Thursday, 24 April 2008

A sense of finality

Hi everyone,

Now I know I said I was going to post daily this week, and I also know that I haven't done that. What I hadn't counted on though was getting Tonsilitis on Monday and being laid in bed over the last few days. Talk about bad timing...

Unfortunately I have to begin with some bad news, in that Justina Robson has had to drop out of the event. I was really looking forward to having Justina back after her involvement in 2006, so
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it's a shame, but I'm sure we'll be seeing her at Alt.Fiction again! In terms of the programme I'm looking to sort the 3:00 workshop slot, but Charlie Stross will now be taking part in the closing SF panel, which is much better news!!

Anyway, it's well and truly back to the grindstone today to get all those 'final' jobs done. The last week is always kind of an odd time as basically most of the phoning, emailing and organising is done. To a large extent this week I’ll just be running around doing leg-work, including collecting all our book stock from Waterstones (who’ve done well to get stock by the vast majority of participating authors), collecting our t-shirts from the printers, getting all the stuff we need on the day over to the venue, stuffing goodie bags (that certainly is familiar territory!), collecting the programmes for the day and all other manner of jobs that involve a jaunt across town and back. It’s times like this that I regret not driving- I’m basically dependent on the kindness of my fellow Arts Team members to ferry me and my cargoes about!!

Aside from all that heavy lifting I’ll be communicating all my final emails to everyone taking part, making my final check and double-check of what we need to take and lots of other ‘final’ things. The final press release has gone out, so that’s one ‘final’ thing out of the way at least…

On a personal level it’s a full on few days leading to a pretty full on weekend- my timesheet requires some kind of quantum mathematician to deal with it! But come Saturday evening at 9pm, I’m sure it’ll be worth all the effort….

That’s all for today- I’ll be back tomorrow with a 'final'entry...

Many Thanks


Friday, 18 April 2008

What to expect- part 3

Hi Everyone,

I’m on the very verge of going away for the weekend, but just wanted to put up a final post for this week about the workshop sessions taking place on next Saturday.

Those of you to have attended previously will know we’ve had some very good workshop sessions, but equally we’ve had a few problems with where exactly they should be held. The first year we tried cutting off a corner of the foyer area but we suffered a little too much with noise. We then had a similar issue last year with the Reception Suite Annexe, and both spaces also had some difficulty in accommodating a decent number of people.

However we hope this is the year we’ve cracked it with hosting the workshops in the ’45 Suite- those of you who attended last year may be familiar with this space, as it hosted the book launches. Having been for the site visit the room should comfortably hold about 30 for a workshop and also leave enough room to swing a cat (although I’d rather nobody did).

We have a couple of very career-oriented sessions book-ending the workshop sessions, opening with Christian Dunn’s workshop on editing your writing. Editing down is an essential skill for any writer, as first drafts are almost invariably overwritten and so trimming down the waste is key to having a string narrative with good direction and pace. We’re also focussing on careers with John Jarrold leading a session on an agent’s work, which will be exploring what agents do and of course don’t do. This kind of knowledge is really important for anyone hoping to break into writing and I expect this to be a very popular session- John knows the publishing trade inside out and I expect some great insights in this slot.

We also have three creative-based workshops with three more great authors. It’s a real treat for all the science-fiction writers out there as both Tony Ballantyne and Justina Robson will be running sessions. Tony’s session, entitled Show and Tell, will be exploring how you can effectively get across points in your story without spelling them out word for word, which is a great tool for any writer. Justina will be looking at ‘Trouble-shooting the novel’, looking at how to deal with some of the most common problems writers face in their novels. If you’re having a problem yourself, which not ask for some advice on how you might address it?

For those of you with darker inclinations (a category I tend to include myself in), Kim-Lakin Smith will be running a session on Dark Fantasy. This is a growing area of fiction and this should be an illuminating session for those of you already writing in the field, or looking to turn your hand to it.

Well, that’s all for today- I’ll be back next week exploring some of the panel discussions and reading sessions.

Many Thanks


Thursday, 17 April 2008

What to expect- part 2

Hi Everyone,

Okay folks, I'm afraid it's nitty-gritty time, time to explore a little of what to expect on the day in terms of arrival and so on...

