Kim Lakin-Smith

Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Category: Events

Bristolcon 2012

gareth and meLast weekend, Del, Scarlet and I travelled to one of our favourite cities in the world, Bristol, for Bristolcon. A relatively new genre convention, Bristolcon is already a mainstay for us and without a doubt the friendliest event on the calendar. There is something very unique about the Bristolcon committee’s approach to putting together and running an event. Panelists put themselves forward for proposed panels – a much more accurate way of ensuring the right people are on the right panels. In addition, this year there were a series of very short readings taking place between panels; this meant that writers had a real audience and kept the panel streams flowing wonderfully. Having witnessed some god awful behaviour on the part of my fellow writers in the way they can treat volunteers at conventions, I was delighted to see so much respect for the organisers and all of the folk who helped out on the day.

The highlight of the event for me was interviewing writer, friend and Bristolcon Guest of Honour, Gareth L Powell. Gareth was engaging, great fun and put me at complete ease as an interviewer. I cannot recommend Gareth’s forthcoming novel, Ack Ack Macque (Solaris, 2013) enough! Gareth has a uniquely dry wit and this humour infuses his latest novel.

This was Scarlet’s very first taste of the convention scene – and she loved it! Apparently it was better than our summer holiday to Tuscany (certainly the weather was better). She made a particular friend in Bristolcon artist Guest of Honour, Anne Sudworth, who is always so lovely and who Scarlet described as ‘That beautiful lady.’ I think the weekend made for an excellent test bed for next year’s Eastercon. My real hope is that Scarlet will find some likeminded friends at these events and not feel quite so different from her pink-and-glitter loving peers at school.

And so now it is back to the working day. I am really enjoying working on my new adult novel, the title of which changes on a weekly basis. I’m also teasing out the plot for a new YA fantasy novel and have a couple of short story commissions to get started on very soon. Alongside writing I’m doing the audio for a couple of stories for Starship Sofa and Pseudopod and will be reading some ARCs for the purpose of enjoyment and blurbage.

First though, it’s nearly Halloween – which means ridiculous costumes, pumpkin carving and ghost stories. In the case of the latter, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories is released next month and features my short story ‘Field of the Dead.’ I am also looking forward to the release of the Snowbook steampunk anthology, Resurrection Engines, which features an equally disturbing short story of mine called ‘The Island of Peter Pandora.’ This really is one of my stranger tales, combining influences from Peter Pan and The Island of Doctor Moreau. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the mashups!

Happy Halloween folks!

New beginnings, notebooks and learning to share nicely

So, yes, I have failed dismally to keep my blog updated over the past year. There have been a few reasons for this, but still no excuse bar the fact that I am more of a listener than a sharer. Still, it’s a habit I’m trying to break, so here goes 😉

Perhaps the real reason I haven’t updated my blog in so long is due to a rather nasty bout of illness which struck me down Christmas 2009. My nervous system decided to turn on me resulting in lots of symptoms which were just too close to some of the Big Bads for comfort. Lots of tests later, the specialists concluded my body had thrown a hissy fit and I would just have to learn to live with these new peculiarities.

Immensely relieved to have the Big Bads ruled out, it still took me most of last year to learn to control symptoms enough to behave like my usual self. As a result, 2011 sees me mighty changed as a writer – now I take long walks with the fat lab, Drake, to get my circulations going, fresh air into my lungs and top up my Vitamin D. I have also learnt to step away from the PC and write in a notebook, a revelation for me in terms of speeding up my productivity and also freeing my mind from the critical self (when I write in a notebook, I can pretend no one will ever read it!)

Bizarrely, amongst all the not so great stuff, I had a good year professionally. Summer 2010, I joined the wonderful and intimidating family of writers and artists signed with the Barry Goldblatt Literary agency in New York. My agent, Joe Monti – a great guy with a shared passion for muscle cars and kickass action – helped me shape Autodrome into a viable young adult book. This process taught me a lot about exploring the vulnerability of my characters, cleaning up the layout of my city, and differentiating between adult and young adult dialogue. As a result, Autodrome now lies in Joe’s capable hands, and is a much better book for his advice and guidance.

