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Wedding Thinking: Romancing Robin Hood

As many of you will know, I spend the majority of my writing time in the corner of a café in a small town in Devon. The shop next door but one to the café is one of those establishments that seems to change hands at least once a year. Recently it opened as a wedding dress retailer. At the moment it has some beautiful pseudo-medieval dresses making up the window display- and they got me thinking about the wedding in my part modern/part medieval novel, Romancing Robin Hood.

That in turn got me thinking about my forthcoming medieval novel, The Winter Outlaw…but more about that later…

RRH- new 2015

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can also read within my novel!)

Blurb

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…

***

The problem with Grace, is that she is always so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by.

With the wedding of Grace’s best friend, Daisy, approaching fast, she can’t help wishing for some personal happiness herself…

summer wedding

Extract

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

RH- RoS 2

***

As I said above- it isn’t just Romancing Robin Hood that came to mind when I saw the historically inspired wedding dresses in the shop window.

In a few weeks time I will finish the publisher’s edits for my second Jennifer Ash novel, The Winter Outlaw. This story continues from where we left the medieval mystery solver, Mathilda of Twyford (that Grace invented in Romancing Robin Hood), telling you what happens after Mathilda settles herself into life in the Folville family household. (Mathilda’s story is told without Grace Harper’s accompanying story in The Outlaw’s Ransom) There may – or may not- be a wedding….

Buy Links for Romancing Robin Hood – E-book and paperback

Amazon UK- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B00M4838S2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407428558&sr=8-1&keywords=romancing+robin+hood

Amazon.com- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B00M4838S2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407428558&sr=8-1&keywords=romancing+robin+hood

***

Buy Links for The Outlaw’s Ransom – E-book only

Amazon.co.uk – 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

Amazon.com – 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

Happy reading,

Jenny x


End of the Month Round Up: May Madness

YEAH!!! A whole year of end of month blogs from the brilliant Nell Peters – and she hasn’t run away to hide yet!

Go grab a cuppa and come and see what Nell has found out for us this month.

Over to you Nell…

Hello! Thanks Jenny, and Happy First Anniversary! That’s paper in marriage terms, so appropriate-ish I guess.

A whole year ago, I wrote my inaugural last-day-of-the-month guest blog for Jenny and so I thought I’d better take a look to check what I was waffling on about, so as not to repeat myself and betray creeping senility. This was my opening paragraph:

‘Hi everyone; I’m thrilled that Jenny has asked me to do a regular (monthly) spot on her illustrious blog – though I can’t help thinking she has me confused with someone else … Case of mistaken identity notwithstanding, this is my opening shot and I will try my best not to get the sack on my first day.’ Guess what? Jen still hasn’t sussed and I’m still here! *Sniggers like over-acting pantomime baddie into sweaty palm*

My subject matter for May ’16 was almost exclusively Pavlova the chicken – aah, dear Pavlova. I still miss her and her antics, when I’m wandering round the garden. That was, of course, before Svetlana arrived on the scene in July, courtesy #4 son. Funnily enough, Svetlana Alexievich, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2015 (the year before … erm … Bob Dylan), and after whom my second chicken was named, was born on this day in 1948.

Svet the fowl was totally different to Pav (not nearly so bossy and a very friendly chook) but was with us just two weeks before they were both killed – we think by Killer Kat. I still have chickens in the garden, but Vladimir (OK, he’s a cockerel – well spotted) and Raisa, given to me by various sons, are sculpted in metal and as such are impervious to feline (or any other) attack.

OK, let’s get this show on the road. Today, the oldest GS is eight, bringing to an end a month bursting with both family and friends’ birthdays. Phew! To wildly paraphrase the song lyrics written by George Harrison, my bank balance not-so-gently weeps – it’s gone through two dozen boxes of tissues during the last few weeks.

George Harrison

Sharing celebrations on the 151st day of the year (only 214 to go, folks – did I mention I’m a mathematical genius?) are a large number of sports personalities, most of whom I don’t know from Adam or Eve. They are Gemini, ruled by Uranus, which provides these folk with intelligence and a vivid imagination. They like to give the impression that they have a badass streak, but this is mostly an act and generally they follow a conventional lifestyle.

