BristolCon 2017

I am in my PJs after another amazing time at this incredible, intimate, utterly friendly and wonderful convention.

BristolCon (and its fringe events) is a gorgeous 1 day convention. Essentially, it is all about supporting local talent, whether it’s writing, art or music. (Although local in this case now extends to Wales and up North). It’s fabulously friendly, there’s no cliques as you can sometimes get at bigger conventions, and no competition. Everyone is there to support and share and just enjoy SF&F.

This year, I had to get there by coach but Bristol is a cool city and fun to walk through. I arrived just before 10 and well before the panel I was on.

This year I got to sit on a panel on Infodumping with Peter Newman, Dyrk Ashton, Jacey Bedford and moderated by Juliet E McKenna, which was super-exciting because these are BIG names and I got to sit with them and talk with them about writing stuff! I always get really nervous before a panel but I just did me, I made people laugh and I held my own with some really intelligent people, whose work I love.

I did a reading from book 2 afterwards, which seemed to be well received (people laughed when they were supposed to, and clapped loudly).

I also signed two copies of ‘Cruelty’, sold to people who’d been in the panel/reading. That never gets old. Never. Ever. I love it. I got to meet two amazing people, who were intrigued by what I had put out there and wanted to read more. It made my day. I couldn’t stop grinning. Especially as they both said I was engaging and funny and interesting.

What added to my personal joy was that a third person wanted the book but we’d run out of copies. Hopefully, they’ll buy from Amazon.

Now, those aren’t huge numbers but it is a big deal to an author in a small press. And it wasn’t just me who sold today; my fellow Grimmies did well too.

I also got to touch the BFS trophy today as well! We won Best Small Press this year, and we took every opportunity to mention it. Well, we wouldn’t we? We work hard and it has paid off, big time. We create amazing fiction and hopefully, the award will help us get the recognition Grimbold deserves.

I also attended the Map making panel, which the lush Sophie E Tallis moderated, and which gave me lots of ideas for Book 3. After that, I listened to Joel Cornah reading an extract from one of his books. I loved every moment and have added it to my TBR pile (which is getting ever bigger.)

The best part of BristolCon (any Con for that matter) is seeing people, meeting new people and catching up with friends. I chatted with Steven Poore, and Will Macmillian-Jones, caught up with Joanne Hall, Ali Sims, saw Roz Clarke briefly but got a lush Roz hug, bought art from Sophie, met Joel’s talented brother Josh (his art is stunning and he draws the Grim and Bold web comic), chatted with the incredible Anna Spark Smith, author of ‘Court of Broken Knives’, and met so many lovely people whose names escape me, apart from the lovely Philip Ridgers (who hadn’t been to a Con before) and Naomi Scott (with whom Sophie and I chatted with about Native American mythology and who asked me a cracking question in my panel). Oh, and I also met the lovely official photographer, Thomas David Parker who does awesome work. Check out his Instagram.

I’ve had a lovely day and I can’t to wait to do it all again for BristolCon10

See you there next year?

Love Ellen. Xx

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BristolCon!

It’s BristolCon tomorrow! I am so excited! It’ll be my 4th year attending, and my 3rd year contributing. This year I am on the panel about infodumping at 12 and will be reading an extract from Book 2 immediately afterwards in Programme Room 2.

I love this convention. It’s intimate and a place where lots of fans of SF&F, big names, indies and self-pub, come together to share this incredible culture that we have. I get to see friends that I haven’t seen for a while, chat with fellow writers, explore incredible art and find new writers that I would not have found otherwise.

If you’ve never been to a Con, or if you a regular attender, if you’re looking for something new to read or experience, if you want to support upcoming talent or local talent, I can not recommend this event enough.

If you are attending, come say ‘Hi’ to me or other Grimmies. We’re a lovely bunch and very friendly.

See you soon

Ellen. Xx

I am the one in four.

October is my favourite time of year; autumn is settling in, the world is ablaze with the golds and reds of the season, a much needed half term is not far away and I can cozy up in comfy jumpers.

But October is also bittersweet. It has become pregnancy and infant loss month. This week (9th-15th) seems to have been designated Infant Loss Awareness Week. You may have seen posts on social media saying this, adding ‘I am the one in four’ (1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage/stillbirth in their lives).

I am the one in four.

I have never made a secret of my miscarriage. In June 2014, I went for a routine scan and had suffered a missed miscarriage. I wrote about it in October 2014 and I can’t believe that it was three years ago.

The pain did indeed grow less, as is the nature of grief, but I have not forgotten. You can’t, not really. I was blessed and got pregnant again that same year with my wonderful Isabella. If that first pregnancy had gone to term, I wouldn’t have her. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about that baby, that I don’t wonder about what they’d be like, that I don’t sometimes get a little knot of sadness in my chest when my memory throws a curve ball at me.

