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Andrew's horror novella, 'The Bathtub', is now available.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Writing Review of the Year

Everyone does one, and my annual summary makes me no exception.  So, how has my writing gone this year?
I’ve not had any new publications – my first barren year in that regard since 2010.  That doesn’t mean nothing has happened, though:
  • ‘Snuff’ was accepted by Damnation Books.  It’s a brutal horror about a couple of women who are kidnapped and forced to take part in snuff movies.  It’s outside my usual subject area and comfort zone, and because of the violent content it took me a very long to get it to the ‘feel’ I wanted.  I’m very pleased with the end result, though.  I’ve had contact with my editor and look forward to working with him;
  • ‘Footholder’ was accepted by Rebel ePublishers.  This is a retelling of a traditional Welsh story about a king who has to keep a maiden’s foot in his lap, or he will die.  Despite the unpromising premise it’s a wonderful story of love, war, power and betrayal and is my all-time favourite Celtic story.  I can only hope my retelling does the tale justice.  The title is to be confirmed;
  • ‘Eton Mess’ was accepted by Keith Publications.  It’s an erotic novelette and follows Kerry-Jane and Amy’s visit to a Greek restaurant, where they indulge in the contents of the sweet trolley a little too enthusiastically.  Although not a sequel to ‘Art Class’, my other Keith publication, it does ‘star’ the same main characters;
  • Last, but certainly not least, I finally met fellow writer Carole Ann Moleti nearly ten years after we first started exchanging critiques.  Meeting Carole and her family was 2014’s highlight.  Here we are at a restaurant in Salisbury: photo

So, what is there to look forward to in 2015?  Here’s what I’m working on at the moment:
  • Hopefully, the above three works will be published.  If not, they should be pretty close to it by the end of 2015.
  • ‘Dana’s Children’, accepted by Wild Child Publishing in 2013, is being edited at the moment.  It’s a splatter about a group of archaeologists who come across an unfriendly legendary tribe while exploring underground;
  • ‘Trench’ is dark science fiction, which is a bit of a departure for me.  The novel features an archaeological dig of a World War One bunker, which reveals skeletons from much more recent times.  I’m very pleased with it and I’m quietly confident someone will want to publish it;
  • I’m thinking of taking on another traditional Welsh story.  This one is about a man who takes a fairy wife.  Like ‘Footholder’ the original story is a bit bare and one of the attractions is being able to make up any backstory I like.  It also has the advantage of being set up the road from the family’s usual holiday destination so I know the setting well;
  • A couple of sequels to ‘Art Class’ and ‘Eton Mess’.  Well, not quite sequels, but stories with the same characters and similar erotic themes;
  • Two or three novellas and short novels of variable quality which I may or may not persevere with.
Finally, thank you to all those who have helped my writing during 2014, whether by critiquing my work on Critters or offline, or by providing encouragement, or by editing my work, or generally just being there when I’ve needed a shoulder or advice.  Particular mention, as usual, to Carole and Phil.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Archaeological Lifestyle

Regular readers of my books or blog will know my characters are often archaeologists who I describe as ‘living the archaeological lifestyle’.  That’s an awful phrase – I know editors would demand changes if it appeared in a novel.  So, this post will describe what I mean.  It’s also timely, as two of my forthcoming books – ‘Snuff’ and ‘Dana’s Children’ are at least partially set on digs.

I’ve been a member of archaeology societies and worked on local sites at weekends.  My first (and sadly only) experience of a big, large-scale excavation was during my undergraduate course, where I had the pleasure of helping uncover Whithorn in southern Scotland. This dig is the one mirrored in my work.  Out of respect for ex-colleagues I’ve never written anything auto/biographical, although I have been tempted to do something with my ‘solo adventure’ that led to a lifelong fear of cows!
So, what is a dig like?

Well, first of all, the physical discomfort. Most digs are on the tightest possible budget, meaning luxury is out of the question. I assume my dig was broadly typical, in that it rented empty houses and invited diggers to bring their own bedding and sleep too many to a room, even up to relatively senior level. The ‘home comfort’ was a couple of tatty sofas which couldn’t hold everyone, so there were a lot of sore knees and rumps from sitting on bare floorboards.

Food was generally stew thrown together by whichever couple of undergraduates were on cooking rota, which made the quality  ‘variable’.  Meals probably wouldn’t pass today’s Health and Safety laws, but I don’t remember any food poisoning.  I’d never cooked anything in my life - fortunately my fellow chef was both competent and patient.

Our remote farmhouse was off mains so there was never enough hot water.  I can’t begin to imagine the aroma we must have taken into ‘The Grapes’ with us!

But, the good atmosphere more than made up.  I don’t remember anyone complaining about the conditions – even me, and I particularly like my comforts.

The work itself probably goes without saying.  I knew enough about archaeology to be aware of what I was letting myself in for, although the proportion of time doing manual labour like lugging wheelbarrows full of earth, as opposed to digging up treasure hoards (I exaggerate) became a bit of a surprise.  But, that’s part of the learning process.  However, there was no work pressure at all at ‘digger’ level, which added to the relaxed atmosphere.

I suppose the most important element of ‘the archaeological lifestyle’ – or indeed any lifestyle - is culture.  Archaeology undergraduate courses often insist students spend at least two weeks on a dig, so big excavations tend to be full of transitory students who move on after a fortnight.  (I was unusual in throwing myself in at the deep end by volunteering for longer.)  That results in short, sharp and shallow but intense friendships.  Goodbyes are often emotional and genuine with bear hugs and handshakes, which demonstrates how close people became in only a couple of weeks.

Although I spent a lot of time with my fellow diggers, I rarely got to know much more than their name, university, and home town.  I didn’t have much idea who had boy/girlfriends for example.  No-one asked me anything personal either – in the tight-knit environment everything external seemed to get left behind.  That didn’t matter because being stuck with people twenty-four hours a day means everyone makes an effort to get on and muck in – which leads to a good, friendly atmosphere.  I also think in the house I stayed in, we were particularly lucky with the personalities. 

