Memories are Books

I was cleaning and organizing my bedroom closet the other day when I came across a massive box of memories: dozens of books I've collected over the years, mostly signed, from friends and acquaintances from my old horror-writer days. It reminded me of that time when I discovered that the writing world was full of people and opportunities, chances to see others fighting for the same dreams as me; in some cases, achieving them. A lot of life was lived in the years when these books came into my hands, some amazing moments, some pretty bad. All through it was my own struggle to craft my craft and find a way to reach that dream tucked away in my heart since I was a teenager.

Mostly, looking at these books, I remember some pretty amazing people, many of whom I knew online only, but many from New England author events and conferences, including the wonderful weekend of Necon. There is no particular order to these photos, taken as I moved them into smaller, liftable boxes for storage:

Here are some oldies. I was very new to the genre when I bought this book Wind Over Heaven, by Bruce Holland Rogers. I met him only in passing during one of the dark Boskone conventions I attended (it's not Boskone's fault, but both times I attended there my life back home had caught fire pretty badly, another story, for another time). I would read Roger's stories in the Holy Grail, the Magazine of F&SF magazine in those days. One of my oldest friends in the horror world, Lauran (L.L.) Soares and his wife Laura Cooney, released a joint collection one year. My first Necon was Laura and Lauran's first, and we eventually started the New England Horror Writers with Michael Arruda not long after. Lauran has been a staple in that community since. He and I wrote a number of highly successful short stories together (including sharing our first Cemetery Dance appearance) and have a novella out together called Nightmare in Greasepaint (under my annoying pseudonym G Daniel Gunn). Lauran and I did quite a few movie reviews together for Cinema Knife Fight, too.

Richard Dansky, a Necon compatriot and awesome game-writer, released this particular book one year, and it was pretty terrific. If you look carefully, you'll find the spine of Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep, the first book in his first success with major publishers. Paul and I had a lot in common in our writing paths (initially), but unfortunately our first attempt at a co-written story produced a wonderful but apparently cursed piece which managed to shut down a number of publishers, not to mention almost kill an editor. We keep it tucked away safely in a box somewhere now, though it can be found in the hard-to-find anthology Borderlands 7 (if you dare read it). Paul has had tremendous success lately, with an M Night Shayamalan movie adaptation and another adaptation coming soon. We're all pretty proud of this annoying son of a bitch. :) The little novella just above is Nick Kaufmann's Chasing the Dragon. Like Paul, Nick's work is consistently good and just a wee bit left of center; his stuff is a common go-to for me. Nick is also a tremendous guy to hang out with. I'm pretty sure we both started going to Necon the same year. He's a legend there now, whereas I've had to step away in recent years. Just too much going on. John Little's book is there at the bottom (title deliberately backwards). Never met John in person, but we'd connected many times online. Lastly with this picture, sometime midway in my budding horror career, a man named Jonathan Maberry hit the scene with his military zombie books. A million books later he's still rocking the shelves, and somehow remains a pretty grounded person. Fun books, too.

Some more books from my early, wide-eyed innocent days of my horror career. For the first ten years (at least) of my Necon attending, Doug Winter was a staple, and in many ways a leader of the event. Normally a critic and non-fiction writer within the genre, Run was a venture into fiction. Loved it. And there's Jack Passarella's Wither which had won the Bram Stoker award for best first novel the year I joined the HWA and began working on their website (later alongside him). Nice guy from California. We've never met but were friendly online for a long time.  And of course, Jeffrey Thomas, long-time friend from the horror biz. An amazing writer, too. Oddly enough, though we live pretty close we rarely actually see each other in person. He blurbed my first collection way back.  And lo, even earlier in time we see Nancy Etchemendy's collection Cat in Glass. Nancy was a trustee and worked on the website for the HWA when I came on to help. Nice person (and another F&SF author which I thought was the bee's knees)

