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So at hideously early on Friday morning newest Grimmie Pete Sutton, Piotr Swietlik and I piled into the con-mobile for the five-hour drive to Scarborough for a weekend of shenanigans at FantasyCon by the Sea, which took place in two hotels, henceforth refered to as The Shining and The Hellmouth. They were a pair of mouldering Victorian piles (in every sense of the word) with a beautiful view of the beach and the north sea. Or, in the case of my room, the car park. But who wants to spend time in their room at a con when there are people to catch up with, panels to see and nonsense to talk?

We swiftly decamped to the Grimbold books table up on the balcony, to meet up with BFS Award nominated author Steven MPoore (High King’s Vengeance), and Kristell Ink table-wrangling stalwart Joel Cornah (The Sky Slayer), and I finally got to meet my new book, The Summer Goddess , in the flesh for the first time, and very pretty it is too – also you could do some proper damage if you pop someone upside the head with the hardback…

Friday evening was the torrid Grimbold three-way book launch with moonlighting Gollancz author A J Dalton (The Book of Angels) in The Shining. It would have been even more torrid if it had been in the Hellmouth, as we were later to discover… Thanks to Pete Sutton for stepping in at the last minute to do a proper hosting job when Steve and I realised we were too nervous to be capable!

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Steve Poore on the Grimmie stand – photo by Alistair Sims

Post launch, calming down a bit, we braved the Comedy Northern Food in the Shining and decamped to the bar for many hours of talking bollocks, listening to Gareth L Powell, Al Robertson, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Andrew Hook reading in the Cocktail Bar, making new friends and being provided with rambly drunken career advice from Adam, which is a highlight of any con.

Saturday, post fry up but dodging the scrambled egg that looked like wet packing peanuts and apparently also tasted like wet packing peanuts, we hit the con proper-like. Grimbold books were flying out – we sold out of Heir to the North, Fight Like a Girl and Tom Lloyd’s Fear The Reaper fairly quickly, and the new books sold steadily throughout the weekend. Adam had a reading at twelve, alongside Georgia Duffy who we had met the previous evening, and that was over at the Reading Cafe in the Hellmouth. There was a very tropical-swamp feeling to the Hellmouth, you could feel the humidity as soon as you walked in, due to the con rooms being strategically positioned over a portal to the underworld swimming pool. It was foetid. And possibly squamous.

Unfortunately the Reading Cafe, in addition to being squamous, was also hidden down a wooky corridor and not very well signposted, so attendance was poor. I was reading with Alex George, a very fine writer from Cyprus whose novel Under The Dragon’s Claw is out now. I had to shoot straight off after the reading for my only panel of the weekend, “I’m Coming Out – Why the Lack of LQBTQ Characters in Genre Fiction?” with James Bennett (Chasing Embers), Tej Turner (The Janus Cycle), Anna Smith-Spark (Court of Broken Knives) and LGBT activist and spoken-word performer Sophie Sparham, excellently moderated by Allen Stroud. It was a really enjoyable panel, passionately argued and hotly debated, and I think we would all have been happy to go on for another hour – in fact the discussion continued for some time in the corridor afterwards, where we were joined by Miles Cameron and Lea Fletcher, who had some very salient points to add to the debate.

By this time I was m-e-l-t-i-n-g, so I headed back to the Shining to take over looking after the Grimbold table for a while. Due to the lack of action in the reading cafe, we had arranged that Michael Bowman, one of the contributors to the Book of Angels who was attending his first convention, should relocate his reading to the stall for a ninja off-programme event, where it attracted quite a bit of passing interest and we sold a few books off the back of it. Then we headed off to the Karaoke, after the Gemmell Awards where the lovely Peter Newman deservedly won the Morningstar Naked Torso Award for Best Newcomer – yay Pete!

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Peter Newman and a shirtless chap with TWO big swords – photo by Pete Sutton

Sunday was a quieter day, due to the hungover state of, oooh, pretty much everyone. Overheard when I went to get coffee in the morning :
“I tell you love, I’ve worked in hotels for thirty years. I’ve served rugby teams and rock groups and I have NEVER seen anyone put it away like this lot….”
Writers, everyone…

The highlight of Sunday was the none-more-squamous BFS Awards over at the Hellmouth, where Kristell Ink were nominated for three awards against very stiff competition. We walked away with empty (and sweaty) hands but our heads held high – for a small press in their third year of trading to get three BFS shortlistings is pretty remarkable, and massive congrats are due to Frances Kay, Evelinn Enoksen and Steven Poore / Moore.

Thank you to Alex, Brian, Pixie, Del and all the hard-working Redcoats for what turned out to be an absolutely top-notch weekend – it’s not easy running a convention and you guys knocked it out of the park. Hello to everyone I met over the weekend, friends new and old, and all the people who asked how Lyra’s feet were. Even the people I didn’t know. ESPECIALLY the people I didn’t know. They are much better now, thank you.

Hopefully see some of you at BristolCon!

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