The Writer’s Block Presents: John Valeri

This month, author John Valeri gives us insight into pursuing that special someone, with hilarious results . . .

The Woman of my Screams

By John B. Valeri

My wife and I have an agreement. Should the opportunity to get biblical with Neve Campbell arise, I’d get “a pass.”

Admittedly, this is not very likely to happen, but hope is a powerful thing. And, just so you know, I’m not some hypocritical chauvinist—the same deal stands for her and David Boreanaz. (Feel free to insert a Bones joke here—though her crush actually stems from his role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

My infatuation began on New Year’s Eve 1997—the night I finally conquered my crippling fear of scary movies by watching Scream alone in the dark. Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, the franchise’s perpetually traumatized “final girl,” was a revelation. How can I explain it? There’s just something undeniably sexy about a woman who can be strong and vulnerable at the same time—and if you’ve ever seen Neve’s eyes well up with tears without them ever spilling over, you know exactly what I mean.

By the time Scream 3 came out in 2000, I was pretty much convinced that we were meant to be together. To give you some idea of the vividness of my imagination, I still recall an assignment for my high school journalism class: writing my own obituary. I envisioned my death as a cardiac catastrophe in a trailer on the set of the umpteenth Scream sequel, where Neve and I were in the throes of . . . well, let’s just say it wasn’t rehearsal. Ah, puberty.

A series of events too lengthy to recount here led me to Hollywood in the spring of 2011 for the red carpet premiere of Scream 4 at the world-famous Chinese Theatre. I braved a cross-country flight, a skeevy hotel, and dinner at In-N-Out Burger to share the same airspace as Neve, if only for a few hours. Seeing a film in the presence of its cast was a surreal experience, and one that left me intoxicated with incredulity at my own good luck. I even ran into Courteney Cox after the screening and managed to snag a picture with her as she was rushing out to do press. But Neve eluded me.

Undeterred, I huffed it a mile to The Redbury Hotel on foot, where the after-party was being held. The place was swarming with celebs—including Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, both so skinny that you want to plug a protein drip straight into their veins—and I pretty much went mute with anxiety and awe. (Have I mentioned that this occurred during my socially awkward phase? You know the one: ages seven to thirty.) It’s easy to become a wallflower, and I still cringe knowing that I probably looked as out of place as I felt.

After spending the better part of two hours squirming my way through a claustrophobia-inducing crowd, I decided to take one last lap around the upstairs lounge before calling it quits. (It was nearing midnight, and I had an early morning plane to catch.) And then, as if by divine intervention, I spotted Neve Campbell sitting nonchalantly on a couch chatting with friends, almost as if she’d been there waiting for me. Not wanting to appear rude, I did what I thought any casual fan would do: I propped myself up against the nearest wall and stared unabashedly, just waiting for an appropriate moment to interject.

That moment never happened.

What did happen was that Jamie Kennedy (who played ill-fated movie nerd Randy in Scream 1 through 3) stopped over to say hello to his former costar. We’d met earlier in the evening, so I felt emboldened to insinuate myself into their little reunion and ask for a photo. Which was cause for yet another awkward moment. You see, Jamie thought that I wanted a picture of him and Neve—but what I really wanted was a picture of me and Neve. After I articulated this, he graciously relinquished his spot while somebody else snapped the photo for which I had traveled all the way to Hollywood.

Finally, after hailing a taxi back to my hotel, I dared to check my camera and was met with yet another indignity: Mr. Freakin’ Potato Head staring back at me. Only he was me.

Oh, the horror of it all . . .


*Note: I met Neve again in the summer of 2015—and paid a professional photographer to capture the moment on film. The amount was obscene. It was worth it.

John Valeri is a journalist and fiction writer. He wrote the Hartford Books Examiner for almost a decade, during which it consistently ranked in the top ten percent of all Hartford, national books, and national arts & entertainment Examiners. His short stories “Just Cause” and “Blood Relations” were recently published in Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors. He makes his online home at

The Writer’s Block: The Other Side of the Convention Table

I do a lot of conventions. It’s a great way to meet new readers, get my face and books out there, and yes, stalk celebrities. But conventions aren’t all fun and games. It can be exhausting greeting and talking with people for three days straight, and I’ll admit, by Day 3, I’m not at my perky best. There are snafus and cancelled guests and times when a potty break is desperately needed yet just can’t happen. I invite you now to Rhode Island ComicCon 2015 to witness the other side of the convention table.

Day 1 (Friday): We arrive a couple hours before the doors open to check in and set up. There’s a line to check in, so Jason drops off our inventory at the table while I stand behind a large, hirsute man who is complaining loudly that he doesn’t want to stand in line. None of us do, pal. It’s all part of the routine. I use the emergency tube of Nair I keep in my purse to depilate a smiley face in his back hair. Jason comes back to relieve me, and I go to the table to set up.

