Sunday, December 13, 2015

Death Plays a Part - and reminiscences

I've just read a blog about blogging by social media friend, Carol Hedges, here: A Blog About Blogging and it made me wonder how long I'd been doing it. October 3rd 2006! Gosh. I initially wrote far more frequently, but it strikes me that a) there weren't as many blogs then and b) Twitter and Facebook hadn't got going. I keep in touch with readers, family and friends on Facebook, but still occasionally write this blog, which has now taken to being put out as my equally infrequent newsletter. However, those early blogs were fascinating. I was still acting and directing, I was a brand new grandmother, and a fairly new novelist. And I was even contemplating dating, something that very soon bit the dust.

And now, in other news. The new novella I mentioned before is now a reality. It is up for pre-order from Amazon here: Death Plays a Part and will escape in January. Perfect, my publishers say, for the New Year blues!

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A little bit of news

Despite my best intentions, I never quite manage to post here regularly, but as it's nearly December and there is a tittle of news, I thought I would.

Libby 16, Murder Dancing, is coming up to the finishing line and should be released in the spring of 2016. It has been a terrific struggle this one but then, it gets harder the longer you go on, in my opinion, not easier.

BUT... after a good deal of toing and froing, discussion and debate, I can now announce that a new mini-series is about to appear. I wrote most of the first novella while I was in Turkey in September, having done a good deal of research over the summer at home. It is set in the Edwardian period, 1907 to be precise, and centres around the young proprietress of a seaside concert hall. Regular readers of Libby Sarjeant books might think this has a familiar ring, and they'd be right. I don't know why the story of Dorinda grabbed me so strongly, but so far she's been a  musical play: a Music Hall Musical called Summer Season and the back story in Murder in Midwinter. This time I have my children to thank for the title - son Miles coming out the winner with Death Plays a Part - and my agent Lisa Eveleigh for everything else.

There's no link yet for you to rush out and buy it - and don't forget, print lovers, it will only be in digital format at first. As soon as we have one I will, of course, let everyone know. As a sort of taster, here's a nice picture of a seaside poster of the era. (we're not in Scarborough, though, you understand!)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Is this a record?

I haven't written a new blog post since July 27th, and it is now October 18th. This is very remiss of me, even if not many people read it! I think I might have to do a bit better because I may be about to start a marketing campaign. I can't say anything about it just now, but very soon I shall start shouting, so be warned.

In other news, I spent a happy two and a half weeks in my favourite place, Adrasan in Turkey, with some of my favourite people. Photographs can be found in blog posts from previous years, and nothing much changes. If I have enough money, I shall be back there next year.

I received texts while I was away asking me to audition for a play, and one asking if I would take part in someone else's  ten minute showcase play. So next year I will be playing the part of the Judge in Whose Life Is It Anyway, a nice little cameo part, which is what I prefer these days. Gone are the days of Shirley Valentine and Woman In Mind. And in November I shall be in the showcase play, hiding in the background.

This last week I have had the youngest son Leo staying with me. He goes back to Brighton today and Phillipa, second daughter, arrives from Bristol for a few days on Tuesday. It's all go. Meanwhile, I carry on writing. Murder En Pointe, which was to be the next Libby Sarjeant book has now been renamed Murder Dancing as the team at Accent Press decided En Pointe was a little too esoteric.

More news very soon, so until then, keep safe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Cookman Family Apologia

This is unprecedented, I know. I only updated my blog yesterday, and here I am again. What prompted this was watching television last night and a promo trail on the radio this morning. I shall try and explain.

I watched Joanna Lumley's Siberian adventure last night, complete with pictures of her as a model in Moscow in the 60s. I was a model then, too, and she and I are almost the same age. What happened? How did she go on to become an actor and celebrity while I stayed in total obscurity? No, I'm not bitter, just stating a fact. I'd even featured on the front page of the Evening Standard (London based national newspaper, for those who don't know) in my professional acting debut at the age of 15. Sunk without trace.

I went on to marry Brian Cookman, who, when I met him, was an advertising executive with EMI Records. He then went on to help set up the London office of Rolling Stone Magazine with Jann Wenner and Andrew Bailey. To the dismay of a lot of my family and friends, he turned professional musician a couple of months before we married. There was a record contract, single, EP and album releases and then - nothing. This isn't unusual, as anyone in the business will tell you, but other people around at the same time did rather well.

