Category Archives: Events

Ghost Hunting with the Horror Writers

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Photo Credit: Callie Stoker

Last Friday night the Utah chapter of the Horror Writers Association went on a paranormal investigation at the Benson Grist Mill with the Pod Goblins. I caught my first EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) on audio – currently waiting (impatiently of course) for the professionals to clean it up and figure out the entire message but there’s definitely a man’s voice that starts out saying what sounds like ‘Hello’. The thing about EVPs are that you only hear them after you play back the audio, not when its happening real time. I can’t describe hearing that voice the first time. I still get goosebumps!

Once I get the audio back, I’ll post it here with a full write-up.

In the meantime, one of the other Horror Writers, Caryn Larrinaga, who experienced ghost hunting for the first time that night, did a full write-up. Some of her experiences were shared ones with me so I asked her if I could link my readers back to her site for a little taste of what the night entailed. Check it out here: http://carynlarrinaga.com/blog/2016/10/16/ghost-hunting .


Fall Conference 2016 Recap

What a weekend and what a crowning jewel of an event for this incredible year of the League of Utah Writers. As a committee, we faced many challenges. Biggest of which was having to change both dates and venues mid-year when it was announced that Salt Lake Comic Con was happening the same weekend the Fall Conference was also planned for.

We picked a new venue – with a price tag far higher than originally anticipated – and got to work. It was my first experience on a planning committee for an event this size and it amazes me the things we got done in the three months from our first meeting until the event itself. I was officially the vendor coordinator and kudos must be given to the incredible people who volunteered their time during the weekend to make sure things ran smoothly. They all helped me make it look effortless.

I took only random photos which speaks volumes to how busy I was the entire weekend. It was not my first time as a panelist but it was my first time doing solo presentations and I had a blast. It was humbling when both the room was full and people came up afterwards to either ask questions or tell me they were sorry they’d missed one because they’d heard it was great.

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Commemorating the event with badges for my collection

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Observing the Diversity Panel – which included three friends who did amazing jobs

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We may or may not have gotten a little lit after a very long day. I blame the wine guy at the restaurant who really knew his stuff!

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Best wine I’ve ever had!

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We were so hungry we devoured dinner before I could get a photo of how pretty it was. This is the devastation

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Sitting next to a fellow Infinite Monkey during a powerful presentation on the mindset of money. Had to snap a pic!2016-09-23-14-23-43

The very first panel I was ever on was at a League event and this guy was there. Now he’s a trusted colleague and a great friend. This is us right before the panel on Horror – our favorite subject!

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The “after party” playing makeshift version of Avalon – my new favorite game.

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Passing of the gavel at the end of the banquet. Capping off a great year and looking ahead to more greatness to come.

I’m so proud to be part of the League of Utah Writers – it is an amazing organization.


League of Utah Writers Fall Conference 2016

I’m excitedly preparing for yet another event that has taken a bunch of my time and which I should have said no to. But I couldn’t say no and I don’t regret any part of my involvement in the planning of this upcoming event. The League of Utah Writers has been around for over 80 years and this is the premiere event of the annual calendar. This year’s conference is being held in Provo, Utah September 23-24. It’s going to be a fabulous weekend and I’m scheduled as a presenter on both days of the conference.fallconfluwfinal

Because I’m a tad on the obsessive side when it comes to details (and I have mad skills with a spreadsheet) I got to put together the programming lineup after the committee picked the presentation proposals that would make up the conference. As a result, there is only one offering of the major class tracks during each hour. Which means if you’re there to learn about publishing, genre fiction, marketing, non-fiction or poetry you won’t have to miss anything. Craft classes are offered a couple of times an hour with lost of variety and we’ve got a sprinkling of self-development and other treats. Of course if you want a smorgasbord of everything I can’t really help you there other than to offer condolences since all the classes look fantastic.

The theme this year is “Write Here. Right now”. To support this we have a lounge planned where writers can rest, connect with each other, participate in word sprints, jot down their inspiration from a recent workshop or panel, or work on submissions for the flash fiction contest. In so many ways I wish I wasn’t part of the committee who will be responsible for running the event so I could sit back and enjoy as a full participant. I’m honored to be part of such a community that is going through a revitalization period focused on inclusion and community. Writing is a solitary activity but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s my schedule (subject to change of course…)

How to Scare Your Audience Panel – Friday 2:30PM

Short Stories: How and Why Presentation – Saturday 10:00AM

Maximizing Your Writing Time Panel – Saturday 11:00AM

Writing Groups 101 Presentation – Saturday 4:30PM

 

If you’re a local writer who is interested in attending, you can get details and register HERE.


Testing the Overachiever to the Max

For years I’ve prided myself in being an overachiever. Made it part of my life’s motto. Labeled myself as “Writer, Runner, Overachiever” when I first started writing as a professional. Many things have changed in the past years. Running has been replaced with yoga for a time while I healed. My corporate day job takes fifty hours a week instead of forty now. But I’m still an overachiever. It’s always been hard for me to say no to things if I think I can commit the time required. I could always give up something frivolous, like television and eight hours of sleep every night, to add something I wanted to do. Now, with my responsibilities to the League of Utah Writers I’ve been pushed to the maximum. There is nothing else to give up.

