One year ago I was just going to bed and I stumbled down the stairs to say goodnight to my youngest son, Billy, who was the only person in the house at the time. It was about 10pm. The poor lad was suffering from a severe headache and trying to put his head in the freezer. I was a little worried but not drastically so. Billy had headaches before, although not as bad as this one. But then, when he started to sweat minutes later, like a waterfall, and then become violently sick, I knew something was wrong. Before I had a chance to call an ambulance, he sat down, rolled his eyes backwards and began to lose consciousness. I panicked.
At A&E the doctors and nurses were a little slow to pick up the problem, but eventually Billy was taken to have a scan on his head. This revealed a bleed in his brain. He was rushed then to Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre and went into intensive care for several days while surgeons tried to stop the bleeding and prevent my son from dying. It was extremely frightening.
It took six months before all remnants of the bleed had gone. However, further scans revealed that there was a 'knot' of veins in Billy's head, something he was born with, that was taking the blood out of his head too quickly and the pressure on this 'knot' was too great which is why he had a bleed. The bad news was it could happen again. The advice of the surgeon, Mr. Bucca was to have it removed.
Six months on (and nearly one year to the day of the first bleed) the operation took place. Not many people can say they have had their head examined and fewer can reveal they've had brain surgery. For our family, its become a pretty normal thought. For Billy, it is a story to tell his children and grandchildren.
Billy went into Hurstwood Park, part of the the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath, on the National Health Service, last week and on Friday 18th July the surgeons cut him open and probed his head to remove the 'knot'. Today (Thursday 24th July 2014) he is coming home - one week later. Incredible. But the size of the scar is what has knocked me sideways. While it will heal and most of it will be hidden by his hair, it is a staggering sight. No wonder Billy had severe heads after the operation and his face swelled up like a dinner plate.
I am so proud of my son for going through with this and being so incredibly brave. He may not have had much a choice, but he had been brilliantly relaxed about the operation and will be getting a massive hug from me when he is home.
The staff and doctors who work in the NHS are wonderful and truly dedicated people and I cannot thank them enough for their help and support, not to mention skill, to save my Billy.
Buying your own books may not be the best way to make money, but the first bulk order of pristine books written by my own fair hand is exciting. And the reason for this egotistic spending spree? The answer is simple. I am to give them away to interested readers. Two strategies are at play here.
First, because it is a children's book, I am chucking a few at my target audience (age range 9-12) that I think the book (actually the series) is aimed at. It is essential for me to see the reaction. Not only do I want to know if the young readers liked the story, but whether they liked the printed layout, the font, the drawings, the cover and over all impression of the book. I am desperate to learn which characters they liked the best, which they hated. Did they guess the ending and what was the language like to read. So many things tell me and no doubt, so many differences of opinion!
Second, I also value the opinions of parents and other interested grown ups. Not only the story and any holes in the plot or boring points or the limitations of my skill as a story teller, but also if there are spelling errors and grammatical mistakes or typos that have escaped the various processes to get the book to this stage.
Hopefully, when all the feedback is in, and I have evaluated any changes I wish to make, the book can be said to be finished and ready to publish - sometime in September I think, ready for the Autumn.
This is exciting! I have a copy of the Splidge the Cragflinger, book 1, The Royal Tournament, back from Lulu.com. Having spent the past six months editing the text (in between writing book two) it is great to have a completed version of the work. However, I currently reading it from cover to cover and going through the story, tweaking it here and there as plot points strike me and changing elements of the edit which no longer seems right or relevant. So, there is still plenty of red pen on the pages. I suppose it is all part of the process. I am very proud of the work and thankful to my friend, Karen, who assisted in the editing, pointing out many of the examples of tautology and double words which I had the habit of accidentally pointing in. It has been a steep learning curve and now going it alone on the final stages.
Once the red penning of the master proof copy is complete, the next step is to get printed a short number of copies to hand out to young readers and see what they make of it. By getting their feedback, I hope to improve the story and text. Once that is complete, I will self-publish it. The adventure will available in ebook form as well as a printed version (print on demand).
The second book, The Purple Death, is written and I am editing the first draft at the moment. Like the first book, it is roughly 110,000 words and 330 pages. It takes Splidge and his friends on a wild journey across the unknown areas of Gud in search of monsters.
A Third book is slowly evolving, The Isle of Gid; a story that has the young Cragflinger and his friends away from the City and among the dubious Giddy Isles with pirates and buccaneers to contend with.
I have more adventures planned for Splidge, as well as many completely new book series and characters. I just need more time to write it all.
Anyway, the more I do, the better the work improves. At least I hope so. Thanks for your continual interest.
