Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

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End of the month blog: end of an era

It’s that time again – for the very last time!

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Nell Peters for writing so many of these fabulous blogs over the years. You’ll be missed hun!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this final summary of the month, with a decidedly Nell take on life!

Good morning, everyone, on this last day of January. So, how has 2020 been for you so far? Whatever your answer, grab a drinkie poo and come with me now to while away a mo looking back upon what has happened on this day in years gone by – plus whatever else takes my fancy.

Over a hundred years ago during WWI (even I can’t remember this), Germany initiated large-scale use of poisonous gas during the Battle of Bolimów against Russia (1915). Exactly two years later, Germany announced that its U-boats would resume submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus – and following a series of collisions during a foggy night in Scotland in 1918, two Royal Navy submarines were lost with over a hundred fatalities, while another five British warships sustained substantial damage.

Fast forward to the Second World War and in 1945, US Army private Edward Donald (Eddie) Slovik was executed for desertion following a court-martial, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War (1861-5). This was on the same day that approximately three thousand inmates of the Stutthof concentration camp were forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.

On a less depressing note, two days before my mother was born in 1927, Mrs Pransky gave birth to a son, Norman Zachary, in Boston, Mass. He grew up to be Norm Prescott, co-founder (with Lou Sheimer) of Filmation Associates, an animation studio. Amongst their prolific output were Star Trek, The US of Archie, The New Adventures of Gilligan, The Original Ghostbusters, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and Ark II – all during the mid to late seventies. Norm died in California aged seventy-eight and was survived by his business partner, wife and two sons.

Comedian and TV/radio presenter, Patrick Kielty celebrates with forty-nine candles today. Born in County Down, N Ireland, he is one of three sons born to businessman John (Jack) Kielty, who was shot dead on 25 January 1988 (six days before Patrick’s seventeenth birthday) by the Ulster Freedom Fighters, allegedly to stop him appearing as a key witness in Central Television’s defence of a libel action brought by Jim Craig.

Craig was suing the television company over a broadcast which suggested he was a racketeer and he is said to have ordered the assassination. Almost twenty years later, Patrick was invited to conduct a joint in-depth TV interview at 10 Downing Street with then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach (I have no idea how you’d pronounce that!) Bertie Ahearn, to discuss the Northern Ireland peace process. Since 2012, he has been married to fellow presenter Cat Deeley.

 

Also in 2012, on this day, the Toyota Corolla was announced as the best-selling car of all time, having sold over 37.5 million. When I had #1 son in Montreal, I got rid of my Pontiac Firebird (sniff) and opted for a Corolla as a rather more sensible vehicle for maternal to-ing and fro-ing – and regretted the decision for every second that I drove the thing. Even though the model was bigger than those produced for the European market and hefty snow tyres are de rigueur for everywhere in the east, it really couldn’t handle winter driving – no chance whatsoever of making it through a six-foot snow drift, which would present no problem at all for the average American gas guzzler.

I knew for sure we had to part company when I’d had it for about a year and I was driving the boy to a paediatric appointment – it was coming to the end of snow season and there were huge filthy, icy puddles everywhere. Driving through one such half-frozen mess, there was a resounding bang and the inside of the car – plus the child in his car seat – were covered in dirty globs of ice and muddy water. Not a good look. When I could pull over, as well as taking some very deep breaths to try to regulate my heartbeat – the son finding it all highly amusing – I found that most of the rear floor had rusted away and the upward force of the water I’d driven through had sent the mats in the footwells flying, providing a complimentary shower in the process. Cars are old and rusted at five or six years maximum there, because of the amount of salt and grit they have to spread to keep roads anywhere near passable – but wrecked at a little over a year old was beyond a joke. Having learned my lesson, I opted for a very substantial Oldsmobile tank next.

31/01/12 was the day that (His Eminence, if you’re that way inclined) American RC Cardinal, Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, died aged eighty-eight in Pennsylvania, after suffering from cancer and dementia. He was joined at the Pearly Gates, or the other place, by American artist Dorothea Tanning aged one hundred and one; Tristram Coffin aged eighty-nine, an American folklorist, seen off by a bout of pneumonia and Mike Kelley, also an American artist, who committed suicide aged fifty-seven. After Kelley’s death, art critic of The New York Times, Holland Cotter, described him as ‘one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion.’ Pungent, eh?

