It was ten years ago today, September 6, 1999, that I first set foot inside the Red Lion Pub here in Chicago. I was there to attend a Twilight Tales Open Mic. Little did I know the impact that Twilight Tales would have on my life.
Twilight Tales is a weekly reading series started in 1993 by author Tina Jens. It caters to dark fiction (horror, fantasy, mystery), but writers of every genre and style are welcome. They have open mics, featured readers and special events.
This was my first public reading of my fiction. I’d been writing plays since 1990, but I’d only been dabbling in short stories since 1997. I read “Maggie Anne & the Raggedy Man.” I was nervous, reading outside under the stars on the Red Lion’s patio, but, all in all, I was happy with how it went.
Afterward I got to meet Tina, who was still running the shindig at the time, along with Andrea Dubnick. She was editing Twilight Tales’ next anthology, BOOK OF DEAD THINGS, and asked if she could publish “Maggie Anne” in the collection.
Talk about receiving a good response! I was walking on air!
Unfortunately I had the story submitted elsewhere and it would’ve been bad form to have it published by Twilight Tales while it was under consideration by someone else. *
After that first night, I went back to Twilight Tales, and back again. I pretty much attended every week for the next couple of years. Tina turned into a cherished friend, one of my closest in Chicago. I attended conventions with Twilight Tales authors, I had short stories published in Twilight Tales anthologies and, the biggest boon to my career, in 2003 Twilight Tales published my short story collection THE UNDERTOWN OF SMALL TOWN DREAMS.
I met Mary, my main squeeze, through Twilight Tales in 2001. She was showing up because her sister was living with a writer that read regularly. Now, all these years later, it’s Mary who lives with a writer.
I’ve also met many other wonderful people, some writers and some not. I’ve even met a few fruitcakes. (Who’d a thunk that writing horror stories would attract weirdoes?)
A lot has changed with Twilight Tales over the years, both for the good and the bad. The Red Lion closed down for renovations a couple of years ago and Twilight Tales has had to move around. I’m not nearly as involved as I used to be, I only make it once or twice a year. In a way, this is good, because when I do attend, it’s extra-special for me.
Now here are some statistics to wrap things up.
I’ve read at 33 Twilight Tales Open Mics.
I’ve read at 22 Twilight Tales Themed Readings.
I’ve read at 11 Twilight Tales Related Events.
I’ve been a Featured Reader at Twilight Tales 4 Times.
I’ve had 5 Stories published in Twilight Tales Anthologies.
I’ve had 1 Poem published in a Twilight Tales Anthology.
I’ve co-edited 3 Twilight Tales Anthologies (2 officially, 1 unofficially).
And I’ve had 1 Collection of my stories published by Twilight Tales.
A pretty good run with a pretty great group of people.
Oh, and I did get in to BOOK OF DEAD THINGS. In 2007 Twilight Tales did an expanded reprint of the book and this time around I got in with a story called “Love in the House of Nowhere,” which went on to receive Honorable Mention in THE YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. And “Maggie Anne & the Raggedy Man” was included in THE UNDERTOW OF SMALL TOWN DREAMS.
So we all lived happily ever after.