Alongside Autodrome, I started work in earnest on a new novella, Cyber Circus. Somehow though, this was a story which just refused to end. Before I knew it, Cyber Circus was a novel in its own right, with linking strands to its sister novella, Black Sunday.

I am desperately excited to see how things go with this new book, especially since it showcases a new side to me as a writer – the one that thought she might have a nasty fight ahead of her health-wise and thought fuck it, I’ll just write what pleases me. As a result, this is a raw, earthy novel with all the weirdness, sex and violence I had shied away from in the past. How it will be received remains to be seen, but if I can take one gift away from this last year, it will be to turn off that nasty spiteful inner critic and just get scribbling.

2011 brought with it a tight deadline to deliver a new novella for Echelon Press in the US. Queen Rat is a YA/Adult crossover story about submarines, inbred royals, feisty princesses, cerebral princes, and the question of whether love is born or bred. Queen Rat is pencilled in for a May release in Echelon’s steampunk anthology, which also features the very talented Jen Williams and Adam Christopher, among others.

Before then, my short story ‘The Harvesters’ will appear in the Further Conflicts from Newcon Press, an anthology that features Lauren Beukes, Andy Remic, Colin Harvey and Gareth L Powell, and others. The anthology is being launched at Eastercon. I also have a piece of flash fiction accompanying one of BSFA award-winning artist Andy Bigwood’s artworks in his forthcoming collection.

In the meantime, I am back to work on my new novel, Titanium. The book was flowing well before I took a break to finish other projects. Fingers crossed I can take up pen and notebook again, sit in front of the kitchen window and, in-between squirrel-watching, get scribbling again.

I will also endeavour to keep this blog more up to date, having missed out stories of inebriation at Derbyshire writer weekends, the mayhem which was our Christmas party, SFX Weekender and that dirty cop outfit, not to mention the musical splendour which was my rendition of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ at Abaddon Books’ Fantasycon Karaoke Rock Night.

I’ll just have to save those tales up for next time 😉

Eastercon LX 2009: SURREAL SUNDAY

steampunk_girl 10.00am saw me moderating the panel, ‘The Appeal of Steampunk’ with panellists GofH Tim Powers, Toby Frost, Cory Doctorow, Peter Harrow and Venetta Uye. It was a daunting task aided considerably for having a clear head and six hours sleep (unusual under con conditions). I was delighted that all of the panellists engaged fully with the subject, with delightful physical evidence of steampunk’s appeal courtesy of Peter Harrow’s steampunked IPod and gleaming pocket watch. Tim Powers was a gentlemen, Cory Doctorow a brain, Toby Frost an expert, Venetta Uye an academic, Peter Harrow an enthusiast, and me, well I was the gas-punk insurrectionist with the sense to listen to my wiser fellows. The panel was recorded and I will post the file as soon as it becomes available.[more]

Lunchtime Del and I joined Colin Brush and Hannah, rep for Puffin, for another trip to the silver bowls of digestive enlightenment. Then it was 2.00pm and time for me to be a panellist on ‘Pacifism and None-Violence in SF & Fantasy.’ The panel was moderated by literary critic, Farah Mendelson, and featured author of the excellent The Goneaway World Nick Harkaway, and the very affable Sam Kelly. In retrospect this probably wasn’t the best choice of panel for an urban SF writer into her smash-em-and-crash-em car chases, martial arts and rebel championing. But hopefully I didn’t come across too pro-aggression – except in the realms of literature.

Luckily there was a genteel steampunk tea party to attend after. The costumes were fantastic, particularly the array of military uniforms, and it was big congrats to my fellow steampunk panellist from earlier, Toby Frost as he celebrated his forthcoming Space Captain Smith launch. Then it was on to Liam Sharp’s launch of God Killers, where I also caught up with Liam’s other half, the very smiley Chris.

With this serious stuff done and dusted, it was time to relax and drink a stiff shot or several…Because Sunday Night was Rock Band night, organised by the delectable Danie Ware and the debonair Dave Devereux. Armed with a bellyful of dutch courage I took to the mike alongside the gorgeous Sam Moffat and the rest of ‘Sleazy Diesel,’ namely Del on drums, Paul Skevington on guitar and Tiff on base. It was fantastic, mind-blowing fun and we came second!!! And I even got a snog out of it. Thanks Sam!