A mix of youngsters with free evenings and no formal rules could be an explosive one, but with everyone needing to fit in the rules necessarily became unwritten ‘social norms’ (as the family anthropologist calls them) and were generally followed.  The few who strayed from the boundaries stood out like a sore thumb and generally found the dig an unhappy experience, I think.  They also give the writer a source of conflict.

The constant comings and goings lead to short term relationships, so there is more than a splattering of casual sex (and drugs) on offer.  This darker element provides obvious fiction possibilities.  Neither have ever been my scene and I kept both at arm’s length, but my ego allows me to report turning down an offer from a cute brunette. (What was I thinking?  I was unattached and turned down a cute brunette!)

With mobile phones and social media, isolation is less of an issue now.  Whithorn is remote, and the only communication beyond the village was the single telephone box.  This added to the inward-looking intensity and focus on the dig environment.  I think readily-available communications probably take something away from the modern archaeologist’s experience.

Inevitably, with so many people involved, things go wrong and emotions spill over.  With no real friends or experienced advice it’s possible for youngsters – and even the older heads - to flounder.  From the writer’s viewpoint that provides yet more possibilities for writers.  Problems don’t happen often though, and field archaeologists in my stories run away with their emotions, have crises, and break the ‘social norms’ more than is usual on a real life dig!

Anyway, I got home feeling I’d experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, and that I’d lived a lifetime’s worth of every possible emotion.  And boy, was I desperate to do it again next year! 
So, I hope I’ve given an outline of what some of my characters experience, and so a little of what shapes them.  I also hope my affection for field archaeology and its culture comes over in my writing. 

Acknowledgement: Thank you for loads of good times to those I stayed at Palmallet farmhouse with. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Preview: ‘The Widow’s Walk’

A paranormal romance novel in the ‘Unfinished Business’ series by fantasy and romance author Carole Ann Moleti.

Widow's WalkMike and Liz Keeny are newlyweds, new parents, and the proprietors of the Barrett Inn, an 1875 Victorian on Cape Cod, which just happens to be haunted. By their own ghosts. The Inn had become an annex of Purgatory, putting Mike, Liz, and their infant son in danger. Selling the historic seaside bed and breakfast was the only answer, one that Liz and her own tortured specter refused to consider. Were they doomed to follow the same path that led to disaster in their previous lives? Was getting out, getting away, enough?

I’ve always been a sucker for stories linking two time periods. So, I was delighted to be asked to read Carole Ann Moleti’s The Widow’s Walk, because I wanted to see how the idea was handled in this novel.

After a while, though, it wasn’t the concept of time I found drawing me in, but the work itself. Moleti has pulled together an interesting premise, strong believable characters, and the knack for telling a story, to produce an absorbing read.

Most of the story is set in Cape Cod, which isn’t a place I’ve ever been to. I have read books or seen films set there, and this story gives the same ‘feel’, so I have to assume the author has got this right. The rest of the tale is set in southern England which is my home turf, and I can vouch for the setting’s accuracy here.

I won’t write much about the plot for fear of giving things away. So, to generalise, the story is a strong one, and the plot remains focussed all the time. There are no unnecessary tangents, and loose ends are tidied up. There are sub-plots – for example the family’s financial pressures – but these are woven into the overall and add tension, not complication.

However, as is usual with Carole Ann Moleti’s work, the highlight is her grasp of characterisation and what makes the characters tick. Moleti has put together a strong cast; the characters are all ‘ordinary’ in that they’re the sort of people we all have in our neighbourhoods, but they’re also strongly ‘drawn’, with their own voice which makes each memorable and unique. That all meant I could relate to each of them and cheer for them as they tried to overcome the odds to take control of their own destinies. I particularly liked Mike who is the sort of honest, regular guy everyone wants as a friend, and I really hoped he managed to solve his problems. As I read, I wanted to share a beer with him!

The Widow’s Walk is the second in the Unfinished Business series. The first, a novelette published in Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, offers a sneak preview and is now being novelized. I’ll be looking out for the Book I, Breakwater Beach and Book 3, Storm Watch.

The Widow’s Walk will be available imminently.

To keep up with the latest news visit Carole at:

or follow her on Twitter @Cmoleti or Facebook


Saturday, 18 October 2014

How ‘The Wood’ Happened

Something readers occasionally ask me is how I got the ideas to put ‘The Wood’ together.  Apparently, with characters having to make their way through a mysterious wood and hemmed in my a ‘magical’ path of skulls, the novel is an unusual concept.  Readers have told me that’s what first drew them to the story.

Wood SmallI will say I’m pleased with the story, but the concept isn’t all my own.  It drew on ideas from several other sources.

I never played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), but I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of characters adventuring underground in enclosed spaces, with only a vague idea of what they might come across.  This is a theme I explore more fully in my forthcoming Wild Child Publishing novella, ‘Dana’s Children’, which is set among underground passages, but ‘The Wood’ still owes a spark to D&D.

The film ‘Alien’ was another influence on ‘The Wood’.  ‘Alien’ features space travellers facing the monster of the film’s title in their spacecraft’s narrow corridors.  Like D&D, this caught my imagination.

So, I knew I wanted to write a novel based around my characters being chased around narrow massages.  I also knew I wanted to do something unusual (rather than caves or a spaceship) to make the story memorable and to give it a better chance of being picked up.

The idea of using a skull-lined path only came slowly.  I’ve always known that Celts revered the head, and severed heads and skulls may have been used as barriers to keep evil in and out.  So, I eventually had the idea of skulls on poles lining my travellers’ path, and the characters risking supernatural evil if they strayed from the path.  And of course a path lined with skulls is a great horror image!

So, that’s how the idea for ‘The Wood’ came about.  The story is quite ‘linear’ and straightforward – although I hope it’s still exciting – so once I had the idea the writing came relatively easily.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Keith Publications’ Blog

Keith Publications is celebrating four years of publishing this month by inviting each of author onto their blog for a day. 

