Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Angel Mountain Conversation

Derdre (looking jolly) and me (looking pensive) during our conversation in the Memorial Hall last week.  An enjoyable evening -- even the main hall was rather large for a modest event!  Thanks to Siobhan and the Hall Committee for putting on the event, and thanks to Literature Wales for financial support -- it's good that they still have a little cash left after the excesses of the Dinefwr Literary Festival earlier in the summer.....

Friday, 24 August 2012

Mistress Martha in sharp focus

Tonight (24th August) I'll be having a "conversation" with fellow author Deirdre Edwards about the Angel Mountain Saga, Mistress Martha's virtues and vices, and anything else that the audience might wish to talk about.  Starting at 7.30 pm in the Memorial Hall in Newport.  Tickets (obtainable at the door) £4.00 -- incredible value for money, since refreshments are included!!

So please come along and join in the conversation -- everybody welcome.

This event is part of the ongoing programme of events in the hall, organized by Siobhan Ashe and the new Committee -- and giving the hall a much greater "buzz'' than it had in the bad old days........

The event is funded with the help of Literature Wales.  I'll have the eight books of the saga available for signing and selling after the talk -- and Deirdre will also be signing copies of her book called "Willowby's World".

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pen Morfa Rock Garden

Pen Morfa yesterday, after the pouring rain.  Pen Dinas is in the distance.  The soil is very thin here, and it always looks like a rock garden -- but it's at its best in August.  Heather, late summer gorse, and lovely fresh greenery.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

PENfro workshops for creative writers

If you are a creative writer, or have aspirations to be one, and live in West Wales, this is your chance to participate in an intensive workshop with a leading published writer -- for just £10.  Much more information can be found on the PENfro website.  Make a note of the date --PENfro Writer's Day -- Saturday 15th September 2012.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

... and the Parrog from above

This is a fabulous photo taken from above the estuary -- showing the man-made spit on which the Boat Club and various cottages are located.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Down on the Parrog......

I thought I'd share this atmospheric photo of low tide down on the Parrog.  I found it somewhere on the internet.  Many of the incidents in the Angel Mountain Saga take place here, in what was at the time Newport's little port, populated by seamen, merchants and a good many rather disreputable characters.....

The Kindle Freebie Promo -- the aftermath

At the end of May I posted a long analysis of my experience with the free Kindle promotion of "On Angel Mountain" -- the first book of the Angel Mountain Saga.  You can find it

During the five days of the promotion, Amazon recorded more than 3,000 free downloads of the book, mostly in the UK.  Naturally enough, I was somewhat intrigued to see what impact the promotion might have on actual SALES of the book -- and the other books in the series -- in the weeks that followed.  So I kept an eye on the Amazon reports for ten weeks, and what I found is recorded on this table and graphic:

Table and graphical representation of Kindle book sales for the ten weeks after the freebie promotion.  Click to enlarge.

Most authors and publishers are very reticent about sales figures, but I don't mind sharing this!  Bearing in mind that before the free promotion, sales of my titles were bumping along at a rate of two or three a week, there was an immediate and spectacular increase in sales in the days following the promotion.  There were 239 sales of "On Angel Mountain" in that first week, and also a big increase in sales of the other titles as well, with total sales for the five titles reaching 306.  Not exactly stratospheric, but some people out there must have liked the free book enough to buy some of the others, and some readers must have told other readers about the books.  A few hundred quid is not a fortune, but it's not to be sniffed at if you are a "mid-list" author!

Then the slide started, with sales dropping sharply to 81 in week two, and then more gradually to 60 in week three, 57 in week four, and 41 in week five.  Since that time, I imagine that I have reached the "normal" sales level for the Kindle books -- with sales between 20 and 30 copies per week.  That's the way I imagine that it will continue week on week...........

Am I disappointed?  Yes -- I had hoped for an exponential sales increase on the back of the freebie promo.  Occasionally, I suppose these things happen -- but in the great majority of cases they don't.

Am I sorry I put all that effort into the freebie promo?  Not at all -- it was quite exciting at the time, and I learned a lot.  I subsequently sold 500 or so Kindle books which I would not otherwise have sold, and I have seen a ten-fold increase in my "base level" of sales of all of the titles in the series, which I imagine will continue for a long while.

What next?  Now for the freebie promo of "House of Angels" .............

