Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Category: Fiction Page 2 of 50

8 Tips for Getting Down to Writing

One of the questions I’m asked the most, as both an author and a creative writing tutor, is

How do I actually get down to writing?

Let’s face it, there are a million and one plausible excuses not to sit and write. Most of them will be genuine- some will be sheer prevarication!

Not being able to write because you work long shifts, have children at home, pets that need walking, are ill…GOOD REASONS

Not writing because there’s a television show you’re keen to see or because you need to wash curtains- EXCUSES!

If you are having trouble knuckling down – especially if you’re new to writing, ASK YOURSELF IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – if it is- read on!

Writing is a lot of fun, but you can’t escape the fact it takes discipline.

Here are my top 8 tips to getting down to writing!

Find your place.

Try working in different locations- at home, a cafe, a library etc- experiment with locations until you find the correct comfort zone for you and your writing.

Find you writing time and claim it as your own- even if it is only one hour a week.

Some people are at their most creative in the mornings, some in the evenings. If you are not tied by work hours, try out different times of day to write to discover when the words flow the best. If time is limited, label one hour (or even just 30 mins) a day as YOURS. Be brave enough to be selfish about it- this is YOUR WRITING TIME.

Get up earlier- stay up later- barricade yourself into your bedroom for an hour straight after work…whatever works best for you.

If you can’t write during your ‘writing time’- still keep that time as your own.

Sometimes the muse won’t come, however much you want it to. Keep that time as yours. Plot/plan/scribble/walk/polish your pens! Once you give it up once, it’ll be easier to give it up again- and you’ll lose it.

Turn distractions into stories

It you’re distracted by something- turn it into a short story or writing exercise. Make it work for you as a warming up exercise.

If you make a deadline- STICK TO IT

It’s so easy- especially before you’re contracted for work- to write with no deadlines. As soon as that happens you can be tempted to give up on your writing time. Make a deadline- stick to it.

Focus on the end result- think about what you want to achieve.

Always think of the big picture. This is your dream!

Keep your favourite food and drink handy.

Writing is hard work. Make sure you stay hydrated and don’t get peckish or your concentration will waver.

Allow yourself rewards. Bribe yourself if necessary!

Whatever it takes to keep that bum on that seat! Promise yourself a walk, a chocolate bar, a glass of wine for every section/chapter written

When the book is finished, treat yourself to that jumper you want, that trip to the takeaway, a meal out, a concert ticket… You will have earned it!

***

Having writing everyone,

Jenny

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

Opening Lines: The Weekender by Fay Keenan

One of the lovely things about running the ‘Opening Lines’ series, is that I get to read so many beginnings from authors I’ve followed for years as well as lots of new voices.

This week I’m welcoming established writer and friend, Fay Keenan, is sharing the first 500 words of her brand new novel, The Weekender.

Over to you Fay…

‘The Weekender’ is the first in a new series of novels set in the fictional town of Willowbury in Somerset, which, in the right light, can look a lot like the iconic town of Glastonbury! Inspired by several things, including an old photograph, a lifelong love of politics, many visits to Glastonbury and the real life campaign to get new generation drugs for cystic fibrosis patients, the novel centres around Holly, a wellbeing shop owner, and Charlie, the new member of parliament for the area. Ideologically they seem to be on different sides, but soon it becomes clear they may have more in common than they think! Set in both Willowbury and Westminster, this book is both a love story and an exploration of what happens when you find yourself in the middle of what could be, literally, a heart breaking matter of life and death.

Blurb

When Charlie Thorpe met Holly Renton, they were not a match made in heaven…

Holly lives and works in the beautiful town of Willowbury in Somerset. An incorrigible optimist, she is determined to change the world for the better.

Charlie Thorpe on the other hand, is the ultimate pragmatist. As Willowbury’s new member of parliament, he has to be. While he’s determined to prove himself to the town, as far as Holly’s concerned, he’s just another politician on the make.

But when their paths cross again, it’s clear they’ve got more in common than they think. Can Holly and Charlie overcome their differences and work together, or are they destined to be forever on opposite sides? And why does Holly have a funny feeling she has met Charlie before…

Let Fay Keenan whisk you away to a world of glorious country views, unforgettable characters and once-in-a-lifetime love. Perfect for all fans of Fern Britton, Veronica Henry and Erica James.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

‘White sage is all very well,’ Holly Renton reflected, ‘but the ashes are a bugger to get out of the carpet.’ Earlier that morning, before the shop had opened, Holly had carried out a ritual called smudging, which was meant to purify the energy in a building, promote positivity and remove negative energies. Picking up the dustpan and brush, she emptied the pungent remains of the dried herb bundle she’d ignited and then wafted around the windows and doors of the shop into the bin.

‘I know you recommend this all the time for other people’s houses, but why are you so bloody obsessed with doing it in the shop?’ Rachel, Holly’s sister, glanced down at where Holly was still brushing the rug under the mullioned front window of ComIncense, the shop specialising in herbal remedies and well-being aids that Holly ran in the sleepy but nonetheless New Age small town of Willowbury and smiled. Just beyond the shop’s counter, the door that led to Holly’s small back yard was open and Harry, Rachel’s three-year-old son and Holly’s nephew, was playing happily with a set of wooden animal-shaped blocks in their own lorry, which had come from a box of assorted toys that Holly kept specifically for the younger customers. Holly didn’t believe, unlike some of her business-owning neighbours, that children should be banned from places like hers, and since the early-spring weather was warm and pleasant, Harry had trundled out into the sunlight to play.

