Monday, 10 November 2014

Three day Twitter campaign -- interesting!



Over the last few days I have been watching and participating in a 3-day Twitter campaign for "Acts of God" and can now start to assess how effective it has been.  I don't mind sharing this, since it may well be of interest to other writers and publishers. We are all in this together, guys..........

For the record, "Acts of God" was published just a few days ago, on 5th November, and it had its official launch party (with very nice wine and nibbles) on 9th November.  The cover price of the paperback version is £7.99, and Amazon sells it for £5.75, having squeezed a vast discount of 60% out of me, the publisher.  (Actually I have no option other than to submit.  There is no choice in the matter.)  Those are modest and fairly standard prices for paperback fiction books

The Kindle version sells on Amazon UK for £3.19 and probably $4.99 in the USA.  Here the competition is much hotter, since on any one day there are literally thousands of free Kindle books available for download, and thousands more at prices well below mine.  The principle seems to be to sell as many as possible at as low a price as possible -- which of course makes it very difficult for the vast majority of competent writers to make any money at all, given that they get just 70% of the selling price in royalties.  (Some writers of course sell millions of copies of their Kindle downloaded books, so even at giveaway prices, they do very well in terms of income......)

I decided to try a three-day Twitter campaign to coincide with the launch of the book, with Twitter bombardments on 5th, 7th and 9th November.  For this, I paid just over £50 to TweetYourBooks.com, who promised to send out 70 tweets per day via six accounts, reaching (potentially) over 190,000 "select and loyal followers".    In addition, they promised to check my own tweets as well, and to re-tweet them; and promised that many of their followers would do the same.  I have every reason to accept that they delivered as promised, for  I saw a phenomenal increase in twitter activity which found its way back to me.  TweetYourBooks staff were helpful and efficient, and courteously dealt with my enquiries.   So was my £50 well spent?

At first glance, it doesn't look like it.  I have not received a single PayPal order for the paperback edition over the 5 days of the campaign, and as far as Kindle orders are concerned, there were 3 on 5th Nov, 1 on 7th Nov and 1 on 9th Nov.  A grand total of five sales!  That's not going to turn me into a Kindle millionnaire.........  (There may be a few more sales to be recorded;  I suspect that in some cases Amazon takes the money from a purchaser before recording it on the dashboard that sellers are able to access.  In some cases several days may pass before the transaction is recorded -- a nice way for Amazon (poor things!) to make even more profits.)

The main route through to paperback purchases was via my Weebly web site:
http://actsofgod.weebly.com/

On the site I have a button that takes you straight to my shopping page, so it's about as easy to make a purchase as it gets (except for the Amazon web site where they now have one-click purchasing.)  But my cover price is of course higher than Amazon's, so maybe some people will look at my site and then hop over to Amazon to make a purchase.  We shall see what happens....

The Weebly records of visits to my site are interesting.  Take a look at these two graphs.

Page views for my Weebly site.  The three peaks on the right coincide with the three campaign days (5th, 7th and 9th Nov) and the troughs coincide with the "slack" days -- Nov 6th and 8th.


Unique visitors to the site.  The troughs and peaks are repeated, although the overall decline in numbers is sharper.

Let's do some interpretation.  On 5th Nov there were 892 page views by 187 visitors.  On 7th Nov there were 739 page views from 101 visitors.  And on 9th Nov there were 641 page views from 73 visitors.  With the "trough"figures included as well, that means there have been 2,753 page views this month so far.  So on day one, each visitor looked on average at 4.7 pages. On day two each person looked at 7.3 pages.  And on day three, each person looked at 8.7 pages.  There are only ten pages on the site -- so some people must have looked at all of them.  That's good.

I have to be realistic and accept that in the fields of crime / thrillers / mystery / conspiracy / adventure I am a completely unknown author with no track record.  Nobody has heard of me.  I think I have a rather good book to sell, and a fantastic cover (thanks to Martin and Alison) -- so there is a chance that people will be attracted by the book and might wish to read it.  But realistically the new novel is not going to start making waves until there are some good reviews in the bag -- and I just have to be patient until that happens.

There are two conclusions:  (1) those who visit the Weebly site seem to find it interesting, since disinterested people tend to look just at one page for a few seconds, and then hop off somewhere else; and (2)  those who visited the site later in the campaign -- at the weekend -- spent more time looking at pages.

Another more general conclusion is that the first day of a campaign is always the most effective.  I have noticed this as well on the Kindle "freebie" days that I have done in the promotion of the Angel Mountain books. 

And the main lessons to be learned?  Probably my Kindle version is over-priced, since Kindle readers are always looking for a bargain and one is operating in a bargain basement environment.  It seems that the only people who can get away with a Kindle book priced above £3 are the really big authors who have established followings and who are eagerly awaiting the next book.  But I've noticed that even the big authors start with a high price and then, after a while, drop it sharply so as to compete in the bargain basement.  The other lesson is that fairly frequent one-day campaigns are probably more effective than three-day or five-day campaigns.  Kindle only allows authors to have 5 days of free promotions in any 90-day period;  I am now convinced that it's best to scatter these, rather than having them in a five-day block. 

Onwards and upwards........ time to plan a free promotion.
 




Thursday, 6 November 2014

All systems go for Book Launch


All sorted, thanks largely to those fantastic people at Cambrian Printers in Aberystwyth.    The big print run of the book is being done in Bulgaria (not London, as I was led to believe by the printers) and through some inefficiency at their end the printing firm (which shall be nameless) had -- sort of -- forgotten the date on which delivery was supposed to have been done.  They had apparently forgotten that publication day was 5th November and that book launch day was planned for 9th November.  So I was confronted with a book launch minus the books -- and that would not have been very rewarding.........

Suddenly a quantity of books had to be rustled up from somewhere in 2 days flat.  On the offchance, knowing that they were good at short-run digital printing, I rang up Cambrian Printers first thing this morning and asked "Any chance......?"  Richard Jones immediately replied:  "Yes, we can do it.  Just get the camera-ready copy to us by lunch time, and you'll have the books tomorrow."

Now that's what I call customer service!  Round the clock printing.  So it's all done and dusted, and I'll have the books -- unless, that is, some Act of God occurs in the meantime.......

So if anybody ever says anything unpleasant about Cambrian Printers, I will get very angry with them.  As far as I am concerned, they are everything that a good printing company should be.  Long may they thrive!!

And as for the rest of the print run?  Well, the books on a pallet are on a large truck in Sofia, and will start a long journey across Europe tomorrow, arriving in precisely one week's time.  I suppose it could have been worse, if I had gone for a printing firm based in China...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Acts of God -- divine intervention needed?



