Shamrokon – Day 2

Bright was the day and ungodly early was the hour when I raised myself for the second day of Shamrokon. The bus deposited me at the con with a little time to spare before the first panel, which is good, since I had to spend 10 minutes in the toilets putting on leather torso armour, leather bracers, a large Larp sword and a huge woollen cloak. While there were a lot of people dressed up at the Con, my garb served a purpose, but we’ll get back to that. I dropped in to Con Ops to make sure my sword was properly peace bonded, picked up a hot chocolate and headed to the first panel, which was YA Focus: YA Before The Boom.

On this panel, Ruth Francis Long, C.E. Murphy and Michael Carroll talked about the Hipster young adult books, that were written before it was cool. It was a lovely informal atmosphere, with many a laugh. It also introduced me to the term “New Adult”, my ignorance of this term would come back to haunt me later.

Next up was another YA Focus panel “Kids with jobs”. This panel was of special interest to me because it contained Amie Kaufman and Leigh Bardugo, who I was on a panel with later in the day. I’m not saying I was at the panel *just* to stalk them, but it was a contributing factor. The panellists explored both the difficulty of giving young adult protagonists jobs and the reasons for doing so. I found this particularly relevant since one of the possibilities for The Other Foe, book 2 of The Other Series, is Eoin getting a job.

The third panel was the first one where I was a panellist, and I was more than a little nervous. It was ‘Larping all over the world’ and I needn’t have been worried. My fellow panellists were wonderful, we had a great moderator and I think we gave a good impression of what Larping is about and how to get in to it. Obviously my armour sword and cloak were worn to demonstrate what you might see at a Larp. I had thought it would make me stand out, but I looked positively plain next to my fellow panellist Lars, who came in full Drow getup, with amazing leather armour, jet black make up and red contacts. This panel was the most fun for me over the weekend.

Straight after that I had another panel ‘YA Focus: YA Evolution’. I had a good time on this one as well, but I was a little intimidated sitting with experienced novelists Amie, Leigh and Kathryn Sullivan. The length and breadth of their knowledge was so impressive, and I felt like I was paddling like mad to keep up. I think this showed when Amie, as moderator, sprung a last question on us of what we would recommend people read if they want to start reading young adult books. My mind blanked for nearly a full minute, I knew I wanted to recommend a trilogy written by Andrew Fukuda, but I was messing up the titles. Luckily I had a secret weapon, when my turn came I called out to my wife, who was sitting in the audience and who’s love of young adult books knows no bounds, to confirm the titles (The Hunt, The Prey and The Trap), and also to confirm the author of the second book I wanted to recommend which was Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill. My wife¬† also called out a description of Only Ever Yours that was so good, Amie called it out over the microphone to make sure everyone heard it. She said the book is “Like the Handmaids tale mixed with the Stepford Wives mixed with Mean Girls… only meaner”. Without a doubt she saved my bacon.

After that we finally took a break (And I needed it). We had some amazing food at the hotel bar and my wife went to the cosplay photo shoot to get photos of her Victorian/Steampunk outfit.

From 4 – 7 I ran the Larp that Shamrokon had asked me to write for the Convention, and it was epic. The premise was that in 2050, the world had coalesced in to 5 factions. These factions had brought the world to the edge of annihilation, and were meeting today to try and make some kind of peace and save humanity. As with any Larp, myself and my Co-GM Feargal had no real idea what was going to happen until we let the players loose. As it turned out, The African Faction ignored rebel uprisings while focusing on getting as much money as possible. The South American faction based all of their strategy on ensuring the safety of the illegal drug industry which THEY had decided was the basis of their economy, the Asian faction were selling Fusion Power Plant plans like they were gong out of fashion, the USA faction attacked the EU with drone technology, then sent a spy to try and cover it up (Who got captured). When Aliens showed up in the skies over the earth, the USA faction blasted every single saucer with nuclear weapons, raining radioactive debris down on the factions below.

In the end I declared the EU faction the winners, since they played… well, the EU. They didn’t attack anyone, they did a lot of collaboration with the other factions, they defended themselves well, and when the nukes were launched, they used their captured American spy to disable the nukes above them, meaning the EU was the only faction not covered in radioactive debris.

It was exhausting, but entirely worth it, because it was amazing to see the story unfold and how creative players were getting.

We had to tidy up after the Larp pretty quick, because at 7:50pm was one of the most important events of the entire con… the airing of the new Doctor Who episode. I have to say, there is nothing quite like sitting in a hall with 300 other people watching Doctor Who on the big screen, all laughing and gasping together. Oh, and for the record, I loved it.

Most people took themselves home after Doctor Who, but I stayed around a little longer, because there was something I wanted to do. Across the hall, pushed back on the timetable so it wouldn’t clash with Doctor Who was a Filk jam session. I could only spend half an hour there, but I heard some amazing songs that made me laugh, I got to try out one I wrote called “You’ve got a fiend”, and, I got to sing Mal’s song. I have sung this song many times, around tables and camp fires, but there was something about singing it in that room, the moment where I hit the chorus, and everyone joined in, it washed over me and it was beautiful. I can think of no better way to end the day.

 

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Shamrokon Day 1

Yesterday I finished one of the most amazing weekends of my life. The weekend was filled with so much awesome that I’m going to have to do 3 posts to get through it all. Shamrokon was the 2014 Eurocon as hosted by Ireland. Eurocon is a Europe wide Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror convention that is held in a different country each year. This year it was held in the Double Tree Hotel in Dublin.

Words cannot describe the amount of work that was put in by Irish fans to both win their bid to host the convention, and to pull of what was, without a doubt, one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to.

I arrived at the convention just before 1 on Friday afternoon. I’m not feeling very well at the moment, and it was difficult for me to summon the enthusiasm I would normally expect for a con. It wasn’t long however, before I was very glad I’d come. The first panel I attended was “Cartoons in Common” which was a cheerful and comical walk down memory lane, with the moderator occasionally breaking out into the cartoon theme tunes.

I followed that up with “Filk warmup for the terrified”, where Tim Griffin, Seanan McGuire and Bill Sutton talked us through Filk circles and how they worked and the different ways filking was done. This was a very entertaining and informative panel, and foreshadowed the second evening of the Con.

For the third panel, we went to ‘Cover Art, Writer Input or Lack Thereof’, where we got to see how little input the Author sometimes has into what appears on their book covers. It was a spirited discussion with many a funny tale, and as it ended, my wife got to ask Carrie Vaughan, who was on the panel and is one of our favourite authors, to sign the first Kitty Norville book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Carrie was happy to sign it and is generally just a lovely person.

That was all I was able for on the Friday, so we headed home early. It was a good thing too, considering what was to come. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about sitting on a panel in Larp gear, running a 3 hour sci-fi Larp, how Larp players will always surprise you, the Doctor Who episode (Whoooo!!), and my first ever filk circle.

Until tomorrow…

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114

Hello internet, it’s been a while. I’ll be honest with you (because if you can’t be honest with a faceless mass of net users, who can you be honest with?) it’s not been a good week. You see internet, sometimes, life saves up all the crap, all the little annoyances, hell, even some of the big ones, and dumps them on you all at once.

One of my favourite actors has died in tragic circumstances, making me realise how often we use “Tragic circumstances” as a euphemism for “Something happened that we don’t like talking about”. And that’s pretty crappy. People suffer and struggle with mental illness, and they are illnesses and they can be cured or managed for the most part. Brushing the subject under the carpet and making it a taboo subject is only going to increase their suffering. We, as humans, lessen our pain by sharing it. So many people are scared to share their pain.

People are protesting in the US and being tear gassed and having “non-lethal” bullets shot at them. Part of me thinks, could that happen here? We’ve seen our rights infringed and our voice diluted so much over the past few years. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start paying for my public water supply. This is something that I will die if I do without it for more than 3 days, and somebody else is going to decide how much I should pay for it.

Over the last few years I am earning no more but I have so much less, as the government comes up with ever more ingenious ways to take my money. Which brings me to the other part of me, which thinks, that could never happen here; Not because the protest wouldn’t be suppressed, not because such tactics wouldn’t be used, but because we as a nation have become so apathetic that there is no need for it. They tax us and make cuts and gamble with our lives and while a highly vocal minority speak out, and while we listen to them and nod our heads in agreement, we turn around and go back to our lives, plodding along, just trying to make ends meet, too tired to have the fire of indignation, too broken to protest our treatment.

There are weeks where I exult at the wonder of the world around me, where I am happy and proud to be a member of the human race, where I marvel at the million tiny miracles that exist all around me, every day.

This week, is not one of those weeks.

 

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Downtime

For the gamers among you, no, I’m not about to tell you what my character’s been up to, I’m talking about a different kind of downtime. I work pretty hard, at writing, at life, at that whole real life job thing, and sometimes I need some downtime.

I’ve had a lot to work through the past while, and so The Other Foe has taken a back seat while I focused on more insistent problems and more time sensitive writing projects. And you know what? That’s ok. Last year I beat myself up and put myself through the wringer trying to make sure The Other Whisper got published before Christmas. I had this goal in my head and nothing was moving me from it. This time round, I’m going easy on myself. If The Other Foe isn’t published before Christmas, then it will be published afterwards, I’d rather take my time and emerge whole from the experience. Besides, I want to take my time with this one. Charting Eoin’s progress after The Other Whisper has been interesting, and I know everyone is going to love it, but more than that, I want to make it good. I want to take the absolute best written parts of The Other Whisper, and I want to make every page of The Other Foe as good as that.

