Lurking in the Shadows
Over May 20th - 23rd 2021, the HWA (Horror Writer’s Association) held their annual StokerCon. I attended online as most things have not returned to normal from the ravages of the pandemic. I found myself lurking in the chats during the all virtual affair. I have never been to one of their conventions in person and felt out of place. Maybe it is my age, but I find it weird to talk blindly to strangers over a chat, so I lurked and learned. The panels were interesting and informative in the ways writer’s work and create. It was nice to put faces to names, especially Rena Mason who I had communicated with in the past. Joe R Lansdale was a true standout and came across as a down-to-earth guy. Overall, the convention was cool, but the human connection was missing. One day, I will rectify that and go in person and meet fellow writers. I am much better with that sort of thing in the real world.
I have been a member of HWA since 2017 on the merit of publishing my short story, Under the Moonbow, in MCB Quarterly Vol 3. And in 2018, I was a juror for the anthology category of the Stoker Awards. The undertaking was intense with an insane amount of submission reading, yet it was informative. Overall the experience made me feel better as a writer from reading the works of other writers of all levels. I believe growth happens over time, but it was good to calm some of the nagging self-doubt that gnaws at my brain every so often. I think one thing that is true about horror fans is not every one likes the same thing. Sure there are some universally acclaimed books but sub-genres speak to different tastes—monsters, psychological, and splatterpunk to name a few. Writers reflect this in what they write.
I love the horror genre ever since my first Fangoria magazine in 1984 along with all the trips to video stores, discovering an underworld of thrills, and bookstores, discovering Stephen King and Clive Barker. Strangely enough, I am not primarily a horror writer and I write what interests me or in some cases what I need to write. Finding my place… in one genre or another has taken time. Writing is a passion for me. A lot of advice—I have come across one way or another—is given in writing commercially, sticking with one genre, and following trends. All of that sounds like chasing the dragon and potentially losing myself in the process. I have fought with labels during my first wave of material, over the last ten years. My books cross fiction genres and can be hard to pin down, but my characters are all gay outsiders. No matter the story, they are similar in some ways, so I came up with the common thread of Punk Fiction. A bent pulp genre, one that crosses boundaries and features crime, noir, horror, weird menace, dark fantasy, prison, western, sci-fi, and juvenile delinquent tropes, represents my writing niche well. My place is one of my own making and I have accepted it.
Time does change everything from perspective to style. Once, I was stuck in the idea of not being good enough—stuck in trying to please imaginary readers—stuck in my own head. I was my own worse critic. The only way forward is to let go of the past. Revision is important as is not getting stuck in a mire of endless correction. I realize that I have to make the next thing special, better, and new. Older stories eventually must lie, raw and broken, the way the were conceived in their time. Everything I have published is out there—some even in hardback—and I am proud. With that said, I am moving forward with my second wave of writing and look forward to sharing.