There’s always Hope

This is something I wrote nearly 24 years ago after attending an event at the Hay-On-Wye Festival Of Literature.

Saturday May 21, 1994, 12:20p

‘The First Novel’

A motley gathering of aspiring authors collect together under the grubby canvas of a  large marquee. Two hundred or so enthusiastic literary souls eagerly await the arrival of an editor from a famous large publishing house. She is to be accompanied by two of her latest discoveries – two brand new novelists just about to have their first works published. There is hope, it is transmitted by the excited breathing of the assembled scribes. Books from new authors are being published, despite the economic climate; someone with the power to rescue the diligent, lonely aspirants is prepared to take a chance with new writers.

Four smart middle-class women enter the arena and arrange themselves tastefully on the dais; the background hubbub fades, all eyes face front. A dedicated wannabe novelist, a cloth-capped round man is scribbling frantically into his filo-fax. An elderly lady with a limp finds herself a last-minute seat near the front and sits down with a tired sigh – it’s been a long road.

Let the lesson begin. The editor speaks first: OK, let’s forgive the carefully cultivated tones of her voice, the expensive haircut and the cigarette dangling from manicured fingers. Let’s give her a chance. The slush pile is dismissed immediately; nothing of any value comes from that. The audience fidget, embarrassed, thinking of their own contributions to that bane of the publishing world. OK, what is it then? That magic spell to get your first novel published.

Let’s have examples. The two new authors are discussed.

Writer A is an old friend of the editor, her father was a well-known poet and her mother is an accomplished novelist. Poor thing had a deprived childhood with her arty father, even had to slum it in the castle-like homes of her family’s aristocratic Mediterranean friends. The editor and this princess of words spent months, meeting for lunch and at each other’s houses, trimming and buffing her manuscript until it eventually emerged as a thin and delicately polished literary flower.

Writer B is a senior literature journalist with the Times. She was wooed by our editor (why?) until she produced a delightfully funny piece of work based in the offices of a gardening magazine. Wonderful gimmick – a free packet of geranium seeds with every book sold.

Both writers have got friends who are literary agents. So what is that magic?

The two authors speak about their work and read extracts to the sinking audience, and finally, a marketing superwoman from the publisher explains how new authors are launched with minimum expenditure and maximum publicity (in the literary sections of quality newspapers no doubt – ah! that’s why); but none of these discourses mattered, all hope had long vaporised along with the few quid each of us had paid for the privilege of a sharp slap in the face. Maybe that was the point of the event after all?

Go back to your kitchen sinks and your allotments, you’re a punter – not a writer; writers are smart cultured people with friends in the ‘write’ places.

There was to be a question and answer session afterwards. In the back of the auditorium, a disappointed and disgruntled working-class man stands up, touches his forelock to the dais and makes a quick exit. It is me.

NOTE (December 2017): I don’t think much has changed in the quarter of a century since I wrote the above piece. Maybe I should have concentrated on running my computer business. I was quite good at that until I walked away from it to focus on writing, a couple of years after that Hay session.

Still – that’s hope for you.

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Mosaic and Bobble – Paint Art

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An ordinary bloke writes about ‘Lessons you learn’

An ordinary bloke writes about ‘Lessons you learn’

I was standing in the queue at Iceland, the frozen food store, yesterday. I was clutching a modestly-sized bag (700g) of McCain’s skin-on fries. We were having a dirty burger night and it was the last item on the shopping list. I’d already bought the Linda McCartney chunky vegan ‘meaty’ quarter pounders (from the big Tesco), 4 crusty white rolls from Brutons the bakers, a small tray of mushrooms from the Co-op, a bag of ‘washed and ready to use’, salad leaves from the small local Tesco, and a block of Violife vegan mozzarella ‘cheese’ from Beanfreaks, the health food shop.

