My Apologies!

December 14, 2009

I’m sorry I’ve been absent from my blog for so long.

Having made a good start on the sequel to The Legend of Aranrhod, I was ambushed by a sudden and urgent desire to create a record, in words and photographs, of my childhood years. I foolishly thought this wouldn’t take me long, since I don’t have a lot of memories.

However, I kept a daily diary for five whole months when I was eleven (such persistence!), and that brought back a lot of feelings and atmosphere, if only a few actual memories. In addition, I recorded daily entries for the last 21 months of secondary school, which gave me a lot of material.

Both my parents are dead, and so I’ve been plagued with the common regret that I didn’t quiz them a lot more about my childhood – and, indeed, about their childhood. My elder brother was a great help, mostly by confirming my own memories, which was important. I am also still in touch with my closest secondary school friend.

I’m about seven in the above photo. I could have wished for more photographs, but a roll of 8 for a Brownie box camera was quite an investment in the 1950s, so I’m grateful for what I’ve got. Their rarity elevates them, in all their blurred, black and white crudity, to the status of precious jewels; whereas now family photos are too numerous even to stick in albums, becoming instead an e-blur stashed away in countless computer files, rarely pruned and rarely looked at. That has ever been the fate of photos but more so as their quantity has increased. Pity family biographers of future generations, having to cope with such a large and repetitive photo store as well as probably boxfuls of camcorder cassettes and hours and hours of video stored online.

Anyway, this simple task has taken me all year. The account has ended up being 50% longer than my novel, which has surprised me, since I didn’t think there’d be much to say. I have no illusions that my children will rush to read it – yet. But when they’re my age and intimations of mortality begin to make them reflect on their own lives, I suspect they’ll dig out my Autobiography Vol #1 and find it interests them.

Meanwhile, even as I recorded my early life, the latest pages in my life story have continued to be written by the invisible hand of destiny – I had a week in hospital in May; our 5th grandchild, Ruth, arrived in June; our daughter got married in July; and, sadly, my brother passed away in August.

I am looking forward to getting back to the sequel. I wonder what I will think of what I’ve written when I read it after a gap of seven or eight months? I’ll let you know!


Time Goes By …

February 12, 2009

winter park

I’m busy writing a sequel, and thoroughly enjoying getting back to some creative writing, watching ideas spring out of the flow of words on the screen. There’s no feeling quite like it.

Creating something is the only way I’ve found to slow down time. You would think it would be the opposite, that being absorbed in the creative process would distract you from the passage of time, so that when you notice the clock again you exclaim, “Wow! Is that the time?!”  One associates time dragging with boredom and time racing with being busy, but there must be a difference between busy-ness and creative preoccupation.

Maybe it’s to do with brain waves (no, not brainwaves: brain waves, though they are connected). I saw a programme about intelligence last night and it advocated emphasising your theta waves if you wish to maximise clarity of thought, memory, etc. Theta waves come to the fore when you are totally absorbed in an activity – and I suppose I’m saying that you can’t create without being absorbed in the creative process. So maybe the brain’s perception of time slows down during theta wave production.

The expert mentioned sportspeople being ‘in the zone’ as an example of theta wave prominence, and one of the consequences of being in the zone is that the sportsperson seems to have more time to react than the normal player. Time slows down. Cricket commentators talk a lot about ‘timing’, about ‘seeing the ball early’, and all sportspeople regularly go in and out of form, that elusive state.

Well, it’s possible that ‘form’ is the ability to give prominence to theta waves, an ability which can be disastrously compromised by what the pundits call ‘outside distractions’. If you’re full of ‘Just Married’ emotions, or your first baby is due any day, or you’re worried about your ankle niggle, or you had a row with a team mate, those theta waves will stay firmly locked down and no matter how much you’ve practised, no matter how good your technique, the ball will arrive at your bat or racquet at its proper speed and, while your technique might allow you to make contact with the ball, without the extra millisecond granted by theta wave prominence, your timing will be rubbish – you’re out of form. This helps to explain silly losses like England v West Indies recently and England v Spain even more recently.

I like the idea that there is a link between artistic creation and playing sport at the top level.

