Wednesday, 13 January 2021

 

On a quest

In an interview recently, I was asked what kinds of books or authors I like to read.

Since I have an extremely eclectic reading taste, ranging from politics, history, theology, and media in society, to fiction of all kinds from historical to mysteries to fantasy to sci-fi, I was stumped.

What kinds of books or authors Do I like?

Since the question was phrased in the context of my own novel writing (there too, it’s eclectic) I immediately tossed my non-fiction list aside and concentrated what kind of fiction I like.

As I pondered, I listed such authors as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien among my greats. I toyed with adding Jodi Taylor’s time travel series The Chronicles of St Mary’s or Rachel Caine’s alternate universe series called The Great Library. Others flooded into my mind: Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth; Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium and Patrick. The flood of favourites continued as I considered the many varied takes on the Arthurian legends that I enjoy. I considered my enjoyment of mysteries from Arthur Conan Doyle (no relation) to Agatha Christie and a host of modern-day authors. Then I trolled through the various sci-fi novels I’ve read.

I even considered my own suspense thrillers in the Oak Grove Conspiracies series. I really like them!

As I did all this thinking, I came to a quick realization. Pretty well every one of my ‘likes’ entailed some version of a quest!

I love stories that involve overcoming an insurmountable quest. That’s what The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings entailed. It’s what Lewis was writing about in his Narnia books. Even Homer’s Odyssey, or Hemingway’s Old man and the Sea.

As I thought about that, another fact struck me: My entire non-fiction, reality-based life has actually been that of a quest.

And so has yours.

During that quest we have each met challenges great and small. We have battled giants—financial, employment, relationships—while on our quest. Incredible people and events have changed our course of action. Sometimes for good., Sometimes for evil.

Some of us have a clear idea of what that quest looks like. We see financial goals, retirement, a big house, or travel, as the ultimate end of our quests. Others have more esoteric and fulfilling quests to improve life and situations for our fellow human beings. That encompasses those who aimed for and perhaps created life-changing technologies or medical procedures, or who explored science and space in search of the answers to life’s basic questions. Come to think of it, I’d put the many theologians and impactful preachers into that category as well; people like Lewis (not just his fiction) or Augustine, or the Apostle Paul and the gospel writers.

All were on a quest. To understand their situation and strive toward a goal that would empirically change existing understanding or, more impactfully, change lives for the better.

Even at the simple unspectacular level of life that most of us inhabit, there is still a quest that we are following. It might be for job advancement, education, better parenting, or healthier lifestyles. But it is still a quest. Or, rather, numerous quests. It is what keeps us going day to day, through rain and snow, through ups and downs, through failures and on to success.

Every day we set huge plans for the next day, week or year with zero knowledge of what those tomorrows might bring. Or even if they will happen. But we go on the quest anyway. That is confidence!

I like quests. I like reading about them. They excite me. They invigorate me. They frustrate me. They lift me to new levels. They guide me and challenge me to put the novel down and take on my own quest.

As I read about Frodo and Sam climbing up Mount Doom, I recognize the frustrations, pain, and discouragements of my own quests. But I also see the challenge met and achieved, and it gives me hope and confidence.

In my latest book Musick for the King I write about the great composer George Frederick Handel who was on multiple quests at the same time. He was on a quest for cultural redemption, creative redemption, and financial redemption. His soloist Susannah Cibber was on a quest for career and social redemption. Neither realized it immediately, but they were also on a quest for personal redemption. The libretto for Messiah was the vehicle that would take them along the ups and downs, challenges, failures and success of those quests.

For years I was a reporter and editor and broadcaster. Later I was a professor. Now I am a crisis management consultant.

But always, lurking in the background, was the dream of writing a novel. There were a thousand and one reasons why I should drop the idea. It was daunting. It was a lot of work. It was not fulfilling financially at a time when I still needed to generate income. I had limited time to work on something so iffy. Worse, I had no concept for a plot or characters or situation.

But I absorbed the lessons of my fictional friends and accepted the challenge. I went on a quest. Now, some six years on, I finished my fourth novel and have now embarked on writing a fifth.

What kind of quest lies lurking in your life?

They are there you know. Hiding, waiting for something or someone to ignite them.

Pick up your favourite novel—any novel—and see if there isn’t a quest hidden in the story. Step into the story. See that the protagonist accepts the challenge, strives forward, is battered, disappointed, seemingly fails and then ultimately achieves.

