A friend of mine brought a Kickstarter campaign to my attention months ago. Upon checking it out, I absolutely had to get on board. It was to be a graphic novel showcasing a variety of Texas-based comic and literary talents in an anthology setting. Since a lot of my favorite indie authors and small presses are based out of Texas there was no way I wasn’t going to support this campaign. My digital edition of Texas Horror arrived just a few days ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We begin this anthology with Kitchen Witches: Origin of the Ramen Witch, brought to us by Halo Toons. A late-night visit to a convenience store becomes something unexpected as a cup of ramen in the microwave behaves in a way that defies any conceivable safety precautions. Aerobicide: Blockbuster night, written by David Doub with art by Terry Parr, takes on a harrowing adventure that arises from a simple attempt to return some videotapes. You’ll find references to horror video rental royalty throughout this brief but entertaining escapade. Demons In the Darkness: Part 1, written by David Doub, with letters by Daniel Chan and art by Dominic Racho, tells the story of a group of outcasts getting together for a night of tabletop role-playing after a rough day in school. As the story unfolds, an in-game ritual to purge some of the negativity from the real lives of the players might turn out to have some real-life consequences. The Texas Horror Writers Showcase brings us flash fiction from some of my favorite writers in the industry today. John Balitsberger shares a tale of the famed Goatman’s Bridge and the sacrifices people will make to unlock secret knowledge. Lucas Mangum tells us the story of a camping trip gone terribly wrong in a story of beautiful flowers and mental illness. Wile E. Young brings us back to the world of Salem Covington (of The Magpie Coffin) from a different perspective. And finally, Max Booth III brings us a strange tale of gardening and family that will leave you wondering “What the fuck,” just as much as the father in his story. Luna Vino, written by Mike Howlett and drawn by Howard Kelley, takes us to a manor where, no matter how unexpected the night might turn out, losing one’s favorite wine might be the worst thing that could happen. Finally, Mask It or Casket, written by David Doub with art by Miguel Angel Hernandez, shares a poignant tale of the current pandemic. In this violent clash of ideological perspectives taken to extremes, it’s difficult to consider even one’s own side correct, though it’s hard not to sympathize with the antagonist’s frustration. All in all, this is a great sampler of the fantastic horror-themed art coming out of Texas. It’s certainly added some names to the list of creators I’ll want to keep an eye on.
Though the campaign for this project has been over for a while, readers might be interested in some additional details. I’ll include the link to the Kickstarter below:
In 2017, my friend and fellow author, Adrian Ludens, had asked if I might be interested in sharing a table with him at the local anime, science fiction, and pop culture convention. At that point, the local convention was SoDak Con–previously SoDak Anime Convention. Unfortunately, due to a planned and scheduled vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I was unable to partner up with him.
I’m sad to say that I might not have done so even without those prior obligations. At that point in my writing career I had only the novel, Unspoken, and my collection of short fiction and poetry, Errata, available. Both titles had been self-published and neither had been particularly successful or generated much by way of buzz or interest beyond people who knew me to some extent. I would have felt like a fraud, sitting there next to him. Adrian had sold probably dozens of stories to various publications and anthologies at that point…and who the fuck was I?
Since then, I’ve come a long way in feeling more comfortable and secure in calling myself an author. My next self-published novel, Innocence Ends, was more successful than both of the previous titles combined–and then some. Thanks to the sales associated with Innocence Ends, I was able to join the HWA (Horror Writers Association) as an Affiliate Member. My new novella, You Will Be Consumed, was published by a small press I respect and appreciate–in addition to since being adapted into an audiobook with a fantastic narrator doing the heavy lifting.
When the new convention–now Black Hills Con–was announced for June of this year, I reached out to Adrian and asked whether he might be interested in sharing a table with me. I was pleased to discover he was interested.
This would be my first time attending a convention of any kind as a guest and a vendor. I was never particularly big on attending conventions in the first place, being as anti-social and riddled with anxiety as I find myself to be when surrounded by crowds of any kind.