The new novel has been with the printer since 26th October, and I assumed there would be no problem with delivery by the end of the month, or in the first few days of November.  "No problem," said the friendly fellow at the printers.  "The whole job will only take three days at the most."  What he didn't tell me was that he had forgotten that the book launch date has been fixed for several weeks now at 9th November, and that the books are being printed in Sofia, and not in London.  So instead of the transport taking one day, it is presumed to take a week or more.  So after endless hassling, I discovered that delivery is planned for Friday 14th November, almost a week after the book launch at which I am supposed to be signing copies of the book for the eager members of the public!!

Hmmm.  We have a problem, as they say.......... never mind, we must be eternally optimistic.  What is needed is a modicum of goodwill and a little lateral thinking.  Watch this space.....

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Angel Mountain checklist

The Angel Mountain Saga
Eight volumes are now available in this best-selling series -- with about 75,000 copies sold


On Angel Mountain (Part One), Greencroft Books 2001.
    ISBN 9780905559803.  A5 paperback, 328 pp, £6.99.
House of Angels (Part Two), Greencroft Books 2002.
    ISBN 9780905559810.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £7.99.
Dark Angel (Part Three), Greencroft Books 2003.
    ISBN 9780905559827.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Rebecca and the Angels (Part Four), Greencroft Books 2004.
    ISBN 9780905559834.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Flying with Angels (Part Five), Greencroft Books, 2005.
    ISBN 9780905559841.  A5 paperback, 400 pp, £7.99.
Guardian Angel (Part Six), Greencroft Books, 2008.
    ISBN 9780905559865.  A5 paperback, 256 pp, £6.99.
Sacrifice (Part Seven), Greencroft Books, 2009.
    ISBN 9780905559902.  A5  paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.
Conspiracy of Angels (Part Eight), Greencroft Books, 2012.
    ISBN 9780905559933.  A5 paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bear Islands -- almost a disaster





 Another very spooky thing.  In "Acts of God" there is an episode which involves a vast iceberg breaking up near the shore of the Bear Islands -- with tragic consequences for those who are caught in the resulting waves as they rush shorewards.  I came across this, in a travel log from 2007, which mirrors the situation almost exactly.........

From Markus Ziebell's travel log:
http://www.travel-fever.com/script/parsesets.php?sdir=0803002&set=01 
He stopped off at the Bear Islands in 2007 during what was to be a single-handed kayak circumnavigation of Milne Land.  The trip could not be completed because of technical problems with a vessel which should have brought him additional supplies, and because of adverse ice conditions.

After a few kilometers, I reach open water and set course straight for Bear Island, which is 45 km away. As the mountain slopes are much steeper here, I intend to land at a bay with a hut indicated on my map. I'm hoping to find good landing conditions and drinking water there. Just before the bay, I pass another huge iceberg that appears quite brittle even from a distance. I have just pulled the boat onto the protruding rocks of the sheltered bay and unloaded the first two bags, when I am startled by a loud cracking sound. I watch as 800 m away from me a broad wall of ice plunges down the iceberg into the depths. A tall, breaking wave develops in front of the iceberg, and quickly turns into a flat swell that approaches fast. I have barely a minute to prepare for it. I can't pull the boat higher onto the rocks because of its weight. So I just stand next to the boat in my drysuit with the tow rope in my hand and wait. The first wave is still slowed down by the protruding rocks. But the next four breakers crash over them, and I stand in the surf up to my hips while the boat is being thrown from left to right against the rocks. I am lucky, and my sturdy PE- boat doesn't get damaged.

 http://actsofgod.weebly.com/




Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Greenland Sunday -- 9th November 2014



GREENLAND SUNDAY

2.30 - 4.30 pm on Sunday 9th November 2014
Commodore's Lounge, Boat Club, Parrog, Newport

And now for something completely different --  nothing whatsoever to do with Martha Morgan, angels or Carningli....

Please join Brian and Inger for a couple of hours to celebrate the book launch of the new thriller
ACTS OF GOD

Set in East Greenland in 1962, in the depths of the Cold War

At 3 pm there will be a brief illustrated presentation on the Arctic Riviera and Brian's eventful 1962 expedition on which the novel is based
and at 4 pm  the author will give a short reading from the new book

Light refreshments will be served.
Please join us, and bring your friends!

Best wishes

Brian
01239-820470

Monday, 20 October 2014

Latest Kindle freebie promo


A week ago I finished the latest Kindle freebie promo via the Amazon web site, and my experience might help other authors with other Kindle books to sell.

This is the third promo I have done for this title -- and the most successful, by far, was the first one.  We should not be surprised about that.  This time I only managed to give away about 550 copies, but what interested me most of all was the very big peak in downloads on the first day.  That's when the book went to number two in the "free Historical Fiction" section.  After that, there was a very rapid drop-off.  My recommendation?  Do freebie promotions just one day at a time.  That way, you get the full weight of the Amazon publicity machine behind you -- since the "machine" does nothing at all after that -- so subsequent downloads just fade away inless you do some pretty hefty marketing yourself.

Now we shall see whether, after another few days have passed, there will be any lift in actual sales of the subsequent volumes in the saga.......

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Oxford University Expedition to East Greenland 1962




Above:  the "red mountain" of Malmbjerget, seen from the other side of the Schuchert Gletscher.  The ore body is well defined.  Note the accumulated mine waste carried out from the excavation of the tunnels inside the mountain.  The mountain is called Himmelbjerg in the novel.

Below: camp site on the Oxford Gletscher, after a heavy snowfall.

At long last, I have digitised the key photos from our 1962 expedition, and they are now in a Facebook Album here:

https://www.facebook.com/brian.john.526/media_set?set=a.982579645090735.1073741845.100000161271278&type=1

Some of the images have been in slide boxes collecting dust and mildew for 52 years......... so the quality is less than perfect!  Nonetheless, the photos give a good impression of what we all got up to over the course of 8 weeks in the "Arctic Riviera".........

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Acts of God now available for pre-ordering



My new novel is now uploaded onto the Kindle web site and is available for pre-publication ordering.  So book your copy now, and it will be delivered to you in pristine condition on 5th November, which is designated publication day.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Acts-God-Brian-John-ebook/dp/B00OGTY17O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413300286&sr=1-2&keywords=Acts+of+God+Brian+John

By the way, the creature above is a tupilaq or tupilak -- a magic token traditionally carved out of walrus tusk or some other suitable material -- and often designed to place a curse or bring ill luck to somebody you might count as your enemy.  These figurines are normally quite grotesque, and no two are the same.  Nowadays they are created for the tourist industry, but in the old days they were heavily invested with magic -- and the carving of one was almost a ritual, undertaken with due care and respect.

They are generally quite small -- no more than three inches high.

A tupilaq figures quite prominently in the new novel -- but its role in the story is a closely guarded secret.....