May 31st-ers live life in the present, giving little thought to the past or future – they will make life-altering decisions without considering the consequences, but are fortunately adaptable and will easily work through any problems encountered. Not quite sure how that fits with a sporting lifestyle, but #2 son’s birthday was two days ago and that profile sums him up pretty accurately. #3 was born on 14th May so he’s Taurus, and shares his actual date of birth with an American football player, Rob Gronkowski and Belarusian hurdler, Alina Talay – seems May generally spawns sporty folk.

Who else have we got? There’s actor Clint Eastwood, who was mentioned here a couple of months ago for getting married on 31st March (needs the publicity, poor lamb) – he was born 31st May 1930 and other actors followed his lead (!); Colin Farrell (1976), Brooke Shields (1965), Israeli, Yael Grobglas (1984) and German, Sebastian Koch (1962).

Brooke Shields

Sharing a date of birth with aforementioned Svetlana Alexievich, was John Bonham, drummer in the Led Zeppelin rock band, who died in 1980 aged thirty-two and (hopefully) climbed his own Stairway to Heaven. So sorry! Bonham reportedly imbibed forty (yes, four-zero) shots of vodka, vomited and asphyxiated whilst asleep. Thereafter, surviving band members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant pulled the plug on the group, although they have since collaborated sporadically in reunion performances – in 2007, Jason Bonham took his father’s place, wielding the drum sticks. Coincidentally, on this day in 1915, there was an air raid on London by an LZ-38 Zeppelin.

Sticking with the musical theme for a bit longer, in 1969, Stevie (no longer little) Wonder released My Cherie Amour on the same day that John Lennon and Yoko (Japanese for Ocean Child) Ono recorded Give Peace a Chance, a couple of months after they married in Gibraltar. Lennon was either her third or fourth husband, depending how you look at it – she married her second, American film producer and art promoter Anthony Cox, in 1962 and the marriage was annulled in 1963. However, they remarried the same year – the annulment was necessary because she had neglected to finalise her divorce from husband number one, as you do – and remained so until she and Lennon got hitched. Ono’s profile gives her occupation as peace activist, singer, feminist (that’s an occupation?), songwriter and conceptual artist – Ono (sorry again!), there isn’t another phrase in the English language that can send icy shivers roller skating down my spine quite so quickly as ‘conceptual art/artist’! Any emperors out there need new clothes?

Other historic events on this day include Sir Francis Bacon being locked up in the Tower of London for one night (1621) – he probably decamped for a Holiday Inn, hoping the beds would be more comfy; Samuel Pepys hung up his quill pen after making the final entry in his eponymous diary, because his eyesight was failing (1669) – I’m going to refrain from making a bad joke about his peepers. In 1879, Madison Square Gardens in New York opened, named after 4th President, James Madison; British troops occupied Johannesburg (1900) and exactly two years later the Boer War ended. In Belfast, 1911, RMS Titanic was launched and hailed as unsinkable – try telling that to the passengers on her maiden voyage less than a year later, when the ship argued with an iceberg and lost.

Think the public transport system is grim now? In 1955, Great Britain declared a state of emergency due to a national rail strike. I’m guessing car ownership wasn’t universal then and people were left without many alternatives (only so many passengers can board a number 99 bus at one time, after all), unless they emulated Norman Tebbit’s dad and got on their bikes.

Six years later, the Union of South Africa became a republic and left the ever-depleting Commonwealth – this was a little over a year before Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. I wonder what scary Winnie is doing now … One of the best placards I’ve ever seen read, ‘Free Nelson Mandela! Jail Winnie!’ Amused me, anyway.

Nelson and Winnie Mandela

Talking about prisoners (howzat!), the film of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released to a cinema near you in 2004, four years before Usain Bolt, erm, bolted for all he was worth and claimed the world record for the 100m sprint. This was prior to his supplementary career, popping up all over our TV screens advertising the likes of Virgin and Quorn. Finally, who remembers that loony Psy’s Gangnam Style? It became the first video to clock up two billion views on YouTube in 2014 and was replicated countless times – my favourite being a gang (get it?) of Eton pupils and their tutors, who did an excellent job, if a little tongue-in-cheek.

I had a (completely mad) lecturer who used to award an extra mark if you could include a certain word in essay assignments – once it was ‘birthday’, the due date being his birthday, and worst of all, ‘trombone’. As I recall, I included the spurious information that Karl Marx shared a birthday (May 5th) with philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and for trombone I gave a presentation on Women and Crime, based on the hypothesis that Jack the Ripper was in fact a woman – and when she was a young girl, the family were so impoverished they couldn’t afford her trombone lessons. Seriously! I got away with it and was awarded the extra mark, but goodness knows what the second markers at Cambridge thought! ‘Beagle’ was another challenge and I managed that by somehow mentioning Charles Darwin sailing off into the wide blue yonder on the ship of that name, completely out of context. Which brings us nicely (if by a slightly convoluted route) to the fact that way back in 1836, HMS Beagle anchored in Simons Bay, Cape of Good Hope on May 31st.

Naturalist Charles survival-of-the-fittest Darwin was born in 1809, in Shrewsbury, the second youngest of six children. The family were wealthy – his father a medical doctor, his grandfather a renowned botanist. In 1825, he enrolled at Edinburgh University and two years later, became a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge. It was expected that Charles would follow his father into medicine but an inconvenient aversion to the sight of blood rather put paid to that idea. As an alternative, his father suggested he study to become a parson (irony lives!), but Darwin was more inclined toward natural history.

Whilst he was at Christ’s, botany professor John Stevens Henslow became Darwin’s mentor and folloing graduation in 1831, he recommended his protégé for a naturalist’s post aboard HMS Beagle on a five year survey trip around the world. That’s a long time to suffer from seasickness – which he did. The voyage was the opportunity of a lifetime for a keen young environmentalist to study the principles of botany, geology and zoology and collect natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils. The Pacific Islands, Galapagos Archipelago and South America were of particular interest to Darwin. Through experimentation and observation he concluded that species survived through a process of natural selection, where those that successfully adapted to meet the changing environment of their natural habitat thrived, whereas those that failed to evolve and reproduce died off.

In 1858, after years of further scientific investigation, Darwin publically introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnean Society, dedicated to the study and dissemination of information concerning natural history and taxonomy (classification). The following year he published a detailed explanation of his beliefs in his best-known work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Keeping it in the family, in 1883 Sir Francis Galton (although then still plain Mr), a respected British scholar and cousin of Darwin, first used the term eugenics, meaning well-born. Galton felt the human race could help direct its future by selectively breeding individuals who had ‘desired’ traits, based on his study of upper class Britain (I’m guessing he missed out on meeting members of the Bullingdon Club?) Galton posited that an elite position in society was due to a good genetic makeup – all immensely scary stuff and very much open to sickening abuse, as more recent history demonstrates.

Francis Galton

Surprisingly for someone so heavily into genetics, Darwin himself married another cousin, Emma Wedgwood (at least they would never be short of plates) after deducing from the pros-cons of marriage list he made, that a wife would be ‘better than a dog’ – what a silver-tongued smoothie! Nevertheless, they had ten children, only seven of whom survived to adulthood.

Emma Wedgewood

I wonder what Darwin and Galton would have made of the likes of Lily Savage and Danny la Rue? Whilst Lily looks a whole lot more like Paul O’Grady nowadays presenting animal programmes, Daniel Patrick Carroll swapped his diamante frocks for a pair of wings, when he died on this day in 2009, aged eighty-one.

Danny la Rue

Just one last piece of trivia (groan!) In 2010, Chris Haney – Canadian journo (worked on the Montreal Gazette; dreadful rag) and co-creator (with Scott Abbott) of the board game, Trivial Pursuit, followed suit (groan again) and died, aged fifty-nine. The photo I saw of him reminded me quite a lot of singer-turned-politician, husband-of-four-including-Cher, Sonny Bono – also deceased after a skiing accident at the appropriately-named Heavenly Ski Resort in 1998. Bono’s epitaph reads, And The Beat Goes On. Not sure if I’d have been able to resist the mega bad-taste alternative, I Got Yew, Babe, since he collided with a tree.

Right – I’m done! Don’t all cheer at once!

Toodles.

NP

Author.to/NellPeters

 ***

Many thanks once again Nell. I can’t believe a whole year has passed. Seems only yesterday you were introducing us to the star struck Pavlova.

Roll on next month.

Jenny x


The importance of book reviews

I have recently been blessed with some lovely reviews for my latest novel, Abi’s Neighbour.

