On March 26th Mothering Sunday is celebrated here in the UK.
If you fancy a change from buying your Mum a bunch of flowers, how about treating her to something to read while she puts her feet up and you cook her dinner? (Well, it’s just a thought!!)
Here’s a few quick and easy suggestions to help things along.
COSY COFFEE TIME READS
Another Cup of Coffee
Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old
music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.
Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.
It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself got completely shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…
With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another a bucked-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…
Romancing Robin Hood
Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.
But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…
Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…
Newly widowed and barely thirty, Abi Carter is desperate to escape the Stepford Wives lifestyle that Luke, her late husband, had been so keen for her to live. Abi decides to fulfil a lifelong dream. As a child on holiday in a Cornwall she fell in love with a cottage – the prophetically named Abbey’s House. Now she is going to see if she can find the place again, relive the happy memories …maybe even buy a place of her own nearby? On impulse Abi sets off to Cornwall, where a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Beth, like Abi, has a life-changing decision to make. Max, Beth’s best mate, soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams …but things aren’t quite that simple. There’s the complicated life Abi left behind, including her late husband’s brother, Simon – a man with more than friendship on his mind … Will Abi’s house remain a dream, or will the bricks and mortar become a reality?
Hello, it’s Jenny Kane here – or is it?
Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Exeter Writer and Blogger Meet Up, organised by the lovely Kim Nash and Holly Martin. It was a relaxed affair, with the only request made of us being that we wore name badges. I decided, in the interests of simplicity, just to use two of my many names- more for my sanity than anything else!
It was so busy – really wonderful! However, I had an attack of shy syndrome, and so I sat and chatted to many of the folk I’d met before- despite telling myself I must be brave and mingle!
This situation was not destined to remain however…
The pub in which was all met was open to the public as well as to us writer types. Unbeknown to me (as I had my back to the bar and am as deaf as a post), a stag party had come in. There they were, all dressed as characters from Top Gun, merrily ( I use the word advisedly) chatting to some of my fellow writers. Then, suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder, and the words, ‘Hey, you’re the porn woman’ were being hurtled towards me at high speed…
Cue some good natured banter with said stag party.
Letting my inner Kay Jaybee take over, I coaxed the lads outside, where I took lots of photos for them – of them I hasten to add- and was about to make my way off when one of them produced a Sharpie…A little clothing signing later and I bid them a fond farewell and returned to the writer throng.
It was at that moment when a lady – who I regretfully didn’t catch the name of- turned to me and uttered the immortal words ‘Who the hell are you?!’
And so…maybe it’s time for a recap…
Jenny Kane writes RomCom style contemporary fiction – with a hint of romance and a healthy spattering of coffee drinking included. (Tea drinkers are also welcome)
Jenny Kane also writes children’s picture books of the very quirky variety. There is no coffee on offer, but cookies are involved by way of compensation.
Jennifer Ash writes fourteenth century medieval mysteries– also with a hint of romance, but with no coffee whatsoever. There is ale though – lots of ale.
Kay Jaybee writes award winning, full on, adult only, erotica (not porn, despite the claims of the aforementioned stag party). It has been known to include coffee… Enough said… If you wish to learn about Kay, then feel free to visit her at www.kayjaybee.me.uk You should NOT visit Kay unless you are over 18. If you are under 18 and you visit her, you’ll make her very cross- not something I’d advise you doing…
There is another ‘ME’, but that name is not shared…ever…
And then of course, there is me. The actual me, who looks remarkably like Jenny and Jennifer and Kay. I can’t tell you that much about her except she works 12-14 hour shifts as a writer every day, and goes to work, and runs a house, and has a family (pretty much like every other writer I know). She often has moments of total forgetfulness, is very clumsy, drinks WAY too much coffee, loves Malteasers, and is rather keen on all things Robin Hood…Oh, and she is generally a very happy person.
Hope that’s helped a bit.
After the stag do incident I became much braver, and I spoke to some wonderful people in Exeter- although not as many as I’d have liked to as time ran out on me. Maybe next time.
Happy reading everyone,
Today I’m delighted to be joined by fellow Devon author, Jenny T Scott. Jenny has written a great children’s series, of dragons, magic, and mayhem. If you loved The Dragon Slayer’s Academy series, or Harry Potter, then you’ll love Sammy Rambles.
Greetings! Thank you Jenny Kane for the opportunity to talk about castles and dragons on your blog!
To start at the very beginning, Sammy Rambles is a ten year old boy who is being bullied at school. His parents decide he must change schools and by chance, they meet Sir Lok Ragnarok, headmaster of Dragamas School for Dragon Charming and things change very quickly.