Who remembers the US TV drama series, Ally McBeal (1998-2002)? The part of young lawyer, Nelle Porter, was played by Australian/American actress Portia de Rossi, who was born as the not-quite-so-exotic-sounding Amanda Lee Rogers, on 31st January 1973. No prizes for guessing she’s hitting the ripe old age of forty-seven today. Aged fifteen, Amanda decided to reinvent herself, so pinched the name of a character from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and added a random Italian last name. Like Prince Charles, she was educated at Geelong Grammar School (other alumni include media mogul Rupert Murdoch; John Gorton – Australian PM 1968–1971; Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu – King of Malaysia 2006–2011; Tim Macartney-Snape – mountaineer and author; billionaire businessman, Kerry Packer; and singer-songwriter Missy Higgins) and went on to study law at Melbourne University. How appropriate. Portia’s second marriage was to comedian, actress, and TV chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres, in 2008. So, does that make her Portia de Rossi DeGeneres? We won’t go there.

Since we last spoke, we’ve had a General Election, Christmas and New Year, to name but a few. We voted on the same day as middle GD’s school year Christmas assembly, when they performed the story of Kris Kringle (which they called Christingle) in a huge, freezing cold church in town. Because of the setting, in theory anyone could attend, and I was indeed honoured to have a local vagrant come and sit next to me halfway through. If he was hoping to warm his bones, he picked the wrong place. Meanwhile, each child climbed up the several steep steps of the pulpit to speak their lines – and as they are only six or seven years old, some could hardly see around the lectern, let alone over it! But they all did brilliantly, encouraged to do their best by very supportive teachers. It’s a lovely little school and we’re hoping that little sis will also get a place there from September.

A few days before the big event, I stayed over in Twickenham, meeting #2 son for dinner and #3 when he flew in from Mumbai the next morning. As is becoming our usual routine, we ‘did’ the three family graves at the cemetery (this time in rather inclement torrential rain and freezing, howling winds) and then went to visit my mother in her care home. After as much random, repetitive and off-the-wall conversation we could cope with, we sped back to Norfolk for early dinner with #4 and his family – the OH was noticeable by his absence from the gathering, as he was off to watch the Rod Stewart gig at the O2, a work/client thing. Phew. I’m definitely getting way too old for all this! The next morning, #3 and #4 flew to Amsterdam for a few days, returning on Christmas Eve, #4’s birthday.

The OH also returned on 24/12, after a visit to his elderly mother in Dorset, so I spent our anniversary on 23rd alone, apart from a sparkly tree, a bulging fridge and a couple of glasses of wine. Hic.

We had a great family Christmas – #3 hasn’t been home to celebrate the 25th with us for a few years, globe trotting as he does, so it was an especially happy break. No time for dust to settle and we were all back down to London for a few days over NY, including our annual trip to the panto in Richmond. This year it was Snow White – intriguingly, the dwarfs were not vertically challenged, but of average size and crawled along with the front of their costumes depicting short legs. Does that make any sense? Comedian Jo Brand played the Wicked Queen, but appeared bored out of her skull by the whole thing and should probably stick to stand-up and appearances on Have I Got News for You etc. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed it – and the dinner we had afterwards at Zizi’s, before those old enough (or indeed young enough!) to stay up, saw in 2020.

Just before he was due to fly back to Bangkok, #3 needed to get his iPad looked at, as something was malfunctioning – that meant a trip to the Apple store in either Norwich or Cambridge, both approx. an hour’s drive for us. He set off early for Norwich, but was back after thirty minutes or so. The person who has a really responsible job running operations throughout India, Thailand and Hong Kong (I’ve heard him on business calls and can see why he earns the big bucks) had forgotten to take his iPad. You couldn’t make it up. He also very nearly left his passport behind, as he was heading out the door for Heathrow at the end of his visit.

