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.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

Special offer just 99p/99c books for Kindle

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

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

Work in Progress – TV Scripts

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.

Click for more about the books : BUMS or BOYS FROM THE BACKFIELDS

Here’s a sneak peek

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

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/

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

Reality is the Biggest Myth

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.

***

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

Books For Sale

Signed copies of my novels now available from my website

Click for more

books

Related Posts:

There’s a Spider on the Ceiling

spiderOK, so that last bit was a bit rushed – a bit fake, a bit gratuitous, but I’m back already and I want to write about something in particular but I want to put that on hold now, in an instant, for a bit, to digress into something that happened twenty-one words ago.

The words were flowing out through my hand and the pen at an astonishing rate and I knew exactly what I was going to write about next (but as it happens – funnily, I did not write those words next) – the feeling was one of some kind of communion – the words were forming in my gut or even lower, like a kind of chakra writing they moved up into my head and down my arm like a river of light and fire – painful and blissful at the same time. I don’t know if I can describe it properly maybe later. For now back to the thing I was going to write about.

There is a spider in the corner of the bathroom ceiling above the toilet. The roof slopes down there so that corner of the ceiling is just above head height and is easily within arm’s reach as you stand peeing into the bowl. The spider has been there a week at least. I have been peeing a lot lately so I see it quite a few times every day. I always forget about it until I’m standing there – in the act – and look up casually. When I see it I always think ‘God, it’s still there’. I’ve often thought of cupping it and putting it outside but then think ‘Don’t interfere boy’ – leave the creature alone – besides, spiders eat flies and they are a pain.

The spider is a long-legged-tiny-body variety and it sits upside down on the ceiling – immobile. I’ve blown on it a few times to see if it reacts – and it does – but only by a slight adjustment of its legs. There is some sort of haphazard web around it and I saw it fussing with a small package once – like a little fly cocooned.

I’ve taken to thinking about the way it perceives me – every couple of hours I appear before it – a huge shape emanating whatever kind of energy it receives – shimmering perhaps – or vibrating in some way. I wonder if it’s scared – probably not, since it doesn’t even budge – even though a simple swat with a newspaper would end its conscious existence – but then maybe it will reincarnate in a more interesting life, but then who am I to say whether my life or anybody or anything else’s life is more interesting than the life of a long-legged spider who lives in a corner of the bathroom above the toilet.

***

Related Posts:

I may have written about this before but it will have been with different words

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!)

oxford-and-cambridge-mansions

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

Related Posts:

UNDERNEATH

A snippet from some work-in-progress on my autobiographical-novel This is it

***

slade-poster-res‘It. Is. Art.’

‘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

Related Posts:

Boys From the Backfields – the first chapter

The first chapter of my novel The Boys from the Backfields

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013 2013

 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.

BOOK ONE

1963 – 1973

CHAPTER 1

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

Related Posts:

First Review of Bums

bums-hardback-cover-3-front-209x300

I’m chuffed that my novel Bums has had its first review.

Click here to read it on Wales Arts Review.

Onward 🙂

Related Posts: