Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I like a nice castle - Caerphilly


Caerphilly castle is practically right on my doorstep and it's one of the most impressive castles in Britain - the largest in Wales and the second largest in the UK after Windsor.

      Built by Gilbert de Clare in 1268 to stop Llewelun ap Gruffudd's southward ambitions, it is an early example of a concentric castle with extensive water defences. Today it provides the backdrop for festivals and concerts, film sets and carnivals. It is said to be haunted and like so many ancient buildings a series of myths, legends and folklore surrounds it.

     Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a goblin called the Green Lady of Caerphilly. She wears a green robe, and has the power to turn herself into ivy and mingle with the ivy growing on the wall. This apparition used to warn the de Clare family about an eminent death. Now, though the castle is in ruins, the ghost is still seen.

     Another story is that the ghost is the spirit of Alice de la Marche, who was the niece of Henry II and the wife of Gilbert de Clare. Alice was beautiful, with dark hair and dark eyes. She was also flirtatious and provocative.

     The myth is that Alice fell in love with a knight called Gruffydd the Fair, and they became lovers. A monk supposedly reported the affair to Gilbert, who ordered his wife to leave for France, and sent his men to track down Gruffydd and kill him. When Gruffyd heard of the monk's betrayal, he hung the monk from a tree at a place known today as Ystrad Mychach (Monks Vale).  Gilbert's men caught up with Gruffydd and he too, was hanged.

     When Alice learned of Gruffydd's death it is said she died of a broken heart, and since then her spirit has wandered the castle mourning her lover. She is known as 'The Green Lady', perhaps because of the ivy which grows on the castle walls, or because green signifies Gilbert's envy. 

And maybe I will weave a story around this piece of Welsh folklore, one day...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

New cover for State of Grace

And not only for State of Grace - the other two books in the Resurrection series have been treated to new covers too. But the hunky man on the original stays the same. I couldn't possibly have gotten rid of him!

And I've got the lovely Annme Spiby to thank for the new jackets. What a fantastic lady! She also did this flyer.

(Shh, don't tell anyone, but there is a reason for the facelift. So many readers have contacted me asking if there will be another novel in the series. I hadn't planned on it - I honestly thought my work here was done - but then I got to thinking, and...  Anyway, it won't be this year because I'm half way through another paranormal romance but Grace and Roman may well make a reappearance next year.)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Cover change - opinions needed

I'm planning on changing the background to my novel, State of Grace. It's part of a trilogy and I use the same model in each, so I don't want to get rid of him (anyway, he's HOT!!), but the current background is boring. Really boring.
It's a paranormal romance, and the guy on the cover is a vampire. Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated. Please bear in mind that these are just ideas, and the finished product will be done professionally. The first picture - the one with the plain brown background is the one I'm using at the moment.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Recipe for Welsh Cawl (lamb stew)

Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew and depending on your location in Wales, cawl will be made in many ways.  If you are inland or up in the hills you will get served lamb or mutton cawl where as on the coast you will get seafood cawl. Here is a recipe for a traditional lamb cawl.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 6 x small lamb shanks (Welsh lamb if you can get it)
  • 1.2L/2pts water
  • 225g/8oz potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz swede, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz onion, peeled and chopped
  • 225g/8oz carrots, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz leek, cleaned and sliced thin
  • A bunch of herbs: Bay, thyme, rosemary and parsley
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper


Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan, season the lamb shanks add to the pan together with the onion and brown all over (you may have to do this in batches if your pan is not large enough. Pour over the water and add the bunch of herbs. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. Add all the vegetables, bring up to the boil again, reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 40 minutes, then serve with fresh crusty bread.
During cooking the stock will reduce somewhat, so top up with more water, or some wine. You may also wish to add pulses such as lentils, or beans, pearl barley is also good during the winter months.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Welsh folk tales - Gelert

Prince Llywelyn of Gwynedd's favourite dog is Gelert, a fearless hunting dog and loyal friend and companion who was said to have been a gift from King John of England.

