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I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.
I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.
There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.
I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?
There’s nothing special about writers and artists.
Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.
It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.
Here’s a sneak peek
Next Thursday December 15th
T O N I T E
more details on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1307412925977956/
On December 15th 2016 from 5:45pm until 7:00pm I will be at Cardiff Central Library reading from and discussing two of my novels – Boys from the Backfields and Cheats and Liars. I might also discuss some of my other books and possibly talk a little bit about the publishing process.
The two novels
Boys from the Backfields is a murder mystery set over half a century. The story begins in the 1960’s when Mick a young teenage boy and his little gang witness the murder of Betty Fish while out blackberry picking around the Backfields council estate in South Wales. Mick is haunted by this tragic event for the next 50 years until finally the truth is revealed and the mystery is solved.
Cheats and Liars is set in an affluent inner suburb of Cardiff and follows Brian Llewelyn, ‘The Greatest Living Artist in Wales’ as he comes to realise that his success depends on the sycophants, cheats and liars that share in it. The novel follows Brian as the foundations his life is based on crumble from under him and he has to redefine what is important.
There will also be plenty of time for any questions from the audience.
This is part of the Library’s Open Space Events series and it’s free but space is limited so it might be best to book through Eventbrite where if you search ‘Open Space Cardiff’ you should be able to find them, though, as I write this it may be too early for the December event’s listing.
An extract from my book To Me
I’m told I ate the dog’s biscuits and drank a lot of water. I dunked my blond locks in a bucket of lime and nearly died of pneumonia at a few weeks old. The pneumonia and the bucket of lime are unconnected, at least in the normal linear way we deal with time.
The truth is that after nearly sixty years of being me, (and being me involves a lot of thinking about these things) I still know nothing about myself. I am here – that’s all I know. I accept that here may not be ‘real’. I accept that reality is the biggest myth.
REALITY IS THE BIGGEST MYTH
“We are all in touch with everything at all times. There is no separation in reality. This life is an illusion created by a random collection of sub-atomic particles and no doubt sub-sub atomic particles. Because we are conscious we have to make sense of it so we make up stories.”
I’m sure the story of me will all come out in some way or other at some time or other. Here on the road this is a signpost or a post or just a sign. So the point is that if I was to represent the sun with a full stop . like that, then there are stars out there that are the size of this page – this room even, and we all know that the earth is tiny compared to the sun and we are tiny compared to the earth and if I could look into my fingernail or any other material thing I would see that it is composed of sub-atomic particles which really don’t exist and I can write my own story but even then you could say it is already written because there once was nothing then there was some sort of bang or expansion that emanated from some point in the middle of that nothing, nowhere, and the force that propelled that and created those stars the size of a hundred million Earths also created me and I am just a consciousness on some sort of trajectory through time and space and all I’m really doing is observing as I zoom past and I don’t have any choices except perhaps which dot to focus on.
The BEBS is a very prestigious award made just once – I mean how could it be awarded more than once – it’s for the Best Ever Book after all.
My latest book ‘To Me’ beat all other competition from all time, past, present and future hands down.
I would just like to express my thanks to the BEBS and to myself for writing such a marvellous award-winning tome.
To Me is the title of my next book. It’s been written specifically for myself and it is dedicated To Me, but I don’t mind if others read it.
I think everyone should have their own ‘To Me’ book. Luckily I have the experience and skills to publish my own.
Using Print on Demand it doesn’t really cost anything but time plus the cost of any printed copies, and you can buy just one copy if you like.
I’m working on the final edit, it looks like it will end up being about 103,000 words and 310 pages long in an 8.5″ x 5.5″ format.
Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:
Signed copies of my novels now available from my website
Another extract from some work-in-progress on my new book ‘This is It’
NOTE: After writing this I forgot about it for eleven years, if I hadn’t I would definitely have made that first million.
This Time Next Year
(How I make my first million)
Hi! It’s seven minutes past ten in the evening; it’s Monday May 16th 2005. This is the beginning of the story of how I made my first million. As of now, I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but do it I will. This time next year I’ll be a millionaire.
Another snippet from This is It.
(Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee precise historical accuracy – all these memories may be mixed up and reconstituted in a skewed way, probably due to the bin-bag full of potent Mexican grass we consumed during the period – it was the sixties after all!)
