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World Fantasy Convention 2022 Report New Orleans, LA

*–Standard Disclaimer: As usual, it’s impossible to name drop all the cool folks I hung out with, met, and reunited with over nearly a week in New Orleans. If I try, I will make omissions, likely glaring ones, which would not do.

When planning for WFC22, my roommate Brandon the Elder and I decided to stay for extra time, to see the sights in The Big Easy. While this was a great idea, we made a few mistakes. Well, I made mistakes and he got screwed. I flew in uber early on Wednesday, meaning I was at my hotel by 11am–sweet!–leaving me freaking exhausted from getting up at 3am–bummer. Brandon the Elder was due to get in at a reasonable time, but his flight was changed a few months back, and he didn’t get in until around 8pm. Plus, while he had a normal timed flight back Monday morning, I stayed until after 4pm when, really, my trip was over, and I was merely wasting time at the hotel. At least I was let into my room upon arrival, then hit the caffeine shop (better known as the Hyatt Regency Starbucks), got a kick of energy in the afternoon, and managed a long walk down to the Mighty Mississip, where I checked out the River Walk and rode the ferry across the river and back. The aquarium looked amazing and huge, though there was no time for a visit.

Although the host hotel was nowhere near as confusing as the one at Chicon, it had its own weird quirks that gave it charm and character. The elevators were called by hitting the button for the floor you wanted, and then the screen would tell you which elevator to take. Strange, but they worked, and I like strange, so that was okay. The space itself was beautiful and quirky, kind of a cross between Nakatomi Tower and a brick terrace building from suburban London. Yippee Kay Yay, mate! Thankfully there were no Hanses harmed during this con 🙂

World Fantasy is a much more intimate convention than Worldcon, and that’s fine by me. The con got back some of the numbers it lost during the first year back from COVID, in Montreal. I’m not sure what the final attendance numbers were. Let’s just say there were enough great artists and fans to interact with, learn from, and just be around. Informative panels, outstanding art, vibes from other writers, all served, as usual, to spark my creative energy. Which is always a welcome boost.

Brandon the Elder and I had a lot of fun not just at the con, but with the city as well. Beignets and cafĂ© au lait at CafĂ© Du Monde were a must. The street cars were fun to ride, although few and far between, making for long waits. Haunted New Orleans is mandatory to check out, for spooky ghost tours. The Voodoo Museum provided not only a cool experience, but a lot of facts that corrected some preconceived notions about the religion and the people in and around its history. Last but certainly not least, the WWII museum was an absolute marvel. A cannot miss is Eisenhower’s letter apologizing for the D-Day failure, written before the battle. We might remember the battle as a foregone conclusion; it was anything but a guaranteed win. I only managed half a day there, but Brandon the Elder stayed all the way until dinner time, soaking in a lot of history he had not yet learned about.

It’s always fun to appear on programming, and WFC22 didn’t disappoint. Although my reading was sparsely populated, the listeners had a good time as I regaled them with tales of Verum Venatoris and the true history of Julius Caesar’s supernatural squad that operated during the Gallic Wars. Speaking of Legio Damnati, I sold a few more copies during the mass autographing session, earning my mother a few extra dollars, as they were her copies lol Finally, it was my honor to moderate a panel on trauma in horror. Even though I’m an expert in trauma, as a mental health professional and trauma therapist, I could do nothing more than sit back, provide questions, and let the excellent panelists absolutely blow the audience away with their knowledge and insight. Trauma is a serious mental health issue plaguing many individuals, and while horror must use trauma in its narratives, it’s important for artists to be mindful of readers when utilizing it.

I can’t get away without writing more about the food. Cajun is an exquisite cuisine, and despite being a good boy with my diabetic diet and holding my blood sugar to reasonable levels, I simply had to partake. Jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, beans and rice…OMFG, yum! I probably overdid it with the hotel restaurant’s Cajun popcorn too, which were Cajun fries stacked with fried shrimp and crawfish tail meat, but dayum, where else am I going to find that?

Sadly, by the end of the con and the trip home, my surgically repaired ankle was shot. I walked over five miles a day, and it simply can’t handle such exercise any longer. I’m fairly certain the one screw is ready to come out, and I’ll have to get minor surgery for that. Let’s hope that’s the extent of the problems. My blood sugar also kept crashing, and I ate almost a full bottle of sugar pills while there, thus proving that though I now have it at normal levels, I still need to fiddle with dosages to find the right balance. A better problem to have than soaring high blood sugar levels, I assure you!

True, my disabilities kept me from further exploration Monday before my flights home and forced me back to the hotel room more often than I liked during the con. Nevertheless, my experience in New Orleans, and at WFC22, left me energized and ready to create. Much love to everyone I interacted with, the organizers, and all the awesome folks I didn’t get a chance to meet. There will be further opportunities to network–and I will be at World Fantasy 2023 in Kansas City next year to do just that!

Of Horror and Hope

I’m very pleased to have contributed to this important publication.

Of Horror and Hope, an HWA member anthology of poems, flash fiction and personal reflections on mental health and horror, is available for free download. Featuring a beautifully harrowing Greg Chapman cover and a collection of writing to inspire and enlighten, this publication will offer solace and understanding around this important topic.

Find Of Horror and Hope here: Link

Born in the Black to be Published

I’m pleased to announce that my short story, “Born in the Black,” will be published October 20 in the Water Dragon Publishing anthology The Future’s So Bright.

Both digital and print editions will be available for purchase. Find preorders here: The Future’s So Bright

I freaking love this cover art!

Chicon 8, aka Worldcon 80, Report

*–Disclaimer: I’m not going to name drop anyone, because I hung out with too many awesome people, met so many awesome new friends, and I guarantee I’d forget some really important names. So, let’s not, and say I did.

It’s been literally forever since I put up a blog post! Okay, so not forever, and let’s not overuse the word “literally,” but it’s been a long time. Heck, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve put up an official convention report, and I’ve been to Discon, Balticon, and Confluence since then. That’s some major-league slacking right there!

Enough lamenting about the past. I won’t make excuses for failing to blog. That would be boring. Chicon 8, and my trip surrounding it, was anything but boring. I crashed at a friend’s place in Pittsburgh–in Squirrel Hill, which had solid representation at the con–on Monday night, and Tuesday was a leisurely drive to Toledo, Ohio. An excellent fast food breaded pork sandwich and a lovely stroll through a ginormous antiques mall later, and we were off to Chicago on Wednesday, a day before the con. There we enjoyed the river walk, a wonderful architectural boat tour, and a nice lazy night refreshing from a ton of exercise and sun.

Then the con began! Oh, how confusing the hotel and all its colors and levels was–at first. Intimidated, squinting at the map, I couldn’t have guessed that I’d be giving out directions to confused congoers within a day. Yes, there were hiccups, and no, it wasn’t fun going to the green room pre-panel when my panel was in another tower and on another level. Still, I wouldn’t have changed out a single thing, save my struggles with bad legs/feet.

My disabilities hindered me, as usual, though I took great care to rest and recuperate. These disabilities kept me out of action for the awesome Friday night room parties, and subsequent famous giant closet picture, yet I sat on two disability panels that absolutely rocked my world. I hope I rocked the audience’s world with my deep thoughts and pithy insight, although I’ll be content with the fact that I made new friends at these panels that led to wonderful convos.

I also got to run my first workshop at Chicon 8! This workshop focused on novel beginnings and what all the words were doing as it relates to world building, description, character, and plot/conflict. Yes, I found some wrinkles to iron out. Yes, the workshop attendees loved the workshop. I’d been nervous that no one would show up (like no one showed up to my table talk); I was so wrong. More than a hundred people tried to register! I ended up with several more people than I’d intended, but I didn’t wish to exclude anyone. We all had such a great time that the workshop attendees all wanted to go out together for lunch. I couldn’t, though I hope they remain in contact with me, and I’m glad I brought such writerly joy to their convention and craft.

Other panels I was on included a fun romp reading page 119s from random books to see who would or wouldn’t read said books, action scenes in fiction, and writing authority figures, which had a great eclectic mix of experience. Every panel did! From stunt people to scientists, municipal workers to military members, and of course writers, I couldn’t have asked for better people around me. Truly, I was in good company on programming. Plus, my favorite author crush was in attendance, and on one of the few other panels I attended. Hell yeah!

On a professional note, lots went right at Chicon 8. I sold all but one copy of my short story collection Legio Damnati, the “true” history of Julius Caesar’s supernatural squad that battled the druids in the Gallic Wars. I almost completely outlined a novel. I also got some very good news indeed while checking emails before my last panel. News I can’t share publicly at this time. More to follow on that front in 2023, I promise!

The food in Chicago was to die for, the con was incredible, but the people, well, the people are what makes it all worthwhile. My friend’s brother crashed with us, attending his first con like this, and I think we have him hooked. I didn’t mind the giant wait outside Lou Malnati’s pizza, because there were places to sit and incredible chats to be had. I can’t count the number of side conversations, people talking to me after panels, random flybys with friends, the “oh, hey, you’re here!” instances, and other encounters that tickled me to death. The vibe and creative energy were so intense that I was caught in my usual con dilemma: inspired to go write but wanting to remain social. I compromised as best I could and worked on novel outlining while resting up.

