Posts Tagged Judith Cutler

Head Count by Judith Cutler

I’ve written before about Judith Cutler, known as Birmingham’s queen of cosy crime. She has a knack of creating feisty female lead characters and also a prolific output. Judith knows her fan base well and how to please them, which she does time and time again. Her books are very readable and so I was pleased to hear about her latest novel, Head Count. This is the second in a series of novels featuring Jane Cowan, a primary school head teacher. 

In Head Count, Jane Cowan gets mixed up in the horrors of people smuggling, in particular children arriving in the UK alone and having to fend for themselves. It is cosy crime with a realistic and very topical sharp edge. As a writer I found the structure of this book very interesting. Generally, crime fiction begins with a body on page one and then the hunt is on to find the killer. In Head Count, Judith Cutler takes a different tack. The story starts with Jane being knocked off her bike and into a hedge. She’s not badly hurt and an elderly couple help her back on her feet – but when Jane later goes to their house to thank them with flowers, the couple have disappeared into thin air. From that point on the mysterious happenings come thick and fast – no local builder will touch the renovations needed to Jane’s house, a village do-gooder constantly interferes with Jane’s school and two small boys with no English keep turning up at the school’s breakfast club.
If you want to find out how to create a layered mystery rather than a traditional whodunnit, Head Count is worth a read.

Head Count is authentic and well-researched. As well as being a head teacher, Jane Cowan is also a cricket umpire and match descriptions and after match socialising events in the novel feel real. Jane Cowan also has friends in the police and I’m guessing that Judith Cutler does as well – the police involvement in the book appears true to life, in particular there’s a clever piece of advice included in the narrative about how to make a 999 on a mobile phone when you are in the process of being kidnapped and can’t speak out loud to the operator. It’s worth reading the book just for this advice – it might save your life one day!

Judith Cutler is not afraid to tackle topical and controversial  issues but she does so in an empathetic and accessible way. If you like your cosy crime to be relevant to today’s society, rather than 1930s golden age, Judith Cutler is an author to watch out for and Head Count is a good place to start.

Now I’m off to catch up with the first book in the Jane Cowan series, Head Start.

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The Promise – Cover Reveal!

Exciting times! I can now reveal the fantastic cover of my forthcoming grip-lit novel, The Promise, to be published 28th January 2018.
Ta Dah!

The Promise by Sally Jenkins

As yet, the back cover is not finalised but the proposed ‘blurb’ is:

A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares have begun again for Olivia Field.
Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger brother must be ensured. She calls in a promise made thirty years ago in a prison cell.
Tina’s terrible blackmail demands put Olivia’s entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat.
“Jenkins spins a web of intrigue” – Judith Cutler

At this point I’d like to give a very grateful shout-out to two of the very few people who have read the book so far:

Womag writer, Sharon Boothroyd acted as my beta reader and gave valuable feedback on the parts of the story where what was in my head didn’t quite make it on to the page. Thank you for your patience and constructive comments, Sharon!
Prolific series crime writer, Judith Cutler read The Promise and gave me a great shout line for the front cover, ‘Jenkins spins a web of intrigue’. Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to read my book, Judith.

The Promise is now available for paperback pre-order, either from Amazon, Waterstones and other book shops or direct from The Book Guild. Why not treat yourself and get a lovely, brand new, first edition (!) paperback book through the post in the dark days of January?

Alternatively, leave me your email address and I’ll send you a reminder about the publication date in January and let you know when the e-book editions become available (should be the new year too).

And if any of you bloggers out there would be willing to host a guest post/interview spot around January 28th or into February 2018 please get in touch. I would be grateful for any help with publicity! I can be emailed at sallysjenkins ‘at’ btinternet.com (replace ‘at’ with @).

Thank you all for sticking with me over the years.

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Achieve Your Writing Goals

Back in May I went on a day course in London run by the very successful Joanna Penn and Orna Ross entitled How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing. 
We covered lots of topics to do with writing, publishing, money, income streams etc and I came away inspired. Needless to say, these things take time and I’m not yet (!) making a living from writing. However, I wanted to tell you about one very simple but motivating exercise that we did.

At the end of the day each course participant was given a sheet of paper and asked to note down their writing goals for the next three months. We were also given a stamped envelope, asked to address it to ourselves and put our sheet of writing goals inside. Joanna and Orna collected the envelopes, stored them for three months and then posted them.

My list of goals arrived through the letterbox a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t remember exactly what targets I’d set myself (they’d been written at the end of a long day when I was full of enthusiasm for everything I’d just learned) so I was prepared to see a list of over-ambitious stuff I hadn’t done. But there was a nice surprise – all three goals had been achieved:

  • Started the publishing process for my second grip-lit novel, The Promise.  At the time I wrote this goal the novel was under consideration by The Book Guild and I’d decided that if they turned it down I would embark on the self-publishing route rather than join the masses knocking at every agent’s door. Happily, The Book Guild felt The Promise had commercial potential and I’ve now seen the cover (it will be revealed it in a later post), had a lovely endorsement by crime writer Judith Cutler and had the typeset proofs. Publication day is 28th January 2018!
  • Create a boxed set of my three short story collections in e-book and paperback format. Done and blogged about. The proof (should you need it) is on Amazon and Kobo in the form of A Coffee Break Story Collection : 36 Short Stories
  • Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to reflect the lessons learned as I created the paperback version of the boxed set and also to include other changes in KDP since I’d last updated the book. A tick for that one as well! The updated book is now available.

Last weekend I exchanged my next set of goals with my writing buddy, Helen Yendall (we managed to talk writing for 4 hours – can you believe that?!) and we’ll meet again in November to see how we did.

Do you make goals? How do you make yourself accountable?

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Guilty as Sin by Judith Cutler

I first met prolific crime writer, Judith Cutler eighteen months ago at a Disney Laureate event in

Judith Cutler

Judith Cutler

Birmingham. Since then we’ve kept in touch and I’ve been on the reviewers’ list for her new publications. A few weeks ago I read Guilty as Sinher third novel to be published within the short time we’ve known each other (Judith has written over 40 novels in total).

I asked her about this huge output and how she went about achieving it. This is what she told me:

All my life I’ve worked full-time, for thirty years in the highly challenging world of further education, where there weren’t enough hours in the week to do everything. But even then I had the writing bug, and when it bit hard in my later thirties and forties I managed to scrape together little oases of writing time while still doing my day job.

I gave up full-time teaching at 50 and the only way I could survive financially was to do a variety of other jobs to support my writing addiction – even though I had contracts with two separate publishers and got commissions to write short stories. Gradually I was able to shed the non-writing jobs, but the drive to work at something was still strong.

Nearly twenty years later it still is. The truth is, I suppose that I no longer appreciate the calm of empty hours. Even – especially – in the garden, I get ideas I want to write about. Playing tennis and doing Pilates have given me themes or plots for novels. Church? Plots aplenty there! Voluntary work at the local school? Ballroom dance? Antiques fairs? I’m lucky that I don’t write books about international spies or people living the high life, because I’d have to spend years of research. I simply write about what I know with the magic question, ‘What if?’, always buzzing in my head.

My working day is very flexible, because I’ve got to the age where I must build in regular exercise and regular relaxation times. But I usually produce 1000 – 1500 words a day: much more, and my brain doesn’t work the next day. Like all the writers I know, I start by re-reading the previous day’s efforts, editing as I go. Then I push on. I don’t plan the whole book in detail – I like to explore the situation with my protagonist – but I do need to know the ending. It’s nice to have a title in my head too. The start of a series or a standalone is harder work than the sixth or seventh in a series, because I’ve not yet got to know everything about my characters. Everything? No. They still need to surprise me.

I do work at weekends, but never into the evening, because my head fizzes and I can’t sleep.

I think Judith’s words reinforce a truth that we already know – a LOT of hard work is needed to be a success and a writer is never ‘off duty’.

Guilty as Sin is a crime novel set in the world of valuable antiques. The heroine, Lina, is an expert in restoring old china. The plot revolves around the theft of valuable artefacts from churches and also from a confused old lady. There’s no murder but Lina does find herself in physical danger as she tries to work out who she can and can’t trust.
This book is a gem for fans of cosy crime and those who like solving puzzles. It’s the sixth in Judith’s Lina Townend series but can also be read as a stand-alone novel. However, be warned, it may tempt you to seek out all the rest!

 

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Do Contemporary References ‘Date’ a Novel?

I recently read A Green and Pleasant Land by Judith Cutler.  A Green and Pleasant Land by Judith CutlerIt’s a contemporary cold case crime novel and very engaging. Years ago an abandoned car was found containing a dead, disabled baby. The child’s mother and sibling were missing, feared dead and have never been found. What happened to them?

One of the things I particularly liked about the story was the many topical references to current events and today’s technology – these made the story much more immediate and real for me. One of Judith’s characters is a police and crime commissioner, there are references to the Huhne & Pryce speeding ticket fiasco, the sad case of Madeleine McCann and the terrible flooding that has hit areas of the country over the last few years. The two retired police officers investigating the cold case use iPads and have a coffee machine which uses pods.

Then I thought that anybody picking up this book in five or ten years time might find the technological references rather quaint and may not remember or have ever been aware of the current events mentioned. Would this spoil their enjoyment of the novel? Would they deem it old-fashioned? I asked Judith for her comments.