Monday was a bit of a downer in comparison. Hearing that Scarlet had been poorly, we got straight on the road so didn’t even get to say our goodbyes. While I was very happy to get home to our little girl, the con had been a blast, and over all too soon.

Highlights then:

– Ben North: Flamenco Dancer

– Danie Ware in fishnets

– Ian Watson in platform-heeled PVC knee-length boots.

– Liam Sharp’s powerslide

– And, of course, for one Night Only: Sleazy Diesel live on stage.

Roll on Odyssey 2010!

Eastercon LX 2009: FREAKY FRIDAY

So there went Eastercon. Over a week later and I am only just recovered from my immature excesses. But what a blast! It was so good to see so many friends, old and new, and I even got to a few panels this year.

Friday, a typical pre-con mania descended on Ivy House as Del and I tried to get ourselves packed up, Scarlet tied up in a bow and delivered to her grandparents, and Drake – our big fat black lab – taken care of. At last, we were on the road to Bradford and very pleasantly surprised to find it only took us an hour and a half to reach our hotel. Unfortunately this turned out to be in the town centre, with the con hotel being located several miles away on the city’s outskirts. Immediately on entering the doors though, we met up with the ever cheerful Mr Ian Whates, who was kind enough to act Easter bunny with a lovely box of chocolates. At reception, we bumped into Deborah J Miller, writer, Wonderlands extraordinaire, and administrator of the David Gemmell Awards (http://gemmellaward.com) which are taking place on the 19th of June at the Magic Circle Headquarters. After checking into our room – a weirdly small deluxe twin which required some sort of swift footed ballroom dance to take place every time Del and I needed to pass one another – we found ourselves installed in the bar with Deborah, her beautiful daughter Tiff, and Mr Ian Watson.[more]

Next port of call was Eastercon itself at The Cedar Court Hotel. The set up this year was very sociable, with the main bar having a decent amount of seating (even though a certain horror writer stole my seat as I was about to sit down, leaving me stood there, open-mouthed – you know who you are, oh tyrant!) Friday evening saw us catching up with Tom Hunter – administrator of next week’s Arthur C Clarke awards, Simon Gilmartin, Neil K Bond, Donna Scott – administrator for the British Science Fiction awards, author Sam Stone, artist Anne Sudworth, Ben North – Creative Director of Harper Collins, Colin Brush of Penguin Books and others. I was also delighted to meet a good Facebook friend, SF writer Gareth L Powell in the flesh at last!

Later that evening and after a few jars, we piled into the 10.00pm panel on ‘The Marketing of Novels’ moderated by Ian Whates, writer, editor and owner of New Con Press, with panellists, the aforementioned Ben North and Colin Brush, and also the DDG Danie Ware of Forbidden Planet (aka @Danacea at Twitter) and Peter Crowther of PS Publishing. The panel was exceptionally informative, particularly on the harsh realities of the heavy weight publishing houses and the realities of getting your book displayed with the main book retailers. It was also the first time I’d witnessed such a clear division between those members of the publishing industry who were all for embracing online marketing and social media, and those yet to be convinced of its value.

So, what is a gang of SF devotees to do on a Friday night in Bradford? Virtually commandeer the entire floor of the Eastercon disco of course! The Mission, Sisters, G&R, Rob Zombie, MM, NIN, Aerosmith – good tunes, bad dancing, much fun. We finally poured ourselves into a taxi and headed off back to our hotel about 2.30am.

Eastercon: battles, punk and tea parties

The UK’s largest science fiction convention, Eastercon LX will be taking place 10th-13th of April 2009 at The Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford. Del and I will be attending for the full event and I am delighted to be taking part in two panels.

10.00am (ouch!) Sunday is ‘The Appeal of Steampunk’. I will be moderating the panel and am joined by guest of honour, Tim Powers, LX co-chair Peter Harrow, Cory Doctorow, Toby Frost and Venette Uye.

2.00pm Sunday I am a panellist on the subject of ‘Pacifism and nonviolence in SF & fantasy’ The moderator will be Farah Mendlesohn, and my fellow panellists will be Sam Kelly and writer of the incredible ‘The Goneaway World’, Nick Harkaway.

