Eastercon recap

Eastercon was a lot of fun as usual. It felt like the schedule was less busy than in previous years, but I still got to go to some interesting panels and talks. One of the highlights was the panel on black holes which was a last-minute addition to the program thanks to the recent announcement of the black hole images. This panel also talked about some general principles of astrophysics and the problems of “science by press release.” It’s also the only time I’ve heard an audience so enthusiastic about the subject of tensor calculus. Other highlights of the schedule included a talk on the way science is portrayed in movies (unfortunately there were technical difficulties so that session started late and ended up feeling a bit rushed), planning for the apocalypse (though I’m surprised it took half an hour for one of the panelists to suggest eating or executing by guillotine one of the other panelists), and the panel on administering fantasy worlds (which gave me a nice list of book recommendations to look into).

I was involved in a few items on the schedule. The first was an author reading on the Friday evening, which was a bit quiet. Most of the audience were friends of the other authors there as moral support, but one of the other people in the audience is apparently in charge of ordering stock at a Waterstones, and she was asking me questions about the availability of my books afterward, so I’m counting that as a win.

I was on a panel about anime recommendations which was the one I was a little worried about, because while I watch anime I’m by no means an expert on it. Still, I was able to make some suggestions based on my personal favourites and one of them got a whoop from someone in the audience, so presumably my suggestions had merit.

The one I was really looking forward to though was the panel on queer baiting in mass market films. This was with a couple of people who I’d done queer representation panels with before, so I knew we could have some good discussions, and we all got to vent over the examples we found most frustrating. We also got into discussions about queer-coding vs queer-baiting, whether TV is doing better than film in terms of representation, and what things looked like in different parts of the world. All in all, it was a very fun conversation and a few people came up to me afterwards to say it was a good panel or mentioned it on Twitter. There’s got to be something good about any panel that ends in a call for revolution (though frankly I’m surprised D lasted until the last 30 seconds for that (they said afterwards that they’d thought they might make it through one convention without publicly calling for revolution, but they couldn’t help themselves)).

Guardbridge Books, who are the publisher behind Wolf Unleashed, had a table there, so I got to have a nice catch up with my editor. I did a one hour book signing at their table, which turned into a long conversation about our favourite books and tropes we find frustrating with someone who bought a book and the bookseller who was manning another dealers’ table across from us. That was fun too.

I also recorded a couple of interview videos for my YouTube channel, so look out for those coming soon. One of them was about the submissions process from an editor’s perspective, which I’m hoping will be useful for new authors looking to send out their first books.

One of the really nice things about doing these conventions is seeing people I haven’t seen for ages. It was nice to catch up with D, who was one of the people on the queer-baiting panel, and I met up with Francesca and Robert from Luna Press who I’ve met at these events before and tend to only see once a year, and I had some nice chats with the couple from Books on the Hill.

I also managed to continue my tradition of being randomly given a bracelet. In the opening ceremony, someone came to sit next to me on the grounds that I looked familiar so we’d probably met at a convention before. We talked for a bit and I admired her bracelets, at which point she promptly took one off and gave it to me as a gift. This is the second Eastercon in a row where a near stranger has given me a bracelet. It’s a trend I’m happy to continue if anyone wants to give me one next year.

Eastercon Schedule

I will be at Eastercon from the 19th to 22nd of April and at the convention, I will be involved in a few different items.

Firstly, I will be doing an author reading on Friday evening at 5:45. I will be doing readings from Wolf Unleashed and Shadows of Tomorrow, maybe more if I have time. It will be a shared session with other authors David Allen and Ian Creasey.

On Saturday, I will be doing a book signing for Wolf Unleashed at the Guardbridge Books table in the dealers’ room. This will be at 1pm on the Saturday until 2pm.

On Sunday, I am in two panels. One is at 10:15 in Discovery 1 and is on the subject: Beyond Studio Ghibli. We will be talking about our favourite animes, making recommendations, and offering ideas for where to find new anime to watch. Nothing remotely to do with my books, but it should be a really interesting one.

The second Sunday panel is at 5:45 in Bleriot. It’s on queerbaiting in mass market genre films, and I’m really looking forward to this panel. I’ve done LGBTQ+ representation panels with one of the other panelists before and we can usually have some good discussions. I think this is going to be a really interesting subject to go into. I’m expecting this to be a lot of fun.

Bath Comic Con

Piles of books in preparation for conventionI spent most of yesterday at Bath Comic Con, which was a relatively small, one-day con. It wasn’t a great day for sales. It seemed like a lot of other people in the dealers room were struggling, and I wasn’t helped by being tucked into an awkward spot in the corner. Still, despite the challenges, I met some nice people and sold a few books.

