Camping and Growing Up

New Forest SkyI miss camping.

All though my twenties, every weekend through the summer, old battle sites and new pub gardens, gleeful in our naïveté and never really understanding how fortunate we were… how many people get to walk the ruins of Whitby Abbey as the sky sinks and darkens overhead?

After living in London for so long, going to the New Forest and being back with the firelight and the open sky is a poignant reminder of how it felt to be carefree and twenty-four.

Add a ten-year-old son and a couple of wandering ponies, and a weekend away from every type of flatscreen is a very welcome thing.

Let There Be...I’ve missed the stars you can see when there’s no light pollution, and the sweet smell of the air in the morning. I’ve missed the haphazard cookery and the mess tins of tea. Hell, I’ve even missed the flooded tent and the pissing rain – on a British Bank Holiday weekend, you can’t do this stuff by halves.

Old SarumThe weekend included a hot day at Old Sarum (I’m sure we’ve camped in there too, at some point), where there was much foolishness and freeform Medieval Jenga, plus a visit to Salisbury Cathedral to light a votive candle for mum and to rescue an injured Pipistroll bat – and a bonus and slightly unexpected viewing of the Magna Carta.

Best Place For Him!There was the marvellous experience of sitting under our brolly drinking wine while the rain poured down all round is, and the lightning flashed under the clouds.

And on the Sunday, there was a lot of wet kit, a child tearing off round the site on his bicycle, despite the rain, and an afternoon of submarines in Gosport…

P1050406Sometimes, things in your life fall by the wayside – without you ever quite knowing how it happened. Things changed, you got too busy, and you just… didn’t get round to it.

And sometimes, having just a moment of these things back is a wonder without words.

Growing up is necessary, responsibilities are unavoidable.

But don’t lose track of the stuff that matters.

Nine Worlds

Staypuft Marshmallow LadyIt’s always hard to write a review of a Con when you’re trading from behind a table piled creakily high with ALL THE BOOKS – and this one was sans dealers room, our usual partners in crime replaced by a lot of Gundam Mech building and some highly amusing-looking D&D (not envious, honest). Trading table or no, however, Nine Worlds continues with its own particular achievement – to bring new people into fandom with the confidence to be themselves.

Gundam Mech MasterAnd this means that, from a traders’ point of view, we see more people buying books, and reading books, and picking up new things to try… and as we cautiously stray from behind our table, we see more people able to dress and express themselves however they wish, to meet their tribe and make new friends. And lots and LOTS of wonderful Cosplay, this AoT salute one of my favourites – unsurprisingly!

Attack On Titan Survey CorpsShifting away from the demographic, I always do a certain amount of hat-swapping at Conventions. This time, much hilarity ensued from me swearing four minutes into the first panel of Friday morning (in strict disobedience of the five o’clock watershed. (In my defence, I have no recollection of seeing an email about the ban… either that or I get possessed by Ecko at critical moments, (and I know which of those worries me more)). The panel was great though, and it’s always good to not only share, but to learn from the authors with you, and the questions from the audience. Special mentions to Al Robertson and Sebastien de Castell for their wonderful senses of humour.

The Endgame ComethThere was some excitement for the publication of Ecko Endgame (hurrah!), and for the forthcoming Fight Like A Girl anthology. There was much tea (thank you Em and Cara) and much wine (no changes there) and a great fun Saturday night that ended with the sun rising at the end of the Heathrow roadway – and a reminder that I can, apparently, still get up and go to work on two hours’ sleep… it just takes me longer to recover.

Su as Tiny TinaAn overall thank you to Paul and Nazia for all their help and support, Program is a horrible job (and we all know it) and they came through it with flying colours. Thank you to Erich for his tireless help and patience, and to all the authors who signed for and with us – a huge list of mighty talent which, frankly, leaves me exhausted.

Joanne HarrisAnd finally, a particular mention to the lovely Laurell K Hamilton and her crew – a perfect fusion of charm and efficiency!

IMG_3519

Ecko, Deepdreaming

This is GORGEOUS!

This is GORGEOUS!

These are AMAZING. They’re so gloriously fucked up – and equally so perfectly appropriate to the core theme of the books – I just don’t have words. Only: how badly I’d love a special/limited edition of Rising with this cover!

