Returning from the Imaginarium

HorrorPanel Wow.

I have only attended a handful of book/author events over the past few years but it always amazes me how much they affect me. I was able to go to the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, last week and although I was bone tired when I drove back in the driveway at home, I was also rejuvenated about writing.

There was a wide range of authors at the convention, varying from some who are still in their infancy and looking for that first published sale to those who are full-time authors and many in between.

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As is always the case, I was able to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and meet authors that I may have only interacted with online or have admired their works from afar for many years. Every time I go to one of these events, something always surprises me and this year it was having the chance to be on the Arm Cast Dead Sexy Horror Podcast which is run by author Armand Rosamilia. You have seen me mention Armand before because he also runs the Authors Supporting Our Troops program which collects books from publishers and authors and then ships them overseas to our troops.

ArmandRosamillaWell, when you hear that you are going to be on a horror podcast late at night, you need to go into it with an open mind and expect some surprises and in this case, the surprise was where the podcast was to be recorded. The event took place in the downtown Louisville White Castle restaurant with the blessing of the corporation’s public relations department. I don’t know if the p.r. people quite knew what they were getting into but the diners in the restaurant were able to listen in as a handful of horror writers talked about blood, gore, and craft – all while munching down on a few sliders. It was a terrific time and if you have the opportunity, go out to the Arm Cast podcast and listen.

IMG_0027The Imaginarium event had a lot of variety to it and was centered mainly around the craft of writing with some fun events thrown in for good measure. There was a live concert in on Friday night in one of the convention halls, a masquerade ball, and a very active dealer room which was open to the public. And since it was in Louisville, I tiptoed away from the event on Friday morning before the first panel I was speaking on and visited Churchill Downs which was only a few blocks down the street. Not a bad way to spend the first day of the fall racing season.

If anyone reading this has any interest in writing either as a career or an active hobby, I would encourage you to attend a conference. Imaginarium is a terrific place to start if you want something more intimate and low key and is within easy driving distance of Ohio. If you want to see something much, much larger and more geared toward the professional writers, then next October the World Fantasy Convention will be held on Columbus, Ohio. There are also lots of other opportunities in between those two options. Go and use the opportunity to learn about writing and the industry, meet some terrific people, and return home with your love of writing renewed. I know I always do.

(Photos, top to bottom – First photo: The Ask a Horror Writer panel with Armand Rosamilia, J.H. Glaze, Jessica McHugh, Stuart Thaman, Tim Waggoner, and Michael Knost. Second and third photos: Armand, Jack Wallen, Jessica, Brent Abell, Jay Wilburn, Dave Creek, myself, and others at the Arm Cast podcast at White Castle. If you look closely you can see the look of astonishment on the faces of some of the other diners as we talk about blood and guts. Fourth photo: Armand and I after the podcast and before the sliders took affect – you know what I mean. Fifth photo: How can you be in Louisville and not go see some races at Churchill Downs?)

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Over on Facebook, a new participation thread has been going around with authors sharing  from their work-in-process. With that in mind, from “Reset” starting on  page seven, seven lines beginning at line number seven. (I cheated a little and put it a little more than seven lines.)

“Some of the hair pulled out when I touched it, the skin was slipping but not loose … I’d say he’s been dead ten days.”

“Maybe a day more,” the tech said. “The air conditioning was cranked and had the room temperature down to about sixty degrees when we arrived.”

Rick turned to the desk and began pawing through the drawers. “Dead for almost two weeks. So where’s the peeper?” He closed the lap drawer and looked at the tech. The other man shrugged and turned up his empty hands.

Jim sighed. “And if he died while he was inside the game …”

“Then where’s the Becky?” Rick turned to his partner. “Where’s the intravenous line that fed the poor bastard and left the scars on his arm? Someone knew our vic was dead and cleaned up the room rather than call for help. Something besides the dead guy stinks here.”

The In-between

I hate this part of writing. I call it the “in-between.”

When I am in the middle of a novel project, it is easy to get pumped up about what is happening. “Hey, I wrote 5,500 words today.” “I worked out the plot hang-up and completed the chapter that had been giving me problems.” “Only 10,000 more words and I will have the first draft done.”

Those are easy days. Even the bad days when only 500 words make it onto the page are easier to deal with. You convince yourself they were good words, moved the story forward, developed the character depth. You shut off the computer and tell yourself that you made progress and tomorrow you will write more. And for the most part, the self-encouragement is all true.

That’s not where I am at right now.

writer-1I completed my novel, “Reset,” which has been sent to my beta readers and returned with suggestions. Now comes the final edits and the beginning of locating a market for it. In the meantime, I have also started research and plotting on the sequel to “Dreams of Ivory and Gold.” I would like to complete it in time to publish before the World Horror Convention in Atlanta next May.

Both are exciting projects and the work I am doing on them is important.

But the work is also very hard to quantify. There are no massive word counts each day. There are no milestones reached. Success is measured by finding that one piece of information that will make the plot work in the sequel or an interesting tidbit that gives the main character depth. Success is measured by rewriting a paragraph so the action flows or, even more minutely, making changes to two words in an entire chapter.

If you are lucky, when you start writing you meet authors who are willing to share their experiences with you. Typically, you receive the advice about “growing a thick skin” when it comes to editors or critics. “Active voice,” “show, don’t tell,” “write every day,” and “edit, edit, and edit some more” are other common tenets.

Obviously “kill your darlings” is the lesson that George R.R. Martin learned the best.

But what you rarely hear about are times like this when your production is hard to measure. I have one friend who told me this is exactly why he chooses to write primarily short stories – he can not stand waiting for the long payoff.

Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in history and he sums up this part of the process pretty succinctly:

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

I guess it’s time to get back to work.