Saturday 21 February 2009

Gallifrey One

This is a diary of my weekend at the Gallifrey One convention in LA.
Thursday 12th February 2009
I arrived at the Marriott Hotel feeling very jetlagged at 8.30pm LA time. We'd been travelling all day, gone through various time zones and to our body clock it was actually 4.30am. But as we walked in we were greeted by the lovely Steve Roberts and his adorable partner Sue Cowley - who screamed and whooped in delight to see us. It was then we saw all of our British friends and the next few minutes were spent hugging them.

We checked in and went to our room to get changed and came back downstairs as soon as possible, determined to stay up if we could in order to beat jetlag.

I met an array of terrifc people in the bar: Benjamin Adams and his girlfriend Kim Pfeifer; Ed and Jen Comstock and their son Jeremy. All of whom spent many hours with us over the weekend. Then Dan McGrath, our friend from UK, gave me a big hug followed by a fabulous greeting from fellow writer Simon Guerrier. This was an amazing start to the weekend.

My friend, the comics writer Tony Lee, looking suave, was talking to Simon Guerrier and another writer, Rob Shearman, so I floated over and gave everyone a hug.

Eventually tiredness caught up with us and we had to crash, but that was ok, because we had a long day looming for Friday.

Friday 13th February 2009

We met up with friends at breakfast and spent the morning chatting to other convention goers. The convention wasn't officially starting until the opening ceremony at 6pm, but there were several panels from 1pm. There was a panel with Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures writers Phil Ford and Keith Temple at 1pm. Gareth David Lloyd and Kai Owen(Torchwood stars) question and answer session. A classic Doctor Who Panel at 3pm had such acting greats as Colin Baker, Wendy Padbury, Frazer Hines and Nicola Bryant. Followed by a Q & A with Who Producer Phil Collinson and a 'Just a Minute' quiz hosted by Paul Cornell.

This is just a small portion of the talent that appeared on the first day as there were several other panels running back to back with these.

That evening, after the opening ceremony, we went out with our friends for sushi at a little place in Hermosa Beach. It was a lovely meal, and great company.

Unfortunately I had no energy for the late night toga party or the Karaoke Kafe (shame because I love karoke) when we got back to the hotel and we called it a night at around 11pm after more drinks in the bar.

Saturday 14th February 2009.
Valentine's Day.

Saturday was a full day at Gallifrey One. Lots of socialising and attending panels. Here are some pictures of the Telos Publishing 2009 panel, which was a great update of the progress of Telos and their current titles. This was introduced by my partner, David J Howe, Telos' MD and author of over thirty fiction and non-fiction titles. David presented a fantastic trailer for Silver Scream 1, written by Steven Warren Hill (who also created the trailer) and he along with Arnold T Blumberg (Zombimania) and Chris McKeon (Time's Champion - co-written with Craig Hinton) were present to discuss the content and motivations of their books. It was a nice surprise to find in the audience another Telos author, Jon Preddle, who is currently working on Telos' next book, Timelink.

After the panels we set off to Dark Delicacies , a fantastic horror bookstore in Burbank, for a signing at 3.30pm. Ben and Kim drove us to Burbank - which turned out to be an hour away because the traffic was so heavy. Hence we arrived a little late, but that didn't matter too much, as the signing before us 'Strippers with Corpses Magazine', (don't ask - if you think you know what this magazine is about I expect you're right!!) was over-running. Eventually we sat down and the signing commenced. When I left I only had 7 copies of my book remaining which was a great result.

I was signing with David The Target Book, Arnold T Blumberg Zombiemania and Steven Warren Hill Silver Scream 1. Everyone did really well and I believe that all the Telos Publishing books were sold. We also had a very positive conversation with Del, the shop owner, who invited us to return any time we're in LA. Be careful what you wish for Del, I have every intention of returning next year!

Following the signing we made a hair-raising trip back to the convention, I was supposed to be on a panel called 'When did Vampires become Trendy?' But unfortunately the LA traffic foiled us again and I didn't make it back - which was very annoying because Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was also on the panel. We arrived back 10 minutes after the panel finished. I couldn't even stroll in 'fashionably late'! So, I was in trouble with Tony Lee (who was on the panel as well) for not appearing - Sorry. I won't do it again, honest.

I had to do a mad dash through the reception then to change for the evening. This was harder than it seemed as I kept seeing people I wanted to talk to and I had my picture taken several times on the way.

It was Valentine's day and so that evening we went to a lovely restaurant in Marina Del Rey with Kim and Ben. Here's a picture of our romantic dessert.

Sunday 15th February 2009

Final full day at Gallifrey. I had a visit from my long standing internet friend J.R. LeMar who joined us for breakfast and then spent several hours with me, keeping me company while David was busy doing panels. This was a great time to socialise again and I spent many hours in the lobby with various people joining us. Tony and Jane Kenealy came and chatted for a while, as did Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. Also the lovely Ed and Jen, and Kim and Ben briefly, because unfortunately they had to leave that day.

This was a sad day, as a lot of people left the convention early because of work commitments the following day.

Later I briefly commandeered a table in the hallway and sold some more books, and the remaining 7 copies were all gone by the end of the day. It became fashionable (a trend started by the irrepressible Steve Roberts) for me to sign with a lipsticked kiss as an extra convention signature. So there are several personalised copies out there with my lip print adorning the inside!

