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FantasyCon 2012

This year was my fourth FantasyCon and the second one in Brighton. As ever it was an excellent convention, with the added advantage of a great location by the sea.

Having been unimpressed by last year’s venue, I booked into the nearby Queen’s Hotel. It’s another old hotel like the Albion so the room was a touch shabby, but clean and spacious—and with a sea view at no extra charge. The fact that my room number was 101 was a little disturbing, but nothing ominous happened over the weekend, thankfully!

As often seems to happen at FantasyCon, I failed to attend much of the programming. There were a few reasons for this. In the case of the panels, there weren’t a great many, and they fell into three categories: the “how to” ones for aspiring writers (no longer of much use to me!), the once-interesting topics that I’ve seen again and again and sometimes even participated in (gender in fantasy – yawn), and topics I’m just not that interested in (anything about horror, for starters). So, not necessarily a bad selection, just not of much interest to me. As for readings, they were once again held in the small room on the front of the hotel that gets baking hot whenever the sun shines; it was bad enough in there at my own 11am reading, so I didn’t feel inclined to suffer a second time! That said, the reading went very well, and I got some good questions from the audience.

Mostly I hung out in the Regency bar (much less hot and stuffy than the seafront lounge), catching up with the multitude of friends I’ve met at previous Eastercons. This is getting harder and harder, as I know so many people now—my sincere apologies to anyone I missed! I went to the mass signing and got my copy of Before They Are Hanged signed by Joe Abercrombie, and although I didn’t have a formal signing session of my own I ended up signing several copies of The Alchemist of Souls just through being approached by readers (mostly friends, admittedly!). Also, Lee from Angry Robot gave me another set of author copies, this time CD boxed sets of the audio version, so I dare say I’ll be giving away one of those. Watch this space!

Always awesome to see people from my favourite TV shows in the flesh!
Always awesome to see people from my favourite TV shows in the flesh!

The one type of event I do try and catch is the Guest of Honour interview, and as usual these didn’t disappoint. I only made it to the Mark Gatiss interview, but apparently the rest were excellent as well. Gatiss was interviewed by Mark Morris, and the result was a long train of entertaining anecdotes covering his dual career as actor and writer. I particularly recall his description of being cast as Doctor Lazarus in Doctor Who; he said that the original script read “Lazarus emerges from the capsule, a blond Adonis”, but the final version that they filmed just said “Lazarus emerges from the capsule”! He also mentioned how much fun it was in Sherlock, playing around with people’s expectations that he would be playing Moriarty, e.g. Mycroft’s line about being Sherlock’s worst enemy.

I ducked out of the convention for a couple of hours after that, firstly to have my now-traditional fish’n’chips on the promenade—a somewhat surreal experience, with the full moon overhead and a motionless carousel playing traditional fairground calliope music—and secondly to watch the Doctor Who season finale on TV in my hotel room (unlike Eastercon last year, they didn’t show it at the convention itself). Add in a cup of tea whilst watching the telly, and my evening was about as English as you can get!

Saturday ended with the now-traditional FantasyCon Disco in the bar, ably hosted by Rio Youers and Guy Adams, with a little help from Sarah Pinborough. We danced and sweated from 10.30pm until the wee hours, though I confess that I bailed at 2am with aching feet. Still, I got off more lightly than Tom Pollock, who won his dance-off against Joe Abercrombie despite a sprained ankle which swelled up horribly the next morning.

On Sunday I had another official duty, and this time something that I couldn’t announce in advance. About a fortnight before the convention I got an email from fellow debut author Kameron Hurley, asking if I would accept the Sydney J Bounds Best Newcomer Award on her behalf, since she wasn’t able to make it to the UK. Thankfully all I had to do was introduce the video of her acceptance speech, but it was still somewhat nerve-wracking and I was relieved when all the photography was over! Nonetheless it was a huge honour to do it, and my thanks and congratulations to Kameron, who is now a multi-award-winning author on this side of the Atlantic.

Pecanchoose – sundae heaven on a Sunday!
Pecanchoose – sundae heaven on a Sunday!

