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 58

Opening Lines with Ashley Lister: Cursed (Blog Tour: Day Four)

This week, I’m delighted to welcome back the brilliant Ashley Lister, with the opening lines to his brand new release,

Cursed.

This blog forms part of Ashley’s blog tour for the book – so make sure you check out all the other stops.

Over to you Ashley…

Below are the opening lines to Cursed, the third in my series of dark tales from Innsmouth.

To give a little background, these stories started with the novella Fearless. This was a story that started in Innsmouth University, a fictional world roughly based on the writings of HP Lovecraft. Fearless was followed by Unearthed which remained in the same disquieting location.

This opening scene introduces us to two members of the Explorers Club, an urbex group who break into abandoned locations and share stories of the supernatural.

BLURB

Innsmouth University’s Explorers Club meet once a month to share stories of the supernatural. They meet in empty houses, abandoned buildings and derelict churches. They meet in the dead of night. They tell stories of the impossible, the unbelievable and the most terrible. And now, it appears, their meetings have been cursed.

FIRST 500 WORDS

A fragrance of neglect hung in the air. It was the odour of second-hand clothes in charity shops; the subtle stink of long-forgotten corridors in derelict buildings; and the smell of uninhabited houses.

“This feels wrong,” Stuart whispered. “This is tantamount to burglary.”

“It’s not burglary,” David Middleton assured him. “We’re not stealing anything.”

“I didn’t say it was burglary,” Stuart said. His voice was low and soft, but not so quiet that it hid a note of testiness. “I said it was tantamount to burglary. Tantamount.”

“Did you know,” David began, “here in the UK, only 14 arrests are made for every 100 burglaries?”

Stuart eyed David sceptically. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

David shrugged. “I only mention it because, even though what we’re doing isn’t technically burglary, I thought you might be reassured by the fact that so few burglaries result in prosecution.”

They stood in the majestic hallway of the abandoned Porter house. Dark blue shadows swathed them like a shroud. David knew better than to turn on any lights. That was a sure way to draw attention to the fact that the property now hosted illicit visitors. His eyes were used to the lack of light and he could make out the stripe of the regency wallpaper, the flow of the stairs up to the galleried landing and the hanging presence of an unlit chandelier above.

“Why is this place empty?” Stuart asked, peering myopically into the gloom around them.

“It’s a mystery,” David admitted. “The place was owned by a husband and wife: Mr and Mrs Porter. He went missing one night whilst he was out walking the dog.”

“What? Was he murdered or did he do a runner or something?”

David shook his head. “No. Just went missing.”

“Bloody hell,” Stuart muttered.

“Two days later his wife disappeared.”

Stuart sucked an exclamatory breath of surprise. “That’s terrible.”

“It really is,” David agreed. “The executors have put this place on the market at an inflated price, trying to cash in on a lucrative sale, but that’s not going to happen.” He smiled sadly, an expression that couldn’t be seen in the darkness, as he added, “They’re trying to sell an overpriced property in the middle of a very picky buyers’ market.” Glancing around the dark shadows he said, “This property is going to stay empty for a long time.”

Stuart considered him suspiciously. “You seem to know a lot about it.”

David shrugged. “The property is being managed by Murdoch’s, the estate agent where I work.” He lightly jangled a set of keys and added, “That’s how we were able to get in here so easily.” He could have added that it was because he had gained access using his employer’s keys that their presence on the property wasn’t technically burglary or breaking and entering, but he figured there was no sense reminding Stuart about the source of his earlier unease.

Stuart was looking around, his night-blind gaze trying to scour the…

BUY LINKS

Cursed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cursed-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08RXJYQLD/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cursed+ashley+lister&qid=1613210277&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Unearthed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unearthed-Dark-Tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08LZJ8JDZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

Fearless

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fearless-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08JVKJKCZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

BIO

Ashley Lister is a prolific author of fiction, having written more than fifty full length novels and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about poetry and writing in general, Ashley also teaches creative writing, language and literature in Lancashire, England.

