GETTING MY LIFE BACK

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Last Sunday I handed over what I fervently hope is the final version of The Shrewsbury Murders. The place was a pub called The Coach & Horses and the time was the start of Happy Hour.

No coincidence, that. After working on it all the previous week I was satisfied I’d done all I could. And boy, did I need a drink.

My editor Mike, a self-confessed pedant, asked whether I’d changed it much, or just worked through his suggestions from the first time he’d seen it. He’s a Cambridge man, and these dialogues always make me feel like the errant schoolboy who’s late with his homework.

“Well, I took nearly all your suggestions on board Mike. Particularly when you’d written things like NO VERB IN THIS SENTENCE! Or, THIS IS NOT OLD ENGLISH!

He nodded. He really did print those and several other pithy bits of advice in various parts of the MS.

“Much change in the word-count?”

“Yes: about seven thousand more.”

Silence while he swallowed, and then:

“SEVEN THOUSAND?”

This was said in disbelief, as though rather than producing something of 95,000 words I was giving him a tome a bit longer than War and Peace.

“Yes. I just wasn’t happy with some of Books 1 and 3. I’ve added to Book 2 as well.”

[TSM is divided in to three sections; each called a ‘Book’.]

“So I’ve got to read the whole thing again?”

“Well, be good if you could.”

I grasped at a straw:

“And thanks for redrafting the old English verse in Book 3; makes a big difference.”

This did little to calm him, and rapidly I caught Susie’s eye and signalled for two more.

An hour and a few beers later waters were calmer. He asked me if I’d done a blurb to help publicise it. I hadn’t, but have now. Proving I sometimes do not shrink from shameless self-promotion here it is:

     ‘The Shrewsbury Murders’ is the second novel in the Mike Ambrose trilogy that begins with ‘Project Overkill’.

     Near the end of the 10th century a famous Archbishop is finally laid to rest in Glastonbury, England. A few private possessions are buried with him. Later, when his body is being relocated to Canterbury some of these artefacts are stolen.

     In the late 16th century two friends meet in an ale house in London. They decide to embark on a journey together. As a result they make a life changing discovery, and later become bitter enemies.

     In Whitechapel, London a series of five brutal murders begins in August 1888. They are perpetrated by a murderer known as Jack the Ripper, who is never identified or caught. He is afterwards regarded as the first serial killer. Inexplicably his crimes endure in the public consciousness up to the present day.

     In Wales, following a German air raid in 1941the lives of each generation of a family line are marred by severe bouts of depression and dread. 

     In Shrewsbury in December 2011 Mike Ambrose, his partner Marcia and their close friend Claire Osbourn are hosting a Christmas party. An inexplicable occurrence at the end of it stays in Mike’s mind.

     One day they encounter Cassie, an almost penniless young woman who desperately wants to work. They believe in her and decide to help.

     Months afterwards a series of gruesome murders begins in Shrewsbury. The killer leaves a note signed ‘Jack the Ripper’. Incredibly, there are reasons to believe it may indeed be the same man.

     But that is impossible!

     Amidst the ensuing terror, happily fuelled by press, radio, and television Mike and those closest to him are themselves threatened, and have no alternative but to take matters in to their own hands.

     In doing so, they stumble on to a secret even more chilling than the murders themselves.

So there it is, and thank you for reading. It may be that Ms. J. S-C is congratulating herself on getting the world exclusive, but I doubt it. I’d still love to know whether it whets anyone’s appetite though.

But the very best thing about finishing TSM is the feeling of getting my life back. Waking up Monday morning felt like being on holiday. It still does. Once again there is time for tweets, Facebook, Tomb Raider, and best of all reading books by other people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK LAUNCH AT THE SHREWSBURY COFFEEHOUSE (Blog Post Revisited)

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Until a fortnight ago I’d never attended a book launch. Sometimes I was in a hurry and just noticed one happening as I passed Waterstone’s or I’d seen them advertised and wasn’t much interested. And they were all of the turn up, buy, and get it signed variety.

A few months ago I was kindly invited to one. I was tempted because I would have very much liked to see the house – pretty much a castle really – and grounds. It belongs to an ennobled person I’ve met once or twice and who had self-published a lengthy book of poetry about his ancestors.

Like a spy in the night I did a bit of surreptitious checking and discovered the order of service. On arrival you received a conducted tour of the house and immediate grounds and then assembled in the library and were given one glass of white wine. The way I drink that wouldn’t have lasted long but that was all you got.

There would then be a speech by a quite well known associate of the author – many local dignitaries would be present it seems – and then the great man himself would talk about the book and read extracts.

