Getting the band back together, or, what went down at KillerCon IV in Las Vegas

Subject: Getting the band back together

To: mlcalvillo@yahoo.com

Hey, man.

How’s it going? Good, I hope.

Really missed you at KillerCon last week. I swear I kept seeing you out of the corner of my eye, talking to someone, or checking out books in the dealer’s room. Just my imagination.

Drove out with this really cool guy: Eric Miller. He’s a film guy, and we talked a lot about the industry, and selling scripts. He’s getting into fiction and just put out a cool anthology where his screenwriter and movie friends all wrote horror stories about Hollywood. Pretty fun stuff.

So glad I went out Thursday because the Samhain Publishing party was epic. There were so many people there. I think this was the biggest KillerCon yet. Word has got out, man.

One of the biggest surprises was seeing a group of young guys huddled in a corner against their new books.  Adam Cesare looks like ’78 era Springsteen: with an axe behind his back. You know how cool it is to see another young generation of writers like that? For a while it was feeling like we were it. Glad we are not.

Got to catch up with Bill Gagliani, Kelly Dunn, Stephen Woodworth, Laura Hickman, Mercedes Yardley, Shane McKenzie, William F. Nolan, Jack Ketchum, Bailey Hunter, Monica O’ Rourke, Rena Mason, Christie Parsley White, Roy Robbins from Bad Moon…like Bob Dylan once said, “There’s so many names dropping I’m gonna need a shovel.”

Friday was awesome. Got to see William F. Nolan and F. Paul Wilson read. Unforgettable writers. So good, and so inspiring. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon at Mignon Fogherty’s “Grammar Girl” workshop. It was so fun. Even seasoned writers were getting good tips from her. She’s great.

Later that night John Skipp played his and Cody Godfellow’s “Stay At Home Dad” short film. Absolutely perfect. We also got treated to a clip from his “Rose” feature film, and also a teaser for “The Long Last Call,” one of my favorite John Skipp books. They all look great.

After all that, it was such a bummer realizing my HD camera was missing. Pretty sure it got lifted a few days before the con. I was really looking forward to making another video. I shot some stuff on the iPhone, but nah, not good enough. Bummer. Lots of folks were shooting, though, so I’m sure something will appear.

We had a party from Shock Totem and I was stoked to finally see Mercedes M. Yardley’s book “Beautiful Sorrows” released. It looks and reads just beautiful.

Yup. We were up all night and some serious ‘stay in Vegas’ stuff was going down. Although, in this day and age, that’s not staying anywhere. Someone took a picture of me and announced proudly that it was going right up on Facebook via his phone. Kind of takes the fun out of things if you know someone’s prowling around like that, so those of us with certain predispositions found dark places to do even darker things, out of view of the Facebookers.  Heh. Heh.

Out at 3:00 and up at 8:00. Not a bad night’s sleep. Just in time for R.J. Cavender’s “Self Editing For Fiction Writers” lecture. That was pretty fun, and I learned a lot. Between his and Grammar Girl, there was a lot of great learning happening. Love that.

Our buddy Mike McCarty gave a neat workshop where he displayed his make-up skills, turning Liz from Bad Moon into something or other with lips on her forehead and things growing out of her cheeks. Jeff Burke was turned into a zombie. Awesome work. Carey Jones, who accompanied him, was groovy. I hadn’t seen him in ten years, back when he almost did the make-up on one of my movies. I got to sit next to Kelly Armstrong, who was really cool.

There were pitch sessions, which were cool. Caught up with Robert Fleck, which is always a pleasure, and met some really awesome new folks. Hopefully the work will keep getting out there.

Then there was you.

I debated all day if I should practice or not. Or eat. Or speak. Usually when I do a show I hibernate and meditate and keep it cool, so at showtime, I’ve got all my energy and focus. Couldn’t really do that at KillerCon. So I just enjoyed the day and tried not to think about it.

Gene O’ Neill read his touching piece from the I WILL RISE special edition. Man, that was melancholy hearing it out loud in front of a packed house. Thankfully there was enough of that good old Gene humor to balance it out.

Ben read his neat story, and said a few words. It’s funny because his and Brad’s stories are definitely their own, but absolutely would fit into your cannon of work.

You’re going to laugh, but I rapped! Thanks to Lisa Morton, who sent along something for me to rap, I had to rise up and figure it out. Jay-Z, look out! Here comes Jay-P! Pretty sure he’s fine with that.

Grabbed the acoustic and started strumming and the first thought looking out at the room was, “I can’t do this.” Michelle and Deja were there. Your sister. Brother in Law. Roy. Wrath. PS Gifford. Just everybody. This crowd actually meant something to me on a personal level, so getting through was tough. I shut my eyes, took a beath that felt like forever, reached down deep inside, channeled what I found, and gave it everything I had. It was a mix of a song I wrote for you, pieces from the story in the book, and some improve.

Once that was done, Ben asked if anyone wanted to say anything. Erik Williams got up and said a few things. Then Roy had some emotional words about the Bad Moon family and how crucial you were and how much he missed you. Before things got too bleak, Mike McCarty shared an absolutely hilarious story about collaborating with you. We were all grateful and we felt you in that room with us.

And then, somehow, I got signed up for the Creative Fiction contest. Barely remember it, as I was still so damn emotional from before. I was on auto-pilot.

Thank God the Gross Out contest happened. Those things crack me up like few things in this world. My stomach hurt. Jeremy Robert Johnson was hilarious. He roasted Brian Keene. “They say if you give 1,000 monkeys typewriters, and they type for a 100 years, one of them will write ‘The Tempest’. The rest of them will write Brian Keene novels.” Brian cracked up. Love him. Such a good sport. Speaking of which, always good talking to him, however briefly. Guy’s got a huge heart. And glad said heart is doing better.

Gard Goldsmith came in third, I think, and Christopher Boyle did a great job. So nice seeing those two rising . J.S. Reinhardt killed us all with his story, and a performance for the ages. So much talent walking that convention.

Got to meet and spend time with my mentoree Aaron J. French. Great fellow. Met with Don D’auria. Danielle Day and Stacey Turner from Angelic Press. Marc Ciccarone and Theresa Dillon from Blood Bound. Fran Friel! Such a delight getting to talk to her and meet her. Marc Scioneaux and his gorgeous wife from Nightscape. Joseph Spencer. Marie Green and her writing partner Ty. Michael Bailey! Finally got to spend some time with him after Borderlands. Chiral Mad has the best cover ever. Eric Guinard. Tyler Bates. Chuck Rios and Ben Ethridge. Gord Rollo, James Roy Daley and Mandy held down the Canadian side of things famously. Maurice Broaddus and I talked spirituality, which was a highlight. Jason and Sunni Brock. Kelly Laymon was a wonderful surprise. So nice getting to talk to her after all these years. She’s great. But like all cons, it was tough to have the long, sprawling conversations I’d like to have with everyone, so hopefully I’ll meet with some of these fine folks Off World.

See you soon, man. Keep on rockin’,

John

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