 

Many thanks Ashley,

Happy Reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Victoria Dowd: Body on the Island

I’m delighted to welcome author, and fellow member of the Exeter |Author’s Association, Victoria Dowd, to my site today, to share the Opening Lines from her forthcoming novel, Body on the Island.

Blurb

An uninhabited island.
Ten stranded strangers.
No way to escape.

Ursula Smart (not her real name), realising therapy alone cannot teach her how to survive this life, is determined to make some changes. She signs herself up for a survival course — along with her mother, aunts Charlotte and Mirabelle and Bridget.
But the promised gentle weekend of foraging and camping in the Outer Hebrides swiftly turns into a desperate battle for survival.
Their boat capsizes. Washed up on an uninhabited island, the Smart women face starvation, freezing conditions and — worse — no Wi-Fi.
Then the murders begin.
Someone is killing them off one by one. Will the Smarts escape or will they be next?

A DARKLY COMIC GOLDEN AGE MURDER MYSTERY
Victoria Dowd’s brilliant whodunnit is perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz, Faith Martin and Stuart Turton.

FIRST 500 WORDS

As I’m drowning, I see my Dad’s murdered eyes below me. They are wide in warning. I hear his voice below the waves. ‘Do not come over to this side. There is nothing good here, Ursula. Stay. Stay alive.’

‘Stay alive,’ I call back. ‘Stay alive.’

‘I’m trying!’ It’s not Dad who answers but Mother’s voice shouting back at me, her mouth filling with icy saltwater, before she is thrown out from me on another high wave.

‘Don’t die!’ I shout.

‘That had occurred to me.’ Her eyes are wide like Dad’s. She spins out from me as if she’s been carelessly thrown away.

‘Mother!’ I scream. ‘Hold my hand.’

She reaches and grabs me. We are so small among this broken sea. The freezing spray pits my skin.

‘Ursula,’ Mother shouts. ‘Stay with me!’ Always a command. She scans the mineral black waters quickly. ‘Charlotte?’ Her mouth is wide but the sound is washed away in another wave.

I see a hand rise up across the bow of the listing boat. Aunt Charlotte’s fist, strong and capable above the waves.

‘Mirabelle?’ Mother calls.

No response.

‘Mirabelle?’

There are heads floating all around, rising high on the waves before plunging down fast, rollercoastered against the wet shale sky. The water is bitter, and I’m pushed under again. The cold shocks my head as if I’m being baptized in ice water. I can’t feel or move my limbs, yet I’m moving so fast that my eyes, raw with burning salt, are unable to process the changing snapshots of sky and water. I catch a glimpse of Mother’s face again, her eyes are ripe with fear.

Somewhere in another great swell, I lose Mother’s hand.

‘Mother? Mother? Mother!’

I am that lost child in a crowd again, feeling her hand slip from mine.

I’m falling.

I hear screams and see the faces of my other travelling companions full of panic. They don’t seem to see me. I lock with two bewildered eyes for a moment. A woman’s, sea-green and two perfect mirrors of the water. Her head turns before I can make out the face. Then the hands grab her.

I’m thrown high again by another wave.

The hands are on Green Eyes’ shoulders, making their way spider-fast to the crown of her head. Her eyes are wide and pleading now. Fear, desperation reflect on their surface. Then the thin-boned hands push down on her delicate head and the green eyes disappear beneath a spume of white water. Her small hands reach up and twist with tiny dancer’s fingers.

Whoever reaches out and pushes the woman down again has their back to me.

She struggles free for a moment, her mouth gasping above the water, her head tilted back against the waves. The mouth lingers open as if caught on a word that is instantly drowned out. Her head is forced below once more.

In that moment, it’s as if I’m looking at them from the other side of a window. I…

***

If you would like to preorder your copy of Body on the Island, you can find it via all good book retailers including

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Bio

Victoria’s novel, Body on the Island, will be published on 23rd February. It’s the sequel to her debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, which was published in 2020 by Joffe Books and was Classic Mystery’s Book of the Year. It is also a finalist in The People’s Book Prize.

She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction in 2019 and was runner up in The New Writer’s writer of the year award. She has been short listed by Writers’ Forum and long-listed for The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition. Her work has been published in various literary journals, including Aesthetica: A Review of Contemporary Artists; Between These Shores Literary and Arts Journal; Dream Catcher magazine; and Gold Dust.

She also writes the Adapting Agatha series on her blog which can be found at https://victoriadowd.com/ . She has spoken at various literary festivals about Agatha Christie.

Victoria is originally from Yorkshire and graduated in law from Cambridge University. She was a criminal defence barrister for many years until finally hanging up her wig for more fictional crimes.

Website https://victoriadowd.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/victoria_dowd

FB https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625505478

Victoria Dowd | Facebook

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dowdvictoria/

***

Many thanks for popping by with your fabulous opening lines, Victoria.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Happy Valentine’s Day: Robin Hood Style

Valentines

To celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little of Romancing Robin Hood– my part romance/part medieval mystery novel- with you.

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. As you read Grace’s story, you can read the medieval mystery she is writing alongside!

The problem is, Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by.

RH- E Flynn

With her wedding approaching fast, Grace’s best friend Daisy can’t help wishing a similar happiness to her own for her Robin Hood loving friend…

Extract

…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…

 

If that extract has whetted your appetite for more, Romancing Robin Hood is available in paperback, and e-formats from all good retailers- including…

Kindle –
Paperback-

 

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Coffee

This week I thought I’d share some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’

How about Another Cup of Coffee ?

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

 

Here are the first 500 words…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good book retailers, including-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Cup-Coffee-ebook/dp/B07ZJLKXV7/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Another+Cup+of+Coffee+Jenny+KAne&qid=1575632954&sr=8-1

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Tom Williams: Something Wicked

I’m delighted to welcome Tom Williams back to my blog today, with a look back over his recent novels, and a look forward to his latest release, Something Wicked.

Over to you Tom…

I’m very grateful to Jenny Kane for the chance to chat to you all on her blog, especially with a new book, Something Wicked on its way.

Until recently all the books I’ve written have been historical novels. I started with The White Rajah, which is set in the mid-19th century, at the height of Britain’s Age of Empire. I hadn’t actually intended to write a historical novel. I wanted to write the Great British Novel (forgive me: it was my first book) dealing with Good and Evil and how power corrupts. But then I was on a visit to Borneo (long story) and I learned about James Brooke who ran part of the island as his own private kingdom. It’s an amazing tale, full of Good and Evil and (at least arguably) the corruption of power, and so everything seemed to come together and I wrote that.

And then I was pigeon-holed as a historical novelist and I wrote more stories about the Age of Empire and they became steadily darker. (Long story short, the Empire did genuinely do a lot of good but its inherent contradictions meant it was pretty well doomed to end badly.) So I escaped into the Napoleonic Wars where the issues of Good and Evil were more straightforward. (Actually they weren’t at all, because depicting the French as Evil while the decadence of the monarchies fighting them has to be depicted as Good begs a whole heap of questions.) Still, the stories were exciting and involved an awful lot of killing Frenchmen, and my dashing hero was brave and women fell at his feet and all the proper tropes were observed. Sadly, as I waded through the gore of battles like the Nile and Talavera and, inevitably, Waterloo, even those stories became a tiny bit more ambiguous too. Also, historical fiction takes ages to write. The other day I wanted to write the beginning of a new story (for there will, in time, be more) and thought I could say, ‘He threw open the shutters and looked out. It was a brilliantly sunny day. Time to put on his uniform and get started.’ Something along those lines, anyway. And then I wondered, ‘What would he have seen when he looked out? Would there have been a view and, if so, of what? And what uniform was he wearing exactly.’ And there followed hours of checking Google street view of a small town in Spain and trying to imagine what it would have looked like 200 years ago, followed by more time spent trying to check out his uniform. Uniforms are one of those things that people who write about military history are expected to know, but their heroes tend to stick to the same regiment, whereas Burke is constantly moving about so he might be wearing any one of a number of British or foreign uniforms. There are some wonderful reference books for this but to collect the entire set to cover against all eventualities is beyond me and Google isn’t nearly as helpful as you would think.

You can see why the idea of writing something set in the here and now might appeal, can’t you? So one night I was sitting getting quietly drunk with a bunch of magicians (as you do) and I thought what fun it would be if these magicians somehow ended up using their skills to defeat another bunch of magicians who were using Black Magic in their stage act. (Yes, Good and Evil sneak into all my books. But isn’t that what most fiction is about in the end?)

Anyway, the story wouldn’t go away and (after changing all the people because I’m reliably informed that libel lawyers are expensive) I ended up writing a novella called Dark Magic. I loved it and lots of readers loved it. It was very light hearted, albeit in a rather gruesome way, and if it didn’t sell that well (nobody associates me with contemporary fiction so it was like starting over) it was much easier to write than the historical stuff, so I decided to do it again.

The latest, to be published in the next month or so, also grew out of an overseas trip. Several trips, actually, because I am an enthusiastic tango dancer so, in the days when these things were still possible, I made several visits to Argentina. I love Buenos Aires to the point of obsession. Besides the tango, there is so much cool stuff going on. And there are spectacular things to see, one of which is the cemeteries. These (the famous ones at any rate) are not rows of gravestones but proper necropolises with neat streets full of houses where the dead can make their homes.

Brompton Cemetery

Given that the tango world only wakes up when the sun goes down, the idea that these buildings were inhabited by vampires who came out to dance at night seemed quite obvious. And so, transferred to the almost equally eccentric Brompton Cemetery in London, Something Wicked was born. Fortunately there is (or was, pre-covid) a thriving tango scene in London, where the vampires can indulge themselves. Throw in a murder and a vampire policeman and there is everything you need for a police procedural/vampire mashup that certainly entertained me and I hope will entertain you too.

Don’t worry. I’m back to history later in spring with a story set in Ireland in the run-up to the Irish Revolt of 1798. Poor James Burke is going to have his work cut out steering between Good and Evil in that one!

 

BUY LINKS FOR ALL TOM’S BOOKS-

James Burke, Spy

Burke in the Land of Silver

Burke and the Bedouin

Burke at Waterloo

Burke in the Peninsula

Burke in Ireland: coming in Spring

Contemporary Urban Fantasy

Dark Magic

Something Wicked: to be published in February

BIO

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century and books about vampires that are generally described as fiction but which are often more realistic than the business books. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt and Borneo and call it research.

The James Burke series are adventure stories about a spy in the age of Napoleon, while the John Williamson Papers are a rather more serious series looking at issues of colonialism in the age of Empire (though they do have quite a lot of adventure too).

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.

LINKS

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, https://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams).

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Why Did I Write Romancing Robin Hood?

It is said that everyone has one book in them. This isn’t the case with me- so far I’ve taken part in the creation of over 200 books. Having said that however, one book always needed to be released from my imagination – and that book was Romancing Robin Hood.

This novel sat in my mind for decades, just waiting for the moment to be right.

 

Many many many years ago, when I was a teenager, I was a bit- shall we say unusual? I suspect the words ‘odd’ and ‘eccentric’ would be more accurate, but I’ll let you make your own mind up on that!!!

I never did the pop or film star crush thing. Never had pictures of Duran Duran or Wham on my wall. Adam Ant didn’t look up at me from my pencil case, and I did not wake up to see a life sized poster of Morrissey’s backside complete with gladioli (or whatever flower it was) sticking out of his backside!!

Nor was I into the Pac Man craze (I am so giving my age away here!), and the background to Manic Minor drove me nuts! I didn’t buy Jackie, or indulge in spending my money on Cosmopolitan.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like music or playing the odd game of tennis on the Atari- but I had a different sort of fascination.

RH- RoS 2

Cast of Robin of Sherwood

Robin Hood!!

I know what you’re thinking- you’re thinking that I had a crush on Jason Connery or Michael Praed- but nope. Sorry- neither of those lovely boys are my type at all.

It all started because I was ill for ages and ages when I was 14. I missed a lot of school. But as always in life, timing is everything- and I was saved by an instant and unshakeable love for the series of Robin of Sherwood that was being aired on ITV at the time. It was the third series- I hadn’t seen either of the first two. (I have now- lots!) As I was at home so much, my parents rented one of those new fangled video recorders from Radio Rentals so I could record stuff and watch it when I liked. (Thanks Mum and Dad- still grateful for that!!)

The VCR arrived the same day as the episode of Robin of Sherwood called Adam Bell was aired- I recorded it and watched it 8 times the next day- and then again, and again and again. Now- over 20 years later- I can still quote the script!! (Okay- that’s nothing to be proud of- see- I’m a bit odd!!)

It wasn’t the tight tights that had captured my heart though- it was the story. The whole story. All of it. I wanted to know everything- EVERYTHING- that could possibly be known about Robin Hood. No film, book (nonfiction or fiction), was safe from me.

RH- E Flynn

Errol Flynn- The Adventures of Robin Hood

 

My walls disappeared under posters of RH- any posters- from Errol Flynn, to Richard Greene, to the statue up in Nottingham, to the gorgeous Ray Winstone who played Will Scarlet (Okay- you have me there- I had – still do- have a ‘thing’ for Ray Winstone- there is such a twinkle in those eyes!!!)

The interest became an obsession (In RH not Ray Winstone). When I was better my parents took me to Sherwood- I learnt archery, I read medieval political poems and ballads- I wanted to know the truth- did he exist or didn’t he?

I did a project on RH for my A’ level History. Then I went to university and did a specialist course in Medieval Castle and Ecclesiastical Architecture…I was a medieval junky!! It seemed only natural to do a PhD on the subject- and that is exactly what I did!

Robin Hood Statue- Nottingham

Robin Hood Statue- Nottingham

By this time of course, I was pretty certain how and why the RH legend had begun- but I wanted to know who had influenced it into the form we know today, and how the real recorded crimes and daily life of the thirteenth and fourteenth century had affected those stories… (forget thinking RH was around with Richard I or King John- it ain’ happening!!)

It was my PhD that taught me to write- (a tome of epic proportions that is still knocking around my old Uni library gathering dust, while e-versions of it are scattered around many American Universities). Rather than finish off my love of RH- my PhD polished it to perfection!! (Although nothing could make me like the latest BBC series or the Russell Crowe or Taron Egerton films.)

I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to write a novel about a Robin Hood obsessed historian.

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.

You can buy this crime/romance/modern/medieval novel from all good retailers, including-

Amazon – mybook.to/RomancingRH

Happy reading

Jenny

xxx

 

 

 

 

Preorder News: Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

With the first signs of spring beginning to show in the countryside, it is the perfect time to be able to announce the coming of the third novel in my Mill Grange series, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange.

As ever, we will be catching up with Thea, Shaun, Tina, Sam and the unstoppable pensioners, Bert and Mabel and life at the Victorian manor house. In book three we also get to know popular newcomers to Mill Grange, Tom and Helen (who we met in Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange), rather better.

Here’s the blurb

Welcome back to Mill Grange in the latest uplifting romance in the bestselling Mill Grange series!

Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.

Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex-wife suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.

As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most…

*Can be read as a standalone, but best as a part of the wider series: get your hands on Midsummer at Mill Grange to start from book one!

Out on 4th March, you can preorder your seasonal trip to Exmoor now – amzn.to/3i98thX

If you want to catch up on the action so far, you can find Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange and Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange is available from all good book and ebook retailers.

Oh – and yes, there will be a fourth and final trip to Mill Grange. More news on that soon!

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Witches Knickers by Angela Wooldridge

Today I am delighted to share the first Opening Lines blog of 2021. 

This time, former Imagine student, friend and author, Angela Wooldridge is visiting my site, with her first solo publication –  Witches Knickers.

Over to you Angela…

Spoiler alert! There aren’t any witches in this book. Come to think of it, there aren’t any knickers either. Well, there probably are but they aren’t mentioned (it’s not that sort of book!)

However, I am planning a second collection for my fantasy and sci-fi stories later in the year and there will be witches in that. (Still no knickers though… I’m now feeling the urge to write about knickers…)

But about this book!

