Saturday, December 24, 2011
Hello everyone who takes the trouble to read my blog, may you all have a lovely Christmas 2011 and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2012. As a little gift here is a link to Steve Upham's Christmas edition of Estronomicon where you'll find a little festive short story of mine called 'The Advent Calendar's Last Window' amongst a load of other creepy and fantastic stories guaranteed to make you wonder or send shivers down your spine. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 01, 2011
It's December the first and that means the first flap on your advent calendar can be opened and you can enjoy the treat that's nestling inside. If you haven't got a calendar however don't despair as the good people over at Interzone have your treat just waiting to be read. Furthermore, one of those little flaps will contain a story of mine, I don't know what date it will be on so can't let you know in advance, but be aware, it's a little risqué :)
Ray Cluley's story is the opener today and it's a chilly one, wrap up well and go here to read it:
Monday, October 31, 2011
Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams has produced a Halloween edition of his ezine, Estronomicon.
Contributors and their stories are as follows:
A Gathering of Ghouls by Charlotte Bond
The Apple Tree by Johnny Mains
The Man Who Killed Halloween by Mark Howard Jones
Biting Back by John Forth
The Maniacal Grin by Bob Lock
Church Hill by Simon Marshall-Jones
The Fun House by Terry Cooper
Young at Heart by Neil Davies
Looking Glass by Marion Pitman
All These Friends and Lovers by Stuart Young
Mr Pastry by Trevor Denyer
Gravefingers by Jennifer Williams
From Chattterton Hill by Carl Barker
Grandpa's Chair by Paul Kane
Among Flames, Darkness by Frank Duffy
A Footstep Away by Andrew Donegan
The Psalm by Simon Bestwick
Roam's Halloween Lesson by Ian Hunter
The pdf can be downloaded HERE for free and probably Steve will have a page-flipping version available pretty soon too, enjoy!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Regular readers of my blog will know that now and then I’ll review a book that I’ve read and put in my tuppence-worth (that’s two bits for American readers!) for anyone interested. I tend to review only the books that I’ve enjoyed reading and can recommend. I don’t review books that just didn’t ‘do it for me’ so I’m pleased to say that Paul Lewis’ The Savage Knight (Malory's Knights of Albion) is one of those tales that did ‘do it for me.’
It is said that King Arthur chose a round table around which his knights could congregate because there would be no head of table and therefore his knights, mostly all barons, would not argue over who sat where as no one would be sitting in a higher or lower position to his neighbour. This would have meant nothing to Lewis’ hero however, as Sir Dodinal (the Savage), was no baron but a lowly young peasant who had been taken into the round table’s fraternity when he was discovered exacting bloody revenge on the Saxons that had raided his village and slaughtered his family.
Lewis puts flashbacks to good use to explain Dodinal’s violent and bloody past, his uncontrollable rage, the strange attunement he has with nature and how he has earned his sobriquet ‘The Savage Knight’. These are just some of the reasons why he is the troubled man he is even after many years fighting at Arthur’s side. Now he has decided to leave Camelot and return to his place of birth, Wales, for Dodinal is looking for something but even he does not really know what that is, whether it be a final quest, a need to return to his roots or a honourable death. That something calls him to a little village on the Welsh Marches where he saves a strange young boy from a pack of hungry wolves and sets in motion a series of events that will test even the most bloodthirsty of the Knights of the Round Table.
Published by Abbadon Books The Savage Knight is 284 pages of daring do, chivalry and dark adventure.
Paul Lewis has written hundreds of comedy sketches for UK network TV, including Spitting Image, as well as radio sitcoms and plays. Paul co-edited the Cold Cuts horror anthology and is co-author of the novels The Ragchild and The Quarry, several novellas and numerous short stories including a Doctor Who contribution for BBC Books. Paul works as a journalist and lives with his wife and son in a village near Swansea, Wales.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, October 06, 2011
A couple of years ago I entered Nanowrimo the National Novel Writing Month just to see if I could discipline myself to write something under pressure and within a time limit. I surprised myself by actually completing a novel within the allotted time. I called it They Feed On Flesh and it is a series of zombie stories which start with an explanation of how the zombie plague started and the best way to survive it. Then the stories go on to individual accounts of various survivors and how they cope (or not) and finally end up in the far future when the plague begins to spread through the solar system and even through time itself. The original series has been expanded slightly and one of the stories was published in Holiday of the Dead which contains stories by big guns such as John Russo and Tony Burgess. As I've been converting some of my stuff to Kindle format I thought I'd do the same with this novella and so, today, it's gone 'live' <-- play on words :)
It's on Amazon UK and Amazon. Com but on Amazon Com you can 'click to look inside' and read a chapter or two directly on their site, or you can download a sample from either place to your Kindle/phone/PC for free to see whether or not it's worth the couple of quid to download.
