Most recent news at the top of the page. Older items are left in place for reference purposes.
Audiobook deal agreed
We have now finalised the deal with Bolinda Ltd for the issuing of all eight of the Angel Mountain books as Ebooks or digital audiobooks. The contract is all sorted, and the production process is already under way. The design concept for the covers is already agreed, and we have seen drafts for the first six books. Looking great! Right now, Bolinda is auditioning for one male and one female narrator; all being well, decisions will be made within the next couple of weeks, and then the books will move into the recording studio. I have been listening to various voices, and am hugely impressed with the level of skill required by "narration specialists" -- they have to be actors and storytellers with clarity and subtlety in their diction, and an ability to "hold" specific speaking styles for all of the key characters. Quite a challenge for the narrator who will do Martha's voice, since there must be at least a hundred characters who have speaking roles as the story runs its course........
Bolinda is an Australian company with a worldwide reach, and it is expanding its operations rapidly in the UK. It has a global reputation for innovation and quality in the audiobook publishing business and it has been supplying public libraries with audio books for over 30 years. It's recently starting supplying its award winning range of audiobooks to Libraries direct in the UK via its "Borrowbox" scheme. All of its audiobooks are available on CD and MP3CD and as digital downloads. When we started to discuss audiobooks with assorted producers, we were very impressed with Bolinda and not very impressed with anybody else, and it transpired that the company has an exclusive deal with the Welsh library service for the provision of audiobooks. So within two years, all being well, Welsh library customers will be able to borrow or have access to all eight of the Angel Mountain novels.
Here are some brief sound clips of Bolida titles on Sound Cloud:
We are still not sure how audiobook sales and lending will be handled in Wales. Welsh Books Council and the Welsh Government have been discussing audiobooks for some time, but there are still remarkably few Welsh titles available in audiobook format, which is weird given that the audiobook market is expanding at a rapid rate everywhere else. Let's see if we can get things moving.........
All for 90 seconds.....
With video recordings, nothing goes as smoothly as one would like. Early in 2019 we had a few delays over our 90-second video "teaser", and then some technical issues relating to the voice-over. We needed some additional still photography too -- but at long last (thanks to Jake Hollyfield for his kindness), the sound part of the package was completed, and the video was then expertly put together by Ken Bird. Our son Steve helped too, so this was a real cooperative effort, and we are very grateful indeed to all those who have helped in a variety of ways. We trust that the finished product was worth the wait!
Recording of our 90-second teaser
Work is well advanced on the recording of a new 90-second teaser (short trailer) which we will use as part of our pitch to get the saga turned into a multi-part costume drama. Ken Bird of West Coast Software has been incredibly generous with his time and equipment (microphone, cameras and drone) over the course of three days "in the field" and we have found a wonderful Martha Morgan in Anna Munro, who looks the part and who loves acting. Thanks too to my son Steve, who has allowed us to use edited sections of his "Stones" music as the sound-track. We worked out the narrative and the voice-over script together, after going through many versions and re-recording sessions. Thanks too to Jake Hollyfield for the use of his studio in Newport, to Inger for keeping us fed and watered during the recording days, and to Christine Rees and the Cardigan Theatre Group for the loan of Anna's Regency dress.
We have had enormous fun, doing something that has been quite new to all of us.
All the recording (including a session on the top of Carningli) has been done, and the music and voice-over are now in the can. Ken is currently putting together the final version, which we look forward to seeing before long.
A great deal of hard work just for 90 seconds -- such is the way with video and film........
Year of Discovery
Visit Wales has designated 2019 as the year of Discovery. A lot will be going on, and there is encouragement to the Tourist Trade to direct its marketing towards the discovery of all sorts of things -- landscapes and places, stories, cultural icons, scientific facts, folk tales and traditions -- in fact, anything people didn't know about before setting forth on their discovery expeditions. Somewhat too all-embracing, some might say, so let's see how it goes.......
How about "Discover Martha Morgan Country?" or even "Discover Martha Morgan?"
Newsletters 6 - 11
These have now gone out to all those on our mailing list. If anybody wants to be added to the mailing list, please send us a message and we'll ensure that you get the next issue.
Spring 2018. We are looking for two actresses, one youngish and the other oldish, to read extracts from the Angel Mountain novels for recordings which will have a number of different uses. We are looking at new promotional activities designed to enhance the brand epitomised on this web site. The readers must have Welsh accents, and will preferably be living in West Wales. Just get in touch if you are interested.......
Year of the Sea 2018
2018 was designated by Visit Wales as "The Year of the Sea". There were many maritime activities during the summer, but in case anybody is looking for folk tales with a salty flavour, look no further. They are all here:
Pembrokeshire Folk Tales
The Last Dragon
Fireside Tales from Pembrokeshire
More Pembrokeshire Folk Tales
Pembrokeshire Literary Tourism
In 2017, with the help of PLANED, we put in a grant aid application for a project called "Pembrokeshire Literary Tourism" under the Welsh Government's Tourism Product Innovation Fund (TPIF). We hoped to employ a Project Officer to help in the development of the Martha Morgan Country project, and also to bring in a number of innovations associated with the Year of Legends. Sadly, our application was unsuccessful, and most of the funding went to nationwide projects run by big organizations. So we live to fight another day.......
