Another Catering Catastrophe

OK – I’ve not had the best day in the world. The kitchen lurches towards completion and today the oven turned up. It’s a lot more sophisticated than my old one – which basically was just a warm box – and required much reading of the instruction book and under the breath muttering.

However, we got there in the end – the light came on and it roared into life. I bunged in stuffed peppers, fish cakes and four jacket potatoes. Task completed, I returned to the Christmas Story – something I need to get a move on with after a telephone call from Accent Press this morning which covered such wide-ranging topics as my failure to understand megabytes and their purpose, my failure to deal rationally with deadlines, Hazel’s non-use of a bucket in a field in Wales, my stupidity in completing the next St Mary’s full-length novel instead of the Christmas Story, exactly why didn’t I have a kitchen yet, the pre-orders for Dark Light, why hadn’t I finished the Christmas Story, making A Bachelor Establishment free for a while, and why the bloody hell hadn’t I finished the Christmas Story yet?

I’ve completely forgotten where I was. Where was I? Yes – the oven. And my failed attempt at catering.

I have to say oven technology has moved on a bit. I reached in to see how things were going – you know, give everything a bit of a poke but everything was ten times hotter than I was expecting  and I burned myself really badly on a potato.

I shrieked in pain – all those people who think Max is based on me have no idea how wrong they are – and somehow – don’t ask me how – the potato leaped from the oven and rolled across the floor, finishing up under the units, obviously, because the plinths aren’t in yet and I had to crawl about on my hands and knees and retrieve a red-hot tuber from – obviously – the furthest and most inaccessible corner.

It was still burning hot so I slung it back into the oven asap and it bounced straight back out again bringing the other three with it. They all rolled across the floor, one in each corner where they lay oscillating between incandescent and inaccessible.

I eventually got them bundled back into the oven and, worried it might have cooled in my absence, I very, very gently placed my last unburned hand on the fishcake and the crust caved in and the next minute I was up to my wrist in  a lump of molten lava – or fishcake as it misleadingly said on the packet.

I swear, at this point, I didn’t have a single unburned digit. I’d only been cooking for twenty minutes and I’d already lost the use of both hands. Imagine the state of me by Friday.

I’m now sitting watching The Big Bang Theory and holding a pot of frozen yoghurt in each hand. Yes, I know I look ridiculous. No, I don’t care. It’s been made very clear to me that NOTHING must stand between Accent Press and the receipt of the Christmas Story so enough whimpering and more work. And, for anyone still interested,  I’m only eating  sandwiches for the rest of my life.

Some Food for Thought

I met Jasper Fforde a couple of years ago – we were on a panel together at the Llandeilo BookFest. I’ve always enjoyed his writing and to meet him in person was a huge treat for me. So, as you can imagine, I was eagerly awaiting his latest book – Early Riser. I’m still kitchenless so now is the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

Looking it up on Amazon, I was amazed at some of the reviews he’s been getting and not in a good way. I think we’ve touched on this subject before – reviews. Good and bad – how important are they?

For some reason – and it won’t have had anything to do with Jasper Fforde himself – the Kindle price has been set at £13.99, while the paperback price is £7.99 and, not surprisingly, there have been a number of adverse comments and one-star reviews. There’s also been a comment from someone who received the book in a bad condition. And that isn’t anything to do with Jasper, either.

I get that people are upset about the price. I get that someone is disappointed their book arrived with torn pages, but why do people persist in leaving one-star reviews complaining about something that is absolutely nothing to do with the author? If you check out the page you’ll see that his agent has taken the really quite unusual step of using the Amazon review page to point this out. I don’t think I can ever remember that happening before but if people will insist on using the review system for a purpose it was never intended then I suppose there’s nothing to stop Mr Fforde’s agent responding in kind.

We’ve all had these sort of reviews. My personal favourite is:

Ordered in error. Couldn’t be bothered to read it. One star.

