Jess Sturman-Coombs

                                 Jess Sturman-Coombs

                                                              Lock, stock and barrel




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 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. 








No, this isn’t what you think, although I must confess to occasionally having a glass of elderberry wine close by when I’m having a tough time with a chapter, which happens quite a lot!.     


Instead, I’m talking about the influence of other books and writers.


First of all I don’t think it can be avoided, even when every effort is made to do so. For example I’m influenced in ‘my’ style of chapter headings. I like a date stamp and location, which feels a little weird if much of the novel is set in the same place. I’m not keen on chapter titles as such, probably because I’m not very good at them and always think that any I come up with are either meaningless or possible spoilers.


My date stamp / location thing I get from the later novels of James Ellroy, a writer I admire enormously. In his case it makes more sense as the books can move from Hollywood to Las Vegas to New York and so on. Mine are more static, yet still I can’t shake the habit. I only wish I’d been more influenced by, say, John le Carre´ who does an eminently sensible ‘Chapter I’ and so on, which at first and even second glance would be better for me. But somehow I’m stuck on dates and places.


Another thing I find irresistible is to occasionally switch tenses, with a particular penchant for the present tense. In the first draft of Project Overkill I went way over the top with this and can remember the many ‘phone calls from my editor that began “I am vexed by the number of times...” and so on. Many writers do this and I must have read quite a few of them because I liked it big-time, especially in action sequences. When I redrafted Overkill I axed huge chunks of Present in favour of its more sensible relative Past tense, and have not fallen into that particular trap since. I learnt a lot during that episode, which presumably is an example of undue influence providing a good lesson. [Alternatively it probably means never be excessively influenced by anyone else’s style.]


Despite the final sentence above I never use parenthesis in a book because I think it’s lazy. Many other writers happily and successfully use brackets but I will sit for minutes on end redrafting to avoid them. In The Shrewsbury Murders – still in production and which by now you’ll all want to avoid like the plague – I had a lengthy section I was happy with before realising I’d omitted one vital bit of information that I could happily include in brackets. I didn’t of course; instead I rewrote the whole chapter to integrate the snippet into the chronological narrative.


I discussed this with my editor: he rolled his eyes heavenwards and said ‘Why?’ I told him I just don’t do brackets and he sadly gazed into the middle distance. I’m not sure where this aversion originated, but suspect it was novels by Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, both of whom wrote clean narratives that told their story without add-ons or supplementary bits of information in brackets.  


Speaking of Fleming he had a brilliant pen for short sentence description. My favourite is when he describes a dead body as looking like an empty envelope. Rereading a piece of Murders recently I found I have described one as looking like a vacant room. Not an intentional copy – I don’t do that – but clearly paying homage, and for better or worse I’ve left it in.     


I also like those words and lines that you associate immediately with one character.  In Harlot’s Ghost by Norman Mailer you just know one of the agents is unpleasant because he is always telling people to ‘explicate’. So a character you like says something to this guy and the next line of dialogue is “Explicate!”, and you immediately visualise him. I’d love to have a try at that but haven’t got round to it. A famous one of course is “Shaken not stirred.” I don’t think anyone could get away with that but whenever I’ve been tempted to do something similar I get this mental flash involving Ms. J S-C. It is time for her annual thimbleful of wine and she approaches the quivering bartender with an icy stare and growls “Decanted, not from the bottle.” This has happened a few times so it’s her fault I’ve made no progress.  


Some influences of course work in a different direction, i.e. you know you’ll avoid them all your writing life. Chief among them is those unfortunate individuals who are found in a pool of their own blood. This is so often repeated over the years through all kinds of media that for a while I used to think it was commonplace for folk to die in a pool of someone else’s. I would imagine hospital and police station situations where one gobsmacked official said to another: “Guess what? Today I had a case when someone died in a pool of their own blood! How often have you seen that?


Close behind are the poor souls who choke on their own vomit, as distinct from someone else’s. This time: “I’ve seen everything now! Someone swallowing their own vomit before some other sod could throw up all over them!” 


Yes, I guarantee I’ll never use those.


Another device that fascinates me is multiple endings, where they are told from different standpoints with an epitaph to boot. I’ve no idea why, maybe it’s because having lived with the book so long I’m reluctant to finally let it go. Anyway, until some kind reader of this blog advises me otherwise I’ll claim that as my own.


So I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that given writers all read other writers we all get influences and play with some of them until eventually we find something that is actually us.


[I was of course tempted to write that paragraph with a date stamp, from three different perspectives, and add an epitaph. But instead I’ll just sign off until next time.]


The Next Big Thing Blog Hop...Again! :-D



The wonderful Maria Godley (this is her blog ) 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 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 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 :-D


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_manzano as ‘The Next Big Thing’. Right, your turn, Justine! :-D

The Next Big Thing - Blog Hop


Dear all,


My wonderful friend, Kizzy, (this is her blog has tagged me in ‘The next big thing’ blog hop and I am very touched that she would think of me. So, firstly, I would like to say a very big thank you...THANK YOU! There you go, Kizzy :-D Above is a link to her fabarooney blog where you can find all sorts of eerie and mysterious goings on. You should go check it out now...but come back because I’m about to tackle the following:-


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


The book I am working on right now is called Unconventional, I think!


2.  Where did the idea come from?


Basically my good friend, Heather Smith, (@heather5mith) loves attending film conventions and collecting autographs of her favourite actors. Once upon a time she attended a Harry Potter convention (in Milton Keynes I think it was) and she was queuing to see Robert Pattinson who played (who did he play???)  Now, she was expecting to see the young lad who played the part of a teen boy, but when she got to the front of the queue she looked up to see that this particular teen boy had grown the best possible way! Ha ha! She lost control of her brain and mouth and didn’t quite know what to say or do. The really funny bit (well I thought it was anyway) was that he seemed totally thrown by it all too. They both desperately tried to think of things to say (probably ended up talking about the weather) and then she got a gorge picture as proof that he was indeed VERY BLINKING HANDSOME! After seeing said Exhibit ‘A’ (snap with autograph on it) I can see why she had some trouble in the speaking department! Anyway, it gave me the idea for a romance novel.    


3.  What genre does your book fall under?


This was going to be a young adult book originally but then I decided I wanted to explore some important issues...and perhaps throw in a very grown up sex scene too (actually all sex scenes are grown up, surely...whatever). As a consequence I had to up the book to an adult romance.


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


It would be nice to see Robert Pattinson play the part of my actor, Jasper Farrell, considering it was loosely based on him in the first place! As for the female character, who knows! Someone young, fit and gorgeous probably! Applications on a postcard please :-)


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


After a massive and painful fall out of love Summer has vowed never to go there again but, unfortunately for her, she’s caught the eye of young actor and international heartthrob, Jasper Farrell, and he has other plans.


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


Self published, probably always will be :-)


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


Not long. I can’t remember to be honest because I wrote this book before the Poker Face series. It’s had to wait patiently until I could find the time to give it some much needed attention.


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


Oh my word I honestly don’t know. It deals with manipulation, fame, media and the rehabilitation of love. It’s probably a mish mash of any book that deal with those topics.   


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


Basically the picture that Heather showed me. Rob was looking all hot and tall with his hair ruffled, shirt open and sleeves rolled up. He looked and sounded like the perfect gentleman and it’s a lovely picture of him and my friend. All of that, as well as some of life’s rich and not so rich experiences, inspired me to get writing this story.


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


It is soon to be published and I am currently trying to pluck up the courage to just go with my very first sex scene. It doesn’t actually have any sex in it but it is all about the build up and I’m not sure I can go there quite so openly and honestly. If readers are into exploring their emotions and feelings then this is definitely the book for them. It deals with death, love, hate, obsession, sex and teenage relationship abuse with characters that are cute, funny and vibrant. What more could you want? Don’t answer that please!


Okay I am officially done and would now like to name Heather Smith as ‘The Next Big Thing’. Heather has recently finished her debut novel but she doesn’t have a blog so she may well post it here. Keep a look out for her, the book is very exciting...I know coz I’ve already read it! Go me! Right, your turn, H! :-D    




Before going back to it in the first week of January I’d last worked on The Shrewsbury Murders for a couple of hours on 23 December. It was hardly creative writing; more a stop-start exercise on a chapter that should have been easy but was now proving stubborn.


     What bothered me most was the fact I knew exactly what I wanted it to achieve but I kept hesitating. All I needed to do for the plot was introduce an old cottage in Wales and the mother of Cassie, one of the main characters. Cassie’s mom Penelope was to be something of a forlorn figure, very unwell and plotted to die in the not too distant future. She was late 40s; pale countenance; lonely and overall sad. Like her antecedents she’d known a lot of men but ultimately none had wanted to stay with her.


     The cottage came easily enough; I’d actually toured a former mine manager’s cottage during a trip to Wales in August and taken photographs. And I knew what Penelope would look like and pretty much what she’d say. But when I began to write her the oddest thing happened: the image I had kept being replaced by someone vivacious; unlucky, but still hoping for the best. And this person was in robust health with a sense of humour and a hard edge to her. I suddenly had great trouble describing her per the original plan. I could almost feel her behind me hissing ‘I’m not like that!’


     So strong was this impression that I decided on impulse to write her in the new unplotted way to see what happened. I’ve had similar things before but only with major characters, and doubtless all other writers have too. I set about it and for the first time that day the words flowed well and the figure behind me relaxed. She’d become attractive, vivacious, and her ‘victim’ aspect had changed to that of someone who realised most of her issues were her own fault. She was also feisty and just a bit sexy. She was definitely not going to die of a ‘wasting disease’ as my plot overview intended.


     I discovered she smoked rollups and enjoyed Mike Ambrose’s  cocktails so much she took his recipe for Dry Martinis. She also now had good rapport with Cassie who treated her more as an older pal than a somewhat estranged sick mother. She somehow got herself invited to Shrewsbury where the murders are taking place. The chapter also acquired a ghost that scares Mike but which she is matter of fact and almost humorous about. All this rolled off Microsoft Word as if I’d planned every detail. I felt I’d done the character justice but then realised it was ridiculous to write her this way when it tore up a chunk of plotting and removed rationale for what would happen a couple of chapters further in.


     I’m not the most disciplined writer in the world but I’ve plotted Murders carefully and had no reason to interfere with a perfectly acceptable scenario. Writing the novel as planned wasn’t easy so why on earth make it harder at this relatively late stage? Much easier to stick to the original plot: credible in context and providing a neat way to reveal the cottage’s dark secret.


     It was very late and I decided to stop and revise it tomorrow. I was annoyed with myself for wasting two hours or so for the pleasure of giving myself unnecessary grief. I had no idea why I’d done it and went to bed feeling distinctly low.


     Early Sunday morning I fed the cats, chopped logs for kindle, emptied bins and suddenly had an idea whereby I could give the unwanted section a piece of additional business that would make the overall plot far creepier than my original. But I would still be left with a major structural problem. ‘Don’t be tempted’ I thought, but soon found myself putting the new words into last night’s unwanted section just to see how it read.


     Like the other unwelcome words it read well. Nevertheless if I seriously considered keeping it I’d need a clear explanation for the new activities the chapter now contained. The ghost would be difficult but matters preceding it even more so. Again I just wanted to go with the original plot, but there was Penelope reappearing, wagging her finger and insisting she would not be merely an empty vessel; she had as much right to come to life as anyone else in the book.


     I gave myself an hour to sort it out or go with plan A. By noon I still couldn’t square it but the new sections remained unchanged. I had no idea why and once again retired in confusion. We had lunch, watched a football match, went for a long walk, lit the fire, washed up; all the usual stuff. By six I was back at the desk and doing more research. If I kept the new stuff I had to find a way to justify the additional Mike / Cassie / Penelope activity and find a credible place for Pen later in the book.


     An hour later I had it, and excitedly wrote it out in pencil on scrap paper. I slept better that night; did the final changes Monday morning and now have my cantankerous and rebellious Chapter 10 in the main draft. I’m happy and believe Penelope is too.


     I still have no idea how it all happened and just hope none of the other characters decides to rebel. But I am sure, despite the risks of judging your own work, that what I have now is more interesting, varied and a better read than what I would have had originally.


     So thanks, Pen: you’ve earned the right to grow wings and take a more permanent place in The Shrewsbury Murders.


     I just wish I knew how.    



An indie book's not just for Christmas...but Christmas is a pretty good reason to buy one!




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  


If you aren't local but would like to order one please visit my website  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  and remember that children are most welcome to come along.


Why not join us for a drink and a mince pie! :-D x


With lots of Christmas love from me!


Jess :-) x










Part-way through what I hoped would be my final rewrite of Project Overkill the penny dropped that I’d need a cover. Even at that stage I was sure I knew the sort of thing I wanted but had the advantage of knowing an artist, and I approached her for ideas.


Cherie once owned a graphic design business in London and subsequently moved to Shrewsbury to open a delightful ‘individual’ shop where you could buy anything from unusual greetings cards to a dolls’ house. She was always busy when I went in but still made time for my doubtless gauche and naive questions.


When I outlined my thoughts she suggested I visit Waterstones and look at covers of titles of similar genre to my own. Excellent advice, but Overkill is intentionally cross genre before reaching its central plot. So I decided instead on a cover that would depict a scene from the novel. I wanted strong female hands above a computer keyboard, with a swishing black tail somewhere significant.


A week later Cherie produced an excellent working version of what I’d asked for and a few good reasons for why it might not work. Suitably chastened and knowing her life had recently become even busier I retired to lick my wounds and reconsider. I still wanted something from the book but this time felt a portrait of one of the main characters at a pivotal part of the plot would be right.




I Googled around; downloaded; retouched, and came up with this. I loved it! It was just right! This was Marcia at her moment of truth when her life would never be the same again. Full of joy and confidence I furtively showed it to a couple of people. ‘It looks a bit graphic’ was one response [even though I’d toned it down considerably!]; the other was ‘what is IT?’. I explained ‘IT’ was Information Technology; everyone knew that. ‘Are you sure?’ came the reply.


Suddenly I wasn’t. I needed advice again and by great good luck a friend knew a local graphic artist called Joel Stone. Hesitantly I contacted him and we met. After telling him my life story and showing the ‘IT’ cover he asked if he could read the novel to give him a feel for the content. It was finished by now and I sent it to him. He read it; asked a few questions; talked about captions and produced this. The monochrome effect would suggest night and duality and black and white was also very appropriate because there is plenty of both sorts of ‘magick’ in the novel. The pentacles were my idea I think but Joel engineered them perfectly.




I followed his suggestion to kick his cover around with the other ideas I’d had in mind and let him know the outcome.


Someone I know from my book club took a look and said Joel’s was the one she’d take off the shelf. I then showed the options to some friends and family and received no end of flack from my daughter.


“I don’t want my father having an 80s porn star on the cover” she said of the ‘IT’ image. ‘You’ve spelt ‘magic’ wrong said someone else, and was unimpressed when I explained it was the correct spelling for this book. My daughter’s partner, after I told him a bit of the plot and my early wish for a cat produced on his own initiative a selection of feline options expertly put together on Photoshop. I still have them as a memento; they are very good.


The heat went up. Like me, all of them are individuals with their own opinions. Someone walked out of the room in exasperation and my agent took me aside to patiently explain the cover decision was normally outside the talents of the author. That is why publishers have their own people to work on them before showing the writer their final decision. A third suggested that using the ‘80s porn star’ version would need a rewrite and that in no way would they want to be associated with it.


Ninety minutes later, feeling I was sweating blood, I asked them which they would choose from what they had in front of them. Unanimously it was Joel’s. I thanked them, genuinely, and at the same time promised myself I would never put myself through this again. If ever they read this they’ll probably echo the same sentiment.


Since publication the book has been reviewed favourably and people have told me the cover is memorable. It is. He was right. They were too. I wasn’t. The experience doesn’t tell me how anyone else should choose a cover for their book but it tells me how I should. Easy: go with Joel. That’s why he has me again for The Shrewsbury Murders. Here’s his latest blog about it:  Already it’s proving a challenge! In addition he wants to take me to task for my Facebook comments about The Dark Knight Rises so I may well be in double trouble when soon we meet.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! If Ms. J S-C has me back I’ll see you again early 2013.



The Official Puppet Master Launch Poster!


Your Invitation to The Puppet Master Launch Party!



You are invited to the launch of


‘The Puppet Master’


Book two in the Poker Face series



Wednesday 19th December from 7.30pm - 11.30pm




The Deco Theatre, Abington Square, Northampton NN1 4AE


(There will be a bar and nibbles and children are very welcome)


Both books will be available on the night, should you wish to take a look or purchase a signed copy, and

there will be a free gift wrapping service also in the black and white Poker Face theme.  



