Monday, December 31, 2012

A rather vague review of 2012

This year my finances, like the rest of the world's, have been tight. I did manage a holiday in Turkey in September, but only just. Over the Christmas period I received letters from many friends who seemed to go on holidays every other month, stating the joys of retirement. Hmm, yes.

Murder By Magic came out in June, Murder In The Monastery crept out under cover of darkness in ebook format during the week before Christmas. I didn't know until a reader told me, and on checking two days ago discovered it was number 6 in both Amazon's Women Sleuths and British Detectives charts. Print book due next week in time for a big library gig in Maidstone.

Two more are under construction, and thanks to son Miles, as I've said before, for the ideas for the settings of both. Daughter Louise was on television on the 27th December singing on Len Goodman's BBC 4 programme about Dance, Philly is home briefly after singing her way up and down the west coast of America - I say home, but she isn't exactly here in Whitstable - and son Leo is persuing the career of struggling writer and poet in Manchester. They were all here for Christmas and my annual party, and delighted me with an impromptu performance of one of their father's songs.

I lost a much loved cousin in September, and another cousin had a new grandson born two days ago. Life, eh?

I have read a lot of books, as usual, and come to the conclusion that the current boom in the self publishing of ebooks is a double edged sword. I agree that there are some books, Welcome The Pigz included, of course! that deserve self publication after having been through a rigorous editing process but with traditional publishers not knowing quite what to do with it, but in a lot of cases people seem to almost ignore due process and leap in without thinking. Oh, they say they do, but I've read a lot this year, sometimes to support acquaintances from Twitter or the RNA, sometimes to check on books in my own genre, and there are some pretty appalling examples. Strangely, they all have lots of good reviews on Amazon. I get a bit twitchy because it's becoming less and less easy for the reader to discriminate.

What else? Oh, yes, two bessie pressies. Miles had Steve Bramble's painting of Virginia Wolfe and Lytton Strachey reframed for me for Christmas, and Philly is taking me to the O2 to see Paul O'Grady as Widow Twankey on Thursday.

So, a Happy New year to all friends, family, readers et al, and I hope 2013 brings happier times for all of us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pre-Christmas Panic!

Not really - I've got most of the presents and the turkey (frozen, sorry, but organic bronze), made the pudding (very late) with a small one for my son-in-law and written and posted most of the cards.

However - I have NOT put up the decorations. All right, I have put the wreath on the door and bought the tree and the mistletoe, but the latter are still sitting in the garden. When I was a child, my father always put the decorations up on Christmas Eve. These included paperchains of crepe paper in all colours making a tent from the walls to the light fitting. It was part of the whole Christmas experience, and to put the decorations up any earlier still feels like devaluing the currency. I have relented in later years but I don't like it.

The real panic was getting Murder In the Monastery ready. The revisions came in late, (Dear Editor very overworked!) but I did a 48 hour marathon on them, then proofs arrived and I managed to do those in a day. The covers have already been printed, now there's got to be a heroic effort to get the text inside by the release date of January 3rd. I have a feeling it might be a little late!

I have started the next one, Murder In The Dark, title courtesy of son Miles, who also supplied the setting and took me on a guided tour through rural Kent and to see the Tudor house owned by one of his clients. I went off on my own a few days later and found the exact location for the story, and creeped myself out driving along what started out as a lane but ended up as a track through an impenetrable, fog filled forest. Well, that's what it felt like.

Miles, on form, obviously, also supplied the setting and raison d'être for the book after next. Which I shall keep to myself for now, but suffice it to say he and I will be going on a jolly jaunt next year - for research purposes, of course.

That's it for now. I'm going to cheat and use this blog post for the Rather Random Newsletter, too, so to all friends, family, readers and passers-by a Very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Arte Umbria and other things

Seraphina at Arte Umbria has asked me to help promote my course next year, which I am trying to do by mentioning it everywhere I can, but I can't keep going on about it! So I shall probably not be going after all, as she needs at least four people to sign up to make it viable.

