Where to Find Me at Necon

Necon 34 starts tomorrow! I’m very excited. I’ve been going to Necon regularly since 2000, only missing one year between then and now. This year, I’m deeply honored to be one of the Writer Guests of Honor, along with Michael Koryta and Amber Benson. Coincidentally, this year’s Artist Guest of Honor is Erik Mohr, the mad genius behind so many of ChiZine Publications’ amazing book covers, including the gorgeous cover for Chasing the Dragon! I hope he brings a print of it for the art room!

Necon announced their programming schedule a while back, which you can see here, but I haven’t had the time to blog about it until now. So here’s the rundown on where you can find me at Necon 34 (as you’ll see, the Necon panel descriptions tend to be short and jokey; quite a difference from Readercon!):

Friday

2PM   Somebody’s Gotta Tell the Truth: The Smart People’s Panel
We’ve pretty much devoted every other panel to talking about stuff people have made up (i.e. fiction); it’s only fair we give the non-fiction writers, critics, and reviewers an hour to talk about what they do, too.
Jack Haringa (M), Nicholas Kaufmann, Hank Wagner, Hildy Silverman, Sheri White, Tony Tremblay

[This may be the first time anyone has said I belong with the smart people!]

8PM   Meet the Authors Party

[I’ll have a few copies of Chasing the Dragon and Hunt at World’s End with me for anyone interested. Copies of Dying Is My Business will be available at the convention.]

Saturday

1PM   Guest of Honor Interviews (NOTE — Extended Panel)
We’ve got three amazing Writer Guests of Honor this year and let’s face it, try as we might none of us have ever been able to get Jack Haringa to shut up. As such, we knew an hour just wouldn’t cut it, so we’re scheduling this for two hours and promising a 10 – 15 minute break around 2PM.
Jack Haringa (Toastmaster), Michael Koryta, Amber Benson, Nicholas Kaufmann

9PM   The Infamous Necon Roast

[As usual, I’ll be co-hosting with Christopher Golden. Who’s getting roasted this year? Unless you’re attending the convention, you’ll just have to wait until afterward to find out!]

Sunday

9AM   Up and Coming: Genre and Erotic Fiction Do the 9AM “Walk of Shame”
Sex sells. Romance sells. Genre fiction sells (we all hope!). Combining the two would seem to be a “chocolate and peanut butter” no-brainer … but how do you do it right?
Sephera Giron (M), Peter Dudar, Hal Bodner, Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Nick Kaufmann

[I may not be known for my erotica stories, but I’ve had a good bit of success with them. Should be an interesting panel.]

And that’s it for my schedule. You should also be able to find me attending other panels, browsing in the dealers room, hanging out in the bar, or socializing in the lobby or courtyard. See you there!

Reading at Readercon

Readercon reading

Here is the photo I mentioned in the previous blog entry, taken by Jack Haringa at my Readercon reading. Or is this me at a corporate board meeting discussing marketing strategies for the new cross-platform business paradigm? You be the judge!

Readercon 25

I attended Readercon 25 this past weekend, and as always I had a blast. The programming is outstanding — there’s always something happening that you’re likely to want to see — but for me the real attraction is always getting to see friends I usually only get see once or twice a year: John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Jack Haringa, F. Brett Cox, Chesya Burke, Michael Cisco (who lives in New York but whom I usually only see outside of it for some reason), Duncan Eagleson, Shawn Bagley, Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and a host of others. This year my friends Lee Thomas and Nate Southard made the trip up from Austin, too. It was a rare treat seeing them.

I hosted my first-ever kaffeeklatsch on Friday afternoon. I was nervous. I don’t enjoy talking about myself or my work, so I figured it would just be a bunch of people sitting in silence for an hour, staring at each other. If anyone bothered coming at all. In the end, the reality was much nicer. We had a nice-sized group and the conversation flowed freely and organically. I wound up sharing an unexpected number of “Tales from Retail” about my time as a B&N department manager and an independent bookstore owner, and also related the “Unfortunate Tale of the Dying Is My Business Misprint,” which is much easier for me to handle in hindsight than it was at the time. I would call the kaffeeklatsch a success and would happily do one again next year.

