Another Weekender down/survived (delete as appropriate).
From it’s first incarnation, back in 2012, the Weekender events (both Black Library and Horus Heresy) have swiftly established themselves as my favourite Games Workshop events in the UK. From first thing on the Friday morning, where I did my ‘Ventris Returns’ seminar – which only actually managed to squeeze mention of said Ultramarine in during the thanks-for-listening segment – to the bijou closing ceremony, it was a top three days of stories, encounters and the right kind of silliness.
Friday was actually a pretty leisurely day, grabbing coffee with the various authors as they arrived and crashing Gav Thorpe’s Dark Angels seminar and listening to his reading from Master of Sanctity. Read from his phone, no less, the wonders of technology… and then joined Guy Haley and stood in line at the nutritious steam tureens we thought was our lunch, inhaling hot steam in a vain attempt to sate our appetites. Then we saw folk we knew inside the restaurant and figured that was a far more logical step to getting food.
Caught up with the Abnetts, the Dembski-Bowdens and Chris Wraight. Which is always a pleasure. We spend so much time reading and writing, that it’s one of the highlights of these events to catch up with our fellow grunts in the trenches. After that, I went to the hotel gym (what madness is this?) then met Neil who offered me homemade, bathtub-bourbon, which turned out to be not half bad.
The dinner with the early guests was lovely. Me, Guy Haley and Jim Swallow had a cracking evening around the table and though we weren’t as lucky as Gav (who hoovered up the drinks from his table of tea-totalers) it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Then, as with all good conventions, we repaired to the bar to drink and be merry with old friends and new. Unlike my first Weekender, I supped (relatively) sparingly and awoke to face the Saturday refreshed. As the years have gone by, the idea of facing a day like the first big day of a convention with a hangover have lost their appeal (My first Adepticon with Phil Kelly bears grim testament to that lesson learned). As Chuck Wendig might put it, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
My timetable for the day was packed to the rafters, which is just how I like it. At events like these, where the focus is all about giving the readers the best time possible, I always tell those sorting out my itinerary to ‘work me like a bastard’. And that’s just what they did, hauling me from signing, to seminar to panel and green room chat. My Lord of Macragge seminar was a cracker, with some great questions and in-depth discussions you don’t always get to have in a room full of people. ‘Is the Codex Astartes fit for purpose?’ was a great discussion, and the back and forth we got has given me a dozen ideas and themes to carry forward into the next trilogy of Uriel Ventris novels. On that note, I should add, that my original plan to write The Swords of Calth straight after The Crimson King as been re-ordered, to let me get on to write the Space Marine Battles novel. The Battle of Macragge…
Straight away it was in to Writing Space Marines, with Guy Haley and Ben Counter, which was great as not only did we get to discuss our own techniques for getting into the heads of Humanity’s greatest warriors, but I learned a hell of a lot from hearing how others managed it. Another great reason for getting authors together is that not only do they (hopefully) manage to entertain and inform the folk who’ve come to see them, but that, together, they generate a strange alchemy for each other that you just can’t quantify. I’ve found the same thing at Horus Heresy meetings, where even if you don’t have anything specific on the table, the very act of hearing what’s going on and offering insight or commentary often brings a viewpoint and sensibility that wasn’t expected and produces something incredibly useful. Almost like magic… This seminar was like that, and I took away as many notes and ideas as did the front row.
Lunch was had, and this year, for the first time, my wife (Anita) and kids (Amber and Evan) came along to see what daddy was up to. After our trip to Chestermere’s Black Library Expo a few years back in Canada (thanks again, Gemma!), they know a good many of the other writers/artists, and Amber especially held court in the green room, going from person to person asking their name and admiring their jewellery – possibly with an eye to ‘borrowing’ it. She certainly took a shine to Nik and Dan’s wrist attire, then proceeded to go round the tables in the hallway singing ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’. Evan seemed keen on battling David Guymer and testing out for a career as a tunnel-rat under the tables before trying to getting a game of Dob organised. Or Tig, as I knew it…
I’ve thanked him already, but I want to thank John again for helping look after the kids while we were all running around. Already looking after Dembski-Bowden junior, he manfully stepped up when Amber decided he and Col were to be her companions for the day. Cheers to both of you, there’s a pint in it come the HH Weekender.
So, onto the signings, which, in my case, tend to run on, what with me being an inveterate gabbler. I think I missed some chat sessions I’d been timetabled to do, but hey-ho… Keep me supplied with enthusiastic readers and caffeine, and I’ll be the Duracell Bunny of signings. So, with all books signed for now, it was off to dinner (curiously, identical to the previous night’s – The Belfy do love their shredded beef, which, fortunately, was lovely and catered to my carnivore’s heart…). Then, it was off to the bar again, where we spoke to loads of people and by the end of that night, I came away with a croaky voice and a ton of inspiration. A discussion about the Kaban Machine with the lovely and persistent(!) Emma and Dave gave me a cracking idea for a short set on Mars, and after a good chat with Steven (who gets to appear in next year’s advent story) and Elena, we’d thrashed out the basics of a really cool story that draws in more than just his name. Though a word of warning…don’t leave your camera phone unguarded on the bar, as you never know what you’re going to find saved to the Cloud…though, all things considered, I got off lightly!
I missed Pitch Factor and Universally Challenged this year, what with sitting down with Dan and Chris and Nik for a cracking catch up and note-comparing session. Did the same with Chris (again) and John French about the subject of Ahriman, Magnus and all things Thousand Sons, which generated a lot of ‘oh, that’s cool!’ moments for all three of us. By the time this night was over, I think I collected plenty of brain-fodder to make The Crimson King something really special.
Sunday was a gentler affair, as it always is on the morning after a Saturday night at a convention, but nevertheless, it was in at the deep end with A Galaxy at War, with Dan and Chris, where we got to wax lyrical about the Horus Heresy and our grand plans for its continuing conflagration. Straight after that was Writing Mass Battles with Guy Haley and Christian Dunn, which again turned out to be a learning experience as much as it was a seminar for the readers. Always easy to forget that other folks have their own ways of approaching the given topic and that their methods – in many ways different from my own – are illuminating of the process itself.
After a rushed lunch, it was back into the fray with Writing Ensemble Casts with Nick Kyme and Dan Abnett, which, like the writing Space Marines seminar, taught me a lot I didn’t know or had forgotten about over the years. Very useful, very inspiring and a fitting end to the day. So with that done, it was off to the closing ceremony, where Graeme Lyon read out a prepared statement from Laurie Goulding about the upcoming Submissions’ Window (which does sound like something Clive Barker might write about a hole in the wall of the Cenobite’s Club).
Thanks to everyone who came along to chat, get a book signed or simply to hang out. Thanks to all the Black Library staff and everyone else who came along to help out by wrangling authors, finding cups of coffee and water, selling books and chivvying me to where I was supposed to be. Also, thanks to the hotel staff, for making us very welcomg and being good sports to a lot of very tired and emotional writers and readers. Was a pleasure to meet you all (again) and talk about our shared hobby of stories set in the grim darkness of the far future, the crumbling glory of the Heresy and the cold wastes of the Warhammer World.
Until the next time.