Art Class SmallMy turn  is Tuesday 9th September, when I’ll be talking about how this horror writer started writing erotica (by accident, honest) and my two erotic Keith Publications: ‘Art Class’ and the forthcoming ‘Eton Mess’.

So, why not pop over on the 9th – and before and after too, to meet some of Keith Publications’ other authors.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

‘The Well’– Now on Amazon

Well SmallMy eTreasures novella. ‘The Well’, is now available on Amazon.  That’s a bit after publication but I know it’s taken a while for the publisher to get all its books listed.  It means ‘The Well’ is also available on Kindle.

This is all largely an administrative nicety, but it’s good to have all my releases listed on Amazon, and on a materialistic note it’ll make it easier for people to find and buy the book.

My Amazon Author page now shows everything I’ve had released.

Here’s the blurb for ‘The Well’:

When beautiful heiress Connie Straker wakes from a drugged sleep, she has no idea why she is at the bottom of a dry well.

Connie anticipates freedom when her prison floods, but is dismayed to find she remains a captive. If she is going to escape, she must outthink two violent brothers with a grudge against her family, overcome wild animals and find a way through the cage barring her way.

Connie’s best chance of freedom might lie with the college nerd who has had a crush on her for years. But Julian is a creep who Connie despises and she has to decide whether to trust him. Can he overcome his fear of the brothers and help her escape? Or will her captors put a violent end to Julian’s efforts? Will Julian take advantage of her desperation and make Connie’s life-or-death situation even worse?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Eton Mess

I’m thrilled to announce an acceptance.  My erotic novelette, ‘Eton Mess’, will be published by Keith Publications

‘Eton Mess’ isn’t a sequel to my other Keith Publications’ erotic release, ‘Art Class,’ but it does feature the same main characters and it’s a similar type of story, so I think of them as being in the same series.

I’m excited to be with Keith Publications again; the editing and publication for ‘Art Class’ was smooth, businesslike and friendly so I’ve been looking forward to publishing with the house again.

Kerry-Jane and Amy are friends studying for their doctorates at a local university.  They’ve spent a long day working, and decide to visit a local Greek restaurant to unwind.  And they certainly do unwind, as they enjoy the contents of the sweet trolley perhaps a little too enthusiastically - to the delight of the waiters!

Contracts have been exchanged, and I’ll post the release date when I know it.

Thank you to Phil McCormac, who read and commented on an early draft.

Art Class Small

Art Class’ is still available, should anyone be interested in reading Kerry-Jane’s previous adventure, when she posed as a model for a class of art students.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

It’s a Stile


Yes, it’s a stile. 

British readers will recognise it instantly and be asking, “What’s he posted a picture of a stile for?”

Readers from outside the UK might well be asking, “What is it?”

This slightly tongue-in-cheek post comes from feedback for a Welsh-based story I sent through Critters.  A good significant proportion of readers from beyond these shores had no idea what a stile is.  One reader even got quite heated in his berating of me for putting something he had never heard of in the story.

So, what is a stile? 

According to Wikipedia, it’s a, “structure which provides a passage through or over a fence or boundary via steps, ladders, or narrow gaps.”  In Britain, many public footpaths run along the edges of fields, and stiles let walkers cross field boundaries without making a gap in a hedge or forgetting to close a gate, meaning livestock can’t escape.

I’m fortunate in living on the outskirts of a large town, so I have the countryside only a few minutes away.  One of my favourite country walks takes an hour or so, and I cross nine stiles.  That may be more than for most walks, but gives an indication of how common they are in this country.

So, stiles are part of the British fabric.  So much so, it’s right that my characters come across them regularly when they’re in the countryside.  They’re so common and a part of everyday life that I have to admit it never occurred to me to think that some readers have never heard of them.

So, that’s what stiles are, and why they appear in my work.  And here’s the one at the top of the post in its setting.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Modern Horror or Historical Fantasy?

I've always been an author who writes what I want to write.  That goes against a 'rule': authors are told to stick to one type of story so readers know what to expect in a release, which reduces the risk of alienating their audience.  Alternatively, authors are advised to write different genres under different names.  I think that’s good advice for writers who want to maximise their income.

I enjoy writing both historical fantasy and modern horror, and I usually write them alternately, although that's coincidence rather than planning.  Maybe it’s an indication that when I'm writing one I'm itching to return to the other.

There are some exceptions, of course, such as my occasional erotica novelettes, or my World War One science fiction novel which a publisher is currently looking at.  These, though, will probably remain occasional departures rather than regular genre hops.

So, which am I better (or with my modest hat on, maybe that should be least worst!) at: historical fantasy, or modern-period horror?

Doe Dragon SmallFeedback from readers points toward my fantasy works.  A couple of readers have mentioned 'The Doe and the Dragon', set in Arthurian-period north Wales, as a favourite.  Beta readers have also said encouraging things (other than having to sort an issue with my hero) about my forthcoming 'Footholder', which is also based in mythic Wales.  Others like 'Andraste's Blade', which is set both in the past and the present day, but has Celtic myth and history as its base.

Blade SmallI think my own preference, though, is for my horror books, which I've always felt more satisfied with when I've finished them.  I think that's because horror (well, mine, anyway) tends to be more straightforward, without the plethora of sub-plots fantasy works seem to need.  I suppose I find horror easier to plot and write.  Because my horror stories are simpler, I also tend to be more confident  sub-plots and loose ends are tied up.

On the other hand, maybe it's the extra elements and deeper plots that makes readers prefer my historical fantasies over my horrors.  On yet another hand (do I have three hands?), as fantasy generally sells better than horror, maybe the reader of a 'Richardson' simply reflects worldwide reading trends!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Writing the Celtic Lifestyle

As my readers will know, I write a lot of fiction set in the Celtic past.  I also get a buzz from reading other 'Celtic' books, like those by Mary Stewart and Morgan Llywelyn.

Celtic history and myth have been lifelong interests.  I fell in love with Celtic stories when I was very young, so it's not surprising their lives, history and legends play a major part in my fiction.

There are some aspects of Celtic life, though, that I find easier to put on the page than others.

