Sunday, December 16, 2018

Happy Christmas!

Well, I say Happy Christmas, but it's far too early for me, actually. Every year it is made more apparent to me that I am a Grinch. Except that the Grinch is American, and I therefore don't approve of that. 😏

I used to love Christmas. I eventually gave in on the "Decorations and Tree on Christmas Eve and not before" rule inherited from my parents (and most of their generation), but only by a few days. I feel that too much exposure to Christmas decorations debases the currency, so to speak. My eldest daughter has gone over to the Dark Side and now says it's lovely to enjoy all the sparkly things for a few weeks. Mind you, she also watches Strictly...

Eldest son agrees with me and says he refuses to knuckle under to the pressure of social media and put his decorations up. Younger son, however, is pestering me to put ours up. Don't know what younger daughter thinks, as no doubt the ship on which she is currently entertaining will be festooned in the most garish of decorations whether she likes it or not.

It is quite worrying to come to the conclusion that I have become someone who does not like Popular Culture in its current incarnation. I appreciate modern technology, especially as it makes my job easier in various ways, and I use social media. It helps me keep in touch with family and friends, and is also useful in the job. But popular culture - No. I have never - and will never watch Strictly Come Dancing, Big Brother (is that still going?), I'm a Celebrity (etc), The Apprentice, Soaps... The list goes on. I hate forced competition; setting one against another. Although I have a soft spot for Mastermind, which a late friend won several years ago - RIP Annie - and University Challenge The Professionals, in which a team of friends were finalists. But they're different, somehow.

Even social media has fallen under my disapproval now, as it becomes increasingly promotional, both in terms of individual users and the algorithms which send us usually inappropriate advertising. So I am gradually withdrawing from that, although my own reader group, Libby's Loonies, remains a favourite.

However, I have finally been persuaded to allow the Putting Up Of The Tree on Tuesday, and told I must stop being a Grinch. I said I'd always been a Grinch, but the family say I haven't - I've just turned into one. Which is where we came in...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Busy, busy, busy...

Traditionally, The Playhouse Box Office opens for the sale of pantomime tickets on December 1st, although I think this will change as so many tickets are bought online these days. Panto is the only one with restricted sales.

We are deep in rehearsal for Sleeping Beauty, which has not been without its problems.

In addition to this, I have foolishly taken on the challenge of writing the third novella (45,000 words) in The Alexandrians series, set in Edwardian Nethergate, the seaside town which features in the Libby Sarjeant series. This means two books with delivery three months apart - I shall be writing them virtually at the same time. Both have been started, although not got beyond the first chapter of each, and I've had to do an awful lot of research reading for the third Alexandrian, as I'd forgotten a lot!

We've also just run a competition on social media to win a beautiful limited edition mug, created for me by Michael Gill, of the London Mug Studio.

And the first of the new batch of Audio books has come out with a lovely interview, thanks to Isis Publishing:

So it's all been a bit busy, as you can imagine.

If I don't manage another post before Christmas, I wish you all the happiest of times.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

A quick November update

As you all know by now, my main focus at present is pantomime, which is finally getting down to rehearsal. However, publisher has decided to give me a whole new range of covers, as neither of us really liked the most recent update. I don't know if you'll all be able to see this, but Accent have done an Autumnal Libby Sarjeant Video.

Also for your eyes only, the next full length Libby book, out next September 5th, will be Murder Repeated.  And Murder And The Pantomime Cat will be out on the 22nd November!

Friday, October 12, 2018

October and the serious business of pantomime

I managed to deliver the manuscript of Murder and the Pantomime Cat by September 30th, as requested by my publishers, and its release date will be November 22nd. Since then, I have been rather taken up by the next project, which, of course, is pantomime.

I shan't completely ignore Libby, Fran and the others, as I have to start thinking about the next full length book, but that isn't out until next August (I would prefer it to be earlier!) and due for delivery in the spring, so although I might have to go hell for leather from the middle of January, after months of wondering why on earth I'd taken this on, having officially retired from directorial responsibilities in 2007, I'm beginning to enjoy it, despite the many problems that have already cropped up.

In the same way that the public don't understand the life of a writer, neither do they understand theatre. Pantomime is something they go to see either in December or January and it doesn't occur to them that preparation for it probably starts at the end of the last one. To stage a pantomime - or any theatre production, really - the building itself must be fully staffed. Bar, sweets and ice creams, front of house and stewards, cleaners, box office - the list goes on. Then for the production, lighting designer, riggers and operators, sound designers and operators, set designers and builders, stage manager, assistant stage manager, stage crew. And music. Mine is being recorded specially, and luckily my MD (musical director) is a close friend, so he's going beyond the bounds of his contract to help.

