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Blowing the Dust Off: Jenny Harper’s People we Love

It’s Day 8 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series. Today we are joined by the lovely Jenny Harper. She is introducing us to one of her Heartlands novels’, People we Love.

Go grab a cuppa, sit down, and enjoy…

 

Finding inspiration in the dark

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a gig at the Edinburgh Festival. It was African music and dance (traditional and contemporary), and there was lots of bounce and rhythm and colour. I was enjoying myself immensely – but at the back of my mind, something was niggling me. I couldn’t get the right title for my forthcoming novel.

These things can be instant and easy … or they can drive you to insanity because nothing seems to work. I was at the latter end of the spectrum. I closed my eyes and tried to block out my worries and concentrate on the music. After all, it was terrific.

Then it happened.

‘The people we love,’ said the diminutive lead singer of the group, introducing the next song, ‘don’t always love us back.’

Bang! There it was. People We Love. Perfect. The fourth novel in my Heartlands series (set in East Lothian, near Edinburgh), is about a family grieving for a brother, or a son, who was killed in a road accident a year ago in mysterious circumstances. The heroine, Alexa Gordon, is an artist who put her career on hold to support her parents. Tom Gordon (her father) is staunch and buttoned-up, determined to keep his grief in check so that he can go on supporting his family (and inevitably suffering in the process), while her mother, Martha, has completely fallen apart. It’s only after an elderly lady with dementia climbs in through her kitchen window that Alexa begins the long journey back from the dark. There are other characters too – her ex lover Cameron Forrester, who appears back on the scene after an unexplained absence, and Patrick Mulgrew, a suave art dealer who lives near Alexa in the fictional town of Hailesbank, but who works in Edinburgh. Oh, and her best friend Molly Keir, who has ghosts and secrets in her own past.

I loved writing that book. If I say it’s about shoes, it’s not a lie, but don’t get the wrong idea! ‘Shoes tell stories,’ reads the invitation to the exhibition Alexa finally puts together, ‘stories of much-loved babies who can’t even walk, of the tottering steps of little children towards adulthood, of special events in our lives; of dances, and marriages, and mountain climbs and escapes.’

What am I talking about? Sorry – you’ll have to find out for yourself!

Anyway, the inspiration I had that night during the gig had natural consequences – when I decided to write about Molly’s story in my next novel, I used the title Mistakes We Make. It’s the first book in the Heartlands series that actually links to a previous one, other than through the setting. Alexa (Lexie) reappears, and her life has moved on considerably in the months since the end of People We Love, while Molly is still stuck in her hideaway, her problems unsolved. Inevitably, she has to face quite a few ups and downs and challenges, and deal with the mistakes she has made in the past, before she can set things to rights.

I adored the covers Accent Press designed for these two books. They have just the right feel of dreamy mysteriousness. I’m not sure if it was the titles that inspired them or my blurbs, but anyway, sometimes things come together in a very pleasing way – even when finding the path might be difficult in the first instance!

Buy them here

smarturl.it/People_We_Love

smarturl.it/Mistakes_We_Make

Bio

Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as five novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), a novel set in Edinburgh, and a number of short stories.

Jenny writes contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues. Face the Wind and Fly, about a woman wind farm engineer with a marriage in trouble and a controversial project to handle. Loving Susie, about a female politician with a complicated family history and at odds with the world. Maximum Exposure, in which a newspaper photographer with job to save has some growing up to do. People We Love is about an artist whose life is on hold following the tragic death of her brother and Mistakes We Make follows a high-flying events manager as she works out what is really important in her life. In a sixth title, Between Friends, three women have to work together to take revenge on a man from their past whose reappearance threatens to ruin them all.

Find Me Here

Website          http://jennyharperauthor.co.uk/

Blog                http://jennyharperauthor.co.uk/category/myblog/

Twitter            https://twitter.com/harper_jenny

Facebook       https://www.facebook.com/authorjennyharper

Google +        https://plus.google.com/+JennyHarperauthor/posts

Goodreads     https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15692421-jenny-harper

Amazon Author Page      http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00HXIE2Q0

Pinterest        https://uk.pinterest.com/jennyharperhome/boards/

***

Many thanks Jenny. Great blog.

Come back tomorrow to read all about Richard Gould’s work.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 


Blowing the Dust Off: Alison Rose’s Off the Record

It’s Day 7 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today my friend  and creative writing business partner, Alison Rose, is talking ‘Off the Record.’