Thus indicating the reviewer has more than mastered the unbelievably complex one-click Amazon ordering system, read the book thoroughly and produced a balanced and thoughtful review outlining their conclusions.

Authors rely on reviews to sell their books. Good ones, preferably. They’re very important to us. One-star reviews about something over which the author has no control are heartbreaking. I myself am about to break the habit of a lifetime and spend much more than I normally would on a Kindle book out of sheer bloody-mindedness and fellow author support. It is a lot of money and I don’t urge anyone to follow my example, but if you were considering buying Early Riser then perhaps this will help you make up your mind.

Firemen, Comicon, and Dark Light updates

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the delay – I lost the power cable to my laptop and yesterday was a stressful disaster with lost cables, my kitchen being ripped out, my first Smartphone – which has replaced my beloved Turkish Brick – power cuts, our lovely building manager being stuck in the lift, and firemen,

Rather disappointingly, they refused to take off their uniforms. I’ve seen that advert. The one with the woman in the bath with her toe stuck in the tap. The one where one of the firemen suggests they take off their uniforms to avoid being splashed and his boss agrees so they take off their clothes. Except for their helmets and boots, of course. Nice to see Health and Safety making itself useful for a change.

Anyway, setting aside half-naked firemen – but only temporarily in my case – I wanted to thank everyone who dropped by at Comicon over the weekend. And special thanks to those who brought gifts. I love presents.

I am now the proud owner of a pair of pink ears. They have bells attached and I love them. And thanks to the lady who made the roses – Yorkshire, Lancashire and Tudor.

And huge thanks for Oscar the Ringworm now living happily on my bookcase.

And thanks for the lovely tea-wallet.

And for all the chocolate.

I met so many lovely people as well. I was shattered when I got back but it was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of it.

I’m taking August very quietly – well, at the moment I have no kitchen so I don’t have a lot of choice – but the next biggie on the horizon is the sequel to White Silence. Dark Light is published on 25th October and now available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

For those who are interested, there’s an exclusive preview signing at Waterstones in Gloucester on Saturday 20th October and one of our sumptuous Afternoon Teas on Saturday 27th October at Octavo’s Bookshop in Cardiff.

We’re also putting together plans for a special Christmas Tea in December so I hope to see some of you at one of these events. Full details will be available on this page later.

I typed that yesterday. Since then I have continued the disaster theme by pouring boiling water all over my desk, my notes for the next St Mary’s story, and my long-suffering mouse. I don’t know what happened – I just missed the mug completely. Back to bed, perhaps ….

Hi Everyone

Hi Everyone,

 

Firstly, apologies for the long gap since my last blog – I’ve been really busy and today I finished the first draft of the next St Mary’s book. Before anyone asks – it’s out next year. I don’t have a date yet.

I’ve really slaved over this one and haven’t really had time to do much else over the last few months. The book kind of took over my life – apparently I’ve been slightly unsociable and for heaven’s sake don’t tell Accent Press I haven’t even made a start on the Christmas story yet.

Matters were further delayed by Bruce Pavier posting the singing policemen video on the Fans of St Mary’s page. I’ve never been one for cute cats or painting elephants or people having horrific skateboarding accidents, but for some reason I can’t stop watching it. I don’t know why but I’m beginning to suspect some deep-rooted psychological issues. If the next book’s late – blame Bruce.

Some news to start with –

White Silence is being featured in Kindle’s Summer Sale and is currently priced at 99p

The Nothing Girl is currently FREE! And is about to featured in a Bookbub promotion beginning, I think, on 17th July.

The Steam-Pump Jump comes out on the 12th July on Kindle UK and on Audible. Sorry – I’ve no idea what’s going on in the US.

London Comicon is on the 27th, 28th and 29th July this year. We’ll be there for all three days and I really hope some of you will be able to make it. There’ll be books and bags and stuff, together with Hazel and me all ready to eat chocolate and have a good gossip. No future plots will be given away unless wine and large sums of money are forthcoming.

The sequel to White SilenceDark Light – should be available for pre-order soon. Keep an eye on my facebook pages for details.