Getting home could’ve set me up for a lousy return to work, as I foolishly didn’t take the next day off, and Labor Day driving in a major city might’ve worked against me. There was a traffic pileup at the Indiana/Ohio border, but GPS got us around that smoothly and with little time lost. My copilot did good service keeping me awake. Thankfully, I got home in time to unpack essentials and observe a decent bedtime. Sure, I felt plenty of comedown and con drop. That’s to be expected and totally unavoidable. What I have carried forward, and will always remember, are the good times and the good vibes. Who can ask for more?

Frank Oreto Author Interview

Frank Oreto is a writer and editor of weird fiction living in the wilds of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I mostly write short stories and my work has appeared or is upcoming at The Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, Pseudopod, The Corpus Press anthology series In Darkness Delight, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

How did you get started writing speculative fiction (spec fic)?

 I was always a storyteller. But didn’t start writing things down and trying to sell them until around 12 years ago.  When my friend and fellow writer Douglas Gwilym said, “Hey man. You should write.”

What was your “hook book,” the book that first drew you to spec fic?

 I remember a series of yellow cloth books. Each a collection of myths and folk tales. The Russian volume had Baba Yaga and her chicken legged house.  The United States volume, had tales of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. After that mundane stories had little appeal. 

What specific genres and sub-genres do you enjoy writing and why?

 I like things on the dark side, even when I’m being funny.  Usually, my tales lean toward the supernatural and cosmic rather than the psychological. But in the end the stories tell me what to do.  Sometimes babies get eaten, sometimes dentists take over the world. The mind is a weird instrument.

What is your favorite part about being a writer?

Creating something new in the world with just a keyboard and my weird imagination and then sharing it with people.

What is the hardest part about being a writer?

Sitting down consistently and putting the words on the paper whether you’re inspired or not. Something I’m still not great at.

What stories or authors influence your writing?

I’m a huge fan of Charles Beaumont whose fiction ran from horrific to zany but always strange.

Talk about your current spec fic novel or story and how you came up with the concept.

 I try to write a Halloween themed story each year. (Not just a creepy tale but something that has an aspect of Halloween as a central theme) Right now I’m in the midst of a story where all the children disappeared after trick or treating.  They come back each year on Halloween going door to door asking for treats only to disappear again when they’re through. How does the world deal with this? How does a parent? 

What are tired tropes you wish you would read or write less?

I don’t believe any tropes are tired you can always breathe something new into them.  I think they can limit things a bit. But working within limits can produce amazing things.

What tense and POV do you enjoy writing in?

I tend to go third person past tense. But some stories wont put up with that and I find myself in present tense.

What is your favorite internet resource for writing?

I constantly use The Submission Grinder. My all time most useful tool for organizing my submissions and finding places to send stories to.

Recommend a great spec fic book or movie that may have flown under the radar.

The Cook by Harry Kressing is a short creepy novel of food and Obsession I recommend to as many people as possible.

What’s the best way to find you online?

I can be found on Twitter @FrankOreto

World Fantasy Convention 2021 Report

Last weekend, I finally returned to the con circuit, in the most sensational way. I mean, when you haven’t been to a con in almost two years, and Covid is still rampaging through the world, why not go to Canada? Well, I packed my car, picked up a few friends along the way, and trekked north to MontrĂ©al for World Fantasy Con 2021. Having worried incessantly about crossing the border and the length of the trip, I found all my worries unwarranted and discovered I had made the right choice.

The trip wasn’t bad on the way in. I met a friend after work and drove to Syracuse, where we stayed in (what looked like) a roach motel for one night only. Good news: There were no bed bugs, and it had a nice slip-free tub for my first shower standing up since February. In the morning another friend drove in, parked at a garage, and piled into the minivan, the best vehicle ever! From there it was about 4 hours to our destination. All of our meticulous planning with Covid tests, ArriveCan, and assiduous checking to ensure we had our documentation in order, paid off; we weren’t hassled either direction at the border, although my friend is now a bagel smuggler haha. On the way home, sure, driving 9+ hours sucked, but we broke it up well and dealt with the exhaustion with a combination of caffeine and great conversation, the latter of which fueled a LOT of the fun over the long weekend.

