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

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Opening Lines with Alison Knight: The Hidden

I’m delighted to welcome friend, fellow co-runner of Imagine and author, Alison Knight, to my place today.

Why not take five minutes, grab a cuppa, and enjoy the Opening Lines from Alison’s latest novel, The Hidden?

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me back to your blog to talk about my latest book, The Hidden. This is my third novel published by Darkstroke in just ten months and it completes a trilogy of standalone but linked stories. The first book, Mine, is based on real events in London in the 1960s. The second, The Legacy, is a story inspired by a scene in Mine, so there are some cameo appearances by characters from the first book. The Hidden is set in the early 1970s and follows what has happened to one of the characters in The Legacy. I hope you enjoy the opening lines of The Hidden.

BLURB for THE HIDDEN

Secrets, nightmares, and a big black dog…

Montana, 1973.

Faye has found sanctuary in a simple cabin in the wilds of the Crazy Mountains in Montana with a dog called Bear. She’s a long way from her old life in England. But she knows that one day her peaceful life could be invaded by her enemies, and she keeps her guard up at all times.

Jeff returns home from Vietnam, a wounded, damaged hero, just weeks after his father’s sudden death. He finds hostile, secretive Faye living in his cabin and refusing to leave. The reading of his father’s will adds another layer of mystery to this woman’s presence.

The tension between them grows as Jeff tries to overcome his nightmares and expose Faye’s scars and secrets. The more he learns about her, the more enigmatic she seems.

When her enemies come calling, she needs Jeff to protect her. Can they learn to trust each other? And will Faye ever be safe?

FIRST 500 WORDS

As she left the witness box there was a flash of blinding light and the courtroom filled with smoke. She froze, terror holding her trapped, unable to escape. Around her, court officials called for order, women screamed and there were thuds and crashes as furniture was overturned.

            “Get out!” she heard her brother shout.

            She looked around in a daze. “Percy?” It couldn’t be him. He was dead. That’s why she was here, why she’d spilled their secrets.

            For a moment the smoke cleared, and she saw a figure in a balaclava running towards her. He was clad all in black. His eyes were filled with hatred. She knew why he was there. It was her time to die. He raised his arm and she saw the glint of steel in his hand. She closed her eyes as the knife descended and slashed the side of her face.

At last her survival instinct freed her from her terrified paralysis. She turned, desperate to get away, but she felt the blade pierce her body. She wanted to crawl away from the stinging slashes, but she was trapped, unable to move. She felt moisture on her skin – her blood or her tears?

“It’s all right,” she heard Percy whisper. “It’s not your time yet. You’ve won, Sis. Don’t give up now.”

“Percy!” she screamed, reaching out for him …

Montana, USA, 1973

Her hand touched fur. Fur? She opened her eyes, blinking as she registered the soft whining of the dog on the bed next to her. The vivid images of the London courtroom faded away as she took in her surroundings – the moonlight flooding through the window where she’d forgotten to close the curtains again; the patchwork quilt on the big wooden bed; the large pine chest and smaller matching bedside cabinet.

She sat up, bringing up her knees and leaning her elbows on them as she rubbed her face. The dog nuzzled her cheek, trying to lick up her salty tears. She pushed him away.

“It’s all right, Bear,” she said, scratching behind his ear. “It was just a dream.”

The same dream. Every. Bloody. Night. It’s been three years now. Will it ever go away?

            Knowing she wouldn’t get back to sleep, no matter how tired she felt, she got up and padded barefoot to the window. It was a clear night. She could see the dark silhouette of the mountains that stood guard above the fertile valley. Above them were millions of stars. It never ceased to soothe her, looking out at the moon and the endless sky above her. It reminded her of how huge the universe was, and how small and insignificant she was in comparison.

There had been a time when she hadn’t bothered to look around and to enjoy the beauty and majesty of her surroundings. Instead, she’d focused only on herself – her wants, her opinions, her pleasures. No one else had mattered. And look where that got me, she reminded herself. Today, she …

***

BUY LINK: https://mybook.to/thehidden

BIO

Alison Knight has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Alison currently has a trio of novels published by Darkstroke. The first, Mine, is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

The Legacy, a drama set in London in 1969, was inspired by a scene in Mine, and explores how an unexpected legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. The Legacy looks at themes of greed and expectations, and the lengths people will go to when they are desperate.

The Hidden, available from 23rd September 2021, is a romantic suspense that picks up the story of one of the characters in The Legacy. Set in Montana in 1973, two wounded, damaged people are forced together, each guarding their secrets. Can they learn to trust each other? And will their nightmares ever end?

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops with her friend and fellow author, Jenny Kane (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk). She also works as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942

www.alisonroseknight.com

@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/ 

Many thanks for sharing your Opening Lines today, Alison.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Seventeen years…and counting

This week sees the 17th anniversary of the first time I wrote a story since I was at school – a story that was (miraculously) published three months after it was written. That story was a work of erotica! A fact that, in itself, seems impossible to me – a shy, self-conscious, paranoiac woman who has never quite got used to the fact that people actually want to by her books!

I still maintain that- if that very first story hadn’t been published- I’d never have picked a pen up for fiction creation ever again.

As with any anniversary, I have found myself reflecting on all that has happened to me ‘writing wise’ over the past decade and a half. (A reflection that is echoed in this same blog over on my Kay page – which is strictly for over 18’s only.)

What a roller coaster ride the last 17 years have been. Or perhaps it’s been more of a carousel, a long roundabout of constant ups and downs, but where, ultimately you always end up back where started, and yet you can’t quite stop the ride to get off…?

My first piece of erotica was a written on a paper serviette in a café in Aberdeenshire. I swear the idea came to be from nowhere. I don’t know why I was suddenly thinking about a cross dressing male who liked to have his arse spanked- but that is exactly what happened.

It took some time for me to be brave enough to do anything with the story. It was a couple of weeks before it made it onto a proper piece of paper, and several more before it was typed onto my computer and edited into shape. The amount of courage it took me to look up erotica publishers on the Internet- and the covert way I went about it- seems laughable now.

I sent off my story- which I rather unimaginatively had called Jen and Tim to Cleis Press- never expecting to hear anything again, and in the meantime, I’d written a rather kinky poem called Regrets, which I sent to the much missed Oysters and Chocolate web site. Then, I told myself to leave it alone, to look after my children and take up knitting or something. I never expected to hear back from either publisher. I certainly never expected to get both pieces taken- and I truly never expected the buzz the feeling of acceptance gave me- that was it- I was hooked- an addict to the acceptance of a publisher for the rest of my life!

It took 40 short story and poetry publications before I was brave enough to write something longer, and when I did, I cheated.

The Collector is both an anthology and a short novel- a set of different erotic stories- one for every genre within the discipline. I learnt a great deal from writing that book- and I still hold it in great affection.

Now, 17 years later, with over 150 erotic short stories to my name, plus a great many novellas and novels, I am still addicted, still hungry for the ‘yes’ of a publisher. Having a back record to your name never guarantees a story will be taken, and nor should it. Each new tale I write has to be worth publication on its own merits; it shouldn’t be published just because KJB or Jenny Kane or Jennifer Ash wrote it.

Over the past 7 years, I’ve had less time to write erotica as I have been fortunate to have some success with my romantic fiction, my medieval crime and my audio scripts. Plus, a few years ago now, I set up a creative writing tutoring business called Imagine, (with my friend and colleague, Alison Knight)  – and am now in the fabulous position of seeing some of my #novelinayear students having their own works published.

With the #MillGrange series about to come to an end – with the publication of Winter Fires at Mill Grange in November – and a brand new series of romcoms already in production, it’s looking as if the next two years will be as busy as the last.

I also have several exciting ‘irons in the fire’ that I can’ tell you about yet. Believe me though- when I can, you’ll definitely hear the shouts of delight coming from my little corner of Devon.

I’m also busy with my Robin of Sherwood work. I’m SO excited about the annual coming out this November. I honestly never dreamt I’d have a story in an annual! This is the 1987 annual that was never written at the time – well, it has been now! You can order your copy here.

Here’s to the next year and beyond!

And a HUGE thank you to all of you for supporting me. Without readers there are no writers.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

Happy 1st Birthday: Autumn Leaves

The last two years have been quite eventful for me, especially on the novel writing front. The #MillGrange series has kept my fingers dancing over the laptop keyboard almost nonstop – and it’s been wonderful!

I can’t believe that, today, I am celebrating the first birthday of the second book in the series – Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange! It doesn’t seem a minute since I was nervously awaiting the verdict from Aria, to see if it was good enough for publication or not. Since then, Spring Blossoms has come along, and it won’t be long before Winter Fires at Mill Grange is hoisted onto the world.

It’s been a whirlwind of words – and a total joy. The characters’ of Mill Grange will stay with me forever.

Before I get too sad about how much I miss writing their adventures – let’s look at the birthday book!

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t but adore.

Sequel to Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn  Leaves has been blessed with several #bestseller flags over on Amazon, and I’ve also bee lucky enough to have a number of kind reviews. Here are just a few of the nice things people have said about this instalment of Thea, Shuan, Tina and Sam’s story.

“…‘Autumn Leaves At Mill Grange’ is extremely well written and I can’t believe that I have left it this long to discover how fantastic an author Jenny Kane is. She grabs your attention and draws you into the story. You then end up becoming that wrapped up in each character and their story that you couldn’t stop reading even if you wanted to. Jenny has one of those writing styles that is easy to get used to and easy to get along with. In fact reading one of Jenny’s books seems more like a chat between friends than reading an actual book. I felt as though I was part of this story which is all down to Jenny’s characters and her fantastic, realistic and very vivid storytelling….” Ginger Book Geek

“…This is such a lovely novel, and a perfect sequel to Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange. I love the setting of Mill Grange, and it was such a treat to return there to learn more about these characters. Sam is a fascinating character and whilst his situation is difficult, watching him work to overcome his problems is inspiring, particularly while he works hard to help others in similar situations. The change in Tina was also lovely to follow, as she finds her way in a new relationship, particularly one which comes with issues.

I am more than happy to recommend this novel, but it would be a shame to read just Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, so grab yourself a copy of Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange too!”  Chapter and Cake  

“I absolutely loved this story about two archaeological sites, both country house based and two couples and being a huge Time Team fan enjoyed the filming element and subsequent tensions associated with this in the story. Shaun is presenting archaeological shows for filming and is close friends with Sam who has bought a country house which he hopes to use for recovering ex army traumatised people where they can relax, participate and join in the archaeological discovery of a Roman site, unusual for Cornwall. There is jeopardy all round – the young Sophie whose crush on him threatens Shaun’s relationship with Thea. There’s Sam who has a huge phobia about entering buildings and sleeps in a tent outside. Tina whose story I very much enjoyed is working on her relationship with Sam. The story follows many twists and turns as there is a race against time and a competitive film company pitching to film at Mill Grange. Even so all is not what it seems. Will Sam overcome his phobia,; will Sophie see sense; can Thea untangle mysterious occurrences ; will the filming happen at Mill Grange. As in Shakespeare there’s a long way to go before all falls into harmony and the read to find out what happens is compulsive. I highly recommend this start to a new series from Jenny Kane. The plotting and characterisation is flawless.”  Netgalley 

I’m off for a celebration  slice of cake and a coffee (another one). While I raise a cuppa to the good folk of Exmoor, I’ll leave with a little extract from Autumn Leaves.

EXTRACT

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

Bert fluttered his grey eyelashes as he helped Tina carry a large cardboard box full of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from her car into Mill Grange’s kitchen. ‘I love Mabel to pieces, but she is driving me mad.’

Tina laughed. ‘But it’s only been two months since the restoration project came to an end. Doesn’t Mabel have heaps of committee work to do? She runs every social club this side of Exmoor.’