For all those kind people who enquired after the wellbeing of my ganglion – not my wellbeing, you’ll notice – it remains an ex-ganglion. I do, however, have an extremely throbby wrist, so if any of you are possibly considering employing Accent Press to tackle similar problems in a similar way – it’s probably best if you don’t. I might as well say now – there’s not a great deal of sympathy coming out of Accent, either. I suspect I’ll be getting a bill for damage to the mobile phone any day now. You’d think someone would have developed a ganglion-removing app by now, wouldn’t you? There’s an app for everything else.

In other news, I went to prison last week. And a very enjoyable experience it was. At the request of his wife, I took my brother the eminent author with me. I can still run faster than he can – there are small rocks that can run faster than he can – so I kept dashing off and leaving him. Or slamming cell doors in his face, but sadly he found his way back out again. It was actually very interesting. We heard all sorts of gruesome stories and visited the condemned cell which bore a startling resemblance to my room when I was in the RAF. Apparently, public executions were carried out on the roof and were considered first-rate family entertainment. The eminent author took some photos – some of which are attached. See what you think. At least, unlike the West Kennet Long Barrow, I didn’t fall down a hole this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies to all the people who have commented on my previous blogs and not received a reply. For some reason I’ve had some problems accessing the site. I now have some magical procedure to follow that should solve all my problems. Fingers crossed.

Promising Author Incurs Massive Injuries at Cardiff Comicon. Dazzling Career Cut Short.

We’ll not see her like again. She will be deeply missed. Sorry, who are we talking about here?’ – Accent Press.

 

Well, here I am at last. Back home again after another Cardiff Comicon. First things first – hello and thanks to everyone who popped by. Especially the lovely lady from Hungary who recognised JODTAA, ‘because it’s very popular in Hungary.’ Barely had I picked myself up off the floor when she informed us that the Hungarian version of ASOE had also been released and was doing rather well, too. Hazel was speechless – a phenomenon which really made the whole weekend worthwhile, trust me! She’s going to kill me for saying that.

Not that she hasn’t already had a good go already. I happened to mention Gareth the Ganglion and how, despite decades of massive NI contributions, I’d been unable to persuade the NHS to deal with it – and the next thing – out of nowhere – her mobile phone came whistling through the air to impact on poor old unsuspecting Gareth like a 747 jet hitting the runway with no undercarriage. There was shooting agony all up one arm and massive, massive bad language. And not in that order, either. To say nothing of funny looks from adjacent stall holders. And no difference to Gareth either, except we could add extensive bruising and epic throbbing to the mix.

But – I woke up this morning and it’s much, much smaller, although I suspect it’s probably just crouching with its eyes shut and expecting the worst at any moment. But there is a definite improvement. Obviously, I could write to Accent Press and report success but I’d never hear the last of it and they’d almost certainly charge me for wear and tear to the phone.

Anyway, again, thanks to everyone who turned up. Double thanks to those who bought some books and double double thanks to those who brought chocolate. You know who you are. Sian.

In other news, JODTAA is to be a BookBub Special Offer in June, so keep your eyes peeled for details.

And – and I was barely functioning through multiple layers of pain at the time so don’t ask for any extra info – not only are we at London Comicon in July, but we might be at the Newcastle one as well. That’s the one in October. Where, presumably, Hazel will be assaulting me all over again. I suspect she’s had the electric bill and now the electrodes are off the table for a while so she’s having to improvise. Good job, Hazel

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Weird or What?

All right – here’s a confession. Brace yourselves.

I’ve never read a single one of my books. Or the short stories.

I don’t know what it is – I simply can’t do it.

I usually start to write the next book as I’m about two thirds of the way through the book I’m currently writing because I find my thoughts straying and then I just have to open a new file and get it all written down. Well, I say all – it’s a skeleton story, some background notes, preliminary research, thoughts, questions and so on. Its only a couple of thousand words to begin with, but I’ll spend more and more time on it – usually to the detriment of my current book and the frustration of Accent Press – All Hail Accent Press – until I’m writing to the two almost consecutively. By the time I’ve finished the first book I’m sometimes half way through the second.