Multi-married film star, Elizabeth Taylor, got hitched to #2 groom, British actor Michael Wilding in February 1952. He was twenty years her senior and while Taylor found their age gap appealing because she wanted the ‘calm and quiet and security of friendship’ from their relationship, he hoped that the marriage would aid his flagging career in Hollywood. They had two sons together, but while Taylor was away filming, Wilding was allegedly entertaining strippers at their house – classy. Taylor said ‘I do’ for the third time on 2nd Feb 1957 (my mum’s thirtieth birthday), two whole days after her divorce from Wilding was finalised on 31st January.

Talking about divorce, unless anything major occurs between me writing this (in advance, as always) and Brexit on 31/01, the UK will leave the EU today. Decision made, let’s hope Boris pulls – if not a rabbit – at least a hamster out of the hat. Meanwhile, we have the shenanigans of the royal family to keep us amused on darker days. I imagine Arrogant Andrew is rubbing his podgy little entitled hands together, not quite able to believe his luck after others also blotted their copybooks quite spectacularly, taking public attention away from him. At least long enough for him to nip down to Woking for a pizza. Off with their heads!

Finally, I am also doing a bunk. This is my last guest blog for Jenny, at least for the foreseeable. I really need to devote more time to salvaging what little remains – if anything – of my writing career!

So, I’ll bid you all a final ‘Toodles!’, with huge thanks to readers for coming along for the ride, and to Jenny for putting up with me for so long.

Take care.

NP x

Once again, many thanks Nell. Wonderful stuff. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

Interview with Colette McCormick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Colette McCormick to my place for a cuppa and a chat.

Why not put your feet up for five minutes and join us? There’s cake…

Welcome Colette! Let me start by asking what inspired you to write An Uncomplicated Man?

The song ‘Danny Boy.’ I was on dialysis one night, just sitting there waiting for the four hours to be up when I started to think about my dad. ‘Danny Boy’ or ‘The Londonderry Air’ to give it its correct title, was his favourite song and that popped in there too. I thought that ‘Danny Boy,’ would make a great title and I started to throw a few ideas around in my head. The story that I came up with didn’t really work out and over time, developed into An Uncomplicated Man though if I’m honest I sometimes wish that we’d kept the original title.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

I think that I probably pinch little bits from lots of people but I doubt that anyone would recognize themselves. If my mother had lived long enough, she might have seen pieces of herself in the obsessively house-proud mother in Ribbons in Her Hair, who made the best mashed potato in the world. She was guilty as charged on both fronts.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

I had to read about bank interest rates in 1957 and the Suez crisis but I mainly just had to get a feel for the era.

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

All of my books have been written in the first person and the last three from dual perspectives so that the reader gets both sides of the story. I like the first person because it allows me to get into the characters head and tell things through their eyes.

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

I generally know where I want to go with a story but I let the characters take me there. There was one point in my first book, Things I Should Have said and Done, where I actually thought, ‘Oh, I didn’t see that coming.’

What is your writing regime?

It’s very relaxed I’m afraid. I work full time so that doesn’t leave a lot of time. I’ll do big chunks of writing on my days off, maybe three or four hours but the rest of the week it might just be an hour in the evening. I try to write at least something every day because I need the routine of it. I have to give myself a deadline because I find that helps to focus my mind.

What excites you the most about your book?

This book is totally alien to me inasmuch as it’s set before I was born so I have no experience of the time. Lucy is a completely different character for me too and while I’d probably hate her if I met her in real life, I enjoyed writing her.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?

Great question. If I couldn’t take my husband and two sons, the first person I’d want to be on the island with me would be Bear Grylls because he’d make sure that we survived. He’d be great when it came to building camps and finding things to eat. I would also want to have Anne Frank there because she’d be safe with us. Obviously, I knew her story before I read her diary but the way it ended broke me. I sobbed for ages and I still can’t get it out of my mind. The third person I’d like to share my desert island with is Sherlock Holmes. For me, he is one of the most complex and enigmatic characters ever created and I would love to try and understand how his mind worked.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’d like to thank you for inviting me to spend time here. It’s been a lot of fun.

You are very welcome- thanks for coming along today.

***

Here’s the blurb to An Uncomplicated Man

An emotional, uplifting story about one man split between two lives… Perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse.

What if the man in your life isn’t who he says he is?

