Previous month:
October 2014
Next month:
December 2014

Convention Tips, Tricks and Guides

Hosting, planning or attending a convention or event? A few handy links follow. 

(Doing end of year bookmark tidying, but I wanted to keep these in one place - especially as they might be useful to others.)

Please add more links and recommendations in the comments and I'll keep the list updated.


Handy list of resources from the Society of Authors - includes a checklist for events and guidance for festival organisers

Very thorough checklist for organising events via Natura

Long list of event-related apps


25 tips for hosting an author event via Sarah McIntyre

Writing an anti-harassment policy by Geek Feminism

4 steps to moderating a great panel - Forbes (Ignore the title, actually about planning and prepping a panel)

Free or cheap venues in London

"Three days running up and down corridors" by Ruth Booth (Being a volunteer, including 10 tips)


Advice for authors attending a convention via Den Patrick

Packing for conventions by Gail Carriger

The importance of proper dress - also Gail Carriger

Attending a con as a pro - Effie Seiberg (at Beverly Bambury Publicity) 

"Everything you need to know for surviving a convention" - Lifehacker

Working the room: how to network effectively - Guardian

"Schmoozing 101" - Mary Robinette Kowal

Selling & Trading

Brian McClelland on the economics of a book fair

How to sell at conventions by Richy K Chandler

Being a bookseller (LonCon3 Edition) by Forbidden Planet's Danie Ware

Panels & Workshops

10 tips for moderating a panel -  Pornokitsch

More tips for moderating, organising and being on panels - also Pornokitsch

"How to moderate a panel like a pro" - Harvard Business Review

Moderating tips - Julia Rios

Various formats for meetings & workshops - RSA

"How to run a good workshop" - Scott Berkun

"A guide for the perplexed moderator" by Elizabeth Hand and James Patrick Kelly

Fiction: 'A Study in Psychology' by Harle Oren Cummins

A Study in PsychologyIn one corner of his solitary cell, with face buried in his hands, sat Jean Lescaut, wife poisoner, waiting for the morrow on which he would expiate his crimes.

Each hour as the sentry made his rounds, he saw the prisoner sitting in that same hopeless attitude and despair. A month before when he first heard his sentence he had raved and fought impotently. Night after night, and day after day he had paced his narrow cell like a caged animal, but now that was over. Already the shadow of the doom which was so near had fallen upon him.

Presently there was a sound of footsteps, and the prisoner heard two people in conversation coming down the corridor. But he did not stir; events of that day had no interest for him: he was to be electrocuted on the morrow. The steps stopped outside his cell, and he heard the attendant saying, "I am sorry, Doctor Van Home, but I can give you only an hour. Orders are orders, you know."The heavy barred door swung open, was closed and locked again, and the turnkey walked away. Jean Lescaut looked up wearily and without curiosity. He saw a tall clerical gentleman regarding him intently.

Continue reading "Fiction: 'A Study in Psychology' by Harle Oren Cummins" »

The Best and Worst Books of October

Books books books. October was the busiest month so far - NYCC, lots of travel, podcasting, you name it - so let's stop dilly-dallying and get to the action, shall we?

vesperLots and lots of series

My Lloyd Alexander kick continues. I reread Prydain (lovely, but pitched younger than I remembered - probably because I haven't reread it since I was 10), read Westmark for the first time (spectacular) and rereading the Vesper Holly series (so much fun).

Lots and lots and lots and lots of historical romances - more on that here.

Scott Sigler's Galactic Football League. Made it through The Champion (#5), and curious what will happen in the two yet-to-be-published volumes. FOOTBALL VS ALIENS. HOO-RAH!

Kate Brian's Private series - currently through The Legacy (#6). Those wacky rapscallions! 

...and slowly continuing the Edward S. Aarons "Sam Durrell" series, up through Assignment - Stella Marni (#4). So far, the even numbers are weaker and the odd numbers are amazing, with #3 (Assignment Suicide) the best of the lot. That said, there are still 44 books to go in the series, so I'll hold off on drawing too many conclusions.

But enough of that silliness, let's get to the fun stuff.

Continue reading "The Best and Worst Books of October" »

Short Story Day Africa - The Winners

SSDAShort Story Day Africa have announced the winners of this year's competition.

1st Place – “Leatherman” by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)

2nd Place ­– “Ape Shit” by Sylvia Schlettwein (Namibia)

3rd Place ­– “In the Water” by Kerstin Hall (South Africa)

Honourable Mention – “The Corpse” by Sese Yane (Kenya)

This year's competition, Terra Incognita, encouraged wild imagination and new frontiers. Writers were urged to delve into the genres of speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, alternative history and magical realism. The winner was chosen by Samuel Kolawole, who also helped select the shortlists with Richard de Nooy and me (it was a blind judging process, which was a first for me - and a really great experience). All of the stories from the longlist - selected by Tiah Beautement and Rachel Zadok - will be published in the annual SSDA anthology.

Samuel says:

"The winning entry is among the most engaging pieces of short fiction I have read this year. A tale of longing and dark adventure, 'Leatherman' draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery through scalpel sharp details and sly wit. A deserving winner.

