7 horror writers are gifted the names of 2 real people and told to do whatever they wanted – as long as those unspeakable acts contained a chicken! In the resulting stories, “David” and “Peggy” are troubled, tortured, and terrified. The owners of these names won the right and the exquisite privilege to experience this unique madness, and the writers of GLAHW were all too happy to oblige.Welcome to the 3rd Edition of Recurring Nightmares, the Special Raffle Prize of the annual Monster Mash for Literacy Bash, hosted by the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. This Annual Halloween Party benefits the Dominican and Siena Literacy Organizations in Detroit.
Over a week ago, Motor City Comic Con was in town, bringing with it celebrities, crafters, and most important – Comic Creators from around the industry. MCCC is a highly anticipated pop culture exposition held annually the third weekend in May. This year, over a record breaking 55,000 people met with creators, cosplayers, and celebrities to buy. sell, and squeee over their favorites.
While a lot has changed, from the size of the venue to the caliber of the celebrities, the main goal has remained the same – be the premier pop culture exposition in Southeastern Michigan. Sure there are larger conventions in Chicago and Indianapolis and Columbus, but this one belongs to Michigan. GLAHW has attended the convention as vendors for the past 8 years, selling horror anthologies and members’ works at booth space designed to be enticing and intriguing. It’s a gruelling job, but one we enjoy doing and MCCC always feels like the Thunderdome of conventions fro the upper Midiwest.
Because of restrictions by both guests and representatives of the guests, as well as time crunches due to the massive crush of people, I was unable to really get out and see as many celebrities as I would have liked. I also don’t have photos of celebrities taken from afar – it’s rude (and not allowed) to snap without permission. I do however have personal photos of fun Cosplay I saw throughout the day. Other media organizations have photos galleries (see below foer a few links) and I encourage you to check them out!
Here then is my recap of four days in the trenches (click to embiggen the photos).
Thursday is Zero/Set up day for many vendors. The large bay doors are opened to the rear and trucks and vans file into the convention space like busy drones preparing a hive for the queen. GLAHW usually grabs two 8’ table spaces, but some vendors and exhibitors have massive space set ups. Like sailors navigating by the stars, convention goers often use the tower of t-shirts as a reference point. Thursday setup is also a great opportunity to see who will be your booth buddies.
Check-in was quick and I was able to grab my exclusive Film Obsession press badge as well as my GLAHW Vendor Badge and see where we’d be set up. I wasn’t part of the actual setup due to work obligations, so thanks go out to Peggy Christie and Michael Cieslak for a great table set up. We were under the giant letter “I”, which made for easy directions if anyone wanted to visit us.
I dressed in my best blue dress and favorite blue hair and motored down to MCCC. Arriving at 11:00 am, I joined Peggy and Michael at the booth and by noon, the VIP pass holders were filing in. Many celebrities don’t arrive to the convention floor until Saturday, but that was okay, since there was already a large crowd through the doors. I spoke with the CKC Agency about setting up interviews and the very helpful Frank was able to direct me to who was and wasn’t giving press for the weekend. Completely understandable, since this convention is how a lot of touring celebrities connect with fans.
Because it’s usually the less congested of the three days,Friday is a good meet and greet day for Vendors to familiarize yourself with your neighbors, plot the best course for the restrooms and see where all of the celebrities are seated in case you have a chance to break away for a quick autograph. Not a ton of cosplayers visited Aisle I, but we did see the back end of Captain Ohio.
Michael Nesmith of the Monkees was there, Ivy Doomkitty and Alloy Ash signed and took photos with fans amd comic artist and writer, Alan Davis had a line that never seemed to diminish with admirers eager to talk to him.
Meanwhile at the GLAHW table, we’re doing a brisk walk-up business. Writers are a hard sell at an exposition, because unlike visual art or collectibles, what we sell is hidden between sheets of cardstock, with enticing but vague covers. That’s why GLAHW does its own version of visual art with theme cosplay days and fancy dress. If they can catch your eye, maybe you’ll be interested in picking up a few books, or at least business cards to check them out later.
