Discover more from TRANSMISSIONS FROM BLACK HOLE PLANET 3
No writers were kidnapped by aliens in the making of this convention
This past weekend was the 2nd SCARES THAT CARE AuthorCon. That meant skipping out on a newsletter, but getting a full recap this week. Well, I’m writing this at 1:00 A.M., and it’s a doozy.
With the discontinuation of SCARES THAT CARE WEEKEND in August, this is the convention that I was looking forward to the most. Not only because the first one was my best selling show of 2022, but because it’s one of the few times of the year I get to see my favorite people in the world.
When I come to these conventions, I settle into my element: the ebb and flow of the convention goers, setting up my table, and every new friend and reader I make is just another drop of peace. There’s nowhere else I would rather be than at a convention, especially this one.
I thought that I would lay this out on a day by day basis, it makes the most sense really, and will document just what it is like preparing, engaging in, and coming home from something like this.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and began to pack up the last bit accoutrement that I needed the night before (CPAP machine, toiletries, etc.). I ended up transporting my clothes in a duffel bag, my books in my suitcase, and my laptop in a backpack that doubled as my carry on.
Due to an unfortunate incident that involved my wife having to make multiple trips to the airport during my return trip last year, I took my car and left it in long term parking.
My bags were a hassle to get in, mainly because my suitcase containing my inventory was 80 lbs, give or take. This led to my next problem, paying the overweight baggage fee.
I paid it last year, as I did this year, but this time they tried to haggle with me. “Could you remove these boxes containing 50 books each and put them in your back pack?”
My blank stare in response looked something like this:
Realizing that the answer was in fact “No”, they charged me the $100, and away I went into the friendly skies.
My first leg was from Oklahoma City to Charlotte. I don’t like flying at the best of times, the Lord saw fit to grace me with generous height, while every airline that exists sees fit to condemn the common man to inadequate legroom. Somehow, I fell asleep, and when I awoke I discovered that the snack cart had already passed… oh well, c’est la vie.
We touched down in Charlotte and I grabbed a quick bite before I made my way to the flight that would take me to Richmond. Once again, I was squeezed into a seat that was designed for someone about a foot shorter, and into the air we went. I napped again, knowing that the snack cart would wake me this time to provide me with refreshment.
Once again, they respected my slumbering state and chose to let me sleep. When I awoke, I beheld a mere four rows behind me the sight of flight attendants dispensing beverages to those who had been awake and aware.
Licking my lips, and longing for a Coke, I retrieved my luggage and called an Uber. My driver was named Daniel and he was a very nice guy. I’ve made the drive from the Richmond to the Double Tree in Williamsburg many times and it’s always that drive that passes the slowest.
The excitement to see everyone and get settled in is palpable, and it feels like coming home every time I pull into that parking lot. This time was no different.
I got checked in and went to my room where I ran into Lucas Milliron wandering the halls. After a day of traveling, I was in desperate need of a shower so I told him that we’d catch up later before unpacking. The shower in my hotel room was desperately needed and I shaved/ cut my hair before heading down to the vendor room.
On average, I do five shows a year, and that comes with certain experience and routine in setting up a table. While I went to work, the usual suspects began to file in: Daniel Volpe, Aron Beauregard, Carver Pike, Tommy Clark, Lucas Mangum, Jeff Strand, Lynn Hansen, Bridgett Nelson, and finally Stephen Kozeniewski.
Everyone hugged, reunited after months apart, and we set up our tables. Excited for what tomorrow would bring and the fans that we were sure were coming. Here’s a picture of the initial table, ready to go.
Kozeniewski and I were asked by Sean Isgett, a reader and fan, if we would like to go to dinner. Roping Craig Brownlie into the excursion we made for the Whaling Company down the street. I began making jokes about this being the start to some Annie Wilkes/ Misery scenario.
Little did Sean know that there were other horror authors eating one room over. Each of whom were waiting for me to scream the code word “corduroy” and leap into action.
Luckily, I didn’t have to shout the code word, and the dinner was excellent. Laughs were had and I appreciated Sean for suggesting the meal.
Thursday came to a close, but not before I ran into Kristopher Triana as well as Wesley Southard and Mike Lombardo, both who arrived late into the evening.
It was good to see all of them.
On Friday, I woke up around 9:00, got dressed and meandered down to the vendor room to check on my table/ help anyone else setting up. After that was finished, a few of us went to Rick’s Cheesesteaks, a perennial favorite that we always indulge in when we come to Williamsburg for conventions. Caitlin Brennan was waiting for us, she is an employee who works there, and despite only seeing us like twice a year max, she always remembers us.
The food was good and Caitlin promised to come out to the convention on Sunday as she always does, then we headed back to hotel and just hung out until the Vendor meeting.
It was a packed crowd in the auditorium, and like always, Joe Ripple gave us the update on the Scares That Care Charity. It’s humbling to hear the report of the money we’ve raised to help people. It always makes me happy when we hear the total read out loud.
