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

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50 Things: Parts 2 & 3

I’m thinking likes and dislikes today.

First off:

5 THINGS I LOVE (apart from my family and friends!)

Walking in the countryside

Preferably over moorland or through woods – I simply love to pack up some coffee and biscuits and pop on my walking boots.

I rarely have time off, and I’m useless at resting, so walking time in the fabulous UK countryside is my main way to escape reality (or fiction).

Robin Hood

Hardly a surprise to find this on my list! My passion for all things Robin Hood has been part of my life since I was 14 years old – and I can’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

Rewriting

I’ll be honest – I don’t enjoy writing very much. I slog my way through every first draft. When it comes to the rewriting process however, it’s a different matter. I love redrafting my work – that magical process of improving each sentence and making every word work hard for its right to be there.  It’s both challenging and satisfying.

Eating Out

I love going to cafes and restaurants. Even though I sit in a cafe corner every day, I never get bored of the experience. Whether it’s just for a cuppa, or for a scone and coffee, or a three course dinner – I simply adore the process – and all the people watching that goes with the environment! (I’m also quite keen on other people doing the cooking and clearing up!)

Weekend reading time

Time off is a bit of a luxury for me, so for the past few years – in order to enforce some down time on myself – I put aside one hour each Saturday and Sunday where all I do is sit and read (and drink coffee). It is pure bliss to enjoy words I haven’t written.

5 THINGS I DISLIKE

‘May I reach out to you’ or ‘I’m just reaching out to you…’

UG! Every time I hear those words I have the instant urge to have a wash. There is something horribly clammy about them – and ever so slightly creepy. (Not to mention needy.)

So please, NEVER reach out to me. You can ask for my help, my time or my advice. You can visit me, email me and talk to me – but PLEASE do not reach out to me.

Laziness

I simply don’t get it.  How can people not do things, because they can’t be bothered?

(This is different from resting or being unable to do things)

Humiliation humour

Humiliation forms a big part of TV and social media culture these days – and I hate it. Laughing at someone who is being humiliated is just cruel. Don’t even get me started on humiliation in general.

Loud noises – especially shouting and music

I dislike loud noise.  I don’t understand people why shout rather than talk (outside of extreme anger or fear).

Sometimes, when I’m sat in my cafe corner, I have groups on nearby tables (usually women), talking at each other, rather than having a conversation. They each talk louder and louder, until they are all basically shouting – while no one actually listens to a word anyone else is saying. It drive me nuts – they are inches from each other, and they’re shouting.

Oh – and I don’t want to hear other people’s music either!

Yes – I’m turning into a grumpy old woman!

So – that’s likes and dislikes – I’ll be back some with some more ‘5 things’ lists.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

50 Things: Part 1

As I approach my 50th birthday, I’ve decided to share 50 different thoughts, tips, snippets from my life – plus some general dos and don’ts, moans and groans – in list form.

I’m diving straight in today with –

5 THINGS THIS WRITER COULDN’T DO WITHOUT

Luck

This should never be underestimated. And while you can make your own luck to some extent, (by working hard and paying attention to the world around you so you are aware of the opportunities out there), pure chance can make a huge difference to life.

Of course – luck isn’t always good, and I’ve had my fair share of bad luck – but often it’s a positive thing.

My first piece of luck came when I was 3 days old – I was dying – there was nothing that could be done. My father – a truly wonderful man for so many reasons – wouldn’t give up, and went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, until he found someone willing to do something – anything – to try and save me. As luck would have it, a locum – fresh out of training – had heard of an experimental drug that might help me. To cut a long story short, he got hold of some and risked his whole career to administer it. If he hadn’t I’d not be here. I have no idea who he was- but THANK YOU!

Anyway- to back to the writing…

My first piece of good luck in the writing world came at the very beginning of my career. Without it, I would not have become a writer.

As many regular readers of this blog will recall – I wrote my first short story, almost 18 years ago, on a serviette in a cafe. The need to write that day was a whim that came from nowhere- and to this day, I don’t know where the idea for that (erotic) story came from.  At the tender age of 33, it was the first story I’d written since school. I only sent it off to a short story publisher to stop a friend from nagging me to do something with it. It didn’t cross my mind that the story would be taken. But it was.

If another editor, rather than the fabulous Violet Blue, had read it, they might not have liked it – if I’d picked a different anthology to sub to, then it may not have got anywhere. I knew nothing of the business at all –  I’d employed the eenie-meenie-miney-mo technique when it came to picking who to send the story to.

