Summer Holidays

With the summer holidays in full swing, I’m most definitely a full time dad at the moment, ahead of everything else, writing included. It seems to be the case of having to find pockets of wellness in my eldest daughter for us to have a day out anywhere, and luckily enough over the last week or two we’ve managed a couple of days out.

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Ski-bobs at the wonderful Snowtrax just outside of Bournemouth kept them quiet for ages, despite the threatening weather, and with us stupidly having not bought any waterproofs with us. (Dad’s fault.) SAMSUNG CSCWatching them have so much fun was a delight, and not something with my eldest daughter’s illness that happens too often.

Reverting to type, and visiting our favourite place…..Swanage. A break in the weather, and again, all of us feeling okay, led to an early morning start, seeing us arrive before almost everybody else, and be one of the first on the beach itself. Many hours of fun, (after I’d blown up the dinghy) ensued, on a lovely spot on the main beach. A customary visit to the railway, the town and of course the putting greens made for a very long, and very enjoyable day out.

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The writing side of things hasn’t totally been forgotten, and if you’ve checked out my website www.bentwhistlethedragon.com you’ll find there are a few changes, as well as a hidden glimpse of what’s to come. Book 3…..nearly there. Also you’ll be pleased to hear the short story (I say short…..35,000 words) about the young dragons in their youth is finished and being edited, with a view to being given away as part of an email subscription to a monthly newsletter. Hopefully available soon.

Happy Holidays!

 

Charity Walk

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Over the summer I’ve had the privilege of playing mixed hockey every couple of weeks with the lovely ladies’ 4th & 5th teams, and the wonderful men’s 5th team from Salisbury hockey club. It has, as always, been a pleasure and despite breaking a bone in the top of my finger some weeks ago, I’ve had a great time playing alongside and against some wonderful people.

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This Saturday there’s been no hockey, but I’ve had an equally wonderful time with the same fantastic people, raising money for a great cause: the Stars Appeal Breast Cancer Unit Campaign. A sponsored ten kilometre walk through the fantastic British countryside this morning was more of a joy than a slog, raising over £1000 thanks to the brilliant efforts of all involved. I’d like to thank everyone because I had a great time (apart from the shock of seeing Andy in a skirt yet again….YES YOU MANDERS!) and felt honoured to be invited to take part. So THANK YOU everyone and please enjoy a selection of pictures from our morning out.
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Close But No Cigar

“Frustrated am I,” as Yoda would say. It’s been ready for nearly two months now. What am I talking about? My third book, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’. All it needs is the book cover to go with at and then WHAM! It’ll be out there for all to see. I’d like to tell you it will be soon, and it should be, as that’s what the graphic designer who’s working on it has told me (Sunday, to be precise).

Now you know what the deal is. As soon as I have news, I’ll post it here, hopefully with the cover reveal so you can see just what it is you’re getting. I’d like to tell you I’m excited. I was, and now I’m not, but I’m pretty sure I will be as soon as the cover’s ready to reveal.

So in the meantime I’m just plugging away. I’ve taken a break from working on the fourth book (that’s about twenty thousand words to the good so far) and am currently working on a much shorter story, still to do with the three dragon friends, but part of a very different time in their lives. It should, if all goes well, show just how one of them came to have such an extraordinary name. I think that probably gives it away as to which one of them I’m talking about. Hopefully it will be ready in a few weeks, and available free when you sign up to the monthly newsletter I’m hoping to produce.

As for life itself, it just seems like one long rollercoaster ride, that never stops or even lets me off for a break: working hard with the writing, while looking after both kids. Currently there’s no significant improvement in my eldest daughter’s condition, despite a change in medication. Fingers crossed that it does have some kind of effect.

In the meantime we try to enjoy the sun as a family when we can. I’m lucky enough to get to play mixed hockey with some fabulous people every couple of weeks, something that I really look forward to, despite the fact that I feel about a hundred every time I take to the pitch. That combined with playing squash every week with an old friend, and badminton with the kids, kind of keeps me out of trouble, and gets me running around.

