Jez's Notebook | August, 2019 Archive

Behind the Scenes of My 2 New Books – Becoming a “Children’s Author”

It feels quite strange writing this because I never set out to be a children’s author and neither do I consider myself one, however, as a result of writing two books for children, I’ve recently been referred to as just that. And it leaves me with a sense of the imposter syndrome!

To celebrate their launch I thought I’d offer an insight behind the scenes into the development of both books.

The Story Behind the Stories

Both Zooster McFlooster & the Very Big Sneeze and The Sock Thief were scribbled in the back of my notebook and written entirely for

LEGACY: a teaser of the new book

LEGACY is Jez’s new book for 2019

LEGACY was, I hoped, going to be published Spring 2019. It’s now the tail end of the Summer and it’s still not a printed book.

There are a number of reasons for that; some my fault as I had to sacrifice writing time to sort bees who started much earlier in the season than usual and fit in filming for TV, but also I fell out with my previous publisher over some mighty unfair play on their part and so am now publisher-less (I don’t think that’s correct grammatically, but it’s there now) and so going to self-publish this book, as I’ve done with most of my previous books.

All of that combined with finding more content to include means that it is, essentially, woefully “late”. So, to whet your appetite I’ve taken a snippet, entirely at random but so happens to be towards the end of the book, of LEGACY and I hope it intrigues you…

