Saturday, 28 September 2013

Inspirational short story author, Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

On my blog today I am honoured to be hosting one of the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers’ short story competition finalists Andrew Campbell-Kearsey.

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for joining us on my blog, it’s great to meet you. First of all congratulations on your recent placement in the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers Short Story Competition. I understand you enter quite a few writing competitions. How long have you been writing?

Hi Judith,

I’ve been writing for about nine years. I signed up for an adult education writing evening class and was fortunate to have a great tutor. At first she set assignments that were about our memories or experiences before we branched off into fiction. I used to enjoy writing as an unreliable narrator. I didn’t even know the term before the tutor pointed it out. I’d been influenced I’m sure by Zoe Heller’s book ‘Notes On A Scandal’.
After a couple of years it dawned on me that subjectivity was at the heart of appreciation of any form of writing. I could appreciate many books but many of my reactions revolved around what I brought to the party.
What else inspires your stories? Do they just appear in your head fully formed or do they evolve slowly once you’ve put pen to paper?

I’ve written over two hundred stories and it’s a cliché but you write what you know often so when my mother had a stroke and went into a nursing home, that setting featured in a few stories. I’m an incredibly lazy writer. I try and tell myself I should spend more time doing it but life gets in the way. I’m trying to be more disciplined. I get an idea from something I overhear or when I’m out walking the dogs. It may be a title or a first line and I just sit down and write. I’m rubbish at editing. I don’t like to change things once I’ve written them.

Ha ha, we all feel like that. I get someone to do that for me. Where do you write? Do you have a man cave, or do you balance your laptop on the arm of the chair while you watch tv?

Being a man, I can’t multi-task so no, I can’t work in front of the TV. No music or I’ll sing along, which trust me, isn’t a pretty sound.
I sit at our dining room table at my pc and type away. I get easily distracted by anybody passing by. It’s amazing sometimes how attractive the thought of cleaning the fridge out is at times when I’m not feeling the literary love.

A man who knows fridges have to be cleaned! I like the sound of that, ha ha. Most authors have someone who bears the brunt of all the creative dross – listens to us read, checks for typos, offers constructive criticism from behind the safety barrier of the sofa. Do you have someone like that? A partner? A dog? Your mum? (One writer I know has an iguana).

My partner Brian is in an impossible situation. If he says he likes something I dismiss this thinking he’s just saying that. If he criticises then I’ve been known to go around the block a couple of times on my huffy bike. So the poor love can’t win.
I am very lucky as I have a great friend, Steve, who reads everything I write. As well as teaching me about punctuation and grammar, he sometimes comes up with structural changes which we discuss. I’m very lucky that I have him to sound off to. 

I don’t know where we’d be without friends. Brian sounds much better than an iguana. When I joined the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers I’d barely let anyone read my work, let alone think of publishing, but thanks to their encouragement, I am about to release my seventh. I first became aware of your work when you entered the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers short story competition. Do you enter many competitions or was that a one off?

I enter literally hundreds of competitions. Sometimes the title or theme of a competition inspires me. I subscribe to for competition updates and I am extremely grateful for the free info, regularly updated, on Prize Magic.
I came third in a local competition in 2006 and the story was published. Brian took me out for a meal to celebrate. I was so delighted. In 2009 I won the Ilkley Literary Festival Competition and I attended the prize giving and read out part of my story to a packed theatre. It was the first time I felt like a proper writer. I’ve had fifty of my stories published now.

Wow, well done. I love the little twists and surprises you inject into your stories, it makes them stand out from the crowd. Is that an authorial device or is it how you think? In other words, are you as unique as your stories?

I wrote a story once, where nothing out of the ordinary happened and it was really boring. So if I am writing for a competition theme, my first instinct is to write something different from what may be expected or intended. It may be arrogant to call myself unique but I think I’m a little bit odd and my take on things is a bit off-beat.

Unique is just another way of saying 'odd' isn't it? All the best people fall into that category. Do you have a publisher, or are you self-published? Either way it is quite a journey how are you finding it?

