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Opening Lines with John Hartless: Full Throttle

For this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Jon Hartless, with the first 500 words from book one in the Poppy Orpington Chronicles: Full Throttle.

Welcome to the relaunch of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles, beginning with Full Throttle.

It was sometime back in 2013 (or thereabouts) I had the idea for a Steampunk motor racing adventure, featuring a heroine by the name of Poppy Orpington, who would drive a huge, fast car called Thunderbus on the racetracks of Britain and Europe.

Inspired by the era of the Bentley Boys – famous racing drivers of the 1920s – I set to it and started writing. And immediately changed my mind and tried to do the story in a completely way. It took some time to realise this was, in fact, a very silly thing to do, and I eventually went back to the original idea and wrote out the entire novel which flowed very nicely, almost as though Poppy was keen to get out and start her career.

Unfortunately, the writing, rewriting, further rewriting and final rewriting, (followed by several more rewrites thereafter), was the easy part. Finding a publisher willing to take on the project was far more difficult, though eventually the novel appeared with Accent Press in 2017. This was followed by the sequel in 2019, and this was followed by Accent being bought out by Headline, which dithered for months before announcing they weren’t actually interested in continuing the Poppy Orpington series.

And so we arrive at 2020, some 7 years later, and Poppy is being reborn via Kindle and self-publishing. It’s been something of a torturous road, (forgive the pun), but we’re finally shifting through the gears and gaining speed and as long as there’s no oil on the road the way ahead is clear and I’ll stop with the awful jokes now.

Anyway, I hope you may want to check the book out, and if so, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks all.

Jon

Blurb:

As expensive steam-powered automobiles speed across the land, Poppy Orpington is trapped and going nowhere – until her father reveals he has perfected a petrol-fuelled car, ready for the racetrack. The vast prize money promises them a better life, but will Poppy and her father be allowed to compete? Racing is the preserve of the wealthy elite and few will welcome the working-classes onto their hallowed ground.

Can Poppy overcome social prejudice and conformity, or will her only chance of a better life be crushed before it can even begin? Join editor James Birkin as he looks back on the life of a near-forgotten, much maligned champion of the racetrack.

Full Throttle; book one of a Steampunk motor racing adventure set in a world of division, intolerance and inequality which modern readers may find disturbingly familiar…

FIRST 500 WORDS

Today, Poppy Orpington is hardly remembered at all.

Some do know she was a famous racing driver, though only a minority of these are aware her first car was called Thunderbus, not Thunderbolt, a mistake arising from her later company of that name.

Others wrongly dismiss her as the first of the modern celebrities, working the media for fame and money, while a few will scornfully recall near-libellous newspaper reports of harlotry in a Parisian bawdy house whenever her name is mentioned.

Most, however, are familiar only with her tragic fate and stained reputation from the Great War – a reputation, I maintain, that is thoroughly undeserved. However, I must not get ahead of myself. I shall explore everything in the right order and put Poppy in the context of her era. Her exoneration, should you wish to grant it, must be given at the right time and with a full understanding of Poppy’s character.

This, then, is the beginning of the testimony, taken from diaries, letters and personal contemporaneous interviews. Some may think my shaping of this material into a narrative rather than an academic account diminishes the authenticity of the work; I contest that Poppy’s biography is so dramatic in tone, and so rich in style, that it pulled itself naturally into this shape.

Nonetheless, a few disclaimers should be noted. Memory is fragile, and it is unsurprising to see the manner in which events can be transposed, altered and generally misunderstood. Please be assured I have researched all areas as closely as possible and everything in this book did take place, though not necessarily in the order given.

Also, the spoken language at that time was rather more formal than today, especially amongst the upper classes and the well-educated, and this has driven me to lightly edit certain conversations between Poppy, Simeon, Helena and their contemporaries. Please be assured I have always endeavoured to keep the pith of each exchange, sacrificing the semi-archaic speech patterns only for the sake of lucidity.

The reader may ask just why I have devoted so much time to the Orpington archive of diaries, letters and more. Does it really matter what happened to an almost forgotten woman well over a century ago?

Unfortunately, the answer is undoubtedly yes. We can find many parallels between Poppy’s era and our own culture, especially in the treatment of the marginalised and the vulnerable. As such, I have interposed a series of editor’s notes on those aspects of Poppy’s life I feel are still relevant to the way we are today. I shall endeavour to keep these interjections to a minimum, however, as they serve to illuminate rather than to distract.

Join me, then, as we travel back to when motor sport was still open to amateurs – albeit only wealthy amateurs – who could race their own cars side-by-side with the professionals of the day. Back when the sport still boasted heroic individuality rather than corporate wrangling over fuel consumption and weight limits…

Buy Link-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CTN344R/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

 

Bio:

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, steampunk motor racing adventures examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019 – now to be reissued before the release of the third on the series, Fall of the Petrol Queen, schedule for September 2020.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/jonhartlessauthor/

Twitter: @OrpingtonPoppy

 

Many thanks Jon,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

I’m delighted to welcome Gilli Allan back to my blog today to share her Opening Lines from Buried Treasure- as well as giving us a peep at the novel’s gorgeous new cover.