(I did my best to help)
This is Insanity Day! Up and on the road by 8:30, through the doors at 9 am, first customers shortly after 9:30 – and then the world exploded. The crowds were expansive, with lines around the block, overflow lots at capacity. There were two cancellations of note, Billie Piper and Robin Lord Taylor, and while there were disappointed people, the remaining star power was staggering.
Jon Bernthal and Elden Henson from Daredevil smiled and greeted fans warmly. Jon E. L. Tenney and Dirk Manning both had standing room only panels in the expanded convention space. Lena Headey, Brent Spiner, and Katrina Law kept their fans laughing and entertained on their respective panels. The truth may have been out there, but Mitch Pileggi and William B Davis kept things strictly confidential – confidentially amazing!
(I don’t know what that means, either)
There was no shortage of great talks and fantastic conversation. The cosplay contests brought out the creative and the dazzling.
One disappointment was the cancellation of the Walking Dead Panel. Representatives of AMC pulled the plug on this one due to the actors being under contract and unable to talk about the show during the off-season. Lots of unhappy fans,
As for the GLAHW crew, The Theme Day Creepy Dolls, so Blade, a broken Ballerina, and a Voodoo doll worked the booth.
So many fans and readers stopped by to pick up the latest issues of Erie Tales and Ghostlight, and works by members. The horror was the data signal inside was extremely poor, likely being due to 30K people trying to update photos and text family at the same time. Sprinting outside to to credit cards was a great way to get in daily steps!
The most adorable Supergirl ever (mild-mannered Lola) posed with Peggy and it was so sweet, we all got meth mouth.
I saw a very cool cosplay of from the Rooster Teeth anime, RWBY
And Louise and Tina managed to slip away from Bob’s Burgers to take pictures of butts. (not really, but maybe)
This would have been the best day for interviews, had I been able to land any, however with the sheer volume of people it just wasn’t possible. Many celebrities had opted for no press, which is absolutely their right, and even the few times I was able to break away, the celebrities I would have like to talk with were dealing with autographs and pictures.
As the day finally wound down, Ian Zeiring walked down our aisle and smiled and waved. He mouthed the words of out banner as he walked past. He knows who we are. Now is the time to strike!
One more day. We can do this.
This is a shortened, getaway day for many of the celebrities. It’s has a much lighter load than Saturday, and it’s a great bargain day for those looking for a deal. Lots of celebrities leave by 2or 3 and the show closes at 5. Kiddie cosplay contest highlighted the adorable I did not envy Ivy Doomkitty her job as Judge. Lea Thompson spoke about her time on the Back To The Future set with audience questions and answers and Alan Davis had a panel on Comics writing. The expanded hotel-convention center allowed for multiple panels and contests to run concurrent with the main convention floor activities, so ther ewas plenty of room walk, decompress in the lobby, or hit any number of available rooms for gaminh and anime movies.
I dresses as Zoe Washburne, complete with replica Mare’s Leg, so lots of pictures of me exist out there. I try not to think about it.
The folks at the GLAHW table still did brisk business, selling anthologies, memberships and talking to fans and admirers.
At 5:00pm the show was over, and a few celebrities could be seen walking the quickly emptying floor, seeing things they missed and making final purchases. We broke down the booth, put away the snacks, and packed up our books. We said goodbye to our aisle mates and promised to meet again at upcoming shows. Convention vendors are a lot like carnies – we’re a twisted extended family and we totally get the life.
We’re totally looking forward to Motor City Comic Con 2017, and we can’t wait to do it all again.
*Dislaimer, MontiLee has been a member of GLAHW since 2008
Unelss otherwise noted, Photo Credit @ MontiLee Stormer, all rights reserved.
Just in time for Spring, the Winter Edition of Ghostlight, The Magazine of Terror, presented by GLAHW and edited by Nicole Castle will be available April 1.
