We interrupt your regularly scheduled Facebook stalking to bring you Pt. 2 of my journeys in Provo, Utah at the 2016 World Horror Convention.
Last time I left you with the tale of my arrival and how I met phenomenal horror icons (Linda Addison, Kelly Laymon, and Jack Ketchum) and how I was about to meet my writing inspiration Brian Keene.
I’m sorry to leave all of you with a Walking Dead-esque cliffhanger, but now you will finally be able to see the conclusion after waiting with bated breath.
So there I was, being introduced to the man who was my biggest influence in writing horror, whose work I read voraciously every time he released something new, and the person who had inspired me to become a writer myself.
I had to do a double take as he walked out of the long hallway leading to the elevators while Kelly and I were just standing there (me probably looking like an idiot as I pretended not to be internally screaming like a groupie at a rock concert).
Okay Connor, this is it. Be cool, be cool… don’t nonchalantly lick him.
Kelly made the introductions and then politely excused herself and headed to her room (this was around midnight, so I didn’t blame her in the slightest) and that was when Brian Keene bought me a Dr. Pepper and we proceeded to shoot the breeze.
It was a wonderful conversation and I managed to hold in the fact that he was basically the reason I became a writer and how much I admired his work until about halfway through the conversation.
He asked about my own writing and I regaled him with the zombie novel I’ve been sitting on called Next Dead Air. He offered me encouragement and advice and unexpected enthusiasm about my ideas for future projects in the genre, and it was awesome.
I can’t overstate the wonder of sharing sodas with your heroes in the middle of the night at an out-of-the-way hotel in Utah; it’ll change your life.
Eventually the night got to us and we both bade the other farewell for the evening (Sidenote: Brian had been on the road all day and took the time to talk and encourage a young writer even though I know he was exhausted. His writing and fame aside, that’s the kind of impression that sticks with you… he told me in 20 years when I’m where he is now I better be doing the same).
So I went to bed picking out the panels I wanted to attend the next day and pretty much riding my noble dream steed across a battlefield made of trampled rejection letters; I could keep receiving them, but I wasn’t going to stop and now I felt like I had a legitimate shot of continuing.
I woke up to a knocking around 7:00 in the morning. The lovely Linda Addison had made a joke about waking me up that morning and I mumble-shouted at the door, “Linda, it’s too early. I’ll be down in a minute!”
It wasn’t Linda though, just a very confused member of housekeeping. As she skittered away down the hall, I drug myself from a bed (I’m not an early-riser and for anyone who has seen me do so, I probably lope around and look as out-of-focus and low budget as a homemade Bigfoot video.)
Finally I looked somewhat presentable (jeans and button up shirt... it’s either that or a tee shirt proclaiming something awesome) and I proceeded downstairs.
There was a tour group leaving to go view one of the original printing presses in Utah and I found myself intrigued to learn something new, so I embarked on it along with Linda Addison and several other authors who were there for the convention including Joe McKinney (well known for his zombie novels that have an element of realism not seen in many others), and Darren Shan (author of the Demonata and the Cirque Du Freak series). Needless to say I felt like I had gone from my small fishbowl to walking with giants in the space of eight hours or so.
The tour went well and I got to know both Joe and Darren in this walk, along with bonding with Linda.
We returned to the hotel and the convention where upon we temporarily parted as I went to find myself some breakfast. Lo and behold, I ran into Brian who had emerged to take part in the convention activities himself.
I told him of the morning activities after he asked what I had been up to and then he asked me a question I never expected: “Hey, I want to do a new author roundtable for my podcast. Would you like to be on that?”
I had been trucking along really smooth (I thought), making inroads and trying not to go fanboy on my hero… needless to say after that particular sentence I looked something like this…
I, of course, accepted and tried not to do a Breakfast Club-esque fist thrust as both of us made our way to the named room (they had tree themes: Aspen, Birch, and Elm) where the opening ceremonies of the convention would start.
Brian went off to interact with people he knew and I was left to my own devices. I took a seat (front row because I was an eager young author) and watched as the invited named authors of this convention took their places on the raised stage.
I still dream of one day sitting on that stage with them.
As I waited for the opening ceremony to begin, I did a small bit of Facebook scrounging to kill some time and I happened to notice something…
Three years ago my second published short story, And the River Rolled was included in Sirens Call Publications anthology Fear of the Water. There were a lot of good stories, but one in particular stuck with me, one called Pool Shark by Shenoa Carroll Bradd. To this day, I’m jealous of that story and most likely always will be. The meat of the story is exactly what the title implies… a shark… in… a pool!
When I was a kid I used to go swimming at a golf course about half a mile from my house called the Indian Hills Country Club. Now this being Atlanta, Texas where I once put a pregnancy test in some city water and it returned a positive result, the pool wasn’t exactly the most well kept. First time my hair was ever bleached and not because I wanted to make a statement.
Still, I was 5 years old and didn’t care I just liked swimming. I remember that blue murky water and the fear that there was something swimming under there just waiting for me to jump in. Shenoa’s story brought that brilliant nostalgia back.
