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

Category: thriller Page 1 of 3

Opening Lines with Morwenna Blackwood: Glasshouse

This week I am delighted to be welcoming former Imagine ‘Novel in a Year’ student, friend and fellow author, Morwenna Blackwood, to my blog to share the ‘Opening Lines’ from 

Glasshouse.

Over to you Morwenna…

Thanks for having me again, Jenny!

Glasshouse is my second thriller. It stands alone as a story, but is part of the series that began with my debut novel, The (D)Evolution of Us. I have seven books in the series planned, and they run alongside, rather than follow on from, each other. I wanted to capture a point in time, and explore its events through the eyes of interconnected people.

BLURB

From the Hippocratic Oath (translated By WHS Jones):

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.

Psychiatrists, Drs Whittle and Grosvenor, have dedicated their lives to helping their patients, but their approach, and the complications it reveals, lead them into relationships that harm not only themselves.

As their lives entangle, both men find that doing “no harm” is not as cut-and-dried as they perceived.

Can the patients in their care really trust them? Or are more sinister motives at work?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Spring 1999

Julia

I hit the brakes. There’s a couple crying on the pelican crossing outside the hospital. I miss them by inches. The man holds the woman back when she starts screaming at me; maybe he’s seen the state of my face. Once he’s pulled her clear of the road, I stamp on the accelerator, and abandon the car in the ambulance bay.

A few of the smokers outside the main entrance scowl and shout things at me, but I barely register them and push my way through to the big plan of the hospital that takes up most of the wall in the reception area. I scan the list of wards for the one Sasha told me Elizabeth is in, locate it on the map, and run down the corridor.

I’m not worried that I’m causing a scene – I figure that people will think I’m a desperate relative trying to make it to a dying loved one in time – so I don’t stop running until I reach the ward. I stand in the crowd of people around the nurses’ station and look for her name on the board; I can’t believe my luck: she’s tucked away in the far corner, with the curtains closed around her bed. Hiding in plain sight, I rush down the ward to her bed, check there are no doctors in with her, and slip behind the curtain.

Elizabeth looks tiny in the bed, like a child. I note that her hair is dark. She is lying down, and I can’t see her face. There are tubes and wires attached to her, and a monitor is beeping steadily. My hands are clenched, and I’m suddenly aware that they’re sweating. I approach the head of the bed. Elizabeth’s eyes are closed, and she is breathing regularly. I presume 3she’s asleep – if she was in an induced coma, she’d be in a more secure ward, surely.

I stand there, running my fingers across my damp palms, looking at her. She’s pretty – that’s evident even under the oxygen mask. I consider pulling all the plugs out of the wall but check myself – the monitors will be alarmed. I try to remember all the episodes of Casualty I’ve seen. I sit down in the inevitable uncomfortably upright chair next to her bed, absentmindedly moving the spare cushion that was on the seat, onto the moving table thing that holds a dry plastic tumbler, and a jug of water. I sit like this for some minutes before the obvious occurs to me. This whole situation started with her. If Erazmus hadn’t met her, I would not have lost my baby. I stand, pick up the cushion, pull the mask from her face, try to commit her features to memory, and using both hands, I press the cushion into her face.

Autumn 1998

Lizzie

The patterns, the symbolism – it’s like a code that I’m beginning to decipher. I sketch the moments that seem important, in the hopes that one day…

***

Here are my buy-links…

mybook.to/devolution for The (D)Evolution of Us

mybook.to/glasshousenovel for Glasshouse

BIO

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

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.

Morwenna is the author of best-selling psychological thriller, The (D)Evolution of Us, and her second novel, Glasshouse, also published by darkstroke, is released today.

When she is not writing, Morwenna works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Here are my social media links and website…

www.morwennablackwoodauthor.com

www.amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

Twitter: MorwennaBlackw1

Many thanks for sharing your opening lines, Morwenna.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Ashley Lister: Cursed (Blog Tour: Day Four)

This week, I’m delighted to welcome back the brilliant Ashley Lister, with the opening lines to his brand new release,

Cursed.

This blog forms part of Ashley’s blog tour for the book – so make sure you check out all the other stops.

Over to you Ashley…

Below are the opening lines to Cursed, the third in my series of dark tales from Innsmouth.

To give a little background, these stories started with the novella Fearless. This was a story that started in Innsmouth University, a fictional world roughly based on the writings of HP Lovecraft. Fearless was followed by Unearthed which remained in the same disquieting location.

This opening scene introduces us to two members of the Explorers Club, an urbex group who break into abandoned locations and share stories of the supernatural.

BLURB

Innsmouth University’s Explorers Club meet once a month to share stories of the supernatural. They meet in empty houses, abandoned buildings and derelict churches. They meet in the dead of night. They tell stories of the impossible, the unbelievable and the most terrible. And now, it appears, their meetings have been cursed.

FIRST 500 WORDS

A fragrance of neglect hung in the air. It was the odour of second-hand clothes in charity shops; the subtle stink of long-forgotten corridors in derelict buildings; and the smell of uninhabited houses.

“This feels wrong,” Stuart whispered. “This is tantamount to burglary.”

