Good evening, I’ve survived day one of the con!
There are pictures! Mostly of food.Continue reading “FantasyCon 2021 day 1”
I’m in Birmingham for FantasyCon 2021.
I compliance with the rules, I did a lateral flow test yesterday; it was negative, as have the last four I’ve done. I have a cold, with an ear infection. Definitely bacteriological. I need some pain killers right now.
Not only have I never been to Birmingham, I’ve never been to a convention. I’ve arrived a day early to acclimatise to the place and get settled. I want to try to explore, but I’m too exhausted now.
The train from Grimsby was a little late, because it had a disagreement with a deer on the line, but I managed to get my next train. I’m in quite a bit of pain from the seats. I should have brought my walking stick. On the other hand, I also got a bit of worldbuilding done for my Erce stories, which I am re-writing, with more obvious magic and dragons.
I had problems at Birmingham New Street Station. I didn’t know where to get my taxi from, had an asthma attack on the stairs because I didn’t realise the exit was upstairs and didn’t get the lift, and then when I did find the taxi rank the taxi driver kept phoning me asking where I was. He complained so many times because I told him the wrong entrance. It took 5 minutes to get to the hotel when the driver eventually arrived 25 minutes later.
Anyway. I’m in my room now, it’s rather pleasant. The front desk staff were lovely. Took less than five minutes to get my key and information about the hotel. I’m considering getting room service later, because I’m not sure I want to be around people.
Just got back, I had to walk off some of my giddiness. I had a wonderful time. I spoke to a few people, authors mostly, plus Anne Cater the fabulous blog tour organiser and Karen Sullivan, publisher. I bought 6 books, some from authors I’ve read before, like Matt Wesolowski and Antti Tuomainen, and some by authors I haven’t read but I liked the bits they read out, like Will Carver and Kjell Ola Dahl. I also got the Vanda Symon book I was missing, Ringmaster.
And it was 3 for 2 so I had a bit of a spree and supported a small independent bookshop, The Bookcase in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire. Indie publisher, indie bookshop, supported by a local library. It’s wonderful.
I really enjoyed meeting Johanna Gustawsson. I have all three of her books but I only brought Blood Song as it was the first one of hers that I read and I didn’t want to overwhelm her. We had a chat about realistic autistic representation.
I am slowly calming down, the walk through night time Southwell and then writing this has helped, but I’m still all bubbling with happiness. Going to journal for a bit to ground me again. I need to get some sleep tonight.
It was probably a mistake getting a room at a pub. I can hear conversations down in the bar.
I’m in pain and exhausted. I had to miss a couple of panels yesterday and both this morning. I’ve over done it; but still, I’ve done it! I’ve managed to go on holiday on my own, go to a festival and meet people. I had to spend this morning resting after a late breakfast, but I’ve been out for an hour or so, walking around Harrogate to get some tape to temporarily repair my glasses, visit a bookshop and buy a new suitcase. But I had better get back to the start of yesterday morning.Continue reading “Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival: Days 3 and 4”
Entry 1: 08:20
I’m up and showered after a rough night. I was in so much pain that it was difficult to get comfortable. I did eventually sleep, however and this morning I’m ready to go. Last night I wrote out a plan for me to follow so I don’t over do things. I have an hour between 1pm and 2pm to get dinner and hide for a bit. There are a few opportunities for book acquisition that I’m looking forward to today, most notably the Orion Proof Party in the library at 5pm.
Right now, I’m going to finish my cup of tea, get dressed and go for breakfast. I do enjoy a Premier Inn breakfast, especially since I’ve paid in advance for the full works.
Entry 2: 20:24
I am not in pain this evening! Woop! Although my feet were aching earlier, but now I’m back in my room after eating a rare three-course meal (such a treat!) the ache is beginning to fade.
I had a couple of too hot/too crowded slightly dizzy spells today but managed with the help of event staff and festival goers to cope. After the first panel this morning I also realised that the best thing to do wa sto arrive about 10 minutes before the panel was due to start and the crowds would already have gone in, and then go out when the questions started. The only things this didn’t work for was the Crime Files flash giveaway and the Orion Proof Party. If there are free books in the offing people go a bit mad and you have to get there early.
I visited the WH Smiths book tent and bought four books then had a wander ’round.
The first panel of the day was ‘Emerald Noir’. The panel were witty and insightful, discussing their books and characters, and influences. The liminality of borders, physical and psychological, and the importance of language were repeated themes.
