Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas Greetings!

All 8 novels are now on Kindle

A reminder, now that Christmas is almost upon us ----- all eight of the Angel Mountain novels have now been uploaded onto the Amazon Kindle web site, and are available for download to Kindle readers at VERY modest cost!

Please spread the word.  The last two to be uploaded onto the Amazon site were Sacrifice and Conspiracy of Angels.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Grandma Hoole - Chapter 9

Mill River Farm, built around 1830 by the Taute family.  It's located near George in the Eastern Cape.  This water colour was painted by one of the Taute family, but it does not have a date.

When Oliver Percival Porter Hoole (OPP) married Lydia Taute in 1872 they almost certainly lived here for the first few years of their married life.  Their first son, named James, was born here in 1874 and died in 1878 -- and he was buried on the farm.  Our Grandmother Johanna (nicknamed Hoolie) was born a year after the wedding, in 1873 -- a year before her brother -- and so it is highly likely that this was her place of birth as well.

 There is some confusion about who this is -- it's a photo with no date and "Hoolie" written on the back.  But is it Hoolie / Johanna?  There is another photo in existence with a lady who looks just like this, with her husband Joseph Henry Harvey.  So that lady must be Verena, Hoolie's younger sister.  So it's most likely that this is a picture of Verena, sent to Hoolie after she moved to Wales at the beginning of the First World War.  All very confusing......

As the oldest daughter, she may have taken some responsibility within the family, but she maintained close relations throughout her life with her three younger sisters Lilian (b 1878), Verena (b 1881) and Mabel (b 1884).  Hoolie was given some private education together with her cousin Johanna Barry -- they attended lessons with a Mrs Crockett.  When they were 12 years old the two girls attended the new Girl's High School in Oudtshoorn, but after a term Johanna was sent to a convent school instead, and it seems that Hoolie went to the Good Hope Seminary in Cape Town for a while.  Probably most of her education was in the company of private tutors.

We don't know how and when Hoolie met Edgar Stephens, who was to become her husband on 13 June 1900.  By that time the family was living at Fir Glen, in Atherstone near Grahamstown.  Over the next eleven years seven children were born -- Owen in Dordrecht,  Harold, Ivor, Stanley, Gwladys, and Llewelyn in Queenstown, and Alwyn in Bloemhof.  Harold was drowned when he was eight years old, but the other children survived.  The family seems to have moved about within the Eastern Cape -- no doubt as Edgar tried to make his fortune in one business enterprise after another.  According to family tradition, he tried his hand at ostrich farming, gold digging, diamond mining etc -- and made a fortune in none of these.  But he started as a soldier --  and he is referred to in some documents as "Col Edgar Harries Stephens."  Which campaigns he fought in, we do not know.......  but maybe he was still a military man when he met Hoolie.

G Grandpa Hoole -- Chapter 8

Karoo National Park, in the Swartberg Mountains.  
Not far away is Oudtshoorn, where OPP settled with his family.

Our Great-Grandfather Oliver Percival Porter Hoole (1850 - 1929) was born in Grahamstown as the fifth child of James Cotterell Hoole and his first wife Harriet Rhodes.   Luckily for him, his life was less turbulent than that of his father or grandfather........... but he still had to live through violent times which included the two Boer Wars.  He had twelve children by two wives, although two of his sons died in infancy.  He also took into his home the two children of his eldest sister, for reasons that are unclear.  So there must have been a very busy family life........

Following his first marriage in 1872 he seems to have moved to Mill River, Avontuur, and in 1879 he bought two pieces of land in Oudtshoorn, together with a house.  This was in the "ostrich belt" in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains and some 400 km west of Grahamstown.   He set up a General Dealers Store  in the town and also farmed a holding known as "De Rust" -- which was the name later given to the house in Ferryside when Edgar and Johanna Stephens gave up the farm of Coedybrain in favour of Ivor and Esther.

OPP ran the farm at De Rust for maybe 20 years, as a very successful mixed farming enterprise with ostriches, sheep, cattle, goats, pedigree brood mares, fowls and guinea fowls.  During the summers family, friends and coloured servants would travel by ox wagon through George and on to the coast, where they would all camp at the sea side.  The children were all schooled in Oudtshoorn and in George, and Johanna and her cousin Johanna Barry were very close friends who went to school together -- allthough for a while Grandma Johanna (Hoolie) was sent to school in the Good Hope Seminary in Cape Town.

Oudtshoorn was a great centre of ostrich farming, with two "boom periods" -- one in 1875-80, and one in 1902-1913.  The collapse of the industry was partly to do with the First World war, and partly with the arrival of the motor car, which travelled at such speeds that ladies could no longer keep elaborate ostrich plume hats in position on their heads when they were on the move.......

In 1899 OPP sold De Rust and the family moved to "Fir Glen" near Atherstone, in the Grahamstown District, and it was from here that his eldest daughter Johanna (Hoolie) married the young Welshman named Edgar Stephens on 13 June 1900.  This was shortly after the Relief of Mafeking,  when there was a general sense that the Boers were on the run and that their territories were about to be brought back under full British control.  At that time OPP seems to have been managing a large estate called the Sundays River Estate, and in 1903 he and seven others raised enough capital to purchase the estate outright.  It was involved in farming and irrigation projects.  He continued as manager, and was able to move into a dwelling called Hillside as well as being given various other privileges.  The estate appears to have been quite successful for some years, but gradually the demand for ostrich feathers declined, and cash became very tight, and with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 it was close to collapse.  In 1917 it was bought by a new company under the control of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.

OPP survived for another twelve years, and the family seems to have moved yet again.  He died at Oakvilla in Kirkwood (not far from Port Elizabeth) in 1929.  He is buried in the local cemetery.

GG Grandpa Hoole -- Chapter 7

Gravestone above the Hoole family vault in the old Grahamstown cemetery.  GG Grandpa Hoole is buried here.

Our great-great Grandfather James Cotterell Hoole was born in 1816 in England, and was four years old when the family emigrated on the Chapman to South Africa.  He must have had a tough childhood, coping with all of the deprivations of the early colony as his parents and their neighbours struggled to build a new village (Cuylerville) in the wilderness while coping with the hostility of both the environment and the local Xhosa tribes. 

When James was eleven, the family moved to Grahamstown, where things were less precarious, and as a teenager he helped his father with setting up and running various trading posts.  In 1834, at the age of 18,  he knew at least one local language well enough to act as an interpreter to the military forces operating beyond the Kei River in the Sixth Frontier War.  In 1837 he and his brother Abel started a bakery business in Grahamstown, and for some years they ran a variety of storehouse businesses, also buying and selling cattle and sheep.  No doubt the brothers received great help from their father -- and like him they suffered from fires, losses of livestock and occasional outbursts of tribal violence.

In 1838 James married Harriet Maria Rhodes -- the daughter of one of the other 1820 settler families who had come to South Africa from Hull.  Seven children were born to this marriage, including Oliver Percival Porter Hoole -- the fifth child -- born in the year 1850.  OPP, as he was called, was our Great-Grandfather.  Harriet died in 1856 in Grahamstown, and after her death JC Hoole married twice again, first in 1857 and then again in 1868 (?).

James carried on with his trading businesses after 1840, building various stores and winning contracts for the provision of forage corn to the military.  In 1845 he bought a farm called "Begelly" and at that time he was involved in the local Wesleyan Church and also local politics.  In 1846 he was again involved in the conflict between the colonists and the Xhosa tribes, acting as an interpreter once again when British troops were operating in hostile territory during the "War of the Axe".

Shoot-out between British and Xhosa troops during the "War of the Axe" in 1846

At various times over the years he was a member of the Albany Divisional Council, Municipal Commissioner, town councillor, member of the Upper House of the Legislative Council and a justice of the peace.  In later years, as a successful and relatively wealthy businessman he was a member of the Kowie Harbour Improvement Company.  He died in 1878 in Grahamstown, and is buried in the town cemetery in the family vault,  alongside his parents, two of his wives and various other family members.

James Cotterell Hoole was perhaps typical of the "next generation" of the 1820 settler families who knew all about deprivation and disaster and who managed to come through it all to establish a strong family -- underpinned by trading or merchant activities.  Through his involvement in chapel and civic affairs he also seems to have become quite a pillar of society in the growing community of Grahamstown.

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 6

On 9th April 1820 James and Jane Hoole, and their two surviving children (Abel, aged 8, and James, aged 4) were among the first of the immigrants to step ashore in Algoa Bay (later Port Elisabeth) in South Africa.  They and their worldly belongings had been ferried ashore in open boats from the three-masted sailing vessel Chapman which had carried them from Gravesend on a four-month voyage. They were the pioneers -- members of the first party of settlers who would face the rigours -- and the endless possibilities -- of their new homeland.

After a period of adjustment in a vast tented village on the shore, the new settlers were organized into wagon trains, and then Bailie's party of 90 families (256 persons in all) set off under the protection of Colonel Culyer, heading inland towards one of the most remote and dangerous of the designated locations.   With three families packed into each wagon, progress was slow, and the journey took six days -- during which the travellers saw not a single human being or sign of habitation.

