The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


End of the Month: Spooky October

It’s that time again! Yes- really- it is the end of the month again!

So, let’s hand over to Nell Peters to see what she’s uncovered for us this month.

Over to you Nell…

To paraphrase the late David Frost; hello, good morning/afternoon/evening, and welcome y’all. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is the last day of October, aka the day we glance in the mirror and girly-squeal at the scary Halloween mask reflected, only to realise it’s not a mask after all.

There is a film called 31st October – an Indian Hindi historical action drama, written and produced by Harry Sachdeva and directed by Shivaji Lotan Patil.

Based on fact, it focuses on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 31st October 1984 and stars Vir Das, Bollywood actor and comedian (although the funnies might have been in short supply in this script) and Soha Ali Khan, actress. The film had its official screening at the London Indian Film festival 18-20 July 2015, before going on general release fifteen months later.

Reaching the tender age of eighteen today is Willow Camille Reign Smith, who is professionally known as Willow, an American singer, actress and dancer and the daughter of Willard Carroll Smith Jnr and Jada Pinkett Smith. Her dad is of course better known as Will Smith, star of the TV series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and numerous award-winning films. In my end-of-September blog for Jenny, I mentioned Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 hypothesis that all living things and objects are just six degrees of separation away, so that a ‘friend of a friend’ chain can be made to connect any two in a maximum of six steps. Want to take a wild guess at the title of the film in which Smith played his first major dramatic role? A shiny new goldfish (bring your own bowl) for those who guessed it was Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

Frigyes Karinthy

On the very day that Willow was born, Kazuki Watanabe, Japanese musician, guitarist and lead songwriter of the visual kei rock band, Raphael, died aged just nineteen, from an overdose of sedatives. In case you were wondering (as was I) visual kei is a movement among Japanese musicians, characterised by varying amounts of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, similar to glam rock. The group were popular, with all their releases entering the top 40 of the Oricon (holding company of a corporate group that supplies statistics and information on music and the music industry in Japan) charts, but disbanded after Kazuki died.

Also breathing their last – though aged a slightly more reasonable eighty-five years – on this day in 2000, was American journalist and screenwriter, Ring Lardner Jnr (born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner), who was blacklisted by film studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. A member of the US communist party since 1937, he moved to Hollywood to be a publicist and script doctor before writing his own material. In 1947 he became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox for $2,000 a week (equivalent to approx $22,000 a week today). A short-lived claim to fame, however, as later that year he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to account for his left-wing views, two days after he was sacked by Fox. Along with nine others, collectively known as the Hollywood Ten, he cited the First Amendment and refused to answer their questions, but the HUAC and appeal court were having none of it; Lardner was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined $1,000 for contempt.

Nine of the Hollywood Ten

Blacklisted in Hollywood, he moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms for TV series, including (and this will interest Jenny, aficionado of all things Lincoln green) The Adventures of Robin Hood. After the blacklist was lifted in 1965, Lardner worked on scripts for some high profile films, including M*A*S*H (1970), which earned him an Academy Award (his second) for Best Adapted Screenplay. Perhaps as some sort of posthumous tribute, an episode of Robin Hood first broadcast by the Beeb in December 2007, was entitled Lardner’s Ring.

Sticking with 31/10/2000; that was the day Soyuz TM-31 became the first Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Launched from Russia, it carried the three members of Expedition 1 – Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, with American William Shepherd – who collectively formed the first long-term ISS crew.

Lowering the tone as usual, I thought you might like to know there are two toilets aboard the ISS, both of Russian design, which have waste and hygiene compartments using fan-driven suction systems. Astronauts first fasten themselves to the toilet seat, which is equipped with spring-loaded restraining bars to ensure a good seal. A lever operates a powerful fan and a suction hole opens to allow the air stream to carry waste away. Solid matter is collected in individual bags, which are deposited in an aluminium container, and stored for disposal when full. Liquid waste is evacuated via a hose connected to the front of the toilet, with anatomically-correct urine funnel adapters attached to the tube, so that men and women can use the same toilet. Urine is collected and channelled to the Water Recovery System, where it is recycled into drinking water. Fancy that. Actually, I’m not sure I do …

On the last day of October 1941, the destroyer USS Reuben James (named after a boatswain’s mate famous for his heroism in the First Barbary War) was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Iceland, killing more than one hundred sailors – the first US Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII. This was on the same day that, after fourteen years of chipping away, Mount Rushmore was completed.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a massive sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The monument took shape under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the sculpture’s 60’ high granite faces depicting presidents George Washington (1st), Thomas Jefferson (3rd), Theodore Roosevelt (25th) and Abraham Lincoln (16th). The site also features a museum with interactive exhibits.

