Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

The Sælvatici: The Influence of Robin Hood with Steven C. Davis

Today, I am delighted to welcome fellow writer and Robin Hood enthusiast, Steven Davis, to talk about his outlaw inspired work, The Sælvatici.

Over to you Steven…

Thanks to Jenny for giving me this opportunity to talk about ‘The Sælvatici’, and Jon Hartless for connecting us.

I’ve always been a Robin Hood fan, even before the seminal series ‘Robin of Sherwood’ (RoS) was broadcast in the 80s. I’ve watched all the Robin Hood films I could find, including a rare and slightly bizarre Russian take on the character (which may be ‘The Arrows of Robin Hood’).

Although I like tales of King Arthur, even from an early age I was more interested in RH as they were a hero of the people, as opposed to the tales of knights and lords that held nowhere near the same interest for me.

I only got to see the third series of RoS as we’d not had a television prior to that – and I was hooked. When I was old enough, I picked up first the videos and then the DVDs. I’ve still only watched the final episode with Michael Praed three times – it’s incredibly well written and still heart-breaking. But what an ending it is – the hero giving his life so that their comrades escape to continue the fight. And then the hook – but I hope you’re already aware of that.

Fast forward to the years 2000 – 2001. I wrote a retelling of the myth cycle, called ‘The Hooded’, heavily influenced by RoS. It was darker and bloodier than RoS, with the heroes more often than not failing or getting tricked. It was intended as a stand-alone, a one-off, but at the end I sent the characters off in different directions so I could bring them back (albeit with the obligatory death of one of the “gang” members). But I wasn’t happy with it – I felt it too episodic and I couldn’t get my head into the central character.

And so nothing happened for a while, and I carried on writing other things.

Fast forwards to 2016. I’d recently joined the Folk Horror Revival group in fb and there were some very interesting ideas in there (and still are – seriously, if you’re not a member, consider joining it if you’re interested in myths and legends, bizarre occurrences, The Wicker Man, that sort of thing). Also of inspiration at the time (and still, now) were bands like The Hare and the Moon and The Stone Tapes, both of whom have echoes of 70s psychedelic and slightly terrifying TV shows in their music.

So I started writing the cycle again, but this time I started digging in to the meat of the characters as well. The character of Little John had always seemed like a poor joke, one that they’d get annoyed with very quickly – “he’s called Little because he’s tall”. So I thought, why not, instead, John of Hathersage. Except, Hathersage wasn’t called Hathersage in that era – a closer approximation is Hereseige. So “Little John” became “Hereseige John”, or, more often, simply Hereseige. I applied the same kind of re-imagining with some research to all of the characters and they were all set – and, indeed, the first of fifteen chapters of that retelling, which includes quite a bit of scene/mood/flavour setting, was written and amounted to 24k words. But, as before, I couldn’t get my head around the Robin character, nor could I find a way to re-interpret him that I was happy with.

A slight diversion now. One of my childhood favourite books was the retelling of the Robin Hood myth cycle that was illustrated by Victor Ambrus (I’m sure he later went on to Time Team as their resident artist). It contains various stories and characters that weren’t picked up on in RoS or subsequent interpretations (more later). [Robin Hood: His Life and Legend by Bernard Miles.]

Historical side note – Nottingham wasn’t previously called Nottingham, I believe. It began with an S, which was simply knocked off to become Nottingham. I’ve left it as Nottingham.

As part of the folk-horror era retelling of Robin Hood, I’d written a self-contained piece called ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’ which was the grand final showdown between the Robin character and the Sheriff of Nottingham and the forces of authority that he’d assembled. Whilst the story stalled again, I gave a couple of live performances of it at the Montol festival down in Cornwall (with thanks to Gurdybird for arranging/getting me performance space for that).

Whilst the novel had stalled, I’d started a secret fb group and was doing musical podcast-things for that whilst dreaming of turning into a multi-media thing. Also, around that time, I got Feline & Strange to record some clips and some stills (which I’m still using – Feline does great manic laughter).

