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...