Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Category: medieval Page 2 of 6

What if a child was caught up in the Crusades?

Today I’m delighted to welcome Wayne Turmel to my blog, with a fascinating insight to the development of his protagonist, Lucca le Pou.

Over to you Wayne…

As an author, I’m asked all the time: “Where do your characters come from?” My standard response is, “when a mommy and daddy character love each other very much…. “ but that’s not necessarily true.

In the case of Lucca le Pou, the 10-year-old hero of two of my historical novels, his creation was an interesting look at how an authors—at least my—twisted mind works.

Given that Lucca is a very optimistic and funny character, it started rather bleakly. This photograph was sent around the world at the height of the Syrian Civil War. (To be clear, it was at the height of anyone caring about it, the war continues, and people keep dying.)

This photograph touched me deeply, as it should anyone with a pulse. It got me thinking about children in war time, which led me wonder about children in one of my favorite periods to read about, The Crusades.

By doing what authors do, which is ask “what if?” an awful lot, a character came to mind.

What if… a child was caught up in the Crusades?

What if… that child was a half-French, half-Syrian orphan?

What if… that kid witnessed the Battle of Hattin? (this would spare me writing two separate books, since Hattin is something of an obsession of mine)

What if… I wrote a story aimed at adults but YA audiences, say anyone over 14, could enjoy as well?

What if…  instead of a pathetic, dreary tale of unrelenting sadness, the kid was smart and funny and a survivor? (Think Kipling’s Kim, only during the Crusades)

From those questions, I came up with Lucca the Louse. Lucca is raised in the Hospitaler orphanage (because Templars are so 2017) and takes refuge in the St Lazar leper hospital (because what’s cooler than a whole order of knights who have leprosy?)

I should feel guilty, I suppose, that a young boy’s misery got me thinking about an epic and often funny adventure. But I love Lucca, and so do the readers of Acre’s Bastard, the first book in the series.  I mean, he survives attempted sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder and still has time for a good poop joke. The book even starts with his first attempts to see a naked lady. It isn’t all doom and gloom.

With the second book, I had to continue the story because the war continues, and Lucca must flee a dying city. I paired him up with a young Lebanese Druze girl, also an innocent victim of the Holy War, and the two of them risk everything to flee to Tyre. I hope people will love Nahida as much as they do Lucca.

Here’s the synopsis of Acre’s Orphans, out January 21 and available on Amazon worldwide and in good bookstores everywhere:

Ten-Year-old Lucca the Louse narrowly escaped the worst disaster to befall the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but he’s not safe yet. His beloved but doomed city of Acre is about to fall into Saracen hands, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Days after his return, he uncovers a plot to rip apart what remains of the Crusader Kingdom. Acre’s only chance lies in the last Crusader stronghold; the port of Tyre.  Carrying an important secret, Lucca—accompanied by a young Lebanese girl, a leprous nun, and a Hospitaler with a dark secret—must make his way through bandit-infested wilderness to seek help. Will he find assistance for those left behind, or will it be too little, too late?

This exciting sequel to “Acre’s Bastard” is a rollicking, humorous and thrilling adventure story that stands alone, but adds to the growing legend of Lucca le Pou.

Thanks for the chance to tell my story, and I hope people enjoy the books!

Author Wayne Turmel

www.WayneTurmel.com

@Wturmel

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Turmel/e/B00J5PGNWU/

 

 

Many thanks for blogging with me to day Wayne,

Happy reading everyone,

Jen x

From modern romance to medieval crime

Moving from writing modern contemporary women’s fiction and romantic comedies to creating medieval murder mysteries isn’t necessarily the most obvious career move for a writer to make. For me however, it felt like a natural progression.

I love writing my stories of Cornish romance and coffee shop based friendship dramas as Jenny Kane. In fact, it was when I was writing my modern chick flick romance, Romancing Robin Hood, that I found I was accidentally writing a medieval mystery at the same time.

Within Romancing Robin Hood, the lead character, Grace Harper, is writing a medieval adventure. It hadn’t been my intention to tell the story Grace was writing alongside her own adventure- but that’s what ended up happening. So, when you read Romancing Robin Hood, not only do you read, Robin Hood lover, Grace’s, modern tale, but you read the murder mystery she is writing as well. It just goes to prove that writers have very little control over their characters. Grace told me to write her novel for her- and so I did!

That novel (which is within Romancing Robin Hood) was separately published as The Outlaw’s Ransom, the story of Mathilda of Twyford and her encounter with a criminal gang in Fourteenth century Leicestershire. Even more surprising to me than the fact I was suddenly writing medieval crime fiction, was that Mathilda wasn’t going to be content with just one story of her own. She wanted a whole series all to herself! So, The Folville Chronicles was born.