Fast forwards once again to the start of the plague years and I started collecting some of the scraps to put together something as a collection of “found tales” – there was far too much ‘good stuff’ written and abandoned to not do something with it. From an old book of poetry that I’d loved, I remembered reading some Anglo-Saxon verse and how it was alliterative as opposed to rhyming, and found that a useful tool to add in for the first part.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ was beginning to take shape, intended to set the scene, set in Sherwood or Sherewode as characters called it, depending on their background/race. I wanted it to echo our times as much as possible, shifting in focus slightly to become a battle ground between Norse and Norman, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic and each group vying for power or independence. I brought in religious conflict, with the followers of “The Christ of the East” waging war on the Pagans; and the followers of Cernunnos fighting off the encroaching supporters of Ullr and Wōden.

Except. One thing I’d never quite understood from RoS was why they used Herne as a figure when he was based in Windsor Great Park. So I decided to use Cernunnos instead – but I didn’t. Deliberately. I felt the character/ figure too well known, and so the beloved Forest Lord is slain. However. Eventually, the genius loci arises, but the slaying of a stag is what brings them into being, and thus is the mad god/Stag daughter Caerne brought into existence – a woman, part god, part stag, whose father has been slaughtered though she was born of stag; a child without parents but with powers and capabilities, driven mad by her self-assumed responsibilities and with no one to turn to for explanations or help.

Rather than use the existing tales as an arc, I decided to have the emphasis of the three main novels (being written at the moment) as the attempt of a religious zealot to build, not just a cathedral, but a city, dedicated to ‘The Christ of the East’ in the heart of Sherwood, thereby stamping out Paganism and killing any Anglo-Saxons and Celts who didn’t simply fall down and worship their god.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work that way.

And then one day, a few months ago, I was randomly trawling fb (it’s called research) and I saw a post from a musician friend offering her services as a voice-over artist (Joanna Swan, The Familiars). I remembered the ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’ short piece and that translated into a one-woman radio play incredibly well. And voila, suddenly it was no longer just a text-based world, but there also existed now an audio drama as part of the world. In a satisfying connection, Joanna is also a RoS fan.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ was published and has earned some excellent reviews and then another idea came to me, not for a novel, but for a short story; in truth, there will be a number of short stories, each concentrating on only a character or two, so they can be explored in different ways to the novels. That idea was ‘Barrow witch’ – a representative of Wōden, one of his ravens made human, encounters a man who is a trained killer; all would be over for her, but the encounter takes place in front of a barrow where a wise-woman was buried alive. A storm ensues, and things get – interesting. It’s available on Audible as well and is an incredible journey – Joanna has already received a five-star review for it on Audible, and rightly so.

Artwork for both ‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ and ‘Barrow witch’ is by the fantastic John Chadwick.

In terms of inspiration, I should also mention ‘The Black Meadow’ (created by Chris Lambert) and ‘Hopeless, Maine’, (created by Tom and Nimue Brown and others). And the ‘Avebury’ album by The Stone Tapes. All three are worth exploring further.

What exists/ the arc of the Sælvatici:

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ is the place to start, then ‘Barrow witch’ and finally ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’. When the three ‘Hurnungaz’ novels are written, they’ll take place after ‘Lore’, with ‘Rise’ closing the tale.

What’s next:

‘Hurnungaz’, the first of three novels specifically dealing with the Robin Hood character and their crew is currently being written.

‘The Rolling of the Stones’ a self-contained short story, featuring two minor characters and influenced by Peter Lagan’s interpretations of the song of the same name, is currently being written.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ is currently being turned into a one-woman radio play, again voiced by Joanna Swan. Intro/theme music has already been created by William Westwater (Dark Sinfonia) and background luting will be provided by Peter Lagan (Songs of Blood and Bone).

At some point, given how many musical artists have already contributed, inspired or offered their songs as inspirations for short stories (Songs of Blood and Bone, Gurdybird and Bleeding Raven have all inspired ideas for short stories) there will be an album (Joanna has also recorded a very impressive chant, loosely based around one of the “found tales” from ‘Lore of the Sælvatici’). This will be for charity.

‘Legends of the Sælvatici’, an anthology of tales either set in ‘Hurnungaz’ or alternative times, or in the current day, is intended to be announced in 2023 with the aim of publishing in 2024, although two pieces by outside contributors have already been accepted for it.

Where to find them:

You can search Amazon for the books and Kindles under my name (Steven C. Davis) and Audible for the two radio plays that are available so far. Signed editions of ‘Lore’ are also available via my Etsy shop – search Etsy for ‘Tenebrous Texts’.

There is also a secret but not-really secret group on fb – just search for ‘The Sælvatici’ and request admission – there’s advance notice on when things are going on, links to audio-podcasts with music that inspires me to write, art, images, and more stuff going on. At some point, there will also be a better website than currently exists to collect everything together properly.

Bio

Steven C. Davis is the author of ‘The Bookshop between the Worlds’ pair of alternate-Earth novels, ‘The Lore of the Sælvatici’, part of a folk-horror retelling of the Robin Hood mythos, ‘Less than Human’, the first of a non-paranormal paranormal romance series, and co-author, with S. J. Stewart, of ‘The Heart’s Cog’ series of NSFW action-adventure novels.

They are the creative director of ‘Tenebrous Texts’ through whom they have also published works from Stu Tovell and Jon Hartless, and have recently signed on Cat Randle.

They are the organiser of the ‘Raising Steam’ festivals and the ‘Raising Steam’ downloads – all in aid of their chosen charity, New Futures Nepal, of whom they are a trustee. The ‘Raising Steam’ downloads are a global phenomenon, gathering Steampunk and alternative independent and unsigned musical artists from the UK and around the globe.

They are the host of the Gothic Alternative Steampunk and Progressive (GASP) radio show which goes out every Thursday at 8pm (UK time). GASP plays music without borders and is deliberately eclectic, playing the best in unsigned and independent regardless of genre.

Links, etc.

Website: https://tenebrousarchives.weebly.com/

Sælvatici radio plays on Audible:

https://www.audible.co.uk/search?keywords=steven+c+davis&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TenebrousTexts/

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.co.uk/s?k=the+S%C3%A6lvatici&i=stripbooks&crid=2JYOMKW9OG53P&sprefix=the+s%C3%A6lvatici%2Cstripbooks%2C96&ref=nb_sb_noss

Many thanks to Steven today for sharing a little about his writing world.

Happy reading, Jenny x

 

At Death’s Door: Anna Legat

I’m delighted to be welcoming Anna Legat to my blog today. Anna’s latest cosy crime novel is out now.

Over to you Anna…

Hello Jenny, and thank you for inviting me to your wonderful blog to talk about my brand-new cosy crime mystery, At Death’s Door.

This is the second instalment of The Shires Mysteries featuring two amateur sleuths, the indomitable Maggie Kaye and her more level-headed neighbour, Samuel Dee. The pair blunder through murder and mayhem that is rife in the West Country town of Bishops Well which they call home.

In this book the story strays into the distant lands of the Southern Hemisphere where I have spent a big chunk of my life, experiencing worlds, lifestyles and cultures far removed from the quaint and magical English countryside. There was a different sort of magic to them: New Zealand was submerged in the deep and dense greenery of tree-ferns and redwoods; Southern Africa was a plain of gold and dust baking in the unforgiving sun. You felt safe in one of them and prayed to God your car didn’t break down in the middle of nowhere in the other. There was immense, ancient beauty to both.

I’d like to share with your readers, if I may, a short extract from At Death’s Door, describing the first impression South Africa made on one of my characters.

The engine of the Jeep wheezed and rattled as they negotiated the increasingly un-navigable roads in the full blazing sun. The wind, when it bothered to blow, carried with it dust and the occasional fetid stench of decaying roadkill. The dust and the stink stripped her tongue and nostrils of fluid. She regretted not bringing any bottled water with her on this escapade. Escapade wasn’t quite right – this had been a damn long journey to nowhere. She hadn’t realised it would be this long and this far.

She had thought Botswana was just the size of a county and the Caprivi just a strip of land beyond it, a promenade on the banks of the Zambezi. And then, as soon as the business at hand was done and dusted, Wayne had promised, they would go and see Victoria Falls. She was beginning to think that even Victoria Falls wasn’t worth all this stinking trouble.

