Conventions can be a little addictive.  When you start you go for the panels, trying to pick up information and tips that will help you with your own writing.  But as you progress you’ll find that panels repeat topics and themes, and so become less important.  Instead, conventions will become more about the people.
The last major convention I attended was Eastercon back in April.  I have a lot of friends I’ve made over the years of going to conventions that I last saw at that event.  On one hand, April doesn’t feel like that long ago, the gap long enough to have missed people but not so long that you forget them.
But then I think back to Eastercon, when a group of us sat round, and motivated by the convention, all made a vow that we’d submit novels we had.  At the end of Eastercon, I came away with a decision that I really should send Black As Knight out to a few agents.  I went to Fantasycon having handed in rewrites to my agent.
A lot has changed.
Feeling that progression, as well as having worked like crazy so that I could go to Nottingham without the rewrites hanging over me, meant that this was a very relaxed con for me.  Even the car spewing fluid everywhere only made the journey to and from the convention ‘interesting’ rather than really stressful.  I was just glad I decided to go up Thursday night.
With most of my friends heading up on Friday, I gatecrashed the Grimbold Books authors and went for a fun meal with them.  Fellow Swindon writer, Kate Coe, is one of them and we spent some of the weekend coming up with BIG plans for Swindon writers.

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My hotel was quite some distance from the convention center so I grabbed breakfast in the pub restaurant next to my hotel (where the portions were massive and they even had giant cake!) before walking in.  Of course I was early, and the old pre-convention anxiety set in, but I soon ran into Jenny and all that disappeared as more friends started turning up.
Friday was all about readings.  I attended Steve Aryan’s Battlemage reading.  His book has just come out but he suffered from an early timeslot.  Mine was a little later and I thought the karaoke would keep people away but I had a big turn out and the reading from Black As Knight seemed to go down very well.
I then sang karaoke.  There is video but thankfully it is on my phone so I can just blackmail all the other authors.  It was a fun night and I left about midnight.  Thankfully I ran into friend and agent extraordinaire, Amanda Rutter, who kindly gave me a lift back to the the hotel.
Saturday was my one and only panel.  It was on worldbuilding and it seemed to go OK.  I’d used the walk in to focus my thoughts so had a lot more things I wanted to say than I had time for, which is better than having nothing to say.  The audience seemed to enjoy it which was the most important thing.
With all my commitments completed I could then relax.  The previous night, Jo Thomas had said that if I signed her up for the karaoke she’d hit me with a sword.  I’d taken that as a positive thing, and we found time on Saturday to go over a little smallsword in the convention centre corridor.
Speaking to people there seemed to be general consensus that the programming was extremely good.  I didn’t go to many, but I have to say that the live Tea & Jeopardy with Brandon Sanderson was beyond brilliant.  All credit to Emma and Peter who seem to be taking the podcast from strength to strength.
Of course a convention isn’t a convention without some controversy or other and this year it was the food.  The hotel had removed their usual menu and replaced it with burgers, nachos and cheesy chips.  With alternative places to eat so far away, you felt a little trapped.  It was fine for a snack but by Saturday night I craved proper food.
Saturday night I went to Ruth Booth and Hal Duncan’s readings and then sat around being immersed in Teen Wolf fandom by Foz Meadows and Hal.
I walked back to my hotel about 1:30am and because of the clock change arrived at exactly the same time as I left.
Sunday I went to James Oswold’s reading before collecting a posse of Kate, Brian and Rob and heading off to the pub restaurant for lunch.  We had an amazing value carvery and brought slices of cake away with us.  After a weekend of crappy food, I could have died in that place.
We went back to the convention centre in time for the awards where Neil Williamson and Hal Duncan were up for a number.  I’d been on the judging panel for film and TV so I knew the result of that one before time but knew nothing about their categories.   Unfortunately they didn’t win, but reports I’ve read in the press seem to suggest that the nominees and award winners were considered justified.
And then it was time to set off back home, the car continuing to leak fluid across middle England.
I had a great time.  I had people I didn’t know ask about my books, I got asked to be in a selfie, people made favourable comparisons after my reading, I had a good turnout.  But most of all I got to hang out with a load of friends old and new and find out about all the exciting and amazing stuff they are doing, some of which is already happening, some of which is surely to come.
Fantasycon is likely to be my last con this year.  I plan to kick back off again next year with Eastercon.  Next year Fantasycon is in Scarborough and September already seems so far away.  Considering how much has changed in my writing career in six months, who knows where it’ll be in a year.
Additional photos by Ruth Booth & Kate Coe