There’s no rush, I’m going to be here for a while. So I’m looking after myself, I’m ticking off my list of things to get done, and somewhere along the way, I’ll write a seriously kick ass sequel.

 

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6am Musings

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but part of me loves early mornings. They are the perfect mix of isolation and reassurance. The house is perfectly still and the sound of my fingers hitting the keys is almost the only thing that I can hear; The soft rush of cars on the road by the house reassures me that the apocalypse hasn’t happened, it’s just early.

Whether this stolen moment is worth the itchy eyes and slowed thoughts is a debate for another time. For now I find myself here and have decided to relish the instant of calm that is such a rarity, not just for me, but for many.

So as the clock ticks and a distant airplane rumbles through the sky, I wish you a whispered good morning internet.

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Somebody stop me

So I had this crazy idea. I could blame it on the slight fever and fleeting illness of the weekend, or the fact that it’s early on a Monday morning an my mind is trying to escape from the reality of having to face the week, but I think it’s just because I’m crazy.

Video blogging, lots of people are doing it, it’s not that hard and I think I’d like it. I’m not sure if it’s something I’d have time to do (Because if I do it, it’s not going to be a straight talking to the camera blog, there will be editing, there will be costumes, there may be funny voices), but I do think it would be fun.

It’s something I’d enjoy and it might help recharge my creative juices which have been running perilously close to empty these past few weeks.

I’ll give myself the week to consider it, I’ll see what ideas come swimming to the surface and then I’ll leap. or not. we’ll see.

Either way, just thinking about the idea has me happy about creating something.

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State of the world address

I’m sitting at a computer, reading about children being killed by rockets, tanks being sent in after those rockets and passenger aircraft being shot down. If this were a movie, we would be at the point where the protagonist realises that maybe what his wife/best friend/ co-worker was saying all along was true, that we really are royally screwed, and it’s up to him to save the world through random acts of bravery, violence and (probably, lets face it) misogyny.

But there is no protagonist, no everyman hero who will become super human in order to save the day. There is only a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic around us. I am not alone in these thoughts, I know my online experience is the victim of confirmation bias, but I have many friends as scared as I am. Are we the minority? Is the world somehow full of people who think this is all a good idea, just kill everyone and let God/Allah/Vishnu sort them out?

I was asked today if World War 3 was starting, and I honestly couldn’t answer.

Perhaps we are the minority, perhaps we have no hope of turning the tide in what is an increasingly terrifying world, but if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.

It’s time to be the protagonist of our own stories, to stand and save what we care for. I’m sure the world will seem a lighter place in the morning, or at least, I hope it will.

For now, be kind to each other.

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Milestones

The Other Foe is half done. Or, at least, I’ve passed the half way mark on my ideal word count. This goal feels a little arbitrary though, because who knows how long The Other Foe is going to be? Maybe it will be longer than The Other Whisper, maybe it will be shorter. The important thing is not its length, but its story.

The Other Foe will follow Eoin, Miranda and Charlie as they move forward through life, dealing with the fallout from the events of The Other Whisper. If I can tell that story, if I can make it true, if I can capture my readers hearts and minds a second time, then it doesn’t really matter how long it turns out to be.

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Invisible News

It’s that moment, you know? When you have news, except it’s not quite news, it’s more like the seed of news. If you look after it and keep very very quiet, then maybe it will grow into a fully fledged news plant. Then and only then will you be able to wave it around and shout at all your friends going:

“Look at my NEWS! Isn’t it magnificent? I wanted to show it to you earlier but I was afraid even the weight of your attention would make it wilt.”

So you keep quiet. You carry on, you perhaps post a self referential blog post, and you hope against hope that this tiny little seed will grow.

This post is, of course, apropos of nothing.

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No future but the one we make

I often fantasise about the future, winning the lotto, or just getting The Other Foe finished (3,000 words closer today). It can be fun, sitting and daydreaming about the things you could do in life, the places you could go, if you just finished the book, if you just became a famous author, if someone just handed you a million Euro.

It’s not going to happen. Or, let me correct myself, it’s not just going to happen. Much as we would all like to believe that someone is going to come along and recognise how talented and amazing we are and hand us a bag of cash, life doesn’t work that way.

We all (Or at least most of us) have to work to get what we want out of life, it can be hard, it can be gruelling, but it can be done. All our goals are achievable, if we work hard enough.

So wile it’s fun to daydream, don’t stay there too long, come back to reality, and write something.

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