The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


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Opening Lines: The Case of the Missing Bride

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carmen Radtke to my place, with the first 500 words from her novel, 

Over to you Carmen…

It started with a conversation in a museum, with an elderly immigrant talking about her voyage as an imported bride.

In an idle moment, I typed a few words into Google, and found a few lines in an old article about a bride transport from Australia to Canada in 1862 that hadn’t gone according to plan.  A story full of possibilities slowly unfolded in my mind. What mattered most to me though was that these girls really existed and deserved to be remembered.

They grew up in Victoria, in Australia, struggling with poverty in a country that was both incredibly modern and yet strictly clinging to the values of the British empire they simply called Home. The few well-to-do, like my heroine Alyssa’s family, had a lifestyle that could have come straight out of Jane Austen’s novels, with balls, country visits and parties. For the poor, and their numbers grew rapidly after the gold rush in 1851 had fizzled out, survival was a never-ending struggle. No wonder that my brides leaped at the chance of marrying well-off men, no matter how far away.

How lucky they must have felt when they boarded the ship, their few possessions stowed carefully in their wooden boxes.

They would spend months at sea and endure storms huddled under deck, or being thrown around like a sack, but they endured it together, and with visions of a good future ahead. Until they disappeared in San Francisco. A Canadian newspaper at the time blamed the Californians for having the brides seduced away with money. I wish I could believe that…

The Case of the Missing Bride is my attempt to honour these women and write a cracking yarn about them. The novel was a finalist in the Malice Domestic competition in a year without a winner and nominated for a CWA Historical Dagger.

Blurb:

When a girl goes missing on board of an ocean liner, only one person is convinced that the disappearance is no accident.

Alyssa has found herself with a group of impoverished girls who are embarking from Australia to Canada in the hope of marriage. As the daughter of a senior official, Alyssa doesn’t share this goal. She hopes to return to England via Canada.

But the girls all share one problem. Their presence on the ship is not known to many of its passengers but their worlds collide when one of the gentlemen discovers them. Then Emma, one of the intended brides, goes missing. Alyssa is convinced the disappearance is no accident and will risk her own life to search for the killer.

What happened to Emma? Is there a murderer on board the ship?

Alyssa is about to discover that there is more to her voyage than she bargained for.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Alyssa Chalmers shifted her weight from one foot to the other. How long could it take to read out 22 names, match them each to a face and tick them off a list? She watched Matron McKenzie’s slow progress. If she kept on at this pace they might all be here by nightfall.

Black sateen rustled as Matron came nearer. “Louisa Jane Sinclair?” A sparrow of a girl curtsied, her brows nearly disappearing into her fair bangs as her eyes grew wide. She shouldn’t be here, Alyssa thought with a pang, she is only a child.

“Where is your box? Nothing missing from the items on your list?” Louisa Jane’s eyes widened more, her pupils two dark disks in the paleness that was her face. She bent down to rummage in the patched cardboard case she carried instead of the regulation wooden box. “Yes, Ma’am,” she finally mumbled. Matron made a note on her list before she called out the next name. “Emma Sayce?”

By the time the pen scratched over the paper for the last time, the train station lay deserted, its outlines barely visible in the gas-lights that illuminated Port Phillip.

Matron clapped her plump hands to get everyone’s attention. “Now listen, girls. No dawdling or gossiping on the way. We shall proceed speedily and as quiet as mice.” She waved her right hand. “Off we go. I’ll be in front, and dear Father Pollock will bring up the rear until he sees us safely off.”

The girls obeyed, trudging in silence towards a new life.

The air smelt of salt, dead seaweed and sadness, Alyssa thought, with the gulls screeching like banshees in the all-enveloping darkness. The sea, so full of promise for a better life and a fresh start by daylight, was nothing but a miserable graveyard at night. She shivered. She must be coming down with something. Otherwise there was no explaining this feeling of doom in someone as sensible as she was.

