Saturday, 5 October 2019

Location, location, location........

Of course, a book is all about words, and so is a radio drama, but a TV drama or a film is all about images.  the story is told through fleeting images -- and sometimes loving and lingering images, but always images.  As time has gone on, the number of words used in a one-hour TV drama seems to be reducing and reducing inexorably.  So locations used to enhance viewing pleasure, and to increase the impact of the storyline, become hugely important.

If there is one thing that Pembrokeshire has, it is filming locations.  And bits and pieces of the Angel Mountain saga are placed in some fabulous settings, most of which happen not to have changed very much between 1800 and the present day......

Bedd yr Afanc, near Brynberian

Ceibwr Bay

Carnllidi, seen from Ramsey Island

Skomer Island


Carn Alw

North coast cliffs, near Abercastle

Carnedd Meibion Owen

Carn Meini from the south

Carnedd Meibion Owen

Mynydd Preseli

The southern end of Ramsey Sound

Foel Drygarn

Looking towards Carn Alw

Church Rock, Broad Haven South

Parrog, Newport

Ty Canol Wood

Carnedd Meibion Owen

Anything filmed in this part of wales is guaranteed to be a smash hit, if the director of photography knows what he or she is doing.  Then comes the story.......

Locations added 18 Oct 2019

A medley of Marthas

......... or a "multitude" or a "murmuration" ?? Anyway, whatever is the corrective collective noun, the ranks of those who have played the part of Martha Morgan thus far are about to be increased dramatically, in more senses than one.

Two beautiful young women, Rhiannon James and Anna Munro, have played Martha in our photo shoot and in our promotional video, bringing quite different features of Martha's character to the fore.  It has been delightful to work with both of them.

Then we owe a great deal to Lis Evans, who has attended all of our book launches and has read -- very beautifully -- extracts from Martha's diaries.  Then we have Leanne Masterton, who narrated the diaries in the original Corgi audiobooks based on "On Angel Mountain" and "House of Angels."

Next up, we are going to get at least two more Marthas, as female narrators are pulled in for the charity and commercial recordings of the books.  No names as yet.

And then..... the TV series.  I wonder which Welsh actress will be favourite for the role?  Or roles, since Martha is a suicidal teenager at the beginning of the saga and a sexy and eccentric matriarch at the end -- and that must involve at least two actresses.

Audiobook developments

We have already reported on the plans for the Calibre library to make recordings of all 8 of the Angel Mountain novels available for blind and partially-sighted people.  They have the books  and they are into the recording schedule.

Those recordings are of course strictly non-commercial and "charitable" -- and are covered by special rules from the Charity Commission.  I'm very pleased indeed to be able to do something to help people who have a tough time of it.

On a more commercial front, I have had it confirmed that the company (no name yet) responsible for the exclusive library supply of audiobooks in Wales also wants all 8 of the novels, and is prepared to commission brand new recordings.   The stories will also be available on Audible and other platforms.  I'm hoping that each recording will involve a male reader for the prologue section of each book, and a female for the diary sections.   The signs are looking good.

There will of course be a brand-new "branding" exercise, and this will inevitably bring the books to a new audience.  Increased awareness and a larger fan base -- that has to enhance the likelihood of the saga being turned into a multi-part costume drama for TV.

There are developments on that front too, but for the moment I have to keep quiet.........

Thursday, 3 October 2019



In the context of our ongoing campaign to get the "Angel Mountain" narrative used as the basis for a multi-part TV costume drama, we are pleased to record that we have had splendid letters of support from our local AM Paul Davies, broadcaster Roy Noble, Assembly Culture Committee chair Bethan Sayed AM, PCC Chief Executive Ian Westley, Jill Evans MEP and Sian Gwenllian AM. We are very grateful to all of them, and we hope for more endorsements from all who wish us well.......

Some extracts from the letters:

"I am very aware of the potential cultural and economic benefits of such productions being set in and made in Wales. It is also important to tell the stories of Wales and to ensure that our unique history, landscape and culture is shared positively and globally. I am therefore supportive of your efforts to secure the appropriate financial and other support so that this drama can be set and made in Wales and our rich cultural heritage can reach a larger audience."

"I'm delighted to add my voice to those who would like to see these novels converted to a TV series. I have no doubt that if the Angel Mountain Saga was converted into a television show, then it would certainly build on Wales's growing reputation and also give viewers a wider understanding of Wales's cultural and historical past."

"I have read most of the Martha Morgan novels and I believe it is a unique and fascinating story. It reflects the history, of not only one part of Pembrokeshire but of Wales itself, as well as its people. The heroine – the central character - is a powerful role model for young women in Wales, in particular. At a time of great uncertainty, a project such as this would make a major contribution to maintaining Wales's European and international profile."

"Any project that projects Wales to the world for all the right reasons is to be recommended and supported, If it is done through a strong saga, against the backdrop of a deeply embedded Celtic heritage and culture, then the applause should be resounding."

"The whole series is so well embedded in the north Pembrokeshire landscape -- it is bound to have a massive positive impact on the perception of Pembrokeshire as a visitor destination if it is screened."

