Feeling optimistic…which is nice

Feeling optimistic…which is nice

hereReviewMy new novel has been out for just over a week, and there are already two positive reviews posted online. What’s more, they’re from complete strangers, so I know they’re genuine. This is a much more enthusiastic response to the novel than I had been expecting, and I am hoping it could be a sign that Ranidir’s Heir is going to do well.

The reviews can be found here and here, and there’s a snapshot of my favourite one above.

What does it mean to receive positive feedback? The absolute world. I’ve poured an awful lot of myself into all of my books, but none more so than the latest one. All the time I was writing it I was excited, I barely faltered at any stage, that enthusiasm remaining with me through the entire process. It somehow felt like I was producing something to be proud of, and to have such quick affirmation of that after its release is both a pleasure and such a major relief! It doesn’t matter how many friends and family tell you they think your work is good, you’ll never believe it, not really, until someone completely non-biased weighs in and gives you their own completely neutral opinion.

The human brain is funny like that. “I love you, I trust you, but when it comes to evaluating my work I’d much rather hear from Joe Bloggs over there”. It’s one of the few occasions when a stranger’s opinion is worth so much more than a friend’s, along with “does my bum look big in this”, “how did I sound at karaoke” and “is the spot on my nose noticeable”…

The other thing these two reviews have given me is the drive to crack on and get writing my fifth novel, which will be the third book in the Realm series. The prologue is done, the first chapter is underway, and the broad strokes of the storyline are in place, so if I follow my usual process I will finish this chapter, then make notes on the next few, write another one, make some more notes, and then repeat that process until the notes reach the end of the story and I can simply flesh them out into prose. I don’t know if this is a correct way to write a novel (is there a correct way?) but it works for me. If Ranidir’s Heir is anything to go by, the next one should take me somewhere between 6 and 8 months. It would be amazing if I can get a sequel out in 2017, it would mean I’ve written my first trilogy!

Of course, this latest book could go the way of Novels 2 and 3, and go on to receive a response that could best be described as “tepid”. “Lukewarm” would be stretching it a bit. And if that happens, well, I’ll just roll with it. It would delay the next book because I’d have to stop being a bohemian hippy author and get a proper job (and yes, I realise that looking after my infant son is a proper job, but it pays extremely well in smiles and pride while paying abysmally in actual cash money), but the next book would still get written and released. Because it’s in my brain now and has to come out, and besides, I now know that at least two people in the world would like to read more adventures in the Realm, and that is more than enough incentive for me.

I’ll never stop writing. Being able to do it full time would be a dream come true, but no matter what happens I’ll keep telling my stories and hoping that people like them.

Anyway, enough burbling from me, don’t forget you can get the ebook version of my novels for less than the price of a pint, and the paperback version of Ranidir’s Heir is now available to buy as well. If you do give them a go, I really hope you enjoy them. I’m proud of them, but then I am pretty biased…unlike Debi and Colin from the internet, my two current favourite strangers!

I hope everyone is well and life is treating you gently, thanks as ever for reading…and Stay Frosty, People.

 

Realmborn 2 Has Arrived!

Realmborn 2 Has Arrived!

The follow-up to my first novel, Realmborn, is now available on Amazon. Well, in eBook format, anyway. The paperback is a few weeks away still, but I am very proud and pleased to be able to say that, after six months of writing, various edits and touch ups, and more than a little blood, sweat and tears, Ranidir’s Heir: A Story of The Realm, is finally completed.

This novel picks up several years after the events of Realmborn, picking up the story of Jake Ranidir, who had decided, rather than returning to his adopted home in good old 21st Century Britain, to stay on in the Realm, the magical land of his birth. He did this in order to save the Realm from the evil invaders who had come so close to annihilating this nation of magic-wielding warrior-mages, and our story begins with Jake just a gnat’s whisker away from achieving victory and being able to return home to the beloved wife he left behind.

Of course, nothing good ever comes easy, and so it is when he is finally so near to achieving his goals that he and his closest friends are whisked back in time to save the Realm of the past, while Jake’s sons are drawn into this magical world and it is up to them to save the new Free Realm of the present.

With a host of returning characters, some exciting new protagonists, and a villain who makes the Realm’s previous bad guy look like a friendly kitten playing with a ball of wool on a bed made of candy floss, Ranidir’s Heir is an exciting return to a fantasy world with oodles of heroism, a smidge of tragedy, and more than a touch of twenty-first century attitude.

