The new St Mary’s Audible prequel launches at Cardiff Comic Con this weekend!

…and special Christmas present for lovers of St Mary’s.

A little while ago, I had a thought. Not something that happens too often. I left my smoking laptop, wandered around, made some tea, wandered around a bit more, looked in the fridge, averted my eyes, and finally gave in. I sat back at my desk, pushed aside all the stuff about the Pleistocene Park, Bosworth, and Thurii, and started with a completely clean slate.

The result was a short – no, actually quite long – story about the origins of St Mary’s. How Dr Bairstow assembled his team. Where the money came from. They’re all there – Markham, Guthrie and his security team, Dr Foster, Professor Rapson and Dr Dowson, even Mrs Mack. There’s even a very quick appearance at Waterloo by some old friends. As you can imagine, it was enormous fun to write – there are all sorts of little jokes in there that mean something to me, even if they’re completely incomprehensible to normal people.

Anyway, I sent it off, not completely sure the geniuses at Accent Press would like it, but they did. They liked it so much they arranged for me to go to London to record the story myself – sorry if anyone is expecting another immaculate performance from Zara Ramm – you’ve got a chipmunk with a Bristol accent for this one.

“Sorry if anyone is expecting another immaculate performance from Zara Ramm – you’ve got a chipmunk with a Bristol accent for this one.”

I have to say, it was tremendously enjoyable – the studios are incredible and all the lovely people at Audible made me very welcome. Recording was very much easier than I thought it would be. Note to self: watch what you write in future. Phrases like ‘the unfamiliarly familiar’ should be avoided at all costs. What was I thinking?

As I said, it’s a long short story – about twenty thousand words – and it took a couple of hours to read through. Sadly, there were photos afterwards and I was offered yet another opportunity to display my total unphotogenicness. And yes, I made up that word, partly because I’m a writer and I can and partly because, as yet, the English language contains no word to describe my complete unphotogenicness. A deficiency now rectified.

If you’re wondering about the good news, here it is. The audio version is being released on the 24th October, to coincide with the Cardiff Comic Con – and it will be free.AudibleJodiT updated

The Kindle version will come out on Christmas Day. A special Christmas Present from me and my publishers, Accent Press, to all my lovely readers out there. To say thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Click here  to order the Kindle edition for only 99p!

So there you go folks. Christmas afternoon – find a quiet corner away from everything (and I’m laughing as I type that!), a glass of something good in one hand, your Kindle in the other and enjoy …

For the free Audible copy click on the image above.

 

Did I grow up writing stories?

I wrote a few stories as a child. Mostly they dealt with grand themes such as giant robots taking over the earth. Everyone always died horribly at the end. At the age of ten, I wrote a story for a competition in ‘The Pony’ magazine, which was supposed to be about the future of the horse. In my story, the earth had suffered a nuclear apocalypse and everything had perished. I painted a moving picture of the last horse dying in the icy wind, guarding the body of her dead foal. It ended:

       Earth’s last horse was dead.     

       Earth was dead.

It didn’t win.

I entered a poetry competition at school – no, that’s not true. I was given to understand that failure to enter the poetry competition was not an option. The subjects were typically girlie – Clouds, Magic, Kittens – that sort of thing.

After not very much thought and even less interest, I came up with the following, thus doing for cannibalism what Hannibal Lechter did for flower arranging.

In the jungle dark and deep

A cannibal village lies asleep.

But there among the cooking pots

A man’s dead body hangs and rots.

With bones and blood all strewn around

The village sleeps without a sound.

And then, next morning, they awoke

And took the body down to soak

In blood, for over half an hour.

Then coated it in self-raising flour.

Then the women sat and licked it

But the rival village came and nicked it,

So that was the end of that.

 

A definite improvement in style over Earth Apocalypse, I think everyone will agree. Samuel Taylor Coleridge had Kubla Khan and I had The Cannibal Village. You can see how people would easily confuse the two.

I’d changed schools by this time so a completely different teacher was able to put a red line through my one and only poem and write  ‘See me’ at the bottom. I sometimes think the teaching profession was never grateful for the opportunities I offered them.

Most of my school essays were returned with ‘See me’ written at the bottom. Or occasionally at the top if they were particularly exasperated. I do remember having an entire story rubbed out by my form teacher – we wrote in pencil in those days – because, she said, it was full of slang and inappropriate language. It was my second year at junior school and I would have been seven or eight so I’m not sure entirely sure how inappropriate my language could have been. The story concerned a group of children forming a gang to rescue a donkey and she objected to ‘gangs’.

Out of a desire to be as irritating as possible, I put together a little something in which seven year old children spoke to each other in beautifully phrased, well-rounded and grammatically correct sentences (or as close as I could get at the age of eight) and with the vocabulary of the Poet Laureate.

She didn’t like that, either. I saw her again.

Mostly, however, it all went on inside my head – which I think we have already established is not a tremendously healthy place to foster ideas. I was far too impatient to sit down and physically write anything, so in my head it all stayed. And then I had to go to work. And then I had to work some more and it all just got buried.

It wasn’t until I painted that wall in Harrogate – and I really feel there should be some sort of plaque erected. Or a small statue, perhaps – that it all became too much to hold in any longer and I started to write, the results of which you see before you today.

So while it’s not true to say I’ve always written, I have always dreamed.

Jodi Taylor answers her fan question: Fact or Fiction?

You tend to pick some things out and describe them in detail – smells, weather, etc. Do you specifically try to base these on theories or do you make them up?

Yes and yes.

There – I think that answers that question!

Seriously, if I know the event I’m writing about takes place on a rainy day then I have to say so obviously, but from that moment on, a lot of it comes out of my head. Actually, that sounds quite unpleasant, but you know what I mean. When I wrote about the Great Library at Alexandria burning, I was actually there. How hot would it be? What would I smell? How easy would it be to see? To move? What hazards would there be? What could go wrong? What might go right – because, believe or not, sometimes that does happen. What are Max’s reactions to what is going on around her. What will she do next?

So yes, I was there when the roof came down and she was on fire. I was there when she was slowly roasting in her fire suit, unable to breathe properly, sweat stinging her eyes, panicking because her gloved hands couldn’t unfasten her smouldering suit. I was there.

Sorry – I do get carried away – be warned!

At the moment I’m writing about an event in which the weather conditions were the cause of the historical event, so at the moment, I’m looking at storm surges, flood defences, that sort of thing. Again, pages of notes will probably result in half a sentence, but that’s the way it goes. I will go on to try and establish some sort of framework. I’ll draw up a timeline, what happens to whom, when, and where they were when it happened. I’ll make a plan or map and work out how the characters move around. I’ll make sure, as best I can, that what I propose to do is feasible. Having then established a framework, I close my eyes and imagine the terror, confusion, devastation, the cold dirty water …

“The non-historical events that occur at St Mary’s, of course, are completely fictitious. Mostly. Although yes, I do know someone who did actually run into a horse’s bottom and it’s going to cost him a great deal of money to keep me quiet.”

1783758392This actually sums up what I’m trying to do for (and occasionally to) History. As I said in What Could Possibly Go Wrong, yes, we read about Joan of Arc in History books. The story always ends with – and she was burned at the stake in 1431, but that’s just a statement of fact. Dull, dry and boring. Close your eyes. What would it actually be like? How long does it take to burn a body? How did the people present react, always bearing in mind, of course, that our present day values and principles are not those of 1431. Events that would cause shock and horror today were treated much more casually then. Alternatively, of course, a throwaway joke that wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow today could win you a fun weekend for one with the Inquisition and end in having your tongue cut out. A town under siege by William the Bastard (or Conqueror as he probably preferred to be known) thought it would be hilarious to poke fun at his less than noble origins. When the town eventually fell, he continued the joke by having their hands and feet cut off.

Back to Joan – sorry, I do wander. Doesn’t your heart go out to my editor? – I researched the event, dates, times, places, etc., drew up my timeline, built my framework, and then inserted Max and the other historians into the picture. From that moment on, my control over events tends to evaporate because, if I’ve done my job properly, everything should unfold in my head, one scene after another as I frantically scribble or type (depending on where I am) trying to get it all down before it dissolves like so much smoke in the wind. And it does. It only takes the telephone to ring, or a voice in the street and it’s gone. That happens heartbreakingly often.

The non-historical events that occur at St Mary’s, of course, are completely fictitious. Mostly. Although yes, I do know someone who did actually run into a horse’s bottom and it’s going to cost him a great deal of money to keep me quiet. The ideas usually shoot into my head while I’m having a bath. No, I don’t know why, either. Interesting material for someone with psychological qualifications, I should think. I keep a pad and pen on the toilet for these little moments and twenty minutes later, I’m sitting in cold, scummy water scribbling away, damp and wrinkled. And that’s just the notebook. My idea to keep a whiteboard in the bathroom was subject to serious mockery.

Does anyone know if there’s such a thing as waterproof paper?

TwitterBannerOct2015

 

Today really has been – Just One Damned Thing After Another! @AccentPress

Hazel Cushion and Jodi TaylorHere I am in Sunny Wales – together with my publisher – the very lovely Hazel, who certainly knows the way to an author’s heart with good food, drink and excellent company. So far so good.

I’ve even met my editor – the delightful Bob – who soothed my nerves and assured me and editor’s job is not actually to change the plot, discard the end, alter the sex of the main protagonist, set the book in Hungary and write it in Swahili! A bit of a relief since I was expecting the worst.

Anyway, the day has progressed well, the staff are wonderful and made me so welcome. I’ve always been assured authors are bottom of the heap in the literary world and I was half expecting to find they’d locked the doors and were crawling about on the floor pretending they were out.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Series) Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Series)

“History is just one damned thing after another” – Arnold Toynbee

A mapcap new slant on history that seems to be everyone’s cup of tea…

Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet.

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process.

But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.

Follow the catastrophe curve from eleventh-century London to World War I, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake …