Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Only a week after the event, here’s my event report. Just like back in school. The short version: a great time was had and lots of new and interesting people were met, including some heroes of mine in within fiction writing. Can’t say fairer than that…


So I arrived on Wednesday evening, and stayed through to Sunday evening. We managed to get in early on the whole registration thing, which was good because it got kind of lively when the convention proper commenced. All told, this one had 10,000 guests which makes it the biggest World Science Fiction Convention held yet! So it is just as well the ExCel Centre in which it was held happens to be HUGE. Seriously, this thing is so big, it has TWO Docklands Light Railway stations for access.

Now, I’ve never been to this particular type of convention before, and discovered rapidly that having that word in the title can mean many different things. I looked at the event and thought it looked interesting, but got a nudge to do some stuff for it several months back by some good friends in Emma and Esther and said, ‘sure, I’ll happily do a panel or two’ (having never done panels before). By the time I reached the event, I had signed up for six, and a book signing spot. I approached initially with a fine combo of eager excitement and a degree of terror, but actually found the sheer scale of fixtures a great help on this one. I spent more time on the Wednesday night finding my way around a wonderful iPad app, which essentially provided a scheduler for me, choosing which other events and panels I was provisionally interested in attending, that I kind of forgot about the pre-panel prep.

Well, apart from the first one, for which I needed to source good examples and stories behind fiction and film which ‘got London wrong’. I had a little chat over a tea with Michael, (who was kind enough to put us up for the duration, even lending us his bedroom. Hero!) and between him, Joy  and myself, we managed to add a couple of examples to the reserve. For the record, I now need to watch the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes at least twice, so I can finally get round to watching it, and to spot everything we cited both at home and at the panel . Thor’s rather curious London Underground travel route in Thor: The Dark World I knew about already.

The first panel I attended was amusingly titled, ‘LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour and SF Narratives’, and had a frankly brilliant line-up, including Jean Johnson as moderator and Charles Stross on bass guitar (the instrument part may or may not be an untruth).  Energetic, insightful and packed, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to have got started on my little tour.


Then, very relevant to my current chosen path and equally entertaining, The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic. Another cracking panel team including none other than Paul Cornell and Robin Hobb, moderated by the excellent Liz Bourke. Good as this panel was, migration started quite early, though I soon remembered why. Straight after this, A Conversation with George R.R.Martin, Connie Willis and Paul Cornell. Yep—that did mean Mr Cornell needed to run, or figure out how to co-locate. He chose the former. Luckily, that meant he could go straight in, whereas when I left at the end, I got into the first very large queue to get into the double suite that this popular fixture hosted. That was a lot of people. Paul did a great job keeping the conversation and the questions flowing, and a good time was had by all. I finally got to my panel that evening and for a first one, I was happy enough with it. I did discover a thing though; being on panels with other authors often just helps you part with money as you seek out their work. Mike Shevdon was on this one with me, and I am now the proud owner of a copy of Sixty-One Nails, following a fascinating conversation about some of London’s more interesting traditions still kept today. The source of that book title is one…


Two readings concluded the day, catching some from Frances Hardinge, as usual sporting her trademark stylish hat, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, reading cool new things.

And that was only Thursday!

On Friday, I arrived to be overwhelmed with panels I wanted to attend, and ended up not making either of the 10ams I wanted to see. I will keep checking for transcripts. However, this was because I was queueing for a Peter V.Brett signing with Joy. Well worth it, and got Sixty-One Nails signed by Mike Shevdon in the same hour. Being there got us a chance to catch Paul Cornell just before his signing and say hi too.

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 I really enjoyed a swordplay for writers workshop, of which I was sure to take photos and odd notes here and there. Definitely educational. I sat on two panels, Developing LARPs—World vs. Character and got plenty of interest out of that, then Urban Fantasy: London, which I enjoyed immensely. There was a lot to talk about in an hour, including the obvious question of ‘why London’? and mentioning a bunch of other cities, with Manchester coming up too thanks to certain questions and myself and Tony Ballantyne being resident there at present. Learned a lot, talked even more, both after the panel and throughout the con. I also managed to get to the Titan/Tor party thanks to Tony, and enjoy a beer and a chat with a bunch of people in the publishing world. Finally met artist Sarah Anne Langton thanks to Ian Whates and a natter with Peter V.Brett, to name a few. Also, got a bit of tasty birthday cake.

Saturday, I went wandering around the gallery section and chatted to Ade Brown after seeing some tremendous artwork. He has the Where Angels Fall website currently under development, but I’ll be sure to check in once it is done. There were many other incredible exhibits, but no photos of course from me. However a chance wander helped me bump into none other than Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Peter Grant series [Rivers of London/Midnight Riot in US) being the first]. We ended up going for a coffee and effectively a small kaffeeklatsch, which was about as pleasant a way to spend a morning as I could ask for.