Image0106My degree was in history and archaeology, and I concentrated on the Celts as much as I could.  I was very fortunate that my archaeology tutor was a specialist in post-Roman Celtic Ireland, and she was brilliant at explaining the context of finds.  That means I don't have much trouble describing Celtic buildings, tools, clothing, stone circles (I know that the latter are earlier than the Celtic period, but as I’ve got a picture…) and the like.  In short, I'm happy writing about the 'physical' side of Celtic life.

The history part of my degree also means I know what was going on at the time and place I set my stories in - for example, which tribes were most powerful, how much the Roman Empire was an influence, and who was at war (or peace) or trading with who.

So, I'm fortunate enough to think I know enough about the subject to be able to write about people's day-to-day life with some confidence.

I didn't study Celtic myths and legends at university, but the stories – both Welsh and Irish - have fascinated me since I was a child and I know them well.  Studying the Celts helped me here because it helped me put the stories in their historical context.  As a lot of what I write is based around the myths, that's extremely useful.

There is one aspect of Celtic life, though, that my background doesn't help with much.  That's culture and attitudes.  So, I struggle with the notion of 'might is right', for example.  I think warlords and their warriors must have been similar to slightly older playground bullies or football hooligans.  I don't 'get' that sort of culture or mentality, and I'd be the first to admit I find it difficult to pull myself away from modern values to make my characters think like Celts.

There must have been openings in ancient society for those who weren't warlike - bards and priests and craftsmen come to mind.  I don't think it's any coincidence that my main characters aren't usually warriors.  My stereotypical Celtic character will be a downtrodden slave girl - or at least someone from the lower classes, such as Breena, in 'The Doe and the Dragon'.

Another Celtic character type I use is what I call 'the reluctant hero - a man who is an administrator rather than a warrior but finds himself in a position where he has to fight to avoid losing face, and has to deal with the resulting inner conflicts.  Gilfaethwy, my hero in my forthcoming 'Footholder' is one such character.

So, I've worked out that while I find it difficult to relate to the mores  of Celtic society, I've discovered ways around it.  In fact, I've found it can be an advantage as it brings an extra dimension to my Celtic-based stories.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

An Update

I realise it’s nearly a month since I posted anything here.  So, this is a brief paragraph or two to let everyone know I’m still around.
The reason for my lack of productivity is easy – the World Cup.  I’ve managed to get a decent amount of writing done despite the two or three matches a day.  What has fallen by the wayside, though, are my social media ‘duties’.
In the last month I’ve managed to get a few things done:
  • I’m working on a Celtic-myth based story I’m calling Tribute;
  • Morgan’s Isle, a modern slasher, has been through Critters with reviews which are, at best, mixed.  That’s fine, it’s not one of my best and confirms what I thought rather than disappoints;
  • The Clootie Tree, a modern horror novella, goes through Critters in the middle of the week;
I’ve not had any response on the two stories (a science fiction/horror novel and an erotic short) I’ve submitted to publishers.

Nor has there been any movement on the three acceptances currently going through the process (Snuff and Dana’s Children, both violent horrors, and Footholder, a historical fantasy).  The ‘no news’ bit is fine; the publication process isn’t quick and in some ways I’d be more surprised if I had heard something!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Spartphones and Writing

I invested in a smartphone last week.  I didn't get it for any literary purposes - it's for general convenience.  It’ll be useful during the World Cup, and of course for keeping up with matches while I’m watching Aldershot next season. 

(Yes, I know everyone else had a decent ‘phone years before I got dragged into the twenty-first century.)

Up to now I’ve only been able to make and receive calls and texts with my ancient ‘phone, so it’s all a bit of an eye-opener.  However, seeing what technology can do has made me wonder whether it can help with my writing. 

I'm not a great one for social media, so friends, family and followers can rest assured I’ll not be spamming you with continual status updates.  But, I do have a lot of E-Mail exchanges with publishers and other writers, so it'll be good to know of acceptances Smile (or rejections Sad smile ), critiques and the like when I'm not at my desk.  It’ll be brilliant not to have to go through the hassle of turning on the desktop before going to work every morning to see if anything has arrived from a publisher overnight.

I’ve always hated laptops but I can just about use the phone’s typing facility.  I accept it’s small and fiddly, but I find I can get into a rhythm using cheap styli.  Of course, this all means I can write anywhere. I can also produce in the living room with the family or while watching football on the box instead of shutting myself away in my office.  I've been warned that word processing files aren’t secure, so I'm not using the ‘phone for erotica or slashers!

There are also peripheral advantages.  I can take pictures now, which is helpful for this blog, or for Pinterest, etc.  I've also been able to do some research 'on the go' – I've done some Internet research in my lunch hour during the day job, for example.

I’ve got more incentive to have my phone on and next to me as I write.  That means I can have music on louder, instead of having to listen out for the family phone in another room.

I still violently dislike laptops.  I think it's because the size doesn't suit me.  The desktop in my office is still the centre of my writing world, but I do appreciate the extra flexibility my new toy gives me!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The World Cup and Writing

So, my favourite sporting event gets underway in just under two weeks.

I remember running home from school to watch the opening match of the first tournament I can remember.  I arrived home part way through the first half.  As our television took a long time to warm up in those days (didn’t they all?), my mum turned it on early, so it was ready for me to watch.  I may have mentioned to my parents every day for the previous month how much I was looking forward to the tournament!  The preview magazine my dad bought me was already falling to bits by the time the first match started.

I’ve greeted each World Cup since with the same childlike enthusiasm.  There have been changes; money has become comparatively more important compared to what happens on the pitch; television has made the game global, so there’s no longer a thrill of watching a team of unknown and naive players from an obscure corner of the planet.  The plethoa of games on television, and the Premiership’s pull, means anyone can watch the world’s greatest players every week instead of once every four years.

But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still the World Cup.  The greatest event on the planet.

So, what has this got to do with writing?

Well, I’ll be glued to the television for nearly five hours a day, for a month.  That’ll have obvious effects on my output.