“It’s not burglary,” David Middleton assured him. “We’re not stealing anything.”

“I didn’t say it was burglary,” Stuart said. His voice was low and soft, but not so quiet that it hid a note of testiness. “I said it was tantamount to burglary. Tantamount.”

“Did you know,” David began, “here in the UK, only 14 arrests are made for every 100 burglaries?”

Stuart eyed David sceptically. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

David shrugged. “I only mention it because, even though what we’re doing isn’t technically burglary, I thought you might be reassured by the fact that so few burglaries result in prosecution.”

They stood in the majestic hallway of the abandoned Porter house. Dark blue shadows swathed them like a shroud. David knew better than to turn on any lights. That was a sure way to draw attention to the fact that the property now hosted illicit visitors. His eyes were used to the lack of light and he could make out the stripe of the regency wallpaper, the flow of the stairs up to the galleried landing and the hanging presence of an unlit chandelier above.

“Why is this place empty?” Stuart asked, peering myopically into the gloom around them.

“It’s a mystery,” David admitted. “The place was owned by a husband and wife: Mr and Mrs Porter. He went missing one night whilst he was out walking the dog.”

“What? Was he murdered or did he do a runner or something?”

David shook his head. “No. Just went missing.”

“Bloody hell,” Stuart muttered.

“Two days later his wife disappeared.”

Stuart sucked an exclamatory breath of surprise. “That’s terrible.”

“It really is,” David agreed. “The executors have put this place on the market at an inflated price, trying to cash in on a lucrative sale, but that’s not going to happen.” He smiled sadly, an expression that couldn’t be seen in the darkness, as he added, “They’re trying to sell an overpriced property in the middle of a very picky buyers’ market.” Glancing around the dark shadows he said, “This property is going to stay empty for a long time.”

Stuart considered him suspiciously. “You seem to know a lot about it.”

David shrugged. “The property is being managed by Murdoch’s, the estate agent where I work.” He lightly jangled a set of keys and added, “That’s how we were able to get in here so easily.” He could have added that it was because he had gained access using his employer’s keys that their presence on the property wasn’t technically burglary or breaking and entering, but he figured there was no sense reminding Stuart about the source of his earlier unease.

Stuart was looking around, his night-blind gaze trying to scour the…

BUY LINKS

Cursed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cursed-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08RXJYQLD/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cursed+ashley+lister&qid=1613210277&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Unearthed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unearthed-Dark-Tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08LZJ8JDZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

Fearless

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fearless-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08JVKJKCZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

BIO

Ashley Lister is a prolific author of fiction, having written more than fifty full length novels and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about poetry and writing in general, Ashley also teaches creative writing, language and literature in Lancashire, England.

 

Many thanks Ashley,

Happy Reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Victoria Dowd: Body on the Island

I’m delighted to welcome author, and fellow member of the Exeter |Author’s Association, Victoria Dowd, to my site today, to share the Opening Lines from her forthcoming novel, Body on the Island.

Blurb

An uninhabited island.
Ten stranded strangers.
No way to escape.

Ursula Smart (not her real name), realising therapy alone cannot teach her how to survive this life, is determined to make some changes. She signs herself up for a survival course — along with her mother, aunts Charlotte and Mirabelle and Bridget.
But the promised gentle weekend of foraging and camping in the Outer Hebrides swiftly turns into a desperate battle for survival.
Their boat capsizes. Washed up on an uninhabited island, the Smart women face starvation, freezing conditions and — worse — no Wi-Fi.
Then the murders begin.
Someone is killing them off one by one. Will the Smarts escape or will they be next?

A DARKLY COMIC GOLDEN AGE MURDER MYSTERY
Victoria Dowd’s brilliant whodunnit is perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz, Faith Martin and Stuart Turton.

FIRST 500 WORDS

As I’m drowning, I see my Dad’s murdered eyes below me. They are wide in warning. I hear his voice below the waves. ‘Do not come over to this side. There is nothing good here, Ursula. Stay. Stay alive.’

‘Stay alive,’ I call back. ‘Stay alive.’

‘I’m trying!’ It’s not Dad who answers but Mother’s voice shouting back at me, her mouth filling with icy saltwater, before she is thrown out from me on another high wave.

‘Don’t die!’ I shout.

‘That had occurred to me.’ Her eyes are wide like Dad’s. She spins out from me as if she’s been carelessly thrown away.

‘Mother!’ I scream. ‘Hold my hand.’

She reaches and grabs me. We are so small among this broken sea. The freezing spray pits my skin.

‘Ursula,’ Mother shouts. ‘Stay with me!’ Always a command. She scans the mineral black waters quickly. ‘Charlotte?’ Her mouth is wide but the sound is washed away in another wave.

I see a hand rise up across the bow of the listing boat. Aunt Charlotte’s fist, strong and capable above the waves.

‘Mirabelle?’ Mother calls.

No response.

‘Mirabelle?’

