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

Category: crime Page 1 of 19

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

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

 

Holiday Read: Romancing Robin Hood

I’m off on my holidays for a week, and so I thought I’d leave you a little something to read while I was taking my annual laptop and pen break.

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 also read about within this same novel)

The problem is that Grace is so embroiled in her work and 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, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

 

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

RH- RoS 2

Blurb

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

Buy Links Romancing Robin Hood is available from all good paperback and e-retailers.

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

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

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: The Legacy

This week’s Opening Lines come from friend, and fellow author,

Alison Knight. 

Pop your feet up for five minutes, and have a read…

Hi Jenny,

Thanks so much for inviting me to share the first 500 words of my new book, The Legacy. It starts with a Prologue which is a scene from my previous book, Mine.

Blurb:

An unexpected inheritance. A web of deceit. A desperate escape. 

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

FIRST 500 WORDS FROM THE LEGACY…

APRIL 1969

A nursing home in Essex

The matron showed them into a private room where Miss Jarvis reclined in bed, propped up by half a dozen pillows. It was obvious that the old woman was very ill, but her eyes were clear, and she smiled when she saw them. Someone had tidied her snowy-white hair, and she wore a pink bed jacket over her nightie.

The man, solicitor Leonard Warwick introduced his companion, Lily Wickham, and she stepped forward and took the old lady’s proffered hand. She was shocked by the frailty of this tiny woman, because her gaze was direct and her voice strong when she spoke.

“I’m delighted to meet you. I understand Mr Irwin is too important these days to visit an old woman.” She sniffed. “I remember that boy when he was in short trousers.”

Lily blinked, and Leonard raised his eyebrows.

Miss Jarvis smiled. “I take it he didn’t mention that I went to school with his mother? No, I thought not. He always was a tricky one, full of his own importance. I’m surprised he wasn’t worried I’d reveal his secrets.” She looked them up and down. “However, I assume he felt he could rely upon your professionalism and my discretion, so I’ll excuse him this time.”

Leonard smiled and opened his briefcase. “He sends his apologies, Miss Jarvis, but he simply couldn’t get away today, I’m afraid. But he didn’t want to let you down, so here we are in his stead. I have your new will here, together with a copy for you to keep. Mrs Wickham and I will be your witnesses.”

They sat in chairs on either side of the bed while Leonard went through the will, clause by clause, making sure Miss Jarvis understood everything. She nodded and waved him on occasionally, saying, “Yes, yes, that hasn’t changed. Go on, go on.”

Eventually Leonard finished. “So, to make absolutely sure, Miss Jarvis, this new will leaves the sum of five thousand pounds to your nephew, and the residue of your estate to your god-daughter.”

“Correct.”

“And this is to supersede your previous will which left five thousand pounds to your god-daughter and the residue to your nephew.”

“That is also correct.”

Leonard hesitated.

“You have a question, Mr Warwick?”

“Forgive me,” he said. “I’m simply wondering if there is a particular reason why you’ve chosen to effectively disinherit your only blood relative.” He raised a hand when she would have replied. “Of course, you are entitled to make whatever provision you wish. I’m simply trying to establish that your nephew won’t have any recourse to a claim against your estate, Miss Jarvis. Such cases can seriously deplete the value of an inheritance for all concerned.”

The old lady leaned forward, pinning Leonard with a steely gaze. “I have also read Bleak House, Mr Warwick. I can assure you, I am in full command of my faculties, and this decision has not been taken lightly.”

She turned to Lily…

***

So there you have it, the first 500 words of The Legacy. This first scene was a minor incident in Mine, but I kept wondering what would happen to Miss Jarvis’s heirs after her death. It was a joy to write and some of the characters from Mine make cameo appearances in The Legacy. I seem to be on a roll now because my next book will follow what happens to James’s girlfriend, Fliss, a few years after the end of The Legacy. Watch this space!

BUY LINK – The Legacy by Alison Knight is published by Darkstroke Books and is available from: https://mybook.to/legacy

Bio

Alison 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. She signed her first three-book publishing contract a year after she completed her master’s degree.

The Legacy is her fifth novel and the second book published by Darkstroke Books. It is a drama set in 1960s London and France, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched. Her previous Darkstroke book, Mine, is a drama also set in 1960s London, based on real events in her family, exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics. Some of the characters from Mine also appear in The Legacy, although this is a standalone story.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working 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 Alison,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

Romancing Robin Hood: Medieval Murder and Modern Love

The last thing I expected I’d be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!), and yet, that is exactly what happened when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn’t so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn’t see it coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood – Blurb.

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is passionate about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. Not only does this novel tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched in-depth as a student many moons ago.

In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist Mathilda is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as living with them, she suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion.

I must confess I’m rather enjoyed weaving this sub plot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood.

I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun!! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are! I loved it so much, that it led to me writing all four of the #FolvilleChronicle novels.

