Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Wedding Of The Year

Yesterday, Captain Elly Bailey, my younger daughter Phillipa's best friend since they were eleven, married her dashing Major Philip Carrotte, naturally known as The Carrot. My Philly was her only bridesmaid, and while sons Miles, Leo and I were waiting for the arrival of the bride, people kept coming up and telling me "Your daughter looks stunning." And she did, in a Marilyn Monroe inspired red dress and heels that made her taller than her six feet three inches brother. 

Eastling village church is a beautiful Norman building and still has box pews. We go every year for "The 9 lessons and carols" on Christmas Eve, so we all know the vicar. The service was lovely, and the happy couple left under the traditional guard of honour provided by their friends in dress uniforms, swords and all.

A wet and windy walk took us to the village hall, which had been converted into a cross between Narnia and a skiing lodge. We were welcomed by the White Witch, a professional stilt walker who is a friend and neighbour, and her two elves who dodged between the guests cackling and frightening the children. Gluewein and/or hot chocolate were handed round, and eventually, after all the photographs, we were ushered into a marquee converted into a Snow Palace, where we were served roast ham and vegetables, strudel and a lot of wine. Before the speeches the White Witch reappeared on a specially built sledge, with her two elves, now in eerie green leotards, who performed comedy acrobatics in front of the happy couple, eventually dragging the poor Carrot into it.

Then it was the speeches. Father of the bride Graham, known to us all as The Muzzle, although I've no idea why, embarked on his daughter's life, with so many references to our Philly that the uninitiated must have thought she was an adopted daughter. He even compared their GCSE Maths results and talked about my late husband Brian. Crowning moment, however, was when he asked us all to be upstanding and raise a glass to "Eleanor and Phillipa"! Cue uproarious laughter and applause. The Carrot took it exceptionally well, and even presented Philly with a Tiffany pendant. Tiffany - I ask you!

The party in the evening was entertained by Phillipa's band, up from Bristol for the occasion, although without Philly. However, towards the end, she and her fellow singer Charlotte, who had done the bride's make up, took over from the dep singer and brought the house down.

I haven't enjoyed a wedding so much in years, although my ears are still ringing (Philly's band are LOUD) and my feet hurt. Report from Miles, who was persuaded to stay (on a floor somewhere, I assume) is that the heads are Very Bad this morning. Could be in part because our military friends held a "Shots competition" in the middle of the evening. Every time the hooter sounded they had to down one. No wonder they ran out of Jegermeister in 20 minutes.

After that, Christmas seems like a rest.

To all my readers and friends, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Love to all
Lesley x

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Last Post of Summer, Adrasan, the new book and Panto.

Well, I'm back from my holiday. New readers start here:

Every year, I go to a tiny place in Turkey that no-one knows about. No-one except me and all my friends and a large chunk of the Turkish population, that is. To get there, you fly to Antalya Airport, get a taxi (pre-booked by the hotel) and drive for two hours westerly along the much improved coast road, before turning off to drive through the Taurus mountains on a twisting, bumpy and sometimes dangerous road. You drive through the village of Adrasan, proper rural Turkey, and continue down to the bay, named at some point quite recently Cavus Koy. This is a strip along a wide curved bay hugged by the mountains with a few small hotels and restaurants, a couple of "markets" - corner shops to us - a ramshackle jetty where the boats tie up and that's about it.

The On Hotel, a family owned business, is right on the beach. It has a beautiful pool, nice but not luxurious rooms - no television or radio - and a bar. The English visitors, all of whom are regulars and meet up once or twice a year in June and September, spend most at the bar, while the Turkish guests, who pack the bay in July and August, spend very little.

But don't go there if you want high rise hotel complexes or night life. There isn't any. It's quiet and that's how we like it. We are greeted as friends, the various restaurant and hotel owners remember us from year to year - even down to our favourite items from their menus. Conversation in some cases can be difficult - not many of them speak English, perfect or otherwise, and not many of us speak Turkish, other than the standard "hello," "thank you," "two beers please" and "can I have the bill."