Daniel Laither is a mild-mannered and uncomplicated bank manager, but when his boss asks him for a favour, things begin to get tangled. Introduced to businessman Arthur Braithwaite, Daniel reluctantly agrees to a financial arrangement that will create an unbreakable link between them.

When Daniel meets Lucy, Braithwaite’s daughter, he becomes a man obsessed. From the steamy afternoons spent together in hotel rooms, to evenings out with Lucy in fancy restaurants, Daniel’s life moves a million miles from the one he’d had.

He finds himself lying to his friends, his colleagues and, most importantly, his wife. He borrows money from a loan shark to afford this double life, but when the debt demands to be paid, he contemplates stealing from the bank. When Lucy falls pregnant and Braithwaite insists upon a marriage, Daniel has to choose between his two lives…

***

Links

Facebook Author page

@colettemcauthor

Colette McCormick on Books and Life in General

Buy An Uncomplicated Man on Amazon

Bio

Originally a city girl, Colette has made her home in a one of the many former mining villages in County Durham. When not working as a retail manager for a large children’s charity she will more than likely be writing, even if it’s only a shopping list. She also enjoys cooking, gardening and taking the dog on long walks in the countryside near her home. She has been married for almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

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Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

End of the Month Blog: November ends

Unbelievably, we have reached the end of another month, and here to celebrate (commiserate??) is Nell Peters with her final round up of 2019!

Over to you Nell…

Well shiver me timbers – it’s the last day of November, and now that I’m writing the blog bi-monthly it means this is my last for 2019! How crazy is that? So, better make it a half-decent read, I suppose.

Quite a bit of family stuff suggests itself – excellent, as that involves absolutely no research, just some excavation of the memory bank. I’m so lazy!

Returning to the beginning of October (which seems an awfully long time ago now), we toddled off to the Corn Exchange in town to watch GDII perform in her first dance show – she’s been going to classes on Saturday mornings for about six months now and loves it. Apart from the routines, I was most impressed by the organisation of a large number of small children, including quite a few boys, by half a dozen teachers and chaperones – I had enough problems with four!

The nippers mostly performed according to age and we waited with bated breath for our little star to take to the stage with other six year-olds. She made her entrance in a turquoise tutu, with gossamer wings attached to her back – the latter being an emergency replacement pair after the first were delivered battered and bent into a very unfairly-like shape. GD remembered all her steps but added her own artistic interpretation, when she lifted her skirt to hitch up her tights – I’m afraid she gets her lack of poise and elegance gene from yours truly, other granny being far more refined. OH (no Fred Astaire himself) has suggested she might like to swap the dance lessons for instruction in Sumo wrestling, or similar.

On the work front, confusion reigns. The small, independent publisher I had two books with was taken over/merged with one of the big five – good news you might think? Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath – having been under-published by the original lot (that’s a euphemism for abandoned at launch) it’s not boding well so far as it seems (from the sparse info available) that they will be concentrating on books already in the publication pipeline. Absolutely fair enough as a priority, but they are not taking submissions of new work until 2021(!) – and no real word as yet re the already published books they have taken under their wing. I was not alone in not knowing I had been sold until an email was received out of the blue, welcoming me to the new company. That was the last communication I received. Mm… Watch this space, or not.

A little late, but I managed to finally get some dates out of the OH as to when he could take time out for a holiday – he could only spare a week, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth! We decided to return to a rather nice hotel in Majorca that we went to a couple of years ago – the week we booked was half term for most, but as it’s not a particularly child friendly place, we decided to risk it.

Before we left I needed to take a trip to Twickenham to see my mum, as I hadn’t visited for a while and guilt was beginning to bite. I was planning to do just a day trip, but #3 intervened and booked overnight accommodation for me at the Marriott Hotel, which forms part of Twickenham Rugby Ground. He stays in Marriotts for work in Jaipur, Mumbai and Bangkok and so collects a ridiculous number of loyalty points (he’s at the Jaipur hotel for an average of 150 nights a year, for example), some of which he generously donated to my stay. On checking in, I found I didn’t have any old room, but a suite – top floor, with a lounge, bedroom, two bathrooms and a whole array of luxurious touches, overlooking the pitch. How the other half live! Too bad I was on my own…

That evening, I met up with the lady who had been my parents’ primary career, plus #2 son who lives locally for drinks, and the next morning, #3 flew in from Jaipur. He arrived at the hotel (in shorts!) and ordered a pint of Guinness at eight o’clock in the morning, his excuse being he was still on Indian time and anyway, Guinness is not available there so he had some catching up to do. When #2 turned up, we had breakfast – the hotel staff are no doubt currently reconsidering the concept of an all-you-can-eat buffet. In case you were wondering, I had two small pieces of GF bread with strawberry jam, leaving the gannet impressions to the sons, especially #3, who obviously hadn’t eaten for a month or more.

