More On Workshopping & AltFiction

Only three days now until I take my first workshop at AltFiction. If you’re interested to see who else is teaching what subjects at the event, read on. And full details are here.

Saturday the 25th


Rod Rees – The All-Important First Page


Tony Ballantyne – How to Make Your Writing Boring


Kim Lakin-Smith – Fleshing the Bones – Dark Fantasy and Characterisation


MD Lachlan – Start Your Fantasy Novel – Six Principles for Success


Colin Harvey – Creating a Science Fictional Setting


Graham Joyce – Writing Sharp Dialogue


Graham McNeill?

 SUNDAY the 26th


Paul Finch – Prose to Screenplay


Juliet McKenna – Every Word Must Count


Dan Abnett – Shooty Death Kill in Space 101


Jonathan L Howard


Paul Kane/Marie O’Regan – Setting and Location in Genre Fiction

My workshop’s topic slightly overlaps with Paul and Marie, except they’re taking a broader approach, since setting a location in SF can differ slightly from other genres; nonetheless, it’s good to know that if people miss one workshop, there will be others covering similar themes; in fact, there are five different panels covering the start of a novel from different angles.

Perhaps I should have picked closing a story as my topic?

• June 22nd, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 0

Workshopping at Alt.Fiction

As I posted about three weeks ago, I’ll be one of about a dozen or so writers conducting one hour workshops at Alt.Fiction on the 25th and 26th of June.

Others include Dan Abnett, Tony Ballantyne, Paul Finch, Graham Joyce, Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Kim Lakin-Smith and Juliet E. McKenna.

It’s going to be left to the individual tutor what subject they cover, and what methods they use.

At the moment workshops are predominantly fantasy or at least cross-genre oriented, so I’ll be focusing on SF. The workshop will be titled ‘Creating A Science Fictional Setting’ and (subject to change)  will run between 3 and 4 p.m. on Saturday 25th.

I’ll be happy to workshop previously written pieces, specifically from the perspective of how the setting is worked out and explained (although time permitting, we’ll look holistically at the entire story), but if you’re attending and you don’t have any previously written work, I’m quite prepared to collectively workshop settings from scratch.

You decide. If you want to go, here’s the link to the membership page. I hope you come – the more brains we bring to this the better!

• June 15th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Events, Writing • Comments: 0

Alt Fiction 2011

It’s already been mentioned on their site that I’ll be attending Alt Fiction in Derby, but as it’s a 2-day event, I thought I’d better clarify; I’ll be there on Saturday 25th June only, rather than for both days…unless anything changes over the next month.

I’ve had my provisional timetable, which involves me in three panels — although panels isn’t quite the word. I’ll be participating in a podcast at noon; ‘Breaking into Writing is the subject, and I’ll be one of four  writers involved.

From 5 to 6 I’ll be reading in the Participation Space (I have a vague memory that that’s the middle of a big open plan area…).

And earlier, from 3 to 4 I’ll be involved in running a workshop, which is going to be erm, interesting….I’m not sure how exactly this is going to work; there’s no set format, so I may end up with people bringing things they’ve already written. If that’s the case, I’m happy to read previously written pieces. Or I may end up just fielding questions.

So let’s have a straw poll; if you were going to a workshop for one hour, what would you prefer to do?  Talk theory, or workshop written pieces? Is there a 3rd option, I haven’t thought of?

Feel free to feed back ideas to me…

• May 21st, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 0

Speed Networking in Bath

One of the big challenges to universities now is to continually prove their ‘relevance’ to the government of the day. Bath Spa University’s reponse to this is to create a department specifically targeting Employability (in addition to careers).

Last week BSU held an open day in which local employers came and sat on panels in workshops to talk about their business, music of the 80s/and or the Stranglers, or anything else that they wanted to cover – it was rather like a convention, with several parallel events running at the same time, some better than others.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, BSU held their second segment on employability, this time in the shape of a speed networking event. Third year students who are graduating were invited to come and meet about a dozen local employers and talk for five minutes at a time. At the end of the five minutes someone would blow an eardrum-piercing referee’s whistle (my skull was still reverberating when I left) and everyone would move on. There were at least two students for every employer present, so there was inevitably some standing around, but the staff did a fine job of traffic control, pointing out employers who were free.  

If any of the employers and students wanted to, they could carry on talking after the main event, over a glass of wine and some nibbles (the free food was -despite rumours to the contrary- not why I went!). So why did I go? I have no need of job interviews, since I’m freelance, and a second year to boot, so I didn’t need to, in theory.

Au contraire. In fact, there were almost as many second as third-years there. I was looking for new contacts for potential contract work, placements, and well, because….

New authors are almost always told by their publishers to go to as many events as they can, and one of the reasons is that sometimes the unexpected crops up. Sometimes there’s a danger of over-extending – one author wrote recently, “I seem to do everything now, except actually write,” but generally there’s no substitute for getting out and about to meet people.

And kudos to Bath Spa for arranging it.

• May 19th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 0

(A) Public Engagement

On Tuesday night, Jo Hall and I -along with about twenty-something other people- attended an Open Mic Night for science-inspired fiction at the Centre for Public Engagement in Bedminster, hosted by Tania Hershman, Writer in Residence at the Science Faculty of Bristol University.

The Centre is part of Bristol University’s plans to be more open and to interact with the public on a regular basis, countering such charges as that higher learning facilities are ‘ivory towers,’ irrelevant to today’s society.

I already knew Tania from her guest lecture at Bath Spa University last year, in which she encouraged the audience to write flash fictions from randomly chosen sentences. That indirectly led to my sale of ‘Chameleon.’

Open Mic nights are events where members of the public turn up with a piece of work which they read aloud to the audience. They are more commonly associated with poetry in my experience, although they’re also widespread in music.  This is the first time that I’ve seen one tried for anything like SF or related fields (Tania’s definition of ‘science inspired fiction’ encompasses SF, but includes anything that has a relationship of sorts with science).

It was a fascinating evening — several people read poems, some of them very good (I shall treasure one woman’s fantasy of impregnating Professor Brian Cox for a long, long time). Jo read ‘Pirates of the Cumberland Basin’ from Future Bristol, while I read a selection from ‘Spindizzy’ from Dark Spires.

After the readings we chatted a while and I got to know some of the rest of the audience -and I already knew at least a half-dozen people there from the BFSF Society monthly meetings.

I hope Tania will host other such evenings, because she’s very good at putting people at their ease, and her own readings were both entertaining and  enlightening — she’s written some very good stories on the interface between science and the literary world, two areas that often have little time for each other. We also get to use facilities such as the CPE, rather than meeting in commercial locations like pubs or hotels. 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

• April 21st, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 1

Period of Transition

The week gone by has seen me begin to switch from my winter schedule as a student, to my default one as a writer.

I handed in my last assignment of the term last Tuesday, but spent the next couple of days unable to settle, as I tried to make sense of what had become midly urgent,  urgent and downright critical while I focused on academy.

The new schedule has meant catching up on a lot of non-overdue jobs, such as switching over printers and replacing cables on the desktop (ah, the glamourous life of a writer!) and doing the accounts, which have slipped out of shape the last few weeks (or even months — I’m still finding that I have files  that disappeared back in January, when I had two hard drives get corrupted in the space of a month and which need to be updated).

And of course, I only have a few days in which to do it as Eastercon looms; for those thinking of catching me to sign a copy of Damage Time (or indeed, any other titles) signing needs to catch me at either the Further Conflicts launch on Friday –it’s now at 5pm on Friday in the Wellington Suite, or at the Angry Robot Signing at 4pm on the Saturday in the Churchill. Or you can trust to pot luck, and look for me in the bar on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning…

In the meantime, I have a Monday night meeting of the Bristol SF and Fantasy Society in the Shakespeare (we’re no longer meeting in the King Billy) to attend tomorrow night, and then I’ll be attending an open mic night at the Grant Bradley Gallery over on Bedminster Parade at 6pm on Tuesday.

So it’s a busy week, and I have yet to do more three last assignments for Uni for next term, before I give myself over to the writerly side. So I’d better get on!

• April 17th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, General, News • Comments: 0

Anthology Update

This is the stage of editing Transtories that is proving most difficult, and most instructive.

It’s the first time that I’ve had to deal with the consequences of an open call for subs –Killers, Future Bristol and Dark Spires were all invitation only.

