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?
The Outlaw’s Ransom is my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.
The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.
When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.
Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…
A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.
The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart. Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.
It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.
…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’
Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.
‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.
‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’
Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’
Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.
‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.
‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.
‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’
Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’
Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’
The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death…
If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available for your Kindle here –
Happy reading everyone,
Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx
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,
There are many rules in the construction of good story. One of the most important is instant impact- the art of capturing the attention of your readers/potential readers as quickly as possible.
Take your lead from the balladeers and the storytellers of history. If they didn’t impress the audience who gathered to hear their tales by the end of the second line they’d uttered, then they wouldn’t earn enough money to eat that night.
For the modern writer this lesson is a good one. There are so many books in the world that, if you don’t take a firm grip of your reader’s imagination within the first two or three paragraphs (if not sentences), then the chances of you selling your work is automatically harder. If not impossible. Editors and agents read hundreds of first paragraphs each month. If you don’t engage them straight away they won’t read more than a few pages. Consequently, every single word you have written after page four is in danger of being nothing but a waste of time.
Here are a few ways to create instant impact to grab that elusive audience- and hopefully keep them grabbed!
– Start with some powerful first line dialogue. Something that makes you want to know what follows, and why what is being said, is being said. Such as…
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – (Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier)
– Add immediate tension by starting in the thick of the action. Such as…
Dr Clouston could barely keep himself on the seat. The wheels of his carriage kept cracking over humps and puddles, breaking the night’s silence as they rode frantically towards Dundee. – (The Strings Murder, Oscar de Muriel)
– Build a scene on paper that draws the reader in so much, that they want to be there- or that leaves them feeling relieved that they aren’t. Such as…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)
– Start with a sentence that makes sense- but makes the reader need to keep going to find out what on earth is going on. Such as…
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – (1984, George Orwell)
– Begin with a recollection. A situation that your novel will later explain. Such as…
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez)
In an age of instant technology and an immediate availability of information, people are used to instant gratification- so the faster you engage your readers mind, the better!
Where did February go? Have you got it? I could have sworn we were only halfway through the month…
Still… the plus side of the days dashing by is that it’s time for Nell Peters to pop along with her end of month round up. It’s another cracker…
Hello! Let’s start with a straw poll – hands up all those being sued by their postman, for back/shoulder injuries sustained while delivering your many sacks full of Valentine cards … Nope, me neither.
The end of February means we can take a short breather from family (ergo horribly expensive) birthdays – ten between 24/12 and 20/2. TEN! So far this year we have had two first birthdays, two ninetieths and one fortieth amongst the more run of the mill anniversaries, including two daughters-in-law who were both born on 11th January.
What are the chances? I don’t know, but it should most definitely not be allowed! During March, there are just two card-only relative birthdays, in April three close family celebrations – all lulling us into a false sense of security before May hits the bank balance right between the eyes once more. Two sons, a grandson and a niece all chose to turn up during the ‘merry’ month (although not so merry for us!), plus a whole array of other family and friends. Please remember to send food parcels and wine at that time.
A bit of a grasshopper post this month, going boing, boing, boing all over the place – so listen carefully, I will say this only once. Speaking of which, about a hundred years ago, I used to know Stuart H-C, brother of the actress (Kirsten H-C) who played that part in Allo, Allo – I wonder what he’s doing now … probably not being a grasshopper, or even going boing. He never did strike me as much of a boinger.
28th February has been a musical day over the centuries: in1728 George Frideric Handel‘s opera, Siroe, re di Persia (Siroe, King of Persia – now Iran) premiered in London, followed ninety-one years later by the first performance in Vienna of Franz Schubert‘s song, Schäfers Klageleid (Shepherd Song Suit – perhaps something gets lost in Google translation? Suite I could understand, but suit?) Poor old Franz was only thirty-one when he died (I’ve got jeans older than that!), by which time he had composed more than six hundred pieces; that’s an awful lot of bum notes and treble clefs. Also in Vienna, in 1828, Franz Grillparzer’s Ein Treuer Diener (A Faithful Servant) was first performed, but in1862 Charles Gounod bucked the trend and chose gay (can you still say that?) Paris to unleash his Grand Opera La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba) upon the world. Slipping ever so slightly downmarket, the first American vaudeville theatre opened in Boston, Massachusetts in 1883.
Sticking to a musical theme for a moment, now your toes are tapping and you are discreetly la-la-ing, an awful lot of composers have been born on 28th February – step forward and take a bow Kaspar Förster (1616); Justin Morgan (1747); Juliusz Zarebski (1854); Gustave Adolph Kerker (1857); Viliam Figus (1875); John Alden Carpenter (1876); Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877); Artur Kapp (1878); Richard Heinrich Stein (1882); Roman Maciejewski (1910); Vladimir Sommer (1921); and sharing a date of birth, we have Seymour Shifrin and Stanley Glasser in 1926. Charles Bernstein rocked up in 1943, Stephen Chatman in 1950, with William Finn spoiling his poor mother’s day two years later, and Junya Nakano bringing up the rear in 1971. A cast of thousands – and a few strong candidates for this month’s weirdo name competition. I wonder if Artur Kapp has any remote connection to Andy Capp? I’m thinking anglicised name … no, perhaps not. Forget I spoke.
On the world stage, this day in 1933 Adolf Hitler banned the German Communist Party (KPD), and not to be outdone, German President Paul von Hindenburg abolished free expression of opinion (except his own, I expect) – the slippery slope to dictatorship and WWII. But two years before war was declared, came the Hindenburg Disaster – the airship LZ (Led Zeppelin; not the rock band) 129, which was presumably named after the president who had died in 1934 while still in office, came a right royal cropper. I don’t know about you, but the thought of trusting my luck to an inflated pillow case with an engine attached doesn’t appeal too much.