Over the last couple of weeks my kids have been learning all about the Magna Carta at school. Given where we live, and the anniversary on Monday, it all seems really relevant. We wandered into Salisbury city centre on Monday for the celebratory pageant and had a great time. I’ll leave you with a few of the pictures that I took.

Until next time, and hopefully a new book, ready and raring to go.

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So Close

So close I can taste it. But it’s been that way for many weeks now. I just want it done. What am I talking about? My writing endeavours of course: the third book in my series, ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’. The editing is tantalisingly close to being finished. After that, we’re just waiting for the cover to be completed which is being worked on as I write.

It has been a labour of love for what I suppose is about 18 months now, an 18 month period which has probably been the worst of my life, given what has happened to my eldest daughter during that time. The earliest memories of writing parts of this book spring from dark corners of my mind, unable to sleep at ridiculous hours of the night (or morning more likely), in cramped hospital beds with barely enough light to see, let alone write. But write I did. Not only blog posts, but the continuing adventures of the dragons that haunt my dreams, sleeping and waking alike. The much later stages have developed in scattered free moments, of which there are many, most of which I try to use for writing or something related to it. Early mornings and late evenings both provide refuge and more importantly quiet, which I find helps me refine my thoughts and get them onto the computer more efficiently and effectively. Still, there are odd times when the kids are by my side (quite literally), doing homework, reading, drawing, etc, where I still manage to get some work done. At some stages I’ve used every valuable moment available to me, almost right down to the very second. As per usual though, life invariably gets in the way, creating its normal level of havoc and chaos.

Still, it’s almost done. But like a kid on Chrismas Eve, I really can’t wait any longer. I’m desperate to know what others think, and let them see just where the continuing adventures of the dragons take them. Will there be shocks and surprises? Of course. Will you be able to predict the course of events? Not a hope. Will danger and peril lurk around every corner? Almost certainly. Will you enjoy the ride? I most certainly hope so.

My Favourite Author

I was saddened to hear about the death last week of my favourite author, Terry Pratchett. His books have long since made up a huge part of my life, not just in reading them, but in inspiring me to write my own. terryHe was a massive talent that will be hugely missed by so many, myself included.
WARNING! BOOK AND PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD!
It all started when my wife bought me The Colour Of Magic for Christmas one year. While not, in my humble opinion, the best book he wrote, it was enough to give me a little taste of what was to come.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to the fabulous Sam Vimes that I became truly hooked on the Disc World novels. Just writing his name is enough for me to be whisked off into the myriad of his adventures with all the other guards. Carrot, Angua, Nobby Nobbs, Colon, Detritus, Cheery, Lady Sybil and Lord Vetinari are all such brilliant characters who play off  one another to perfection. Carrot and Angua’s relationship….. a werewolf and a human that’s a dwarf. Fantastic. Nobby and Colon, the two best friends that will do anything to stay out of trouble and do as little as possible, which despite their best efforts, never seem to come off. Cheery the dwarf…….a forensic specialist, a young lady hidden beneath her beard. Detritus, the hard as nails troll, who gets cleverer the colder it becomes. And of course the tyrant Lord Vetinari who orchestrates things down to the finest detail, without whose precision plans, the city that they all inhabit would cease to function. FANTASTIC! Every single book about Sam Vimes and the guards has captivated me. I think apart from the very first, each and every book after, I’ve bought on the day it’s come out, a th2L0PQJ5Rrarity for me, apart from the odd Star Wars Expanded Universe book. Feet Of Clay, Jingo, Guards! Guards!, The Fifth Elephant, Men At Arms, Night Watch, Thud and Snuff all run through my mind at just the mention of their titles. Adventures intricately written, and fabulously told, so bold and clear I can see the characters in stunning detail, playing out like a movie in my head. It’s not only the plots and the characters though. One of these books……….The Fifth Elephant, is my favourite book of all time. It’s hard for me to describe just how good it is. The very start is hilarious, and looks to me like the king of words, Terry Pratchett, would have, around the time of writing this, either been caught speeding by the police or had his car clamped, given the clever way this topic has been woven into the start of the book. Truly wonderful! Although clever and amusing (just like the whole book), it’s not the best part in my opinion, or indeed the funniest. One part above all others made, and still makes me laugh every time I read it. It’s making me smile, just thinking about it. Carrot enlists the help of the talking dog, Gaspode, to help track Angua. After freeing a wolf from the clutches of some villagers, Carrot asks Gaspode what the name of the wolf they’ve freed is. Reluctantly, Gaspode tells him. I won’t tell you what the wolf’s name is, but that whole section is so funny. Made me cry with laughter when I first read it.
Much as I’ve harped on about Sam Vimes and the guards, there is still much more to Disc World than all of that. The Thief Of Time is a rollercoaster ride of merriment and mayhem that I’ve enjoyed reading over and over again. The same could be said for Making Money, Going Postal and Raising Steam. To come up with an amazing character such as Moist von Lipwig just shows what a talent Terry Pratchett really was. I love everything about him, and I’m sure like me, everyone that reads these books ends up rooting for him to succeed against the odds.
While these are my favourites, I have got nearly all of Terry Pratchett’s books tucked away on my array of bookshelves. deathI’ve taken great pleasure from reading Unseen Academicals, Wintersmith, Nation, Sourcery, Equal Rites, The Light Fantastic, Carpe Jugulum, Pyramids, Mort, The Hogfather, Witches Abroad and undoubtedly I’ve left out a few, there are just so many. I have extremely fond memories of reading, and rereading, all of these books. They have given me so much pleasure. So I would just like to say a great big THANK YOU to Terry Pratchett. Your words, stories and wonder will remain with me for as long as I live. I for one will miss you a great deal. And if for some reason you haven’t read any of Terry Pratchett’s work. Then you really should. He was a genius in every sense of the word. Wander down to your local bookstore and treat yourself now!

