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2017-2018: New stories and new adventures

Happy New Year!

Here we are again then- another brand new year. A list of potential new year’s resolutions considered- and dismissed- and a determination that this year will be very much better than the one just past are whizzing around our collective minds.

It has to be said that 2017 was an eventful year. My naughty side (Kay Jaybee) had a novella out in January 2017, and then began the process of re-editing all her old novels. Meanwhile, in May my Jenny Kane side saw her second Cornish romance, Abi’s Neighbour, hit the world.

One of the highlights of 2017 has to have been when the amazing Katie Fforde endorsed my work in contemporary fiction, by providing a fantastic quote to be printed on the cover of Abi’s Neighbour. Having been a Katie Fforde fan for many years, this truly was a magic moment for me.

The publication of Abi’s Neighbour, and it’s previously published sister novel, Abi’s House, led to me being invited to the Penzance Literary festival in July. I had so much fun! Not only did I get to sit on a panel with the lovely Liz Fenwick and Teresa Benison, but I was also invited to teach a Life-writing masterclass.

Teresa Beniton, Jenny Kane, Liz Fenwick

A major change came to my writing life in 2017 with the setting up of Imagine – a creative writing workshop business I set up with my friend and fellow author, Alison Knight.  Although we’ve only been in operation since last Spring, we’ve built up a regular following at our classes, and expansion across SW England (and beyond) is afoot.

Not only do we teach group workshops, but we provide one-one classes, and this March we are running our first writing retreat on Exmoor in the stunning Victorian manor of Northmoor. If you want to have a look at all our Imagine information you can find it here- www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

This decision to set up a creative writing business was something I’d been considering for some time. In 2017, with so many publishers either failing or cutting back on their lines, it felt that the time was right to add another string to my bow…and talking of bowstrings…

I was extremely luck last year to be asked to write a couple of audio scripts for the brand new series of Robin of Sherwood. As a life long fan of the show, it was particularly wonderful to be able to put words into the mouths of my favourite characters!

Produced by Spiteful Puppet- these new audio tales- narrated by original cast embers- are available now!! https://spitefulpuppet.com/product-category/robin-of-sherwood/  With luck- if enough copies are sold- then I’ll be thinking up some more Robin of Sherwood stories in the future!

photo by Kim Jones

Of course, you can’t have the ups without the downs, and 2017 saw the medieval crime novels I’d promised you, take a step back from publication. The publisher they were lined up with decided to streamline, and not take on any new historical fiction. This meant I had to find a new home for my Jennifer Ash work. While this was a little frustrating, I am delighted to say that a new home for my work has now been found!

Romancing Robin Hood, The Outlaw’s Ransom, and The Winter Outlaw will all be out in the near future- and I’m already hard at work writing Edward’s Outlaw, for release in the Winter. Watch out for a very special announcement about that later in the week…

And what of my contemporary women’s fiction? Well- my next Jenny Kane novel is complete- watch this space…

***

2017 saw many new adventures (I’d never written a script before in my life for a start!)- I wonder what new adventures 2018 holds?

I hope you all have a very happy and exciting 2018.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 


Mark Norman: Folklore Thinking

Today I’m joined by one of my fellow members of the Exeter Author Association; folklore expert, Mark Norman.  So go and grab a cuppa, then come back and have a read…

Hello. My name is Mark Norman. I am a folklore researcher and author based on the edge of Dartmoor, in the South West of the UK. Although I sometimes stray into the world of fiction, most of my writing is non-fiction, being based around my research. So today, I would like to introduce you to the world of folklore, and my writing within that area.

Folklore essentially boils down to being an examination of the traditions and beliefs of individuals and communities: literally, folk-lore or the beliefs (lore) or the people (folk). It can be seen to span various broader disciplines such as psychology or anthropology, but I prefer to think of it as a part of social history and it is therefore as a history discipline that I tend to work most.

Although I am a committee member of the Folklore Society, the UK’s oldest academic organisation for the study of the subject, I am not affiliated to any institution, being an independent researcher. I am therefore free to focus on whatever aspects of the subject I choose to explore.

My interests within the field of folklore are quite broad, but the areas that I mostly focus on are the more regional aspects of folklore within the area that I live and most particularly, the phenomenon of ghostly apparitions of phantom Black Dogs. This is the aspect of folklore upon which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drew when he wrote what is arguably one of his most famous Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

My most involved publication to date is my book, Black Dog Folklore, which was published in 2015 by Troy Books. To date, this book is the only academic investigation of the subject by a single author. I hold what is thought to be the UKs largest archive of Black Dog sightings, traditions and eyewitness accounts (probably over 1,000 now) and around 700 of these are included in a gazetteer in the appendix of the book.

