Social Media, Clerics and a Very Large Gin – the Stuff I’m Doing At Cons

Large GinOkay, you know those ubiquitous blog posts where authors list all the stuff they’re doing at forthcoming Cons? This would be one of those.

But first, a quick apology.

If there *is* still anyone tentatively now brushing aside the cobwebs to see what’s lurking in this abandoned and distopian blog, it will be back soon, I promise. It’s partially a genuine lack of time, and partially an equally genuine lack of getting around to it. Procrastination, it seems, is directly proportional to weariness.

Anyway! As the disturbed dust tumbles from the long-forgotten ceiling, we brush it aside to see the wonders we had so long missed…

Tomorrow, Thursday 7th August, I will be at Nine Worlds Geekfest, and you can find me nailed by my knees to the Forbidden Planet trading table as usual (though I think it’s closer to the bar, this year). Feel free to bring savoury snackage and gin to Alex, Sarah, Craig and myself, as we wrangle both tills and authors into submission.

You can also find me on the Social Media panel on Sunday in County A at 11:45am, along with Tom Hunter, Adam Christopher, Sophie Calder and James Oswald, all of whom will tell you that you need to blog more than once every three months.

Next weekend, I will be at LonCon, again behind the Forbidden Planet table, but also at the following events: –

The Social Media panel (again), Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 10, this time alongside Wesley Chu, Julie Crisp, Max Gladstone, and Emma Newman

And on Saturday 13:30 – 15:00 in Capital Suite 8+11, I’ll be with
Django Wexler, Scott Lynch, Den Patrick and P. C. Hodgell, discussing the humble Cleric – and why exactly your party needs one. Or does it?

In between the two, on Wednesday 13th August, I will be joining a HUGE host of Titan Books and Angry Robot authors at the Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet.

And honestly, by the end of all of this, I may well be in need of a cleric myself. 4d8 hit points back and make that a double with ice, please, Mother Superior.

 

 

The Sci Fi Weekender

BeachOkay, I admit: I went to the Sci Fi Weekender with a certain set of pre-conceptions – and a certain set of thermals. The memories of the previous year’s skull-freezing shower will haunt me ‘til I’m old and grey.

But sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.

One warm caravan; one hot shower. One view of mountains in the morning. Ducks that waddled past our window, in that businesslike way that only ducks can manage. All-in-all, the Weekender turned out to be an excellent event – and the business wasn’t just about the ducks.

IMG_2152Behind the trading table, we saw the most fantastical costumes – from a trio of Deadpools to the gorgeous armour of the Chaos Marine, from Su’s Death of Rats to the beer-drinking, cross-play Leia. It seems the event has become all about the dressing up. Everyone was getting into it, and not just for the Masquerade – I find myself wondering if I can still fit the more interesting end of my wardrobe, but hey, that’s another story.

IMG_2157And on the subject of stories, I thoroughly enjoyed my fiction panels – the books stream had a series of interesting topics, a lot of energy and insight, and a good and positive audience. There was a lot of feedback, people getting involved and asking questions – and that was how it should be. Well done, Sam – that’s never an easy job!

Snapping the SnapperIt was also one of these events where your twitter people come out of the woodwork, introducing themselves and putting faces to @labels. It was lovely to meet so many of you for the first time, and to realise just how far Ecko has reached. Knowing that your book had actually touched people’s lives will never, ever, cease to be amazing.

Louis Spins a TuneOther surprises included Sci Fi London’s Louis Savy spinning a mean seat on the Thursday night, and discovering I can apparently still dance – thought that was to Pat Sharp (who else?) on the Saturday. And might have needed beer.

Simon BisleyAnd props to both Bisley and Fabry, bless them, for being so helpful!

Deadpool's New Reading
All-in-all, the Sci Fi Weekender has taken on a new look – and as cosplay becomes more and more popular, who knows where it will go?

More pictures here.

2013 – A Year of Crashing Plates

PlatesIt’s been a ‘no idea where it’s gone’ year.

In these posts, you’re supposed to write about wonderful things, epic and terrible things. But not this year – it was January, and then it was summer, and then it was chaos, and then it was Christmas again, and then it was me looking at the Facebook ‘12 best moments’ and going ‘fuuuuuuu…’

Anyway.

