Thursday, July 18, 2024

Life Imitates Libby

 Over the past few years I have written about the plight of the homeless in this country many times in the Libby Sarjeant books, and one in particular, Murder In Autumn, dealt with the problem of the holiday lets industry. For industry is what it is. I was not allowed to name any particular organisation, and I shall not do so here, but I focussed in that book on the individuals and families forced to leave their homes by landlords turning their properties into holiday lets. This is a problem in my home town, and the figures from a recently undertaken poll revealed that holiday lets were numbered in the hundreds while properties for long term rent were in single figures. This is scandalous. This has now, over the last few months had an impact on my own family. Two of my adult children have been told to leave their homes - one in London, one here in Whitstable. My daughter in London has, after a nail-biting search, found somewhere to live, but my son, who has lived in his home and been a model tenant for 11 years, has not. We desperately need legislation to stop this wholesale wrecking of people's lives - they're trying to do it in Brighton - I just hope it will spread to the rest of the country. Meanwhile, if anyone knows of a flat/hovel/beach hut in Whitstable that ISN'T a holiday let and will be available from October, we would be very glad to hear about it. (And see how careful I've been to name no names!)

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Libby Sarjeant Rides Again!

 Morning, chaps. Just to let you know that the revised contract is in and confirmed, and Murder and The Crooked Horse will be out in October (I think) and two more (woohoo!) next year - April and October. Have had discussion with the Main Man at Headline, and we have been thinking about the difficulty of hooking people into a series that has been going (he reminded me) mearly 20 years. Wow. So all ideas for promo would be gratefully received, and anything you can do on my behalf would be even MORE gratefully received! We are also discussing something else, about which I shall inform you in due course. If it comes off. And no - not more Alexandrians - at least, not yet! I should have put this in a blog post or newsletter, I suppose, so I might do that, and apologies if you have to read it twice! And once again, thank you all so much for being such a terrific support. (I shall wear it always. Sorry, Late husband joke.) Cheers!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Singers, Songs and Family

 You can tell my eyes are better, can't you? Here I am again, with more news from Cookman Corner, whether you want it or not.

Yesterday the Eldest Child, Louise, took me with her to her gig. This was a slightly unusual one, as it was part lecture, entitled "Ladies of Swing", at the Jazz Centre UK, in front of an audience of very serious jazz nerds - er - fanatics. You may or may not know, that Lou is a professional singer whose area of choice and expertise is the Big Band and Swing eras.  Louise Cookman Here she is doing her thing in front of the Ronnie Scott's Big Band.

This was a much more restrained affair, with Lou singing songs recorded by the band singers of the late 30s and early forties, with only her mates, Colin and Sam, respectively on piano and bass, as accompaniment. And I'd almost forgotten what an absolutely beautiful voice she has. And she can do restrained. She doesn't often do restrained.

On the way there, I was treated to Lou Warming up. She has various exercises recorded on her phone which she can play through the sound system in the car. This was a revelation to me, as I know very little about her as a singing coach, and I assume (I haven't asked) she uses these in her lessons. I know her sister Phillipa, also a professional singer and teacher, uses something similar because I've heard her on zoom lessons with pupils, but I've never enquired further into her arcane practices, either. Phiily trained at the Royal Academy of Music  - so there's a pretty good voice there, too!

This is Philly in the singer/guitarist mode on tour with The Sound of Springsteen. She has a website for her teaching called The Singing Guitarist - take a look!

You'll have read about second eldest child Miles in last week's post, and his expertise in creating a downstairs shower room and loo - and flash new office. This is him in his real job with the Miles Cookman Band

Lou and I went to see him in a rare solo gig this week, and, of course, he was terrific.

The other family related item this week was youngest child Leo's fifth wedding anniversary with his lovely wife Carrie, and the first they have been able to spend together. To celebrate, he released a song in her honour, and he would love you to listen.  When I get To See You The words say it all - well, they would, wouldn't they?

As a little family adjunct to all this, Lou's gig yesterday was attended by my cousin Penny and her husband John, which was lovely, as we haven't seen one another for a very long time. Of course we went for a drink afterwards, and plans were made for a further meeting with even more members of the family. All in all, a pretty nice day. And today, some of us are celebrating the late Old Man by having lunch in a pub. Very appropriate.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

The Saga of Libby and Lesley

 Well, Hello! Did you wonder where I was? NO? Oh, all right... I'll tell you anyway.

While waiting several weeks for my edits on Libby Sarjeant Book 27, aka Murder and The Crooked Horse, I had re-published my famous (!) Alexandrians trilogy. The Alexandrians Lovely covers are courtesy of the talented Rhoda Baxter.


