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Graphics for the numpty (ie me)

Wow. This week’s been vitriolic, hasn’t it? Not going to comment here but it’s been enough to drive me (& others) offline for large chunks of the week. Everyone in the States, take care of yourselves and those around you. Turbulent times. I’m not going add to the firestorm, so am just continuing to post my usual nonsense on social media for those who need somewhere to escape to.

To be honest, I’ve been really grateful for the escape myself, and while the world is going slowly mad outside, I’ve retreated  to the castle at Lombria. The plot is developing nicely, and I get quite frustrated at having to stop writing at the end of my lunch hour. Just hit 30k words of book 3,so that’s coming on nicely (and as I’m using NaNoWriMo to keep myself motivated, it’s quite pleasing to be ahead of schedule). Just as well though – I’ve done nothing at all on it the past couple of days, today as I’ve been writing blogs and deleting them and writing them and deleting them. Yesterday I wasn’t blogging thought. Yesterday I was playing with my new find, courtesy of David Gaughran’s blog – namely, Canva.

What is Canva? Canva is a graphics website. It’s very easy to use and has accompanying apps for iphone and ipad though the functionality is reduced on each. Anyhow, having looked into the licensing, it turns out you can use it for ebook covers – it’s very cheap depending on how many different elements you use (fonts, background, photos etc) – either $1 per element for under 2000 copies, or $10 per element for more.

I’m not particularly clever with design programs as a general rule, but this one is easy to use, and easy to make quite nice-looking graphics with. I’m still just learning but already I’ve sorted out covers that I’ll probably use for the next two short stories I’m releasing – both Christmas stories, one funny, one a prequel to On Dark Shores.

You can find it at, and if you need graphics of any kind, it’s worth having a look there.

Anyhow. That’s it for me for tonight, not least as I have 1700 words to write before I go to bed…

Take care, people, and be kind.

All the best:


NaNoWriMo encore….

Right now I am sitting on the floor next to a table under which my dog is hiding from the fireworks, poor lad. He will settle and go to sleep if I’m here but if not he gets really anxious and goes on patrol. In fact, he far prefers it if OH and I are in the same room (collie herding instincts kicking in, we think) but he’ll settle for me sitting on the floor next to him, and I don’t mind, as he’s a love. I am, however, going to have to keep this short, as otherwise my legs will go to sleep and I’ll fall over when i do have to get up. Besides which, jerk chicken for tea (ALL THE NOMS!).

Anyhow. This year, as usual, I am hoping to take part in NaNoWriMo. My page, if you’re doing it, is here.The past three years being what they are, it didn’t go specially well, but so far this year I did manage to get far enough ahead to spend a weekend dog-wrangling without falling too far behind.

Every year there is a great discussion over whether it’s worth doing Wrimo or not, and I think it’s very much dependent on how you work. Last three years I’ve been too burnt out to relish the challenge, but mostly it appeals to my geekly side – I want to see that barchart advancing in a steady manner, dammit! And as always, even though what you get down is not going to be top quality, what first draft ever is? For me, it’s a good way to have a specific goal, and get down a chunk of words that I otherwise would not have done.

The other side of it, of course, is that everyone in my family knows that in November you’ll get no sense out of me at all because I’m doing Wrimo, so I can get away with prioritising my writing then in a way that doesn’t happen the rest of the year, because it’s a specific, measured challenge in a specific, limited amount of time. So though I try to set aside a chunk of time every day for writing that I can, the only time other considerations don’t really present themselves to impinge on that is during Wrimo. Very useful.

The novel I’m NaNoing is the third in the new series and as you see, it’s currently about 15k words. Stuff is getting sticky for the heroine, and back at the ranch (so to speak) it’s all going to kick off for the hero too, so exciting times…!

Meanwhile back IRL, I am working through edits on the sequel to Sprig of Holly, which will be called The Holly and the Ivy. I hope to have a cover done for it by Wesley Souza, the incredibly talented guy who did the cover for Sprig, which I totally love! So watch out for that, hopefully before Christmas (fingers crossed the edits are not too involved!)

And in the meantime, we are working on this year’s Christmas Lites — the anthology a pile of us do every year to raise funds for victims of domestic violence. All monies go straight into the coffers of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and if possible I might try to get some of the other authors to come and guest in the run up to that. So, y’know, busy busy.

But for now, enough! the fireworks have quietened, the dog has relaxed, I have severe pins and needles in my legs, and it’s time to put the oven on for my current favourite food ever. Then tea, a last circuit with the Luxury Lurcher, and an early night with the laptop to try and do a bit of catch-up on the NaNo count!

It’s all good…

Have an excellent week, peeps, and will catch you the other side…






Free ebook anyone?

While I remember:

Free copy of The Scarred Artisan if anyone wants one?
You sign up to the mailing list to get it but can always unsubscribe later- there’s a link at the bottom of any email that gets sent out.

Please note, this is one of the shorts from Song of the Ice Lord so if you’ve read that, you’ve probably already got this!

in which case try The Black-Eyed Susan free here:

Oh! Hello.

Let me just shift these tumbleweeds out of the way, I’m sure there used to be a blog here somewhere.

Aha! Here we go… Lord, it’s a bit dusty isn’t it? Pass me that duster will you?

There, that’s better.

Give me a moment and I’ll crank up the generator… See the lights flicker – orange, yellow, white and we’re on! 
Wow. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? We’ve been in the Great Blog Void and fingers crossed, we may be just getting across to the other side. Let’s see, when was the last time I put something up on here…? About a year back I think. Rude!

But it’s been a hell of a year.

