NECON 35 – Relaxed Writer’s Con Unlike Any Other

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Michael Arruda, Dan Keohane, and Scott Goudsward sharing a goofy ice cream moment at NECON 35.  Photo courtesy of Nick Cato.

Michael Arruda, Dan Keohane, and Scott Goudsward sharing a goofy ice cream moment at NECON 35. Photo courtesy of Nick Cato.

NECON 35

July 16-19 2015

By Michael Arruda

Every summer a bunch of writers and readers descend upon Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI for Camp Necon, a writers’ convention unlike any other.

For me, I attended my first NECON back in 2001, as I had heard about it through Judi Rohrig, who at the time was editing the HWA Internet Mailer.  Since then I’ve been back every year.

NECON is the most relaxed laid back con you’ll ever attend, a place where you can socialize with authors up close.  It’s been said before, and it’s true:  when you attend this con, it really feels like family.  I can attest to this firsthand, because aside from my extroverted writer persona who can banter with the best of them on the written page, in person, I’m pretty much an introvert, and I’m never all that comfortable in social situations.  This doesn’t matter at Necon.  Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, reader, writer, what have you, you are made to feel welcome.  It’s family.

Here’s a brief recap of this year’s Necon, NECON 35, held July 16-29 2015, at the Roger Williams Convention Center.

Thursday, July 16

 

In addition to the usual panels found at cons, NECON also runs the NECON Olympics, events throughout the weekend where you can kick back and have fun.  You even receive medals.  Yup, there are plenty of opportunities at NECON for you to win “valuable prizes.”

One of these events, the Necon Hawaiian Shirt Contest was tweaked a bit this year, as rather than being a stand-alone event, it occurred over the entire weekend.  Secret judges were on the prowl all weekend looking for folks with the best Hawaiian Shirts.

For Necon newbies there was a 5:00 event called Jitters: A Necon Primer for Newbies to help the newcomers feel comfortable and at home right off the bat.

I spent this time socializing in the lobby, the quad, and the new lounge, a spacious and very comfortable room in which to relax and chat.  At 10:00 it was the Saugie Roast, that time to enjoy grilled Saugies, Rhode Island’s own brand of hot dogs, and chat with friends, old and new, long into the night—.

 

Friday, July 17

 

After an 8:00 breakfast, I attended the 9:00 Kaffeeklatsch: Promotion in Motion, featuring Jill & Jason Salzarulo, Sephera Giron, David Dodd, and my roommate and New England Horror Authors head honcho Scott Goudsward.  This conversation was filled with practical tips and advice on how to better promote your work, especially using social media.

At 10:00 it was time for the Kaffeeklatsch: Best Worst Movies featuring myself, Sheri White, Bill Carl, and Nick Cato.  We discussed our picks for some of the best “bad movies” ever made, and both Bill and Nick provided extensive lists of classic “good” bad movies.

Sheri talked about her love of the bad SyFy movies, and I posed the question, “does it take years for a bad movie to become ‘good’ because most bad movies I see nowadays are simply bad, and the only bad movies I really like are old ones.  I suggested the grade z movies that Bela Lugosi made, and named THE DEVIL BAT (1941) as one of my favorite bad Lugosi flicks.

I also mentioned the HALLOWEEN series.  For me, other than the first movie, HALLOWEEN (1978) the rest of the movies in this series are not what I call good movies.  In fact, some of them are pretty awful, yet I like them all.

Before the panel ended, Craig Shaw Gardner asked us to recommend one film that we’ve seen this year, and I picked IT FOLLOWS (2015), citing it as one of my favorite horror movies of the year.  After the panel, it was nice to catch up with Craig and his lovely wife Barbara Gardner.

I skipped the 11:00 Kaffeeklatsch to catch up on some rest, and after a noon lunch, I spent some time at the New England Horror Writers table with Scott Goudsward and friends.

At 2:00 I attended the panel Everything Old Is New Again: Bringing New Life to Classic Tropes featuring Paul Tremblay, Lisa Manetti, Elizabeth Massie, John Dixon, and moderator Mary SanGiovanni, and it discussed among other things writing supernatural tropes in a scientific age.

Monica O’Rourke moderated the 4:00 panel Piece of Mind: Portraying Mental Illness in/as Horror which included Paul Tremblay, Kristin Dearborn, Dallas Mayr, Heather Graham, and Trevor Firetog.  This fascinating panel delved deep into what it takes to write about mental illness in horror effectively.

At 7:00 Toastmaster John McIlveen delivered the Official Necon Toast, followed by the hilarious Necon Update with Mike Myers.  This year Myers brought down the house with an uproarious account of a complicated hospital visit.  The audience was on the floor with laughter.

Myers comical update also featured the Necon Eggstravaganza Game which left contestants with eggs on their faces. Literally.

 

At the Meet the Authors Party I hung out with Daniel Keohane, who I hadn’t seen in several years.  Always fun to see Dan, who has the distinction of being the first person I ever met at Necon back in 2001.  I shared table space with Dan, and also with Scott Goudsward and Nick Cato.  I was selling copies of my science fiction novel, Time Frame.

I also got to chat with author Gary Frank during this event.

 

At 10:00 it was time for the Necon Olympic events Darts and Foosball. Afterwards, it was socializing on the quad, where I had some memorable conversations with friends old and new, as always.

Saturday, July 18

 

With the publication of my first science fiction novel Time Frame earlier this year, I was very much interested in the 10:00 panel The Horror of the Future: Making Science Fiction Scary, moderated by Gordon Linzner, and featuring Robert Boyczuk, Don D’Ammassa, Linda Addison, Lois Gresh, and Chuck Wendig.  This was a fun panel, as it discussed frightening science fiction from yesteryear, and mentioned some classic movies, including two prominent remakes which most folks these days consider superior to the originals, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) and John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).

The 11:00 panel was just as good: Fear in Four Colors: Comics, Horror, and Inspiration. On this panel were Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Errick Nunnally, Daniel Braum, Kimberly Long-Ewing, Duncan Eagleson, and serving as moderator was Charles Rutledge.  This panel hammered the point home that comics are an underappreciated literary form, and that they definitely make worthwhile reading.  It certainly made me sad for having stopped reading comics regularly many years ago.  Then again, I suppose it’s never too late to start up again.

At 1:00 John McIlveen interviewed the Necon Guests of Honor, Chuck Wendig, Seanan McGuire, and Paul Tremblay.  While I enjoyed all the guest of honor interviews, I have to admit I was most interested in listening to Paul Tremblay speak.  I first met Paul back in the late 1990s when we did some group book signings together for the vampire anthology THE DARKEST THIRST in which we both had stories.  It was my first pro sale as a matter of fact.  I’ve enjoyed following Paul’s career over the years, as his successes have been a nice inspiration.  I’m looking forward to reading his much talked about novel A Head Full of Ghosts.

The 2:30 panel was probably the most heavily attended panel of the entire weekend. Faustian Bargains & Plans for the Afterlife: Knowing Your Rights and Protecting Your Work Regarding Writers’ Contracts and Literary Estate Planning was also the most serious panel of the weekend, as well as one of the best.  Moderated by horror author and attorney Bracken McLeod, and featuring Christopher Golden, Brett Savory, Richard Dansky, Heather Graham, and Chet Williamson, this panel served as “everything you wanted to know about the legal aspects of writing but were afraid to ask.” It covered contract language, rights, wills and estate planning, and all sorts of other legal matters.  The 90 minutes allotted for this panel still wasn’t enough, as it went past its finishing time.  It proved so popular that later at the Necon Town Meeting it was agreed that there would be a follow-up panel and perhaps even a workshop at next year’s NECON.