It was historian Doane Robinson who came up with the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the hills to promote tourism. His initial plan was to feature American West heroes like Lewis and Clark (led the first expedition across the western terrain of the US), Red Cloud (one of the most important leaders of Oglala Lakota, part of the Great Sioux Nation), and William Frederick – Buffalo Bill – Cody (scout, bison hunter, and showman), but Borglum decided the sculpture should have a broader appeal and chose the four presidents.

Buffalo Bill

Another mount; the Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape happened forty-five years ago today, when three IRA volunteers flew out of the Dublin jail, aboard a hijacked Alouette II helicopter, which landed in the exercise yard. With IRA Chief of Staff, Seamus Twomey doing a five-stretch and senior republicans, J. B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon also being incarcerated in Mountjoy, the command structure was seriously depleted. So, a plan involving explosives that had already been smuggled into the prison (how?!) was hatched; a hole would be blown in a door (anyone else’s thoughts drifting to Michael Caine/The Italian Job? Just me, then) which would give the prisoners access to the exercise yard. From there, they would scale a rope ladder thrown over the exterior wall and bundle into a getaway car, driven by members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. Alas (or not!), the plan failed when the prisoners couldn’t gain access to the yard and the rope ladder was spotted.

Back to the drawing board, Plan B involved the helicopter, with pilot Captain Thompson Boyes flying under threat of having his head blown off by the firearms trained upon him. In the exercise yard prisoners were watching a football match, when shortly after 3:35 pm the helicopter swung in to land, with Kevin Mallon directing the pilot using semaphore. (Seriously? If I wrote that in a book, my editor would throw it out as way too far-fetched!) Prison officers on duty initially took no action because they believed the helicopter carried the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan, who presumably was in the habit of dropping in for tea. It was only when prisoners surrounded the eight guards present and fights broke out, that the officers realised an escape was in progress. Twomey, Mallon and O’Hagan boarded the helicopter and it took off – apparently in the confusion one officer shouted ‘Close the gates, close the f***ing gates!’ Doh! The escapees landed at a disused racecourse in Baldoyle, where they transferred to a hijacked taxi and were whisked away to safe houses.

Mallon enjoyed his freedom for the shortest time, as he was recaptured in December 1973, O’Hagan early in 1975 and Twomey in December 1977. In the aftermath, all IRA prisoners were transferred to maximum security Portlaoise Prison, and to discourage any further getaway attempts the perimeter was guarded by troops from the Irish Army. And shutting the stable door etc, wires were erected over the prison yard to prevent helicopters landing in future – so presumably poor Paddy Donegan had to get the bus with the rest of the hoi polloi.

On the home front, the OH and #3 son returned safe and sound from their jolly in South Africa, vowing to go back next year and take #4 with them. Fine by me, as I really enjoyed the peace! On their penultimate night they’d booked an hotel near Cape Town on line and had a long drive through filthy weather/bad visibility/electric storms to get there, relying heavily on sat nav. Arriving very late, son gave his name – Piers – at reception and was told they were expected. Shown to a sumptuous twin, with patio doors opening onto a veranda and the beach, they were much impressed by the value they were getting for their money – until they went to pay the bill next morning and were charged considerably more than they had been quoted. They were in the wrong place and the booking had in fact been made by someone called Pierre who didn’t turn up, his travels presumably thwarted by the weather conditions. What are the chances? I gather OH and #3 weren’t overly worried, as it was such a great room.

#3 has since done a lot of to-ing and fro-ing UK/India/Thailand and it’s even more difficult than normal to keep up with where he’s currently hanging his hat. He has some more leave due early in November and will hopefully be around for our annual combined Halloween/Bonfire Night party, delayed for his attendance in his guise as everyone’s favourite uncle.

Favourite Uncle!

I have sold the family home in Twickenham to my parents’ neighbour, who offered my dad an obscene amount of money many years ago and when refused, bought the house next door. It’s strange to think that it will no longer be ‘our’ house after so long, but now that my mother is in residential care (she’s not been thrown out yet!), it’s impossible to justify paying those whopper fees, plus meet the expenses entailed in keeping a large, empty house going.

