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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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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
The path to the cabin was choked with brambles; that was good. It meant that no one had been near the place for months at least.
‘Ssh,’ Emma said.
‘No, it’s all right now,’ he said. ‘Look – there’s no sign of another human being – we’ll be safe here.’
‘But it’s not human beings we’re hiding from, is it Jack?’
‘Of course they’re human beings; you’ve been watching too many episodes of Doctor Who.’
‘Oh shut up. I know what I saw. You saw it too. If that was a person then it was still a monster – more than just a normal person.’
‘Yes, but it’s still got to move around, whatever it is and it would leave traces.’
‘What if it can fly?’ Emma asked.
The sun was blotted by some shadow.
The Artistic Imperative
* Warning – this is a self-indulgent ramble *
When I was young I was told I was very clever. ‘You are so intelligent,’ they used to say. I was also a very nice kid – generous, gentle, helpful and uncomplaining. I was full of life – ‘Fond of play’ as my form teacher wrote on my final report from the primary school. I was top of the class, number one of thirty-four, and that was in the A stream in the final year at that school – so at that time I was the top pupil of the whole school.
To be fair my teacher recognised this and wanted me to apply for a scholarship to go to Llandovery College – a private school around thirty miles from my home – it would have meant boarding I believe.
But, my parents didn’t have the wherewithal, either in monetary terms or in imagination to pursue the idea and the teacher realising it was an impossibility, let it go. As it happens, I’m glad about this, I don’t think I’d like the person I would have become if I’d spent those important years of my childhood in such a place.
Now, I’m approaching my 65th birthday – my mother is disappointed in me. I can see it in her eyes – and anyway, she says it often enough. ‘You used to be so clever,’ she’ll say. ‘You could have done so much.’ Continue reading
I’m just leaving the Co-op Shop and I’ve got a bag of “All Original Starburst Chews, Bursting With Real Fruit Juiciness”, a Grab-Bag of Walkers Salt and Vinegar Crisps, the last manky copy of today’s Guardian newspaper and one Silk Cut cigarette. I’ve got more cigarettes at home, of course, loads of them. Thing is, I’m not going to get home. I’m going to die before I get home. I’m going to die; I know I am.
Somewhere in the fifteen minute walk home, I’m going to die, I don’t know when exactly, but I know I’m going to die. Thing is, what am I going to do with the last half-mile, or less, of my life? It’s a difficult question. Perhaps if I run as fast as Flash, I can cheat death, slip past on its blind side maybe? Get home before it gets me. Continue reading
Despite the sobs, I am not sad. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of the black dog, as Churchill called it, but that’s not what I feel right now. It’s more a sort of extreme frustration, like seeing the taillights of the last bus disappear on a cold, rainy night; the mobile phone’s battery is dead and there’s no money for a taxi anyway.
It all came to a head in the Asda car park after a silly argument about shower curtains. We’re poor you see. Buying a new shower curtain is a luxury I can’t contemplate, even if it was only ten quid, and would have brightened up our gloomy bathroom, adding a little light to this dark phase of our lives.
Fuck off, she said, just fuck off. So I did. I got out of the car and walked. I cried all the way home. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
A snippet from some work-in-progress on my autobiographical-novel This is it
‘No. It’s. Not.’
‘Hah!’ Samantha stood up. ‘Gotta go,’ she said, leaning down and puckering her heavily-lipsticked lips.
Benedict tilted his head upwards and reciprocated with the puckered lips.
Their puckered lips met.
‘Mwah,’ they said in unison. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading