Sledge-Lit: The Final Chopper On Tour 2015 Post!

It’s been a long year, and it isn’t quite over yet. But the Chopper On Tour tag is bedding down for hibernation through the winter, after one last hurrah at Derby’s Sledge-Lit event.

And what a hurrah it was! Sledge-Lit turned out to be a very good way to wind down. Alex Davis had done his usual bang-up job of inviting interesting guests of honour – Charles Stross, Alison Moore, Rob Shearman and Adam Roberts – and surrounded them with a host of panels, readings and workshops designed to make you want to be in three places at once. I’m at the point – I think – where workshops aren’t going to add an awful lot to what I already know, so I can’t comment too much on them (there may be a blog post from Sheffield’s SFF Writers’ Group later on that covers one or two of the workshops). Aside from that, I was somewhat busy anyway…

The first panel of the day was on the value of subgenres in fantasy & SF. With me were Julia Knight, Susan Boulton, Rod Duncan, and Gavin Smith. Because of family stuff, I had questions, but I hadn’t been able to pass them around in advance. As a first-time panel moderator/chair, I came into it feeling a bit like a support act without instruments. That soon passed – even though the panel helpfully touched on all of my questions within the first five minutes! – and hopefully we made for an interesting start to the day.

Some good questions came from Andrew Bannister, whose first book comes out through Transworld next year. I managed to miss the panel about small presses while chatting to him and David Tallerman (the new TOR novella is well worth getting hold of), after which it was time to take a break from taking a break and go out for chips (now a firmly-established tradition for me in Derby…). With my SFSF hat on there were brief conversations with Penny Reeve, Helen Armfield, Natasha Pulley, and Tony Ballantyne, as well as a chat with Simon Marshall-Jones, whose Biblia Longcrofta I’ve recently finished reading. Recommended, by the way.

Then it was time for the second panel of the day – the flip side of the subgenre discussion – Is Fantasy Broadening As A Genre? Well, yes, obviously, and a good thing too, was the general consensus from Alex, Julia, Natasha, Stephen Aryan and myself. We wandered over the genre landscape and dished out some sterling recommendations, and I had a bit more of a relaxing time of it since Alex was moderating this one. Fueled by increasing amounts of coffee, I even manned the TTA Press stall for a couple of minutes while Roy popped away. Don’t worry, I know retail. I didn’t sell anything though…

Apart from a few copies of Heir To The North, which is always a bonus. :)

For my final panel of the day, I was hiding in the audience, listening to Jacey Bedford rein in Adam Roberts so that Amanda Rutter, Gavin Smith and Andrew Bannister could get a word in edgeways on the subject of dystopian SF.

The Edge-Lit raffle is a thing of legend – almost as legendary as the SFSF raffle, in fact – and if you squinted hard enough and ate enough of Brian Marshall’s vodka jelly babies, you could probably confuse Robert Shearman for Sarah Pinborough. I didn’t win anything, but it’s the taking part that counts….

One thing I didn’t get was any photos – if anybody has some, I’d be happy to see them! And so, with the 2015 leg of Chopper On Tour concluded, it’s time to get some words laid out on TFL and start the planning for next year….

Chopper On Tour 2015: Sledge-Lit Schedule

What are you doing on Saturday 21st November? And why aren’t you doing it at Quad, in Derby, in the company of the good folks at Sledge-Lit? Well, if you are there, you stand a very good chance of being able to buy a paperback copy of Heir To The North from one of the tables in the Dealers’ Room. I’ll quite happily sign it for you too, assuming you like your frontispieces besmirched with angular scribbles.

You’ll also be able to see yours truly at the following panel items during the day:

10:30-11:20: Break it Down – The Value of Subgenre in SF and Fantasy Sponsored by Verse Publishing Susan Boulton, Rod Duncan, Julia Knight, Steven Poore (Chair), Gavin Smith

1:30-2:20: Spreading Your Wings – Is Fantasy Broadening as a Genre? Stephen Aryan, Charlie Fletcher, Julia Knight, Steven Poore, Natasha Pulley

A couple of immediate thoughts: these panels kinda walk hand in hand together, looking at two sides of the same coin. The first one I see more as a technical writer’s question (for example: is it healthy for an author to gain a reputation as working within a subgenre? Can that be a trap?); the second is probably one of vision and inclusion for both readers and writers, especially relevant given the recent shenanigans at conventions over in the US. There’s some very interesting folk on both panels.

