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MCM London Comic Con Roundup

MCM May 2017

MCM May 2017

A little over a week ago, during the bank holiday weekend, I attended the MCM London Comic Con which is the largest convention we have in the UK. Last year had a record crowd of about 133K and I expect the numbers for this year will be as high. It takes place twice a year and the next one is in October, so make a note in your calendar.

 

It’s a real cross genre geek pop-culture event, with a mix of TV and film stars,  games companies, film and TV companies like DC and Warner Brothers, comic book creators, manga and anime, lots of cosplay and a whole gaggle of fiction authors.

Batman catching up on the news in Gotham

About thirty authors over the course of weekend took part in a range of panels and discussions covering all sorts of topics from the weird to the hilarious. I took part in two panels on Sunday, but before that I popped by on Saturday to take a look around, catch up with some old friends, make some new friends over a few pints, and nose around the convention.

The event itself was packed and it was a gloriously hot summer day, so the outdoor area was awash with hundreds of people enjoying the weather, many in bright and colourful cosplay. From a distance it looked like a weird field of moving flowers dancing about in the sun.

Cosplay in the sun

Inside it was cooler but there were so many people it was difficult to move around in the main foyer, but the halls themselves were large enough that you were never squeezed in too tight and there was a lot to see in the two massive halls. I picked up a few bargains on Saturday, then did the usual author thing and went to the pub with some fellow writers.

Big thanks to the kind traffic warden on Saturday night who helped me find my hotel when the maps on my phone proved to be utterly useless. I was down to 1% battery at this point and I was starting to think I’d have to just call a taxi. It turns out it was only a couple of minutes walk from the DLR station but it was a totally new part of London to me, but I will know for next time if I ever stay there again.

Sunday was a lot more relaxed with one panel focused on Orbit, old versus new. Somehow Jamie Sawyer and I, despite both only having one trilogy out each, were on the Old side of the table, versus the youngsters who had just debuted or are due to later this year. It was a funny and weird panel and despite it being fairly early on a Sunday morning it went well and the audience seemed to enjoy it. The afternoon panel was about creating fight scenes and that led to a few laughs from the audience. Afterwards I signed some books and then it was all over. I was super tired after a long day and a half, but it was really good to meet up with some fellow authors.

I also got to meet fellow Orbit author, Nick Eames, who made the long journey from Canadia-land for the event. Sadly I didn’t have any Timbits to make him feel welcome, but we are getting our first Tim Hortons in the UK very soon. Also a quick hello to lots of other authors I chatted to over the weekend including Jamie Sawyer, Jen Williams, Adrian Selby, Ed Cox, Ed McDonald, Claire North, Mike Carey, RJ Barker, GX Todd, Laura Lam, Kim Curran, Jason Arnopp, and anyone else I’ve forgotten. The moderators on our panels were also awesome and thanks to the press officer at Orbit, Nazia, for being excellent as ever. Organising authors is much like herding cats and we had several examples of that over the weekend!

If anyone took any photos during the panels please let me know and I’ll add them to the post. Right then, back to the first draft of book 5 for me.

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My Fantasycon 2014 Experience

I’m back from my first Fantasycon in York which started out on Friday with some Austin Powers style car parking. I was staying at a very central Bed and Breakfast, which was lovely, and the owners kindly gave me a parking permit for the weekend. Brilliant, I thought. I could leave my car all weekend, and not have to worry about trying to move it or pay for parking. The only problem was the space was on the main road, squeezed between a car, a tree and a conveniently placed post. So while dodging traffic and waiting for the lights to change and the road to be clear, I tried several times to get into the space. Finally, I managed to reverse in, nearly ran someone over on the pavement and then preceded to reverse back and forth about twenty times until I wasn’t on the road and no wheels were touching the pavement section. I’ve seen people get tickets for less in the past from enthusiastic traffic wardens.

