Anthocon

I spent the past weekend at Anthocon, a multi-genre literature and arts convention, focusing on speculative fiction and art. This is my second time attending and definitely not my last.

Anthocon is held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I would love to tell you how awesome Portsmouth is, but for both years, the only thing I saw in Portsmouth was this:

Chillin’ at the Holiday Inn…

The entire convention takes place at the Holiday Inn, and as I am not the most adventurous person, I tend not to branch out too much.

Maybe that makes me lame, maybe not; I like to keep this a judgement-free zone.

I don’t think Kelly Kapoor got the memo about judgement-free…

This year, however, I got a little wild and decided to go out to dinner Friday night. Beyond the actual walls of the Holiday Inn. Seven of us went to the Portsmouth Brewery and had a great time. We sat here:

I felt like one of the knights of the Round Table. Although if you have an inner math geek like me, it’s more of an Elliptical Table.

Anthocon is put on by a great group of guys known as The Four Horsemen. When I Googled “four horsemen” to find pictures, one image was cooler than the next. I couldn’t pick just one.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Not counting the LEGO, the general bad-assery of the work above is overwhelming (Although for LEGO, that’s pretty bad-ass, too).

The images are  foreboding. Scary, even. The stuff that nightmares are made of. And maybe that’s what the guys were going for.

But here’s a little secret: not one of those four guys is scary. Not even a little bit.

Now, I’m not saying they’re anything like this:

Although Rainbow Dash is pretty bad-ass.

But still…I’m not afraid they’ll bring the world’s end… In fact, they are four of the friendliest guys around. And pretty talented, too. (Ask jOhnny to sing for you one day…holy cow!)

The guys are, in no particular order, jOhnny Morse, Tim Deal, Danny Evarts, and Mark Wholley.

Class acts, all four of them.

Their con is well-run and professional, and, at the same time, intimate and laid-back.

On the professional side, I sat in on some great panels about what editors want (basically, read the effing guidelines) and how life experiences inform a horror writer’s work (basically, don’t ask). They also had many pitch sessions.

And I got to sit in on some great readings. Among the best I heard were by Chris Irvin, Errick Nunnally, and Bracken MacLeod.

Chris’s story, “Blind Spot,” knocked me out. And although his delivery was more subdued than the other two, he registered just enough emotion to enhance the awesomeness of the story. Learn more about Chris here.

Errick read from his new novel, Blood for the Sun, which is set to come out in March. Delivered with ease and style, this reading made me want to buy the book right then and there. I had a beautiful picture of the scene and characters and was captivated by their fantastical nature. All in a five minute reading. Learn more about Errick here.

Bracken read his story, “Mine, Not Yours,” which can be found in Anthology: Year Two: Inner Demons Out.

In a word: wow.

With his theatrical delivery, Bracken kept us on the edge of our seats; with his wonderful story-telling, he broke our hearts. I’ve also read his debut novel, Mountain Home, which is a fast-paced and amazing read. Check him out here.

I did a reading from my story “Mommy’s Not Perfect,” which is also in Anthology: Year Two.

AnthoconReading

Although I look like I just consumed lemons, I’m pretending to be my protagonist—a 5-year-old boy who’s dealing with his nightmares.

Anthology: Year Two: Inner Demons Out is available here.

On the laid-back side, Anthcon provides good opportunities to have extended conversations with many people. I spoke to too many awesome people to list, but I will say if you ever run into Tony Tremblay or Jacob Haddon at a con, do yourself a favor and talk to them…both are the embodiment of nice.

Like Necon (see that post here), a fair amount of drinking goes on at Anthocon. So those laid-back moments can go from this

saturday1

to this

saturday2

pretty darn quickly.

That’s me with (L to R) Gardner Goldsmith (great writer and super sweet guy…plus, he does a kick ass President Obama impersonation), Tracie Orsi (my awesome con roomie, writer and owner of the restaurant Ragin’ Cajun), and Michael Bailey (writer and editor and artist and proof-reader and mentor and IT guy and way cool person and…cyborg?? that would explain the never-ending list…). A photo credit needs to go to the fun and lovely Kelly Rumble Westrope. Thanks for the great shots, Kelly…I think…

Truth be told, though, I think among the five of us, we only drank one beer at this point…so maybe we really just need some supervision of this nature:

The bottom line is, Anthocon is a great convention. If you are looking to learn more about speculative fiction and art and, at the same time, be surrounded by amazing people, this is the place for you.

Thanks Four Horsemen!

Acceptance & Rejection

I usually just post about the former on Facebook. This blog should give a more well-rounded picture of what actually happens.

But let’s start with:

The Good

I’ve recently had three stories accepted to various anthologies.