Here’s the Blurb

“I found Buried Treasure a compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, and a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage. The characters were wonderfully well drawn. ”

Jane thinks he sees her as shallow and ill-educated. Theo thinks she sees him as a snob, stuffy and out of touch.
Within the ancient precincts of the university the first encounter between the conference planner and the academic is accidental and unpromising. Just as well there’s no reason for them ever to meet again. But behind the armour they’ve each constructed from old scars, they’ve more in common than divides them. Both have an archaeological puzzle they are driven to solve. As their stories intertwine, their quest to uncover the past unearths more than expected.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

 Why did everyone laugh at her? Even her sister. It was true, and Rachel knew it.  Their great Uncle Alf Sydney HAD found treasure on his farm. And Uncle Bill – who should have been at school that day but was on the tractor with him – agreed how they’d dug it up, cleaned it as best they could, and kept it in the room they called the parlour.

These days the nearest thing they had to treasure was laid out on the table.  Called ‘the Sydney Collection’, the stones, coins and broken bits of pottery were all a bit dull and boring, to be honest. More exciting were the weird and wonderful things Uncle Bill had brought back from far flung places, when he was soldiering.

But back when Bill was still a boy, the treasure they’d dug out of a muddy field, was kept on the sideboard. Jane imagined it piled up high, lighting up the dark room with beams of glittery light. So much money and necklaces, bracelets and brooches, and long strings of pearls, it would have spilled onto the floor!  She was sure there’d have been crowns too, and gold caskets studded with rubies and emeralds. And even that piece of jewellery that gave her the shivers just to think about it – a diamond tiara like the one Cinderella wore to the ball. That was until the police came and snatched it all away.  

It just wasn’t fair, Jane told the girls in her class. But they shook their heads as if they knew she was pretending. No matter how often she said – “Honest, it’s true! It’s in a museum in London now” – they still wouldn’t believe her. If she’d been able to honestly say she’d seen it herself, would that have made a difference?  But London was a long way away, and expensive to visit. “One day….” she’d been promised.

Everyone was already paired up or in gangs when she arrived at the new school, so to be made to feel stupid, boastful and a fibber, when all she wanted was to make friends…! She kept her mouth shut from then on, and kept to herself old Uncle Alf’s mysterious wink, and the tap to the side of his nose, whenever he talked about the treasure.

Chapter 1

2016

“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”  The old song evokes nostalgic memories of the farm, of family singsongs around the upright piano; Uncle Alf bashing out the tune, and Bill and Mary, egging him on. Why is it running through her head now, decades later, when both Alf and Bill are long dead, and the farm sold?  Deep down maybe she believes she’s on her way to achieving her own dream? But anyone who thinks that dreams really can come true is as delusional as the child who still believes in Santa – or Prince Charming.  A sick jolt runs down her spine. How…

Here are the buy links-

BURIED TREASURE

mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE

Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at

author.to/GILLIALLAN

Contact Gilli at

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gilli.allan.1

https://twitter.com/gilliallan

Bio

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the imaginary kind.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as an illustrator in advertising and only began writing again when she became a mother.

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

All of her recent books TORN, LIFE CLASS, FLY or FALL and BURIED TREASURE have gained ‘Chill with a Book’ awards.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is now also a writer.

 

Wishing you every success with your novel, Gilli.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: A Cornish Wedding

I’m delighted to be sharing the Opening Lines from A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’ Neighbour) with you on its launch day!!

Sequel to the recently launched, A Cornish Escape, this feel good romance returns you to the world of Abi, Max, Beth and Stan in sunny Sennen Cove.

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of Abi’s friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Cassandra stared at the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front garden. A fresh slogan had been pasted proudly across it, proclaiming Another House Sold!

She frowned. The estate agents must have made a mistake. Justin had talked about renting the cottage, this poky little two-bed terrace in some Cornish backwater, but he’d never once suggested buying it.

Sitting on the low stone wall that ran in front of the row of cottages, with her back to the sold sign, she let out a string of vehemently whispered expletives. Resisting the temptation to throw a pebble at the seagulls which were squawking their hearts out on the roof behind her, she steadied her breathing, like she did when faced with a particularly demanding client.

Shrugging off her suit jacket in deference to the early summer sunshine that poured from a cloud-free sky, Cassandra tried to focus, but doubts continued to assail her. She hadn’t misunderstood Justin, had she?

They’d been laughing over the breakfast table at one of the most exclusive hotels in London when the subject of Cornwall had first come up. Making plans for their future life together, they’d celebrated in grand style the fact that Justin had, after six years of secret trysts and stolen nights together, decided to leave his wife; the dreadful Jacinta.

Excitedly they’d plotted and planned over plates of eggs Benedict and smoked salmon, raising their glasses of Buck’s Fizz to Justin’s promotion to senior partner at the law firm. A promotion which meant that, providing they merged their finances, Justin could afford to get a divorce without being catapulted into penury.

There was only one snag.

The legal company Justin now worked for, Family Values, prided itself on its moral integrity. There was no way he could risk a scandal after securing the promotion he’d coveted for so long. It would be bad enough when he explained to his colleagues that he was getting a divorce – suddenly producing a long-term mistress would be too much for them to accept in one go.

