Necon 38 – The Con That Has Become An Extended Family

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The following re-cap of Necon 38 will be appearing in the September issue of the HWA Newsletter:

Necon 38

July 19-22, 2018

Baypoint Inn & Conference Center

Necon has been described as a con unlike any other, and as a place that is both so tight-knit and welcoming of new folks that it’s like family. Both of these descriptions are true.

The best part about Necon is that everyone is friendly and accessible. So, in addition to informative writer panels all weekend long that are chock full of knowledgable information about the genre and writing in general, you’ll find yourself socializing with authors and like-minded individuals the entire weekend. The bottom line is regardless of where you are in your writing career or if you’re simply a reader you will be welcomed, and you will not be alone.

The worst part about Necon is time doesn’t stop while you’re there. The weekend flies by fast.

Necon was begun by Bob and Mary Booth back in 1980, and following Bob’s passing in 2013, is now run by their adult children, Sara Booth, our current fearless chairperson, and Dan Booth.  They do a fabulous job, year in and year out.

I’ve been going to Necon since 2001, and I haven’t missed one since I started. That’s eighteen Necons for me. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that. I feel as if I should be so much further along in my writing career, and that having gone to so many, I should be much more in the thick of things, but that’s not my style. I tend to hang back at cons and take everything in.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy and appreciate everything there is about Necon as much as the extroverts do.

It’s been a run ride, and it continued this year with Necon 38.

Necon 38 had it all.  Heck, in the true tradition of being a family, we even had a wedding this year!  How cool is that?

Anyway, Necon traditionally opens up on Thursday afternoons, and this year was no exception, as the con started on Thursday, July 19.

Now, a lot happens at Necon, much more than I’ve recorded here. For example, I did not attend evey panel, and there were events that I missed. So, the following is admittedly a recap from my perspective only. It’s not meant to be all-encompasing, and I apologize to anyone in attendance whose name I didn’t mention because either our paths didn’t cross this year or our conversation was all too brief.

Thursday, July 19, 2018.

This year’s guests of honor included writers Helen Marshall, David Wellington, and Dana Cameron, artist Jason Eckhardt, Toastmaster Errick A. Nunnally, and Legends Brian Keene and Carole Whitney.

Registration opened at 2:00, and judging by all the Facebook posts I read, lots of folks arrived right around then,

I did not. Each year driving down from New Hampshire to Bristol, RI, I get stuck in dreadful traffic in and around Boston, which extends my normal two-hour drive to an elongated four-hour drive, usually stuck in traffic in hot sun. This year I decided to skip all that and travel after rush hour, so this year, I arrived much later, around 9:00 pm.

The first official Necon event this year was the Welcome to Necon, Newbies!: Kaffeeklatsch hosted by Errick A. Nunnally & Laura J. Hickman. This programming is another example of how Necon strives to make everyone feel welcome. First timers who attend this meeting receive a nice introduction to the con.

10:00 was the famous Saugy Roast, where those yummy saugies, that flavorful hot dog found only in Rhode Island, are grilled to they’re deliciously charred and blackened. From there, you can stay out in the quad socializing as long as you like.

Friday July 20, 2018

8:00 it was time for breakfast, and I enjoyed a good meal of eggs, home fries, and fruit as I caught up with my roommate for the past several years and master of the dealer’s room, Scott Goudsward.

At 9:00, lots of campers headed out for the first Necon Olympic Event, Mini-Golf. I did not attend as I was on the movie Kaffeeklatsch this morning.

While I try to go to as many panels as possible, I can’t go to all of them, and so I skipped the 9:00 panel to do some writing (it’s a writer’s convention, after all!) and I worked on my movie review of SKYSCRAPER (2018) starring Dwayne Johnson. My reviews are posted on—time for my shameless plug!—my blog, THIS IS MY CREATION: THE BLOG OF MICHAEL ARRUDA, at marruda33.wordpress.com, where you’ll find all my movie reviews and columns on horror movies, all for free, I might add.

At 10:00, I attended the Read Any Good Books Lately?: The Year’s Best Books Kaffeeklatsch, a look back at some of the best books of the year. This Kaffeeklatsch featured Barry Lee Dejasu, Jaime Levine, Erin Underwood, and Hank Wagner. There were lots of book recommendations, most of them offbeat, since this is Necon. Included were nods to A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kell, and to the works of author Neal Shusterman.

