A Convention’s Tale
A slight delay in Chicago landed me in Louisville around seven o’clock. Greeted Holly and Stephen and was pleasantly surprised that my partner-in-crime Daniel Dark was also already present. Set up my table alongside Dark and we went for dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant and got to hear about each other’s new projects. As far as I was concerned, Imaginarium was already in full swing, as this type of exchange is what it’s all about.
After dinner we made our way back to the Ramada for a bourbon and a cigar. Ever prepared, Dark had black folding chairs with cup holders in his car. A kind of haunted midnight tailgate party ensued. Stephen, Holly, and family joined us, and all were in a good mood with the prospect of enjoying the convention ahead. Although I suck at smoking cigars, I managed to finish one this time around, and it probably also helped me set down the bourbon and say goodnight early so that I could wake up and finish the last chapter of Red December, a horror novel involving hunters and werewolves to be published with Seventh Star Press at a date to be determined. Getting the draft done “sooner the better” is a part of that determination.
Up early and writing. I love writing in the hotel room’s spartan quietude. In many ways, basic is better. The uncluttered desk and the single functioning lamp on a dark, overcast day were the right magic. I finished the final scene, leaving only the epilogue and edits. It was pushing 11:00 a.m., so I would have to hurry to put the finishing touches on my vendor’s table. Happy though that I was disciplined enough to have rested and gotten work done.
Arrived in the dealer room and discovered that Dark and I were set up beside Steven Shrewsbury and J.L. Mulvihill. Was pretty stoked to see Shrews again and his impressive array of fantasy and weird west novels. It was also was a pleasure to meet Jen Mulvihill, and serendipitous to be among these cool folks as the convention kicked into gear in earnest and folks started coming to our tables.
Friday evening we had a fun on the Murder and Mayhem panel (moderated by Dark), followed by dinner with friend and writer Dean Harrison. We got talking and arrived a bit late at publisher Per Bastet’s room party, but had a great catch up chat with author Sara Marian Deurell of Per Bastet, along with R.J. Sullivan and many other friends old and new. By the time I made it back to the room I had a handful of books and business cards and a belly full of Kentucky bourbon. Life was good, but there was more to come, so tried to catch a few zzzz’s.
Was up reasonably early, made coffee and hit the writing. I had messed up the time the dealer room opened and arrived at my table at 11:00 a.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. Handed out a lot of Mommy and the Satanists flyers, and had a few people download it on the spot. Seems folks took the title in the spirit intended (so to speak) and hope those who downloaded it enjoyed the read. Also sold some copies of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales and swapped a few, too. Met and talked with Tommy B. Smith and Robb Hoff, who I hope to feature here on the blog in the future, and took a walk around to see the other tables. Highlights include the retro post-apocalyptic VW bus and getting to chat with Michael Knost, Stoker-winning author of Return of the Mothman and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
Later that afternoon I saw him again at the Books and Booze panel. This was also moderated by Dark and featured several other authors and friends as panelists. Not going to say much more about this particular panel in order to, as Bon Scott once said, “protect the guilty.” Suffice it to say that the Imadjinn Awards and ensuing dance party that followed were extra-extra-festive for all who attended…
Wasn’t up early, but was up feeling good. Took some time to write, working on Red December’s epilogue. There’s always a bittersweet feeling on a convention’s last day, the coffee flows a little freer, wistful thoughts of the good times coming to an end mix with the excitement to roll up your sleeves and put to use all the new knowledge and inspiration. Went off to a How to Blog panel I had at 10:00 a.m. moderated by Marian Allen. There were only two of us on the panel but it was fairly well attended for a last-day mid-morning time slot. Had a lively discussion about blogging which feels a little eerie to write about while writing a blog post, like standing between a pair of mirrors and trying to see where the reflection ends…
Arrived a little late at the dealer room due to the panel. Some of the dealers had already packed up, but had a great afternoon with Dark and Jen Mulvihill. Good to keep your table open the last day if you can because a lot of folks decide which books they really want to buy that day. Sold the last of the paperback copies of Slash of Crimson that I’d brought with me and swapped a few for books I’d been eyeing over the weekend.
By evening it was time to say farewell and enjoy the traditional outting to the Troll Pub downtown Louisville. Had a great conversation with Ana Maria and Val Michael Selvaggio and family covering topics from William Gibson to how to draw forest elementals. And of course we all raised a toast to Stephen Zimmer and Holly Marie Phillippe of Seventh Star Press, the originators and organizers of Imaginarium. Without them, the convention would not be, and we thanked them with all our hearts.
Afterward, and since the convention was technically over and I wasn’t flying out until noon the next day, I recruited Dean Harrison to take an urban hike across Louisville and see a bit of the city. As an outdoorsman who has spend a fair amount of time in the woods, and someone who just likes travelling, I’ve always found the urban hike’s a great way to experience a city. Good to do them in stout company and with a certain respect for caution. But really, nothing like watching the neighborhoods and landscapes unveil themselves a block and a street at time.
Going on the good advice of Sara Marian Deurell, we set Highland Tap Room on Bardstown Road as our GPS destination. How we’d get there allowed for some improvisation. Though the “by car” directions call it 4.7 miles, on foot it’s a mere 2.4. Either way, it’s a short jaunt. We headed east out of downtown and ended up on East Jefferson Street. The walk had already taken us through some concrete landscapes dotted with the kind of trees and grass that grow wilder than expected in those corners between highway ramps and industrial lots. Once on East Jefferson, the architecture turned to a mix of historic-abandoned, historic-restored, and a few newly constructed large apartment buildings. Continuing east, we passed the original site of the St. Vincent Orphanage. The buildings had that low-roofed brick with slightly stylized cornices look I’ve taken to be somewhat trademark of southern and mid-western cities. A larger brick building loomed in back. It looked restored and repurposed, though a few of the smaller buildings look rather dark late on a Sunday night.
We moved on to pass under a railroad bridge where a graffiti-laden train slinked above us like a slow moving, tattooed serpent. Our right turn onto Baxter Street beckoned us on. Dean was great company on the urban hike, undaunted by ghosts or serpents, with his eyes on our prize of the refreshment ahead. We stopped briefly by the Bluegrass Canal which was lit up by some construction lighting. It was another spot where the vegetation and trees couldn’t be contained by the concrete and kept whatever secrets it had snug and unseen among its roots. Pressing ahead we discovered we had crossed into a neighborhood called “Nulu”, complete with an abundance of scooters and record stores. The 19th Century townhouses looked a little more restored here, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in an exquisite distillery, Prohibition Bar, which makes “Agave” spirits in bourbon barrels. I think the bartender thought we were the ghosts when we appeared late on a Sunday night. But he was a good dude for an original take on an Old Fashioned and took us on quick tour of their distilling room. By the time we were done, the bar filled up some and we learned Louisville is undaunted by some after-hours nightlife on a Sunday, hells ya!
Another half-mile past the Eastern Cemetery and some intricate and moderately creepy churches, and we made it to Bardstown Road and the Highlands Taproom. Looked like there were a lot of great vinyl record shops we would have stopped in along the way had it been earlier. And yet despite the late hour and missing the performance of a punk band intriguingly named Nice Job, we deemed the urban hike a success. We killed off the post-convention blues as well as celebrated those electric new prospects already coursing through our veins. The shots of Old Forester and Malort, chased down with a couple glasses of ale also helped. Farewell Imaginarium and Kentucky. See you next year!