Please check out my new book trailer.
Please check out my new book trailer.
You always hope that the New Year will freshen things up, from New Year’s resolutions, to just generally cleaning up your act, getting fitter, working harder and doing those jobs that have been put off. Two years ago, the start of 2014 was undoubtedly the worst time of my life, with my elder daughter’s illness consuming the whole family, and almost living in Southampton hospital for weeks at a time.
You can read about that here
This year seems to have thrown us another dozy. As well as what I would describe as a major setback to what I hoped would be the ongoing recovery of my daughter from her rare illness, I’ve been admitted to hospital twice in a week for unexpected and unrelated reasons, as well as a sudden death in the family shattering everything around us. It’s been what can only be described as a living nightmare.
I was ordered to the ENT department by my GP late on a Friday morning at the start of February, as a medical emergency because of my continued sinus problems which have lasted over six years now. The concerned consultants there took one look at me and immediately admitted me to stay over for the entire weekend so that I could be pumped full of antibiotics.
Something of an unusual case for them, I gathered. On managing to escape from my hospital bed late on the Sunday, we as a family headed north for the funeral and all the preparations that entailed. Tuesday evening came around, just over 48 hours after being discharged from the ward in Salisbury, before the most amazing pain started to consume me. First a paramedic, and then an ambulance arrived, by which time I was diagnosed as having a kidney stone. I can’t tell you the pain I was in as I was carted off to hospital. The medical professionals were all fantastic, especially the nurses who seemed to be the only ones to be able to find one of my veins to put in a cannula so that I could have some pain relief. As you can see from the picture, the two short stays gave me something of the voodoo doll look. Apparently I have tricky veins…..no, I’m not joking. Not a pretty picture.
I managed to make the funeral; it was a close run thing, but one way or another I would have attended.
But with more scans planned for when I returned south, life by then had been well and truly turned upside down.
Sitting here I long for the return of normality, the humdrum routine of our everyday life, but currently it seems a million miles away. Odd that you could yearn for something so normal that you almost always take it for granted. Nothing special, head down, working hard, writing, looking after the kids, social media, household chores, DIY, etc, etc. It couldn’t ever really be classed as exciting, or even slightly satisfactory. But I miss it now more than I could have ever realised I would. Not weeks, more like months to get back to what I would regard as our family’s routine, that’s how I see it.
Disappointed doesn’t begin to cover it. We’ve managed to grab a handful of days out as a family since the year started, but they’ve been few and far between. For over a month I went without seeing the sea. I can’t tell you how much I didn’t like that. So there it is. Our continuing struggle with the New Year. I truly hope all of you are faring better.
It’s back, thank goodness. The cold. I love it. Like a long lost friend that you haven’t seen for years, it’s been great to catch up over the weekend. It reminds me of so many good things. Hockey, first and foremost I suppose. All those games, running around to keep warm (yes, me…..running), breath freezing deliciously, fingers so numb it’s nearly impossible to hold the stick, either that or choosing gloves, making it nearly impossible to hold the stick. Numb fingers for me every time…..thanks. It brings back so many memories. That plus the fact that my birthday (December), my eldest daughter’s birthday (November) and of course Christmas, all magical times, fall within that chilly part of the calendar. The mild, moist kind of weather does absolutely nothing for me, as I suspect is the way for most people. Yesterday we had a fabulous walk at one of our favourite places…..Hengistbury Head on the Dorset coastline. Arriving at stupid o’clock, just after sunrise, it was cold. Not as cold as some of our previous visits, but cold enough. The plants, all wrapped in white, spiky coats looked magnificent. My camera was constantly on the go. Even the sand was frozen, significantly in some places. And with few people stupid, or brave enough to be out at that time, a sense of calmness and serenity drifted over the whole place. Needless to say there was running, jumping, building, bounding…..you name it, we were up to it at the beach, without of course the swimming.(a little chilly for that. I mean we’re mad, but not quite that mad) So that was yesterday. Brilliant. And having missed it so much, I do hope it continues for the next month or so. Not only so I can practice my photography skills, but so I can relive so many of those wonderful memories.
Having spoken previously about my work of fan fiction, that’s currently been put to one side. Since having seen Star Wars The Force Awakens, I’ve most definitely fallen out of love with everything Star Wars. It’s not something that’s happened consciously, and I can’t tell you how disappointed I am about it. But that’s just how I feel at the moment. I can’t even look at the massive collection of Star Wars books I have when I walk past them. That’s how bad it is. Maybe I’ll pick it up in the future at some point. Given how I planned it all out, and have written quite a large chunk of it, I do hope that will be the case. So with that put on the back burner, I have, in what little free time I’ve had, been cracking on with book 4 in the Bentwhistle the Dragon series. Having planned it out to within an inch of its life has certainly made things better, and I’m more focused than ever. It’s still going to be some time before it’s ready, but hopefully with every month that passes, significant progress will be made.
I’ve had my doubts for a long time now, and that’s probably why I wasn’t queuing at midnight on the day the film came out. That’s certainly something that part of me would consider doing. But ever since they announced that the Expanded Universe (EU) was no longer anything to do with the official Star Wars timeline, I’ve found myself emotionally distancing myself from the release of this film. My kids have been going mad. “When are we going to see it? When are we going to see it?” is all I’ve heard for the past few weeks. If it was up to me, I’d probably wait until the DVD came out. But that would be more than a little unfair, as I’ve shaped them into the Star Wars fans that they are…..you know what I mean. Action figures, Star Wars lego (by the ton), books, games, DVDs: you name it, they’ve almost certainly got it. So last night, off we went. Their little faces when we turned into the cinema, after pretending we were going shopping, were an absolute picture as you can well imagine. Not long afterwards…..it started!
Calmly sitting back watching the film open, I was reminded of going to see the first Star Wars film with my grandfather in 1977. I can recall clearly both of us giving each other looks of absolute amazement throughout the film, and him and I being blown away by it on leaving. I was only nine at the time, but it always seemed to me from that day forth we shared an unspoken bond. That played on my mind a lot last night. The introduction, music and writing scrolling down the screen certainly evoked the right emotions. Perhaps all of my worries had been for nothing? Perhaps these were the right people to safeguard the legacy?
Watching expectantly in hope that all of my dreams would be delivered, it felt for me as though things were on a knife edge. I couldn’t possibly predict which way it would go. Just as a feeling of ‘it isn’t going to go well, because it all looks rather sandy and a lot like Luke Skywalker’s home planet’ started to swirl about in my stomach, the Millenium Falcon appeared as a complete surprise, totally out of nowhere. I inched forward on the edge of my seat. My favourite spacecraft flying again brought renewed hope, despite the fact that the pilots weren’t who I’d hoped they would be. But it didn’t take long for Han and Chewie to make their entrance, one that would have had so much more impact had I not already seen it strewn across the internet. That would have been the emotional impact, the goose bumps up my arm, had I not already seen it. Why on earth didn’t they save it for the film? To make everybody go…..of course. Things moved on at pace, but I wanted to know more about my favourite characters. There was of course no time for that. But a couple of questions immediately dropped into my mind. Finn and Rey thought the Falcon was being boarded by stormtroopers and were unleashing a poison gas. You never see them stop unleashing the gas. They didn’t know it was Han and Chewie. What was that all about? As well, Han and Chewie were transporting very dangerous creatures for money, something that becomes apparent. You don’t learn much more than that, but to me it seemed out of place. Looking a little like slavery, but maybe not, it doesn’t seem like something that either would do. Han despises slavery, having set Chewie free from the Empire’s grip, hence Chewbacca’s life debt to him, while Chewie would never have let Han become involved in something like that. Of all the things the two of them could be doing when they came across the Falcon, this really shouldn’t have been it. Not very well thought out, methinks.
Quickly the action moves on to a noisy bar full of aliens, music playing in the background. So we’ve had the sandy planet, and now we have the bar. I’m having more than a little deja vu. Not for the last time. Luke’s lightsaber appears out of nowhere, without any explanation, before the enemy arrives hunting for the new band of heroes. Cue action, explosions, fire fights, a very brief lightsaber sparring session, before the rebels arrive, albeit just a fraction too late. It seemed a little hasty, and Han using Chewbacca’s bowcaster seemed totally wrong. It isn’t something he would, should, or could do. He should be barely able to lift it, but that definitely isn’t the case. Wrong! Just wrong. I thought so at the time, and then amazingly, he goes on to use it later on in the film. For goodness’ sake. But we move on. To something I was rather looking forward to, and something which the film was building up to: Han and Leia meeting up again. Given their relationship throughout the previous films, and as we go on to learn, the fact that they have a son together, you can assume that they might even have been married, but their reunion after so much time is just little in the way of anything. No emotions, no nothing. If you ever come across the expanded universe books, you should read them for many reasons, one being the relationship between these two. I’ll say no more. But we do go on to learn that the evil Jedi (no mention of Sith) is none other than Han and Leia’s son. Now to most who didn’t know this (and I’ve tried hard to stay away from any spoilers over the last few weeks, so I didn’t know) it might well have had the same kind of impact as finding out that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. Perhaps that was the intention. But Han and Leia’s son turning into an out of control evil Jedi is straight out of the expanded universe. Talk about taking the mickey. The writers must have worked really hard to come up with that one. Where on earth do they get such fabulous ideas?