We went to see my mum, armed with loads of flowers and bite-sized snack bits – her appetite for regular meals isn’t great, but she does love her junk food. The conversation was at best random, at worst completely and incomprehensibly off the wall, but frankly I don’t suppose we can hope for much better at this notch on the dementia spectrum. My sons have strict instructions to shoot me, if ever I am similarly afflicted. From the care home, we drove a few miles to the cemetery where my dad and other relatives are buried – I have an arrangement with my cousin, Keith, that whoever visits sorts out not only my dad’s stone, but also those of our grandparents and his parents who are there, only a few plots away. That day, the gorgeous cream roses we’d bought proved a bit of a challenge to arrange in strong, gusty winds – we did our best, but half of them had probably blown away before the car nosed out of the cemetery gates.

That being a Friday, it was all back to Norfolk for a family invasion weekend, so we had an early Halloween dinner and sparklers, as we thought that was the last time we’d all be together for a while (we have these gatherings every fortnight with varying numbers) – the OH had pronounced that he would be in Berlin for the next one, but had in fact got his dates wrong. I’m not saying a word!

#3 had come home to take GDI (aged eleven) to New York over half term, as a reward for doing well in the SATS exams she sat (see what I did there?) before she moved to senior school in September. They were initially keen on going to Hong Kong, but decided against it, as the riots worsened. How very lucky she is – I have three degrees and I don’t think anyone even took me out to dinner as a ‘well done you’ for passing any of them. Sniff. Grizzle. Pout.

They were away at the same time we were in Majorca, sending us copious numbers of pics of them posing at all the usual suspects, like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, sitting in an off-Broadway theatre about to watch Chicago etc etc, while I reclined on my four-poster sun bed, trying not to appear too jealous. I did enter into the spirit of things to a small extent, when I sent a video of the most awesome thunder/lightning storm I’ve ever seen, taken from our second floor balcony on our first night. After that, the weather was brilliant. The only fly in the ointment/there goes the neighbourhood moment was when James Argent checked in with a couple of burly mates (this was just after he’d been banned from EasyJet for some ridiculous antic on the tarmac), as he was doing a gig in nearby Palma – he’s a singer, apparently. I was waiting for the OH in Reception when they arrived and I don’t think he could have announced his name any louder – sadly wasted on the guy behind the desk, who very obviously didn’t know him from Adam. Insistence on having the best rooms similarly fell on deaf ears. Can I just explain here that I have never seen TOWIE, but I sometimes read the Mail online (don’t judge me, it doesn’t have a pay wall!) and in their sidebars there are often snippets about Gemma Collins, who I understand is his on/off girlfriend. Nevertheless, the OH was truly horrified that I knew who this person was! JA looks pretty big in pics and he certainly is – in height as well as weight. I’m 5’9” and he dwarfed me.

The rugby semi-finals were shown on TV in the lounge of our hotel, and I took my maternal duties seriously, WhatsApping a running commentary to #3 while he tried to find the game on TV Stateside, where it was four o’clock in the morning. Having been raised in Twickenham, I’ve really had enough of rugby to last me a lifetime – rerouted bumper to bumper traffic jams on match days, no chance whatsoever of getting on any form of public transport, ditto entering a pub if you are that way inclined. The more enterprising locals set up fast food stalls in their gardens, or rent out their driveways for parking, while the majority simply grit their teeth and hibernate until it’s all over.

And all over it was for England’s hopes of lifting the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Males of the clan crammed themselves into the playroom (biggest TV) for the final, played on the next of our invasion weekends, with not everyone present knowing who to support. The OH was born in the UK, but spent his formative years in SA and #3 (enjoying the last couple of days of his holiday en famille) spent part of his gap year there, returning whenever he can. One of my sisters in law told me she has an even greater dilemma when watching international sporting fixtures – she cheers for 1) SA, 2) England and 3) Australia, where she now lives. How confusing!

