My Horror Realm Experience…

Many of my friends and co-workers were surprised (and amused) when I told them where I spent last weekend – in Pittsburgh, PA attending a horror conference called Horror Realm.   Ben and left The Squish at home with a close family friend and spent three days at a hotel attending writers panels, networking events, and hanging out with some pretty cool people.

A lot of you know that Ben is writing short stories / novels of the zombie and post-apocalyptic genre.  His ultimate goal is to be able to quit his 9-5 job and support our family by writing full time.  I’ve been supporting him by serving as his first reader slash copy editor, support team, and motivational source.  We went to Horror Realm to meet people, try to get contacts in the industry, and get any tips on writing that we could.

Honestly, I headed into this endeavor with a sense of dread.  Seriously – a HORROR convention?  But it turned out to be not-so-bad and I ended up not hating it.  Got there on Friday, met some people from the Library of the Living Dead forums, and snagged some dinner.  Attended an awesome panel with Jonathan Maberry, James Melzer, and Rob Fox.  We skipped the movie panels but also attended the author panel containing David Dunwoody of Empire fame, Steven North of Dead Tide repute, and Kim Paffenroth, PhD who has a new novel coming out with Dante Aligheri as the main character.  Yes, he will run into the zombie horde. I hit the hay early and fell asleep watching Boise State dominate Fresno State.  Hooray for having ESPN at the hotel!

Saturday I skipped out on a lot of the festivities.  Ben and I took a detour to IKEA (did you think we wouldn’t sneak in at least one trip while we were there??) and then I dropped him off at the hotel so he could geek out.  I stole the car and tooled down the freeway to the (extremely rural) area where I used to live.   Stopped by my Grandma’s grave site; believe it or not but there were still flowers alive in her floral arrangements two weeks after her interment.  She always did have a green thumb.  Went past the old farm on the mountain (Mt. Joy) and wound my way through gravel covered dirt roads where I was chased by a pack of dogs – 2 German Shepherds, a cattle dog, and some mutt that could have had some beagle in it.  Drove past the old homestead and found that the trailer (with an addition) had been replaced by a more modern mobile home that was neatly anchored in place with a brick ‘foundation.’  I was shocked; I thought that our old place would stay the same forever.  I guess things change over 23 years, huh?

Got back to the hotel, changed into my bathing suit, and prepared to hit the pool because it was a 80+ degree day.  Uhhhh, the pool was empty.  A bit misleading to have a POOL PARTY on the schedule later that night, eh?  I ended up sitting at a table by the empty pool soaking up some sun.  Forgot my sunscreen so I got a little extra crispy.

Met back up with Ben and found out we had plans for the night – dinner and then a brief excursion to the cemetery where they filmed scenes from Night of the Living Dead.  No biggie.  Michelle, a friend of Ben’s from the LOTLD forums, doesn’t have Bob Evans down in Louisiana where she lives so we stopped there and then headed up to the Evans City cemetery.  At this point my internal “WTF’ radar starting going off because it was <i> getting dark </i>.  I don’t *do* dark, especially in creepy areas like cemeteries.  It took us about 1/2 hour to get there and we pulled the car up, killed the lights, and hopped out.  Creepy Central.  Found some tombstones from the movie, took some pictures, and then helped Mike (Michelle’s husband) look for a geocache spot.  Didn’t find the first one even after searching in the bushes so we headed down to the second one near the entrance to the cemetery.  It looked like it was in the woods close to the gravel road so we let him search while we took pictures of the sign and poked around.  All of a sudden, Ben saw something moving on the hill making the dry leaves on the ground rustle and we all started running like the devil was behind us.  I banged my finger off the trunk of their rental car and stowed it.  We hopped in the car and took off; we started laughing once we hit the main road again.  We’re idiots.

Got back to the hotel just in time for the deceptively named Pool Party to start.  Hung out for a bit, got pissed at cigar smokers, and went back to the room to watch more football, this time it was Texas and Texas Tech.   Hey, I had to take advantage of having ESPN, right?  Ben hung out down there for a while longer and then came to bed.  Slept in the next morning (hallelujah!) and got the car all packed for the trip back home.  Hit two more author panels with Rhiannon Frater of As the World Dies fame, Eric S. Brown, and Kody Boye.  Kody’s short story ‘Jade’ was pretty awesome.  If you want to read the best opening to a novel, check out Chapter One of Rhiannon’s ATWD’s  ‘Tiny Fingers.”  Eric Brown gave Ben lots of writing advice, encouragement, and told me to get him to finish his stuff.  He and Stephen North (they co-wrote a book together) were Ben’s biggest supporters. 

