Penguicon 2015 Schedule

Posted in Appearances, Conventions, Interview, News, Presentation with tags , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by SeanMDavis

Penguicon
Instead of answering one of the questions from Flint Horror Collective’s Beyond the Book panel, I wanted to post my schedule for Penguicon, happening this weekend, April 24-26, at the Westin in Southfield, MI. If you live in the Metro Detroit Area, I highly recommend attending. It’s a lot of fun and it has something for pretty much everyone.

Here’s my schedule:
Saturday, April 25:
How to Do Dystopia, 10-11a, Hamlin: The Hunger Games, Divergent, Mad Max — dystopian settings are populating books shelves and movie theaters, especially when it comes to the Young Adult market. The panel will discuss the popularity of the dystopian future and what makes one believable. Speakers include: Sarah Hans, Janea Schimmel, Sean M. Davis, Steven Saus – Track: Literature, Film

Editing for the Uninitiated, 2-3p, Hamlin: You’ve finished your masterpiece, now what? Our panelists discuss the importance of the editing process and how to turn your unfinished gem into a gleaming diamond. Speakers include: Sean M. Davis, Sarah Hans

You Can’t Kill the Undead, 9-10p, Board of Governors: Year after year we wonder if this will be the year that people get sick of zombies and vampires. Year after year we get a resounding no from the audience. Join us as we explore the most recent explorations of the undead and brainstorm with us, wondering what may be on the horizon: angels, ghosts, demons? Speakers include: Nicole Castle, Mary Lynne Gibbs, Michael Cieslak, Sarah Hans, Ken MacGregor, Steven Saus, Sean M. Davis

Sunday, April 26:
E-Books: An Examination of the Current State of Digital Publishing, 9-10a, Algonquin C: Years ago there was a panel at Penguicon about the rise of the e-reader and what it meant for the world of publishing. It’s safe to say that digital reading is not going to be a passing fad, but it does not appear to be the death of paper publishing that it was once seen to be. The panel will examine how things have changed for authors, readers, and publishers and how things have stayed the same. While we may examine the Hatchette vs Amazon debate, it will be in terms of how it has affected things, not taking sides. Speakers include: Mary Lynne Gibbs, Sean M. Davis, Karl Schroeder

Author Reading: Steven Saus and Sean M. Davis, 1-2p, Hamlin: Come and listen to two authors voted most likely to become mad scientists read and discuss their latest works. Speakers include:Steven Saus, Sean M. Davis

Beyond the Book, Presented by the Flint Horror Collective

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2015 by SeanMDavis

Flint Horror Con
The good people of the Flint Horror Collective had me up to the Flint Public Library this past weekend to join a few other writers and answer some questions. I’ll do this one at a time.

What first inspired you to write?

It wasn’t any one thing. I just remember always writing. I have a story, “The Killer Morning,” that was written on construction paper in thick-penciled, childish handwriting. I wrote poetry through my childhood and into high school. When I finished my first Stephen King novel, “Thinner,” I was so blown away, I thought, “This is the kind of writer I want to be.”
But the moment that really did it for me happened in my senior year in high school, I had a writing class that did a paper a week. For our narrative assignment, I turned in a story about four girls who kill themselves publicly to get back at their boyfriends for dumping them. When handing back the stories, my teacher got to mine about halfway through the stack, started to hand it back, but then stopped and said, “Actually, I want to wait on this.” I went to a Catholic high school, so I thought, “Shit, I’m in trouble.” When he got to my story again, he said, “Sean, I just wanted to say before I handed this back to you. This is writing.” Immediately, three people asked me if they could read my story. That was the first time I seriously thought about making a career out of writing.