St Michaels Car Park is situated just a few yards to the right of The Deco. After 8pm parking is free.





I’ve often moaned and groaned about not getting much time to actually write because of real life getting in the way [along the lines of Woody Allen’s comment: ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans’].


This year, after months of intense on/off negotiation we bought a Victorian pile [Vp] that needed lots doing to it, only some of which we were aware of at the time. Much has been achieved, often involving visits by skilled folk plying their trade morning, noon, and night. We are on first name terms with all of them and have even speculated about annual reunions if indeed we ever cease to see them on a regular basis. There is more work to come although thankfully the worst may now be over. [The last time I thought that though there was a storm that night and much interesting gutter renewal work sprang into view.]


What with this and the social networking – which I enjoy – writing the follow up to Project Overkill is like one of those New Year Resolutions to quit smoking, drinking, and to exercise every day. You know; more wish list than declaration of serious intent. 


The thing is I started to feel that even though I had my excuses lined up like ducks I still felt I was letting the side down. I felt bad about my lack of progress. Scratching around for a solution I had the brainwave of taking the writing where Ruby wasn’t allowed to take her love [Kenny Rogers’ Ruby; not Ms JS-C’s]. So I put it on the iPad and headed to town.


This began quite successfully but I would soon get caught up in the ongoing needs of Vp. ‘Can you come and move the car so they can fit the van round the back?’ ‘They need another spirit level and I’ve no idea where ours is.’ ‘You’ve got the cheque book and we need it now!’


This of course highlighted the fact that I wasn’t really playing the game by not being there. It wasn’t as if I was completing something where the final cut would be auctioned to an array of anxious publishers and the millions forthcoming would satisfy even Vp’s insatiable needs. No; I had to do the right thing and so again became home-based.


Despite all these fabulous reasons my conscience – never something unduly troubling – began to pace around my head and stopping to glare – in exactly the same way I imagine Ms JS-C to be doing because this copy is a bit late. Desperate measures were called for and I began a new regime of what one day I shall patent as ‘The Vampiric Approach to Completing Your Novel’. Put simply this involves freshening up late at night then working through with whatever legal stimulants you can find until you either finish or fall asleep at the desk. 


I’ve certainly managed the former often enough but by using this method I have now recast and changed the thrust of a chapter that was somehow managing to scamper about in all the wrong directions, and I recommend it as a useful port of last resort.


The best thing though was the feeling of sheer elation afterwards. The weekend was full of Remembrance Day associated activity and despite fatigue I plunged into it with relish. My only mistakes were four double brandies after the Regimental Dinner and ordering an expensive and probably unnecessary new tie. But the Feelgood factor was with me throughout. Without my late night sojourn it wouldnt’ve have been.


Next time – provided Ms JS-C allows me on her boards again - I’ll be banging on about the importance of book covers and how being sure I know best represented pride going before a fall.



44 days and counting!


Dear Blog! 


The venue has been booked for the launch of The Puppet Master, book two in the Poker Face series. It will be held at  The Deco Theatre on 19th December 2012 from 7.30 onwards and everyone's invited. There will be a bar and nibbles and children are also very welcome. Both books will be available as well as a free gift wrap service in the black and white Poker Face theme for anyone wishing to buy a copy for Christmas. There is absolutely no obligation to buy the book and the launch is mostly about getting people together, spreading the word about the series, and celebrating achieving something that I absolutely love with others. It would be great to see you there.



I am running a little open and honest writing diary on the run up to the launch and I will be updating the record below on a daily basis. Please check in and feel free to like and chat while you're here :-)  



12th November 2012 & 38 days to go!

To say I’m feeling overwhelmed today is like saying that on a bad day the Atlantic is a little bit choppy! The way I feel right now I could well be embarking on a swim across said ocean. I’m all greased up, toes in the shingle of some remote Welsh beach and that is about as equipped as I feel. As it stands, at the moment, I have an awesome venue and at least three definite guests; Mr S-C and the kids. I haven’t counted myself because unless more people say they are coming, and I finish the book properly in time, I’m not sure I’ll be there either!

On the plus side (I think it’s a plus side and it is book related so it must be, right?) I have started writing my launch diary!  


11th November 2012 & 39 days to go!

I took a break...come on cut me some slack here!


10th November 2012 & 40 days to go!

It’s funny because today I managed to format my whole book, all 302 pages of it! I transferred it from an A4 document to an A5 document. I removed all random spaces that had found their way in and can mess up the print and also the e-copy copy. I adjusted all my indents to 0.5, unified my chapter headings and added page numbers. That took me about three hours in total and I felt well chuffed by the end, if somewhat unable to see properly! I then realised (a little too late to save my eyesight unfortunately) that if I’d increased the page size using the clever tool on the bottom right hand side of my screen, I wouldn’t have had to struggle to see the damn thing.


I also had a mega fab idea for the Poker Face series, and all other books I intend to get completed and published, and I am very excited. It’s a bit of a secret at this stage but it does mean learning a whole new set of skills. Wow, who’d have thought writing would be so technical. There should be a degree on how to get self published! It would not involve hanging about in the restaurant, avoiding lectures and seminars and eating beans and hash browns as was the case with my law degree. You know it was (@heather5mith) :-D


9th November 2012 & 41 days to go!

Still had a headache but I checked in with my thermometer and it confirmed that I was indeed NOT ill...but probably just convincing myself I was because I’ve bitten off much more than I can chew. As if I don’t have enough to do, today I have decided that I shall create a blog diary in the style of Bridge Jones to document the preparation and launch of The Puppet Master. I will be substituting alcohol for tea, and fags for Cadbury chocolate fingers. Also men will probably not be fighting over me outside an Italian restaurant but, you know, you get the idea. It will be like Bridget Jones but without all the fun! Keep tuning in! You know you really want to now! I will also NOT be wearing massive pants, which I hear is a disappointment to some :-D


I am backdating this (as you can probably tell) but I’m pretty sure I did some book stuff on this day in question. Oh, yes, I did. I remember now. I sent off a shed load of really cheeky emails. Only one has come back to me so far (and they have passed my cheeky email on to someone else) but fingers crossed for some ultimate cheeky success.


8th November 2012 & 42 days to go!

Yes the proverbial spanner in the works. I had a headache that made anything, other than telling everyone on Facebook and Twitter that I had a headache, virtually impossible. Of course the virtual community rallied around and offered me the cyber equivalent of chicken soup and Nurofen. Thank you lovely guys :-)   


7th November 2012 & 43 days to go!

I checked my Amazon bookshelf and realised that I had suddenly become an international bestseller since lunch...and also a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitle bit of a liar :-D I can confirm that Denmark, France, Spain, Italy and now Japan do not really need to appear on my Amazon bookshelf because they still haven’t bought my book. Opening up every day to be shown just how many books they aren’t buying is a little bit depressing! I'm kidding of course, it's lovely to have you on my bookshelf Denmark, France, Spain, Italy and now Japan :-D   


6th November 2012 & 44 days to go

OK today the venue was finally confirmed after much panicking from me. Mr S-C, the kids and I went along over the weekend to check it out and it was absolutely perrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect! Mr S-C said “go for it” and then I was left with the job of going for it, which sounds easier than it actually is. I was left alone for the day with my bullying mind that flitted between telling me I was rubbish and nobody would come, singing ‘Ohhhhhh noooooooo, what have you done?!’ and attempting to steal my lunch money! It eventually left me no choice but to harass my good friend, Suzanne Porter, and ask for her advice. After a lengthy inbox message, that basically went along the lines of “Just do it!” I just did it and so The Deco Theatre, Abington Square, Northampton, is now booked for the 19th December 2012 from 7.30 onwards. It is an open event and so please spread the word and come if you can. Here is a link  Just pretend it’s a Twilight Breaking Dawn premiere sort of thing and feel free to camp outside. I could always get Mr S-C to dress up as Robert Pattinson (AKA Edward Cullen) and I’ll run about trying to get him to kill me because I love him, my mum’s away and my dad likes fishing and arresting people. See this is why no agent would accept my synopsis...I make things sound bad!    


Pre 6th November 2012

Stuff happened to include the birth of a book. I didn’t log anything along the way but I can confirm it was the second book in the Poker Face series. It stood at 110,000 words, approximately 20,000 words longer than the first book. We considered Finlay or Jacob for a boy and we quite liked Rosie or Tilly for a girl but, eventually, I named it The Puppet Master! Weighing in at over 400 grams it was heavier than the first and I can confirm it was painful at times and the labour quite intensive. However, as soon as I saw my book and held it in my hands I knew it was all worth it and I’d definitely do it again. I am aiming for a big, happy book family. Yay for The Puppet Master, another book has been born!!!


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!



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   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! :-D 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.


Shrewsbury2011. 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) :-D



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.





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)






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 :-D


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 instalment 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

Blog Post 26! Waterstones, Kettering, Video Diary


(Proof! Ha ha!)



Hey guys!


I survived yet another signing! Yes, that means you have to put up with me for a bit longer!


OK, so here are the video diaries for Saturday 13th October at Waterstones, Kettering and I would just firstly like to say thank you to everyone at the store who made us feel very welcome and offered me advice and lots of coffee to get me through the day. This signing was different because, for the first time, we opted not to sit down but for me to walk about and approach a few people. I find this really, REALLY hard to do but, like I say, we got through it in one piece. The downside of walking about was that it was kind of impossible to do a video diary without being in the way of a shelf or accidently catching members of the public so we decided to leave filming until the evening when we were back home. I had a shocking cold by this point and felt pretty rough so I’m going to use that as my excuse for the much weirdness that accompanies the next two recordings :-D


So clip one deals with the lovely questions we received surrounding me and my writing and thank you to everyone who contributed to this clip...



I got into trouble many times for kicking the drawer in the kitchen and basically mucking about so we moved to the living room in the hopes that if Mr S-C sat on my legs I might keep still...didn’t work ha ha! May I warn in advance that Mr S-C said there was plenty of room on the camera to get this next clip but, as you will see, there wasn’t!




You get the general idea of where this was heading and it was our last question so I didn’t bother to record anything else to add to it.


Again, thank you to everyone who sent in questions because it made the filming much more fun and unpredictable  and it was quite cool attempting to deal with questions when I had no idea what was coming up! We didn’t have a hat so we put all of the names in a colander and each took it in turns to pick one. Here are the three winning names:-


Julie @RiverofTimeFan

Charlie @charlieplunkett

Victoria @vspearson


So congrats to you three and as soon as book two is available and I have an address to send them out I will be forwarding you a signed 1st edition copy of Poker Face. The Puppet Master.


Lastly one final thank you to Heather @heather5mith for popping along for a couple of hours and for interviewing me and to Mr S-C for staying with me for a few hours and for holding the camera so we could get the clips for the diary. Cheers muchly guys and just so you all know, we celebrated with a yummy curry last night. Yay!


Jess :-) x  


Blog Post 23! It’s my first every competition type thing...


Dear all,


OK so tomorrow is my first ever second signing at Waterstones and this time it’s at the lovely store in Kettering, Northamptonshire. There are many people I regularly chat to but who can’t be there so, instead, I thought it might be nice to include you guys by inviting you to ask a question to go on the video diary. It kind of makes our life easier as well because it can be hard to find inspiration on either side of the camera when you’re under pressure! So, funny ones, serious ones (within reason), cheeky ones (again, within reason) all would be greatly appreciated.


Now here’s my little way of saying thank you for taking part. All the names that questions are received from will be put into a hat (or something similar and just as functional) and three will be pulled. I will then sign and deliver a signed copy of Poker Face II ‘The Puppet Master’ as a little gift as soon as it becomes available.


So, if you’re in, this is what you need to do. Send your question to @heather5mith on Twitter or post it on here this evening and she will compile a list for tomorrow. That’s all you have to do! Oh, other than watch out for the video diaries and your question of course! :-D


Cheers for reading and taking part if you can!

Post 24 The Next Big Thing! Blog Tag!


Dear all, 


I was invited to be in a promotional blog tag by the very talented Jeri Walker-Bickett     The Next Big Thing originated from the SheWrites website and I'd just like to take this opportunity to say thank you very muchly to Jeri for tagging me and giving me the chance to chat about my work in progress. So, here goes, below are my answers to the questions.  



What is the working title of your book? 

Poker Face II. The Puppet Master. I think! :-D



Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I was writing book 1 in the series and I was so into the characters that I had already started thinking about what else I wanted them to do with their literary lives. The books deal a bit with gang culture and the mafia and so there has always been so much scope for plot development.



What genre does your book fall under? 

It is supposed to be a YA thriller but adults have been enjoying it very much and I’m hoping I’ve kept the content tame enough for a YA market. We shall see!



Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

I have no idea but I would need me a handsome man in his forties (who looks pretty hot in a suit), a man in his early twenties (who also looks great smart but can carry of the cool shorts and bare feet image too) and a young woman in her teens who can go from feisty to cutey at the drop of a hat! 


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Alessi and Danny find 18 year old Ruby Palmer after she suddenly goes missing, but they soon realise that the girl they’ve found isn’t quite the Ruby they once knew.



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

Funnily enough on the day I am typing this I received a rejection from an agency, so I’d say I’m going indie all the way! It’s a good, fun ride with some fabulous supportive people. Being indie published is like being part of a community and I love it.  



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

I was writing it at the same time as the first book and so, after only a few months of writing the first one, the second one was already drafted and ready for some MEGA editing!



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

Personally I struggle to compare my work because no matter how fab the reviews there is always a little part of me that says 'Yeah but it's not really all that!' I wish I could drop that little part of me over a bridge! Oh no, I've just thought! If that little part does happen to go mising I will be first in line for questioning now! Anyway, Poker Face has twice been compared to a much easier to read and digest version of John Grisham by two massive John Grisham fans because there are lots of twists, turns and edge of your seat thrills. It’s a pretty enjoyable read but it’s not too complicated. I don’t quite feel worthy enough of the Grisham tag! Ha ha :-D



Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

Book one and the vibrant characters that just seemed to fit so well and develop in book one kind of inspired me to write book two. Book one was inspired by an agent who I desperately wanted to secure at the time, who claimed to be looking for a ‘good legal thriller.’ She didn’t take my work but I am still seriously happy with how well received it’s been. I have a little fan base and I’m living a pretty good alternative version of ‘the dream!’



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

The series of Poker Face currently stands at four books and I am toying with a fifth. The thing I love most about the series is that I have kept the themes (although sometimes quite extreme or unrealistic for your everyday experiences) as realistic as possible and true to the issues and circumstances surrounding the characters. There are real life events, some very awkward and uncomfortable, but I wasn’t willing to pretend that these things don’t go on. In my opinion if I’m going to deal with an issue I needed to deal with it honestly or not deal with it at all. Characters get hurt, people suffer loses and strong bonds and relationships are formed. This book isn’t just about a bunch of gangsters shooting people up, it’s about a young girl with a trashy and abusive background finding a way forward in life, using the difficult hand she’s been dealt. She does it pretty good too.    



All the best guys and I look forward to reading your work!



Jess x



OK the fab five that I have selected (minus the ones that have dropped out) are:-



Victoria Pearson  (@vspearson)


Julia Hughes  (@tinksaid)


Charlie Plunkett  (@charlieplunkett)


Victoria Grefer (details to follow)


Eileen Wharton (details to follow)


(Again, don't ask me why these names are in different colours and some are underlined while others aren't! I'm just surprised I actually managed to get another post up in the space of a week! Go me!) 


PS if you click on the person's name above it should (should) take you to their website/blog so you can find out a little more about them! Go oooooooooon, do it! :-D

Blog post 23! The difference between my vacuum cleaner and my book is that I WANT my vacuum cleaner to suck!


Dear all,


Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's been over a month and all that! I couldn't even remember my password to get on here...but I promise I'll sit on the naughty step later.


This week’s blog post is all about the phenomenon that is ‘The Review’. That tricky process whereby people answer the niggling questions in every indie author's aching and caffeine overloaded head; Am I good enough to cut it? Do I make a good writer? Do I have potential? Am I getting it right?


It may or may not be news to some but, although I am generally quite a sociable and happy person, I feel like a fraud most of the time. I even felt like I was lying when I had to start completing forms declaring that I had dependants. I always feel like I’m telling fibs and I just don’t know why! I clearly have children and the state of my car is testament to that! I obtained a degree when I was twenty-six but I still hate having to produce the certificate of graduation in interviews. I worry they might scratch at the ink, hold it up to the light and then pass it under a UV ray, where it will suddenly exclaim 'But she left school with only two GCSEs!' Out of all of my quirky, not quite fitting labels, it was publishing my debut novel, Poker Face, that felt like the biggest pork pie of them all! I still can’t look people in the eye and say it’s doing well!


