Monday, 17 July 2017

Edge-Lit 6, Derby, 15th July 2017

I was really looking forward to Edge-Lit 6 (organised as ever by Alex Davis) for several reasons - it’s always good to meet up with old friends, I like the event a lot (you can read about Edge-Lit 4 here and 5 here), I like the venue and, this year, my new collection Things We Leave Behind was being launched by Dark Minds Press.
from left - Peter Mark May, Richard Farren Barber, me, James Everington
I picked Sue Moorcroft up and we set off, busy catching up since she’s been away in Italy for a fortnight at Atre Umbria, teaching (for the first week) and writing (23k words!) her new novel (for the second week).  In fact, we were talking so much (and trusting the Sat Nav system, which I hadn’t set up for myself in my new car) that by the time both of us were saying “I don’t remember this bit of road” we were some miles away from our target and heading for Uttoxeter.  Turning around and paying slightly more attention, we got to the Assembly Rooms car park at 11.15 and were crossing the square to the Quad soon after.  Lisa Childs was the first friendly face I saw, looking out of the window and giving us a big wave and then Peter Mark May joined in, so all was well.
me, our publisher Ross Warren and Laura Mauro
Pixie Puddin was on the reception desk and looked fantastic, healthy and happy.  We hugged (both commenting there was so much less of each other), caught up, I bought (lots of) raffle tickets and then got signed in.  In the bar, our gang had taken over the far corner and we quickly joined them.  It was good to see Steve Harris, John Travis, James Everington and Lisa again (we’d last seen them a couple of months back, at Steve’s 50th which we spent in Wolverhampton), along with Ross Warren (publisher of Dark Minds Press), Pete and Richard Farren Barber.  Steve Bacon came along a little while later, as did Dion Winton-Polak and Angeline Trevina who also looked happy and healthy.  Laura Mauro and her husband Rob (from then on called Mr Mauro by just about everyone, including himself) came over to join us and it was good to see her again.  As well as my collection, Dark Minds Press were launching her novella Naming The Bones (which is excellent, I reviewed it here) and Ross got us to sign pre-orders, handed over our advances and also gave us both a gift - Laura got a signed photo of Krycek from The X-Files, I got a carded Stormtrooper in a presentation pack.  Equally thrilled, we decided that a similar deal would now be part of any future publishing agreements - she gets an autograph of her favourite actor, I get a carded Stormtrooper.  We discussed plans for our section of the launch then Sue & I ordered lunch and ate it chatting and catching up with people (and I managed to off-load most of my chips to Steve H and John).
Me, Ross and Steve Bacon
At 12.45 we trooped upstairs to the Box.  The small press launch was split between Dark Minds, Quantum Corsets and The Sinister Horror Company, with Laura & I leading the charge.  I suggested we swap books to read from and, as she’d already told me she loved my story What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking, she agreed.  As we sat down I suddenly realised the Box, usually half full at best for a launch, was packed, with people standing at the sides too.  No pressure then!  I spotted Jay Eales & Selina Lock and had a quick chat with them, saw they were sitting one seat on from Susan Sinclair from my writing group so I introduced them all, said hello to Penny Jones and then saw Kevin Redfearn & Hayley Orgill, always a treat.  Also saw Gary McMahon and Mark Morris, but didn’t get to say too much to them, more’s the pity.

Mr Mauro is in the bottom picture, leaning forward with glasses
At 1pm, we went to the podium and with Ross deciding to stay behind the book table, I introduced the session and then us two.  Laura read first, the car park sequence from my story (it was an interesting experience listening to someone else read it) then I read the opening few pages of her novella, before we got a good round of applause and went to sit down for the others to take their turn.  When they had, we authors and editors sat behind the table and a nice long queue formed - we signed and chatted with buyers until all the copies Ross had brought along were sold!  Laura & I were both well chuffed, taking great delight in calling each other “sellouts!”
The queue for buyers and signings
Back at the bar (I didn’t manage to get to any of the panels at all!), we took over a table and saw and spoke to a whole range of people - Steven Chapman (finally, after a couple of years of not seeing him at all), Daniel Hooley, Martin Roberts & Helen Hopley, Graeme Reynolds, Ben Jones, Ole Andreas Imsen, CC Adams (who flicked his pecs to get me and Steven to his table), Fiona Ní Éalaighthe (and her fabulous ear), Theresa Derwin, Andrew Hook (thanks for the Bond book!) & Sophie Essex, Adele Wearing (got several hugs!), Charlotte Courtney-Bond, Georgina Bruce, Gary Couzens, Steve Shaw and Terry Grimwood.  Conversation was wide, varied and always thoroughly entertaining and I even managed to (kind of) hold my own (very briefly) in a comics chat with Jay & Selina.
Steve, Pixie Puddin and me (and even more raffle tickets)
Having bought even more raffle tickets from Pixie (she’s so hard to resist!), we went up for the raffle where I finally saw and said hello to Kathy Boulton (though in long-standing Con tradition, we didn't get to say much else)!  Ross (who never knowingly under wins) & I sat together on a bench seat, which was fun and while he won (typical), I didn’t get anything.  At all.  Ho hum.
Losing at the raffle but still smiling...
Back to the bar (when it suddenly dawned on me, with horror, that I hadn’t led a delegation to the 2nd hand book stall in Eagle Market and by then it was too late), we got everyone together and trooped over to Ask Italian for dinner.  As always, we picked up extra people on the way and the restaurant couldn’t accommodate all twelve of us on one table so we were spread out, which was a shame but were still fairly close together.  Dinner was fun, the food wasn’t bad but the conversation was excellent and the bill was relatively reasonable too (though, of course, hardly any of us had the correct change).
Look at those lovely books!
All too soon it was time to leave and we hugged and shook hands and chatted, then hugged and shook hands again.  Plans were made to meet up before FCon (there really is something special about spending time with friends who love reading and writing as much as you do) before we headed off our respective ways.  Sue & I walked back to the Assembly Rooms car park with Ross & Lisa and Steve H & John so we all paid, hugged once more and then went to get our cars (whereupon I realised I’d left my Stormtrooper in the bar, so had to drive round to get it).

