Signing my life away.

I remember January. It fell somewhere between the misery that was Christmas and now. March. I can’t believe it’s March.

This means two things. One, I’m late with at least two writing projects. Two, it’s Black Library Live this Saturday.

Last year’s BL Live was the first time I attended an event with the express purpose of signing books and swanning around being all author-ly. Back then, I hadn’t written all that much for Black Library. Reparation and Beneath the Flesh were out as eBooks, but unlike Aaron and Dan, I’d yet to be asked to deface a Kindle. So despite the oversized placard with my name on it, few people knew who I was, and fewer still stopped by for a signature.

Luckily, my lack of fame gave me a great chance to play with my new iPad. While the other authors were busy signing books, answering questions, and generally living the rock-and-roll lifestyle I’d long coveted, I managed to write a short story – Immortalis.

Consequently, at the Black Library Weekender, I went prepared with my MacBook; (Apple have long been conspiring with Starbucks to take all of my money). Scheduled for six hours of seminars and signings I was positive I’d get plenty written. At the very least I’d organize my iTunes library and clean out my dropbox folder.

I was wrong.

At my very first signing there was a long queue of people that saw me signing for 70 minutes solid. 70 minutes! I haven’t held a pen for that long since my English exam in high school, and even then I was mostly doodling.

My seminars, which I had anticipated being a chance for the seat cushions to plump themselves back up, were well attended, and not just by the the cohort I’d dragged in for moral support (thanks Nic, thanks Chris, you too Aaron).

I was stunned. Honoured even. It seemed having a book with a giant Flesh Tearer on the cover had done wonders for my street-cred. Not once, over the entire weekend, did I have a spare moment to reach for my laptop.

Black Library Live then, was very definitely one of the highlights of last year.

Sadly though, I didn’t take a single picture at the event, leaving me nothing but my memory, an unreliable and temperamental beast, to remind me of its awesomeness. Even Google, my one-stop saviour, didn’t seem to have much in the way of photographic evidence.  Though a quick search for ‘Andy Smillie Black Library Weekender’, returned this:

Me at Weekender 2012

I’ve no idea what had me looking so perplexed. Submit your caption ideas as comments on this post. There’ll be a prize for the best one, probably.

For those of you who missed the event or like me, would just enjoy the chance to relive it in pictures, here’s a selection of images that you can take to be close approximations of what actually happened, ish.

lego-castle

The Weekender was held at the Nottingham Belfry, a venue so awesome it could only have been made out of Lego.

zombie-horde

As soon as the doors opened, the hotel was overrun by a horde of frothing fans.

Looters-carry-boxes-out-o-007

The limited edition anthologies, like snuggly hoodies, were in high demand.

Lifestyle Adults

No one in the singing queue wore the same shade of denim, which made it easier to tell them apart.

Speaker_Crowd

Although the two-tone system worked well for the seminars, making it easy to tell author from fan, I do hope that next year I get to be a nice pastel colour. You know, something better suited to my Scottish complexion.

Avengers

Universally Challenged, Saturday evening’s quiz, saw Dan, Aaron, Gav, Graham, Jim and Chris Wraight do battle. I’ll let you decide who’s who.

Hopefully, I’ll see a bunch of you this weekend at BL Live. If one of you could bring a camera, that’d be great.

 

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Cinema, it’s the experience.

At long last, Flesh of Cretacia my first, real book is out. As is The Stromark Massacre, my first Flesh Tearers audio drama, and ‘Torturer’s Thirst’ a new Flesh Tearers short story. In light of all this, I felt I should probably write a blog about them. You know, talk about the writing process and extol the virtues of the novella etc. Proper writer-ey promotional stuff. Instead though, after spending several evenings at my local cinema, I decided to write a letter to Cineworld. Check it out:

 ***

Dear Cineworld Directors*,

I love films. In particular, I love watching films at the cinema. The screen is massive, the sound is loud and the seats have handy little holders for your drinks and snacks**. Once, I bought a projector and tried to emulate the experience in my living room, but the stains on the walls ruined the picture, and Jeff (the burly guy from next door) took away my speakers. But I digress.

Not Jeff.

I don’t have a picture of Jeff. But here’s one of someone Jeff looks like.

I love visiting the cinema so much that the advert that begins, ‘Imagine’, you know, the one with the dust on the theatre chairs that warns us about piracy and the closure of cinemas? Well, honestly, I well up. It makes me so terribly sad to think of a world without cinemas. I really can’t think of anything worse. Nothing.

