by Jay Wilburn
This year was the final Authors After Dark (AAD) convention. The organizers are moving on to other things. Armand Rosamilia and I discovered this convention after attending the Novel Experience Expo in Atlanta. Both of these conventions are focused primarily upon romance. I ghostwrite a good bit of romance for various outlets, but have not written much of it in my own name. We have found that a number of these romance centered conventions have begun expanding to include other genre such as horror. That’s where Armand and I have been pulled in. The Novel Experience Expo was quite successful for us, so we decided to give Savannah a try too.
These conventions are structured a little differently from horror, genre, fandom, or comic book conventions for those that are used to that style. At those conventions, the vendors rooms are open throughout the weekend while panels and readings and such are going on throughout that same time period.
The romance conventions are slightly reversed. Panels, parties, and a number of other sponsored events happen ahead of time at the beginning of the weekend. Relationships are built between the writers and the readers over this time. The sales time occurs for a few hours at the very end of the convention on the last day. During that intense period, readers go around and pick up all the work they were sold on in the days prior.
Savannah, Georgia is a great city. My wife came with me on this one and we had a great time just being there. I always enjoy being around Armand and Shelly Rosamilia too. As an author and a guest at conventions, it is nice to be able to go with someone to share the burdens and to help to promote each other. Downtime becomes enjoyable socializing time.
It was a strange week for me. I am in the midst of being evaluated to go on a kidney transplant list due to my kidneys failing from a genetic disorder which causes polycystic kidney disease. My grandmather, father, and brother all died with it. My aunt recently had a transplant and is doing well. My uncle has been on the list out in California for quite some time. I’m on my way to that decision point very soon. This is how I started my week with tests and meetings before finishing packing up to go on this convention.
It laser focuses my perspective and priorities in some ways. In other ways, it is difficult for me to wrap my brain around the tasks that lie ahead.
We arrived in Savannah on Wednesday. Jenny doesn’t like driving across the big bridge that connects South Carolina to Georgia, but we made it.
Our hotel was right on the river. You could see the huge ships with the shipping containers stacked high sail right past the windows. They cut loose with the horn early one morning to wake us up. It sounds a lot louder in the morning than during the day.
We, of course, went to eat. I’ll let you go to Armand Rosamilia’s author and fan pages to see the food. He does a better job of documenting every meal in style. If we start an indie band, this will be the back cover. We might use it as a duel author photo as we write more work together. Plans have been made. Another great story is in the works. I’m, of course, very proud of The Enemy Held Near. As I have said in other forums and platforms, I believe I punched above my weight working on that piece with Armand. I think he has an idea that has the potential to go even further. Enemy Held Near is also available in audio format. Jack Wallen did a great job with that narration. Check it out to see why I am excited for us to work on another project together.
Alternately, we can use this above picture for the album cover. The P in the band name stands for Phat. The third member is unstable as we can never seem to hold onto a reliable drummer. Drummers … you know what I mean?
We had a number of great panels. Armand and I were on the anthology panel together. That means something entirely different in romance than in horror. Antho in romance means a box set of novels. In horror, it is a book of short stories. Live and learn.
I was also on the horror panel. We had a number of authors that wrote pure horror in addition to other genre work. Others on the panel included horror elements in their paranormal and other subgenre work. A few of those authors will be appearing on some upcoming episodes of Armcast with Armand Rosamilia on Project iRadio as I understand. Armand and I also discussed an upcoming project with Project iRadio that I’m excited about that will be revealed in the near future. As always, great stuff is on the way for them. Check them out.
In the horror discussion, we talked about our philosophies behind horror. My view is that if you think of the nature of light that we are all drawn to in one way or another, you can then realize that anything with substance casts a shadow. Horror is painting the picture using the dark colors to accent the shadows. Horror explores that shadow cast – how long is it? Where does it lead? How severe or distorted is it due to the angles of light? What is hidden within it? If we talk about love as many romance writers do in one form or another, it has substance and casts a long, deep shadow. If you have been in love, but have not been afraid, I question whether it was really love. Horror would be exploring that shadow of fear and doubt that is cast by the substance of love. What interesting stories lie in there?
From that horror panel, I got a message on Facebook Messenger from someone that wanted to buy a complete set of my series. They Paypaled me the money and I made money off writing while resting in my hotel room. That was a first and I would say a very successful panel.
I went and got the three books, a backpack, and a tee shirt for someone I hope will enjoy them as they pen their own horror work.
I was also on a panel for ghosts. There was an interesting discussion there. I don’t normally put books out in front of me, but did this time. Luke Spooner’s art drew a lot of attention and allowed me to discuss the series. The other panelists were very generous with one another and it turned into solid promotion for everyone. I could tell a difference on Saturday when people from the ghost panel came up ready to buy.
The room in which we had the horror and ghost panels at the Riverfront Marriott in Savannah, GA was very cold. I think maybe a number of ghosts came in to hear what we had to say, so the whole place was one big cold spot.