In 1969 when I was seventeen I went to London with my friend Dave. He picked me up in a transit van from where I lived with my parents and my siblings in the small council house on the outskirts of Llanelli. Dave was a roadie; well actually Dave was a brilliant guitarist but worked as a roadie in London at the time. He was a couple or more years older than me and he died in his twenties but that’s another story. Dave was one of my two best friends – the other one was Stu, who was younger than me and who also died in his twenties – that’s another story too of course.
The first chapter of my novel The Boys from the Backfields
The door to my past opened easily, it was a surprise. I’d intended to confront Angel directly, but she was out when I arrived. Considering her profession, she should have changed the locks.
I was hiding in the attic when she came back in.
I’d climbed up there to see if I could find any clues among the bits we left behind when we’d gone to LA in the nineties. The questions raised by the anonymous emails needed answers. I found a heavy wooden box crammed with old photos, and two large manila envelopes, stuffed with my scribbles about the events that had come to define my life.
I was sitting in an old deckchair waiting for Angel to go to bed. The answer had to be there, in those damp, limp bundles, some detail I hadn’t realised was important when I’d written it down.
My cell phone vibrated as another text arrived. It was my PA, Helene, again. No. I couldn’t think about work, or too much about Helene. I had to focus. The past had to be resolved before I could think about the future again.
I wrote the first ‘book’ in the late seventies, when I felt I was able to give some time to myself, after half-a-dozen years of frantic success. Hell, I even considered retiring then, before my thirtieth birthday.
The paper was thin and stained, but the typewritten text was still crisp and bold.
I started to read.
1963 – 1973
Have you watched those wildlife programmes on the television and seen the images of big cats dealing with porcupines? That was me and trouble. I sniffed at it in a circumspect way, and then, when it showed any sign of life, I ran like hell. That was me usually, but that day the taunting just got to me.
The smirking face begged to be squashed into the muddy grass of the field. It was a wet summer and I had recently come into that phase of life that marks your earliest memories, the few vivid incidents from early childhood that you remember when you eventually emerge into the heaviness of adulthood.
The boy’s name was David, an innocent sounding name for what was a vile specimen of childhood. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, he slithered and oozed his way around my consciousness, an evil, ugly, smelly, little boy. I knew him as Snobby, a name that invoked gross images of dirty dried-up snot and filthy fingernails.
I’m chuffed that my novel Bums has had its first review.
Here’s the first chapter of my novel Cheats and Liars:
“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.
I strut into the exhibition hall, late, of course. Lizi’s at my side, as always.
“Fuck,” I say.
“Ssh! You don’t have to do this,” she whispers.
“Huh! What would these maggots feed on then?”
“Shut up Brian. Behave.”
But I’m right, it’s always the same. The blood-sucking creatures are here like tics on a donkey, creepily reverent expressions turned towards me.
This is a piece of what I call ‘Live Writing’
It was typed directly into a Word document on Wednesday November 4th 2015 at 9:45 am. The document is laid out exactly as it will appear in the final book.
The book is called ‘This is it’ and it’s a kind of fantasy/autobiography type thing. It’s just something I’m working on as a side project – but it’s already grown to around 92,000 words.
I’ll probably regret it but this piece is completely unedited.
From the early draft of Beats, the second book in the trilogy featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums has already been published. (more details here)
Note: This might not even make the finished book, and it will certainly be edited.
Freda straightened her back and pushed open the door to her mother’s bedroom. She didn’t care if she found her in her knickers or whatever, the old bat had had enough time to respond to the knocking and the calling of her name – Ffion.
Freda couldn’t bring herself to call the woman Mam, or Mum, or whatever term of endearment daughters were supposed to use when addressing the person who had given birth to them. The truth was her mother was a disaster and didn’t deserve any kind of endearment, and if she wasn’t in her room then that would mean she’d have gone out without saying anything, so wouldn’t deserve the apology Freda had hypnotised herself to offer after their argument earlier.
Ffion was in her room, and she was crashed out on the bed. Strewn across the top of the duvet next to her unconscious form were several items that might explain the condition she was in.