The first is in Anthology Year Two: Inner Demons Out, edited by jOhnny Morse. Published by The Four Horsemen. Check out the beautiful art, by the talented Danny Evarts and jOhnny Morse:

This will be released at Anthocon on November 8th. For more information about Anthocon, click here.

My story, “Mommy’s Not Perfect,” deals with the nightmares of a five-year-old boy.

My husband: “Why do I envision our son when I read this?”

Me: “Because that’s who I based it on.”

Hubbie: “Did you have to do that to him?”

Me: “Well…it is horror.”

Hubs: “How many more times do I need to proof this for you?”

Me: “One more…I swear…”

The second story is in Bizarro Bizarro, edited by Rock Alexander. Published by Bizarro Pulp Press. The awesome art:

This will be released some time in November. For more information about Bizarro Pulp Press and the TOC, click here.

For my non-horror/bizarro-reading friends and family, I realize this cover might imply that the stories involve themes scary and bloody. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t–I haven’t had the privilege of reading them yet. I’m sure they’re awesome, no matter what. But I can tell you that my story, “Plaything,” is neither scary nor goopy. In fact, I hope it gives you a good laugh…or at least a mild chuckle…

The third story is in Miseria’s Chorale, published by Forgotten Tomb Press. The very cool cover:

Miseria's Chorale

This should also be out some time in November. For more information about Forgotten Tomb Press and the TOC, click here.

My story, “Choosing My Confession,” is about one man’s struggle with faith.

And now let’s move to:

The Bad

September and early October brought 5 rejections, most of which came before my acceptances.

It was starting to feel like the autumn of our discontent.

The first one was a total reach, so I wasn’t exactly shocked when they said no.

The second came nine weeks after being told the story made the first cut. So, naturally, I spent the summer feeling happy and confident one day, and nervous and insecure the next. My stomach was a battleground between hopeful, positive butterflies and doubtful, negative ones.

It was awesome.

No…it wasn’t.

The third. Lucky number three. Fucking three. #3 listed a three-week response time. So on the heels of the first two rejections, and all of that stomach flip-flopping, I thought I had bought myself some time.

They said “no” less than 24 hours later.

It felt kind of like this:

I think I still have whiplash…

The final two were a little rough. I had spent my entire summer working on both of these stories. And in both cases, I made the “maybe” pile. And in both cases, I did the stupid “You’re awesome: you’re in”/”You suck: you’re out” thing for weeks. And in both cases, I was rejected. The nice thing was, though, that both editors liked the stories and wrote very nice rejection letters…but it just didn’t work out.

I know that rejections are part of this whole writing gig. Especially for newbies.

But there are no two ways about it: Rejections…well…

…can go from suck to blow.

I guess the bottom line is, the world of writing is a true roller coaster of emotions.

Sometimes you feel like this:

Other times you feel like this:

Perseverance is key, as is a strong support system…which I am truly lucky to have.

Thanks to my family and friends (old and new) for all the ways you help me.

Necon: the Questions

I spent this past weekend in Bristol, RI at a wonderful writing conference known as Necon.

Below are my thoughts on Necon in quasi-interview form: a mish-mash of questions I was asked by others, or ones I found I was asking myself. (Or, let’s face it, ones that I just made up for the blog…)

What is Necon?

Necon is the Northeastern Writers’ Conference, coordinated by the Booth family. Also known as Camp Necon, it is attended by authors, artists, and fans of (primarily) horror and dark fiction.

It is less formal than many other conferences, providing a mellow atmosphere in which those authors, artists, and fans can comfortably mingle, while attending panels, eating, talking shop, and, of course, drinking.

In my opinion, the attendees are some of the funniest, kindest, and most supportive people around. Everyone checks their egos at the door, so that even the big-time authors are approachable and fun. Even though this was only my second time attending, I feel like I am part of a warm and wonderful family.

Where did you travel from?

New York.

Did you hit traffic in Connecticut?

This question must be rhetorical.

Anywhere in Connecticut on I-95…at any time of day.

Check out the itinerary: Did you see all of the great panels?

Yes. As low key and laid back as Necon is, it always has amazing panels.  I have learned so many useful things about writing from huge talents like (sorry for the name dropping, but…) Tom Monteleone, Doug Winter, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, Linda Addison, Heather Graham, Chet Williamson, and Elizabeth Massie.

I have also learned a lot from editors, publishers, and brand, new authors.

Did you know you were on a panel?

I’m on a panel?

What the hell?

Did everyone else get sick or something?

Turns out, they did not. I was chosen on purpose.

Seriously.

Me and my one, little short story.

My panel was entitled Don’t Do It Like That 1: Newbie Mistakes I’ve Made. The other panelists were (sorry to name drop again, but…) Chris Irvin, Bracken MacLeod, Kristin Dearborn, and Mary SanGiovanni (our awesome moderator).