But – and this is the point I’m lurching towards – going forwards is easy. On to the next book and then the next and so on. What I can’t do is go back. It’s the same with painting. I know Monet painted haystacks and lily ponds over and over again but I can’t do that. Once a thing is done – it’s done. Same with my books.

Yes, I tell myself that by the time I’ve researched it, written it, re-written it, edited it, edited it again, and again, read the proof and so on, it’s not surprising that I never want to see it again, but that’s not really an excuse.

And I have all my author’s copies, of course, gathering fluff on my never-dusted bookshelves, so it’s not as if I have to buy them (although I do because I need the sales) but there they sit as fresh and perfect as the day I unpack them because they’re never read. I just can’t do it. I don’t know why. Weird or what?

I really feel that with so many people saying they’re about to embark on a re-read of the series – or worse, they’re on their umpteenth re-read of the series – I really should make a start myself.

So, I’ve made a decision. I’ve been putting it off for a long time but I need to grit my teeth, begin with JODTAA and re-read. I need to start at the beginning and go on to the very end. Including the short stories. It’s ridiculous not to be able to read my own work. I need to get a grip. Of course, it would have been a good idea not to have left it so late. That’s thirteen books to struggle through and I’ve lost count of the short stories.

I think I know what it is. I’m going to read a paragraph and think, ‘Good grief, what was I thinking there? That’s a really bad bit of writing.’ Or, ‘I need to change that.’ Or, ‘I don’t like that bit.’ Or, ‘That bit’s clumsy,’ and before I know where I am I’ll be pestering Accent Press for time to rewrite the entire series and I can hear them laughing already.

I’m making excuses. I don’t want to do it.  What is wrong with me?

 

PS. Since writing the above, The Battersea Barricades has been released. I was a little tense about this one. The whole thing was pure imagination. I had to create a political world, invent a crisis, indulge in tactical and military thinking and I had to do it all by myself because there was no historical framework to fall back on. Thanks for enjoying it. I have to say I really fell in love with these three ladies and it looks as if some of you have as well.

PPS. Yes, I promise I’ll shut up in a moment – 12th and 13th May is Cardiff Comicon and we’ll be there, signing books, glugging tea and having a good old gossip. There’ll be the odd bit of merchandise as well – the usual St Mary’s bags, mugs and notebooks, so do try and pop along if you can. It’s a great day out. The atmosphere is fun and friendly and everyone has a fantastic time. Hope to see you there.

 

Guest Post: Zara Ramm

Hello all you lovely Jodi Taylor fans out there. My name is Zara Ramm and I am the reader of all those wonderful tales from St. Mary’s.

Jodi has asked me to say a little about how I bring her brilliant words to your eyes and ears.

So where to start?

Well… I have been an actor for twenty seven years doing mainly theatre and television. In the last ten years I have also been recording audio books as well which I sort of fell into and found I really enjoy. Which is lucky as I do quite a lot of them.

It’s a funny old job as you sit and prep the book (i.e make tons of notes and decisions about what voices and accents you are going to give all the different characters) and then spend two or three days sitting in a tiny studio with a producer in the next room making sure you don’t talk total rubbish and letting you out for a cup of tea every few hours.

You could of course risk not reading it before you record it and just wing it in the studio. Not a great idea though as you might get to the end of the recording and find out that all the characters were French!

I love a dialect so am very happy to give characters all manner of them but sometimes a change of pitch or pace is all that is needed to distinguish one character from another.

Unless specifically requested by the author I will always narrate in my own accent and then add different voices for lesser parts as I get to them, as sustaining a voice that isn’t your natural voice for a whole book is pretty demanding. I did do that with a Geordi accent once and also Glaswegian but it was quite hard work!

