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Get Your Characters To Market Your Book

By philip stephen rowlands, 2016-02-08

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Apart from writing one of my great passions is lawn bowls. I suppose it was inevitable that eventually I would combine the two and write a fictional novel about the game I love. The result was 'Jack's High'.

'Jack's High' was first conceived as a six part comedy drama centred around the hapless exploits of a Welsh Valleys' fictional lawn bowls club called Penypont. The BBC liked what they read but were not convinced that lawn bowls was a compelling enough vehicle for comedy and asked me to write about something else. I declined.

Some of you reading this will probably think me mad. The truth is I have always believed in staying true to what you believe in and I believed in the characters I had created. They were real to me and I was not prepared to abandon them.

How real are your characters to you? 

Seth Solmes recently posted on a Google+ forum:

  "Is it possible to be afraid of your own characters?"  

Seth is writing a novel about a particularly dark serial killer. It seems to me Seth is on the right track because his character has come alive to such a degree he actually gives Seth the shivers! More about this later.

To some extent the BBC was right. Bowls is not viewed as a 'sexy' sport even though it is played globally by large numbers of people like myself. Humour on the other hand is universal but how could I convince the general public at large that a novel about bowls could be both sexy and funny? Step forward Vernon Algernon Lewis.

Vernon is one of the characters from 'Jack's High' . His uniquely insensitive and  uncompromising attitude to life can frequently be described as outrageous. He is one of those people the ' politically correct brigade' would love to clap in irons. The point is Vernon can speak and behave in a way that would get 'real' people ostracised or worse!

It seemed a 'no brainer' to appoint the unsuspecting Vernon to the position of marketing director. One of the most effective marketing ploys is to give something away for free although we authors possibly flog this tactic to death when we keep giving away books that we have slaved over for months if not years.

The presumed logic is that somehow this will result in more sales. Instead why not provide teaser material that increases interest and a desire to find out more by actually buying your book? 'Jack's High' is a 346 page novel set around a bowls club. It is highly unlikely anyone is going to rush out to buy it unless they can be persuaded it actually may be quite fun. Which brings me back to Seth's very dark serial killer.

Why not get this warped individual to write a short eBook describing 'My Top 3 Favourite Kills' from his own perspective. A bit grisly and probably in bad taste (apologies Leslie Jasper) but you get the idea. The eBook becomes the hook that catches you readers without having to give the book you slaved over away for free. Does this make sense? But be warned, your character can begin to take over your life!


Vernon has stepped out of  'Jack's High'    to write something of his own. A much shorter and more specific eBook entitled:

"7 Top Tips for Top Skips" . This is the ' lead magnet ' that will be made available to potential readers. If they like it you are well on the way to selling another copy of your novel. If they don't then what have you lost? The importance of providing quality material cannot be overstressed. It must also stand on its own merits. A sloppily written ' lead magnet ' will do infinitely more harm than good!


Vernon now features on:

WARNING! This only works if you are writing about something you feel passionate about and enjoy doing for its own sake regardless of the positives that will flow from it.


The call to action  on Vernon's blog has already begun to attract subscribers who are more likely to turn into fans prepared to purchase 'Jack's High' because they have begun to 'bond' with Vernon.

CLICK HERE to visit Vernon's Landing Page and see what you think?

Isn't it time  you got your characters working for you?


Calling Aspiring Science Fiction Writers

By philip stephen rowlands, 2014-03-31

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Who doesn't love the story of Orson Welles radio production of War of the Worlds which caused many listeners to head for the hills - literally. Deliberately introducing the play as a news broadcast proved too realistic especially when one of the actors described the emergence of an alien from its spacecraft:

"Good heavens, something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake," he said, in an appropriately dramatic tone of voice. "Now it's another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing's body. It's large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face.'s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate....The thing is raising up. The crowd falls back. They've seen enough. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can't find words. I'm pulling this microphone with me as I talk. I'll have to stop the description until I've taken a new position. Hold on, will you please, I'll be back in a minute."

Many people didn't bother to hang around as panic began to grip the population. Instead of suppressing a superior snigger at all those naive folks perhaps we shouldn't be too quick to cast the first stone of ridicule. Technology is moving so fast the lines between science and fiction are becoming increasingly blurred. Perhaps there never has been such a great time to be an aspiring writer of science fiction which brings me to the point of this post. If anyone would like to provide a paragraph from their work, unfinished or published, I will feature it on this blog next week along with a link to whatever you provide.

To kick us off I'll include a few paragraphs from my own project that I will have to finish one day soon! It is set in a post apocalyptic world where some of the survivors live within vast cellular domes protecting themselves from the anarchic wasteland beyond. Genetic technology has been developed to such an extent that it is now possible to identify deviant genes that give rise to anti-social behaviour.

There was little traffic on the auto link. Occasionally they would speed past huge land transporters ferrying goods from zone to zone. Once, the monstrous bulk of an interstate freighter moved deferentially to one side in acknowledgement of the distinctive markings displayed on the sleek black limo. Only essential personnel owned petrol powered vehicles. Most drove solar powered transporters that were by law restricted to zonal sectors only. The advances in cellular construction which had made possible the development of the vast 'zonal domes' also concentrated the suns energy providing all necessary power. The domes also protected the inhabitants from harmful effects of solar radiation that so easily penetrated the impoverished atmosphere.

At least traffic jams were a thing of the past. Chief Inspector Dale had read of this late twenty first century phenomenon with amused fascination. He afforded himself a wry smile. The problem appeared insoluble to scientists and politicians alike as the multiplying mass of humanity threatened to exhaust rapidly decreasing global resources. Pollution, the suppurating wounds of industrialised society, festered openly. A disease many believed incurable. Overshadowing these horrors hung the threat of the nuclear holocaust.


When the end came no one even recognised its coming. The collapse of the Western monetary system proved disastrous. Economies disintegrated. Inflation soared. Nations plunged into a world wide depression deeper than an ocean trench. Swept away by the tidal wave of events governments lay stranded and helpless like beached whales. Anarchy prevailed. Continents became one vast battle ground. Wars raged within and between nations. Nuclear weapons of unimaginable destructive power were unleashed and a second Dark Age enshrouded mankind. Famine, the camp follower of war, carried her children, disease and misery, at her breast. The human race teetered on the brink of destruction.

Out of chaos arose a saviour.
But salvation carried a price. Theirs had been Jonathon.

The car sped through the nightmare landscape. Beyond the elevated auto pass security patrols wailed as they passed along the restricted area that marked the boundary of the Outworld. The occasional staccato roar of a helipatrol thundered a primal challenge across the reddening sky as it swept over the wasteland in scything arcs. A vivid sunset seeped through the heavens bloodying the scarred earth. Against the skyline the wreckage of a lost world cast its grotesque silhouette like the exposed bones of an ancient beast time has long since devoured. Camp fires flickered amidst the sepulchres of dead cities. Still the car sped on.

Dale glanced at the window and saw his face reflected against the desolation.
Kay still believed he was out there.
In exile.
She must never know the truth. No one must."

That's my contribution folks the rest is up to you. If you are interested please contact me at

* * * *

You may or may not know that I also write educational programs for children. If you have a young child I am currently giving away free copies of an app that simulates Cuisenaire Rods. My grandson, who's seven, loves using it. If you would like a free copy follow this link FREE APP

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Okay so Im not the greatest author in the world. Maybe I
will never make the best seller lists but thats no excuse for ripping me off.

As Indie authors we know how difficult and time consuming it
can be promoting our books. Sometimes I feel like Hansel lost in a forest of
social media never able to find my way out with new trees being planted around
me all the time. HELP!!! Then one day I discovered a clearing in the wood. It
wasnt a house made of candy but an enormous edifice called Amazon - pretty appropriate
for an empire in the forest!

I was enticed inside with the promise of self publishing on
Amazons incredible electronic device called the Kindle. Amazon dangled before
my eyes a dazzling array of world wide distribution rights and sales channels.
I was tempted. Well more than tempted actually. I didnt think twice. No more
submitting work to publishing houses who just werent interested or agents who
were even less so. The publishing dragon had been slain, or so I thought.

