Public Reading, No Audience: Ballsy, Crazy, Stupid?

Turns out that actor Bill Moseley is intelligent and, at least after talking to him a bit, a heckuva a nice guy. But he freaked me right out when he interrupted the reading I was doing this morning at the Full Moon Horror Festival in Nashville, TN to tell me I was being unfair to atheists. To have someone I didn’t immediately recognize march up on stage and interrupt a public reading that already had me nervous as hell was bad enough, but then to realize that the dude is, in horror circles, pretty much a superstar (Devil’s Rejects, 2005, and many more) felt like my career had just dived into the hungry mouth of an active volcano.

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Mr. Moseley can be quite scary but quite nice, too.

 

Let me back up a bit. To support that novel I keep writing about, Burning the Middle Ground (read it yet? why not? you’re really missing out!), fabulous BlackWyrm Publishing sent me and my partner James to the aforementioned horror festival. Since I was the only author in the BlackWyrm booth, I decided to keep it interesting by doing readings from my work.

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The 10′ x 10′ booth that I tried to make interesting by doing creative readings.

 

If you’ve ever been to one of these festivals, you might be able to imagine the scene around this booth: loud music, people walking by in bizarre (but fascinating and often impressively artistic) costumes, chatting, drinking, and doing anything but paying attention to whatever is being shouted by the vendors lining every aisle and vying for attention. So I was doing the nerd convention equivalent of standing on a street corner in midtown Manhattan reading from an obscure (allegedly holy) text and expecting to convert passersby on their ways to things they actually think are important. But hey–it was either that or do nothing, right? Between crazy street preacher and nothing, I’ll take crazy. Faulkner said that.

Sadly, this morning, I was on the edge of losing my voice from shouting passages from my novel, and my whole plan had been to read the big Easter passages from my novel on Easter morning, so I had to do something. So I got special permission to use the mic on the temporarily unoccupied stage. Eureka! I read a scene in which my good preacher Jeanne Harper preaches the gospel while besieged by demonic ghosts. Before I got to the part where bad preacher Michael Cox starts burning people alive, Bill Moseley concluded that I was actually delivering an Easter sermon.

I almost lost my nerve, but, well, on the edge of total humiliation, I have a tendency to jump right over instead of running and hiding. Mr. Moseley left the stage, and I not only finished my reading, but I marched right over to his booth, broke into his autograph line, and asked him how exactly a story about a preacher who burns people alive is unfair to atheists. A really smart conversation ensued–Moseley needed about two minutes of discussion of what my novel is really about to realize that it’s a quasi-Marxist critique of religion and that my work and his really have quite a lot in common. I gave him a signed copy as a gift, and we parted on good terms. My stomach was in knots, but I think it all turned out for the best. He even said he’d read the book… if the book is ever optioned, I’m imagining how he might perform in the role of my evil preacher Michael Cox… very intriguing….

Not a lot of sales at this convention, but some potentially good exposure, and maybe even a couple of other good stories I could tell. I felt crazy and stupid doing my readings without a (visible) audience, and after I did the reading with the mic, a couple of strangers (who I didn’t even know were listening) told me it was really ballsy. I can’t believe tomorrow is Monday–I totally need a weekend to recover from my weekend, as my nerves are completely fried–but until I really do go crazy or lose my nerve, I’ll keep acting stupid in public in order to share my fiction with fellow aficionados of scary stories that touch every part of the nervous system, brain included.

Talking to you is way more interesting than talking to myself. What do you think?