‘You’ve got to refresh places from time to time,’ Holly replied. ‘Especially when there’s been a lot of negative energy about, and since all of the scandal with Hugo Fitzgerald, I really felt like this place needed a spiritual cleanse!’

‘You can say that again,’ Rachel reached under the wooden apothecary’s dresser that displayed countless jars and pots of dried herbs and flowers, all purporting to be of some spiritual or physical benefit, to retrieve one of the toy llamas that Harry had thrown under it. ‘What a way to go…’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Holly replied, still sweeping. ‘At least, having had a massive coronary, he wouldn’t have known much about it.’

‘But what a waste of a good plate of scones and jam!’ Rachel grinned. ‘Mum told me that his constituency agent found him face down in them at his desk.’

‘I wouldn’t have fancied digging him out of them,’ Holly said. ‘But from the size of him, the heart attack was an accident waiting to happen. And gossip has it, he had his finger in a lot of pies, not just the odd plate of scones.’

‘Oh, you know how the rumour mill goes into overdrive when something like this happens.’ Rachel, who had more of a tendency to see the good in people than her sister did, dismissed Holly’s comments with a wave of her hand. ‘I mean, I’m not saying he wasn’t a prat, but nothing was ever proven about his financial misdemeanours. Although, I have to admit, since…

***

You can pre-order The Weekender via-

tiny.cc/theweekender and on Kobo at https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-weekender-9

Bio

Fay Keenan is the author of the bestselling Little Somerby series of novels. She has led writing workshops with Bristol University and has been a visiting speaker in schools.  She teaches English in a local secondary school and  lives in Somerset. Fay’s new series for Boldwood will begin with The Weekender, in November 2019.

***

Many thanks for your fabulous 500 words Fay.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny 

Opening Lines: The Prosecco Effect by Cheri Davies

This week I’m delighted to welcome a good friend, Cheri Davies, to my blog to share the ‘Opening Lines’ from her romantic novella,

The Prosecco Effect.

BLURB

Can love shine brighter than a super trouper spotlight for Felicity and Orlando?

Felicity Joy is a fallen star: axed from the leading role in a TV drama and jilted at the altar, her life is a mess. A six month theatrical tour of Italy offers escape: a chance to rebuild her career, mend her broken heart and indulge in her favourite cuisine.

Orlando Locatelli is an Italian restaurateur superstar. But his family are big trouble and his theatre director father has a penchant for his leading ladies.

Damaged by secrets and with careers their number one priority, Felicity and Orlando aren’t looking for love. But when they meet, the attraction is instant.

Will theirs be a brief encounter or can they overcome their fears to be together forever?

An uplifting, irresistible romance set in Italy and the glamorous world of show business – a perfect, sunny read

Buy here: mybook.to/ProseccoEffect

FIRST 500 WORDS…

In all her thirty-eight years Felicity Joy hadn’t felt as wretched as she did that glorious spring morning. Given her bad start in life that was really saying something. As she scuttled along, her chin held low against her chest, the sun warmed the back of her neck, the edges of the cheap wig scratched against her jawline. Despite hours in front of the bathroom mirror, trowelling on concealer, cooling gel and foundation, she was startled when she caught a glimpse of her reflection in a shop window.

She stopped and admitted she had looked better. Her blotchy cheeks and red-rimmed, swollen eyes were still visible – to her if no one else. She touched the wig with her fingertips, nail varnish chipped and flaking. The fringe was severe, but she liked the way it grazed her brows, obscuring the fine lines on her forehead, and the bright red hue emphasised the Mediterranean green of her eyes. Note to self: Book some Botox. Through the grimy glass, Felicity caught sight of a man at the counter, staring at her, long and hard. She saw a glint of recognition wash over his dull complexion and shuddered. Turning sharply, she scurried down Frith Street.

Damn Susi. Why on earth did they have to meet in Soho? Why not somewhere less showbizzy? Some place where no one gave a shit, where Felicity wouldn’t know anyone and few would recognise her. Where Felicity Joy, formerly the nation’s sweetheart, fêted actress, model and dancing superstar could blend into the crowds. Where Felicity Joy, jilted lover and talentless, two-timing, heartless harlot could also disappear.

Dodging an abandoned Big Mac she stepped into the gutter, narrowly missing a pile of steaming dog crap. At least the owner had dragged the animal off the pavement, though it was evidently asking too much to pick up the mess. She remembered a line from a favourite play: ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ The quote was a personal motto; she’d lived her life by it. Oscar Wilde, the man was a genius, and he’d suffered.

Good grief, Fliss, the poor man went to prison for loving the wrong kind of person; I’m lucky really. Really lucky. And if I repeat this often enough, I will believe it; I will.

She repeated the mantra as she walked but her throat contracted regardless.

I must not cry in the street. I must not cry in the street. I must not cry, full stop.

That would be the very worst thing; it might draw attention and, right now, that was the very last thing she needed. She’d had far too much attention of late – all the wrong sort.

The restaurant was warm and as she raced down the steep steps to the basement room she unzipped her parka. Wafts of basil, fresh tomatoes and pizza dough wafted by – delicious. How she loved Italian. Susi was sitting in the far corner, back to the wall, at…

 

Buy your copy for the bargain price of 99p https://amzn.to/2IKa5fA 

This special price is available for a short time only- so grab your copy now!

***

Bio

Cheri Davies is a mother to ginger boys and author of The Prosecco Effect. A former actor, Cheri loves to write romance and intrigue set in the glamorous world of show business. The Prosecco Effect is the first book in the Stage Door series, following the adventures of Felicity Joy and Orlando Locatelli in Italy. Cheri has published four novels and numerous short stories in another guise. An unsporty girl, Cheri surprised herself, and many others, when she broke the school long jump record aged 12. It was the first time she’d jumped – competitively.

http://cheridaviesbooks.wordpress.com 

***

Many thanks to Cheri for sharing her 500 words with us today

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Fenwick to my site as part of her ‘Never the Twain‘ blog tour.

Over to you Jane…

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

I love people watching. I also love ear wigging! Put the two together and you can see how some, but not all of my characters are born. The rest I would say come from my imagination. Imaginations need feeding of course and that means I read and watch TV and films – a lot. I also daydream.

I always carry a note book about with me. (Not just any old note book however they have to be just right.)

If I’m on a train, in a bar or a coffee shop, in the queue at the supermarket – anywhere really, and I hear a particularly good conversation I jot down any interesting tid bits I overhear. I have a terrible memory so I need to jot it down straight away otherwise by the time I get home its either gone out of my head or I’ve lost the gist of it. Sometimes I hear a phrase or a single word which sparks a thought. Sometimes it is the tone of the whole conversation. Often it is a funny colloquialism or a slang term pertinent to a particular part of the country. Always be careful what you say within earshot of an author – it might end up in a book.

***

I’m a Yorkshire lass so hopefully any Yorkshire in my books comes across as authentic so that the character feels real. When I go to Northumberland for research I make notes about the accent and intonations as the accent is less familiar to me. These accents then help build the characters.

What my characters do as well as say is just as important. Watching body language, a person’s stance or a particular “tic” or gesture someone might have either consciously or unconsciously can also add realism to a character. An action can show you how a character feels without me having to tell the reader ‘she is anxious’.

One aspect of characterisation I struggle with is names. A name can mean different things to different people and getting the name right can influence the character in a big way. Also as an ex teacher I have taught a lot of “names”. I’d never have a romantic character called Wayne. Don’t ask! Add to this that obviously you cannot have a “Kylie” or a “Charlene” in a Victorian novel for obvious reasons and it can become quite restrictive finding just the right name to convey the type of person I want my reader to meet. Names then are very subjective.

However, in Never the Twain I was lucky in that there was a limited choice for my two main characters. The identical twin girls in the story are born either side of midnight as the month turns so they are not only born on different days but different months. Therefore there were only two choices; April or May or May and June. I choose the former.

Particular names are prevalent in different centuries; in Georgian times there was a proliferation of ‘George’s’ and ‘Charlotte’s’ after the king and queen and in the Victorian era there were a lot of ‘Victoria’s’ and ‘Albert’s’ for the same reason. Names also are English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish or even regional or foreign. As Never the Twain is partly set in Scotland I wanted the names of the Scottish characters to reflect this, hence Alistair. But some names are more class driven such as Effie May and Edward. Sometimes a character undergoes a name change as I begin to develop the character and realise the name is not quite working. Again I have a note book and make a note of names I think of or hear which may come in useful. I recently bought a punnet of strawberries that were produced by Sean Figgis. Expect that name to crop up in a future book!

Real people are seldom black and white and so it is with characters. People and characters are seldom all good or all bad. In Never the Twain April and May are identical twins who share some character traits but have different personalities nonetheless. I wanted my characters to be well rounded and ‘real’ therefore they are flawed and contradictory on occasions.

It can be fun getting inside someone else’s head and literally putting words in their mouths. Seeing how characters think and react to circumstances is easy once you know your character inside and out. I constantly ask myself how each character would react in a situation and once that is established it is important that they stay true to themselves and don’t suddenly behaviour totally out of character. Yet sometimes we do act out of character under difficult, unfamiliar circumstances. It is a fine line to draw. However the reader will spot if someone suddenly behaves completely erratically unless there is a very good reason. April and May’s twin bond means they have a debt of loyalty to each other but when things get tough May’s dark side manifests itself to April’s detriment.

My characters are like my babies; I watch them grow and develop, change and adapt to their environment. They lead me in all sorts of directions and turn the plot on its head sometimes. As I am a ‘punster’ not a planner I find this exciting and I hope you do too when you read Never the Twain.

Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

GIVEAWAY! – You can take part in the Never the Twain giveaway here- 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be191/?

 

***

Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny

The Guilt Monster

This week I had the privilege of returning to the Imagine writing retreat at Northmoor House on Exmoor.

As retreat co-runner and writing trouble shooter, with my Imagine business partner, Alison Knight, I enjoyed the stunning countryside that surrounds Northmoor – an unspoilt Victorian manor house. It was wonderful to be in such a peaceful place with the excellent company of a number of fellow writers- many of whom are Imagine students.

On Tuesday evening we were joined by our guest speaker – novelist and all round lovely person, Kate Lord Brown. Kate gave a fabulous talk and workshop on the theme of inspirations. She also got us to think about our inner critics- including asking us to write down what they looked like.

