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

Category: Historical fiction Page 1 of 20

FREE WEEKEND: The Outlaw’s Ransom

FREE WEEKEND!!

17th – 19th June

From today until midday on Sunday, you can pick up the e-version of the first novel in The Folville Chronicles – The Outlaw’s Ransom – for FREE on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com!

(My thanks to Hello Books for their assistance with this promotion)

BLURB

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she must prove her worth in order to win her freedom. With her life in the hands of the most infamous men in England, 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…

Based on the real crimes of the Folville brothers – who operated in the Midlands of England in the 1320’s and 1330’s – The Folville Chronicles are murder mystery and crime novels – which get steadily longer and darker as each book goes on. Seen through the eyes of Mathilda of Twyford – these stories have been blessed with some fabulous reviews,  including:

I was utterly enthralled by this fabulous book. Meticulous historical detail given to the reader with a beautifully light touch. The romance is heart stopping, the action compelling. Fabulous!”  Victoria Dowd (Bestselling crime writer)

What a lovely way to spend Easter Sunday, curled up under my blanket and being whisked back in time. Mathilda is a woman who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and reveals a truth about a mystery, knowing it may cost her dearly. I truly felt as though I was at the market with her and also felt the soreness from being on a horse. A really good tale with a happy ending. Historic books are ones I love to read and I was so glad I picked this up!” Elly Ellis (Bestselling crime writer)

If you enjoy The Outlaw’s Ransom, you can find the other 3 books in the series here –

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

I hope you enjoy this medieval crime/mystery!

Happy FREE reading,

Jennifer. x

PS – You can fine more free crime/mystery novels here – https://hellobooks.com/mystery

Opening Lines: The Outlaw’s Ransom

As I’m fresh (okay, not fresh – more like totally knackered with no voice), from the latest Hooded Man event – celebrating all things Robin of Sherwood – it seems fitting to share the opening lines from The Outlaw’s Ransom. This – the first in #TheFolvilleChronicles – was inspired by my love of the show.

 

Here’s the blurb to The Outlaw’s Ransom-

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

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

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

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

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

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

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

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

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

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

Kindle-

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

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

Paperback-

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

The Reluctant Investigator: Edward’s Outlaw

In the first two novels of the series, The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw, Mathilda of Twyford, found herself thrust into situations where she had to get to the bottom of a crime simply to stay alive. However, in book three, Edward’s Outlaw, Mathilda’s reputation for solving mysteries sees her being asked to solve a murder by the sheriff…and she is in no position to say no…

Blurb

January 1330: England is awash with corruption. King Edward III has finally claimed the crown from his scheming mother, Queen Isabella, and is determined to clean up his kingdom.

Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault, and her special advisor ‑ a man who knows the noble felons of England very well ‑ King Edward sends word to Roger Wennesley of Leicestershire, with orders to arrest the notorious Folville brothers… including the newly married Robert de Folville.

Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left than a maid is found murdered. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was the maid really the target ‑ or is Mathilda’s life in danger?

Asked to investigate by the county sheriff in exchange for him slowing the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder… including a web of deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

The third thrilling instalment in Jennifer Ash’s The Folville Chronicles series.

***

Mathilda has only been married to Robert de Folville for three days, and already trouble has coming knocking at door of their home; Ashby Folville manor, Leicestershire. A warrant for the brother’s arrest sends Mathilda alone into Rockingham Castle for her own safety. Under the protection of its constable, Robert de Vere, she shelters within the castle while her husband and his brothers are on the run.

Mathilda doesn’t have time to worry about Robert for long, for within only a few days a young girl is dead and the sheriff thrusts the role of detective upon her.

Why would anyone here believe her, even if she did find the killer? The word of a woman, even one who has married into one of the most notorious households in England, is not worth much without substantial evidence. And what if she gets it wrong and accuses the wrong person? Mathilda’s terrified that she might send the wrong person to the gallows.

The pressure on Mathilda to succeed becomes even greater when she begins to wonder if Agnes, the murdered maid, was the intended victim after all. The more Mathilda thinks about it, the more she sees how easy it would have been for the killer to mistake the dead girl for her…Was Mathilda the intended target after all?