Here are the links:
Ok, everyone say 'Uuuuunnnngg...' and drag your leg/stumble/crawl/totter your way over and give it a free look!
Monday, September 26, 2011
Yet another dawn filters through the bars of our cage and I know that this will either be the last one for me or for my only remaining brother. Once the first rays of the sun warm the chills from our bones the alien will arrive... as she has done for what seems an eternity. She will either choose me or my brother who lies huddled in the furthest corner away from me. His legs are drawn up tight to his body and his head is turned away. He won’t meet my gaze any more and he won’t answer my soft call to him. I fear that what we have gone through has caused him to lose his mind; I can’t blame him as I think I am slowly losing mine. We’ve watched helplessly whilst our friends, our neighbours, our family have been taken one morning at a time and put to her test. Each one has failed and the results of their failure lie in silent testament across the floor outside of our cage. Bodies crushed and battered. When she comes again I will be taking the test... or my brother will. If he is chosen and fails then I will have one day left to live until it is my turn. Then my crushed body will join all the others unless by some twist of fate I am the one she has sought all along and will pass her test. But I doubt it. I do not feel ‘special’ in any way and don’t believe my brother is either. He moves quietly and I look up.
‘Are you awake?’ I ask.
‘I haven’t slept,’ he answers.
‘Neither have I,’ I reply and am shocked that he has responded for he hasn’t spoken to me since our father was chosen and put to the alien’s examination.
‘We shall have sleep soon enough…’ he says and tries to crawl farther into the corner.
‘When she comes this time I think we should try and escape.’
‘Why bother?’ he replies, ‘it didn’t work for any of the others.’
I shrug but he doesn’t see it.
‘Perhaps one of us is the one she is looking for…’ he murmurs softly.
I know he is only trying to keep his morale up but I can’t help but snigger, ‘yes, perhaps…’
‘Do you have a plan?’ He asks. I guess his morale isn’t all that high anyhow.
‘Not really,’ I reply, after all, what plan could possibly work? The alien is much larger and more intelligent than us. But what choice do we have? Should we just sit quietly and await our fate? ‘But we may as well try something... anything.’
‘Ok,’ he sighs, ‘what do you want to do?’
‘The next time she opens the cage I think we should both rush her. You jump high and I’ll go low. She’ll have to go for one of us and perhaps the other will have a chance, a slight chance I’ll admit, but…’
‘…it’s better than nothing…’ He finishes my sentence for me.
A ray of sunlight creeps across my leg and its warmth begins to soak into my flesh, blood and bones. I stretch and flex my limbs. They are still stiff from the cold night but I know I need to be ready and so does he.
‘Get up and move around. You’ll never get past her if you are all stiffened up. You’ve been stuck in that corner for I don’t know how long.’
He does and I’m surprised by how thin he has become. I wonder if I look the same. Silently we stretch and shake ourselves in an attempt to become more mobile, but we might have left it too late. A sound from outside freezes us on the spot. She is coming. The warming rays of the sun are blotted out by a vast shadow whilst our cage vibrates to her footsteps as she approaches. My brother whimpers quietly.
‘Be ready!’ I whisper hoarsely and he nods as the cage is opened and a giant hand reaches in.
‘Now!’ I croak and my brother leaps high whilst I scrabble beneath her grasp and almost get out.
‘Oh no you don’t!’ The alien says and sweeps me back into a corner with a careless flick of one hand as she grabs my brother with her other. He looks down at me in fear and resignation as she raises him to her cruel lips.
