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The Folville Chronicles 1: The Outlaw’s Ransom

With the third book in The Folvilles Chronicles series only days  away from being sent to my editor for proofing, I thought it high time we took a look back at Book One in the series: 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 infamous 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…

Here’s a little extract for you…

Mathilda thought she was used to the dark, but the night-time gloom of the small room she shared with her brothers at home was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness enveloped her, physically gliding over her clammy skin. It made her breathless, as if it was trying to squeeze the life from her.

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp 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 her arms out to either side, 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, secured in rusted irons, abandoned and rotting. She battled the voice down. Thinking like that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated his only daughter on her level-headedness, and now it was being so thoroughly put to the test, she was determined not to let him down.

Stretching her fingers into the blackness, Mathilda placed the tips of her fingers against the wall behind her. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor.

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet 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 Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

 

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom for your Kindle or as a paperback from-

Kindle-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519759895&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519760741&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

Paperback-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007697&sr=1-2&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)

If you enjoy Mathilda’s first adventure, then you can rad more in The Winter Outlaw (The Folville Chronicles- Book 2), and Edward’s Outlaw (The Folville Chronicles- Book 3), which will be out later this year.

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Happy reading,

Jen xx


Opening Lines: Dark Words from Tracey Norman

This week ‘Opening Lines’ delves into the realms of folklore and fantasy with Tracey Norman.

Friend, actress, author, expert on all things ‘witch’, and a fellow member of the Exeter Author Association, Tracey is bringing us the very beginning of her story, Dark Words.

Over to you Tracey…

Living not far from Dartmoor, I have a wealth of inspiration on my doorstep. When I was introduced to the reservoir, forests and stone circle of Fernworthy, something about the place spoke to me and it has become something of a retreat for me when I need space, or peace and quiet to write.

Periodically, during particularly hot periods, the reservoir’s water levels drop dramatically, revealing the various hut circles and bridges which were submerged when the reservoir was built. Wandering around these rarely-seen features, I came across a boundary-type stone which appeared to have been carved with an unusual chequerboard effect. It piqued my curiosity, so I tried to find out more about it – unsuccessfully.

In 2015, I was invited to contribute a story to Secret Invasion, a charity horror anthology of South West-based Lovecraftian tales raising money for MIND. I seized the opportunity to provide a backstory for the enigmatic stone. Thus was born the tale of the taciturn, sinister villagers, the stone tablets and the landscape which bound them together.

I have taken several liberties with the landscape. The house and estate I describe are both fictitious and I have no idea what secrets the old quarry may contain, as it has long been flooded. The drowned village beneath the reservoir is of far greater antiquity than my story suggests and was abandoned long before the events I describe.

However, if you visit Fernworthy reservoir, you can walk around its shores, you can see the (now fenced off) flooded quarry and, if the water level is sufficiently low, you may be lucky enough to spot parts of the hut circles just beyond the edge of the picnic area. A walk into the forest itself will take you to the Fernworthy stone circle and the twin circles of the Grey Wethers can be found on the open moor just beyond the forest boundary.

I highly recommend visiting the reservoir at dusk and siting at one of the picnic tables at the water’s edge. As the sun sinks in the sky, watch the light glinting on the water and revel in a tranquillity my characters never knew….but beware if you hear chanting…

(Dark Words has since been published in Folklore and Fairy Tales Reimagined, so it can be enjoyed with slightly less horror!)

Secret Invasion is a new collection of original horror fiction set in the mystical landscape of England’s West Country, influenced by the storytelling of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. This anthology includes a Q&A with horror maestro Ramsey Campbell followed by fifteen chilling tales by writers such as Andrew Lane (Young Sherlock Holmes), Jessica Palmer (Sweet William) and Nigel Foster.

 

First 500 words from Dark Words

Excavation fieldwork notes – 2015 – Alison Forster

It was good to finally crawl into my tent at the end of another long, hot day and kick off my boots. Stripping off my socks, I flexed my toes and massaged my ankles, then stretched out on my camp bed. Half past five. An hour until dinner. Plenty of time to go over the day’s notes and perhaps pop along to the finds tent to see how the cleaning and preservation was going.

I took my notebook from the large, upturned cardboard box next to the camp bed, which served as a rather flimsy table. Flipping through the pages of today’s notes, I started reading, pausing now and then to roll onto my side so I could annotate the page or make a note to myself for the following day. I wondered what other treasures were lying hidden beneath Dartmoor’s gorse and heather, just waiting for us to uncover and bring them back into the light.

