When I was a child I was always in trouble for teasing my brothers. I think I might have been a bit of a bully. For instance, I was always Robin Hood. The middle brother was Maid Marion and the youngest, I think, was a horse. Or some sort of horse related product. Anyway, they deserved it and it did them nothing but good. I’d like to think I’ve moved on, but obviously I haven’t because I’m about to do it again.
You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to. Well, it doesn’t matter whether you can or not because I’m not allowed to tell you. I can tell you I’ve just returned from a meeting with Audible, the lovely people who do the audio versions of my books – the ones so beautifully read by Zara Ramm.
There’s something in the works which hasn’t actually ever been done before and it’s very exciting. Which is pretty much all I’m allowed to say. If it helps, I can tell you the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day in Bristol.
Perhaps I should toss out a crumb or two. The meeting was very long because everyone had lots to say – especially me. It’s going to take some time, but we’ve made a start. There – that helped, didn’t it?
It only remains for me to say – Watch this space and go and put the kettle on. Happy Thursday, everyone.
At least you don’t have to wait too long until My Name is Markham is out! Pre-order your copy today and don’t forget all author royalties goes straight to Help for Heroes.
You think I just sit and write and drink tea, don’t you?
Actually, I do, but there’s a lot going on in October, so I thought I’d share what’s happening.
20th October – Blackwell’s Oxford.
I’ve been asked to appear at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. Yes – THE Blackwells! To appear in a live podcast – Ex Libris LIVE!
It’s very similar to Call My Bluff, but in this case, authors and wordsmiths come up with plausible but fake first and last lines for genuine books, and try to convince their fellow panellists theirs is the correct one.
As you can imagine, I’m alternately hugely excited and blind with terror. The whole thing is live and everyone who knows me well will readily testify that in times of crisis I go completely to pieces and can’t remember who I am and gibber endlessly and completely forget to punctuate so anyone reading this aloud has turned blue and died.
If you fancy trotting along to check it out – not necessarily on the 20th – they’re a regular occurrence – here are the links:
Here’s the link to Blackwell’s Oxford events with more details.
29th – 30th October – Cardiff Comic Con at the Motorpoint Arena 9.00am – 6.00pm both days.
Yes, they asked me back! I know – I can hardly believe it either and I’m so thrilled because I met loads of wonderful people there last year. The atmosphere – the costumes – everything is so exciting. It’s lovely to be surrounded by people who are plainly having a wonderful time.
Who can forget Lily, the Blue Angel. She was actually a Weeping Angel, bit I thought Blue Angel was a much nicer name.
Or Batman and Batgirl, carrying their nine-month old baby dressed as Robin the Boy Wonder and thoroughly enjoying all the attention.
I saw every incarnation of Dr Who, any number of Daleks, tons of Mr Spocks and just about every character from Game of Thrones.
The usual Accent Press stand will be there and I’m told there will be a certain amount of St Mary’s merchandise, loads of books, and some special offers. Do drop by for a chat if you’re in the neighbourhood – we’re a very friendly bunch. I’ll be there, doing my best to look normal and my wonderful editor has threatened to come as Editwoman. I intend to hold her to that. More details will be posted as they become available.
Last but not least, the new St Mary’s Christmas short story My Name is Markham is now on pre-order, with proceeds going to Help for Heroes, so tell you friends…
I thought I’d have a go at beating the retail industry to being the first to mention Christmas. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been – the first advert for Christmas cards usually greets us on return from our summer holidays, but here’s an update on things happening – and, astonishingly, in order of their happeningness, so everyone knows what’s going on.
(Happeningness? – doesn’t your heart go out to my editor?)
Anyway – to business. Because TODAY’S THE DAY!!!!
The Christmas Short Story, My Name is Markham, is done and dusted and will be published – as has become traditional – on Christmas Day. This one involves Markham himself, desperate to canter through this assignment as quickly as possible so he can return to Nurse Hunter, improbably dressed as Tinkerbelle and clutching a pump-action wand.