Rather than stand idly by and let such a catastrophe unfold unchallenged, I’ve decided to write you this letter in the hope of warding off some of the many threats to cinema’s survival.

I frequent your Nottingham branch about twice a week. Sometimes three depending on what’s on. Like last week when I saw Taken 2, Here Comes the Boom, and Sky Fall. But mostly twice. Unless I’ve seen everything or there’s nothing showing that doesn’t have Jennifer Aniston in it. Generally though, I go twice a week.

Last week, during one of my three visits, I went to buy some some popcorn only to be told that you’d ‘run out’. No popcorn? I thought, bemused. But it’s the cinema. There must surely be popcorn. Apparently not. Now, while I applaud your diversification into sweets and ice creams (it certainly saves me sneaking those things in), I think perhaps you’ve given your Concession Experts a little too much to handle. Perhaps limit the number of lines you have on sale to 10. That way your Concession Experts can use their fingers to keep track of the stock ordering. If you really must have more, then I’d suggest removing the Concession Expert’s footwear. Toes make excellent secondary counting aids.

Also last week, I approached a Concession Facilitator in order to purchase some ice cream. He greeted me with the usual friendly stare I’ve come to expect from such focused individuals and asked, ‘Anything else?’ Thirsty and aware that ice cream contains a decent amount of sodium, I answered, ‘Yes. Water, please’. All fairly standard stuff I’ll grant you. Except rather than fetch me the water, he said, ‘It’s two-pounds sixty for water. Is that okay?’

Huh, I thought.

All these years, all these trips to the cinema and I’d never realised the concession stand operated on a barter system. Excited by this new development, I replied, ‘No. How about one-fifty?’ (I was prepared to pay two-pounds but thought I might as well go in low). Clearly a pro, he kept schtum, so I raised my offer to two-pounds. This time he replied, ‘Do you want the water or not?’ Confused by his sudden hard-line approach, and running late for the film, I decided against purchasing the water. I was later to learn that he had no real intention of negotiating about the price of the water. As a suggestion, I think it would probably be for the best if you told your Concession Facilitators not to apologise for the prices. That way they could concentrate on what they do best, offering great customer service, which is after-all why the water costs so much, right?

Speaking of customer service, I think the sense of fun you’ve instilled in the Ticket Checkers is fantastic. This week I watched one of them skipping over a yo-yo. Do you really pay them for that? If so, you must have applicants queuing round the block. Does he get more than the guy who was stood reading a book instead of checking tickets? I do hope so. Though, if it is queue entertainers you’re looking for I’d take a leaf out of Disney’s book and stick your staff in loveable costumes. Perhaps one like this:

Just don't make him angry.

That’d be way more entertaining.

On a final note, I particularly enjoy spending time with your Ticket Keepers while they run through the three separate transactions needed to grant me access to a 3D film. First, they swipe my Cineworld card, handing me a receipt and a ticket. Next up, they charge me the 3D surplus and present me with another receipt. Finally, they charge me for a set of 3D glasses, which come with a complimentary receipt***. Now while I understand touch screens are a lot of fun (I have an iPad. It’s ace), there must be some other way of providing job satisfaction for your staff. Besides, I’m not actually sure your Ticket Keepers understand it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve encountered several of them propping themselves up by their elbows while they try to coax their tongue into forming vowels. Perhaps giving them longer breaks or some Gummy Bears would better motivate them.

Best wishes,

-Andy Smillie

*I assume a film company calls all of its management ‘Directors’ although perhaps you’re ‘Producers’. If so, I apologise.

**Though if you are looking for improvements, some form of fold out tray would be useful. It’s rare to find another patron who’ll let you balance your nachos with extra cheese and hot coffee on their lap.

***I’m no Eco Warrior. If you want to waste a bunch of paper, who am I to argue? But if you must fill my pockets with something, I’d rather it were Gummy Bears. Just saying.

***

I’ll let you know if Cineworld reply. In the meantime, go buy my book.

My first cover.

Check this out:

It’s the cover image for my long-short story ‘Beneath the Flesh’, which is out in January (I think). Rachel Doherty designed the image, and I think she’s done a great job, deploying her wicked-mad photoshop skills to really capture the dark menace of Sanguinius’ angriest sons. Thanks Rach. The only slight fly in the ointment is I’ve yet to finish said story… So, I’ll leave you enjoying Rachel’s handy-work while I get back to writing.