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

Category: Opening Lines Blog Page 2 of 11

Opening Lines: Witches Knickers by Angela Wooldridge

Today I am delighted to share the first Opening Lines blog of 2021. 

This time, former Imagine student, friend and author, Angela Wooldridge is visiting my site, with her first solo publication –  Witches Knickers.

Over to you Angela…

Spoiler alert! There aren’t any witches in this book. Come to think of it, there aren’t any knickers either. Well, there probably are but they aren’t mentioned (it’s not that sort of book!)

However, I am planning a second collection for my fantasy and sci-fi stories later in the year and there will be witches in that. (Still no knickers though… I’m now feeling the urge to write about knickers…)

But about this book!

Witches’ Knickers is a collection of 14 of my contemporary stories. Some of them have been published in magazines, some have cropped up elsewhere and a few haven’t been seen before.

This extract is from the story that gives the book its title. I like to think that Emma Thompson might have read this as she retweeted my announcement to the world (okay, just Twitter), that she and Poldark were on the cover of the magazine it was in.

(I have had stories in mags with the Queen on the cover, but so far she hasn’t told anyone about it).

Blurb:

Martha is tidying the hedgerows while she tries to ignore what a mess her life is in.

Molly and her sisters are uncovering a family secret.

Kelly is beginning to suspect that this spy training lark isn’t the fun adventure she’d hoped it would be.

Patsy is about to confront an old mistake.

Join them and many other characters in these fourteen contemporary short stories by Angela Wooldridge.

***

Witches’ Knickers (first 500 words)

‘It’s bad enough that my mum’s the crazy woman who collects witches’ knickers,’ Martha heard Zoe complain to her friend. ‘But now she’s talking about it on local radio!’

‘Oh Zoe,’ sighed Martha as she left the house. ‘You don’t know the half of it.’

She chivvied the dog into the car. Why was she doing this? It had started as a crusade, but now it felt like one more rut she couldn’t get out of.

‘Why carry on then?’ Stuart had shrugged. ‘No-one’s asking you to do it.’

She half suspected that if she started pole-dancing in a sleazy dive, Stuart would just shrug and say, ‘OK, whatever.’

‘For goodness sake,’ she wanted to shout at him. ‘Engage!’

Was he like this with everyone? He was working late a lot and locked himself away in the shed most evenings. Wasn’t that one of those signs you were meant to look out for?

‘Don’t go there,’ she told herself. ‘Just… just don’t.’

She switched on the radio and set off.

‘Today we are talking to Martha Hames. Hello Martha.’

      ‘Hello, Judy.’

Martha winced at how squeaky her voice sounded.

‘Now, Martha, you’ve come to our attention because of a rather unusual pastime; collecting Witches’ Knickers.’

      ‘You make it sound a lot more exciting than it really is.’

      ‘Could you explain it to our listeners in your own words?’

      ‘OK, ‘witches’ knickers’ is a rather colourful term used to describe discarded carrier bags that get tangled up in trees and hedges.’

      ‘Litter, in other words.’

‘Yep, that’s the stuff,’ she reached her destination and heaved the car up onto a grassy bank.

‘And you collect this litter.’

      ‘Yep.’ Martha agreed. She fiddled with her phone. It still amazed her that she could continue listening with a few taps of the screen. Of course, she’d never admit that to Zoe, who was convinced that anyone born in the last century couldn’t possibly understand the modern world.

‘C’mon Rufus.’ The dog jumped from the car as she grabbed a bin liner and litter-picker, and they set to work.

‘What inspired you to do this?’

      ‘I’m not sure I remember precisely.’

      Actually she could remember all too well. Zoe had been going through a phase of hating everyone, especially Martha. And Stuart seemed oblivious to everything.

‘I guess I must have been having a bad day.’

‘Understatement,’ she snorted.

‘A shopping bag broke as I was loading the car. “Right, that’s it!” I said. “I don’t need their crummy bags.”’

‘The words I used were a bit stronger than that.’

