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

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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

 

 

 

Seventeen years…and counting

This week sees the 17th anniversary of the first time I wrote a story since I was at school – a story that was (miraculously) published three months after it was written. That story was a work of erotica! A fact that, in itself, seems impossible to me – a shy, self-conscious, paranoiac woman who has never quite got used to the fact that people actually want to by her books!

I still maintain that- if that very first story hadn’t been published- I’d never have picked a pen up for fiction creation ever again.

As with any anniversary, I have found myself reflecting on all that has happened to me ‘writing wise’ over the past decade and a half. (A reflection that is echoed in this same blog over on my Kay page – which is strictly for over 18’s only.)

What a roller coaster ride the last 17 years have been. Or perhaps it’s been more of a carousel, a long roundabout of constant ups and downs, but where, ultimately you always end up back where started, and yet you can’t quite stop the ride to get off…?

My first piece of erotica was a written on a paper serviette in a café in Aberdeenshire. I swear the idea came to be from nowhere. I don’t know why I was suddenly thinking about a cross dressing male who liked to have his arse spanked- but that is exactly what happened.

It took some time for me to be brave enough to do anything with the story. It was a couple of weeks before it made it onto a proper piece of paper, and several more before it was typed onto my computer and edited into shape. The amount of courage it took me to look up erotica publishers on the Internet- and the covert way I went about it- seems laughable now.

I sent off my story- which I rather unimaginatively had called Jen and Tim to Cleis Press- never expecting to hear anything again, and in the meantime, I’d written a rather kinky poem called Regrets, which I sent to the much missed Oysters and Chocolate web site. Then, I told myself to leave it alone, to look after my children and take up knitting or something. I never expected to hear back from either publisher. I certainly never expected to get both pieces taken- and I truly never expected the buzz the feeling of acceptance gave me- that was it- I was hooked- an addict to the acceptance of a publisher for the rest of my life!

It took 40 short story and poetry publications before I was brave enough to write something longer, and when I did, I cheated.

The Collector is both an anthology and a short novel- a set of different erotic stories- one for every genre within the discipline. I learnt a great deal from writing that book- and I still hold it in great affection.

Now, 17 years later, with over 150 erotic short stories to my name, plus a great many novellas and novels, I am still addicted, still hungry for the ‘yes’ of a publisher. Having a back record to your name never guarantees a story will be taken, and nor should it. Each new tale I write has to be worth publication on its own merits; it shouldn’t be published just because KJB or Jenny Kane or Jennifer Ash wrote it.

Over the past 7 years, I’ve had less time to write erotica as I have been fortunate to have some success with my romantic fiction, my medieval crime and my audio scripts. Plus, a few years ago now, I set up a creative writing tutoring business called Imagine, (with my friend and colleague, Alison Knight)  – and am now in the fabulous position of seeing some of my #novelinayear students having their own works published.

With the #MillGrange series about to come to an end – with the publication of Winter Fires at Mill Grange in November – and a brand new series of romcoms already in production, it’s looking as if the next two years will be as busy as the last.

I also have several exciting ‘irons in the fire’ that I can’ tell you about yet. Believe me though- when I can, you’ll definitely hear the shouts of delight coming from my little corner of Devon.

I’m also busy with my Robin of Sherwood work. I’m SO excited about the annual coming out this November. I honestly never dreamt I’d have a story in an annual! This is the 1987 annual that was never written at the time – well, it has been now! You can order your copy here.

Here’s to the next year and beyond!

And a HUGE thank you to all of you for supporting me. Without readers there are no writers.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

Happy 1st Birthday: Autumn Leaves

The last two years have been quite eventful for me, especially on the novel writing front. The #MillGrange series has kept my fingers dancing over the laptop keyboard almost nonstop – and it’s been wonderful!

I can’t believe that, today, I am celebrating the first birthday of the second book in the series – Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange! It doesn’t seem a minute since I was nervously awaiting the verdict from Aria, to see if it was good enough for publication or not. Since then, Spring Blossoms has come along, and it won’t be long before Winter Fires at Mill Grange is hoisted onto the world.