The excavation was progressing very well. We had been extremely fortunate with both the weather and our finds. I still couldn’t quite believe that I was directing an excavation which had uncovered a previously unknown stone circle on the moor. It was undoubtedly the find of my career. Thank God I had decided against early retirement when the museum offered.

My planning finished, I sat up and took a swig from the water bottle on the ‘table’. I shoved my boots out of the way under the camp bed and put on trainers, then headed over to the finds tent to see how the team were getting on.

Much of what we had found were potsherds, with a few flint blades and one or two shell beads. I stopped to have a quick chat with each of the four students working on the artefacts, then, satisfied that everything was in order, I went to the mess tent and helped set up the meal.

Our mealtimes were generally noisy, chaotic affairs, but now that the stone circle’s significance had sunk in, everyone was hugely enthusiastic and motivated. I could hear discussions all around me about its possible ritual use and comparisons between it and the other stone circles not far away. Personally, I was very keen to find out if there was any connection between this new circle, the twin circles of Grey Wethers and the Fernworthy circle with its stone row and burial mounds. The thought of being able to identify an ancient ritual centre, with the attendant research, academic papers and perhaps a book, which would keep me in paid work for some time, was so enticing that it was almost palpable. I ate my food with as much gusto as my colleagues and students that night, flushed with our incredible good luck and determined to do whatever it took to secure funding for follow-up work next season.

At the end of the evening, after the cider had started flowing slightly more slowly and half the

Bio

I am a professional actress and voice artist who has always been a storyteller, whether on stage, in front of a keyboard or behind part of my extensive collection of notebooks and pens. Living not far from Dartmoor, I have a wealth of subject matter on my doorstep. My first short story (written under the pen name Anna Norman and published in the Lovecraft-inspired Secret Invasion, a charity anthology in aid of MIND, in 2015), is based on the landscape and artefacts in and around Dartmoor’s Fernworthy Reservoir, one of my favourite places.

In 2016, I accidentally became a playwright, having decided to do something meaningful with the Honours degree in History I achieved from The Open University in 2015. The result was a one-act play, WITCH, which examines the human story behind accusations of witchcraft, focusing on the social conditions and interactions which led to such accusations. It was based on depositions from the 1687 trial of a Lyme Regis housewife. The play, in which I perform alongside my colleagues from our company Circle of Spears Productions, enjoyed a very successful debut season in 2016 in the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle (where better to perform a play about witch trials?!) and since then, has gone on to enjoy further success in a number of venues across Devon, with a lengthy list of performances in 2017. It is currently being booked by universities as Theatre in Education.

I have been lucky enough to secure a contract with Troy Books in Cornwall for a book based on the research I originally undertook to write WITCH – it will look at the various issues raised in the play, expand on them and examine how theatre may be used to preserve our social history whilst simultaneously making it more accessible.

I published my first children’s book in 2017. Written for my daughter in 2010, when she was three, Sammy’s Saturday Job has finally been released as a Kindle ebook.  It follows the tale of a little dragon who wants to be a firefighter. She gets a chance to help out, but it doesn’t go well and she needs to work out how to put things right. It encourages children to persevere and to think creatively about helping others. It also promotes inclusiveness by showing that being different doesn’t mean that you have nothing to offer.

Publishing this particular story means a great deal to me because the three year-old I wrote it for became a ten year-old who sat down with me and helped me to work out what illustrations I should draw for it and where they should go.  I can’t think of a better editing assistant.

Currently, as well as my WITCH non-fiction, I am working on a High Fantasy novel which tells the first instalment in the back-story of a character I created for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I was involved in. Sometimes, a character will really capture your imagination and this is certainly the case with my feisty, independent elf Aamena. I am hoping that the book will be out in late 2018.

Social Media links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/TraceyNormansWITCHbook

www.facebook.com/TraceyNormanAuthor

Twitter – @WITCHplayCoS and @fireeyeschron

Websites – www.traceynormanswitch.com   and   www.thefireeyeschronicles.co.uk

Buy links

Secret Invasion (in aid of MIND): https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/secretinvasion

Folklore and Fairy Tales Reimagined: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07728RXWS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

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Many thanks to Tracey for popping by!

See you next week!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


The Folville Chronicles: Bakewell Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Jennifer x


Edward’s Outlaw: and the winner is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

 

 

 

 

 


Ask a writer: Robin of Sherwood

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Hooded Man Event in Gloucester. This gathering was for fans of the 1980’s television show Robin of Sherwood – a show that I have recently written three brand new audio scripts for.

While I was in Gloucester I was busy selling my novels, so I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I would have liked. Since my return to Devon, I’ve been asked a number of questions relating to the writing of those three scripts – The Waterford BoyMathilda’s Legacy – The Baron’s Daughter.

