Monthly Archives: October 2011

More than candy – the real history of Halloween

October 31, 2011

Today is Halloween. I wrote this post a couple of years ago and thought I might repost it today, for anyone interested.

Seeing as I’m a writer of all things macabre and occult (among other things) I thought I’d celebrate Halloween by posting on what Halloween is really all about. Of course, I can only scratch the surface in the limited arena of a blog post, but I’ll give it a go. So many people think that Halloween is basically a dress up party where kids forget all about pedophiles for one evening and walk around in the dark accepting candy from complete strangers. In some ways that’s actually the scariest thing about Halloween nowadays.

Samhain - pic from Hecatescauldron.orgHowever, let’s look at the history. Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated on October 31st. The name comes from a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening, which is in reference to a Christian tradition, though Halloween is actually the Celtic festival of Samhain. Solemnity of All Saints Day, also called All Hallows, is celebrated on 1st November in Western Christianity. It’s a day that commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. Basically it has nothing really to do with Samhain, but you know those Christians and their love of co-opting Pagan holidays. Popes during the eighth century actually moved the Christian holiday of All Saints Day from May 13th to November 1st to rope in those pesky Pagans. Later, around 1000CE, the church made November 2nd All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. All three days (All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints (Hallows) Day and All Soul’s Day) were called Hallowmas.

Ironically, it’s so often the Christians who complain about the Satanic overtones of Halloween (when they have no idea what they’re talking about) and the very next day they’ll celebrate the dead, and mysterious otherworlds like this Heaven they’re always on about. Come on Christians, is a teeny, tiny bit of consistency really too much to ask? Actually, of course it is. Have you read the bible? But I digress.

So Halloween has origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name is from Gaelic meaning “summer’s end”. While the festival had its roots in Ireland and Scotland, it was celebrated throughout the region by most Celts, often considered to be the Celtic New Year. Samhain is a celebration of the end of the long summer days and the start of the long winter nights. This is the beginning of the dark and scary overtones of the festival. The other side of the scariness comes from the belief among the Celts that the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead were at their weakest on Samhain. That meant that all kinds of spirits (benevolent and malevolent) could slip through from the Otherworld to our world on that night. For this reason, good spirits (particularly family ancestors, dead elders and so on) were honoured and celebrated while all kinds of measures were taken to ward off evil spirits. (Some people think that the habit of wearing costumes on Halloween comes from this desire to ward off the evil spirits, as people would dress as those spirits in order to disguise themselves and avoid harm. This is not something that’s universally accepted, however.)

Also during Samhain, people would stockpile food for the winter, slaughter livestock and cure the meat and so on. The preparation for the long, cold European winter was something to take very seriously. It still is, actually, but central heating makes a mockery of old man Winter nowadays.

Pic from www.hauntedbay.comAlso during Samhain, because the veil between our world and the Otherworld was so thin, it was a prime time for Druids to step up and make their prophecies. A lot of divination was undertaken during Samhain. People would build huge bonfires and burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the various Celtic gods that the Druids invoked. The Druids would then pass on their divinations, mainly giving the people some hope for the future while faced with a long, bleak, cold and hungry winter.

One other tradition that I really like from Samhain was that of sharing fire. The massive bonfire would be lit, Druids would do their thing and everyone would party around it. During this time, all the fires in peoples’ homes would be put out. On returning home people would take a brand from the huge bonfire and relight their hearth with it, so everyone had a bit of the same blessed Samhain fire in their house at the start of the dark half of the year. There’s something delicious about that tradition.

