Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ice Cold on Carningli

Had another excellent walk on Carningli -- very icy underfoot, and lots of snow still present.  There was quite a cold southerly wind -- should have been coming from the north, but the mountain is a very contrary place.  Managed to tuck down under an overhanging rock for my thermos of hot cocoa -- it was quite cosy!  I noticed that the sheep do just the same -- I actually think they head UPHILL overnight and spend the hours of darkness tucked up against the rock faces and in little hollows sheltered from the wind.  Maybe it's more cosy than spending the night on the open common, lower down, where there is nothing to break the force of the wind.

Oh, and there was one raven up there besides me.  Mistress Martha, no doubt, keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bang goes another signing session

Well, this snow is very pretty, but it does make life a bit difficult.  Had to cancel a signing session in Crymych yesterday (although I did manage to make it for another one in Cardigan) and today there is no way I am going to make it to Tenby.  In the night we had a heavy accumulation of hail -- the road is thickly blanketed, and only one 4x4 has been past so far........ more snow forecast for this morning.  Time to stay put and think beautiful thoughts!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas 1800

With the festive season almost upon us, time for a reminder of what Christmas was like for a minor gentry family in Martha's time.  Here is an extract from Martha Morgan's Little World:

Christmas and New Year

The traditions associated with Christmas and New Year were probably the most important of all in the rural community of North Pembrokeshire. It was the only opportunity that people of all classes had for relaxation and feasting over a period of at least a week.  True, animals still had to be fed and watered, eggs had to be collected, and cows had to be milked, but at that time of uncertain winter weather it was possible to leave the fields to themselves for a few days without worrying too much about to the consequences.
So this was the time for the gentry to demonstrate their generosity to friends, neighbours, tenants, and labourers and their families, and thereby to enhance their reputations.  Of course, that generosity would vary from year to year depending upon the success or failure of the previous year’s harvesting and trading activities.  As I have tried to demonstrate in the pages of Martha’s diaries, there were fat years and lean years, and if things were desperate financially Christmas would almost literally be cancelled.  It also happened that if there was a death in a gentry family, or some other tragedy, that family would not  be expected to lay on lavish feasts and other ceremonials for the sake of others.  On such occasions some of the less affluent families of the neighbourhood would organize Christmas on a less lavish scale, thereby spreading the load.
But if times were good, much was expected of a squire and mistress of a respectable estate, and everybody involved could look forward to the festive season for many weeks.  The necessary advance planning tested the skill and resolve of even the most efficient housekeeper, and the quantities of food and drink required were impressive indeed.  I have tried to indicate this in the descriptions of the festive season in various parts of Martha’s story.  The catering details varied from one estate to another, but I have built into the Plas Ingli Christmas just some of the conventions gleaned from contemporary descriptions from real gentry houses.
There is no point in repeating the detail here, but we must also note that Christmas and New Year were the times when complicated payments and repayments came into play between landlord and tenant, master and servant, and even between the members of extended families.  As explained in the pages of the novels, there was little cash moving about in the North Pembrokeshire farming community,  and “in kind” payments were routine instead of (or as part of) rental payments.  So at Christmas time geese, ducks, eggs, chickens, butter, cheese, and all sorts of other products would be contributed by labourers and tenants to the mountain of food being assembled by the housekeeper of a well-run estate.  And the hospitality provided by the host and hostess was not simply a matter of benevolence either, for they paid very little in the way of wages to those who worked for them.  The Christmas extravaganza was actually owed to servants, labourers and tenants in exchange for their loyalty and hard work during the course of the year that was now coming to an end.  The Christmas feast, wildly excessive though it often was, was actually present in every unwritten contract, and everybody knew it.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A local legend

Been at the Newport Winter fair today, trying to sell some books and candles, with Inger and I taking it in turns to brave the cold.  Had a rather bizarre experience.  A lady whom I had not met before (and who didn't know who I was) told me about the Angel Mountain novels.  She said that a lady who lives in one of the farms on the side of Carningli told her that the chap that wrote the stories used to go up to the top of the mountain and stay there for hours, waiting for inspiration to come.  And then, one day, lo and behold, along came the inspiration for the novels, and the rest is history!!

Of course, the truth is rather more mundane than the legend, but it was strange to hear the story put in just those terms.......  I suppose that before long, as the story evolves, there will be angels and ravens in there as well.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Angel Mountain purchases online

I like to encourage as many readers as possible to buy their Angel Mountain books through their local bookshops, but many local bookshops (especially outside West Wales) are not keen to stock "small" titles, and they are not all that good at ordering them in for customers either.  It's a pity to have to say that, but it's true in far too many cases.  There is no excuse for any small bookshop, anywhere in the UK, for failing to get virtually any title in print for a customer within a few days -- my books are all on the Nielsen data base, and they are all instantly available either via the Welsh Books Council distribution centre, or through wholesalers like Gardners and Betrams.

However-- if you are desperate, or have to do things over the web, please do not go to Amazon, but go straight to my direct shopping pages:


There you can order any of my titles just with a few clicks of the mouse, and use the secure PayPal payment system.  I get a confirmed order from Paypal within a few minutes, and we can then process orders immediately.  And I'll even sign the books for you, if you give Mr PayPal your instructions......

Monday, 29 November 2010

Winter on Carningli

This unseasonal weather may be a bit of a drag, but it does give one the opportunity for wandering about on the mountain in the snow -- and with crisp powdery snow underfoot, clear skies and no wind, conditions have been perfect for these last 2 days.  Actually, it's not unseasonal at all -- when we lived in County Durham, winter always kicked in with the first snowfall in the week of my wife's birthday (23rd November).    We had a few days of inconvenience (and often snowdrifts on the Burnhope Road between Stanley and Durham) and then it almost always got warmer again and stayed warmish into the new year, to be followed by a more serious and extended cold snap in January - February.  It will be interesting to see if this "classic" winter scenario is followed this year as well.

Anyway, I was up on the mountain yesterday with a nice thermos flask of cocoa.  I settled down behind a snow-covered boulder for my refreshment break, and it was fantastic....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Boz gets his prize

This is a photo from the launch of the new children's book called "The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest."  It was held on Sat 13th Nov in the National Park Info Centre, Newport.  In the picture I'm handing Boz his cheque -- well deserved, as his competition entry was clearly better than any of the others.    It was the first time Boz has worked on illustrations for a children's book -- here's to a long and successful career for him!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Christmas push

Been out on my first delivery run with the new book today -- a good supply of the new children's book delivered to the Welsh Books Council depot in Aberystwyth, and a top-up of the other titles as well.  Over the next few days I need to visit the outlets in West Wales as well, to make sure that have enough stock to cope with the Christmas rush..........  well, one has to be optimistic, doesn't one?

