My book has arrived. When I say my book, I do actually mean, my book - the one I wrote. I am talking about Splidge, the Cragflinger - a children’s fantasy story that I have been working no this year. It is set in the land of Gud where it always rains. Sounds terribly dull doesn’t it? It’s not!
I have had a few copies run off to give to a couple of friends to proof read. I have already spotted errors in the text myself while flicking through - that is a good thing - it is probably riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and erroneous spaces. The point of these printed editions are to make them similar in feel and texture to the real thing so that it is easier for the readers to go through. And I have instructed them to take a red pen and mark in the books! Sacrilegious! I will be doing this myself.
The other point about having such an early edition printed is to examine the look and feel of the thing; how the typeface works, the size of the text and the number of pages produced - not to mention getting an idea of the cost to the customer.
It also legitimizes the book. All the time the text is on my computer or printed out on ordinary A4 copier paper it is just some nonsense that I have bashed out . There is no sense that the work is really a book, a story yes, but not a professionally produced thing you might buy in a shop; a something to be proud of real book. With the ability to self-publish and print-on-demand as few copies as you like, it makes it so simple to run off samples to see how it is looking. Now I can think better about the overall design, the layout of the chapters, the fly sheets and so on.
The cover is one of the most important things to give consideration to. The book is aimed at the 9-12 audience, although hopefully open to anyone who wishes to read my nonsense. I want to reflect the fun, the setting and the type of book it is (adventure/fantasy/humorous) by the cover - usually the only thing you have to catch people’s eye/attention online or in a store. To that end I have decided to try to illustrate it myself in pen and ink with a watercolour wash. Now, I am no artist and so this is probably a big risk, but like all things in life, I like a challenge and to push myself to see if I can do it. I certainly think at this stage, where I don't have the budget to pay for a professional, that it is worth giving it a go - I can always revise it if and when it sells and I have a few pennies to give it thorough make-over.
I have a lot to learn about art, but I have been experimenting. I have mocked up a cover - this is far from the real thing, but it gives me enough of a glimmer that I might be able to achieve it reasonably well. I also has the right feel and tone about it. I also have plans to include additional drawings, and more interestingly Guddian advertisements, in-between the chapters - even a recipe or two. This will increase the page count by a little and consequently the price, but I shall release an e-book version (where it won't) - but I would like this first foray into publishing (vanity or self) a special thing.
I am sure my writing and drawing skills have plenty of room for improvement, but you have to start somewhere, don’t you? Meanwhile, it is all a bit of fun!
I love making stuff up. Is it because the world around me isn’t enough, or too boring or does not fulfill my needs or ambitions? - I know not. I just enjoy taking myself off into a world of my own creation and having adventures. I think as a writer, you need another place to disappear to from time to time.
I have been fascinated with writing all my life, as I have with reading. I wholeheartedly agree with the maxim; to write, you first need to read. I love to read and my house is testimony to that. The joy of reading was learned from an early age and from it the desire to write my own stuff was born.
Telling a story and taking an audience by the hand and leading them on a journey of my own creation has been my pleasure over the years. As a child, the visual medium of television also caught my imagination and I started to write scripts for programmes that I wanted to see. I even wrote an episode of Dr. Who, although sadly, I no longer have the document. It was never published or sent to the TV people. It was enough for me to have written the piece.
In my early twenties I had my first article published. It was not a remarkable piece of work, but I was proud to be able to call myself a professional author - I had been paid fifty pounds and it boosted my much needed self esteem.
But I have always been a practical chap. It wasn’t enough to put pen to paper and leave it at that. I wanted to do something more adventurous with the nonsense I was producing, which is why plays and films in particular appealed to me. I had the luck to be a member of a few youth theatre groups in my teenage years, and this presented me with the opportunity to put on my work. It is exhilarating to have actors saying your words, reacting to your thoughts and becoming the characters you have invented and pulled out the air.
I am close now to completing my latest work, a young persons fantasy adventure. At 126,000 words and roughly 333 pages when in a printed book form, it has been a fun as well as hard labour and I hope enjoyable for others to read. I am sure I have a lot to learn about the format and it is by far a work of brilliance - how could it be? I am only at the beginning of my journey and I am too humble to think I am any good at the writing game.
