Parked outside the hotel, ready to check in and saw Tim Major, who'd just arrived by train. Great to see him, we caught up and I got booked in then moved the car and luckily met Peter Coleborn who showed me the back entrance to the hotel. Met Peter Mark May, got a quick hi and hug from Priya Sharma, who introduced me to Audrie from TTA Press and then I got signed in, saying hi to Chloe Yates in the process. Once kitted out, Pete led me across the road to the Town Crier pub, which served as the cheaper overflow for the weekend. Walking in was like coming home in writing terms - around the table were James Everington, Phil Sloman, Lisa Childs (who showed me Ross’ book, which is lovely and I gave her Sue’s signature plate), Chris Barnes, Stephen Bacon, Duncan Bradshaw and Jim Mcleod. After the catching up, conversation quickly found its natural level with Phil, James, Chris & I discussing those adult superstores you see in Lincolnshire, who’d use them and why and somehow moved onto that counties colour TV signs having the letters in different colours to prove the point (and Phil reckoned this topic wouldn’t make the blog report!). I saw Ian Whates, Donna & Neil Bond and Rob Malan and caught up with them then went back to the hotel with Steve where we bumped into Jason Whittle, Chris Teague, Ben Jones and CC Adams and it was good to see all of them.
|In the Town Crier with, from left, me, Steve Bacon, Chris Barnes, Duncan Bradshaw, Lisa Childs, Peter Mark May, Jim Mcleod
|In the Jubilee Room with, from left, Tracy Fahey (who co-edited the anthology), Duncan, Peter, Steve, Penny Jones, me, Neil Williams, Michelle Williams, James Everington
|Me & Jim Mcleod (I can't remember now why he suggested I sit on his knee) - pic by Lisa Childs
Then it was time for the disco. Low attendance until about 10.30 (it was essentially me, Phil, Pete, Paul Woodward, Colleen Anderson, Donna and Kathy for most of it, with Michelle joining us for a few), then Ian brought in his contingent (including James Worrad & Phil Irving) and we suddenly had a decent number on the dance floor, which I didn’t leave until midnight. Had a fantastic time though I’m sure Andy Marsden showed us the wrong dance moves to a Jacksons song because he wanted to see if we’d copy him! Which we did.
|At the disco with the Three Degrees behind me, from left, Michelle, Kathy Boulton & Donna Bond
|Left - Pete May giving it some (pic by Ian Whates) and right, Phil Sloman's selfie
Woke up with that contented post-disco feeling - aching ankles - and headed for breakfast. I sat with Trevor Denyer, saw Danny as I walked back with my food (full fry-up, lovely!) then James Barclay joined us and we had an excellent chat, the kind of wide-ranging talk about books and writing that Cons excel in. Trevor left for a panel and Steve joined us for more of the same. When Danny and James went off for their panels, Steve & I stayed put chatting.
|Chris Teague, Richard Farren Barber, me, Steve, Jim (smooching) and Steve Harris
|Ross Warren, more chuffed than he looks...
People drifted off for lunch but my hearty breakfast did its job and, fuelled by a slice of Charlotte Bond’s lemon drizzle cake, Steve & I stayed for the Luna Press launch with an interesting array of books. I wandered across the road then to the Town Crier for a drink with Ross and Lisa (later joined by Chris) and on my return, bumped into Simon Clark and it’s always a treat to see him.
It was soon time for my panel, “Writing Short Fiction”. With no idea what it entailed, I was really quite nervous until I found the room and discovered a fellow panellist - Lesley Jones, an editor - was more nervous than me, so I felt slightly braver. Our moderator, Juliet Kemp (who had the most fantastic shade of hair), then arrived and I discovered I’d missed an email and so she let me see her crib sheet of questions. Our third panellist hadn’t turned up by then but I noticed Joanne Harris (of Chocolat - and much, much more - fame) was in the crowd waiting to go in (and made Lesley even more nervous by pointing this out to her). We trooped into the room, took our seats, I got drinks for Lesley and Juliet and then Joanne sat next to me, as an unannounced last minute addition to our panel! No pressure there then! I said it was nice to see her again, that we’d met in Brighton at WFC in 2013 and she - lovely professional that she is - said “oh yes, nice to see you again” (at WFC, I weighed five stone more and met her for a few minutes via Sue, but it was still a great thing to say).
|The "no pressure whatsover panel" featuring, from left, Juliet Kemp, Joanne Harris, me and Lesley Jones - some of these people are more nervous than others...
After meeting Shaun & Steph Hamilton in the reception and chatting to them, Steve, Donna & I went to the NewCon Press launch, where I joined the end of the very long signing table. Ian Whates is a truly lovely bloke and he launched into his spiel, Ian Watson (who didn’t recognise me at first, since I was - again - 5st heavier when I last saw him) did a speech and then we were off. I sat with Hal Duncan and Laura Mauro and we had an excellent chat between books being placed in front of us (Best British Horror looks superb in paperback but the hardback is a work of great beauty) and signed lots. I also had more of Charlotte’s lemon drizzle cake. The rush over, we chatted and signed and chatted some more and then headed off.
|Ian Whates works the crowd, Ian Watson applauds enthusiastically, me, Hal Duncan and Laura Mauro are chuffed to be there (pic by Donna Bond)
|Me, Hal Duncan and Laura Mauro, between signings...
|Out and about in Chester, Richard having managed to avoid falling into the canal... (Steve, me, Richard)
|Justin Park's picture of me, Jim and Phil. I couldn't
possibly comment on which legs were best but the one in the
middle with the well defined calf muscle, I mean...
A rule of Con life is that late nights don’t count, so I was up bright and early and, after a quick chat with Andy Marsden in reception, met Steve and Pete and we went into breakfast with Neil & Donna. Danny & Emma joined us, I had another lovely fry-up and we indulged in long, wide-ranging conversations about writing and creativity which were hugely enjoyable. Steve & I visited the dealers room where I got one of Francesca’s books and met a Japanese artist, recognising Pikachu amongst his work (thank Dude and his Pokemon Go obsession from last year). Chatted with Terry Grimwood, spoke to Ian (and thanked him again for yesterday’s great launch) and said goodbye to him and Helen, then it was off to pack (after finally seeing Linda Nagle in the reception, having somehow managed to not see her all weekend).
|Me & Steve in the dealer room (Mike Chinn on the right and Helen, Ian's partner, on the left with the bunny ears) - (pic by Ian Whates)
Then it was done and time to go - the worst part of FantasyCon - and after getting my bags there were hugs and hearty handshakes with Jim, Chris, Neil & Michelle, Simon’s Bestwick and Clark, Phil, Priya, Georgina Bruce (I hadn’t seen her all weekend so we hugged hello and goodbye at the same time), Danny, Emma, Pete, Rich, Alison & Fergus, Steve Shaw and Chloe the redcloak (and I saw Babs the redcloak on the way out to say goodbye too).
|With Alison Littlewood (pic by Fergus)
I had a great time, the hotel was lovely (though pricey), the book launches were terrific, I only managed the one panel but, as ever, the real draw of the weekend was the company and I really had the best of it - we chatted almost constantly and laughed nearly as much, we ate and drank and made merry and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my writing family.
Roll on the next one!
|Obligatory book haul photo...