I am a big analyser (or a petite analyser depending on how you want to look at it) and I’ve spent a great deal of time recently trying to work out this ‘fraud’ type aspect of my personality. I have concluded that the reason all of these things feel like a lie is because I can't truly label myself as something until I know I have done it well. For example, in my opinion, a mum is someone who does more than just carry and give birth to a baby. The title encompasses a long term nurturing position and until my children have become completely independent, I won’t know exactly what kind of mum I have been. All I know right now is that I desperately want to be a good one. 


When it comes to the degree, I left school with only two qualifications and had to go back to college where they managed to drag another three GCSEs out of me. I later went on to do an A Level in law, which I failed (lots of tears around this time) and then had a chat with my local university. Because I was a mature student (don’t laugh, I can do mature) and had been working in a law firm for five years, they agreed to let me enrol. I graduated three years later but I didn’t do it glowingly and I didn’t wow anyone with a string of first class essays along the way. Consequently, I ended up feeling like I wasn’t quite worthy and so the qualification feels kind of alien. I'm waiting for the mother ship to come take it back!   


The same can be applied to my writing. Writing 90,000 words and turning them into a book doesn’t make me feel like I can call myself an author. I need to know that my work does exactly what a book should do. I need someone to tell me ‘Jess, you’re not lying, you can write!’ (Shock horror, fancy that!) For me, reviews and ratings are the next best thing to having an agent or publisher who could give me that seal of approval my confidence really needs. My best reviews tell me that I may well be able to cut it in the big bad world of writing and publishing (note I say ‘may’ for I will never be so bold as to assume I ever will, even with my most fabarooney reviews and shiniest of stars). My most critical reviews fill my mind with dread and indecision and they are inclined to make my writing style reach for its blue and white patchwork security blanket!


I was chatting to someone the other day about how I am dreading the really crappy (technical term for a bad review) one star and the inevitable slating that will accompany it. However, people review for different reasons and individual tastes range widely. I know this, so, I have decided that I am going to approach that one star with the following analogy in mind:-


If I want to buy a new vacuum cleaner from Argos I pick three in my price range and then I check the customer reviews. They range from the five star, ‘This vacuum does exactly what you’d hope it would do and I’m very happy with my purchase,’ through to the gritty one star ‘This might have sucked up but all of my cleaning paraphernalia is metallic red, always has been and always will be! I like red, I like metallic and I like shiny! However, this vacuum (if you can even call it a vacuum) is definitely not the metallic red vacuum illustrated in the picture IT! IS! PINK! And, to make matters worse, it isn’t even shiny...IT’S MATT! I am so not happy! More to the point I will never, I repeat NEVER, buy a vacuum from this manufacturer again. Oh, for the record, the suction was pretty good and it even managed to swallow up my metallic red duster without blocking. I am cross about this also, I loved that duster!’


Suddenly that one star isn’t really quite so bad. Personally that’s exactly the kind of vacuum cleaner I’m looking for!


Thanks for reading and take care from me guys.


Jess :-D x

Challenge 777 - It's like a really cool game!


OK, so I was nominated by the lovely Cinta Garcia @Austenite78 (author of the fabarooney Little Nani stories) for the 777 Challenge and these be the rules (bet I mess them up) but it’s just for fun so it’s aaaaaaall good:-


Write 7 sentences from pages 7 or 77 of my book or work in progress.


I considered my raunchy WIP but you should see what’s on page 7 ha ha ha! I decided on page 77 of Poker Face instead to save any embarrassment.


So, here goes:-


Danny poked the box with his pen and then ran the nib of it through the tape on the top, splitting it open. He looked up at her as he gingerly lifted one of the flaps and then peered inside before scrunching his nose up and letting it drop back down again.


“You OK?” he asked and she folded her arms tightly across her chest. “Want to go get some air while I deal with this?” he encouraged kindly and she did, desperately, but she shook her head just as Mr Alessi stepped into the room behind her.


“Problem?” he asked and Danny pointed his pen at the carpet and then the box, letting him make his own mind up.


“Ruby was handed it in the street and told to give it to you,” he informed him and Mr Alessi looked her over as if assessing for damage.


“Ahhh, Ruby, are you OK? (Dun dun duuuuuuuuun!)



This snippet is from chapter 12, Special Delivery and, far be it from me to tell you what to do, but I would quite like you to think ‘Ooooh what’s in the box? What’s in the box?’ :-D


OK so now I have to nominate 7 bloggers that I admire to take the challenge. It can be 7 sentences from anything you have written, to include any work in progress or blog post. I am therefore nominating:-



Victoria Pearson


Julia Hughes


Stephen Spencer


Steven Katriel


The 40 Year Old DG @sthurley49


Julie @RiverofTimeFan


Alan Shaw @Billypike



All the best guys and it would be so lovely to see you taking up the challenge! :-D


Jess :-D x


Blog Post 21! And it’s my first ever Waterstones, Hatfield signing event - 23rd June 2012



Well, readers, the time came...and went and, despite all of the panic, tummy aches, tears and panic, I made it to and through the 23rd June 2012. I lived to tell the tale...or should I say the video diary. Now, I must first apologise because I thought that my camera (with video facility) would be fine for the occasion but it seems, even after deleting all personal photos of our recent holiday, there was not enough room to fit the four clips that I wanted. As a consequence we used @Heather5mith’s i-phone (the wrong way up) so two of the clips are either going to show up sideways or with mega blacked out borders  â€“ but as long as they show something, right now I don’t care! Uploading to this blog has been an absolute nightmare! I even cried!


So, here goes. The first clip is very early morning on 23rd June. The kid’s are having a go at their interviewing skills. PS I would just like to make it clear that I do not push my daughter in this clip, I am simply trying to keep her from YouTube! She is one determined little monkey, let me tell you!



So, we got mega lost on the way to Hatfield. The journey should have taken us  1 hour and 15 minutes, tops. However,  even with @Heather5mith’s SatNav, Mr S-C’s built in thingy on his phone and my more caveman-like printed off ‘Route Finder Classic View’ instructions we got lost to the tune of over one and a half hours! The upside of this was that I was so fed up that my initial reservations about the whole affair had been replaced with ‘All I want to do is get there!!!’ When we did get there the staff at Waterstones were absolutely fantastic. They grabbed a table, a snazzy table cloth, advised us on the best positions, provided a fabarooney decorated chalk board and then even grabbed us all a coffee from Nero! I love the people at Waterstones, Hatfield! I will say this more than once! I must also say that Heather’s interview technique is pretty cool and she managed an artistic reflective job, which is very clever. Let’s agree that it was a complicated, technical set up and was entirely intentional. If the BBC would like to hire @Heather5mith, she is available all day Wednesday (outside of Zumba) and most evenings (as long as it’s not a choir night).





Towards the end of the day we went for another clip but my camera held up its little camera hands and said ‘No, sorry, I clocked off at lunch time. It’s Saturday! I don’t get paid for this!’ Diva camera alert! So we dug into @Heather5mith's hugomungo bag and caught a bit more of the day on her phone. Neither of us knew what to say at this point but we said there would be a video diary and by Jove we were going to rise to the challenge. It WAS a challenge!!!




We packed up at 5.30, feeling exhausted (I’m not sure why I was as all I’d done was sit at a table all day, answer some questions, try not to do a runner and sign stuff!) It might be the fact that by that point I had consumed two large coffees, only one small bottle of water and not much else. After a farewell to Robin (not my Robin but the fabarooney Robin at Waterstones), Laura, Chris and Maisie (If I have spelt this incorrectly please let me know and I will change it – who I didn’t get to talk to but wish I had now) we made our weary way to the car park. The box of books was reassuringly and satisfyingly lighter than when we had arrived and we loaded the car for what SHOULD HAVE BEEN an hour’s drive home! Yeah I bet you’ve worked out what happens next! A slightly more stroppy video of me is what happens next, but at least (as I am not required to look at the camera in the next clip) there is no random face pulling, singing, dancing, ear tugging, lip rolling, hair touching, arm scratching, eye avoidance going on. This is the most normal clip that exists of me! The only problem I have with it is that my nose looks big sideways on and I HATE IT!!!




This here concludes our video diary of my very first signing at Waterstones, Hatfield, and I have enormous gratitude to everyone who works there. They are absolutely fantastic! To the manager Steve Jenner (hope he doesn’t mind me using his name) for allowing me to be there, to @Heather5mith for accompanying, standing for ages and supporting, for Mr S-C for doing the very same thing along with the occasional ‘You look well cool!’ (lies) and much needed hugs and to Julia Hughes (@tinksaid) and her wonderful sons for coming to visit us, to Mr S-C’s mum and partner for coming along to say hi and having the kids for a bit, and to my fabarooney sister for agreeing to have my two children (on top of her own three) so I could get out and about and promote my work. I also would like to thank (yes I am still going on but stay tuned because this one is probably for you) all my fantastically supportive followers on Twitter and my understanding friends because without all of you this would nowhere near have been the most fantastic experience of my life that it turned out to be. You are all way cool and I loves ya!


Take care from me, Jess :-D x


Blog 20! I have a guest! It’s JULIA HUGHES, quick, put the kettle on, grab the cake...!


Dear all,


I know, I know, my schedule is so hectic, what with kid’s parties, the book signing coming up, Mr S-C (bless him being all clumsy and that) the book writing and the blog...!!! Oh no the blog! The time has come, I must hand over the wheel while I have a little breakdown, and who better to jump into the driving seat than the fabarooney Julia Hughes, @tinksaid! I’ll be back (no don’t sigh! Sooo cheeky!), but in the meantime I can assure you, you are in very safe hands. So, now, sit back and enjoy the ride...Over to you my lovely friend, Julia.




Thank you Jess, and don't worry, your blog's in safe hands, promise. And off she goes, no doubt to another children's party or to organise Mr S-C's Father's Day treats. Do I sound envious? Oh to be able to turn back the clock to that very special time, when the kids thought Mummy and Daddy were the most wonderful people in the world. Mind you, I still feel that way about my parents. There have been times when I've longed for a boring life, but throughout it all – the major highs and the places no-one wants to go – there have been two people standing solidly behind me with words of encouragement and acts of overgenerous kindness. Among the many unexpected pleasures of writing, comes the opportunity to say a small thank you to those who support without question. So my breakthrough novel is dedicated to the best parents any child could wish for, lucky me –  I won the lottery.



I also won the lottery with Jess, who answered my plea for a beta reader. Jess's success with her debut novel Poker Face, encouraged me to publish in paperback, as well as ebook format. By happy co-incidence, A Ripple in Time launches today in paperback, and never one to miss a chance to celebrate Father's Day, A Ripple in Time will be free to download to your kindle until 21st June 2012, or if you'd prefer a paperback edition, let Jess know by leaving a comment or tweeting @JessSturman and one name will be pulled out of the hat. 



Massive thanks once again to Jess, and you can bet your life I'll be attending her book signing at Waterstones in Hatfield later this month, eager to pick up tips from this wonderful writer, who is also a wonderful friend.



A Ripple in Time can be obtained by clicking or




Woo hoo! How awesome is that! I’ll definitely be fifteen minutes late for the next party downloading my free copy of Ripple in Time! Come on, writing before raving...always! Thanks so much, Julia, for your lovely post and your lovely comments too, and I can’t wait to hear from people. I LOVE hearing from people!


Seriously, congratulations on your lovely new shiny paperback! It is SO exciting! I’m sure everyone will agree, the birth of a new novel or in a new format is a very wonderful thing and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. Go you!!!


Take care from me, Jess :-D x 



PS here are some links! How crap am I!!! Sorry I've only just put them up :-D


If you have a sparkly Kindle type thing then click here:


BUT if you still do books (like me) and no one has bought you a sparkly Kindle yet, then click here:


Julia's fabarooney website:

Blog Post 19! A dedication to Mr S-C!


Dear readers,


Life is an expedition, a delicate and precious thing. Sometimes it brings joy and sometimes fear or sorrow but, whatever it brings, it’s the people who make that journey with you that this blog post is all about.


A few years ago I decided that I wanted to write, my son had just started school, my daughter was teeny and it was completely different to the legal ‘stuff’ I had dedicated my life to up until that point. I gave it a go, wrote a sci-fi that then turned into a fantasy that soon turned into a series. I then wrote a romance and finally discovered a story that I fell in love with, Poker Face. Fortunately for me my husband, Mr S-C, encouraged my passion for writing and it is that writing that has brought about this blog. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this post to him and to say a big thank you.   


I met my husband (he wasn’t my husband then mind. I didn’t bump into some random young man, look at his ring finger, spot that he wore a matching version of mine and say “Hey, will you look at that! You must be my husband!”) No, seriously, we met ten years ago when he was working somewhere that I had worked previously. My sister still worked there and so did my friends so I regularly went out with them as a group. I even attended their Christmas parties! (I’m such a gatecrasher!)


We were always great mates and he was always lovely, always kind, always hilariously funny (even without meaning to be) and very supportive. We have been through so many things together and on many occasions he has been my rock, my desperate logic, my shoulder to cry on, my supporter and my best friend. He has never doubted me or my abilities or judged me, because sometimes I am more than a little scared of my own shadow, and we have pretty much laughed our way through everything.


So, let me tell you a little about the man behind the name (Mr S-C). Well, he is a little bit accident prone and grew up being reassured that ‘If there were no breakers there would be no makers’ and, in his defence, he always does it with a smile :-) ha ha. Let’s have a few examples; I have now taken to only buying plastic beakers...and not because of the children either! When we have a dinner party guests have to bring their own wine glasses and we eat off of a combination of three different dinner sets (all now incomplete).


And there's more :-)


Once upon a time we went on holiday to Menorca and spent ages at the airport picking out sun glasses and flip flops because he had left his behind by accident. Being a very active person he doesn’t like just chilling on the beach like I do so he dragged me on a walk over the rocks. Having lived in Menorca for over seven months and visited every year until I was sixteen, I had walked these rocks a million times already. What I wanted was a blooming tan! Needless to say I was grumbling along behind him, our first ever ‘tiff’, when suddenly I heard a ripping noise (imagine a strip of Velcro being separated from another strip of Velcro) shortly followed by a “What the!” I looked up form my feet to see Mr S-C standing there holding what looked like a flip flop in each hand but, when I looked down at his feet, he had his left one on! How could it be? Had that ripping noise been the birth of another flip flop? (I have to say I don’t think I made that noise in labour but, then again, maybe I did). I looked confused, clearly, so Mr S-C took the items in his hands and demonstrated how they fitted...TOGETHER! While I had been staring at the ground moaning his flip flop had become wedged between some rocks. Unfortunately he had kept moving, ripping the whole topside from the underside and stubbing his toe painfully in the process. His flips flops were now useless and so we turned and headed for the shop to get him some ‘jelly’ shoes, much to his disgust.


The next day wasn’t much better. He decided that we should go on a bike ride to visit a lighthouse but, only five minutes into the journey, his chain had come off, he’d opened up the cut on his stubbed toe and run over his own sun glasses, crushing them instantly. I shouldn’t laugh BUT IT WAS SO BLINKING FUNNY!


I will end on one holiday disaster that beats them all and I must just point out that these stories are all before we had children (since then they just got better!) We went to Centre Parcs and stayed in one of their hotel apartments for a week. We arrived and did what you always do when you first arrive in a hotel NO NOT THAT! My, readers, your imaginations are just like mine! No, after dropping our case and swimming bags, we made it out mission to check behind all doors, to include bathroom door, cooker door, bedside cabinet door, wardrobe door and some strange ‘in the middle of the wall’ type door. What made this ‘in the middle of the wall’ type door strange was that it wasn’t the front door to our apartment aaaaaand, even weirder, there was a smooth white wall behind it. I have to say I was a bit freaked out. I didn’t like this eerie thing at all. Doors leading to walls, what was the point to that?


“What do you think it is?” I whispered, feeling like we were part of some freaky horror movie ‘Blair Witch does Centre Parcs’. Mr S-C shook his head, lowered his eyebrows thoughtfully and walked away, leaving me standing there alone. I continued staring and wondering until suddenly I realised I could hear children’s voices, they were playing and chatting. I placed my hands against the smooth surface and then it dawned on me what it was. A light bulb flashed in my head and I exclaimed with relief “Oh! Of course, you know what this is, this is a...” but, as I turned, I spotted Mr S-C running towards me, shoulder first – his way of ascertaining what a wall behind a door could mean! “No!” I shouted but it was too late, he’d reached me already and had slammed his shoulder into the...ADJOINING DOOR! No surprise that the false wall gave way, the children started to scream and we...well...we shut the ‘in the middle of the wall’ type door, grabbed our swimming bags and bogged off to the pool to hide!


