Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Category: Opening Lines Blog Page 3 of 8

Opening Lines with Ruadh Butler: The Earl Longbow

We’ve heading into 12th century Ireland for this week’s Opening Lines.

I’m delighted to welcome Ruadh Butler, and the first 500 words of The Earl Strongbow.

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare is a man whose name is greater than his fortune, his past greater than his future. But he is a man of ambition and will risk everything when journeys across the Irish Sea to claim the hand of a princess and place her father back on his provincial throne. Awaiting his master’s arrival is the redoubtable Raymond de Carew, fresh from his own victory but facing mutiny by his own warriors. The only person to stay loyal is his former mistress, Alice of Abergavenny, who has her own plans for Raymond. She knows more than any that upon the walls of Viking Waterford a king shall be made. And Alice has big plans for Raymond.

THE EARL STRONGBOW

The king was dying.

All his doctors were in agreement. He would not survive the fever. For two weeks the sickness had raged through his lungs and ravaged his guts. Henry FitzEmpress was fading. The king was dying.

Royal messengers had already been despatched to his son and heir, crowned king alongside his father two months before. Prepare, they were instructed to tell the fifteen-year old. Prepare to become lord and master of an empire. Prepare to become the greatest king in all Christendom.

Secret letters telling the same tale also found their way south to the king’s wife, Eleanor, at Poitiers, and east to Paris where the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury plotted his return to England.

‘Where is Master Ralph?’ Henry raved and slugged from a wine goblet, spilling most down his chest and onto his bed. ‘Master Ralph will return me to health.’ The king’s light ginger hair clung to his damp, yellowed face and he swiped it away with his shivering hand.

‘You Grace, your physician was among those poor souls who perished during your crossing to England in the spring. Do you recall?’ The Bishop of Lisieux used the same voice that he employed to calm his hunting dogs. ‘Be assured, we have engaged new doctors to oversee your recovery.’ His eyes flicked up. One of the new physicians visibly wilted and refused to meet his eyes.

Henry suddenly shot forward from his sick bed and grabbed the bishop by his robes, hauling him close enough so that the bishop could smell the puke and wine upon his breath. The king’s eyes danced in his pink face.

‘Becket has done this to me,’ Henry whispered, ‘just as he summoned up that storm to try and drown me during my passage across the Channel. You must protect me from his magic.’ A moan of sadness hissed from the king’s throat and he meekly punched the bishop in the shoulder as he clung to his robes. ‘I extended my hand in friendship to Thomas, tried to make peace as you instructed, and he has conspired to murder me.’ The king’s head slumped onto the bishop’s chest, the grip on his chasuble lessening. ‘It’s too damn hot,’ Henry whimpered as his hands fell away and he flopped back onto his back in bed. ‘Why is it always so damn hot in Normandy? I cannot believe I am going to die in this shit-hole.’ The king began rolling around the bed, his arms and legs gripped to his torso.

A smear of sweat had been left on the bishop’s rich vestments. The bishop raised his hand to wipe Henry’s perspiration from his clothes but stopped himself from doing so in the company of so many great men. As he cast his glance around the room he realised that not one person cared at how he comported himself. All eyes were on Henry. Each was considering how the king’s impending death would affect his empire and their place in it…

***

BUY LINKS

SWORDLAND

A disgraced knight, an exiled king – together can they conquer a kingdom in Ireland?

mybook.to/SWRDLND

LORD OF THE SEA CASTLE

The might of Viking Waterford marches against a hundred invading Normans. At the creek of Baginbun, Ireland will be lost or won.

mybook.to/LordSeaCastle

THE EARL STRONGBOW

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare will risk it all by invading Ireland to claim the hand of a princess and with it a crown…

mybook.to/EarlStrongbow

BIO

Ruadh Butler is the author of Swordland, Lord of the Sea Castle, and The Earl Strongbow. The series tells the story of the 12th century invasion of Ireland by Norman knights from Wales. Catch up with Ruadh at www.ruadhbutler.com, on Facebook, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Many thanks Ruadh. Great series!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

 

Opening Lines from Colette McCormick: Not My Brother’s Keeper

Opening Lines is back! 

What better way to kick off a new season of these popular blogs than with a blog tour post.

Please welcome Colette McCormick to my site with the first 500 words (exactly) of her novel, Not My Brother’s Keeper as part of her

Book Blog Tour.

Thank you so much to Jenny for inviting me to share the first 500 words of my new book Not My Brother’s Keeper with you.

In this book, brothers Robert and Tom each tell their side of the story surrounding what happened after Michelle became pregnant. Family ties are stretched and some bonds, once broken can never be repaired. Although the story is set in northern England, it is the people rather than the place that is important.

I have two sons and while this story was inspired by them it is not about them. It all started with a throw away comment that the younger one made when his older brother left home. He probably didn’t realise what he had said but it was enough to get the cogs moving and Not My Brother’s Keeper started to form.

Blurb

My brother, not my responsibility

Robert and Tom are practically identical – same height, same hair, equally good looking – but Tom never had the same confidence as his older brother, and for that reason, he is in awe of him.