I say empty, but of course the place is filled with possessions accrued during sixty-odd years of marriage – including a zillion dust-collecting figurines of varying value, so beloved by my mother. We have taken a few favourite pieces to decorate her room in the home, along with family photographs etc, but that has hardly made a dent. What does one do with so many complete dinner services, tea sets and ornate crystal glasses for any drink you care to name? Some of the furniture will be sold, some given away – it may take a while to clear the place! Then there’s the garages and outbuildings, the garden …

Yikes! Best make a start!

Thanks, Jen and toodles everyone! NP

***

Good luck with all that sorting and moving hun!

Thanks again for a fabulous blog.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 


Opening Lines: Karen Ankers’ The Crossing Place

Another week has flown by, and it’s ‘Opening Lines’ time once more!

This week I’m delighted to welcome Karen Ankers to my blog. Why not grab a cuppa, put your feet up for five minutes while you join our chat and enjoy some fabulous first words.

What inspired you to write your book?

My original inspiration was a book by Brian Weiss, called Only Love Is Real, where he examines the idea of love transcending lifetimes.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

All my characters have something in them from people I know, or have observed.  I do a lot of people watching!  The barefoot man in the opening scene of the book was inspired by a young man I found in a similar situation, many years ago.

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

The book is really Laura’s journey towards self-acceptance, so I had to explore her character, rather than do research.  It is set in Chester, where I grew up, although I did have to check on some of the details from the sections set in the eighties.

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

I don’t really have a preferred point of view.  It depends what works for the story.  The Crossing Place is third person, but my current project, The Stone Dancer, is in first person.

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

A bit of both.  My first draft is never planned.  But once that’s written and I know the basic shape of the story, I will then write a plan to work from, to help with structure.  I don’t usually stick to it, though!

What is your writing regime?

I write every day, usually in the afternoons.  I started my writing career as a poet, and I will usually start by writing a poem, as a way of loosening up the creative muscles.  Then I work on the novel.  I try and write 1,000 words a day, but I know better than to force it.  I’ve usually got other projects on the go – poems, plays and short stories – so if I’m struggling, I will work on one of those.

What excites you the most about your book?

I’m really excited by the reviews it is getting!  It’s brilliant to know that other people are enjoying it.  What I really enjoyed about the story is Laura’s realization that she is not damaged if she chooses to see life differently from other people.

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

Ok…D.H. Lawrence would be an interesting companion!  Jeremy Corbyn would be great company, although I imagine he’d have a few arguments with D.H.L!  And Robin Williamson.  He could just sing and tell stories to keep everyone calm.  I’d like some non-human companions as well, if that’s possible?  Lots of dogs and cats!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

My new novel, The Stone Dancer, will hopefully be out next year, if all goes well.  It’s set in North Wales and has echoes of Celtic myths.  I didn’t think I would be able to write another novel – the characters in The Crossing Place had such a grip on me I was worried they wouldn’t let go!  But they did, and it’s fine.

***

First 500 words

Laura’s breath caught in her throat as her foot slipped at the top of the worn, icy steps.  Her hand scraped the rough sandstone wall as she grasped for the metal handrail and missed.  She landed sprawled across a heap of clothes that lay across the pavement.  Dazed, she lay still, mentally examining her body for damage.  Nothing seemed to be broken.  When she tried to get to her feet, the pile of clothes moved, and she screamed.

As she scrambled away to a safe distance, the face of a man turned slowly towards her.  Pale, unshaven, his mouth cracked and blistered.  Greasy curls of black hair stuck out from beneath a grubby green and yellow striped hat.  Wearing a thin grey coat, he sat like a broken doll on the frozen ground, leaning against the low wall that led to the busy Kale Yard car park.   Tired turquoise eyes struggled to focus.  Long legs lay limp across the pavement, his bare feet blue and swollen.

It was the first Sunday in February and winter was unwilling to loosen its icy grip.  People pale and pinched with cold stared at the pavement as they hurried to their various destinations.  Carefully wrapped in bright, warm clothes, they walked past the man with no shoes and the fallen woman without a glance.  Laura felt her face turning red as she realized they thought he and she were both drunk.  She tried to guess his age.  A little older than her, perhaps.  In his thirties.

As she stared, he frowned. “Sorry.  I’ll get out of your way.”

He tried to stand, wincing with the effort of trying to move cold, cramped limbs.

Laura wondered if she ought to help.

“It’s ok,” she said hurriedly.  “Stay there.”  If he fell, she wouldn’t have the strength to hold him.

Her side ached where her ribs had bounced along the edge of the steps.  A glimmer of colour distracted her as a butterfly landed on the snow-lined wall.  Fragile crimson wings with blue circles that looked like eyes.