The Christians, however, weren’t the first to take a piece of Samhain. The Romans got in there first. In late October the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead in a tradition called Feralia. They also had a day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. These were wrapped in with the various Celtic traditions around Samhain, then the Christians came along and added their Saints and Souls days and the whole thing blurred together. Now we get precocious little snots throwing eggs at your house if you don’t give them sweets for dressing like little tits. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s all fun and games for the little kiddies, but let’s at least try to educate them on why they’re doing this stuff. Regardless, I think that Halloween is one of my favourite traditional holidays, when viewed from its historically accurate perspective. Not the Americanisation of it, with it’s costumes and children extorting sugar from their neighbours, but the real ideas of Halloween. I love the concepts, the darkness descending for another winter, the spirits slipping through from the Otherworld, giant bonfires and Druids seeking some knowledge of the future. Come on, isn’t all that so much better than hassling old Mrs Jenkins for a jelly snake with a sheet over your head? Unfortunately, now that I live in Australia, Halloween falls at the beginning of summer rather than the beginning of winter, but that’s life underneath for you.

What are your plans for Halloween? I might slaughter a lamb…


2011 World Fantasy Awards and Lifetime Achievement Winners

October 31, 2011

The winners of the 2011 World Fantasy Awards and Lifetime Achievement Winners have been announced:

BEST NOVEL: Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)

BEST NOVELLA: “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon”, Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All-New Tales)

BEST SHORT FICTION: “Fossil-Figures”, Joyce Carol Oates (Stories: All-New Tales)

BEST ANTHOLOGY: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, Kate Bernheimer, ed. (Penguin)

BEST COLLECTION: What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler (Small Beer)

BEST ARTIST: Kinuko Y. Craft

SPECIAL AWARD, PROFESSIONAL: Marc Gascoigne, for Angry Robot

SPECIAL AWARD, NON-PROFESSIONAL: Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press

Congrats to all the winners and nominees.


Murky Depths magazine is no more

October 29, 2011

Murky Depths 16I’m very sad to report that Murky Depths, the UK dark fiction magazine, has gone under. Here’s the relevant post from the publisher, Terry Martin. It’s a bloody shame, because Murky Depths was a consistently good magazine, with great fiction and articles, awesome illustrations and so much more. It took out the British Fantasy Award (last year, I think) and was always well reviewed. But it couldn’t stand against the tide of financial crises, e-publishing and so on.

I’m very proud to have had a story in Murky Depths while it was still going – my yarn, Mirrorwalk, is in issue 16 (pictured above). And, as the blog post I linked points out:

While Murky Depths, the anthology magazine, may be no more, it’s far from dead and The House of Murky Depths is to continue publishing paperbacks and graphic novels using the experience it has gained over the last five years. Murky Depths is dead. Long live Murky Depths.

You can still buy back-issues of the magazine until they’re sold out, so go to the site and get shopping.

Vale, Murky Depths magazine, and many thanks Terry Martin!


Anywhere But Earth has landed

October 25, 2011

Anywhere But EarthI’m very proud to have a story in this fantastic anthology from editor extraordinaire Keith Stevenson. Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-nine all new science fiction stories of humanity’s adventures out there, anywhere but Earth. Featuring original works by Margo Lanagan, Sean McMullen, Richard Harland and Kim Westwood among a galaxy of new and established Australian and overseas speculative fiction authors.

‘Keith Stevenson has done it again. Sit down, buckle up, you’re heading off world now – trust me, it’s going to hurt, but you won’t regret it.’
Trent Jamieson, award-winning author of the Death Works and The Nightbound Land series.

Calie Voorhis ‘Murmer’, Cat Sparks ‘Beautiful’, Simon Petrie ‘Hatchway’, Lee Battersby ‘At the End There Was a Man’, Alan Baxter ‘Unexpected Launch’, Richard Harland ‘An Exhibition of the Plague’, Robert N Stephenson ‘Rains of la Strange’, Liz Argall ‘Maia Blue is Going Home’, Chris McMahon ‘Memories of Mars’, CJ Paget ‘Pink Ice in the Jovian Rings’, Penelope Love ‘SIBO’, Donna Maree Hanson ‘Beneath the Floating City’, Erin E Stocks ‘Lisse’, William RD Wood ‘Deuteronomy’, Robert Hood ‘Desert Madonna’, Steve de Beer ‘Psi World’, Damon Shaw ‘Continuity’, Wendy Waring ‘Alien Tears’, Patty Jansen ‘Poor Man’s Travel’, Jason Fischer ‘Eating Gnashdal’, Kim Westwood ‘By Any Other Name’, Brendan Duffy ‘Space Girl Blues’, TF Davenport ‘Oak with the Left Hand’, Sean McMullen ‘Spacebook’, Margo Lanagan ‘Yon Horned Moon’, Mark Rossiter ‘The Caretaker’, Jason Nahrung ‘Messiah on the Rock’, Angela Ambroz ‘Pyaar Kiya’, Steve Cameron ‘So Sad, the Lighthouse Keeper’