Saturday, 11 August 2012

PENfro Bookfest 2012: the poster

The full programme is here:

Information about the Book Fair on 16th September is here:
Information about our Saturday workshops can be found here:

Information about our 2012 Sunday speakers is here:

Advance booking of Festival Passes is recommended via the Rhosygilwen web site:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

"Incredible book -- excellent author!"

Some nice reviews recently posted on the Amazon.UK web site:


I visited Newport a few weeks ago and came across this book whilst researching where to walk. Loved being able to relate to actual places where events took place and found Martha to be an engaging heroine - I am very much looking forward to the rest of the saga - and if you get the chance - visit Newport and Carningli!!!!

Wonderful, evocative book

I really loved this book. The writing is so evocative you could almost be in 16th century Wales. The characters were strong, the sense of place was very strong and I felt like I was really reading the diary of a living person. I felt that all the characters came alive off the page and that was down to the excellent writing. I could almost visualise the people and places which is, to me, evidence that a book has done it's job - to entertain and enthrall the reader. Well worth reading this book.

Incredible book, couldn't put it down

Incredible story set in Pembrokeshire West Wales, of the struggle, loves and lives of Martha and her family living on Angel Mountain near Newport. I can't wait to read the rest of the saga. I was desolate when I finished the book.  It sounds barmy but I missed everyone in it so much. Excellent Author!      

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Gravy train or cultural necessity?

Well well -- this has caused a bit of a stir.  Author Julian Ruck (whom very few will have heard of) has launched a bitter attack on the Welsh publishing scene in the pages of the Western Mail.  Sour grapes or pearls of wisdom?  His E-publishing festival in Kidwelly was such a disaster that it had to be cancelled -- so maybe he has reason to feel sore.  But is he justified in having a go at the whole of the Welsh publishing scene?  I have to say that I sympathise with some of the points he is making -- and I have made similar points in some of my submissions to the Welsh Assembly on the Welsh publishing scene.  I was staggered by the figures he gave for the subsidies paid to Welsh publishers over the period 2008-2012.  Was all that money well spent?  I doubt it -- and without it, many books that should not have been published would not have been published.  In a fully "commercial" publishing world, as we have in England, hundreds of Welsh titles would have gone onto the slush pile or into the bin as being unpublishable, on the grounds that they had not a hope in hell of repaying the investment sunk into them.  Mythology has it that a book only has to sell 700 copies in Wales in order to be classified as a "best seller."  And I have long been concerned that those titles which receive the heaviest subsidies get the heaviest promotion, since it is incumbent upon everybody in the grant aid chain to justify the decisions which they have made, using public money.  Another myth has it that copies of the "big" Welsh titles are dumped in Welsh bookshops in larger quantities than are strictly justified, simply to show strong apparent initial sales -- and that returns are then not counted into the equation.  So, by some magic, the "big" titles all turn into bestsellers, although the number of people who actually buy them might be very small indeed.

But should Welsh publishing be asked to survive without any support from the Assembly?  That would probably be counterproductive, because publishing in Wales needs to be used as a part of the strategy for promoting Wales's unique cultural heritage and creating a strong brand image.  But could those millions of pounds be better targetted and better used?  Undoubtedly yes -- and in that I would agree with the maverick author who has been given such space in the Western Mail.


Author Julian Ruck attacks taxpayer-funding for Welsh writers

By Rachael Misstear
Jul 30 2012

A Welsh author has launched a bitter attack on taxpayer-funding for writers in Wales, calling for the money to be diverted to cash-strapped health and education budgets.

Julian Ruck said that subsidies for Welsh authors and publishing houses stifled quality as writers were not forced to hone their craft with readers in mind.

He said that since the 1950s there had not been “one single Welsh writer of any national or international note”.

In a speech due to be given to a literary festival, which was cancelled before he was due to speak, he revealed figures showing £4m of public money had been paid to authors and publishing houses through Literature Wales and the Welsh Books Council in the last four years.
He said: “The Welsh publishing industry is nothing more than a parasitical, elitist carbuncle on the hide of a struggling Welsh economy.

“Of course one will never obtain sales figures for the winning works.”

His speech was set for the closing of the Kidwell-e Festival – UK’s first literary event celebrating the e-book and its growing popularity.

Ruck, who privately funded the event, was scathing about the quality of writing that the grants subsidised.

He said: “Where are the giants of Welsh writing? Where are the Welsh Seamus Heaneys and James Joyces or for that matter the Jeffrey Archers and James Pattersons? Or even the odd bookish shade of grey?

“Did Lady Charlotte Guest or Dylan Thomas receive hand-outs from the tax-payer?