When Robert’s girlfriend, Michelle, tells him that she’s pregnant, Robert disappears leaving Tom to clean up his mess. As Tom spends time with Michelle, reassuring her that she is not alone in this, the both begin to fall in love.

But is Michelle settling for second best?

Is Tom losing himself in what should have been his brother’s life?

Sixteen years later, without warning, Robert comes home and Tom has to find the courage to stand against the brother he idolized.

***

First 500 words…

As brothers went, there wasn’t much to distinguish Robert and Tom Ellis from any other set of brothers that had gone before them or since.

With a little over two years between them, they grew up playing together, learning together, and even occasionally fighting together. As little boys they were each other’s best friend.

As older boys the bond of brotherhood – though still strong – became stretched as new friendships were formed. By the time they were both at secondary school, they were brothers who looked out for each other’s welfare, though they had little in common.

As adolescents, when raging hormones turned cherubs into demons, the stretched bond strengthened again; they were two boys standing together against parents who had forgotten what it was like to be young.

As young men, they established who they really were.

ROBERT

I don’t know what you want me to say. I was just a normal kid.

I liked my mates, I loved football and I hated school.

The only thing that I liked about school was the break times, which I spent either playing footie with my mates or round the back of the gym doing whatever the girl I was with would allow me to. My kid brother was the academic one in the family and more than one teacher said that I should take a leaf out of his book. No chance. The only lesson I liked was the one that Mr Dawson taught in car mechanics but it wasn’t really a lesson at all, more of a hobby class really; a bit like chess club.

My best mate at school was a lad called Craig Jenkins. We started on the same day and were in the same class all the way through. He was a massive lad – wide as well as tall – and he liked school even less than I did. We sometimes used to wag off and go into town together. He had a sister called Michelle who was in our Tom’s year. I think they did Maths together.

Me and Craig lost touch a bit after we left school. He got a job on a building site and I started working for Bill Deardon who had a garage behind North Road. We made new friends and didn’t have the common bond of hating school anymore. I still saw him sometimes when I was out, especially if I was in the Big Tree on a Friday night but we weren’t as close as we had been.

I loved my job. I mean, I know I spent the first six months making tea and watching what the other mechanics did, but Bill said that that was the way I would learn. I think I’d been there almost a year before I got my hands on anything under the bonnet of a car but I had learned a lot from watching the others and Bill was pleased with what I could do. I came across Craig’s sister again in the summer…

***

You can Buy Not My Brother’s Keeper on Amazon

Bio

Originally a city girl, Colette has made her home in a one of the many former mining villages in County Durham. When not working as a retail manager for a large children’s charity she will more than likely be writing, even if it’s only a shopping list. She also enjoys cooking, gardening and taking the dog on long walks in the countryside near her home. She has been married for almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

Facebook Author page

@colettemcauthor

Colette McCormick on Books and Life in General

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Many thanks for dropping by to share your first 500 words from Not My Brother’s Keeper, Colette.

Wishing you a successful blog tour.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Susie Williamson: Return of the Mantra

I’m delighted to welcome friend and fellow Devon based author, Susie Williamson, to my place today to share the ‘Opening Lines’ from her debut novel, Return of the Mantra.

Thank you for inviting me on your blog today, Jenny. It’s a pleasure to share the first 500 words of my fantasy novel, Return of the Mantra.

Return of the Mantra is the first in a series. Inspiration came from several years living in Africa, the Sudan and South Africa. From the extraordinary sights and sounds of Khartoum, to the rural townships of South Africa, I amassed a complex mixture of experiences. The colours of the social and geographical landscape stayed with me, and Return of the Mantra became a refuge to recreate these colours in a fictional context.

Living among local African communities, with drumming, prayer and ritualistic chanting the norm, magical realism didn’t feel too big of a stretch. Together with extraordinary African wildlife, the concept of the book, complete with its magic system, was born. From the outset I strived for a fantasy story that didn’t feel too much of a leap from the world as we know it, and, since its release last year, I’ve come to think of the story as a kind of elaborate rain dance.

The deserts of the Sudan and the lush green bushlands of South Africa inspired the world in the novel. I once visited the Sudanese pyramids, and on my way there passed a town in the middle of the desert called Shendi. Shendi is now the name of the land in my novel. It’s a land of contrasts, where people have been forced to abandon their tribal heritage and live in a coastal town ruled by a dictatorship.

It’s a first person narrative, told by a young woman called Suni. She exposes social injustices of a persecuted people in her search for truth and her own identity.

First 500 words…

It was early, the skies filled with the golden colours of dawn, but already the river was bustling with life. Today was a special day.

I led the mule along the rise of the riverbank, wading through long reeds. It was hot, it was always hot on my homeland of Shendi: the drought had lasted all my fifteen years, and decades before. Despite the heat I pulled the hood down low over my face, as I passed women washing clothes, men fishing, and children swimming. Listening to their chat and laughter amidst a backdrop of squawking gulls, seeing the odd scowl cast in my direction, I felt like an unwelcomed stranger in my hometown. The hood was reassuring since it hid my face.

I felt something hit me on the back of the head, and then again. I rubbed my head, hearing giggles from behind, and turned to look. Two boys looked out from the reeds, one holding a handful of stones. Nearby, a man was watching from the river, water up to his waist, a young child sitting astride his shoulders. For a moment I thought the man might say something to the boys, but I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t. He glanced at me only briefly before turning away, lifting the child off his shoulders and swirling her in the cool water. My gaze lingered on the child as she reached out with chubby arms, pulling at her father’s lips and nose, making gurgling sounds as she smiled at him. He smiled back and pulled her towards him, kissing her on the cheek before cradling her into his chest.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw another stone hurled in my direction. I stepped aside and pulled at the reins, hurrying the mule along. The closer I came to the estuary, the quieter the river. The townspeople were superstitious and feared the ocean. My mother, Mata, privately ridiculed rumours of sea monsters and evil spirits that pulled people deep into the ocean depths, to die a watery death. The shores of the estuary was one place I could guarantee to find solitude.

Further on beyond the crowds, a girl sat alone idly skimming stones. She glanced at me as I went to walk past, and to my surprise she smiled. I paused, looking back at her, and almost returned her smile. I felt suddenly awkward and turned away.

‘Won’t you sit with me?’ she asked.

I looked back, confused. I had no friends my own age; Mata forbade it and besides, I had never had any offers. I thought it might be a trick, expected her to say something cruel, but her smile faded leaving a hurt look on her face.

I knew few people by name but I knew faces, and I was sure this was not a face I’d seen before. Dressed in a dowdy smock, she appeared poor like the beggars, but beggars never left the dark lanes and shadows of town. She…

Blurb

Suni has grown up knowing she is different. She and her mother Mata make their living weaving baskets, and selling herbs they harvest secretly at night. Her father abandoned them to work in the tyrannical king’s crystal mines. 

Mata follows the old ways of the Mantra, which the king has outlawed. He demands people worship him and the power of the crystals. Mata and Suni keep their beliefs to themselves.

Tragedy strikes, and with no warning, Suni is cut adrift. She sets off to find her father. Will she also find the destiny Mata wanted for her?

Susie grew up in the village of Scholes, Holmfirth, in West Yorkshire. She studied at the University of Sheffield and graduated with a BSc Honours in Chemistry, and a PGCE in Secondary School Science. In 1999 she travelled to the city of Omdurman in the Sudan, where she taught English as a Foreign Language. From there she moved to South Africa, where she taught Adult Basic Education and Training, primarily in a township in Kwazulu Natal.

On her return to the UK, she moved to Exeter in Devon, where her childhood passion for creative writing was reignited. Among a collection of varied jobs, including support work at a women’s refuge, she increasingly prioritised her time to write. Inspired by the landscapes of Africa, her passion for women’s equality and representation of diversity, and her love of fantasy books, she began weaving the twists and turns of her first novel.

She lives with her partner, Kate, close to the river Exe and a bike ride away from the sea. She enjoys being involved in community projects, and painting canvases to steadily fill the white-washed walls of her house. Her writing partner is her cat, Mia, who is currently assisting with two fantasy novels, sequels to ‘Return of the Mantra’.

Return of the Mantra is Susie’s debut fantasy novel and is published by Stairwell Books. It is available here. http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/return-of-the-mantra/

You can get in touch with Susie on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SusieWilliamsonAuthor/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Twitter https://twitter.com/SJW_writer

GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18616806.Susie_Williamson

and also via her website: www.susiewilliamson.blog 

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Many thanks for your fabulous first 500 words, Susie.

***

This was the last ‘Opening Lines’ blog for a little while as I’m having a short break from them after 18 months of weekly blogs.

Keep an eye on Facebook for my call for new blog guests in the near future.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines by Janet Few: Barefoot on the Cobbles

This week’s opening lines comes from fellow Devon based author, Janet Few.

Pop your feet up for five minutes, and take a read of the first 500 words of Barefoot on the Cobbles

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy by Janet Few

In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.

More details about the novel, including information about how to obtain a copy, can be found at http://bit.do/bfotc; alternatively, visit the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.Opening Lines

The magistrate was saying something. Polly, with throat tightening and heat rising, struggled to focus. He repeated his question but she was transfixed, unable to answer. Images and incidents from the past kaleidoscoped before her eyes. She saw her childhood home in the secluded Devon valley, her courtship with Alb, her firstborn being put into her arms. Her daughter, Daisy, skipping barefoot down the Clovelly cobblestones, living, loving, laughing. Daisy, bone thin and dying. Daisy, whose passing had somehow, in a way that Polly couldn’t comprehend, led to her being here in this crowded, claustrophobic courtroom, with every eye upon her. She must compose herself, pay attention, escape from this nightmare. All she wanted to do was dream of the past, both good and bad times but somehow more certain, safer, predictable. Times before everything began to spiral terrifyingly out of control.

Mr Lefroy, the solicitor, had assured her that she wouldn’t hang; this was a manslaughter charge not murder. Nonetheless, phantom gallows haunted Polly’s restless nights. Even when she calmed and the hangman’s noose receded, there was still prison. Prison meant Holloway. Polly’s hazy and fragmented impression of Holloway was gleaned from the terror-ridden stories of suffragettes’ force-feeding, that the pre-war newspapers had revelled in. Or would they say she was mad? Echoes of insanity had touched her in the past. There were barely acknowledged tales of people she knew who had been locked away. When compared to the prospect of prison, the asylum at Exminster was somehow more familiar but no less formidable.