Thankfully the weekend picked up after that as I met up at the pub for lunch with a fairly healthy contingent of TeamMushens, fellow authors who also have the same agent as me, Juliet Mushens. The posse included Niel Bushnell, Andrew Reid, Peter Newman, Den Patrick, Jen Williams, Richard Kellum and the Grand Dame herself was also there. Being a writer can be a fairly lonely job, as it usually involves a lot of sitting quietly in a room by yourself, staring at a screen and listening to the voices in your head. Getting to meet up with fellow writers who understand all of the challenges, the angst, the editing, the self-loathing, the rewrites, is actually a very rewarding experience. Meeting up with fellow TeamMushens people is a privilege as they’re all remarkable and very talented people. All of us write in the the SFF genre space, but despite common interests and hobbies we couldn’t be more different, which I find fascinating.

Finding and connecting with your tribe is much easier now than it was in my youth, thanks mostly to the internet, but it is still not the same as meeting up in person. Unfortunately I don’t get to see this group of friends more than once or twice a year as we’re all spread out across the UK, so it’s always a genuine pleasure to see them and spend time together.

The rest of Friday was taken up with running from one panel to the next, including one about Awards and their value to a writer. I also sat on a panel about podcasting which seemed to go fairly well. After that I went to one of the bars in the hotel where karaoke had been set up. Niel and I grabbed a quick fast food dinner on the hoof, then raced back to watch some of our fellow writers own the microphone. Andrew’s duet with Juliet was a highlight as well as her solo later on. Sadly I’d wandered off to the other bar so didn’t see Pete Newman fulfil his side of a bet, but I hear it went very well. After a few more drinks and some Cards Against Humanity where Jen Williams won, I called it a night.

Saturday began with a panel about Page to Screen where people including one of the Guests of Honour, Toby Whithouse, spoke about pitching, adaptations, working in TV and film. One interesting thing Toby mentioned was that he used to be an actor and now whenever he writes anything, he always give every character a full name, first and last. This is to avoid what often happens such as Policeman3 or Thug2. It also ties in nicely to something I mentioned on the podcast panel. One question from the audience was to name our favourite podcast, and mine is The Tobolowsky Files (also on iTunes), where character actor Stephen Tobolowsky talks about life, love and the entertainment business and he has a theory that you can tell the value of a part by the name of the character. A  job title is low on the totem pole, like Judge, then you get titles and numbers Doctor3, then it goes up to just a single name and right up to a part with both names. The name convention indicates the number of lines and how important the part will be. Toby was very aware of this having been an actor for years, so he wanted to ensure that every actor who had a part in any of his shows would have two names so it looked better on their CV. He also tried to ensure that if they had even one line that it was a joke, so that it mattered.

The panel that followed, The Reign of the Geek, was very interesting and as with many situations, it’s while I’m thinking about it later that it affects me. It was something Joanne Harris said about being an outsider that really struck a chord with me, and I’ll come back to it in another post soon once I’ve found the right words.

Jen Williams and I then attended a panel with Charlaine Harris in conversation and it was fantastic. She’s a fascinating woman and had a lot of wisdom to share about her experiences with writing novels and seeing her work adapted for television.

I find going to several panels in a row can be exhausting, so after that I took a bit of a break and left the hotel, had some lunch in a quiet place, then came back for a panel on Grimdark, and how it has evolved from a joke to an actual label people have started using for a particular type of fantasy novel.

After more panels I found time to sit and chat to some old friends who had come to their first Fantasycon. Then there was the brilliant and funny live edition of Tea and Jeopardy, with Emma Newman and Pete Newman in costume as her surly and dodgy butler, Latimer. He stayed in character throughout and was very funny indeed!

After a quick curry with Niel and James Oswald I  caught up with some other people from TeamMushens including Laura Lam, Syd Moore and lots of other friends I don’t get to see very often. I went to the very well attended Super Relaxed Fantasy Club where there were four readings and James Barclay interviewed Simon Spanton.

I must mention that the army of volunteer redcoats did a great job of coordinating everything at the convention and it wouldn’t have run as smoothly without them giving up their time.