At 11:00 it was time for the And the Oscar Goes to: The Year’s Best Films Kaffeeklatsch, featuring Michael Arruda (yours truly!), Scott Goudsward, Matt Schwartz, Craig Shaw Gardner, and L.L. Soares, with lots of input from fellow movie lover Bill Carl.  I started things off by saying that for me it’s been a tremendous year for Marvel, and I cited BLACK PANTHER as my favorite film of the year so far. Other nods went to the horror movies HEREDITARY and A QUIET PLACE. 

Other titles mentioned included the Netflix original THE BABYSITTER, ANNIHILATION, ISLE OF DOGS, THE RITUAL, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, HOTEL ARTEMIS, THE CYNIC THE RAT AND THE FIST, THE DEATH OF STALIN, and the Netflix original GERALD’S GAME, to name just a few.

At noon it was time for lunch, and a chance to catch up with more friends.

This year I joined the “Skeleton Crew,” that awesome group of volunteers led by P.D. (Trish) Cacek. I manned the seat by the dealer’s room entrance for a while, making sure folks didn’t bring beverages into the room, an effort to keep coffee and the like from being spilled on the merchandise. It was fun chatting with everyone who came in and out.

At 2:00 I attended the panel, The Spark: What Inspires a Great Short Story? moderated by Nick Kaufmann. Also on the panel were Meghan Arcuri-Moran, Christa Carmen, Toni L.P. Kelner, Ed Kurtz, and Helen Marshall. There were lots of interesting and insightful tidbits to come out of this panel. Highlights included the notion that not all short stories need to have a beginning, middle, and end, that some need only capture a moment in a character’s life. Another concise definition of a short story: it’s the most important thing to happen in the main character’s life.

At 3:00 I attended the panel, Invasion of the Pod People: Creating Your Own Podcast, moderated by Armand Rosamilla and featuring Amber Fallon, Chris Golden, Brian Keene, James Moore, and Mary SanGiovanni. Discussed were the ins and outs of doing a podcast, and for most folks on the panel, it’s a labor of love. Few people do podcasts to make money. However, it certainly can help book sales as people who listen to the podcasts often will check out your books.

At 4:00 I was back on duty by the Dealer’s Room, and at 5:00 we all assembled outside for the newest Necon tradition, the group photo. This started last year when we had to evacuate the building due to a fire alarm and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. This year we didn’t need a fire alarm for the picture. That being said, the fire alarm had different ideas.  More on that later.

At 7:00 it was time for the Official Necon 38 Toast by Toastmaster Errick A. Nunnally, followed by the comical Necon Update with Mike Myers, followed by the Necon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This year’s inductee was celebrated horror author and podcast host Brian Keene.

At 8:00 it was time for the Meet the Authors Party, that event where if you’re a reader, you get the opportunity to meet and greet your favorite authors and purchase signed copies of their books. It’s also the opportunity for the authors to set up shop and make their books available.

I was fortunate enough to share a table with some of my fellow New England Horror Authors, including my Cinema Knife Fight buddy L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Scott Goudsward, Trisha Wooldridge, and others. For me, if I can sell one book, I’ll count that as a successful evening. So, in that regard, I had a very successful evening in that I sold four of my books, including three copies of my short story collection For The Love of Horror.

I also purchased the highly touted first novel by Tony Tremblay, entitled THE MOORE HOUSE.  I can’t wait to read it. A book I really wanted to buy and will at some point is the brand new short story collection, her first, by Dougjai Gam Bepko, Glass Slipper Dreams, Shattered. I heard plenty of wonderful things about her debut collection this weekend. I also still haven’t bought Matt Bechtel’s highly praised debut collection from last year, Monochromes: And Other Stories.  The downside of living on a budget.

And there’s many, many more. That’s always the most difficult part of Necon. There are so many books to buy, way more than I can afford.

And after that, it was time for socializing on the quad, that time when you get to chat with friends, old and new, long into the wee hours of the morning.  This year I caught up with, among others, L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Paul McNally, Kelly Winn, John Harvey, Kevin Lewis, David Price, and Patrick Freivald, to name just a few.

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

I attended the 10:00 panel, BOO!: Modern Ghost Stories, moderated by P.D. Cacek and featuring Tom Deady, John Foster, Michael Rowe, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Tony Tremblay, and Dan Waters, which discussed, among other things, the differences between ghosts of yesteryear and ghosts of today. It was also suggested that ghosts are the easiest tropes to believe in, since most people believe in ghosts, as opposed to vampires, werewolves, and zombies, and so the ghost story author has that advantage in that its subject is one that people want to believe in.

