Sunday, 12 August 2018

Reading at Llangwm Literary Festival

 

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading in the open mic at Llangwm Literary Festival.


(It was raining, hence the wet hair…)

I read the opening of ‘Esther Bligh’, then answered a few questions about writing, from organiser Philippa Davies and the audience, including one about the novella form, reminding me it’s a subject I want to consider more carefully.



 The readings included prose, poetry, historical non-fiction, memoir, and biography – a great variety, which made for an entertaining event.

Llangwm festival is only three years old, yet it has already become established in the literary calendar, and attracts some of the best writers, performers, artists and foragers (Julia Horton-Powdrill!). Even in the rain, the village is delightful, and the people are so friendly.

After the open mic, I was lucky enough to see Dervla Murphy talking about her travels. She is eighty-six now, and says there will be no more, but she has given us some of the best travel literature of recent years. 

So… thank you again to Philippa, and Michael Pugh, and all who work so hard to put on this fascinating weekend.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Writers Forum – Tregwynt


On Thursday, I had my first opportunity since the launch to read from, and talk about, ‘Esther Bligh’.


This was in the beautiful setting of Tregwynt Manor, at a Writers’ Forum, arranged by Fishguard Arts Society. The Society is a local organisation which embraces all the arts, and we are very lucky to have it in this part of the world.

I was one of four writers taking part, the others being Helen Carey, Carly Holmes and Alex Barr. 


Between us, there was a varied mix of writing styles and subjects, which, I think (hope!) made for an entertaining and interesting evening.


Having been asked to take part in the Forum, I realised I had to think about the writing process – where ‘Esther Bligh’ had come from, how it had evolved, etc. ‘What is it about?’! These are things you don’t necessarily have in your mind while you are writing – you are too lost in the story, which, at that time, is the only thing that matters. This is particularly true, if you don’t plan your book out – something I tend not to do.

So it’s been good to start considering such topics, working out the answers to possible questions. In fact, it has been a valuable and useful exercise, with thoughts not just about ‘Esther’ but all my work. Are there common themes, subjects, characters, settings? Is ‘Esther Bligh’ autobiographical in any way? (I was at pains here to say I had never tried to suffocate my husband – he was, actually, sitting in the audience). 

One thing I concluded, with particular reference to ‘Esther’ but also true for several of my stories, is that my readers need to work to reach their own conclusions. I quoted the back of the book: ‘A psychological exploration of a troubled mind, or a story of demonic possession in a haunted house – ‘Esther Bligh’ is as ambiguous as the character herself.’ And this ambiguity is deliberate. I hope the conclusion is satisfying in its way, but I also want to leave the reader still thinking about the story, still wondering about Esther and Grace. ‘Who or What is Esther Bligh?’ ‘How much is happening inside Grace’s head?’ (that ‘troubled mind’). 

Some of the feedback I’ve already received (including the reviews I’ve had on Amazon – thank you for those!) suggest I’ve succeeded in this. There’s been a lot of debate – and that’s good, that’s great. And I hope there’ll be a lot more in the future, as ‘Esther’ spreads herself around.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Phew...!




I’m just about back down to earth, after the launch of Esther Bligh.

Launches come in all shapes and sizes – a platform for promotion (and sales), a literary event, where the author can showcase their work. Or it can be a celebration.




And that’s what I decided I wanted – a celebration of my debut publication, a book with only one writer’s name on the cover – mine. Yes, I’ve won some competitions in the past, and my work has featured in a number of anthologies and journals. But this is the first time it’s just me. And it’s a great feeling.

A celebration requires family and friends, and I was thrilled that so many turned up for the occasion from far and wide, in spite of the rain. Being a writer, as all writers know, can be a tough business. Rejection is a fact of life, and sometimes it can be very hard to deal with. But a strong network of support (which may, or may not, be connected with the writing-process) provides a cushion for all those blows. Thank you, all, for being there – at the launch, and always.


I was also fortunate to have the perfect venue in Seaways Bookshop, Fishguard. We are very lucky to have this shop in Fishguard – well, I think you would be lucky anywhere. It has a great choice of books, and kind, knowledgeable owners (Barbara and Bridget), who really went that extra mile to make it a great day. Thank you, both.

