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Guest post from Phyllis Newman: The Vanishing Bride of Northfield House

I have a great blog for you today. Phyllis Newman is here explaining her motivation and how she satisfies her desire to kill…

Why not grab a slice of cake and a cuppa, and have a read?

 

What could be more natural than writing murder mysteries after a long career in finance and human resources? It satisfies in some small way my desire to kill someone!

I spent many decades at a large Midwestern university steeped in the various whims and vagaries of self-centered academics. As an administrator, I witnessed resentment, jealousy, fear, love, compassion, and hate (but no murders, fortunately! Not that promotion and tenure isn’t something to die for.) These emotions form the basis of all motives, the rationale for what we do in any walk of life.

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. A motive is what leads to all acts of love and devotion as well as every crime.

At the heart of every story you find motivation. Understanding one’s fellow man is essential if you are to write about people believably, for to reveal the rationale behind their behavior is to make them live and breathe. Real world interactions with people—especially those who are dealing with difficult situations—can yield a plethora of revelations about humanity. Every writer must search within themselves to find truth about their characters, and to reflect what they know, to write what they have experienced themselves. Yes, that old chestnut, write what you know! (It only now occurs to me that given the subject matter of THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE, this makes me look like a pretty creepy person.)

Motivation—whether to keep secrets, fall in love, or murder someone—defines the action in any novel but is most particularly important in a mystery. As a writer I must create events and portray thought processes that jumpstart and maintain the action. Without understanding what motivates them, your characters remain flat and unknowable to the reader. A connection with the characters is essential for a reader to identify with and appreciate the story.

 In this newly published novel, my main character Anne Chatham ends up in the English countryside typing scholarly manuscripts of an agricultural nature. What gets her there and into the ensuing intrigues is determined by the sweep of history following The Great War, the social and political upheaval of the times, and a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and forbidden love.

In THE VANISHED BRIDE, I believe I have delivered a fun-to-read ghost story. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and spirits who make the action lively. The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of supernatural spookiness and gothic horror.

All the characters in The Vanished Bride are haunted, either by disappointment, the unresolved past, unmet desire, or guilt. They are motivated by the same desires, love, hatred, jealousy, and a whole panoply of human emotion, making them like people everywhere. This is a psychological thriller where the details unfold one by one, death by death.

Extract:

My dance partner bowed with the élan befitting a king’s guardsman and, with a little smile, took his leave.

I turned to Martha. “Mrs. Langtry, how nice to see you.”

She gave me a blank stare. “Have we met?” She balanced a plate in her lap littered with the remnants of an artichoke-olive canapé.

The other women, who nibbled on smoked salmon on toast, watched us closely.

“Yes, but it’s been a while. I’m Anne. I work with Mr. Wellington.”

“How are you, dear?” She looked past me into the crowd. “Have a seat and talk to an old lady.” She made a shooing gesture to the tiny woman in black sitting next to her.

The little woman shot me a look of disdain before vacating her chair.

Martha opened an elaborate fan and fluttered it before her face.

Feeling warm, I wished for a fan of my own. But what I really wanted was a mask to hide behind. The scarlet dress made my desired invisibility impossible. I scanned the guests and spied Thomas again, but not his brother.

“Have you seen the bride?” said Martha.

“What?” I asked, assuming one of the revelers was dressed as a bride.

“Just lovely,” said Martha. “All those flowers.”

I searched among the tumult of guests, both the originals and their doubles reflected in the mirrored doors.

“Eleanor has never looked more beautiful,” Martha said, beaming.

I was engulfed by a wave of pure pity. Martha was at another party in another time.

She eyed me with disapproval. “That dress, dear. I hope you don’t think ill of me if I suggest it is most inappropriate.” She shook her head. “Quite improper.”

I felt a stab of humiliation. My confidence wavered. But I called upon Eleanor’s supporting presence and decided to humor my elderly companion. After all, her suffering trumped any discomfort I might feel.

“I must apologize, Mrs. Langtry.” I bowed my head with mock contrition. “I’m a simple country girl and didn’t know what I should wear.”

She laughed. “There, there, my dear. Don’t be disheartened. No one’s looking at you, anyway. They’ll all be looking at her.”

“Of course!” I agreed. “Do you need anything, Mrs. Langtry? May I get you a glass of water?” I touched her hand.

She jerked away from me and snarled, “Don’t do that. How dare you touch me!”

My face stung as I looked about at our companions. No one seemed to notice that Martha was unstable. I said as softly as possible, “Would you like to go to your room? Lie down for a while?”

