Tuesday 18 September 2018

New Book: The Oakley Woods Murders

Remember last year when I told you that Mrs Jones had released a new book entitled, Strange Times in Little Happining? I had the honour of illustrating it for her, the book has been very well received by readers, so much so that she’s written another and yours truly got to illustrate that one as well! Inspector Mandalay and the eager Sergeant Barnes return to be baffled once again by a strange series of grizzly murders in Little Happining.  What is the link to Oakley Woods and is the murderer a man..or a monster? Find out by ordering your copy either via Amazon or the Mandalay Mysteries website.

On another note, Beth’s books made this week’s Cambrian News, in an article entitled; Beth’s cosy crime fiction offers an escape from life’s stresses. Beth Jones has written the second book in her Mandalay Mysteries series... A Nefyn author who says her inspiration for writing is a desire to entertain and amuse, has released another book. Beth Jones, 57, feels that escapism is very important in today’s  stressful world. That’s why she keeps her writing light-hearted and, to some extent timeless.  Beth said she felt that nobody was writing the sort of books she enjoys nowadays – So she decide to write her own. Her love of rural village life is the basis for her writing, and her settings are a mixture of the Kentish villages around where she grew up and the villages of the Llyn Peninsula where she has spent the last 30 years. Her books are aimed at anyone of any age who loves a good old fashioned murder mystery, and anyone who wants to escape for a while to a world with old fashioned values where strange things happen and policeman eat a lot of cake. Beth grew up in Beckenham, Kent and moved to North Wales in her late twenties. Her love of crime mysteries began at an early age, when she started the 'Famous Five Fan Club' at primary school, being an avid reader of the books. By the age of ten she was reading Sherlock Holmes and a few years later she discovered Agatha Christie and was hooked on the genre. TV detectives also have a place in her heart, from the 1970's Ellery Queen adaptations to Colombo, Murder She Wrote and on to Morse and Midsomer Murders, with many others in between. 
Beth's love of Science Fiction began at a similarly young age, sneaking into her brother's bedroom to borrow 'Starman Jones' and 'Beyond Tomorrow', as in those days Science Fiction books were strictly for boys, she recalls.  These classic 50's Sci Fi stories combined with TV such as Dr. Who and Star Trek firmly established the young Beth as a Sci Fi fan, however it was many years later that she discovered her greatest inspiration in the works of Douglas Adams, which fuelled her ambition to write comedy.

At school she was known for her story writing, her first 'book' being 'The Adventure Club' a short mystery which she wrote aged ten. She also sent some of her poems to Penguin books and received a very encouraging 'rejection' letter advising her to keep writing. It had always been her intention to write a book but this didn't happen until 2017 when she wrote and self-published the first Mandalay Mystery, 'Strange Times in Little Happining'. The Mandalay Mysteries were inspired by her love of the classic murder mystery, but she decided to give her stories a bit of a different slant, interweaving them with some of her other interests such as Science Fiction, the Paranormal and history, adding her love of comedy to the mix resulting in what she terms 'a light hearted cross-genre mystery'. The first  story concerns Inspector Mandalay, a peace loving police Inspector and the eager Sergeant Barnes as they investigate a series of inexplicable events as History seems to be coming to life in the usually uneventful town of Little Happining. The book was well received, with Starburst Magazine describing it as 'One of the most utterly charming reads we’ve come across in many a year.' Going on to say, 'As for Beth Jones, with her work here she marks herself as one to keep your eyes on, with her particularly adept at having a great eye for detail while also allowing for the plot and story to play out in a way that feels fresh, natural and, most importantly, engaging.' On the strength of this book, Beth was invited to be on a panel of writers at last year's Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival, where she was able to share her passion for writing with other authors and Crime Fiction fans.
Beth has just finished writing her second Mandalay Mystery, 'The Oakley Woods Murders', in which Mandalay and Barnes investigate a series of grizzly murders which seem somehow to be linked to an ancient woodland and a mythical monster. Beth said she intends to write many more Mandalay Mysteries as she has grown very fond of the characters and has many other bizarre mysteries in mind for them.

So there you have it, either order your copy of 'The Oakley Woods Murders' on Amazon or direct via the Mandalay Mysteries website, tell her Arfon sent you!

