On March 26th Mothering Sunday is celebrated here in the UK.
If you fancy a change from buying your Mum a bunch of flowers, how about treating her to something to read while she puts her feet up and you cook her dinner? (Well, it’s just a thought!!)
Here’s a few quick and easy suggestions to help things along.
COSY COFFEE TIME READS
Another Cup of Coffee
Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old
music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.
Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.
It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself got completely shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…
With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another a bucked-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…
Romancing Robin Hood
Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.
But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…
Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…
Newly widowed and barely thirty, Abi Carter is desperate to escape the Stepford Wives lifestyle that Luke, her late husband, had been so keen for her to live. Abi decides to fulfil a lifelong dream. As a child on holiday in a Cornwall she fell in love with a cottage – the prophetically named Abbey’s House. Now she is going to see if she can find the place again, relive the happy memories …maybe even buy a place of her own nearby? On impulse Abi sets off to Cornwall, where a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Beth, like Abi, has a life-changing decision to make. Max, Beth’s best mate, soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams …but things aren’t quite that simple. There’s the complicated life Abi left behind, including her late husband’s brother, Simon – a man with more than friendship on his mind … Will Abi’s house remain a dream, or will the bricks and mortar become a reality?
The Outlaw’s Ransom is my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.
The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.
When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.
Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…
A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.
The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart. Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.
It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.
…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’
Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.
‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.
‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’
Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’
Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.
‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.
‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.
‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’
Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’
Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’
The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death…
If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available for your Kindle here –
Happy reading everyone,
Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx
Hello, it’s Jenny Kane here – or is it?
Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Exeter Writer and Blogger Meet Up, organised by the lovely Kim Nash and Holly Martin. It was a relaxed affair, with the only request made of us being that we wore name badges. I decided, in the interests of simplicity, just to use two of my many names- more for my sanity than anything else!
It was so busy – really wonderful! However, I had an attack of shy syndrome, and so I sat and chatted to many of the folk I’d met before- despite telling myself I must be brave and mingle!
This situation was not destined to remain however…
The pub in which was all met was open to the public as well as to us writer types. Unbeknown to me (as I had my back to the bar and am as deaf as a post), a stag party had come in. There they were, all dressed as characters from Top Gun, merrily ( I use the word advisedly) chatting to some of my fellow writers. Then, suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder, and the words, ‘Hey, you’re the porn woman’ were being hurtled towards me at high speed…
Cue some good natured banter with said stag party.
Letting my inner Kay Jaybee take over, I coaxed the lads outside, where I took lots of photos for them – of them I hasten to add- and was about to make my way off when one of them produced a Sharpie…A little clothing signing later and I bid them a fond farewell and returned to the writer throng.
It was at that moment when a lady – who I regretfully didn’t catch the name of- turned to me and uttered the immortal words ‘Who the hell are you?!’
And so…maybe it’s time for a recap…
Jenny Kane writes RomCom style contemporary fiction – with a hint of romance and a healthy spattering of coffee drinking included. (Tea drinkers are also welcome)
Jenny Kane also writes children’s picture books of the very quirky variety. There is no coffee on offer, but cookies are involved by way of compensation.
Jennifer Ash writes fourteenth century medieval mysteries– also with a hint of romance, but with no coffee whatsoever. There is ale though – lots of ale.
Kay Jaybee writes award winning, full on, adult only, erotica (not porn, despite the claims of the aforementioned stag party). It has been known to include coffee… Enough said… If you wish to learn about Kay, then feel free to visit her at www.kayjaybee.me.uk You should NOT visit Kay unless you are over 18. If you are under 18 and you visit her, you’ll make her very cross- not something I’d advise you doing…
There is another ‘ME’, but that name is not shared…ever…
And then of course, there is me. The actual me, who looks remarkably like Jenny and Jennifer and Kay. I can’t tell you that much about her except she works 12-14 hour shifts as a writer every day, and goes to work, and runs a house, and has a family (pretty much like every other writer I know). She often has moments of total forgetfulness, is very clumsy, drinks WAY too much coffee, loves Malteasers, and is rather keen on all things Robin Hood…Oh, and she is generally a very happy person.
Hope that’s helped a bit.
After the stag do incident I became much braver, and I spoke to some wonderful people in Exeter- although not as many as I’d have liked to as time ran out on me. Maybe next time.