 ‘“I know where there’s a perfectly good bag. It’s been there for months!” And I drove off to this bag that had been hanging in the hedge for weeks.’

      Judy laughed. ‘What happened then?’

      ‘Standing there, holding that stupid little bag felt like the most successful moment I’d had all day. It was completely useless for shopping, of course, all grey and gritty and horrible. But it was fine for holding the other rubbish…

 ***

You can buy Witches Knickers here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Witches-Knickers-other-stories-contemporary-ebook/dp/B08S72ZB42/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=angela+wooldridge&qid=1610040534&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Bio:

Angela Wooldridge lives in Devon, in a rackety old house with her husband and the railway children.

She always wanted to be a writer, ever since the early days of exploring Narnia with the Pevensies and eating sardine sandwiches with the Famous Five.

Her stories have appeared in magazines such as My Weekly and The People’s Friend, in anthologies and been shortlisted in various competitions.

You can read her blog at www.angelawooldridge.wordpress.com.

Or follow her on Twitter: @angwooldridge

***

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous opening lines, Angela.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Thom Seddon: Choose Your Own Mediocre

For this week’s ‘Opening Lines’ I’m delighted to welcome poet, entertainer, writer and all round lovely chap- Thom Seddon- to my place. 

Today Thom is sharing the first 500 words from his new book – Choose Your Own Mediocre– which is a fabulous collection of both poetry and prose.

BLURB

‘Choose Your Own Mediocre’ is the brand-new collection of poetry and prose from audacious up-and-comer Thom Seddon. If you love a little bit of everything, from comedic poetry to gritty prose, this could be your latest favourite read by your new favourite writer! What’s the worst that could happen, right? Anything to escape the banality of everyday life. 

In this stomach-churningly exhilarating book, there are dangerous ideas at every turn! Who knows, you could get stuck in a dingy flat always full of wet washing, or have a thrilling encounter with a stranger on a train…

FIRST 500 WORDS –

Dearest, darling Destiny

if you don’t exist you have to tell me.

 

Kissing Boys

Last night I dreamt of kissing boys.

I dreamt that things were not the same.

I dreamt that I’d returned to Noel Street

and I was just a kid again.

 

Grey days when our mouths hung all open

procrastinating in bedsheets.

Pretending life’s a book to write

so all the heartache is a treat.

 

We slipped inside the kitchen cupboard,

we kissed behind the wooden door,

then opened our eyes at 6AM

to find that both my legs were sore.

 

I wish to sleep again tonight

to dream of kissing boys all day.

I no longer wish to be a kid

but wish that life were not this way.

 

Lights Out

“I’ve already told you a story,” he says, and

the twitch of his nature

takes root in the undergrowth of his tongue.

“Surely there’s nothing more I can say?”

My laugh is slippery and nervous; I hate it.

As it slides from my chapped lips, he reaches for the glass dish

to take a greedy bite from my bedtime apple slices.

My cheeks burn crimson as the fruit’s segmented flesh.

 

“OK, one more story,” he says, his mouth juicy, reaching

to stroke the soft heat of my peach pit chin. He gestures, like

I’m watching him strike a match in slow motion.

“One more story,” his reprise,

and he touches two fingers to my throat.

 

His stare reverberating, blood vessels sizzle in my head.

“Just one more,” he soothes, “but then you have to sleep.

 

Go back to your own bed.”

 

Blossoms

We aren’t meant to be so close to the river this late. As the sky relents, only steel blue wisps of cloud remain from a desert dry day. They move along in lackadaisical waves as we throw rocks into the twilight, listening out for the impact. My cracked soft hands are deceitful as they grapple too long in the dirt. You know I’m always rummaging for the heaviest stones. I chance a smile in your direction, show you my nails full of the earth. It’s all I ever wanted; being alone with you.

Two nights before we’d had a party and no one showed up, but afterwards my parents still had to clean. We’d consumed the spoils of war and shoplifting, until the contents of bright, loud packets dribbled and spat from our laughing gobs. Flamingo pink saliva and citrus scented sick all hit the cream living room carpet. A candyfloss haze now haunts beneath the rug, the mark a recollection of shame. With spoons full of sugar, I take my discipline.