The journey home (we didn’t trust it to the Sat Nav) was quick (and scary at one point, when an idiot drove onto a roundabout at full speed just in front of us) and filled with conversation, a lovely end to a cracking day.

Edge-Lit 6 was, for me, another resounding success - old friends, talking about books and the pleasure of sharing launch space with Laura.  What more could you ask for?

Roll on FantasyCon!
You write this, you get this...



Monday, 12 June 2017

Sledge-Lit 2, Derby, 26th November 2016

This year saw the second Sledge-Lit event in Derby, held at the Quad and as I had such a good time at the first (which I wrote about here), I bought my ticket as soon as it was announced.  Organised and programmed by Alex Davis, also responsible for the on-going Edge-Lit’s (I wrote about this years here), it’s not only great fun but also helps bridge the gap between FantasyCon (which I wrote about here) and events in the new year.
In the bar with (from left) - Paul Melhuish, Peter Mark May, Ross Warren, Lisa Childs
This time, following a chance conversation at our writing group, Paul Melhuish & I travelled up together.  He picked me up, we talked books and writing all the way up the M1 and, thanks to a diversion at the normal junction, we came off one stop earlier and found the venue much quicker (with only one slight wrong turn!).  As we walked across the square from the Assembly Rooms car park, I spotted Ross Warren & Lisa Childs through the Quad window and waved.  Then Peter Mark May spotted me and began flicking his V’s, so I did the same to him.  After signing in, we went for our goody-bags and I got my wonderful hug from Pixie Peigh.  As I moved along the table to buy raffle tickets, I saw Gary McMahon and got my man-hug from him.  What a great start!

In the bar, we sat with Peter, Ross & Lisa and caught up with them, then James Everington arrived and it was good to see him (with Steve Harris and Phil Sloman not coming, we made up The Crusty contingent between us).  After checking the programme, Peter, Paul & I decided to go to the 11.30 panel - “Trapped!  Does Horror Need To Broaden Its Horizons?” - and as I queued at the bar to get us drinks, Stephen Volk strolled by.  We shook hands and had a quick chat then Mark Morris appeared, so we chatted with him before heading upstairs to the Digital Suite (the normal theatres Edge-Lit uses weren’t available), chatting with Jenny Barber as we waited to go in.  I also managed to say hello to Kathy Boulton, though we still never got that picture!  The panel, moderated by Niki Valentine (who I interviewed here), was interesting and entertaining, approaching “trapped” in terms of sub-genre (the panel agreed with me that horror is a broad church) rather than commerciality.  It was very well attended, with a good range of questions though Gary McMahon, who didn’t put his hand up, asked the question that I was going to (and I did have my hand up!).  Grrr, that man and his magnificent mane of hair!
Alison Littlewood & me being silly
Back in the bar, I saw Ewen Davis (who has shaved his extraordinary beard off) and said hello to him and K T Davis, who both looked really well - it feels like ages since I’ve seen them.  Alison Littlewood & Fergus had arrived and, as always, it was great to see them.  Before I left home, Alison had posted on Facebook that it was our 7-year Friendiversary, saying that “We need a daft friendiversary pic (I know I'm going to regret saying that)” to complement the wonderful one taken at the Hauntings launch (see here).  Fergus took the picture for us and then we chatted and caught up, before Priya Sharma and Gary Couzens came over, with more hellos and hugs and catching up (and it was nice to congratulate Priya on news of her collection in person too).
Niki Valentine & me
Stephen Volk and Mark Morris in conversation
Paul & I chatted with Niki Valentine about the panel and writing, which was interesting as always, said quick hellos to Penny Jones, Graeme Reynolds and Adam Millard, chatted with Terry Grimwood and said hello to Dion Winton-Polak.  Stephen Bacon arrived, as did John Travis and Sharon Ring and we sat with Ross, Peter & Lisa to have lunch before it was time for the Guest Of Honour Q&A in The Box - with Mark Morris interviewing Stephen Volk.  The event got an appreciative audience, both Stephen & Mark are really nice blokes and the style was good, with Mark asking questions based around the stories in Steve’s latest PS Publishing collection (and I particularly liked his comments about The Arse-Licker, which he wrote for Anatomy Of Death).
The Eagle Books party (from left) - Stephen Bacon, Ross Warren, Gary Couzens, John Travis, me, Priya Sharma, Paul Melhuish
I then led a contingent to the Eagle Books stall in the market, with Priya, Ross, Gary Couzens, Paul, Steve & John in the party.  We all picked up something (I got another 'format a' edition of The Mystery Of The Dead Man’s Riddle - because you can never have too many - and Hitchcock’s Sinister Spies anthology), had some good conversations (in ever-changing little chat groups) and it was all very enjoyable.
With Stephen Bacon and Peter Mark May
Back at The Quad, we hit the dealer room and chatted with Andrew Hook & Sophie Essex and bought some books too.  Steve, Peter, Paul & I then went up to the Digital Suite for Terry’s panel, “Size Matters?  Is Shorter Fiction Making A Comeback?”, which was entertaining.  I managed to ask two questions (the first of which I actually answered myself as I was asking it, ho hum) and then chatted with Terry and CC Adams outside for a while.  Back at the bar, there were plenty of conversations about writing, books and life in general with an evolving group of people and that, to me, is what these kind of things are all about - chatting with folk who get what you’re saying without you having to explain everything.  Steve & I chatted with Gary McMahon for a while - his son is in second year at senior school, Dude has just gone into the first and we were comparing how things were going (it seems that a few of my concerns were shared by Gary and we both groaned over the bloody ‘bottle flipping’ thing).  Peter & I went into the foyer to have a chat and were joined by Jay Eales, James Worrad and Phil Irving, who were making a fleeting pit stop (I’d seen Phil briefly on the stairs but it was the first I’d seen of the others).  After a quick chat with them and a hello with Steve Shaw, we trooped upstairs for the raffle, this time presided over by Santa (Stephen Volk) and Pixie (who should have won an award with her deadpan delivery and grumpy expressions).  Probably because they’d spent a small fortune on tickets, Ross & Lisa cleaned up, though I managed to snare a copy of Steve Shaw’s Great British Horror 1 anthology.  I also saw Hayley Orgill & Kevin Redfearn in there but, as always seems to happen, didn’t get enough time to chat.
With Gary McMahon and Stephen Bacon
The Con officially ended at 6pm (which took almost everyone by surprise when they read the programme) and it was time to say our goodbyes in the bar, with hugs and handshakes all round.  Our little group - Steve, John, Sharon, Paul, James and a Norwegian reviewer called Ole - went over to Ask Italian, later joined by Yvonne Davis and her daughter.  Once again, good company, great conversation and nice food - though it took a while - along with plenty of laughs (I promised John I wouldn’t say anything about toilet coincidences so I won’t).  Even better, Wayne Parkin joined us for the last half hour so we got a chance to catch up (I last saw him at Sue’s book launch).
At Ask Italian with (from left) - me, Paul Melhuish, James Everington, Ole Imsen, Sharon Ring, John Travis, Stephen Bacon
All too soon we’d chatted and eaten our fill and it was time to go.  We loitered outside, ignoring the cold as if we really didn’t want to say goodbye, but then it was hugs all round and we broke up and headed home.