The girls marched on until Matron came to an abrupt halt. “Ouch,” a girl cried out. “Can’t you watch what you’re doing, you daft cow?”

Matron turned around to confront the speaker. “Be quiet,” she hissed. “And watch your words, girl. I’ll have none of that language, thank you very much – Nellie, isn’t it?”

“What on earth is going on?” a long-suffering voice asked.

“Nothing, Father,” Matron said. “It seems we have arrived. There’s a man waving a lantern over there. Can you make out the name of the ship next to the small barge?”

Father Pollock peered through his spectacles. “I can’t be sure, but it does seem to be made up of two words. Surely you can read it? You’re much closer to it than I am.”

Alyssa suppressed a smile. Matron’s eyesight must be less keen than she might care to admit. The name “Artemis’ Delight” was written in large enough letters to be deciphered, with the gas-lights casting their glow onto the ship’s massive brown hull…

***

Buy the book: myBook.to/MissingBride

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Bio

Carmen has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers. She has worked as a newspaper reporter in Germany and New Zealand, but now has swapped the newsroom for a cramped desk in her spare room in the UK She loves history, travel, animals and has convinced herself that day-dreaming is considered work. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching TV series and films (1930s to 1940s screwball comedies and film noir to blockbusters from the Marvel universe) and planning her next trip, although the cat prefers her to stay home.

She also writes historical fiction as Caron Albright.

Connect with her on twitter: @CarmenRadtke1 or Facebook: Carmen Radtke

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Many thanks for your great opening lines, Carmen.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 


What if a child was caught up in the Crusades?

Today I’m delighted to welcome Wayne Turmel to my blog, with a fascinating insight to the development of his protagonist, Lucca le Pou.

Over to you Wayne…

As an author, I’m asked all the time: “Where do your characters come from?” My standard response is, “when a mommy and daddy character love each other very much…. “ but that’s not necessarily true.

In the case of Lucca le Pou, the 10-year-old hero of two of my historical novels, his creation was an interesting look at how an authors—at least my—twisted mind works.

Given that Lucca is a very optimistic and funny character, it started rather bleakly. This photograph was sent around the world at the height of the Syrian Civil War. (To be clear, it was at the height of anyone caring about it, the war continues, and people keep dying.)

This photograph touched me deeply, as it should anyone with a pulse. It got me thinking about children in war time, which led me wonder about children in one of my favorite periods to read about, The Crusades.

By doing what authors do, which is ask “what if?” an awful lot, a character came to mind.

What if… a child was caught up in the Crusades?

What if… that child was a half-French, half-Syrian orphan?

What if… that kid witnessed the Battle of Hattin? (this would spare me writing two separate books, since Hattin is something of an obsession of mine)

What if… I wrote a story aimed at adults but YA audiences, say anyone over 14, could enjoy as well?

What if…  instead of a pathetic, dreary tale of unrelenting sadness, the kid was smart and funny and a survivor? (Think Kipling’s Kim, only during the Crusades)

From those questions, I came up with Lucca the Louse. Lucca is raised in the Hospitaler orphanage (because Templars are so 2017) and takes refuge in the St Lazar leper hospital (because what’s cooler than a whole order of knights who have leprosy?)

I should feel guilty, I suppose, that a young boy’s misery got me thinking about an epic and often funny adventure. But I love Lucca, and so do the readers of Acre’s Bastard, the first book in the series.  I mean, he survives attempted sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder and still has time for a good poop joke. The book even starts with his first attempts to see a naked lady. It isn’t all doom and gloom.

With the second book, I had to continue the story because the war continues, and Lucca must flee a dying city. I paired him up with a young Lebanese Druze girl, also an innocent victim of the Holy War, and the two of them risk everything to flee to Tyre. I hope people will love Nahida as much as they do Lucca.