Just after I'd managed this, with a lot of help from friends, I developed a severe eye infection. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say I lost the sight in my good eye (the other one's already - er - crap) and spent a good deal of time going backwards and forwards, courtesy of daughters Lousie and Phillipa, to the Urgent Eye Treatment Centre at the William Harvey hospital in Ashford, who were brilliant. Anyway, four days after this happened, the edits and the offer of a new contract came in. Timing, eh?

Meanwhile, son Miles had been creating a new shower room and loo downstairs in my little house and was about to move on to the refurbishment of the office. This entailed me sorting through every bit of paper that had accumulated over the 25 years I have lived here. I'm surprised I could actually move in the place! As you can imagine, with compromised eyesight, this was no easy task. I had also had to ask my publishers to wait for both the edits and signature on the contract.

However, there is a happy ending. By last weekend, my eyesight was just about up to the task of the edits, which I completed in a record three days - I may have missed a few things... - and Miles had got the office almost finished. So am now sitting at my new desk, at my beloved old Big Mac, just about ready to finalise Murder and The Crooked Horse and to make a start on Libby Sarjeant Book 27! Yes - publishers Headline have seen fir to ask for two more Libby books, which will take us up to 28 full length stories and 3 novellas. She's been very patient, but oh, how I've missed her. Yes, I know, I'm a sad old bat who lives through my imaginary characters.

So that's where we are at the moment. I wish I could show you a picture of the new cover, but it hasn't appeared yet. I can tell you that Book 27, which I have given the working title of Murder and the Magician's Nephew, is due to be delivered by the end of October, so I have to get my writing muscles primed. Good job it isn't my back, which is killing me - all that heaving boxes and piles of paper around, not to mention the bending, isn't good for a woman of my advanced age. Oh, and if anyone wants a fairly cheerful musician who can create shower rooms and offices, I'll give you his number.

Bye for now,


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Thoughts on Libby Sarjeant and the "Cosy" genre


Well, folks, it’s almost the end of March, and I am awaiting the edits on Murder at The Crooked Horse, due to reach your shelves/Kindle/laptop someyime in June. No cover or release date as yet, but we live in hope.

While awaiting the edits and wondering if my publishers will want another Libby book – it’s all right, I think they do – I thought up an idea for a new series and re-published my three Alexandrians. This necessitated researching the so-called “cosy” genre on Amazon and all its myriad sub-genres, and I made myself thoroughly depressed. There are thousands! Every day when I set off on my quest new ones appeared. It’s quite astonishing.

Libby Sarjeant first came into being in the last World One Day Novel Cup in 1997. I was a finalist, with a brief version of what eventually became Murder in Steeple Martin eight years later. Around the same time, the agent Carole Blake, who subsequently became a good friend, introduced me to the books of Ann Granger and told me I should try writing something along the same lines. There were other writing in a similar genre, Hazel Holt, Mollie Hardwicke, M C Beaton, Natasha Cooper and Simon Brett, to name a distinguished few. Yet others were writing what are now referred to as police procedurals, but were in the same traditional vein. This was the company I joined when Hazel Cushion asked me to write a full length version of the Libby story and the series was born. 

I soon became aware of the flourishing market in the United Stated, where they invented the term “Cozy”. Hazel and I even looked at trying to break into that market, and redesign my covers to fit in with its definitely “cosy” style. However, Libby was building up quite a following, and after a few years was actually topping Amazon charts., so we just carried on doing things the way we had. And then the market in this country began to expand. Some of it was due to the rise of self publishing, and some of it due to publishers recognising the growing trend. There began to be definite tropes (incidentally, another word I hate, along with cosy) – female inheriting house/cafe/bookshop in quirky country village or cute seaside town, female divorcee relocating to same, femal retiree relocating to same – get the picture? And yes, Libby Sarjeant fitted in there. She had relocated after a divorce to a pleasant village, and vary soon, her co-protagonist, Fran, inherited a cottage in a cute seaside town. But now there were hundreds of them.

One wonders why, when Richard Osman wrote his first Thursday Murder Club novel, he and everyone else thought he was doing something so different. No – he was simply reinventing the wheel. It was celebrity culture that made the book the runaway hit that it was. I had hoped it might give those of us who had been doing it for years a boost, but all it did in fact, was to provide fertile ground for the proliferation of look-alikes.

Now, all this might sound like sour grapes, and to an extent, it is. Of curse it is. But Libby Sarjeant is still out there, bless her, and still providing my daily bread, but for how long will she be able to hold her own? She frequently steps outside the confort of the cosy straitjacket and confronts rather nastier crimes and social injustices – in fact, a recent Amazon review asked her to stop doing it – so her particular brand of nosiness might become unacceptable. And what of the new series?

