The River Singers — a classic in the making

river singersOne of the really wonderful things about living in the UK is the quality of radio broadcasting. I am lucky enough to have DAB radio  in the car. And since I spend a lot of time commuting to and from places of work, I get to listen a lot. I have broad tastes, but I tend to default to the comedy and drama station of Radio 4Extra which is full of gems. But one of the success stories that does not involve reruns of classic comedy series is a magazine show for children called The 4 O’clock show. In addition to interviews and music and discussions about books and films, they serialize a story. This is usually at the end of the hour and I occasionally catch the last few minutes of one of these. This last week it was Tom Moorhouse’s tale of water voles, The River Singers. And what lifted this one into the stratosphere, apart from the pace and excitement, was the reading by Shirley Henderson (you will know her as Moaning Myrtle from the HP films). Her vocalization of the animals was masterful in a soft Scottish accent.     I took the opportunity of listening to all five episodes and it was well worth it.  A great story for children. I’m not sure how easy it will be for anyone to listen from across the pond, but if you can, give it a whirl. You will not regret it. This is the first of 3 books. I wonder if they’ll be able to persuade Shirley Henderson to do the audio book.

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The fishingboatbobbing sea: Under Milk Wood at the Swansea Grand

UMW2To be honest, I’d rather be writing than blogging. I have no interest in sharing with the world the minutiae of my day and, like a lot of people, find a blog a bit of a nuisance. I still remember the old days when the only way you could communicate with anyone was through a letter. Yes, it’s true! before instant messaging and emails and whatsapp, it was either the telephone or a sheet of paper and a pen, preferably with a plastic tip that you could chew whilst mulling over the words, and the unspoken hope that the top didn’t leak and leave you with a lip the colour of a ripe blueberry.
And, as a college student, it used to be a bit of a chore to think up things to say even though this was a communication to those nearest and dearest to you–you mother or brother or sister, not a meandering thought bubble to the rest of the world.

These days, the idea of having to do something as primitive is frankly laughable in an age where you can Facebook your cat from the top of a mountain. If you google ‘why I don’t blog anymore’ you’ll find, ironically,  a slew of blogs on that very subject (i.e. why they don’t blog,  not why their facebooking a cat from the top of a mountain). Most of them have the same theme. A dawning realisation that the need to share every little thing with the world is a little pointless, takes time, and is usually immeasurably tedious for anyone other than the writer. It may be self serving, it may be unappealing, it may be simply pointless. So, unless I have a point, I am going to limit posts to thing of import in the context of this website.

So what is it, Rhys, that you have to say?

Well, last night I was taken, rather reluctantly, to a stage performance of Under Milk Wood in The Swansea Grand, a home town staged performance of  Dylan Thomas’ play for radio by Theatre Clwyd. I am not a great fan of theatre and this, of course, was written as a play for voices, ostensibly to be performed on the radio. But it is Thomas’ centenary year and this was an all Welsh production with authentic, homegrown accents. And so I went, and have to say, I enjoyed it. The ‘action’ of the cast is limited to augmenting the verbal badinage because the narrative is nothing more than a montage of snapshots as we revisit the lecherous, frustrated, plotting, pious drunks and gossips and feckless fishermen as they exist for twenty four hours in a dazzling, star-skinned soup of words. Yes, you could watch this play with your eyes closed if you wanted to, because it is the prose and poetry that seduces. And yet, to do so, diminishes the skill and style of this performance delivered with  tenderness and paradoxical bursts of gusto. As Kenneth Tynon said in 1956 when the naysayers insisted that this was a work, like the antithesis of childhood, that should be heard and not seen; do they, I wonder, go blindfold to symphony concerts?

It will embark on a world tour and America beckons. if you get a chance, see it because it resonates with love and despair, tragedy,  religion and humour and is what, I think, Thomas surely wanted his play to be.