Thanks for reading guys and never forget those that travel with you because they, like my Mr S-C, are absolute gold dust.


Love from me, Jess S-C :-D x 

Blog Post 18! Less is More!

Dear all,


So we’ve just come back from our holiday and I had intended to write a blog post while I was away but I didn’t take my laptop and I didn’t have a pen...what can I say...the odds were stacked against me. My excuses may seem pathetic but I can assure you they’ve definitely got better with age! I am not going to tell you that my dog has a thing for maths books, my brother thinks it’s funny to hide my calculator or I’ve had Scarlet Fever, a very rare case that lasted only 12 hours.


So, you’ve guessed it, this post here is a little exploration of the term ‘Less is more’. Now I’m going to attempt to link this into writing in some way (but don’t tell anyone, I haven’t worked out how I’m going to do that yet!) An easy thing to say would be to point out that this term is used a lot as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the written word. Basically, don’t waffle or you’ll bore people. I do it a lot!


So we went to Mallorca for a week on 19th May 2012 and we booked a villa because, to be fair, although I only officially have two children my husband counts as three and we needed the room! I’m not talking size wise (better make that clear or he’ll be clicking the delete button) but because he’s pretty nuts! Another perk of having a villa means that we can take lots of food with us and save on eating out. My children are hungry ALL THE TIME! We took our son out of school for a week to keep the costs down (I know!  I know! Don’t go slating me in the comments box for being an irresponsible parent!) We justified doing this because he works really hard and he is doing incredibly well academically. If we went in the half term week the cost of the holiday would rocket and, well, we just wouldn’t go. When we do travel abroad we get the children to use the language and we spend time explaining the culture. Travelling is a learning experience in itself. (Why am I trying to get your approval? Anyway, we already did it so there!)

(Proof that I didn't freak on the plane! I clutched a bottle of water like my life depended on it and smiled as much as I was able!) 


We hired a car and I drove. To save on costs we packed two booster seats rather than pay the 8 Euros a day. I know, you’re trying to work out whether we actually took any clothes on this holiday! Well, let me tell you, one case was solely dedicated to accommodating our booster seats and food. This does mean there was less space for bikinis but, on the plus side, if we’d crashed on a desert island (unlikely) we’d have been popular with the other passengers! Seats and sustenance! Go us!


So we got to our villa and spent lots of time playing in the pool and tripping it to the beach, where we took photos of me sunbathing. At this point we discovered that I’m more a moving type person when it comes to pics. My best side is whatever side is in motion and the faster I go the better! We discovered this after a number of very awkward poses (I can’t pose to save my life – good job we had the survival suitcase). Instead we recorded a couple of video diaries and, low and behold, I look better! Yay! I should be on the big screen! Quick someone tell Steven Spielberg!


Anyway, at the end of the holiday we returned the car with almost all of the impossible to burn amount of fuel in the tank. We’d had to pay £60 in advance for a full tank of petrol and were advised that we must return it empty! Have you ever tried or planned to go on holiday and burn a full tank of fuel in one week? That would have been like a normal working week in the UK! So what happens if you return the car with its almost full tank of petrol then? Well, simple, they hire it out to another family and charge them £60 too! The long, short, wide and thin of it is that we were shafted, good and proper! We used very little petrol (probably about £10 worth) but paid £60 for the privilege. Next time we go away and a car hire company try to sting us in this way I’m going to request a one bed villa for the kids, Mr S-C can sleep on the sofa and then I’ll sleep in the idling car out front, burning the fuel right down! Huh see how you like that, car hire company!


So, back to my intro, this really should have an element of writing in it and, in a way, it does. Here’s the link; In Blog Post 13 Choose your weapon! Pen or laptop?:-


I explained that I cannot and do not write on paper. I only ever type my work straight to screen. There isn’t much left in this life that requires you to use a pen, sad I know. I never wrote a blog post while I was away because that would have required some handwriting on my part, ugh! However, I did put pen to paper once on my holiday [Shock! Disbelief!] but it wasn’t to edit my novel and it wasn’t to write a new one either. I put pen to paper to sign away £60 for £10 worth of fuel! Is it true that less is more? Well, less bloody costs more and that’s a fact!


Jess :-D x

Blog Post 17! In-security blankets

Hello and dear all,


A strange thing happened to me the other day, I received a letter. ‘What’s strange about that?’ I hear you ask, well, I’ll tell you. It’s strange for two reasons (1) because since having children I no longer receive post addressed to me. It’s like I no longer exist. I went into labour over seven years ago and was simultaneously made to disappear from society. My identity was changed, even my name was swapped for the more general and appropriate label of ‘Mummy’ but the other reason this letter was strange, numero (2), is that it was from an agent and I hadn’t even made a submission! ‘Yeah fair enough that’s strange’ you agree.


When I opened up the envelope I discovered that they did indeed have my work and now I was really confused. I hadn’t sent out submissions in ages, what was all this about? I looked on my ‘List of Agents’ prepared way back when (organised or what!) and this particular one was recorded as having been sent out on 9th September 2011. It had taken eight months to receive my reply. This is a record as far as submission go for me. I have waited over six months from an agent in New York to tell me ‘Sorry, in the nicest possible way, but no it’s not for us.’ This, again, was a really lovely worded letter but it was still a rejection and, more importantly, a rejection I felt I hadn’t opened myself up to because I’d written off ever receiving a response.


When I finally realised what had happened (basically they said it had been with lots of agents while they tried to come to a decision about whether it would work for them. I read between the lines and concluded they had popped it in a drawer by mistake and forgotten all about it), I was OK. I said to myself ‘Well that’s fine it’s not going to be for everyone. I’ve changed the story quite a lot since then and I’ve published it myself and lots of people have loved it. It doesn’t matter. No need for upset or negative feeling. It’s all still good.’ However, the next day I didn’t feel quite so good, it was playing on my mind. I’ve continued to get things done since then and have even managed to meet with the Team Young Adult Librarian to set up and facilitate an adult writing group, which is fantastic news. I am preparing advertising for the Waterstones, Hatfield signing event and I am mentally packing for our fast approaching holiday. As far as I was concerned, I’d pretty much moved on from the unsettling incident.


Then, last night, I had a dream...a long drawn out dream. I was standing in a park (don’t ask me why) and the sun was shining (even less likely). A woman came up to me holding an envelope.


            ‘I have your submission here,’ she told me, holding it up for me to see and then withdrawing the contents.


            ‘Are you going to read it in front of me?’ I asked feeling nervous and eager and also horribly vulnerable at the thought.  


            ‘Well...that’s my job,’ she smiled and then she did just that. When the painful wait was over she smiled again and said. ‘Well done. I like it! Now send me the whole thing and mark the envelope ‘Entertainment’ .That will ensure it gets to me and makes it through the filtering process.’ The dream is slightly sketchy here but I’m pretty sure some dancing and screaming was involved. ‘And I absolutely love this!’ she suddenly exclaimed. ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever read. I want much more of this. Well done you!’


I wondered what could have excited her so much and reached forward to take the document she was pouring over (and continuing to love like you wouldn’t believe!) She let me have  a look and when I cast my eyes over it a stone of disappointment formed in my stomach. The document she had pulled out from my submission and had quoted as ‘The best bit about the whole submission’ was actually someone else’s. It had been caught up with mine. I had no choice but to be honest.


            ‘That’s not mine,’ I told her sadly and she frowned and glanced over it again as if that might miraculously change that minor embarrassing point. But, even after looking again, the dream reality was that this piece of work was not mine but it was better than mine...much better than mine.


           â€˜Oh, well, never mind,’ she told me like she felt sorry for me. ‘I must find who it belongs to because I REALLY want to represent this talented writer! This is going places! This is rare! This is...’


I woke myself up because she was getting on my sodding nerves now! I mean even in a dream, how bitchy can you get?


Now today, even eight hours on, I feel a bit flat, a bit inadequate and failing. I know I will pick up but it’s a downer I could do without. I have had, in this post dream state, time to contemplate what it all means and have concluded that this dream was a manifestation of some serious insecurities. Am I good enough to cut it? I know there will always be people better than me (that’s life) but will I still be able to compete against that and hold my own? The dream I had last night was my ‘In-security blanket’. I might have left the old, tattered blue and white crochet one from my childhood days behind but, sadly, I replaced it with this other more resilient and less sympathetic one. It’s not cuddly, it’s not reassuring, it’s unlikely to get lost (no matter how hard I try) but it did give me a good reason for a blog post and that’s always a good thing!


Cheers guys and remember (unless you are some famous author having your books made into film right now) you’re not alone! :-D


Take care from me. Jess :-D  


Blog 16! I did something VERY wrong but it felt SOOOOOO good!


Dear all,


Last Sunday my husband finally took part in the Milton Keynes marathon that he’d been training so hard for. The marathon was the first for Milton Keynes and it was lovely to be a part of something like that, something that I hope will become a regular event for the MK calendar! On the morning of the event Mr S-C dressed in his shorts, his trainers (the ones from blog 13) and his REACHOUT PLUS charity t-shirt. We attached his number with a couple of safety pins (that we had to hunt high & low for) & then we set off.


It had rained constantly throughout the night and when we finally got to MK we had to sit in traffic waiting to filter into the car park we’d paid for. By this time I was feeling sick, don’t ask me why, probably nerves at knowing I could be stranded for over five hours with two children in the tipping rain. I sipped water and tried to keep quiet (I mean to be fair my husband had enough to worry about with 26 miles looming). As we slowly neared the car park I became horribly aware of the fact that I needed a wee, so was relieved when we pulled in and waited to speak to the sopping wet marshal. He adjusted his hood in the downpour as he leaned in and shouted through the high winds.


            “Go all the way round the car park and then go out the way you came in, then follow the diversion signs.”


            “Do WHAT?” I shouted back. He repeated.


            “Go all the way round the car park and then go out the way you came in, then follow the diversion signs.”


Yes, it seemed I had heard correctly! The car park we had booked was apparently flooded so we were sent across MK to another one. When we finally got there I was desperate (like ‘I’m pregnant and waiting for my scan with a bladder full of water and it hurts’ type desperate). I heaved the backpacks onto the kids & pulled up their rain hoods but within seconds we were all drenched. We didn’t even have time to grab the wellies from the boot when someone pointed out that the buses (that were meant to run every 10 minutes) were off and we were going to have to walk the two miles to the start line. We now only had 20 minutes till kick off!


At this point I must confess I got a bit frustrated, yanked off my hood and turned on my husband.


            “Right this is ridiculous and I need a wee like you wouldn’t believe. I feel sick and we are soaked already...and you can’t run in this STUPID BLOODY WEATHER! I say we go home and I’ll just pay the money that we’ve raised instead!” He frowned at me like I was mad and heaved my backpack onto my back, yanked my hood back up and said.


            “Right let’s go!”


I didn’t fight it any further I just fell in line and followed on as fast as I could whilst holding onto two children. We slipped and slid in the mud until we could see the start line up ahead and the hundreds of people congregating there. All I wanted to do at this point was either cry or be sick so I confessed that I couldn’t not go for a wee any longer. My husband was very understanding and suggested I go in a bush. I haven’t been for a wee out in public like that since I was five but now I didn’t have a choice (unless of course you’d wet yourself by choice). I dumped my backpack on him and made for the bushes just as another woman was coming out. We tried not to make eye contact. I found somewhere remotely hidden, although people were walking along the path behind me and to the front of me was a big wire fence and a factory with lots of windows. I took one look to my right and there was another woman in the act of going and I got all uncomfortable. I felt like I’d just pushed the door open on her accidently.


            “Oh! I’m so sorry! I didn’t realise...” I began and she laughed at me and replied.


            “Needs must. We’ve all got to go!”


I mulled over her wise words for two whole seconds (my life flashed before my eyes) and then I must confess I pulled down my jeans and did it! I was probably spotted by runners and their families as they rushed to get to the start line, I was definitely spotted by the woman to my right and I am probably on a few camera phones belonging to the staff at some warehouse located in central Milton Keynes! If I ever get famous guess what pictures of me will be plastered all over the tabloids! Well, you know, you heard it here first!


Anyway to cut a very long, dreary and saturating story short, my husband ran all 26 miles in those dreadful conditions for something he wholeheartedly believes in - young people. I am incredibly proud of him. I was met by his family shortly after he left the start line so thankfully I wasn’t on my own and to them I am truly grateful for standing in the pelting rain all day while we tried to work out at what points we might be able to spot him and holler support. After 4 hours we waited at the finish line, The Staduim MK, and I walked back along the route for two miles until I found him, almost ready to collapse, drenched and in pain. I ran the last two miles to the stadium with him (in my knee high boots) telling him not to give up, the end was in sight and in so many ways he had made a difference. To young people and REACHOUT PLUS, to his children who were so proud of him, to his family who had waited all day to show their support, to the people who had put their faith in him and donated money, to himself by proving what extremes he was capable of conquering and to me who had, that morning, flashed at virtually everyone and degraded myself in public (not forgetting the staff who are currently uploading entertaining videos of desperate women on YouTube!)


Cheers guys.


Take care from me, Jess :-) x 

Blog 15! Literary guinea pigs


Dear all,


This blog post is all about the value of readers. It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that when you’re a writer your thing of value is your readers, especially if they go on to do that bit extra and leave a review. But this blog isn’t about those types of readers it is about the ones you put your trust in before your work is placed on the bookshelves (whether that be virtual or physical). This blog post is all about the types of readers I refer to as literary guinea pigs.


So what is a literary guinea pig?


No they don’t squeak although they do sometimes tweet. They don’t fill their cheeks with food for later, although they do fill their heads with ideas and suggestions for your work. They don’t live in cages, although they are so important you could be forgiven for wishing they did. (You’d always know where they were then and they couldn’t go booking holidays without your say so). Are they cute? I have to say mine are and the fantastic thing of all is that they all have their own personalities, attitudes, opinions and styles. A diverse group of literary guinea pigs ensures you are getting a well rounded picture of how your book might be accepted by others. I call them literary guinea pigs (and please be aware that none are harmed in the process) but you may have heard them being referred to as readers, proof readers, beta-readers, editors, friends...perhaps if you have an alternative you could let me know.


So why have them?


Are you suggesting we get rid of these people? :-) I think that’s against the law but I will definitely do some research...yep it’s against the law, they’re here to stay. And thank goodness they are!


Upon writing my very first novel I was scared of letting anybody else read it. Reading your own work is very important, I mean if you don’t want to then why would anybody else, let alone part with their hard earned money for a copy? Eventually I plucked up the courage and passed my work on to someone else and they really enjoyed it. I passed it to another and they enjoyed it too. Before long I had a nice group of people who were all willing and happy to read my work, all people I trust to talk about the novel without giving away all the twists and turns and to be honest and open with me about what works and what doesn’t.  


There is nothing as valuable as a fresh eye.  


It was fascinating to see what people picked up on, things that I hadn’t even noticed, even after reading it SO many times. In Poker Face I had one of the main character’s names wrong on the final page of the final chapter! Imagine that! I’d managed to miss it every single time I’d read it and that’s because my brain read what I had intended it to read and not what I had actually said. That is where literary guinea pigs come in very handy.


Patience is a virtue – keep your readers happy


I don’t mean clean their car every morning before work or serenade outside their office window I mean give them some space. When you have a group of people willing to read your work don’t be too eager. Be patient and use each one in turn, use them wisely. Find out who is free first (what things might be coming up that might get in the way of someone’s ability to read sooner rather than later?) and decide in what order you are going to use them. Give your work or creativity to your first reader and then LEAVE THEM ALONE! (Easier said than done) If they provide feedback on their progress voluntarily then be happy to leave it at that, they are working through and they don’t need you to pester them. Some readers go quiet for what feels like an eternity and, in those cases, it’s seems only fair to check in and make sure you haven’t bored them to death. Usually things have cropped up but you’ve got to expect delays, waiting is all part of the business – unfortunately!


