Thursday, 31 December 2015

Martha Morgan Country -- photography begins

A couple of days ago we made a great start to the photography part of the project with a day "on the road" -- so photos are now in the can from St Dogmaels Abbey, Y Felin, Rhosygilwen, Cilwendeg, Pentre Ifan and Nevern.  We were blessed with good weather, and our field party consisted of Rhiannon James (dressed appropriately as Mistress Martha), Steve Mallett the photographer, Kate Lindley from "Refreshing North Pembrokeshire", Rhiannon's dad Cllr Mike James, and me. 

Great thanks are due to Kate and the management board of RNP for supporting the project with a small grant and for admin backup.  Rhiannon -- who is currently Miss Pembrokeshire -- is perfect as Mistress Martha.  She's very patient, very feisty and very professional.  And Steve brings a real photographer's eye to the project, using very moody lighting for some shots and natural light for others -- that was all quite a challenge, given the low winter sun and the cloudy conditions we had for most of the day.  We have had a quick glance at the photos on the camera, and many of them are terrific.  The problem will be to decide which of the images NOT to use!!  Mike is a great member of the team too, since he knows everybody in North Pembrokeshire and knows how to open doors!  Inger's contribution was to organize a hearty lunch for the field party, to warm us up after a morning of photography.  So a big vote of thanks to everybody, including those whose homes we briefly invaded during the shoot.......

Another session is planned for next week -- and we just hope we can find a day of sunshine in the middle of this string of very wet depressions that seem to be marching in sequence from the Atlantic.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Poldark phenomenon

With Poldark about the hit our screens again in 2016 for a 10-episode series, here's a nice pic of Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza.  Poldark and Demelza are very well portrayed.  The latest news is that the BBC is committing £50 million to a five-year Poldark project -- with one series each year until 2020.  That's an enormous financial gamble, given that the first series of 8 episodes was not an unmitigated success -- quite a lot of people (including me) didn't like it very much, and the reviews were not exactly full of gushing praise.  I thought the series was packed with cliches and entirely lacking in subtlety -- and many of the characters were crudely drawn.  A lot of the CGI was very naff indeed -- so the production company was trying to save rather a lot of money.  Somebody described the series as "historical fiction for Sun readers" -- and I can sympathise with that view.

There's a lot of very good drama on TV, so it's a pity when a landmark series like this is dummed down much more than it needs to be......

Monday, 28 December 2015

... and here's a very sexy Martha.......

This is a rather sexy image of a young lady (whom we can imagine as Mistress Martha) with a notebook and a quill pen.  I found it in a collection of Regency fiction book covers -- artist / photographer / model unknown.......

Regency images

I was doing some research on clothing and accessories for our forthcoming photo shoot for "Martha Morgan Country" when I came across these two ladies with their books.  Quite charming, both of them ..... and the lower photo is of course of Jennifer Ehle, who starred as Lizzie Bennet in the famous BBC TV production of "Pride and Prejudice".

Friday, 18 December 2015

Gearing up for "Martha Morgan Country"

The project about which we have been talking for several weeks is pretty well ready to go "live"....... grant aid is agreed, the model (Rhiannon James) is up for it,  the photographer (Steve Mallett) is ready to run, and quite a lot of locations are already sorted.  We have a meeting next Tuesday to finalise the details and sort out costumes etc.  Watch this space......

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Waiting for the spring.......

I'm always happy to post paintings of Carningli, which seems to inspire painters nowadays as it always has done.  This paining is by Colin Finn, and it has a wonderful wintery, bleak feel to it.  If we like, we can imagine that the house is Plas Ingli........

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Tollgate keeper's cottage

The photo above shows a typical tollgate keeper's cottage reassembled on the site of the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's.  Cottages like this were attacked over and again -- and burnt down -- during the Rebecca Riots -- as portrayed in "Rebecca and the Angels".   Typically they were octagonal, or else rectangular buildings with angled corners, so that a good view could be had in all directions by the gatekeeper.

Andy Searle's painting of Plas Ingli

This is the second of Andy Searle's paintings inspired by the Angel Mountain saga -- a light coach driving towards the front door.  It's not all that close to the way I imagine the house to have looked, but who cares?  We all have mental pictures inspired by words, and this is the way Andy sees things.  Anyway, it's a very charming painting.....

Andy Searle's painting of Martha

It's nice to know that the Angel Mountain Saga inspires some people to produce works of art -- this is an oil painting done by Andy Searle a few years ago, and kindly presented to me.  Martha at her desk, hard at work on her diary.......

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Friday, 6 November 2015

Martha Morgan Country

I've been trying out the idea of "Martha Morgan Country" on assorted people involved with the tourist trade, and there is a good response.  So I'm working on it, and will soon have more to announce.

In geographical extent, it's more limited than "Bluestone Country", since that area is generally defined as incorporating most of the Mynydd Preseli section of the National Park, and effectively the NE quadrant of Pembrokeshire.  Martha didn't often go as far south as Maenclochog or as far west as Mathry........  so I must give some thought to the precise geographical area to be defined.

Bluestone Country map here:

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Weeping angels

When an image similar to these was posted the other day on Facebook, I was struck by the angel's pose -- which is one of despair as much as grief.  All very suitable for one of the angels -- or all of them -- who seek, in the stories, to keep Martha out of trouble. 

Suitable caption:  "Dear Martha, why didn't you listen to me when I tried, over and again, to keep you out of trouble -- and why did you insist, over and again, in trying to save the world and in getting involved in things that were really none of your business....?"

(These are actually three different statues -- a Google search reveals that there are hundreds of "weeping angels" out there.  I wonder if these three were all done by the same sculptor?)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Busy times.....

Rather busy these days...... Cardigan last week, for a "meet the author" session at Bookends Bookshop.  This afternoon, off to St David's to meet a group to discuss the universal themes lurking in the background of my "chiller thriller" called Acts of God.  it has deeper depths than might meet the eye -- appropriate for something set in the East Greenland fjords.....

And then tomorrow off to New Quay to meet the members of a local reading group who want to talk about the Angel Mountain Saga.

And while all this is going on, I'm beavering away on my latest project -- getting the story of Martha Morgan turned into a TV blockbuster series.  Slow progress, since the TV industry is very secretive and difficult to communicate with, but bit by bit I think we are making progress!  Watch this space.....

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Freebie promo and sales

The freebie promo which I ran at the end of April for the books of the Angel Mountain saga has clearly had some impact on Kindle sales of the titles.  Now that about six weeks have passed since the promotion was running, I have checked the daily sales figures, and it seems that there has been a virtual doubling of sales.  The number of days with zero sales has dropped sharply, and while sales are by no means spectacular compared with the big best-selling titles, they seem to be ticking over nicely.  Conclusion?  Some people have read the books which were downloaded for free, and have decided to buy subsequent titles.  Alternatively, people have told friends about the books, and they have purchased them from the Kindle Store. 

I'm never going to make a fortune from Kindle sales, but a monthly income twice as high as it was before is always welcome!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Portrait of a servant

This is a pleasant -- indeed rather charming -- image of a Georgian servant working in the laundry of some grand house or other.  I thought it rather appropriate -- maybe one of Martha's servants working in Plas Ingli looked something like this?

The dress looks about right for the era, but maybe your average laundry maid might not have looked quite so tidy...?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A Rare Privilege

A lady called into the workshop the other day to ask me to sign a copy of "Martha Morgan's Little World".......... it turns out that she, and her daughter, have read all 8 of the novels of the Saga twice, and that her mother is now also getting into the series in a big way.  More to the point, a horse has now been given the name "Mount of Angels" (apparently "Angel Mountain" was already taken), and said horse has the pet name of Martha.

I like it!  I have never done any investigations into how many white rats, hamsters or pet snakes might also have been named after the mountain or after Mistress Martha......