I wrote a poem four years ago and it won a competition. The prize was the publication of an anthology of my poetry. Unfortunately it would have been a slim volume as that was my one and only poem. And it was short!
So, the publishers, Aquilrelle, published ‘Brighton Shorts’. It was my first proper book and it had a purple cover, my favourite colour. I was so proud of it. I bought two hundred copies and sent them to friends and family. I was very excited to have my first ISBN number.
Then the brilliant Five Stop Story website came out and I entered every month. Many of my stories were published on the app. I was the 2012 overall winner and became a judge for this year.

Last year I received an email from Spinetinglers. I used to enter their competitions every month. My first feeling was that they were going to ask me to stop entering or accuse me of plagiarism or stop wasting their time. Instead they offered me an e-publishing contract. The process has been great fun, selecting stories, approving the layout, fonts and cover. It was published last week. Hurrah!

It is a great feeling isn't it, but now the hard work begins. All authors know, or quickly discover that there is a fine line between promotion and spamming. How are you finding marketing your work and do you have any tips for other writers trying to make their mark?

Oh dear, that’s a tricky one. I’m new to this but I have realised that my book won’t go flying off the shelves unless I tell people it’s on sale. So I’ve posted a few things on Facebook and sent emails to friends directly. I’ve contacted websites of competitions where I have been placed or won this year and many have posted a link for me. It’s a little bit like asking people to sponsor you. Instead of the money going to charity it’s for me. So I find it a little embarrassing. I’m borderline obsessed with where my book is in the Amazon chart. It’s fun though.

I am sure the people reading this blog will get down right away to sharing information about you. We all love a good read and if we want to discover new talent we have to shout about it when we find it. Is writing your day job? If not what other hats do you wear?

I used to be a head teacher in London, then Brighton. I’m supposed to write full time but I write about fifteen hours a week. Too many other things distract me. If a friend phones up suggesting meeting up for a coffee, I’m there in a shot.

I expect I’d be like that too if I didn’t live in the middle of nowhere. I have to walk seven miles to the nearest shop! Are you working on a follow up and will it consist of more short stories or is there a novel in the pipeline?

I shall keep on writing short stories. Spinetinglers may publish more anthologies of mine if sales go well. I have written two novels. The second one was a NaNoWriMo one. I intend to write a third in November this year.

We shall look forward to it. In the meantime tell us a bit about your book Centurionman. What made you decide to write it? Where can we buy it?
 Centurionman was my user name when I entered Spinetinglers competitions online. I have no macho pretensions and if you met me you’d understand. I happen to live in Centurion Road, in Brighton. I sent forty stories to the publishers and they selected the twenty for the ebook. Because of the nature of their work, they tended to choose the darker ones. It is available as a download on Kindle and all apple devices such as iPads. Some of my godchildren have it on their iPhones. I am jealous of their eyesight.

I was approached by Thorny Devil Productions. They have selected three stories which they want to film. The first one, ‘Shrinking Violet’ was screened at Cannes and at the Hollyshorts, Film festival in Los Angeles this year. The second one stars Louise Jameson and Annette Badland. I am currently writing the script for the third ‘School’s Out’ which is about two men who attend a secondary school reunion in drag as Krystle and Alexis from Dynasty to settle a few scores.

I think I remember School’s Out, did you enter it in the Scribblers competition last year? It just goes to show if at first you don’t succeed …I am really pleased at your success. You are an inspiration. Many people think there isn’t a career to be made in writing short stories but I guess, like everything else, it just depends how good you are at them.
Thank you so much, Andrew, for joining me on my blog. I hope we have generated some more sales for you and inspired all those short story writers to start submitting their stuff right away. Good luck and come back and chat with us when your next book is ready.

Centurionman is a collection of twenty short stories by award winning author Andrew Campbell-Kearsey.
This debut collection features a wide range of intriguing characters, including a downtrodden charity shop worker with a secret, a high court judge on a moral mission to punish pretentious home-sellers, and a man with an unusual way to claim insurance money…

Andrew Campbell-Kearsey is a short story writer. Two of his stories have been adapted into films by Thorny Devil Productions and have been screened in Los Angeles and Cannes. He is currently writing the screenplay for his third film. He has had over fifty stories published in anthologies, magazines and journals. Andrew is currently a judge for the Five Stop Story short story competition.