It was particularly appropriate as the launch was held during Independent Booksellers’ Week, so here are Bridget and Barbara dressed as Bookshop superheroes!


I’m dressed in black, because Esther wore black, and it’s a dark story.



The book is, however, a dual-narrative, alternating between Esther and Grace. So here I’ve put on a hat to read Grace’s words, saying ‘a red hat, topped with a peacock’s multi-coloured feathers sat proudly on her head.’



Quoting from the back cover, I told my audience that the book may be the psychological exploration of a troubled mind (i.e. Grace’s), or a tale of demonic possession in a haunted house. And I posed the question ‘Is this, quite simply, a ghost story?’
Looking at this last photo, where a ghostly image of Esther is peering in through the window at us all, perhaps the answer to that is ‘yes’.



 And here’s to the next launch!



Thursday, 7 June 2018

The long awaited day!






‘Exspectata dies aderat…’    Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 5.

Or, for those of you who don’t understand Latin, ‘The Long Awaited Day Has Come.’

No, this isn’t Phaethon’s horses carrying Aurora up into the sky. It’s something far more exciting – to me, at least.

‘Esther Bligh’, my debut novella, published by Holland House Books, is out today!

And, yes, it is exciting, even though I’m at home, in front of the computer, typing this, ‘liking’ Facebook posts etc. (My launch is in ten days time – which will be another excitement!)

It’s great to see all the support from family and friends (thank you, all), and Amazon has only got one copy left. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But the book is available from plenty of other places, both online and in actual bookshops. I’ve already seen it in my local shop, Seaways, where I’m having my launch, which is a great feeling. Having been a librarian in my time, I also look forward to seeing it in the library, where I’m intending to do a reading. And there are a few other events planned, so it’s a busy time, but I’m really thrilled by it all.

Long awaited, maybe, but definitely worth it!

Thank you, Robert Peett at Holland House!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Cinnamon Review



My story "Eavesdropping" is featured in this Short Fiction Review from Cinnamon Press, along with some great writers.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Esther Bligh - two months and counting...



Only two months until the publication date of my novella, so I thought a photo of me alongside "Esther" would be appropriate.

Getting very excited!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Esther Bligh - preview

Below is a ‘taster’ (teaser?) of my novella, ‘Esther Bligh’ – part of a piece I wrote recently for Fishguard Arts Society magazine.

I’m launching the book in Seaways Bookshop, Fishguard, on June 17th, (all welcome!).

Although I was born and brought up in Llanelli (see earlier blog), Fishguard is now my nearest town. We are very lucky to have a well-stocked, independent bookshop, with knowledgeable, friendly staff. And it’s next door-but-one to Pepper’s/West Wales Arts Centre, where my writing group meets, so it seemed the right place to launch.

Of course, I have to hope that it will be a sunny, warm June afternoon, to bring people out, whereas dark, cold, and lots of rain are much more appropriate for ‘Esther’…


  
WHO, OR WHAT, IS ESTHER BLIGH?
  



     “It is dark again. I prefer the darkness now. Perhaps I always have.

‘Night-bird’, he called her. ‘Esther, my little nightingale.’
Outside is wiped away.
Outside, with its treacherous sunlight, its mocking colour, the insinuating rumour of the sea; outside, where the crones gather in the square, whispering behind their claws, and the gargoyle children grimace and gibber.
What do they know? What can they know? Nothing. They have no proof. There is no proof. Is there?”


This is the opening of my novella ‘Esther Bligh’, due to be published by Holland House Books, on the 7th of June, this year.

But what has Esther done, to make her so afraid of the inhabitants of the Welsh village she finds herself in, in a dark house caught between the mountains and the sea?

And what of Grace, the woman who comes to live in the same house, more than twenty years later? When anonymous letters addressed to Esther arrive, why can’t Grace simply ignore them? Why is she so tormented by their words?

As the back cover of the book tells us: ‘A psychological exploration of a troubled mind, or a story of demonic possession in a haunted house – ‘Esther Bligh’ is as ambiguous as the character herself.