And as for me and my own literary efforts, The Beast of Seabourne, number 2 in the Artefact series is almost at the printers for an October release. And the amazing Lisa Amowitz has designed another stunning cover. So, next time I post it will be to show the world this wonderful cover.
So, watch this space….

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Gimme 5.

Did I set out to write a five book series? The answer to that is no, I started out with the kernel of an idea, which was; was what if a kid found something left to him by his father that would change his life. And what if that thing had to be kept a secret to stop it from getting into the hands of people who would want to use it to do harm.five
Pretty generic as what-ifs go. But I knew as soon as this little idea for the Artefact quintet crystallized, that it had scope for lots of conflict with family, friends and authority. As I developed the story, I realised that to tell it properly would either need one book 700 pages long, or maybe four or five books in digestible,  140 page wedges.  Since I’m writing for middle grade–10 and up, that seemed to be by far the most sensible approach.

The Artefact series is, in fact one long serialised story with a beginning on page 1 of book one and an ending on the last page of book five. This is not the same as a series whereby the same characters are retained in each book/story, but each episode is a complete and different story. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books are a serial. Enid Blyton’s famous five books were series. Of course, in a 5 book serial, the trick is also to make each book more or less a stand alone story as well. It is not absolutely essential that anyone has read book one to read book two or three, but the hope is that reading any one will drive the reader to the others. And here one has has to balance the need to bring the reader up to speed in each book against boring repetition. It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off.

I knew, too that this would be an SF/fantasy. The mission statement on my website is culled from Arthur C Clarke. Magic is simply our inability to understand technology and that, I would suggest,  pretty much explains the wonder of every episode of Dr Who. But I wanted to build a world that was real and yet subtly different. I wanted it to be set in the here and now and full of all the stuff that kids do like video games, texting and all the other distractions that drive everyone mad so that it would be identifiable. I knew that a chunk of 10-14 year olds  reality is school and so, school had to play a big part. But I also needed somewhere for the really good stuff to happen and so I had my protagonist live in a supposedly ‘haunted house’. This way I could begin to meld the supernatural with SF and fantasy. Has it worked? You tell me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent a lot of time working out how this would all end having established my premise. I felt that I needed to know the ending thoroughly before I launched into the writing and this is what I spent a lot of time doing. And I mean a lot of time. It is now six or seven years since I began this little adventure. Was it hard to pretend to be 11, 12 and 13 again? No, I don’t think so. The difference between adult books and children’s books, quite apart from the obvious, is the psychological reaction of the protagonist. I found it quite liberating not to have to think too much about adult themes.

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You can’t even give it away.

Today, I read about a chap in Minnesota who got arrested for throwing $1000 onto a bah humshopping Mall crowd from the 4th floor of a mall. This is possibly the winner of the ‘most ironic story of the year competition’. Why?
1/He did it while a choir sang let it snow
2/He’d just got divorced and lost his business.
3/ He’d invited his wife to the mall to see this stunt in the hope of getting his cat back.
4/ In the spirit of hopeless optimism, he felt that giving all this away might mean that he’d get it back in a ‘What goes around, comes around’ sort of way.
5/ He got arrested for his trouble. “It could have caused a  serious situation”, said the authorities.
Yes, like people actually leaving a Mall with more money than they came in with!
Watch it HERE.
So to celebrate a great idea having had scorn poured all over it, the good people at standoutbooks are giving away copies of The Obsidian Pebble and a £25/$40 dollar Amazon voucher in defiance of the authorities.

YAY. Go on–before they’re all gone–or I get arrested.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wonders of the Invisible World – Review

 

WOIWI enjoyed this very much. These short stories are full of tenderness and a descriptive, lyrical beauty, and the themes explored were often similar, but intriguing and beguiling. I am now a fan.

The stand out story for me was Byndley and Knight of the Well a close second. Little fixes, like stepping through a door into another existence. perfect for short journeys or bedtime reading.

Great stockign filler for Christmas for those with a taste for fantasy.

