Live on the Nerd Book Review!

Happy Monday, folks! If you listen to podcasts – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – then you might just be interested in the Nerd Book Review podcast, available on itunes and Podbean, amongst many other platforms. Especially because this week NBR’s host Cameron is talking to an award-nominated Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist from Sheffield. You’ll never guess who that is…

Listen, comment, rate, and share!

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Fantasycon 2017: Aftermath

Well, that happened!

You may have noticed that I was on the shortlist for Best Fantasy Novel at the BFS Awards this year – I did mention it once or twice. I didn’t win, and nor did Grimbold’s other shortlisted novel, Joanne Hall’s The Summer Goddess, but that wasn’t unexpected. (I did win some stroopwafels, which definitely was unexpected)

Best Fantasy Novel went to Adrian Tchaikovsky, for The Tiger and The Wolf, and I think he rather deserves it too. And I also reckon Jen Williams is more than worth a shout for The Ninth Rain next year. There y’go, you heard it here first.

No automatic alt text available.But while that award didn’t go Grimbold’s way, the award for Best Independent Press did. I’m absolutely over the moon for Sammy, Zoe, Jo, Kate, Joel, and all the other Grimmies who have put in such a massive amount of hard work over the last few years to make Grimbold Books a fantastic, professional, and passionate genre publisher that can stand toe to toe with some of the biggest names in modern fantasy and not look out of place.

And that reminds me…

My sole panel appearance of the weekend was on the subject of small presses, alongside Ian Whates, Francesca Barbini, Donna Scott, David Riley, and Peter Mark May. It was interesting to hear all of the other panelists mentioning the difficulties that small presses face in getting word of mouth and decent publicity for their titles in a marketplace that skews heavily toward the polar opposites of The Big Five and the densely populated white noise of self-published titles. Obviously, I’m a massive advocate of small presses, despite the low regard in which they are held by the vast majority of the self-pubbers. I firmly believe that small presses have a hell of a lot to offer to authors. If you don’t believe me, look at the sheer breadth of subgenres and titles that such presses embrace. Look at the #smallpressbigstories articles up on Fantasy Faction. Look at the academic work that both Luna Press and Fox Spirit have put out. Look at our award nominations. We didn’t get there by accident, y’know.

And yet, outside of conventions, it’s difficult for a small press to get any traction in the genre, flooded as it is with the same old names and their adherents endlessly banging the drum on every forum ever. Blame Amazon, blame Waterstones? Blame small-c conservatism on the readers’ part? If I had any of the answers, you’d be the first to know.

Heaven knows, small presses will never have the same reach and visibility as the Big Five, I’m not asking for that. But guys, you won’t get cooties from reading small press fiction. Live a little.

Chopper on Tour: Fantasycon 2017!

In what is swiftly becoming an annual tradition, or an old charter, or something¹, I’ll be attending Fantasycon 2017 at the end of this month. This year, after the northern wilds of York, Nottingham, and Scarborough, FCon takes place in the rarefied airs of Peterborough, at the Bull Hotel. I don’t have anything new to launch this time around, but I’ll be on a panel discussing small press publishing on Sunday at 10am, and reading – probably from The Witness, but that may change – at 11am alongside Lee Harrison and Ritchie Valentine-Smith.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of an awards ceremony later on Sunday afternoon. 🙂 If that sounds presumptuous, don’t worry – my money’s firmly on one of the other three riders.

I will definitely have copies of HKV and HTTN on hand to sell, should you not have picked them up yet.

See you there!

 

¹Apologies to Robert Rankin

Reviewed by my own book cover

While we’re on the subject of reviews, you can see a piece where Heir to the North is effectively dissected by its own sentient book cover over at Michael R Fletcher’s site¹. No, really, that picture is more than capable of speaking a thousand words. Sometimes, in fact, it’s a struggle to get the damned thing to shut up.

 

 

¹Buy his book.

Guest Post at The Dragon’s Blade

I’m over at Michael Miller’s place today, as part of his series on Writing Journeys. Previous entries in the series have included Mark Lawrence, Jen Williams, Ben Galley, Anna Smith-Spark and more, so that’s mighty tall company for a short-ass like me to be in.

A lot of the journeys featured have looked back at how authors start out and get their first ideas and carry those through to completion. I thought it might be interesting to look at a different angle – what about that Difficult Second Idea? What lessons have I learned from Malessar’s Curse?

While you’re over there reading that (and don’t forget to scroll back to see the rest of the series – it’s well worth it, believe me), do sign up/subscribe to Michael’s updates, not least because he’s a good bloke and he’ll give you a free download of his debut novel The Dragon’s Blade for doing so. You really can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Click the book cover to go thataway…

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Westward Ho! – Bristolcon 2016

Image result for bristolconLast weekend saw another epic trek down England’s bleak motorway network to participate in the excellent shenanigans that make up Bristolcon. Over the last eight years, Bristolcon has become one of the highlights of the convention season, and it’s easy to see why. A top-drawer (if slightly expensive) venue, an ace range of guests and panelists, and a fantastically well thought out programme, all combine alongside a relaxed atmosphere to make Bristolcon a very smooth ride for everybody who attends. It’s a not-for-profit affair too – as a charitable foundation, Bristolcon uses any money it makes to fund local writing projects, and that feeling of putting something back into the community undoubtedly helps explain why everybody is more than happy to pitch in and fund it by buying tickets. You’d have to be a bit of a curmudgeon to demand free entry here…