So. I won’t go through the list of joys and woes which have made the last 12 months what they have been but the main points (in chronological order) include: adopting an elderly lurcher in October 2015, who has been a constant source of joy, irritation and laughter, and whose arrival was accompanied by that of a small colony of (empty!) poo bags which have invaded the pockets of every garment I possess. Said lurcher is very beautiful and has his own fanclub in the village, so we are now known as the dog’s owners in much the same way as members of a star’s entourage; basically, we just hold the lead. Bless him. He’s thirteen in April, which is quite old for a lurcher, but thinks he is a puppy still. Given how beautiful he is now, I suspect he was unbearably cute as a pup. My lovely dog….

On a much less happy note, cancer. There was already a family member undergoing treatment (with a good outcome, fortunately) when my Dad who had Parkinsons was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That was at Christmas; it took him very suddenly at Easter. So that called a stop to pretty much everything for a while, and it really wasn’t kind that two weeks after he died, my mum lost her little cat, which slept on her bed every night, or that shortly after my sister’s much beloved dog had to be put down, both due to malign growths. (I don’t know why there is so much cancer about this year; other friends have also been lost to cancer, including the lovely Katy Sozaeva, whose encouragement right at the beginning of my writing career kept me going in a time of doubt.)

But, by necessity, once the funeral was over we had to get going again, as our wedding was at the end of July, which kept my mum and the rest of us busy just at that weird point where everything’s done and the madness is over and all that is left is the empty chair and the quiet.

The wedding had been designed with the idea of not stressing my Dad out, so it was just the two immediate families in a pub on the moors, followed by roast beef sarnies in a yurt outside the house, and live music by a very talented friend (as well as my sister, a kazoo, the lurcher who apparently knows how to bark in time, etc). I came in to “Bring me Sunshine” by Morecambe and Wise, wearing black jeans, a black and silver corset and a purple coat my mum made from a pattern called “Pirate Queen”, which will tickle anyone who knows about my lifelong penchant for pirates (and I may use that phrase as a title at some point now I’ve invented it). She even put pockets in it. My wedding dress had pockets!! I was very pleased about that. I hate not having pockets.

My mum also made some tremendous glimmering blue brocade waistcoats for the blokes, and my new husband looked splendid; channelling his inner pirate, clearly, though that was just incidental. In a surprise move, my mum even made a waistcoat for the dog who, when we put it on for a photo, seemed completely content and wandered off to steal (another) beef sarnie without waiting for us to take it off him again. My sister did the flowers, which were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. 

The bridesmaids, who had chosen their own dresses, all chose white in different styles, and all looked very stylish and very much themselves. The yurt was magical! We loved the yurt. The weather was mizzlish, but this is Yorkshire, and it does mizzle with style – besides which a dull sky actually suits the photos better – it makes all the people look really vivid and there are so many smiles that each photo is pretty sunny in any case.  I don’t tend to put up pics of friends or family for reasons of privacy but here’s one of me having been persuaded to channel my inner Mary Poppins. Spit spot!

 (The photographer was Richard Edwards who is extremely good, btw)

Apart from the missing family members, it was two shades better than I had hoped in pretty much every aspect you could think of. We sang “The Wild Rover” for my Dad, laughed and cried, often at the same time, had splendid local food and drink (ok, mostly, the wine was from Hampshire and the bubbly came from Cornwall), sang and chattered. All the olds got caught up in a vicious competition to see who could blow the biggest bubble (there were bubbles instead of confetti) and in most of the photos, someone appears to be laughing their head off. In any case, I enjoyed every moment of it. It was *such* fun – and about perfect.

Then, after that, newlywed life kicked in which as far as I can tell is very much like normal life but when absolutely nothing has got done in the house for about five months. The washing was tremendous and the garden had gone mad. The bathroom doorhandle fell off, the kitchen light stopped working and the downpipe for the rainbarrel was hanging in place apparently only because of the spiderwebs around it, though the same spiders had seen fit to make a massive web of the entire inside of the lean-to where I keep flowerpots and gardening gloves, so I had to fight my way in in with a crystal containing the light of Earendil in order to retrieve the trowel, which Shelob had taken a fancy to.  I went back to work and discovered my inbox, which usually holds about 85 items, had hit 1600 in my absence, and started to wonder whether I shouldn’t go back and have another chat with Shelob about that there gardening fork…! And then we ran out of teabags at a critical point (nooooooo!). 

So, a bit of elbow grease and we’re coming up to date on all of the above… but in the meantime, what of the damn books, which is why we’re here?

Weeelllllllll. Now it gets complex.

Last time you looked I was writing Mother, right? Well, my editor said it would be better if I cut the backstory. So I did, but it was about 15k words I was cutting, so I figured I’d release it as a short. So I rounded it off, but that meant doing a few explanatory bits. So when it hit 45k words I sent it back to the editor in question, who came back and said “How does Suze come in?” 

Damndamndamn. That little 5 word question would then require about a 45k word answer. So in it went, but then the chronology was all wrong, so I changed it, but then it was all wrong the other way, and this isn’t even the right damned book!! But it made sense to get the prequel right before going onto the sequel in case something significant went in that would cause repercussions later. I kid you not, that damn book (now called Flight from Shantar) has been over a year in the editing, and it got to the point where I couldn’t even see it any more. The one bright spot was when I got a bit click-happy with spellcheck and changed every instance of the word “Shantar” in the novel Flight from Shantar to “SHATNER”!!!… Thank goodness for the Undo button! (Though I still haven’t given up entirely on Flight from SHATNER!! – you *know* it would sell and sell…..!) 