Another excellent Convention spent in great company, I had a wonderful time.  Roll on the next!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

FantasyCon, Scarborough, 23rd September to 25th September 2016

Friday 23rd September
Letting the train take the strain again (through 3 changes) made for a pleasant journey that saw Sue Moorcroft & I chatting the whole way.  The Derby to York leg was the first clue that writers were massing - Mike Chinn was sitting a few seats behind us, Tim Lebbon a few in front.  We met up on the platform, had a chat and a cuppa then merged with more writer-filled groups on the York to Scarborough train (Helen Marshall and John Gilbert were sitting in front of us and Peter Mark May and Richard Farren Barber were further down the carriage).  By the time we got to Scarborough, there was a larger group and Richard led one of them (thanks Google maps) to the Grand Hotel.  I’d read it was apparently once the biggest hotel in Europe and from the bit we could see that certainly seemed to be true, it looked glorious.  I said hello to Andrew Coulthard as we crossed the road, then met Jay Eales & Selina Lock outside and had a chat.
from left - John Gilbert, Sue Moorcroft, Neil Williams, James Everington, Priya Sharma, Phil Sloman, me, Lisa Childs, Ross Warren, Wayne Parkin, Cate Gardner
We signed in for the Con itself (lanyard and a wristband - fancy!), saw Ian Whates, Helen and Pixie Peigh (which is always a pleasure) then joined the long queue to check in.  On the journey up, I’d been worrying (when Sue wasn’t talking about bed bugs) that I was going to get a basement room with no windows so when I finally got to the counter I asked the girl where it was.
     "Second floor," she said with a smile.
     "Phew.”
     “It’s inward facing though, so it hasn’t got a window”
With the lovely Carrie Buchanan
Thankfully she was able to swap my room with someone who hadn’t signed in yet (sorry about that but you snooze-you lose!) so I was happy and now on the fifth floor.  As Sue was on the sixth we headed across the main bar and bumped into Kit Power, Alex Davis, Phil Sloman, Charlotte Courtney-Bond, Steve Shaw, Paul Woodward, got big hugs from Simon Bestwick & Cate Gardner, Ray Cluley & Jess Jordan, saw Steve Bacon and Wayne Parkin and found the lift (the one and only time I used it all weekend).  Jim Mcleod and Vix Kirkpatrick were also waiting and it was great to see them too (they were also on the sixth floor) and we chatted on the way up.  I had room 527A (A, I later found out, denoting a larger room that had been split into two - I got the smaller bit) from which you could see the sea-front, it had a shower, a bed and it was clean - what else could you want?  I unpacked and headed back to the bar, using the stairs this time and that was my first encounter with the grand staircase which was amazingly wide and very long, so you felt like a film star coming down it (I first used the comparison of a Disney princess, which wasn’t the coolest thing I could have said).  Saw Neil, Michelle & Tallis Williams, Victoria (V H) Leslie, Chris Barnes, Priya Sharma and Conrad Williams, then I convinced Conrad and Priya that we should make an entrance on the stairs, so we ran up them and came back down.  More people were coming in, saw Andrew Hook & Sophie Essex (who hadn’t had the best journey up), Steve McHugh introduced himself, Ross Warren and Lisa Childs came over, Steve Lockley walked by and gave me a book, then the lovely Carrie Buchanan appeared and I got a hug from her.  Cat Hellison said hello - we haven’t seen one another since WFC Brighton in 2013 but she’s now living in Scotland so hopefully will get to more events.  I saw Ren Warom and introduced her to Sue and we all had a chat - her new book is doing well and so is she, which was nice to see.  Steve Bacon, Wayne, Conrad and I found a little corner and had a long chat about writing, genre and life, which was thoroughly entertaining.
Chatting with Conrad Williams - me, Phil, Conrad, Steve Bacon
We decided to have pizza (due to timings, the upcoming disco and the fact that nobody had booked anything else) and our motley crew gathered outside - Richard, Sue, Peter, Phil, James, Ross, Lisa, Steve, Wayne, Laura Mauro, Gary Couzens, Priya, Cate, Simon, Neil, Michelle & Tallis - and set off into Scarborough town.  Pizza Hut were able to accommodate us, we took over three tables, enjoyed quick service and decent food and, as ever, great conversation.  Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane sat quietly near the drinks machine, which meant they didn’t get much peace for their meal but it was good to catch up with them again.
The Pizza posse (some of us doing jazz hands for some weird reason - photo by Sue)
Lisa, me, Laura Mauro (obscured), Ross, Phil, Gary Couzens, Peter Mark May, Wayne (obscured), James, Richard Farren Barber, Steve
When we got back we saw Steve Harris & Amanda Rutter - more hugs - had a quick chat with Ben Jones and went to the Royal Hotel (the sister-hotel for the Con) for the disco, Wayne and I walking the short distance with Donna Bond, so I introduced them.  The disco wasn’t what I’d been expecting, to be honest - the music was great but not really danceable though we didn’t let that stop us and Wayne, Phil & I were on the floor for most of it, with Steve, James and Peter dropping in (and Donna joining us every now and again - “a girl!  Quick!  Dance cooler!”).  I also saw Kathy Boulton (the first of many occasions), we said hello but I still didn't manage to get a picture with her - one day...  Carrie & Vix came by later so I got to dance with them again but, alas, there was to be no Hey Mickey this year.  After witnessing a contretemp with an over-officious hotel porter who didn’t like the noise level and wanted to shut the disco down, I headed back for the Grand and quickly got into a conversation with Paul Finch, Paul Lewis, Steve Lockley, Graeme Hurry and Neil that spanned a very wide range (and re-affirmed my idea of going to Harrogate next year for the Crimefest).  Chatted with Steve H, CC Adams, Ben and Jasper Bark, then Alison Littlewood & Fergus came through.  The main bar shut but Fergus said there was a back bar so we went to that (I hadn't even realised it was there) and found a table, complete with a bowl of chips.  For our photo opp, Alison said she wanted some and Steve ate one, saying it was very nice - we all declined the offer.  Our little group was soon joined by John Travis, Terry Grimwood and Amanda for more chat - surely, one of the purest delights of FCon is the great conversation.
"Don't eat that chip!  Oh, too late..."
Steve Harris, Alison Littlewood, me, Steve
I gave in at 1.40 and headed up the stairs (I ran all the way, the only time I managed it all weekend).  The room was hot and quite noisy (it sounded like air con blowers somewhere outside) but the shower was refreshing and the bed was comfy.


Saturday 24th September
Up bright and early (me, worried about the panel?  No, never…) to a clear sunny morning, I decided to go for a walk.  I went down the McBean steps (which everyone in our party quickly christened the ‘Exorcist’ steps), took some pictures of the front (only a few dog walkers on the beach and no traffic) then walked along in front of the hotel (it’s huge!) and up the switchbacks by the roundabout.  Lovely view (and walk) though it was a bit chilly.  I met Alex and Peter at the hotel then chatted with Tracy Fahey (who I met at Edge-Lit and who’s on the panel with me) about life and writing and what we were going to say before Steve McHugh joined us.  I went back to my room, bumping into John Llewellyn Probert & Thana Niveau on the way - it’s always a treat to chat with them.  I also saw Pixie again and finally got my hug from her.