2013 has seen my son flow from boy towards teenager – the ‘whatever’ years now lurk on the horizon. Yet Isaac has also grown in maturity and responsibility, and I’m more proud of my son that I could ever articulate. But I guess you knew that.

2013 has seen Ecko Endgame written and in – the end of a project that’s been with me for twenty years and more. I wrote that closing sentence and then burst into tears – regret and relief and fulfillment and loss and a little fear. Something that huge being ‘over’ is a very weird.

And 2013 was a frenetic year at FP – as the heatwave hit in July, so work became a sledgehammer of stress, more events than we could cover or handle. My ten-year anniversary passed in a suffocating cloud of panic, and I began to realise an inevitable truth…

More PlatesMy life is a constant juggling act – child and work and writing. Cramming it all in. Organising up the arse, and no social life to speak of because I never have time. It’s bonkers. People say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it’, and this was the year I had to face a truth that I didn’t like very much…

I don’t. This summer, the plates wobbled and all came tumbling down, slo-mo.

It was just too much. Work reached critical mass, Isaac is my son, Endgame was handed in late, and then by gritted teeth and willpower – I think the tears may have been as much about sheer exhaustion as anything else. But I did it. By some miracle. Just.

Before those falling plates hit the floor and shattered into a million broken pieces.

Too Many PlatesThis year has taught me that I’m not Wonder Woman. That my time and abilities are finite. That if I take on too much, I will fuck it up. Next year, I’m going to take a step back and be happy with less. Spend more time with Isaac and family and friends. Play computer games. Laugh. Spend time – hell, days! – doing fuck all and not feeling guilty about it.

In 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lifelong ambition finally achieved. In 2014, I’m going to be very bloody glad to not have to achieve it any more.

World Fantasy Con – All The Hoopla!

PopcornOne word for this – that word is ‘family’. With all of the fussing and fighting, my friends, that led up to the event, one would’ve expected fireworks and drama and fuck knows what else…

ALL THE BOOKS!…but what we got was a old school, traditional Book Convention and (from what I’ve seen) one enjoyed by all. An event run, you might say, by the book.

Titan BooksFor me, it was about family. About the Forbidden Planet family, with the huge agenda of signings and events that bracketed the weekend. About the UK SF/F family, the thing that supports us all. About the international family, the thing that surrounds us. And on a personal level, about the Titan family – the thing that came into its own at the WFC weekend.

Dealers Room

Dealers Room

As ever, I’m rather caught behind the Dealers’ Room table, but I did manage to escape for long enough to share a signing event with Francis Knight and her awesome Cake Noir – an hour that championed everything I’ve always harped on about as regards cross-pollination of readership.

Cake NoirAnd for long enough to attend the Titan party, a Saturday afternoon win complete with wine, popcorn machine, crossbows, and a signing table shared with Guy Adams.

IMG_1795Though it was rather surreal seeing people trying to win Ecko on a hoopla stall…

IMG_1790Family, too, in events run by Team Gollancz and their gin, Team Tor and their music, and by Jo Fletcher Books – though I’d been on my feet for twelve hours by the last of these and my appreciation may have faded to a weary croak that needed wine badly (thank you Snorri Kristjansson!)

Nice HatIn conclusion – an awesome Con. Something that surpassed its own rumblings and reminded all of us why we actually do this stuff.

Signings and Cons and Things

ecko-burning-uk-cover-150pxSorting my own signing always feels ever-so-slightly odd – particularly this year as we’re SO busy with all the exciting authors arriving for World Fantasy Con. I managed to set up half a dozen events  before I realised I’d actually forgotten to set a date aside for myself…

Anyway!

Jojn me at the London Megastore, reading from and signing Ecko Burning on Thursday 17th October. There will be cakes and potentially other goodies  – I’ve been promised Krispy Kremes – plus I’m still trying to talk the company into letting me have wine. Whatever happens, there will be pubbage afterwards!

I’ll also be at WFC myself, nailed by my knees to the trading table as usual, plus taking part in the Titan Funfair on Saturday afternoon! (They’ve said something about giving me BB guns, but hey, who knows – they might come to their senses!)