Anyhow, it was all a bit irrelevant in any case, as I was too burnt out for anything in the first half of the year, and too busy sorting out Dad’s paperwork for my Mum. Once I’d got a bit of mojo back after that I went on a reading binge instead, which is always salutary… and then, come the beginning of July, just as the wedding stuff was really hotting up, I dreamed this great character, and it was a bit compulsive. I couldn’t get him and his heroine out of my head and there was stuff to be done, so I figured it was time to make some notes and just download the bugger. 

BUT these characters are arsey and not inclined to play nicely. 

Some notes! Yeah right, in the same sense as a map with a scale of 1:1. 

So by the end of August, these “notes” had taken the form of a 110k word book. At the time of writing, I’m 120k into book 2 and books 3 & 4 are all mapped out. As soon as I get to a sensible stopping place, I’m putting Flight back together and sending it to the editors (with the hope that fresh eyes will be able to sort out the chronology more easily than I can), so with a bit of luck that won’t need too much in the way of rewrites and might be out in early 2017. The new Christmas Lites anthology is due in December. I have a short story (currently 10k) in editing which is a sequel to Sprig of Holly, and when all that is put to bed, Mother of the Shantar is already 85k done, (Shatner, heheheheh) and ready to start culling characters!

Man, if I didn’t already have a fulltime job I would be adequately provided with writing hours just from this lot!!

So yes, as far as you lot are concerned, I’ve been off the radar for a rather long time with little enough to show on the actual publications page but a short story in last year’s Christmas Lites anthology (though I did help design the cover, which I totally love). But I haven’t let the writing drop – ohhhh nooooo – and I’m hoping the next 18 months or so should bring you the occasional release to remind you who I am.

We’ll see, eh?

Anyhow, there may be a couple of cover reveals and other interesting news brewing in the meantime, but that all very much tbc…

The new lot though, the new lot is looking interesting and this time I’m playing with the somewhat random idea of writing the entire thing before I release any of it, so that in theory you’ll be able to read the entire story arc from start to finish with only a couple of weeks’ wait from one book to the next. If anyone has any thoughts about that, I’d be really interested to hear them. Might be a good plan, might be stupid – no idea at the moment.

Just wait till you meet the Wolf and Lyse, though!!

I think you’re going to like them…. 

Till later:


Morning peeps!

And here is a particularly splendid post for you all to enjoy. As you know, I have a short story named “A Sprig of Holly”. It was written for the first Christmas Lites charity anthology back in 2012, a sweet little adventure / romance written in the style of a Scandinavian folk tale (way, way before Frozen made it trendy. Afterwards I released it as a freebie with the hopes of spreading the word about the anthology a bit – all four of the current Christmas Lites anthologies are written in support of the NCADV, the American National Coalition against Domestic Violence.

Now as it was only an ebook, I bodged a cover until such time as I could get a decent one done, and that bodged cover was this:

(you may laugh, now I’ve got a better one). Sprig of holly bodge cover


But despite this non-splendidness, this little story has grown and grown in popularity until it has become the most frequently-downloaded text I’ve uploaded.

Now for a while I have been playing with the idea of doing a couple of  illuminated copies of some of the more fairytale of my stories, and I’ve been looking for a decent artist who might be able to do the illustrations. Someone suggested I should go and look on deviantart and I have to say, there are a lot of talented people on there. One of these is Wesley Souza, and he agreed to do an ebook cover for Sprig. Now, the development of this cover has been really interesting and I totally love the end result, so come with me on a journey through time and space (or at least through the last week or so) and let me show you just how talented an artist I have accidentally found.

So this is what we started with. I described Greta, a girl who lives with her grandfather in a cabin in the mountains, and the snowmaiden, a  figure that Greta carves from snow. We looked at a few varied possibilities for Greta, but this was the best and the most striking visually. The blue lady behind had the right kind of remoteness for the snowmaiden.


This settled, Wesley began to work his magic. First he put them on the right kind of background, a snowy mountain landscape.

IMG_1119Then he put in a sunrise behind the mountain…


After that he did some work on Greta’s hair….


Followed by the snowmaid’s hair, and Greta’s sprig of holly…..

After that, look at the details of the trees in front of the snowmaid’s skirt…

IMG_1123And then the snowmaid’s body, as of course she is made of snow (and I love the details of  the frost-patterns on her arms and face).

Finally we discussed font; placement, choice of styles, and colour. We played about a bit until it was right, and he added the sparkles, just to make it more magical. So are you ready? Because here is my gorgeous new cover, for your delectation:




For anyone who’d like to read more, it’s free at Smashwords and should be at Amazon here: .

Also, go check out the rest of Wesley’s stuff at Deviantart here:  as it’s pretty exceptional!

So what do you think, peeps? Better than my homegrown effort, no?



Happy Easter all!

and to celebrate I’ll let you in on a secret – I have a bit of light reading for the train:


Then some pretty heavy edits and rewriting I think but even so, progress is progress, no?

Still need to work out whether to repackage and renumber as ODS -1 or just release as one of Parallels but then book 3 is also reaching a point where I have solved the knotty bit and should be able to get on with the next bit. 

I figure, get the text all sorted on this one for the moment, & see what proportion of bk 3’s current total of 120k words needs to be rewritten, and take it from there.

Anyone has thoughts on this, I’m listening…

Anyhow. Enjoy Easter, do some quality chilling on the Bank Holidays, and if you haven’t already signed up for the mailing list, the link is on the top right of my blog…

Have a great one, peeps!


The first breaktime of my first day at secondary school, I was a girl with a mission. The class I had just been in was in a room by the library, and there was investigation to be done.

