The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


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End of the month round up with Nell Peters

OK- I am in denial. It is not the end of September! It can’t be…except, it is…

Over to Nell!

Good grief! We’ve reached the end of September already – how did that happen? Anyway, let’s not waste any time as I’m sure you have better things to do, like giving your pet rhino a pedicure, or similar.

Red-headed actress Rula Lenska was born seventy years ago today as Róża Maria Leopoldyna Łubieńska – wow, pity her poor teachers calling the register. And she must have had custom-made, extra-long name tags for her school uniform. The family claim membership of the Polish aristocracy, with her parents being a count and countess – I wonder how impressed the good folk of St Neots were by that, because that’s where Rula was born. Perfectly nice town though it is, St Neots doesn’t quite conjure the same mental image as Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk or even Radomsko, does it?

Early on in her career and certainly by the time she hit thirty, Lenska had renounced her countess title. She said at the time, ‘In England it doesn’t count, if you’ll excuse the pun.’ Oh, how very droll. However, a good few years afterwards in January 2006, when she signed up for Celebrity Big Brother, she justified her decision to take part with the words, ‘I’m a crazy Polish countess who likes a challenge’. Do make up your mind, dear.

I’ve never seen CBB – a fact that horrified near-neighbour Peter, who is a designer on the show, when we were chatting at a party locally. Even I, though, knew about RL cavorting with MP George Galloway in a role-play task where he pretended to be a cat licking milk from her cupped hands, and Lenska stroked his ears and moustache. Eew … or perhaps mew. Apparently, she also managed to lock herself in the toilet during her time in the house, giving late singer Pete Burns the golden opportunity to quip, ‘Oh dear, what can the matter be, clapped-out actress stuck in the lavatory.’ How brutal – made me laugh when I read it, of course, but rather mean. I’m hanging my head in shame … really.

My mother also managed to lock herself in the downstairs toilet, a few days before my dad’s funeral. I got a call from the Bluebird lunch carer saying Mum had been in there quite some time and seemed to have forgotten how to slide back the basic lock in order to get out. When Sally (said carer) tried to relay instructions through the door, my mother said she didn’t know what she was talking about and became abusive. So, Sally rang her office and some bright spark there told her to contact me. What sensible advice, when they were in Twickenham and I was at home in Norfolk – a buck expertly passed if ever there was one.

Sally decided a chisel to jimmy the lock was the way to go and so I guided her through the idiosyncratic locked door system of the ground floor – each lock with ever more weirdo-shaped keys that need to be persuaded into action – out into the back garden and around the house to the potting shed. My father was always one for ‘we’ll get a man in’ but did have some basic tools and I was pretty sure that was where they’d be, along with various lawn mowers and other garden machinery, an ancient bicycle or two, a zillion disused flower pots and industrial strength spider webs. After she managed to get the shed door open, Sally quickly located a chisel and squealed with delight when she saw an axe. I persuaded her (with much difficulty) to leave that where it was.

While she was attempting her breaking and entering, she had to hang up the phone, promising to call back when the prisoner had been sprung. An hour passed and I was beside myself with worry, when she finally rang back. Mission aborted. She’d called the Fire Brigade. We had to end the call once again, as she was expecting them to ring. By the time I heard from her again, I was (even more of) a basket case – but job done. Not impressed by three hunky firemen setting her free with a strategically placed crowbar, my mother had spat harsh words at Sally for letting strangers into her house and insulted the poor guys loud and long – nothing to do with dementia, that’s how my mother rocks.

Going back to aforementioned Rula Lenska, Marc Bolan shared her date of birth, but died just two weeks short of his thirtieth birthday when the Mini being driven by his girlfriend hit a tree on Barnes Common – I passed the spot on many an occasion when I lived in London, and there were always flowers placed there. The singer/songwriter/poet/musician was actually born Mark Feld and tried out stage names Toby Tyler and Mark Bowland along the way, before settling on Marc Bolan. Through his father Simeon’s bloodline, he shares Rula Lenska’s Polish (plus in his case, Russian) ancestry, but does not appear to lay any claim to the nobility – so, just dead common like the rest of us.

While at school (from which he was expelled at fifteen for bad behaviour), he played guitar in the trio Susie and the Hula Hoops, with vocalists Helen Shapiro, twelve at the time, and Helen’s cousin the appropriately-named Susie Singer. I can remember Helen’s hit, Walking Back to Happiness – boy I’m old, but not as old as her, because she was born on 28th September 1946, the year before Lenska and Bolan.

The glam rock band T. Rex recorded Ride a White Swan in 1970 with producer Tony Visconti (who also managed David Bowie) – it was the single that changed Bolan’s career, and was inspired by Mungo Jerry’s success with In the Summertime, tempting Bolan away from predominantly acoustic to a more electric sound. Friends Bolan and Bowie both inflicted pretty awful names on their sons – Rolan (although he was named as Rolan Seymour Feld on his birth certificate) and Zowie, who wasn’t so lucky but is now rather more prosaically known as film director Duncan Jones.

The band were originally known as Tyrannosaurus Rex, named after one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs – a ferocious beastie capable of the ultimate in bone-crushing action. Ouch. These prehistoric predators were approx 40’ long and up to 20’ tall, with strong thighs and long, powerful tails built for speed, plus a 5’ skull which drilled into prey. They suffered from a bit of a design fault, though – while the two-fingered forearms could seize prey, they were too short to reach the mouth and deposit the poor unfortunate victim. Doh! That’s when their serrated, conical teeth came in handy (sorry!) – to pierce and grip flesh, and then rip it away from the body of their quarry. That could become the latest diet craze – tie up your arms somehow to make their reach shorter! Because we don’t have T. Rex-type teeth, no food would make it as far as the lips, ergo no calories consumed – sorted! I may yet become rich and famous …

On this day in 1955, another young man died as the result of a car crash – one James Dean, twenty-four year old American actor and cultural icon of teenage disillusionment, angst and social estrangement, as portrayed in arguably his most famous film, Rebel Without a Cause. American teens of the era easily identified with the dilemma of his character, Jim Stark, who feels that no one, not even his peers, can understand him.

A keen participant in motor racing, Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder to a race meeting when the accident happened, having been stopped less than two hours earlier for speeding. The crash occurred at an intersection, when a 1950 Ford Tudor driven by Donald Turnupseed (I kid you not!) turned in front of the Porsche. Because he was driving too fast, Dean was unable to stop, colliding side-on with the other car. The actor died instantly, while Donald walked away with minor injuries. A subsequent coroner’s jury delivered a verdict that Dean was entirely at fault due to his speed, and found Turnupseed innocent of any criminal act. Fellow actor Humphrey Bogart observed about JD’s image and legacy: ‘Dean died at just the right time. He left behind a legend. If he had lived, he’d never have been able to live up to his publicity.’ Harsh, but possibly true. Unbelievably, according to Forbes Magazine (a US bi-weekly business publication, maxim The Capitalist Tool), James Dean’s estate still makes around $5M annually. Not too shabby …

This year, the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur is observed on 30th September, being the 10th of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, or the tenth day of the seventh month, and is regarded as the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’. It is considered the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. Falling in the month of Tishri (variably September or October in the Gregorian calendar), it marks the culmination of the Ten Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

I wonder quite how that sits with International Blasphemy Day, observed annually (mostly in North America and Europe) on 30/9 since 2009, after a student contacted the Centre for Inquiry in New York proposing the idea, which the CFI supported. Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the CFI said of Blasphemy Day, ‘We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are …’ For those who – like me – haven’t heard of the CFI, they are a non-profit educational organization, their primary mission to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. In January 2016, Richard Dawkins hitched his foundation’s wagon to the CFI. Probably enough said.

Today is also Chewing Gum Day (a lot of blaspheming going on when folk tread in the damned stuff?), International Lace Day and Family Health and Fitness Day USA – the latter two taking place on the last Saturday in September rather than a specific date. And then there’s National Mud Pack Day, also an American affair. The blurb says, ‘This holiday is for learning and appreciating the use of mud on the face or really any part of the body. Mud packs have been popular for years for facial treatments to keep the skin young, soft and supple, so let today be the day you learn how to nourish your skin with mud.’

