FakeID_finalLittle does poor Lamar know that I’ve been watching his career with great interest ever since that fateful convention where he and I met.  It was the same convention where I met Brandon Massey (which Lamar will get to).  It was also the convention where Brian Keene and I became friends (though oddly, our bonding moment was over an argument about Superman).  So when I saw that Lamar’s book, Fake ID was due out, I *insisted* that he come here and tell us a story.  Everyone has to start somewhere …

The Freshman by Lamar Giles

A decade ago I was in a Baltimore Marriott, the host venue for Horrorfind 2004. In the hotel restaurant the biggest table was rimmed with a hearty group of people I didn’t know (though, if their faces had somehow been super-imposed with their book covers, I would’ve recognized them immediately). The one familiar face—because I’d met him like two hours before when I was checking in—was Brandon Massey, editor of the DARK DREAMS anthology, the short story collection that had just garnered me my first significant publishing credit. Brandon waved me over to the single empty chair. I sat with this group, which emitted a strong long-time-friends vibe, said my name without stuttering, and tried not to leak any introvert juice on the place mats.

I don’t recall everyone that was at the table that day, because as they began to introduce themselves, I realized I was hearing a recitation of the Who’s Who in Horror list. Introvert Panic Mode kicked in and any long-term memory power was diverted to vital life support systems so I didn’t slip into a social overload coma. 10 years later, these are the names that stand out to me (Deena Warner…I’ll explain momentarily) and Brian Keene (he offered me some of his calamari).

After introductions, the new guy interrogation starts. Where are you from? Virginia, I grew up in a town called Hopewell. How was the drive up? Long. NoVA traffic sucks. Is “The Track” your first published story? Sorta. I mean, I sold a story a couple of years ago, but it was a webzine so there were never any printed copies. Have you ever signed an autograph? (This, from Deena.) Come to think of it, no. No, I haven’t.

To which she produces her personal copy of DARK DREAMS, and says something along the lines of, “I’d be honored if I was your very first autograph.”

Sure, but, I don’t even have a pen. Rookie move. No worries, the veterans have enough ink to go around.

So, Deena passes me the book, I will my hand not to shake as I open the front cover, and sign right under the DARK DREAMS title with a bunch of genre stars watching. I look up, and everyone’s giving me the awkward eye. I’ve done something wrong.

What feels like a year passes, and I’m fighting the urge to yell, “What?” Deena, (super nice, btw) is the one who tells me…

“With anthologies the custom is to sign the page on which YOUR story begins. The front of the book is typically signed when it’s YOUR book.”

dark_dreams_225w-199x300DARK DREAMS is definitely not MY book.

Oh. No.

Here’s the thing about ink. It’s permanent. My mistake is immortalized. I apologize, and Deena assures me it’s no big deal (really, it probably isn’t). But, I’ve officially gotten off on the wrong foot. At that point, I probably did take a piece of Brian Keene’s calamari just to un-knot my stomach.

The rest of the weekend went much smoother. I met a number of the other DARK DREAMS contributors, along with some of my favorite writers who were insanely nice and personable–I’m talking to you F. Paul Wilson and Douglass Clegg. Also, I met a gentleman named Maurice Broaddus. Nice guy, I think he has a blog.

All in all, no more major slip-ups on my part, though the Stranger in a Strange Land paranoia stuck with me.

At some point during the proceedings, someone (maybe Deena) asked what it felt like to be a newly published writer at my very first horror convention. I said, “I feel like a freshman sitting at the senior table.”

And I still do.

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For 10 years, I’ve hung in there. There have been slow moments years, where absolutely nothing went well in my writing world. But, with every 10 disappointments came a small success to keep me going. I branched out from horror. Still love it, still write it (and plan to publish it, again, in some form, very soon). I tried my hand in other genres, though. With great results.

Now, I write young adult mystery/thrillers. My latest, FAKE ID, was published by HarperCollins in January and has gotten some pretty good press. As it stands, I’ll write at least two more YA thrillers for HC. A lot of people ask me about the switch, and my go to answer is, “I still write about monsters, the human kind.”

Things are going well, yet…that freshman feeling is not going away. Every conference I go to, I’m sitting at tables with stars. Every time I sip water, or cut my steak, or make a paltry attempt at a joke, I’m expecting the blank stare. The “That’s Not Your Page” look. My introvert juice leaks constantly.

And, that’s okay. I realize that’s more about me—my inner awkwardness—than anybody else. Publishing is stuffed with nice, welcoming people. I often hear confessions of introversion from some of the funniest, most outspoken figures around.

Is it possible that, in some way, we all feel like freshmen?

I don’t know about that, but I do know about this: Horrorfind 2004 was my coming out party. The people I met there will always be dear to me. I’ll tell that Brian Keene calamari story until the end of time.  Plus, I have these takeaways…

I always keep a pen on me.  And I sign on the right page.

Maybe I’m closer to graduation than I thought.

 

LRGiles_Fake-ID_Headshot_Color-300x225The Awkward 3rd Person Version that most writers hate writing…

Lamar “L.R.” Giles writes stuff. He’s been doing it for a long time. Umm, I, I mean he, is was (is?) from Hopewell, Virginia. Hopewell is not like any of the strange little towns he writes about. At all. Not even a little. HarperCollins will publish my–&*#%–his Young Adult thriller FAKE ID in 2014. He has a wife and wants a dog one day. In Chesapeake, Virginia.

 

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