Next up for me was the all important 11:00 panel, Closing Time: Remembering the Life and Work of Jack Ketchum, moderated by Doug Winter, and featuring Linda Addison, Jill Bauman, Ginjer Buchanan, Sephera Giron, Gordon Linzner, and Bracken MacLeod. This was both a somber and celebratory event as the panel looked back on the life of author Jack Ketchum, who passed away earlier this year, known here at Necon by his real name Dallas Mayr. The overwhelming sentiment, which for those of us who attend Necon regularly already know, was how kind and generous Dallas was, and that for those who read him first and met him later, that was a something of a shock, since he wrote brutally dark fiction.

There were also plenty of fun stories and anecdotes, and as Sephera Giron prepared to tell one, a fire alarm— our second in two years— went off. Sephera quipped, “Dallas, it’s not that story!”

After lunch, I found myself working at the door to the dealer’s room once again.  While there, Frank Raymond Michaels and I had our annual Necon discussion of Universal Horror vs. Hammer Horror. I also found some time to relax out in the quad on a beautiful sunny afternoon and chat with friends.

I attended the 3:30 panel, When Your Book Has A Soundtrack: The Influence of Music on Your Writing, moderated by Matt Bechtel, and featuring Doungjai Gam Bepko, Rachel Autumn Deering, Gary Frank, Bracken MacLeod, Rio Youers, and Doug Winter. The panel discussed listening to music when writing, and the majority of the authors in the room acknowledged that they do indeed listen to music when they write. Some authors ignore the song lyrics and view the vocals as just another instrument making music. Other authors are inspired by lyrics, writing stories or even entire novels based on them.

At 4:30, I attended the panel It’s Kind of a Long Story: The Art of the Novel, moderated by Kristin Dearborn, and featuring William Carl, James Chambers, Nate Kenyon, David Wellington, Mercedes M. Yardley, Rio Youers, and Dyer Wilk.  This panel covered exactly what its title said, the nuts and bolts of writing a novel. A bunch of topics were discussed, including the use of outlines and the differences between writing a novel and a short story.

After dinner, I joined my fellow Skeleton Crew members including P.D. Cacek (our fearless leader!), Morven Westfield, Scott Goudsward, Scott Wooldridge, and James Chambers, among others, as we helped set up for the Artists Reception, that time where the attention turns to the artists and their fine works on display in the dealer’s room, as well as to delicious desserts and hot coffee.

At 7:30 it was time for That Damned Game Show featuring Craig Shaw Gardner & Doug Winter.  The “controversial” game show had been missing from Necon for several years now, but I for one was happy to see its return. It’s controversial because it tends to go on a tad too long.  I happen to love the game show. I think the running gag of the confusing overlong rules is hilarious, and it’s fun to see the “contestants” struggle with both the answers and the rules. That being said, it is too long, and going forward, if it’s cut in half, it would make for a very satisfying event.

Another reason I enjoy the game show is that when the contestants miss the answers, the questions go to the audience, and if you answer right you win one of Necon’s “valuable prizes.” I won two prizes this year, as I answered two obscure questions on the films of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.  And I love these valuable little joke prizes because I use them in my middle school classroom throughout the year. I have a wind-up walking brain, for instance, that my middle schoolers adore.

After the game show, it was time for The Infamous Necon Roast. This year’s “victim,” was Matt Bechtel. Hilarious as always, but no details here, because “what happens at Necon, stays at Necon.”

Afterwards it was more socializing on the quad, and more saugies!  Once again I joined my fellow Skeleton Crew members and helped set up the food tables.

And since Necon is a family, tonight we had something extraordinarily special: a wedding! Yes, James Moore married Tessa (Cullie) Seppala in a ceremony presided over by Bracken MacLeod. It was a beautiful ceremony, witnessed by the 200 Necon campers who were all assembled on the quad.

Sunday July 22, 2018

While there were two panels this morning, I missed them after a late night in which I was up to about 2:30 am.

I attended the 11:00 Necon Town Meeting, where all the Necon Olympic medals were handed out for events such as mini golfdarts, foosball, High-Low Jack, and ping pong, as well as various other awards, such as the FEZ’S, those famous Necon caps given out to folks at the con who were deemed “FEZ-worthy.”

The Town Meeting is also the time to look back and say what folks liked and disliked. As usual, there were plenty of likes and pretty much no dislikes.