So what’s the threat from the ex-Empire that the so called rebels have to stop? Oh that’s right, a planet sized machine that can destroy multiple planets. Funny….sounds familiar. You kind of mean like a Death Star Mk3, only it harnesses the power of a sun. Again, it must have taken ages to come up with that. So back to base for the heroes for a quick conflab about what to do. Low and behold there’s a weakness in the planet destroying machine…..REALLY! I didn’t see that one coming. But the shields need taking down. NO! By a small assault team. It’s beyond my wildest imagination. I don’t suppose there will be any Ewoks will there? So yes, basically the plot of Return of the Jedi. BRILLIANT!
So off go the small assault team, lead familiarly by Han Solo. They blow up the shields, but not before Han dies by his son’s lightsaber. All Chewie does is howl, and fire a couple of shots in the son’s direction. I’m really sorry, but Chewie owes Han a life debt. If you knew anything at all about Wookies, you’d bloody well know that he’d do a damn sight more than that. Pathetic! As Han dies, it cuts back to Leia, who I suppose is feeling his death through the force…..it’s not very clear. You’d think there might be a bit more feeling, (falling to her knees, crying, yelling…..that kind of thing), but it looks as though she’s suffering from a severe bout of wind, or has had the seafood for dinner. Poor doesn’t begin to cover it.
Back to the action: the explosives are set off, the heroes flee into the snowy forest, the shields come down, the X-wings attack, and just to add insult to injury, out of nowhere, there appears a trench for them to attack the weakness in the weapon, one that wasn’t there before when they were attacking it from the air. A trench? I’m sure I’ve seen something like that before. But where? Oh yes…..more deja vu. Muppets! By this time I’m long since ready to walk out, and if my kids weren’t there, I would have. Oh well, nearly over. What on earth could make it any worse? The battle continues into the forest, with Han’s son chasing down Finn and Rey. Finn gets knocked unconscious with Luke’s lightsaber ending up buried, with just its tip showing in the snow. HANG ON! The lightsaber quivers and shakes gently, about to leap out of the snow. Uhhhh…..are there any Wampas about to show up? Seriously…..you just can’t make it up. So of course the lightsaber flies through the air to the hero…..cue fight, Chewie rescues them both in the Falcon, and they all fly away with the X-wings from the great big explosion. Totally original. NOT!
R2-D2 wakes up for no reason from a self imposed exile and they then have the complete map to find Luke’s location. Rey, Chewie and the droids all head off to find him. No ceremony for Han, not really so much as a mention.
So there you have it, a few hours of my life wasted in a cinema last night. A few more random thoughts in no particular order.
Anyhow, I’m off now to reread some of the expanded universe, and see if I can complete my fan fiction on how Han really dies.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Life seems to be flying by at the moment, a non stop rollercoaster whirlwind. Half term, baking cakes, children’s birthdays, DIY, wife working away, all the normal household chores, etc. Everything is so full on.
I spend almost every hour of every waking day, working.
At the moment, I’m currently writing the fourth instalment of the Bentwhistle The Dragon series. Book 4 is called Bentwhistle The Dragon in Earth’s Custodians.
Just over 25,000 words done, it will be sometime before it’s ready to go.
Currently though, something else has all my attention, something that has haunted my dreams, much like the Bentwhistle series normally does. Fan Fiction. I’ve never written fan fiction before, and I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is, but I’ll post it here when it’s finished. I’ve felt compelled to write it.
It won’t be short either, by the look of things. I’m quite excited, but as per usual, it’s tough finding the time in my day to write for any length of time. But I am working hard on it, and hopefully it will be something that everyone will love. Update over. Take care.
Writing duties are mostly put to one side as the job of dad/entertainer takes over this week. Luckily I’m not getting any sort of rating from the kids (that might be a bit depressing, and a bit on the low side).