"'Ape Shit' is riveting, surreal and beautifully crafted.

'In the Water' is a thump to the heart. A great horror story with a satisfying ending.

"Finally, wonderfully stylistic and quirky 'The Corpse' deserves an honourable mention."

I've had an opportunity to read the entire longlist as part of the judging process, and they're absolutely fantastic. Just narrowing down to a shortlist was tough, picking a winner must've been nearly impossible. Congratulations to the four stories above, as they're all terrific. 

If you can't wait, definitely check out Feast, Famine and Potlucklast year's SSDA anthology. 

Friday Five: 5 Things in Historical Romance I Wantonly Desire to See in Epic Fantasy

Duchess by NightI've been slightly under the weather for the last week, which means, of course, soup, self-pity and comfort reads. Rather than my traditional winter-sniffles re-re-re-read of the Belgariad, I thought I'd go wandering around the historical romance category. That is: duchess porn.

And lots of it.

After swimming in the skirts of Christi Caldwell, Eloisa James, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan and Ellie MacDonald, I've now got some theories. The books are, of course, a total blast: cheeky and entertaining; page-turners that rely wholly on empathetic and interesting central characters to be a success.

So what are five things that my favourite comfort genre - epic fantasy - could learn from historical romance?


Most epic fantasies have the good sense to draw a curtain when things start getting squishy. And that - in and of itself - is a bit weird. There are few qualms about detailed violence, for example - combat, torture, the works. All of which is passed off as 'exciting' or 'realistic' or 'character building' ... but then, so is sex. So why are fantasy authors (and readers? publishers?) shy about building characters through something fun and joyful, rather than, you know, carnage. This is becoming especially noticeable in the grimdark trend; as sexual violence can be threatened on every page, but consensual sex is swept off-screen. (Possibly this comes from epic fantasy's engrained Medieval morality? Where all sex is more-or-less seen as 'dirty', and we expect all our Chosen Ones to be Galahad?) Regardless, fantasy's made an art of writing the fight scene - and that's great - so how about brushing up on other athletic endeavours as well?

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Things in Historical Romance I Wantonly Desire to See in Epic Fantasy" »

New Releases: The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis

The Motherless OvenWelcome to a world where kitchens are populated by gods, where you know your death day well in advance, where children make their parents (yes, literally construct them), and where the best protection from a sudden downpour could actually be a table. Because it rains knives.

Scarper Lee’s schooldays are blighted by the imminence of his death day. Schoolmates and teachers alike treat him differently because of it, and that’s even before a new girl at school lands in his life, challenging all the givens and ready to turn what’s left of it upside down. At home his parents - a Bakelite hairdryer (Mum) and a brass and sail construction of indeterminate purpose (Dad, who’s kept in the shed) - remain his constant but slightly distant touchstones. How is a teenager supposed to deal with the last three weeks of his life in these circumstances?

There’s a lot to like in the world Rob Davis has created for The Motherless Oven (2014). To begin with it feels real - there’s a sense of establishment and history that’s completely believable, no matter how bizarre or unexplained to a real world sensibility the details are. Scarper’s life completely convinces, and Davis creates characters who fully inhabit their environment. There’s a danger in building a world around wordplay and bizarre quirks, a risk that all you get are a series of unconnected gimmicks. Not so here. Everything feels joined up and of a piece. Likewise the relationships, both established and new, work well and help to sell Scarper as attractive, put-upon protagonist in what’s in equal parts coming-of-age tale and exploration of free will and destiny.

Continue reading "New Releases: The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis" »

Once Upon a Time: S4E5 Family Business

Beauty_and_the_BeastWe get a stronger episode again this week, plot-wise, despite the fact that it centres around Belle. So, full disclosure: I don’t like OUaT’s Belle. The character’s a wet rag, without any of the restless spark that made the animated original so much fun, and the actress does her best with the material… but the writing and direction defeat her. As do the ridiculous costumes they insist on stuffing her into. Emilie de Ravin was, apparently, well liked for a character she played on Lost and, in the few opportunities she’s given to play her character with any sort of personality on OUat, she makes an impression. It’s not always a good impression – remember Trixie, or whatever her real-world counterpart personality was called?*

Saldly, OUaT Belle’s sole contribution to most episodes is ‘I’ll go look it up.’ Which, maybe, in the early seasons of Buffy, made sense. But now? Researching something in a library in a fake fairy tale town seems… like a losing proposition. It’s just sad. I mean, even Willow made the switch to the 21st century pretty easily.

That said: this town runs on ‘fuel’ and has power even though no one ever repaired the single power-line that caused a town-wide blackout when it went down; is currently surrounded by a giant magical ice wall but without any ill-effect (where are they getting their groceries from? Is the town entirely self-sufficient?); and the current mayor took office on the say-so of a cabal of three grumpy third-stringers after the former mayor decided to quit because she’s pissed off at the sheriff. One of the sheriffs. I mean, I feel safe in assuming the citizens of Storybrooke don’t know what a search engine is, because I’m not sure anyone even knows how to use a computer.