There are heads floating all around, rising high on the waves before plunging down fast, rollercoastered against the wet shale sky. The water is bitter, and I’m pushed under again. The cold shocks my head as if I’m being baptized in ice water. I can’t feel or move my limbs, yet I’m moving so fast that my eyes, raw with burning salt, are unable to process the changing snapshots of sky and water. I catch a glimpse of Mother’s face again, her eyes are ripe with fear.

Somewhere in another great swell, I lose Mother’s hand.

‘Mother? Mother? Mother!’

I am that lost child in a crowd again, feeling her hand slip from mine.

I’m falling.

I hear screams and see the faces of my other travelling companions full of panic. They don’t seem to see me. I lock with two bewildered eyes for a moment. A woman’s, sea-green and two perfect mirrors of the water. Her head turns before I can make out the face. Then the hands grab her.

I’m thrown high again by another wave.

The hands are on Green Eyes’ shoulders, making their way spider-fast to the crown of her head. Her eyes are wide and pleading now. Fear, desperation reflect on their surface. Then the thin-boned hands push down on her delicate head and the green eyes disappear beneath a spume of white water. Her small hands reach up and twist with tiny dancer’s fingers.

Whoever reaches out and pushes the woman down again has their back to me.

She struggles free for a moment, her mouth gasping above the water, her head tilted back against the waves. The mouth lingers open as if caught on a word that is instantly drowned out. Her head is forced below once more.

In that moment, it’s as if I’m looking at them from the other side of a window. I…

***

If you would like to preorder your copy of Body on the Island, you can find it via all good book retailers including

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Bio

Victoria’s novel, Body on the Island, will be published on 23rd February. It’s the sequel to her debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, which was published in 2020 by Joffe Books and was Classic Mystery’s Book of the Year. It is also a finalist in The People’s Book Prize.

She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction in 2019 and was runner up in The New Writer’s writer of the year award. She has been short listed by Writers’ Forum and long-listed for The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition. Her work has been published in various literary journals, including Aesthetica: A Review of Contemporary Artists; Between These Shores Literary and Arts Journal; Dream Catcher magazine; and Gold Dust.

She also writes the Adapting Agatha series on her blog which can be found at https://victoriadowd.com/ . She has spoken at various literary festivals about Agatha Christie.

Victoria is originally from Yorkshire and graduated in law from Cambridge University. She was a criminal defence barrister for many years until finally hanging up her wig for more fictional crimes.

Website https://victoriadowd.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/victoria_dowd

FB https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625505478

Victoria Dowd | Facebook

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dowdvictoria/

***

Many thanks for popping by with your fabulous opening lines, Victoria.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Tom Williams: Something Wicked

I’m delighted to welcome Tom Williams back to my blog today, with a look back over his recent novels, and a look forward to his latest release, Something Wicked.

Over to you Tom…

I’m very grateful to Jenny Kane for the chance to chat to you all on her blog, especially with a new book, Something Wicked on its way.

Until recently all the books I’ve written have been historical novels. I started with The White Rajah, which is set in the mid-19th century, at the height of Britain’s Age of Empire. I hadn’t actually intended to write a historical novel. I wanted to write the Great British Novel (forgive me: it was my first book) dealing with Good and Evil and how power corrupts. But then I was on a visit to Borneo (long story) and I learned about James Brooke who ran part of the island as his own private kingdom. It’s an amazing tale, full of Good and Evil and (at least arguably) the corruption of power, and so everything seemed to come together and I wrote that.

And then I was pigeon-holed as a historical novelist and I wrote more stories about the Age of Empire and they became steadily darker. (Long story short, the Empire did genuinely do a lot of good but its inherent contradictions meant it was pretty well doomed to end badly.) So I escaped into the Napoleonic Wars where the issues of Good and Evil were more straightforward. (Actually they weren’t at all, because depicting the French as Evil while the decadence of the monarchies fighting them has to be depicted as Good begs a whole heap of questions.) Still, the stories were exciting and involved an awful lot of killing Frenchmen, and my dashing hero was brave and women fell at his feet and all the proper tropes were observed. Sadly, as I waded through the gore of battles like the Nile and Talavera and, inevitably, Waterloo, even those stories became a tiny bit more ambiguous too. Also, historical fiction takes ages to write. The other day I wanted to write the beginning of a new story (for there will, in time, be more) and thought I could say, ‘He threw open the shutters and looked out. It was a brilliantly sunny day. Time to put on his uniform and get started.’ Something along those lines, anyway. And then I wondered, ‘What would he have seen when he looked out? Would there have been a view and, if so, of what? And what uniform was he wearing exactly.’ And there followed hours of checking Google street view of a small town in Spain and trying to imagine what it would have looked like 200 years ago, followed by more time spent trying to check out his uniform. Uniforms are one of those things that people who write about military history are expected to know, but their heroes tend to stick to the same regiment, whereas Burke is constantly moving about so he might be wearing any one of a number of British or foreign uniforms. There are some wonderful reference books for this but to collect the entire set to cover against all eventualities is beyond me and Google isn’t nearly as helpful as you would think.