I met Sue in the main bar and we went for breakfast - the cornflakes looked limp so I went for sausages, scrambled eggs and bacon (diet starts Monday…)  It was lovely.  Steve & Wayne joined us (he liked my A bout de soufflé t-shirt), we all had seconds, chatted and then it was time.  With Laura Mauro, we walked to the Royal and got set up - Paul Finch and Tracy were already at the table and I sat next to her.  Since we still had time, I decided to nip to the loo and when I got back, the room had filled up and all the panelists were all in place.  People looked at me as I rushed up the centre aisle and I debated saying “I’m not late” but decided against it.  The panel was great fun, the hour whisking by.  Paul ran it well, he had Helen Marshall and V H Leslie to his right, Tracy, me and Ramsey Campbell to his left and I was in great company.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and we got some nice feedback from the audience.
The "Is Reality The New Horror?" panel with, from left, Helen Marshall, V H Leslie, Paul Finch, Tracy Fahey, me, Ramsey Campbell - picture by Sue Moorcroft
I posted this on Facebook, writing “me trying to say something as smart as my colleagues...”  Paul replied with “It's true. He did try” - the cheeky bugger!
Back at the Grand, I went to the back bar where Ian and Helen had set up a table for us to sign the hardback edition of Ten Tall Tales that launches later today.  I was really chuffed when Ian asked me to be in it, moreso when I saw my fellow contributors.  Settled around the table were Maura McHugh, Paul Kane, Simon Clark (who I hadn’t seen for a while), Lynda E. Rucker and Andrew Hook (who also liked my t-shirt - Gary Couzens later told me Andrew’s a big Godard fan).  I said I’d been looking for a 400 Blows t-shirt, which didn’t go well on the Google search and that, to much laughter, led to what else we had found on the Internet accidentally.  We also talked length of names and how consistent signatures were - Maura was fantastic (and focussed), Simon Clark had his down to a couple of letters but Lynda Rucker had made her life harder by adding the E!  Great fun and company.  Job finished, people drifted away and I chatted with Maura about the Mixtape posts and the power of Daphne DuMaurier and Angela Carter.  On my way to Sue’s panel I bumped into Gary & Emily McMahon (who are only here for the day) and got a big hug from both of them.
Some of the Ten Tall Tales signees - from left, Andrew Hook, Lynda E. Rucker, Paul Kane, Simon Clark, Ian Whates, me - picture by Maura McHugh
Wayne & I went into Sue’s panel in the Palm Court room, which commanded a wonderful view of the hills beyond the town and he & I debated the use of the netting over the windows.  The panel went well, Sue kept it nicely on track and one participant in particular, Rob Power, was especially interesting.  Had a chat with Jon Oliver then wandered down to the bar, met up with Steve, introduced myself to Rob and we went into town for a sandwich.  Leaving Sue to her phone and coffee on a bench, Wayne & Steve took me to Mrs Lofthouses Secondhand Book Emporium, which was excellent (and filled with handmade bookshelves).  Didn’t have enough time in there unfortunately, but I did pick up a book about the making of Close Encounters, which was a good result (and yes, I get the irony that I’m at a Convention filled with books and yet I still go to a 2nd hand bookshop…).
We love Bacon - from left, Steve Bacon, me Bacon, Peter Mark Bacon and Wayne Bacon...
The NewCon Press launch was in the Cabaret room (which was actually a small, gothic theatre) and well attended.  Ian did his stuff, I got to sit between Ramsey and Maura and we signed some paperbacks (including one for Cat, who Maura & I chatted with).  After the queue died down, I had a lovely long chat with Maura about the writing process and the power of the novella, which led to us talking about Richard Matheson, Stir Of Echoes and I Am Legend.  Wonderful.  We hung around in the same venue for Adam Nevill’s launch then I went up to Neil Buchanan’s dealer stall to sign copies of Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers.  We also talked about the cover art for Polly as he’s not happy with it and I agree with him (the novella is about a confident, assured fortysomething woman, the cover features a scared looking girl in her early 20s) and we’ve decided to go in a slightly different direction.  I told him an idea I’d had and he’s going to get his artist to come up with some new concepts so it was a good and timely conversation.
The FantasyCon Boyband publicity shoot went well - Richard, Steve, me, Wayne.











On the harbour - Steve, Sue, Richard
As there was a gap in the programme, Sue, Steve, Wayne, Richard & I decided to head out and get some sea air, walking along the front to check out some restaurants for later.  We didn’t find much, except in The Works where there was a collection edited by Sue and books by Paul and Tim!  We went into the harbour, walked around the lighthouse (and engaged in a bit of Viz-related duelling) then headed into town.  I’d never been in that part before and the mix of shops and architecture was brilliant.

We were back at the Grand in time to help set up for the Hersham Horror Books launch.  I’d been looking forward to this for a long time and as we set out the chairs, books and signing stands, there was a real sense of excitement in the air.  We took some pictures and I was proud to stand alongside Phil, James and Steve (fellow Crusty Exterior folk), launching the HHB novella series - they’ve already picked up some good reviews and I’m chuffed to be part of it.  For the event, I stood between James and Marie (whose collection was also being launched), Peter did this thing and the floor was open.  There weren’t as many people as I’d hoped, though we signed some books and then about a third of the way through the Cocktail bar just seemed to fill up, with people, noise and laughter and suddenly we were signing lots of copies (and Peter kept coming over and giving me updates).  As things calmed down, I mingled and saw Sarah Ann Watts and caught up with her before Peter introduced me to Sharon Ring who I’ve known online for years though this was our first meeting face-to-face.  By the end of the session there was hardly any stock left, Peter waved his wad at me like loadsamoney and we tidied up.  It was a good turnout, it was great fun (which you can see in all our faces in the pictures) and I had a wonderful time.
The 4 Novella Writers - Phil, Steve, me, James
The Hersham Horror writers - Marie, me, James, Phil, Steve


