New Novel – Boys from the Backfields

My new novel Boys from the Backfields has just been published

The cover of the book features a painting I did of the Cefncaeau Estate in Llanelli. The story is set on a very similar housing estate where in 1963, Mick, a 13 year old boy, witnesses the murder of Betty Fish. Half a century later the murder is still unsolved and  still overshadows Mick’s life.

cefncaeau-view

Cefncaeau View – Oil on Canvas

Boys from the Backfields is available as a paperback and as an ebook in all the usual places, or can order a signed copy directly from the publishers Opening Chapter.

More information at http://openingchapter.com/books/boys-from-the-backfields/

  

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You can never do enough editing, but . . .

It’s not often I write something reflective, believing that the work should speak for itself, but I’m going to indulge myself for once.

I’ve been editing the manuscript for my next novel Boys from the Backfields. It’s been a long project. I wrote the first draft of the book in the mid-nineties, almost twenty years ago. I got some interest from a big name literary agent at the time, but through naivety or stupidity I blew it.

The book was written in two parts. Grandly, I named them Book One and Book Two, like it was a great saga. In fact the novel only ran to 70,000 words. The agent loved Book One, but felt that it could be extended into a full novel, leaving my precious Book Two to fall off the edge of the desk into the dustbin. I protested, and argued my case, Book Two was what it was really all about, the whole point of Book One was to set things up for Book Two. Correspondence ceased, I was cut adrift. Touchy bastards those agents. Continue reading

  

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Boys from the Backfields

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Who killed Betty Fish?

In 1963 the world is rocking to the Beatles, and being rocked by the Cold War and the assassination of President Kennedy.

There are far more important things on the mind of Mick Matthews, a 13 year old boy growing up on a council estate in Wales, such as the murder of a middle-aged widow in one of the posh houses across the road. Mick and his small gang are out gathering blackberries and scrumping apples when they witness the murder as it happens.

Around the same time as the demise of Betty Fish, Mick falls in love with the enigmatic Angel, a girl of the same age.

Fifty years later, the murder is still unsolved and the shadows it casts over their lives are as dark as ever.

About the book

Boys from the Backfields is a story I’ve been working on, on and off for nearly twenty years. I’ve finally decided to publish it. The book is in its final editing stage and will be available early November 2013.

More info soon . . .

  

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The Greatest Living Artist in Wales

My new novel Cheats and Liars is now available in paperback and as an ebook in lots of formats

Cheats-and-Liars-FrontEveryone’s a cheat or a liar, or both. What happens when the Greatest Living Artist in Wales decides to stop playing the game?

Brian Llewelyn is an artist at the peak of his powers, in fact he’s the Greatest Living Artist in Wales. Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, his life seems worthless. He decides to redeem himself by investing heavily in a community arts project.

Following this altruistic path exposes the fragile foundations his success is built on. His life disintegrates and his career evaporates as the corrupt liars and cheats propping him up turn on him.

Cheats and Liars is an exploration of success and its fallout set deep in the psyche of Brian Llewelyn, The Greatest Living Artist in Wales.

Available from:

Amazon.co.uk: Paperback / Kindle

Amazon.com: Paperback / Kindle

Smashwords – other ebook formats

  

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How to kill a Lamb

lambHow to Kill a Lamb

A man – Kenneth, stands alone over a table, he’s admiring a big knife, turning it over in his hand and watching the light glint on the blade.

A younger man – Sam, comes in timidly.

Kenneth looks around at Sam, the knife still in his hand.

KENNETH: You the new boy?

SAM: Well . . . yes.

KENNETH: You done this sort of thing before?

SAM: Well . . . no. Continue reading

  

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Lottery

lottery-balls

Branwen’s mobile phone shivered in her hand. It was Harry, her hyperactive younger brother. He was always a distraction. He could be a bit too much sometimes, but she was in a generous, and bored, mood.

“Are you in?” Harry said excitedly. “I’m outside – buzz me up.”

Branwen obliged. One minute later Harry stumbled into the flat clutching his new laptop. Branwen was surprised. Harry’s computer set-up in his own flat was usually untouchable, immovable, sacrosanct, with leads and dongles stuffed into every orifice. She only had to sit down heavily and he was on the ceiling.

“What’s up bro?” Branwen asked.

Harry sat on the settee and put the laptop carefully on the coffee table. He flipped the lid open.

“Look,” he said. “Come and see.”

Branwen sat beside her brother and stared at the screen. There was a display of six coloured balls bouncing slowly at random. On each ball was a number.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Can’t you see?” he said.

“It looks like a load of balls to me.”

“Ha ha. Very funny – but honestly, can’t you see what they are?”

Branwen shook her head. “Nope.”

