Friday, September 21, 2012

All I Can Do Is Write About It

Introducing Jessica L. Degarmo and the 'Johns Creek Second Chances' series

It's a beautiful photo, isn't it? But don't be fooled! For Jessica L. Degarmo 'Jess' is surely one of the most colourful characters you will ever meet; and an inspiration to both semi-colon lovers and exhausted working mothers the world over. [What about exhausted fathers? - Ed.]
The Meryl Streep of the literary world, Jess can streepingly seemingly turn her hand to anything, writing effortlessly in any genre. I was honoured, therefore, when she accepted my invitation to pen a few lines on the subject of her choice. Her only condition was, "Yeah, OK, churchypants, but please don't write no stupid intro like what you done for poor Reggie". Those weren't her actual words, of course. Anyway, that's enough waffle, so let's get on with the show...
Sequels and Series, by Jessica L. Degarmo
There are a few authors I really love, and one of the reasons I love them is because they continue to write about characters I fell in love with. For example, Nora Roberts has a wonderful series she writes as J.D. Robb called the In Death Series. The series is about a New York City police detective named Eve Dallas, and the multiple crimes she solves with the help of her amazing team and sexy Irish husband. The characters are real, fascinating, and seemingly tireless in their search for justice. The topic itself is perfect for a running series as there's always crime, and Robb makes her characters so multi-dimensional, there's a never-ending stream of emotion and circumstance. Even before I started to write, I marvelled at her ability to keep the series running and keep things interesting.
When I started to write, my main goal was just to finish a book. It seemed like it was impossible, but lo and behold, I finally did it, and I discovered a love for writing that sparked the completion of several more novels. I was proud; I had accomplished a major goal and did it in a reasonably short timeframe. But I realized after completing my third or fourth book that I had better come up with something soon, or I'd be out of ideas before I ran out of readers.
My husband, always a very smart man, suggested a series. I was intrigued, but couldn't really figure out what to write about. The novels I'd already written seemed to be complete in and of themselves. There wasn't enough of their story left for me to continue with, and the one novel that everyone begged me to write a sequel to (Six Weeks) was too emotionally taxing and too special for me to ruin with a follow-up. So, here I sat, chewing on the end of my pen and wondering what to write.
A February 2011 snowstorm was sufficient inspiration for my fifth book, The Storm Within, and it was when I was mid-manuscript with that one that an aha! moment occurred. I found that I loved my little fictitious town, Johns Creek, NY. I loved making up the history, putting buildings where I wanted to, and creating a lovely little place with its own heartbeat and, amazingly, fodder for as many follow-ups as I could create. A town was born that day, as was a series. Johns Creek Second Chances is about the town and the people within it, all of whom deserve, and get, a second chance at love. 

Writing a series is a smart move for an author. My goal is now to build a readership who loves the town as much as I do, and keep them reading. Readers like series. They like to get to know a town, a character, to feel at home, to be invested in what the characters do. It helps build real connectivity between the writer and the reader.
I will say, however, that it's not easy. I have a big spreadsheet on my desktop with ages, descriptions, addresses, occupations, etc., of all of the townspeople I've written so far. The worst possible mistake, in my opinion, would be inconsistencies. I also have a very messy fake family tree of the Jonns Family, the founders of Johns Creek.  But it's fun! I enjoy mingling with my townspeople. There's a sort of voyeurism involved, as if I'm looking in windows and listening in on the party line. I've met a lot of great characters already, and there's no limit to who I write about and who they happen to rub elbows with.
Historically Yours is the second book in the Johns Creek Second Chances series, released just last month from Taylor Street Publishing. You'll find some familiar faces there, and meet some new characters who are looking forward to telling you their story. I hope you check it out, and I hope you love them as much as I do.
Warm Regards,
Jessica L. Degarmo

And finally... is my official website, and readers who may want to check out the books can go to
The books can be read in any order, but a gentle caution to readers... there are some spoilers, something that's nearly impossible to do without when you write a town where a lot of people know each other. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Damned For All Time / Blood Money

Introducing Richard 'Reggie' Jones & The Division of the Damned

Ask anyone what they remember about April 5th, 2012, and they will probably reply, 'Wasn't that the day Russian businessman Victor Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison for smuggling weapons to the Colombian FARC guerilla movement?' Others may point out that Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika was taken to Lilongwe's intensive care unit after a cardiac arrest. [Shouldn't be driving around in sports cars at his age - Ed.] Only a few will recall that Umberto Bossi resigned as the head of the Italian Northern League following a corruption scandal; and spare a thought for poor Dominican military general, Pedro Bartolomé Benoit, who passed away at the ripe old age of 91. In brief, April 5th 2012 was a black day all round for the B people of this world.

BUT let us not forget that April 5th 2012 is also the day that Richard Rhys Jones decided to mark my 50th birthday celebrations by releasing his debut novel on our beloved Amazon:

Quick as a flash, I blew out the candles on my cake and proceeded to download Reggie's masterpiece to my Kindle - 'Please confirm your purchase'... 'Are you sure?'... 'It's your money, mate'...-, where it remains unread to this day. But that's another story. 