I went into the library and did a circuit, mapping it out. I found the found the Fantasy section, full of names and titles and pictures of swords and dragons and pirates… and this thinnish green spine with the words “The Wyrd Sisters” on it. The what sisters? I pulled it out to see if the blurb would give me a clue. It sounded a lot like the Macbeth story out of my comic-book Shakespeare and I liked the name Granny Weatherwax, so I opened it to see what it was like. A few minutes later, I hooked a chair towards me with one foot and sat down to read, with a feeling of having come home…

Until secondary school, I found the school library a bit frustrating. At my primary school if you wanted Nancy Drew or Mallory Towers you had a really wide choice, but there was virtually nothing in there for me but a few of Ruth Mannings Sanders’ excellent collections.There wasn’t even any decent adventure stuff and  I didn’t see why I should read girl’s books just because I was a girl. I wanted adventure and dragons and swordfights and pirates.Sweet Valley High was never going to cut it. As the teacher pointed out there was baby versions of fairy tales or girls talking about makeup and boys, and that was a pretty clear choice wasn’t it? Of course it was. I went for the fairy tales, or at least the ones with good pictures.

At the time, that was pretty much it for kids. Fantasy wasn’t really very fashionable. However, one of my sisters is ten years older than me and being a horribly precocious reader,  I’d raided her bookshelves for interesting-looking titles such as Lord of the Rings and Anne McCaffrey so I knew there were some really good fantasy books – but sadly, they were out there, not in my primary school.

When I hit secondary school (about age ten), I headed straight up to the library. The entire Science Fiction and Fantasy section was two and a half shelves long – but in terms of seedcorn, it was pure magic. There was everything from Azimov to Zelazny and a whole load more. I found there one or two books each by names that would then send me down to the town library, the bookshop and even (when it got to us in the back of beyond) the internet. Anne McCaffrey was there, a couple of Andre Norton’s sci-fi and the first book of the Witch World series, Arthur C Clarke, a whole section of anthologies by then little-known authors such as Julian May and Diana Wynne Jones. Not only were there interesting books, but some stuff by women, which meant that the girls in the stories weren’t all pointless and fluttery and were far more inclined to hit the bad guy with a chair (or sword) when threatened than they were to weep, faint or call helplessly for the hero. The world opened up before me and it was full of dragons, and pirates and sword fighting – heady stuff!This was, moreover, much more the way stories should be. I was hooked.

So I read voraciously, omnivorously, and quite often, all night. The high point of my year was waiting for the new Pratchett to come out, and I read and re-read the others, finding new jokes with each reread, as my knowledge of the rest of the world of literature increased.  I loved Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax and have never decided which of the two I identify with more, or wanted to indentify with more. I enjoyed the sillier books and in particular liked Death as a character (and felt a bit affectionately sorry for him). The wizards made me laugh. The Patrician is a particular favourite. So many characters to savour… It took me three books’ worth of accidental all-nighters to work out that Pratchett doesn’t even use chapters so just reading to the end of the chapter is never going to work…

Over and above the firings of his imagination, Pratchett’s attention to phrasing and careful sculpting of words have always been a source of pleasure. In his latter years, I admired the way he could take an issue from the real world and parallel it in his own in such a way that it was gripping and thought-provoking. It left you thinking about the issue without ever feeling preached at, and that’s a skill in itself. Furthermore, his timing was impeccable; not only his comic timing but his feel for when to change direction.

Somewhere about the sixteenth or seventeenth book I started to wonder if Pratchett had “done” humour. I read and enjoyed the book, but it seemed to be missing the exuberance of some of the earlier ones. I was still going to continue reading his stuff of course, but I do remember thinking that it would be sad if he had got bored, because the reader can always tell. And then as if he had read my mind, he brought out Guards! Guards! and the whole tone was different. There was still the city and the world we knew and loved, and the whole architecture of the Discworld, but this was darker and more dangerous. People got killed and things mattered and there were consequences. This was not the “light fantastic” we had grown to expect from Pratchett! Oh no – this was something much more gripping, and it took his writing up to the next level. I loved it.

Of course, Sam Vimes is a character very dear to my heart. He goes through the world trying to do the right thing in a world where almost everything else is trying to make him do what is easy and a little more…grey. But Sam Vimes is bloody-minded enough – and honest enough – to persist in the face of  opposition, to keep looking for the truth when it would be so much easier to stop asking questions and accept the facile lies. Sam Vimes, in fact, acknowledges and accepts the darker half of himself, and uses it to power that part of him that struggles towards what is right.

And he wins. Unlike anything in real life, the world parts to let him through. And that is a fiction I very much want to believe.

I have to say, though, I’m impressed and touched by the response to the news of his death. People around the world have written about what his books mean to them, of course, and he has had an immense effect; but what is striking to me as a writer is the sheer number of people who have stories about emailing Terry and getting useful advice back, even when he was incredibly famous. The footprints he left are larger than just his books; as an author he seems to have extended a helping hand to many, many less famous writers, and that is a little legacy in its own right. Such a talented man; such a loss to literature as well as readers across the world. He touched a lot of lives.

So; goodbye and thanks, Terry. Your world-building and characters led me along the path to telling my own stories, and the thought that my book will sit on the same shelf as yours in that little school library is frankly thrilling. We will miss you, but at least you have not left us alone. I for one will be seeking solace in the company of Granny Weatherwax, the Librarian, Sam Vimes and other old friends to whom you introduced me.

Perhaps we’ll have a drink. Perhaps we’ll play Cripple Mr Onion. Almost certainly Nanny Ogg will get up on the table to sing ” The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All”. And although we were not there, I hope you will not mind if we wear the lilac, in memory of a man without whom the world is a slightly poorer place.




Basket of lilac: Copyright serezniy

Single lilac flower:Copyright Oleksii Mikhieienko

So. Anyone who’s been paying attention to this blog (& is still here) will know I went to Loncon in August, and haven’t had much to say since. Some of the time since then has been spent in the writing cave, but mostly I concentrated on sorting out the real-world stuff for a while. However, I’ve been writing this blog about LonCon ever since.

