KillerCon is a special place. Christopher Rice nailed it when he told the crowd he liked it because there weren’t any awards. Ellen Datlow remarked it was one of her favorites because it was small and intimate. For me? KillerCon is a catalyst on many levels. It’s inspiring being around so many folks who’ve become close friends. On the flip side, Vegas brings out a lot of bittersweet memories.
How can I forget those who have passed? A few years ago, my life in shambles from a brutal divorce, my dear friend Michael Louis Calvillo pulled me in to a hall, sat me down, and filled me with positivity and joy. Whenever I see those weird geometric carpets, I’m taken right back to that moment. Just inside, Adam Niswander and his wife were holding an insanely crowded party. I can still taste the moonshine he offered me, and those weird meatballs. Both men were so wonderful. I’ll always miss them.
Speaking of that pesky divorce, it’s still knocking me on my butt financially. Without the kindness of PS Gifford, Roy Robbins, Christopher Boyle and Steven Booth, there’d have been no me at the convention this year. Here’s to next year, and my helping them in return. Wrath James Wright always puts on one hell of a show each year. Nods to him and the great team: Bailey Hunter, Mason Bundschuh, Matt Czarnowski, Misty Dahl, Rena Mason, Stacy Scranton-Morgan, Mercedes M. Yardley, and RJ Cavender.
We made great time getting to the convention from Los Angeles. When we were in the Mojave, traffic slowed and there was an ominous black plume of smoke ahead. When we finally passed, we saw a boat had been set on fire. It was destroyed. The car towing it? Fine. My imagination went into full swing. Had to have been some kind of contraband they torched when the cops pulled them over. Who the hell brings a boat to the Mojave?
The first person I ran into was the very talented Q. She was busy writing on the casino floor, having found a spot near a big screen TV where she simultaneously watched the game and worked.
There were groups that crawled the strip and went to the Goreatorium, but I passed on those and met up with some old friends. Found Michael Bailey and we wandered the casino floor and the shops. There was an arcade with a four person Pac Man machine. We vowed to grab people and return, but we never made it. Soon, though, we ran into other people. It didn’t take long for the first party to start, where most folks made appearances. Somehow, I was up until about 2:30am. It’s real easy to get talking to people and find time gone. I camped out on Roy’s floor, my mind racing all night long. So exciting to be around so many great creative people.
After the welcome to the Guests Of Honor (Christopher Rice, Ellen Datlow, David J. Schow and John Shirley), the ever charming Ellen Datlow had a Q & A session. I found it very inspiring to see how passionate and excited she remains for publishing. For those aspiring to get into one of her books? She gave us the secret: write something fantastic. Easy, right?
There were a few readings. Mercedes Yardley rocked it, but teased us with a selection from a book she didn’t have any copies to sell. Ahh! Well, it was worth the preview. “
The Dialogue panel helped tremendously. Headed by John Skipp, Tom Monteleone, Monica O’Rourke and Michael Arnzen, there were many nuggets of wisdom. “Dialogue is like real talking, only with the boring parts taken out,” “Don’t have people using the other person’s name in facing dialogue” were two examples.
Pretty sure George Lucas’s head would’ve exploded like the Death Star if he’d been there.
John Skipp’s workshop, “The Choreography of Violence” rocked. When someone asked me why I’d go, being a published author and such, I told them there’s always stuff to learn, and even if it’s nothing new to me, it’s a chance to reaffirm and remember things. I did learn some great tips. My action scenes have always been kind of fuzzy to me, so I consider it time very well spent. I love these workshops.
The Erotic Horror Short Fiction Contest
Okay. So this was strangely lightly attended, with only Christopher Boyle having something prepped. I decided to write something on the spot in five minutes. Turns out it was likely one of the worst things I’ve written since second grade. But big kudos to Bailey Hunter for improvising live, and actually coming up with a real story off the top of her head. Christopher took top prize with Bailey and Edmund Collen rounding it out.
Later on, we all went to the Samhain Press party. Again, found myself out late. Had a great conversation with Mark Ciccarone and Joe Spagnola about heavy metal. Very fun and spirited. Was lucky that Christopher Boyle let me crash on his spare bed. We had some great talks about Bizarro fiction, its merits and intricacies. Chris has been at every KillerCon, volunteering and making things run smoothly. And he’s developed into an excellent writer.
Pitch Sessions. Found myself pitching to the wonderful Sarah Peed. We had a great conversation about the state of publishing, and she had some fantastic advice for me. Moving over to Jeff from Deadite, they have a novel system where they work backward from title, to pitch, to outline, to writing the book. I wasn’t expecting to pitch anything, but I did have an idea, which he seemed interested enough in to go to the next level. Although my title absolutely sucked, which we both laughed about, we figured that’s a relatively easy change.
Christopher Rice premiered his new book at KillerCon, which was an massive honor. He read a section about horse’s head caving in that was gruesome and poetic. He followed with a Q & A and told us it’d been his first true supernatural book, and that he planned on writing more. We were the first ones to be able to buy copies. Chris was approachable, funny, and always had time for every one. What a class act. He’s probably made a few dozen fans for life.