 

In 1976 on this day, rugby union player Josh Lewsey was born. He shares his birthday with Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer, born in Dublin in 1667 (died 1745); Chrissy Teigen, American model, born in Delta, Utah in 1985; Chanel Iman, American supermodel, born in Atlanta in 1989 – on the same day as Margaret Nales Wilson, Filipino model. Obviously a good day for models – the latter two were born on the day that Deutsche Bank CEO and board member, Alfred Herrhausen was killed by a Red Army Faction terrorist bomb. Not such a good day for him.

I mentioned Marriott Hotels earlier – they are a multinational with many subsidiaries, including Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, Autograph Collection, Gaylord Hotels and Le Méridien, plus a whole lot more, and 25% of shares are still owned by the Marriott family. Lucky them. Not so lucky for their client base on 30th November 2018 however, when 500 million accounts were jeopardised by a massive data breach during one of the world’s largest ever company hacks.

Think I’d be pretty hacked off too. So sorry!

On that dodgy note, I will leave you.

Merry Christmas (General Election permitting – it will be such a relief not to have others’ strident opinions shoved down my neck like I’m some sort of half-wit!) and a Happy New Year to y’all.

Toodles. NP

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Huge thanks to Nell as ever.

Have a fabulous festive season!

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folville-ing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

 

 

End of the Month: So long September

I swear time speeds up every month!

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

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

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

Seppuku

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christa McAuliffe

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

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

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

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

Les and Mary Ford

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

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

Jim and Henny Backus

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

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

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

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

St Jerome

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

Cheers, Jenny and toodles to all. NP

***

Many thanks for another fabulous blog.

See you in November, Nell!!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Cover Reveal Tour for SHADOWS OF HEMLOCK by K.M. POHLKAMP

Today I’m delighted to be part of the cover reveal tour for K. M. Pohlkamp’s forthcoming release, Shadows of Hemlock.

This novel, the sequel  to the Historical Novel Society’s Editors’ Choice Selection, Apricots and Wolfsbane, will be out this coming November.

And here it is…

Blurb:   Regret is a bitter poison.
In a desperate grasp for prestige, Aselin Gavrell betrayed her master to the execution block for the advantage of the onyx pendant now around her neck. Shelter from her master’s crimes comes with an unwanted allegiance and a list of innocents to murder. But the Guild of poison assassins will not be so easily pacified and charge Aselin to develop an antidote as retribution for her betrayal.
Unprepared for the independence she craved, Aselin is forced to seek aid from a fickle contact who wants only one means of payment: a ruby ring with a mare’s head. To save herself from her master’s fate, Aselin must navigate a growing list of debtors eager to toss her aside and confront her guilt in this fast-paced tale of growth and redemption in Tudor England.

 

Shadows of Hemlok is produced by Filles Vertes Publishing (Facebook: @FVpublishing; Twitter: @FillesVertesPub; Instagram: @fillesvertespub; website: www.fillesvertespublishing.com 

Bio: K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife to the love of her life, proud mother of two young children, and a Mission Control flight controller. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published October 2017 and was designated an Editors’ Choice Selection by the Historical Novel Society, among other accolades. She can be found at www.kmpohlkamp.com or @KMPohlkamp.

 

OUT NOW: The Folville Chronicles Box Set

I’m delighted to announce that the eBook box set of the 3 Folville Chronicle novels

(The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw and Edwards’s Outlaw)

is out now in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand

Just in time for your summer binge-reading, you can download all 3 of Mathilda of Twyford’s adventures for only £6.99

Blurb

This special collection is a perfect read for all fans of Robin Hood and medieval adventure.

BOOK 1: THE OUTLAW’S RANSOM
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…

BOOK 2: THE WINTER OUTLAW
1329: It is the dead of winter and the notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside. Could this man be Adam Calvin, who is being pursued for a crime he did not commit?
Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story. But 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.

BOOK 3: EDWARD’S OUTLAW
January 1330: King Edward III’s is determined to clean up England and sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to arrest five of the 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, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?