No sooner said than done – it has been raining, so I’m off to dig up the garden (or maybe I’ll get a man in) and then luxuriate with a homemade concoction slathered over all the wrinkles. You may not recognise the youthful creature who guest blogs next month – plus, of course, I will be super-skinny from trying out and perfecting The T. Rex Short Arm Diet! May have to work on the name …

Thanks, as always, for having me, Jenny!

Toodles.

NP

Many thanks to Nell for another entertaining and fascinating blog. I will never look at Rula Lenska in the same way again!

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny x

 

 

 


13 years and counting: a rethink and a retreat

Over the past few weeks I have been very busy rethinking how I run my writing life.

I have been working as a professional author for 13 years this month- unlucky for some perhaps. I will be honest- it has felt pretty unlucky at times this year. A great many changes have assailed me over recent months, and it has taken some serious thought as to how to keep going – or even if I should keep going.

However, thanks to my family, my incredible friends, a great deal of writerly advice, and an amazing weekend at the Scotswrite17 conference in Glasgow, I can now see a way forward- and normal service will be resumed very soon.

When I say normal service, what I actually mean is normal-ish. I have decided that I will no longer be working 14 hour days , with only 10 days holiday a year, and only weekend mornings off work during the week. No more than 10 hours a day will be worked from now on (yes- I know- that won’t always happen- but my intentions are good), no work on a Saturday, and I will take at least 2 weeks off a yr. Luxury!!!

I need to take more walks- have more adventures- see more people- and as a result- I will have more stories to write about later.

As many of you know, I have recently started a new business with my lovely friend Alison Knight – this being an entrepreneur type is hard work, but very rewarding. Our creative writing workshop business, Imagine, has taken off in ways we never imagined (pun intended!) I never dreamt I’d be teaching dementia sufferers how to write stories- nor that I’d have to turn people away from my classes because the tickets were sold out and there was no more room to sit. I feel honoured to say the least.

This change of focus, away from writing 3 novels a year, down to writing one and a half novels and teaching, has done me a lot of good already. And that is just the start of the changes afoot.

Those of you who have kindly been following my work for some years, will know that my career began at Kay Jaybee (over 18’s erotica). For the time being, Kay Jaybee is having a writing break. All her old work is being re-edited, revamped and- over the next two years- will reappear looking all lovely and shiny, ready for a brand new readership.

My Jennifer Ash side meanwhile, is beginning to gather pace. I am currently awaiting the republication of The Outlaw’s Ransom– and the brand new publication of The Winter Outlaw– watch this space…At the moment neither volume is available- but it won’t be long until they are. I am also doing some other work as Jennifer…but for now my lips are sealed on that..

So that leaves Jenny…All of Jenny’s books are still available- so if you fancy a Cornish romance or a coffee shop adventure, then I’m your girl! I am working on a new novel as Jenny- which is a little different…again I will simply tease you by saying, I’ll keep you informed…

All these teasers…So what can I tell you?

Well..Imagine is proud to present its first writing retreat! Fancy escaping onto Exmoor next March to write, dream, chat writing, maybe take a class or two, and meet guest speaker, Kate Griffin (writer of brilliant Victorian crime mysteries for Faber Faber), and generally enjoy chill out time? Then book your place soon to take advantage of our 10% off Early bird discount!

All details for the Northmoor Manor retreat can be found here- Imagine

I can also tell you that I am travelling the country doing more writer talks- so if you want to book a writer talk or a workshop- just let me know and I’ll see what I can do! I can be contacted via imaginecreativewriting@gmail.com

Fleet street photographer Richard Lappas had no idea what he was getting into – K Y Eden, Tracey Norman, myself (with P J Reed taking this pic)

I have been lucky enough to become a member of the Exeter Author Association- and so far I’ve had many adventures! Today’s author photo shoot was so much fun- I’m still giggling. I was balanced on a very precarious bridge for some time…just prior to hugging a very lichen cover tree…photos soon! The next Exeter Author Event is the Bampton Charter festival on 26th October – Bampton, Devon. Do come along and see us selling our books, reading, running mini workshops, and generally making folk smile.