As it goes on forever, here is the TL:DR


….So fantastic you will get higher than a kid on ALL the Haribo. You meet fascinating fans, authors, artists, publishers, translators, cosplay specialists, all sorts of people. It’s like a massive hub of goodwill and creativity all spiralling into critical mass of AWESOME!

And then it all ends. It’s back to real life, like Dorothy leaving Oz and going back into black and white. Concrash attacks with vicious teeth, and it takes a while to get back to normal. Then in the harsh glare of daylight you sit down and work out what you gained and what it cost you –  and of course, when you can next reasonably justify going again.

So there you go. If you feel inclined, jump to the learning points at the end and add anything I missed – or, if you want a bit more detail (er, a lot more detail!) read on…


Recently I have come to the conclusion that there is one major downside to spending your entire childhood up a tree reading (well, two if you’re including splinters) and this is that there were a whole load of excellent things going on in the real world that I missed out on. Namely, conventions… Whole conventions, full of people who liked the same books as I did! I vaguely knew they had that sort of thing for Star Trek in America but everything always happens in America and I was never going to be able to afford to go there, so I didn’t look any further. Yup.

< facepalm >

It wasn’t until  June that I came across the notion that not only were there conventions in the UK, but the WorldCon was actually going to be in London in the August! Well, that pretty much blew my excuses out of the water. Expense or not, if the WorldCon comes to you, as a fantasy author it seems a bit of a lost opportunity not to go and have a look at least.

So, World Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention came to the UK, and being the third time it has been in London, it was called Loncon 3.

Loncon. 'Nuff said.

Loncon. ‘Nuff said..

There’s loads on the Loncon website about Loncon, so there’s not much point me repeating it, but it’s well worth a look when you’ve finished here, especially for the programme which was amazing.

I volunteered to take part – when I did a bit of reading up, it said that was quite a good way to meet people, but the site said that they were pretty much covered so I was expecting to end up giving out leaflets or something. I was quite pleased to be asked to do the two panels, and frankly a bit baffled to be asked to do a signing. I figured there would be a dark little backroom to hide the dirty self-pubbers in but then I looked it up and discovered that the other people in the room at the same time were: Peter V Brett, Christopher Priest, and John Norman (yes, he of the Gor books) and then Jenn R Johannson of FSG Macmillan, Mike Shevdon of Angry Robot and …er… me. So of course it all became clear. The space was limited, the fans for the big names would be numerous – what they needed from me was someone who could take up a table but not crowd the room any more. Sorted! That I could do, and I figured, it could be that I could give some free stuff to all the fans as they came past. Bonus!

Because it was all a bit last minute, most of my prep ended up happening at 2am on worknights in the fortnight before the Con. Did this lead to some dubious decisions? Er… some. But mostly it came out okay. I designed business cards and a vinyl banner I’m pretty pleased with, bought a posh dress, watched both the Hunger Games films for the adaptations panel, read books by some of the people I was on panels with, and ordered jellybeans in tiny bags for the signing. Then I printed out little labels on with QR codes which I love and virtually no-one else seems to  use (Why? Why? So convenient!) for the ebook and vouchercodes I was going to give away, and spent a happy evening watching Galaxy Quest (again) and stickering my jellybeans ( not a euphemism).

Now, I commute into London quite regularly and was hoping not to spend too much, so I hadn’t booked a hotel. In retrospect this was a silly idea as I spent about 5 hours of each day on the train, was horrifically short of sleep all week and missed anything that happened later than about 9pm. This includes ALL the parties! Duh!

So first learning point: don’t try to commute.

On the Wednesday night after work I ventured over to Excel, sussed the place out and picked up my badge. Went via the boat and the cablecar, which I hadn’t previously been on. The journey was not the quickest and was a bit pricey, but what a way to see London! You should definitely do it. It was really quick and easy to pick the pass up and the following morning I knew I’d made the correct decision when I saw the Twitter feed which was full of the queues…40 mins earlier on, and later it was longer. Then home for the remainder of my last-minute prep. Business cards! Bookmarks! Banner! A whole bag full of paraphernalia, and I was prepared for all circumstances.
Thurs –

On Thursday I accidentally missed the opening ceremony, so went for a wander to get an idea of where things were before the main crowd turned up. After a general circuit and fact finding, it all seemed a bit empty, but I knew there was loads of interesting panels on so went to find a coffee and looked through the booklet with a pen to hightlight the ones I wanted to see. Sadly this turned out to be most of them and in any case, lots that were all on at the same time. Damn! SO much good stuff, all on at once!

I had just missed the start of one, so went back into the exhibit hall to kill an hour before the next. Stalls were being assembled there: I did a circuit, and by the time I got back to the beginning, there were a few more stalls up that had not been there before, so I went round again. And then more meant another circuit… I went round about sixteen times in the end! Sadly, I had missed the next couple of panels due to being distracted by shiny things (links in previous post) so went to chat to some strangers, saw some more shiny things and basically missed a whole load more. Damn.

I didn’t want to stop there too late that first day, but lurked around on Twitter a bit. This  turned out to be a great way to enhance the experience, as lots of the panels I didn’t get to were live-Tweeted, andall sorts of  people put up photos and subsequently blogs. Great stuff!

Came across a tweet from an editor who wanted to chat to authors and agreed to meet up with Abigail (Bothersome Words) to discuss role of editor in publishing from a self-published perspective (spoiler: for me, VITAL! I have two). Meandered home earlyish, ready to prep for signing and panel tomorrow.