They had landed in Johannesburg a week ago, and it had been a blast! They were staying at the

Intercontinental Sandton Sun and Towers, in the presidential suite, complete with white marble floors and crystal mirrors. The chandeliers – she would swear – were made of diamonds.

She stood on the terrace overlooking Johannesburg with all its distant buzz and twinkling lights, smoking a Marlboro Light. The cool night air slid over her skin like an ice cube. She was on top of the world, basking in luxury, light years away from the doldrums of sleepy English villages with all their creature discomforts of incessant drizzle and curtain-twitching neighbours. God, this was her first decent crack at entering paradise!

… Unfortunately, paradise was not meant to be, but I will say no more. At Death’s Door is out now.

http://mybook.to/AtDeathsDoor

At Death’s Door: The Shires Mysteries 2: A twisty and gripping cosy mystery by Anna Legat | WHSmith

At Death’s Door: The Shires Mysteries 2 eBook by Anna Legat – 9781786159915 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom

At Death’s Door: The Shires Mysteries 2 by Anna Legat | Waterstones

At Death’s Door: The Shires Mysteries 2: A twisty and gripping cosy mystery by Anna Legat | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

BIO

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Subscribe to Anna’s News, Rumours and Scandalous Revelations at https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/j6b7k1

To find out more: https://annalegat.com/

Follow Anna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LegatWriter

Join Anna on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor/

Many thanks for popping by today, Anna.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Writing for charidee with Jon Hartless: Blakes 7

Writing for charidee.

The above may take you back a bit. To the 1990s, to be exact, when Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield dominated the airwaves with their comedy sketch shows featuring dinosaur-tastic DJs Smashie and Nicey, a couple of characters inspired by several BBC DJs of that time who had been spinning disks, and the same tired old patter, since the year dot.

Nostalgia is, of course, big business. There has always been a yearning for the past, which is regularly seen as a better, simpler time. Quite often, in my view, this is absolute hogwash, as many view the openly racist, sexist, homophobic, disease-dominated, comfort-lite times through rose-tinted glasses. Or, in many cases, through goggles which have been painted completely red.

Not all nostalgia is bad, however, as long as you try and keep an open mind about the era you’re reminiscing over. And nostalgia can indeed be a positive thing, on occasion, as this blog will hopefully show as I finally get to the point and talk about the television of yesteryear.

TV has long been an area of warmth, comfort, and fun for hordes of fans who fondly remember a childhood spent watching such shows as Doctor Who, The Prisoner, The Avengers and so on. Indeed, our own Jenny Kane has a side-line going in producing stories within the framework of the beloved 1980s telefantasy Robin of Sherwood.

These old shows still hold a substantial fanbase of original and new viewers, with those who watched as kids often sharing their fan passions with their own children, meaning that TV is now something straddling, and joining together, the generations.

Of course, on the downside, the toxicity of some fans is truly horrendous, with gatekeeping being a common issue across many fandoms. See the rampant misogyny over the casting of Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who as one prime example.

But at its best, you can find the fans combining to create new content, be it books, audio dramas, documentaries, and even new filmed episodes, all inspired by their beloved shows. And as they can’t (usually) do any of this for profit as they don’t hold the required licenses, they instead often do it to raise money for charity. (Thus finally tying in with the title of this blog. Bet you thought I’d forgotten that, didn’t you?)

One recent example I was lucky enough to be involved in was a new collection of fan-created content set around the final series of Blake’s 7. For those who don’t know, Blakes 7 (minus the apostrophe) was a low-budget BBC science fiction show that ran for four seasons from 1977-1981, and followed a small band of freedom fighters in their battle against the evil Federation.

The budget for this epic space opera was non-existent. Sets wobbled, spaceships flipped between models and cardboard cut-outs, robots were extras sprayed silver, and aliens were… what you’d expect on a 1970s BBC budget. Only slightly worse.

What saved the show was a dedicated cast and crew overcoming the budgetary issues to take on a heady brew of great concepts, great characters, and (occasional) great writing. The freedom fighters, for example, weren’t the young innocent heroes of typical pop culture fare, but were instead a mixed bag of idealists, criminals, and extremists – some of whom didn’t even want to be in the revolution. The totalitarian Federation, meanwhile, was headed up by the glam diva, Servalan, who wore long frocks and high heels no matter what the situation or environment, and who quite often ended the episode by killing her underlings. And the final episode still stands, for me, as one of the best of any TV show, regardless of genre.