You can see why the idea of writing something set in the here and now might appeal, can’t you? So one night I was sitting getting quietly drunk with a bunch of magicians (as you do) and I thought what fun it would be if these magicians somehow ended up using their skills to defeat another bunch of magicians who were using Black Magic in their stage act. (Yes, Good and Evil sneak into all my books. But isn’t that what most fiction is about in the end?)

Anyway, the story wouldn’t go away and (after changing all the people because I’m reliably informed that libel lawyers are expensive) I ended up writing a novella called Dark Magic. I loved it and lots of readers loved it. It was very light hearted, albeit in a rather gruesome way, and if it didn’t sell that well (nobody associates me with contemporary fiction so it was like starting over) it was much easier to write than the historical stuff, so I decided to do it again.

The latest, to be published in the next month or so, also grew out of an overseas trip. Several trips, actually, because I am an enthusiastic tango dancer so, in the days when these things were still possible, I made several visits to Argentina. I love Buenos Aires to the point of obsession. Besides the tango, there is so much cool stuff going on. And there are spectacular things to see, one of which is the cemeteries. These (the famous ones at any rate) are not rows of gravestones but proper necropolises with neat streets full of houses where the dead can make their homes.

Brompton Cemetery

Given that the tango world only wakes up when the sun goes down, the idea that these buildings were inhabited by vampires who came out to dance at night seemed quite obvious. And so, transferred to the almost equally eccentric Brompton Cemetery in London, Something Wicked was born. Fortunately there is (or was, pre-covid) a thriving tango scene in London, where the vampires can indulge themselves. Throw in a murder and a vampire policeman and there is everything you need for a police procedural/vampire mashup that certainly entertained me and I hope will entertain you too.

Don’t worry. I’m back to history later in spring with a story set in Ireland in the run-up to the Irish Revolt of 1798. Poor James Burke is going to have his work cut out steering between Good and Evil in that one!

 

BUY LINKS FOR ALL TOM’S BOOKS-

James Burke, Spy

Burke in the Land of Silver

Burke and the Bedouin

Burke at Waterloo

Burke in the Peninsula

Burke in Ireland: coming in Spring

Contemporary Urban Fantasy

Dark Magic

Something Wicked: to be published in February

BIO

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century and books about vampires that are generally described as fiction but which are often more realistic than the business books. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt and Borneo and call it research.

The James Burke series are adventure stories about a spy in the age of Napoleon, while the John Williamson Papers are a rather more serious series looking at issues of colonialism in the age of Empire (though they do have quite a lot of adventure too).

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.

LINKS

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, https://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams).

***

Happy reading everyone,

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 with Anna Legat: A Conspiracy of Silence

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

Blurb:

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

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

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

First 500 words 

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hi, Mum.’

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

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

‘That good!’

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

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

***

What readers are saying about Anna Legat:

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

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

Plenty of twists and turns’

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

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

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

Bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to you Morwenna…

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Blurb

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

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

First 500 words

Prologue

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

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

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

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

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

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

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

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

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

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

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

Richard

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

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

mybook.to/devolution

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

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

She often thinks about that frog.

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

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

Twitter: @MorwennaBlackw1

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

***

Many thanks Morwenna- wishing you huge success.

Happy reading Jenny

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

Interview with Jill Barry: The House Sitter

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jill Barry to my place today to chat about her new novel, The House Sitter.

“A chilling and page-turning psychological thriller that is impossible to put down and perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, C. L. Taylor and Shari Lapena.”

Why not put your feet up for five minutes, grab a cuppa, and come and join us?

Welcome Jill, let’s start with the obvious question, what inspired you to write The House Sitter?

After years of writing romance, I opted for a challenge. A friend’s move from the area sparked an idea and the house sitter walked on to the page. I found it surprisingly refreshing to write Ruth’s flawed – no, let’s say, evil – character. And the sales negotiator doing her utmost to sell the house is a good match for her adversary.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

The mid-Wales setting prompted me to think whether to use real place names or fictitious ones. I looked at lots of real names and did a kind of pick and mix then asked a Welsh speaker to approve them. While writing, I always had the actual towns and villages in mind as the characters played out their story. Having lived in the area helped me create the weather conditions needed for some of the scenes.

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

For a novella, I usually have a story outline in place. The House Sitter is character driven so I was happy to go with the flow. I knew where the story was leading but didn’t know exactly how it would end.

What excites you most about your book?
I know that many of my friends and family don’t have a Kindle. Headline have made The House Sitter available as both paperback and eBook, so it’s easy for readers to order both versions on line. I’m thrilled to say it’s also available from independent bookshops.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?

Except for my second victim, I’m avoiding those who would be practical choices. For mental stimulation, I’d choose Victoria Coren Mitchell who’d also probably devise some way of playing poker and distilling gin. Tom Booker of The Horse Whisperer is used to outdoor living and would be a calm and comforting presence. Stephen Mangan is a brilliant entertainer and hopefully would help us see the funny side of things!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I love to entertain my readers, whether by romantic fiction or this, my first venture to the dark side. My aim is to keep on keeping on, so many thanks, Jenny, for giving me the opportunity to show another side to my writing.

Many thanks for dropping by today, Jill.