We’ve always favoured painting with textures over pigments. We carve sculptures with words; of birds with metal beaks, and houses like jack-o’-lanterns. We suck at making jewellery out of flowers, preferring to plant poisonous root vegetables. We’ll feed them to the neighbouring children, the ones who made fun of us, just for sitting on the garden wall and venturing no closer…

You can buy Choose Your Own Mediocre now from www.bigwhiteshed.co.uk/shop

BIO

Thom Seddon is an all round creative type based in Nottingham, where he lives with his husband, their two cats, and watches far too much ‘Judge Judy’. By day he is mostly a writer working in fiction, script and poetry, and by night also works as a drag artist (the infamous Nana Arthole). He has published two collections to date, The Smart Mouthed Victim and Death is Awful for the Living, each featuring poetic content that is both social commentary and personal confession. Choose Your Own Mediocre is a collection of poetry and prose that continues in a similar vein, where Thom writes what we are probably thinking but didn’t dare to say aloud.

LINKS

Visit www.artholethom.com

Follow @ArtholeThom on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Huge thanks to Thom for joining me today.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: Mine

Welcoming my good friend, business partner, and all round lovely person, Alison Knight, to my place today.

Put your feet up and enjoy the ‘Opening Lines’ from her brand new novel- Mine.

Over to you Alison…

I’m delighted to be Jenny’s guest today and to share with you the opening lines of my book, Mine, which was published by Darkstroke Books on the 25th November. This novel is very personal for me as it is based on real events in my family. I’m the only one left who can tell this story. It is set in London in the late 1960s and shows how ordinary people ended up in an extraordinary situation.

I wrote it as fiction rather than memoir because much of what really happened is lost. I therefore used memories, newspaper cuttings, court papers and knowledge of the culture of the time to piece together what might have happened.

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, but I also think it’s my best work yet. I hope I’ve done the story justice and brought the people involved to life so that the younger generations of my family can get to know a bit more about the people involved. I can’t say much more than that without giving away spoilers! All I can say is that writing Mine has given me the opportunity to understand things that I was too young to realise at the time. The people involved were victims of the prevailing attitudes of their times. If the same things happened in today’s world, I believe the outcome might have been very different.

FIRST FIVE HUNDRED WORDS 

Bow Church, East London, October 1968

A jangling siren broke through into the quiet interior of the church, disturbing hushed conversations.

“What’s all that noise?” asked Lily’s mum. “It sounds like it’s going to come through the flipping door.”

Lily kept her attention on the stained-glass window behind the altar, watching as the soft autumn sunlight made the blues and yellows glow. She felt so alone in the midst of her extended family as they gathered for her youngest sister’s wedding. Her husband Jack was driving the wedding car, so Lily sat beside her mother in the pew reserved for the close family of the bride.

“It’s an ambulance,” she said as its strident warning got louder and louder and then dwindled away as it sped past the building on its way to save some poor soul’s life. “Or maybe a police car, I don’t know. Either way, someone’s in trouble.”

She felt like rushing out of the church and chasing after it – to get them to take her away and lock her up in a ward or even a prison cell. Maybe then she might find some peace. Instead she had to stay where she was, acting as though everything was all right. But it wasn’t. There was nowhere she could go to forget about what a mess her life had become – at home she was losing every battle and at work she was terrified everyone would find out what a bloody mess she’d made of everything. She was so ashamed. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

 

She hadn’t been happy when her daughter Beverley had decided to hide at the back of the church with her three-month-old baby. If she had to come to the wedding at all, they ought to stick together, hold their heads up high and brazen it out. By hiding in the back, Beverley was accepting that her illegitimate child was something shameful. If she was determined to keep her, Lily told her, she should be prepared for the stares and the comments because they weren’t going to go away. But she’d lost that battle with her daughter as well. She’s mine, Bev had said, and I’m not giving her up. Now everyone would be whispering about how the teenager and her baby had been banished to the back of the church.