I know this is probably anti-publicity and won't meet with her approval, but I'm sadly not good at self promotion. My fellow tutor is a dab hand at it, and appears all over t'internet, mentioning her course wherever she goes, but I don't. The romance brigade are particularly good at hosting people on their blogs etc, but the criminal fraternity aren't! This means I'm eternally grateful to be published in a traditional manner rather than having to self-publish, as I don't think I have the chutzpah.

Speaking of publishers, I was the guest of Hazel Cushion, my publisher, at the Romantic Novelists' Association Winter Party this week. I wore sequins, as it is quite a glitzy affair, and stood out a bit! I haven't seen any pictures yet, except the traditional ones of The Shoes. We have an obsession with shoes.

Also this week, I went to the theatre to see The Anniversary, directed by one friend and starring another, and on Thursday Jane Wenham-Jones and I did our In Conversation event at Waterstones in Canterbury, which went very well. We both distributed cards/flyers promoting our courses next year, hers at Chez Castillion and mine at Arte Umbria. So I do try!

So if any of you (is anyone there?) feel like doing a spot of promotion for my Italian Adventure, I'd be very grateful

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A brief catch up to keep you all abreast of events. Now that Murder In The Monastery is done and dusted – almost – the one after that is now in the schedule. After a long conversation with my publisher this week, Murder In The Dark has been scheduled for publication on October 10th.

The title is the result of the consultation I instigated in the last newsletter, on Twitter and Facebook, and thank you to all those who contributed. In fact, the rather obvious title, when you think about it, was suggested by my son Miles, who has also given me the idea for the story. Not only that, he’s taken me out on very pretty research trips round Kent and introduced me to one of the people he works for, who allowed me to roam around her beautiful 400 year old house, and inspect the gardens. Miles has been involved in the restoration of both, which is an ongoing project, luckily for me, as it means I can pop over and have a poke about any time I want!

This also a reminder that Jane Wenham-Jones and I will be doing our thing at Canterbury Waterstones on November 22nd at 6 30. Free entry, wine and crisps!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Last week, my friend author Paul Magrs tagged me in something called The Next Big Thing, which is a chain of author and book recommendations. My turn today, and I shall answer the following questions about Murder By Magic which is available now in paperback and ebook, and I shall tag four more writers who will take up the baton next Wednesday.

What is the title of your next book?

The most recent came out in June and is called Murder by Magic. The next is called Murder In The Monastery and will be out in January.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

The marketing director of the publishing company, who dreamt up the title. I then had to find something to fit.

What genre does your book fall under?

The Libby Sarjeant novels are "cosy" mysteries.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I wouldn't. They wouldn't match up to the pictures in my head!

Will your book be self-pubished or represented by an agency?

All my books are traditionally published by Accent Press and my pantomimes by Jasper Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I'm going to come clean and say I don't do drafts. I edit as I go, but as I'm contracted to do two books a year I don't get time to do drafts. (Probably explains a lot!)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Amazon tells me people who buy my books also buy Simon Brett, Hazel Holt and Rebecca Tope, writers with whom I've done events in the past and whose books I love.

Who or what inspitred you to write this book?

My bank manager.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

They're set in Kent? The central character's a middle-aged woman? Um - I don't know, really!

There we are. I'm not brilliant at this sort of thing, but I'm sure my tagged authors will be. Check out their blogs next Wednesday and find out.

Julia Williams, who writes terrific relationship books about real people,

Carola Dunn, author of several detective/mystery series

Victoria Lamb, a historical novelist with two new books out this year, both set in the 16th century

Christina Jones, one of my oldest and dearest writer friends, who writes what she calls "Bucolic Frolics".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Do I really write crime?

I have had cause, recently, to read some of my amazon reviews. This is a strange process, as amazon haven't linked them all up, so instead of seeing all the print reviews on the Kindle site, you know "This review is from a different edition of this book", mine are all separate. Anyway, while checking this, I discovered all these nasty reviews, complaining about how much time Libby and her mates spend eating and drinking. Someone with no life had actually bothered to count how many cups of tea etc had been made/consumed. Now, why? If she was so incensed (I'm assuming it was a she) by this style and the behaviour of my characters, why did she bother a)to read it all and b) to count the things?