Polly knew she must concentrate, breathe slowly, think about what she should say. Mr Lefroy had explained that all she needed to do was to keep calm and tell the truth, so difficult in this alien environment with all these well-to-do folk looking on. Faces. Faces whirled and blurred in front of her. There was Alb, shuffling in his chair and running his finger round the restrictive collar that she had helped him to fasten only this morning. He looked lost and bewildered, barely recognisable without his beloved trilby hat. Faces of the villagers, reproachful and remote. Mr Collins, her accuser, cold and self-possessed. Mrs Stanbury, gossiping neighbour, once a friend maybe but now here as a witness for the prosecution. Then, overlaying all of these, the vision of Daisy. Daisy looking like a young lady in her new hat, proudly setting off for her first job beyond the security of the village. Daisy fighting, screaming, twisting her head away from the spoon that held the broth that might save her. Daisy dying.

Was it really her fault, as they were saying? Polly wondered. Could she have done any more? She was a mother; mothers should protect their children. She had tried, she really had, struggled in vain to shield them all from harm. The enormity of her many failures consumed her. There was Bertie, not quite the full shilling, Violet and her troubles, the worry over Leonard while he’d been away at sea during…

***

You can find Janet at https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for sharing your first 500 words today Janet,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Sonja Price: The Giants Look Down

I’m delighted to welcome friend and fellow Romantic Novelist Association member, Sonja Price, to my place today.

Sit back and enjoy her opening lines from The Giants Look Down.

Driving to work one day, my imagination was ignited by a report on the radio about the Great Earthquake of 2005. In addition to news of the devastating tragedy, I discovered that the Vale of Kashmir is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the highest mountains in the world cradle a valley lush in sycamore woods and fields of saffron interspersed with a necklace of lakes. A spectacular place to set a story, it also boasts a rich history of maharajas, princes and princesses. But this paradise has been spoilt by strife since the mostly Muslim Vale of Kashmir chose to become part of its Hindu neighbour, India.

There must be a story in there somewhere, I thought. What would happen if a 10-year-old Hindu girl called Jaya decided to become a doctor much to chagrin of her mother and the patriarchal society of 1960s Kashmir? My aim was to entertain and amuse the reader and not want to take sides. At the same time, I tried to depict the situation as sensitively and genuinely as possible. Drawing attention to the plight of Kashmiris could surely not be a bad thing in itself, could it?

I love to write about unfamiliar terrain and going to Kashmir, if only in my mind with the help of online resources, picture books and interviews with Indians, has been a wonderful journey that started in my car!

First 500 words from The Giants Look Down

Kashmir 1967

When I was ten, I found out what I wanted to be. In fact, I can remember the very day I decided to become a healer. On that late summer’s morning, I could still see my breath when I climbed up into our battered old Land Rover. You know what those kinds of vehicles are like. I was up high, and I felt so much bigger anyway because I was in the front next to Pa. If I shut my eyes and concentrate, I can still smell his pipe smoke lingering on the leather seats. The radio was on that morning because Pa, being such a huge cricket fan, had started listening to the Ashes long before the sun cut the peaks of the Nun Kun. In India, you hear talk of three things on every village corner: cricket, movies and politics. The Vale of Kashmir was no exception.

The tiny red figure of Lord Vishnu, the protector, bobbed about under the rear-view mirror as I scanned the skies for golden eagles. I spotted one, riding the winds, soaring and circling before dropping hundreds of feet to pluck a groundhog from the mountain slopes. All around us, tiny mauve and yellow flowers danced in the breeze as the snowy summits of Pir Panjal meditated in the early morning sun. Beneath them, rocks gave way to forests, emerald green valleys and the glint of the Jhelum River. In the far distance, Wular Lake slumbered peacefully under its blanket of mist. Above us, the Thajiwas glacier sparkled ice blue beside the cone-like peak of Gwash Brari where settlements hugged its foothills. All Pa’s territory, because he was the only doctor for miles. The crowd roared and the man on the radio was getting terribly excited when a posh voice cut in:

‘News has just reached us that a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir has killed three people, including the bomber, and injured more than seventeen. The explosion occurred in the Nowgam area on the outskirts of Srinagar, the region’s summer capital. A Pakistan-based Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for the explosion in a telephone call to local news agency Current News Service.’

Pa switched off the radio. ‘Madmen! Outsiders! Trying to turn us against each other! Sufi, Hindu, Sikh, what does it matter? We’ve been smoking beedi together in the teahouses of Dal Lake for centuries. Long before the British came. Long before Partition. Now they make us play the Great Game and fight like cockerels. Should I not attend to Mrs Durrani because she is a Muslim? And Kaliq? Should we throw our beloved servant out? How could the gods tolerate bloodshed in our beautiful vale?’

I certainly didn’t understand. How could grown-ups fight and kill each other when we children were always being told to be nice to each other? Diwali, our festival of light, includes their Muslim god Ali and Ramadan includes our Lord Ram, so how were we so different? It didn’t make any sense.