B format 728 pages

ISBN 9780987158703 – printed book

ISBN 9780987158710 – ebook

The book has landed here on Earth and is available now in print and multi-format ebook. The official launch will be happening at the New South Wales Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival on Saturday, November 5th. Several of the contributing authors will be there, including myself. As part of the launch, Richard Harland, Margo Lanagan and I will be reading excerpts from our stories. Of course, all the attending authors will also be happy to sign your copy at the launch. There’s so much else going on that day – if you’re anywhere near Sydney, don’t miss it!

In the meantime, all the purchase details for this awesome anthology can be found here. Go get some!


How to write a fight scene masterclass now online

October 25, 2011

You’ve read the book. Right? You’ve bought the t… wait, I haven’t made a t-shirt. Maybe I should. Anyway, none of that matters. I’ve taken my successful workshop on how to write realistic and convincing fight scenes online. I did an online seminar, in conjunction with The Creative Penn, last week and it went very well. It was recorded and, as a result, we now have a multimedia package available for just US$20. Hopefully this package will be useful to everyone who wants their fight scenes to leap off the page. Don’t forget that my short ebook on the subject is also available, for just a couple of bucks.

The Masterclass package contains the full ninety minute seminar in podcast and slide video format. You can learn more about it and get your copy here, via The Creative Penn (click the pic):

Fight Scene Masterclass



Guest post – Piracy and free content with Foz Meadows

October 21, 2011

Today I’ve got a guest post from author Foz Meadows. A discussion elsewhere led to this very lucid and, to my mind, accurate post on the nature of piracy in the digital age and the pros and cons of authors offering free content. It applies equally to all forms of digital media. I agree wholeheartedly with Foz on this and hope it makes some interesting reading for you guys.

Piracy and Free Content
by Foz Meadows

Solace And GriefNeil Gaiman tried the free giveaway experiment a little while back – the readers of his blog voted which novel of his they most wanted to recommend to friends (it ended up being American Gods), and then he made it freely downloadable for a month, after and during which time his publishers monitored his sales to see what happened. Similar to Cory Doctorow’s experience, sales of ALL his books (and not just American Gods) went way, way up, which I think Gaiman compared to something of a library/lending effect, i.e.: most people discover new authors because someone, be it a friend or a library, loans them a copy of the book, thereby encouraging them to buy that author’s works in the future but without the initial risk of paying money for a product they might not like.

What I took away from the whole endeavour (apart from the fact that, when it comes to any experimental sort of book sale process, it is very helpful to already be a megastar) is that it seems to work best for writers who already have a published back-catalog. Putting up one book for free, for a limited time, draws attention to all your works together; and if people like the free product, then they’re more inclined to pay for your other stuff, because you are now one of Their Authors. Which could work as a promotion for a second book if done right, I think – but the call is yours.

Regarding people who download, I do think there’s something to the argument that the majority (or at least, a significant proportion) of DLs don’t actually constitute a lost sale, per se, so much as a parallel form of consumption. Allowing for the 10% of assholes who will always rather steal than pay even when they can afford it, I know there have been myriad reported instances where people who already own physical copies of books have sought out illegal digital versions because of region control issues in the legal versions, such as someone from Australia not being able to buy an ebook version of a novel they already own because it’s only published in America.