Having listed all that – and forgive the indulgence- it has helped me get things straight in my own head- I’d better go and get on with it all. I’ve only worked 9 hours today , so not breaking my own rules just yet!

Perhaps my thirteenth year in the business isn’t so bad after all…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

 


End of the Month Blog: Nell’s Gone Aussie!

Is it me, or are the months just rushing by? 

Believe it or not, it’s that time again…Over to Nell!!!

G’day, cobbers. Nice of you to drop by – I’ll just throw another shrimp on the barbie and grab some tinnies from the fridge … OK, I’m feeling so much better now I’ve got that bit of blatant stereotyping out of my system. To be fair, despite my late father-in-law being born and bred in Australia, I’m pretty sure I never heard him say ‘cobber’, ‘barbie’ or ‘tinnies’. Not even a random ‘g’day’ …

Staying with the antipodeans for a mo, and jumping on the bandwagon of all the WWI hundredth anniversaries being celebrated (if that’s the right word?) between 2014 and 2018, on this 243rd day of the year in 1918, the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin began. This was a successful assault by the Australian Corps during the Hundred Days Offensive, aka a rapid series of Allied victories starting with the Battle of Amiens. Defences were weakened by continual Aussie raids, the troops employing a process called ‘peaceful penetration’, which forced the German retreat from France to beyond the Hindenburg Line. Thereafter an armistice was declared. Call me picky, but a sentence that includes ‘raids’, ‘penetration’ and ‘retreat’ doesn’t immediately convey to me a particularly ‘peaceful’ option.

Former Melbourne lawyer Robert Menzies (which he pronounced Ming) and his funny eyebrows didn’t serve in WWI, even though he was of age, but he did authorise Australia’s entry into World War II in September 1939, when he was leader of the United Australian Party (UAP).

However, in 1941 he spent four months in England contributing to Churchill’s War Cabinet powwows, and upon his return found he had lost the party’s support – how very fickle of them. Ming resigned as Prime Minister and in time helped form the Australian Liberal Party, being elected as its inaugural leader on this day in 1945. He again took office as PM in December 1949 and stayed put until 26th January 1966 (Australia Day), when he resigned.

Born in 1940, multi-award winning Australian actor Jack Thompson celebrates his seventy-seventh birthday today. That wasn’t his name at birth, though – step forward baby John Hadley Pain. The poor little chap was just four when his mother died, leaving his merchant seaman father unable to care for him and his brother, David. He was sent to an orphanage by his aunt and from there was adopted by John and Pat Thompson – hence the change of surname. Film reviewer Peter Thompson (also my dad’s name) is his adoptive brother – I’ve never heard of him either.

The Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? featured the actor in its first episode in 2008, discovering that his great-grandfather was Captain Thomas Pain, and his great-great uncle Alfred Lee, a prominent figure in Sydney society. Philanthropist Alfred donated the journal of Sir Joseph Banks, British naturalist and explorer, documenting Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia in the 1770s to the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Bonza!

Other actors sharing this birthday are; Richard Gere (loved Pretty Woman! 1949), Roy Castle (1932), James Coburn (1928), Buddy Hackett (1924) and Richard Basehart (1914). Although a pianist rather than actor, American Big Tiny Little (1930) earns his place on the list simply by virtue of his odd name. Using that criterion, let’s throw in Roman Emperors Caligula (scary chap! 12) and the outright winner, Commodus (161).

 

People born under the Virgo sign are typically analytical, kind, hardworking and practical. They tend to worry, are shy and don’t like to be the centre of attention, as they are modest, faithful, and quiet folk. With a tendency to be persuasive, they have a good memory* and sense of reasoning and are skilled at detailed work. Virgos are also known for their intellect and usually embrace art, literature, science, or mathematics.