Publication of Black Dog Folklore was the culmination of around ten years of research, on and off; an undertaking which could have continued for longer had I not taken the decision to draw a line under the research at the time and decide that the book should come out at that stage. One of the difficulties of working in an area of cultural history such as this is that one story will inevitably lead to many more. New information comes to light all the time and stories change and develop. So, although the book is out on the shelves, the work on the subject most definitely continues.

Aside for this full-length study, I publish a lot of short-form articles for magazines, websites and in other places where I am invited (or sometimes cajoled) to contribute. Amongst these, for example, are pieces for Mythology magazine on Christmas traditions, an article on dog bones discovered at an archaeological dig and related to my research for Folklore Thursday website, an article for a personal site on the folkloric links of The Hound of the Baskervilles and a piece on the links between Sirius (the dog star) and dogs in folklore. I was also asked by the producers of one of Sir Tony Robinson’s documentary series’ to advise on some Black Dog lore in the area being discussed.

I have been asked to contribute to, or contribute myself to, various books and anthologies. Most recently I co-authored a chapter on fairies in Devon for a new book called Magical Folk published by Gibson Square and a chapter proposal I was asked to make for a new academic book published by Palsgrave Macmillan is being looked at currently. My fiction short story The Padding Horror which sets some of my research against a fictional backdrop of Victorian Dartmoor in Lovecraftian style was published in the UK as part of a charity anthology called Secret Invasion, to raise money for the mental health charity MIND and is published this month in America in another anthology called Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined.

Another large chunk of my writing time is taken up in script writing. I am the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast which is quite widely listened to around the world. In fact, just a couple of hours ago as I write this, I learned that it is currently ranked at #141 in the US iTunes charts for History. The podcast is released twice a month, with one episode being a guest interview and the other a presentation written by myself. It is admittedly a lot of work to script this frequently alongside other projects and so sometimes I share my research across other projects that I do to help with this. For example, as I speak relatively frequently at conferences or public events, I will sometimes adapt talks for podcast episodes or vice versa.

As far as future book publications go, I am currently planning to release a volume of extended essays on a range of folklore subjects. The backbone of these will be from past scripts I have written for the podcast episodes, which will then be expanded and researched more tangentially to form longer studies suitable for book chapters. I am also looking to work on another longer study of an area of folklore in the same style as Black Dog Folklore. There is another well-known piece of widespread folklore which has not been seriously studied or collected together since the 1930s to which I am hoping to turn my attention.

It is certainly the case that books and writing form a large part of my life. At home I live with my wife Tracey who is also a writer (see her recent blog on this site about her play WITCH for example) and, with a colleague, we also produce and narrate audiobooks. I am also on the judging panel for a national book awards for non-fiction titles and with what remaining time I have left in the week, I work for Libraries Unlimited, the umbrella organisation for Devon Libraries.

I hope that you have found this short insight into my research and writing interesting. I am always happy to talk about my research and you can contact me easily via my social media pages below. If you are interested in the subject, please do get in touch.

BOOKS

Black Dog Folklore is available at https://thefolklorepodcast.weebly.com/store/p24/blackdogfolklore

Magical Folk is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0783R465X/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined is available at http://btwnthelines.com/dd-product/fairy-tales-and-folklore-re-imagined/

Secret Invasion is available for charity donation at www.justgiving.com/secretinvasion

WEBSITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA

The Folklore Podcast: www.thefolklorepodcast.com

The Folklore Podcast: www.facebook.com/thefolklorepodcast

Research and writing: www.facebook.com/marknormanfolklore

The Folklore Podcast: @folklorepod

Mark Norman: @Mr_Mark_Norman

***

Many thanks Mark,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx


Robin of Sherwood Audios: Available Now

A couple of weeks ago, with great excitement, I announced that I had written an audio story for ITV’s 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood.

Those of you who follow this blog will know precisely how much that opportunity would mean to me. Not only have I been a lifelong lover of all things Robin Hood, but I have spent many years researching the history behind the legend.

It is with even greater pleasure therefore, that I can let you in on a secret.

I didn’t just write one Robin of Sherwood story – I wrote two.

The first- The Waterford Boy– has been brilliantly narrated by Judi Trott- (a.k.a Marion of Leaford). It tells the story of a simple lad, Alwin of Waterford, who has the misfortune of crossing Guy of Gisborne’s path.