“One of our greatest living legacies could be in the language we choose to use with other people: the words we choose and the way we interact with others, to show greater patience, understanding and compassion. To encourage and believe in the condition of the human spirit and our ability to achieve if encouraged – as opposed to the part we could play in the demotivation and demise of an individual to the point that they no longer care or try. It isn’t just the physical acts; the building of communities or buildings, or the places we go to that create, or indeed leave, our legacy. It would be remiss of me to not consider the emotional scars we create and leave as we work our way through life and for some, which continue to cause pain when we are gone. We are, after all, emotional, sentient beings and none of us are devoid of emotion and the response it can deeply stir and drive in us, no matter how deeply buried and sealed they may appear for some. For pet owners we know all too well the deeply emotional legacy that favourite dogs, cats or family pets can leave. The emotional legacy is a wonder of human life and I’ve no doubt that some experience that same joy and almost overwhelming feeling of gratitude for having experienced it but with life experiences or with people (which only compounds the heartache when we have to say goodbye). However, there is something uniquely special about sharing life with an animal and if permitted to do so, they continuously prove how much more powerful the emotional legacy is. So easily and rapidly can the eyes become misty, the heart feel less full and the mind become so poignantly pensive, simply by reflecting on a beloved lost pet. I’m a dog person. I don’t dislike cats, although they don’t seem overly interested in me. They are predictably unpredictable in their ability to one minute be sweet and adoring, quite happily using my leg or hand as a leaning post; purring and forcing me to stroke and pet them and then quicker than the blink of an eye they are seemingly consumed by a violent psychosis, biting and scratching the object they adored mere moments before. Subsequently, and I think quite understandably, frankly, I find it very difficult to trust cat people. Dogs, like so many pets, give so, so much and yet ask for so very little in return. Their compassion, companionship, guidance, stillness, reflection, playfulness and unconditional love – not to mention the irreplaceably adorable noise they make when they dream – is a combination of characteristics that makes a deeply indelible impression on my heart, mind and the very depths of my soul. Overly histrionically verbose? Absolutely not. I’ve had dogs for almost all my life and the longest I’ve been without one is about three months following the death of Kai, an Alaskan Malamute, but despite what my rational brain tells me about having more available time and less commitment when one doesn’t have the commitment of a pet, I just can’t be without them. Without any doubt, the most special of all of them is Zeus. A black Labrador who I brought back to the family home at seven weeks old, Zeus was not entirely welcome at first. My parents had made it crystal clear that we were not going to buy another dog and then when pressed made it, admittedly equally crystal clear, that we were not having another dog. I completely ignored that and brought Zeus home, nestled inside my shirt with his head peering out from the buttons underneath my chin – I wasn’t taking any chances and needed the full cuteness factor in play in order to win them over. My Mum was reading a book in the living room when I stood in the doorway with Zeus cuddled up in my shirt and she instantly fell in love with him. Strike one; game set and match to me. My Dad, however was not so easily impressed. He did not even acknowledge Zeus for the next two weeks; he wanted nothing to do with him and made his disapproval at my blatant disregard for the clear house instructions patently clear. Until one morning I was in the kitchen talking to my Mum and we heard a voice coming from the other room. Soft and kindly, it was definitely my Dad and I could just make out what he was saying: “Hello little fella! Look at you, all cute and soft….”. He was rumbled and victory was, finally, mine. As I type this, Zeus is in his eleventh year and that’s getting quite old now for a large dog. Almost daily I reflect with poignant consideration of when “the time” comes exactly what it will be like without him. I am fully supportive of the idea of compassionate leave for the loss of a loved pet; they leave as significant a hole in your life, sometimes a greater one, as some fellow humans do on their passing. It’s interesting how writing this book came about at the time when Zeus is visibly getting older: his fur greying and his mobility gradually declining. He sleeps more than he ever has and he’s quite content with a casual, short stroll rather than anything close to the long walks we used to have exploring together across the fields. He’s always been quite independent, which is a kinder way of saying stubborn, although almost everyone remarks on how well behaved our dogs are. While watching him sleep one day; his head resting on my lap, I began reflecting on the impact this one dog had made on my life, over and above other dogs I’d had. Just what was it that was so very special about Zeus? His legacy would be strong and long and indeed he is the dog everyone who visits the house wants to take home with them – poor Marley; no one wants to kidnap him and his crazy whirlwind of energy! Zeus and I have quite literally grown up together: I was only twenty two when I brought him back to our family home and over the past twelve years he’s vicariously experienced a fair amount of change. He’s also learnt to bark in that time, too – thanks to Marley. The only noise Zeus made prior to me bringing Marley home was that adorable snuffling and whimpering they make sometimes when they sleep but Marley’s vocalisation of his anxieties caused Zeus to become equally vocal about, very often, things he has absolutely no knowledge of. And so, having taken a break from writing this book, while gently running my hand across his super soft, shiny, jet-black fur, my mind began to wander and reflect on the legacy my canine companion had left on me to date and would leave when his time comes to say a final goodbye. I so desperately, with every fibre of my being, wish he could live forever. No animal has made me as happy, content and made such an impression on me as Zeus. An animal that cannot comprehend in a way anything like I can, as a human. He can’t discuss with me, reason or even physically do even a fraction of what my body and brain are able to achieve. He cannot drive, nor does he possess opposable thumbs; he isn’t able to help around the house (or he defiantly chooses not to) and he contributes zero financially. Yet in his silence; his eye contact; his patience; his need for me to provide for him – and in his mere presence, he provides so much more for me than I can give to him. That’s quite a powerful lesson, isn’t it? It’s powerful and it’s worthy, too. The art of ‘being’ is something many humans lack. Many seem too obsessed on changing or fixing things and yet, especially with mental health and times we all experience of sadness and emotional challenges, all that is often required is to simply be with someone. To sit or simply to listen. No advice; no correcting – just your simple and conscious presence. And for something so patently simple, it would appear that it is a trait that doesn’t come easily to us anymore, for even listening so that you actually hear what other people are saying is a skill many have lost. How many times has someone been introduced to you, only for you to forget their name mere moments later? Zeus taught me that. In fact, Zeus helps to make many of my business decisions with me but that’s probably for another book. When you have built a relationship of trust and understanding with a dog, it is truly remarkable just how in tune they become with you. Dogs have been trained to detect cancer cells in humans with a greater accuracy and efficiency than current scientific testing is able; they’ve been trained to detect imminent epileptic seizures before the individual themselves even know about it. So it’s little wonder really that when I’m not feeling my best, Zeus comes to sit next to me, or will get up from where he’s been laying happily and comfortably, to lay or sit next to me.