At the moment I am wondering if Amazon is my Knight In
Shining Armour or an Emissary of the Dark Side.

WHY the sudden change of heart?

Its all down to personal experience.

My first published book on Amazons Kindle was a novella
entitled A Christmas Carol Revisited. It had received an excellent review on BBC
Radio Wales and in December 2012 the New York City Bar Association adapted it
for a concert in the City Bar
Building in Manhattan
that proved a great success. I duly got some sales on Amazon.

So far so good, with Christmas fast approaching I bombarded
my Twitter (4,000+) account with promotional tweets courtesy of Social Oomph. APOLOGIES TO ALL MY TWITTER FOLLOWERS I BOMBARDED!!!! Guest bloggers promoted it on their sites and my Google+ groups also got the
full treatment! While I wasnt expecting to top the best seller list I was
expecting some sales. Some hope, NADA, NOTHING, NOWT!!! Not one measly sale
showed up in my reports for November or December. I had more sales on Create Space and I hadn't done any promotion for any of them.

Okay, youre probably thinking this is the case of another
deluded would be writer with no talent and less hope having a gripe. You may be
right but unfortunately my experience is not unique. John R Clark, Managing Editor at Age View
Press wrote on this very issue under the title:

Alright! Seems like there might just be a wicked witch
lurking in them thar woods. So, what to do?

As I see it we can sit back and hope things improve OR do
something about it ourselves.

BUT WHAT - How can we possible influence the LEVIATHAN that
AMAZON has become?

I have an idea. Take a look at the lottery widget on the right

What I propose is that we set up our own AUTHORS LOTTERY
using the free widget (see sidebar).

Instead of winning money everybody who opts in would have to
agree to buy or download the winning authors book (reasonably priced or free!)
either from Amazon or from the Authors website.

At least this way the winner each week would know for
certain that their book had been downloaded x number of times and could check
with their Amazon Sales Reports.
It would also give most Authors a much needed
boost as well as a little income. Everything would of course be based on TRUST.


Every Friday at 11.00 GMT
I would click the Pick a new Lotto Number button on this blog.

The author whose number was drawn would be notified. His/her
name and details of where to download his/her book would be publicized on this


To show your commitment all you need do is enter your email
address and name in the subscription box
. Once you have done this I will
allocate a number. Mine for example is 1.

I will set up another page on the blog with each others
name next to their allocated number.

I am using a free version of GET
RESPONSE software for the simple reason if not enough interest is shown after
posting this blog I will abandon the idea. I dont intend wasting money
pointlessly also. . .

HOW PRECIOUS TIME IS! None of us can afford to waste it.

Hopefully enough of us will grasp the potential of what
authors can do if we decide to stand together and help each other.

To make it worth your while subscribing I plan to run a number of courses designed to help you promote your books using social media. These will be delivered by email and the first course focuses on Twitter. It's called The Twitter Authors Marketing Crash Course. Some of the things you will learn about include:

  • The man who has made it his business to help authors build their readership on Twitter.
  • Free tools that will make your Twitter marketing extremely effective.
  • Integrating Twitter tools in Wordpress.
  • How to chat in 'real time' with your followers.
  • How to schedule regular postings using free or paid tools.
  • The basic rule you MUST follow.
  • Mistakes to avoid at all cost.

Please email me if you have any thoughts or suggestions at
WARNING: I am a married man and therefore impervious to abuse.

I think its's time for us Kindle authors to circle the wagons! What about you?

Next Week
Expand Your Literary Horizons.
Also - update on the Author's Lottery.

Flirting At Who's Funeral

By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-11-23

Seeing new places and meeting new people has to be one of the most rewarding aspects of travel. The picture opposite combines both. The cool guy in the leather jacket and shades is author Chris Keil whom I had the pleasure of meeting while in Portland. If you are wondering, the magnificent river in the background is the Columbia which flows through the heart of Portland itself.

Chris is the author of 'Flirting at The Funeral.' The title refers to a hit song one of the main characters in the book once had. I enjoyed Chris' company so much I bought a copy even though it meant my wife would have to forgo a gift (only kidding). I really didn't know what to expect but I was determined to read it through to the end.

