Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dying Is A Con ...

Taking Tuck and my books on the road is many things for me. It’s book signings, speaking gigs, being Master of Ceremonies for book events and charities … fairs, author panels … highways, hotels, airports … And of all things, it’s also one big con.

Conventions, not a scam, rip-off, or ex-resident of your local prison.

Having never discovered the magic formula hidden on the internet for building a fan base of huge proportions, I have taken the road far, far less travelled by. I don’t limit my book selling travels to writer conventions, book store signings, libraries, or other reader-magnet events. No, that would be simple and easy. Not me.  Oh, no. I do those things, of course, but I also tiptoe on the wild side. I found the fork in the road where the other authors turn right and head for the bookstores and I made a hard-left.

See, I don’t follow the leader very often. Well, hardly at all. In fact, I tend to not only march to my own drum but I don’t bring a drum. I don’t play well in other’s wake.

No, no really. It’s true. Stop laughing …

Three years ago when Dying to Know first launched, I took to the road in a dozen different paths. It was the quintessential tossing ideas against the wall to see what sticked … stuck … stayed there? And each year since, it’s been different. Each year, I experiment with new ideas. Some of them work. Others do not work. All of them have been fun to try.

One of the theories I had was to be places most other authors were not going to be.

Like, Monster-Mania.

You heard me. Monster-Mania Con, Hunt Valley, Maryland.

This cult-following convention has been around for decades. Its platform is as it sounds—the monster, ghoul, and slasher genre—an annual convention for the ghouls, dead-enders, goths, and horror-esque in all of us. There are film-makers; comic book aficionados; and artisans of gadgets, toys, memorabilia, macabre jewelry, and anything for those who want to live in Halloween-land year-round. And of all the fun are the hard-core fans who love cosplay—dressing in the costume of their favorite slasher, basher, killer, and chiller stars.

Many aren’t really in costume. But don’t tell them I said so.

Monster-Mania Con has been interesting to say the least. Over the past couple events here, I’ve met celebrities like Robert Englund of Freddie fame in Nightmare on Elm Street, Scott Wilson (Hershel) of the Walking Dead, Shannon Elizabeth, Kristy Swanson, and a list of others. Some, I couldn’t name a film or pick out of a lineup, but many, like Englund and Wilson, are powerhouse draws for this circuit and well worth the bucks to get in and get a photo with. I, not being a fanboy, buy them a drink or shake a hand and move on. Celebrity-sycophant is not on my resume.

I am sort of the odd-man out in the sea of ghouls and killers and roving vampires and werewolves. I’m the unknown-author of mysteries and thrillers. This year, the only novelist in the entire convention selling Ghost Gumshoe series (God I hate the moniker) about a dead detective solving murders with a paranormal twist. I also began promoting my newest paranormal mystery, New Sins for Old Scores, hitting the shelves in early 2017 from Black Opal Books. Not the best fit for a horror convention, but at least my protagonist is dead. And, trust me, this crowd is all about dead!

After three years, I’m one of the crew here. And oddly enough, it has worked. This year, I had several returning fans come to find me and buy my latest book with promises to sign on for the New Sins series. And I’ve found a few new fans and caught up with some old pals who haunt this place (pun intended) each year.

Truth be told, I don’t sell a ton of books—but I do sell many. I also get my bookmarks and business cards out there. I talk to tons of people and even make a few fans along the way, have some laughs, and shake my head a lot as I snap photos of the cosplayers.

The road less travelled has brought me to a lot of strange places—Monster-Mania among the oddest.

There’s my old pal, Capt. Mango … the radon-inspection contractor who is really a pirate and small-
budget film star as a killer-maniac. There’s Mike and Jenna, a talented two-some—Mike creates hand-made artisan toys and horror memorabilia and Jenna is a gifted photographer of cult-style photos. Mic and Mike, Donna, Terri, and Steve ... and Matt. There’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Father Evil, the killers from A Clockwork Orange, Freddie Krueger, ax-wielding maniacs, and cute kids dressed as stalker clowns and dragons. And others like Anna, Maggie, Kellie, Chris & Mary Ann, Katherine from Kingston with Justin—a few new friends of the hundreds I’ve made here.

Monster-Mania may not be on my slate next year as I juggle my travels and try to find new venues to seek fans and fame. But the experience and folks I’ve met has made it one of the memorable places Tuck and I have explored these past three years. It will also be one of my first favorites and the first place Tuck found returning fans seeking his adventures.

For me, finding the places few authors have discovered is part of my own path. My favorite places are at those where I speak or am on a panel—if I can speak and take stage, I can sell them my books. Except here at Monster-Mania—to truly connect, I have to wear Goth-garb, paint my eyes black, wear zombie contact lenses and elevator–shoes, and carry an ax. Oh, and a few chains and scalps hanging from my belt wouldn’t hurt either.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

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