Love The Words

On 14 May (International Dylan Thomas Day), Infinity Books published on the DiscoverDylanThomas website (link below).  They had held a competition entitled Love the Words where people from all over the world were invited to write a poem of up to 25 lines on the theme of Hope (so apt for today’s world).  So I wrote a piece and entered the work.  And then I waited anxiously for the results to be published and on the 14th I was invited by email to see the winner’s list.  And there my name was and at first I couldn’t quite believe it.  I blinked and re-read.  And there it stood: ‘Mark Lewis, Wales’ in the top 30 selected works from over 200 entries.  The competition had been judged by Dylan’s granddaughter, Hannah Ellis (who runs the Dylan site) and  the Welsh poet Mab Jones which added an extra frisson to the excitement.  Anyway, here is my poem followed by a link to the website for the full publication.  Keep safe everyone.

Hope

It had seemed hidden for some time

Behind curtains and banners

And headlines.

But

It moved

In dances and applause.

In cards and telephone calls.

It breathed between neighbours

And friends and mothers.

It spoke in the laughter of children.

It held the hand of those alone

And sang the songs

Of those who had no voice.

It came in sunlight and in flowers.

It worked the wards and corridors.

It turned a smile upon us

When we held our heads down.

It raised the roof

In shooting stars and magic moons.

It smiled behind masks.

It waited, patient, still.

Be patient, it said, wait.

I am here. I am waiting.

I am ready.

 

Mark Lewis

https://www.discoverdylanthomas.com/love-the-words-2020-competition-results-and-judges-comments

 

Downfall of a Fast Falling Man

I have been a bit quiet on the blog over the past few months.  No excuses really so I won’t try and come up with any.  However the silence here has given me time to be busy elsewhere, including writing a performance piece in free verse on 19th century mining entitled Elementals (which was scheduled to be performed in my local Arts Festival in September but which may, due to the current health crisis, now have to be postponed) and making a start on my third novel, The Best Medicine (working title).  It has also given me the opportunity to revisit my second novel (finished months ago but true to form sat on for that length of time) and yesterday I finally put it on Amazon to at least do something with it.  So there it now sits, with a beautiful new cover ready for the general public to enjoy/hate/criticise/raise an eyebrow over.  Its always a nerve wracking experience to let your book out into the world, to not be able to protect it anymore from the gaze of potential readers but, like a reluctant parent, that day had to come and yesterday, beneath beautiful sunshine, seemed to be the day.  I will say no more but retreat now into a darkened corner and wait for it to all blow over.  Stay safe everyone!

Downfall

It is done.  The second novel Downfall of a Fast Falling Man has been proofed and is ready to go.  In the process now of trying to find a publisher who will take a darkly comic quirky novel about a man in free fall.  A few friends (and my wonderful wife), trusted to give honest feedback, have read it and so far this feedback has been positive (better than I had for my beloved first book The Broken Places which still loiters in the peripheries on Amazon Kindle Store – if you have a spare 99p to extravagantly blow then by all means please download it!).  I have to admit that writing a synopsis is actually harder then writing the novel and despite on-line assistance via Writers & Artists it is so far proving elusive!  Still, onwards as they say and I must try and avoid distractions (like work and blogs and the box set of True Detective and ideas for the third and fourth novel!).  Watch this space!  I may well be putting the odd excerpt on this blog…

Second Novel Finished

It is official. I have finished the first draft of my second novel, Downfall of a Fast Falling Man.  Only the editing and proofing to do now (mind you it took me seven years to finally be happy with the first novel so hopefully this one will take a lot less time!).  I have a few adjustments to make, naturally, but have a good feeling about this one.  The third novel is already in the planning stages, after many discussions with my wonderfully supportive wife.  Must get priorities right though and finally finish the second one (and try to market it better than I did with the first!) before moving on to the next one.  Those are the difficult stages for me – the writing is the nice bit, the selling yourself the tricky bit.  Still, it is a very exciting time!

Have you ever had that feeling…

…when you are truly floating on air?

Tonight I had my third review (ok, not lots but sometimes quality as opposed to quantity counts) for my first book, The Broken Places.

It was also a review from an artist, a painter, who I respect immensely.  Her opinion means a huge amount to me. She is a wonderful lady and a wonderful artist.  And I am so grateful that she took the time to not only read the book but to review it.  And it is not an easy book to read.  It challenges emotional issues and is painful.  And for that I am even more grateful. Thank you.  You know who you are.  Thank you.

This is the review, headlined “This is a beautiful story”:

“Beautifully written. I had to take a few breaks as it is very sad, quite painful at times but structured so that you have to persevere to find out what happens in the end. It also has an unexpected ending. Altogether a book that I was glad to have read.”

And book two has one more chapter to go before the first draft is written.  Hopefully this one will be more accessible!

 

Reviews!

Excited now.  Okay, really excited.  So apologies for the less than literary quality of this blog.  Just had two glowing reviews for my first novel The Broken Places on Amazon Kindle (and I did not pay for them, honestly!).