Shall we plant our tootsies firmly back on British soil? In my August 2016 blog I mentioned that it was the OH’s birthday on the 31st – funnily enough, it is again this year. At least he’s consistent. (*Can I just mention here that he has a memory like a leaking sieve and is persuasive only because he is like a dog with a bone and doesn’t give up, so that others eventually lose the will to live and capitulate?) Again, it’s the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, twenty years ago now – a twentieth wedding anniversary is china, but I’m not entirely sure how that would translate to the anniversary of a death. Quite possibly in no way at all, although I’d hazard a wild guess some wannabe entrepreneur somewhere has mass-manufactured a tacky commemorative mug. Was it really two decades ago that the accident happened, opening the floodgates for conspiracy theorists everywhere – not to mention making lots of florists rich when the public en masse bought bouquets, only to leave them rotting outside Kensington Palace in a public display of grief?

I didn’t watch Diana’s funeral on TV, although I have seen various clips of it over the years, most poignantly her two young sons following her coffin under the gaze of a worldwide audience. In contrast to all the pomp and ceremony that accompanied Diana’s day, I have recently organised a funeral on the other end of the scale – an occasion as low key as possible, to minimise my mother’s confusion when we buried my father; the aforementioned Peter Thompson. My mother has vascular dementia (as did my father) and is basically away with the fairies. Lucky her.

Because he had no religious conviction whatsoever, we opted for a graveside ceremony only in order to shorten proceedings. Overcoming pronounced differences in height, my sons and niece were pallbearers of a coffin decorated with Spitfires – although Peter wasn’t a pilot, his father was during WWI (not flying Spitfires, obvs – Sopwith Camels, I believe) and it was most likely his influence that fired an interest in vintage aircraft in his youngest son, who had quite an impressive collection of dust-attracting models. On the coffin lid sat a single red rose (donations to charity in lieu of flowers) and a battered old trilby that my father insisted on wearing to annoy the grandchildren, having a whole shelf of much newer/smarter hats in his wardrobe.

Instead of a priest or celebrant, we used the services of the Conductor; he was part of the funeral director’s staff, in charge of the proceedings and making sure everything ran smoothly. It was him who read out a short eulogy and tributes written by the grandchildren – he didn’t look at all like Mr Conductor of Thomas the Tank Engine fame. Well, not much. When it was over, we all adjourned to a local hotel for some much-needed alcoholic refreshment and buffet food – not a stale sausage roll to be seen – and in a final act of symbolism, each grandchild launched a black star helium balloon skyward from the car park. This may have given pilots taking off from Heathrow one or two worrying moments.

I was talking over the garden fence to neighbour David recently – his mother died a few weeks before my father, and he so rightly observed that there’s nothing like a death/funeral to bring out the very worst in people. No horror story I could relate beats the behaviour of his step-father, who refused to let David and his sister into their family home, after his wife died. He also arranged an alternative, rival wake to David’s, following the funeral that David organised and paid for, and – most bizarre of all – ordered from the florist an ostentatious wreath spelling out HUSBAND, to ride along with the coffin! Huh?

That should surely be termed a grave offence – so sorry! Nowt so strange as folk, as they say. Those shenanigans are pretty hard to top, so I won’t try and I’ll say toodles, until we meet again.

NP

www.Author.to/nellpeters

Huge thanks as ever hun. Fun, thought provoking, moving and- as an added bonus- a history lesson. Love it.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 


New Cover: The Outlaw’s Ransom

To my surprise and delight I have a new cover for The Outlaw’s Ransom!

Check it out. I rather love it.

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom on Kindle via all good online retailers- including-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475660907&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash

 https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Jennifer-Ash-ebook/dp/B01LZDKPQM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475660990&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Outlaw%27s+Ransom+Jennifer+Ash 

Blurb-

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 from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

A few nice words from my readers…

I first read this story when it appeared in a lesser form as a ‘story within a story’. (Romancing Robin Hood)
I have really enjoyed reading the expanded version – complete with historical references.
Mathilda is kidnapped by local highborn landowners/outlaws as a way of ensuring her family repay a loan. Too clever for her own good she soon realises that they wish to use her to pass messages to another family – who would ever think to question a young lady, but is very quickly embroiled in the murder of a local business man….A very cleverly written medieval who dunnit.” 