While these were still fresh in your mind there would be a sort of shuffle to a table laden with his work and then everyone, and I mean everyone, would pick up a copy; pay for it – and with full colour illustrations these were definitely not cheap – then present it for signing and afterwards disperse.

Well, I did think about it but not for long. It might have been different if I ‘do’ poetry but sadly I’ve never been able to appreciate it much unless it’s something like Hiawatha or The Burial of Sir John Moore. You know: the sort of thing that stirs the blood a bit. But these – I had seen a few promo passages – were more introspective, contemplative, and without much rhyming.

So I politely declined. I was pleased to hear later it went very well; plenty of books were sold and the tour was lengthy, if a little chaotic when the guide lost her way for a while!

Then, rather like the number 27 bus another invitation turned up. Again the author, John Comerford, is someone I know slightly. His novel, which I have not yet read, is What Blind Customers and is available here http://bit.ly/YZIedm The venue was The Coffeehouse, a place I visit anyway where the service, coffee, food and most of all atmosphere hit the spot. I decided to go to this one; I’d know one or two people there and it would be good to congratulate John on getting published.

I met him as soon as I walked in. He didn’t know I’d got a book on Kindle and despite the hubbub insisted on looking at the reviews and reading the synopsis there and then. Quickly he was whisked away: he used to lecture at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College and there were many of his former students present, together with musicians, photographers, poets, and Rob Savage, a very up and coming film director. [Another candidate I hope for deciding one day he just has to film Project Overkill.]

John welcomed us all and very kindly included me in his long list of arts associated people there. He then launched into an excellent guitar / vocal section with one of the many talented musicians. Next came a former student who is destined to become an excellent stand-up comedian – I am so sorry I did not take a note of the names – and then there were more musical acts.

After that, selected guests read extracts from his novel – which I found amusing and clever and demonstrating a deep understanding for words and doubles entendres. There was genuine merriment in the room and the atmosphere was Let’s Party. I duly complied with a large glass of excellent Merlot; my companions wanted coffee and that was excellent too.

It went on with more of the same; the staff volunteering to extend their working day because everyone was having such a great time. Sadly I missed the final acts – including the excellent Chris Quinn whom I’ve heard and enjoyed several times before – because of time.

I remember Ms. J.S-C advertising a launch for Poker Face II which included cakes and freebies and free wrapping of her book as a pressie and wishing I could go, but sadly Northampton was an event too far at the time. It sounded like fun with a launch included. Which is exactly what this was: the author focused on guests having a good time.

So, if ever I have a launch I’m going in that direction. I would need to tap John for names of musicians and Ms. J. S-C for wrapping and freebie ideas.

But more than anything I’d want the guests to enjoy the party.

 

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop…Again! :-D (Blog Post Revisited)

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The wonderful Maria Godley (this is her blog  http://marie-mariegodleybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/words-we-want-to-hear.html?spref=fb ) tagged me in ‘The next big thing’ blog hop. It’s always so lovely when someone thinks of you and I was well happy when Maria asked me to take part. I know I’ve just taken part in this particular hop but that’s because I’m a donkey and I said yes to three different and quite lovely people and then realised that they were all inviting me to do the same thing. Rather than not accept the fabarooney invitations, I decided I would do them on three different works in progress. Not sure if I’m breaking the rules but…you know…I’m a rule breaker! Get me! Anyways, a massive thank you to Maria and please visit her wonderful blog, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Okay so now I’m going to attempt to answer the following questions:-

 

1.  What is the working title of your current/next book?

Poker Face III…I haven’t thought of a proper title yet! Sorry!

 

2.  Where did the idea come from?

Well basically finishing book two pretty much gave me the idea for writing a book three, it kind of seemed like the next logical step ha ha! No, in all seriousness, the plot developed because there were just so many things that I wanted the characters to do and experience.

 

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

The Poker Face series is a young adult/crossover series that seems to appeal to lots of different people both male and female, young and…a little bit older.

 

4 .  What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m rubbish at this question and I just don’t know. I will go check google images now and do a ‘young fit actor/actress’ search and then come back…wait…I’m just checking…computer is slow…nope, sorry, I am officially rubbish at casting actors!

 

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ruby Palmer is forced to grow up pretty quick and, though she’s not a stranger to loss, nothing she’s experienced so far in her turbulent and dangerous life has prepared her for what’s to come.

 

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self published, let’s call it a career thing 🙂

 

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote books one, two and three at the same time (so not very long) but I’m sure the edit will take an eternity!