At 4:00 it was time for Almost Human: The Art of the Monster, moderated by Cortney Skinner and including artists Duncan Eagleson, Jill Baumann, Ogmios, Rhea Ewing, and Glenn Chadbourne.  The panel featured a lively discussion about traditional drawing and painting vs. digital drawing and painting, which has come so far and yields such impressive results it’s difficult to ignore, and for most on the panel it’s warmly embraced.

After dinner, I attended the Artists’ Reception at 6:30.  It’s always a highlight of the weekend to walk through the gallery to see the latest prints, paintings, drawings, and sculptings by the featured artists.  This year I bought a colorful rendition of Carl Kolchak by Cortney Skinner.  This digital print of the popular NIGHT STALKER character contains a NECON in-joke, as one of the items in the painting has a NECON history.  During the reception coffee and some mighty delectable desserts were served.

At 7:30 it was Live DVD Extra: Director’s Showcase where some new film shorts were shown, including Lynne Hansen’s CHOMP and Izzy Lee’s POSTPARTUM. Both Hansen and Lee were available for questions and answers afterwards.

At 9:00 it was time for The Infamous Necon Roast. This year’s roastee was Sephera Giron, who was a real sport about the whole thing and seemed genuinely relaxed and appeared to be having a good time, which is how it should be.  As always, the roasters were hilarious, and included Christopher Golden, Mary SanGiovanni, Cortney Skinner, Linda Addison, Monica O’Rourke, Nick Kauffman, Jack Haringa, Jeff Strand, and Brian Keene.  All these folks are entertaining, although my personal favorite is Cortney Skinner whose impeccable timing is unmatched and who has the whole “Bob Newhart” deadpan mastered like a pro.

Afterwards it was more Saugies and socializing on the quad into the wee hours of the morning, since Saturday night is the last night at the con till next year.

Sunday, July 19, 2014

 

Today’s 10:00 panel was It Only Laughs When I Hurt: Comedy and Genre, a panel that looked at humor and horror and featured Craig Shaw Gardner, Hal Bodner, Jeff Strand, John McIlveen, Frank Raymond Michaels, and was moderated by P.D. Cacek.  The panel included many neat moments, amongst them Frank Raymond Michaels citing ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) as one of the all-time best horror comedies, and the discussion of how to effectively mix humor and horror by placing horror characters in a comedic situation, and vice versa by placing comic characters into a horror situation.

At 11:00 it was time for the Necon Town Meeting, the chance for folks to give the Necon committee feedback about the weekend.  It was agreed by all that NECON 35 was another grand success.

At lunch, I sat with Nick Cato and his wife Ree, and before leaving for another year, I made the rounds and said goodbye to as many folks as possible, including Craig Shaw Gardener, Barbara Gardener, Matt Bechtel, and Laura Hickman.

I’m never able to see everyone during the weekend, but here are some folks I did get a chance to spend some time with or at the very least exchange a quick word with: Linda Addison, Meghan Arcuri-Moran, Matt Bechtel, Hal Bodner, Mary Booth, Ginjer Buchanan, P.D. Cacek, Sara Calia, Bill Carl, Nick Cato, Ree Cato, Glenn Chadbourne, JoAnn Cox, Dennis Cummins, Don D’Ammassa, Richard Dansky, Barry Lee Dejasu, John Dixon, Dan Foley, Gary Frank, Barbara Gardner, Craig Shaw Gardner, Christopher Golden, Scott Goudsward, Catherine Grant, Jack Haringa, Laura Hickman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Brian Keene, Nate Kenyon, Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Bracken Macleod, Elizabeth Massie, John McIlveen, Frank Raymond Michaels, James Moore, Mike Myers, Jose Nieto, Errick Nunnally, Monica O’Rourke, David Price, Matt Schwartz, Cortney Skinner, Jeff Strand, Paul Tremblay, Tony Tremblay, K.H. Vaughn, Bev Vincent, Sheri White, Scott Wooldridge, and Trish Wooldridge.

