John Davies on Writing

3D-Darren and the Draaken

Why did you start writing?

I worked as a chemist for over thirty years with BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay. The factory closed in 2002, so I decided to pursue my interests of music and literature. I’ve played guitar in several bands since and have written many songs and poems. My first book (with Geraint Davies) was a biography of Welsh language singer/songwriter/actor Geraint Griffiths. Next was a journal of my bike journey around the coastline of Wales from Chester to Chepstow. My third book was a light-hearted look at the relationship between song lyrics and poetry – can lyrics be regarded as poetry? Everything is hand written first and then typed out. I actually enjoy the physical process of putting pen to paper


How did you become a writer of children’s stories?

My granddaughter, Freya, was born in September 2010. I wanted to give her some sort of special gift so I wrote a short rhyming story called ‘Trevor the One Eyed Tractor’. Then in February 2013, Freya’s sister, Ayla, was born, so I had to write something for Ayla as well. This turned out to be ‘Darren the Dragon’. I enjoyed writing this so much that I decided to expand it into a series of six. Each of these stories has a distinctly Welsh flavour and Darren and the Draaken (Part II in the series) will be released in July.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

My first three books focused on subjects I was interested in and knew quite a lot about – I just felt compelled to write them. I also get some inspiration from a poetry group based at the Lorelei in Porthcawl. It’s a once a month ‘poems and pints’ meeting of very talented and friendly people. A challenge is set by the winner of the previous month’s challenge which gives me the impetus to write regularly. As far as the children’s writing is concerned, I’ve always enjoyed humorous poems by the likes of Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan and Roger McGough. I love Julia Donaldson’s ‘Gruffalo’. It’s the perfect rhyming story picture book. I wanted to write in a similar way, but also to keep a Welsh influence in my writing. That’s largely how Darren the Dragon came about – oh, and there was also a certain amount of perspiration involved as well!


Have you got more books planned?

I’ve already written the first five books in the Darren the Dragon series. I have an idea for number six and will be starting on that soon. Also with the publishers at the moment is an anthology of shorter poems and limericks called ‘How to be a Dog’ which, hopefully, will be released around Christmas 2014. I’ve also started work on a second anthology titled ‘Antics on the Allotment’.


Do you have any other interests?

People say to me, ‘What do you do with all your spare time, now that you’re retired?’ My answer is always, ‘I’m so busy now that I don’t know how I found time to work before!’ Athletics is my most time consuming hobby. I run every day and still compete in Masters Athletics. A few weeks ago I won a silver medal in the pentathlon at the Welsh Masters Championships – the first time in my life that I’ve ever done this event. Added to that I’m treasurer, membership secretary, kit secretary and race organiser for Port Talbot Harriers. I’m also president of Welsh Masters Athletics. I have a keen interest in pop music and play bass guitar and rhythm guitar in two bands. Not a hobby I suppose, but my family also plays an important part in my life. We babysit on a regular basis for our two young granddaughters, and it’s been a delight to watch them develop as they’ve grown over the last few years.

Editing 101: What to Expect from your Editor

So, you’ve chosen to have your book published by us. You have a completed manuscript and a ton of enthusiasm, and the cover designs on Rowanvale’s bookshelf make you excited to see what yours will end up looking like. You’ve filled out that proposal form, sent off your story, and are eagerly awaiting your publication date.

But, what happens now? Once your manuscript has been sent off, what will happen to it?

That’s where the humble editor comes in. Rowanvale Books work with several skilled freelance copyeditors and proofreaders to ensure your manuscript is to the highest quality it can possibly be. But what exactly do these editors do?

1. We read your book in its entirety. That’s right! We may well be your first readers. Normally, we will edit on our first read-through so that we can pick up any errors immediately.

2. We catch those pesky typos. It’s hard for an author to notice any mistakes within their own work, so there are normally quite a few! We blitz them and restore your original meaning.
Continue reading

9 Memorable Writing Tips from Authors

Often the most valuable advice comes from those who have been there, done that. So we’ve compiled a list of our favourite author quotes on writing for you to sink your teeth into, next time writer’s block comes knocking at the door.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

-Anton Chekhov


“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

- George Orwell


“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

- George Orwell

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

- John Steinbeck


“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”

- James Patterson


“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

- Mark Twain


“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

- Kurt Vonnegut


Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

- Kurt Vonnegut

“Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”

- Will Self


Derek Smith on Writing


The Beginning

I started writing a couple of years ago when, following an accident, I had to take early retirement. Walking with my dogs I would let my mind wander, and a story would come to me, and I would go home and start to write them down. I always know the end of the story before I begin writing. I‘ve always had a vivid imagination, and was always getting told off in school for daydreaming. I had often thought about writing a book but had thought I would write on the cowboy/western genre. As a retired builder I have worked with a great variety of people, each with a different background. The story originated there, and each day I’d get home and write a bit more, all in long hand. Later, once it’s finished and hand-written, it’s finally typed up.


My Inspiration

When writing ‘Point the Finger of Blame’, I thought of the men that I have worked with in the past, many of whom were called up to fight in Korea, and my time spent listening to their stories. They told me of how they were plucked from their simple lives and put into a war they felt they had nothing to do with, and once they had finished their term of service, they were just thrown back into civilian life, to ‘get on with it’. The Korean War, unlike the World Wars, was a forgotten war, and was soon buried by the general public.


Future Work

I have several works in progress at the moment, but in varying genres and styles. No two are alike, and I am happy to announce that both a Pirate and Western title live among them. So who knows?  I write because I enjoy it, and hope others enjoy reading my work in the future.  

Friday the 13th: Writing Horror and Suspense


Keep the violence low key.

The best horrors are often those that contain very little violence. There is always a risk, when creating grisly scenes, that the reader will become accustomed to all this blood and gore, and will inevitably distance themselves from the hideousness of it all. This is why the best horror novels always lure us in with the promise of violence, and then leave us waiting in a cold sweat, wondering what could possibly be happening to our poor, unsuspecting victim. It’s all in the imagination. Trust me, the imagination can create gruesome scenes that a writer could only dream of getting down on paper, so leave it to your reader to fill in those horrific blanks. When writing a horror novel, try to always remember:

A violent act does not create suspense, but the threat of that violent act does.


Don’t skip the scenery.

Since you’re letting the reader imagine all the gory details, it’s common courtesy to paint the rest of the scene for them – after all, they can only do so much. If you’re building up to a particularly climactic scene, make sure you describe the setting in as much detail as possible before you even reach that point in the story. Constructing the ‘scene of the crime’ early on will allow the reader to visualise your character’s gruesome end, and, if all goes to plan, dread said ending, long before it’s about to happen. We’re talking sights, we’re talking sounds, smells… the whole shebang.


Go easy on the backstory.

Focusing too much on backstory is the easiest way to slow down the pace during a tense moment. Your readers need to know enough about a character to care about their wellbeing, but not too much that your terrifying horror is turning into an emotive memoir. The best plan of action is to feed little bits of information about your characters into the novel sparingly, so that your audience is always interested in finding out more. You might reveal information through flashback sequences or through dialogue, in order to keep the reader in the know, but always remember you are planting the seed; the promise of new information, new twists and new discoveries are what keeps the suspense riding high

An Interview With : Gavin Whyte

1. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
I really wanted to write a fable that would encourage people to dream, regardless of their age. I am a firm believer that we can achieve anything that we put our minds to. Many of us don’t strive to better ourselves because we doubt our own potential to achieve. We doubt our own unique existence and our one-off place in the world. I have witnessed firsthand that self-belief, determination, focused positive thinking, ambition, faith and a burning desire can bring about the results one asks for. The issue then arises, are you ready to receive what you asked for?
2. Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you want to be a writer then you have to write, but it’s important to find your passion. You have to find what makes you tick. And the only way to do that is to look at your interests and the books that you read. If you get absorbed in fantasy novels, then chances are you’re going to want to write your own style of fantasy novels. If you are passionate about yoga and well being, and find yourself engrossed in non-fiction self-help books, then follow your passion (which is connected so intimately to your heart) and bring your own unique experiences to that genre. It’s so important to follow your heart. It’s not always easy, but it’s the only way to be true to yourself – and to your readers. Another piece of advice is this: Tell the world that you are a writer. You obviously have to back this up with actually writing something, but the more people you tell, the easier it will be to perceive yourself as a writer. This then feeds your dream, your, self-belief, your determination, your faith, your passion, your tenacity . . . tell the world who you want to be! Then watch the world support you in making it a reality.

Continue reading

An Interview with Connor Wolf



How did your book come about? Where does the inspiration behind the book lie?  
The Bite of Vengeance: The Devil’s Gift started as a dream. By the morning I knew the characters, but not the plot. I found it to be unique. I had my dream of inspiration when I was fourteen or fifteen, and up until I finished it in April 2013 it, BoV remained just that. A dream.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at age 11, and not very well I might add. My earliest inspiration for writing developed when I met Adrian Townsend (a well-known author) and it seemed so me.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I first started to consider myself as a writer as I neared the end of my first book, though I’m still coming to terms with it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think, uniquely, we all have a specific writing style, though being able to try and define in what way mine is unique is very difficult to me. I write as the words fall on the page. That’s the most accurate description I can give.

Continue reading