It’s been a whirlwind of words – and a total joy. The characters’ of Mill Grange will stay with me forever.

Before I get too sad about how much I miss writing their adventures – let’s look at the birthday book!

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 but adore.

Sequel to Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn  Leaves has been blessed with several #bestseller flags over on Amazon, and I’ve also bee lucky enough to have a number of kind reviews. Here are just a few of the nice things people have said about this instalment of Thea, Shuan, Tina and Sam’s story.

“…‘Autumn Leaves At Mill Grange’ is extremely well written and I can’t believe that I have left it this long to discover how fantastic an author Jenny Kane is. She grabs your attention and draws you into the story. You then end up becoming that wrapped up in each character and their story that you couldn’t stop reading even if you wanted to. Jenny has one of those writing styles that is easy to get used to and easy to get along with. In fact reading one of Jenny’s books seems more like a chat between friends than reading an actual book. I felt as though I was part of this story which is all down to Jenny’s characters and her fantastic, realistic and very vivid storytelling….” Ginger Book Geek

“…This is such a lovely novel, and a perfect sequel to Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange. I love the setting of Mill Grange, and it was such a treat to return there to learn more about these characters. Sam is a fascinating character and whilst his situation is difficult, watching him work to overcome his problems is inspiring, particularly while he works hard to help others in similar situations. The change in Tina was also lovely to follow, as she finds her way in a new relationship, particularly one which comes with issues.

I am more than happy to recommend this novel, but it would be a shame to read just Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, so grab yourself a copy of Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange too!”  Chapter and Cake  

“I absolutely loved this story about two archaeological sites, both country house based and two couples and being a huge Time Team fan enjoyed the filming element and subsequent tensions associated with this in the story. Shaun is presenting archaeological shows for filming and is close friends with Sam who has bought a country house which he hopes to use for recovering ex army traumatised people where they can relax, participate and join in the archaeological discovery of a Roman site, unusual for Cornwall. There is jeopardy all round – the young Sophie whose crush on him threatens Shaun’s relationship with Thea. There’s Sam who has a huge phobia about entering buildings and sleeps in a tent outside. Tina whose story I very much enjoyed is working on her relationship with Sam. The story follows many twists and turns as there is a race against time and a competitive film company pitching to film at Mill Grange. Even so all is not what it seems. Will Sam overcome his phobia,; will Sophie see sense; can Thea untangle mysterious occurrences ; will the filming happen at Mill Grange. As in Shakespeare there’s a long way to go before all falls into harmony and the read to find out what happens is compulsive. I highly recommend this start to a new series from Jenny Kane. The plotting and characterisation is flawless.”  Netgalley 

I’m off for a celebration  slice of cake and a coffee (another one). While I raise a cuppa to the good folk of Exmoor, I’ll leave with a little extract from Autumn Leaves.

EXTRACT

‘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…

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange is available from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Currently only 99p/ $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Also available in paperback

Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Autumn Leaves – or any of my books. Always appreciated.

Jenny x

 

Jenny Kane’s Cheese Scones: Sybil approved!

As regular readers to this blog will know, my latest collection of novels, the #MillGrange #series, features a serious amount of scone consumption.

As it’s a #bankholiday weekend, and you might just have time for a touch of baking, I thought I’d re-share my own cheese scone recipe – Sybil approved, of course!

If you’d like to bake some Sybil style cheese scones, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 55g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 100g mature cheddar –  grated (reserve some for sprinkling on top prior to baking)
  • 100-110ml milk – plus 1 tbsp for glazing

And here’s what you do:

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas mark 6
  2. Place the flour, salt, cayenne pepper and baking powder into a bowl, and stir together. (You can sift it if you like- but I can never be bothered!)
  3. Add the butter to the bowl and rub with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs.
  4. Sprinkle almost all the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and stir in.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the milk, a little at a time, until you have a firm dough. (Do not be afraid to add a fraction more milk if required)
  6. Lightly flour a surface and push/fold the dough a few times, until it is approximately 2cm thick. Cut out the scones with a medium (about 8cm) cutter.
  7. Lightly flour a baking sheet, and place the scones on top. Glaze scones with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-ish mins or until cooked through.
  9. Eat with way too much butter  and enjoy without guilt.