Broke and living in the depths of the Cambridgeshire countryside, I persuaded Brian to go to what is now called an open-mic gig at a local folk club, while I sat at home with our baby daughter. This started a whole new spike in his career, one of the highlights of which was becoming the most popular Main Stage compere at Ken Woollard's Cambridge Folk Festival, and the only one up to that point who received encores! He was funny - very funny - and a talented songwriter and singer, and Fred Wedlock, Mike Harding and Jasper Carrott made quite a good thing out of doing the same thing... Yes, he knew them all.

A few years later and living back in London, he persuaded some musician friends to join him to make an album. (Yes, there are still copies available.) Another kind friend backed him, and off we went. He even dedicated it to my recently deceased Dad. You've guessed it.

We ended up with four children.
Surprisingly enough, they have all turned out to be performers. They've all studied theatre at college, and one of them has even studied music at Bath Spa University and - get this - the Royal Academy of Music. Both the girls have incredible voices, though I say it myself as shouldn't, and again, while watching television last night and the night before I was watching singers with Jools Holland's Orchestra and wondering why it wasn't my two up there. Yes, they are both pros, and Lou has appeared on television with Len Goodman. Both still singing for a living, though.

The boys both play, and Miles fronts two bands and is very nearly as funny as his father. Leo is turning into a multi-instrumentalist and is a talented writer still struggling (in his attic in Brighton) to make his mark. They are both songwriters, too, and in my opinion, the equal of many of the current crop.

The reason that this an apologia is to explain why, with all the admitted talent in the family (not mine, the real Cookmans), not one of them has achieved the recognition that some of their peers have done. They just aren't pushy. Showy, yes. Sociable, definitely. BUT. We are all, actually, rather SHY. Yeah, go on, laugh. But we are. My Penn side (my maiden name) is exactly the same, so my poor kids had no chance. We've all tried to overcome this with some success, but it peeps out occasionally, and of course, it makes it impossible to push ourselves. We like someone else to do it, and although we all, as the current deplorable phrase goes, "Big Up" each other we're not really very good at it. Social media appears to exist for the purpose of promotion, and I have to use it in my job, but I know I don't use it to its full potential.

So, if anyone would like to - er - Big Up the Cookman siblings, they're welcome. They won't do it themselves.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's summer!

Not that you'd ever believe it this weekend! It's been pouring here in the South East of the UK since Friday.

The latest news Chez Cookman is fairly pedestrian. Two weeks ago I was at Queen Mary's University in London for the Romantic Novelists' Association annual conference, despite having stated some months ago that I was leaving the Association. However, I've been a member for so long, and most of my best mates are members, so in the end, I decided I'd stay, despite having not tried to write romance since the eighties. The conference was fun, and I was sharing a Uni "flat" with some of those best mates, Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Bernardine Kennedy, Susan Alison (who drew my lovely Steeple Martin map) and Catherine Jones. Catherine was also one of the writers I went "on retreat" with back in March. Both events, conference and retreat, seemed to involve a good deal of alcohol...

For my eldest daughter's birthday, I took her up Lunnon for a bit of culture. We saw High Society at the Old Vic - Maria Friedman's production, with the lovely Joe Stilgoe, whom Louise managed to have a word with afterwards. We also discovered we knew one of ensemble dancers, which was fun. It's a terrific production - best musical I've seen in years.

The next event is youngest son Leo's birthday. He's coming home from Brighton next weekend, and weather willing, we are having a garden party. After that I shall withdraw into my usual hermit-like existence until I go on holiday, where I shall become sociable again.

Work-wise, Libby Sarjeant 16 is under construction, but about to undergo a change of title. My publisher thinks Murder En Pointe is not quite appropriate, and on second thoughts, though I still love the title, I agree with her. So she, my editor and I are all flirting with different titles. If only I didn't have to have "Murder" as the first word!

I'm also slightly distracted by the thought of a second series. New agent Lisa and I had a chat about this at the conference, and it's been swirling around my head ever since. The trouble is, I only just manage to keep up with Libby, so when would I write it? And Libby isn't going to go away!

Have a lovely summer, everyone.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Here is the news

Well, it's out. Murder In The Blood that is, in both e-book and print. It seems to be performing reasonably well and has garnered 5 Star reviews already, which is delightful.

