Friday, 8 November 2013

World Fantasy Convention 2013

Normally at Halloween I turn off the lights, hide behind the sofa, and keep a bowl of exploding chocolate eyeballs beside the front door in case my house gets mobbed by gangs of trick-or-treaters. But this year, I got to party myself... in Brighton with several other fantasy/horror genre authors, all of us attending the World Fantasy Convention (the first time it has graced British shores in 16 years, so how could an author with a unicorn muse possibly miss such a great event?).

Teresa Flavin, C J Busby, and me
The weekend kicked off on Thursday night with a children's fringe event at the Book Nook in Hove, organised by my publisher Templar, where three of us who write for younger readers dressed up ready for a spooky evening in the shop. Here I am at my 'magical station' ready to show prospective young knights of the Round Table how to decorate their shields with heraldic symbols:

Arthurian shield-making
CJ Busby hosted some spell making, which obviously had an effect on the weather, since it was a wild and stormy night with rain and wind rattling the window of my fourth-floor room in one of Brighton's regency guest houses.

But we survived until Friday morning, when we ventured into the huge Hilton Metropole hotel to brave all the dragons plus several hundred authors, artists, editors and agents who work in the fantasy genre.

dealers' room at the World Fantasy Convention 2013
There were books galore, an art show with fabulous fantasy paintings on display, and a feast of panels and interviews with guests of honour such as Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Joanne Harris, Tanith Lee, and many other heroes and heroines of the fantasy genre. Yes, I know I promised you a fangirl photo...

Neil Gaiman (interviewed by editor Jo Fletcher)

... I forgot to say it was dark and I didn't get a seat in the front row!

There were three streams of programming over the weekend, so it wasn't possible to go to everything, but a few panels I enjoyed were Cover Art in the Digital Age, A Book by any Other Name (ebooks), and Are Agents Redundant? (no). There was also a panel called Broads with Swords, which I wish I'd been part of since obviously Rhianna Pendragon would have had something to say about that. But I came away with two agent names for possible approach to replace my agent Maggie Noach, sadly no longer with us, who was also a great fan of the fantasy/sf genre. (I especially liked the agent who, when asked "is 57 too old?", replied with an emphatic "no!" ... that gives me a few years breathing space, then.)

Many panellists mentioned ebooks, with either enthusiasm or regret, and Amazon hosted one of the evening parties in the bar with a chance to quiz the team in "we love authors" T-shirts about self-publishing via. their kdp and Createspace. Seems I'm already doing most of this, but they did suggest considering some print-on-demand paperbacks of my books, which I might do once all the secondhand copies at 1p each have vanished from Amazon's Marketplace.

I caught up with Sarah Ash, author of one of my favourite fantasy titles Moths to a Flame (of which I own an original paperback signed edition).
some of Sarah Ash's beautiful fantasy books
I also bumped into New York Times bestseller Tim Lebbon (we once collaborated on a horror novella - bet you didn't know that), seen here with his friend Gavin Williams, who is now involved with independent films.

Gavin Williams and Tim Lebbon (hope that's just cola, Tim!)

On Friday evening, there was a mass signing event where you could get your favourite authors to sign copies of books and/or autograph your programme. I collected several friendly signatures from the Fantasy for Children table...

...while everybody else queued for two hours to get Neil Gaiman's.

CJ Busby, Linda Strachan, Gillian Philip (Neil Gaiman's signing queue in the background)

On Sunday, I enjoyed reading in the atmospheric 'reading cafe', where the prologue of Sword of Light formed part of a Fantasy for Children showcase with nine other authors who write for YA and younger.

The reading cafe with throne

We just had time for a quick farewell lunch in the local chippy, complete with amazing mirrors, before heading back home.

Emma Barnes, Frances Hardinge (plus hat) and CJ Busby

And if you're tempted to try a fantasy convention, there is a British one next year in York run by the British Fantasy Society... see you there?


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