The man stretched out a pale hand towards it.

“You’re in the wrong place, mate,” he murmured.

Laura gazed across the road towards the hardware store where she worked.  The shortcut behind the cathedral onto the city walls and down the steps into Frodsham Street had seemed a good idea after a dawdling bus ride.  Now her coat was torn, and a bruise was forming on her left hand.  She pulled herself to her feet and looked at her watch.  If she went now, she would only be a few minutes late for her shift.   But the more she tried not to look at the man’s swollen, bare feet, the more she saw the pale blue of skin deprived of blood.  Brushing the dirt and snow from her coat, she opened her green leather handbag to reach for her purse, but then snapped it shut. This man needed more than money.  His head had dropped onto his chest…

***

Blurb 

A desperate decision made by a young homeless couple has far-reaching consequences.  Years later, Laura’s life is disrupted by a series of unsettling dreams.  The man who appears to offer her a way of understanding these dreams is charming and plausible, but has a questionable past.  When danger comes from an unexpected source, Laura has to deal not only with very real threats in the present, but also doubts and fears from the past.

Buy Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crossing-Place-Karen-Ankers-ebook/dp/B078THPLYJ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540071292&sr=8-1&keywords=karen+ankers

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crossing-Place-Karen-Ankers/dp/1948200708/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1540071340&sr=8-2&keywords=karen+ankers

https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Place-Karen-Ankers-ebook/dp/B078THPLYJ?crid=37C7SY770K58K&keywords=karen+ankers&qid=1540071391&sprefix=karen+ankers%2Caps%2C569&sr=8-1&ref=sr_1_1

 

Bio

Karen Ankers is a poet, novelist and playwright who lives in Anglesey.  Her poetry has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and her recently published poetry collection, One Word At A Time, was described by poet/performer Laura Taylor as “a collection that shines with honesty and integrity”.  Her one-act plays have been performed in the UK, USA, Australia and Malaysia.  Her debut novel, The Crossing Place was published in January 2018 and is currently receiving excellent reviews, being described as “gripping”, “compelling”, “captivating” and “brilliant”.  

https://sites.google.com/site/karenankers/

https://www.facebook.com/karenankers37/?ref=settings

***

Many thanks for such a great blog, Karen.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Opening Lines; By Virtue Fall by Carrie Elks

‘Opening Lines’ time is here!

This week I’m welcoming romance writer, Carrie Elks, to the blog with her brand new release, By Virtue Fall.

Over to you Carrie…

First of all many thanks to Jenny for featuring me on your blog. I was excited because as an author I spend hours trying to get the first few pages of a book completely right. 500 words isn’t a lot – for me it probably works out at a third of a scene – but it SHOULD be enough to engage the reader, give them a bit of information about the characters and set the scene for the rest of the book.

The extract below is from my newest release – By Virtue Fall. It’s the fourth book in a series (The Shakespeare Sisters) but can be read as a standalone romance. It’s set in a small town on the East Coast of America (think Gilmore Girls meets the Chesapeake Bay), and features a single mother called Juliet who’s trying to juggle a divorce, bringing up a six-year-old daughter, and getting her new floristry business on its feet.

As if she doesn’t have enough to contend with, a new man moves into the vacant house next door. Ryan Sutherland is a travel photographer, a single father of a six year old boy, and is so attractive Juliet finds him impossible to ignore.

Here are the first 500 words.

‘But I’ve always dreamed of yellow roses,’ the bride said, leaning forward. ‘Yellow roses mixed with white lilies, hand tied with string.’

‘Yellow is very vulgar, Melanie,’ Mrs Carlton, the older woman replied, waving her hand as if to dismiss her future daughter-in-law. ‘At the Smithson wedding they had peach flowers. They were very elegant and tasteful.’ She gave a nod at the end, as if that was her final word.

Juliet chewed the top of her pen lid, watching the two women debating their wedding flower preferences. Since she’d started her florist business a year before, it had become a familiar scene. Sometimes she felt more like a therapist than anything else.

Pulling the blue pen lid from her mouth, Juliet scribbled on the pad in front of her. ‘You know, yellow and peach roses can look fantastic together,’ she suggested, quickly sketching out a picture of a bouquet. ‘We did something similar at the Hatherly wedding in the summer, and it looked divine.’ She leaned in towards Mrs Carlton, as if they were bosom buddies. ‘And you know how discerning Eleanor Hatherly is.’