And thank God for the WBC -- without them many small publishers in Wales would find it very difficult to maintain a reasonable level of sales, with no big advertising budgets and no reps on the road.    I have my own network of trade outlets in Pembrokeshire which I manage to service reasonably well, but through the rest of Wales there is no way that I could cover the territory. 

So here's hoping that some people will have seen my adverts and my press coverage, and will set out on their shopping trips with the firm intent to buy "The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest" fort all of their children and grandchildren, and full sets of the Angel Mountain Saga while they are about it.....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Delivered safe and sound

Got 23 boxes of kid's books today -- now for the hard work of getting review copies out and about, and encouraging people to BUY them..........

Kid's book on schedule

It's not often that one gets to thank a printer in a public place, but here I have to acknowledge the great work of CPI Antony Rowe of Chippenham.  They have been printing books for me for years, and this time (on an admittedly small book) they have turned around a book and gone through the whole production process (PDFs received to doorstep delivery) in a fortnight.  On 20th Oct entries closed for the "children's book illustration" competition -- and at that time I had no illustrator and no printer (apart from a few quotes).    By Monday 25th Oct I had decided which illustrator to use (Boz Groden), had adapted the illustrations for use in the book, and had completed the book design.  At the same time my clever son Martin designed the cover on Photoshop (incorporating Boz's splendid artwork).  I worked out a final price with CPI Antony Rowe, got an assurance that they could print and deliver quickly, and got the PDFs off to them.  That was all sorted two weeks ago -- today I get delivery of 2,000 copies.

Ah -- the joys of being a small publisher!!  It's actually a multi-faceted business, and doing everything in-house can be stressful but is, on the whole, very creative and rewarding.  I can do in two weeks what the big publishers would probably take 18 months to do -- I am always staggered by their enormously long lead-times.  Of course, they use those long lead times to embark on advance publicity in the book trade -- but that is for the most part half-hearted and ineffective, except in the case of the blockbusters which get the full works. 

Now all that is needed is for kids and their parents and grandparents to like the book.....  the launch is on schedule for next Saturday (13th Nov) in the National Park Information Centre in Newport Pembs.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Angel Mountain Gift Packs

I've been making up the last few gift packs for distribution to the trade in time for Christmas.  The gift pack idea was a bit of an experiment (£39.99 for six novels, in a nice box) and I ordered 100 boxes for it -- but now all 100 boxes have gone, presumed sold!  And since that first delivery, "Sacrifice" has appeared.  That means 7 novels, with one having to be added loose every time somebody buys a pack.  So the new packs will have all 7 novels in them, with Sacrifice having pride of place in the middle.  Much more sensible.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Carningli Village

Been looking at those wonderful Google images again -- and have homed in on Carningli Village.  this is the main residential part of the hillfort which straddles the summit of the mountain.

At the bottom left of the photo we see the craggy summits, and the fortified embankments can then be seen in a loop around the settlement site, criss-crossed by tracks -- some made by humans on their way to the summit, and others made by sheep.  If you click to enlarge the image, you can see some of the hut circles quite clearly -- but many others are buried beneath the heather and bilberry "carpet".

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Strange Affair......

 The children's book is away to the printer!  Got the PDF off this morning -- now I must work on setting up the launch and signing sessions, in time for the book to be delivered around 10th Nov.  Marketing this one will be a bit of a novelty for me -- an educational /schools market that I am not familiar with.  But always up for a challenge.....

Up the mountain today with Martin, Callum and Finley.  Bright and dry, but a bitterly cold wind.  Felt more like a midwinter walk than an autumnal one.  But it was great -- we sat behind a rock on the lee side of one of the summits, with the late afternoon sun on us.  Shared the mountain on this occasion with 6 other human beings and one raven. 

Monday, 18 October 2010

A Sad Tale from the Mountain

The Sad Demise of Johnny Wityn

Before the Second World War there was a strange old man called Johnny Evans who lived in a small cottage called Waun Fach, up a rough track off the Cilgwyn Road.  The cottage was unapproachable by wheeled vehicles.  But Johnny was happy enough, so long as people left him alone.  He did odd jobs for the local farmers, but he was something of a recluse who preferred his own company to that of others.  He was a very quiet and shy man, who had apparently been spoilt as a child and had been looked after for far too long by his mother when he grew up.  He was known to everybody as Johnny Wityn.  On one occasion Mr George Hughes of Felin Cilgwyn met Johnny, who was out in the woods gathering sticks for his fire.  He offered him a bucket of coal, but Johnny replied: “No thank you, Mr Hughes bach, I couldn’t accept that.  Coal is far too dirty.”  That was  ironic, since Johnny was known never to wash, and to sleep in the warm ashes of his fire when the weather was really cold.  People thought that one day he would certainly go up in flames.
    During the terrible winter of 1947, when thick snow blanketed the ground for weeks on end, Johnny caught pneumonia and the neighbours thought that he would die if he was not rescued from his hovel.  The Council decided to take him to some warm place where he could be looked after.  An ambulance managed to get fairly close to his cottage, and from there a rescue party trekked through deep snow-drifts to Johnny’s cottage.  He was cold and hungry, but still very much alive.  He  refused point-blank to leave his hovel.  A furious argument ensued, and at last the officers decided that “for his own good” force would have to be used.  After a struggle, he was tied to a chair and carried through the snowdrifts to the ambulance, protesting that he was being abducted against his will.  He was taken along the snowy roads to St Thomas’s Hospital in Haverfordwest, where he was bathed and fed and given medical treatment.  Two days later he was dead, and it is still believed in the community that “poor Johnny Wityn died of cleanliness”.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in Caersalem Churchyard.

(This tale, together with many others, is included in the 2008 booklet called "Carningli -- Land and People" -- still in print, priced at £6.00.)

Martha's Lane

This is a copy from the 1907 "twenty-five inch" map of the Cilgwyn - Carningli area.  Look at the well-marked lane that runs down from Blaen-waun towards Waun-fach and Iet-y-rhos.  It's a public footpoath and bridleway -- brought back into use through the combined efforts of the local footpaths group and the NPA.  It's got no name, so far as I know -- but I always refer to it as "Martha's Lane" because I have visions of Mistress Martha walking down it on her way from Plas Ingli towards Cilgwyn and the church.  It was certainly the main route between Cilgwyn and the mountain -- and its width and substantial bounding stone walls attest to the fact that it took animals and quite possibly wheeled vehicles as well, in the days before the modern Dolrannog Road was built.  You can see how the trackway extends westwards from Blaen-waun, across the common.

All the houses are still there, except for Waun-fach, about which there is a very sad tale, which I'll tell in another post.

