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

Author: Jenny Kane Page 1 of 84

OUT NOW IN PAPERBACK: Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

Today, I’m delighted to be able to announce, that my bestselling novel, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, has been published in paperback. 

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

Blurb

Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.

Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex-wife suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.

As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most...

***

Not only is there a wedding in the offing, but an archaeological dig is in full swing in the Cotswolds, and Mabel is about to have her iron clad confidence shaken!

You can buy Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange as a paperback from all good bookshops, as well as an ebook from-

I’ve been so lucky to be blessed with some fabulous feedback for the whole Mill Grange series. Here are a few of the reviews for Spring Blossoms.

Reviews

“Don’t you just love a book that’s sweeps you away from where you are and transports to a sunnier happy time. Well this book is the perfect escape. Curl up and enjoy. This romantic comedy. I loved it.” NetGalley

“…What a lovely feel-good story! It’s a fantastic mixture of romance, humour, and filled with just enough laughable and serious moments to balance it out. I appreciate being able to read a clean romance. In fact, there’s a couple of romances in this story. Kane has figured out the perfect recipe! Her lovingly crafted characters are true to life and experience believable life events. Northmoor House, a Victorian manor, in Somerset, on the edge of Exmoor near Dulverton (Upwich in the novels) is the setting and the star of the show. The idyllic landscape is perfect for anyone wanting to escape for a while. Kane’s writing style with its gorgeous and vivid descriptions, allows readers to visit the places and follow the characters as if they’d been there themselves.  For returning readers, you’ll be able to catch up with Tina, Sam, Thea, Shaun, Bert and Mabel as well as get to know Tom and Helen better. The author’s love for the series shows, making this a novel to be on your radar come publication….” NetGalley

“What a fantastic story this was, I loved it from start to finish. This is a well written, truly delightful read” NetGalley

“This is a really easy read which definitely had me smiling and maybe I did shed a tear or two, as well. This the third story from the Mill Grange series and I really recommend reading them all. I will be waiting impatiently for the next instalment.” NetGalley

“Kane’s writing style with its gorgeous and vivid descriptions, allows readers to visit the places and follow the characters as if they’d been there themselves.” NetGalley

“What a fantastic story this was, I loved it from start to finish. This is a well written, truly delightful read, set in Exmoor, in the fictional town of Upwich, Jenny conjures up the feel of the area and the people who live there perfectly. Jenny Kane’s expressive descriptions of the area certainly bring it to life.

The book revolves about the lives of four couples, Tina and Sam, Shaun and Thea, Tom and Helen, and Bert and Mabel, each of them is intrinsic to the story and the running of Mill Grange. I loved catching up with the lives of the people from Mill Grange and the characters themselves in this series of books. They are well rounded and I felt like I know them well, like old friends. Seeing how their lives and relationships are evolving was wonderful.

This is a really easy read which definitely had me smiling and maybe I did shed a tear or two, as well. This the third story from the Mill Grange series and I really recommend reading them all. I will be waiting impatiently for the next instalment.” Amazon

“Having read the first two books in this series I was really looking forward to reading this book, and I wasn’t disappointed.
A fantastic story, hard to put down. Read it in nearly one sitting.
A well – written, enjoyable read, it’s set in Exmoor. The people of that area were so well written and so were the descriptions.
This story revolves around the lives of four couples – Tina and Sam, Shaun and Thea, Tom and Helen, and Bert and Mabel, each couple being a key part of this story and the continuous running of Mill Grange.
It felt so good to catch up with everyone. Felt like meeting old friends after a while.
There were moments when a tear was shed white reading..
I would definitely recommend reading this series. Eagerly awaiting the next one.”  Amazon

“Ah, Jenny has done it again … I am already champing at the bit for book 4!
Back with the gang at Mill Grange is like meeting up with long lost friends. This time we find out if Helen and Tom finally see the light, Thea helps front Landscape Treasures and Mabel and Bert take on roles they never expected.” Amazon 