This morning’s Indy says, “The [deepdream] software works by turning the image recognising computers on themselves. By telling the systems to over-interpret images, they would pick out otherwise meaningless things and exaggerate them — turning clouds into bizarre llamas, for instance.”

Endgame in Deepdream

Endgame in Deepdream

The software is now available on Github so you can put your own images through it and see just how wonderfully, beautifully messed up they really are.

And, of course, it’s Ecko all over.

It could even have been written for him…

Alternative Cover Art for Ecko Rising - and seriously fucked up

Alternative Cover Art for Ecko Rising – and seriously fucked up

Same Old Shit

PageWhen do you reach the end of the Internet? In eight years on Social Media, I’ve watched it change – from friendship and sharing all over the world, to place where people have forgotten their manners. Not everybody, by all means, but enough to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I’ve watched advertising saturate everything, all of it becoming more and more ‘targetted’ leaving less room for creativity and fun. In my earliest days on Twitter, everything was new and original – and I’m not sure if that’s because everything was new and original, or if it’s because I just hadn’t seen it before. Somewhere between the two, I suspect…

…but Social Media has make the world a smaller place, for better or for worse.

And this week, I think I’ve reached the edge of something that once seemed infinite. I’m seeing the same memes and jokes and cat videos turning up on FB and Pinterest time and time again. As Matt Dillon said, take the same meme, slap a Minion and a funny slogan on it, and hey! Clickbait win. And because Twitter is regulated and all about the numbers, and because FB and Pinterest now place the most popular posts, or the posts they think you’ll like best, at the top, I’m even seeing things I posted myself a couple of years ago – coming back to haunt me like last night’s curry.

livesAll the spontaneity has gone. Like the High Street being the same shops in every bloody town, like blockbuster films having the same plots and character archetypes, so the Interwebz has become the same jokes in every feed.

because it’s safe, I suppose, Guaranteed sales, guaranteed bums on seats, and guaranteed Likes.

I rather like that Instagram is the exception. While there are third party apps that will repost from your timeline, it’s not something that I often see. Sarah Langton comments that it’s immediately personal, and used by a lot of artists – who absolutely want original content and to keep their own content original. (Not sold by someone else for ninety grand, thank you). It’ a great showcase for their graphic design.

And it’s a great showcase for fun content. It’s always new. Okay, you might have to to face a lot of pictures of clouds and cats, but at least they’re different every time.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it’s become so successful – it’s the only thing that seems to have escaped the common-denominator-saturation of everything else.

And thanks to Craig for the inspiration. I’ll never look at SOS the same way…

EasterCon Program – or, Books, Monsters and Popping my KaffleKlatsch Cherry

dysprosium_final-01_200Just to be difficult, my schedule at EasterCon is going to differ from that listed by the program.

As ever, you can find me nailed by my knees to the Forbidden Planet stall, safely secure behind our groaning tables of titles, and drinking lots of tea. Please come and say hello, buy books, sign books (your own by preference, but, you know…) and keep us entertained.

On Saturday evening, you will find me in Armstrong at 21:15, with wine, and reading one of my favourite scenes from Ecko Endgame. No spoilers (promise) but action-packed and definitely worth tearing yourself away from the bar to enjoy. With me will be Tej Turner, reading from The Janus Cycle.

And on Sunday you’ll find me popping my Kaffeeklatsche cherry at 13:45, also in Armstrong, along with the Mighty Jim Butcher, Gareth L Powell, and Caroline Mullan.

Posted with thanks to a thoroughly stressed Judi!

Facebook Author Pages

information_overload 2

What are they? What’re they for? If you’re a high profile figure – you’re one of the GRRMs or the JKRs for the world then fairy nuff, they’re a way to keep your public updated with book news, your page manager in chips and beer, and to save yourself a job when you’ve got important stuff to do. But what if you haven’t had a Theme Park named after you main character? What if you’re a normal mortal who happens to have written some books? All the ‘Author as Brand’ speechifying in the world doesn’t actually answer the question.

You know that your humble Author Page has been cruelly rogered by Facebooks’s algorithm changes. Now, only a few see it, and those few are probably your friends and family who (bless them) are now seeing everything twice. Plus, if you’ve Read your Social Media Handbook you’re now posting this crap on your blog, hoarding pictures on your Pinterest, and posting shit on Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, and Instagram (#authors #authorsofinstagram #books #writing #fucksake), and so on…

With so many channels of noise surrounding us, it’s very easy to saturate your own media – there’s a subtle art is knowing what to post on which stream, and how to differentiate the content so your trusty Uncle Bob isn’t seeing the same updates everywhere he looks…

But when you have the same platform/layout and potential content twice? How does that work?