Taking it all on board –v- throwing some of it back into the sea


I tell you this having discovered it the hard way myself. Once your first reader has finished arrange a time to meet up (if it has to be by email because of distance then arrange a time you can have a conversation like that so things can be clarified and discussed). The process needs to be open and informal and you, as a writer, need to keep an open mind. If your reader has ideas over your plot or characters then go away and really think it through before you make any changes. In my very first novel I took onboard the advice of everyone and made changes accordingly. I did this because I wasn’t at all confident about my abilities as a writer. What I ended up with was a story that had changed so much I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m still working on how to put it back together again. All feedback will be valid, some will make things work better and some will need to be considered, appreciated and then declined. It is up to you as a writer to make that decision, it’s your work so be confident and bold in your choices. Once you have gone through and made the appropriate amendments and alterations then pass to your next reader and repeat the process (It’s like washing your hair).


The proof is in the guinea pig pudding – Yuk!


If you use your readers in this way you get the best out of them. I have seven literary guinea pigs and I know by the time my book hits the shelves it has been filtered by a total of eight different pairs of eyes (to include mine) and it has been read by me over ten times. Amazingly mistakes still seem to get through, but imagine how many more there would be if that process hadn’t happened. It would be like a piece of my homework from my school days! (Look at me pretending I completed homework!)


Cheers for reading guys & I hope you all find yourseves some special literary guinea pigs too, if you haven’t done so already.


Jess :-) x


PS it’s actually good fun reading for others, I love it, so if you haven’t done it before perhaps try offering your services. Indie authors should work together; there is much to learn and much to share. Sharing is caring!

Blog 14! Writing is healing.


Dear all,


OK so it’s been soooo long since I did a blog post (well actually that’s a lie, I did do a blog post but I kept posting it up and then deleting it because I wasn’t happy with it). I have seriously struggled for inspiration recently but this morning it suddenly dawned on me, that can be said for everything I do at the moment. Once I’d realised this I then realised that the issue I’m struggling with is loss and as a result I myself am feeling lost. Perhaps this post won’t be funny (as they are meant to be) but I’m hoping that getting some things off my chest might help me to move on, might liberate how I feel inside and in turn liberate my mind too.


I have been getting on with things as usual. I am currently beta reading for three people and that is soon to become four (I hope) and I am almost finished editing my romance which deals with teenage relationship abuse. Poker Face 2 is currently being read by the first of my seven wonderful readers, whose insight and feedback is crucial and priceless. The housework is getting done, the yummy meals are being prepared and we are visiting friends, family and play areas as it’s the Easter break. However, although I am doing all of these things I am not doing any of them with my usual vigour. Outside I look and sound fine (don’t want to seem full of myself by saying great) but inside I’ve shut down a bit and I can feel the difference.


I think the issue is that recently I had to have my dog put to sleep and because he is/was a dog and not a human I don’t feel my feelings are quite justified. I wouldn’t class myself as a big pet person or dog lover. I like them but I don’t have to have one. I’ve been fortunate enough in life that although I’ve nearly lost people and I have lost people in a physical sense, like my mum moving abroad when I was ten, I have only witnessed death once and it wasn’t a member of my family. I struggled terribly at that time but other than her very sad loss I’ve only ever lost pets and only two of those were very special ones. When I was 21 (I think) we had to have our first dog put to sleep and we had had him since I was five, I struggled. Now I’ve had to have my German Shepherd/husky put to sleep and I’m feeling it...big time.


I keep thinking I’ve spotted him in the garden like the horrible deed never happened and I pause momentarily as I walk into the hallway expecting to have to climb over him to get to the stairs. I’ve even heard what sounds like him slumping down onto the floor in the middle of the night or tapping across the paving slabs in the garden. I miss him and not just because he was a pet but because of what he represented. He was safety, a substitute for having a physically stronger person in the house and he was perfect for cuddling when I was sad or lonely. I now have a husband and two children and I am definitely not alone, or in danger, but I definitely feel like I’m a man down and it’s scary. Someone asked me if I would get another dog. I think I’d rather get an alarm because when that dies I can replace the batteries and it will be good to go for another few years.


I have used writing on many occasions to say exactly what I want to say without boring anyone, shocking anyone or offending. I can use whatever words I want, I can be incoherent, messy and I can still write even when I’m crying – have you ever tried to do that while talking? My point exactly, writing breaks down barriers that might otherwise stand in the way of expressing yourself. Sometimes, if your secrets are really dark or you know that the feeling will pass, then there is one other thing you can do with written words that you can’t do with a friendly shoulder or obliging ear – you can kill them, literally! After offloading onto paper you don’t have to worry about later retracting information, the possibility of accidental leakage or a friend that never dares to come back round because you’ve scared them. You can take the reams of paper and burn them, ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that and then you’re free and safe to move on.


My hope is that by writing this post I will free myself of the things I am feeling (burden you guys with it instead) and allow my creativity to flow. Maybe I will even find things funny again and be able to share them with you. At this point I would also like to say that although this post is about my furry friend, on the day in question it was the human variety that was there to offer support. When I decided after they had taken Alfie away that I wanted him back to be buried in the garden my friend Heather said “Yeah I can’t see why not. Ring and ask them what they think.” My husband who I thought might say “No way! Have you seen the size of him, Jess?” actually gave me a cuddle and said “Let’s go and see if there’s a place big enough for him.” With all three of us pulling together we had a huge hole dug up to my husband’s waist, we had collected him, lay him to rest, picked flowers, filled the hole and still had time to clear up, wash our hands and get our stories straight about death and the meaning of death in time to collect the children at 3.20 and break it to them.


I would therefore like to dedicate this post to friends; past, present and future. To Heather for being there and allowing us to collect a huge beast in the back of her car. To my husband, Rob, for whom it would never have been possible if he hadn’t been prepared to get his hands dirty (as well as his shoes, jeans and top) and to Alfie for being the best damn guard dog a girl could ever wish for. Cheers guys, for everything.


Take care from me. Jess :-) x








Blog 13! Choose your weapon! Pen or laptop?


Dear all,


I’ve been doing a bit of reviewing and blog research and I’ve discovered that my favourite type of blog is one that ticks the ‘not too long’ box, the ‘witty’ box and sometimes even the ‘informative’ box. I’m not too fussy about the informative bit because, although I am always happy to come away thinking ‘Wow I didn’t know that!' I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I hadn't. Taking a critical look at my own work I have decided that my blogs are way too long and, from now on, they shall be short and sweet...I can do short and sweet you’ll see.


The main thing I wanted to achieve with my blog was to make people smile. So when something happens in my life that amuses me I desperately try to lock it in the memory bank for a comical post. Today I am lucky for I have just the thing.

            “What is it? What is it?” I hear you cry.

            “Stop shouting out it’s rude!” Ha ha just kidding you can shout all you like...heck I do!


So, you may already know, if you follow me on Twitter, that my husband is running a marathon for the charity REACHOUT PLUS (also on Twitter & always happy to receive new followers). He’s been practising his socks off and started small with a couple of laps of the block. Now he's looking at a 17 mile stint at the weekend. Phew makes me tired just thinking about it! Well the other day he hurt his foot running & decided that his trainers were letting him down (workman, tools, I know what you’re thinking :-) ) so we went to a nearby city where they have a shop dedicated to running! Yes, I know! I never knew there was such a thing but apparently it’s really popular!


As we entered the first thing I noticed was the sea of colourful lycra, the second was the price of the trainers (£100 + would you believe) and the third thing (and I’m not sure why this was the last thing I noticed given that it was the most shocking) people were actually running around the shop with their new trainers on and their trouser legs rolled up! I stopped and looked at my husband with a smirk on my face and begged.

            “Please tell me you are not going to do that!” to which he replied.

            “No! I just want a pair of reasonably priced trainers and then we can get to Costa for a coffee.” Sensible I thought so I proceeded to let him guide me to the counter, stopping en-route to point out the price of some of the footwear.

            “I mean, really, do they need to be this expensive?” I asked naively.

            “They provide cushion, support, stability and balance,” he informed me.

            “Right, yeah, stability and balance,” I agreed...under my breath. “So what did we do before stability and balance then?” I asked and he responded by leading me to the counter in silence where we were confronted with...wait for it...a waiting list! We put his name down and then browsed. He showed me the high energy sweets that looked like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk. He explained that they were pure sugar to which the kids started asking if they could have a pack each.

            “NO!” we both shouted in horror. Imagine that!

            “But isn’t that kind of...cheating?” I dared to ask him and he looked around the shop like I was nuts before whispering.

            “Jess, these people are really into this stuff so don’t go offending them because, one, it’s really rude and...and...two, they will catch us if we need to run!” Oh how we laughed. A day out with us is an absolute scream!


When it eventually got to our turn, the shoes came off, the socks came off, the trouser legs got rolled up, the trainers got tried on...then the cheaper trainers got tried on...and then there was the dilemma. Do we go for the cheapest or the next price up? There’s £30 riding (or should I say 'running') in the balance. The cheaper is the less garish of the two, being plain white, while the other is gold and green! The white ones look thinner and hence might accommodate his feet less sympathetically and this leads to only one other crucial point...yes you’re getting there...he did what he promised me he wouldn’t do. The only reason I was still standing there with him, by his side, was because he promised me he wouldn’t do it yet, before I could reach out and stop him, he was off! RUNING ROUND THE SHOP!


Humiliation finally over, but only because I walked out on him and took the kids to Costa by myself, he finally settled for the more expensive pair, but the purchase was a difficult one. We don’t tend to go in for flash, expensive, material type stuff. We buy second hand furniture and cars and our cars are very old (like 15 previous owners type old). The fixtures, fittings and contents of our house are not necessarily bottom of the range but they are only one step up from that and we only have them if they’re necessary or they’ve earned their place.


We discussed on the way home how much of this stuff is really necessary and how much is just catering for a public that will part with cash for the next best thing, the more superior, the one that offers the highest performance? Does having high performance trainers make you a better runner than the person with low performance trainers and, if there is a difference, can that really be attributed to the person in them or just the equipment they are able to afford? I ran for my senior school from the age of eleven in the district and county cross country championships and I often came first. However, we were poor and I had the most awful trainers you could imagine. Mine were torn, the sole was coming away and I didn’t even bother to do them up, just slipped my feet in and I was away. What I did have was the determination to complete the course because I’d been asked to do so by my teachers, who I knew expected big things from me on the running pitch (if nowhere else). I also had the stamina to keep on going even when I could feel blisters on my feet and my lungs were ready to explode.


I know many people out there are into their running and I still like to run too, though not competitively. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, which is why I then moved my attention closer to home. I’m not afraid to look at myself and ask the same questions. So, can the same be said for writing? I have written numerous novels, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, romance, children’s, young adult and crossover and I am currently working on new material but I can’t write in pen. My tool of choice, when it comes to writing, is my beloved laptop. One of my writing friends has to write on paper first and then she transfers it all to screen but I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work for me. It’s time consuming. Also I like to develop my stories as I write and if a new idea comes to me I like to be able to scroll back a few chapters and slot it in, then amend the proceeding chapters to take account of the changes I have made. This cannot be done when you write by hand, without having to start again of course.


It is quite shocking to think that once upon a time people were only able to write by hand and they wrote great huge novels, fantastically punctuated and grammatically sound all without the benefit of the laptop. Later came the type writer, hundreds of pages of material were typed again and again without spell check and format options that can alter a whole document in just seconds. So am I less of a writer for needing such tools in order to perform and would I ever have written one book let alone twenty something without my trusty electrical friend? I’d like to think I would, but the weaknesses I am able to cover up, to a certain extent, with technology would be seriously exposed. I doubt very much whether my work would have been as successful as it has been so far without my trusty laptop. My handwriting is terrible for a start, as an embarrassing incident over the word 'flick' knives once illustrated!


Is all of this modern day technology about offering you an alternative way of doing the things that you could do without, while providing a little more comfort? Running and writing without fab trainers or clever laptops shows endurance, dedication and a willingness to put up with pain and sometimes injury for the sake of our goals. Does it make you any less of a runner or writer? Well, no, not really. You still run and write and you still do it well but it certainly makes you a different sort of a runner and writer. It makes you a modern one. I do take my hat off to those that were able to achieve what we as athletes or writers achieve today but without the mod cons, for they are truly inspirational.


Oh pants it was meant to be short...Ohhhhh...I’ll start short blogs next week!


Cheers guys with love from me. Jess x :-)      

Blog 12! Motivation & the Final Destination.


Don’t worry it’s not about people being ticked off in horrendously gory accidents because they’ve witnessed Death’s Plan! 


I think it is important to always keep in mind your motivation for writing (or if you don’t write whatever else it is you aspire to). What makes you do what you do? That being said, I also think it’s important to strike a balance. Don’t just look at where you’re going, or hope to go, but keep an eye on where you’ve been too. Just like they teach in driving (but don’t spend too long doing it because it’s dangerous) it is good practice to glance in your rear view mirror every now and then...and not just to check your lipstick or your teeth.


In writing terms where you have been is probably a strong factor in the desire you have to write, to share your story in whatever form that might be, fiction, fact, poetry, blog. I shall take my personal circumstances and use them to illustrate my point (I won’t get all weepy and melancholy, I promise). Apart from liberating me from my thoughts and feelings, my motivation for writing is to achieve better, to show people I can do something valuable with my life. I want to show that the uneducated girl that left school with nothing but two GCSE’s did have something to offer after all (huh imagine that if you can!) My big dream is that, with some hard work and commitment, I will one day attract an agent and publisher who will open doors to new and exciting opportunities for me and my novels. I hope that (before I grow old) I will be able to look back and see that I have achieved something, something that not everybody has achieved (to be fair hitting thirty-five with all my limbs intact is something most people can boast - it’s not really an achievement, is it?) I want to do something more...than keeps my arms and legs. [Shaking head and wondering how I got to this.]


It is possible to spend too much time looking back. If you do this you never progress, you sit like water in a rock pool, unmoving, stagnating and lacking in life. You are unable to foster and nurture new things because the environment (that is your mind) becomes too hostile for anything to thrive. It is also possible to spend so much time fantasising over what the future could hold (if only one of those blasted agents would say yes for once, for example) that your life boils down to living for the next batch of rejection letters and taking them hard when they arrive, because suddenly they are the be-all and end-all. If all hopes and dreams pivot on that one momentous thing (a book deal) then nothing else matters and that’s quite sad.


I am guilty of getting caught up in both, blaming past experiences for my lack of confidence, my fear of almost everything (other than staying indoors) and my dogged attempts at achieving what I know in my heart is one of the most difficult things to attain. I do this so I can cruelly remind myself ‘I told you so. What were you thinking?’ This draws a rigid line from unhappier times to an almost unattainable goal, a goal over which I really have little control. I’m not daring to suggest that I do, but, I could write the most fantastic novels in the world, but if they didn’t sit well with an agent’s list it’s unlikely they would take it on. Anything short of a miracle (or nasty friction burn to the wrist) is going to make them change their minds.


I do regularly try to remind myself that if I look back over what I have done  and I dispose of the blinkers (installed shortly after discovering a passion for writing) I am able to see so much more. Success isn’t about moving from A to B on the most direct route but learning to appreciate the value of the longer and more scenic one. The route that detours whether we like it or not but teaches us a lot about ourselves, our limits, our challenges and our ability to overcome obstacles. What mountains did you climb to get to where you are today? For some achievement is in getting out of bed in the morning, for others it’s making it through the day without a drink. Many find themselves desperately trying to attain enough calories to function while many others are trying not to succumb to temptation. Confronting personal issues is an achievement in itself, sod the book deal! If you glance in the rear view mirror and find you have overcome some pretty big hurdles then these should be recognised and congratulated.


I think it’s important to have a plan. Pencil your enormous goal up ahead but consider what you have faced and might need to face to get there, and mark them up too, because they deserve to be celebrated. Pin your plan to the wall (or maybe use blue tack, your plan your choice).


Now, take a step back and admire the itinerary that will lead you to your final destination.


Thanks for reading guys & take care.


Jess :-) x

Blog 11! Write about what you know.


Dear friends, slightly lost internet surfers & fellow writers,


I am often asked how I came up with some of the ideas for Poker Face, what made me put pen to paper (or indeed fingers to keys) and why. In brief I'd discovered a new writing tool, one that really worked for me and my ideas, and this is what Blog 11 is all about.  