By the way, Blaen-waun was where William John Jenkins and his brother Dewi lived -- and it is the cottage in which the imaginary Abraham Jenkins lived and translated Martha's diaries from the Dimetian Welsh dialect into English!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Spookiest Place on Angel Mountain

Everybody who knows Carningli is struck by the serenity -- and even the sanctity -- of the place.  But there is one corner on the mountain where I have never felt very comfortable -- a rocky hollow close to the summit, on the north side, where it is often damp and shady, and which hardly sees the sun at all during the winter months.  I never settle down there for my picnics, even if it is the natural lee-side place to be.

Some years ago, when I was leading a walk for a largish group on the mountain, a lady suddenly became very agitated when we were passing this spot.  She rushed on ahead of the group, and when we caught up with her she had calmed down again-- but she said that she had received a very strong message that "terrible things have happened there."  When pressed, she said "People have been killed there!"

On thinking about it, that is actually not very surprising.  During the Iron Age this was, after all, a hill fort settlement site.  The Iron Age was a pretty brutal time -- there was a lot of tribal conflict.  Prisoners were certainly taken during raids, and we know from Roman records that enemies were beheaded, and their heads stuck on poles on the palisades, to deter aggressors and to demonstrate prowess in battle.  This site is a short distance away from the main "village" or living area -- so it may well be the place where prisoners were kept.  It is also a sort of natural amphitheatre, and so it may be the place where public executions were carried out, and maybe even sacrificial murders..... with the inhabitants of the village perched on the rocks, looking on in horror.

That may well all have been 2,000 years ago, but there is clearly still something in the air that is deeply unsettling for those who have a certain sort of sensitivity......

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Another Angel Mountain reprint

Been shifting great piles of boxes today -- following delivery of the latest reprint of "On Angel Mountain."  I should really be laying in 2,000 copies, but storage limitations (ie lack of room in the house) forces me to take just 1,000 at a time.  That makes the unit cost a bit higher, but I just have to grin and bear it......

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Writers' rewards

 The greatest reward of all, as I have discovered, is the bond created between writer, the characters in his/her story, and the reader.  I have hundreds of letters on the file now, and just thought I'd share some of the comments..........  Others have been very personal and very private, and it would not be diplomatic to share those. 

So -- thanks to all the readers who have contacted me and who have given me the confidence to press on with the lonely life of the long-distance writer. (Actually it's not so bad!  I'm not complaining.)

"I have just recently discovered this wonderful series and wanted to thank you for publishing such a marvellous story and historical document! "   Helgard Krause
"At first I thought Martha's diary might be a bit too female and tedious for me, but I couldn't put the book down! Your style is so full of the values of goodness, love & care, it's as if you are reaffirming these values in the reader who now seems to live in stress and turmoil - too much almost to hang on to in today's crazy world."   Rob Waygood
"Have just finished reading Rebecca and the Angels. It is wonderful, but do I have to wait until November for Flying with Angels? Please publish sooner!"   Kate Thompson
"Would it be possible to order 'Flying with Angels' please? Unfortunately I will not be in Pembrokeshire again until early next year........ After reading the book extract on the website, I can't wait until next year....... "   Nicola Leatham
"Have thoroughly enjoyed Dark Angel and I am half way through Rebecca and the Angels.  Will be sorry when this series ends but all good things have to end sometime!!" Jill Ellicott
"Our family have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Angel Mountain saga and have read all 5 books in the series."   Leigh Forman
"I was lucky enough to obtain a signed copy of Martha Morgan's Little World at a small shop in Newport so this completes the series of books, I have them all now. We had a visit to Carningli on my birthday and it was a very moving experience as I not only saw Carningli but could feel the quiet serenity of the mountain. I would like to thank you for this experience which would not have happened had you not written the Angel Mountain books which have been a source of inspiration to me."  Linda Laws
"The fact that Martha Morgan is a creation of your imagination has, for me, in no way detracted from the pleasure I gained from enjoying Martha's company.  Long may you continue to develop such full and interesting characters!  It makes the reader feel a sense of loss when the story ends...."  Sharron Clement
"The saga series is certainly worthy of classical status, and it is very easy to see Martha's story as a lavish period drama, and indeed a 'block-buster' film with, perhaps, Catherine Zeta Jones as Martha? Can't wait."   Roy Waterford
"I must say once more how both my wife and I are enjoying the series of boks, they are bringing to life what it must have been like in the area in past times....... " Michael L Whitbread
"I've just finished reading Dark Angel - the story just gets better & better - will poor Martha ever find true happiness!?"  Joyce Lewis
"I feel compelled to write to you having just read part 5 of the Angel Mountain Saga. Tears rolled down my face as the life of Martha Morgan came to an end and I felt a real sense of loss. All five books have been amazing, enthralling, educational and inspirational. I congratulate you on such an achievement."   Pam Wilson
"I have enjoyed the first four volumes of the saga and now look forward to yet another good read. How do you keep the momentum of the story and the development of the many characters going for so long and in such a lively way?"  Heather Gordon
"I write to say how much I enjoyed the seven books of the life  and times of Mistress Martha Morgan of Plas Ingli.  Once I started reading On Angel Mountain I found it difficult to put the book down, and as I continued through the remaining books it got even harder. The reader gets into the way of life of Martha and all connected with her - it gets into the blood!"  Ileen White
"May I congratulate you on your fascinating Angel Mountain series which has given me many happy hours of reading. I hope to live long enough to see it become an equally delightful television series."  Mair Price
"Congrats to Brian John on managing to draw all my senses into the book!!! The last time I was obsessed with a compelling need to read a book from cover to cover was 20 years ago when I read the Poldark novels by Winston Graham. Long live Martha Morgan!! " Heather Giles
"I would just like to congratulate you on a series of such wonderful books that you've written. My mother bought the whole series and was completely enthralled with them. She passed them on to me and I am currently working my way through the second book, which I find difficult to put down! " Sally Whittock
"I recently came across some of the Angel books.  Now I am hooked  Could you let me know if they are available and what it would cost to send them to me in the US?"   Carey Anderson
"I wanted you to know how much I loved your last book in the Martha series.  I found I couldn’t stop crying at the end…not because I was sad, but because the completeness of her ending was something I felt said something to me very profound (my 93-year old aunt had just died so perhaps it was on my mind).  I think there is a bit of Martha in me.........."  Clarissa Dann
"..........can't wait to read it!   In the summer I treated my mother  to a whole set of the Angel books signed by yourself, she was over  the moon especialy having spent much of her childhood on a farm in  the area.  Can't wait to visit again.  I would like  to purchase 2 signed copies of your book -- how can I get these please?"  Christine Leigh
"Today I feel very lonely. After some months of reading, last evening I completed Guardian Angel, and now Martha has left me.  This is only the second time I have been able to read a complete literary Saga, from beginning to end, back to back, and in one complete sitting, as it were, without any other reading in between. It has been a most satisfying, if somewhat tragic, reading experience, for which I offer you my very sincere appreciation. I first became aware of Carn Ingli on an Easter break around five or six years ago, and although the first couple of Angel Mountain books were then available, I didn't actually purchase any until earlier this year when I ordered all six in one delivery, since when Martha has been my almost constant companion, whenever I could get away from the lesser things of life."  Neil Carter

A jolly Book Club evening

Last evening I was the guest at a lively session of the Manorbier Book Club.  Not in the castle -- in the parish hall.  Great fun -- about 20 people (book club members and some guests), concentrating on "On Angel Mountain" which most people had read.  The atmosphere was great -- drinks and nibbles, and flowers and candlelight!  That was the first readers group / book club evening I have done by candlelight, and it did indeed enhance the atmosphere!  So -- many thanks to Maggie and friends -- I much appreciated your warm welcome.

