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

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Opening Lines: Another Cup of Christmas

For the next three weeks, I’ll be featuring my ‘Another Cup of….’ festive novellas on the ‘Opening Lines’ blog spot.

Today, I’m starting with the first 500 words from Another Cup of Christmas.

Blurb

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Join the characters of Jenny Kane’s wonderful debut Another Cup of Coffee once again for a heart-warming festive read!

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A lovely heart-warming tale set at Christmas and a perfect short read for in front of a blazing fire and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)’

‘A great read in the run up to Christmas, highly recommended

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

    Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

    Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

    Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

    Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

    ‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table.  ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

    ‘Two and a half weeks!’

    ‘Oh, hell! Really?’

    ‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

    Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

     Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

    Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

    ‘Which is?’

    ‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I…’

If you’d like to read on, Another Cup of Christmas, is available from all good e-book retailers, and as part of the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.

mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

(You don’t need to have read Another Cup of Coffee to enjoy my festive stories.)

You can her me read a little from Another Cup of Christmas here- https://www.facebook.com/coffeetimesessions/videos/381433993174274

Come back next week, for the first 500 words from Christmas in the Cotswolds.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Thea: Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Winter Fires at Mill Grange has been out for almost a week – and I’m over the moon with how well it’s selling.

A huge thank you to everyone who has already bought a copy – and to all of you who have supported the series from the beginning.

The first character to be introduced to Mill Grange (in Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange), is Thea Thomas. Formerly a historian and archaeologist working at the Roman Baths in Bath, she came to Mill Grange to help restore it to its former Victorian glory – at least, that was the plan…

In book one, Thea has yet to meet any of the stalwarts at the Victorian manor on Exmoor. Below I’m sharing an extract from book four, Winter Fires at Mill Grange -if you haven’t read the earlier books and don’t want any spoilers – then STOP READING NOW.

However, if you want to read an extract about Thea from the new book – read on!

Winter Fires at Mill Grange

EXTRACT

Thea threw her arms around Shaun as he climbed out of his car. ‘You don’t happen to know The Winter’s Tale, do you?’

Shaun’s eyebrows rose. ‘I’ll be honest, that was not the first thing I thought you’d say to me after two months apart.’

‘Would you rather I’d have led with the news that Mabel has made bacon sandwiches for lunch in honour of your return.’

‘Too right. Although a kiss from my gorgeous girlfriend wouldn’t go amiss first.’

‘Before a bacon sandwich! I’m honoured.’ Thea leant in for a kiss, only to have it curtailed by a question.

‘The song by David Essex or the play by Shakespeare?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Winter’s Tale.’

‘Oh yes. The play.’ Thea peered into the back of the car. ‘That isn’t all dirty washing, is it?’

Shaun chuckled. ‘You sounded just like a wife then.’

‘Oh.’ Thea’s cheeks coloured. ‘Sorry, I just meant…’

‘It’s alright, I know. I was joking.’ He pulled her closer. ‘The weather was dreadful. I adore the North East coastline, but I don’t think we had a single dry dig day for the entirety of the filming. At least it’ll show Landscape Treasures’ viewers that archaeology isn’t just a fair-weather occupation.’

‘Did you find it?’

‘The Saxon farmstead?’ Shaun grimaced. ‘Ish. There’s never much to find on Saxon sites. A few traces of hut postholes. Usual stuff.’ He opened the car’s back doors. ‘Why were you asking about a Shakespearean play?’

Thea heaved two overflowing carrier bags of grubby clothes out of the car. ‘Dylan’s stepsister, Harriet, has a role in it. Hermione.’

‘Good for her.’ Shaun hooked his rucksack onto his shoulder before grabbing a third bag of muddy clothes from the boot. ‘It’s a great play. I played Polixenes in an amateur production when I was at university.’

‘No way!’ Thea was amazed. ‘I had no idea you’d trodden the boards.’

‘It was a one-time event. I don’t have what it takes to be in the limelight like that.’

‘What are you talking about? You’re a celebrity archaeologist! A television presenter! You’re always in the public eye.’

Pushing the back door to the manor open with his foot, Shaun laughed. ‘Believe me, it’s very different. You know what it’s like on Landscape Treasures. I only have to remember a few lines at a time, and if I mess up we can reshoot them. On stage, if you mess up, then everyone knows and no one ever lets you forget.’

