Ceri Shaw


 

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Ani Glass Releases Debut Album MIRORES on 6th March 2020 via Recordiau Neb





ani_glass.jpg Ani Glass releases her new single  ‘Mirores ’ this new year ahead of her forthcoming album of the same name. With infectious harmonies and a pulsing dance floor beat, ‘Mirores’ depicts the journey from dark desperation to motivation and inspiration, showing how we quickly build barriers in reaction to experiences but often forget to lower them. The song represents the liberating feeling of opening up to the world; the alignment of ideas, motivation and energy and that rare but illuminating experience of feeling inspired.   

On 6th March 2020, Ani Glass's debut album MIRORES finally sees the light of day; the culmination of four years developing her own sound and visionary artistry. With its tapestry of electronic sounds, elliptical melodies and samples threaded into a song cycle, MIRORES is based around the idea of movement and progress - one which takes us on a journey around her hometown of Cardiff. The title is taken from Ani’s bardic name - created when she joined the Cornish Gorsedh in 2013. The Gorsedh itself is a celebration of the Celtic spirit of Cornwall and Bardship is awarded to people who contribute to its cultural and linguistic heritage. MIRORES is a play on words which incorporates the name of one of her favourite artists – Joan Miró – along with the Cornish word for “to look”, which is miras. Therefore, MIRORES essentially translates as ‘Observer’ thus presenting the album as Ani’s observation of the city in which she was born and now lives. 

MIRORES also represents Ani’s first foray into production. Having been inspired by her experience of working with  Martin Rushent  during her time as a member of indie-pop group  The Pipettes , Glass has spent the past few years teaching herself the art of recording and production. Her sound is inspired by many leading electronic and avant-garde artists and producers of the 1980s including  Martin Rushent, Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre  and  Arthur Russell  whilst the wider themes are inspired in part by the works of abstract painter  Agnes Martin  and the renowned author and activist Jane Jacobs. Despite some of the album’s heavier themes, Ani maintains a strong pop sensibility throughout, most certainly cemented during her time as a member of R&B pop group  Genie Queen  – managed by  OMD’ s Andy McCluskey.

Following a year of touring and playing at festivals across the UK and beyond including Sound City, Future Yard, Greenman, Sŵn, Focus Wales and POP Montreal (as part of the FOCUS Wales delegation with the support of PRSF and WAI) as well as supporting acts such as  Audiobooks  and  Stealing Sheep , Ani will be returning to her hometown of Cardiff and to towns across Wales for a series of very special performances.



Ani Glass MIRORES 2020 tour dates:

6th March - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

7th March - Railway Station, Caernarfon  

14th March - Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham 

21st March - Tangled Parrot, Carmarthen



Follow Ani Glass:

Website  Instagram  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  YouTube

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Ani Glass’ debut album released on 6th March 2020 via Recordiau Neb




ani_glass.jpg Ani Glass releases her new single ‘Mirores’ this new year ahead of her forthcoming album of the same name. With infectious harmonies and a pulsing dance floor beat, ‘Mirores’ depicts the journey from dark desperation to motivation and inspiration, showing how we quickly build barriers in reaction to experiences but often forget to lower them. The song represents the liberating feeling of opening up to the world; the alignment of ideas, motivation and energy and that rare but illuminating experience of feeling inspired. 

On 6th March 2020, Ani Glass's debut album MIRORES finally sees the light of day; the culmination of four years developing her own sound and visionary artistry. With its tapestry of electronic sounds, elliptical melodies and samples threaded into a song cycle, MIRORES is based around the idea of movement and progress - one which takes us on a journey around her hometown of Cardiff. The title is taken from Ani’s bardic name - created when she joined the Cornish Gorsedh in 2013. The Gorsedh itself is a celebration of the Celtic spirit of Cornwall and Bardship is awarded to people who contribute to its cultural and linguistic heritage. MIRORES is a play on words which incorporates the name of one of her favourite artists – Joan Miró – along with the Cornish word for “to look”, which is miras. Therefore, MIRORES essentially translates as ‘Observer’ thus presenting the album as Ani’s observation of the city in which she was born and now lives. 

MIRORES also represents Ani’s first foray into production. Having been inspired by her experience of working with Martin Rushent during her time as a member of indie-pop group The Pipettes, Glass has spent the past few years teaching herself the art of recording and production. Her sound is inspired by many leading electronic and avant-garde artists and producers of the 1980s including Martin Rushent, Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and Arthur Russell whilst the wider themes are inspired in part by the works of abstract painter Agnes Martin and the renowned author and activist Jane Jacobs. Despite some of the album’s heavier themes, Ani maintains a strong pop sensibility throughout, most certainly cemented during her time as a member of R&B pop group Genie Queen – managed by OMD’s Andy McCluskey.

