(Very Tardy) World Horror Con and Keycon 31 Roundups

These roundups are coming a bit late, aren’t they? Like-“holy shit, really? It’s been two months”-kind-of-late. Between prepping for World Horror and traveling and then prepping for Keycon a week later, I managed to fall pretty far behind on a number of things. Having mostly dug myself out of the catch-up hole, it’s a long one, but here you are:

It’s hard for me to separate my impressions of these two cons, they happened so closely together, for one, and I hung out with a few of the same awesome people at both. In fact, World Horror Con (or the reconvening of the Illuminaughty) all spun out of last year’s Keycon 30. I had a great time with a bunch of awesome folks and we got to reminiscing on Twitter and missing each other and tried to find a convention where we could all meet up. Lee Moyer and Venetia Charles kindly offered to host those of us who made it down to Portland for World Horror and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ann Aguirre, GMB Chomichuk and I leapt at the offer.

The first leg of my trip to Portland for World Horror Con was Winnipeg to Minneapolis. The Minneapolis airport was nice enough, although I found actually boarding my next flight to be a part of crazy hodge-podge of too many gates too close together and an unending series of boarding announcements. Boarding feels considerably more higgledy piggledy (to quote Bloom County “Higgledy Piggledy means a big mess”) in the U.S. than it does in Canada. Also, a shoutout goes to the guy wearing the “You’ll Take My Guns From My Cold Dead Hands” T-shirt in the terminal. Way to represent, fella.

Another peculiarity of being south of the border was that there was Wi-Fi on my plane. I was very excited about being able to tweet during my flight, not that it was particularly dramatic, but c’mon, living in the future. Then I saw that I had to pay for the privilege and my cheap inner Winnipegger took over and decided to read instead. But I did see the mountains, sure I saw them from 30000 feet up, but that’s the closest I’ve come to them yet. I’ve seen them in the distance from Calgary but I couldn’t really make anything out. Next time I’m in Alberta, I’ll have to get closer, I guess.

When I left Winnipeg, the snow had been gone for about a week, all the trees were bare, all the grass was dead. Imagine how refreshing it was to see this when I landed:

Portland Green

In Bloom

At World Horror, I took in a few panels. Gregory crashed the comics panel at the insistence of Silvia and myself. He ended up moderating and rocked it.  Seriously, if you ever need to keep a panel lively, get that GMB fellow up there.

I also spent a lot of time watching GMB sketch. I always carry a notebook, he always carries a sketchbook, and both of us were scribbling words and pictures all weekend.

GMB Sketching 1

We came up with Secret Plans. (More on that in the future, hopefully.)

I also got to watch Lee Moyer work, seriously, check out his portfolio. He is amazing.

I’ve said this before, but it remains true, one of my favourite things about attending conventions is meeting people who I’ve so far only chatted online with. World Horror was a great con for that, and I finally got to meet Folly Blaine, Minerva Zimmerman, Wendy Wagner, Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa, and Jennifer Brozek (Jennifer was my editor for my first Steampunk story, “A Taste of the Other Side”, forthcoming in Beast Within 4, Gears & Growls).

I can usually avoid con-crud, but I got sick the day after I arrived in Portland. I don’t think it was a bug, so I’m blaming the two hour time change. Fortunately, I was able to rally. (Thanks for looking out for me, guys!)

My only programming at World Horror was offering a critique to an aspiring writer. It was supposed to be a shared critique with another pro, and done in the Clarion Style. All good. Except I was still feeling like ass, and the other pro didn’t show up, so I had an hour of critiquing to fill instead of thirty minutes. Something good spun out of it though. That aspiring writer had gone through the trouble of making a submission and so I was determined to be “on” for him. Being forced to show up and not stay home wallowing in self-pity also pushed me through the wall of my headache and nausea, and I felt a lot better when the critique session was over. I hope the aspiring writer did too. He took my suggestions well, and was an affable, fun guy. I really hope he’s successful.

We managed a bit of time for sightseeing:

We had lunch at Zeus Cafe (food was great), which had a great basement club, called Al’s Den (very sweet art on the walls).

Essence of Manly Beauty

Lemmy! The essence of manly beauty.

Black Keys Poster

The Black Keys!

We also visited the legendary Powell’s Books, and man it lives up to its rep. For my Winnipeg friends, imagine if McNally Robinson had four floors and sold used and new books. It was also very busy. It did my heart good to see so many people in a bookstore on a sunny Saturday (Yes, it was sunny in Portland. At least until it rained again.) afternoon.

We started the dance at World Horror’s Gothic Ball. It was also strange to see more people dancing to “Funky Town” than “Closer“, but hey, Funky Town!

Maple Bacon Bar

Voodoo Doughnuts!

I first heard about Voodoo Doughnuts while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show, and have been lusting after the pictured bacon maple bar ever since. So good.

Street Elevator

Loading elevators that came out of the street!

By the time I noticed what was happening and got my phone out to get the picture, the delivery had already disappeared into the bowels of Portland’s underground.

Yes, I found a comic store. Evidently, Portland is rife with comics professionals. No surprise there, given it’s the home of Dark Horse Comics. The neighbourhood I was staying in was home to one Brian Michael Bendis, who you may have heard of.

Leaving Minneapolis for both Portland and Winnipeg, my flights were racing a thunderstorm (appropriate, I know) and on the flight home, there was a moment when it actually felt like the plane was going to fall out of the sky. Crazy. Scary. Cool (because, you know, it didn’t).

When I got home from Portland, I had a couple of cool things waiting for me:

Sword & Mythos

My backer’s copy of the latest Innsmouth Free Press anthology, Sword & Mythos!

On Spec Spring 2014

And my contributor’s copies of the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec, which includes my Thunder Road story, “Runt of the Litter.”

Keycon 31 was a bit different beast. And while we’re not quite at the Cheers phase, my home con is definitely the place where a lot of people now know my name.

Silvia was a guest of honour here, so we got to hang out again, which was awesome. I picked Silvia up at the airport and we went on a walking tour of Winnipeg’s Exchange District before grabbing some supper.

Silvia at Millenium

Friday night, I shared my reading slot with Samantha Beiko, who I unintentionally trolled during her reading.

SM Beiko Reading Keycon 2014

Samantha is reading from her phone, see, and I decided to tweet about her reading and tag her. If only I could’ve caught the look she gave me when she realized what was happening. Again, sorry, Samantha! Not intentional. (She got her revenge when we went to see Godzilla and punched my belly like it was a speed bag at the gym. Tiny but fierce.)

Met some awesome folks, such as author (and wrestler) Adam Knight and cartoonist Johnathan Hatton. I caught up with old friends, Clare Marshall, Code Skillen, Levi Labelle and Brian Mitchell, co-chairs from Keycon 30.

I also signed a book for Tanya Freaking Huff. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t get old. I love her writing and she is a wonderful human.

The women who worked the Chapters book table last year were back again. Many thanks for your support and enthusiasm, Dana, Stephanie and Sydni! I had at least a couple of people at my signing who told me they bought Thunder Road because you sold them on it. You rock!

Gregory Chomichuk didn’t have any pieces in the art show this year, but he was doing live art in the registration area. So cool!

GMB Live Art Keycon 2014GMB Keycon 2014

(I saw this piece, finished, and up for sale at Gregory’s joint “CoLabratory” art show, which was a time and a half.)

When it came to panels I was on the Locally Grown: Authors and More You Likely Missed panel, moderated by my pal Adam Petrash alongside Samantha Beiko, GMB Chomichuk, Karen Dudley, Adam Knight, Johnathan Hatton, Laurie Smith, Lindsay Kitson, Leia Getty, and Lenora Rose Patrick.

Using Setting and Culture to Shape Characters with Samantha Beiko and ably-moderated by another Winnipeg fantasy author, Sherry Peters.

My final panel was Sparking Creativity, which I shared with Sherry Peters, artist GoH Ian Sokoliwski, and GMB Chomichuk. I was late to this panel, because for some reason I thought it was hour later than it turned out to be. Fortunately one of my fellow panelists tweeted that he missed me, and I dashed off. I was in such a hurry that I got caught in a lie. We were talking about opening yourself up to creativity and I mentioned that I always carried a notebook so if I had an idea I didn’t lose it, when Gregory noticed that I didn’t have my notebook on the table (I’d left it safely behind the Faery Ink Press table in the dealer’s room when I realized I was late) and called me on it. But I did have my back up, my phone, which has a notepad and voice recorder app, so I somewhat recovered my always taking notes cred.

I missed a bunch of panels that I would have liked to check out. They were either opposite my programming or in the brief spans that I had available to try to squeeze food out of the hotel restaurant. I did take in GMB’s panel on Storytelling for Graphic Novels, which was fun.

Silvia, code and I played Crazy 8s (and tried to remember how to play Crazy 8s) while waiting for the banquet to start. After dinner we roamed the party rooms until the ungodly hours of the morning.

And at least I managed to finish this blog post before I have to write one for When Worlds Collide!

Write on!

 

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