Saturday, 11 October 2014

"On Angel Mountain" hits the Regency Fiction list



Well, this is fun!  "On Angel Mountain" has reached number 2 in the Top Hundred free regency fiction titles.  (Actually, it's only competing with 14 other titles, but don't tell anybody else about that!)  It's also at number 8 in the Historical Fiction list -- so there must be some downloads going on......  Please encourage everybody you know to download it, between now and Tuesday, when the free promo comes to an end.

Not sure how Martha Morgan comes to compete with Lizzie Bennet and other timid and precious Regency ladies for the affections of readers -- but she will certainly have fun stirring things up for a few days!

This is where you can get it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Mountain-Saga-Book-ebook/dp/B007GATW2O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Friday, 10 October 2014

Free Kindle download offer - On Angel Mountain


My autumn promotion is under way -- starting today and running for 5 days.  "On Angel Mountain" is free  -- in the Kindle version -- for those who might not have encountered the Saga before.  Let's hope that many new readers come on board and join the happy crew of Martha Morgan fans!

A Kindle freebie promotion probably doesn't take away many sales that might have brought in good money,  and indeed previous experience shows that sales of the other volumes in the Saga do go upwards sharply after a freebie promo of this sort.  I'll monitor that carefully and report back......

In the meantime, please spread the word and encourage your friends to take advantage of this amazing opportunity for enlightenment......

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Acts of God" soon available.......





Here are the key details:

Acts of God by Brian John. 2014.  Greencroft Books.  ISBN:  978-0-905559-99-5.  296 pp, £7.99.
Publication date:  5th November 2014

Kindle edition:  ISBN 978-0-905559-53-7.  Publication date:  5th November 2014


What's the new novel all about?

In a few words:
A conspiracy / action thriller set in East Greenland during the Cold War. The members of a scientific expedition become the unwitting guinea pigs in a series of grotesque experiments in an arctic wilderness.  As the death toll mounts,  they uncover a huge conspiracy and realise that an implacable enemy with limitless resources will not allow any of them to survive.

There is a new web site here:

http://actsofgod.weebly.com/

and a new Pinterest album here:

http://uk.pinterest.com/brianjohn526/acts-of-god/


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

New Pinterest gallery



 In connection with my advance publicity for the new novel called "Acts of God",  I have made a new gallery of East Greenland images on Pinterest.  Enjoy.......

http://uk.pinterest.com/brianjohn526/acts-of-god/

Monday, 6 October 2014

The eight books of the saga



Here is an update on the details of the eight volumes of the series.

The Angel Mountain Saga
Eight volumes are now available in this best-selling series -- with about 75,000 copies sold.

On Angel Mountain (Part One), Greencroft Books 2001.
   ISBN 9780905559803.  A5 paperback, 328 pp, £6.99.
House of Angels (Part Two), Greencroft Books 2002.
   ISBN 9780905559810. A5 paperback, 432 pp, £7.99.
Dark Angel (Part Three), Greencroft Books 2003.
   ISBN 9780905559827.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Rebecca and the Angels (Part Four), Greencroft Books 2004.
   ISBN 9780905559834.  A5 paperback, 432 pp, £8.50.
Flying with Angels (Part Five), Greencroft Books, 2005.
   ISBN 9780905559841.  A5 paperback, 400 pp, £7.99.
Guardian Angel (Part Six), Greencroft Books, 2008.
   ISBN 9780905559865.  A5 paperback, 256 pp, £6.99.
Sacrifice (Part Seven), Greencroft Books, 2009.
   ISBN 9780905559902.  A5  paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.
Conspiracy of Angels (Part Eight), Greencroft Books, 2012.
   ISBN 9780905559933.  A5 paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.

New map for "Acts of God"



I've put together this map just to see how it works out at different scales.  It has a sort of "rough and ready" look to it, as befits a book about the adventures of a bunch of explorers in the wilderness.... maybe more tweaking needed.

Mostly these are real geographical names -- but the key locations (Blyhavn, Himmelbjerg, Sandvig) are "invented" names.  The area around the Base Camp is designated as Kjove Land, and that around the upper Schuchert valley, the Werner Mountains and the northern Stauning Alps is designated as Scoresby Land. 



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Who needs agents anyway?



In answer to the question "What's the point of literary agents?", Cressida Downing says:

To an aspiring writer, literary agents can seem like a parasitic race – they take their percentage, but what do they give back? And is it worth having one?
The short answers are ‘lots’ and ‘yes’. Read on!
An agent sends your manuscript out to see who would like to bid on it for publication. They’re effective because they have more knowledge of the editors and publishers than most. An agent knows who is on the lookout for the next big historical novel, whose lists are full, who is looking for a new crime writer, and can target their submissions accordingly.
It’s a two-way street, as publishers will know what genres the agents are likely to be submitting, which ones specialise in crime, which ones are more literary etc.
Once an agent has matched your work to the right publisher (which doesn’t always mean going for the biggest advance, sometimes a publicity commitment is worth more than upfront cash), they are the professional whose job it is to negotiate the best contract for you. Unless you’re confident about tackling aspects such as high volume discounts, territorial rights, and the tricky area of electronic rights, these are all best left to someone who fully understands them.
A good literary agent will be the buffer between the publisher and yourself, negotiating, say, an extended deadline, better dates for a book tour, or fighting for improved deals as needed.
A strong agent/author relationship can be incredibly beneficial for a writer as it means having someone who’s always ‘on your side’, who is enthusiastic about your writing, and whose desire for the best deal is for both your benefits.

That all sounds wonderful, and it makes agents sound like very valuable people, but I can't help feeling that Cressida is living in cloud cuckoo land, since  the experience of the vast majority of aspiring (and experienced) writers is that they can never get to communicate with agents, let alone get signed up by one.  There are too few agents, and too many writers -- and agents know this.    That puts them in a very powerful position, and maybe it goes to their heads.  They can pick and choose from the thousands of budding authors who contact them every year, and most if them insist on the submission of literary material according to a very strict template -- which does vary from one to another.  Then they have the brass to say to a budding famous author "We will probably take six to eight weeks to look at your material, and if you don't hear from us after that you can take it that we are not interested....." 

I don't have an agent, and part of me feels rather sad about that since I have tried hard enough, goodness knows.  Before I published the first "Angel Mountain" novel I wrote to about 50 agents and of those, about 40 never even bothered to reply.  The other ten were, to their credit, polite and helpful, while saying "no thanks".  That did not inspire confidence, and maybe goes some way to explaining why agents are not held in universally high esteem.  After that, I tried to get about 50 publishers to read the manuscript, and almost all of them said "We don't deal with authors direct -- you have to submit through an agent."  So catch-22.  In the end, I got so fed up that I published "On Angel Mountain" myself, and have now racked up sales of about 32,000 copies.  To me, that suggests that neither agents not mainstream publishers are particularly smart, and that makes me feel at least a bit better! One wonders how many other excellent authors are ignored or given the brush-off by the "mainstream" publishing establishment while it continues to search for the Holy Grail, or "the next big thing."   The literary gossip sheets are full of stories of "the next big thing" which went on to sell in millions, having been totally missed by the smartest of agents and the most commercial of publishers. JK Rowling, take a bow.