One practical effect is that there are far more stories to read for an open sub anthology than for one with an invitation only policy, which of course takes up more time. 

Unsurprisingly, stories fit into three roughly equal categories; the ones that are easy to accept, the ones that are easy to reject, and the last ones, which are almost there, but not quite. These are the ones that call for multiple readings.

I’ve asked for a couple of rewrites for my preferred ones, but in some instances there seems to be something of a communication gap, and I now have the dilemma of how much more time I spend trying to nudge these stories toward the quality I’m looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a couple of acceptances, and I’m intending to add more at the rate of about one a day; it might not be exactly that, but I need to have the line up completed by Eastercon.

Which is where I’ll be attending a launch party for not one but two books containing my work at the same time.  (I’m not the only person claiming this singular honour, so you have even more reason to turn up and buy both books!)

First up is Further Conflicts, Ian Whates’ sequel to his 2010 anthology.

It has a fine BSFA nominated cover by Andy Bigwood, and I get to share to Table of Contents with my stunt double Tony Ballantyne, fellow Angry Robots Lauren Beukes, Andy Remic and Dan Abnett, as well as Gareth L Powell, Eric Brown, Kim Lakin-Smith, Adam Roberts and others.

I’ll talk about -the other title- The Sixty: Arts of Andy Bigwood next time. 

Before I go, you’ll notice that I’ve posted links to all the books here; in the interests of full disclosure, I get a small fee if you buy through the site, and you get to save money – so it’s win-win. 🙂

• April 6th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Books • Comments: 0

Catching Up

The nice thing about conventions is the opportunity to catch up with friends, old and not so old. It was good to see Richard, Chris, Doug, Julius and the others from the Exeter SF Society again, and to meet the newer attendees for the first time. As usual a curry was disposed of on the Friday night, and we spent far too much in the Impy, but hey, taht’s what cons are for…  

What isn’t so good is what a convention does to one’s writing ability.

My last post here was last Wednesday, and what with a bad cold, Reading Week (during which one is supposed to catch with reading — and I did, so I at least managed something!) and Microcon, it’s been a real struggle getting back into writing mode.

This semi-rambling effort marks the first hurdle surmounted. Later this week, I’ll post an interview with Writers of the Future award winning author, Bradley P. Beaulieu, whose first novel The Winds of Khalakovo is published by Night Shade Books in April, and maybe revisit that hoary old topic, self-publishing.

Meanwhile,  I have a film blog to update.

See you later.

• March 8th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Events, Writing • Comments: 0

New Story Appearance

Newcon Press has announced its forthcoming anthology Future Conflicts edited by Ian Whates.

The book will be published in April and launched at Eastercon.

The table of contents is as follows:

Introduction – Ian Whates

  1. The Wake – Dan Abnett
  2. Unaccounted – Lauren Beukes
  3. The New Ships – Gareth L Powell
  4. The Harvest – Kim Lakin-Smith
  5. Brwydr Am Ryddid – Stephen Palmer
  6. The War Artist – Tony Ballantyne
  7. Occupation – Colin Harvey
  8. The Soul of the Machine – Eric Brown
  9. Extraordinary Rendition – Steve Longworth
  10. Yakker Snak – Andy Remic
  11. The Legend of Sharrock – Philip Palmer
  12.  The Ice Submarine – Adam Roberts
  13. Welcome Home, Jannisary – Tim C Taylor

Counting Ian. Whates –the editor- there are no less than five Angry Robot authors present in the contents list, as well as my stunt double, Tony Ballantyne, and near-neighbour Gareth L Powell.

Yes, that is me you see at number seven. I’ll be putting pen to paper for anyone who wants copies signed at the launch party at eastercon.

See you there, maybe?

• February 23rd, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Books, General, News • Comments: 0

Forthcoming Appearances

In two weeks time the convention season kicks off with Microcon 31 in Exeter. I shall be appearing alongside Beth Webb and Jo Hall on a Saturday afternoon on research and other writerly things. And I’m sure that  the odd beer (some of them very odd) will be consumed. 

Next up is Eastercon, which is in at the NEC near Birmingham from the 22nd to the 25th of April, inclusive. More on that nearer the time…

• February 18th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 0