Thursday, 16 November 2017

Introducing the authors and readers of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair: Interview with poet and author Sam Smith

Today we have another newcomer to Llandeilo and its book fairs and festivals: Sam Smith

Sam Smith will be showcasing his work at the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair 2017 in the Horeb Chapel. He will also read from his poetry at the Red Cross Book Shop at 12.00 that day.

Sam is editor of The Journal (once 'of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry') and publisher of Original Plus books.  At the moment living in Blaengarw, South Wales, he has several poetry collections (the latest being Speculations & Changes: KFS) and novels to his name (the 2 latest novels being Marraton: IDP and The Friendship of Dagda & Tinker Howth: united p.c. (see website http://thesamsmith.webs.com/).

Here is an interview with questions set by Sarah Leavesley of V Press. If the interview is anything to go by his reading will be very stimulating.

1) “Not a soldier of Picasso
I know art is more a progress
                than a war”
(From ‘Not a Soldier’)

The first section of your collection is a series of ‘Speculations on Contemporary Art’ focusing on various aspects of modern artistic works and practice. Is there a sense in which this might be considered an ars poetica? Or perhaps, even, an anti-ars poetica – given both the tone and the varied innovative use of form in this four-part series of poems?

Picasso believed that art should subvert. That once art becomes accepted it becomes the 'new academicism.' As has, if ironical proof were needed, Picasso. As further proof we only have to look at the present Turner shortlist – so tame, so of its type, that all it is capable of provoking is contempt. Poetry self-evidently is an art form, is not self-journalism, and it should provoke, not offer reassurance, is more than the self-therapy of “...we've all been there.” Poetry is not a club to be joined.

And not just poetry. Genuine new writing, if attempting to be seen as art, should disconcert, should upset, and should leave the reader changed in some way. If only with a slightly different perspective. If a poem is what we expect from a poem then that poem has failed. Michael Hamburger gave me a lot of help and encouragement when first I decided to take the writing of poetry seriously. One thing we could never agree on was my assertion that every poem should contain some dissonance, something to upset the reader's preconceptions, make them pay attention.

I feel I'm stating the obvious here. But in any art craft is not enough. We have to move beyond accepted forms, to challenge the old, the accepted. It is how art progresses. The world is new every day and art has to change with it. The general public however is never comfortable with the new, prefers the familiar. Genuine art cannot therefore pander to the general public. In music, in the visual arts, in sculpture, and in poetry we have to defy expectations. We cannot please our teachers. We have to, as individuals, expect not to be popular.


2) Throughout ‘Speculations & Changes’, and particularly in the opening series of ‘Speculations…’, there is a fine and beautiful balance between sharpness, the beauty of some moments and at times perhaps an almost provocative playfulness/humour. Could you say a little about these aspects in your work and how you manage that fine line of balance?

I began this section highly critical of accepted art forms – as seen in galleries, in performance and on the page. Very few seemed to challenge preconceptions. Or if they seemed to be attempting to do so had made themselves impenetrable. So much of recent visual art is of an Art College type. So much of the 'new' poetry has been academised, fails to invite the uncommitted reader in and thereafter usurp their expectations. This type of poetry begins by erecting a barrier that says for the cognoscenci only, that says you must first have read this... Add a footnote, please the teacher.

Does art have a purpose? A singular purpose? That is what I was also trying to work out. And if it does, how has it failed? And if art has more than one purpose on which level has it failed/succeeded? So I played about with artistic tropes and if '...a fine balance was achieved' it was mostly me enjoying myself.

As a fellow editor, Sarah, you must have received loads of submissions that begin by telling you that the submittee has just achieved an MA from some university or other. And the work, if competent (many of these courses like vanity presses exist solely to make money out of aspiring writers), is a slipping-by much-of-an-MA-muchness. In the next post comes a submission based on an untutored author's obsession obsessively worked through that demands only to be read, puzzled over, and read again.