At home already were the seasonings and additives, like a litre of rapeseed oil (from the Co-op), a large squeezy bottle of Tesco mid-range own-brand tomato ketchup, a bottle of Biona cider vinegar (with the mother – Beanfreaks), a tub of Saxa finely-ground sea-salt (small Tesco) and a jar of gorgeous home-made mayo, whizzed up from a block of silken tofu, a cup and a half of own-brand rapeseed oil, half a teaspoon of said salt, the freshly-squeezed juice of a lemon, and a couple of tablespoons of co-op brand Dijon mustard.

Anyway the point is that there was a woman behind me in the queue. She was quite young, probably late twenties, though it is difficult to be precise because she wasn’t in good shape, I mean, for example, she was quite short, just over five feet I’d say, and she was very obese, huge in fact, by any method of measuring. The trunk of her body was a large ball, like one of those orange bouncy things from the seventies that had evolved to an adult size.

She was wheezing and moaning out loud about how long she’d been waiting in the queue. I thought, at first that she was trying to garner my sympathy so that I would let her go first, but she had a large trolley full of the sort of cheap frozen stuff they sell in Iceland, like hot and spicy chicken in breadcrumbs or bags of 22 skinless pork sausages, and I had just one moderately-sized packet of skin-on fries and I had the correct money ready (£1.50), so I decided not to be chivalrous and duly ignored her.

She turned her attention to the person behind her in the queue and said: “They are a real bargain and only 50p each. I turned involuntarily to look at the conveyor belt to see what it was that was such a bargain. There were six 250 gram packets of full-fat butter making their way along the belt, at the beginning of their journey to her already engorged tummy.

I shook my head inwardly, judging her to be a sloppy, lazy, dullard, who if only she stopped eating dirty rubbish like butter, would lose weight, become much fitter and happier, and would not be metaphorically bouncing with joy just because she’d managed to contribute to her undoubtedly early death for such a bargain price.

It took a while, in fact it was tonight, more than 24 hours later, for me to realise how utterly crass and judgemental I’d been, if only in my own head, especially since I am going on for 4 stone overweight myself, and at least half the food I eat is not at all essential to my survival or good health.

So now I’m thinking :-

Nothing is worthless
Everything has a value
No one deserves disrespect
Everyone deserves respect
Everyone is unique and beautiful
Everyone hurts – it’s far better to behave in a way that ameliorates that hurt than in a way that exacerbates it
blah
blah

So, today’s lesson is that what you learn from teachers who don’t even know they’re teaching can sometimes be the best lessons of all.

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Mid-October Blues

When the fallen leaves remind you that Summer’s gone
And the days are getting short and the nights are getting long

That’s the time to think about where you’re going to
That’s the time to think about what you want to do

The winter is coming, and with it a pause
There’ll be time to consider, to smooth out your flaws

You’ll be ready in no time, to get on with your life
For now, take it easy, enjoy the long nights

NOTES: This is off-the-cuff on a slightly drunken Saturday night, so will more than likely be deleted in the morning

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Helo

I can’t do anything better than anecdotal and observational so I might be wrong and I can’t be bothered to do any real research because if I’m right it would be a waste of time since no one would read this anyway.

I mean even if I don’t bother to do any research and this does get read I’m still quids in aren’t I?

I am aware that the chance that anyone who is actually another person and not some automatic bot-type thing that visits random websites in the hope of finding something of value – like a list of email addresses that they can sell to their fellow bots who send emails offering riches galore, is minscule.

So, the point is: no matter how obvious I make it, no matter how honest I am, it won’t matter because no one is going to read it anyway,

Why do I bother to continue writing then?

Because part of me wants to read what another part of me wants to write. Maybe it’s just one part behaving in two different ways? I don’t know, but here it is, my voice in the void.

Is anybody out there?

(Doesn’t really matter so don’t bother responding, even if you are one of the anybodies out there)

Nos Da

(p.s. This is not as self-indulgent as it seems)

 

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Work in Progress – Extract from “Beats”

This is an extract from Beats, the second novel in the Bums, Beats, and Bones trilogy. Bums has already been published. Beats will follow in 2018.

But it’s not really about the music is it?” Old Steve knew he was pushing his luck but he’d had decades of Billy’s bullshit and now and again he challenged him just for the hell of it.