And now, there's something I'd like to ask readers of the blog and the newsletter - both of which I'm very bad at keeping up, sorry. A discussion with other writers somewhere in the ether suggester registering domain names if they were quoted in the book. This set me thinking. Should Libby have her own website? Would I keep that up? Would it be of interest? What would she put on it? My publisher is keen on the idea as it's a marketing tool, but I'm keen on it because Libby is part of me.

Genuine request for thoughts, please.

Thank you in advance.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Golden Age, social media and a Pre-order button

Well, it's sort of about the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Recently on Facebook I commented on a post by another author. This developed, as they so often do, into a conversation, where the poor lady suddenly realised she'd been not only preaching to the converted, but teaching her grannie to suck eggs into the bargain. This had been about the Golden Age, about which I know Quite A Lot, and an American commentator on the subject of whom I'd never heard.

This is one of the problems of social media of all kinds. If one is not mega famous, most people will not have heard of you. But with the easy familiarity of "Friendship" on Facebook and "Followers" on Twitter they can be lulled into thinking that they know you inside out. (Blogger changed that to ionised. Interesting.)

This was amply demonstrated only the other day, when another friend of mine (a proper friend, this time) was complaining about the rejection of a novel which had actually been commissioned. I happen to know all about it, because, not only have I followed its progress over the last year, but I was immensely privileged to read it before it set out on its journey.

The flurry of comments was astonishing. Many were from brand new authors, aspiring authors, only self-published authors and even some established ones. All giving my friend advice. Now, this was all meant in a spirit of friendship and support, I don't deny that, and authors, in the main, are very good at that, but had any of these people actually looked at my friend's profile? Had any of them realised that she is actually a published novelist (by the Big Six) , a published poet and a successful self-publisher, she has written in several genres (including erotica under a false name, of course!) and is the daughter of one of the most successful romantic novelists of the last century.

Eventually, becoming quite angry with some of the commenters (commentators?) I took it upon myself to explain. The one which finally tipped the balance was someone who advised my friend to give up worrying about the money and just write for enjoyment. As my friend, like me, writes for a living and has a large family to support (I only support mine part time, thank goodness) this infuriated  me. So I explained. You could almost hear the humiliated silence over the airwaves. Or the ether. Or whatever it is.

So my advice is, before offering advice to someone on social media, please actually look at their profile. If there's a link to a website or a blog, look at it. Do not assume that you are in a position to offer advice unless you are sure you are.

And, in other news, here are the pre-order links for Murder In The Blood on Amazon UK and US. Release date is now June 18th
Murder In The Blood

And the lovely picture at the top is by artist Susan Alison, who also created my map of Steeple Martin.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Murder In The Blood

Finally finishing off Murder In The Blood, which will be out in print on June 22nd, and a little earlier in e format. The print version is up on both and, but the blurb has to be slightly altered as it currently refers to Libby's "husband". Eh? When did that happen? As one of my readers said: "Libby doesn't tell you everything, Lesley!"

The next book in the series, which will hopefully be out in time for Christmas, will be Murder En Pointe. Three guesses as to what that's about!

While writing Murder In The Blood, something came up which linked it to a previous book in the series, so I had to read it. This is a very surreal experience, as I don't normally read my own books once they are published, but it made me realise I'd forgotten quite a few things and was in danger of making mistakes in the current one. That's the trouble with writing a longish series. Readers can, and often do, buy the lot and read them back to back, so they know more than you do, so in the name of research, I have now read them all up to Murder In The Monastery. I surprised myself by quite enjoying them, although they're very convoluted, aren't they?

In the meantime, while we wait for the blurb to be changed and I can post the links, I thought you might like to see a couple of pictures. Here are Libby's silver tabby, Sidney, and Fran's black and white long haired Balzac.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Women's Day - Make It Happen

Women’s Day post

The theme of International Women's Day this year is "Make It Happen", an appropriate tagline for the Libby Sarjeant mystery series - and in fact for any crime series with a female protagonist - because that is what the eponymous heroine does. Not that she commits the murders, but she makes the crime solving happen.

