Archive for the ‘conferences & conventions’ Category

What I’m Doing at FantasyCon 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This year, FantasyCon is heading up North to Chester, a town I remember visiting as a child – mostly because there was a nice zoo there. That was over 40 years ago, and no doubt it’s changed a lot since then.

However, this weekend I go back there again for my annual fix of all things horror, SF and fantasy. It seems I’ve got a rather busy programme this year, and all the cool kids are posting their FantasyCon activities, so here are mine.

Friday:

9:30pm – ‘Occult and Supernatural Adventures’ panel in the Edward Room. Pete Sutton moderating. My fellow panelists are Mike Chinn, Sue Tingey and Georgina Bruce.

Saturday:

2:00pm – I am doing a reading in the Disraeli room, with Ray Cluley and Rosanne Rabinowitz

3:30pm – ‘Writers and Roleplaying Games’ panel in the Edward Room. Alasdair Stuart moderating. Fellow panellists are Danie Ware, Allen Stroud and Gavin Smith.

I will also have copies of both ‘The Whispering Death’ and ‘Outpost H311’ for sale on the BFS table in the dealer room, and will likely be hanging around in the bar for at least part of the time. And I might make an appearance at the karaoke on the Saturday night. I never could resist a good sing.

So, looking forwarding to catching up with friends old and new in Chester this weekend. Don’t be afraid to come say hello if you see me. Don’t listen to the gossip – I am quite harmless really , and I’ll be wearing a prominently displayed name badge so you can identify me.

Now all I have to do is figure out what I’m going to be reading. And get past the customary dilemma of what to pack for a Con…

 

 

 

What I’m Doing At FantasyCon 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This weekend I head for the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough for the annual British celebration of SF/F/horror literature, FantasyCon. FantasyCon was the first con I ever attended, some time in the late 1990s, and I still hold it in fond regard.

On this occasion I am travelling alone, since Hubby is not joining me. He claims to want a quiet weekend at home. I think he’s looking forward to a weekend of being able to play games, make models, watch the documentaries he likes in peace. That’s OK with me as long as he remembers to feed the cats.

Anyway, I shall be at the day job Friday morning, and then boarding a train to the wilds of Yorkshire mid-afternoon. Somewhere I have to change trains. I think it might be York. There’s not a lot of time between the two so I hope the first train doesn’t run late. I am supposed to get to Scarborough about 5:30pm. In plenty of time for the disco – hurrah!

In any case, I do have things to do for this particular convention. I am giving a reading at 3pm on Saturday. The organisers have organised author readings in half-hour slots, with two authors per slot. I rather like this idea. It means you’re less likely to have no one turn up to your reading, since there’s a good chance there’ll be someone there to watch the other author as well. My reading partner is Priya Sharma. I have not met her before, but looking forward to doing so on Saturday.

Then at 8pm I’ve got a panel called ‘Paint It Black’, which is all about why horror permeates so many other genres. My fellow panellists are Simon Bestwick, Jo Thomas, Timothy Jarvis and Phil Sloman, who is moderating. With the exception of Simon, who I’ve met in person, everyone else I only know from the internet so I am looking forward to meeting some new people.

Other than that, I shall be visiting a few panels and spending a lot of time in the bar, where I hope to be able to meet up with the people I only ever get to talk to at Cons. Although I might be tempted by the FantasyCon karaoke.

So if you’re there, come and say hello. If you tell me you’ve bought a copy of any of my books at any point, I might even buy you a drink.

 

 

What Am I Doing at Geekfest?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s nearly time for the Nineworlds Geekfest con! Last year was the first time this London-based convention – celebrating all things geeky – ran, and it was a fabulous event. This year sees it a bit more streamlined, but with just as packed a schedule, and I have no doubt it will be just as much fun.

Saturday I and other members of the T Party writers’ group will be running an ideas-generating workshop entitled ‘How to Beat Writers’ Block’. This will be a series of exercises designed to trigger story ideas. Don’t really want to say much about it at this stage (spoilers!) but we hope it will inspire people to go away and start writing something. In order for this to work we’ve limited it to 30 people so if you are attending the Con and fancy it, turn up early – it’s on at 3:15 pm in the County A room.

After that I hope I get a chance to catch some panels before I am appearing on one myself – the intriguingly-entitled ‘Noir – the Dirty Streets of Fiction’ panel at 6:15 pm in County C&D. The only description we’ve been given of this is a quote from Raymond Chandler: “it seemed like a nice neighbourhood to have bad habits in”. I’ve been thinking about this since I was asked to do the panel and I’m really looking forward to it. With noir finding its way into so many other genres, I think I can find a lot to say on this subject – assuming I don’t get tongue-tied from the impressive line-up of Serious Writers on this panel (which include John Connolly, Will Hill, Daniel Polansky and Francis Knight).