We are please to present the TOC:
Spring Thaw – L.S. Engler
The Flesh – Jay Helmstutler
Devil May Care – Phil Margolies
Odd Dog – Stephen McQuiggan
Adopting the Shadow – John Thomas Allen
Too Good to be True – Kimber Grey
Chirp – Patrick Winters
The Nefarious: A Tale of a Notorious Halloween Dance – J.J. Steinfeld
The Atomizer and the Matchbox – Christina Sng
Spider Webs – Trico Lutkins
The Confession – Clive Carpenter
Skitters – S. L. Dixon
Blur – Mike Trottier
Lived In – Rachel Watts
And the Cover
Member Idalita has some wonderful news!
Book Launch Party!
Eye of Saturn series
by Idalita Wright Raso
The latest from Solstice Publishing
Come help me celebrate my debut with the launch of my first paranormal, Eye of Saturn: The Daughters of Saturn Book One.
Save the Date!
Friday, April 22, 2016 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
You and your guest(s) are cordially invited to celebrate the official book release party.
Please RSVP: eosbooklaunchpartyrsvp [AT} gmail DOT com
13015 Larchmere Blvd.
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120
Free and convenient on-street parking on Larchmere and side street parking on Cheshire and adjacent streets.
There will be two dramatic presentations, a dramatic reading, Q&A session, book signing, giveaways, food, sangria, and cake will be served.
The book will be available for purchase at this event at Loganberry Books. For more information about Author Idalita Wright Raso, or to purchase the book online visit:
We here at GLAHW have met so many amazing and talented people out in the big wide world (you know, OFF the internets) and thought it was high-time we introduced them to you. Who knows? You may end up discovering a favorite new artist, photographer, writer, or all-around awesome human. This time around, Ken MacGregor will be talking to an author who is viscerally cool: Jessica McHugh. http://www.jessicamchughbooks.com/
GLAHW: How long have you been writing? Professionally?
JESSICA McHUGH: I’ve loved writing stories and poetry since I was a kid, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was around nineteen. At that time, I worked in a perfume kiosk at the mall, and since we didn’t do much business, I had lots of time to kill. I read a lot, of course, especially horror and fantasy. I can’t pinpoint what kicked me off—though I could probably blame months and months of reading Roald Dahl short story collections—but one day I decided to set aside other people’s stories and write my own. Most were terrible and fairly derivative, but once I started I couldn’t stop.
I spent the next five years writing novels, novellas, and short stories without considering their future. I didn’t write to be published. I didn’t want to be published at that time. I just wanted to create, to follow my passion until I fell so head over heels in love with writing I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. And it worked. On my worst days with a full-time job, when I was working in molecular diagnostics for 8+ hours and throwing myself into insane revisions as soon as I got home, I never contemplated giving up. Even now, when I’m dealing with too many projects, too little money, too many health woes and familial issues, and writing seems like the ultimate stress in my life, I love it too much to let it go.
In summation, Writing and I are clearly in an abusive relationship, and you’re all enablers.
GLAHW: What draws you to write horror?
JESSICA McHUGH: Fresh, gaping wounds provide so many opportunities for scenes chock full of sensory details. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to write about the sights, smells, and sounds of horror. It’s so much fun! I’d rather write a death scene than a sex scene any day—or combine them like I did with my forthcoming erotic horror novel, “The Train Derails in Boston.” That was an interesting experiment, for sure.
GLAHW: Do you ever write something and then sit back and think “what the hell?!?”? If so, can you give us an example?
JESSICA McHUGH: Many times. For instance, the book I mentioned above. While I was writing “The Train Derails in Boston” for NaNoWriMo 2012, it didn’t disgust me. I actually thought it was pretty sexy as far as horror erotica went. But once I sat down to revise it, I frequently found myself leaping from my computer chair to shake off tremors of revulsion. “What the hell” was pretty much my motto while editing that novel. It…I…well…you’ll see when the book comes out next year from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
GLAHW: Do you outline or are you more of a “pantser”?