Following a year of touring and playing at festivals across the UK and beyond including Sound City, Future Yard, Greenman, Sŵn, Focus Wales and POP Montreal (as part of the FOCUS Wales delegation with the support of PRSF and WAI) as well as supporting acts such as Audiobooks and Stealing Sheep, Ani will be returning to her hometown of Cardiff and to towns across Wales for a series of very special performances.


Ani Glass MIRORES 2020 tour dates:


6th March - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

7th March - Railway Station, Caernarfon  

14th March - Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham 

21st March - Tangled Parrot, Carmarthen

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C E L A V I  Web Image.jpg

C E L A V I   are an industrial/rock/electro band from Bangor, North Wales. The heavy guitar driven sound of their music is dramatically contrasted by Sarah’s soft and delicate voice which compliments their music and makes them stand out from the crowd.  

N O V U S   is   C E L A V I ’s  debut EP released on the MERAKI label and was recorded in the same studio as the mighty Parting Gift who are now signed to Fearless Records in California. 

N O V U S   was released on the 23 rd  August 2019 and is available on all digital platforms.

Are you ready for something different? Welcome to our goth world. 

Dark. Heavy. Strange. Beautiful.

Industrial. Rock. Electro. Metal. 


Socials

www.facebook.com/CelaviMusic

Twitter: @Celavi_Music

Instagram: @celavi_music 

Soundcloud:  www.soundcloud.com/wearecelavi

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AmeriCymru: You’re hosting an interactive, online Christmas Party from Snowdonia, what’s that going to be like? 

Sera: Above all else it's going to be fun. Fun for us and for people watching. It's unscripted and it's live, and it's a completely new venture for us - so it's also going to be a little scary (for us!) But the whole point is to try something new and see what happens. It will mostly be about music; lots of live music, videos, spoken word and chat. And one of the most important elements is that we want people at home to get involved by interacting via the live chat on the channel - people can comment, ask questions and send in content. It's also going to be bilingual, so music in Welsh and English and interviews with guests. As far as what we'd compare it to, then it's the Jools Holland show meets Wayne's World! On a budget.

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us about any of the performers yet?

Sera: We've announced Eve Goodman (acoustic/folk) The Stash (indie band) and Martin Daws (spoken word) so far, via these videos, which were a lot of fun to make:



Artists



Eve Goodman  

Martin Daws

The Stash [Censored Vesion]



The performers will all be North Wales based and from different genres. We'll be revealing some more acts over the next few days in the run up to the show on Wednesday! It will be presented by me (Sera) Llyr Jones (from band Pasta Hull) and Anna Lloyd (on the live chat on youtube)We're all performers too, but will probably stick to presenting on the night!

AmeriCymru: Have you done this event before and will you be continuing it or something like it in the future?

Sera: This is a real first for all of us who are involved! It's very scary going 'live' when you're trying a new idea. We have another one scheduled for February, so we hope to build from the first one and see what works and doesn't work and welcome people wanting to get involved. We were fortunate to receive financial help from from Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig and CEG for this pilot and to get the idea off the ground. We really want to keep it going but will need help in doing so. We need people to watch and support us in the venture. It's so important to us to share the local arts scene here with the rest of the world. It's such a special place here in Snowdonia and there is a thriving creative scene. This is the wonder of technology and a way in which it can be used to connect communities. 

AmeriCymru: What is CEG records and the Astralship?

Sera: CEG Records is the label arm of 'CEG' which is a non-profit we started up a few years ago - CEG, which is Welsh for 'mouth' is an abbreviation of 'Cerddoriaeth Eryri a'r Gogledd ' (The music of Snowdonia and North Wales)  - the aim was to represent and to find and create avenues for local music, by doing things like hosting stages as events and festivals to running community projects. You can have a look at the CEG Records roster here: http://www.cegrecords.com/ The Astralship  is a collective of artists and engineers that are developing models for new kinds of community and innovation hubs in arts and technology. So CEG and Atralship working together on this project made a lot of sense. We're trialing something new and exciting here. 

AmeriCymru: Where can people find out more about you, the event, and the artists and other people involved in making it happen?

Sera:

The Facebook event page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/580563315818670/?active_tab=discussion

Website:  https://www.cegrecords.com/ceg-tv

And most importantly where you can watch CEG TV: https://www.youtube.com/c/astralship

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Courteous_Thief.jpg

Courteous Thief returns with the mezmerising new single 'Mountians And Sea', a refreshingly beautiful indie-folk balled that will serve as a go-to alternative to the 'Christmas song'. 'Mountians And Sea' will be released via CEG Records on Friday 6th December 2019.


Described as both contemporary new folk and acoustic indie pop, Courteous Thief (aka Gary Roberts) has been a regular on the live circuit, supporting bands and artists such as Turin Brakes, Chris Helm, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Mark Morris (The Bluetones) and Tom Hingley (Inspiral Carpets) as well as festival appearances with performances at some of the UK's top venues and festivals.  

Accolades from past singles and releases has seen Courteous Thief being championed By BBC Radio Wales, achieving the coveted BBC Radio Wales Single Of The Week, BBC live sessions, interviews as well as hitting the airwaves on BBC 6 Music, BBC Introducing, BBC Gloucestershire and recently hitting the British Airways Playlist.  

2019 will see new release “A Bed For Me” released in June on welsh label “CEG Records, with more live dates and new tracks on the horizon for late 2019 and beyond.  “Melodiously mesmerizing, harmoniously vibrant and warmly atmospheric folk-pop finery” (Nessi Hault, Carpe Carmina)

Courteous Thief Online:

www.courteousthief.co.uk
Facebook.com/courteousthief
Twitter.com/courteousthief
Soundcloud.com/courteousthief
Instagram.com/courteousthief

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whererowansintertwinekindle1.jpg AmeriCymru: Margaret and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your historical novel Where Rowans Intertwine for our readers?

Margaret: Hmm!  Thank you Ceri.  Lovely to ‘be here’ in touch with people who love Wales as I do.  We are now retired to Lincolnshire, but I still have such a strong hiraeth for the beautiful land that nurtured me for 23 years.

Most teachers will know how frenetic full time teaching is and how time consuming.  However, although I had a delightful job running the kindergarten in a small school on Anglesey, I was in for a big shock. Chronic fatigue syndrome along with an exacerbated spinal injury ended my teaching career.  We’ve all heard the maxim, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ so, I decided to make the best of things and use my time usefully.  I began to research and write the novel I had always wanted to read.

For me the book needed to be historical, have some sort of magical quality, be spiritually nourishing and of course have an edgy romance.  It would have to answer unsettling questions about the sacred mountain where we lived when bringing up our children on the island of Anglesey.  I was severely disabled, but I needed a raison d’être and new focus.  I grasped the opportunity life afforded and, when I was bedbound, began painstaking research into the period of Romano Celtic history that followed the slaughter of the Druids on the shores of Anglesey (Mona) in North Wales 2000 years ago.

There was something so beautiful and mystical about the sacred mountain of Mynydd Llwydiarth where we lived; with a forest behind us and Snowdonia spread out at our feet.  (It is now a red squirrel sanctuary) When feeling well, I had often roamed the mountain forest behind our cottage and allowed the plants and earth beneath my feet to ‘speak to me’.  Ancient memories seemed to surface from the old rocks.  I became convinced that a Celtic priestess had lived on the site of our house around 2000 years ago.  Her story begged to be told.

When I was able to kneel, I began writing in short bursts, supporting myself on a kneeling stool.  With hands on Reiki healing and medical herbalism I began to regain some measure of strength.  I decided to train as a Reiki healer myself, so that I could manage to take away my own pain.  I found this so useful in gaining empathy with Ceridwen, the main character in the novel.  Like me, at the beginning of her story she is a novice healer.
 
As my health gradually improved, I was able to spend longer at the writing; but it took me twelve years. Then came the task of finding an agent and a publisher.  It was so frustrating.  Agents and publishers made encouraging noises, but nothing materialized, so I decided to go down the route of self-publishing.  It wasn’t a good idea for a technophobe like myself.  But, with the right support from friends and being able to find a brilliant professional formatter, it finally got published.  It took 24 years from start to finish, but it is now an ebook and is also available in a glossy paperback on Amazon sites.

If you want to know more about the story, here’s the blurb I wrote for Amazon:

‘After the death of her grandmother, young novice priestess and healer, Ceridwen, is faced with the daunting responsibility of ministering to her Celtic tribe at a time when spiritual leadership is most needed.  It is over two hundred years since Roman invaders attempted to annihilate the Druids on the shores of the island of Mona (Anglesey in North Wales).

Is now is the time for healing and forging a future from that hateful carnage?  Is her attraction to a Roman surgeon, Marcus, a weakness, or her destiny?  Dare she allow herself to be drawn into a relationship with him, now that she will be expected to mate at the sacred time of Beltane; and how can she steer her tribe away from its current chieftain, who usurps the nobility of Druid leadership in exchange for a reign of intimidation and terror? Their lives entwine and unfold in the setting of Mynydd Llwydiarth - the sacred mountain on the island of Mona.

Charged with passing the secrets and wisdom of her Druid training down the generations through the female line, she questions why she cannot conceive a girl child.  The true magic she comes to learn, as her life unfolds, is more about love and loyalty than ritual, more about justice than tribe.