She was name-dropping but she didn’t care. Though she was an outsider, she’d lived in Maryland long enough to know that in these circles snobbery was still a thing. Hell, she’d been married to one of the biggest snobs in Shaw Haven, after all.

Was still married to him, she corrected herself. For now, at least. Thanks to  Maryland divorce laws, she and Thomas had to live separately for a year before their divorce could be finalised. Six months in, and she was already counting the days.

Melanie looked up at Juliet, a flash of hope in her eyes. ‘I’d love a peach and yellow bouquet.’

Patting her on the hand, Mrs Carlton smiled. ‘I knew we’d be able to agree on this. It’s the small details that are so important. You’ll learn that when you’re a Carlton, too.’

Grabbing her tablet, Juliet scrolled through her catalogue to show them the different arrangements, helping them narrow down the choices until they found the perfect one.

Welcome to married life. A world where you’ll run yourself ragged pleasing your husband, your in-laws and even your friends, while putting all your hopes and dreams on the backburner.

Juliet found her thoughts drifting back to her own wedding. She’d met Thomas when she was studying Fine Arts at Oxford Brookes University, and he’d been a Rhodes Scholar, an American studying at the more prestigious Oxford University. It had been a meeting of pure chance – she’d been working in a local florist at the weekends to try and eke out her student loan, in charge of deliveries in the local area. As she was walking up the path to Christ Church College, dodging the students and tourists who were admiring the fountain in the middle of the green, she’d been practically run over by the suave American post-grad who was running late for dinner.

He’d swept her off her…

WHERE TO BUY BY VIRTUE FALL

By Virtue Fall was released last week on October 11th – and is available to buy right now!

Amazon UK ➜  https://amzn.to/2AcOP2h

iBooks UK ➜  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/by-virtue-fall/id1363226299?mt=11

Kobo UK ➜  https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/by-virtue-fall-1

 

AUTHOR BIO

Carrie Elks writes contemporary romance with a sizzling edge. Her first book, Fix You, has been translated into eight languages and made a surprise appearance on Big Brother in Brazil. Luckily for her, it wasn’t voted out. Carrie lives with her husband, two lovely children and a larger-than-life black pug called Plato. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found baking, drinking an occasional (!) glass of wine, or chatting on social media.

***

Huge thanks Carrie. Good luck with your novel.

Come back next week to read another 500 words.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 


Imagine Retreating

Last week, in the beautiful autumn sunshine, the first Imagine writing retreat to took place at Northmoor House, Exmoor – and what a week it was!

With 6 full-week guests,  4 part-week visitors and 2 very special guests (FaberFaber novelist Kate Griffin and Bloosmbury children’s writer, Dan Metcalf), it was nonstop creativity- be it writing, thinking, reading, tutoring or drawing.

Most of all, it was fantastic to be with so many talented folk in such incredible surroundings.

Our days were split into mealtimes (delicious food was provided by the brilliant Eve- caterer extraordinaire), optional one-to-one tutor sessions with myself or my Imagine partner in crime, Alison Knight, and free time to write.

The most important thing Alison and I wanted to provide at Northmoor, was the freedom to do as much, or as little as each guest wanted. Space to simply be.

Here are just a few photographs of the house, our guests, and a glimpse of the extensive grounds. (With thanks to our guests for sharing these pictures).

Dan Metcalf

Kate Griffin

If you’re sorry you missed out, then keep an eye on the Imagine website. The 2019 retreat date will be posted in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who came along.

It was a joy.

Jenny x


Guest post from Phyllis Newman: The Vanishing Bride of Northfield House

I have a great blog for you today. Phyllis Newman is here explaining her motivation and how she satisfies her desire to kill…

Why not grab a slice of cake and a cuppa, and have a read?

 

What could be more natural than writing murder mysteries after a long career in finance and human resources? It satisfies in some small way my desire to kill someone!

I spent many decades at a large Midwestern university steeped in the various whims and vagaries of self-centered academics. As an administrator, I witnessed resentment, jealousy, fear, love, compassion, and hate (but no murders, fortunately! Not that promotion and tenure isn’t something to die for.) These emotions form the basis of all motives, the rationale for what we do in any walk of life.

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. A motive is what leads to all acts of love and devotion as well as every crime.

At the heart of every story you find motivation. Understanding one’s fellow man is essential if you are to write about people believably, for to reveal the rationale behind their behavior is to make them live and breathe. Real world interactions with people—especially those who are dealing with difficult situations—can yield a plethora of revelations about humanity. Every writer must search within themselves to find truth about their characters, and to reflect what they know, to write what they have experienced themselves. Yes, that old chestnut, write what you know! (It only now occurs to me that given the subject matter of THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE, this makes me look like a pretty creepy person.)