Rare Disease Day

Things seem to be, ever so slowly, spiralling out of control. Ever since the start of December, my elder daughter (the one diagnosed with IIH) has gradually been getting worse. Two visits to the neurologists since Christmas have seen her medication upped to the maximum dose, which seems to be having little or no effect at all. IMG_0411Days off school seem to be the latest kick in the teeth, and given that she only attends 4 half days a week anyway, missing what little she does normally manage feels like the final insult. Not a day goes by that I don’t see her suffer in some way, shape or form. Last week, her school was having a TD day on the Monday after half term, and so with her sister back to school, I suggested we could go out for the day. She told me she’d like to go for a walk along one of our favourite beaches. FANTASTIC! A day out for me instead of being stuck inside, chained to the computer. But it never materialised. Waking up early on Monday morning, it was clear that her head was bad and that she would be unable to go out. Had it been a school day, she wouldn’t have been able to attend. It breaks my heart, it really does. The same thing happened this morning. With her mother having had a particularly busy week (normally she works bloody hard…this week seems off the scale), again we’d decided a walk on the beach was just what the doctor ordered. But once again she was unwell, and has remained so right throughout the day, pretty much. I know how much she’d like to go out, walk along the beach, chase after her sister, race against the waves, climb and jump all over the rocks, take in all the wonderful sea air. All of which makes things even harder. Reminded all week from social media that today is rare disease day, it’s hard not to spare a thought for others in a similar condition to my daughter. While this post is but a drop in the ocean, if it makes just one more person aware of IIH then I hope it’s been worth it.

Currently, with the medication dosage on maximum, we’re waiting on a cancellation at Southampton hospital for her to have an MRI of her head, a lumbar puncture, and then another MRI, all in the same day. IMG_0525This is to see if the veins in her head are in any way, shape or form, flattened. My understanding is that if they are, there are things they can do about it. But given exactly what she went through last time she had a lumbar puncture (over 10 weeks before she could walk properly, not to mention 2 blood patches) the fact that she’s down to have another, is more than a little worrying. So at the moment, it’s waiting and hoping for the cancellation to come round, and the start of what I’m sure will be a very, very trying day for all concerned.

Trains

Like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, I love trains. Have done since I was a kid. I used to travel between Salisbury and Southampton on a regular basis, from quite a young age, and became fascinated with everything to do with the railway. A little later, a group of friends at school were heavily into trains and trainspotting. IMG_0918For a time I really got into all of that, and would happily travel around the area searching for rare and unusual trains to spot. It didn’t last long, a couple of years at most, because then I found my true calling… HOCKEY! Having been introduced to hockey at club level, nothing else compared. So it was that my love of trains was consigned to a little cupboard right at the back of my mind, a little forgotten but always still there. Living close to the railway, IMG_0940I can sometimes tell when something special comes through the station. The occasional steam train, the odd speciality, is given away by their particular sound. It’s not often that I travel by train, because in general I only ever travel with my wife and kids, making the train a more expensive option than the car. But there really is nothing like travelling by train. I love it.
This week has been half term, so of course I get to look after my kids even more than in a regular week, which just thinking about it, doesn’t seem possible. With my wife having a rare day off on Tuesday, which was an absolutely gorgeous day (a little cold in the morning, but no coats, just jumpers in the afternoon), we wandered, nice and early (as is our way) down to the lovely town of Swanage in Dorset.
As well as the fantastic beach (which we had a lovely walk along with the tide as far out as I can ever remember seeing it, in the afternoon) the fabulous shops, the great parks, the one thing I love doing while I’m there, much like some of the characters in my books (they do exactly the same thing) is visit the renowned steam railway. IMG_0920What a great adventure. You wouldn’t think it was possible to get so much satisfaction from an hour on a train (up to Norden Park and Ride and back, past Corfe Castle). But I did. The steam locomotive, the carriages, leaning out of the window to take some pictures… all took me back to my youth. It was wonderful and I’m sure if allowed, or time and money were no object, I would be very happy to just go up and down the line, never coming off for weeks at a time. Perhaps instead of a retirement home in my future, a retirement carriage on that railway should be what I hold out for. Anyhow, if you’re anywhere near, I can thoroughly recommend Swanage as a day out or more. Even if the sun’s not shining, there’s still plenty to do. A lovely day was had by the Cude family, with the children singing their usual hymn when it was time to go. “DAD! Do we really have to go? Can’t we stay just a little longer?”
Until next time. TOOT TOOT!

Trying Time

Sorry…….it’s been a while. Life, for whatever reason, seems to constantly get in the way.
Christmas has been and gone. While we had, for the most part, a great Christmas day, it was marred by my elder daughter feeling very ill in the evening with her IIH (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension). We very nearly called the hospital, but in the end, didn’t.

A Rare Day Out At Hengistbury Watching The Sun Rise

A Rare Day Out At Hengistbury Watching The Sun Rise

The following day (Boxing Day) we were all as a family supposed to be going up to Burton to see my mother-in-law, but because of how unwell my eldest was, we decided it would be best for her to stay here with me, while my wife and my youngest journeyed north.
Looking back, it was a good call, as my eldest became very ill later on Boxing Day, which culminated in us having to go to the hospital, eventually staying over into the next day.

Things were not going well. To top off the taxi ride to the hospital, the uncomfortable fold down bed, the continual worry and the lack of sleep, I was at the time struggling with two broken ribs, picked up in a hockey match on 20th December. I should point out that I’m a stupid man, who is seriously too old to continue to chase the stupid ball around with his stick on the pitch, however much I enjoy doing so. My ribs have pretty much healed now, but I have yet to rejoin my team mates and take to the pitch. Soon!
We managed to struggle through the trip to the hospital but I’m not really sure how, and made it to the appointment with the neurologist two days later.

