Category Archives: Events

WHC2013 Coverage: Day 3

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Day 2 of the convention was already jam-packed with lots of fantastic and informative panels, events, parties, and a broad range of activities to tickle one’s fancy, and Saturday was also quite a full day. The first panel of the day was dedicated to the topic of women in horror, called “Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves,” and actually I thought that novelist Yvonne Navarro had a very interesting response in a recent issue of Dark Discoveries Magazine, which if you haven’t had a chance to read it, you should consider tracking down as part of her new column for the publication. At the same time there was also a panel on the rules of the horror genre, followed by an interview with Poet Guest of Honor Bruce Boston.

For those seeking pointers on the pitching sessions later on in the day, there was the Pre-Pitch Panel, which provided some general good advice that we’ve all heard before about do’s and don’ts of pitching editors and agents, mainly to relax and not to be nervous and to realize that the people taking pitches weren’t there to grill us with trick questions or to try to make us trip up, but rather because they were genuinely interested in finding new works from authors.

Next I attended an Guest of Honor interview with acclaimed novelist Jonathan Maberry, interviewed by equally as acclaimed novelist Joe McKinney, which was so interesting that I couldn’t stop scribbling notes in my notepad. For those who don’t know, Maberry had a very challenging childhood and grew up in a rough neighborhood. He used martial arts as a way to get out, but also understood the importance of a good education, which he also made sure to equip himself with. One of the most interesting points was his discussion about how he uses folklore as an inspiration for many of his stories, something I think is part of what makes his stories so creative and interesting.

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Fantasist Clive Barker, one of my writing idols and heros, who would later in the evening be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award along with fellow novelist Robert R. McCammon, had a panel dedicated to him called “Clive Barker: An Appreciation,” which was also full of interesting insights and stories, and at one point his biographer, Douglas E. Winter who was on hand for the festivities said “Is there anyone who has a story about how this man is not good?” followed by laughter, because Barker is of course well known for his generosity of spirit and warmth. I was very sad that he couldn’t attend, as were many con attendees, but we all wish him the best in his recovery from the recent health issues he has encountered.

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Fellow Brit and Guest of Honor Ramsey Campbell, had his interview next, which was not only interesting but also devastatingly funny. He says he learned to read at 18 months old and was “hideously precocious” for it, discussed the influence of M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, as well as some discussion on his writing process and how he outlines now versus how he did when he was starting out. He’s more of a pantser with his novels (as opposed to a plotter, who compulsively outlines), and discussed his love of Salvador Dali and surrealism in paintings. He mentioned not following trends too much, and likes writing novels when he can’t specifically see the end because he likes the fun of figuring out how it all wraps up.

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Another panel that’s frequently a staple of horror conventions is at least one on vampires, and what’s going on with them, what’s going to happen to them, etc, and this year’s was “Reclaiming the Vampire,” moderated by Canadian author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick, featuring Carl Alves, James Dorr, Leslie S. Klinger, and Jim Gavin. Les usually brings up many interesting points, and although this one got off to a bit of a slow start, the conversation got better by the end, but it also has to do with the fact that vampires are laying a bit dormant at the moment and the post-Twilight wave has been at a bit of a standstill. The panelists also brought up the good point that many novelists resent Twilight because of its success, but that as long as it continues to encourage people to read and to find more books, that it can have a positive effect. We’re waiting for the next vampire uprising cycle in publishing, and when it will come is anybody’s guess ;-)

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Following this and again interspersed with readings and kaffeeklatsches, there was a panel on young adult literature in horror, and another panel called “Are You Ready for an Agent?” which presented a mixture of authors and agents as panelists, and provided some interesting insights into the fact that agents are still a valuable asset for those writers wishing to break into the big markets and that although many find success in the small to mid-sized presses without one, ultimately there are things an agent can do that and gates they can unlock that authors normally can’t by themselves. Agents are also taking on more of an editorial role with authors in preparing submissions and doing rewrites with them, which is a recent phenomenon, as well, and the writers on the panel expressed their relief that they could focus on writing and if they wanted to, separate small press projects on their own, but that for the major stuff, the agent made sure to take care of things that they it’s difficult for an author to do without a pool of resources like an agent has.