“Don’t be bloody daft, it’s all about the music – the music is all there is,” Billy huffed.

Old Steve shook his head. “Nah mate! Believe me, you may think that – but all those punters out there – they don’t – not really, not if you dig a bit. Not if you get inside their skulls.”

Billy sighed. “You know what Steve – we’ve known each other since we were kids, a long time – what is it now? Fifty years near enough, but you ain’t got a fucking clue.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know; it would be impossible for you to admit to something contrary to what your whole life is based on. It would turn your brain into mush if you did that – not that your brain isn’t already mush – you lost that in the seventies.”

“Shut the fuck up. You’re doing my head in.”

“That’ll be the drugs too.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Without the music you wouldn’t have fuck all. Without The Redcurrents you’d be driving a bus. The music has given you, us, a good life.”

“You could say that about Val Doonican.” Old Steve chuckled at his own joke, it didn’t take much to wind Billy up, he was so insecure, but he’d better not start with all that crap about ‘electrifying’ the seventies with their radical socialist songs – that was pure luck, and Tommy’s lyrics of course.

“Please, I’m not in the mood,” Billy pleaded.

“OK, all right, I’ll shut up. Now, do you want another pint?”

“Ah, go on then, I’ll get them.”

Billy got up, went to the bar and waited for Andy to realise he was there and get off his fat arse to attend to him – he couldn’t be bothered to call out. He stared into nowhere, his mind meandering back through the decades. Of course, Steve was right – the actual music was just the wrapping – like the coloured cellophane around a cube of fancy chocolate. He knew as much as anyone that talented musicians were as common as yellow daffodils in March and good music was as ubiquitous as white seagulls on the inhabited coastline. It was pure luck, with a good dollop of ruthlessness that made a successful career. He knew because he’d been there, done that – got his fucking face on the T-Shirt. But you had to keep up the act – the moment you let it slip, it would be over, you might as well put a gun to your head.

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Extract from Work in Progress – ‘Deceit and Delusion’ Novel

This from the thoughts of Brian Llewelyn, formerly The Greatest Living Artist in Wales

Fucking tiny-minded people. If I hadn’t realised this and adjusted the way I engage with the bastards decades ago I would not be the success (that’s debatable I know) I am as an artist now.

The thing is most arbiters of culture are shallow and fake. They use what little knowledge they have to mask the gaping hole of nothingness that is their existence. I know better – I always have. Problem is I’ve allowed the bastards to subjugate me, to judge my work. Other problem is that most of the rest of the population need these hedgehog-brained existentialist angst dodgers to tell them what to think, what to buy, what to sacrifice their pathetic lives to.

Well fuck them – I’m back.

NOTES:

Deceit and Delusion is the follow up novel to Cheats and Liars

There are also several other novels in progress, most notably: Beats, the second in the trilogy of Bums, Beats and Bones and The Flying Boy, kind of meta fiction, told in the second-person present tense – sounds a bit affected but it’s not.

Better get on with it.

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The Flying Boy – Work in Progress extract

A short passage of work in progress from ‘The Flying Boy’
(one of the novels I’m working on)

There was a girl once, almost fifty years ago, at the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies. You were seventeen or eighteen; she was a year or two younger. She played a guitar and sang her own songs. You can’t remember now if she was any good and don’t know if she became successful, whatever that means, but she at least had potential, and now and again over the years you think about her and wonder if she ever got anywhere with her music. According to Wikipedia there is a singer with the same first name as her from the same town who might be the same age and could be the girl herself, but you don’t want to research it any deeper than that because whatever the result it would tarnish your timeline. Continue reading

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Special offer just 99p/99c books for Kindle

On offer for just £0.99 or $0.99. Click on the book covers for more

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FREE BOOKS

Kindle versions of some of my books are on a FREE promotion for a limited time

Click on the links below to access the books

BUMS
Dead Flowers
For the Time Being
Boys from the Backfields
Cheats and Liars
The Three Bears

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A bit of impromptu live writing

Some unedited ‘live’ writing

Written on 15:01 Sunday November 1st 2015

I was reading about yet another writer half my age who has won some prestigious award and is appearing at several upcoming literary festivals and events as a featured, if not the star, guest.