3) “…Whole cities now are made of paper, are sustained
by paper. Watch a city explode. Paper, paper everywhere.
Writing about it is just a way of forgetting.”
(From ‘We Lived upon Milk and Were Enemies to War’)

While at one level ‘speculations’ focuses on observations on contemporary art and poetry, these poems seem to consider this not in isolation but very much as something that highlights our wider culture and society as a whole –  the things we invest in, and the risks that go with that. How important is it to not just face up to reality instead of forgetting, but to look beyond the surface and separate the natural from the manufactured, the synthetic from the real, the art and the artifice – both in creative practice but also the way we live our lives? (And why?)

The kind of art that a society produces, or in the case of a totalitarian culture is allowed to produce, is indivisible from that society, its mores and traditions, and where its art wants it to go. Art as warning or aspiration. For instance in this poem what I had in mind was the IRA bomb in Manchester that blew out Michael Schmidt's office, the rest of it scene-setting.

In every poem I try to – at least I think I try to – create a touchstone, something recognisable on which the reader can build their own interpretation. Can be something natural, beyond the period depicted, something currently everyday, and then I try to widen it out even unto the absurd, as with a koan.  But often on starting to write I have no idea where the poem is going to end up, what final shape it will be. More get thrown away than kept. Editor Alec threw out more of the kept here – felt that they stated the obvious. He was right.


4) “Within a crooked system, however,
often the only honest action
can be to lie.”
(From ‘Too Much Indulged’)
“if any love is to be sustained, there are some truths which cannot
be said. (Such truths are mind tumours.) Love/sex, therefore, cannot be
communication. Even before that — the long looks into the other's eyes, the
hand lingering on the arm, tingle fingers touching shoulder, the belief that
you are in the company of a kindred spirit — can be shattered with the first
words. Between human beings, where love nor sex is part of the transaction,
language is the sole means of unequivocal communication. And then it, for
example this, is imperfect.”
(From ‘Not Communication’)
Having mentioned reality and artifice, can we talk now about truth? I’ve quoted from two very different poems above (one dealing more with society and the other with the personal). In ‘Going by Inside a Car You Cannot Hear the Lark Singing’ also: “Truth | will come | as mockery”. So, does any truth exist and, if yes, where? And, if truth can’t be found in poems (or the world, when using words at least), what should we be looking for in poetry instead? (I notice that shamanism is mentioned in some poems and “For scholars to look solely for meaning | in poetry for instance | is to overlook its shamanistic qualities” from ‘Dialogue 48’.)

Truth? There's a biggie. In the collaboration between writer and reader, each collaboration dependant on the reader's own knowledge and imagination, simple truths can easily slip between the cracks. So does the poem attempt to create a sense of...? Something alluded to, not present on the page? I've already mentioned koans, how their absurdity can trigger contemplative states. What I'd count as a success is a reader looking up from the page and staring into their mental mid-distance. Possibly going back to read the page again.

I attempted this with my Rooms series. Where after a free verse description of a place or event I had a footnote called 'Notes for reading'. These told how physically the verse should be read, and were often at odds, bore no relation, to the contents of the verse. The effect of those 'Notes for reading' was to send the reader back up the page to re-read the verse. And to try themselves to reconcile the pairing. The series proved popular with art students.

Truth? I dunno. What I do know is that I seem often to be surrounded by delusion, self-administered or propagated, and aware that enlightenment when it comes often proves traumatic.

5) “And again, in this our age
of silent despair (the crying-out-loud,
the gulping sobs, belong to
a moment, require an audience),
night’s boneheaded insects will come
rattling against the lit black glass.”
(From ‘Adeona’)
This quote makes me think again about the artificial in contemporary society but also about the role of the watcher and the watched. Could you tell me about the part these two play in your poetry?

Voyeur and victim? Performer and audience? The voyeur can project knowledge of being watched onto the victim. Audience projects judgements onto the performer. Victim can imagine an audience while being unaware of the actual voyeur. Victim can self-consciously play to imaginary audience. Where the natural?