As he placed the box on the oak table that dominated the manor’s kitchen, Bert’s eyes lost their usual optimistic shine. ‘Since Mill Grange was sold Mabel’s been so aimless. She led the volunteer restorers here for over five years and now that’s over…’

‘Mabel doesn’t mind Sam owning this place, does she?’

‘Not for a minute. For a little while it was all she could talk about. She’s that proud of your young man for buying the very thing that frightens him. For taking his fear of being inside by the scruff of the neck and buying a house to be enjoyed by other people.’

Tina put her box of groceries on the side and laid a hand on Bert’s shoulder. ‘I’ll talk to Sam. There must be something Mabel could do around here.’ She played with her pigtails as she thought. ‘I’m not sure we can afford to pay her yet though.’

‘You wouldn’t have to. Making her feel part of the team again is all I’m asking for.’ Bert’s smile returned to his eyes. ‘How’s it going here anyway? Sam getting into the house at all, or is he still overseeing things from that screen thing outside?’

‘He hasn’t been inside the manor since he bought it.’ Tina focused her attention on emptying the boxes of biscuits ready for Mill Grange’s first visitors, hiding her…

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange is available from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Currently only 99p/ $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Also available in paperback

Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Autumn Leaves – or any of my books. Always appreciated.

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Lizzie Fry: The Coven

I’m delighted to welcome friend, and fellow author, Lizzie Fry to my place today, with the Opening Lines from her debut thriller, The Coven.

BLURB

An electrifying dystopia that imagines a world where a populist demagogue outlaws peaceful witchcraft, The Coven is a page-turning thriller with profound things to say about contemporary global society.

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Green light was leaking under the bedroom door.

The sight of it made Li stop in her tracks and back up, dropping the washing basket she’d been holding. Her brain attempted to push the realisation away in sluggish disbelief. She had prayed to the triple goddesses she would never have to deal with this. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears as anxiety crashed through her body.

The day Li had been putting off had finally arrived.

Until that moment, it had been a completely ordinary Friday in March. Li had been stripping the beds, her usual end-of-the- week routine, when Chloe had returned from college around midday, her lectures finished for the weekend. As usual, Li had asked her daughter how her day had been; as usual, Chloe had rebuffed her with that sneering way of hers. Li tried to not let it bother her. Since puberty had struck around the age of four- teen, Chloe had made it clear she had no time for her parents. At nineteen, almost twenty, she should have grown out of such juvenile power-plays, but Li understood it wasn’t entirely her only child’s fault.

Seeing the green light now, pooling on the floor like liquid, Li knew it was all hers.

Fear gripped her, guilt rushing up behind it. As if in a nightmare, her bones felt as heavy as concrete. She hesitated, unable to raise her arm to push the door and go inside. Blinking back the tears pricking her eyelids, she took her phone from her jeans pocket and pulled up her call log; DANIEL was first on the list.

Bar the odd errand in town, Li saw only two people most days: Daniel and Chloe. Apart from a dozen Facebook and Twitter followers she spoke with online regularly, she had few real-life friends and worked from home. Her love of travel and a degree from a British university twenty years ago had led her to make a life for herself on the other side of the world. Too late, she realised she was isolated and alone when it really counted.

Li finally managed to press the button to call her husband. ‘Hi.’ Daniel’s gravelly voice filtered down the line.
‘You need to—’
The voicemail kicked in. He hadn’t really answered at all.

Keying off, Li swore in Mandarin, the sound of her native tongue discordant in her own ears. Her hands were shaking so much she almost dropped the phone. She redialled again with difficulty, irritation and fear clashing together. Daniel had to pick up this time. Had to. She couldn’t deal with this alone. Not any more.

She would tell him everything…

BIO

Lizzie Fry is a debut author of high concept thriller The Coven (published by Sphere books), but you might know her better as LV Hay. LV’s books previous books were crime fiction: The Other Twin, Do No Harm (Orenda Books) and Never Have I Ever (Hodder). The Other Twin is currently being adapted for the screen by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV.

