As some of you may be aware, since my friend James Camp decided to become an author I have been fulfilling my lifelong ambition to write a novel. This is of fantasy, of swords and shields and is something I have had in my head for a long time. You can find what of it I have done on wattpad. However, the year before last my nephew was born and I thought I might take up the challenge of writing and illustrating a book for him. I started over a year ago myself and as a lover of pirates I thought I would go down that route. I’m not a very good drawer (infant I can barely draw!) so decided to use a program I was very familiar with, Flash. Being a teacher I had taught countless pupils how to morph shapes to make basic cartoon characters and then animate them. I only needed one stage of this so thought it can’t be that hard. Let me tell you, writing a children’s book is easy, very very easy. I used my knowledge of other books to put together a simple story with sound effects and actions. Illustrating a book, however, is hard, very very hard. I started drawing the odd picture, or more precisely parts of pictures, when I could get some free time. Being in a hectic job this time was few and far between. My wife, and I suppose myself, thought I was never going to get it finished. I wanted it for his first birthday although I know it might be better if he was a little older. This however was approaching fast, so I though it will be Christmas soon after so I’ll aim for then. It wasn’t getting done very fast at all. However I got inspiration for the very source of the story. My little nephew had grown into a lover of books, he would bring them to you and make you read them and do the actions. More than this he seemed to love me reading him books, every time we went to see him he would bring me a book and we would have some more fun being silly with it. This focused me and I got on with it. But things started to wane again, the book had been written over a year ago but of the ten illustrations I had only completed about 6. The next motivation came when I got off my bum and found myself a printer, they gave me a deadline date if I wanted it to be printed before Christmas. Somehow I hit it, including a weekend where my Sister-in-law, Brother-in-law and nephew came to stay, I managed to slyly complete a little more whilst they were asleep! The next snag was the printing itself. I knew colours might be darker but they appeared as if someone had turned the lights out. The printers were excellent though and sent through different copies in different colours. I was set, so on the day before I had to send it to get there for Christmas I managed to pick up the books (I had three, one for him now, one for when he is older (a clean copy) and one for me (to prove I actually did it!)). I felt so proud when I got those copies, I wanted to show everyone but knew I had done wonders to actually keep the project under wraps. I did give a few people a sneak peek and they loved it. Two people even said they had wanted to write a children’s story and seemed genuinely like they would start, as if I was their muse or something. I am even happier to say that my nephew loves it and has wanted it to be read to him on multiple occasions, maybe when I next visit that will be the book he picks up.
I think what it does show is that you can do some amazing things when you put your mind to it, although a deadline and the inspiration of a little boy is what I really needed. The fact that I just went to a printers and they sorted it for me shows how easy it actually is to get material published. Ok so it is not actually published, but they would do that if I gave them some more money. I’d even get a unique ISBN number and everything, but that was not the purpose of the book! I hope that this achievement will focus me in my other little projects and although I will never get famous from it I will have at least made someone happy and proved something to myself. I suppose I should have mention the book title already, it is Captain Caleb and the Tickle Monster. I purposely put the Tickle Monster bit in so I could write more if I wanted to (or if he wanted more!). Basically it is about a pirate captain who finds where some treasure is so he and his crew go to investigate, they find a scary monster instead. In the end the monster
just tickles them and everyone is happy. After telling you the plot I guess there is only really one way to finish off this post, with a few illustrations from the book…
Maybe it is because I have not read the book, maybe it IS a travesty but unlike so many reviews I read about The Hobbit I actually enjoyed it. My biggest concern was not that I would not like the film but simply that people said it dragged. One thing I loved about The Lord of the Rings trilogy was that, despite being three hours each, they felt much quicker than that, moving at an alarming rate and keeping you hooked for more. The Hobbit started a bit slowly but did make you feel all nostalgic for the other trilogy. When the Dwarfs arrived at Bag End I was concerned that it was going to end up one silly gag after another but to my delight it settled down pretty quickly. In between the jokes and over the top action there was some serious moments that at times tugged on the old heart strings. It just seemed to have enough comedy, when you thought it was going a little too far then it would pull it back again.
The reviews did seem fixated that Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum was as far as the film got but there is a lot that happens before that and I never felt it moved at too slow a pace, somethings were draw out longer than maybe they needed to but it was not as if I was there going ‘come on, we know what’s going to happen lets just get there.’ The setting too was lavish, flowing on well from Lord of the Rings, they even made it feel like it was before the event. Sometimes prequels can feel more advanced than the originals and feel at odd with what is effectively about to happen (take Star Wars as an example), but I never felt The Hobbit was anything but a section of the same story just set before hand, I think the fantasy nature of the film helped and the links to The Lord of the Rings were clear showing that it was not just a film adaptation of a children’s book but actually fits in with the whole story. My only real criticism here is that no-one seems to die, the dwarfs are in such peril a lot of the time but they always find a way out. I think to be more realistic (I know it’s a film with orc, dwarfs, elves and wizards but just go with me!) one or two could have faced an untimely end.
I have heard that there are many changes from the book but as previously mentioned I have not read it. Maybe when I get round to it (I need to finish Return of the King first!) I will change my mind, but once again I disagree with many film critics, this was a lovely story well told that had comic moments but was also a lot darker than I thought it would be. Tolkien’s story would be hard to do wrong after the success of Lord of the Rings and I feel some reviews are harsh. Is it a bad film? No. Is it worse than Lord of the Rings? Possibly. Does it feel part of the franchise? Most definitely. All in all it was a delight to watch, again I did not feel as if I was in the cinema for three whole hours and am looking forward to the next two (a cash in I know but if they are all at least as good at this it is not a bad thing). Maybe I should thank the reviewers, I have mention a lot previously about not going in expecting much. I don’t think I did because of bad reviews and came out pleasantly surprised. It might not be the best film ever made but it is one the best I have seen at the Cinema for a long while. Maybe that says something about the state of film making today, I personally think it was actually pretty good.
2012 was extremely busy for me and as such I have had little time to work on my novel. I decided that I needed to complete Chapter 4 by the end of my Christmas break and I am happy to say that I have done just that. The pace is a little quicker now and things are starting to happen. You can get the whole book here, or jump straight to chapter four here. Hope you like it because I am unsure when I will get Chapter 5 written! If anyone is out there on wattpad as well and would like me to look at their stuff then let me know, I am always up for some idea sharing. I have also been chatting to a few people at work who I seem to have inspired to start writing their own novels or children stories so if you have a story in you then get on wattpad and share it with the world too, it surely can’t be as bad as mine!