Thea deposited the bags of washing in the hallway. ‘That sounded like the voice of experience.’

‘There was a tricky speech I had to do midway through the play. I left out one line. It wasn’t major in the grand scheme of things. Didn’t mess up the plot or anything, but the chap playing Leontes, David bloody Clark, would not let it go.’

Thea’s eyebrows rose further. ‘Not still bitter a million years down the line or anything?’

Shaun grinned. ‘It put me off acting for life.’

‘Shame. I bet you were good.’

‘Probably about average, but thanks anyway.’ Shaun inhaled as they walked towards the kitchen. ‘Unless I’m very much mistaken, the sainted Mabel is already on sandwich duty.’

***

I hope you enjoyed that little snippet.

If you’d like to read Winter Fires, then you can buy it as a ebook now (or what until 9th December – when it comes out in paperback)

Amazon – http://mybook.to/MillGrangeFour 

Waterstones – Winter Fires at Mill Grange by Jenny Kane | Waterstones

Nook – Winter Fires at Mill Grange: The perfect cosy heartwarming read this Christmas by Jenny Kane | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Kobo- Winter Fires at Mill Grange eBook by Jenny Kane – 9781801101974 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom

***

Here are a few of the latest 5 star reviews from Netgalley.

‘Winter Fires at Mill Grange is a wonderful read! …Although I didn’t read the other books in the series, this was a great read on its own. I am anxious to go back and read the rest. Thank you for the read!’

‘A wonderful feel good book for the Christmas season, A welcome return to friends that you will have meet in the previous books. These books are filled with hope, love, happiness and a longing for more. It’s so very sad to read the last book, I’m sure another instalment could be written please.’

‘I’d love to go and stay a while at Mill Grange. Set on Exmoor, the beauty of the surrounding countryside comes across on every page, and being back with Tina, Sam, Thea and Helen again was wonderful. The whole series is so engaging and Jenny Kane has written such brilliant characters – Mabel and Bert are certainly favourites of mine. Being back at Mill Grange in Winter was captivating and magical.’

Winter Fires at Mill Grange is on special offer at the moment.

You can grab it on Kindle for just 99p for a short time.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

PUBLICATION DAY: Opening Lines – Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Today’s the day!!

Winter Fires at Mill Grange is out now!!

Thank you to everyone who has been waiting patiently to read the last instalment in the Mill Grange series.

Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Blurb

Mill Grange is putting on a show this holiday season!

When young Dylan Harris’s former babysitter, Harriet, needs a last minute venue for her acting troupe’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the staff at Mill Grange throw its doors open…but they may get more drama than they’d bargained for!

With a play to arrange, an unexpected arrival adds to the drama. It soon looks as if a miracle will be needed to make sure this Christmas is one that Thea, Tina, Sam, Shaun, Helen and Tom – along with retirees Bert and Mabel Hastings,– won’t forget…

Continuing the seasonal pattern set by the first three novels in the series – Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange and Spring Blossoms at Mill GrangeWinter Fires takes the Victorian manor house regulars, Thea, Shaun, Tina, Shaun, Tom, Helen, Bert and Mabel, through December, and the run up to Christmas.

Here are the Opening Lines for you…

Prologue – Tuesday November 30th

‘You are joking – aren’t you?’

Harriet wasn’t sure why she asked the question. Jason wasn’t known for his sense of humour.

As their leading man slammed his mobile phone against the table, she glanced around the assembled members of The Outdoor Players. Only moments ago they’d been happily nursing their pints of beer or glasses of wine, chatting excitedly about the opening night of their winter show. Now the temperature in the room, despite the blazing log fire, plummeted to an almost arctic freeze.

Peeping at Rob through her curtain of hair, Harriet watched him suck at his bottom lip, hiding all but one of his brilliant white teeth.

‘But the show is…’

‘I know perfectly well when the show is, thank you, Rob!’ Jason snapped. ‘What do you expect me to do? Magic the flood away?’

Disappointment gripped Harriet. This was to have been her professional debut; an acting role beyond school or university productions. The first step towards her coveted Equity card. She had practised her lines three times a day for weeks. Now it looked as if she might not get to say them anytime soon – if at all.