Buy link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07V387V3K/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Folville+Chronicles+Box+Set&qid=1562690677&s=digital-text&sr=1-1  

(This box set will be available in the US and Canada in approx. one month’s time)

Happy reading!!

Jennifer xx

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ comes from friend and fellow author, Gilli Allan.

Buried Treasure is out now!

Blurb

Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems. 

First 500 words of Buried Treasure…

Prologue

Why did everyone laugh at her? Even her sister. It was true, and Rachel knew it.  Their great Uncle Alf Sydney HAD found treasure on his farm. And Uncle Bill  –  who should have been at school that day but was on the tractor with him  –  agreed how they’d dug it up, cleaned it as best they could, and kept it in the room they called the parlour.

These days the nearest thing they had to treasure was laid out on the table.  Called ‘the Sydney Collection’, the stones, coins and broken bits of pottery were all a bit dull and boring, to be honest. More exciting were the weird and wonderful things Uncle Bill had brought back from far flung places, when he was soldiering.

But back when Bill was still a boy, the treasure they’d dug out of a muddy field, was kept on the sideboard. Jane imagined it piled up high, lighting up the dark room with beams of glittery light. So much money and necklaces, bracelets and brooches, and long strings of pearls, it would have spilled onto the floor!  She was sure there’d have been crowns too, and gold caskets studded with rubies and emeralds. And even that piece of jewellery that gave her the shivers just to think about it  –  a diamond tiara like the one Cinderella wore to the ball. That was until the police came and snatched it all away.  

It just wasn’t fair, Jane told the girls in her class. But they shook their heads as if they knew she was pretending. No matter how often she said  –  “Honest, it’s true! It’s in a museum in London now” –  they still wouldn’t believe her. If she’d she been able to honestly say she’d seen it herself, would that have made a difference?  But London was a long way away, and expensive to visit. “One day…” she’d been promised.

Everyone was already paired up or in gangs when she arrived at the new school, so to be made to feel stupid, boastful and a fibber, when all she wanted was to make friends…! She kept her mouth shut from then on, and kept to herself old Uncle Alf’s mysterious wink, and the tap to the side of his nose, whenever he talked about the treasure.

Chapter 1

“Fairy tales can come true; it can happen to you…”  The old song evokes nostalgic memories of the farm, of family singsongs around the upright piano; Uncle Alf bashing out the tune, and Bill and Mary, egging him on. Why is it running through her head now, decades later, when both Alf and Bill are long dead, and the farm sold?  Deep down maybe she believes she’s on her way to achieving her own dream? But anyone who thinks that dreams really can come true is as delusional as the child who still believes in Santa  –  or Prince Charming.  A sick jolt runs down her spine.  How stupid had she been?…

***

Buy BURIED TREASURE via mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE  

Find Gilli’s other books LIFE CLASS, TORN and FLY or FALL at:

https://accentpressbooks.com/collections/gilli-allan

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilli-Allan/e/B004W7GG7I

Find Gilli at:

http://twitter.com/gilliallan   (@gilliallan)

https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1027644.Gilli_Allan

https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/rna_author/gilli-allan/ 

***

Bio

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother.

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

She is published by Accent Press and each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.

***

Many thanks for visiting today Gilli. Good luck and wishing you many happy sales.

Jenny x

 

Coming Soon: The Folville Chronicles Box Set

I’m thrilled to announce that the first three novels in The Folville Chronicles will soon be available as

an eBook Box Set!

The perfect way to binge read the series so far while I’m writing Book 4!

The Outlaw’s Ransom

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…

The Winter Outlaw

1329: It is the dead of winter and the notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside. Could this man be Adam Calvin, who is being pursued for a crime he did not commit?
Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story. But 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.

Edward’s Outlaw

1330: King Edward III’s England is awash with the corruption and criminal activity that his mother, Queen Isabella had turned a blind eye to- providing it was to her advantage.
Now, having claimed the Crown for his own, Edward is determined to clean up England. Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault and her special advisor- a man who knows the noble felons of the countries Midland region very well- King Edward sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to work with the county sheriff to arrest five of the 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, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?
Asked to investigate by the sheriff in exchange for him deliberately taking his time in the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder…a web of carefully laid deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

***

The Box Set pre-order link will be coming soon!