Brian Keene then presented the new Wilburn-Thomas award named after departed friends Jay Wilburn and Dave Thomas. The award was stated to go to someone in our industry who went out of their way to help others, and if you’re in our industry, there is only one name that immediately comes to mind…
The award went to Jonathan Janz, of course. To all of those at home who aren’t part of the community, I always joke around that Janz is a Westworld Robot or Wax Figure that someone wished to life in order to spread joy. There is no one more kind that I can think of without sounding disingenuous, and despite my love of messing with him, he absolutely deserved that award.
Then the Scares That Care Lifetime Achievement Award was presented, and that went to Brian Smith. I don’t know Brian as well as Janz, merely acquaintances at best, but I’ve seen his work and all he does for the charity. This was another one that was more than deserved.
After that, we filed out and went back to the Vendor room, waiting for the doors to open. And open they did.
I sold a third of the books that I brought in the first half hour. There were so many fans and readers there to buy books and I was grateful for each and every one. The flow was going well, but I did have to leave the table for the first panel that I was scheduled to be on for this convention: COLLABORATIONS.
I’ve written many collaborations and two of those individuals were actually on the panel with me, I’ve also done a lot of collaboration panels, so this one was par for the course.
Afterwards, we returned to the Vendor room, sold a few more books, then ordered some pizza and settled in for the night.
Brian Keene joined us for the pizza, and we talked shop as we do, and everything was perfect. I went back down to the lobby after a few of the guys went to bed, that’s the thing about these events, there are stragglers hanging out until 4 or 5 in the morning. There was still a large group hanging around (too many to list here individually, but it was definitely a great bunch), and we proceeded to swap stories until we all drifted off to bed… prepared for Saturday.
I’m what is referred to as a “scamp” and have a reputation as such. So, more than a few people were on edge that I was planning pranks for April Fools Day. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you ask, I didn’t have anything planned. When I’m behind the table, I’m working, and that takes away time to do anything more than petty mischief.
I had back to back panels that day, the first being about Horror Comics that I’m still confused why I was placed on. I have a decent general knowledge and history of the medium, but no practical experience on writing one or how to break into the industry.
This was followed immediately by the Tribute to Jay Wilburn. I went, I and the rest of the panelists told our stories, and I barely kept it together. He was a great writer and a better friend, and I miss him dearly.
After that, I chained myself to the table for the rest of the day, and while the amount of sales was less than the previous evening, there was still a steady stream. I got to see one of my favorite fans and readers, Bill Fisher, who once allowed me to put regional fungus Kevin Strange in his place. Eventually, the call came that the room was closing and we left for dinner at Maurizios.
Maurizio’s is the Italian joint within walking distance of the hotel and is fiendishly delicious. Stephen Kozeniewski, Wesley Southard, Lucas Mangum, and I all had a great dinner and laughed so hard that I was almost crying. After this was done, we went back to the hotel, and I used the next two hours to prepare for the true bragging rights event: The Gross Out Contest.
The Gross Out Contest has one goal: to tell the most disgusting story you possibly can in three minutes, if the audience likes your story at three minutes and you’re not finished, you can continue to five minutes.
And when 10:30 P.M. rolled around, I was picked to go first.
This contest does not allow photography or recording and there is a good reason for that, so I’m declining to post my entry here other than the title: EXCERPTS FROM LOVE IS BLIND SEASON 33.
I was cheered on when I got to that three minutes, getting the extra two but not needing the majority of it. Then I settled in to watch the rest of the contestants of which there were fifteen or so.
This was my fourth time entering the contest and while I have achieved 2nd place, I have yet to achieve victory, and this time I didn’t even place. A physical loss may have been recorded, but throughout the rest of the night and into the next day, I had more than a few come and tell me that my story was great and should have achieved victory.
So while Chris DiLeo may have taken home the victory (deservedly, his story was fantastically gross), I walk away as the people’s champion… Rocky Balboa in a Crow Hoodie if you will.
And I’m already plotting my entry for next year.
It was another night of holding court in the lobby listening to Brian Keene and Maurice Broaddus tell stories. I chatted with Sonja Ska, Mona Kabbani, and Kristopher Triana for a long time and we laid down the foundation for SwampCon (details forthcoming), and just like the previous night, everyone drifted away as the night wore on.
I think I went to bed at 4:00 A.M.
The last day was more of a trickle, though super readers Erica Fields and Marian Elaine did stop by and bought a ton of my books.
A highlight did come when it was time for my reading slot that I was sharing with Stephen Kozeniewski, we both read humorous entries, followed by our Gross Out stories from last year, and I finished on a new short.
That short story got a lot more audience enthusiasm than I thought it would, my reread of it made me realize just how much I enjoyed that story.
The sad time came after that, the pack-up, one by one booths began to go down and our time together came to a close for this show. I’m always filled with a melancholy when I leave, but it was good to hang with Lucas Mangum while I waited for my Uber.
Then I was at the airport and on a plane ride home, missing the snack cart once again.
It was a good show, everyone reported they did well that I talked to, and I can’t wait for all of us to reunite again.
Because like I said before, it’s like coming home.
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