Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Meeting Your Writing Heroes #amwriting #amreading

Since becoming a published author I've had the pleasure of working with, knowing, and even becoming friends with a large number of fellow authors along the way. I haven't always read all of their books but many are on my bookshelves, be they real or virtual, and for those I haven't read I still admire their work and understand the many peculiarities of our craft.

But there are a handful of authors who leave me a bit more...star struck? I've been privileged to meet some of them: the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett and Anne McCaffrey, and more recently (and thankfully still alive) the talented Jaine Fenn (who kindly put up with my shaking her hand three times in the space of five minutes because I was so excited to finally meet her *dies of embarrassment* and who has since referred to me as her favourite stalker) and the lovely Janet Edwards, beloved author of YA scifi devoured by my eldest.

But one author who has made a recent massive impact on my writing was Isaac Marion, author of the Warm Bodies books. Before Warm Bodies, I was not a zombie fan. Not a horror fan at all. I hated them! I've been too prone to nightmares most of my life to watch anything scarier than Doctor Who (and even some of those, especially the New Who stuff, have been touch and go). I came to his work more or less by chance. My editor Dani and fellow author Karen Bynum happened to be talking about the book on Twitter with much enthusiasm. Then Karen mentioned the film. Now, bearing in mind my aversion to horror and particularly zombies, their apparent adoration for this book and film still prompted me to go and check it out. The trailer was a touch comedic (Isaac happened to mention in his Q&A that he didn't think it was a full representation of his book) but it was enough to hook me into straight out buying the DVD, which I would never normally do.

And I LOVED it. There is a certain amount of standard Hollywood zombie apocalypse about it and the horror elements were just about in my tolerance levels, but really this is a film about what it means to be human, and a touch of love conquers all. It's sweet and cute, thought-provoking if a bit cheesy in places, tense, and heart-warming. The book is obviously different in ways to the film, but I am a huge fan of lyrical writing - where it's somewhere between poetry and fiction - and I fell equally in love with the novel. Isaac Marion is now an auto-buy, and I even bought two copies of the prequel - The New Hunger - because they re-released it with added new material. That's a rare thing for me to do.

Not only did this author have the talent to make me like and read zombies, but to actually fall in love with one and empathize with him, AND to then go on and write three stories of my own - two zombie tales that have since been published, and one android story currently in edits. The first of those - Restless In Peaceville - was the hardest thing I've ever had to write to date, the one I resisted at every step but that just wouldn't let me go until it was done. It not only pushed me out of my comfort zone but right over the edge, into a genre I would never have even considered writing and set in a place I've never been and knew nothing about. It's now the piece I'm most proud of for those very reasons.

But Isaac Marion is a US author, and I'm in the UK. I figured the chances of me meeting him were about as high as meeting a real zombie. I knew he had a new book releasing early this year but cash restraints meant I never got around to pre-ordering it for the bonus material promised on his site. Even when it came out, I still didn't have the money to get it straight away. I have this priority called real life and kids. :P

Then the most amazing thing happened. He announced a visit to the UK on a tour to promote the new release, and he was coming to Waterstones in London! That's like an hour and a half train journey for me (a helluva lot closer than the US, lol). This might be my one and only real opportunity to meet him and get the books signed, and a great excuse to pick up the new book as my ticket to the signing came with a copy. Awesome! I booked the tickets, deciding to take my eldest along. She hasn't read the books but she likes horror and zombies, and she's watched Warm Bodies with me, and I love taking her to author events.

I thought I'd take my other Warm Bodies books with me in the hope that I might be able to sneak some extra autographs, but although I had both copies of The New Hunger horror of horrors - I couldn't find my Warm Bodies book anywhere, and on the day of the signing. Eeep! I dashed to the station to pick up our train tickets - eldest had a school trip the same day so I'd basically have to pick her up from the drop off point and fly straight to our train to London - then ran into town to the local indie book shop. As I'd feared, they didn't have a copy in store and could only offer to order it in. No good. My only remaining hope was the local Waterstones - no offence to them, and they were organizing the signing in London, but I don't like to buy from chains (support indie businesses and all that). Just lately, they'd shoved all the speculative fiction upstairs into a room more like a cupboard, which had also annoyed the Hades out of me. I scampered up the stairs without much hope...but my luck was in. They had just one print copy of Warm Bodies on the shelves! I was all set.

