The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Currently Browsing: Historical fiction

A summer of events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jenny


Hibiscus Tea and Temples: Wind Across the Nile

Today I’m delighted to welcome Chrissie Parker to my blog. I urge you to read this fascinating post all about her love of Egypt- a passion which lead her to write the novel, Wind Across the Nile.

Why not pull up a chair and have a read?

Over to you Chrissie…

I’ve a passion for ancient history, especially when it relates to Egypt. I try to impart to people what an amazing place it is but words never seem to wholly do it justice, I always say, the only way to learn about a country is to go and see it for yourself. Tourism makes up a large percentage of Egypt’s income and in recent years tourist numbers have been lower than normal due to a variety of reasons.

When I talk about Egypt I’m aware of its struggles as a country and the challenges it faces daily, but I’m more aware of what a truly incredible place it is to explore. Egypt’s filled with endless culture and history and modern day life sits neatly alongside ancient sites and monuments that are thousands of years old. Contrary to some reports Egyptian’s are friendly, accommodating people who will welcome you with open arms and make you feel at home, and now couldn’t be a better time to visit. Due to recent low tourist numbers, some sites that would usually be crowded and sometimes difficult to see, have been relatively quiet, giving visitors the chance to spend more time there and really absorb their surroundings, making them feel as though they’re the first people to have stepped into that temple or tomb for generations.

We all know about the famous sites such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, but there are many more wonderful places to see in Egypt. There’s the fantastic mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Luxor, that has some of the best coloured reliefs and accounts of Egyptian life I’ve ever seen. The temple of Isis at Philae is a beautiful temple that only stands today thanks to rescue work undertaken many years ago by UNESCO that saved it from flooding and being lost forever. If you have the time you could journey to the edge of Egypt itself to gaze upon the awe inspiring Abu Simbel, home to two temples built by the greatest of Egyptian rulers, Ramses II. It’s a sight that just takes your breath away and leaves you wanting more. The list is just endless, and with so many temples, tombs and other ancient sites spread throughout the country, visitors are spoilt for choice.

Egypt also has many museums that house its huge collection of ancient treasures. The largest is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, (which is now in the process of moving to the Giza Plateau under the new name of the Grand Egyptian Museum) it contains over a hundred thousand artefacts from across Egypt as well as the impressive collection from Tutankhamun’s tomb, and items belonging to the heretic King Akenaten. If, like me, you have a penchant for the more gory side of Egyptian life you can gaze upon a well preserved collection of mummified bodies of Royalty past in the well laid out mummy room. In Luxor there are two museums, the aptly named Luxor Museum housing a multitude of treasures discovered during excavations in Luxor and Karnak, and the Mummification Museum where every item is dedicated to the ancient art of preserving the dead for the afterlife, including tools and mummies.

If you get bored with the history, and I promise you won’t, you could meander your way through the many shopping streets and bazaars bartering for some interesting souvenirs, or beautiful hand crafted goods, whilst accepting a friendly stall-holders hospitality of a glass of hibiscus tea. If this isn’t to your taste, the luxurious Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor is an ideal place to have a break for a relaxing lunch overlooking the Nile. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Egypt, whether you choose to visit Cairo, Luxor, or venture further south to Aswan. You could even combine all three by leisurely cruising down the Nile on a Dahabiyya.

So, when considering your next holiday, why not try Egypt? There’s more to see and do than you could ever fit into one visit, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms and feel at home in a country that was just made to be discovered. If that hasn’t quite persuaded you yet then just imagine stepping onto a felucca to sail serenely along the river Nile as the beauty of Egyptian life passes you, whilst the sun slowly sets to leave you with nothing more than a bright shining moon and twinkling stars to guide you gently back to shore.

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Blurb for Wind Across the Nile

Can she survive where her ancestors failed?
Suffering with grief after the tragic death of her family, Cora Thomas flees to Egypt, desperate to escape the overwhelming loss.
In Luxor, she meets gruff Egyptologist Nick Foster who wants little to do with her, and his employee Sam, who instantly becomes a much sought-after friend.
As she settles into life along the Nile, discovering the country’s vast history and culture, Cora learns about the contents of an old diary discovered in her parents’ home. As the diary’s story unfolds, it reveals hardship, love, tragedy and a potentially life-threatening family feud spanning generations.

From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable family bonds, adversity and self-preservation.