The thing I demand most of any work of fiction is a compelling story. Regardless of how the book is constructed that has to be the bottom line. Chris did not disappoint but 'Flirting At The Funeral' is much more than that. Characterization is also key for me. Chris has created a diverse and vibrant cast of characters. Such is their vibrancy that you feel you know or recognise them in a very personal sense. This is quite an achievement because at another level each can be seen as representative either of a section of society or of specific beliefs and philosophies. Set against the uncertainties of a world peering uncertainly into the abyss of financial collapse 'Flirting At The Funeral' becomes almost a parable of our times.

Matty James, who for me was the focal point of the novel, can appear at first glance to represent all that is superficial and facile in our society. Forever 'pursuing her star' in seeming disregard of the consequences to herself and others, she personifies the desperate desire to achieve celebrity status we witness on our television screens every week. Mammon rules and before we point a finger how many of us bought a lottery ticket this week? Yet Chris' characters refuse to be judged at a superficial level. Like all really good works of fiction uncomfortable questions are continually asked of the reader. There is one scene that epitomizes this.

Matty and her friend Howard are engaged in a conversation. They stand in the ruins of an ancient building that in a distant past had been as imposing as the modern citadel built by the super rich Dr Arno Bendt. Howard attempts to persuade Matty to leave Dr Bendt and to return to London to be with her lover Morgan. Her response is pragmatic and in one sense profound:

"I have to follow my star." She took a breath."At any rate I have to make the best of it. I have to keep flirting at the funeral, like the song says."

Flirting At the Funeral is beautifully crafted and infused with sumptuous imagery. It is a book I wish I had written.

To misquote another once famous song, "It's my blog and I'll do what I wanna, do what I wanna. . ." Which is a pretty tacky way of announcing some blatant self promotion. Well it is nearly Christmas and the book I'm attempting to promote is a reworking of Dickens classic. I promise to get back to featuring more Indie Authors in the New Year!

It's contemporary New York City and Clinton Ebenezer Scrooge III shares his thoughts on Christmas.

"Scrooge gazed out of the window. Somewhere below, the river flowed blacker than the Styx through the citys dark heart into the eternal depths of the poisoned oceans. But Scrooges eyes were fixed upon another river. The unceasing flow of humanity condemned as surely to follow the course of existence to its inevitable conclusion as the river was compelled to flow into the embrace of the blind and restless sea. Christmas held out hope that the journey was not in vain. That was one of the reasons he despised it. Christmas was for the weak, for sentimental fools who had never grasped that salvation in this world was something to be wrung forcefully from lifes unwilling grip. Once the presents had been opened and the parties were over what was left apart from hangovers and a bigger overdraft? He smiled. He was above that now, had been for years. Just as detached and aloof as the gigantic reflection of himself superimposed on the vista upon which he cast such a scornful eye."
'A Christmas Carol Revisited' is a great way to enter into the Festive Spirit and it's available NOW on Amazon in Print or Kindle format. Prefer PRINT? Prefer KINDLE? Just click on the thumbnail of choice.
CLICKHERE to listentoa brief audio excerpt. CLICK HERE todownload an extract in pdf format.
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Close Encounters of the Cultural Kind