Reviews are the only way an author can tell if he or she is ‘hitting the spot’ or not. Obviously high book sales can tell you if your book is successful – but sale figures can do no more than reflect how good your marketing is. It is feedback from your readership that tells you if your stories are actually working.

If you wrote a thriller- did it thrill?

If you wrote a romance- did it melt the heart?

If you wrote a horror- did it give your reader nightmares?

Obviously this set of questions is simplistic, but the point is- authors need to know – and way to tell them is via reviews.

Good reviews improve our standing and our professional reputations. They improve our ratings on Amazon and equivalent book selling platforms. The more good reviews an author has, the better their sales will become.

I’m not saying that you should only give good reviews. If a book has disappointed, let you down and so on, then some constructive criticism can help an author- even though it might be difficult to swallow sometimes!

What you should not do is give a poor review because…

… of poor delivery packaging (nothing to do with the author)

…the book isn’t the one you meant to purchase- (you pressed the buy button)

…you didn’t like the cover after all, so you didn’t bother reading the book etc etc

My favourite 1 star review was for Another Cup of Coffee – it was complaining about all the sex in it.

This confused me. There is a suggestion that sex might happen on two occasions within that 97,000 word book. There is no actual sex.  I dread to think what might have happened if that reviewer had accidentally purchased one of my Kay Jaybee books!!!

If you enjoy a book – PLEASE review it.

It takes up to a year to write a book for you to read in a matter of days. Any positive feedback you can give helps us! A lot.

It’s tough in the world of publishing right now. We need to help each other to keep those books coming.

Whether you leave a review on the Amazons, WHSmith, Waterstones, or the brilliant Goodreads – every single one helps.

Every single one.

And with that…I have some reviews to write for some books I’ve recently enjoyed!

Thanks you,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 


Imagine@Hazelwood: A heavenly writing environment

The wonderful Alison Knight and myself have been very busy since we launched our creative writing business, Imagine.

This week we were welcomed to the beautiful Hazelwood Spa, in the idyllic Wiltshire village of Sutton Benger, to meet and greet clients who after a well earned pedicure or massage, might like to come along to a creative writing class.

We were made so welcome by owner and manageress Sam at the spa’s recent open evening. The friendly staff kindly let Alison take over a treatment room so we could show off our books, explain how our classes work, and eat some delicious canapes. (It’s a tough job sometimes!)

If you would like to sign up for an Imagine@Hazelwood creative writing workshop you don’t have to be a spa client- although once you’ve seen the place I defy you not to want to come back for a little something!

The classes are going to run by Alison on the second Saturday of every month. Booking is now open!

IMAGINE@HAZELWOOD WORKSHOPS

June 10           Introduction to creative writing – what are your hopes for your writing?  Looking at styles, genres, opportunities and possibilities

July 8               Who will you write about? Developing characters, writing about real people.

August 12       Where is story happening? Looking at settings – using real places in your story and creating imaginary worlds.

Sept 9             When does the action take place – past, present or future?  Looking at time – historical, contemporary, speculative (future) and time-travel.

All workshops run from 3-5pm at Hazelwood Beauty Spa, Seagry Road, Sutton Benger, SN15 4RX. Each session costs £20.  To book your place, call the spa at 01249 720964.

After September 9th new class details will be added. Just keep your eye on our web site- https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/news

You can sign up to one class, just a few, or all of them. Either way, with Alison Knight at the helm, I can guarantee you’ll learn a lot, laugh a lot, and have a fun and informative few hours in beautiful surroundings.

Happy writing,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 


Imagine: creative writing courses

Last month my lovely friend Alison Knight and myself launched our own business!

As you can imagine (pun intended!), it has taken a lot of time and organisation to get our new enterprise up and running.

It has already proved to be worth every second. With a number of classes completed and many more already timetabled to take place, we are loving get out and about across the UK.

Our next two public workshops are now open for booking-

 

If you’d like more details about what we offer- or if you’d like to book us to host a workshop at your venue, or arrange a one to one lesson, then check out our web site at www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk or email Alison and myself via imaginecreativewriting@gmail.com

Keep your eyes open for news about a workshop at the forthcoming Tiverton Literary Festival as well!

I’m particularly looking forward to a private life writing class I have at the end of May in a local retirement home. After all, everyone has a story to tell, and it’s never too late to let your book writing dreams come true.

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny x


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