections, his pacing are spot on.

Tom is a terrific writer. I enjoy his stories a lot. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t miss his calling…


The highlight of the weekend for me was AnthoJam. AnthoJam is a Saturday night event, where the more musically-inclined members of the community grab their instruments and perform. A playlist is set months in advance. Then these talented people practice by themselves, rehearse together a scant few times on Friday, and give a kick-ass performance on Saturday.

Last year’s show was amazing. I loved listening to the band and watching them have fun.

This year’s AnthoJammers were JOhnny Morse, Thom Erb, Frank Michaels, TG Arsenault, Erich Bruning, Marianne Halbert, Danny Evarts, and Alex and Bobbi Scully.

The guys played a number of rock songs, including “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion and “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young.

Marianne did a great rendition of “Goodbye to You” by Michelle Branch and sang “Hallelujah” with Danny (reprising their awesome performance from last year).

Alex and Bobbi wrote their own lyrics to a classic Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings tune, calling it “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Writers.” It was totally hilarious.

And this year, I was able to perform a song.


A shot of this year’s crew (L to R): TG Arsenault, Marianne Halbert, me, Erich Bruning, Frank Michaels, Thom Erb, JOhnny Morse, and Alex Scully (missing: Bobbi Scully and Danny Evarts)

A few months back, Tracie Orsi, a vivacious member of our community and my closest writing friend, passed away after a fast and furious battle with cancer. The guys at Anthocon wanted to do something to honor her.

I had heard her sing a song at a benefit in the fall. A duet. I thought it would be appropriate.

After hearing JOhnny sing last year, I knew what an awesome voice he had. So he was the first person I thought of to sing with me.  And when I asked him, he did not hesitate to say yes.

I knew he’d be great. But me? I don’t usually sing in front of people, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

One thing was certain: I was nervous. Really nervous.


I’ve used this gif before, but if the nervous sweat fits …

Fellow AnthoJammer, Frank Michaels (bassist) said, “Just have fun. No one cares if it’s perfect. If you’re scared and nervous, everyone else will feel scared and nervous. But if you’re having fun, everyone else will, too.”

This was sound advice, which I totally took to heart.

Another AnthoJammer, Marianne Halbert, said, “I need a glass of wine before we go up there. Want one?”


I took this to heart, too.

The tricky part about wine is, you want to have just enough to feel like this:


without having so much that you turn into this:


Fortunately, I had the just right amount and, with Johnny’s brilliant performance on guitar and vocals, I had a great time. And I was able to honor Tracie in a way I knew she’d love: through laughter and song.

(The first half is an intro about Tracie and the song. The actual singing begins around the halfway mark.)

One final note:
In the days following the convention, my Facebook feed was filled with pictures and comments about the con. Positivity and kindness were reflected in everything.

It might be easy to envision authors and artists of dark fiction as something like this:


After reading those posts, however, the reality is more like this:


To be surrounded by people who are not only talented, but also kind and compassionate, is a true blessing. I am lucky to be part of this community.

Thanks again to Mark, Tim, and JOhnny. I can’t wait for next year.

Songs in the Key of Crass?

About a week ago, legendary singer Ben E. King passed away. Ever since his death, my mind has been flooded with various oldies tunes.

Most people are aware he sang “Stand By Me.” And for many in my generation, this song conjures certain images.

Like this:


Or this:


Or (god help us), this:


Do you think they used real leeches?


But I had no idea he was a member of The Drifters, who are responsible for great songs such as “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “This Magic Moment.”

These songs reminded me of other greats, including “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “These Arms of Mine,” and “Sea of Love.”

The music is so much fun. And the harmony? Kind of makes you want to soar.

What I really love about these songs, though, is the lyrics. They are creative and, most notably, clean. They lack the crassness often found in today’s lyrics.

Case in point: “Yeah!” by Usher, Lil John, Ludacris, and others. There’s a spot where Luda says:
And Rowl! These women all on the prowl
If you hold the head steady, I’mma milk the cow
Forget about the game, I’mma spit the truth
I won’t stop till I get em in they birthday suits

And here’s this little ditty by Nine Inch Nails:

I want to f*** you like an animal.
I want to feel you from the inside.

When I first heard each of those songs, I was equal parts this:


and this:


I know these songs are a couple of years old, but you get my point. And truth be told, I like them both. A lot. Each has something in it that works for me. But let’s face it: it’s not the lyrics.

Going back to “I Only Have Eyes for You“:

You are here and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Coupled with The Flamingos’ beautiful background harmony, these lyrics could make Vladimir Putin’s heart melt.