By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-11-16
Portland Oregon is the home of the
'Wordstock' festival that describes its primary aim as:
". . .
dedicated to providing the public with unprecedented access to artistic
excellence and instilling a lifelong love of reading in our community."
It is an unlikely
place to meet an American author with a love of
Wales and all things Welsh.
Actually it's an unlikely place to meet anyone who is aware that
Wales even exists.
Sarah Woodbury is an Oregon girl extremely proud
of her Welsh ancestry and given the fact both her parents are historians it was
almost inevitable that when she eventually succumbed to the writing bug her
genre would be the historical novel. Fortunately her visit to
Wales was to prove a
catalyst in the context of her development as an author and consequently she
has written a whole series of novels set in medieval
Wales .
The previous day Sarah and I had been part of a panel discussion entitled
'Culture Wars - Other Voices In British Literature' jointly hosted by
AmeriCymru and the Portland Centre for Public Humanities at Portland State
University. The other members of the panel were Dr Tracy Prince, whose book
formed the basis of the discussion and Welsh authors Mike Jenkins and Chris
Keil. The discussion was animated and stimulating to say the least. If you
would like to include it in it's entirety you can view it below.
It was the following day at the Woodstock festival that we got
the opportunity to talk. Sarah is one of the new breed of authors who realises
the importance of self promotion and has been extremely effective in using
social media to get her books noticed. She has sold over 150,000 copies and has
a following of loyal fans, including me! Sarah did not sit back and wait for an
agent to ride by on a white horse and wave a shiny contract in her face. Her
success has been down to hard work and a willingness to take responsibility for
her own success. Of course there is one element of the equation that always has
to be present and that is the ability to write a good story and Sarah certainly
possesses that in spades.
Naturally I would like to think that her Welsh heritage and love of Wales has inspired her to
reach the heights she has already achieved and those she is sure to reach in
the future. In all honesty she would have made a successful author whatever
genre she set her mind on I am just grateful she drew her inspiration from her
Celtic roots. Just like the character Valarie in 'A Christmas Carol Revisited' Sarah is so proud of her heritage she even persuaded her husband to give their
four children Welsh names.
Megan. It was the name Valarie had chosen in deference to her Welsh
ancestry of which she was inordinately proud. For once he let her have her way.
What did it matter anyway, the child would never be born. It had proved a
serious error of judgement for the very act of naming the child bestowed on
Valarie a moral strength he never imagined she possessed. Thereafter she
resisted him at every turn but the effort drained her vitality and she took refuge
in drink. The miscarriage had been a fortuitous consequence.
Thats impossible. Valarie lost our child.
Even now he refused to speak her name. Even now he refused to accept his
portion of blame.
Nothing that has ever lived is truly lost Papa."
She looked at him and
the revelation of what he had lost swept over him, a chill wind announcing the
onset of a long and bitter winter. Images of what might have been flashed
through his mind and he tried to grasp hold of them but they evaded him like
autumn leaves scattered in a sudden storm."
Knowing who we are andwhere we come from gives us strength. I wish Sarah every success for the futureand hopefully she will agree to an interview in the near future.
"Iechyd daSarah!"
Below are a few of Sarah's books. I am currently thoroughly enjoying 'The Good Knight'.
The 'After Climeri' Series.
The Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries

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When Our Characters Confront Us

By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-11-08

Every major city in the world is haunted by an unwanted underclass largely ignored by the rest of us like some secret shame.They are shadows in a dark room passing their days in a twilight world that exists somewhere between the living and the dead.

The great Victorian novelist Charles Dickens was one of the first authors to focus the light of his literary genius on their miserable existence. His social conscience would not allow him to pass by on the other side.

However it is one thing to wax lyrical about the homeless and destitute but quite another to be confronted with their plight first hand as I was to discover on my recent visit to Portland, Oregon. It was my first visit to America and during the drive from the airport I caught sight of an individual staggering from a store clutching a paper bag. Gaabriel, my host, explained that homelessness was a problem within most American cities and Portland was no exception. Where Portland stood in stark contrast to many others was the liberal stance it took towards this unfortunate section of society. Many States employ aggressive measures to clear their streets of the Great Unwanted and although there is no Government or State support for these individuals at least Portland has a Mission where fortunate individuals can get a bed and a roof for the night.

It is human nature to pass judgement on others. Most of us cannot help wonder how anyone gets to end up living on the streets. Hopefully very few of us hold the same views as those expressed by one of my characters, Ebenezer Clinton Scrooge III. Arriving at the steps of his Manhattan headquarters he is confronted by a less affluent member of New York City society.

" Scroogesmiled, this was no hired assassin sent on a mission to destroy only a common beggar chancing his arm, or what remained of it. A diseased symptom of the times. New York was infested with such hopelessindividuals seeking solace and oblivion in alcohol or drugs, authors of their own destruction, and as such deserving of no sympathy or special favours. Still they never usually surfaced in this district preferring insteadto haunt the more stagnant cess-pits of the city. Perhaps the fact it was Christmas Eve had emboldened this particular specimen into venturing further afield in the false hope that honest citizens would be moreinclined to lunatic displays of charity many being so imbued with festive spirits they would carelessly part with their hard earned dollars." ( A Christmas Carol Revisited ).