Information about Book 4 is just around the corner…

Happy reading,

Jennifer

Opening Lines with Ruadh Butler: The Earl Longbow

We’ve heading into 12th century Ireland for this week’s Opening Lines.

I’m delighted to welcome Ruadh Butler, and the first 500 words of The Earl Strongbow.

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare is a man whose name is greater than his fortune, his past greater than his future. But he is a man of ambition and will risk everything when journeys across the Irish Sea to claim the hand of a princess and place her father back on his provincial throne. Awaiting his master’s arrival is the redoubtable Raymond de Carew, fresh from his own victory but facing mutiny by his own warriors. The only person to stay loyal is his former mistress, Alice of Abergavenny, who has her own plans for Raymond. She knows more than any that upon the walls of Viking Waterford a king shall be made. And Alice has big plans for Raymond.

THE EARL STRONGBOW

The king was dying.

All his doctors were in agreement. He would not survive the fever. For two weeks the sickness had raged through his lungs and ravaged his guts. Henry FitzEmpress was fading. The king was dying.

Royal messengers had already been despatched to his son and heir, crowned king alongside his father two months before. Prepare, they were instructed to tell the fifteen-year old. Prepare to become lord and master of an empire. Prepare to become the greatest king in all Christendom.

Secret letters telling the same tale also found their way south to the king’s wife, Eleanor, at Poitiers, and east to Paris where the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury plotted his return to England.

‘Where is Master Ralph?’ Henry raved and slugged from a wine goblet, spilling most down his chest and onto his bed. ‘Master Ralph will return me to health.’ The king’s light ginger hair clung to his damp, yellowed face and he swiped it away with his shivering hand.

‘You Grace, your physician was among those poor souls who perished during your crossing to England in the spring. Do you recall?’ The Bishop of Lisieux used the same voice that he employed to calm his hunting dogs. ‘Be assured, we have engaged new doctors to oversee your recovery.’ His eyes flicked up. One of the new physicians visibly wilted and refused to meet his eyes.

Henry suddenly shot forward from his sick bed and grabbed the bishop by his robes, hauling him close enough so that the bishop could smell the puke and wine upon his breath. The king’s eyes danced in his pink face.

‘Becket has done this to me,’ Henry whispered, ‘just as he summoned up that storm to try and drown me during my passage across the Channel. You must protect me from his magic.’ A moan of sadness hissed from the king’s throat and he meekly punched the bishop in the shoulder as he clung to his robes. ‘I extended my hand in friendship to Thomas, tried to make peace as you instructed, and he has conspired to murder me.’ The king’s head slumped onto the bishop’s chest, the grip on his chasuble lessening. ‘It’s too damn hot,’ Henry whimpered as his hands fell away and he flopped back onto his back in bed. ‘Why is it always so damn hot in Normandy? I cannot believe I am going to die in this shit-hole.’ The king began rolling around the bed, his arms and legs gripped to his torso.

A smear of sweat had been left on the bishop’s rich vestments. The bishop raised his hand to wipe Henry’s perspiration from his clothes but stopped himself from doing so in the company of so many great men. As he cast his glance around the room he realised that not one person cared at how he comported himself. All eyes were on Henry. Each was considering how the king’s impending death would affect his empire and their place in it…

***

BUY LINKS

SWORDLAND

A disgraced knight, an exiled king – together can they conquer a kingdom in Ireland?

mybook.to/SWRDLND

LORD OF THE SEA CASTLE

The might of Viking Waterford marches against a hundred invading Normans. At the creek of Baginbun, Ireland will be lost or won.

mybook.to/LordSeaCastle

THE EARL STRONGBOW

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare will risk it all by invading Ireland to claim the hand of a princess and with it a crown…

mybook.to/EarlStrongbow

BIO

Ruadh Butler is the author of Swordland, Lord of the Sea Castle, and The Earl Strongbow. The series tells the story of the 12th century invasion of Ireland by Norman knights from Wales. Catch up with Ruadh at www.ruadhbutler.com, on Facebook, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.

***

Many thanks Ruadh. Great series!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

 

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