Here’s the synopsis of Acre’s Orphans, out January 21 and available on Amazon worldwide and in good bookstores everywhere:

Ten-Year-old Lucca the Louse narrowly escaped the worst disaster to befall the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but he’s not safe yet. His beloved but doomed city of Acre is about to fall into Saracen hands, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Days after his return, he uncovers a plot to rip apart what remains of the Crusader Kingdom. Acre’s only chance lies in the last Crusader stronghold; the port of Tyre.  Carrying an important secret, Lucca—accompanied by a young Lebanese girl, a leprous nun, and a Hospitaler with a dark secret—must make his way through bandit-infested wilderness to seek help. Will he find assistance for those left behind, or will it be too little, too late?

This exciting sequel to “Acre’s Bastard” is a rollicking, humorous and thrilling adventure story that stands alone, but adds to the growing legend of Lucca le Pou.

Thanks for the chance to tell my story, and I hope people enjoy the books!

Author Wayne Turmel

www.WayneTurmel.com

@Wturmel

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Turmel/e/B00J5PGNWU/

 

 

Many thanks for blogging with me to day Wayne,

Happy reading everyone,

Jen x


End of the Month: Happy New-ish Year

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Nell Peters back to my place today, for an end of the month blog.

This popular blog series has been having a holiday while Nell and I got on with the serious business of not drowning in work and family life.

As you’ll see, Nell has been far from idle in her absence…

Over to you Nell…

Good morning/whenever, on this fine, final day of January 2019.

You may or may not have noticed I’ve been awol from this hallowed spot since Halloween last year. Jenny took pity on me as I had rather a lot on – as did she – and we agreed upon a two month break. I was about to ask her for January off too, as I didn’t see that I could possibly get through everything I needed to, plus write the blog, when I was struck down with a ghastly and inconvenient virus. So, an enforced few days confined to Norfolk barracks while Samurai warriors sliced at my throat with razor blades, I coughed a graveyard cough etc, instead of being in Twickenham to oversee the final days of clearing my parents’ house for completion of the sale on 18th January.

I am writing this on 15th January and the big Brexit showdown is due this evening. Because of all the house stuff, I have largely missed all the latest proposals/amendments/about-facing/backstabbing/general shenanigans and wheeling and dirty dealing by our elected leaders, and others. I normally refrain from political comment, but will ask, have there ever been so many treacherous weasels gathered in one place, most of whose sole aim seems to be to secure a self-serving solution and sell everyone else down the river? And as for Short Man Syndrome personified, Bercow – how exactly does he still have a job? I am not a huge fan of Teresa May, but I do have a wee bit of sympathy for someone who landed in No. 10 because she was basically the last man standing, and immediately had a poisoned chalice shoved into her hand. No win-no win. However, this is also the person who snatched defeat from the hands of victory at the last General Election, and thereafter entered into an insanely costly alliance with the DUP, in order to pretend she had a majority. Enough, the soap box is being returned to the shed – except, has anyone thought of putting Larry the Downing Street cat in charge? Could hardly do a worse job…

What has happened since we last had a chinwag? Well, Christmas and New Year for a start. The OH and I went to do our mega shop on Sunday, 23rd December, which was our zillionth anniversary. As it was tipping down and freezing cold, Sir Galahad dropped me at the supermarket entrance to source a trolley, and toodled off to park. Shelves stripped of goodies and considerably poorer, we returned to the very large car park to off load our spoils – but where was the car? As we’d taken the small but perfectly-formed, bright red work vehicle, it surely shouldn’t be that hard to find? As OH trawled up and down the rows of parked cars in the rain, shoulders hunched and looking extremely grim, my heart sank further and further toward my soggy boots – until about fifteen minutes later, when little red car was discovered hiding behind a whopping 4×4. Shopping shoved in the boot we headed home, the thought of venturing out again for the anniversary dinner becoming less attractive by the millisecond – and so we cancelled the reservation in favour of pizza delivery, a roaring fire and a rubbish DVD that neither of us could watch through eyes closed in slumber.

Christmas Eve in this house means #4 son’s birthday – his 26th, so into the kitchen I went to prepare a suitable feast. #3 son was on holiday in Bali and Kuala Lumpur  and not due home until 28th, so the gathering was slightly smaller than normal – not that you’d know that from noise levels and general carnage. A quick sleep and it all started again, with even less room to swing a moggy in a kitchen guarded by a giant turkey, which didn’t look best pleased at being plucked. By Boxing Day, I was severely regretting turning down #3’s offer of some of his spare air miles (flash monkey!) to buy a flight to NYC between Christmas and New Year! Just too much stressy stuff on my plate…

While all this was going on, our lovely niece Francesca was worried sick about her friend, Jack, who had gone missing after a night out during the early hours of 23/12. Search parties were formed, social media campaigns shared far and wide, flyers put up locally and the press alerted, plus anything else possible was done to find him, all to no avail. The situation was not helped by the holiday period and businesses with potentially useful CCTV being closed. Tragically, Jack’s body was found in a lake on 3rd Jan – he was just twenty-eight. May he rest in peace. Incidentally, Fran was also twenty-eight, on New Years Eve – I imagine she has had better birthdays.

Prior to 31/12, I went to Twickenham to continue bogging out the house and meet up with #2 son who was already in residence, plus #3 who had just flown in. He met me at the station, still wearing shorts! Over the next couple of days, the local DEBRA charity shop came to love us, as we loaded them up with figurines (so many they actually had their own display cabinet in store), Denby and Royal Doulton dinner services, glassware, plus all manner of fripperies – and that was before we got to the Saville Row suits, designer handbags and Burberry Macs. Do people still wear those? It’s a large-ish house and we hardly made a dent, before we went off to join the rest of the family at a hotel in Kew for a couple of days.

The Grands loved travelling on trains, buses and the tube – something none of them normally experience with their ever-behind-the-wheel parents, and just after lunch on NYE we clambered up the stairs on a double decker and headed to Richmond Theatre for the panto matinee of Peter Pan. They are brilliant productions that I used to go to as a child, and in turn took the boys when they were younger. This year, Robert Lindsay played a very sinister Captain Hook magnificently – he was formerly known as delusional revolutionary, Wolfie Smith eons ago in the TV series, Citizen Smith. His now ex-wife, Cheryl Hall, took the part of his equally deluded girlfriend, Shirley.

More recently, he played Ben Harper, the father in My Family – one of the best unscripted moments in the panto was when Lindsay was doing his Shakespearean actor thing front of stage, over-dramatically asking where he should go, who did he know, when a quick-witted audience member piped up, ‘What about my family?’ Amused me, anyway. After he’d rallied the audience to sing Auld Lang Syne at the end, we got another bus (single decker only, disappointingly) to the family home to have food and fireworks and raise a toast.

#3 flew back to Mumbai on the second, after some stalwart work sorting and dump-running, leaving #2 and I to our own devices at the house – that was when furniture removal started in earnest, via the likes of Sue Ryder and the Richmond Furniture Scheme. All cupboards and drawers – and they numbered quite a few – were packed with stuff and we came across some real goodies, including utility bills from the 1980s, every letter my parents had ever received neatly filed, and jewellery hidden in the most bizarre places – plus, between them, my parents owned enough pairs of shoes to open their own shop and then some. After some quiet contemplation, I threw away my neatly-folded Brownie and Girl Guide uniforms, confident in the knowledge they’d never fit me again…

I made a couple of brilliant discoveries, though – my Blue Peter Badge (won when I was about seven or eight in a photography contest, and which my mother told me had been lifted from her dressing table during a burglary decades ago), along with a photo signed by all the Beatles. I belonged to their fan club (sadly, never allowed to go to gigs) and all my other paraphernalia had been unceremoniously dumped on a maternal whim during the distant past. It was almost worth the entire emotional and physical trauma involved in the clearance, just to find those two items. Almost.