I’m alone now. She has gone. My brother’s small body lies pitifully discarded amongst the others outside my cage. Another crushed corpse. Another failure. Tomorrow she will come for me. Tomorrow I will be put to trial. However, if by some chance I do pass the alien’s test, if I do transform into this ‘prince’ creature she is searching for then I will exact a dreadful revenge upon her. I will seek retribution for all the lost friends, lost family, lost neighbours, every last one of us that she has ripped from our pond…
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Steve Lockley the famous Welsh writer/editor and the first person to accept a story of mine and publish it (yes, he's the one to blame) has had guest bloggers over on his site during the month of June and will continue to do so into July. Today, 22nd June he scraped the bottom of his apple barrel and instead of finding Jim Hawkins hiding there came up with me. So, if you want to find out what makes me tick them pop over to here and find out: Steve Lockley
N.B. He's got a fresh barrel of apples now so don't worry :)
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
For all you techie-types, 'Flames of Herakleitos, my first novel, a dark fantasy set on our world and a parallel world ruled by mages and their golems can now be downloaded to your Kindle. I've tried it on my Android phone too and it works pretty well. The first few chapters are free to download and try, Go here: KINDLE VERSION
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
at almond blossom time, but Pavarotti sings that his loved one
has left and never crosses the seas or mountains, like the little swallow -
Mia piccina, fosti tutta la mia vita;
My little one, you were all my life
Sei fuggita e non torni piú.
You have fled and return no more.
This is a beautiful song that tears at my heart when I listen to it
but a song that I would gladly take with me all the same.
Like Juliana, my daughter, Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer too.
These others are in no particular order:
Springsteen the poet, I particularly like the lines:
Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss
He is The Boss :)
Bridge over troubled water - Anna and I played this album non-stop when we were courting all those years ago. Simon and Garfunkel, masters.
This is I Pooh an Italian group which we fell in love with when we lived in Italy.
This group started in 1966 and I think they are still together, making them one of the longest lasting pop groups ever.
Nils Lofgren's Black Books. I've always liked Lofgren, especially Shine Silently but when I heard this on an episode of The Sopranos I was blown away. Another poet like Springsteen and his guitar solo on the end of this is superb If ever I aspired to playing a guitar it would have to be as good as this or it just wouldn't be worth bothering. Marvelous playing, bloody marvelous!
Okay, this could be cheating a little but I can't pick just one piece of music from Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds although Forever Autumn is certainly a favourite. This album witnessed the growing up of our children and was something we'd settle down to listen to with the lights out and the curtains drawn whilst outside it blew a gale. Juliana my daughter took me to see it performed live in Cardiff for my 60th birthday even though she was so very ill.
Emerson Lake and Palmer's Lucky Man was mind-blowing, great lyrics, fabulous tune, excellent guitar, fantastic drums and 3.23 minutes in the first Moog solo ever recorded and I remember thinking 'what the hell is that!' when I first heard it and the sound of it buzzing from left to right speaker!
It was hard to find this particular recording of Shenadoah (Across the wide Missouri) by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir but find it I did and it is well worth a listen. There are other arrangements but this full orchestra/choir version I think is outstanding. I am not particularly religious-minded and I'm not a Mormon but you've got to hand it to them, they can certainly sing. BTW, I have no idea who the people in the video are but I'd like to thank them for uploading that version of Shenandoah to Youtube and wish them my best, they seem a nice American family.
Finally I think you are allowed one luxury item to take with you on a desert island. Hmm... I think I'd like to take my trusty metal-detector (solar-rechargeable) so that I can spend my days looking for Captain Flint's buried treasure :)
What are your Desert Island Discs?
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Took a run up to Hay-on-Wye today for a wander around the town and the festival. Was pleasantly surprised by the great organisation of the event. I thought there'd be queues and bottle-necks, especially with the traffic but found a £3 parking spot in a field right next to the show and it only took me two minutes to walk to the entrance. Most of the show is under cover and has raised walkways but the central area which was grass was dry and when meeting up with my sister Sue, brother-in-law Tony and niece Holly we were able to sit on the grass for our picnic lunch. Then it was time to spot the celebs. First up was The Princess of Wales, Camilla (who I nearly walked into until I was politely ushered to one side by a body-guard). Next was Susannah Reid the newsreader who was having a quiet coffee with her three young boys, I was tempted to ask for an autograph but didn't want to bother her (and look a nerd) :) Then I spotted Maureen Lipman who saw me taking her photo and from the look on her face must have thought I was a stalker...