Although I did have to answer one question with a “I’m sorry. I can’t answer that, as I don’t have a novel,” I felt like my other answers were reasonably intelligent (read: I didn’t have to answer with a “Well, my mommy thinks what I write is awesome.”) (even though she does)

“Way to go, schnoockums!”
(No, my mother doesn’t really look like this.)

Plus, I’m such a newbie, I even learned a lot while listening to my fellow panelists. They were smart, funny, and had some great advice.

What other types of things go on at Necon?

Many great events occur at Necon. Some of the highlights are:

  • The Hall of Fame induction (this year’s inductee was Chet Williamson)
  • The Necon Update with Mike Myers

No. Not this Mike Myers.

Not this one, either.

  • Necon Olympics (events include foosball and darts)
  • That Damn Game Show
  • The Necon Roast (this year’s roastee was Linda Addison)

 

Is it true that authors really drink a lot?

This question must also be rhetorical.

Does the hotel bar have enough alcohol?

Probably not. But it doesn’t really matter. I’ve never seen so many Coleman coolers in my life. And not the candy-ass lunch ones, either.

I’m talking body-sized.

Packed full of ice, beer, and other tasty beverages.

Object is WAY larger than it appears.

Where do you drink?

It’s easier to answer: where don’t you drink? To which the answer would be…ummm…well…maybe that one’s not so easy, either.

But I’d say the bulk of the drinking occurs in the courtyard of the hotel. And for the 2 rooms of people that are not part of Necon: I am truly sorry.

What is that smell?

You must be referring to Saugies (I hope). After the planned festivities, they fire up the grills and make a ton of these tasty treats. For those that don’t know, a Saugie is a quaint New England version of a hot dog.

Quaint? Who are you calling quaint?

Oops.

What time is it?

Midnight. Early by Necon standards.

(Seemingly 5 seconds pass)

What time is it?

3 a.m.

Holy shit!

How the hell did that happen?

It’s Necon, baby. Necon.

Thanks to my roommate, Tracie Orsi, for all the fun.

And to Bob Booth, Mary Booth, and Sara Calia (and many others): without you guys, Necon would not be as amazing as it is.  I really appreciate all of the hard work you do to make it such a warm and inviting event. Thank you.

Alumni, Books, and Toothpaste

What do these three things have in common? More than you’d think.

This past weekend was my 15th year reunion at my university. Apparently the 15th, in general, is not as well attended as the 10th, 20th, or 25th.

Why no love for 15?

It’s a great number: like 10 and 20, it is also a multiple of 5; it was Thurman Munson’s number; and, according to The History of the World, Part1, it was the number of commandments originally handed down by god.

I love you, Mel Brooks.

My college roommates and I decided to ditch our families and make a weekend out of it. Our only complaint was that we should have gone for another day…or two. We had a lot of fun reconnecting with old friends, revisiting our old haunts, and drinking lots of wine…and beer…and vodka cranberries.

Mmm…college…

I went to Colgate University.

(insert toothpaste joke here)

(insert my eye roll here)

It’s a small, liberal arts school in Hamilton, New York.  And it’s one of the most beautiful colleges I’ve ever seen (okay, so I’m biased).

20031016_scenic_shots_002.JPG

Bias or no, it’s still kinda pretty.

If you’re into school spirit, rigorous academia, and cows, then Colgate is the place for you. Hamilton is in central New York and to describe it as “rural” would be generous. It’s not uncommon to get a waft of cow shit while stumbling home from a night of drinking. But the area is lovely, the people of Hamilton are great, and the University, itself, is awesome. Those in charge do everything in their power to make students fall in love with Colgate and make alumni never forget the place. And it works. Those were four of the best years of my life.

As one roommate put it this weekend: “Any time I’m here, I feel happy.” That about sums it up for me, too.

Now that I’ve yammered on about my alma mater…on to the book stuff.

One of the cool things that happens during reunion weekend is an alumni book signing. Since I had my first story and poem published in the past year (in Chiral Mad and Angels Cried, respectively), I decided to sign up.

Look, Ma. I'm famous! (squint really hard, and you'll see my name on the left)

Look, Ma: I’m famous!
(squint really hard, and you’ll see my name on the left)

It was an hour-long event, held in the university book store. The space was great, and refreshments were served.

Truth be told, I had low expectations. I mean, who the hell goes to a book signing during their college reunion weekend? It’s all about drinking  beer under the tents and saying, “kids today have it way better than we did” upon seeing any improvements done to the school.

And for the first 45 minutes, I was right. Overall, the event was nice and well-attended, but I, personally, didn’t get a whole lot of love. And if people happened to stop by and inquire about Chiral Mad, once I told them it was psychological horror, they nodded politely and put it down. Then they ran out of the room, screaming. I think the organizers had to get paramedics and/or drugs to calm them down.

Just kidding. But not about the drugs.