If I do say so myself…

On a personal note I am extremely proud of this novel, I think it is more tightly and effectively written than any of my previous works, while retaining the complexity and intricacy of my first book. I’m aiming for a more accessible fantasy novel, so I sincerely hope people enjoy the mix of action, humour and high-fantasy storytelling crossed with some modern-day narrative from protagonists who would be more at home down their local pub than doing battle with other-worldly invaders in a magical land.

I enjoyed writing my two stand-alone novels, Silver Soldiers and Metal Blade (and if you’ve not read them yet they have both been very well received and are well worth a look-see), but there is something about the Realm that is so much more satisfying to write about than anything else for me. In fact I have started some tentative early drafts of the first few chapters of another Realm-based novel, which may well be book number five for me. It’s a rich world, with so many stories to be told, and I hope that people will continue to enjoy these tales as I manage to transfer them from my brain to the page.

Ranidir’s Heir: A Story of The Realm, can be found as an eBook here on Amazon. And it costs less than a pint. Even in Wetherspoons.

Finally, here are the answers to a few questions readers have posed over the last year or so:

 

Q: Is the incredibly handsome, brave, amazing, charismatic and awesome character of Jake based on the author?

A: Yes. Obviously.

 

Q: How much coffee has been consumed during the writing of the Realm novels?

A: 17,356 gallons. Plus an espresso.

 

Q: When is the movie/TV series coming?

A: When enough people have lobbied Hollywood to make it happen (hint, hint).

 

Q: Does the first book, Realmborn, need to be read before Ranidir’s Heir?

A: Ideally, yes, though Ranidir’s Heir is still an exciting story in its own right, and explains various relevant aspects of the characters’ history throughout the novel. But yes, this novel is a direct sequel to its predecessor.

 

Q: Who were your inspirations as an author?

A: David Gemmel, David Eddings, Raymond E Feist, Katherine Kerr, Terry Pratchett, Lee Child and Harlan Coben. Not all fantasy authors, but I like to think I’ve taken a little inspiration from all of them in terms of pacing, imagery, identifiable heroes…I simply aspire to their lofty heights!

 

Q: Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash?

A: Too tough to call. Like asking “Ale or Wine”? Both, just at different times. Or occasionally together, but it can be messy…

 

OK, that’s enough rambling from me, I hope you all enjoy this novel, please do leave reviews, unless you hate it in which case hey, save yourself the time, no worries, it’s cool, go do something else…

And of course thanks for your continued support, it really does mean the world to me.

Stay Frosty, People (Something I find quite poignant now, following the tragic and sad news of Bill Paxton’s untimely passing. RIP, Hudson, game over, man, game over.)

Realmborn 2 is coming! (Hopefully along with more frequent blog posts…)

snoopy-writer

First and foremost, apologies to my loyal and avid readers for the lengthy gap between this and my previous post…you must both have been very upset.

There is a good reason for the delay, though, promise! Well, several good reasons, the most obvious being putting the finishing touches on my fourth novel, the sequel to Realmborn. Oh, parenthood, Christmas, hangovers and the occasional bout of sleep got in the way as well, but mainly it was the new book.

As with Realmborn this is a fantasy novel, plenty of swords and sorcery going on, but with a prominent protagonist who hails from good old twenty-first century Britain, allowing for some modern-day narrative alongside the more traditional fantasy “voice”. It’s a mixture which I like to think worked in my first novel, but then I’m the author so I would think that, wouldn’t I? I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and I do hope that people at least try a few bites. Test readings have been very positive, constructive criticism was received and acted upon, and overall I feel that it is my best work yet.

The finishing touches have been applied, and the process of making it available on Amazon has begun. I shall keep you informed as to the release date as and when I know it myself.

One part of the writing process I found particularly difficult was taking on board the feedback and criticisms from my first three novels. It’s never easy to read negative opinions on your work, but I brutally reminded myself that I am, to all intents and purposes, an absolute and complete beginner at this writing lark. I’m still immensely proud of the books I have released, I think they are entertaining, intelligibly written, and well worth the low price they are available for as e-books (less than a pint, even in Wetherspoons), but I have made sure that I took absolutely every bit of criticism on board and have tried to learn from it all.