Watch for the spark that ignites a quest. Accept the challenge inherent in pursing your own real-life quest. Embrace it, warts and all, ups and downs, failures and successes.

It makes life worth living.

I know. I followed my quest.

 

Monday, 4 January 2021

On a Quest. You too!

 

On a quest

In an interview recently, I was asked what kinds of books or authors I like to read.

Since I have an extremely eclectic reading taste, ranging from politics, history, theology, and media in society, to fiction of all kinds from historical to mysteries to fantasy to sci-fi, I was stumped.

What kinds of books or authors Do I like?

Since the question was phrased in the context of my own novel writing (there too, it’s eclectic from suspense thrillers to historical novels) I immediately tossed my non-fiction list aside and concentrated what kind of fiction I like.

As I pondered, I listed such authors as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien among my greats. I toyed with adding Jodi Taylor’s time travel series The Chronicles of St Mary’s or Rachel Caine’s alternate universe series called The Great Library. Others flooded into my mind: Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth; Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium. The flood of favourites continued as I considered the many varied takes on the Arthurian legends that I enjoy. I considered my enjoyment of mysteries from Arthur Conan Doyle (no relation) to Agatha Christie and a host of modern-day authors. Then I trolled through the various sci-fi novels I’ve read.

I even considered my own suspense thrillers in the Oak Grove Conspiracies series. I like them!

As I did all this thinking, I came to a quick realization. Pretty well every one of my ‘likes’ entailed some version of a quest!

I love stories that involve overcoming an insurmountable quest. That’s what The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings entailed. It’s what Lewis was writing about in his Narnia books. Or Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

As I thought about that, another fact struck me. My entire non-fiction life has been that of a quest.

And so has yours.

During those quests, we have each met challenges great and small. We have battled giants—financial, employment, relationships—while on our quest. Incredible people and events have changed our course of action. Sometimes for good., Sometimes for evil.

Some of us have had a clear idea of what that quest looked like. We saw financial goals, retirement, a big house, travel, as the ultimate end of our quests. Others have had more esoteric and fulfilling quests to improve life and situations for our fellow human beings. That encompasses those who aimed for and perhaps created life-changing technologies or medical procedures, or who explored science and space in search of the answers to life’s basic questions. Come to think of it, I’d put the many theologians and impactful preachers into that category as well; people like Lewis (not just his fiction) or Augustine, or the Apostle Paul and the gospel writers.

All were on a quest. To understand their situation and strive toward a goal that would empirically change existing understanding or, more impactfully, change lives for the better.

Even at the simple unspectacular level of life that most of us inhabit, we are following a quest. It might be for job advancement, education, better parenting, or healthier lifestyles. But it is still a quest. Or, rather, numerous quests. It's what keeps us going day to day, through rain and snow, ups and downs, and through failures to success.

Every day we set huge plans for the next day with zero knowledge of what that tomorrow might bring. But we go on the quest anyway. That is confidence!

I like quests. I like reading about them. They excite me. They invigorate me. They frustrate me. They lift me to new levels. They guide me and challenge me to put the novel down and take on my own quest.

As I read about Frodo and Sam climbing up Mount Doom, I recognize the frustrations, pain, and discouragements of my own quests. But I also see the challenge met and achieved, and it gives me hope and confidence.

For years I was a reporter, editor and broadcaster. Later I was a professor. Now I am a crisis management consultant.

But always, lurking in the background, was the dream of writing a novel. There were a thousand and one reasons why I should drop the idea. It was daunting. It was a lot of work. It was not fulfilling financially at a time when I still need to generate income. research showed me that it was very hard work that got even harder after publication. I had limited time to work on something so iffy. Worse, I had no concept for a plot or characters or situation.

But I absorbed the lessons of my fictional friends and accepted the challenge. I went on a quest. Now, some six years on, I just published my fourth novel and am now embarked on a fifth.

What kind of quest lies lurking in your life? They are there you know. Hiding, waiting for something or someone to ignite them.

Pick up your favourite novel—any novel—and see if there isn’t a quest hidden in the story. Step into the story. See the protagonist accept the challenge, He or she strives forward, is battered, disappointed, seemingly fails and then ultimately achieves.

I challenge you to go on a quest. Accept the challenge. Embrace it, warts and all, ups and downs, failures and successes.

It makes life worth living. I know. I followed my quest.