Extract

Blood hammered in Mathilda’s ears. She had tracked down killers in the past, but never by appointment. The first time had been unintentional, a task she’d stumbled upon to save her father’s honour and her freedom. The second had come with an even higher price tag. The cost of failure would have been her life.

Now, these previous successes had earned her a third attempt, and Mathilda doubted she was up to the task. In Ashby Folville she had Sarah and Adam to back her up, not to mention Robert and his brothers. Here, she was alone but for Daniel, who’d already had a myriad of household duties heaped upon him.

Would her desire to find justice for Agnes, and her equally strong curiosity to uncover what was going on in the castle, be enough to solve the crime. Or crimes?

Whatever her misgivings, Mathilda’s starting point was clear. The sheriff and his associates had not yet left the castle. She wanted to talk to each of them privately. The constable had promised her the freedom of the castle while he’d had little choice but to agree, but would he continue to extend that offer once Wennesley and his comrades had gone to recommence the search for her husband.

Not sure if she was heartened or worried by Sheriff Ingram’s claim that she was unstoppable in her pursuit of felons, Mathilda wiped away the perspiration from her palms.

As she walked towards de Vere’s rooms, Mathilda forced herself to focus. Even if the arresting party remained with the constable, that didn’t mean they would be willing to answer her questions. After all, they hadn’t been there when Agnes had died, yet Mathilda couldn’t shift the uneasy feeling that it was all connected somehow. She had no logical reason for that suspicion beyond the coincidence of Isabella’s abrupt reappearance and the night-time movements of a tall, short-haired man who could have been either of the younger men on the warrant party… or someone else entirely….

***

Edwards’ Outlaw can be read as a standalone book, or as part of The Folville Chronicles.

If you’d like to read Edward’s Outlaw, – or any of The Folville Chronicles, they are available in eBook format and paperback from all good reatilers, including…

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

Focus on: The Winter Outlaw

Let’s focus on…

The Winter Outlaw,

Book Two of The Folville Chronicles

Blurb

1329: It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

After an attack on the household’s trusted housekeeper, it falls to Mathilda to work out who can be trusted and who can’t… With the Folvilles’ past about to trip them up, it’s going to take a level head and extreme bravery if Mathilda and Robert are ever going to make it to their Winter Solstice wedding.

The Winter Outlaw can be read as a standalone novel or as the sequel to The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Available from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Here’s a few of the lovely things my readers have aid about The Winter Outlaw,

“Drew me right in and I couldn’t put it down. I was surprised how much bigger this book was compared to the previous one, big bonus. A captivating story that kept me on my toes until the very end.” Amazon

“So good. I await the third book.” Amazon 

‘Great read, looking forward to reading the sequel :-)’ Amazon

“Best work of historical fiction I’ve ever read” Goodreads

Focus on: The Outlaw’s Ransom

Let’s focus on: The Outlaw’s Ransom.

The first in an exciting historical crime series, set in fourteenth century England.

Book One of The Folville Chronicles

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

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

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

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

Available as an ebook or paperback from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Here are just a few of the lovely reviews for Mathilda’s first story…

“Bought it last night and finished at 2am in the morning! I had already read “Romancing Robin Hood” and liked Mathilda, so I was curious what this book would be like. Many aspects of the story were already in the other book but this is a beautiful standalone and I didn’t mind rereading parts of the story. I’m glad this is a series by the looks of it and hope the next one will be out soon. I particularly like that the women are confident but still believable characters within the medieval background. No “Kardashians in costumes” but convincing dialogues and scene descriptions. Well done!” Amazon

“I first read this story when it appeared in a lesser form as a ‘story within a story’. (Romancing Robin Hood)
I have really enjoyed reading the expanded version – complete with historical references.
Mathilda is kidnapped by local highborn landowners/outlaws as a way of ensuring her family repay a loan. Too clever for her own good she soon realises that they wish to use her to pass messages to another family – who would ever think to question a young lady, but is very quickly embroiled in the murder of a local business man….A very cleverly written medieval who dunnit.” Goodreads