Anyone looking at Lily at this moment would think she was a model of calm. Pride wouldn’t let her show just how spitting mad she was, but her hands shook as she smoothed out an imaginary crease in her new tailored dress, then fiddled with the carnation pinned to the matching jacket. Lily knew she looked good. She worked hard to make sure she always did. But she couldn’t find any joy in it today. She took a deep breath, trying to dispel the huge knot of butterflies in her stomach.

She had a headache. It had been there for weeks, squeezing her temples, making her eyes hurt. From the back of the church she heard a …

***

BLURB- Mine by Alison Knight

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.

Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?

Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

Award-winning author of My Name is Leon, Kit de Waal, said this about Mine:

A heart breaking account of love and loss told by a great storyteller. Alison takes you into the heart of the tragedy with compassion, wit and even humour. A beautiful story.”

BUY LINK: mybook.to/mineknight

 ***

INVITATION TO AN ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: On Saturday 28th November 2020, Alison will be joining four other authors for a joint event via Zoom called Darkstroke Defined: The five writers will talk about their new books, read extracts and answer questions. For your free ticket, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/darkstroke-defined-tickets-125793372363

BIO-

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Mine, published by Darkstroke Books is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with Jenny. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS – ALISON KNIGHT

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942

@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter

Many congratulations on your new novel, Alison,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Christmas at the Castle

This week sees the final instalment in the Opening Lines blogs for my Another Cup of…festive specials. Today, I’m sharing the first 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Kit is off to Scotland!

BLURB

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A wonderful short story to fill your heart with warmth and really put you in the mood for Christmas

‘A feel good festive read, with Jenny Kane’s trademark coffee, friendship and gentle humour’

‘This is the perfect book for curling up on the sofa with on a winter’s afternoon. Light-hearted and feel good fun’

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Friday November 13th

Poking her head around the door of the Gift Shop Café, Charlie gave a sigh of relief. She’d managed to arrive before Alice for once.

Selecting their usual table by the window, Charlie smiled. Just for once it was nice not to have Alice, already comfortably settled and looking perfect, watching serenely as she battled her scarf, which always managed to knot itself clumsily, and her hair, blown every which way by the wind.

Hoping this was a good omen for the discussion to come, Charlie waved a greeting to the waitress, Mel.

‘Hi, Erin, Alice isn’t here yet.’ Mel put down a large coffee on Charlie’s table, ‘I’ll bring that weird latte concoction she likes over when she arrives.’

About half of the people in Banchory knew Charlie as Erin. Ever since she’d had her first book published under the name of Erin Spencer five years ago, the local papers had made a feature of her work, and Charlie lived happily with her dual personality.

As she watched the world go by through the window, Charlie’s usual habit of filtering future plotlines through the back of her mind was replaced with wondering how to persuade Alice that they needed more people to help organise Crathes Castle’s first ever literary festival. So far it was just the two of them, and they were drowning in the number of tasks involved with making it a success rather than an embarrassing flop.

Charlie hadn’t finished rehearsing her pleas for more helpers in her head, when Alice arrived.

Waving to Mel that she needed a drink fast (the concoction that Charlie always thought of as pseudo-coffee, which consisted of a decaf coffee, soya milk, and low-sugar caramel latte syrup), Alice sat down regally and swung her long, slim, tight black denim-covered legs elegantly under the table, before pushing her designer glasses off her eyes and up into her hair, neatly pinning it away from her face. If Charlie had tried to do that without the aid of a mirror she knew there would have been tufts of her long bouncy red ringlets sticking out at all angles.

A businesswoman through and through, Alice got straight to the point. ‘Charlie, sweetie, I know you don’t like working with other people much, but if we don’t get some more help soon this festival is going to be the biggest disaster of my career.’ Without giving her stunned friend time to comment, Alice went on, ‘It’s November 13th already. Our Christmas in the Castle Literary Festival is in exactly three weeks and we need another person to help us.’