Another thing women have made happen is the ability of adopted children to find their birth mothers and vice versa. This is one of the themes in my book Murder In The Blood, to be published in June. It frequently comes as something of a shock to young people ( I mean, under fifty!) that babies were almost forcibly removed from young women who had the temerity to “get themselves pregnant” before marriage. I love “get themselves pregnant”, don’t you? A man had nothing to do with it, then? I mean, I know we’re good, us women, but we’re not that good. So that’s another thing women Made Happen. Illegitimate birth.

These days, of course, there is no stigma and children born to unmarried parents frequently bear both surnames. Posh, eh? And, these days, women can make it happen – by going to a sperm bank or finding a willing donor – but (whisper it) the donor has to be male. But now we can live alone, or with a friend and no one cares. Well, not much. The one thing we haven’t made happen, despite all the recent legislation, is general acceptance of the same sex couple, particularly female couples. It’s legal for same sex couples to enter a civil partnership and has been for years, and more recently, they can even get married. (I’m still not sure I know the difference, but there.) But although my married male friends appear to be accepted widely, my partnered up female friends are still viewed with a certain amount of suspicion and disapprobation by the broader community and they tend to socialise among themselves. This is most definitely something women should Make Happen. Complete acceptance by everyone.

I do my tiny little bit by bringing this into my books. From the very first couple of  pages in the very first book, I introduced Peter and Harry, who have become much loved regular characters, Harry, in fact, having his own fan club (all females, incidentally). They had their civil partnership at the end of the third book in the series, with Libby as their Best Woman. Now we also have Patti, an Anglican vicar, and her friend Anne, who are forced to live apart due to Patti’s calling. I’m hoping I shall be able to rectify that situation in coming books, and now we have our very first woman Bishop (another Libby, I’m proud to say) I’m sure women will make those stuffy clerics change their stance on their own colleagues.

So what else could we make happen this year? I’m proud to have been associated with Accent Press since its inception by the indefatigable and dynamic Hazel Cushion, our Managing Director, a prime example of a woman making things happen, and along the way, I hope I’ve helped make things happen too. So I hope all of us at Accent can make things happen this year. For the company, for ourselves and for other people. I thengyew.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Libby and Fran and Tamsin and Rissa

Thought it was about time to write another blog post, and two things occurred which gave me the theme. The first was Accent Press's new Marketing Guru, Duncan, asking me to do a piece for Women's Day, suggesting I write about influences on my writing - was it Mum, Dad, teacher etc etc. As I've always read and always written, that didn't strike a chord, so I wrote about the theme of this year's Women's Day, instead.

But then I managed to find a second hand copy of the only book in a series I hadn't got. It's called Dolphin Summer and is part of the Romney Marsh series by Monica Edwards, one of the all time favourites from my childhood which I still read. I have even written pieces for the Monica Edwards Fan Club magazine, acknowledging her influence on me as both a writer and a reader.

So, Duncan Stockwell, this is about influences on my writing. I picked up The Summer of The Great Secret, the second in the series, in the tiny book department of a shop near my home in London. I was one of those mad keen pony types, and due to there being several commons locally: Tooting Bec, Clapham, Wandsworth and Mitchum, I was able to ride regularly. And when a friend of my father's took over the riding school I used, I was in seventh heaven. I went in the mornings before school, after school, weekends, holidays - and I even began to lead rides. Wouldn't be allowed now, of course. Patricia and Jennifer took over the stables when I was twelve, and I was leading rides by the age of thirteen. So finding this book, with a picture of a beautiful white (grey!) pony on the cover was a joy. And I was hooked.

Scroll forward a few dozen years, and a review of one my books on Amazon said it was like Enid Blyton with gin instead of ginger beer. The review was meant to be derisory, but it remains one of my favourites. And I realised. No, not Enid Blyton, but Monica Edwards, and let's have whisky and red wine instead of gin. Libby doesn't like gin. Nor do I.

So now, this week, reading Dolphin Summer for the first time in umpty-tum years I realised that Libby and Fran are really the grown-up versions of Tamsin and Rissa, although Fran is a much calmer person than Rissa ever was. My writing style is remarkably similar to Edwards', I have the same proscribed area in which the stories are set, the same sort of cast of characters.

In my opinion, Monica Edwards was a far better writer than Enid Blyton, and her books haven't dated as much, either. I don't know if a new reader would find them as enjoyable, but, if you don't know the books already, it might be worth giving them a try. The first in the series is Wish For A Pony. Enjoy!