A Video Experiment: a look at some of my Paintings

I made this video to see if

a: it’s something I want to do

and

b: it’s something I can do

The jury’s still out on both counts

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Work in Progress: Extract from ‘Beats’

From the early draft of Beats, the second book in the trilogy featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums has already been published. (more details here)

Note: This might not even make the finished book, and it will certainly be edited.

needle-etc

Freda straightened her back and pushed open the door to her mother’s bedroom. She didn’t care if she found her in her knickers or whatever, the old bat had had enough time to respond to the knocking and the calling of her name – Ffion.

Freda couldn’t bring herself to call the woman Mam, or Mum, or whatever term of endearment daughters were supposed to use when addressing the person who had given birth to them. The truth was her mother was a disaster and didn’t deserve any kind of endearment, and if she wasn’t in her room then that would mean she’d have gone out without saying anything, so wouldn’t deserve the apology Freda had hypnotised herself to offer after their argument earlier.

Ffion was in her room, and she was crashed out on the bed. Strewn across the top of the duvet next to her unconscious form were several items that might explain the condition she was in.

Freda panicked and rushed over to her mother’s bed, brushing aside the paraphernalia and the spilled bottle of vodka to reach out and feel for a pulse or signs of breathing.

Ffion groaned and rolled over. She had a silly smug grin on her face and there was dried-up froth around her mouth. She opened her eyes and looked up at her daughter.

“Hiya beautiful,” she mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Freda asked. “Are you?”

“Of course lovely girl, of course I am,” Ffion said, pushing herself up on her elbows.

“What’s all this?” Freda pointed to the rubbish on the bed.

“Ah, that’s nothing – you don’t want to take notice of that. It’s just a bit of relief for your tired old mother.”

“You stupid bitch!” Freda snapped. “You stupid fucking bitch.”

Ffion lurched forwards and grabbed Freda’s arm. “Don’t be nasty love; I told you, it’s nothing.”

Freda pushed her away. Ffion fell back on the quilt but kept her bony grip on her daughter’s arm. Freda knew that if she stayed any longer she would do something stupid herself, like strangle the madwoman who was pretending to have given birth to her. She shook the crazy cow off and ran out of the door, hands clasped to her ears to silence the feeble whining excuses. She’d had enough.

more to come . . .

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Quantum Relativity

One of the projects I’m working on has the physical attributes of a book. It looks like a book and it reads like a book (or will do when it’s finished). In its present state it contains about 80,000 words all typed up in the same Word document. The content is snippets from diaries, journals, and scraps of paper going back to when I started writing such things half a century ago when I was twelve or thirteen.years old.

I’ve got a few more bits to type up – say a couple of thousand words. When that chore is complete the real work will begin and I reckon it will take about a year. The idea is to then superimpose a story over these seemingly random unconnected scribblings, so the end result will be a kind of meta-fiction-autobiography-fantasy type of thing. So far it looks like there’s a Magic Elf and a thirteen-year-old Alien girl involved in the plot. Continue reading

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This is it

Besides the work on other people’s books I do as a publisher I am working on at least three of four of my own.

The second and third books in the DI Frank Lee trilogy – Beats and Bones – the first book Bums has already been published. These are two full-length novels.

The second edition of my poetry collection – The Words in Me, though I may rename it.

This is it – is a full length novel-cum-autobiography. The title and content may change

So this is something I wrote about This is it just now

Friday October 30th 2015

For the blog

As well as all the other stuff I’m working on at the moment I’m writing an ‘experimental novel’. Its working title is ‘This is it’. It’s not easy to explain without sounding like an apologist for Tracey Emin’s Bed, but that is what it is – the Tracey Emin’s Bed of literature – at least that’s the sort of thing is might look like to the casual reader (which is what Tracey Emin’s bed looks like to the casual observer – or I may be wrong and Tracey Emin’s bed might actually be rubbish as may the book I’m working on.).

The point is, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of my book because I’m writing it only to myself – my future self in fact. So I make the rules and revise them or break them as I please. So, if you were really nasty and / or cynical you could say it’s a wanky book, created only to please myself.

The process by which I am writing (or constructing) the book might be of interest though.

So far I have compiled a total of almost 45,000 words. Some of it is new writing, some of it is copied from old documents in the depths of my hard drive and some of it is typed in from the many dozens of notebooks and thousands of loose papers usually lurking in cardboard in my attic, or more accurately, because I’m working on them, they are now dominating the dining room.

There is so much material in my personal archives that I am having to be very selective in choosing which pieces to include in the new book. This is a good thing because most of the material is so unpolished as to be unrecognisable as writing in the first place – still I hang on to it because I know that underneath the patina are gems waiting to be revealed – whether I will ever have the time to hack away at them is another matter.