Charlie was taken aback. Even when they’d been at university together Alice had been an expert at eliciting assistance from people without them even realising that she was getting them to do what she wanted. Never before had Charlie heard her admit she needed help. Studying her friend more carefully, Charlie noticed that there were dark shadows under Alice’s eyes, hinting that…

If you’d like to see what happens next, then you can buy Christmas at the Castle from all good e-retailers or you can find it in the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection paperback on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Christmas in the Cotswolds

This week I’m continuing my Opening Lines series with with a peep at the first pages of Christmas in the Cotswolds – the second festive special in the Another Cup of… series.

Blurb

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof!

Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can… calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does…

With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘This is a delightful short story with that lovely Christmas feel good feeling

‘An easy festive read that will make you smile

‘Very festive short story with lovely characters. . . Cosy, ideal reading for Christmas time’

‘Perfect for the Christmas season. Heartwarming, emotional and so true for today’s hectic, manic life. One to have, keep, and enjoy!!

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

December 12th

Izzie closed her eyes and counted to ten as the door of the Cotswold Arts Centre slammed shut.

There was no point in panicking. She simply didn’t have time for such luxuries if her converted church was going to be ready to host a Christmas carol concert by the renowned Cotswold Choir in nine days’ time.

Bored of being propositioned by men who weren’t remotely interested in her until they discovered she was a daughter of the gentry, Izzie had ejected the carpenter through her front door before he’d quite had time to work out just how insulting her rejection of his latest lurid suggestion was.

Now, her hasty tongue having deprived her of a desperately needed pair of tradesman’s hands, Izzie sat with a heavy thump onto the nearest pew. She knew she had to find fresh help, and fast. A task that wouldn’t be easy so close to Christmas.

‘Although,’ Izzie addressed the image of Noah, who smiled benevolently at her from his stained-glass window, as if grateful he hadn’t been smashed to pieces by the tree branch that had come through the top of the chancel and caused so much seasonal inconvenience, ‘I’m damn sure I’m not asking my mother to help out ever again!’

Reaching for the offending package of invitations that had arrived by courier first thing that morning, Izzie emptied it onto the table. The invitations were supposed to have been posted by now. As soon as she’d seen them, Izzie understood why her mother had left them to the last minute.

Unfussy, cost-effective, and with a medieval Christmas flavour in keeping with the spirit of the converted fourteenth-century church where the concert was to be held. That’s what she’d asked for. What she’d got was decadent Victorian-style gold-edged invitations which weighed so much, Izzie was sure that posting them alone would break the bank. And if that wasn’t bad enough, her mother had done the one thing that she had expressively forbidden. She’d put Izzie’s full name on the invitations.

Lady Perdita Spencer-Harris had been unable to comprehend why her daughter didn’t want to use the family name to help sales. She simply didn’t understand that Izzie wanted people to come to hear the choir for its own sake, or because they wanted to see what she’d done in her art centre; not because she was a young and single female member of the landed gentry.

Miss Isadora Spencer-Harris

cordially invites you to a magical festive evening at

The Cotswold Arts Centre, Chipping Swinton

to hear the renowned Cotswold Choir’s Christmas Carol Concert

Saturday 21st December

7 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. start

£25 per ticket

Refreshments provided

RSVP by 18th December to Harris Park

Wrapping her stripy woollen scarf more tightly around her neck, Izzie breathed warm air over her cold fingers. Deciding it wasn’t cost effective to heat the church this late at night just for her, she gathered up the invitations, and with one last check that the…

If you’d like to find out what happens next, then Christmas in the Cotswolds is available from all good e-retailers as well as in the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection paperback on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCotswolds

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Many thanks for popping by today,

See you next time for 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Happy reading, 

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Christmas

For the next three weeks, I’ll be featuring my ‘Another Cup of….’ festive novellas on the ‘Opening Lines’ blog spot.

Today, I’m starting with the first 500 words from Another Cup of Christmas.

Blurb

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Join the characters of Jenny Kane’s wonderful debut Another Cup of Coffee once again for a heart-warming festive read!