6) One of the things that I noted with a gasp of appreciation is the variety and innovation in ‘Speculations…’ Perhaps in part that is in the nature of these series of poems – looking at contemporary poetry, text and art practice. But it also seems to go beyond that. How would you describe your approach to innovation and the experimental in your own work?

I began as a novelist. I didn't want to write what had been written before, seemed the very contradiction of  novel. And when I later came to write poetry I was appalled to discover an 'experimental school'. That a poem could be defined as belonging to 'the experimental'. Surely all new work, being new, had to be experimental? As with my novels any idea I had for a poem therefore also had to find its own form, own shape. Sometimes it could fall into an existing form, only to then go beyond the form, require something other... Often what has begun happily as a series can quickly run out of steam, go nowhere. Does it work? Is the one question I ask of every piece.


7) “Intelligence is nothing without compassion;”
(From ‘Dialogue 48’)
I’m taking the quote above out of context, as it comes from the ‘Speculations…’ and I want to apply it to the second section of the collection ‘Changes’. (I’ll justify this by saying that, for me, the second section of poetry very much demonstrates this in practice.) The poems in ‘Changes’ are full of wisdom, insight and “the sudden squirrel chase of an idea” but also many of them are very moving and emotionally charged – hovering above death, and vividly evoking love and loss in a range of situations, narratives and moments. I’m struck by how finely intellect and emotion are balanced in these poems and also the careful crafting of words and images to create poems that sparkle without losing their ‘squirrel chase’ sense of real immediacy. Are there any particular techniques or practices that you use for achieving this? And, more generally, what’s the typical (if there is such a thing!) writing process for you from inspiration to crafting and polishing the finished poem?

When I was a psychiatric nurse I became fascinated by how insight and intellect had so little to do with emotion and spirit. Likewise how little politics has to do with ethics. How ends become means and how do I fit the event, the moment into those considerations? Demonstrate them without becoming didactic? Every piece of writing, including this, a new exercise. An exercise where I continually ask of myself, ‘Is that true?’ Language itself has the tendency to mislead one. So, if not true, has does one make it true? How does one make it seem authentic? And that is where an image might get inserted, itself leading one elsewhere….


8) Transience is something that struck me as a theme threading through this collection – be that celebrating a particular everyday moment, facing the prospect of death or the nature of art and its endurance. I’m wondering if this is a very deliberate choice or more of a subconscious personal zeitgeist? (It is just one of many themes woven through the poems, but one that particularly struck me.)

When I left school in Devon I went to sea and encountered for the first time the very real poverty of places then like Sudan and India. I ferried refugees during the '64/5 war between India and Pakistan and came home age 21 to old classmates fresh from college full of knowledge and who knew nowt of the world as was. That estrangement, already begun before I went to sea but exaggerated by what I had done and seen in my travels, was pretty much what led me to writing, if only to attempt to explain to myself all that was happening around me and to tell it in ways that were not untruthful, tell it in my language not theirs.


9) “Then we will know that we are not,
never have been, closed vessels,
that we do need others;

but as with lichens, mosses, orchids,
trust will be a plant of slow growth.”
(From ‘We Can Be Led to Believe’)
How does the sense of simultaneously feeling alone/disconnected and yet needing/craving connection, of being individual yet part of something bigger influence your poetry? And are there elements of writing choice that you feel are particularly important for a poet building trust with their reader?

The touchstone, something familiar, should always be there. Even if its very mention arouses a prejudice. One can work with that. Turn the prejudice on its head maybe.

Of course though many people will not be the least interested in what I have written. Especially poetry that doesn't look/sound like the doggerel they have come to expect poetry to be. So if one's only ambition is to acquire readers then one will write doggerel with layers of sexual innuendo and if novels give the public the stories they expect inside their colour-branded covers.

But if one persists with what one genuinely believes is what one is trying to say then, if the work does get published, then one does reach – sometimes around the globe and beyond one's own generation – to individuals here and there who are grateful for finding 'a like mind'.


