PLAYING FAVOURITES

Conventioned this weekend and had a blast at Em-Con. Met up with people I’d met last year and it was great to get myself immersed in the experience of being an author at a convention. And as with all conventions, there are times when there are lulls in the activity so my mind started running around on all kind of things. I was in an ice rink so the scorching weather wasn’t affecting me but everyone else no doubt had a different day.

If I were to say the word MOIST to you, what do you feel? Is MOIST a word that you never really consider? Is it a real favourite of yours? Do you hate the very thought of the word and would rather never hear it ever again?

How is it that a single word could be able to elicit such a response on its own?

As an author, I recognise the power that words can have. An effective use of words can draw out any and all emotional responses you could care to consider but words are seemingly at their best when they play as a team rather than as singles.

“Love”. On it’s own, nice enough but add in the “I” and the “you” and the full effect is clear to see.

“Dream”. Again, a pretty decent word. Has some oomph. Now add “I” and “have” and “a” to the mix and the punch is enhanced.

So how could a single word have anything like that kind of effect? There’s no context to drive the feelings to a single word so that means that you need to look around at the surrounding players to try and glean what’s taking place, again proving the team idea. So we get back to MOIST.

Practically everyone I’ve asked about this has said that they hate the word MOIST. I can picture all of the turned up noses and hear all of the groans as I consider the word but why is it that so many of us find that one word so repulsive?

Maybe it’s actually the reality of what being MOIST means to each of us?

It’s been a blazing hot bank holiday weekend in the UK and I can just imagine the sensation a great many of us would have experienced in the sun. The many beads of perspiration that would be breaking out the second that feel the heat. The moisture seeping into the fabric of your clothes. Those clothes then sticking to you in ways that no-one would ever enjoy. That’s what it feels to be MOIST so could it be that the word just takes us to that most uncomfortable of times and we simply cringe.

Though that isn’t the only example of being MOIST so maybe not?

Whatever the reasoning, the word MOIST shows us that a single word, can have as devastating effect as a whole paragraph so we all need to make sure that we’re paying full attention to every word we say.

So are there any others I should be wary of?

A friend from work suggested that VALVE should be considered as well.

Any ideas?

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THE DAY AFTER

You know that come down you get after a great convention weekend? I’ve got that.

We had a great time and all the talk about dragons and all things science fiction and fantasy really managed to pour a huge amount of fuel into my mental tanks.

How often do we all just soak in all the good things we need from a particular event? A convention, a family gathering, a long awaited holiday. Our batteries get low and an event can suddenly re-charge what we’d run out of.

I published a new book of short stories recently so it’s understandable that some of my ‘well’ had been depleted but thanks to this weekend I’m full to the brim again. I’ve been feeling pretty good about the latest stretch of my writing journey so the energy from this weekend really has done the business.

New jacket and waist coat even came out to play as can be seen in the picture of me in the selection below.

I even managed to come up with a new idea for a YA novel. It came to me in a dream and I had a mad scramble to get the notes written down while they were still fresh in my mind.

Looks like 2018 is filling up with ideas nicely.

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SOON

Who looks out there at certain things, certain events, and just can’t wait?

When I write, I very often get caught up in the story I’m working on and can’t wait to reach the next part of the narrative, excited to finally get there and explore that next area of the story. I know that what I write is something that I’d enjoy reading and having that story bubbling along in my head all of the time, I just can’t wait to arrive at the next stage.

I won’t deny it. I’m very often like a small child at Christmas on the run up to a convention. I get myself wound up with all of the thoughts of what’s going to happen on the given weekend. The people I’m going to speak to, the talks I’m going to hear, the total of the shopping, the films, the acts, all of  it, drives my mind along like you wouldn’t believe all of the time leading up to an event and that’s a chunk of the fun for these events.

Excitement for the upcoming anything in our lives is great. If we don’t have anything to look forward to, life can get pretty boring so looking forwards allows you to set goals and do all you can to reach them.

In readiness for this weekends extravaganza at the Sci-Fi Weekender, I threw a focused effort into completing the short story collection, Answers from the Darkness, in enough time to get the copies delivered. I’ve been counting and re-counting the books I have in readiness for the off, packing and re-packing everything, checking and re-checking the clothes I’m going to be wearing as I watch the clock count down.

I love conventions. I love the chance to see all the associated things and the chance to interact with all of the people who attend. We all share some ideas, and we have disagreements but they’re always a great source of enjoyment as we get together.

Having that ‘whatever’ to look forward to is a powerful thing. Kids at Christmas and birthdays show it clearly, so much so you’d swear they were going to explode. And why do we stop doing it? As we age we get told not to wish our lives away and as the years pass by, it could be easy to be spending all the time looking backwards wanting to keep hold of a time when there was more ahead of us than behind.

But we never know when it’s our ‘time’. With nothing to look forward to, you’re left with a very bleak landscape ahead. Having a wonderful thing, whatever it could be, to be aiming for, to look forward to, to be waiting for, gives you that bundle of butterfly’s in the stomach and let’s you appreciate that little bit more of life.