Even when one is a successful writer with eight published novels to one's name, with 75,000 books sold, agents can still afford to ignore one completely, or to send out curt notes to the effect that "your manuscript is nicely written, but not quite right for our list......"

So back to the question "What's the point of literary agents?"  I have spoken to several other authors lately who do have agents supposedly working for them, and they have all said "He / she does NOTHING for me, while taking at least 20% of my earnings.  Quite frankly, I'd be better off on my own."

Partly, this might have something to do with the fact that neither agents nor publishers quite know how to respond to the E-publishing revolution.  I spoke to another well-known and successful author the other day, who was heavily involved in the Hay Festival, and he said "They are like rabbits caught in the headlights of a speeding car --  rooted to the spot, aware that something unpleasant is about to happen but not quite sure how to cope with it."

So would I have done better with the Angel Mountain Saga if I had had an agent working for me?  I doubt it very much.  I might have picked up a contract with a London publishing house, and the first book might have got some reviews and a fortnight or so of active publicity.  Then it would have simply slipped onto the backlist as hundreds of new titles came inexorably off the production line -- some of them written by BIG authors with BIG marketing budgets attached to them because the publishers had to recoup BIG advances.  Such is the way of the world.  Also, I would have been much less involved in publicity and marketing, and would probably have watched from the sidelines as small quantities of my book tricked out of some high-tech warehouse located somewhere in England.   In all seriousness, I might have been so discouraged that I might never have written volume 2, let alone volumes 3 - 8.

So I went my own way, and published through my own imprint called Greencroft Books.  Then I had to do all the publicity for each title, all the storage, and all the marketing.  Hard work, but fun, and the books have provided a reasonable income.

And now we are into the Ebook revolution.  Another world, since an author now needs neither an agent nor a publisher.  Write the book, digitise it, and stick it out there either as a Kindle book or on one of the other Ebook sites.  The publishing process can be done in a day, as distinct from a lead time of eighteen months or so if one works through an agent and a London publisher.  And immediately, your 70% royalties start pouring in to your bank account.  That's the theory, anyway........









Email notifications

I have just added an Email notification link onto this blog -- so if you would like to receive an Email notification when I post up a new item, just fill in your Email address and register.  Very quick and simple -- and the only extra Emails you'll get are those specifically tied to this blog. 

As ever, I also welcome comments on any of the items on the blog -- some specifically relating to Martha Morgan and the books, and others relating to Welsh literature and other literary topics.





Autumn promotion - free on Kindle



I'm doing an autumn promotion of "On Angel Mountain" (the Kindle Ebook version) for 5 days from Friday 10th October.  It's quite a few months since I did the last freebie -- according to all the pundits, you have to do it now and then in order to "refresh" sales!

I'm pretty convinced that one doesn't lose sales income from such promotions -- what you do is pull in other readers who might then (if they like the story and the characters) go on to actually buy the other seven novels in the Saga.  We shall see....

So now I have to do a bit of work on promotion -- tweeting and twittering and all that......

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Prize-winning Free Stories for Harfat Pupils



Today's News:
----------------
Prize-winning Free Stories for Harfat Pupils

All of the schoolchildren in years 4, 5 and 6 of the Haverfordwest primary schools have been given copies of a prize-winning story written by local author Brian John.

The paperback book, entitled "The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest", was published four years ago, and went on to win the Wishing Shelf Gold Award for children's fiction -- a prize given by a nationwide panel of schoolchildren, without any interference from adults!

Now, with the help of Pembrokeshire County Council in facilitating the project, five hundred copies of the book have been distributed to local children under a scheme called "Big Book Bash 2014."  The hope is that local children in the upper primary school age-group will enjoy owning copies of the book -- and that with the help of their teachers they will be encouraged to read it and to write imaginative stories of their own.

Brian says:  "I enjoyed my time in Prendergast Primary School in the years after the Second World War, and the storyline in "The Strange Affair" is based (very loosely indeed) on my memories of adventures in and around Prendergast, Prospect Place and Scotchwells.  So Haverfordwest was the centre of my world, as it is for hundreds of local children today.  This is my first children's book, and having learned as a child to enjoy stories written by others, I thought it would be entirely appropriate to give something back, for the new generation of readers and aspiring writers.   Children are instinctively imaginative and creative -- and it will be wonderful if this scheme helps to further the Welsh Government's literacy ambitions and nurtures a future generation of Pembrokeshire authors!  Over and above that, I would love to see the children of Haverforwest developing a really strong "sense of place" and an awareness of the traditions and history of the community in which they live.  And if they can put their gadgets to one side every now and then, and get out there and have adventures, so much the better!"

How slow the wind




In April 2013 I posted this on Facebook:

Is this the shortest poem ever? I find it very moving.
 

How slow the Wind—
how slow the sea—
how late their Fathers be!


Emily Dickinson c 1883

The painting is by Daniel Ridgway Knight (American-born French genre painter, 1839-1924) and is called "Waiting for the Return of the Fishermen."


Well, I have now discovered that there was a mistake in that version of the thirteen-word poem.  When Emily Dickinson wrote it, it ran as follows:

How slow the Wind—
how slow the sea—
how late their Feathers be!



A masterpiece of brevity, and not easy to understand.  The last line is "How late their FEATHERS be."  Not fathers!  That mistake occurs in many reprints of this simple little poem.  So it's not about small children waiting - endlessly - on the shore for their fathers to return from some ocean voyage or fishing trip. It's a nature poem, like many of her others -- and it must be about birds, and the slow arrival of the spring as the migrating birds return from overseas...... with the poet waiting and waiting, and gazing out to sea.


But think for a moment how clever the wording is.  To describe the wind as "slow" is very startling.  We normally describe the wind as "strong" or "gentle" or "moderate" ......... but I have never heard the word "slow" used in this context.   And then to use the same word with respect to the sea.  Even more clever, and more startling.  A slow sea?  And yet we know exactly what she means......


And the last line.  An exclamation to end one of the shortest poems ever.  The feathers must be a reference to the birds whose return the poet longs for -- but she uses the word "their" to imply that the feathers do not belong to the unmentioned birds, but to the wind and the sea.  And in doing that, Emily Dickinson conjures up images of loose feathers floating in the air or drifting in the wind, and images of "feathers" on the tips of waves as they break and foam.  We see white flecks far out to sea -- delicate feathers where normally we think of white horses, geese or sheep (it depends which country we come from!).  