Secondly, one of the first things I ever wrote out of school was a ‘future history’ for a future tournament.  I’ve always had a soft for Peru, and I remember they went on to win!  I also had some feel for marketing, and realised England would have to do well if anyone was going to be interested in reading it.  So, it was an England v Peru final.

My efforts never made print, of course, and as FIFA own the rights I’d possibly have been sued anyway.

To keep this post focussed on writing, I do have one football-related novel I’ve been working on.  I put it down a while ago as I wasn’t convinced by the ending.  Other than that I was happy with it, and I keep meaning to revive it.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek horror about supernatural goings-on at a football club.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Who is Gilfaethwy?

I’ve written quite a bit about ‘Footholder’ recently.  Much of it has focussed on Goewin, my heroine.

There is, though, a second viewpoint character who I’ve grown  equally fond of – Gilfaethwy, one of King Math’s nephews, and brother to Gwydion and Arianrhod.

Like Goewin, Gilfaethwy is a minor character in Welsh legend, and we don’t know much about him.  He is, though, key to the ‘Footholder’ story.  Like Gowein, again, this drew me to him and made him an obvious character to use.

So, what do we know about Gilfaethwy?

He only appears in The Mabinogion to advance the story of his higher profile brother Gwydion, so scholars tell us.  It is Gilfaethwy who falls hopelessly in love with Goewin and so allows Gwydion so set in motion a chain of events that…well, you’ll have to either read The Mabinogion, or wait for my book!

We know Gwydion is a warrior; to differentiate between the brothers I made Gilfaethwy a skilled administrator, and a sensitive thinker rather than a soldier.  While Gilfethwy is probably the nearest the Celts would have come to a pacifist, I’ll stress he’s not a coward.  He is willing to fight when he has to, but sees it as a last resort, rather than a first – which leads to conflict with his brother. 

These days, ‘my’ Gilfaethwy would probably have a successful career in the civil service.  Or, he’d become a James Bond to his brother’s Rambo!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Who is Goewin?

With ‘Footholder’ being accepted for publication by Rebel ePublishers, I thought I’d give a little bit of background on Goewin (the main character), and how I view her. 

It’s a change to be able to do this without readers having to wait for the book.  As this story is in the public domain as part of The Mabinogion, I’m in the unusual position of being able to talk about characters and plot in advance.

King Math of Gwynedd is a king who will die unless he keeps his foot in a maiden’s lap.  Goewin becomes his current Footholder, and, eventually, his queen.  So, what do we know about her?

Well, not a lot.  Goewin plays a minor role in the Welsh story so isn’t really ‘fleshed out’.  All we really know about her is that she was the daughter of an otherwise unknown man called Pebin from the Nantlle Valley, was a maiden (obviously), and was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.

A few experts in Welsh literature have tried to fill in some of the void, to speculate she was originally the same character as Arianrhod, the king’s niece, or that because her name means ‘strength’ she portrays the strength of womanhood, etc etc.

In summary, though, Goewin is a shadowy character.  For a writer wanting to write her story that gave me a lot of blanks to fill in, and so a lot of mouth watering possibilities.

When I first planned the novel I made Goewin a schemer, who became Math’s bride by manoeuvring and manipulating other characters.  That made her unlikeable, and also meant her making some choices I (and probably publishers) would find unpalatable.

So, I decided on a Goewin who was quiet on the outside – maybe even intimidated by her role amid royalty – but with an inner strength.  That made her shy and insecure when she first started holding the king’s foot, but willing to stand up for herself against bullying, and to shape her own destiny.  That’s enough for me in any heroine, and Goewin was a very satisfying one to write.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Rebel ePublishers

So, contracts have been signed (or, rather, names and dates typed) so I’m delighted to announce that ‘Footholder’s’ publisher is…

Rebel ePublishers

It’s a house I’m very pleased to be working with, and I’m confident in entrusting ‘Footholder’ to Jayne et al.  Thank you for taking it on!

At the moment ‘Footholder’ is the working title – we’re still discussing what it’ll be called on release.

To recap, ‘Footholder’ is a retelling of a Welsh story about a king who needs to keep his foot in a maiden’s lap. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Acceptance: ‘Footholder’

I’m delighted to announce another novel acceptance!

Footholder’ (title under discussion) is a retelling of a medieval Welsh story from a collection known as ‘The Mabinogion’.  It’s about a king who needs to keep his foot in a maiden’s lap.  Despite that unusual premise it’s a wonderful story of love, power and war.  I can’t claim any credit for the plot but I hope my version does justice to my favourite Welsh tale.

‘Footholder’ is in the spirit and style of my previous Welsh-based historical fantasies, ‘Andraste’s Blade’ and ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.  My version focuses on the Footholder, Goewin.  I’ll give a brief synopsis and some background on the characters and locations in a later post.

‘Footholder’ is pure historical fantasy and a change from the horror I usually produce.  It does have one or two darker elements I think my horror background helped with, though.

Many thanks to several proofreaders, particularly Philip McCormac, who as usual read an early draft.  Phil’s suggestions appear in the revised version.  An acknowledgement also to my wife, who tolerated stunning walks around north Wales’ breathtakingly beautiful scenery while we looked at locations.

As usual, I’ll refrain from naming the publisher until contracts are signed, but it is a house I’m delighted to be working with for the first time.  Publication is tentatively pencilled in for 2015.

‘Footholder’ will be my fifth published novel, and my tenth stand-alone, including novellas and novelettes.  (My full publication list is here.)

And now, the editing process begins.  That’ll keep me quiet for a while!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Doe-Dragon: King Arthur’s Family

Doe Dragon SmallI’d always wanted to write a story based around fifth century north north Welsh myths, which resulted in ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.

My background is in the novel’s time and place, and it was important to me both to get the legends right, and to write something historians would find at least plausible.  Blending the mixture of history and legend, and also getting the ‘facts’ straight, was one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing.  Getting the people right was particularly fun.

The story is placed in the generation before King Arthur, and features those Arthurian characters who also appear in the rich Welsh legends.  So, which characters who Arthur would have known, are included?

  • Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father.  I ‘used’ Einion of Gwynedd, who is a a shadowy figure from the fringes of history.  As he lived around the right time, and has the epithet ‘Yrth’ (‘the Impetuous), Einion Yrth has been tentatively equated with the similar ‘Uther’ by some historians. 
  • Merlin.  The wizard plays an important part on Welsh stories, and surprisingly is one of the few Arthurian characters likely to be based on a real person. 
  • Igraine.  Any story of Arthur’s parents without his mother would be unthinkable, but sadly she doesn’t get a mention in Welsh stories.  I get around this by having a character (Breena, from my imagination) affectionately nicknamed Y Grawn (Welsh for ‘doe’) which is near enough to allow Breena to become Igraine!
  • Vortigern.  Okay, not strictly an ‘Arthurian’ character, but great fun as the period’s traditional bad guy and at least one story links him with Merlin.  Almost certainly a historical figure who was important at the time, so Arthur would have heard of him and it’s not inconceivable they’d have met, although Arthur would have been very young and Vortigern near the end of his days.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review – ‘Reconquest: Mother Earth’

Reconquest-Mother-Earth_cover11I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I enjoyed Carl Alves’ ‘Two for Eternity’ so I was happy to make a rare journey into the genre to try his ‘Reconquest:  Mother Earth’.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Despite not knowing one end of science fiction from the other, I found this story of humans coping with the aftermath of an alien invasion really easy to get into.  That’s probably because the ‘science’ is largely there in the background.  The story is about a struggle to survive, and as such was about a character and plot rather than about the genre.

I also found that man’s – Mitch – struggles engrossing.  Although he is larger than life in a sometimes Conan-esque way, he is above all human and with human flaws, aims and desires we’d all recognise.  That made him the sort of hero I could identify with and I found myself rooting for him as he fought his battle against the odds.

That doesn’t mean the plot is secondary – the background of alien invasion ties in well and gives a background to Mitch’s struggles to survive as well as driving him on.  The secondary characters are also well presented and rounded.

But the best bit?  The ending.  The easy route would have been to set a big, final battle between alien and human forces.  However, Alves has taken a different approach, and the story is much more satisfying for it.

In all, I thought this a good read.  In this case that’s a particular compliment because I haven’t come across many science fiction books that have kept me hooked throughout.

Carl is at:

‘Reconquest: Planet Earth’ is available from Amazon.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Guest Blog: Carl Alves

Anyone who read my review of Carl Alves’ ‘Two for Eternity’ will know how much I enjoyed the story of two characters’ conflicts as they journey through history. Carl’s third novel (I seem to have missed his second!) is different in subject matter - ‘Reconquest: Mother Earth’ deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion.

I’m about half way through, and a review will follow. In the meantime, here’s a short piece from Carl outlining what drove him to write the story.

Reconquest-Mother-Earth_coverI don’t consider myself a science fiction writer. Although I will dabble in science fiction from time to time, I like to think of myself as a horror and fantasy writer. Having said that, I have always enjoyed the alien invasion concept. There have been many variations written on this topic, and I didn’t want the invasion aspect to be the main focus of the novel. In fact, the alien invasion in my novel lasts for about the first three chapters. The part I was really interested in writing about what happens after the invasion.

The post-invasion is the main focus of the novel. It combines several different factors that intrigue me. One is that the alien invasion that occurs is basically an apocalypse of humanity where most of the population gets wiped out. One of the things I wanted to explore was how people survive when civilization as they know it is destroyed. A wild card here is that the source of the apocalypse, the aliens, are still around. So not only do the survivors have to deal with rebuilding society, but there is also the element of the subjugation and enslavement of the population.

Above all else, I wanted to make this an action thriller. Even if you don’t read science fiction at all, I wanted this novel to be interesting and entertaining for that type of reader. From beginning to end there are loads of action sequence, and the novel can be read as an adventure story. My main character, Mitch Grace, an ex-SEAL, has to defy the odds in his quest to reconquer the planet from the alien invaders after waking up from a five-year-coma. I make things very difficult for Mitch and his followers and tried to keep things as realistic as possible.

‘Reconquest: Mother Earth’ is available from Amazon.

Carl is at

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Writer’s Desktop


(Well, this writer’s desktop, anyway…)

I’m always happy to mention to anyone who wants to listen (and anyone who doesn’t), that I loathe laptops.  That’s a long story and probably a subject for a different blog post.  Instead, I use a static lump of a desktop PC for writing.

Not using a laptop, of course, takes away a lot of flexibility because I can only produce in one place (my home office).  The upside of that, of course, is that I have a permanent setup, and my writing area looks exactly as I want it – even to having the home office painted in Aldershot Town Football Club’s red and blue.

So, just what does my writing area look like?  What do I have on my desk?  Well, most of it is routine, but there might be one or two surprises:

  • Mouse, keyboard, tower and monitor.  Not much of a shock, then.  I did invest in the largest widescreen monitor my budget would allow, to make it easier to have multiple windows open;
  • Copy holder;
  • A4 sheet folder.  I like to proof read on hardcopy in an armchair so the folder is useful;
  • Metal worktop protector.  I put my mug on it.  It’s bigger than a coaster, so more difficult to miss when I’m too engrossed in my writing to concentrate on where I’m putting my coffee;


  • Desk lamp;
  • Notebook;
  • Electronic photo frame.  So I can have loads of pictures without the clutter;
  • Lava lamp.  It’s a generational thing modern youth wouldn’t understand;
  • Slate placemat.  It reminds me of my north Welsh holidays, and also keeps the volume control for the PC’s speakers in place, and gives me something to keep my stress relieving executive toy and a speaker on;
  • I’ve got a small library of half a dozen or so books I’m always referring to (a dictionary of Celtic myth, dictionary, thesaurus, etc etc.);
  • Printer (actually on a cupboard next to my desk);
  • Two or three caster cups.  I think they’re ideal for putting small stationery on – paper clips, drawing pins and the like; Caster Cups
  • Pen holder – complete with pens;
  • Candle base.  it’s a few inches across and ideal for keeping flash drives, spare pencil leads, and similar on.
  • Stapler, hole punch, calculator, etc.