10) Following on from my previous two questions, could you say something more generally about themes that particularly interest you and where you found inspiration for the poems in ‘Speculations & Changes’?

I think you have already divined, Sarah, most of what drives me to write – estrangement, disconnection, delusion on the part of others, and – more particularly with art – seeming conspiracies of delusion, the Emperor’s new clothes. The daily frustration of being surrounded by what Norman Mailer termed ‘factoids’ – misapprehensions accepted as fact. How we are ruled by the moneyed and the ignorant, how one uses the other, and the many wilful blindnesses. While at the same time not wanting myself to be a bore.

11) Where can readers get a copy of ‘Speculations & Changes’?

http://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/speculationsandc.html

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Introducing Wendy Steele, one of the authors and speakers at the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th

Wendy Steele will be reading from her latest novel, "The Orphan Witch" in Barr's Jewelry at 2:15pm and you can meet her also in the Shire Hall, showcasing her work during the Book Fair.

Here is the blurb to the book:
(Scroll further down for an article Wendy wrote about Witch-Lit)

Lizzie Martin is grieving.  

A road trip to Wales with her best friend, Louise should help and while she’s there, she wants to find her real mother and the truth about her father.

Lizzie returns home to discover her old boss, Edward Brown, is manipulating her life from prison. She must deflect angry phone calls from her ex-husband, consider a house move and new career path and become a modern day Boudicca, protecting those she cares about.

There is hope though.

The squirrels are on her side, the rescued chickens love their new home and, inspired by the Welsh landscape, Lizzie takes her magic out of The Sanctuary. 

Praise for "The Orphan Witch" : 5.0 out of 5 stars



Wendy Steele: Why Witch Lit?

Witch Lit is contemporary, magical realism, where the magical and the mundane co-exist. The stories are gritty and believable while magic is sprinkled through the stories, offering the reader a new perspective on reality.

Writing about women gives me the opportunity to write about a different kind of protagonist. My women don’t need to behave like men to succeed and they don’t need a man to define them. Their power, their strength, grows through the books as they learn to connect with both the feminine and masculine energy inside themselves, standing up for what they believe in and facing adversity with courage.

The media forces images on girls and women of impossible perfection of both looks and lifestyle and we’re left feeling inadequate. We’re isolated if we don’t choose to conform but I say, enough! Why can’t we be the beautiful, witty, sexy, intelligent, curvy women that we are? Why can’t we be proud of who we are and the way we choose to live our lives? Why do we have to conform to the images defined by the media that blinker men, programming them to believe that a beautiful woman looks and behaves a certain way?

I want to paint a different picture, write a ‘new story’ for women. My fiction features strong yet vulnerable women. My stories show girls and women that they can be whoever they want to be. They can follow their hearts, trust their instincts, believe in themselves, even enjoy not conforming and most importantly, experience magic in their lives.

I write about magic…real magic…the magic that fills our lives with moments of inspiration, hope, understanding, empathy and love.
But people say to me, ‘But magic isn’t real though, is it?’ It depends what you mean by real. Is magic tangible, measurable and scientifically proven? No, but neither is love.

Visit me on my blog www.wendysteele.com. I also have my own YouTube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, where I tell stories on my riverbank https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

Wendy Steele
Add caption

In 1972, Wendy Steele came home from the Tutankhamun exhibition and wrote about her experience, beginning a writing journey which she still travels. Since working in the City BC (Before Children), she has trained in alternative therapies, belly dance and writing. Wendy combines these three disciplines to give balance to her life.


Her first novel 'Destiny of Angels' was published in 2012, closely followed by two short story anthologies and a non-fiction book 'Wendy Woo's Year – A Pocketful of Smiles', an inspirational guide, offering ideas, meditations and recipes to make every precious day, a happy one.

Moving to Wales, the fulfilment of a 15 year dream, inspired her to write the Standing Stone book series, set in Wales in the countryside she loves.