And – to anticipate the also traditional deluge of enquires, the story will be available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk FROM TODAY – 26th September. Today is the 26th, isn’t it? Typical historian – I’m useless with dates.
At the of writing, I’m afraid I have no info on when it will be available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Sorry!
Here’s a sample from the blurb, just to whet your appetite:
Like a smaller and much scruffier Greta Garbo – finally – Markham Speaks!
It’s Christmas and time for the First (and almost certainly the last) St Mary’s Annual Children’s Christmas Party – attendance compulsory – by order of Dr Bairstow.
Discovered practising his illegal reindeer dance and poo-dropping routine, our hero, along with fellow disaster-magnets Peterson and Maxwell, is despatched to Anglo-Saxon England to discover the truth about Alfred and the cakes.
Told in his own words, our hero reveals Major Guthrie’s six-point guide to a successful assignment, together with the Security Section’s true opinion of the History Department. And historians in general. And one historian in particular.
And, just to be clear, it’s only time travel, for God’s sake. Forget all that pretentious ‘investigating major historical events in contemporary time’ rubbish. This is history without the capital ‘H’.
Because this is the way the Security Section rolls!
The brilliant people at Accent are attaching a copy of the cover somewhere on this blog – because I can’t be trusted to do it right – so you know how it’s going to look.
I’m going to be making blatant and shameless plugs for this short story because I’m particularly keen for it to do well. Royalties are to go to Help for Heroes so I do hope you’ll not only buy a copy yourself, but recommend it to your friends as well.
Following on from that, the manuscript’s not finished yet, but we’ve finally fixed on the title for Book 8 in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series. Max and co will be back with the usual bang next year. Look out for ‘And the Rest is History.’
There’s no cover yet, but the tentative blurb is:
No one knows quite how, but Max and her baby are safe at last.
No one knows quite how, but Peterson has persuaded Dr Foster to marry him.
No one knows quite how, but Markham’s marital status remains unknown.
Certainly no one knows quite how a twelve-foot-high teapot could mysteriously materialise on the South Lawn, but it does.
But they do know that Clive Ronan is back.
They do know that he hates them and that this time he has good cause. And they do know that he will bring death and destruction in his wake.
Follow the disaster magnets of St Mary’s from the Egyptian desert to the Battle of Stamford Bridge, from Hastings to the Sack of Constantinople, and from tragedy to triumph and back again, in this, the eighth book in The Chronicles of St Mary’s.
I believe this one is due to be published in June of next year, and before anyone asks, yes, I’ve made a start on Book 9.
And finally, for those of you who have been calling for the return of the inmates – sorry, inhabitants – of Frogmorton Farm, the sequel to The Nothing Girl has been completed and is with Accent Press at this very moment. The working title is ‘The Someone Girl,’ and all the old favourites are back, together with Jack the Sad Donkey, the fearsome Ananda Balasana and Francesca the Hairy-Legged Chicken. There are no publication dates yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Pre-order My Name is Markham here!
I think I may have terminal concussion. An uncaring world says I only have a small red mark on my forehead, and that any idiot who ventures into a long barrow without a torch is suffering from terminal stupidity – not concussion. They’re wrong.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve left the relative safety of my desk and ventured out into the world again. That rarely ends well.
I set off with my brother, the eminent author – who also never thought to bring a torch, so blundering around in the dark is obviously a writer thing – to visit the World Heritage Site at Avebury, followed by a visit to the West Kennet Long Barrow and then on to Silbury Hill.
The whole thing was a bit of a disaster. Well, how could it not be. We’re writers. We don’t do outdoors. I fell into a hole – and believe it or not, the eminent author managed to capture the moment with his camera, and the word ‘blackmail’ is being bandied about. He couldn’t get the nice one of me posing, writer like and staring thoughtfully at the horizon, could he?