Yet – luck was on my side – and suddenly, thanks to my story ‘Jen and Tim’ and Cleis Press, who published the very adult collection, Lips Like Sugar – I suddenly had a brand new – and very unexpected – hobby. Six months later, it had become a career.

Another example of luck came not long after the publication of my part crime/part romcom novel, Romancing Robin Hood. If it hadn’t been picked up by a random Amazon advertising hit due to a mistake by my publishers, it wouldn’t have been noticed by the team relaunching the 1980’s TV series,  Robin of Sherwood  – they wouldn’t have looked at the novel and discovered my fascination with the series  – and so wouldn’t have invited me to their convention- and so I wouldn’t have been asked to try to write for them.

One or two more miracles later, and now I’m their chief writer. (Thank you Barnaby Eaton-Jones, The Carpenter Estate and Spiteful Puppet)

My family and friends

It’s quite simple – I couldn’t do this without my family and friends help, support and love.

The people I love are amazing. Enough said.

An insane, nonstop imagination

I’ve always had a nonstop imagination. Long before I had ideas about writing for a living, I was a day- dreamer.  This was a survival instinct thing throughout my childhood. I was forever working out escape scenarios from the bullies at school – and that developed into me working out every conceivable way anything could go wrong for the rest of my life! I generally know how to cope with problems when they arrive, because I’ve worried about them in advance.

This forever asking questions of every situation now serves me very well when I’m constructing plotlines. I use it to ask myself how every character would behave and every point of conflict would pan out.

I have so many ideas for novels, scripts and short stories, that there is a queue of stories awaiting my attention at all times – each clamouring for their turn to see the light. I dread the day my ideas dry up!

Coffee – black (Strong – none of this Mellow Birds cobblers)

My fuel. Without it I simply don’t operate.

Readers

My lovely readers – THANK YOU ALL.

Without the people who take the time to read my stories, I’m simply a person who plays with words.

Over the last 17 (almost 18) years, I’ve developed a solid fan base/ readership for all three of my pen names – and I appreciate each and every one of them.

 

SO – that’s the first list done! That means there are nine more to come!

You have been warned!

Jen xx

 

 

Opening Lines: The Outlaw’s Ransom

As I’m fresh (okay, not fresh – more like totally knackered with no voice), from the latest Hooded Man event – celebrating all things Robin of Sherwood – it seems fitting to share the opening lines from The Outlaw’s Ransom. This – the first in #TheFolvilleChronicles – was inspired by my love of the show.

 

Here’s the blurb to 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…

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)

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Cornish Romance for St Valentine’s Day?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why not treat yourself, or a loved one, to a little Cornish romance? 

My first Cornish novel, A Cornish Escape, was never meant to be a romance. I hadn’t noticed, until after I’d written it, that within this tale of friendship and self discovery there lies an old fashioned love story. 

Newly widowed at barely thirty, Abi Carter is desperate to escape the Stepford Wives-style life that Luke, her late husband, had been so keen for her to live.

Abi decides to fulfil a lifelong dream. As a child on holiday in a Cornwall as a child she fell in love with a cottage – the prophetically named Abbey’s House. Now she is going to see if she can find the place again, relive the happy memories … maybe even buy a place of her own nearby?

On impulse Abi sets off to Cornwall, where a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Beth, like Abi, has a life-changing decision to make. Max, Beth’s best mate, is new to the village. He soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams … but things aren’t quite that simple. There’s the complicated life Abi left behind, including her late husband’s brother, Simon – a man with more than friendship on his mind … Will Abi’s house remain a dream, or will the bricks and mortar become a reality?

If your loved one – or you – enjoys the Cornish countryside, a touch of romance, a story with twists and turns- and a cute Labrador…then this is the book for you! 

A Cornish Wedding also contains a love story- but this time it’s the older generation having all the fun!

Abi Carter has finally found happiness. Living in her perfect tin miner’s cottage, she has good friends and a gorgeous boyfriend, Max. Life is good. But all that’s about to change when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Cassandra Henley-Pinkerton represents everything Abi thought she’d escaped when she left London. Obnoxious and stuck-up, Cassandra hates living in Cornwall. Worst of all, it looks like she has her sights set on Max.

But Cassandra has problems of her own. Not only is her wealthy married lawyer putting off joining her in their Cornish love nest, but now someone seems intent on sabotaging her business.

Will Cassandra mellow enough to turn to Abi for help – or are they destined never to get along?