Interpreted as an allegory of the era we live in, where there are clashes of both culture and ideals, we can empathise with the process; but, for both Ceridwen and Marcus it is an agonizing spiritual journey of self searching and response to their times.

‘Where Rowans Intertwine’ is an historical novel which will interest those who enjoy a mystical tale, a spiritual quest, and a dip into the past.  It will fascinate those interested in things Celtic, Roman or Pagan, and create an awakening to healing and life purpose.

More details can be found at www.margaretgrantauthor.wordpress.com

So far I’ve been lucky enough to have many five star reviews on all Amazon sites and Goodreads.  I’m now busy doing local book signings in Lincolnshire.  However, at Easter 2016 I managed a long awaited trip to North Wales to do book signings at Caernarfon Castle, The Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead, Oriel Môn, Llangefni and the Bulkeley Arms Hotel, Beaumaris.  It was a great opportunity to sell signed copies of the paperback and meet old friends and new.

AmeriCymru: Do you think that Druidic practices survived the Roman occupation of Ynys Mon? Do you think that more should have been done to preserve those ancient traditions?

Margaret: I met and interviewed people on Anglesey who claimed to have been descendants of Druids. They said that, as Druid teachings went underground during the Roman occupation, the practices of healing, prophesying and conducting the sacred rituals at the festival times fell to the women.  They claimed that the secret sacred teachings were passed down through the female line, emerging today in several formats such as medical herbalism, hands on healing as well as wiccan and pagan rituals.

It would seem to make sense. The Romans knew how politically influential the Druids were to the tribal chiefs and kings of the time.  Destroying their power base was crucial to Roman civilization.  To survive, Druid teachings had to go underground, but we can see echoes of it in Christian rituals at Christmas, Easter and Halloween.  We hear echoes in our folklore, songs and traditions.

The Romans were pragmatic and as long as the Brythonic tribes did not rise in rebellion, the occupied peoples were allowed their old festivals and traditions. As a result many outward forms of Druid practice get mixed up in how we celebrate traditionally today.

In the 18th century there was a fashionable revival and interest in Druidry.  When people started to take an interest in its spirituality during the 19th century we see traditions currently used in the cultural celebrations at national eisteddfodau beginning to be played out. These days the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – OBOD would claim they have more of a handle on the teachings and run training courses.  Here is a link to an overview of modern day Druidry.

https://www.druidry.org/druid-way/what-druidry/brief-history-druidry/history-modern-druidism

Christian institutions, from the medieval period onwards, played their part all over Europe in persecuting and hunting down ‘heretics’.  Druidry was buried, but its threads were still alive in folklore and folk medicine and even in superstitions.  The other way it survived was through inspiration.  Sensitive people, working with meditation and prayerful energy, are inspired by those gone before.  I was fortunate to be able to link in this way to Ceridwen as she helped me mould the story I was creating.  As I was editing she would often stop me in process and tell me ‘No!…Watch! It was like this!’

AmeriCymru: How easy is it to research the period in which the book is set? To what extent does imagination supplement primary sources?

Margaret: There is much more archeological evidence these days than there was in 1991 when I began my research.  Fortunately according to Professor Alice Roberts, nothing I wrote has been disproved.  No world wide web for me in those days.  I was reliant on books borrowed from Bangor University Library, giving me access to old Roman maps, articles on farming and Welsh culture and law during the Roman occupation. Visits to museums to look at artefacts and visits to the remains of Segontium fortress near Caernarfon made it easier to imagine life in those far off days.

At both Bangor Museum and Oriel Môn, Llangefni I was able to view some of the votive hoard found at Llyn Cerrig Bach during the Second World War.  Now it is housed in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. The fascinating museum at Segontium, where I was fortunate to have the curator all to myself for a whole afternoon, is now not manned; but I believe you can ask for the key at Caernarfon castle if you book in advance with CADW.  Chester Museum and the Deva experience there gave me even more material and a feel for the might of Rome.

The Roman chronicler Tacitus and writers Caesar and Pliny all give accounts of the Roman occupation of Britain, but current historians reckon that there was lots of bias and spin to their stories, proudly recording victory after victory and denouncing the Brythonnic tribes as uncivilized.  Archeology has proved that wrong from the way they wove, fashioned tools, worked with gold, copper and iron, built houses and roads, traded, had supreme horsemanship and farmed the land sympathetically. Their laws were very egalitarian, supportive of family life and their links to the land.

In some ways, even though it took two years of assiduous research, I was relieved that I did not have to pin myself down to too much historic detail.  So much remained a mystery; so I had to rely on a great deal of imagination and stimulus from my muse Ceridwen.

AmeriCymru: Will you be writing more historical novels? Will you be setting future novels in the same place and period?

