Good friends (Lisa Morton, Ricky Grove, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hansen, Chris Marrs, Gord Rollo, John Palisano, and new friends Greg Chapman, John Urbancik and Mike Wells) that were ready to go have a drink and the famous wings at Pok Pok were exactly what I needed when I first came through the hotel doors and checked in. I never even made it up to my room. Gave my bags to the bellhop, then left. Taking the late flight, suffering through the horrible "space invader" sitting next to me (partly on me during the plane ride), and rearranging the dinner reservations was all worth it just for those wings and the wonderful company.
I didn't sleep all that great and got to bed late because I had to unpack. Early the next morning, sounds of construction woke me up, along with the train, and when I pulled back the curtains about 30 construction workers were on the rooftop across the way. I quickly closed the curtains and finished getting dressed. Downstairs, we gathered for the train and headed to a place called Mother's Bistro. Fortunately for us, Ricky Grove researches his vacation destinations and had a plan of attack. While we (Lisa Morton, Ricky Grove, Nancy Holder, Chris Marrs, Erinn Kemper, Gord Rollo) waited for a table I kept seeing waitstaff go by carrying trays with plates of biscuits and gravy. I thought that must be good so many people have ordered it, and that's what I got. It was fantastic. After that we were off to Powell's Bookstore, which was enormous. Before that, the biggest bookstore I'd ever been in was The Tattered Cover in Denver. At Powell's I bought a horror/mystery book suggested by my Canadian pals, Headhunter by Michael Slade and On the Road by Kerouac for my son who asked me for it. Oh, and an umbrella, which I never used after purchase, because the weather cleared up. Later that evening, I remember going to the Opening Ceremonies and not much else. I think I'd had my first martini to kick off the event.
Friday I had meetings scheduled (more like relaxed pitch/chat sessions at the bar). I thought they went well. I spoke to and met lots of great people and want to thank Chris Morey, Aaron Sterns, Cherry Weiner, and Susan Chang of TOR/YA for their time and insight. After the Mass Signing where I sold out of my Double Down books of East End Girls it was party time! Josh Malerman, a great guy, whose debut novel Bird Box was just released had a nice little party going on, then it was the Deadite party for a bit, then off to the Absinthe party at the Crowne Plaza with Daniel Knaupf, Maddie Von Stark, and freak show performers. After a few sips of the Absinthe everyone became a freak show performer, and I'm quite certain I saw RJ Cavender lie on a bed of nails. I might have taken a photo if I hadn't been so shocked and melting at the same time. Then before calling it a night, we were told by some of the fellas, Brian Keene and Weston Ochse maybe, that we should go and get our pictures taken, and that they were FREE! So we did, and right as the guy was putting away his equipment, but he told us we could get them online. Definitely one of my favorite pictures of the event.
Another favorite is a picture that Gord Rollo and I had taken by the original painting Alan M. Clark did of our Double Down Book cover. Then we read a sign that said there were to be no photos taken. If caught, I would've just told them that Gord was Canadian. That seems to be a reasonable explanation for whenever something strange or illegal happens. Ha! And that's Derek Clendening's thumb in the picture, not one of the Security STAFF checking convention badges at the door taking the camera away.
I've noticed at these conventions, many late nights and some long, surreal moments during the day, are spent in conversations of I really have no idea. I have a lot of these conversations with Benjamin Kane Ethridge and John Palisano. I do remember talking James Chamber's ears off and he'll probably be dodging behind furniture to steer clear of me at the next convention in Atlanta 2015. I'm not sure if the mind-numbness is from exhaustion, alcohol, or the combination. It's still enjoyable, just not always memorable or maybe the better word is rememberable.
Saturday, I worked the pitch sessions until 2pm. My schedule was a hot mess of horrible handwriting and scribbles by the end of the day, but Montilee Stormer, Brian Matthews, and I made it through, and I thought things ran well. I thank them for their help, organizational skills, and ability to stay on time. (Things I was lousy at.)
My friends Stacy and Mindy drove all the way from Sacramento to be there for me, and I thank them for that. Later that evening was the banquet. All weekend people asked me if I was nervous and I told them no. I really wasn't nervous about that. Because I was too nervous about having to go up on stage and read an acceptance speech for Norman Rubenstein who couldn't attend, to accept his Silver Hammer award. The thought of this had me amped up, doing it had my heart racing, and I was happy to get off the stage with only messing up one word. After the speech I was exhausted and had long before settled into the idea that I was happy just to be a finalist and to have made it that far, which is still quite an accomplishment and with two works nominated my first year of publication. Wow. That still stuns me. So, when it came to the Long Fiction category I was thrilled to hear my name read off from the list of others (which I noticed were all men except for me. Need to step it up, ladies.) And I clapped for Gary A. Braunbeck who won for "The Great Pity" a fantastic story. I felt the same way when the First Novel was being presented by JG Faherty and Lisa Mannetti. I was prepared to clap for the winner, so when they called my name it took a second to register.
I remember hugging RJ Cavender, my editor and friend who worked on the project with me until the very end. As I walked up to the stage I tried going over in my head who I should thank but my mind was too occupied with the thought that I'd won an award. I remember thanking people I could remember, then I almost felt like crying. Then the audience got blurry, bright white, and I thought I might faint, so I rushed off the stage forgetting to thank Gene O'Neill who wrote a wonderful introduction for me. I thank him immensely, and wish that he could have been there. The rest of the time at the convention was spent in a surreal daze. So happy I got to meet Doug Murano, John F.D. Taff, Sydney Leigh, and a bunch of other people. (I'm horrible with names, forgive me.) It was great hanging out with friends and making new ones. I had a wonderful time. Unforgettable.