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.

‘I will survive’ – G. Gaynor

Seriously?‘ – J. Taylor

I’ve had a bit of an unfortunate experience. This sort of thing never happened to me when I sat quietly at home, eating chocolate, drinking tea and scribbling the occasional paragraph.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but my lifestyle came in for a bit of criticism recently – and not just the normal stuff from my nearest and dearest. I was strolling through town one day when I was ambushed by one of those Healthy Lifestyle info vans the council leaves lying around to ruin people’s day.

Obviously, I did my best to avoid eye contact but the buggers ran me down in the doorway of Thornton’s Chocolate Cabin. I filled in a questionnaire and things weren’t too bad until we got to the section on physical activity. Apparently, you’re supposed to take 150 minutes of exercise a week. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. Questioned closely about the amount of exercise I took every day, and working it out on my fingers, the total was four and a half seconds. About the time it takes me to walk from bedroom to desk. Obviously, this was unacceptable – as was my offer to spin it out to thirty minutes by walking very, very slowly. Anyway, in a moment of weakness – and to secure my release – I signed up for Aqua Aerobics and that’s where I’ve just been.

I scrambled into my cossy with my eyes closed because there’s only so much I can handle at that time of the morning, underwent locker trauma – happily resolved by the lady next to me hitting it with her shoe – and the next thing I was up to my neck in pleasantly warm water. I waved a few arms and legs around, decided this wasn’t too bad after all and then the instructor turned up. With music. And a microphone. And my day darkened.

The first thing I discovered is that I have no coordination. Of any kind. Fortunately, most of the action was taking place underwater so I reckoned I could fake most of it.

Fake Aerobics – there’s a thought!

Paddling back to the point – the next part was a little bit of a disaster. Good old Gloria was belting out I Will Survive – not a statement with which I felt I could concur – when we were commanded to assume a horizontal position and kick.

Well – I assumed and kicked – and shot smoothly backwards. I think we were all surprised by that. Not least the very pleasant but slightly surprised lady behind me. I couldn’t believe it. It’s a universal constant. You kick – you go forwards. Not me, it would seem.

There’s worse. It was noodle time. Before anyone asks, I’m talking about those long tube things that keep you afloat. I don’t know what the world calls them – to me they’re noodles. Anyway, I seized my noddle, thrust it into position as instructed and the bloody thing promptly upended me and there I was, upside down, legs waving in the air, and seriously considering suing Gloria who obviously hasn’t got a clue what she’s singing about.

I’m sorry, but I can’t resist. Look away now. Never was the expression ‘tit’s up’ more appropriate.

It gets even more worser. Completely out of control by now, my noodle and I, battling for supremacy, floated, wildly flailing across shipping lanes of perfectly performing ladies, causing consternation and chaos wherever we went. People were upset. I could hear the occasional, ‘Oh, I say …’

Eventually, one end sprang free and caught me in the eye. I fell backwards and once again I’m upside down and taking in water and wondering if I should have written my name on the soles of my feet because that’s the only bit of me currently visible.

So – a bit of an ordeal, I think everyone will agree. I’m damp, bruised, blinded, heavily chlorinated and been tricked – tricked, I tell you – into doing it all again.

And before anyone asks – no, there are no photos.


Is It Legal To Sell Your Brothers?

So … in the interests of a future short story, I’ve been out in the cold with the bro, doing a spot of historical research. There were the usual vigorous sibling discussions, which stopped just short of violence because it was so cold we couldn’t feel our hands, and of course neither of us was wearing gloves because gloves are for wimps.

Armed with google printouts, guide books, and hand-drawn notes we prowled around, pointing and pacing, enthusiastically not listening to each other until other visitors began to edge away. Only when we were virtually the only people left did we eventually reach a bloodless consensus. And we were freezing to death as well.

Obviously, lunch was called for – not least because we knew the pub would have a roaring fire. There was a great deal of cruet and cutlery manipulation as we demonstrated our conflicting arguments and then the food turned up and we lost interest.

There was further discussion in the car on the way home – although we were too stuffed to come to blows – and eventually we reached to a kind of conclusion and parted, more or less amicably, all ready to do it again the next time.

On reaching home, I made myself a cup of tea, fired up the laptop to do some further research, and the first thing I found was a site demonstrating, without any shadow of a doubt, that we’d both been completely, utterly, and totally wrong. I sent the bro the link so he could check it out for himself – and, obviously, to rub salt into any gaping wounds he might still be suffering.

I think the moral of the story is – stay in the warm and just google any information required.

It’s not all work and no play, though. I spent Saturday afternoon learning a new skill – dirty pouring. It’s great fun. Although, I did manage to get paint over everything – me, anyone within a twenty-foot radius, the tables, the chairs, the floor, and – somehow – my brother’s car, which was parked about fifty yards away. I have no idea how that happened. I was wearing a hazmat suit for most of the afternoon, so as I say – a bit of a mystery. I do recommend it, however. The dirty pouring – not the hazmat suit. Messy but therapeutic.

PS – For anyone concerned about my worryingly abusive sibling relationships – the paint-covered car belongs to a different brother than the one currently recovering from this morning’s hypothermia. And before anyone feels too sorry for them, they were both supposed to support me at my recent Waterstones book signing, and whenever I looked up there was no sign of them. As one of them attempted to explain afterwards – ‘You seemed to be doing OK so we pushed off upstairs to have a coffee.’

I am aware that, in principle, selling people is a Bad Thing, but surely

 there must be instances where exceptions can be made.

The Chocolate Has Gone – But the Guilt Lingers On …

I’ve been reading an article on the evils of dieting. Apparently, dieting is not the way to go – built-in failure – promoting unhealthy attitudes to food – dangerous food fads, etc. Well, all of those reasons floated straight into my wheelhouse. (Little bit of a mixed metaphor thingy there, but what the hell).

Speaking from my unassailable position as World’s Most Unsuccessful Dieter, I’m bang alongside this. Apparently, as soon as your brain hears the word diet, it kicks in with overwhelming urges to eat everything in sight – including your nearest and dearest – so as to stave off the imminent starvation it knows is on the way. Although, to be fair, my brain does that even when not dieting.

Dieting can – it says – lead to faddy eating – I hate cabbage, sprouts, broccoli and milk, so I’m obviously well on the way to becoming an unbalanced, vitamin-deficient, soft-boned neurotic. It’s taken years of dedicated hard work, but I can finally proudly declare I’m nearly there.

Eat when you’re hungry, they announce – because none of us would ever have thought of that, would we?

Stop eating when you’re full, they cry, and all right, for me that one might need a little work, but how difficult could it be?

I don’t own a pair of bathroom scales. I have no idea what I weigh. Somewhere between a hundredweight and a ton, I suspect. I know that as a female I’m supposed to be obsessed about my weight and cultivate an unhealthy relationship with food, but I really can’t be bothered. I monitor my weight using my favourite pair of jeans. When they begin to feel, shall we say … snug, I know I should cut back a little, but mostly I go out and buy a new pair, stopping off at Thornton’s Chocolate Cabin on the way home. Problem solved.

All things considered, I actually think I’m a naturally skinny person. I know you wouldn’t think it to look at me, but when I think of the vast amounts of chocolate I do consume, it’s a miracle I’m not the size of a house. I really do see a lot of the stuff go by. Every day! But – I argue – if I stop eating chocolate, I might completely disappear. And before I’ve finished my next book. That would be a bit of a disaster.

So, I reason thusly: it’s probably only chocolate that’s keeping me in this world. It is, therefore, my duty to eat as much of it as possible. I write – therefore I eat chocolate.

Right – that’s that sorted. My conscience is clear for another year. What else?

Yes – An Argumentation of Historians is available for pre-order. Note to self – write books with shorter titles. Yes, I know I’ve said that before. And I’ve discovered that Argumentation is a word I can’t type. Along with manoerverable. I know there’s a ‘u’ in there somewhere, but it’s a word I just can’t get to grips with. I shall send this blog to Accent Press and the clever people there will include the link to the book. Thank you very much, Accent Press.

I’m just editing The Battersea Barricades now and that should be available for pre-order quite soon as well. I’ve just seen the cover and it’s pretty good.

We had a lovely day at Octavo’s yesterday. I chatted about White Silence for a little while and then about everything else for a lot longer. It was lovely to meet everyone who turned up. I hope you enjoyed yourselves.

I’m on Radio Gloucester on Tuesday, with Anna King. I’m alternately excited and terrified. In times of crisis I do tend to suffer from an absence of any sort of coherent thought. Like remembering my own name. I recently gave a talk to the Daisy Chain Group and I kid you not, the first line read, ‘Hello. My name is Jodi Taylor.’

And then next Saturday, the 20th January, I’m at Waterstone in Gloucester. They’re lovely folk there and their toasted tea-cake and hot chocolate combo is the breakfast of authors everywhere. I shall be signing books and chatting to anyone kind enough to turn up, so if you fancy a St Mary’s gossip – do come along.

We’ll be at Cardiff Comicon again this year, in May. I don’t have any details yet, but there were a good number of Disaster Magnets there last year and it would be lovely to see you all again.

I’m finishing now because from where I’m typing, I can see the remains of last night’s chocolate pushed under the sofa and it’s such a sad sight. Someone should do something …

Happy New Year

I’m not a big fan of New Year Celebrations. I’ve had more than my share of seeing out the old year – usually with a huge sigh of relief – and dancing into the new one shouting, ‘Well, it can’t possibly be any worse that the last one,’ and the universe takes enormous pleasure in proving me wrong. Usually round about lunchtime on January 3rd.

So I tend not to bother very much. These days I’m usually in bed with a good book by midnight. Not one of mine, I hasten to add. And this is a Big Thing for me. I don’t know if other authors have this problem – if there are any out there who are still coherent – or even conscious – after their probably very lively celebrations last night, do let me know – but does anyone else find it impossible to read their own work? I don’t mean grabbing a copy off the shelf because you can’t remember how you described a particular character or place, but a real, toe-curling, can’t read your own work personality disorder. I tell myself it’s because if I’ve made a mistake or got something really wrong then it’s too late to do anything about it so it’s better not to know, but I don’t think it’s that. I just can’t read my own stuff.

I have a copy of all my stuff, obviously, because I need the sales, but it all sits, either on my kindle or my bookshelves, untouched and unread. Am I weird?

Well, I think we all know the answer to that one, so moving swiftly along – my new year is taking shape already and I have a few dates for your calendars. I had a fit of efficiency in November and bought my 2018 calendar in good time. Obviously, I’ve lost it since then – I think it’s gone down the back of my wonderful duck-egg blue filing cabinet. And yes, I’m having a relationship with a piece of office equipment, but it keeps my papers in order, doesn’t talk during The Big Bang Theory, doesn’t eat my chocolate and never wants to watch the football, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s damned near perfect. Anyway, I think that’s where my calendar has gone, leaving me with the decision – put my back out shifting the cabinet or just buy another.

Why am I maundering on about filing cabinets and calendars? Yes. Dates. Here we go.

13th January – I’m at Octavo’s Cafe in Cardiff Bay, reading an extract from White Silence, and hanging around for a chat afterwards.

16th January – I’m on Radio Gloucester with Anna King. I think the programme starts at noon. I must check – but I’m actually being interviewed, just like a proper author.

20th January – I’m at Waterstones in Gloucester, signing books, if anyone wants to pop along for a bit of a chat.

I think White Silence comes out in official paperback this month. Previously, it’s only been available as Print on Demand, but now it’s out in its dramatic new cover.

April’s a busy month. There’s a short story, provisionally entitled The Battersea Barricades, which should be out on St George’s Day, April 23rd.