Witches’ Knickers is a collection of 14 of my contemporary stories. Some of them have been published in magazines, some have cropped up elsewhere and a few haven’t been seen before.

This extract is from the story that gives the book its title. I like to think that Emma Thompson might have read this as she retweeted my announcement to the world (okay, just Twitter), that she and Poldark were on the cover of the magazine it was in.

(I have had stories in mags with the Queen on the cover, but so far she hasn’t told anyone about it).

Blurb:

Martha is tidying the hedgerows while she tries to ignore what a mess her life is in.

Molly and her sisters are uncovering a family secret.

Kelly is beginning to suspect that this spy training lark isn’t the fun adventure she’d hoped it would be.

Patsy is about to confront an old mistake.

Join them and many other characters in these fourteen contemporary short stories by Angela Wooldridge.

***

Witches’ Knickers (first 500 words)

‘It’s bad enough that my mum’s the crazy woman who collects witches’ knickers,’ Martha heard Zoe complain to her friend. ‘But now she’s talking about it on local radio!’

‘Oh Zoe,’ sighed Martha as she left the house. ‘You don’t know the half of it.’

She chivvied the dog into the car. Why was she doing this? It had started as a crusade, but now it felt like one more rut she couldn’t get out of.

‘Why carry on then?’ Stuart had shrugged. ‘No-one’s asking you to do it.’

She half suspected that if she started pole-dancing in a sleazy dive, Stuart would just shrug and say, ‘OK, whatever.’

‘For goodness sake,’ she wanted to shout at him. ‘Engage!’

Was he like this with everyone? He was working late a lot and locked himself away in the shed most evenings. Wasn’t that one of those signs you were meant to look out for?

‘Don’t go there,’ she told herself. ‘Just… just don’t.’

She switched on the radio and set off.

‘Today we are talking to Martha Hames. Hello Martha.’

      ‘Hello, Judy.’

Martha winced at how squeaky her voice sounded.

‘Now, Martha, you’ve come to our attention because of a rather unusual pastime; collecting Witches’ Knickers.’

      ‘You make it sound a lot more exciting than it really is.’

      ‘Could you explain it to our listeners in your own words?’

      ‘OK, ‘witches’ knickers’ is a rather colourful term used to describe discarded carrier bags that get tangled up in trees and hedges.’

      ‘Litter, in other words.’

‘Yep, that’s the stuff,’ she reached her destination and heaved the car up onto a grassy bank.

‘And you collect this litter.’

      ‘Yep.’ Martha agreed. She fiddled with her phone. It still amazed her that she could continue listening with a few taps of the screen. Of course, she’d never admit that to Zoe, who was convinced that anyone born in the last century couldn’t possibly understand the modern world.

‘C’mon Rufus.’ The dog jumped from the car as she grabbed a bin liner and litter-picker, and they set to work.

‘What inspired you to do this?’

      ‘I’m not sure I remember precisely.’

      Actually she could remember all too well. Zoe had been going through a phase of hating everyone, especially Martha. And Stuart seemed oblivious to everything.

‘I guess I must have been having a bad day.’

‘Understatement,’ she snorted.

‘A shopping bag broke as I was loading the car. “Right, that’s it!” I said. “I don’t need their crummy bags.”’

‘The words I used were a bit stronger than that.’

 ‘“I know where there’s a perfectly good bag. It’s been there for months!” And I drove off to this bag that had been hanging in the hedge for weeks.’

      Judy laughed. ‘What happened then?’

      ‘Standing there, holding that stupid little bag felt like the most successful moment I’d had all day. It was completely useless for shopping, of course, all grey and gritty and horrible. But it was fine for holding the other rubbish…

 ***

You can buy Witches Knickers here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Witches-Knickers-other-stories-contemporary-ebook/dp/B08S72ZB42/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=angela+wooldridge&qid=1610040534&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Bio:

Angela Wooldridge lives in Devon, in a rackety old house with her husband and the railway children.

She always wanted to be a writer, ever since the early days of exploring Narnia with the Pevensies and eating sardine sandwiches with the Famous Five.