“Since the 1950’s there hasn’t been one single Welsh writer of any national or international note to hit the tarmac beyond the Severn Bridge.

“The hunger to create for an audience has been stifled, the warts and all of learning the trade have been burnt away, the cleansing of rejection and reality of commercial brutality is no more.”

Ruck, who has written three novels described on his website as thrillers or family saga novels, cited figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act which showed that four Welsh publishing firms had been granted significant sums from the public purse over the last four years.

Seren Publishers received £557,078, Honno received £239,708, Y Lolfa received £687,507 and Gomer Press £1,409,493.

In total, over the same period from 2008 to 2012, grants to Welsh writers totalled £1,409, 493.

He said: “Not only are Welsh writers subsidised but so of course are their Welsh publishers. So you have a situation where firstly the writer receives a hand-out to write the book and then the publisher receives a hand-out to publish it. So, a double whammy for the tax-payer if you like.”

He added: “Cancer patients can’t get the drugs they need because they are too expensive.... Wheelchairs are in short supply, families can’t get the care they need for their elderly relatives and yet the Welsh Assembly feels it is morally right to dish out millions of pounds of your money for a few people to propagate a Welsh ‘literary’ agenda that few are interested in, whose books, magazines and pamphlets patently don’t pay their way and most importantly of all, contributes precisely nothing for the overall good of society.”

“It is time Welsh publishers and Welsh writers operated under normal commercial rules. The state simply can no longer afford to indulge you. There are far more important priorities to consider.

“And for all you Welsh writers out there, genuine talent will always prevail. Good writing will always be read and will always sell. If your work has these essential qualities then you don’t need the exhausted tax-payer to fund it – full stop.”

Literature Wales' chief executive Lleucu Siencyn issued a full statement in response to Mr Ruck, defending the organisation and naming Philip Pullman, RS Thomas, Ken Follett, Gillian Clarke and Owen Sheers as great writers Wales had produced and nurtured since the 1950s.

Elwyn Jones, chief executive Welsh Books Council said the body revises and monitors its schemes regularly to ensure that funding offers the best possible value for money.

“Literature and the arts are funded in countries throughout the world,” he said.

“In a market dominated by large English and American publishers, it is testament to the success of Welsh authors, publishers and funding bodies that in the past year titles published in Wales have been listed for the Man Booker Prize, the T. S. Eliot Award and the Costa Prize.

“They have also found commercial success, such as sports titles by Eddie Butler and Simon Easterby and popular autobiographies, including that of radio presenter, Chris Needs.

“We are confident that with relatively modest funds, our schemes support books that enrich Welsh culture, placing it on an international platform.”


Read More

My Writer's Workshop at the PENfro Festival

I'll be leading a Writers' Workshop at the PENfro Book festival on 15th September, on the theme of "Going it Alone" -- dealing with the realities of writing and publishing without a contract and without a big publisher to work on your behalf.  Hard work, but it can be done!  Further details on the website. If you want to book a place, it'll cost you £10. Please book as early as possible, since numbers will be limited....

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Carningli by John Brett

This is the Carningli oil painting by John Brett, dated to 1882.  It's available from the Bridgeman web site for reproduction and commercial use -- hence the watermark on the image.  More info here:

Look at the dense gorse high on the mountain, and the swathe of heath on the mountainside.  My guess is that there was much less intensive agriculture at the time, and that there were far fewer sheep on the mountain.


I came across this lovely painting of Aberfforest, by John Brett.  Available from the National Museum of Wales via its picture library page.,WNLI,6MPC87,2PE3X,1

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Children's Book Prize

This is my certificate, recently received following the award of First Prize in the Children's Book Awards announced a few months ago.  I'm very chuffed that my first children's book should have won this award against stiff competition -- and judged by children from primary schools all over the country, who know nothing about West Wales in general or Haverfordwest in particular.  (The story is based partly on my childhood memories of Haverfordwest in the immediate Post-war years.)

So -- anybody who reads this -- buy the book for your children and grand-children!  I guarantee that they will love it....

New edition of the OS Coast Path Guide

After a hard slog in the spring, correcting and reorganizing the text and discussing layout changes, the new edition of the Pembs Coast Path (National Trail) Guide is about to hit the shops.  Apart from being bang up-to-date, it is redesigned in a double-column layout, and there are many more -- and better -- photographs.  Route changes are also entered on the map pages.  It looks stunning -- I hope, dear reader, that you might agree when you have seen it.....