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End of the Month: July in a Nutshell

Another month has zipped by, and so Nell Peters is here with her popular roundup of events. A belated happy birthday to Nell (who shares the same birthday as me), and thanks, as ever, for another fab post.

Over to you…

Good day! Both Jenny and I are a year older since we last met, and while the Football World Cup didn’t actually come home, sales of waistcoats rocketed. That’s July in a nutshell and I’m not even going to mention tennis or Donald Trump …

Someone celebrating their birthday this fine day is JK (Joanne Kathleen, as I’m sure you all know) Rowling, who clocks up fifty-three years. The Harry Potter series of books hit the shelves in June 1997, with publication of HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the last (seventh), HP and the Deathly Hallows was released in July 2007. Rowling’s imagined biography for her main character saw him born on 31st July 1980 in Godric’s Hollow, whereas the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry P (again, as you all know – I have a talent for stating the obvious), was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London – where sons #2, 3 and 4 were born – on 23rd July 1989, about nine weeks after #3. I’m sure if Daniel’s mother had known then the significance of the last day of the month, she’d have held on. In keeping with the 31/7 theme, the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, with contributions by JKR, was published worldwide at midnight on this day two years ago. And what do you give the woman who can have anything she wants for her birthday? I like to think at least one of her friends will give her some tasteful Harry Pottery. I’m so sorry …

A name caught my eye as I was researching people born on 31st July and immediately appealed to my pathetic sense of humour – take a posthumous bow Arthur (John) Daley; not the ducker and diver, but an American sports writer and journalist born in New York City in 1904. He wrote for The New York Times (his only employer) for almost fifty years, producing over 10,000 columns with an estimated twenty million words – and in 1956 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his troubles. He reported on the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and when he was chosen to repeat that role in Berlin in 1936, he became the first Times correspondent to be sent overseas for a sports assignment. In later years, he covered the Olympics in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Munich. Daley lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife, Betty and their four children, two of whom followed in his footsteps to become journalists on the Times. He died of a heart attack on January 3rd 1974, as he was walking to work, and is buried in the ambitiously-named Gate of Heaven Cemetery, New York.

Poor old Arthur didn’t make the Montreal Olympics in 1976, but I did. I managed to miss all of the long, hot summer that cooked the UK that year, but Montreal summers are always hot, with crippling degrees of humidity because the city is a series of islands. Being around three months pregnant and very sickly, I quite regretted shelling out for a ticket for the opening ceremony, as I sat through the rather lacklustre proceedings, feeling like death.

Montreal had experienced the coldest winter on record during 1970/71 (152 inches of snow, yikes!), followed by a period of violent political unrest. The terrorist Front du Libération du Quebec (FLQ) exploded ninety-five bombs in the city – the largest of which blew up the Stock Exchange – and kidnapped the British Consul, James Cross, along with the Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by imposing martial law, and armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets, with troops detaining hundreds of people without charge. The FLQ released Cross but murdered Laporte, and the city was a pretty scary place to be for a very long time – even when I arrived in ’74 – particularly if you spoke with a British accent.

You might think, then, that the Games of the XXI Olympiad – to give them their official title – would be embraced as an opportunity to turn a corner, to go some way to ease the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, and demonstrate that sport could transcend all. After all, the Games were the first to be hosted by Canada and, to date, the only summer Olympics held there. But no; multiple strikes, organised corruption, theft and sabotage, along with rocketing costs, left the city with a debt of (Canadian) $1.6bn which would take decades to clear, not to mention an unfinished stadium. And to add to the fiasco, as the Games were about to open, twenty-two African nations withdrew, because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand for sending the All Blacks rugby team to tour in apartheid South Africa.

But the British did turn up, and one of the women toddling around the stadium, dodging cement mixers and wearing the rather hideous uniform – red skirt suit, white shoes, bag, scarf that looked like a hangman’s noose, topped off with what one of my grandmothers would have described as a muck-spreading hat – was Princess Anne (without her horse, in case you were wondering?)

My only claim to fame is that I’ve watched the Olympic Torch procession up close and personal twice – first in Montreal in torrential rain and then in sunny Norfolk in 2012, prior to the London Olympics. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Zara Phillips won a silver medal on her horse, High Kingdom in the Equestrian Eventing final on 31/7/12. This was on the same day that two car bombs killed twenty-one people in Baghdad and a second power grid failure in India in two days left 670 million people without power. That’s an awful lot of redundant toasters.

I doubt Zara ever met our niece, who was a volunteer chauffeur during the London Games – as a teacher she was on summer hols and didn’t have to take leave. Not speaking a word of Russian, she was the perfect choice to ferry around a Russian ambassador, who didn’t speak a word of English. What a jovial pairing that must have been (he did, however, manage to invite her to some lavish official function – an offer she tactfully and wisely refused.) Worst of all, she had to wear the awful pink and purple clobber assigned to all staff and volunteers. Who ‘designs’ these outfits, I wonder – colour blind orang-utans with no dress sense?