I sat on two panels, Race and British Speculative Fiction, which may have run from 13:30 to 15:00 on the programme, but I was still talking with panellists and guests two hours later on that one. And enjoyed every minute of it. Then LARP Safe: Building Inclusive Worlds in the evening. Perhaps my smallest-attended panel of the con, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Also, I collected a surprise moderator badge for this one due to the original not being able to make it. I would like to say now that this wasn’t anything to do with me seizing an opportunity and bundling the original moderator into a cupboard for an hour. That’s not how I roll.

Finished up the day with a top-quality 80s Night Dance. No, really. It had exactly the right level of cheese for my tastes, though they almost killed this poor chap by seguing several 80s wolf-themed or mentioning songs in. Go on. Think about it. There were a quite a few. In fact, perhaps a competition is worth thinking about…


Though the con did run to Monday, Sunday was my last day there, regretfully.


The morning schedule proved relentless, with a signing first thing, sharing a table with the delightful Melinda Snodgrass, straight into a kaffeeklatsch with Adrian Tchaikovsky,  great fun, and then a rush out to my final panel, Representation, Whitewashing and Internationalism in Fandom. My last panel, and a superb one, thanks to a brilliant audience and a top panel in Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski. I felt we all had something different to bring to that table, and we again had a long chat afterwards. Sadly couldn’t get into the Charles Stross reading because I’d been beaten to it, and my final official thing was getting along to the Robin Hobb signing.


A note on that signing. I thought I was mostly going along to help Joy carry some books at first, but over the panels and events attended where Robin was present, she very much sold me on reading her books. So by the time I got into this photo, I was very definitely a fan!

I didn’t attend the Hugo Awards, just because we had a long drive back that evening, so had to content myself with reading the results. But we did stop to quickly chill before we left, reminding me that I hadn’t mentioned any of the many parties going on in the evening. As well as advertising future events in the Fan Village, some other entertainments were laid on including the Tolkien Society running a big quiz, bidders for future WorldCon events giving us a flavour of their nation and city, quite literally in most cases. I’ve tried a salty liquorice liqueur courtesy of Helsinki’s bid for 2017, Kansas fed us several times some delicious pulled pork, and Japan introduced us to several fine whiskies and the wondrous green tea flavoured Kit-Kat, to name but a few.


Overall, this was a truly amazing experience in which I got firmly bitten by the convention bug. I’m already setting plans in motion for next year! Next up this year, an entirely different affair by way of the Labyrinth Literary Festival up in Stockton, where I shall have a reading and be happily to sell you and/or sign books. I look forward to seeing some of you there!


Nerd East 2013

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This time, it’s personal.

Nerd East 2013 flyer

Well, not really, but that always seems to be a good tagline, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

Anyhoo, following last year’s fun at the ever-growing Nerd East con, I’ve signed up to do it all again. This time, my writing talk is on the wide topic of characters, so I’m planning to focus on a couple of aspects and hope for the best.

I love the challenge that comes with the Nerd East talk; trying to combine gaming and writing and spotting the crossover. Also, I’m aware I’m still pretty new to this business, so even the research I’ve done from this has taught me a lot. I’m hoping it all comes across well, and am planning to bring some relevant visuals to the party this time.

I’m going to be bringing some freebies along, both from myself and one of my writing buddies D.A. Lascelles. 

As an added surprise since I signed up (to me!), I’m going to be involved in another talk as well, as you can see from this here schedule. So come along, have a laugh, and optimistically on my part, bring along books for me to sign!

I look forward to seeing some of you there!


The Music Score

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I have started writing this at a pretty silly hour whilst listening to Ennio Morricone’s A Fistful of Film Music, which compiles pretty much everything you’ve ever heard of that he’s done. There is plenty of pure and utter genius on here, which will happily keep you inspired for just about anything you want to be getting on with. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is as seminal a title track as it is a movie, for example. Need a character so utterly consumed by the desire for revenge that their very soundtrack tells you someone is going to die by the time the music stops? I would point you towards Man With A Harmonica without any question. And perhaps you were stuck looking for something dramatic, quite possibly tear-jerking and certainly with a hint of slow-mo? Chi Mai. It’s a tune you probably know better than you think you do from the name.

Classic movie soundtracks are just that for a reason. They often seep so deeply into our popular culture that you’ve heard the tune several times without necessarily having the first clue which film it was originally from. As a Brit, though Chi Mai was originally written for The Professional (NOT to be confused with The Professionals), what it’s known better for over here is The Life And Times of David Lloyd George. That was in 1981. I was four years old at the time. But it’s a tune that still reaches into my very soul when I hear it today, just as I used to hear it on TV adverts when I was little and wondering what it was all about. Turns out I probably know it because it was a major hit in the charts back then too – back when I used to keep track of the Top 40 whether I wanted to or not.

Right up there with Morricone on the classics is Lalo Schifrin. Now his stuff is just everywhere. Mission Impossible – Schifrin. Bullitt – Schifrin again. Cool Hand Luke, Enter The Dragon, Dirty Harry, Starsky and Hutch, even the Rush Hour films, man. You’ve been near a TV in the last three decades, the chances are you’ve heard something by Schifrin, even if you didn’t know it at the time. And again, there is stuff there that just imprints deeper than the memory when you are thinking of a tune for an appropriate time.