LINKS

Universal link >> http://myBook.to/covenwitch

Signed copies from Liznojan Books >> http://www.liznojanbooks.co.uk 

***

Many thanks for joining us today, Lizzie,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Jenny Kane’s Cheese Scones: Sybil approved!

As regular readers to this blog will know, my latest collection of novels, the #MillGrange #series, features a serious amount of scone consumption.

As it’s a #bankholiday weekend, and you might just have time for a touch of baking, I thought I’d re-share my own cheese scone recipe – Sybil approved, of course!

If you’d like to bake some Sybil style cheese scones, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 55g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 100g mature cheddar –  grated (reserve some for sprinkling on top prior to baking)
  • 100-110ml milk – plus 1 tbsp for glazing

And here’s what you do:

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas mark 6
  2. Place the flour, salt, cayenne pepper and baking powder into a bowl, and stir together. (You can sift it if you like- but I can never be bothered!)
  3. Add the butter to the bowl and rub with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs.
  4. Sprinkle almost all the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and stir in.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the milk, a little at a time, until you have a firm dough. (Do not be afraid to add a fraction more milk if required)
  6. Lightly flour a surface and push/fold the dough a few times, until it is approximately 2cm thick. Cut out the scones with a medium (about 8cm) cutter.
  7. Lightly flour a baking sheet, and place the scones on top. Glaze scones with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-ish mins or until cooked through.
  9. Eat with way too much butter  and enjoy without guilt.

I hope Sybil’s scones put a smile on your face!

If you’d like to read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange or Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, to see what else the workers at Mill Grange like to eat, you can find all the buy links here.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Kelly Mason: The Medium of Branden Bay

This week I’m delighted to welcome debut novelist, Kelly Mason, to my Opening Lines feature.

A former #Imagine, #novelinayear student, Kelly has many literary irons in the fire – including the writing of the cosy mystery, The Medium of Brandon Bay

Thanks, Jenny for inviting me to your blog.

The Medium of Branden Bay is the first book in a series of six cosy mysteries, which will be released over the next year.

Blurb:

The psychic medium who is petrified of ghosts!

Becky moves to Branden Bay, leaving a fast-paced life in London behind her.

She’s soon disturbed by shadows which lurk in her house. She’s inherited more than her grandma’s house and a sassy cat. She’s been given the so-called gift for seeing the dead.

But the only gift Becky wants is one that comes with fancy wrapping and a bow.

To rid herself of the ghosts that haunt her, she must unravel a cold case mystery.

Is she able to overcome her fears to find the truth?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter 1

I’m Becky James, I was a city slicking millennial living and working in the financial district of London, until I inherited a huge Victorian house from my glamorous grandma, Constance.  The house is set right on the front of Branden Bay, a traditional seaside resort in the south west of England.  The bay consists of a yellow horseshoe of sand, sporting a posh hotel at one end and a traditional funfair at the other, with a pier jutting out to the sea. A wooded hill backs the town with a castle overlooking the popular tourist spot.

When Grandma died, I put the house up for sale, having no intention of moving as I had been living with Marcus, my boyfriend, in his Thameside apartment for the past three years. However, our relationship came to an abrupt end and as we worked for the same company, I decided it was time for a complete change. So I took Grandma’s house off the market and moved to the other side of the country to start a new life.

Whilst I loved my new home by the sea, it was more than a tad spooky living there alone. I kept turning my head, thinking I saw a shadow moving around the rooms. I blamed tiredness; however, deep down, I was worried that I’d inherited more than just Grandma’s house. Then one night, it got a whole lot worse.

I was having yet another restless night. It had taken me ages to drift off to sleep. Every time I relaxed for more than a few seconds, a jolt of static sped up my back. I snapped open my eyes as electricity fuzzed along my arms and pooled into my hands as pins and needles. I slowly lifted my head and squinted.  Is this for real? A large dark figure sat on my bed wearing some sort of brimmed hat. I couldn’t make out any features as it was a silhouette but my instinct told me it was a man. I felt my arms tremble. I knew he wasn’t flesh and blood – for starters, he kept flickering on an off like a projection and at times I could see straight through him to the fireplace beyond.