Tales from Willie Jenkins
We have managed to obtain a small clip from a very ancient BBC Wales documentary, first shown in 1970. In it, John Seymour talks very affectionately about his neighbours. It's a glimpse into another world, and the high spot is the interview with Willie Jenkins of Ffynnonau, in which he describes encounters with corpse candles, jumping vipers and flying toads. Here it is:
Angel Mountain Newsletters No 1 - 5
These have been sent out to our mailing list via Mailchimp. If anybody else would like copies, we will be happy to send them out as PDFs. Just send your Email address to us HERE and we will send you the issues you might have missed. Alternatively, you can request to be added to our mailing list. There is some privileged information in the Newsletters, which is why they will not be published on the web.
Talk at Oriel y Parc
On Wed 4th January 2017 I gave a talk at Oriel y Parc in St David's. Very enjoyable, with an appreciative audience.
Year of Legends
13 December 2016
Next year (2017) will be the designated Year of Legends, and Visit Wales and the other tourism organizations will all be throwing a lot of energy into promoting this as a theme, with the object of greatly enhancing the "visitor experience" and pulling more visitors into Wales. There was a useful networking meeting in St David's last week, and it looks as if there will be very welcome cooperation between Pembs CC, Visit Wales, the NPA, Pembs Tourism, PLANED and other organizations. A number of very jolly projects are in the pipeline. One of them will be "Martha Morgan Country, Phase 2". Watch this space.......
In order to make our mailings more efficient and professional, we are now using a Mailchimp mailing list for supporters. The list needs a lot of work to make it up-to-date, but bear with us!
An Angel Mountain Film?
Ever since the publication of "On Angel Mountain" there has been a demand from readers for either a feature film or a TV costume drama series based on the books of the saga. The latter is the preferred option of most readers, and I agree with them in that each novel contains quite enough drama for three or four full-length TV episodes, and with eight novels there would be no problem in creating 24 or even 32 episodes.
But bringing an idea to fruition is an immensely difficult task. Costume dramas are notoriously expensive to make, and it is not uncommon for a big series to come out at more than a million pounds per episode. Even modern dramas (using modern clothes for the characters, and shot in largely unmodified "everyday" locations like streets and house interiors) can cost over £300,000 per hour. Costume dramas normally cost £1 million per hour. Big money. And nobody invests that sort of money unless he / she is completely convinced that the investment will be repaid and that there will be a tidy profit from UK-based transmissions and from foreign sales to Amazon Prime, Netflix or one of the other big global players in the TV market.
But we are not intimidated. There is a ready market for top-quality drama -- maybe not in Wales (and that's a pity) but further afield. So we are making contacts all over the place and gradually forming up a project in conjunction with two small Welsh companies. At the same time we are preparing the ground through ongoing contacts with the tourist industry, the creative industries sector of the Welsh Government, Ffilm Cymru, politicians, universities, and our local authorities.
Update 15th September 2017: we are now talking to three companies who bring different skills to the table. Ideally, we would like one of them (a production company) to take the lead, with the other two bringing in their own specialisms. Meetings have been held, and before long we will be having another meeting to discuss the way forward.
Update 9th October 2019: unfortunately we were seriously let down by the one company which indicated that it wanted to "take an option" on the saga. According to convention, an option is subject to a proper contract and it is paid for with hard cash -- but we were strung along for the best part of a year without any draft contract appearing and no mopney paid over. Then the company pulled out because they thought the project was too big for them to handle. Not very professional. Not at all impressed.
However, we persist, and new discussions are under way with more opromising potential partners.........
If requested, I am prepared to arrange guided walks in Martha Morgan Country this winter season (2019-2020) if there is a request involving a group of at least six people. Charges -- £5 for adults and £2 for children.
The launch of the project took place in the Commodore's Lounge, Boat Club, Parrog, Newport, on Sunday 3rd April 2016.
Cllr Mike James (Chairman of the National Park Committee) was unable to attend, but Cllr Keith Lewis said a few words on behalf of RNP and Pembs CC, and other kind expressions of support came from Andrew Benham, Mayor of Newport, and from Cllr Paul Harries. Rhiannon James (in Mistress Martha guise) was on hand to look after the guests. Tea and Welsh cakes were distributed by assorted kind helpers. There was a rolling video presentation of Steve's portfolio of photos featuring Rhiannon in many of the key locations from the Angel Mountain stories; an exhibition of some of the best images; and Brian gave an introduction to the new web site. There was also a Power Point presentation of the photo gallery from the site. The winners of the MMC quiz were also announced and presented with their prizes -- the overall winner was Steve Drinkwater.
There was also a display of the eight books of the Saga, and Brian was on hand to talk about his writing and about Mistress Martha and her adventures. He also thanked RNP for its financial support for the project thus far, and Deanna Kastsa for the use of TV screens. In appreciation of their sterling work he presented Rhiannon and Steve with complete sets of the novels of the Saga. Lis Evans, who has read extracts from the Angel Mountain novels at almost every book launch, was on hand to read (very beautifully) a short extract from "Dark Angel" to illustrate the novel's "sense of place."
