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  • Writer's pictureAmelia

Author At The Armouries

Updated: Jul 10

Almost two weeks ago the second hopefully-annual Authors At the Armouries event was held at the Royal Armouries, in Leeds. It was an event at which I had hoped to take a table myself, but I didn’t. Because I was useless and missed the cut off time to sign up. But all writers are readers at heart (we may not have any time to read, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to) so, table or no table, along I went anyway.

And subsequently spent the next week or so mostly in bed being of no use to god or man, but that’s another story.

A bright (and I mean REALLY BRIGHT) pink, circular coaster, with the words Authors At The Armouries written around the edge. In the centre is a decorative detail featuring two daggers, crossing at the very point, surmounted by a skull. The year "2024" is written on a decorative scroll at the point at which the daggers cross.

The real question here is: was it worth it?* Authors At The Armouries was a three part event, beginning with a signing and author question and answer panel on the Friday night, going on to the main exhibition with stalls, signings, and general literary joy on the Saturday*, and ending with the grand Multiverse Ball and dinner on the Saturday night. I can’t comment on the Friday and Saturday nights as I wasn’t there. Which is a good thing, because I was already semi-functional after the part I did see. You’ll just have to assume that those both went swimmingly while I focus on the part I actually attended. The space for this event was, to quote Douglas Adams, big. There’s probably a better quote out there somewhere, but sometimes it just comes down to that: “Space… is big.” This space… was big.

And despite being big it was packed solid. There were authors there for pretty much every genre of fiction, as well as some non-fiction; and while the tables provided for each author were all large and roomy, the number of people wanting to stop and look at any given table meant that, well…  Let X equal the number of tables. Let Y equal the number of people stopping at each table. Let Z equal the size of the hall.

And by the esoteric algebra of events everywhere you will find that the answer to the question “How crowded was the hall?” is a deafeningly emphatic “Very”. So crowded was it that the only way to get around was by progressing slowly, step by step, stopping to take in the books on offer at each table as I went. Oh dear. What a shame. Being reduced to a snail’s pace, I very sensibly resolved not to buy anything on my first pass round the hall, but to concentrate on looking at the books, and on collecting those prizes I had won in competitions on the Authors At The Armouries Facebook group. I did, however allow myself to pick up leaflets and business cards whenever a book particularly interested me, and, to give you some idea of the scale of the event, by the time I had got a quarter of the way around my wallet was almost completely inaccessible, being snowed in under an avalanche of leaflets. How do I know this? Why was I trying to get at my wallet? Beloved reader, some promises are not meant to be kept. So yes, I bought some things. I also collected those prizes I’d mentioned. I’d been a little concerned about a few of the prizes, actually, because quite a few of them included a “swag bag”. If Authors At the Armouries skews toward any one genre in particular, it is romance and when romance authors are looking for amusing items to put into their swag bags… Come to think of it, are any of my readers of a sensitive disposition? Are there any fragile souls, swooning at a harsh or vulgar word, who would rather avoid any discussion of the coarser parts of humanity? If there are, you might want to stop here and scroll down until all the awful crudeness has gone away. I’ll put in a lovely picture of all my freebies so you know that it’s safe to start reading again. Just…maybe don’t look at that picture too hard. Have they all gone?

Everyone’s still here, aren’t they? Fine. Time to talk about penises. For some reason, whenever three or more romance authors are gathered together in the name of literature there too shall be a lot bouncy rubber dicks. Or squishy ones. Or sparkly. Or, and I really don’t want to think about this too hard, diamanté studded ones. I don’t understand it myself, but I’m not a romance author or a large consumer of romance, so I don’t have to.

 Still, for whatever reason, a lot of romance authors and, crucially, an even larger lot of romance readers love penises. Model ones, I mean*.

 Even my friend Colette*, who did not miss the sign up date and consequently did have a table at the event, had, when seeking some novelties for said table, plumped* for penises. Hers were blue and glowed in the dark. Because she said she wanted them to stand out.  I said it made them look as though they were frozen.  Or had had an unfortunate accident with a rubber band.  Either of which probably would make them stand out, now I come to think of it.

 So, knowing this, and fully aware that at any given table there would be, statistically, a non-zero chance of meeting someone’s bouncy rubber friend, I strongly suspected that there would be penises in my swag packs.  In fact, I was mostly mistaken.  In the end I received only one rubber penis, and that was from author M.F. Moody who, as I approached her table, jumped out and, brandishing an appropriately decorated straw enquired: “Do you want to suck on my penis?!”  If anyone reading this is also a reader of M.F.Moody’s works, and has wondered if she can be as warm, as real, and as funny in real life as she is in her writing, then I promise you that the answer is yes, she truly is, and she absolutely did not deserve my response, which was to jump about a foot backwards into the still very crowded hall and offer up a thoroughly lacklustre: “Not really?”