Here’s an extrat from The House Sitter to whet your appetite

Early in the novel, Eddie and Suzanne invite their friend and house sitter round for morning coffee. As she approaches the house, to Ruth’s disgust, she discovers the couple have already put their house up for sale, without informing her. From here on, a sequence of disturbing events is set in motion…

“I imagine I’m here so you can tell me why you’ve put your house on the market?”

Ruth dragged out a chair, not missing the surprised glances the couple exchanged. Eddie hunched his shoulders. Shuffled his feet. Glanced at his wife a second time, his expression uneasy.

“How, er. how did you find out? Eddie and I decided to keep our decision secret from people until the sale was publicised.”

“Really?” Ruth kept her voice calm, almost nonchalant. “Surely the clue is in the signboard?”

Suzanne groaned. “Oh, no. I didn’t realise they’d stuck that up already.”

***

Buy link for The House Sitter   https://tinyurl.com/t7pq7l3 

Social media links:

Facebook    www.facebook.com/JillBarryBooks/

Twitter                   @barry_jill

Website       www.jillbarry.com

***

 

Many thanks for popping over today Jill.Good luck with your new novel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Jane Risdon’s criminal mind

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Risdon back to my place- although I fear we should be wary.

She’s talking about her criminal mind!

Over to you Jane…

Jenny, many thanks for inviting me to share some of my experiences with you and your followers today. It is so generous of you and I really appreciate the opportunity.

I’ve a criminal mind. At least my readers must think I have. I must admit I wonder about myself. Where do all my murderous ideas come from when on the outside I seem quite normal? I think I’m normal but, hey, they say you’re the last to know if you’ve lost your marbles.

If you’re reading this and are of a delicate disposition go and make a cup of tea, swing from a chandelier or just pretend I’m not here. Things might get a little hairy because I am going to discuss murder. Just kidding. It’s sanitised.

Some of you may have come across me through the novel I co-wrote with Christina Jones, Only One Woman (Headline Accent), set in the 1968/69 UK music scene and at its heart there’s a love triangle. Forget love and all things nice. I’m not going there, although I’m sure you know that most murders are committed by a close relation or friend. Just saying – that cuppa seems tempting now, I bet.

Crime, thrillers, and espionage novels have always rung my bells, even from a very young age. I guess I love adventure and when young I read all the adventure stories such as ‘Kidnapped,’ ‘The Secret Seven,’ and books like that. Reading a ‘girlie,’ book never crossed my mind, although I admit to having read and loved ‘A Swish of the Curtain,’ by Pamela Brown. Somewhere deep down I knew I was going to be the next Prima Ballerina or an Oscar-winning actress – delusions of being a thespian have never left me. I imagine that is why I eventually worked in the international music business – those who can do, and those who can’t help others to achieve their dreams.

 

Capitol Records Building

The entertainment business is in my DNA, although whose DNA kicked started those ambitions I’ve no idea. My family is devoid of such rebels and subversives (the Mater’s viewpoint), and thespianism – still legal last time I looked – comes from my husband’s side – he’s a musician. His mother was quite a looker in her day and a member of an Aqua ballet (synchronised swimming) show. His father was a crooner (singer) and his brother is an actor. Actually ‘himself’ has acted a lot too, mostly in India where he’s appeared in many movies and television series alongside some of the Bollywood Superstars.  He has been known to be ‘recognised’ in the street by Indians who watch hours upon hours of cinema. His great aunt, Elizabeth Risdon, was a famous Hollywood actress and starred in over one hundred movies with stars such as John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Lupe Velez, the Mexican Spitfire, to name a few.  I guess thespianism has rubbed off on me. My husband says I’m a bit of a thespian at times. I cannot argue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Risdon

The chances of becoming an actress or a prima ballerina became ever more remote the older I got and eventually I settled for The Diplomatic Service – better known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall. Although by then I was dreaming of being a writer. And, reading some of the archived files at the FCO really fed my imagination. Thespians are rife in the Service: all those spies pretending to be someone and something else. The files were a treasure-trove for a would-be writer.

To be accepted by the FCO (back then) one had to be Positively Vetted (PV) for security reasons. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say they turn you, your family, and friends inside out probing your lives and even the lives of distant long dead relatives. You get a thorough going-over. My then boyfriend – now husband – found the intrusion into his life and his family a bit much, especially being a musician and very anti-establishment back then.

Old New Scotland Yard

Now, what the heck has this to do with crime I can hear you yelling? I’m getting there, keep your hair on. At that time the Old Scotland Yard building on the Victoria Embankment was one of seventeen FCO buildings in London and I worked there in Personnel ‘looking after,’ the Ambassadors, various Embassy staff and families around the world. It was the height of The Cold War and the IRA were being a bloody nightmare.

MI5 Building- Thames House

Espionage and intrigue was everywhere. One hundred plus Russians were expelled for spying in a ‘tit-for-tat’ with The Soviet Union at the time. Oh the excitement. My department handled the ‘personal’ side of all this.

