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Cover Reveal Tour for SHADOWS OF HEMLOCK by K.M. POHLKAMP

Posted by on Sep 6th, 2019 in Blog, Fiction, Historical fiction, history, Romance | Comments Off on Cover Reveal Tour for SHADOWS OF HEMLOCK by K.M. POHLKAMP

Today I’m delighted to be part of the cover reveal tour for K. M. Pohlkamp’s forthcoming release, Shadows of Hemlock. This novel, the sequel  to the Historical Novel Society’s Editors’ Choice Selection, Apricots and Wolfsbane, will be out this coming November. And here it is… Blurb:   Regret is a bitter poison. In a desperate grasp for prestige, Aselin Gavrell betrayed her master to the execution block for the advantage of the onyx pendant now around her neck. Shelter from her master’s crimes comes with an unwanted allegiance and a list of innocents to murder. But the Guild of poison assassins will not be so easily pacified and charge Aselin to develop an antidote as retribution for her betrayal. Unprepared for the independence she craved, Aselin is forced to seek aid from a fickle contact who wants only one means of payment: a ruby ring with a mare’s head. To save herself from her master’s fate, Aselin must navigate a growing list of debtors eager to toss her aside and confront her guilt in this fast-paced tale of growth and redemption in Tudor England.   Shadows of Hemlok is produced by Filles Vertes Publishing (Facebook: @FVpublishing; Twitter: @FillesVertesPub; Instagram: @fillesvertespub; website: www.fillesvertespublishing.com  Bio: K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife to the love of her life, proud mother of two young children, and a Mission Control flight controller. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published October 2017 and was designated an Editors’ Choice Selection by the Historical Novel Society, among other accolades. She can be found at www.kmpohlkamp.com or @KMPohlkamp.   Share...

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Meet The Winter Outlaw

Posted by on Sep 3rd, 2019 in Blog, crime, Fiction, Historical fiction, Jennifer Ash, medieval, News, Romance | Comments Off on Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m on my travels at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two 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...

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Opening Lines with Chris Chalmers: Dinner At The Happy Skeleton

Posted by on Aug 29th, 2019 in Blog, Contemporary fiction, Fiction, Jenny Kane, Opening Lines Blog, Romance | 3 comments

This week’s opening lines features the latest novel by Chris Chalmers. I have to say, Dinner at the Happy Skeleton, sounds a hell of a lot of fun! Over to you Chris… Dinner At The Happy Skeleton – The Blurb: Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising. With time-out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as the memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life. From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it. ‘In Dan, Chris Chalmers has created his most appealing protagonist yet … An eye-opening, always entertaining romp through modern sexual mores, with a sweet beating heart of true feeling at its core.’ SUZI FEAY, literary journalist YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK THE DONALD… If you’re planning a late summer getaway, here’s a suggestion for a poolside page-turner with a difference. Literary critic and Booker Prize nominee Philip Hensher called Dinner At The Happy Skeleton, ‘the perfect novel for a sunny afternoon. Full of charm and vim and sauce…’ And unless it’s the last white-chocolate Magnum in the shop, I’m not about to argue with him about anything. Expect mid-life crises, bed-hopping, fun and adventures off the tourist trail, as Dan the out-of-work advertising man blows his latest redundancy cheque on a hedonistic summer of self discovery. What begins as the chance to take time out from his career turns into a quest to trace the ex that serial-singleton Dan blames for the smouldering ruins of his love-life. Working on the principle that asking any author for an objective view of their novel is like asking Donald Trump to recommend a skyscraper, I’ll say no more. Try the first 500 words of Dinner At The Happy Skeleton for yourself. And if you like them, get in quick because the ebook is 99p till the end of August. I call that sauce for your sun-lounger and a bargain to boot. FIRST 500 WORDS… CHAPTER ONE I love waking up next to Jack. He is five foot five, comedy small, so not what you’d call any of my types. But his skin is naturally smooth as a baby’s; a bonus in a man of thirty-four. I nuzzle his head under my chin and try not to think of the spider-legs running amok over my own shoulders. The red lights on his ceiling say 07:18. Another seven minutes till we are officially behind schedule. ‘I need a slash,’ he growls, in a voice cracked by dawn. ‘Do Thunderbird Four,’ I say. ‘If...

