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StokerCon 2016 Wrap Up

Well, it’s been a week now since the first StokerCon, and I’m finally caught up with work enough to get my own thoughts and reminiscences down for posterity.

I have to begin by saying that this was one of the best—if not THE best—horror conventions I’ve been to. Kudos to the con team—Lisa Morton, John Palisano, Rena Mason, Brad Hodson, Kate Jonez, Erinn Kemper, and all the volunteers—for making it so special.

My adventure in Sin City began when I arrived on Wed. evening and found some good friends (Rena Mason, Erin Kemper, Brian Kirk, Hal Bodner) gathered by the firepit at the Garden Bar, which became the unofficial gathering place throughout the con. After a full day of work and a long flight, I retired early (midnight, which is early at a con!).

Thursday found me, in the words of Billy Martin, tanned and rested and ready to go as I started my first stint at the registration desk. Working with James Chambers, Patrick Freivald. Kate Jonez, Brian Matthews, Erin Kemper, and several other volunteers, we assembled the signage that would be used throughout the weekend, set up the registration desk, and prepped the swag counter. Under the alert eye of Brad Hodson, we resolved some critical issues. Jimmy Z. Johnston showed off his table of HWA-logo shirts (I grabbed a nice hoodie!), and the dealers room took shape.

Thursday was also our annual Beta Readers Group lunch, so Rena Mason, Patrick Freivald, Erin Kemper, James Chambers, Chris Marrs, and I—along with Craig DiLouie filling in for the sadly absent Peter Salomon—headed to the Yardhouse for beer and burgers, both of which were excellent. I love our beta reading group, we are friends as well as readers, and we could have probably talked and drank all day except duty called and we all had to get back to take care of our official commitments. For me, that meant some more time at the registration desk and then heading off to get ready for opening ceremonies. Rousing speeches by our president, Lisa Morton, and our Master of Ceremonies, the always entertaining Stephen Jones. After that, I attended the annual HWA board meeting, where besides discussing the state of the organization, we put forth some really great ideas for the coming year.

With official business out of the way, I headed back to the Garden Bar, where I met up with my good friends Beth Murphy, John Palisano, Trevor Firetog, James Chambers, and several others. These are some of the best times at cons, where you can just sit or stand around and catch up. It’s like a family reunion. But no matter how much fun you’re having, you do have to get up in the morning, so I sadly called it a night at around 3am.

Friday found me bleary-eyed but excited, because after some time at the registration desk, I got to do a book signing with the ever-wonderful Nancy Holder, and then moderate the Beta Readers panel with my entire beta reader group. It was a hit last year, and just as well-received this year, with a great crowd. After that, I enjoyed lunch with Daniel Knauf and Beth Murphy, and then Beth and I spent some hilarious time in the Flamingo Garden with Lisa Mannetti, taking selfies and people watching.

Friday was also the Lucky13 film festival/contest, so Beth, John Palisano, and I arrived early to get good seats for the 13 short films, which ranged from comical to emotionally powerful. I was happy that my favorite piece, a darkly comic look at the tooth fairy legends, won first place. After the contest was a cocktail party, and it ended up being another late night, crawling into bed around 3:30.

Saturday was the big day, of course. Not just for the convention, with tons of panels and readings and signings, but for me, personally. Because my plans went awry in the best of ways. Due to a sudden emergency, a spot opened up to moderate the Q&A session with world-famous author RL Stine of Goosebumps fame. Even with only 30 minutes to prepare, I accepted—who wouldn’t?—and scrambled to put some questions together (thanks to Lisa Lane and her husband Thomas for help with that!). Not only did the Q&A go off superbly, but Bob Stine congratulated me on coming up with questions he hadn’t heard before and provided me with a motivational quote for me to use at a library teen writing talk the following week. And then later that day, I participated on the YA Horror panel with Bob Stine, my good friends Jon Maberry, Tonya Hurley, and Lynne Hanson, and my new friend Megan Hart.

In between all this, I managed to squeeze in pitch sessions with Rob Cohen and Christine Roth of RothCo Press/Co-Conspiracy Entertainment and Tony Eldridge of Lonetree Entertainment, my first movie/TV pitches ever. I was nervous, but they went well (meaning I didn’t make a fool of myself!).

Saturday Night was the Big Event – the annual Bram Stoker Awards Ceremony and Banquet. My fantastic luck for the weekend continued, as I ended up sitting with my friends Nancy Holder, David Morrell, and Daniel Knauf. It was great catching up with Nancy and David, who I never get to spend enough time with since they’re on the West Coast, and we were highly entertained by the antics of MC Jeff Strand, who outdid himself. Stephen Jones opened the night with a stirring speech about how the horror community needs to stick together and be a positive force, rather than dwelling on the negativity abounding in social media, and Jeff ran with that, riffing on everything from recent industry kerfluffles to dog-eaten award certificates.

Following the awards (you can see all the winners and nominees here:, I drowned my momentary sorrows at not winning in the Novel category with beer and my new favorite drink (Bacardi Limon and water, thanks Beth!) at the post-awards cocktail party, where I had the honor of meeting Steve Rasnic Tem and saying hi to Robert McCammon, a surprise guest at the event.

Sunday morning came too early, with sad goodbyes said just before the sun rose. I grabbed an hour of sleep and then headed to the airport, wishing, as always, that so many of my friends lived closer.

There are so many people I didn’t get to spend more time with, friends old and new: Mercedes Yardley, Brian Matthews and his wife Sue, Kya Shore, Denali Jones, Angela Yuriko Smith, Jason and Sunni Brock, Weston Ochs, Yvonne Navarro, Marge Simon, Jon Maberry, oh, I could go on and on but I have a better list on my post-con Facebook post (

But now, it’s back to writing and daydreaming about next year – The Queen Mary in LA!!


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