“Why should I? I’ll miss all the fun.”

I was wondering how much fun she could possibly be having when she turned to me, leaning close, and whispered like a conspirator.

“You forget,” she said. “I know. I know everything. I saw what really happened.” She drew herself up with smug hauteur. “I’m telling.”

Telling what? She might have been thinking of Eleanor’s wedding—or another event tangled in her jumbled mind.

Martha closed her fan. We sat in silence, peering at the assembled throng as they paused with the music.

A hush fell.

For a moment, anticipation hung in the air.

Then an excited murmur ran through the room.

All heads turned towards the entrance. Charlotte stood at the top of the steps. She was dressed as an ethereal moth. A shimmering white gown rippled across her body, falling from the high collar at her throat to the floor. Her hair was hidden under a close-fitting, beaded skullcap. A pair of gossamer wings with fluttering ribbons completed the effect. The translucent fabric revealed every alluring curve of her body, unaltered by any foundation garments. She looked like a silken goddess, lit from within by moonlight.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause at her appearance, and Charlotte beamed a glorious smile at her adoring admirers. Cries of appreciation bounced about the ballroom like reflected light.

It was only then I saw Owen. Dressed like Edgar Allen Poe, he wore a close-fitting black suit with a silk bow tied loosely around a high white collar. With his dark, tousled hair and solemn expression, he most assuredly recalled the famous poet.

He stood at the edge of the dancers, his eyes devouring Charlotte.

Something inside me withered and withdrew. With Charlotte’s arrival in her diaphanous costume, I felt sure I looked garish and overdone. Whoever or whatever infused me with confidence had fled.

Perhaps this was just what she’d planned. Her image was that of heavenly angel, otherworldly sylph, ethereal sprite. Mine was smoking demon with my tumble of black hair and crimson gown. I might as well have been holding a pitchfork.

As I watched Owen, who looked mesmerized by Charlotte’s silvery figure, a young man appeared before me, extending his hand. I rose without thinking, without seeing his face, and we spun awkwardly about the floor. A jazz number gripped the crowd, and another man stepped forwards and pulled me into the circle of revelers. I moved to unfamiliar music, rocking and bouncing, ungainly and clumsy, back and forth and around.

Drums pounded and horns blared in propulsive syncopation. I continued to dance and dance, unable to catch the tempo. The beat of the music pulsed throughout the room, the rhythmical throb vibrating the floor, and we swayed and dipped through the whirl of sparkling color and grinning faces. I feared I was making a spectacle of myself, but felt trapped in the crush of dancers.

Charlotte drifted through the mob like a cloud, bestowing kisses, dancing with one admirer, and laughing with another. I heard a babble of praise follow her whenever the music paused.

Everything tilted for a second when a waltz seized the room and rolled over the dancers. Another man took my hand and we eddied and swirled, round and round. Yet another man cut in. I hardly acknowledged my partners, barely felt their hand in mine, the other resting at my waist.

 *** 

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  ; or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Thanks for such a great blog Phyllis,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Retreating

It’s time for the Imagine Writing Retreat!

Based in the beautiful Victorian Manor of Northmoor on Exmoor, a small group of writers will be joining myself and my fellow ‘Imaginer’ Alison Knight, for 5 days of writing time, chatter, author talks and – very probably- wine sippage.

I’m banking on being considerably fitter on my return (there are lots of beautiful walks and plenty of stairs up to my attic bedroom)- and, hopefully, I’ll be in a position where my next novel is plotted, my latest proofing commission is complete and all my student workshops for the rest of 2018 are drafted. Do you think maybe I’m asking too much?

Our prime concern however, is to make sure that every single person attending has a fantastic time! We have two amazing guests (Dan Metcalf and Kate Griffin) a quiz, optional one-to-one advice sessions and lots of biscuits. What more could a writer ask?

While I’m on Exmoor the chances of decent Wi-Fi is slim, so there won’t be an Opening Lines blog this week.

If you try to contact me, then please be patient. I will get back to you asap.

See you on the other side…

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 


The Folville Chronicles 1: The Outlaw’s Ransom

With the third book in The Folvilles Chronicles series only days  away from being sent to my editor for proofing, I thought it high time we took a look back at Book One in the series: The Outlaw’s Ransom

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so, she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most infamous men in England.

With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.

Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…

Here’s a little extract for you…

Mathilda thought she was used to the dark, but the night-time gloom of the small room she shared with her brothers at home was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness enveloped her, physically gliding over her clammy skin. It made her breathless, as if it was trying to squeeze the life from her.