Setting up isn’t just propping up books on a table. I lay out the tablecloth, lint-roll the cat hair off it, set up book stands, arrange the books in an eye-catching way so that all of the black covers (so prevalent in horror) aren’t displayed together but the kids’ books are; pull out pens (for signing books), the receipt book (to track sales), and the antibacterial hand sanitizer (for those times people sneeze when perusing books, which happens more often than you might think). I greet our neighbors, like artist Karen Gosselin and jewelry dealer Charlie Flowers and fellow author Jackie Leduc and her mom. (You do enough conventions, you start making friends with the other vendors.) I put up my banner and arrange the extra inventory under the table and in the meantime, Jason comes back with our passes. We’re ready to go!

Six hours later, I’m tired, I haven’t met any of the thirty-odd celebrities billed to be here this weekend, and I’m already on my second bottle of hand sanitizer (it’s flu season, folks). Sales have been slow, but not terrible—not unusual for a Friday night. I’ve met a charming young man whose mother has MS, an older gentleman who wants to be a writer, and a woman who wants to go to clown school (strangers will tell you the most amazing things at these events). We’ve been invited to dinner by our friends Cat and Barry, so we head to their place, where I gorge myself on good conversation and mozzarella-stuffed meatballs.

Day 2 (Saturday): Saturday is traditionally the busiest day of the convention. Before the doors open, Jason takes me over to Lou Ferrigno’s table to introduce us. That’s right: the Incredible Hulk is in the building. Our exchange went something like this:

Me: I love you.

Lou: Thank you (shakes my hand).

Me: No, seriously, as soon as you stop touching my hand, I’m going to text my sister and tell her I touched you.

Lou: Security!

This elation over meeting the big green guy of my youth lasts for most of the morning . . . until I get my first sneeze-reader (God bless you).

The space behind our table is cramped, and if I’m sitting, I have to twist my body sideways, causing what will eventually be pretty severe pain in my back and knee (still with me seven days later as I type this). The people-watching is fun, though I’m resentful that the man dressed as Harley Quinn looks sexier than I ever have. I talk to one guy about a book project he’s been thinking of and another about how he hasn’t been to a dentist in ten years. I tell aspiring authors about different writing organizations and reiterate the importance of editing (I’m sitting across from a sign with an improperly formatted ellipsis, by the way, and it drives me nuts all weekend). Jason disappears for two hours to attend celebrity panel discussions, and I text him because I need the little writers’ room. He ignores me until I text him again, reporting that I have now peed my pants. He shows up five minutes later, panicked and with a handful of paper towels. (To clarify, I had not. It was merely a clever tactic to get him back to the table.)

By the end of the day, we’ve sold several books, I’ve met a ton of new people, and my socialization skills are completely depleted. I bark at Jason because I’m tired, I don’t like socializing, and I certainly can’t write or edit or clean the house when I’m at these things for three days straight. It’s his fault that he’s always trying to promote me and get free tables and invitations to be a guest at these things, the selfish bastard. He makes an emergency stop at Panera Bread to ply me with macaroni and cheese just to shut me up (can’t yell at him if I’m eating).

Day 3 (Sunday): Stick a fork in me—I’m done. For the first two hours, I can’t even muster up the energy to look people in the eye. I cradle my industrial-size coffee cup (urn, whatever) and try not to cry. I can’t do this. I’m an introvert. This is too much.

Then, a young woman named Anastasia picks up a copy of Ordinary Boy. She reads the back and looks up at me and tells me that the main character sounds just like her. She wants to buy the book and asks me timidly for my autograph. I instantly love this young woman. Okay, yes. This is why I do these things.

I get to meet wrestler Ted DiBiase and eyeball actors Ralph Macchio and Michael Dorn. I slink down lower in my seat when the organizers are questioning bystanders to find out who the vandal was that used a red Sharpie to indicate a space was needed before the ellipsis in the sign that’s been tormenting me across the way all weekend. I sell lots of books and meet even more people and at the end of the day, Anastasia comes back to buy a second book, because she’s the coolest kid ever and she loves to read.

The convention ends at 5 PM. We have packing up down to a science, and the car is loaded up by 5:15. We head home.

“We did well,” Jason says, and yes, okay, he’s right. But I’m burned out and I’m going to be useless for the next three days. These events exhaust me so thoroughly—mentally, physically, emotionally—that I don’t bounce back quickly from them. I want to tell him that we have to stop doing so many of these things (something I have, in fact, said several times) because I don’t have it in me. It’s too much. It’s all too much.

“That one girl came back twice. That was cool.”

Again, he’s right. That was pretty cool. And because of that one girl who shyly asked for my autograph, the whole convention was worth it. I decide not to gripe during the car ride home, and nap instead. Clean houses are overrated anyway, right?


