Eastercon Round-up

When I was tiny, my Dad took me and my brother to a small computer trade show in our hometown. Even at such an early age I was already in love with gaming, so a room full of computers and games and demos felt like a little piece of heaven, but there I remember  something I didn't get with the local model shop where I bought my cassettes: atmosphere. This place had drawn tradesmen and enthusiasts from miles around, drawn by a mutual interest.

I've been a writer for many years, and a geek long before that, so the concept of the convention has always been on the edges of my awareness. I'd been to ostensibly similar events before, trade shows, educational lecture days, even Games Workshop's Games Days in my youth, but I'd never plucked up the courage nor the money to make it to a proper writing convention. So when the opportunity to attend Eastercon arose as part of our belated honeymoon discussions, I leapt at it.

In short, Eastercon's a four day con over the Easter weekend, focusing heavily - but not exclusively - on science-fiction & fantasy writing. Geek convention stand-bys like autograph-hunting and cosplay are downplayed except for at specific events during the weekend, and while I don't have direct experience as a basis for comparison it seems like it's laid-back by con standards. It's just as suitable to spend the weekend in the bar meeting people and chatting into the night as it is to attend any of the lectures or panels.

Since this was our first con, Jenny & I turned up on the first night pre-con knowing that there were few, if any, people we knew in the hotel until the following day. We retired to the bar anyway and played Carcassonne on the perfectly-sized tables, drinking cripplingly-expensive mojitos while all around us people reunited with friends and acquaintances from past cons.

The following morning we got into the swing of things; our panels weren't until the Saturday night, so Friday was entirely set aside for meeting people and stopping by at whatever program items we had a particular desire to attend. Luckily we quickly ran into aliettedb and were rapidly introduced to a number of her friends. We excused ourselves early afternoon to go to a reading by Emma Newman, who we'd had brief online interactions with as she was going to be on our panel later in the weekend, and upon emerging from said panel we found our way to the second hotel bar, in a glass-ceilinged atrium full of weird glass bridges over water features. There Emma introduced us to a couple of people, who introduced us to a few more, and a few more. As the day proceeded in much the same vein we realised the secret of Eastercon; the web of interconnections between people is so dense that even one starting point is enough to introduce you to hundreds of people, and everyone's so friendly that we ended up having long conversations with whole bunches of people we'd never met before.

We spent an afternoon nattering away to Anne Lyle, and I suspect we met Mhairi Simpson that day, too (since our encounters with Mhairi seemed to be the ongoing theme of this con), went to a couple of panels, out for a curry then crashed early. Meeting people - even delightful ones - is hard work sometimes!

Saturday was much the same - including opportunities to finally meet in the flesh my fellow Anxious Appliance members Martin Owton & the newly-bookdealed Laura Lam - topped off with Jenny & I taking part in the Publishing Outside the Box panel with Paul and Emma. It went fairly well, I think, given how late it was on a Saturday night; attendance was reasonable, and some interesting discussion was had between the panel and the audience.

Whoever scheduled the Zombie Biology panel for 10am on Easter Sunday deserves a medal; it was packed, and I was very lucky to have a whole panel of folks who knew more about the subject than I did. Lovely, they were, and the audience were both interactive and appreciative. Overall I had a whale of a time, and I'll definitely be up for more panels next con. Otherwise, Sunday continued according to form; more random introductions, a second - extended - meeting with the lovely Janet Edwards, and finally as Sunday night approached, we got around to the 'sitting and drinking with a bunch of writers and talking craft' part of the con, the only thing that I felt I'd been missing in the whole whirlwind of introductions and panels.

It's a crying shame that Sunday evening was overshadowed by the BSFA Awards speech. Eastercon 2012 was about far more than that, and it would be a great shame if that were its lasting legacy. Eastercon introduced us to the con experience, one which we can't help but want to repeat in following years; it was welcoming and friendly, discussed difficult topics as well as frivolous ones, and for the majority of the con appeared to be taking great steps towards inclusivity.

If that's the con experience we can expect, you won't be able to keep us away next year!

Shameless Art Plug

Jenny recently released a new piece of artwork, The Hunting of Ducks, inspired by her love of videogames and her studies of Egyptology:

The Hunting of Ducks

We're planning a whole series of ancient art/gaming crossovers, so hopefully this is only the start :) Jenny's selling professional-quality art prints of this piece at her online store, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please spread the word!

Eastercon Plans

Amongst an otherwise fruitless weekend, I spent most of this morning booking trains for our Eastercon trip. Since I have a very understanding wife, we're going to be rolling the con up into our belated honeymoon, so it was awesome to take steps towards our trip, and even better was that after a bit of rail ticket-fu we ended up saving another £50 on top of the cheapest prices I'd previously found for everything.

So we're going to be turning up at Eastercon on Thursday night, and no doubt wandering round wide-eyed, wondering what we've let ourselves in for. Are any of you coming to Eastercon 2012, and if so, when are you getting there? Also, any tips from previously con-goers?