I have read lots of things this week about pregnancy and infant loss. There is more out there than there was three years ago. This is a good thing. When I lost VBF, I had to scour the web for someone, anyone, to talk to. I found lots of cold, medical stuff, none of which was helpful because I needed to find another woman to tell me I wasn’t alone. That it wasn’t my fault.

Now, they aren’t hard to find. It means that any woman, or couple, going through this knows that they aren’t alone, that there is no rhyme or reason, sometimes, to this kind of loss. I know a lot of women who have lost a baby in my life and who don’t hide from it. That’s good We need to be more open, to continue to remove the stigma because it is no one’s fault. Sometimes it is just a missing puzzle piece or a cruel twist of the cord.

If you have suffered infant or pregnancy loss, know that you are not alone, you did nothing wrong, it isn’t your fault. There are lots of groups out there but The Miscarriage Association really helped me in my darkest days. Their website is here if you need them.

Until next time

Ellen xoxo

Introvert problems.

I feel I have been slighted.

I don’t know that I definitely have but I feel it.

I feel that I am the lowest person on everyone’s priorities (including my own).

I don’t know it but I feel it.

I don’t think anyone takes me very seriously or cares about the things that I create, especially my writing lately.

I don’t know it but I feel it.

And what do you do with feelings? Do you cause a ruckus because of some perceived slight, even when none was intended? Do you throw a hissy fit and demand that people pay attention to you, praise your art, soothe your ego, return reviews when you have written ones for them?

For some people, yes, that would be their course of action. But for me, I can’t. What if I upset someone else in explaining that they upset me, especially if it was unintentional? I already carry enough guilt, I don’t want anymore.

And people don’t owe me review for review, that’s not how it works. I gave a review of a novel or artist because I love the work. I didn’t do it to get kudos. Even if it does irk me that people ask me for reviews of their stuff for promotion and don’t offer to do the same for me. And I wouldn’t ask directly anyway. Makes me feel like I’d be making a big deal out of it.

So what do I do? I stew. I bite my tongue. I remind myself that people are not out to get me, that no one is deliberately trying to upset me, though if you start a fight, I will give you one. A pushover, I am not.

Mostly, I withdraw. Not for sympathy but to process, adjust and move on. I can’t judge people by what I would do but just sometimes, it would be nice to be seen, for people to realise that I’m not all smiley happy really, that my writing matters to me way more than I like to think about. But I won’t say anything. I’ll keep up my façade of capable and affable. And write blog posts.

Until next time

Ellen xox

Run, run, run, run-run, run…

I am fat. I have nearly always been fat though I have done the whole spectrum of poor eating and nutrition. I’ve been as skinny as 7.5stone and as heavy as 20.5 stone (yikes!) But mostly, I have been fat.

My weight has always haunted me. I can remember from my earliest days being taunted by other children for being heavy and I remember finding solace in food. When I was 16/17 I did the whole binge, puke, punish cycle and I still have an issue with vomit as a result. It’s not an unusual story other than I have super healthy blood-pressure and low chlosterol. Go figure. I am a medical mystery. Well, at least according to every GP I meet. ‘Gee, for a woman of your weight, you are healthy.’

And I am. Even at my heaviest, I could move, at a fairly brisk pace, I was able to do my job and even conceived a baby that I brought to term. The feared gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia never happened, though it was all any medical professional talked about until that final consultation when a lovely female doctor weighed me and commented that I was fifty pounds lighter than my weigh-in on my very first appointment. She sat me down and asked if I was ok, if I had deliberately been trying to lose weight. I hadn’t; morning sickness had been dreadful in the first trimester and I could barely keep down water. I didn’t really recover my appetite but it wasn’t a conscious decision.

What struck me is that that young doctor was the only person in my pre-natal care who gave a shit about the person underneath the fat, the scared and excited woman who is still terrified of letting her child down because she is overweight.

It is possible to be healthy outside of BMI designations. It is an outdated system that doesn’t adequately dictate health. Neither does it take into consideration conditions like PCOS or lypodoema or hypothydroidism where, without medical intervention, sufferers can gain weight at the drop of a hat, even when they eat well and exercise regularly.

I don’t suffer from any such condition, although I have been tested for them. I am just fat. Poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle.

I can actually workout though and workout hard; I can keep up with the Insanity workout and Jillian Michaels DVDs but I have pushed myself too hard and injured myself. I then have to rest and recover, but then bad habits creep back in.

I don’t mind being plus-sized, having curves or boobs and a bum but I hate my belly. It sticks out a mile and, although I’m down 3 dress sizes, there’s still things I can’t wear and that bums me out.

I joined Slimming World in January this year and started running in June. I started with Couch to 5k and now am running 5k three times a week. I can do it in about 34 mins, which is not bad for someone who hates exercise. I also have a 30 Day Fitness App that I do in tandem with the running to help me tone up.

For me, this is about being fitter and healthier, to make sure that I am able to be around for as long as possible for my family and the new diet and exercise regime will (hopefully) ensure that.