“…I’m a huge fan of these books and have been eagerly anticipating the next instalment of the series. All the regular characters return with all their flaws and foibles and are rounded out still further. The beginning of the book did cause me a few moments of tension and I did consider messaging Jenny to tell her that I would never speak to her again if she had done something bad to a particular character – I refrained however, as I didn’t think she’d necessarily appreciate the late night text! Usually in books of this genre, you know you’re guaranteed a happy ending, but this is Jenny and she doesn’t always do the expected – one of the reasons I love her books so much!…” R E Loten 

***

Many thanks to everyone who has bought and read my Mill Grange novels. Book Four – Winter Fires at Mill Grange will be out this coming November.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

A Touch of Spring

With the third Mill Grange novel, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, coming out in paperback on Thursday, I thought I’d share an extract from Thea, Shaun, Tom, Helen, Tina and Sam’s latest adventure.

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

Blurb

Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.

Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex-wife suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.

As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most...

Extract

‘Do you honestly think I’ll need eighteen pairs of knickers? It’s the Cotswolds, not the Kalahari.’

Thea scooped the entire contents of her underwear drawer onto the bed as Shaun flung open a suitcase.

‘No, I think you’ll need thirty pairs or more, but as you only have eighteen, then pack them.’

‘Seriously?’ Thea eyed some of her older undies with suspicion. The greying fabric had been consigned to the back of the drawer to be used in emergencies only, although now she thought about it, she wasn’t sure what that emergency might be. An archaeological excavation in the middle of nowhere, perhaps?

‘You know what it’s like on a dig. Laundry facilities only happen to other people. A flushing toilet can be a luxury sometimes.’

‘Won’t the local village have a launderette?’

‘It’s the Cotswolds, Thea. The people who can afford to live there don’t need launderettes.’ Shaun winked. ‘I tend to wring out my smalls in the nearest public toilet sink or a bucket of cold water.’

Thea laughed. ‘I used to do that when I was a student on excavation.’ Stuffing every pair of socks she owned into the suitcase, she added, ‘Age has softened me!’

‘You’ve got used to manor house living, that’s what it is.’ As Shaun threw a pile of t-shirts onto the bed, he caught a glimpse of anxiety crossing Thea’s face. ‘I was only joking. It’s not like student times. We get a catering truck, posh tents and Portaloos. The only thing we don’t have is regular access to a washing machine.’

Holding a thick jumper to her chest, Thea pulled a face. ‘I’m not worried about knickers or having our own bathroom or anything like that. It’s just… what if the show’s new producer hates me? Phil gave me the job as co-host of Landscape Treasures because of the work I did for you in Cornwall, but the new guy… is it a guy?’

‘It is. A bloke called Julian Blackwood. I’ve not worked with him before, but I’ve heard he’s good.’

‘Well, what if this Julian takes one look at me and decides to trade me in for a younger model? I’m thirty-three for goodness sake, that’s ancient in female telly present land.’

‘Then he’d be a fool. Anyway, that attitude, thank goodness, is gradually dying off. And if he was a “pretty young thing” bloke, rather than a “pretty thirty-something with experience and talent” type of chap, then he’d lose your skills and my respect. Which, as I’m the show’s presenter, would be pretty stupid.’

‘That’s the other thing.’

‘What is?’ Shaun threw a mountain of socks into the case, many of which, Thea was convinced she’d never seen before.

‘I don’t want the guest-presenter role just because I’m your partner. Some of the archaeologists are bound to think that’s why I got it. If Phil only gave me the job because—’

Raising a hand to stop the fear he’d heard Thea utter at least once a week since Landscape Treasures had asked her to appear as their Roman expert for the next series’ opening episode, Shaun said, ‘You got the job because you are good at it. End of. Now, if you put all the clothes you want to take on the bed, I’ll finish packing them so you can go and say goodbye to Tina and Helen. Go to Sybil’s or something. It’ll be a while before you have a scone as good as one from her café.’

‘There is something rather delicious about sneaking off for morning coffee on a work day.’ Tina raised her coffee cup in salute to Thea and Helen as they waited for Sybil to deliver a round of her famous cheese scones.

‘I ought to be scraping a ton of mud off the shovels ready for the new guests this afternoon,’ Helen dropped a sugar cube into her mug, ‘but I can live with the guilt.’

