“Friends,” Foibles, and Festivities: A World Horror Convention recap

WHC 2012

What’s news?

My big news comes from the World Horror Convention (hereafter: WHC), and isn’t necessarily big news yet, but I had three publishers who wanted to see either portions or the full manuscript of The Imaginings.

This was one of my main goals.  I know that writers can no longer live in a vacuum, and that we must promote ourselves, but for me, I was looking for an organization that knows the business better (and has more connections) than I do.  Is that a worthwhile tradeoff for percentages?  Too early to tell, but I’d like the option at least to decide, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

What does the future hold?

I had a few people tell me how much they enjoyed my nonfiction pieces (The Sweat Lodge in Ejido Erendira, Mexico), so next Friday, I may dig back into the archives and pull something else out along those lines.

But without further ado…

I have never been to a “Con.”  I’ve been to a writer’s conference, but it wasn’t genre specific, and it was almost seven years ago.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Like a horror movie, this is perhaps the best way to go in.  That way you won’t be disappointed if things don’t go how you expected.

Speaking of disappointments, let me get those out of the way first (neither of which the organizers of this year’s WHC had much control over).  The first was that I was hoping for a little more of the fans of the genre as opposed to industry/writers.  One of the organizers put WHC at about 25-75% (fans-industry).

Don’t get me wrong, I love talking with fellow writers and collaborating and getting ideas going.  Writers are a very supportive lot, but my memory from the Maui Writer’s Conference was that it often felt more like a give-and-take (“I’ll buy your book if you buy mine” sort of thing).  Admittedly, I’m as guilty of this as the next writer, but fans are just looking for something new to read.

And honestly, I was hoping to see some of the freaks (term used very lovingly) that you see at the Fantasy and Sci-fi Cons.

My only other complaint was that I always felt double booked, seeing as there were often three and four things going on at the same time.  It was definitely scheduled well (without many instances of more than one “big” event happening at the same time), but given the pitches and readings, I felt like I missed half of the convention.  But hey, maybe if I land a publisher from this experience (knock wood), I’ll get to see more of the panels next time.

New real-life friend Stacey Turner with Michael McCarty, writer and FX artist for The Walking Dead

Some New “Friends”

Having said all of that about fans vs. industry, one of my favorite parts was meeting a few of the writers I had only previously met online.  And just as they are online, they are supportive in person (thanks again to Stacey Turner, CW LaSart and Julie Jansen for coming to my reading).  This was both a strange and entertaining phenomenon to match perception with reality.

However, as I had suspected, I now know that some of these folks would be my friends in real life just as they are my “friends” in the blogosphere/Facebook/Twitter reality.  I probably spent almost two hours with Stacey and her sister, Dani, in the bar, and we really only talked shop for maybe a half hour.

My Favorite Foible

Speaking of the bar, my favorite story from the weekend also took place there.  I’ll abbreviate this story and just say that earlier in the evening at one of the publisher parties, in a round of quick introductions, I met a few guys who seemed to be in the “upper echelon.”  As usually happens in these types of introductions, they kept talking to one another and I stood listening and looking for an opportunity to interject something interesting.

Not much luck, and eventually I decided to head to the bar to start a tab and then circulate (the cash bars were ridiculous).  As I was ordering a drink, one of those guys saddled up at the bar.  Network, I thought and offered to buy his drink.

“Mike, right?” I said and leaned over to get a better look at his nametag for the full name.  “Mignola.  Your name rings a bell.  Are you one of the special guests?”

(some of you may already be chuckling at this point)

Turns out he was, but didn’t say much more than he was a comic book guy.  I told him that I wasn’t familiar with graphic novels and such.  Not that I didn’t like them, just that I had never been exposed to them.

We must’ve talked for ten or fifteen minutes (during which I asked things like “So are you making a living off your craft?”– remember that detail) before I figured out who he was when he made the comment, “Most people only know my character from the movies.”

Suddenly the posters from around the convention (as well as the cover of the booklet for the event) and I figured it out.

I was talking to Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.