” I usually make my novels as topical as I can, because they tend to be library-only editions and therefore as evanescent as a may-fly.

Judith Cutler

Judith Cutler

So when rain and floods messed up my research, I decided to turn that to a strength, so it messed things up for my detectives too.  A good police commissioner is as rare as a hen’s wisdom tooth, so it was obvious I could use one as a baddie. McCanns? Can you write about a missing child without mentioning them? So yes, a snapshot of 2014. Some might call this meticulous research, others opportunism.”

So the nature of the way Judith’s books are published means she doesn’t worry about how they may appear some years down the line. And probably most writers are more concerned about the immediate impact of a book on its publication day rather than in the future when sales have dwindled and readers attention has drifted elsewhere.

Judith’s going historical for her next book and finding it much more difficult to get the facts right.

” I’m currently setting a book in 1813 and some historical facts are proving a damned nuisance. How can my hero waltz in April 1813 when the waltz didn’t appear till about 5 months later? There’s no national police force to summon to his rescue and I’d give a lot for some penicillin too. I’m not a proper historian but I’m going to get 1813 right. If a novelist boobs over details, can you trust him or her with the big picture?”

In a few decades time people may read ‘A Green and Pleasant Land‘ as a historical novel and enjoy learning the small details of how we lived in 2014. So maybe it’s a good thing to stuff in all those contemporary references – what do you think?

 

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Three E-Books (not mine!) and a Workshop

I’ve three lots of e-reading to tell you about today (plus a novel-writing workshop) so get your Kindles, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets at the ready …

Firstly, Wendy Clarke has launched her first collection of short stories. Room in Your Heart by Wendy Clarke
Wendy is a prolific and successful women’s magazine fiction writer. She’s had around 90 stories published over the last three years – phenomenal!
Her collection, Room in Your Heart, comprises twelve romantic short stories that have previously appeared in People’s Friend. It’s worth taking a look if you’d like to write for People’s Friend or if you just love a good dose of romance!
The book is available on Amazon and I’m sure Wendy won’t mind you gate-crashing the launch party over on her blog – pop in and say hello (and see what she has to say about Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners).

 

Secondly, the e-magazine for fiction lovers, Kishboo has now formally launched. Kishboo Edition 1
It is available free online or as an Android app and very cheaply for Kindle.
The magazine is running a short story competition and is also looking for articles and readers’ letters. Have a look at the first edition online and see if you can spot any familiar names among the contributors.

 

 

 

Thirdly, you may remember me talking about Judith Cutler’s new crime novel Death in Elysium a few monthsDeath in Elysium ago.
At the time it was only available in a rather expensive hardback edition but now it’s out as a not-quite-so-expensive e-book. It’s the first in a new series of crime novels featuring city girl/vicar’s wife/sleuth, Jodie Welsh. Take a look at it on Amazon.

 

 

And now the workshop:
Romantic novelist, Alison May, is running a ‘Developing Your Novel’ workshop on Sunday 15th November at The Hive in Worcester. It costs a reasonable £40 which includes lunch and refreshments. It is aimed at people who already have a novel-in-progress (at any stage). It will include intensive sessions on plot structure and characterisation, and will also look at skills such as writing a synopsis and editing and revising your novel. Full details on Alison’s website.

Phew, I’m exhausted after telling you all that lot. Time to curl up with a good book …

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Death in Elysium by Judith Cutler

Have you ever fancied creating your own cosy crime ‘detective’ to star in a series of books? Death in Elysium

If so, take a look at Judith Cutler‘s latest novel, Death in Elysium, published by Severn House.

Judith is an old hand at creating strong female leads to solve a variety of crimes. She’s written series featuring lecturers, caterers, antique dealers and resting actresses. Death in Elysium is her first novel to feature vicar’s wife, Jodie Welsh.

But Jodie isn’t your typical vicar’s wife. She accumulated her fortune working in the City and has been made redundant. She falls in love and marries Theo, a widower and parish priest with a small town lifestyle completely different to the London life that Jodie is used to. Adjusting to the role of vicar’s wife is not easy and the parishioners give her a mixed reception.
Jodie employs a local teenage ne’er do well, Burble, as her gardener. But Burble goes missing and Jodie discovers strange building work going on in a nearby valley. The mystery deepens as someone tries to mow Jodie down with a car and a church warden is knocked unconscious.
Jodie needs all her contacts and skills from her past life to work out what is going on …

I asked Judith to explain how Jodie Welsh came into being.
“My experience as a village-dweller and as a practising member of the C of E came together in Jodie. Brash new-comers aren’t always the most welcome people in Kentish villages, and clergy wives are under particular scrutiny, since they’re often supposed to conform to an unwritten set of rules – rules poor Jodie never even knew existed since her relationship with her husband is so new.”