Cons are amazing places to meet wonderful people, including fans, readers, industry professionals, and other writers. World Fantasy Con is my favorite in this aspect. Granted that this year’s WFC was much smaller than in years past, due to Covid and being north of the border, the con vibe remained intact and strong as ever. I mean, I haven’t been to so many readings before, and the reason I attended so many this time around is because so many of us were supporting each other. What a freaking fantastic way to spend a con, right?

Then there’s re-connecting with friends I mostly only see during a convention, friends I haven’t seen in a long time because of Covid. There are too many to mention (though I’m looking at YOU, Mr. Abercrombie). The absolute best part of the connections at cons, though, are those friends you are attending WITH. My roomies were a guy I’ve roomed with before, and with whom I get goofy and go crazy, and a guy I’ve known and been friends with for a while, but haven’t been to a con with previously. Well, our time together gave us all a happy buzz. The fact that I’m dropping hints in this blog to the references we made constantly with each other will inspire a few extra laughs.

I had a blast reading the first story in my collection of Roman/Gallic war supernatural squad short stories, Legio Damnati. Many props to my writer friends, new and old, for their aid in attracting a sizeable audience for said reading, considering these types of events usually only garner a few folks. I think the reading was the impetus for my robust sales. Not that I sold a ton of books, but I calculate that roughly 1 in 42 attendees (and I LOVE that number!) bought one from me, which is not at all bad.

Maybe the panels lagged from a lower number of total panelists–a side effect of a smaller con and Covid driving it to be a hybrid con–but the quality and number of topics more than made up for any shortcomings in this area. There were also some hiccups with the hybrid side of things, such as being unable to ask questions when attending an online only event, but overall, this didn’t lower the quality of the con whatsoever. Plus, an added bonus was that I was invited onto an extra panel. I shared space with incredible panelists, and had the opportunity to speak on so many interesting topics.

Overall, I have to rate this con a smashing success. Obviously, I can’t say enough about the people. The Hotel Bonaventure MontrĂ©al couldn’t have been more accommodating or beautiful. The city itself, though due to my current physical limitations I couldn’t explore much, was a stunning venue. And I finally got to experience a Timmy Hos, as I’m told the locals call it. The long weekend was a fun-filled success all around.

So, merci beaucoup to all my readers, to everyone that bought my book, and to the friends who teamed up to make World Fantasy Con 2021 so special and amazing for me. You’re all such beautiful people.

Brandon Ketchum is a speculative fiction writer from Pittsburgh, PA who enjoys putting a weird spin or strange vibe into every story, dark or light. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association, his work has won Writers of the Future Contest honorable mentions, he leads the Pittsburgh Writers Meetup Group, and coordinated the 2019 PARSEC Short Story Contest.

Find his alternative history horror fantasy short story collection, Legio Damnati, about Julius Caesar’s supernatural squad battling sorcery in the Gallic wars, here: Legio Damnati

Brandon McNulty Author Interview

Today I bring you an interview with the author of the recently released supernatural thriller Entry Wounds, Brandon McNulty!

Brandon McNulty grew up loving monsters, demons, and the thrill of a great scare. Now he writes suspense, horror, and other dark fiction. His debut novel Bad Parts won both Pitch Wars and RevPit, and his work has appeared on The No Sleep Podcase.

1) How did you get started writing speculative fiction (spec fic)?

By writing an awful fan-fiction based off The Legend of Zelda videogames. The “plot” involved a knight running through a throne room trying to kill somebody.

2) What was your “hook book,” the book that first drew you to spec fic?

The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine

3) What specific genres and sub-genres do you enjoy writing and why?

Thrillers with fantasy/horror elements. I love stories that are fast-paced and unpredictable, and when you mix in some fantasy elements, you can keep readers guessing until you hit them with something they haven’t seen before.

4) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

The fun of discovering surprises while writing a first draft.

5) What is the hardest part about being a writer?


6) What stories or authors influence your writing?

Anything I enjoy. My influences range from Stephen King’s novels to the early seasons of 24 to the storylines from late-90s Final Fantasy games. I only write what excites me, and I draw influence from what I grew up obsessed with.

7) Talk about your current spec fic novel or story and how you came up with the concept.

My brand new novel Entry Wounds just released in September. It’s a supernatural thriller about a high school teacher who grabs a haunted gun that he can’t put down until he kills six people.

The concept of an undroppable haunted gun was actually intended for a high fantasy novel I wanted to write. What stopped me story was the fact that I was much too lazy to do the worldbuilding that high fantasy requires. But instead of letting the concept go to waste, I brought it to life within a contemporary thriller.

8) What tropes do you think are important for spec fic?

Magical concepts that add originality and fun to the story. I always love to read stories with concepts I haven’t seen before.