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/the-later-cold-war

One of those responsible for my PV was a Commander from Special Branch called Ferguson-Smith (see his info below) who was responsible for capturing Soviet spies, Peter and Helen Kroger (aka Morris and Lona Cohen) in 1961.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29985359

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/ferguson-smith-special-branch-brought-2296496

He told me about the Krogers and of course my imagination went wild. I was a great fan (still am) of John Le Carre and Frederick Forsyth so imagine my excitement; real life spies and I knew their spy-hunter.

As I said, I was allowed to read files from the archives and another infamous and possible spy scandal was what came to be known as ‘The Profumo Affair’. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies were ‘good-time’ girls involved with a government minister, John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War. Imagine having all that sex and intrigue at your fingertips when still in your teens, being an avid reader and would-be author; all mentally filed away for a future time.

https://www.britannica.com/event/Profumo-affair

Geoffrey Jackson, Ambassador to Uruguay, was kidnapped by Tupamaros guerrillas in 1970 in Montevideo, and was held for eight months during which time I and my colleagues in my department were working the personnel side of things. At night I’d go home to my guitarist boyfriend and his band and I wasn’t allowed to tell him or anyone anything. I was fit to burst.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/9/newsid_3634000/3634352.stm

I won’t bore you with other government departments I’ve worked for, it is quite a list. In the early days of marriage to my musician husband someone had to be the steady earner and hold the fort whilst he trotted off to exotic locations on tour and mixed with the ‘jet set,’ as they were called back then. Mind you, the Red Shoes Ballroom in Elgin was hardly exotic although everyone who was anyone has played there. It was only one of many ‘must play,’ venues on the UK circuit.  Hanging out with Liz and Richard Taylor in Switzerland was a bit more like it, I admit.

Later, we went into the international management of recording artists, musicians, songwriters, record producers, and the odd actor (odd, yes some were definitely that) and we placed music into movie and TV soundtracks internationally. This took us to Taiwan, Singapore, all over Europe, Canada and the USA, and of course Hollywood. Ah! Now we are getting closer to the crime part of my piece. Patience.

By this time I was reading a lot. All those hours on the road and in recording studios had to be filled when not actually doing anything myself, so crime novels kept me out of mischief. I got hooked on Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, as well as many others. Their knowledge of crime scene detection and forensic science fascinated me. It perked my curiosity.

There are many legends in the entertainment business and not just the artists. The managers, the heads of record companies, and movie studio supremos are just as interesting as the artists they work with, including Clive Davis and Tommy Mottola who signed and nurtured the careers of singers such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, for example. Fascinating characters.

https://collider.com/clive-davis-documentary-interview-soundtrack-of-our-lives/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Mottola

And then there are those who are notorious for many other reasons. Those who were criminals or involved with the criminal underside of the music business. Their crimes are legendary and have been written about time and again. There were also ‘heavies’ in the business and you need look no further than Don Arden (father to Sharon Osborne) who managed so many of the huge artists in the UK music business throughout many decades, and also Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, who changed the way musicians got paid for their gigs. I’ve met both. Do follow the links and blow your mind.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/ozzy-osbourne-manager-dangled-robert-10688655

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Grant_(music_manager)

Working in the music business one soon realises that everyone does business with these people daily. The first time we met a ‘legend’ in the USA we were confronted by body guards and were ‘welcomed’ to their ‘family,’ when we signed some artists to their record company and there was a gun and a base-ball bat on the lawyer’s desk as we signed contracts. I won’t mention names in case we get the horses head in the bed or the concrete boots to swim with. But, there are some seriously dangerous dudes out there and I think we have met and done business with many of them. Several were in the Payola scandals of the late 1970s when Pink Floyd and others were kept off USA radio stations because their management wouldn’t pay for air-time. ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ nearly collapsed sales-wise.

Books have been written about many of these all powerful movers and shakers and so far no-one has been sued for what they’ve written. Many found themselves before Grand Juries and had to take ‘The Fifth’ to avoid incriminating themselves. Others disappeared off the face of the earth without a trace. Not guilty!

https://www.stereophile.com/news/080105sony/index.html

With all this experience and our amazing connections you can see why crime writing was and is what I want to do.

I soon discovered that an interest in all things crime is not enough. I needed some background knowledge to help me write authentic and – I hope – mistake-free stories. Kathy Reichs is an author who is also a Medical Examiner, a real-life pathologist, and I love her books. It rapidly became clear to me that I needed to inform myself better so I enrolled in seven online university courses taught by the best in their field – internationally recognised tutors. I undertook six Forensic Science and Criminal Justice courses and a basic course in Archaeology to help me with my crime scenes, victim identification (even from shallow graves and a few bones and no ID) through detection and prosecution of perpetrators. Fascinating stuff. I’m not an expert but I can see what sort of weapons make cut marks on bones, how blood splatter can give so much detail about how a victim was attacked by a knife, axe or gun. Bullet hole identification, finger-print and DNA analysis, and how police interviews should be conducted – just some of the knowledge I gained to help my writing. I also studied and followed investigations of famous miscarriages of justice. Vey unsettling.

I don’t write police procedurals so you won’t find details of how an investigation works in my books. I don’t put too much blood and guts into my stories – my writing is a little different. However, it’s good to know these things in-case I stray into writing a little more detail than usual. No-one wants emails from irate detectives or knowledgeable readers shouting ‘rubbish that could never happen,’ or worse.