Then there's the cast, which I haven't finalised yet, the chorus, the singing coach - if the MD isn't doing it - and choreographer.  And guess what? Out of all that lot, if any of it goes wrong it's down to the director/producer. Me. And I also happen to be the writer, so I'll get the blame for the script, too.

If it's good, everyone else gets praised and the director wipes the sweat off his/her brow and creeps away to collapse in a heap. In the bigger theatres there will be a few more staff to prop up the director, but we can't afford it. We own our theatre, which is a little Victorian gem with state of the art facilities, all of which have to be maintained, and that's a full time job in itself.
Which is why, in 2007, I "retired". By that time, the Libby books were taking off and I was - ahem - getting older, and couldn't cope with two full time jobs at once, as I had in previous years. So tell me why I've done so this year?

Simple answer. I LOVE it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

September - home again, home again, jiggety-jog

I have returned from my second holiday of the year in Adrasan, Turkey, where I have been going for fifteen years. Most of the usual suspects were there, and most of them were staying longer than I was, but we had a terrific time while I was there. There were two significant jewellery moments this year, one of which was The Pendant. This was a shell collected on the beach in the village by an old friend of mine, who died last year aged 95, taken home and converted into a pendant by a jeweller friend of hers. Her daughter came out on holiday in June and presented it to me on the wishes of her mother. We both cried. I put it on the black ribbon and wore it almost every day while I was out there this time.
This is Helenore and I about four or five years ago, and below is a photo of me last Tuesday, wearing the pendant.
The other jewellery moment, is thanks to my lovely friend Michael, who, incidentally, took the picture of me with the pendant. Knowing how I love the colour, and that I have necklaces and earings with turquoises, he bought me this:
Taken just now on the landing by Leo! So two memories supplied by lovely friends in my favourite place.

Horrible journey home and discovered car battery flat the next morning. Son Leo and I both in the dumps about our careers - both of us wondering why everyone else is doing better than we are - but once I get going on the the Pantomime Cat again - which has to be finished in 8 days - and get to grips with the panto, I'm sure I'll cheer up. Although on the 27th I have an event with ten other Kent authors which might depress me again...

Very grateful for my Reader Group, who cheer me up no end and make me feel I'm not wasting my time after all. So thank you, Libby's Loonies - you're great.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

In Praise Of Accent Press

I've never written so many blog or newsletter posts. Not sure what's got into me... Anyway, this post is as a result of a remark made by a member of the reader group who obviously hadn't read of the history of me and Accent Press. Gosh, you will say, how did she miss that? You've been ramming it down our throats for years! But no, there are newer readers (I love them) who probably don't know, so here goes.

Once upon a time, there was a writer of features, press releases, plays and short fiction (me) who decided, for no good reason, to do one of these new fangled Master's Degrees in Creative Writing. East Anglia had been set up a few years previously and various other universities were doing the same. In order to avoid attending the same uni as my younger daughter (Bath Spa, who offered me a place) I chose the Carmarthan campus (Trinity) of the University of Wales. I commuted every week, staying in a pub in the middle of nowhere which belonged to some friends of friends. One of my fellow students was a lady, a former business woman, who was a little frustrated by being rather tied to home by her very small triplets.

At the end of the year, we were asked, as a group, to produced a collection of short stories, as the previous year (the first the course had run) had done. Somehow, my new friend ended up directing the whole project, and refused to allow it to be an amateurish photocopied job as last year's had been. So we ended up with a proper paperback, and we even did events with it - and readings. I did fewer than anyone else because I lived so far away. This, remember, was long before the proliferation of self publishing and the digital revolution.

We enjoyed it so much, that my friend decided we would do another one off our own bat, so to speak, this one a charity book. Within weeks she had convinced the Breast Cancer charity we would be good for them, and I (it was just the two of us doing all this) had started recruiting writers of short stories. Luckily, I already knew some fairly famous novelists who agreed to contribute, and what eventually emerged was this:
Amazingly, it's still on Amazon, second hand only, and lists all the writers, with me as editor. Hazel Cushion, for dear reader, it was she, proved an indefatigable partner and organised a launch at The Groucho Club:
(That's us in the front row on our knees, me in pink, and Hazel next to contributors and friends Sophie Weston and Caroline Mackworth-Praed.) My husband is also there at the back somewhere, as he designed the cover, which became the trademark of the Sexy Shorts collection. We also had a Welsh launch at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth and other events in bookshops all over the place.

I remained connected to what was now Accent Press for the next short story collection, but took a back seat, and detached myself after that as I had an urgent need to earn some money! I took a job at the Crown Court, which was fascinating, if upsetting at times, but great for observing behaviour under examination. It was a year or so later that Hazel phoned me one afternoon, not long after my husband had died, but she assured me it wasn't charity, and said: "You remember that story you wrote for your dissertation?" "Well," I said, "it was only the first 20,000 words, actually." "I know," said Hazel. "Have you written any more?" "No." "Will you write another couple of chapters and let me read it?" "Yes."