OMG this show.

Continue reading "Once Upon a Time: S4E5 Family Business" »

Fiction: "How to Win a Hugo Award" by Lavie Tidhar

how to win a hugo award by Lavie Tidhar


"Greetings, gentlebeings!" said the alien ambassador.

The President of the United States stood on the podium staring up into the sky. The sky was grey and woven with strands of autumn red and a strange, alien silver-grey. The huge shape of the alien ambassador hovered above the White House, easily the size of a nuclear submarine. The ambassador was a huge pulsating mass of grey matter, moving gracefully in the air as though it were swimming. It was supported by the aliens' advanced anti-grav devices.

"As you know," the alien ambassador said, its booming voice breaking over the heads of the assembled masses, "we are a race of hyper-advanced space whales –"

"Whaliens", the President's Special Advisor for Extraterrestrial Activities said sourly –

"–and we have travelled many light-years –" the whalien ambassador paused significantly – "many light-years," it said, "to come here, to Earth."

Continue reading "Fiction: "How to Win a Hugo Award" by Lavie Tidhar" »

Review Round-up: The Twelve, Lazarus, This One Summer & Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

The benefit curse of the One Comic Podcast is that now I'm back into comic book shops on a regular basis, with all the incidental shopping that entails. A few recent encounters of the graphic kind... The Twelve, This One Summer, Lazarus and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

The TwelveThe Twelve (2008) by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston begins in a simpler time - World War 2, where up was up and white was white. A dozen of America's finest superheroes, from mechanical men to reporters-with-nerves-of-steel, stumble into a Nazi deathtrap and wind up frozen in stasis. Years later, they wake up: only to face our chaotic modern world.

The series is roughly structured around each of the twelve heroes - following their attempts (successful or not) to blend in to the oh-so-morally-gray contemporary era. Set in the Marvel Universe, The Twelve is cleverly woven as a counterpoint to the drama of Marvel's 'main' storyline. In a world of Civil Wars and distrust and awkwardness, here are a dozen superheroes with a certain purity - superheroes that can be trusted again. Except, of course, they can't. 

Part murder mystery, part moral lesson, The Twelve is unfortunate in that it sits squarely in the shadow of two vastly better comics: The Ultimates and, of course, Watchmen. The former already addresses the awkwardness of generational collide with its reinterpretation of Captain America - 'old-fashioned' values in a new world, with all the hypocrisy and difficulty that come with. And the latter is an infinitely more nuanced and compelling approach to both superheroic murder mysteries and, again, the changing of the generations. Neither of these are, of course, The Twelve's fault - it is a perfectly serviceable comic that, to be blunt - has nothing new to add.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: The Twelve, Lazarus, This One Summer & Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong" »

Everywhere Else

SmilersFair...and awards season begins again. Like the appearance of Christmas kitsch in shops, the the Goodreads Choice Awards seem to edge earlier and earlier every year. Still, voting is fun.

Also on the horizon: BSFA awards. There is a slightly different nomination process this year, so if you're a member, have a read.

"I really wanted to address a Western cultural – very Christian – belief that suffering is somehow ennobling. I think suffering is far more often the reverse: it’s deeply corrosive, and that’s what I wanted to explore. Which is probably why a lot of my characters head off in directions you’re not expecting." - Bex, interviewed at Fantasy Faction.

Anne Leckie and Kameron Hurley (and The Kitschies) all profiled in The Atlantic.

"New Worlds was never supposed to be a nostalgic enterprise.  But, perhaps, publishing a speculative fiction magazine is." - Warren Ellis on the (re-)death of the re-boot of New Worlds Magazine.

(We mused about SF magazine/platform 'brands' in the past - so that's more grist for that particular mill.)

Two definites for next year's calendar: Nine Worlds (7-9 August) and - because there is a Santa Claus - the Kansas City Chiefs are coming to London (1 November)

After a brief period of leaderlessness (sadly, no bloody revolution ensued), Phil Lunt has stepped up as Chair of the British Fantasy Society. Wish him good luck in the forums or on Twitter at @phil_lunt.

"Fatale is less Noir from a femme fatale’s perspective than Weird Noir exaggerating and exploring the a femme fatale’s allure" - The Cultural Gutter on Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's Fatale

The November issue of The Big Click is out, with a focus on Oakland. 

"How much can you or should you protect [teenagers] from the darkness that will inevitably seep into their lives? Even puberty, Abbott seems to indicate, is a sort of 'witchcraft.'" - Mahvesh on Megan Abbott's The Fever.

Molly Tanzer announced a new novel, The Pleasure Merchant, coming in 2015 from Lazy Fascist.

The latest episode of the One Comic Podcast takes a long, lingering look at Vertigo's Yellow - an anthology comic that is, as the title says, very yellow.

NaNoWriMo alternatives: NaNoDodo - writing advice from Hodderscape. Or Dinovember, which is... well, exactly what you think. Except cuter.

And, finally... The Book Smugglers are giving away all three books in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle (including a limited edition Tarot card set).