 

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Handel's Messiah: Hope for Covid times

 

Handel’s Messiah.  Hope during Covid

 

While Christmas may look and feel a bit different this year thanks to Covid, we cannot let the pandemic totally control our responses, emotions and thoughts.

There are still things that can be done—differently, perhaps—but still adhering to your “normal” Christmas traditions. Various sites exist to show how you can have meaningful family times at Christmas, even if that means more online presence than physical.

We see a surge in awareness of the need to shop local rather than with massive online retailers or in the giant international big box outlets.

One of the great traditions in our household is our annual attendance at a performance of the great musical masterpiece, Messiah. Composed in only 24 days by George Frederick Handel, the piece has morphed from a Lenten composition as he intended, into a Christmas favourite around the world. Orchestras and choirs present the full piece to millions from Beijing to Barcelona, Dublin to Detroit. London to Lima and from Toronto to Tokyo. The resounding and inspiring Hallelujah Chorus is a Christmas staple as is the chorus “For unto us”. And Christmas for many will be diminished without that concert attendance.

I confess I love and admire this oratorio. A lot. But I had no idea for many, many years about the incredible back story behind Handel’s writing this music.

It’s a story totally suited for these pandemic times because it provides hope in the midst of despair. Handel was broke. He was facing debtors’ prison. He was surrounded by cultural and political enemies at the highest societal levels. He had physical illnesses and depression weighing him down. As an immigrant, he was now hounded by xenophobic ‘patriots’ who wanted Britain rid of the European influence that was Handel.

The story of his struggle to present his new work to audiences was exacerbated by the fact that his favourite lead singer—one of the top celebrities of her day—was just emerging from a particularly sordid and very public sex scandal. To consider having her “star” in what was essentially a religious oratorio raised hackles amongst the leading churchmen of the day.

That back story fired my imagination. I relate all of this in my book Musick for the King, a novel based upon the historical events that brought Messiah first to Dublin then to London and now the world.

The book was published earlier this year in the midst of the pandemic. It meant the normal book launch activities—launch party, book signings, book fairs—were literally out the window. More,  I, along with many others, had no idea that the pandemic would last as long and have as many ramifications some nine months in. And the end is not yet fully insight. In fact the short term outlook is depressing.

But as Handel found ways to overcome the obstacles in his path, I consider that it serves as a model for how we too can deal with restrictions, obstacles and negativity and turn them into triumph. What those triumphs are will depend upon you and your individual or family circumstances. But triumph you will!

I cannot go to Roy Thomson Hall this year for the TSO’s presentation. There isn’t one! So we will enjoy a video version instead. Hopefully, our close friends who always attend with us will be able to join us for dinner and Messiah, even if it is in our living room. (Since we do not live in a lockdown area and are allowed a small gathering that’s our plan unless restriction change again).

Of course, it won’t be the same! But as Handel showed, we can overcome even the greatest challenges and threats. It will get better. This too shall pass.

Whether it is something as simple and relatively petty as a concert, or something as impactful as not having large family get-togethers and Christmas parties with friends and colleagues. We will overcome. It will get better. This too shall pass.

It needs a humble but determined approach. Simple gifts from the heart instead of big-ticket items. A stay-at-home vacation instead of basking on the beach. (Especially if you designate one day as a ‘beach day’ and wear summer attire and flip flops inside even it its -20 outside). Traditional Christmas fare on Christmas Day followed by your favourite “foreign holiday” fare on Boxing Day. (For me, that would likely be fish and chips).

There are many great and fascinating ideas out there to keep Christmas traditions alive even in these pandemic days. All it takes is a little imagination and creativity. This is where social media excels—sharing great ideas, crafts, activities and recipes. Take advantage. This is the key to opening a door to your eventual victory over the impact of Covid.

And while you’re thinking and creating, take time to listen to the inspirational music created by Handel, even if classical music is not your normal genre.

As the saying goes: Try it. You’ll like it!

Monday, 16 November 2020

 In which the writing of a musical masterpiece becomes the central focus of a novel

 

What sparks an author to write a book? Especially a novel-cum true story like Musick for the King.

Is there something the author wants the reader to know?  Is it that we yearn to tell a story?  

In my case, my entire career in journalism, broadcasting and public relations has been spent telling other peoples’ stories. I began my novel-writing career so I could tell my stories; the ones I wanted to tell and, more specifically, the ones I wanted to read.   