Fri –

 Signing, Panel – Fake Science.

Signing in Exhibition hall was with: Jenn R Johansson, Mike Shevdon, Adam Christopher, Maurizio Manzieri, Christopher Guest (he of The Illusionist fame), John Norman (miscellanea Of Gor) and… Peter V Brett. Well that was only ever going to go one way. Three established famous authors, a famous artist, three up and coming trad-pubbers… and me, with a grand total of 2 self-published books. Bless.  I got my books on display and a hundred packs of labelled jellybeans and arranged the table nicely.

As expected, three queues formed, none for me. But on Thurs I had seen a load of authors sat in a queue-free environment looking cross and unapproachable, so I figured best thing to do was have a talk and laugh with the other authors around me; on one side it was Jenn Johansson, who had some really cool badges to give out, and on the other Mike Shevdon whose book The Sixty-One Nails I was reading (& enjoying) at the time. Anyhow, it was good to chat with them and pretty much what I expected, so at least I wasn’t too dismayed by that. At the end I went and put the leftover freebies on the table and ten minutes later they were gone! Clearly, with it being away from the main stalls and cordoned off, it was a bit daunting for random passers-by, and in truth I signed more copies at my own table later than I did during the signing session.

Went for a wander later – managed to miss meeting with Abigail again but caught a great panel on pseudonyms with Robin Hobb and  Seanan Maguire  and some others. Bella Pagan was entertaining and quite establishment, Seanan Maguire came across as no-nonsense and anarchic, Robin Hobb was softly-spoken and thoughtful. All agreed you can write different things under different names and you generally know which pseudonym goes with what you are writing. There was differences of opinion over whether subjects are still gendered, and a really interesting discussion about how you come up with a pseudonym and the fact that the name defines the character just as much for the auithor-name as for the character-name.

My panel was at 3pm, and was the Fake Science one with Paul Cornell, Dr Victoria Herridge and Andy Sawyer which was great fun. I had been boning up on  hoaxes and fakes, and had a few ready to discuss, and Victoria Herridge had a wealth of  conversation as she works in the Natural History Museum, while Paul Cornell was there with his Fortean hat on and Andy Sawyer kept us all playing nicely.

Victoria Herridge was in the panel about Dwarf Mammoths immediately before ours (another clash, regrettably, as it sounds to have beem a bit of a high point); in fact a lot of her audience came across to Fake Science. Add that to the popularity of Paul Cornell at several of his panels and the room was full, which was a nice way to start.

Conversation ranged from pranks and hoaxes to the really serious fakes, their consequences and the possible motivations behind them – joke, pressure, deception, malicious spite. There was so much to say that we didn’t cover the half of it, but it was a good rollicking conversation with a fairly engaged audience.  Topics discussed included: the Fiji mermaid, Roswell, crop circles, sad side of Piltdown man, responsibility of science, monetary  issues, Lary Niven’s Ringworld and Engineers of Ringworld being motivated by a group of high-school kids, duckbilled platypus, sightings of the Wright brothers plane as fakes, rhinogrades, dropbears and jackelopes. We discussed whether the role of science as a god-replacement in a non-religious world means that fake results = sin, and whether the pressure to find new discoveries leads to less flashy but equally valid results being overlooked or not developed.  Paul pointed out that science wants replicability and won’t look at individual sets of results as non-representative. Forteans argue extraordinary claims should not need extraordinary proof, just ordinary levels of proof, but science disagrees.

Eventually we ran out of time, but it was a highly enjoyable, rollicking discussion with some good points from the audience, and everyone seemed to have a good time. Having finished the panel and a few post-panel chats with audience members, I gravitated naturally back to the exhibit hall, where I did a few more circuits of the stalls and then paused at the Banned Underground banner to chatting with Will MacMillan, author of the same (Tolkien meets Spinal Tap, apparently – and yes they are on the TBR list now), along with sci-fi author Jim Webster, and then finally met up with Abigail for a good old gossip about the role of editors, writers’ expectations from publishing, expected vs actual differences between trad and indie publishing, and then onto all sorts of goss.

Lastly, although I was starting to flag a little, I went to the Newbies’ meet in the evening, which I had read was the one thing you should go to. In fact I would add a proviso: it’s the one thing you should go to if you don’t naturally feel like chatting to strangers and do need introducing. Given that I had been doing little else than talking to strangers all day, I didn’t necessarily feel the need for help of that kind! However, there were other people there who were less confident (less gobby, if you’re not feeling charitable!) so I chatted to as many of them as I could reach,  introduced a load of people to each other and sidled out at 10, shattered. Got the  11.35 train, getting home around 1am to have dinnger and sort out paraphernalia. Late night…



On Saturday my long-time cyberfriend MTMaguire, author of the K’Barthan trilogy came out to play. This was particularly pleasing as I’ve never met her in the flesh before. She knows Jim and Will well, so much banter was flying back and forth. I was delayed on the trains as the Jubilee line went into meltdown, so by the time I got there, MTM had set up shop on corner of Gollancz stall with bookmarks and freebies; I joined her there and it was SUCH fun! The stall on the other side of us was a small press by the name of  Inspired Quills,  along with several of their authors. They are a friendly lot and there was much banter between us all – and much petting of MTM’s tribble. Turns out, quite a lot of people will stop if you let them pet your tribble (er… this is not a euphemism either…!).

Patrick Rothfuss spent a couple of hours at the next stall along, and was very goodnatured and highly delighted to get his picture taken with fans  dressed as characters from his book. More books to add to the TBR list…

Sadly, MTM had to leave while the night was yet young.  I continued on the stall for a bit. I have to say, I totally loved manning the stall. There were so many interesting people there to watch and to chat to. I really enjoyed the panel… but I did get rather addicted to having the stall. At six the Exhibition Hall shut, and we left.  A swift coffee and something of a snackish variety, and I headed home to sort out my things for Sunday.


