I arrived right at the start time and Mike was chatting with some of the audience. The audience was a mix of students, who seemed to range in age from 10 or 12 (I'm rotten at estimating ages) to about 14 or 15, and adults. The adults were mostly the parents or guardians of those kids, some librarians, and maybe one other adult who, like myself, was there to hear Mike talk. Mike was energetic, dynamic, and bopped all over the place; the only time he slowed down was when he sat to autograph books at the end of the night. His energy level was especially impressive considering he drove from Indianapolis, with a tour stop in New York state, and had a high school presentation earlier in the day.
"Ashfall" is the first book in a trilogy; book two, "Ashen Winter", comes out in October of this year.
For the first part of the presentation, Mike talked about writing the book, research he had done, the process of writing, different types of volcanoes, and how he came up with the idea of "Ashfall". He focuses his attention on the students and engaged them all throughout his talk; he didn't neglect the adults but the students were his focus, which was appropriate since he's a YA author. Mike is a tae kwan do practitioner and part of his appearance included a demonstration. At the beginning of the presentation, he invited anyone who was interested to try breaking a practice board. It appeared to be made of plastic and hinged in the middle. In order to separate the two halves, you had to hit it just right. Mike demonstrated a method (there are several) and explained why he chose that one (basically, it's a safe method, especially for non-practitioners). At the end of the night, he passed around a concrete block so people could examine it and verify that it really was made of concrete. He then placed it on top of two large concrete blocks, placed a washcloth on top (to protect the skin on his hand) and, with one chop, broke it clean in half. I've seen it done in movies but this was the first time I saw it live and it was impressive.
Mike was engaging, funny, smart and enjoyable. He never talked down to his audience, but treated them with respect, and seemed to enjoy being there. After his talk, and the tae kwan do demonstration, he sat and signed books, chatting with each person. I held back until all of the students had a chance to get their books or event fliers signed, then got in line. I had told Mike on Twitter that I would be there so he knew who I was when it was my turn and I got a big bear hug. A few other adults had also held back and he chatted with us and showed us some pics of real ash fall on his laptop.
My cell phone battery died before I could get any pix at the signing; one of the librarians at the library where the event was held offered to send me pics; when she does I'll add them in. She also arranged the signing after she was contacted by a patron, Cindy, who had read Mike's book, "Ashfall" and saw that he was coming to Massachusetts. So, BIG THANKS to Ellen and Cindy for setting things up. :)
It was an enjoyable evening, well worth the drive. If Mike comes your way, even if you haven't read his book, go. You won't regret going to see him.