9) What are tired tropes you wish you would read or write less?

Squeaky-clean heroes who always do the right thing.

10) What tense and POV do you enjoy writing in?

3rd Person Past Tense

11) What is your favorite internet resource for writing? This can be a website used for research, a blog, an advice article, William Shunn’s formatting guides, anything.

YouTube. There are so many videos out there that can demonstrate everything from damming a creek in the woods to properly using firearms.

12) Are you self-published or traditionally published, and, if the latter, small or large press?


13) What is your best advice about marketing, social media savvy, and building a platform?

Find something valuable that you can offer an audience on a regular basis. My weekly writing advice videos on YouTube have played a big part in driving book sales.

14) What advice can you offer aspiring authors about query letters, querying, and the publishing process as a whole, be it traditional or self-publishing?

Query Letters are brutal to write, but you need to take the time to learn how to nail a good query. If you can’t convince potential audiences to give your book a chance, all the effort you put into the book itself will go to waste.

Here’s a shortcut for writing good queries: Find a book similar to yours and copy/paste its Goodreads summary into a Word doc. Then see if you can use that as a template for your book’s summary. Plug in the names of your characters, switch sentences around, etc.

15) Recommend a great spec fic writer, published or unpublished, who has flown under the radar, who needs exposure, whose works you adore, or who is simply a must read?

John Everson. His books Covenant and NightWhere are two of the best supernatural horror novels I’ve ever read—especially NightWhere. It’s about a twisted sex club located on the boundary between earth and hell, and the book could best be described as Hellraiser meets Eyes Wide Shut.

16) Recommend a great spec fic book or movie that may have flown under the radar.

The movie Upgrade (2018) blew me away when I saw it in theaters. The trailers for it looked a little cheesy, but it’s a clever and fun horror/sci-fi story about a quadriplegic who regains control of his body with the help of a chip that’s implanted into his brainstem. As he surrenders more and more control to the chip…well, I won’t spoil. Go check it out.

17) What’s the best way to find you online? or my YouTube channel Writer Brandon McNulty

October Halloween Microfiction Challenge

For the month of Halloween, I have set myself a microfiction challenge. I will be writing a one-sentence horror story per day for the entire month. See my Twitter or Facebook pages daily for these horror offerings.

Twitter: @BrandonTKetchum


Legio Damnati Review

I am pleased to announce that Shell S. Has added a wonderful review of Legio Damnati, including an important trigger warning, over on Goodreads. Find the review here:

Legio Damnati Review


So, I did a thing. I wrote a collection of short stories about an alt-history Roman supernatural squad in the Gallic Wars battling monsters and magic under Caesar’s command. I may be biased, but cool, right? Almost as cool as the publisher, Air and Nothingness Press, who always puts out high-quality books. I can’t be more thrilled with the job their director, Todd Sanders, did with mine. Todd also not only overlooked a writer faux pas, but took advantage of an opportunity when I broke the rules of writerly etiquette.

What are writers absolutely verboten from doing when receiving a rejection letter? Responding. Like, at all. Not even to say “thank you” in that concise a format. I won’t go into the reasons why; suffice to say, it’s super annoying for editors. Well, when Todd rejected a story of mine with favorable comments, I couldn’t resist. I let him know I had more of these stories. Truthfully, at the time, I had exactly one more story finished.

There were no guarantees at any point until late in the process. Feedback consisted of, to summarize, “Cool, I’d be interesting in at least reading more.” So it began. The researching, the outlining, and, eventually, the writing. Aided by some false-alarm COVID off time, and by continued encouragement in the progress of the overarching story, I banged out the words. And, somewhere near the end of the first draft, the book was green lit. A day before falling and breaking my leg, I signed the contract. Recently, I received my contributor’s copies. I checked out the art, felt the material beneath my hand…I smelled the new book smell. And, let me tell ya, folks, I’m over the moon!

Now, full disclosure, I had rapport with Todd already, having worked with him before. I wouldn’t advise doing this blind with a stranger or just any editor. Speaks to how important networking within the writing and publishing community is, really. Also speaks to how breakable a lot of our writing rules are, under the right circumstances. Show don’t tell? Sound advice, often enough, yet certainly not universal. Don’t change tenses? Sure, don’t do that, until you’re comfortable with tense rules and unless you want to experiment, then go ahead and swap those tenses according to your cunning plan. Sometimes it’s worth taking a shot; sometimes risks pay off.

Another disclosure: Todd informs me he is full up right now on books and is not looking for or accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

You can buy the book here, at Air and Nothingness Press:
air and nothingness press – our catalog of books (