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Just got back from Dragon Con, which has become a yearly thing for me. This was almost certainly the best one I’ve experienced, thanks to the wonderful response to the 7 panels I sat on.

#1- Film Noir: The Building Blocks & Styles of This Cinema’s Iconic Genre
This was the second year I’ve been on this panel, down in the hotel once known as the Sheraton, now known as Courtland Grand Augusta. Which sounds a lot fancier, but it’s still the Sheraton. Walter Hunt, David Boop, and Philip Greco were my co-panelists, and they really knew their stuff. This was a slightly older crowd, as expected, but typically sharp.

(Dragon Con audiences tend to be high quality. The fact that there are about 100 other places they could be enjoying themselves tends to bring only the most passionate crowd, one of the things I love about this con.)

#2-Not Always What They Seem: Demons in UF
I was a tad nervous for this one since it was the first time I’d be on an author’s panel discussing my vast body of work. Needless to say, all of the other panelists– R.E. Carr, Wesely Chu, Jeaniene Frost, JM Paquette, and Robert Ross– have LOTS of books to talk about, where I only had RAUM. But, as I pointed out, buying all of their works would cost a pretty penny, while you could buy everything I’ve published for the mere cost of one book.

A fun panel with a great bunch of people. Friday at 10pm is not primo panel time, so the crowd was smaller than my other panels (but this would be a GREAT turnout at most any other convention).

#3- Decoding M. Night Shyamalan
Saturday at 4 pm, I moderated my first Horror track panel and this was when I got an inkling that the Horror track was experiencing more attention than in past years. No shock that this got a good response, Shyamalan has a proven track record and a hell of an amazing real life story arc. This was a passionate crowd. Even films that are mostly dismissed in the man’s oeuvre had at east a few defenders. Except THE HAPPENING. Nobody defends THE HAPPENING.

I shred the podium with pure awesomeness- writer Cherie M. Priest, the lovely Crystal Cleveland, Clay Gilbert, and Thomas Mariani. It would not be Dragon Con without seeing Clay and Thomas.

Read Clay’s books! Listen to Thomas’s Podcast! Watch Crystal’s videos! Check out Cherie’s Author’s page!

#4- Breaking the Taboo: A Discussion on Classic Horror Movie Censorship
This was the panel I was sweating over the most, because I was genuinely afraid we’d run out of material and face the dreaded empty space of doom, begging for questions from an unimpressed and tiny audience. Wrong on each and every point; we did not get to a BUNCH of stuff, and the audience was large and super enthusiastic. I credit my co-panelists:
Dr. John L Flynn– I was on a panel on NOSFERATU with this gentleman last year and he’s great, a natural storyteller. We bonded over a shared love for the late Angelique Pettyjohn, who he knew in the last years of her too brief life. Check out his webpage here. (And buy his book on Ms. Pettyjohn!)
Daniel Griffith– I’ve been on a few panels with Mr. Griffith and every time I have to remind myself that this is the genius behind so many of the terrific DVD bonus extras that make otherwise marginal films well worth the purchase. He’s one of the absolute go-to guys for a panel on just about anything. Check out this page.
Bill Bridges– is one of the men who made VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE such a big hit. Crystal fangirled all over this guy once she knew who he was. He’s a huge deal, but you would not know it from the modest way he carries himself, a true sign of accomplishment.
Thomas Mariani again- podcaster, all around cool guy.

#5-Burned to Light: Vampires in Classic Cinema– This was fun. We had Bill Bridges, Thomas Mariani, Dr John L Flynn and me once more, but the crowd did not seem to have tired of hearing us talk, and showed up in force. Maybe it was the last second addition of Crystal to the group, who can say?

I was really happy with how this panel came out, despite some tech issues (we had only 1 TV screen working for the presentation, and the videos, which worked just fine before the panel, stubbornly refused to cooperate during the panel). Crystal’s awesome husband Shon said he counted 20 laughs from the audience, which is a good time/laugh ratio by my estimation.

We got more than a few post panel comments from folks saying it was the best they’d seen so far.

#6- The Exorcist: Celebrating 50 Years of Horror
Wow! What a panel!

Crystal moderated this and knocked it right out of the park! And we had one of the best collection of panelists; Clay, myself, Joseph Laycock (a professor of religious studies and well known author (check him out here), and Father Bryan Small, an actual Catholic priest (though he told us right from the get go, “No, I’ve never done one.”

Any time you deal with religion you run the possibility of hurt feelings and/or genocidal civil war, but everyone treated each other with a level of respect that is all too uncommon these days, to our great shame. Frankly, the scholar and the priest could have carried this on their own, with Crystal’s excellent moderation. As solid panel with a hot audience.

#7- Unfilmed Nightmares: Horror Films that Were Never Made

Easily the most time I have ever devoted to a panel, a rabbit hole that grew ever larger the more I looked into it. I was not expecting a whole lot of people showing up at 11:30 on Monday for the literal last panel of the track. I must have passed a thousand heading in the opposite direction, suitcases in hand. The streets seemed oddly normal, nary a Barbie or Deadpool in sight. But they came, with a good 80 people or so ready for the last hurrah, and it was especially gratifying to see some familiar faces, people who by now knew that the Horror Track delivered.

Derek, the man who runs the track, has allowed me these solo panels for a few years now, graphic presentations on some topic– Bigfoot films, Sea Monster movies, and now, one of my favorite obsessions, movies that never got made (or got butchered in the process, ending up very different from what was intended.). It started as just a panel on unmade Hammer films, then expanded, then exploded.

I knew there was zero chance of getting through all of it, but I did not even get to the halfway mark. Luckily, this is one of those things where there was no general arc, I mixed modern and golden age with abandon. Great audience, just fantastic. Their reactions were a big part of the show. And blessings on the tech folks who really came through and got both TVs working, it was absolutely essential that the graphics were visible. Otherwise I’d have to perform interpretive dances, and nobody needs that.

What a fantastic con experience. The only down note was that I’d hoped to visit Katie Carpenter while out there and I was not feeling 100%. Since she’s this close to having her baby, I did not want to take any chances. I got to see Jerry & Jenn Chandler and family, the folks who got me into this. Derek did his typical bang up job running the track, and will hopefully do this forever.

Special thanks to my hosts and dear, dear friends, Crystal Cleveland and Shon Johnson, who are such great people that there were times we could have been at the con but instead just hung out. I really can’t thank them enough. Honestly, just spending a weekend in their home, which is a visual feast, would qualify as a great time, convention or not.

Hey! I also sold a goodly amount of books! Always gratifying to have people come up at the end of a panel and snag a copy, the best applause possible. Looking forward to next year.

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