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

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So, you want to be a writer

So, you want to be a writer.

This is a list of the 8 questions I would encourage you to ask yourself before you start to write.

Who are you writing for?

Yourself? Friends? Family?

If the answer isn’t for yourself – then take a deep breath and think very carefully.  However much fun it is, writing is hard work. If you aren’t doing it because you want to, it’ll be even harder.

What are you writing for?

Money? Fun? To make a point? To leave something of yourself behind after your death? Because you simply have to write?

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you need to ask yourself…

What genre are you going to write?

Are you going to write in a given genre. If so – which one?

Crime, romance, paranormal, steampunk, fantasy, erotica, contemporary fiction, goths, thrillers….The list is huge, and expanding all the time.

Which age group/gender are you targeting?

Adults? Teenagers? Children? Everyone?

It is vital to know your audience. Make sure you read as much as you can in the genre/audience group you hope to write for.

Let’s get practical!

Where will you write?

At home, in the local café, the library, or a hired office?

If you are not comfortable in your writing place, the words will not come easily.

What medium will you chose?

Paper, computer, tablet, phone, dictation?

There is no right or wrong way to produce a story. Go with what works for you – not what you think ought to work for you.

Will you approach an agent, a publisher, or self publish?

Each avenue has advantages and disadvantages. Whatever you decide to do – get as much advice as you can about your preferred option first.

And- most boringly and practical of all- can you manage your own marketing?

Don’t forget, if you don’t market your writing, then all your hard work will have been wasted. No one will know your book exists if you don’t wave your flag! So, love it or hate, you will need to get to grips with social media, whether you are traditionally published or self published.

 

***

Happy questioning!

Jenny xx

 

 

Will there ever be outlaw justice?

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

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

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

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

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

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

Outlaw Justice

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

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m up to my eyes in words at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two – while I crack on!

The Winter Outlaw .

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.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

Adam Calvin’s vision blurred as his eyes streamed in the cold. His breath came in wheezing puffs. He needed to rest, but he daren’t. Not yet.

It was only as the vague outline of a cluster of homes and workshops came into view in the distance that he realised where his legs had been taking him. Slowing his pace, but not stopping, Adam risked a glance over his shoulder. He’d expected to see dogs, horses and men chasing him, but there was nothing. No one.

Scanning the scene ahead, making sure he wasn’t running into trouble as well as away from it, Adam exhaled heavily and aimed for a building he hoped was still standing.

The last time he’d visited the tiny village of Walesby there had been an old grain store on its outskirts. Built too close to the point where the frequently flooding Rivers Maun and Meden merged, the grain store had paid the price of a poor location. Long since abandoned in favour of a superior bake house, it was a perfect temporary hiding place for a man on the run.

Adam had no breath left with which to sigh for relief when he saw the neglected grain store. Uttering a prayer of thanks to Our Lady for the fact the building hadn’t been pulled down, he lifted the worn latch. He eased his way into the damp space, which was stuffed with rotting sacks containing all manner of rubbish.

Scrabbling awkwardly over the first few rows of musty sacks, Adam made himself a man-sized gap at the back of the room. Sinking down as far as he could, hoping both the sacks and the dark would shield him long enough for his cramped limbs to rest, he did his best to ignore the putrid stench and allowed his mind to catch up on events.

Only a few hours ago everything in Adam’s life had been as it should be.

He’d been fast asleep in his cot in the small private room his status as steward to Lord John de Markham gave him.

Had given him.

Adam wasn’t sure what time it had been when he’d been shaken to his senses from sleep by Ulric, the kitchen boy. He suspected it hadn’t been much more than an hour after he’d bedded down for the night.

Ulric, who’d frantically reported that a hue and cry had been called to capture Adam, had urged his master to move quickly. The sheriff had unexpectedly arrived and there had been a brief meeting between him, the Lord Markham and one other unknown man. An anxious Ulric had said that rumours were flying around like snowflakes in the wind.

Some of the household staff were saying Adam had stolen something, some that there had been a death; a murder.