So even though I had the word "fathers" instead of "feathers" I still think this poem is wonderful.  Written -- or crafted -- by a consummate poet, and packed with symbolism.  It's even cleverer than I thought when I first read it...........  

And it's been set to music at least twice -- so it strikes a chord or two with quite a few people.












Monday, 8 September 2014

Thursday, 4 September 2014


Penfro Bookfest 2014 is just over a week away. A great programme this year -- check it out at the following site:

http://penfrobookfestival.org.uk/this-year-s-penfro-festival

Is the Angel Mountain Saga an Allegory?

The heroic female used to encourage American women in WW2 to get stuck in, roll their sleeves up, and help the war effort.  This is very much a "working class" image, and Martha was of course a member of the gentry, but you get the message.......

First, there was "Under Milk Wood" -- and then came "On Angel Mountain".  The first was a work of undisputed genius.  I hesitate to say the same about the second, since I wrote it, but I can at least seek to extol its virtues.  If asked to summarise the content of eight hefty novels in around fifty words, this is what I would say:

A pregnant and suicidal teenager becomes Mistress of a struggling estate in the Wild West of Wales. She loses baby and husband, and with the help of assorted unlikely "angels"she refuses to conform or submit, fights for the rights of the downtrodden, and seeks to defeat the enemies who desire both her and her inheritance.

That's the bare bones of it.  If you want a slightly expanded version, how about this:

In 1796 a pregnant, unmarried and suicidal teenager called Martha Morgan is plunged into a world of violence and corruption in the “Wild West” of Wales when she becomes Mistress of a ruinous small estate.  She loses her baby and her husband.  Somehow she survives, and with the help of assorted eccentric "angels" she tries to protect her family and her inheritance from prowling predators.  She fights endlessly for the rights of the downtrodden.  Over the course of 60 years, several love affairs and many involvements in the great events of the time, she becomes an incorrigible matriarch who outlives all of her enemies.  At last she goes to her grave in a manner of her own choosing.  She is, of course, Mother Wales, and her Plas Ingli estate is Wales itself .

 I have written many times about the symbolism built into the novels, and I have explained that I have tried to ensure that it does not become too obvious or too dominating.  After all, if you are writing novels your prime duty to the reader is to entertain by telling a good story in a competent way.  So the mountain, the house, the raven, the cave, the spring, and even the kitchen table are there in every single novel, recognized as symbols by some readers but not by others.  They resonate and tell us that there may be more going on than meets the eye.  The symbols also reinforce for the reader the idea that Martha is not just a small woman caught up in petty events but is a seriously important literary figure who has something to say about the human condition generally, and more particularly about the role of women in society.  For me, she is still endlessly fascinating, although I am still uncertain how she evolved and why she turned out to be herself a symbol.

Mother Wales.  That term was first used by a Scottish friend who read the books, and it has been used by many other readers since then.  And although it was never my intention to create a character worthy of that title, in retrospect I now see that while I was doing the writing, one novel after another, that character was slowly emerging.  So yes -- Mother Wales, just as we have Britannia, Mother Earth, Mother Nature, The Earth Goddess, and the Eternal Idol.  In myths and legends from across the world, powerful and even fearsome women pop up all the time, as they do in literature.  And  these female / matriarchal symbols are idealised not just as gentle mother figures but also as figures who have weaknesses and even tragic defects.  So the goddess becomes lover, sorceress, temptress and witch -- and she is capable of jealousy, lust, rage, and a multitude of other vices.  That's Mistress Martha all over.......


So if Martha, who is very far from being the "ideal heroine" or "perfect woman", somehow represents the protective spirit of Wales and is referred to by readers as Mother Wales, what about her relationship with the land?  Again I did not consciously work at this, but it seemed to me entirely natural that Martha should have a profound and sensuous relationship with her patch of land, her mountain of Carningli and her little estate of Plas Ingli.  So the mountain is her cathedral -- she reveres it and even worships it.  She feels that she is part of the mountain and that the mountain is a part of her.  When -- for whatever reason, she is away from the mountain and the Plas, her sense of hiraeth becomes almost unbearable.  The intensity of the relationship between person and place is not uniquely Welsh, since it exists also in many other countries in rural communities in particular.  But in Ireland and Scotland, the love of the land is tinged with sadness and anger arising from the Clearances and the Great Hunger -- with resistance, revolution and armed conflict running right through to the present day. The relationship with the land has both love and hate in it.  In England the love of the land has been diluted by industrialisation, urbanisation and "modernisation".  In Wales it is still there, with a mystical and romantic component which makes it very special.....


Back to the log line and the enemies -- the prowling predators -- who have designs not just upon Martha herself but on her little estate.  Her little patch of land is rough, and not particularly productive, but it is immensely beautiful, and it has the history and the traditions of an old family embedded in it.  It is surrounded by larger and more powerful estates owned by predatory members of the minor gentry who see it as an inconvenience and even as an irritant -- especially since, under Martha's guidance it becomes a place of compassion where equality and tolerance are promoted and where a variety of social experiments turn labourers and servants into friends.  On the Plas Ingli estate social barriers are broken down and the inhabitants get occasional glimpses of something that is not quite utopia, but is at least a little better than the miserably that afflicted many parts of early nineteenth century Britain.  Those who become Martha's friends are the angels who protect her whenever she gets into trouble -- as she does, all too often.

Predatory neighbours with expansionist intentions and an instinct for suppression and exploitation?  Now where have we heard that before?

So if you were to ask me whether, in the stories of the saga, the Plas Ingli estate is really a symbol for the nation and the rough green acres of Wales, I would reply in the affirmative.

If that makes the whole saga an allegory, so be it.  Like Animal Farm, The Lord of the Rings, Pilgrim's Progress, or The Werckmeister Harmonies?  That's fine by me.



About Mother Wales



From one of my Q & A sessions, first published in 2012:

Many readers have remarked that Mistress Martha is really “Mother Wales.”   Have you set out to encourage that belief?

When I wrote On Angel Mountain I was simply intent upon writing a rattling good story with believable characters and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers happy.  Young Martha Morgan was my heroine, but I had no plan to develop her as an iconic figure.  But then I had to develop her character greatly in the story called House of Angels, in which she has to cope with the death of her husband and with other very dramatic events.  A good friend read the novel and asked me whether I had modelled Martha on Chris Guthrie in Grassic Gibbons’ Sunset Song.  I had not even heard of that novel or its author.  But I went off and read all three novels in A Scots Quair, and was bowled over by them.  I can quite understand why Chris Guthrie is viewed by many students of Scottish literature as Mother Scotland.  But she is a victim, and Martha Morgan is anything but a victim.