Then again, maybe not…

Or “These Arms of Mine“:

Come on, come on baby,
Just be my little woman, just be my lover
I need me somebody, Somebody to treat me right
I need your arms, loving arms to hold me tight
and I need, I need your tender lips


Holy shit, Otis Redding. Holy shit.

To me, Luda, Trent, and Otis are basically talking about the same thing. Otis just chose a less direct route. A much less direct route. (Of course, Otis’s delivery carries 90% of the song’s meaning, so he has that going for him, too.)

Some people may call these lyrics simple. I like to think of them as subtle. And in their subtlety lies their strength. They hint at things intimate and erotic, dropping a suggestion here and there, making you wonder what exactly they meant. Maybe Otis simply wanted to hold her, to chastely kiss her on the lips. Or maybe he wanted to “go all the way.” But he leaves that up to us to decide. And it’s fun being given that kind of freedom. The imagination likes room to play. (This is true for a lot of prose, too.)

I don’t mean to get all nostalgic and get-off-my-lawn-ish. I love a lot of today’s music. There is some great stuff out there with lyrics as romantic and sensual as Otis’s (listen to “Mirrorball” by Elbow). And I feel like there’s a place for bold and daring lyrics (yes, that means Ludacris’s stuff, too).

But there’s just something about those older songs…

To selfie or not to selfie?

That is the question.

What might the Bard say about that one?

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer                                     The slings and arrows of outrageous naked pictures,       Or to take arms against a sea of trolls…

I like to think I’m hip and with it.

What year did Austen Powers come out?



But let’s face it: I don’t have a Twitter account, I feel awkward when I post on Facebook, and sending an email is still my favorite way of electronically communicating with someone.

When I was a kid, we used all 10 fingers to type a message.

So the thought of a selfie makes me a little uncomfortable.
(Frankly, the word selfie makes me uncomfortable. It’s right up there with bestie and totes…and don’t even get me started about frenemy and cray cray.)

Part of me feels it just plays into this Culture of Me that we’re currently living through.
Look at Me!
Who’s more important than Me?
Try to be more like Me.
It’s all about Me.

Somewhere, Darwin is scratching his head.

And then I reflect on, well, Me and feel I might sound like this:

Get off my lawn!

This is the new millennium, after all. People do this shit all the time.

So the Horror Writers Association decides to do a promotional campaign using selfies to encourage people to watch, write, and read more horror.

I’m a member of the HWA. Just a lowly, little Supporting member, but a member nonetheless.

When I check out the horror selfies website,  I see a bunch of people up there, having fun, and, most importantly, encouraging people to read.

And I start to feel a little more like this:

Get off my lawn??

So I decide to do it.


Look at Me!

Then go read a book.


NEcon: The Thank You Note

Dear NEcon:

Thank you so much for another wonderful convention in Bristol, RI. I appreciate the opportunity to hang out with some of dark fiction’s most awesome authors, artists, and fans. This was my third time, and each one has been as excellent as the last.

I have many things to thank you for, but I’d like to start with the goodie bag.

With about a dozen books, comic books, and magazines, this was definitely the most generous goodie bag I have ever received from a convention. And I’m excited to dig into it.

Although in order to lift it, I kind of needed to look like this:

Whaddya think: another few shoulder reps?

Thank you, also, for offering another year of great panels. I attended a number of enjoyable ones, including “Man vs. Beast vs. Other: The Best Monsters in Modern Horror,” in which the panelists discussed their favorite monsters and what they thought the next big monster would be.

Even though I sometimes write horror stories, I am not well-versed in monsters. Read: they scare me and make me cry for my mommy.

For example, I couldn’t sleep well for days after I saw the movie with this guy:

Sometimes I still have trouble looking in the mirror…

The panelists included PD Cacek, Errick Nunnally, William D. Carl, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Nate Kenyon. Their passion for monsters was palpable, their knowledge vast. And that excitement and knowledge made for an entertaining and informative panel, even for someone as wussy about monsters as me.

Thank god my name’s not Helen…

And as far as where they thought the state of monsters was going? Let’s just say that, although there was some variation, I might be investing in one of these:


Hello Kitty patch optional.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for putting me on a panel entitled “It Only Hurt a Little: My First Time (Writing a Novel).” To be honest, though, NEcon, when I first learned I was on it, I thought what some others probably thought: I didn’t know she’d written a novel.

Because I haven’t. Yet. But I’m working on it.

Read my blog about it here.

My fellow panelists included Richard Dansky, LL Soars, Dan Foley, Kristin Dearborn, and Laura Cooney. As with the monster panelists, they were informative and entertaining. And I learned a lot from them.

Because it was at 9am, though, I honestly thought we might be looking out onto this:

Complete with crickets.