Long back story and side anecdote short, I discovered that Shenoa was attending the convention as well and I made a mental note to seek her out. In the meantime, it was time for the opening ceremony.
Titan of SciFi writing Kevin J. Anderson was also in attendance and as they introduced everybody it was like looking at some kind of modern pantheon. And here I was; the young student eager for any kind of knowledge that they were willing to lay on me.
So the convention began and I was off to the races, eager to attend every single panel I could and therein lies one of the hardest things about these conventions… time and availability. You want to do so much and go to so many of the panels but some of them take place at the same time and you do have to find time to eat in between them.
I found Shenoa at one of those panels and we became instant friends (that seemed to be a thing amongst horror writers, fast friendships, probably because we are all passionate about a corner of literature looked down on by the publishing world).
Brian was on the same panel as the one I met Shenoa at and afterwards I asked him what time we were doing the podcast that weekend. He informed me that he was still looking for one person and I recommended Shenoa and in Sensei Keene’s infinite wisdom he decided to act on that recommendation and thus Shenoa was added to the New Author Panel Podcast for the Horror Show With Brian Keene.
The New Author Panel consisted of myself, Shenoa Carroll Bradd, Richard Wolley, and Amber Fallon.
As we helped ourselves to refreshments and got to know each other better, Brian set up his equipment but eventually we were ready to begin.
You can listen to the podcast here: http://www.projectiradio.com/mercedes-yardleys-rules-for-broadcast-excellence-the-horror-show-with-brian-keene-ep-68/
But for the more sensitive among you, I deliver a disclaimer that there is some language so take that into account before you listen to it.
I tell you if you ever want to feel inadequate as a writer, sit down in a podcast with Amber Fallon and Shenoa Carroll Bradd. Both of these phenomenal women blew me away at their accomplishments and how they carried themselves.
Richard Wolley, the other writer on the panel, became a fast cohort as both of us joked that we were going to cosplay as Master Blaster (that’s from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for everyone not in the know) at the next convention we attended. Richard also does a podcast that reviews films called the Jabber and the Drone which I would also recommend… seriously go check it out.
Going to leave a link for it right here for your convenience:
All in all it was fun, it was awe inspiring, and even now I look on those moments with fondness.
Alas, the fun and games came to an end and it was time for me to do what I had been borderline dreading since I had arrived in Provo, Utah… to pitch my work to potential publishers.
To all of you who know me, I usually fly by the seat of my pants. In fact on my tombstone someday it will probably say “I’m Going to Wing It!”- Wile E. Young (about something that he most certainly shouldn’t have winged). So here I was trying to put together something that sounded halfway decent.
Brian and Linda were busy on panels, but I found Jack Ketchum at the bar eating his lunch along with Kelly Laymon. We chatted about our day but I couldn’t resist asking them, “Guys I’m about to pitch my work for the first time… do you have any advice for me?”
And I distinctly remember Jack Ketchum putting down his fork, turning in his chair and looking me dead in the eye, smiling. “Here is your advice… go in there and kick ass.”
I have to admit that is some of the best advice I’ve ever received when it comes to winging things.
I waited outside a small room where my first pitch would take place (I intended to pitch Don’t Reel In.)
I took a deep breath.
They called my name.
And that will be in the third and final blog post that covers my time in Provo, Utah.
Keep that bated breath handy, but don’t worry, that post is already half way done and WILL be posted next week.
Literature in Review
Over the summer I went to the beach as you may recall, and when I’m on the beach I like to read. This particular summer, I had picked up the Terminal by Amber Fallon. I met Amber at the World Horror Convention in Provo (which you obviously read about above) and was excited to read her novella.
I really had no idea what was waiting for me with this particular piece of literature.
The story begins in an airport (big shock) and involves a couple going home to visit parents for the Christmas holidays, reminiscent of virtually every holiday movie, but then is derailed when a sudden alien invasion happens.
It gets worse as our hero struggles through the airport trying to find his way to freedom. This is where Ms. Fallon shines, her mastery of dialogue and her willingness to show the gore such a situation would obviously produce.
The style of writing was highly reminiscent of Brian Keene and J.F. Gonzalez (two of my own biggest inspirations) and I found the book and the characters easy and fun to read.
The problem is… it is a novella! I wanted more!
Don’t let that dissuade you though, she is working on a sequel.
In short, Terminal is pulpy, Terminal is gory, Terminal is compelling… Terminal is good!
Here is an Amazon link should you wish to purchase it:
and a little extra “encouragement” by way of the Hypnotoad
Wile E. World News
Well it has finally happened… the day is finally upon us… the season finale of America. Hopefully it won’t actually be that bad, but I’m much more of a cynic than I used to be, so I can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Let your conscience guide you as you head to the polls. As for me, well… we had a 5.3 earthquake last night in Oklahoma that lasted for a good half a minute.
Sometimes life provides us with omens whether we want them or not.
Quote of the Week
Em the Slayer: You’re so warm!
Wile E. Young: I’m like an industrial space heater of evil.
Well, that’s it for this week. I’ll leave you with a writing update and wish you well as I set up my latest trap to catch the roadrunner.
Interstate Eldritch: 16,000 words
The Twitch: 500 words (out of 8,000).