We were all in Norfolk last weekend – including #3, who flew back for a week – for the delayed 3rd birthday party of the youngest GD. I think it went well, but can’t swear to that, as the germs were by then starting to take hold with a vengeance and I was ga-ga at best. Another big family gathering next Saturday, as it is #3’s last night before he flies back to Mumbai or Bangkok – I’m never quite sure where he’s hanging his hat. All go innit? One thing is for sure – it will be a takeaway or delivery!

Just going to mention one 31/1 birthday – one with the most tenuous of tenuous family connections. Songwriter, musician and record producer, Marcus Mumford, is lead singer with Mumford and Sons, and will need thirty-two candles for his cake. Born in California, where his British parents, John and Eleanor were working as national leaders with the Vineyard Church (UK and Ireland), he moved with them to the UK aged just six months, to grow up in Wimbledon. His wife was a childhood pen pal and they reconnected as adults, marrying in 2012. She is Carey Mulligan, and that is where the connection comes in – her older brother, former army captain/now businessman, Owain, is married to my cousin, Barbara’s daughter, Lorna. Told you it’s a tenuous connection!

Owain served in Iraq and Afghanistan and through him, Carey became an ambassador for War Child, a non-governmental organisation founded in the UK in 1993, which provides help to children in areas experiencing conflict and the aftermath of conflict. She is also an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, a disease from which her grandmother suffers, no longer recognising Carey.

I haven’t seen Lorna for a good few years and I’ve never met the others – I have only watched Carey in two things, as far as I remember; the film Suffragette, in which I thought she played a brilliant part and the TV series, Collateral which I didn’t much enjoy, despite an impressive cast. I have to confess to having a soft spot for Marcus though, ever since he was caught on camera yawning during Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Good man.

By the time you read this, I hope the dust will have settled a little so that I can get some of my life back. That’s the plan, anyway – wish me luck!

Thanks for having me, Jen.

Toodles, everyone.

NP

***

Huge thank you for writing this fabulous blog- although I’m sorry you had to have a virus so you could find the time!

What a start to 2019! Here’s to calmer times ahead.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


From modern romance to medieval crime

Moving from writing modern contemporary women’s fiction and romantic comedies to creating medieval murder mysteries isn’t necessarily the most obvious career move for a writer to make. For me however, it felt like a natural progression.

I love writing my stories of Cornish romance and coffee shop based friendship dramas as Jenny Kane. In fact, it was when I was writing my modern chick flick romance, Romancing Robin Hood, that I found I was accidentally writing a medieval mystery at the same time.

Within Romancing Robin Hood, the lead character, Grace Harper, is writing a medieval adventure. It hadn’t been my intention to tell the story Grace was writing alongside her own adventure- but that’s what ended up happening. So, when you read Romancing Robin Hood, not only do you read, Robin Hood lover, Grace’s, modern tale, but you read the murder mystery she is writing as well. It just goes to prove that writers have very little control over their characters. Grace told me to write her novel for her- and so I did!

That novel (which is within Romancing Robin Hood) was separately published as The Outlaw’s Ransom, the story of Mathilda of Twyford and her encounter with a criminal gang in Fourteenth century Leicestershire. Even more surprising to me than the fact I was suddenly writing medieval crime fiction, was that Mathilda wasn’t going to be content with just one story of her own. She wanted a whole series all to herself! So, The Folville Chronicles was born.

The Outlaw’s Ransom, which is only a short novel, was followed by the rather longer novel, The Winter Outlaw– and that in turn has now been succeeded by Edward’s Outlaw– where I got seriously involved in the writing and simply couldn’t stop! Mathilda was so busy solving the given crime, that I hadn’t noticed just how long this story was going to be! So far, every new Folville Chronicle has been almost double the size of the one before!

Edward's Outlaw

While The Folville Chronicles are medieval murder mysteries- with plenty of other crime going on in the background- I haven’t strayed too far from my romantic fiction roots. Mathilda and Robert de Folville don’t have the most straight forward of starts on their life together…and they aren’t the only ones destined to end up together….

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If you’d like to read any of the stories mentioned above, the links to my books, romance and otherwise, are available via the menu links at the top of the page, or by clicking on the titles of each mentioned book within this post.