The Value of Failure

Posted in Day in the Life, News with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2015 by SeanMDavis

Today’s post is brought to you by an overwhelming and year-long feeling of failure.
Failure
As I logged into WP to write this, I saw my previous post about all of the successes I’ve had over the last couple of years since I last applied for a Kresge Fellowship. Despite those successes, I’ve been grappling with my feelings of failure and diminishing drive to write for at least a year now, but probably longer.
Now, I think I’ve figured out why.
I was brought up to value work. I’ve been working professionally since I was 14, but I’ve had summer jobs since I was eleven. As I worked these jobs for okay – sometimes bordering on decent – money, I dreamed of the day I could make my living at writing. It was what I loved to do and I wanted to make enough money at it so that I could build what I considered to be a successful life.
In college, I eschewed a career that, to me, would just be another Joe-job. I went back to Wayne State’s English Department, graduated, and set about the work of becoming a successful writer so I could build my successful life.
Along the way, I developed a strong, supportive, and loving relationship.
I got a job making decent money regularly and good money sometimes. Then, I became full time at my job, so my money become good regularly and great when I could score some Oscar Tango.
I moved out of my mom’s house into a rented house, then bought a house last fall.
I was building a successful life for myself. Although writing was still a big part of my life, it was no longer my ticket.
I continued to educate myself as a writer and fulfill my goals. My first book was published, but it wasn’t what I expected at all. I went to conventions and street fairs and sold books and had a good time. I didn’t start on a new book right away, but that was fine because I was working to sell and promote Clean Freak. But I wasn’t worried. I’d start work on a new project when it felt right. I was invited to submit work to a couple places that I was excited about. Things seemed to be going okay.
Then, things started going wrong.
I decided to part ways with my publisher after the expiration of our year contract because of my perception of his handling of the business side of things. (We parted amicably and are still in contact. This isn’t going to turn into a tell all like the recent flare up with Damnation Books.) I submitted work to the couple people that asked, expecting answers and feedback that weren’t coming.
I hit rock bottom when I tried writing something for a submissions call – which is something I don’t normally do, and did only because by that time I was desperate to write something and I felt that a deadline would be the motivation I needed – and was unable to bring myself to finish the story. I doubted everything. The story’s originality and quality, my abilities as a writer. Everything. In desperation, I submitted the unfinished manuscript with the secret hope that the publisher would like it and tell me they wanted to see the finished story, which would validate me.
I didn’t get a response, which is perfectly fine because that’s not how this game works.
With all of these perceived failures mounting and my continued success in my non-writing life, writing became less of a drive. Maybe an obligation. A chore. Something I thought I should be doing, but couldn’t bring myself to do. Or, when I did, I’d start on a project and have immediate doubts, not coming back to the desk after the first burst of creativity.
That’s where I’ve been languishing for the past six months. Not even wanting to write, but desperately wanting to want to write, unable to muster a compelling reason why I should continue to bang my face against a wall that didn’t seem to be moving.
Until today.
Today, my loving and supportive partner tagged an article for me on Facebook, a list of inspirational quotes from JK Rowling about failure.
Reading the article, I remembered the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose failure as an opthamologist led to his having time to write detective stories.
And it hit me what had been going on. The full picture. Not just being disheartened by one isolated incident, but how all of my failures of the past year have conspired with my successes in my non-writing life to try to lure my away from writing.
I’ve decided I don’t want that to happen. This is only the first step of what I hope will be a transformative process, but I feel good about my decision. I can feel confident in saying, “To be continued…”
Do it because you love it

Applying for the Kresge Artist Fellowship

Posted in News, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by SeanMDavis

To give you some brief background, Kresge Arts in Detroit awards 18 fellowships every year, 9 in four categories in a biannual rotation. I turned in my application for a Literary Arts Fellowship last week. As I filled out this year’s, I referred to my application from 2013 and I discovered something surprising and quite satisfying.
Part of the application process is to outline a plan for how you would use the Fellowship time and money to explore your art. In my 2013 application, I outlined a plan that included continuing to attend the World Horror Convention, attend more local conventions, participate in conventions as a panelist or reader, and attend workshops to continue to hone my craft.
Well, I didn’t get a Fellowship in 2013. But that didn’t stop me.
WHC, New OrleansI attended World Horror in 2013 anyway.
WHC PortlandI went to Portland in 2014.
PenguiconAlso in 2014, I attended Penguicon as a panelist and reader.

I don't have any pictures from DetCon for some stupid reason, so here's one of my at my reading at Penguicon. I think I may have even worn the same t-shirt.

I don’t have any pictures from DetCon for some stupid reason, so here’s one of my at my reading at Penguicon. I think I may have even worn the same t-shirt.

And DetCon1, the National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, as a panelist, reader, and volunteer.
Motor City Comic ConI and my fellow GLAHWers peddled our wares at Motor City Comic Con.
Sergeants and grunts.

Sergeants and grunts.

And in January 2014, I didn’t just attend a workshop, I went to the Borderlands Press Writers’ Boot Camp.
And I did it all without a Fellowship.
Yes, I had help, from people and circumstances. The organizers of DetCon were at Penguicon, which I’d been invited to participate in by Michael Cieslak, the head of the Literature Programming and fellow member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Had those two conventions not been in Detroit, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in either of them. I wouldn’t have been able to attend Borderlands without one man’s generosity and the support of my partner to use that windfall on that trip instead of bills.
Reading over my Kresge application from 2013, I had to shake my head. Even two years ago, I sounded like a spoiled kid bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t been given my big ticket yet. Which is true, but not all bad. Not bad at all, really. I haven’t been given my big ticket, but I’m making the most out of the little tickets I do have.

For Love

Posted in Day in the Life on August 20, 2014 by SeanMDavis

Do it because you love it
A while ago, I cracked open my fortune cookie to find this. I immediately put it on the keyboard of my computer. Today, I found myself thinking about loving writing. I realized that there are two fundamental truths about it.

Love costs
It costs effort. There are days when you won’t want to write. You need to anyway. This means that you will need to sit down at your desk, open up a word document, and write uphill. It will be a slog. You’ll hate doing it. You’ll probably fantasize about the story that seemed to write itself, the poem that seemed to pour itself onto the page, the scene which you served only as a stenographer for your characters as they chattered back and forth. That was then and this is now, and you still need to do it.
It costs time. There will be days that you won’t have time to write. We’re all busy. You can’t live on love. You have a nine to five, just one if you’re lucky. You probably have a place you call home to take care of, a person or people to take care of, pets, friends, not to mention that you also need to take care of yourself. You still need to make time to write. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, but you still eat everyday. So you don’t have time to have a banquet of words. Figure out how to make the equivalent of a fast food run at your desk, because you still need to write, even when you don’t have time.
It takes sacrifice. You will need to decide what’s more important to you, sleep or writing. Watching a movie with your partner or writing. Hanging out with your friends or writing. A million other things or writing. There are things more important than writing, some things that are as important, and a hell of a lot that is less important. This too will take effort.

Love rewards
Each love is different, so the rewards are different. However, when it’s love, there should be some pay off that outweighs the cost. Otherwise, it’s just martyrdom, which is damn boring.
Here are my rewards.
I see things, people, places, events. These are separate, disparate. As I write, I feel a thrill, a brain rush. I come to understand the relationships between those people, places, the things they do. I come to understand aspects of myself those characters and events speak to. I come to understand the people around me, the others around them, the society that surrounds us all. Writing, to me, is a higher, clearer way of thinking.
Everything else, money I make, praise I receive. I won’t lie, those things are nice. Money’s nice to get and have and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a good shot to the shoulder and a heartfelt, “Well done, kid.”
That’s not why I do it.
The love I have for this thing I do fulfills me.

Find your love and then act on it.