That story became Murder in Steeple Martin. It was an experiment for both of us, as Accent Press were only just branching out into long fiction. We both attended a conference at Caerleon in Wales at which she showed me first cover designs and told me, quite rightly, that I couldn't call it Past Imperfect. And she said "Do you think it could be a series?" It wasn't even finished, then...

We've had ups and downs since then, what relationship hasn't? And I had to get used to the fact that I wasn't the only author, nor am I the best selling author. I foolishly introduced my friend Christina Jones into the fold, and let's face it, you don't get much better than that. I've been tempted away a few times, but I've stayed. Hazel and I took a chance on each other, and she's stuck by me, even though I'm hardly the most fashionable of authors in the most popular of genres.

And finally, we collaberated this last week on the cover, delivery date and publication date of the next novelette for Christmas. In less than 24 hours, this was up on Amazon (and presumably the other platforms) for pre-order.
So thank you, Hazel, and, although you didn't realise it at the time, thank you University of Wales - even if meeting Hazel was the only thing I got out of it, except the letters after my name...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A little reflection after the fuss has died down

I have announced before in this blog that I now have a Reader Group on Facebook, called Lesley Cookman's Libby's Loonies, and Murder And The Glovemaker's Son is the first Libby book to be launched since its inception.

Over the few months it has been going it has become more a group of friends than anything else, and I can genuinely say it's the nicest group I belong to. Some of the members have been readers for years, some have been readers but not in touch with me, and yet others are brand new! So, just for this group, I thought I'd do a little count up. Glovemaker is Libby 19 - looks impressive  - (can't actually believe it) but there a few more altogether. So...19 full length epics, one short story (5000 words) in an Accent anthology, 2 short stories in My Weekly, and 2 (so far) long short stories, or novelettes. There are 2 in the Alexandrians series, 2 romances (under a different name!) and a How To book on panto. Oh - and 7 pantomimes and one musical. And now I've typed it, I wish I hadn't. (I didn't include the short stories and features I wrote before I became a novelist.) It looks so bl**dy boastful, doesn't it? But it's just the life of a working writer over the last 38 or 40 years

Anyway, for this book, my lovely local bookshop, Harbour Books in Whitstable, hosted a book launch for me - with Prosecco! (I think I drank most of it.) It turned into more of a friends and family party, but they all bought books, bless 'em. And I made a speech which mainly consisted of me thanking them all, over and over again. 

But one of the nicest things was the fact that two of my readers and members of the Loonies turned up in person. One of them, Suzanne, has been a reader and regular correspondent for years, giving me invaluable advice on matters ecclesiastical, along with another friend, Frances. The other was Pam, who had only appeared on my radar since the Loonies came into being. I made them both stand up and embarrassed them...

Then, yesterday, I was given my very first Online Launch, conducted on Facebook. Luckily, I didn't have to organise it - I wouldn't have known where to start - and for two solid hours I had to stare at the laptop (fighting off the cats) trying to follow multiple posts and conversations. There were competitions, only one of which I have to judge later today. It was exhausting, and I honestly don't know if it does any good. If there's a sudden spike in sales, maybe...

What has prompted this particular blog is the strange phenomenon of the Celebration of Achievement. A friend was puzzling over a news item yesterday: Madonna has reached 60. Really? So? Why is that remarkable? Was she not expected to? And why, each time the dentist performs a successful extraction are the flags not put out? Or the plumber saves a domestic house from flooding? Or the myriad of experts with whom we surround ourselves go about their daily lives saving ours, or at least facilitating them.

I'm not saying I don't enjoy the celebrations (or the accolades!), after all, my whole family are or were performers, from my father to me and my husband and all four children. I LIKE applause. I like being liked. But there are people out there doing far more worthwhile things with their lives. It's exactly the same when I'm complemented on my afore-mentioned children. They're all performers, as I've said, and they are all good at it. One of them is also a very clever writer. And people in audiences up and down the country come up to me and say "You must be so proud! They're so good!" Well, yes, but not one of them will ever be rich. And I'm not sure I had anything to do with their talent, so I don't want to takethe plaudits.

I hope this doesn't sound ungrateful - believe me, I'm not - but I just feel a little bit undeserving.  And now I'll put the self-flagellation kit away, and go back to being normal Libby - I mean, Lesley....

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Book launch and New Covers

I sit here in my conservatory gazing at my wilting garden and worry. About the drought crisis and the plight of the farmers, the failing NHS, the homeless, those reliant on the food banks... And on and on it goes.

Still, in my own personal world there is some good news. First of all, my copies of Murder and the Glovemaker's Son have arrived:

And, to cheer me up after falling book sales, my publisher, Accent Press, decided on a little bit of rebranding and designed some new covers.

