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My big day finally arrives

For most authors I guess book launches are a bit like Katie Price’s wedding… you will only ever have a few such days in your lifetime!

Although ─ like the zeppelin-breasted Price ─ I have had two formal launches before, as a rugby fan I was really looking forwards to unveiling my latest work, Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback, as it was to take place in the Phil Bennett lounge at Parc y Scarlets.
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With Terry being a former Llanelli favourite it was a fitting place for the launch and it proved to be a great night, although, as I sipped a Gin and Tonic with Terry by the bar at 6.45pm, and gazed around an all but empty room, I was a bit concerned. However it turned out Kevin Costner was spot on when he said ‘Build it and they will come!’ (Field of Dreams) as by 7pm the room was fuller than it is on a match day.

Keeping with the wedding analogy you do feel a bit like the bridesmaid (but never the bride) when you write a biography and that person is still alive… because people are, quite obviously, more interested in them.

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I did have one lady ask me to sign her book and tell me that I was awesome – thanks mum – but I was more than happy for Terry to take the limelight, after all, it was his remarkable talent that led to such an impressive rugby career without which there would be no book.

When he tried to thank me ─ for writing ‘such a great book’ ─ I told him that it was all down to him and all I had to do was leave the rude bits out! As you can imagine, being a rugby player, there are more than a few stories that proved too X-rated!

Another reason for the success of the evening was the presence of BBC Radio Wales’s version of Terry Wogan… Roy Noble.

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Roy actually features in the book and being a friend of Terry’s agreed to say a few words… which turned out to be quite a few words but all were entertaining and made the event special.

I had the task of following Roy and took the opportunity to assure everyone that the book was still worth buying as there were other stories Roy hadn’t touched on!

Terry was next and when he handed the microphone back to me I announced the book also has some nice photographs!
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My publisher, Y Lolfa, later said that they had sold over 150 books which is pretty good by any standards and goes to show that Terry Davies is still very much a star in his home town.

With several talks and book signings to come hopefully it will be a while before this honeymoon is over!

When your baby arrives

Delayed or instant gratification? Which one are you?

I seem to remember the phrases from a child psychology lecture in college back in the day and from what I gather, the difference is the ability to wait a while before collecting your reward.

The topic was brought back to the forefront of my mind when a padded envelop fell through my letterbox this week with the unmistakeable stamp of my publisher ─ Y Lolfa ─  in the top right hand corner. Now call me Miss Marple but by the size, weight and thickness of said parcel I guessed that inside was a virgin copy of my latest book ─ Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback.

What to do?

Did I rip it open right there and then ─ like a starving sabre-tooth tiger a rabbit after being released from an iceberg, after 2,000 years, thanks to global warming ─ or do I place it on the hall stand and step away to gather my thoughts.

I chose the latter.

You see… looking at a new book is not too dissimilar to being at the birth of your child. When it comes through that letterbox (Now, now. You know I’m talking about the book.) it ends months of anticipation and longing and you can’t wait to hold it in your arms and show it off to the world. There’s finally a chip off the old block in the world and you wonder how you managed to create something so wonderful (your editor will probably say it was down to them!).

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However, in this instance, instead of rushing in I decided to draw a breath then decided that it was a rubbish drawing that just looked like a cloud and went out for a walk. I wanted to savour the experience. It’s not every day you have a book published… unless you are some sort of trashy literary whore ─ employed to write for a well-known trashy romance franchise that rhymes will Pills and Gloom ─ who churns stories out like Enid Blyton on crack cocaine.

I didn’t really enjoy my walk as I was too busy thinking about my book so on my return I sat down and finally opened the parcel.

Like all good parents you flick through the pages hope that it is normal and that there are no blemishes or imperfections… heaven forbid a page or two missing.

It all seemed to be in order. To be honest with you I have had several books published and have yet to read any cover to cover. I’m not quite sure why… well it isn’t as if I don’t know how it ends! But I also think that I’m worried I may spot a typo or grammatical howler… and once it comes off that press… there’s no going back.