This is the dark side of the American Dream. Every good Doctor Jekyll has his own Mr Hyde to some degree or another. Perhaps it is how we react to the darkness that defines us as individuals and nations. Or is it if we are even prepared to confront that darkness in our society and in our selves? The 'hopeless individual' in the story is called Stephen, the 'hopeless individual' who confronted me on the streets of Portland was called Arnold.

We were down town waiting for a bus when Arnold approached. He was obviously distressed. Apparently he had been attempting to gain access to one of the toilets in the city precincts. It was locked and from what we could understand Arnold had been forcibly removed because he kept complaining that someone had hurt his arm. I learnt later that it was common practice to lock the toilets as they were in constant danger of being commandeered by the likes of Arnold on the lookout for somewhere dry and secure to sleep. It was also obvious Arnold had significant mental health issues. He insisted we call the cops otherwise he would kill someone.

I don't think anyone felt threatened but we all felt uncomfortable. I pretended to phone the cops but Arnold wasn't fooled for a second. Eventually the bus arrived and we got on board. Arnold followed. It soon became obvious Arnold was going nowhere until someone called the cops. As he became more distressed so his threats became more extravagant to the point he was now prepared to kill everyone on the bus. People began to get off not because they felt threatened but because they realised it would probably be quicker to walk home. Throughout the whole incident the lady bus driver spoke soothingly to Arnold and even provided him with a drink. Her compassionate attitude had a marked impact upon Arnold who became an increasingly less threatening yet more tragic figure by the minute. Eventually Arnold got his wish and the cops arrived.

'Street Roots' is a paper sold by the homeless on the streets and is Portland's version of the 'Big Issue'. The lead story the week I was there was regarding the way certain States were dealing with the problem of homeless people with mental health issues. Their solution was to provide these vulnerable individuals with enough food and money for a few days and a bus ticket to some place else. There they would duly arrive with no contacts or support and whatever provision they had left. Problem solved. It staggers me that large sections of American society still oppose ObamaCare.

It was with a sense of relief that we watched Arnold being escorted away. He was obviously known to the local police who dealt with him courteously and gently. Whether he got a nice dry, warm cell for the night is another matter. My thoughts often return to Arnold and I wonder how he possibly survives life on the streets. Could I have done more to help? There is a gulf between feeling compassion at some general esoteric level and acting upon that compassion at the subjective level of reality. If I am honest, Arnold was a burden I did not want to bear. He was not my responsibility after all. Like the Pharisee I shuffled by on the other side. It is not always a comfortable experience when our characters turn up on our doorstep.

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In The Footsteps of Meriwether and Clarke (Sort Of).

By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-10-26

To be honest, I didn't literally follow in their intrepid footsteps. I caught a plane instead. Fortunately the pilot knew the way. Just as well because map reading was never my forte. Never could quite get the hang of a compass and all that Magnetic North stuff. Flying over the breathtaking beauty of the Rockies into Vancouver almost made me wish I was more of an outdoor type.

From Vancouver I flew down to Portland to meet up with Gaabriel Beckett and Ceri Shaw. Gaabriel is president of the Lewis Meriwether Foundation while Ceri is founder of a social network for expat Welsh folks living in America. Ceri created the website to help raise the profile of Wales as most Americans have never even heard of the place. The average U.S citizen probably knows far more about Hobbits than Taffs!

This was part of the reason I was flying out to Portland. Not that I expected my arrival to be the catalyst for a sudden upsurge in an awareness of Wales and all things Cymru. At one point I doubted whether I'd make first base past Homeland Security. Why is it we always feel guilty and look shifty when someone in authority scrutinizes our passport? I think my attempt at an ingratiating smile almost earned me a seat on the next plane back home. It was with a mingled sense of relief and excitement I stepped onto American soil for the first time, my mission to help promote Welsh writers in my capacity as author and co-editor of eto magazine .