One review states  “A fascinating portrait of loss which unfolds slowly and thoughtfully towards a devastating conclusion. Mark Lewis is a new author and one to watch. Recommended.”

The other reads, “This Author can almost paint pictures for us with his words, in this thought-provoking story. It covers a gamut of emotions, caused by one event.”

To say that I am chuffed to pieces is an understatement.  Thank you both for taking the time to not only read the work but to also leave such kind reviews.  And the second novel is going along great guns, up to chapter 15 already!  What a fab Sunday!

Coal

As readers of my last blog will know I have recently been suffering from a flu bug that has knocked me sideways.  In fact it still hangs onto me and I am shuffling around like the big Lebowski in my dressing gown feeling like the damned thing will never shift; in truth I am a junkyard.  However a few days ago, feeling prematurely perky, I went for a walk with my beautiful wife through the old railway tunnels in Saundersfoot along to Wiseman’s Bridge, a lovely coastal amble.  The tide was low and the sun was shining and the fresh air, as my granny always used to tell me, felt like it was “doing me good”.  Alas, such wisdom proved unfounded on this occasion!

The walk however also gave me the opportunity to revisit territory I had not explored since I was a child.  It also gave me the chance to get the sense of atmosphere, albeit diluted by time, of the old coal tunnels that operated here when the small seaside town was a hub of industry.  I am currently working on a dramatic piece based around the life of the Victorian coal miner in Pembrokeshire and so the setting was timely.  ‘Elemental’ as the piece is entitled, explores the harsh life of the miner and their families when coal was king in the area.  Life was hard and made me realise that a cough and slightly elevated temperature was little to complain about.    It is a piece I am proud of, even in first draft, and uses dramatic narrative and music and imagery to tell the stories of these brave souls who worked in darkness to bring us light and warmth.  I am hoping the piece will be performed sometime in 2019 – watch this blog for further details!

 

Coughs and Sneezes

Hemingway once advised that you should always write drunk and edit sober (and he of all people should have known the wisdom in that.)  Now I don’t claim to be Hemingway but if I could tell him anything, it would be this – its not so easy to write under the continuing influences of chloraseptic throat spray and sugar free cough medicine – they just don’t carry the impact of a bottle of bourbon or a Bellini at Harry’s Bar!

I have been off work this week with the heaviest cold that just would not be shaken free. It’s ironic perhaps that being off work sick gives you the opportunity to write but not the motivation!  Sitting in front of a computer wrapped in a dressing gown and scarf while the air is filled with the sweet petrichor of a rainy afternoon is not a wholly enjoyable experience.  But in between times of feeling dosed up and horribly sorry for myself, I have tried to tap out a few lines of my new novel.  And some of it I must confess has gone really well, which is doubly pleasing.  The need to write it seems does not understand the concept of being ‘under the weather’!  And to write quite well when feeling far from it is a very pleasing sensation.  And so, bunged up and self medicated, I will continue to try and get some work done….fingers crossed!

Reasons I Write…

The reasons I write:

  1. Because I love writing, I love the process of creating.  I “love the words” as my hero Dylan Thomas once said.  The words are everything.
  2. Because my gorgeous, wonderful wife gives me all the support I need to believe in myself. Because she loves my writing and she lets me write for myself and to be myself in words. I write for love.
  3. Because I want to write.  Actually, I will change that – because I need to write. If I am not writing I am thinking about writing.  There are so many unfinished projects.  Probably never to be finished and probably just as well!
  4. Three reasons are enough – can you think of three reasons why you would want to go to work? No, me neither!  Enough blogging. Off to write some more….theres a second novel that needs finishing!

Short Story

Spent quite a while getting the first novel to a place where I was happy enough with it to release it to the wider critical audience.  I know you will never please everyone all the time but it is a nerve wracking moment.  As part of my full time job I recently curated Nicky Wire’s first solo art exhibition and despite the fact that he has performed with the Manics in front of audiences of several thousands, he was so out of his comfort zone the night of the opening,  This helped to give me courage to be brave about my written work and not to shy away from critical review.  (Still have moments of cold sweat though!)  So I am presenting here a short story in its entirety (I know – blogs are supposed to be short and snappy so please stop reading here if you wish!) as it was a piece I wrote whilst giving thought to the novel.  I hope that you enjoy it!

“Among the garbage and the flowers” 

Each Saturday, though the naming of days meant nothing to him, he would seek out the same spot, parenthesised between the chemist’s antiseptic and the leather of the shoe shop, the warm smell of pasties from the bakery across the street carried upon the whirl of passers-by nosing him with a mix of comfort and longing. He would lay flat his hat, retune his guitar and the ritual would begin.

With patience as thin as the edge of a razor they trooped past him in a bustle like hectored refugees, carrier bags fit for bursting and rustling in the wind. He remained there on the borders of strained consciousness, plying his trade, doing what he did, a background harmony. He seemed to pay little heed to his audience’s lassitude. It appeared as if he was playing for an invisible force that made its presence known only to him.