But a surprising number of people came–coffee in hand–which was super cool of them.

The coolest part about being on the panel, though, is that now I need to actually finish the book. So thanks for the extra nudge.

No pressure. None. Whatsoever…

I should also thank you for giving me the opportunity to socialize with some of my writer friends, including my roommate, Tracie Orsi and our favorite Borderlands Boot Camp instructors Tom Monteleone, Paul Wilson, and Doug Winter (and his hilarious wife, Lynne).

Hanging out in the courtyard with these guys–and a host of other fantastic people–is one of the true pleasures of this convention.

Saugies at 1 am being another.

Forgetting how many beverages you consumed being a third.

Finally, thanks for reminding me of an old television commercial:

This is your brain…

This is your brain for the entire week after NEcon…

Any questions??

In all seriousness, though, I’d like to give a special thanks to the Booth family, including Mary, Sara, and Dan, as well as Matt Bechtel. Although I didn’t know Bob as well as many others did, I had the pleasure of meeting him two years ago. He was warm and funny and clearly loved this convention. His absence this year was unmistakeable, but his spirit was everywhere, from the touching tributes to the endless laughter. Thank you for continuing this con, however difficult it may have been. I’m sure I can speak for everyone in saying that it was wonderful and that we appreciate all of the hard work you put into it.

Thanks again.

Looking forward to next year.



Blog Tour

I was invited by the awesome and talented Sean M. Davis to participate in this blog tour. Sean and I met this year at Borderlands Press Boot Camp and have since caught up at the World Horror Convention in Portland, OR.

Sean is the author of Clean Freak and other stories. He is a good writer and a pleasure to hang out with. You can read his answers to the questions and learn more about him here.

And now the questions…

1) What are you currently working on?

In addition to editing some short stories, I am working on my first novel. Although it started out as a book about werewolves and vampires, it has morphed into something altogether different. Read: no fangs. I’ve constructed my own world and am enjoying setting the rules.

2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?

The novel would qualify as more urban fantasy than horror. I’ve always viewed urban fantasy as a mishmash of other genres, including fantasy, horror, and romance. My goal is for the book to have elements of all three.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Mostly I think urban fantasy is a lot of fun. I love seeing how supernatural beings behave in our regular, everyday world. Do the humans know about the super powers? If so, what challenges arise? And if not, how do those otherworldly beings get away with using their magic?

The magic is the key for me.

And I use the word “magic” broadly. Not so much the wands and potions you’d find in Harry Potter (although I think that’s great), but more along the lines of what you’d find in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman or any of the scenes involving the House of the Undying in Game of Thrones.

When an ordinary object or place changes without warning, right before your eyes. That’s the stuff that really gets me going.

4) How does your writing process work?

You mean after the whining and crying?

At this point in my career, I have more experience writing short stories than novels. But a novel seems to require more structure and organization than a short story. I was pleasantly surprised to learn I would be able to use my skills as a former math teacher in such a creative endeavor. Writing a novel is like piecing together a puzzle, and my math brain loves that.

As such, I take many notes and use an outline. I know some people don’t like the outline, but I find it helpful. It’s not written in stone, so if I find myself being pulled in an unexpected direction by a character or scene, I go with it and re-write the outline.

When I’m writing a particular scene for the novel, however, I do find my process to be similar to my short story process. And for me that means it’s all about the dialogue.

In my head, I often hear one character yammering on about something, or two characters having a compelling conversation. And they won’t shut up until I write it down–usually at 11 pm, right as my head hits the pillow. After some grumbling, I convince myself that, no, I will not remember any of it in the morning, so I get up and basically transcribe what I’m hearing.

I love listening to what characters have to say to one another. Dialogue also helps me to develop voice and characterization. Later on, I go back and add the narrative and information about setting.


The three people I have asked to do this blog tour are Tracie Orsi, Chris Irvin, and Marianne Halbert. You can read their answers in about a week.

Tracie is the owner of the restaurant Ragin Cajun, as well as a great writer. We also met at Borderlands Boot Camp in 2012 and have been friends ever since. She’s recently had two stories accepted (“Salvation in Salvo” in We are Dust & Shadow and “Waiting for Jordan” in Behind the Yellow Wallpaper) and is working on many more. Check out more about her here.

Chris Irivn and I met at Anthocon…or was it NEcon…oh god, I don’t remember, but both are awesome. And so is Chris. He’s a great writer who can set a story’s atmosphere like nobody’s business. He recently released Federales, a fast-paced novella, and he is currently working on Expatriate, a comic miniseries about an American fugitive living in Rio de Janeiro. Learn more about Chris here.