Looking at her two friends across the Spode covered, table, Thea smiled. ‘I’m going to miss you two.’

‘You’re only going for eight weeks. Anyway, you’ll be far too busy being famous to miss the likes of us,’ Helen gave her a friendly nudge, ‘and too knackered from all the digging to notice the time passing.’

Thea laughed, ‘The famous bit I doubt, the knackered bit I can’t argue with. I ache enough after a day helping you and Tom on our fortlet, these days. A full eight week dig with television cameras watching my every move is going to kill me.’

‘Don’t be daft.’ Tina looked up as Sybil arrived at their table, ‘I swear your scones smell more delicious every time we come in here.’

Sybil rolled her eyes, ‘Praise indeed seeing as at least one of you – Thea – is here every other day testing the merchandise.’

Thea stuck out her tongue. ‘Well, the chicken’s eggs need delivering. It would be rude to walk all this way and not sample the goods.’

‘It’s a twenty-minute walk! You make it sound like you need Kendal Mint Cake and crampons!’

‘I’m going to miss your cooking almost as much as I’ll miss you, Sybil.’

Picking up a large paper bag from where she’d placed it on the next table, the café owner passed it to Thea. ‘Well, these should keep you going for a while at least.’

Having peeped inside the top of the bag, Thea got up and gave Sybil a hug. ‘Thank you.’

‘I didn’t want Shaun to go without my scones either.’

‘Shaun?’ Thea laughed. ‘If you think a bag of your scones will last long enough to share with him, you are under a serious misconception!’…

The entire Mill Grange series is available on all ebook platforms, as well as in paperback.

Happy reading,
Jenny x

Jenny Kane’s Mars Bar Scones

In honour of chatting scones at the Crediton Literary Festival today, I’m re-sharing my Mars Bar scones recipe.

Believe me – you HAVE to try them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If you don’t have Mars Bars- try Maltesers, or a chocolate bar of your choice. Orange choc is very good!)

You will need…

350g self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g butter

3 level tbsp sugar (preferably caster)

175ml milk (warmed in microwave for 25 seconds)

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

5 or 6 mini Mars Bars – sliced thinly or cubed

Baking tray- lightly floured.

 

 

 

 

Method

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.

Add the self raising flour salt and baking powder into a bowl

Cut the butter into cubes and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it looks like crumbs

Add in the caster sugar and mix.

Add 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the Mars Bar pieces

Make a well in the dry mix with a blunt knife. Dribble in the milk, stirring with the knife until you have a dough – save a tiny bit of the milk to paint over the scones at the end., (The mix will seem sticky- dust with flour to ease kneading)

Flour your kitchen surface and place mix over flour. Knead and fold mix in your hands until it smooths out a fraction.

Using your hands (not a rolling pin) push the dough, so it is three to four centimetres thick.

Use a cutter or the top of a mug to make individual scones. (You’ll get 5-7 scones depending on size of cutter)

Brush the tops with the remaining milk and place on the tray.

Bake for 10 mins – eat immediately with butter!

***

Enjoy!!

Oh- and then do heaps of exercise to work the calories off! A recommend a lovely long walk.

Jen x

 

Opening Lines with Deborah Swift: The Poison Keeper

I’m delighted to welcome, Deborah Swift, with the first 500 words from her fabulous historical novel,

The Poison Keeper.

About the Poison Keeper, a historical novel set in Renaissance Italy:

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell her the hidden keys to her success. But the day Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.

The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under his thrall, insists that she should be consort to him.

Based on the legendary life of Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how the darkest desires can be overcome by courage and love.

‘Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’ Historical Novel Society

FIRST 500 WORDS

PROLOGUE

Palermo, Sicily. June 1633

‘Did you see her?’ Duke Antonio de Verdi’s voice rose from the bed in a feeble croak.

His housekeeper, the ramrod-straight Signora Fattorini, nodded, lips pursed in satisfaction. ‘I waited as you suggested, in the guest chamber, and spied her through a crack in the door. She dropped something into your broth, Your Excellency.’