On my way to the panels, something really cool happened that I will always associate with this particular convention experience. Luke Spooner does the covers for my Dead Song Legend Dodecology series.
He does great work. There are five interior illustrations in each book too. Beautiful stuff. Anyone that has worked with Spooner knows the quality of his work. He is worth every penny. He was offering a discount on new cover work a few months back and I took him up on it for a cover to The Great Interruption book one. You can check out a free sample of that here. Luke reads the books before he illustrates and it shows in the depth and quality of what he does.
I have been working on music with each of the Dead Song books. A five song album is out for the first book and we are working on the next. Music is harder for me than writing. Luke volunteered a song which will appear in a forthcoming The Sound May Suffer CD. He’s a great musician.
He asked me if I intended to do an album for Great Interruption. I told him I hadn’t even thought about it. He asked if he could play around with the book for some inspiration and I said, of course. You don’t say no to Luke Spooner offering to get creative with your work.
At the convention then, I get an e-mail from him. He explains what he did and sends me a zipfile. Luke has written a 13 song album inspired by the Great Interruption. I had to wait until later in the day to listen and it was absolutely beautiful. It is incredible on its own, but in tandem with the book, it includes lines from the story, description of scenes, emotional expressions from the viewpoints of characters, and more.
I was blown away. Spooner has basically given me permission to do as I like with the music. I’m meeting with the producer I worked with on my recordings to see what we can come up with for cool ways to incorporate the stories and Luke’s art to promote him, his work, and the book.
He told me about being 26 and how the character’s experience in the Great Interruption captured so perfectly the confusion and isolation with growing up and losing connections with people and places in your life along the way.
I knew what I was trying to accomplish with the book, but I wrote the first draft so long ago and as I prepared it for formatting now even as I write this, I wasn’t sure it hit the notes like I wanted. For Luke to be inspired to the point of writing an entire album about it in such a deep exploration, I was floored. Maybe it is better than I imagined it was.
I can’t wait to get the book and the music out for people to hear, read, and enjoy. If readers have half the reaction that Luke did, I will be grateful.
I do carry a grandma bag everywhere I go during conventions. I keep my jacket in there in case I get cold. My friends joke that I have mints and Kleenexes in there like every other grandma too.
We ate a lot of great places. I had shrimp and grits tacos, shrimp and grits classic style, and a little off of everyone else’s plates along the way too. This was my sugar coma from Lulu’s Chocolate Bar.
There were a lot of parties and events. This was the Mocho Mocho Man/ YMCA medley during the Cabaret before dinner. One of my friends in horror texted me in the midst of this. I sent him pictures and tried to explain what was going on. It is a different atmosphere. I told him it was Romance writers, me, and Armand.
I participated in hosting a Victorian style Literary Tea with some of the other authors. It was fun. There were somewhere between fifty and a hundred women that came for tea. We did a costume contest, trivia, and give-aways. Everyone was very nice in including me as the new guy.
There were costume parties, late night inflatable parties, movie nights and more. We did get the center seats in the lobby a few times. Just saying …
Saturday was a great day of selling. It was what they called “The Signing.” I sold all but one of book 3 and all but three of book two. Sold several complete sets of the Dead Song Legend. Sold a lot of The Enemy Held Near.
I had one woman come up and say that she didn’t like zombies. I said, that’s fine. They’re not for everyone. After a moment, she said, oh, what the hell, I’ll try the first two. She bought books one and two and a copy of Enemy Held Near.
I posted this earlier on Facebook, but there is something different about that third book in a series on the table. Where I struggled to sell one book with books one and two on the table, I sold all three books easier with three on the table. Authors like Armand Rosamilia, Joe McKinney, Mark Tufo, and Shawn Chesser have all mentioned that their series sold differently once books four and five came out.
It has convinced me of the importance of moving book four in the series up in my writing queue.
My wife Jenny was there with us. She took most of these pictures which is why I am in them. She also suggested moving the series up to the top shelves in the rack for better eye line. That made a difference too.
I had one woman open the first book and I thought it was the end of the sale. I use the “F” work three times in the table of contents. The first line in book one of the Dead Song Legend is about a drag queen adjusting her equipment. See for yourself and then imagine what I was thinking as this proper lady was reading this right in front of me. She bought book one though. Romance readers are a diverse crowd and they read veraciously, if you can convince them to give you a chance.
Behind a convention table with a fellow writer is a great place to conspire. We make big plans behind our books. It is like the kind of plans you make after a few drinks. Look for the convention table taco bar coming soon.
Hope to see you at future conventions. We are always looking for cool ones around the country. Let us know ones you know and love in comments and I’ll let you know where we plan to be as we check some of your suggestions out.
I’m not sure how my wife drives and takes pictures. I don’t want to know. Conventions are tiring even when you have two good kidneys to run on. It was good to get home with family and back to steady writing. Good things are coming. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading and for your support,
— Jay Wilburn, writer
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com