UK readers can buy Andrew's book here:
US readers click here: 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Cydweli Castle- Castles, Customs and Kings Blog Hop and Giveaway

I am very part to have my work included in the newly released collection of essays, Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. It is a fabulously fat book absolutely stuffed with treasures from our group of historical novelists. There is something for everyone, from Roman Britain to the early twentieth century. You can have a look here.

I live in rural Wales, not strictly speaking 'England' but the wonderful country right next door. In Wales we are surrounded by history, everywhere you look there are castles, crumbling abbeys and statues of bygone heroes. Cydweli Castles is one of my favourites.

Standing proud above a small village, over-looking the River Gwendraeth near Carmarthen in West Wales, is Cydweli Castle. Of Norman origin, the fortress is testament to the years of Anglo/Welsh conflict, its dominant position in the landscape making it quite clear who was in control of whom.

The earliest castle was a Norman earth and timber construction built shortly after the conquest, the village growing up around it. During the 12th century the castle fell several times into Welsh hands and by the 13th century it had been rebuilt in stone with the latest in defensive design.

Today, we see most phases of building; a square inner bailey defended by four round towers, a semi-circular outer curtain wall to protect the landward side and the massive gatehouse and jutting tower defending the riverside walls.

Cydweli (or the anglicised Kidwelly) is of concentric design with defensive walls set one within the other providing the best defence possible at the time of building. The gate house was still under construction when Owain Glyn Dŵr held it under siege during his campaign against the English.

Owain Glyn Dŵr was born around 1359 and through his parents, Gruffydd Fychan II and Elen ferch Tomas ap Llywelyn,  descended from the Welsh princes of Powys and Deheubarth.  His early life is quite unremarkable and law abiding. He was educated in London and served as a squire and a soldier, fighting for the English king in campaigns in Scotland. By the year 1400 he had become a well-respected Welsh gentlemen but events over the next few years pushed Glyn Dŵr further into rebellion.

Baron Grey de Ruthyn, a neighbour of Glyn Dŵr’s, had seized control of some land, forcing him to appeal to the English Parliament.  In 1400, Lord Grey failed to inform Glyn Dŵr in time of a royal command to levy feudal troops for service on the Scottish border. This apparent dereliction of duty enabled the Welshman to be named a traitor in London court circles

Possibly due to Lord Grey’s  personal friendship with King Henry IV, Glyn Dŵr lost the case and when, in January 1400, civil disorder broke out in Chester in support of the deposed king, Richard II, Glyn Dŵr’s relationship with Henry IV broke down completely.

In September 1400 Owain Glyn Dŵr was created Prince of Wales by the dissenting Welsh.

By 1401, after a series of confrontations between Owain’s followers and Henry IV the revolt began to spread. Welshmen studying at Oxford abandoned their studies, labourers lay down their tools, returned to Wales and flocked to Owain’s  banner. Welsh troops who had fought for the king in France and Scotland also joined the cause, Welsh archers and men-at-arms abandoned the English king to join the Welsh rebellion.

Early in the campaign the Welsh skill at guerrilla warfare gained them some notable success. They were victorious at the battle of Bryn Glas in Powys in 1402; inflicted much damage on many towns (including Cardiff) and took control of several of the strongest castles in Wales, notably Aberystwyth and Harlech.

During the fourth year of the revolt Owain Glyn Dŵr and his armies turned up in the Tywi Valley and captured a number of castles, including Dyslwyn and Carmarthen and persuaded Henry Don, a former steward of the Duchy of Lancaster and a fellow of considerable standing and power, to throw in his lot with the rebels. It was Henry Don who led the attack on Cydweli Town and castle.

However, around 1405 the rebels began to lose ground, they were defeated at Usk and sometime between 1408-9 the castles at Aberystwyth, Harlech were retaken by the crown. Owain himself was never captured but faded from history, believed to be dead by 1416. Many tales are told about the circumstances of his death.

A supporter of Glyn Dŵr,  Adam of Usk, wrote  in his Chronicle in the year 1415 that, ‘After four years in hiding, from the king and the realm, Owain Glyndŵr died, and was buried by his followers in the darkness of night. His grave was discovered by his enemies, however, so he had to be re-buried, though it is impossible to discover where he was laid.’

