Eastercon Summary

Jessica Meats holding a copy of Wolf Unleashed and standing in front of a group of people talkingSunday 1st April was the official launch of my new novel, Wolf Unleashed. This launch was accompanied by a small launch party at Eastercon. The room for the launch party seemed a little strange to me – we were set up at one end of the large ballroom, which was also the room being used for convention food. We were there in the middle of the afternoon, so we were between the lunch and dinner rushes, but there were plenty of people in the room just there to eat food, and hang out with friends. I’m fairly sure there were some people who came to the book launch who hadn’t intended to do so, but who had been sitting near our end of the hall and were curious what was going on (or were curious about the free wine).

David, my editor at Guardbridge Books, spoke for a little bit, introducing me and the other two books which were being launched at the same time. Then I spoke briefly and read from Wolf Unleashed. David read segments from the other two books, and then we opened it up to questions. A man in a hat holding a cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too"

We did a giveaway drawing to give away a free book. The winner of the giveaway chose to get Harry Elliott’s Warrior Errant as his free book instead of mine, and he gave a little apology about that, but then a few minutes later decided he would buy mine as well, so I think I won that.

Overall, the launch was short, informal, and enjoyable, so I’m happy with how it all went.

There have been some other great moments this convention. One was when a woman sat beside me in the audience for a panel and started rummaging around in her handbag. Then she noticed my name tag and went, “You wrote the Codename Omega books,” and started talking about the handbag scene in Traitor in the Tower. For those that haven’t read those books, the scene in question is one of my favourite moments and involves Jenny, having been captured, pulling an array of useful items out of her handbag – from painkillers to means of communication to weapons – much to the astonishment of the guy who was in the cell with her. There’s still something that fills me with delight about someone recognising me and telling me about things they loved from my books.

A woman cuddles a cuddly toy wolf that has a sign reading "werewolves are people too"Another great highlight was meeting a lovely lady who was much enamoured of my cuddly Thomas toy wolf (so much so that I feared wolfnapping was a possibility) and who talked at length about her love of wolves and her experiences visiting a wolf sanctuary. We had a really long chat on Friday and then when I bumped into her again on Saturday she had been hoping to see me again because she’d bought me a wolf bracelet. I was so immensely touched by this and wished I had something I could give her in return (but I wasn’t parting with cuddly Thomas).

I took part in a couple of items aside from the launch party. The first was a panel on transgressive sexuality where we had some good discussions about representation of different sexualities in SF&F and how the barrier between what is seen as transgressive and what isn’t is a shifting line that changes over time. We discussed a whole collection of books, films, and TV shows and I got to recommend some of my favourites (like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet) and took down some suggestions of things to read.

My other piece on the program was a talk on Atheism and theA cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too" is at a microphone as though giving a speach Representation of Religion in Science Fiction. I got a little worried about this talk ahead of time because I was originally told I would have a 75 minute slot, and then saw on the agenda that I had an hour. I then found out when I got there and looked at the schedule in more detail that each hour slot included a ten minute break/change-over and so I only had 50 minutes. I shuffled some things around and cut a couple of slides, only I guess I talk faster in real delivery than I do in practice because I ended up having plenty of time. I could have left the Vorlons in. I have uploaded my presentation to OneDrive in case anyone wants to view my slides or see the links in the A cuddly toy wolf with a sign reading "werewolves are people too" sits on a conference chairreferences.

I was also a little concerned about that presentation because of the timing. It was right at the end of the last day of the convention, in the slot before the closing ceremony, and I knew a number of people who’d told me they would be leaving before my talk began. I was a little worried I would be giving my talk to an empty room, but I got a decent turn out in the end. Afterwards, the girl who’d been running tech for me came up to me and said we’d met at World Con a few years ago and I’d persuaded her to buy one of my books then. She was very excited to read my new one now, which was amazing to here.

It is an amazing feeling to meet people who’ve read my books and have them talk so enthusiastically about them. All in all, a really satisfying Eastercon. I look forward to next year’s, which will be considerably easier for me to get to.

Eastercon Schedule

The schedule for Follycon (the 69th Eastercon) has gone live.

I will be involved in three items:

Transgressive Sexuality panel at 5:30pm on Friday 30th March.

Guardbridge Books Launch Party at 3pm on Saturday 31st March – at which my newest book Wolf Unleashed will officially launch along with Warrior Errant by Harry Elliot.