Our first trip was to Splashdown in Poole. Not entirely sure what to expect, I did regale the kids with tales from when I went there with a friend, pretty much when it first opened (I won’t mention how many decades ago that was), and told them about my most vivid memory. My friend had been before, and knew all about all of the slides. Taking me to the start of one up what seemed like a million flights of stairs (there was even a lift, I seem to recall…..that should have given me a clue), we both stood alone at the start of a very darkened tunnel, with only the rushing sound of water for company.
He’d told me this one was tame, and just a long winding ride down to the bottom. Gullibly I believed him, and with him insisting I go first, I duly jumped in. FLIPPIN’ HECK! When we met up at the bottom, he was beside himself with laughter. He said, “I knew when you’d got to that bit, because all I could hear coming up the slide was, ‘Aaaaaahhhhhhh!!!'” VERY FUNNY! The bit that he was referring to was a straight down, vertical, sheer drop, and given that the tunnel was entirely black, shrouded in total darkness, there was no way I could have even known that was going to happen. It was more the surprise than anything that had me screaming. Well at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The park had changed somewhat since I was last there (no surprise there given how long it’s been), and it took a while to get the hang of where everything was. The outside rides (the really, really fast ones) weren’t open due to the weather, so we were confined to the inside. No bad thing really given that I really had to keep an eye on both kids. But we explored pretty much everything. I was shocked, in pretty much the same way as my first visit, by a ride called the Space Bowl. It’s a leisurely slide down to an open bowl where you whizz round and round before unceremoniously being plonked through a great big hole in the middle, which I mistakenly thought would lead to another slide, but instead dumps you into a two metre tank full of water. Again, more the surprise than anything else. Both kids followed me down, with them both being surprised like me. My youngest and I decided we didn’t much care for that one, while my eldest went on again, straight away.
We all had a great time on the rapids with our blow up rings. That was a hoot, despite how many times we all came out of the rings, and the best ride by far that we encountered, in my opinion anyway. The rest of the slides were quite mild, with only the Baron’s Revenge causing a little angst, and making my youngest scream for all she was worth. Given that it’s under six seconds from top to bottom, something of an achievement I think you’ll agree.
All crammed into two, what seemed to me, like very long hours. A good time, despite all of the bumps and bruises, and boy do I have a badly bruised knee.
Hengistbury Head was next, one of our usual haunts. Much skate boarding (not me…..WAYYYY TOO OLD) and mucking around on the beach, lots of photography,(me) and given that it’s the end of October, we were all in tee shirts by mid-morning. MAD!
Another familiar haunt in the shape of Swanage followed. We did manage a brief walk along the beach, but for the most part, it was a bit too blowy. Taking in the shops and the fabulous steam railway, you can take a look at our journey back on the train from Norden to Swanage on my YouTube channel.
Gunwharf Quays was our next destination, with both of them excited at the thought of looking around the shops, the eldest more so. Trainers were the main objective for both of them, and had been sorted after the shops had been open for only twenty minutes. RESULT! After that, a leisurely stroll around, interrupted by a family game of bowling at the Bowlplex. I’d not been in there before, and would have thought with the kids being on holiday it would have been packed, but no. It was relatively quiet, and very enjoyable. A great way to break up a shopping trip.
So there you are, dad duties so far. Back to the writing and social media soon.
Check out the competition on my Goodreads page to win signed paperback copies of all three of my books. Enter now. What have you got to lose?
All Bentwhistle the Dragon fans can now subscribe to my monthly newsletter. In return for signing up for this, I’ve written a very specific, 34,000 word story about the lives of the dragon friends from way back in the nursery ring, nearly fifty years before their current time above ground. You will be able to choose which format you download this story in. Here’s a little more.
Barely hatched from their eggs, young dragons learning how to fly amongst other things, find themselves thrust into the limelight, with the annual History Fest Face-Off beckoning. Showcasing a fierce rivalry going back centuries between two famed nursery rings, the grand competition is renowned throughout the land, and the importance of winning can’t be underestimated.
Richie eager to represent the nursery ring, Peter eager to help his friend, both are lost for words when the class bully, Cowl, outwits everyone in the race to represent Purbeck. Suspected of using unknown magic to get ahead, the friends are determined to get to the truth and expose him for the cheat they think him to be. But can things ever be that easy?
An unflappable newcomer proves to be a worthy ally as aerial acrobatic antics abound in an illicit laminium ball match, the outcome of which may well determine the fate of one of the young dragons.