This piece originally appeared on

TalkCast 336 – V.S. Holmes


In this edition we talk with V.S. Holmes, a multitalented writer, archaeologist and publisher. The topics range from Cultural Resource Management, science fiction influences, who exactly is Nel Bently and her first book Travelers, the new Nel Bently Book, Drifters (#2 in the continuing series), V’s other book series, Amphibian Press and why she chose to have this interview in a traffic jam. This and many other questions were asked and answered.


In This Weeks News Round Table:


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TalkCast 335 – The Return of Ursula Wong



Ursula Wong joins us tonight to talk about her new book, the WWII thriller Amber Wolf. This book is quite a departure for her, so we spoke about that departure, why it came about, the genesis of the story, and her personal attachment to it. I could go on about it as I tend to do, but trust me it’s so much better to let her tell her story about this story.


In This Weeks News:

Enjoy This Weeks Chaos.


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TalkCast 334 – Ryan Wing’s October Ghost




Our guest tonight is Ryan Wing, coming to us from the cold climes of Maine. He talks about his graphic novel “The October Ghost vs. the League of Horror” and the new KickStarter for it. We also discuss the “state” of Maine and the close knit group of writers and producers in that area. We discuss the history of his work as well as future books.


In This Weeks News:

Enjoy The Chaos!


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The Plague – Area 51 In Chaos or, Why No Show, Dude?

Hard times in the Alien Retrieval Unit of Area 51:

  • Zombrarian is missing for weeks.
  • Kriana is stricken with Venusian Plague.
  • Lyra T. Kitten lost a fight with a piece of thread.
  • Java is MIA alternating between talks with “Adult Humans” and the miniature versions thereof.

And, here am I, alone in the “Splendid Isolation Ward”, Section 41, Cell 142 here in Area 51. Apologies for missing the last 2 podcasts but I am assured that despite gamma radiation bursts emanating from a partially reclaimed saucer-like conveyance, we should be back next week with more hijinks. Let me take this valuable time to impart to you this precious information on 2 upcoming New England events.

Halloween Comic Fest 2016 is Saturday, October 29th at Double Midnight Comics in Manchester, NH. Free Stuff, sale stuff, prizes for kids and adults and a good time for everyone

Super Megafest Comic Con is October 21st. – 23rd. in Marlborough Mass. Special guests will include:


That’s all for this (and hopefully the only) edition of Hard Times From The Isolation Bunker in Area 51.

Be Safe and stay healthy everyone.

Holy crap, did they say Meat Loaf?

TalkCast 333 – Curtis Hickman’s The Void

curtis-hickmanIt’s not very often you get to talk to “The Man Behind The Curtain” Tonight, we spend the entire show with Curtis Hickman, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of The Void, what many, including members of the cast, who have experienced it have described as an amazing technological adventure. If you have watched Star Trek – The Next Generation, you know the Holodeck. If you have read Larry Niven’s Dream Park, you get the concept of a “Virtual Theme Park”. Over the course of the interview we get just a glimpse of  just what The Void is, how it began, where it is currently and what the future holds for it. As an aside, Curtis committed to a “Family” podcast soon with his equally amazing father, Tracy Hickman, who currently is the “Story Director of The Void.




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The Writer’s Block: Ursula Wong on Strong Women

This month, author Ursula Wong reflects on strong women in science fiction, and how they’ve inspired her writing.

I love strong women and write about them, so on a quest to meet more, I sought out Katniss from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, Nyx from God’s War by Kameron Hurley, and the brilliant Trillian from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Frankly, all three women made me swoon with admiration for their courage, pluck, grit, and brains, despite their vastly different stories. Katniss survives in a weird world of reality TV gone mad; Nyx fights in a war-torn desert; and Trillian shines somewhere out there in the galaxy. I like women who get the job done, but those who use the strength of their convictions to overcome a bad situation, inspire me.

All three women inspire me.

Katniss is courageous and young. She saves her sister by entering the insane game. She doesn’t flinch during the hunts. She focuses on her humanity, or at least tries to. Nyx is a paid assassin. She is violent, shocking, and fabulous. Killing is what she does for a living, and she has no shame or remorse. She just strives to be good at it. Trillian, a mathematician/scientist, outshines everyone with her brilliance, despite Adams’s choice to make many of his men flaky. Both Katniss and Nyx let nothing stop them and never accept the status quo. Also, like Trillian, they are smart. Read More »

TalkCast 332 – The Many Projects of Vivek Tiwary

It’s an epic night with Vivek Tiwary returns to SFSN and brings some and friends to talk about asha-ascendingtwo of his many new projects.