Harriet was relieved when Matt, manager, director and producer of The Outdoor Players, knocked the base of his pint glass against the table, restoring order before panic took hold of the entire cast of The Winter’s Tale.

‘Let’s start from the beginning. The phone call you just took, Jason – I assume it was from your parents? Can you give us the full story please?’

Every member of the cast stared at Jason.

‘In a nutshell, the performance is off.’

Chapter One – Wednesday December 1st

‘So, you see, we need somewhere new to perform. I know it’s a cheek to ask seeing as you don’t know me, and I was going to call Tom because I do know him, but I didn’t want to compromise him. I got the impression you’re all good friends at Mill Grange, but as Tom is just an employee really, I thought maybe it should come straight from me, but…’

‘Take a breath, Harriet.’ Thea cut through the young woman’s embarrassment. ‘Let’s start again. Are you asking me if I think Sam and Tina will let you use Mill Grange for some outdoor theatre?’

‘Yes.’

‘Right.’ Thea grabbed a piece of scrap paper and picked up her pen. ‘Now, tell me a little more about what you’d need, when you’d need it by, and how many people are involved.’

*

The scent of freshly baked cake wafted across the kitchen as the staff of Mill Grange drifted in from their various workstations and gathered around the large oak table that formed the heart of the house.

Thea, a mug of coffee warming her palms, watched as her best friend, Tina, poured a lemon juice and sugar concoction over the sponge she’d just extracted from the aged Aga.

‘Seeing you bake a lemon cake always reminds me of the first staff meeting…

***

I hope that whet the appetite!

If you would like to read Winter Fires at Mill Grange, here are the buy links –

Amazon – http://mybook.to/MillGrangeFour 

Waterstones – Winter Fires at Mill Grange by Jenny Kane | Waterstones

Nook – Winter Fires at Mill Grange: The perfect cosy heartwarming read this Christmas by Jenny Kane | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Kobo- Winter Fires at Mill Grange eBook by Jenny Kane – 9781801101974 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom 

(Winter Fires at Mill Grange is out as an ebook from today and as a paperback from 9th December)

Thank you for joining me on launch day,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Coming Soon: Winter Fires at Mill Grange

The final novel in the Mill Grange series is out in 10 days time!

Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Blurb

Mill Grange is putting on a show this holiday season!

When young Dylan Harris’s former babysitter, Harriet, needs a last minute venue for her acting troupe’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the staff at Mill Grange throw its doors open…but they may get more drama than they’d bargained for!

With a play to arrange, an unexpected arrival adds to the drama. It soon looks as if a miracle will be needed to make sure this Christmas is one that Thea, Tina, Sam, Shaun, Helen and Tom – along with retirees Bert and Mabel Hastings,– won’t forget…

You can preorder from-

Amazon – http://mybook.to/MillGrangeFour 

Waterstones – Winter Fires at Mill Grange by Jenny Kane | Waterstones

Nook – Winter Fires at Mill Grange: The perfect cosy heartwarming read this Christmas by Jenny Kane | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Kobo- Winter Fires at Mill Grange eBook by Jenny Kane – 9781801101974 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom

(The paperback version comes out on 9th December)

Although Winter Fires at Mill Grange is the forth book in the series, it can be read as a standalone book.

I’m so looking forward to being able to share the last of the Mill Grange crew’s adventures with you. On launch day, I will be over online all day, sharing pictures and the inspiration behind the series. More news on that soon.

Happy preordering,

Jenny x

 

 

 

Opening Lines: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

As autumn is well and truly upon us, I thought I’d sneak in an extra Opening Lines blog!

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t  help but adore.

(Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange follows on from Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, and is followed by Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange and Winter Fires at Mill Grange. It can also be read as a standalone novel.)

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

First 500 words

Prologue

September 1st

Rolling onto his side, Sam unfolded the letter he’d hidden inside his pillowcase. It was the third time he’d woken that night, and the third time he’d reached for the pale blue Basildon Bond envelope. He held it against his nose. The scent of his mother’s White Satin perfume was beginning to fade.

This was the fourth letter to arrive from Malvern House in the last month. One a week.

He had no idea how his mother had found out where he was living, nor why she wanted to see him after so long.