There’s a whole argument about poverty, too: that some people who would love to get books from libraries, but have no access to a decent catalog or even to reliable library services, use pirate copies because otherwise they couldn’t afford to read such stories at all. And then, as per the Gaiman instance, there’s people who are being judicious: who want to try something new, but don’t want to risk losing 17 bucks on a book they might hate. For my money, the only time a sale is properly ‘stolen’ by an illegal DL is when someone with money was willing to spend it on a readily-accessible product right up until they realised they could have it for free- what we might call the Asshole’s Choice. People who never had the money, the willingness and/or the access in the first place, though, are something a bit different.

Key To StarveldtThere’s two related points I think are relevant here. One is the webcomic economy, where a large number of webcomic artists – despite putting their entire product archive online, for free, forever – still make enough money to exist doing just that. Admittedly, there’s the additional site traffic/advertising revenues to bolster them in that instance, along with sales of related merchandise like t-shirts and bags (point of inquiry: do any authors go down a similar line?), but many nonetheless sell their comics in physical form, too – and successfully.

Glancing at my own bookshelves, I count 9 volumes of webcomics purchased either online or physically in comic stores. But the point of mentioning this is less that they’ve made money doing something that started out free and more that people were willing to subsidise the creation of a free product either by buying merchandise or, in many instances, donating straight to the author, just because they liked what they saw – which I think is a worthwhile case study of human nature re free content in the DL debate.

The second point is second-hand bookstores, which for years were the only way I could afford to acquire new books. As a teenager, I might not have had the $15 necessary to pony up for a new release YA, but I always had five or so to spend on a second-hand paperback, and in almost every instance, buying books secondhand eventually lead to me buying that author’s later works firsthand, either as a treat, through parental channels, or because now, as an adult, it would be unthinkable not to.

Recently, a girl left a question on my blog asking what I thought about second hand books – whether I was for or against them as a concept, seeing as how authors don’t get any money from the process. Until she asked, I honestly hadn’t considered that any writer would object to them: the books have already been bought once, after all, and even if the publishers and authors get no more revenue beyond that point, dozens of other people might end up reading the story through the beneficence of a parallel economy who otherwise would never have been able to afford it. Seanan McGuire had a fantastic post about the value of second-hand books re poverty and the digital divide recently (, but the point is this: in instances where people have been re-selling copies of legitimately-purchased ebooks online for cheap (for instance), are we better off condemning it as piracy or asking ourselves if secondhanding can translate to the digital realm, too?

I’d like to thank Foz for this great post. Weigh in with your thoughts. Is Foz right? And should authors consider the secondary income stream of related merchandise? I know I’ve often thought about it, but have yet to do anything. Also, Asshole’s Choice is now firmly in the lexicon of the modern age. Go forth and spread the concept.


Hope – an anthology of speculative fiction to help raise suicide awareness

October 19, 2011

HopeLook what I’ve got in my clammy little hand. My contributor’s copy of the Hope anthology arrived today and it’s a fine looking book. I’ve talked about this here before, but I’m talking about it again. Mainly because this is something that needs talking about. Hope is not just a great anthology of speculative fiction from a fantastic cross-section of authors, though it is that as well. It’s also a very important conversation about suicide. The publisher of the book has had a very personal experience with suicide. I’ve lost a friend to suicide. I’ve also cut a person down from a garage rafter where they’d hanged themselves, a complete stranger, and given them mouth to mouth and CPR even though I knew they were dead, until paramedics arrived and told me to stop. I don’t say these things to shock, but just to point out that it can happen to any of us at any time, directly or indirectly.

As the back cover of the book says:

Did you know approximately one million people die by suicide each year worldwide?

That is a shocking figure. Hope is a book which aims to raise suicide awareness in many ways. Firstly, between all the stories are essays from Beyond Blue, Dr Myfanwy Maple and Mr Warren Bartick, from the University of New England. There are facts and figures, there are details on how you can help people who may be suicidal and how to help people through loss. And on top of all that, the profits from this book are all going to suicide awareness charities.