(Thank you to Peter Richardson for taking the pictures.)

Is my list about typical?  What other things do authors have in their writing area?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Great Celtic Tales

As I’ve pointed out in this blog time after time, I love Celtic myths and legends.  I remember as a kid a TV programme called ‘Jackanory’, which had a simple format of different actors reading different stories every night.  One week really made an impression on me – they were stories of war, magic, power and lovely princesses.  These particular stories also had an added depth, subtlety and beauty that even at a tender age I knew set them far above any other tale I’d ever come across.

Too many years later I picked up a book of Welsh tales, and refound the wonderful stories that had me spellbound as a child of six or seven.

Since then, I’ve read every traditional Celtic story I can get my hands on.  it’s been really hard to narrow the list down and I’ve had to miss out a few favourites, but here are my top five.

5.  Voritgern’s tower.  According to local legend, King Vortigern had a tower in north Wales that kept collapsing.  The young Merlin told him why, and went on to mutter prophesies.  The story is set in the Gwynant Valley on Snowdon’s southern flank.  It’s a stunning place I know and love.   I hinted at this story in ‘The Doe and The Dragon’.

4.  Irish Invasion Myths.  Stories of the five migratory invasions of Ireland by peoples as varied as the hideous Fomorians, the mortal Milesians, the fairy-like Duatha De Dannan (Dana’s Tribe).  Dana’s people play a key role in my forthcoming Wild Child Publishing novella, ‘Dana’s Children’.

3.  The Ulster Cycle.  Stories set around the court of King Conchobar mac Nessa, although the ‘star’ is the Irish hero Cu Chulainn (the ‘Hound of Ulster’).  Cu’s adventures are a great read, and make him rounded by dealing with aspects such as his birth and love life as well as his prowess in war.  My favourite modern retelling is Morgan Llywelyn’s ‘On Raven’s Wing’.

2.  King Arthur needs no introduction.  I love the time and pace (post-Roman Britain) as much as the specifically Arthurian stories.  Much has, of course, been made of Arthur by medieval and later romantics, but I much prefer the earlier history and stories which retain their Dark Age feel, even if Arthur plays more of a shadowy background role.

1.  Math, Son of Mathonwy.  This stunning story is from a collection of Welsh stories known as the Mabinogion.  The unpromising premise is of a king who will die unless his foot is placed in the lap of a maiden.  Beneath that lies a story with many layers; war, power, love, rivalry, and betrayal to name just a few.  This tale has it all, and is not only my favourite Celtic story, it’s my favourite story of all time.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Pull of the Celts

Looking back at my list of titles a few days ago, it hit my just how much of my work relies on the Celts.  Most of my seven novels or novellas have Celtic links, even if they’re not set in the period.

And I’m not the only one.  The bookshelves are full of stories set in the Celtic past.  I’ve never done a comparison of periods, but I’d bet the period is one of the most popular settings for historical fiction.


First, I’ll stress that I don’t see Celtic Britain as a bygone ‘Golden Age’, like some medieval romantics (or, dare I say it, modern authors).  Life must have been unbearably hard, with harsh winters, famine, brutal lords, raids, and the like.  I wouldn’t mind visiting the past for a day or so to have a look around, but I have no wish to stay there!

I can’t speak for other writers, but I can outline the reasons I choose Celtic settings.

  • I know the period.  I was fortunate to study the Dark Age Celts for my degree.  I already loved the time, with its icons like Arthur, Vortigern and Boudicca, and the sites hidden away in dramatic places, but the degree gave me a bit more understanding of the context.  That, in turn, has given me the confidence to write about the Celts.
  • Celtic lore lends itself almost perfectly to the fantasy horror I write.  In fact, it might even be the horror/fantasy that originally drove me toward the Celts, instead of the other way round.  Celtic myth has a gentle quality not found in a lot of other traditions, and even as a child I loved Celtic myths more then those from other peoples.
  • Traditionally Celtic countries haver an atmosphere different to the Middle England I was bought up in.  There is something about Wales, Scotland and Ireland missing from much of England.  I’ve lived in north Wales, and immediately fell in love with it.
  • Art.  I’ve been transfixed by some of the jewellery I’ve seen in the British Museum and the National Museum Cardiff.  Work from the Early Christian period is often simply beautiful.  I find it staggering how craftsmen could produce something that intricate well over a thousand years ago.  The same can be said for manuscripts produced my monks in the Christian period; even after this time the originals – and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some – retain their beauty.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


I’ve always been a bit dubious about getting involved with Pinterest, at least from a writing perspective.  I’ve got nothing against the site, and I think somewhere to pin pictures is a good idea.

My initial reservation was about time; whether I would be able to make it worthwhile alongside all the other social media writers are expected to use.  Having played around with the site, I don’t think that’s an issue with Pinterest.  Most social media demands regular status updates.  Pinterest doesn’t once the initial uploads are there.

My next reservation was whether I would find it useful – or perhaps more importantly, whether readers would gain anything from it.

Anyway, Pinterest may or may not be helpful, but I’ve decided to take the plunge regardless.  Here’s a link to my boards:

So, what am I using Pinterest for?  How can pictures help a writer?

Well, the obvious is to have a ‘board’ (folder) for my book covers.  I’ve already put one together, here.

I have a board for each of my books, too (or, at least, that’s the long-term plan.  At the moment there are only boards for a few of them):


The Doe and the Dragon

Dana’s Children

Each board contains pictures of my settings.  I often write historical novels, and pictures of the archaeology or of the sometimes obscure locations (particularly my favourite, remote north Wales) can, I hope, give readers an idea of what the places look like.  Photos of roundhouses, for example, can show where and how the Celts appearing in many of my stories, lived.  In short, I hope pictures on my boards will help readers get inside my imagination.