In-between we’ll be making much use of the bar and enjoying the delights of a steampunk tea party, futuristic disco and Forbidden Planet’s Battle of the Bands.

Visit http://lx2009.com for more information.

Workshops, wilds and a whole lotta writing.

So, just as most folk’s social calendars are filling up in anticipation of the month of December, and specifically Christmas, mine is nearly all emptied out. Which means I’m booked in to do some serious writing over the next couple of months? And I’m happy to report that all is going well on the writing front. The new novel, Autodrome, is proving to be a joy ride of motor sports, kick arse ladies and cool-cat gents, and a bit of death thrown in for good measure. I’ve just finished chapter twelve and am one scene away from launching into the Ramrod Rally on which the novel hinges…exciting stuff!

October 11th and 12th was Newcon 4, and what proved to be my favourite convention to date. The venue was the Fishmarket in Northampton, a glorious greenhouse of a building filled with a crystalline chill and sunlight. On Friday evening we enjoyed a Chinese banquet at quite possibly the largest table of guests I have ever sat at. Ever sociable, we scooted off for an hour or two to the local rock pub before settling in at our hotel for the remainder of the evening for some mildly intoxicated conversation.

First thing on Saturday, I ran a flash fiction workshop and was delighted to meet some really friendly writers and to get some great entries for the Newcon 4 flash fiction competition. Later in the day, I moderated a panel featuring some of the very talented Write Fantastic (Chaz Brenchley, Deborah J. Miller and Juliet E. McKenna) and event organiser extraordinaire Alex Davies. With the panel title, ‘The Write Fantastic: The Way Forward or A Waste of Time’ (hear the audio recording here), I felt obliged to grill these lovely people ever so slightly. But all responded with eloquence and grace, and have since assured me I’m still counted as a friend!

Saturday evening was a blur of sloppy Indian, folk music, birthday cake and celebration, leaving me ever so slightly jaded for Sunday. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my reading with Mark Robson and Chaz Brenchley, and before I knew it, it was the end of the con and I’d barely made it to any panels. Sunday evening, Del and I got to relax with guest of honour, Iain M. Banks, the gentlemanly Ken Macleod, the rebel yell that is literary agent, Simon Kavanagh, and some very good friends. Needless to say, the evening soon degenerated into a ménage of heated debate, loud Germans and rather good Star Wars impressions.

Roll on Newcon 5.

On our arrival back home, Halloween weekend promptly took precedence. My father, the eternal party animal demanded a fiesta of the gaudiest degree and bought out every tacky outlet offering ghoul masks, blood splattered tablecloths, plastic wall hangings and shrieking witches. Scarlet enjoyed a party with her school friends in the afternoon, which I survived and even enjoyed. Then the adults descended for the main event in the evening. Thanks to the now-legendary ‘Lakin’ quiz, our living room was soon swarming with charadeers re-enacting Silence of the Lambs (yes, your imagination is smutty!)…come midnight I was more than ready to turn back into a pumpkin!

Sunday November 8th was my workshop and Q and A session at the Alt Fiction Writers’ Retreat in Derbyshire. Having spent most of my life exploring the beautiful peaks and valleys of Derbyshire, it was wonderful to find myself back amidst its atmospheric splendour – especially given the roiling black sky, lashing rain and isolated setting. Once inside however I was greeted by a roaring wood burner and a bunch of incredibly friendly, enthusiastic fellow writers. It was a brilliant afternoon and I was delighted to hear feedback from so many of the weekend’s participants afterwards. Just sorry I couldn’t rescue you all from the Green Sweets of Doom, but maybe the Zombie fraternity who moved in the following weekend were partial. The weekend was particularly fun because our dear friend Sam Moffat came to stay while her other half, Paul Skevington was busy at the retreat. Always fun. Always over too soon.

So now it’s back to my life as a writer…which is really all about the hard slog. In between I hope to enjoy a glass of mulled wine or several over the coming festive period and prepare myself for the wilds of winter come the New Year.

But before all that, I am to London for a riotous weekend with the charming Tom Hunter and his crew, then a smack down in Nottingham’s Rock City the following weekend in the company of my lovely sister. Better dust off the old New Rocks!

xxx

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