Oh, and yes, I’m moderating that first panel. There’s nowt quite like the deep end, is there?


Heir To The North: Words Just In…

It’s been out in the public gaze for two weeks now, so what do people think of it so far? Here’s something of a round-up…

If you haven’t got the paperback (or the spiffy bookmark Ken Dawson put together for Fantasycon), you might have missed Teresa Edgerton’s cover quote. (And you should absolutely buy Goblin Moon and Hobgoblin Night, both available again from Tickety Boo Press).

Heir To The North is an engaging coming of age tale…the landscape of the story gradually opens out to take on the complexities and the historical sweep of an epic, yet Poore never loses sight of the personal stakes for his young protagonist.

JB Rockwell, author of Breakshield and Seiokana, also features on the front cover, with a slightly shorter quote:

Epic fantasy at its finest.

Juliana Spink Mills, blogger and reviewer, calls it:

A stunning offering…told delicately in a wash of watercolors rather than in Joe Abercrombie’s heart-thumping mad-swirl-of-acrylics style…with one of the most surprising endings I’ve seen in a long time.

There’s a couple of ace one-liners from Twitter too –

rave1 rave2







Well, you can’t say fairer than that, can you? There’s only Amazon left to conquer now… :)

A Face for Radio…

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I seem to be going the right way about it. Here’s a couple of links to pieces I’ve done in the last couple of weeks.

First up, a video interview for the SciFiFantasyNetwork, filmed at Fantasycon 2015 and hosted by the urbane and wordcrafty Joel Cornah. Please ignore the fact that I am overdue a haircut. The noise in the background is quite possibly people queuing up for the Brandon Sanderson signing.

Second, I wandered over the road to BBC Radio Sheffield for a chat on-air with Paulette Edwards. I’m not completely convinced she really got her head around fantasy and Heir To The North, but you can listen again here from around the 2h08m mark and tell me how I did…

Chopper On Tour – Triumph in Nottingham!

Welcome to Fantasycon! Photo: Joel Cornah
Welcome to Fantasycon!
Photo: Joel Cornah

I guess there’s a serious amount of ego and hubris involved in using the word “triumph” in the title of this blog post, and I’m usually a little more modest than that, but at the same time everybody’s got the right to blow their own trumpet once in a while and if this ain’t the time then I’ve no idea when will be, so Triumph in Nottingham it is, because Triumph in Nottingham it was!

You may have been aware that Heir to the North was launching officially at Fantasycon this year, with a proper slot in the programme and everything. If you didn’t know, then Grimbold Books’ incredible co-chief conspirator Sammy Smith made sure everybody did by the end of Saturday by also launching a very natty line in HTTN promotional t-shirts for us all to wear. Like the Fox Spirit Skulk at Edge-Lit, it turned the Grimbold posse into a brilliantly visible presence throughout the rest of Fantasycon. I reckon that helped pull in a few people for the launch itself, and it certainly made the table in the dealers’ room busier.

Grimbold posse
Photo: Joel Cornah

The launch itself – aside from mild-to-severe panic beforehand, kept pretty much under control with much appreciated help from Jo Thomas¹ – was an absolute blast. With launch music by The Fall (played through gritted teeth by Jo Hall²), I read from a fight scene in chapter five and answered questions, and then signed books for a crowd that included folks I’d never met before. That’s an incredible thing: I could happily get used to that.

Photo: Sophie E Tallis
Photo: Sophie E Tallis

The best part was that when the room emptied, the table in the dealers’ room suddenly got very busy as a result. Awesome stuff, and a day I’m not going to forget in a hurry, even if I’m having trouble remembering half of it even now (that ol’ flight or fight thing going on in the background…). But what was the rest of the convention like?

In contrast to last year’s FCon in York, where panel items happened down at the far end of long corridors, and you ran the risk of encountering a small boy on a pedal cart in the darkness, Nottingham’s De Vere Conference Venue was laid out with everything set in a square around the edges of the main Conference Theatre, in a sort of Roman villa arrangement. You could walk right around the square and see all the panel and reading rooms, the dealers’ room, and the two bars (one serving alcohol, the other intermittently not serving anything at all depending on which way the wind was blowing), and the little break-out spaces. And despite everything being closer together and the convention itself being a sell-out, it didn’t feel crowded.