Plus there will be a proper signing signing (if you see what I mean), as well.

Sadly, the one thing I am missing is BristolCon, but will be there in spirit and I hope it goes well. I’ll hopefully see most of you at WFC anyway!

 

 

Nine Worlds

Ryan Saves Us from Boring BoozeNine Worlds – a whole new breed of beastie. Ambitious, as beasties go, and far-reaching – but could they really make all of this cool shit happen?

The short answer is yes – cool shit happened. Nine streams of activity, all wonderfully diverse, a new structure to the timing of panels, even a split site – it all worked to make Nine Worlds one of the most inclusive and eclectic conventions I’ve ever been to.

Even nailed by our knees to the trading table as we generally are, it was easy to see the difference. There was a much larger cross-section of people – the book con regulars were there, and so were the cosplayers, the steampunkers, the comics fans and the – yes, really – the Bronies.

LOTR LadiesThere were fanboys and girls from every walk of geekdom and there was a strong LGBT presence, as well – and all of this contributed to a wonderful feeling of freedom and self-expression. And after the dark flickerings of rumour that have been circulating about people’s behaviour at cons, it was very good to see everyone feeling so confident in their companions and surroundings – and modes of dress!

New Voices!Big success of the weekend was the New Voices Slam Session on Friday night – a gathering of nine new authors all reading for five minutes each. From an original idea by Stephanie Saulter, it had an energy and presence and there wasn’t a weak voice in the bunch. Thanks to Barry Nugent, Stephanie Salter, Rochita Leonen-Ruiz, Emma Newman, Adam Christopher, Liz de Jager, Lou Morgan, Jennifer Williams, and Hannah Eiseman-Reynard for sharing it!

Abe the Alien - you should have seen him on the dance floor! From an FP point of view, we had an excellent weekend, saw old friends and new faces, and will certainly be going back. Thank you to everybody who signed with us at our table, and everyone who called past to see us.

Well done to all – it’s good to see that sense of family return!

FP Signings!

The SF Weekender

sci-fiweekender_506eaac9f294fTake a long drive via the scenic route, the rising slopes and rearing rocks of Snowdonia, the sheep in the road, the tumbledown stone cots and the villages on the edge of nowhere.

Take a holiday caravan with a choice of old VHS tapes. Take giant deckchairs and cawing rooks and strange chainsaw-carved creatures that looked like something out of Spirited Away. Something waiting.

IMG_1036Take twelve-hour days on our feet, selling copies of Avengers Vs. X-Men and Assassin’s Creed cosplay stealth blades (so was there that game of Dancefloor Hitman in the end?). Take many friends, old and new; take a very different kind of stock, and a very different kind of fan.

IMG_1016

Take a plethora of authors at the Forbidden Planet table. Take notes on how appearing on a panel can affect a subsequent signing. Take nineteen copies of Ecko signed and sold – and take an interesting lesson in authordom from, at various points, David Moody, Stacia Kane and Peter V Brett. Take time to wonder: just how much of an author’s persona is donned?

IMG_1021Take costumes (of course) – take a cardboard Blood Angel and five fans dressed as a game of Pac-Man. Take every kind cleavage, every pattern of waistcoat, every steampunk cog and goggle; take every lightsaber, every sword and bow and zap-gun. Take every plastic and pointy ear.

Take a breath, and go outside.

P1050250And finally, take a walk in the early morning, down to a beautiful little beach and great shadows of mountains – take a moment of tranquillity that makes the high energy madness of the Con all wonderfully surreal.

And take a consensus?

A subtly different event – very much a con for cosplayers. In some ways, it felt more like Expo than EasterCon. The facilities were better than previous years and the business was very good, but perhaps a little bit warmer, next year?

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Westward Ho – a Weekend at BristolCon


Bristol is one of those places that’s always drawn me back – friends there, and events, and FP. A slightly more hip Norwich, a slightly less smug Brighton, it’s a city that has a geek magnetism all of its own.

And nowhere is this magnetism stronger than at BristolCon.