Go away. You’re not real – there’s no such thing as ghosts, I said in my head. I didn’t want to say it out loud, in case he answered back. This was more than something lurking in the corner of my vision, this was a full-on ghost invading my bedroom.

But even though I could see him clearly, I was not ready to entertain the idea that he was any sort of real.  I crept across the large wooden bed on all fours. My knees dipped into the soft duvet. With teeth clenched and my hand in a fist, I thrust my arm into his chest. Pins and needles filled my fingers until with the third swipe the see-through figure disappeared. Gone. See? Not real. I brushed my hands together…

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited

BIO

As a child, Kelly was obsessed with Scooby-Doo, she progressed to reading Edit Blyton, with her favourite series being, The Famous Five. As an adult, her absolute favourite author is M C Beaton and her Agatha Raisin series. Her writing is inspired by the seaside town she lives in, situated on the South West coast of England, a few ghostly dreams and her three sassy cats – all of which were strays before she made the mistake of naming them and letting them in the back door!

 

Bookbub:   https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kelly-mason

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

 

Huge thanks to Kelly for coming by today. Great opening lines.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

The importance of book reviews

Over recent years I’ve been blessed with some lovely reviews for my novels. I’ve also had some stinkers – but you can’t please everyone. (Although, I try very hard to do just that.)

Reviews are vital to an author – the more you have (especially 4 and 5 star reviews) the better your chances are of being asked to write another book. So, if you have enjoyed a book by an author, write a review- that way, there is a higher chance of that person being asked to write another one.

If a book has over 100 reviews on Amazon, it is automatically given some promotion on their targeted email advertising.  As most authors can’t afford to pay for advertising – this is a big deal.

Not only that, reviews are the only way an author can tell if he or she is ‘hitting the spot’ or not. Obviously high book sales can tell you if your book is successful – but sale figures can do no more than reflect how good your marketing is. It is feedback from your readership that tells you if your stories are actually working.

If you wrote a thriller- did it thrill?

If you wrote a romance- did it melt the heart?

If you wrote a horror- did it give your reader nightmares?

Obviously this is a simplistic set of questions, but the point is- authors need to know – and the way to tell them is via reviews.

Good reviews improve our standing and our professional reputations. They improve our ratings on Amazon and equivalent book selling platforms. The more good reviews an author has, the better their overall sales will become.

I’m not saying that you should only give good reviews. If a book has disappointed, let you down and so on, then some constructive criticism can help an author- even though it might be difficult to swallow sometimes!

But you should not give a poor review because…

… of damaged delivery packaging. (That is nothing to do with the author)

…the book isn’t the one you meant to purchase.

…the book was a gift, and wasn’t something you wanted to read, etc etc….

My favourite 1 star review was for Another Cup of Coffee – it was complaining about all the sex in it.  This really confused me as, although there is a suggestion that sex might happen on two occasions within that 97,000 word book, there is no actual sex.  I dread to think what might have happened if that reviewer had accidentally purchased one of my Kay Jaybee books!!!

So – in short – if you enjoy a book – PLEASE review it.

It takes up to a year of hard work to write a book that you’ll read in a matter of days. Any positive feedback you can give helps us author types a great deal.

Whether you leave a review on the Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Goodreads – or any other retailer/book promotion platform – every single one helps.

Every single one.

 

And with that…I have reviews to write for some books I’ve recently enjoyed!

THANK YOU

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Rachel Brimble: A Widow’s Vow

This week I am delighted to welcome my friend, and fellow author, Rachel Brimble, to my blog.

Here are the first 500 words from A Widow’s Vow – a brand new novel which I am very much looking forward to reading. 

Over to you Rachel…

Hi, Jenny!