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Hello everyone, I’m Alison Rose, and I’m delighted to be Jenny’s guest today in her From the Archives blog.  I met Jenny at a meeting of the Bath and North Wiltshire chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association a few years ago and we’ve been firm friends ever since.  My first book deal was with Jenny’s publisher, Accent Press, and in recent months we’ve become business partners, running Imagine Creative Writing workshops and retreats together.

The book I want to share with you today is my first published novel, Off the Record.  Here’s the blurb:

“This is the chance of a lifetime, so don’t blow it! Journalist Kate Armstrong has always known that music icon Johnson Brand’s platinum-selling first album was written about his break-up with her mother, Alexandra. When Kate’s boss sends her out to interview the star himself, her life is turned upside down when her resemblance to Alexandra prompts Johnson to seek out her mother and renew their relationship. Kate suddenly has a lot on her plate – coming to terms with Alexandra and Johnson’s rekindling relationship, as well as keeping the two of them out of the public eye, all the while trying to resist the advances of Johnson’s playboy son, Paul. She thinks she has everything under control, until a threatening figure from the band’s past rears its ugly head. Will love tear them all apart … again?”

I was inspired to write Off the Record after watching the movie Grease on a rainy afternoon.  Off the Record actually has very little to do with the film, but watching Grease had sparked memories of the year that it came out – 1977 – when I was the English exchange student at a high school in Indiana, USA.  As I watched Grease with my teenaged daughter, I remembered the people I’d known in 1977 and wondered what they were doing now.  One of the boys had been a talented singer and that sparked my idea of a rock star. I was working for a Christian charity at the time and knew a lot of lady vicars… and so it began.

I started asking ‘What if?’ and the characters and story began to form – the divorced, aging rock star; the widowed lady vicar; his record producer son; her journalist daughter.  Could the older couple have anything in common after so many years apart? Would their children be able to overcome their desire to protect their parents and their suspicion of each other? And who was causing so much trouble for them all?

I loved writing Off the Record and I’m proud that it was the first of my books to be published. It was intended to be the story of love rekindled in middle age, but I couldn’t resist the call of the couple’s grown-up children, who shot sparks at each other right from the start.  So in Off the Record you get two love stories for the price of one! I guess I always wanted to be swept off my feet by a sexy rock star and so I had a lot of fun making it happen for Kate and Alexandra.

If you’d like to read Off the Record, here’s the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Off-Record-Alison-Rose-x/dp/1783752491/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502203726&sr=1-7&keywords=off+the+record

Thanks so much to Jenny for inviting me along today and thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you enjoy Off the Record too!

If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, please visit my website at www.alisonroseknight.com and if you want to find out what Jenny and I are up to as Imagine… see www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

Many thanks Alison! Always great to have you pop by.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to find out what Jenny Harper is going to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Blowing the Dust Off: Jane Jackson’s Eye of the Wind

It’s Day 6 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today the lovely Jane Jackson is reminding us about her excellent novel, Eye of the Wind.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog, Jenny.  Your brief was that guests should choose one of their books published at least two years ago.  I have chosen ‘Eye of the Wind.’ I’m passionate about the characters, story and background in every book I’ve written, but this one is a special favourite.  Why?  Because Melissa and Gabriel have no choice but to keep secrets, from their families and each other.  As the attraction between them grows, this creates enormous tension which is tough for them, but makes a gripping story.

As a professional writer for over four decades with thirty-two books published, I’ve learned a lot about my craft. A strong plot is important. But for me character comes first.  The characters drive the story and if they don’t grab and hold your interest, you’re not likely to read on. There are so many new books published every week all begging for your attention.

One thing I learned to do (and passed on to my students when I was teaching the craft of novel writing) was give main character/s something to hide, something to protect, and something to overcome.  This gave them greater depth, made them more real, while adding tension and conflict to the story.  Something else I learned as a people-watcher –not nosiness but vital research – is that the reason someone gives for choosing a particular course of action might seem reasonable and logical. But that’s never the full story. Look deeper and you’ll see that there’s more behind it, a pay-off that gives them something they want and feel they don’t have.

e.g.  Jo buys a lottery ticket every week and tells her family all the things she would do for them if she won. Taken at face value Jo’s reason for doing the lottery is so she can be generous. But her underlying motive is to control her family by making them grateful to her.  And this is because she feels unappreciated, taken for granted.  I’m not suggesting that every time you meet someone you should second-guess their actions and behaviour, but occasionally looking a bit deeper can give you some terrific ideas for aspects of character.