After writing three all-fictional suspense thrillers, I knew I had to tell the story of the musical genius who’d fallen from the heights of fame and fortune to the depths of illness, poverty and despair and how he struggled, fighting internal and external demons to climb back to the zenith and public adulation once again. It was a combination of both telling my story and telling someone else’s story.

Musick for the King is the dramatic tale of George Frederick Handel one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. He was the King’s favourite (King George II) and his rise from the pits back to the zenith is the story of his greatest composition and masterpiece, Messiah.

Messiah is one of the most famous and beloved classical music pieces. People who don't know or appreciate classical music, still are familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus and some of the other powerful numbers in the oratorio. It is performed by choirs and orchestras around the world. It has become a Christmas staple. For many,  Christmas would not be Christmas without mistletoe and Messiah!

There are so many interesting pieces to the incredible true story. A very dysfunctional Royal family, a huge public sex scandal, obstinate opposition from the official church, treacherous attempts to destroy his reputation and so much more. I wonder if it doesn't reflect our own society—stars created, destroyed and then restored, shunning those you disapprove of and trying to undermine them, a fickle public that bounces from one “like” to another. It’s all there.

When such a dramatic story is handed to you, it is difficult to create a fictional piece around it. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction is most certainly true in this case. So the fiction in this story is the byplay around the central characters; the juicy real people as well as the supplemental—but equally juicy—fictional individuals who populate Musick for the King.

I wanted to create a book that takes you back in time not just with words, but with a feel. Thus, like Messiah, the book is broken into three parts. Each part and chapter follows the old-fashioned approach of previewing (as I did in the header to this blog).

It created an interesting challenge for me as an author. I had to be true to the known facts, to deal with historic people, situations and times. I had to tell a compelling story with real and fictional characters, that would interest and hopefully move and inspire the reader.

From reader responses so far, it seems I have achieved that, and I am pleased and grateful.

The trouble is that with research, writing, re-writing and editing, Musick for the King took several years, crammed as it all was between my other writing projects.

Handel however, took only 24 days to compose his masterpiece.

I’ve got a long, long way to go!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

How much of "Musick for the King" is real? Questions and answers.





Any time an author sits down to write a novel involving real historical characters as part of the story, the questions come fast and furious. And they are all legitimate. After all, if a reader is investing time (and money) in a story they want, rightly, to know how much is real and how much is fiction.

I wrote "Musick for the King" which was published this April. And, while the book has been well-received, the questions flooded in.

Here are just some of the questions and my answers

.
Q&A with the author
Q.      Who is this book written for?
A.      Musick for the King is for readers who love cracking good stories. It is for those who love historical novels, thrillers, intrigue, inspirational stories, novels about famous people, people who love music and reading about music, fans of classical music, fans of composers, fans of Handel and fans of Messiah.

Q.      Why did you write this book?
A.      I was intrigued by the incredible back story of this magnificent piece of music. I have attended many performances of the work but had no idea of the way Handel fell from the top of his profession to the bottom and then struggled his way back up with. Then, I learned about the story of his lead singer, Susannah Cibber, which seemed to mirror Handel’s own—falling from the top of her career to the bottom, then struggling back up. It was a story that cried out to be told!
Q.      How much of this story is real?

A.      About 90 per cent! The story of George Frederik Handel and his struggles to survive his depression and failures is real. The story of how he came to receive the libretto (words) of the oratorio, the fact that he took only 24 days to compose the music, the fact that he spent a winter in Dublin performing concerts and debuting Messiah, is all real. The battle to debut Messiah in London against fierce opposition is also real. The peripheral characters who sought to ruin him and the efforts they made to do so, are fictional. But even then, they too represent reality and truth.


Q.      Who actually wrote the oratorio Messiah?
A.      Handel wrote the music for a libretto (text) put together by a man named Charles Jennens. The entire libretto is merely an arrangement of biblical verses that Jennens wove into the story of God’s relationship and redemption of mankind.

Q.      Did Handel really produce the music in 24 days?
A.      Absolutely! Hard as it is to conceive, he produced the whole composition in that time. He ate little and slept little while composing it.