About the author: Sonja lives in Somerset with her family and dog. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and her short stories have appeared in Stories For Homes, the Shelter Anthology of Short Stories and In these Tangles, Beauty Lies, an anthology in aid of the Beanstalk Trust for children with reading difficulties. Her debut novel The Giants Look Down (2016) made her a finalist for the Joan Hessayon Award. She’s currently working on the story about a widow’s quest to resolve the mysterious circumstances surrounding her husband’s death out in the Canadian Wilds.

Links:

Website:                      www.sonja-price.com

Twitter:                       @PriceSonja

Facebook:                   Sonja Price Author

You can find The Giants Look Down as a paperback or e-book on:

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Giants-Look-Down-Sonja-Price/dp/0719819954 

 

Many thanks Sonja,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with K.M. Pohlkamp: Apricots and Wolfsbane

This week’s opening lines comes from the amazing K.M. Pohlkamp; an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control no less! In contrast to her up to the minute profession, she has written a fascinating historical novel…Apricots and Wolfsbane.

Over to you…

The world’s first known serial killer was a woman.

That fact struct me after reading an article about forgotten females from history. Locusta was a female poison assassin from Rome (Gaul) who discovered it was more lucrative to use her knowledge of herbs to kill than heal. As a female engineer, I relate to the struggle of going against traditional gender stereotypes. Locusta must have faced challenges, but her gender would have been an asset in a field where surprise provided an advantage. There is not much known about Locusta, which incited my imagination. And the more I thought about her life, a story began to weave in my mind.

At the same time, my priest gave a sermon about the ease of falling into a cycle of sin and penance. How often we realize our actions are incorrect and then feel guilt but after awhile the guilt wears and it becomes easy to commit the sin again. Of course he was talking about minor offenses, but as a matter of reductio ad absurdum, I applied this concept to a murderer and placed Locusta’s inspiration at the height of the Catholic Church in Tudor England.

Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane

Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder—but the betrayals are just beginning.

Apricots and Wolfsbane was shortlisted for the 2017 Chaucer Historical Fiction Awards and received 5-stars from Readers’ Favorite.

***

And the first 500 words of Apricots and Wolfsbane:

The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.

With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.

I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.

My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.

Murder just never got old.

The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.

The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.

Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.

I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.

After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.

Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.

I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my…

 

About the author

K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife, proud mother of two young children, and an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control. She operated guidance, navigation and control systems on the Space Shuttle and is currently involved in development of upcoming manned-space vehicles. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut historical fiction novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published by Filles Vertes Publishing.

Links:

Watch the book trailer

Visit GoodReads and see what others are saying

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Google Play 

***

Many thanks for some great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

Opening Lines: Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ come from the pen of Anna Franklin Osborne, who is sharing the beginning of her wartime novel,

Walking Wounded.

I have always worked in health care, and more recently in education, and like so many other parents, hit a tiny crisis a few years ago when I felt that my purpose in life had narrowed to not an awful lot more than dashing between my two jobs and being a mummy taxi.

I managed to find time to begin singing with a choir, and that helped me feel that I might have a more creative side to myself. One evening, my husband was out and, quite suddenly, I decided to Start Writing. I immediately hit the first obstacles of terrible handwriting and a broken laptop, so my writing career began that night in bed, typing into the note section of my smart phone, with no clear idea of what I wanted to say but resulting in a severe case of RSI and several short stories over the next few nights.

My husband was delighted that I had suddenly found this passion and kept encouraging me to write a novel, which I really felt I did NOT have in me. Later that summer, however, we were walking along a D-Day beach for no other grander reason than our ferry home from France being late, and I began telling our kids about my three great-uncles who were part of that day, and my grandmother who sewed parachutes for the paratroopers jumping over Normandy. Neil looked at me and smiled and said, ‘you do actually have a story there, you know….’

Walking Wounded was written over a period of a year, on a tiny tablet which I bought specifically because it fitted into my handbag – as I said, ‘if it’s not with me at all times, this just won’t happen.’ I wrote every day in 10 minute bursts while I sat in the school car-park waiting for my daughter to emerge from school, I wrote parked outside ballet lessons and maths lessons, I wrote early in the mornings  while everyone was asleep.

Walking Wounded is a war story and family saga, focusing on those left behind whilst their men folk went to war, how they survived and how their relationships evolved through periods of violence, loss and reunion. The main story is about May, a young woman struggling to find her own identity as the youngest in a large family, forced into a stormy marriage through a mistake she is too proud to admit, and explores the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shaped the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as WW2 draws to a close. Spanning the period from the Armistice of the Great War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, its internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

So many of you can find this history in our relatives, but not, sadly, for very much longer. But if you look at your own upbringing, your family’s catch phrases, your own family folk-lore – it doesn’t take much insight to recognise that we have all been shaped, for better or for worse, by these seismic world crises.

First 500 words

1918, Mons, Belgium, 5 a.m.

He awoke with a shock as an icy rivulet of water finally penetrated

the gap between his collar and his neck and trickled

down inside his sodden greatcoat.