Which is why returning to college this fall to finish my degree is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m doing it anyway. I’m now a sophomore at Southern New Hampshire University thanks to my transfer credits from my first two years of college back in the nineties.

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Why the hell would I do something this insane?

Because after twenty five years as a working professional I’ve finally hit the ceiling of promotion potential without a college degree. Some may say, ‘who cares, you’ve got a great job now, why worry?’ Except I have a development plan that includes promotion into management. Something I can’t do without a degree. So, here I go – back to college at age forty four.

The best part, and what makes any of this feasible in my mind, I’m getting an English degree in Creative Writing.  I’m old enough to know exactly what I want to do when I grow up this time around. While my degree will benefit me in my corporate job (a piece of paper is a piece of paper), it benefits me just as much as a writer. I get to work on writing projects as part of my coursework, which means the next two to three years will be enjoyable on top of all the added stress. Tackling school without having to completely give up my writing is a righteous bonus in my book.

Classes start mid-August. Which is now my deadline to finish drafting my novel so I can get it out to editors and querying it before I have to figure out how to be a college student. Luckily for me, I found a program I can do online while everyone else is sleeping so it won’t take too much adjustment. Wish me luck. Here’s hoping my years of overachieving has prepared me for this ultimate test of my skills.

If any of you reading this are still in school, let this be a lesson to finish your college education when you’re young. Trying to go back later is a mighty pain in the ass and it never gets any cheaper!


The Truth In the Details

I wanted to title this “Learning to kill” but refrained from tempting the search engines and NSA quite so much. I’ve finally got time to recap the best things about recent appearances – namely World Horror 2016 and Spring Into Books.

World Horror was a convention rich in guests and very lean in attendance. It was a shame for the organizers but those of us who were there got unprecedented access to authors and other guests that normally would never happen. I’m not complaining that I’m now on hugging terms with greats like Kevin J Anderson after spending a convention weekend in Provo – we even talked politics and religion for an hour over drinks.

Best part of World Horror was the ballistics gel presentation by D.K. Goddard, a local author and publisher. He brought a lifelike slab of ballistics gel and let us all pretend to stab and maim it with weapons. All in the name of authenticity when we are writing action scenes. I learned that if you’re going to stab someone, it is much easier to push the knife into flesh than I anticipated and far more difficult to pull the blade out. Fully-engage-your-muscles difficult. Also, slicing someone’s throat – something that looks as easy as cutting through room temperature butter in the movies – takes great effort. It’s more like dragging the blade through six inches of crusty bread. If your weapon of choice is a hammer, you can do far more damage using the pointed side designed to extract nails than the blunt side. Here I am in the throws of intense research…

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Best take-away from this intense experience was realizing that the truth is in the details. It’s sufficient in my writing to say a character was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. But it’s much more intense to describe the sensations of what it feels like to wield the weapon. The lesson was invaluable and will be called upon in the future for certain.

A month later, at Spring Into Books, I got to meet an adorable eight year old who loves horror. (Shown here with permission from his mom.)

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I had the pleasure of teaching a presentation on writing for beginners, the last half of which we spent plotting an action scene where a mutant zombie destroyed a tank. We took that one sentence and showed how it happened rather than telling that it happened. It was both interactive and fun and I thrilled to see several attendees pause to take notes during the workshop. I love giving back and mentoring young writers. This annual event put on by the League of Utah Writers is a great place for young and old to find free workshops and meet local authors and I enjoyed being a part of it.


Spring Into Books

I’m teaching a free workshop on “Writing For Beginners” as part of  Spring Into Books this Saturday, May 28th. This is a free public event you won’t want to miss.

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This is a great event geared toward readers with extra fun things for writers, too. The main area will feature TONS of local authors with books to sell who love to talk to (and find new) readers. Family friendly with a children’s carnival and activities. If you’re a writer, there are workshops being taught all day – also free. I will have copies of both of my books available and would love to talk to anyone who loves to read.

I’m teaching at 3:45pm upstairs. If you’re local to the Salt Lake area, I hope to see you there!


World Horror Con 2016 Schedule

Here’s my schedule of appearances at World Horror next weekend.

Thursday, April 28th

2:00-3:00pm – Utah Horror (Come see how the horror scene has grown in Utah and where it’s going.)

8:15-9:15pm – Steampunk and Horror: A match made in hell (What is Steampunk Horror, how do you write it and how do you twist the two effectively.)

10:00-Midnight – Utah Horror Writers Party in the Con-Suite – Welcome to Utah!

Friday, April 29th

7:15-9:45PM – Book Signing

10:00-Midnight (Co-Hosting) League of Utah Writers Party in the Con-Suite – come mix and mingle with local authors

 

When I’m not making official appearances, I’ll be around – either manning a table for registration, selling books and talking about Utah Horror Writers Association, or answering questions about The League of Utah Writers.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have an official schedule of appearances at an event of this magnitude. It’s almost unreal but then I remember that I’m living my dreams… Hope to see you there!