So Justin had asked Cassandra to move away for a while. He’d suggested they use this short diplomatic period of separation to their advantage, and rent a property to later sublet – at a vast profit – to exhausted executives seeking a spot of relaxation. Cassandra, who could run her own business from anywhere via the Internet, would go and make sure the property was up to date, arrange any decorating that was required, and then rejoin Justin in London once things had died down.

Thinking back, Cassandra realised she should have asked a lot more questions about exactly how much research Justin had already done into this move. But under the influence of the early-morning alcohol, not to mention the triumph she felt at having finally succeeded in persuading Justin to leave his wife, she had suppressed all her instincts and agreed to everything he’d said.

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini….

If you’d like to read A Cornish Wedding, so can buy it as a paperback or on Kindle from all good retailers, including

Universal link – mybook.to/CornishWedding

You can learn about A Cornish Wedding on its #blogtour – which starts today!

Happy reading everyone.

Stay Safe.

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Lynne Shelby: The Summer of Taking Chances

This week I’m delighted to welcome Lynne Shelby to my Opening Line’s blog. Today Lynne is sharing the first 500 words from her brand new #romcom, ‘The Summer of Taking Chances.’

Blurb

It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

FIRST 500 WORDS

‘Such a glamorous life we actors lead,’ I said.

Richard stacked the last of the chairs against the wall. ‘I think we’re done,’ he said.

I took one final look around the hall. Satisfied that we’d removed all evidence of the South Quay Players’ rehearsal, and the Mother and Toddlers’ Group would have no cause
for complaint when they arrived at the community centre the following morning –
an unwashed coffee mug lurking in the kitchen sink had caused uproar only last
week – I returned the brush and dustpan I’d used to sweep the floor to the
broom-cupboard.

‘Emma,’ Richard said, ‘before we go and join the rest of the cast, can I ask you something?’

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘What is it?’

Richard hesitated, and then he said, ‘Just between ourselves, what’s your honest opinion of the committee’s choice of play for the summer show?’

‘I think it’s great,’ I said.

‘You don’t think we’re being too ambitious?’

‘Not at all,’ I said. ‘Of course, as I’m playing the female lead, I may be biased.’ The Players might be a small amateur dramatics society who shared their rehearsal space
with the Brownies, a Pilates class and the WI, but the thought that in just a few months’ time I’d be performing as Juliet, my favourite Shakespeare heroine, in front of a live audience made me smile – just as much, I felt sure, as if I was acting in a West End theatre.

‘You were good tonight,’ Richard said, ‘but you’re a naturally talented actress.’

‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘You weren’t too shabby yourself.’ Richard gave an exaggerated bow, reminding me of the time he’d played Dandini in Cinderella.

‘I think I did OK,’ he said, ‘but some of the cast are mangling every line. I can see us being called in for a lot of extra rehearsals this summer.’

‘I’m not saying it won’t be a challenge to get it right,’ I said, ‘but surely it’s good to stretch ourselves as actors?’

‘I think that rather depends on why you took up amateur dramatics,’ Richard said. ‘Why did you join the Players, Emma?’

I stared at him. Where is he going with this? I thought. ‘I love acting,’ I said. ‘I always have. When I was a teenager, the school play was the highlight of my year.’

‘I enjoy acting,’ Richard said, ‘but I can’t help thinking that it stops being enjoyable when the show is a disaster because half the cast aren’t up to it.’

‘It’ll all come together,’ I said, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation appeared to be heading. These were our friends Richard was talking about. ‘It always
does.’

‘Well, we’ll see,’ Richard said. ‘At least I get to wave a sword about.’

‘I’m sure you’ll make a brilliant Tybalt,’ I said.

‘Not that it’s the role I wanted,’ Richard said.

So that’s what this is about, I thought.

‘Henry can’t have done a better audition than me,’ Richard went on, ‘but once again he gets the lead…’

***

Buy link:

Bio

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction and romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing was published after it won a national writing competition. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city with her writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband and has three adult children who live nearby.

Many thanks for coming by today Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Jennifer Macaire: A Crown in Time

This week’s Opening Lines come from the pen of Jennifer Macaire.

Why not sit back and enjoy the first 500 words from her timeslip novel, A Crown in Time?

Over to you Jennifer…

In my last series, which started with The Road to Alexander, I wrote about a modern woman kidnapped by Alexander the Great and forced to spend the rest of her life in ancient times. The series ended, and instead of resting on my laurels and taking up something more relaxing like hang-gliding off cliffs or deep sea exploration, I started a new book. This time I was heading to the Crusades, and since I love time slip books, my heroine was sent back on a mission to set time back on track after a serious mistake put the future in jeopardy.

A Crown in Time: She must rewrite history, or be erased from Time forever…

(The Tempus U Time Travel series)

Since it was perfected in 2900, time travel has been reserved for an elite, highly trained few. However, on certain occasions, a Corrector is needed to rectify a mistake in the past.

Do your job well, and you’ll go down in history. Fail, and you will be erased from Time . . .

In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption. The Corrector Program at Tempus University is sending Isobel back in time, to the year 1270, to rewrite history.

Her mission? To save the crown of France.

If she follows the Corrector’s Handbook everything should run smoothly. But soon, Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed young noble on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost.