The letters, almost identical each time, said very little. Just that she and his father would love him to visit if he felt up to it. Sam groaned. ‘If he felt up to it’ was his mother’s way of asking if the debilitating claustrophobia he’d developed while serving in the forces had magically gone away.

As he slid the letter into its envelope, Sam’s gaze dropped from the tent’s canvas roof to Tina’s sleeping body.

The past was the past. He had a future now. He had no intention of looking back.

Chapter One

September 1st

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

Bert fluttered his grey eyelashes as he helped Tina carry a large cardboard box full of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from her car into Mill Grange’s kitchen. ‘I love Mabel to pieces, but she is driving me mad.’

Tina laughed. ‘But it’s only been two months since the restoration project came to an end. Doesn’t Mabel have heaps of committee work to do? She runs every social club this side of Exmoor.’

As he placed the box on the oak table that dominated the manor’s kitchen, Bert’s eyes lost their usual optimistic shine. ‘Since Mill Grange was sold Mabel’s been so aimless. She led the volunteer restorers here for over five years and now that’s over…’

‘Mabel doesn’t mind Sam owning this place, does she?’

‘Not for a minute. For a little while it was all she could talk about. She’s that proud of your young man for buying the very thing that frightens him. For taking his fear of being inside by the scruff of the neck and buying a house to be enjoyed by other people.’

Tina put her box of groceries on the side and laid a hand on Bert’s shoulder. ‘I’ll talk to Sam. There must be something Mabel could do around here.’ She played with her pigtails as she thought. ‘I’m not sure we can afford to pay her yet though.’

‘You wouldn’t have to. Making her feel part of the team again is all I’m asking for.’ Bert’s smile returned to his eyes. ‘How’s it going here anyway? Sam getting into the house at all, or is he still overseeing things from that screen thing outside?’

‘He hasn’t been inside the manor since he bought it.’ Tina focused her attention on emptying the boxes of biscuits ready for Mill Grange’s first visitors, hiding her…

Available as an ebook from NookKobo, as well as on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

 

Happy autumn reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Listening to Mr Higson

This week, while I’m away co-running the latest Imagine writing retreat at Northmoor, I thought I’d leave you with a little advice I was given.

First however, I’ll set the scene…

Approximately four years ago, give or take a week or two, I was at the Society of Author’s conference in Glasgow. (Scotswrite17)  I have been to a lot of conferences over the years, but this was – hands down – the best. It was also exactly what I needed at that precise moment of my writing career.

I’d been a published author for 13 years at the time, and it felt very much like I wasn’t going to be writing for 14.

Life was changing around me – my children were leaving home for university (a stage of life that- even though you know they’ll leave, hits hard). I’d discovered I’d been well and truly screwed over by a former publisher (naming no names), and the world of erotica (which was still my mainstay as an author at the time), was clearly not going to recover from the hot romance novels hit anytime soon.

In truth – I was a bit lost.

Looking back, it seems bizarre that I felt so unsettled. I was already in line to write for my beloved Robin of Sherwood (although it wasn’t public knowledge at the time), and I had Indie publishers wanting my books across three genres. I had no reason to feel disconnected from the writing world – and yet I did.

I was selling thousands of books – but making no money. (A combination of naively signed contracts in my early days, and the fact writers are poorly paid anyway.) It suddenly all felt rather pointless – plus, I had this sense that the time had come to choose.

After all, despite having 3 pen names – there is only 1 of me.

So –

Should I still write erotica?

Should I stick to romcoms?

Should I go back to my roots and write historical fiction?

Should I give up the novels entirely and write scripts?

Should I give it all up and simply teach creative writing? (Imagine was in its early days, and my student take-up was growing fast.)

Should I call it quits and go back to being an archaeologist?

Add to this indecision, my natural lack of confidence and massive imposter syndrome issues.

Those of you who have met me might well be surprised to read that. But the fact is, when I do events or teach I am acting. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s me doing the thinking – but the rest is performed by a character that has become part of me. The real me is way too shy to stand up and speak or teach. I am also very nervous when it comes to talking to strangers – and when it comes to strangers I admire I’m hopeless…

I digress…

So – four years ago with my colleague and friend, Alison Knight – I went to Scotswrite17.  It was make or break. I had appointments to meet agents and new publishers, and was determined to go to as many talks as possible. I told myself that if I didn’t leave Glasgow with my mojo rejuvenated then I was going to stop writing.  And I meant it.