PS.  The horse in the picture is not the horse in question.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Colourful Cilgwyn

This was taken today, just up the road.  Purely by chance, a nice patch of shadow on the summit of Carningli.  The bluebells are not as vibrant this year as last, because the dead bracken has not been flattened by winter snow.  So bracken stalks are still prominent in all the fields.  But their foxy red colour adds something to the scene......

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Martha -- hard at work

I found this in Twitter.  It's an illustration of Jane Austen hard at work on one of her novels -- but let's pretend that we are looking at a youthful Martha Morgan, scribbling away on one of her diaries.......

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Trinity Church, Bellingshausen Base, King George Island

The Russian Bellingshausen Base on Fildes Peninsula, King George Island, is the location of Trinity Church, the only permanently-staffed Eastern Orthodox church in Antarctica and the southernmost Eastern Orthodox church in the world. The church is a 15 m-high wooden structure built in traditional Russian style. It can accommodate up to 30 worshippers. The structure was built out of Siberian pine. It was assembled on high ground near the coast by the staff of Bellingshausen Station.  It can conduct weddings, and a marriage ceremony conducted here in 2007 was the first church wedding to be conducted in Antarctica.

It really is a very strange and beautiful structure -- built in an area that was totally unspoilt in 1965/66 when I was there, but which is now one of the most polluted areas in Antarctica, with no less than six functioning research bases, an airstrip capable of taking heavy transport aircraft, and junk lying about everywhere in the areas where old base installations have been abandoned......

Monday, 4 May 2015

Freebie promo and web site visits

Another thing that happened during last week's freebie promo was a great increase in traffic to my web site called  Normally, as we can see on the graph above, there are between 20 and 50 visits per day, but over the period when I was tweeting and putting things on Facebook, there were 835 visits to the site.  That of course was then tied to 1500 free downloads, since the site was the location for the Amazon URLs used by people as their links.  Again, there is not much direct commercial relevance in web site page views, but generally this has to be a part of the grand strategy of raising awareness of the novels.....

Recent promo -- sales impact

I have been checking the figures, and over the 3 days of freebies (all 8 of the Angel Mountain novels) last week there were about 1500 free downloads of my titles and 20 copies of the novels sold.  Normally sales vary between 0 and 4 copies per day -- so the extra publicity did bring a little boost of income!  Not that I am going to make a fortune at that level of commercial activity.........

What interests me rather more is the possible impact on sales over the coming month or so.  I assume that most people will NOT have downloaded the whole series, but only one or two titles. If they like them, I hope they will come back for more and actually buy their Kindle downloads next time!  Also, it will be interesting to see if there is any word-of-mouth impact on sales, with people who like the books talking to their friends or encouraging others to try the series via social media.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Mega Triple Whammy Freebie Kindle Promo..... over and done with

Over the last 3 days I have been running this promotion as an experiment, just to see what impact it might have on sales.  I did a few tweets every day, and put things on Facebook as well, but spent no money on the promotion. (You can spend as much as you like these days, starting at around $50 for a tweeting agency to manage a campaign for you....)

None of the books is new, so I am not sure how much internal promotion Amazon does on one's behalf.  Anyway, from looking at the Kindle records and reports, it looks as if around 1600 downlaods were recorded over the three days.  That figure might go up a bit when all records are in.

It will be interesting to see whether this now has an impact on sales in the coming days and months.  First, people have to read the books they have downloaded.....

Monday, 27 April 2015

Most recent Guardian Angel freebie

On 22nd April I ran a freebie promotion on Amazon, for "Guardian Angel" -- just as an experiment, I did hardly any advance promotion apart from a few tweets.  In the event, there were 55 free downloads during the 24 hours. In the past, the second and third days of promotions (a single promotion can last for 5 days if that's what you want) have been pretty worthless, with downloads dropping right off after Day One.  So if free downloads is what you are after, it's probably best to do single day promotions with greater frequency.  I still don't know whether this single day promotion will have any impact on normal sales of "Guardian Angel", or indeed on the sales of other titles in the series.  All very much a matter of trial and error......

Kindle Freebie Whammy Week!

The Angel Mountain Saga: Kindle Freebie Whammy Week!

This week (26 April - 2 May 2015) we are running a rather special promotion for the Angel Mountain novels.  All of the Kindle versions of the books will be free from the Amazon web site, in each case for one day only.  Here is the schedule:

On Angel Mountain -- free on Wednesday
House of Angels -- free on Wednesday
Dark Angel -- free on Wednesday
Rebecca and the Angels -- free on Thursday
Flying with Angels -- free on Thursday
Guardian Angel -- free on Thursday
Sacrifice -- free on Friday
Conspiracy of Angels -- free on Friday

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

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.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Bear Islands, Hall Bredning

This is a fabulous image of the Bear Islands in Hall Bredning, where one of the most dramatic incidents in "Acts of God" takes place.  We never did get to these islands in 1962, although we could see them beyond the icebergs every time we walked along the shore to Syd Kap.

The hunter and the hunted......

This is what happened to a husky in Greenland when a herd of muskoxen finally got fed up to the teeth with being hassled and barked at........

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

New review of "Acts of God"

With the attention to detail and the suspense factor of Forsythe or Follett, author Brian John has made a telling breakthrough into the thriller genre with his latest book “Acts of God.” (Greencroft Books £7.99).
And little wonder as his canvas is a scenario with which he is all too familiar - the Arctic wilderness of both Greenland and Iceland, in which as a geography student at Oxford he led two adventurous University expeditions before working as a field scientist in Antarctica.
He uses his experience and his academic know-how of this territory to set the scene for the hair-raising adventures of an eight man expedition whose members find themselves unwitting guineapigs in an international conspiracy in which their survival is unlikely. They become the targets of a ruthless and resourceful group of psychopathic plotters determined to dispose of the young scientists before they can reveal their evil secrets to the world.
The author may be new to the thriller medium, but he has written nearly 100 books on a variety of subjects ranging from university text books to walking guides, popular science books and a very successful series of romantic historical novels, set in his beloved home county of Pembrokeshire.
“Acts of God” is a truly unputdownable thriller which grips the reader all the way to the unexpected and cleverly crafted denouement. It’s new, it’s different and it’s big screen stuff!

Derek R. (Wales)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Web site page views

These are the page view statistics for the "Acts of God" web site.  Very strange.  Mostly there are fewer than 20 page views per day, but during the Christmas holiday season there were peaks on Dec 17th (over 70 page views) and on Dec 24th,  January 4th and January 8th.  I have no idea why these peaks occurred -- although because the numbers are relatively low we might be seeing the effect of just two or three people spending a fair amount of time on the site, looking at half a dozen pages or more on each visit. 

Again, I have no way of telling whether these visits were linked to book sales -- either in Kindle or paperback editions.

What's the new novel really about?

"Acts of God" -- a polar chiller thriller?

So is this "just" a thriller? I've been asked this quite a few times -- with the implication that thrillers are exercises in escapist nonsense, written to a formula with all-out action in mind, with very little in the way of character development, and with "entertainment value" at the top of the list of priorities.

Yes, the novel is indeed labelled as a thriller (it has to be labelled as something, according to the rules of the game). But I hope readers will see in it my deeper purpose! This is really an author's protest against environmental degradation, triggered by the events of the Cold War. A quiet wilderness deserving of reverence is violated and even desecrated by the great powers in the name of "national security" -- while the indigenous people, who have an almost mystical communion with the land, are not even consulted. The focus is East Greenland -- but it could just as well have been any wilderness in a position of strategic or economic importance........

Wagner's Ring Cycle is an allegory about the self-destructive evil that flows from the lust for power and wealth. For the obsession with power, look no further than NATO and the Warsaw Pact alliance in the Cold War of the early 1960's. For the dream of limitless wealth, look no further than the international mining corporations who never turn away from a mineral resource which is capable of exploitation and capable of ensuring a long-term revenue stream. And when the "desirable" territory is in a small country with a weak government intent upon "development" and "modernization", everything falls nicely into place. And the wilderness is desecrated -- unless somebody is brave enough -- or crazy enough -- to stand in the way.