These have been judged a little dark by some of my readers, but apparently they follow a current trend of having decorative borders, and it's hoped some people who haven't yet sampled the delights of Steeple Martin, Nethergate and the inhabitants will be persuaded to give them a try.

Next week our local bookshop, Harbour Books, will be hosting a book launch for me:

There will be Prosecco and little cakes, I believe, so anyone who is in the area at the time is welcome to come and have a drink with me. I have my doubts about how many books will be sold, but it should be fun. Maybe. You might also get to meet some of my offspring, including son Miles who is so generous with his ideas...

And then, when I come back from Turkey on September 27th, I and some other Whitstable authors will be attending BroadstairsLit's Party Night, hosted by Waterstones at Broadstairs Pavilion on the Sands where I used to sit and eat icecream with my parents when I was a teeny, tiny girl. 

Oh - and I have a new hairdresser...

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Follow up to previous blog - last years view on LGBTQIA

Huge coincidence, but this appeared in my Facebook memories today. You notice I say it should have been a blog post - so now it is. Much of it repeats what i said yesterday, but I found it really interesting that I said almost the same thing as I did yesterday!

This should have been, perhaps, a blog post, but no one reads my blog posts! So, here we go.
With all the media attention on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, I am moved to write my own post about the subject, or, as my parents would have said, put in my two-pennorth. And speaking of my parents, I was an only child. We lived in a large flat in London, in a divided Victorian house. On the ground floor beneath us was another single child family. Bernard was older than I was, but we got on probably better than a brother and sister would have done, even when he took me to the zoo and lost me. As we both grew up it became obvious that Bernard was gay, although I had no idea what that was at the time. However, I was very well aware of it by the time his current boyfriend, a Sicilian, told me. My parents must have been aware of it, too – we were like one big family – but there was never a hint of disapproval. In fact, there was an occasion when a neighbour who had been trying to persuade my father to join the Masons (and failing) came to him with the story that Bernard had been arrested for cottaging. He was full of moral outrage and certain my father would join in his condemnation and, incidentally, keep me out of harm’s way. My father gave him the telling off of his life and never spoke to him again. Believe it or not, this was AFTER the Act, but the arrests and entrapment were actually increasing. My dad must have been even more remarkable than I thought.
By the time I met my husband-to-be, the Act had been in force for quite a few years, but acceptance was a long way off. A friend who was first trombone in the orchestra at the Coliseum used to get me tickets and got me two for a new production of Verdi’s Masked Ball. He told us to meet him in the interval and he’d take us for a drink. Brian had never met him before, but happily followed him to a little door at the side of the theatre, and upstairs to a drinking club. Within seconds, he realised it was a GAY drinking club. I’ve never seen anyone so uncomfortable in my life, especially when someone tried to chat him up. You can imagine his reaction to Bernard. But over the next couple of years I “educated” him, and Bernard was one of the ushers at our wedding. He had always been part of my parents’ wide circle of friends, and was a born entertainer.
But one of the things I was stunned by was the fact that even into the seventies both drugs and electrical therapy were being employed to “cure” gay men. I knew it happened earlier, and even today in the States there are doctors who profess to be able to do it, but here in the seventies?
I was born to incredibly tolerant and open minded parents. My early jobs, model, air stewardess, nightclub DJ, brought me into contact with a wide variety of people, and being gay seemed normal to me and always has. But I still see intolerance and discomfort around the LGBT community and it appals me. It saddens me that we have to HAVE a separate community – why not just people? We’ve got a long way to go.
Below: two pictures of my terrific Dad.

Friday, July 27, 2018

LGBTQIA The Melting Pot

I belong to the professional organisation the Romantic Novelists' Association, which I joined over thirty years ago when I still thought I could write romance. Despite finding out that I couldn't, and it was much harder than I thought, I've stayed a member, mainly because I made so many friends in the beginning, and I've kept them. I received an awful lot of encouragement all that time ago, and although I didn't become a published novelist through their admirable New Writers Scheme, I support it and recommend it and the Association to all aspiring writers.

At their conference this year it was decided to form a separate LGBTQIA Chapter for those who either identify as LGBTQIA or write books about LGBTQIA characters. While I applaud the RNA for this initiative, I'm sad that we need it.  I've had two male gay main characters in my series from the start, and they even got married - well civilled - in 2006. A couple of years later I introduced two female gay characters, one of them a vicar, who also became regulars. The series is 19 books long, plus a novella, three shorts and two magazine shorts, and in all that time, I've only had one complaint - a handwritten letter from a lovely lady in a nursing home in Scotland, which I've kept.

This is faintly surprising, as I write what is called in America "cosy" crime, which, over there, certainly has a fairly conservative readership. I doubt very much if I have many readers in the so-called Bible-Belt.