JESSICA McHUGH: I usually dive right in when it comes to short stories. But since I’ve been writing most of my novels during NaNoWriMo, outlining is a must. The first half, at least. I like having a road map for the beginning of the journey, but after I’ve written a few chapters and learned more about who my characters are, I tend to sit back and let them lead me to the end. But if I feel stuck in any piece I’ll typically step back and do some outlining or whiteboard sketching. But I was 100% pantser when I started out. It took me too long to realize an outline can be a writer’s best friend.
GLAHW: Tell us something interesting about you not related to your books.
JESSICA McHUGH: Since being a novelist isn’t the most lucrative profession in the world—shocking, I know—I have a weekend job leading food tours around downtown Frederick in Maryland. I lead up to twelve people around this gorgeous part of my hometown, ducking into different restaurants that provided dishes for the guests, and telling stories about the history and culture of Frederick. It’s a lot of fun, and it allows me to engage in non-fiction storytelling, which I don’t do much in my career. Plus, the more strangers I meet, the more stories I get to steal. 😉
GLAHW: What, if any, negative experiences (aside from rejections) have you had with publishers?
JESSICA McHUGH: I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing presses, but there have been the occasional bad apples that didn’t pay authors on time—if they paid at all—or were vanity presses in disguise. One such publisher promised they would rerelease my novel with a new cover (after two years with a god-awful one) and fresh edit (even though the editor was cold balls on toast and added more mistakes to the book). I fought back against the revisions, of course, which I believe was part of the reason the release was delayed. I tried contacting them to no avail. I received no payments, no updates, and was basically given the cold shoulder about my favorite story from the McHughniverse. It was a huge disappointment, especially since they broke our contract taking so long to re-publish the novel. But when I told them I wanted out to cut ties with them due to their unprofessionalism, they tried to charge me for breaking the contract. It was a big mess. It ended as amicably as possible, fortunately, but I know plenty of writers who haven’t been so lucky. Like writing novels isn’t hard enough.
GLAHW: If you could be one of your characters for a day, who would it be and why?
JESSICA McHUGH: Darla Decker from “The Darla Decker Diaries” Even though I put that poor teenager through the wringer, she experiences less torture than characters from my darker novels like “The Green Kangaroos” and “Rabbits in the Garden.” I’d gladly relive my first period over being a drug addict or constantly questioning my sanity. Plus, her friends are goofballs. I’d love spending a day with those wacky kids.
GLAHW: If you had to give up writing, what’s your second career choice?
JESSICA McHUGH: I don’t even want to think about that. Even if I lost both hands and my tongue, I’d find a way to get my writing work done. And if it was impossible…I don’t know. I guess I’d have to settle for my backup career as Indiana fuckin’ Jones.
GLAHW: How often do you write? Do you have a daily word-count goal?
JESSICA McHUGH: I write and/or edit every day 1) because it’s my job, and 2) because I want, need, and love to write every day. When I look back at how much I’ve improved over time, it makes the most sense for me write as much as possible. I have my off days, of course, when I binge Netflix and don’t get much done. But even then, I’m thinking about plots, maybe doing research for future projects. I don’t have a daily word count unless I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, though. My motto is, “Don’t aim for a word count. Aim to make your words count.”
GLAHW: What’s your favorite food?
JESSICA McHUGH: I love green beans with almonds so much. No further explanation. They’re just so damn tasty.
GLAHW: You write in different fields: horror, bizarro, YA – do you need different external stimuli for each (music, etc.)?
JESSICA McHUGH: I usually write to instrumental music for all genres except my YA series. For that, I have a Darla Decker Inspirado playlist with current hits or 90s/2000s pop. That playlist is definitely responsible for my Miley Cyrus obsession. But when I’m writing to movies or TV shows, I tend to stay within the genre. I’ll watch Nip/Tuck or Carnivale while writing darker stories and Gilmore Girls or Boy Meets World while tackling my YA series.
GLAHW: Is there anything that scares you?