Anyway, we did the usual Avebury things – counted the stones, paced the distance between them and speculated – which is author speak for argued violently – as to their origins, our theories getting wilder and wilder until we were discussing a fictional plot containing giant serpents, aurochs, ley lines, and an unlikely heroine named Plain Jane with a Brain, the daughter of Tarquin and Jacintha.
As you can see, we have to make these trips together because no one else will go out with us.
From there, still casting aspersions on each other’s theories, we journeyed to the West Kennet Long Barrow, which is where the head banging occurred. I could barely see for the flashing lights in front of my eyes. I think it was there that I fell into the hole, but it’s all a bit blurry. The eminent writer nearly fell over laughing, obviously forgetting we’d had to leave Avebury in a tearing hurry because one of us had been terrorised by a field of cows who, although lying down, WERE LOOKING AT HIM IN A FUNNY WAY.
I did try to explain that cows don’t have any other way of looking at you, and reassured him that they don’t bite, they slobber, and that the only danger he was in was that of being soundly licked or encased in cow mucus, but I was wasting my time. I’m actually very brave when I’m out with my brother because I know I can run faster than he can.
From there we walked to nearby Silbury Hill which is pretty impressive, and after a careful check for cows and other hostile entities, walked around the base, evolving even more theories. Hippies, the pyramids, primitive fertility rites, human sacrifice, hidden treasure, subsidence, and so on. I remember there was a lot of arm waving and personal ridicule.
We call it research, of course, and occasionally one of us does sit down – usually in something quite unpleasant – and scribbles a few lines down, and then it’s off for another ice cream, or lunch, or a cup of tea, because we’re writers and we have needs.
And don’t forget The Great St Mary’s Day Out is available here!
Good afternoon everyone, I’m delighted to introduce Stewart Ferris, author of The Sphinx Scrolls. It is a tale of one passionate archaeologist Ruby, an aristocrat desperate for cash and an evil Nazi descendant and a race against time to prevent an ancient Mayan prophecy. Stewart has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger today. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am not only to have mastered the art of blogging, but of hosting other writers as well. Anyway, less of me – without any further ado, here’s Stewart to speak for himself.
The Sphinx Scrolls is essentially about the world’s oldest (and slowest) time machine: the Great Sphinx of Giza. If, as many believe, it was constructed to house the records of a lost civilisation, its purpose is therefore to transmit information and knowledge to humans of the future. It exists to travel through time, carrying important messages to the distant descendants of those who built it. Why would they do that? The novel explores the possibility that 12,000 years ago humanity needed to warn its descendants of a great peril that would threaten them. How else could they send a message to unborn generations than by encasing it in a stone marker? The novel begins as the looming catastrophe instigated by our ancestors is almost upon us, and only the scrolls hidden within the Sphinx can save us. But archaeologist Ruby Towers suffers a massive defeat at her moment of triumph…below is an extract from the opening chapter.
Extract from The Sphinx Scrolls by Stewart Ferris (Accent Press, 2016)
Dr Ruby Towers dropped the drill and wiped the grit from her goggles. Her pulse raced. After months of planning and overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, after weeks of scanning, measuring and arguing, and after days of gruelling tunnelling, this was her moment.
She poked her scuffed aluminium Maglite into the opening. Now she could see her prize.
The space was cramped. Objects were stacked in the centre of this timeless cavity. She counted them. Ten. They were clay tubes, greyed by immense antiquity.
Was this the fabled Hall of Records? Was this the repository of the knowledge of a lost civilisation? Would this discovery finally unravel the mystery of the age and purpose of the Great Sphinx of Giza?
‘Can we get the camera in here?’ she shouted over her shoulder.
The documentary cameraman and the presenter squeezed alongside her in the narrow shaft. The cameraman pointed the lens at the presenter, former soldier Matt Mountebank.
‘So tell us what you’ve found,’ he said, with calm authority in his Manhattan accent.
The camera swung round to Ruby’s face, almost pressing against her nose.
