Con Report: Steampunk Asylum X

Hi everyone,

The very giant Steampunk Asylum event was held last weekend in Lincoln’s historic quarter. It’s the biggest blow-out Steampunk extravaganza you could ever hope for. This year, with the event being a whole decade old, was even better.

I spent most of my time in the Assembly Rooms, a lovely Victorian building standing on the cobbles of Lincoln’s Historic Quarter where I had my stall alongside all the other authors and artists. It was a great atmosphere with the whole team getting along and pulling together to make it work (As I mentioned in last week’s post about reputation, these people really have got it right). That is mostly because the organisers of our little corner of the event were incredible, as always.

Tom and Nimue Brown are names that you’ll have heard me mention before. They are the artist and writer of the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels, a Gothic fantasy that is darker and prettier than anything you’ve ever seen (clicky clicky). They are also extremely organised, flexible and good-natured people.

hm

I did a couple of talks of my own, which went very well with some readers reporting they skipped the proper talks [my emphasis] going on at the university and came to mine instead. How lovely is that? Anyway, after those, I had the esteemed pleasure of introducing the Hopeless, Maine Live section of the day where a team of writers of all kinds got together to perform work that has been inspired by the collective creative setting that Hopeless has become. It was utterly nerve-wracking. As I tweeted yesterday, there is nothing like being in love with someone’s work and then they ask you to introduce it. I really wanted to do them justice, and I think it went quite well. You can read my intro on the Hopeless, Maine website HERE and take a look at the wealth of cool stuff at the same time.

I was kept sane by my creatives:

  • Jade Sarson – Artist of the Cafe Suada webcomic, which is a great read, and host of Bitten By A Radioactive Podcast. You can find her on Twitter, too.
  • Chris Mole – Comic book writer of the Professor Elemental comics, he’s also currently running an already fully-funded Kickstarter for his comic, Brigantia. Which I had the pleasure of reading at Asylum. It’s absolutely beautiful and brilliantly written. You need it in your life. You can find him on Twitter, obviously.
  • Francesca Dare – A lovely person and excruciatingly talented artist, Fran is the brain and hand behind the Penny Blackfeather comic book. She’s a joy to follow on Twitter as she updates with new artwork pretty much every day. She’s also an avid D&D fan with a particular love of Drow.
  • Nils Visser – A fellow author of many books, my favourites are those that give a Steampunk twist to Poe or Shakespeare, although his novel, Amsterdammed, I have on good authority is very good as well. Twitterise him!

The whole weekend was a success, books-wise with lots of them flying off the stall, especially Alan Shaw, which I ran out of. That’s becoming a regular thing which is amazing. Readers came back to give some lovely feedback on The Adventures of Alan Shaw vol. 1 and Old Haunts (Alan Shaw vol. 2). Most people were coming back to see if book 3 was out yet but, alas, I haven’t even finished the first draft, yet. Old Haunts did only come out in April, so I think I’m doing ok 🙂

That’s all I can tell you, really. While the rest of the event sounded great, I was working pretty non-stop and driving home each day so I didn’t get to see much of it. The convention hangover was very real on Tuesday morning, but I had editing work to do so I couldn’t really rest up. A busy week from there on has led to me only writing this blog post an hour before it goes live, sat in my pyjamas which is very uncharacteristic of me (I’m an “if I’m up, I’m dressed” kind of person). Still, I’m sure I can forgive myself this one morning.

I hope, if you came to Asylum, that you enjoyed it as much as everyone else did. Thank you, from the dying embers of my cold little heart, to everyone who came for a chat, bought a book, or gave feedback. You are all very much appreciated and I’m constantly thankful for you all for allowing my dream to stay alive.

 

Thanks for reading!

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Guest Post: Austin Chambers

Hi everyone,

Marketing is not only expensive but eldritch in nature and beyond mortal comprehension. In an effort to spread the word about talented people without them needing to remortgage or decipher R’lyehian texts, I’m sharing writery and artisty types with you all so you don’t miss out.