We had a couple of hours of quite intensive discussion, with no topic off limits.  That's the way I like it.

By the way, if any other similar group would like me to come along for a regular or "extra" meeting to discuss one or other (or all!) of the novels in the saga, please let me know.  I don't charge a fee, but always appreciate something towards travel costs.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Now for something rather different....

The hero of the new book might have looked something like this...


Local author Brian John, well known throughout the UK for his "Angel Mountain" novels, has launched a competition to find a talented book illustrator for his first children's book.

The book, set in Haverfordwest shortly after the end of the Second World War, is provisionally titled "The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest", and it features the adventures of a gang of mischievous eight-year olds.  Brian has been in touch with a number of established book illustrators, but has found nothing that quite matches his requirements.  Undeterred, he has now widened his search.

"We all know that West Wales is crammed with exceptionally talented artists, young and old," he says.  "Out there I'm sure there is somebody who can provide illustrations that capture the charming innocence of the Just William books and combine this with the wit and bravado of Quentin Blake.  I need six line drawings and a colour book jacket.  The winner will get a number of prizes including a cheque for £200.  The last date for entries is Wednesday 20th October, and the winning artist will see the complete book in print in good time for Christmas."

Any local artist aged 17 or over can enter the competition, and Brian will send further details on request.  Enquiries should go to Greencroft Books at greencroft4@mac.com.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Where was Plas Ingli?

I'm often asked where (in my mind) Plas Ingli was.  Of course, the location was inspired by the little ruin of Carningli Lodge, close to the point at which the Dolrannog Rpoad leaves the common and passes between bounding hedges.  But that would have been too low down and too far to the west for my purposes, so I shifted it over onto the common and went up a couple of hundred feet.  The image above is my original manipulated photo -- messed about with the help of a "poor man's Photoshop" called Photodeluxe.  I quite liked it -- it was very easy to use.  As you will see, some of the smudging is pretty crude, and the photo definition is poor.  But I'm quite fond of the image because it formed the basis of the first printing of "On Angel Mountain" -- which had the subtitle "A Pembrokeshire Tale."  Long since out of print, and very occasionally to be found on Ebay, no doubt with a price tag of  several thousand pounds.  Only joking......

One or two people were very offended with me for putting a large house in a place where it isn't, but all is fair in love, war and publishing.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

New ways of doing things

One of the interesting things to come out of the Do Lectures was the confirmation that things will never be the same again in the publishing world, at least.....

As the strength of Amazon increases, bookshops are falling by the wayside, and only the mostr resilient survive, largely by innovating away from books or at least adding value to the book buying experience.  the other thing that's happening is that a new constituency (at least, it is partly new) of book readers who want to read their books on their Kindle, iPad or even iPhone.  Strange, but that is what they apparently like to do...  so publishers have to adapt.  Masses of small publishers are banging out PDFs of their books and hoping that some people might want to read them on their gadgets and maybe even pay for them!  I'm being a bit more circumspect.  I have already set up a Paypal system for those who want to buy their books online -- and now I'm looking seriously at Enhanced Ebook formats.  I have a cunning plan -- watch this space.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

High Places

The Olgas (Kata Tuja) in Central Australia. High, barren and special.....

After coming down off the high of the Do Lectures, I've been following some of the tweets and blogs of the participants. Universal praise and euphoria -- and it's clear that many were truly inspired by the stories that people like Steve Edge, Maggie Doyne, Euan Semple, Daniel Seddiqui, Peter Segger and Ed Stafford. read all about them and their talks here:


It was a a pleasure and a privilege to speak at the lectures, although it would have been nicer to speak somewhat earlier, rather than at the end of 4 days of intensive listening / talking / drinking and whatever else..... people were rather tired by the time I got to the platform, and the schedule had over-run by a couple of hours. But there you go. Somebody has to do it.....

There is quite a wry and perceptive write-up in the Guardian:


This all got me thinking about the importance of high places on which you can escape from the pressures of everyday life, breathe deeply, and listen to the silence, or the wind, or the ravens. It's all about perspectives and overviews -- and maybe about meditation and inspiration. so when somebody asked me about a Little Do, i suggested that every week everybody should go up a mountain. Even a very little one. Not very easy if you live in East Anglia or the Netherlands. But anything will do -- just a little hill, maybe, or a tall building, or a church steeple. As long as it is above and remote from where you normally are.....

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Do Lectures

Well, that was fun! Been to the Do Lectures at Fforest Farm, near Cilgerran, for the last 4 days. I did a talk on Stonehenge, but there were 28 lectures altogether -- from fascinating people with wonderful stories to tell and a host of magnificent and inspiring projects. Click on the title above and that will take you to the Do Lectures web site.

There was a great auction today, which raised £15,000 at the last count as well as more than 50 promises (at £300 each) to sponsor children at Maggie Doyne's inspirational school for orphans and other poor children in Nepal. I donated a full set of the novels and a guided walk across the Preseli Hills, and somebody bid £340 for it. Wow! I don't know who the winning bid went to, but I will look forward to handing the books over and doing the walk -- at some time to be arranged.....

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

No walk tomorrow

Apologies to anybody thinking of coming on a Literary walk with me tomorrow -- the info in Pembs Life magazine was wrong. Not sure how they made that mistake -- I gave them the correct dates back in the spring. Anyway, I am booked in as one of the speakers for this year's Do Lectures, and that is where I will be tomorrow.

Watch the web site and this blog -- there will be more walks next year, God willing......

Friday, 10 September 2010

All about Wilmot Gwynne

A short extract from Chapter 6 of "Martha Morgan's Little world". Wilmot Gwynne is one of my favourite characters, who enters the fray as a clown and proves, over the years, to be a true gentleman......

