Lies, Damned Lies, and History. Note to self: write books with shorter titles!

Lies, Damned Lies, and History.

Note to self: write books with shorter titles!

Well, here we are again. Another book done and dusted. I can’t fiddle any longer. I’ve been through the manuscript and scattered commas everywhere and I’ve been back through and9781910939000 taken them all out again. I’ve fiddled, changed words, re-written, frowned and fretted, and now the moment has come to overcome separation anxiety and actually send the thing off to my publishers, the world-leading Accent Press. Yes, that Accent Press – they of the platinum helicopters, caviar breakfasts and private dungeon. Or the Author Recreational Room with Stimulation and Encouragement as they like us to refer to it. And it is true, a couple of weeks with your head in their ARRSE, and the words just fly from your keyboard.

I’ve fiddled, changed words, re-written, frowned and fretted, and now the moment has come to overcome separation anxiety and actually send the thing off to my publishers…

Anyway, completion of the manuscript means I have to send the damned thing off, so it’s time to take the half-dozen lightly oiled young men from the cupboard – I can’t believe I forgot to send them back last time – dust them down, book the band, notify the Queen, shut down Parliament for the day – will anyone notice? – and wave goodbye to my baby.

There will be the usual tearful scenes. I gather my ragged clothes around me and follow the manuscript as it is borne aloft by the aforesaid young men. Today, the minefield has been switched off and we are allowed to cross the hallowed acres of the Accent Press Car Park. Senior staff, wearing their ordinary day clothes of gold lame and casually sprinkled diamonds, emerge from the multi-storeyed Accent Press HQ – think Dark Tower with added battlements and shrieking – and climb into their Ferraris and Lamborghinis for the endurance testing two hundred yard trip to accept the manuscript.

To a hushed silence, the manuscript is formally handed over. At a given signal, pennies are graciously tossed and somewhere, as part of the Encouragement Scheme, a lucky Accent author will be permitted a quick glimpse of the sun.

I grovel in the Accent-approved manner, the young men glisten magnificently, angels sing,
unseen hands fling open the front door, the unicorn rears, the band plays loudly enough to drown the sounds of Accent authors receiving yet more Stimulation and Encouragement, and then it’s gone. The massive doors close with a boom and we all have two point five seconds to vacate the sacred carpark before they let loose the Kraken.

And I open a file, name it Book 8, and stare at the screen …


An exclusive first-look extract from “Lies, Damned Lies, and History”


Here is a special treat for you…

A sneak preview of Lies, Damned Lies, and History!


I’ve never been one for rules. They don’t really seem to apply to me. I can’t begin to count the 9781910939000number of times I’ve had to stand in front of someone’s desk while they talked at me, sometimes for some considerable length of time. The only good thing is that usually, it’s only me involved.

But not this time. This time I was in serious trouble. This time I’d done something really bad. Never mind that I thought it was for the best of reasons. This time I’d really gone too far.

I couldn’t complain. Not long ago, Dr Bairstow, who always saw further than anyone else at St Mary’s, had tried to warn me, saying, ‘You need to take care, Max. Great care. You are beginning to tread the line between what is acceptable and what is not. From there, it only takes the smallest step to find you have stepped over that line and that you have done the wrong thing for the right reasons. I am warning you, in future, to be very, very careful.’

I should have listened to him and I didn’t. This time, I’d not just crossed the line – I’d practically pole-vaulted over it.

And this time I’d involved Peterson – whose future at St Mary’s was looking very shaky indeed.

And Markham who, thanks to me, would now probably never succeed Major Guthrie as head of the Security Section.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. People had lost their jobs. Roberts, my youngest historian had given in his notice. He’d insisted on trying to take all the blame. There had been a brief shouting session with Dr Bairstow and then Roberts was gone, hurling himself through the front doors and crashing the gears of his car in his haste to get down the drive and out of the gates. With the state he was in, I shouldn’t have let him go, but there was no holding him.

And David Sands – long-time friend and ally. He’d resigned, too.

And possibly the worst of all, the Chancellor of the University of Thirsk, Dr Chalfont, who had fought our corner on so many occasions – she was out as well. She’d stood her ground and argued for us – which was good of her because she’d been more furious with me than anyone else, Dr Bairstow included – and the knives that had been waiting for this opportunity for years came out. She’d been allowed to retire. Ill health, they said, but that was just for public show. I’d got her sacked as well. And Dr Bairstow was only hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

I’ve done some stupid things. I’ve been reckless, but never have I ruined so many lives or left such a trail of destruction behind me.

I suppose the story begins with Bashford’s attempt to emulate William Tell.



Jodi Taylor: A Bit of a Blog

A Bit of a Blog

 I’m continuing with Lisa’s questions which I should have done weeks ago, but I hit a bit of a purple patch with Book 7 and then got caught up in a possible sequel to The Nothing Girl. Sorry!

Do I have a day job?

Yes, I do – writing. And it’s a night job as well. I’d like to be able to say I write 24 hours a day because I fear nothing less will satisfy some of my readers, but it comes in peaks and troughs.

I write first thing in the morning – anytime from 5.00am onwards. I usually pause around mid-morning to contemplate the possibility of housework, reject the whole idea, and write until lunchtime.

I laze around for a while, watching TV or painting, thinking out plots and dialogue, blogging (doing it now!), and answering emails. Chocolate is usually involved. I tut at the state of the house, wonder why the fridge is always empty, and pick up my writing again around 6ish.

The most important part of the day is bathtime – especially now that a friend has given me a waterproof notebook – because I can sit up to my ears in bubbles – not an attractive picture, I know, but you did ask – and let my mind drift wherever it wants to go. I’ve had some amazing ideas in the bath. Is it me or does that sentence sound slightly improper?

I do try and switch it off when I go to bed, curling up with a good book, but I’m often woken up by Max or Markham yammering away about something or other and I have to rummage amongst Kindles, laptops, sundry notebooks, bent biros (I keep sleeping on them), tissues, research notes and other writing paraphernalia to get it all written down before I forget it.

I mention all this only so everyone is aware that I don’t really spend all my time lolling around and watching TV and consuming the product of the cocoa bean.

How much of Max is in me?

This is not easy to answer. I say not much – Max is brave, organised, likeable and so on. I’m grumpy, argumentative and don’t have red hair.

Other people say quite a lot – they can hear my voice in the things she says. I should point out her language is worse than mine.

We’re both short because they say you should write what you know and I have no idea what it’s like to be tall.

Do I love tea as much as St Mary’s?


Why did I publish A Bachelor Establishment as Isabella Barclay?

A very good question!

9781783759705_FCThere was a bit of a discussion when I submitted the manuscript, but basically it came aboutbecause ABE was so different to anything I’d written before, that it was felt some readers might be disappointed. Especially male readers. I was instructed to think up a new name, and believe me, it’s not easy. I wandered around the house, seriously depleting the world’s supply of Jaffa Cakes and then emailed my editor for help.

‘Something soft and romantic-sounding,’ she said, helpfully, so that was Dirk Thrust kicked into touch.

I had a bit of a think and sat down to make two lists. Forenames and surnames, and then I started to put them together. I have to say I was rather taken with Clare Alexander but she turned out to be someone famous in the publishing world so that was out. Second choice was Gianna Rossi because I saw myself, dark and mysterious, penning deathless literature, but somehow it wasn’t quite right.

The name Isabella was on my list and I thought, ‘Well, why not Isabella Barclay?’ I honestly never thought I’d get away with it, but I did. And yes, I do have some ideas for a couple of Regency Romances, but they have to wait their turn.

That’s the end of Lisa’s questions – thank you very much, Lisa – and before anyone asks – yes, I’ll be straight on with Book 7 as soon as I send this off. It’s coming on quite nicely, and I’ve even made a bit of a start with Book 8.

Happy Weekend everyone!


Jodi Taylor on surviving Cardiff Comic Con

12065486_572493439568125_2619137809296327011_nSorry there’s been such a long gap since my last post – as most of you know, I’ve been to Cardiff Comic Con and what an exhilarating and exhausting experience that turned out to be.

Firstly, thanks to all the people who turned up at our table, introducing themselves and wanting to chat. It was lovely to meet you all and talk about favourite books and characters in the series. It really does seem that everyone takes something different from The Chronicles of St Mary’s.

Secondly – every other person was in costume and they were all amazing. There were Dr Who’s – in every incarnation – together with Daleks, Cybermen, and Weeping Angels. There was every12190103_572493426234793_8529426770089438988_n conceivable character from Star Wars and Star Trek (and unlike Penny in The Big Bang Theory, I do know the difference!) Interestingly, most of the Spocks were women and a significant number of Princess Leias were men. If anyone has any theories as to why that should be so … Game of Thrones was popular and there were several people who’d either come as Transformers or had collided with the contents of their cutlery drawers!

What was most noticeable was the friendliness and enthusiasm of everyone there. A great time was obviously being had by all – even the six-month-old Caped Crusader, beaming at everyone from his dad’s arms and wearing his tiny Batman socks.