Either way, for his own safety, Steward Calvin had to leave. Fast.

Confused, scared and angry that his good name was being questioned; without having time to find out what was going on or defend himself, Adam had grabbed his scrip. Pulling on his boots and cloak, with Ulric’s help he’d headed through the manor via the servants’ walkways.

The only item Adam hadn’t been able to find to take with him was his knife. Contenting himself with lifting one from Cook’s precious supplies as he ran through the kitchen, he’d left the manor that had been his home for the past twenty years.

With a fleeting nod of gratitude to his young helper, Adam had fled into the frosty night. Only minutes later he’d heard the calls of the hue and cry; echoes of the posse’s footfalls thudding against the hard, icy earth.

Now, wiping tears of exhaustion away with the back of his hand, Adam strained his ears through the winter air. All he could hear was the busy work of the mice or rats who were taking as much advantage of the building as he was.

Glad of the water pouch Ulric had stuffed in his scrip, Adam took a tiny sip. He didn’t know how long it would have to last him. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against the sacks that boxed him in and tried to think.

Had he outstripped the hue and cry? If they were nearby, taking the chance to rest while waiting for him to run again, then Adam was sure he’d have heard something ‑ but there were no muttered voices, no horses panting and no hounds barking at his scent.

Adam managed to get his breathing under control. He’d been part of the hue and cry on occasions himself, and he knew such groups didn’t tend to chase their quarry far, or for long. Especially not on a cold winter’s night, when they could be tucked up in bed before the demands of the next working day.

With growing confidence that he’d chosen his bolthole well, Adam allowed himself to relax a fraction. Few people lived in Walesby since the most recent of many destructive floods, and its location meant he was only a few steps from the edge of Sherwood Forest. A desperate man could easily disappear into the woodland’s depths.

As the hours ticked on, Adam became convinced that the pursuit had stopped. However, he knew that by the morning the hue and cry would be replaced with soldiers if the sheriff barked the order. His bolthole wouldn’t stay safe for long.

Yet that wasn’t what concerned Adam the most. He wanted to know what he was supposed to have done that warranted his midnight flight. How could he even begin to go about clearing his name if he didn’t know what he was accused of?

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am, with the complete series of The Folville Chronicles available for you to enjoy. The were so much fun to write,

 

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Romancing Robin Hood: Medieval Murder and Modern Love

The last thing I expected I’d be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!), and yet, that is exactly what happened when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn’t so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn’t see it coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood – Blurb.

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is passionate about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. Not only does this novel tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched in-depth as a student many moons ago.

In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist Mathilda is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as living with them, she suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion.

I must confess I’m rather enjoyed weaving this sub plot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood.

I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun!! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are! I loved it so much, that it led to me writing all four of the #FolvilleChronicle novels.

Here’s an extract from – starting with some of the medieval tale Grace is writing…

Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

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

Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless…

 

…Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.

No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript…

If you’d like to buy Romancing Robin Hood, or any of The Folville Chronicles, you can find them here –

Romancing Robin Hood – mybook.to/RomancingRH

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 everyone,

Jenny x

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

Happy Valentine’s Day: Robin Hood Style

Valentines

To celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little of Romancing Robin Hood– my part romance/part medieval mystery novel- with you.

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. As you read Grace’s story, you can read the medieval mystery she is writing alongside!

The problem is, Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by.

RH- E Flynn

With her wedding approaching fast, Grace’s best friend Daisy can’t help wishing a similar happiness to her own for her Robin Hood loving friend…

Extract

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

 

If that extract has whetted your appetite for more, Romancing Robin Hood is available in paperback, and e-formats from all good retailers- including…

Kindle –
Paperback-

 

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jenny x

 

Why Did I Write Romancing Robin Hood?

It is said that everyone has one book in them. This isn’t the case with me- so far I’ve taken part in the creation of over 200 books. Having said that however, one book always needed to be released from my imagination – and that book was Romancing Robin Hood.