The Outlaw’s Ransom, which is only a short novel, was followed by the rather longer novel, The Winter Outlaw– and that in turn has now been succeeded by Edward’s Outlaw– where I got seriously involved in the writing and simply couldn’t stop! Mathilda was so busy solving the given crime, that I hadn’t noticed just how long this story was going to be! So far, every new Folville Chronicle has been almost double the size of the one before!

Edward's Outlaw

While The Folville Chronicles are medieval murder mysteries- with plenty of other crime going on in the background- I haven’t strayed too far from my romantic fiction roots. Mathilda and Robert de Folville don’t have the most straight forward of starts on their life together…and they aren’t the only ones destined to end up together….

***

If you’d like to read any of the stories mentioned above, the links to my books, romance and otherwise, are available via the menu links at the top of the page, or by clicking on the titles of each mentioned book within this post.

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer- or should that be Jenny?

xx

 

 

Publication Day: Edward’s Outlaw

It’s time to raise a glass- or a large mug of black coffee in my case.

The third book in The Folville Chronicles launches today!

Edward’s Outlaw follows hot on the heels of The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw.

Edward's Outlaw

Available in both ebook and paperback formats, you can buy your copy today!

***

Here’s the blurb

January 1330: King Edward III’s England is awash with the corruption and criminal activity that his mother, Queen Isabella had turned a blind eye to- providing it was to her advantage.
Now, having claimed the Crown for his own, Edward is determined to clean up England. Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault and her special advisor- a man who knows the noble felons of the countries Midland region very well- King Edward sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to work with the county sheriff to arrest five of the Folville brothers…including the newly married Robert de Folville.
Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?
Asked to investigate by the sheriff in exchange for him deliberately taking his time in the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder…a web of carefully laid deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

***

(Although Edward’s Outlaw can easily be read as a standalone novel, you’ll get a little more out of the story if you’ve read books one and two)

You can find out lots of information about Edwards’ Outlaw, from how it was written to what inspired it, and read an extract or two, by following the launch blog tour which begins today!

Happy reading (and blog hopping)

Jennifer x

 

 

A little peep at: The Winter Outlaw

Let’s take a peep inside The Folville Chronicles – Book Two: The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had given him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am! The first three novels – one short – two long – are out in the world – and book four is in the planning stages!

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Catching up with Mathilda: The Outlaw’s Ransom

With Edward’s Outlaw, the third book in The Folvilles Chronicles series only days away from publication, I thought I’d take a look back at Mathilda of Twyford’s first adventure-  Book One in the series: The Outlaw’s Ransom

Blurb

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 on 3rd December.

***

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Edward’s Outlaw: Cover and Blurb Release

What a year it’s been for my ‘Jennifer Ash’ side!

Not only have I had the pleasure (the privilege), of writing a number of audio scripts for ITV’s Robin of Sherwood, I’ve also been very busy with the continuing adventures of Mathilda of Twyford.

Mathilda’s earliest adventure, which features in the first book of The Folville ChroniclesThe Outlaw’s Ransom – was re-released by Littwitz Press. The second book in the series, The Winter Outlaw came out in March. Now, after eight months intense writing, I can announce the forthcoming arrival of the third of The Folville ChroniclesEdward’s Outlaw.

Edward’s Outlaw will be released on 3rd December.

Pre-order for the eBook version of Edward’s Outlaw (Paperback link coming soon)

Blurb

January 1330: King Edward III’s England is awash with the corruption and criminal activity that his mother, Queen Isabella had turned a blind eye to- providing it was to her advantage.

Now, having claimed the Crown for his own, Edward is determined to clean up England. Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault and her special advisor- a man who knows the noble felons of the countries Midland region very well- King Edward sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to work with the county sheriff to arrest five of the Folville brothers…including the newly married Robert de Folville.

Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?

Asked to investigate by the sheriff in exchange for him deliberately taking his time in the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder…a web of carefully laid deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

***

After being thrust into solving mysteries in books one and two in order to save her own life, this time Mathilda finds herself in the role of detective. Word of her skill at getting to the bottom of crimes has spread. In fact, the only person that doubts Mathilda’s skills as an investigator is Mathilda herself…

 

I had a wonderful time writing Mathilda’s latest adventure – and setting up the background for book four. In fact, clues to book four (which I will be writing at the end of 2019), have been scattered through the lines of all of The Folville Chronicle novels so far…

Come back for more novel release news soon.

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

 

 

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.

***

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.

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

 

 

 

 

 

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