This particular community (and I suggest, if you don't recognise the acronym, you look it up on Google, Ecosia or your other favourite search engine) is one I have been familiar with all my life. And yes, I do mean "ALL my life". I, of course, am incredibly old and incredibly straight, but I grew up with a gay honorary brother who was part of my life until we unnaccountably lost touch in the 1980s. He was an usher at my wedding, among the other five almost aggresively straight friends of the groom. I worked in an environment notable for its, shall we say, inclusivity. Several, actually. It has never, ever occurred to me to think of, or treat the community any differently from anyone else, in the same way that because I grew up in the south London community of black people they, to me were just people. My parents were obviously extremely forward thinking, because they kept all the bitterness, prejudice and hatred from my small ears, and loved my honorary brother as much as I did.

In fact, I'm slightly annoyed with myself that I felt it necessary to write this post. I don't want ANYONE singled out, female, male, LGBTQIA, black, white, sky-blue-pink - what's the difference for heaven's sake? Years ago, when she was a young teenager, my younger daughter suggested that a good theme tune for Children in Need on the BBC would be the Blue Mink song "A Great Big Melting Pot". I think it would be a great theme song for all of us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Launch parties and covers

Well, it's July and this is the first cool day we've had for some time, which inclines me slightly more to sit in and write a new post and - start the new book!

First of all, launch parties. Yes, two of them! One, with real prosecco and cakes, is at my local bookshop, Harbour Books on August 16th, publication day, at 7 pm. The second is a Facebook launch at 7 pm on August 17th. There will also be a blog tour, about which I haven't yet got the details, but which is organised by a professional who knows the appropriate blog hosts. Most of my blog tours in the past have concentrated on bloggers who concentrate on romantic/women's fiction, but Jill, who is also organising my launch party, is a whole different kettle of fish. The only thing I'm worried about is that I might not be gory/tense/thrilling enough for crime bloggers. In our Loonies Reader Group we've discussed this before; the tendency these days is for edge-of-your-seat thrilling reads - even previously gentler writers are throwing their detectives into the fray.

Now, a little point that was made by a friend over the weekend - Accurate Covers. It was made by a writer, and discussed by writers, so I thought I'd get a reader's view point. She was complaining about the tendency of cover artists to portray period heroines in quite the wrong way - the wrong dress, the wrong stance or attitude, the wrong background - you name it, it was wrong. It's something that's always worried me - particulary in Regency Romances, where you see voluptuous heroines in positively abandoned attitudes posed with bare chested men. The clothes are frequently wrong, too. I didn't mean to, but I realised I was looking out for this sort of thing yesterday on my trek around t'internet - and I found it!

This was a book set during and just after World War One - in England and the Western Front. About English people. The cover showed a beautiful twenty-first century woman staring at a very twenty-first century young man against a misty, vague background. The - oh, look! Another one! This was a book by an American (I have nothing against Americans - I have one almost in the family) about Boudicca. This woman is an academic and a writing tutor and wrote the biggest load of tosh about her book I've ever seen. This ruthless warrior woman was portrayed as a beautiful wronged heroine (well, she was, but not the way she was portrayed) who took people out to a beautiful landscape - depicted on the cover) wearing a beautiful Greek-style dress (also depicted on the cover) for a PICNIC! And describes the food. No, I can't bring myself to repeat it. As I said privately to the blog host, my historian and archeologist friends would have had kittens - and as for my uni tutors - well! As a former tutor myself, I was horrified. She made every mistake it was possible to make.

Anyway, back to the point. Covers. Both those I've described were misleading and inaccurate and annoyed me intensely. This is why I'm so pleased that Accent have always gone for the sort of covers they give me. The houses depicted might sometimes be wrong, but they're near enough to give the right idea. So what do you think? Do the Wrong Covers irritate you? I really want to know.

If you don't already belong to our Reader Group and you would like to, we are Lesley Cookman's Libby's Loonies on Facebook. And no, I didn't choose the name...

Monday, June 25, 2018

This week's news

Brief post that I shan't broadcast far and wide yet, but a quick update to my post on the Reader Group. The next full length book in the Libby series will be out in August 2019, and will be entitled (we think) Murder Repeated.

But it is now confirmed that, in time for Christmas 2018, Murder And The Pantomime Cat will be released as an ebook. It will be a "short", somewhere in length between Mallowan Manor and Most Fowl. The editor (my Dear Ed) has agreed, so has the publisher and the publishing schedule has been updated.

This is not general knowledge as yet, so keep it under your collective sun hats for the time being. Not that it's exactly world shattering news, but still...

Back to Sleeping Beauty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

And The Pressure's Off!