This year, the Con seemed to be all readings and beer – thank you to those who braved the Big Hill and came up to the Megastore to the Ecko Rising signing, and to those who loitered after the Women in Sensible Armour panel for the hit’n’run five-minuter that was fluffing for Guest of Honour Gareth Powell. The panel itself was half-fun and half-serious – thank you to Philip Reeve for elegant and flawless moderation, and to fellow panelists Jonathan L Howard, Jo Hall and Foz Meadows and for getting a serious message across with a laugh.

Back in the dealers’ room, a big cheer for FP’s Dez who was a star at the trading table, and for Terry Martin and his uke (who knew?) Was good to meet Ben Galley in the flesh (nice stall, Ben) as well as to foist copies of Ecko onto some old friends (Ken and Nick, always unchanged) and some newer ones (Marc and Cheryl, be gentle with me!)

It was also a weekend of artwork – another painting by Jennie Gyllblad, featuring a lemur no less!, and I was fortunate enough to be given a piece of art by Tom and Nimue Brown – both of which are now in my front room and looking very fine indeed.

Finally, the event can’t pass without a mention of Colin Harvey, Ghost of Honour – someone I only really knew in passing, but well enough to spend my last hour at the Con listening to readings from his work, and to the voices of those who knew him far better than I did. It was a touching thing – and carried across the very strong sense of community that BristolCon is all about. You can find the Colinthology here.

So well done to Jo and her crew – may it get bigger and better with every passing year!

(And yes, David. I did have a hangover. Curse you and your pub-crawling!)

BristolCon Schedule

If you’re at a loose end in Bristol, this weekend, BristolCon has perhaps the best sense of family you’ll find at a Con all year – it’s a small outfit but a rapidly growing one, and has a wonderfully welcoming warmth.

Before Con kick-off, I’ll be reading and signing up at Forbidden Planet Bristol on Friday lunchtime, from 1 – 2pm. Please come and point and laugh and throw things; I’m sure Tim won’t mind clearing up the eggs and flour.

At the Con itself, you can find me behind the FP stall as usual, sneaking out to participate in the Women In Sensible Armour panel in Room 1 at 3pm, along with Philip Reeve (mod), Jonathan L Howard, Joanne Hall and Foz Meadows – after which they’ve got me giving another (very short!) reading at 3:50pm.

Can’t promise I’ll be in armour for it, though, sensible or otherwise. Bit far to lug the plate on the train…

BristolCon

Watching by the beady eyes of the Overlord, it’s been a busy weekend in Bristol.

Two signings at the store – an open-plan group event for a Rogues’ Gallery of local authors, flawlessly cat-herded by Cheryl Morgan, followed by the main man himself, Richard Morgan, bringing us brutality, bloodshed and gay elf sex with The Cold Commands.

Then, on Saturday, suitably armed with a well-earned hangover (and still watched by the Overlord), we unpacked a table of books at BristolCon, an event doubled in size from the previous year and featuring lots of familiar faces and @nametags.

So. Another Con. What’s so special about this one?

During both signings at FP, there was a strong sense of family – a connection between authors and readers and fans that spilled over from staffroom to shop floor and brought everyone together to buy books, and to swap ideas and stories. And that sense of community was both expounded and expanded at the Con itself – a lack of barriers, social and physical, and a welcoming warmth that made BristolCon something above the ordinary.

Nailed to the trading table as usual, Tim and I were nevertheless right in the middle of things – not only selling books, but establishing and re-establishing those lines of communication and support that pull us all together as an industry, and give us that reassuring sense of exactly where we need to be.

For me, the weekend was made special by re-bonding with an old friend I haven’t seen in nearly a decade (bless you, Ken) and by pub-crawling round the watering holes of the city in the company of another friend that I don’t see nearly enough. Though my capacity for beer is sadly lacking these days, it’s apparently been replaced by a capacity for Mexican Burrito(e?)s and cake. Whodathunkit.

On a more serious note, the weekend was also made special (and a little bizarre!) by Jo asking me to do a reading from my own forthcoming title at BristolCon next year… I guess some part of me will never quite grasp that this is real until… not I’m standing there with my heart in my mouth, my book in my hand and (hopefully!) some people to read it to.

That… and my FREE KITTEN.