I’ve also made friends with a few former murder detectives and a counter-terrorism expert which has been very helpful when writing my series, ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates,’ featuring a former MI5 Intelligence Officer (still to be published), hoping to find her way back into the fold having been ‘voluntarily’ retired from the Security Services. It’s also helped with various stories I’ve contributed to in anthologies, magazines, and newsletters.

Being able to bounce stuff off of them has been invaluable especially when writing ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing House), where my collection of short stories feature various methods of murder in everyday situations. Forensic knowledge was especially useful when devising methods of murder where I wanted the murderer to be long gone from the scene when my victims died.

You can come back now, get down from the chandelier and enjoy your tea once more without fear of reading something nasty. I’ve kept it clean. My road to writing has been an interesting one personally and my experiences have provided me with endless ideas for stories.

Every writer uses personal experiences at some point. I know Christina and I used those we shared in the 1960s when she was fan-club secretary to my boyfriend’s band, and writing ‘Only One Woman,’ was an amalgam of people, events and situations at that time. I am happy to say that murder is not something I have experienced first-hand, although as I mentioned earlier, crime and espionage has never been too far away during my various careers. Perhaps I’ve whetted your appetite and you’ll find your way to reading some of my work. That would be grand.

***

SWEET SABLE – The Red Siren 

From Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon

Chapter One

Closing the safe door quietly and with an expert spin of the dial the black-clad woman straightened up, slinging the grip with her haul over her shoulder. She stood listening intently before moving towards the office door. Again she waited, her ears straining, before gently prising the door open and stepping silently into the corridor of darkened offices. She eased the door closed calculating she had barely two minutes before the night-watchman made his rounds, trying the doors and checking the building was secure.

The woman headed for the fire escape where she’d made her entrance to the three storey building some ten minutes earlier. Gently raising the window she climbed out on to the metal staircase with the athletic grace of a ballet dancer, giving the dark alley below a quick once-over to ensure no-one was around she hastily made her way down the rusting stairs. Her tar- toned unremarkable and unmemorable automobile was parked across the street, hidden in the gloom of another narrow alleyway. Glancing at her wrist-watch – an expensive pay-off from a married lover – she knew she’d better step on the gas. She’d less than fifteen minutes to get back to the night-club, park her car at the darkest end of the outside lot, and leg it back to her dressing-room with enough time to change into her gown for her last set of the evening. 

The red-head chuckled to herself as she repaired her lipstick pouting seductively at herself in the mirror, waiting for the stagehand to knock on her door with her final call. She was buzzing. She’d done it again, she’d pulled it off. It was better than any sex she’d ever had and that was saying something. She chuckled, puckered her ample lips and blew herself a huge wet kiss.

*****

As the spotlight found its mark the band-leader nodded to the scarlet-clad shapely figure who took up position in front of the microphone. Her hips swayed in time to the jazz trumpet and she took her cue. Her sultry sable-clad tones sucked her audience into her lair.

The figures outlined in the flickering candle-light adorning circular tables dotted around the smoke-hazed, expectant venue, stopped talking and turned their heads towards the elevated stage where Desi Garcia’s Syncopators went into full swing behind Sweet Sable – also known as the Red Siren – neither was her real name but no-one cared. When her song ended there was a moment’s silence before they pounded their tables shouting, ‘more, more.’

Sweet Sable wiggled her slender but shapely hips, leaned over the stage giving more than an eye-full of her full bosom on display in her tight-fitting, strapless gown and blew huge smackers into the air, aimed at no-one in particular but the full-blooded men in the audience got the message and so did their partners who silently seethed.

Her set over for the evening Sweet Sable made her way back to her dressing room, accepting compliments and congratulations on her ‘wonderful performance,’ smiling, blowing kisses and with a toss of her luxurious red mane, closed her dressing room door to keep the stage door Johnnies out. There was always a small stud congregated outside her door and gathered around the stage door following her shows. Sometimes she allowed a particularly handsome or obviously loaded guy inside who was good for a dinner or two – or for something else – if rich enough. They were ripe for the picking; such patsies.

This particular evening Sweet Sable was anxious not to have any company. She had plans and getting pawed by a fawning, slobbering man who felt ‘entitled’ after giving her dinner, was not part of them. She had to get her haul to a safe place so she could take a proper look at it before deciding what she had to do. Sweet Sable loved having options – and she had plenty. 

© Jane Risdon 2019

***

Jane with Only One Woman and Undercover: Crime Shorts

Jane’s Links:

https://janerisdon.com

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Risdon/e/B00I3GJ2Y8

https://wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow2.html

https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon

https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/

https://www.instagram.com/janerisdonwriter/

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Risdon/e/B00I3GJ2Y8

Only One Woman: Christina Jones Jane Risdon (Headline Accent)

ISBN: (Waterstones and all good book stores) 9781783757312

ASIN: (Kindle, Tablet, Phone) BO75D88JBP

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Only-One-Woman-Christina-Jones/dp/1783757310/

Undercover: Crime Shorts  (Plaisted Publishing House)

ISBN: (Waterstones etc) 9780359397839

ASIN: (Kindle, Tablet, Phone etc) BO7RFRVL4P

https://books2read.com/b/4jD0wo 

***

Huge thanks Jane. What a great blog!