Reading and recording The Chronicles of St. Mary’s is always a treat… Here’s to many more! Thanks Jodi for giving me the opportunity to record them and thank you readers and lovers of audio books for continuing to read and listen to them.

Afternoon Tea

I have a busy week ahead of me so this little note is more of an aide-memoir for me because my memory’s not what it used to be. Which implies that it used to be quite good and that’s really not true at all. I have a selective memory. It retains trivia, rubbish, and everything unimportant while allowing the really important stuff to just slide straight through. My brother once came out to visit me in Turkey and I forgot. I marched into my apartment one evening, somewhat surprised to find all the lights on and even more surprised to find him sprawled on my sofa watching TV. Somewhat indignantly demanding to know what the hell he thought he was doing here and why didn’t he let me know he was coming, he replied he had. We’d exchanged emails only a few days beforehand.

You can guess the main topic of conversation over the next few days.

Anyway – An Argumentation of Historians is out on Tuesday. Don’t ask me about official publishing dates. Hazel and I were adamant there should be only one publishing date for this book because it’s just not fair if some get it before others. Once again, that hasn’t happened, but by Tuesday all date-trauma should be over. I hope you enjoy the book and consider it worth the wait. And before anyone asks – yes, I’m on with the next one, although I don’t have a publishing date for that yet. Or a title. Or an ending. Other than that – it’s going well.

What else?

Yes – Afternoon Tea with Prosecco. Although I’m not allowed any until the event is over. Apparently, I’m not good with wine. So you’ll be eating and drinking and, with luck, having a lovely time, and I’ll have to make do with a crust and a cup of water. I am an Accent Press author after all.

We’ll all be at Octavo’s Book Shop in Cardiff on 14th and 15th April – they’re allowing me to sleep in the basement as a special treat and I get to use the Accent Press facilities beforehand. Someone once asked me what sort of image I liked to project on these occasions. Creative? Artistic? Business-like? I replied that normally I just aim for ‘clean.’ Or, if I’m really going for it – ‘normal’.

I’ve been asked to remind you there will be the special St Mary’s Cupcakes as well and while you’re all scoffing away I’ve been bullied persuaded to read an excerpt from the upcoming The Battersea Barricades – three special ladies’ personal memories of the civil uprisings.

By the time you see this, the clever people at Accent Press will have tidied up my maunderings and inserted links where appropriate and generally made this post a lot more entertaining and pretty so I shall stop now. My candle is nearly worn down and I can’t afford a new one. I’m looking forward to meeting you there – have a good week.

A Quick Blog Update

Gentle Readers, I lift my head from my smoking laptop with good news. Good for you, that is. I’ve been head down these last weeks, finishing a new short story. That’s right – a bonus story, in fact.

Events proceeded thusly:

Me – all whiney and wanting my own way: This Battersea Barricades story – you know most of the action takes place on St George’s Day, don’t you. I think it would be appropriate to bring it out on that day. 23rd April.

Accent Press: OK

Me: I know you won’t be happy but I really think … what?

Accent Press: OK

Me: When you say OK …

Accent Press: OK

Me: Great. Well. Um. Yes. Thanks.

Accent Press: Of course that means there will be nothing for your readers between April and October. They won’t be happy.

Me: But I’ll be working on …

Accent Press – leaning forward in a sinister fashion: And neither will we.

Me – whimpering: Oh. OK. What did you have in mind?

Accent Press: A summer short story. And be quick about it.

Me: But …

Accent Press: Why are you still here?

Me: No idea, but I’ll get right on it, oh Great Ones.

So there you go – I’m just putting the finishing touches to it now, but you’ll have an additional short story this year. It’s provisionally entitled ‘The Steam-Pump Jump’, although that could change, and will probably be available around July sometime.

 

In other news, there’s Afternoon Tea – with Prosecco – on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th April, at Octavo’s Bookshop in Cardiff. I’ll be there, signing books, trying to look normal and, if you pour enough Prosecco down me, probably giving away the plot of the next three books.