“An enjoyable read with credible characters and a pacey plot. Good scene setting, I felt like I was back in medieval times. Looking forward to the next book in the series.” Amazon

“What a lovely way to spend Easter Sunday, curled up under my blanket and being whisked back in time. Mathilda is a woman who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and reveals a truth about a mystery, knowing it may cost her dearly. I truly felt as though I was at the market with her and also felt the soreness from being on a horse. A really good tale with a happy ending. Historic books are ones I love to read and I was so glad I picked this up!” Amazon 

“I raced through The Outlaws Ransom in just a couple of sittings, it was so satisfyingly fast-paced that I found with each chapter it was a case of ‘just one more’. Mathilda is a fabulous protagonist and seemed to me to be a fitting heroine for the times. The historical accuracy and details peppered throughout the book helped the story come alive in a most enjoyable way. The Folville family is fascinating, both dastardly and multi-layered, the interaction between the brothers engaging and very human. I am greatly looking forward to the next instalment in this series.” Amazon

“An enjoyable read with credible characters and a pacey plot. Good scene setting, I felt like I was back in medieval times. Looking forward to the next book in the series.” Amazon

Opening Lines with Rachel Brimble: A Very Modern Marriage

Opening Lines time is with us once again, and this week I’m delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, Rachel Brimble, to share the first 500 words from her latest historical romance/saga,

A Very Modern Marriage.

Over to you, Rachel…

Hi Jenny!

Thank you for having me back on your blog and giving me the chance to share the Opening Lines of my latest release A Very Modern Marriage.

This is the final instalment in the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy (all the books can be read stand alone) and tells Octavia’s story. She is one of the three women who live and work together in a brothel situated in the backstreets of the Victorian city of Bath.

In books 1 & 2 (A Widow’s Vow & Trouble For The Leading Lady), we saw Louisa and Nancy struggling to find their true life purpose while facing the world with an unshakeable determination to survive. The same is now true of Octavia.

As her friends’ lives change, Octavia realises hers must too and decides that drastic action is necessary…whatever that might mean!

BLURB:

He needs a wife…
Manchester industrialist William Rose was a poor lad from the slums who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, but in order to achieve his greatest ambitions he must become the epitome of Victorian respectability: a family man.

She has a plan…
But the only woman who’s caught his eye is sophisticated beauty Octavia Marshall, one of the notorious ladies of Carson Street. Though she was once born to great wealth and privilege, she’s hardly respectable, but she’s determined to invest her hard-earned fortune in Mr Rose’s mills and forge a new life as an entirely proper businesswoman.

They strike a deal that promises them both what they desire the most, but William’s a fool if he thinks Octavia will be a conventional married woman, and she’s very much mistaken if she thinks the lives they once led won’t follow them wherever they go.

In the third instalment of Rachel Brimble’s exciting Victorian saga series, The Ladies of Carson Street will open the doors on a thoroughly modern marriage – and William is about to get a lot more than he bargained for…

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter 1

Octavia Marshall blinked back tears as her newly married best friend stood alongside her husband outside the green arched door of Bath’s town hall. As Nancy and Francis were showered in rose petals, Octavia’s lips trembled under the strain of her forced smile, anxiety for her uncertain future tightening her chest.

She despised her selfishness. Nothing but her friends’ happiness should be at the forefront of her mind today, but she could not stop fretting about what this wedding meant for the brothel on Carson Street – for her – now that Nancy, who had worked alongside her for so long, was respectably married.

The house meant everything to Octavia. Since her harsh separation from her father several years before, she had gone from being a privileged young girl living in a beautiful home, to homeless and hawking herself on the streets. Then Louisa Hill, the owner of the Carson Street house, had found her – saved her – and their home and workplace became Octavia’s haven, her sanctuary – the people living with her there, her saving grace.

Now she feared if the brothel collapsed, she would too.

Why had she allowed herself to believe it would be her, Nancy and Louisa, side by side against the world for as long as they could work? Louisa had fallen in love with Jacob, their doorman and all-round protector, over a year before. And now Nancy was wed. Yet, the loss of Louisa’s heart to Jacob had not affected Octavia as much as Nancy’s falling in love with Francis. After all, as madam and owner of the house, it was inevitable Louisa would come to distance herself from the practicalities of the brothel in time.

