Dublin WorldCon

World Con – Dublin

So I went to Dublin for the World Science Fiction Convention 15-19 Aug. A natural choice for me as I could visit my wife’s family in Galway and I have a new book to pimp. My long-time crit pal Patrice Sarath came over with her family, and we endeavoured to show them the best bits of the west in 4 days before going up to Dublin.

This was my third World Con after Glasgow 2005 and London 2014 so I felt I knew what to expect and hoped my artificial hearing would cope. I got scheduled to appear on two panels as well so all looked good. We got to our hotel near Connolly Station early on Thursday afternoon and checked in to the Con by about 4pm. I was impressed with the very modern convention centre and the quick registration (compared to London). This favourable impression was rather dented by our failure to get into panels as they were full. I am used to being able to go from one panel into the next in the 10 minutes scheduled for changeover except for a very few (often featuring Guests of Honour), but this was not the case at Dublin – if you didn’t queue, you didn’t get in except for the most niche of panels and the late evening ones (and the ones I was on, though this is possibly coincidence). When I did get in I was pleased to find I could hear the panellists well most of the time.

You may think, based on previous cons, that after failing to get into panels I spent a lot of time in the bar, but you would be wrong. There are two reasons for this; firstly with the pound at near parity with the euro, it was expensive. 6 a pint is too damn much. Secondly, despite the prices it was noisy, and my artificial hearing doesn’t handle background noise well. The best bit of a con are the conversations you have with people in the bar, but I can’t do that unless I’ve got a quiet corner. Sorry folks, I wanted to talk to more people but I would have been constantly asking you to repeat what you said. Despite this I did have some good converations with people. I also spoke to my agent and told him about the manuscript I’ve recently completed. He was encouraging, though he is finding it very difficult to place debut novels. He also said that peak grimdark is past and editors are looking for more traditional epic fantasy. Good news for me as the new work is more trad epic, but is several drafts away from being fit to send to him.

The most impressive thing I saw was the full contact medieval combat with both longsword and short sword. Next time I write a fight scene I must remember how difficult it is to protect your lower legs. I didn’t get to talk to any of the big name authors who were there, though I did see Steven Ericksen in a corridor. Nor get I get to see much of Dublin apart from a walk around on Saturday evening looking for restaurant. Must put that right sometime soon.

Coming soon – Shadows of Faerie

I got the edits through this week for my upcoming contemporary novel which is set in Southampton and the New Forest where I grew up. The publisher is Crossroad Publishing, an American publisher, so obviously my editor was American. She caught a disturbingly high number of typos and missing words considering the manuscript had been gone through so many times, and more vexing, she also changed all my …ise ending words to …ize, recognise to recognize etc. So I had to go through and change them back. This gave me the opportunity to reread the story, having not done so for about 3 yrs, and I have to say I’m impressed with myself. It is a good book. I hope you’ll agree when it comes out later this year. No exact date yet, but I’ll post the cover art when I get it. Now I need to get a decent author’s picture taken.

June update

Saw the consultant yesterday for my monthly progress check. I’ve been feeling good all this month so was expecting things to look decent – and they do! Welcome back to my neutrophils. Now coming in at 2.4 (2 and above is normal). The only red ink on the report is the lymphocyte level (0.5 when it should be 1.0), and part of that is due to the medication. So yeah! Venetoclax works and for me has no side effects.

In other news I placed in the top 10 of the Farnham Flash Festival Flash Fiction Competition – the winning story was from a fellow Rushmoor Writer and way better than mine. Also my current work in progress is now at 65k.

Guest Blogger – Jesse Teller

I’m handing over this blog entry to a very talented writer whose work I would urge you all to check out. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the winner of the 2017 Drunken Druid Book Award, Mr Jesse Teller.

 