The book is a novel, and it is also an autobiography. Obviously it can’t be a full autobiography because how can you get a whole lifetime into a book, or even a library. As a novel it is hard to pin down to any genre but let’s say it has elements of fantasy, magic-realism, science-fiction, crime, suspense, literary, historical, speculative (whatever that is) and I can’t be bothered to carry on searching for words to describe stories.

Let’s put it this way – it is definitely a story, it is definitely fiction, and it is definitely true.

And another thing – this piece is being written for a blog post, but I’m also going to put it in the book.

 

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Beats – the story

It’s not often that I write about the writing process but this morning I discovered the central story of Beats, the novel I am writing and wanted to record the moment when it clicked together to make sense.

Note: Beats is the second book in the trilogy of stories featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums was published a few weeks ago, and the third book, Bones, will follow Beats next year sometime.

Yes, so, Beats begins with the discovery of a body – click here for the first 5,000 words of an earlier draft. Yesterday, the current draft reached over 11,000 words, almost 15% of the finished novel, and I thought it was time to work out what the actual plot was. Yes I know, I’d written 11,000 words of something and I didn’t know what it was about!!

The thing is, every writer is different and the same approach doesn’t work for everyone so I’m not trying to write a prescription for writing a novel, just explaining what works for me – and that seems to be that I need to write a substantial amount of the story before I know what’s going on.

It usually starts with an image, like this, from the first paragraphs of Beats:

“. . . Tucked beneath the Orb Stage, in the undergrowth of struts and scaffolding, lay another kind of detritus – the as yet undiscovered dead body of a man in his sixties . . . The body was lying face down in a tangle of wires, a pair of vintage denim jeans pulled down around its knees, exposing a bare white hairless backside . . .”

So, who is this man, what’s he doing dead under the Orb Stage?

And it’s begun.

I already knew that the story was set amongst musicians of one kind or another, and that it was the second book in a trilogy where each book has a story of its own plus a story that spans the three books, so, many of the characters and locations were already defined.

And I already knew that I wanted the book to be structured in the same way as Bums, i.e. the story is told from the point of view of 8 separate characters – that’s 7 plus our hero DI Frank Lee. And I’d already decided that the 7 additional POV characters would not be the same characters featured in Bums.

And, you can’t really introduce a Point-Of-View character without telling their story. So now I had the overarching story of the trilogy to develop, the story of the book Beats itself, plus the stories of the 8 POV characters, nestling neatly inside the arcs.

arcs

Bums, Beats and Bones, Story Structure

The challenge was to make it all hang together in a way that made sense, and to make it interesting enough to engage the reader. So I just started writing. 11,000 words later the list of characters in the story, both POV and non-POV had grown enough to fill almost 2 pages of an A4 notebook.

These are the POV characters:

  1. DI Frank Lee – Our hero – late 40’s
  2. Old Steve – a roadie – 65/66
  3. Billy ‘Heartthrob’ Harries – an old rock musician – 65/66
  4. Lucy – An acclaimed actor and Billy’s ex – 64
  5. Freda – Lucy and Billy’s grandaughter – 17 year old folk musician
  6. Tariq – A reasonably successful Indie musician in his late 30’s
  7. Young Steve – Old Steve’s nephew and a folksy-blues musician in his 40’s
  8. Lottie – 24 year old singer, songwriter, poet, artist – broke

Names of some of the other characters who have been mentioned or made an appearance so far: Beth, Anwen, Andy, Tony, Guto, Dick Plum, Ffion, Zac, Mack, Lottie’s mother, Lottie, Lottie’s father, Shaz, Flora, Revti, David Roberts, Samantha Taylor, Bob Harries, Rita Mathias, Ernie, Leo, Terry Taxi, Paula.

So when I was writing I had to introduce all those characters and introduce them in the context of the story, and to fit the structure I’d already committed myself to, but I still didn’t know anything about who the killer was, or why he or she did what they did. Then it clicked – I already knew who the killer was and I already knew the motive.

Now all I’ve got to do is to write another 70,000 odd words to tease out that central story, to develop the overarching story of the trilogy and to figure out satisfactory story arcs of the 8 POV characters.

So yes, now I know who done it and why. I’m not telling you though. You’ll have to wait for the book, which I’m hoping to publish next summer.

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Beats: Book 2 in the DI Frank Lee Trilogy

It’s probably a mistake but I’m the sort of person who likes to show the process as well as the finished product – so here are the first 5000 words or so of the very early draft of the second book in the trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring DI Frank Lee.