Happy reading everyone,
I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire to my place today for coffee and chatter. Why not grab yourself a soothing beverage and some cake, and come and join us? Then you can read the fabulous book extract at the bottom of this page…
Hi Jenny, thank you for having me as a guest blogger! I’m here to talk about my upcoming book “The Road to Alexander”, the first in a series about a time traveller who is sent back to interview Alexander the Great. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his time.
What inspired you to write your book?
It started out as a short story – I had been writing and selling short stories to magazines, and I just had an idea of a sort of alternate history short story where Alexander the Great is never bitten by the mosquito that caused his fatal malaria. I wrote it from the viewpoint of a woman time-traveler/journalist, but when I came to the part where she slaps the mosquito away…I just kept going. In fact, I kept going for seven novels which became the Time for Alexander series. In the first book, The Road to Alexander, I even left the part about the mosquito in and you can catch it if you’re paying attention, although it’s no longer part of the plot! I ended up shifting everything around, because he dies in Babylon and I needed to introduce the time-traveling character at the beginning of his great adventure.
Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?
I used Alexander the Great as the hero, but I took a lot of liberties. In fact, I used my husband’s character to flesh out the great hero (please don’t tell my husband, he’s quite conceited enough as it is!) I had a lot of fun imagining how my husband would react to such-and-such situation, and I have to admit he did really well. It helps that he’s a high goal polo player, so a fantastic rider. He also loves to travel, is charismatic, and speaks several languages fluently. But I also tried to stay true to history’s Alexander, and so (unlike my husband) he has terrible flashes of temper, is bi-sexual, and is polygamous.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
I researched extensively. I used several books on Alexander the Great, including “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great”, but Michael Woods, which was produced by the BBC. It was extremely helpful, because the author literally took the path Alexander’s army took across Persia and Bactria, and so was indispensable for calculating how long it took to get from one place to another. More research was done on the army, how it moved, who was in it, and how Alexander fought his battles. Still more was for daily rituals, things like food, medicine, clothes, money, toothpaste, and religious ceremonies. I researched constantly – every time I had a question I’d either write to an expert or hit the library and search out books. I’m not big on Internet research, too hard to verify facts, but I did use the Internet to put myself in touch with authors and historians. Everyone was very helpful, and I learned a great deal about ancient Greece and Rome!
Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?
I am a plotter and use outlines. I’ve written a couple books just “going with the flow”, but they took forever to finish because I kept getting distracted. I much prefer a chapter by chapter outline.
If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?
My husband, of course, and then it would be fun to be stranded with the Swiss family Robinson couple – because, did you ever see their tree-house in Disneyland? It’s amazing.
If I had to be stranded on an island, it would have to be with someone who could build a really luxurious shelter, find food, and be easy to get along with. My husband is fun to be with, but he can’t build a lean-to – he’s hopeless with a hammer and nails!
The Road to Alexander: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/category/tme-for-alexander-series/
Tree house in Disneyland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xlsW6WQkYI
Author site: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/
Bio: Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating French chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.
Alexander tilted his head. “There’s something so strange about you,” he said, and he sounded almost sad.
I looked at him and wished that I could tell him everything. But I knew that if I changed the course of history, the people at the Time-Travel Institute would activate their infernal machine and erase me from time, as easily as Alexander was taking out the small villages on his map with the poke of a stick. I would cease to be. I didn’t want that to happen.
Marrying Alexander might change a few things, but nothing radical. Alexander had had numerous wives; supposedly he married one woman in every city he conquered. No one knows for sure how many he married. Officially, there were Roxanne and Darius’s daughter. However, marriages at the time were not like our marriages. They weren’t written contracts. They were often, as he’d said, politics. His heirs would be the boys or girls he cared to claim. Alexander had been born to his father’s concubine.
I wasn’t worried about suddenly appearing in the history books. The written word was rare. I was in an aural society, where speaking was more important than writing; where people chose what they said with care. Pledges were made orally, and they held as much power as a document would centuries later. When someone asked a question, he listened carefully to the answer because survival could depend on what was said. Stories were told, but lies were few. People in this time picked up every nuance in speech. When they talked, it was to communicate. They would gather and discuss religion and philosophy, and the latest way to make purple dye. Everything interested them. They had come to a point in history where the world was changing and people were traveling more than ever. New ideas were coming from the four corners of the known world, and all ideas were considered. Everyone embraced everyone else’s notions. They were new, different, and amusing. It was a time of expansion and people were ready.
Alexander’s army had been carefully chosen. As a soldier, he wanted fighting men. However, as a keen politician, he wanted men who would impress people in other lands. He wanted his men to be educated, so he would often talk to them about the things he’d learned from Aristotle. And the men listened. Most were young men eager for travel and change, open-minded and curious. They remembered his words. Afterward, when they were left behind in a garrison town, either because they had been wounded or had been married to a local girl, they continued Alexander’s mission. They repeated everything he’d told him, and people listened and told their families and friends. So, much faster than you would expect, Greek civilization swept across Asia.
With Alexander’s army were doctors, biologists, priests, merchants, historians, minstrels, actors, whores, soldiers’ wives, children, and diplomats. And then there was myself.
I was an only child of elderly parents; a freak accident that my mother, well into menopause, could never explain. She found she was pregnant when it was too late to do anything about it, and she resigned herself to being a mother at an age when most women are grandmothers.
To say I was an embarrassment would be an understatement. My mother hardly dared tell her closest friends. I believe most people thought I was the cook’s daughter. When I was old enough to be toilet-trained, I was shipped off to boarding school. I came home for vacations and wandered around our huge, empty house alone. I had no friends in the neighborhood, and my schoolmates were never allowed to visit. Summers were the worst. Our house was the biggest one in the village, my parents were the richest people, and the other children hated me. My mother had our chauffeur drive me to the country club for my lessons every day. I had swimming lessons, golf lessons, riding lessons, and tennis lessons. At home, there were piano lessons, and I was tutored in French and Italian. Everywhere I went I was alone, except for my various tutors and our ancient chauffeur, whose only attempt at conversation was to ask me every day if “Mademoiselle was well”.
My father died of old age when I was ten. I dressed in black and paraded down the street behind the hearse to the cemetery. It was the first time I’d ever walked through the village. I walked behind the hearse, alone. My elderly mother rode in the car. I must have looked ridiculous, but the people lined up along the streets nodded sympathetically to me. I remember seeing them and wondered where the parade was. When I realized I was the parade, I was glad of the black veil hiding my face.
At the cemetery, my mother and I stood in front of a huge crowd of mourners. I didn’t cry. I had already learned to smother my feelings. The mourners walked back to the house where a huge banquet was set up on the lawn. It was mid-July, and the whole atmosphere was like a garden party. Except for the black clothes, you would have thought it was a fiesta.
After my father’s death, my mother took a bit more interest in me. It was the sort of interest one takes in a rough gemstone. She decided to polish me and put me in the best setting she could find. That’s how, when I was only sixteen years old, I found myself married to a French Baron.
Married. I had been standing still, thinking about all this, while Alexander watched me. He had stopped poking holes in the map and his eyes had their jaguar look.
I blushed. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”
He shook his head. “No, but some day you’ll tell me about it. You’re face is thawing, my Ice Queen. You are turning into a human being.”
Many thanks Jennifer- great interview and fabulous taster…
Happy reading everyone,
There are many rules in the construction of good story. One of the most important is instant impact- the art of capturing the attention of your readers/potential readers as quickly as possible.
Take your lead from the balladeers and the storytellers of history. If they didn’t impress the audience who gathered to hear their tales by the end of the second line they’d uttered, then they wouldn’t earn enough money to eat that night.
For the modern writer this lesson is a good one. There are so many books in the world that, if you don’t take a firm grip of your reader’s imagination within the first two or three paragraphs (if not sentences), then the chances of you selling your work is automatically harder. If not impossible. Editors and agents read hundreds of first paragraphs each month. If you don’t engage them straight away they won’t read more than a few pages. Consequently, every single word you have written after page four is in danger of being nothing but a waste of time.
Here are a few ways to create instant impact to grab that elusive audience- and hopefully keep them grabbed!
– Start with some powerful first line dialogue. Something that makes you want to know what follows, and why what is being said, is being said. Such as…
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – (Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier)
– Add immediate tension by starting in the thick of the action. Such as…
Dr Clouston could barely keep himself on the seat. The wheels of his carriage kept cracking over humps and puddles, breaking the night’s silence as they rode frantically towards Dundee. – (The Strings Murder, Oscar de Muriel)
– Build a scene on paper that draws the reader in so much, that they want to be there- or that leaves them feeling relieved that they aren’t. Such as…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)
– Start with a sentence that makes sense- but makes the reader need to keep going to find out what on earth is going on. Such as…
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – (1984, George Orwell)
– Begin with a recollection. A situation that your novel will later explain. Such as…
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez)
In an age of instant technology and an immediate availability of information, people are used to instant gratification- so the faster you engage your readers mind, the better!