There was also a panel about films, “Horror Movies from Both Sides of the Screen” exploring adaptations of novels and short stories to the big screen, but the main highlight of the evening was of course the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet, sponsored by Samhain Publishing. I was live tweeting the results from the event, and overall things went smoothly.
For a full list of the winners, please click here.

In particular, the acceptance speeches for HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners this year, Clive Barker and Robert R. McCammon were infused with emotion and very touching.

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Robert R. McCammon accepting one of two HWA Lifetime Achievement Awards. The other went to Clive Barker.

Funnyman Jeff Strand was as funny as ever, but Ramsey Campbell, when co-presenting for an award, stole the show a bit in a hilarious speech that saw him speaking to a future generation of 50 years from now, explaining what books used to be. This had everyone in stitches, and following that, there was an after-party in the Iberville Room, which many folks attended, as well.

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Caitlin R Kiernan accepting her Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel for “The Drowning Girl” (Roc)

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend programming on Day 4 (Sunday) due to scheduling issues, but there were panels on advice for new writers, estate planning, a workshop on writing narrative for video games, a discussion on how to write good dialogue, as well as small press publishing and the future of writing, capped off by a party in the Iberville Suite to close things off with Dead Dog Press.

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend filled to the brim with great panels, readings, kaffeeklatches, guest of honor interviews, a wonderful awards ceremony, great reactions from people attending the con, and everyone had a blast in New Orleans, including yours truly. There were great vibes in the air, and it was a not-to-be-missed event that set the bar very high for future World Horror Conventions. It’ll be a tough act to follow indeed.

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WHC2013 Coverage: Day 2

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The first panel to get things going on Day 2 (Friday) of the World Horror Convention 2013 was “Anthologies: How to Get Your Story in Them” with another panel going on at the same time dedicated to characterization, called “Characters that Live and Breathe,” followed by a New Media presentation by the Media Guest of Honor, Amber Benson, known better to Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans as Tara Maclay, and more on the writing advice front with a panel called “If I Could Turn Back Time” about research and how not to bog readers down in every historical detail when writing stories that call for it.

Those lucky enough to score a spot also attended a workshop given by Matt Schwartz of Random House called “Marketing Yourself as an Author,” which I heard from those who attended was choc-full of great information from someone who really knows his stuff to say the least.

Artist Guest of Honor Glenn Chadbourne also had his interview at the same time as a zombie apocalypse panel, and for those who already couldn’t wait to find out more about next year’s World Horror, there was a luncheon party in the Iberville Suite dedicated to WHC2014, which will take place in Portland, Oregon.

I attended Editor Guest of Honor John Joseph Adams’s interview, conducted by Lisa Morton, who was very excited indeed to have the chance to interview such an interesting and accomplished editor. He discussed how he got his start in the biz, which was at F&SF Magazine under the stewardship of Gordon Van Gelder, which he attributed to being opinionated about films and not going with what was popular at the time.

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Interestingly enough, he loves going to conventions even though he first thought they were strictly the territory of hardcore Star Trek fans, and he finds that paying attention to pop culture trends gives him success in anthology ideas to pitch, making them something of an easier sell to publishers, and he cited his upcoming Robot Uprisings anthology as an example (it coincides with a forthcoming Steven Spielberg film).

Also interestingly, he doesn’t categorize post-apocalyptic or dystopian material as depressing, which came as a bit of a surprise, but then again not really considering the amount of them he reads on a regular basis ;-) He also talked a bit about cover art and the selection process as well as editorial input, and Nightmare magazine, which he edits, also having amazing covers. Of course, he also talked about his editorial process and when he’s hands-on as well as what he tries to pass on to interns, and emphasized the importance of making free samples available, especially online.