I neglected to request time off from work on Friday. Thus, I had to get up at 3:45 AM and begin my shift at the television station at 4:30 AM. I directed the hour and a half of Good Morning KOTA Territory from 5:30 to 7 AM and then KOTA Territory News at Noon from 12 to 12:30 PM. It had already been a long day, as you can probably imagine, before I pulled out of the parking lot and made my way to the hotel where the convention was being held.
I arrived at the hotel and was directed to the vendor room where Adrian and I would be sharing our table. I was pleased to see that my old friend, Tom Rasch, was at the table right next to us. Tom is a comic book artist/creator who has been active in that industry for quite some time, in addition to having done a good deal of video game character design back in the day. He was there to promote his various independent comic properties, Black Alpha and Salem Tusk in particular, as well as a documentary film that is detailing his efforts to bring these properties to life in the way they deserve to be realized. At some point in the relatively near future, he’s likely to have a Kickstarter campaign going live, and I’ll be sure to share those details here.
Needless to say, I felt a wash of relief, knowing that I had familiar faces right there next to me.
The next five hours turned out to be a great deal more fun than I suspected they might be…additionally, I managed to deplete a fair amount of the books I’d brought with me for the convention.
Using a trick I’d developed for coping with social anxiety, I carried my camera with me and captured photos of the events, separating myself from them by placing the lens in between myself and the rest of the world.
I was exhausted when I arrived home shortly before 7 PM on Friday. I ate dinner and took a nap before waking up and going to the gym around 10:30 PM. I have a difficult time breaking from routine, and I try to always go to the gym on Friday evenings, regardless of what my day consisted of.
On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:30 AM and took a shower before taking the puppies outside and making sure my daughter was ready to go. We stopped for coffee and arrived at the convention location right at 8 AM as everything was getting started. I made my way to the vendor room–it was closed to all but the vendors until 10 AM–while my daughter went to watch Saturday morning cartoons that were being projected on the screen of the large conference room by the convention staff.
Most of the vendors weren’t there yet, so it was nice to just relax and chat with Tom while I put everything out on the table, including some creepy photo prints I’d brought with me to see if they might also sell. Adrian arrived not too long after.
Tom was hosting a panel on Saturday morning, sharing his experiences in the comic book and video game design industries and talking about his current projects. I attended some of that panel because I wanted to see at least some of it instead of spending all of my time sitting at the table.
Throughout the day, my daughter sporadically returned to the vendor space with different friends in tow and it was fun to see the teenagers enjoying themselves so much. My daughter also took advantage of the fact that Adrian had brought the rolling, steel table from a morgue with him.
The second day of the convention was a marathon, though slightly less of a marathon than the first day had been for me. We held our post in the vendor room until just after 6 PM when it was time to pack it in and head home. I returned home with only four of the copies of You Will Be Consumed that I’d brought with me, and none of my other books. All in all, I’d say it wasn’t a bad day.
It was great being able to spend time with friends I don’t often see in real life and to meet new people.
Before leaving the hotel, I gifted two of my photo prints to the two special guests of the convention–voice actors in various anime films–because someone had mentioned it was their first time visiting South Dakota, and I thought they might like something a little less tourist-oriented as a memento. One of the two brought over a signed art print that made my daughter’s day, because she had considered getting one until she saw the prices they were charging.
The other remaining photo print, I gifted to another of the vendors who had been awesome to talk with here and there.
As tired as I was, I must admit I was sort of sad to see the convention ending.
All things considered, I have to say I think my first experience as a guest of a convention was a success. I look forward to doing it again.
I have to thank the folks who organized Black Hills Con 2021, because they did an excellent job of making sure everything ran smoothly and that everyone was comfortable and taken care of. The atmosphere was a positive one and free of some of the toxicity and gatekeeping that I’ve heard about regarding similar conventions around the country.