Needless to say, I bought him another drink.  “The first,” I said, “was because you seemed like a nice guy.  The second is out of deference.”

Anyway, what a cool guy.  We hung out for a couple of hours.  We definitely talked more about the business, but since we came to it from different angles, it was more like two buddies talking.  And we also just talked about life, kids, etc…  And let me tell you, he’s a funny guy.  I had more than a few good laughs.

And the Festivities?

I think you’ve already got a good idea about some of the festivities, but the topper in this department was definitely the 25th anniversary of the Bram Stoker Awards on Saturday night.  The Stoker is basically the Pulitzer for horror writers, and the ceremony is like the Academy Awards.

The bronze Stoker Award

As it was already a stretching of the funds to attend the conference, I didn’t buy a ticket to the Stoker banquet, but they were kind enough to let the unwashed masses in to stand in the back of the room for the awards ceremony.  And stand I did.  For probably two hours.  But it was worth it.

I did a strictly news write-up of the event at Gather news.  You can read it by clicking here.

What I didn’t say there (because they don’t really allow first person commentary) was that standing in the back of that room, I realized that I wanted to get my hands on one of those statuettes some day.

I’m sure I’m not much different from anyone else in that room in this desire, but I think that was the main reason I attended the convention.  I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to get a publisher to look at my work, but perhaps more than anything, I needed a little spark.  As Winter often does, the fires of inspiration and motivation had grown a little dim these past couple of months.

But now they are burning bright again.

What do I want from you?

Do you have a favorite convention or conference that you attend?

Do you have any good “celebrity” stories?

If your own motivation has ever flagged, what do you do to kick start it?

And again, so long as your comment has a little substance, I don’t mind if you leave a link.  I do it at your blogs; you might as well do it here 🙂

If you want to know more about the World Horror Conventions, click here.

Finally, I hope you check back next Friday for a little more nonfiction… or something.

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28 responses to ““Friends,” Foibles, and Festivities: A World Horror Convention recap

  1. That Mike guy was pretty cool :p

    It was fabulous meeting you, and I’m so glad that you enjoyed yourself! Looking forward to chatting more at KillerCon in September 🙂

    • Hey Nycole,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting. Definitely a pleasure meeting you. And yeah, Mike was nice. I kept giving him the opportunity to go to talk with people more important than I, but he was kind enough to humor me, I think 🙂

      And keeping my fingers crossed for KillerCon.

  2. Hey Paul, it was great meeting you at the convention. I wanted to make your reading, but we had a bunch of chaos that day with rescheduling an audio interview for Horror for Good and I got asked to go to a panel (the only one I ended up going to) by another friend and only realized afterwards that it had been at the same time as your reading. Figures too, because it wasn’t the best panel. I heard so many good things about the ones I missed… Go figure.

    • Agreed on the chaos, and I was just an attendee. That “double booking” I was talking about included not getting to hang out as much as I would’ve liked for sure. No sweat on the reading. Even if you didn’t have the interview and panel, I realized that I was also competing with Rick Hautala, so I didn’t slight anyone in the least who didn’t make my little reading.

      And congrats again on Horror for Good. Things are coming together nicely. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend. My best to Jen.

  3. Paul, not sure if we met. I was the shirt guy in the hallway the whole weekwnd. World Horror Con is definitely more of a writer based con, and very much a buy “my book and I will buy yours” event. I agree that the drinks and room parties suffered greatly from the restrictions and pricing of drinks. That was crazy. This is my 8th WHC. I love them. In part because it is more friendly insiders with some fans. Not the overwhelming fanfest that some cons are.

    JimmyZ

    • You’d think I’d know after all these years living in Utah. At least they’re getting a little better. If you think it’s restrictive now, you should’ve been here 8 or 10 years ago (well, before the Olympics, really. They had to make some accommodations for foreigners, and they never bounced completely back to the completely stifling laws from before.

      I think I remember seeing your booth. Some great stuff, but I don’t think we had the opportunity to meet face to face. We’ll have to rectify that at the next one.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Sounds like you had a great time. I think I am a little bit jealous. I can’t do conferences anymore, but every time I see an interesting one, I wish I could.