I have already commented about the free download system, and the license it gives to the generally miserable to "buy" and comment on books they would normally never read, but this was following on an email from someone who tried my book and "had to get used to the style". She finishes up saying she's now hooked on the series and - ahem - thought she'd got over being hooked on soaps!

I know my style is chatty, but it got me to thinking, perhaps I don't actually write proper crime. Perhaps people buy my books expecting murders and gore and car chases? No, I didn't think so either, and this is why I label my books "Mystery" rather than crime. And do people really mind about Libby's tea and wine consumption? At least I don't talk about her obsession with her weight, or Big Pants.

Anyway, I just wondered if I was misleading readers. Perhaps I should suggest to my publishers that we start renaming the series as "Mystery" rather "Murder". You know, like "Mystery of the Pantomime Cat" and the "Mystery of the Bad Reviewer". Now, I quite like the sound of that...

If you've read this far, here's a little bit of promo for my son Leo, whose first novel Welome the Pigz is now available on amazon, Do give it a try. (Yes, all right, I'm a pushy Mum.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

News, views and Murder in the Monastery

This is the cover for Murder in the Monastery, which proves that I'm writing it! It will be out on January 3rd, possibly a little earlier in bricks and mortar bookshops. I have a list of events which I shall paste here, except it will probably appear in a huge unnattractive lump, blogger having decided it still doesn't like me much, but here goes:

August 7th: I will be on Radio Kent with Pat Marsh at 3.45 pm

August 8th: I will be in conversation with Jane Wenham-Jones at Waterstones, St Margaret's Street, Canterbury at 6.30 pm. Tickets £3 redeemable against book purchase. There will be wine!

October 3rd: Swalecliffe Library at 7.30 pm

October 5th: Ilford Central Library at 2pm

January 12th 2013: The New Kent History and Library Centre at 2pm

And from June 19th to June 26th 2013 I shall be the inaugural Creative Writing Tutor at Arte Umbria see link on the right. V posh.

Now let's see if it's worked!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Detective fiction - a short appreciation

