June 23rd, 2011

Stoker Weekend 2011

Really, I don't know how it happened that nearly every photo of me from the recent Stoker Awards Weekend in Long Island shows me with a glass in my hand. I didn't drink that much...well, okay. Yeah, I did a little drinking, but doggone it - it was my vacation!
And a fine one it was, too. Hats off to the event organizers Vince A. Liaguno and Nanci Kalanta for creating an event that put a few new spins on an old occasion. In addition to the usual panoply of panels, readings, workshops and parties, Vince made sure there were no less than three book launch parties (for beautiful new titles from Dark Scribe Press), and the expert videographers he hired allowed horror fans all over the world to watch the Saturday night Bram Stoker Awards presentation live (over 600 viewers logged in, and soon more will be able to watch the permanent record online).

Nanci utilized the considerable talents of Deena Warner in creating a lovely program booklet, and Vince brought in some local haunters to dress the event rooms with around a dozen fearfully-realistic full-sized figures from a local haunted house. There was also a pro photographer on hand to snap shots, and those scary mannequins were mighty popular in the photo area!
Saturday kept me hopping, as I participated on no less than three panels, two signings, and one workshop before presenting Ellen Datlow's Lifetime Achievement Award during the evening presentation. I destroyed cherished illusions during my screenwriting workshop as part of the Writers Workshop of Horror presentation (I'm sorry, Jeff Strand!), I read my first professionally published poem out loud ("Bodega Bay, 2004", from the Christopher Conlon-edited A Sea of Alone), I chattered with the likes of Sarah Langan and Gillian Flynn and Jonathan Maberry and Norman Prentiss and Kurt Newton about everything from blogging (like this!) to monster moms, and I hope I honored Ellen properly.
I never did get out to see New York (the one day I'd hoped to venture into the city especially to visit the Strand Bookstore, it poured rain and of course I hadn't brought an umbrella), but I really went for the people, anyway, and you can't beat that. I saw old friends I hadn't seen in months or even years: Michael Arnzen, Mike Marano, Rocky Wood, Sarah Langan, Norman Prentiss, Michael Rowe, Michael Louis Calvillo (wow, we should've called this the Michael Weekend), Ben Ethridge, Heather Graham, Les Klinger, Joe McKinney, Lisa Mannetti, Michael Knost (thank you for lunch!), Ellen Datlow, Angel Leigh McCoy, Martel Sardina, Matt Schwartz, Linda Addison, Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen; and I met some utterly delightful new people for the first time, including Christopher Conlon, Kurt Newton, Gillian Flynn, Doug Clegg (I know we'd met before, Doug, but...well, it felt like the first time, so to speak), Anthony Timpone, Stephen Graham jones, Greg Herren, Shade Rupe, Jeremy Wagner, Kurt Newton and John Cozzoli. I'm sure I'm leaving someone out, and I apologize, but I occasionally felt like a pebble in a hurricane.
Three final notes on the weekend. First off, I once again tip my hat to Nanci and Vince. Vince and I were quite obviously separated at birth and I'm thrilled that we found each other again.

Secondly, you all know by now that I won my fourth Bram Stoker Award, this time for First Novel (for The Castle of Los Angeles). I'm still honored and pleased and astonished and generally blown away, and I'm very happy to share the award this year with Ben Ethridge for his fine book Black and Orange. As I said in my acceptance speech, five years ago writing a novel seemed just impossibly difficult to me, so this was an extraordinary validation. Thanks again to Gary Braunbeck for the introduction, Dennis Etchison for the two-page blurb, John Palisano for the book trailer, all the actors I abused during my years as a theater director (especially my live-in actor Ricky), and especially Gary Fry of Gray Friar Press. Gray Friar has been around for eight years, producing brilliant books by the likes of Stephen Volk and Conrad Williams, so I'm pleased that my book provided such a deserving publisher with some extra recognition.

Lastly, a few words about HWA, who of course were the real force behind the marvelous weekend. As the organization's longstanding treasurer, I'm always delighted when one of these events goes well enough to engender new members and compliments. Over the last few years, I think HWA has really turned a corner, with our yearly BookExpo appearances (thanks again, Vince!), our "Dark Whispers" blog and our wiki (shout-out to Angel), our successful Blood Lite anthologies (thanks, Kevin Anderson!), the new Supporting membership, and the revamped, half-juried Stoker Awards. Near-future goals include organizing the chapters, more localized events, more anthologies, a scholarship fund (we have started this already), and other projects too early in the planning stages to talk about yet. Call me biased, but the future of horror - and the HWA - looks good.

1. With Guest of Honor Gillian Flynn
2. Nanci Kalanta and Vince Liaguno (and some really evil chocolate drinks)
3. HWA President Rocky Wood and friends onstage during the Bram Stoker Awards presentation
4. The Writers Workshop of Horror gang: F. Paul Wilson, me, Michael Knost, Jeff Strand
5. Book launch for A Sea of Alone: (Back row) Michael Louis Calvillo, Kurt Newton, Christopher Conlon, Norman Prentiss, and Michael Arnzen; (front row) me, Martel Sardina, Marge Simon
6. The 2011 Bram Stoker Award recipients: Angel Leigh McCoy (Silver Hammer Award), Bruce Boston (Poetry Collection), Rocky Wood (accepting the Richard Laymon Award on behalf of Michael Colangelo), Benjamin Kane Ethridge (First Novel), Norman Prentiss (Long Fiction), Peter Straub (Novel), Ellen Datlow (Anthology, Lifetime Achievement Award), me