Chopper on Tour, 2019 Edition

[AKA: I’m Still Alive!]

This year has just flown by, hasn’t it? Almost like it knows it needs to bugger off with the bad news and right-wing tosspots it brought in. Bad enough we’ve had to flea-bomb the whole house this week, without 2018 dragging more shit in through the back door. Yeah, go on, fuck off, and take the gammon, book pirates,  and Brexidiots with you.

But, anyway. Just because this year has been infested with sociopolitical lice, it doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy. Like the fabled metaphor of the serene duck, there’s a boatload of paddling under the water.

Work continues on both ED6 and the new Age of Talons/The Golden Rule trilogy (I can’t make my mind up on the series title, but I’m leaning more to TGR at the moment). ED6 is heading slowly towards completion, while the first draft of the second part of the trilogy has reached chapter six and is settling down nicely. And yes, that does mean that the first book is complete and undergoing some scrutiny…

Meanwhile, I’m also working, as co-editor alongside Pete Sutton, on one of a series of anthologies for Grimbold Books. Forgotten Sidekicks will focus on the heroes that never were, the folks left in the shadows, the Fatty Bolgers of fantasy, and wouldn’t you know it – submissions are open to all right now!

Image may contain: text

And in my spare time – don’t laugh, there is such a thing, or so I’m told – I’ve been part of a jury for the British Fantasy Awards, the winners of which will be announced at Fantasycon in Chester at the end of this month. And that brings us nicely to the Chopper on Tour element of this post:

This year Fantasycon and Bristolcon take place on consecutive weekends. Somewhat rashly, I have booked to attend both. This means you will be able to find me at the following panels and events –

Fantasycon

  • Saturday 20th October, 10am: Reading, alongside Shona Kinsella & Ben P Holden
  • Saturday 20th October, 11.30am: Organising Events and Awards panel, with Leila Abu el Hawa, Jan Edwards, Peter Sutton. I’m moderating this panel!
  • Sunday 21st October, 9.30am: Starting Out Writing Genre Fiction panel, with Rachel McLean, G. V. Anderson, Peter Haynes, Tasha Suri. Wait, I’m moderating this one too!

Bristolcon

  • Saturday 27th October, 1pm: It Were All Fields Round Here panel, with Dave Hutchinson, Jessica Rydill, GR Matthews, Anna Smith Spark. Guess what? I’m the moderator!
  • Saturday 27th October, 6pm: Desert Island Fantasy panel, with John Allen, Anna Smith Spark, Terry Jackman, Steven Poore, Jasper Fforde (M). I am not the moderator!

For the full program schedules for both events, see their respective sites:
Bristolcon: https://www.bristolcon.org/
Fantasycon: https://www.hwsevents.co.uk/activities-an-overview

See you there!

Advertisements

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… 🙂

Derby Writers’ Day & Bristolcon!

For the remainder of this month I’ll mostly be battening the hatches and hoping that my voodoo dolls of certain neo-fascistic politicians actually have some bloody effect while I work on two, no three, different projects all at the same time.

But between all that, Chopper on Tour 2016 has two more dates for the diary:

Derby Writer's Day 2016
Derby Writers’ Day

Next Saturday, 15th October, you’ll find me at the Derby Writers’ Day, organised and run by the indefatigable Alex Davis. I’m on two panels, both moderated by the suave and sophisticated Kevin Redfern –
10am: The Writer & The Small Press (KR, SP, James Everington, Emma Lannie)
11am: Fantasy & Science Fiction (KR, SP, Amanda Rutter, Andrew Bannister)

After that I’ll be hanging around, striking writerly poses, and open to chat about my experiences in publishing so far.

On Saturday 29th October (and the night before for the pre-con events) you’ll find me at Bristolcon, in… um, Bristol. One of the UK’s best one-day conventions, and a charitable organisation to boot, which means it’s well worth your time and your money goes to help local genre and writing projects. And with guests of honour like Ken MacLeod and Sarah Pinborough and artist Fangorn you have even less excuse.

I’m panelling and reading:
12pm: Beyond Evil (with Dev Agarwal (Mod), Sarah Pinborough, Steven PooreSophie E. Tallis, Ben Jeapes)

6.50pm: Reading, in Programme Room 1. Reading what? Well, I do have a new book out, y’know….

Other than that, you may find me either in the bar or the Dealers’ Room – Grimbold Books will be there in full effect, and there’ll be several great offers on the table, with Christmas only a couple of months away…

Right – on with the words….

Voice of the North!