(Worth noting at this point that I resolutely ignored the person who gave a 1 star rating alongside a review that read something like “just not my cup of tea”. Nothing about the writing, the pace or the storyline, just not up their alley. I mean, seriously? 1 star? Gone With the Wind isn’t really what floats my boat, but I wouldn’t leave a 1 star review. Harry Potter isn’t what I’d choose to sit down and read, but I certainly wouldn’t take the time to tell the world that and then leave the lowest possible Star rating possible! Sorry, rant over, obviously I didn’t ignore it, I found it ridiculously infuriating, but I didn’t let it affect my writing. Hopefully.)

I reread my previous books, trying to be as impartial as I could be, and I think now that there was a very definite reason that I didn’t go straight on to the second book of The Realm as soon as I had finished the first. Silver Soldiers and Metal Blade were great fun to write, and I hope great fun to read, but they were very different beasts to my original fantasy epic. I’m hoping that writing them was a chance and a way to work on my craft, to more definitely find my voice as an author, and as a result that Ranidir’s Heir: A Story of The Realm is a leaner, more tautly written novel than its predecessors, yet one that retains the depth and rich tapestry of interweaving characters and storylines that so many people liked about Realmborn.

It’s got less words in it, anyway.

So, the latest novel available soon, and previous books available on Amazon already (and if you have read and enjoyed any of them, please, please, please take a few minutes to pop on and leave a review. Reviews are like gold for an independent author, letting the world know at a glance that this might be something worth reading. Also like gold in that I rarely see it, seem to have to work very hard to get it, and I can’t wear jewellery made out of it because I’m allergic. No, wait, scrap that last bit, pretty sure that’s just about gold.) I shall make announcements as and when, and I really hope people enjoy reading it.

I’m still a massive Aliens fan, so my sign off will remain the same for the duration, channelling the awesomeness that is Al Matthews’ Sgt Apone.

Stay Frosty, people.

From Author to Actor…For A Day

From Author to Actor…For A Day

When I was a lad I was convinced I was going to grow up and become a famous Hollywood superstar. I was in all the school plays, the local amateur dramatics group, a weekend theatre course…and, in all honesty, I wasn’t that bad. No, seriously, false modesty aside, I was actually pretty good. Maybe, in a parallel dimension, if I’d pursued it more vigorously…who knows?

But life, with its twists and turns and knocks and its general rollercoaster ride nature, had other plans for me. It seemed I was destined only to watch the silver screen, rather than appearing on it. Until there came a day, a glorious day, a day that will surely go down in the annals of Hollywood history, when my friend Ben said “fancy being in a short film?”

Now, this was not something out of the blue, Ben and I have been film enthusiasts ever since we’ve known each other, and we’ve talked for years about making our own films. We’ve got scripts waiting to be developed, lofty ambitions and we’ve even toyed around with various names for the production company we will obviously one day co-own. My favourite is Ben And Dave All Star Studio Productions. That’s right, BADASS Productions.

Ben has always been more interested in the whole filmmaking process, whereas most of my talents lie on the other side of the camera, although I like to think I contribute to the writing as well. But Ben is very much the driving force, and he told me about the short film he had come up with. A man (me) wakes up on a beach, stranded, confused, and forced to use his (fairly inadequate) wits to survive. What follows is a short chronicle of his buffoon like attempts to build a shelter (badly), construct a bow and arrow (which ends up being more dangerous to him than to any of the completely safe wildlife around him), and to go spear-fishing (the results of which need to be seen to be believed). It’s around eight minutes long, and damn me if Ben and I aren’t absolutely over the moon with the end result.

I shall save details of the day we spent filming for a future post, suffice to say that when Ben said “fancy being in a short film?” what he should have said was “fancy getting up at 4 in the morning to spend the day either being cold, wet or a combination of the two, with a stroll through an honest to god swamp and a dip in the sea off the coast of Southport at 8 in the morning to really freeze your *******s off?” At least it would have been more honest.