“It’s tomorrow night’s winning lottery numbers.” Continue reading

  

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Visitors

The fucking mice are back. I know they’re there. They’re crawling under the fucking floorboards. The cheeky fuckers are even hiding under the settee. I saw one last night, a dark beige flash, zipping from the side of the settee towards the hole in the floorboards. It’s my own fault. There shouldn’t be a hole in the floorboards. It’s as easy as that; all you’ve got to do is give them a fucking excuse and they’re in. It doesn’t have to be anything major, a little gap in the bottom of the back door, a small crack in the floorboards, and that’s enough; that’s all they need. Continue reading

  

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Gluten Free Tofu-Wofu Burgers

Tofu-Wofu-Burgers

just made these and they were delicious

we had them as part of a ‘sunday dinner’, including roast potatoes, steamed carrots and shredded greens, green peas, and a gluten-free gravy

ingredients

makes 4 to 6 burgers, depending on what size you make them

  • 115g / 6oz chickpea/gram flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • water
  • 200g / 7oz firm tofu
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 small chillies
  • 1 onion
  • a handful of chopped cabbage leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • tamari or other soy sauce
  • sunflower or other vegetable oil

method

place the gram flour into a bowl, add the ground flax seeds, and make a thick batter by adding water a little at a time and mixing well

let the batter stand while preparing the rest of the ingredients

crush the garlic, finely chop the onion, chillies and cabbage, and shallow fry them in sunflower or other oil, over a moderate heat, until softened and slightly browned

mash the tofu with a fork

add the mashed tofu along with the fried mixture, including the oil, to the batter and mix well

add a few dashes of tamari or other soy sauce, and enough salt and pepper to suit your taste

mix again

let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, if you’re in a hurry you could probably omit this step

just cover the bottom of a flat-bottomed frying pan with sunfloweror other oil

heat the frying pan on the hob until a small piece of the mixture sizzles when you drop it in

divide the mixture up into 4 – 6 equal amounts

using your hands. or a big spoon, form a dollop of the mixture into a ball and place it into the hot oil, it gets a bit messy so you may want to wear gloves of some sort

press the ball down gently with a spatula until it reaches the circumference and depth of a burger

you can cook two or more at a time, depending on how big the frying pan is

cook on a moderate heat until it’s browned, and sealed on one side

flip the burger (be gentle at this stage), and cook the other side until both sides are golden brown, you might have to turn the heat down, and cook them more slowly if they’re thick

these burgers should hold together well, and have a slightly crunchy outside, with a lovely moist inside

Serve in the usual way, they’re nice with a squirt of tomato ketchup or a dash of cider vinegar

 

  

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Who’s Who?

- There’s a letter from Cardiff on the table in the hall.
- Oh yeah.
- Yep.
- It’s for you.
- Thanks.
- Aren’t you going to open it then?
- Later.
- Oh! Right.
- How was it today?
- What? Work?
- Yep, you know, how was your day?
- Fine, and you?
- Quiet, boring.
- Never mind.
- I was wondering, you know, fancy a drink, tonight?
- Tonight? OK then, where did you think of going?
- Just up the pub.
- The Butcher’s?
- If you like.
- All right. Have you made any food?
- Got some pizza in the oven.
- Lovely.
- So, did you have any bother?
- What do you mean?
- Did you have any bother in work? You know, you said the other day that that bloke was mucking you about; the new supervisor.
- Oh, him, no, no bother with him, I just overreacted, you know.
- Oh.
- Well, how long have I got?
- Uh? Oh, for food. You mean, when’s the pizza going to be ready.
- Yeah.
- Half an hour.
- Got time for a shower then.
- I suppose.
- What’s the matter with you?
- What do you mean?
- You’re very sullen.
- I’m not.
- Right, see you in a bit then.
- The water’s warm, you could have a bath, if you want.
- Did you get bubbles?
- I’ve been working, and cooking.
- It’s all right. I wasn’t . . . . .
- It doesn’t stop, does it? I really have been working you know.
- I never said . . .
- Sorry.
- I’d better get on with it then.
- OK. Oh, your mother phoned.
- What did she want?
- Don’t know, didn’t ask.
- You weren’t horrible to her, were you?
- She thought you had a day off. She didn’t seem to want to talk to me at all.
- Well, you can’t blame her, after what you did.
- How much did you tell her?
- I’ve got no-one else to talk to.
- What about me?
- You – are the problem.
- Who do you know in Cardiff then?
- I bet that’s been bugging you all day, it’s a wonder you didn’t try to steam it open.
- Just wondering.
- You don’t trust me, do you?
- Well . . .
- Look, I can’t help it if you haven’t got a life.
- But I have, I work from home now, you know that.
- Look, I really need that shower.
- Sorry, you go ahead.
- Thank you very much sir.
- No need to be so sarcastic.
- You’d better check that pizza.
- It’s all right, the oven’s on very low, I spent a lot of time on that pizza, I’m not going to ruin it now. It’s a very complicated process, making it from scratch, no wonder people just pick up the phone.
- I didn’t ask you to make food for me; I don’t even like pizza that much.
- Excuse me.
- Sorry.
- Are you all right?
- I’m tired.
- Had a long day?
- Yes, I suppose so.
- Never mind, have a long soak in the bath.
- What about the pizza?
- It can wait.
- Thanks.
- I love you.
- I know.