This is an abbreviated version of an essay written in 2003, so things have changed in the subsequent nine years, but I think the essentials remain the same. This essay discusses the place of detective and mystery fiction within the literary world from its inception to the present, and where this particular type of novel fits. It also talks about markets, America, and includes a précis of the rest of the story, including an explanation of why there are peripheral characters and their importance. Edgar Allan Poe is popularly known as the “father of detective fiction”, but in fact this genre, as it became known, was already in existence before the acclaimed The Purloined Letter, originally published in a magazine in 1845. The first group of American writers emerged in the 1830s, and examples have been recorded as early as 1790. In 1828 and 1829, in France, Eugene-Francois Vidocq published his Memoires, unfortunately acknowledged subsequently as largely fictional and written by two hack writers, but referred to by Poe’s Dupin as a “good guesser, and a persevering man…without educated thought.” Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno also came into this category at around the same time. In Britain, what came to be known as “Sensation” novels were appearing. Probably the best known of these was Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. In America in 1878, Anna Katherine Green wrote, among other works, The Circular Study, a definitive work detailing the uncovering of hidden facts about the past and characters relating to the crime. Between The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, a now forgotten writer, Emile Gaboriau, enhanced the popularity of the detective story and further defined the genre with works including L’Affaire Lerouge and The Mystery of Orcival. Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, with its respectable Inspector Bucket, falls into this category, and his unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood is considered to be his attempt to play his friend Wilkie Collins at his own game, with a first class mystery at its heart. Also in the mid to late nineteenth century a series of “yellowbacks” appeared to cater for the new generation of railway travellers. Series such as “Routledge’s Railway Library” were sold at railway stations including many “reminiscences” of fictional policeman in the style of Vidocq. Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle, appeared in the late nineteenth century and inspired a huge range of imitators. Collections of these have been published in a series of books edited by Hugh Greene: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Further Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Arguably, the first “Locked Room” mystery was Gaston Leroux’s Mystery of the Yellow Room, although Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue contains a sealed room. This is largely regarded as a cheat, however, and Leroux’s Yellow Room the first in the genre, an element of which is still found in modern crime and detective fiction. The greatest proponent of the “Locked Room Mystery” was without doubt John Dickson Carr, who also wrote as Carter Dickson. Dickson Carr described the secret passage as a “low trick”, and continued to invent more and more convoluted plots in which victims could be demonstrated to be alive after they were dead and murderers to be elsewhere when their crimes were committed. The Hollow Man and The Ten Teacups are definitive examples of his art. After the “Great Detective” era came a very different breed of detective, exemplified by R Austin Freeman’s Dr Thorndyke and GK Chesterton’s Father Brown. Thorndyke gave history the inverted mystery, explaining how the crime was committed and devoting the story to how the detective achieves his solution. Both Conan Doyle and Austin Freeman gave us forerunners of today’s forensic detectives. Detective fiction at this point was the reading choice of the educated public, and the twentieth century saw the birth of the “Golden Age”. In Britain this has come to be defined by Agatha Christie, although there were many other writers in the first quarter of the century who were her equal, if not her superior, in literary achievement if not output. Some historians like to confine the Golden Age to the 1920s, but in fact it continued until well after the second World War, and the 1930s was a decade during which many of the detectives were created who have formed pattern cards for the future. Ngaio Marsh, Michael Innes, John Dickson Carr and in America, Rex Stout, joined Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Croft, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey and others whose creations are not only still read today, but have become fiction classics. As with other “classic” writers, Dickens, Austen, Thackeray, Elliot and Hardy, their novels are still adapted for television and film. The development of what is now known as the “Noir” novel, the “Hardboiled PI” (Private Investigator) and the Police Procedural was achieved mainly in America, but is now just as popular this side of the Atlantic. In recent years, our own Police Procedurals have overshadowed other forms of the genre, although many of these owe more to the Golden Age than to their US counterparts. Dalgleish, Wexford and Morse are characters who lead the investigations, not components in the solving of a crime. They have also adhered to the convention of the “sidekick” first popularised by Conan Doyle with Watson and Holmes. Perhaps the most realistic procedurals are Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe novels, which, however, are still character led, and stick to the series partnership format. Gwendoline Butler was the first in this field with her Inspector Coffin, and, writing as Jennie Melville, has created the female police procedural in this country with her Charmian Daniels of Windsor. Apart from the main protagonists, there are other running characters in all these novels. The Golden Age still casts its shadow and the genre that most closely adheres to its rules and precepts is now referred to as “cosy”. There are excellent modern proponents of the “cosy” in Britain, Simon Brett, Hazel Holt and Veronica Heley to name three, but the sub-genre, having been created in England, has now become enormously popular in the United States. Hundreds of series have been spawned, using all the conventions established since the middle of the nineteenth century. In Britain, Val McDermid and Gillian Linscott could both be said to have overtones of this genre, although Linscott's Nell Bray series is set in the early years of the last century, but both writers have created series characters who are not connected to the police. A sense of place is also important, and in the gentler type of crime novel is almost a character in itself. This can be demonstrated by the popularity of the television series that grow from them, “The Midsomer Murders”, based on Caroline Graham’s excellent books, which are, in fact, far removed from the television adaptations, is an excellent example. The closed circle of suspects created in the 1920s by Agatha Christie and her contemporaries, the observations of Sherlock Holmes, the forensic detection of Dr Thorndyke, the sidekick character, as in Dr Watson, or Poirot’s Captain Hastings, all of these have become incorporated into the traditions of the detective story. In the United States hundreds of females, in all walks of life and of all ages, regularly become caught up in inexplicable murders, accompanied by their sisters, close friends, occasionally husbands and a cast of regular characters. Those that are single almost invariably become romantically involved with the local policeman, and rarely move away from their home town. These writers have recreated the essentially English cosy as far as they are able in modern day America, and some of them, with notable success, set them in England. Martha Grimes’ Plant and Jury series is a case in point, and Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series is considered by many to be on the more literary side of detective fiction, as, indeed, is our own PD James. The detective story, and mystery fiction as a whole, fulfils all the requirements of a good novel. It contains suspense, conflict, tragedy, moral choice, questions and a ready made construct of beginning, middle and end. Justice almost always triumphs, not necessarily formal justice, but satisfying to the reader. Unfortunately, the word “genre” is used in a mainly pejorative sense, especially when the genre is either “romantic” or “crime”, to indicate something which is too lightweight and badly written to warrant serious study. However, both crime and romance are the basis of many mainstream novels which are considered to be “literary”, and in fact, when mystery fiction was in its infancy there was no such thing as “genre”. There were just novels. Crime, and muder in particular, is an outrage, whether in a quiet English backwater or the urban jungle. The solving of such a crime and the bringing of the perpetrator to justice restores balance and order. The popularity of the crime and mystery novel is, therefore, no mystery.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The downside of free downloads