Wilmot Gwynne breezes into the story in 1845, and plays quite a prominent part in Flying with Angels during the last ten years of Martha’s life. In some ways he is a comic or a buffoon, and indeed he is part of the comedy duo of Wilmot and Delilah; but he is also much more than that, for as the story develops he shows that he is a multifaceted character. He is a rough sort of fellow, with very few airs and graces, who has made his fortune in the Swansea Valley through hard work and good judgement.

He is a nouveau riche entrepreneur who moves into rural Wales for health reasons, and maybe also because he fancies the idea of being a squire rather more than being an industrialist. But he is generous to fault, and when he takes over the Plas he shows great sensitivity in allowing Martha to remain in the house she loves and to maintain her status in the community. He could have sent her packing, and in the process destroyed her life and her family; but he chooses not to do that, maybe because like most of the other men in the Saga he is more than a little in love with Martha. As the final chapter in Martha’s life unfolds, and moves inexorably towards its tragic conclusion, Wilmot again proves to be a steadfast friend to Martha, Amos and the Morgan family.

What does Master Gwynne expect as payback, after the provision of so much moral and financial support? Possibly some enhanced status in the community, which is what he needs in order to establish himself as a respectable squire. Maybe he is also seeking to demonstrate to his family and acquaintances that he has that almost indefinable quality called sensibility. That too, above all else, is what marks a member of the gentry out to from the mass of the population - and it is assumed very often in the literature of the day that sensibility comes only with good breeding, and cannot simply be acquired by those of low breeding who suddenly become rich.

Part of my purpose in developing Wilmot as an important character in the last story of the Saga was to demonstrate that, of all the members of the gentry who hobble or stamp across the pages of Martha’s diary, Wilmot is one of very few who can truly be referred to as noble man. The others are Lord Cawdor, Richard Fenton, and John Bowen of Llwyngwair. Wilmot Gwynne, with his portly frame, calloused hands, and rough way of speaking, has every right to sit at the same table as those famous characters from Pembrokeshire history.

Lit Walk called off

Sadly, my last Literary walk of the season had to be called off today because of the weather. Strong wind, pretty well continuous rain, and cloud obscuring the mountain..... even if a few people had turned up. it would not have been a pleasant day on and around the summit. A pity, but if any avid readers of the saga really want a walk on the mountain, they can always give me a ring and fix a date with me. I'm happy to do a walk at any time of year so long as there are ten people at least.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Books in Print

I'm often asked how and where my titles may be obtained -- it's still the case that many bookshops are hopeless at obtaining books for customers if the titles concerned are not on one of the big publishers' catalogues. there is no excuse for this --. all good bookshops should now have access to the Nielsen-Bookscan database, and should be able to get any of my titles within a few days. Above is a list of all my titles in print. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The easiest way to get any of the books is to go to either of these sites, and go to the "buy books" section -- there you will be able to purchase via Paypal with justr a few clicks of the mouse -- and the books you have ordered will normally be off to you on the same day.



Tuesday, 7 September 2010

On visualisation

I got an interesting message the other day from a lady who has been reading "On Angel Mountain". She had been scanning this blog, and expressed the view that she was not sure about me using many illustrations in the normal course of events -- it sounded as if she preferred to have her own mental picture of what Martha looked like, what the Plas looked like, and what everything else in the stories looked like. So that got me thinking. Is it a good idea for an author (or anybody else, for that matter) to issue an image that happens to portray one particular impression or perception of a face, or a place that features in a story?

People do like to have their own mental images, which they hold in their mind's eye as they work through a book. Children like vibrant images in their books -- these are a means to sparking their imagination and whetting their appetite for the written word. Adults clearly like to inhabit their own imaginary worlds without too much interference from outside. But I've learnt that there are two (only two? I hear you cry..) groups of readers who enjoy the books of the saga -- those who know nothing about the local area, and who imagine everything, and those who know North Pembs, Cilgwyn and Carningli intimately, and who identify strongly with the stories for that very reason. Is there a right and a wrong on this issue? I doubt it -- after all. Every publisher who decides on a book jacket, or a promotional trailer or video, or even a poster campaign for a novel, is flagging up one particular vision -- no better or worse, and no more valid or invalid, than any other.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Martha's Dungeon

I post these two pics because I like them! The bottom one is an old painting of Haverfordwest Castle as it appeared in Martha's day -- the prison cell in which she was incarcerated was one of those in the castle wall, high above the town. The other painting -- very romantic indeed -- is "Hope in a Prison of Despair". This summarises Martha's mood -- and her dilemma -- very nicely. In spite of her despair there was hope, standing behind her, unnoticed....

September Literary Walk

My last Literary walk of the 2010 season will be on Friday 10th September, starting at 2 pm. The walk on Bank Holiday Monday was very pleasant -- a group of nine keen readers, with lots of questions, and perfect walking weather..... flaming autumn, with the colours at their best.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Literary Lunch - St Davids

Enjoyed a pleasant lunchtime event today in Oriel y Parc, the splendid gallery / information centre / cafe in St Davids. I met up with a small group of enthusiastic saga readers for a lunchtime talk and discussion on the theme of "Mistress Martha Gets Really Wild" -- as part of the Festival Verge, leading to this weekend's Really Wild Food Festival. The weather was so good that we should all really have been on the beach, but it was a jolly occasion nonetheless. Sold some books too......

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Three Great Pleasures

Three great pleasures on the mountain this morning -- simple things become even more pleasurable when one reaches the moderately advanced age of 70 than they were before. Number one was breakfast on the summit, in the sun. Number two was a plastic container full of blackberries, which are now coming thick and fast. And number three was a grandstand view of a protracted dogfight overhead between a male hen harrier and a pair of red kites who were clearly not welcome in his territory. He was pretty angry with them, but it must be said that they were not terribly bothered by his attacks. With that very distinctive light colouring, I thought at first that he was a gull, but then the characteristic form became clearer. He was about the size of a buzzard, but with slightly slimmer wings and a more elegant and agile flight. Magnificent! And good to know that the hen harriers are still nesting on the mountain.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Review of "Guardian Angel"

I hadn't realized that this review had gone up on the Gwales web site:

This is the sixth novel in the hugely popular Martha Morgan series. It begins with Martha’s death, but if you are a fan of the character, don’t be put off, as I'm sure you'll like the new heroine just as much.

As a prologue to the main story, there is a very entertaining chapter of how a long forgotten manuscript is found in offices of the London publishers Pickersniff and Jebson. This script is by a Susanna Ravenhill, and it is set in Newport and on Carningli or ‘Angel Mountain’, the setting of the other novels. Susanna Ravenhill is an assumed name, but who is the attractive older woman determined to protect the mountain at all costs?

It is hard to describe the main plot without giving away the first big surprise of the novel. The book is as warm-hearted and heartfelt as all of Brian John’s series. It is at its best on the mountain and in the tight knot of Martha Morgan’s family and community. It is a little less convincing when it leaves there, but there is also a good sequence in Paris and an excellent section where Susanna goes to live in the poorest community of Merthyr Tydfil, a slum area called ‘China’, trying to help the desperate people living there. John really brings to life the hell on earth of the Victorian industrial revolution for the poor fighting to survive.

If you are new to the Carningli series, I would definitely recommend beginning with the first On Angel Mountain. I’m sure it will make you want to read the rest. Guardian Angel is an entertaining addition to the series for fans and I hope it won’t be the last.

Janet Thomas

A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

"Sacrifice" Reviews

Here are a couple of reviews of "Sacrifice" -- these days, it is incredibly difficult to get any reviews at all, so one must be grateful for smallish mercies! But I do get lots of letters from faithful readers, and today I was really pleased to get a long letter from a lady from Hertfordshire who has read all of the novels, and who wrote: "I can honestly say that they are the best books I have ever read, and I don't want to finish them...."

Makes it all worthwhile!

"This is an excellently paced narrative that focuses on interesting characters. The epistolatory format allows a vivid recollection of events that moves the story on and engages the reader's attention......... The book cover grabs your attention with connotations of murderous intent, and the back cover blurb succinctly sets up the expectations awaiting the reader -- the story justly covers these expectations. ........ Overall, it made me want to read more of the Angel Mountain Saga. The book is good value for this cracking good read." (Self Publishing Magazine, Spring 2010)

"Set in the rough, rugged country of Wales during the years of 1808-1809, Sacrifice is the seventh novel in Brian John’s “Angel Mountain” series. The series reads as a fictitious journal kept by the story’s heroine, Mistress Martha Morgan of Plas Ingli. .............. Mystery, intrigue, secrets, and lies are all bound into this stunning work of literary art. The author, Brian John, has a way of connecting readers to the characters’ emotions that thoroughly enhances the reading experience. I enjoyed the fact this book contained a nice Celtic atmosphere all the way through and stayed true to the Welsh heritage. Although I did feel a bit lost at times due to the fact that this is an addition to a series that actually falls into the middle of this popular saga, I did not feel hindered in any way from understanding the plot or the characters. For me, Sacrifice was an alluring read that held my interest throughout its 348 pages, and the addition of the Welsh language added to the pleasure. (Angela Simmons, Historical Novels Society, Spring 2010)

The Battle in the Sky

I'm often asked about the strange battles in the sky which Martha sees -- on several occasions during the course of her life -- and which she always takes as premonitions of terrible things to come. By way of explanation, here is an extract from Ch 9 of "Martha Morgan's Little World":

The Battle in the Sky

This is something which is not unique to Wales. There are stories of battles being seen in the sky from all over the Western world, and it appears that those who see them are always very frightened by them. Their descriptions of what they have seen and heard are often very detailed, with specific mentions of the sounds of weapons flashing, men screaming, horses neighing and falling to the ground, and clouds of arrows flying through the air. There are not very many stories of battles in the sky actually being observed in Wales, but in my researches I have come across three stories from North Pembrokeshire. All three of them come from the area around Mynydd Morfil and Puncheston. Interestingly enough, in each of the stories the battle was observed by more than one person, and on one occasion the battle was seen above Morfil by two gentlemen who were very frightened by it and who sought refuge in a nearby house. They were given shelter as the battle continued in the sky, observed by the two refugees and by the householder. A feature of these phantom battles is that they seem to be quite prolonged, maybe continuing for more than two hours, whereas most supernatural phenomena appear to come and go within a few minutes or even seconds.
It is difficult to tell from the literature whether phantom battles are spiritual recordings of something which has happened in the past, or whether they are omens or signs of some tragedy to come. When Martha encounters her battles in the sky in the stories, she is in no doubt at all that they are supernatural indications of some tragedy which will soon affect her or those whom she loves -- and of course she is right.
There is much speculation about the occurrence of the battle in the sky in the heavens above Mynydd Morfil, but historians now seem to agree that the location is precisely right for a famous and bloody battle which occurred in the year 1087 when two Welsh armies met. The conflict was really just part of the internal power struggle within Wales following the Norman invasion. The Normans were already moving into Wales, and if the Welsh princes had then united instead of fighting each other, the history of the Norman invasion (and of Wales) might have been quite different. One army, which included many mercenaries from Ireland, landed at Porthclais near St David’s and marched eastwards for one day. The other army, assembled by an alliance of Welsh princes, was marching westwards from Cardigan. Thousands of soldiers fell in the battle, which had no obvious victor -- so it was ultimately quite futile. It was called the Battle of Mynydd Carn, but no historian has ever found its location, and no traces of weapons or burials have been found. Maybe one day archaeological evidence will be discovered to confirm that the battle of Mynydd Carn did indeed take place on Mynydd Morfil or in one of the adjacent valleys.

DO Lectures 2010

I've been invited to give one of the Do Lectures 2010. Click on the title above to go to the site.

That will be fun -- I shall not talk about Mistress Martha and Carningli, but about Stonehenge and the bluestone transport theories.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Try out the Search.....

The search facility on this Blog is now working -- it has taken Google a couple of weeks to get it functioning properly. So on this site you should now be able to find whatever you want -- within reason, and as long as it is something already dealt with...

The interesting thing is that the "Pages" section does not seem to be searchable -- just the blog entries themselves. That's a bit of a quirk in the system, and I suppose there is a logic to it, known only to Google.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

What did Plas Ingli look like?

I am often asked what Plas Ingli looked like. Well, in my mind's eye it was something like this. This is a "model" early nineteenth-century farm. In West Wales the minor gentry farms will not have been as tidy and well-organized at this, but Llanerchaeron is a good example of the orderly farm of that period.

In the case of Plas Ingli, I imagine that the farmyard was not entirely enclosed. the barn was on the downslope side of the yard. There will have been an opening at the far corner of the yard, and that is where the duckpond and dungheap will have been located. For other details, read the books....

Angel Mountain walk

Bank Holiday walk tomorrow (30th AUGUST) on the mountain, start 2 pm and finish 5 pm. It looks like being a fine day -- hoping for a good turn-out, and hope that not too many people turn up at 10 am (wrong time advertised in the local paper.....)

Friday, 27 August 2010

What did Martha look like? (2)

Found this one somewhere. Who could it be? Anyway, she fits the bill much better than the other pics I put up a few days ago -- those ladies, sweet as they were, were far too timid and demure for the REAL Mistress Martha. In my mind, she was not only beautiful but feisty and forceful, capable of charming all the men she came into contact with, but also pushing some of them into the darkest sorts of depravity.....