But the scenery is spectacular. The mountains have been compared to the Alps, but I like them better. The sea varies from pale turquoise to inky blue, the little coves you visit on the boat trips are also spectacular  and you are quite likely to see flying fish, turtles (Adrasan is a breeding ground) and dolphins.

While I'm there, I always work on my current book. It means I don't lose the thread of the story and I can get back into it with less difficulty when I resume the normal working week. Which will be tomorrow. Now I have to try and fit in a research trip to the Isle of Wight where the book is set - yes, I'm taking Libby away from Kent!

In a couple of weeks, the print edition of Murder In The Dark will be published, and the ebook version is still in the top ten of Amazon's British Detectives chart. Hurrah.

And finally, much to my delight, I have been cast as Baroness Hardup in Cinderella, which will be on at The Playhouse, Whitstable during January and just tipping into February. I shall be knackered, but happy. Oh - and I have to sing. Again.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

A Penny Production

Amazingly, my friend Penny has updated my blog into a website. It all looked very technical while she was doing it, yet here I am posting just as I always  have.

Apart from the new blog, nothing much has happened, writing wise. Murder In The Dark rose to the dizzy heights of the Top Ten in Amazon's British Detectives and Women Sleuths, and when it's released in print on October 10th we hope that there will be another little surge in sales, although it does seem as if ebooks are taking over the world. Well, they're certainly taking over my royalty statements.

I have also succumbed to the lure of the iPad, which I am hoping to take to Turkey with me this week instead of the laptop. It works with the Bluetooth keyboard from my lovely new iMac (which Penny also got), but the Bluetooth keyboard is now refusing to talk to the iMac. No doubt I shall discover how to sort them out at some point. Meanwhile, having been persuaded to keep the old plug in keyboard, all is well. Penny will no doubt tell me how to resolve the problem, as she just spent hours talking me through the iPad. She is A Boon.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of me well over thirty years ago. It was posed to go with a piece I wrote, on that computer, for Which Computer magazine. (I still have the desk, but not the lamp!)

Murder In The Dark

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Murder In The Dark

It's out! It snuck out early, and has already garnered a lovely 5 star review. I'm starting a blog tour, which I'm organising myself, so if any blog readers feel like having me as a guest on their own I'd be happy!

I shall be happier when the print book comes out in October, the I feel it's real.

Happy August everyone.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

August doings and Murder In The Dark

It's August and the children are on holiday. It's also the time for holiday reading, which leads me to the point of this post.

A few weeks ago I delivered the revisions on Murder In The Dark to my editor and followed up with the Acknowledgements and the first chapter of the next book. Murder In The Dark is scheduled to come out on October 10th, so imagine my surprise when my editor emailed saying the publishers wanted the ebook out next week. "I haven't had the proofs, yet," I said. "Right," said my editor.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the publisher herself called. "It's going live tomorrow," she said. "I haven't seen the proofs yet," I said. "Right," said the publisher. So, at 3 30 yesterday afternoon I received emailed proofs which I had to have back by first thing this morning. This means reading it very, very carefully so you pick up mis-spellings, bad punctuation and anything else that might have crept in during the typesetting process. I finished at 10 past 9 last night, cross eyed and exhausted.

And the reason for this? It's August. Prime buying time, I'm told. Beach and airplane books. So my savvy publishers want the ebook of Murder In The Dark all bright and chirpy and ready to be read in Spain, Italy, Turkey and the Caribbean. The print book, too heavy for holidays these days, apparently, will still come out in October ready for - wait for it - the Christmas market. 

So that's it. If any of you want the ebook it will be out tomorrow. Good job I hadn't planned a launch party...

Various other things have happened this week. I have had a floating population of adult children, but by the end of next week I shall be on my own again for the first time since last year. I won't know what to do with myself. And before the dreaded proof conversations took place, I decided to do a bit of sorting out, which I'd promised myself when the new conservatory was finished. Accordingly, I went through the ironing basket. Well, I don't know when I last did that, but to give you an idea I found a white blouse I used to wear when I was working for the Courts before the first Libby book was published.