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Opening Lines with Jane Risdon: Undercover Crime Shorts

Posted by on Aug 22nd, 2019 in Blog, Contemporary fiction, crime, Fiction, Opening Lines Blog | 7 comments

For this week’s Opening Lines, I’m delighted to welcome a great friend to my blog, the fabulous author, Jane Risdon. Over to you Jane… Hi Jenny, Thanks for asking me back to your fab Opening Lines which I enjoy reading so much and contributing towards. My 500 Opening Lines come from the opening story in my very first collection of short crime stories under one cover for the first time: Undercover: Crime Shorts Undercover: Crime Shorts features seven short stories which satisfy most fans of crime fiction and its sub-genres (not my words but those of a reviewer) and it was hard to put the collection together when you consider I have over one hundred short stories from which to choose. These stories are designed to keep you on the edge of your seat and to be read during a train/bus journey perhaps or before bed. When you want read something you can finish in under an hour with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction. I was so pleasantly surprised when upon release the collection shot into the Amazon Best-seller ratings at #18 in the UK and #333 in the USA – the first day!  Sadly, it coincided with me being in Facebook jail for a week at the same time, so promoting was a nightmare. I have no idea of which crime I was being convicted, but they have their own rules. I chose Sweet Sable – The Red Siren, as my opening chapter in the book. It is set in Hollywood in 1939 at the height of the night-club age, when clubs were where singers got to show off their talents and where they stood a chance of hooking a ‘Sugar Daddy,’ and ‘Stage Door Johnnies,’ were on the hunt for a conquest and a quick lay. A Great Grandfather was a ‘Stage Door Johnnie,’ in London, back in the day – my inspiration comes from so many sources! Back to my story: The Mafia has a hold on Las Vegas and Hollywood and nearly everyone is in hock to them one way and another, even politicians. Corruption is rife in 1939. Sable is a nightclub singer with another string to her bow and she uses her good looks, her sexy voice, and diva performances to snare rich men whose egos need stroking – this is how she makes her ‘additional’ living; snaring, hooking, and then stinging her male lovers – enriching herself by blackmailing them and adding to her ‘retirement fund.’ If any play rough, well, she can play rough too… Before she is about to go on stage with the nightclub’s resident band she has a visit to pay and we meet her as she breaks into the offices of one of her ‘marks,’ before rushing back to prepare for her performance. I’ve used Hollywood for this story because it ties into some research I had to undertake a while back when writing another Hollywood-based story about the apparent suicide of an up-and-coming young starlet. It’s called Cue Murder, and features in an anthology I contributed towards – Cons, Dames and G-Men published by Stab in the Dark Crime Writers. I used my husband’s late, great aunt, movie actress Elizabeth Risdon, for my research into the era of the silver screen in the late...

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How to Write Short Stories by Ashley Lister

Posted by on Aug 20th, 2019 in Blog, Fiction, Imagine, News, Non fiction, writing tips | Comments Off on How to Write Short Stories by Ashley Lister