Today’s guest is Austin Chambers, a gentleman (he made me say that) who has been my convention neighbour many-a-time and is always interesting and intriguing to be around. He also has an excellent beard and looks good in a hat, of which I’m insanely jealous. Without any further ado, I give you Austin Chambers…

Perhaps it’s all in my head.

A.S.Chambers.

Hello. Is this thing on? (Hits router).Austin

Yes, I think that should do it. It’s always strange writing on other people’s blogs. It’s something akin to sneaking into their house in the middle of the night and wandering around in their well-worn slippers. (Yes Craig, that’s why they’re never where you leave them when you go to bed…) [I knew it! – Craig]

So, anyway, my name is A.S. Chambers, and young Mister Hallam has kindly invited me to take the reins for 600 words or so. Some might say that this is a sign of friendliness from one author of the fantastical to another. Personally, I think he’s buttering me up because he knows that I’m going to kill him in a rather gory manner in my next Sam Spallucci novel. [You’re delivering villainous monologues again, Austin ;D – Craig]

Which rather neatly brings me onto my beleaguered, down-at-heel investigator of the paranormal.

So far, Sam has survived four major outings under my cruel penmanship. The first, Casebook of Sam Spallucci, was released back in 2012 and the most recent, Sam Spallucci: Dark Justice, saw the light of day (ironic that, considering that it’s about vampires) just a couple of months ago. They are a blend of urban fantasy, film noir and quirky humour. I normally tell people that if Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett had teamed up and rewritten the works of Stephen King, then you’d be about half way there.

Sam’s world is set in my beloved Lancaster; albeit a Lancaster where things go bump in the night and lurk in the shadows. There are satanic sit-com actors, vampires dressed as Vulcans, bondage-loving banshees and all-manner of weird and wonderful characters that my hero has to encounter or endure.

When I venture out into the land of the living to try and sell my wares at comic cons and book signings, one of the most common questions that I get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I normally answer with the rather flippant reply, “You’ve obviously never been to Skerton on a Saturday night.” (For those of you not accustomed to Lancastrian geography, just imagine Ankh Morpork’s Shades but without the loveable dwarves or goblins.) However, I suppose it is a very valid question. I mean, just where do these curious creatures come from and how do they find their way into the heads of writers of fantasy and horror?

In my case, I have this issue of overthinking absolutely everything. As I type this, I’m waiting for an engineer to come and fit one of these new-fangled smart meters. This means that I currently have going through my head, in no particular order:

  1. They’re already late. How much more of my day will be spent finding tasks to do around the living room where I can hear the front door?
  2. Did I adequately tidy the stairs down to the cellar or will they slip and break their neck?
  3. What if I desperately need a cup of tea when they’re here? I mean, the fate of the world might depend on it. The phone might ring and Donald Trump could be on the other end demanding, “Mr Chambers, if you do not make a strong Earl Grey in the next ten minutes, then I will press this shiny red button.”
  4. Someone told me last night that these meters give off radiation. What if I acquire a really stupid super power? I would much rather be a master of time and space than have the ability to kill baddies with hyper-flatulence.

So, yes, if these are the things that go through my head with the perfectly mundane, then I suppose that having vampires owning local comic book shops, restaurateurs dressed as mummies nicking the Eric Morecambe statue, and a werewolf running the local park’s petting zoo are not that great a leap of the imagination.

Perhaps you’d like to try a taste of the weird and wonderful that lurks in the Lancaster of my mind?

 

Somewhat useful links (ideal for stalking…)

Website: www.aschambers.co.uk

Facebook Group:The World of A.S.Chambers

Facebook Page: @A.S.Chambers

Twitter: @ASChambersUK

Instagram: @aschambersuk

Amazon.co.uk: A.S.Chambers

Amazon.com: A.S.Chambers

There you have it, Gentlefolk! Hop over and take a look at Austin’s work if it tickles your  urban fantasy fancy.

 

Thanks for reading!

I’m Not Here (Reputation)

Hi everyone,

As you read this, I’m not really here (spoooookyyyyyyy).