Isobel must fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing one wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch.

***

First 500 words:

Pax in nomine Domini

Peace in the name of the Lord

The nurse in charge of freezing my molecules inserted a glowing needle into my arm and had me count backwards from ten. I got to zero and stared at her, perplexed. ‘Now what?’

‘Again.’

I obeyed without question. Years of prison had left their mark. Then a cold wave washed through me. I felt my blood freeze. No one had told me it would be so painful. My teeth chattered and the place where the needle was inserted into my arm ached and ached. The pain grew. Frost bloomed in silver flowers on my hands and face. The pain was so intense I passed out. My last thought before I fainted was that despite all the work and planning, the program would now lose its Corrector. I was dying.

I didn’t die. I woke up lying on my back in the middle of a large mud puddle. Rain pelted my face, and my body convulsed with painful tremors. Groaning, I rolled over and propped myself up on my forearms. I retched and gagged, waves of nausea rolling through me. I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t hold me. I crawled off the road and collapsed on the verge. I had no idea why I’d been beamed into the middle of a road. I could have been killed.

I looked closer at the road and sighed. If anything was going to come down it, it would probably be an ox plodding before a heavy farm cart. The farmer would have been able to stop in time. Unlike me. I hadn’t been able to stop my car in time. I’d killed a child, and I’d been punished with life in a reproduction prison. For four years, I lay on a metal table once a month and donated an ovule, and in between, I worked at the prison library, copying ancient books and disks onto gel matrix for safekeeping. Then one day, I’d been given a choice. Go back in time and change a mistake, or continue to live in solitude, where my only jobs had been to produce eggs and reproduce books.

I’d been twenty years old when I went to prison. Twenty-four when I entered the Corrector Program at Tempus University, and now I was twenty-five, though I knew nothing of life. I felt both ancient and absurdly young. I’d barely had time to start living my own life when it ended. Now, I had the chance at a new beginning.

If only I could remember what that was. My mission now lay before me. I closed my eyes and tried to remember exactly what I had to do. Unfortunately, there seemed to be an empty space in my brain where that information was supposed to be. I couldn’t remember the first thing about it. I shivered with panic and cold. If my mission failed, the Time Correctors Facility from Tempus U would erase this portion of time, and I’d be erased along with it. I would never have existed past the day I entered the Tempus University TimeCorrector Program. In the far future, it would be as if I stepped inside the doors of that building  –  and simply vanished…

***

You can buy from all good retailers, including…

getbook.at/Crown (paperback)

mybook.to/CrownInTime (kindle)

Bio

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She spent nearly the entire quarantine sitting on her balcony & reading, and she thinks healthcare workers are amazing super-heroes.

Many thanks Jennifer,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Karen King: The Year of Starting Over

This week, I’m delighted to welcome fellow author, Karen King, to my Opening Lines blog, to share the first 500 word from A Year of Starting Over.

Over to you Karen…

Hi Jenny,

Thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog. The opening lines I’m going to share are taken from my feelgood novel, The Year of Starting Over, published by Bookouture. The inspiration for this story came partly from my own ‘year of starting over’ when my husband Dave and I moved to Spain at the end of 2017. We live in Andalusia, the setting of the book, and some of the incidents actually happened to us.

Blurb

What if – to find yourself – you had to run away?

Last year was meant to be when Holly got her happy-ever-after. But stuck in a job that’s going nowhere, and a relationship that feels more like it’s going backwards… this year Holly has decided it’s time to change her life. She just has to:

– End the relationship with the commitment-phobic boyfriend
– Go on a proper adventure
– Learn to be herself again
– Definitely, categorically not fall in love.

Cramming her belongings into her little yellow Mini, Holly drives on to a ferry bound to Spain, to stay at a remote farmhouse near a beautiful village in the Andalusian hills.

But the day she arrives she nearly crashes her car into a gorgeous guy on a motorbike. He’s called Matias and their paths keep crossing, much to Holly’s irritation. Because as she learns to speak Spanish from the locals, finally starts laying out plans for her own design business, and sips sangria in the sunlit village square, Holly is beginning to remember who she is and what she wants.

So she won’t allow herself be distracted by Matias. Because this year – for Holly – there are more important things in life than love. And she won’t let yet another bad relationship ruin everything… will she?

A moving and uplifting romantic comedy about living each moment and learning to trust yourself again, for fans of Jenny Hale, Debbie Macomber, and Sophie Kinsella.

First 500 words.

 Crash!

Holly groaned as she looked at the illuminated red numbers on the bedside clock: two thirty. Scott was finally home. He’d obviously gone on to a club with his mates and was now drunk. Again. She’d asked him not to be late back as she was on the early shift at Sunshine Lodge tomorrow, but he’d protested that it was Friday night and he’d been working hard all week, adding, ‘I need to chill out, babe. It’s not my fault you have to work tomorrow.’ It was a fair point, which made her feel guilty – as it was meant to do. Scott worked long hours as assistant manager of a games shop and often had to work weekends himself so couldn’t always have a Friday night out.

But when he had to work weekends, she didn’t come crashing in and wake him up in the early hours of the morning, did she? She swatted down her irritation, reminding herself that was because she didn’t like going clubbing. She preferred to spend her days and evenings off work either making cushions and throws to brighten up their flat or creating designs for the mugs, clocks and phone covers she sold on Dandibug, an online arts and crafts marketplace, hoping that one day she could turn it into a full-time business. Anyway, if she did come in late, she doubted if Scott would notice: he slept like a log and snored like a mechanical saw.

Holly turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Her friend Susie was always telling her, ‘You’re too much of a pushover, Holly. You should stand up to Scott.’ Susie didn’t understand that Holly hated conflict of any kind. She didn’t want to argue. She wanted to live in a nice, peaceful home like Pops and Nanna had. She missed them so much. Holly’s parents had split up when she was a baby; she’d never known her dad, and her mum was out at work

Pops and Nanna had adored Holly, and each other, and their love had shone out like a beacon of happiness. They’d been together since they were fourteen, got married at twenty-one and lived happily ever after. Nanna died two years ago, and Pops had missed her so much that when he too had gone peacefully in his sleep a few weeks ago, the knowledge that he was now with Nanna helped Holly and her mother cope with the grief of losing him. Nanna and Pops had both lived until their early nineties so had a good few innings, as Pops would have said.

Ever since she was little, Holly had dreamt of being happily married, just like Nanna and Pops, but all the guys she’d dated seemed to want a good time with no long-term commitment. She was hoping Scott was different; she loved him so much and he said he loved her too, but they’d been living together for over a year now and he hadn’t shown any sign… 

Buy Links

Amazon: https://geni.us/B07KFGL5P2Social

Apple: http://ow.ly/Mfgd30nBig8

Kobo: http://ow.ly/edYm30nBijM

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/qTmS30nBi94

Author Bio

Karen King is a multi-published bestselling author of fiction for both adults and children. She has also written several short stories for women’s magazines.

Currently published by Bookouture and Headline. Karen has recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture to write psychological thrillers. The first one will be out in November, and the second one in 2021. She is also contracted to write three romance novels for Headline, which will be out in 2021 and 2022.

Contact links

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook 

Twitter

Bookbub

Many thanks Karen,

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Anna Legat: A Conspiracy of Silence

Today I’m delighted to welcome Anna Legat to my blog. She is not just here to share her Opening Lines, but to reveal the cover for her latest DI Gillian Marsh, detective novel, A Conspiracy of Silence, which you can pre-order now!

Blurb:

When a body is found in the grounds of a prestigious Wiltshire private school, DI Gillian Marsh takes on the case. The young groundsman, Bradley Watson, has been shot dead, pierced through the heart with an arrow.

As the investigation gathers pace, DI Marsh is frustrated to find the Whalehurst staff and students united in silence. This scandal must not taint their reputation. But when Gillian discovers pictures of missing Whalehurst pupil, fifteen-year-old Rachel Snyder, on Bradley’s dead body – photos taken on the night she disappeared, and he was murdered – the link between the two is undeniable.

But what is Whalehurst refusing to reveal? And does Gillian have what it takes to bring about justice?

First 500 words 

Sarah Snyder was waiting in her car. She tapped her blue fingernails in close proximity to the horn, but she held back from sounding it. To kill time, she checked her lipstick in the rear view mirror and rubbed her front teeth to remove a red smudge. She turned on the radio only to hear the part of the news she wasn’t interested in: sport, followed by the weather. She was restless but she was pleased: Rachel was taking her sweet time.

Rachel was chatting to her friends ‑ Rhiannon and a couple of other girls. Only once did she steal a glance in the direction of her mother’s car – just to check Sarah was there, waiting. Reassured, she turned back to her chums and whispered something into Rhiannon’s ear. Whatever she said, it made Rhiannon laugh. Rachel laughed too.

It was an immeasurable relief to see her child happy, having a conversation with other people, and laughing. She was laughing! Sarah was so relieved she wanted to cry.

Only three days ago the picture had been very different. Head down, eyes boring a hole in the ground, Rachel would clutch her bag to her chest and run for the car as if the hounds of hell were after her. She would slump in her seat and mutter under her breath, Drive, Mum, just drive, and not speak for the rest of the day. She would lock herself in her room and brood.

Sarah winced at the memory and pushed it out of her mind. She waited and counted her blessings, of which there were many. She decided she would cancel the GP appointment. There was nothing wrong with Rachel, just the usual growing pains of puberty.

At last Rachel parted company with her friends, waved to someone hidden inside the school, and headed for the car. Her face, still beaming and full of bounce, appeared in the wound-down window.

‘Hi, Mum.’

‘I take it you had a good day?’ Sarah pulled her sunglasses to the tip of her nose and produced an expectant grin.

Rachel made a non-committal noise. She pecked her mother on the cheek and slid into the passenger seat. She was still smiling, addressing her smile to the windscreen and to the view of the tarmac in front of the car, but that was enough for her mother to flick her sunglasses up her nose and start the engine.

‘That good!’

The front right wheel stumbled over the kerb while the rear one rubbed against it as the car lurched sharply across the road to join the line of traffic leaving the school. Were it not a big and sturdy four-wheel-drive, it would have been written off a long time ago. Sarah did not treat it well. She used it more like a bulldozer than a means of transportation.