Adrien Jones, the president of the Owain Glyn Dŵr Society, as late as 2006 visited Sir John Scudamore who is a direct descendant of Glyndŵr and lives  near Abergavenny. He told him that Glyn Dŵr spent his last years with  his daughter Alys at Monnington Straddel in Herefordshire and eventually died there. The family kept the secret for six hundred years but Sir John claimed that Glyn Dŵr is buried beneath a mound nearby at Monnington Straddel.

Whatever the truth of the matter may be Owain Glyn Dŵr is gone but never forgotten and remains a hero in Wales, a household name and icon of Welsh nationalism.

To read more fab castle blogs click on the author name links below.

As part of the blog hop I am giving away a copy of one of my novels. You can find out about them here and leave a comment below with the title of your choice and your contact email.

You can find out more about Judith and her historical novels on her website:
or on her Amazon Author page.
USA - click here

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Tudor Roses: the history so far ...

The history of The Tudor Roses starts about 500ish years ago, then there is a big gap until 2011, the 5th June 2011 to be precise. Of course 500 years ago was the amazing Tudor dynasty without which the Roses would not have come into being, in fact many of us may not have even been born if the Tudor dynasty had not happened as it was such a pivotal and influential period of the history of England and Great Britain, even Europe as a whole. Leaving Henry, six wives, reformation, uprisings and virgin queens for the time being we again jump forward in time to 2011 when Lady Emma, Lady Erica and Lady Katherine found themselves at Hever Castle in Tudor gowns for the very first time in public. They had been invited to spend a day there as part of a group of those who had purchased Tudor dresses from the seamstress who made them.
A bond was quickly formed between the three (and Emma’s partner, Darren) as well as an instant
love of wearing the gowns and being ladies of the Tudor court. Coupled with a shared love of everything Tudor a firm friendship grew between them. The Roses officially arrived in August after the girls got in contact and voiced their desire to put on their gowns again, but that Saturday back in June was the real start as it was inevitable that the Roses was going to happen. So after a casual discussion between Darren and Emma about the Hever day, a nudge to get Emma to get in touch with Katherine and Erica and an out of the blue “You could call yourselves The Tudor Roses” from Darren, the ball was sent well and truly rolling.

Logo created, Facebook page setup and website designed the Roses were good to go and the first step for them was to make an appearance on 27th August 2011 at a charity event organised by Restore Rochester Castle (now an official charity), the open air premiere of the film Ironclad in the grounds of Rochester Castle itself. The showing was put on by Nomad Cinema and was attended by the Mayor and ex-mayor of Rochester and two of the main stars of the film, Jamie Foreman (Eastenders) and none other than James Purefoy himself accompanied by Florence; the massive sword he wields in the film. Lady Emma and Lady Katherine were the Roses present at this event and did a splendid job of emptying all those bits of annoying shrapnel (commonly known as loose change) out of the public’s pockets – as well as some of the paper variety too – and collecting it all together in the collection buckets. They also impressed the guests with their dresses, as well as Jamie and James too, and posed for photos with all. Darren was there with his trusty camera which was to become a feature of any visit by the Roses to any event as he was drafted in to be the official photography as well as taxi driver and lacing-up-dresses-type-person. 


From this highly successful first official outing as the Roses the next stop was a weekend of jousting by the Knights of Royal England and the lovely Leeds Castle where Lady Emma and Lady Erica were privileged to be the Knights’ queens, with Emma being Anne Boleyn on the Saturday and Erica as Jane Seymour on the Sunday. This was our first large scale public appearance and it was a great success all round and highly enjoyable. From this first time working alongside the Knights we have worked with and alongside them many times since and it is always a pleasure to do so; even playing rugby along the way – ladies against knights!

With a couple of other bits between then and the end of the year our year was perfectly rounded off by being asked to take part in a Christmas Tudor Banquet at Hall Place in Bexley. Here we were to be found meeting and greeting the guests as they arrived, chatting with them as they had a glass of something and then directing them to their seats for the food – which was amazing incidently; especially the haggis! There was much merriment to be had and Emma, Erica and Katherine entertained the guests with some impromptu Tudor dancing to the tunes of Serpentyne who provided the live Tudor music. But for us, the highlight of the night was being introduced to the sweet honey fire water they call Mead; Lady Erica especially enjoyed it!