A brief catch up here, to let you know that Murder And The Glovemaker's Son is finished, the revisions are in and it is up for pre-order on Amazon and presumably other platforms, too, as well as in  Real Bookshops. I shall be having a little launch at my home bookshop sometime in August, with nice nibbles (cake, I expect) supplied by friends, and probably a few glasses of fizz. Bookshop will be organising it, and I am happy to leave it to them, as are my publishers, who supply them direct with the Real Books.

I am slightly worried about what you're all going to think about this one. I have no doubt that you will let me know in no uncertain terms! And the silly thing is that having been agonising over the damned thing and saying I never wanted to write another word again, there I was last night and this morning working out the plot details of the next one...

Heigh-ho! And on with the panto script rewrites. Oh, yes I am... (Not a picture of mine, although it is of one of my pantos - in fact, the very one I'm updating now. And a lot more than 7 years ago!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My beautiful corner of Turkey

I'm home!

As I posted in the Loonies group, I wasn't able to do the revisions while I was there because, although our wifi was rubbish, I could receive stuff for limited periods each day, but my poor editor Greg, who lves and works abroad, was suffering terrible problems, both technically and in health.  Still I have all his notes now, and  although I was shell shocked yesterday I've caught up on sleep and nearly caught up with the washing, so I can get get on with it now.

Already got almost 600 pre-orders, according to the publishers, and did I tell you about the books I donated while I was on hols? I've been going to the same place for so long now I and my friends are regarded as honorary locals, and thus do local type things, including contributing to local charities. Pretty sure I told you all this, but someone won Murder In The Blood (about the faux village in Turkey) and is going to wait for the Glovemaker's Son. Must not forget.

Anyway, it was wonderful to be back after a gap of a year, so much so that I've already booked a return trip in September, hopefully when I won't forget so many essentials - which I did this time. Well, there aren't many places you can go where the owner of the hotel gives you your first bottle of wine free, can't actually remember how much he should be charging you, and says if you can't afford the full price don't worry about it... And no, I'm not going to tell you where it is. The drawbacks for the mass holiday crowd are the two hour journey through the mountains from the airport, the lack of any nightlife (except alcohol!) and the less than stunning gastronomic experiences. We all have our favourite restaurants, not that there are many, and we are all known by name. In some places it is assumed that we will have the same thing each time, which can be awkward!

So it's full steam ahead with Glovemaker's, then updating my pantomime script, then starting the next one. Think I should send Libby & Co back to Turkey?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

World of Libby

The world of Libby has rather fallen by the wayside this week, after sending off the latest manuscript to my editor, from whom, ominously, I haven't yet heard a word.

I had such a bad time with it (what I put myself through!) that I actually felt ill for two days after I'd got rid of it. It taught me a lesson, though. This next one will be planned down to the last detail instead of just ploughing into the mist as I usually do.

There has been some discussion about the pros and cons of planning and not planning among authors in Facebook groups. Many, like me, have a vague idea and just charge off willy nilly. Others have a detailed plan, write and rewrite. I never have time to do that, as I have a tighter schedule than many, and another thing is that I have enforced deadlines because I'm traditionally published. Talking about that, some self published authors, of which there are many these days, argue that they are under just as much pressure, but they haven't got a publisher's schedule to fit into, they can publish when they're ready, which takes the pressure right off. I know, however, that I couldn't do that. I'd never finish the damn thing - I need someone behind me cracking the whip.

So I've already started research for the next one, assuming Dear Ed doesn't throw the Glovemaker's Son back at me saying Never More.

I have been to a lovely old bookshop run by two wonderful ladies in an alleyway in an old market town, to an equally lovely village where I got stuck in the high street in opposition with a bus, I have been ruthlessly questioning the owner of said village's website and I've been picking my son's brains. He was the one who came up with the vague idea in the first place, as he often does, so he can't complain.

Meanwhile, in order to try and make sure you all receive this blog/newsletter every time, I am going to try to import this into Wordpress. It can be done, I'm told. I think it will mean everyone signing up again, but I know that Wordpress sign-ups work - I have several - and when I was away on retreat my friend who runs one of my favourites, promised to give me a hand if I wanted to change. So I'm going to try.

And in a week's time I'm going back to my favourite village in Turkey for two weeks with some old friends before diving into rewriting the panto script  and then carrying on with the new book. I confidently expect to spend a large part of my holiday on rewrites of the Glovemaker's Son. Heigh-ho.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Update to Murder and The Glovemaker's Son

I finally finished the book and sent it off at five past six yesterday evening, in time to get ready to go to daughter number two's annual gig in her home town. She and her duo partner have just finished three months doing cabaret on a cruise ship around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other exotic places. Not quite like a Whitstable pub! But they pulled a crowd, as usual, and the landlord was delighted because he took an awful lot over the bar. Today, it's lunch with the kids for elder son's birthday and a party tonight. With a lot of the same people as last night.

So, as long as my dear editor Greg can knock the mss into shape, with luck and a following wind I'm hoping it will come out as scheduled in August. It's been a real struggle this one, and as always, I think it's terrible, but editor, publisher and kids all tell me I say the same every time, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed that you all like it, and most importantly, understand it, because to be frank, by the end I'm not sure I did.

Meanwhile, after giving myself the weekend off, I have to get down to rewriting/updating next season's panto script for distribution to interested parties by about July. And thinking about all kinds of production matters, most of which have already been taken care of by my Production Designer, but there are essential matters like songs, the choice of which is crucial, especially as so far I have no idea who will be singing them.

Then, allowing for my holiday at the end of May beginning of June, I shall launch into Libby 20 - or 22 if you count the Christmas shorts. No timeline for that so far, or, indeed title, although there is a vague story idea, thanks to my assistant (!) Miles, whose birthday it is today. His friends think I should be paying him for his ideas...

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Memory from the Pink Sofa

A few years ago, a writer friend, Carol Hedges, invited me on to her Pink Sofa. This was a great honour, as the Pink Sofa is legendary among writers. So with her permission, here's what I wrote for her - it's a slightly different take on my life. Oh - and while I'm here, could I recommend Carol's Victorian Mysteries? Starting with this one: Diamonds and Dust.

I’ve been dying to get onto the Pink Sofa for ages. I’ve always liked the look of the cake. And is that red wine hiding behind the chair?

First of all, I’d like to hark back to a previous guest here – Beryl Kingston. I was so pleased that her post had such a terrific response because, you see, Beryl and I have quite a lot of connections. I can’t actually remember when we discovered these, but it was during a phone call years before social media (or any sort of media, actually!) that we suddenly stated saying “No! Really? So did I!”

To start with, we had both lived in Tooting, London, as children. And we had both been – wait for it  - Tooting Carnival Queens! Even odder, Beryl had been teaching at my Grammar School up until I started in the first form. It still strikes me as strange that had it not been for an accident of timing, I could have been taught by someone I now regard as an inspiration and a friend.

As for Carol (who?) – years ago, I lived in St Albans, where my eldest daughter was born, and one of my best friends lived in Harpenden, where I used to do my weekly shop in Sainsbury’s. That’s about it as far as we’re concerned.

My own journey to publication – or, rather, novels – is rather mundane. I wish I could present you with a picture of the struggling artist in the attic, but I can’t. Like many writers, I started writing as a child “making” my own books. When I got to about 11 or 12, I was filling Woolworth’s exercise books with pony stories. It never occurred to me that I could make a living writing – I wanted to  be an actor! I started well, debuting on the London stage at the age of 15 playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie, things rather fell off after that. I drifted through modelling, demonstrating, (Kent Hair Brushes, since you ask) disc jockeying in a posh nightclub wearing a silver catsuit and eventually becoming an air stewardess for British Airways in the glory days. At least, I’m told they were. I’ve managed to inveigle my way onto The One Show and The Alan Titchmarsh Show on the back of that.

I married a professional musician and we duly starved. This was the St Albans era. Eventually, the Musician, who was art school trained, went into magazines. And one day came home with a large cardboard box, told me to open it, assemble it and write on it how easy it was. It was one of the first desk top computers, long before Apple or even Amstrad. The magazine was Which Computer, and the Musician was the Art Editor. I was launched on a career as feature writer.

Many years and a few more children later, having discovered a penchant for writing pantomimes (still produced all over Britain each year) and short stories for magazines, I decided to go all highbrow and do an MA in Creative Writing. They were still very new then, and I picked one as far away from home as possible, in Wales. On the same course was a woman called Hazel Cushion, and at the end of the course we decided to produce a charity anthology for Breast Cancer, called Sexy Shorts for Christmas. We did everything between us – I commissioned, edited and typeset, the Musician designed the cover, Hazel did everything else and proved to be a very good business woman.

And that was the beginning of Accent Press. Which, of course, is now going strong as a small independent publisher with a number of bestselling titles both in print and ebook. I’m no longer anything to do with the organisation, I simply sit back and write Libby Sarjeant books and the odd Edwardian Mystery for good measure. And thank the Lord and little green fishes I met Hazel, as I can afford to eat for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for having me, Carol, and please may I have a top-p? You what? You said you didn’t like red wine...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

My beginnings

I have recently been invited to choose three words to describe my creativity. See if you agree with me. I think most people who receive this newsletter will already know most of this, but just in case you don't...

