Spotted at the library yesterday: a flier for an Andy Griffiths book signing today. (Andy's the author behind the Zombie Bums books, amongst others, and each of his new books regularly hits the childrens bestseller lists.) Wouldn't you know it, my kids are away with their grandparents for the weekend.
Still, I figured I'd go along, pick up a couple of books for my kids and perhaps give Andy a copy of Hal as a gift.
I got there at five to two and there's a queue of kids about a mile long, all of them clutching Andy Griffiths books. I saw tatty copies, new copies, covered copies and several which looked like they'd just come from a school library. While I sat and envied, a lady nearby asked me what was going on. "Just a book signing," I said casually, as if every book signing attracted two-three hundred people.
Fifteen minutes later the line hadn't got any smaller, so I left to do some errands. Just before I left though, the lady's companions had come back, and one had a nephew or grandson who sounded like the perfect reader for a Hal Spacejock book. Happy that someone was going to get it, I personalised the copy I was holding and handed it over.
For some time I've been after a high definition set top box with a hard drive recorder, because time shifting is the perfect solution to annoying ads. Unfortunately Saturday shopping hours were slipping away so I hurried off to find what I needed. (Only gas stations, convenience and hardware stores are open Sunday in Western Australia.)
By the time I'd found what I needed it was ten to four, and I was nine minutes drive from the shopping centre. I suddenly realised the signing would probably go for two hours, and if I hurried back I might just get those books signed after all. So, back I went, hauling a spare copy of Hal from the trunk, and there was the author sitting at his table with just one child in the line. I couldn't have timed it better with a stopwatch ... packing up was literally in progress.
I nipped in and chatted to Andy's publicist while he was signing books, and asked whether I could give him a copy of Hal. She spotted the 'Better than Red Dwarf' comment on the cover and said Andy was a Red Dwarf fan, and would probably like something to read on the flight home. Done deal. (I personally wouldn't read about a crash-happy pilot like Hal just before climbing aboard a jet, but there you go.)
I didn't stop to chat long because everyone looked like they were ready to cut and run, but Andy took the time to draw cartoons in the copies of his books I'd bought for my kids, and he got me to personalise the copy of Hal for him. I didn't mention crash-happy pilots at all.
Tell you one thing - I won't forget that huge line of kids waiting patiently to get their books signed. Apparently the average number of people turning up to signings is four, so that two hundred covers about fifty complete no-shows ;-) (I've never done a signing for Hal books, but I've had a secondary launch at a con which didn't.)
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)