I am also quite impressed with the Con’s online schedule app, which not only allows each Con-goer to highlight individual sessions to create their own personal programme, but allows participants to see all of their activities all at once (here’s mine).

There’s also going to be a table for independent authors and small presses in the dealer room, so I shall take along a pile of SOUL SCREAMS to (hopefully) sell.

If you’re at Geekfest do come and say hello – it’s going to be a Con to remember.

 

One Day To Sci Fi Weekender

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Tomorrow I’m off to my first convention of the year – the fifth Sci Fi Weekender, in North Wales.

It’s the third year I’ve attended this Con, and I always look forward to it.  It’s a Con to celebrate all things geeky in TV, film and books, and it actively encourages Cosplay.  Seeing all the incredible costumes is always a highlight of the Con.

This year I’m looking forward to it all the more as I am on several panels.  As it happens they are all on Saturday afternoon – at least I get them all out of the way at once.  At 2pm I am on a panel called ‘Does Crime Pay’, exploring the concept that ‘crime is the new black’.  Then I’ve got a bit of a break, but can’t go too far as at 3pm I’m moderating the ‘Blurred Lines’ panel discussing cross-genre.  And I still haven’t come up with questions for the panel yet.  So I know what I shall be doing tonight.

And following that I’m on the next panel too, which is exploring what makes science fiction – ‘from Space Opera to Dystopian Futures’, the panel description says.  I suspect it was my public declaration of love for Star Wars that got me on that one.

With only a day to go, the usual dilemma has reared its head – what to wear for a Con?  I’m not organised enough to put a costume together.  The usual fall-back Con wear is jeans and a Geek t-shirt.  However, I have recently realised that I literally have a drawer full of Geek t-shirts, reflecting an array of geeky interests – Star Wars; Buffy; Dr Who.  I’ve even got a Resident Evil 4 t-shirt.  So which ones do I pack?  My favourite Con t-shirt is the girlie pink one with the cartoon grim reaper on that says ‘Horror Writer’.  But I wore that at the last Con.  Can a self-respecting geek be seen in public wearing the same t-shirt at every Con?

If you’re going to be at the convention, do stop by and say hello.  And if you’re not – well, I’ll catch up with you when I return to normal life.

In the meantime, I’m off to go ransack my t-shirt drawer and think up intelligent questions for my panel.

 

Another Promotional Roundup

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This blog has been a bit quiet of late, and for that I apologise.  We had an unexpected burst of Spring here in London last weekend, and we all went rushing outside to make the most of it.  Sadly it seemed to have been a blip, with normal UK weather restored in time for the working week.  After basking in the garden in a t-shirt on Sunday, I was obliged to get back into my coat and scarf on Monday.  Still, at least the rain has been holding off of late.

And in the meantime I’ve been very busy in cyberspace, with two more guest appearances in the last week or so.

First up, I was interviewed by Pete Sutton for his BRSBKBLOG blog, which is described as ‘Adventures in Publishing’.  We talked a lot about the creation of my amateur sleuth Shara Summers, and the forthcoming re-release of DEATH SCENE, and you can find the interview here.

This week, I’ve been visiting ‘Waibel’s World‘, blog of fellow MuseItUp author Mary Waibel, and talking about how being a writer is both a curse and a blessing.

And finally, it’s just over two weeks until the Sci Fi Weekender in Wales, my first Con of 2014.  This year, not only am I going, I’m on the programme.  I’m very excited to have received preliminary details this week about the panels I’ll be on.  All will be revealed soon!

In the meantime, if you’ll be at the Con, do stop by and say hello.

BristolCon 2013 – Roundup

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I usually follow up a Con with a write-up, and so here is my take on BristolCon, which took place on Saturday 26 October.

Hubby and I travelled down from London by train on Friday afternoon, as soon as I was able to get away from the day job.  It was actually quite a pleasant journey, taking just about two hours on a train we could pre-book seats on.  The hotel, we were pleased to find, was a five-minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads Station, and was modern and comfortable.  It was also conveniently located for the Town Centre and close to bars and restaurants, for those who want to take a break from the Con.

The Con officially began at 10 am on Saturday morning, running two concurrent threads.  I was on one of the opening panels – the panel on Innovative Deaths, moderated by Anne Lyle.  We discussed ways of killing people for over 45 minutes.  Fortunately we didn’t seem to scare the audience too much – or at least that was how I interpreted it, as nobody ran out screaming.