Freda panicked and rushed over to her mother’s bed, brushing aside the paraphernalia and the spilled bottle of vodka to reach out and feel for a pulse or signs of breathing.
Ffion groaned and rolled over. She had a silly smug grin on her face and there was dried-up froth around her mouth. She opened her eyes and looked up at her daughter.
“Hiya beautiful,” she mumbled.
“Are you all right?” Freda asked. “Are you?”
“Of course lovely girl, of course I am,” Ffion said, pushing herself up on her elbows.
“What’s all this?” Freda pointed to the rubbish on the bed.
“Ah, that’s nothing – you don’t want to take notice of that. It’s just a bit of relief for your tired old mother.”
“You stupid bitch!” Freda snapped. “You stupid fucking bitch.”
Ffion lurched forwards and grabbed Freda’s arm. “Don’t be nasty love; I told you, it’s nothing.”
Freda pushed her away. Ffion fell back on the quilt but kept her bony grip on her daughter’s arm. Freda knew that if she stayed any longer she would do something stupid herself, like strangle the madwoman who was pretending to have given birth to her. She shook the crazy cow off and ran out of the door, hands clasped to her ears to silence the feeble whining excuses. She’d had enough.
more to come . . .
One of the projects I’m working on has the physical attributes of a book. It looks like a book and it reads like a book (or will do when it’s finished). In its present state it contains about 80,000 words all typed up in the same Word document. The content is snippets from diaries, journals, and scraps of paper going back to when I started writing such things half a century ago when I was twelve or thirteen.years old.
I’ve got a few more bits to type up – say a couple of thousand words. When that chore is complete the real work will begin and I reckon it will take about a year. The idea is to then superimpose a story over these seemingly random unconnected scribblings, so the end result will be a kind of meta-fiction-autobiography-fantasy type of thing. So far it looks like there’s a Magic Elf and a thirteen-year-old Alien girl involved in the plot.
Besides the work on other people’s books I do as a publisher I am working on at least three of four of my own.
The second and third books in the DI Frank Lee trilogy – Beats and Bones – the first book Bums has already been published. These are two full-length novels.
The second edition of my poetry collection – The Words in Me, though I may rename it.
This is it – is a full length novel-cum-autobiography. The title and content may change
So this is something I wrote about This is it just now
Friday October 30th 2015
For the blog
As well as all the other stuff I’m working on at the moment I’m writing an ‘experimental novel’. Its working title is ‘This is it’. It’s not easy to explain without sounding like an apologist for Tracey Emin’s Bed, but that is what it is – the Tracey Emin’s Bed of literature – at least that’s the sort of thing is might look like to the casual reader (which is what Tracey Emin’s bed looks like to the casual observer – or I may be wrong and Tracey Emin’s bed might actually be rubbish as may the book I’m working on.).
The point is, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of my book because I’m writing it only to myself – my future self in fact. So I make the rules and revise them or break them as I please. So, if you were really nasty and / or cynical you could say it’s a wanky book, created only to please myself.
The process by which I am writing (or constructing) the book might be of interest though.
So far I have compiled a total of almost 45,000 words. Some of it is new writing, some of it is copied from old documents in the depths of my hard drive and some of it is typed in from the many dozens of notebooks and thousands of loose papers usually lurking in cardboard in my attic, or more accurately, because I’m working on them, they are now dominating the dining room.
There is so much material in my personal archives that I am having to be very selective in choosing which pieces to include in the new book. This is a good thing because most of the material is so unpolished as to be unrecognisable as writing in the first place – still I hang on to it because I know that underneath the patina are gems waiting to be revealed – whether I will ever have the time to hack away at them is another matter.
The book is a novel, and it is also an autobiography. Obviously it can’t be a full autobiography because how can you get a whole lifetime into a book, or even a library. As a novel it is hard to pin down to any genre but let’s say it has elements of fantasy, magic-realism, science-fiction, crime, suspense, literary, historical, speculative (whatever that is) and I can’t be bothered to carry on searching for words to describe stories.
Let’s put it this way – it is definitely a story, it is definitely fiction, and it is definitely true.
And another thing – this piece is being written for a blog post, but I’m also going to put it in the book.
It’s not often that I write about the writing process but this morning I discovered the central story of Beats, the novel I am writing and wanted to record the moment when it clicked together to make sense.