And I’m at the Llandeilo Litfest as well. I went last year and appeared with Jasper Fforde, which was a huge treat for me – probably slightly less so for him, but he was quite charming so we’ll never know – and surprisingly, they’ve asked me back this year. If anyone gets the chance, you should go – to the Litfest, I mean. The whole town is given over to the festival and the atmosphere is great.

And, yes, I’m teasing you, because after the New Year festivities, you’re all in such a sunny, fun-filled mood (!) aren’t you? Yes, the next St Mary’s full length novel is published this month. An Argumentation of Historians. Both it and the short story should be available for pre-order on Amazon some time in February.

May – always assuming we get that far – I’m at Cardiff Comicon again. This is always great fun. We turn up with a ton of books, admire the costumes, meet some really interesting people, drink oceans of tea, and laugh and gossip the day away. Accent Press usually have some sort of collective neural event and reduce the prices and the world does not end.

In July (I think – but as I said, my calendar’s down the back of the filing cabinet) we have the sequel to White Silence – provisionally entitled Black Light. It’s not quite finished yet, but I’m getting there.

And then there’s the traditional St Mary’s Christmas story which just might, this year, be a little different. I’m only half way through it at the moment, and frankly, I haven’t a clue what’s going on and anything could happen. I’m thinking of calling it, And Now for Something Completely Different, just to spread alarm and consternation.

That’s it – so far, anyway. I hope to be able to meet a good number of you over the coming months and I’d like to wish you all happy reading and a very Happy New Year.

Oh, and I almost forgot Just One Damned Thing After Another is getting a French release on February 8th!

To all Disaster Magnets everywhere

I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

I’m supposed to be putting my notebooks away and shutting down my laptop but we all know that’s never going to happen. No sooner do I think – that’s it. No more work now until after the New Year – then an idea drills its way through my forebrain and I’m off again.

I had also planned to use the holiday period to sort out all my notes and scribblings. As anyone who’s ever met me has instantly realised, I have the memory capacity of a small block of wood. If I don’t get it scribbled down immediately then it’s gone forever, leaving nothing in its wake but an uneasy feeling that there was something important … somewhere …

Since everything’s spread over five or six notebooks and an entire blizzard of scrappy bits of paper, this will be an enormous job, and so I have equipped myself with a filing cabinet. In a very pretty shade of duck egg blue.

Yes, I do know that really the colour isn’t that important, but I think we’ve all realised I’m a very shallow and superficial person. And with a poor … what do they call it? … memory! Yes, that’s it.

Anyway, I’m feeling very virtuous. I’ve brought my long-neglected accounts up to date, all ready for the inevitable dispute with my lovely accountant. I have pointed out to her that I write fantasy and what does she expect?

I’ve written and posted all my Christmas cards.

I’ve wrapped my Christmas presents with only minimal damage to the fabric of the building.

And Sainsbury’s are delivering Christmas on Wednesday.

So that’s me done. Today is Put My Feet Up Day while I re-read the Rivers of London series.

I send my very best wishes to every one of you.

Good Morning from Jodi

Good morning everyone, I hope your day is going better than mine. I know the sun has barely crept over the horizon but I have already:

  1. Hit my head on my bedside table.
  2. Knocked over my bedside lamp – not unconnected with a) above
  3. Lost my internet connection, resulting in frantic key stabbing. I’ve got it back but can’t remember the series of keystrokes that led to its restoration.
  4. Spilled my tea – on second thoughts, that particular disaster should probably have come first.
  5. Trodden on my phone which, for some inexplicable reason, I had left on the floor.
  6. Pulled the toilet roll holder over, resulting in unrolling on a massive scale and a great deal of toilet roll chasing. I only needed a Labrador puppy and Andrex could have filmed their next advert in my bathroom.
  7. Run out of toothpaste. I knew there was something I needed from the shop yesterday but my mind went as I walked through the door and I came out with an enormous bar of Galaxy Salted Caramel instead.

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