I’ve never known a writer who was without an inner critic sitting on their shoulder. Most authors I’ve met have at least some level of imposter syndrome. But I had never considered turning these ‘critics’ into beings that we could- once personified- vanquish to the far corners of our minds.

As my fellow writers began to jot down descriptions of their critics, I was hit by two sensations. The first was that I don’t have an inner critic- I have an outer one- Me- and I never stop giving myself a hard time. The second realisation was that it isn’t so much criticism, as guilt.

I have an inner Guilt Monster. (Deserving of the capital letters.)

It’s voice never stops arguing with me…

You should work harder (I work 14 hr days – I overwork- but then I love my job)

You ought to be doing the job I trained for and earn a proper wage (I was never confident as a lecturer- I always assumed I knew nothing- yes, even historian me had an inner critic…)

You’re too nice to make it in the cut and thrust world of book sales (I have been conned by past publishers a lot because I’m so trusting- so can’t argue with my Guilt Monster on that one)

Even working as a trolley collector in the local supermarket would more than treble your hourly rate (I love my job, and I’m not into “owning stuff.”)

You aren’t good enough to make it (I’ve had 16 Amazon bestsellers)

I could go on….

I’m not sharing this with you to play for sympathy (I hate the poor-bugger-me syndrome that can go with this stuff), but to say how thankful I am to Kate Lord Brown for making me stop and think about this, frankly, ridiculous self-imposed, situation.

I think it would be unrealistic to ask myself to lose the insecurity factor. I honestly think I need it – I need to get nervous before a gig or anxious before a workshop – it drives me on- stops me being complacent, and so keeps me primed to always work my hardest to deliver the best I can for the people who rely on me- and to write the best books I can.

The Guilt Monster however, has to go.

I can see him now – and it is a him (I have no idea why, it really ought to be female – I can’t even get that right!!!)

He’s sort of green and has shaggy hair all over. He’s wearing a silly red and blue hat…I don’t know why. And he looks cross…and disappointed.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out for a walk- with luck he’ll fall off my shoulder as I go. If he doesn’t look like he wants to let go, then I think I might give him a push

The Imagine retreat was brilliant…and as you can tell- thought provoking…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Folville-ing

I’m away on my annual trip to run the Imagine writing retreat this week. In between helping answer writing dilemma’s, restocking bathrooms with toilet toll, and advising folk on how to plot their novels, I will be continuing to work on the fourth of The Folville Chronicles.

It doesn’t seem a minute since I was celebrating the launch of book three in the series, Edward’s Outlaw. In that episode of Mathilda of Twyford and the Folville family’s adventure, I took her into the heart of a murder mystery within Rockingham Castle.

Book Four sees Mathilda- and her new maid Bettrys- go off in a very different direction. The Folvilles and their allies in Derbyshire, the Coterel brothers, find themselves under direct attack from the newest Justice in the area…just as a local noblewoman, Lady Isabel, has gone missing. It falls to Mathilda to find evidence against the Justice- and, if she can, track down Lady Isabel while she’s at it.

As with all of the Folville novels, book four uses actual historical events as the backbone to the plot. The research alone has been SO MUCH FUN! It’s been great to get back to my historian roots for a while.

You can buy Edward’s Outlaw from Amazon and all good book sellers.

***

So far I’m 35,000 words into Book Four – which I can reveal is to be called ‘Outlaw Justice,’ and will be out around next September.

Hopefully, by the time I’m back from the retreat-  a few more chapters written!

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

 

 

Opening Lines with Jon Hartless: Rise of the Petrol Queen

For this week’s Opening Lines, I’m delighted to welcome Jon Hartless, to my blog.

Sit back and enjoy the first 500 words of his steampunk novel, Rise of the Petrol Queen; Book 2 in the Poppy Orpington Chronicles.

Over to you Jon…

The Poppy Orpington Chronicles is a Steampunk adventure featuring a young, working-class heroine fighting to survive in a society which dismisses her for her sex, class and disabilities. The saga was inspired by the real-life era of the Bentley Boys, 1920s motor-racing playboys who had the reputation of racing all day and partying all night. The media and public loved them, but reading up on their lives and the time they lived in, all I could see was the elitism, the unfair advantages and opportunities given to those with high birth and money, and the complete invisibility of all those who were not wealthy, titled white men. From that came Full Throttle, the first in the series, followed by the sequel Rise of the Petrol Queen. Book 3, Fall of the Petrol Queen, is almost finished, book 5 is written but nowhere near complete, while book 4 seems to have broken down somewhere….

Blurb:

Poppy Orpington is going racing. With or without your approval.

Following a controversial loss at the Purley Cup, Poppy Orpington and her petrol-fuelled race car, Thunderbus, are dominating the headlines. But not one article is complimentary, or even unbiased.

In spite of these daily slanderous reports on her character, Poppy is determined to make something of herself. She continues racing, she starts up her own factory hoping to sell her father’s patented petrol-run cars, she buys her own house and speaks up for the down-trodden. But all the while she is still seen as just a woman.

A woman unwilling to squeeze into the female mould created by men of power – and so the mould must be broken.

FIRST 500 WORDSRise of the Petrol Queen, book 2 of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles.

Preface

James Henry Birkin, editor

Writing this second book on Poppy Orpington has proved somewhat problematic, not least because a biography demands a traditional linear structure of cause and effect – from birth to success and from success to death. Volume I, Full Throttle, covered Poppy’s early years up to her stunning debut on the Purley racetrack, but despite her tragically curtailed life we are not yet ready to focus upon her passing.