Writing workshops in Wales widened her writing perspective and the resulting short stories have been published online and in anthologies.

Wendy writes fantasy, with a dollop of magic, exploring the 'what if...?' the starting point for all her stories. She lives with her partner and cats, restoring her farmhouse and immersing herself in the natural world on her doorstep.







Monday, 6 November 2017

Interview with Alex Martin: Introducing the authors of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th

I'm delighted to welcome Alex Martin to Llandeilo Book Fair for the first time.
Here is an Interview with Alex so you can get to know her a little before meeting her on Dec 9th


Welcome Alex. Please tell us, how did you come to writing in the first place?

Through reading. As a child I was never seen without 'my nose in a book' unless I was actually up a tree.

What was your connection to the genre? 

History fascinates me, always has. In chronicling the lives of those before us, we can learn so much about ourselves in the present day, if we listen. I wish politicians would. I can't prove it, but sometimes I can see into the past. Every time it happens, and that is all too rarely, I have a physical sensation of cold - enough to make me shiver. And I see things. Images so crystal clear they create an indelible memory in my brain and can be remembered with clarity years later. Sharper than real life, as good as a film, these pictures are fleeting but all-encompassing and very vivid. They always take me back in time, sometimes hundreds of years and often trigger a story.

When did you first have the idea for this book?

 I wanted to explore this interweaving between past and present time in my most recent book. I used a spooky experience in Wiltshire, where I lived for many years, to provide the inspiration for The Rose Trail, when I was working as a secretary in a legal firm and had to deliver a will to a house on the Wiltshire downs. With the errand achieved, I looked around the tiny village and felt drawn to one particular dwelling. It was a beautiful old house, larger than a cottage, but nothing grand. It stood, square and sturdy, basking in the sunshine and smiling across to the other houses skirting the village green. As I approached  its whitewashed walls, I noticed it was empty. I peered in through the warped glass windows, tucked deep under the thatched roof. Inside, a large room with a massive fireplace at one end had an uneven floor made of wide limestone flagstones, glossy from the hundreds of feet that had worn them smooth over time. I could see straight through into the walled garden through the window opposite.
Although the house was much humbler than the Meadowsweet Manor featured in The Rose Trail, it spoke to me of the era in which half the book is set, the English Civil War in the seventeenth century and features a real battle that took place on Roundway Hill in Devizes (pictured here).


 I sensed a family at war with each other; conflicted and arguing, heard the clash of swords and the clang of armour. I remember vividly the chilling sensation that crept up my arms, making them spring goosepumps all the way up to my thumping heart. It took many years for the seed to germinate into The Rose Trail. The story took root as I delved into the past from where three ghosts emerged, one particularly vicious one bent on revenge. Fay Armstrong, the troubled narrator, is loosely based on my experiences.

 How long did it take you to write? 

The actual writing bit takes about six intensive months if life doesn't intervene. It's done a lot of that lately. Incubation takes years.

How do you research? 

Every which way I can - that means the Internet, museums, visiting sites where action is placed, books, always books!, exhibitions, maps - I love maps. Sometimes it's from my memory - old conversations, direct and indirect.

How comfortable do you feel writing in the genre? 

The research is always daunting and I worry, a lot, about getting it right. It's amazing the detail you need - shape of a button, how is that button attached? What were the newspapers at the time? What was the weather like? What was the time of the battle? These details can keep me awake at night but the actual writing is a deep pleasure. Once that time and place is fixed in my mind, I simply go there and let the images flow through my fingers and transform into words.

How do you write? What is your writing environment like? 

I scribble in my journal every night in bed before I go to sleep and often before a writing session. I research inside my house if I need the internet but research books live in my shed where I write. www.intheplottingshed.com is named after the wooden building my husband and I built from a kit in a howling storm. It took eleven days and much swearing. The weather was so turbulent we had to rope it down every night until the roof went on.


How many rewrites did it take you? 