‘We’re directly beneath the flank of the Sphinx,’ she announced, her voice excited and high pitched. ‘This tunnel was begun a century ago by tomb robbers using explosives. Our scanners revealed a chamber just ahead, so we applied for permission to extend the tunnel to join up with that chamber. That way there will be no external damage to the monument. And now –’
She paused. Matt was pulling faces at her from behind the camera. As usual. She kicked him in the leg with her heavy Altberg boot.
‘And now we’re through,’ she continued. ‘This peephole is enough to prove that the Sphinx houses an archaeological treasure. The clay tubes will almost certainly contain scrolls. If they are intact and readable, the ancient riddle of the Sphinx could be solved. We might be about to find out who built it, when they did so, and why.’
‘Turn off the camera. Everyone out.’
Ruby turned around. The Head of Antiquities was silhouetted in the tunnel entrance, flanked by two police officers. Dr Shepsit Ibrahim did not appear to share Ruby’s enthusiasm for the discovery.
‘Keep rolling,’ whispered Matt. ‘This could be good.’
‘Your licence has been revoked,’ shouted Dr Ibrahim. ‘This dig is finished.’
‘You’ve got to be kidding, Shepsit!’ protested Ruby. ‘I’ve found the chamber. We can’t stop now!’
‘I’m sorry, Ruby,’ Ibrahim replied, her tone softening.
‘But you’re in charge, Shepsit. You can overrule this and get our licence back.’
‘I’m the one stopping it, Ruby. It’s over.’
Ruby stepped outside. In the unforgiving daylight, the two policemen seemed odd. Their uniforms didn’t fit, and neither did their features: more Central American than Middle Eastern. She grudgingly acknowledged them in her limited Arabic and received no response. They remained curiously clamped to Ibrahim’s side.
‘What’s got into you, Shepsit?’ Ruby pleaded. ‘And why are the police involved?’
Dr Ibrahim rolled her eyes sideways, left and right. Ruby followed her gaze and looked at the police officers again. They seemed edgy. As they turned she noticed one of them was pressing something firmly into Ibrahim’s back beneath a small rag.
Ruby glanced at Matt, fearing that his special forces training might tempt him to play the hero. His Gulf War memoirs were legendary. He was not a man to mess with.
‘Don’t try anything stupid,’ she grunted. ‘I don’t want Shepsit hurt.’
‘Sure,’ he replied, surprising her with his willingness to concede defeat.
‘Is that it, Matt? You’re not going to do anything?’
‘You just told me not to.’
‘I know, but you must have some trick you can use to overpower them?’
‘Rubes, those guys have guns. I got a damn microphone.’
She glanced back at the Sphinx. It had survived Napoleon’s soldiers using it for target practice. It had foiled tomb robbers for millennia. Now, dwarfed by the grandeur of the Pyramid of Khafre behind it, the Sphinx stared forward with serene nobility while thieves dressed in police uniforms plundered priceless secrets from its heart.
If that tantalizing taster whetted your appetite then you get The Sphinx Scrolls from amazon!
Jodi Taylor with fellow Accent Press author Jane Jackson.
Well, what an amazing day on Saturday. I was at the Octavo Bookshop, Cafe and Wine Bar – one of those magical places where books, endless cups of tea, good food, more books and a really cracking Zinfandel all come together at once.
It was lovely to meet old friends again and make new ones. There was a great deal of chat, then a reading from What Could Possibly Go Wrong? And we finished with an informal Q & A session. The Managing Director of Accent Press – all hail Accent Press – Q’d and I A’d.
For those who couldn’t make it on the day, the following points emerged:
- Book 8 is coming along nicely.
- I have an overwhelming urge to write a supernatural thriller
- I’m planning a spin off from St Mary’s, possibly aimed at Young Adults, because I remember that when I was a Young Adult, quite a lot was aimed at me and most of it not so pleasant as books!
- Shamefully, there is no structure to my writing life – or even my non-writing life.
- Audible are planning to dramatize Just One Damned Thing After Another.
- Proceeds from the Christmas story will go to Help for Heroes and I shall be plugging this shamelessly over the coming months.
- The Christmas story is told by Mr Markham.
- I’m writing a sequel to The Nothing Girl.
- There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Jodi Taylor with Accent Press MD Hazel Cushion.
Many thanks to everyone who turned up. It was lovely to meet you. And many thanks for the gifts. I’ve eaten the chocolates already. Sorry! And the beautifully crocheted Max, complete with long red hair and scratchpad is sitting on my dressing table as I write. Yes, I am still in bed – having been compelled to admit publicly that’s where I do most of my writing. Oh, the shame of it!Jodi Taylor with one her fans who made her a crocheted Max.
Anyway, apparently I didn’t disgrace myself – always a major fear – and there may well be similar events in the future.
Have a good week.
Jodi Taylor with Accent Press MD Hazel Cushion and all of Jodi’s books!
I’ve just had a patch test, apparently they paint the back of your ear and wait to see if it bursts into flames. I am, as you can imagine, peering anxiously into a mirror every four seconds or so – actually I do that anyway, but don’t tell anyone – just in case I’m suffering from aural conflagration.
Anyway, the real reason for this blog – apart from sharing the existential angst of my world – is to give a mention to my appearance at the Octavo Book Shop, Café and Wine Bar in West Bute Street Cardiff, on Saturday 16th July.
Kick off is at eleven when I shall be relating the series of accidents and errors that led to my being published, followed by a reading from one of my books, and a Q & A session at 1pm.
I shall be there all day (11-5), chatting to anyone kind enough to show an interest in my books, signing anything put in front of me, directing people to the toilets and generally getting in everyone’s way. Please do drop by if you get the chance.
Also, you can pre-order my new short story The Great St Mary’s Day Out here.
Well, the big news is that The Great St Mary’s Day Out is available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. And before anyone asks, I’m checking Audible twice a day and will post as soon as it becomes available there as well.
I include a sneak-peek of the opening below, just to whet your appetites and raise levels of frustration across the board.
I walked Matthew around St Mary’s because a few things needed to be made clear.
‘All right, people. This is a baby. A small human. His name is Matthew and he is not to be floated across the lake in a Moses basket just to see if it could have happened. Nor is he to be stuffed into a warming pan and smuggled into someone’s bed. He is not to be dangled off a balcony and presented to the Welsh people as a non-English speaking Prince of Wales. Permission to include him in any of the imaginative events currently being planned by the History Department is to be sought from his father, Chief Farrell, and good luck to anyone trying that. He is not to be used as a paperweight. Or ballast. Or a draught excluder. Everyone clear?’
You have to tell people these things. Especially at St Mary’s.
Also, for anyone in the Cardiff area, I’m at the Octavo Café Bookshop in the Cardiff Bay area on 16th July, giving a quick talk on how I managed to get published – a miracle in itself, given the amount of wine consumed and my general technical ineptitude – having a chat about my books to anyone kind enough to show an interest, and signing said books. Actually, I’m well known for signing anything shoved in front of me – contracts to star in the film of the story of my life, execution warrants, blank cheques and so on and so forth.
I am reliably informed that this is the link for the event, so I have no hesitation in posting it here, secure in the knowledge that finer minds than mine at Accent will check it over on my behalf.
In other news, I’ve finished the Christmas story and sent it off to Accent Press. Entitled My Name is Markham, this one’s a little bit special because all the royalties will go to the Help for Heroes Charity and so I do urge everyone to buy it. Actually, I always do that anyway, but this year, please consider yourself doubly urged. It should be out on Christmas Day, and I’m expecting to be held responsible for any number of disrupted Christmas lunches. We did the same last year and one lovely reader reported she selflessly did her duty in the morning, then flung a tin of Quality Street and the TV remote at her family, and made herself scarce with her Kindle. As well as being special, it’s also a little bit different. The story this year is told by Mr Markham. Watch this space…
The Great St Mary’s Day Out is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
I love all my reviews – yes, even the ones that go, ‘Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish,’ (sic) or tell me that if I could just learn to spell then my books would be quite good. I think one of my favourites is ‘Downloaded this by mistake. Couldn’t be bothered to read it. One star.’