“Jennifer’s research is clear and gives the story a well developed sense of time and place, always key for me. Looking forward to her next full length novel”

“Can’t wait to read Mathilda’s next adventure.”

***

Mathilda will carry on her adventure’s in The Winter Outlaw. Sadly – although it was due to be published in November this year- for reasons beyond anyone’s control, it won’t now be published until May 2018. Hang in there though…cos the Winter oUtlaw is coming….

Happy reading,

Jennifer/Jenny


Blowing the Dust Off: Nell Peter’s By Any Other Name

It’s Day 2 of my Blowing the Dust Off series. Today we are in the company of Nell Peters (she of the end of the month blogging epics). She is taking a peak at her first crime novel By Any Other Name.

Go grab a cuppa, sit down, and enjoy…

 

Hi Jenny – is it the end of the month already? Oh no, different gig – I’m here to waffle on about one of my backlist masterpieces! Silly me …

It was on (Friday) 25th April 2014, that I received an email from Greg Rees, then an editor at Accent, telling me he’d finished the complete MS of By Any Other Name and wanted to publish it – as he read through, he’d been flabbergasted not once, but twice apparently. Go me! The offer came as a huge surprise, since when he’d liked the original three chapter submission and asked for the rest, I’d rather dismissed the possibility of things going any further – I expected to receive yet another ‘not right for our list at this time’ or ‘I just don’t love it enough’ type rejection. I’ve had enough of those to metaphorically paper a medium-sized room, although funnily enough, none for that particular book, as I’d only just finished writing it. When I say ‘just finished writing’ I mean the final two thirds of a crime novel started so long ago I can’t actually put a date on it – except that it was just after Queen Victoria died.

The first third of BAON had to be rewritten too from memory, after #3 son managed to crash my PC spectacularly and send all my files spiralling into cyber space, without hope of retrieval – and I had no back-up, nada! Rookie mistake … I dipped into the rewrite now and again over the years, in between writing other stuff, and eventually got to the bit where everything had disappeared in a puff of ether. Then I had to actually start thinking how the plot would evolve and finish the thing – it actually took on a whole different outline to my original mental blueprint.

However, that Friday the excitement and anticipation of publication had to take a back seat very quickly, because the following day was GD Isla-Rose’s first birthday – and she was having a big party, for which I’d promised to make a pink princess fairy castle cake, plus oodles of buffet food. I mentioned the cake making to Greg and he very helpfully sent a link to an M&S creation that would have been perfect, except for the seven day waiting period. Damn! So, into the kitchen toddled the least domesticated female since Lizzie Borden’s stepmother served up that putrefied mutton …

Isla is #4 son’s (now) older daughter and he rocked up to, erm, help with the cake. By the time we’d finished many hours later, all book publication thoughts had left the building and the kitchen had suffered a snow blizzard, covered in flour and icing sugar (as were we!) But we were reasonably pleased/relieved at the result. Happy to report that of the too many people packed into their tiny house, nobody died of food poisoning from the party fodder and a good time was had by all.

The next week, my contract arrived, but before I could sign it (against the advice of the Society of Authors, I might add) my father was taken ill in Twickenham and I had to speed off to his bedside, via long distance trains and a tube strike. Dad was fine, of course – he’s a life-long hypochondriac, but even they become genuinely ill sometimes, and at eighty-nine it was a bit risky to ignore his protestations. I eventually managed to extract myself from his sick bay and return to my lap top in Norfolk to begin the process of whipping the MS into pristine shape for November release.

When the big day arrived, it was something of an anti-climax. There had been no pre-order, ARCs, trumpet or whistle blowing prior to the launch and apart from me posting on social media, the day passed unheralded with me gawping at the lap top. I joined some FB groups to get myself ‘out there’ – from one day to the next I went from being a no-group bod to belonging to four, and rising.