Ruby Palmer’s dangerous and rocky life with the mafia starts after she walks into a lawyer’s firm on her last day of school. Though she’s still awaiting the results of her exams she knows full well they are going to be terrible. She’s had more important things to worry about, like avoiding the painful beatings dished out by her abusive dad and fighting off Matthew Dean’s relentless advances. It’s funny because when I first started writing I read all the advice ‘Write, write, write’ and ‘Read, read, read,’ and ‘Write about what you know.’ I was already writing and reading but I struggled on the ‘Write about what you know,’ score. In my mind, in a nutshell (not that my mind is a nutshell) that advice only really worked if you were a maths professor and you wanted to write curriculum based books. Or you were an expert horse rider and you wanted to publish a book entitled ‘Caring for your foal.’ I was already writing stories, I’d written a sci-fi, a fantasy and a romance, but I was still struggling. I wanted the confidence that I was sure must come with knowing you were an ‘expert’ in your field.  


I sat and contemplated, as I often do, and it suddenly occurred to me that I am an expert in something. I am an expert in being me! Though that might not be something everyone else wants to learn how to be (at least I hope they don’t because that could get quite scary!) I discovered that I can talk about what I know of the experiences I have had. I am an expert at coping with an unusual childhood. I am an expert at leaving school with no qualifications. I am an expert at walking into a job anyway. I am an expert at handling a boss with a tendency to declare the colour of my underwear to clients. I am an expert in recognising and getting out of said unhealthy administrative posts. I am an expert at understanding the property ladder and getting my feet on the slippery rungs. I am an expert in showing people that it is possible to leave school with nothing and later obtain a degree. I am also an expert at being a mother and a wife. There are so many things that I can do, that I have experienced, and they all entitle me to write in a realistic and honest voice. I found while writing Poker Face that I do have something I can share; life’s experiences. I might still be fairly young but I’ve been through a lot and, more importantly, lived to tell the tale.             


On Ruby’s last day of school I understand the sheer overwhelming panic she is feeling about her future and lack of prospects. I never bothered at school. I spent my lessons singing the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses and laughing about the kinky sounding words and all the sexy ways you could say them in French. I didn’t revise for my exams and I didn’t complete my coursework, so it was no surprise that my exams were going to be awful. Even so, I was gutted on the last day that I hadn’t done more. Suddenly the day we had all been dreaming of had arrived. Even though throwing eggs and flour and defacing our school uniforms was great fun, it didn’t stop me feeling like I’d messed up big time! My friends were going on to sixth form or college or had jobs lined up. They had made plans for the future and all they had to do now was enjoy the summer and wait for those exam results they had worked so hard for. I, on the other hand, knew I was going to fail, though I was pleasantly surprised when I got an ‘A’ in drama and a ‘C’ in English Literature. How you ask? In truth, I really don’t know, perhaps a natural flare for pretending and analysing. That makes sense seen as I’d spent my adolescence doing just that, pretending I didn’t care and analysing why, if I could convince everyone else, I couldn’t fool myself into believing that too.


In some of the scenes in my book I have been able to take personal experiences and apply them to situations I haven’t experienced. For example, in a scene where someone gets shot, I did a little research and applied that to an experience that I deemed to be the next best thing (childbirth!) With the second book in the series I have used experiences where I have had little control, experiences that have accompanied high levels of fear and attached those to some of the ‘way out there’ nightmares I’ve suffered over the years.


So if you are a writer, perhaps starting out and not quite sure what you want to say or, indeed, what you are ‘qualified’ to say then try some reflection. No don’t go checking yourself out in the mirror! Save that for when you’re famous :-) Take the advice and information you find out there laterally not literally. I personally struggled for quite a while, feeling like I had no justification for writing the things I was writing. I couldn’t say I was a librarian or a school teacher and I couldn’t boast a degree in English either. I didn’t have famous friends and I hadn’t had anything published before, not even a short story...not even an obituary! But when it finally clicked I realised that actually you don’t have to have any of those things (although I’m pretty sure all of them would help!) What you need is to be creative with what you do have, whether that’s qualified knowledge, personal experience or both. Fear is fear whether that’s fear of the dentist or a real life encounter with an armed robber. Love works the same way. All encounters are real, all are valid.


Being creative with our talents and abilities is nothing new. It’s something we’ve had to work on to cope with a struggling economy, a market that has squeezed jobs and demanded more from applicants. There are fewer jobs out there so you can either accept that you’re going to be unemployed for a while or you can take your skills and talents and transpose them, make them fit. Take that square brick and hammer it until it passes through the round hole! As far as I’m concerned, the same can be said for writing. Take a good look at what you have done, where you have been, what you have experienced and how you experienced it and then do exactly what the advice tells you, pick up your pen, adjust your keyboard and then ‘Write what you know.’ Hope it helps!


Take care from me guys, Jess :-) 

Post 10! A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland!


Dear reader and welcome to Post 10!


We are all loving the white stuff at the moment and I’m not talking milk, or anything illegal either for that matter! Actually when I say ‘all’ I mean the kids mostly, me, not so much! Snow is a funny thing...if you’re mad. When you open the curtains in the morning or watch it silently settle late at night it’s wonderful, perfect, untouched. It’s a birthday cake patiently waiting for the grand presentation...right before being hacked to bits. Also snow is never as good close up as it is far away and to be fair, if I had a choice, I’d be getting as far away as possible right now.


This morning I noticed from the dual carriageway that the gently rolling countryside had turned from green to white. The farm houses had been topped with icing and the sheep, suddenly very well camouflaged, were pulling themselves along on their tummies with automatic machine guns flung across their backs as they took advantage of their new environment and dug their way to safety. Nobody has realised yet but, have no fear, I did hear that Quorn fillets are the new ‘lamb’ this Spring.


Closer to home the snow has turned from white to brown, from crisp to sludge, from beautiful to, well, a wet dirty mess that gets absolutely everywhere. But, as I say, the kids are still loving it. We drove to a village pub yesterday for a birthday meal and our car got pelted with snowballs but not by small children. The tall, dark hooded, ice brandishing figures were considerably older than five or six and a couple may even have been in their twenties. They had really good aims and very strong right swings, Play Station don’t half build their muscles up! Kidding I know they don’t spend all of their time on the Play Station...they divide and share it equally between snowball hurling and Xbox :-)


No need to worry it seems we were not the only victims of snowball crime yesterday. We had not been singled out for having a shit car - relief - for when I turned on the radio this morning to take my children to school and pre-school I was quite amused to hear that the local police have been inundated with calls. As a result the police have now requested that people do not report being hit with snowballs unless deemed a real threat of antisocial behaviour. I am considering ringing them up and telling them I have a pretty menacing looking snowman in my back garden and he has been there (I’m assuming it’s a he) since Saturday morning. Isn’t that loitering with intent? He’s in my garden, isn’t that trespass? He is wearing a scarf that I never granted permission for him to wear, isn’t that taken without owner’s consent. He is also killing my grass, isn’t that criminal damage? And I mean I don’t want to be picky or anything but my phone just rang and the person didn’t speak. I think the snowman might also be harassing me and I want to know WHAT the police are going to do about it??? I pay my taxes I know my rights!


On a more serious note, one of the things I do not like about the snow is how taken off guard we find ourselves. When I heard we were getting snow a few days ago I kind of panicked, recalling how it was a few years ago after we heard the news of impending snow. We were living somewhere else at the time and our cars wouldn’t make it up the hill outside our house and onto the main road. The main road leading into the village was so lethal someone actually slid from the top of the hill to the bottom. There was no grit, deliveries couldn’t make it through, schools were closed, airports too and the pregnant woman a few doors down from us suddenly started looking bigger and her bump even lower! I was very scared we would have to perform a home birth, and I might not have enough towels! Fortunately this year has been different. The children have gone off to school and pre-school, our Avenue is like an ice rink but the main roads are perfectly fine and as far as I know the shops still have the essentials.


It’s funny because I wouldn’t describe myself as a spoilt person. We own not one but two small, shit cars. We own a beautiful semi-detached house that’s too small for us and the kids have to share a room. We don’t go to exotic places unless you class Tesco in another town as exotic and our television is only the size of a wall mounted laptop, much to the annoyance of one of my movie loving friends. So why then do I worry about losing contact with the outside world so much? I find myself wondering if we could get the car to the hospital should one of us have an accident at home, and how much longer the journey might take in the snow. I worry the pipes might freeze and we might not have any water. I even worry that we might get sick and run out of bleach! I know what you’re thinking, ‘Jess you covered water and bleach but what about food?’ Don’t worry I don’t eat much and I’ve cooked so many meals and frozen them that we should be good for a while...unless of course our neighrbours don’t have food, in which case I might have to recalculate...and amend my include the stocking of beans, powered milk and soup.


Anyway, once again I shall be blaming my imagination for the issues I have over snow and go and hibernate in my bed until it’s melted and the weather has started to be much more civilised.


For now take care with the white stuff in whatever quantity or form you might be dealing and I hope the next post sees sunshine and an indication that Spring is on its way. Optimistic or what!


Take care from me, Jess x

Blog 9! Where did you get YOUR imagination?


Where did you get YOUR imagination?


In light of the recent traumatic events that my family have suffered, it’s a slightly more serious post this time. I can do serious just you see if I can’t. Don’t worry it won’t last long I’ll be back to loopy quicker than you can click your fingers. Hopefully, quicker than you can hit the back button!


I have wondered at it many times before but, with the shocking news that my sister and niece were on the Costa Concordia when it hit rocks and ran aground, my thoughts suddenly marvelled at the complexity of the mind. Exploring all the possibilities of what could be happening to them when all contact was lost got me thinking, where did I get my imagination? There will be heaps of biological and psychological research on the matter but this post isn’t intended to be academic, it’s just a bit of a muse that’s all.


So, is imagination genetic or the product of experience?   


Taking a look at my two children, I like to call them Chalk and Cheese, it is clear that there must be some genetic link to the power and depth of thought. I have a very vivid imagination but, unfortunately, fantasy is not always fun. The ‘What if’ syndrome can play havoc with your plans, your decisions, your mood, your dreams and in some cases even your life. I have suffered frightful recurring dreams that I can remember way back to when I was five. When I am stressed I dream that I am awake and it often takes quite a few ‘awakenings’ to get me back again. I dream in colour and, for anyone who wondered what it was like to hit the bottom in a falling dream, it REALLY hurts! I have had doctors sitting on my bed, wardrobe doors flying open, huge hands trying to smother me and Hitler declaring that I am his Eva Braun. My imagination has been cruel at times but of course it has also led to good things, like the writing of twenty-four books and the publishing and sale of one of them. I intend to bring more of my work into the world but I shall build my house of creativity just one book at a time. There are a multitude of reasons why someone might decide to write but for me, first and foremost, it was about liberating my mind and finding a decent voice to channel it through.


Although genetics probably play a big role in imagination I believe that it is life’s experiences that have the greatest impact. Life threw some pretty difficult things my way when I was little and at the age of ten a momentous shift occurred, challenging everything I knew and relied upon. Despite trying to control things with quirky little behaviours, I couldn’t physically alter a thing. With all the internalised emotional turmoil I ended up doing badly at school, education really wasn’t important to me, and I made some pretty bad choices along the way.


Fortunately, as I turned eighteen, my life was about to shift again. I was about to find something stable, secure and enriching. I was about to find a decent job. I managed to get an interview with a legal firm (don’t ask me how, I haven’t a clue) but although I didn’t feel in the slightest bit worthy they offered me the job on the very same day. Luck was on my side for once. I’d left a pervy boss behind (good riddance) and I was eager to start working on the mental health and criminal law cases that awaited me. The work was often fascinating and disturbing and I loved every minute of it. That firm changed my life and helped me to see that I was capable of more. With the firm’s support and encouragement I graduated with an LLB Law degree in my early twenties and went on to complete solicitor’s exams.


So now that you’ve got it what are you going to do with it?


Thankfully my children have had the most stable upbringing a child could possibly hope for and should, by rights, demand. I was not so fortunate but, on reflection, would I give up all of what has happened when it has helped me to develop my debut novel? Probably not, and it’s a good job too because I can’t. All of the above, the genetics and the experiences, are part of me in the same way that my novel is a part of me. Poker Face isn’t just a young adult story with crossover appeal, it is testament to what can be achieved if you put your mind to something and, when I say your mind, I literally mean just that.


Poker Face is about a young girl that leaves school with nothing. A girl who has to fight to survive in a world where everyone and everything feels so much bigger than she is and, I have to say, I know how that girl feels. Ruby Palmer was created in my imagination and I don’t know if that was as a result of genetics, experience or some other thing but what I do know, for sure, is that I love her and I am very glad I found her.


Go, Ruby, go!


So, what are your views on the subject of imagination and what relationship do you have with yours? If you are a writer you could share your journey, I’d love to hear what made you put pen to paper or, indeed, fingers to keys.


Thanks guys, take care from me. Jess :-) x 


It's 2012 and a good reason for Blog 8!!!


Blog 8!!!!


Dear all,


Look, I’m still going! [eye roll] I’m still finding stuff to talk about! [groan] It’s amazing what you can put together when you sit down for long enough and make yourself do it! [bite yout tongue and don't say a word, unless you have something nice to say there's always the back button].  


Well first things first, the biggie celebration of the year, Christmas! We had a very good Christmas and, unlike most years and many of the people I know, we missed being ill this time! Yay! I do currently have a pain in my chest that’s been there for days but I figure it’s better than a pain in the butt, so I‘ll live with it. I probably pulled a! Yes, you read me correctly, I actually got a shiny new laptop with no viruses on it, no junk and no missing keys! I think that has to be the best present I’ve ever had. Many thanks to the man who calls himself my husband, I love you big time! I was also presented with the mother of all security to load onto said new laptop to ensure I experience no more hiccups or desires to beat inanimate objects. I have the computerised equivalent of Scotland Yard ready to arrest and bang up anything that shouldn’t be trespassing on my mobile workstation.


On to the book, Poker Face. It sold very well on the run up to Christmas and I’ve already had some fantastic reviews on what people have read so far. One reader (that I don’t know) declared that they’d read it and loved it in just 24hours! I can’t ask for more than that. Amazon managed to make it look more popular than it has been by suddenly declaring that my novel was out of stock! I wish! I was tempted to ride with the inaccuracy but thought, one, it might put people off ordering and, two, it’s not very true, it’s not even a little bit true’s a lie. I contacted them and they promptly put it right. They are good people at Amazon, they know their stuff and they work quickly, I like them. 


On to the website, I can now welcome New York and Spain as well as many other towns and cities in the UK to my website hit-counter, hello New York and Spain and many other towns and cities in the UK, it’s lovely to have you! All being well 2012 might be a crazy busy year for Poker Face. There is a huge promotional drive in the pipeline, running the length and breadth of the country and I am scared it won’t happen. I am equally scared that it will. I feel like Bob the Builder ‘Can I do it?’ I bloody hope so! It would be an awesome experience and brilliant for the series too so, once again, it’s a waiting game. You get used to waiting as a writer - six weeks here, six weeks there! OK so that’s not true, when you’re a writer and an Aries you wait because you have to but you don’t do it with any pride or decorum. You rant and rave, fold your arms and tap your feet whilst constantly hitting refresh on your email and nipping to the letterbox to see if that blinking post-woman has been yet! Basically, I just need some more responses and as soon as I know my little adventurous plan has enough support I will be able to share it with my beautiful readers. I so want to blurt it out but I’ll resist the urge to spill and sit on my hands instead. 


OK so I’m off my hands now, it’s impossible to do that and type, don’t check I tried already and believe me when I say it’s both impossible and a little bit dangerous, especially if you are perched on a stool. Unlike millions of others, I skipped the January sales this year...just like every other year of my life. Actually I have been to one sale, towards the end of the discount frenzy. I was dragged into River Island in my teens and was shocked to find items of clothes in various states of destruction. People had literally ripped the arms off of tops, torn the hems on skirts and smeared makeup on collars and cuffs. It looked like there’d been a dirty protest. The garments had been through a tug-of-war where nobody had won, the clothes had given in first. Anyway, never again, I’ve stayed away in fear of my personal safety or being spotted in something that somebody decides they quite like. You could end up leaving naked from these places. Some of these shoppers would steal the Next top right off your back! Word of advice, if you are brave enough to go in, make sure you’re wearing fantastic underwear because that might be all your wearing when you come back out.


Right I need to get on with polishing Poker Face II so I’m going to round things up now other than to say this post started before the New Year and as I conclude it is now 4th January 2012!!! Happy New Year!!! Bang! Bang! Pop! Whizz! Whoop! Whoop! That’s my attempt at reconstructing a New Year’s celebration, that being better than my actual New Years experience which consisted mostly of ECG monitors, scans, journeys on hospital beds and wheelchairs. Man I know how to see the New Year in. A potential diagnosis of clot on the lung or mini heart attack was the worst New Year’s Eve I have EVER had, and believe me when I say I’ve had some pretty bad ones! I am pleased to say that what started out as potentially life threatening and incredibly sobering (not that I was even a little bit drunk) in fact turned out to be anaemia and lack of oxygen in the blood. My New Year’s resolution is, therefore, don’t spend all day writing and not eating (other than to drink tea and eat toast) because apparently your heart doesn’t like it and lets you know by making you collapse and scare the life out of your husband! I’m on the mend now and I will definitely be taking much better care of myself in the future, wake-up call duly noted and acted upon.


