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

Category: history Page 1 of 4

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 (now Lady Mathilda de Folville), found herself thrust into situations where she had to get to the bottom of a crime simply to stay alive. In book three, Edward’s Outlaw, however, 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. (Book 1- The Outlaw’s Ransom– Book 2- The Winter Outlaw)

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

Mathilda: An Unexpected Heroine

When I first created the character of Mathilda of Twyford, she was simply a character that one of my contemporary fiction heroines, Grace Harper (from Romancing Robin Hood), invented. Mathilda was a protagonist within a novel that was never supposed to be written- created by an author I’d made up.

At that time, I had no idea Mathilda was to going to escape from Grace Harper’s imagination to become a major player in a series of darker novels, which are far more crime and romance.

Mathilda of Twyford is a nineteen year old potter’s daughter, thrown into the midst of the notorious criminal family, the Folvilles – quite literally. Originally their hostage, Mathilda’s skill for finding out information – and her quick wits – quickly made her an asset that the Folville’s don’t want to give up. She has also- much to her surprise, found herself endeared to the principles of the seven brothers (well- six of them- one is just pure evil). She admires their brand of justice, which is less corrupt than the legal officials that run the country.

Not only does has Mathilda become a vital part of the Folville family, she has become their friend. And soon…if the winter outlaw can be stopped…she is destined to become much more…

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 is the sequel to The Outlaw’s Ransom

(You don’t need to have read The Outlaw’s Ransom to enjoy The Winter Outlaw)

One of the things I like best about, Mathilda, is that she stops to think before she acts – unlike the brother’s she is helping! Here’s an extract from The Winter Outlaw to whet your appetite. An unwanted messenger has delivered bad news to the household- a ruthless outlaw is in the area…

… Robert de Folville rose to see if his steward, Owen, had returned, but Mathilda put out a hand to stop him.

‘There’s something else.’

Robert frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Someone has been taking food from the store in the night.’

‘What?’ Robert’s shout echoed through the room ‘Why didn’t you say?’

‘Are you going to stay calm long enough for me to tell you; because I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened to Sarah, nor with the messenger. Yet it occurs to me that the soul it does concern is in danger of becoming a scapegoat for whatever else is going on around here.’

‘What in Our Lady’s name are you talking about Mathilda? I think you’d better start from the beginning.’

The afternoon of Sarah’s attack, Mathilda reported, she had been working late in the kitchen, making a thin broth to tempt the housekeeper with once she’d come to her wits. She thought she’d heard something moving outside. The yard had already been secured against the early winter night, so the slight shuffling sound had alerted her attention.

When Mathilda had gone to investigate, there had been no sign of anyone. On entering the stores however she’d discovered that a few apples had been knocked over. As she’d looked around she had wondered if everything else that should have been there, was there. Nothing was obviously missing, so she had assumed all she’d heard was the fall of badly balanced fruit. The following evening, though, she’d listened out on purpose, and again heard the soft shuffle of something that sounded very much like feet. Waiting until the noise had passed, her heart beating fast, Mathilda had gone to check, and found that two apples were missing.

At the time, she explained, she’d decided not to say anything to Robert, as he was already in a fury about Sarah’s attack, and thinking that only the very desperate or very stupid would steal from the Folvilles, Mathilda had been convinced that someone with a score to settle against the family would have caused as much damage as possible, not just scrumped a few apples.

Convinced her instinct was correct, and that the minor theft from the store was nothing to do with Sarah’s attack, Mathilda had kept her suspicions to herself.

‘I decided to test my theory before I accused an innocent man of theft. So the following night I baked three extra loaves of bread, making a distinctive cross pattern in the top. I sprinkled them with flour and crept out into the store to leave them as tempting bait.’

Mathilda had spoken into the flames of the fire as she relayed what had happened until that moment. Now she squarely faced her future husband, ‘I checked that Sarah was alright. Then I waited until the household was asleep, before hiding at the back of the store.’

Robert sighed. ‘I ought to be angry. I am angry; yet at the same time… well, let’s just say I’m sure you were born to be a member of this household.’

Touched and surprised by her future husband’s calm acceptance of what she’d done, Mathilda took up her story again, ‘The more I thought about it, and the fact that no damage had been done and only a tiny amount of food had been taken, convinced me that this thief isn’t greedy. This is a person who needs to eat. This is a question of survival, and having found a good supply of unguarded food, they dived in and out at speed, taking what they could consume instantly, and hopefully, what won’t be missed. I thought however, that the lure of fresh bread last night would be too hard for him to resist.’