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A lovely heart-warming tale set at Christmas and a perfect short read for in front of a blazing fire and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)’

‘A great read in the run up to Christmas, highly recommended

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

    Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

    Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

    Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Festive Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

    Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

    ‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table.          ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

    ‘Two and a half weeks!’

    ‘Oh, hell! Really?’

    ‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

    Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

     Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

    Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

    ‘Which is?’

    ‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I…’

If you’d like to read on, Another Cup of Christmas, is available from all good e-book retailers, and as part of the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection, paperback from Amazon.

mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

(You don’t need to have read Another Cup of Coffee to enjoy my festive stories.)

You can her me read a little from Another Cup of Christmas here- https://www.facebook.com/coffeetimesessions/videos/381433993174274

Come back next week, for the first 500 words from Christmas in the Cotswolds,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Sister’s Secret

This week I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham back to my blog with the Opening Lines from her latest novel,

Her Sister’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

Her Sister’s Secret, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘66’, is my second novel 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 partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Sister’s Secret’ was published on September 15th as an e-book. Much of it is set in beautiful rural mid-Wales and the rest in a fictional area of northern Sicily. The story opens in 1946 when a young Welsh woman, Rose Howells, begins work in the kitchens of a large country house. She has a tempestuous relationship with her father whom she suspects of dealing on the Black Market. When matters come to a head after a particularly serious argument, she leaves home and eventually makes a decision that will have repercussions for the whole family. Her name is never mentioned again and what she did becomes a deeply held family secret. In 1966, that secret is partly revealed and Jennifer Howells travels to Sicily to find out why she and Rose have been kept apart for over eighteen years. In the novel, I try to give a glimpse of what life was like in both eras and how society judged women living in both times. Jen’s search for her true identity takes her to a wonderful island so different from rural mid-Wales in terms of climate, the colours, foods and way of life. I hope the book encourages readers to think about the decisions Rose made and whether, under the circumstances, they were the right ones. The role Aunt Edie plays in both stories is a crucial one.

BLURB:

How far would you travel to find the truth?

It’s 1966 and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.

Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.

But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …

***

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

24 August 1943

A loud knocking echoed along the passageway of the cottage. Joe Howells opened the front door to a solemn-faced young man in uniform.

‘Mr Joseph Howells? A telegram for you.’

The blood drained from Joe’s face. As he took the envelope, his hand shook. His pulse raced so fast, he steadied himself against the hall table. Please, God. Don’t let it be what I think it is.

Walking back into the scullery, he slid a finger under the flap of the envelope and unfolded the telegram with its Post Office logo heralding the message he didn’t want to read.

MR AND MRS J. HOWELLS, 1 PENRHOS, PONTCARREG.

I REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, GUNNER BRIAN JOSEPH HOWELLS (ARMY NUMBER: 864499) OF THE 8TH ARMY, HAS BEEN KILLED IN ACTION NEAR MESSINA IN SICILY.

Joe couldn’t read any more. Transported back to the horror of the trenches in his war, he slumped to the floor and cradled his arms around his head. He tried to shut out the noise of shells exploding around him. He gagged on the stench of bloodied bodies, relived the pain of the gas blistering his skin under his damp uniform, tasted the burning bile in his throat and in his lungs as he tried to breathe. His hand traced the shape of the metal plate in his skull where they’d patched him up. Physically, at least.

The back door opened.

‘Joe. Whatever’s wrong?’ Violet put down the washing basket and rushed to her husband.

It was then she saw the telegram discarded on the flagstone floor beside him.

‘Oh, noo-oo!’ she wailed. ‘Not our beautiful boy.’

 

Chapter One

Rose

1946

‘What do you mean you know what I’m up to, you little madam?’

Joe Howells’s voice rose to a bellow. He went to strike his daughter, but Rose backed away and he caught the back of his hand on the door post instead. He swore and Rose ran upstairs. She slammed the bedroom door behind her and, with tears pricking her eyes, fumbled to turn the key. She clenched her hands so tightly that her nails dug deep into her palms, flung herself on the bed and pictured her father pacing the floor in the kitchen below.