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Goodreads Autographed Giveaway for UK readers

We did run a giveaway for US readers in October and I will be giving everyone a chance to win more autographed books in December Worldwide. But for now, since the UK lost out on the last one, this is just for them.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A. Jones

The Obsidian Pebble

by Rhys A. Jones

Giveaway ends November 20, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Enjoy!

Rhys A. Jones

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Dog loves book.

Here’s Betsi recuperating after paw surgery–pink bandages, go figure.

Nice cover!

Nice cover!

Got my author copies of The Obsidian pebble with its awesome cover and showed it to Betsi. She was hooked. You will notice the jaunty soft collar she’s wearing to stop her getting at the dressings. So much better than the hard plastic cones we get from the vet. She looks like a black dahlia.

She loved the book. Well loves the fact that its a new smell, and that I told her that if she reads it she’d get a treat. Hang on, isn’t that what my mother did with me?

She’s a tough nut, is Betsi. We rescued her and she had to fend for herself quite a lot before moving in with us. But being a squirrecidal maniac, she’d ripped both dew claws and had to have them sorted out. She’s almost back to circular tail wagging normality–and for those of you who don’t know what that is–see here. Don’t say there’s nothing educational about my posts!

So, the book is out and here at last. Now on to the next one.The Beast Of Seabourne, next October…

 

 

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The Obsidian Pebble (relaunch)

I am going to be undertaking a blog tour as part of the relaunch of the Obsidian Pebble on 29th October as a freshly edited and freshly covered book.
OP 3d coverThis is my first blog tour so I have no idea what to expect. There will be some reviews and posts and hopefully a few comments.

Oh, and there is a new trailer to go with it, which we will launch on the release date. There are some great illustrations to go with the video by a very talented artist called Gary McCluskey, who has done a great job of interpreting my imaginings. It also features a voice-over by me, so that will be worth a laugh at least.

If you have time, pay these nice people a visit. I will post live links when they happen.
Here are the tour dates and venues. And thanks to Christin at SHP for setting this up. I will do my best.

Oct. 28  Darbykarchut.blogspot
Oct. 29  Once Upon a Twilight
Oct. 30  The Cover Contessa
Oct. 31  Page Turners Blog
Nov. 1   Books Complete Me
Nov. 4  Cari’s Book Blog
Nov. 5   Novel Thoughts
Nov. 6   Mundie Moms
Nov. 7   Wastepaper Prose
Nov. 8   Portrait of a Book

Looking forward to it!

Rhys

 

 

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Edinburgh in August

EdinIn August, we travel up to Edinburgh for our fix of the Fringe and the Book Festival.
The fringe is manic and sprawling. The Book Festival is genteel and small and intimate, an escape from the mayhem of its big pop-culture brother. Of course, the one benefits from the other and the Book Festival’s location, at the bottom end of George Street in the heart of the city is a Godsend at a time when you can measure your daily footfall in terms of miles. Anyone who’s rushed from The stand to Pleasance Courtyard with only half an hour between shows will attest to that.
So wandering around the duckboards surrounding the tiny green space that forms the nub of  the Book Festival, or enjoying a glass of chilled white in one of the many deckchairs,  can be welcome respites from the packed venues elsewhere in the city.
Of course you should not really do one without the other and yet so many people do, often experiencing the Fringe with no knowledge that the Festival runs concurrently. I usually end up there on the last week-end of both and I quite enjoy the end of run feel that the August bank holiday gives to everything. There’s something poignant about it. Like watching the last episode of a favourite, long running TV series. Quite often I can do without the padding of the interminable central twenty episodes. Give me the vibrant first five and the last two and I’m usually happy.
It’s a happiness shared on the tired faces of the Fringe and festival employees, too. A month’s worth of pandering to dumb tourists who cant read a map, or doling out industrial lager from a hundred pop-up bars has been, for many, not the pizzaz laden fun-fest they were led to believe it was going to be. Last minute September weeks in Spain or Greece beckon before a return to University or the dreaded job hunt begins for a workforce made up largely of students.
But besides all of this, or rather despite it,  there is the city itself. Old and dark, full of buildings that wear their solidity like a shield,  I have yet to rent a flat there that isn’t on the top floor of a tenement. There are modern buildings, but frankly I think I’d feel a bit cheated if I ended up in one of those. With 5000 listed buildings, architectural heritage looms around every corner and  looks down at you from every hilltop. It’s been an inspiration for lots of great authors, From Irvine Welsh to Robert Louis Stevenson, and yes, even Rhys A Jones.
You’d think that after experiencing it firstly as a young medic, stuttering in front of the examiners in the magnificence of Surgeon’s Hall I’d have been put off. But something pulls me back there every year. I’m not a city dweller, but if I had to chose, this is where I’d want to be. Under all too often grey skies,  the haah seeping into my bones, but with the heart of great city beating beneath my feet.