But with Nancy’s wedding came her permanent departure from the house and a ticking clock in Octavia’s mind. It was only a matter of time before Louisa wanted to start a family and then the Carson Street house would close for good.

Taking a deep breath, Octavia tried her best to shake off her melancholy and walked closer to her friends. She pressed a firm kiss to Nancy’s cheek. ‘You look beautiful, darling. Absolutely beautiful.’

‘Thank you.’ Nancy’s cheeks flushed with happiness and her auburn hair, speckled with white flower buds, gleamed beneath her ivory veil. ‘I can’t quite believe a good-time girl like me is actually married.’

‘Married and expecting,’ Octavia said, as she nodded towards Nancy’s slightly curved stomach. ‘All too soon there will be a tiny Nancy or Francis running around and then where will you be?’

Nancy laughed. ‘As happy as a pig in sh—’

‘Um, darling…’ Francis raised his eyebrows. ‘Shall we head to the White Hart before your happiness bursts forth in a barrage of unfettered expletives?’

‘It’s too late to start looking down your nose at me now, Francis Carlyle,’ Nancy sniffed, her gaze soft with love even as she feigned a scowl at her new husband. ‘Like it or lump it, I’m yours for the rest of our lives. Unfettered expletives and…’

***

You can buy your copy of A Very Modern Marriage here: https://geni.us/xa9ln5

BIO:

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). In January 2022, she signed a contract with the Wild Rose Press for the first book in a brand new series set in past British Royal courts.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Website: https://bit.ly/3wH7HQs

Twitter: https://bit.ly/3AQvK0A

Facebook: https://bit.ly/3i49GZ3

Instagram: https://bit.ly/3lTQZbF

Many thanks for your wonderful Opening Lines, Rachel,

Happy Reading,

Jenny x

The Sælvatici: The Influence of Robin Hood with Steven C. Davis

Today, I am delighted to welcome fellow writer and Robin Hood enthusiast, Steven Davis, to talk about his outlaw inspired work, The Sælvatici.

Over to you Steven…

Thanks to Jenny for giving me this opportunity to talk about ‘The Sælvatici’, and Jon Hartless for connecting us.

I’ve always been a Robin Hood fan, even before the seminal series ‘Robin of Sherwood’ (RoS) was broadcast in the 80s. I’ve watched all the Robin Hood films I could find, including a rare and slightly bizarre Russian take on the character (which may be ‘The Arrows of Robin Hood’).

Although I like tales of King Arthur, even from an early age I was more interested in RH as they were a hero of the people, as opposed to the tales of knights and lords that held nowhere near the same interest for me.

I only got to see the third series of RoS as we’d not had a television prior to that – and I was hooked. When I was old enough, I picked up first the videos and then the DVDs. I’ve still only watched the final episode with Michael Praed three times – it’s incredibly well written and still heart-breaking. But what an ending it is – the hero giving his life so that their comrades escape to continue the fight. And then the hook – but I hope you’re already aware of that.

Fast forward to the years 2000 – 2001. I wrote a retelling of the myth cycle, called ‘The Hooded’, heavily influenced by RoS. It was darker and bloodier than RoS, with the heroes more often than not failing or getting tricked. It was intended as a stand-alone, a one-off, but at the end I sent the characters off in different directions so I could bring them back (albeit with the obligatory death of one of the “gang” members). But I wasn’t happy with it – I felt it too episodic and I couldn’t get my head into the central character.

And so nothing happened for a while, and I carried on writing other things.

Fast forwards to 2016. I’d recently joined the Folk Horror Revival group in fb and there were some very interesting ideas in there (and still are – seriously, if you’re not a member, consider joining it if you’re interested in myths and legends, bizarre occurrences, The Wicker Man, that sort of thing). Also of inspiration at the time (and still, now) were bands like The Hare and the Moon and The Stone Tapes, both of whom have echoes of 70s psychedelic and slightly terrifying TV shows in their music.