I think the first would, unfortunately, be “enforced”. I have been a working writer for over 35 years. I know that, because I started when I was pregnant with my third child, who is now 35. I wrote as a freelance, first for Which Computer and subsequently for its stable mates Business Matters, Small Business Matters and various other trade journals. I had always written, inspired by my favourite books as a child, such as Elizabeth Goudge’s Little White Horse, Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh series (I write pieces for the Monica Edwards society’s magazine now) and Pamela Brown’s Blue Doors series, but never thought I could do it as a job. Instead, I became a model, an air stewardess, actor, disc jockey in a night name it, I’ve done it. When I wrote the first of my Libby Sarjeant series it was the 20,000 words of a dissertation which prompted Accent Press’s Hazel Cushion to buy it. So I had to finish the b... sorry, the novel. Ever since, each book has become harder, so yes, sorry, “Enforced”.

The second word would be “comforting”. I write what I like to read, and none of it is alarming. I write about the Kentish countryside because that’s where I live – well, in a seaside town, actually -  and it’s all very – yes – comforting, and feels like being enfolded in a familiar blanket. I also have murders. But the one thing my readers tell me is that when they pick up a new book it’s like meeting old friends. The books have evolved into different situations for a group of friends to explore, and naturally, because of  my own background there’s theatre in there, too.

Which brings me to my third word, “theatrical”. I made my first professional appearance on the stage in a London “fringe” theatre, although we didn’t call them that, back in the Dark Ages. Since then, after having my children, I have done a lot of work for my local theatre, The Playhouse, Whitstable. I have become a bit of an expert on pantomime (I’ll bore anybody) and had a book commissioned back in the nineties on how to write one. It’s still in print in its third edition, believe it  or not, with a foreword by Roy Hudd. I’ve written and had produced and published (they earn me my holiday money) seven pantomimes, and at the behest of the British Music Hall Society, one “Music Hall Musical”, which has now formed the basis of my new Edwardian series, The Alexandrians. I used to be the editor of the BMHS journal, “The Call Boy”, and had access to some of the greats before they popped off to the great Green Room in the sky.

Music plays a huge part in my life and always has. My father was half of a singing duo, I married a musician and produced four of them. I am extremely proud of them all, although none of us will ever have a great deal of money (especially the one who is a published poet. Poor soul.). I am now a widow (horrible word. Conjures up black lace veils), a grandmother (even worse) to two smalls and the slave to two cats. I am, in fact, what Central Casting would suggest as the perfect Lady Novelist/mad cat lady. I think...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The First Newsletter

I''m hoping that this will arrive in some people's inboxes, and if it does, will they please leave a comment at the bottom. Yesterday's blog was obviously open to misinterpretation, as some people were clicking on my big arrow and wondering why nothing happened, and others were simply telling me that all the addresses were on show. Yes, I know - that's why I'm doing this! If I could use MailChimp properly I'd do that, but this seems a lot simpler.

Since January not an awful lot has happened in my professional life. I've been dreadfully stuck over the current epic, and very behind on the upcoming deadline. But last weekend I went away with a group of writer friends and beat it into submission. I still haven't quite caught up, but it's progressing quite nicely, now.

Apart from my "retreat", another thing that's helped me is the suggestion by another writer friend, Victoria Connelly, to set up a Reader Group on Facebook. I have a personal Facebook page and an official Author Page, but I had never thought of a straightforward group. It's worked like a dream. The readers are happy to talk about the characters, give me ideas and in general be supportive. It is their suggestion that I revive the newsletter, and after a few false starts, this is the latest scheme. If anyone reading this would like to join the Reader Group, called, by popular request, Lesley Cookman's Libby's Loonies, and you are on Facebook, we'll be happy to see you. I know there's quite a bit of resistance to FB at the moment, which is one of the reasons that a newsletter of some kind seemed like a good idea. I still get requests via the website, and there are people who aren't on social media, although that's increasingly fewer and fewer.

So, for everyone who isn't on social media, and those who haven't seen the blog over the last 6 months or so, the 19th Libby Sarjeant book, Murder And The Glovemaker's Son is due out this August. The 18.5th was Murder Most Fowl, which came out for Christmas last year.
If anyone is reading this who has landed here by accident and you would like to carry on reading, please add your email address in the little "Follow by email" box and click submit. And with a bit of luck, new posts will pop into your inbox at fairly regular intervals.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The new newsletter - again

Well, hello, everyone!

After a couple of disastrous newsletters, I'm trying again.  Last weekend I went away on a "retreat" with some writer friends. We are all of a certain age (within certain parameters) and have known one another for some years, and share a certain nervousness of the newer, thrusting authors. We all started well before social media and networked blogs, or even self (or indie) publishing, and all the new guys, both young and older, are so well versed in the technology.  So a couple of the girls have made it their business to learn all about it, and I follow their blogs, which pop into my inbox every week like a newsletter. Oh! I thought. I could do that!

So here we are. All you have to do is fill in that little box which says "Follow by email" and click the little box saying "submit". And with a little bit of luck and a following wind, we'll have a newsletter again. This one can be a sort of test one, to get people to sign up, and see how we go. This arrow points in the general direction of the sign up box.