I have tried not to ‘dumb down’ the writing or deliberately make it the language childlike. I have a story to tell and there is much detail to describe. It is not enough for me to keep the characters one dimensional. I want to find out what excites them, makes them laugh, worries them and brings them to tears. I need them to be believable - they have to live.
Also, I have tried not to copy another author’s style or fit it too much to a niche. I know that may be the way of the commercial world, but I honestly believe a story has its own way of telling - you can squeeze it into a box, but sometimes it will escape and go its own way, refusing to be tamed.
I also need to work on different projects at once, from writing a book to shooting a documentary, to travelling the country, to earning a living and bringing up children. I do not think you can legitimately call yourself an author if you sit all day at a computer and tap out words; to be inspired, to widen your experiences, to learn new skills, to weave magic into your stories, I believe you need to live away from the page. The internet is a helpful tool, but it is no substitute for meeting real people, going to real places and learning new things.
But what do I know? I have only been toying with pen and paper since I was ten. I need more time to perfect my skills - ask me when I am ninety. I may have improved by then, with any luck!
Did I say being 50? What? You mean, half a century? Is that old?
I don't feel old. I don't feel any different from when I was in my teens. I do feel more mature, sensible, responsible. I also feel I can be stupid, sensibly and responsibly - I don't think I do that before. I may not be able to run a marathon, but then I didn't ever try or want to before, so that hasn't changed.
I have lost an eye, but that could have happened at any age.
So why, do I feel that I have to question who I am, and what I have achieved now that I have reached this midlife point?
I shall tell you why. It is every time I see some one of my age being interviewed on TV about their life and the things they have done. They are generally successful, or have been successful and made a bit of money and do not have to worry about where the next penny is coming from. Then, rather stupidly (I know it is my own fault) I hold a mirror up and ask, 'And what have I done then?'
I have done a lot of things; I have trained in mime, laid professionally on a bed of nails, eaten fire, walked on stilts, written and directed - and starred in - a children's television programme on one of the three main terrestrial channels, I have performed a stand up gig, travelled around the UK, paddled a coracle on the River Severn, made documentaries about British heritage and had them broadcast on TV. I have bought loads of books on British history and read at least 65% of them. I have written a book, scripts, podcast a 30 minute radio type show nearly every day for 9 years - over 3000 recordings, had an article published...
I had a good marriage for 14 years and best of all, I have three amazing children who I love very dearly and would do anything to keep happy.
But, I don't any cash, have no fixed profession, can't seem to achieve my goals, am jinx by the industry whose medium I love and lack a hell of a lot of confidence.
That said (the negatives), I am very tenacious, stubborn and assiduous - I wont stop trying and will continue to plod along.
For me - being 50 is merely a time check. I am here now, but I have places to go. I am not going to stop trying new things and make myself better at what I can do. I would love to have done a lot more comedy, more TV shows, written plenty more books and read the classics as well as contemporary fiction.
Some people thrive at it, others loath it and I am definitely the former! Give me a camera, a microphone, a typewriter and I will get on and make something. Please don't stick me in a room with a bunch of media types and ask me to engage with them. It scares me witless. Yes I hate it.
Yesterday I was in London. I had to nip to Moorfields to have my eye polished. I have an ocular prosthesis in my left eye after a bug ate the cornea and replacements couldn't be attached - so once a year I pop up to famous eye hospital at Old Street in London and they really do polish it. So, with a twinkle in my eye, I went off to a series of engagements I had set up that day to take advantage of being up in the smoke.
The first of these was lunch with the chaps from the Community Channel (they broadcast my TV show The Bald Explorer) and we had a chat about the future, the new things they were bringing to the screen and areas where there might be some funding for my programme. Next up, I dashed across town, to meet up with a lady from the BBC who had been part of the Presentable course I had been on last year at the BBC. The presenters week hadn't been a great success, at least as far as my expectations were concerned, and this lady was keen to hear my issues and, because she had faith in me, wanted to see how she and the BBC might help get me either some production work and/or into some presenting. It is not and easy task it would appear.
Apart from the fire alarm, where the building we were in was evacuated, we had a productive chat - I say that, but I am not sure I am anymore forward in my oddball chosen career.
So on to the next event then - an invite to a launch with the Media Trust, the National Lottery and the Community Channel which was taking place at Channel 4 in Horseferry Road, near Victoria. Handy for me to grab the train home afterwards.
I walked there this time - it was a fabulous evening, even for October and Big Ben, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square was beautifully lit up. It was rush hour and consequently took and an hour and a half to get to the TV station offices.
Once signed in and passes received, I helped myself to a glass of red wine and inspected the various little exhibition stands that were set up. All very interesting and fun. Speeches and entertainment followed, which was great and then... horror for me, it was a chance to mingle and 'network' with one another. Now I am not good at this stuff. I get a panic attack. A room full of a hundred or more executives, all high up and knowledgeable, walking the walk, talking the talk - and me, not knowing anyone and feeling a prune and out of place, like a fish out of water. Too scary!
I slipped out and escaped to the southbound train and whizzed home. Not my thing at all. :)
Billy was on great form yesterday - good to see him laughing and joking with us. We spent about two and a half hours with him at the private room at the hospital. We found an old episode of Super Dave - the cartoon series to watch on the Chromebook. So we had fun with that.
I am slowly working on my fantasy book, Splidge, the Cragflinger - 106K words to edit and improve, but getting there bit by bit.
Not sure what to do about the Bald Explorer - lack of funds to make it properly. I might try a different tack or even some comedy - although the comedy style I like doesn't seem to be what others enjoy, so that is confusing.
Hey ho - I have work this month, so luckily I can pay the mortgage for another 30 days!
I even had a booking giving a talk about my crazy life trying to break into TV - and for money too!
We have heard that Billy shall be staying with the Haywards Heath crowd for another 14 days. His condition is slowly improving, we believe, but I am not sure how much the doctors are telling us of their suspicions of the true situation. The deal we were given was that once Billy is stable and free from pain he would be able to come home, then after two months, he'd be off to Sheffield to receive treatment from something called the Gamma Knife. Now all that is in question. He may have to stay a further two weeks in the Princess Royal, then come home for a a few days, then return for another procedure (the name escapes me) where the doctors insert a tube with coloured dye inside his main artery from the groin up to his brain. Billy has already had this procedure once - it helps to determine the extent of the bleeding and subsequent damage, and/or any further operations of medical interventions required. If the results from this are good, he may not require the gamma knife after-all.
One thing this tells you is to take each day as it comes. The story will unfold in its own way and at its own pace and regardless of what you think will happen, things will change. Naturally, it is quite frustrating as the family cannot plan, work, relations or other necessary life stuff too far in advance.
Here is the update on Billy Lindsey. We have all seen the consultant and everything has been explained. So here is the thing…
Billy is stable and recovering from the initial crisis of the bleeding in the brain. The trouble he has at this precise moment is for his body to get rid of the blood that is mixed with the natural brain fluid in his skull. It can take a long time – another week or more for that to happen, in which period he will suffer headaches and bouts of drowsiness.
With luck, there will no more bleeding and he will be moved to a ward where he will be off the critical list. Assuming that goes well he will be allowed to come home. He will not be allowed to smoke, as that is the worst thing he can do. Nicotine is a menace for the brain.
In two months, thereabouts, after this, he will need to go to either London or Sheffield for a special procedure, which is a process using something rather nasty called a Gamma Knife – its a type of radio surgery where a small blood vessel will be cut out of his brain. It is very precise and avoid intrusive normal surgery.
The up shot is, that with luck, youth and healthy living, Billy should be ok – there are plenty of room for errors and the process could go into danger at anytime, but every day that passes with out incident is a day closer to recovery.
Thanks for your well wishes and thoughts, we do appreciate them. I am sure Billy will enjoy reading the comments when he eventually gets out.
For now, I just hope the pain is not too much or too long, so meanwhile we are remaining close to him.