I’m honoured to have the brilliant Ashley Lister with me today, to talk about his forthcoming creative writing book, How to Write Short Stories. I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by Ashley – and having taught him in return. He is a wonderful writer, poet, creative writing lecturer, and a right good chap… Over to you Ashley… To my mind, short stories are different from any other kind of writing. Not only is the short story shorter than the novel, but the novel is allowed to ramble and take the reader on digressions. A short story can’t get away with that. If we’re reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, we’re reading a story where every word must count. There is no scope for the main character to have thoughts on the weather, local politics, or the imagined shoe sizes of indigenous otters. The main character can’t take a trip to B&Q and study wallpaper swatches in the hope of redecorating. Every syllable in the short story needs to stay focused on the purpose of that narrative. Poetry shares this specificity of restrained vocabulary, where every syllable is vital to the message being conveyed. But poetry is invariably shorter, and to my mind, unlike short stories, good poetry usually has a rhyme such as the one below: There was an old woman from Hyde Who ate rotten apples and died The apples fermented Inside the lamented And made cider, inside her insides. All of which is my way of saying that the short story is unlike any other form of literature out there. I say this with fondness in my voice because I genuinely love the short story. I’ve written hundreds of short stories; I’ve obtained a PhD based on a thesis I wrote about short stories; and now I’ve published a book explaining how to write short stories. How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is the essential guide to writing short fiction. It takes the aspiring writer from their initial idea through to potential outlets for publication and pitching proposals to publishers. Along the journey this guide considers the most important aspects of creative writing, such as character, plot, point of view, description and dialogue. All of these areas are illustrated with examples of classic fiction, and accompanied by exercises that will help every writer hone their natural skill and talent into the ability to craft compelling short stories. How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is due out in December of 2019. It’s published by Little Brown and you can pre-order your copy using this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1472143787/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_fpDlDbM5CS66H Today, because my good friend Jenny invited me to write a blog post about my forthcoming book, I thought it would be prudent to share five tips for short story writing. Read good stories. Read people who know what they’re doing with a pen. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with the writing of Jenny Kane/Jennifer Ash: read her books and watch how she demonstrates her mastery of the craft. There is a balance between description and action. There is a strong use of character and dialogue. Watch how she does this, make notes, and try to emulate this sophisticated style of writing. Read rubbish stories. Like a lot...

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Robin Hood and The Outlaw’s Ransom

Posted by on Aug 16th, 2019 in Blog, crime, Fiction, Historical fiction, Jennifer Ash, medieval, Romance | Comments Off on Robin Hood and The Outlaw’s Ransom

The Outlaw’s Ransom was my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash. Blurb The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash. When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’. Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things… The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart.  Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time. It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be. Extract …Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’ Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother. ‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of. ‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’ Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’ Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous. ‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s...

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Opening Lines with Kellie Butler: The Broken Tree

Posted by on Aug 15th, 2019 in Blog, Fiction, Historical fiction, Jenny Kane, Opening Lines Blog | 2 comments

It’s Opening Lines time again. This week I’m delighted to welcome Kellie Butler, with the first 500 words from her brand new novel, The Broken Tree.   Hi, my name is Kellie Butler and I’m back again for another installment of the first 500 words from my new book The Broken Tree. Thanks so much for having me back, Jenny! The  Laurelhurst Chronicles family saga follows the Cavert family from the beginning of the Second World War through the mid-1970s. It centers on siblings  Lydie Cavert and her brother Edward. My initial inspiration for this series was writing about trauma from the perspective of an adolescent that endures a lot of things we go through in life and then some. Every family has secrets, and her family certainly has a bevy full. I draw inspiration from classic film, television, literature, and historical research. For the third installment in the series, I was initially inspired by a camping story a friend of mine from Lancashire told me about lightning striking a tree up on Pendle Hill. It reminded me of a story I had heard long ago of a tree holding the curse of a young boy who was shunned by his community for the practice of divination, even though he had made his community wealthy. If the tree ever broke or fell, the curse would come alive. It inspired me to research the Lancashire Witch Trials and craft a story of how events from those times during the summer of 1612 would affect the Cavert family in the late 1950’s. Here’s the blurb of this captivating story of love, loss, and betrayal. An anxious homecoming. A three-hundred-year-old curse. A betrayal that threatens to tear the Cavert and Bainbridge families apart. Welcome home to Laurelhurst. Lancashire, Summer 1959. Fifteen years ago, Lydie Cavert Bainbridge left the dark memories of her youth at Laurelhurst Manor behind her. Now thirty-two, an expectant Lydie returns with her family of five with two goals: to protect her children from her horrific experience at Laurelhurst and to spend a peaceful summer before the arrival of her fourth child. When Lydie comes across an ancient oak tree split in the middle on the edge of the estate, an old secret from three hundred years ago involving an enemy is revealed, along with  specters of the past she had hoped to leave behind. As the tree casts a shadow upon the house and loyalties are tested, Lydie must choose between the love she holds for her family and the love for her brother. Can the Cavert family stay together, or will splinter like the tree found on the moors? *** First 500 words… On a balmy June afternoon in 1959, the waters of Morecambe Bay shimmered in the sun. Yet underneath the surface, danger lurked for any unfortunate person who might have misjudged the swift currents and shifting sands, as five of Lancashire’s rivers emptied into the bay. Lydie had relayed to her husband, Henry, the stories she had heard in school of fishermen who had perilously misjudged the sands and lost their lives in search of a bountiful catch of cockles. She had warned him on their way towards the beach not to venture too far from the shore, as some areas of the bay contained...