Complete with sun, sea and a gorgeous Cornwall setting, A Cornish Wedding is the PERFECT summer escape.

***

Buy Links-

A Cornish Escape is available as an ebook or paperback from all good retailers, including Waterstones and Amazon 

A Cornish Wedding is available as an ebook or paperback from all good retailers, including Waterstones and Amazon.

 

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

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

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

First 500 words

Prologue

September 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter One

September 1st

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy autumn reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Listening to Mr Higson

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

First however, I’ll set the scene…

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

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

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

In truth – I was a bit lost.

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

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

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

So –

Should I still write erotica?

Should I stick to romcoms?

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

Should I give up the novels entirely and write scripts?

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

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

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

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

I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lecture over!!

Keep well, keep safe,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

Pass the coffee

The words, ‘It’s too hot for coffee,’ will never pass my lips.

It’s never too hot for coffee.

With that in mind, I’m sat sipping a cup of my local cafe’s best Americano, while I share a few lines from my very first #romcom with you today.

So why not escape into the shade and have Another Cup of Coffee ?

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

Grab that cuppa, and enjoy an extract from Another Cup of Coffee…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good paperback and ebook retailers, including-

Stay safe.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

5 Tips: Progressing from short story writing to novels

So, you’ve had an idea?

You’ve woke up in the middle of the night with a title that just screams to be the name of the next bestselling novel, or a plot line that is leaping around your head with such ferocity that it has to hit the bookshelves.

You’ve already written short stories, but a novel – that’s a hell of a lot of words…

1. Think of short story writing as your novel writing apprenticeship – Short stories are a brilliant way for any writer to learn their craft. By learning to write to a word limit you can build your literary skill and finesse your writing. Too many people are in a rush to write a novel without taking the time to learn the skills needed. Creating short stories can teach you how to write in such a way that not a single word is wasted. Every word- every single one- has to count in a short story. The same applies to a novel- pages of waffle and repetition are boring to read and boring to write.

2. You need instant impact – In a short story all you have to grab your reader’s attention is the first one or two sentences. When writing their first novel, new writers often relax, thinking the lengthier word count means they have the luxury of spending pages to grab their reader’s interest- wrong!

When you write a novel the same instant impact rule applies as for short pieces. You have one to three paragraphs at the most to hook them. If a reader’s interest isn’t piqued by the end of the first page you’ve lost them- and then they are less likely to look at any further work you might produce. Once you have hooked them of course, then you can coax them into the story and work to keep them with you until they reach the last page – desperate to read more.

3. Don’t push that plot – Once you’ve started writing your novel, if you find your dream plot isn’t going to stretch to a whole novel (usually btw 70-100,000), then pause. Take a step back. There is nothing worse than reading a story that’s had its plot watered down just so it’s the required length. Take a walk. Think it through. Can the storyline take an extra twist to the plot? Can the interest in your characters be sustained? If not- make it a novella. Novellas (generally accepted to be anything from 20-60K), are very popular, great fun to write and wonderful writing practice.

4. Climb that word count– Addressing a word count of c.90,000 after having previously only completed pieces that are 5-10,000 words long can seem like a mammoth task. So why not build up slowly? Think of it like mountaineering. No one would tackle Everest without climbing a few lesser mountains first. So grab the crampons and the ropes and tackle a 15,000 word story – then add a crash helmet and a few rations and go for a novella. Then, as your confidence builds and you’ll soon be ready to strap on the oxygen tank, grab a pick and go for that novel!

5. Still feel like heavy going?- A lot of issues connected with getting through a novel for the first time are psychological. Don’t be afraid to address each chapter like an individual short story, but with a more open ending. After all, you already know you can write short tales of fiction. Allow yourself rewards for every 1000 words- an extra cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, a ten minute walk. Take one word at a time.

Remember- it’s supposed to be fun!

Happy writing!!

Jenny

(Check out my short story and general fiction writing workshops at www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk  )

Crediton Literary Festival: Exmoor and Scones

If you’ve ever been curious as to why my current set of romcoms on Exmoor – or why the consumption of scones is such a feature – then why not come along to listen to my talk at the Crediton Literary Festival.

This FREE event is available via Zoom – but you must book a ticket to attend.

The line up for the whole day is fabulous.

You can book here – bit.ly/CredLit21

See you there!

Jenny xx

Meet The Winter Outlaw

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

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

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

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

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

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had given him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

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

 

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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