In spite of the hardships of the day, though, the end result was something we were both very, very pleased with, even in its rough format, and once Ben had worked his editing magic on it, it was something else entirely – a masterpiece. Watching that 8 minute slice of entertainment for the first time, I suddenly how Michaelangelo must have felt when he looked up at the roof of the Cistine Chapel, how Capability Brown’s heart must have swelled to look out over his first landscaped garden, how the Spice Girls must have been over the moon to hear Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want, I Really Really Really Wanna Zig A Zig Ah booming out of their speakers for the very first time…but don’t take my word for it, watch it yourself and bask in the glow of a complete moron trying to survive life in the wilderness with nothing but a Hawaiian shirt, a surplus of damp earth and faintly woebegone expression. Oh, and you get to see me eat a pine cone. A scene Ben made me shoot 8 times. In a row.

You can find How I Survived the Island on YouTube here, and I really hope you enjoy it. Any feedback will be immediately passed on to my partner in crime, and a more detailed narrative of the day we spent filming will be on this site shortly. For now, a few piccies:

2

Writer, producer, director, editor…all hats that this amazing filmmaker wears. The one, the only, Ben Lingham!

 

3No expense was spent on crew, the star being forced to carry his costume, props and a camera tripod for about seven miles. OK, it just felt like seven miles, it was probably only two. Or maybe three. Distance is hard to judge at 6 in the morning.

4

Yep, he made me climb over a wire fence.

5

The infamous spear fishing scene. I performed all my own stunts, don’t ya know. Oh, and that water? Freezing. Another scene he made me film over and over and over and over again. Sometimes I think he doesn’t really like me. Wait, no, we’re British, mocking and forcing your friends to endure physical hardship is how we show love.

6

Can you see the stick poking out of the bottom of my foot? Looks even more impressive in the film. How did we do it, you ask? Trade secret, I’m afraid. Although I can tell you that the first of the surgeries on my foot went very well.

7

And finally, a glimpse into the glamorous culinary experiences of intrepid movie-makers. The venue? Ben’s car. The cuisine? Ham sandwiches and crisps. Which were delicious, by the by.

I do implore you to check this little screen gem out, we put a lot of hard work into it, and then Ben put about a million times more into it after that, and it wouldn’t be much of a post if I didn’t also shamelessly remind you that my novels are all available on amazon (preview chapters and links are available on this site), reviews so far are good, and the sequel to Realmborn is currently at 32 of approx. 50 chapters, so is coming along nicely.

Been a while, but I’m going to say it anyway. Stay Frosty, People.

#FirstWorldProblems

#FirstWorldProblems

So, my phone died a couple of days ago. Not just “the battery died and it needs recharging”, but complete death, cracked screen, wouldn’t switch on, RIP iPhone. Dead. Deceased. Passed on. Entered the digital afterlife. An ex-phone.

An immediate sense of panic clenched my guts with vicelike intensity. What the hell was I going to do? How would I survive? First things first, call everyone and tell them I would be out of touch. No, wait, I can’t, all the numbers are on my phone! Fine, I’ll post something on Faceboo-no, wait, I do that through my phone too. I’ll tweet…yep, you guessed it, done on my phone.

OK, Plan B, access things through the laptop instead. But what the f-sorry, what the hell is my password for all these things? On my phone they’re already logged in, all the time, just the tap of an icon away. On the laptop? Hours of headscratching as I sit in front of a screen trying to remember how to log in to online banking…re-registering? We’ll send you a text with an activation code…well that’s no bloody use!

I suddenly knew, with a flash of realisation, that I was far, far, far too tied to my phone. Like completely addicted to it. Was it ever out of my hand? Was there anything I didn’t use it for? It was my jukebox, my watch, on occasion my TV, a handheld games console, my communication portal to everyone I know…and seriously, how many different ways are there for people to communicate with me? I have three email addresses, I can be contacted by text, whatsapp, twitter, facebook…my life was basically being run through a 3 and half by 5 inch tiny computer.

So I went out. I took my boys and I went out for the afternoon. We laughed, we had fun, I ignored the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach and the faint sensation of having forgotten something I couldn’t quite put my finger on…and it was good, you know? As long as you discount the phantom vibration sensations from my pocket, like an amputee who feels an itch from fingers that are no longer there. But it was genuinely kind of liberating to be cut off from my various digital ties, if only for a few hours. I concentrated on my sons, had fun, and didn’t check the time once.

And it made me think of all the moaning I had done about being phoneless (for a whopping 28 hours, as it turned out), and reminded me not to be so damn stupid in future.

Mobile phone not working for a while? No big deal, enjoy the peace.

Laptop runs out of battery on the train? Close your eyes for a while and chill out.

