Why AnthoCon is the Next Big Con

Maybe the best thing about AnthoCon is that it’s not a big conference. This is the second year that Shroud Publishing and the Four Horsemen: Tim Deal, Mark Wholley, Danny Evarts and Johnny Morse have hosted this event in Portsmouth, NH and it was wonderful. I don’t know the final tally of attendees but I’d guess about a 100.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years: NECon, Thrillerfest, ReaderCon, World Fantasy, World Horror, CrimeBake, Love is Murder, and probably some others I’m not thinking of. They each have their great and bad points and most are genre specific.

 The first year Thrillerfest ran, they hosted it in Arizona and it was amazing. It was reasonably priced, they had great panels and guests, workshops for writers, the rooms were inexpensive and luxurious. There were a lot of attendees but it was small enough so people could get to know each other.

But the next year they moved it to NYC which drove up the room cost, and food cost for nonsponsored meals. In addition they split off the Con to add CraftFest, for writers, from ThrillerFest-supposedly a reader/fan conference. So you had to pick one or the other or spend an insane amount of money and 6-7 days. And many of the “big guests” were sequestered behind tables. They signed books but did not hang out after hours. It was a fancy, dress up con and if you were an aspiring writer you’d make great connections. But it was expensive and exhausting, for me at least, to be that dressed up and to schmooze for four days. It has its merits, as there’s a lot of talent all under one roof, including pitch sessions with agents and publishers. But in all the years I went, I never once could relax.

On the flip side there’s NECon which I will always hold dear in my heart. It’s a small con, capped at 200 people.  One low price and everything is included for the weekend: room, board, panels, games.You don’t go to NECon to make connections or pitch ideas; you go to hang out and meet people like yourself. You make lasting friends. And somewhere in the midst of that you make “connections” but it’s not about finding a publisher. It’s the place award-winning published writers can go and not be hounded by fans, and a place where new writers can meet them as people, not as icons. You don’t dress up. You just get to escape and relax for four days.

What AnthoCon has done, and I love them for it, is to make an autumn-weekend-in-New England Con with multi-genres, that is a perfect mix of other cons. It was informal yet also had a business aspect with pitch sessions and people breaking off in groups to talk to publishers and make deals. Last year the sponsor was a man from the Lucid Absinthe company. This year is was Sam Adams. Very cool.

Someone referred to AnthoCon as NECon-lite and they were correct. Many of the local New England Horror writers attended, but there were also dozens who write in different genres from all over the world. I can say “world” because Richard Wright comes all the way from India for this. AnthoCon has brought us all together.

This year marked their first anthology, stories and poems selected from last year’s members and called Anthology. It has a stunning cover and a brilliant and touching collection of works.  There will be another Anthology  next year which is also incentive for new people to join. You can’t submit if you haven’t attended.

The con will no doubt grow as word spreads about all they have to offer: low admission price and vendor table cost, cheap but classy hotel, easily accessible location, concurrent and well-thought out panels, art and book dealer rooms, and a large amount of really cool but humble people. As this conference increases its numbers, I have a sense the mood and comfy intimacy level will stay the same.

I eagerly look forward to AnthoCon 2013. Hope to see you there.

Check out my new thriller, Restitution on Amazon, which made its debut this year at AnthoCon.

Restitution-Where Did the Ideas Come From?

Restitution is now available on Kindle after months of working and editing to get it together. CLICK HERE to get your copy in advance of the formal release at AnthoCon.

It’s an intense thriller about a sociopathic author who has the good fortune to be assigned a cell phone number which used to belong to a murderer. Tucker is thrilled and uses this idea for a topic for his novel.  He proceeds to contact all the people who are leaving messages for that murderer to help his plot line along. But the people aren’t just characters, they’re humans with complicated circumstances he never could have  imagined.

So that is the setting for my novel but where on earth did I get the idea? My non-writer friends are horrified, wondering where such darkness comes from. My writer things see this as a day in the life, nothing out of the ordinary. It is just fiction after all.

The genesis for this plot is loosely based on real events. Very loosely. A couple of years ago we all got new Blackberries at work. When I set up my voicemail I received several messages clearly meant for the previous owner of the number. One that struck me most was from his daughter. She said something about, thanks for the birthday money, how have you been, sorry I haven’t seen you in a while…He also got texts from some folks asking to meet him at the bar, or at local music events.

At the time I was two days from starting the annual NANOWRIMO competition, where you are challenged to write 50,000 words in a month. I needed an idea badly. I was pounding my head against the wall, trying to come up with something. Anything. My phone rang. “Is Derek there?” His name isn’t really Derek of course. I said no, this wasn’t his phone  number (which I am still doing two years later though the calls have died down). And just like that, I had my plot.

What if a sociopathic writer looking for a story idea contacted all the people who kept calling? What if he pieced together information from all the calls and acted as a puppeteer to align their lives with his characters? And what if he was delusional and hadn’t taken his meds in a long time? I couldn’t get the words down fast enough.

But who was the main character? What would he be like? Well, I stole him. About 10 years ago I wrote a horrible thriller novel that I am grateful never sold or saw the light of day. I made all the mistakes new writers do. Not just in punctuation and word flow and overly adverbing it but, well, trust me, it was stupid. But I loved the character of Tucker Millis. I liked his look, his personality, his quirks. Since he wasn’t working (he was only a fictional character after all waiting for his story to be told) I yanked him out and offered him this story instead. This happened much the way you’d call an actor whose pilot never aired and ask him if he was up for a similar role in a much better story.

He accepted (of course he did. I made him up). The combination of Tucker (who way back when I spent a lot of time creating) and this storyline makes for a fun, grisly and tight little suspense novel.

I hope you give it a shot. I’ll be signing hard copies at AnthoCon in mid November and will set up book signings in the New England area throughout the winter. Please check my APPEARANCES page for details.