Once your book finally hits the cyber shelves, even as a very unsatisfactory print on demand, reviews are eagerly awaited and after a couple of weeks or so, one landed on Amazon for BAON – a 1*! At that time Accent used to put new releases on a freebie offer for a limited time to encourage sales and ‘Patsy’ (her name is ingrained in my memory forever!), I noticed, made a habit of grabbing any freebie going and rubbishing it, after reading just a few pages. If you have a healthy clutch of reviews, you can weather a low rating, but when it’s the first it takes ages to up your average, which is frankly depressing.

By Any Other Name is a genre-crossing crime novel and admittedly a bit Marmite. There are similarities to I Let You Go in that the plot stands on its head at about two thirds of the way through – it’s difficult to say much more, so why not read the blurb:

A summer job to die for – and people do.

Emily Kelly can’t believe her luck when she is employed as temporary companion to Sir Gerald Ffinche and falls in love with his son, Richard.

However, it’s obvious their happiness isn’t shared by all, when one tragedy is quickly followed by another; and as the body count mounts, subtle clues are left to incriminate Emily and destroy her relationship.

Police involved seem incapable of exposing the real culprit; perhaps a family member, one of the household staff, or someone else close to the Ffinches?

No one is above suspicion, and no one is safe until a psychopath is unmasked – or thereafter.

With a shoal of red herrings and a plot that turns quickly from almost-cosy to taut psychological thriller, this is an enthralling, chilling read that will appeal to those who relish the unpredictability of Clare Mackintosh.

    ‘Twists abound as love blossoms amongst the dead bodies in a genre-crossing novel with a dark undertow all its own.’

Marika Cobbold, best-selling author.

     Fancy reading an excerpt? Be my guest:

Chapter One

As Emily rushed around, scooping up all the stuff she needed to take to work, an advertisement in the local free paper caught her attention:

Footloose and Versatile Female, Aged under 35 years.

Must be free July and August. Telephone in complete confidence …’

Not much to go on, but what could possibly be worse than painting red crescent smiles on toy clowns’ faces day in, day out, until September, she asked herself. Exactly. She ripped out the bottom half of the page, folded it roughly and shoved it in her bag, before heading out the door at speed.

She’d recently finished the first year of a degree course in Psychology, passing all assignments with flying colours and notching up the requisite number of credits to enable her to continue – much to her tutors’ blatant amazement, her attendance record having won no awards. But without visible (or invisible) means of support, Emily had to take a holiday job in a local toy factory just to survive until the next loan cheque arrived on the doormat. Though the work was mind-numbingly awful, it was all she could get; she hadn’t been there long and for the third time in as many days, was about to miss the last bus that would deliver her to her paint pot on time.

She forgot all about the ad until lunchtime, when she was sitting eating crisps with Doreen and some of the other women who worked in the paint section.

‘What do you think about this, Dor?’ she asked, waving the scrap of paper under her nose.

Doreen adjusted her half-moon glasses and scrutinised the print. ‘Well, if I was ten years younger…’

‘And the rest!’ scoffed Peroxide Pam, who was reading over Doreen’s shoulder, gnashing her Wrigley’s for all to see and hear.

Doreen pursed her lips, ignoring Pam, ‘As I was saying, if I was ten years younger, Em, I’d apply for it meself – what have you got to lose?’

The arrival of Mr Spinks, their line supervisor, put an end to any further debate.

‘Come, come now ladies. Idle chatter won’t get the baby bathed – not in a month of Sundays.’ Spinks was a short, round man – a regular sleaze ball, who vastly overestimated his levels of charisma and importance. ‘The lunch break is finished – now back to your work stations, quick as you can.’ He clapped raw sausage fingers together, the effort of movement making his chins wobble.

She took a moment to suck the last traces of nicotine from her roll-up and stubbed it out on the handy ‘No Smoking’ sign provided – which meant the others left without her and she found herself alone in the locker room, with Spinks blocking the exit. Damn!