Now, above, jump ahead in time. Mark Peter Hughes was a mutual friend (though I can't for the life of me remember of who, Scott Fitts maybe?). Mark was successful for a time with YA novels, like I Am the Wallpaper shown here. I think this, and another, became movies. My daughters enjoyed these books. And though we'll get to him again later, see the book El Dia de Los Muertos from Brian A. Hopkins

Brian Keene. Good guy - though he tried/tries to maintain his facade of tough bad guy in the genre, and sometimes believes his hype (don't Brian, you're a nice person, admit it). Fantastic writer. He made it really big in the market when his zombie novel The Rising hit the shelves, a book that helped in a big way kick off the zombie craze of the early naughts. Brian also blurbed my first novel. And look there, The Cleansing, by John Harvey, another friend from Necon days. he's a sculptor now. Right around the same time as Jack Passarella's Wither won the Stokers, Joe Nassise's Riverwatch came out. A lot of us rotated in same spheres, connecting online in chat rooms and message boards (before social media took over that role). Steve Eller was a prolific editor for a time, putting out his Brainbox anthologies and giving exposure to some fledgling writers who later hit it big.  

And of course, my old Necon friend Mary, now Morven Westfield, and her debut vampire novel Darksome Thirst. Morven, the Soares, Mike Arruda, Steve Dorato and others were newbies at Necon at the same time. I hope you're doing (and feeling) well, Morven, it's been too long. 

A lot of writers who've done well for themselves today started out publishing in smaller presses that paid little but helped us build a backlog. Weston Oche's Scarecrow Gods was one of these. Wes has gone on pretty recently to some major success. Thinking about you now, Wes, as you struggle with health issues. You're a fantastic writer. One of my friends and an extremely talented writer and editor and who never believes the complement but should, Kevin Lucia. He was one of a few writers who made his debut in this connected series of novellas around the character Hiram Grange. Kevin's gone on to success, especially this year, and its well deserved.  A nod also to Harry Shannon I see there in the background!

Here are some more blasts from the past: Owl Goingback and Jon Merz. Owl won the Stoker for Crota in the early 2000's and published two others through the Leisure line. Crota was fun. Jon Merz was poised to take off with his Fixer action/vampire series through Pinnacle Books, and should have because the books were fantastic, but the bottom seemed to drop from the market.  Too bad, I enjoyed the series. Finally jump ahead in time to Pete Kahle, who until very recently ran a small press of his own and did well with it. Of course, the market is what it is recently, it closed up. You had a good run, though Pete.

Brian Keene and Leisure books were synonymous for a long time. When Leisure folded, a lot of midlist writers who'd been doing decently with their books, like Brian and Rick Hautala, found themselves adrift. Bad for the readers because the talent and product was only getting better. This book was one of Keene's later ones and like most of his books was a fun romp. Jump ahead a couple of decades, and I got this wonderful little folded paper comic called The Story of Bad Pam. Don't know the author, but it's so prevalent in the picture it was worth a mention. Finally, look behind Bad Pam and you'll just catch a promotional postcard for the wonderful, funny film THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVARA. I remember the screening of this movie at Necon and everyone in the auditorium was roaring with laughter all the way through. A very, very fond memory.  If you like old 50's sci-fi pulp movies, watch this!

We come back to Brian Hopkins. Making a name for himself with his short fiction and eventual novellas, Brian decided to try an experiment, a hugely successful one in my opinion considering how outside the box the idea was - CD ROMs were the newest technology. The Internet was still in its infancy. Lone Wolf Publications was formed to produced extremely (no pun intended) high quality anthologies of short stories, the anchors of which were his EXTREMES series (I was published in EXTREMES 4: DARKEST AFRICA). Thing is, these publications were published only on CD, never print. I did Brian's website and met some really cool folks in the process. Then, suddenly, around some strange, unspoken mystery, Brian suddenly deleted the website and all traces of his online presence without a word. He disappeared from the public eye, too, for decades. To this day I have a pretty strong theory about what might have happened, but I'll keep it to myself.  Still, it was a bit of a slap to those of us who "worked" for his publishing company. Decades later he reappeared to acknowledge he was still around, and I wish he'd write more, because he was very, very good at it. I hope things are will with you, bahwolf.

