Hookers, Homeland Security and a Horror Writer on an Amtrak

  I realized after the fact that attending the World Horror Convention the other weekend and being an active participant in programming marked the first time I represented Black Bed Sheet Books in an industry environment compared to a fan festival. I held my pitch sessions, readings, hobnobbed and ran our dealer’s table. Hung out with BBS authors like Andrew Beresford, S.C. Hayden, Jeniffer Caress, Lincoln Crisler, and a plethora of other authors and publishers including, of note, Sam Cowan of Montag Press who, as it turns out, lives just down the street from me. BBS (Alex, S.C. & I) were interviewed by a handful of media cable and radio shows including Residual Haunting Revived ( http://residualhauntings.podomatic.com/ ). They showed our trailers throughout the film fest. Talked to some key people about my ideas for renovating the industry, and they listened. Pimped Shot in the Dark Comics, Hacker’s Source Magazine, and Muscle Wolf Productions, our partners, did some readings, watched my authors (and myself) do well at the mass signing that Friday. Got a lot of business done, and BBS will continue to grow because of some things I accomplished there. It was an experience I’ll never forget, just like every time I go.

Well, call me a little disorganized or just plain stupid. I thought I had my trip well planned out. I was supposed to catch the Amtrak train back home at 11:30 am Sunday Morning, April first. Had to catch a cab from my Motel 6 and then drag my two huge tattered wheel-less suitcases heavy with books and my clothes bag and computer equipment around the Amtrak building to wait for the train. And I waited. It was raining, sometimes pouring, sometimes snowing, I had to go bathroom and there was no shelter, and homeless people were scoping me out. There was a station there but it was closed, and after two hours I thought to dial the 800 number in the window on my cell phone.


APRIL FOOLS! Turns out the train was arriving at 11:30PM, which was why the station was closed in the first place. I was directed on my ticket to the little teeny “p” beside the “11:30.” So….


I dragged my luggage around to all the payphones in the area but all the pages for taxis in their Yellow Pages had been ripped out, and then I saw a cab afar off and dragged my luggage over to him. I went back to the Motel 6 and paid for another night, and the only room they had was on the second floor. This was to be the last time I’d use that luggage. I was exhausted by the time I got situated, as I partied late until 6 that morning with Boyd Harris, Gord Rollo, RJ Cavendar, Evil Jester Press, and more great people, and I figured I’d nurse my hangover on that dern train 😦  So…


I went out to calm down from my disappointing ordeal and passed a hooker hanging out right there in the Motel 6 parking lot. She kept trying to get my attention as I passed, and I kept eyeing the police car partially hidden not far away in the parkinglot of a building diagonal to us across the nearby intersection and wondering what the hell was she doing??? Iwent out again for hot dogs at the Maverick gas station nearby, and later went for McDonald’s, all the while that hooker was just hanging out and whistling at me in the rain. After napping and watching Shrek the 3rd on HBO, she was still out there by the time my lab cab in Salt Lake City arrived.


So here’s the thing: I had a lower-level seat on the train, and from the time I got all comfy I was one of three in the entire car and had a decent night’s rest during the ten-hour ride from Salt Lake to Reno. They announced just before our arrival in Reno that there are many passengers waiting there and we were going to be at full capacity. I took my bag and laptop from the seat next to me to make room, and the train filled. At first I thought my luck was with me and was about to return my belongings to the other seat until a thirty-something man with short-shaved hair and a t-shirt & jeans scoped me out and found his way to me, sat down, and I thought so much for the comfy ride. But then he spoke to me:


“You mind if I ask you a few questions? I’m with the Department of Homeland Security and I’m on a task force designed to eliminate the state-to-state transfer of guns and drugs on trains such as this one…so where did you come from…?” He flashed his badge and showered me with questions. Told him all about the convention, my trip, my books, my authors, and after that intense interrogation I had to lead him to my luggage so he could zip ’em open and go through everything. A skull falls to the floor along with loose metal banner stand pieces and he held his breath for a moment, but I did say I was attending a horror convention. Next he went through my boxes and found the books I’d displayed and pimped back at the con….no drugs or guns….and he shook my hand, apologized for the inconvenience, and disappeared up the stairwell to the level above.


All eyes in the car were on me as I returned to my seat, and when I sat down, there was a pause before everyone in the room started asking me questions, the first of which was: “Now that we all know your business, how was theconvention?” I ended up listing my titles, pimping my authors, giving writing advice, and passing out cards….whether I wanted to or not! After awhile they left me alone with my window seat so I could open my laptop and get a little ahead on all the work that would face me with Black Bed Sheet Books when I got home.










About downwarden

Nicholas Grabowsky’s novels of horror/fantasy and mainstream pulp fiction, both as himself, as Nicholas Randers, and as Marsena Shane, have generated worldwide acclaim for over two decades and praised by many of today’s most popular horror gurus in the literary world. He began his career in traditional publishing houses with brisk sellers in mass market paperback horror and romance, and the last ten years have seen him hailed by many as a mentor and advocate to the smaller presses, which has become to him a passion. His body of work includes the award-winning macabre aliens-among-us epic The Everborn, The Rag Man, Pray Serpent’s Prey, Halloween IV (and its special edition), Diverse Tales, Reads & Reviews, The Wicked Haze, Sweet Dreams Lady Moon, June Park, and Red Wet Dirt, numerous anthologies, magazine articles, and self help books, with projects extending to screenplays, poetry, songs, film, comics and graphic novels, and a wide variety of short fiction and nonfiction since the 1980’s. He’s a veteran special guest at numerous genre conventions and makes appearances and signings across North America. He has been in the limelight a radical gospel preacher right out of high school and in the following years a rock vocalist, teacher, lecturer and activist, editor, publisher and founder of the Sacramento-based Diverse Media small press, which has recently blossomed into the subdivisions of Black Bed Sheet Books, which publishes “exemplary literature, fiction & non” but specializes in horror/fantasy, and Black Bed Sheet Productions, which produces independent film, and sponsors both the hit Blog Talk Radio show Francy & Friends and the popular web stream Black Hamster TV. Currently, Nicholas is at work with numerous anthologies, graphic novels and comic books, an Everborn sequel and the novels The Downwardens and The Sirens of Knowland. His independent film projects include the upcoming slasher creature feature Cutting Edges, as well as co-writing the independent film Into the Basement, for Triad Pictures. View all posts by downwarden

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