‘Dispose of it. And have Bruno and Alessandro fetch her in.’ A pause, in which he heaved himself up on the pillows and gathered enough saliva to speak again. ‘No word, hear me… no word to anyone beyond these walls. Just a stomach sickness, understand me?’

He saw in her eyes, and her servile curtsey, that she understood exactly. He didn’t want the court to know he had no control over his wife.

‘Your Excellency, the glovemaker is due to see the Lady Valentina at two o’clock. What shall I tell her?’

‘Send her away. My wife won’t be needing any more gloves.’

Chapter 1

A splash of noonday sun danced against the latticed window. Giulia paused, plate in hand, as a spider, escaping the sudden light, spooled slowly downwards on its silvery thread. If it put so much as a leg into the downstairs chamber, Mamma would kill it. Any stray crumb could pollute her work, she said. Any creature that fell into her carefully measured remedies could change the balance. Turn good to ill. Things were apt to turn into their opposite without careful attention, Mamma said, and Mamma was always right.

Fortune smiles on you today, little one, Giulia thought, Mamma is busy in the still room.

The spider completed its acrobatic descent and was gone, spindly legs scuttling away across the windowsill and into the blue-black shadow behind the cheese press. Giulia finished laying out the meal: yesterday’s bread, wedges from a round of hard salty cheese, pickled olives and figs from Tuscolo.

She called down the staircase, ‘It’s ready, Mamma.’

It was their servant Maria’s day off, so it was left to Giulia today to make Mamma eat. And today she was determined to make her listen.

She cocked her head. No answer, again.

Mamma often didn’t hear, or pretended not to, when she was involved in her work. Giulia tucked the stray wisps of hair back into her dark coiled braids, lifted her heavy skirts and hurried downstairs, heels clacking on the stone treads. The door was shut as usual. It seemed to her she’d been locked outside this door her entire life. Only when Mamma was ready would she open it.

She remembered the time when she was eight years old straying into the still room and lifting the end of a stopper to her nose to smell it. A stinging slap to the cheek. ‘Never, never do that,’ Mamma had shouted, whipping the stopper away with a gloved hand, with the stark warning; ‘You could die.’

Since then the door was locked until Mamma deigned to open it, and she had accepted it…

 

5 Interesting facts about Giulia Tofana:

  • The poison Giulia Tofana invented was called Aqua Tofana (Tofana Water) and it was often disguised as Manna of St Nicholas, an elixir that was supposed to drip from the saintly bones of the dead St Nicholas. It was widely used as a cure-all in Renaissance Naples.
  • Poison was one of the few weapons available to women in this patriarchal society. Fear of poisoning was so great that there were rumours Giulia Tofana wanted to poison the whole city of Rome by putting poison into the water system.
  • The arsenic Giulia Tofana used in her potion was supposedly supplied by a corrupt priest whose brother ran a pharmacy. His church was the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in the centre of Rome. However, Giulia had begun her poisoning career in Palermo and seems to only have moved to Rome after her mother was executed. It is likely her mother began the whole business, and this family was actually three generations of female poisoners.
  • Giulia Tofana’s daughter Girolama took over the secret affair of supplying poison, and she was rumoured later to be the widow of a wealthy Florentine businessman. This enabled her to move in aristocratic circles. Though you have to wonder how she became a widow!
  • There is no hard evidence to show when Giulia Tofana herself It is believed she died of natural causes in her own bed in about 1651, after which her daughter took over the supply of Aqua Tofana to those women who wanted to hasten the deaths of their husbands.

You can buy The Poison Keeper here – mybook.to/PoisonKeeper

And you can pre-order the sequel: The Silkworm Keeper here – mybook.to/SilkwormKeeper

BIO

Deborah is the author of fourteen historical novels, including a trilogy set in WW2. Deborah used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, and enjoys the research aspect of creating historical fiction, especially exploring archives, old houses and museums. She likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events.

Her home is in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Deborah has an MA in Creative Writing and now mentors other writers via The History Quill, and teaches classes and courses in writing through the Adult Education service. She’s a member of the Historical Writers Association, The Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association.