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from, what inspires them.  Mine come from where I live – a creek-side village close to the third largest natural harbour in the world.  Cornwall is an island within an island and has a long and varied history. When copper mining was at its height, tiny Gwennap parish was the wealthiest area in the world.  The Packet Service based in Falmouth carried mail all over the globe and brought back bullion from British-owned sugar, coffee and tobacco plantations.  News of victory against the French at Trafalgar, and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson, was carried ashore at Fish Strand Quay in Falmouth by Lt Lapenotiere, who hired a post chaise to take him to London.  The first trials of nitro-glycerine, invented by Alfred Nobel, took place at Falmouth docks.  William Bickford, a leather currier living in Truro, invented the first safety fuse for use in Cornish mines and quarries.  These backgrounds, and more, have featured in my books.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from ‘Eye of the Wind.’

Her gaze was clear and candid, and a tiny frown puckered her forehead. ‘You sound different.’

He smiled briefly. ‘Not used to talking.’

‘No, I don’t mean your voice: I mean your mode of speech.’

He bent his head, clenching his teeth as tension cramped his gut. In France, speaking only Breton, his disguise a matter of life and death, it had been easy to remain in character. But here in his home county and with her… Looking up he shrugged. ‘You’re right, miss. I used to work closely with the master and I wanted to better myself. Picked up his way of talking. No offence intended.’

‘No, no, I didn’t mean – it was not a criticism, Gabriel, merely an observation. But one I should not have made.’  Embarrassment had smothered her suspicion.

Torn between relief at avoiding potential danger and anger at his carelessness, he deliberately steered the conversation away from the past.  ‘May I wish you well for tomorrow?’

She drew a deep breath then blurted, ‘I’ll be glad when it’s over.’

‘No need to be nervous. You know what you’re doing.’

‘I hope so.’ It was heartfelt, anxious. After a moment she admitted, ‘My uncles don’t share your confidence.’

‘You know why, don’t you?’  He saw concern cloud her face. ‘You are attempting something men believe can – should – only be done by another man.’ One corner of his mouth lifted in brief irony. ‘This is a severe threat to their dignity.’

She was silent then tossed her head. ‘If their dignity is so fragile it must rest on very shaky foundations.’

‘It does,’ he confided. ‘And that is a secret all men would prefer to remain hidden.’

‘Her eyes widened. ‘Really?  No, you are not serious.’

‘Indeed I am.’

Seeing his rueful smile, she gasped and blushed, covering her mouth with her fingertips. ‘You should not say such things.’

‘Perhaps. But there will be occasions when you find that knowledge helpful.’

Watching her visible struggle as she recollected herself and withdrew from his unexpected and startling candour he realized that, despite being out in society, she had not acquired the usual veneer of arch sophistication he would have expected in a young woman of her background. And found himself fiercely glad.

She cleared her throat. ‘About – about the wood…’

It was a deliberate if reluctant retreat from an intimacy he should have resisted. Gabriel knew he must let her go. He turned away and set the basket on the ground.  ‘Why don’t you take a day or two to think about it, miss?’

‘But what you said – about the other trees being more valuable. Would they really raise a lot of money quickly?’

Watching her blush deepen and her lashes flutter down as she realized how much her question revealed, Gabriel wondered just how desperate a financial crisis her father had left her to deal with.  Picking up the last stone he began tying it onto a corner of the canvas, careful not to look at her.

‘They would, miss. And with proper management these woods will still be generating income a hundred years from now.’

‘Truly?’ She sounded stunned. ‘Thank you, Gabriel. Thank you very much.’

His hands grew still as he watched her walk quickly away up the path, her long stride peculiarly graceful, self-consciousness forgotten now she had so many more important matters to occupy her.

That evening after washing himself and his filthy shirt, he shaved carefully. With no mirror he had to work by touch alone. It took a long time, and he did not dare go too close to the wound on his throat. But the honey had done its work and healing had begun. Smearing a fresh cloth with the sweet-smelling salve he bound up his throat once more. Passing a hand over his almost-smooth jaw when he had finished, he smiled. No doubt Berryman would shudder at his efforts. But not only did he feel cleaner than he had for months, he also felt ridiculously proud.

When the men assembled at midday, the overnight rain was just a memory. The sun shone from a sky the colour of cornflowers dotted with thistledown clouds. Word that Francis Tregonning was dead and his wife ill had spread like flames in a gale. All were anxious about the yard and their jobs.