Here’s an extract from – starting with some of the medieval tale Grace is writing…

Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched out her arms and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, still clapped in irons, abandoned and rotting. Mathilda battled the voice down; knowing it that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated Mathilda on her level headedness, and now it was being put to the test. She was determined not to let him down now.

Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless…

 

…Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.

No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript…

If you’d like to buy Romancing Robin Hood, or any of The Folville Chronicles, you can find them here –

Romancing Robin Hood – mybook.to/RomancingRH

The Folville Chronicles

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,

Jenny x

Interview with Jane Risdon: Ms.Birdsong

Today I’m welcoming fellow author, Jane Risdon, back to my place for a cuppa and a slice of cake, while we chat about her latest novel writing venture.

So, grab a coffee, put your feet up for five minutes, and have a read.

Hello Jenny,

Thanks so much for hosting me on your lovely blog once more. I’ve always enjoyed my visits as both guest and reader.

I’m going to chat about my latest novel (book one of the series) Ms. Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka, which is out with publishers now so it is not available yet, but I hope this will interest your readers enough to seek it out once it is in the wide world.

What inspired you to write Ms. Birdsong Investigates?

I’ve always had an interest in espionage, organised crime, and the workings of our Secret Intelligence Services. I’ve read about it a lot and I have always wanted to include elements of these in my writing.

When I was younger I worked for many Government departments before I went into the international music industry with my musician husband. I worked at the British Ministry of Defence in Germany, The Atomic Energy Research Authority, The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, and when I was in my late teens I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, London.

The FCO at that time was a vastly different entity than it is today. It was the height of the Cold War, we had IRA threats daily, and I loved it. I was living in London at the time it was THE place to be on the planet and for a young girl who loved music, fashions, and a good crime thriller to read, it was heaven.

Whilst I was there we experienced the expulsion of British diplomats from the Soviet Embassy in Moscow in a tit-for-tat move sparked by the expulsion of 90 Russian diplomat spies from their London Embassy in 1971, who had been spying for the KGB. Also, the kidnapping of our Ambassador to Montevideo, Jeffrey Jackson, meant months of negotiations with the Tupamaros guerrillas; it was so exciting.

There were other incidents which have left an indelible mark on my memory and which have gone towards the inspiration behind Ms Birdsong’s series. The whole atmosphere around that time captured my imagination and I promised myself I would include what I experienced in a novel at some point. Ms Birdsong’s series will allow me to indulge myself over several novels, I hope.

Ms Birdsong is a former MI5 Intelligence Officer who has been forced into ‘voluntary’ retirement following a messed-up joint operation with MI6 — Operation Matryoshka. She finds herself in a rural village in Oxfordshire, trying to work out what happened and why, and how to get back into the Security Services. She is asked to help find a missing local woman and sees this as a perfect opportunity to inveigle herself back into Thames House (home of MI5) when her investigations lead her into familiar territory. Her experience of organised crime and counter-terrorism is tested once more.

Do you model my characters on people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

I have not modelled anyone in Ms. Birdsong Investigates on any person as far as I am aware. There were so many ‘characters’ working with me at the FCO and elsewhere that I am sure someone has found their way — albeit unconsciously — into my head and on to the page.

I would love to include the Commander from Special Branch who carried out my periodic Positive Vetting (PV) whilst at the FCO. He was instrumental in tracking and arresting the Russian husband and wife spies, the Krogers, who were part of the Portland Spy Ring of the early 1960s. He told me so much about it all. I’d love to weave it into a Ms. B story at some point.

I (we) have loosely modelled Only One Woman on real people because Christina Jones and I were writing about actual events we’d been involved with during our teens in the late 1960s UK music scene. We tried to blur the lines a lot and changed names and descriptions to save ourselves from litigation, but there are real people in the book. No-one, so far, as come forward to ask if they are the inspiration for any of the characters, and many have passed away since then anyway.

What type of research did you have to do?

I tend to research as I go along because I don’t plot or plan a book. I get inspiration for a story from a name, a location, something in the news, or a memory or an experience I have had, or I know others have had. I start writing and stop if I find myself needing to check something.

Only One Woman was written from memory, experiences, and the many diaries, tour schedules, photos, fan letters, and photos I’ve collected over my many years in the music business, as well as those garnered being married to a professional musician. Christina had her career as a rock/pop journalist and writer, as well as her personal experiences to fall back on, I am sure. We merged them in the novel. We both had to check facts such a venue names, chart positions, music, fashions, and the food and beverages we consumed, as well as world events. In general, I think our memories were all we really needed.

Once Ms Birdsong was underway I changed the story quite a lot from the one I thought I was writing. It got more involved with MI5 and organised crime and so I did have to look things up. For example, when I started the novel the role of MI5 and its involvement in the investigation of organised crime was slightly different to the role the Security Services has today. I had to go back and make changes to allow for this.  For example, MI5 spies are now allowed to kill! Back in 2016 when the story is set, they could not. In December 2020, the High Court ruled that spies operating on behalf of MI5 ‘can kill in the line of duty.’ This is a massive change to their former brief.