Find Deborah on her website www.deborahswift.com  or onTwitter @swiftstory  

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

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous Opening Lines with us, Deborah.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Will there ever be outlaw justice?

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 – 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

Opening Lines with J.A. Corrigan : The Nurse

This week’s Opening Lines come from The Nurse, a fabulous new thriller from the pen of J.A. Corrigan.

Over to you Julie…

I began writing this novel back in 2018 after Rose, the main character, knocked heavily on my door. It’s the book that found me an agent, and then subsequently a publisher too.

I loved using my medical background in the story, and also loved setting parts of the story in geographical locations with which I’m familiar.

Theo’s character took a little longer to develop, although once he introduced himself my fingertips spun across my keyboard! I do like reading dual timeline stories, and with Rose’s tale I knew instinctively that this had to be a story of past and present, interweaved and interspersed, and with both Rose and Theo as the viewpoint characters.

***

Blurb:

When you hear her story, will you believe her?

Rose Marlowe is a hard-working nurse, a loving wife, and a merciless killer. Or so she says. Despite her confession, it is hard to believe that this beautiful, kind woman could have killed her vulnerable patient in cold blood.

Down-on-his luck author and ex-journalist, Theo Hazel, is convinced that there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling, and so decides to visit her behind bars to write her story. His first surprise comes when Rose reveals that the victim was not a stranger to her.

As time goes on, it seems that Rose is letting Theo see behind her perfect mask. With each new visit, he learns terrible new things about her heart-breaking past. With each new visit, he becomes more and more convinced that she can’t be a killer. But is he trying to free an innocent woman, or falling prey to a calculating murderer?

A gripping and unputdownable thriller that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Silent Patient, Shari Lapena and JP Delaney.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Queen’s Hospital, Derbyshire, May 2015

This new space is too quiet. No music, no background chatter, nothing. The young man tries to move his lips to ask if someone can put the radio on, but the muscles in his face won’t obey his command. He can breathe, obviously, and hear, but he can’t move, or speak. Can’t seem to open his eyes either. A male voice, he thinks his doctor, told him that he’s been brought out of an induced coma and moved from intensive care. He’s now in the hospital’s high dependency unit. As well as silence, a dense humidity envelops him in this new room. He wishes a nurse would take off the sheet.

He attempts to remember something about his life, anything, but the fog inside his brain is making it difficult. He tries to move again, but his limbs are utterly unresponsive. Then a familiar aroma enters the unfamiliar room. It’s the nurse, he thinks. She smells of cinnamon and she’s the one who talks to him. He likes that. The other members of staff never talk; they perform their duties and leave.

She’s moving around his bed, but she hasn’t spoken. His mother smelt of cinnamon a long time ago, and it’s as if his senses and subconscious are working to create another plane of time. A fragmented memory stabs. His mother has been here to see him – before, when he was in intensive care – and told him something she thought he couldn’t hear. She didn’t think he’d pull through.

He listens hard. He won’t know for certain who’s in the room until they speak.

What did his mother tell him? Her words are somewhere inside his mind. He will remember. Soon.

He gives up attempting to think and instead allows himself to give in to sleep, and to his relief, a curtain begins to close across his consciousness. It is only the smell of cinnamon that stops him from drawing the other in the matching pair. Then a voice speaks.

‘I’m so sorry.’

He’s uncertain of its timbre, unsure if it’s a man or a woman, doubtful of the smell, and panic begins to press inside him. Something is very wrong.

All the moments of his existence come together in a kaleidoscope of images, and he sees his wife, her already burgeoning belly taut, the dark skin of her face translucent with happiness, and as his life ebbs away, he acknowledges that his efforts to find the truth have all been in vain.

The curtains close, with no gap remaining for the light to enter.

He has gone.

Chapter 1

Rose

8 December 2015

My eyes sweep the courtroom and settle on my husband, and I accept my life is over. Despite his love, and perhaps because of it.