UPDATE 1/11/2018: And as if that wasn’t enough to convince you to buy it she also received a 9 star review from Starburst Magazine adding, “With her two Mandalay Mysteries to date, author Beth Jones has crafted a world that is so simple but so wonderfully told that is has you eagerly turning page after page after page. Sure, there’s a great story at the centre of The Oakley Woods Murders, and there are certainly a few twists to this particular tale, but, as with Strange Times in Little Happining, it’s often the minute details that impress just as much as the greater narrative. When it comes to description and scene-setting, Jones is proving herself to be an absolute matter, with the quaint and warm Little Happining and its characters given depth rarely seen in such a swift and breezy read” and “We described the previous installment of Mandalay Mysteries as a hidden gem, and that is again the case here. For sheer storytelling, Beth Jones is marking herself out as a major talent just waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. In fact, her two adventures to date have a warm sheen to them that wouldn’t feel out of place told in a family-friendly daytime TV mystery. Part Midsomer Murders, part Scooby-Doo, all beautifully constructed in a wondrous anecdote that will instantly pull you back to a more innocent time when the little things mattered, delicate details were appreciated, and we were all a little less cynical and grumpy.

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Arfon’s Arcade Expedition

Penny Fun Arcade, Pwllheli -North Wales
'then and now' 
You will recall my 39th Birthday Bonanza- 299th Blog Post Special back in January reporting my visit to the Arcade Club in Bury who provide many of us with our much needed arcade nostalgia fix but shortly after my visit I found myself wondering what is the general state of the modern arcade? I understand it’s still going but it must have changed somewhat because we seem to be seeking out the classics and if this is indeed the case how much has it changed? Unlike most of us these days I am actually able to say that my local arcade is still open however, the Penny Fun arcade in Pwllheli North Wales was a regular haunt of mine back in the early to mid 90’s although somewhat different these days, this was the place I convened with my friends and played such games as Pac Land, Outrun, WWF and Robocop 2, why I even had my first proper kiss outside of it just next to the medieval Themed Aqua Blasta... but I digress! I was always in here either socially or passing the time waiting for buses during my college years. The Penny Fun arcade was opened back in 1970 as part of the Funland Fairground which has occupied ‘Y Maes’ in Pwllheli since the 1960’s when travelling fairground Ht Studts & Sons decided to stop travelling up and down the country and trade solely in the market town. It was reopened in 2005 with larger premises and a cafe and continues to thrive, so I thought I would pop in for a visit and see just how much has changed... a great deal!
The building is somewhat larger and filled with various redemption machines, High Resolution racing simulators and the familiar 2p machines but there to the side, the only two ‘relics’ of the past the original Midway Addams Family pin-ball machine (which I remember being new!) and an original Harry Corbett Sooty T.V Concert machine from the 1970’s both of which were a welcome sight! Please don’t misunderstand me I am incredibly impressed by the standard of today’s amusement machines, I just happen to prefer the classics... If I had to name a second arcade that I frequented during adolescent years I would say the ones at Butlin's Pwllheli the holiday camp located around 4 miles outside Pwllheli. A little trickier to get to it had originally been opened in 1947 but renamed ‘Starcoast World’ by 1990 the occasional visit aside I worked a summer season there back in 1995 (I say worked I actually spent most of my time riding the rollercoaster and visiting the arcade...) but in 1999, the camp became part of Haven Holidays and renamed Hafan y Môr (Sea Haven) and most of its attractions such as the chairlift, miniature railway, roller coaster and funfair removed focusing mostly on static caravan accommodation. It still has an ‘arcade’ as such but it’s a shadow of its former self.

SO I decided to pass that one in my mission to further explore the modern day arcade and travel a little further afield, 60 miles in fact to another infrequent haunt of mine, Rhyl North Wales, a seaside resort town and popular tourist destination and to quote Wikipia if I may, “Once an elegant Victorian resort, there was an influx from Liverpool and Manchester after the Second World War that changed the face of the town. The area had declined dramatically by 1990, but has since been improved by a series of regeneration projects that have brought in major investment. Several millions of European funding, secured by the Welsh Government, has been spent on developing Rhyl's seafront” I remember a time when all you saw along that seafront were arcades and so I thought it would be the perfect site for this little 7 mile expedition of mine! Starting out in the small town of Towyn also a seaside resort located just before Rhyl awash with caravan parks, arcades, pubs and restaurants catching trade passing in and out of Rhyl

Fun Factory - 10 Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LB
A great start to the expedition! Filled with various redemption machines and numerous fruit machines (never really appealed to me) and I loved the Angry Birds machine! Special Mention: A Zoltar Machine outside! A traditional gypsy fortune teller machine that inspired the Zoltar from the movie Big these machines are  produced by Harem Leisure lovely machine, and well worth your time and money.

Zoltar outside the Fun Factory!

