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  • Writer's pictureCandace Nola

The Final Scares that Care Horror Con weekend. July 29-31, 2022.

Scares That Care Weekend Reflections

It’s been a week since Scares that Cares weekend and a lot happened in that time that I had to process, quite honestly, it’s been a very eventful month for me, with a lot of changes and new opportunities, both personally and professionally. With all the excitement and work to get ready for Scares, including ordering merch, making sure my deadlines prior to going were met, and making sure my children were ready to travel with me, there was a lot of preparation.

Our travel down was an adventure, to say the least, but smooth when looked at in a certain light. There were snags, of course, but since we drove, not as many as others had while flying or driving over several days. Our trip took us six hours, and we made it there in plenty of time to set up. My younger daughter and son were with me for this trip, neither one having been to a Scares that Care event before, and they were both excited to see their mom in action, so to speak.

I was both excited and nervous to be there, still feeling new at this author thing, especially to the con circuit and speaking to new people, but I feel like I did alright this time around. We got checked in, found our space, and my kids set up my table, because my oldest loves to organize, and well, honestly, she thinks I suck at it. This was fine, because I got to roam around and see everyone for a few minutes before things got started.

Brian Keene was one of the first people that I saw, and we are old friends now, so no need for my rampant nervousness there. Brian has become a great friend and supporter, and I am genuinely grateful for being in his circle. Through him, I have met Somer Canon, Stephen Kozeniewski, Samantha Kolesnik, Wesley Southard, Rio Youers, John Urbancik, and quite a few others. Many of them I had already interacted with online through social media, but being able to meet them, and now, call them friends, just puts things in a whole other perspective.

I was able to say hello to all of them, plus other friends and colleagues like Jeff Strand, and Bridget Nelson, and got to meet Kenzie Jennings, finally, one of my authors from The Baker’s Dozen. I made the rounds and met up with Wile E. Young and Stephen Kozneiwski, RJ Benetti, and Wesley Southard.

Tommy Clark is another great friend as well as a colleague from the House of Stitched, always a delight to see him. I was able to snag a mini-live interview from him for the magazine Facebook group, too. I made my oldest daughter be our cameraman; she enjoyed it, and of course, she bought his new book, Summerhome!

In the celebrity room, I was able to meet the legendary Ronald Kelly for the first time and got a great picture with him. I met the gorgeous Laurel Hightower and got to say hello to Somer Canon, who was seated beside her. Kristopher Triana was next, with his dog Bear and author Mona Kabbani, who is just as beautiful and superb in person as she is online. He is truly one of my favorite people to see. I was able to meet Stephen Graham Jones and snagged a couple of signed books from him. He is truly a genuinely nice human being and as impressive in person as he seems online.

At this event, I met Tim Meyer for the first time, after walking past him at least seven times, looking for him. LOL. I also got to meet Dacia Arnold for the first time, although we became friends a while ago. I also met Tim Murr, Paul Lubaczewki, Lucas Mangum, Lucas Milliron, Benjamin Blankenship, and Tom Deady, who was absolutely charming, and we were able to chat several other times during the weekend.

I shared my space with Author Shawn Burgess, and Ben Blankenship, and we enjoyed ourselves chatting about books, ideas, merch, and the many various costumes that appeared in our vendor room. I spent as much time as I could visiting the other vendors, introducing myself and making sure that all the authors and industry creatives there knew what Uncomfortably Dark Horror can offer them, all for the cost of simply sending me an email. I love what I do now, not only my writing, but supporting and amplifying as many of my peers as I am able.

I was lucky enough to judge the Gross Out contest that took place on Saturday night, and I laughed until I cried as the contestants tried to one up each other with their stories. RJ Bennetti took home the win, with honorable mentions to all the others, especially Jeff Stand, who took the poem Footprints in the Sand and, well, rewrote it as only he can. I also made it to a couple of readings, including those by Todd Keisling, Lucas Mangum, Brian Keene, and Sonora Taylor, all of whom could have filled their own hour and kept me enthralled.

The entire weekend was incredible in its own right, but the conclusion of it, for me, was epic. Sunday night, after the event was over and books and bags were packed, those of us that remained joined Brian Keene in the bar for a rundown of the weekend and to chat amongst ourselves for however long we wished to do so. I joined them and sat down next to an author that had joined Jay Wilburn, an author I had not met yet, and then promptly had my mind and my cool demeanor blown.

As I was introducing my children to the group, I turned to him and asked his name. The first time it was said so quietly that I did not quite hear it, so I asked him to repeat it. The second time, my brain froze, and I simply did not believe it. Yes, I asked a third time and felt tears in my eyes and my entire face flushed beet red. Armand Rosamilia was seated beside me. If there is anyone in this industry that does not know who this man is, I beg you to please correct that error. I have been following his career for decades. He is one of my biggest heroes in this business, certainly in my top five of the top twenty. And here he was, seated beside me, chuckling at my horrified and embarrassed expression.

Apologies were made, fangirling was done, and then a conversation followed, of the most epic proportions. At our end of the table, we had Tommy Clark, Amanda Headlee, Lucas Milliron, Tim Murr, Zach Rosenberg and me, and we quickly talked shop. Tommy began bragging about my work with the House of Stitched, then Tim began asking for my advice on marketing and promoting. I quickly went into my element, all too aware that my own personal hero was listening to every word, but somehow, I was no longer nervous. I was among my tribe once again and all was right in my world.

As the evening progressed, we shared more personal stories, our demons and our struggles, our issues with imposter syndrome, our reasons for writing, and more. Trauma was shared, tears were shed, understanding, enlightenment, and empathy followed. We were each in our element, among friends, sharing the things that made us who we are. This was one of the most profound conversations that I have ever been a part of on this journey.

By the end of the night, strong friendships had been formed, connections that will not break, a level of understanding that will forever carry over into each other’s books and stories as we read them with a deeper knowledge of their authors. This, for me, is what this journey is about; the acceptance that can be found, the connections, the reasons that we do what we do, despite its trials and obstacles. Just one more way that this journey has changed my life for the better. This is my tribe. These are my people. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

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