    • It’s definitely been awhile since I’ve gone to one, but I was pleased with this one. Just the right bang for the buck. I’ve heard KillerCon is another good one that would probably fit the bill of “interesting.”

      I’m still kind of surprised to hear myself saying things like “KillerCon.” So glad my friends and family still love me 🙂

  5. Haha I started laughing as soon as I saw the Mignola part. That’s a great story, one to save for the future 🙂 Like Jaye, I’m a little jealous, and now I REALLY want to be there next year. I don’t have any good “celebrity” stories but maybe I need one.

    • So glad you got the joke early. I was hoping someone would. It was great talking to him. Did exactly no networking for most of that evening as a result, but did exactly what I wanted to be doing instead.

      It was a good time. Wish you could’ve been there. I’d love to say that I’m going to make New Orleans next year. Fingers crossed.

  6. I’m on the fence about conventions. I would not want to attend one if the main draw was someone whose work I hated, and that’s been the case for a few recent ones. But Congrats on meeting mignola.

    • Agreed that the main draw is important, but I think you’ll always find some other good people, if nothing else. Or at least hopefully that spark I mentioned at the end of the post. That was mostly what I was going for.

      However, Robert McCammon was probably whom I would consider the main draw, and while I haven’t read much from him lately, I really enjoyed some of his earlier works (especially Swan Song). The only downside was that I was so busy, I really only saw him in passing, having to miss his panel when I was pitching to a publisher. Again, maybe next time.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. Glad you had some fun there, my friend. It was nice you had a chance to meet with Stacey. She’s such a fine lady. She works her butt off for our Press. I’ve been to any number of cons over the years, and I have enjoyed all of them. I have sooo many stories. . .

    Maybe you’ll grab one of those Stokers one of these days. I have some tales there as well. Better not to go beyond that for now.

    It’s back to work for you, slacker! Get with it!

    Blaze

    • Hey Blaze, yes indeed, it was a pleasure meeting Stacey. She felt like an old friend from years back. Had a great time hanging out with her. Again, sorry you couldn’t make it, but still hoping for one of these days.

      And I’d be curious to hear some of your stories. I’m sure you have a few good ones.

      And yes, it’s back to work for me. Thanks as always for stopping by. Hope all is going well for you.

      • Stacey is a grand lady for sure, Paul. I have a slew of real-life crap this year, so it might not be ’til next year when we meet.

        Happy writing!

        Blaze

  8. Very cool that you met Mike Mignola. I’ve heard he’s a pretty “regular” dude. The way you met him sounds like something I would have done. (grin) Mike who???

    • Yeah, it was a pretty funny moment, especially considering some of the conversation we had before I figured it out (as I mentioned, the whole, “so, are you making a living from your craft?” ha ha). We actually talked about the difference between people who have a good bit of fame and those who just achieve a modicum of success and it goes to their heads. Funny stuff.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Paul, it was great to meet you in Salt Lake City! And I hope you’ll be joining us for the Coffin Hop again this year…which is something I totally forgot to talk to you about while we were in SLC. I’ve attended several different conventions and I think the most fun has been the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. The most informational for me as a writer was the SCBWI conference (Society of Childrens Books Writers & Illustrators). Tomorrow I’m off to attend one day of Norwescon in Seattle, a scifi convention. I’ll let you know how that goes. There are so many seminars to choose from!

    • Whew, Julie! Sounds like you are busy. Even though those other genres and such are not necessarily my expertise, I still think it would be fun to attend. I hope you have a good time. And yes, the Coffin Hop. It was awesome (and exhausting). That’s how we got to know one another, right? It was a great experience. I think I should have enough time to get ready for it this year 🙂

  10. I want to do a con sometime! Looks like a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing your how-it-wents!

    Celebrity encounter, Aniko reports:
    Setting: Fudrucker’s Burger Joint, Condiment Stand
    Characters: Aniko, Matthew McConaughey
    All A. knows is MM’s a good looking guy who seems sort of familiar.