Llywelyn leaves his baby son with a nurse and a servant while he embarks on a hunting trip with his wife. The nurse and the servant go for a walk in the mountains leaving the baby alone and unprotected. After a while Llywelyn notices that Gelert isn't with the hunting pack. Reasoning that the only place Gelert would go is back to the lodge, he calls off the hunt and heads back home.
As the party is dismounting, Gelert comes running out of the lodge towards his master, covered in blood and wagging his tail. The princess, calling her child's name, faints. Llewelyn rushes in to find the cradle overturned, the bloodstained bedclothes thrown all over the floor, and no sign of his son.
Filled with anger and grief he draws his sword against the dog. As Gelert dies, he whimpers and his cries are answered by the sound of a baby crying from behind the overturned cradle. Llewelyn pulls aside the cradle to find his son unharmed and the bloody body of a huge wolf next to him. Gelert had killed the wolf as it tried to attack Llewelyn's son.
From that day onwards Llewelyn never speaks again. Filled with remorse, he buries Gelert in a meadow nearby and marks the grave with a cairn of stones, though he could still hear its dying cries.
The village of Beddgelert (Gelert's grave) in North West Wales is thought to owe its name to the legend, although there is no evidence of the story having a historical basis.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Too many cooks...

You know the rest!

My first four novels were written straight from the heart, with no real reflection involved until they came back from my beta readers. Hell, I didn't even know what a beta reader was when I wrote my first one (and second), so I had hardly any input from anyone until my little darlings were ready to fly. I trusted my instincts and for the most part my betas were happy with what I produced.

Then I write my fifth novel, and just as I'm starting it I come across Scribophile. And what a fantastic group of writers they are! They've made me a better and more thoughtful writer, and I can't thank those of them who critiqued my rabid scribblings enough.

But now, like a child with the bike stabilisers removed, I need to let go and trust my instincts again. I'm starting to lose my way and my focus by trying to please everyone. I'm getting sucked into revisions of early chapters before I've gotten even half the book written. One person loves a particular scene, someone else has a constructive comment. Which is all well and good until yet a third person has a different comment about the same scene, and I end up chasing my tail trying to do the rewrites and it becomes a mish-mash of everyone else and nothing of me.

So what I'm saying is, join a writing circle, let others help you with the process, but don't lose sight of the bigger picture - your story.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Welsh National Anthem

The Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers), is amongst the finest anthems of the world and a song steeped in history. It was written by Evan James and his son James, two modest tradesmen living at Pontypridd in the mid nineteenth century. Every time I hear it I get goosebumps!

Here's a YouTube link if you want to listen to it...


And here are the words in Welsh if you want to sing along. English translations vary, but I quite like this one. And there's a phonetic version at the bottom of the page 

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr* tra mad,
Tros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur
I'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

2. Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd,
Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i'm golwg sydd hardd;
Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si
Ei nentydd, afonydd, i mi.


3. Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad dan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Gymry mor fyw ag erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

O land of my fathers, O land of my love,
Dear mother of minstrels who kindle and move,
And hero on hero, who at honour's proud call,
For freedom their lifeblood let fall.

Wales! Wales! O but my heart is with you!
And long as the sea
Your bulwark shall be,
To Cymru my heart shall be true.

2. O land of the mountains, the bard's paradise,
Whose precipice, valleys lone as the skies,
Green murmuring forest, far echoing flood
Fire the fancy and quicken the blood.


3. For tho' the fierce foeman has ravaged your realm,
The old speech of Cymru he cannot o'erwhelm,
Our passionate poets to silence command
Or banish the harp from your strand.


Having trouble getting your tonsils round the Welsh words? Try the phonetic version instead!

My hair-n wool-add ver n-had eye
Un ann-will ee me
Gool-ard buy-rth ah chant-or-yon
En-wog-yon oh vree
Eye goo-rol ruv-elle-weir
Gool-ard garr-weir trah-mahd
Tross ruh-thid coll-ass-ant eye gwide

Gool-ard, gool-ard
Ply-dee-ol oiv eem gool-ard
Trah more un veer eer bee-rr hore-ff buy
Oh buthed eer hen-yithe barr-high