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Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

Posted by on Aug 9th, 2019 in Blog, Contemporary fiction, Contemporary Romantic Fiction, crime, Fiction, Historical fiction, Romance | Comments Off on Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can read within this same novel) Grace is so embroiled in her work and her passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…   Extract from Romancing Robin Hood …Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six. She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated. It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity. She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe. Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days. Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You OK? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’ The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew,...

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Opening Lines: Another Cup of Coffee

Posted by on Aug 1st, 2019 in Blog, Contemporary fiction, Contemporary Romantic Fiction, Fiction, Jenny Kane, News | Comments Off on Opening Lines: Another Cup of Coffee

This week I thought I’d share some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’ How about Another Cup of Coffee ?   Another Cup of Coffee Blurb Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university. Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding. It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years… With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest… Here are the first 500 words… Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room. Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked … Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time … The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll. Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer. With that...

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End of the Month:There Goes July!

Posted by on Jul 31st, 2019 in Blog, End of Month, News | 2 comments

Surely not? Surely we can’t be saying goodbye to July already? Yet, Nell Peters is here, so it must be time to see out another month. Other to you Nell… Good day, one and all. You may have to bear with me for a while, as I battle with my new- fangled laptop and Windows 10. I say ‘new’ although I have in fact had the cursed machine for roughly a year and hardly opened it, but was shamed into doing so because #3 son (the nomadic one) was due home for a week and I knew he would nag me mercilessly unless I got to grips with the darned thing and all its foibles PDQ. Also, if he saw me hitting this shiny new keyboard with aplomb, I figured he might overlook the snazzy new iPad Pro (new earlier this year) that is languishing somewhere in one of my desk drawers gathering biscuit crumbs. Any suggestions that I am a Luddite are … well, probably true. Enough of my technical hitches; are you still awake and sitting comfortably? Then let us begin. Andrew Marr – he of the interesting aural formation – was born in Glasgow on 31st July 1959, and so will need sixty candles for his celebration cake. A journalist, television presenter and political commentator, he started work on The Scotsman after graduating from Cambridge with a First in English, and from then on became a ubiquitous media presence, writing for various newspapers and popping up all over BBC radio and TV. Politically, he was formerly a Maoist and a member of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory group, now known as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. At Cambridge, Marr admits he was a ‘raving leftie’, and so well known for handing out copies of Mao’s Little Red Book that he was referred to as Red Andy. On BBC TV recently, controversial windbag, George Galloway said, ‘I knew Andrew Marr when he was a Trotskyite, selling …’ (ergo, embracing capitalism?) ‘…Trotskyite newspapers to bewildered railwaymen outside King’s Cross Station.’ Marr now lives in not-very-Trotskyite Primrose Hill, London, with his wife, political journalist Jackie Ashley of The Guardian, and their three nippers. Sharing Marr’s date of birth are another English journalist and author, Kim James Newman, and Stanley Jordan, an American jazz guitarist whose playing technique involves tapping his fingers on the fretboard of the guitar with both hands. A frustrated bongo drum player, perhaps? Last but not least, we have the sporty contingent represented by Mike Bielecki, baseball pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, born in Baltimore, Maryland and Australian golfer, Peter Senior, born in Singapore, Malaysia. Happy birthday, y’all. Speaking of Stanley Jordan and his bongo-style guitar playing – even if it exists only within my fetid imagination – it was also sixty years ago today that the first exhibit of bongos opened at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Fancy that! The zoo now occupies one hundred and eighty-three acres in Ohio and is divided into several areas: Australian Adventure; African Savanna; Northern Wilderness Trek; The Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building; Waterfowl Lake and The Rain Forest, plus the newly added Asian Highlands. The exhibit opened on the same day that Harry Rodger Webb, aka the evergreen Wimbledon-in-the-rain warbler, Cliff Richard, and his backing band, The Shadows...

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