So I started writing the cycle again, but this time I started digging in to the meat of the characters as well. The character of Little John had always seemed like a poor joke, one that they’d get annoyed with very quickly – “he’s called Little because he’s tall”. So I thought, why not, instead, John of Hathersage. Except, Hathersage wasn’t called Hathersage in that era – a closer approximation is Hereseige. So “Little John” became “Hereseige John”, or, more often, simply Hereseige. I applied the same kind of re-imagining with some research to all of the characters and they were all set – and, indeed, the first of fifteen chapters of that retelling, which includes quite a bit of scene/mood/flavour setting, was written and amounted to 24k words. But, as before, I couldn’t get my head around the Robin character, nor could I find a way to re-interpret him that I was happy with.

A slight diversion now. One of my childhood favourite books was the retelling of the Robin Hood myth cycle that was illustrated by Victor Ambrus (I’m sure he later went on to Time Team as their resident artist). It contains various stories and characters that weren’t picked up on in RoS or subsequent interpretations (more later). [Robin Hood: His Life and Legend by Bernard Miles.]

Historical side note – Nottingham wasn’t previously called Nottingham, I believe. It began with an S, which was simply knocked off to become Nottingham. I’ve left it as Nottingham.

As part of the folk-horror era retelling of Robin Hood, I’d written a self-contained piece called ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’ which was the grand final showdown between the Robin character and the Sheriff of Nottingham and the forces of authority that he’d assembled. Whilst the story stalled again, I gave a couple of live performances of it at the Montol festival down in Cornwall (with thanks to Gurdybird for arranging/getting me performance space for that).

Whilst the novel had stalled, I’d started a secret fb group and was doing musical podcast-things for that whilst dreaming of turning into a multi-media thing. Also, around that time, I got Feline & Strange to record some clips and some stills (which I’m still using – Feline does great manic laughter).

Fast forwards once again to the start of the plague years and I started collecting some of the scraps to put together something as a collection of “found tales” – there was far too much ‘good stuff’ written and abandoned to not do something with it. From an old book of poetry that I’d loved, I remembered reading some Anglo-Saxon verse and how it was alliterative as opposed to rhyming, and found that a useful tool to add in for the first part.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ was beginning to take shape, intended to set the scene, set in Sherwood or Sherewode as characters called it, depending on their background/race. I wanted it to echo our times as much as possible, shifting in focus slightly to become a battle ground between Norse and Norman, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic and each group vying for power or independence. I brought in religious conflict, with the followers of “The Christ of the East” waging war on the Pagans; and the followers of Cernunnos fighting off the encroaching supporters of Ullr and Wōden.

Except. One thing I’d never quite understood from RoS was why they used Herne as a figure when he was based in Windsor Great Park. So I decided to use Cernunnos instead – but I didn’t. Deliberately. I felt the character/ figure too well known, and so the beloved Forest Lord is slain. However. Eventually, the genius loci arises, but the slaying of a stag is what brings them into being, and thus is the mad god/Stag daughter Caerne brought into existence – a woman, part god, part stag, whose father has been slaughtered though she was born of stag; a child without parents but with powers and capabilities, driven mad by her self-assumed responsibilities and with no one to turn to for explanations or help.

Rather than use the existing tales as an arc, I decided to have the emphasis of the three main novels (being written at the moment) as the attempt of a religious zealot to build, not just a cathedral, but a city, dedicated to ‘The Christ of the East’ in the heart of Sherwood, thereby stamping out Paganism and killing any Anglo-Saxons and Celts who didn’t simply fall down and worship their god.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work that way.

And then one day, a few months ago, I was randomly trawling fb (it’s called research) and I saw a post from a musician friend offering her services as a voice-over artist (Joanna Swan, The Familiars). I remembered the ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’ short piece and that translated into a one-woman radio play incredibly well. And voila, suddenly it was no longer just a text-based world, but there also existed now an audio drama as part of the world. In a satisfying connection, Joanna is also a RoS fan.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ was published and has earned some excellent reviews and then another idea came to me, not for a novel, but for a short story; in truth, there will be a number of short stories, each concentrating on only a character or two, so they can be explored in different ways to the novels. That idea was ‘Barrow witch’ – a representative of Wōden, one of his ravens made human, encounters a man who is a trained killer; all would be over for her, but the encounter takes place in front of a barrow where a wise-woman was buried alive. A storm ensues, and things get – interesting. It’s available on Audible as well and is an incredible journey – Joanna has already received a five-star review for it on Audible, and rightly so.