Knightly's Amusements - Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LD
Part of the Knightly's Fun Park their sign proudly declares “A family business since 1961” and quite right too as they offer a traditional setting for largely new machines, racing games seem to be very popular almost as much as those before mentioned redemption and fruit machines which seemed to dominate the room, although I did like the Tom and Jerry themed 2p machine.    

The Dunes Casino Lounge - Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LB
Small and adjoining the pub this one I rather liked, it had all the classic seaside arcade trappings that appeal to me- small, enclosed no nonsense. Pirates Gold machine, Saga Racers the Arm Champs 2 was fun. 
Special Mention: House of the Dead, out of order missing a gun... I wonder if they would let me have it if I asked nicely?

The Dunes Casino Lounge, nice traditional layout- House of the Dead (1997)

Electric Avenue Amusement Arcade -Towyn Road, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9EP
Another batch of ticket machines and fruit machines although there was a rather nice retro one armed bandit there that we had a go at. A rather lovely looking Sonic Sports Air Hockey table and something else that interested me, which I hadn’t been aware of, possible copyright infringing themed machines such as ones featuring a cave man called  ‘Freddie’ and  one featuring a cyborg called ‘The X-Terminator’... Special Mention: An original (albeit slightly damaged) Addams Family Generator I played one of these in Rhyl back in 2003 when I visted the Palace of Pleasure (or... Rhyl's RustyLady)...

Electric Avenue Amusement Arcade:  Sonic Sports Air Hockey an Addams Family Generator (1999)

Fun Factory - 75 Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9HQ
Another Fun Factory which I would have almost dismissed for having almost identical redemption machines but for that dedicated Terminator Salvation game at the back- very impressive!

Fun Factory: A nicely dedicated Terminator Salvation (2010) corner 

The Black Cat Amusement Arcade - Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9HQ
Another one of those arcades that feels ‘traditional’ with some age behind it, I did ask a member of staff and apparently they have been open since the 60’s a great looking Kentucky Derby at the back and even PacMan makes an appearance, although only on the facade of  a PacMan Ball a 2p machine. Special Mention: Classic metal Walls Ice Cream bin and House of the Dead 2.

The Black Cat Amusement Arcade ‘s Kentucky Derby 

Lyons Winkups Amusements - Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele  LL22 9EN
Although I was perhaps more impressed with the Raging Ape  hand-wrestling game outside and the Tower of Terror game inside a Special Mention: for their arcade style carpeting throughout, although there was blue neon in the ceiling the black light that emitted from the Lane Master Game made it come up a treat and I wish they did more with it!  
Side Note: We had our lunch at the integrated Route 66 Diner an Americana styled restaurant that doesn’t sell Coke... once you get over that factor it’s very nice, I had the Elvis themed Chicken Burger. Yum!
Lyons Winkups Amusements Arcade: Carpeting and lighting 

Lyons Winkups Holiday Park - Towyn, Abergele LL22 9EL
Part of the Carvan Park’s entertainment with a small but nice selection of shooting or racing games. The Chameleon Paradize kiddie game was cute...

Palace Fun Centre38-45 W Parade, Rhyl LL18 1HG
The Palace Fun Centre is one of the biggest family entertainment centres in the area they have skill games and cranes, instant prizes, mini bowling, indoor mini-quad’s, fun gamblers and big video challenges not forgetting Laser Zone a laser combat game (more about them in a future post) I walked around the countless fruit machines and weaved my way through children running around with tickets to find something that I liked... Aliens Extermination... Aliens Armageddon with the Batman Racing game possibly being the only driving game that appealed to me...
Palace Fun Centre: Aliens Extermination (2006), Aliens Armageddon (2010) and Batman (2017)

Mr B's Amusements - 29-33 W Parade, Rhyl LL18 1HF
One of the very few places that promotes the humble Pool table.

The Palace Casino Lounge - 21 West Parade in Rhyl
A bright red flashing fruit machine and Bingo mecha and so I didn’t hold much hope in finding what I liked in here, there was a great Rambo game there and Temple Run but there in the corner was a welcome sight   Space Invaders FRENZY! A modern take on the classic, officially licensed from Taito it has dual cockpit seating”Ultra-powerful blasters” 8 foot LED display! I took my seat inserted my £1 and frankly dear reader, rocked! Those invaders didn’t stand a chance! I loved it and the machine proceeded to vomit 500 tickets all over my leg (much to the dismay of the child waiting behind me!) in today’s currency 500 tickets is the equivalent of 4 arcade keyrings!  
Space Invaders FRENZY! 
Casino Corner - Rhyl LL18 1HE
Permanently closed, now a retro looking Pigeon perch!