A Reading Crunch?

October 9, 2008

How about a book on DIY Made Easy?

How about a book on DIY Made Easy?

Do people read more during a credit crunch, or less? How much are book sales affected during a recession? How many authors will join the dole queue over the next 18 months?

People want to escape when times are hard, so maybe romantic and fantasy fiction will benefit at the expense of gritty, kitchen-sink novels. But people also need inspiring, so stories where the hero or heroine struggles against adversity – and triumphs – will be in demand.

The problem is that it takes something like two years from writing to being published, even if your book is accepted by a publisher, by which time the recession should have bottomed out. So you need to write your book quickly (The Fastest Way to Write Your Book by Dave Haslett can help you there) and why not finesse the slush pile by publishing it yourself ( is worth checking out)?

Don’t restrict yourself to writing the next fiction blockbuster. You can bet that bookstores will be bursting with books on the subject of how to survive the recession. How about championing a resurgence in knitting and home dressmaking? A survival recipe book? Home decorating on the cheap?

And finally, concentrate on getting your books into libraries rather than bookstores, for in a recession I’m sure people rediscover the joy of borrowing books rather than buying them!

Russian Tour Cancelled …

September 10, 2008

I was expecting to be touring with the St Petersburg Blagovest Ensemble right now. The tour was meant to begin on 6th September and conclude on the 27th. But the ensemble had their applications for visas rejected. It seems they will need to have work visas from now on, which they may not qualify for. So it is a worrying time. And an upsetting time for all the people who were looking forward to seeing and hearing Blagovest this month.

It does mean I’ve been granted a bonus slab of time in which to work on my sequel to The Legend of Aranrhod. And I’m trying to get some school visits booked as well. Any offers?

Another consolation is that touring in this weather wouldn’t have been the jolliest of times.

One more thing. If you find yourself having deja-vu experiences in the next few days – feeling like you’ve read this Post before, feeling like you’ve read this Post before – it may be that the subatomic experiment in Geneva has flung us all into a time warp. If so, I hope your Groundhog Days are pleasant ones!

The North London Launch …

May 28, 2008

Blog Directory - Blogged

By the way, did I tell you, the north London Launch was a great event, with all kinds of creative things going on. Watching someone bind a book, using the stitching method, was fascinating – and labour intensive.

I want to thank Rev Mel, Catherine and all who helped organise the day – and the sunshine between two wet days!

There was a drama workshop, while Aranrhod’s cover artist Imogen Hallam came all the way from Devon to get children making minibooks – and they were delightful (the minibooks and the children!).

Betty started reading Aranrhod there and then, as you see from the pic …

First Prize …

May 5, 2008

On Wed 30th April, just over a year from when it first went on sale, The Legend of Aranrhod was awarded First Prize in a national competition.

The photograph captures the moment when the result was announced.

The competition was organised by the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust. Their aim was to find the self-published novel of 2008 that is being the most successfully marketed. The average total sales of self-published books is 300. Almost four times that number of Legends have been sold thus far.

This is where I want to express my thanks to all who have bought The Legend of Aranrhod and to all who have recommended it to others or who have actually sold copies for me. THANK YOU!!

But I have to reserve my greatest thanks for the novel itself, to Carys and all her fellow characters. Ultimately, as the marketing maestro himself remarked on an episode of The Apprentice recently, you can’t market a duff product, so the prize is definitely the book’s, not mine. Last week I met a 13-yr-old girl who has read the Legend five times and says it’s ‘the best book ever’. Her father commented that her copy is indeed ‘very thumbed’. It’s humbling for a writer but true that a few ‘very thumbed books’ probably sell more copies than all one’s carefully orchestrated book signings and author appearances.

Having said that, I continue to flog copies personally as I tour with my choir. The novel is selling in greater numbers than on last year’s tours, which is exciting.

Happy Birthday Aranrhod …

April 25, 2008

photo courtesy of Gary Mackley-Smith

In three days time, April 28th 2008, it will be one year since the first Aranrhod Blog entry. And a couple of weeks ago marked the anniversary of the first print-run of 1,000 copies.