Second panel was ‘A Class Act’. I wasn’t as impressed or entertained by this one and due to being overwhelmed by the first event, too hot and anxious I had to use my fidget cube until someone at the other end of the row whined that it was distracting. Me having a meltdown would have been rather more so. I left half hour in to get some air and went for my dinner
I felt rather lost and alone at this point as I hadn’t bumped into anyone I knew from Twitter and blog tours. So I went to the Crime Files pop up stand in the beer tent and had a chat. I found out about their Flash Giveaway at 3pm so I made plans to get to that early because they had limited books.
I also went back to the book shop and bought three more books. I found an empty table between the beer tent and the bookshop and started reading one of my new purchases, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra in the rain. It was drizzling all day but not enough to be worth putting my jacket on for. I blame Val McDermid’s singing. Or Nicola Sturgeon for bringing Scottish weather with her.
Next up was the ‘Pace’ panel. It was okay. I learnt this and that, about the importance of cutting to maintain pace but it was all a bit here and there. I left as soon as questions started to go to the loo then went straight to Crime Files to get in the queue. Luckily, I got close to the front and got my copy of The Perfect Wife, which is now in my suitcase with the other eleven books I acquired today.
The break was good, I needed to get away from people again and found a table on the lawn to myself. People were standing around smoking and it made me cough so I gave up and went back inside, after gawking at Nicola Sturgeon again. She was sat at the table to the right of mine.
‘Antipodean Noir’ was the final panel for me today. I really enjoyed it, the writers were funny and I found their reflections on the differences between Britain and Australia, and New Zealand interesting, as I had the thoughts of the Irish/Northern Irish authors in the morning. Especially the differences in language use and cultural references. I had bought a book by one of the authors, Vanda Symon, so I went to meet her to have my book signed in the WH Smith tent. I was the first in the queue just to see her.
After that I headed to the Orion Proof Party. It was incredibly busy because the Jo Nesbo talk was happening in the Ballroom at the same time and the queue went from one side of the hotel to the other. I met a couple of people and chatted while we waited to get in. I picked up three books and then had one of my too hot/too many people moments and had to be helped out of the room. I got settled, had tea and scones while talking to a couple of people, and found out we sort of recognised each other from bookblogger Twitter.
Vanda Symon joined us and I went back into the library to see if there was anything left. I got the last book.
After that I chatted some more then came back to the hotel. Took some photos for Twitter so my friend Mon could see what I’d been up to and then went for tea.
I had planned to head back to the festival for the Black Thorn Black Out event at 8pm but by the time my meal arrived and I’d eaten it was almost 8pm, I was tired and decided to come back to my room and write this post instead. I’m going to put my pjs on and get back to reading one of the three books I brought with me – you know, just in case I didn’t buy any while I was here. I’m pleasantly full of food, tired, not in pain and less anxious than I was yesterday so it hasn’t been a bad day.
More fun planned for tomorrow!
Entry 3: 21:16
A couple of accessibility issues I noticed.
- Water was not easily available, I needed to be sign-posted to find the water coolers, and was denied water when I desperately needed it because one of the few, and nearest, water coolers was in the ‘Friends of the Festival’ Lounge. Even in an emergency I wasn’t allowed to get a cup of water.
- The use of bounce microphones during Q&A sessions. It’s a microphone in a box, you’re supposed to throw and catch it. As has been raised by disability activists, this makes it difficult for people with limited mobility or motor skills to take part, because you can’t catch the thing.
- No quiet area, at all. It was drizzling all day, the tents and hotel were busting at the seams and it wasn’t quiet outside either. I wore my headphones all day just to cope.
- You couldn’t stay in your seat between panels. I’d have liked to get settled in for the day but they threw everyone out between panels.
- The only food onsite was expensive.
It’s fine having disabled access cards and providing wheelchair spaces, and allowing people to leave whenever they wanted, but it’s the little things like easy access to water or a quiet room to unwind in would make things better.
I’ve just seen Hamilton in London (waiting for the train to leave King’s Cross as I type) and I have to add to the brilliant reviews it’s already received.
I enjoyed myself immensely, singing along to at least three songs. The songs are catchy, and the story gripping and moving. The acting, dancing and singing was definitely worth the effort of getting to London in this weather. Unfortunately, I don’t have a brochure so I can’t remember names of actors, but the ones who played Hamilton, Elizabeth, Angelica and George Washington were especially impressive.