I have not tried to manufacture Martha's character, but I have tried to bring out different aspects of it in the eight novels of the Saga.  Maybe she does embody all that is best and worst about Wales.  On the one hand she is beautiful, passionate, feisty, strong-willed and fiercely loyal and protective of those whom she loves.  On the other hand she is prone to introspection and even deep depression and paranoia.  At times she becomes arrogant and manipulative.  Because of these wild swings in her temperament, between euphoria and hyperactivity on the one hand and deep, grinding and long-lived depression on the other, some have suggested that maybe Martha suffered from Bipolar Disorder.  Now that I come to think of it, maybe she did.  She cannot keep her nose out of other peoples’ business, and becomes involved in great campaigns which can only lead her into trouble.  But she hates injustice and suffering, and is prepared to take huge personal risks in the rightings of wrongs. At times she seems unaware of the physical danger in which she places herself -- to the point of naivety, and to the exasperation of her family and friends.  She has an almost mystical relationship with the landscape in which she lives and the house which gives her shelter.  She belongs to Carningli, and the mountain belongs to her. She is also proudly Welsh and refuses to submit to any authority which she does not respect.

The early stories have as a running theme Martha's sexuality and her passionate relationships with her husband David and then with Owain, the man to whom she is betrothed but whom she never marries.  In the second book she learns how to cope with both motherhood and widowhood.  In Dark Angel she faces up to insecurity and her own tendency towards depression and paranoia.  Sometimes she is a good mother, and sometimes she makes disastrous mistakes.   In Sacrifice and Conspiracy of Angels she is in her prime, still with a young family to look after -- but having to survive appalling brutality and personal humiliation as a result of her tendency to get sucked into affairs that a wiser woman would have avoided like the plague.  But every time she is knocked over, she bounces up again.  She is nothing if not resilient!  She is also very liberal and liberated -- and in that sense a very "modern" heroine, very different from the other subservient and suppressed women who belonged in her peer group.  In Rebecca and the Angels she is in middle age, and as the children fly the nest she needs to learn how to let go -- and how to find a new role for herself as a philanthropist and activist, espousing more than one great cause.  In Flying with Angels she becomes increasingly eccentric,  but she is in some ways liberated as the next generation takes over the estate -- and she has to learn to cope with THEIR mistakes and misjudgments in her role as family matriarch.  She has one last fling, and confronts the fact that even she will not live for ever.  And finally in Guardian Angel she is involved in a strange and allegorical adventure, with a new persona -- and has to explore in her own mind the meaning of identity.....

Throughout every phase of her life she is passionately WELSH, frequently expressing his disdain for  the establishment and the crachach and always siding with the poor and the oppressed in their battles with the government, the church, the mean-spirited gentry and the taxation system.  In every one of the eight books her relationship with Carningli and her own sacred territory is a strong theme --  so this strange thing called hiraeth is at the very core of her being.

 If all that makes her Mother Wales, so be it!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Moral Dilemma........



Very much in the news at the moment -- a moral dilemma:  To what extent should the leaders of a democratic country be prepared to accept that in pursuit of a foreign policy objective there will be "collateral damage" including the deaths of some of their own citizens?

The pundits on the news are all discussing this today, as Cameron tries to address the issue of the barbaric behaviour of the Islamic State terrorists towards UK nationals and the foreign policy objectives of the government.  Should the government take a hard line full of "stern unwavering resolve" and become militarily involved, in the knowledge that UK citizens might be next in line for barbaric executions?

This is a difficult and serious issue.  Interestingly, it is one of the issues dealt with head-on in my novel "Acts of God" --  where incredibly complex dilemmas are confronted both by the powers that be (UK government, the Americans and NATO) and by the heroes of the story.  Watch this space.....

I knew it was an allegory when I wrote it.  The story is set in the Cold War in 1962, but I had not appreciated just how close the story-line might take us to the big events on the international stage in 2014.

Acts of God -- latest cover idea.....


Still playing around with jacket ideas -- this is an older draft, but with the exposure significantly changed. 

I have done a further revision to the text, which involved dropping two characters and making various other tweaks to the story to enhance the extent to which the reader gets to know the key characters.  Even better now -- but of course it is still almost impossible to get an agent interested!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Wales and Landmark Costume Drama -- fine words and no action



Icons galore -- but no powerful central narrative.  So what's the message?


‘A nation needs its own fiction. It is for this reason that many countries have used fictional narratives to create a self-image.’
Enric Castell√≥  in ‘The Production of Television and Nation Building, The Catalan Case’, European Journal of Communication, 22, 1, 49-68.


In the summer of 2014 Ruth McElroy of the University of Glamorgan re-ignited the debate about the manner in which the national identity of Wales is projected through the media -- and in particular through television programming.  While acknowledging the great success of BBC Wales dramas like Dr Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Merlin and Casualty (and recently Hinterland) she said: ".........the challenge now is to transform this network success into making a new BBC Wales that has something imaginative and entertaining to say to and about Wales and not just from Wales. Because whilst network successes like Doctor Who and Casualty can provide jobs in Wales (for my students included) what they have not really done is tell us very much about ourselves. A national broadcaster should have something to say, not just something to make.  And if that nation is bilingual, then the stories it tells must be too. "
Reference:
Plan of Action? Responding to Tony Hall
Ruth McElroy calls for a plan of action for English language TV in Wales
July 2nd, 2014
http://www.clickonwales.org/2014/07/plan-of-action-responding-to-tony-hall/

Ruth was building on the findings of a big study published a few years ago, after a programme of research by the University of Glamorgan in collaboration with the BBC Trust and Audience Council Wales:
S. Blandford, S. Lacey,  R. McElroy & R. Williams (2010) Screening the Nation: Wales and Landmark Television. Report for the BBC Trust and BBC Cymru Wales Audience Council.
http://culture.research.southwales.ac.uk/screeningthenation/

That research examined the representation of Wales in landmark BBC television drama made in Wales. Published in March 2010, the report used interviews with audiences and textual analysis of popular shows like Dr Who and Torchwood, to shed light on the complex relationship between television production, its locations, and the impact of local, regional and national identity. One of the questions at the end of the study was this one:  what is the visibility of Welsh stories outside Wales?  Although the language in the report was very diplomatic, and there was great praise for BBC's huge success in the making of big networked drama productions sold throughout the world, there were many comments which suggested a sense of dissatisfaction about the BBC's failure to represent, through landmark home-grown drama series, the spirit and the soul of Wales in a manner that is neither stereotyped nor over-simplified.   Think Belonging, Pobol y Cwm, and Gavin and Stacey.......