The idea came to me when I realised how prevlent had become the sun, sea and sand location for mysteries, particularly on television. A Writer’s Summer School, I thought, where the tutor solves mysteries. Ah, said one of my clever writer friends, but what about the local police involvement? You’d have to find out all about that. Oh, right. Well, then, set it in this country, at a holiday destination. No, someone else pointed out. It’s been done. And so it went on. Every time I thought up a new twist, it was already out there. So, despondent, I put Anastasia Fox on the back burner. 

And so we return to Libby. She currently has a publisher and a very loyal band of readers, but in today’s compeitive, not to say cut-throat, market, where her ratings on Amazon fall far below many of her competitors, how long will she survive? Promotion and marketing are key, and many of the newer independent publishers do this extremely well, whereas only if you are a “top” author with a more established house do you get posters on railway stations and ads in national media. I now belong to one of these traditional publishers, having been sold, along with all the other Accent Press authors, without consultation. None of us are “top” authors.

My profession, along with that of most other ‘Creatives”, is a precarious one. Those of us who actually mange to make our living doing what we (mostly) love, are extremely lucky. Many of us have to have second jobs – “proper” jobs, as some would call them. All my four children do – the girls both teach singing as well as doing it, my eldest son does small building jobs (currently my downstairs shower room) and my youngest works in media tech. As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. And Libby Sarjeant and I thank our readers from the bottom of our hearts. We’ll carry on, regardless.

Libby Sarjeant Mysteries

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

March - all change in the Cookman household

 Well here we are in March, and the renovation of the tatty extension has begun. The downstairs of the house looks like a bombsite, but I comfort myself that all will be well when it's finished. And I won't have to go up and down the stairs at least half a dozen times a day, nor risk life and limb climbing into the shower-over-the-bath. Too much information? OK.

The other big - no, HUGE - new is that finally, after five years, my son Leo has received his visa to go and live with his wife in the States. I admire him and the lovely Carrie enormously for their steadfast love and determination.

This is them just after their wedding in 2019, with Leo's first book. He leaves on the 18th of the month.

So, after several years, I shall once more be alone in my little house. I leave you all to imagine how I'm going to feel...

On the work front, I'm still waiting for the edits to come through on Murder at The Crooked Horse, also waiting to see if the publishers want another Libby Sarjeant.

Meanwhile, I have had an idea for a new series, and then depressed myself by looking at the plethora of books and series in my genre - far more than there were when Libby first appeared. I shall bide my time.

And finally, the Edwardian trilogy, The Alexandrians, is currently undergoing a rejuvenation, and all three will soon be up on Amazon. Here are the lovely covers, designed by the talented Jeevani Charika: jeevani charika, who also writes terrific books and helps idiot writers like me with tech stuff.

I'll post the links when they're all finished.

There we are then. Slightly better header for the blog - which I finally did by myself - and all the news from Cookman Corner. See you next month - or whenever I have more earth shattering events to report.

Bye for now.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

February - books and buildings

 Well, we got rid of January. And the big news at Cookman Corner is that Libby Sarjeant number 26 is finished and has been sent to the publishers. It will no doubt come winging back shortly with umpteen pages of corrections and suggestions, but meanwhile, the heat is off. I have provisionally given it the title "Murder at The Crooked Horse" and I'm going to stick to my guns abut that.

In other news, I have the rights to my three Edwardian mysteries returned, as my publishers weren't doing anything with them. I have asked a couple of independent publishers if they'd like them, but apparently, "Edwardian" doesn't play well with "Cosy" crime readers. So far, everyone I've spoken to says they'd love to see more in this genre, so current thinking is I shall self publish. Which is a hell of a lot of work. Do let me know what you think.

And on to buildings. I am finally going to have a downstairs loo installed. This will also entail complete refurbishment of my rather tatty extension, project managed and largely executed by Miles Cookman. I wanted to insert a link to his Other Job here, but there isn't one, and Miles Cookman, musician, isn't really appropriate. He is, however, highly competent in the execution of small buildings. No, not pulling them down. Putting them up. Available for all your building/landscaping requirements in the Whitstable area. 

This also means the office and utility room will have to be cleared out. This has not been done in almost 25 years, so you can imagine what a horrendous job this will be. However, once it's all done life will be an awful lot easier and the production of further books assured.

Also this month I am doing An Event. Faversham Literary Festival asked me to join in and bring a friend, so this is the result: lesley-cookman-and-linda-regan

And finally, because it's February and people have a tendency to get romantic around the 14th, I shall remind you that once upon a time someone called Rosina Lesley wrote these two books. (She wrote more, but they are languishing in the bottom drawer of the computer.)

A Will To Love  Running Away

I'm actually thinking of asking for the rights to these, too. I really don't like these covers.

Anyway, that's all for now. There will be a much nicer header for this blog soon. When I can persuade one of the talented Cookman Family to make it for me...

See you in March.