Apparently, even suspected heart attack and clot on the lung couldn't stop me! OK I'm not itching for a rematch if you're listening God! I am still being good like I promised I would be if you kept me alive, I'm even going to bed in a minute!  


All the best for 2012 and if you have any plans or wishes for this year, I truly hope they happen.


With love from me, Jess X



Happy New 2012 X


Dear all,


This is just a mini post as there is something here and now I would just like to share.


I would just like to say that the NHS and the people who work in it are awesome. I collapsed last night twice and couldn't breathe. I've been in hospital all day, scans, ECG's, bloods, the professionals fearing I had a clot on my lung or a mini heart attack. Everyone who took their turn at looking after me, breaking difficult news when the ECG said there was something wrong with my heart and the nurses who administered care were exceptionally talented and I will especially be thinking of them as the New Year comes in.


If I had one I would raise my glass right now to the NHS staff who got home in time to celebrate tonight as well as the ones that are there all night continuing to look after the patients who were not as fortunate as me and allowed to come home.


Also, of course, Happy New Year to all my friends and family and the hugest thank you and New Year wishes to the people who watch over us day after day.


With love from me, Jess, X


Blog 6! Two for the price of one!


Oh dear all,

It’s been nearly two weeks since I posted something, but I still defend that I’m not really slacking I’m just...saving the’s what I’m doing!


So the books are still selling very well and at this rate they will soon be all gone. Every last one of my first edition books will soon have been released into the big wide world to do their thing. That’s quite sad really because, unlike my real children, they won’t be coming home to get me to do their washing or knock them up a yummy roast dinner. The books will be gone...for ever :-( Good luck little books, do me proud! :-)


A few days ago I was offered a stall at a school Christmas fete to promote and sell my books. All in all it did quite well really. I only sold to one parent (and she was a very lovely parent) but I did make a few sales to teachers so now, between you and me, I’m properly bricking it. They might come back to me after all...covered in red pen and ‘see me’ messages! It will be just like the bad old days. [Sighs and moves on very quickly before any really horrible memories jump in and ruin the flow.]


Anyway, the stall reminded me of my market days, but without the icy cold fingers that got so numb I couldn’t do my jeans up after going for a wee in the stinky public toilets situated just opposite the fish stall...ugh, the slightly inappropriate conversation for an eleven year old and the meagre £5 for all my hard work and effort. No, this time I earned at least £20, minus the donation...maths head on...going to take some time...ugh...ahhh...hmmm...tears...let’s just say I still did better than I did working on a real market stall! I get quite nervous if I’m honest and, believe it or not, I am a very shy and retiring character (when out of my comfort zones) so I spent most of the time making paper aeroplanes under the table and hoping nobody would talk to me or, heaven forbid, ask me any questions about my book! Someone did ask who I likened myself to and I resisted the urge to write on my paper aeroplane ‘A Trappist monk so please don’t ask me anymore questions’ and opted for some serious thoughtful expressions and then a ‘To be honest I don’t know really. It’s a thriller...let’s just agree on that and say no more about it shall we?’ She didn’t buy a win some you lose some. I’d probably better work on my sales pitch.


Whilst there I did enjoy the yummy vegetable samosas, half a Toblerone which was won on the tombola (on my behalf I am very professional and I didn’t leave my post once) and about one hundred cup cakes (give or take). I took mostly...and ate. I did leave with a headache because the very merry Christmas music was stationed right behind my head. Maybe someone told them I talk absolute crap when under pressure, and most other times too, and so a strategic move saw the CD player positioned on the window ledge behind me! Either way it left me in pain and I’m still in pain now.


I am also still waiting to hear whether The Law Gazette are going to review my book and whether a local bookshop are willing to put it on their shelves. The old fingers and toes are well and truly crossed on those ones. The library will be hosting a signing event after Christmas where the remaining books will be available for sale and where I would really like to chat to some young adult readers about what they would like to see more of. So if you know anyone under twenty and over sixteen please tell them to keep their eye out for the event or, even better, bring them along for a chat. The Swansgate shopping centre have also offered to help me with some advertising and I found out that sponsoring a roundabout starts at £800 per year, if anyone’s interested. I’m not I have to say, because I’m not making anywhere near enough money to pay for advertising on that level, but I do think it’s a pretty cool idea and I would if I could. I am also waiting to hear on another very exciting promotional contact but for now I say nothing. If anyone knows Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, the boys known as JLS or anyone else young and famous (I’m not too fussy) please buy them a copy of my book for Christmas, that would be very helpful...thanks.


Right tea, and probably toast again, then I’ll be back to chat some more...


Right I’m back. No don’t sigh it’s rude and it could be worse...I could be sat opposite you at work talking crap. At least this way you can shut me down. While you’re actually contemplating doing that have a thought for my poor friend, Tracy. She had to work opposite me for well over a year and she spent a lot of time not at her desk...hmmm I wonder why! It’s funny because whenever she walked into the office and saw me sitting there preparing to share something verbally with her, she would always think of something she’d forgotten and have to spin round again and run back up the stairs. It seemed I was good at helping her remember there was somewhere else she needed to be :-) he he ha ha ho ho ho! I’ve turned into Father Christmas.


Another thing that’s been lovely about the whole book writing, printing, sale thing, is that it’s brought me into contact with some good old friends and it’s been lovely seeing and chatting to them again. I have been very lucky to know some pretty fab people in my time and they still are just as fab. It’s been as easy as picking up where we left off all those years ago on the last days of school and college.


Just had a few days break from writing this post as I checked on my website and suddenly realised that overnight it had been blown up, yes seriously, it was a whopper. The size of my letters would have made Godzilla cower and shake! After trying to establish whether it was a fault with the hosting company that would right itself in time, and not getting very far, I eventually bit the bullet (funny as my books are mafia related) and started working on my site again. It took a whole day of solid commitment to get it back on track. Imagine watching dripping water, your aim being to fill the glass, but the drips are erratic. It was like this drip...drip...drip...drip...........................................................................drip, drip.......................................................................................drip.............drip...drip...drip...drip...drip............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................DRIP! I resisted the urge to swear there!


I actually screamed out loud (sol) at one point but dare I say, after about nine hours of staring at a screen, I got there in the end. Good job I’m a ram by star sign, persistent, stroppy, temperamental, strong willed...with a lot of hair, short legs and big nose, see, Ram!


I’ve been checking out the hit counter, which only tells me where in the country people are so don’t worry it doesn’t gather detailed information or anything I could rinse your bank accounts with, but I can now add Israel to the list of countries that have hit my site. That is so very cool and, hello Israel. I now have interest from across America, Canada, France, UK (obviously), Turkey and not forgetting Israel. I always think I should know these people and I spend a great deal of time wondering how I can link Durham, London and  Bristol to Tel Aviv, Texas, Ontario, Denver and Austin to name but a few. Either way I love that they have all helped to bump up my hit counter and reassure me that people are interested enough to take a look and maybe (fingers crossed) share what they’ve found with others.


So now the webpage job is done I can put my mind to other things like my next blog post, which is a little bit late, and my steering wheel, which is doing some strange juddering thing. If I can describe here, some of you might relate. Cast your mind back to being five, sitting on the sofa (or better a chair you’ve pulled from the dining room and placed in front of a couple of other chairs from the dining room), you sit down, shout over your shoulder at the imaginary children in the back to shut up arguing because you’re trying to drive and then you grasp your invisible steering wheel (which for some reason is the size of a lorry driver’s steering wheel) and then you rock from side to side letting your hands move back and forth like you’re milking a massive cow that’s lying on its side. Got it? Well that’s what my car is doing but I need to think of a different analogy to take to the garage. I certainly don’t need my little stories making me look like a really poor version of the pictures pasted to the inside of their tool boxes and the grim calendars hanging in the office. I hate it!


Once upon a time I went to pay for some work on my car and was confronted with an image so pornographic, I think it was February and it may have been romantic for some but it certainly wasn’t for me, it made me feel properly freaked out. I might even spend some time thinking about a business I could open where men will need to come in. I can then hang nude pictures of other men (better looking ones) taking unnecessary risks with their eyesight for the sake of my calendar. Do I sound bitter? Well yes I am. I don’t like it and not even because they are gorgeous and fit, well done them, but because I could have taken my daughter or son in there and I don’t want them exposed to things like that and I don’t want to feel like I’ve just walked in on someone having sex either. All I actually want to do is pay for parts and labour and get my car the hell off that ramp! I think I will just let my husband take it, for now I will continue driving like a five year old.


Right, anyway, I better crack on it is Christmas next week you know! I want to get everything ‘Christmas related’ sorted before 3.25pm this afternoon so I don’t have to do it with moaning or hyper children in tow! No pressure then! Next stop, book a Tesco delivery slot and order another present online....ahhh it’s just so festive isn’t it?


With Christmas love to you all and I hope you have a very merry good one followed by a very happy and healthy New Year!


From me, Jess. X



Blog 5! Poker Face launch party 26th November 2011

The setting up and trying to keep the kids from eating the nibbles faster than we could put them out!!!






So blog 5 and it’s a post launch update.


I have a huge thank you to make to all of the people who attended, helped out, wanted to come but couldn’t (and left fab supportive comments anyway), the weather that might have been freezing and windy like you wouldn’t believe but kept from snowing or raining, the drivers who got my deliveries to me on time and the companies that despatched them just like they said they would, to the print company that put all of the elements of a book together and made it look fantastic (on a stupidly short time scale), to Ivan for the cover design that makes the book look so beautiful, to the decorations for going up like I wanted them to and not falling down on people’s heads and to all the people who have bought a copy of my book, thank you! Right that’s my speech, speech bit done and I have to say it’s much better than my wedding one. That went something like this; “Thanks to everyone for coming. We appreciate the effort and lengths some people have had to go to to share this beautiful day with us.” That’s where I should have stopped, not too bad you’re thinking, except that I didn’t stop I went on...and on...and on. “Some people flew...some people didn’t. Some people had to drive a long way...some people didn’t. Some people walked...some people didn’t!” Ugh shoot me now! Give me time to put words to paper and I can knock up something not too bad, but ask me to try and think while speaking and I panic, I’m going to mess up, say something offensive, babble, bore and torture with my verbal impromptu use of the English language.


I held it together for the party, after successfully keeping myself from doing a runner when the first four guests arrived. Once I got through that bit, and started chatting, the time flew and I handled it quite well...for a semi agoraphobic person! I had one Malibu and coke to settle the nerves and not being a drinker (I probably have about four a year) I would usually go full circle in 45 minutes, heavy limbs, giddy, giggly, red face, loss of all spatial awareness, struggling to get through even the widest doors, planning my routes carefully before standing and attempting to cross the room, drowsy, weepy then sleep...doesn’t matter where. However, on this occasion, I handled the alcohol well (anybody could have been forgiven for thinking I was a grown up) and I survived and lived to tell the tale.


Good friends joined us after for coffee and toast, huddled around the breakfast bar (we are like soooo sophisticated) and my earlier headache returned. I insisted that I would never sleep so I made my husband put the Inbetweeners on DVD in the bedroom but, despite my protesting it would never happen, I was out like a light within twenty minutes. Unfortunately the underlying stress manifested itself into horrible dreams and I crashed our heap of a car into a really expensive one (with the driver still in it), my son was sick everywhere and the mafia didn’t like my story and came to get me. I woke in the early hours feeling really sick with a pounding head and a touch of panic attack. In a nutshell I was quite ill and refused to do any more launch parties or publishing ever again. Four hours later someone in America bought my e-book and suddenly I started to feel better and capable of considering well...maybe just once more. Having babies was a bit like that for me...but I definitely plan to stop at two where that’s concerned!


Anyway, people seemed to enjoy themselves, the atmosphere was so welcoming, positive and friendly and the children loved it. Sunday night my son told us how proud he was of his mum and said he would like to get both me and his dad gifts. “For daddy,” he exclaimed “I would like to get you some moves.’ We looked at each other and thought we’d misheard. Had he gone all American on us and started calling films movies? Was he confused and struggling to explain himself? We scrunched our noses like it was sweet and encouraged him to go on and tell us what he meant but we found that what he had said was exactly what he had meant. “You know,” he willed us to understand, “Moves. I would like to teach dad some he can dance.” Oh how we laughed! (OK in truth Oh how I laughed.) My husband had just been dissed by his seven year old son and I think it’s very funny because last week apparently I was boring.


Anyway the books sold very well and the reviews are already coming in on the first few chapters. I can say at this stage I am still happy and nobody has demanded to have their money back...yet! They can’t have their money back anyway dancing lessons cost a fortune and, according to my son, we’re going to need quite a few! The launch also provided some very good contacts so I’m keeping my fingers crossed at this stage, which is very difficult when you’re trying to type.


Now the books have been born and sent into the big wide world and for the foreseeable future it’s all about the promotion. At the end of last week I opened up a Twitter account. I have 4 followers and not a clue as to what I‘m doing. The person who helped me to set it up said, “Right you’re ready to go. Just harass famous people and ask them to re-tweet you.” So that’s what I’ve been doing and guess what...yes...they all ignored me! Anyone would think I wasn’t the only one bombarding them with messages. It’s not as easy as Facebook in terms of ‘making friends’ (the Twitter equivalent being to attract ‘followers’). If you’re feeling low about yourself then Twitter is not for you, because opening up to find only 4 people care about what you have to say (2 of which you don’t even know and probably just followed you by accident) and everyone you messaged has ignored you, is very soul destroying. Almost as soul destroying as submitting your work to agents only to be continuously rejected. On Facebook you can make a friend, look through their list of friends to see who else you know and make friends with them too. Before you know it you have hundreds of people you can connect with and, more to the point, they interact with you. On Twitter you stare at a blank search box and think, right I know lots of first names but the only people whose surnames I remember are famous, and we’ve established they aren’t talking to me! I might give up with Twitter. I do have an obsessive personality but heavy stalking isn’t really my kind of thing. I think it would need to be for me to get anywhere with the re-tweet thing.


Finally, as a last little shout out, I would just like to let you in on a little story about my good friend who works in a cafe (that serves fab bacon butties and pukka cups of tea). She is steaming ahead with the sale of my books. I am genuinely wondering what her sales pitch is but I’m guessing it goes something like this, “Here’s your jacket potato, Sir. Can I get you anything else to go with that, some extra cheese, tuna, a side of coleslaw or perhaps a copy of Poker Face?” I am half way through my collection of books and I’ve not yet had them a week! Now three boxes are gone and I no longer have to worry about my home looking like Rodney and Del boy’s flat! Keep it up, Heather. How you’re doing it I just don’t know but what I do know is...I’M LOVING IT! X


Cheers for the support and for reading my little rambles and take care, from me.


Jess x


Stand and deliver...


Dear all,


OK, so I promised myself that I would keep blogging away on a weekly basis and I have failed this week but, in my defence, I have been a little bit busy. Let me update you.


I have sent my work off to a printing company and it is currently being printed, bound and boxed as I write! Unless something self destructs Poker Face should definitely be ready in paperback format by 26th November 2011. Do I deliver on tight deadlines or what??? As for e-books they have beaten the paperbacks to it. By the time you read this post, Poker Face will be available on Amazon for Kindle and many other devices and, as if that’s not a huge buzz alone, it will also be available across Europe and America too. I am like soooo excited! 


This was a mission I must confess and to make matters harder my laptop is officially crap! Every time I ask it to do something it needs to prepare itself, psych itself up a bit, think about it, mull it over, weigh it up, and then eventually it disconnects from the internet and pushes me that little bit closer to the edge of insanity. I wonder when I’ll start laughing and not caring anymore. Or maybe I am and I just haven’t noticed. I better keep a record of the time, any unaccounted for lapses could be an indication that I’ve been singing or dancing in public.  