Margaret: I am 74.  Whilst I can still be a walk leader for Walking For Health and run meditation classes and Reiki classes from our home, I really do not want to tie myself to a computer as it drains me of energy.  I want to be out in my garden tending the herbs or hosting retreats for people who need some peace and quiet in their busy lives.

However, if I ever do become immobile again I will follow up on ‘Where Rowans Intertwine’ with an account of Llew’s life in the same area of Anglesey.  He is Ceridwen’s young son.  I am convinced he was an ancestor of Llywelyn Fawr.  Occasionally when I cannot sleep at night I feel his story calling me…

AmeriCymru: What is your process? Do you write a certain amount each day or do you wait for inspiration?

Margaret: It has always depended on what needs doing as a priority.  During times of struggle with practicalities and pressure from family matters my creative writing has had to take a back seat.  Recently, on becoming a Reiki master (teacher) I wrote my own training manuals.  My writing energy is always better in the mornings, just after the two cups of real coffee I indulge in.  Then, after a domestic tidy, I settle down to write for the rest of the morning.  I might begin with a silly computer game to get my brain stimulated.  Then I will open up my partially written manuscript and read it aloud to myself.  As an ex drama teacher I am looking for dramatic effect and timing as well as typographical errors. I listen to it as though I am a member of its audience.  As I go along I edit.  When I have finished cleaning up what I have previously written, I pause.  Maybe I will have a walk around the garden and smell the beauty, put out the washing, pray and meditate for a few minutes and then get creative.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment?

Margaret: I am just about to publish a children’s paperback.  I will work on editing an ebook version during the Christmas holidays.  It has been such a wonderful self-indulgent trip down memory lane.  You see I am a cataholic……( No not a Catholic.  My faith is Bahá’í, which means I appreciate each world faith as a significant chapter in the spiritual evolution of humankind.)  I am a great fan of cats.  We have been owned by nine of them during our long family association with felines.  I must have read almost every book that has ever been published about cats.

Mine is called ‘THE NINE LIVES OF TIGGER DIGGER’.  It is based on the true to life story of our latest family moggy, Tiggy.  It’s the tale of how we imagined he got to be dumped on the South Yorkshire moors and had to learn to fend for himself before finding his forever home.

My lovely husband, Gordon, has done the delightful illustrations and both daughter Claire and son Andrew have contributed memories and ideas.  It is suitable for 7-14 year olds to read by themselves, but it will also interest adult cat lovers.  At the back there are discussion questions to accompany each chapter so that parents and teachers can prompt youngsters to think about moral values.

Here is a taste of the draft cover:

tiggerdigger6e1574450861104.jpeg


AmeriCymru: What are you currently reading? Any recommendations?

Margaret: I’m currently rereading Philippa Gregory’s novel ‘The Constant Princess’ on kindle.  I was lucky enough to visit the Alhambra in Granada two years ago and it is bringing back strong memories of the region.

In paperback I am reading ‘All The Light We Cannot See’, by Anthony Doerr, a fascinating story of a blind teenager in occupied France and a young radio scientist who is singled out to be of great use to the Nazi effort.  This is so atmospheric you have to savour each small vignette as it alternates each character’s story of the same war.  I am half way through and the two main protagonists have not met as yet.

For those of you who love historical novels about Welsh history I recommend the writing of Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick. Maybe you are already familiar with Sharon’s trilogy about the Welsh Princes:  ‘Here be Dragons’ ,   'Falls The Shadow' ,   ‘The Reckoning’? 

For me, the historical writer par excellence is Elizabeth Chadwick.  I have often observed that with some writers I am especially telepathic and when they begin to outline a character or place, even well before they have furnished a full visual description, I can already see what is in the author’s mind.  I have a very strong connection with her writing.  If you found Wolf Hall more like a PhD thesis than a digestible story then you will prefer Elizabeth’s writing.

There are tantalizing glimpses of Llwyellyn Fawr in ‘The Leopard Unleashed’, part of her Ravenstow Trilogy about the Welsh Marches.

Here is what she says about Garth Celyn, his Welsh stronghold near Aber in North Wales.

http://livingthehistoryelizabethchadwick.blogspot.com/2010/04/garth-celyn.html

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Margaret: Keep the hiraeth flowing and the Welsh language safer than houses if you have it.  Value your heritage and treasure the culture, but do not lose sight of the oneness of humanity, from which cauldron we are all born.  Call others to discover the hidden treasures of Wales; her unspoiled and spiritual landscapes; her connection to sea and sky; her ancient wisdoms and her noble saints and seers.  Sing, laugh and be part of an amazing landscape. If you have hiraeth and can make the sacred journey then come to her mountains, valleys and shores. If you cannot travel, then do so in your meditations and dreams. The welcome is always so warm.