Mmm…college…

Okay, no drugs, either. But, like I said, small tumbleweeds were blowing on my table.

Then, with 15 minutes to go (there’s that number again), four great guys came in with some kind words and a hankering for a book (thanks Graham, Jaime, Scott, and Brent!). Then another super cool person bought a book (you know who you are) and, finally, the college bookstore bought a copy of each book (thanks Colgate!).

at signing2

Do my books look fat?

So that brings the final count to 7. Hmmm…single digits…and not even half of 15…but for my first time out there, I’m pretty psyched.

Thanks to Heather Elia and the Colgate Bookstore for putting on a wonderful event.

And thanks to my three awesome roomies: Mere, Maria, and Johanna. They encouraged me to do the signing and helped me with the logistics. I met them my very first day of school and am closer to them now than I’ve ever been. I am lucky to know them.

Charitable Events

Two great things to note:

1)  Chiral Mad has raised $3000 for the Down Syndrome Information Alliance.  So happy that my story “Inevitable” is a part of it.

Chiral Mad

2)  Angels Cried is an anthology of short stories, poems, and art dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, CT.  My poem “Their Only Cares” appears in it.  The proceeds of this book will go to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, sponsored by the United Way.

Angels Cried

Both are great anthologies and their proceeds go to amazing causes.  Please consider purchasing one or both.  Thanks!

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a viral sensation where one author answers ten questions about his or her current work.  That author then tags 3 to 5 other authors, who answer the questions and, in turn, tag 3 to 5 more.  Thus spreading the word exponentially.

I was chosen by Michael Bailey.  You can find his 10 questions here.  Michael edited Chiral Mad, a great anthology for which he chose my story (thanks, RB Payne, for suggesting I write one!).  As an editor, Michael is thoughtful and professional.  You’d be lucky to work with him.

I met Michael at Borderlands Boot Camp, where I read and critiqued his story “Hiatus,” currently found in the anthology, Surviving the End.  Since then, I’ve read a lot of his work, including “Eavesdropping” (a short story in a great anthology called Anthology:  Year One), “Underwater Ferris Wheel” (another short, found in Chiral Mad), and Palindrome Hannah, a novel (which will, among other things, forever change the way you think about carving pumpkins).

Three words come to mind when I think of Michael’s writing:  chilling, moving, and beautiful.  His stuff will get in your head and under your skin.  And stay there for quite some time.  Definitely check it out.

And now, the ten questions:

1.  What is the working title of your book?

It’s a short story called “Worse Ways.”

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

Hotel trysts and The Godfather.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

Horror light?  Humorous horror??

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Emma Stone would play Liv.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play Roger.

George Clooney would play Bill.  Yes, people, Clooney.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

A man and a woman meet in a hotel:  he has one agenda, and she has another one altogether.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hopefully it will find a home in a great anthology or magazine.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A few days.  But that draft was pretty bad.  So I needed another week or so to get to the final version.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Nothing obvious comes to mind…

9.  Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I’m headed to Borderlands Boot Camp this year for the second time.  It’s a fantastic writing workshop sponsored by Tom & Elizabeth Monteleone over at Borderlands Press.  Check it out here.

My original submission was too crappy for words.  So crappy that Tom would have slapped me.  And he’s super nice, so that’s saying something.  I needed another submission.  And out came this story.  Nothing like a little time pressure and fear of embarrassment to help a story along…

Now I’m waiting for Tom, Paul Wilson, Doug Winter, and my fellow grunts to tear it apart.  Their critiques will only make it better.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 

I can’t say too much without spoiling it.  Let’s just say that if you like sarcasm, sex, drugs, and rock and roll—minus the sex, drugs, and rock and roll—then this is the story for you.

Well, okay, there’s a little sex.  And some dead bodies, too.

***

My tags are Tracie Orsi, Lise Quintana, and Patrick Lacey.

I also met Tracie and Lise at Borderlands Boot Camp.  Tracie has a sharp wit and a great literary eye.  Her submission was well written and a wonderful read.  For her “9 to 5” job, she owns the restaurant Ragin’ Cajun.  And writes cook books (Sittin’ Bayou Makes Me Hot!).  I marvel at how she does it all.

Lise was my roommate at Boot Camp.  Her submission was also wonderful and well crafted.  She’s working on her MFA at Antioch in L.A. and is the editor-in-chief of their literary magazine, Lunch Ticket.  She posts her blogs and some awesome short fiction here.  Plus, she loves Archer.  And anyone who likes that show is okay in my book.

These women are very talented.  Keep an eye out for their work.

I met Patrick briefly this year at Anthocon.  Our stories both appear in Chiral Mad.  Although we didn’t get a chance to talk much, I can say that his story “Send Your End,” a tale about the Internet and the depths of its craziness, surprised me and creeped me right the hell out.  A great read.  Be sure to look for Patrick’s future work, as well.