Emotionally it has been very hard at times, trying to pull myself in so many different directions. Just a few days ago I went looking for reassurance from my daughter (big mistake). She was playing with her dolls (they have American accents – how did that happen, she’s just turned four! Quite good they are too!) I asked her; who is more beautiful, mummy or Barbie? Do you know what she said? Hmmmm yeah don’t pretend you don’t know what she said. But I bet you can’t guess the reason why Barbie is more beautiful than Mummy. No, it’s not because she has great assets. No, it’s not because she doesn’t have a mark on her body or any hair on her legs. No, it’s not even because her legs are long or her hair is blonde and perfect. You are frowning now and wondering what on earth could it be that gives Barbie that edge?  Here it is, brace yourselves, it’s because her arms go all the way round in a big circle without her having to turn her hands! How can I compete with that? Even plastic surgery would fail to bring me up to that standard of womanliness!


As if that’s not enough, this week my son told me I’m boring. No matter how hard I try I am never going to live up to the 360 degree lifestyle their dad offers them. I’d say they have probably spent most of their young lives upside down! I need to work on a more exciting way of serving meals, cooking, cleaning, doing the school run, trips to the park, Wacky Warehouse and sweet shops, whilst fitting in a bit of writing here and there! Clearly I’m not doing it with enough enthusiasm. Bless him he does feel guilty for saying I forgive him.


So, anyway, I have a party to organise with a mafia theme and I’m looking forward to that bit. I’m avoiding picking up my proof of the book because it’s already gone to print and I know I will spot an error and then beat myself up over it. I must keep myself busy in other ways. I think a very good place to start is peanut butter on toast and a nice cuppa. In a strange way I feel like I can relax, everything is out of my hands now save for the promotion (that I’ve got my son doing as a punishment for calling me boring). Kidding, I haven’t, but he’s very excited and keeps telling people, like his teachers at school, we are having a book launch party and you can come if you want. I have told him it’s not his job, he doesn’t need to worry about it, he’s young, free, and should be wearing that damn sandwich board I made him!


Right I’m off and the next post will probably be me acting like a child, sitting on the floor, refusing to put my dress on or do my hair because I can’t face all the people I have invited to the book launch. They might ask me something and I will probably crumble! I can shout from the rooftops for other people but, for myself, I can’t even climb the ladder! People say to me ‘Wow you’ve written a book! What’s it about?” I respond with “I don’t know, sorry, better go my son is holding up traffic with his sandwich board.” Perhaps I should spend my tea and toast time researching how to sell myself. Probably better not type that into Google though.


See ya guys and take care.


Jess x  




Tick tock

Dear all,


The time has come, blog 3!


When I started this blog business ohhhh...two weeks ago now (she says distantly like she can only just recall that very first click of the ‘post’ button), I made a promise to myself that I would hit that post button at least once a week. Ugh who pressed fast forward on the remote control of life? No, seriously who did it and can you please just press stop...or pause...or something! Anything but play or fast forward would be good because while writing this I only have two days left to keep from breaking my promise and nothing seems to be funny anymore! This is catastrophic because, unfortunately, I don’t know anything useful or knowledgeable and so I can’t part with any pearls of wisdom. That’s why the blog is supposed to be funny! OK breathe, count to ten and start again.


This right here is blog three and, as you might be able to tell from my opening rant and ramble, things are hotting up a bit, well actually quite a lot. So much so in fact you could probably fry an egg on me but I’m not saying that out loud else my husband will try it. He’s very practical minded. My current position is this; I have declared to a small fraction of the population (I like to refer to them as my friends and family and their friends and family) that my book will be available to e-books via Amazon at the beginning of November 2011. I now have four days to go until the said beginning of November 2011 and I have an 86,000 word novel to read through for like the millionth time and approximately ninety-six hours to get the hang of this damn punctuation business. Oh how I wish I’d listened in well as French, and maths, and geography and...Oh how I wish I’d listened! It’s strange because my theory behind not listening in maths was, ‘When am I ever going to need algebra? For French my theory was, ‘How am I ever going to afford to go to France, I can’t even afford the bus home from school?’ As for English language, what was I thinking? Your guess is as good as mine on this one. How about, ‘When will I ever need to know how to construct a sentence and punctuate it correctly?’ No, that doesn’t really work does it?  


So, basically, it’s too late to look back now and I’m running out of time! On Sunday a good friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you self publish and get some paperback books ready for when you upload to Amazon?’ I nodded trying to do maths in my head and failing miserably. I looked kind of like I’d been given some very bad news and I was trying to come to terms with it whilst only just keeping from crying. On Wednesday another friend said ‘Why don’t you have a launch party where the paperback books can be available and then sign all the first copies? The money you make can pay for the first print run and probably cover some of the second print run!’ let me tell you I was excited. In my head I’d opened up my own Waterstones! I repeat, I have four days and it is 4.45pm on Thursday already. I still need to go to Wacky Warehouse before dinner because I promised the kids! Where’s that blinking remote?


I sat down and thought long and hard about what I was going to do yesterday morning and the long, short, thin and wide of it is that I’m going to go for it (not opening my own Waterstones that’s just silly, I’ll never get that done before the end of November! Come on be realistic!) No, I’m going to push back the upload to Amazon to perhaps the middle or end of November but the aim is still definitely for November. I have enlisted the services of my friend, Tracy, today. Poor her! She was the woman I worried sick with my annoyingly laid back and eleventh-hour attitude when she served as my maid of honour. Bless her, I recall that look of shock and the slight protest she made when I insisted on arranging all of my own flowers and bouquets the evening before the big day. She paled when I insisted on decorating the venue the very morning of the ceremony but she absolutely and unmistakably drew the line at preparing the buffet. Try as I might she just wouldn’t budge on that one! I am pleased to say that she has once again agreed to help me, with the arrangements for the launch not another wedding, and I can’t thank her enough. This evening I am also going to try and talk another friend, Heather, around. She has no idea (he he) she thinks she’s coming round for dinner but I’m buttering her up with a curry (not literally that’s just plain kinky and wrong).


I must confess I felt a little overwhelmed for a time yesterday and then I thought...and what about the blog? By the way I’m trying for as many different ways to corrupt and abuse the laws of punctuation so keep note all those avid English language enthusiasts for whom my errors are glaringly obvious. I know they’re there I just don’t know where they are!


In true ‘me’ fashion, and those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook will already know from my status updates, I decided that struggling for time, inspiration and sanity, seemed like as good a time as any to paint my bedroom. I have a book that needs to be ready for publishing in a week’s time and rather than read it and make sure everything is where it should be I decided to do some DIY. It's like being at uni all over again! Hmmm I have an essay to do, the deadline is in two days, but that kitchen cupboard really needs now! Bedroom looks fab though, deep purple and...some other colour. Looks well sexy! I was really pleased until my husband said 'that's brilliant, Jess, I'm really proud look you didn't get any paint on the floor!'


And yes of those of you who are wondering I did manage to get accepted into a university having left school with only two GCSE’s, an ‘A’ in drama and a ‘C’ in English Literature. Even more surprising, I graduated three years later with an LLB Law degree. Am I a mystery or what? Do I challenge every school of thought out there? Yes I am and yes I do!


As for the blog, I thought why not keep everyone updated of my progress towards the ‘Live November’ deadline, which I have only just labelled my impossible mission.


PS this kids play area I am currently writing my blog in is manic, man! I’m getting a headache. Some child keeps shouting ‘Mum, mum. Look at me. Look at me.’ I wish her mum would pay attention and answer her and then she might stop yelling and distracting me! Oh I just realised she’s my child and if I don’t get her down from the huge pink suspended ball she’s currently hanging from all the blood is going to rush to her head. It’s time for me to go in, in my knee high boots and fairly short dress. I’m so not dressed for this. I think I might get arrested. What’s the sentence for indecent exposure these days, does anyone know? I should know really as I studied law but then, once again, I don’t appear to have been listening.


I know what you’re thinking (no not that it’s rude and not very friendly). You’re thinking I should be watching my children in the play area and I am, honestly I am, but I am also writing my blog at the same time. It’s that or watch the play area constantly being careful not to watch someone else’s child for too long and seem like a weirdo. Alternatively I could read the complimentary copy of the Sun newspaper but I don’t feel much like being panicked into believing that aliens have just landed and they are now trying to claim benefits unfairly. Neither do I fancy being made to feel inadequate by the newsworthy spread on page three, just my roast chicken on a Sunday can do that. I’m sure those birds have had work done you know. They regularly feed five adults and six children on a weekend at my house, people would go hungry on mine!


Anyway, enough about chicken breasts and page three models I have a book to publish. Let the countdown commence!


Take care from me,


Jess x          

Come on let's get honking!

Dear all,


Here it is, my second ever post and it's all about honking. I hope some of you can relate.


I have done a few things in my time but there are still a lot of things I haven’t done. I must confess I am a bit of a scaredy cat (OK so I am a lot of a scaredy cat, but I have my reasons). Anyway, recently my husband and I decided to take a trip by scary Eurostar (derailing under the sea rates about number 4 on my ‘Worst Ways to Go’ list) but I was feeling brave so we went. I handled the tunnel very well, considering how wrong it is, and we were sat on a table of four with a couple who had recently married. They were lovely and taking their first break away together, a long weekend in Brussels. We chatted, they shared their food with us, they laughed at how freaked out I was about tall buildings, staying in a room above the 7th floor, travelling full stop and the possibility that I might starve to death because I couldn’t speak the language.


So, in conclusion, the Eurostar was pretty great, our travelling companions were great and I would definitely do it again. However, when we reached Brussels I was tired, it was dark, I didn’t know where I was and I’m not too hot on French. At that point I began to regret having spent most of my secondary school years sitting with my feet on the table singing the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses whilst checking out the fit lad on the desk behind...who incidentally was not checking out me!


We left the station and joined a taxi queue, the kind that you would expect to see at 3am on a night out, except it moved much quicker. I never would have had time to finish a bag of chips or a kebab (if I liked kebabs, which I don’t, but it’s just an example so you get the idea). Taxis were crammed about five cars wide onto a roundabout as they edged bumper to bumper to get closer to the people standing in the queue. When it got to our turn a man jumped out and shouted at us “Get in! Get in!” as if a tornado was about to strike and he was going to save our lives by giving us a our hotel. Suddenly he stopped and checked us out like he’d thought better of it and we had the following conversation:-


     “Where are you going?”


     “Sheraton, S’il vous plait,” we confirmed. He threw his hands into the air and gasped like we’d said, ‘to the moon and back and make it snappy’.


     “That is too far! In this traffic we will get stuck. It will take ages. No I can’t take you. It will cost you 20 Euros! You want to go or not?” We looked at each other, smirked and agreed to pay the 20 Euros to take a journey that took us only twenty-five minutes to walk back a couple of days later...with our luggage, blisters and a broken toe.


Once in the car we weaved our way off the roundabout and moved into more traffic, braking suddenly and beeping the whole time. I must admit I was shocked. When I looked to my left and saw a car full of men staring back at me that we had only minutes before honked at I slid down in my seat out of view. I wondered whether it would seem rude to lean into the front, right across our driver, and slam my hand down on his central locking system. He beeped at people who were sitting for too long at lights, people who cut across the lanes and I’m sure sometimes he just beeped out of habit because I couldn’t see anyone doing anything wrong...but then I was on the back floor of the car hiding. I couldn’t see very much of anything. 


I don’t think I need to tell you but despite my concerns we made it to our hotel in one piece and lived to see out a romantic weekend. But as I woke the morning after our taxi ride, twenty floors above ground level (again very wrong), with the windows open (don’t worry we couldn’t fit through them. I checked) I soon became aware of the combination of sirens and horns living in harmony with each other. In truth by the end of the weekend I was getting used to hearing them, and when I woke very early on our last morning I felt reassured when the silence made way for the tune of a busy and beautiful city.


What struck me upon our return was how quiet London was in comparison. There was still the noise of traffic, building, shouting and the occasional beep but other than that it was peaceful. I concluded, therefore, that the reason the beeping was so shocking to me was because I’m not really used to it. I haven’t been exposed to it on a regular basis. Usually beeping one’s horn fits into four categories as far as I’m concerned (1) Trying to point out that the lights have just turned green – but usually after waiting a while to see if the driver notices for themselves (2) To say Hi to someone you know (3) You’re passing a picket line and someone’s holding up a banner that says ‘Honk your horn if you support us’ and you do or (4) Because someone is so impatient or damn rude that they think it’s OK to bully people into doing what they want them to do from the safety of their own car. Thankfully people who fit into the fourth category are fairly rare, but if I do happen to fall victim to one of them it stays with me for hours. I rant about it to everyone I know and I just can’t seem to let it go.


When someone intimidates me my instincts kick in and I want to cut in front of them, slam on my brakes, pull their door open and throw them into the ditch, while ranting something that rhymes with where I’ve just put them and begins with ‘son of a’. Instead I bite my tongue for fear of making matters worse and seethe internally until I think I’m going to burst and I’ve got a headache.


I believe that what I experienced in Brussels was a slant on the first of my categories, giving someone a nudge with an added continental ‘just letting you know I’m still here’ and minus the ‘perhaps if I wait a few minutes they might realise the lights have turned green for themselves without anyone having to do anything uncomfortable’, which leads me onto my next observation; expression. We don’t tend to embrace our neighbours like we haven’t seen them since...oh long has it been...yesterday? Big groups of teenage males don’t tend to kiss and hug like they really do love each other and when someone annoys us we simmer rather than explode. Perhaps if we expressed ourselves more openly and on a more regular basis category (4) people would be less offensive and less likely to be chased and threatened with a crook lock or put in the ditch, even if it is only in my imagination.


We could all beep at each other constantly and to the point that our streets would sound like the checkouts at Tesco the day before Christmas. We could all relax more and say ‘I don’t give a monkeys that I’m still at the lights when they’ve just turned green, you’re not the first person to beep at me, you certainly won’t be the last and for your information I’m checking out the sexy knee high boots in that window, so you’re just going to have to WAIT!’


Take care and safe driving.


Jess x



Selling myself...not literally you understand!

Dear all,


This is my very first Blog and, a bit like being asked to think of new user name and password, suddenly my mind has gone completely blank.  I’m looking around the room for inspiration but all I can think of is ‘door’, don’t ask me why.


Well, let me start at the beginning, that’s always a pretty good place to begin. The whole reason this Blog business came about for me was all down to a webpage I set up to promote and sell my novels. I have written a number of books aimed at the young adult and cross over market but breaking into the big bad world of publishing is like trying to devour a gobstopper. It’s bloody hard work, sometimes it feels impossible and it makes things in the head region ache quite a bit. Anyway, I decided that rather than spend all of my time acting like Oliver Twist, “Please Sir/Madam can you read some more,” I would take the bull by the horns. I would see what could be done as an individual going it alone ‘literary speaking’ with no backup. I feel like one of the three little pigs, absolutely petrified, but hiding behind a brick wall won’t get my books read now will it? So, instead, here I am cringing behind a wall of straw desperately praying that it doesn’t tumble down around my ears.


I hadn’t a clue when it came to web design other than the following obvious mathematical calculation:-


Web designer + £800 = a cool interactive website that makes you a cup of tea while it promotes your work for you.


Well, my husband and I have just been to Brussels to celebrate our wedding anniversary so there goes one element of the calculation straight away (£800) which in turn means no web designer. Instead I trawled the internet, opening myself up to all sorts of computer abuse and hackers, downloading this and that and happily free trial-ing until I found a nifty little website called WIX. WIX allows you to set up your own webpage...wait for it...for free! Yay! Of course I have to make my own tea but I’m fussy about how much milk I have anyway. All I actually wanted was a page that said “I WRITE BOOKS PLEASE READ THEM” but I have been pleasantly amazed at how much knowledge I have gained along the way. It's true that my laptop was nearly launched through the window on more than one occasion. But I now have an interactive website with links, pages, pictures and most importantly an extract, blurb and cover picture for my debut novel, POKER FACE, which should be available to Kindle and e-reader by November 2011. I am like so pleased!


If you would like to check out my site it can be found at or just type my name Jess Sturman-Coombs into Google and select the site you are looking for. I have even discovered all about URL’S and added mine to the trawling function carried out by big named sites such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. So, if I’m lucky - and if I’ve done it correctly which I probably haven't - they will find my site and list it to help me generate more traffic (which I have also discovered is people browsing the internet and not heavy articulated lorries). Go me!


So, anyway, as part of my lovely new website I was given the option to create a Blog so create one I did and, I’m guessing you’ve already worked it out by now so I’m not holding out for any surprised expressions, here it is! Da da!


I thought I’d better keep it short and sweet but in my next post I will tell you all about Brussels, and my theory on why it’s OK to beep your horn at people over there but likely to get you chased and threatened with a crook lock over here.


Thanks for reading and best wishes.


Jess Sturman-Coombs

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