I think I've been a little overconned this year. I count six events, and judging by how spaced I felt on the Friday of Fantasycon that might have been too many. However, once I recovered my equilibrium, it was a good weekend, full of catching up with other writers. Friday, of course, was also the mass signing, and I'd mentioned the utter tumbleweediness of last year's. However this year Marie O'Regan (author and, for her sins, one of the organisers) sidled up to me to explain that, well, there had been a call to publishers for books for the goody bags (1) and Tor had kindly sent over what is known in the trade as a metric crapton of copies of Heirs of the Blade… that (I am informed) the hotel staff had then, with admirably Fawtly-Towers style comic timing, stowed somewhere secluded and not told anyone. Hence the Friday bags had gone out Blade–less, and now we had all these books. This in turn led to MC Tim Lebbon (2) announcing Free Books! at the signing. I tell you, I have never signed so many damn books in one sitting. If it proved nothing else, it's proved you can actually give them away. In the aftermath, there are therefore an awful lot of people holding number 7 of a 10 book series, which will simultaneously (a) probably make very little sense; whilst (b) spoiling the plot of the previous 6.

Late that evening I caught Rob Shearman's reading, and I've said this before, but if you're ever at this sort of thing, and you get the chance, do go hear Rob read. He is a masterful performer, and the most entertaining reader I've ever heard.

I also, some time towards the drunk o'clock end of the evening, got to chat to Juliet McKenna, who gave me some tips on moderating a panel which was lucky because first thing next morning was Hangover Hour, also known as Fantasy: Keeping it Real, my first moderation spot. Thanks to Juliet's advice I managed to get through that relatively creditably, although on the basis that a moderator shouldn't stick their oar in too much, I failed to actually introduce myself at all and had to be reminded. In any event my panel — Juliet, Benedict Jacka, Jasper Kent and guest of honour Brent Weeks — were sufficiently capable that I'm not sure there was actually any need for me at all.

Thanks also for those who came to my late night reading slot (3) thank you very much, and I did get to read a new urban fantasy short story Family Business for the very first time, which seemed to go down well.

Anyway, that's the con circuit done for another year. Next February I pick up again with whatevethehell is now sitting where the SFX Weekender sat, which I think I'm going to as part of Team Tor, but we'll see.

I'd also like to present a new fan-made Shadows of the Apt story, The Violet Stranger by Gabriel Brouillard. Gabriel is a regular commenter on the blog, and has the following introduction for himself:

"Greetings fellow fans, writers, and dreamers,

To those of you who do not know me, I am Gabriel A. Brouillard (not so be mistaken for the Gabriel Brouillard who is responsible for the RPG works known as Colonial Gothic). I am a die-hard fan of the Shadows of the Apt series and have been lucky enough to be gifted the chance of collaborating with Mr. Adrian. This story, I hope, will be but one of many. As for my background, I'll be brief. I am a mentally handicapped, 22 year old, American man. I have lived abroad and studied briefly at the British school DCPS in Singapore. My fondest wishes go to the teachers there who supported me. I hope you enjoy reading this short story as much I enjoyed the writing of it."

(1) Goodie bags? Spelling?

(2) In that he was Master of Ceremonies. It's not his DJ name or anything.

(3) In the original Mitchell & Webb radio show there's a series of sketches where Mitchell plays a very late night radio host at the very end of his stamina, and that was kind of how I felt by then.

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