"In terms of what makes good television and film, I believe personally that the Angel Mountain Saga is an enthralling one, with a huge amount of potential and the prospect of a significant audience."

A discovery -- Mistress Martha and bipolar condition

One of the most satisfying things about being a writer of fiction is the emotional bond that is developed between writer and reader. Or maybe I should say "SOME writers and SOME readers." Anyway, if you are a writer who takes such things seriously, of course you want to elicit a strong emotional response in the hearts of those who are rooting for your hero or heroine and following his/her adventures in minute detail. They have paid good money for the book (or some of them have!) and they want to be INVOLVED.

So as a writer, you finish the text, get the finished book out there into the marketplace, and await developments. With a bit of luck, you get reviews in the newspapers and magazines, other reviews on the Amazon and Goodreads web sites, letters and phone calls. Most of the reviews are of course good, because the reviewing process is a cockeyed one, in which people who hate the book they are reading tend not to finish it and probably will not be bothered to write a review. That having been said, of course a writer gets a boost every time an enthusiastic review appears in print or in social media.  Some writers are so desperate for approval that they bribe their friends to post reviews on Amazon.  And the most satisfying reviews are those in which there is a strong emotional response.

The most moving responses to the Angel Mountain books have been from women who have themselves experienced some of the situations in which Martha finds herself -- dealing with a traumatised husband, the death of a child, recovering from rape, the loss of a husband, or a miscarriage. The most moving tribute I have ever had as an author was from a lady who had herself experienced a miscarriage and who turned up to one of my talks in order to thank me for my description of what happened to Martha and how she recovered from it. She was amazed that a male author had written the text, and said it had given her a sort of catharsis which enabled her to move on with her life. To develop that sort of bond with somebody you have never met before is both humbling and richly rewarding.

But then there is the matter of Martha's character.  She is who she is, and I did not have to "invent" her because of the strange manner in which I was "given" her story.  During the writing of the eight novels about her life, while keeping true to the narrative that was already inside my head, I wrote about her behaviour and her responses to situations as accurately and as honestly as I could.  Whenever I tried to make her do something out of character, she gave me a kick and said "I would not have done this at all" or "There is no way I would have reacted like that."   Somehow, out of all this turmoil, came a fully formed and rather eccentric heroine:

Martha is undoubtedly a very strong character, with a multitude of virtues and vices.    But since completing the books I have been asking myself "Why these violent mood swings?"  "Why the episodes of black depression?"  "Why does Martha rush about like a whirling dervish at times, getting involved in things she should really stay well clear of?"  "Why does she become so obsessed with her projects and her plans that she fails to see what the effects are on those whom she loves?"  "Why does she take such pleasure in conflict that she appears to others to be vindictive and vengeful?"  Over and again she has to be ticked off by Bessie and Grandma Jane for her insensitive behaviour.  Over and again she has to be healed by Joseph Harries or rescued by her angels..........

It's rather intriguing that when I was asked, after the publication of "On Angel Mountain", what Martha looked like, I always replied "Catherine Zeta Jones" -- ravishingly beautiful, with black hair, brown eyes and a voice rather like that which I heard in my strange delirium back in 1999.  Twenty years ago, if a film of the book had been made by Hollywood, Catherine would have been exactly right for the role of Martha Morgan.  Too late now, maybe......... but then I discovered that Catherine suffers from bipolar disorder, and is, to her great credit, perfectly open about it.

Suddenly, this explained a great deal about my precious heroine -- her erratic behaviour, her episodes of frenzied activity involving all sorts of collateral damage, and the confrontations with her black dog from which, on a couple of occasions, she barely escapes with her life.

So Martha, from the very beginning, and without me knowing about it, suffered from bipolar condition (let's call it "condition" because the word "disorder" triggers off all sorts of negative responses).   And that explains comments like these:

"I found myself getting very cross with Martha and some of her decisions. I also became very attached to the characters. This book will get under your skin….”

"Tears rolled down my face as the life of Martha Morgan came to an end and I felt a real sense of loss. All of the books have been amazing, enthralling, educational and inspirational. I congratulate you on such an achievement.”

"I had a calling of the mountain and by chance fell upon your books. They have along with Martha Morgan saved me in many ways and made me realise I am completely normal. Amazing work -- thank you from the bottom of my heart …."

I find that last comment incredibly moving.    I'm still trying to work out where this takes us...... but it may also lead us to examine the supernatural components of the story which makes it very different, for example, from Poldark, or Pride and Prejudice, or Downton Abbey, or Wuthering Heights.  Do we move from rational drama into the realm of the irrational?   There are the ravens -- are they real, or supernatural, of just hallucinations associated with bipolar "events"?  The battles in the sky -- real, or imagined?  The premonitions experienced by Martha, which lead to her being accused of witchcraft -- what do we make of them?  The symbolism of the angels?  The beliefs associated with Joseph Harries and his contacts with demons and the spirit world?

It is a feature of bipolar condition -- in some individuals -- that hallucinations are experienced and that voices are heard.

My dear Martha, perhaps I understand you a little better today than I did yesterday.