Jay tries to get us to sign each others books - Jay Eales, Selina Lock, Paul Kane, Marie, me, James

Busy signing - Marie, me, James, Phil, Steve - picture by Wayne Parkin
Marie, me, James, Phil, Steve, Wayne, Richard and Peter's back
We four with Jim Mcleoad (centre), The Ginger Nuts Of Horror head honcho.  GNoH have been a great supporter of the novellas and the genre in general.  So good to have him there.
Ross stopped me outside, concerned about my t-shirt - since it wasn’t Star Wars, he was worried I’d been cloned.  With him and Lisa, I headed for dinner with Sue, Steve, Wayne, Peter, Chris Teague, Sharon and her partner Dave - we tried the Italian near the Royal but they couldn’t accommodate us.  On our earlier walk, we’d noticed fireworks being set up on the beach so Wayne suggested fish and chips while we watched them and we went for it - though the alley I led us down wasn’t the best choice I could have made.  We managed to pick the only chippy in the world that didn’t do pies (I had chicken nuggets and chips, I’m not a fan of fish) then stood on the path and watched the fireworks, chatted and laughed (and me and Wayne helped save Chris from choking to death).  As Wayne said, we’re at the seaside, it had to be fish and chips on the beach!
In the back bar (pic by Chris Teague) - from left (bottom) Wayne, Gavin Williams, Amanda Rutter, Steve H, Sharon Ring, me, Ross, John Travis, Peter, Lisa, Sue, Phil, Steve, James
Back at the Grand, we made a circle in the back bar which was already full with FConners and other hotel guests.  Our group was joined by Phil and James, then Neil and John Travis and it was fluid for the rest of the evening - Chris Barnes and Ben; Danny Rhodes and Thomas Emson came over, Jim and Vix joined us for a chat, Steve H & Amanda pulled up chairs (and he & I managed to have a bit of a chat too - he gave me a copy of his new book Craze which is leaping to the top of my TBR pile).  Saw Neil Snowdon briefly and managed to say a quick hello to Steve Savile - and then didn’t see him again for the promised chat (that happened a lot).  As I was heading for the loo, I saw Alison and Gary McMahon - she’s been trying to corner us three and Gary Fry to get a picture all weekend (we four have a message thread on Facebook Gary F labelled the Secret Horror Society which is great fun) - we grabbed him at the bar and got Gavin Williams to take a picture for us.
Me, Alison Littlewood, Gary Fry and Gary McMahon - sarcasm not pictured
When I got back to our corner, Adam Nevill had joined us and we chatted for a while - he’s a lovely bloke, always interesting (and interested) and I enjoy his company.  Jasper Bark dropped by, James Bennett came over for a hug and I decided to call it quits at about 2.30.  What an absolutely brilliant day - a great panel, two book launches, lots of laughter and chat, who could ask for more?


Sunday 25th September
Light rain this morning so I didn’t go for my walk.  I met Stephen Volk on the stairwell and we walked down to the main bar together.  He apologised for missing the Hersham launch (he popped his head around the door and the room was full) and I thanked him for the mention in his new PS collection (it includes The Arse-Licker, his story from my Anatomy Of Death anthology) and, as ever, it was a real treat to talk to him.  At the bottom of the Disney Princess staircase we met Marie & Paul, then the Williams, before Sue joined us (and we had pictures taken with Tallis’ Zombie bear).  Sue & I went for breakfast and saw and chatted with Ian and Simon Morden on the stairs.  In the restaurant, I finally saw Graeme Reynolds & Charlotte McDonald to say hello to.
Tallis Williams, me and the Zombie Bear
We dropped our cases off and checked out, then I chatted with Peter, Phil and James, all of us still really chuffed about the launch.  Jay & Selina joined us and then Phil had to leave, so it was hugs all round, the first goodbye of the day.  That’s the bummer about the last day of a Con, saying goodbye as people head off, knowing you might not see them again for a year - thank goodness for Facebook!  Richard, Peter, Steve, Sue and I went into the back bar and chatted as we drank tea.  Wayne joined us, then Simon Morden, then the Williams.  It was Michelle’s first Con and she'd enjoyed it and it was nice to see Tallis getting more confident as the weekend went by.  Had a long chat with Simon about writing and plans, perhaps the longest natter we’ve had since we first met up at the Masters Of Terror day in London back in 2000.  After Jim and Chris came to say their goodbyes (more big hugs), I went onto the terrace to take pictures of the view and found Sharon Ring out there taking pictures of the boats.
Sunday in the back bar - me, Peter, Richard
Went into the Joe Hill panel, where he was interviewed by Peter Crowther - Sue & I saw him at WFC in Brighton (at the time she didn’t know his parentage) and this time was even better.  He’s a great speaker, engaging, witty and funny and his stories ranged from hilarious to powerful and raw.  One of my favourite events of the Con.

For lunch, Peter suggested we try the café at the top of the funicular and it was a good choice.  We sat upstairs, all had paninis and a good chat - Wayne liked my Live & Let Die t-shirt, which led to us discussing Robert McGinnis and poster art in general (he & I share a dislike of modern ‘here’s a picture’ posters - step forward the Daniel Craig Bond’s).  All too soon it was time for Steve & Wayne to go and, as ever, their goodbye hugs were just a little bit tighter than normal.  It’s been great to see and spend so much time with them this weekend that it’s genuinely a wrench to say goodbye.  Peter went back to the Con but Sue & I decided to go for a walk instead (she wanted an ice cream too).  We walked along the front, got to the harbour and decided to keep going - the sky was clear, conversation was good and we were almost at the North Bay before turning back.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Back at the Grand, Mark Morris came over to say hello - we caught up and finally, after years of trying, had a little bit of a chat about the Three Investigators.  It was really good to see him.