At last, in the middle of a forbidding wilderness near the mouth of the Great Fish River, the wagon train stopped, and Cuyler announced that they had reached their destination.  Without further ado the wagons were emptied of their contents and everything was piled onto the grass.  Then the drivers cracked their whips, and they were gone -- leaving the Hooles and their fellow settlers under a fierce sun with only tents for shelter and with limited food supplies to see them through the coming winter months.  The men immediately set to work at erecting the tents and collecting fire wood for the fires that would be needed to keep wild animals at bay.

As the reality of the situation hit home on her, Jane Hoole sat down on the grass beside a great pile of dirty washing and wept unconsolably.  According to legend, a sturdy Yorkshirewoman took pity on her and put her arm around her shoulder.  "You're not fit for this kind of thing, Mrs Hoole," she said.  "Here now -- leave the washing to me.  I'll be pleased to do it, and if you like we can do a deal, and you can give me some of your tea..........."

In the new settlement that was created over the following months and years (called Cuylerville, near Queenstown) each family was allocated 100 acres of land -- and on that basis they simply had to make the best of the situation in which they found themselves.  The initial years were not easy, and we know that the Hoole family home was burnt out on more than one occasion during the rumbling and never-ending Frontier Wars with the Xhosa tribes, bringing James and Jane to the brink of ruin each time.  James then seems to have taken up trading among the local tribes, and the family moved south to Grahamstown in 1827, where they would be closer to the core of the Eastern Cape colony and less vulnerable to attack.  Abel and James helped in the business, and with a partner they established trading posts somewhere in the district called (at that time) Kaffraria.  The posts had to be abandoned at another outbreak of hostilities in 1830, and as if that was not enough to be going on with, James lost another three trading posts in the 1834-35 (Sixth) War, costing him over £1000 in goods and cattle.

James survived for another ten years after that, becoming a pillar of the local community in Grahamstown.  He must have been a resilient and determined man, who was knocked over time and again and who nonetheless got back up again each time, dusted himself down and carried on..........

In the end, at the age of 55, he succumbed not to a spear, arrow or bullet, but to an influenza epidemic which was rampant in Grahamstown in the month of December 1845.  He died on 16th December, and his wife Jane survived him by more than ten years.  According to an obituary in the local newspaper, "......his demise will be greatly deplored by all who knew him.  As a man of intelligence, of unimpeachable integrity, as a kind neighbour, an affectionate husband and parent and as an exemplary amongst those who deserve well of their country and whose memory is justly entitled to be honoured in esteem by his compatriots."

More info:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Our Heroic Ancestor

Sister Heather has been digging into the ancient records to try and find out who was awarded the Freedom of Pembroke for doing something very heroic a very long time ago. (All the male members of the John family are entitled to receive the Freedom of the town in perpetuity as a consequence......)

At last she has discovered our hero. Able Seaman Thomas John, born c 1768 -- originally from Milford but maybe based at Pembroke Dock -- was a seaman on HMS Defiance, a 74-gun ship of the line in the thick of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. Thomas was one of 17 seamen from this ship who were killed in the battle, and it's most likely that this happened during the capture of the French vessel Aigle, of a very similar size. The Defiance lashed herself to the Aigle and there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting on board the French ship. There was a surrender, and then a counter-attack, and the Defiance eventually backed off and blasted the French ship into submission. She surrendered again, and later the British ship tried to tow her back to Britain. But she was so badly damaged that she was lost in a storm.

 Heather hasn't yet found any citation relating to the death of our heroic ancestor, but she is working on it!  According to family tradition, our heroic ancestor was a officer rather than an able seaman -- so that's a bit of a surprise.  It's also quite surprising that he came from Milford -- we hadn't realised there was a family connection there, having assumed connections with the Neyland - Houghton - Burton area instead.

Thomas John would have been 37 when he died, and he must have left a family including at least one son! All hail to thee, ancient heroic ancestor!!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Carningli "sleeping goddess"

Shock!  Horror!  I have just been reading a somewhat imaginitive article by Paul Devereux and Jon Wozencroft about the visual and acoustic significance of Carn Meini (Carn menyn) and assorted other rocky places in Preseli.  It's all extremely unscientific and is good rollicking  harmless fun -- but hang on a bit -- when they talk about Carningli they get things totally screwed up. 

I'm not greatly into earth goddesses and such, as readers of this blog will know, but I am prepared for a certain amount of speculation regarding the pagan or prehistoric significance that might have been attached to the silhouette or profile of the mountain, when seen from certain directions.  Paul and Jon take a look at this tradition, but they have to be 100% incorrect when they say that according to tradition the goddess's head is in the east and her feet are in the west.  See the caption in the illustration above.  It is patently obvious to anybody who knows the mountain that the head is in the west and the raised knees and legs are in the east.  The breast is in the right place, as is the rib cage and stomach -- and if you insist on anatomical details, the navel (the grassy patch near the eastern summit) is also precisely located, and the damp ferny area below that is in exactly the right place for the genital area. 