I’m very proud to have donated a story to this project and I’m also proud of the story I wrote. It’s a bit outside my usual style, as the request was for all stories to have, somewhere at their heart, hope. My stuff is usually dark and often quite hopeless. I rose to the challenge to write a hopeful story. While it’s still quite dark in places, and some nasty things happen, I think I also made a good job of addressing the idea of hope. And it’s one of my rare pure fantasy stories, rather than a contemporary urban fantasy where I usually live.

So if you buy this book you’re getting great stories, useful information and you’re donating money to very important causes. So buy a copy, buy a friend a copy. After all, it’s nearly Xmas. And you know what they say about Xmas and suicide.

Buy it here: Kayelle Press

Table of Contents:

Preface by Karen Henderson
Introduction by Simon Haynes
High Tide at Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
Suicide: An Introduction by Warren Bartik and Myfanwy Maple
Burned in the Black by Janette Dalgliesh
Australian Suicide Statistics
The Haunted Earth by Sean Williams
The Causes of Suicide
Eliot by Benjamin Solah
Warning Signs
Boundaries by Karen Lee Field
Indigenous Suicides
The Encounter by Sasha Beattie
Drugs and Alcohol
The God on the Mountain by Graham Storrs
Suicide Around the World
Deployment by Craig Hull
Suicide: The Impact by Myfanwy Maple and Warren Bartik
Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden by Joanne Anderton
Helping a Friend Through Loss
Blinded by Jodi Cleghorn
Myths and Facts
The Choosing by Rowena Cory Daniells
How to Help Someone at Risk of Suicide by beyondblue
Duty and Sacrifice by Alan Baxter
What You Can Do to Keep Yourself Safe by beyondblue
A Moment, A Day, A Year… by Pamela Freeman
Where to Get Help
About the Authors


NSW Writers’ Centre Speculative Fiction Festival

October 19, 2011

On Saturday 5th November, authors, editors, publishers, critics, film-makers and readers from all over Australia are converging on the NSW Writers Centre for a day spent celebrating Speculative Fiction. I’ll be there, taking part in a panel and also reading from my story, Unexpected Launch, as part of the official launch of the Anywhere But Earth anthology from Coeur De Lion Publishing. Margo Lanagan and Richard Harland will also be reading as part of that launch.

There’s going to be loads going on, two official book launches, panels and even a chance to listen to publishers and pitch them your story idea one-on-one. That is some valuable opportunity, right there. All the details can be found here. Move fast, because places for that are limited.

In the meantime, Festival curator Kate Forsyth, asked a bunch of the attending guests just what “speculative fiction” is. The answers are excellent, and I’m reposting them here from Newsbite, the NSWWC Newsletter, which you can sign up for at the NSWWC site.

So what, exactly, is Speculative Fiction?

The dictionary defines it as a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements (which seems to me to cover just about all kinds of fiction).

So I thought I would ask some of the guests appearing at the festival. Since they write it, they should know what it is. Shouldn’t they?

We can only speculate.

Alan Baxter: ‘All fiction, by definition, is speculative, but “speculative fiction” as a genre encompasses all stories that refuse to be bound by what’s real, what’s known or what’s proven – they’re stories which expand beyond the mundane to very edges of our imagination and reflect us back to ourselves from every conceivable angle.’

DM Cornish: ‘Speculative fiction is the search to make the wondrous and the mythic, comprehensible and portable.’

Richard Harland: ‘Speculative Fiction is the imagination unleashed! And the imagination is mightier than the sword or the pen or anything!’

Pamela Freeman:‘Speculative fiction:
When the world doesn’t work the way scientists think it should –
When the world works the way poets and children think it should –
When the world works.’

Colin Harvey: ‘Speculative fiction is escapism for some, reality for the rest of us.’

Jack Heath: ‘Most fiction is written to make the real seem ludicrous. Speculative fiction is the art of making the ludicrous seem real.’