Spurred on, I went through the drawer containing - well, napery, I suppose you'd call it. My mother-in-law gave me all her tablecloths, antimacassars, embroidered mats and napkins when she and father-in-law went to Australia forty years ago, before I was married. She didn't want to take it all with her, naturally enough, and she thought I would appreciate it. I did, but I haven't used any of it for years and years, so I bit the bullet and put it all in a sack to go to the charity shop. I've kept a couple of tablecloths, one lovely white one and seven napkins which I washed and am now about to iron, so if ever I have a formal dinner party I shall be equipped for it.

So, cleared out of excess baggage and grown-up children, I shall settle back into being mad cat lady again. Writing books.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Is self-publishing for you? A guest post from Freda Lightfoot

In response to the reaction to my last blog post, I asked the hugely successful Freda Lightfoot if she would contribute a post on the subject. To my delight, she said yes, so here it is:

Is self-publishing for you?

As we know, many writers are now turning towards self publishing. Some in order to restore a back list, others because it is increasingly difficult to find a publisher in a world where less attention is given to building new authors, or their work doesn’t fit the market. There are financial considerations but for some writers the greatest benefit is that choosing this path simply gives them more control, both creatively and in how they run their career. This is an exciting new world for writers, bringing us more choices. It is not, however, an easy one to make and writers should be aware of the amount of work involved both before and after publication, and the pros and cons involved. Let’s consider some of them.

Obviously there are no advances but royalties are better. These can, of course, change at a moment’s notice, but there is no sign of this happening. A writer can feel rather alone and many join a support group in order to resolve this and share expertise. One plus is that lead in times are less. Self-publishing an ebook can bring it to the market much quicker than the traditional route. Lack of credibility can be a problem - but acceptability is improving. Publishers are actively exploiting the self-publishing world and offering contracts to authors successful in that field. It can be a viable step towards publication with a traditional house, so long as your numbers stack up.

Promotion is a vitally important part of S-P and you need to be prepared to set aside a month or two after publication to guest blog, chat on social media, etc., in order to get the book noticed. Yet it would be na├»ve to imagine that a traditional publisher would put much money and effort behind a debut author, so there too you are expected to involve yourself in a great deal of promotion. You might try book trailers, advertising through BookBub or Facebook, free samples, special price offer for the first month of publication, contests and giveways. In today’s social media world, with the right kind of effort, authors can chat to and get to know their readers, which is a definite advantage over publishers. What it mustn’t be is a constant buy my book approach.

Some people are put off by the amount of work involved. This can appear overwhelming at first but like anything else it does get easier once you know what you are doing. But if you aren’t very techie, or don’t have the time to do it yourself, help is available. One good result of S-P has been the way job opportunities have been created within the industry as authors buy-in in services. I have certainly used people to design my covers. It is vitally important to have a good one that is attractive in thumbnail on Amazon, on a tablet, small mobile phone, and in black and white on the basic Kindle or Kobo ereader. You can also use a company to prepare and format the ebook for you, and even distribute it. (See links below) You will need to buy ISBNs if you wish to sell beyond Amazon. The free one from Smashwords will not be accepted by some retailers. Each title will then need to be registered with Nielsen.

Some writers choose to be hybrids with a foot in both camps. I am currently one of those. But it is also increasingly common for entrepreneurial authors, or APEs, as they are cheerfully dubbed, are looking at new contracts and deciding to go it alone. If you do choose to go with a traditional publisher it may be worth trying to restrict the number of years they can hold erights, rather than handing them over for eternity. Is an agent still useful, assuming you can find one? Possibly. They can help sell other rights for you such as audio and large print, even foreign if you’re lucky. But this shouldn’t cost any more than the usual 15% commission.