And if you’re going to the Sci-Fi Weekender, I’ll see you there. Come and say hello. I’ll be looking forward to it.

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TRYING TO CONNECT

Another convention weekend draws to a close and all of us fans of the show Spartacus can look back on great times meeting the cast of the show but also getting the chance to meet up with friends from all over the planet.

Each and every one of us is filled with our own passions and having the opportunity to spend time with others with the same feelings is what we’re all searching for.

In a world where divisions are highlighted and the differences we may have are the only things anyone seems to care about, recognize that everything, everywhere is better when we all come together.

This weekend saw the expected fun and games of a convention but I think, although I’m not certain, I witnessed the early stages of a new spiritual movement. Proving that these events are so much more than just the chance to meet the actors, we saw one of our number elevated towards his true rock star status. His name was chanted by all and all the differences we may have had didn’t matter a jot.

I suspect I’ll be needing the help as I battle with an iffy internet signal.

‘MAAAAANDEEEEEEP’.

THE IN-CROWD

Are you a part of the in crowd?

Have you ever been?

It’s likely that at some point in all of our lives, regardless of environment or situation, we’ve found ourselves on the outside looking in. From school to college to work to family to hobbies, there will always be a time when you didn’t know the ‘cool’ joke, or understand the ‘cool’ saying. You may have found yourself overlooked. “We all thought someone else had invited you”, “We didn’t think it would be your thing”, or indeed you could be outright excluded.

Schools are terrifying places and can show a very clear picture of the very worst of human experiences. Cliques and groups are formed by shared interests but also by shared dislikes. And it’s from here the vines of bullying can take root.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been heading off to conventions all over the country with my banner and bag of books, doing my best to tell my tales, and I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of people attending these events would have received some form of derision for the hobbies and passions they have.

Whenever I admit to my obsession with science fiction and fantasy, of my love for both Star Wars and Star Trek, (gasp!!!) or speak animatedly about dragons and magic, very often I can see the other person kind of glazing over. Then comes the ‘Aren’t you a bit old for that?’ or any other of a hundred responses which question the sanity of me liking what I do. There are not many like me in any of the places I’ve worked and there’s always the sniggering from some at the thought that a man of my age would like such nonsense.

I’m very much outside of The In-Crowd’.

So when I witnessed someone being heckled and berated at a sci-fi con because they not only understood, but also enjoyed, sport, it made me wonder.

Conventions for TV shows, films, books or any genre idea should always be a welcoming place for the diverse fandoms which are out there. When I sat at my table at Em-Con Nottingham over the weekend, there were countless examples of cosplayed characters which I recognised but there were also countless that I didn’t. That didn’t matter. Everyone there knew that this was the place to let their geek flag fly ( including someone with an actual flag from the show Community – E Pluribus Anus).

But having one hobby that you’re passionate about doesn’t preclude you having another.

I’m also a massive rugby fan. I used to play (including getting representative honours for my county so I was pretty good) and I always do my best to find a TV to watch Wales play – which included at a sci-fi convention where I ended up watching with another welsh man, Gareth David Lloyd, from Torchwood.

So I consider the way the populations of these two groups would behave if someone from each was switched around.

I suspect no-one would really care too much but there would be loads of odd looks at the one who was out of place. But it would only take one person to start making comments of a confrontational manner and that individual is quickly on the outside and being made to really feel it.

Now, the examples I’ve given here weren’t driven by malice in any way shape or form. The comment at the person at a convention was in jest and everyone concerned recognised the fact. I myself have never been picked on openly in that way and I happen to think that when push came to shove, the populations of my passion’s fandoms are decent people who just want to talk openly and happily about their loves but there still lurks that darkness of the human condition which wants to point at someone or something which is different from everyone else and to mock or attack it.

Are we all so obsessed with fitting in to our in crowd that we can resort to crushing anything which doesn’t agree with us? Our group mind says X so if you don’t agree then you must be evil or must be mad. If, for so long, you were one of the ones on the outside looking in and you found a place to belong, shouldn’t you then want to be more understanding of what it feels like to be on the other side? Shouldn’t we recognise that opinions counter to our own will never be welcomed into discourse if all we want to do is expel anyone who doesn’t agree?

The melting pot of humanity is a wonderful thing and I enjoy looking at things in a different way than expected. At so many points in life, it’s when we do that that we start to make real strides in a positive direction.

You can see in these pictures that everyone is just having a blast regardless of what they have a particular passion for. I’d certainly advise people to come and join in with all manner of new hobbies.

DO CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN?

This weekend just gone saw us head off to the Sci-Fi Weekender in North Wales. Jo won the tickets and after having last year off, we headed to the convention looking forward to all things sci-fi.

We didn’t go last year after the event shared the space with a prog. rock gathering and the amount of things going on that we were interested in became watered down a bit but this year was back to the full compliment so it was easy to make the choice to return. The addition this year though, I had a table in the trader zone.

All in all, this was the best convention I’ve been to in a while.

I didn’t get the chance to see as much as I would normally have done at this event, being at my table all day, but I did get the chance to speak with a huge number of people. All in all, I was able to chew the fat about all kinds of things and spread the word of my books with loads of people who had a shared enjoyment of the same kinds of things I enjoy. The mood of the event was wonderfully inclusive and the traders around me all said that they had a blast.

Now the crux of what I want to talk about this week is connected to the event but more about the trading side of things.

When I attend these events as a trader, I dress in a very specific way. If you happen to drop by my table at an event you’ll most likely find me wearing a tweed waistcoat and jacket, adorned by my pocket watch with my dragon headed cane at my side. I have a specific pair of jeans that I wear and I’ve recently purchased a new pair of boots to go with the rest of the ensemble.

When I ready myself for an event, I’m all about the visualisation of actually being in the thick of things and speaking with everyone about anything and everything, and I find that donning the ‘uniform’ of my author persona helps me overcome any nerves I may be feeling and surround myself with the mindset and attitude I need to be able to go out and do the business.

Clothes can play a vital part in how we perceive ourselves and others. We make decisions based on what people present to the world. How someone is dressed can affect the way they walk, the way they stand and therefore, the way that they are seen by everyone else. When I dress as ‘The Author’ I do find myself feeling very different. I become more able to channel all the energies in the correct way and, you know what?, dressing well in smart clothing makes me feel more confident. I stand a little taller (I’m already over six feet tall) and almost become someone else.

We all wear different clothes depending on the situation we’re going to be dealing with.

We go to work in specific clothes that fit the role we’re going to be paying that day. On a daily basis I live in jeans and a polo shirt, safety work boots and a hi-viz jacket. These things have an effect on me as well. I take on a different set of qualities when I go to work wearing the ‘uniform’ of my usual day to day. I feel the difference on my face although whether that difference is clear for all to see is still yet to be seen.

If we play a sport. If we don’t. If we work in office. If we don’t. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we all know that dressing in a certain way comes as standard for all of the various things we do and that we can feel the power that comes with the addition of certain clothing as an almost tangible force running along our skin.

Could this be why cosplaying is such a popular activity?

We have the chance to become someone else – totally. By dressing as a character from a show, film or game, we suddenly find ourselves able to take on characteristics of said character and a once timid person can become the super confident Wolverine, any fear of wearing just a vest over a potentially less than Wolverine physique banished, because they’ve got the claws to do some damage.

Fans of sports teams don the shirts of their beloved sides and the closeness of that group bond is there for all to see. Businesses of all kinds have their staff wearing a set uniform to show that they all belong to the same group, all working for the shared goal. These things have an effect on everyone on both sides of the equation, changing how people behave in the clothes but also how people behave towards the clothes. I try to make sure that I include the garb of the characters as a vital part of who they are. Different people wear different things and these uniforms can be a touchstone for a reader when deciding what they should be feeling about people in any given situation.

Just another example of how the way we think is potentially twisted or nudged depending on certain details. It’s all extra flavouring for any story we tell so we have to be sure to always get those details right.

Yet another thing to keep in mind.

 

EXTRAS

I suspect that I’m not the first person to experience this but when I started writing, there was never even the slightest thought about the reality of what would have to happen after.

You know what happens when you try to spread the word about a book?

Loads is what.

I was never that up on the delights of social media before I started working on the book. My wife is much more adept with all things of that kind. She’d been active on Facebook and Twitter for years and add to that her amazing ability to talk to anyone and everyone and she is very much at home in the world of social media.

I am not quite so comfortable.

I love to see what my friends and family are up to and connecting with like minded individuals is something which can never be underestimated but maintaining the push of advertising of my work is a huge chunk of what needs to go into this being an author malarkey.

I had a few goes before the blog settled into some kind of routine, my writing schedule can best be described as up and down and the need to go to events and spread the word is always eating into the time available to be creative. Add to this Instagram, Goodreads, trying to create a website and everything else that you need to keep on the boil, and pretty soon, there’s seemingly no time left for anything else at all.

Maybe I would have gone about things differently if I’d actually thought about the realities of what was going to be required but I just wanted to write the book and get it out there. The thought that I’d be out hawking the book didn’t enter my mind because it was always about just the story. The only thing I can kind of cling to is that that shows I wasn’t solely motivated by being published, rather it was the story which was the focus with the wider thoughts not coming until later.

This weekend coming we’ll be in North Wales at this years Sci-Fi Weekender and I can’t wait. I love this convention and the chance to meet up with friends and have a blast is one that just can’t be overlooked. We’ve been attending the convention since it started in 2010 but this will be the first time I will have attended as more than just another member of the public. I have a table and I’ll be doing my very best to entice people to explore the land of Dragons I’m creating. This will be the first time I will have attended a residential event as a vendor where I’ve previously been a member of the public. I can remember going to talks on writing at the first event and thought it would be amazing to one day find myself at an event as more than just a ‘punter’ but again, what that would actually entail didn’t even cross my mind.

So everyone out there reading these words. Remember that there is always so very much more going on than we first give credit. To get to the best results always seems to mean spreading that net of experience just that little bit wider than first thought.

By the way.

Have you bought my books yet?

The Circle of Fire

The Circle of Duty

Tall Tales for Dark Nights