Melissa rode into the yard on Samson. Wearing her black habit and a small beaver hat with narrow rolled brim over her upswept hair, she was very pale but appeared calm as she dismounted. Standing near the back, his arms folded, Gabriel watched her fasten the rein to an iron ring, her fingers trembling. Remaining here was sheer madness. If he cared now in just this short time…Was he not in enough peril?

‘Eye of the Wind’   by Jane Jackson. Accent Press 2013. £1.99.

Kindle link:  http://amzn.to/2qiGcOw

Paperback available from third party sellers.

Reviews:  ‘A first-class historical novel … coupled with a gripping story-line.’    Western Morning News.

‘Satisfying on many levels, well-written and pleasurable to read.’   Historical Novels Review.

Author bio:  Jane Jackson’s first book was published in 1976. She wrote fourteen romances for Harlequin, ten romantic historical novels, and will soon complete the eighth of her Polvellan Cornish Mysteries writing as Rachel Ennis. She has been shortlisted for five major awards.

She taught the craft of novel writing for twenty years and was delighted and privileged to see eleven former students become professional novelists.  Happily married to a Cornishman, with children and grandchildren, she has lived in Cornwall all her life finding inspiration for her books in the county’s scenery, history and people.  Her hobbies are reading, coastal walks, baking, vintage vehicle rallies – and reading.

www.janejackson.net

www.facebook.com/PolvellanCornishMysteries

Twitter: @JJacksonAuthor

***

Thanks every so much Jane. Great blog!

Come back tomorrow to discover which book Alison Rose is blowing the dust off.

Happy reading,

Jenny xxx

 


Blowing the Dust Off: Rachel Brimble’s The Temptation of Laura

It’s Day 5 of my Blowing the Dust Off series. Today we are in the company of the fabulous Rachel Brimble. She is taking a peck at her Victorian romance, The Temptation of Laura.

Go grab a cuppa, sit down, and enjoy…

 

The Temptation of Laura…

Despite the title of my second Victorian romance, The Temptation of Laura is not so much about the temptation of Laura herself, but the temptations life throws at her, the hero and many of the secondary characters. Temptation is all around us and more often than not, that temptation could be perceived as opportunity. It’s fear that holds us back from surrendering or resisting.

The book is set against the backdrop of Bath’s theatre world during the late 19th century. There were many changes happening, socially, economically and sexually during this time. The first whispers of the women’s revolution had begun to circulate…not that many men noticed until around 1903 when The Women’s Social and Political Union was founded.

The leaders and supporters of the group began to cause a stir––marching and petitioning for their right to vote. This is marked as a hugely significant and rightly respected time for women at the time. Men had no choice but to sit up and take notice when so many women banded together and refused to be ignored.

This leads me to the question of temptation…I love exploring this theme and all the imaginings it conjures. Each of us is faced with temptations (or decisions) every day and I, for one, am hugely guilty of making the easy, expected, even socially acceptable decision. My books tend to be about the women who do the exact opposite. What better way to earn a living than to create a woman you admire and want to see succeed in her chosen vocation, romance or spiritually satisfying path?

Laura’s story began in book one of my Victorian series with eKensington when she appeared as a secondary character in The Seduction of Emily. It wasn’t long before I knew she deserved a richer, more in-depth story of her own. As a prostitute struggling for a better life…a dreamer who longs to be onstage, I sensed Laura would be a joy to write and spend some time with over the course of 85,000 words. She didn’t let me down J

Hope I’ve ‘tempted’ you to read the book!

 

Here’s the blurb & buy links:

Laura Robinson has always been dazzled by the glamour of the stage. But perhaps acting and selling one’s favors are not so different—for Laura must feign pleasure with the men she beds to survive. Now, with her only friend at death’s door and a ruthless pimp at her heels, escaping her occupation seems impossible. Hoping to attract a gentleman, she attends the theater. Yet the man Laura captivates is no customer, but a rising star and playwright…

Adam Lacey has been driven to distraction since the moment he saw Laura. She is his ideal leading lady come to irresistible life—and so much more. Certain they can make the perfect team on and off stage, he is determined to win her heart—and discover her story. But that is precisely what Laura fears. And she has no idea that Adam harbors shameful secrets of his own. Will the truth free them to love—or destroy all their dreams…?