Anyway, I arrived home and spent the next few days recovering. I have absolutely no recollection of Wednesday at all. I think I missed it completely. That, my hideous cold and the fact that PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MUCKING AROUND WITH THE CLOCKS AGAIN are all contributing to my already very slender grasp on who and where I am and what’s going on. I suspect that this year it will take even more chocolate than usual to see me through.

I wrote all that last night when my life seemed a little less phlegm-philled than before. Buoyed up by this false dawn of recovery I sallied forth to yoga and spent a lot of time upside down and opening my chakras. Not simultaneously, obviously. Staggering back into the street several hours later with my sinuses blocked and my chakras gaping, I paused only for the traditionally healthy post-yoga treat of egg and chips and a Kit Kat before taking to my bed.

This may be my last blog ever. God knows what I have but it’s pretty nasty so it’s probably best if no one kisses their screens in fond farewell.



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?



TV or not TV?

I don’t suppose this will come as a surprise to those with a more balanced lifestyle than I enjoy, but blowing up your TV is not necessarily a Bad Thing. Indeed, the last Big Bang, some six months ago led to an instantaneous improvement both in sound and picture quality, so when, a couple of nights ago, there was a brief crackle, a bang and the smell of hot electrics (ring any bells?) I wasn’t that alarmed and waited for it to switch itself on and continue, better and brighter than ever.


Far from being better and brighter, close inspection revealed to be – respectful pause – as dead as a doornail. I poked and prodded a couple of times but to no avail. I checked the fuse because I’ve been caught like that before. I switched it off and then back on again, thus utilising my entire technical repertoire. It remained obstinately dead.

A catastrophe, I thought, unable to imagine my days without Dr Who, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Project Runway (don’t ask), but it wasn’t. Not by a long chalk.

Normally, I start writing around six in the morning and carry on until noon, have some lunch, watch a bit of TV and (shamefully) fall fast asleep, so that’s most of the afternoon gone.

Now – without a TV, lunch is over so much more quickly. I’m bright eyed and alert (like a Labrador in a dog food commercial). With nothing else to do, ideas are bubbling and I’m scribbling away – I’ve had an idea for a series of short stories – I’m putting together a sequel to The Nothing Girl – I’m cracking on with Lies, Damned Lies and History – I’ve done some work on my latest painting. I damned near got the vacuum cleaner out, but let’s not go mad.

Today, however, a charming young man appeared, clutching my now fully functioning TV. We’d had some small communication issues because it’s not a flat screen and initially, he hadn’t realised it was a TV, but all was happily resolved and I can, apparently, look forward to several more months happy viewing.

But do I want to? Do I revert to my old ways, waking around four in the afternoon, slightly chocolate smeared and staggering groggily around the house in search of tea? Or do I cover my TV with a tablecloth, stand a vase of flowers on it and continue with my new, productive, TV-free regime?

Actually, I think we all know the answer to that one.


How I Was Published

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary Book 1)

Some time ago, I sat down and wrote a book. I’d always wanted to and suddenly finding myself with the time to do so, I thought I’d give it a go. I’d like to talk about my writing process on another occasion. Today’s blog is about how Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary Book 1) was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.

Actually, writing the book was the easiest part because now I had to find an agent.

I was under no illusions that it would be snapped up immediately, but after a while, it became very apparent that it wasn’t going to be snapped up at all. Every Monday morning I would sit down, select the next three agents on my list, and send them the appropriate files. The thing is – it takes forever. Some agents want three chapters, some two, some one. One wanted six! Some want a one-page synopsis, some two pages. Some want an author biography – some don’t. Every Monday I would assemble the appropriate files, tweak them appropriately, and send them off.

Time passed, I wasn’t getting any younger, and it seemed if I were ever to be published at all then it would be posthumously.

Then, one sunny day, I was tempted forth by friends who invited me out. Emerging, blinking, into the daylight, I allowed myself to be tempted to what turned out to be the luckiest lunch of my life.

These friends urged me to bypass the traditional agent/publisher route and try self-publishing. By this time, I was nearly half-way down my first glass of wine, and frankly, at this point, I would have agreed to anything, but in a fit of alcohol-induced recklessness I agreed to give it a go and could I have a top up, please.

It’s actually quite a simple process and I would urge anyone who thinks they may have a book in them to give it a go. I made the decision on the Wednesday, sent the files off to Smashwords and Amazon on the Tuesday, and was a published author by the following Friday.

I can’t tell you how it felt to see details of my book – MY BOOK – on Amazon. There was a picture of the cover, my name as author, a blurb – all of it just like a proper book.

At this point, I should say I never expected it would be a success. I honestly thought that it would disappear into some kind of Amazon Black Hole somewhere and that would be it, but I’d written the book I’d always wanted to write, and that was the important thing.