Volume II, Rise of the Petrol Queen, instead concentrates upon the months of February to November 1904 – a time encompassing Poppy’s first full season as a racing driver and also the founding of her famous car company, Thunderbolt Motors. 1904 also witnessed the first sustained outpouring of hatred toward her from the popular press, of which the worst offender was the Daily Post, founded by Lord William Wrohan to propagate his loathing of the poor, the working class, women and foreigners.

Sadly, the paper still operates to the same values today. Not once have the proprietors admitted their culpability in libelling Poppy, nor have they ever admitted to the criminal actions against her by their editor of that time, Harvey McArdle. His behaviour at Poppy’s cottage has been an open secret within the newspaper industry for years, yet this volume – astonishingly – is the first account of the attack ever put before the public.

It was the Post, incidentally, which hung the disparaging nickname of the “Petrol Queen” upon Poppy – a mocking label repeated across many other newspapers. I have included several contemporary articles to demonstrate the media’s attitude toward Poppy and the inevitable strain this placed upon her.

A far better view into Poppy’s character can be gleaned from her numerous letters and diary entries, all vital resources in my attempt to rehabilitate Poppy’s reputation. Unfortunately, this is the last time I can offer a definite insight into her state of mind as Poppy became far more circumspect about recording her feelings after her traumatic encounter with McArdle. For Volumes III and IV, legitimate guesswork coupled with external sources such as letters from third parties, press reports and other publications from the era will have to suffice.

In conclusion, I hope the reader enjoys this return visit to Poppy’s world – her life, her victories and her defeats – and will come away with a little more sympathy and understanding of a most wronged woman whose worst days sadly lay ahead of her.

Chapter One

‘Can my father return home?’ enquired Poppy of the specialist, Doctor Joseph Baxter.

‘Good Lord, no. Although he has been quite lucid this morning, on other days he will suffer a relapse and will be quite helpless in looking after himself – and he then potentially becomes dangerous to others.’

‘Is he still having violent episodes?’ asked Poppy, anguish showing on her face. She had been asking the same question for weeks. As she sat in the hard button-back chair across from Baxter’s polished desk, she hoped today’s answer would be different.

‘There have been a…

***

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07TKLDQ3G/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i1

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Throttle-Jon-Hartless-ebook/dp/B06X95NQ6V/ref=pd_sbs_351_1/258-5208768-1596127?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B06X95NQ6V&pd_rd_r=d7b731a9-9e6d-40df-a3d4-0866c1e574d0&pd_rd_w=JQHAV&pd_rd_wg=Yh1gl&pf_rd_p=2b420a2f-6593-478e-8b5f-cb43865ff16f&pf_rd_r=84VFM718S960WN0NWNJZ&psc=1&refRID=84VFM718S960WN0NWNJZ

Bio:

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, a steampunk motor racing adventure examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019, both published by Accent Press.

Social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JHartlessauthor?prefetchTimestamp=1569265278580

Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/jonhartlessauthor/

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Many thanks for your fabulous starting words, Jon.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

End of the Month: So long September

I swear time speeds up every month!

It’s time to hand my blog over to the fabulous Nell Peters…Where did September go?

Hello, my sweeties! Here we are already at the end of September – yikes. The children are back at school and there is no end of Christmas tattiness infiltrating every available space in the shops – even worse, antique Slade CDs have been dusted off in preparation for their annual warble. Since around Easter, each time I log on to internet banking, they’ve been advising me to start saving for Christmas – and the Christmas Shop in Selfridges has been open for weeks, for goodness sake. Any minute now the clocks will go back an hour so we will be groping around in the dark from about 3 pm. Depressing stuff.

But not so depressing as 30th September was in 1551 for a certain Japanese gentleman. A coup staged by the military faction of Japan’s Ōuchi clan forced their overlord to commit suicide, and their city was burned. Ouchy indeed.

Seppuku

Seppuku is what we more commonly know as hara-kiri, or harakiri, the Japanese form of ritual suicide, meaning to slice the belly, or abdomen – in short, disembowelment. Mega ouchy. Originating with the samurai, it enabled men to die with honour rather than fall into the hands of their enemies and be tortured, or as a form of capital punishment for those who had committed serious offences. Similarly, it was a culturally acceptable exit for warriors who had somehow brought shame upon themselves, and later practiced by other Japanese folk to restore honour to themselves or their families.

A short blade is stabbed into the belly and drawn from left to right, slicing it open – if the wound is deep enough it will sever the descending aorta (the section of the aorta which runs from chest to abdomen, the aorta being the largest artery in the body), resulting in rapid death through blood loss. Call me squeamish, but I’m pretty sure I could live with any dishonour I’d brought upon myself, given the gory alternative…

But long before the emergence of the bushi (samurai class), Japanese fighters were highly trained to use swords and spears. Women learned to use naginata, kaiken, and the art of tantojutsu in battle and their training ensured protection for communities whose male contingent had toddled off to battle elsewhere. One of these women, Empress Jingū, used her skills to promote economic and social change and was the onna bugeisha (female martial artist) who led a bloodless invasion of Korea in 200 AD, after her husband Emperor Chūai, the fourteenth emperor of Japan, was killed in battle. Her image was the first of a woman to be featured on Japanese banknotes – designed to stop counterfeiting, her picture was printed on oblong paper. Ah, so.