The characters in Beats are mostly musicians of one kind or another; there’s Billy Heartthrob Harries, lead singer of legendary seventies rockers The Redcurrents, now in his sixties and still banging it out, and his granddaughter, folksy singer-songwriter, seventeen year old Freda.

Billy and Freda are just two of the people Frank encounters as he investigates the murder of a man found dead under the giant Orb Stage of the Elchurch Spring Music Festival.

The first book in the trilogy – Bums –  was published a few weeks ago – click here for details of that.

OK, here we go. Continue reading

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Bums, Beats and Bones

BUMS - Hardback - bookBums is my latest novel. I’ve written bits about it on here. It turns out that it’s the first book in a trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee. Frank is an ex-punk new age traveller – a hell of a background for a police officer, but that’s just the way he revealed himself to me – it’s not my fault – he is who he is.

As the story unfolded it became obvious that it was too big to fit into just one volume and it became the first of three. the other two novels are called Beats and Bones. Where Bums is set amongst the people who live on the edges of society – sometimes known as bums, Beats involves musicians of all types and ages. Both Bums and Beats are self-contained but also part of a longer arc that is eventually resolved in Bones the final book.

Both Bums and Beats are quite complex stories, albeit presented in a simple and readable format; each is told from the point of view of multiple characters with DI Frank Lee at the centre of the action.

Bums has already been published and I have started writing Beats, so have a fairly good idea of its plot and structure. Bones, on the other hand, hasn’t been started yet, and still exists as an abstract cloud of ideas in my head – it will probably involve a character called Fagend – a contemporary Fagin who runs a gang of young boys selling drugs and engaging in petty crime. It also features Jack, a tall giant of a man who runs a training centre for unemployed young people and is also a magistrate. There’s a lot more in that cloud but it’ll keep.

In the meantime I guess I’m only writing this post because I’ve been trying to get on with writing Beats today and have been unable to focus.

Back to it!

more info about Bums on Opening Chapter’s website

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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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bums cover – first look

BUMS-COVER DRTAWING TRY 2-front-smaller

proposed cover for my new novel ‘Bums’: coming soon

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a bit of a ramble about bums

beggar

obligatory relevant picture to break up and enhance the flow of text

Not those sorts of bums, I’ve told you before, you and your dirty mind. You and your associations and preconceptions, your preconditioning and your naive acceptance of the cultural hegemony. No, the sort of bums I’m talking about are the sort of people who live on the edges of ‘normal’ society – the homeless, the drug addicts, wasters, layabouts, the disabled and the disadvantaged, the freaks and the drop-outs, the burglars and handbag-snatchers, the most loathed and the most feared, the abused and the abusers, the victims and the carers – anyone in fact, because there is no such thing as ‘normal’.

But, let’s narrow it down to the sort of people who, if you were inclined to use such language, you might, between clenched teeth, refer to as ‘bums’. Take Smelly Shelley, a middle-aged bag woman, stinking of piss and bad attitude – what’s her story? How did she get here? And Bernard, a shambolic mess of learning difficulties and obsessive behaviour – and Greg, a middle-class and useless young drug dealer. Or Karl, the dodgy nightclub owner and his brutish brother Byron. These are just some of the characters that Detective Inspector Frank Lee encounters as he investigates the bizarre killing of the headmaster of the largest school in the county.

DI Frank Lee is an ex-punk-new-age-traveller motivated to catch the real bad guys and not at all bothered about anyone else’s definition of what constitutes crime. He goes about his work in a calm zen-like way, believing that the solutions will unveil themselves in their own way and in their own time. Despite this apparently laid back attitude, he gets results, and he gets them quick.

So ‘Bums’ is the title of my next novel. I finished it a few months ago and it’s been sitting, lurking at the back of my hard drive since then, waiting for the right moment to emerge and reveal itself to the world – well, hopefully to a few readers anyway.

With a bit of luck Bums will be published in September 2015 – or even sooner.

More soon . . .

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Write-Edit-Write

My new novel ‘Bums’ is now complete – just about!

I’ve put it aside for a couple of weeks while I make a start on the next one. I don’t have a title for the next book yet but it will be the second of the ‘Frank Lee’ stories. Frank is a Detective Inspector who operates in the post-industrial areas of South Wales between the sea, the valleys and the hills.

Frank is an ex punk new-age traveller and remains fiercely independent despite the job he does. He figures his role is to catch the real bad guys so he tends to turn a blind eye to activities that his colleagues would regard as criminal such as personal drug use and squatting. He is an anti-establishment member of the establishment – a dichotomy that even some members of his family have difficulty understanding.

‘Bums’ follows Frank’s investigations into the discovery of a naked dead body found in a dingy back lane in a run down part of Elchurch by two down-and-outs and is set on the grim edges of a society that values material gain and worldly gratification more than care and compassion.

