Friday, 31 May 2019

The new edition of "House of Angels"

Just received from the printer!  The new edition (this is the fifth printing) has a gorgeous new cover designed by Martin -- based on one of the images of Rhiannon taken during the photo shoot with Steve Mallett.  We think the new image captures the mood of the novel really well......

There are some technical changes too -- the pagination is slightly different.  We have the location map, as usual, and also the image of "Martha's water colour" and an image of Martha with the raven.  The paper is slightly lighter than before, making the book open more easily; and the spine margins have been increased a little for ease of reading.

All in all, Biddles the printers have done a great job.  Somehow or other, we have managed to keep the cover price at £7.99.  If we can cover our costs through sales, we will be happy......


Thursday, 30 May 2019

Gavin and Stacey returns for a Christmas special

BBC Press Release:

Bafta and multi-award-winning Gavin & Stacey, starring Mathew Horne and Joanna Page, supported by a cast including James Corden, Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon, Larry Lamb, Melanie Walters and Alison Steadman, is set to return for a one-off special this Christmas on BBC One.

The hit British sitcom, created and written by Ruth Jones and James Corden, will be produced by Fulwell 73, Tidy Productions and Baby Cow Productions.

Ruth Jones and James Corden, says: “Over the last ten years we’ve talked a lot about Gavin and Stacey - where they might be today and what their lives might look like. And so in secret we took the plunge and wrote this one hour special. We’ve loved revisiting Barry and Essex again and bringing the characters back together has been a joy. We’re so excited to get the chance to work with our fabulous cast and crew once more and to give fans of the show a festive treat this Christmas. Thank you BBC for helping to make this happen.”

Gavin & Stacey broadcast over three series (plus a Christmas special) from 2007 to 2010 on the BBC. Gavin (Mathew Horne), an ordinary boy from Essex in England and Stacey (Joanna Page), an ordinary girl from Barry in Wales, spoke on the phone to each other every day at work, they finally met, fell in love and got married. The series went onto explore the simple love story of these two young people from different parts of the UK, and the impact their relationship had on their friends and family.

The sitcom was a breakthrough hit for BBC Three and the 2008 Christmas special and third series moved to premiere on BBC One. The shows 2010 New Year’s Day finale had record ratings for the series with 10.25m viewers.

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, says: “Everyone at the BBC is hugely excited to be welcoming back Gavin and Stacey to BBC One this Christmas. We can’t wait to see what’s happened to everyone over the last nine years, and what’s next for one of the nation’s favourite comedy families.”

This Gavin & Stacey special (1x60’) is a Fulwell 73, Tidy Productions and Baby Cow Production for BBC One. It has been commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy. Gavin & Stacey is created, written and executive produced by Ruth Jones and James Corden. It is also Executive Produced by David Peet, Leo Pearlman and Ben Winston. Shane Allen is the Commissioning Editor for the BBC.

Further details will be announced in due course.

Series one broadcast from 13 May to 10 June 2007 on BBC Three
Series two broadcast from 16 March to 20 April 2008 on BBC Three
A Christmas Special broadcast on 24 December 2008 on BBC One
Series three broadcast from 26 November 2009 to 1 January 2010 on BBC One


It looks as if BBC Wales has no involvement in this, in spite of a considerable Welsh component in the story.......

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Uplift through the act of reading

Love it!  Steps at a university in Lebanon.........  helping students to reach the heights.......

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Still life at Ceibwr

At  Ceibwr today, just in time to catch the thrift before it gets too old and dry.....

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Game of Thrones and the Northern Ireland economy

Some interesting information is coming out relating to the economic impact of "Game of Thrones" -- filmed mostly, but not exclusively, in Northern Ireland.  Now that the series is finished (with a somewhat critical reception from most fans) the originators of the project are working on a pilot for a prequel -- presumably on the basis that you can never have too much of a good thing.  However, with 72 episodes shown, one wonders when the "weariness factor" will kick in, and whether there really is a big audience out there wanting more.  We shall see,,,,,

Anyway, the impact of the project, which started in Northern Ireland in 2010,  has been vast. An estimated 350,000 people visit Northern Ireland each year just because of the series, bringing in c £50 million per year in tourism revenue. Beyond that, there is huge value in the "branding" of the province among the audiences (measured in millions) for the series right across the globe.  The calculation is that the project has brought in £251million  thus far -- not bad for an initial investment of c £16 million (through support mechanisms, grant aid and other incentives) from Northern Ireland Screen.

And most of those in the tourism business assume that the "GOT" effect will continue far into the future, just as the Lord of the Rings effect is still being felt quite forcefully in New Zealand.