A lot of writers also use Pinterest to give readers pictures of their characters.  These are often photographs of people – film stars, models etc – who look like how authors imagine their characters appearing.  I do that for my own purposes – I’ve have various pictures on my computer, and I think it’s amazing how something minor in a picture – a mole, or the shape of glasses, or a hairstyle – can give me ideas to put in a story.  However, as a lot of my characters meet grizzly ends I don’t feel comfortable sharing pictures of real people I’m inflicting pain and suffering on, so my Pinterest boards don’t include characters.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Snuff’s Publisher: Damnation Books

Snuff’s contracts have been signed and exchanged, so I can now announce that the novel’s publishers will be…

Damnation Books

I’ve been with Damnation Books before; they published ‘The Torridon Witches’ last year and I’m delighted to continue.

Damnation’s sister publisher, Eternal Press, published two of my other works, ‘The Wood’ and ‘The Shoot’, a few years back.

A big thank you to Kim and her colleagues at Damnation for taking on yet another Richardson!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Acceptance – ‘Snuff’

I’m delighted to announce another novel acceptance!

‘Snuff’ is a story of two archaeologists: Shauna and Tessa are kidnapped and forced to take part in fights to the death for a paying audience. 

Although the story is violent – given the subject matter it has to be to work – I tried very hard to make it a plotted novel about a struggle to survive and overcome impossible odds, rather than simply ‘splatter’.

As usual, I’ll refrain from naming the publisher until contracts are signed.  However, it’s a house I’ve worked with before and I’m very happy to be with again, so I don’t foresee any problems.

‘Snuff’ is actually a story I wrote several years ago, but it’s taken me a long time and three or four rewrites to get it to the tone I wanted.

Many thanks to Philip McCormac, who as usual read an early draft.  Several of his suggestions appear in the revised version.

And now, the editing process begins.  That’ll keep me quiet for a while!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Andrew’s Publishers

I’ve been very fortunate to have been taken on by a variety of publishers.  I’m occasionally asked why I don’t stick to one house: the answer is easy; I write various genres and lengths.  A publisher happily accepting one of my books won’t necessarily be interested in the next.

The upside to multiple publishers is getting to see how different houses works.  It’s also given me an excuse to read some great books and and meet a lot of gifted authors.  A full list of my publishers is below.

Wild Child Publishing.  Publishers of my forthcoming ‘Dana’s Children’.  Wild Child publish books in a variety of genres.

Picnic, fire, peopleDamnation Books.  Published ‘The Torridon Witches’ a few months ago.  Damnation is the dark fiction arm of Eternal Press, which published ‘The Wood’ and ‘The Shoot’.  As well as horror, Damnation publishes dark fantasy, paranormal, thrillers and dark-themed erotica. 

Art Class Small

Keith Publications.  Publish every sort of genre fiction I can think of including ‘Art Class’, my erotic novelette.  I’ve got to know some fellow writers, editors and the like.  They’re a friendly bunch and a publisher I enjoy being with.  And the books are good too!

Well Small

eTreasures Publishing.  Published ‘The Well’ a couple of years ago.  Another publisher of multiple genres.  The publisher was a pleasure to work with; the editing, cover art and publication all went very smoothly.


Doe Dragon Small

Rogue Phoenix Press.  Published my historical fantasy, ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.  I was impressed by the thorough editing, particularly checking almost every detail for historical accuracy.  That made for a better story, and gave me more confidence in the novel.


Shoot SmallWood Small

Eternal Press.  Published ‘The Wood’, and then its prequel, ‘The Shoot’.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with the publisher.  There is a particularly supportive community or authors, readers and staff.  And good books!

Blade SmallDark Realm Press.  Sadly the publisher is no longer with us, but closed down respectfully and formally reverted all rights to their authors.  I remain grateful to Anne for giving me a break by publishing a first novel – and for telling me I’m a good author to work with!  Published ‘Andraste’s Blade’.

So, if you’re looking for something to read, why not give these a look?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Top Five Films

Like most horror buffs, I’ve been watching genre films since I was old enough.  My favourites have always had a simple plot, and been a blend of supernatural horror and fantasy.

So, which are my favourites, and why?  Here they are, in reverse order:

5.  The Amityville Horror.  I think this was the first horror film I saw at a cinema.  It’s about a family who move into a house where murders took place a year earlier.  It was released in 1979; by modern standards the plot is cliché and the effects out dated, but at the time I loved it.  I haven’t watched it since, but it’s a film I have a soft spot for.

4.  Highlander.  Okay, it’s not horror, but the film does have some dark elements and themes.  One of these is the need to chop heads off your enemies, which is defiantly a horror plot.  And any film set in the stunning Scottish highlands, and has Queen providing the soundtrack, can’t go far wrong - even if the story is, quite frankly, daft.

3.  Saw.  A lot of extreme horror is sparsely plotted and little more than an attempt to be more brutal and shocking than the previous slasher.  The Saw films are different in that they have theme, subtly and plot.  They manage to be cleverer than most and had me wondering what’ll happen next, rather than simply going onto another horrific death.  The series lost its way a little part way through, but overall I think it’s by far the best of its type.

2.  Predator.  This is a story about a group of soldiers fighting something invisible yet nasty in the central American jungle.  They are picked off one by one until only one survives to fight the ‘predator’.  We don’t see the monster until late in the film which I think ups the suspense in a brilliant example of the technique of not letting the audience see the ‘thing of evil’ until as late as possible.

1. Alien.  Perhaps the best known sci-fi horror.  A brilliant film about something nasty aboard a spaceship many years in the future.  The image of Ripley and the alien is one of those that stays with you long after the end credits.  Later films in the franchise lost a little because by then we knew what Ripley was up against, despite writers upping the ante – but that shouldn’t take anything away from the first in the series.

There are some classics missing from my list; nothing my Stephen King, for example.  I’ve seen several films based on his books (‘The Dead Zone’; ‘Carrie’; ‘The Shining’; Christine’, etc) and enjoyed them, but I think my choice says something about the sort of plot I like rather than anything about a film or writer’s quality.  I like watching (and writing) simple, ‘in yer face’ linear shockers rather than subtle or psychological horror, and those sort of films give me most pleasure.