But the highlight of the day was when we were browsing through some books in the festival my sister found a copy of 'The Empathy Effect'! Now how weird is that! But weirder than that was when she started waving it around and shouting for me to sign it and the puzzled looks that the people around us gave her...
Finally we had a stroll around the town and visited some of the fine bookshops there, the castle bookshop is a magnificent old structure (much like myself) but I couldn't find anything that tempted me. A great day out, go if you can, it's on until Sunday 5th June.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The Heroes Video
If you are watching GRR Martin’s A Song Of Fire And Ice and enjoying your foray into the world of fantasy then you’ll need to get your chain-mailed arse down to your nearest bookshop and get Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The Heroes’ as it is a cracking good read. Yep, I’m blogging about someone else’s work again and not my own, but it is such good work I need to spread the word around so others can enjoy it as much as I have. Some time ago I was lucky enough to have Joe answer five questions on my blog, something he did which much aplomb, even though the questions were way... way... way... outside the norm he didn’t flinch and answered them in good spirit. Much like some of his characters in ‘The Heroes’
When I bought the book I imagined it was his main protagonists that The Heroes referred to but I was wrong. The Heroes is a group of standing stones atop a hill under which there is the suggestion that great men are buried. Much like Hamburger Hill in Vietnam this particular hill with its eerie set of standing stones, which I imagine in my mind’s eye to be similar to Stonehenge, is occupied by a party of men fighting for The Union, one side in a war that started in his previous books, The First Law Trilogy. Trying to take this hill and its standing stones is Curnden Craw and his crew who are fighting for Black Dow who has proclaimed himself King of the North the other side in this conflict. Against a background of bloody battles fought by men who are lead by incompetent leaders, who have no thought to the cost in lives that taking and maintaining this hill and its surrounds will demand, more than a couple of times I was reminded of the catastrophic leadership in World War One and the terrible losses incurred.
The Heroes is a fast-paced novel that you’ll have to wear running shoes to keep up with, you’ll have to wear eye-protectors because of its gritty and bloody fight scenes and you’ll have to have loads of coffee at your bedside because, if you read in bed like I do then, you won’t want to put it down and sleep.
I just wish I could write half as well as this, and then I’d be pretty happy...
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Regular visitors to my site will know that now and then I’ll blog about a book, magazine or author that I’ve read and enjoyed. Some of those in the past have been people like, Neal Asher, Joe Abercrombie, Interzone, and Black Static etc. Now I have another book to recommend, it’s ‘Feed’ by Mira Grant and is basically a ‘zombie book’ but an interesting one and, as I’ve been writing a few zombie stories myself (I’m in the new zombie anthology Holiday of the Dead, with the great John Russo, co-writer of Night of The Living Dead) quite appropriate.
Feed is set around the year 2040 where everyone will ultimately become a zombie when they die, whether you’ve been bitten or not the virus is in your body and will mutate you upon your death and you will re-animate. This has to be the best and most convincing way to explain how zombies can exist that I’ve read so far. In 2014 two cures were found. The first was a cure for cancer; the second was for the common cold. However the combination of the two cures succeeded in making the human body hard to kill, in fact it resurrected it after death and gave it the urge to... feed.
The other thing I enjoyed in the book was the way blogging has become the top-of-the-food-chain method of reporting the news and the two heroes in the book, brother and sister, Shaun and Georgia are at the pinnacle of that food chain, but whilst reporting on an up-and-coming senator who is hoping to be the new president of the USA they unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way upon discovering the truth about the zombie outbreak. One little quibble I have though is that the bad guy in the story is easily discovered, but... this could be a trick on the author’s part as Feed is just the first book in a trilogy and I’m sure there are certainly more villains to be discovered.
Monday, April 18, 2011
This has to be the best and most indepth review of 'The Empathy Effect' I have seen upto date.
The Hub is a reputable ezine that has been around since December 2006, comes out weekly and can be sent to your in-box for free if you sign up, something well worth doing. It has been backed by Orbit, HarperCollins and The Arts Council England so has a great pedigree.