Sun   Panel – Adaptations

Sunday was a bit strenuous, but still good fun. I made a really early start from home in order to get in on time, along with a draggy bag of books, banner and all the relevant paraphernalia. I set up on the stall and basically spent the day hailing passersby- notable characters included Pam, Daniel and Adora; Stephenie from Netherlands, Stephen and Barbara from Italy, a pirate from UK who said he wouldn’t have a freebie as he only bought from small presses and only pirated big publishers.

Sara from Inspired Quills suggested marketing my latest book “Song  of the Ice Lord” for the LTBG community – I had not thought of that. We had a really interesting discussion about books involving alternative sexualities, as she pointed out that if ever a book features someone who is homosexual, asexual, demisexual, transgender or any of the other variants, that as a general rule the alternative sexuality becomes the point of the story. In “Song” there is a subplot about a man who falls for another man, but that is mostly incidental to the main story (the war they are fighting).

I also met Gingerlily and Caspian who I had chatted to on email in a previous incarnation, and who was  now launching his book. Cool stuff!

Panel on adaptations with Paul Saxon Bullock, Jonjo, Carrie Vaughan, who, it turned out, is good friends with someone I went to University with, who was also there doing a maths talk.  I’d say this was random, but Professor Nick would quite possibly be able to disprove this and calculate the exact probability so may be best to leave that joke alone….

The panel covered such points as the fact that different media have different strengths and do different things well. We agreed that abridged versions are bad, and that getting an adaptation slightly wrong is worse than totally changing it beyond all recognition (though obviously ‘slightly wrong’ is always going to be quite subjective). In any case it does cause us outrage when a character in an adaptation does things the character in the original work wouldn’t have done. We asked the audience for their best or worst examples of this, and had a highly enjoyable fifteen mins back-and-forth on the following:

Hunger Games – a mixed bag though reminiscent of Battle Royale. The books become increasingly cynical and downbeat. In the films the use of colour and design is fabulous to look at and really emphasised the differentness of Capital vs districts. Will they fix the ending? Most of us hoped so!

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hamma Kavula was not a popular addition though most admitted the character was well-played. There was some grumbling about how they’d changed the story but it was pointed out that the book is an adaptation of the radio play by Douglas Adams in the first place, so is not necessarily the source material. All agreed that when they announce an adaptation of your favourite story, the first reaction of excitement is closely followed by gloom at the possibility of disaster…!

Tolkien films –Lord of the Rings was fairly faithfully done and the changes seemed true to the spirit of the story but Hobbit was much more ambivalently viewed because of all the added backstory – is it still cheating if you’re adding from Tolkien’s own mythology? No conclusion was reached.


On Monday I had nothing much planned so turned up early and chatted with passersby all day. No Will and Jim sadly! Pam, Daniel and Adora came past and Pam blagged a bag from Gollancz, which made me laugh. I had a wonderful day chatting to anyone who stopped. I also had the enormous good fortune to meet the lovely Robin Hobb.

A few years ago I introduced my mother to the Assassin trilogy and she’s been a big fan ever since. As it was coming up to her 75th birthday, I told her I would get the latest Hobb for her – but did not necessarily mention that if I possibly could, I’d get it signed. I couldn’t get to the signing session but bought my copy and had it ready to hand just on the off-chance – and I was lucky enough to catch Ms Hobb as she passed the table. She very kindly stopped to sign the book and wrote a lovely inscription which made my mum squee like a fangirl later, so that was really nice of her.

After lunch, however, everything started to go quiet. A lot of the stalls did not attend on the Monday anyhow, and many of the others started to shut down around 2 or 3pm. I shut down the stall early-ish with the intention of attending the closing ceremony  but foolishly stopped to sit down for ten minutes. Of course, I suddenly realised how tired I was and that if I went into the closing ceremony I’d only sleep through it anyway. Plan B, then: I grabbed some food  in the fan village and staggered off home to fall in a heap and consider the prospect of work tomorrow and the 0455 alarm call….

So, that was LonCon. It was  SUCH Fun.   I absolutely loved it and for the space of two days I was Googling every other Convention I might reasonably get to: but then came post-con-crash, and it wasn’t pretty. Also, it ate all my writing mojo for an unfeasibly large amount of time, and I can’t really afford that.

I have now come to the conclusion that I probably shouldn’t go to any more cons for a couple of years.  I just haven’t got enough books on the shelf to justify that sort of expenditure (in money, time and energy).   I’m not far enough along the path for it to make sense.  On the other hand, when I have half a dozen books out, I’ll ease back into it by taking a table in the dealer’s room for a day at one of the other more local events. I suspect fitting thatlevel of involvement in with real life will be much more sensible.

I don’t regret going though, not a minute of it, and if I could kick over the day job tomorrow I’d be at every convention I could reach. I had such fun, met some amazing people, and learned a whole load of things. What things? Well, in no particular order:

I should read Lovecraft if I don’t want to be eaten, apparently.

I should have gone in costume on one of my non-authorial days.

I love having the stall and chatting to people!

SF&F is under-represented in Dutch, Israel, New Zealand and Italy, most home-grown authors writing in English in order to have a market. Looking into translations for some of these markets.

Good coffee is hard to find in the Excel centre.

Clean toilets with no queues make a surprising difference to the experience. The Excel staff were lovely and kept the place excruciatingly clean.

I love meeting cyber-friends.

I love publishing and talking about publishing.

I need to write more books!!

Robin Hobb is lovely, very gracious.

Patrick Rothfuss was really good with his fans.