Game of Thrones is 'game changer' for NI tourism
By Sara Girvin
BBC News NI North-East Reporter

Its long-awaited finale has been and gone but Game of Thrones is still big business for Northern Ireland.
It is estimated to have brought £251m into the economy since production began in 2010, according to the region's film agency NI Screen.
Over the same period, the organisation gave £15.95m in production funding to the hit fantasy drama series.
But that was a worthwhile investment, says NI Screen's chief executive Richard Williams.

"It's been a game changer for the screen industry," he said."This is the biggest show of the decade and certainly within industry terms everyone knows that it's being made in Northern Ireland.
"That has revolutionised our standing in the screen industry all around the world."

On what the future holds for filmmaking in Northern Ireland, Mr Williams says "If we can't collectively sell the supply chain that was behind Game of Thrones, the crew, the studio, well then what can we sell?"
Figures from Tourism NI, the region's tourism development body, paint a similarly upbeat picture.
They suggest that 350,000 people come to Northern Ireland every year just for Game of Thrones - that is one in six leisure visitors.
It is estimated they spend £50m each year.

'Driving people to NI’

The HBO production has turned Northern Ireland filming locations into tourist hotspots.
Tour operator Caroline McComb hosts Game of Thrones tours every day of the year with one exception - Christmas Day.
"For us, Game of Thrones has been that big game changer we always hoped we'd get," she says.
"It's the thing driving people to come to Northern Ireland."
She does not believe business will be affected by the end of the show.

"I don't see any reason why the numbers will dwindle."We've only to look at what Lord of the Rings has done for New Zealand to see that there's absolutely no reason why we can't continue with this in Northern Ireland," she said.
Sean McLaughlin took over at the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, County Antrim, four years ago.
His restaurant is a refreshment stop for many of the Game of Thrones tours along Northern Ireland's north coast.
"It's gone from one tour bringing in about 18 covers per day to serving approximately 110 to 130 covers per day - just for Game of Thrones fans," he says.
"I think we'll see numbers continue to grow - the lasting legacy of what has been created is phenomenal.”

'Buses never stop’
But the influx of large numbers of tourists to some small villages has caused problems.
Marian Boyle is a resident in Cushendun, County Antrim, and says tourist coaches are disrupting the residents' lives with a "lot of intrusion".
"I'm all for tourism in Northern Ireland but this sort of tourism - herding people in and out - they come to see one thing and that's it," she said.
"For local residents it is frustrating - the constant buses never stop.
"At the weekend when it's busy you can be driving through hundreds of people who just don't see this as a road."
There are also issues at the Dark Hedges outside Armoy, County Antrim.
Just 10 seconds on Game of Thrones was enough to make it a tourist attraction.
Congestion and damage to the trees led to traffic being banned but that is not always obeyed.
More Game of Thrones attractions are in the pipeline and a prequel to the show is being filmed in Northern Ireland.
But tourism bosses admit there is a balance to be struck.
Judith Webb, who is responsible for screen tourism at Tourism NI, says: "Success has meant that we really do need to consider visitor management issues and work is happening to manage those situations."
The show has "transformed Northern Ireland into a leading international screen tourism destination", she adds.
"What's planned will extend the whole life of Game of Thrones - there is a lot of investment moving forward and we're hugely positive about the future.”


Sunday, 19 May 2019

Stormy times......

Another fabulous image from Tez Marsden -- this time from Pwllgwaelod.  Click to enlarge.

Check out his gallery for more wonderfully evocative images from Martha's world.......

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The big 2019 dramas

Here is an interesting list of the big TV dramas for 2019 --  some of them have of course already been shown, or are in progress....

Can we pick up on any trends?  It's not easy -- one might be a trend towards more modern or present-day dramas, which might be explained partly on cost grounds alone, since they are much cheaper to make than costume dramas.   But the big shows -- like "Good Omens" will be so complex that they will cost well over £1million per episode anyway.

Is there a drift away from costume drama?  Difficult to say -- there are some big costume dramas in the mix, including Gentleman Jack, Summer of Rockets (is there a trend towards post-WW2 and Cold War dramas?), The Luminaries, War of the Worlds, Peaky Blinders, Poldark (the final series), and Year of the Rabbit.  Lots of cop shows / crime shows  written to a familiar formula -- there seems to be an insatiable demand for thrillers with nasty (and complicated) villains, troubled police and unconventional investigators.

Witch this space....