Of course, this also probably gives a useful sketch of exactly what I was growing up around as well. I’m sure there’s a reasonable viewing list right there to go with a chunky box of popcorn if you’re needing to kill some time in a good way. But the reason I started writing this post was entirely to do with what I enjoy listening to whilst trying to decide whether a character I’m writing about at the time desperately needs to get out of an awkward love scene, ponder a sprint around the streets of London, or just get on with kicking an enemy’s head in.

Now another snippet about me – I enjoy tabletop roleplaying games. Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, that sort of thing. This brings up the opportunity for storytelling, and when I’m running a game, I find it good to, if I have the time, sort out a soundtrack to go with what we are doing, where we are and what to expect. You know – a little mood music. My friends are very much the same. Wizards running around 12th Century France work quite well with Medieval Baebes and Clannad, or the odd Gregorian chant thrumming in the background as we rescue another town from pillage. Vampires, once the subject of many a Goth anthem, now enjoy all kinds of stuff as they sparkle along their merry way. But you know you want something thumping and suitably pacy when your character is on the wing of an aircraft in the absence of availability of a certain Mr Bond and this fight comes down to you – or the villain intent on wiping out a densely-populated city for no decent reason other than making a point. Adrenaline tunes. Some Chemical Brothers, a little Fluke, and even a bit of New Order if you’re going vampire hunting. Seriously.

The same thing definitely applies when I’m writing. I found myself getting through a lot of pretty tricky scenes just from having the right noise going on around me. Try either version of Dead Souls when doing a rooftop chase (I think of it as the Joy Division original snarls out of my laptop even now). My ‘finished’ novel draft, Misery’s Tear, was powered by a quite varied soundtrack I’d love to see make it to the movie version that’ll probably remain the sole property of the workings of my brain forever, but because I’ve been meaning to for months, I shall run through it below. So if you ever get to read the thing, you’ll know exactly what I was listening to and when. Mostly.

The Misery’s Tear music score in my head went in a few directions, as did the draft. I started out with the main character, Rose, an offshoot from my university project, and had the premise of a near-death experience elaborating into someone with the raw supernatural ability to manipulate unsettled souls, and the grey area (well, it’s many shades of darkness to those who can perceive it through eyesight) between death and ‘moving on’. What I’ve ended up with is an adventure introduced by a ghost who my test readers really liked (and I really enjoyed writing). From here, I realised I needed to tell her story just as much as Rose’s – and that in fact her story had become Rose’s too! After all, if our main protagonist doesn’t accept her mission as it were, I suddenly find myself with no story…

By the time I’d finished Misery’s Tear though, I actually found that I could very easily have written a second novel just for the ghost – whose name is Tally incidentally. I’ve had to abridge her tale with more exposition because it wasn’t intended to be about her, but rather, all about Rose.

And hence, the story certainly starts with Rose. The first scene involving any action was initially influenced by The Prodigy’s Break And Enter I think, although subsequent drafts replaced that in in my head with newer songs in their discography. However, Rose is very much a Pendulum kind of girl. In Silico is one of my favourite albums, and two tracks on it stand out in particular to me, certainly for my writing time. Propane Nightmares is like a signature tune for her. The lyrics always hit me as perfect for her – or at the very least, several lines within it. I’ve no idea what the band intended with them, but it’s her song, of this I have no doubt. She is willing of mind, souls come up a lot – and knowing which woman can and cannot be saved (and what from) is pretty central to the tale.

On that very same album, a song from the same band, but not for Rose as much as her rescuer and new friend. Watch the official video for Showdown and add a little supernatural strength and speed to the equation, and there’s almost the scene I was aiming for right there. Though in a hospital. I am going to revisit this song and that statement in the follow up story to Misery’s Tear, which I plan to bring into a more solid experience over the course of this year’s NaNoWriMo. The scene I have scripted is also far more appropriate for this one.

Finally from Pendulum,  there is a point on The Tempest, aptly the last track on the album, which I just relate to that character’s ultimate demonstration of arguably her most powerful ability. No lyrics to refer to this time – just a break in the song at around the 5 minutes 15 mark which lead into something magic on the track. Again, a bit of a movie moment in my head.

There are others, but that kind of covers Rose’s involvement in the faster-paced sections of the story. Tally’s soundtrack is obviously very different. Now a little reading around brought me to the attention of a fellow who has stuck music sets on a wonderful little website called Soundcloud. Her story is not an entirely happy one, as might be expected, for it is often the case that a ghost is hanging around for the reason of unfinished business – and it’s not a huge spoiler to tell you that again rings true for Tally. Now, there is a chap called Markabre on this site who frankly puts together an awesome set, covering anachronistic beats, and tunes of a Balkan flavour. The set called The Wirewalker’s Wake is a great deal slower-paced than those I have listened to thus far, but my goodness, it is wonderful. I wanted sombre listening for her sections, and this just fits the bill perfectly. I can’t name the individual tracks because I don’t have them, but believe me when I say it is some listen.

For now, I have nothing more to say on this, but as you can see, music is always an experience dear to my heart. So don’t be too surprised if I revisit the topic some time.