When you first come in the Darwin Suite door, you'll be greeted by the reception desk, which will be manned until around 2pm. Here you'll receive your Alt.Fiction badge, which this year I'm leaving blank for you to fill in names- it's been one of relatively few complaints over the last couple of years that the badges read 'attendee', so now you have the chance to personalise! I would do it myself but it's impossible to know the name of everyone booking, plus you might prefer a nickname or even an assumed name. The pen is all yours...

Once that's out of the way, do keep your badge with you as if you leave the building you'll need it to get back in- it just avoids entirely random people strolling in! A ticket will suffice just as well should you lose your badge at any point.

The top of the stairs is the enquiry desk, where you'll be able to pick up a goodie bag and also ask any questions you may have. All the key info for the day will be laid out on the desk- schedules, taxi numbers, maps, info about Derby and so on. If you're stuck at any point in the day just drop by this desk and someone will be happy to help.

The sessions last 45 minutes each and the break inbetween is 15 minutes- no obligation to go into a session, although your ticket does allow you access to all of them. The bar will be open all day and you can always browse the book and info stalls in the foyer. There will be announcements made of when the sessions start made over the PA system, and I have been known to shout the same thing from atop a table on the odd occassion...

The signing session runs from 4:45 until 5:30 and runs in the Darwin Suite, so do feel free to come by and take a look. We've got 11 authors confirmed for that so far, and hopefully will have more on the day as well.

Dinner is served between 4:45 and 6:15pm, with a variety of hot and cold food. There'll also be things like sandwiches and snacks throughout the day, although please note the bar will be closing at 8:30!!

I think that's most of the basics for the day- feel free to post up any questions here, or as always drop me a line in the office at

Thanks a lot


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

What to expect- part 1

Hi everyone,

Over the next few days I thought it'd be a good idea to cover many of the aspects of the Alt.Fiction day that people may want to know about- there's plenty going on, so I expect it'll take a good few days to cover!!

First up I wanted to cover what will be going on in the foyer, as it's the first thing you'll see when you enter the main area for Alt.Fiction. As you come to the top of the stairs, on your left will be the enquiry desk, where you can ask any questions you have about the day or about Derby at large. That'll be manned by volunteers throughout the day.

The foyer will also hold all of our stalls on the day- it's a little tight but we manage to squeeze quite a lot in! This year you'll be able to take a gander and buy from...
Interzone magazine/TTA press
Pendragon Press
Elastic Press
Scarthin Books, Derbyshire

Also for the first time this year we'll be running an official Alt.Fiction table, which we hope will be selling books by all of the authors appearing on the day (if not it'll be the vast majority) plus some other stock garnered from various places. We'll also be selling our Alt.Fiction t-shirts for the first time, which will be black rather than the usual white (white stands out far too much for general wear, I tend to think).

So basically there's plenty of spending potential on the day, and a great chance to stock up on authors both familiar and unfamiliar!!

I'll be back again tomorrow covering what to expect when you first arrive at the building, and Friday looking at the range of workshops on the day.

Thanks a lot


Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The minutae of events

Hi Everyone,

As we enter the final week or so towards Alt.Fiction I find myself increasingly preoccupied with small things, sat before a long to do list full of tiny jobs. The major stuff by now, of course, is all in hand- booking authors, dealing with catering, arranging books, printing t-shirts and so on but any event is filled with a multitude of small jobs. Today it's been tweaking the webpages, dropping flyears around town, arranging some bar vouchers, adding a plug to my email signature and a whole host of other little tasks that seem to have almost no end.

I've always thought this is the key part to any successful event- in many senses the larger tasks can be more difficult but are equally more obvious. Thinking about all the smaller aspects makes the big difference to how the event runs and to how much people enjoy it.

The next week or so is going to be bitty, and if I have forgotten anything come the day it won't be for lack of thinking about it!

I'm going to be posting daily in the run-up to the event with a brief update, so keep checking back as we approach the day itself!!

Thanks a lot


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The excitement kicks in!

Hi everyone,

So the panic of my last post has passed (at least for the time being!) and I'm really starting to feel the buzz of being involved in Alt.Fiction. With two and a bit weeks to go everything is basically in hand- today I'm working on some more marketing stuff, eflyers, press releases all that sort of stuff. It's a good time to get plugging, even if it just helps to remind people to pick up a ticket (I know because I'm the worst at leaving that sort of thing to the last moment!!)