‘Last night!’ This time Robert did shout, but Mathilda held up her hand placating him.

‘Yes, last night. I crouched behind the barrels of cider. I didn’t have to wait long. That was when I knew I should have told you, my Lord. I was anxious, and your comforting presence was missed. Especially when a shadowy figure sidled into the store. I could hardly even hear his breathing. This person had learnt to be careful.’

‘Get to the crux, woman!’ Robert barked in exasperation.

‘The man hesitated in the doorway. He hadn’t expected the loaves. His hand hovered over them for ages while his eyes stayed on the apples he’d evidently returned for. I guess he was weighing up if he could hope the missing loaf would be blamed on theft by a dog or some such.

‘In the end I got fed up with waiting for him to do something. He was just stood there, staring longingly at the bread. So, without showing myself, I spoke to him.’

‘Saying what? And I hope you truly did keep to the shadows that time!’

‘I did, my Lord. I said, “You must be extremely hungry to invade this particular household.” He ran to the door straight away, but I called after him. I said, “Enjoy the bread, I made it for you.” That’s when he stopped and turned to where I was crouched.

‘He asked me why I’d baked for him. I told him only a desperate man steals from a Folville, so he must be truly in dire need of food. He stuttered, “A Folville…?”, then he ran. I doubt he’ll be back. He had no idea this was your manor, Robert, I’m sure of it. Which means this man is not connected with today’s loathsome messenger.’

‘Why in the name of all that is Holy didn’t you tell me? Why so reckless? Honestly, woman!’

‘I was going to tell you this morning, but our conversation was interrupted.’

Incensed that someone had dared steal from them, Robert threw his tankard of ale at the fire. ‘There was a time when the Folville name was enough to keep the thieves away. Is the state of the country so bad that I have to employ a guard dog?’…

***

I hope you enjoyed that. It is so hard to share an extract that won’t give too much away!

Buy Links-

The Folville Chronicles

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,

Jenny xx

Criminal Inspiration: Folville Thinking

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

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

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

He wised hem wynne it ayein wightnesses of handes,

And fecchen it from false men with Folvyles lawes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blurb- The Outlaw’s Ransom

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

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

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

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

Extract from The Outlaw’s Ransom

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

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

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

‘If I may, my Lord?’

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

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

‘Please, my Lord, who are you?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

I honestly can’t believe my luck.

BUY LINKS

The Outlaw’s Ransom – The Folville Chronicles Book One

The Winter’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Two

Edward’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Three

Outlaw Justice – The Folville Chronicles Book Four

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen x

COVER REVEAL: Outlaw Justice

Today, I am delighted to be able to share the cover for the fourth novel in my medieval crime/ mystery series,

The Folville Chronicles

Outlaw Justice

Continuing the story of Mathilda of Twyford- now Lady Mathilda de Folville – Outlaw Justice takes another peep at the seven Folville brothers, from Ashby Folville in Leicestershire- and weaves a story around their real life crimes and adventures.

I hope you love the cover as much as I do. It fits so perfectly with the rest of the series!

I’m not going to give any spoilers… but here’s the blurb to whet the appetite…

Blurb – Outlaw Justice

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.

***

Following on from The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw and Edward’s OutlawOutlaw Justice can be read as part of the series, or as a standalone novel.

Publication date will be announced soon!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Sin as Red as Scarlet by Janet Few

This week I’m delighted to welcome fellow historian, and fellow Exeter Author’s Association member, Dr Janet Few to my blog, to share the Opening Lines from her brand new novel: Sin as Read as Scarlet.

Blurb

Sins as Red as Scarlet – the true story of a Devon town in turmoil by Janet Few

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.

In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

First 500 words…

Prologue Bess’ Story

25 August 1682

I watch them die, these three. Their bodies twisting and gyrating in a parody of dance, as their bladders and bowels betray them. For those around me it is but a jaunt, a spectacle that will be on their lips for a space and then forgotten. For me though, for me, it cuts to the heart. I stand close, close enough to hear their last words. She speaks of sin, she does, she who is tied to me by invisible cords. She who is the first to swing. Sins as red as scarlet and yes, I know. I know sin stains many souls.