Accustomed to her mother’s driving antics, Rachel didn’t as much as blink. She bent forward in her seat and began tampering with the radio in search of a…

***

What readers are saying about Anna Legat:

‘Brilliant. I didn’t want to put it down!

‘It’s a rare author who can keep me guessing until the end – and the ending was a shocker

Plenty of twists and turns’

‘A brilliantly complex spaghetti of unrelated sub-plots to challenge any armchair sleuth

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, reading it cover to cover in a weekend’

‘I shall look out for more from Ms Legat’
***

Bio

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications in New Zealand. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

To find out more: https://annalegatblog.wordpress.com/
Good luck with your new novel Anna.
Happy reading everyone
Jenny xx

Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood: The (D)evolution of Us

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I bring you this week’s Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood.

Not only is this Morwenna’s debut novel – but it is also a novel written during my very first set of #novelinayear workshops. To say I’m proud of the work Morwenna has produced is an understatement.

So, put your feet up with a cuppa, and take a look at The (D)evolution of Us.

Over to you Morwenna…

Once upon a time, I heard about a writing workshop run by best-selling author, Jenny Kane.  It was held in my local café, and as ’twas a dark and stormy day and I’d just been given a pen in the shape of a cactus, I thought I’d go.  I loved it, and at the end, Jenny mentioned that she was thinking of running a Novel in a Year course as part of Imagine Creative Writing.  I signed up there and then (with my new pen).  Over the year, I wrote The (D)Evolution of Us, and with the support of Jenny, my local writers’ group and my brilliant husband, I submitted my manuscript to darkstroke, it was released on Star Wars Day, and we all lived happily ever after…?

***

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hiding in libraries; now, I carry my own personal one around in my pocket wherever I go.  This doesn’t mean I don’t still stop and lose track of time in bookshops and bookstalls, though.  In fact, this morning, on my lockdown-permitted-exercise walk, some lovely person had left a storage container full of books at the end of their front garden, with a note on it inviting passers-by to pick one, or leave one for others who might be in need of a random lockdown read.  I couldn’t help myself – I paused for a look.

The thing I love most about reading second-hand books is finding bits of other stories inside them: forgotten bookmarks; ticket stubs; Biro-ed dedications; and best of all, notes scrawled in the margins.  In the books I own, I am a margin-scrawler.  My husband says this is defacing someone else’s work, but to me, it’s adding to it.  Stories are inextricably linked, and in any case, what one reader gets from a book will be different to the next, and that’s the beauty of it.  Perception is everything.

The (D)Evolution of Us is an exploration – or explanation – of those ideas.  The novel is a noir existential thriller, set in a small Devon town at the turn of the 21st century, and is told from the view points of the three protagonists, Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine.  The girls are best friends.  Catherine is dead.

Mental illness, personal history, personality and perception drive the actions of all three as they struggle to make sense of their lives and their agency; whilst living in a town where everyone appears to know everything about everyone else, and the days roll away in a work-pub-work-pub cycle.

This is my debut novel, and its origins lie in my own existential dread.  In the end, I decided to wholeheartedly pursue the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do – write – and if there’s ever a starting point to anything, the story of Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine is it for me.

If you come into possession of the paperback, feel free to write in the margins.

***

Blurb

… the water was red and translucent, like when you rinse a paint brush in a jam jar.  The deeper into the water, the darker the red got.  No, the thicker it got.  It wasn’t water, it was human.  It was Cath.

Cath is dead, but why and how isn’t clear cut to her best friend, Kayleigh.  As Kayleigh searches for answers, she is drawn deeper into Cath’s hidden world.  The (D)Evolution of Us questions where a story really begins, and whether the world in our heads is more real than reality.

First 500 words

Prologue

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I reviewed Catherine at The Meadows today. She reported that her OCD was less ‘loud’ than when we last met in November, after the Crisis Team was called. This improvement has coincided with the resuming of clomipramine, which seems likely to have been helpful, as it has been in the past. Catherine agreed to the suggestion that this dose be increased to 200mg: 100mg morning and evening.

Catherine is coping well with life and states that her relationship with Richard is good. However she refuses to tell him about restarting the clomipramine, which is of concern to me. She has also resumed her writing.  I again offered Catherine a course of CBT, but she was resolute that she found it ‘useless’.

Catherine has now found employment in a health food shop but struggles with her OCD when closing down the tills and locking up at the end of the day, though she admits that she recognises that her rituals are entirely irrational.

Overall, in spite of her very significant persisting difficulties, I think that Catherine’s life has improved with the reintroduction of clomipramine.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I met with Kayleigh at The Meadows this morning, where she revealed to me that she is in the first trimester of pregnancy. She had requested the appointment (we were not due to meet again for another six weeks), in order, primarily, to discuss her medication, with regards to her new condition.

I found the fact that she did this encouraging, as I did her general demeanour. She was casually, but neatly, dressed, maintained good eye-contact throughout our interview, and appeared to have a good understanding of her mental health, and how it could impact on her (unborn) child.

We decided together that it would be prudent for Kayleigh to remain taking her lithium for the duration of her pregnancy, with close monitoring from her midwife and the Perinatal Team.

