well, three years ago, actually.  but i’m getting ahead of myself.  today is the anniversary of an extremely special day for me, second only to the day i was handfasted to my beloved Hubby.  the day i met my hero.  so in honour of that, i hope you’ll indulge me as i repost something from the beginning of last year, from my old blog:

why Neil is my god, or: how Squeaky became a writer

Good evening.

So, dear reader – would you like to know how come I revere Mr Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself on Twitter) as my writing god?
And how I got my screen name? As I said in the very first post of this blog, it’s all Neil’s fault…
Ok – here’s the story, but I warn you, it’s a long one.  I hope you’re sitting comfortably, this may take a while…
*wobbly fade*
Here we have fourteen-year-old Squeaky, having a book recommended to her by a classmate (most unusually, as it happens, but that’s another story entirely). Now, Squeaky is not Squeaky at this time – that comes much, MUCH later

…patience…

The book is Mort by Terry Pratchett (now SIR Terry Pratchett – and about bloody time, say I!), of whom you may have heard. This started a love of his books that endures to this day. I sought out every book of his that I could, read them voraciously and repeatedly. And laughed my ass off as I got more and more of the jokes and sly references (still finding them 20 years later, btw…) One of these books was written in collaboration with some guy I’d never heard of, called, yup, Neil Gaiman. The book was very odd, very English, and very, VERY funny. It’s about how the Antichrist is supposed to bring about the end of the world and…well…doesn’t want to. The antichrist is a boy of (I think – I haven’t read it in a while) about ten years old, who learns of his destiny and, frankly, doesn’t like it much. Anyway. I found this probably a couple of years into my Pratchett odyssey, and adored it. I have my original copy (and possibly another one – I can’t remember – I have sooo many books! XD), and treasure it. This led to me seeking out more of Neil’s work, as I was (obviously) curious.

So…skip forward a few years. I’m now firmly ensconced in a flat in Derby with hubby (well, boyfriend at the time…but anyway) and for one reason and another, had a lot of time on my hands. Derby library was my friend. I found several of Neil’s Sandman graphic novels there. Not a full set (too much to expect from Derby library, really – the fantasy section’s frankly crap), but enough to have me intrigued. They were dark, strange and wonderful. I then found myself searching out every book I could in the library with his name on the spine. Again, not many. In fact, I seem to recall that there was only actually one. I remember it well, as the cover had the most beautiful enamelled bracelet on it… but I digress. Stardust – you may have heard of the film? It’s a fairytale – a proper one… So – not much luck there, though I (of course) loved the book. Although I was poor at the time, I set off to a bookshop one day, determined to get me some Gaiman. I really had no idea about anything else he’d written, to be honest (this was well before I had internet access), but I was so enamoured of his strange beauty that I had to get my hands on SOMETHING. So what I bought was Smoke and Mirrors. I bought it because it was a big, thick book.

N.B. at the time, this was a bonus – could never get enough to read – sadly not so much now. my time is taken up by…other things, these days… I really miss being a bookworm… :o( *sigh* so many books, so little time… but perhaps having had my nose in a book for nigh on twenty four years (almost literally – I used to walk to school and back, and out for my cigarette breaks at the office, like that! XD) – it’s time for a leeetle change…? Perhaps for a while…? Anyway…)

To my shame, I didn’t realise until I’d read it that what I had bought was actually a short-story collection, not a novel, as I’d thought. But, really, looking back, that was probably for the best. I still had a lot of maturing to do as a reader, and the dark, and strange, and wonderful tales in this book helped me to mature a lot. The man is a master storyteller. Seriously – a master. And to him (and now, to me), the story (and the telling of it) is what is important. As long as the tale is told well, it matters not if it has been told before. I don’t mean he’s a plagiarist, but he does revel in his own influences, and will occasionally try to write in their style, as an exercise, a tribute, and a homage to his own literary gods. one notable example is a short story called “Sunbird”, after the style of an extraordinary storyteller called R A Lafferty, (who is the most unique wrier I’ve ever come across – his short stories are absolutely unmistakable)

Anyway – skip forward a few years more. I’m now in my present job, and have access to the internet for the first time (only five years ago!) albeit restricted. I’m now a confirmed fan, but do not yet worship at his altar. Not yet, but soon. Because I decided to look him up one day. And found his blog. I quickly became addicted. He was a prolific blogger at the time, not quite so much nowadays, which is a bit of a shame, but even gods only have a finite amount of time – he can’t do EVERYTHING! XD I became completely addicted to it – my daily dose of Neil. And people sent him links to strange and wonderful things, which he posted – so he kind of became my guide to the internet, too… and I, like thousands and thousands of others became a devoted fan.