I’m in Lincoln, probably talking crap to a fellow author or artisty type in the Assembly Rooms as we wait for the hordes of people who will definitely buy our books and artwork…

…sure, sure they will 😀

Anyway, there isn’t much to tell you this week except where I’ll be and what I’ll be getting up to, just in case you feel like popping along to say hi and enjoy the event. At the end is a tip that has come to me out of this week. But first:

Steampunk Asylum is in it’s tenth year, this year. A full decade of taking over Lincoln’s historical quarter with Victorian Science Fiction splendour. I’ll be in the Assembly Rooms (timetable of events here)  with all the other authors and artists, trying to pretend I’m as smart as them (and failing :D).

And now the tip! It’s dead simple, but fundamentally important.

Be Nice

To every author who gripes, complains, or gets involved in things they shouldn’t, this does nothing for your professional reputation. I’m not perfect by a long shot, but I try to always be nice to the organisers of events, I’m flexible as to where they put me and infinitely grateful when they offer a free table or opportunity to do a reading or a talk (even though I still get nervous as hell, years into the job). I also don’t get involved in competitiveness and politics that can sometimes surround our work. There will always be a teeny group in your medium/fandom trying to be the Grand Overlord. No matter what your geeky sub-culture, there will be an elitist caste. These are not people to associate with. Be civil, and move away. It’s easy and good for you to just say, “I’d rather not get involved, thank you”. I’m here to enjoy my writing and have a chat with like-minded geeks and enthusiasts who come to say hello. That’s where the joy comes, and where my attention stays.

Your professional reputation is your entire existence. Be true to your principles, your ideals, but be the most civil and open-minded version that you can possibly be. People appreciate that. And, after you’ve been you for a while, the word spreads. I have had zero editing work from random people on the internet. I have had a lot from people I’ve met at conventions, had friendly chats with on Twitter, or from friends of those people. My requests tend to start with “Such-and-such who you met at time-and-place said you help people with their writing”. Word gets around, you see. And those little editing jobs are how I pay for travel costs, food, table fees and accommodation (I tend to sofa-surf where possible, mind you). Without the editing work, I wouldn’t be able to get to events. Without being friendly, non-competitive and avoiding the BS, I wouldn’t be able to follow my dream.

So, being nice is not only a way to live, but a huge boon to you being able to follow your dream, and possibly make a career out of it.

 

Thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Emily Scialom

Hi everyone!

We’re back with a brief guest post from Emily Scialom, who has one book out already and another on the way from Austin Macauley very soon! Check it out:

emily_scialom_ps‘The Religion of Self-Enlightenment’ was begun in the summer of 2008. It was just before I went to America and travelled the States during the Obama election campaign; the air was sticky with hope for a better world. It was published by Olympia publishers, who are based in London, in the summer of 2016.

Immediately, things got weird. I was out walking with my sister in a nature reserve named Paradise when a figure of light appeared beside me in a photograph of the spot where I previously had Bible study class with my very Christian friend, Christine. I posted it online and a musician who I was friends with on Facebook from a famous band named the Brian Jonestown Massacre wrote a song about me called ‘Ghost Ghost’. The lyrics? “She’s a ghost/And she holds me so close/She is Jesus Christ/And all the Holy Hosts.”

People always told me never to write about religion. When I first started out I knew there was a problem with organised belief, even though everyone told me I was wrong; by the time the book was published I had been well and truly vindicated.

So I began writing about other topics which interest me: sex and hating the Tories. ‘The Rivers’ emerged over the course of about four years while working for the music app Spotify. This novel will be published soon by Austin Macauley. I very much look forward to sharing it with everyone.

jesus and me

‘The Rivers’ centres around a married couple who are hopelessly in love, named John and Elizabeth. Throughout the development of their story, however, there are a plethora of situations where true love cannot be easily found. Amidst the heartache there are discussions on serious global and cultural issues, as well as the nature of love and God.

roseAs for ‘The ROSE‘ (a beautiful acronym, I’m sure you will agree?), it’s been declared a “cult classic” by television and “a classic of near-death experience literature” in reviews. It’s now selling out on-loop in Cambridge book shops and has only five star reviews on Amazon. I am hoping it will be a tremendous success amidst all the craziness.

The story tells of a man named Carrick Ares, who has a near-death experience and writes a new religion in its aftermath, which is basically a philosophic work centred on the idea of oneness. If you have ever wondered for far too long about who you are and why you are here you will empathise with Carrick’s struggles, and he is very much an everyman who has captured the attentions of many readers thus far.

To purchase a copy for only 6.99 please go to Amazon, Waterstones or Olympia publishers.

There you have it, readers. Another book to watch out for in the near future!

Thanks for reading.

Steampunk Asylum X

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to drop a quick blog post to you all about a pretty exciting event coming up. Next weekend, on the 27th and 28th of August, the tenth annual Steampunk Asylum event will take over the historic quarter of the fair city of Lincoln.

For those of you who have never been, it’s an amazing event jam-packed with spectacular sights and experiences. And I do not evoke the name of the mighty preserve lightly!

As part of the whole event which will see thousands of people descend into Lincoln for Retro-futuristic adventures, the Assembly Rooms (a great building nestled between the Cathedral and Castle) will be host to one of the greatest concentrations of insanely creative people that has ever occurred. And then I’ll also be there, like the mascot monkey that people pity and tolerate 😀

Anyways, check out this amazing list of creatives and what they’ll have on offer right here:

https://www.asylumsteampunk.co.uk/event/authors-and-artists-assemble-3/

I’ll personally guarantee that you’ll find something you love.

 

Thanks for reading!

The (extended) Adventures of Alan Shaw

Hi everyone!

This post is mostly for those who have read The Adventures of Alan Shaw and the sequel, Old Haunts, and who are eagerly awaiting the third and final instalment.

Yes, they exist! The voices in my head told me so! Sheesh.

 

Anyway, I have news.

I’ve been asked many times “what happens between the adventures? Sometimes Alan references things that have happened, but we haven’t read about them.”

It’s almost like he’s a real person whose life doesn’t end when you turn the page! And that was the way I always intended it. Alan continues to have adventures outside of the books, between the other stories. What you read in the Adventures trilogy are just his most stand-out, life-altering excursions.

“But, that means that there are potentially hundreds of adventures that we’ll never read.”

That’s very true, reader. And there are even stories from the other characters between Alan’s own. The whole world continues to turn whether you’re reading about it or not.

I think this comes from my love of being a D&D Dungeon master. Whatever the players choose to do, whatever adventure they go on, the rest of the world continues to change. It means that there are real consequences to the decisions that our fictional friends make. And that’s insanely fun to write.

With that said, I’ve recently been given an amazing opportunity. I’ve been contacted by the lovely C.G. Hatton, a sci-fi author worthy of your attention, who is putting together an anthology of stories with fellow indie authors. As we were chatting about it, we decided that I should write a new Alan Shaw adventure. And so, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

For existing readers, the story will fit into Alan’s life between the first and second stories of Old Haunts which means that all you fans of his straight-talking ace-pilot partner, Merry. You’ll also get more Alan, of course, at his most sardonic and there will even discover more about Harrison Stanhope, the Privateer from Alan Shaw and The Lovelace Code.

So there you have it. I’ll obviously keep you all posted on the anthology’s title and release date as they become available. But that’s been your heads-up, so to speak. I’m pretty excited to delve back into Alan’s past as I’m writing the final book of the trilogy. I hope you’ll enjoy reading both when they hit shelves.

 

Thanks for reading!

The Tao of the Author: Success!

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to The Tao of the Author, a new thread of blog posts that will address the psychological and philosophical aspects of being an author in an effort to help people like me with the mental health issues they might come across during the course of their career. Click the category over on the right side of the page to read the previous posts.

This week, I’d like to talk about success. That one, shining word that covers whatever it is you want to get out of being an author. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to remember what our idea of success is when the world/internet is telling you what it should be.

Let’s delve.