She heard him shouting angrily. ‘The girl’s gone too far this time. She needs to be taught a lesson.’

Her mother’s voice was softer. ‘Why do you two always have to annoy each other? You’re both as bad as each other.’

But her mother didn’t know what was really going on, did she? Her father’s voice was closer now. He was at the foot of the stairs.

‘Come down here at once, Rose, or I’ll break the door down to make you!’

‘No. Go away! I’m not coming out.’

Rose pulled the bed clothes closer to her chest and buried her head in the silky eiderdown to shut out her father’s rage.

He hammered on the door with his fists.

Her throat tightened…

***

‘Her Sister’s Secret’ is available on:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.amazon.com/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=her+sisters+secret+jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-sisters-secret-jan-baynham/1137428123?ean=2940162698852

You may find out more about Jan here:

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

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

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

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, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous Opening Lines today, Jan,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot

This week I’m extremely excited to welcome the brilliant Mandy Baggott to my place as part of the #blogtour, for her latest release, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

Over to you Mandy…

Thank you so much to Jenny for having me on the blog today! I am so proud to introduce my latest festive read, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

This story brings together some of my very favourite things, so let me quickly introduce them:-

  • Keeley Andrews – A sweet, caring heroine who feels like a friend
  • Ethan Bouchard – A super-hot French hero
  • Paris – The French capital at Christmas time with its delicious food, uber-cool shopping and, of course, the magical Eiffel Tower
  • Pepe – an unexpected feathered friend
  • Romance – A love story I hope will tug at your heartstrings but also give you all the feel-good!

Enjoy!   Mandy xx

Blurb

United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy.

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance.

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He’s ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn’t the right time.

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can’t help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future…

Head to Paris this Christmas and fall in love under the lights of the Eiffel Tower with best-selling author, Mandy Baggot.

First 500 words…

Chapter One

Kensington, London

November

‘Duncan, not that awful disco ball of your mother’s again! Please, I beg of you. Last year it gave Lydia Mumford some sort of aura migraine before I’d even served the Waitrose arancini,’ Lizzie Andrews said, raising her eyes and glaring at her husband who was stood precariously at the top of a stepladder. He was about to fix the large revolving silver sphere to a hook above the kitchen island where, on the hob, something containing cranberries was simmering.

Twenty-six-year-old Keeley hid her face in her mug of super-hot, extra-strong coffee and tried to stop a laugh from escaping her lips. Her parents’ conversation over her long-since-passed-away gran’s festive regalia had been treading the same path since the decorations had been left to them in the will. Her mum had always insisted it was because the old lady never liked her.

Joan loathed me. Loathed me, Duncan. Right from the get-go. Ever since the first time I came to your house with peonies for her and she shoved them in an empty tin of Heinz beans as a vase. That was when the die was cast.

But Keeley liked the decorations. None of them matched together – there were vibrant purples and emerald-greens alongside 1980s-style robots swinging on bunting and Chinese paper lanterns that probably should have caught alight long ago. At first glance, they might not seem to correlate, but somehow they worked. Her sister, Bea, had loved them too. Bea would always be fighting their dad for use of the ladder, having somehow actually worked out complicated things about balance, or the optimum angle to enable the globe to spin in a completely symmetrical way that would please Lizzie’s need for order. Bea had always plunged into things with full-on gusto but never without the knowhow to back it up.

Thoughts of her little sister made Keeley’s heart squeeze and she took another sip of the coffee before the toaster popped with the crumpet she was cooking.

Lizzie shook her brown curly hair and sniffed, nose in the air like a prized perfumier. She dropped the pinecones she was painting to the newspaper-covered work surface. ‘What’s that smell?’

‘Is that one of those giant crumpets I bought yesterday?’ Duncan asked, grinning down from the ladder, both hands still holding the whole giant reflective world in his hands.

‘Yes, it is,’ Keeley replied, trying to wiggle the large crumpet out of the sleeve of the toaster. She had got it in without too much effort, but now it seemed it was impossible to remove.