I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.

Another memorable NECON has come and gone.  Thanks to the Booth family, including Mary Booth and Sarah Calia, and Matt Bechtel, and the entire NECON committee and volunteers, for all the hard work they did to pull off yet another amazing con.

Can’t wait till next year.

Thanks for reading!

Michael

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NECON 34 Recap: We Are Family

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Necon batNECON 34 Recap
July 17-20 2014
By Michael Arruda

What is Necon?

Only the coolest convention ever!

Every summer a bunch of writers and readers descend upon Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI for Camp Necon, a writers’ convention unlike any other.

Here’s a brief recap of this year’s Necon, NECON 34, held July 17-20 2014, at the Roger Williams Convention Center.

Thursday, July 17

NECON 34 got off to a truly original start with Necon’s First Ever Live Concert, performed by Kasey Lansdale. Kasey, the daughter of author Joe Lansdale, entertained the Necon crowd with a nice mix of original songs and other favorites, even bringing Christopher Golden up to perform. Who knew that Golden could sing so well? Seriously, no joke, Chris Golden can sing. Wow. This was a fun outdoor concert.

Afterwards, I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen since last year and hung out with them into the night—.

 

Friday, July 18

No rest for the weary as I was co-hosting the first event of the day, a 9:00 Kaffeklatsch entitled Cinema Knife Fight Presents The Years’s Best Horror Films, co-hosted with my Cinema Knife Fight partner, L.L. Soares. L.L. missed last year’s Necon, so it was extra fun seeing him this year.

We had a nice turn-out of people and a spirited discussion of this year’s horror movies. Of course, the consensus was that there weren’t a whole lot of decent horror movies released so far this year. Two films that were discussed were GODZILLA and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

I recommended THE QUIET ONES, Hammer’s latest movie, an offbeat original tale of a possession investigation, as my top horror movie pick so far for 2014, and L.L. went with the recently released SNOWPIERCER.

In the audience were fellow Cinema Knife Fighters Bill Carl, Barry Dejasu, and Barbara and Craig Shaw Gardner, who as always, had lots of insights into this year’s movies.

Two more Kaffeklatschs followed. I attended the 11:00 one on The Best Books of Last Year, where Jack Haringa, Matt Schwartz, and Hank Wagner discussed recent good reads. Lots of titles were suggested, including Christopher Golden’s latest, Snowblind, which received high recommendations.

After a noon lunch, it was time for the afternoon panels. I skipped the first one to catch up on some rest, check emails, make a blog post, and call home to see how things were on the home front.

The 2:00 panel Somebody’s Gotta Tell the Truth: The Smart People’s Panel was a panel on nonfiction and criticism, moderated by Jack Haringa, and featured Nicholas Kaufmann, Hank Wagner, Hildy Silverman, Tony Tremblay, and Bev Vincent. Much of the talk focused on critical reviews and whether it was good form to publish negative reviews of people’s works. The consensus seemed to be that it’s better simply not to review a “bad book” than write a scathing review about it.

The 3:00 panel Quiet On The Set!: The Long, Long Road from the Page to the Screen was a panel moderated by Lynne Hansen on what it takes to make a movie, covering such topics as writers, directors, producers, actors, scripts, and studios. The panel included Amber Benson, John Dixon, Mallory O’Meara, Brian Keene, and Jeff Strand.

At 4:00, it was time for the highlight of the day, the We Are Family: The Bob Booth Legacy panel. Bob Booth, the man who along with his wife Mary founded Necon, sadly passed away last year after a courageous battle with lung cancer. Moderator Matt Bechtel made it clear that the panel would honor Bob’s wishes not to turn Necon into a funeral service, and so Matt and fellow panelists Chris Golden, John McIlveen, Linda Addison, Jill Bauman, and Craig Shaw Gardner offered their insights and stories on how Bob influenced both their careers and lives.

