Well that's it. I am now officially an author. Caligula is on the shelves and available at all good book shops.
The last two days have encapsulated everything that's happened to me in the year since I signed up with Transworld. Monday - publication day - was a bit of an anti-climax. I went into Stirling all aquiver to see where my books were in the local Waterstone's and naturally couldn't find them. It turned out they were hidden in a pile of fiction novels towards the back of the store. Fortunately, the guy behind the counter didn't take any persuading to give a local author pride of place in the New Fiction box at the front! And that was it. The book was on the shelves and ... it was just another day.
Tuesday - the launch party - was one of the best days of my life. Ninety people from my past, present and, hopefully, future turned out to celebrate the publication of Caligula. Old friends I hadn't seen for years, people I'd invited but hadn't expected to come, and most of my family. I met and greeted everyone as they came in, they all had a drink and a chat and after about half an hour I got up to give my speech. It was the most natural thing in the world - as if I'd been doing it all my life - and at the end I gave a reading. When I'd finished, my 17-year-old son walked up to me and gave me a hug. Absolutely priceless.
The people at Blackwell's did us proud, but they were shocked at the size of the turnout. They sold every book in the shop - 62 - and I spent half the night signing them and listening to people tell me how proud they were of me. It was fantastic. A night I'll never forget. Later, the family was joined by Simon and Stan for a meal and to cap off a perfect night the kids dragged me off to a posh pub until 2am.
To give you a flvour of the night this is the bit of Caligula I read:
He looked towards the centurion in charge of the Guard. It was the Germans today. He liked the Germans because they hated the Italians.
The soldier came at his call.
“If I wished it would you kill every man in this room?” he said quietly.
For an instant, the centurion’s eyes went wide,, but then the discipline that had helped him survive a hundred combats quickly took over. His hand went to his sword.
“Of course, Caesar. At your orders!”
Should he? He looked over the faces. Senators and knights. Praetors and tribunes. Men who called themselves his friends and others who did not try to hide their scorn. The Judaean who had been boring him for a week about the problems of his benighted province. It would cause complications. He had another thought.
“If I ordered it, would you kill me?”
The soldier froze. What answer would he give to this unanswerable question?
He watched the man’s face grow paler as the seconds passed. Tiny beads of sweat broke out upon his brow as he wrestled with the terrible implications of his next words. His mouth opened and closed like a dying fish, which was amusing.
Eventually, he became bored.
“You are dismissed. W, we will discuss this further another time.”
He picked at the platter of food by the side of the throne. Really, it was all so boring. Had he tasted everything there ever was to taste? He let the long list slide through his mind. But there was a gap. Yes, there was one type of flesh he had never tasted. The forbidden flesh. He looked up. It would be interesting, exciting even. Who would it be? The fat one at the back? The athlete fidgeting by the wall? No shortage of choice.
He pondered the question for a full minute.
No, he thought, not today.
He smiled as he learned a new truth. Even he had a limit.
He wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or disappointed.