Amber Benson had her Guest of Honor interview at the same time as a panel on “Selling Your Short Story” with Ellen Datlow, Norman Prentiss, John Joseph Adams, Simon McCaffrey, Tom Monteleone, and JG Faherty, which proved to be interesting, as well. There’s usually one of these at every convention (in fact, that can be said about many of the panels that regularly take place at cons), and I like to try to extract something new from each one I attend. In this case, the panelists emphasized the need to prevent a story from becoming too predictable, but also that predictability can be used well to take the reader down a path they think they know they’re going down only to do a swerve on them, but it takes time and practice to master this and only a few people can do it really well. Persistence pays off, but of course a workshop like Borderlands doesn’t hurt either ;-)

Next up was the panel moderated by yours truly, called “Social Media for Writers,” in which we discussed the ever-changing digital landscape and what authors can do to keep up, finding the right platform that works for them and ignoring the pressure to be on every single platform (pick a few and use them well as opposed to trying to be on every single one of them and not doing a good job), the importance of blogging and blog tours as promotional efforts shift increasingly from in-person bookstore signings (now mostly reserved for blockbuster authors, but also effective if done in niche bookstores or for local authors in some cases), and pointing out some general do’s and don’ts. I’ve been on panels before at conventions, but this was my first time moderating one, and I definitely felt a lot of pressure to make sure I prepared good questions that would interest the audience. We received some interesting questions at the end, as well.

Next up was another marketing panel, “Marketing Your Work,” which had Nanci Kalanta, David Morrell, Liz Gorinsky from Tor Books, Matt Schwartz from Random House, Christopher C. Payne from Journalstone, and Steven J. Scearce. They talked about book sales migrating online, and that focusing on author branding and platform was more de rigeur at Random House. Advertising can be effective, but doesn’t have the same effect that it used to, and for advertising to be effective, it needs to accompany other promotional efforts. Novelist David Morrell said he resisted Facebook for a long time because he didn’t know how to go beyond spreading the message to buy his books, which is what a lot of authors are stuck on, but he started seeing more success with using Facebook as something of a salon for discussions about films, other books, and fostering genuine debate. He also expressed something which I wholeheartedly agree with, which is a frustration with the fact that it seems so many authors are focusing 100 percent on marketing with very little devoted to their actual writing, and that a book has to be written well because even if the marketing efforts work and people buy it, if it’s a bad book or not worthwhile, people will indicate that in the reviews.

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Liz from Tor emphasized the importance of not abandoning traditional marketing efforts altogether, and that bookstore placement and distribution was still very much a key part of the marketing chain. The panelists also encouraged novelists to be creative with finding a non-fiction tie-in to their book to promote to an audience who is interested in a topic that may not necessarily know about the novel. The key with good marketing is to build solid relationships with media, other authors, publicists, bloggers, reviewers, and of course, readers. An online identity can make or break an author, and if people have a perception that an author is unlikable, it can hurt their book sales. The panelists also cautioned that while other authors can be good allies and you can reach each other’s audiences with cross-promotional activities, it only works if the other author is genuine and not doing it “for the sake of it.”

Guest of Honor Caitlín R. Kiernan had her interview, as well, followed by a panel on “Ten Great Moments in Horror” which many people enjoyed. From 6 to 7pm there was an Artists’ Reception with a wine and cheese tasting, more readings interspersed throughout the day, and the Mass Signing kicked off at 7pm, going until 9pm, followed by the Dance Party that started at 9, in which people were encouraged to masquerade in costumes, as well as readings and an after-party in the Iberville Suite that went late into the night.

I set off on what was to be a voodoo tour with Haunted History but that turned into a ghost tour with some friends, and it was definitely an interesting and lively experience. At the end, we did get to chat a bit with the lady who runs the voodoo tour and asked her a few questions. I also got to experience a separate guided Cemetery/Voodoo tour a few days later, which was fascinating, so all was not lost ;-)

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WHC2013 Coverage: Day 1

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This year’s Bram Stoker Awards® Weekend 2013 incorporating the World Horror Convention kicked off in the coolest city in America, the Big Easy, New Orleans, Louisiana. Having dreamed of going to New Orleans for many years, I finally had the chance to do so, and it was one thrill-ride of an experience!

Where to begin…oh dear Lord, the heat. The heat. It is intense to say the least, especially for someone like me who is far more used to seeing snow and having much milder summers. Don’t get me wrong, it can get downright humid and sticky in parts of Canada in the summer, but it’s nothing compared to the heat of the Deep South. And we were told that if we thought the heat was bad now, wait until July and August when the heat really intensifies.

For our hotel this year, it was held at a place that made a huge difference from the usual hotel chains like Ramada, Doubletree, Holiday Inn, Marriott, etc, and that was the historic (and haunted!) Hotel Monteleone, on Royal Street, one of the main streets of the French Quarter in the heart of New Orleans. It didn’t take long for the convention attendees to book up the rooms in preparation for the con, but the great thing about a city like New Orleans is the plethora of choices when it comes to hotels. One can find very reasonable and spacious accommodations with great amenities just outside the Quarter within walking distance, particularly in the adjoining Central Business District.

The opening ceremony was to start at 6pm officially but got started a bit closer to 7 with the convention organizers and coordinators starting things with a big “thank you” to everyone who had a hand in organizing the convention, including yours truly as Social Media Coordinator for the event. They reminded folks of the Mass Signing on Friday from 7-9pm, as well as the Dance Party from 9-11pm. The goodie bags had some really exceptional items this year, including a copy of Blood Gospel from James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, and the bags themselves, with a design from Samhain Publishing (one of the official sponsors of the event), were more like backpacks, a marked improvement from the flimsy tote bags of previous years (my favourite convention goodie bag ever is still the amazing one from World Fantasy 2008 that happened in Calgary, Alberta).

Convention attendees had a chance to say hello, catch up, grab a drink, and chill out a bit before the panels kicked off at 7pm with the first one, entitled “Genre Mash-Ups” which talked about how combining horror with different genres can sometimes produce more interesting results.

The art show also opened up at 6, and there were readings from authors well into the evening, as well as two more panels, one on co-authoring do’s and don’ts as well as one on changes in the publishing industry as a whole and how to deal with them. Overall, things kicked off to a great start, and the weekend just got better as it continued.

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New Orleans Reading Challenge 2013

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When I heard that fellow blogger Midnyte Reader was doing a New Orleans reading challenge, I knew I had to be part of it and sign up! I’m a bit new to reading challenges, and this is the first one I’ve signed up for in a good while, but I’m looking forward to it! I’m also a big fan of many nonfiction books about New Orleans and have read my fair share for research. One of them, which is one of my prized possessions, is New Orleans Cemeteries, and it’s pretty self-explanatory as the title suggests, but it has beautiful photography as well as interesting historical details about each of the wonderful and mysterious cemeteries that New Orleans houses.

I’m also going to consider possibly including some travel guides, as I’ve read a heap of them, and perhaps rating which ones are the best depending on which purpose you’re going for, for example if you want a guide that focuses on the culture of New Orleans from music to food to architecture and beyond, National Geographic Traveler: New Orleans is an excellent guidebook.

Most likely I’ll be reading up on supernatural works of fiction set in New Orleans and Louisiana beyond the Anne Rice’s and Charlaine Harris’s that line my bookshelves ;-) I’ve been itching to read author Greg Herren’s books for a good while now, and this challenge is a great excuse to do that :-)

As for the level that I’m going to try to achieve for this challenge, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go for the full monty and go for Voodoo Queen, which involves reading 13-16 books, so I will play it safe for now and go for Gator status, which involves 1-4 books. The number might increase by the time the challenge ends in December of this year, but I look forward to diving in and hopefully making some awesome reading recommendations :-)

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Blog Tour Post – Interview with Benjamin Kane Ethridge on “Dungeon Brain”

Dungeon Brain
by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Dark sci-fi/Horror
Nightscape Press
October 30, 2012
$9.44 (Barnes & Noble)
Don’t forget to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for your chance to win a free copy of this book! Contest closes December 15, 2012
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Full Disclosure: I organized this blog tour for Benjamin Kane Ethridge and arranged the other blog tour stops.