After that I caught some of the ‘My World is Not Your Sandpit’ panel, about fan fiction, in which a rather energetic debate took place.  I have to say I missed the beginning of this panel, but what I saw clearly defined the two sides of the argument.  One side was that if the fan fiction writer is not making any profit from their writing, and the original creator of the world is done writing books about that world, should they not be flattered by enthusiastic fans wanting to play in their sandpit?  The opposing viewpoint was that anyone other than the creator is not going to get the world right because so much of a created world never makes it into the book, and a writer is never really done with their world.  It was an interesting discussion and I must confess I can see the point of the writers who say they don’t want anybody else playing in their sandpit, because it’s theirs.  Though the chance to be adored enough for someone to want to play in my sandpit would be a fine thing.  It was also pointed out in this panel that fan fiction is an evolutionary stage of the young writer, and this spoke to me as well.  Fortunately my Star Wars fan fiction was written in the days before the Internet and will never be aired in public.

After that I stuck around for the panel on the Evolution of Genre, where among other things the influence of ‘real-world’ problem on genre was discussed.  Apparently zombies do well during periods of high unemployment and financial restraints.  Vampires apparently do well during periods of affluence.  What this says about us I don’t know.

After taking a break from watching panels I joined the other authors for the ‘mass signing’, for which we’d all been encouraged to bring books to sell at the committee table.  A member of the writing group who’d bought a copy of SOUL SCREAMS a while ago came to get it signed, but unfortunately I sold none of the copies I’d brought with me.  Which was a bit crushing, frankly.  Obviously I need to step up my promotional efforts.

My final programme item was to moderate the small press panel at 4pm.   I had done some homework on this, and I already knew I had a fantastic panel.  Cheryl Morgan, who runs Wizards Tower press.  Chrissey Harrison, independent film maker and small press publisher.  Jonathan Wright, journalist and editor.  David R Rodger, self published science fiction writer.  I think we gave the topic a good airing, all my panel members engaged in the conversation and we had a reasonable number of people in the audience.  And to be honest, I quite enjoyed moderating.  I think I’d like to do it again some time.

With my commitments over with I sat back to enjoy a couple more panels, venturing into the larger programme room for the ‘Beyond Arthur’ panel, moderated by Gaie Sebold, and then the panel saying farewell to Iain Banks, moderated by Cheryl Morgan.

And then it was back to the bar, to see out the day with more chat, more food and more wine, and to relax before our train home Sunday morning.

BristolCon is a small local Con, running for a day to be deliberately attractive to people in South West England who can attend without having to book hotel accommodation.  Although small I found it a very well run and friendly Con, especially welcoming to small press and self published writers.

Next year’s Con has been set for 18 October 2014 in the same great location.  I am intending to come back next year.

If you can get to Bristol I thoroughly recommend this Con.  It’s a fantastic experience.

Con Conundrums

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It has come about that my last two Cons of 2013 fall on consecutive weekends.  This weekend I’m at BristolCon, and next weekend is World Fantasy Con in Brighton.  At BristolCon I am a participant – two panels and a book signing – and at World Fantasy Con I am merely a delegate.

The usual Con conundrums apply.  The first is – what to pack?  For Bristol this is more crucial, since I will be performing the role of ‘author’, instead of just watching other people do it.  So what outfit says ‘serious writer’ without saying ‘I’m mad as a box of frogs and you don’t want to come anywhere near me.’  Sometimes the Con involves a formal dinner that obviously involves having to pack an outfit for it.  Sometimes I worry I try too hard with this issue of Con clothing.  Jeans and a t-shirt is probably an acceptable Con outfit for a writer.  It might be appropriate for my ‘horror writer’ t-shirt to get another airing this weekend.

Mode of transportation is also relevant to the first question.  If I’m driving to a Con, I can take more stuff.  But this generally only happens if I can take the day I am travelling off work.  On neither forthcoming Con I have been able to do that – which means it’s easier to take the train from London than travel home, pick up the car, load it up and set off again.  But taking the train directly after work means I have to take all my luggage into London, which is another factor to consider.  Whatever I take has to be transported on a packed commuter train, and sit in the office until I leave.

On Friday I have to be at work for a meeting, so I will be leaving as soon as possible after that’s finished.  It does mean that the smart ‘work clothes’ that will be required for that will have to be my travelling clothes to Bristol.  Unless I take a change of clothing.