Sunday night, following the emotional closing ceremony, we went to dinner with Tony and Jane, then returned to the hotel and stayed around socialising with Frazer, Wendy, Ed and Jen, Tony and Jane and Jennifer. This is where we met the lovely Emily Danyel who has taken on David and I to see what we can achieve together and is now our USA Events Manager.

So all in all, Gallifrey was great fun and a huge success! Can't wait for next year ...

Sunday 8 February 2009

Celebrity Culture

What is your concept of celebrity?

I am too young to remember Marilyn Monroe at the height of her fame; she died a few years before I was born. But Marilyn, and the other Hollywood stars of her time, were the celebrities I grew up with. Hollywood glamour was my concept of 'fame', 'beauty', 'talent' ... and let's face it, you had to have talent to find fame in those days.

I remember being thrilled by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in I Love Lucy; wowed by Howard Keele in an array of musical classics as he sang with a collection of soprano beauties such as Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, Ava Gardner - my mother adored musicals and we grew up loving them too. Think of the completely brilliant Mario Lanza, and then compare him to today's stars. There's no contest in the talent stakes.

Although I'm not knocking Hollywood, and the Hollywood star system, there are some stars out there worthy of note. I'm particularly partial to Richard Gere. He wears the sophistication of old Hollywood very well.

I'm thinking, however, about the UK's current concept of, and obsession with, 'celebrity'. I was having a chat with someone on twitter this week about this subject and so I thought I'd go out on a limb and just say what annoys me!

The UK red-top media either makes 'stars' out of nobodies, or they systematically destroy the lives of selected targets, especially anyone who seems to be even remotely successful, with their ambiguities and veiled suggestion. And why are they able to do this? The public seem to love it. They digest it. They eat it up because it makes them feel something - but what??? I just can't figure it out.

I had the misfortune to watch some minutes of a certain reality TV programme recently featuring 'so-called' celebrities - it was indeed a 'celebrity' version of the standard show. I simply couldn't find the remote to flick channels quickly enough! The vampire public swallowed it whole, the papers were full of 'news' on the progress. Everytime a celeb flushed their toilet, picked their nose or appeared to have put on weight, it became big news. Elsewhere total non-entities are paraded on the front covers of numerous magazines, all of whom have paid them handsomely for the coverage ... exclusive 'interviews' appear, all of them containing 'shocking' revelations or 'exclusive love life tips' and so on. And then these people complain about the coverage!

Why are we even interested?

Think about the soaps you watch on television. Most soap stars play themselves, or a slight variant thereof, they aren't acting, they are reciting lines. The few UK actors that have genuine talent go to America at the first opportunity. I refer to the likes of the lovely Katherine Zeta Jones, Gary Oldman (a fantastic character actor); all of their successes are well deserved - they have TALENT and deserve some form of kudos. Now, let's look at some others - non-entities from tacky shows like Big Brother - who shall remain nameless so that I don't intentionallly give them more attention, but they are just famous for being famous.

If you made a list of just why people are in the public eye, then often there is a valid and very worthwhile reason: oscar-winning actress; top sportsman; novelist; politician; singer; artist; entrepreneur ... this means they gain 'celebrity' out of what they have achieved through hard work and effort.

I wonder what Paris Hilton puts as her 'reason'? Or 'Katie Price'?

There's just no logic to it.

'Real' celebrities don't have to organise their own media photographer to witness them falling out of taxis drunk. 'Real' talent doesn't have to take drugs and smash up hotel rooms. 'Real' stars don't have to hire PR agencies to spin stories about where they will be to generate media interest. They just turn up there and are incidentally noticed.

I'll leave you with these words:

I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cuz everyone knows that’s how you get famous

(The Fear - Lilly Allen)

Very apt, don't you think?

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Snowing in the UK

This Monday it was a rare treat to have the day off when London was snowed in. This is an unusual occurance for me because in Manchester we get snow quite frequently. Which means it doesn't often cause that much havoc.

In London however, the trains were off. Schools were closed for the day and buses were running on a skeleton service.

I went out for a walk in the afternoon with my boyfriend, everyone was treating the day like an unexpected holiday, and in some respects it was. All along the streets people were building snowmen, and I don't just mean the kids. It was nice to see all the happy smiling faces too. They were really appreciating the time they had extra to spend with the family.

It made me realise what the Christmas/holiday season was all about. I wonder if we were making up for the lack of snow on Christmas day? But also, 2008 was a very difficult year for all, what with the credit crunch and all the stress and strain of daily living, so why not feel an intense relief when you don't have to have your nose to the grindstone for at least one day?

Sometimes when we can't act, when things are taken out of our hands, it gives us an opportunity to relax. After all, if there's nothing you can do, what choice do you have?

Life is stressful. An unexpected holiday, even for a day, probably did everyone a world of good.

As for me, I wrote a short story (almost 5,000 words) that I'd been meaning to tackle. Without other distractions I was able to focus on the task and it was easy.

Which just goes to show what can be done in a day when you aren't worried about other commitments.

So, I'm feeling very chilled and very accomplished right now. How are you feeling?