Apparently, the free offer of Murder By Magic was taken up by thousands, on both sides of the Atlantic. Great - except that it means no money for either Accent Press or me. In the week after the free download, Murder by Magic and Murder in Steeple Martin were both put up as 77 pence downloads and sold a reasonable amount. The downside is that people who would normally never buy your books trawl the free download charts (and I got as high as number 8 in the top 100) and that's the problem. I have now attracted two lousy reviews from people who, by their own admission, would not normally buy my books, even accusing me of lifting the idea of the series from another author. As the other author and I actually discussed the similarity of our series before either of them were written, this was infuriating. I have subsequently had a comforting email from that author (albeit from the Pelopponese where he and his wife are sunning themselves - sigh) and I know it shouldn't worry me. But it has shown me the problems free downloads can encounter. If my books are at a normal price, then people who like them and other books like them will find them and buy them. If they are cheap or free, anyone will download them, possibly to their detriment. So I think, perhaps, we won't do it again!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Exciting News!

First - Murder by Magic got to number 8 in the Amazon free downloads, and number 1 in Women Sleuths and British Detectives. Heavens above! Subsequently, Accent Press have put it out at the special price of 77p, with the first in the series, Murder in Steeple Martin at the same price. A week or so back, a friend of mine, author Gilli Allan, got in touch to say that another friend of hers ran painting courses in Umbria, Italy, and was looking to add writing courses. And lo and behold - guess who's their first tutor? ME! Arte Umbria is run by Sara Moody and her husband David, and I shall be there telling people how to write (ha!) next June. I can't wait, and I probably won't ever come home again. Do have a look at their wonderful website, which I can't seem to give a link to, but as soon as I can, I will. More updates on when the print edition of Magic comes out as soon as I have it. Update: to check the wonderful Arte Umbria, see comments below.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Amazon Bestsellers

I haven't been constantly tweeting my FREE ebook, but lots of other people have, and guess what? I'm currently number 17 in the top 100 free downloads, number 1 in British detective and number 2 in Women sleuths. Just shows you what a free offer can do! Only today, Wednesday, and Thursday to go, then we will see what happens. Obviously it will come out of the free download charts, but we're hoping it will translate to backlist sales. Click on the cover to get it FREE!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Murder By Magic Free to celebrate Libby's 10th Jubilee!

Accent Press, my esteemed publishers, have decided to try an experiment and offer Murder by Magic free as an ebook for five days. Click on the picture of the cover, as the link I inserted here doesn't seem to work. There are members of the RNA and the CWA I know who have self (or indie) published books and done this, and I believe it has benefits, but I'm not sure how to let people know. I have, of course, put the link on Twitter and Facebook and a few people have retweeted and shared the link, but I'm wary of going on and on about it. I've unfollowed and un-friended (gosh, the language we use) others for doing that - even people I know quite well. I suppose I should go off on a blog tour, but preferably for readers, not writers. Most of the people I know on Twitter are other writers or people in the industry. Facebook is mostly friends and family - and other writers! Hey-ho. Queen's weather today, for the Royal Jubilee Pageant/Flotilla. Spent a lovely afternoon with a few friends yesterday, and thankfully the sun made an appearance. Today it's wet, grey and cold and I am NOT going to a street party. Good luck to all those who are. So - as I wave Murder By Magic off into the great wide world, Murder in the Monastery takes its place on the computers. The first chapter of which you can read at the end of Murder by Magic, should you be minded to buy it. And of course, it will be available in print next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