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. But, much like an iceberg, there’s plenty of frantic paddling beneath the surface. No, wait, that’s ducks…. 90% of a duck is under the surface… or summat….

Anyway.

Here’s some news that you might already know! Heir To The North, which is slowly gathering praise all across t’net, will be coming to Audible as an audiobook later this year! We (that is, Kristell Ink/Grimbold Books and myself) have signed up a wonderful narrator – Diana Croft – who we reckon can more than do justice to Cassia’s story. Obviously, this may take some time, but keep your ears open for the release dates…

And talking of release dates, High King’s Vengeance is pencilled in for late 2016. It may seem months away yet, but it will be upon us before you know it…

And where can you see me this year? Aside from the Sheffield Socials – the first of which will be on February 20th, with guests David Tallerman and Adele Wearing – I will once more be at EdgeLit, FantasyCon and BristolCon. More details on those closer to the time, of course…

Now, back to TFL. Enjoy your weekend!

“Not much of a go-getter”: the 2015 round-up post

It’s that time of the year again, when I look back at my mother-in-law’s tired and less than complimentary put-down¹ and measure myself against it. Well, nothing very memorable happened in 2015, did it?

Apart from (and with no apologies for beating my own drum here):

  • Photo: Sophie E Tallis
    Photo: Sophie E Tallis

    Fox Spirit Books published That Sinking Feeling in the Fox Pockets anthology Under The Waves.

  • Heir To The North launched at Fantasycon in Nottingham, with a platoon of matching t-shirts courtesy of the magnificent folks at Grimbold Books. What an absolute blast of a weekend that was, even if I never made good on my threat to do Holding Out For a Hero at the karaoke (next year…).
  • There was a road trip to Shropshire to scout the lay of the land for Project:TFL (which is being built from the keel up, as they say). So much pub grub…!
  • Being a panelist for the first time at Bristolcon, alongside Rosie Oliver, Misa Buckley, Dean Saunders-Stowe, and Gareth L Powell. And a long-overdue catch-up with Tim Wreford-Bush!
  • Being a panelist, and also moderating a panel for the first time at Sledge-Lit (with Rod Duncan, Julia Knight, Gavin Smith, Susan Boulton, Stephen Aryan, Alex Davis and Natasha Pulley).
  • nibs1We adopted a three-legged cat called Mycroft who now absolutely loves cuddles. This little dude has made himself right at home!
  • I know exactly what the cover for High King’s Vengeance will look like (you folks will have to wait a while longer for that, I’m afraid…).
  • Heir To The North got some awesome reviews from some equally awesome people. Reviews are important. I haven’t had to break out the HMHB “Bad Review” link yet, so let’s cherish the time before it has to happen!
  • We watched John Cameron Mitchell film exteriors for How To Talk To Girls At Parties on the street outside our house. Blink and you’ll miss it!
  • SFSF Social #1 Adrian Tchaikovski close upWe started up the SFSF Social with readings by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas – and going on to feature Dana Fredsti, Ian Sales, Jacey Bedford, Paul Kane, and David Barnett in the Socials after that.
  • We were a part of Sheffield’s Off The Shelf Festival with the 4th SFSF Social and hosted our very first Ask The Agent session with Amanda Rutter!
  • I appeared on Sheffield Live Radio and BBC Radio Sheffield –
  • Myself, Kevin Redfern, Hayley Orgill, Alex Bardy and Roy Grey successfully defended our team’s crown and reputation at the EdgeLit quiz, much to Alex Davis’s evident delight (sorry, Alex!)
  • I got invited to contribute to an anthology (Woodbridge Press – keep them peeled….)
  • It doesn’t signify anything, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the the suggestions list for the British Fantasy Awards next year (not self-nominated, I promise you!).
  • Fox Spirit Books published Junior Twilight Stock Replacer in the Fox Pockets anthology Things In The Dark – as the year started, so it ends!

Yeah, not much, huh? Typing it out makes me realise just how much I’ve tried to fit into the last year – and yes, I’m probably going to try to do the same again next year too. That’s me, diving in like a loon…

Somehow, I found time to read other people’s books this year, as well as all of the above. I’ve been a bit more consistent in logging them on Goodreads, so it doesn’t take long to discover that some of my absolute favourite reads from this year (though not necessarily published this year) were:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic, by VE Schwab
  • Guns of the Dawn, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • breedBreed, by KT Davies
  • Planesrunner, by Ian McDonald
  • The Stars Seem So Far Away, by Margrét Helgadóttir
  • All That Outer Space Allows, by Ian Sales
  • The Art of Forgetting: Nomad, by Joanne Hall
  • The Burning Land, by Victoria Strauss

And I heartily recommend them all to you if you haven’t already caught them.

Plans for 2016? Well, there’s TFL to finish, Socials to plan, and conventions to book, HKV to edit, and the next, long-delayed installment of Empire Dance to sort out. And conventions too – Edge-Lit and Fantasycon again, and perhaps Bristolcon again too. I hope to see you all out there somewhere – and may the road rise with you!

 

 

¹Also, obviously, wrong. But hey, smile and wave folks, smile and wave…

Bristolcon 2015: the Tigger-Bounce Post

Gosh, that was fun!

It’s tempting to leave it there and go catch up on my sleep before the day-job looms back into view, but that wouldn’t do justice to the weekend, so here goes.

It was a long and full weekend too – even though Bristolcon is a one-day event it’s far enough from Sheffield, and I’m aware enough of my own limitations, that it made sense to travel down on Friday and come back up on Sunday. The journey down involved a diversion through the Cotswolds to a market town That Time Forgot to pick up some books for fellow Grimmie Sophie E Tallis, and the scenery was stunning enough to make up for the final second-gear crawl along the M4 towards Bristol.

There’s an expanding Friday night programme at the con, and I wasn’t the only participant arriving early – my fellow panelists Rosie Oliver and Misa Buckley were on hand for introductions, and Paul Cornell dropped by the table for a chat about the Witches of Lychford and various matters Who-ish as well as a very animated discussion about fans, Q&A sessions, and the reactions of con guests with my old friend Tim (over for the evening from the other side of the Severn for a long-overdue catch-up).

Captive audience!

I did the first public reading from Heir To The North at the Open Mic event, though that was probably quite rightly overshadowed by Jo Walton’s fevered economies-of-Pokemon monologue and Cheryl Morgan’s Camelot slash-fic satire (should that be Satyr?). The room really wasn’t as empty as it looks at this point – everybody was sitting at the back…

Grimbold Books had a table in the dealers’ room this year, and there were several of us Grimmies on hand to keep the table running through the day, though Steven Guscott took most of the shifts on himself. Seeing a poster for Heir To The North behind the table kinda brought home just how close this whole launch thing is getting! Team Grimbold were also launching Joanne Hall’s Spark and Carousel at Bristolcon, which was a show-stopping event in the 2pm slot. Lights, scenery, music, wine and cake – and a stunning book to boot. Little wonder (and deservedly so!) that Jo sold out of copies shortly after 3pm.

I took the opportunity to speak to Juliet E McKenna about the forthcoming reissues (through Wizard’s Tower Press) of her Aldabreshin Compass quartet. I say speaking, mostly I was fanboying in delight while she showed me the fresh layouts for all four covers – hellfire, they look bloody good. If you buy them, WTP might even be able to commission prints of them, which would be awesome, so consider yourselves under orders right now.

L-R: Saunders-Stowe, Oliver, Powell, Buckley, Poore. Wormholes just out of shot.

That would have been the highlight of the day for me if it wasn’t for the fact that this year’s Bristolcon saw me on a panel for the first time. Quite why I thought I was an expert on FTL travel is a mystery even Mycroft Holmes can’t answer, but given the other panelists included SF author Dean Saunders-Stowe, mathematician, engineer and author Rosie Oliver, Whovian Misa Buckley, and Gareth L Powell (something about a steampunk monkey Spitfire pilot, I dunno, it’ll never catch on…) maybe they needed a bit of balance from an Epic Fantasist. 😛

Somewhat to my surprise, it all went rather well, which is a good thing as I’m scheduled for two panels at Sledge-Lit in Derby this November. Full details on that to come!

Like Tigger on crack, eventually I ran out of bounce and missed the closing announcement that next year’s Guests of Honour would include Ken McLeod and Sarah Pinborough. I had already decided to make a return trip, as Bristolcon has proved its reputation as one of the most fun and friendliest conventions around. The organisers and their team of indefatigable Minions deserve an ovation for their efforts. If that doesn’t convince you to come to Bristolcon next year, perhaps the fact that the Lego-themed Brick-Out room will also be there, as well as, hopefully, Emma Newman presiding over more yarn-a-thons, will encourage you.

Now it’s time to shake some dust into the air for next month’s SFSF Social, which will be followed closely by Fantasycon in Nottingham. If you haven’t already pre-ordered your copies of Heir to the North, or you’re waiting for the paperback links to pop up, rest assured these things are happening and all is on schedule. The South has had a damned good weekend, but The North Will Rise Again.