When travelling to a Con, the issue of having space for books also must be considered.  It is impossible to leave a Con without having acquired books. Many of them give out freebies in the delegate bags, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll buy some, too.  For BristolCon, I am also taking some copies of SOUL SCREAMS for the author signing session.  But I am really hoping that I will sell at least a couple of them, otherwise I have to cart them all back home with me.

I am looking forward to both Cons, and they will both be very different experiences.  Hopefully they will both give me something to blog about for the next two weeks, too.

And once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, it will be time to plan 2014’s Con schedule…

BristolCon 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This year will see my first attendance at BristolCon, a one-day convention organised by the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, in its fifth year.

This year’s event takes place on 26 October, and now that the programme has been officially released I am pleased to be able to announce my programme items.  I am going to be quite busy for this one.

I am kicking off at 10:00 am with a panel on innovative deaths.  Lots of scope there for interesting discussion, I am sure.  Between now and then I shall be trying to come up with new and gruesome ways of killing people.  All in the name of research, of course.

At 2:00 pm there will be a mass signing for all authors present, and an opportunity to sell books, and I will be pitching up there with copies of SOUL SCREAMS.  I’ll also be happy to sign anything that contains one of my stories, and I’m putting this out as a challenge to try and find who’s got the oldest publication.  Has anyone out there got an old copy of PEEPING TOM with my story in?  Or, to go even further back, the October 1989 issue of FEAR?  If anyone brings me one of these to sign I’ll give them a free copy of one of my books.

At 4:00 pm I am moderating my first panel – on the pros and cons of small press publishing.  I am really excited about this, as I think it’s a perfect topic for me to be moderating, and there are lots of discussion points on this subject to put to the panel.

There are many other fabulous items on the very full programme, and if you are able to get to Bristol for the day do consider coming along – there aren’t too many Cons that you can do in their entirety in a day, and the membership for this one is a mere £20.  A bargain for the price.

Britain’s most established genre Cons are BFS FantasyCon and EasterCon, but it’s reassuring to see a rise in the number of smaller Cons that start out as small local gatherings and gradually get bigger every year.  The UK may be too small to compete with the US for the number of Cons, but there’s no doubt that the number of SF/Fantasy/Horror fans in this country is on the rise.  And where fans gather, Cons will happen.  The only down side is there are now so many fantastic Cons, I have to decide each year which ones I’m going to do.  I have neither the leave allocation nor the finances to do all of them.  I wish I could.

If you make it to BristolCon, do seek me out – it would be great to see you (if nothing else, as a reassurance that people do actually read this blog).  In the meantime however, I must dash.  I’ve got to go and think up some intelligent questions to ask my panel.

Geekfest 2013 – The Lowdown

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This past weekend saw the first ever Nineworld Geekfest Con, held in London.

The Con was billed as a celebration of all things geeky, and an excuse to have a really big party, and it was held in two hotels at London Heathrow airport – the Renaissance and the Radisson.  I was impressed by the fact that a Con without a track record was able to secure not one but two major airport hotels.

Though I was looking forward to the Con, with it being new I was expecting a few hiccups.  I have to say I was impressed with the level of organisation.  And the amount of choice.  There were so many tracks running, we were all spoilt for choice.  There was a creative writing track, a Tolkien track, a Dr Who track, a Geek Feminism track, a video games track, an LRP track, a board games track – to name just a few.  it was impossible to do everything.

There were some comments about the cost.  I think possibly this is relative – I’m used to London prices, where everything is more expensive anyway.  Although the Con itself wasn’t that expensive – depending on when you booked, £75 could get you a weekend ticket to just about everything, which I thought was reasonable.  The hotel cost no more than I paid for my hotel room at the Brighton Cons I have attended the last few years.  The room was decent, the air conditioning worked, the bed was comfortable.  Yes we had to pay for parking, but £10 for 24 hours didn’t seem overly expensive considering we pay £6 or more to park the car in Croydon for an afternoon of shopping.  Yes, the hotel bar was expensive.  But £5 for a glass of wine is not uncommon in a London hotel bar.  Sometimes bars are subsidised at Con hotels.  Genre Con-goers seem to have the ability to imbibe a lot more alcohol and yet still remain well behaved and less aggressive than your average non-geek after a few pints.  If the hotel manages to figure this out, maybe a deal will be struck for next year.

The T Party Writers’ Group had arranged to do a critiquing workshop on manuscripts that had been submitted in advance, and this was scheduled for 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.  Since we drove up to the Con on Saturday and hit traffic, we didn’t have much time to do anything else before this was on.  So hubby went off to the “In Conversation with Chris Barrie” programme item and I sought out the workshop.