I’m at Cardiff Comicon in May – that’s always great fun. Loads of St Mary’s people turned up last year – some in costume, which was lovely – and a great deal of fun was had by all. We were a little noisy, but our stand was outside the gents so no one noticed. If you can, do try and come along. There’ll be copies of An Argumentation of Historians for me to sign. And all the other books, of course. In fact, my head gets a bit blurry at these events and I tend to sign anything put in front of me. Note to all: if you find yourself confronted by a smiling publisher with a glass of wine in one hand and a contract in the other – run away ….!

And this year – a first – we’re at London Comicon in July. I’m really excited about this one because it’s a biggie. We’ll be the ones trying not to squeal with excitement or make idiots of ourselves, although I’m not hopeful. This will be our first time at the London bash and we’re hoping to meet and make lots of new friends. Again, do try and come along.

I shall leave you now … another book to be written …

An Argumentation of Historians (A Reassuring Author’s Note)

When we put together The Long and Short of It, I thought I’d write an introduction to each story, telling how and why it came about, what was the thinking behind it and the circumstances under which it was written.

I personally thought this brief glimpse into my thought processes would frighten the living daylights out of normal, intelligent, charming people – i.e. my readers – but not so. The intros proved to be nearly as popular as the stories themselves, and that’s not hurtful at all, is it?

Anyway, I was struggling away at the typeface when the command came down from the cloud-cloaked Accent Press penthouse.

‘The intros went quite well. It might be a good idea to do one for the next book. Only a suggestion, of course.’

As an author, I know on which side my bread’s buttered. As an Accent Press author, I know on which side the electrodes are lubricated, and made haste to comply.

‘Oh, and for God’s sake make the book a bit more cheerful this time,’ was the supplementary command, relayed by a sweating minion. ‘Your last effort traumatised so many readers we had to set up a counselling group.’

While on this subject, I’ve been asked to say that for anyone still suffering the after-effects of that fine book And the Rest Is History, a few places still remain on the Accent Press sponsored Oh For God’s Sake Get Over It and Stop Being Such a Baby Support Group. Sessions are held every Wednesday and are open to all. To enrol, please bring either the deeds of your house or your first-born – whichever can be most easily translated into cash.

So, here it is, the next Chronicle. An Argumentation of Historians – and yes, it is, I think, a little more light-hearted. There are no fewer disasters, but everyone is very cheerful about them because, of course, I’m not lulling you all into a false sense of security at all, am I?

Anyway, to bang on with the intro: there are certain time-travel scenarios I never wanted to get involved with. For instance, the one where the heroine goes back in time and is swept off her feet by a handsome contemporary who, inexplicably, falls in love with a woman with no land, no fortune, no skills and no important male relations either to protect her or give her status. Never mind that she looks strange, speaks even more strangely, is entirely ignorant of the world around her, and seems not to have any idea of her proper place in it. Despite all that their love would cross time itself – she would abandon everything for his sake – and they would live happily ever after.

No heroine of mine – I said – would ever fall in love with a contemporary and, inexplicably, abandon hot baths, chocolate, antibiotics, dentists, central heating, universal suffrage, contraception, tea, Toad-in-the-Hole, bras, soap that doesn’t strip your skin away, Lycra, books, and the safe removal of a volatile appendix, to live in a cold, damp, draughty castle with no plumbing – indeed no comforts of any kind – no matter how handsome and romantic the hero.

And then I thought: well, what if the hero wasn’t romantic at all? In any way. And neither was the heroine. What if they could barely communicate? What if their mindsets were worlds apart? What if he found her behaviour inexplicable?  What if, despite all her best efforts to fit in, she lurched from one crisis to the next, astounding and frightening those around her? How long would she last?

Everyone has their own place in time. They may not like it. It might not be pleasant. But it’s their place and it fits them perfectly and to leave it is always to court catastrophe.

An Argumentation of Historians is available to pre-order on audible now here.

And is available for you American audible-ers here.