Photo: Adele Wearing
Photo: Adele Wearing

That’s got a lot to do with the schedule itself. Richard Webb had done an ace job as event co-ordinator, and I could have gone to two fascinating panels in different rooms at every hour of the day, with readings and launches always competing for attention. I’m fairly sure everybody was in panels most of the time, which explains why the bar was never crammed full (well, that and the stupefying lack of food available at the venue).

As it was, I actually ended up seeing very little across the weekend, spending more time chatting and generally getting around. The Diversity in Genre was very well supported, and an hour well-spent – Laurel Sills, Naomi Foyle, Joanne Hall, Joel Cornah, Anna Smith-Spark, and Isabel Yap are all names worth following. A marketing panel moderated by Adele Wearing didn’t illuminate all the great secrets I had been hoping for but was useful nonetheless, and with my SFSF hat on I introduced myself to Gollancz’s Sophie Calder afterwards.

Last year, the disco on Saturday night was a stunning combination of book deals, bad dancing, and vodka. This year, with Sunday on my mind, I found myself trekking across Nottingham in search of a Sainsbury’s instead, and hid the packs of muffins and bottles of wine in the car rather than take them into the hotel to face the judgemental stares of the night staff. Friday night had been a different matter – karaoke courtesy of Abaddon Books: I wheeled out the big guns and swung the mic to the Cutting Crew.BobDylanSmileyBuzz There’s video footage of Lee Harris (Desperado) and David Moore (Werewolves of London) which I would happily use as blackmail material if those performances weren’t so damned good. Curses, foiled again!

And talking of tour-de-force performances, the stand-out reading of the weekend was given by Anna Smith-Spark, from her agented but currently unsigned queer existential grimdark novel The Court of Broken Knives. In those shoes, with that subgenre, and a background in performance poetry to draw upon, a reading that climaxed with cries of “Death! Death! DEATH! DEATH!” was always going to be a damned hard act to follow. That book needs a home, and quick.

Brain bleach is needed to drive from my mind the conversation about BizarroCon in America early next month. Dude, watch that cattle-prod. I headed back to the Boo! Books table in the dealers’ room for more vodka-laced gummy bears after that one. Edward Cox recited his one-star Goodreads “review” (more like a bilious fart than a review). Marc Turner and Daniel Godfrey hung out at the bar; the Sinister Horror Company and Unsung Stories were great to chat to; Will MacMillan-Jones was indefatigable; the Redcloaks were stellar; there were so many people and I have so little memory…

That's not a knife...
That’s not a knife…

And of course, there were the awards. Last year I live-tweeted them; this year I left that to the BFS team and just enjoyed the ceremony. Every single nominated author, artist and publisher was deserving of their success and recognition. The winners all deserved their wins. Especially, from my point of view, Juliet McKenna³ as part-recognition for her brilliant hard work on the VATMOSS quagmire (on top of a massive catalogue of fifteen novels and more stories besides), and the drop-kick ace Fox Spirit Books as Best Small Press.

Let’s do it all again, shall we? See you in Scarborough next year!

¹Buy her books.
²Buy her books.
³Buy her books.

Chopper On Tour: Fantasycon 2015 Schedule

Fantasycon happens this weekend in Nottingham. As you might expect, I’m going to be there. If you’re extremely unlucky, you might encounter me at the karaoke.

As far as scheduling goes, I’m not on panels or the individual reading events this time around. (Sledge-Lit, next month, is another matter, but more on that anon…)

There is, however, one rather important event I’ll definitely be attending. That would be the official launch for Heir To The North, on Sunday morning, at 11am. Look forward to seeing you there!

426 Pages of Epic Fantasy Goodness!

Did I tell you that I have a book coming out before the end of this month? Y’know, part one of an Epic Fantasy duology under the series title Malessar’s Curse? Heir To The North, it’s called. And if you want the digital version of it, you’ll have to wait until the official release date of October 23rd. (But you can still pre-order it, because pre-orders are cool. Like fezes.)

But – check this. The paperback listing is up on Amazon now. And if you order it, it may very well arrive before the official release date. How about that, heh?

If you want the chance of winning a signed copy of Heir To The North, meanwhile, get thee hither to the SFSF Social this Saturday, at Eten Cafe in Sheffield, where David Barnett will be reading from his latest Gideon Smith novel, and Amanda Rutter will be answering questions in an exclusive “Ask The Agent” session, and buy a raffle ticket or two.

You’ve got to be in it to win it, folks.