In addition to founding Necon, Bob Booth was also a writer, publisher, mentor, scholar, and fan. He also started Necon EBooks, which published my first short story collection, two movie review collections, and coming soon my first novel. So, I know firsthand how well Bob Booth supported authors, because he gave me my shot for which I will be forever grateful.

One of the highlights of this tribute was a video interview of Bob from a several years ago, part of a project to record Necon memories on video. Bob was a gifted storyteller, and his appearance in this interview is chock full of fun stories and anecdotes, my favorite being the story of how Necon began.

After dinner, Toastmaster Jack Haringa offered his toast with his signature scathing wit, a nice preview of things to come in Saturday’s roast. Haringa’s toast was followed by the comical Necon Update with Mike Myers.

Following these lighthearted affairs was the more serious Necon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Inductees into the Necon Hall of Fame this year included Dan Booth and John McIlveen.

At 8:00 it was the Meet the Authors Party where authors like Christopher Golden, Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Brian Keene, among many others, signed their books and greeted fans. It’s an amazing venue in which to meet your favorite authors.

I had my In The Spooklight collection and For The Love of Horror short story collection on hand, as I set up shop with L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and John Dixon. I purchased Peter’s novella romp Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers and look forward to reading it.

At 10:00 it was time for Necon Late-Night Movies where I caught Lynne Hansen’s short film CHOMP, a lively little tale of people fighting off some hungry zombies.

And the night finished, as Necon nights always do, with late night socializing outside on the quad where you’d be hard pressed not to find a friendly author or a captivating conversation, the kind where you’ll suddenly realize an hour has past and you’re still talking about that latest movie or book or hot sauce recipe. You never know.

 

Saturday, July 19

Breakfast at 8:00 followed by the 9:00 panel, It Only Hurt A Little (Writing a Novel), moderated by Richard Dansky, where authors L.L. Soares, Kristin Dearborn, Meghan Acuri-Moran, Dan Foley, and Laura Cooney discussed the experience of writing their first novels. Dan Foley made a point to thank Bob Booth for helping launch his career by publishing his first novel with Necon EBooks. I second that thank you.

Following at 10:00, the Putting It All Together: How To (and Not To) Assemble an Anthology panel, moderated by Doug Winter, and featuring Tom Monteleone, Darrell Schweitzer, Kasey Lansdale, Scott Goudsward, and Jacob Haddon, where they discussed the ins and outs, and dos and don’ts of putting together an anthology. Among the topics of conversation was what to do when a name author delivers subpar material. This was a really interesting panel and included lots of practical nuts and bolts on how to assemble an anthology.

I skipped the 11:00 panel to catch up on some rest, and after lunch at noon, it was time for the 1:00 Guest of Honor Interviews, where Toastmaster Jack Haringa interviewed guests of honor Michael Koryta, Amber Benson, and Nick Kaufmann. This was a two hour event, but I had to skip out halfway through to work a shift at the New England Horror Writers table in the Dealer’s Room, which actually was a lot of fun, hanging out with Scott Goudsward and other members of the New England Horror Writers group.

At 4:00 it was the lively and energetic panel Man vs. Beast vs. Other: The Best Monsters in Modern Horror, in which the panelists discussed their favorite monsters. Moderated by P.D. Cacek, the panel included Errick Nunnally, William Carl, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Nate Kenyon. This was a really interesting panel where there was much more than just the traditional monsters discussed.

After dinner, it was time for the Artists’ Reception at 6:30 where there was some incredible art work on display, as always. This was presented with coffee and a delicious array of desserts. I had a chance to chat with Tom Monteleone during this event, and it was fun catching up.

At 7:30, it was time for the Necon Talent Show. This year the gimmick of the “gong” was added, a la the old Gong Show TV show. I’m not sure the gong went over all that well, but I actually liked it and thought it was hilarious. There was also a panel of judges this year, a la American Idol, including F. Paul Wilson doing his best British accent and Tom Monteleone playing the clichéd Italian.