PS.  Several others missed off the Radio Times List:  Beecham House, Catherine the Great, Dracula and Tom Jones

Friday, 10 May 2019

Moments later.........

This is one of my favourite portraits from Steve Mallett's fabulous photo gallery of "Martha Morgan" images -- featuring Rhiannon James in the role of the heroic heroine.

This is a reminder of one of the most difficult passages in the saga -- because moments later Martha enters the kitchen with the basket of logs, trips over and loses her baby.  No man can ever hope to portray a miscarriage and its aftermath in print -- and it was probably presumptuous and foolhardy to think that I could do it with due respect and sensitivity.  But that is how the story came to me, and I had to try.........

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Enchanted Land

Just for fun.  I have discovered this amongst assorted ancient papers.  It's a little poem I composed in 1994 as a Prelude to a "Celtic Entertainment" based on local mythology and folklore, presented here in Newport during our 1994 Spring Festival.  Enjoy!


Now come to our enchanted land
Where dragons roar and monsters roam
And down upon the golden sand
Amid the breakers and the foam
A water horse looks out to sea;
For there amid the noonday haze
A mermaid combs her hair, and she
Knows all the distant ocean ways.

On sunlit crags sit holy men
Like David, Brynach and their friends
Whose shadows now and voices then
Have blessed us all, and made amends.
And heroes, giants, princes, kings
Ride through the flaming sunset west
With silver spears and golden rings
Upon some grand Arthurian quest.

The sun goes down, and now we hear
The phantoms of the deep dark night.
And goblins growl, and in our fear
We dread the witch with second sight
Who flies across the winter moon
And casts her spells and leaves, they say,
Poor folk bewitched; and as they swoon
The devil talks while others pray.

The hounds of hell, do they exist
As great black beasts, with glowing eyes?
Who hears the battles in the mist
Or overhead, in moonlight skies?
Who sees the flickering candle glow
Beneath the trees or by the stones?
Who knows the knocking? Who can know
The dusty rattle of dry bones?

But now the growing light of dawn
Sends all our morbid fears away.
We wake and stretch, and with a yawn
We open eyes and see the day.
The fairy folk have come to town
With magic food and purest gold,
With dainty shoe and jewelled gown
And gifts for mortals young and old.

We know the eagle and the wren,
The dancing stones, the prancing steed.
We know the giants and the men
Of mighty word and mightier deed.
Hear Shemi Wad and Aby Biddle
Who tell tall tales of days gone by
While fairies come and madly fiddle
For dancers under azure sky.

Where is this land of moon and sun,
And dark and light, and present past?
Where’s golden girl and man of fun
With magic first and truth at last?
Why, this is our enchanted land,
And nothing is quite what it it seems.
We have our ways, and by our hand
We weave our magic in your dreams.

Brian John
Prologue to a Celtic Entertainment, 1994.

Is Amazon trying to kill off small publishers?

This is based on a post I did a couple of years ago, after Philip Pullman complained about heavy discounting on cover prices.

Virtually all authors have stories of the impact of price cutting at the point of sale. One of the worst offenders is of course Amazon, which is a monster so big that we have to deal with it, like it or not.

Let's take a typical novel from the Angel Mountain series.    I'm a small publisher who also happens to be a self-publisher.  If my print run has been 2,000, the invoice I have to pay is around £4,000 and the printing price per book is about £2.  The cover price will generally be set at £7.99,  giving a 4x markup.  That's smaller than a large mainstream publisher would be satisfied with, because I have low overheads and no author royalty to pay to somebody else.  My profits come from sales, to the book trade at 33.3% discount on the cover price, and to wholesalers at 45% discount.  

When I sell my novels to Amazon, I use a scheme called Amazon Advantage.  The retail monster hardly ever orders more than 6 copies of a title, even for a book which is brand new.  I have to pay the full costs of packaging and postage.  Amazon insists on a 60% discount and insists on taking 3 months to pay following acceptance of the delivery. If I want faster payment, I have to give the monster a 65% discount. So on a £7.99 paperback, it pays me just £3.19, allowing it plenty of room for discounting the book and for selling it for under my RRP. 

The next piece of iniquity is that Amazon pretends, for the sake of its customers, that it has just one copy left of this particular book, and that there are more copies on the way. That's being rather economical with the truth. The real situation (at least, until recently) is that it only ever has two or three copies in stock, and that when one is sold, it orders another copy from me as a replacement. 

