Books written but not published
Lessons from Zen
This was a self-published book intended for those who are occupying leadership roles in various organisations and were interested in finding a new concept. Effectively, it is a download of all the themes and ideas I was putting forward at our management courses at the retreat centre and during talks at various conferences and public training courses.
Looking at it now, I would change some of it, but in as much as it encapsulated all that I was trying to express during talks and training sessions at the time, it just had to be captured on paper.
I am sometimes tempted to offer it for publication, but at the moment I am more interested in fiction. I find that writing a story that tells itself as it is being written, is an exciting and fascinating experience. It's quite spooky really.
I'm sure this goes for all fiction writers: one really has little idea what is going to happen next; the character that one is following decides that and the writing process becomes an act of discovery. Non-fiction does not have that element of surprise.
A Glimpse of Zen
This does what it says on the tin.
Although one of the unique features of Zen is that it abhors the use of the written word, of concepts and dogma (it has no sacred cannon, for example and has not belief system), students nevertheless want something to remind them of the basic approach.
Printed uniquely for what was a relatively small number of Zen students it nevertheless has had several reprints.
It not only includes a broad description of the philosophy of Zen, but includes an appendix with a complete set, with explanations, of the ox-herding pictures. These are paintings from the 11th century used to teach monks of the various stages of enlightenment.
Seeing Differently: A Leader's Handbook
This was an interesting book to write. It is an amalgam of Zen discipline and management techniques. This has suddenly caught on and the notion of mindfulness is being grasped by management consultants although I am concerned at the superficial way it is being done.
in fact, mindfulness is a misnomer: what should be aimed for is a mind less cluttered and free from thought. Mindfulness is the result of something; it is an outcome, not a starting point. Just as happiness is an outcome, not a beginning.
It was written for the directors and senior staff of a specific company whom I had taken on retreat a few times. I am pleased that they continue to be interested in the benefits of this - to some people- strange combination.
Training the Mind for Success
This is a sister text to the previous one, but is aimed at those in business and industry who have specific challenges in their work. Striving for that success, leaders and managers often encounter periods of uncertainty.
They are often tempted to abandon a calm, disciplined and systematic approach for busyness. This can falsely convince them they are making progress. Busyness must mean work is being done and progress is being made, surely?
They can also be guilty of 'management by wishful thinking' : assuming that because they have discussed a way forward with people, that it is actually being executed.
For such people, training the mind to tolerate uncertainty and sometimes failure is an essential skill. More importantly, self-discipline is something that should not be abandoned.
I found that the text quickly gained an interest from those who worked in NGOs, charities and government organisations where the results of their work is not always immediately appreciated. It has been particularly well-received by those in stressful industries, such as engineering project work, where time and money are often the most important criteria for success.
Grangetown is an old district of Cardiff near the docks. It was once a marshy monastic grange and this is where I was born and brought up.
After joining the Grangetown History Society, I began to realise that there were large periods of its history that were unrecorded in one volume. Much had been written about the area covering the early 20th century but little or nothing covered the period of its use as a monastic grange or its later, Victorian, construction. Questions such as 'why build the town there?' 'Who built it and why was it planned in that way?' had not been asked or answered.
It was published in October 2015 by the Grangetown History Society and proved to be a magnum opus. Almost all the original material was to hand at the Glamorgan Archives in Cardiff so I was able to study original correspondence and plans. The former were by far the more interesting class of documents.
It turned out to be a 440+ page book with many illustrations.
This was my first attempt at fiction. I began by writing tales of adventure for my grandchildren, weaving at least one story around each of them. Eventually, one of them began to feature more than the others, so i made him the Harry Potter of what became an interlinked series.
Like Harry, he was apprenticed to a wizard (a white one of course) and the later stories in the book follow him through his training, not always with the best results. But magic is there to sort out whatever happens and Tom the trainee wizard, aided by his teacher, comes to the rescue of his sister and cousins.
For good measure, I threw in some animal characters whom the children befriended as they embarked on their adventures. The animals possess magical powers of course and are close friends of the wizard, so they act as his eyes and ears over the children's adventures.
This is a genre I really enjoy, mainly because one's imagination has no boundaries.
The Strange Life of Horatio Evans
This is my major entry into published fiction. The series of four books chart the adventures of one of my wife's uncles who was quite eccentric and lived in the Swansea Valley. We used to visit him and his family often, only to be lectured on the inevitable collapse of capitalism and the rise of communism - "Just you mark my words!" he'd say.
He was a very self-assured man, an amateur communist (I think that's the best description) and a town councillor with fingers in all the pies of the town. It was an interesting small town too, with characters just as interesting as him in every pub. They all had a line to shoot, convictions they wished to share and complaints about 'them' whoever they may be.
He was a Quixotic character, never afraid to take on authority. But things never seemed to be properly thought out somehow, so that each initiative could end badly. The most striking examples of his well-intended but unsuccessful projects were to be found in his house. His genuine and well-meaning attempts at cheap DIY were just amazing - from his wonky 'leanover' that was intended to be a conservatory; the fireplace he replaced whilst still keeping the fire alight; his daughters' wardrobe that was sawn in half to get it upstairs - there was never a dull moment in the house.
After he passed away, we in the family often talked about him and his projects, both political and practical and eventually someone suggested the stories should be told. This was the origin of the central character in the Abertump stories of Horatio Evans, a fictional name of course.