The Fluff Launch - What's a good word for Aftermath?
Either last week’s blog is incredibly late or this week’s blog is incredibly early. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I’ve got other things to try and worry about. Like, for example, where to begin? Seriously, where do you start something like this? Last Thursday, in a little pub near the ring roads of Birmingham, I got on a stage in front of friends and family and launched my second horror novel. Which is not to say I threw a book at my friends at family. Well, not physically anyway.
Originally, the event was meant to happen in April. That was the plan. The day before my birthday. Only some editorial delays and last minute rewrites caused us to miss that deadline by the narrowest of margins.
After that, everything shifted and resettled. As covers were finalised and final checks were checked off, we settled on July 26th instead. It was a nice, safe distance away for a long time. The book was released in May and I did a couple of interviews for the occasion. The Wicked Library ran an ad for it at the top of an episode and the novel received a couple of great reviews, early on. Still, all the time, the book launch was ahead. A long way ahead. Plenty of time to plan things. Plenty of times to prepare myself.
I secured some great authors to come and read. The Gunmakers Arms said we’d be fine to use the brewery. All signs were pointing to nothing to worry about. Then July suddenly appeared under my feet and everything hit overdrive. People who were going to come along, suddenly couldn’t make it. The weather flipped from floods to Mad Max level heatwaves. The marketing material needed putting together. I needed to figure out what I was going to read. I needed to rehearse it, so I didn’t sound like a kid at his school assembly.
If I’m being honest, I’m still not entirely sure how it all came together in the end. All I can say for sure is that everyone who helped me was amazing. The readers we had on the night, David Shakes and R.M. Francis, did a fantastic job. (Sadly, Nellie Cole was struck by a stomach bug.) I can also say, without a doubt, that my wife is amazing. Sam designed the posters for the night. She came up with the Instagram style, quick ads as well. She put the merch bags together. She designed the bookmarks and badges, found the companies to make them online. She made the labels for the little bags of marshmallows. She also kept me sane, which was no easy task once the nerves took hold.
The day itself was an odd one. It set its own pace. We were off work, so we managed to have a lie in. We woke up at a civilised time. Sat in front of the TV with a mug of strong tea before we began to get ready. That was when the tension wound itself into a handy little noose for me.
We went over to Birmingham for the afternoon and I distracted myself with a trip to the ever-holy place that is Nostalgia Comics. I also treated myself to a new pair of Docs that I couldn’t afford, figuring it was best to stick to the tradition of new boots for every book launch. After all, I didn't want to offend The Writing Gods.
The plan was to get to the pub for six. We knew people were getting there about an hour or so before the start. We were aiming to get set up before they arrived. At four, we retreated to Waterstones. I picked up a couple of J.G.Ballards and a Bradbury collection, then we got ourselves a drink and I did my best to ignore my watch. That was when Nellie let me know the bad news. Luckily, I’d brought another book along, just in case. It was too late to be nervous about it, so I just accepted it. I was now doing four readings across the night. I'd prepared two pieces from Fluff, which were pretty good if I say so myself. Then there was a little 500 word piece that my publisher had used in a sampler the other year. Now I was also going to be reading something from the start of my first novel, Something Needs Bleeding, as well.
I stayed that way as we finished our drinks and headed back to the car. As we fought through the early, angry flurries of teething rush hour traffic. As we got parked and I fought to get my new boots on.
We headed into the pub and waited. People began to arrive early. I found out we couldn’t use the brewery at gone seven, because it was too hot in there. Instead, the pub set up the pool room for us. It was long, narrow, intimate space between the pub and beer garden. It had a stage at one end and good acoustics. It worked better than I expected.
True, we never had crowds of people appear. Which was a shame. It was a small crowd, but they were a good crowd. They listened, they laughed, they shuddered. They applauded. They didn’t complain when I blurted out the intro, realising what I’d prepared wouldn’t work because I knew everybody in the room.
David read some of his flash fiction, which went over brilliantly. He settled the atmosphere after we’d blustered our way in there.
After he was finished, I announced I was going to read something I’d never read before. I asked people to let me know if I passed ten minutes, but either I hooked them or they were too polite. I read about twenty minutes from Something Needs Bleeding before stopping and moving onto the first Fluff piece, which worked really well. I’d picked a piece with a hook and some clues in it. Someone compared the atmosphere in it to an M.R. James story, which was incredibly kind. As we moved into the break, I tried to breathe. Only I didn’t get a chance. People came up to buy their copies of the book and then all remembered they wanted them signing as well.
That done, we got started on the second half and I read out that short 500 word piece. It worked far better than I'd hoped. (In fact, I’ve had a couple of people ask if I’m planning to put it on here or record myself reading it.) R.M. Francis did a stellar job with some poems from his new collection. His choices perfectly set the tone for the second and final piece of Fluff. I’d gone for something darker from later in the book. A grim moment, that starts off funny but descends into a little madness. It was great to read it and feel the room change. It reminded me of my first time at The Gunmakers, with my Halloween story.
When it was all done, I’d planned on a Q and A, but again that would’ve revolved around a few more new faces. Instead, we stayed in the room and got ourselves another drink. Readers and listeners chatted amongst themselves. David got some people intrigued about the upcoming Deadcades anthology, whilst Rob sold a couple of copies of his new collection.
We petered out the pub as it turned dark outside, thanking the staff and carrying our remnants back to the car. Reality came back into shallow, soft tides after that. People set off, looking tired, most of them working the next day. The traffic turned nasty with some late night roadworks. The thirty degree heat began to amp up the humidity as we saw electrical storms off the sides of the midnight motorway.
It was one hell of a night. It truly was. It wasn’t the grand event I’d originally hoped for, but the lead up had sort of shown me that it wasn't going to break any records. For whatever reason, it’s as hard to get people to come to a book launch as it is to get them to read a book and leave a review. I suppose I should be more down about that, but the people who made it last Thursday enjoyed themselves. I can't begrudge that feeling right now.
So a huge thank you to everyone who came and to everyone who helped me put on a show. There's a new novel to start now and some stories submitted or waiting for release. Work seems to think I have to keep going and sitting at that desk they pay me to sit at. I guess real life is starting to steer again. Which is a shame, really. Last Thursday night really did feel like something special, for a time. It felt like a turning point in this little hobby of mine.