This year my wife Kim, and I attended Stoker Con 2017 on the Queen Mary. It was the second Stoker Con by the Horror Writer’s Association. We were also at Stoker Con 2016 at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Somehow, the idea of a con on a retired passenger liner seemed like a great idea. In some ways, it was.
The Queen Mary was launched in 1936, a modern luxury liner. Her ballrooms, salons, passageways, and cabins were decorated in rich wood and brass fittings. Unfortunately, she has fallen on bad times. Rust, missing and cracked tiles, chipped and water-damaged wood panels, and rotten decking make her look older than she is. The walls are paper-thin. Every sound carried. Our shower head sprayed 360 degrees and the toilet dripped. The chairs in my cabin were horribly uncomfortable. Surprisingly, on deck there were few places to sit and enjoy the breeze. A few chairs near the shops, a handful of old and weathered chairs and tables on the port side deck, four tables near the ubiquitous Starbucks, and a few scattered benches were the only offerings. As a museum, the Queen Mary was a piece of history, but as a hotel, she left a lot to be desired.
However, Stoker Con 2017 was a success. Kudos to the HWA officers and volunteers whose hard work made it possible. My bad knee was giving me trouble. The stairs didn’t help. I used a cane and sounded like Captain Ahab stalking the deck at night. In spite of this handicap, I attended several panels, a workshop on building an author’s platform by my old friend Jonathan Maberry, a workshop on using fewer words to say more by my new friend Patrick Frievald, and several book signings and readings. As usual, I came away with more knowledge than with which I arrived. That is one goal of a con.
I also renewed old friendships, met acquaintances, and made new friends. That is the true heart of a writer’s con. Networking is the key to success, in writing as it is in any other business, and make no mistake, writing is a business. Writing can be fun and therapeutic, but to reach an audience, every writer’s goal, one must be a salesperson. Selling ideas or completed novels is every bit as difficult as selling a used car or a timeshare in Miami. The pitch sessions are one way to seek a publisher or an agent. They are a ten or fifteen-minute golden opportunity to speak face-to-face, one-on-one, and make your case. This year I had nothing to pitch, but I have sold several novels through them. I heartily suggest a pitch session when the opportunity arises. The pre-pitch panels allow you to hone your presentation and gear it to the best representative for your work.
As usual, I came away with too many books (Well, no such thing really). All were signed copies with a special place on my limited space bookshelves. Meeting George R.R. Martin was a special treat. A reading I attended by Paul Dale Anderson and Nicole Cushing revealed the darker side of horror fiction.
The real reason for the event, the Stoker Banquet and awards, highlighted the achievements of those who stood out in the horror field in 2016. Because of my health, I did not attend, but I applaud the winners of the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards.
Novel – The Fisherman by John Langan
First Novel – Haven by Tom Deady
Young Adult Novel – Snowed by Maria Alexander
Long Fiction – The Winter Box by Tim Waggoner
Short Fiction – “The Crawlspace” by Joyce Carol Oates
Fiction Collection – The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates
Anthology – Borderlands 6 by Olivia and Tom Monteleone
Non Fiction – Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
Poetry Collection – Brothel by Stephanie M. Wytovitch
Graphic Novel – Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allen Poe
Screenplay – The Witch