I hope Sybil’s scones put a smile on your face!

If you’d like to read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange or Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, to see what else the workers at Mill Grange like to eat, you can find all the buy links here.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jenny x

 

The importance of book reviews

Over recent years I’ve been blessed with some lovely reviews for my novels. I’ve also had some stinkers – but you can’t please everyone. (Although, I try very hard to do just that.)

Reviews are vital to an author – the more you have (especially 4 and 5 star reviews) the better your chances are of being asked to write another book. So, if you have enjoyed a book by an author, write a review- that way, there is a higher chance of that person being asked to write another one.

If a book has over 100 reviews on Amazon, it is automatically given some promotion on their targeted email advertising.  As most authors can’t afford to pay for advertising – this is a big deal.

Not only that, reviews are the only way an author can tell if he or she is ‘hitting the spot’ or not. Obviously high book sales can tell you if your book is successful – but sale figures can do no more than reflect how good your marketing is. It is feedback from your readership that tells you if your stories are actually working.

If you wrote a thriller- did it thrill?

If you wrote a romance- did it melt the heart?

If you wrote a horror- did it give your reader nightmares?

Obviously this is a simplistic set of questions, but the point is- authors need to know – and the way to tell them is via reviews.

Good reviews improve our standing and our professional reputations. They improve our ratings on Amazon and equivalent book selling platforms. The more good reviews an author has, the better their overall sales will become.

I’m not saying that you should only give good reviews. If a book has disappointed, let you down and so on, then some constructive criticism can help an author- even though it might be difficult to swallow sometimes!

But you should not give a poor review because…

… of damaged delivery packaging. (That is nothing to do with the author)

…the book isn’t the one you meant to purchase.

…the book was a gift, and wasn’t something you wanted to read, etc etc….

My favourite 1 star review was for Another Cup of Coffee – it was complaining about all the sex in it.  This really confused me as, although there is a suggestion that sex might happen on two occasions within that 97,000 word book, there is no actual sex.  I dread to think what might have happened if that reviewer had accidentally purchased one of my Kay Jaybee books!!!

So – in short – if you enjoy a book – PLEASE review it.

It takes up to a year of hard work to write a book that you’ll read in a matter of days. Any positive feedback you can give helps us author types a great deal.

Whether you leave a review on the Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Goodreads – or any other retailer/book promotion platform – every single one helps.

Every single one.

 

And with that…I have reviews to write for some books I’ve recently enjoyed!

THANK YOU

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

Mars Bar Sponge Anyone?

After the popularity of my Mars Bar scone recipe, I thought I’d share another family favourite with you  – the Mars Bar sponge (Other caramel chocolate bars are available).

This straight forward recipe makes a delicious cake that has fuelled (alongside cups of black coffee), many of my recent novels – in particular, the Mill Grange series.  An awful lot of baking goes on at Mill Grange. There is something about writing scenes where Tina bakes her lemon cakes and Sybil cooks her scones, that makes me want to cook – and eat – more comfort food.

INGREDIENTS

6oz self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

6oz caster sugar

6oz butter/spread

3 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence/flavouring

2 full sized or 3 finger Mars Bars – chopped into small pieces.

METHOD

Warm your oven to 200C or 180C if using a fan oven.

Grease and line two 8 inch sponge tins.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl. Mix with an electric whisk/mixer until creamy.

Add in the flour, baking powder, vanilla essence and eggs and mix for at least three minutes with the electric whisk/mixer.

Stir in the chopped Mars Bar with a spoon.

Pour half of the mixture into each lined cake tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 mins, until risen. The sponge should be beginning to come away from the edges of the tin.

Once cool, sandwich the cake together using chocolate spread. (Nutella works best for me)

Delicious alone or with a scoop of ice cream. (Especially good with caramel and vanilla)

Enjoy with your favourite beverage and your favourite book!

Happy baking everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

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