Programme fails to record on your digibox? Screw it, read a book for half an hour instead (I know three I could recommend highly), the damn thing will be on again sometime.

Long story short, maybe it would do us all good to switch our screens off once in a while, remember what it was like to live without the digital world at our fingertips.

Having said that, my new phone arrived this morning and I breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief, good to feel that pocket vibrating again. But I might just switch it off for the day again sometime soon…

As always, and no matter what device you’re reading this on, Stay Frosty, People.

Been too sad to blog

Been too sad to blog

Now, I realise that whether or not I blog is of little or no importance to 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the world’s population, but I do feel an apology is in order.

I am sorry. I’ve been silent for the last week or so, mainly due to a kidney infection which laid me low. (Has anyone ever had a kidney infection? Oh my word, not been in that much pain, or felt that ill, since my previous life as a sufferer of the Black Death who was being tortured at the time.) But also because I’ve just not felt like my particular brand of conversational, light-hearted rubbish was particularly appropriate in the last few days. A friend of mine recently told me I should broaden my blog posts a bit, talk about more general topics than my writing or what films I’ve watched, and I shall, but just recently I haven’t felt justified in speaking about current affairs without sounding as though I’m jumping on a bandwagon.

I’m not normally one to watch the news, because, frankly, it depresses me. I realise that this is a childish attitude, and it is one I am trying to change. I want to be more up to speed with what is happening in the world, I genuinely do, but it really gets me down, to be fair. Generally speaking the news tends to be “MURDER” “TERRORISM” “CORRUPTION” “TRAGEDY”. With an occasional mention of global warming or the possibility of a meteor striking the earth and wiping us all out. And on top of that I’m supposed to give a flying monkey’s left nut about whether or not we are in the EU or not. The propaganda from both sides makes me suspect that whichever way I vote next week, we’re screwed. (Apologies if you are reading this outside of Britain, it’s the current hot topic.)

When I was a child the news always ended with “and on a lighter note…” There’d have been a baby Panda born, or a dog would have learned how to use a washing machine, or scientists would have found fossilised remains proving that dinosaurs had had Playstations…

Nowadays there’s so much bad news that the “lighter note” stuff doesn’t get a look in. There’s just not time. Who wants to hear about baby Panda’s when there’s another tragedy needing to be broadcast to the world? And I’m not saying that in a cynical way, because I do feel that people need to know what is happening in the world, I’m just sad that there is so much bad stuff nowadays that the “and in other news” pieces have been relegated to the internet.

Maybe we need a channel dedicated to the fluff pieces? Bliss News. As in “ignorance is bliss”. I’m not saying we ignore the bad stuff, but maybe we need a channel dedicated to puppies saving drowning kittens, endangered species being given new leases of life, and any other sort of story that warms the cockles of our hearts? Not as a substitute to the harsh, bitter, real news, but as a temporary escape? Something to temporarily distract us from the tragedies we face on a daily basis and remind us that the world contains joy as well as sadness.

I write fantasy and science fiction novels, and while there are bad guys, good inevitably triumphs in the end. I’d like to think that people could also use my books as a temporary means of escapism, a way to see the world as it perhaps should be, rather than how it is.

Anyway, I’ll try to get back to blogging more often, and to emphasise the lighter side of life, but I think it would be wrong not to at least note that I’ve been as affected by recent news as everyone else.

The tragic murder of Jo Cox hit me hardest when I clicked on the various links and learned just how great a lady she was. That her life has been ended so abruptly, and in such an evil fashion, is beyond unspeakable. I highly recommend that if, like me, you were unaware of who she was, what she had achieved, and what she stood for, you spend a few moments just reading about what an amazing woman she was. And that, again like me, you find some inspiration from her and resolve to do more with your own life.

Anton Yelchin was an actor of great talent, a particular favourite of mine, someone I had assumed would go on to be as big a name as Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Bruce Willis. One of the tributes I read, after learning that he had been killed by his own car in a tragic accident, was that cinema would be poorer for his loss. And I think this is very true. Like Heath Ledger, he could have gone on to do great things, and his death is untimely, pointless and bitterly sad.

And amongst these higher profile deaths, I was also incredibly affected to hear about a man dying in a Potash mine in Cleveland. Whilst not a celebrity, I couldn’t help but wonder who he had left behind, whose lives were ripped apart by his loss, who he had left behind? So RIP John Anderson.