In book one, Sammy Rambles and the Floating Circus, Sammy receives a dragon egg on his first day at school, which hatches into his very own dragon. But as he settles in and makes new friends, he learns of a dark fate hanging over the school. An enemy, known only as the Shape are trying to destroy all the dragons and close the school.
Not wanting to return to the bullies and his old school, Sammy sets about finding out who or what is behind the Shape and trying to stop them.
There are five books in the Sammy Rambles series and free sample chapters available to read at www.sammyrambles.com. Sammy has five problems to solve and he uncovers things about himself and his family along the way. Although the books weren’t written for a specific audience, I’ve had feedback that children as young as six are reading the Sammy Rambles books and their parents and grandparents are also enjoying the story, which takes place on multiple levels. Apparently, the oldest Sammy Rambles reader is aged ninety-six!
I wrote the whole Sammy Rambles story, around half a million words split over the five books, by hand, using pen and paper, filling many notebooks. As I’m not tied to a computer or laptop, I can write anywhere at any time and then type it all up later, preferably sitting on the floor beside the fire.
I used to write on my commute to work, in every room in the house, while walking around or sat on the sofa. There were times when it was too dark to write, so I bought a pen with a torch attachment and carried on writing. I even tried writing with my left hand as the ideas for the Sammy Rambles story, the characters, the plot and endless dialogue conversations just coming and coming and more than once I have fallen asleep with a pen in my hand.
Some of the characters definitely have traits of people I know, although no character is modelled on any one person. I remember sitting in a transport café and a father and his twin sons sat at the table next to me. The boys were being rather naughty jumping around the seats and backchatting their father. They were the inspiration for Sammy’s classmates Gavin and Toby. Some of Sammy’s teachers are loosely based on teachers I had, or would like to have had, at school. I challenge anyone not to have wanted Commander Altair as their housemaster.
At a recent ‘meet the author’ event, I was asked why Sammy was a boy and whether I had considered using a strong female role model instead. Looking back, I had many good role models, both male and female, if you look closely at the books, there are strong female characters, Sammy’s best friend, Dixie Deane, (who also has her own problems and story within the story). I have given Sammy’s mother a prestigious car and career as well as her caring nurturing side and a talent for baking iced buns and cookies. There are also strong female enemies in the stories so whether the protagonist was male or female, I feel I have a balance, even if it wasn’t something I consciously set out to achieve.
However, I definitely feel inspired to write about dragons, castles and mysteries and these are the types of books I enjoy reading the most. My favourite childhood books were by Alan Garner, Jill Murphy, Rosemary Manning, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. I spent hours on the Internet researching the etymology of names, places, delving into mythology, crystals and supernatural powers, which have spilled out into my writing. As the story progressed, I found I was writing about friendships, relationships, good times and bad times.
At the end of book three (Sammy Rambles and the Angel of ‘El Horidore), Sammy faces an impossible choice and throughout book four (Sammy Rambles and the Fires of Karmandor), Sammy endures much death and the destruction of his precious dragon world.
I didn’t set out to write a book of morals but there is the underlying theme of good versus evil and even the enemies have good traits which makes them harder to dislike. In Sammy Rambles and the Floating Circus these themes are introduced and I give the reader a flavour of the person Sammy will grow up to be. His wish “put wrongs to rights” is echoed throughout the series and it is not easy at times for Sammy to do the right thing.
I love visiting National Trust properties, English Heritage castles and taking long walks on Dartmoor. With a little imagination, you too could be driving down one of Devon’s narrow country lanes. Perhaps you are following a huge orange tractor like Sammy and his parents, and then suddenly, around the corner, there is a tall, towering castle complete with battlements, turrets and towers with flags flying from the top of the coned rooftops.
But, as in the books, not everyone believes in magic and not everyone can see the castle or the dragons flying around the turrets.
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you believe in dragons. If you would like to read free sample chapters of the Sammy Rambles series, please head to www.sammyrambles.com. Or if you would like to meet at a Sammy Rambles event, please see www.facebook.com/sammyrambles. The Sammy Rambles books are available in paperback and Kindle versions and book one has just been released as an audiobook, recorded by Tracey Norman of Circle of Spears. The books are available on Amazon as well.
Many thanks Jenny, for such a great blog. Good luck with all Sammy’s exploits!
It’s interview time again!
Today I’m joined my Devon based writer, Olli Tooley. Why not grab a cuppa, take a seat for five minutes, and have a read?
What inspired you to write your book?
The original inspiration was when my boys were looking round a cheesy gift shop on holiday. You know? The kind where you can buy gemstones and seashells, and crystal swans, and resin models of fairies with sparkly wings.