The first evening, there was an opening night dinner. Due to a delayed flight, Alison and I were a little late arriving, which meant that we were the last to join the dinner. We were ushered to the only remaining seats – and so we found ourselves sat between Joanne Harris and Charlie Higson!!

Instantly, I felt myself disappearing in on myself. What was I doing sat with these people?

They were both (and still are) at the top of their game. I was tongue tied and awkward and couldn’t write and didn’t know who I even was half the time. The panic was building. I could feel sweat on my palms and my throat was closing in on itself.

All the way through the conference’s opening address, I kept my eyes fixed on the speaker – not brave enough to look at anyone around my table. Eventually, of course, it was time to eat. Sat next to Charlie Higson, I soon came to realise he felt every bit as out of place as I did. It struck me, in that moment, that he was also shy and was having similar issues in working out what to say to me.

He broke the awkward silence first. He apologised for not knowing who I was. Why the hell would he? – But it was a sweet opener that came with a gentle smile. I explained that I was several people, and confessed that was the problem – I was 3 people and needed to just be 1 person. I’d got to a crossroads in my career and needed to pick a direction – or give up.

Over the course of the meal he asked me about being Kay and what it was like writing in the world of erotica in the modern world. He asked about the competitive field of romance writing. He smiled as I told him about my children’s picture books and asked a great many questions about my historical side and The Folvilles.

At the time, no one was supposed to know about my Robin of Sherwood work- but when I said to him I had been approached to do some script work, he asked if it was confidential- I said it was – he said, ‘tell me anyway’ – then he gestured around him and said ,’Who will I tell? I know no one here.’

I relaxed then. I was sat next to a writer. A good one. But one who was as out of his comfort zone as I was.

I told him about the scripts (yes, I know I shouldn’t have).

Then, he turned to me and said – ‘So, what is the problem exactly? Why do you feel you have to chose?’

I was flummoxed and hid in the consumption of a mouthful of pudding. Why did I have to choose? I couldn’t think why I’d started to box myself in. While I chewed, Mr Higson went on. This is the advice he gave me.

‘Do it all. Just do it. Some of it will work, some won’t. Do it anyway. Trust your ability. Do it all. Try it all. Repeat the stuff you enjoy, ditch the stuff you don’t. You’re a writer – so write.’

That was it. So simple. But spoken with a strength of purpose which made those few sentences stick with me all this time.

I doubt Mr Higson remembers me or that dinner, let alone what he said. But I took his advice – and I did do it all. I’m still trying anything thrown at me on the writing front. I have dropped a few projects I didn’t enjoy, and I have pushed on into new areas of writing that I’d never have dreamt of even trying for before that conference. (News on those soon!)

In short – always try – do it all if you want to – don’t be afraid of failing – and if you have writing in you, then write. Worry about if it has worked or not later. (And keep the day job!)

Lecture over!!

Keep well, keep safe,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Karen King: The Best Christmas Ever

It’s been a while since I interviewed anyone on this blog. Today, I’m remedying that in style, by chatting to the excellent Karen King about her writing and her latest novel, The Best Christmas Ever.

So, grab a cuppa, open the biscuit tin, put your feet up for five minutes, and have a read.

Blurb

A heart-warming Christmas romance, perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Mandy Baggot and Milly Johnson.

Lexi Forde adores Christmas. She’s especially looking forward to it this year as it’s the first Christmas with her boyfriend Ben and her older brother is visiting from Canada with his family. So they’re having a family Christmas at her parents’ house in Devon.

But then Lexi sees Ben kissing someone else and discovers he’s been having an affair. Devastated, she travels to Devon alone. She’s determined not to let her break up with Ben spoil her family Christmas. But when she arrives, Lexi discovers the council won’t allow the Christmas tree on The Green to be decorated this year; it’s too dangerous and has to come down. Lexi is desperate to save their favourite family tradition and make this Christmas extra special.

Can she save the tree and mend her broken heart in time for Christmas?