On the family front, we’ve had a couple of birthday weekends away – the first in London for the OH’s on 31st August. #4 son and his family had been to Legoland the day before and met up with us, along with #2, who lives near where we stayed. We didn’t do anything wildly exciting, but it was a good time and went some way to stave off the feelings of impending doom I tend to experience on 31/8, anticipating the slippery slope to cold weather, endless dark and the elongated run up to the dreaded festive shenanigans. Bah humbug!

The ma-in-law celebrated her ninetieth mid-September, for which a sister-in-law flew in from Australia and #3 son from India – the sister-in-law who lives in South Africa was a no-show as she hadn’t renewed her passport. Doh! During the lead up to the great day, there were a few anxious moments concerning the threat of BA pilot strikes, but most of us managed to turn up more or less on time. Sherborne in Dorset, being something of a quiet backwater with a predominately OAP demographic, probably didn’t know what hit it – especially the Italian restaurant we invaded on the Saturday evening.

On 4th September, there was a whopping ‘how on earth did that happen?’ moment, when oldest GD, started senior school. From scary beginnings – premature, low birth weight and weeks spent in SCBU (mum is diabetic, which can cause problems), she’s grown into a tall, very together young lady, who looked super-smart in her kilt-type skirt and blazer, which naturally she hates. She should think herself lucky – in my day, it was ghastly regulation indoor shoes, equally ghastly regulation outdoor shoes, gymslips, wool blazers and velour hats, all in regulation puke brown. Even the blouses were cream, so just looked like distressed white. And don’t get me started on the summer dresses in luminous flame which could be spotted from outer space, worn with a jaunty boater.

In 1977, because of NASA budget cuts and dwindling power reserves, the Apollo programme’s ALSEP experiment packages left on the Moon were shut down on 30th September. Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Packages comprised of a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site of Apollo missions 12-17 inclusive, while Apollo 11 left a smaller package called the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP. The instruments were designed to operate after the astronauts had left and to make long-term studies of the lunar environment. They were positioned around a central station, which supplied power generated by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to run the instruments, plus communication equipment to relay data to Earth.

This was on the same day that the final assembly stage of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger got underway at Rockwell International’s Space Transportation Systems Division, in Downey, California. The orbiter was launched and landed successfully nine times, before breaking apart seventy-three seconds into its tenth mission STS-51-L off the Florida coast, on January 28th 1986. All seven crew members, including a civilian schoolteacher, (Sharon) Christa McAuliffe, perished.

Christa McAuliffe

She would have been seventy-one on the second of this month – and eighty years ago on 2/9/1939, the state of emergency in Poland was upgraded to a state of war. At 19.44 that evening, PM Neville Chamberlain addressed the House of Commons, ‘His Majesty’s Government will…be bound to take action unless the German forces are withdrawn from Polish territory.’ As we know, no such withdrawal took place.

Barbara Radding Morgan, Christa’s very fortunate first reserve, became a professional astronaut in January 1998, and flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-118 to the International Space Station on August 8th 2007 aboard Endeavour, the orbiter that replaced Challenger.

Sticking with 30/9/77 a wee while longer, Northern Ireland goalkeeper and manager, Roy Eric Carroll was born on that day. He represented NI forty-five times at international level, gaining his first cap aged nineteen, and also played for Olympiacos, where he won the Greek Super League three times and the Greek Cup twice. Sharing his date of birth was American singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer, Nick Curran. Sadly, his versatile and successful career was cut short in 2012, when he died of oral cancer on October 6, aged just thirty-five.

Finally, another American vocalist and guitarist, Mary Ford (born Iris Colleen Summers on 7 July 1924) died on this day in 1977, after eight weeks in a diabetic coma, brought on as a result of alcohol abuse. This was six weeks after Elvis Presley died. Ford was half of the husband and wife musical duo, Les Paul and Mary Ford, who had sixteen top ten hits between 1950 and 1954. In 1951 alone, they sold six million records, but the couple went on to divorce in 1964.

Les and Mary Ford

What/who else can I find in my box of tricks? Step forward suave actor, playwright and novelist, Ian Ogilvy, who will be expecting to blow out seventy-six candles on his cake today. He took over the role of Simon Templar from Roger Moore in the TV series, Return of the Saint (from 1978-9) and there was talk that he might also step into Moore’s James Bond shoes – although this didn’t happen because Moore kept changing his mind about hanging up his 007 credentials, rather like current Bond, Daniel Craig, it seems. Incidentally, Ian’s mother – actress Aileen Raymond – had previously been married to Sir John Mills, and they died within days of each other in 2005. Sharing Ogilvy’s date of birth are English organist and composer, Philip Moore, German-American biochemist, biophysicist and Nobel Prize laureate, Johann Deisenhofer and American singer, Marilyn McCoo (I first read that as McGoo, as in Magoo – which might have been slightly more entertaining).

I was never a huge fan of Mr Quincy Magoo, the fictional cartoon character created at the UPA animation studio in 1949. Voiced by Jim Backus, Mr. Magoo was a wealthy, short, retired gent who got into a series of ludicrous situations as a result of his extreme near-sightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit to the problem. However, my fondest memory of the oddball was a real life situation when a mate and I were on a Greyhound bus from Ottawa to Montreal – a distance of well over six hundred miles. Sitting behind us was an old guy who didn’t stop talking for the whole journey – and he sounded so much like Mr Magoo it was uncanny. Sadly, we giggled helplessly like idiotic schoolgirls for the whole distance.