My reading Friday night was much better attended than last year’s, despite being scheduled during prime dinner time again. I read an excerpt from Die and Stay Dead, the same excerpt I read at the Hi-Fi Bar earlier this year. I think I flubbed all the funny lines, but otherwise it was well received. (Apparently, there’s a photo of me reading on Jack Haringa’s Facebook page, but I can’t nab it because I’m not on Facebook.) I stuck around afterward for John Langan and Glen Hirshberg’s readings, which were phenomenal. Indeed, one of the highlights of the convention was finally getting to meet and interact with Glen, whom I found delightful and look forward to spending time with again soon.

The Shirley Jackson Awards on Sunday was another treat. You can see who won here. Big congrats to my dear friend Veronica Schanoes on winning for Burning Girls, and to my friends Robert Jackson Bennett, Nathan Ballingrud, and Joseph Pulver on their wins as well!

My one panel appearance came right after the awards with “Horror for Diverse Audiences.” Moderator John Langan and fellow panelists Gemma Files, Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland (who is also a belly dancer!), and Shveta Thakrar were all amazing. I think I did all right. I mentioned during the panel that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender (a word I only just learned recently!) male, I am not among the marginalized or the ignored. People on book covers tend to look like me. Even if the people in the book don’t, people on book covers tend to look like me! I talked about how I have to remain ever-vigilant in my own writing not to make use of the troublesome or insulting racial and sexual tropes that I’ve absorbed from our society and pop culture over the course of forty-plus years. I used the example of a demonic entity that I would be tempted to give jet-black skin to show how evil it is, and how I have to be self-aware enough to not do that and instead choose some other way that would not leave a bad taste in the mouth of my black readers. It was definitely the kind of topic that could have filled two hours, not just one. I especially wish we could have talked a little more about how hard it can be to separate the artist from the art when the artist has disturbing opinions about Jews or blacks or what have you, and how much easier it is to do so when the artist is no longer alive. Lovecraft is a perfect example of this. It strikes me as a fruitful discussion to have someday.

The ChiZine gang had a table in the book shop and nearly sold out of copies of Chasing the Dragon, much to my delight (and my surprise — the book is almost four years old now!). Unfortunately, none of the booksellers had copies of Dying Is My Business, though one, surprisingly, did have several copies of Hunt at World’s End, which, though it’s a reprint, is technically my most recent release. And speaking of the book shop, I managed to leave Readercon with a mere six books this time and no need to take out a second mortgage. Go me!

It’s always bittersweet to leave Readercon. It’s hard to part with such good friends and good conversations. But I’ll be back next year. I consider Readercon a not-to-be-missed experience, and I’m always very happy to be a part of their programming.

A Handbook of American Prayer

A Handbook of American PrayerA Handbook of American Prayer by Lucius Shepard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an amazing, astonishing novel! So subtle, so beautifully written, every word choice the perfect one. Some of the references feel dated, it’s true — Larry King is no longer on the air; Sharon Stone is no longer prevalent in the public eye — but these details nonetheless help ground the story with just the right amount of realism for the sly, understated metaphysical aspects to have that much greater power. The plot meanders a bit in the first half, which I suppose is what happens when the narrator, Wardlin Stuart, is basically meandering through life, but it picks up considerably in the second. My only real issue with the novel is that the female characters are portrayed reductively: most of them are defined as sex partners of the male characters, or trying to become their sex partners; all of them manage to have their breasts mentioned in some way. If you tend to notice that kind of thing, which I do, it starts to stick out. Still, looking past this shortcoming, the novel blew me away. This is my first Shepard book, but I doubt it will be my last. I’m only sorry it took me this long to discover him, what with my friends raving about his work to me for years now, and that I did so only after his untimely passing earlier this year.

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