Artwork for both ‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ and ‘Barrow witch’ is by the fantastic John Chadwick.

In terms of inspiration, I should also mention ‘The Black Meadow’ (created by Chris Lambert) and ‘Hopeless, Maine’, (created by Tom and Nimue Brown and others). And the ‘Avebury’ album by The Stone Tapes. All three are worth exploring further.

What exists/ the arc of the Sælvatici:

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ is the place to start, then ‘Barrow witch’ and finally ‘Rise of the Sælvatici’. When the three ‘Hurnungaz’ novels are written, they’ll take place after ‘Lore’, with ‘Rise’ closing the tale.

What’s next:

‘Hurnungaz’, the first of three novels specifically dealing with the Robin Hood character and their crew is currently being written.

‘The Rolling of the Stones’ a self-contained short story, featuring two minor characters and influenced by Peter Lagan’s interpretations of the song of the same name, is currently being written.

‘Lore of the Sælvatici’ is currently being turned into a one-woman radio play, again voiced by Joanna Swan. Intro/theme music has already been created by William Westwater (Dark Sinfonia) and background luting will be provided by Peter Lagan (Songs of Blood and Bone).

At some point, given how many musical artists have already contributed, inspired or offered their songs as inspirations for short stories (Songs of Blood and Bone, Gurdybird and Bleeding Raven have all inspired ideas for short stories) there will be an album (Joanna has also recorded a very impressive chant, loosely based around one of the “found tales” from ‘Lore of the Sælvatici’). This will be for charity.

‘Legends of the Sælvatici’, an anthology of tales either set in ‘Hurnungaz’ or alternative times, or in the current day, is intended to be announced in 2023 with the aim of publishing in 2024, although two pieces by outside contributors have already been accepted for it.

Where to find them:

You can search Amazon for the books and Kindles under my name (Steven C. Davis) and Audible for the two radio plays that are available so far. Signed editions of ‘Lore’ are also available via my Etsy shop – search Etsy for ‘Tenebrous Texts’.

There is also a secret but not-really secret group on fb – just search for ‘The Sælvatici’ and request admission – there’s advance notice on when things are going on, links to audio-podcasts with music that inspires me to write, art, images, and more stuff going on. At some point, there will also be a better website than currently exists to collect everything together properly.

Bio

Steven C. Davis is the author of ‘The Bookshop between the Worlds’ pair of alternate-Earth novels, ‘The Lore of the Sælvatici’, part of a folk-horror retelling of the Robin Hood mythos, ‘Less than Human’, the first of a non-paranormal paranormal romance series, and co-author, with S. J. Stewart, of ‘The Heart’s Cog’ series of NSFW action-adventure novels.

They are the creative director of ‘Tenebrous Texts’ through whom they have also published works from Stu Tovell and Jon Hartless, and have recently signed on Cat Randle.

They are the organiser of the ‘Raising Steam’ festivals and the ‘Raising Steam’ downloads – all in aid of their chosen charity, New Futures Nepal, of whom they are a trustee. The ‘Raising Steam’ downloads are a global phenomenon, gathering Steampunk and alternative independent and unsigned musical artists from the UK and around the globe.

They are the host of the Gothic Alternative Steampunk and Progressive (GASP) radio show which goes out every Thursday at 8pm (UK time). GASP plays music without borders and is deliberately eclectic, playing the best in unsigned and independent regardless of genre.

Links, etc.

Website: https://tenebrousarchives.weebly.com/

Sælvatici radio plays on Audible:

https://www.audible.co.uk/search?keywords=steven+c+davis&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TenebrousTexts/

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.co.uk/s?k=the+S%C3%A6lvatici&i=stripbooks&crid=2JYOMKW9OG53P&sprefix=the+s%C3%A6lvatici%2Cstripbooks%2C96&ref=nb_sb_noss

Many thanks to Steven today for sharing a little about his writing world.