‘Keeley!’ Lizzie exclaimed in horror. ‘A giant crumpet!’

‘Would you like one, Mum?’ Keeley asked. The crumpet still wasn’t moving and with every pull she was shaving the outer crust away from the body of it. It wasn’t going to stay ‘giant’ for long if it kept this up.

‘What you putting on it, Keeley?’ Duncan asked, tongue sticking out of his mouth, eyes concentrating hard on the hook on the…

***

Pre-order links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MpVrh4

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3072QtL

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3gOPHvv

iBooks: https://apple.co/2D35zuK

Bio

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Follow Mandy:   

Facebook: @mandybaggotauthor

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Follow Aria

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

***

Many thanks for visiting today Mandy. Wishing you good luck with your new novel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

In two days time, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, will be published!

To help celebrate, I thought I’d have an extra Opening Lines blog this week to give you a taste of the novel to come.

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.

(Although Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange follows on from Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, it can 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 for pre-order from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

COMING 10TH SEPTEMBER

***

If you’d like to join in my launch day celebrations, I will be on Facebook and Twitter all day, chatting about my favourite season, archaeology and Time Team – plus, I’ll be doing a live reading from the book.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Sin as Red as Scarlet by Janet Few

This week I’m delighted to welcome fellow historian, and fellow Exeter Author’s Association member, Dr Janet Few to my blog, to share the Opening Lines from her brand new novel: Sin as Read as Scarlet.

Blurb

Sins as Red as Scarlet – the true story of a Devon town in turmoil by Janet Few

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.

In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

First 500 words…

Prologue Bess’ Story

25 August 1682

I watch them die, these three. Their bodies twisting and gyrating in a parody of dance, as their bladders and bowels betray them. For those around me it is but a jaunt, a spectacle that will be on their lips for a space and then forgotten. For me though, for me, it cuts to the heart. I stand close, close enough to hear their last words. She speaks of sin, she does, she who is tied to me by invisible cords. She who is the first to swing. Sins as red as scarlet and yes, I know. I know sin stains many souls.

***

We’d arrived early, whilst the dew-scent still sullied the grass. The children became restive as we waited; young Nathaniel grew heavy in my arms. A sickly child, I dared not let him run free with his brothers. Had I kin to whom I could have entrusted my precious babe, I would not have brought him on such a journey. There was no one.  My brothers, long since gone for sailors; narry a word I’ve had from them for many a year. Most like they’ve minded to settle in the New World, as my father-in-law has done. We might have joined them, my good master and I but we are content to bide in Byddeforde and we prosper in some small way. He is a good man my Richard. Folk whispered when he took me to wife, murmured that I was not of his rank, prated that my sisters were whores and that my blood carried a papist stain. Yet he looked to ignore them Richard did and now I am Mistress Gard, respectable matron. I have given him five sons and we bear the sadness that two lie within the churchyard’s shade. ’Tis rare now that folk remember that I am sister to Kathryn and to Unis, who both brought forth babes afore they were wed. Few call to mind that I am my mother’s daughter and on a day such as this, ’tis a blessing.

The whispers of mist burned away as the sun climbed above the shimmering horizon; another day of heat and gathering storms. Undeterred, the bystanders gathered. Restless we stood, nameless within the crush of the crowd. They came to gawp, to exclaim, they came to tremble in anticipation. For them, the frisson of voyeurism. For them the comfortable relief that those who were to die were naught to them but mere players in a show put on for their gratification. The time drew nigh. They were all there, the accusers, the arresters, those who had come for the pleasure of it and in amongst them stood I, feigning indifference. The press of people on Magdalen Street parted as the women were led forward; women who knew that they would never see another sunrise. My eyes were drawn to the first. She looked slatternly, diminished. When did she become so very old? When did her vigour leave…

For more information and buy links visit

https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/historical-novels/sins-as-red-as-scarlet-the-story-of-a-devon-town-in-turmoil/, or the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.

***

 

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Janet.

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

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