George RR Martin has a LOT of lookalikes in the fan communities.

I SO SHOULD HAVE TAKEN PHOTOS!! Having a camera on the phone and one in my bag with extra batteries is of no help whatsoever if you DON’T TAKE THE DAMN PHOTOS.

There are lots of cool people at cons (also,  a surprisingly high occurrence of kilts).

I can do a whole day on an outsized bowl of porridge and a lot of coffee.

Next time, will get a hotel so I can go to some parties. Or write, either is good.

I love panels. Next time I should go to more panels.

I love having a dealer table. Next time I will get help to cover the table so I can go to more panels.

Fans! Didn’t meet any of mine, obv (there’s time yet) but fans are very cool.

Notes / blogs. Make notes at the end of each day. I’ve forgotten loads of cool stuff.

Twitter is splendidly useful for cons. Got loads more info from Twitter.

Con app was very good – lots of info and updates.

I did collect cards and mail people after, which was cool as managed to meet up post-con with a friend I didn’t even know was there, who it turns out was meeting another cyber-friend I didn’t know she knew. Random!

Comfy shoes a must, and assorted ones. My trainers gave me blisters so I changed to horrifically ugly but comfy ones which were very good indeed. Heels for the signing, then took them off immediately after. This is something to consider when constructing costumes.

Pre-panel green room chats – a good opportunity to chat through and plan but also to meet people and put faces to names.

I WANT TO DO MORE CONS! I can’t afford to do any more cons yet but soon as I have the books and can afford the time and energy, I’ll be right back.

Reading books by people on your panel – a great way to find other cool books. Still working through the LonCon section of my TBR list. Have read three Patrick Rothfuss books now, and loved them. Bought a copy of the first one for my mum for Christmas. Word of mouth is powerful, and cons are good for spreading it.

All told, I did love Worldcon and am looking forward to checking out some of the smaller UK ones; but to justify the cost in time, money and energy, I think I need to put it on hold until I have a few more books out.

Which said, I guess I’d better go write a few more, eh?

Though obviously if any of you have a favourite convention, or good convention tips or just want to gossip about Conventions I Have Known, hit the comments. I’m open to persuasion, gossip and further learning points!

Catch you later, peeps:


Hi all:

Just starting the sorting and tidying of the post-Loncon detritus, and while I’m working up to the full report, I thought I’d give you a quick list of links to be going on with. The dealer’s hall was an Aladdin’s cave of cool stuff, and on the Thursday I ended up walking round it about sixteen times, as every time I finished a circuit they’d put some more stalls up when I got there again!

I wanted to buy  SO much stuff: virtuously didn’t, and in all honesty the only thing I really regret is not buying the fab pic of the ferrets pulling the Celtic knots to pieces from Sophie Klesen(?) which I shall link to later, but then it was more money than I really could afford so probably for the best.

Anyhow. Take a look at these, and appreciate the splendidness!

Art – the most beautiful, luminous art. I wanted to buy all of it but sadly it’s a bit out of my pocket! Go and admire though – they are fab. – this is where you can find all the various links for the Sophie Klesen whose fabulous mediaeval stuff is really gorgeous. In real life it’s dripping with gold leaf, and so unusual! If you check out her FB page, the one with the ferrets is the one I was hankering after. Isn’t it cool?! I did ask if they had it in postcard form, but they didn’t so I got the “Not available” one instead because it made me laugh. – evocative, almost photographic paintings. Lovely stuff. They sold almost before I got to them!

Books – the historical thesaurus of English. Synonyms going right back historically; very pleasing. – the excellent people at Inspired Quill who kept us amused in our bookselling endeavours. Buy their stuff! I have done.

And the cyberfriends from the Amazon forums who I finally met in the flesh, authors all:

and my good mate and shameless tribble-petter MTMaguire:

Tshirts and other stuff – a fresh kind of madness. Slightly steampunk, very random. I particularly like the sleeve badges pertaining to tea, but sadly they didn’t have just straight black tea or I would have bought it on the spot. There were several other cool ones I meant to go back for, but when I did it was shut – another close call for the credit card! – pretty things! I did in fact cave annd buy a really pretty necklace from here. I wandered past every day for the entire con and still wanted it at the end so, y’know, it might have accidentally hijacked my credit card. – Well, there were these Tshirts and I really wanted them and they were funny, so I virtuously bought some for pressies, you know, and accidentally maybe one for me and then it turns out they had a green one with weasels on and my press is called Weasel Green Press so it would have been kind of rude not to….

Anyhow, there are some links for you to be looking at while I’m writing up the rest of it.

Loncon was a most tremendous experience and I met some tremendous people, had some very interesting conversations and learnt A LOT. Part of what I learnt was that I really, really love meeting people and chatting to readers. Sadly I am a bit rubbish at selling my stuff, but you never know – maybe people will go and see what I’m rambling on about if I feed them enough jellybeans… but more of that anon.

Sadly being quite STUPID I took no photos at all of my first ever con.

< F A C E P A L M >

Still, I’ll find some Twitter peeps and get them to link in the comments if I can so you’ll have a bit more of an idea of what was going on.

Yet again – watch this space…also, if I find more of my links I may update it later on so do come back and check – and if you know something I’ve missed out, that’s what the comments are for!

More anon:


Loncon space holder….

Hey all;
Loncon. Fabulous. Blog will follow but not till I have cleared all the detritus from my desk/chair/office and can get to my computer.
Also, now back at work and that 0455 alarm? Ouch.

More eloquence and indeed detail later – fool that I am, I took NO pics so will hopefully persuade tweeps to let me link to theirs.

And I have some stonking links to send you to as well!

So much fun!
Watch this space….