These are just a few of the stories that, like my kidney infection, have brought me low this past week. But in the same week, a student awoke from a coma and his classmates re-held a graduation ceremony for him, a Muslim community near Detroit, Michigan broke their fast in order to be able to give blood following the shootings in Orlando, and the lady who became famous for her joyous, infectious laughter over her Chewbacca mask has now been given her own action figure by Hasbro. There is still joy in the world. I’ll try to get back to writing more regularly about that joy.

Apologies if this post was not my usual inane rambling, sometimes even an idiot writer with his head in another world like me has to acknowledge the world he lives in.

Stay Frosty, People, or as Frosty as you can.

Zombie Bootcamp…Good Idea or Not?

Zombie Bootcamp…Good Idea or Not?

On Saturday I had the “pleasure” of attending RAM Training’s Zombie Bootcamp, near Droitwich here in the UK. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve only put quotation marks around the word “pleasure” as I’m pretty certain that enjoyment isn’t the main thing you’re supposed to get out of this type of activity.

My various bumps and bruises would be inclined to agree.

In spite of the pain and exhaustion, though, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this event. It was well run, the instructors were enthusiastic and authentically ex-military, and the zombies themselves were…well, they were large, incredibly strong men who threw me and my friends around as though we were rag dolls. Very painfully. Which, I must admit, is what we had paid for.

(It is worth pointing out at this point that at no time were we misled about the kind of damage we might be taking. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, we’re just that stupid)

I was attending this event for a friend’s stag do, and it made a nice change from the “start drinking at noon, keep drinking till we fall over, wake up realising we ended up in a strip club and spent far too much money” type of stag party. We were booked in to the evening session (assuming that doing it in the dark would be more authentically scary), and arrived on time (unusually for us) and sober (ish). We were greeted by an instructor who proceeded to verbally abuse us (again, you know what you’re signing up for, and it’s all part of the fun), especially our stag, who was in a dress and feather boa, and myself, in one of my usual Hawaiian shirts, and of course anyone who spoke up, backchatted, looked a bit funny…basically our whole group was in trouble.

After signing a form that basically said we waived our right to sue them under any circumstances, including the off chance that a real zombie apocalypse occurred while we were there and we were all turned into members of the walking dead, we trooped inside to get geared up. This was the first awesome part of the experience.

Kevlar body armour, as used by actual soldiers – check.

Bulletproof helmet, as used in real combat – check.

Knee pads, as used by extreme sport enthusiasts and anyone who keels down a lot – check.

Elbow guards, as used by anyone who wants to look like a bit of a tit – check.

OK, the elbow guards didn’t look massively macho, but the rest of the gear made us feel like Green Berets, even with my bright orange shirt hanging out of the bottom of my Kevlar vest…

We then had a quick briefing, followed by some Public Order training. This was where the Bootcamp part of the experience was felt most keenly, as we paraded up and down with enormous riot shields and rubber batons, learning a few drills, repeating orders back to our instructor with childish enthusiasm and volume, and then being forced to do more push ups than most of us had experienced in a loooooong time (think north of ten). There was another stag group participating on the same evening as us, and mock riots followed, the two groups taking it in turns to beat each other silly with the rubber batons.

All in all, a good introduction to the evening. A bit of fun, getting to play with actual riot gear, whacking a complete stranger on the backside with a rubber baton…what more could you ask for on a Saturday night?

Our group was then first to do an “exercise”. This involved us being kitted out once again with the riot gear, being bundled into the back of a van and driven to another part of the compound (industrial estate) where we quickly formed up in a line, as trained to do a full twenty minutes previously. Immediately there was a “casualty” to be checked, and I, in my ridiculously chosen bright shirt (might as well have had “target” tattooed on my forehead) was chosen to go and see if said fallen soldier was still breathing.

He was not. He was, of course, a zombie. One who proceeded to vomit blood all over my helmet, visor, body armour, shirt sleeves, arm, ear, jeans and shoes. Please believe me when I tell you that this blood is not that easy to clean off, especially when ignored for several hours…and in a facility where the only mirrors are the ones in the sun visor of the passenger seat of your car. (Also no showers on site, should you choose to stay over, which we did. Take baby wipes.)

