Things that to go bump in the night might be the least of your worries if you experienced the stories and images that were celebrated at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City over the weekend.
The 18th annual World Horror Convention brought writers, publishers, illustrators, gamers and fans of the genre together to participate in four days of workshops, discussions, celebrations and networking.
Convention organizer Charlene Harmon said on Saturday that the event was going "extremely well."
"We had over 300 people registered in advance, and many more have come in just to check things out," Harmon .said. "I can't tell you how many people have stopped me to tell me how great it's been."
Harmon said the event drew an international crowd and included a small but vibrant community of local horror writers, including JoSelle Vanderhooft, a Utah horror poet who presented her work at a reading evening and whose piece, "Ossuary," was in the running for a Horror Writer's Association award on Saturday night.
Workshops held throughout the convention addressed a wide range of topics including developing story lines, working with other authors, getting published and the emerging young-adult reader market for horror writers.
A Saturday discussion focusing on selling horror writing to non-horror publishers was chaired by a group of established writers including Alexandra Sokoloff, Sarah Langan, Deborah LeBlanc, Leslie Klinger and Heather Graham. The writers agreed that pigeonholing yourself as a pure horror writer was non-productive and that flexibility was a large part of the key to success in today's competitive publishing market. New York Times best-seller Heather Graham, who also writes under the name Shannon Drake, has written romance and historical fiction in addition to numerous vampire and horror titles and noted a stroll through the big booksellers illustrates the dilemma of horror writers.
"If you go into Barnes and Noble or Borders, how many rows of science fiction and fantasy are there? It's huge," Graham said. "Horror, though ... you have one shelf of horror at Borders ... in Barnes and Noble, none at all."
One option for writers who have trouble breaking into the world of big publishing is to find a home at one of the many boutique publishers who specialize in the horror field.
Bailey Hunter from Langley, British Columbia, had a booth at the convention featuring products from two such publishers she represents, Dark Recesses Press and Cutting Block Press. Both companies accept submissions from anyone and sometimes feature writing contests a way for new or previously unpublished writers to get their work to the public.
Hunter said the convention is a great setting both to advertise the books her companies publish and to meet new writers looking for an outlet. In addition, Hunter noted that small publishing companies are creating new ways to distribute work.
"We publish Dark Recesses (a horror anthology) twice a year in book format, and twice a year as a PDF on our Web site," Hunter said. "The electronic version is available for free. ... Having both formats widens our writers' audience," while maintaining a revenue stream for publishers and writers.
Dark Recesses' latest printed issue has six pieces of fiction that are illustrated, plus interviews, book reviews and some nonfiction articles.
Bradley Williams is a father of five, a Box Elder High School teacher and, for the last 15 years, an artist who creates illustrations for the fantasy and horror story realm.
Williams was at the convention to show his work, talk to writers and other illustrators and make contacts in the business. His previous work includes illustrations for "Magic: The Gathering," a popular role-playing game based on cards that had its heyday in the '90s.
More recently, Williams has been illustrating books that are the basis of a new role-playing movement. White Wolf is a company that has created a whole line of alternate worlds in which role-playing games are conducted. Williams illustrates works of fiction that are published by the company and used by its customers to establish new storylines and scenarios in ever-evolving, character-based gaming. Two of the most popular lines are the "Vampire: The Requiem" and "Werewolf: The Forsaken" series. People involved in this gaming arena take their characters seriously, and Williams hears about it if they don't like where he takes things in his illustrations.
"If they like what I've done and think I've presented a character in a way that fits their vision, they're happy and excited," Williams said. "If they think I blew it, or a character they like gets killed off ... I get an earful."
Williams had sketches, drawings, sculptures and oil paintings of maidens, monsters and magical creatures on display.
A group of Salt Lake gamers were hosting their own table at the convention Saturday and are dedicated to more than the creation of complex characters that interact in a conjured world.
Salt Lake City's Camarilla group uses the White Wolf story lines for the basis of its gaming, held every Tuesday and Thursday on the University of Utah campus. And they encourage participants to hone their skills in the theatrical arts as well as writing, sketching, photography and design. They also expect member gamers to elevate their skill in community awareness and support.
Tiffany Pusatello, Stacie Bullough and Megan Smith are all members of the gaming group and are most proud of their accomplishments in the realm of giving back."Our charity efforts have broken records," Smith said. "We've helped by raising money and encouraging members to do things like get involved in the Bear Hugs project." Project Bear Hug is an international charity program that works to provide stuffed animals for underprivileged children.