Merchandise was a given, including toys, jigsaws, novel tie-ins, and – crucially – annuals. Three of these were produced, as a tie-in with seasons 1-3, while a fourth was planned but for some reason never saw the light of the day. And this is where modern-day fandom comes in.

Fast forward to now(ish) and dedicated fan Grahame Robertson decided to create an annual for the final season of Blakes 7, a substitute for the official book that never appeared. To do that he needed stories, artwork, and articles. He put a call out on social media and had an immediate, positive response. Indeed, the response was so positive, he had too many stories for the project, despite expanding it exponentially until it resembled something not unlike an encyclopedia in terms of girth.

Grahame’s response to this was very sensible. He decided to do an extra anthology for all the stories that wouldn’t fit into the annual. The result? The Blakes 7 Annual 1982, and the Scorpio Tales anthology. Two beautiful books stuffed full of fan enthusiasm, skill, and dedication. And this also means twice the money for charity; at the time of writing, the annual alone has raised over £2000 for both Axminster and Lyme Cancer Support, and Save the Children UK.

Unfortunately, not every fan project moves forward. I also contributed to a non-profit Doctor Who anthology entitled We Are The Master, but the editor seems to have run foul of BBC lawyers, (despite all funds raised going to mental health charities), and hence the whole project has been derailed. I hope this is only a temporary setback, but there seems to be no trace of it anywhere online, so this may, alas, be permanent.

But at least we have something out there made by a few of the fans, for the enjoyment of everyone, and the benefit of those who need it. Which is a nice way to go into 2022.

The Blakes 7 annual can be found at: https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/carol-ramsay-and-grahame-robertson/b7-annual-1982/hardcover/product-4e6jrz.html?page=1&pageSize=4

The Blakes 7 anthology, Scorpio Tales, can be found at: https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/carol-ramsay-and-grahame-robertson/scorpio-tales/paperback/product-5nqm7r.html?page=1&pageSize=4

BIO

Jon Hartless was born back in the 1970s, and feels very old. He contributed the short story “Space Rats in the Maze” to the Scorpio Tales anthology. He is also the author of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles, a Steampunk motor racing series which can be found at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08MV8KMYN?ref_=dbs_p_pwh_rwt_anx_a_lnk&storeType=ebooks

Many thanks Jon. Got to love Blakes 7!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny. x

Happy Birthday Outlaw Justice

Somehow, it is a whole year since the fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles was published!

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

Outlaw Justice

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim in The Outlaw’s Ransom- Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

No news… except…

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that 2022 has kicked off for you in fine style – without Covid or any of the many nasty bugs going around at the moment.

As I sit here in my shed, listening to the rain hitting the roof with far too much gusto for my liking, I am finding my concentration wavering from what I ought to be doing – writing designing workshops and answering emails – to the many projects that await my attention this year.

The folders on the shelves in the photograph above hold notes about many of these projects. The problem is – I can’t tell you much about any of them!

I am currently a quarter of a way through the second novel of a new series. I am also awaiting the novel edits for the first book of this series. Yet, all I can share with you at this time however, is that this fresh collection of books will sit in the contemporary fiction/romcom genre bracket. They are set in Devon and, hopefully, if you enjoyed the Mill Grange stories, should make you smile! I’ve seen the covers for these novels- and I totally love them. I can’t wait to share!

Alongside these novels, I am involved in several script projects – but for those my lips are 100% sealed. Can’t say a thing – nothing. Zip!

In-between that lot, I am planning to write another Folville Chronicle.  I hadn’t intended to do anymore of this series, but the lead character – Mathilda of Twyford – simply won’t leave my imagination alone, so there will be one more – maybe two…

So, what can I tell you about?

Well, the limited addition, Robin of Sherwood annual, will be out this month. I’m so excited to have a story amongst its nostalgic pages!

Also – my writing workshops with Imagine are in full flow. The bookings for my next online #novelinayear course (March 2022-2023) are open – so if you are a budding writer who feels ready to try a novel, then feel free to drop me a line at imaginecreativewriting@gmail.com for details.