Season's Greetings!

Hello Livejournal. Long time no see.

*awkward shuffle* *lowered gazes* *someone puts the kettle on and all's right with the world*

Anyway, I just dropped by to mention that there's a special extended festive podcast story up at Postcards From Lepari, titled Vidocq & the Thief of Joy. Please stop by and have a listen, and feel free to let me know what you think!

Merry Christmas everyone, and I'll no doubt see you all in the new year.

Things, Post


- My good friend and co-conspirator Gareth has just been shortlisted for the Wales Blog Awards for Best Writing, and if you were to pay a flying visit to I Saw Elvis I think you'd agree that it's pretty damn great. And if you do agree, it just so happens that there's a People's Choice award just begging for your vote: http://walesblogawards.co.uk/2011/09/wales-blog-awards-finalists-are-named/

We're also threatening to do terrible things to the erstwhile Mister Davies if he were to win, under the Twitter hashtag #voteisawelvis. So far he's threatened with marriage and having his superb best-man speech posted to Youtube. Spreading of the word and/or further threats appreciated!

- Since I last pimped Postcards From Lepari I've kept to my target, posting a two-minute piece of audio fiction every day. Now I'm in the swing of things with that I'm hoping to start rolling out a bit more varied content as well as the daily postcard, interesting bits and pieces about the art of cuisine, fun facts that pop up during my research, and maybe even some elaboration on a couple of the Leparien concepts raised by the postcards.

Thanks to everyone who's supported this endeavour, and I hope to provide you with snapshots of my city for quite some time to come.

Postcards From Lepari

After months of procrastination and practically giving up on the whole idea, after an epiphany last night I've just launched my new extra-short podcast fiction blog, Postcards From Lepari. The whole idea of this from the start was to act as a breeding ground for the development of my Lepari milieu, to generate regular drabble-length (or there about) pieces in audio format, and generally have fun. Somewhere along the line it got dragged down into the pit of ambition, and became something more than that, something requiring organisation and significant time investment, and fell off my radar.

Now the process is streamlined, I'm doing it for the right reasons, and I couldn't be happier to launch the first of my projects as a married man. If you've got a spare couple of minutes, please stop by and check it out. I'm hoping to update on a daily basis, so I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Just Married!

After about six months of frenzied (read: disorganised) organisation, a week and a half ago Jenny and I finally turned up at Craig Y Nos castle, filled a room with friends and family and got the deed done.

We actually turned up the night before - tradition going firmly out the ornate window of the bridal suite - and enjoyed a drink in the evening sunshine in the castle courtyard. Craig Y Nos is one of those Victorian castles built to show off rather than to oppress the locals, but thanks to a stint as a tuberculosis hospital in the early 1900s it's garnered a reputation for being haunted; it's a gorgeous location, though, well worth the potential for being spooked on the premises. That our ceremony was carried out by one of the UK's authorities on debunking the paranormal was entirely coincidental. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

Thoroughly unspooked, we rose the next morning into a whirl of activity. According to witnesses, we remained scarily calm throughout the morning, while the flowers & cake arrived, and we set up the conservatory for the wedding breakfast. Mid-morning we met up with Kristin - our highly-recommended photographer - in our normal clothes for some pre-wedding photos, then headed back to our room a little behind schedule to start getting ready. Considering that my hair took slightly less time than Jenny's to get ready, I headed down to check on everything half an hour pre-ceremony; no-one was waiting outside, so I had a moment of displacement. Surely this wasn't really happening.

Then I walked into the hotel bar, where everyone was waiting, getting drinks, having a chat. It was wonderful to see everyone there, and to put the finishing touches in place, but also the one moment in the day where I felt momentarily overwhelmed. Still awesome, though.

We winged the ceremony, in all honesty. Jenny was beautiful. I was there. We had a vague plan of how things were going to go, some form of order of service, and thanks to the inestimatible oratory of Lionel Fanthorpe we somehow made it from one end of the show to the other without fumbling our words, tripping over or otherwise staring at each other in wordless horror as we realised we had no idea what was going on. In other words, it was great. Gee passed the rings over with nervous efficiency, and we escaped into the courtyard to bathe in the flash of a bevy of iPhone cameras pointed our way.

That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. Kristin took a bunch of group photos - I'll do another post when her photos are ready, sometime in the next week or so - and took my new wife & I down into Craig Y Nos country park for some more shots, then we got back just in time for the superb wedding breakfast. I'm accustomed to wedding food being passable but unremarkable, if only due to the logistics of catering for a large number of people simultaneously. Craig Y Nos did us proud with that one; I don't think I've ever eaten such tender and delicious steak. Then, of course, the speeches. My father-in-law did nicely; I was pleased enough with mine considering I'd written it at 9:30am that morning, and then there was my best man...