Her stories have appeared in magazines such as My Weekly and The People’s Friend, in anthologies and been shortlisted in various competitions.

You can read her blog at www.angelawooldridge.wordpress.com.

Or follow her on Twitter: @angwooldridge

***

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous opening lines, Angela.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Criminal Inspiration: Folville Thinking

Although it cannot be categorically stated that the compilers of the Robin Hood ballads were influenced by the actual criminal gangs of the day, it is highly likely. Why wouldn’t the writers of the past be influenced by the political and local economic situation around them, just as we are today? If you study the literature and the criminal records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- as I did for five years- many similarities can be noted between the actions of gangs like the Folvilles, and those detailed in the ballads and political songs.

The earliest mention found (to date) of the name Robin Hood in literature appears in the poem The Vision of Piers Plowman, which was written by William Langland in c.1377. This was a protest poem complaining about the harsh conditions endured by the poor in the Fourteen Century. Not only did it mention Robin Hood, but it also makes reference to a real outlaw gang, the Folvilles.

“And some ryde and to recovere that unrightfully was wonne:

He wised hem wynne it ayein wightnesses of handes,

And fecchen it from false men with Folvyles lawes.”

In 1310, John de Folville, Lord of Ashby Folville, died, leaving his widow Alice and seven sons. The eldest son, also John, inherited the Ashby-Folville manor. Historical records show that John lived largely within the bounds of the law. However, his brothers, Eustace, Laurence, Richard, Robert, Thomas and Walter formed a criminal gang which became notorious. Between the mid 1320’s and 1330’s, the Folville brothers ran the town of Ashby Folville and its surrounds as a base for criminal activity.

The first crime that brought the Folvilles to the notice of the authorities was the murder of the Baron of the Exchequer, Roger Belers. Over the following decade, the Folville brothers’ travelled the countryside assaulting those they considered deserving of such treatment, and holding people and places to ransom. They hired themselves out as mercenaries, willing to commit crimes for the right price. In fact, if you look closely enough at the criminal activities of the Folville family and the Robin Hood ballads, you’ll see a great number of similarities. So many in fact, that I began to wonder if the ballad writers had been influenced by the actions of Folvilles – or if Folvilles had been influenced by the popularity of the ballads.

It was this latter theory that forms the inspiration behind The Folville Chronicles (The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and Outlaw Justice).

These medieval murder mysteries show Robert de Folville and his brothers using the ballads of Robin and his outlaws as a code of behaviour. Be warned however- this isn’t the code of behaviour we associate with Robin Hood today. There’s no robbing the rich to give to the poor in the fourteenth century. The original ballads were all about punishing the greedy, lazy and the cruel. There was never any question of any money gained from such punishments being given away.

Perhaps it was inevitable that my doctoral research, combined with my love for the stories of Robin Hood, would eventually inspire my novels.

Writers, filmmakers and poets ever since the tales were first spoken, have all adapted the outlaw figure to fit their imagination, and to appeal to the audience of the age. The Robin Hood needed by the fourteenth century listener isn’t going to be the same one demanded of the Tudor population, and that version of the hero has been reinvented again and again ever since. From the wonderfully thigh slapping Errol Flynn, the mystical Robin’s portrayed by Michael Praed and Jason Connery in the 1980’s, to the pantomime figure presented in the late 90’s by Kevin Costner, and the PVC nightmare of the most recent incantation by Taron Egerton…perhaps each generation gets the Robin Hood it deserves?

In 1332 the Folville gang committed their most serious crime. They kidnapped the Justice of the Peace, Sir Richard Willoughby, on the road between Melton Mowbray and Grantham, near Waltham-on-the-Wolds. A ransom of 1,300 marks was demanded for his safe return. While the Folvilles’ waited for the ransom to be paid, they stole over a hundred pounds of goods from Willoughby, while they dragged him from wood to wood.

The implications of Willoughby’s kidnap were fair reaching. However, to go into them here would be to ruin the aforementioned fourth novel. I will say however, that the kidnap and ransom of nobles passing through their land, the targeting of corrupt officials, and the general gang activity employed by the Folvilles, echo similar incidents within the Robin Hood ballads, from The Lytell Geste to the later tales, such as Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne.