Me and Adam Millard in the mirror, in the queue
Leaving Sue with her Kindle and a cup of tea, I went to the Royal for the Awards ceremony and stood chatting with Adam Millard in the queue.  He & I secured a sofa and were joined by Peter, David Price, Martin Roberts and Helen Hopley (she & I knelt on the floor).  Neil Bond came over to wish me luck and I stood with Graeme Hurry and Steve Volk for the ceremony itself.  King For A Year didn’t win, which was a disappointment, but there were some nice surprises and it was a genuinely lovely moment when the Karl Edward Wagner Award was given to the redcoats past and present.  Seeing Pixie on stage, emotional and lost for words for all the right reasons, was wonderful.  It was also a treat to see Priya Sharma win too - wonderful person, great writer!

Then it was time to go.  I shook hands, said goodbyes, congratulated Alex on the award and Con and headed back to the Grand.  I had a chat with John Travis and Terry in the main bar, got Sue, said goodbye to Ian then went to get our cases, which was more complicated than it should have been.  We found them and were joined by Laurel Sills (the mysterious girl in one of my photo’s from Brighton) who came back to the station with us.

We made our connection with minutes to spare at York, talked all the way to Kettering and got in for 8.15.  Alison & Dude met me at the station - he came running over and jumped into my arms, which was a great way for the weekend to end - then I hugged Sue and said goodbye.
Sue on the staircase
FantasyCon by the sea was another great Con, full of fantastic people, company and conversations.  Although I wasn’t keen on the two-venue approach (I’d have preferred everything to be in one), Scarborough was a great location, the faded glamour of The Grand Hotel was perfect and it was so good to see old friends and make new ones.
Glorious Scarborough
I know I say it a lot but I really do find FCon a life affirming experience, it reminds me of the good people I have in my life, it reminds me why I love the horror genre and its writers and readers and it makes me wish it happened more than once a year.

Here's to 2017!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Edge-Lit 5, Derby, 16th July 2016