Queens Bowling Centre - Rhyl LL18 1HD
A lot of crane machines and usual slots and guess what, Bowling! Bowlingo to be precise, 6 lanes and great one it is too. Side note, no photos- the only place to object to me taking photos...

The Bright Spot Arcade - Rhyl LL18 1HD
The Bright Spot arcade was the first arcade owned by Solomon Lawrence Parker (1908 – 1999) of Parker Leisure (they also owned the before mentioned Black Cat).  And they  produced around 2000 Allwin machines(a generic term for a cup and ball machine) in the 1950’s for their own arcades before other showmen and arcade operators took note and started buying them for their own premises making Parker Leisure a key figure in the world of amusements. The arcade is still going strong and marked the end of our expedition. So what did I learn? Regarding Rhyl itself only half of its arcades are still running these days, which is sad. This expedition took place on a mild August day but there were masses of people around so the demand is still there. But as for the classic style arcade the Pacman’s, Konami X-Men’s and Mad Dog McCrees have long gone and even the classic novelty machine is a rare sight... Bingo is alive and well, the fruit machine is king and the penny arcade is now a land of crane machine and redemption machines, nobody seems to play for high scores anymore- it’s all about those tickets!

My sincere thanks to everyone that made this post possible- support your local arcade!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Arfon's Studio: Out with the old...

Arfon's Studio MK1. 1998
Early January of this year we were warned to "batten down the hatches" Storm Georgina was heading our way! The media warned us that North Wales was set to be battered by wild 70mph winds underlining the potential “danger to life”! Sure enough Storm Georgina, described by the Met Office as a “fairly typical winter storm with maximum gust speeds of 60 to 70 mph” rolled in, lights flickered power went on and off again and it passed. The following morning we went out to check the devastation and discovered that the caravan, my first (non bedroom based) studio had been claimed by Georgina. When I established myself as a freelance artist I set up my studio in this (then) 40 year old static caravan at the back of the house in 1998 and worked from there for around a year and a half or so before moving into (slightly) warmer premises.
Inside the studio (I still use that Philips HFC-171 fax machine)
Over the past 18 years various other storms made numerous unsuccessful attempts on the caravan but Georgina claimed the final victory by dropping a large branch on it and so the caravan was eventually emptied of its contents, broken down and removed for scrap in May leaving nothing but memories of those early, self employment days of dial up internet, floppy disks and listening to Mark and Lard on Radio One while I worked. So, as I prepare to unveil the new-look studio I thought we would take a moment to remember a studio from the past, share some photos of it during those early days and its eventual demise. 

Arfon's Studio MK1 after Storm Georgina passed, 2018

Gone but not forgotten...
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 8 September 2018

Arfon’s Studio: Meet my new assistant - Omnibot!

Things have been rather hectic here in the new-look studio, so much so that I enlisted some help and I’d say that an introduction is long overdue! Please meet my new assistant…. Omnibot!
You might be asking, “Arfon why a 30 year old robot?” well, firstly don’t be so rude! Secondly I will remind you of the 2010 Equality Act prohibits discrimination against an employees' age and thirdly this little guy was once part of the high end of TOMY’s home entertainment robot line back in 1984 and heralded as a “state of the FUN robot” ok he doesn't understands the binary language of moisture vaporators or speak Bocce, but he is both fully programmable and he has a built in memory along with a digital clock, alarm, cassette player and the ability to record/ playback and convey messages not to mention carry and retrieve objects! Now when you combine all that with his sleek futuristic design there can be no doubt that Omnibot 5402 RX is everything an artist on the go needs from a state-of-the-art-assistant! 
When he first came to me back in February he needed a little TLC and minor repairs to his battery connectors and seeing as the Omnibot Service Department at TOMY UK in Surrey had long closed its doors I took it upon myself to perform those much needed repairs on him and I am happy to report that he is now in full working order and we hope to add some new and exciting upgrades in the foreseeable future! As I said he has been in the studio since February and proved himself to be a very useful PA, some of the more astute of you may have already spotted him in the background, answering the phone, sending faxes, bringing me refreshments or leaving birthday greetings for friends on social media, but rest assured once those previously mentioned upgrades have been added Omnibot 5402 RX’s role will increase further! But until then please say hello to my new robotic sidekick!

Omnibot 5402 RX helping me out with one of my paintings
Omnibot helping out during the 24 hour Shark-A-Thon
Tiki Night at the studio!

Movie Night!

Omnibot feeding Darwin 

Omnibot tells a joke!

Omnibot sings!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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