The huge Amazon warehouse at Ridgmont in Bedfordshire  (which used to do all the ordering for books) may contain a lot of stuff, but it sure as eggs doesn't hold many copies of my books! Then it gets even worse, since when I get my order for one new copy to be sent off, I have to deal with it immediately (if I don't the monster starts hassling me straight away) and as mentioned above I have to pay the package and postage costs, in this case amounting to £2.40. So to send one copy of the book off to Amazon, it costs me  £2 + £2.40 = £4.40, in exchange for which it pays me £3.19. Not a very good commercial deal? Too right.......

Recently I notice that there have been two changes in the Amazon business model.  For a start, they have now opened up several vast warehouses in different parts of the UK, which operate as independent purchasing centres.  A few months ago I received three orders for the same title -- with each copy to be shipped to a different warehouse.  I complained about this, and got the response that this was a temporary situation, with an assurance that ordering would be centralised once again into the Ridgment warehouse once things had settled down.  That has not happened -- I still get very small orders from different Amazon warehouses all over the UK.

The second change is that they have clearly changed their algorithm so that  for "backlist" titles (which sell in small quantities, and intermittently) they are maybe now not holding any stock at all -- and expect suppliers to ship off single copies to them immediately, as and when orders come in from customers.  They have also started sending back "requested returns and returns of overstock inventory" to suppliers, with no discussion and no advance warning.  Today, without any warning and with no explanation,  I received a parcel containing two copies of one of my most recent and best-selling titles -- and I wouldn't mind betting that before long I will get an order for one copy of the same title from the same warehouse.

The only reason for selling books through Amazon is that I get publicity from it -- the Amazon web-site is where most initial Google searches end up. If you are a new writer and you think it's brilliant if Amazon is "prepared to stock" your paperback or hardback books, think again. You probably won't make a single penny from the deal, and had better budget for considerable losses.  

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Literary Atlas Wales

The big Literary Atlas Wales project appears now to have finished, and the essential data is all on the web site.  It has been a peculiar exercise, partly geographical and partly literary, largely focussed on 12 selected novels which are probably the standard texts examined in literature courses in the Welsh universities.  (The locations for these are shown by red dots on the map above.)  We can argue till the cows come home about whether these 12 texts are "representative" of English-language literature written or based in Wales -- but they were not chosen to give visitors a cross-section or a rounded impression of what makes Wales tick.  As we can see, none of the 12 novels was based in west Wales -- a strange omission since Pembs and Carms are not exactly literary deserts......

But "literary tourism" does not seem have been the objective of the organizers of the project -- and it's interesting that Visit Wales does not seem to have been associated with the project at all.  There will be varying opinions on whether £500,000 of taxpayers' money has been well spent.  Was the project really innovative and worthwhile, or was it an academic indulgence?

This is a statement of the objective of the project:

Literary Atlas is an interactive online atlas of English-language novels set in Wales.

Literary Atlas also includes maps which locate the main geographical locations of all English-language novels in the Welsh collections of Cardiff University, Swansea University, and the National Library of Wales. Explore these locations.

Literary Atlas includes 'distant' maps and 'deep' maps which locate all geographical references (or 'plotpoints') in twelve English-language novelsprimarily set in Wales.

Literary Atlas includes artistic 'maps' of these twelve novels which offer unique and provocative interpretations of what we might call the 'literary geographies' of these books.

Literary Atlas includes maps which locate all the blue writer's plaques which commemorate the links between particular geographical sites and famous Welsh writers.

Through using 'distant', 'deep' and 'artistic' variations on mapping, Literary Atlas hopes to stimulate new understandings of literature and place and the geographical nature of the human condition.

Anyway, there is some interesting material on the web site, particularly associated with the "library map."

As we can see, 571 "Welsh" novels were published between 1800 and 2019.  That's quite an impressive output.  On the interactive map you can click on any dot and see the author and title.  But Wales's literary output was very slow to start with, since only 16 novels were published between 1800 and 1900:

After 1990, things started moving, with 315 novels published between 1900 and 2000:

And the rate of publication speeded up even more after the year 2000, with no less than 254 novels published in the first nineteen years of this century. 


There are plenty of talking points here; and I imagine that there are scores -- if not hundreds -- of other English-language fiction titles written and published in Wales that do not appear on any databases or in the publishing catalogues of the main publishers.  Many self-published or small press titles are omitted.   However, to their credit the organizers of the project have said that if readers or authors send in the details, other titles can be added to the database and the map.

One interesting question relating to the 254 novels (at least) published since 2000 -- in the era of subsidies and publishing grants. How many of these modern titles are truly commercial, in that reasonable numbers of people actually buy them and read them?  Another interesting map would be one showing sales figures for the titles plotted -- but perhaps that would be too much to ask........