JESSICA McHUGH: Ha! Pretty much everything, yes. I love to write horror, but I usually can’t read or watch horror unless it’s a sunshiney day and I’m not alone. There are exceptions for my favorite horror films like Poltergeist and The Thing, but it’s extremely difficult to convince me to watch a new horror movie at night. And Nightmare on Elm Street? NO WAY. Not even during the day.
GLAHW: What do you read for pleasure? Favorite authors? Recommendations?
JESSICA McHUGH: I’m listening to a lot of audio books these days. I recently finished “The Virgin Suicides,” “The Girl on the Train,” and am currently listening to “Steelheart.” But I never get tired of Roald Dahl. I love his short story collections like “Skin” and “Over to You,” and I can read them over and over. Oh, and if you haven’t read his novel “My Uncle Oswald,” do it now. It’s hilarious.
GLAHW: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
JESSICA McHUGH: As you can see, I’ve wanted to be a writer for quite a while.
GLAHW: What’s your favorite way to unwind?
JESSICA McHUGH: I like to cuddle up with my Tylercat, drink a beer, have yummy dinner with my husband, and catch up on a favorite show/movie for a few hours…
…before I inevitably return to writing work.
GLAHW: What’s the best piece of non-writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
JESSICA McHUGH: Peter S. Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn” and countless other rad stories, told me once that alcohol doesn’t have calories when consumed with friends outside of the home. I took this advice to heart—and to the belly.
Ken MacGregor’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines. His story collection, “An Aberrant Mind” is available online and in select bookstores. Ken is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an Affiliate member of HWA. He edits an annual horror-themed anthology for the former. He has also dabbled in TV, radio, movies and sketch comedy. Recently, he co-wrote a novel and is working on the sequel. Ken lives in Michigan with his family and two “domesticated” predators.
That got your attention didn’t it? Weirdo.
Technically, I’ll be talking about my and MontiLee’s experience with several classes of 10th graders and the art of writing, storytelling, and horror. I’m not saying we corrupted any of those young minds. But I can’t guarantee we DIDN’T either.
A little while ago, Jennifer Ward, an English teacher at Ionia High School, reached out to GLAHW with a request. Last semester, her students studied what she called The American Dream. And now in the second half of the year they were beginning to study The American Nightmare, including authors like Poe and Elliott, as well as the Gothic horror styles of writing in general.
Smart woman that she is, Jennifer thought inviting a couple of horror writers to school might bring insight to her students about the horror genre and the process of writing. We were more than happy to help out and so MontiLee Stormer and I made the 2-hour trek to IHS to impart our knowledge onto the eager young minds in several of her classes.
I was a bit nervous at first. Lord knows it’s been a hot minute since I was in high school, let alone 15, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But once that first hour began, I was pleasantly surprised to see how curious and engaging the students were. Sure, some were a bit shy about asking us direct questions but the classroom door covered in sticky notes helped out with that at first (more on that in a minute). By the time the third class was finished, I could hardly believe the day was over.
I’ve done workshops. I’ve done readings. Conventions are a regular scene for me and the group throughout the year. But I have to say I had so much fun being able to discuss writing and horror with a room full of teenagers. Their enthusiasm and delight and honest desire to actually learn something was a thing of beauty.
Thank you, Jennifer, for inviting us out to speak with your students. It was a wonderful day of exchanging ideas on writing and exploring the world of horror.
(For another perspective on the afternoon, head over to The Ionia Sentinel Standard and read Stan Sulewski’s article: Sentinel Standard)
Now…for that sticky note comment above. Many students from Ms. Ward’s classes wrote up a bunch of questions for us and posted them all over the classroom door. We were only able to answer a few so we thought why not make them available to the rest of GLAHW who couldn’t make it to Ionia and see how their answers might add to the students’ learning experiences.
Ms. Ward will scan all the questions and email them over to me. Once I receive them, I’ll either post them here or on the forum. When you all know what you want to answer, you can email me and I will compile them all into one big file and send it over to Jennifer so she can share them with her students. Fun, right?