It was not my first collaboration with an American organization. Last December the New York City Bar Association Entertainment Committee performed a staged reading of my contemporary adaptation of Charles Dickens wonderful novella 'A Christmas Carol', which with staggering originality I entitled 'A Christmas Carol Revisited'. It was particularly exciting because not only had I set the story in Manhattan, where Ebenezer Clinton Scrooge III presided over his vast global media empire, but it was also 150 years to the day that Dickens' 'Christmas Carol' was first published. I was invited to attend but unfortunately due to prior engagements (I'm one of Father Christmas' official helpers) was unable to make it.

This time I really had made it even if it was a little further west than New York. I was to meet up with two more Welsh authors, Chris Keil and Mike Jenkins. In an inspired moment Ceri Shaw dreamt up a wonderful publicity campaign involving the three of us. As I stood in line waiting to be interrogated by Security at the airport I began to wonder whether the source of Ceri's inspiration might have been a little too liquid.

All funds raised through the Purchase of eto will contribute toward securing Transportation of these Malefactors to the Colonies in October for Hard Labor at the 2013 Wordstock Literary Festival.

Chris Keil has received critical acclaim for his novel 'Flirting at the Funeral' and having read it I can fully understand why. He was due to speak at Wordstock alongside local author Chelsea Cain and also run a workshop entitled 'Sex and the Serious Novel.'
Mike Jenkins is a very gifted poet and author from Merthyr. Mike's work is written in Valley's dialect and is quite brilliant. I wasn't sure how it would be received but everyone loved it. If you've not read any of Mike's work yet I suggest you start with his latest book, 'Barkin' .

The three of us with the Columbia River in the background.

The three of us bunked down at Ceri and Gaabriel's place. They were generous hosts and we all appreciated the way the whole family allowed us to disrupt the noiseless tenor of their way (I must remember that line). One of the most pleasant discoveries, apart from the stunning snow capped Mount Hood, was the fact that Portland is home to numerous micro-breweries. I made the discovery on the way from the airport when Gaabi stopped by the local supermarket to stock up with more bottles. Mike and Chris had arrived the day before and supplies were inevitably running low.

It was good to meet with my eto co-editors Ceri and Gaabi face to face as well as Chris and Mike. We celebrated with a few beers and then Ceri introduced us to something that was to become a staple diet of our visit, 'Breaking Bad', washed down with a few more bottles of beer. What a start! Wordstock, Portland State University and Mount Hood Community College lay on the horizon along with other experiences that will remain with me for as long as I live but for now I had really followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clarke.

Next: Our Mission Begins.

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Bitten by the 'Sound Bite'.

By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-07-11

In the context
of journalism , a sound bite is characterized by ashort phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker wastrying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or
viewer. . .

Due to its brevity,the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and canbe misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcastsor documentaries is open to manipulation , leading to conflict over journalistic ethics . Wikpedia.

For those of us involved in the fight to save PentrePrimary School from closure
Wikpedias definition of sound bite has a haunting resonance.

From the outset we wanted our campaign to focus on the factthat should the proposals be ratified our children would inevitably be placedat risk given the distance they would have to travel to their new school alonga heavily congested route. The imminent development of a Tesco store and
filling station adjacent to the route further heightened our concerns.

Another concern was that in times of economic hardship manyparents from within one of the most deprived communities in Waleswould be faced with an additional financial burden many simply cannot affordChild poverty is something RCT have pledged to address through the Children and Young Peoples Plan 2011 14 .
How could a Labour led council possibly endorse a proposal that wouldexacerbate the problem in one of their most needy communities?

Rhondda AM, Leighton Andrews, sharedour concerns but it became immediately apparent that his political opponents weremore intent on shifting the focus and hence the term surplus places was
repeated loudly and often at every given opportunity. Surplus Places becamethe perceived rallying cry, a trigger phrase that could induce paroxysms offrenzy among political opponents and those who oppose the Surplus PlacesPolicy. Battle lines were drawnand our school became part of the collateral damage that ensued.