The role of MI5, as defined in the Security Service Act 1989, is “the protection of national security and in particular its protection against threats such as terrorism, espionage and sabotage, the activities of agents of foreign powers, and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means”.

Their work is guided by the government’s overall strategy to counter threats to the UK’s national security.  This includes organised crime.

I have and must still, keep up to date about what can and cannot be allowed, and how the SIS operates, to ensure that Ms Birdsong is working within those boundaries given the time in which the series is set. Having said this, Ms Birdsong is a work of fiction and so I do employ a great deal of poetic license within her story.

Which Point of View do you normally write in and why?

I feel comfortable with third person POV and for me it is the easiest way to get a story across. Having said that, Only One Woman is written in the first person because it just happened that way for me, and poor Christina Jones was faced with having to write her characters and insert them into a virtually completed story, so she has told her part — as Stella — in the first person too. I take my hat off to her, she did it all brilliantly. Many readers are unaware of who wrote what. But seriously, I don’t think too much about such things. I just write and see what happens.

What excites you about the Ms. Birdsong Investigates series?

From the moment her name came into my head I have been excited. It popped up from nowhere and I knew everything about her before I sat at the computer. She has undergone a couple of re-writes. I’ve tried to blend the grit of an MI5 Intelligence Office with her new life in a rural Oxfordshire village where she is going out of her mind with boredom until a local woman goes missing.

As I’ve adapted her story I’ve become more and more convinced she is a fresh voice; a heroine for the 21st century. She is an unusual protagonist, strong but also caring when she allows herself to be. The former MI5 officer is intelligent, quick thinking, she is well educated, and she speaks five languages. Lavinia Birdsong is a physical woman; she is a great shot with firearms, she is a martial arts practitioner, but is always worried about her weight. She is not over-weight, just worried she might become overweight. I love that she is human, has foibles – always about to go on a diet, but never quite managing to. She has a dry sense of humour and fights to keep the grin off her face at times. But she does not suffer fools gladly, so woe-betide anyone crossing her.

Lavinia loves men. She cannot help herself, yet, all the time she was with her now former lover, MI6 Intelligence Officer, Michael Dante, she was faithful, perhaps not mentally faithful, but physically she behaved herself. She is susceptible to a man with a twinkle in his eye, who has an aura of danger about him. I think there is a lot of scope to play with her personality and character in my series.

Ms. B as she is known to the locals of Ampney Parva, loves music – rock music especially – and fine wines. She has a case delivered monthly and worries what people might think when she leaves the empties for the bin men. I love this about her and writing her has been a joy. As my series unfolds I think readers will love her too. She is unpredictable and full of humour, but she is also a patriot, and she cares deeply about England – Britain – and her life has been dedicated to keeping our country and peoples safe. Now she is retired, she finds she cannot stop wanting to serve and protect.

I can imagine so many scenarios for stories about her and her mission to get back into the MI5 family. I have books two and three underway and there could be more if my agent can find a publisher willing to take her on. I hope so, she needs to see the light of day. Those who have read her along the way have been excited about her and tell me she is a breath of fresh air. She has elements of being somewhat of a cosy mystery crime read with the grittier, harder elements of a serious thriller. Just when you think you are reading a village mystery, you find you are actually in the midst of a thriller. I love that, and I hope any future readers will too.

In case you are wondering what Matryoshka means – they are the little Russian dolls which sit inside of each other.

***

There is a taster of Ms Birdsong Investigates in my crime collection of short stories, Undercover: Crime Shorts, it is the last story in the collection and is called Undercover.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Undercover-Crime-Shorts-Jane-Risdon/dp/0359397832

Thanks so much, Jenny, for letting me hold forth about my latest novel and character, Ms Lavinia Birdsong. Although she is not in print yet, there is a lot I can reveal about her without any spoilers.

If any of your readers is interested to know a little more about MI5, MI6, Ms B and much more, they can join her in her own secret Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/msbirdsonginvestigates

And she has also got her own page on my website where they can find her CV, her photo gallery, and lots more: https://janerisdon.com/ms-birdsong-investigates/

Bio

Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent), and author of ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies and writing for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine and The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.

Undercover: Crime Shorts was the February 2020 Free Book of the Month on the virtual library and festival site, MYVLF.com, and her live video interview features in their theatre. She is a regular guest on international internet radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com and The Brian ‘Hammer’ Jackson Radio Show.

Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers.  They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series.

In December 2020 Jane signed with Linda Langton of Langton’s Literary Agency in New York City, New York USA. You can contact Jane via Linda at: www.langtonsinternational.com

LINKS

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Risdon/e/B00I3GJ2Y8

Only One Woman: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZR9QZQN

Website: https://janerisdon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5831801.Jane_Risdon

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jane-risdon

Thanks for stopping by today Jane. Ms Birdsong sounds great.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 1 of 19

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén