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StokerCon 2024.

Lounging. l-r: Jonathan Duckworth, Colleen Anderson, and me.

When people asked me how the convention was, I say it was good fun. That being said, four days of meet and greet, shop talk and connecting can be full-on and tiring - especially if you do it from the breakfast in the early hours until ...well, the early hours.

Having flown out from Heathrow on the Wednesday afternoon, I was on the same flight as Neil McRobert from the Talking Scared podcast. Not sat together until the Uber to the hotel; which gave the chance for some shop talk. Some people had already arrived, such as Lee Murray and her partner, Donna J.W. Munro, Andrew Robertson (in from Toronto), Meghan Acuri, etc. The convention didn't actually start until the following morning, which is where hotel breakfast was had with the likes of Jonathan Duckworth, Tim McGregor, etc.

Time with Dracula's master - the San Diego horror author Brian Asman.

Given that the convention started later on the Thursday, more people started to show up as the day went on. Cue much beaming and the unfettered power of hugging. Case in point: this was the first time I met San Diego's Brian Asman. Now I'd know Brian Asman online ever since 2017 when we did the A Story A Week challenge (championed by Michael David Wilson, the founder and podcaster of the This Is Horror podcast. Note that this is also where I know Sarah Read from). So cue much hugging, jokes and shoptalk - which is pretty much how the weekend went.

The hotel had a garden, if you will, where the opening ceremony was held on the Thursday evening. Where the mass author signing was held on the Friday evening. And where the cocktail party prior to the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony was held on the Saturday evening. And prior to the award ceremony was the banquet. Which, from what I could see, had a full turnout - I saw this from out in the hallway. I'm given to understand that attendance for StokerCon this year was so good, a number of attendees couldn't actually get into the room to watch; it was filled to capacity. Those of us lounging outside those open doors in comfy seats across the hallway still talked shop, along with this, that and the third; Diane Sismour, TJ Kang, etc.

This is how we do a fireside chat: late night at a firepit - l-r: Sephera Giron, me, Shelly Lyons, Brian Asman, and Andrew Robertson.

It might be surprising to hear this, but I wouldn't say I'm a people person. I don't actively surround myself with a lot of people, because that's how I'm wired, but I do have more of an appreciation for people and the shapes and sizes they come in - both literal and figurative. In childhood, I was literally the shy kid in the room. Those instances where Mama would take me to the family doctor for whatever the ailment was, I would sit on the chair next to her, swinging my legs and looking down at my feet. Why? Because I was too shy to make eye contact with anyone in the room. Where I gradually swallowed my shyness in talking to people; women, in particular. Because, apparently, faint heart never won fair maiden ...and I grew tired of women passing me by.

Now I talk to pretty much any and everybody, as long as I'm in the mood. And what I'm mindful of, especially as someone who was shy as a kid, is how other people would be. Everyone from the usual suspects to the new connects. Those who are gregarious. Those who are quiet. Those who are shy. Those who are different. But, in the genre community, everyone is different. The irony is that for those of us who write arguably the darkest, most insidious and twisted things, we are genuinely some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. So while I'm not a 'people person', I try to be mindful of people. Those that look to me as some kind of inspiration, sounding board, or a source to confide in, I do my best to handle that with grace, respect and understanding.

A full house (where not everyone got in) - the 2024 HWA Bram Stoker Awards ceremony gets under way.

Bearing in mind the size of the convention, you're unlikely to get to meet and greet everybody. Those met last year, e.g. Katrina Carruth, Gemma Amor, LP Hernandez, etc., I got to spend very little time with. On the flipside, more time was spent with the likes of Vincent Vena Cava , talking game, story aesthetics, cinematic sensibilities and comic books over breakfast. Or with Shelly Lyons late night at the firepit about fear. Or with Ricky Grove about genres, reading and short stories. Or with Tamika Thompson and Pamela Raymond talking submissions and game over pizza and pasta on The Day That The Hotel Couldn't Serve Food and There Was A Mass Exodus To The Pizza Parlour. Catching up with Jacques Mersereau in the Dealers Room and talking about mindset and longevity.

It's this discussion and interaction, among other things, that keeps me invigorated. That makes me want to deliver my best work. On those occasions I'm asked if it's worthwhile going to conventions, the answer is always yes. As for 'why':

  1. I get to spend time with my peers - this includes the usual suspects and the new connects.

  2. It reinforces those bonds with said peers.

  3. More often than not, there's new business as a result.

  4. It gives me something to talk about.

  5. It's a way of keeping my ear to the ground in the genre.

  6. It means I'm seen (and helps keep me at the forefront of the genre).

l-r: Dennis Crosby, Justin Key, Tamika Thompson, Pamela Raymond, and me.

That last one may seem ironic, given that while there are black people at these events, we're not in the majority. I still maintain that, regardless of skin colour, I'm not seen enough - so regular attendance at conventions is one way to offset that. Being seen is the main reason why I go.

But good things come to an end.

Currently, it's approaching mid-Jun, and I'm ticking stuff off my to-do list. StokerCon is now a happy memory; which I'm grateful for. As much as I love travelling - which is the being in other places as well as the process of actually getting there - I'm always grateful to come back home. The packing on the morning of checkout, the look of the vacated room, albeit untidier than when I got there. Suitcase dragged behind me. Cab to the airport, check in, waiting at the gate, boarding the plane. Because I usually fly west (and haven't flown east since Singapore some years back), I'll always aim to land at Heathrow in the morning. Which allows me time to get across town back to the house, relax and ease myself back into the next day and the usual routine.

Which, apart from uploading pictures and video, means the business of writing. The submissions, the editing ...and ideally, the writing. That which makes everything else here possible.

The good stuff.



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