‘Well, if it isn’t Miss Smarty Pants…’ he was getting a little too close for comfort, ‘I don’t know why you think you are so much cleverer than the rest of us – just because you managed to cheat your way into university, that doesn’t make you any better than me…’ His damp breath was making her hair frizz and she wanted to get away from his horrible disrobing gaze.

Thank goodness, Doreen’s antennae were on top form. She reappeared at the end of the dingy corridor, ‘There you are, Em. I wondered where you’d got to – mustn’t waste company time, now must we?’ She smiled ingratiatingly at Spinks, who jumped back from Emily as though she had broken out in seeping plague boils.

He scowled, ‘Very good, Mrs Mason, that’s the Dunkirk spirit. Carry on, now.’

She started to follow Doreen, changed her mind and spun around to face him once more, ‘Actually, Mr Spinks, I’m working here during the vacs to earn money – that’s why everyone works here isn’t it, to earn money? I don’t think of myself as any better or any worse than anyone else – including you.’ She felt Doreen’s sharp tug at her elbow, ‘And the name is Kelly, Emily Kelly – not Smarty Pants. She left last week, I believe.’ Then she allowed herself to be dragged away.

Spinks stalked off in the opposite direction, gargantuan buttocks flubbing together and one arm held awkwardly behind his back, like Prince Charles. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know,’ he called over his shoulder.

‘Wazzock,’ hissed Doreen, not too loudly, ‘don’t you take no notice of him, Em, Mrs Spinks is probably keeping him on tight rations in the bedroom department.’ She inclined her head and winked a blue-shadowed crêpe eyelid.

‘I’m amazed there is a Mrs Spinks.’ Emily suffered a gruesome mind’s eye flash of him in the nude – even his spare tyres had spare tyres – which sent shivers up and down her neurological pathways.

‘Oh yeah, right under the thumb he is,’ Doreen was one of those people who seemed to know everything about everybody.

‘Does she have a Seeing Eye Dog and a white stick?’

Doreen shrugged, ‘Never met the woman in person, but I saw them out shopping on a Saturday once. She’s one of them scrawny, mean-looking women – probably a terrible nag. And Spinks never brings her along to the Christmas parties.’

‘Lucky escape for her, I imagine?’ Emily scoffed.

She looked genuinely shocked, ‘You must be joking! It’s the social event of the year round here.’ Emily made a mental note never to sink that low. ‘Okay, Miss Smarty Pants – time we was getting back to our work of national importance.’

Back at the production line, plastic clowns were standing all in a row, waiting for her to make them look happy and appealing and well worth their outrageous price tag. Doreen hitched up her weighty boobs with equally weighty forearms and waddled off to her seat, her lumpy backside straining to be free of the tight brown overall. As always, she was anxious to catch the beginning of The Archers – which was the highlight of her day.

Not being a fan of radio drama, Emily loaded her paintbrush with crimson gloop and settled down to switch off from life in the sweatshop and daydream her way through to clocking-off time. Johnny Depp featured regularly in her fantasy world and that afternoon, she was guest of honour at his sumptuous mansion, high in the Hollywood Hills. Dearest Johnny couldn’t do enough for her, waiting on her hand and foot as she soaked up the Californian sun at the side of his turquoise infinity pool, sipping vintage champagne through a sparkly straw.

Her imagination took a detour to that interesting advertisement and the possible scenarios it might throw up. Was it possible a terminally ill Adonis was searching for someone like her to sooth his fevered brow, during his final, tragic weeks? As a reward for her unstinting care, he would bequeath to her all his money, plus a controlling share portfolio in a selection of designer dress and shoe shops. Or could it be an eccentric zillionaire sought a beautiful, lithe young woman (such as Emily, obviously) to work an hour a day on his very own Caribbean Island? Naturally, her allotted tasks wouldn’t be too taxing – perhaps grooming the Guinea pig twice a week, arranging vases of exotic flowers to his satisfaction, pouring just the right amount of expensive, scented bath oil into his hot tub; that sort of thing.

If you’d like to read more, here’s the international link.

http://mybook.to/BAON

Toodles.

Nell Peters

***

Thanks Nell – fabulous blog as ever.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see which book Marie Laval is going to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


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