***

We’d arrived early, whilst the dew-scent still sullied the grass. The children became restive as we waited; young Nathaniel grew heavy in my arms. A sickly child, I dared not let him run free with his brothers. Had I kin to whom I could have entrusted my precious babe, I would not have brought him on such a journey. There was no one.  My brothers, long since gone for sailors; narry a word I’ve had from them for many a year. Most like they’ve minded to settle in the New World, as my father-in-law has done. We might have joined them, my good master and I but we are content to bide in Byddeforde and we prosper in some small way. He is a good man my Richard. Folk whispered when he took me to wife, murmured that I was not of his rank, prated that my sisters were whores and that my blood carried a papist stain. Yet he looked to ignore them Richard did and now I am Mistress Gard, respectable matron. I have given him five sons and we bear the sadness that two lie within the churchyard’s shade. ’Tis rare now that folk remember that I am sister to Kathryn and to Unis, who both brought forth babes afore they were wed. Few call to mind that I am my mother’s daughter and on a day such as this, ’tis a blessing.

The whispers of mist burned away as the sun climbed above the shimmering horizon; another day of heat and gathering storms. Undeterred, the bystanders gathered. Restless we stood, nameless within the crush of the crowd. They came to gawp, to exclaim, they came to tremble in anticipation. For them, the frisson of voyeurism. For them the comfortable relief that those who were to die were naught to them but mere players in a show put on for their gratification. The time drew nigh. They were all there, the accusers, the arresters, those who had come for the pleasure of it and in amongst them stood I, feigning indifference. The press of people on Magdalen Street parted as the women were led forward; women who knew that they would never see another sunrise. My eyes were drawn to the first. She looked slatternly, diminished. When did she become so very old? When did her vigour leave…

For more information and buy links visit

https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/historical-novels/sins-as-red-as-scarlet-the-story-of-a-devon-town-in-turmoil/, or the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.

***

 

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Janet.

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

Download Today: Fitzwarren’s Well

A brand new Robin of Sherwood story is available to download from Spiteful Puppet!

Fitzwarren’s Well is a full cast (acted not narrated) audio story, staring Judi Trott as Marion.

Fancy a trailer care of the Radio Times? (Yes! The Radio Times!!!) Here you go –https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-07-01/robin-of-sherwood-classic-tv-series-returns-for-new-story-recorded-in-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR1AvsHxbXospBSUlL0WKsGLoJChdh_Jx4obcSkArUfNU2cXytGoxmlZD8g

Here’s the blurb-

Will Scarlet is regretting buying new boots as he walks home from Lichfield, desperate to get back to Sherwood. A worried Marion intercepts him with terrible news of a sickness that has laid low the rest of the outlaws.

A journey to the Lady of the Well is their one hope.

But the Lady will only help those she deems worthy… and someone is busy convincing her that they are not.

***

Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD
‘FITZWARREN’S WELL’
By Jennifer Ash

Starring JUDI TROTT as Maid Marion

Featuring JON CULSHAW, SARAH GREENE and IAN OGILVY

With DANIEL ABINERI and BARNABY EATON-JONES

(Set during Series Three, between ‘Rutterkin’ and ‘The Time of the Wolf’)

Artwork: Anthony Lamb
Sound Design: Joseph Fox
Soundtrack: Arpeggio Creative
Produced & Directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones

Television series Robin Of Sherwood © HTV/Goldcrest Films & Television 1983. Created by Richard Carpenter, with grateful thanks to his Estate.

Once upon a time a 14 year old girl fell in love with a story. The Robin Hood story.

Almost 34 years later, that same girl has – by some miracle – found herself writing for Spiteful Puppet – the power behind the new Robin of Sherwood audios and books – and adding, in a very small way, to that same story.

It is such a joy! Not only do I get to write lines for characters from my favourite television show – I also get to write for incredible guest stars.

The story of Fitzwarren’s Well evolved from an idea that Barnaby Eaton Jones – Spiteful Puppet’s producer, script editor, budget juggler, and actor – had not long after lockdown was imposed.

He wanted a tale that reflected – but did not copy – our current socially isolated situation.

The story was to involve two of Robin Hood’s outlaws (Marion and Will Scarlet), and two extra characters with whom they could interact – in this case Herne and a man called Fitzwarren. Obviously, we are in lockdown, so only actors with their own audio equipment could be involved in this production.