So, with that shocking lack of information, I will go and get on with sorting out my next set of writing workshops.

Happy New Year!!

Jenny x

Medieval Christmas Thinking

A few people have asked me to reshare this blog – first published last year – about medieval festive traditions. Who am I to argue?

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval from the first time I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era- especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- that has never waned. It was this interest that led me to write The Folville ChroniclesThe Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and Outlaw Justice.

The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and Outlaw Justice are all set at Christmas time – so I got to thinking about how many of the festive traditions we have today hail from those medieval days.

Did you know…?

… that the practice of carol singers going from door to door was the result of carollers being banned from the churches.

During the medieval period the word “carol” didn’t refer to just a song, but to singing and dancing in a circle. This was frowned upon by the churchmen of the age as it detracted from the seriousness of the occasion. Carol singers were ordered out onto the streets, and often sang in market places, or in front of rows of houses.

Another church related tradition that had its origins in medieval times is the Christmas crib or Nativity scene. In medieval Italy, in1223, Saint Francis of Assisi used a crib as a teaching tool to explain the Christmas story to the local population. Historians believe that this was the first time animals, such as the sheep and the donkey, were added to the Christmas story, even though the Bible does not mention them.

What about Christmas food? Christmas puddings date from medieval England, although they were rather different than those we eat today. Made from a spicy porridge known as frumenty, with currants and dried fruit stirred into it, along with egg yolks, cinnamon and nutmeg, it was a considerably runnier pudding than the one we’re used to.

The majority of Christmas dinners in the UK this year will feature a roast turkey. However, turkeys didn’t reach Britain until the late fifteenth century. In medieval times the rich ate goose, while the poorer families would roast a woodcock if they could get one. Those lord’s who had royal permission to eat venison, would have deer for their Christmas meal. Traditionally, the heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains of the deer (a concoction known as the umbles), would be mixed together and made into a pie to give to the poor. This treat became known as humble pie.

And how about some entertainment? Whereas today we might go to see our children in a nativity play at Christmas, in the Middle Ages people could look forward to seeing the Mummers. These travelling actors performed plays and dances in villages, manors, and castles. During the winter, mystery plays were traditionally based on the story of Christ’s birth. The part of King Herod within these plays was the first role that can be seen as being the equivalent of a ‘baddie’ in a modern day pantomime, with the crowd often booing when he came on stage.

I hope these few Christmas blasts from the past have made you smile!

Happy reading everyone. 

Thank you for all your support this year. Have a very Happy Christmas.

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Christmas at the Castle

This week sees the final instalment in the Opening Lines blogs for my Another Cup of…festive specials. Today, I’m sharing the first 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Kit is off to Scotland!

BLURB

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A wonderful short story to fill your heart with warmth and really put you in the mood for Christmas

‘A feel good festive read, with Jenny Kane’s trademark coffee, friendship and gentle humour’

‘This is the perfect book for curling up on the sofa with on a winter’s afternoon. Light-hearted and feel good fun’

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Friday November 13th

Poking her head around the door of the Gift Shop Café, Charlie gave a sigh of relief. She’d managed to arrive before Alice for once.

Selecting their usual table by the window, Charlie smiled. Just for once it was nice not to have Alice, already comfortably settled and looking perfect, watching serenely as she battled her scarf, which always managed to knot itself clumsily, and her hair, blown every which way by the wind.

Hoping this was a good omen for the discussion to come, Charlie waved a greeting to the waitress, Mel.

‘Hi, Erin, Alice isn’t here yet.’ Mel put down a large coffee on Charlie’s table, ‘I’ll bring that weird latte concoction she likes over when she arrives.’

About half of the people in Banchory knew Charlie as Erin. Ever since she’d had her first book published under the name of Erin Spencer five years ago, the local papers had made a feature of her work, and Charlie lived happily with her dual personality.

As she watched the world go by through the window, Charlie’s usual habit of filtering future plotlines through the back of her mind was replaced with wondering how to persuade Alice that they needed more people to help organise Crathes Castle’s first ever literary festival. So far it was just the two of them, and they were drowning in the number of tasks involved with making it a success rather than an embarrassing flop.