Project one is with SFSN’s friend Sara Richard. It’s an YA illustrated novel called Asha Ascending. Per usual, Vivek does nothing in an ordinary fashion and in this case, the novel is being serialized on the web so readers can become part of the evolving storyline. Check out the first chapters here.astronaut-academy




For the second project we’re joined by Dave Roman to talk about Astronaut Academy,which began as a web comic, evolved into a graphic novel and with Vivek’s participation is hoping to become a television project.

(Part three is to be continued to talk about The Harvey Awards, The Fifth Beatle and all the other rabbits Vivek can pull out of his hat.)

Enjoy the conversation. We sure did.


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Keeping It Ghastly: Blame! Vol 1-3

Keeping It Ghastly” is a bi weekly article on Japanese horror comics which have English print editions. Some are from famous authors, others are from unknowns and underground artist circles. In any case, it’s going to be to a terrifying/awesome ride exploring the horror manga on our bookshelves!

*Ssssssnifffff* Smell that? That reek of sweat, urine, fetid organic material, steel, blood and adrenaline? That’s the smell of Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei, the H. R. Giger of Japanese industrial cyber-punk.


Finally, an intense sci-fi horror manga. Blame! vol 1-3 is a fast read despite the slowest burn of slow-burn stories, but my god does it have something going for it. Killy, our “protagonist” is a man of few words and industrial-survivalist fashion who is looking for the rarest of humans – net gene carriers – the only humans who are able to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital without dying. In his journey he encounters cyborgs, humanoids of every height and breeding, silicon beings, and humans of every evolutionary level. Machine and man live by every method of madness in the world of Blame!, and they all either want something of Killy. From robbing to allying to killing him, Killy must persevere in his journey despite the impossible odds stacked against him.


As Keith Johnson states in his essay, “Nihei Tsutomu and the Poetics of Space: Notes Toward a Cyberpunk Ecology”, “Architecture is (quite literally) a concretization of thought. What then, are we to make of Nihei’s architecture… [but the] mounting sense of architecture as profoundly inhuman”.1 This inhuman atmosphere of Blame! is central to the series’ appeal. Each page is populated with industrial scenery and angles so complex that it puts Akira and Metropolis to shame. This passion for architecture is in every panel of Nihei’s manga. The endless cityscapes, jointed and segmented “silicon lifeforms”, and bulky weaponry befits a Bladerunner spin-off, or a more serious Fifth Element sequel. Buried under thousands of stories of concrete, steel and wires the reader gets a sense of Killy’s confinement in his world. It is both claustrophobic and sprawling like a concrete version of the 2005 movie The Descent.

The world of Blame! works off of the inevitability of transhumanism, thus creating a meandering story that is both bleak, frightening and fascinating. Humanity will become the prey/power source of human-roboticism, which in turn will become the building blocks of silicon creatures, who in turn will becomes purely digital entities. The Net, as the internet is referred to in Blame!, is a higher realm that has built itself into a self-contained biosphere with its own ecosystem and life. Humanity has been outpaced by the evolutionary force of self-perpetuating machines, and now barely clings onto existence. It’s a bleak world that Blame! presents, but one in which humanity is too stubborn and angry to abandon.


Nihei clearly values the world he is creating over story structure since, in terms of plot, there isn’t much there. Drama is generated in Blame! when characters and creatures bump into each other. The dialogue is very sparse, and what words do occupy page space serve only to communicate only the most necessary information i.e. names, level numbers, directions to human colonies, etc. The episodic chapters of Blame! vol 1-3 could be read in any order without consequence. Really the only reason to read the books in chronological order is to keep track of Killy’s traveling companions and to create a linear time line as he travels farther and farther up the vertically stacked world-wide city. If you’re looking for the context of why Earth is now covered in an ever expanding, semi-sentient city or how the rift appeared between organic life and artificial then you had better be ready to invest in the whole series as well as the spin-offs. What little backstory is given is scattered in little pieces throughout Nihei’s works.


Blame! is the ground floor of Nihei’s cyberpunk skyscraper. From the intense and grimy world building of Blame! come a number of successive titles starting with Noise, the origin of the silicon creatures, then Biomega, which explores the zombie-esque transformation of humans into primitive silicon creatures. But wait, want to hear a real mind f**k? Nihei created a wolverine comic that takes place in a possible future Marvel universe that collides with Blame!. Yeah, in an AU timeline Wolverine battles cyborgs alongside the last bastion of humanity!


At present the now semi-defunct publisher Toykopop holds the rights to Blame!. As such the quality of the English printed version of Blame!, as well the availability of all 11 volumes, is suspect. Thankfully there is some hope, as omnibus versions of Blame! are available via Vertical Comics.

1 Johnson, Keith Leslie. “Southeast Review of Asian Studies”. Volume 35 (2013): 190-203.


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