Thank you so much for having me back on your blog to share the opening 500 words of the first book in my latest Victorian trilogy, The Ladies of Carson Street.

In the first novel, A Widow’s Vow, we meet heroine Louisa Hill, a former prostitute who has married a merchant client of hers and now lives a good and comfortable life. However, when her husband is found hanged in a Bath hotel room, leaving no note of explanation and only the keys to a house Louisa never knew existed, she knows her life is about to take a different path once again…

The trilogy revolves around three women who come to live and work together at Carson Street. Each is searching for meaning and purpose in their lives as well as holding onto the belief that their struggles in the underbelly of Bath will not last forever – maybe finding love is possible for them, too…

BLURB

From grieving widow…

  1. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.

To a new life as a madam.

Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.

Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path?

A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down!

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Louisa Hill collapsed onto the chintz sofa in the dockside house she shared with her husband and her loyal friend, Nancy. ‘Well, the windows are clean and the silver polished. We have, indeed, managed a good day’s work. What do you say to a trip to the tea shop?’

‘I’d say it’s a miracle you’re allowing yourself a treat.’ Nancy raised her eyebrows as she puffed up a cushion, her auburn curls falling around her temples. ‘You seem to be trying a little too hard to prove yourself to that husband of yours these days, Lou. You do believe he loves you, don’t you?’

‘Of course.’ Louisa stood and smoothed her hands over her apron, uncomfortable with how Nancy’s question poked so unerringly at her insecurities. ‘I just owe him so much. The least I can do in return is keep a nice house for him.’

‘Hmm, and an exciting bed whenever he deems to come home.’

Irritated, Louisa walked to the parlour door and tightly clenched the handle. ‘I’ll never forget what Anthony did when he rescued me and neither should you considering he agreed to take you in, too.’

‘I agree, but how long do you intend paying him back? He gets more than enough for what he gives you.’

Louisa swallowed as guilt that she’d secretly been feeling the same way over the last few weeks pressed down on her. ‘How can you say that?’

Nancy planted her hands on her hips, her grey eyes blazing with annoyance. ‘Because he’s constantly taking advantage of you, that’s why. It’s one thing to gift you money and give you a roof over your head, but respect should come with that, too.’

‘He does respect me.’ She fought against the doubt that hovered around her heart. ‘He treats me just as any man would treat his wife.’

‘That’s because you are his wife.’ Nancy glared. ‘Why can’t you remember that? You’re not his whore anymore.’

Locking gazes with her friend, Louisa had no doubt the fiery, streetwise rebelliousness in Nancy’s eyes was mirrored in her own. No matter how much they battled to maintain the carefully tended, middle-class veneer they each adopted whenever out and about on the pretty squares and streets of Bristol, who she and Nancy had once been never shifted far from their minds.

Louisa marched into the hallway, her gaze darting over the high-polished side tables, the sparkling mirror and porcelain trinkets lining a high shelf. Every painting was dusted, every square of the runner beaten and brushed until the pile was plush, every tile mopped and buffed until it shone.

But it didn’t matter how much she scrubbed and cleaned, or how often she argued with Nancy, Louisa never felt she could completely wash away her previous life as a whore. Yet, if Anthony had dismissed Louisa’s previous occupation, shouldn’t she, too? She and Nancy both deserved to shed the skin that had enveloped them through misfortune and circumstances beyond their control.

Nancy’s footsteps came…

You can buy A Widow’s Vow from all good book sellers, including– mybook.to/widowsvow

BIO

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street series, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelBrimble

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

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Many thanks for your opening lines, Rachel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: A Cornish Wedding

This week, I thought I’d share some on my own Opening Lines.

Here’s the beginning of A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’ Neighbour)

Sequel to A Cornish Escape, this feel good romance returns you to the world of Abi, Max, Beth and Stan in sunny Sennen Cove.

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of Abi’s friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Cassandra stared at the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front garden. A fresh slogan had been pasted proudly across it, proclaiming Another House Sold!

She frowned. The estate agents must have made a mistake. Justin had talked about renting the cottage, this poky little two-bed terrace in some Cornish backwater, but he’d never once suggested buying it.

Sitting on the low stone wall that ran in front of the row of cottages, with her back to the sold sign, she let out a string of vehemently whispered expletives. Resisting the temptation to throw a pebble at the seagulls which were squawking their hearts out on the roof behind her, she steadied her breathing, like she did when faced with a particularly demanding client.

Shrugging off her suit jacket in deference to the early summer sunshine that poured from a cloud-free sky, Cassandra tried to focus, but doubts continued to assail her. She hadn’t misunderstood Justin, had she?

They’d been laughing over the breakfast table at one of the most exclusive hotels in London when the subject of Cornwall had first come up. Making plans for their future life together, they’d celebrated in grand style the fact that Justin had, after six years of secret trysts and stolen nights together, decided to leave his wife; the dreadful Jacinta.

Excitedly they’d plotted and planned over plates of eggs Benedict and smoked salmon, raising their glasses of Buck’s Fizz to Justin’s promotion to senior partner at the law firm. A promotion which meant that, providing they merged their finances, Justin could afford to get a divorce without being catapulted into penury.

There was only one snag.

The legal company Justin now worked for, Family Values, prided itself on its moral integrity. There was no way he could risk a scandal after securing the promotion he’d coveted for so long. It would be bad enough when he explained to his colleagues that he was getting a divorce – suddenly producing a long-term mistress would be too much for them to accept in one go.

So Justin had asked Cassandra to move away for a while. He’d suggested they use this short diplomatic period of separation to their advantage, and rent a property to later sublet – at a vast profit – to exhausted executives seeking a spot of relaxation. Cassandra, who could run her own business from anywhere via the Internet, would go and make sure the property was up to date, arrange any decorating that was required, and then rejoin Justin in London once things had died down.

Thinking back, Cassandra realised she should have asked a lot more questions about exactly how much research Justin had already done into this move. But under the influence of the early-morning alcohol, not to mention the triumph she felt at having finally succeeded in persuading Justin to leave his wife, she had suppressed all her instincts and agreed to everything he’d said.

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini….

If you’d like to read A Cornish Wedding, you can buy it as a paperback or ebook from all good retailers, including

Universal link – mybook.to/CornishWedding

Happy reading everyone.

Stay Safe.

Jenny xx

So, you want to be a writer

So, you want to be a writer.

This is a list of the 8 questions I would encourage you to ask yourself before you start to write.

Who are you writing for?

Yourself? Friends? Family?

If the answer isn’t for yourself – then take a deep breath and think very carefully.  However much fun it is, writing is hard work. If you aren’t doing it because you want to, it’ll be even harder.

What are you writing for?

Money? Fun? To make a point? To leave something of yourself behind after your death? Because you simply have to write?

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you need to ask yourself…

What genre are you going to write?

Are you going to write in a given genre. If so – which one?

Crime, romance, paranormal, steampunk, fantasy, erotica, contemporary fiction, goths, thrillers….The list is huge, and expanding all the time.

Which age group/gender are you targeting?

Adults? Teenagers? Children? Everyone?

It is vital to know your audience. Make sure you read as much as you can in the genre/audience group you hope to write for.

Let’s get practical!

Where will you write?

At home, in the local café, the library, or a hired office?

If you are not comfortable in your writing place, the words will not come easily.

What medium will you chose?

Paper, computer, tablet, phone, dictation?

There is no right or wrong way to produce a story. Go with what works for you – not what you think ought to work for you.

Will you approach an agent, a publisher, or self publish?

Each avenue has advantages and disadvantages. Whatever you decide to do – get as much advice as you can about your preferred option first.

And- most boringly and practical of all- can you manage your own marketing?

Don’t forget, if you don’t market your writing, then all your hard work will have been wasted. No one will know your book exists if you don’t wave your flag! So, love it or hate, you will need to get to grips with social media, whether you are traditionally published or self published.

 

***

Happy questioning!

Jenny xx

 

 

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