My darling daughter had the dosage of her medicine increased, with a view to seeing if that would make any difference. It hasn’t. Gradually, from sometime around September, she’s been getting worse. The state of her one overall headache, which she had had for a year and a half now, has gone up, with December being a particularly bad month. The headaches have started to wake her up in the night because the pain’s been so bad, and she’s been so rough she’s had to have days off school, on top of the fact that the best she can do at the moment is four half days anyway. Our next appointment with the neurologist is this coming Monday, and as far as I’m aware a change of medication is imminent. I find it difficult to know what to think. On one hand, a change is good because something HAS to be done. Day in, day out I watch her struggle, sometimes from the moment she gets up, sometimes much later on in the day. She does try to hide it, but as someone who spends the most time with her, I would say I’m pretty good as spotting when she does. It breaks my heart to see her constantly in so much pain, that and the fact that she gets down when she can’t go to school and see her friends. She deserves to be a normal child, doing normal things…spending time with her friends at and outside of school. But it’s difficult with everything that she’s going through. As parents we try our best to support her and let her do the things she wants. But it simply isn’t always possible, leading to frustration on both her, and our part.
The bad part in the change in medication is that as far as I’m aware, it’s just one step closer to her having to have a shunt fitted into her head.

Unexpected Arrival Of Snow In Early Febuary

Unexpected Arrival Of Snow In Early Febuary

Nobody wants that, not the neurologists, us her parents, or indeed her. The further down this road we go though, the closer the spectre of that treatment gets. I hope with all my heart it can be avoided. Some of the IIH forums that we belong to very often show other children with shunts, normally having issues, and I suppose because it’s a forum, then you’ll mainly see the bad things and it all scares the living daylights out of me. Many doctors have already told us that most children go on to live a normal and fulfilling life with a shunt fitted, but I find it very hard to believe that. Other doctors have told us a very different story. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t constantly play on my mind.
January came and went, with various bugs ravishing members of the Cude household. My lovely younger daughter was hit by something and became very ill for a week, involving trips to the hospital and doctors. In fact, three hospital trips in 24 hours, which if I’m not mistaken, is something of a record for us. This all happened in a week where they were doing particularly wonderful stuff at school and she was devastated that she couldn’t go in. It always makes me incredibly proud that both my children love to go to school and work so hard when they are there. I think they probably get that from their gorgeous mother.
As for me, well I’ve been working hard in the small moments I can find to do just that. My third book, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’ is just being edited, I’m trying to sort out the cover for it and I’ve started writing the fourth book, the title of which has already been decided but I’m not going to reveal it, not just yet, anyway.

My Second Book. Now Available in Paperback

My Second Book. Now Available in Paperback

I have to say, of all the parts that go into putting a book together, the editing is the part I hate the most. When I finish writing a book I’m always so excited and a little relieved, but then the thought of editing it always brings me down. I know how necessary it is, and for the most part I’m a perfectionist, like most other writers I suppose, wanting my work to be perfect, without a single grammatical error. It’s amazing how, since I’ve been doing all of this, I’ll read either a new book or something from my collection, and find spelling mistakes in mainstream book titles by very famous authors. I find it mindboggling. And I’m not just talking one or two mistakes either. I won’t mention the authors but if I did, rest assured you’d know them. It makes me wonder how such a thing is even possible. Surely they and the publishers have a host of different people proof read their work before publication…….they simply must do. So how do these errors slip through the net? I’d love to know. And do they change the mistakes once they’re pointed out, in say later revisions of the books? I find it fascinating. How dull am I? Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical.
Anyhow, that’s where I’m at. Editing as fast as I can, trying to sort out the latest cover, while writing the fourth instalment when time allows, all the time looking after two fabulous children and one wonderful wife. If time could somehow find a way of wrapping itself around me and allow me a little more of it to do the things I love, writing, hockey, etc, that would just be super duper. So if you’re listening time……….you know what to do.
Until next time.