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

Not completely but my family and friends will often find bits of themselves in my stories. My mum is definitely the inspiration for Granny Mabe in The Best Christmas Ever. Mum is ninety years old but doesn’t act it. She is fiercely independent. She still drives herself around, lives by herself and is always visiting friends and relatives to look after them and help them. She’s often one of the last ones to leave a party and is out almost every day. She doesn’t knit so isn’t involved in yarn-bombing but Granny Mabe’s feisty spirit and independence definitely comes from my mum.

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

Lexi is a teacher so I checked with a teacher friend if she had to do any work during the Christmas holidays and she said she had lesson preparation to do, but if she was going away she’d take her laptop and do it, so that’s what Lexi did. For the scenes with the tree on the green, I asked two tree surgeons for information about tree diseases and ailments, felling trees and safety procedures. I also researched yarn-bombers and the various festive yarn bombs they created – I found that part of the research very interesting.

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

I usually write in third person because I like to write from different characters viewpoints so find that easier to do in the third person. However, I have written a couple of young adult books, and used first person viewpoint for them both as I felt that it added pace and tension.

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

My publishers like to see a synopsis of the story so I always write that first, then I jot down any major plot twists or events and fill in a profile sheet for every major character. After that I usually write the first draft as it comes. Sometimes as I write the story will go off on a tangent and I’m fine with that providing it meets the overall plot outline. I don’t edit until I finish the first draft but if I get stuck I go back over what I’ve written to check why it isn’t flowing, it could be that a scene need rewriting or a character isn’t working. If so, I tweak it then carry on writing.

What is your writing regime?

It depends on the length of the deadline my publishers give me. I prefer to write first thing in the morning, working until midday, and then do edits, social media, blog posts etc in the afternoon. I try to keep my weekends and evenings free. It doesn’t always work out this way though, sometimes I am writing two books at the same time, or am working to a very tight deadline so have to write into the evening.

Thanks so much, Jenny! x

You can buy The Best Christmas Ever from all good retailers, including –
Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08X1STJ4V/

Bio

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had ten romantic novels published, two psychological thrillers, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

Contact links

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Bookbub

Many thanks for coming by to chat today, Karen. Wishing you lots of success with your novel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Nanny’s Secret

This week’s Opening Lines welcomes back the fabulous, Jan Baynham, with her brand new novel, Her Nanny’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

‘Her Nanny’s Secret’ is my third novel. It has all the features which are becoming my trademark – a dual timeline, contrasting locations, family secrets and forbidden love. In this book, there is also the theme of social class and the role of women.

The inspiration for the story came to me through a conversation with my cousin after my aunt’s funeral which opened with the words, “You know you could have been a Thomas not an Evans, don’t you? I can tell you now mum’s gone…” Puzzled, I asked her to explain. Apparently, my grandfather was the illegitimate son of a female groom and a wealthy landowner who owned the stables where she worked. The ‘what-ifs’ started in my head. What if you fell for someone from a different social class? What if you had to keep it a secret from everyone close to you for fear of losing your home and your family’s livelihood? I set my story in 1941 when war was raging in Europe.

The novel takes place in two locations I know well. Rural mid-Wales where I was born and grew up was relatively untouched by the horrors of actual war action but for the families whose husbands, lovers and sons died in active service, the grief and sense of loss was very real. I tried to create images of what it would have been like living in a small rural village surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape during wartime and then again in 1963. In contrast, my character, Odile, lived in occupied Northern France, playing an important role in the French Résistance in 1943. When Annie and Clara visit the same area twenty years later in order to find answers, I was able to draw on what I’d experienced on annual family holidays to France and years of hosting children and adults from our twin-town to try to give authenticity. I hope I’ve done justice to the country I love, its people, culture and language.

***

BLURB

How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?
It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.
There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.
It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …

FIRST 500 WORDS

June 1943, Normandy

At the end of the lane, the stone farmhouse appeared even greyer under the slate-coloured sky. The trees were laden with rain that had now stopped, and everywhere looked as bleak as Odile Lefèvre felt. It had been an exasperating morning. She’d collected the brochures as she’d been directed, but there’d been Germans everywhere. Men in grey uniforms on every corner of Ville de Roi, huddled together smoking their strong cigarettes, laughing and joking whilst her country men were starving and being murdered. When she’d caught the scent of the smoke from the Gauloises cigarettes, she’d shuddered in horror, remembering one particular German officer. Gustav. His name was imprinted in her innermost thoughts.