Ruth was also responding to some of the things that BBC Director General Tony Hall said in April 2014 in a speech to the Welsh Assembly, including the following:
"........ I do believe the BBC will need to think hard about how it strengthens its support for national and regional self-expression as it prepares its case for a new charter. And I would like to invite you all tonight to be a part of the debate."

‘............there are some aspects of national life in Wales that are not sufficiently captured by the BBC’s own television services in Wales, and I would include comedy, entertainment and culture in those categories’.

".........English language programming from and for Wales has been in decline for almost a decade’.

BBC Director-General Speech at the Pierhead
On the 50th Anniversary of BBC Wales, Director-General Tony Hall delivers a speech about the BBC’s role in Wales.
April 1st, 2014
http://www.clickonwales.org/2014/04/bbc-director-general-speech-at-the-pierhead/

In response to this Rhodri Talfan Davies, the Director of BBC Wales, said:
"........looking ahead, Tony Hall was surely right to say that we will need to think hard about how we can strengthen our support for national and regional self-expression as we prepare our case for a new Royal Charter." (BBC Wales Management Review 2013/14)
http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/wales/review_wales_2014.pdf

Fine words but not much action, and in her short piece Ruth was asking for some strategic thinking and for a Plan of Action designed to give the people of Wales the programmes they deserve -- portraying and reinforcing a sense of national identity (including bilingualism and diversity) and at the same time, through effective marketing, selling Wales to the world.  That, one might have thought, would be something of interest to the Welsh Government and Visit Wales.

This brings me to costume drama.  Think about it.  There has not been -- ever -- a landmark costume drama made in Wales which portrays Wales and its "national identity."  A number of observers have commented that the Welsh TV industry (which includes BBC, S4C, ITV and a number of very successful independent production companies) is deeply conservative, to the point of timidity.  Is "complacency" the right word?  Maybe not. The BBC has -- since the days of Menna Richards -- placed its priority on demonstrating its skill in the making of big TV dramas for sale into a global market, and is hugely successful in that regard.  So praise where it is due. But is there at the same time an obsession with steering clear of simplistic and stereotypical portrayals of Wales -- male voice choirs, harp music, coal mines, Dylan Thomas and rugby?  A number of observers have noted that the portrayal of Wales, for the people of Wales, by the main broadcasters lies for the most part in worthy and very conservative documentaries -- Iolo Williams talking about the beauties of nature, Derek Brockway talking about the great outdoors, Huw Edwards talking about Welsh history, and assorted Welsh people (including me!) talking about their hopes and aspirations and about their love for their homeland.  And of course, saturation rugby coverage......  (I'm not complaining about that, but you get my point.)  All very safe and comfortable, and uncontroversial.

There are TV and film dramas, of course, including Gavin and Stacey, Belonging, Pobol y Cwm, Crash, Submarine, but there does seem to be a very strong emphasis on gritty dramas about dysfunctional young people caught in miserable urban environments.  Welsh Noir, if you like, which brings us to The Killing, which brings us to Hinterland (which has the saving grace of being more rural than urban...........)


Back to big televised costume or period drama -- the sort of drama which reminds a nation of its roots, its strengths and its foibles, and makes it feel good (or bad) about itself.  In Wales, nothing.  In England, and endless sequence of series based upon the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Dickens, Hardy, Austen, Bronte and Trollope, and other "classics" like Poldark, Downton Abbey, Upstairs/Downstairs, When the Boat Comes In, Brideshead Revisited, Onedin Line, The Forsyte Saga, and now The Village written by Stephen Moffatt...........
In Ireland:  Ballykissangel, Father Ted, Game of Thrones, and many series of powerful dramas based upon the Northern Ireland troubles.
In Scotland:  Monarch of the Glen, Tales of Para Handy, Dr Finlay's Casebook, Machair, Hamish Macbeth, Taggart, Rab C Nesbitt.

Accepted that some of those series pander to national stereotypes to the point where one cringes rather than applauds, but at least they do represent and sell the "national identites" of the nations of the UK while reinforcing national self-esteem.  The blockbusters like Torchwood and Dr Who give occasional glimpses of Wales because that's where some of the filming went on.  But I suspect I am not the only person who complains about a total lack of coherence and vision with respect to the effective marketing of Wales through the medium of TV drama.

So where is this landmark costume drama TV series going to come from?  From the novels of Alexander Cordell?  Tough, gritty novels written with flair, but there is no continuity to them and no single dominating character whose story needs to be told across an extended series, or two, or three.........  Based on Dylan Thomas?  Nothing substantial in dramatic potential apart from the work of genius called Under Milk Wood -- and a lot of whimsy.  The Angel Mountain Saga is really the only game in town -- eight novels set in the most crucial decades of Welsh history (the early part of the nineteenth century) and with a large and expanding fan base.  The market research is already done.   And with a flawed and instantly appealing lead character called Martha Morgan.  She is, of course, Mother Wales -- but in another sense she is universal and timeless, with characteristics that are comprehensible in any culture on the planet.  She is a complex tragic heroine, whose beauty is her blessing and her curse.  She is sexy, compassionate, loyal, idealistic, hard-working, feisty, courageous, protective of those in her care, and completely irrepressible.  But she is also at times deceitful, vain, manipulative, with a tendency towards introspection and depression and an irresistible urge to interfere in things she would be best advised to steer clear of.  Somehow, in the stories, her "angels" manage to keep her alive while mayhem occurs around her (mostly because of her) and others fall by the wayside.   Big TV series need sales potential worldwide, and they must have characters with which viewers in New York, Tokyo, Berlin and Rio de Janiero can empathise.  Martha Morgan fits the bill -- we know that, from the feedback from readers of the series from all over the world.

A landmark costume drama series set in Wales will surely come.  It has to. And soon.  But as somebody stated in one of the commentaries on TV in Wales, wouldn't it be ironic if that series was to be made in Hollywood, for a network other than the BBC?  Ironic?  Let's correct that -- it would be an outrage.

That's enough of a rant from me.  It's a beautiful day, and there are things to do in the garden.  Oh - I almost forgot to mention it -- the rights are still available.  Just get in touch, and we can talk.




Thursday, 21 August 2014

The 8 novels via Amazon



For those who nowadays buy their books via Amazon,these links will take you to the correct pages on the web.  And if you are into Kindle versions, these can also be accessed and ordered from Amazon.co.uk via the same links.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Mountain-Vol-Saga/dp/0905559800
http://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559819
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Angel-Part-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559827
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559835
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flying-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559843
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guardian-Angel-Vol-Mountain-Saga/dp/090555986X
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacrifice-Tale-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559908
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conspiracy-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559932

Those old flying witches....

I have only just discovered this splendid illustration of two witches narrowly avoiding a head-on mid-air collision above an unnamed village somewhere in the English countryside.  Doesn't look very Welsh to me......

