Friday, October 15, 2010

Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Weekend (Photo Heavy)

I was a guest at the Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Weekend Oct. 8-10, 2010. Thanks to Linda S. Cowden (Auntie Maim) for coordinating the Author Track!

Full report follows.

Thanks also to K.L. (Kathy) Nappier for securing some superb budget accommodation at the Country Inn & Suites, a short walk from the convention's locale at the Wyndham Resort. ("Elevators!" "Continental breakfast with eggs and sausage!")

For once I got a decent sleep before the con. I took off from home around high noon and arrived about 90 minutes later at Room 212...

... where a young squirrel greeted me from the palm tree outside my window.

I'd first swung by my P.O. Box, where my membership pin from Broad Universe awaited -- just in time for me to take to wear throughout the weekend. The pins are being distributed to members in celebration of Broad Universe's tenth anniversary, but I've also just joined the organization's Motherboard (a.k.a. executive board).

I'm also wearing an Orlando Area Science Fiction Society t-shirt.

Kathy and I hoofed it to the Wyndham, where we met up with Linda to get our badges & tent cards before the Zombie Walk. Behind us was this line waiting to get into a convention that, last I heard, clocked in at around 15,000 attendees:

Below: Zombie Walk about to begin. I thought it quite a propos that the Tourist Info spot behind them is captioned, "Know Before You Go."

Much screaming soon ensued.

See my photoset for more Zombie Walk shots. Also get a load of this video, courtesy of Orlando Attractions Magazine.

Traffic had been warned:

Kathy and I repaired to Uno for dinner, where Spooky Empire had infiltrated as well -- from Young Frankenstein showing above the bar...

("Put ... the candle ... BACK!")

... to Kathy's special Spooky Empire Zombie drink eyeballing my beer.

Across the aisle, a zombie family decided to have me for dessert.

Across from Uno, the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not Museum lay at its usual tilt.

Back at the Wyndham, we caught a saucy performance by the VaudeVillains burlesque troupe.

John Citrone of Xomba gave a Horror Journalism workshop after the performance, with article, pitch, and review samples along with their deconstruction. For me it was an education in SEO (search engine optimization) and the special considerations of writing for the web.

My Saturday schedule included three panels, two signings at the author tables, and an interview. Kathy and I had a solid breakfast at the Country Inns & Suites, then trundled our wares to the Wyndham with a semi-mad dash across broad and busy Sand Lake Road.

I had my full complement of offerings with me but only so much room for a display, which included Deviations: Covenant (paperback, Aisling Press); Covenant and Appetite on CD (click here for more info and free downloads); Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet (Dark Scribe Press, Bram Stoker Award winner; contains my story "Memento Mori"); Vampyr Verse (Popcorn Press; contains my poem "Neighbors"); and She Nailed A Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror (Dybbuk Press, 2010; contains my story "Judgment at Naioth" -- the anthology is newly reviewed here and received a starred review at Publisher's Weekly).

After the first signing I packed up my gear and high-tailed it to my first panel, "Believers, Skeptics, and Cynics," led by renowned cryptozoologist Scott Marlowe of MonsterQuest fame. We discussed where we fell on the spectrum of whether we believed in monsters, which expanded to paranormal phenomena and UFOs. With respect to monsters, I consider myself a skeptic and also questioned the language. In my view, a thin line may exist between "monsters" and species not yet formally discovered. (What would we have said, for example, about the "Hobbits" of Indonesia, prior to finding the current evidence? That said, "evidence" is also in the eye of the beholder.) Other panelists included Robert Shuster, Stokely Gittens, Vince Courtney, and Joe Garden.

From there I sat in on "Zombie Outbreak: How to Survive," where Kathy took her seat beside T-shirt Bordello's "Don of the Dead" Myers and played to a packed room:

Zombie blogger Scott Kenemore moderated the panel, joined also by Kimberly Raiser, reviewer Laura Reuther, and Rob Fox.

That left us an hour before my next book-signing and Kathy's next panel. We scooted to the Wyndham's Market Cafe, where Karen -- who if I heard correctly was serving 11 tables, all of them in a hurry -- was Positively Fabulous. She got us served, satisfied, and out of there lickety-split.

After Signing #2 I hoofed it to an interview with That Sci-Fi Show, which was broadcasting live onsite for the weekend. Thanks to Chris West and Sci-Fi Amy! My 10-minute spot begins about 20 minutes into the show's final installment on Oct. 9. Transcript to come.

Then I was off to moderate "Poetry: Spice Up Your Story," with readings and discussion among myself, Linda S. Cowden, and Sierra Costner. We told our stories of how we became poets/genre poets. I distributed literature from the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Audience members scribbled notes as we discussed markets, resources, sources of inspiration, and different poetic forms.

That brought me to 6 p.m., with one more panel to go for the day. I had a quick dinner back at the Country Inns & Suites, where I also dropped off all but my display books -- though I managed to make a sale at my 9 p.m. panel, "Villain or Victim: Which is Easier to Write?" There I joined Richard Lee Byers, Jason Surrell, Kimberly Raiser, and moderator John Catapano.

I loved this panel topic, because the line between my villain and victim can be pretty slim. One tends to turn into the other and back again. As one might expect, we all pointed out the necessity of making characters complicated, victim and villain alike, along with the pitfalls of providing too much background info that might spoil a character's mystery. Discussion crossed from literature into film, spanning from the tragedy of Frankenstein's monster to the layering of Hannibal the Cannibal.

And then -- to bed.

Sunday began with the 11 a.m. panel "Research & History Can Make or Break Your Story," moderated by historian Brett Link, with myself, Linda S. Cowden, Owl Goingback, and K.L. Nappier. Along with research methods and the importance of using multiple and primary sources (i.e., Wikipedia can be the first step, but don't make it the only step!), we discussed the advantage of having way more notes than make it into a story.

Then I pretty much laid back until my 3 p.m. signing, before heading to a final, quick Q&A panel as part of John Citrone's presentation "Writing Fiction Isn't as Hard as it Seems -- It's Much Harder." But not before I snapped this shot:

(Scott Marlowe is just in frame at lower left.)

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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