I am also worried that I will read a passage and wish I had phrased it differently. I am never happy with the drafting process but, like a bad doctor, I don’t have enough patience.

At least the name has been sorted out! Terry Davies Wales’s First Superstar Fullback. Want to see a picture?

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Now it’s all thoughts towards the baby shower (I mean the book launch) which is set to take palce at Parc y Scarlets on Thursday, October 20, 7pm.

See you there!

It’s a book!

I was sent a proof of the cover for my forthcoming new book this week and it was pretty special.

I suppose you could liken it to that first ultrasound pic that they give to expectant parents anxious for the arrival of their new baby. Just like the happy couple I have found it difficult to resist thrusting a printout in people’s faces and saying: ‘It’s a book!’

B1While the cover has been put together by the design team at Y Lolfa I was still far more involved than is usual as I helped source the smashing action shot for the front and wrote the blurb. It’s quite sad really but there are very few photographs that captured Terry’s playing days ─ and even less film footage ─ despite him playing 21 times for his country.

That said I eventually found a pic of Terry playing in the red of Wales (ok so it was a black and white pic but it’s amazing what they can do with computers these days) that is just perfect. I won’t tell you the exact details of the pic just yet but will leave you to try to guess which ground it was taken at.
A massive thank you to the superlative lens master that is Steve Phillips (please check out his website www.stevephillipsphotography.co.uk ) who provided the back cover pic.

As for the name ─ always a difficult one for parents ─ you may notice that the title has been tweaked ─ it was originally going to be The Terry Davies Story Wales’s first superstar fullback ─ my editor informed me less is more when it comes to titles.

I guess I should write the biography of the first letter of the alphabet next… it should be a best seller!

The birth ─ I mean launch ─ is still a couple of months away but that gives me plenty of time to prepare a special place for it on my bookcase at home.

Sir Gareth Edwards adds a touch of serendipity

Serendipity. Never gave it much thought until I saw a film of the same name and had my interest piqued by a certain Kate Beckinsale (check the film out it’s well worth a look).

It turns out that it means fortunate happenstance or pleasant surprise, which are both terms I can now vouch for having recently interviewed one of my rugby heroes… Sir Gareth Edwards.

Now I have been a hack for 15 years in all so seldom do I get nervous before an interview but I must admit that I had a few butterflies – or maybe magpies ─ flapping around my stomach as I called the great man up on the phone to ask him to give me his thoughts on Terry Davies.

kateIt turns out that the nerves were down to the fact that the interview was for my own project – The Terry Davies Story.The biography of the famed Wales and Lions fullback from the 1950s.

Sir Gar (makes him sound like an infamous racehorse that went missing) has agreed to write the foreword as he remembered him from when he was a boy. The nerves came from the fact that I wanted whatever he said to be a) interesting and b) long enough to cover 2 pages. Bingo! Sir Gareth delivered Big Time ─ as he always did as a player!

When he started telling me that he remembers running onto Stradey Park after a game to get Terry Davies’s autograph in that instance the word serendipity looked as beautiful as Kate Beckinsale.
Here’s an extract…

One of my friends growing up in Gwaun Cae Gurwen, at the top of the Swansea Valley, was a boy called Huw Llewelyn Davies, who went on to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a respected rugby broadcaster. At that time Ike Davies did the radio reports on matches and quite often we would go along with him to grounds such as St Helen’s, The Gnoll and Stradey Park to watch our heroes of the day. We all had heroes as children. I wasn’t a scrum half as such at that age, far from it, I just played rugby and you would follow all your heroes; if Cyril Davies has a good game you wanted to be a centre or, Ken Jones, you wanted to be a wing or Terry Davies, a fullback.

As kids at the end of games you had a wonderful opportunity, especially down Stradey Park, to run onto the field and try to get an autograph. I can remember, vividly, getting Terry’s; it was a wonderful experience as he was someone who stood out for me from a lot of exceptional players who were around at that time.