Happy reading, Jenny x

 

Happy Birthday Outlaw Justice

Somehow, it is a whole year since the fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles was published!

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

Outlaw Justice

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim in The Outlaw’s Ransom- Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Nanny’s Secret

This week’s Opening Lines welcomes back the fabulous, Jan Baynham, with her brand new novel, Her Nanny’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

‘Her Nanny’s Secret’ is my third novel. It has all the features which are becoming my trademark – a dual timeline, contrasting locations, family secrets and forbidden love. In this book, there is also the theme of social class and the role of women.

The inspiration for the story came to me through a conversation with my cousin after my aunt’s funeral which opened with the words, “You know you could have been a Thomas not an Evans, don’t you? I can tell you now mum’s gone…” Puzzled, I asked her to explain. Apparently, my grandfather was the illegitimate son of a female groom and a wealthy landowner who owned the stables where she worked. The ‘what-ifs’ started in my head. What if you fell for someone from a different social class? What if you had to keep it a secret from everyone close to you for fear of losing your home and your family’s livelihood? I set my story in 1941 when war was raging in Europe.

The novel takes place in two locations I know well. Rural mid-Wales where I was born and grew up was relatively untouched by the horrors of actual war action but for the families whose husbands, lovers and sons died in active service, the grief and sense of loss was very real. I tried to create images of what it would have been like living in a small rural village surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape during wartime and then again in 1963. In contrast, my character, Odile, lived in occupied Northern France, playing an important role in the French Résistance in 1943. When Annie and Clara visit the same area twenty years later in order to find answers, I was able to draw on what I’d experienced on annual family holidays to France and years of hosting children and adults from our twin-town to try to give authenticity. I hope I’ve done justice to the country I love, its people, culture and language.

***

BLURB

How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?
It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.
There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.
It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …

FIRST 500 WORDS

June 1943, Normandy

At the end of the lane, the stone farmhouse appeared even greyer under the slate-coloured sky. The trees were laden with rain that had now stopped, and everywhere looked as bleak as Odile Lefèvre felt. It had been an exasperating morning. She’d collected the brochures as she’d been directed, but there’d been Germans everywhere. Men in grey uniforms on every corner of Ville de Roi, huddled together smoking their strong cigarettes, laughing and joking whilst her country men were starving and being murdered. When she’d caught the scent of the smoke from the Gauloises cigarettes, she’d shuddered in horror, remembering one particular German officer. Gustav. His name was imprinted in her innermost thoughts.

She’d crossed over to the other side of the street, carefully hiding her bundle of propaganda leaflets under her swagger coat with its hidden pockets and heard the crude comments she’d come to understand in their mother tongue. How she wished this war would end! People in the surrounding villages in this part of northern France were suffering hardship like other parts of the country, and Odile was determined to do her bit. The résistance movement was strong in her town, and the rural community she was a part of was a proud one. They would never give in or surrender. She told herself that every small gesture and undercover deed she could do for the cause was worth it. But no one knew how involved she was. There was one part of her résistance life she kept concealed, even from the movement’s members. Only Lucien, the leader of the local group, knew how she obtained the German soldiers’ secrets she reported to him …

Odile wheeled her bicycle into the large, covered barn at the side of the farmhouse. It was gloomy and shadowy at that time of the afternoon and Odile didn’t want to stay there any longer than she had to. She made her way to the wooden double doors to secure them for the night when she heard the rafters in the upstairs loft creaking. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and her heart thumped. Several Nazis had been found hiding in neighbours’ barns. They’d been trying to find out who were resisting the occupation and were listening for evidence. She froze to the spot, hardly daring to breathe. Another creak. She wasn’t imagining it. What should she do? If she crept away, maybe she could warn her parents and they could get away… but where would they go? Horrific stories of what happened when local farmers had resisted the Germans had circulated around the villages from Sainte Marie-Hélène to Mont St Michel. Another sound in the floorboards above. Maybe it was just a rat. Odile was used to hearing and seeing vermin of all sizes living on the farm. Yes, that was it. She picked up a broom and crept up the stairs into the hayloft.

She felt her heart quicken as she neared…

BUYING LINKS

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Nannys-Secret-compelling-self-discovery-ebook/dp/B09BNP3S1P/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=Her+Nanny%27s+Secret+Jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-nannys-secret-jan-baynham/1139955323?ean=2940162201946

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. She values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

Many thanks Jan, great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone, 

Jenny x

 

 

Seventeen years…and counting

This week sees the 17th anniversary of the first time I wrote a story since I was at school – a story that was (miraculously) published three months after it was written. That story was a work of erotica! A fact that, in itself, seems impossible to me – a shy, self-conscious, paranoiac woman who has never quite got used to the fact that people actually want to by her books!

I still maintain that- if that very first story hadn’t been published- I’d never have picked a pen up for fiction creation ever again.

As with any anniversary, I have found myself reflecting on all that has happened to me ‘writing wise’ over the past decade and a half. (A reflection that is echoed in this same blog over on my Kay page – which is strictly for over 18’s only.)

What a roller coaster ride the last 17 years have been. Or perhaps it’s been more of a carousel, a long roundabout of constant ups and downs, but where, ultimately you always end up back where started, and yet you can’t quite stop the ride to get off…?

My first piece of erotica was a written on a paper serviette in a café in Aberdeenshire. I swear the idea came to be from nowhere. I don’t know why I was suddenly thinking about a cross dressing male who liked to have his arse spanked- but that is exactly what happened.

It took some time for me to be brave enough to do anything with the story. It was a couple of weeks before it made it onto a proper piece of paper, and several more before it was typed onto my computer and edited into shape. The amount of courage it took me to look up erotica publishers on the Internet- and the covert way I went about it- seems laughable now.

I sent off my story- which I rather unimaginatively had called Jen and Tim to Cleis Press- never expecting to hear anything again, and in the meantime, I’d written a rather kinky poem called Regrets, which I sent to the much missed Oysters and Chocolate web site. Then, I told myself to leave it alone, to look after my children and take up knitting or something. I never expected to hear back from either publisher. I certainly never expected to get both pieces taken- and I truly never expected the buzz the feeling of acceptance gave me- that was it- I was hooked- an addict to the acceptance of a publisher for the rest of my life!

It took 40 short story and poetry publications before I was brave enough to write something longer, and when I did, I cheated.

The Collector is both an anthology and a short novel- a set of different erotic stories- one for every genre within the discipline. I learnt a great deal from writing that book- and I still hold it in great affection.

Now, 17 years later, with over 150 erotic short stories to my name, plus a great many novellas and novels, I am still addicted, still hungry for the ‘yes’ of a publisher. Having a back record to your name never guarantees a story will be taken, and nor should it. Each new tale I write has to be worth publication on its own merits; it shouldn’t be published just because KJB or Jenny Kane or Jennifer Ash wrote it.

Over the past 7 years, I’ve had less time to write erotica as I have been fortunate to have some success with my romantic fiction, my medieval crime and my audio scripts. Plus, a few years ago now, I set up a creative writing tutoring business called Imagine, (with my friend and colleague, Alison Knight)  – and am now in the fabulous position of seeing some of my #novelinayear students having their own works published.

With the #MillGrange series about to come to an end – with the publication of Winter Fires at Mill Grange in November – and a brand new series of romcoms already in production, it’s looking as if the next two years will be as busy as the last.

I also have several exciting ‘irons in the fire’ that I can’ tell you about yet. Believe me though- when I can, you’ll definitely hear the shouts of delight coming from my little corner of Devon.

I’m also busy with my Robin of Sherwood work. I’m SO excited about the annual coming out this November. I honestly never dreamt I’d have a story in an annual! This is the 1987 annual that was never written at the time – well, it has been now! You can order your copy here.

Here’s to the next year and beyond!

And a HUGE thank you to all of you for supporting me. Without readers there are no writers.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

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