With Christmas well behind us, the New Year passed, 2012 saw us a pretty busy events diary with plenty of new and exciting new venues that were going to see a visit from The Tudor Roses. We shall not bore you all with by recounting every single event and what we did and saw but instead just list all the lovely Tudor relevant places we had the privilege and honour to see, several of which we got to visit more than once.
In no particular order we visited;
·         Sudeley Castle
·         Hever Castle
·         Cowdray Ruins
·         Ingatestone Hall
·         Layer Marney Tower
·         Hedingham Castle
·         Rochester Castle
·         Nonsuch
·         Dudley Castle
·         The Vyne
·         Barrington Court

To highlight a couple of these venues we shall first mention Sudeley Castle which saw them hold their first Tudor Fun Days to mark the 500th Anniversary of Kateryn the Quene – KP, who lays in rest at St Mary’s Chapel within the grounds. Her tomb is a fitting monument to such an amazing, and very much overlook and under-estimated, Queen and person. Just being in her presence, so close to the remains of a Queen of England and one of Henry VIII’s wives is a very humbling experience and one that feels you with a strange sense of calm. The Tudor Roses were very proud to be asked to Sudeley to be part of the yearlong remembrance of Lady Latimer, Queen Katherine - 6th Wife of Henry. Katherine Parr’s final home and resting place was visited by the Roses five times for the Tudor Fun Days and also for their Halloween Happening in October. 

The second, lighter hearted event in 2012 was at Dudley Castle where we were part of a live Paranormal Show called Psychic & Science. This was a live investigation into the paranormal world of ghosts, spirits and mediumship by the nationally renowned investigators Compass Paranormal. This late night event was a very memorable one and one at which we had much fun. What wasn’t fun was the mad morning rush the next day down to The Vyne in Basingstoke – though it was very much worth it as the Vyne is an impressive place to visit and to go Tudoring ( as we like to call it).

The final event that needs special mention in 2012 is the Rochester Castle fun run where the Roses took part in fundraising to try to raise awareness and funds to save, restore and preserve the 114 foot Norman keep that dominates the Medway skyline even today. It is also worth noting that this is the castle where the fate of Anne of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII was determined when she shunned the strange and overweight aging Henry as he burst in on her in full disguise to surprise her whilst she was watching bull bait on the grass next to the keep. The idea in Henry’s mind was that in true chivalric style true love would not mask who he was and Anne would instantly recognise him; well that back fired didn’t it Henry! We bet he wished he had just stuck to the plan to wait for her at Greenwich and save himself a whole heap of embarrassment and a massive knock to his male ego.
Not mentioning in detail the other venues is not to diminish their impact on us and their importance within the Tudor world, especially when you get to walk amongst such things as the awe inspiring ruins at Cowdray or watch the jousting at Hedingham Castle and to gaze up to the top of the tower at Layer Marney or to be struck by the largely untouched Tudor architecture of Ingatestone Hall. I mean, who can fail to love wandering around Hever Castle or marvelling at the beauty of Leeds. We can only say thank you to all the venues that had The Tudor Roses as their guests in 2012!

Right, on to 2013 and what a year it has been. We are pretty much at the end of our season as this blog post is being typed with only a tour at Layer Marney Tower on 8th September, Nonsuch Awareness Day on 15th September and the last Sudeley Castle Tudor Fun Day on 22nd September to go. We have just completed the final bank holiday weekend at Hedingham Castle and are very much looking forward to being back there next year with all those we are rapidly beginning to regard as our Hedingham based Tudor family.

The list of places visited this year pretty much reflects that of 2012 with a few exceptions, those being Dudley Castle as that was a one off event, Cowdray Ruins as sadly they pretty much closed due to lack of funding and cost of running – though they have started opening on a limited basis and hope to carry on next year which is fabulous news as Cowdray is one of our favourite places we’ve been, and also so far Rochester Castle but watch this space, the year isn’t over yet!
In several cases this year we’ve had to split the Roses in two to cover more than one place at a time as it was impossible not to double book events on occasions. Leading on from this is a good time to mention that The Tudor Roses has grown from the original three ladies to now numbering seven plus two little lords in the shape of Emma and Darren’s sons Jonny and Matty, and now also the Roses’ very own thorn as finally Darren has put the camera down (not permanently we hasten to add, it will still come out from time to time) and put on the tights, well, lower stocks actually! So the Roses now have ten members and are ready for the new season with new locations. We have also had some guest Roses this year and last, three of which have become permanent members. To those who have been guests we say thank you for sharing in the fun and we hope you can join us again next season. To the two who could not make it this year the offer is still open and we hope to have you along next season; you know who you are.

Along our Tudor journey we have made some very good friends including The Knights of Royal England, those permanently based at Hedingham Castle including the Norfolk Longbowmen, the owners and staff of venues and Steve and Joanne from Lavenham Falconry – Jo being our latest Rose, our Hedingham Rose!
A very close bond and friendship has formed between the Roses and Lavenham Falconry and we have worked very closely with Steve at Hedingham Castle and at his displays at his new site. This working relationship is developing and evolving for next year to incorporate many exciting ideas and concepts – definitely something to look forward to for us and we hope for all of you that follow and support us and generally love everything Tudor. The birds at Lavenham Falconry are brilliant to work with and are repeatedly under threat of being stolen by certain members of the Roses, not to mention Alice who works at Hedingham Castle.

Something that we are very proud of and pleased to be able to say we have done is to be involved with Alison Weir’s tours this year and last, being at Hever Castle to meet and greet her tour guests as they arrive at Hever for their first night – a great and much appreciated surprise for all on the tours. Alison is one of the nicest people we have met along the way and we love working with her, we’re honoured to number her among our supporters and friends of the Roses. In 2012 Emma, Erica and Katherine were treated by Alison to a not easily forgotten dinner experience with her tour guests at Hever and this year Emma, Darren and Katherine were invited to stay and watch the amazing play Fallen in Love: The Secret Heart of Anne Boleyn by Red Rose Chain. Emma Connell and Scott Ellis are brilliant actors and brought Anne and George’s story to life using just themselves and a bed that turned into an execution scaffold. Darren, Emma and Katherine actually went to The Tower of London to watch this play (off duty for a change) on the last evening of its run – watching it again at Hever was every bit as good as the first time at The Tower; two locations very relevant to Anne and George.

On a side note we’ve seen an addition to our repertoire with Lady Emma carrying our several school talks this year as part of their history curriculum as well as other Tudor related talks. She was also involved in an annual three week Tudor living history event for school children.  We’ve also been part of a Tudor themed wedding at Hedingham Castle and as mentioned above been involved in tours at Layer Marney Tower. Book launches, falconry and Tudor dancing can also be added to the list – we like to keep busy and to keep offering more. Oh, and let’s not forget a spot of archery with proper longbows. The Tudor side of London has also been shown. To wrap up what we have gotten up to we just need to mention the photo shoots that we have had at various Tudor locations.

All that is left for us to say now is thank you to all of you that have supported us these two and a half years of Tudoring and we hope that you will continue to do so into the future. We invite you all along on our Tudor journey as we grow and expand and bring you more of what you love – everything Tudor. We also hope that some of you will be reading as new to The Tudor Roses and will join us on our Facebook page. The link for that and our website, plus Twitter account will be included at the very end of this post. Look out for a completely revamped website coming over the winter months and for improved video Blogs that is something we started this year – we promise we will keep practicing during the off season. Thank you to Judith for asking us to write this brief, well brief'ish, history of the Roses so far, we enjoyed looking back over the last two and a half years, reliving many good times and looking forward to even more to come. We also need to mention Mr Russ Allen, a lovely fellow and husband to Lady Debbie who has stepped up not only to chauffeur Debbie to events but also to fill the shoes as photographer of the Roses when Darren plays dress up!
We hope you all enjoyed reading this guest post and again, THANK YOU to all of you for your support. We look forward to having you with us next season and we hope to meet many of you at the events we attend.
Thank you from Darren, Emma, Jonny, Matty, Erica, Katherine, Francesca, Rachel, Debbie and Joanne – The Tudor Roses!
Lastly, thank you to all the Roses from Darren and Emma for making the Roses what they are, the success we have enjoyed, the hard work you’ve all put in and most importantly for all the fun we’ve had Tudoring with you – the Mead is on us, here’s to next year!