So I started thinking why. Why has that writer achieved more than I have despite the fact that I was writing before they were born – before their dad’s sperm had reached their mum’s egg even. Before their father and mother even knew each other existed – probably.

Then I realised that the only thing between me and success as a writer is myself – or rather, some of my inner, more abstract thoughts and ideas. Thing is when I say, as I do often, that those who have achieved success, especially material success, though I suppose all kinds of success are eligible, owe it to chance, not to some god-given talent, or to some angelic-genius quality they possess, yes, the thing is, I am also referring to myself as successful – so I am already successful and I deserve it no more than anyone else does. Therefore I think I do not deserve success so when I see it standing passively alongside my path I tend to ignore it when what I should be doing is grabbing it.

Even while I’m writing this I’m thinking ‘what an arrogant prick you are Jones, what makes you think you can write in this self-indulgent way’, you don’t deserve it, and no one wants to know anyway’ that sort of thing. And I realise that (besides all the bits in between) these are the two dominant manifestations of my character. Manifestation 1 is the arrogant prick, who thinks that every word he writes is a raindrop of pure gold and Manifestation 2 is the pathetic whimpering grotbag who thinks that every word he writes is a dollop of pure diarrhoea.

So, what happens then is that every time I get near to what looks like some sort of success, I close my eyes and wait for it to go away. Now, I’m probably deluded but I tend to attach a spiritual tag onto this perverse behaviour, combining the Eastern religious concept of Karma with the more recent Western scientific ideas about parallel universes. What I mean is that I think that there is another version of me enjoying success as a writer, and of course, there is another version of that young prize-winning writer who is broke and despondent, smothered by the feeling that they are unloved and unappreciated.

So since it all evens out, if not over a lifetime then over several lifetimes, or several versions of the same person’s lifetime, then I just have to accept that in this universe / lifetime, I am very lucky, despite the lack of writerly success – while also realising that I actually am a success.

Maybe I’ll focus more on getting a new business venture off the ground than on this splurge of words.

We’ll see.

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2021: The Truth about the last 4 years

Something has to be written about these times; sorry that my skills are not as good as they should be. There is nothing I can do about that – my skills are the only skills that are available. I am the only one left and time is running out, so there is no time to get any better at this. Perhaps in a hundred years, someone will find this account interesting enough to rewrite it as a work of fiction – it’s dramatic enough. It would make a good film. I wonder if they’ll still have films in the twenty-second century? It’ll probably all be holograms by then – total immersion in a fake reality. But then what is reality anyway? And if what has happened here happens more widely there won’t be much left to fret about by then.

I’m sitting in an empty oil barrel inside a deserted factory – it used to be a machine shop. I used to work here. Now all the lathes and grinders have been sold for scrap and all that’s left is this oil drum and the run down building that surrounds it.

All around me lying in various awkward positions on the cold greasy floor are the bodies of the others. These were my fellow travellers, my crew, my gang, formed from an alliance of survivors. It has been six months since the coach crashed and it took us six outlaws every one of those 180 days to get here. I can’t look at them any longer, and there is nothing I can do but wait until the dangers have passed and all I have is this notebook and this pen. I hope it doesn’t run out . . .

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A visit from The Magic Elf

This is an extract from one of my books.

And now it’s the morning of March 15th 2016. One of the things that’s prompted this bit of live writing is my desire to reach 100,000 words. As I type I can see the word-count at the bottom of the screen and it says, hang on, I’ve got to catch it unaware because of course it will increase as soon as I type in the number: The number of words that are in this book so far is 98,951 (including the number 98,951), but of course it’s more already – it’s relentless, nothing really stops, everything changes.

It’s a bit like that with life – as soon as you think you’ve got a handle on it, the second you think you’ve got it sussed – it changes, it becomes something else, that’s one of the consequences of getting older, you lose the certainty of youth, and when I say youth I don’t mean childhood, I mean adulthood, from your early twenties or whenever it is you feel as if you’ve grown up at last, all the way through to old age in your sixties or whenever it is you feel as if you’re old.

Continue reading

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Cardiff Central Library – Open Space Event

Next Thursday December 15th

T O N I T E

open-space-english-leafletmore details on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1307412925977956/

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Reading and discussion at Cardiff Central Library Open Space Event

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.

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Cheats-and-Liars-Front

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.

More about Cheats and Liars

More about Boys from the Backfields

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Everyone’s a Writer and an Artist now

listApart from the odd shopping list or doodle, there was a time when the content most people created was limited to school work or writing reports at work.

When the Internet took hold a small proportion of people started keeping blogs or journals of their thoughts online. Then Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media platforms emerged,  and now everyone tells everyone else every day what they’re thinking, whether that’s by sharing content they relate to from other sources, or whether it’s by the creation of their own original text and imagery.

This is all welcome of course, it gives those whose voices were previously unheard a way to let the world, or at least their extended social networks, know what’s important to them. It doesn’t stop there either: if you want to publish a book it’s easy, just open an account with Createspace, upload the text and cover image and it will be available worldwide almost instantly. It’s free and you don’t even have to buy a copy yourself. Fancy getting your artwork onto T-Shirts or mugs or greetings cards? – just as simple. And if you haven’t got the time or skills to do it yourself there’s always some student willing to do it for the price of a pizza.

As a bonus, now and again a seemingly random scribbler is raised from the ranks and elevated to the status of superstar vlogger or best selling writer of tacky fiction, thus giving us all hope that one day, as long as we continue with our prattle we might be discovered and earn those millions we have always deserved.

But what does it mean to all the people who previously defined themselves as professional writers or artists or photographers? Those who spent time and money studying, and dedicated most of their lives to improving their skills and producing ‘work’? I mean nobody wants to pay for anything anymore, least of all for the witterings and snapshots of some stranger when they can get all the above and more from their ‘friends’ for nothing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you’re someone like me who has been writing since long before the advent of social media then it’s tempting to believe that all the noise now being created by every person and their companion animal is somehow diluting the literary or artistic merit of published work. I mean, without the traditional gatekeepers, who knows what kind of hideous barbarians will enter the citadel?

On the other hand you may think that the privileged few who were allowed entry in the past have finally got what’s coming to them, and now have to be judged by the whole hive mind rather than just protected by a small cohort of praetorian guards.

I’m not sure, but I do believe that most people, whether they define themselves as writers or artists or neither, are capable, with lots of practice and a little guidance, of creating work that is every bit as good as that which was previously created by the few patricians lucky enough to have had the opportunities in the dark ages before the Internet.

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The BEBS Award for Best Ever Book

Winner-The-BEBSWell, I did it, I won the Best Ever Book Award.

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.

Thank you

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Help to publish

book-text-djI love publishing

I have published ten of my own books including novels, poetry, short stories and miscellany. I have also published or helped to publish books for many other people.

Sales of my books are steady but modest but I still have to publish them and will continue to do so. I love publishing and I’m good at it. So, if you feel the same and have to publish your own work but don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself then come to me and I’ll help you.

I won’t rip you off but I will charge you for the work I do. How much work I do is up to you, for example if you just want the book designed, typeset and formatted for printing the cost will be between £300 and £800 depending on what condition your original document is in and how much there is to do- average is probably £400 – £500.

This service depends on you supplying the manuscript as an electronic document such as Word. It does not include editing but does include cover design and the help you need to get you set up with Creatspace and Amazon so that you can publish the book as a paperback and/or as an ebook.

If you want any editing services then I will charge you a reasonable rate for my time.

Everything depends on exactly what you want help with so please contact me by filling in the form below to start the conversation.

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To Me – New Book coming soon

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:

TO-ME-308pages-FULL-resTO-ME-308pages-FRONT-res

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Books For Sale

Signed copies of my novels now available from my website

Click for more

books

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