So there we are then.  All sorted.

Here we see the profile more clearly.  It's not perfect,  but from west (left) to east (right) we can see head, neck, breast, rib cage, stomach, raised knees and legs.

To cite this article: Paul Devereux & Jon Wozencroft , Time and Mind (2013): Stone Age Eyes and Ears: A Visual and Acoustic
Pilot Study of Carn Menyn and Environs, Preseli, Wales, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and
To link to this article:

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Now available for Kindle -- all 8 of the Angel Mountain books

 The last two novels are now "live" on the Amazon web sites for Kindle readers to download.  Here are the links:

Sacrifice on

Sacrifice on

Conspiracy on

Conspiracy on

This means that all 8 of the novels are available to Kindle readers --- and there are quite a few, by accounts, who will be delighted...  Please spread the word.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

"Conspiracy of Angels" is also uploaded for Kindle

Been spending another horrific day trying to format a novel for Kindle.  This time, "Conspiracy of Angels" for upload onto the Amazon Kindle site.  I HATE WORD!  Every time I use it I hate it more -- it is so ludicrously complex that there are far too many formatting options for the purpose of converting to .mobi format, as required for the Kindle.  They don't tell you which formats are OK for uploading, and which will simply be ignored or overriden.  You just have to do the whole job over and again, eliminating one glitsch after another by trial and error.  And possibly the most irritating WORD habit of all is that the wretched thing assumes to know better than you do what you actually want to do, so even if you try to modify formats it keeps on flipping back to the original ones all the time, eliminating in an instant maybe a couple of hours of hard work.

And the Pages route doesn't work either, although you are supposed to be able to save a long Pages document in ePub or HTML format, which in theory is acceptable for a .mobi upload.  But it just causes chaos -- and when you look at the final .mobi version you see that most of your formatting categories are all screwed up, so that you have to start again in Word anyway.

So beware, if you want to use several different categories of headings and some text in bold, italic or other formats.............

Strange that Amazon, which prides itself on the simplicity and sophistication of its interfaces etc, still uses something straight out of the Stone Age..... maybe they don't want it to be TOO easy, and use it as a deterrent so that only the most determined people actually succeed in getting their masterpieces uploaded onto the Kindle site.........

Anyway, thank goodness that all 8 novels are now uploaded.  May be a couple of days before they are available for purchase.

November -- a poem


Strange times.
November's complacent benediction
in blackness before dawn,
with just a hint of menace?

Day after day
A grey shroud over our heads
draped from far horizons,
flat, heavy, damp
as a grimy sponge
drawing colour from the land.
A leaden sea.
Even the stream is low, slow, murmuring.

Night after night
no stars, no wind, no moon, no rain.
Unsettled, I listen.
Then, in the far woods
A tawny owl,
right on the edge of hearing.


(This came into my head at 5 am this morning, as I lay awake feeling thoroughly grotty and full of cold........  so I had a cup of tea and wrote it down.......)

Images from the OU East Greenland Expedition 1962

 The great peak which dominates this photo is Kolossen, in the Werner Mountains of East Greenland.  In 1962 we walked over the mountains via the Eastern Glacier, to the left of the peak.

Here are the expedition slides converted to digital images by Chris Sugden -- as used in his little file for YouTube, which has had many thousands of hits.......

This is one of Chris's Picasa albums:

Uploading today -- Sacrifice

I've been preparing the Kindle version of "Sacrifice", and it was uploaded last night -- so it should be available on Amazon -- in the Kindle version -- today.   It's by far the darkest of all the novels -- part mystery, part thriller, part Gothic melodrama with terrifying and violent events at the centre of the story..........  But because Martha and her angels are involved,  there is a love, humanity and compassion in there too.  And many people think this book has the most heart-rending final chapter of the whole Saga.

This is the back cover blurb:

In the Wild West of Wales, in the year 1808, a shepherd is ambushed and left in the roadway, more dead than alive, with three stripes carved across his chest. A note, written in his own blood, is pinned to his skin. It reads “For Rhiwallwn. From Gruddnei.” Four sinister men who call themselves surveyors are clearly responsible for this crime and others that follow. It emerges that there is a “campaign of retribution” against selected individuals. Mistress Martha Morgan, a young widow with five children, is at the top of the hit list. As the net tightens around the villains, more is discovered about their backgrounds, their motives and their grotesque methods of working. In a terrifying final confrontation Martha at last faces them, and finds depravity on a scale which she finds almost impossible to deal with.