The set was impressive, large pieces being moved around the stage for dramatic effect. I thought the costumes lovely. I liked the way they changed as the years passed and fashions changed.
The death of Philip Hamilton was terribly moving, even I cried. King George made everyone laugh with his terrible dancing. Historically inaccurate comic relief is acceptable. But only because I enjoyed the rest of it so much.
So, I definitely recommend it, even if you aren’t normally into musicals.
Bleugh, I’,m dying of a cold. Not a ‘take a couple of paracetamol and get on with it cold’ either. I hate having a screwed up immune system, and would like a new one. Anyway, I’ll get on with the post.
Last Saturday I dragged my diseased self out of bed at a disgustingly early hour to catch a train to Lincoln and then from their to Nottingham. After navigating the Nottingham tram system – it’s really easy if you aren’t having a panic attack, you don’t have to interact with other people to buy tickets or anything – I managed, just in time to get to the conference. I got my goody bag, which included the usual confrency type things – schedules and advertising from the sponsor – and a free book. Yes, someone gave me a free book. This happens quite regularly but I still get excited every time. It’s a children’s book set in the First World War, I might give it to my nephew or niece.
I managed to make it to three out of the four talks I’d planned to go to. The first was about creative writing PhDs. I wasn’t too impressed with a couple of the speakers. One was up himself and the other didn’t answer questions properly. The third was quite interesting though. I came away certain that a PhD was beyond me, because of the critical element. Not having a background in formal literary criticism – I only studied English Literature up to AS Level – I felt like I’d be unable to complete the critical essay portion of the PhD.
I’ve been thinking about it though. I have thought about what I’d like to do for my PhD more seriously since then. I’m thinking about writing a novel intertwining the experiences of Queen Edith, Gytha of Wessex and Edith Swanneck in the weeks around the Battle of Hastings and in the months and years that followed. The critical component would be comparing how these women specifically, and Anglo-Saxon women in general were represented in contemporary literature (from the sixth century to the eleventh) with how they are represented in modern historical fiction focusing on the era.
My initial hypothesis is that women had greater representation in the contemporary literature – in the form of hagiography and ecclesiastical works, for example – than they do in modern historical fiction. To be blunt, you’re more likely to find books about St Dunstan than St Hilda, or Alfred rather than Aethelflaed.
What do people think? Is this a viable area of research?
The second talk I attended was about what happens after a book deal has been signed. There were three published authors on the panel. One wrote YA, another literary fiction. I can’t remember what the women running the panel wrote. It was basically ‘things I wish I’d known before getting a publishing deal’, including that you have to organise your own book launch and it’s a good idea to have it in a book shop because the sales will bump your place on the charts. And provide alcohol, because alcohol makes people friendly and spend money. There were other useful bits of information, about getting cover quotes and balancing doing the post-publication stuff with writing the next book and your day job. It was interesting.
The lunch wasn’t too bad, could have done with more chocolate and cold water. I didn’t manage to network, because I’m no good at that sort of thing. What the hell would I have to say to someone who clearly has more experience in writing and the writing world than me? There was one bloke that I noticed couldn’t stop talking about himself, to anyone and everyone, in a loud and clear voice. He was a stand up who’d just got back from a trip to India. I managed to avoid any long conversations with him by the simple expedient of being me and barely responding to his comments, and of course, looking half dead. Really put me off interacting with other people though, even if I’d wanted to.
The third session was a workshop on narrative drive with Rod Duncan, who writes steampunk novels. It was a large group so he talked and we listened. There was a tree drawing and some graphs. It makes sense in context. No, really it does. It’s a tie between this and the second talk for my favourite/most useful of the day.
By 3 p.m. I felt so awful I thought I would faint, vomit, or both. I left at half three and got an early train home. By half six I was tucked up in bed with my Lemsip Blackcurrant cold and flu, and an ice lolly.
I get dehydrated when I have a serious cold, and ice lollies help with that. It works for me, stop laughing. Taking of, it’s time to retire to my pit with an ice lolly. I’m supposed to be at sewing and craft club tonight but I’m not up to it.
Evening all, I’m in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, visiting friends this weekend, and this evening we’ve been out for a meal at The Yorkshire Meatball Company. Continue reading “Review: The Yorkshire Meatball Company, Harrogate”
Yesterday I took a trip down to London to go to the British Library. On the 20th the current exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, closes and I’m rather fond of certain aspects of the Gothic so I took a trip (also, I like old books).