Margo Lanagan: ‘In a nutshell, “Speculative Fiction” is a handy term for referring to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and their various leakages into each other. More personally, those words are an invitation to take my story to as strange a place as I need to go to say the things I can’t say more straightforwardly.’

Karen Miller: ‘It’s the genre that takes the brakes off our imagination.’

Belinda Murrell: ‘Speculative fiction is a genre which plays with the boundaries of the known and the possible.’

What do I think?

From the beginning of time, humans have been dreaming of impossible things – of worlds and times and creatures and circumstances beyond what is known and charted. They have looked at the vast mystery of the universe and asked, ‘What if …?’ Then they have told stories that give voice to those impossible dreams, thereby making them, perhaps, one day, possible.

So if you dream of impossible things – like being the next J.K Rowling (or George R.R. Martin, or Stephanie Meyer, or Sir Terry Pratchett, or Stephen King, or Margaret Atwood, or Frank Herbert, or Diana Gabaldon, or Neil Gaiman, or even the next George Lucas), come along to the NSW Writers Centre on Saturday, 5th November, and discover this most exciting and adventurous of literary genres.

Kate Forsyth is curating the NSW Writers’ Centre Speculative Fiction Festival on Saturday 5 November. Be there!


Real Life Super Heroes in trouble again

October 18, 2011

I’m sure long-time readers here will remember this post, about a real life super hero, or RLSH, and the comedy around his actions. That post generated over 150 comments before I finally had to close it to further discussion. Subsequently, there was this post, with the hilarious Captain At!

Now the ongoing saga continues. There’s this article from The Age, talking about “Phoenix Jones” and the recent entanglement that particular hero has had with the law. According to the article:

Self-proclaimed Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones, a vigilante crime-fighter accused of assault, made his first court appearance on Thursday, but prosecutors have so far declined to charge him.

The one-time mixed-martial-arts competitor whose real name is Benjamin Fodor was arrested on Sunday after police said he pepper-sprayed a group of innocent nightclub patrons he believed were involved in a street brawl downtown.

It raises interesting questions about reponsibility, not just for the safety of others, but for your own actions. You should click through to the article and have a read if you’re interested in this stuff. You should also watch the short news video at the start of the piece.

I have to say, Jones certainly fucked up by pepper spraying a bunch of folks just having a good time, but there are two far greater crimes in evidence from the Age’s article. One is Jones’s hair. Seriously, 1983 called and wants its fashion back. More criminal though is Ryan McNamee calling himself a “documentary videographer”. The wildly shaking camera is barely ever pointing at the subject matter.

Anyway, further hilarity from the world of RLSH. Keep it coming, guys – it’s better than cartoons.


Emerging Writers’ Festival, Digital Writing Conference, Brisbane

October 17, 2011

EWFI spent this weekend in Brisbane at the Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Writing Conference and it was a top weekend of excellent information and quality company.

The event started on the Friday evening, with a meet and greet of attending writers, editors, artists and organisers at Greystones Bar. It was great to put 3D fleshforms to Twitter personas, some of whom I’ve known online for a long time, as well as making new friends right off the bat.

The Conference itself started the following day at the Queensland State Library. Lisa Dempster (@lisadempster) opened proceedings and we were then supposed to cut to a video presentation from Christy Dena (@christydena). However, library technofail meant there were problems with the wifi. For me, a certain degree of technofail at a digital writing conference seemed somehow fitting. So we had a presentation from Morgan Jaffit (@morganjaffit) on writing for videogames.

This presentation was excellent, especially as I’m involved with some game writing now. One of the simple yet very important things Morgan said in reference to game writing was that, whereas with prose writing we’re told to “Show, not tell”, with games it’s “Do, don’t show”. In other words, let players actively participate in the story rather than showing them all the story in elegant cutscenes. Gamers remember the stuff they do in a game more than the stuff they watch. This is a Very True Thing.

Then we kicked into the first panel.