In this fast-moving tale the key players will be familiar to fans of the Angel Mountain Saga, and other characters who march through the pages of the book include the eccentric Iolo Morgannwg, hot-tempered busybody Charles Hassall, two exotic prostitutes, and a charming and mysterious Irishman called Dominic Cunningham whose life was complicated enough even before he fell in love with Mistress Martha......

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Last chance for free Rebecca......

Just today and tomorrow left for the Kindle freebie promotion re "Rebecca and the Angels."  It's the first time this book has been on a free promotion --  and I look forward to seeing whether the free promotion will have an impact on future sales.  That is, of course, the object of the exercise......

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Carningli from the west

I took this photo yesterday around lunch time.  The summit seen from the west, from one of those little tors, in beautiful autumnal light........

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Rebecca now free for Kindle

As from today, for 5 days, "Rebecca and the Angels" is free for Kindle, from the Amazon web site.  Feel free to download it, and tell your friends ....... and if you feel inclined to stick a review onto Amazon as well, all well and good.......

Monday, 18 November 2013

Dark Angel video on YouTube

 To coincide with the Kindle freebie promo, I made this little video about "Dark Angel."  You can see it here:

The Saga's best cover?

I think this is my favourite of all the covers -- designed by Martin, it is a veritable feast of symbolism.  The flames and the smashed gate symbolising the Rebecca Riots, the raven on the gatepost, the diary script at the base of the page, and the ornamented letter "A" to indicate that this is a part of the Angel Mountain Saga.  A clever piece of work.....

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Monsters misunderstood

A little collection of images....... all joined by a common thread......
Get your free Kindle download here:

Jazz up your Kindle book description

I've been reading up  on how to increase the effectiveness of your book description on your Amazon Kindle page.  Here's mine for Dark Angel -- jazzed up this morning and very different from what was there before.

Previously, like many other authors, I simply had a brief synopsis of the story.  According to the experts, that's a complete waste of space, since the space on the Amazon web page can be used much more effectively for marketing purposes. 

You can't do much if you type directly into the box on the Amazon Kindle KDP page that you normally use for uploads.  However, quite a bit of space is allowed, and what Amazon doesn't tell you is that you can paste in HTML code and that it will come out more or less as you want it to.  On my page the bold type and the spacing has come out OK, but my attempt to introduce colour to the text has so far failed.  Still working on it.........  I might go back to it after a few more days and do some further tweaking.

You can do as follows.  Go to Scrivener (if that's what you use) and set up a document with the wording and formatting exactly as you want it --  book description, reader reactions, purple prose, outrageous nonsense -- whatever......  Once you have done that, highlight it, go to Edit > Copy Special > Save as HTML.  Then you are almost done.  Paste it into your Scrivener document to make sure it's OK;  if it is, copy the HTML and go back to your Amazon Kindle upload page.  Then just paste it into the box.  If you are over the character limit, revise.  Otherwise, proceed to the end of the page, save and upload the changes.

After 12 hours or less, the revised book description will appear on and and on all the other Amazon sites too.  And your sales record will be TRANSFORMED!!!!!  Well, that's the hope of the eternally optimistic.......

One other advantage is that a new date appears at the head of the new book description -- so quite an ancient book suddenly appears to be a brand new one.  That might just be good for sales too!

Who or what is The Nightwalker?

 An eerie shadowy faceless figure dressed in black from head to toe walks -- or glides -- through the pages of "Dark Angel".  Who -- or what  -- is this strange creature that appears intermittently, leaving no trace of his movements, even when there is snow on the ground which should show up footprints?  Is The Nightwalker a human being intent on stalking or terrorising Martha and her family and friends?  Or is the creature a ghost -- or a devil -- or even the Grim Reaper, come to remind Martha of her mortality and maybe of her impending demise? 

The character of The Nightwalker is one of the most interesting of the 200 or so characters who appear in the stories.  As an author, of course I have used the "creature" to symbolise the darker components of this story -- Martha's loneliness and despair, her paranoia, and her tendency towards depression.  But it was also interesting to turn everything upside down towards the end of the novel, and to turn The Nighwalker into an ultimately pathetic and even tragic figure -- and the scene in which Martha is finally forced to confront this creature is one of the scenes of which I am most proud.... but I must not give too much away.........