I’d contacted friends and family and estimated that if everyone bought a copy there was every chance my sales would reach double figures and every morning I monitored my Amazon spreadsheet, which was how I came to notice the discrepancy. According to their figures, I’d sold about three copies, but there were an awful lot of reviews on Amazon and they all said ‘Amazon verified purchase.’

In the end, I plucked up the courage and emailed Amazon, querying this discrepancy. If, at this point, they’d said, ‘Oh, we’re awfully sorry, your reviews belong to another Jodi Taylor,’ then I would have been upset but not particularly surprised. But they didn’t. A very nice lady gently pointed out I was looking at the wrong column and I actually had about 25,000 sales.

I had to have a serious lie-down.

I’m convinced it was because the book was free and I’m embarrassed to admit it was free only because I was too stupid to work out how to charge for it. I’m really not bright. And who knows – if I had charged the 99p per copy then maybe it really would have disappeared into the Amazon Black Hole. Anyway, the book went to Number One in the free charts and I opened my email one morning to find a message from Accent Press offering me a three-book contract.

At this point, I really should take a moment to thank them publicly. I know I maunder on about them, but they’ve never been anything other than supportive and brilliant, so thank you Accent Press.

I’m often asked if I have any advice for would-be authors and yes, I do.

Firstly, write your book. You’re not going anywhere until you do.

Secondly, if you’re going to select a pen name, don’t do it at a long, boozy lunch with friends when everyone knows you’re incapable of coherent thought after half a glass of wine. My first choice – Dirk Thrust – was unanimously rejected. Even by the waiter. When you have selected your pen name, GOOGLE IT FIRST so you don’t find yourself with the same name as the famous porn star.

And thirdly, if you do neglect this simple precaution, get someone to warn your mother so she doesn’t bring up the wrong website to impress her friends. No one was happy that day, believe me.


Jodi Taylor gets blogging!

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I’m a writer. You can tell by my vacant expression, the mountain of discarded chocolate wrappers, and my lack of social life.

However, these days, I’m an author, too. Let me go further – I’m an embossed author. Before anyone faints with admiration – although feel free if you wish – this only means that my name is embossed on the cover of my books. But – IN GOLD!

Anyway, last week as I was happily cursing my laptop for failing to remember my default font is Times New Roman, an email from my publishers, Accent Press – All Hail Accent Press! – thudded into my inbox. They’d had the happy thought that I might like to write a blog.

I have to say, I stared in perturbation for quite some time. I know I have a blog page somewhere, but it’s been years and I’d completely forgotten about it. I mean – why? I have a facebook page full of lovely people telling me how to get rid of ants, discussing who should play whom in the cracking film that Stephen Spielberg would undoubtedly make were he even slightly aware of my existence, and sending in photos of themselves at Comic Con.

Apparently, however, that’s not enough. I have to blog.

Self: I can’t remember how.

Accent: We’ll help.

Self: Aha! I don’t know my user name.

Accent: Here it is.

Self: I don’t know my passw-

Accent: Voila!

Self: But what would I blog about?

Accent: Anything.

Self: But nothing ever happens to me.

Accent: Um … you just went on a gulet cruise.

Self: But I was horribly seasick, fell down a flight of stairs, was eaten by a mosquito the size of a Cessna light aircraft and my shoulder is covered in suppurating blisters.

Accent: Exactly.

Self: Oh.

At this point, I should say that the gulet was beautiful, the food superb, the crew excellent and the scenery wonderful. It’s just that I don’t operate well when separated from my laptop and I’m not sure it would do my public image any good if that were widely known.

At this point, there was another Accent Intervention. Think Moses on Mt Sinai but slightly more impressive.

Accent: Here’s a list of appropriate subjects.

  1. How I was published.
  2. Where do I get my ideas from?
  3. How do I research?
  4. My writing process.

I’m still not convinced that making any of this information available to a breathless world is a good idea but I don’t want to upset Accent, because, according to the Accent Authors’ Dungeon Rota, I’m entitled to a thirty-second look out of the window the week after next and I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.

I shall, therefore, put the kettle on, sit down with a Twix and consider the series of unfortunate events, mistakes, drunken lunches and serendipitous accidents that clutter ‘My Path to Publication,’ which will appear next week. Possibly in Times New Roman but more probably not. I don’t like to push my relationship with my laptop too far. I cursed it one time too many and it maliciously deleted the very nearly completed No Time Like The Past – all 75 thousand words of it. So I tread carefully…

Just as a matter of interest, does anyone remember Barbara Woodhouse and her choke chain? Is there anyone out there who could do the same for my laptop?


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 …