In spite of Kayleigh’s reports of having been ‘stable’ for the last few months, I have suggested that we meet at The Meadows every six weeks for the foreseeable future. I have also asked her to make an appointment for bloods to check her lithium levels as soon as possible – it is critical that she maintains a therapeutic dose.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

Richard

I’m half-listening to the radio, running a bath for my girlfriend, Cath. She’s sitting on the toilet seat, staring at me. I’m standing in the doorway, staring at her. Then I start to laugh. They’re playing that song by Marillion – Kayleigh – the one her hippy twat of a best mate likes to say she was named for, even though she’s too bloody old. I say she’s a hippy twat – I’d still shag her. She needs a good seeing to – and a good slap. She dots her ‘i’s with hearts, for fuck’s sake! And then the phone rings. Bloody witches. I…

You can buy The (D)evolution of Us from all good retailers, including…

mybook.to/devolution

Bio – When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends.  The story was about a frog.  It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.  When she is not writing, she works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Twitter: @MorwennaBlackw1

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

***

Many thanks Morwenna- wishing you huge success.

Happy reading Jenny

PS- She really did turn up with a cactus pen xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Mother’s Secret

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham to Opening Lines, to talk about her debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret.

Over to you, Jan…

‘Her Mother’s Secret’, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘69’, is my debut novel. It is the first of three I’ve been contracted to write for Ruby Fiction. All three novels involve secrets and forbidden love, explore mother and daughter relationships and are mainly or partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was published on April 21st as an ebook and most of it is set on Péfka, a fictional island off the coast of southern Greece. The story opens in 1991when a young Welsh woman, Alexandra Davies, is grieving after the untimely death of her mother. Elin has left her diary to her daughter and on reading it, Alexandra discovers a part of Elin’s life she knew nothing about. She is shocked as the secrets from Elin’s past are revealed and realises she didn’t know her mother as well as she thought. I tried to put myself in Alexandra’s shoes. Having had a very close relationship with her mother, how must she have felt finding out that her mother had kept such secrets from her?

The diary takes us back to 1969. Elin Morgan leaves Wales after finishing art college to spend the summer months studying at a painting school in Greece.  She records everything about her summer on the island but, while there, something happens that causes her to never paint again.  The secrets of that summer remain with her until she dies twenty-two years later.

Alexandra makes her own journey to Greece, following in her mother’s footsteps. She arrives on the same beautiful island that made such an impression on her mother. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69 and why it was never mentioned again. Will she understand why her mother closed down that part of her life?

Why Greece? Having had several holidays there now, I first visited the country in the seventies when we stayed with my aunt and Greek uncle. I fell in love with the climate, the vibrancy of the colours of the sea and flowers and the warmth of its people. It seemed to be an ideal place for a young artist to spend her summer. I enjoyed getting to know my Greek characters, some named after or based on people I’ve met and observed on visits over the years. Dimitra, the host at the taverna where Elin stays, is named after a lovely waitress from the hotel we go to in Crete. On a trip to a Cretan village, I watched a woodturner working at his lathe on pieces of olive wood and he became the inspiration for Yiannis who figures largely in Alexandra’s story. Vassilis is named after an elderly Greek who led me onto a taverna dance floor. He tried to teach me traditional dancing and had the bruised toes to prove it! He appears in both Elin’s and Alexandra’s story. I hope I’ve done justice to the country and its people by giving the reader a glimpse of life on my fictional island.

***

BLURB:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

1969, The Peloponnese, Southern Greece

Sofia Simonides let out a scream and tottered backwards. Her pulse struggled to force blood around her veins. The body was slumped against the gnarled trunk of an ancient olive tree, head hanging to one side and resting on the left shoulder.

The man had a blue-grey pallor, his skin a candle-wax translucency. Sofia bent over and touched his cheek. It was icy cold; she gasped, drawing back her hand. Blood from a gash on one wrist had seeped over his thigh and there was a deep red stain in the sand. A long-bladed knife caked in dried blood lay by his side. Sofia eased out the piece of paper he clutched in one fist, unfolded it and read the message.

Falling to her knees, she sobbed.

‘Andreas, no-o-o! No! What have you done?’

A piercing howl from deep inside her shattered the cool, still air of the dawn.

Chapter One

Alexandra

1991, A market town in the heart of rural mid-Wales
The sky was lead-grey, heavy with blue-black rain clouds threatening a downpour. The dreariness of the day reflected my mood as I turned the Mini into the cul-de-sac. A shiny red two-seater was parked in the drive behind my father’s Audi. I pulled up alongside the kerb, took a deep breath, trying to avoid a downpour of my own, and entered the house. There was laughter coming from the kitchen.

‘What’s she doing here?’

My father and his friend turned to face me. His mouth gaped open.

‘Alexandra. Apologise, straight away. Sally, I’m very sorry. She has no right to speak to you like that.’

‘It’s all right, Richard. Alexandra’s upset. I’ll go now. The food’s almost done, anyway. You just need to serve it straight from the oven once the timer rings. Shall I call Claire down on my way out?’