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Flash Fiction—The Clavers

I contribute to a blog where a few of us have new releases in 2013. One of the challenges was to write a piece of flash-fiction based on the first noun in the first sentence of a book you’ve read.  It was a challenge–not something I’ve done much of since the novel is my chosen poison. But it made me think about the  short story. I am a fan–MR James, Conan Doyle to name but 2 who gave us bite sized thrills. Of course, when you start digging, you find all sorts.

http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/flashwhat.html

http://www.creativetimes.co.uk/articles/the-short-story-gets-flash

Some people do this in 500 words, some 1000.  My piece here is 1200. I enjoyed writing it. Hope you do to. It’s more YA than kids–but nothing to get worried about.

The book: Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. The noun—cigarette. Apologies for the length. I got a bit carried away.
CLAVERS

It’d been raining for three weeks solid in London with humidity off the scale. I yearned for somewhere cool, like Reykjavik. Anything was better than sub tropical Britain. They flagged the body when they were  excavating the old cross link tunnel under Baker Street, prepping for the Tesler line. The sonic drill hit a pocket of air and did an auto shut down.Three red lights on the bioscan automatically triggered a scavenger team. They were expecting at worst a python, or a croc that had maybe died of old age or choked on one the megarats that roamed the sewers and were now the size of spaniels. What they  didn’t bargain for was Gavin Bentley, which was the name the corpse had on his ID tags.
Old Gav was remarkably well preserved. Something to do with cool air and the chemicals seeping down from when the army started using the tube stations as arsenals, according to the construction foreman.
“We’ve found a few like this”, he said, like he was some kind of an expert.
There was an old station sign above us. I saw the bloke eyeing it. I was waiting for  him to say something smart like, ‘elementary, my dear sergeant’. If he had, I’d have tasered the git.

