Monday, 2 October 2017

Fantasycon and Eveything After

This Monday morning is very autumnal, and I've got the day off from the day job, so I'm starting it huddled in my onesie, with oodles of tea. I got back from Fantasycon in Peterborough yesterday. It was a great convention and I had lots of fun and inspiration, and there's a fire in my belly now... it's a dodgy boiler pilot light, flickering as I fight the melancholy, but a small flame I intend to encourage nonetheless.

It follows on from a bit of a pep talk I had in the tea room area of the Bull Hotel yesterday with my friend Mark West, and OH too, who were telling me I don't shout loud enough about my successes sometimes, and when I talk about sad things they seem to be the things that people pick up on and remember. But I think with OH and my friends, I have so much support. There's only me who can change things.

I do worry about OH too though. My reliable Chevalier party personality, he does his best to improve me and I love him so much. He has really stepped up for me lately, though that has meant a lot of sacrifice and pressure put on himself, and I haven't always made it easy. Let this fire drive me on, and towards that happy and successful future, because I need to make sure he is okay and knows how much he is appreciated.

Blasting Jethro Tull from the stereo in the A-team van, we arrived in glorious Peterborough mid-afternoon on Friday and checked into our hotel. We went to the Queensgate as my shopping around showed it offered free Wi-Fi and breakfast for the price of the room without those at the Park Inn, and was not much further away. Once we were settled we made our way to the con hotel, past the beautiful Cathedral Square, with its fountains shooting into the air.

There are also Poundshops in abundance and strange types on the street at night. Oh, Peterborough! But your architecture is stunning.

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This is dusky Peterborough on the way home. The fountains are off.
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The Bull hotel is in a beautiful building, filled with a lot of eighteenth and seventeenth century portraits. We found the bar, and settled into a corner with Sue Moorcroft and Mark West, and Terry Martin, and then shortly after were joined by Kim and Del Lakin-Smith, and beers were bought. We shortly then realised we would need to leave the hotel to get to the panels we intended to go to into the conference centre, so Del drink-sat and did some work, while Kim, OH and I went to a reading by Ian Whates, Andrew Hook, who we know and are our friends, and Rose Drew and Kevin Elliott, who we were not familiar with.

More chatting in the bar followed before a large group of us left for the fusion restaurant Ba Shoh. Having been road-tested and found to be decent in the week  by a couple of our party, something must have happened because the Friday version of the place had a loud lounge singer on (we just wanted to talk!) and it took a while to get served even drinks. They took the starter order, served that, then came back for the main order, which seemed a good way to get us through the wine. Both my starter and main came with components and ingredients missing and no apology or warning. They did try to make BBQ sauce when I pointed out that it was missing from my jalapenos, but goodness knows what it actually was - lumpy and full of chillies. Not nice. But what was nice was the company - Ian Whates and Helen, The Lakin-Smiths, the Tchaikovskis, Neil Williamson, Philip Palmer, Rob Malan and Francesca Barbini, Storm Constantine and Jim and Danielle Lainton.

Thence to the disco! I did a lot of dancing before retreating to the side bar where events caught up with me and I was woken up to go back to the hotel.

I had to be up early for my book launch the next morning, and first went to the Luna Press one, where Allen Stroud and Rebecca Hall were doing readings from their new books. I didn't have a big budget for the weekend, but I did want to make sure I'd bought Allen's The Forever Man. looking forward to reading it.

Then it was the big Newcon Press book launch: books being launched included Tanith by Choice - a selection of stories by Tanith Lee selected by other authors; a slipcase set of novellas including The Wind by Jay Caselberg, Cottingley by Alison Littlewood, Body in the Woods by Sarah Lotz and Case of the Bedevilled Poet by Simon Clark - all available individually of course, but also in a beautiful slip case with wraparound art by Vincent Sammy. And of course, Best of Visionary Tongue. 'VT' was a fiction and poetry fanzine started by Storm Constantine, who edited this anthology. The magazine itself was passed on to me and my good friend Jamie Spracklen as the editorial team in 2003. I so wanted Jamie to be at this convention, so as his co-editor I represented both of us. This is me at the launch with contributor Chris Amies. Terrible photos, as OH had split his jeans and was trying to shop for some so he wasn't there to take the photo... and my phone screen is broken so all my selfies are misty.

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My first panel (Humour in Genre Fiction) was at 2pm, so just time to nick Del's unwanted crisps before heading off, and I was nervous as anything as THE Chris Brookmyre was in my panel, and I flipping love his books.

Wow, what a great time on that panel! And here we all are: Heide Goody (who brought an awesomely creepy baby doll to the con), Duncan Bradshaw, Chris Brookmyre, Jen Williams, me, and Adam Millard.

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Before the panel, my friend Kim surprised me with a dress from a sale she'd seen me admiring... and after the panel, my friend Annie surprised me with an awesome crocheted thumb-hugging sloth. My friends are the best!

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After the panel, I bumped into fantasy author RJ Barker, who had been called out of the panel by a phone call - great to finally meet him in the flesh, as he published my first short story on the Bloodlust vampire fan website in 2005

I also went to the GoH interview with Pat Cadigan, interviewed by Ian Whates, which was great.

A lot more chatting in the bar, including with fellow Norhampton Science Fiction Writing Group members Tim C. Taylor and Paul Melhuish, and as I had a panel at 8, a group of us headed off early to find somewhere to eat as soon as the dealer's room closed. After trying to get into Wagamama, we went round the corner instead to Wildwood, which does pizza, pastas and burgers. A much more relaxed atmos in there than in Ba Shoh, great service and lovely food. I had the mushroom burger with melted brie and sweet potato fries.This time we also took Rob and Francesca's friend Anthony Lakin.

My 8pm panel was Staging in genre fiction, and I was moderating again with panellists Terry Grimwood, Sean Hogan, Ritchie Valentine-Smith and Dean M Drinkel. With such a diverse panel of experts, we managed to talk very inclusively around the topics that confront am dram and professionals, script-writing, creative direction, production, cast choices and the money, and our bijou late night audience seemed to enjoy it.

Thence to the karaoke!

Oh yes I did.

Another early start for Sunday as we not only had to be checked out by 11, but I had a panel at 10am. This was on Small Press Publishing and included myself, Ian Whates, Francesca Barbini, Peter Mark May, Steven Poore and David A. Hardy. Again, I was really nervous, but we had a really good talk and people came up to us afterwards and said how useful they'd found it.

A quick scoot around the dealer's room followed, where I picked up a copy of Anna Smith-Spark's The Court of Broken Knives, and got it signed by the Queen of Grimdark herself.

As I perked myself up with a hot chocolate in the tea room, I had a good chat with my friend Mark West about self-promotion and it was soon time for the banquet. We were on a table with Lydia and Ella from Titan Books, and also writer Phil Sloman, who was a nominee for Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards that followed. Titan Books also had a few dogs in the race, and though Phil lost out, Lydia got to go collect on behalf of one of her winners. Best of all though was being there when our friend Adrian Tchaikovsky was announced winner as Best Fantasy Novel winner, and got to collect his trophy from Ben Aaronovitch.

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So happy for him!

At the dead dog, we caught up with a relieved con organiser Allen Stroud and Dave Lally, but we had to go as we could feel the exhaustion catching up with us. And we completely failed to go visit Catherine of Aragon in the cathedral!

And that was my weekend - one book launch, three panel moderations later. I do good stuff! Looking forward to Chester.