Q.      Is it true that the author of Gulliver’s Travels tried to stop the debut of Messiah?
A.      Yes. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s author, was an Anglo-Irish clergyman, poet, writer and social critic. He was also the Dean (head) of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The church is the Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican). Handel had arranged to use the Cathedral choir members along with those from Christ Church Cathedral (just a few blocks away and the Anglican Cathedral for the city of Dublin). Swift, who was ill and suffering dementia at the time (he died less than a year later) changed his mind and refused permission for the choir to participate. Without singers, the oratorio was finished. Fortunately, Swift was persuaded to change his mind again and the singers were allowed to perform.

Q.      Who was Handel’s lead singer and what was her story?
A.      Susannah Cibber was an actress-singer who was the pop star of her day. She was the 18th-century version of Lady Gaga, Madonna and Celine Dion together. She wowed her audiences as she performed in London’s popular operas of that day. She had the West End in the palm of her hand. A contemporary said that while others sang for the ear, Susannah sang to the heart. She could move people. She was married to a brute who physically, verbally, mentally, financially and sexually. She left him for a man with whom she had an affair. Her husband Theo sued for divorce and had her charged with adultery. The resulting court case was a very public scandal, covered every day by the newspapers of that time. At the end, while she was indeed found guilty, the court showed its scorn and disgust with Theo by granting him a pittance of five pounds as opposed to the hundreds he demanded. But Susannah’s career seemed to be destroyed. She too was at the bottom. And she too strove to resurrect her career.

Q.      What does this Musick for the King say to 21st-century readers?
A.      I think it is a story of determination overcoming dire circumstances. As we face the Covid 19 crisis today, it shows us that even when things seem bleak, even when we are isolated, and even when we feel depressed, we can overcome. Through determination and just plain doggedness, we can meet the challenge head-on and even in our own small way, achieve great success. It is a reminder to us all, to never give up.


Tuesday, 14 April 2020





HOW YOU RESPOND NOW WILL DETERMINE HOW PEOPLE RESPOND TO YOU THEN


This is one of a series of posts providing help to churches and small non-profits cope with the impact of  Covid-19 on their operations, image and reputation. More information can be found in an online video certificate course I prepared for Plan to Protect (www.plantoprotect.com). It's an organization providing training and resources for churches and organizations that deal with vulnerable people.

As we struggle through the Covid-19 crisis, there are lessons to be learned whether you operate a major corporation or ministry or a local church, school or mission.

Simply put, how you deal with the present will determine how others deal with you in the future.
It has been interesting to watch major brands work their way through this crisis. How they respond teaches us all lessons of how, and how not, to do it.

I see lots of ads and PSA’s thanking everyone from medical staff to truck drivers to grocery store clerks for serving us and helping us. That’s good. And certainly well deserved. One fast food chain has its spokesperson somberly and trying to do so seriously. Other brands are pumping out positive messages along the line of “we’ll get through this if we work together.” Still others brag about how they are sanitizing everything and anything.

But the brands that are beginning to stand out are those that do more than talk and posture. They are actually doing something tangible and meeting people where they have needs. Tim Hortons (which has taken some PR hits over the past few years) has very quietly been sending out vans loaded with free coffee and goodies to local hospitals to help ER and ICU staff get a small break from the intensity of their days. A number of major hotel chains—particularly those with facilities close to hospitals—are offering hospital and medical staff free rooms, realizing that those people cannot go home for fear of infecting their families and loved ones. Sunwing Airlines (another brand that has a poor reputation) offered all its unused inflight meals to local food banks and shelters after their operations were shut down. Loblaws raised wages for both store staff, shippers and stockroom staff. Normally they are all minimum wage employees. Ford is relieving payments for three months and giving another three months on top for anyone having financial difficulties and struggling to meet car payments. Even the maligned telecoms have eliminated data overage charges during the crisis.
All of these had one thread in common: they not only expressed thanks and care, they acted on it.
Part of crisis management is learning from an existing crisis and then applying the lessons learned to future actions. The goal is to create or reinforce an organization’s reputation so that it mitigates the negative impact of any future situation.

The question is, what are you doing in response to Covid 19? How are you being perceived by the people around you and the people watching you? In the online video training I did for Plan to Protect, I talked about this post-crisis situation and how it really should be a pre-crisis mentality. My reporter friend Dan Brown of the London Free Press said it succinctly. “If you are only calling me after the crisis to cover you, or if your first contact with me is in the middle of the crisis, you have done yourself no good whatsoever.” As I said in that module, people are carefully weighing your words against your actions; they want to know if your deeds reflect your values. If they do, you will gain strong support. If not, you will be scorned and ignored.