We’d had seven submitted manuscripts split into two crit groups – one group dealing with historical and other-world fantasy and the other group (my group) critting the stories with more contemporary settings.  The crit session went quite well and no one ran off screaming after their crit, which is always a relief.

We finished earlier than expected and I was hoping to catch the second half of the panel on women in the Whedon universe.  But sadly this panel was so full they were letting no one else in, so I went off to take a look around the dealer room instead.  I caught up with Hubby here, who spent a happy half an hour spending money on the stall with all the old D&D modules.  I was distracted by many geeky t-shirts and jewellery, in the end deciding to spend my money on a pretty dragon pendant from the Pagan jewellery dealer I see at pretty much every Con I go to these days.

We left around noon on Sunday, and I left wishing I could have caught a few more panels.  But with so much going on, I think everyone came away wishing they could have seen more.

Buffy singalong. Picture credit: Nineworlds Geekfest

Buffy singalong. Picture credit: Nineworlds Geekfest

The highlight of my Con experience was the Buffy sing-along in the Saturday night, where we all gathered round a chap playing piano and went through every song featured in “Once More With Feeling”.  And because we finished faster than expected, when he got to the end of the music book, he started again from the beginning.  You can see me singing away in this picture – I’m there near the front in the pink t-shirt.  The t-shirt actually says ‘horror writer’ on it and has an image of a cartoon grim reaper on it, but sadly you can’t see it in the photo.  I let down my Buffy fangirl credentials by having to refer to the lyrics at some point for most of the songs.  There were some die-hard fans that knew every word.

There was a lot of Cosplay at this Con, and even if you don’t participate in this yourself, it’s fascinating to see the array of costumes, and see if you can correctly guess the geek reference.  Some of them were obvious to me – Dr Who characters; Marvel characters; the Alien.  Others I suspected were Manga characters, and these I am not as familiar with.

GeekFest made a point of making this Con accessible to everyone – regardless of gender, creed, orientation, physical ability, or anything else.  Children were welcome – there were many families at the Con.  Any item that was deemed to be for adults only was clearly labelled as such in the programme.  It was a Con where you could be who you wanted to be, not necessarily who you were born as.  The name labels were blank so you could fill in whatever name you wanted to be that particular weekend.  Many people stayed in costume – and in character – all weekend.  There was an LGBT track running all weekend.  There were even gender neutral toilets.  I have a lot of respect for the organisers for this.  This was a Con where everyone was welcome.  You could wear whatever you wanted, be  whoever you chose to be, and be accepted and welcomed, without the labels of ‘geek’, ‘freak’, ‘weirdo’ that so many of us have to deal with for being in some way different from what society perceives as ‘normal’.

In summary, this is a Con I thoroughly recommend for anyone who has any remotely geeky tendencies.  Next year’s Con has already been confirmed at the same venue, 8-10 August 2014.  Tickets are available, so book up now before the price goes up.

Fellow geeks, I shall see you there…

What I’m Doing At EasterCon

The schedule for this year’s EasterCon – otherwise known as EightSquared Con – has now been confirmed. I am very excited because I shall be doing my first panel.

There has been some last minute shuffling due to confusions in availability, but I can now confirm that this is my schedule:

Saturday 30 March, 12pm – Genre Get Together (Fantasy)
Sunday 31 March, 1pm – Head to Head Panel:  Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

The Genre Get Together is billed as an opportunity for fans to meet authors and get books signed. I’m currently having recurring nightmares that all the other authors involved in this will have long queues of adoring fans waiting to talk to them, whilst I’ll be standing there alone like Billy No Mates.  So, if you’re going to EasterCon, and you’ve got a copy of SOUL SCREAMS or SIBLINGS or anything else with one of my stories in, do come along and get it signed. Even if you don’t, just come along for a chat, and stave off my nightmare.

The panel has been a last minute change, but I am immensely looking forward to it. Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker – two greats of gothic horror fiction, and I could talk for hours about these two writers. Finding things to say really won’t be a problem. More of an issue is the need to refrain from hogging the panel.

It goes without saying that there is much, much more to look forward to than just my panel debut. There are all the usual pleasures of a Con. Spending hours in the bar with fellow spec fiction fans, conversing cheerily about much geekery. The wondrous things for sale in the dealer room. The chance to meet other – more famous – writers. The chance to catch up with all the fellow geeks I only ever meet in person at conventions.

And, let’s not forget, the first episode of the new season Doctor Who, which is always broadcast on the big screen at Eastercon and is one of the Con highlights.

I am already bouncing up and down in anticipation. Four more sleeps!