I'm also considering what should go in the goodie bags (we've got some fantastic Charlie Stross books for this year, plus some back issues of the regional Tripod magazine) and working on the programme booklet, which is always an exhaustive and pernickity process but it's always nice when you see the final product on the day.

The schedule is now all but confirmed, although unfortunately Adam Roberts has had to drop out of the event. However we still have 28 fantastic participants and a strong science-fiction representation with Charlie Stross, Justina Robson, Eric Brown, Tony Ballantyne and Philip Palmer (plus some others depending where you want to draw your genre lines...) and a number of sessions focussing on science-fiction. These are things that unfortunately happen year by year, but hopefully we'll be able to get Adam involved in the future.

The current schedule you can view either a few posts down or at the very long webpage address here: I'm really happy with how it's come out and I think the balance of topics is pretty good- it's impossible not to leave at least a few people thinking that they'd like to attend a number of things going on at the same time, but I always think it's better that than finding yourself struggling to find something interesting!

So long may the excitement last, and long may the to do list shrink in size...

If you do want to ask anything about the event dont be shy to either post it here or tap me up in the office at I'm pleased to help where I can!!

Thanks a lot


Thursday, 3 April 2008

The days tick away...

Hi Everyone,

So we're a little over three weeks away and the reality that I'm running a rather large event in the near future has just hit. In a rational sense most things are in hand but I'm kind of at that point thinking about 'what if this happens?' or 'what if that happens?'. Obviously those are all bridges to cross if we come to them, and hopefully we never well!

In the real world, outside of my paranoia, the venue is all set, catering is now confirmed and the schedule is finalised, with Michael Marshall Smith replacing Steve Gallagher on the scriptwriting panel. You can check out the schedule at or of course a few entries prior to this in the blog...

So what's left to do? A list of small tasks which is unfortunately about as long as my arm. There's a whole host of things to buy- namebadges, books for sale (I'll be running an official event bookshop this year, which will be aiming to have titles by all the authors taking part!!), t-shirts (which again I'm hoping to have a stock of on sale), stationery and so on...

There's also the programme booklet to sort, which will be a job for the weekend. There's the mailouts to all the attendees to go (there's a stack of envelopes on my desk just waiting to be stuffed...) and of course the continued marketing efforts as we run towards the event. Then I have to make arrange with our fabulous volunteers, sort out the goodie bags, get all the stuff to the venue (which is more challenging without my own car!!) and a whole heap of other tiny jobs that will no doubt keep popping up!!

I tend to find the best thing to do in this run up is give up on a social life of any kind and just get stuck in until the day really!!! So that'll be the plan from here on in...

Anyway, if anyone does have any questions as the days tick away just drop me a message here or send me a line at and I'll do what I can to help!!

Thanks a lot


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A quick check-in

Hi Everyone,

This'll do exactly what it says on the tin basically- things have been fairly quiet on the Alt.Fiction front while I've been catching up on a little 'me' time and doing a few different bits of training. In fact this is probably my first day in the office since I last posted anything!!

Things are shaping up pretty well- we've now got around 10 authors participating in the signing session, which hopefully will be a really exciting addition to the programme. It'll be taking place during the elongated lunchtime period.

I've been up for the site visit recently and that's all looking really positive- I think after the tribulations with the workshop area in past years, the '45 Suite will be an excellent venue for those. Everything else was A-OK for the day- always good to get up there relatively early.

On a slightly more unfortunate note, Stephen Gallagher has had to step back from the event due to other commitments. Naturally that will result in a change to the scriptwriting panel that I'll be looking to confirm very soon. No doubt we'll be having Stephen back again in the future.

I think that's about all there is to report for now- feel free to get in touch about the event if there's anything else that you'd like to know at all.

Thanks a lot!!


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The schedule!!

Hi Everyone,

Just coming out of the other end of a heavy day of meetings, mostly about the future of literature provision in the East Midlands- unfortunately that's rather too long a story for this blog!!