Exciting Times

I apologise for not having posted for a while, but things have been more than a little hectic with one thing and another, and that’s without the added Christmas factor. The last couple of weeks have been one carol concert after another, as well as a million other school things to remember. Don’t get me wrong……..it’s great, I absolutely love this time of year, but two children, at two different schools…….just so many things go on. It’s mindboggling. IMG_0064In between the buying of presents, meeting up with friends, my birthday and all of the school stuff, something really quite exciting happened. It was only a little thing really, but it sent shivers down my spine when it happened. Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation (my second book) arrived through the post in paperback form. What’s so extraordinary about that? Well, it’s only been available as an ebook since its release in March, so to see a physical copy was really rather nice. It all stems from the fact that the publisher of my first book, Authors Online, went unexpectedly out of business nearly two months ago, owing money not just to me, but to many hundreds, if not thousands, of other authors. It has been incredibly time consuming to sort out, and in some respects that is still ongoing. So there was all of that to be sorted out, which thanks to my wonderful wife, it now is. The stunning looking new paperback of Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past can now be bought from Amazon and the second book should hopefully be available within the next few weeks in that format. Given that all I’ve been trying to do for the last two or three months is finish writing the third book, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy, all of this has been a very unwelcome interruption. But I am getting there. I’m about to start looking at the second edit (I hate editing………it drives me nuts) and I would hope that I’m no further away than a few months from it being ready to be published. This one has been extremely hard work given everything my family has gone through in the last year, with my elder daughter continuing to be very unwell, and only attending her new school sporadically. With Christmas on top of all of that, things at the moment feel very difficult and most certainly not like Christmas at all. Despite having got everyone’s Christmas present, we haven’t been out anywhere on a Christmas shopping trip at all this year. With everything that’s been going on, mainly my daughter’s illness, it just hasn’t been possible. Normally a nice trip out to Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, or my particular favourite at this time of year, Bath, are usually the places we can be found visiting, with a view to Christmas shopping. But no. 114It all feels very wrong indeed. At the start of the month we managed a walk along the beach at Bournemouth for about two hours, the kids hunting to see who could find the best shells, after which quite accidentally we stumbled across a wonderful ice rink that had been set up in the Winter Gardens there. Despite the long walk, and having played a high tempo game of hockey the previous day, we conceded to the children’s request and all four of us went skating. It was brilliant! I can thoroughly recommend it if you’re nearby. But that is the only thing remotely Christmas-like we’ve done all December, and even with all the decorations and the tree up, to me, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas. On the positive front, at least we’re not stuck in hospital like we were this time last year.

Anyhow, enough waffling from me. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you get everything you want for Christmas, have a wonderful time, and have a fantastic New Year.

Men’s Hockey 4 XI Report – 29th November 2014

Salisbury 4’s     2:1    Basingstoke Vikings

On a dank, miserable and foggy evening Salisbury made hard work of this win against 10 man Basingstoke. However after the last two disappointing losses a win is a win and takes them above todays opponents into 4th place just behind Bournemouth on goal difference.

Despite positional and personnel changes Salisbury started the brighter of the two sides and they achieved a number of insertions into the away sides “D”. Basingstoke however were set up to defend and it was close to the 20 minute mark before James Palmer forced a goal from a fairly narrow angle on the left. Salisbury also gained a small number of short corners but the procedure was not firing correctly.

The second half saw the mist cover parts of the pitch reducing visibility to less than the length of the playing area. Salisbury picked up somewhat and their youngsters performed much better in mid-field than in previous weeks. Henry Smith, Phil Alison, Akram Ghauri and James Wade used their youthful speed and endurance much better but the home side failed to penetrate their opponents “D” as they should have with the man advantage. Eventually the second goal came from a short corner: two shots were saved by the Basingstoke keeper before David Hillier stuck a hard shot that left him no chance of a third.

The away team continued their pressing and in spite of the inspired defensive work of Paul Cude and others and with Salisbury continuing to give the ball away needlessly they managed to score in the last 10 minutes. This lead to a nerve tingling finale which Salisbury managed to survive.

MoM: Paul Cude

DoD: Phil Alison

Umpire: Tim Orchard & Alastair Barrett

Team: Matt Salmon, Andy Manders, Paul Cude, Mark Briggs, James Palmer, Howard Smith, Henry Smith, David Hillier, Jim Nicholson, Alan Garrett, Phil Alison, James Wade, Akram Ghauri, Andy Scrase.