Your free Kindle version of "Dark Angel" can be obtained here:

Beauty and the Beast.  The Phantom of the Opera.   King Kong.  Ogres, monsters and trolls.  Literature is full of these terrifying figures who are demonised because they are different -- either because they are large, or ugly, or fail to conform with what we are used to seeing as beautiful or comfortable.  The great film called "Monsters" comes to mind as well.  All too often the monsters are themselves terrified because they have suffered from some traumatic event, or because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dark Angel freebie promo goes live

The Kindle edition of "Dark Angel" is now free from Amazon websites -- for just 5 days.  This is one of the favourite books of the series, darker in tone than most of the others, but with an ultimately optimistic thread running right through it.  So yes, is is about fear of the unknown, insecurity, loneliness and despair (well, Mistress Martha did duffer from bipolar syndrome) -- but it's also about compassion, courage, loyalty and love.  If you have a Kindle, feel free to download and enjoy.........

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Free Promo coming up: Dark Angel on Kindle

From Thursday 14th November to Mon 18th November volume 3 of the Angel Mountain Saga will be free for Kindle owners, from the Amazon web site.  Here is the link for the USA:

 and for the UK:

This is the first time I have done a free promo for this book.  Enjoy!!

It is 1807, and Martha Morgan, the beautiful and feisty Mistress of the Plas Ingli estate, has recovered from the murder of her husband David. The murderers have been brought to justice, and now she looks forward to a happier future in the company of Owain Laugharne, the new love of her life. Plans for the marriage are far advanced when Owain disappears without trace. This is trouble enough for a young widow with four children, but then she has to cope with the bullying of a neighbouring squire, the terrifying appearances of a strange figure in black called The Nightwalker, and a newborn baby left on her doorstep. Her friend and mentor, the Wizard Joseph Harries, tries but fails to discover exactly what is going on. As the years pass she becomes increasingly lonely, and at last her friends and servants convince her to marry again. A long-time admirer, Ceredig ap Tomos, proposes, and she accepts. But on the night before the wedding, a new arrival triggers off a series of extraordinary events on Angel Mountain which will test Martha’s resolve to the limit.......

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Another Trappers' Hut story from East Greenland

Another cabin story.....posted on Facebook but worth sharing........ This cabin is an old and battered trapper's hut in East Greenland, in the area where we worked in 1962 with the OU East Greenland Expedition.   In 1970 a member of another expedition came across the hut and decided to stop the night there. There was no means of lighting, so he thought he'd root around to see if there were any candles anywhere. In a dark windowless room at the end of the shack he found a big box which seemed to contain a nice supply of candles. It was too dark to see what he was doing. So he lit a match and was just about to light one of the "candles" when he realized that it felt a bit squishy. So he looked more carefully at it, by the light of the match flame, and saw that it was a stick of dynamite. The box was full of old sticks of dynamite, obviously left by some geological prospecting party years before. (The explosives had probably been intended for geophysical / seismic work.)  Not only that, but next to the box were some glass jars that contained nitro glycerine.......... so there we are then. 

The explorer lived to tell the tale. Take whatever lessons from it that may be appropriate......

Guardian Angel now on Kindle

This is just to let you know that Guardian Angel" (vol 6 in the Angel Mountain Saga) is now available via Amazon in a Kindle edition.  At a ludicrously low price.  Here is the link if you want to get it:

This hasn't been the most popular of the Angel Mountain books (mind you, it's still sold 2,000 copies, so that counts as a best-seller in Wales) -- partly because many readers thought that with Martha having died at the end of "Flying with Angels", that was that.  But they hadn't reckoned with the fact that Martha is indestructible..........

And I do have a soft spot for this story.  It's really an allegory or a fairy story, told in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion, and with hardly any real violence in it.  It's a GREAT contrast with the story told in "Sacrifice" which followed as number 7 in the series. 

There are several characters in this story for whom I have very soft spot -- including the child Merlin, the policeman who says everything at least twice because he thinks it makes him sound "official", and of course Wilmot Gwynne......

Acts of God -- the Album

  For those who want to check out the location in which the new story is set, I've assembled an album on Facebook.  Just click on the link, and off you go into an exotic world of glaciers, gigantic fjords and mountains, trackless tundra, and ice-infested waters, populated by mad power-crazed villains, polar bears and bemused Greenlanders........ with a group of innocent explorers caught up in very dark deeds.  There -- that's enough purple prose for the time being......

Acts of God -- progress report

 Inside one of the East Greenland trappers huts -- one rather like this figures prominently in the story.  I love this photo -- the texture and muted colour of the wood and the single bright splash of colour in the rusty kettle.......

I have just finished the third draft of the new novel -- incorporating a multitude of changes as suggested by my faithful and ever-helpful readers.   For the most part, the comments were exactly in tune with what was in my own mind.   I created the first draft at very high speed -- about a fortnight of writing -- and intended that it should tell the story in bare outlines, sticking to the thriller format of keeping things MOVING at all times!  I knew that in thrillers you don't have much time to spend on purple prose and character development -- in many thrillers you really have no idea what the hero looks like or what motivates him, and more often than not you couldn't care less.....  Speed is what matters, and to hell with depth.  But that's not very satisfying from an author's point of view -- the interactions between characters are what gives novels their appeal, and a story is much more likely to be popular (I hope!) if the reader empathises with the main characters and actually has an interest in what happens to them as the story unfolds.