With a sigh, Sergeant Edward Peters leant back against the

boards, squinting up with resignation into the rain dripping endlessly

into the deep trench. The rain had woken him from a fitful

sleep, punctuated by the sound of snores from his fellow soldiers,

the occasional muffled curse. He shifted his long frame uncomfortably,

and shuddered with disgust as he felt a rat scuttle across

his legs and drop into the stinking mud next to him. No matter

how many trenches he dug, how many wounds he patched up,

how much blood he saw, he reflected grimly, he would never get

used to the rats. He vowed to himself silently that he would never

tolerate one in the house again when he got back home to London,

that he would fill the house with cats and wage his own tiny

and very personal war against the rodents which had plagued his

life for the past four years.

He smiled as he thought how much Edie would love that. She

loved animals but couldn’t have any in the crowded house she

lived in in Muswell Hill, but, one day, he thought firmly, one day,

they would start afresh and fill their own home with pets and

children. He fumbled in the pocket of his greatcoat then, trying to

extricate something with his clumsy fingers, numbed with cold.

Finally, his fingers alighted on the little photo, and he sat drinking

in the sight of his girl, smiling shyly at him all those miles away but

so close he could feel her.

His eyes filled with tears suddenly, and he had to catch his

breath in that bitter November morning to steady himself.

Then the captain stirred and stumbled out of his shack at the

end of the trench.

‘Time to be up, lads,’ he said quietly passing along the line of

men still sleeping in the bottom of the trench, just inches from the

foul mud, ‘time to get ready.’

Edward gazed one last time at the picture in his hand, then

stuffed it carefully back into his pocket. He blew on his hands and

caught the captain’s eye, nodded grimly at what he saw there.

At 6 a.m. he blew the whistle.

 

1918 London 11 a.m.

Florence Johnson stood stiffly to attention, clutching the hand

of her eldest daughter, Edie, as she listened to the bells pealing

out the Armistice on that cold, wintry morning.

As the sound of the last chime died away, it seemed that all of

London erupted at last into cheers, the sounds of laughter and

joy mingling with the echoes of the great bells. Feeling disorientated

and utterly disconnected with the crowd surging around

them, Florence half-turned towards Edie, immediately saw the

tears running down her cheeks and pulled her close, hugging her

tightly.

***

Buying links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walking-Wounded-Anna-Franklin-Osborne/dp/0993569005/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1520597578&sr=1-3

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/buy

Website:

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/

Social media:

Facebook: @GooseWingPublications

Twitter: @HomeOsborne

Many thanks Anna.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

Opening Lines: Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval

It’s with great pleasure that I invite Marie Laval to my site with her ‘Opening Lines,’ from Little Pink Taxi!

Thank you so much Jenny for welcoming me on your blog today and share the first 500 words of my romantic comedy LITTLE PINK TAXI, which was released a year ago – already! – by Choc Lit.

People often ask me where I find my ideas, and what inspired me to write LITTLE PINK TAXI. Was it a holiday in the Cairngorms of Scotland, a stay in a beautiful old castle, or perhaps a past experience of driving a taxi?

I can say straight away that my inspiration was not driving a taxi! I have never driven a taxi, although ferrying my children between school, home and various friends and activities often felt like it indeed. Regretfully, I have never stayed in an old castle like Raventhorn, although it would be one of my dreams to do so one day.

I have however holidayed in Scotland, and loved the wild landscapes, lochs and forests, as well as the breathtaking architecture and atmosphere of Edinburgh where I went on a couple of city-breaks.

What really inspired me to write LITTLE PINK TAXI was a series I very much enjoyed watching on television a few years ago. You may remember it, because it was a big success at the time. It was called ‘Monarch of the Glen’, and was set in Glenbogle Castle in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, in Scotland. In my mind, Raventhorn castle – Rosalie Heart’s childhood home – is very similar to Glenbogle. There is a loch and a forest nearby, and of course, the dramatic backdrop of Cairngorms.

My other source of inspiration was a pink taxi I saw a few years ago in Manchester city centre. I know that they are quite common these days, but at the time, it was the first I had ever seen, and I thought it would be fun to have my heroine drive one of them. It gave me ideas about Rosalie’s personality too. She is fun and bubbly, very loyal to her friends and family, and she loves singing but can’t carry a tune! The story developed from there.

First 500 words…

‘I believe you’re waiting for me. I’m Petersen.’

Startled by the deep voice with the hint of a French accent, Rosalie spun round, and tilted her face up to meet a pair of serious grey eyes.

‘Welcome to Scotland, Monsieur Petersen.’

She gave him what she hoped was her most dazzling smile, but Petersen only looked down at her and said, ‘I was expecting McBride.’

Rosalie tucked the heart-shaped board on which she’d written Petersen’s name in pink under her arm. ‘I’m afraid Geoff was taken ill. I shall be driving you to Raventhorn.’

Petersen frowned. ‘I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it’s nothing serious.’

It was nothing that a cup of tea, a couple of headache tablets and a few days away from the malt whisky wouldn’t cure, but Rosalie couldn’t tell him that.

‘A head cold, that’s all. He will have recovered by this evening, I’m sure.’ Her cheeks grew warm. Lying had never come easily to her, but it was even harder when a giant of a man with eyes as cool and uninviting as the winter sky stared down at her.