Anyway, I love driving, and I couldn’t wait to meet up again with the rest of Team Grimbold, so me & Elsie hit the road on Friday morning aiming to hit the traditional pre-con open mic event being held that evening. I had a couple of passengers too, since a pending clearout had led to them being evicted from Rachel’s workroom. I was pretty certain I could find them new homes with the baby Grimmies…

After checking in and offloading the stock for the dealers’ room, I found Frances Kay (a fellow British Fantasy Awards-shortlisted Grimmie) and Anna Smith Spark (whose Court of Broken Knives comes out via Harper Voyager next June). We prepared for the open mic session by attending Gaie Sebold and David Gullen’s workshop on public readings. Incidentally, Frances has a great background in both theatre and TV work, so if you were there, it’s well worth taking note of what she had to say on the subject of public readings.

And if you weren’t there, then you missed an action-packed reading of (most of) Full Compliance, from The Evil Genius Guide (Fox Spirit Books), the first story to feature South Yorkshire’s last superhero, Johnny Silver, aka The Forgemaster. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it, which means you’ll definitely be seeing some longer-length Johnny Silver stories further on down the line.

It’s a good thing that the Holiday Inn Express breakfast is a buffet affair – I had three plates on the go. The old convention adage is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s not wrong. Especially when you get to 7pm and realise that you skipped lunch completely. The only downside to a single-day con is that time flies far too quickly – you will never get to talk to everybody you want to talk to, and friends and online acquaintances rush past in a blur.

The first item on the agenda was securing a copy of Juliet E McKenna’s new collection, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) and getting that signed. Then the morning was a whirl of hellos and hugs, especially for the massed Fantasy Faction crew, some of whom had buzzed over from Germany and the Netherlands for the weekend. (Hello Julia, Marielle, Leona, JP, GR, RB, TO!)

Somehow I managed to find a spare 20 minutes to make notes for the midday panel. I had been bricking myself about this, given that Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough was also on the panel, but as usual I wound up worrying about nothing – the Beyond Evil panel was a blast, well directed by Dev Agarwal. Juliet McKenna did raise the very valid point that we had almost exclusively been talking about male incarnations/depictions of evil. I indicated in a post back upstream that thinking diversely hasn’t come naturally to me (but I try…) – it’s taken me this long to think of Annie Wilkes as one of the greatest villains ever put onscreen, and I’m still struggling to think of others who haven’t leapt from the page in the same way (Mrs Coulter & Narnia’s White Witch both got mentioned by Sophie E Tallis during the panel). Feel free to leave your own examples in the comments.

bcon1-2A recent addition to Team Grimbold is Diana Croft, the narrator of the Heir to the North audiobook. As she’s based in the south-west, we managed to meet up at Bristolcon for the first time and it was a proper pleasure to be able to sit down and talk to her about plots, characters, and High King’s Vengeance. If you haven’t heard what Diana’s done with the voices for HTTN – AND WHY NOT? – seriously, go check out the samples at Audible.

3pm saw me pulling people away from the bar to go see Anna Smith Spark, presently the undisputed Queen of Grimdark, on her panel about women in Grimdark fantasy. Well, come on, there weren’t nowt going off in the bar, and this was much more interesting. It could have been more interesting yet if they’d managed to keep to the topic, but herding authors is very much like herding cats on VERY GOOD DRUGS. In a good way, of course.

Oh, and there was a reading from High King’s Vengeance too, near the end of the programming. Most people had been sitting behind the tables in Panel Room One for their readings – nah, not me. Stand and declaim, even if you are feeling exhausted after a few pints of Butcombe IPA.

A good meal at the SevernShed, along with Allan Bott, Joel Cornah, and Tim Wreford-Bush, rounded off the day. And an excellent lunch at the Shakespeare the following day, after helping cart some of the tech gear out of the hotel, made sure I was fortified for the road ahead. It’s a long old weekend, Bristolcon, but it’s a damned good one.

See you next year! And because it’s traditional, here’s the obligatory swag pic…

Last Call For Brizzle!

Alrighty, folks, are you at Bristolcon this weekend? If so, you’ll be in very good company. I’ll be there from Friday night, at the pre-con shenanigans and generally trying to prevent my friend Tim from getting into more good-natured misunderstandings with Paul Cornell.

Then on Saturday, I’m on a panel at midday along with Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough, Ben Jeapes, Sophie E Tallis, and moderator Dev Agarwal – we’re discussing villains, motivations, and going Beyond Evil.

Blink and you’ll miss my reading at 5.50 – what am I reading from? Come and find out….

Plus, I have badges for anyone in a Fantasy Faction t-shirt! And there are more offers on the Grimbold Books table than you can shake a Groot-like stick at! (You may have already noticed…)

And the brilliant Diana Croft, narrator of the audiobook version of Heir to the North, will be at the con for at least part of the day – you may not be able to get signed audiobooks, but I have stock of the HTTN bookmarks and a sharpie… 😉

Oh, and book launches – Rob Harkess’s Amunet and Juliet E McKenna’s River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) are both available from this weekend, and my TBR singularity is groaning already…

Are you looking forward to it? I am… 🙂