I’m asking a lot of questions. And Social Media professional that I may be (tooting my own, sorry), I honestly don’t know the answer. I’ve decided, however, to just jump in and give it a go – focus on writing things, on current and new projects, and on doing… not ‘Author as Brand’ (I’ve seen that abused FAR too much) but ‘Author as Friend’, perhaps in the spirit of the old community that used to exist on LiveJournal. It may not work on the platform, I don’t know. People may not see the updates and lose interest, I don’t know. I may vanish up my own backside in a swirl of pretentiousness, or lose interest myself and go back to updating every other bloody site, I don’t know.

But I’m going to give it a try.

If you’re interested, you can find me on Facebook as Danie Ware.

2014 – The Things That Matter

Southwold BeachI’ve tried several times to write that ‘review of the year’ blog post, and just can’t make it make sense. Last year, the plates came crashing down because I couldn’t do it all – this year, I’ve done it all and more, and I’m still not sure how. It’s been a very dark year, but I guess you cope because you have to.

This year has seen the chaos of my work/child schedule get even more insane, if that’s possible. As the calendar of FP events gets busier, and I need to commit more time to being work Danie, Isaac still has a schedule of his own and he still has to get there – here, there, everywhere, at the last minute and at the drop of a whole shopful of hats. Just keeping these two plates spinning is a constant and chaotic headache, and wouldn’t happen without help.

Nine WorldsAdd to that the Summer of Madness – not only Nine Worlds and WorldCon and all the events surrounding, but trying to play Tetris with my furniture to get the decorators into the house. When I came back from ExCel in August, I had psoriasis, eczema, and a cellulitis infection in my ear, all flared up through pure exhaustion. I escaped a stay in hospital by the skin of my teeth and a very smart Doctor.

Unhappy CatAnd then add to that my Mum being diagnosed with terminal cancer in February. I have no words for this – not here, not now, maybe not ever. I haven’t even been with her as much I should have been. She faced three months of chemo, at nearly eighty years old, almost by herself. And I’ve felt so helpless – needing to be there, to do more – and caught in a temporal plate-spinning impossibility that I constantly struggle to control, with no real hope of succeeding. Yet her strength and stubbornness have been beyond measure, and every time I’ve thought ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’m too tired!’ I’ve reminded myself just who is facing what, and shut the fuck up.

Race for LifeIsaac and I have been with her for Christmas, and she has absolutely insisted on doing everything herself. It still isn’t real, to her either I think. I do wonder if these things ever quite stop hiding behind the Pillars of Denial… right up until the end.

Because of all of this, the delay to Ecko Endgame has been rather a blessing. The last part of the MS was rushed when I handed it in, and it’s given me a year to spin it back out and weave it back in again. In many ways, it’s kept me sane – given me both purpose and escape. Somewhere to hide, if you like.

BrightonFinally, this year, I’ve learned a huge lesson – partially from Mum and partially from sheer chaos. That lesson is to take the time when you have it. To lay the worries down, and to go to Brighton for the day. To take the bath in Bath and to look out over the hills and enjoy the moment. To walk along the beach, to play silly games on the Pier, to take the holiday when you can, to wade in the water with bare feet and climb the rocks like you did as a child, with joy and without shame.

Gull RockJon has taught me this too – has been support, sunlight and occasional sanity through a year that’s been very dark, at times. And a year that ends with me knowing that it’s going to get darker before it gets light again.

But knowing, too, that there is a light at the end of the forest, and that I don’t walk the path alone.

Ecko Endgame Cover Art

Ecko Endgame

Ecko Endgame

Cover art is a very special thing. It’s the tipping point between a book being in your head, and the thing being real and breathing and there on the shelf. It’s seeing a concept or a character brought to life. And then, of course, there’s that all-important cover quote – that one-liner that has to sell your glorious vision to the world outside…

As ever, Martin has done a storming job with this one.

With cheers for Natalie at Titan Books, as well!

LonCon 3: Madhouse!!