She pointed at his leather holdall and laptop case. ‘Would you like me to carry your bags to the cab?’

Arching his eyebrows, he gave her a sardonic stare, which made her feel even smaller than her five foot one. ‘No. I don’t think so.’

‘Ah. Very well. Shall we go then? The weather is horrendous today. At least I found a space near the terminal so we won’t get too wet.’

Her last words were drowned in gusts of icy wind and rain as the terminal sliding doors opened. She pulled her key fob out of her pocket and strode towards the cab. ‘Here we are.’

‘Is this McBride’s idea of a joke?’

Droplets of rain clung to Petersen’s dark blond hair and the broad shoulders of his navy coat. He gestured to the bright pink metrocab on which Love Taxis was painted in large letters, then to her matching anorak.

‘I hope you’re not planning to take your clothes off and squirt whipping cream all over me.’

Although his voice was quiet, there was a steely edge to it that made his French accent more pronounced.

She started to laugh. ‘Take my clothes off, in this weather? No thank you! You don’t seriously think I am one of those strip-o-grams people hire to embarrass their colleagues at birthday parties, do you?’

He didn’t smile. No spark of humour lit his eyes. He’d meant what he’d said. The laughter died on her lips, and she pulled the zip of her pink anorak right up to her chin.

‘You have the wrong idea about me. I’m your taxi driver, nothing else. And for the record, the only way I like my whipping cream is on a chocolate brownie or a very large ice-cream.’

Although she tried to sound blasé, her face felt like it was on fire and she stumbled over the last words…

Blurb

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline.

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too.

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Author Bio

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for a number of years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

LITTLE PINK TAXI is Marie’s second contemporary romance and is published by Choc Lit. It is available here.

You can get in touch with Marie on Facebook and Twitter, and why not check the beautiful photos of Scotland and Denmark on the special Little Pink Taxi Page on Pinterest?

***

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Marie.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

It’s opening lines time again. This week, Julie Ryan is taking us on a Greek mystery…

Sophia’s Secret is the second book in the Greek island mystery series but can be read as a standalone. I never intended to write a series but having created the setting in Jenna’s journey, I was reluctant to leave it alone. My books, whilst always having romance at their core, deal with the dark side of Greece that tourists rarely see so be prepared for murder and suspense too!

Blurb for Sophia’s Secret

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty-year-old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

FIRST 500 WORDS

The boy knew he shouldn’t be out so late on his own but a dare was a dare! His best friend, Vasilli, had dared him to meet up at midnight in their den in the woods. He’d been so excited he could barely sleep. His mother had come to tuck him in—not that a boy of nearly eight needed tucking in he’d reminded her as they went through the usual nightly ritual.

“Night night.”

“Sleep tight, mind the bugs don’t bite.”

Then when she’d gone, he forced himself to stay awake until he heard his parents come back up the stairs to their room.  He waited for the light to go out and gave it a few more minutes to be on the safe side. The luminous watch that he’d asked for on last birthday was showing nearly 11.30. There would be plenty of time to get there. He peered out of his bedroom window. It was dark out. There were no streetlights in his village. It was lucky that he’d remembered to pack a torch. He crept silently down the stairs, careful not to wake either his parents or the sleeping twins, put a jacket on over his pyjamas, slipped his trainers on and spying the fruit bowl on the table, put a couple of apples in his pocket in case he got hungry.

The gang had built the den during the long summer holidays when they were allowed to play out until late provided that they told an adult where they were. This was different. The summer had given way to autumn and there was a chill in the night air. He wrapped his arms round himself for extra warmth or maybe just to give himself courage. He thought fleetingly of turning back but he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand Vasilli’s taunts of ‘chicken’ the next day. All he had to do, he reminded himself, was cut through the woods at the back of his house and meet his friend in the den. Just then, as if giving him a signal, the moon came out from behind the clouds illuminating the woodland path. He set off at a run, not wanting to be late. Once he reached the safety of the den, they’d have a good laugh about what a great game it had been.

An owl hooted in the branches above him almost scaring him silly. It felt so different at night. Every sound was magnified a thousand times, making him alert to every eerie sound. Little creatures scurrying around made the leaves underfoot rustle. Twice now he’d thought he heard someone following him but when he stopped there was no one. Only a few more metres to go and he’d be safe.

Not wanting to cut through the churchyard, he kept to the wall until he reached the woods. The moonlight showed him the den, just as he’d left it. He rushed inside, breathing heavily, surprised to see that Vasilli hadn’t arrived yet…

***

Buy links

JENNA’S JOURNEY
SOPHIA’S SECRET
PANDORA’S PROPHECY
CALLIE’S CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN

Bio

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles.

Jenna’s Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far and promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles.

In a new venture, Julie’s latest book is a short rom-com called Callie’s Christmas Countdown.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and dippy cat with half a tail.

You can find Julie on her websites:

Website/blog for book reviews

Blog

Twitter @julieryan18

***

Thanks for visiting today, Julie.

Come back next week to read some more opening lines.

Happy reading,

Jenny

Opening Lines: The Case of the Missing Bride

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carmen Radtke to my place, with the first 500 words from her novel, 

Over to you Carmen…

It started with a conversation in a museum, with an elderly immigrant talking about her voyage as an imported bride.