Today, I’m going to attempt to answer those questions. Obviously the answers I give are from my angle only. I don’t work for Spiteful Puppet or ITV- so I have no knowledge as to what the future holds for RoS.

So- in no particular order….

How difficult is it to switch from writing books to script writing for audio?

Script writing is a whole new world. I had never written a script before, so I was learning fast when I wrote The Waterford Boy. I was kindly lent a couple of scripts that Iain Meadows (The Blood that Binds and The Templar’s Promise) had written in the past, so I knew how to format my work, but beyond that I felt my way along. (With help from Iain and Barnaby)

I’ve been a novelist for 12 years, so it was quite a challenge suddenly writing something where I couldn’t describe a scene properly with words. Everything has to be displayed via dialogue and background sound. This meant that writing about someone’s appearance, for example, has to be done via the comments of other characters. The scene in The Waterford Boy, where Robin, Will and Nasir disguise themselves to blend into Nottingham market, was particularly tricky to put together for that very reason.

It was slightly easier writing the two narrated stories- The forthcoming The Baron’s Daughter however, is a full cast reading…so that needed everything explaining via conversation and sound effects. You’ll find out if I managed that in a few months time!

Although writing scripts is a very different skill to writing a novel- I loved it! Let’s hope I get to do some more one day.

Will Robin of Sherwood audio do anything like prequels or sequels for example prequel Rebels of Loxley or the daughters (sons) of Sherwood? Any plans to expand the Robin of Sherwood universe further?

I’d have to say ‘no’ to that. The licence for what Spiteful Puppet can do is strict- plus, there isn’t the mega multi-national audience that you have for other popular shows such as Doctor Who or Star Trek. The prequel angle has been explored a little bit with Mathilda’s Legacy (the story of how the Earl of Huntington met Robert of Huntington’s mother).

However, if you enjoy all stories Robin Hood, then there are many writers who have been inspired by Robin of Sherwood and have expanded into many other directions, from fantasy to comics to legend redevelopment. You only have to look at my fellow audio script writers Paul Kane (The Red Lord) and Tony Lees (The Trial of John Little– coming soon) to find a collection of Robin Hood stories to keep you going for ages.

Do you make drawings to picture parts of your audio-book stories?

The only art work associated with the audio books is the brilliant cover showing both Robin’s.  I am not responsible for that thankfully – which is probably just as well as I have no artistic skill at all! I wish I did.

Once you knew you were doing more than one audio story, did you put your own returning characters (other than the obvious) into the stories, or was that a temptation too far (against the canon)?

It would be so tempting to do that. I would love to write more about Mathilda of Huntington if the chance ever arose. (Unlikely!) However, the answer to the question is ‘no’. The stories are slotted into the ready made framework of the existing episodes, and so any onward play with my own invented characters wouldn’t be practical – although it would be fun for me as writer.

However, I have enjoyed making reference to the characters we know and love. I took great pleasure, for example, in referencing Lord Edgar in Mathilda’s Legacy– Robert’s mother clearly had very little time for her future brother-in-law….

It is wonderful to be able to play with the nostalgia we all feel for the characters we loved – and the ones we loved to hate.

Which was your favourite of the audio scripts you’ve written?

Tricky one.

The Waterford Boy will always be special because it was my first script- and it made a dream come true. Never did I think I’d write for the best TV show of all time (to me anyway!) Judi Trott read it so beautifully as well. I have to confess to listening to it often just to hear her lovely voice.

The Baron’s Daughter was also special because it was my first full cast script. I got to put words into Michal Praed’s mouth – and who wouldn’t want to do that???

However- if pushed- I think Mathilda’s Legacy is my favourite. Partly because it was the first one I heard as a completed audio. The second I heard Michael Craig read my words- and then the famous theme music burst into life- I was a star struck 14 year old unable to believe that  I was listening to a story I’d created.

It was also quite something being given the responsibility of inventing (to some extent- David of Huntington was married to Mathilda) Robert of Huntingdon’s mother. I hope you all like the woman I created to be a future heroes mother.

Which was your favourite RoS episode?

That is an impossible question. I love them all. To narrow it down – it was either Adam Bell (first one I ever saw) or Herne’s Son parts one and two or The Prisoner…or…..

Many thanks to everyone who has sent questions to me since the HM3. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness showed to me after I fiddled with your favourite stories. I promise, if I am ever lucky enough to write more, I will continue to try as hard as I can to be true to the Robin of Sherwood ethos, and write stories to make you feel as though you have been transported back to 5.35 on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980’s. Well – I’ll try anyway!

Nothing’s forgotten,

Jennifer x


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