School closures areinevitably emotive and sensitive issues no matter what the reason or prevailing
policy. It was not surprising that many people were angered by what they saw asMr Andrews trying to have his cake and eat it. However if his support for ourcampaign contravened ministerial guidelines it is a matter of grave concern forus all. In his capacity as AM he listened to our concerns but his subsequentactions were undertaken to ensure the LEAwas following the procedure laid down in The School Organisation Proposals 2009 the Surplus Places policy. In effect he was ensuring his own policyguidelines were given due and proper regard. There was no conflict of interestapparent or otherwise.

That did not stop the hue and cry of surplus places aspoliticians and the media smelt blood and set off in pursuit of Mr Andrews.Misinformation regarding the school was broadcast nationally in an effort to embarrassthe Minister for Education regardless of the damage inflicted on the community
of Pentre. In his article, Did LeanneSpook Leighton?( ), John Osmond is at a loss to understand how a trivial issue was sufficient to
occasion the first such resignation in the history of Welsh democraticdevolution.

Since when has the safety and welfare of children been atrivial issue?

Parents the length and breadth of the country will beoutraged by a comment that sadly appears to reflect the opinion of the majorityof political commentators in Wales.Does the National assembly exist to represent and promote the welfare of the peopleof Wales or has it become some kind of Mount Olympus where the elected godsof the Senedd conduct their Machiavellian business aloof from the day to dayconcerns of ordinary citizens and voters?

At least the AM and MP for Rhonddahad the courage to show they shared the concerns of their constituents. Apparentlythe parents and supporters of Gaer schools in Newportwere far less successful when they sought the support of their electedrepresentatives.

Rosemary Butler and PaulFlynn both declined to even look at let alone scrutinise this
proposal. It is not in the best interests of the community and makeslittle educational sense. Yet neither of our senior elected representativesknow this as they preferred not to hear about the proposal.
( )

Unbelievable! Who are these people elected to represent? Iunderstand that in some cases school closure is in the best interests ofchildren but each case should be judged on its own merit in accordance withministerial guidelines. The minimum we should expect is to be heard.

.. . my personalview is that Councils in some cases have used the vague cover of surplus as a
kind of catch-all, get-out-of-jail-free card to push through otherproposals they want to see happen, especially when they do not have the moneyto accomplish them in other ways.
( )

This week the Rhondda Leader featured a letter from a Mr AndrewNutt who obviously felt qualified to offer his considered opinion despite thefact he resides in Bargoed and has no knowledge of the local issues surroundingthe proposed closure. The sound bite has obviously worked its magic in his

The BBC took a similartack when they misreported the numbers on roll in our school to the nation,
seriously compromising our campaign in the process. Why let accurate reportingstand in the way of a good sound bite?

Here are some alternative sound bites the Pentre ActionGroup would like the Senedd and our local cabinet to consider. How about,





for starters?

We can only hope that our locally elected representativesare strong enough to ignore the surplus places sound bite and focus on thereal issues confronting Pentre school and the wider community. When the cabinetmeet to make a final decision on the future of the school later this month they
will have had time to reflect on the objections raised by the community.

Parents deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing oftheir children. Parents worried sick that they will not be able to afford thebus fare required to transport their children to school. Families facing
increased financial pressure and over reliance on elderly relatives if they areto hold down their jobs and ensure children get to school safely.

The Director of Education for Rhondda Cynon Taff stated inhis response to concerns raised by parents that children would miss out on thefree breakfasts available at Pentre school by stating:

Treorchy Primary School has a well attendedbreakfast club, which will continue for the benefit of all pupils who mayattend that school.

The Director obviously does not inhabit the same world. Doeshe not realise children living in Pentre will have to get up very early to beable to access it and either walk or catch a bus in the dark during the wintermonths when arguably this provision is of maximum benefit. Is this acceptable?

These are the issues that are struggling to be heard above thesound bite surplus places. Wikpedias definition that, Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and canbe misleading or inaccurate. is certainly true in the case of PentrePrimary School.

The question is, will our trvial issues be heard above theubiquitous SURPLUS PLACES sound bite?

Is it a case of, If you tolerate this then your childrencould be next?
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