Marianne and I also met at Anthocon. Not only is Marianne a wonderful writer, she is super kind and a lot of fun. I fell in love with her storytelling after reading “When Betsy Whispers” in Anthology Year One. She is the author numerous other works, as well as Wake Up and Smell the Creepy, a collection of her short stories. Check her out here.

World Horror Convention 2014

I spent the past weekend in Portland, Oregon at the World Horror Convention.

I’m from New York, so the three-hour time difference kind of kicked my ass. And since I never really got off my East Coast time, I spent a lot of the weekend feeling like this:


But I guess this is fitting for World Horror…

Of course, my zombie-like state had nothing at all to do with this

Thank you, Paul.

or this

Thank you, Doug.

or this

Thank you, me.

This was my first World Horror, and it was fantastic. I sat in on some great panels, including one called Horror from the Page to the Silver Screen. Each panelist had a unique perspective on watching his or her words come to life, as well as on losing creative control. And, although at times, I’m sure they must have felt like this…

What do you mean you want to add a unicorn and Justin Bieber?! It’s not that kind of horror!

…each offered great thoughts on how to handle oneself professionally.

Another memorable panel was The Short Form, which dealt with how to write effective short horror stories.

Pro tip: Be scary.

Seriously though, the members of this panel dropped some amazing pearls of wisdom about how to begin a story and keep it captivating. The whole weekend was almost worth those pearls alone.

Throughout the weekend, many other events were offered, including pitch sessions, the Bram Stoker Awards, and the infamous Gross Out Contest.

Yes, a gross out contest. I’ll get to that in a minute…

One of the best parts of the weekend was reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I spent a lot of the weekend with Tracie Orsi, my Borderlands Boot Camp roommate. We shared many laughs and enjoyed spending time with two of our Boot Camp instructors, Paul Wilson and Doug Winter, and Doug’s lovely wife, Lynne.

I also got a chance to connect with people whom I’d only ever met on Facebook, including Benjamin Kane Ethridge and John Palisano. Both are as wonderful and funny in person as they are on Facebook.

We hung out in what’s known as the con suite: a large room on the top floor, where the hosts of the convention serve free food and drink.

Here’s how the hotel prepared for this:

I shit you not, they put plastic on the floor…kind of brilliant if you think about it.

And although Benjamin, John, and I may not know the proper pronunciation of the word meme, I think we can all agree there’s probably a good meme to be made involving plastic-covered floors and horror writers.

We also had a lot of fun at the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet. Emceed by the hilarious Jeff Strand, the show was organized and entertaining. And seeing fellow writers awarded for their hard work is always good.

Plus, we had a Borderlands Boot Camp table.


Front: Tracie Orsi, John Palisano. Back: Me, Sean Davis, Jim Chambers, Michael Bailey, Paul Wilson, Gardner Goldsmith, Lisa Manetti. (But we really missed you, Tom Monteleone…)

If you’re not sure what Boot Camp is all about, check out my post about it here.

And that brings me to one of the highlights of the weekend: The Gross Out Contest.

This is a moment in the weekend when people stand before a panel of judges and a roomful of curious observers, and try their hardest to gross everyone out using words and/or props.



Judges: Rose O’Keefe, Doug Winter, Daniel Knauf, John Skipp, Brian Keene

Tracie, Michael Bailey, Kelly Rumble Westrope, and I walked in, ready to sit in the back. Before we could even grab our chairs, Gard Goldsmith pulled us to the first row, right in front of the action.

I felt like I was being set up and couldn’t help but wonder if we would witness something like this:

Except, instead of being sprayed with watermelon bits, I thought the food products might resemble blood, pus, and other goop sure to be mentioned in a gross out contest.

I learned a couple of lessons that night.

Number 1:

People tend to laugh upon hearing gross things, myself included. Although it’s probably more of a nervous laugh…

Oh my god, am I really laughing about a   #@$*   being shoved in a   #$*&   while smeared with mayonnaise? What is wrong with me?!

Number 2:

Grossing out people involves many common themes, including eating and harming various body parts. Also sure to be mentioned are placentas, disease, babies, and fluids. Of the 11 participants, I would say all 11 of them mentioned at least one of these things during their performances.

Gotta love batting a thousand for herpes.

At many points during the competition I found myself burying my face in Tracie’s shoulder, trying to find my happy place.

At least Rainbow Dash never talks about fetuses.

As a parent, I deal with my fair share of fluids, but even that was not preparation enough for what I heard and saw. I’ll spare you the photos, but let’s just say the event started with petroleum jelly and ended with mayonnaise and sausage.

Sweet Jesus.

Overall, I loved World Horror and would highly recommend it…especially if you like learning about writing, meeting great people, and, of course, hearing about fluids.