We gave Billy Lindsey his phone earlier today and an hour or so a go I texted him to say how much we all loved him. Billy texted back that he loved us and was ok – but really wanted the pain to stop. I want it to stop for him too.
When I had my eye problem, which I eventually had to have it removed, I was in pain many times over the four years. The last nine weeks of constant headaches was dreadful and I remember how I felt I wanted to die rather than let it go on.
My friend Nigel Cooper said to me, among others, it will pass. I couldn’t see how it would and all I wanted was for it to do that there and then. I can imagine that Billy is in the same situation and just wants it to stop.
I know it will. But I want it to stop much more quickly than mine problems took – and yes, if I could, I would swap with Billy without hesitation. I cannot stop thinking or worrying about him until it is over.
What do you do when your son is lying on a bed in an intensive care unit being monitored in case he needs to be whisked away to surgery because too much blood is leaking into his brain?
My son, Billy, aged 18, suddenly complained of a headache Wednesday night (it’s Friday as I write this) and it was not the normal sort of headache he had ever experienced. Within minutes he was vomiting and then becoming drowsy. I had already called the NHS Direct number as I wasn’t at first sure this was an accident and emergency, but I soon realised it was and told the woman on the phone I had to go and call an ambulance. She told me that she already had.
Billy became semi-conscious very quickly and was taken to my local hospital in Worthing. Like all anxious and confused parents, scared that the worse was about to happen, I didn’t feel his case was being looked as serious enough. The nurses appeared to go through the motions and were not terribly concerned, however, when a CT scan was decided upon and the results revealed he had bleeding in the brain, a second ambulance was dispatched.
Billy was taken to Haywards Heath to Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre and immediately placed in intensive care. My ex-wife Dawn stayed in the ambulance and my daughter Georgie and I followed in my car. It was about 3.30am by now.
More scans and tests were carried out and we, the family, were told the bad news and given a range of not good to absolutely bloody awful possibilities that was destined for our lovely, otherwise healthy and vibrant son. It was a bombshell and hit us right between the eyes. Basically, he could die.
A lot of mumbo jumbo medical speak was given to us, descriptions, explanations and possible outcomes - the advantage of this, the disadvantage of that; it was more that scary, it was horrific.
In essence, the situation is that a small part of Billy’s brain has leaked; blood from the main artery is filling his cranium. Ordinarily this can be corrected with a small valve or coil to reduce the pressure of the blood, however, this is not possible in his case because the other side of the bleeding, are a series of abnormal capillaries that service the brain’s blood supply.
Once Billy’s natural body functions has dispersed the leaking blood, which is a waiting game with an individually appointed nurse dedicated to monitor him, then a decision as to how to approach the leak and clot can be taken. Although the hospital in Haywards Heath is pretty good, it may be essential for Billy to be moved to another specialist unit in Sheffield - a total of some 5 hours journey from home.
Naturally, Billy has to go where the medical specialists and equipment are, that is not in question at all. The distance does nothing to calm the nerves, easy the anxiety and worry that the family is experiencing.
Yesterday, a procedure, the name of which has been lost in the general maze of confusion and fear, was performed on Billy. A tube containing a special dye was inserted in his main artery and sent up to his brain. It was inserted right down in his groin. The dye is picked out from blood by the CT scanner and therefore the amount of damage, flow of leakage and so forth can be gleaned by the surgeons.
This may be a regular procedure carried out by the team, but naturally, it is a frightening prospected for a loved one.
The range of emotions over the past 48 hours have been immense. The overriding thought, regardless of how much one is reminded of the professionalism, experience and dedication the surgeons have, is of losing my son. You never think it will happen to you. It has and it is very hard to handle.
I love my boy so very much. He is so very young to have to go through this. It is impossible to imagine how it can get any better. The waiting game is the hardest of all and trying to deal with the minute hand as it slowly makes its tedious way around the clockface is damn near impossible.
We wait for more information and a glimmer of hope.
So far, we have had good access to Billy and he drifts in and out of consciousness. He seems to know where he is, although the full extent of his injury and serious nature of it all is beyond his comprehension. It’s probably better that way.