Photo copyright- Kim Jones

The second story – Mathilda’s Legacy -is a slight departure from the Robin of Sherwood episodes which have been written before. Mathilda’s Legacy tells the story of how David, Earl of Huntingdon met his wife- Mathilda, third daughter to the Earl of Chester – mother to Robert of Huntingdon.

photo by Kim Jones

Narrated by the fabulous Michael Craig, (a.k.a Earl of Huntingdon), this extra story was a joy to write. Who wouldn’t want to introduce the world to Robin Hood’s mother? Oh- and there’s a pesky ‘would be’ Sheriff of Nottingham knocking about as well.

You can now buy these audio downloads- as well as 2 other amazing stories from Spiteful Puppet for only £5.99 each-

The Waterford Boy– “Robin is angered by the Sheriff’s new people tax… but his rage is nothing compared to that of Will Scarlet when he hears Alwin mutter the name, D’Marelle.  For Will and the recruiter have met before… many years ago…”

Mathilda’s Legacy– “David realised why his offspring behaved in the way he did. After all, Robert of Huntingdon was Mathilda’s son. He was her legacy.  The moment couldn’t be put off any longer. It was time to tell his son the story of how the Earl had met Robert’s mother…”

And don’t forget….

The Templar’s Promise, read by Phil Rose – “On the run and desperate for help, Brother Michael offers Robin and the outlaws the chance to secure a fortune in gold.  If Robin is to get his hands on it, he must face betrayal and an enemy who is every inch his match…”

and

The Blood That Binds, read by Nickolas Grace – “The Hooded Man will face an adversary who is playing a long game, one that will see Herne’s son fulfil a destiny and set blood against blood in more ways than one…”

***

What more could any Robin Hood fan want for Christmas?

So check out Spiteful Puppet here for all the download links- https://spitefulpuppet.com/product-category/robin-of-sherwood/

Happy downloading…

Jen x


Pop-Up Bookshop in Tiverton: 28th Nov- 2nd Dec

Come along to the CreaTIVHub in Tiverton between 28th November and 2nd December for your chance to purchase books from local authors!

See you there!!

Jenny x

 


Guest Post from Tracey Norman: Thinking magic

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Exeter Author Association member and friend, Tracey Norman, to my site. Tracey is an actress, audio book narrator and writer…and there isn’t much she doesn’t know about witches. Why not grab a coffee and have a read…

Hi Jenny – and thank you for inviting me to talk about my writing!

I’ve written stories and poetry since I was very young, but it is only in the last couple of years that I have finally taken the plunge and decided to actually do something with my work. That all started in 2015, when I was invited to contribute a short story to Secret Invasion, a Lovecraftian-themed horror anthology which was being put together to raise money for MIND. I wasn’t hugely knowledgeable about Lovecraft’s work, so I decided to marry what I did know with my deep love of history. Thus, Dark Words was born.

The story is told from two perspectives, one modern-day and one from the 1930s, as an archaeologist works on a site on Dartmoor and accidentally uncovers not only a dark and horrific secret, but also why an entire village was drowned beneath a reservoir in the late 1930s. It takes as its inspiration the terrible mind control of “Asenath Waite” from Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep and the various artefacts which lie unseen and quiet beneath the waters of the Fernworthy Reservoir, not far from Chagford in Devon. Having spoken to a few archaeologists and curators about the submerged bridges, hut circles and boundary markers, I found that no one really knows much about the village – so in Dark Words, I have given it my own back story, as well as explaining why so much archaeology should be lost beneath the waters of a reservoir. Believe me, it was for the best….

The normally submerged, Fernworthy clapper and medieval pack bridge

I’m delighted to say that Dark Words has been accepted in another anthology, Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined, which is due out shortly from Between the Lines, a publisher in Minneapolis.

Something happened in 2016 which changed my perception of my writing forever. I accidentally became a playwright. In 2015, some friends and I had started Circle of Spears Productions, a professional audio production house and theatre company. Our initial focus had been on gathering authors and working with them to turn their books into audio. I thought it would be good if I could write something for us to perform for a summer season to build up the theatre side. Again, I wanted to blend my love of history into my writing, so I kicked a few ideas around and eventually hit upon the idea of preserving a moment in history by using the actual words spoken by those involved. I decided to try to use the words from a witch trial. This began a wonderful relationship with the fabulous team at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, who were incredibly supportive and helpful right from the outset and who introduced me to the woman who has since become an obsession for me.

