I did the signing at Dark Delicacies on Thursday night- and whilst everyone else was heading back to the hotel to drink and mingle- I headed home. I live sixty miles or so from Burbank. I took my son to the signing- but I wanted my wife at the Stokers.
The signing itself was a hoot- more like a party than anything else. Imagine close to thirty horror writers crammed into the coolest book store ever drinking beer and wine and munching on snacks. Ye,s a few books got signed- but I don’t think that was the actual point!
We got up at 6:00 on Saturday. I had barely slept a wink in two nights, due to nerves and excitement, and I was running on adrenaline. My wife had worked to past midnight the night before- to clear her desk. She typically goes in over the weekend to keep on top of things. So we were both running on empty.
We somehow manage to set off around half seven. I was convinced I had forgotten to pack something…But for the life of me I could not figure out what.
Being a Saturday morning L.A.’s traffic was not completely unbearable and at just after nine we arrived at the hotel. My first ‘Kaffeklatche’ was at ten with Mick Garris. That is where twelve people sit in a mini conference room sip coffee and chat.
At first the smartly dressed front desk clerk informed me they had no rooms available to check in- and if I could wait a short while. Then my guardian angel must have had a chat with him as a gleam suddenly came across his face.
“We do have a suite available and we can upgrade you for no additional cost.” He said.
“Thanks!” I said as I signed in.
Moments later we were unpacking in about the biggest hotel room I have ever stayed in. I have no reason for the upgrade…Other that I was part of the convention, had an English accent, looked ready to drop and was friendly. Perhaps he thought I had just flown in from the U.K? Still I have found it prudent not to question when fate smiles on you.
After unpacking we headed downstairs for coffee and something to munch on.
We soon found ourselves perched on a stool in the hotel’s Starbucks. A few old friends acknowledged me- as well as some new ones from the signing. At ten to ten I realized I needed to leave. I went for my wallet.
“There is no charge,” the woman who served me said. I then noticed she was the manager on duty at the hotel. Obviously someone had called in sick.
“Thanks,” I said as I walked away.
Sarah and I went in search of the conference rooms. By this point the adrenaline and caffeine had combined and my pulse rate was racing.
According to the snazzy program it was to be held in room 123- but room 123 was conspicuously not set up.
I soon found the correct room 129; Sarah kissed me on the cheek, and wished me good luck.
“Thanks!” I said as I entered the room.
To my amazement Mick was already there.
“How embarrassing, I am the first one at my own Kaffeklatche,” he said.
We began to chat as another gentleman- whose name eludes me- entered the room.
I suddenly felt bold.
“I am not sure of protocol of these things but might I have my photograph taken with you?” I said at a speed that would put an auctioneer to shame.
“I don’t know the protocol either- and of course you can have a photograph.” Mick answered.
“Would you mind?” I said offering my camera to the third gentleman.
“Not at all,” he said taking the camera.
Two photographs were taken, then Mick took the camera.
“How about I take a photograph of you two?” He said.
“Thanks!” I said as I posed for the photograph.
There were still few people there. I mentioned that the room had been changed.
That is how Mick Garris and I ended up walking down the corridor to try and find the missing.
Upon our return a few more bodies had appeared…Including Rocky Wood an Australian famous for his writings on Stephen King. I have known him via the internet for a number of years. It was one of those instant friendship scenarios.
The conversation for an hour whizzed by and much was discussed- including, naturally, his work with Stephen King. Bag of Bones, their latest collaboration, should be one heck of a movie. We discussed the state of horror in Hollywood. And how it was considered the lowest of the low right now. He also went on about how horror movies have been marketed to the teenaged crowd for years- and now the only people who see horror films are teenagers. So now Hollywood is not interested in making horror movies for the more intelligent mature viewer. (Not that all teenagers lack intelligence…But you get my point.) If Bag of Bones is a success hopefully the tide will turn.
It was a very insightful hour.
The conversation also, again naturally, went to The Shining and the Overlook hotel. Now the original movie is a great movie in its own right- but hardly a faithful rendition to Stephen king’s brilliant book. We got the ultimate insiders view of how the television miniseries of it came about, how happy King was with it, and just how much bloody work goes into filming a project like that. The crew works six twelve hour days a week- the director works seven fourteen hour days.
I mentioned that I would love to stay at the Overlook hotel and that my wife is not interested. In my most heavy foreshadowing yet, Garris and Hood told me that they would talk her into it.
Afterwards I got to mingle in the dealer’s room and chat with a few folks I knew. Sarah was sleeping at this point. At two I had my first pitch session- with Don D’Auria. He is the man behind Leisure fiction- which is the largest publisher of mass market fiction there is. No pressure!
I had prepared three pitches and a biography all neatly bound in a folder.
At one I ventured back to the hotel room to get a half hour’s rest beforehand. Naturally I did not sleep- I fidgeted.
At ten minutes before the allotted time, I splashed ice water on my face, and straightened my hair.
“Good luck,” Sarah said from under the sheets.
“Thanks!” I said as I exited the room.