David Copperfield and the London Book Fair

Thank you Pia, for allowing me to use your pic of my panel at the London Book Fair. Last year I was there and posted a pic of me in front of "my" panel. It makes me feel very special to have a big panel all to myself! Haven't heard of any sensational rights deals, yet, however. In other news, David Copperfield opened last night. We have rehearsed our socks off and been at the theatre till all hours for the last couple of weeks, and now we face two performances today, Saturday, each lasting three hours and ten minutes. After we come off next Saturday we will all need R&R for at least another week! Currently waiting for revisions to Murder by Magic and researching and writing first chapter of Murder in the Monastery. I'm a bit tired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lucky 7

OK, Jenny Haddon, you asked for it:

‘Sorry.’ Tim Bolton returned his attention to her.
‘It’s all this research into witches I’ve been doing for the programme.’
‘Oh, you and your witches.’ Lewis appeared beside them waving new champagne glasses.
‘Come on, Lib, we’re nearly ready to eat. You’d better go and find that woman of yours, Tim.’
‘Was he bothering you?’ Lewis asked quietly, as he shepherded Libby towards

That is seven lines from page 77 in the current waiting-to-be-edited book. Loved yours, Jenny. I could have almost told it was you, even if I didn't know it was.

Now, how do I tag 7 other writers?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What a Week! What a six months!

It's been a bit of a week all round. Last week a piece I wrote for the magazine Mature Times appeared online. The editor of our local paper spotted it and asked if he could use it, too. Not being mercenary, and knowing that all our local papers are teetering on the brink, I agreed. The chief reporter told me he'd already nicked it! Surprisingly, it appeared in full with a rather old picture of me (they have quite a library of pictures of me at our local paper) on Thursday. Yesterday, Friday, a friend with whom I was having a text conversation told me it was in another Kent paper, so I have been syndicated. Gosh.

Then, also yesterday, simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook, two friends told me I had a Full Page Ad in The Bookseller, which is THE industry publication. The one that does the REAL best seller lists and we all want to keep on the best side of. (How's that for bad grammar?) Anyway, without me knowing, my wonderful publishers, Accent Press, had taken this full page ad to promote the re-jacketing and the publication of the tenth book in the series. Cue huge reaction from friends both in and out of the business. Children thrilled, but rather surprised. As for me, well, I spent the evening - alone, naturally - fizzing with happiness, especially as I suddenly saw the way to finish the current epic.

To crown it all, my copy of Romance Matters, the beautifully produced magazine of the Romantic Novelists' Association, arrived on the mat this morning. A very special issue, as it not only had coverage of the RoNA awards, in which four (count them, four) of my friends were winners, but the obituaries for the very wonderful Penny Jordan, who died on December 31st and was a dear and generous friend. What I had forgotten was the editor had interviewed me for this issue some time ago, and turning a page, there I was. In wonderful technicolour across a double page spread.

So in the last six months my public profile has, as another novelist friend, Elizabeth Chadwick, says "reached the tipping point". I've been featured in a double page spread in the Daily Express, in Kent Life magazine and Writers' Forum, appeared on The One Show and The Alan Titchmarsh Show and now - everything that's happened this week. I appeal to my nearest and dearest to make sure I don't get above myself. Which is unlikely, because in Real Life, here in sunny Whitstabubble, nobody is impressed. I do not make a dent in their lives, I'm simply that woman who occasionally appears on stage and the mother of four hugely talented children who are far more visible than I. Of course my friends know what I do for a living, but it doesn't come up much.