Kindle use mobi, but other retailers require epubs. If you have a Mac you can create your own using Legend Maker. It’s very simple to use and the results easily go through the validator. Otherwise you can use someone like e-bookformattingfairies, who charge around $50, for which you get an epub and a mobi for Kindle.

Self-publishing is still in its infancy but expanding rapidly. Only you can decide whether or not it’s for you. But if you decide to go down this route it is vital that you produce a good book - a well written story, well edited and properly proofed in order to achieve good sales and reviews. Sloppy work will kill not only the book but your career stone dead. Always be professional. You cannot afford not to be.

My thanks to Freda for finding the time to write this post, which will have given many people food for thought. Freda’s website is here:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summertime Blues

What a long time since I wrote a blog post! I shall give a brief update on the life and times of Lesley Cookman and Libby Sarjeant (bessie mates, actually) then it's back to work.

First, thank you to anybody who has bought one or more of my books over the past year. Much to my surprise, I am not only able to go to Turkey again this year, but I have also got a beautiful new conservatory. This change of career into novelist has certainly worked for me. Murder In The Monastery has been doing quite well, I've reached a lot more readers in the States and I'm currently doing last minute revisions on Murder In The Dark (above) which will be out in October. I've also started work on Murder In A Different Place, set mostly (so far, at least) on the Isle of Wight, which I'm hoping gives me an excuse to do a little research trip! Not that I don't know the Island pretty well anyway (holidays there since I was eight - when Adam was a lad) but I need to check on a few things. Ahem.

There will soon be a new look to this blog, as elder son's girlfriend is redesigning it for me, so I can actually update things myself and use it like a website. I also ought to start blogging more regularly - a fact that was battered into me last weekend at a writers' conference. Marketing - and self-publishing - were the buzz words there and I do neither. Mind you, some of the self-pub stories made me want to take it up immediately, but only because I already have a brand. My friend Freda Lightfoot got back the rights to all her early books and put them up as ebooks herself, very professionally, and is earning rather nicely from them. Very nicely indeed, in fact. Another friend, Linda Gillard, also traditionally published, had a book turned down by her publishers because it didn't fit into their view of her, so she did it herself. She has gone on, despite a rather nasty brush with cancer, to self publish more, and is doing very well. Yet another friend (we are all great mates, us writers) Alison Morton, had also been turned down by traditional publishers for various reasons, none of which were "bad writing", so she has chosen the "Empowered Publishing" route, where a company will do everything for you, editing, cover design, formatting and various other arcane stuff. Her book is now out in print and ebook and is doing very well, too.

I am currently performing in an Old Time Music Hall at our local theatre, (see picture) giving my Lily Morris impression and singing "Don't Have Any More, Mrs Moore". I appeared in Alan Bennett's "Enjoy" in April, and was nominated for a best actress in a supporting role award. I came in as runner up, but it was nice to be nominated, and the awards evening was splendiferous. Champagne and everything.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bad Behaviour

Just a quick post to tell everyone about Bad Behaviour, the small collection of short stories coming out to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Accent Press. They've done well by me, and I'm really glad Hazel and I met at Uni!

Accent is expanding like mad, and have all sorts of new people with dedicated jobs. Lauren does social networking, so I've been surprised a couple of times by posts on my "work" Facebook page to have replies to comments I haven't made. She also sends out a weekly Top Tips newsletter, which I gape at for a bit and wonder how anyone has time to do it all - oh, and write books, too. However, she is going to be the one sending out review copies to all the US and Canada bloggers who are kindly hosting me on my blog tour. No, I didn't organise that, either. A kind Cosy Mystery website has organised it for me. So thank you, Lauren!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Very British Blog

My friend Jane Wenham-Jones has just done A Very British Blog and suggested that some of her friends might like to do one, too. So, here goes:

Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?

A. I was born in Guildford, Surrey, lived in London throughout my childhood and early adulthood, and I’ve lived in Whitstable on the Kent coast for the last thirty years.

Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at present?