It wasn’t all convention activity this weekend, though. Brighton is a great place to shop, and so I came home with two pairs of Terra Plana trainers (one pair free in the sale), a beautiful suede handbag and more Montezuma chocolate than was entirely sensible. Also, after the convention’s Dead Dog Party had begun to wind down, I went out to dinner with Lou Morgan, Adam Christopher and Will Hill, for steak, prawns, wings and a huge maple-pecan-brownie ice cream sundae (Lou and I shared it because, you know, we’re not total pigs!). A lovely end to a great convention; can’t wait for World Fantasy in Brighton next autumn!

Web Presence 101.1 – Claim Your Name

NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org
NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org

Nowadays it’s generally considered vital for an author to have a web presence, and yet a lot of writers don’t really know where to start. I’ve been online since the mid-1990s, and a professional web developer for over a decade, so I thought I’d share some of my experience – what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do!

Once I started jotting down ideas, I realised there were a lot of things to consider, so this is going to be a multi-post article. First up: laying claim to your online identity.

Register a domain name

There’s really no excuse not to have your own domain name nowadays; they’re very cheap (as little as $5 a year) and they look so much more professional on a business card or email footer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a website yet – the important thing is to lay claim to your online identity so that no-one else can. Buy a domain the minute you’ve decided on the name you will publish under. Seriously.

You can buy a domain name from any domain registrar – a company that looks after domain names and handles all the techie details for you. In the UK, I recommend 123-reg, as they’ve been around for a long time. Although they aren’t the cheapest, they aren’t overly expensive, and when it comes to a cornerstone of your online presence, reliability is too important to scrimp on. Do some research before you choose a registrar, as there are plenty of cowboys out there! For starters, your registrar should offer the ability to forward web addresses and emails for free, not as a paid add-on.

Caveat: If you are planning on putting up a website or blog, I strongly recommend not buying your domain name through the company that hosts the site. About ten or twelve years ago I had a web host go bust on me, and it took weeks, months even, to get my domain name back. During that time I couldn’t use the address for email, and anyone following links to my site was presented with a holding page saying the site was no longer available. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. A decade ago it was an irritation; nowadays it would be a disaster. Register your domain with a well-established domain registrar and host your website elsewhere.

Before you register a name, you have to choose what it will be! I recommend not registering the title of your book – or rather, not as your sole domain. Firstly, the title may change. My first novel, The Alchemist of Souls, went through several working titles before I even submitted it, then my publisher asked me to change the title I submitted it under. Secondly, you’re going to write more than one book, right? So you don’t want your web presence tied to a single title. I have registered my series title, www.nightsmasque.com, but I forward that address to this website rather than using it directly.

Of course if your chosen name is common, someone else may have already nabbed the .com address. (I got lucky – whilst neither my first name nor my surname is rare, the combination had not been registered.) In that case, you may have to try a different TLD (top level domain) such as .net or .info, or choose a country-specific one like .co.uk (they are often cheaper because there’s less demand for them than the generic ones).

Once you have your name, I recommend you start using it. If you’re not ready (or don’t want) to set up a website, forward the URL to your blog, Twitter profile, Facebook page – anywhere is better than your registrar’s standard holding page! Similarly, emails to “name@authorname.com” can be forwarded to your existing email account, and your mail client can often be configured to use the same address in the “From” field. No-one need know you’re still using Hotmail ;)

Claim your name on social media

I’ll get onto the ins and outs of social media in a later post, but right now I’ll just say that it’s worth at least trying out the various social media services. Some of them, like Twitter, allow you to use a unique name from the start, so it’s a good idea to claim your author name there if it’s still available. Twitter has a limit of 15 characters on user names, however, so you might have to be a bit more creative on that one (you can still display your full name in your profile).

That’s it for names. Really. Why are you still here? Go forth and stake your claim. Now!

Other articles in this series:

  1. Claim your name
  2. Your website
  3. Blogging
  4. Introduction to social media
  5. Twitter
  6. Facebook
  7. Goodreads
  8. Pinterest
  9. Google alerts