It has been a while since posting here and that is because I have been busy writing my books. I have now finished the first draft of book 2 of the Splidge the Cragflinger series. It is very rough and I have had Lulu.com print off a copy, so I can read it away from the computer and digest the story. I will need to rewrite it and then edit it, but that is ok. I wanted to get a book copy of it, to initially stick in a drawer for a while and forget about it, and then later come back to it afresh for the rewrites.
The printed copy arrived today (while I was busy writing book 3, as it happens) and I took a quick read and I can honestly say it is dreadful! Of course, that is because it is literally the first draft, in other words, as written, with all errors and storylines that don't work - a sort of stream of consciousness. That's fine. It is better than it being stuck in a text file on my PC or anonymous document on my Google Docs account. At least if I die, there is a record of the work. :)
The first book, The Royal Tournament, is very close to publication (yeah, I know, it's only self publication or vanity publication by another name) and it will be available for those parties that are interested to have a gander at the rubbish I have been occupying myself with all this time. I will try and keep you posted. (Actually, I am not even sure there are readers to this blog, so I may only be keeping myself posted!)
I have to say that I am thrilled that Worthing pier has been refurbished. I have watched over the past few months how workmen have been stripping out the old tat from the southern pavilion that used to be a nightclub, and started to open up and repaint and re-floor splendid art-deco edifice. It opened to the public this bank holiday weekend on Good Friday, and although not fully finished, I have to say how impressed and delighted I have been by the work so far. The spacious pier head now houses a fabulous tea room and bar. The general plan, the organisers told me (they rent the pier from the council) is to have the end of the pier as an events venue as well as refreshments for the general public. I am looking forward to the art exhibitions, music recitals and other creative shows. It should be fun.
For me, with the summer coming, I am seeking some where to get out of the house and write and find inspiration. Although, when asked, they do not as yet have wifi connectivity, it would be a perfect location to sit with a coffee and the Chromebook (tethered to my Samsung S3 phone maybe) and write my novels. I have three Splidge stories to bash out and rather than sit inside when the sun is shining, I would fancy being out and about.
So, I wish the Worthing Pier a great success and I hope to be found sitting here being creative frequently over the coming months and years.
The editing of my first book is still going on. In one way, it is annoyingly slow. There is part of me that desires to have the book completed now and out there potentially earning money or at least getting interest. The need to find out if the intended audience like it is high too. However, in another way, it is good that it is delayed. It is being worked on with a fine tooth comb. Not only are the grammatical errors being ironed out (hopefully), but also a few errors in the plot have been spotted and improved; a couple of new sequences added to help explain everything as well as unnecessary parts removed. In an ideal world, I only want to upload it and release the work once. I am sure there will be corrections and later editions of the book, but as far as possible I do not want to release an inferior version.
One of the reasons it is taking a long time is that I am at the mercy of my friend, Karen, whose availability to work on it is limited. I respect that and we can only do the job when time permits. In future, when there might be funds, I can either pay her or someone else to help with the proof reading and editorial work.
The process of writing a book is not an easy one, although judging by some of the work that ends up on Amazon, many might think it is. After all any old fool can bashed out 50 to 100 thousand words and upload them. The real test is getting people who are not from one's extended family to read the thing or better buy it.
Either way, having been a writer of plays, TV scripts and radio plays for over thirty years, I am thoroughly enjoying the novel writing process and have a series of cracking ideas for future books. Let's hope this works.
The older I get the less confidence I have. That's the truth and yet it is the wrong way round, surely? I mean, as you get older and gain more of life's experiences you would think that your confidence improves. For me, it is the opposite. I remember when I was young and naive I exuded confidence. The very fact that I lacked knowledge prevented me from having any self doubt. I didn't worry about failure. I had a go.
I still have a go and I still do not fear failure. I have failed at most things in my life and that is ok. To fail is to learn and to learn is all powerful. But ... and here is the rub, as the Bard once said, the more I know, the more I realise there is still to know.
When I look at my work, I think, what a load of rubbish it is. Any fool can do better than me. Of course, this isn't so, because when I watch some people's video productions, for example, I think, blimey, what a load of rubbish, at least I can do better than that. Yet, that doesn't help. It still only ranks what I do as mediocre and there are plenty that are doing less that mediocre work, but to be better than than mediocre is hard, at least, for me it does appear to be.
So, although I have my dreams and ambitions and although they seem to be unachievable, I am more than happy to keep trying. I have tenacity. I may lack skill, talent or confidence (or even luck when it comes to that), at least I am prepared to keep going. The dreams do not become achievable if I give up.
The desire to write prodigiously, every day and to get produce a body of work on the scale of, say Anthony Trollop, is laudable, but the ability to do so is challenged by real life and the daily problems of earning a living. Not least, I feel I am still learning to write and that everything I do is poor and immature, regardless that it is intended to be aimed at children. Young people are the hardest audience to write for. If bored, they will abandon it and move on. It is only as you get older that you might persevere with inferior work for a tad longer. But if it is utter rubbish, then no one will read it.
However, the artwork for the book, Splidge The Cragflinger, is coming along. My drawing skills have incrementally improved, which is great and for a personal victory, although there is still a very long way to go before I could even begin to call myself an illustrator. I think I can 'get away with having them presented within my own book, calling them simply, 'the authors sketches'. I believe that way adds something to the work. Anyway, at present I am preparing the master images for the 18 chapter headings. I am drawing them double the size they will eventually be. They shall be then be digitised and tweaked in Photoshop before being dropped onto the page. I need to create a new cover photo, along the lines that I have already outlined, but with more a detailed background. I would like more of the story features depicted somewhere on the cover so that when the reader reaches a point in the story that stumbles across them, he or she can tick it off, as it were, as their significance becomes apparent.
I have, stored up in my brain, many stories to tell and book ideas to write and I desperately want to get cracking on them all, but I need before all else, to know that it works and that people want to read the rubbish I write. And that my work is acceptable. I doubt I will ever be a master at any of this, I do not have the confidence. I am not like someone I know, who used to be a friend, when asked about his first 'novel' said candidly, he thought it a masterpiece. I am, however, very proud of my first children's book, although, I am not egotistical to claim it is anything more than average. I hope it captures the imagination and sells in significant numbers to allow me to write more and get better at it.
It certainly has been a while since I posted on this, my original blog. I have been busy updating my various Facebook pages and websites and have reluctantly neglected this. I feel shameful about it. I also am having second thoughts about the usefulness of and privacy around Facebook. If anything, I think I will from now on only post links to posts made here! Every now and then I delete all my old posts on Facebook - although, I have been told they openly confess that although I have deleted them, they still retain them and have copyright to everything posted on their. I cannot agree to that.
I have been drawing (not as much as I would like) and I think very slowly I am getting better. More thought and detail are going into the sketches. I am not sure I have cracked the characters for my book Splidge, the Cragflinger as yet, but I am definitely on my way.
I have been working on Doreen, the evil Baron's lovely daughter. As soon as I finished this picture, I was advised that nice girls do not sit like this. I suppose they don't - being a guy - I hadn't thought about that until someone pointed it out. Oh well. I like the outfit. It is supposed to be leather, but I wanted to make it just a little bit sexy so I have exposed her midriff. It is all work in progress. What do I know about sexy? :)
The work is continuing on the edit of the first book. It has been a year now since I started the project. It is a massive learning curve. The main text is finished, what is taking the extra time is editing with my friend Karen. She is not always available and we only get a few hours at either a weekend or week day evenings. I am enjoying it very much, because I am learning so much. I have many other ideas for writing projects.
I will be very proud when Splidge is finally completed.
It is a slow process, the editing of a book. I am working with an old friend who used to type up manuscripts for a publisher. She is brilliant and her attention to detail exceptional. Every line I have written for the first book has been questioned. It is so good for me. I am learning a lot.
Part of the journey to write my children's fantasy adventure is to illustrate it myself. We are all good at something and terrible at other things. I had always believed that I was hopeless at drawing. I readily confess, I am not great, but the recent scribblings have surprised me and I am beginning to believe that I might even get away with adorning my story with my humble sketches.
I have found a style that I like and an approach that I enjoy. For me, watercolour with a pen outline is perfect for my book, Splidge, the Cragflinger and his adventures. I do not want to be too prescriptive on how he looks and the cartoon approach seems to fit. It is very reminiscent of Quentin Blake, but I do not think that is a bad thing. I hadn't set out copy him, it just happened that he using the same materials and our styles are coincidentally similar, and there are plenty of others that are also the same - so who is following who?
I am still at the learning and practice phase as far as my art is concerned. I don't suppose you ever become fully satisfied with your own work, but I am slowly getting better and to the point where I would feel comfortable with my pictures appearing in the final printed book, as well as versions of them for e-books too.
I have always doodled, like many people do, but not really spent much time trying to perfect the imagery. Now I am and I am encouraged by the nice comments and feedback I have been getting when posting the silly cartoons on Facebook and Twitter. All good fun.
The aim is to have the book ready by the end of January 2014. A second one is to follow and I am writing that in between the art practice.