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VoyagerCon – Event Review

2019 AUG VoyagerCon (poster)First, let me confess to being an idiot. Those who know me, have met me, or avoided me (I’m sure it happens), were probably aware of that already.

I always, always, plan my journey across the London Underground before I leave home. Otherwise, as happened here, I end up staring at a TFL map seeing only three colours where, I am sure, there are many, many more. This time, I didn’t work it out first. Luckily a helpful member of staff gave me directions.

Having arrived at Piccadilly Waterstones and confessed to some further idiocy related to tickets, my own incompetence, and a general air of panicked politeness, the whole shebang (not a word you see as often as I’d like) got underway.

Voyager: How to get published?

HarperVoyager (logo)Up first was a smaller gathering of folks who had come to listen to staff from Voyager: Natasha Bardon, Vicky Leech, and Jack Rennison, and also Harry Illingworth, agent (not MI5, CIA, but literary). You might remember that Harry contributed to our Agent’s Week event last year on the Facebook page.

As you’d expect the room was full of budding authors all seeking that little pearl of wisdom that would get their book noticed by an agent and then a publisher. Natasha asked the questions, chipping in with words of wisdom, and the panel answered. I’ve chosen some gems from my copious (but barely readable notes).

Jack: (one piece of vital advice) Don’t stake your entire self to it.

If you have a job, a family, other things going, make writing that book part of it, but remember all those other things are as important, if not more.

Vicky: (regarding pitches) Keep it short, just the main theme. Imagine you just had the idea, you burst into a room and speak it out loud to your friends.

I’m sure like others, writing the pitch is one of the hardest things any budding author has to do. I’ve written a few and got to speak to Jack Rennison about them later on.

Harry: (regarding social media) It isn’t important for getting an agent, but get to know the community and interact.

Twitter came up a few times during the evening. If you’re not on there, it might be worth taking the plunge.

Natasha: Not everyone likes bananas.

This was in response to a question about the role of each member of the panel. Here, she explained, she means that publishing a book is a gamble, based upon subjective tastes about which will read well and what will sell. It isn’t always a comment on the quality of the book.

The last question asked concerned what is everyone looking for in a new book. So hold onto your hats, and if you’ve written something like this, you know where to submit it.

Vicky: Mermaids (not). Though… done well (she pondered). Time-Slips—lots of potential here. Zombies! Love stories, though not first love, but second or third, fourth!

(Zombie-Mermaids through time! That’s the next book sorted! -GRM)

Harry: Western fantasy. Pirate fantasy. Near-future thrillers.

(Fantasy western’s—sling a gun, sling some magic. -GRM)

Jack: Pirate and Western. Gothic and ghost stories. Historical fantasy with a twist.

(Pirates with six-guns? So many book ideas! -GRM)

Natasha: Historical fiction with a spec-fic twist. Vampires, a really good vampire story. Epic fantasy.

At the end, everyone in the room got a chance to speak to one of the panel members, to ask questions in a one on one setting. I must confess that, partially egged on by a certain author (*cough* Anna Stephens *cough*), but really down to our own selfish need and realisation that this chance does not come often, myself and Mike Everest Evans (budding author, good friend, and Fantasy Hive member/founder) took up a few slots from folks who hadn’t attended. Five minutes is not long enough to ask everything. Fifteen makes a good start though.

I cannot speak for Mike, but he came back smiling and happy. His chat went well, I’m guessing. Having heard a little about his book—I’m excited and really, really hope it goes well. Mike knows the genre, reads a lot of books, and has the passion.

For myself, I spoke to Jack about pitches. I also took the chance to talk about a few of my own; A-Team vs World of Warcraft was all right, but A-Team is very 80s, it needs to be updated a little—perhaps The Expendables vs World of Warcraft. My other pitch: The death of Alexander crossed with the Rise of Nero was a little too classical perhaps. At which point I got to explain the book a little, the characters, and received some fantastic advice.

R. F. Kuang and S. A. Chakraborty: Myths and Legends

R. F. Kuang and S. A. Chakraborty

I can sit and listen to incredibly intelligent people speak for hours, and as my old teachers (and family) will know my listening skills are not great. These two wonderful authors spoke for half an hour about myths and legends from cultures outside of the western world.

Over the course of the time, during which I stopped taking notes just to listen to everything being said, I learned about djinn—the real djinn (not the blue Disney one), murder statues, the Investiture of the Gods, Journey to the West. There really is another world, or eight, out there to be explored through books and fantasy. R. F. and S. A. are both academics, and you can tell from the first sentence they speak—they know their stuff and a lot about other stuff too (the word stuff is so non-specific, but I can’t encompass it all without a few thousand pages and a bibliography). I’ll be honest, and continue the praise, I found the talk inspiring.

You should be reading their books now!

Anna Smith Spark and Anna Stephens moderated by Vicky Leech: Kick-Ass Women

Vicky Leech, Anna Stephens, and Anna Smith Spark

All three fit this categorisation—having said that, I’m pretty sure if I counted up all the kick-ass people I’ve ever met, the women would outnumber the men! You don’t always get to hear an editor’s point of view, but this was insightful and intriguing as Vicky has edited, or helped to edit, both Annas’ books. There was a lot of to and fro between them all about their writing and views on “kick-ass” women in fantasy. There’s no denying the power and lived experience that both authors bring to their work.

For myself, I learned that using my fingers to type is where I’ve been going wrong. Anna Smith Spark is of the opinion, probably quite rightly, that many male authors write with a different appendage—I just hope I can reach the keyboard!

More than that, there was talk of the different ways both authors went about writing their books. Clearly, both series (pick them up, buy them) were labours of love, determination, and grit—as if they could ever be anything else—but the challenges faced and overcome were different for both authors.

Go and read their books.

Den Patrick and Peter Newman: Escape the Dungeon

Den Patrick and Peter Newman

This was the last panel of the evening, though panel might be stretching the word. Den Patrick and Peter ‘Loquacious’ (look out for the word in his upcoming books) Newman had created a DnD experience for us all. With sword held high, Peter raced about the room handing it to lucky participants who were then faced with a dilemma. Den read out the description in true DM style, while Peter played the monster.

Each participant had a choice to make to enable their escape from the room—though one person did appear to give Anna Smith Spark’s soul to a demon creature, the usual DnD way out of trouble apparently. The monsters came from the books of the authors present—and the sword rightly stayed with the last hero to vanquish their foe which allowed us all to escape.

I’ve never seen this done before, but it was a wonderful way to end the evening.

Waterstones Piccadilly by Eddie Hoffman

Waterstones are fast becoming, if they weren’t already, the venue of choice for events. I know we’ve used them before for an event or two, and there is the upcoming SwanseaStonesCon in September. If you’re around for that, live in the area (it is in Swansea Waterstones), pop along and enjoy your evening!

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