Contestants sang, danced, performed stand-up comedy, and played guitar in a fun show which was entertaining and satisfying.

After this, it was time for The Infamous Necon Roast. The “unlucky” roastee this year was Guest of Honor Nick Kaufmann, and the running gag was Nick’s mediocrity. Of course, anyone who knows Nick, even just through Necon as I do, knows there’s nothing mediocre about him. Hilarious roast, and Nick was a good sport about it all.

Afterwards it was time for another for Necon Late-Night Movie, this time a showing of the short film GAVE UP THE GHOST, written by Jeff Strand, a comical tale of a possessed computer. Not something you see every day.

Into the night, more socializing, conversations, and grilled Saugies, those tasty hot dogs found only in Rhode Island.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

After 8:00 breakfast, it was the 9:00 panel Up and Coming: Genre and Erotic Fiction Do the 9AM “Walk of Shame,” a panel on horror and erotic fiction moderated by Sephera Giron, and featuring Peter Dudar, Hal Bodner, Mike Myers, Heather Graham, and Nick Kaufmann. This very informative panel discussed differences between erotica and pornography, and erotica’s place in horror fiction, and how to seamlessly mix the two.

I skipped 10:00 panel to pack up and check out, and at 11:00, it was time for the Necon Town Meeting where we took stock of the weekend and looked ahead to next year’s Necon.

Again, it was reaffirmed by the Necon first-timers how comfortable people here made them feel, and how much of a family Necon is, which is the true legacy of Bob Booth and the rest of the Booth family, that they have created a gathering for like-minded writers, readers, artists, and fans who can spend a weekend discussing the things they love, learning valuable insights, having tons of fun, and doing it all in a friendly environment, with people who though not related by blood feel and act like family.

It’s a one of a kind experience.

The weekend finished with the farewell lunch, where I sat with friends L.L. Soares, Laura Cooney, and Steve Dorato, most likely for the last time until next summer, and said my farewells to many familiar and friendly faces, people like Craig Shaw Gardner, Barbara Gardner, Chris Golden, Richard Dansky, and Paul McMahon to name just a few.

And of course the Booth family, Sarah, Dan, Mary, and Matt.

I said it last year but it bears repeating: Necon is more than a con. It’s family.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

ROCK AND SHOCK Weekend – A Shocking Good Time in Worcester, MA

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Rock and Shock

Rock & Shock Preview

By Michael Arruda

 

This weekend, Friday October 18, 2013 through Sunday, October, 20, 2013 is the Rock & Shock convention in Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

Rock & Shock is a neat convention held every year at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.  They feature a nice line- up of horror movie and television celebrities, and there’s usually a huge selection of horror merchandise, including T-shirts, collectibles, toys, costumes, posters, movie stills, what have you. 

 

This year’s guests, to name a few,  include Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, THE WALKING DEAD cast members Scott Wilson, Michael Rooker, and Irone Singleton, Robert Patrick from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), and many others, including horror author Jack Ketchum.

 

And across the way at the Worcester Palladium which is just down the road from the DCU Center, the con features performances by various rock bands from across the country.

 

While Rock and Shock tends to attract more film enthusiasts than readers, the New England Horror Writers still has a table there every year.  We’ve been going to Rock and Shock for quite a while now, since I first set up communications with Rock and Shock when I co-chaired the New England Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, the precursor to the New England Horror Writers, back in the early 2000s.

 

I will be at Rock and Shock this year on Saturday October 19, and I’ll have copies of my books, In The Spooklight, my collection of 115 “In the Spooklight” horror movie columns, and For The Love of Horror, my horror short story collection.  I’ll be at the New England Horror table sharing space with my fellow NE Horror Writers.

 

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you might consider heading out to Worcester for a little rock and shock.

 

For more information visit their website at rockandshock.com.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

—Michael