Several - always several! I edit meticulously as I write but I'm never satisfied. There does come a point when I realise I'm fiddling too much and declare it done. Then I send it out to my beta reader team and change it again if they all see the same flaw or something ingenious I could add.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books? 

My son, Tomas Martin, is my editor. He's a Dr of Physics and a science fiction writer. He's a brilliant brainstormer for plots but a brutal editor. His greatest skill is being able to see the book as a whole and come up with strategies. My husband checks for punctuation and grammar but most importantly tells me to keep going when I feel like chucking the computer in the pond you see in the picture.

Who are your favourite authors / influences? 

So many to quote them all but I love Jane Austen and Winston Graham (Poldark), Philip Pullman, EM Forster, Joanna Trollope, Julian Barnes, Daphne du Maurier and many others.

Who would play your characters in a movie? 

I thought Renee Zellwegar might be prepared to gain the weight for Fay Armstrong and you'd need someone goofy but beautiful for Persephone - perhaps Cameron Diaz - you can always see her strength and intelligence behind the blonde, which would be perfect.

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

I'm currently working on the fourth, and possibly, final book in The Katharine Wheel Series, which began with Daffodils and its sequel is Peace Lily. The third book, Speedwell, ended on a rather ambiguous note and it's time I tied up the loose ends. The research for Woodbine and Ivy is even more daunting than the vast amount I did for the others because it's set in World War Two when the children of the protagonists in the first three books have to face their own challenges. I wanted to show the destiny of their parents and bring the story full circle to the ending I planned from the beginning in Daffodils! I'm hoping it'll be out next year, in 2018.


Alex Martin writes about her craft at http://www.intheplottingshed.com/


Books published to date include:

Daffodils, Peace Lily and Speedwell, which compile The Katherine Wheel Series (she is currently working on a fourth book, Woodbine and Ivy).






A small compilation of three short stories, called Trio, can be yours for free on her website.

You can see all of her work on her Amazon authorpage and read about it on her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TheKatherineWheel/

or follow her on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/Alexxx8586/

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Workshop with Nina Vangerow: Make your very own (Explorer’s/Adventurer’s) Booklet

Part of the Book Fair on Dec 9th will be a workshop at

Flying Goose Quilting:1 Crescent Road, Llandeilo,  SA19 6HL

At 11:00 am
Nina Vangerow will show you how to

Make your very own (Explorer’s/Adventurer’s) Booklet
Gweithdy. Gwnewch eich llyfr archwiliwr eich hun
Here are some images to give you an example of what you could do with the booklet, so not everybody has to turn it into an Autumn Watch one.

The workshop is free but we ask for a contribution of £2.50 to the costs of the materials

Find it on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/125861258083033/

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Introducing the authors and speakers of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: Sally Spedding


Sally Spedding, Author 001.jpg


This year's book fair will be a bit like a Mini Lit Fest with readings accompanying the book fair. Sally Spedding (no stranger to Llandeilo and its festivals) will be showcasing her books at the Horeb Chapel on the day of the book fair, Sat Dec 9th, but she will also be reading in the Red Cross Book Shop at 1:00 from “Behold a Pale Horse”.

This is a literary thriller, set mainly in docklands London and Collioure in Roussillon in 1983, with a tragic, historical backstory involving the purge of the Knights Templar in 1307. Clement and Catherine's new marriage is a sham, and her one, reckless false move will change their lives for ever.






     

FINAL PART OF A REVIEW OF ‘BEHOLD A PALE HORSE’

frontcover_ver8_900.jpegSally Spedding’s carefully constructed novel successfully straddles time and space.  The mood becomes increasingly chilling as the two narratives relentlessly swirl together and create a turbulent gothic vortex into which the protagonists are irresistibly pulled.  The book explores the fragility of love and humanity as medieval Europe’s apocalyptic mindset gallops into the twentieth century with brutal and destructive consequences.  Having previously read Spedding’s The Yellowhammer’s Cradle I expected Behold A Pale Horse to be a thought-provoking journey into the macabre.  I was not disappointed and this book will appeal to readers who, like me, enjoy haunting thrillers in dystopian settings.

Reviewer: Dorothy Marshall-Gent  MYSTERY PEOPLE

SALLY SPEDDING Biography

Sally Spedding is the author of ten crime novels, also ‘Strangers Waiting,’ a short story collection and ‘How to Write a Chiller Thriller.’ Her latest crime chiller, ‘Behold a Pale Horse,’ set in France and London, is out now. Her backlist, ‘Wringland,’ Cloven,’ ‘A Night With No Stars,’ ‘Prey Silence ’ and ‘Come and be Killed’ will be published by Endeavour Press as paperbacks and e-bks. ‘Cut to the Bone’ (2015) has been optioned for film, and will be shot in Jamaica in 2018.
She is also an award-winning poet.

www.sallyspedding.com

Friday, 27 October 2017

Introducing the authors and speakers of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: Kate Glanville: Where I Write and How It Influences Me


Kate Glanville is a familiar face at this blog and at Llandeilo Literary Events. I'm delighted to announce that Kate will be reading from her wonderful novel "Stargazing" (click this link to a review of the novel) at Barr's Jewelry at 11:30 am.

I've asked Kate to write a little something for the blog and here is a post she wrote:


 Where I Write and How It Influences Me


When I started writing my first novel A Perfect Home (published by Penguin in the US 2012 and Accent Press in 2014) I took any opportunity to write, often writing long hand in a note book while I sat beside my youngest son's bed waiting for him to fall asleep at night or sitting in the car waiting for my older children to come out of school or standing at the cooker waiting for the fish fingers to come out of the oven for tea. So desperate was I to get the words onto paper I would get up at five am and write at the kitchen table willing three small children to stay asleep till at least six o'clock. Consequently I was usually exhausted, late to pick the children up from school, many fish fingers were burned and I was extremely thankful to early morning CBeebies for its ability to distract the children while I grappled with that last illusive sentence before the pre-school rush began. Not surprisingly A Perfect Home revolves around a woman with three children, trying to juggle, motherhood and work and feeling as though she’s failing at both!
By the time I started my second novel, Heartstones (published by Accent Press 2014) the children were a little bit more independent and I'd learned to type on my lap top using two fingers, usually sitting at my kitchen table or in the garden - Welsh weather permitting!

The kitchen became increasingly chaotic as the children grew older and, for a few years the weather got wetter so I decided to try writing in the converted pig sty that for ten years had been my pottery studio. I have been producing hand painted pottery for over twenty-five years; it was and still is my day job - though to write full time has always been my dream. I had moved to a larger purpose built pottery studio a few months previously, leaving the pigsty empty apart from one of my kilns. One wet afternoon, when the children were especially noisy, I took my laptop into my old shed. It was warm and cosy from the kiln and as I sat watching the rain fall onto the Brecon hills that surround my home I realised I had found the sort of peace and quiet I had been longing for every time I started to write.
So, for a few years, my old pottery studio became my writing shed. Maybe that is why Heartstones is set in a pottery studio and revolves around the tangled romances and family secrets of two potters a generation apart. My third novel Stargazing is partly set on a Welsh hill farm, not too dissimilar from the little farms I could see in the distance through my window. It has a Welsh character in it called Nesta who reminisces about the lush green landscape of her childhood and is really just describing the view from I used to look out on from my window!
Sadly I had to leave my pig-sty last year and the children and I have been renting a pretty cottage in a beautiful National Trust owned park. Its cosy rooms and gorgeous garden are very conducive to writing. From my window I look out over a deer park and across to the ruins of a medieval castle. We live next-door to an imposing Georgian manor house that is meant to be the most haunted National Trust property in Britain and we have a resident peacock called Perry – he lives in the garden and knocks at the back door with his beak to be fed!
I’m working on my fourth novel which, surprisingly, is not set in a Welsh castle or a haunted house but in The Dordogne! It revolves around an ex-1980’s pop-star who’s reclusive life is turned upside-down when financial problems force her to rent out her house to holiday makers. The story unfolds over the course of a week. As I recently read over the first draft I realised that the weather gets progressively hotter throughout the manuscript. I think I subconsciously wrote about the heat in an effort to get warm myself.
Though our cottage is idyllic, it has no central heating and the winter was very, very cold. I wrote huddled by the log fire, wearing several thermal vests and my coat and my hat. It was a comfort to write about a stiflingly hot French summer! Often I went to bed to write with my electric blanket on full heat – still wearing my thermal vests and coat and hat and tried to imagine I was writing on a sun filled terrace with a warm breeze blowing through my flimsy summer dress.

