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have just recently discovered this wonderful series and wanted to thank you for publishing such a marvellous story and historical document!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

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.