Each of my three boys had a favourite colour; blue, red, and green, respectively, and eventually we relented and bought them a little dragon each. It was so long ago now I can’t recall if I suggested it, or one of them did, but the idea was born to write a story featuring the three brothers. There was “a legend of a magical stone” which had been shattered by an ancient powerful wizard and the three parts had been scattered in different directions.
Each boy would fight a different coloured dragon to recover a different part of the stone. Red, green, and blue, would then be reunited to repair the magical stone and save the blah-de-blah-de-blah, it was AWFUL. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about how cheesy it would have been.
It sat in a computer file for years untouched while I worked on other ideas.
Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?
Well naturally, the original basis for the main three boys in the book were my three sons. Their sister was based on my younger daughter, who was tiny when we bought those dragons.
Their father was based on me, but all of them have developed differently, for example my counterpart is as hard as nails; while I am a complete wimp.
Almost every character I write has elements of real people, but none of them are closely based on any one person. Of course a few are real people from history, and for those, I need to be careful not to ignore known facts.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
I research to a ridiculous degree but I regret, I am not in the luxurious position of being able to fly off to Rome, or join an archaeological dig, to get first-hand knowledge. I have managed to go to Celtic re-enactment days, and did visit Pompeii once so It’s not all armchair knowledge. I spend a lot of time on the internet, using everything from Wikipedia to expert forums, as well as reading specific books that promise to give me more details. Some of the books I have read are insanely expensive, but my local library is a lifesaver for this.
I am a bit of a dilettante with a passing interest in all sorts of subjects including; comparative linguistics, history, folklore, politics, human relationships, and more. Even when I know broadly what I am writing about, I constantly check the precise details to ansure I don’t get a fact wrong.
The hardest thing for me, writing fiction set in a real historical setting, is knowing when I can allow my imagination to take over. For example, I wrote a passage in which a Celtic warrior stabbed a sword through the walls of a roundhouse into the back of a man outside. It was only a few months after publication that I met up with the Dumnonika reenactment group and was shown an authentic reproduction Celtic sword. The demonstrator explained how Celtic swords were always rounded off and could only be used for slashing. Spears were used for stabbing and thrusting. As a writer, I feel like I want to burn every copy of the book that retains the mistake, but most are in the hands of satisfied readers and who knows, perhaps one day they will be worth money?
Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?
Would it shock you to know that I have never really thought about this properly?
Now I think about it, I believe I usually write from the point of view of a camera. I certainly know that, despite the microscopic chances of it ever happening, I tend to visualise the film or TV version of a scene as I write. I suppose it doesn’t hurt to dream?
Recently, I have been writing a story in the first person. That is because it is based on a real memoir of a Victorian lady.
Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?
I am definitely a “pantser” but there is always a skeleton of a plot that guides my writing. Currently, I am constrained by historical events as the redoubtable and slightly sardonic Gwenn, attempts to follow the early life of Gaius Julius Caesar. He has to go to Bythnia to secure a fleet from Nicomedes, and he has to be captured by pirates in the Aegean. All I have to do is write a plausible narrative as to why and how Gwenn goes with him. “All I have to do!”
What is your writing regime?
Hang on, “regime”? I’m just looking it up….
Oh, no. I don’t have one of those. Most days I will write two or three thousand words. More if somebody is being really stupid on Facebook. On a good day, more than half of those words will end up in my book. On a bad day they will all be on social media.
Sometimes I wake up at three in the morning with an idea that won’t wait. Other times, I will be writing at sic in the evening and not stop until well after midnight. Then I can go weeks stuck on a difficult part of the story. Fortunately, I also have other writing projects on the go. Sometimes I have two or three different stories open in Word and will dabble in all of them in the space of an hour or two.
What excites you the most about your book?
Umm, oh, err. Well, I’ve read it already, so I sort of know what happens now. I get more excited about other author’s books. Loving the Ruso series by Ruth Downie, and just getting into Troy by Ben Blake. But there are loads of fantastic books, I could go on to write a ridiculously long list.
If I had to pick something that really pleased me about my own book, I’d say the cover art by Iver Klingenberg, the cover design by Andy Jones, and the proof reading by Sarah Dawes. (Ha ha! Modest or what?) All local Devon and Somerset people. The printers are in Exeter as well, so yes, the very strong local team effort to produce it, is a big deal for me.
If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?
Captain Carrot Ironfoundsperson – for his indefatigable good humour and strength of character.
Leonardo Da Quirm – for his inventive genius.
Rincewind – because if he’s with me, at least I will know which way to run to avoid death
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
My little publishing imprint Blue Poppy Publishing is interested in teaming up with other self-publishing authors to try and create a sort of local co-operative publisher.
There is no money yet, and so it only applies to self-publishers who see a benefit to them of being under the Blue Poppy umbrella.