 Amazon US

 Amazon UK

 Barnes & Noble

 

Bio:

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eight coming in Feb 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Links:

 Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

 Many thanks Rachel, fabulous stuff.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see what Jane Jackson is tempting us with.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

 


Blowing the Dust Off: Kirsten McKenzie’s Fifteen Postcards

It’s Day 4 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today Kirsten McKenzie is taking time out from preparing for an archaeological adventure to tell us all about the fabulous novel, Fifteen Postcards.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Travel Back in Time

Today I make the long journey from Auckland to Newcastle upon Tyne. Three different plane changes and one train trip will see me to my hotel in the centre of the city, where I suspect I shall then sleep for several hours. Why the long journey? I’m heading back to volunteer at an archaeological dig at Vindolanda, all in the name of research.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I didn’t plot or plan. I had no glorious ending in sight, I had merely made a sweeping statement to my family that I would write a novel when my youngest daughter started school, and so I did. I started with this paragraph:

“In a cramped little street, in a dusty corner of London, stands a set of two-storey brick facade shops. An architectural relic from last century, miraculously untouched by the bulldozers of modern developers. A greengrocer, a boutique, a gentlemen’s tailor, the ubiquitous Chinese dumpling shop, and The Old Curiosity Shop, an antique shop named after the Charles Dickens classic of the same name. The sort of shop passers-by would wonder if anyone ever went in or, indeed, whether they actually ever sold anything.”

That paragraph turned in ‘Fifteen Postcards’, a historical time slip novel traversing three continents and two centuries. It took me eighteen months to write, and even then it ended on a cliffhanger as the story grew too large for just one book.

A couple of months after ‘Fifteen Postcards’ was published by Accent Press, I turned up at Vindolanda for my first experience of volunteering on an archaeological site. And I fell in love. Every shovel full of dirt felt like a treasure hunt, but the sort of hunt where you all celebrate finding shards of pottery or slivers of glass. The most exciting article I found was a chair leg, beautifully preserved in the unique environment at Vindolanda.

It was that experience which dictated the direction the sequel to ‘Fifteen Postcards’ would then take. ‘The Last Letter’ was written in twelve months, and may include some references to digging up Roman statues….I’m not going to spoil the plot here!

Accent Press published ‘The Last Letter’ which again had an ending which nicely morphs into another sequel. So now my first novel ‘Fifteen Postcards’ has turned into a trilogy. It did that without me even realising, but time slip fiction does that to you. There are so many interesting threads of history you can weave into a storyline that you just don’t want to leave anything out.

My next book wasn’t the sequel to ‘The Last Letter’. Those characters needed to have a bit of time out, to sit around and stew in colonial New Zealand, or Victorian England, or underneath the rule of the Raj in India. While those characters were resting, I wrote ‘Painted’ a bloodless horror about an art appraiser and a houseful of malevolent portraits. Again, the antique dealer side of me couldn’t resist pulling in all the antique references.

Painted’ took eight months to write, so I’m getting faster which is a good thing! Now that’s out of my system I can revisit the wonderful characters from ‘Fifteen Postcards’ and ‘The Last Letter’ and maybe I’ll fling them into Roman Britain or modern day America? Who knows! But when I step onto the first plane today, I know that I will have my laptop with me, and two glorious weeks of free evenings to write in the most beautiful of locations, with very little responsibilities. And I’m imagining wonderful words will flow.

 

Kirsten excavating at Vindolanda

Author Bio
For many years Kirsten McKenzie worked in her family’s antique store, where she went from being allowed to sell the 50c postcards to selling $5,000 Worcester vases and seventeenth century silverware, providing a unique insight into the world of antiques which touches every aspect of her writing. Her time slip novels have been called Antiques Roadshow gone viral, and The Time Travellers Wife meets The Far Pavilions.

Her horror novel Painted was released in June 2017.

Now a full time author, she lives in New Zealand with her husband, daughters, and her SPCA rescue cat, and can be found procrastinating on Twitter.

Social Media Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kirstenmckenzieauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/kiwimrsmac

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kiwimrsmac

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/kiwimrsmac

Book Links:

UK Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Fifteen-Postcards-Travel-Solve-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00XXZIO0C

US Amazon: www.amazon.com/Fifteen-Postcards-Travel-Mystery-Curiosity-ebook/dp/B00XXZIO0C 

Many thanks Kirsten. What a great blog. I hope your excavation time is fantastic- not at all jealous…honest…

Come back tomorrow to hear what the lovely Rachel Brimble has to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


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