So, anyway, where were we? Well, not only is Richard 'Reggie' a wonderful writer, he's also a fantastic friend and superb support to his confused cantankerous colourful colleagues over on Tim Brooke-Taylor Street. I could write 20 pages here, but I'll spare Reggie the blushes.

And, to cut a very long story short, Reggie has been running a series of interviews with his colleagues over on his boring bloody brilliant blog, though modesty forbids him from interviewing himself. So, it seemed only fair to me to invite him to answer his own questions here on my blog. Needless to say, Reggie jumped at the opportunity - 'Do you think anyone will read it?' 'Not if we're lucky'... - and here goes my unedited* copy and paste:

*If there are any spelling mistakes, factual errors or rude words, please don't shoot the messenger.

1.) Tell us about yourself

Well, I'm in my mid forties and originally come from Colwyn Bay, the Jewel of Wales that sits between those two "broken-toilet" scrap heaps, Rhyl and Llandudno. I left there aged 16 to join the army and sort of never went back. I now live in Lower Saxony, Germany with my wife, two kids and two cats. God knows how I arrived here, I haven't a clue myself.

2.) What genre do you specialise in?

Horror mainly... well actually only horror. I tried my hand at Romance once but my keyboard had a headache so I left it. I'll just stick with what I'm comfortable with :-)

3.) What's your inspiration?

My inspiration is to make enough money to leave this ghetto. I yearn to walk away from the drive by shootings, the drug dealers, the gangs... and that's just the kindergarten.

4.) Who is your favourite author, why and did he/she inspire you to write in any way?

My fave author is easily... not sure really, there are so many of them. Ken Follett, (is that spelt right?) is a goody, Robert Harris, Bernard Cornwall, Dr. Zeus. All of them good in their own way, none of them boring, especially that last one.

5.) How do you feel about Taylor?

Taylor kicks bottom! No, seriously, it does. I'm so impressed with how everyone is and I'm proud to be a part of it.
Taylor, you ROCK, baby.

6.) What are your plans?

To write this, eat something, mow the lawn and then watch Midsomer Murders tonight.

7.) Go for it, sell your work.

Roll up, roll up, Eels eyelids, powdered gonads, quails knuckles get 'em while they're 'ot, they're laaaaverly! Eels eyelids, powdered gonads, quails knuckles...
Oh! Wrong work, sorry.

Feel free to pay my way out of this God forsaken ghetto by buying my weighty, lovingly crafted tome at this link:

Thanks for having me Mike, (not in the Biblical sense of the word) and I look forward to reading your answers on my Blog some day soon.

Sir, you are a scoundrel and a cad and I gladly salute you for it ;-)

Now, that wasn't nearly so bad as you expected, was it? If you'd like to know more about Reggie's work - or simply see a photo of a girl Reggie fancies - there's another great interview here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shameless / Introducing 'fifty shades of Spain'

‘How’s Miniatures doing?’ asked my wife...

‘Terrible,’ I replied, going into autopilot – my answer to most How? questions these days invariably being, ‘Terrible’. But for only the second time in my life, I was not exaggerating. Mikiatures – “with a K, darling” – took me about one year to write, two months to edit, three months to record, and several years to “promote”, ha ha, via hundreds of invisible blog entries on umpteen worldwide websites. And, since its launch on Amazon six months ago, it has sold a staggering, wait for it, zero copies.

That’s right: Not a single person has bought the sodding book. I think that bold type was justified, don’t you? It was either bold or capitals: NOBODY, NOT EVEN FRIENDS OR FAMILY, WILL BUY MY SODDING BOOK. Hm, I think I prefer the bold. What do you think? The capitals make it look as if I’m angry when in fact this is quite possibly the happiest day of my life (this week), but more on that later. So, anyway, you get the idea: Mikiatures has been a monumentally unqualified failure even by my own diabolically low standards. (For me, “success” means I get an enthusiastic email from a satisfied customer in Blackpool or Boston every six months or so. Dream on…).

So, what went wrong? Well, obviously there’s nothing wrong with the content, so that only leaves the title and cover to consider:

As I’m sure you’ll agree, Mikiatures is an absolutely brilliant title, playing on “Mike” and “miniatures” to produce a unique gem of a word. I then googled the title, just in case some clever clogs had already swiped it, and proceeded to register the domain “” for a bargain $9.95 in anticipation of massive reader interest in years to come. After that, I scoured the net – great word “scour”, isn’t it? – in search of an equally brilliant cover photo, and eventually stumbled upon the perfect picture: a colourful combination of flowers, globes, computer mice, Ws... It had everything Mikiatures was about: travelling the world, reaching out to others, being at one with nature, fighting with technology… it even had the Ws which could be read as Ms, or Ms which could be read as Ws down under. Yes, this was the one!