Skip forward again – to 2007. …we’re coming to the important and defining bits, here, so pay attention (if you’re still awake, that is)…

Now, like many thousands, possibly millions, of people – especially avid and insatiable readers, I HAD always harboured that nagging, tickly little feeling that maybe, just maybe, there might be a book inside me. Around…um…I guess it would probably be early October of that year, Neil posted a link to something called National Novel Writing Month, in which he was involved that year, writing a pep-talk for those who may be struggling (i.e. almost everybody! XD). it was an intriguing idea…write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days?! Insane! And yet…and yet… thousands of people had already done it – why not me? (N.B. I think about 150.000 people signed up, last year)… I’d already had a couple of abortive (and, frankly, really, really poor attempts) at novelling. I wasn’t sure…but I bought the “how to…” book that the organiser had written anyway. I looked at it for a bit and thought, “…weeelll… maybe next year….” and put it back on the shelf. Not entirely forgotten, but almost…

the following year, 2008, Kate (The Most Wonderful Woman In The World) heard about a talk Neil was giving in London, for the Open Rights Group – a digital media campaign group, of whom Neil is a patron. it was kind of like a warm-up date for a promotional tour he was doing for The Graveyard Book (based on the jungle book, but instead of a child being brought up by animals and learning what the animals know, the child is brought up by dead people, and learns what dead people know – awesomely good book, by the way…) As it happens, I’d already heard about this talk, and OF COURSE I wanted to go. Desperately. He so rarely comes here. Again – the poor guy can’t do everything and be everywhere… but I persuaded myself to think “nah” – for various reasons. But Katie – she practically forced me to go. Bulldozed me into it. And so, off we set, she and I, on October 24, 2008 – a date engraved on my heart as The Day I Met Neil Gaiman.

Because I did. I met him. I had a conversation with him. I even, EVEN!!! got a hug! When no-one else did! (filling up at the memory, here – also doing fangirl squeeing and the happiest happydance I ever have done, or ever will do) here’s how:

Neil has been known to sign books for up to 2,000 people. For, like, seven hours at a stretch. A more genuinely nice man you have very little hope of meeting. Seriously. And he’s filled with this awe, and wonder, and curiosity about the world that extends to the fact that he likes meeting his fans, not just because they buy his books, but also because he’s interested in them. As people. Um…anyway…I’m digressing, here.

So, it’s Friday, October 24, my birthday was the following Monday. I think I’d forgotten I even had a birthday coming up, tbh, so excited was the soon-to-be-Squeaky. He wasn’t signing at this do – it was tiny, it was a warm-up, and, frankly, the guy had flown in from the states that day, and was KNACKERED!!! But. There was to be a raffle, to win 12 signed copies of the Graveyard Book. I bought 5 tickets. He did the talk. I was sitting on the front row. Like, 10 feet from my hero. It was amazing, and funny, and interesting, and I, like everyone else, was entranced. The guy is a natural born speaker.

Then…the raffle.
When he read out one of my tickets – 606 – I…yes…guess what I did?
The entire room heard it. 200 people – including my hero – heard me squeak with excitement.

I didn’t however, have time to die of embarrassment, as a split-second before I could, he looked at me with amused approval, and said “Good squeak!” I could have died on the spot, and gone to the next life (or to the mud) content that this one had been worth it.

We each got a personally signed book, with our name on a gravestone drawn by The Man Himself, and a chat and…In my case, and mine alone…a hug (he smelled faintly of curry, btw… XD). Kate said it was because I was shining so brightly.
I confess, I have never been so genuinely, blissfully, purely happy as I was in those 5 minutes or so – I was high on it for days afterwards.

So – it’s almost November, and I suddenly realise it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo again. And I was still so high on my extraordinary encounter that I actually began to consider this ridiculous idea. Not seriously, but I kicked it around a bit. You know… kind of gave it a poke or two to see if it would do anything.
Much to my surprise, when I poked it a couple of days before the first of November, it uncurled, looked at me defiantly, and said, “All right then – bring it on!”

Thirty, no – twenty-six days later, I’d written Minotaur.

My first ever novel. My first fiction since school. All because of Neil Gaiman. Because I loved him as an author, and a human being, and I sooo wanted (and still want) to be even a tiny bit like him that it sometimes hurts (and I just filled up with tears). But I truly believe the writer in me would probably never have uncurled and blinked in the light, if it hadn’t been for that once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

That’s why he’s my god.

And that’s why Kate is the most wonderful woman in the world (well, one of the reasons, anyway…there are myriad others)

What?…oh…the screen name?…oh, right…sorry – I almost forgot.

There’s a book of Neil’s called Anansi Boys (one of my absolute favourites, just like all the rest XD). Now, for reasons I won’t go into (you’ll have to read the book – it’s a minor, almost unnoticeable detail, but amused me greatly – but then, I’m a bit odd) there’s a pleasure cruise ship in there called The Squeak Attack. And two days before NaNoWriMo was due to start, I needed a screen name in a hurry. If you can believe it, I’d never had one before. So it seemed sort of…fitting and right that I should call myself squeakattack.

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