You will notice from the cast list above however, that rather than having a cast of four, we have a cast of six. This is because, when I was writing the story I accidentally invented the ‘Lady of the Well’ – and once I’d got her in my head, I couldn’t shift her.

Barnaby- being a forgiving sort- magically found the brilliant Sarah Greene (of Blue Peter fame) to provide the Lady of the Well’s voice. It has to be said, she plays the role to perfection.

At this point, I thought I’d finished writing the story – but then I received a phone call saying that the fantastic Mr Ian Ogilvy- on hearing that there was an opportunity to bring Lord Edgar of Huntingdon back for a cameo – offered his services. And so, there I was, suddenly writing lines for another of my acting heroes.

The result was Fitzwarren’s Well – of which I’ll say no more, for fear of spoiling the story.

You can buy your copy of Fitzwarren’s Well for download from Spiteful Puppet – here.

 

Happy listening,

Jennifer xx

 

Opening Lines with Tim Walker: Arthur Rex Brittonum

I’m delighted to welcome Tim Walker back to my blog today, with the Opening Lines from the latest novel in his A Light in the Dark Ages series, Arthur Rex Brittonum.

Blurb

From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land

Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend.

Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.

Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Rex Brittonum.

First 500 words

“Pull harder you wretches!” bellowed the captain, turning his warty head away from the pursuing ships to urge his crew to greater effort, gnarled hands gripping the tiller so firmly his knuckles shone white in the gloom. Low grey clouds scudded overhead, driven on by strong westerly gusts that blew into the lone sail intermittently, like puffs of air from bellows feeding a fire. Soft rain slanted across the faces of the desperate crew and passengers on the deck of the thirty-foot merchant rig, its eight oarsmen dashing their oars into the choppy green of the Hibernian Sea as angry whitecaps pointed the way to the green and grey shorelines rising before them.

“Row for your lives, the western savages are gaining on us!” Random words were snatched away by the fitful rage of Manannan, the dread god of sailors, who inhabited the narrow sea between Britannia’s western coast and the land of Hibernia. It was across these waters that wild tribesmen habitually raided the comparatively wealthy and orderly Britannia, now left unguarded following Rome’s withdrawal.

A cluster of six passengers huddled beside the burly captain at the stern, holding onto ropes or the side rail as their ship rolled in the waves that carried them to shore. Those who had voided their guts on deck or over the side turned pale faces to see the three black sails gaining on them through the gathering storm.

Barinthus clasped the charm around his neck and muttered a prayer to Fortuna. “I shall sacrifice the finest kid I can find in your temple at Deva, should you see fit to deliver us there in safety.”

The well-fed Armorican had chartered the ship in the port of Dinan on the northwest coast of what had once been Roman Gaul and was transporting his cargo of fine wines, jars of olive oil, rolls of silk and linen, and some live quails in crates to sell to the nobles of western Britannia. He pulled the fox fur collar of his cloak tighter against the rain and looked down at his sodden calf leather boots, then to the crates of squawking birds that slid from side to side across the deck of the lurching vessel, noting their clucks of displeasure at every roll and shower of sea spray.

“I fear they will soon be upon us!” he yelled at the captain, who fixed him with a filthy look that spoke of regret at accepting the charter. “I have outrun many Frankish pirates around the rocky bays of Armorica where I know the reefs, but these waters are unknown to me. Let us hope we make beach before the rocks rip out our keel.”

They were now in surf that sent rows of churning white-capped waves, like advancing lines of ghostly shield men, towards a shore that revealed itself as a shingle beach before towering pock-marked cliffs. The shrill cries of gulls seemed to foretell their impending doom as the roar of waves breaking on the beach…

You can buy Arthur Rex Brittonum from all good retailers, including-

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ArthurRex

i-book; Kobo; Nook; other: https://books2read.com/ArthurRexBrittonum

Paperback: http://mybook.to/ArthurRexPaperback

 

Bio

Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.

His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.

His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.

Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.

Find out more about the author at – http://www.timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Author Website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/timwalker1666

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/TimWalkerWrites

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666 

Many thanks Tim.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Carol McGrath: The Silken Rose

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath to my blog, as she goes on tour with her brand new historical novel, The Silken Rose.

Why not sit and relax for five minutes, while you enjoy a little background to this, the first of The She Wolf Trilogy – as well as the first 500 words.