Atheism and the Representation of Religion in Science Fiction presentation at 3pm on Monday 2nd April. A part of me was hoping for the irony of doing this presentation on Easter Sunday, but it’s probably more tactful of them to arrange it for the Monday.

Eastercon

I have been preparing for Eastercon recently. This year’s Eastercon, Follycon, is in Harrogate, so I’m hoping some of the old York University creative writing group might be there so we can catch up. If any of my blog followers are going to be there, here’s a heads up about what I’m going to be up to.

So far, I’ve been talking with the organisers of the schedule about three different items on the agenda. The agenda hasn’t been completely confirmed yet, so this is subject to change and I don’t have times for any of these items yet.

The first item I will be a part of is the book launch for Wolf Unleashed. Guardbridge Books will be launching two books at Eastercon, my werewolf urban fantasy, and Warrior Errant by Harry Elliot, a futuristic sci-fi adventure. Come along for book readings, discussion, and Q&A from myself and Harry.

I’m going to be presenting a talk on Atheism and the Representation of Gods in Science Fiction. This will look at some tropes and themes around how gods are often portrayed in sci-fi, from an atheist perspective. With examples ranging from Red Dwarf to Stargate SG-1, and from The Chrysalids to Dune, we will look at some common concepts and how these ideas can be used to address real world issues. Some of the examples will be obvious ones, but I’ve been digging around for a few older and less well known ones so hopefully there’ll be something in the presentation that’s new for everyone in the audience.

I’ve also been asked about being on a panel about Transgressive Sexualities and how sci-fi and fantasy can be used to provide representation, raise questions, and open up new routes for discussion around gender and sexuality. I don’t have much detail about this panel yet, but it seems like a good subject for generating some interesting discussions.

I will post the schedule information once I know it. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

Book updates

Hidden in the Signal coverI realised recently that I hadn’t added Hidden in the Signal, the third book in the Codename Omega series to the My Books page on this blog. I’ve remedied that mistake now. The information on the third instalment of Jenny’s adventures is now up.

Hidden in the Signal continues the story of Jenny’s fight to uncover the truth of Grey’s Tower and to fight against the alien threat hiding on Earth.

Keep an eye on that page because I will soon be adding details of my upcoming book, Wolf Unleashed. I just sent the last chapter of edits back to the line editor today. I think there’s just one more round of checks before the text of the book is ready to go. We will be launching the book at this years Eastercon, Follycon, in Harragote over the Easter weekend. I will also be giving a presentation on the representation of gods in science fiction at the convention. The agenda is still being finalised so I don’t know if I will be on any panels, but I will let you know if I am.

If you’re going to be attending Follycon, come along to the book launch and say hi.

Christmas Fairs

Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a handful of Christmas fairs. The main purpose was to sell and promote my books, but I also had a sideline of various cross stitch bits and pieces to help cover the cost of the table.

The first fair was very slow. I don’t know whether it was the weather (miserable and rainy), the fact that I was upstairs, poor marketing, or something else entirely. Everyone else seemed to be finding business quite slow too, so I didn’t take it personally, and I did sell some books.

Craft Fair stall

The highlight of that first fair was when a boy was being led off down on aisle by his parents only to spot my stall. He yelled out, “books!” and instantly rushed over to me. In the end, his parents decided (probably correctly) that he was a little too young for my books so they didn’t buy them, but I heartedly approve of that attitude on seeing a table covered in books.

The second fair was much busier and I sold each of my books at least once, some more than once. What surprised me though were how well the cross stitch badges went. I nearly ran out of stock! I had to get busily sewing before the next craft fair.

There were a few highlights from that second fair, including the woman who literally recoiled in horror when I said the books were science fiction – I’ve never seen such a strong reaction and it made me laugh. There was also the guy who bought eight of my badges, including a Babylon 5 Earth Alliance logo, despite not knowing Babylon 5 – I guess he really liked badges. But the best moment of the fair had to be the expression on a teenaged girl’s face when she saw I had the pan pride flag as one of my badges. She just lit up with excitement on seeing it in my little badge collection. I’d been a little hesitant about doing the pride badges (especially since one of the fairs was at a church hall and I wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be) but that expression made it all worth it. I’m definitely sewing a replacement of that for the next set of fairs.

