Never having been to an SFX Weekender before, I arrived at the venue at around 2.30pm on Thursday 2nd February with a little anticipation. I live in North Wales and so the Pontins wasn't that far for me to go and I'd arranged to meet my publisher and my friends from the Victorian Steampunk Society there.
That night I had a small soiree back at my house and it was great to see some friends I hadn't seen for a while. Roy Gray, Rob and Debbie Harkess, Lady Elsie, Ian Crichton, Major Tinker and my publisher Terry Martin. We didn't party too late though as we all had to be up early the next day.
On Friday we arrived early but the action had already begun. The dealer's room was buzzing. I wasn't technically doing anything until 12 midday when I was programmed to sign at the Forbidden Planet stand but I wanted to be at our own table anyway.
By lunchtime we had sold five full sets of my Vampire Gene Series of novels and I headed over to the Forbidden Planet table ready to do my signing. It was great fun over there and I had some time to chat with the lovely Jon Harrison, putting the world to rights about publishing and signings and selling books.
At 1pm, a chap called Steve Shooter from Leeds Indie Radio arrived to interview me. The interview went well and Steve is great fun. In the middle of the recording Lady Elsie from the Victorian Steampunk Society brought me some lunch - fish and chips -and I happily munched my way through them during some of the recording as I was starving!
After a hellish journey from London (there was a serious derailment which effectively cut off Euston Station from the rest of the UK) author Raven Dane reached Prestatyn and Pontins. She found her way to our table in Bartertown, and Lady Elsie and I fetched her a drink from the chaos that was the restaurant and within minutes she was selling her own books.
At 5pm I was on the What is Steampunk? panel. Which I felt went very well. The discussion was moderated by lovely Jonathan Green, author of Pax Britannia. Panellists were Stephen Hunt, Raven Dane, Me, Lady Elsie, Ian Crichton, Lavie Tidhar and the wonderfully fun Robert Rankin. The discussion ranged from literature to fashion in its exploration of what Steampunk is and can be. The panellists even discussed the ethos of the current Steampunk movement and the fact that Jules Verne, by today's standards, could be considered Steampunk (he certainly was innovative for his time!).
After us, David J Howe (my partner, lover and best friend) was on the How to Get Published Panel. Moderated by Guy Haley, this panel also included Simon Spanton (Gollancz), Anne Clarke (Orbit) and newly published writer Anne Lyle.
Saturday came around very quickly. This was an interesting day as it didn't seem to be as busy in the dealer's room as Friday had been. I started the day with a panel at 11am What is Urban Fantasy? Moderated by Mark Charan Newton, the panellists were Benedict Jacka, Stacia Kane, Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Cornell and myself. Quite an impressive line-up I thought! This panel discussed what each of our perceptions of what Urban Fantasy was and it was a lot of fun.
Following the panel I got back to the table to find the queue for the 12 midday signing had already begun and I spent the next hour signing copies of The Vampire Gene series and selling Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings. By about 2pm we had completely sold out of Zombies, David's own collection Talespinning and Raven Dane's Cyrus Darian and the Technomicon.
The rest of the day went by in something of a blur because I was constantly being asked to sign books and photographs and chatted to many, many people.
At 3pm I was on the We're all Doomed! panel. Moderated by Guy Haley, this panel included the super Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Gareth Powell, Simon Bestwick and little old me. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was somewhat intimidated by the esteemed company I was keeping, but the panel went extremely well and we had a lot of fun. As usual my obsession with zombie-proof toilets came into the conversation ...
Because we had sold out of everything we had brought, aside from copies of Telos' new guide to the TV show Supernatural, we decided to pack up and go back home at 6pm to get ready for the SFX Awards ceremony later that evening. We had a quick snack, got changed and arrived back around 7.30pm. By 7.45pm David and I had wine (two enormous pint glasses - the wine was cheaper to buy by the bottle, but they wouldn't let you take the bottle with you!) and were sitting near the front of the main stage area waiting for the evening to start.
The awards began, much humour ensued. To see the full results then click HERE. Some highlights of the video acceptances: Neil Gaiman - not only is he a genius but he also has a keen sense of humour. Is it me or does George RR Martin look like Captain Bird's Eye? Stan Lee - a legend. Complete legend. It was great to see Brian Aldiss receive the much deserved award for Outstanding Literary Contribution, and smashing that he was actually present. So many of the other winners could not attend for varying reasons.
The awards ended on a high note. A perfect end to a perfect day with Robert and Raygun performing a special version of 'A Perfect Day' - fortunately David captured this on video:
But that wasn't the end of it ... we then partied into the wee small hours. It was fabulous to spend some time again with producer and writer Phil Ford (Sarah Jane Adventures), who David and I know from the Doctor Who circuit and particularly from Gallifrey in Los Angeles. We'll be really sorry not to join him this year at Gallifrey. Phil had with him the truly adorable Anjli Mohindra, who plays Rani Chandra in Sarah Jane Adventures. We were kidnapped by them and taken to the pub ... forced to drink whisky! I was glad to spend time with another woman who enjoys whisky like I do! It was brilliant to catch up with Ken Macleod in the bar and have a chat with him. He is a really special, talented and very genuine person.
And, being on my doorstep, I'll definitely be going again next year. See you there?