In an idle moment, I typed a few words into Google, and found a few lines in an old article about a bride transport from Australia to Canada in 1862 that hadn’t gone according to plan.  A story full of possibilities slowly unfolded in my mind. What mattered most to me though was that these girls really existed and deserved to be remembered.

They grew up in Victoria, in Australia, struggling with poverty in a country that was both incredibly modern and yet strictly clinging to the values of the British empire they simply called Home. The few well-to-do, like my heroine Alyssa’s family, had a lifestyle that could have come straight out of Jane Austen’s novels, with balls, country visits and parties. For the poor, and their numbers grew rapidly after the gold rush in 1851 had fizzled out, survival was a never-ending struggle. No wonder that my brides leaped at the chance of marrying well-off men, no matter how far away.

How lucky they must have felt when they boarded the ship, their few possessions stowed carefully in their wooden boxes.

They would spend months at sea and endure storms huddled under deck, or being thrown around like a sack, but they endured it together, and with visions of a good future ahead. Until they disappeared in San Francisco. A Canadian newspaper at the time blamed the Californians for having the brides seduced away with money. I wish I could believe that…

The Case of the Missing Bride is my attempt to honour these women and write a cracking yarn about them. The novel was a finalist in the Malice Domestic competition in a year without a winner and nominated for a CWA Historical Dagger.

Blurb:

When a girl goes missing on board of an ocean liner, only one person is convinced that the disappearance is no accident.

Alyssa has found herself with a group of impoverished girls who are embarking from Australia to Canada in the hope of marriage. As the daughter of a senior official, Alyssa doesn’t share this goal. She hopes to return to England via Canada.

But the girls all share one problem. Their presence on the ship is not known to many of its passengers but their worlds collide when one of the gentlemen discovers them. Then Emma, one of the intended brides, goes missing. Alyssa is convinced the disappearance is no accident and will risk her own life to search for the killer.

What happened to Emma? Is there a murderer on board the ship?

Alyssa is about to discover that there is more to her voyage than she bargained for.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Alyssa Chalmers shifted her weight from one foot to the other. How long could it take to read out 22 names, match them each to a face and tick them off a list? She watched Matron McKenzie’s slow progress. If she kept on at this pace they might all be here by nightfall.

Black sateen rustled as Matron came nearer. “Louisa Jane Sinclair?” A sparrow of a girl curtsied, her brows nearly disappearing into her fair bangs as her eyes grew wide. She shouldn’t be here, Alyssa thought with a pang, she is only a child.

“Where is your box? Nothing missing from the items on your list?” Louisa Jane’s eyes widened more, her pupils two dark disks in the paleness that was her face. She bent down to rummage in the patched cardboard case she carried instead of the regulation wooden box. “Yes, Ma’am,” she finally mumbled. Matron made a note on her list before she called out the next name. “Emma Sayce?”

By the time the pen scratched over the paper for the last time, the train station lay deserted, its outlines barely visible in the gas-lights that illuminated Port Phillip.

Matron clapped her plump hands to get everyone’s attention. “Now listen, girls. No dawdling or gossiping on the way. We shall proceed speedily and as quiet as mice.” She waved her right hand. “Off we go. I’ll be in front, and dear Father Pollock will bring up the rear until he sees us safely off.”

The girls obeyed, trudging in silence towards a new life.

The air smelt of salt, dead seaweed and sadness, Alyssa thought, with the gulls screeching like banshees in the all-enveloping darkness. The sea, so full of promise for a better life and a fresh start by daylight, was nothing but a miserable graveyard at night. She shivered. She must be coming down with something. Otherwise there was no explaining this feeling of doom in someone as sensible as she was.

The girls marched on until Matron came to an abrupt halt. “Ouch,” a girl cried out. “Can’t you watch what you’re doing, you daft cow?”

Matron turned around to confront the speaker. “Be quiet,” she hissed. “And watch your words, girl. I’ll have none of that language, thank you very much – Nellie, isn’t it?”

“What on earth is going on?” a long-suffering voice asked.

“Nothing, Father,” Matron said. “It seems we have arrived. There’s a man waving a lantern over there. Can you make out the name of the ship next to the small barge?”

Father Pollock peered through his spectacles. “I can’t be sure, but it does seem to be made up of two words. Surely you can read it? You’re much closer to it than I am.”

Alyssa suppressed a smile. Matron’s eyesight must be less keen than she might care to admit. The name “Artemis’ Delight” was written in large enough letters to be deciphered, with the gas-lights casting their glow onto the ship’s massive brown hull…

***

Buy the book: myBook.to/MissingBride

***

Bio

Carmen has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers. She has worked as a newspaper reporter in Germany and New Zealand, but now has swapped the newsroom for a cramped desk in her spare room in the UK She loves history, travel, animals and has convinced herself that day-dreaming is considered work. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching TV series and films (1930s to 1940s screwball comedies and film noir to blockbusters from the Marvel universe) and planning her next trip, although the cat prefers her to stay home.

She also writes historical fiction as Caron Albright.

Connect with her on twitter: @CarmenRadtke1 or Facebook: Carmen Radtke

***

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Carmen.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

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