She’d crossed over to the other side of the street, carefully hiding her bundle of propaganda leaflets under her swagger coat with its hidden pockets and heard the crude comments she’d come to understand in their mother tongue. How she wished this war would end! People in the surrounding villages in this part of northern France were suffering hardship like other parts of the country, and Odile was determined to do her bit. The résistance movement was strong in her town, and the rural community she was a part of was a proud one. They would never give in or surrender. She told herself that every small gesture and undercover deed she could do for the cause was worth it. But no one knew how involved she was. There was one part of her résistance life she kept concealed, even from the movement’s members. Only Lucien, the leader of the local group, knew how she obtained the German soldiers’ secrets she reported to him …

Odile wheeled her bicycle into the large, covered barn at the side of the farmhouse. It was gloomy and shadowy at that time of the afternoon and Odile didn’t want to stay there any longer than she had to. She made her way to the wooden double doors to secure them for the night when she heard the rafters in the upstairs loft creaking. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and her heart thumped. Several Nazis had been found hiding in neighbours’ barns. They’d been trying to find out who were resisting the occupation and were listening for evidence. She froze to the spot, hardly daring to breathe. Another creak. She wasn’t imagining it. What should she do? If she crept away, maybe she could warn her parents and they could get away… but where would they go? Horrific stories of what happened when local farmers had resisted the Germans had circulated around the villages from Sainte Marie-Hélène to Mont St Michel. Another sound in the floorboards above. Maybe it was just a rat. Odile was used to hearing and seeing vermin of all sizes living on the farm. Yes, that was it. She picked up a broom and crept up the stairs into the hayloft.

She felt her heart quicken as she neared…

BUYING LINKS

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Nannys-Secret-compelling-self-discovery-ebook/dp/B09BNP3S1P/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=Her+Nanny%27s+Secret+Jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-nannys-secret-jan-baynham/1139955323?ean=2940162201946

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. She values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

Many thanks Jan, great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone, 

Jenny x

 

 

Blurb Reveal: Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Hot on the heels of its cover reveal – today I can share the blurb of Winter Fires at Mill Grange.

Blurb

Mill Grange is putting on a show this holiday season!

When young Dylan Harris’s former babysitter, Harriet, needs a last minute venue for her acting troupe’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the staff at Mill Grange throw its doors open…but they may get more drama than they’d bargained for!

With a play to arrange, an unexpected arrival adds to the drama. It soon looks as if a miracle will be needed to make sure this Christmas is one that Thea, Tina, Sam, Shaun, Helen and Tom – along with retirees Bert and Mabel Hastings,– won’t forget…

***

Those of you who review via Netgalley  can now find Winter Fires on site – netgal.ly/o2QeWl

You can preorder Winter Fires at Mill Grange from all good retailers, including Amazon, Waterstones, Nook, and kobo.

The final book in the Mill Grange series, Winter Fires is released as an ebook on 11th November and in paperback on 9th December.

Happy preordering!

Jenny

COVER REVEAL: Winter Fires at Mill Grange

Today is the official cover reveal day for Winter Fires at Mill Grange!

The fourth – and final – novel in the #MillGrange #series – Winter Fires at Mill Grange – finishes off the seasonal exploits of Thea, Tina, Sam, Tom, Helen, Shaun – and of course- Bert and Mabel.

What’s in store for the folk of Mill Grange this time? Well, you’ll get to meet new characters, Rob, Ali and Matt – as well as get to know Harriet (Tom’s step daughter) a little better. Beyond that, my lips are sealed!

Here’s the cover – a perfect fit for the story and the series in general.

Following on from Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange and Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange – Winter Fires can be read as a standalone novel, but works best when read as part of the set.

You can preorder Winter Fires from all good retailers, including Amazon- mybook.to/MillGrangeFour

Winter Fires will be released as an ebook on 11th November and in paperback on 9th December – just in time for Christmas

Set on Exmoor, the Mill Grange series has – to my delight – consistently won bestseller flags since Midsummer Dreams was first published, eighteen months ago. I’ve been overwhelmed with the wonderful reviews and kind words about the series. Many thanks to you all.

 

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

 

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