Addiction, Seven Years Later

Posted in Day in the Life with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2014 by SeanMDavis

I started smoking when I was sixteen for the same reason thousands of teenagers do: to look cool in front of my friends. The first pack I bought were Camels, unfiltered. Let me tell you, that pack lasted me longer than any pack I bought since. I’d only light up around my friends and only when they did. I’d take a couple puffs, mostly just holding it. I smoked the second pack a little faster and–well, you know how it goes.
I quit for a couple weeks when I was nineteen, but I was working at a restaurant at the time. While it was perfectly okay to ask for a smoke break, asking for a break earned you a quizzical expression followed by a resounding denial. I started smoking again out of self-defense.
Here’s how good of a smoker I was. If I was on my way to work, taking route A, I knew at what point of my commute I needed to light up to be able to smoke a whole cigarette. I knew this for every place that I went to on a regular basis for every route that I could possibly take.
I was on my way to work one day and reached that critical point, so I lit up. A series of revelations hit me. I didn’t actually want that cigarette. I was just doing it out of habit and knowledge of those critical points in my commute. I didn’t put the cigarette out right away. I thought about it and concluded that I didn’t want that cigarette or any other ever again. Smoking was just a habit and whatever reasons I had to start and keep going no longer existed. So I pitched the butt and resolved to quit.
Over the next couple of days, I continued to take smoke breaks. I’d go outside, light up, and stand there holding it. I concluded that I was serious about quitting and so gave my unopened packs to a friend.
Over the next couple weeks, all those receptors that had been created in my brain as a result of flooding it with nicotine for nine years went into withdrawal. Here’s my grocery store analogy. There’s a line of customers and only one cashier working. Naturally, other lines are opened up. Things flow again at a good pace. As long as there are customers, there will be cashiers for them. But then, the customers stop coming. Now there’s a store full of bored cashiers that are whining because they have nothing to do. The whining intensifies, turning to anger at their uselessness. Eventually, the manager reassigns them, which makes everyone a lot happier.
I went cold turkey, deciding that using the patch or the gum would just draw out a long, painful process. There were times during those first couple months that I couldn’t remember why I’d decided to quit. But I stuck to it, remembering being in the car, on my way to work, and realizing that I didn’t want to smoke, that it was only habit. I held onto that and it carried me through.
I thought that, eventually, the urge to smoke would fade into non-existence. But it hasn’t. I still want to smoke. Sometimes it’s because I’m stressed. Sometimes it’s because I smoked for so many of the years that form a person’s perception of themselves that it’s still a residual part of my self-image. Sometimes it’s just for no reason, a sudden craving like for Chinese food or a desire to watch a certain movie.
I suppose that’s what addiction is. A desire that always exists and a choice that always needs to be made.
I wrote a story, “Dahlia,” posted on this blog. The link is to your right. It’s a fantasized conversation between me and my muse. It’s mostly self-indulgent, heavy-handed tripe, but it does have one good bit of dialogue, which is why I leave it up.
===
He lit a cigarette, took a long drag, the tip burning angry. His voice was smoke, hanging blue in the air. “Does it matter?”
She bowed her head, hurt. Instead, she said, “I thought you quit.”
“Only in the real world.”

Blog Tour for An Aberrant Mind by Ken MacGregor

Posted in Fiction, Genres, Give Aways, Interview with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by SeanMDavis

AnAberrantMind_KenMacGregor_PostCard
KenMacGregorKen MacGregor writes horror, fantasy, mystery, comedy and children’s fiction, the elements sometimes overlapping. His short stories have appeared in anthologies by Siren’s Call Publications, Hazardous Press, Blood Bound Books, Mystery and Horror, LLC and more. Cellar Door, which includes one of Ken’s stories, won the Gothic Readers’ Choice Award in 2013. Ken is a member in good standing of The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. He lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan with his brilliant wife Liz and astounding children Gabriel and Maggie. An Aberrant Mind is his first fiction collection, published by Siren’s Call Press.

I had a chance to take a peak at “First Person Shooter,” from An Aberrant Mind, his debut fiction collection. Naturally, I had some questions.
***
Hi Ken, how’s it going?

Very well, Sean. Thanks. Hope it is for you too.

First, can you tell me how this fiction collection came to be?

A little over a year ago, I was putting out a lot of short fiction with several publishers, pretty much answering every submission call I could find. Two publishers approached me about doing a collection of my stories. I was flattered, of course. It had never occurred to me that such a thing was even possible. Which is silly, because I’ve read dozens of collections by other writers. Anyway, one of the publishers was Sirens Call Publications; I had worked with them several times, and had grown to appreciate their professionalism and we’d developed a good rapport.

Do you feel you have an aberrant mind?

Yeah. I mean, I don’t think I’m crazy or anything, but I know I look at things differently from other people I know. I can tell, because I often forget to filter the stuff that comes out of my mouth and I get some very weird looks from my friends. So, yeah – I’m different. I’m good with that.

What made you want to write horror?

I get a huge kick out of it. It’s like playing a game where you make the rules and get to kill all the other players. Haven’t we all wanted to do that? No? Just me? I’m good with that, too.

Reading the title, I thought this story was going to be about video games in some way, but you surprised me. Without giving anything away, the title is a pretty good glimpse into your sense of humor. I won’t presume to ask where you got this idea, since the answer any writer gives will always be a shrug and a fumbling explanation about what your were doing at the moment of inspiration, as if that has anything to do with it. But I will ask, how did you develop this idea from its initial conception to the finished story?

First Person Shooter is an intentionally misleading title. I wanted the reader to assume they were going to read a story about a video game. Then, once they realize who the protagonist is, the play on words rears its head. It’s hard to talk about this without spoilers, but I had long been fascinated by the idea of someone stuck somewhere forever. What would they do? How do they feel about it? How long before they run out of patience with the whole thing and do something drastic? I like to think it would pan out pretty much the way I wrote it. I’ll tell you one thing: I had a blast writing the dialog for the Big Guy.

You dedicated An Aberrant Mind to your children, who aren’t allowed to read it until they’re older. How does being a father affect your approach to writing dark fiction?

Being a father affects everything in my life. Any time I’m making plans or someone asks if I want to do something, the first thought is always, how will this affect my kids? Once you have kids, your whole life revolves around them in one way or another. The biggest impact lately is that my son, who is seven, can now read. So, I have to ask him to step away from the screen if I’m writing or editing my work.

What are you working on now?

I have several short stories that are works-in-progress and I’m trying to nail down a novella. This is daunting as the longest piece to date has been seven thousand words. But, I have this weird urge to write something significantly longer. For me, this is aberrant.
In addition to the novella, I also want to write a novel by the time I’m fifty. Well, I’d like to at least write a first draft of one. I’m forty-seven now, so this deadline is way too close for comfort.

Thanks for dropping by and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to reading more from you in the future.
***
AnAberrantMind_KenMacGregor_FrontCoverPromoAn Aberrant Mind
Ken MacGregor

ABERRANT is defined as unusual, abnormal or different. The stories in this book not only differ from most of what you read, but also wildly from each other. A retired school teacher takes on an elder god and his minion; a werewolf picks fights with sea creatures; a neighbor’s lawn may be eating people. Twenty-two stories: scary, funny, weird and different.

In these pages, you will find darkness and fear, revulsion and terror. Mixed with it, however is quite a bit of humor. Sometimes both happen at the same time. So, open it up, join Jim as he fights off zombies with a potato cannon; witness the bloodbath reunion of the first man and his homicidal son; enjoy the monsters, the demons and the deranged.

A word of warning, though: you may never eat a bagel with lox again.

Available for purchase at:
Amazon:
US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil
CreateSpace
Smashwords

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Ken MacGregor’s work has appeared in over fifty anthologies, magazines and podcasts. Ken is a member of The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an Affiliate member of HWA. You can find Ken on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, and at ken-macgregor.com. Ken’s the kind of guy that, if he found himself stranded somewhere with you, would probably eat you to survive. Ken hopes you enjoyed the stories in this collection and that you sleep just a little less well because of them. Ken lives in Michigan with his family and two unstable cats.

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway information:

Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of An Aberrant Mind by Ken MacGregor to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!

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