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer- or should that be Jenny?

xx

 

 


Dead trees and Xmas gifts

Today I’m welcoming historical fiction novelist, Tom Williams, back to my site with a pre-Christmas message!

Over to you Tom…

Yet again, the news is telling us that paper books are very much here to stay. Honestly, they never went away and, equally honestly, e-book’s have become well established and they’re not going to go away either. It’s a non-story, presumably raising its head particularly at this time of year because with Christmas coming we remember that people still buy books as gifts.

It’s weird, this idea that e-books versus paper is like one of the great divides of human-kind, like Mods vs Rockers, Mac vs PC, Corrie vs East-Enders.

I’m a huge e-book fan. I read mainly on an iPad. It lets me carry lots of books with me. It allows me to highlight and make notes on them. (I know some people do that on paper, but I was brought up to see that as vandalism and I still feel uncomfortable with it.) I don’t lose my place. And it’s massively cheaper and easier to get new books. (Given the amount of 19th century reading I do, it’s often the only remotely realistic way to get hold of obscure out-of-print Victorian volumes.) So am I a paper-hating child of new technology? Hardly.

This is the biggest bookcase in the house, but far from the only one.

Practically every room in the house has at least some books propped up in it somewhere (not the bathroom – the steam makes the paper soggy). Paper books are attractive. It’s easier, sometimes, to browse a shelf full of books than to find something useful in an e-library. E-books are easier to search when you know what you want, but they can be frustrating when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Paper books allow more opportunities for serendipitous discoveries. The original inspiration for Cawnpore was a book I picked up browsing through someone else’s (paper) library, stuck indoors on a wet day. If I’d had an e-reader with me, I’d probably never have come across it.

Bookshops can be very frustrating in their selection of stock. (Try asking for one of my books – or pretty well anything published by a smaller press – at Waterstones and prepare to be told that they can’t get it for you.) But the shelves of temptingly displayed volumes can draw you to books you would never otherwise have discovered.

Paper books can be lent to friends or passed on when they’re finished with. They do, indeed, furnish a room. Old textbooks remind us of our student years, an autographed volume of a special meeting. Most of all, as ‘Super Thursday’ reminds us, paper books can be gifted in a way that e-books cannot. A paper book says that you want to share something you have enjoyed, or that you have thought about the interests and enthusiasms of your friend and sought out a book that matches them. The transfer of digital data from computer to computer does not, for some reason, carry the emotional resonance of the gift of a physical book.

All my books are available in paperback as well as on Kindle. Most good publishers try to produce paper copies, if only for their authors to display proudly on their bookcases. (Second shelf down on the extreme right if you’re checking the photo.) All authors I have ever met want to see their words on paper. It’s odd because, in this digital age, the paperback is probably the first time I’ve seen my book printed out in its entirety. Still, there they are. And you can buy them, and give them to your friends.

Pay attention to that last bit. Buy one for yourself and give others to your friends. And keep a couple spare, for those last-minute gifts.  And remember, a book is for life, not just for Christmas.

Important note

This was a public information announcement on behalf of all writers everywhere. However, I do draw your attention to the fact that paperback copies of all my books cost £5.99 or less. They are available in North America too (though with different covers) and you can buy them on Amazon or through Simon & Schuster.

Details of all my books are on my website (http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk). There is lots to read there (and pretty pictures) so do drop by.

Bio

Tom Williams used to write books for business, but he gave it all up to write things that are more fun. His spy stories set in the Napoleonic Wars feature James Burke, who was a real person, though we can’t guarantee that all his adventures were exactly as described. He was a spy, after all, so many of the details are unknown.

Tom also writes about colonialism in the age of Empire.

When he’s not writing Tom spends far too much time dancing tango.

Tom has a website at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk and a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/ and he tweets as @TomCW99.

***

Many thanks Tom,

Happy reading (and Christmas) everyone,

Jenny x


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