So the main comment was that the characters had to be fleshed out more -- and I have obliged on that score, while pushing the word count up from 67,000 to 97,000.  There are now much better descriptions of the key players in the story, many more interactions between them, a whole host of moral dilemmas, new characters who bring extra dimensions to the story, many more adventure episodes, and a more fully fleshed out climax to the story. 

The next task is to find an agent ---- and things are moving along on that front.

In the meantime, I keep on finding more and more fantastic images of the area in which the story is set.  East Greenland -- it doesn't get much more exotic!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

On Angel Mountain back in stock

I have just had the delivery on the new printing of "On Angel Mountain."  This is my 7th printing, and I'm not sure how many other printings there were for the Corgi edition.  No matter -- total sales are now over 30,000.......

For the first time I have used a digital printing process -- from Cambrian Printers in Aberystwyth.  I'm very impressed with the quality.

Sorry if anybody has been trying to get a copy without success.  I have topped up most of the Pembs outlets -- just a few still to go.  You can always order online as well:

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The New Novel

Many of my readers have been asking about the progress of my new novel, which they have heard rumours about from various quarters........  Well, the first thing to do is to make the point that the new story has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Mistress Martha.  I have been feeling like a change of genre for some time, and with 8 novels about my feisty heroine done and dusted, I thought there was more than a little danger of getting stuck in a rut, living too comfortably in the comfort zone, and assorted other cliches.  So I thought that something more challenging might be a good idea.  Something aimed more specifically at a male readership (although there are many happy male readers of the Angel Mountain books, the fact of the matter is that most of my readers have been women, since women do seem to be more interested in historical fiction with a strong female lead character.  Strange, that....)

Anyway, for the last year or so I have been mulling over the basic storyline for a new novel set in Greenland, based very loosely indeed on my experiences as joint leader of the Oxford University East Greenland Expedition 1962.   (Yes, it was a VERY long time ago........)  But it was during the Cold War, and gradually a "Cold War Chiller Thriller" has taken shape.

The central part of the East Greenland coast, the most spectacular fjord coastline on earth.

During the summer break in Sweden -- in June and July -- I worked out quite a detailed synopsis, and I started on the first draft of the novel at the beginning of August.  Now it's done.  Three weeks of fairly intensive work, culminating in a mad session last Tuesday during which I banged out the last 4 chapters and 16,000 words.  I thought afterwards, having worked so fast, that maybe it was all rubbish, but Inger has assured me that it was not, and that she really quite enjoyed the last part of the novel even though she is a woman.  So far so good........  now I need at least six male readers to have a critical go at the text, and to be honest with me!  After that, I have to decide what to do with the manuscript -- agent, publisher, Ebook, self-publication?   Decisions, decisions......

I have made two rather nice location maps, so that people can follow the story more effectively.  Here they are (click to enlarge):

I am of course sworn to secrecy as to the contents of the story, but here is a draft cover blurb, just to give a feeling for it:

This is a fast-moving thriller in the tradition of Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler and Hammond Innes, set in a magnificent yet deadly polar environment. It is also an inspiring story of comradeship and survival against overwhelming odds.

At the height of the Cold War in 1962, ten young men arrive in the Arctic wilderness of East Greenland, on an expedition from Oxford University. The party is led by Ed Lawson and Stephen Hanna, both just 22 years old. They expect to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime, and to undertake scientific work in the most spectacular fjord landscape on earth. But as soon as they arrive, things start to go wrong, and following a series of close encounters with death they realize that their misfortunes are not occurring purely by chance. The explorers are too inquisitive and too intelligent for their own good, and after some weeks in the field they realize that they know too much, and that they are being hunted down by an invisible and implacable enemy. Prematurely their research plans have to be abandoned, and their adventure turns into a fight for survival. As the death toll mounts, the people of a small Inuit settlement are also caught up in a conflict which they want nothing to do with. At last the explorers get angry, and although they have no weapons and no means of transport, they are fit and they know how to survive in the Arctic. Their only option is to go onto the offensive, in the full knowledge that they will probably not come out of the conflict alive.

So there we are then.  For developments over the coming months, watch this space........