Later, Mike Arnzen treated us to some hilarious poems. My favorite were his Lovecraft inspired titles for X-rated movies.
Made it away from the casino on a road trip to Fremont Street. Mercedes drove us in her massive truck. Misty Dahl, Sarah Peed, Matt Czarnowski, Mason Bundschuh and Michael Bailey walked through what I think was called the Main Street Casino, which was gorgeous.
For me, seeing the Golden Gate Casino brought back a flood of memories. I hadn’t been since shooting the feature film, “The Devil’s Hand” – and it was so damn vivid. I heard voices. I even remembered a taste of wine my ex-wife had given me. The casino smelled the same inside. So trippy. I looked around to my new cast of friends and was so grateful for each of them. Life sure is strange, and things certainly have not turned out the way I thought. But somehow? Better.
Near the end of Fremont Street, we watched an amazing cello duo performing. Only, it wasn’t classical. They were plugged into guitar amps and were doing spot-on versions of “Enter Sandman” and “One” from Metallica. Every nuance of the guitar solos got nailed. We kept looking at each other in awe. We had to get back, and damn it, did they just start playing freaking, “Master Of Puppets”?
The Gross Out Contest
This terrified me. My first gross out was in Toronto. I remember being just frozen seeing these people perform their stories. How could I ever do such a thing? I can’t!
I had an idea for a story in May and wrote it out. It took me months to look at it again. When KillerCon got close, I printed it out and hid it in my luggage. Just in case. When I pitched to Jeff, I asked if there were any more openings. I hoped he was going to say no. I tried to back out, but he wouldn’t let me. Damn it.
What if Ellen Datlow hears this thing? She’ll never talk to me. Roy will burn all the copies of my books. Sarah Peed will block me from submitting. John Shirley would use his Shadow powers and lock me away. What had I done? What if the crowd hates it? What if my humor is too weird? What if they boo me? How could I take such devastation?
Although I can’t put the title here without risking losing my WordPress, I can tell you it involved Obama in a very compromised position.
Man, it was brutal. Q was up first, and knocked it out of the park. Damn it. She was hilarious. She worked the crowd. She walked around and acted things out. Suddenly there was something pressing in the lobby, and, sorry everyone, Jp’s missing. But I stuck around.
So many other people came up. Christine Morgan. Edmund. Christopher Boyle. No one was getting booted. Oh, man. Can’t I just go up there and get this over with. Nope. I was last in line.
I took a deep breath and gave it my all. For the first 30 seconds I was terrified. Then there were a few chuckles. Okay. I can get through this. When I heard more laughter, I kept going. But, shoot, aren’t they supposed to stop me after two minutes? What’s going on? I got into it, using every ounce I had from my acting school time at Emerson.
Jeff yelled, “time” and I still had a page and a half to go. Oh, no! But the crowd cheered to go on, and I made it through.
The judges returned after what felt like 45 minutes. The final tally had come in.
Q took first! Not surprised at all. Edmund Collen took second place.
Miraculously, the tens and twenties I’d secretly given to the judges helped. My Gross Out placed third. What the heck? How’d that happen. Not quit sure, but a big surprise. Check out the prize package, expertly curated by Jeff.
Finally? Time to relax a bit. I’ll never forget looking up at some unGodly hour to see a bunch of horror authors being led by Mercedes (now dressed like she was going to a 50s prom. What the heck?) as they were all making peanut butter cups. Wild seeing Mike McCarty scooping peanut butter with tongs. But that’s KillerCon in a (pea)nut shell for you.
The final panel, “How To Kill” was awesome. Al Carlisle, who has interviewed Ted Bundy several times, filled us in on the mind of real serial killers. It was awesome watching veterans like Skipp, Schow and Shirley pick his brain.
The con came to a close, but not before a screening of Edward Lee’s “The Bighead” movie, directed by Michael Ling. Geoff Skinner, Ashley Totin, Lance, and Kate were also in attendance, who all stayed through the dead dog party.
Later that night, a small group of us stragglers made it to the top of the Stratoshpere. I hate heights, and was not super-psyched. The shaking from the wind made it feel like you were having a non-stop earthquake. I was brave enough to watch people making the sky jump: bungy-ing from the side. They have a plexiglass wall so you can safely watch people defy death and give themselves heart attacks. Thankfully, we retreated to some seats, shared a round, and then called it a night.
I ran into Edward Lee, Lance, and Michael Ling at the slots, where we talked about concerts and gambling and Vegas. Then, it was all over.
We were on our way back, and that weird science fiction like Sun Farm intrigued me. I picked up some flyers on the way. Places like, “Bullets and Burgers” and “The Atomic Testing Museum” are just so…unique.
And it was a race. My day was far from over. I had tickets to see a free show from Paul McCartney on Hollywood Boulevard. Me and Fawn barely made it, but made it we did (thanks, Paul!), enjoying much more than the promised 2-3 songs they’d told us. Sir Paul played for over an hour, hitting most the songs I’d wish for. “Ob-La-Di” indeed.
Until next year, adios amigos!
Here’s some more shots for y’all.