My youngest daughter is 11 today. I often hear people say how quickly their kids grow up, but for me it seems to have been a very slow process. It’s easy to think back eleven years to my cousin Jason’s wake, where I learned my wife had gone into labour and that I was needed at the hospital; but when I think of all the holiday memories, school plays, daddy-daughter weekends and so on that have happened since, it seems incredible that so much has been crammed into such a short space of time. In fact, I find it difficult to remember that distant era before my kids came along. I was a very different person then. My girls have added a few grey hairs that weren’t there before, but they’ve also matured me and knocked off a few of my rough edges. They’ve also made life fuller and so much more fulfilling.
I took my brother to A&E on Thursday evening – turns out he’s got kidney stones. While he was enduring a four-hour wait, I visited a couple of old friends who live nearby. The Horror Channel was on in the background as we talked. I’d watched Zombie Flesh Eaters and others of the kind when I was a teenager, and became so immunised to the visceral deaths and the lashings of gore that some scenes seemed more funny than frightening. Now, I can’t stomach them. It seems to me they belittle the value of life for cheap kicks, and do it in a way that trivialises the awfulness of death. I guess it wasn’t so much a matter of being immunised to the horror when I was younger, as being slowly dehumanised. I’m glad I quickly grew out of watching them.
I noticed a post on Facebook this week by Mahsuda Snaith, an old acquaintance from the Leicester Writers’ Club. I joined back in 2007, when we used to meet at Leicester Adult Education College (but dropped out a couple of years ago after a change of venue). I had the honour once of winning the LWC prize for best novel, and the following year was the main speaker at the annual dinner, but most Thursdays I just sat and enjoyed listening to others reading from the manuscripts they were working on. Back then, there were a couple of published novelists among us, most notably Chris d’Lacey, but after noticing Mahsuda has since been published by Penguin I decided to check on the progress of a few of my fellow club members. Seems they’ve done very well – a sci-fi trilogy for Andrew Bannister, four Steam Punk novels for Rod Duncan, a Viking trilogy for Marianne Whiting, and some successful Irish romance novels for Cathy Mansell, among other triumphs. I remember my envy of their excellent talents as I listened to them reading at the Club, so am really pleased to see how well everyone is doing.
I’ve finally come up with a title for the second book in my coming Heracles trilogy – Wrath of the Gods. I’ve got a deadline of the end of June for finishing the first draft, and progress is good so far. The first in the trilogy – Son of Zeus – will be published in April, and I’ll post the date here as soon as I know it. It’s around 100,000 words, so closer to the 90,000 average for novels, but less than my personal average of 165,000 for the Odysseus books. There’s also a rumour that an audio version of King of Ithaca is in the pipeline. I’ll let you know more as soon as I hear.