The reviewer is Keith Harvey, an American writer and my thanks go to him for the time and effort he put into the review :)
The review is in PDF format and can be read here: The Empathy Effect Review
Thursday, April 07, 2011
THE BIG MAN
The big man’s eyes flickered across the top shelf of the well-stocked bar and he raised an eyebrow when he spotted a favourite label.
‘Two doubles of Chivas Regal, please,’ he said nodding towards the furthermost bottle. The bartender, a tall youngster – who seemed barely old enough to enter licensed premises let alone serve behind bar– poured two glasses and set them down on the mahogany bar top.
‘Water with those, sir?’
The man frowned. ‘You’re new to bar-tending I guess?’ His voice sounded like gravel being rolled around in a bucket.
‘Sorry, sir?’ The bartender replied, his face flushing slightly.
‘Son, either you’ve got no idea what you’re doing or you just want to piss me off and I’ve been pissed off enough today by your local hospital. You don’t water-down twelve-year-old whisky,’ the big man said angrily and then downed one of the glasses. He exhaled slowly and his eyes closed in pleasure. ‘Give me another double.’
The bartender looked flustered then replied, ‘you still have that one, sir.’
The man sighed, ‘that’s Tom Morgan’s.’
‘Tom Morgan’s?’ The bartender asked and then, ‘but Tom’s in hospital. Another car accident, I heard.’
The big man nodded, ‘I know where he is,’ then his eyes narrowed, ‘another car accident? His wife said she was worried about him but she didn’t mention any previous accident. What happened?’
The bartender poured another double as he answered. ‘Tom was on the way back from the Colonel’s when a truck nearly ran him off the road. That was a couple of days ago.’
‘And he crashes his car today and ends up in a coma in your pitiful excuse for a hospital.’
The bartender looked around nervously. ‘It’s the only hospital for thirty miles, sir. If it wasn’t for the Colonel we wouldn’t even have that one.’
‘The Colonel? Who the hell is this Colonel? I seem to hear him mentioned quite a lot around these parts,’ the big man asked and this time he took a slow, savouring sip from the refilled glass.
The bartender swallowed noisily, glanced around again at the other patrons and said quietly, ‘he owns most of the town. A lot of the surrounding ranches and land, oh... and of course, the private hospital.’
‘Figures, Tom’s wife said ‘someone’ connected was trying to bully him into selling up his place. Now he’s locked up tight in what looks like that ‘someone’s’ private hospital. Seems a little too neat to get almost driven off the road and then a few days later crash your car due to a mysterious brake failure,’ the big man said then finished his drink. One of his huge, scarred hands rubbed the stubbly bristles on his square chin and he said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, ‘perhaps I’d better give this Colonel a visit, see if there’s any fresh brake fluid on his drive...’
Monday, March 28, 2011
Wild Wolf Publishing is releasing a whopping 600 page Zombie Anthology in June 2011 based on a zombie holiday theme and I pleased to say one of my short stories is in it. My effort is called 'The Zombie Whisperer' and the title says it all. There will be about 38 stories in all from various authors and I'm in some pretty good company here. For example:
‘The Walk-In’An exclusive excerpt from the screenplay for the forthcoming film sequel to Pontypool written by Tony Burgess
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Browsing Neal Asher’s blog I noticed a review he’d posted of his novel Orbus and remembered I had also done a review when it was first published but never posted it on my blog, so here it is.
Ok, get the following ingredients: someone who’s been an engineer, a barman, a skip lorry driver, a coalman, a boat window manufacturer, a contract grass cutter and a builder, then mix them all together and you should have... Neal Asher, science fiction novelist.
I gave it a try and all I ended up with was this horrible slurry of blood, flesh and bones, I must be doing it wrong...
