W. P. Johnson

When It Rains, It Pours And God Shits In Your Mouth

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2013 at 9:45 am


In June, I attended the Horror Writer’s Association Bram Stoker Awards hosted in conjunction with the World Horror Con in New Orleans. What an amazing time! Southern hospitality, great food and drinks, an entire weekend of conferences and mixers with other horror writers. It’s one thing to bump into another person that loves horror, but another to be surrounded by several hundred people that can all agree the scene where all the monsters come out and kill everyone in Cabin in The Woods was fucking awesome. You quickly learn how horror comes in all walks of life; clean cut dorks, punks, hippies, and occasionally someone who is dressed sharp and looks like a banker, but in truth just finished reading The Shining (again).

Yes, a fantastic time for any budding young (relatively) horror writer.

Then… of course, comes the tickle in my throat. That proceeds to turn into a cough, that then proceeds to become a chronic cough so bad I get a fever and miss the whole damn weekend.

If there’s any city that a person is supposed to make mistakes in, its New Orleans. On my first day there I passed a drunk person getting arrested at one in the afternoon. Later that night I saw someone passed out on the ground, twitching, and paused only to make sure he was still breathing while other people filed past without a single glance. There was a pharmacy down the street and while I should’ve been going there for condoms, beads, redbull, and something to nurse hangovers and venereal diseases, I made numerous stops for antihistamines, cough suppressants, advil, advil PM, and bath salts to soothe my muscles sore from coughing for hours on end.

I should've been partying with creeps but instead spent Saturday night with these knuckle heads.

I should’ve been partying with creeps but instead spent Saturday night with these knuckle heads.

I watched the award ceremony simulcast from my hotel room with a cold rag on my head.

I have a tenuous belief in fate, that things happen for a reason or at the very least, they happen for a reason in retrospect. It’s hard to wrap my head around why I should’ve missed every single important moment of this convention, the parties, the signings. Several times I rustled myself out of bed for a forum on one topic or another only to cough so violently that I forced myself to leave in order to not ruin it for everyone else. Aside from the first two days, I pretty much spent the weekend in bed looking over a backpack full of horror swag.

It's pretty much against the law not to get shit faced in New Orleans on any given weekend.

It’s pretty much against the law not to get shit faced in New Orleans on any given weekend.

Another day I managed to get out of bed and walk around the French Quarter, stopping for lunch at some random bar. At one point the bartender asked me if it would be any trouble for me to move a seat so I could free up two chairs for some other patrons. After sliding over, she came by with a snifter of aged tequila, saying it was on the house for being so accommodating. She then gave me five dollars and put me to work picking music from the jukebox. Under different circumstances I would’ve gotten drunk and tried to pick this girl up, but instead I paid my tab and went back to my hotel because the heat was getting to me and my cough was making me dizzy. I should’ve spent every morning eating Excedrin while chatting it up with the other horror writers, making connections and friendships that I was sure to follow up on once I got home. I should’ve woken up next to strangers in a strange place. Instead I tossed and turned in my hotel room on Friday, wondering if Saturday too was a wash.

I ate Popeye’s for dinner. Fucking Popeye’s. In fucking New Orleans.

The question then is, if this is fate, what is it trying to tell me? That I should give up being a horror writer? That I didn’t belong there? Perhaps something terrible would’ve happened had I had free reighn over the city of New Orleans, armed with a thirst for rum and endless nights only to watch all of this occur from from hotel room window, seeing the flashing of lights (police and party alike) and hearing the faint sound of jazz bands trudging their way through the French Quarter for a funeral or a wedding (both sound the same).

Maybe this, maybe that, but in the end I’ll never truly know. On my last day, Sunday, when I finally started to feel okay, I went out to a cafe and began writing with the idea that at the very least I could jot down a couple of notes for a story that takes place in New Orleans. It began to rain and I was forced to retreat from the outdoor seating and stand inside the crowded cafe until the weather let up. By the time it did, it was time for me to go to the airport and head home.

There is nothing quite as discouraging as the experience I just described to you. I’ve been rejected countless times and have had my writing critically lambasted by more than one person, but to make this level of effort in order to involve myself in the horror community and have those efforts thwarted by a severe cough is almost enough to make a person hang it up altogether.

Almost, but not enough.

On my flight home I wrote three stories and jotted down ideas for four more. This is unusually rare for me as it takes a decent amount of time to write even one story, let alone three in the span of a flight, and ideas for stories rarely come to me in such a high quantity in such a short amount of time. Strange as it sounds, my experience in New Orleans taught me something- I am a stubborn asshole. I am the person that won’t leave the party even after everyone asks me to leave, the guy who, given the time, will probably write a dozen novels and have each and every one rejected only to still continue working. I am the guy that got sick during my first Horror Writer’s Convention and came back home even more determined than before to have a name that means something, to work even harder, to sacrifice even more, to go again next year with the idea that everyone will know me because I am someone worth knowing.

If I was a boxer, I’d be the guy getting his blisters cut off his eyes so he could go one more round.

Maybe it was fate. And maybe the purpose was so that I would learn more about myself, what I’m truly willing to do in order to make it in this world. I don’t care if all those opportunities were right in front of me and I lost them all from being sick. There’s always more chances, more time to work and to create. There are stories to tell, and in the end, that’s all I really want. Forget networking and branding, workshops and panels. These things will come in time, when I’m ready. But until then, I have work to do. I have my own fate to determine. And lets face it, the world of horror fiction could always use another stubborn asshole.

Until then, here’s to being scary.


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