This week my wife and I get to take an annual pilgrimage from Syracuse, NY to Williamsburg, VA for the charity we support, Scares That Care. It almost didn’t happen because of the pandemic, and last year, the charity was forced to postpone the event because of the lockdown. We’re not out of the water with covid yet, by a long shot. Dawn and I are vaccinated, and we’re ready to help the charity raise money for those who desperately need it. Because even during a pandemic, people still suffer from burns and learn cancer is in their body.
This will be my fifth Charity Weekend, and I’ve evolved and grown quite a bit over the last 6 years. My first visit was to Scares that Care III as a journalist, with a handful of short stories under my belt in some anthologies. I took it upon myself to cover the event for Rue Morgue’s blog and my podcast, The Necrocasticon, on the then Project iRadio. While I was there, I learned I wanted to write fiction, after hearing encouraging words from Kelli Owen, Tom Monteleone, and Brian Keene – a trio of authors who are very influential on me. I got to interview Joe R. Lansdale, and shoot the shit with Sid Haig. And I met my first close buddy in the horror community, Mike Duke.
Scares That Care IV saw a turning point in my writing. Though I went to cover the event as a journalist for my podcast and work with my new podcast network, Project Entertainment Network. The charity offered a Borderlands Bootcamp session featuring Tom and Olivia Monteleone,, which I took advantage of. The podcasting was fun. The bootcamp was educational. I learned quite a bit about self-editing and met some new friends, like Wile E. Young, Valerie Williams, and Skip Novak. Skip has become a close friend and confidant. I call him my chaperone in the creative community. But I also met John Skipp and Craig Spector, though not in the same room. This trip solidified my drive to become a voice in the horror fiction community.
Scares That Care V… was a two edged sword for me. My father died a few months before and I was in a deep depression. I did not have a good time and anxiety attacks are no fun, although I will say the reasons it wasn’t fun for me led to an eye opening learning experience. I’d rather focus on the positive aspects of my experiences through the charity, and only bring it up because, well, I grew from it as a result. I again attended the event as a podcaster, and with Project Entertainment Network. I made 6 copies of Good Boy’s first draft and brought them with me. I came with the intent of selling the novella and landing a publisher. My thinking outside of the box was great. I took a copy of Good Boy to Lisa Vasquez, the CEO of Stitched Smile Publications. I showed her the book with all the art I bought for it and said: “Wouldn’t this look better with your imprint on it?” Lisa took the book, read through it, and eventually took me on as her personal student in Stitched Smile University. And how could I forget Alex from Iowa? Oh, and how about Lucas Milliron, who roomed with us for a night and is one of my favorite people?
Scares That Care VI saw me again evolving. I moved away from a focus on journalism and podcasting, to selling books as an author. At this time, I had a half dozen anthologies with my stories in them to sell (none did), a stack of ‘zines I was publishing (THE NECROCASTIZINE), I had a self published short story collection released, a story in the Project Entertainment Network anthology, MY FAVORITE STORY, and a special limited edition of GOOD BOY. I sold all 50 copies of GOOD BOY I brought with me, something remarkable for an unknown author, and a good number of the other books. Mike Duke was kind enough to allow me to share his table with him, and I gained a few new fans that weekend. I met many of my peers and friends I previously only knew online, like Jarod Barbee and superfan Joan MacLeod. Being behind a table in the dealer’s room was surreal. I still have imposter syndrome thinking about it. Oh, and Lucas Milliron had a table, too. We all rise together, Joe Lansdale said. Ain’t that the truth.
And now we have Scares That Care Charity Weekend VII on the horizon, finally, after a year’s hiatus. I’ll be sharing a table in the main dealer hall with Amy Baker. Amy writes urban fantasy and is currently working on her first full fledged horror novel. Her Tainted Moonlight trilogy is fantastic. And she has special journals printed to sell, with a portion of the proceeds going to the charity.
I have many more books to offer than before. I was a productive, publishing fool during the pandemic. My hard work has started to pay off…
A BOOK OF LIGHT AND SHADOW in paperback
GOOD BOY in paperback
The Splatterpunk Awards Nominated BELLA’S BOYS in paperback and hardcover
THE DEATH LIST in paperback and hardcover
And my latest and best selling book to date…THE GOD PROVIDES in paperback.
I’ll also have copies of STRANGER WITH FRICTION magazine, featuring my short story, GIANTS.
I might have the remaining copies of THE NECROCASTIZINE I have printed left to give to people. Plus plenty of other merchandising shwag.
In six years I’ve gone from being a guy with a handful of short stories, to having five books, and one was nominated for Splatterpunk Award for best novella. All because I went to Scares That Care. Aside from all the names I’ve already dropped here – I’ve met, gotten to know, and learned from the likes of Armand Rosamilia, Jay Wilburn, John Urbancik, Bob Ford, AJ Brown, Kenzie Jennings… all because of this charity. What does this charity mean to me?
It means the world to me.
Because I know my presence there might help sell another ticket. I know the table space I paid for helps to secure horror entertainment talent for the convention and the hotel. I know much of the money I make at the convention will be put into silent auctions, and autographs from celebs who attend. I know the 12 hour drive Dawn and I take down to Virginia will be worth it because the money will help a trio of people who desperately need it.
I’ve lost many friends to breast cancer. I lost my dad to cancer. I grew up with a neighbor going through childhood leukemia, and a fellow student in high school who died of cancer in my senior year. I’ve seen people who have suffered from burn injuries. I am friends with a woman who survived a house fire as a child and has lived her life with the scars. I have empathy for the people the charity helps because I’ve seen it time and time again.
That’s why Scares That Care means so much.