Centuries old, Captain Orbus, infected with the Spatterjay virus which virtually makes him immortal, has taken a position onboard The Gurnard, a cargo vessel which is hoping to trade its wares in a part of the universe called The Graveyard. This is basically a no-man’s land (or no-crustacean’s land) where neither The Polity nor The Prador (huge, nasty crab-like creatures with a tendency to rip off human heads and limbs and eat them first before asking any questions or even being introduced to their next meal) have control and only entrepreneurs with the nerve and fire-power to keep themselves alive and safe rule. Orbus is trying to escape a violent and sadistic past and hoping to forget his penchant for torturing and causing suffering to almost anyone he comes into contact with. Traversing space with Orbus is an old shipmate of his called Drooble, who is himself another virus-infected individual or, Hooper, as they are known and his tastes have more of a masochistic flavour in that he actually enjoys being tortured by his old captain. Add to this strange pair, the Polity war drone Sniper and his faithful sidekick Thirteen (a sub-mind of the previous Spatterjay Warden A.I. that’s shaped like an iron seahorse with topaz eyes) who are stowaways on The Gurnard and you have The Four Musketeers From Hell and they certainly need to be as once in The Graveyard things escalate from just trading wares to fighting for their lives against a rapidly mutating Prador Vrell, an angry Prador King and his entourage, the Golgoloth (a monster that even the Prador are frightened of) and finally something that has laid dormant in the Spatterjay virus for five million years just waiting for the opportune moment to return. And guess what?
That moment has just arrived...
This is one of those books that you’ll want to read in one sitting and once finished you’ll clamour for more. Neal Asher at his bloodiest and best. Get it!
Am now reading The Technician by Neal and am just a few pages in but it looks promising
Friday, March 18, 2011
And so, yesterday, Anna my wife, Gareth my son-in-law and I said a final goodbye to Juliana amongst over three hundred and fifty (perhaps more) family members, friends and old colleagues who attended her funeral... who attended the celebration of her life.
The service at Lifepoint Church in Swansea was filled to capacity and the Pastors, Mike and Mick and the congregation were matchless and, for a person such as I who cannot claim to be profoundly religious, I have to say I was genuinely moved by their generosity of heart and their deep sense of family spirit.
The day passed for Anna and me as if we were floating through a dream and although I looked over the crowd of people from my viewpoint on the rostrum when I gave the eulogy I have to admit that I cannot say that the faces which looked up at me registered. I know I missed thanking many of you for attending and I apologise deeply for that. I also missed many who didn't go to the church but attended the crematorium, which again was full to capacity and had people overflowing into the foyer and to the outside. Once again I apologise for not thanking you personally. Between our house, Gareth's, my mother's house, my son Steven's and Rob and Wendy's we have had hundreds of condolences cards, I've had numerous phone calls, emails, Facebook comments and postings on my blog, and yet again I thank you all deeply from the bottom of our hearts for the love and comfort you have shown us.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
We have the details of the funeral arrangements of our beloved daughter, Juliana who passed away 4th March 2011. There will be a celebration of her life in the church she became a member of and embraced when she married her husband, Gareth.
There will be refreshments back at The Lifepoint Centre after. As per Juliana's wishes there will be a bouncy castle for the children in either the garden or, should the weather be inclement, arrangements will be made to have it inside.
Family flowers only but, should you wish to, donations to Ty Olwen Hospice, Morriston would be appreciated. St.James Funeral Home are available to receive donations and will forward them onwards.
Anna, my wife, and I wish to thank all who have sent their condolences and comforting words on this blog, on Facebook, by email, by card, by telegram, by phone and in person. You are too many to thank individually but please be aware that we appreciate your kind words and they have helped sustain us through this terrible time.
Saturday, March 05, 2011
I sit at my keyboard tonight writing the most horrific thing I have ever and will ever write. Last night 4th March 2011 at about twelve midnight our darling daughter Juliana died. She was thirty nine. Too young to die, too young to have suffered as she did and undeserving of such a terrible death. Ju was such a stoic and stalwart person and she fought her pancreatic cancer with such ferocity that she turned the months that she was given into more than three years. You may wonder why I would write this, I do it to celebrate her life and her courage and to give courage to those who are walking along the same path that she did. Some people say that you cannot battle against cancer, this may or may not be true but I can only speak from what I witnessed our dear girl manage to do and, damn did she fight it. Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest cancers to win that battle over as when symptoms begin to appear the cancer has taken such a hold that it is very difficult to contain, add to that the fact that the pancreas is not an easy organ to get to.