Sophie Black (@sophblack), Andrew McMillen (@niteshok), Jason Nelson and Sarah Werkmeister (@fourThousand) discussed the nature of writing online, hosted by the wonderful Alex Adsett (@alexadsett). It was interesting and varied stuff. Andrew McMillen told a tale of caution when it comes to the organic nature of online journalism and how important it is to fact-check and maintain your integrity and ethics as a writer. Jason Nelson blew us away with a variety of interactive online poetry and games that has to be seen to be believed. He’s also on the board offering grants to digital writers, and it’s worth your time investigating that as it seems very few people are applying and there’s money to be had. Real spending cash. A rare treat for any kind of writer. Sophie Black, editor of Crikey, talked about how online journalism is different to the print journalism of old, and how they source material from all over the world. Sarah Werkmeister drew interesting comparisons as well. And this is, of course, only a fraction of the stuff covered.

Following that panel was another moment of technofail (which, I should point out, was again the fault of the venue, not the conference or organisers!) and so we had an early break. Then we came back to the next panel, which included myself, Simon Groth (@simongroth), Charlotte Harper (@ebookish), and Festival director, Lisa Dempster. It was hosted by the inimitable Karen Pickering (@jevoislafemme). We were talking about using the online environment to promote your work, to get work and to work for you. I used my own website as an example of how to manage a central online hub, where people can find you and your work and contact you if they want to. Of course, it was also a moment of shameless self-promotion, with my site projected behemoth-like behind me. Here’s a photo from Amanda Greenslade (@greensladecreat):

From L to R – Karen Pickering, Lisa Dempster, Simon Groth, Charlotte Haper, and me at the lectern

The other panelists presented very interesting stuff, important to all writers – concepts like “Know your niche”, “be an expert”, “define your audience”, “don’t be a dick”, “don’t spam people”, “engage with people online, don’t preach to them” and so on. The panel and subsequent Q&A wandered all over the place and covered a lot of ground, which I won’t try to replicate here.

Suffice to say that these two 75 minute panels were jam-packed with juicy tidbits of writerly wisdom and, judging by the feedback when I was chatting with people afterwards, most attendees got a lot out of it. I certainly learned some new stuff and had some old stuff reaffirmed. The truth is, no matter how emerging or emerged you may be as a writer, these things are invaluable.

After that panel we recovered somewhat from earlier technofail and had Christy Dena’s video speech – “7 things I wish I had known at the beginning of my digital writing career”. I’ve embedded that video here as it’s fucking brilliant. Absolutely solid advice, well worth your 15 mintes:

See, how good was that?

Then we mingled and drank, often the best part of any writers’ event as people are the engine of this industry and socialising with them is invariably fascinating and entertaining.

The following day there was a talk at Avid Reader bookshop (@avidreader4101), where Karen Pickering and Chris Currie (@furioushorses) talked to writers about writing about writing. Yes, all very meta. Here they are, in the sunny courtyard out the back of the bookshop/cafe. There were periodic pigeon attacks to keep them on their toes:

It was a fascinating chat, but sadly I had to leave early to catch my flight. However, due to the frenzied tweeting throughout the entire conference, I was still able to keep a bit of an ear to what was happening. And I got to follow the excitement of the spelling bee that evening, which rounded out the Festival.

A truly spectacular event that I was proud to be a part of. Given that most of my conference activity is quite genre-focused, I always enjoy these wide open writers’ events, with everyone from journalists to fiction writers and beyond all mixing together, all styles, all media, all slightly crazy. It’s inspiring and motivating in so many ways, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you want to be a writer or you already are one, get out there and mix with these overlapping tribes. We’ve all got our love of writing and reading in common, after all.

You’ve hopefully noticed that throughout this post I’ve been linking Twitter handles. Go and follow them all – they’re very interesting people.

If I got one over-riding thing from this conference it was that right now is an exciting and invigorating time to be a writer. I couldn’t agree more with that perception. Vive le Worditude!



The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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