This weekend was the final fair. I covered my table costs and sold a couple of books, but only because I sold some things to other stallholders. In terms of general public, the fair was dead. More than half the time there was no one looking around at all, so it was just all the stallholders chatting to each other. On the plus side, I sold a bookmark before I even finished it. I’d taken along a half-finished bookmark in case things got slow (I should have taken several because slow didn’t cover it) and one of the stallholders saw me working on it and asked, “Is that spoken for?” She bought the bookmark when it was still incomplete and I spent the next couple of hours finishing it before I joined the ranks of the bored stallholders.

Eastercon highlights

Last weekend I was at Eastercon and I wanted to post a few highlights.

Eastercon eggs 2 Eastercon eggs 1First off, I definitely have to mention the Easter egg display the hotel put on in the reception. Absolutely spectacular. They were beautiful. I have no idea how they did the roses on some of the eggs. Every time you walked past, you’d get this waft of chocolate smell so I hope someone was allowed to eat them afterwards.

This year I was on two panels. One was on LGBT to QUILTBAG, talking about queer representation in sci-fi/fantasy and the importance of representing some of the less known aspects of the queer identity (e.g. having characters who are genderqueer, intersex, asexual, and so on). That yielded some really interesting discussions and was fun for us as a panel, and several people came up to me afterwards saying that they found it really interesting as well, which is great.

The second panel was on the Women of Star Wars, in honour of Carrie Fisher. This was fun as well, but the conversation didn’t seem to flow as much as in the first panel. It jumped around a bit, but we still had some great conversations and the people I was on the panel with were all really nice.

I attended quite a lot of sessions, including the explosive opening ceremony. My photos didn’t come out particularly well of this, but we had gerkin light bulbs, jelly baby fireworks, and exploding fire. There was a definite theme around getting food to blow up. It was put on by the Royal Institution who do these sorts of talks and science displays for kids. So if you want to get a science display set up for a school near you, check them out because it was both entertaining and informative.rope braidbraided hair

I attended a hair braiding workshop and decided that the rope braid was significantly nicer to do than a French braid. I really couldn’t get the hang of a French or Dutch braid at all. I felt like I needed three extra hands to make it work. I did get my hair braided as an example of putting it all together so I walked out of there with braids and rosettes in my hair, which was awesome.

Another panel which was awesome enough to deserve a blog post all to itself was the wheelchair martial arts demonstration by comic book artist and fight choreographer Al Davison. I have some videos of that session that I will be posting soon, so watch this space.

Guardbridge booksAs with other conventions, there was a dealers’ room, in which I spent more money than I should on books. A couple of people worth mentioning were the TTA Press, who ran the indie author table. They took some of my books and did the job of selling them over the weekend, which was really great of them. There were a few other authors who were selling their books there and I bought a few of them, so you might be seeing them reviewed on here soon. There was also a table from Guardbridge Books, who I recently signed a publishing contract with. They will soon be publishing an urban fantasy novel of mine, so keep an eye out for that.

I wore my Queen Madalena cosplay again, which earned me thirteen “nice cosplay” tokens. I don’t know if this is a high number or low, but that was all I could cope with before I had to change back into jeans. Next year, I’m going for a more practical cosplay.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. I definitely had fun participating in the panels rather than just watching them, though watching them was fun too. I went to sessions ranging from presentations on the psychology of living in space to flash fiction writing competitions. Definitely a good convention. Tiring, but good.

Nineworlds Highlights

Last weekend was Nineworlds, a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Hammersmith, which had content around books, movies, games, and more. I wanted to share a few highlights from my experience of the convention.

Indie Author tableFirstly, there was the indie author table. This was in the expo hall and was a place for self-published or small-press-published authors to place their books for sale. I thought this was a fantastic idea, though it could have done with a little more organising. We got an email a couple of days before the event telling us that they needed authors to volunteer to run the table. Five of us did – each taking a four hour stint selling books – but other authors were able to just drop books off to be sold without taking a shift. If this is run in future conventions (which I hope it is) there should be a requirement for all authors to spend at least some time manning the table. After all, it isn’t fair for some people to lose half a day of convention time while others get all the benefits of the table without putting in the same effort.

On the plus side though, one of my books was the first to be sold on this table, so I’m pleased about that.