 My apologies to anyone who I trampled during this unintended flight.  Once recovered from my imitation of an ejector seat we had a pleasant conversation about her books, her cuddly llama slippers, and the fact that there was, almost certainly, a penis lurking in my swag pack. I promised not to hold it against her*.

A penis there was. I’m going to call him Herbert. I shall keep Herbert in a little box, and feed him on grain like the witches of old*. So, by the end of the day, the number of penes in my possession was an entire one. This is a significant increase in the number of penises (yes, both terms are correct) that I’d had when I started out, but is still significantly less penis than I’d expected to have on my hands by that point. In fact, once I’d weighed everything and worked it out — because that's my idea of a good time — counting prizes, table freebies, and the Authors At The Armouries VIP bag; my entire pile of Loot I Did Not Pay For was only zero point five percent penis, by weight. The rest of it was…Hang on, I’d better let everyone know it’s safe to come back. We should at least pretend some of you went away for a while. For plausible deniability, if nothing else. Here goes:

A massive heap of leaflets, sweets, books and other assorted things as mentioned in my blog post. Honestly it's a good thing I did mention them in my blog post, because there's no way I could have comfortably described them all here. They are in every colour of the rainbow, and pictured against my grey duvet cover, "for contrast" but really because the bed was the only space I had big enough to spread them all out on.
A truly ridiculous amount of goodies. Also baddies, because every good book needs a few.

As I was saying, my collected loot that I absolutely did not have to pay for* was only zero point five percent, let us say, other materials. The rest was: zero point seven percent some very carefully spelled pens; four percent bookie cookies - which is definitely my preferred cookie to …*other* ratio; twenty two percent mugs - because what really ties authors and readers together is not books, but our love of a hot drink while we read and/or write said books, seven percent skull and, unsurprisingly, forty eight percent books. The other seventeen point eight percent was comprised of various other — that’s “other”, not “other” — items, such as book spreaders for one handed reading, tissues — “For the emotional damage”, thank you Aisling Elizabeth — sweets, stickers, squishy rainbow unicorns, chocolate, coasters, bookmarks, badges, stationery, and all the various shiny-paper articles that come under the general heading of “bumph". After carrying all that around, is it any wonder that I was wiped out for the best part of a  week?

In between piling up trinkets like a particularly obsessive, literary magpie, I talked to some amazing authors; found a great many new books; bought some presents for my kids; did not buy a present for my Husband because he told me not to waste money; resisted buying even more books on the grounds that paper, as we learn from Sharpe*, is heavy, and, really, I needed to be functional again at some point in the future; and finally went home in a daze of happiness, thinking “Whee! When can we do that again?” The answer to that last, by the way, is next year, on October the twenty fourth and twenty fifth, because it’s running for two full days next time. They’re adding an extra hall too. I’d tell you that would make it less crowded, but I bet it won’t. I can hardly wait. If I can get my act together, I might even have a table. Either way, I’ll see you there.

 *The answer, for those of you who like to flick to the end is “Yes. Gods yes.” I hope that helped. Now, having been assured a happy ending you can go back and read the rest of the blog/review/whatever the heck this is.

*Yes: the bit I meant to get a table for.

* One could presume most romance readers also love the real kind, or they wouldn’t read so many books featuring them, but this may be a presumption too far.  Not everyone who reads about a subject — even who reads voraciously and with great glee about that subject — wants to encounter said subject matter outside of books.  I’m very fond of books featuring murder, for example, but I’m perfectly happy with absolutely zero murders in my daily life.  Maybe I’m just odd like that.

*Colette Davis: for all your M/M romance needs.

*is it me or was the absolute worst possible word choice ever? “Plump for penis." It sounds like a nineteen thirties advertising slogan. But also very much not.

*I don’t write romance. Terrible, penis-related jokes barely worthy of the name “joke” are another matter.

*If you didn’t know the witches of old kept penis in little boxes and fed them on grain, it’s because they didn’t.

This didn’t stop people* from claiming they did though. It’s in the Malleus Maleficarum, if you want a truly depressing giggle.

*People like Matthew Hopkins. Who was himself a massive prick.

*What do you mean I paid for the VIP bag? I paid for the VIP ticket. The VIP bag was a free gift with purchase. Obviously.

*I cannot tell you which book it is in because, shameful as it is in a writer, I haven’t actually read them. I do remember Sean Bean saying that though. He was making a point about flags.

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