Buy links:

Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wind-Across-Nile-Chrissie-Parker-ebook/dp/B07GC1WTPT/ref

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/191640250X/ref

 

Bio

Chrissie lives in Devon, UK, with her husband. She has published six books including Integrate and Temperance (books one and two of The Moon Series), Among the Olive Groves, Nabataea and The Secrets, a collection of Poems and Short Stories. Wind Across the Nile is her sixth book. Other work includes articles for the Bristolian, The Huffington Post and The Artist Unleashed. Chrissie also writes regularly for the Zakynthos Informer. Chrissie’s poem Maisie was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013. In 2016 Among the Olive Groves won an historical fiction award in the Summer Indie Book Awards. Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two Egyptology courses and an Archaeological Techniques course with Exeter University.

To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com

Social Media links:

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ChrissieParkerAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Chrissie_author

Blog – https://chrissieparkerauthor.wordpress.com

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

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/ChrissieAuthor/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27035030-chrissie-parker

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Many thanks Chrissie. fantastic blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 


Summer Wedding: Romancing Robin Hood

Summer has arrived in the UK with style this year! What better time for a wedding?

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can also read about within this same novel)

The problem is that Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…

Extract from Romancing Robin Hood

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

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

RH- RoS 2

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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Happy reading,

Jenny x


Opening Lines: Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullmann

It’s Thursday! That means ‘Opening Lines’ day is upon us. This week I’m handing over to Catherine Kullmann to share the first 500 words of her Regency period novel, Perception and illusion.

Over to you Catherine…

Thank you for hosting me on Opening Lines, Jenny. About me, very briefly; I was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, I moved to Germany where I lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. I am married and have three adult sons and two grandchildren.

It was only after I took early retirement that I was able to fulfil my long-cherished ambition to write fiction. My books are set in the extended Regency period, a fascinating time when the foundations of our modern world were laid but also when male/female double standards reigned supreme. Married women had literally no rights, their very being or legal existence being suspended during marriage. Historical fiction opens a window to the past that helps us understand and value the present and I particularly enjoy the challenge of having my characters behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to today’s readers.

My novels are generally triggered by “what if?”, “what next?”, or “what happened then?” I always want to know what comes after the first happy end. Perception & Illusion begins with a classic damsel in destress scenario. But what happens when two people who hardly know each other marry? Falling in love is easy; building a trusting, true relationship is not so simple, especially when life, as it tends to, gets in the way of love.

Matrimonial Maps charting the perils and pitfalls of the course of true love were popular in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I have taken the chapter headings for Perception & Illusion from the legend of a nineteenth century matrimonial map published in Ireland by lithographers Callaghan Bros. Cork. They throw an interesting light on how ‘inclination’ and ‘amour’ were viewed at the time.

Perception & Illusion: Does a fairy-tale ending always guarantee Happy Ever After?

England 1814: Brought up by her late grandparents after the death of her mother, Lallie Grey is unaware that she is their heiress. When her father realises that he will soon lose control of his daughter’s income, he conspires to marry her off to his crony, Frederick Malvin in exchange for a share of her capital. But Lallie has fallen in love with Hugo Tamrisk, heir to one of the oldest titles in England. When Hugo not only comes to her aid as she flees the arranged marriage, but later proposes to her, all Lallie’s dreams have come true. She readily agrees to marry him at once.

But past events casts long shadows. Hugo resents the interest his three elder sisters take in his new wife and thinks they have turned her against him. And then there is his former mistress, Sabina, Lady Albright. As Lallie finds her feet in the ton, the newly-weds are caught up in a comedy of errors that threatens their future happiness. She begins to wonder if he has regrets and he cannot understand her new reserve. A perfect storm of confusion and misunderstanding leads to a final rupture when Lallie feels she has no choice but to leave. Can Hugo win her back? Will there be a second, real happy end for them?

First 500 words of Perception & Illusion

The Great Ocean of Love represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass.

Lallie knew the instant she set foot in the house that her father was making one of his rare visits to Alwood. It was difficult to define what had changed. The house was quieter, almost unnaturally so and the atmosphere was charged with a peculiar tension.

“Excuse me, Miss Grey.”

John, their only footman, noiselessly closed the door to the servants’ quarters and carefully steadied a tray of decanters and glasses before carrying it to the library. He wore his best livery. Balancing the tray on one hand, he slowly turned the door knob so that it didn’t squeak. Everyone knew that Mr Grey would not tolerate anything less than perfection and more than one servant had been turned off immediately for failing to meet his standards.