As I write this in advance, I hope I’m not tempting fate by mentioning that this July has brought hot temperatures and little rain to the UK. And some record heat levels were recorded elsewhere in 1994. It was 39.3°C in Pleschen, East-Germany on this day; Arcen Limburg, Holland recorded an average over the month of 22.0°C – the warmest July since 1783; and Stockholm averaged 21.5°C, their hottest July since 1855. Phew!

Loretta Young

Lots of weddings have taken place on 31st July over the years; American actress Loretta Young married advertising executive Tom Lewis (1940); singer-songwriter and musician Ray Charles married Eileen Williams (1951); singer Natalie Cole married songwriter Marvin Yancy (1976); Bee Gee Robin Gibb married author and artist Dwina Murphy (1986); actor Patrick Dempsey married make-up artist Jillian Fink (1999); Lady Davina Windsor married surfer and the first Maori to marry into the Royal Family, Gary Lewis at the chapel in Kensington Palace in London (2004); and then a double whammy in 2010 when singer-songwriter Alicia Keys married award-winning rapper Swizz Beatz in Corsica, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US President Bill and wife Hillary, married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in New York.

We had a family wedding on 31st July 2015, when our oldest niece (aforementioned Olympic chauffeur) tied the knot in Stratford-upon-Avon, from whence her OH hailed. It was a lovely old country house-type venue and no expense was spared, as the sun shone down on the bridal party and their many guests. Our immediate family had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions in the footwear department – #2 son forgot to pack his smart shoes and so had to wear trainers with his formal suit, but that paled into insignificance compared with #1’s experience. Can you imagine why anyone would order a pair of very expensive shoes off the internet and not try them on to make sure they were a good fit? The first time those shoes met his larger feet was in the hotel room as he and his wife were getting ready for the ceremony – he was giving the bride (his cousin) away because her dad had died four years previously, so no trainer substitutes for him.

The wedding was in two parts – the first conducted by a celebrant in the ruins of an old chapel in the grounds. Son managed to escort the bride from house to chapel wearing the crippling shoes, but they were removed at the first opportunity, and when he walked the bride into the official proceedings within the house, he did so in his brightly-coloured socks. That was also the case for the photographs – at least there were no visible holes. Nor did anyone seem to notice that #2 and 3 were wearing almost-identical blue suits – #2’s newly-purchased and #3’s hired. Despite an enviable honeymoon in the Maldives, the ‘happy couple’ had separated before Christmas. Slightly bizarre that the outfit I purchased far outlasted the marriage …

#2 son’s wedding was booked for 30th July 2011, but, alas, was called off a few months beforehand – there seems to be some sort of wedding curse going on here! That year for us was four funerals and no weddings … Looking on the bright side, cancellation meant the dreaded stag do would not go ahead – they’d planned a long weekend on a canal barge. The very thought of several inebriated young men, staggering around on deck in close proximity to murky waters, turned my blood cold – not helped by my friend Allison insisting on referring to it as The Boat of Death. The wedding may not have happened, but the couple are still together, as are another couple who actually did get married on that day.

Step forward once again Zara Phillips, who wed rugby player, Mike Tindall. Without any nuptials to attend, the OH and I nipped up to Edinburgh for a few days, not realising the wedding would be taking place down the road in Canongate Kirk – in fact, several people staying at our hotel were going to the bunfight. As I hadn’t packed my embarrassing hat, we decided not to gatecrash.

Speaking of which, hat’s me lot – sorry again! Thanks, Jenny!

Toodles!

NP

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Thanks again Nell!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

 


The Folville Chronicles: Bakewell Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Jennifer x


Edward’s Outlaw: and the winner is…

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have recently been running a competition- with the support of my lovely publishers, Littwitz Press- to find a name for one of the characters in the forthcoming novel, Edwards’ Outlaw.

This, the third book in The Folville Chronicles, will be published just in time for Christmas.

I was overwhelmed with name ideas- for which I am very grateful. It has been a lot of fun going through the suggestions.

A few of the names you lovely folk up with already belonged to characters in the book. For example, Barnaby Eaton-Jones suggested Bella (after a cat!)- a name which already features strongly throughout the novel.

Before I tell you the name I did pick- and the winner- I’ll tell you a little about the character.

She’s a young maid in Rockingham castle. The year is 1331- just. It’s early January, the winter is biting, and Mathilda de Folville is in the castle- so trouble isn’t far behind. Within only a few hours of Mathilda arriving, one of the young maids friend is dead…She and Mathilda need to work fast to find out what is going on.

So- what’s this brave young woman’s name?

It’s Bettrys- and it’s an old Latin and Welsh name meaning ‘Bringer of Joy.’ Over the centuries the name has developed into the more popular, Beatrice. Bettrys is 16 years old and doesn’t remember her parents, although she knows her mother was Welsh.