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny. xx

Opening Lines by Kelly Florentia: Her Secret

For this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Kelly Florentia, with the first 500 words from her romantic suspense novel, Her Secret.

Over to you Kelly…

Her Secret is the sequel to my second novel, No Way Back, and follows the ups and downs of girl-about-town, (well, woman-about-town, she’s forty-two), Audrey Fox. The book is set in affluent Muswell Hill, north London. It’s a romantic suspense novel with a thriller edge. It’s about the consequences of rushing into a marriage, secrets, lies, obsessions and….shoes! Although Her Secret is part of a series it can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel.

BLURB:

You know something.
You can’t share it.
You can’t discuss it.
You can’t stop thinking about it.

Audrey Fox never thought she’d tie the knot, especially after wasting eight years of her life with a man who couldn’t commit. But at the age of forty-two, fate throws her a lifeline and she finally has it all; gorgeous husband, thriving career, beautiful family and fabulous friends. Life couldn’t be better….until someone tells her a secret at a boozy dinner party; something that she wishes she could unhear; something that could wreck lives.
Burdened by the secret, Audrey’s perfect life begins to spiral out of control and the cracks begin to show. She longs to tell her husband but is fearful of the consequences; she’s desperate to discuss it with her friends, but her hands are tied. Then one morning, on impulse, Audrey does something drastic, but will she live to regret it? Because there’s no smoke without fire and everyone has secrets…don’t they?

FIRST 500 WORDS – HER SECRET

IF YOU COULD TURN BACK TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY? I stare at the swirly white writing set against the backdrop of a sunset in wry amusement. It’s just the type of thing you’d expect from Vicky, right up her street. I heart my sister-in-law’s Instagram post, just to show my support, notching up her likes to thirty-six. She’ll love that. I don’t bother adding a comment to the twenty-four already listed. I’m not into dwelling on the past, not anymore. I’ve let go–moved on. I’m a new woman now with a new name.

I slide my thumb up lazily, a picture of a fluffy cat fills the screen followed by a bouquet of flowers, then a photo of my gorgeous nephews with George, my brother, looking awful, eyes half closed, mouth ajar. George will have a fit when he sees it. I laugh as I pinch the screen to zoom in, but as I gaze at their familiar faces on my iPhone, curiosity burns in my chest like a hot rod. I flick back to Vicky’s meme and click on ‘View all 24 comments.’ A quick peek at what her followers think won’t hurt, will it?

Comment 1: I’d stay on at school – Did that and came away with two A levels, not a great help in my job as a junior web designer but nice to have all the same.

Comment 2: I would have had my kids later in life – Of no interest.

I slide my thumb up the screen. Comment 3 (from someone called xx_timetraveller_x99): I’d travel more – I’m not that keen on flying, to be honest. The furthest I’ve travelled is the four and a half hour flight to Cyprus, and that was only to visit my parents, because, much too my protest, they retired there earlier this year. But no sooner had I waved them off at Heathrow Airport blubbing hysterically like a five-year-old child abandoned by her parents, than I was sipping a vodka and tonic on a British Airways flight to Larnaca. Pathetic, I know, for a grown, married woman. What can I say? I miss them terribly.

Comment 4: I’d have started using anti-wrinkle cream as soon as I could read! – I snort at that one. I suppose we’d all like to turn the clock back where youth is concerned. Although, thanks to my mum’s genes, I’m often told I look much younger than my forty-two years. I certainly feel it.

I read the next few comments with a smile on my face. Vicky’s got some amusing friends, no wonder she spends so much time on social media, despite my brother’s protests. But it’s the eighth comment that catches my attention. That makes me sit bolt upright in my seat.

Comment 8: I wouldn’t have rushed into marriage. The writing becomes a blur and I have to blink a few times, then as I glance up at the road I cry out in horror. “Watch out!” My mobile phone…..

***

Buy a copy from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Secret-page-turning-sequel-Back-ebook/dp/B07CK9JHM1/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=books0c3-21&linkId=0ef3dd3a9d2e1d3c82daf2ed05fb72fb

BIO:

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. HER SECRET (2018) is her third novel and the sequel to NO WAY BACK (2017).

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before penning her debut The Magic Touch, relaunched and updated in 2019, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. To Tell a Tale or Two… is a collection of her short tales. In January 2017, her keen interest in health and fitness led to the release of Smooth Operator – a collection of twenty of her favourite smoothie recipes.

As well as writing, Kelly enjoys reading, running, drinking coffee, scoffing cakes, watching TV dramas and spending way too much time on social media. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Website: www.kellyflorentia.com

Twitter: @kellyflorentia

Facebook: @KellyFlorentiaAuthor

Instagram: @kellyflorentia

***

Many thanks for your opening lines, Kelly.

Happy reading everyone,

Jen xx

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