Hula DalekThere are some unwritten rules to bring a bookseller at a Con. For example: you’ll hear the following phrases many times over the course of a weekend: ‘I’ve got too many books at home, I can’t buy any more’, ‘I can’t buy books, there’s no space in my luggage’, or the slightly more extreme, ‘If I buy any more books, I’ll need a new house!’

Apparently, there are a lot of SF/F readers with money to burn, not only on books and luggage space, but on the inevitable new house when they try to squeeze one more Kingkiller Chronicle into their already bulbous bookshelves.

IMG_2485Seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it. Not the bulbous shelves, (though our stall was buckling under the weight of fantastical literature), but the willingness of people to buy books. Those from over the water must’ve come with empty flightcases, because there were no concerned comments about luggage space. People were picking up five and ten and fifteen books at a time, hardcovers and signed books, books to enable them to meet their favourite authors, books to take home to friends, books that just looked interesting…  In a world where bookshops close faster than you can list them, something in me was jumping with childish glee at so much pleasure taken in the printed page.

Titan Books!One American fan commented that you only get a 20% – 30% crossover of SF/F books between the UK and the US. It hadn’t occurred to me before – but of course that’s why. If you go to a WorldCon, then the opportunity to broaden your horizons (and collection) is tremendous. Not only books, but authors and friends – no wonder you travel with only a clean pants and a Visa.

Slenderman Vs. MarkAnyway. More unwritten rules: usually, at Cons, we have time to escape our shackles and explore. Not this time! The sheer mass of fans might have been deceptively diluted by the size of ExCel – but all of them came to see us, sooner or later. I escaped for my couple of panels, and a slightly leftfield 40-minute session in the basement with the cleaning team, going through bin bags and looking for my wallet (thrown away earlier in the day, and fortunately retrieved). Even from behind the stall, though, the whole experience was intense, exhilarating, exhausting and wondrous, all in equal measure.

My Sigismund SistersMore than anything, it was fantastic to see so many people, so many friends, all together in one place. Friends from my twitter days, met in the flesh for the first time; friends from my Norwich past, back in the present as our lives rotate towards each other, friends from fandom, all over the world.

@ksonney and @ursulavAll-in-all, it was quite overwhelming. And after Nine Worlds and the Week of Madness between, its no wonder everyone came home saying, ‘Look, I love you all. But leave me the fuck alone ’til at least next Thursday.’

Free Universe!Well done, LonCon. That was tremendous!

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Worlds – London Geekfest

IMG_2406So – there was headbanging to Rhapsody, there was Max dressed as Sharknado, there was Cards Against Humanity as the rain poured down just past our shoulders. There was that strange, polish-smell that only the Radisson has, and the hotel’s latest menagerie of odd glass animals.

There was Toothless, there were early morning doughnuts, thanks to Pornokitsch, and a whole conversation about Adrian Tchaikovsky’s eyebrows. There was talking Social Media with Adam Christopher, Sophie Calder, James Oswald and Tom Hunter (the thing about Merlin is absolutely true, okay?). There was much wine, and much garage food, and the usual round of Con-scurvy. And there were many friends, Dragonladies and Fox Spirits and Genki Gear and Soapasauruses (Soapasauri?) and a much-welcome visit from Rufus Evsion, whom I haven’t seen in far, far too long.

IMG_2410And all that’s before I even <get> to the books. But you know about those, right?

IMG_2421Nailed by knees to the Dealers’ Table or not, I can see that Nine Worlds has managed something wonderful – it does ‘welcoming’ better than anyone else. Don’t misunderstand, our community is family and has always been open to all, but Nine Worlds is like a sampler, it offers a little taste of everything. It’s a perfect place for a newcomer to find out what they like, and where they’re happiest. With badges on offer for personal pronouns and levels of sociability, it’s also a safe environment, where everyone can be themselves. For those not new to Cons, it’s the perfect place for people to cross the streams – to uncover the mysteries of Greater Geekdom, and find new avenues to explore.

IMG_2425As ever, thanks to the host of authors who came to sign for us. I’m always sorry that I can’t get to more panels (program was packed and it all sounded like SO much fun), but there was plenty going on everywhere in the hotel, and everyone was having a blast.

A new generation is born, it seems. We already know they’re cosplayers, and they play games – but it seems they’re readers and comics-readers too. And that must be a win!

Gail Carriger's fans!