I look at the woman who will soon deliver my sentence. She is petite, pretty, and too young to be a judge, surely. A mixture of expressions have passed over her features during the course of my hearing: well-veiled disgust …

***

You can buy    from all good retailers, including:

Amazon UK:  https://amzn.to/2QbhPQN

Amazon US:  https://amzn.to/3tDeHe3

Kobo:  https://bit.ly/3tF0OMD

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3w17c2o

Google Play: https://bit.ly/33z6k91

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3bl4Sv8

Foyles:  https://bit.ly/3hgtl8N

WH Smiths: https://bit.ly/3vZ8eM9

Bio:

Julie-Ann Corrigan was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. She studied in London, completing a BA (Hons) Humanities degree, majoring in Modern History and English Literature. Travelling in Europe for several years she taught in both Greece and Spain – countries and cultures she found fascinating. On return to the UK she trained and then worked as a Chartered Physiotherapist, before finally succumbing to the writing bug. Currently, she writes full-time and lives in Berkshire with her family.

Website: http://jacorrigan.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliannwriter

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann/?hl=en 

Many thanks for your wonderful Opening Lines, Julie.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

5 Tips: Progressing from short story writing to novels

So, you’ve had an idea?

You’ve woke up in the middle of the night with a title that just screams to be the name of the next bestselling novel, or a plot line that is leaping around your head with such ferocity that it has to hit the bookshelves.

You’ve already written short stories, but a novel – that’s a hell of a lot of words…

1. Think of short story writing as your novel writing apprenticeship – Short stories are a brilliant way for any writer to learn their craft. By learning to write to a word limit you can build your literary skill and finesse your writing. Too many people are in a rush to write a novel without taking the time to learn the skills needed. Creating short stories can teach you how to write in such a way that not a single word is wasted. Every word- every single one- has to count in a short story. The same applies to a novel- pages of waffle and repetition are boring to read and boring to write.

2. You need instant impact – In a short story all you have to grab your reader’s attention is the first one or two sentences. When writing their first novel, new writers often relax, thinking the lengthier word count means they have the luxury of spending pages to grab their reader’s interest- wrong!

When you write a novel the same instant impact rule applies as for short pieces. You have one to three paragraphs at the most to hook them. If a reader’s interest isn’t piqued by the end of the first page you’ve lost them- and then they are less likely to look at any further work you might produce. Once you have hooked them of course, then you can coax them into the story and work to keep them with you until they reach the last page – desperate to read more.

3. Don’t push that plot – Once you’ve started writing your novel, if you find your dream plot isn’t going to stretch to a whole novel (usually btw 70-100,000), then pause. Take a step back. There is nothing worse than reading a story that’s had its plot watered down just so it’s the required length. Take a walk. Think it through. Can the storyline take an extra twist to the plot? Can the interest in your characters be sustained? If not- make it a novella. Novellas (generally accepted to be anything from 20-60K), are very popular, great fun to write and wonderful writing practice.

4. Climb that word count– Addressing a word count of c.90,000 after having previously only completed pieces that are 5-10,000 words long can seem like a mammoth task. So why not build up slowly? Think of it like mountaineering. No one would tackle Everest without climbing a few lesser mountains first. So grab the crampons and the ropes and tackle a 15,000 word story – then add a crash helmet and a few rations and go for a novella. Then, as your confidence builds and you’ll soon be ready to strap on the oxygen tank, grab a pick and go for that novel!

5. Still feel like heavy going?- A lot of issues connected with getting through a novel for the first time are psychological. Don’t be afraid to address each chapter like an individual short story, but with a more open ending. After all, you already know you can write short tales of fiction. Allow yourself rewards for every 1000 words- an extra cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, a ten minute walk. Take one word at a time.

Remember- it’s supposed to be fun!

Happy writing!!

Jenny

(Check out my short story and general fiction writing workshops at www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk  )

Opening Lines with Colette McCormick: Things I Should Have Said And Done

This week’s Opening Lines welcomes Colette McCormick, and features the first 500 words from her novel,

Things I Should Have Said and Done.

BLURB

‘It is only after death that life can be fully understood.’

Ellen’s life is over in an instant when a drunk driver comes out of nowhere and hits the car that she is driving.

She never knew what hit her.

But Ellen in only young, she isn’t ready to die and there are loose ends to tie up before she can move ‘beyond the light.’ Luckily she isn’t alone, she has George to look after her. He’s new to the job and his methods aren’t exactly orthodox but together they set about dealing with Ellen’s issues.

There is Marc, the man that Ellen still loves. She watches him struggle with life as a single parent as she herself struggles with the realisation that Marc needs to move on without her. There is Naomi, the child that Ellen left behind, the child that becomes Ellen’s link to those that still live. And there is her mother whose life is falling apart.

Ellen looks for ways to help and with George constantly at her side she learns that even though she is dead, she is not helpless. There are things that she can so from beyond the grave to influence what happened in the world that she left behind.

No-one ever said that being dead was easy.

FIRST 500 WORDS

One minute I was fine and the next … well, I’m not sure what I’d call it exactly, but I’d never felt it before. I was shaking and I could hardly breathe and all I could think was, Oh my God! What’s going on? To be honest, there might have been the odd expletive as well but, oh my God! What’s going on? was the gist of it.

Surrounding me was can only say was an incredible light. It was like when there’s been heavy snow and your eyes struggle to adjust to the sun shining off it. You know, like when your eyes can’t really focus on anything because everything is so white. It was just like that, except whiter. My eyes instinctively screwed up to protect themselves like they would do on a really sunny day but this light wasn’t like a sunny day, not even a very sunny day. This light physically hurt my eyes.

I tried to open them a couple of times but it hurt so much I was forced to keep them closed. I was in complete panic.

I was breathing in short bursts which I took in and let out in stages. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I was panicking. I’d never had a panic attack before and I couldn’t understand why I was having one now.

What on earth was that light? I asked the question over and over in my head. What is that light? What is that light? What is that light?

I also asked myself why it was so noisy. There were loud noises all around, like when I’m watching TV at my granddad’s and he hasn’t got his hearing aid in. People were shouting, and someone even screamed. I wanted to scream myself but couldn’t. It was taking everything I had to breathe.

Oh my God, what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I breathe properly? Why were my teeth chattering?

The answer to all three had to be the same – I was scared. No, I was more than scared; I was petrified.

I tried to think.

Somehow I knew that no matter how much it hurt, I would have to open my eyes. I thought rubbing my eyes might help but it only made things worse. So now, as well as the light, there were circles flickering under my eyelids as if I had a migraine coming on. Ah, I thought, that’s it; I’ve got a migraine forming. It would be worse than any other I’d had before, but that was the only explanation. Oh great, not only would I have a blinding headache soon but I’d have the vomiting later. Yippee!

That would have to wait. Right now, I had other things to worry about. Slowly, a millimetre at a time, I forced my eyes open and blinked rapidly in a desperate attempt to adjust to the light. They hurt like hell, but I’d managed to get them this far …

You can  buy Things I Should Have Said and Done on Amazon

 

BIO

Colette was born and raised in Sheffield but now lives in North East England. She has had a wide range of jobs from ledger clerk to school dinner lady and lots of things in between but in 2001 she found her calling in the world of charity retail. After working for CR UK for 10 years she now works for Barnardo’s and while it’s a job that she loves, writing is her real passion. When she is not working or writing there is a good chance you will find Colette, baking, gardening or walking the dog in the beautiful countryside that Co Durham has to offer. She has been married almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

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Many thanks Colette, for sharing your opening lines with us today,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Crediton Literary Festival: Exmoor and Scones

If you’ve ever been curious as to why my current set of romcoms on Exmoor – or why the consumption of scones is such a feature – then why not come along to listen to my talk at the Crediton Literary Festival.

This FREE event is available via Zoom – but you must book a ticket to attend.

The line up for the whole day is fabulous.

You can book here – bit.ly/CredLit21

See you there!

Jenny xx

Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m up to my eyes in words at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two – while I crack on!

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

Adam Calvin’s vision blurred as his eyes streamed in the cold. His breath came in wheezing puffs. He needed to rest, but he daren’t. Not yet.

It was only as the vague outline of a cluster of homes and workshops came into view in the distance that he realised where his legs had been taking him. Slowing his pace, but not stopping, Adam risked a glance over his shoulder. He’d expected to see dogs, horses and men chasing him, but there was nothing. No one.