Steve showed prints of some of his other photographs from the north of the county, and talked briefly about his involvement in the project. Rhiannon also told the guests about her "modelling experience" in the three days of photo shooting, and declared that she had had great fun!
RNP staff were present to explain to guests how they are working to support the rural communities of coastal North Pembrokeshire.
All in all, a very enjoyable occasion enjoyed by more than 60 guests, and an opportunity to acknowledge the enormous support that has come from all sides in order to get the project off the ground.
Kindle version rebranding
For some time we have wanted to "rebrand" two of the covers of the books in the Saga -- "Dark Angel" and "Flying with Angels" -- since neither of them conformed to the house style which has been developed by Martin. Finally, the old covers are dumped,and these are the new ones:
This is the short video made in 2019 to give potential followers of the Saga a "feel" for the story and the place..... In this video the role of Martha is played by Anna Munro. The filming and editing were done by Ken Bird. Other credits are at the end of the video.
Video theme music
The composer: Stephen Svanholm
After much listening to Shutterstock themes and much other music on web sites, and prolonged discussion and consultation, we finally decided to run with a magnificent theme composed buy our son Stephen. It was used -- in a different version with vocals -- initially created for the performance of "Stones". That was a dark and powerful setting of the poem by Bob Reeves, about Carningli. Entirely appropriate........
If you would like to enjoy that performance, it's on YouTube and is embedded below.
Web site updates
We have done some major updates on the web site, including a reorganization of the "Towns and Villages" sections. Many new illustrations have been added, and entries are now arranged alphabetically. We are also working on the addition of many new hyperlinks. Take a look at these two pages:
Towns and Villages A-L
Towns and Villages M-W
Here are a few suggested for the audiofile extracts from each of the 8 novels -- we hope to create these once we have sorted out the practicalities of doing the recordings. Note that these are square -- as on CD covers. This is the tradition -- rather than using the rectangular jackets used for paperback books.
Legendary Locations Tours
As part of the local campaign to promote the Year of Legends, Brian led three minibus tours in Pembrokeshire for accommodation providers and others involved in the tourist trade.
North Pembrokeshire: Thurs 11th May.
Mid Pembrokeshire: Thurs 18th May.
South Pembrokeshire: Thurs 25th May.
Great help was given through the use of Green Dragon minibuses, and by Pembrokeshire Tourism and PLANED. A good time was had by all.
Brian says: "There are hundreds of myths, legends and folk tales in Pembrokeshire, and every one of them is tied to a specific location. There are fairies, mermaids, dragons, giants and ghosts all over the place. Sadly, very few of the locals know these stories or their settings. Since this is the Year of Legends, the Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership has been working hard to enhance the 2017 visitor experience of our wonderful county. The minibus trips provided an opportunity for tourism operators to get to know their local tales -- which they can now pass on to wide-eyed holidaymakers, who might in turn be encouraged to chase down a wide range of mysterious and relatively unknown locations."
Year 0f Legends - free resources
We are grateful to Alan Turner of Pembrokeshire CC for assembling a huge collection of material which can now be freely used by the tourist trade as part of their Year of Legends promotions. The material is stored on a Box site, which enables access to high-quality images suitable for glossy magazine reproduction. Here is the link:
Folk tale Compendium
A number of people have asked me for the links to the folk tale compendium that we have now (with the help of Pembs CC) put onto the web -- free for anybody to use. Here are the 4 links:
Pembrokeshire Folk Tales
The Last Dragon
Fireside Tales from Pembrokeshire
More Pembrokeshire Folk Tales
Tourism News - Feb 2017
1. With the help of PLANED and the other members of the Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership, we have submitted an application for grant aid from the Welsh Government under the Tourism Product Innovation Fund. If we are successful (we will know in early April) we will employ a Project Officer and undertake a range of initiatives associated with literary tourism in Pembrokeshire. High on the agenda will be a more effective "branding" for Martha Morgan Country.
2. Earlier this month there was a very effective "tourism summit" at the Beggars Reach Hotel, Burton, organised by Pembrokeshire Tourism. The theme was the Year of Legends, and there were several very useful presentations from Visit Wales, Pembs Tourism, Pembs CC and other bodies.
Tourism News 2018
Watch this space. We will give details of walks, talks, and any other initiatives relating to this project. Ideally these initiatives will involve cooperation between different tourism sectors, taking advantage of the win / win scenario which motivated Refreshing North Pembrokeshire to support this project financially.
The new "Martha Morgan Country" leaflet has run out of stock, having been distributed throughout West Wales. Sadly, I did not receive a grant to help with printing and distribution, so the print run had to be smaller than I had hoped.
We are currently investigating culture beacons and other interactive media for use on smart phones and tablets.
This is Pantygrwndy, a wonderful Georgian house very close to the Pembrokeshire / Ceredigion border and not far from Cardigan. It's an almost perfect "model" for Martha's home called Plas Ingli, on the flank of the mountain. There are other very attractive "minor gentry" houses too, but most of them are surrounded by trees and located in sheltered settings. This house is out in the open, and clearly visible from the main road.