Gimmerton case paper

In Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1687, a woman named Deanes Gimmerton went on trial for witchcraft. Hers is one of the most complete written records of an English witch trial. The papers consist of four pages of witness evidence from one of her ‘victims’, his parents and the mother of a second ‘victim’, who had actually died two years previously as a result of being ‘bewitched’. What fascinated me the most, however, was the fact that the accusation had arisen after Deanes shared a pipe of tobacco with her young victim. A simple, everyday action that she probably didn’t think twice about and yet which had such staggering consequences.

My play WITCH tells Deanes Gimmerton’s story using three fictitious characters – Margery Scrope, the accused, Thomas Latimer, her accuser and Sir William Tyrell, the landowner-magistrate who has to evaluate the accusation to see if it should proceed to trial. However, as there was so little of Deanes herself in the papers – no indication of a plea or a verdict – I needed to research more widely to build Margery’s character and she ultimately became an amalgamation of the experiences of Deanes and about seven other women.

Tyrell, Margery and Latimer

WITCH was originally intended to run for a summer season at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (and a more fitting venue I cannot imagine). However, over the course of the summer of 2016, something changed. At our second performance, we were asked if we used it as Theatre In Education and this resulted in our first school booking. Since its premiere in July 2016, we have performed WITCH 54 times and have dates booked for 2018 already. WITCH has become its own entity and that, I think, is because it tells not just Deanes’s story, but the story of all the women – and men – like her, who found themselves accused of witchcraft as a result of some ordinary, everyday action like sharing a pipe of tobacco.

I am delighted to have been given a contract by Troy Books in Cornwall to expand on the research I did for WITCH and write a book about it. I have been looking further into Deanes’s story to try to find out what happened to her, but she is frustratingly invisible in the historical record. As I write  this, I have just ordered a couple of documents from the National Archive, where I am spending the day on Friday of this week, to try to find some mention of Deanes in the legal records of 1687 and hopefully discover her fate. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing the original court documents in the flesh, but as Deanes has been a huge part of my life for so long, I know that it will also be an incredibly emotional moment for me if the information I am seeking is actually in those documents.

So what leads on from witch trials? Well, for me, it was dragons. I have always been a rather eclectic writer and am totally unable to stick to just one subject or genre, so I followed WITCH by self-publishing a story I wrote for my daughter when she was about three years old. She is now ten, so it was about time something happened to this particular story! Sammy’s Saturday Job is the tale of a little dragon who desperately wants to be a firefighter, but when she finally gets the chance, everything goes wrong. She has to think creatively and persevere in order to put things right and save the day.

And now? Well, now it’s elves. And more dragons. The dragons haven’t appeared yet, but it’s high fantasy, so it won’t be long before they show up. At the moment, though, I am having some difficulty in persuading my elves to stick to the chapter plan. As someone who, in the past, just sat down and wrote with no plan anywhere in sight, the fact that I actually took the time to plot an entire book is nothing short of miraculous, so the elves really do need to get with the programme.

This is the first in a projected series of books about a young elf who turns her back on the life her influential family has mapped out for her and follows her as she travels the length of the Empire in which she lives, learning new skills and trying to find a place where she belongs. The central character is my gaming alter ego, who, again, has been with me for a long time and whose back story I really wanted to explore. However, when I was planning the first book, The Battle for Dragonheart, I realised that it was not her story that I needed to tell, but her mother’s. Then, as I started that story, I realised that it wasn’t her mother’s story, either – not entirely. A completely new character made herself known and Dragonheart, the first of The Fire-Eyes Chronicles, is her story.

I would have loved to be able to take part in this year’s NaNo, but unfortunately, I have to grab my writing time whenever and wherever I can in between everything else I do, so the chances of me reaching 50, 000 words in a month is, sadly, highly unlikely. However, I do have the advantage of being a member of the Exeter Authors Association, which provides me with plenty of opportunities to discuss my writing with other authors and the 2018 programme of events we have put together will certainly encourage me to ensure that Dragonheart is finished sooner rather than later. There are a number of books to plot in the Fire-Eyes series, as well as a bunch of rather interesting (non-sparkly) vampires waiting in the wings and periodically trying to grab my attention. It looks like 2018 will be a very busy year….

You can find out more about WITCH at www.traceynormanswitch.com

WITCH’s Twitter handle is @WITCHplayCoS

You can buy the audio play of WITCH from www.circleofspears.com/store

You can also follow me on Facebook – @TraceyNormanWITCHbook and @TraceyNormanauthor

Secret Invasion is available as a print on demand, with all proceeds going to MIND – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/secretinvasion

Sammy’s Saturday Job is available as an ebook and a paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sammys-Saturday-Job-Tracey-Norman-ebook/dp/B0736DL7KP

 ***

Thank you ever so much Tracey- fabulous blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 


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