A. Always been here, although in my early twenties I was an air stewardess (as featured last year in the Daily Express, The One Show and the Alan Titchmarsh Show!) so I was lucky enough to travel the world.

Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?

A. I love it all. There are so many areas I love and would like to live.

Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?

A. All my Libby Sarjeant books are set in Kent, although in fictional villages and towns.

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish – about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?

A. You wouldn’t think so if you saw the amount of people dissolving into tears on reality shows these days… no patience with it myself. Luckily there is an off button on my remote control.

Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?

A. They are all unique. I don’t think the British Bulldog exists any longer – see my last answer – and I would hate anybody, fictional or real, to be characterised in that way.

Q. Tell us about one of your recent books

A. My most recent book is Murder In The Monastery, the eleventh book in the Libby Sarjeant mystery series, published by Accent Press.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. The twelfth book in the Libby series, Murder In The Dark, to be published in October, and an anthology of previously published short stories called Bad Behaviour to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Accent Press.

Q. How do you spend your leisure time?

A. I read a lot and occasionally put on my Drama Hat and take to the stage.

Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

A. Anyone who’ll read me, thank you! As I receive letters from America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which surprises and delights me, it’s probably not just local! Love my readers.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?

A. They’re all on here already! Check my website for further details – and thank you Jane Wenham-Jones for extending the invitation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Next Big Thing number 2

I know I’ve already done The Next Big Thing, but my friend Amy Myers has asked if I will do another one, and always ready to oblige a mate, I agreed. A lot of my answers will probably be the same, but at least my Next Big Thing is a different book!

What is the working title for your book?

Murder In The Dark is the actual title, which appears in my publisher’s catalogue. It will be out next October.

Which genre does the book fall into?

What the Americans call “cosy” crime, which I prefer to call Murder Mystery.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A body is discovered dumped in a remote garden and as usual, Libby Sarjeant and her friend Fran get involved in the investigation.

Will the book be self published or represented by an agency?

All my books are traditionally published in print and e-formats by Accent Press.

What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?

The amount of tea and alcohol consumed!

There, done! I shan’t tag another author to follow on, as all the authors I know, in all genres, have already done it, so I think it’s probably come to a natural end.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Welcome 2013

An interesting start to the New Year. Lily Savage as Widow Twankey was brilliant, best pantomime I've seen in years - camp as a row of tents, the lot of them - next Thursday, with thanks to ex son-in-law who is in the band, we are going to see the panto at The Marlowe in Canterbury, and on the 2nd February a group of us will go and see some mates in Mother Goose at The Playhouse, Whitstable. I shall be comparing notes.

Following on from that, to my surprise and my publishers', My How To Write A Pantomime sold 30 e-copies this month, and - wait for it - 3 print copies in the US. Whaa---?

On to work: the Maidstone gig got cancelled (thankfully), but to our continuing astonishment, Murder In The Monastery is hopping up and down between number one and number two in Amazon's British Detectives and Women Sleuths top ten. Very gratified.

I am also gratified that I have been cast in a production of Alan Bennett's Enjoy to start in April. I didn't go for the lead, however tempting it would have been, but for a beauty of a cameo part, which I won, I may say (buffs fingernails against jacket) against tough competition. Looking forward to it immensley, although not learning the words, which gets harder every year.

Murder In The Dark grows slowly, and as soon as I have a cover, I will post it on here.

A comforting telephone conversation with the boss, publisher Hazel Cushion, yesterday has reassured me that I needn't worry about all this self promotion and social media (that everyone else seems to do much better than I do), just concentrate on writing the books. After all, Murder In The Monastery managed to climb up the Amazon Chart all on its little own. So, I shall try and remember to do a blog post every now and then, which, as the last one, will also be posted as my newsletter, but I won't worry quite so much about keeping up with Twitter and Facebook.

Finally, thanks to David Robinson (can't do the link, sorry, David) whose STAC mysteries are a tonic (and fast produced). He was the one who spotted and promoted the fact that I'd made number one. Bless 'im.