By the time I got down to the party on Saturday night it was in full swing and it had been a long day. Somehow I managed to stay awake and was sat chatting to people when they closed the bar and turned on the lights indicating that the party was officially over.

I had to head back home first thing on Sunday morning so I said goodbye to everyone that night and I felt quite sad at the thought of not seeing them again until next year. We’ll talk online via social media and email each other, but it’s not the same. So I’ve found myself looking ahead to conventions next year already and wondering when I’ll run into them.

Fantasycon2014 was a lot of fun, for the social side as much as the panels. It was also exhausting but thankfully I didn’t have too far to travel compared to some. York is a fantastic city and for those who had time to spare they explored some of the remarkable sites, went on a Ghost Walk, popped into the famous Betty’s tea room, explored the cathedral and wandered around the Shambles.

So for now, it’s back to the writing and the editing on book 2, and I’m looking forward to attending at least a couple of conventions next year and the build up to the launch of book 1, Battlemage.

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We’ve got one!

we got oneI’m delighted to say that I now have an agent. I am represented by Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group. That’s the short version for those who want to skip to the end.

It’s taken a long, long time to get here. I’m still trying to process it and also work out how long, but probably about 15 years. The fantasy novel that was picked up by Juliet is not my first, or second, or third, or fourth. So, that’s a lot of years of writing, a lot of rejections after carefully studying the Writers and Artists handbook, a lot of going to industry events, writers weekends, spending time on writing websites, forums, reviewing other people’s work, a lot of listening to stories and advice at event panels, making notes, countless nights of staying up very late to work on ‘the novel’. A lot of sacrifices. A lot of turning off the computer game, or TV, to make myself put my bum in the chair and hit the keyboard. I didn’t always do that of course. Some nights I was just too tired after work, or too fed up, or too annoyed and I kept playing and ignored the novel. But I always came back to it, and even when I realised it was time to shelve that novel and try something else, I kept trying and hopefully kept learning. There was absolutely no guarantee that I would succeed, but I had to try because it is something I’ve wanted for a long time. When people talk about me, stubborn doesn’t even nearly cover it.

Speaking of other people, I couldn’t have made it this far without the support and encouragement of many people, friends and family, who always believed in me, even when I didn’t.

This is definitely not the end of the road, just a big step forward, and I’m also very aware that there is still a lot of work ahead, but now I’m actually on the right road. So I’m delighted to be represented by Juliet, who also represents a few friends I’ve met over the years at the conventions, including Lou Morgan, Laura Lam and Andrew Reid.

Right, time to get editing. More news when I have it, but expect sporadic random posts in the meantime about stuff, films, TV, comics etc.

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This time last year…

A bit of a good news post today. This time last year I was at Eastercon where I met a few new people, one of whom had submitted her book to a publisher and was hoping for some good news. Fast forward a year and Lou Morgan’s first novel, Blood and Feathers, is being published by Solaris and released on August 2nd. The book is being launched in London at Forbidden Planet. Click here for more information if you are able to attend or alternatively show your support for an exciting new author by preordering a copy.

A couple of months back at Eastercon this year I met a couple of shiny and brand new authors who have books coming out in the next few months from Strange Chemistry, the new YA imprint. The first is Shift by Kim Curran which is being released on September 4th in the UK and below is a brief synopsis but you can find more information here.

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Another new author I met at the convention was Laura Lam’s and her first book Pantomime is being released in February 2013 and below is a brief synopsis and more information can be found here.

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

If you want something new and interesting now and can’t wait for these books, then I recommend Anne Lyle’s book The Alchemist of Souls which is already out from Angry Robot. Anne was also at Eastercon this year where she appeared on several panels including one alongside a little author you might know about called George, to his friends, who is writing a series of books called A Song of Ice and Fire.

It’s an exciting time to be a reader of science fiction, fantasy, horror and all of the flavours in between. For me it is in fact the very best of times as there are so many books and so many exciting new voices out there. So, stop reading this and go and read a book!

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