Note: Beats is the second book in the trilogy of stories featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums was published a few weeks ago, and the third book, Bones, will follow Beats next year sometime.
Yes, so, Beats begins with the discovery of a body – click here for the first 5,000 words of an earlier draft. Yesterday, the current draft reached over 11,000 words, almost 15% of the finished novel, and I thought it was time to work out what the actual plot was. Yes I know, I’d written 11,000 words of something and I didn’t know what it was about!!
The thing is, every writer is different and the same approach doesn’t work for everyone so I’m not trying to write a prescription for writing a novel, just explaining what works for me – and that seems to be that I need to write a substantial amount of the story before I know what’s going on.
It usually starts with an image, like this, from the first paragraphs of Beats:
“. . . Tucked beneath the Orb Stage, in the undergrowth of struts and scaffolding, lay another kind of detritus – the as yet undiscovered dead body of a man in his sixties . . . The body was lying face down in a tangle of wires, a pair of vintage denim jeans pulled down around its knees, exposing a bare white hairless backside . . .”
So, who is this man, what’s he doing dead under the Orb Stage?
And it’s begun.
I already knew that the story was set amongst musicians of one kind or another, and that it was the second book in a trilogy where each book has a story of its own plus a story that spans the three books, so, many of the characters and locations were already defined.
And I already knew that I wanted the book to be structured in the same way as Bums, i.e. the story is told from the point of view of 8 separate characters – that’s 7 plus our hero DI Frank Lee. And I’d already decided that the 7 additional POV characters would not be the same characters featured in Bums.
And, you can’t really introduce a Point-Of-View character without telling their story. So now I had the overarching story of the trilogy to develop, the story of the book Beats itself, plus the stories of the 8 POV characters, nestling neatly inside the arcs.
The challenge was to make it all hang together in a way that made sense, and to make it interesting enough to engage the reader. So I just started writing. 11,000 words later the list of characters in the story, both POV and non-POV had grown enough to fill almost 2 pages of an A4 notebook.
These are the POV characters:
- DI Frank Lee – Our hero – late 40’s
- Old Steve – a roadie – 65/66
- Billy ‘Heartthrob’ Harries – an old rock musician – 65/66
- Lucy – An acclaimed actor and Billy’s ex – 64
- Freda – Lucy and Billy’s grandaughter – 17 year old folk musician
- Tariq – A reasonably successful Indie musician in his late 30’s
- Young Steve – Old Steve’s nephew and a folksy-blues musician in his 40’s
- Lottie – 24 year old singer, songwriter, poet, artist – broke
Names of some of the other characters who have been mentioned or made an appearance so far: Beth, Anwen, Andy, Tony, Guto, Dick Plum, Ffion, Zac, Mack, Lottie’s mother, Lottie, Lottie’s father, Shaz, Flora, Revti, David Roberts, Samantha Taylor, Bob Harries, Rita Mathias, Ernie, Leo, Terry Taxi, Paula.
So when I was writing I had to introduce all those characters and introduce them in the context of the story, and to fit the structure I’d already committed myself to, but I still didn’t know anything about who the killer was, or why he or she did what they did. Then it clicked – I already knew who the killer was and I already knew the motive.
Now all I’ve got to do is to write another 70,000 odd words to tease out that central story, to develop the overarching story of the trilogy and to figure out satisfactory story arcs of the 8 POV characters.
So yes, now I know who done it and why. I’m not telling you though. You’ll have to wait for the book, which I’m hoping to publish next summer.
It’s probably a mistake but I’m the sort of person who likes to show the process as well as the finished product – so here are the first 5000 words or so of the very early draft of the second book in the trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring DI Frank Lee.
The characters in Beats are mostly musicians of one kind or another; there’s Billy Heartthrob Harries, lead singer of legendary seventies rockers The Redcurrents, now in his sixties and still banging it out, and his granddaughter, folksy singer-songwriter, seventeen year old Freda.
Billy and Freda are just two of the people Frank encounters as he investigates the murder of a man found dead under the giant Orb Stage of the Elchurch Spring Music Festival.
The first book in the trilogy – Bums – was published a few weeks ago – click here for details of that.
OK, here we go.