There was more than enough flesh on old Gav for tissue sampling. But his face was all twisted, as if he’d died in agony. After ten minutes, the robomedic beeped and burped up the analysis. When I saw the tox report, I knew this was something really weird. I read the list off to  Bannister, my sour faced partner. Like me, he’d been around the block at least a dozen times, with worn out heels on his shoes to prove it.
“There’s cadmium, stearic acid, hexane, toluene, methanol, carbon monoxide, arsenic and ammonia, oh and an insecticide as well as other stuff. Someone hit this bloke with a poison scatter gun.”
“Look at his clothes,” Bannister said. “Either he’s a retro-freak or he’s got a time machine.”
The guy was wearing jeans that looked like real denim, and cowboy boots that were real leather.
“If he’s genuine, then he’s loaded,” I said. “But someone must have dumped him here.” I went over and called up the duty forensic via the robomedics screen link.
Be just my luck if it was Horvath.
It was.
She was sitting  at home with a glass of wine in one hand and her phone in the other. She saw me and her mouth made the shape of a smile while the rest of her stayed arctic. It was a war and peace smile; loaded with history.
Hers and mine.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said. If her voice was any cooler I’d have got frostbite. “Pulled the late shift again,I see.”
She zoomed out the camera so I could see all of her, not just her face.
But I wanted this to be civil. We’d already spilled enough emotional blood to fill an angst reservoir.
I dived straight in.
“You’ve seen the prelim? Is this ritualistic?”
“You’ve been reading too many novels,” she said.
“Come on, be straight. There’re some clean sheets on my bed and they miss me.”
“Lucky them.”
I ignored her. Sarcasm didn’t float my boat at the best of times.It definitely didn’t at this hour.
“Wait for the insecticide breakdown,” she ordered.
We both looked at the screen, so we didn’t have to look at each other, and watched the little peaks and troughs of the readout develop.
“Tell me what it says,” she said, like she was talking to a four year old. I didn’t like the glint in her eye. She knew she was  pushing my buttons.
I read the word on the screen. “Nicotine.”She let out a  snort. “Alkaloid. Pretty lethal combination. Sounds suspicious.”
“So I write it up as murder?”
“What choice do you have? He’s hardly likely to have ingested all that voluntarily.”
“Doesn’t sound like a good way to go,” I said.
She shrugged. She’d seen worse. So had I.
We stared at each other. The silence was like treacle.
“So, you coming over, or what?”  She swirled her wine. “Greenland’s finest sauvignon…”
I was tired. The last thing I wanted was another fight. But she wasn’t dressed for fighting. Far from it.
When I didn’t reply, she said, “Know what an olive is?”
I nodded.
“Know what a branch is?”
I nodded again.
“Want me to draw you a picture?”
I shrugged. It was one of my better moves.  “Give me half an hour to put Gav to bed,” I said.
Horvath smiled properly for the first time. In my imagination, I heard ice cracking. “Make it twenty minutes,” she said.
But that was before we frisked the corpse and found the thing that he’d hidden away  in his pocket. White cardboard oblong, 9 cms by 5, 2 cms thick. It had torn cellophane around it and a stark warning emblazoned across the front. SMOKING KILLS.  Inside was a white cylinder with a brown end. The cylinder was filled with brown organic material that looked like a shredded leaf. Next to it was a  black oblong with a silver stub.  3 cms by 2 of black plastic that smelled weird.
Later, much later,  Horvath would explain to me that the smell came from the leaf inside the white cylinder. Something called tobacco, a plant that grew wild in the americas. We worked out from the packaging that the cylinder stuffed with leaf was called a ‘cigarette’. But that was way after we’d unscrambled the files on Gav’s oblong memstick and the world, or at least my corner of it, went supernova.
It was nothing more than a video journal of Gav’s last couple of days.  In it we saw him putting white cylinders like the one from the box between his lips, lighting them and inhaling.
So we were wrong about the murder.
It was pretty obvious that Gav had committed suicide. Horvath renamed the cigarette a euthanasia stick.
But even that became a side issue. Everywhere Gav went on the video were signs for London this and London that, London transport, London bridge… But wherever the hell Gav had been, it was not a London I, or anyone I knew, had seen in this century or the last.
Suicide Gav was either a genius film maker, or, as Horvath so nicely put it, “a card carrying doppelganger from another dimension.”
Either way, I ended up pulling a barrow load of overtime because they gave me the case and a three man team to get it sorted. They even gave us a stupid name—The Plague Squad. Because that’s what we called them, the ones that slipped through from the other side like Gav had done—plaguers. But we didn’t want them. Not them nor their filthy cigarettes and diseases. They were vermin and I became the chief rat catcher.
Until, that is, the day I slid through to their side and I met Jimmy Picton and his sister Rhiannon.
At first, I thought that they were just stroppy kids in their mid teens living rough to escape rsponsibility, but that was like saying Krakatoa is just another mountain.
The Pictons were clavers, doorkeepers to you and me. But they’d left the door open and now they were in trouble because someone had stolen the keys. And guess who it was that madam fate had chosen as finder?
Yeah, me, muggins Jones of the metropolice. Hey, but that’s a whole other story…

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