Gee, you see, has claimed he's been writing his speech for the best part of four years. So when he turned up that morning looking more than a little nervous, and mentioned in passing that he hadn't written anything yet, I laughed. In part, because I had faith that he'd pull something out of the bag; in part, because it'd be funny to watch him try to wing it; and in part, because I didn't really believe him, and there wasn't much I could do about it if I did. I think he was telling the truth.

But Gee is a legend of a man, a natural entertainer, the sort of person who naturally becomes the centre of attention in any company not by overpowering his fellows, but through sheer wit and good humour. He stood up in front of everyone gathered in that conservatory, and gave one of the finest best man speeches I've ever heard, as if everything he'd been considering writing down over the past four years had subconsciously crystallised in his head. And once he was done, the look on his face when I admitted to conspiring with the photographer to get it all on video was priceless. YouTube, here we come!

After that it all became a bit of a blur. I've got a tendency to drink too much at weddings, but I wanted to remember mine, so I endeavoured to keep the Penderyn to a minimum. I'm not sure it helped. We didn't have a dancefloor or loud music, just a room full of leather armchairs, and a courtyard with tables for the smokers, so we flitted from one to the other, trying to be involved in every conversation, to thank everyone for being there and making it such a special day. And then it was over, and everyone departed to their taxis and their B&Bs and their haunted hotel rooms. And my wife and I retired to find another bottle of bubbly ensconced in our mini-fridge.

Well. It'd be rude not to, wouldn't it?

Even now, a week and a bit later, it's all going a little hazy. This may have gone on a little long, but I wanted to put down my thoughts as some sort of memory of the day, something to be cross-referenced with the photos when I look back on the anniversary of the day when we finally got our act together and became Mr & Mrs Haines. Listening to the Bastion soundtrack as I feverishly scribbled my speech on the back of a piece of paper. Seeing Jenny walking down the aisle, being photobombed by a group of pleasant but rather inconsiderate sightseers. Helping my wife down the thorny path to the country park, untangling the mesh of her wedding dress every few feet from the grasping branches. Hanging out and drinking whiskey with the finest friends a man could ask for.

We always said we'd save getting married until we needed an excuse for a damn fine party. I think we succeeded.

Perfectly Good Rocks

I was never a particularly sporty student. Going to school in Gloucester it was expected that you played rugby, cricket at a push, every Wednesday afternoon, neither of which I was very good at, so I was delighted in the last couple of years of school when we were given permission to take our Wednesday afternoon sports beyond the school field to more individual pursuits.  Since I was scared of heights, I took up rock climbing.

I was never a particularly good climber, but I enjoyed it for the best part of 3 years, so it was disappointing when I moved to Swansea and there really weren't any opportunities to climb within walking distance. Through necessity I gave up. Until yesterday, when my friend Pete invited Jenny & I to join him in a taster session at one of the rock climbing centres twenty-minutes' drive outside the city.

Long story short, I'm delighted to find that I still remember how to climb, even if I'm a bit rusty. I've lost all the upper-body strength I once had (and even that wasn't much), and three walls pretty much did me in for the day. Still, after spending most of my previous climbing attempts rainbowing (using all hand/footholds, rather than sticking to a route of a particular colour all the way up), it was a fun challenge to see if I could complete certain routes; my first climb was a mere grade 2 slab (about as low as you can go, realistically, but perfect for relearning the basics), and my second a straightforward grade 4.

The third was more of a challenge, a gently-sloping overhang which my fingers simply didn't have the strength to handle once I got a little past the half-way mark. Still, for the first attempt in a decade I'm pretty happy, and at this point it looks like Pete & I will be going back, once wedding malarkey is out of the way, to do the proper training again and start making it a more regular thing. I think I remember the knots, but I'd rather have that officially confirmed before I'm twenty feet up with my hands slipping off the holds.

Oh, and I think I'm going to appropriate matociquala's LJ tag for my climbing exploits; after all, it's probably reading her LJ reports that have kept me interested in climbing all these years.

(no subject)

Another couple of thousand words further along this morning; some of it being new stuff on the mechanists plotline - which I'm not 100% sure the endpoint of - and some being slight edits to the pre-draft for a scene.

I think the next thing to do is get the plot moving along nicely.  That's a job for the rest of the week and the weekend, I think.

You build a wall...

More work on WIP Book 2 this morning, including a certain amount of scavenging of the pre-draft:

There's at least one scene in the next chapter that I just need to restructure - one of the characters is arguing a point, but her arguments are out of order, so that'll need fixing - so over the next couple of days I'll hopefully hit 10K or thereabout.

I always find good instrumental music helps me when I'm writing; I've got four or five albums - primarily of familiar game soundtracks - which I can put on to just totally block out any environmental noise and distractions, and I've just got a new one: the Bastion soundtrack. I'm loving Bastion at the moment - not only is it immensely pretty, it does some clever things with narrative, and the soundtrack's awesome.

I'd still have to recommend you play the game before listening to the soundtrack, since there are implied spoilers in a couple of the tracks, but if you don't think you're going to be playing it any time soon, jump on that link and take a listen. It's superb.