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Another reprint coming up

Well well -- I have just discovered that the sixth printing of "On Angel Mountain" has virtually run out of stock. I'm on my last box, and currently have just a few copies left for stocking up the shops. So here we go again -- printing number 7 coming up......

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What did Martha look like?

What did Mistress Martha of Plas Ingli look like when she was eighteen years old? Well, we know that later on, she was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in Wales, and that she had black hair....

I found these old photos of famous beauties in the early days of photography. Does any one of these fit the bill?

About the Cave

The Cave

Martha’s cave (there is obvious sexual symbolism here) is her sanctuary and her altar. Caves are revered in many societies (such as the old Guanche society of the Canary Islands) as symbols of fertility, and are even associated with fertility rituals. Martha describes hers in some detail which decorum forbids me to repeat just now. But if you must, look at page 55 of the first novel!

The cave is also, in a sense, the womb, her special place of darkness and peace, which is why she is so outraged, in On Angel Mountain, that Moses Lloyd has defiled it. It is the scene of her most terrifying physical ordeal, and the place where, somehow, she finds the superhuman strength needed to defeat and even kill her tormentor. For months and years after that, she cannot return to the cave, but at last (with Joseph’s help) she does find the strength, and thereafter it is restored to its proper sanctity. The only other people who ever find the cave are Daisy, who is led to it (by the angels of the mountain?) when she is lost, and Iestyn, at the climax of Dark Angel. He is also led to the cave by an angel, and this time the angel is Martha.

At the end of Flying with Angels the cave becomes a tomb, for Martha decides that that is where the body of Amos Jones will be laid to rest. The menfolk from the Plas take his body there, in a slow funeral procession, and after placing him inside a big stone is rolled across the entrance. That is another obvious symbol! Martha says that she will never visit the place again, nor does she.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Carningli Portrait (2)

I came across this one some years ago in an art dealer's catalogue online. Can't remember now who the artist was. Does anybody know? Anyway, I like it, in spite of the watermark......

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Carningli portrait (1)

Carningli is much loved and much painted. This is one of the most effective paintings I have come across -- by Pembrokeshire artist Evan Jon. To see more of his work click on the heading of this post.

Laurence on the Summit

Thinking about the sacred qualities of Carningli, I did a bit of digging about, and came across this splendid photo of Laurence Main on the summit. Laurence is a Druid and a dowser, and has made a long study of the spiritual connections between Carningli and other sacred sites.

Not being an expert on either Druid ritual or dowsing, I am not sure what is going on here. And the lady -- what is she doing? Is she participating in the ritual? Is she in a trance? Or is she just a passing tourist, wondering what on earth is going on.....?

Monday, 16 August 2010

How sacred is Carningli?

The other day I was looking on the Wikipedia site, with a view to checking the entry for "Carningli Hillfort", when I noticed that a note I had put on some time ago had been deleted by the site watchdogs. It was a comment about the "long tradition of sacredness" relating to the mountain -- the editors complained that this statement was unauthenticated or unverified. Well, as we all know "sacredness" or sanctity is very difficult to measure or quantify. The only thing, in the end, that establishes a sacred status for a particular site is PRACTICE over a prolonged period of time. Thus the Mount of Olives and St David's Cathedral become sacred because people believe that they are associated with religious figures or saints -- and then reverence and religious practice take over.

The tradition of "specialness" goes back a long way on Carningli -- and many writers have commented upon the tradition of St Brynach communing with the angels on the mountain top. Lawrence Main of course believes that Carningli was sacred even in pre-Christian times, and that it was revered as the home of the Earth Goddess. I don't know about that, but I do know that the tradition of sacredness is alive and well. I sometimes wonder how many urns of ashes are scatted on the mountain each year, and how many wreaths, bouquets and posies are left there, in memory of the dear departed? Ashes and flowers -- the photo above was taken in the spring of this year.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Carningli book

This is the cover of my little book on Carningli, which is full of information on the landscape and archaeological remains -- with some info also about legends, land-use and other things. It's proved very popular, and needed to be reprinted recently. It's available from many local shops, and also from my own web-site, using the PayPal facility:


Prehistoric Carningli

A map of the Carningli Hillfort

Thinking about my last post, I was reminded that Carningli is not just a place of bluestones and literary characters, but also a place of great prehistoric significance. The Iron Age hillfort is of course the most prominent feature -- but there are also scores of other traces of prehistoric habitation -- old stone walls and enclosures, partly finished earthworks, hut circles apparently dating from the Bronze Age, ancient trackways, enclosures and paddocks, sheep folds, drainage ditches and traces of old quarrying activity. Many of these features are described in more detail in my little book called "Carningli - Land and People" and published a couple of years ago.

Friday, 13 August 2010

An intriguing confluence of ideas

Carningli, with beautiful mellow evening light and deep long shadows -- just a few days ago

I'm increasingly intrigued -- and even exercised -- by the thought that two of my great interests in life, namely the Saga of Mistress Morgan of Plas Ingli and the Mystery of the Stonehenge Bluestones, should both bring the little mountain of Carningli into sharp focus. It goes without saying that Carningli is the focal point of the stories -- but I'm fascinated that in the "bluestone story" Carningli is now becoming more and more important. A decade ago it was never mentioned in the bluestone / Stonehenge debate, but now it turns out that at least two of the bluestones at Stonehenge have come from the flanks of Carningli, and that the mountain lies slap bang on the route followed by the ice of the Irish Sea Glacier on its way to Wiltshire and Somerset around 450,000 years ago.... What is more, cosmogenic dating from the Carningli summit is helping to unravel the mysteries of WHEN the ice did all its work of transporting assorted stones from here (North Pembs) to there (Stonehenge). A very strange business.

Joseph Harries, Wizard of Werndew

Joseph didn't have a beard, but he did have a tall hat and a black robe.......(This is actually the Wizard of Christchurch, in New Zealand, but that's another story.)

Every now and then, I'll feature one of my favourite characters from the stories. Let's start with Joseph Harries......

Joseph Harries of Werndew is one of the key characters in the story. He was born in 1761 and died in 1826 at the age of 65. In Martha’s time, wizards (or “knowing men”) were greatly respected. Joseph Harries really did exist -- there are a number of folk tales about him. In reality, it seems that he might not have been a very nice fellow! And he did live at Werndew, just above the village of Dinas on the north side of the mountain ridge. The cottage was, and still is, within walking distance of Carningli and Plas Ingli. But in my mind, and in the stories, Joseph is a herbalist, mystic, apothecary, surgeon, phychiatrist, sleuth, diplomat, cousellor and master of the arts of observation and deduction. He is a scientist, as well as being a man of culture, for he knows several foreign languages and is familiar with many of the esoteric books on which the world’s great religions are based. On occasion he retreats into his cottage before emerging, exhausted, with answers to very complicated questions; but there is always the possibility that he is a “confidence trickster” with a superior intellect and an ability to observe things and make deductions in the manner of a prototype Sherlock Holmes. Whether or not he is familiar with the denizens of the spirit world, he certainly does have a vast range of abilities, acquired during years of careful study under a variety of great teachers, whom he mentions every now and then. We cannot doubt that in some way he is the inheritor of the wisdom of the Druids, who were reputed to be active in this area at the time of the Roman invasion and who might have had a grove in Tycanol Wood.

Joseph is a stout and loyal friend to Martha, and a friend to many others as well. Sometimes he charges for his services, or over-charges in certain cases, on the basis that his services provided to the poor are generally not charged for. So as well as being a Sherlock Holmes, he is also by Robin Hood figure, loved by the poor and hated by the rich. He is also Martha as night in shining armor, who rides to her defence from his place across the mountain whenever he senses that she is in distress or in mortal danger.

But while Joseph is always good humoured, eccentric, witty and supportive of others, he is also a tragic figure. As the stories unfold he reveals very little about himself and his family background, for as he explains to Martha, it is in his own interests to maintain an air of mystery about who he is, where he has come from, and where he will go to when his task on earth is done. But in one sensitive moment he admits to Martha that he was once married and that he lost his wife and child in childbirth. He is mortally wounded in a horrible accident, bored by a bull during the course of a routine visit requested by one of the estates. There is an irony as well as tragedy in that, since Joseph says many times that he loves working with animals. He also loves Martha from the the very beginning of the stories. This might be suspected by the reader, but Martha never realizes it until Joseph confesses it to her when he is on his death bed. Even then he can try to make light of it, and when he has gone to his grave Martha finds the situation very difficult to bear, blaming him for his foolishness in allowing his emotions to get the better of him, and her for her blindness as the reality of the situation.

Joseph knows, before he dies, that his love for Martha will never be requited, because she is a member of the gentry and he is a disreputable wizard with nothing but a small cottage and a pretty garden to his name. In any case, he is almost old enough to be her father. So he loves and worships her from a distance, gaining comfort from their close and easy relationship, and some physical pleasure from their frequent embraces.

He is quite a mysterious figure, and I am very fond of him! Might even be worth a story or two, when I have finished with Martha......

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Literary Picnic today

The top of the Carningli Mountain Railway

The first of my two August "Literary Picnics" today -- involving a three-hour ramble on Carningli and a picnic lunch on the summit. Perfect weather -- dry, with sunny intervals, and pleasantly cool for walking....

On these walks I never know who is going to turn up, since my advertising is a bit haphazard! Sometimes I get up to 20 Mistress Martha fans, and sometimes (if it's raining and blowing a gale) the only one who turns up is me. Actually it's quite pleasant walking on the mountain all alone in the rain. You should try it some time.

If others do choose to come along too, we amble up the mountain and back down again, stopping quite frequently to discuss points of interest -- either relating to the Angel Mountain books or not, as the case may be. There are PLENTY of things to talk about....

By the way, the starting time is 10 am, from the car parking area on the Dolrannog Road.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

In Conversation

Next Friday (13th Aug) I've been invited to participate in the Artsfest 2010 at Tregwynt Mansion, near St Nicholas and Abermawr on the North Pembrokeshire coast. Amanda, who is organizing it, asked me to hold a "conversation" about the Angel Mountain saga between 2 pm and 4.30 pm. That will be great fun -- I always enjoy chatting with readers of the series, and answering whatever questions they may have about the creative process, or about any other aspect of the stories. Hoping for a good turnout...

Further details and booking arrangements here:


Monday, 9 August 2010

A Very Strange Episode.......

The cover of the first edition of "On Angel Mountain"

Over the course of the last forty years I have written more than 70 books, but before 1999 I never had any great urge to write fiction. My wife Inger had often encouraged me to “write a novel”, but I had always refused on the grounds that the world of fiction is alien territory in which I would probably feel out of place and even hopelessly lost. Then something happened which was very strange indeed -- and almost spooky.............

In 1999 Inger and I travelled to Gran Canaria for a short holiday, and en route I picked up a strange virus on the aircraft. I felt ill even before we landed, but on arrival I experienced classic flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, headache, heavy limbs, and episodes of shivering. I went straight to bed when we arrived at the apartment, and I spent the whole of the night wide awake, feeling horrible and sweating gallons. During this strange delirious episode, a story came into my head -- of a feisty and passionate woman called Martha Morgan. (At first I thought her name was Mary, but then I realized that only Martha would do.) As I lay there in the warm darkness, gazing at the bedroom ceiling, I tuned in to dates, places, characters, and a storyline covering the whole of Martha’s exciting life between 1796 (when she was still a teenager) and the time of her death in1855. Somehow or other, individual episodes came into my head, and I even picked up on key conversations in considerable detail. I knew that the story had to be told in the words of Mistress Martha, not retrospectively but with immediacy, through diary entries.

In the morning, not having slept a wink, I felt better, but the story was fixed firmly inside my head. (If the story had come to me in a dream, it would certainly have disappeared from my memory by breakfast time.) I told Inger about this strange experience, and she said “Well then, you’d better start writing!” So I did.........

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Seven Ravens Rollicking

Yesterday, in the delightful company of Callum and Finley, I saw seven ravens rollicking around the summit of Carningli. It was a warm and cloudy day, with wisps of low cloud coming in from the sea and rolling across the summit. Suddenly, there they were -- it must have been a family group, since there was no aggressive behaviour. I have noticed such large family groups before -- but the most I have even seen before is five, again in August, some years ago. By next month the parents will get fed up with the adolescents, and will send them packing.

I always use the ravens as symbols in the novels -- and as readers will know, the largest and wisest of the ravens on the mountain is Mistress Martha herself, in another incarnation........

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Andy's other painting

Found it! This charming painting is on Andy's web site:
It shows Plas Ingli with a coach and horses in front and the silhouette of Carningli behind.
it would be interesting to know whether any other readers of the saga have been inspired to produce artworks of Mistress Martha, or Plas Ingli, or the mountain........

A Birthday Treat

One of the pleasures of reaching the age of maturity (ie 70) is that you get to celebrate the event with several birthday parties. Another pleasure is to discover that one's grandchildren are quite surprised that people of this age are still capable of walking without a zimmer frame and even climbing the odd mountain! And yet another pleasure is to receive an unexpected gift (courtesy of Christine, and Martin and Alison and the boys) of a very charming painting od Mistress Martha at her desk. It was done by Andy Searle a few years ago -- reproduced above.

Andy did another painting too -- I'll look it up and put it onto the site later on.