It’s that time again…I’m handing over to Nell Peters for her end of the month round up. Hope you’ve got a cuppa on standby…
Over to you Nell…
Oh hi! It’s you again! Nothing better to do? Well, you’d better come in, I suppose – but you’ll have to make your own tea, because I’m involved in matters of national importance. Not all of that is true …
So, did March come in like a lion, go out like a lamb? Rather depends upon where you live, I imagine. The saying is obviously based on northern hemisphere weather variance at this time of year, originating from times when the land dominated peoples’ lives and bad weather could trigger food shortages, putting whole communities at risk. It was believed that bad spirits could affect the weather adversely, and so everyone watched their Ps and Qs, trying not to upset the little devils.
March can be a changeable month, in which we experience a huge range of temperatures and conditions, but it’s also a month that hints at spring turning to summer and better weather to come. I’m always thrilled to see daffs in Tesco, with at least the promise of those and other bulbs’ brave green shoots raising their tips above the parapet of soil, where they’ve snoozed over winter. Lambs frolic in lush green fields (cue ooh-ah sounds, or maybe ooh-baa?) and baby birds hatch in their nests, beaks ever-open demanding food from their poor overworked/underpaid mothers. All in all, a hopeful time of year, especially after the vernal (spring) equinox – Monday 20th in 2017. Apart from lion/lamb lore, lesser-known predictions are: Dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay. Or: As it rains in March so it rains in June. Then we have: March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers. Genius.
There are two saints’ days in March; David (1st) and Patrick (17th), plus Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day (26th in the UK 2017, the fourth Sunday in Lent) – and, occasionally, Easter; but not this year. Far more interesting though are National Peanut Butter Day and National Pig Day (perhaps referring to those who scoff more than their fair share of peanut butter?), celebrated on March 1st in the USA – where else? – and they follow that up with National Crème Pie Day (3rd), National Peanut Cluster Day (8th), National Crab Meat Day and National Meatball Day (9th), then National Blueberry Popover Day on the 10th. After that, there’s a bit of a digestion-resting lull, when any self-respecting American books on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines, not the scary military lot) and nips over to Sweden for Waffle Day on the 25th. Then it’s back home to wash down all that junk food on the 27th, National Whiskey Day. Good grief, I have enough trouble keeping up with all the family birthdays, let alone anything else!
Apart from being the third month of the year in both Julian (who he?) and Gregorian calendars, March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, situated on the old course of the River Nene. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely (which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965) and is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council. Don’t say I don’t tell you everything you need to know to get on in life.
In the nineteenth century, March grew through becoming an important railway centre and like many Fenland towns, it was once a Billy-no-mates island, surrounded by marshes – the second largest in the Great Level. As the land drained, the town prospered as a minor port, a trading and religious centre – but now it’s a market town, administrative and railway centre and a popular port of call for those messing about on the river in pleasure boats.
This day in 1596, René Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine – now Descartes, Indre-et-Loire, France – how neat to have the town where you were born re-named after you! (I wonder if Wimbledon would do the same for me?) Though every schoolboy could probably quote Descartes’ observation, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’ also said: ‘It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.’ Plus: ‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.’ And: ‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’ Descartes was certainly no slacker in the fields of mathematics and science, either – a real Smarty Pants.
Sharing his birthday, we have German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685), the eighth and youngest child born into a musical family, as was Austrian, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732). Quite a few composers were born on this day, but since Feb’s blog leant heavily into the musical side of things, let’s move on to a couple of chemists. First up, German Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen (1811) – absolutely no prizes for guessing he invented the Bunsen burner – and sporran-wearer Archibald Scott Couper in 1831. Archie came up with an early theory of chemical structure and bonding, clever chap.
American actor (George) Richard Chamberlain (1934) appeared in Dr Kildare (which even I would struggle to remember), mini-series Shogun in 1980 and The Thorn Birds in 1983. I wonder if he met Japanese actor Dokumamushi Sandayu (1936, and don’t ask me what he’s been in!) while filming Shogun, assuming at least some of it was shot on location. Another American, Christopher Walken, was Ronald Christopher Walken at his birth in 1943, and is perhaps best known for blowing his brains out while playing Russian roulette in the film The Deer Hunter. Don’t try that at home.
Fans of the Partridge Family may recognise the name of actress/singer Shirley Jones, who is eighty-three today. In the musical sitcom, she played David Cassidy’s mother and is in real life his stepmother, having been the second wife of actor/singer/director, the late Jack Cassidy. Cassidy Snr was bipolar (manic depressive), an alcoholic and bisexual – quite a combination. He sadly died aged only forty-nine, when he nodded off on a sofa after a boozy night out and set light to it with a cigarette.