Charlie hadn’t finished rehearsing her pleas for more helpers in her head, when Alice arrived.

Waving to Mel that she needed a drink fast (the concoction that Charlie always thought of as pseudo-coffee, which consisted of a decaf coffee, soya milk, and low-sugar caramel latte syrup), Alice sat down regally and swung her long, slim, tight black denim-covered legs elegantly under the table, before pushing her designer glasses off her eyes and up into her hair, neatly pinning it away from her face. If Charlie had tried to do that without the aid of a mirror she knew there would have been tufts of her long bouncy red ringlets sticking out at all angles.

A businesswoman through and through, Alice got straight to the point. ‘Charlie, sweetie, I know you don’t like working with other people much, but if we don’t get some more help soon this festival is going to be the biggest disaster of my career.’ Without giving her stunned friend time to comment, Alice went on, ‘It’s November 13th already. Our Christmas in the Castle Literary Festival is in exactly three weeks and we need another person to help us.’

Charlie was taken aback. Even when they’d been at university together Alice had been an expert at eliciting assistance from people without them even realising that she was getting them to do what she wanted. Never before had Charlie heard her admit she needed help. Studying her friend more carefully, Charlie noticed that there were dark shadows under Alice’s eyes, hinting that…

If you’d like to see what happens next, then you can buy Christmas at the Castle from all good e-retailers or you can find it in the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

Winter Fires at Mill Grange: Out now in paperback

Today, I’m delighted to announced that Winter Fires at Mill Grange, has been published in paperback, just in time for Christmas.

This, the final Mill Grange story, features all the series’ favourite characters, along with some few faces – not forgetting the resident chickens!

Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Mill Grange is a place of miracles, and never more so than at Christmas…

Mill Grange is putting on a show this holiday season!

When young Dylan Harris’s former babysitter, Harriet, needs a last minute venue for her acting troupe’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the staff at Mill Grange throw its doors open…but they may get more drama than they’d bargained for!

With a play to arrange, an unexpected arrival adds to the drama. It soon looks as if a miracle will be needed to make sure this Christmas is one that Thea, Tina, Sam, Shaun, Helen and Tom – along with retirees Bert and Mabel Hastings– won’t forget…

Available as a paperback from all good bookshops, including…

I’ve been overwhelmed with the kind comments and wonderful reviews I’ve already received for Winter Fires at Mill Grange. Thank you so much if you have been kind enough to review. I promise you, each and every one is appreciated.

Here are just a few of those wonderful reviews…

“I can’t believe this is the last time we will get to visit Mill Grange. The journey we have taken with the merry band of friends (who have become a family) has been magical, heart warming and beautiful.
Tina and Sam are married, Helen and Tom settle into being full time parents for Dylan, Thea and Shaun spend more time part than together and Mabel and Bert? Well they are the glue that holds everyone together.
Dylan’s soon to be stepsister Harriet suggests Mill Grange as a play venue when the one The Outdoor Players is flooded. Will Mill Grange prove to be the place of miracles as in the past?
I shall miss you dear friends, maybe we will hear from you again one day.”

 

“I loved revisiting Mill Grange and was totally caught up with the lovely characters in this book. This series has had everything in it, sad moments, happy joyful moments, sensitive subjects but above all beautiful descriptive writing and I am sad to leave Sam, Tina, Bert, Mabel and the rest of this wonderful community. Would love a scone made by Sybil from eggs laid by Gertrude and her ladies.”

 

“A lovely story of friendships , love and overcoming problems. Jenny Kane has written another fantastic book with new characters who need a helping hand declaring their interests in each other. A long comes Thea and her friends who give them a little nudge to help steer them in the right direction. If only we all had friends like them! Thank you for a great book!”

 

“Love these books about the goings on at Mill Grange. The reality of the effect of war on military veterans makes you appreciate our service men and women. The importance of family is also brought home in this book.”

 

 

Time to celebrate with a cuppa and a BIG slice of cake!
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Christmas in the Cotswolds

This week I’m continuing my Opening Lines series with with a peep at the first pages of Christmas in the Cotswolds – the second festive special in the Another Cup of… series.

Blurb

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof!

Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can… calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does…

With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘This is a delightful short story with that lovely Christmas feel good feeling

‘An easy festive read that will make you smile

‘Very festive short story with lovely characters. . . Cosy, ideal reading for Christmas time’

‘Perfect for the Christmas season. Heartwarming, emotional and so true for today’s hectic, manic life. One to have, keep, and enjoy!!

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

December 12th

Izzie closed her eyes and counted to ten as the door of the Cotswold Arts Centre slammed shut.

There was no point in panicking. She simply didn’t have time for such luxuries if her converted church was going to be ready to host a Christmas carol concert by the renowned Cotswold Choir in nine days’ time.

Bored of being propositioned by men who weren’t remotely interested in her until they discovered she was a daughter of the gentry, Izzie had ejected the carpenter through her front door before he’d quite had time to work out just how insulting her rejection of his latest lurid suggestion was.

Now, her hasty tongue having deprived her of a desperately needed pair of tradesman’s hands, Izzie sat with a heavy thump onto the nearest pew. She knew she had to find fresh help, and fast. A task that wouldn’t be easy so close to Christmas.

‘Although,’ Izzie addressed the image of Noah, who smiled benevolently at her from his stained-glass window, as if grateful he hadn’t been smashed to pieces by the tree branch that had come through the top of the chancel and caused so much seasonal inconvenience, ‘I’m damn sure I’m not asking my mother to help out ever again!’

Reaching for the offending package of invitations that had arrived by courier first thing that morning, Izzie emptied it onto the table. The invitations were supposed to have been posted by now. As soon as she’d seen them, Izzie understood why her mother had left them to the last minute.

Unfussy, cost-effective, and with a medieval Christmas flavour in keeping with the spirit of the converted fourteenth-century church where the concert was to be held. That’s what she’d asked for. What she’d got was decadent Victorian-style gold-edged invitations which weighed so much, Izzie was sure that posting them alone would break the bank. And if that wasn’t bad enough, her mother had done the one thing that she had expressively forbidden. She’d put Izzie’s full name on the invitations.

Lady Perdita Spencer-Harris had been unable to comprehend why her daughter didn’t want to use the family name to help sales. She simply didn’t understand that Izzie wanted people to come to hear the choir for its own sake, or because they wanted to see what she’d done in her art centre; not because she was a young and single female member of the landed gentry.

Miss Isadora Spencer-Harris

cordially invites you to a magical festive evening at

The Cotswold Arts Centre, Chipping Swinton

to hear the renowned Cotswold Choir’s Christmas Carol Concert

Saturday 21st December

7 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. start

£25 per ticket

Refreshments provided

RSVP by 18th December to Harris Park

Wrapping her stripy woollen scarf more tightly around her neck, Izzie breathed warm air over her cold fingers. Deciding it wasn’t cost effective to heat the church this late at night just for her, she gathered up the invitations, and with one last check that the…

If you’d like to find out what happens next, then Christmas in the Cotswolds is available from all good e-retailers as well as in the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCotswolds

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Many thanks for popping by today,

See you next time for 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Happy reading, 

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Christmas

For the next three weeks, I’ll be featuring my ‘Another Cup of….’ festive novellas on the ‘Opening Lines’ blog spot.

Today, I’m starting with the first 500 words from Another Cup of Christmas.

Blurb

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Join the characters of Jenny Kane’s wonderful debut Another Cup of Coffee once again for a heart-warming festive read!

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A lovely heart-warming tale set at Christmas and a perfect short read for in front of a blazing fire and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)’

‘A great read in the run up to Christmas, highly recommended

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

    Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

    Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

    Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

    Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

    ‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table.  ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

    ‘Two and a half weeks!’

    ‘Oh, hell! Really?’

    ‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

    Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

     Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

    Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

    ‘Which is?’

    ‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I…’

If you’d like to read on, Another Cup of Christmas, is available from all good e-book retailers, and as part of the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.

mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

(You don’t need to have read Another Cup of Coffee to enjoy my festive stories.)

You can her me read a little from Another Cup of Christmas here- https://www.facebook.com/coffeetimesessions/videos/381433993174274

Come back next week, for the first 500 words from Christmas in the Cotswolds.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

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