The Hindenburg left Frankfurt on the evening of May 3, 1937, on the first of ten round trips between Europe and the US scheduled for its second year of commercial service – American Airlines had contracted the operators to shuttle passengers from Naval Air Station Lakehurst to Newark for connections with conventional air flights. Except for strong headwinds massively slowing progress, the Atlantic crossing was unremarkable, until the Hindenburg attempted an early-evening landing at Lakehurst on May 6. Although carrying only half its full capacity of passengers (thirty-six of seventy) and sixty-one crew of which twenty-one were trainees on the outward flight, the return flight was fully booked. Many of the passengers with tickets to Germany were planning to attend the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London the following week – choosing to travel in comfort and style, much like an ocean liner only quicker.
As the pilot tried to dock, the Hindenburg caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames. It had a cotton skin covered with a finish known as ‘dope’ – no, not the recreational drug or idiot person, but a plasticised lacquer that provides stiffness, protection, and a lightweight, airtight seal to woven fabrics. In its liquid forms, dope is highly flammable, but the flammability of dry dope depends upon its base constituents. One hypothesis for the cause of the accident was that when the mooring line touched the ground, a resulting spark could have ignited the dope in the skin – goodnight Vienna (which is getting a pretty good airing in this blog). Other theories favoured sabotage, even naming the crew member they held responsible, but since he’d died in the fire, the poor chap couldn’t defend himself.
Best of all, it was suggested that Adolf Hitler ordered the Hindenburg to be destroyed in retaliation for Hugo Eckener’s (former head of the Zeppelin company) anti-Nazi opinions. Whatever the cause, thirteen passengers and twenty-two air crew died, plus one ground crewman – but if you see the speed with which the craft burned, it’s nothing short of a miracle that anyone walked away.
Let’s cheer up! On this day in 2016, the 88th Academy Awards ceremony (aka the Oscars) was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles – not being much of a cinema goer, I haven’t seen any of the films nominated. My only real interest, to be honest, is to gawp at the posh frocks; not too much Primani on show as a rule, but then if you know 34.42 million people in the US alone are going to be tuned in, casting a very critical eye over your choice of clobber, you’d make a bit of an effort, I guess. Even so, some make amazing fashion faux pas in their effort to be noticed. In the unlikely event that I ever get an invitation, I think I’ll play it safe with my usual Tesco super-skinny jeans and some grotty top – to make my entrance incognito as one of the cleaners, so I don’t have to have my photo taken.
Just in case you were wondering, Spotlight won two awards, including Best Picture, and Mad Max: Fury Road won six, the biggest haul of the evening. The Revenant earned three, including Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio. Brie Larson won Best Actress for Room, and Mark Rylance and Alicia Vikander won supporting actor Oscars for Bridge of Spies and The Danish Girl, respectively. And the Oscar for the most difficult to pronounce name goes to …
Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore was born on this day in 1825 in Black River (now Lorain County), Ohio – that’s unless you believe Wikipedia, which gives his dob as 25th Feb. But who believes Wiki-p? Call me suspicious, but I think he was named after the 6th President of the US, John Quincy Adams, who was voted in by the House of Representatives earlier in February. 1825 was the same year that the idea to store food in tin cans was patented; the first detachable shirt collar was created; the first hotel in Hawaii was opened (I wonder if it was a Travelodge?); Charles X became King of France and the Stockton to Darlington railway line was opened.
The Maj Gen must have been something of a Smarty Pants because he graduated top of his class at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1849, and received a commission in the Corps of Engineers. He helped build forts until 1852, taught at West Point from 1852 to 1856, and was the head of the Engineer Agency in New York City from 1856 to 1861, when the American Civil War began. He was noted for his actions in the Union Army victory at Fort Pulaski, where his modern rifled artillery pounded the fort’s exterior stone walls – an action that essentially rendered stone fortifications obsolete – and he earned an international reputation as an organizer of siege operations, helping to revolutionize the use of naval gunnery. Not much of a pacifist, then.
Four racing drivers born on this day are Belgian Eric Bachelart (1961), Brazilian Ingo Hoffmann (1953), and Italian-America terrible twins Mario Andretti and his much lesser-known brother Aldo (1940), who gave up his fledgling career after a serious accident in 1959. Rising from a background of extreme poverty in Europe and moving to the States when very young, the boys really lived the American Dream – as well as every schoolboy’s dream of driving a racing car. Speeding like a lunatic must either have been learned behaviour or in the genes, because both Mario’s son, Michael and grandson Marco, also became racing drivers.
Who remembers mention of Stuart H-C at the beginning of this twaddle-fest? OK, you get a prize. His dad, Miles (known as Bill) was a test driver/mechanic on the team of racing driver Tommy Sopwith, whose own father – also Thomas – was the aviation pioneer who built the Sopwith Camel aircraft in 1916/17. (My paternal grandfather probably flew one as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI.) Ironically, Miles H-C was tragically killed in a road traffic accident when his children were very young, and they grew up not really remembering him. But at least he was driving an E Type Jaguar when he crashed, as Kirsten once said.
Unlike the aforementioned Andretti brothers, Benjamin Siegel (nickname Bugsy, ergo a definite contender for the weirdo name contest) – born in Brooklyn on this day in 1906 – wasn’t so keen on doing an honest day’s work to get ahead. A gangster with the Luciano crime family, he was one of the most infamous and feared gangsters of his day and a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Nowadays, the tacky area is packed with casinos and hotels – fourteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels (by room count) are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms. That’s a lot of beds to make.
Bugsy’s career met a premature end in June 1947, when he had an argument with a bullet and the bullet won – those who live by the sword … And on that point (snigger) I’m gone – thanks again for having me, Jenny!
Always welcome hun – another wonderful blog! Thank you xx