So many books. So many memories. Horror's unofficial Poet Laureate, Bruce Boston, there with his award-winning collection The Complete Accursed Wives (a collection that absolutely deserved the accolades). Jeff Strand, who is by far the funniest man in the horror genre (or at least tied with Cortney Skinner), and oddly enough one of the shyest, too! His books are brutally violent and scary at times, but always (or mostly) very funny. Which brings us to the name so prominent in this picture: Rick Hautala.

As mentioned earlier, Rick was a successful midlist writer with so many others during the 80's horror boom. That boom dried up in the 90's but with the 2000's it began to pick up, especially with the Pinnacle and Leisure lines exploding onto the shelves. Before this boom ended as well, Rick's catalog of horror novels was quite impressive, both under his name and pseudonym AJ Mathews. He even named a character after me once, which was fun. At Necon, Rick would hang out in the quad with his whiskey and cigars, and people - everyone - would come to him and just talk. He saw no hierarchy between someone who had twenty books to their name or hadn't written a full paragraph yet. He simply loved people and loved to talk about writing. Rick Hautala was, for so many, the highlight of Necon every year. He died 10 years ago as of this writing. He is very missed. 
If one person in the local horror business can come close to claiming Rick's throne of talented writer and all-around nice guy, one who people flock to simply because he is welcoming and loves to talk about writing, it's James Moore. Very little comes out of this man that isn't uplifting, funny or full of knowledge of the industry. The picture above shows one of Jim's early, small press books called Fireworks. He'd written for years, and slowly, too slowly, began to make a name for himself, until the last decade when his success soared with the renewed boom of the paperback. An incredible writer, loved by many. i think of you a lot, Jim, and hope your health issues have moved on down the road. Keep writing and being an anchor in the genre.

I've mentioned Jeff Strand and Jon Merz already. A fond Necon moment was meeting elder statesman of horror Hugh B Cave, who was guest of honor and seeing a renewal of success in the early 2000's with the Leisure line. Super nice man, who died a couple years after the conference when I met him. I enjoyed his book The Dawning.

Ah, my old friend Deb, aka Veda Dalsette (among many names, all with initials VD, lol). Deb and I worked together for years and though we've lost touch recently, I never tire of reading her too-cool, throwback stories of crime and love and silly predicaments. She writes like the madwoman she is, publishes the book, and moves on to the next. She's really good, too. And funny. Deb, call or email me! 

Bob Booth ran the oft-mentioned horror conference Necon (Northeast Writer's Conference, I think it stands for) for so long with his entire family. 2013 was a tough year for the horror industry. Not only did Rick pass away, but Bob Booth as well. Bob was a great man and knew how to get the people in. He spent the entire year preparing for that one weekend. When his son Dan Booth stepped away from running the con, Bob's "other son" Matt Bechtel took it over and has been running it since    .

So many of these books and memories were around the Necon conference, the early days I spent with the folks in the Horror Writers Association, and in the later years as co-founder of the New England Horror Writes. There are so many other names of people from the past, from this world of writing we've been walking around, names like GoudswardSalzarulo, Massie, Chadbourne, Sardinha and Bauman and so many, many others, I just don't have a picture above to use as a kick-off point. 

I've had to step back from my role as one of the leaders of the NEHW, and co-editor of our anthologies (though I still help out as needed), with my life as a renewed dad of three boys under 10, a son in his thirties, two daughters getting closer to 30 every year, and a beautiful granddaughter, my priorities have had to be shifted. 

Recently I'm writing again, both in the science fiction realm and fiction-devotionals genre which I just made up (I'm nothing if not my own worst enemy readership-wise). There will always be more memories, more books. The books and people above are just a sampling of so many great, great memories in my years as a horror author, how every book and person and experience both enhanced my life in that time, and at times kept me sane. I remember everyone, and every book, fondly. 


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