A Poem and a Painting (and a book)

The full cover of Blodyn – my latest collection of poetry
Blodyn the Painting

acrylic on board 520mm x 670mm (20″ x 26″), 2001

Blodyn the Book

Collected poems 2017

Blodyn the poem

You are a creature
Petal-haired
Mouth-organ lipped
Smudge nose askew

You are a flower (an open flower)
A head on a stalk (A face on a stick)
Seeds like eyes
Seed-like eyes

You absorb the earth
Soak up the sun
Flow with the wind
Grow with the rain

You are raw life

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An ordinary bloke writes about being culled

Have you ever been ‘culled’?

Yes, removed from the herd because you are surplus to requirements; more than that – you are persona non grata. I’m talking about social media in general and Facebook in particular.

The other day I was browsing my wife’s Facebook page, as you do. After decades of being together we don’t have any secrets, not one, zilch; well apart from the little bit of ‘private browsing’ I do now and again, just to see what it’s all about like. Anyway, enough of that . . .

DJ Self Portrait digital version

So there was a post in her newsfeed from one her ‘friends. Not that they’ve ever met in real life of course, this was one of her ‘Facebook Friends’ who only added her up as a friend because they mistook her for someone with influence in the publishing industry. They are more of a networking contact than a friend, but that’s how it goes on social media – everyone’s got something to flog, even if it’s just their blog, the one where they like to entertain you with ramblings about what sludge they had for lunch or what they thought of the over-hyped gig they went to last night,

OK, I know it’s ironic that I’m doing the same thing – sort of, but I’ve long since given up actively trying to sell or promote anything. I won’t even draw any attention to this post except maybe by way of a solitary tweet to my meagre hundred or so alleged followers.

So this post, from one of my wife’s friends said “Congratulations! If you’re reading this then you have survived the cull.” Now I was initially quite pleased by this, because I had thought of this ‘friend’ as an interesting person who possibly had some talent in the writing department, and who was my Facebook friend as well as my wife’s. But then I remembered that I was reading my wife’s Facebook feed instead of my own.

I jumped back to my computer and looked at my own Facebook feed, just to make sure. Nope not a sign of that post, and when I checked my friends’ list the person was missing.

So yeah, I had been culled.

What am I supposed to do about that? Do I just accept that I’m the sort of person that gets culled, i.e. either a non-entity or an annoyance, then just shrug and get on with my pathetic life? Or do I log in again to my wife’s Facebook account and defriend the offender on her behalf?

I don’t know what to do, I’m just an ordinary bloke.

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verses for a purpose

(This is a very raw and unedited bit of rambling, posted here as an example of the sort of thing that I write when I’m thinking about what to write but can’t actually get writing.)

Around ten past midnight on the cusp of Monday February 7th and Tuesday February 8th, 2017.

I wrote a little blog article between yesterday (Sunday) and today (Monday). It’s all about Trump and Brexit. Its premise/conclusion is that the ‘Libtards’ have to apologise before we can move on and develop a better system (if there is even a need for a ‘system’). But, a better system of what?

  • Democracy
  • Politics
  • Society
  • How do we get on and look after each other?

Anyway, despite it having been a miserable day in some ways, the fact that I finished an article of sorts has made it a good day. It wasn’t easy and I had to plough on despite feeling that it would never make sense. In the end I think it does. It’s called ‘It’s not too late to say sorry’.

Less than a week ago, I published Blodyn, a book of my poetry, old and new, despite having only recently written blogs about how rubbish poetry, or at least the poetry industry, is.

Anyway, putting Blodyn together has sparked anew my interest in and love of writing poetry, so here goes:

Verses for a purpose

They need bundling
collecting in a net
They need releasing
one by one
They need repeating
repeating

Each one is a gem
a coruscating gem
A method of seeing
understanding

Caress them in your hands
Speak them with your mouth
Stroke them with your voice
Bring them home

Let them gather
together
Let them drift
Let them fly
Catch them as they pass
Love them while they last

—–

Stars are special
Stars are light
Stars are real
Stars are bright

—–

Must be time for bed; it’s nearly one a.m.

Nos da!

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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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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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The Artistic Imperative

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.

Allot-profile01

Me writing in the chalet/shed at the allotment. pic by Rhian

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

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BUMS – Limited Edition Hardback available now!!

I had an unexpected arrival this morning.

BUMS - Hardback - bookIt was a cardboard box containing the first dozen copies of my new Novel ‘Bums’. This is the first consignment of what is a limited hardback edition of 200 books. It’s the first time I’ve published a hard-cover book and it’s turned out brilliantly.

In the end it all came together much more quickly than expected, so this is just a quick note to say that signed copies of this limited edition are available to buy for just £20.

Click here to go to my publisher’s website and order a signed copy.

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BUMS – New novel is almost ready to publish

Bums is my next novel – it is the first in a trilogy featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee – the next two books are titled Beats and Bones and will be released next year.

Bums will first be available as a limited edition hardback – that will be available by the end of September. The paperback and kindle versions will be published in October.

Contrary to previous versions I’ve posted, this is the front cover of the hardback dust jacket.

bums-hardback-cover-3-frontmore details soon . . .

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a fat manuscript

With a bit of luck today will mostly be about beginning the final proofreading and possible minor edits of my ‘Bums’ manuscript . . .

ms1

260 full-fat pages

I’ve printed it out as a galley proof on one side of A4. This is so that there is plenty of free space to scribble comments and edits.

ms2

The ‘Bums’ manuscript laid out as it will be printed

I much prefer to work with a hard copy and also with the text as it will appear in the final book. I don’t understand why most literary agents and publishing houses expect you to submit a manuscript with the lines double-spaced. What’s the point of that? Maybe, back in the day, it made sense, and maybe it still does for the later stages of editing, but surely all they need at first is the actual text, and surely it’s easier to read and appreciate a text in the format most books are finally printed? You don’t see finished books for sale printed with double line spacing because it’s not a good way to read them.