Unlike my usual trips to London, I knew exactly where I was going right down to the correct underground exit to reach Waterstones Piccadilly. As an FYI to Waterstones, some signs would have been useful rather than having to ask at the till where to go. We were in a large sealed room off to one side of the lower floor, with glasses of wine on offer and a big stack of The Burning World to take our copy from.

It was a small gathering, about 30 of us in all and mostly female. Until this point, I hadn't even known it was a Q&A session with signings, and half an hour longer than the ticket said, but hey! Bonus! Isaac Marion is a very tall, soft spoken and articulate man with tattoos, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak, even when the audience came up with very complex, long-winded questions toward the end of the session. I barely even noticed his American accent (although possibly because I'd heard him speak on the Warm Bodies DVD extras, so I knew what he sounded like).Lots of the things he said struck a chord with me, and came as a necessary and helpful reminder of why I started in this whole writing and publishing rigmarole in the first place. He spoke about how Warm Bodies came from a dark period in his life when he didn't really know who or what he was - something I was experiencing myself when I wrote Keir after a decade of not really writing anything at all. We even got an impromptu reading from the book in answer to someone's question about why the airport was significant to R. But you'll have to read it for yourself to find that out.

My own personal question got answered in the first few minutes, having been asked by the interviewer and not me - I guess it was either an obvious question or the Waterstones guy was telepathic. Probably the former. I behaved myself and only got two books signed - the copy of Warm Bodies that I'd had to go to such trouble to replace, and The Burning World. My eldest got hers signed after some fun spelling out her name (it's not that hard, just unusual). There was apparently a pub crawl afterward, but with a hungry, tired and underage teen in tow, unfortunately I couldn't tag along. I have no regrets. I've achieved a wish I thought could never come true, and I thank Isaac for making it possible, and for reminding me why I write and how it saved my sanity. Now I just need to find my passion for it again.

My now extra precious print edition
of Warm Bodies - the book that
started it all!
Eldest spelling out her name to Isaac


So while on the train back home from the Isaac Marion signing, I was rather startled to get this tweet from my editor, cover designer and all-round cheerleader Danielle Fine:
I'd forgotten I'd even entered that cover alongside Quickshot (I remembered I'd put that one in) and Dani had forgotten I'd asked permission for it. But yay for a nice surprise for both of us?

A spooky coincidence to get the notification on the same day, since this is one of the zombie stories inspired by Warm Bodies. Of course, this isn't my first cover in a final, nor Dani's. Keir finaled two  years ago in the Ariana, and Dani has done numerous covers for other members of the Spacefreighters crew. If you're on the hunt for artwork, go visit her site HERE.

Status Update
Keir's Shadow is 20% done on revisions, and has stabilized at 85K as I'm both adding and deleting content now. I picked up fabric for the Tauriel cosplay yesterday, but forgot the bias tape so it's progressing, just...slowly as I wait on more materials. Sigh.

Chook Update
Yesterday the girls and I took full advantage of an absolutely beautiful spring day and enjoyed the garden (though I spent most of it in the back room with the patio doors open while I worked on the Tauriel cosplay).

Pitch and Fizzgig

Pitch attempts to steal Scoop's patch of sun...

...only for Fizzgig to do the same to her!
And a familiar, unwanted visitor returned that afternoon - the fox is back! Sigh. Looking mangier than ever but still alive and far too interested in my girls. However, staring at them through the wire is about all it can do with our fox-proof coop and a mad woman with a stick who loves nothing better than running down the garden wielding her piece of copper pipe and screaming blue murder. I hope it burns lots of calories...


  1. What a great opportunity to have your books signed by an idol. (Glad you were able to find another copy!)

    Congrats to you and Danielle on the award final. That's always a nice boost.

    The cosplay costume and chooks look great, as always.

    1. Thanks Laurie! Yeah, I was knocked sideways when he said he was coming over. I'd have put getting an autograph on the 'unlikely - impossible'. Just goes to show...

  2. Our chooks would KILL for some of that sunshine right now.

    1. I bet. Mine certainly seemed to appreciate it, especially being able to dust bathe in their favourite spot out in the garden. You could almost see the bliss on their beaky little faces! :P


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