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp 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 her arms out to either side, 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, secured in rusted irons, abandoned and rotting. She battled the voice down. Thinking like that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated his only daughter on her level-headedness, and now it was being so thoroughly put to the test, she was determined not to let him down.

Stretching her fingers into the blackness, Mathilda placed the tips of her fingers against the wall behind her. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor.

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet 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 Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

 

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom for your Kindle or as a paperback from-

Kindle-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519759895&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519760741&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

Paperback-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007697&sr=1-2&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)

If you enjoy Mathilda’s first adventure, then you can rad more in The Winter Outlaw (The Folville Chronicles- Book 2), and Edward’s Outlaw (The Folville Chronicles- Book 3), which will be out later this year.

***

Happy reading,

Jen xx


Opening Lines: Vengeance by Roger A. Price

It’s that time again! Opening Lines blog day is upon us. This week I’m welcoming Roger A. Price to my place, with the first 500 words of his crime thriller, Vengeance.

Over to you Roger…

I’m thrilled to a guest on Jenny’s Opening Lines blog which serves as such a great opportunity for authors and readers alike, and I can only thank her for all the work that running her blog must entail. I’m an ex-detective from a CID and Specialist Ops background who can’t really talk about what I did, but love to use those experiences to drive my pen. Authentic, gritty and pacy, my novels don’t  let you rest for too long, hopefully. I hope you enjoy the opening to Vengeance, and thanks again to Jenny for having me stop by.

First 500 words

Chapter One

Jack Quintel didn’t need to be here, he’d requested his usual proof of death, but as he hadn’t used this killer before, he wanted to see it for himself. It took him a while to find a spot among the trees, and he was conscious of not flattening too many bluebells that were everywhere at this time of year. He knew the killer Charlie was no mug, nor was the target, Jim Reedly. If all went well Quintel planned to use Charlie again. The last thing he wanted was for him to realise he’d been here checking up on him; after all, he’d asked for his normal, if not unusual, evidence that the job had been done. He just wanted to satisfy himself, and watch the killer’s craft. Enjoy the show.

It was starting to go dusk so that would help; he just hoped Reedly wasn’t late home and it became too dark – he knew that wouldn’t bother Charlie, but he was beginning to wish he’d brought a pair of night-vison glasses.  It took a couple of minutes to settle himself as he took in the surroundings. The house was a fairly new build, but a grand affair nonetheless, detached in its own grounds with a tree-lined private driveway – the privileges of rank. Its location was handy though, Fulwood was an established district of Preston and had more than its share of such houses – especially on the eastern side of the city where a lot of the newer builds were situated. It wasn’t far away from the industrial unit Quintel had hired, or had had hired for him. That was in a traditional brown field estate behind a newish built Asda supermarket. Perfect; as it backed onto the M6 motorway. Quintel always liked an emergency egress from anywhere he used; he was cautious, he had to be.

Quintel passed the time trying to fathom out where Charlie would be. He guessed somewhere where the car would stop, somewhere near the house-front. He could see a turn-around in front of the property which would seem to be the obvious place, but he couldn’t see Charlie, which wasn’t entirely surprising, given the circumstances. He just hoped his suspicions were ill-founded; it was not that easy finding a good assassin. You couldn’t just type ‘killer wanted to join enthusiastic team’ into an internet search engine, well, not without a world of trouble landing on you. It was just that he had learned long ago not to ignore his hunches; he wouldn’t have reached his forties if he had.  The setting sun was dropping behind him now so he made sure he had good cover behind the oak trees. A peaceful vista, which was about to be shattered…

***

Blurb

Jack Quintel is a hit man. When a job comes in to kill the Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police Jim Reedly, he contracts it out to a new guy, Charlie Parker…
Watching in the shadows, Quintel sees Parker shoot out Reedly’s windscreen, then drag him into the woods and thinks the job’s been done.
But when Parker tries to pass off a pig’s heart as Reedly’s, things start to go very wrong. Jack’s right hand man Jason kills Charlie, who it turns out is an undercover police officer.
Detective Vinnie Palmer is with the Preston police. He was called in when they received the information about the impending hit.
Now he has to figure out how to clean up the mess.
And he wants whoever killed Parker bad. He finds the man who put Parker in touch with Quintel, a low life hood named Dempter, living in an estate in Preston.
He doesn’t know much, but motivated by money, agrees to be an informant for the police.
Christine Jones is a TV reporter. She and Vinnie had worked together before, chasing a serial killer.
They meet again at the warehouse where Charlie was killed, and realise their relationship could be more than professional.
But first, Christine wants to know what’s happening. Christine is working on a documentary about positive discrimination against non-Catholic officers in Northern Ireland since the peace process. She makes contact with a former police officer in Northern Belfast named Paul Bury, who feeds her some of the information she needs.
Meanwhile, as the bodies start to pile up in Preston, there’s another attempt on Reedly’s life, when a grenade is thrown at him at his brother-in-law’s funeral.
As Vinnie fights to keep Reedly alive, suddenly Christine’s life is in danger.
And they both start to wonder if the contract against Reedly has anything to do with her documentary on Northern Ireland. But how could it?
Filled with twists and turns and gritty detail, Vengeance is must read for crime fans everywhere.

***

LINKS:

Amazon UK Author Page: https://goo.gl/h2IYX8

Amazon UK for Vengeance: https://goo.gl/oxy9BI

Amazon US Author Page: https://goo.gl/tqFi0h

Amazon US for Vengeance: https://goo.gl/NSeSZi

Roger’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CrimethillersbyRogerAPrice/

Roger’s Twitter:  https://twitter.com/RAPriceAuthor

Roger’s website: www.rogerapriceauthor.com

Bio

Roger spent thirty years in the police retiring as a detective inspector in charge of a covert undercover drugs unit which received national acclaim, before turning to the pen. His first two novels – By Their Rules, and A New Menace – are in their own series driven from the covert side of crime and his ‘Badge and the Pen’ series is too but with normal investigative fiction thrown in as well.

Vengeance is the second in this series which stars maverick DI Vinnie Palmer and his sidekick, investigative TV news reporter, Christine Jones. They are unlikely bedfellows, which makes their relationship interesting as they chase dark forces which only become even darker.

The third book in this series – Hidden – is written and will hopefully be next year. Roger’s novels can be read in any order as they work well as standalones too.

Roger is also developing an original TV drama script and is planning to adapt some of his existing novels into script too.

***

 

Many thanks Roger. Great opener.

Don’t forget to come out next week for some opening lines from Gilli Allan.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


A summer of events

The summer, dare I say it, is almost over – and what a busy couple of months it’s been. From children’s writing workshops, to freezing cold festival fields and a singles club- I’ve encountered them all.

There’s no doubt that summer is my busiest time of the year- and the most rewarding.

This year I was lucky enough to teach three children’s writing workshops for Devon Libraries (Cullompton, South Molton and Crediton), as part of the Summer Reading Scheme for 2018, on the subject of ‘Mischief Makers’. I was heartened and impressed by the range of stories the children created and I’m happy to report that the next generation’s imagination is alive and well. (They also have a much firmer grasp on the stories of Dennis the Menace than I do- my memory of the Beano has certainly slipped with age!)

The children of Barnstaple also proved their imagination is in tiptop shape, when I taught a creative writing class at St Anne’s Community Centre (a 10 week series of writing classes for children begins there in September- email me at imaginecreativewriting.com for details).

In July, I was invited to teach a short story writing workshop at the Chudleigh Literary Festival. A wonderful event; I had a great day surrounded by loads of talented writers, special guests and book lovers. Huge thanks to Elizabeth Ducie for inviting me along.

Last weekend I, along with many of my fellow Exeter Author Association members (PJ Reed, Richard Dee, Tracey Norman, Mark Norman and Susie Williamson), returned to Chilcompton for their annual fringe festival.

In 2017, when we attended Chilcompton, it was so hot that some of us suffered from heat sickness. This year that was never going to be a problem. To say it rained doesn’t really do the persistent and heavy downpour that lasted all day, justice.

Dressed as characters from out books, we all looked the part; from elf, to steampunk man, to medieval lady and beyond…however…as we were freezing cold we rather overdid the layers. Six layers in my case- and you can tell!

Never ones to give up easily, the EAA carried on regardless! Our talk audiences were rather smaller than usual, but the smiles were still wide. I had great fun talking to this little gathering about Robin Hood. Fingers crossed for a mild dry day next year!

As well as my usual workshops, my summer events finished off with an author talk to the Young at Heart singles club in St Sidwells, Exeter. Chatting away about how my writing career began was great fun. It soon became clear that a couple of the ladies in the group had always wanted to write, but had never been brave enough. By the time I left one had written the start of a short children’s story, and another had told a whole story via answering random questions. Fantastic!

Thank you to everyone who has hosted both me and my fellow EAA members this summer.

Now- if you’ll excuse me I’d better go and edit my next novel…

Happy reading,

Jenny


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