All of that first print-run has gone and this month I began marketing the second thousand copies. I am selling them as I tour, as I did last spring. Interestingly, they are selling in greater numbers than last year.

The photograph is a picture of people arriving at the Devon Launch last October, one of many highlights in the first year of marketing Aranrhod. The photo is courtesy of Gary Mackley-Smith.


The North London Launch …

April 2, 2008

The North London Launch of The Legend of Aranrhod takes place on Saturday 26th April, in St George’s Church, Crayford Road, Tufnell Park, N7 0ND, which is in north east London. The event begins at 2pm and finishes at 5pm. There will be three workshops inspired by the novel: drama, visual art, and literacy.

The drama workshop will be run by a trained drama teacher who lives locally. The visual art workshop will be run by Imogen Hallam, the cover artist for the novel, who will be coming up from Devon for the launch. Her aim is for each participant to create a ‘mini-book’ to take home. The literacy workshop will be run by me, the novel’s author. I will answer questions about the craft of writing – techniques for thinking of ideas; for inventing characters; for plotting, etc. Participants can do some creative writing during the workshop if they wish. I will also fill in some of the backstory to The Legend of Aranrhod, using props and costumes. To cover expenses of materials, etc, there will be a small charge of £1 (50p conc) for each workshop. Signed copies of the novel will be on sale for the discounted price of £5.00.

To enrol, call 07885 619947.

 There will also be a bric-a-brac stall, live music, and a BBQ. It is hoped that the littler children will help to make a dragon which will subsequently be slain by St George!

Back to School …

March 18, 2008

Authors of books that children read are invited to visit schools. I have recently visited three, two primary, one secondary.

It is such a privilege to be back in school without being a) a teacher or b) a teaching assistant or c) a student. It was great to be reminded of the creative talents of children, their enthusiasm and brightness. It was also heartwarming to witness the dedication and expertise of the teachers. Without some good teachers, teachers who are respected, liked and occasionally loved by students, school would truly be a waste of everybody’s time.

In the first week of the three I was at Yerbury Primary School, in Tufnell Park, NE London – just south of Highbury. This school will be supporting the North London Launch of Aranrhod, which is happening on Sat 26th April in St George’s Church, Tufnell Park as part of their St Georges-tide celebrations. There will be three workshops – drama, visual arts, and wordcraft. At the school I did my usual interactive session about legend, weaving a new legend that leads us to the start of Aranrhod. I’m happy to say a good time was had by all.

The second school, in the second week, was at Great Torrington Junior School in north Devon. This was on Thursday 6th March, which – as I’m sure you all knew – was World Book Day. I was invited to attend with Katherine Reynolds, author of Born to Dance. We covered four classes each, so it was a hard-working day but extremely satisfying. The children do enjoy dressing up as Merlin, King Arthur, Aranrhod the Moon Goddess, and the Great Evil – well, who wouldn’t?!

Last week, the third week, was Something Completely Different. I took part in Wordcraft Day at Acton High School in north west London. Two 90 minute sessions with Yr 7s. No costumes, no legends, for I had been invited to do a creative writing seminar, a first for me. I had sought plenty of help from various teachers of English who happen to be members of my family, so I had more than enough material, and the students produced some good work. The school bought four copies of Aranrhod, which was a bonus since that hadn’t been the aim.

All three visits were wonderful experiences and I met some great people.

New Look Sidebar …

January 29, 2008

I’ve had a bit of an early spring clean of the pages on the sidebar. Take a look.

Some of the titles were too clever for their own good, so I’ve made their meaning more explicit. And I’ve shuffled the order slightly . For instance, Your Reviews & Feedback was festering at the very bottom of the pile. Now, with the addition of the word ‘All’, which begins with ‘A’, suddenly All Your Reviews & Feedback are near the top.

And it’s time to brighten up the Home Front with a photo. It’s of me signing books at the Devon Creative Launch.

Signing at the Devon Launch

If you’ve got a photo related in some way to The Legend of Aranrhod (it doesn’t have to be of me!) then send it to the blog or direct to me first. Perhaps of you reading it or of someone else reading it, or of someone throwing it in the bin or giving it to Oxfam.