It was as if he needed to assert his position as head of the household, despite the fact that he was the most distant of husbands and fathers, Lallie reflected as she hurried to the schoolroom. Her stepmother was not inclined to stand on ceremony at home, but her father would expect his younger children to make a formal visit to the drawing-room before dinner.

Her half-brother James, who was entertaining his younger sisters with stories of his prowess at cricket during the recent summer half, stood awkwardly at her entrance. He had shot up since they had last seen him and was not yet comfortable in this new body.

“Lallie,” he reddened at his new deep tone, “will you help me later with my neckcloth? You know how my father is.”

She smiled warmly at him. “Of course I will. Beatrice and Eleanor, come with me now, if you please. Once you are ready, you may sit quietly in my room while I change my gown. I’ll come to you then, James and we may all go down together.”

 

Robert Grey was a slim gentleman of medium height, his clothes the epitome of restrained perfection. His curly fair hair was clipped close and brushed forward a la Caesar, a modish style that suggested a nimbus of laurel leaves crowning his high forehead. The head so embellished was habitually cocked a little to one side while the faint curve to his lips spoke of a jest that only he could appreciate.

“Good God,” he said lightly, when his son followed his sisters into the drawing-room. “What have we here? A hobbledehoy?”

“Dear James has grown so much, hasn’t he?” Mrs Grey said fondly, ignoring the boy’s furious blush. “It won’t be long before he’s looking down on you, Robert. He takes after my father, of course.”

Lallie bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself smiling at her father’s petulant expression but something must have betrayed her inner amusement and his gaze swung to her.

“I trust you have been behaving yourself, miss.”

He might have been addressing a recalcitrant…

***

Perception & Illusion is available worldwide from Amazon as eBook and paperback, and is free on Kindle Unlimited.  https://nrnk.co/a/B06XRJ2TF9 

You can find out more about me and my other books, The Murmur of Masks and A Suggestion of Scandal on my website www.catherinekullmann.com . There you can view the Matrimonial Map referred to above and, in My Scrapbook, discover historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency. My Facebook author page is fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor 

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Thanks Catherine. Sounds great!

Don’t forget to come back next week to rad 500 words from Jacqueline Evans.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


The Folville Chronicles: Bakewell Connection

I have recently returned from a family holiday to the Peak District. The area, more or less in the middle of England, is one of my favourite places to go.

With moors, mountains, caves, forests and stunning villages, I make sure I visit as often as I can. It isn’t only the geography and geology that appeal however- but the history. In particular the fourteenth century background to the Bakewell area of Derbyshire. Why? Well…if I mentioned the Coterel family, regular readers of this blog might understand.

James, John, Nicholas and Laurence Coterel formed a notorious criminal family who operated in and around Bakewell in the 1320’s and 1330’s. They were powerful men. Nicholas and James even worked for the Queen of England for a while- but more about that when the next ‘The Folville Chronicles’ novel comes out at Christmas….

At the current time I am only 10,000 words (ish) from completing writing Book 3 of The Folville Chronicles- Edward’s Outlaw. Continuing the story of Mathilda of Twyford and her relationship with the criminally connected Folville family of Leicestershire, Edwards’ Outlaw will take us into Rockingham castle, (Leicestershire). However, this doesn’t mean I can’t start to look ahead to Book 4 (title as yet unknown) and another story location- and that is precisely what I was doing as I enjoyed the sunshine and walking terrain of the Peaks last week.

I have always known that, like in The Outlaw’s Ransom, Mathilda and her Folville family would be spending some time in Derbyshire during Book 4- especially around the Bakewell area where a foul deed will require Mathilda’s special brand of detective abilities- and the Folvilles’ unique take on legal justice…

Concentrating on a joint crime (from the historical record) the Folvilles and the Coterel brothers are about to commence a long planned, and very daring venture- but is it a crime?

It was as I was cycling along the Monsal Trail between Buxton and Bakewell that I realised where this ‘crime’ will take place…and what a beautiful place it still is…

Obviously I’m not going to reveal any more about the plot yet. For a start, I don’t want to ruin it- plus, I haven’t worked it all out yet!!

One of the highlights of my Peak District holiday, was when I stood on Bakewell bridge and looked across into the town. As I stood there, watching the bustle of people go by I couldn’t help but think of Mathilda when she was sent there by Robert de Folville in The Outlaw’s Ransom. It was the furthest she had ever strayed from her home in Twyford, Leicestershire, and led to an adventure and mystery that would change her life forever.

Happy reading!

Jennifer x


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