Sadly, the WHC 2014 in Portland is over. Fortunately, I took away more than I expected, mostly because I’m not a huge Con fan for the simple reason that I usually feel disconnected at them, which may or may not be a product of my own perception.
Here’s a quick breakdown.
The people – seeing/meeting Ellen Datlow, Brian Keene, Norman Partridge, Joe McKinney, John Skipp, Stephen Jones, Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Graham Jones, John Shirley, Jack Ketchum, Paula Guran, Jeff Strand, Cody Goodfellow, W.H.Pugmire, Nick Mamatas, and many more.
Damnation Books – [who accepted my forthcoming novella, Feral Things) had a huge table full of many of their books (hoping mine will join them at the next Con), and while I didn’t get to catch up with Kim, I spent some time with the man behind the scenes, William.
Awards: watching Brian Keene accept his Grand Master Award. His speech was unifying, genuine, and so very inspirational.
Classes I took:
- Hardcore F*cking Horror (if you’ve ever wondered if you’re weird, a pervert, incredibly evil, terribly gross, or even all of them at once … you’re not. Believe me, there is someone else out there that makes you look totally f*cking normal, so write what you want, while still respecting the guidelines of publishers – that said, EraserHead just published a book/story about a baby Jesus as a butt plug – see what I mean?)
- Life After Walking Dead (zombies, zombies, zombies – like them or not, their interest will never die. All the editors/writers here still love zombie stories, but they all want to see something new, something fresh and unusual, so it might be worth the extra effort to research zombies and get a real feel for everything that’s been done in order to do it differently.)
- Research for Horror (this class was a real disappointment and maybe I was anticipating it too much, but I ended up spending most of the time writing the next scene in my current book.)
- What Editors Want (confidence in writing, a strong voice, a logical hook at the beginning that follows through with the rest of the story, and Nick Mamatas wanted to make clear that your hook is not followed by a boring paragraph, as many writers tend to just insert something cool or shocking at the beginning to suffice the hook, and the last thing they all want is high concept, that is a story that is original and a world well constructed.)
- Writing Characters that Come to Life on the Page (this was a strange class, but I took away some interesting points: really hear the characters’ voices, they aren’t just a zombie or navy seal or an astronaut monkey – your characters must be real with real emotions, real problems, and real thoughts [which I already knew, but it's one of those things that you need to hear over and over again because it is the most important element in any story], make your character say no (conflict building), and the last, what if you met your character in real life? What would they say to you?)
- The Short Form (One of the best classes, here’s some tidbits: you can start your story in the middle of the story, but a lot of the editors dislike the starting in the middle of a scene, if you start too hard/fast/etc., you’ll have difficulty raising the marks later on and especially at the climax, supernatural works better for shorter works as sustaining the ‘spooky world’ element in a novel requires more explaining which ruins the mystery of ‘supernatural’, the best endings are a twist that works and compliments the entire story, and POV in a short story is critical so think this through. Also, the consensus was that novels suck [because all of them are longer than necessary] and short stories/novellas rock. Go figure.)
- That is not Dead – H.P. Lovecraft’s Contributions to Modern Horror (popular opinion is that H.P. Lovecraft is the most influential person in the history of horror; it’s shocking how many anthologies, eZines, movies, poetry, breakfast prayers, etc. are in the name of Lovecraft, Cthulhu, Dreamlands, Madness, because his horror is depthless in concept, genre, mystery, setting … basically, every horror writer, dark fiction writer, writer in general should familiarize themselves with Lovecraft’s works or risk being hunted down with pitchforks and voodoo dolls. Seriously.)
- Social Media (be more social!, use more photos, hashtags, and links, study writers you like to see how and what they do (every one praised Joe Lansdale’s use of media), talk about your current works in progress and publications, include brief mentions of your personal life [without oversharing/overdoing], spread out to other mediums beyond Twitter and FB, even Pintrest, target influencers [people you wish you knew better, but don't overstep boundaries], time your reviews/interviews/etc. around like events, and ask questions (opinions, polls, title-naming contests, etc. – people actually doing enjoy helping others. Hmm, go figure.)
I also attended some readings that were very entertaining, with Jack Ketchum, Norman Partridge, Jeff Strand, and Alex Scully (editor of Enter at Your Own Risk anthologies).
Overall, it was a good experience. I definitely don’t look like most horror writers, sporting only one tattoo, no other piercings except my ears, keeping lace where it belongs, and hair that doesn’t match the rainbow anywhere, but I did make myself talk to at least three people I’ve never met, had a positive conversation with Norman Partridge at the book signing, and wrote over 3K the next day. Will I go to another one? Absolutely. Did I buy enough books? Never.