Over to you Carol…

The Silken Rose is the first novel in The She Wolf Trilogy, three standalone novels about three medieval queens set during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ailenor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile and Isabella of France were considered she wolves by later writers but they were reviled by many barons during their reigns because of the influence the exercised over their husbands. Ailenor was guilty of nepotism, Eleanor grabbed lands and built up a property empire and, as for Isabella, say no more, she simply deposed her husband and set up her son Edward III as king in his stead. Their thrilling and intriguing stories are intersected with those of three ordinary women, ordinary in rank but independent and from the merchant class. The first appears in The Silken Rose. She is an embroiderer and Rosalind’s story intersects with that of Queen Ailenor.  Enjoy the short blub and extract. The book is published on 2nd April as an e book and as a paperback on 23rd July. The audio is currently available too.

It is 1236

Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is thirteen when she marries Henry III. She is aware of the importance of providing heirs to secure the throne. She will protect England’s throne from those who would snatch it away. She is ruthless in her dealings with Henry’s barons.

Beautiful Ailenor’s shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles can support her, until her power is threatened when Henry’s half-siblings also arrive at court.

Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular, expensive war to protect the last English territories in France, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King’s seneschal. It is the final straw.

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, ‘she-wolf’ Ailenor’s courage is tested to the limit. Can she control her destiny and protect her family?

First 500 words…

Canterbury, January 1236

The road from Dover to Canterbury was mired with mud so progress was slow. Ailenor, Princess of Provence, had never seen such weather. She tugged back the oiled canvas and peered from her long, box-like carriage into the January landscape. A collection of gaunt faces stared back; figures huddled in heavy cloaks, watching the golden lions of Savoy and Provence pass through Canterbury’s gate into the cramped lanes of the city.

Domina Willelma’s rhythmic snores competed with the splashing of hooves moving laboriously through the gateway, the roll of wheels belonging to sumpter carts, the cracking of whips and the protesting snorts of an escort of three hundred horsemen. All the way from Dover, thirteen year-old Ailenor had listened to rain rattling on the curved roof of the carriage. With a hiss, it dripped through a minute crack onto the box of hot charcoal that warmed her feet.

She let the curtain drop and withdrew into her furs. It’s so different to my golden Provençal fields on which sun shines winter and summer.

A tear slid down her cheek. She instinctively drew her mantle closer. This was not what she imagined after Richard of Cornwall, King Henry’s brother, had visited their castle of Les Baux last year and she had listened to his thrilling tales of romance. England was not the magical land she visualised when she wrote her best poem ever, set in Cornwall, verse Prince Richard admired. Nor was it the green country filled with wild flowers she dreamed of when Henry, King of England, sent for her to become his bride.

She shivered in her damp gown. She had not wanted woollen gowns and underskirts. Rather, she desired velvets, silks and satins, and the finest linen for under-garments. But after two days’ travel over the Narrow Sea and on waterlogged roads she understood the need for warmth. She was now to dwell in a land where winter never ended and summer was but a distant prayer.

The carriage jolted to a halt. Uncle William, the Bishop, thrust his head through the heavy hanging.

‘We are approaching the palace. Prepare to descend.’ He almost fell off his horse as he pushed his neck further into the carriage to waggle a long finger at Ailenor’s senior lady. ‘Waken that woman at once. Order her to tidy your dress.’ With a grunt, he withdrew before Ailenor could reply.

‘Domina Willelma, wake up.’ Ailenor gently shook her lady’s shoulder. ‘Uncle William says ‑’

‘By our sainted Lady, my child, forgive me. Why have you permitted me to sleep?’ Lady Willelma sat straight up, her dark eyes wide awake.

‘Because, dear Willelma, you have hardly slept since we left Vienne and that was three weeks ago.’

‘I’m neglecting my duty to your mother.’ Willelma opened the tassels of a velvet bag. My mother, Ailenor thought. If only she were here. She would make jests and have me laugh at it all. How can I face this awful land alone?

***

Buy Link https://tinyurl.com/ssdrk28 

Make sure you don’t miss a single stop on this amazing blog tour!

Bio

Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London.  Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016.  Visit her website:

Carol’s links are all on her website: www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk

***

You can join in with Carol’s ‘virtual’ book launch tomorrow, on Twitter, from 3pm!

Many thanks fro visiting today Carol.

Good luck with your new novel and the rest of your blog tour.

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

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.

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

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