Sunday brought  more writerly panels.  My favorite reading of the weekend was Scott A. Johnson’s “Epiphony.”  That guy is crazy, but awesome.  Imagine that know-it-all teenager that has everything figured out in the event of the zombie apocalypse actually confronting it with his own family.  Classic.  I think he was my favorite author of the whole weekend, followed closely by Kim Paffenroth.

Headed home, reunited with The Squish, and unpacked a whole lotta laundry.  Caught the first quarter of the Giants / Cowboys game and shuffled off to bed to start the workweek over.  All in all, the weekend wasn’t too bad with the exception of being separated from Squishy.  I might take her next year en route to the beach for a vacation with my family.  Spend the weekend at Horror Realm (a treat for Ben) and then the following week at the ocean (a reward for me for being such an awesome wife / mom / all around good person).

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Weekend Wrap Up – Growth Spurt Edition

This weekend went by so quickly.  I thought I had plenty of time and before I knew it, it was Sunday night and time for bed.

Friday was an interesting adventure because Ben and I went to a No-So-Surprise Congratulations Party (accidentally ruined by Yours Truly) for a co-worker while my sister watched Mallory.  I jokingly told Mallory to go ahead and be ‘Evil Baby’ for Aunt Jamie, never imagining it would come true.  Apparently she ate one 4oz bottle, screamed like a banshee, and then plowed through 1/2 the second bottle.  At the time we thought it was an isolated incident, but now realize that it was the beginning of the dreaded growth spurt.

Mallory’s growth spurts are tough on us because she wants to eat every hour and a half to two hours.  Typically you can squeeze two to two and a half hours out of her between feedings and she just gets a little irritable.  During growth spurt season she’s just irrational and screaming.  During a typical day she will eat between 28 and 32 oz.  Yesterday she ate close to 40.  Yes, 40.

Saturday had Ben’s parents and sister who lives  out-of-town coming over for dinner and hanging out.  We grilled a piece of beef that wasn’t too great (noto to self: no more meat from Meijer’s meat dept).  The highlight of the meal was grilled pineapple slices with Homemade brand  Vanilla Bean ice cream drizzled with caramel syrup.  Num!  I ended up finishing David Dunwoody’s Empire too.  Getting ready to start the book for next week’s Book Club – Mistress of the Art of Death.

Sunday was one of those days where it starts out being 7:30AM and the next time I looked at the clock, it was after 8PM.  Made a neat pork loin for dinner in the crock pot.  Canned peaches + raisins + brown sugar + vinegar + onion + blender = pure pork happiness.   I used a 4lb loin so we have PLENTY of pork leftover for lunches this week.  I love those meals that you make once and just walk away from.  I uh, need to learn the definition of the cooking term ‘chutney.’  Apparently, it is NOT synonymous with ‘puree.’  Ben came tearing up the stairs when he heard the blender going full blast instead of pulsing – At least it gave him a laugh 🙂  Also, found out that the bottom of our blender pitcher is broken, which explained why all the liquid was on the counter.  That made Ben laugh, too.  My sister was at our house when I was prepping this and we must have looked like the Keystone Cops. 

Ben worked on his header for his new cooking blog and I had him make the header for my new blog (to be unveiled either later this week or early next week).  We caved and Ben bought an antenna to boost the signal for our digital tuner.  We now have NBC, CBS, FOX, and ABC along with PBS, the God channel, and the CW.  I will now be able to watch football – yay!  I was getting a little concerned with how far we were going to take this whole ‘no cable tv’ thing.  Mallory gave us a scare with a screaming fit – we rushed her upstairs, stripped her naked to make sure that nothing was hurting / poking / pinching her, and then decided to try a bottle.  Wouldn’t you know, she was starving. 

Rest of the night was uneventful – prepared for the week to come.  Never did  get a chance to sit down and work on that piece of jewelry *sigh.*  Maybe next weekend?

How was YOUR weekend?