To blurb or not to blurb… that was my publisher’s question

For me, the most difficult part of writing any book is the blurb.

It can also be the most important… certainly from a marketing point of view.

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Terry Davies painted by Andrew Vicari

While ─ rightly or wrongly ─ many people choose whether or not to buy a book based upon the cover the more discerning with turn it over and read the blurb.

Often the publisher will take responsibility for the blurb, as with the cover, but in the case of The Terry Davies Story my editor handed it back to me reasoning no one knows the book better than the author.

Thanks for the pressure!

Of course if you self-publish you will have no choice and it is an area that many people do not pay enough attention.

For what it’s worth here are some of my top tips when writing a blurb:

* Less is more. You have already written a book don’t try to retell it!

* Pull them in. Your blurb is as vital as that opening sentence if it doesn’t intrigue it will end up back on the shelf.

* Check for mistakes! Just one spelling mistake or grammatical error can leave your reputation in tatters; a book’s cover is, after all, its shop window.

* Read it back to yourself out loud. Lyrical is far better than clunky.

* Check out the competition. You have probably read hundreds in your time but go back and read with an analytical eye.

* If fiction don’t give too much away!

Here’s a draft of my efforts for The Terry Davies Story… come back after you buy the book to see how much my editor liked it! (Personally I think it’s too long).

The post-war period saw top rugby players in Wales achieve the kind of fame once associated with Hollywood movie stars and few captured the headlines more often than Terry Davies. The boy from Bynea, who combined the good looks of a young Robert Redford with silky skills and tough as teak tackling, went on to wow crowds across the rugby playing world through his displays for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

The Terry Davies Story ─ the often hilarious tale of a typical working class upbringing and coming of age with the Royal Marines before finding glory on the rugby field ─ is as much a social commentary as a fascinating insight into the heydays of amateurism.

From the highs of touring New Zealand and beating the All Blacks in their own backyard to the lows of a career-threatening shoulder injury, his rugby journey, which began as a nervous 17-year-old one rainy day up in Ebbw Vale and ended with universal acclaim, is real Roy of the Rovers stuff.

Look what’s cooking

I’ve decided upon a cookery theme for this post but have no idea why as I can burn ice cream in the kitchen.

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My current writing project ─ ghost writing the autobiography of Terry Davies, the Llanelli, Wales and Lions star fullback from the 1950s ─ is coming to a boil nicely… in fact if I were Gordon Ramsey I would be letting a few swear words fly in delight.

It can be a long and lonely process cooking up a book like this, the hours and hours of interviews that are replayed over as you transcribe them, then the careful crafting of chapters followed by the drawn-out drafting process with the odd re-write thrown in here and there, but when it all falls in place there are few more satisfying feelings.

Often running parallel to this is the search for an agent or, even better, a publisher, giving you hope that your efforts will catch the imagination of the reading public and perhaps make a best sellers list ─ even if it scrapes in at 99 on a top 100.

To be honest Terry has such a great story to tell and he has been so easy to work with I would have enjoyed the last two years whatever but the fact that one of the top publishers based in Wales, Y Lolfa, have signed it up is Michelin star territory!

The provisional launch is October down in Parc y Scarlets… I will try to serve up a few horsderves between now and then to whet your appetite.

Boldly going where this writer has never been before

As talk of missions to Mars in a bid to find a new home for mankind gather pace, on a personal note I have finally launched a new home in Cyber Space!

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GT Writing Services is an attempt to house the different forms of writing, services and literacy related workshops that I can offer, all under one roof as it were.

In part it’s a business website but it’s also a portfolio of the work I have done to date with a blog and social media thrown in.

Like an intrepid astronaut, it’s a journey I have long thought about undertaking in a bid to broaden my horizons and create a new world for myself. It may end in disaster but then again we only get one life and must reach for the stars!

So if you’re bored of Major Tim Peake why not make contact with GT Writing Services… it will be a blast!