The hardest part of Necon is saying goodbye to everyone. I tried to say farewell to as many people as I could find, but ultimately, with people leaving various times, it’s impossible to catch everyone.

The good news is that next year is another Necon, another opportunity to spend time with like-minded folks who are more than just good friends. They really are members of an extended family.

Until next year—.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00. Includes postage! Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For_the_love_of_Horror- original cover

Print cover

For the Love of Horror cover (3)

Ebook cover

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LIFE RAGE by L.L. Soares wins Stoker Award!

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life-rage-cover-210x300News flash!

My buddy and Cinema Knife Fight partner L.L. Soares just won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel this past Saturday in New Orleans for his novel Life Rage, which I reviewed on this blog several months back.

Way to go L.L.!

So, what’s a Stoker Award?  Each year the Horror Writers Association honors horror writers around the globe with the Bram Stoker Awards, recognizing the best horror writing of the year.  Winning a Stoker is a huge accomplishment, as gaining the recognition of one’s peers is a very high honor.  It’s also not easy to do.  Not at all.

 

Life Rage is a neat horror novel, hard hitting, well-written, and satisfying from start to finish.  In honor of it winning the Stoker, here’s another look at my review below:

What I’m Reading – Life Rage By L.L. Soares

Book Review by MICHAEL ARRUDA

I recently finished the novel Life Rage by my Cinema Knife Fight partner L.L. Soares.  It’s his first novel, and I have to say here, that— and this has nothing to do with the fact that we’re friends and that we co-write a movie column together — I was really impressed.

L.L. is known for his in-your-face hardcore fiction, and with Life Rage, he doesn’t disappoint.  But what I found more impressive is how human and caring his characters are, and he achieves this effect without sacrificing the extreme horror elements.

Sure, the language is rough and raw, as are the sexual and violent situations, but there’s also an honest tenderness among the characters in this story that comes off as authentic and refreshing.  In short, his characters really do care for each other.  As good as L.L. is at writing about horrific situations, he’s just as good at writing about realistic relationships.

The plot is about a Jekyll & Hyde type character, a man who treats people with anger issues, yet he’s an uncontrollable monster at times and doesn’t know it.  He turns into a sort of demonic Incredible Hulk.  The book’s lead character, a woman named Colleen, somehow survives her first encounter with the monster, signifying right away that there’s something special about her.  She sees her best friend torn to pieces by the creature, and she vows revenge.

She is aided by another woman who also happens to have supernatural powers.  Viv is a sort of vampire who sucks the life force out of people while giving them the best sex of their lives- in short, they go out happy.  Viv is attracted to people who are overwhelmingly sad, and she in effect is mercy killing them, saving them from their pain.

Colleen and Viv team up to stop the raging monster before it infects the entire world with its life rage.

I liked Life Rage because of its compelling characters— they are fleshed out (no pun intended) and three dimensional— and because of its original plot.  The writing is also topnotch.

If you’re looking to read a refreshing horror novel, and you don’t mind a lot of sex and violence, check Life Rage by L.L. Soares.

It’s all the rage.

—Michael

 

 

 


 

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR – Blurbs and Interview

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For The Love Of Horror cover

Dracula & Frankenstein interview me about my short story collection

Dracula & Frankenstein interview me about my short story collection

Here’s what some people are saying about my short story collection, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com:

“One thing you’ll notice about this story collection is how entertaining it is. For the Love of Horror is an apt title, because you can tell how much Arruda loves the genre, and you will, too.”

L.L. Soares, author of Life Rage and Rock ‘n’ Roll

“Michael Arruda’s For the Love of Horror is a brutal collection of stories, using well-imagined villains in a way that keeps the reader guessing and thoroughly disturbed…in a fun way.”

Tracy L. Carbone, author of Restitution

“Michael Arruda has a knack for creating immensely clever stories that step outside of the norm, turning your expectations, and your nerves, on edge. His first collection of short fiction is an event worth celebrating!”

Daniel G. Keohane, author of Christmas Trees & Monkeys

 And for more insight on my collection, here’s an excerpt from an interview that I did recently, conducted by two very good friends of mine, the FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER and COUNT DRACULA.

Interview:

FRANKENSTEIN:  Your short story collection— good!

ARRUDA:  Well, thank you.  I’d like to think so.

DRACULA:  To write such stories—that must be glorious!

ARRUDA:  I try, but to be honest, I struggled with this one.