Jim and Henny Backus

Staying with the entertainment industry, Pinewood Studios (where the Bond films, amongst many others, are made) were built on the estate of Heatherden Hall, a large Victorian country house in Iver Heath, Bucks. Owned by Dr Drury Lavin in the late 19th Century, who then sold it to the famous cricketer K.S. Ranjitsinhji, it was later owned by Canadian financier and MP for Brentford and Chiswick (how does that work, if he was a Canadian?), Lt Col Grant Morden (1880-1932), who added a ballroom, Turkish bath and indoor squash court – and because of its then off-the-beaten-track location, it was used as a hush-hush meeting place for politicians and diplomats: the agreement to create the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed there.

On Morden’s death, the property was bought at auction by property tycoon, Charles Boot, who turned the mansion into a country club for the rich and famous, although his main aim was always to build film studios. Boot officially renamed Heatherden Hall Pinewood, because, ‘the number of trees which grow there…seemed to suggest something of the American film centre in its second syllable.’ To achieve his ambition, Boot went into business with J. Arthur Rank – a  move that ultimately led to the development of the Rank Organisation, incorporating not only film production and distribution at home and abroad, but also catering, leisure activities and a wide field of manufacturing interests which at its height, employed more than thirty thousand people. The completion of building works at Pinewood was rapid and the studios were opened officially on 30 September 1936 – the day upon which two American politicians were born; Butler Derrick, Democrat for South Carolina from 1974, and James R Sasser, Democrat for Tennessee from 1977.

And now, on this 273rd day of the year, as Brexit staggers back/forth/back/forth and politicians of all flavours continue to behave like recalcitrant toddlers, it’s time for me to say adios – or sayounara (さようなら)as Empress Jingū might say.

Appropriately enough, September 30th is International Translation Day – celebrated on the feast of St Jerome, who translated the Bible and is regarded as the patron saint of all translators.

St Jerome

The day has been observed by the International Federation of Translators (FIT) ever since its inception in 1953. There you go.

Cheers, Jenny and toodles to all. NP

***

Many thanks for another fabulous blog.

See you in November, Nell!!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Richard Gould : Jack & Jill Went Down Hill

Opening Lines is with us once more.

This week I’m welcoming fellow romance writer, Richard Gould to my place to share the first 500 words from his novel,

Jack and Jill Went Down Hill.

 

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog. I write Romance. In case people haven’t noticed, there aren’t that many males writing (nor for that matter, reading) this genre. I didn’t set out to be a romantic fiction author, I just got placed there because I explore relationships, particularly second-chance ones. I use humour to describe my protagonists’ tragi-heroic journeys in pursuit of love, carrying cartloads of baggage as they struggle to balance the pressures of work, friends and families with the search for romance.

Jack & Jill went Downhill starts on Freshers Big Party Night at university. With Jack falling down and Jill tumbling after him, the choice of title became obvious. When they first met, the couple shared the joke that their names matched those of the nursery rhyme, but they fail to recognise that their lives are playing out the plot.

 

Blurb

When Jill terminates the call, she watches as Jack and Sophie walk off, holding hands just as they had done in what seems like a very distant past.

Jack and Jill had experienced fireworks on the night they met – their first night at University. Despite being raised with very different backgrounds, they seem to be the perfect couple. Mutual love can be seen by everyone around them. When they graduate and are thrust into the real world, the cracks start to show. Pressure from work reduces their time together. Family struggles test their loyalties. And inner demons become visible.

Jack is struggling to maintain his focus at work. Succumbing to peer pressure, the late night drinking with colleagues becomes a regular occurrence. Too regular in Jill’s opinion… Can Jill reignite the passion that seems to have withered? Or is Jack too far gone to be rescued? Should Jill walk away to save herself? Whilst dealing with her crumbling marriage, Jill’s own life begins to collapse. Despite the picture-perfect start to their relationship, it becomes clear that the cliché ‘happily ever after’ requires more than just love to make it everlasting.

First 500 words…

For Jack it is love at first sight.

For Jill it is love at first sight.

Freshers Big Party Night at university. The hall is jam-packed with several hundred first year students, alcohol-fuelled to obliterate apprehension. The pre-party big news is that predatory second and third year boys have been banned following the previous year’s behaviour which had been fully exposed in the local press. Britney blasts out of two giant speakers. A floodlit rotating silver ball, suspended from the ceiling, covers the dancers in a shower of white sparkle. Little pairing is yet apparent, this being the first evening. It’s mainly girls dancing with girls, with the boys leaning against walls or by the bar. Looking on, weighing up the talent.

Jill has come along with the girls she’s met on her corridor in the hall of residence. That afternoon they’d reached the kitchen within minutes of each other and had nattered and drunk tea for an hour or so, planning their itinerary for the weekend. The party is a must do and the four of them are now swaying as they karaoke to Craig David’s Fill Me In.

Jack has come alone, uncomfortable, weighing up whether it is the place he wants to be, the ‘it’ referring to the university as well as this event. Earlier that day, having unloaded his car, he’d remained in his room sorting his things, aware of the buzz in the nearby kitchen but unwilling to join his new housemates. That is, of course, assuming he stays.