In any case I like to type my words into a document formatted as if it was the final book – it makes it more real for me, although I much prefer to do the original writing in notebooks.

bums-inside-blacknreds

Three Black ‘n Red A4 notebooks – the majority of ‘Bums’ was plotted and written in these

I suppose I’d better get on with it . . .

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Bums Cover again

I don’t know whether this cover that’s emerged into the pixellated light is going to make it all the way to print or whether it will be completely rethought and redesigned. I think I need to leave it for a bit while the final proofreading of the text (81,900 words – 260 pages) takes place sometime in the next month.

Latest version of the cover for Bums

Latest version of the front cover for Bums – the novel

BUMS-COVER FULL 50 percent

The full cover- front and back – with blurb

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Wednesday Woes

I’m Wednesday’s child and therefore reputedly full of woe. There is, in the bottom of a biscuit tin somewhere in my mother’s attic, a creased black and white photograph of me at around 3 years old and if the expression I’m wearing in it is a typical one then there’s something in those old nursery rhymes.

It’s my wife’s day off and it’s already well past midday. It’s been a slow morning. Despite that a lot has been achieved so we’re off to Chapter – possibly for lunch (depending on how busy it is).

It’s gone two now. We did a bit of shopping and had Thai Carrot soup (vegan of course) for lunch in Chapter. Before we bought the soup we decided to become Chapter Friends, i.e. pay a membership fee and get some tasty discounts – we’ve already made £1.04p on the soup and got some free cinema tickets.

Here’s a picture of some Thai Carrot Soup

carrot_coconut_soup_2It’s not the actual Thai Carrot Soup we had in Chapter because I forgot to take a picture of it. This picture is from a recipe on the Peta Website.

The soup we had didn’t look like the soup in the picture either, ours was more soup-like and looked less like a blob of puréed vegetables.

The recipe is probably not the same either, it might even be completely different – or possibly all Thai Carrot Soups are much the same.

There are so many unknowns in the course of an ordinary day – don’t you think?

I’m still tweaking the WSSN book and will be putting a page about it all on the Opening Chapter website.

Time for a cuppa I think!

or

strawbsStrawberries and soya yoghurt – better than cream. Not that Alpro soya yoghurt is much cop to be honest – it’s got too many additives including sugar, flavourings, and antioxidants – and it tastes weird.

Other, more natural, non-dairy yoghurts are available.

Everyone’s got their woes, I suppose

Everyone’s got their stress, I guess

We all want things to be good, they should (be)

~

PEOPLE ARE COMPLICATED

No one is what they seem. I have only anecdotal evidence for this, I mean, having lived with myself since birth I still don’t understand myself let alone anyone else. For all I know there may be other people who are so clever that they do actually understand themselves and maybe some people exist who understand other people as well, and if such people do exist then they have my admiration and respect, but to be honest I’d bet my non-existent fortune that such people do not and never have existed.

Coincidentally, as I was halfway through writing the above paragraph, a friend who’s as complicated a person as complicated persons get, arrived on our doorstep needing a chat about their complicated life. After over two hours of listening and sharing our insights and observations, the friend left to meet some other people in a pub. And do you know what? Yes, you’re right, neither we nor the friend have got a fucking clue about what the best course of action is. It’s all ‘if this then that’ or ‘if that then this’ – it’s all swings and roundabouts – six of one – half a dozen of the other – there is no correct way to deal with anything.

As the friend was leaving I noticed there was a closed shopping bag left behind on the seat they’d been occupying. “Is that yours?” I asked. “Oh, bloody hell yes,” they said. “It’s my cat’s ashes.”

So if today has been about anything it’s been about uncertainty and impermanence; the  wisp of atmosphere we exist in is fragile and we are vulnerable, but in the end we do exist and that is magic enough!

 

 

 

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Writers in Wales

Writers in Modern Wales are undervalued and unfairly treated,
just as writers have always been.

** This article first appeared in the New Welsh Review,
Winter 1999/2000 **
(but it’s still relevant)

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
Dr Samuel Johnson

“I’m just a Gower farm boy and I make bugger all
from my writing.”
Nigel Jenkins

“I don’t make money from my art.”
Robert Minhinnick

I’m not suggesting that Nigel Jenkins and Robert Minhinnick are blockheads, and that famous quote of Johnson’s may have been a little tongue in cheek, but it sums up the way many writers must feel when pumping away at their keyboards long after dark. Who can blame a writer for feeling like a blockhead, when, after weeks of effort on a short story or a poem the only recompense received is at best a few pounds, more often a couple of contributor’s copies. Continue reading

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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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Shakespeare did it for himself?

This article first appeared on Adopt an Indie

Shakespeare never needed the big six

When I started to write this I came up with what I thought was rather a clever little pun. “In his time ‘Shakespeare was no great shakes’. Hang on, I thought, let me google that just in case it’s been used before, and yes of course it has. The point is that nowadays we have at our fingertips – literally, access to the accumulated writings of just about every poor sap who has ever put quill to vellum or speech-to-text or any other way of recording words. There are loads of writers out there – millions upon millions of them and a small proportion are successful enough to be familiar to most literate people. Shakespeare is the Zeus in this pantheon of literary gods, yet in his day he was regarded by the then intellectual establishment as a “Johannes Factotum”, “a Jack of all trades”, nothing but “a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others” (Wikipedia).

Despite being an outsider, good old Will just got on with it and using his own wit and talent he produced The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. You can’t get more successful than that.

Continue reading

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