My First Ever Writer’s Retreat

Last weekend (it’s Super Bowl Sunday 2014 as I write this, so that’s January 24-26, 2014) I made a snow-and-wind-fraught drive from Indianapolis to the town of Converse, Indiana, about half an hour or so northeast of Kokomo. The town itself has one “notable resident” listed in Wikipedia, Monte Towe, the former Denver Nuggets player who is generally co-credited with devising the alley-oop play.

The purpose of this, other than to regale my grandkids with a story of how I braved wind ice and snow all by my lonesome a long way from home, was to attend the IHW Winter Retreat, hosted by writer/artist Bob Freeman, at the current building of the Eastland Woodcarvers Club. I’d never been to a writer’s retreat before, and my friend and local fantasy author Maurice Broaddus invited me to come along to this one. So, away I went.

I’m just going to cut to the chase here: the attraction of the building we stayed in is, the second and third floors are legendarily haunted. Before the woodcarvers moved in, the building had also been home to a brothel, an office of the Ku Kux Klan, a speakeasy that held a regular poker game that John Dillinger would play at (downstairs, there is, just laying out in the open, a copy of the Indianapolis Star from the day Dillinger was assasinated, see below), and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. So, between this varied mishmash of various cults of personality, there are ghosts in the building. I’m not sure if they were there or not. I personally didn’t experience any such phenomenon whilst I was there, and I slept like a log even on the second floor (it was, however, absolutely freezing those nights). That said, author Michael West had twice left his laptop open while away (once when he was asleep Friday night, the other when he, myself and writer/editor Rodney Carlstrom had popped off for dinner on Saturday) and when he next went to them words he didn’t type in places he wouldn’t have typed them were there. At one point, Bob and Michael were in Michael’s room with dowsing rods, detecting the presences. Late Saturday night, we did make our way for a tour of the third floor, where most of the manifestations tended to happen. We saw both “Demon Closets” as Bob called them. I will say, the third floor did look much like you’d expect a haunted place to look. About the only manifestations I’d personally seen were a dead bird or two on the floor (and a live one on the wall). It was an interesting look in, however, even if I didn’t see any evidence one way or another of ghosts. We were supposed to have a ghost hunting crew come meet us on Saturday night to join in, but they cancelled due to the weather.

As far as writing went, it was mostly discussed, but some of us did get some work done. Maurice and fellow attendee Jerry Gordon, whom together co-edited the Dark Faith anthology from Apex Publications, talked quite a bit (and monitored the progress of!) their Kickstarter for their new anthology Streets of Shadows, a compendium of urban fantasy crime/noir/detective stories that yeah, I may or may not be contributing to. (Yes I am!) I also managed to discuss things with artists, show off script formatting and script writing to anyone who was interested (I was really the only “comics person” in attendance, although Bob certainly has a background in comics; the first time I ever really talked to him, a couple of years back on Twitter, we discussed John Byrne a bit), and even got some feedback on the next serial of SYSTEM S.H.O.C.K. and how it will inform the one following it.

We also talked about The Wire versus The Shield versus Breaking Bad, got almost unanimous recommendations for True Detective which I have since recitified (ahem). We talked about a forthcoming novel adding a fantasy maguffin to a concept I don’t even really think NEEDS to have one, written by someone who may or may NOT be qualified to write about such a topic. (Hint: the concept was also dealt with in Big Black’s song “Passing Complexion” on ATOMIZER a long time ago) That being said, I’m not going to judge a book before I’ve read it, but I am already gearing myself up for the internet backlash for it. Because believe me, there will be some. There always is.

Magic: The Gathering was played (I feel bad having barely talked to Kyle S. Johnson while there but he arrived late and spent a chunk of it playing Magic with Maurice and Jerry!). Meat was consumed. If you like meat, go to Converse; not only does Mickey’s Pub have ginormous burgers for $3 a pop, there’s also the Jefferson Street BBQ, which was glorious – all dry rub, all good. Delicious. If I can’t find a similar place here in Indy that’s all dry rub, I will have to drive back up there for the privelege. After the haunted house tour, we hunkered in with a bottle of Glenmorangie, read “Tam O’shanter” by Robert Burns (as it was Burns Night in Scotland!), and people read from their various works in progress. We also took turns writing a story, one line at a time; it took three lines before Maurice took it in places it shouldn’t have, hahaha.

In the end, we bugged out before noon on a snowy Sunday, and I erroneously thought going to IN-31 through Kokomo would be a safer route home. HA HA HA HA. All that said, made it home OK. Along the way home, I drove through Swayzee, IN, which featured a statue of Garfield in a basketball uniform in the town center. Ah, Indiana.

It was a great, informative, entertaining time, and I dearly hope I can see everyone again. And more.

Cheers, gang.

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