I glared at the woman who stood there taking off Mam’s apron. My heart quickened. Mam? My mind was playing tricks on me. It wasn’t Mam, was it? She should be the one standing there, greeting me, cooking dinner. Not her. I struggled to breathe. How dare she? How dare he?

My father accompanied Sally outside, and I heard the throaty roar of the sports car signal that she’d gone. I braced myself for the row that would ensue, but I wasn’t being unreasonable, was I?

Claire entered the kitchen first. She was four years younger than me, tall and slim with long auburn hair and sage-green eyes. She took after my father’s side of the family. He idolised her.

‘What was all that about and where’s Sally?’ she said.

By then, my father had joined us and they both stared at me. ‘Well?’

‘That woman’s here all the time, wheedling her way in. She’s even taken to wearing Mam’s things.’ I twisted the cotton apron into a ball in my hands and heard my voice rise.

Claire moved to switch off the timer and reached for the oven gloves…

***

 ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=her+mother+s+secret+jan+baynham&ref=nb_sb_noss

Bio

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

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter and a member of the Society of Authors.

You may find out more about Jan here:

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

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

Blog: www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk

***

Many thanks Jan,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines: Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon

This week’s Opening Lines blog features a brand new anthology of stories  – put together by the Exeter Author’s Association – of which I am a tiny part.

The anthology, Tales from Deepest, Darkest Devon, features 19 different stories from 13 authors, all living in and around the county; from Brixham, to Tiverton, Ottery St Mary to Bampton, and many places in between. The stories cover a wide range of genres, and offers a story for every literary taste.

Part of the sales from this book will go to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust

Blurb

Devon; a land of beauty, of moors, villages and coasts. A place of stories, told by the people who live there.

Take a look beneath the surface of Devon with the Exeter Authors, nineteen tales from thirteen of the county’s finest writers.

Contains some adult (18+) material.

Bobbing. Discover why revenge is a dish best served with cider,

Make a wish. Devon is the place to spend the rest of your life.

The Dartmoor Dragon. Discover the magic on the moor.

Cutty Dyer. Quiet villages can hold deadly secrets

Winter Snow.  The old ways are the best

The Padding Horror. On the moors, an ancient evil is stalking its latest prey.

Under the Hunters Moon. You’re never truly alone on the moor

The Fairmile Green Man. Has Swampy and his protest been forgotten? A green man carving brings a much older story back to life.

Guardians. A peaceful little village hides a dark secret.

And many more.

Contributors: Jenifer Braund, Richard Dee, Maura Beckett, Chip Tolson, Brian Willis, Janet Few, John Hall, K. Y. Eden, Richard Lappas, Tracey Norman, Mark Norman, P.J. Reed and Jenny Kane.

Part of the sale price goes to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

Here are the opening lines from my own story, Bobbing.

Feeling like a malevolent Eve slithering through the Garden of Eden, Libby did a slow twirl in the centre of the old cider barn.

The gauze dress was thin. It caressed her skin with a teasing arousal.

She was fertility herself.

If Robert hadn’t wanted her before, he’d definitely want her now. But then, if she was honest, that had never been a problem. Robert always wanted her. He always wanted everyone. And her boss usually got what he wanted.

The scrumpy’s pungent presence accosted Libby’s nostrils as she ascended the ladder propped against the eight foot high cider barrel. Empting two boxes worth of apples into the liquid, she watched as the fruit bobbed across the foamy alcoholic surface.

Smiling into the vat depths, Libby counted the apples, making sure there were enough for all the guests to have a go at capturing one with their teeth. Then, balancing carefully, she reached up to the ceiling. A stick was hanging horizontally from ropes above the barrel. Tying a beeswax candle to one end and an apple on string to the other, Libby gave the stick a gentle push. She watched with satisfaction as it swung back and forth over the barrel of bobbing cider.

Returning to the ground, Libby checked the collection of silk ties next to the steps. Each one waited patiently to fasten hands behind their backs of potential bobbers; thus eliminating their temptation to cheat.

Libby experienced an unexpected flash of power as she heard Robert’s distinctive footsteps approaching. It was difficult not to grin too widely when she remembered how pleased he’d been when she’d suggested he had the honour of being the first to attempt the ancient apple catching ritual.

Fingering her pentagram shaped pendent, Libby’s mind filled with images of ancient Pagan fertility rites she’d seen in history books.

‘You wanted a traditional Pagan celebration boss, and this is it. There’s alcohol soaked bread to be offered to the trees in the orchard, cider ready to be poured onto the roots to toast the crops health, apple bobbing, and of course, the apple stick.’

Allowing Robert to slip his arms around her waist, Libby wasn’t surprised when he shuffled close enough for her to feel his crotch against her butt.  Rather than examine the beauty of the Celtic scene she’d created, Libby knew Robert would be checking to make sure no one else was in the barn.

He glided his hands from her waist to her tits. She let him. As the moment to execute her plan grew ever closer, Libby’s body had been on the cusp of an increasing impatient sexual high.

As Robert pushed her back against the barrel, he peered up at the hanging stick. ‘It looks impossible! And dangerous.’

Easing away from his grasp, Libby climbed the ladder and lit the end of the swinging candle. Her eyes flared with the fizz of the wick as it caught…

***

You can buy Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon in paperback or as an eBook from Amazon via…

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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