Judith planted a few characteristics within Jodie that will ensure she can stay the course for a series of books.
“Jodie needed a quirk, in this case her love of running, which has the advantage of her being able to spot things others wouldn’t and to take to her heels when necessary. Since clergy aren’t bound to stay in the same parish forever, Jodie and Theo can move to other parts of the country and her private wealth can free Theo to work in areas which will bring new challenges for them both.”

Another aspect of Jodie’s life which I found intriguing was her tendency to compare herself unfavourably to Theo’s deceased wife. I wonder if her insecurities in this area will subside or grow as the series continues.

So, if you fancy getting to know Jodie (and seeing how an experienced author handles the first book in a new series) take a look at Death in Elysium. It’s available now in hardback and will be out as an e-book in October – or why not ask your local library if they can get hold of it for you?

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eBookSoda and the AsparaWriting Festival

This week I’ve got a couple of writing-related things that might interest you.

FirstlyeBookSoda is an e-book promotion newsletter sent daily, and free of charge, to readers’ inboxes.  Until March 26th 2014 it is FREE to advertise your e-book in the newsletter. After this date there will be a $5 cost to have an e-book mentioned in the newsletter.

So why not get your skates on and click here to get a bit of free publicity for your book? The book doesn’t have to be on a discounted or free special offer (although many of them are) – it must just be $4.99 or less and have at least eight reviews with an average star rating of 3.5.

Alternatively, if you simply want to hear about the e-books available (many of which are on special offer) sign up for the eBookSoda free newsletter.

Secondly, crime novelist Judith Cutler has brought the AsparaWriting Festival to my attention. It is specifically designed for aspiring writers. During the event you can learn from the professionals about writing crime, history, comic or straight fiction and poetry. There are events scheduled from 23rd April 2014 to 21st June 2014 in the Evesham area.

There’s also a short story competition with a £100 first prize and a trophy. The story should be no more than 6,000 words (3,000 for junior entries), written in English, set in the Vale of Evesham or the Cotswolds, should fit into the crime genre and include asparagus. But you’ll have to start writing now – the closing date is March 29th 2014.

Happy Writing!

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Remember I told you here about being shortlisted as Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate for the Midlands and having to read my story over the telephone? Well, I won! Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

Last week I went along to the Disney Store in Birmingham to receive my certificate and read the story to a group of children. It was exciting – TV and newspaper cameras turned up along with a professional photographer organised by the PR company. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham and the Lady Mayoress attended in their chains of office and last, but by no means least, Birmingham crime novelist Judith Cutler presented my certificate and kept me company through the afternoon. As an added bonus she introduced me to her husband Edward Marston, who writes historical crime fiction.

The media coverage of the event opened my eyes to the small budgets these people work on and how difficult it is to get publicity for anything that’s not hard news.

I’d been told the previous day that ITV Central News would be coming and had agonised over what to wear. Am I the only one who thinks there’s some rule about not wearing stripes, checks or loud patterns in front of TV cameras? Anyway, in the end I went for plain navy blue.

When the camera crew arrived, the ‘crew’ turned out to be a single cameraman (who’d arrived by motorbike) and that was it. I’d been expecting a reporter as well and possibly a sound man. But the cameraman did have one of those big furry microphones.  So, Lina, the Disney PR lady, became the interviewer and stood just out of camera shot whilst she asked questions of Judith and myself. It’s very hard to talk naturally or sensibly when a camera is pointed towards you but you’ve been told not to look at it and when there’s that microphone, which looks like a cute animal, being held out to catch every word. Judith and I did our best. Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

The two photographers had their turn with us next and spent ages posing Judith and I alongside various Disney cuddly toys in the shape of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of their friends from Hundred Acre Wood. They took pictures of us with the Mayor and some children (parents had to sign permission forms) and a giant story book.

After all this, I finally read my story to a group of children who were shopping in the store.

I went home clutching a goody bag of soft toys and a fistful of Disney Store vouchers.  I felt quite a celebrity and couldn’t wait to watch my recording of Central News.
But my TV appearance was short, very short. Either my fears that I was spouting rubbish during the interview were true or everything else going on in the Central TV area that day was much more interesting! They showed a shot of Judith presenting my certificate and then a close up of the certificate and that was it. Neither of us was shown speaking – which in my case was probably just as well …

As for the press, there’s been nothing in the local paper yet despite the length of time the photographer spent with us.

BUT I have been sent some of the pictures taken by the PR company’s photographer AND I have got the platform of this blog to display them. So forgive me for indulging in a little celebrity showing off!

Disney Winnie the Pooh Laureate

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