As the elevator went down I ran over in my head what I had intended to say.
As I got off I saw my good friend John Everson talking with Don- he is published through them and writes brilliantly. I walked on over. I introduce myself to Don. I cannot tell you word for word what went down yet. John mentioned I was a great guy and a talented writer. I told John drinks were on me for the rest of the day. Don chuckled.
Don and I headed over to where the pitch sessions were being held- right in the lobby.
A child about eight was sitting in his allotted space.
“I need to take care of my lunch tab- I will be back in a few minutes,” Don said.
“While you are gone I will tell that kid a horror story that will put him in therapy for at least ten years.” I said.
“That’s you job isn’t it?” He said as he went outside.
So there I sat a whirlwind of emotion, my head about to explode, and still the kid sat there.
Fortunately the youngster left after a couple of minutes and I took over his seat.
An apologetic Don returned to the foyer and joined me.
“All I had to do was offer the kid candy,” I said “and I have never seen a kid run that fast before.”
The pitch session began. I will not go into any detail about it- as that is not professional.
However of the three proposals I pitched he loved the first one.
I will have a completed manuscript in his hands in four months.
Naturally I could not believe it- and wanted to run around the hotel screaming at the top of my lungs. However I realized that getting arrested might not help my career.
I went and told John and a couple of other writers I knew- then I returned to the room to tell Sarah.
“I always knew you could do it.” She said peering at me through her angelic green eyes.
“Thanks!” I said as I poured myself a shot of vodka.
A short while later at three I found myself in my second ‘Kaffeklatche,’ with two heroes of mine…Richard Matheson senior and junior. Rocky was also there. At this point I genuinely began to question if the day was a dream. It all seemed to surreal to good to be real. The Mathesons’ proved to be not only charming, engaging and intelligent- as I knew they would be- but remarkably humble and approachable. There are five writers I routinely slate as having a major influence on me- and Richard Matheson is certainly on that list. Robert Bloch is also on that list- and as you might know they were great friends. Listening to Richard talk about Robert put me on the edge of tears. I must share this one account he told us.
When Robert was close to death Richard contacted everyone who was anybody in the world of horror to write a short tribute. Naturally everyone responded. Richard’s initial intent was to read these at the memorial service. However somebody (his son perhaps?) suggested that he put them all together and have Robert read them. Now that is pure class.
That hour went all to fast. I did have a chance to question him on his writing. I asked if he always knew the ending when he started on page one. He said he did although sometimes he would change it before getting there. He said his best ending were the ones that caught even him by surprise. He then asked me how I did it. I told him I did the same. That is a moment I shall never forget.
The chat ended at three- and at three I was supposed to have my second pitch session.
At this point I was walking on air.
It took me a few minutes to find Zac Sanford. I apologized for being tardy and told him where I had been.
It was a wonderful chat and he is someone with true passion for making movies. I have bandied that word a lot in this account-passion- but that is what it takes to be a success. Zac is certainly that- his last movie was “Ghost Town.” Well it turns out he is a fan of short horror stories and I gave him a copy of my latest book. He told me he would read it and get back to me by Friday.
“Thanks!” I said as we shook hands and said goodbye.
I went upstairs and reported in to my better half. I then had a second shot of vodka. I seriously don’t expect any phone calls from Hollywood- but at least I got to chat with one of the brightest lights in the movie business.
Well I went upstairs to relax before getting dressed for the Bram Stoker awards and an eighties themed party that preceded it.
More fidgeting ensued.
It was at five, when I was putting on my black suit that I realized what I had forgotten.
So that is how I came to be in my best suit, mingling with everyone, without any socks on.
Rocky Wood came up, I introduced him to my wife, and he started to tell her all the reasons she should stay at the Overlook hotel! Afterwards I brought him a drink!
A few minutes later I introduced her to Mick- and after his opening bit of conversation, Sarah got suspicious that a conspiracy was afoot!
The Stoker banquet was a hoot- and I had to keep pinching myself that I was actually there.
I will not go in to the details. For those of you interested there are many better blogs out there with writers of a much better caliber than me.
However I did make an accidental mistake which could have been epic.
Early on Sarah, me and Bill Breedlove saved four tables on one that had prime real estate value near the centre of the room. I rested my jacket on the back of a chair and went off again to socialize.
Upon returning I discovered that Cody Goodfellow, John Skipp and Don D’Auria were seated there.
My thoughts went to my lack of socks.
Don smiled at me, got up, and kneeled besides me.
He spoke in a hushed, yet serious tone.
I knew something was wrong- but what?
“I know our pitch session went extremely well but this table is reserved for those already published by Leisure.” He pointed to a sign which I had failed to notice before hand.
I could have dropped dead with embarrassment right there on the spot.
I explained what happened as sweat from my forehead poured down my face and burnt my eyes.
Then Sarah and I got up, and skulked away to a table at the back.
The night ended with a few drinks with Stephen Jones and me retiring early to bed.
All in all quite the experience…Wouldn’t you agree?