When you start on your path to becoming an author, or any kind of creative for that matter, you have two things in your head. The first thing is the idea; that little nugget of inspiration that you absolutely have to get out of your head and into whatever medium you want to work in. The second is the goal; where you want to be, what you want to get out of doing what you do. Some people write only or themselves. The love of it is what drives them. Some people want to share with others what they’ve done. They want to find a publisher, maybe even move on to getting a movie deal, or becoming a New York Times bestseller. That’s their ultimate goal, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is when people equate gaining their ultimate goal with gaining success. These are two very different things.

For the sake of your mental health, I implore you to learn the difference.

The internet/media deals in “success stories” when it comes to these things. We hear about “overnight success” an awful lot. What they try to tell us is that success is the end, the finish line. J.K. Rowling is considered a success because millions of people have read her books. Same goes for E.L. James (the less said the better about that one). They’re a success because they’ve taken their stories as far as they can go, into other languages, travelling across mediums, making millions.

But there are a lot of writers out there, and although most of them would love to walk the path of J.K. Rowling, statistically almost none of them will manage it. That’s a harsh truth but a truth none-the-less, a truth that shouldn’t stop you trying, anyway. But, if you only consider yourself to be successful when you reach the ultimate goal, whether it’s the one you set yourself or the one set for you by others, then you’re setting yourself up for what I can only describe as misery.

In an effort to explain, I’ll use myself as an example (eek!).

Am I successful? Let’s see.

I’ve been writing seriously for about nine years. When I started out, I wanted to get an agent, get a book deal, have readers and write awesome stories that people enjoy. Maybe I even dreamed of having a movie made out of one of my books. I certainly thought about writing a comic book at some point. I think I wanted to be Terry Pratchett more than anyone else. Maybe the ultimate dream was to be able to pay my bills with my writing. Now, almost a decade on, how much of that have I accomplished?

  • Agent? Nope. Skipped it.
  • Published? Yep! That’s a tick.
  • Readers? Not many, but the few I have are lovely, enthusiastic and supportive. I couldn’t ask for nicer people.
  • Movies and paying my bills by writing? Not even on the radar. The radar hasn’t even been invented in terms of this analogy.
  • Written a comic? That goes in the yes column, although it hasn’t been drawn, yet. Still, the work has been done and I had fun doing it.
  • Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t spontaneously become Terry Pratchett.

Now, do I consider myself to be successful?

This is a tough thing for me because, as you may know, I struggle with self esteem and depression. I want to say “no” very badly. But, I’m going to talk to myself like I’d talk to any of you: positively. For the last nine years I may not have reached my ultimate goal of world domination and financial freedom from my writing but, dang it, I’ve worked hard. There are ticks on that list. And, on the whole, I’ve loved the journey.

Am I successful by the media/world definition of success? Definitely not.

Am I successful by my own standards? Definitely yes!

Whether you’ve just put pen to paper, or you’ve finished your first novel. Even if you never get a publisher or an agent, if three people read your work and they’re your family, it doesn’t matter. A feat of creativity is a success by its very nature. I don’t care if it would win awards, and neither should you. You have done something that no one else has done or can do; you’ve told your story the best that you can.

You see, it isn’t about one huge, final success. You’re not completing a computer game. You’re not working up to the final scene in a movie. This is life. Every time you do something worthwhile, it’s a little success. Your life, and your writing career, is a series of those little successes. Extending that logic, you’re already a success. You can only get more successful because no one can take from you the hard work that you’ve one.

 

The Philosophy

Here we come to the real philosophy section of the post, where we try to find the things that have been said by much smarter people than I, that you might bear in mind when thinking about your own success:

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Teddy Roosevelt.

That’s a good point. Why compare your own success to that of another? Get distracted by their success and it’s easy to miss your own.

“Success has always been a great liar.” – Friedrich Nietzsch

In case you hadn’t noticed, I think Nietzsche and the Stoics are pretty useful for authors:

“A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” — Seneca

And finally, this is another nice one, although slightly off-topic:

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

There was another quote that I had in mind for this post, but be damned if I can find it, now 😀

 

Thanks for reading, everyone!