Ju noticed a swelling on her right side of abdomen late in 2005 but thought nothing of it until the summer of 2006 and when having it checked out was told that it was a benign serous cyst, the diagnosis was shortly changed to a solid-pseudopapillary tumour, again benign and medical opinion was to leave it alone as the operation to remove it was a major one. However as time passed and Juliana fell pregnant with her third child, Raphael (Raffy) in 2007 she started to have major problems, jaundice, weight loss, pain. She was advised to abort the foetus but that was an impossible thing to ask of our daughter and although she was in extreme pain through blocked vessels leading from the pancreas/spleen/gall bladder, was actually losing weight through the pregnancy and not putting weight on, she went to almost full term until she finally had to have a caesarean as there was risk of both her and the baby dying. Raffy was born safe and sound 14th December 2007 and is the loveliest of grandson. Juliana got worse and finally a decision was made for her to go in for surgery, two months after the caesarean, on St.Valentine’s Day 2008. The procedure is called The Whipple Procedure and took approximately eight hours and entailed removing the benign tumour. However, upon removal, the surgeon discovered a malignant tumour that had been hidden by the cyst (a number of biopsies had been done and all came back as benign) and upon identifying it was distraught to realise that the malignant tumour was also present. He removed as much of it as possible as some of it was around the portal vein, an almost octopus-like vein which carries blood to the liver from the digestive system. It was too delicate and too intricate a place to remove the entire tumour and some had to remain. She also had to have a vein taken from her arm and grafted to where one was too badly damaged. He also removed some lymph glands from the area as a precaution. Then she underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy on the area and the outlook was fairly optimistic. Her children were enthralled with the 44 staples she had across her belly that looked almost like a zipper, but she was sad she couldn’t wear a bikini anymore.
Recovery from the operation was hard as she had already depleted her reserves of energy by the pregnancy and caesarean, also add to that the fact she caught C.difficile whilst in hospital. But the worse news was twelve days later when pro-op biopsies showed there were signs of the cancer in adjoining lymph glands. However she continued with the chemo and radiotherapy and looked into changing her diet, less red meat, no sugar at all (cancer loves sugar) lots of fruit and veg (a lot juiced) tried to change her PH from acid to alkaline as cancer prefers an acidic environment, she also tried to get more oxygen into her system as cancer progresses quicker when oxygen is lacking. She started to put weight back on and feel a lot better and we were all so excited by the prospects of a remission or at least some extra time for her to raise her three children and spend time with her loving husband, Gareth.
But just before going on a holiday to Menorca with the family in May 2010 she had results back from a check-up that showed tumours in the lungs and elsewhere, the news was devastating but she still went and gave the kids a great time but was experiencing the beginnings of the pain that would stalk her until the end. Gradually she began to lose the weight she had fought so hard to win back and was told it was due to ‘cancer cachexia’ which is a wasting disease that end-stage cancer patients tend to suffer from. From what we investigated (we were both trawling the internet in the hope of finding something that would help) we found that it stops the body absorbing the fats and goodness needed to put weight on and actually takes from the fat and muscle stored in the body. We understood that the cancer more or less extracts the glucose from the tissue and leaves a by-product of lactic acid, the liver converts the lactic acid back into glucose and the cancer extracts it again, a vicious circle that cannot be broken, we tried supplements and changed her diet to include foods which would help her with energy reserves but she continued to lose weight and stabilized at 7 stone, however she was now a shadow of herself, bodily but not mentally, she would still thrash me in online games such as Warcraft etc (hi guildies!) and even in her last days beat me to a pulp in Scrabble. But the time came when however hard she fought to contain the disease the disease fought harder. But that did not deter our lovely girl. Even in horrendous pain she booked a holiday to Barbados just this last January 2011 for herself, her husband Gareth, Anna my wife and her Mum, Joseph her eldest son, Summer, her daughter and Raffy her youngest son. I didn’t go because, forgive me Ju, I have an extreme fear of flying and didn’t have the nerve to go. Upon return to the UK Juliana deteriorated and was taken into Ty Olwen Hospice to help with her medication and pain relief. She told me she was frightened that this time she would not be leaving; I said she was being silly, but she was right, as usual, and after two weeks of escalating pain and the subsequent pain relief medication to alleviate it she was sedated to help cope. Last night Anna, Gareth and I sat by her bedside as she slept and held her hands and told her to let go, she had fought long and hard and was continuing to fight with such a determination that I feel ashamed that I can be so scared to go on such a simple thing as a holiday whilst she battled against a foe that is the cruelest imaginable. Finally, in her sleep and without fear she breathed her last and left a void in our lives that all the words that have been written or could ever be written would never fill. Sleep peacefully now our darling Juliana; you deserve it, and much much more.