However, something I am very pleased to post about will be the Alt.Fiction schedule, which is now at a publishable point. Of course this comes with the usual disclaimer that things may change due to unforeseen circumstances, but it should look a little something like this...

Darwin Suite
Readings and Q+A sessions (unless stated)

Graham Joyce and Peter Crowther
Publishing Panel featuring John Jarrold (John Jarrold Literary Agency), Sarah Hodgson (Voyager), George Mann (Solaris) and John Berlyne (Chair)
Adam Roberts and Eric Brown
Brian Lumley
Charlie Stross
Dinner Break including Signing Session, 4:45-5:30
Ramsey Campbell
Mike Carey
Michael Marshall Smith

Reception Suite
Panel discussions and Q+A sessions (unless stated)

Writing and the Internet featuring Lee Harris, Darren Turpin and Simon Spurrier
World-Building featuring Sarah Ash, Chaz Brenchley, Brian Ruckley and Juliet E McKenna
Building a Career featuring Simon Clark, Michael Marshall Smith and John Jarrold
Mass Book Launch featuring readings from Brian Ruckley, Philip Palmer, Simon Spurrier and Stephen Hunt
Horror featuring Simon Clark, Tim Lebbon, Mark Morris, Sarah Pinborough and Conrad Williams
Dinner break
Scriptwriting featuring Stephen Gallagher, Graham Joyce and Philip Palmer
Fantasy- Innovation vs Expectation featuring Juliet E McKenna, Chaz Brenchley, Stephen Hunt and Sarah Ash
Science-Fiction featuring Adam Roberts, Eric Brown, Tony Ballantyne and Justina Robson

45 Suite

Christian Dunn on Editing Your Work
Tony Ballanytne on TBC
Kim Lakin-Smith on Dark Fantasy
Justina Robson on TBC
John Jarrold on An Agent’s Work

You'll notice that the signing session is new, and I'm hoping to have a confirmed list of participants in that some point next week. But all in all I think it's an exciting day of events and hopefully one that everyone can enjoy!

All comments welcome, good or bad, on the look of the programming...

Will be back soon, hopefully with some news on 2009!

Thanks a lot


Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Restless nights...

Hi All,

Well, when you're suffering with a bout of insomnia, what could be better to do than post something on your blog? Not a great deal, apparently, so here it is...

Not a whole host to report since last time on the Alt.Fiction front- final schedule should be out in public next week. Had a very positive (and fun) meeting with Mark and Christian over at Solaris on Friday to discuss some stuff for this year and beyond- think they're doing some really exciting work over there and bringing out some great stuff. The fact they're based a bus ride away is just a huge bonus!!

I'm also thinking 2009 and beyond at the moment, potentially exploring a new venue (no names mentioned just yet!) and also looking at ways to ensure that we can break even or possibly even begin making a profit. Kind of a scary prospect but without a budget to dip into that's the way it's got to be. I think it can happen- I've just got to get the groundwork laid in the next 12-14 months and develop a workable plan/formula to keep us running as close to that way things have been so far... 

Just reached the end of a heavy period of freelancing working (hence all the nervous energy) with putting together the creative writing strand of the Creative Careers Summit at the University of Derby's new site at Markeaton Street. Had a good day- two workshops from Leicester-based crime writer Rod Duncan and Graham Joyce took part in the final panel of creative industry experts. It was very interesting to see writing represented there alongside venues like Derby Dance and Quad as well as creative business-type organisations like Creative Launchpad and CIN. Made for some interesting parallels. 

What's next on the freelance front? God knows. I may wait for the phone to ring, but far more likely I'll just start making some calls myself and try to get some stuff going. I hate letting the grass grow under my feet...

Other than that not an awful lot to report- still gradually working on my own new material, working on a short story (which may well turn into a novella) set almost entirely at a convention, so that should be interesting when complete!!

Anyway, will be back posting soon, hopefully at a more sensible time of day...



Thursday, 28 February 2008

Alt.Fiction- the essentials

Hi All,

Busy busy busy here as another freelance event on Wednesday 5th and plenty to tackle in the office too!

I thought it'd just be worth a quick post in light of the enquiries I've been having about Alt.Fiction. It's a bit of a bad habit of mine to glaze over the essential bits of information, so if you're considering attending for the first time, or considering attending for the first time, hopefully this info will be of some use.