  

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Heads or Tails?

Heads-or-tailsBranwen is an A* pupil who has been offered university places at both Oxford and Cambridge. She’s agonised for days about which one to choose. She’s weighed up all the pros and cons and it’s pretty much 50-50.

She decides to flip a coin. If it comes up heads she will choose Oxford; if it’s tails Cambridge will have the privilege of her attendance.

In a parallel universe a Branwen who is identical in every respect down to the last sub-atomic particle has, of course, exactly the same dilemma, and does, of course, exactly the same thing.

This scenario is not science fiction but is based on theories that are taken very seriously by very serious scientists

The Branwens in both universes flip their respective coins. Remember, they are exactly the same. Every thought, every emotion, every breath is exactly the same for each of them. Since there is not a sub-atomic particle of difference between them they are, in effect, exactly the same person.

The coin spins in the air and clatters to the floor of the little coffee shop where Branwen’s working for the summer holidays. She leans down to look more closely at the coin, supporting the small of her back, it’s still sore after the fall from her bike yesterday.

The coin lands heads side up in one universe and tails side up in the other. Now we have two versions of Branwen. Branwen A heads to Oxford while Branwen B takes up residence in Cambridge.

Branwen B loves Cambridge and settles in straight away. In her third year she meets Joseph, a politics student. They fall in love and get married. Joseph wants to devote himself to a political career. Branwen gives him the emotional and financial support he needs to do it.

Ten years later Joseph becomes a Member of Parliament and over the next twenty years ascends the political ladder until he becomes Prime Minister.

Branwen A can’t settle down in Oxford and drinks too much alcohol for her own good. She skips lectures, neglects her coursework and misses exams. In her third year she is asked to leave.

Branwen A goes back to her home town suffering from a breakdown and lives the rest of her life dependent on medication and benefits. Joseph meanwhile, loses interest in politics and becomes a corporate lawyer.

Now, along the way both Branwens make thousands of choices, for example, whether to get a bus to the market or cycle, or whether to wear the red or the green coat. You could say that every time Branwen makes a decision a parallel universe version of Branwen makes a different decision.

This leads me to conclude that if you’re sitting there with your head in your hands lamenting that you should have gone to Cambridge instead of Oxford, or you should have got the bus that day you cycled to the market and got flattened by that idiot in the taxi, then you should stop fretting. In a parallel universe you did go to Cambridge and your husband’s the Prime minister. (For the sake of balance, in yet another one you are the Emperor of the Galaxy.)

Note: I may come back to this. Actually, in another universe I do come back to this and write the most brilliant philosophical piece that leads to the Nobel Prize and world peace, while you win a hundred million on the lottery.

Sorry it’s not this one.

  

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The Walker

A story written a while ago, originally published in The Walker and Other Stories

the-walker-frontI used to be like you, leaning on a counter of my shop and staring out of the window at me walking by. You were not normal – I was. I didn’t see me in my eyes like you don’t now. You will come to understand that we are one, one day. In your world where everything has a place even me, I am the madman walking by, I am your future, you are mine. At the end of this street I will turn left and make my way home at last. I have thought it through, it is good again. I’ll sleep tonight.
It is 7 am, I am awake, it is still good. Time for breakfast: a cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast. I slept last night for at least five hours, that is a good night – five blissful hours of unconsciousness. Today I’ll walk to the shops again: I’ll go in to that one near the station where they sell the strong smelling tobacco, and I’ll ask the price of the chrome Zippo cigarette lighter in the window. I won’t buy it of course, how can I?  Besides – I don’t smoke, any more. First stop – the bathroom – that’s a satisfying piss, the first one of the day always is, that’s when I really need to empty my bladder; no need to stand there and shake it about nonchalantly waiting. God – I hate public toilets, always some pratt trying to see over your shoulder, as if to compare dicks. Is it a natural consequence of man’s evolution, to stand, shoulders rubbing, next to complete strangers and stare at pastel coloured walls, while down below, your urine and theirs mix together before rushing on a journey that ultimately leads to the ocean and complete amalgamation?
On to the kitchen: such a complicated sequence of actions to co-ordinate this morning. Items required: tea bag, cup (must be clean), milk (must be fresh(ish)), sugar, kettle, kettle lead, water, bread (not too stale), margarine, grill, peanut butter, jam, big plate, small plate, butter (or margarine) knife, another knife for peanut butter, yet another for jam, tea spoon. Will the toast burn while I’m washing the knives? What now? Turn the grill off. Shit!  It’s all getting cold now. Radio on, get something to read – what’s this?  Last week’s free paper – that’ll do.
Chomp, chomp, delicious. ‘Test Drive the New Rover’. ‘First team lose by two goals.’  ‘Gang of shoplifters hit town.’  That’s an interesting headline. ‘Gangs of professional shoplifters are targeting stores in the town centre.’  Read on. Bullshit!  Sensationalism!  We’re all alone really. No such thing as a gang. Christmas soon – the adverts tell me, I like Christmas; more people about and the shopkeepers are too busy to notice me; I can just walk all day – walk and observe, watch you in your hamster cages.

Read the rest . . .

  

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The End of the World

On July the twenty-fourth
nineteen-ninety-nine,
the world will end.

If not then,
then certainly in the year two-thousand,
when the New Age dawns.

All from all time will have to account
for their behaviour, and will be judged
according to their ability.

So only the dull will enter,
the gates of the Abattoir,
and become Angel fodder.

Time and Space, here and then
will be gone as if,
as if,
they were only
ripples on the divine mind

But for George and Tim,
and Mary and Louise,
the World ended in 1998,
when they died,
from cars or cancer.

It’s no big deal,
the end of the World,
just another statistic,
but no-one there,
to record it.

  

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The Elchurch Series

I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but while Cheats and Liars is cooking I’m looking at all my works-in-progress deciding what story to focus on next. Trouble is, there’s a lot to choose from and I really would like to work on them all.

Here’s a batch under consideration.

From the Backfields

The favourite at the moment is From the Backfields. The first draft of this was written about 15 years ago. It’s been lingering at the bottom of a drawer and at the back of my consciousness ever since.

From the Backfields is set in the Welsh seaside town of Elchurch and follows Mick, a man puzzled by the mysteries of his own life, for 50 years. The story starts in 1963 when Mick is just 13 years old.

Elchurch is really Llanelli in a parallel universe. Perhaps all stories come from parallel universes, or, maybe, a parallel universe is created every time someone tells a story.

There’s a story in there somewhere. Continue reading

  

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Opening Chapters of Cheats and Liars

Updated May/June 2013

The first three chapters of Cheats and Liars. Publication Spring 2013.

CLFRont temp-small-resEveryone’s a cheat or a liar, or both. What happens when the Greatest Living Artist in Wales decides to stop playing the game?

Brian Llewelyn is an artist at the peak of his powers, in fact he’s the Greatest Living Artist in Wales. Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, his life seems worthless. He decides to redeem himself by investing heavily in a community arts project.

Following this altruistic path exposes the fragile foundations his success is built on. His life disintegrates and his career evaporates as the corrupt liars and cheats propping him up turn on him.

Cheats and Liars is an exploration of success and its fallout set deep in the psyche of Brian Llewelyn, The Greatest Living Artist in Wales.

* First rough draft is complete. Here’s the first 3 chapters while the rest of the book is being edited for self-publishing in Spring 2013 – unless a publisher makes me an offer before then ;)

* Update May 2013 – Proofreading almost complete – nearly there

* Updated with new small edits - June 7 June 21, 2013

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

CHEATS AND LIARS

You should know that I am a cheat and a liar.

 

O N E

“Are you ready?”

I’m in the kitchen snaffling a crumpet dripping with raspberry jam. Of course I’m not ready. I’m never ready. I am a work in progress.

“Come on. You don’t want to be late for your own exhibition.”

I gulp. A crumb of crumpet sticks in my throat. I cough and the crumb dislodges. Jam stained spittle dribbles over my lip.

“Look at you.”

She tuts and picks up a damp dishcloth.

After she rubs the goo from my mouth and from the lapel of the blue linen jacket I grab the car keys.

“I’m driving,” she says, taking the keys from my hand. “You can drink. You always do. Just try not to offend too many people.”

“What’s it matter? They stick like dry shit whatever I say.”

“Brian! You may be known as the Greatest Living Artist in Wales but nobody likes an arsehole.”

“Like? What’s like got to do with it? They don’t care and I don’t give a toss. It’s not real Lizi; it’s a performance.”

“Then perform, pretend.”

She’s right, and I’ll need to drink so that I can stomach the unspeakable pricks. Every year I bare my arse and they come like slime to a stagnant pond, for I have no talent and they have no taste. This isn’t my life. This is some jerk spewing on cotton canvas and picking the overfull pockets of the privileged and the gullible. The gentle boy in me is lost; he’d feel sad to look through these eyes now, to see my betrayal with its parade of pseudosmilers and its fake humility. I am a hollow husk, devoid of depth. I am dead. Continue reading

  

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