Freshers Big Party Night is turning out to be a tacky affair. Standing by the bar, he looks down at his plastic beaker and swills the cloudy lukewarm lager before downing the remains and crushing the empty container. Commoners, that’s the unpleasant word he can’t help thinking of to describe the people around him. He watches as they jump up and down on the dance floor, dressed in tasteless cheap clothes. Probably from Primark or H&M or New Look.

Jack catches sight of Jill, who picks up his gaze and their eyes fix. There follows the type of chemistry that no scientist has ever been able to explain, the instant drawing together of a man and woman without having spoken a word.

Jill abandons her newfound friends and approaches Jack. Unsure whether he is her target, he remains slouched against the bar.

“Dance?” she mouths, never shy when it comes to talking to strangers.

“I don’t really,” Jack shouts in a vain effort to be heard above the volume of Pink’s Don’t Let Me Get Me.

“Come on,” she urges, extending her hand. Jack inadvertently presents her with the crumpled bit of plastic. He drops it to the floor then takes hold of her.

They dance and dance some more, bumping against a growing number of embryonic couples.

Their attempt to chat is futile.

“Something, something, something, something.”

“What?”

“Something, something, something, something.”

“Sorry, can’t hear you.”

“What?”

“LATER!” this yelled down Jack’s ear.

The absurdity…

***

Buy link

Amazon           mybook.to/JACKANDJILL

Bio

I should start with a confession – my name is Richard and I’m a coward. Since I’m usually placed in Romance or Contemporary Women’s Fiction genres, an agent suggested I use a female pseudonym to increase readership. “No way!” I declared with bold pride, “people are going to have to accept me for who I am.” That evening I considered Rebecca, Rosemary, Rachel and Rita before opting for the cowardly compromise of using R J instead of Richard.

​Following selection onto the New Writers programme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, two novels have been published by Accent Press – ‘A Street Café Named Desire’ (short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award) and ‘The Engagement Party’. ‘Jack & Jill went Downhill’ is my first novel published by Endeavour Media. ​I’ve worked in schools, universities and for a national educational charity and have been published in a wide range of educational journals, newspapers and magazines. Although I enjoy writing non-fiction, my true love is as an author of novels that make the reader reflect on the idiosyncrasies of everyday life.

Social Media

Website:          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:              rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/richard.gould.14418

Many thanks for joining us today Richard,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

Opening Lines by Lucy V. Hay: Do No Harm

Opening Lines time is upon us.

This week I’m delighted to welcome bestselling author, award winning blogger, writing guru, and owner/manager of the brilliant Bang2Write website, Lucy V. Hay to my place.

Lucy is sharing the first 500 words of debut dark crime/thriller, Do No Harm

BLURB

Till death do us part… After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong… Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives… Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction. ‘Well written, engrossing and brilliantly unique’ – Heat. ‘Prepare to be surprised’ – Closer. ‘A claustrophobic and complex read’ – Culture Fly. ‘Sharp, confident writing’ – Peter James. ‘Original, daring and emotionally truthful’ – Paul Burston.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

I’m early.

I regard the hotel in the wing mirror of my car. I see my own reflection  – my nostrils flaring as I take in the venue. If you’d listened to me, you could have had so much more than this. Modern build on an industrial estate? Ugh.

Behind me I can see the gawdy, fluorescent signs for a chain cinema, a bowling alley, various fast-food restaurants, one of which offers an ‘all you can eat’ buffet bonanza. It’s what the Staceys and Chads like to call an ‘entertainment park’, though I cannot for one second imagine what’s so entertaining about these places. Give me a low-key, low-lit restaurant

with a ludicrously expensive wine list any day.

Oh no, this is no good. If it had been up to me, I would have found you somewhere far more flash to celebrate your nuptials. But that ship has sailed. For now.

I might be down, as they say – but I’m not out.

A group of people appear behind my car. I watch their reflections. They’re in frocks and suits – two couples, the women tottering on high heels, holding on to their men’s elbows. They must be going to your wedding. Then behind them, a tired-looking family: the man is in a shirt and tie, an incongruous pink cloth over one shoulder. He carries a sleeping baby girl in a flowery dress with an overly large bow on the back. The woman wears a trouser suit, the jacket just a smidge too small across her bust. Two little boys in bow ties run ahead of her; she holds her arms out to them as if she’s shepherding geese.

A woman in a purple beautician’s tabard stops next to the wedding party. She smiles and laughs, beckoning them with her. She’s diminutive and young-looking, orange panstick caked on her pale skin. There will be a subterranean salon somewhere in the hotel’s depths. The smell of stale sweat will be masked by scented candles, vanilla or patchouli, but the tang

of human musk will persist. You can scrub the masseuse tables, the floors, the jacuzzi; you can launder the towels, spray liberal amounts of deodorant and air freshener, strip away our clothes, our pretensions. But it’s always there. Flesh – animal, predatory. Demanding domination, submission.

It’s what we all are, underneath it all.

I look at my watch. In just one and a half hours you will be married. I suppose I ought to have prepared myself for this day. I felt sure you would wander – as you claimed you needed to – then return, certain you could do no better. I guess I never thought you would leave me so finally, splashing about in your wake.

I’m such a fool.

***

BIO:

Lucy V Hay is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and is to be adapted by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, was a finalist in the Dead Good Books Readers’ Awards 2019. Her next title is Never Have I Ever for Hodder Books, out this December.

***

Many thanks Lucy. Cracking opening lines, from a very clever story.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

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