I’m a big fan of Alex Davis’ Edge-Lit conventions (you can read previous reports here for 2014, 2015 and Sledge-Lit) and was very much looking forward to 5, especially since an anthology of novellas I was in - Darker Battlefields from The Exaggerated Press - was being launched.  I was up early, put in my 2m power-walk, had breakfast and left in plenty of time, only to hit traffic on the M1.  Thankfully, the AA routeplanner did me proud and I got to The Quad with ten minutes to spare.
Lisa Childs, Ross Warren, Steve Harris, Phil Sloman, me, in The Box
The first person I met (I hadn’t even got through the door) was Emma Robson, from the Northampton writers group I’ve been to a couple of times.  We said hello and got signed in, grabbed our goody bags and I went into the bar and met up with Adrian Chamberlin (who edited the anthology) and Greg James, then headed upstairs to The Box for the launch.  I met my fellow Crusty Exteriors Phil Sloman and James Everington on the way and it was great to see them both - James got his new novel reviewed in the Guardian yesterday and we decided it was right to spend the day mercilessly teasing him about it (“don’t you know who this is?  He was reviewed in The Guardian!”).  I said hello to Ian Whates, saw Steve Harris and he introduced me to Amanda Rutter, which was a real pleasure and then met up with Richard Farren Barber, who’s also in the anthology with me.  We went in and got settled, Terry Grimwood (our publisher) sitting behind me, happy now the books had finally been delivered.  As we waited for the event to start I had a quick chat with Amanda - I’ve known Steve for years and he joined in a conversation I was having on Facebook with Amanda about the TV show First Dates, which led to them not only going on a date but becoming partners!  Which is great!
Phil, Priya Sharma, me
Terry goes his publisher bit (pic by me), I do my writer bit (pic by
Richard Farren Barber)
Alex Davis led the Boo Books launch and James read first from his novella Trying To Be So Quiet (which I am very much looking forward to), followed by Tracy Fahey reading from her short story collection.  Terry then stepped up and talked about Darker Battlefields - he was followed by Ade and Richard, then me.  As I stood at the podium, looking out at the crowd, I wished I’d written something down but instead I talked about where my novella The Exercise came from and it seemed to go down well.  Simon Bestwick & Cate Gardner had turned up, so I said hello to them and then got a big hug from Priya Sharma and we had a lovely chat.  Ross Warren and Lisa Childs came over to get their book signed, as did Theresa Derwin and then Kit Power came over to say hello, so that was all great.
Peter Mark May and me - the slimline versions...
We finally got shooed out (as we’d gone over time) and went into the dealer room as Gary McMahon was signing copies of his excellent novella The Grieving Stones (which I reviewed here).  After a brief chat, I headed downstairs, saw Anthony Cowin in the foyer, got a big hug from Adele Wearing then met Peter Mark May in the bar.  He’s also been losing weight and looked really well.  We chatted with Richard then I spotted Johnny Mains so handed him a book I’d got for him - Peter Haining’s The Freak Show anthology.  He was sitting with Mark Morris and Sarah Pinborough, so I had a chat with them before heading back into the bar.  We were joined by Steve & Amanda, Phil, Ross & Lisa and James, had a laugh and tried to figure out where to have lunch.  Since nobody could decide, I said we’d head to the deli we discovered last year and set off (joined by Greg and Dion Winton-Polak), filling Amanda in on the Acropolis café story (from 2014) on the way.  Great fun.  Steve & I got served first, so we sat on our bench to eat and catch up, then Greg and Amanda came out before Dion joined us.  Again, great conversation, which is what these events are mostly all about.  When the others joined us, I collared a passerby to take some pics and then led our merry band to the Eagle Books stall in the Eagle market, where we all bought something, with Steve especially thrilled to get a hardback he’d been after.  Everyone else rushed back to make a launch but Steve, Amanda, Pete & I took our time, calling into the retro shop in the smaller market on the way, where I picked up a copy of Live And Let Die.
The glamour of having lunch
(on the bench, Phil, Ross, Lisa - behind them, Pete, me, Greg James, Steve, Amanda, Dion Winton-Polak)
At Eagle Books - Lisa and Amanda have a look whilst Steve guards his treasure (look how chuffed he is)!
Back at The Quad, it appeared the carnival was in town, their sound system so loud you could feel the bass in your chest.  It made for interesting conversation.  Said all too brief hello’s to Penny Jones (“You’re so tall,” I said, without thinking and she countered with “I look smaller on Twitter”), Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Jay Eales & Selina Lock, Adam Millard, Kevin Redfern, Ray Cluley and Jan Edwards, but finally got my picture taken by Peter Coleborn.
picture by Peter Coleborn
I had a chat with Lynda E. Rucker and congratulated her on the Shirley Jackson Award win before catching up with Pixie Puddin, who gave me a lovely hug and sold me lots of raffle tickets.  I was chatting with James and said hello to Victoria (V H) Leslie, which reminded me I needed to pick up her book - I got it and 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough, got Sarah to sign hers but didn’t see Victoria again to ask her.
Pixie and me - raffle tickets pictured...
James & I went up to Johnny’s panel - “What Is The Continuing Draw of the Supernatural in Fiction?” - and had to wait outside Cinema 2 for the other session to finish.  I found myself standing beside Kathy Boulton (she of the brief “hello!” last week at the NewCon bash) and so we finally got to have a chat (at this rate, the next Con report will have a picture of us both!) and she introduced me to her mum Susan, who is also a writer.  When we got in, we saw Pete and Steve Lockley sitting near the back so joined them and the session went well, with Victoria in particular holding her own with some very smart answers - and anyone who recommends The Silent Land is always going to be a favourite of mine.  After it was over, James & I chatted with Johnny for a while, met Holly Ice and Angelina Trevena and then headed for the bar, where we were joined by Tony and Phil.  Saw Ian Whates again and went to get a copy of his collection from Adele, which he duly signed and I chatted with Tracy Fahey for a while.  I saw Conrad Williams, said hello and shook his hands, didn’t see him again.  Back in the bar I chatted with John Travis and Terry Grimwood, talked Star Wars with Ross (mainly about the fantastic Rogue One behind the scenes video) and we all agreed we’d nip across the square to have pizza for our early dinner, since Phil and Pete were heading off on the 7pm train.
me, James Everington (he's been reviewed in The Guardian, don't you know...), Pete, Steve Lockley
Gathering everyone up - Ade Chamberlin came along too, as well as Holly - we headed across the square (the music throbbing in our bones) and went into Ask Italian who, despite having empty tables, decided they couldn’t cater for 12 people.  Oh well, their loss.  Amanda searched for curry houses on her phone and we found one a seven-minute walk away that was more than willing to accommodate us (it looked posh from the outside, we were worried) and they had a fixed price “theatre menu” which suited us down to the ground - starter, main, rice or naan and a drink for £14.95!  I sat next to James, he ordered the naan, I ordered the rice, we had half each and it was more than enough.  Although it didn’t feel like it, time whisked by in there, so much so that Peter and Phil had to leave early to catch a train and we ended up missing the raffle, even though we’d all bought tickets (and Ross and Lisa had bought a LOT of tickets).  Very enjoyable meal though, great food and even better company.
Having a curry (from left - Phil, James, me, Amanda, Steve, John Travis, Ade, Terry, Pete, Lisa, Ross, Tony, Holly Ice)
Back at the Quad, we got drinks (thanks Tony!) and sat outside chatting, enjoying the warmth of the evening and talking about lots of different things (including the etiquette of how to get away without making it seem like you're trying to get away).  Edward Cox was sitting at the next table, so I finally got to meet him in person (it seems we’ve been at loads of the same events but never seen one another to say hello).  I had a chat with Gary McMahon, said my goodbyes to everyone (“Man hug,” said Steve, grabbing me and James jumped into my arms) and headed back to the car park with Ross & Lisa (who chased up the roadway after me to give me a copy of Gary Fry’s Dark Minds Press novella).
My book haul
I drove home in a happy, positive mood, bubbling with creative energy.  Edge-Lit 5 was another cracking event, well organised (thanks Alex, Pixie and team) and great fun, with some wonderful company and excellent conversations.  Roll on Sledge-Lit!