I have also just signed up for the Ron Hill UK #RunEveryDay challenge for October and have completed 7 days of it. I get up at 5.15 and am out the door at 5.30 for the run. As a teacher, mum, writer and editor it is literally the only time I can go.

I am another 30lbs lighter than I was when I got pregnant with my daughter. I feel better in myself, stronger and more at peace too. The little voices that try to undermine me are too tired to chip at me and the voices which help me work through stories and plot holes are invigorated by the exercise.

I may not be able to run every day for October but I am going to give it a bloody good go.

Until next time,

Ellen xoxo

My Julie, my oldest and dearest friend

This is my Julie:

We have been friends since September 1998, when I joined Ballymena Academy. We’ve been pretty inseperable since then. We had some epic fallouts in our younger days but those are far behind us.

I love her. I love her like another sister. She is my closest and dearest friend and has always been there for me. We have had some wonderful times together: we were the first the other told when we got engaged, we were each other’s chief bridesmaids, when ‘Cruelty’ was launched, she flew across in secret to be there for it, we are the godmothers to each others’ children.

And we’ve been there when things were tough. I lost a baby in June 2014 and she sat up, into the small hours of the night, just letting me sob all my pain down the phone. When sadly, the same thing happened to her in the October, I did the same for her. She was the first person I told when I got pregnant with Isabella (after my mother) and I was the first person she told when she was pregnant with Bethannie. She loves me so much that she left her beautiful little girl at six weeks (and who was suffering with a terrible dairy intolerance) to attend Izzy’s baptism.

Julie is the kindest, sweetest, sassiest woman I know. She is an incredible friend, who will do anything for anyone and I am so blessed to have her in my life. I know I can always rely on her for whatever I need, and I hand on heart know I’d do the same for her.

Friendships like ours are rare. There are marriages that don’t last as long as our friendship. We can go months without speaking but pick it up as if we’d only said goodbye the day before. Whatever happens, I know that we always have each other.

I love you Julie.

Until next time

Ellen xoxo

Inspiration and Dedication

It has been a long time since I have written a blog post. A very, very long time. There are a miriad of reasons for this but mostly it’s because I’m a busy working mum and I find it hard to find time to do all the stuff I have/want to do. This academic year, I’m going to try to be better and write blogs a bit more often.

Many amazing things have happened since Sammy gave me a chance with ‘Cruelty’. Not only do I have 2 novels waiting to go, but I’ve been given the opportunity to be an editor.

As I am an educator, as well as a PGCE mentor, the idea of helping someone make their work the best that it can be really appeals to me. I also think I can do it kindly. I work with teenagers. I am used to giving constructive criticism and to managing emotions. My friend, Kate, calls me a ‘people-wrangler.’

Sadly, this past week, things haven’t gone quite the way I had hoped with someone I think very highly of and whose work I utterly adore. Without going into that much detail, (because that’s not my story to tell) my friend decided to bin a story they had poured their heart and soul into. Many factors have played into their decision and though I don’t agree (I honestly loved the story), I respect that decision.

Sometimes, as an artist, when inspiration fails, or another criticism you weren’t expecting comes your way, you have to walk away from the project. I’ve done that, we’ve all done that.

I’m not going to lie: I’m a little disappointed. Normally, I can jolly anyone, no matter how big their self-doubt, into seeing the value of their work. I can only hope that my lovely, talented friend re-discovers their self-worth and remembers how good they are at this writing game, in spite of all the obstacles in their way.

The whole situation got me thinking: what do you do in this situation? How do you keep going?

On an early morning run (yes, I run. 5k, three times a week. PB is 33.56 but that’s a post for another day), I was listening to the radio and a lovely lady (whose name I don’t remember) was talking about her incredibly talented and creative granny. She had asked her ‘Granny, what do you do when the inspiration runs out?’

‘Darling,’ she replied. ‘That’s the best part because after inspiration comes dedication.’

This has stuck with me for a few weeks now. People, artists included, often think that art is all inspiration.

No.

No book is ever a first draft.

No painting is done straight onto canvas.

No sculpter goes straight to marble.

Every piece of art is planned, honed, added to, edited, often many times, until it becomes what it was meant to be. And that takes work, so much work. It can lead to tears, screaming, sleepless nights and often the desire to throw it out. It takes dedication.

But what do you do when dedication isn’t paying off either? When you can only see what’s wrong and you don’t understand what’s wrong, even when your editor has literally spent hours trying to help you polish it?

Put it away. Create distance. A month, 2 months, a year.

Neil Gaiman once famously said that when he thought he was done with something, he put it away for a while, until he was removed from it emotionally and could view it critically. It’s so easy to get upset when something you love, and have given your all to, isn’t quite what you hoped it would be. We’ve all been there. Leave the reality you’ve created, break the bond, do something else, and maybe one day, come back to it, with fresh eyes.

Most of all, keep on keeping on. We all face criticism, we all get knocked back and down. It doesn’t mean you’re bad; it just means that today wasn’t your day.

Until next time,

Love Ellen x