    A: Hello.
    MM: Hi. //MM looks at A like he’s expecting her to say more.
    A: Oh, do you want to use the ketchup first?
    MM: No, that’s okay //literal million dollar smile flashes.
    //A gets ketchup, turns back to MM
    A: Have a good day.
    MM: You, too.

    The End

    Except, back at the table Mr. Aniko says, “Do you know who you were talking to?” I was like, “OH!” haha.

    Your celeb story is better. But that’s the only one I have. 🙂

  11. Shortly after 9-11, I went to larger SF convention where I had a couple of conversations with Connie Willis. The first involved her book Bellwether. (Fun read.)The protagonist was a statistician (my other profession). I’d been trying to figure out how to turn a statistician into an interesting protagonist. She beat me to it. Turns out her daughter is a statistician. Anyway, later, Ms. Willis got on a crowded elevator with me and a friend. We were chatting away with her when this middle eastern guy (who was attending a textbook-seller convention going on at the same time in the hotel) started hitting on my friend. He started cracking (very) off-color, somewhat alarming jokes about bombs in the hotel. Remember, this was shortly after 9-11. As the conversation turned unpleasant, Ms. Willis did a fade. Inch-by-inch, she eased herself out of our circle, to the back of the elevator, drifting slowly along the far wall to the front of the elevator. She stepped off as soon as possible after that, probably several floors from her destination. I’ve never seen a smoother fade.

    So, Paul, how did the publishers you pitched to feel about the fact that The Imaginings was self-published?

    • Hey Marie, hmm. That is an interesting story. As if elevators aren’t uncomfortable enough as it is. I think it was Steven Wright who said when he was young, his grandfather made him stand in a closet for five minutes without moving, telling him it was elevator practice 🙂

      Interesting that you ask. All three were mildly concerned that I had already self-published, but since I haven’t had my John Locke success moment yet, they didn’t seem too concerned. I gathered that at least one would want to see my sales before committing, but he didn’t seem to think what I had done so far would be too much of a problem. I can see their concerns– essentially that they will be putting out a book that several other people have already bought and read before they can get their hands on it to either A- edit it, or B- sell it themselves. They both said that I would have to relinquish my e-rights, which I assumed anyway.

      So I guess while I might have had my moments of feeling crestfallen about my lagging sales, it just might turn out to be for the better. If they pick me up, I can call it a good learning experience and move on.

  12. Your Mike Mignola story doesn’t just happen at those gatherings of people involved in the creative arts. Profession aside, it is often the ones who have made it, are at the top of their game and have little else to prove who seem like regular, down-to-earth folks. They’re secure and dedicated enough to their craft that they don’t feel threatened by another’s success. On the other hand, the climbers (the upper echelon wannabees) are the ones who won’t bother with anybody who isn’t “somebody.” It might be well for you, as a relative newcomer, to remember this for those times in the not too distant future when you are the one who has made it and have little else to prove.

    • That was something that actually came up between Mike and me when we were talking.

      I appreciate your confidence in my “soon-to-be” status, and I’ve always thought that I’d be certain to remain humble.

      Thanks for the comment.

  13. Wow. So very jealous. I absolutely love everything Hellboy. Sounds like a lot of fun and stress all rolled into one. I have met a few celebrities as they visited the Park. Probably the nicest of the lot was James Woods. Super cool man and very friendly. The strangest were Ryan Renolds and Scarlet Johanssen. They were so afraid of being recognized and accosted that they were very curt. But I can understand why. Kiri said she saw you at the Park. I need to come for a visit. I should have mad that several paragraphs but eh, too tired.

    • I didn’t know you were a fan, Kodi. Wish you could’ve been there (if for no other reason than I do know you’re a horror fan).

      I had heard your James Woods story. I don’t think I knew about Ryan Reynolds and Scarlet Johanssen. Were they there together?

      And yes, saw Kiri. Almost didn’t recognize her with the short cut. Hopefully we’ll get to see you sometime soon.

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