The venue- The event takes place at the Darwin Suite of the Assembly Rooms in Derby. You can see a map to the venue at,-1.47607164&loc=GB:52.9239:-1.47607:16de1%203ahDE1%203AH. The Assembly rooms is the large building next to Santanda and opposite the Tourist Information Centre. There is parking at the venue, although you will have to pay to park.

Public transport- the train station in Derby is a bit out of town, around 15 minutes walk to the venue or 5 minutes in a taxi. There are regular buses to Derby from many places including Nottingham (Red Arrow) and Manchester (Transpeak).

Timings- the event begins at 12pm, with doors opening at 11am. The morning sessions run until 4:45pm when the dinner break begins. This runs till 6:15 when the evening sessions begin, with a 9pm finish.

Food- a range of hot and cold food and snacks will be available, will most of the hot food served during the dinner break. However if you would like to head out of the venue for a meal elsewhere you are welcome to do so- just hang onto your badge. The bar will also be open throughout.

Hotels- I'm in discussions with a couple of hotels about discount rates for attendess. However you can view a hotel list at in the mean time.

What to expect- the venue has three rooms: The Darwin Suite, The Reception Suite and the '45 Suite. The Darwin Suite hosts mostly readings/q+a sessions as well as the publishing panel. The Reception Suite holds mostly panel discussion as well as a mass book launch. The '45 Suite will be hosting workshops throughout the morning sessions, offering a total of 21 sessions to choose from on the day.

Tickets/booking- Tickets are available for £20/£16 concessions from the Assembly Rooms Box Office on 01332 255800 (group bookings call 01332 255808) or online at

Of course if there's anything else you'd like to know, please feel free to send me a comment here or an email at

Thanks a lot!


Thursday, 21 February 2008

Moving forward...

Hi Everyone,

Have been sat in the office working aplenty on Alt.Fiction and now I'm sat at home with a lot of random thoughts rattling through my head, so I thought id' be as good a time as any to post a blog...

I spent a good while this afternoon agonizing about programming, which is one of the trickier aspects of any event like this. Actually giving a shape to the day that balances all the different genres, events of interest to readers and writers as well as the individual requirements of all the participants is a tricky business but I think I'm now at a point where I've very nearly cracked it. There are various events for the writers there including workshops on editing and agents as well as panels on scriptwriting and building your career. There's also a really strong range of readings and I'm really pleased with how the Darwin Suite programme is looking. I'm also looking at a signing session to take place through part of the dinner break, which hopefully will really add something to the day for all the keen readers out there!!

One of the problems in programming, and one that seems to have come up more this year, is in fact fitting in everything you would like to have and I've had to trim or leave out a number of things I would have like to have done. But hopefully another year we can either get ourselves working with a larger venue or going for a weekend and there will be plenty of opportunity to run everything!

I've also been working this week on distributing flyers and hopefully you'll be seeing them pop up in bookshops, libraries and tourist info centres soon enough! I've had 5000 done this year, as opposed to the usual 10000, which is partly a financial consideration but also partly due to the fact that the community around SFF is incredibly supportive and friendly and I think word of mouth and good press are a better approach. So it's been the job for today to think very carefully and throwing away a lot of pre-prepared envelopes! I've always found something very cathartic about mailouts, for some reason...

In terms of more general stuff, I'm currently relishing getting right back into my writing and have managed to write a couple of short stories in the last week, which ends a pretty long barren spell for me! I've also been reading rather more and recently read Conrad Williams' 'The Scalding Rooms', which was absolutely superb- one of the best books I've read in ages. The world it was set in was so dark and so believable and the interaction between characters was fascinating. I'd thoroughly recommend it to anybody...

Anyway, I think that's about it for me for on night- an evening of Simpsons and Guitar Hero awaits...

Thanks a lot


Tuesday, 19 February 2008

What a week...

Hi Everyone,

Just settling back into the office routine and getting myself back immersed in Alt.Fiction after a rather chatoic week or so of freelance working...