I am also the author of four short books for junior school (middle grade) readers.
The Time Tunnel series features the adventures of David Johnson who stumbles across a series of holes which allow him to visit different periods of history. The first two; “Time Tunnel to Londinium” and “Londinium Revisited” obviously look at Roman Britain, “Time Tunnel at the Seaside” visits World War Two, and “Time Tunnel to West Leighton” covers the Anglo Saxons. All these aim to cover aspects of Key-Stage Two school history, while also being enjoyable stories.
More books are planned for the series, including “Time Tunnel to Ironbridge” which will look at Victorian England.
Oliver was born in London where he grew up next to a bombed out church. At the time he never thought it odd that there was a world war two bomb site still there in 1965. He was usually described by teachers as brilliant but lazy, and they said he would forget his head if it wasn’t screwed on. After attempting to unscrew his own head, he decided that most teachers were stupid but bigger than him. It was long after leaving school that he found out he had undiagnosed mild autism.
He had always hated writing at school because he found holding a pen for longer than the time it took to write “Happy birthday, from Olli” was painful. In addition, he would almost invariably lose any homework before being able to submit it.
The advent of modern computers was a turning point; allowing him to write at length and not lose documents. His first ever paid writing job was a contribution to “The Great Explorers” Robin Hanbury-Tenison (Thames and Hudson) 978-0500251690
He now lives in Devon with his wife, four offspring, and a demented spaniel.
Thanks for a great interview Olli – love the Terry Pratchett choices for your desert island!
I am particularly thrilled by today’s guest blog. Loreley Amiti is not just a very talented woman, but a friend- and I am very much looking forward to seeing a copy of her brand new children’s book. And what better time to have a book about a Solstice fairy than during Solstice itself!
Over to you Loreley…
Hello Jenny and thanks for having me.
So, what brought me here during this lovely, but also frantic festive season?
“A colourful CV and social awkwardness” is probably the most honest answer. Whether the latter is down to my equally colourful heritage or three decades full of unusual decisions I don’t know.
Being one quarter Latvian, Belorussian, German and Italian as well as being half Jewish and half Christian only left me with three choices: to become a comedian, a hairdresser or a writer.
I tried the comedy thing to be fair. 20 years on stage from the age of 4 including stage school and the compulsory jazz hands made me realise though that I’m not extroverted enough 24/7. The hairdresser idea stayed with me for some time as well, but I’m simply allergic to too many things to have a future there. So I did the next logical thing: I studied medicine.
When I met my now husband and my medical degree wasn’t acknowledged in the UK, I started many writing jobs for magazines and press agencies until I was told to get my own books out, which I have been writing over the last years. So, here I am. On my way to becoming “proper British” and yet struggling with simple questions like “How are you”, which I might answer in detail until people have to urgently wash their hair.
What I love about the UK is that people tend to be very open about drastic career changes. – Which is lucky because I’ve had a few. The last one I’m particularly happy with. As a writer I get to invent people I’d actually love to meet in person. When I finish a book it’s an odd mix of relief and sadness, because I loved spending so much time with my characters.
One of my upcoming books is particularly special to me: “The Solstice Fairy”. It’s about a boy called Tim for whom the darkest season of all turns out to be the brightest, most magical time of his life. By saving his mother’s helper fairy from freezing, he also restores the family’s happiness and discovers how special he is. It’s an enchanting feel-good story with a classic touch and Italian illustrator Simone Stanghini has added extra magic to the story by combining his unique comic style with colourful, retro-inspired illustrations.
It’s a festive read that wasn’t inspired by anything festive at all: I was sitting in a little café in Sidmouth at the Southern English seaside when my 3-year-old daughter started a massive tantrum. It was raining cats and dogs outside, she had spilled all of her apple juice over both of us and I was a little desperate. Just then I saw a poster about the upcoming winter solstice in the window and came up with the first draft of this story. It actually calmed her down in the end, so I decided if my harshest editor (my daughter) likes it, I should turn it into a book.
I hope other parents will enjoy it too and I wish you all a relaxing, tantrum-free, enchanting festive season – whatever you’re celebrating.
Thanks for the morning with you, Jenny. It’s been a real pleasure.
Multilingual British author, Loreley Amiti, has been working for a publishing house and the press before focusing on her own books. She writes history, literary fiction, YA and picture books, which are being published on the English and German-speaking market.
Believable characters in a captivating setting, may they be historical or purely fiction, are her passion. The author lives in the South West of England with her family and loves to hear from her readers. You can find her on facebook (@LoreleyAmiti), twitter (@AuthorAmiti) and Instagram (@loreley.amiti).
Many thanks for such a lovely blog Loreley.