By the way, my book called "Wizards and Witches of Pembrokeshire" is sadly now out of print, but can still probably be obtained if you hunt around a bit.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Archipelago life....


In case anybody wondered, I'm out in the wilds of the Stockholm Archipelago, working hard.....

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The early days of the Saga


Found this photo -- probably from 2001 -- following the delivery of one of the early reprints of "On Angel Mountain".  Note the old cover -- very different from that used in the recent editions.  The very first printing has "A Pembrokeshire Tale" as the subheading.

The book rolls on.  Sales are now nudging 35,000, and I think we are on the 7th or 8th printing.  I have lost track.......

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Amazon Reviews



I have been very intrigued by the thought that the Angel Mountain Saga now has total sales well over 70,000 (around 35,000 for "On Angel Mountain" alone) but has very few customer reviews on Amazon.  So what does this tell us about me, the books, or Amazon?

Well, for a start, it shows that there are obviously people out there who like the books enough to want to buy them.  Secondly, the level of sales shows that there is a relatively buoyant book market in West Wales, where the books are set, since this is inevitably where most of my marketing effort is concentrated.  And thirdly, it tells us that very few of my readers are getting their copies of the books from Amazon -- so most are buying physical copies of the books (rather than Kindle versions) from bookshops and other trade outlets.  That's nice -- the power of Amazon is being resisted........ and it clearly does not yet dominate everything!

That having been said, I do supply Amazon with books on a pretty regular basis -- one or two orders a week, usually for very small quantities.  I make no money out of these sales -- their discounts demanded are so high, and the postal costs are so high, that having sent off an order there is no margin left for a small publisher like me.

So I use the Amazon web site as an advertising medium, and there is no doubt that it is very good at informing readers what a book is about and encouraging a purchase.  Amazon customers can literally do it with one click of the mouse these days.......

Bottom line -- I need more customer reviews!  So if anybody likes a particular book enough, and is happy to spend a few moments putting a brief (or long!) review onto Amazon.co.uk, I'd be very grateful indeed!  Whether we like it or not, one of the things which gets books moving is the number of reviews featured on Amazon, and the average rating given to a book by readers.  So even if you didn't buy your copy of the book from Amazon, please post up a review, or two, or three.......  or do it on Goodreads instead.

Thank you!

Here are the direct links through to the Amazon web site, for all 8 of the novels:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Mountain-Vol-Saga/dp/0905559800
http://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559819
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Angel-Part-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559827
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559835
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flying-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559843
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guardian-Angel-Vol-Mountain-Saga/dp/090555986X
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacrifice-Tale-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559908
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conspiracy-Angels-Angel-Mountain-Saga/dp/0905559932

Monday, 19 May 2014

Twenty-seven years of book sales


This is an interesting diagram -- showing the total number of invoices issued by Greencroft Books per year, between 1986 and 2013.  Over most of that time I have had between ten and twenty titles in print,  and year on year the number of invoices written out has fluctuated above and below the 200 mark.  The peak activity period between 2001 and 2009 coincides with the writing and publishing of the Angel Mountain books.

But the last 8 years have seen a gradual decline in activity, coinciding with the slow demise of bookshops as Amazon has stolen more and more of the book trade, and as Ebooks have appeared and made a dent in the market.  Now there are just a few bookshops left in West Wales, and ironically some of my best sales outlets are not bookshops at all, but stores like Vincent Davies in Haverfordwest,  Picton Castle, Tregwynt Woollen Mill, Window on Wales in Solva, Newport Information Centre, Ocean Lab in Goodwick, and -- of course -- the Pembrokeshire Candle Centre, which just happens to be run by my wife!!

The times they are a-changin'..............

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Spirit House at Brithdir Mawr

The Spirit House being thatched by Alan Jones and friends, March 2014 (photo: Tony Wrench)

The finished Spirit House, seen from the slopes of Carningli

This is an interesting new feature in the landscape -- the Spirit House built by Emma and the members of the Brithdir Mawr community.  It looks a lot like the thatched round houses built at Castell Henllys and now run as an educational / visitor centre to teach people about the Iron Age.  Given the obvious similarities, the National Park could not very well turn this one down when they received the planning application (yes, it has planning consent!), having given themselves consent for the cluster of thatched round houses not so far away.......  so that was a pretty smart move on the part of the folks at Brithdir!

Another reason for the planning consent was probably that this is classed as a "religious building" and meeting house -- it is not intended to be a dwelling house. I have never quite understood the logic of the planning laws which say that new dwellings are not OK in most locations in the countryside,  whereas buildings not intended to be lived in are OK.  The environmental / visual impact is exactly the same.........

Anyway, there it is, and I really like it!  Let's hope it brings pleasure and spiritual awareness to lots of people in the future.  The entrance looks straight up at Carningli, so the mountain is clearly the place where the spirits are deemed to be.  Haven't we heard that somewhere before?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Three cheers for the artists

 

Three cheers for the clever people who help to make books visually attractive.  Inside and on the outside.  This illustration is from Boz Groden, who did the quirky and very appealing illustrations for my children's book called "The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest."  It's rather good -- worth sharing!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Fifteen years.......

I have just realised that it's fifteen years since Mistress Martha was born!  In 1999 Inger and I were on holiday on Gran Canaria when I had that strange delirious episode which involved the inspiring story of Martha flooding into my head -- and the rest is history.

"On Angel Mountain" was not published until 2001, but the period of my life now known as the Angel Mountain Period officially began in 1999!  I will be putting up some further posts in celebration, so watch this space.......

Monday, 3 March 2014

Across the moor


A nice photo of Carningli from the west, taken this morning.  Grey skies, muted colours, but beautiful nonetheless.....

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Happy St David's Day!



Greetings to everybody on this auspicious day! (Wales should really be playing England today of course, but since that might have given the men in red some sort of psychological advantage, the powers that be put it off till next Saturday.  Disgraceful.....)

A nice photo of Carningli to celebrate with.  I don't need to explain that this little mountain is the focal point of all eight of the Angel Mountain stories, featuring the indomitable and incorrigible Martha Morgan.

Thinking of which, why are we so preoccupied with St David or Dewi Sant -- patron saint and father figure?  In these days of sexual equality, should we not also be celebrating the life of  a maternal figure or role model?  Mother Wales?  If you are looking for Mother Wales, look no further than Martha Morgan........ in all her delightful complexity.......

http://www.brianjohn.co.uk/about-martha.html

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Acts of God -- and East Greenland 1962





Some of my favourites from East Greenland 1962  -- the Oxford University expedition which laid the foundations for the story in "Acts of God." 

In memory of our dear friend Geoff Arnold (on the right in the bottom photo) who died last year.