Saturday 9th I was over in Loughborough organising the 'Writing Industires Conference', a day event looking at the nuts and bolts of making a living as a writer/performer. We actually had things sold out about 3 weeks in advance, which was great as it meant there was no marketing to worry about! I saw relatively little of the day myself, spending most of my time running around the reception area, but the reports have all been good! I was pleased to have two very well known figures in SFF, Graham Joyce and John Jarrold, taking part in the day- John was offering agent one-to-one advice to selected writers and it was very interesting to see people walking in terrified and then emerging enthused and excited!! That was unanimous to all the agent sessions throughout the day really- I think people build up an impression of agents as rather scary, which is completely misguided!!

After a rather more relaxing Sunday, I was off to Oldham on Monday evening to take part in a three day writing project with gifted and talented Year 9s. We had 30 kids taking part and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself- the enthusiasm the kids showed was amazing and we had an SFF feel to the event with Tony Ballantyne and his wife Barbara (who were both crucial in making the event happen!) as well as Mark Morris, Juliet McKenna, Conrad Williams, Chris Beckett and Justina Robson taking part. I managed to see every session and there were some really interesting ideas coming out and some great writing. There was also the opportunity for some rather nice meals out in Oldham, which never goes amiss! The next step is going to be an anthology of the kids' work, which I'm really looking forward to getting involved in.

Back to Alt.Fiction, it's very much reaching that nitty-gritty stage of sorting out all the practical aspects like programming, catering, hotels etc etc. The flyers have arrived and look rather lovely, and if you'd like to receive one (or a bundle) give me a nudge in the office at and I shall be happy to oblige. Marketing will be on the forefront of my mind for a while, and it's a process that I rather strangely enjoy...

I'm also delighted to announce three new authors for the bill in the shape of Ramsey Campbell, Juliet McKenna and Tony Ballantyne. This adds even more to an already great line-up and I'm hoping to have an agreed schedule of events out there within the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, got a fair few bits to crack on with after the break from the office, but feel free to get in touch if there's anything else you'd like to ask- you can get me at the email address as above or in the office on 01332 715434, Wednesday to Friday.

Thanks a lot!!


Monday, 4 February 2008

Masters of Horror

Hi everyone,

On a bit of a side-topic, just wanted to give a plug to the Masters of Horror series which is currently running on Bravo 2 at the weekends. I'd heard of it a while back but only just got stuck into watching them and have been really enjoying the series so far. It was especially interesting to watch 'Sounds Like' on Saturday night, adapted from Mike O'Driscoll's short story in 'Unbecoming'. I thought that the essence of the story was captured really well. I can't stand adaptations that shame the original...

Also been reading Matt Dinniman's Trailer Park Fairy Tales (can you tell I'm a bit of an Elastic Press fan yet?) and thoroughly enjoying that, although because I'm tending to read it in bed I'm only getting through it one story at a time...

On an Alt.Fiction note, I've sent the stuff in to get the tickets on sale via the website so hopefully you should be able to buy online before too long!

Anyway, that's my two pennies worth for today- be back with another post soon



Tuesday, 29 January 2008

From an absentee blogger...

I must admit that signing in today I hadn't realised just how long it'd been since I last posted here- both Xmas and New Year have absolutely whistled past me and somehow I find myself at the end of January and 6 weeks since my last post!!

Anyway, I'm finally back and with a new determination to post far more regularly, so today I thought I'd address the rather significant matter of authors!! I've not deliberately been keeping this under my hat but I'm delighted to announce what I think is a really strong line up of talent for 2008. The support and interest from authors for this year has been amazing, so I'd like to thank everyone involved for that!

Anyway, here goes, in alphabetical order...
Sarah Ash
Chaz Brenchley
Eric Brown
Mike Carey
Simon Clark
Pete Crowther
Christian Dunn
Steve Gallagher
Marc Gascoigne
Lee Harris
Stephen Hunt
John Jarrold
Graham Joyce
Kim Lakin-Smith
Tim Lebbon
Brian Lumley
Michael Marshall Smith
Mark Morris
Philip Palmer
Sarah Pinborough
Adam Roberts
Justina Robson
Brian Ruckley
Simon Spurrier
Charlie Stross
Darren Turpin
Conrad Williams

I'm currently looking at the provisional programme of events, and hoping to have something firm and final within the next month or so. In the meantime keep your eyes peeled here for new posts- honest!!

Thanks a lot