Love, Dad and Mam
I’d like to thank the staff of Ty Olwen for their love and kindness they showed to our daughter. I’d like to tell anyone that reads this and is a sufferer too that things are not just black and white, there are shades of grey. Research what afflicts you and try making your body an environment that cancer does not enjoy inhabiting. Juliana found out late but what she did to fight it I am sure extended her time and she used that precious time to give her love to her children and husband.
I am no cancer expert, I am no doctor, I am no expert at anything; I’m just a Dad praising his beloved daughter.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Clearing out my computer room today I came across an old Third Alternative magazine (now Interzone/Black Static/Crimewave) from winter 94/95 with fiction by Mike O'Driscoll - Rick Cadger - Mark McLaughlin - Wayne Edward - PJL Hinder - Julie Travis - Tim Lebbon and a guy named Neal Asher. I asked Neal if this was his first publication as I knew he started off in the mid 90s and in an email back to me he said:
Neal's story in this is entitled Cavefish and is perhaps more horror than sf but you can see the beginnings of his love of strange aquatic creatures starting to flower.
Oops forgot to mention artwork by Dave Mooring and poetry by Joel Lane - Andrew Jordan - Peter Crowther and AC Evans
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Well I promised you a guest blogger and here he is, safely esconced in my green leather wing-backed chair with a cup of tea and a plate of jammy-dodgers on a small table at his side. I've spent all morning cleaning the place and turning the heating up as I mistakenly thought he was doing the blogging naked but now realise I was thinking about Angelina Jolie who is my next guest...
So, without more ado and fantasy imaginings (not about him naked...) I introduce you to Steve Lockley, a most repected writer of dark fiction and the man responsible for publishing my first short story and setting me off on the writing road.
Hmm don’t know where Bob got the idea that I would be blogging naked, or even that he needed to tidy up.
I’ve known Bob since Paul Lewis and I edited the first in the Cold Cuts series of horror anthologies back in 1993 and I accepted his story ‘The Leaf in the Stone’.
The idea of those anthologies would be to promote some of the horror writers based in South Wales that were just starting to emerge. This seems like a good time and place to look at who has survived from those days and is still carving out a career as a writer.
It has taken far too long for Bob to start to break through, but in the last couple of years he’s seen a couple of books out from Screaming Dreams and his work is reaching a wider audience at last.
I’ve worked on a number of projects with Paul Lewis since that first anthology including the novels The Ragchild and The Quarry along with a handful of short stories many of which are due to be pulled together in a collection from Gray Friar Press. His first solo novel, his Arthurian tale The Savage Knight is due out in September.
Rhys Hughes seems to have so many books coming to fruition that it’s hard to keep up with him. Rhys ploughs his own furrow which rises above the commonplace if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor and produces work that never ceases to challenge as well as entertain.
Neither Gary Greenwood nor Mike O'Driscoll is anywhere near as prolific as they should be but their work regularly appears in the most enviable places. While others like Brian Willis who edited the award winning anthology Hideous Progeny are far too quiet.
TV and film writer Steve Volk has been getting the recognition for his short fiction which has been long overdue while Tim Lebbon has the Midas touch at the moment. A new novel or TV/film deal seems to be announced every few months. He’s worked hard for it and his success is much deserved
Publishers have come and gone. Razorblade Press is no more, and Sarob Press has relocated to France, but the aforementioned Screaming Dreams along with Pendragon Press and Mortbury Press all based in Wales publish some of the best Horror and Science Fiction around.
And me? In addition to the stuff I’ve done with Paul Lewis, I’ve returned to writing short stories on my own, finding a freedom that I had lost for a while. There’s also a new series of supernatural mysteries featuring forensic investigator Sally Reardon that I’m working on with Steven Savile which has been gaining a certain amount of attention. The latest, ‘Missing’ is only being published electronically, so all you good folks who’ve had a Kindle or similar device for Christmas could do worse than get hold of it. That’s after you’ve bought a copy of The Empathy Effect of course.