The next story involving Detective Inspector Frank Lee hasn’t got a title yet but I have today written the first draft of the first page. I don’t even know what the story is yet but I’m sure it will involve Frank, his ex partner Flora, his daughter Beth, his colleagues Shaz and Ianto, and no doubt a whole bunch of criminals and victims. I’m also sure the story will unfold for me the same time as it will for Frank.

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Free Kindle book – Boys From the Backfields

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Do you know how hard it is to get reviews of your books on Amazon?

It’s bloody hard, especially if you don’t cajole and bribe family and friends to write glowing praise whether they’ve read the book or not.

So, you set up a FREE Kindle book promotion and hope that someone will like it enough to write a nice review on Amazon.

So for the next couple of days my novel Boys From the Backfields is available FREE for the Kindle. Click one of the links below to take advantage of this offer.

Amazon.co.uk Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00GFZMNTK

Amazon.com Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GFZMNTK

Here’s some Blurb

Who killed Betty Fish?

In 1963 the world is rocking to the Beatles, and being rocked by the Cold War and the assassination of President Kennedy.

There are far more important things on the mind of Mick Matthews, a 13 year old boy growing up on a council estate in Wales, such as the murder of a middle-aged widow in one of the posh houses across the road. Mick and his small gang are out gathering blackberries and scrumping apples when they witness the murder as it happens.

Around the same time as the demise of Betty Fish, Mick falls in love with the enigmatic Angel, a girl of the same age.

Fifty years later, the murder is still unsolved and the shadows it casts over their lives are as dark as ever.

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Bums – Coming soon

The first draft of my new novel Bums is complete. It is now being edited and will be published in a couple of months.

bumscvr

Temporary Cover

 

Bums is a crime story set on the edges of society in the post-industrial town of Elchurch, South Wales. At the heart of the story is Detective Inspector Frank Lee – an ex punk New Age Traveller.

More soon . . .

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The Three Bears is a Work of Art

3bears cover small“What it is is a work of art, in the fullest sense.” This is a quote from the late great American poet JT Ahearn after he read The Three Bears, a novel I wrote. It was published in 2006, and again in a slightly revised edition in 2008. It is without doubt, the best thing I have ever written and probably the best thing I will ever write. When I say ‘best’ I don’t mean it’s the best plot. the best story, the best characterisation or even the best writing, I mean it is a true work of art, it’s completely unique and wonderful in entirely its own way. By any measure it’s a long way from perfect and if I’d thought about it rationally I probably wouldn’t have published it, but I’m glad I did. Continue reading

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A small country like Wales

From my novel The Three Bears

Even in a small country like Wales (and Wales is the definitive small country), there are many tribes and factions. Even in the smaller virtual country of Welsh-speaking Wales, there are many. Take Pobol y Cwm for example. Pobol y Cwm is a Welsh language soap opera, filmed mostly in Cardiff and set in the Gwendraeth Valley between Llanelli and Carmarthen. (Pobol y Cwm is Welsh for People of the Valley.)

The programme is made at the BBC studios in Llandaff, Cardiff, on behalf of the Welsh TV channel S4C. If you were to pronounce S4C phonetically in Welsh it would sound like S ped war EK. It’s known by some (cynics that they are) as S ped war Cheque because of the generous dollops of cash it splashes over its actors and programme makers, especially those associated with Pobol y Cwm.

So, there I was on the set of the Deri Arms – the local pub in Pobol-y-Cwm-Land, pretending to be a pub owner from Llanelli who had come to buy a few kegs of beer from the local brewery.

I arrived in the Green Room at about a quarter to nine, not even knowing I was playing an actual part; up until then I’d only done work as a background extra. So this director came to see me at about five past nine and gave me about five lines to say in a scene with one of the brewery’s owners, something to do with complaining about the beer being too expensive.

Anyway, my Welsh is crap, and the director was a Gog (a Welsh speaking Welshman from the Gogledd (North)), so, by the time I went on set at half nine I was in bits. Continue reading

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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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New Novel – Boys from the Backfields

My new novel Boys from the Backfields has just been published

The cover of the book features a painting I did of the Cefncaeau Estate in Llanelli. The story is set on a very similar housing estate where in 1963, Mick, a 13 year old boy, witnesses the murder of Betty Fish. Half a century later the murder is still unsolved and  still overshadows Mick’s life.

cefncaeau-view

Cefncaeau View – Oil on Canvas

Boys from the Backfields is available as a paperback and as an ebook in all the usual places, or can order a signed copy directly from the publishers Opening Chapter.

More information at http://openingchapter.com/books/boys-from-the-backfields/

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