 

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Erm…Poker Face and The Puppet Master??? He he ha ha ho ho  ho I’m being clever and annoying, I know this 😀

 

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The characters, Ruby, Danny and Alessi mostly. The more I write about them the more opportunities they create for me to write about. They are like model characters and they make it all so easy.

 

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

This book brings in a couple of new characters, some stay, some go and some will break your heart. It has been read by just a couple of people so far and they laughed, cried and once again rooted all the way for Ruby. This book takes the characters on an emotional journey and Ruby continues to show that when it comes to getting even, she’s the best!

 

Right, I’m done and would like to name Justine Manzano (@justine_manzanohttp://justinemanzano.wordpress.com/ as ‘The Next Big Thing’. Right, your turn, Justine! 😀

An indie book’s not just for Christmas…but Christmas is a pretty good reason to buy one! Blog Post Revisited! :-)

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Whoop whoop it’s nearly Christmas! It’s a good job signed and gift wrapped copies of Poker Face and the Puppet Master make great presents for young adults and adults alike! Ha ha!

If you are local and you would like a copy (minus postage) please inbox me on my Facebook author page   www.facebook.com/JessSturmanCoombs  

If you aren’t local but would like to order one please visit my website http://jesssturman.wix.com/jess-sturman-coombs  and select the Paypal option on the relevant book page.

Happy Christmas all!

 

PS both books will also be available and gift wrapped at the launch on the 19th December 2012. Please see this link for details http://jesssturman.wix.com/jess-sturman-coombs/apps/blog/the-puppet-master-launch-poster  and remember that children are most welcome to come along.

Why not join us for a drink and a mince pie! 😀 x

With lots of Christmas love from me!

 

Jess 🙂 x

 

 

 

Blog Post…Ohhh I’ve lost count! The number doesn’t matter. The fact that I’m having a chat with author, Alan Shaw, does though!

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Dear all,

This here is an introduction to Alan Shaw, author of   Project Overkill.  I have had the pleasure of reading Alan’s work and I can say I was completely hooked and, at times, properly freaked out too. On one occasion I was sure I saw a fly stumble across my breakfast bar (yes ‘stumble’) before disappearing into my USB port! It was late and the obvious conclusion to draw was that my computer had been possessed! Thanks, Alan!           

So, here are the questions I put to Alan, in an attempt to discover a little more about the man behind the thrillers…and because I have a sneaky suspicion you’ll be seeing a lot more of him around here. Here is a little pic so you recognise him 🙂

 

 

 So,  Alan, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please and all the places we can find you socially (Don’t worry we won’t all turn up at your local :-D)

I’m an ex many things: accountant, civil servant, infanteer, Regimental Paymaster, Communications Manager, trainer, and PR type. Don’t worry I won’t go on.  Socially you can find me on Twitter  @Billypike  and FB at http://on.fb.me/OndS4S   I’m also on Goodreads, but still blundering about there so won’t bother you with the link.

I tend to hang on to friendships and regularly have boozy sessions with people I first knew in the 70s [I’m 102 by the way]. I’m also loyal, and manage to avoid most of the Seven Deadly Sins, at least on Sundays. I also used to love doing magic tricks and once won a competition at Butlin’s. My piece de resistance was making a silver coloured ball float.

 

Wow! How did you get from floating beach balls to writing? (If I had glasses I’d be pushing them up my nose right now and looking all News Night-ish)

I think I’ve always liked words; rumour has it I was reading at four. I also remember I liked going through the dictionary. Later on I enjoyed doing essays and I guess it kind of grew from that. I tried doing a novella in the 70s but gave it up as my job was intensive and I was studying for a law exam. And it remained like that, with very busy careers, until I chucked ‘em to write. I do envy those who produce novels while still working full time: they are made of stronger stuff than me.

 

Well I envy people who can float silver coloured balls, Alan!  What is it about writing that has you hooked? (I’m tapping my pen thoughtfully…and nodding. Might lean back in my seat and narrow my gaze a bit)

Hmm. I love assembling situations that fit the plot and deliver the best reader experience I can. I see a novel as an enormous jigsaw puzzle with very few straight edges. Also, I like researching the plot and use a blend of Britannica, Wikipedia, and reference books.

 

I totally get the jigsaw analogy, that’s spot on. So, how often do you write? (This incorporates my interrogation technique this question.  I got it from none other than Jeremy Paxman! ) Are you particular about when and where you get creative or can the writing mood strike anywhere, anytime? Where were you yesterday at approximately 4.35pm and, more importantly, do you accept responsibility?

Lol, I love easy single strand questions!