After so effectively vomiting blood all over me the zombie proceeded to drag me to the ground, whereupon my friends beat the cr*p out of him with their rubber truncheons, rescuing me from the clutches of the undead…and just in time for another couple of the biggest, burliest zombies you’ll ever see to come lumbering out from behind cover to attack our little group.

They were big. They seemed angry (possibly because we were constantly hitting their legs, arms and torsos with rubber truncheons). And they were extremely strong. They genuinely did pick us up and hurl us through the air. Sometimes we landed on the conveniently placed sandbags designed to cushion our falls, sometimes we missed and landed on the inconveniently placed gravel which seemed designed only to incur maximum pain on any body part it came into contact with.

I hit the gravel. A lot.

Of course, I was being enthusiastic, and giving it my all, really getting into the spirit of the whole thing. Otherwise what’s the point? This did, though, make me something of a target. I’m not the biggest man in the world (about 5’9″ and around 12 stone), I was getting up quickly and attacking these beefy zombies again and again, and I was wearing an item of clothing that I have been told makes the word “garish” feel small and insignificant.

I forget how many times I was airborne that night, but it was a lot. And it was worth it. When the exercise came to its conclusion one of the instructors declared “not a bad effort, there, lads, especially you, Hawaiian Shirt”. I felt like Arnie, Sly and Dolph rolled into one (and if you don’t get those references, I instruct you to go and watch every 80’s action movie ever made). I was a warrior!

A short break followed, and then some mandatory training on the paintguns we would be using in our next assignment (here’s the trigger, here’s the safety, try not to shoot anyone in the face). Then it was back on the van, back to the encampment, back into action! Only this time, we had firearms…

Split into two Fire-Teams, we proceeded to clear rooms, shout gung-ho phrases and pepper the broad chests of some suspiciously similar looking zombies with paintballs (they were now equipped with goggles, though in the darkness and at the speed we were moving, this detracted in no way from the overall atmosphere). Each Fire-Team was accompanied by an instructor, who kept the whole thing moving along nicely, and occasionally threw a “grenade” (firecracker) into a room before us, adding to the illusion of being in an actual war-zone. Eventually our two teams met up, and at the end we lined up in two ranks and let rip at an oncoming horde of the undead.

Whereas in the first exercise it seemed that an almost infinite number of blows with a baton was required to down your reanimated foe, in the second (and in my opinion far more fun) exercise the walking dead went down after three or four hits in the chest. This made the whole thing more satisfying for me, and I think a very sensible way round to order the activities. The zombies beat the living hell out of you in the first round, and in the second you get to shoot at them at close range with paintball guns. Fair enough.

Finally, having survived our experience, we retired to the bar, where one of our instructors was doubling as a barman, along with a much more attractive barmaid (no offense to our instructor, of course, fine figure of  man but not my type), and we drank for a few hours while reliving our evening. And playing beer pong. And eating pizza and kebabs from a local takeaway. And occasionally groaning with pain.

The sleeping arrangements were zombie-apocalypse chic, bunkbeds in a dormitory, very much bring-your-own-sleeping-bag-and-pillow-and-anything-else-you-think-might-make-you-more-comfortable, but as we didn’t stop drinking till nearly three and breakfast was at eight, it wasn’t like we spent long in the beds anyway.

Speaking of breakfast, it was served at a nearby café, and was everything you could ask for in a full English. Hearty, well-cooked, and served with a mug of tea.

All in all I had an excellent time, even if I could barely move my left shoulder for the following two days, though this is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart (two members of the other stag party had to sit out the second activity, I believe) or the ridiculously unfit. I was shattered by the end of the first exercise, which was pretty physically demanding, and I’m not in bad shape. Not great shape, but not bad.

The instructors were entertaining, just abusive enough, but friendly when all was said and done, the zombies were suitably terrifying and violent, but also restrained (they could easily have crushed me like a grape if they’d wanted to) and the whole thing was a great experience.

Pros – the equipment was authentic and top notch, the action was physical enough to feel real without being overly dangerous (minor bumps and bruises occurred, obviously, but at no point did I feel in actual danger), the staff were all great in their respective roles.

Cons – I’m still feeling the bruises 5 days later…definitely not for the fragile. Could have done with some real ale in the bar.

Overall I would recommend this to anyone who wants something a bit different as an experience, especially fans of zombie horror. And only if you can take your sense of humour with you.

More writing news next time, hope life is treating everyone well.

Stay Frosty, People.