Skip to content
Toggle Left Side Navigation

Award-Winning Horror Writers to Kick Off New Conference

September 29, 2017

International Horror Guild Award-winning author Dale Bailey and horror master Mort Castle will be the keynote speakers at the Ad Astra Writers Conference here on the weekend before Halloween.

The conference, slated for Oct. 28-29, is sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, and will be held at the ESU-KC metro campus in Overland Park.

Bailey, a North Carolina writer, won the International Horror award for his short story, “Death and Suffrage.” It’s about a presidential campaign manager faced with a zombie-driven recount. He has also been nominated for a Nebula Award, for “The Resurrection Man’s Legacy,” and for a Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, “The Fallen.” His other novels are “House of Bones” and “Sleeping Policeman.” His stories have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and Pulphouse. His work is described as the “weird menace” variety, combines elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. 

Mort Castle, deemed a “horror doyen” by Publishers Weekly, has won three Bram Stoker Awards, two Black Quills, and a Golden Bot, and has been nominated for an Audie, the International Horror Guild Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Pushcart Prize. He’s edited or written 17 books, his recent or forthcoming titles include: “New Moon on the Water,” “Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics: Dracula” and 2016 Leapfrog Fiction contest winner “Knowing When to Die.” More than 600 Castle-written stories, articles, poems, and comics have appeared in periodicals and anthologies, including Twilight Zone, Bombay Gin, Poe’s Lighthouse, and Tales of the Batman. 

Also on the faculty is Don D’Auria, a New York fiction editor. Previously, D’Auria was the executive editor of the horror line at Samhain Publishing for six years. Before that, he was executive editor at Leisure Books for fifteen years, where he directed their thriller line, as well as the horror line that Rue Morgue magazine called “the champion of paperback horror.” During his career he’s worked with some of the leading authors in the field, including Richard Laymon, Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum. He is the recipient of an International Horror Guild Award for his contributions to the horror genre. D’Auria is now a freelance editor.

Other members of the Ad Astra faculty include Julianne Couch, the author of three books of narrative non-fiction travel-explorations, and one collection of short stories now being re-imagined by her publisher into an episodic novel; Olathe horror author Mark L. Groves, whose books include the Black Buttons anthologies; Kansas folklorist and center director emeritus Jim Hoy, who will talk about folktales of the Great Plains; Max McCoy, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies, an award-winning author and journalist who wrote four original Indiana Jones novels for Lucasfilm-Bantam, and whose personal history of the Upper Arkansas River will be released by the University Press of Kansas early next year; and Kevin Rabas, a department chair at Emporia State University and the current Poet Laureate of KansasTM.

The Ad Astra Writers Conference is a new event, designed for writers who aspire to write professionally, with an eye toward commercial publication, or as the foundation for personal growth and self-expression. The theme of this year’s conference is “The Haunted Plains,” with future conferences expected to highlight other genres. All sessions will be held at the ESU-KC metro campus, 8400 W. 110th St.

Registration costs $97, and includes a catered lunch on Saturday. Manuscript critiques are available for an additional $60. College credit is also available for participants, at an additional per-hour cost, but arrangements must be made in advance. The deadline for early registration is Oct. 1; after that date, registration — including walk-ins — increases to $117.

The faculty authors will appear at a book signing from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the ESU-KC campus, hosted by conference bookseller Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore of Emporia. The conference hotel is the Marriott Kansas City Overland Park, which is offering a special rate for a limited number of rooms, with registration required before Oct. 1.

For more information on the conference, contact the Center for Great Plains Studies, at 620 341-5574; visit; or email



Achievement - Emporia State University

Check out our students' achievements and accomplishments on Emporia State's site