So I bought the photo for a bargain 20 euros – I’m so legal I still pay for my multimedia products despite living in a pirates’ paradise – and added a couple of final touches: the Spanish, British and Basque flags to show what a global citizen I am (a friendly wink to my huge Basque fanbase); the perfectly positioned Mikiatures in Trebuchet size 54 dark green font to match the Ms and/or Ws in the picture… and Bob’s your uncle!

Finally, I added:
50 stories . . . of 200 words . . . in 5200 seconds

a novel audio book

by Mike Church
 (the ‘dayrealing’ dude)

How I sweated over those 200 words in every story! Boy was it hard to make those audios exactly 5200 seconds! (Impossible, in fact: the audios came out to 4274 seconds, a truly naff number if ever there was one. Anyway, I hope you can keep that little secret?). Whatever, my adoring readers needed to know that a LOT of thought and British brain cells had gone into this work.

Moreover, I reckoned if Randy Ingermanson could call himself “the Snowflake Guy”,  there was no reason why I shouldn’t be “the ‘dayrealing’ dude”, assuming – mistakenly of course – that sales of my debut novel, dayrealing, would be shooting through the roof by now. Yes, I was well pleased with the result. This was surely a megahit in the making? Well, nearly. “Megashit” was the word because – did I tell you this? – I still haven’t sold a single copy of my masterpiece.

It’s a terrible title, and those flowers do nothing for me,’ said my wife, who has never been known for beating about the bush. Or flowers. Whilst no self-respecting would-be-writer will ever admit that his wife knows, er, – how can I put this? – more about writing than he does, I decided to swallow what’s left of my pride and follow her advice. Besides, in the meantime, my wonderful publisher had decided to give dayrealing an overhaul:

OUT went those silly upside-down balloons, cleverly representing a topsy-turvy surreal world together with the main character’s eternal dream to learn to ski in the Swiss Alps; and out went that silly title too. Ouch! I loved that title! Hey, I lived that title!

IN came the churches, in came the schools; in came the lawyers, in came the rules. Hang on a minute, that’s Dire Straits, isn’t it? I’ll try again… In came a picture of a good-looking young man, together with a far more sophisticated title: Huh?

‘How the foog do you pronounce Oog?’ asked my wife.

‘Yes, something like that,’ I replied before adding, ‘Or, better still, buy English for Monosyllabic People, coming soon to an Amazon near you.’

‘Piss off.’

‘That’s Lesson 20, “Let’s be rude!” ’

As if the total makeover wasn’t bad enough, Huh? has since sold considerably better than dayrealing, suggesting that my publisher knows even more about marketing than I do! [On a serious note, thanks a lot, Tim and Kathleen – great job! Do you think I should now rebrand myself as “the ‘Huh?’ hunk”?]

So I decided to do the same with Mikiatures. OUT went the brilliant title and superb cover art, and IN came a suspiciously familiar title, an inevitably Spainful pun, a few random tags and colours for Amazon (50, fifty, shades, grey, Spain, teaching, stories), plus a random cover photo which I liked and bought for a very reasonable €22:

Yes, I know: Shameless! You see, according to the experts – and there are loads of the bastards out there –, the whole point of the front cover is NOT to show what your book is about or how clever you are (or think you are), but rather to draw your would-be reader to the cover copy:

If you were hoping to find a primer on Iberian bondage techniques, you will surely be disappointed by this multicoloured collection of thoughts, anecdotes and stories about home life, school life and street life in anarchic northern Spain.

'fifty shades of Spain'
- a teacher's torrid tale in fifty simple lessons

by Mike Church
- 'Spanglish for Impatient People'

And the blurb’s objective is, of course, to get the would-be reader to buy your sodding book. Cover, Copy, Client! CCC! Sí, Sí, Sí!

Well, time will tell whether this new look makes any difference to my retirement plans but, in the meantime let’s try to carry on enjoying life as best we can, shall we? Oh, and here’s an extract:

The Ties That Bind

‘One of my students said she’d never heard of “identifying relative clauses”.’

‘Oh? Who was that?’

‘You know, the one who’s going out with the butcher’s assistant.’

‘You mean the bald bloke who works down at B and M?’

‘Isn’t that the supermarket where you give classes, Mick?’

‘No, that’s M and B. B and M is where Jill works.’


‘Yeah, Jill. You know, the new girl with the big, er . . .’

‘Big what, Dick?’

‘Never mind. Did any of you lot see that documentary last night?’

‘Which one?’

‘The one about those poor wildebeest that kept getting attacked by cheetahs.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘Well, apparently—’

‘We’ve seen it, Dick! Every documentary these days is about some poor animal or other that gets ripped to
shreds by lions or tigers.’

‘Well, these were cheetahs.’

‘Or cheetahs. So what’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?’

‘You can’t wash your face in a buffalo?’

‘Ha ha ha. Well, according to Wiki—’

‘Oh Lord! Is that the time? I’d better be going.’

‘Hey, remember that time you missed your bus and ended up hitching a lift home with that farmer?’

‘Which farmer?’ . . .

fifty shades of Spain, 38. The Ties That Bind
Thanks for reading J