On the other hand, there are my other favourites. This one is for The Nothing Girl and from a gentleman who simply wrote, ‘If you ever tell anyone I read this book then I will freaking kill you.’ He goes on to describe it as awesome, so he’s obviously an extremely intelligent and perceptive person – as, indeed, are all my readers.
As I say, I love them all – although some more than others, obviously, but occasionally, I receive one that really hits the nail on the head. Thank you, Nicola, for this thoughtful review.
So thank you to everyone who takes the trouble to review my books – even those who consider the plots to be non-existent, the characters to be no more than cardboard cut outs, and the dialogue clichéd.I do try to vary the tone of my books. Some are fairly light-hearted and some are definitely a little darker. It’s interesting to see which readers prefer. Some begin their reviews with, ‘I loved this one – it’s a little darker than the others …’ Others say, ‘I loved this one – it’s not as dark as the others …’ One day I think we should run a competition for ‘Favourite Book of the Series. And Why?’ Note to self – speak to Accent Press.This was exactly what I was trying to do. Throughout the series I have tried to grow the characters. To make them seem like real people by having their lives move on. Relationships – some that work and some that don’t. And deaths – I didn’t want to have a core of characters that readers know will always survive no matter what happens. I want them to feel that anything could happen to any character at any moment. That yes, people might live happily, but not always forever after. Life never stands still and death is always waiting – I wrote cheerily in bed this morning, as I stowed my empty mug in my underwear drawer so the ants can’t get at it. Which was why I was so pleased with this review of ATTT. This is the book in which they all grew up a little – well, those of them that survived the battle of St Mary’s.
And especially thanks to my readers who continually forgive me as I stray towards The Dark Side … Again … As Ronan remarks to Max in Book 8, ‘You dance on the edge of darkness, Max, and I don’t think it would take much for you to dance my way.’
Now I just have to decide whether she will … or whether she won’t.
An exciting time for me and I hope for all of you, too. My two short stories are safely delivered to Accent Press. The summer story – The Great St Mary’s Day Out will be out sometime in August, and the Christmas story – My Name Is Markham – will be published on Christmas Day, same as last year.
I’m particularly keen that My Name is Markham will do well, because the royalties from any UK sales will go to Help for Heroes, and those from US sales will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. And so, If you will forgive this blatantly commercial plea – please, please treat yourself this Christmas.
In other news – as they say – the American paperback edition of Just One Damned Thing After Another will be released on 7th June – for the first time in the US, so thanks to everyone involved in that. It’s available for pre-order, too. See the link below.
A Symphony Of Echoes should also be available in paperback soon, although I don’t yet have a date for that.
I’m scheduled to appear in Cardiff Bay on 16th July. I shall be at the Octavo Bookshop on West Bute Street, answering questions, drinking tea and desperately trying to look normal. And not in that order, probably, so if you do happen to be passing, please do drop in and say hello. It would be lovely to see you.
So, as I said – exciting times ahead.
Thanks to everyone who wrote and said how much they’d enjoyed Lies, Damned Lies and History – even those who turned the last page and immediately started clamouring for the next one – and you know who you are. Rest assured, Book 8 is coming along.
And finally – to continue the newscast theme – the bloody ants are back. On going to bed last night, I discovered they’d got there before me. Enraged, I hit them with everything I’d got – deodorant, hair spray, foot spray, shiny hair stuff, bath cleaner. Something must have worked because I’m writing this surrounded by sad little corpses. I feel terrible about it, but I was waging total war last year. At times it was like scenes from Alien in my kitchen because the little buggers are unkillable.
Off on my hols in a few days. Next stop Margarita-Land. Expect nothing coherent for quite some time.