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Many thanks to Chris Averiss for this excellent suggestion. Edwards’ Outlaw will be dedicated to you- and Bettrys will be one of its stars.

Right then – I’d better get writing, or Edward’s Outlaw will never be ready in time to feature in your Christmas stocking!

Happy reading,

Jen xx

 

 

 

 

 


Competition: Name a character in Edward’s Outlaw!

Book Three of The Folville Chronicles is almost fully drafted.

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Edward’s Outlaw, takes her away from Ashby-Folville manor and into the dark shadows of Rockingham Castle…a well known haunt of felons on the run from the law…

Before I can finish my story however, I need your help.

Help me find a female name for one of my characters.

This is your chance to have your name, a favourite name or a loved one’s name, featured in a novel.

Should the name you suggest be chosen, then, not only will it be used in the book, but Edwards’ Outlaw will also be dedicated to you.

I’d love you to pick a name for me!

Remember that the book is set in the fourteenth century- so no Kylie’s or Chardonnay’s please. Otherwise, all you need to do is leave your chosen female name on this thread (via my publisher’s Facebook event page)

https://www.facebook.com/events/387647131739270/

In the meantime, why not have a peep at Books’ One and Two…

Good luck!!

The competition closes on 30th June.

Jennifer xx

 


Opening Lines: Jennifer Wilson’s Kindred Spirits

Thursday is upon us once more, which means it’s ‘Opening Lines’ blog time. This week I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Wilson to my site to share the first 500 words of her novel, Kindred Spirits.

Introduction

In the Kindred Spirits series, we meet the ghosts of historical characters, in a range of contemporary settings. Have you ever wondered what Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have in common, what Mary, Queen of Scots is getting up to now, or what happens when the visitors leave some of the most popular attractions in the country? Well, here’s your chance…

First 500 words of Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey

Queen Elizabeth I of England was sulking. And not quietly, as the rest of the Abbey’s residents would have preferred. Despite her advancing years, she could still flounce in style, and was keen to ensure everyone knew what was annoying her this time.

“It’s so boring here!” she exclaimed, dropping gracelessly into one of the choir stalls. “Nothing ever happens.”

“She’s been to the Tower again,” whispered Catherine Knollys to her brother, but not quite quietly enough, as the queen’s friends and cousins wandered over to see what specifically had been troubling her this time.

“Yes, yes, I have. At least things happen there.”

“Our Uncle George still as entertaining as ever then?” Henry Carey tried to divert his cousin’s attention, but only made it worse.

“Naturally. He was haunting the barrel of Malmsey with Clarence, and it was hilarious, as usual. Scaring people out of their skins. That’s what we ghosts should be doing, not just loitering about discussing experiments.” She glared at where Charles Darwin and Robert Stephenson were once again in deep conversation, sitting out of the way of the early tourists starting to make their way through the great church. Without a word, Darwin glared at her, then shifted in his seat turning his back against her, much to Elizabeth’s disgust.

“We do plenty of haunting, Cousin. It’s just that, well, you know the Abbey’s never really lent itself to that.”

“No, Catherine – everyone has simply become too old and too dull over the centuries. And too weak to stand up to my wretched great-grandmother. It’s all her fault.”

Catherine and Henry shot nervous glances at each other. When Elizabeth was in one of these moods, little could be done to stop her. Even her beloved Dudley had retreated back to Warwick after witnessing one of her angrier days. Before either could speak again, their cousin had moved on, stomping through the Abbey until she found the memorial to William Pulteney, the Earl of Bath.

As though knowing what was expected, the book in the centre of the statue flicked pages in silence. It wasn’t good enough.

“See? See that? A page of a statue’s book turning. Over three thousand of us in here, seventeen monarchs, no less, as the guidebooks tell us, and that’s the best we can come up with?” Queen Elizabeth spun on her heel, turning back to the siblings. “At the Tower they have my mother removing her severed head, with my step-mother and my aunt alongside her. They have a young, robust King, leading the way forward. They have wailings and chain-rattlings and, well, everything. We have a statue, turning its page.”

By now, a crowd had grown around the Queen, noting, not for the first time, how similar she was to her great-grandmother when her temper really took hold. Fiery Tudor blood indeed.

“We’ve talked about this, Elizabeth.” The chattering and ranting was broken by the only voice which ever had any control over the wayward Queen.

“Now she’s in…

About Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey

On hallowed ground…

With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic.

Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn’t all tempers and tantrums. Poets’ Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages.

With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace?

The bestselling Kindred Spirits series continues within the ancient walls of Westminster Abbey.

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her self-published timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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This sounds fantastic- very much my cup of tea (or coffee in my case)

Come back next week to explore the first 500 words from a novel by Simon Farrant.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


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