At last the winter is over and I’m slowly divesting myself of my many layers – just down to one thermal vest now. I’m putting the finishing touches to my French romance and I’ve even been writing in the garden. As I look around at the bluebells drifting in-between the trees and Perry displaying his magnificent tail, my thoughts keep turning to a new story; a story set in a pretty cottage in Wales, nestled between a big house and a castle, with deer at the end of the garden, a peacock on the patio and, maybe, even a few ghosts…..

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Introducing the authors of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: JAMES MORGAN-JONES




JAMES MORGAN-JONES  will be showcasing his work at the Horeb Chapel on Dec 9th.

Here is a short BIOGRAPHY

James Morgan-Jones was born and brought up on the Essex/London borders. His mother was Welsh and his father from the East End. He trained as a professional actor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and worked for several years in the theatre. After a serious accident he retrained as a feline behaviourist and now lives in West Wales. He began writing seriously in 2008 after gaining an MA with Distinction from Trinity Saint David University in Carmarthen. In January 2016 he published his first collection of short stories, Lantern Light, writing as A J Morgan. He then embarked on The Glasswater Quintet, a series of supernatural mystery novels, linked by character and place but set in different decades, from the 1940s onwards. The first book in the series, On the Edge of Wild Water, was published in November 2016, with a second edition by Wordcatcher Publishing following in 2017. The second in the quintet, The Glass Citadel, was released by Wordcatcher in October 2017.



‘ON THE EDGE OF WILD WATER’ – the first book in THE GLASSWATER QUINTET sequence.
In the glass, reflected light reared like a burning ship. Whispered words, with the urgency of intercession, opened a laceration in her brain. On the livid tissues behind were drawn the cramped dimensions of a dark, musty room…’
In extremis, the future will feed on the past.
Bethan is in the grip of a serious eating disorder. Taken to her late grandmother’s cottage in West Wales in a last-ditch attempt to tackle her illness, there she is beset by unsettling visions. History and place exert a powerful hold on her fragile sense of self.  Driven on by the revelations of a Victorian minister’s journal, her vivid psychic connection with a troubled boy and the ambivalent, enigmatic sway of the visitant Lydia, Bethan is plunged into a one hundred and sixty year-old tragedy as the material world and the voices of the dead collide. The force of a past not yet assuaged is unleashed, compelling Bethan and her parents to confront a seemingly unstoppable catastrophe of their own.
‘On the Edge of Wild Water’ can be ordered directly from the publisher at Wordcatcher.com or from Amazon.

The second gripping installment of the Glasswater Quintet – coming soon.

In its frosted chambers everyone is alone.
An abducted psychic reads the cards to preserve her sanity. In another part of the country, struggling to keep his family from disintegration and to deflect the lethal attentions of an East End gang, Luke is forced to flee his home.
In the long hot summer of 1976, these two strangers are connected in a way neither of them understands. Yet, as mounting obsession and the pursuit of violent revenge send events spiralling out of control, it becomes clear that their lives depend on a mutually-powered drive to prevail.
The cards offer both a line of communication and a tantalizing hint at salvation: Luke and Paige need to rely not only on their wits but on symbiotic faith and vision. Can the intangible ever be strong enough to deliver them – and those closest to them – from the forces of destruction?