Journeys – preorder now!

Journeys by [Gwynne, John , Martin, Gail Z., Knight, Julia, Tchaikovsky, Adrian , Spink Mills, Juliana , Cooper, Jacob, McKenna, Juliet E., Poore, Steven , Pulsipher, Charlie, Ashura, Davis]I have a story, The Witness, in the new anthology from Woodbridge Press, Journeys (releasing 15th February). It’s a cracking tale of vengeance in a dying world, but it’s not the only reason you need to buy this book.

  • Adrian Tchaikovsky.
  • Juliet E McKenna.
  • Gail Z Martin.
  • John Gwynne.
  • Thaddeus White.
  • Julia Knight.

Those are even better reasons to preorder this book now. And the best reason of all?

  • 99p/99c.

Yes, 99p. DO IT NOW.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

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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… 🙂

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.

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.