Rather than tell the story of the Folville brothers through their eyes, I introduced an outsider; a fictional protagonist to see their world with fresh eyes. Enter Mathilda of Twyford.

We first meet Mathilda in Book One of the Chronicles, The Outlaw’s Ransom.  A nineteen year old unmarried woman, Mathilda’s life revolves around looking after her father and brothers, running the home and the family pottery business since the death of her mother. Her life changes abruptly when she is forced to get to know the notorious Folville family rather better than she would have liked – and Mathilda finds herself surrounded by criminals and under a very frightening type of suspicion…

Blurb- 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 villainous 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…

Extract from The Outlaw’s Ransom

…The Folville didn’t say anything else, but satisfied himself with watching Mathilda as she stood, half bowed, before him. She wasn’t shaking now. He’d noticed how hard she had fought within herself to still her external reactions to his news of her change in circumstance and had admired her self-control. It was almost as if she had an offended dignity about her rather than terror; an unusual reaction from a prisoner in the presence of a Folville.

He wondered if she’d been taught her letters. Most families didn’t waste their time teaching their womenfolk such things, but Mathilda of Twyford was clearly sharp and capable. With her mother gone, she’d run the household, and he imagined she did that job well. He saw that his family’s plan for this girl might work, but only if she kept that nerve. Otherwise… well, she wouldn’t be the first to die during his family’s quest to maintain their position.

Breaking the silence that had stretched out between them he said, ‘I recall you have questions for me. I can see your head jarring with them.’

‘If I may, my Lord?’

‘You may, although I should caution you, I may not choose to offer a reply.’

Mathilda licked her lips and ran her clammy palms down her grubby belted surcoat, which largely hid her brother’s leather hose, and flexed her numb bare toes.

‘Please, my Lord, who are you?’

This produced a bark of laughter, ‘You are well-mannered despite the indignity of being thrust, if only for a short while, into our cell. I am Robert de Folville, one of seven brothers of this manor.’

Mathilda curtsied, more out of natural impulse than any feelings of reverence towards this man, whom she knew for certain, had been party to at least one murder. ‘You are kin to my Lord Eustace, my Lord?’

‘Yes, girl, I am.’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘That worries you?’

‘He is a man I have been taught to fear, forgive my impudence, my Lord.’

He snorted. ‘I would rather have honest impudence than bluff and lies. So, you have been instructed by your father to be wary of us?’

‘Not only my father, sir.’ Abruptly worried that her boldness might place her family in more danger, Mathilda clamped her mouth shut. Seeing, however, that the Folville wasn’t cross, but had an expression of acceptance on his face, Mathilda braved a further question.

‘Where is my father, my Lord, and Matthew and Oswin, my brothers?’

Robert de Folville paused and, after a moment’s consideration, gestured for the servant boy to bring her a chair. Mathilda was glad to be allowed to sit down, but was puzzled at the equal status she was being afforded after her earlier abuse, as Folville sat next to her, leaning uncomfortably close to her slight, tense frame….

***

I never dreamt, back when I was a medieval history student at the University of Leicester, that I’d be a writer one day. Nor did I think I’d use all the research I did back then to create fictional adventures based on historical events.

I honestly can’t believe my luck.

BUY LINKS

The Outlaw’s Ransom – The Folville Chronicles Book One

The Winter’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Two

Edward’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Three

Outlaw Justice – The Folville Chronicles Book Four

The first three novel are also available as an e-boxsethttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Folville-Chronicles-Box-Set-Books-ebook/dp/B07V387V3K/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Folville+Chronicles+Box+set&qid=1572970631&sr=8-1

You can also find the Robin of Sherwood audio scripts I’ve written here – www.spitefulpuppet.com

Happy reading,

Jen x

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

I would like to wish you each and every one of you…

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Many many thanks for all your support over the last year.

I hope you are all having a truly peaceful – and safe – Christmas, with extra coffee and a mince pie or three.  Jenny xx

 

 

 

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