Your response in crisis is critical. Pun intended!

If you are just expressing concern and doing online contact with your people that’s good, but not enough. No matter if you are a denomination, a local church (large or small), a school, a camp, a multi-site operation or a small local mission, you need to act.

Some churches are stepping up efforts to work with homeless or vulnerable people, from providing food supplies to buying or creating masks and other sanitary supplies. Congregation members order food online from local groceries for pickup at the store; it is then delivered to the receiving agency. Others are providing assistance and materials directly to front-line hospital workers or their families, checking in with them, providing support and encouragement as well as necessary supplies.

Letting the local community know and enlisting their help as well sets a deep impression into the community psyche. Is there equipment, are there facilities or supplies you could donate to front line services? How can you provide practical help no matter what kind of organization you represent?
People also watch carefully how you treat your employees as well as your members, clients or adherents. They find out directly from the employee or the families how well or how poorly you treated them in the crisis. And the people remember. We may be a wired society, but the gossip lines are still potent. It’s just that they are more likely to appear on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. And when we’re allowed to gather again, the tongues will wag.

Financier Warren Buffet said that it can take an organization 20 years to build a reputation, but it can be destroyed in 20 minutes.

What kind of an image do you have now and what kind of reputation do you want to have when the world gets righted? Are people going to feel good about you or will they be turned off.
Even as this crisis continues, you have choices to make. Good leadership is all about not just handling the present, but projecting into the future and setting things in place to lead your group into a stronger position where you are better accepted by the community and having a stronger impact upon it than you did before.

Be that kind of leader!



Thursday, 21 June 2018

Book locations 6: The Welsh Valleys

Where are the books set? And why?
A series about locations in my books
(The Excalibur Parchment, The Lucifer Scroll, The Prince Madoc Secret)

Part Six: The Welsh Valleys
        In the south of the little nation of Wales, not that far from the English border, is a series of valleys stretching up into the mountainous areas of the Brecon Beacons from the flatter coast plain that is called the Vale of Glamorgan. These are the famous Welsh Valleys.

          For many years they were associated with the coal mines that dotted the entire area. Books and movies were made documenting the valleys, most notably the book, later a film “How Green was my Valley.” The coalmines closed—the last one in the early 90’s. The area became woefully depressed and poverty and joblessness was too often the norm.

Its not just coal! The Valleys have also given the world magnificent music, wonderful hymns, great physical beauty, some of the best rugby players in the world and a lively, friendly culture that transcends the difficulties and exhibits life in the full.

The names evoke pictures of coal-smeared miners, metal helmets with minion-like lenses, emerging from metal-crate elevators arising from the bowels of the earth: names like Rhondda, Taff, Ebbw, Cynon, Llynfi and others.

It is an area of resourceful people. Tough people. Caring people. It is an area of great beauty. Steep valley sides are dotted with rows of stone miners’ cottages climbing up the valley as it gets narrower and narrower. Once huge piles of coal slag are now emerging as green landscapes because of regeneration projects. Rivers flow. Trees grow. People who once looked out on scarred, coal smoked visages now enjoy verdant green settings and new forests emerging.

It was this setting that propelled the stories along. The area is rich in history, dating back well before Roman times and stretching into the post-Conquest Norman period. Warfare and rebellion are embedded in the psyche of the Valleys. Stories abound of magnificent victories over the English invaders. And magnificent losses. But ultimately it is a story of reconciliation and living together, however reluctantly and that marks the Valleys.  It’s why the Valleys are so important in the stories. They are stories about centuries-old Christian monks and modern-day faith seekers; stories about diabolical supernatural evil and stories about individuals struggling, reluctantly and sometimes without hope, to save what was important and protect the heritage they were given.

My fictional 12th century abbey, Cymllyn was set here. The courageous monks Thomas and Owain struggled through this rugged landscape. A hilltop church, based on the one at Llangynydd, becomes a focal point in the battle for Excalibur.

Just south of the Valleys are the cities of Cardiff, capital of Wales, and Swansea, packed with historic sites, great restaurants, museums and cultural icons are certainly well worth the visit.

But don’t stay in the cities. Explore the Valleys themselves and reward yourself.

Mountain tops. Villages. Row houses. Vast moorlands. Picturesque churches and farms.

The Welsh Valleys. 

Well worth crossing the Severn River for.