With so much at stake, can the dragon friends hunt out the truth? Will their combined might be enough to save not only their nursery ring, but the reputation of the competition itself?
Crazy new spells and magical elixirs combined with much skulking around give a valuable insight into the young dragons’ education and personalities. Not only that, but one of the students will end up with much more than they bargained for. You’d be absolutely BATTY to miss it!
Finally here after what seems like a lifetime to me: Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy, book 3. To be released on Wednesday 7th October, the action continues on from book 2 in the series, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation.
Amid turmoil surrounding devastating attacks across the world, the dragon domain faces the planet’s greatest fear: global terrorism by an unknown force of magic users.
Against this backdrop of fear, the friends’ relief at having Richie back from the jaws of death is quickly tempered when they discover the price she has paid and exactly what she will have to forfeit.
With Manson’s deadly scheme in full swing, events quickly turn from bad to worse. An army of nagas controlled by the threat to their king, help the evil dragon storm the kingdom, capturing Peter, Tank and Flash in the process.
With no help on the horizon and the dragons below ground neutralised, how will the threat be stopped? Will the white dragon turn out to be their saviour, or will a fierce lacrosse match prove to be the turning point for a rescue so unconventional, nobody could ever see it coming?
With a hoard of treasure and more magical artefacts than a witch’s kitchen, you’ll have to read on to find out if everything will turn out all white!
My love of all things fantasy and comic books seemed to go up and down throughout my teenage years. At one time there was a fabulous comic book store in Salisbury (think Stuart’s store from The Big Bang Theory, only smaller) just a few moments’ walk from where I currently live. It was heaven, and I could often be found in there, spending what little money I had on Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Justice League comics.
Unfortunately it didn’t last more than a few years, which wasn’t surprising really given the distinct lack of trade. So with my life revolving around playing hockey, all thoughts of strange new worlds and the events unfolding within them, drifted to the back of my mind. Until, that is, the day I had to go and fix a fax machine in a very large bookshop in the middle of Southampton. Tool case in one hand, paperwork in the other, I remember trudging through the store, only focused on getting the job done and getting out. It didn’t take long, and the manager was very grateful. After getting him to sign the paperwork, I weaved my way in and out of the bountiful bookshelves, heading towards the huge glass framed exit. It was then that it caught my eye. Unbelievably, I’d nearly walked straight past it, or rather… them. A whole display advertising one book. I was stunned, that is until I dumped my tool case on the floor and picked one up. The cover was intoxicating. My favourite characters were looking out on me in all their glory. It was one of those moments when time stands still. I can recall it as if it were only yesterday and not 1991. Taking in the droids on the spine as I turned it over in my hands, I stood lost in another world, reading the blurb on the back. Short but sweet would be how you’d describe it, but I was long since hooked. I had to have it… NOW! Struggling back to the front desk of the store with my tool case, paperwork, and my precious purchase, the staff, who I’d just been working amongst, all looked bemused. I didn’t care. After paying I rushed to the car, and made the fatal mistake of starting to read it. I should have been working. I had other jobs to do. I must have read for about half an hour, just until my parking ran out. After that I had to get on and do the rest of my calls, but all I could think about for the rest of the afternoon was that book, sitting on the floor of the passenger side of my car. My evening had just been booked up. It wouldn’t of course be difficult for you to guess that I stayed up nearly all night. Yes it was that good. I couldn’t put it down, and the weariness that I felt the next day was well worth it. And more momentous than all of that, was the fact that the book in question had started me off on a journey that would last with me for a lifetime. Numerous other books in the saga have been bought, read all in one go despite everything going on around me, and nearly all have given me the same sort of satisfaction as that one.
Ahh… so now you’d like me to tell you the name of the book. It was Star Wars Volume 1 Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn. And it was nothing short of fantastic, especially to this huge Star Wars fan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read my battered and tattered copy… but who cares? Each time it sends shivers down my arms, even though I know what happens. For me it’s a classic and that’s without the fact that it has led me deep into the Star Wars expanded universe. As well as this three book cycle, the second and third instalment of both of which I had to buy on the day they came out in hardback, reading them both the said same day, Timothy Zahn has written many other great expanded universe titles. He is definitely an author I would love to meet and get to know better. I only hope that Disney in all their wisdom do justice to the new film coming out. The books of the expanded universe have meant, and still do, a great deal to me. While I understand the reason for the changes, I’m not entirely sure I agree with them. Only time will tell. Here’s hoping.