David C has had his own, well-documented trials with alcoholism and more than one trip to rehab. But before that and the more recent shocking revelation that he is suffering from dementia, he spent many years, first as a teen idol and then a popular singer/actor who managed to evolve from child star to adult entertainer. I was never a fan of the young DC, but a friend, author/journo Allison Pearson most certainly was – with bells on. Her second novel, I Think I Love You (I wonder where she got the title from?) is written in two parts, the first about two young girls, Petra and Sharon, living in 1970s South Wales. Their lives revolve around their shared crush, David Cassidy, and so to a certain extent the story is autobiographical.
The book – I believe the only one ever printed with my (real) name included in the Acknowledgements – was launched in June 2010 and the OH and I toddled along to Cambridge for a lavish party, to join a huge number of people gathered under the marquee to be fed, watered and entertained – I rather doubt I could fill the garden shed. But the road to finished MS was a very rocky one for Allison (and everyone who knew her!) Amongst other things, Miramax threatened to sue over delayed delivery (it was due in 2005, which is impressively late in anyone’s book!) and her agent, Pat Kavanagh, tragically died of a brain tumour. Incidentally, since we’re a bit low in the unusual names department this month, can I just mention that Allison was born Judith Allison Lobbett … Pearson comes from her ex-husband, Simon Pearson.
Right. What else? Anyone interested in knowing that on this day in 1996 actor and director Clinton (aka Clint) Eastwood (then 65) married news anchor Dina Ruiz (30) in Las Vegas – that’s what you call an age gap! The marriage lasted until 2014 – eons by Hollywood standards. Clint was named after his father – imagine the senior version being asked his name, ‘Clint Eastwood.’ ‘Yeah right, very funny buddy – now what’s your real name?’
Nipping forward to 2011, Italian Canadian singer Michael Bublé (my auto-correct keeps insisting that should be Bubble – I do see its point) aged 35, tied the knot with actress and model Luisana Lopilato (23) in Buenos Aires. Not such a happy day one year before though, when Dawson’s Creek actor, James Van Der Beek (32) and actress Heather Ann McComb (33) divorced after almost seven years – an almost-itch. At least we’ve collected a few more contenders for the dodgy name competition – my money is on Ms Lopilato so far. Has a nice ring to it.
Historically on 31st March, in 1657 English Parliament made the Humble Petition to Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and offered him the crown, which he declined. Gold not his colour, perhaps. Quebec and Montreal were incorporated (1831), and keeping a tenuous French connection, in 1889 the Eiffel Tower – designed by engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel – officially opened in Paris. It was built as a gateway to the Exposition Universelle, and at 300m high retained the record for the tallest man-made structure for 41 years. The tower usurped the Washington Monument for the title and was itself knocked from the perch when the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.
In 1903, a dude called Richard Pearse flew a monoplane several hundred yards in Waitohi, New Zealand. The plane resembled a modern-day micro light and witness accounts controversially suggested he flew before the Wright brothers took off into the wide blue yonder – claims which were subsequently discounted. Fast forward eleven years and the bi-planes flown in WWI were not a great deal more substantial than these pioneering aircraft.
My paternal great grandmother, Rose, was born in Kingston upon Thames workhouse in 1876 – as was her mother (also Rose) before her. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the levels of poverty and deprivation they would have endured in those dark, patriarchal days of extreme inequality during the Victorian era. (There is a point here, loosely connecting Richard Pearse and my ancestors – I promise. Bear with me. Or bare with me, if you prefer; I won’t look.) Younger Rose must have been made of pretty stern stuff, because she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and married a wealthy landowner – way da go, Rose! That level of social mobility was almost unheard of then. One of their sons, my grandfather Wilfred, lied about his age to join up as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, twenty days before his seventeenth birthday in August 1914. (Got there in the end!)
There are quite a few anecdotes surrounding Wilfred’s flying career – one of my favourites is when he formed the airborne escort for the King of Belgium. Inevitably, they came under attack from German aircraft and once Wilfred had run out of ammo, he soared above the enemy plane and threw his toolbox down on the poor pilot, who – if he didn’t die of heart failure – may have had a bit of a headache thereafter. Apparently, there was no official recognition of his quick-witted act of bravery – not even a new toolbox. My grandmother once told me that when Wilfred asked her out before the war, she turned him down flat because he looked too young. It seems that his service years aged him a little (unsurprisingly!) because they got together immediately upon his return. Lucky for me.
Now it’s time for me to fly (so sorry!) Thanks once again for having me, Jenny – now stop eating those hot cross buns! A moment on the lips …
Another triumph Nell – thank you so much!!
(As if I’d over eat Hot Cross Buns…hides crumbs quickly…)
Happy reading everyone,
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!