So, in conclusion, I'd like to say thank you to everybody who has encouraged and exposed (!) me. And most of all, of course, Hazel Cushion and Accent Press, without whom, as they say... Oh, and as a cheerful post script, I finally found a hairdresser to replace Caroline. That'll impress you all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My first guest on the blog - Dominic Goodwin

With some trepidation, I present my first guest on this blog. And it isn't a writer, but someone whom regular readers of my books and old friends will realise is relevant! I hope I haven't done him any damage by inviting him on here. Thanks, Dom for agreeing to appear on the blog. Can you tell us how you started your life upon the wicked stage?

I was 13 and my best friend Warren was cast in the school play; “The Dracula Spectacular”, (as the vicar) and I thought “Well if he is in it, why not me”, so I auditioned and was cast as Genghis, the deformed manservant. As soon as I took the first tentative steps onto the stage on that first memorable night I was hooked. And have never stopped acting. Since then I have appeared in about 100 amateur productions, about 30 professional ones, 1 radio series, 1 feature film and enjoyed numerous radio interviews. What larks!!

You have a very important association with one of the most beautiful theatres in England, the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire. Will you tell us about that?

When I turned professional in 2006 I already had a relationship at the Georgian as I knew the then chief executive. In the same year he offered to stage a couple of performances of my first tour; “The Long Mirror” by J B Priestley. Since then I have taken about 10 shows to the theatre and happily box office sales have increased for each show, and in 2010 I was approached to be The Dame in the first in-house pantomime in the venue for over 200 years; “Mother Goose”. The show went well with 46 performances from early December to the first week of January 2011. The following year the theatre decided on “The Adventures of Sinbad” and happily I was invited back to don frocks once again. “Sinbad” was a huge success, gaining 5 star reviews and turned a loss for “Mother Goose” into a profit. 2012 sees “Babes in the Wood” take to the stage for the Christmas and New Year season. It is a huge honour to be asked to work in one of the oldest theatres in the UK.

The Angus and Ross Theatre Company are far more serious. How do you find the two halves of your performing life fit together?

Very well. Angus and Ross Theatre Company was originally set-up to do one play: “Holmes and Watson: The Farewell Tour”, a comedy by Leeds playwright Stuart Fortey. Four tours later we are going to tour the show again – it has been so successful. It appears that theatre audiences like to laugh and this show fits that bill. It is pure farce. And audiences have always enjoyed the show. We decided to keep the company going after the end of the first tour and enjoy doing a wide variety of shows. We have also staged “The Mystery of Irma Vep” by Charles Ludlam. A quick-change penny dreadful for two actors; we had 30 changes and four characters each to play, pure madness but a delight.
I was in my dressing room last year at the Georgian – sitting in tights and a frock, and reading the next play “Frankenstein live” by BAFTA nominated Tom Needham. I was to be cast as The Monster in a serious piece, totally at odds with “Irma” or “Holmes and Watson”, an exciting prospect. I sat reading thinking I can’t possibly do this. But we did and it was very exciting trying to scale the heights of a truly monstrous character – especially after donning tights and a frock as Dame. Variety being the spice of life!

How do you feel about community theatre? (Bearing in mind, of course, that I now do community theatre! Oh - and so does Libby Sarjeant.)

I have always done it. It is to be celebrated. I spent some years, even after turning pro directing a local company, (probably as they had no-one else to do it), and it was a good way to put something back. Also the thrill of not learning lines is a real treat. Last summer I worked with 1812 Theatre Company in Helmsley and directed “Oh Clarence”, based on “The Blandings Castle” stories by P G Wodehouse. It was lovely to sit at the back of the house and watch the audience in fits of laughter and to help inexperienced actors grasp the notion of comedy, character and rhythm.
Community Arts brings everyone together like nothing else. You will go to a show in your local village hall / theatre / memorial hall / community centre (delete as appropriate) and sit with every class, every colour, every age. It is the total leveller.

If you hadn’t become an actor, do you think there’s any other career you would have liked to pursue?

Probably Director, if not I would go back and run a venue.

If you have any time off, what do you like to do? Apart from collapse in a heap and sleep, of course!

In no particular order:
Watch British movies of the 50’s and 60’s.
Listen to Audio Books
Visit Scotland
Listen and watch vintage comedy such as Les Dawson, Arthur Marsahll,Radio Comedy of the 40s, 50s and 60s and of course dear old Hinge and Bracket.

And of course read the Libby Sarjeant books! Thanks, Dom, for being my first and surely most interesting guest.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Publishers - a view

Has everyone seen this: ? It's Anthony Horowitz on publishers - do we need them or not. It's really funny, but serious, too. When it starts, you feel he's turned against traditional publishers, but as it goes on you realise he hasn't, and he points out the value of said trad publishers. He also quotes from a "bestselling" self pubbed ebook, changing the names of the characters - and the gender of one. And I recognised it. After having this title thrust under my nose everywhere (not by the author, who follows me on Twitter) but amazon and general buzz, I decided I'd try a sample. I'm glad I didn't buy it.

The piece he quotes isn't actually bad, but he points out what an editor would do with it and it's a lesson to us all.Not that I'm saying anything against those of us who self pub - Susan Alison does an excellent job, and so, I'm sure, do many others, and the backlists everyone puts up have already had a thorough going over - but it does raise a point.

Also, despite authors having to be fairly hands-on with marketing and promotion these days, publishers do take a lot of the responsibility and, in the case of print books, do all that complicated stuff of distribution.

As someone who hates editing (mainly because I hate reading my own stuff) I'm glad someone else does it for me and points out all the crap mistakes (although some still get through). On the other hand, increased percentages are tempting, as is control over pricing. And for someone who has missed out on a traditional deal because they don't fit the preconceived ideas for their genre, it's an excellent way to prove that sometimes, the industry isn't always right.

Meanwhile, back at the coalface, Murder by Magic is treacling on. Poor Libby, Fran and Ben are being forced into even more ridiculous scenarios, which will hopefully be resolved in time for you to buy it June!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Fans from old...

No, that doesn't read quite right...

A young friend, Paul Dunford, who was rushed into hospital for an emergency appendectomy returned home bored to death. A mutual friend, the actor Dominic Goodwin (of whom more anon) recommended he read a Libby Sarjeant book. Wow! says I. I didn't know you read my books, Dom! Appears he has, is champing at the bit for the next and is a huge fan. Well, well, well!

So, as a get well present I sent Paul, on Dom's advice, the first in the series. Turns out, Paul hasn't read a book since school (Mice and Men) and he's now in his thirties. I began to chew the fingernails, but Lo. A new and very vocal fan has been born, and sent me this:

Between them, Dom and Paul have been a two-man publicity team, and I've now discovered a group of people I only know vaguely online have also been reading my books. I wonder, now, were they ashamed to tell me?

Dom is going to be a guest on this blog soon, and readers will be able to see how versatile he is - and to see why he is a particular friend of mine! You will also be given a glimpse of the truly wonderful Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond. (Yorkshire not Surrey.)

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Alan Titchmarsh Show and New Covers

Yes, to complete the national coverage begun by the Daily Express and continued by The One Show, I have now been recorded for Mr Titchmarsh's daily show. It will go out on March 13th, an easy date to remember, as it was my mum's birthday and the anniversary of Phillipa's christening.

Not, of course, about the books, but once again about flying. I was with two extremely glamorous ex Pan-Am hostesses, who were both ten years older than I was and terribly well dressed. I was, as usual, in my Primarni. Mr T was charming and pretended he remembered me from The Savoy years ago, we met Jenny Agutter, who was a delight, and gawped at Russell Grant, David Haig and various other celebs that Louise (she came to hold my hand) recognised and I didn't. I nearly didn't do it, but was persuaded by others, including my friend Judy Astley, who tells me it will all Come In. And, of course, it will.

And now: Ta Da! New covers. (Hope this works.)