Scanning the scene ahead, making sure he wasn’t running into trouble as well as away from it, Adam exhaled heavily and aimed for a building he hoped was still standing.

The last time he’d visited the tiny village of Walesby there had been an old grain store on its outskirts. Built too close to the point where the frequently flooding Rivers Maun and Meden merged, the grain store had paid the price of a poor location. Long since abandoned in favour of a superior bake house, it was a perfect temporary hiding place for a man on the run.

Adam had no breath left with which to sigh for relief when he saw the neglected grain store. Uttering a prayer of thanks to Our Lady for the fact the building hadn’t been pulled down, he lifted the worn latch. He eased his way into the damp space, which was stuffed with rotting sacks containing all manner of rubbish.

Scrabbling awkwardly over the first few rows of musty sacks, Adam made himself a man-sized gap at the back of the room. Sinking down as far as he could, hoping both the sacks and the dark would shield him long enough for his cramped limbs to rest, he did his best to ignore the putrid stench and allowed his mind to catch up on events.

Only a few hours ago everything in Adam’s life had been as it should be.

He’d been fast asleep in his cot in the small private room his status as steward to Lord John de Markham gave him.

Had given him.

Adam wasn’t sure what time it had been when he’d been shaken to his senses from sleep by Ulric, the kitchen boy. He suspected it hadn’t been much more than an hour after he’d bedded down for the night.

Ulric, who’d frantically reported that a hue and cry had been called to capture Adam, had urged his master to move quickly. The sheriff had unexpectedly arrived and there had been a brief meeting between him, the Lord Markham and one other unknown man. An anxious Ulric had said that rumours were flying around like snowflakes in the wind.

Some of the household staff were saying Adam had stolen something, some that there had been a death; a murder.

Either way, for his own safety, Steward Calvin had to leave. Fast.

Confused, scared and angry that his good name was being questioned; without having time to find out what was going on or defend himself, Adam had grabbed his scrip. Pulling on his boots and cloak, with Ulric’s help he’d headed through the manor via the servants’ walkways.

The only item Adam hadn’t been able to find to take with him was his knife. Contenting himself with lifting one from Cook’s precious supplies as he ran through the kitchen, he’d left the manor that had been his home for the past twenty years.

With a fleeting nod of gratitude to his young helper, Adam had fled into the frosty night. Only minutes later he’d heard the calls of the hue and cry; echoes of the posse’s footfalls thudding against the hard, icy earth.

Now, wiping tears of exhaustion away with the back of his hand, Adam strained his ears through the winter air. All he could hear was the busy work of the mice or rats who were taking as much advantage of the building as he was.

Glad of the water pouch Ulric had stuffed in his scrip, Adam took a tiny sip. He didn’t know how long it would have to last him. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against the sacks that boxed him in and tried to think.

Had he outstripped the hue and cry? If they were nearby, taking the chance to rest while waiting for him to run again, then Adam was sure he’d have heard something ‑ but there were no muttered voices, no horses panting and no hounds barking at his scent.

Adam managed to get his breathing under control. He’d been part of the hue and cry on occasions himself, and he knew such groups didn’t tend to chase their quarry far, or for long. Especially not on a cold winter’s night, when they could be tucked up in bed before the demands of the next working day.

With growing confidence that he’d chosen his bolthole well, Adam allowed himself to relax a fraction. Few people lived in Walesby since the most recent of many destructive floods, and its location meant he was only a few steps from the edge of Sherwood Forest. A desperate man could easily disappear into the woodland’s depths.

As the hours ticked on, Adam became convinced that the pursuit had stopped. However, he knew that by the morning the hue and cry would be replaced with soldiers if the sheriff barked the order. His bolthole wouldn’t stay safe for long.

Yet that wasn’t what concerned Adam the most. He wanted to know what he was supposed to have done that warranted his midnight flight. How could he even begin to go about clearing his name if he didn’t know what he was accused of?

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am, with the complete series of The Folville Chronicles available for you to enjoy. The were so much fun to write,

 

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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