The Timeless Enemy
by Jesse Teller

When I was a boy, my parents took me to the movies. This was back when we had no money. No money at all. We had to fight to get food on the table and we were always strapped. Well somehow, my parents found the money and the time to take us to the movies, and I saw Sleeping Beauty.
I don’t remember much at all. Colors, I think, is all I could take away from it. I was about six and I had no recollection of the story or the images really, but I do remember very distinctly the dragon. I remember the colors, the breath, and the black. I remember this tiny man striving to fight it, and the way it seemed impossible. I remember thinking no force in the world could rival a dragon, and that is all I took from it.
Years later, I was watching TV in the morning on a Saturday, and I saw Bilbo Baggins take the first steps of his journey. The artistry of it consumed me, the way those particular animation artists moved the characters across the screen. They were the same animators that did The Last Unicorn and I will never forget the way they drew the line. The movie The Hobbit was fun until Bilbo and I found ourselves at the feet of Smaug.
So huge that dragon was, nothing Bilbo could do could ever stack up. There was no weapon to grasp to bring death to that monster. No hope, however slight, could be held when the idea of fighting that beast was at hand.
I do not accept the death Tolkien gave to his god of dragons. It is too convenient, too simple. No one arrow ever made could take down the beast I saw in that cavern, no matter how well shot, no matter the target.
I remember thinking if ever a power could exist that could rival a being that great, it would have to be me who found it. No other creator could reach within and pluck out the shred of hope that stood up to a creature so mighty.
Well, of course, I was wrong. Writers and artists have been killing dragons as long as dragons have been around. St. George cast one down centuries before I was born, and people have been doing it ever since. But Smaug stayed supreme in my mind, a creature of such immense power that no one dare stand before him had they not a ring of power.
So then I set to work. I began, time after time, crafting a hero or heroine strong enough to crush the monumental monsters of my mind. Soon wizards. Then warriors. Then one after the next, I began to put together an army of people and beings so invincible that they could stand up to Smaug. They could face the Nefarious, the Tempest and the Wrath of the greatest forces of darkness that any mind could find. Any mind anywhere. With this devotion to craft and heart of a creator, I plumbed the darkness within my mind to find magic.
When I hit teenage years, I wanted warriors. Arislan, Aragorn. Caramon Majere. I found Mycenae Kark and Sai Sibbius Summerstone. One after the next, I sought and found one swords smith, then another, to battle the monoliths of my mind. Twenties found assassins. Thirties, barbarians. One great hero after the next filled my mind, always with one goal in sight.
Crush Smaug.
Pulverize the immense. Bring down the invincible. I write high fantasy. If that means I am not grimdark, then so be it.
There is a boy in here, deep where no one can find him. He is fighting a monster, a monster deeply rooted in the fiber of his mind. That little boy will not let me go small. He has a nemesis. He has a nightmare, and one after the other, he will pump out the mighty and the brave to bring it down. I have never killed Smaug. He is, as far as, I know unkillable.
But Rayph Ivoryfist would get close. Smear Kond could sneak up on him. Dreark would make Smaug tremble. I fear that somehow the mighty, world-moving powers within my books will make me less grim, that I might lose some street cred. I might have readers who shrug and drop me, thinking they want lower fantasy than I am prepared to give them.
To them I say, please forgive. There is a monster in here. He scares me. I must fight him the best I can. Smaug is watching. Smaug is waiting.

 

Find out more about Jesse’s books here:  https://www.amazon.com/Jesse-Teller/e/B01G0ZB7JG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526242642&sr=1-2-ent

 

At the end of the year

 

 

So goodbye to 2017, a year that started out in a bad place but ends rather more favourably.

This time last year I was seriously unwell, in and out of hospital, with a crashed immune system and had had to postpone my scheduled cochlear implant. The decision to put me on Ibrutinib at the end of Jan turned things around; my white cell counts recovered to near normal levels though at the expense of considerable joint pain. I was able to resume a social life, albeit restricted by my deafness. That changed in the summer with my successful implant. It is not my original hearing back but provides a good level of functional hearing, though it is overwhelmed by high noise situations, and listening to music doesn’t currently work.

The reviews for Exile and Nandor continue to be gratifyingly positive though not accompanied by any substantial sales. It was great to be shortlisted for the BFS Best Newcomer Award for Exile and gave me a reason to go Fantasycon, though the con crud I picked up there turned into a chest infection that eventually needed IV antibiotics and week in hospital to shift it.

My ‘faery serial killers in the New Forest’ contemporary fantasy novel remains unsold, though it is currently on an editor’s desk at a major publisher. My current work-in-progress, a ‘more epic’ fantasy adventure is now over halfway in first draft and crawling slowly forward.

A major issue in the second part of the year has been the decline in my mother’s health. She is 96, but back in the summer was still mobile enough to be taken out for a drive into the forest or to the beach. This is no longer the case. She does not move from her bed without a lot of assistance and needs considerably more care than last year. She did not know me the last couple of times I saw her.

At the close of the year my own health is again in question. A blood test just before Christmas showed an alarming drop in my white cell count. My consultant feels the Ibrutinib is responsible for the drop and has taken me off it. With injections of a bone marrow stimulant my count recovered and I will have another bone marrow biopsy next week – oh joy! – that will determine the future direction of treatment. It may be that I will have a period with major medication in 2018. That would get the year off to a good start.

Fantasycon

I survived Fantasycon, didn’t win the award I was shortlisted for but hey, it is still a huge honour to have been nominated.  My hotel (the Park Inn) comfortable enough but the bar prices were high (£5.10 for a 330ml bottle of beer!). It was also about 10 mins walk to the con so not ideal for the evenings when my knees and ankles were reminding me of their distress.

I managed OK in the panels if I sat at the front but conversations around the bar were definitely difficult. If you spoke to me at the bar and got an odd answer (or none at all) it is probably because I didn’t hear you clearly.

I met in the flesh a bunch of new Facebook friends, 2 people came to my reading (but did seem to enjoy it)  and I had useful conversations with several editors about my unpublished contemporary fantasy novel – so job done.

If my health holds up, I should be able to do more cons so maybe see you in Chester and Harrogate next year.