Not nearly often enough time.  Part of that is due to still settling into this Victorian house and dealing with the myriad of things that are planned or just crop up. Another is time on social networking; we all have that of course and deep down enjoy it – for example I’m enjoying this interview believe it or not. Another is everyday life; I’m sociable and enjoy conversation while I watch others fall asleep…

Creatively I get all my best ideas away from the desk. For example I was recently stuck on producing a credible escape scenario. I walked into town that day along the river and looked as always at the buildings along the opposite bank. Suddenly, based on what I saw, the scenario came. Another time, writing Overkill, the solution came while I was sitting on a park bench watching a fountain.  And the main plot of Overkill came while I was waiting for a train.

At 16:35 yesterday I was chopping wood. It was entirely my own fault.

 

Guilty as charged! Ha ha and, just so you know, I would NEVER fall asleep while you were talking! 😀 I’m listening, loud and clear, and wondering what you’re working on at the moment? (Just the plot, characters, title, manuscript – in windows 7 – would be great for my personal plagiarising purposes please.)

I think your questions are excellent and your comments in parenthesis have me lmao.

I haven’t shared plot details with anyone except my editor / agent and I haven’t told him much. I’m also not very good at this but here goes:

In the mid-10th century Bishop – formerly Archbishop – Dunstan dies. There is a legend that he triumphed in an encounter with the devil at an earlier time of his life. As a reward he received a secret.

London in the 19th century is a cesspool within a diamond.   Commerce rules and the poor go to the wall. During the autumn of 1888 a killer stalks Whitechapel. He becomes known as Jack the Ripper. He murders six women. The final victim, Mary Jean Kelly, is reported at the inquest to have been seen hours after her corpse has been examined by the police surgeon. No-one can explain this.

Two world wars occur. Between them certain events in Wales add a fresh dimension to an old mystery.

Shrewsbury 2011. A Christmas party offers clues to a series of events that will be known as The Shrewsbury Murders. Messages left by the killer suggest he is Jack the Ripper.

Part 2 of the Mike Ambrose trilogy begins.

 

Awesome! I’m so off to tell your editor/agent that I got plot info! Go me!  Are you a big reader, Alan, and what kind of thing usually takes your fancy? (My most normal question thereby illustrating that I am a good all rounder on the interviewing front. I can do normal, see!)

I used to be but now that I write I read far less than before. One reason is time but the main one is that I do not want to be influenced to go in directions that are not my own. Preferred writers are James Elroy, John le Carre΄, Ian Fleming, and CP Snow.

 

I can so relate to that.

Do you judge a book by its cover? (Now I’m being clever) 😀

No. I can be attracted by the cover but I judge by content. Covers are very important though because they form part of the reader experience.

 

Totally!

Do you have any mega writing plans for 2013? (Please note that although this is a closed question, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ just won’t do! :-D)

Oui!

 

Ugh! Clever!

Are there any tips that you have found ‘writing wise’ that have helped you tremendously and that you might like to share with some of us other writer types? (Beware I will, from this day forward, claim all credit for the following tips, Alan :-D)

Do as much research as you can. It’s easier to hang clothes if you have a wardrobe. [Blimey, that sounds far too profound for me…]

 

I write in the hopes that one day I will be able to afford a wardrobe and something smart to hang in it 😀 

Finally, would you like to write a blog post here on a more regular basis, Alan? (Please say yes) And, if so, when can you start and what kind of exciting things are we in for???

Yes. My pleasure. I’d like to describe the course of writing The Shrewsbury Murders. Maybe once a week. Possibly other bits and pieces too. Does that sound OK?

 

That sounds fabarooney to me! I can’t wait for you to get started and thanks for sharing this here blog with me! Thanks also for being such a great sport, Alan, and answering some questions. It’s always great to chat to you! 

You too, and thank you Jess. I’m looking forward big time to PF2. And I wish I possessed your capacity for self expression and wit. You are definitely a bit of a Dorothy Parker.

 

Why, I’m flattered, and I don’t mind being a little bit like her at all! The good thing about my not being serious is that when you fall down a flight of stairs at a formal Christmas dinner for lawyers and barristers (I did this) and successfully manage to land right next to your chair, nobody is surprised! Better still; the most you get is a sideways glance, a hand, and another non-alcoholic drink!

 

Please do check out Alan Shaw’s current work on Amazon:-

 

 

And remember to keep an eye out here for how the next installment of thrilling story telling is progressing.

 

Thanks from both of us, guys! As always, your comments and likes are very welcome, appreciated and supportive like you wouldn’t believe!

 

Jess 🙂 x