I had a wonderful time at World Horror Convention 2004 in Phoenix last weekend. Above, is a photo taken during my fiction reading the first day of the con (see RDSP website for a few others), where I read a poem I wrote on the plane — “You Can Leave Her Head On” (a parody of a famous Joe Cocker song you might remember from The Full Monty) in addition to several shorts from 100 Jolts and Gorelets. If you look beside the corny plastic skull on the side table, you might even be able to spot the little canister of beef jerky that — as luck would have it — my old buddy Cary Heater of Borderlands Bookstore “threw onto the stage” during my reading of the latest “Blather” column from The Goreletter.
I sat on two panels during the conference. “Common Mistakes in Writing Horror” featured me, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, and Alan Beatts. On that panel, Beatts audaciously asked us to confess our very worst mistakes ever, and I had to report that I once wrote a vampire story where a vampire narcissistically sized himself up in a mirror before going off to hunt in the night. Ramsey talked about a telegram a narrator was writing while all along being attacked by Cthulhu…what a riot. And Jones discussed the many ways new writers shoot themselves in the foot when approaching established editors. On the panel “Short Dark Fiction” I discussed the marketplace and pros and cons of the short story genre along with Adam Golanski, Melinda Thielbar, Gene O’Niell and Nancy Kilpatrick. The highlight of this one was the talk about approaching anthology markets, which is difficult when you’re breaking in. Aside from a few bits of advice, I didn’t have too much to contribute to this panel, but I made heavy breathing noises over the microphone and cracked a couple of silly jokes (one writer in the audience talked about how an editor bought HIM a drink in order to talk about what he wanted to see in the submission pile…my reply: “How many ounces per word did ya charge him?”).
The conference was mostly spent catching up with WAY too many friends to list here, and doing too many things I can’t report here. Launching my book 100 Jolts through a debut signing and a conference suite party. The con even published an excerpt from Jolts in the program booklet. Since the stories in that book are so short, it was neat to get feedback from people who had read it just a few minutes after buying it. All in all, I returned home renewed and enthusiastic about the genre. My next one will likely be the HWA Weekend/Bram Stoker Award Banquet in early June. And definitely the Horrorfind Weekend in mid-August.