The trials of the author signing

The Breath of God author Guy Adams reports from behind the signing desk at FantasyCon

There is considerable, impressive evidence for never letting writers leave the house. When dumped in the wild they are often found staggering around a bar looking for an evening meal of Bombay Mix or steadily sucking the oxygen from the room in a mutual whinge about The State of the Industry.

Take last weekend in Brighton where the Royal Albion Hotel was host to FantasyCon, a convention run in association with the British Fantasy Society. FantasyCon has been inhabiting hotels for nearly 40 years attended by both industry luminaries and devoted readers. This year the Guests of Honour were Gwyneth Jones, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Peter Atkins and Joe Abercrombie with special appearances from both Christopher Paolini and Brian Aldiss.

The weather was an exercise in cruel humour, heat of the sort that really shouldn't be thrown at average-sized hotels with over 500 fantasy fans squeezed into them. We should all have been eating ice creams, paddling in the sea or indulging in vinegar-soaked chips. Instead we were buying books, talking books, chewing on books trying to lessen the effect of alcohol...

On the Saturday myself and and the far more talented and far longer haired Kim Newman launched copies of our new novels, published by Titan Books. We were dallying on both sides of the criminal tracks, Kim presenting his witty Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbevilles while I offered Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God.

Perhaps we should have proffered free ice cubes or deodorant, but we went the conventional route of plying the room with wine before sitting back to watch, munching from large glass bowls of crisps (authors never turn down a free meal, even if the food was intended for someone else).

A frequent nightmare in this silly business is the paralyzing moment when, after presenting yourself to a hoped-for "crowd" you sit there on your own until a passing bookseller - taking pity on the fact that you have singularly failed to draw even a modicum of interest from passers-by - puts you out of your misery. You are the ugly hound at the dog's home, the wallflower at the ball. Some writers have been known to commit self-destruction with their own autograph Sharpie rather that than sit alone for one more minute. Check the carpet in your local Waterstone's, it will be lousy with the aging stains of tears and blood.

Thankfully things were not so horrid for Newman and I, we managed to sell a fair number of books between mouthfuls of crisps. Neither of us forgot how to scribble our name (a common problem, just ask "Cricket" Fowler, the author of the Bryant & May mysteries from Transworld). Nor did anyone saunter over, take the sort of desultory look normally reserved for farts in lifts, then complain to management to have us removed.

Our publishers were as surprised as us.

Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God by Guy Adams [to the left of the crisps] is published by Titan Books.

Genre: Fantasy
Tags: FantasyCon