Geek StitchThis was the first time Nineworlds has run an expo, so the expo hall wasn’t very large, but there were a couple of tables I wanted to highlight. The first was Geek Stitch, who produce a number of cross stitch kits on various geeky themes – from Pokémon to Harry Potter, Steven Universe to Supernatural. Most of these are suitable for beginners.

I was particularly impressed by the cross stitched QR code – which actually works!

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’m into my cross stitch, and I liked what these guys had on offer. Hodor Doorstop

Another table that interested me was Scorch’s Pyrography. This is the art of using heat to write on wood and other substances. They had a lot of dragons on wooden boxes, some maps from various fantasy worlds (including the map from The Hobbit) but what got people’s interest (and a lot of cries of “too soon” from the Game of Thrones fans) was a doorstop with “Hodor” written on it.

There were a lot of sessions people could go to, from silly fun ones to deep philosophical analyses (my friend/editor presented a paper on the philosophy of being recognised – witnessed – in Mad Max Fury Road). There were several of these sessions that I enjoyed in different ways and for different reasons. There was a session on neurodiversity in fiction which got quite intense and one of the audience members got fairly emotional at one point. This was obviously an issue that hit home for a lot of the people in the room. If you’re on Twitter, check out the hashtag #nineworldsnd for discussions and book recommendations.

Flash fiction panelA much more light-hearted session was a Flash Fiction challenge. A group of writers were given prompts and expected to write something based on them in only five minutes. The audience then cheered for the one they liked them most. This was very entertaining and it reminded me of the writing games we used to play with my old writing group – trying to create something very quickly from some strange prompts. While the writers were scribbling away, Lee Harris, editor at Tor.com, entertained us with a quiz on a range of geeky topics – and I was please to be the first to get the Tad Cooper question (I super believe in you, Tad Cooper).

Swordpunk Laura Swordpunk meI unexpectedly got a ticket to attend a Swordpunk session. This was a hands on introduction to medieval sword fighting that involved us trying very hard not to stab each other or whack the ceiling while practicing moves with real swords. I say this was unexpected, because this was a session that required tickets and the tickets had sold old almost as soon as they’d been made available. I got in because my former kung fu instructor and his partner were attending and they’d managed to get tickets. Alex decided a few days before the event that he would rather go to another session that was taking place at the same time, so they offered me the spare ticket.

In the photos, I’m cosplaying as Abby, one of my own characters from the book Between Yesterdays. Laura is cosplaying as a ghost from a web comic I’d not heard of – complete with hand sewn intestines.

Madalena cosplayOn the subject of cosplay, I got a lot of compliments for my Queen Madalena costume. Wearing an outfit like this makes you appreciate how practical jeans are. I was worried every time I got on an escalator that the dress was going to get caught and either cause a painful accident or just get torn off me, leaving me naked in the hotel. I made it through intact but I was very happy to change into my jeans at the end of the event.

Not a lot of people recognised who I was but I had an amazing moment where I sat next to someone in a panel who turned out to be friends with the costume designer on Galavant. We had an interesting conversation and she was the one who took this photo to send to her friend.

On the subject of cosplay, there were some great ones, though I realised I didn’t get many photos of them. I do have a couple I can share but this is just scratching the surface of the awesome outfits that were there.

Tardis dress Lady Sybil costumeOverall, I had a lot of fun. It was an exhausting weekend but I enjoyed it immensely. Where do I sign up for next year?

Nine Worlds 2016

Nine Worlds logoThis weekend, I will be at Nine Worlds, which means I won’t post my usual Saturday blog post (hence this early post). It should be a fun event with talks, panels, cosplay, and catching up with fellow geeks. The editor who’s working with my on my Codename Omega books will be there, so it will be great to catch up with her (she’s just sent me the edits for the third book in the series).

There is an indie author book stall in the expo hall. Myself and several other authors will be selling our books on this stall. If you want to come and meet me, get a book signed or just chat about books, I will be manning this stall on Friday afternoon in the expo hall. Let me know in the comments if you’re going to be there and want to meet.

I’m sure I will have some great photos and stories to post after the event. I will keep you posted.

Author reading: Helen Comerford

Last weekend, I was at St Leonard’s Festival, an event which included a vast range of events from market stall to folk dancing, puppet shows to a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream in a park. One of the events was a workshop with author Helen Comerford, who as part of the workshop did a reading from her book. I took a recording on this opening.

You can find out more about her book at http://afterlifethenovel.com/ or check out the book on Amazon.