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AmeriCymru: Hi Dave and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to tell us a little about your Welsh background and how it affects your writing?

Dave: Hi Ceri, thanks for having me as it were J.  I grew up in the small, ex-mining village of Cilfynydd, which is just up the road from Pontypridd in south Wales. As a child I loved the Greek classics / stories and started reading Wordsworth, Coleridge, Pope and Milton in school, before moving on to William Blake, Brian Patten and T. S. Eliot whilst at college. I studied zoology at Cardiff University but always loved poetry and literature. After years as a biology, science and PE teacher in various schools in Wales, as well as a year in Kenya, I retrained as a software engineer and started lecturing photography and Photoshop to adults. I’d always written so encouraged by Welsh writer and environmentalist John Evans I began to think about producing my own books –  www.david-lewis.co.uk  

I produced my first poetry collection, Layer Cake, in 2009. The poems were collected from many years of writing and dealt with my Welsh upbringing, family, love, nature and travel. I won a runner-up spot in a short story contest a year or so later and included that in my second book, Urban Birdsong. After selling a few hundred copies (almost all just locally) I decided that maybe I could do this. I’ve since gone on to produce a number of books, twenty to date; featuring poetry, crime thrillers set in Wales, cycling travelogues, self-help and photography.  

My cycling diary, Wales Trails –  www.wales-trails.co.uk  is an account of two weeks in 2016 when I cycled around my home country and my thoughts about the anglification of Wales as well as my efforts to inspire other cyclists to do a similar ride. Apart from my novels this book is probably my best seller.  

I think that being brought up in Wales, especially in years past, will always make a lasting impression on someone and this is certainly true for my own writing. I always feel we are the underdog, have this big imposing neighbour and have to fight to be heard. My poetry certainly has this anger or at the very least a sense of injustice in it although my love of the natural world is always close by so that I can retreat and disappear when the modern, technological world becomes too overbearing.  

AmeriCymru: When did you first decide to write poetry?  

Dave: I was about nine or ten years old when I first started writing what I thought were ‘songs’, which I later discovered were poems (I’m not very musical, lol). By about fifteen or sixteen I was into Dylan Thomas, John Keats, then Shelley but still get excited today when I discover a new poet that I like. I love the way different writers deal with different subjects and have a huge list of poet heroes! Since starting writing seriously I have been inspired by many of the American ‘beat’ poets, Ginsberg, Kerouac and one of my favourites, Gary Snyder. My ever-growing ‘poetry shelves’ also include Akhmatova, Kavanagh, Basho, Sandburg, Bukowski and Sexton so you’re never short of something to read in my house!  

Some poets can write to order. They can be given a subject and off they go. I find that very difficult, if not impossible. I tend to write when I feel like, when something has inspired, upset or moved me. Some poems just rush out onto the paper in five minutes and are fine, others take weeks of editing and are never quite right. It’s a weird profession alright J.  

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your new collection:- 'Scratching the Surface'?  

Dave: Following on from ‘Going Off Grid‘ (which began with a modern ‘The Waste Land’-type rant before the other poems deal with fighting back against digital capitalism through getting closer to nature) in ‘Scratching The Surface’ I’ve returned to themes I’m comfortable with, namely nature, love and family but have also tried to slide a few left field observations in there too. As well as some very personal pieces I’ve also tried to write a contemporary collection that pushes the door open on some of today’s accepted myths.  

In my view, poets should constantly question authority and not blindly give in to the mainstream, politically correct narrative. I’m often very worried about the negative direction the western world is taking and feel someone needs to speak up on behalf of the voiceless masses as loud minorities take over. Politics these days is so polarised, we’re all expected to be either one thing or the other, either left wing or right wing. How stupid is this? I am Che Guevara as far as equal opportunities, working men’s rights and access to our national health service is concerned but I’m Thatcher, Hitler or Mao on punishment for terrorists or paedophiles. I want to reduce the Earth’s population, save the rainforests and everything in them but also abolish poverty in third world countries. I could go on but what I’m suggesting is that we all have different views on different things. We can’t all agree of course but neither should we be silenced from expressing an opinion. I’d like to think my poetry asks questions (often uncomfortable) as well as provides solutions to some of the world’s problems.  

One of the best things about this collection though is when I plucked up the courage to ask one of my heroes to take a peek at some of the poems in it and I got the following quote back from him. I was well chuffed!  