DRACULA:  Struggled?

ARRUDA:  Yes.  I ran into some problems that I felt I was never able to fully resolve.  I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t satisfied with my finished product.

FRANKENSTEIN:  Finished product— bad?

ARRUDA:  Well, I don’t know about that.  It’s not as good as I wanted it to be, let’s put it that way.

One of the problems I faced was I wanted to write a cool wraparound story, but the more I wrote, the more I wanted to flesh it out, but I resisted turning it into a full-fledged narrative because I didn’t want to turn the book into a novel.  Now that it’s all said and done, I’m not sure it worked.  But it was fun trying!

FRANKENSTEIN:  Trying, good!  (lights match)  Frying, bad!

DRACULA:  What else about your work did you find— troub-ling?

ARRUDA:  Some of the stories I wrote specifically for this collection, to move the narrative along, work more like chapters in a novel rather than separate short stories.  I’m not sure this worked either.

DRACULA:  Why didn’t you change it?

ARRUDA:  I definitely put the stories through various edits and rewrites, but—.

(A wolf howls.)

DRACULA:  Listen to them!  The children of the night.  What music they make!  Excuse me.  What were you saying?

ARRUDA:  I was talking about the stories I wrote specifically for this collection.

I went back and forth with edits more times than I can remember, but I read some other short story collections, and I found that oftentimes the stories ended in the strangest places, and I thought, other stories end this way, why can’t mine?

DRACULA:  Are you- disappointed with the collection?

ARRUDA:  Not at all.  I just don’t think I accomplished what I wanted to. You can’t win them all.

I did have fun connecting old short stories that when I wrote them originally had nothing to do with each other.  It was fun finding common themes and then molding them into a cohesive work.  And that I think worked.

But ultimately it comes down to the quality of the writing.  To me, the writing process is always a work in progress, and each story I produce I hope is better than the last one, and so I hope that whatever I churn out next is in fact better.

The trick is to do it consistently, and that’s something I haven’t done yet.  I think my movie reviews are consistently solid, but when it comes to fiction, I’m still looking for that string of hits.  Some day.

FRANKENSTEIN:  Short stories— good!

ARRUDA:  Gee, thanks.  I appreciate your kind words.

DRACULA:  To celebrate.   (Holds a wine bottle for ARRUDA to see.)  This is very old wine.

ARRUDA:  Great!  Better wine than blood!

DRACULA:  I never drink— wine.

ARRUDA (grabs bottle):  Then I’ll just take this to go.  Thanks, guys, for the neat interview!

—END—

WHAT I’M READING: LIFE RAGE By L.L. Soares

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life-rage-cover-210x300

What I’m Reading

 I recently finished the novel Life Rage by my Cinema Knife Fight partner L.L. Soares.  It’s his first novel, and I have to say here, that— and this has nothing to do with the fact that we’re friends and that we co-write a movie column together — I was really impressed.

 L.L. is known for his in-your-face hardcore fiction, and with Life Rage, he doesn’t disappoint.  But what I found more impressive is how human and caring his characters are, and he achieves this effect without sacrificing the extreme horror elements.

Sure, the language is rough and raw, as are the sexual and violent situations, but there’s also an honest tenderness among the characters in this story that comes off as authentic and refreshing.  In short, his characters really do care for each other.  As good as L.L. is at writing about horrific situations, he’s just as good at writing about realistic relationships.

 The plot is about a Jekyll & Hyde type character, a man who treats people with anger issues, yet he’s an uncontrollable monster at times and doesn’t know it.  He turns into a sort of demonic Incredible Hulk.  The book’s lead character, a woman named Colleen, somehow survives her first encounter with the monster, signifying right away that there’s something special about her.  She sees her best friend torn to pieces by the creature, and she vows revenge.

She is aided by another woman who also happens to have supernatural powers.  Viv is a sort of succubus who sucks the life force out of people while giving them the best sex of their lives- in short, they go out happy.  Viv is attracted to people who are overwhelmingly sad, and she in effect is mercy killing them, saving them from their pain.

 Colleen and Viv team up to stop the raging monster before it infects the entire world with its life rage.

 I liked Life Rage because of its compelling characters— they are fleshed out (no pun intended) and three dimensional— and because of its original plot.  The writing is also topnotch.

 If you’re looking to read a refreshing horror novel, and you don’t mind a lot of sex and violence, check out Life Rage by L.L. Soares.

 It’s all the rage. 

—Michael