World Horror Con 2016 – I’m a panelist!

World Horror Con is just around the corner – two weeks away now. I’ve been excited about this Convention for a long time. Horror is really my home and this is the first World Horror in my backyard. I’ve know for six months that I would be attending both to help promote the Utah Horror Writers Association chapter and the League of Utah Writers. This week I learned that I’ll also be a panelist. Proof that the answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask. This is the year of putting myself outside my comfort zone as a professional author and it’s paying off all over the place. I don’t have the final programming line up but I’ll share it when I do.

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The convention is closely associated with the Horror Writer’s Association so, thanks to my membership, I’ve been heavily involved as a volunteer on the convention committee behind the scenes. It’s fascinating to see how something of this magnitude is planned and how many people it takes to pull it off. There are some amazing folks giving a lot of their time to make this a fabulous event.

I’m also a party organizer with The League of Utah Writers. If you’re attending, make sure you pencil in the Friday night party to mix and mingle with local authors. It’s going to be great fun.

If you’re planning on attending World Horror, make sure you say hello. I’ll be the extroverted writer talking to everyone!


My First Royalty Statement

I reached another milestone today in my journey as a professional author: my very first royalty statement! Proof that I’m earning money from my writing. The first story I published has all proceeds going to charity so this milestone is a bit late in coming, but I am still thrilled at its arrival. Of course the money I’ve made in the six weeks since the release isn’t enough to warrant the publisher cutting me a check yet. But I’ve earned money, and that’s what really counts. Especially in this business where getting published is often easier than getting readership, which is the most important part.

If you’re a reader partially responsible for this milestone, because you bought and read my story in It Came From the Great Salt Lake, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Part of me wants to stop the hard work of novel writing and pump out another couple of instantly gratifying short stories for upcoming publications. I’m refraining. If I ever want to take the next step: a novel with my name on the cover and no one else’s, I must stick to the hard stuff. Current stats put me at forty percent complete on my first draft (assuming I can tell the story in sixty thousand words). If you need me, I’ll be writing!


2016 World Horror

You guys. It’s no secret I’m a lover of all things dark and scary. But did you know there is a convention for people like me? It is called World Horror Con. As part of my membership in the Utah Horror Writers chapter, I have the privilege of knowing some of the organizers. The more I hear about all the things they have planned, the more interesting the weekend becomes.

A discussion of all the ways you can kill people with food? Panels about police procedures? True crime discussions? Whether you’re a writer looking for inspiration and specifics or if you’re just a fan who wants a glimpse behind the scenes, this is going to be a killer convention. (No pun intended, of course!) It’s being held this year in Provo, Utah – my back yard. As a bonus, if you’re into art, the art show and vendor booths are open to the public.

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Here’s the official press release. I hope you’ll join me! This Con travels all over the country and there are no plans for returning to Utah – let’s send them on their way with all the love! (And if you’re out of town, think about a nice weekend in Utah. It’s a beautiful place and we’re having a hell of a ski season that should still be in full swing then!)

Horror Comes to Utah!
Provo, Utah.

The World Horror Convention, an international gathering of horror writers, artists, editors, filmmakers, and fans, will converge on the Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Provo, Utah, April 28 to May 1, 2016.  This premiere event has been to Salt Lake City twice.  For the third, and final, appearance in Utah, it will be in Provo.

WHC, a semi-professional conference, will have panels and presentations featuring professionals in the field on subjects as diverse as current literature, true crime, horror poetry, dark fantasy, horror art, Vincent Price, the developmental stages of a serial killer, Cracking the Story Code, Police Procedurals for Writers, and the dark side of Disney.  A special “killer tea” will feature a keynote speaker who will help authors find creative ways to kill people with food.  The event includes an art show, vendors’ room, horror film festival, kaffeeklatsches, and book signing by 100 horror authors.  Workshops and pitch sessions will be available for writers and an artist alley will showcase artists at work.  Guests will also have the opportunity to go on a real ghost hunt.

The event will feature some of the top authors in horror fiction, including Darren Shan, Sarah Pinborough, Jack Ketchum, Joe McKinney, Brian Keene, Kevin J. Anderson, Michaelbrent Collings, Michael Arnzen, and Dan Wells.  It will also feature poet Linda Addison, cover and concept artist Keith Thompson, graphic novel and cover artist, Carter Reid and scholar, editor and author, Michael R. Collings.  In addition, Victoria Price, daughter of famed actor Vincent Price, will do a presentation on her father and have some of his work available for sale.  There will also be a number of academic presentations on true crime.

The World Horror Convention, established in 1991, is the premiere event for horror fans and professionals alike.  It is held in a different location every year and celebrates the horror genre.  The 2016 World Horror Convention will showcase a growing community of professional authors and artists in Utah as well as a number of guests from around the world..

Help Utah welcome the world to The ZomBee State!  Go to http://whc2016.org for more information on the convention and how to become a member.