Music hath charms, it was written. He witnessed little evidence of this but not everything was what it appeared to be, he knew that well. Work had temporarily subsided into time off and for many, he observed, this seemed to initiate a panic and they swirled through the streets like smoke from a snug with their thoughts of haircuts and vegetables, laundry and charity shops, lottery tickets and ticking off endless lists. He would smile at them whether they noticed him or not and let the instrument speak for him. Their lack of interest was no disappointment and he never questioned himself about his motifs. The choice was his and he was glad. Beneath fingers that would have failed exams and broken plates and fumbled away lovers, the wooded fret and steel strings, punishing in the crisp cold air, were the chorus of lucent angels caught in a euphoric celebration of life. The fingers moved relentless, dancing without thought or pause over tunes made unrecognisable with their grace. The B flat, the A7, the F. The mellifluous mourning for a lost love. Lamentation made beautiful by the thrum and twang. The blossom of flowers in the pluck of the notes, colours conjured and senses provoked. Nothing sounded as it should; it sounded so much better.

If anyone had thought to ask him he might have told them that, through the devotion of playing, the tips of his fingers on his left hand felt as if they had been blistered by a hot plate. He may have offered that in the chill his wrists tightened as if they were being contorted in a vice, the knuckles on his hands swollen like pea pods. But no-one would have known by listening and indeed no-one ever asked. These were not the sounds of suffering. And at night he would blow cold breath on the calluses and try to return some life to the numbed hands, the finger prints worn flat.

Six years he had survived out here with little more than his guitar and a repertoire plucked and adapted from memories of his father’s old vinyl collection, with the scratches and hiss wiped clean. Most were lucky to survive less than half of that, with the cold winds and lack of nourishment and sleeping with one eye left open and the drinks mixed with whatever could be found, lethal cocktails designed for forgetfulness. All he owned were the clothes he stood up in and the instrument that fitted his hands comforting as a crucifix. And the talent, that remained his alone. But this was his life, the path chosen, the first footsteps of a longer journey. He gave no thought to another life. His world was not in an office refilling staplers or counting through the stench of money, controlled by those who spoke a lot but knew little. His world was not a builder’s yard, coughing up phlegm from hardened lungs thick with dust. His world was not a suit and tie and neatly pressed shirt and shiny briefcase marked out from others only by monogrammed initials. His world transcended such a life. His was a world of giving.

That day was much like any other day. The shoppers hurried by as he unpacked his instrument, the children bored, the fathers dragging through the treacle of minutes, the mothers dreaming of far off shores and a handsome Lothario to carry them away or at least to do the dishes. Yet for him it was anything but a normal day. Slowly he plucked the strings; his right hand dappling soft like light on water whilst the left moved quickly over the fret board and the world moved rapidly below him. This world seemed a sadder place to him today, destined as he was to leave it, and everything that had appeared so bland and traditional was now haloed in a luminescence that found its way into the music, that played poetic in the words he sang with a voice he felt betrayed the tremolo of his emotions. In his mind he created questions that could be asked regarding his whereabouts, weighting his departure with a heavy sense of nostalgia, but he did not want to stir memories other than the sounds he offered. He dreamed in bar-lines with minims and crotchets, clefs and semi-clefs floating before his eyes like fronds beneath the surface of a pond. He had strained for the perfect diatessaron like a knight pursuing the grail. And after today the quest would be over, his time would have passed and he would be gone, moved on.

In the diminuendo of days he played on. The shoppers glazed by. Litter blew in the wind, pirouetting around his feet like a graceful ballerina or a hungry dog. His fingers never strayed, modulating a fugue here, a serenade there. The clock struck one, two, three and still he pursued the song, chasing it down with the beat of his shoe flapping at the sole, grasping at its hems with the span of his hands. And always the shoppers mooned by. The clock struck five. Dusk had settled and the chill had come. The lights were on, the day done. Weary he unslung his guitar from around his shoulder and zipped it away in its pouch. He stood for a moment and watched as the lights twinkled in the windows and the streets emptied. He smiled. The song was sung. The questions were yet to come.

“What colour were his eyes? What colour was his hair? How old was he? Do you know his name? Could you describe the clothes that he was wearing?”

And after much consideration, their voices humming a long gone tune, their fingers tapping a syncopation upon the table top, the cadaverous skin of his face, the kohl black shadows beneath sunken haunted eyes, the thinness of the body all forgotten or never noticed, they would open their mouths and say in answer as if they had only just thought of it, as if the questions had not been asked or had no significance, as if this reply was a defence, “But he played such beautiful music, he played like an angel.”

And slipping away with the price of a cup of tea in his frayed woollen cap, more than enough to sustain a journey home, the streets were suddenly filled with an immense silence that echoed down the alleyways.

Copyright (C) Mark Lewis, 2018

All rights reserved – no part of this script may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author.