“The poems are sharp, clear, and confident.  He has a clarity only a real poet possesses.” –  Brian Patten  

Another local writer has also summed up what the book is about, far better than I can, lol:

“An epic collage of nature, history, love, adventure and grief that leaps off the page and thumps you in the chest. This book is a sheer Tardis of themes with poems about Celtic mythology, the African bush, ‘The Matrix’, the Notre Dame fire and the lives of Ho Chi Minh and Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker. Others involve close family members, ex-lovers, an abused porn star, a transgender cousin and the constant struggle with mental health issues. This collection ebbs and flows as mesmerically as a river on its journey to the sea. An absolutely superb collection of modern poetry by one of the most under the radar poets in Wales and the UK. A fluid and heartfelt abstraction that speaks loudly to the passion that should run through all of us.” –  Mark Davies  

To see more -  https://amzn.to/2pnTkmd  

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AmeriCymru: You also run the annual Welsh Poetry Competition online. Care to tell us a little about this? When is the next contest?  

Dave: After talking with John Evans in his creative writing classes I setup the International Welsh Poetry Competition in 2007. We are the biggest poetry competition in Wales and growing each year. Truly international in nature we have had entries from over thirty countries and have a great reputation for honest, hard-hitting and passionate work. There are some great contests out there but there are also some very poor ones. All I can say is that the Welsh Poetry Competition is at least trying to bring serious topics to the attention of its readers. We are anonymous, our judges read all the poems and I’ve also produced two anthologies of winners’ work. The next contest will be Feb / March 2020, more details here:  www.welshpoetry.co.uk  

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AmeriCymru: You have also written a number of thrillers. What can you tell us about the 'Hagar Trilogy'?  

Dave: I had an idea for two crime thrillers, set in Wales and Africa, wrote them and never intended to have a third instalment. However after selling a few thousand copies (on kindle) and with loads of people asking ‘When is the next one out?’ I decided to write a third. The story involves a politically-incorrect Welsh valley hero, his haphazard love life and a serial killer who becomes entangled in his life. A host of very different characters eventually connect as we discover who the killer is (although I never intended it to be a whodunit) and further twists in the relationships come to light in the second and third books. The sequel and final book seek to explain why things are happening and to question the reader - do they have sympathy with the killer or not? I took seven years to research and write them, mainly down to the IT information contained within. I also have an idea for a fourth novel in the series but that might be a while yet…  

AmeriCymru: You run a book publishing company - Publish & Print. What kind of books do you publish? How would prospective authors get in touch with you?  

Dave: Unfortunately the book publishing scene is quite poor in Wales. There are just a handful of very small book publishers producing a small number of books each year with not much appetite for risk, so the more adventurous or innovative writers fail to get noticed in my opinion. I thought I could offer an alternative so after self publishing my own books I decided to start the company. I offer this service to other writers (worldwide) and now work full-time on this and as a writer myself. The business publishes all sorts of genres although I like to do poetry of course and feel I offer a professional service at a reasonable price. There is plenty of free information for prospective authors on our website and an authors page where you can see what we produce. We have some great writers on board too, for example the Welsh thriller writer Sally Spedding. All books are available on Amazon but start here:  www.publishandprint.co.uk  

AmeriCymru: What's the Writers of Wales database?  

Dave: There used to be an A to Z database in Wales, which included details on many Welsh connected authors but it disappeared a few years back. Many writers in Wales have complained about this so I decided what the heck, I’ll just do one myself. I’ve not long started it and still have many authors to add but it’s well worth a look already –  www.welshwriters.co.uk  

AmeriCymru: What's next for Dave Lewis? Any new titles in the works?  

Dave: I’m writing a novel based in Wales and London at the moment. It’s about a Welsh lad from a broken home who starts out as a bouncer in Cardiff before moving up to London and ending up working for a crime boss in the city. When things go bad he goes on the run and flees back to Wales. It’s quite a hard-hitting book with a fair bit of violence under the surface but the story is really more concerned with the relationships between the different characters. It’s quite a dark novel.  

I’ve also been asked to do a ‘Selected Poems’ collection by a few people although I haven’t really thought about a traditional publisher as yet. It’s very competitive to get a poetry book produced by anyone in the UK so I’ll probably do one myself, maybe the end of next year as I have a fair amount of varied material to include now.  

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?  

Dave: Apart from buy all my books and leave lots of 5 star reviews, lol, I’d like to see more people getting involved with the site. Wales is a poor country, abandoned by governments in England and we need you ‘Cymro-Americans’ to support and speak up for us as we fight a daily battle against the forces of evil over here. (I’m hoping to appeal to Star Wars / Lord of the Rings fans with that line btw). Hwyl.

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AmeriCymru: Hi Sarah and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What is your Welsh background and how important is it to you?