Plot Description:

June Nilman is a woman with thousands of personalities in her head and none of them are her own. Stricken with amnesia and trapped in a room in an abandoned hospital, her caretaker, Nurse Maggie, wants her to remain captive forever. At night June hears creatures patrolling in and out of the hospital, and in time discovers Maggie has mental control over them. In planning her escape, June has an extensive catalogue of minds to probe for help, but dipping into the minds of her mental prisoners is often a practice in psychological endurance. Escape seems impossible until June discovers a rat hole in the wall– the starting point of her freedom.

But freedom in this war-torn world may be more dreadful than she ever imagined.

Dungeon Brain is a locked room mystery of the body and mind that expands across the realms of science fiction and horror.

How did you come up with the concept behind this novel that multiple people could be taken into one person’s head?

At first I wanted to tell a story about a schizophrenic person with amnesia. What if you had different personalities in your mind, but none were your own? Then I started thinking about these different personalities. Did they have their own memories? What if they did? What if they weren’t imaginary people at all? Perhaps they’d been real people at one time and now found themselves trapped in this person’s head. From there, I just had to find a way for that to happen. Enter the Dungeon Brain.

Maggie Swanson is one of the most screwed up, frightening characters I can recall. Did you model her after other fictional nurses? Where did you draw the inspiration for her character?

A photo of Bettie Page at a friend’s house set me off. This was the photo of her in the sexy nurse outfit—but in the shadows under my friend’s coffee table, I didn’t find anything sexy about the image. She looked harsh, brutal even, and something about how she leered (or appeared to leer) conjured up a character that had a borderline, obsessive personality.

Mental health is such a hot button issue these days, with conditions like bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, addictions to prescription pills and suicides because of bullying gaining a lot of media attention, but despite that, people are still not willing to discuss suffering from these things publicly or even among friends. Why do you think there’s still such a stigma attached to mental health issues?

As with all illnesses, those involving the mind tend to be cause for embarrassment or shame. Normality is something most people want, from superficial reasons all the way up to survival reasons. People don’t want attention for their defects or the defects of people related to them. Covering it up is easier, since these types of illness aren’t always clearly detected anyway. If nobody mentions them, perhaps nobody will ever be the wiser and the facade of normality won’t be cracked.

The book is set in a bleak, dystopian sci-fi universe with talk of wars on different plants, there are aliens, people having eye implants to watch TV, etc. Did you intentionally make the foray into science fiction deliberately for this story, or did it start out in your head as something you always knew was a sci-fi tale?

Sci-Fi was always in mind for this novel, but the extent of it in the beginning draft was lesser. I originally wanted the story to take place on a devastated Earth in the future, but as the story evolved I desired more isolation from humanity’s origins. I wanted a planet that was in the thrall of war, but at the same time untouched by history. To me, the setting represents the main character better this way. She has inner turmoil, but she’s also a blank slate. She can retreat to who she was in the past, or she can be a different person moving on. Same with the planet.

Are there any passages that you found to be the most challenging to write, or perhaps the most rewarding?

There is a scene in the second act of the book that deals with the duplication of the Dungeon Brain’s prisoners. I knew why and how it had happened, but it took me a bit to form it into a narrative that I found to sufficiently explain the phenomenon. This book had many moments like that, when I’d say to myself, I wonder if the reader will follow this? Not that I felt my ideas were beyond most readers, but because I was attempting a level of descriptive complexity I’d never attempted before. In the end, I was happy with the results because I hadn’t gone too scientific or too esoteric. I don’t enjoy reading tales that suffer under those conditions; to me a story shouldn’t be as rigid as a physics text book, nor should it be as undisciplined as a drug-induced hallucination. In-between the two is where I try to find myself.

Many thanks to Ben for taking the time out of his jam-packed schedule to drop by for this interview on my blog! Be sure to follow Ben’s blog tour, which continues on November 1 and 3 with posts from Carl Alves. For a full list of the other blog tour stops, click here.

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