The other thing I have done, to enhance the reading pleasure of those who might be interested in a story of this type, set in the real world, is to put together a rather splendid collection of images from the key locations -- Kjove Land, Syd Kap, Bear Islands. Schuchert Dal, Stauning Alps, Nordvest Fjord, Jameson Land etc.  The pictures can be seen here:

Just one other thing.  Because of possible sensitivity, I have changed three key place nemes in the manuscript.  So Mesters Vig has become Blyhavn, Scoresbysund (the settlement) has become Sandvig, and Malmbjerg (Erzberg) has become Himmelbjerg.  Is that all clear?  Good.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Delivery tomorrow...

In case anybody has been wondering, the seventh printing of "On Angel Mountain" should be with me from the printers tomorrow -- been getting quite a few requests for it, but sadly I have been totally cleaned out of stock at the Greencroft Books warehouse (ie our attic....)

So hang in there -- I'll try to get stocks out on Friday.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recent pics to remind us that Angel Mountain is as beautiful as ever -- typical autumn colours, and I don't think I've ever seen the heather looking better!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Reprint time again.....

Reprint time again -- this time for "On Angel Mountain."  Having done the sums, I reckon that this title has now sold 30,000 copies in all editions, excluding Kindle downloads and audiobook sales.  I suddenly realized that I was out of stock, and having reclaimed some stock from the Welsh Books Council warehouse in Aberystwyth, I have now sold out of that as well.  So the old favourite keeps on selling.  This will be the 7th printing.......

This is my first venture into short-run digital printing, and I'm using Cambrian Printers in Aberystwyth, who did an excellent job for me with "Ghostly Tales from Pembrokeshire."  Conventional offset printing is not really worthwhile unless you want 1,000 or 2,000 copies at least -- and in these straightend times, who can afford to hold stock at very high levels?  So with the short-run digital process I can go for smaller quantities of a few hundred, and still have a reasonable mark-up on copies sold to the trade.  Naturally enough, I do not want to increase the cover price.

Interesting experiment.  Watch this space.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Martha's Bluebell Wood

We have been here for 37 years now, and until a few weeks ago I thought I had got to know the area pretty well.  But then I discovered a new footpath, just a few hundred metres from the house.  It's an established public path, shown on the 1:25,000 map -- but because the upper part of it is boggy and overgrown, and was blocked by a very large fallen tree near Gelli-deg, I had not penetrated very far along it.  But now the National Park rangers have cleared the obstruction -- and the path is opened up for all to enjoy.  It runs from near Yet-y-Rhos and then follows the valley side more or less southwards for about a kilometre, emerging out onto the Gwaun Valley road near Blaencwm.  It passes through a mixed woodland at first, opening up gradually into a gorgeous woodland of tall beech trees and with (at this time of year) a carpet of bluebells.  In places the path is defined by stone banks -- so at one time it may well have been usable by carts and other wheeled vehicles.  So it must have been a key part of the local footpath network in the days of Mistress Martha and her family.

I have missed a trick there.  It should have featured in at least one of the stories of the saga, given that it is only about a kilometre away from the site of Plas Ingli...........

Spring on the mountain

Up on the slopes of the mountain spring has sprung.  The cuckoo has been at it for almost a month now; the skylarks and swallows are back in residence; and the bracken is beginning to push up those strange curled stalks.........  And that wonderful fresh yellow-green colour is beginning to appear on the bilberry patches on the highest slopes, amongst the rocky outcrops.

I took this photo the other day -- Earth Goddess snoozing quietly on the far horizon.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Strange omen on Carningli

The "effusion" of ice (the milk of the Earth Mother?) near the summit of Carningli at the end of March 2013.  The adjacent crag is the tip of the "breast" on the female profile of the mountain when seen from a distance.

Now here's a very funny thing for you....... when I was climbing up the mountain the other day, in very cold bright weather, my eye was attracted by a shining white patch high up, close to the summit. When I got there, it turned out to be an effusion from the highest spring on the mountain, frozen solid. And where was it located? 

Well, you know that the mountain has the profile of or silhouette of a woman lying on her back? To the left the head, then the breast, and then the rib cage, and finally the raised knees to the right. Some people think that this profile caused the mountain to be revered in pre-Christian times as the Earth Mother or Earth Goddess. And where, I hear you ask, was this unique effusion of shining whiteness located? Well, very close to the tip of the breast. How weird is that?

It is after all April 1st, so one can be more than a little eccentric just now.......  but if Carningli was indeed revered as a sacred mountain, associated with some female deity, the "female profile" of the mountain summit might have had something to do with it.  But how much more impressive might it have been for the primitive mind if, every now and then (during a continuous spell of very cold weather without snow),  a white liquid was seen coming from the breast high up on the mountain summit.  The milk of human kindness? The original sustenance for human life?  A sign from the gods?   Well, why not?