Sarah: My Welsh ancestry comes through—among others—my umpteenth great grandfather, William Woodbury, who self-identified as a Welshman when he arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1628. I am also descended from a host of Morgans, Thomas’, Kemries, Johns, Rhuns etc.  The line I’ve researched most successfully descends from Llywelyn ap Ifor born around 1300.  Six generations later, Sir John Morgan (1448) was knighted. One of my readers kindly researched my ancestry back all the way to Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, through his grandson, the Lord Rhys (d. 1197), as well as Hywel Dda (d. 950). Woodbury is, of course, a very Saxon name, and those roots lie in Somerset.

We are all a product of the stories we tell about ourselves. I heard growing up that I had Welsh ancestry, but I never knew the extent of it until I started researching. Once I realized the extent of it, I read everything I could get my hands on about medieval Wales—and then began writing novels set in that time. I would say it is pretty important to me! At the same time, I know people with little to know Welsh ancestry who love Wales and Welsh history and culture, so I don’t think it’s a perquisite for becoming interested and involved.

AmeriCymru: How much of a challenge is it to set novels in medieval Wales? Presumably readers are not as well aware of Welsh history as they are of English or Scottish?

Sarah: After I published my first books, I used to say that part of my job was to educate as well as entertain. 1143 Wales is not the Tudors! It is always a balancing act between making the story fun and engaging and not writing either too much history or making medieval Welsh people and their lives so different that they become in accessible to the modern reader. 

Books set in Wales have the additional challenge of having Welsh names and places, which can be inaccessible to a modern English speaker. Some English speakers have a gut negative reaction to the Welsh names that goes back generations and centuries. Some people can’t be helped, but many can be won over by stories that are so compelling they read them anyway—and then find themselves falling in love a little bit with the country and people and coming back for more.

Crouchbackblog.jpg AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your latest title - 'Crouchback'?

Sarah: Crouchback is set in the medieval world of 1284, after the Edwardian Conquest and the death of the last native Welsh Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. At Llywelyn’s death, Wales lost its independence and, after the birth of Edward II in Caernarfon in April 1284, King Edward declared him the new Prince of Wales, ensuring that the titular ruler of Wales from then on would be the son of the English king rather than a Welshman.

Unlike my After Cilmeri series, which is set in an alternate universe where Llywelyn lives, Crouchback is set in the real world, our world, where he does not. 

It’s a pretty dark time for Wales and the Welsh people. 

One of my favorite writing quotes, the provenance of which I am uncertain, says to write a good book, the author needs to give her characters a very bad day and make it worse. In the world of medieval Wales, there was nothing ‘worse’ than the conquest of Wales by King Edward of England. For the two main characters in Crouchback, Catrin and Rhys, their world had, in a very significant way, come to an end. In writing this book, I found myself exploring how a person could have something so terrible happen and still live. 

Which the people of Wales did. They endured and even prospered for over seven hundred years, speaking their language and living their lives as Welsh men and women. 

And thus, Crouchback isn’t about grief, as it turns out, but about hope and perseverance, courage and love—and finding joy in the darkest moments of our lives.

AmeriCymru: You have achieved incredible success writing more than 40 novels and selling over a million books online. What is the secret of your success? What advice would you give to budding authors who wish to self-publish?

Sarah: Amazingly enough, the secret isn’t to write books set in medieval Wales! During the five years my books were rejected by every publisher in New York, I was told over and over that their marketing department couldn’t think how to sell historical mystery/romance/adventure set in Wales. The answer instead, as it turns out, really isn’t a secret. It’s all about producing consistent quality content on a reliable schedule, just like any other job. 

I write a thousand words a day, every day. I work very hard to take criticism well and to seek out people who will tell me the truth about my books before I publish them. I also treat my writing and all that’s associated with it (marketing, publishing etc.) as a business.

But mostly it’s a matter of sitting one’s rear in the chair and writing. Thirteen years of doing that, day in and day out, is bound to produce some books that people want to read!

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your YouTube series 'Making Sense of Medieval Britain'? What inspired it and how many episodes will it eventually comprise?

Sarah: The Making Sense of Medieval Britain video project began with some ideas that tie into a question you asked earlier about how few people know anything about Wales. I want to write great stories, but many of my readers, once they get into my books, want to know more about the world in which my books are set. The video series is intended to help with that, in three to six minute installments. And because I’m an anthropologist by training, the focus is on the people of Britain, beginning with the Celts, the Romans, the Normans, etc. The last third is focused almost entirely on the Welsh and medieval Wales. By January, we should have 44 videos in the series, which will complete the first ‘season’. 

AmeriCymru: What's next for Sarah Woodbury? Any new titles in the works?

Sarah: Always! Right now, with the release of Crouchback on November 14, I’m working on the latest book in the After Cilmeri series—the one where I change history and Llywelyn lives! It should be out in March.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Sarah: If you do end up reading any of my books or enjoying the video series, I would hope you would reach out to me, either on Facebook or by email. I love meeting people, even remotely, who share my love for Wales!

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