I talked to another author who had a few books for sale, including one about a private detective fighting the mummy on the Titanic, which sounds like a lot of fun. I may have to give that one a try sometime. A table set up with books and items to sell

I also talked to a woman who works in a library in Bristol about the possibility of stocking some of my books, and a couple of creative writing students who were interested in the process of getting published.

Writing Advice: Selling at Conventions

In this video, I offer some advice for selling books at sci-fi and fantasy conventions, a lot of which is also applicable to book fairs, Christmas fairs, village fetes, and anywhere else you might get a table for a few hours to sell your books.

There’s some general advice and tips from my experience. I’d hope some of it, like being nice to people, would be obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it.

In convention news, I will be at Bath Comic Con, on 23rd March 2019. It’s in the Bath Assembly Rooms and I will have a table in the ball room if anyone wants to come along and talk to me about books, writing, or fandom in general.

Christmas Fair

Last weekend was the start of Christmas fair season for me. I use these fairs as an opportunity to sell my books as well as a few other items, such as hand-stitched pin badges and bookmarks, which helps to cover the cost of having a table. This fair was one held in a local school and it’s one I did pretty well at last year. One of the highlights of last year was the guy who wanted to buy badges for all of his grandchildren who cleared out half my stock in one go.

This year wasn’t quite so successful. It started out reasonably and I sold three books and some badges in the first hour (including a girl who bought a bi pride badge who then came back to buy a rainbow one for her girlfriend), but after that it got dramatically quieter and I only made one more sale for the entire rest of the fair. I didn’t take it personally because it was quiet for all the stalls around me. The guy across from me selling wooden toys and puzzles looked like he might be falling asleep at times.

I did have some good conversations and a few people took cards saying that they would look up the e-book versions, so fingers crossed about that. I also got some chuckles for my new bookmark designs. This was the first outing for my “aliens believe in you” and “always finish what you sta…” bookmarks and both of them amused people, which was what I wanted.

I ended up rearranging my stall part-way through. I started out with all the books on one side and all the other stuff on the other, but then I rearranged it so that the books were in three groups with the other things in between. Any thoughts on which layout looks better? Leave your opinions in the comments.

Christmas fair stall Christmas fair stall

It wasn’t my most successful Christmas fair, but I still sold four books that I wouldn’t have sold if I’d stayed at home, so I’m counting it as a win.

Sumup

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I sometimes get a table at conventions or gift fairs to sell copies of my books (and some miscellaneous other items to help cover costs because dealers tables at conventions are expensive). My latest convention was Cardiff Film and Comic Con a few weeks ago, and Birmingham Collectormania this weekend.

Until now, I’ve only ever done cash payments but now more and more people are expecting to be able to pay with card wherever they are (and I can’t blame them, because I’m so used to the convenience of cards myself). I decided it was about time I got myself a card reader.

I talked to a few of the vendors at Eastercon about what they use and one that was recommended to me by a couple of different people was Sumup, which was the cheapest around according to one of the people I asked. From my own comparisons of reader costs and commission fees, I think she was right. When you sign up for Sumup, you buy a small card reader, which is nicely portable, and which connects via bluetooth to a phone app (you need to have Android or iPhone). The app itself is very simple and you can enter manual payments or create a catalogue of sales items so you can quickly tap on items to put a sale through. You can also group your items/prices, so I can have separate lists of stock for Christmas fairs and for science fiction conventions, making it easier to find the items on the list when you’re making a sale.

I did have a little bit of a teething problem on my first sale – the phone app sat on the “connecting” screen for ages and couldn’t find the reader – but I restarted the phone and card reader and after that it all went through seamlessly, letting me take chip and pin payments and contactless. I had fun today when it found a couple of other people’s Sumup devices before it identified mine (the challenge when three stallholders within a few metres of each other have chosen the same service) but it was easy enough to get it linking to the right one and processing the sale. After a sale, there’s also an option to send a receipt by text or email.

I have an online dashboard to see my payment history and track sales and income. Sumup send money directly to me bank account within a couple of days of the payment going through. They charge a 1.69% fee on each transaction, so if I sell a book for £10, I will pay about 17 pence to Sumup which is not bad at all and good compared to the other options on the market – iZettle is 1.75%, as is Square, WorldPay and Paypal can be up to 2.75%.

I would definitely recommend getting a card reader if, like me, you sell your books at face to face events. There were a few sales I made at the last convention that were only possible because I had a card reader, and one person who was going to buy one book but when he saw I had a card reader decided to get two. I would be happy to recommend Sumup based on my experiences last week, and if you do go for it, they have a “refer a friend” scheme. If you click on this link (http://fbuy.me/iRKnc) and sign up, you get a discount on the card reader (the website says a £44 discount, but I only paid £29 for my card reader, so I’m not sure how that works) and for the sake of honesty I should probably admin that I would get a £10 fee.

These days, if you’re selling your books face-to-face, you’re going to miss out on sales if you don’t have a card reader of some sort.

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.