This novel sat in my mind for decades, just waiting for the moment to be right.

 

Many many many years ago, when I was a teenager, I was a bit- shall we say unusual? I suspect the words ‘odd’ and ‘eccentric’ would be more accurate, but I’ll let you make your own mind up on that!!!

I never did the pop or film star crush thing. Never had pictures of Duran Duran or Wham on my wall. Adam Ant didn’t look up at me from my pencil case, and I did not wake up to see a life sized poster of Morrissey’s backside complete with gladioli (or whatever flower it was) sticking out of his backside!!

Nor was I into the Pac Man craze (I am so giving my age away here!), and the background to Manic Minor drove me nuts! I didn’t buy Jackie, or indulge in spending my money on Cosmopolitan.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like music or playing the odd game of tennis on the Atari- but I had a different sort of fascination.

RH- RoS 2

Cast of Robin of Sherwood

Robin Hood!!

I know what you’re thinking- you’re thinking that I had a crush on Jason Connery or Michael Praed- but nope. Sorry- neither of those lovely boys are my type at all.

It all started because I was ill for ages and ages when I was 14. I missed a lot of school. But as always in life, timing is everything- and I was saved by an instant and unshakeable love for the series of Robin of Sherwood that was being aired on ITV at the time. It was the third series- I hadn’t seen either of the first two. (I have now- lots!) As I was at home so much, my parents rented one of those new fangled video recorders from Radio Rentals so I could record stuff and watch it when I liked. (Thanks Mum and Dad- still grateful for that!!)

The VCR arrived the same day as the episode of Robin of Sherwood called Adam Bell was aired- I recorded it and watched it 8 times the next day- and then again, and again and again. Now- over 20 years later- I can still quote the script!! (Okay- that’s nothing to be proud of- see- I’m a bit odd!!)

It wasn’t the tight tights that had captured my heart though- it was the story. The whole story. All of it. I wanted to know everything- EVERYTHING- that could possibly be known about Robin Hood. No film, book (nonfiction or fiction), was safe from me.

RH- E Flynn

Errol Flynn- The Adventures of Robin Hood

 

My walls disappeared under posters of RH- any posters- from Errol Flynn, to Richard Greene, to the statue up in Nottingham, to the gorgeous Ray Winstone who played Will Scarlet (Okay- you have me there- I had – still do- have a ‘thing’ for Ray Winstone- there is such a twinkle in those eyes!!!)

The interest became an obsession (In RH not Ray Winstone). When I was better my parents took me to Sherwood- I learnt archery, I read medieval political poems and ballads- I wanted to know the truth- did he exist or didn’t he?

I did a project on RH for my A’ level History. Then I went to university and did a specialist course in Medieval Castle and Ecclesiastical Architecture…I was a medieval junky!! It seemed only natural to do a PhD on the subject- and that is exactly what I did!

Robin Hood Statue- Nottingham

Robin Hood Statue- Nottingham

By this time of course, I was pretty certain how and why the RH legend had begun- but I wanted to know who had influenced it into the form we know today, and how the real recorded crimes and daily life of the thirteenth and fourteenth century had affected those stories… (forget thinking RH was around with Richard I or King John- it ain’ happening!!)

It was my PhD that taught me to write- (a tome of epic proportions that is still knocking around my old Uni library gathering dust, while e-versions of it are scattered around many American Universities). Rather than finish off my love of RH- my PhD polished it to perfection!! (Although nothing could make me like the latest BBC series or the Russell Crowe or Taron Egerton films.)

I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to write a novel about a Robin Hood obsessed historian.

Blurb-

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to.

You can buy this crime/romance/modern/medieval novel from all good retailers, including-

Amazon – mybook.to/RomancingRH

Happy reading

Jenny

xxx

 

 

 

 

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

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

I would like to wish you each and every one of you…

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Many many thanks for all your support over the last year.

I hope you are all having a truly peaceful – and safe – Christmas, with extra coffee and a mince pie or three.  Jenny xx

 

 

 

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