Motivation—whether to keep secrets, fall in love, or murder someone—defines the action in any novel but is most particularly important in a mystery. As a writer I must create events and portray thought processes that jumpstart and maintain the action. Without understanding what motivates them, your characters remain flat and unknowable to the reader. A connection with the characters is essential for a reader to identify with and appreciate the story.

 In this newly published novel, my main character Anne Chatham ends up in the English countryside typing scholarly manuscripts of an agricultural nature. What gets her there and into the ensuing intrigues is determined by the sweep of history following The Great War, the social and political upheaval of the times, and a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and forbidden love.

In THE VANISHED BRIDE, I believe I have delivered a fun-to-read ghost story. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and spirits who make the action lively. The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of supernatural spookiness and gothic horror.

All the characters in The Vanished Bride are haunted, either by disappointment, the unresolved past, unmet desire, or guilt. They are motivated by the same desires, love, hatred, jealousy, and a whole panoply of human emotion, making them like people everywhere. This is a psychological thriller where the details unfold one by one, death by death.

Extract:

My dance partner bowed with the élan befitting a king’s guardsman and, with a little smile, took his leave.

I turned to Martha. “Mrs. Langtry, how nice to see you.”

She gave me a blank stare. “Have we met?” She balanced a plate in her lap littered with the remnants of an artichoke-olive canapé.

The other women, who nibbled on smoked salmon on toast, watched us closely.

“Yes, but it’s been a while. I’m Anne. I work with Mr. Wellington.”

“How are you, dear?” She looked past me into the crowd. “Have a seat and talk to an old lady.” She made a shooing gesture to the tiny woman in black sitting next to her.

The little woman shot me a look of disdain before vacating her chair.

Martha opened an elaborate fan and fluttered it before her face.

Feeling warm, I wished for a fan of my own. But what I really wanted was a mask to hide behind. The scarlet dress made my desired invisibility impossible. I scanned the guests and spied Thomas again, but not his brother.

“Have you seen the bride?” said Martha.

“What?” I asked, assuming one of the revelers was dressed as a bride.

“Just lovely,” said Martha. “All those flowers.”

I searched among the tumult of guests, both the originals and their doubles reflected in the mirrored doors.

“Eleanor has never looked more beautiful,” Martha said, beaming.

I was engulfed by a wave of pure pity. Martha was at another party in another time.

She eyed me with disapproval. “That dress, dear. I hope you don’t think ill of me if I suggest it is most inappropriate.” She shook her head. “Quite improper.”

I felt a stab of humiliation. My confidence wavered. But I called upon Eleanor’s supporting presence and decided to humor my elderly companion. After all, her suffering trumped any discomfort I might feel.

“I must apologize, Mrs. Langtry.” I bowed my head with mock contrition. “I’m a simple country girl and didn’t know what I should wear.”

She laughed. “There, there, my dear. Don’t be disheartened. No one’s looking at you, anyway. They’ll all be looking at her.”

“Of course!” I agreed. “Do you need anything, Mrs. Langtry? May I get you a glass of water?” I touched her hand.

She jerked away from me and snarled, “Don’t do that. How dare you touch me!”

My face stung as I looked about at our companions. No one seemed to notice that Martha was unstable. I said as softly as possible, “Would you like to go to your room? Lie down for a while?”

“Why should I? I’ll miss all the fun.”

I was wondering how much fun she could possibly be having when she turned to me, leaning close, and whispered like a conspirator.

“You forget,” she said. “I know. I know everything. I saw what really happened.” She drew herself up with smug hauteur. “I’m telling.”

Telling what? She might have been thinking of Eleanor’s wedding—or another event tangled in her jumbled mind.

Martha closed her fan. We sat in silence, peering at the assembled throng as they paused with the music.

A hush fell.

For a moment, anticipation hung in the air.

Then an excited murmur ran through the room.

All heads turned towards the entrance. Charlotte stood at the top of the steps. She was dressed as an ethereal moth. A shimmering white gown rippled across her body, falling from the high collar at her throat to the floor. Her hair was hidden under a close-fitting, beaded skullcap. A pair of gossamer wings with fluttering ribbons completed the effect. The translucent fabric revealed every alluring curve of her body, unaltered by any foundation garments. She looked like a silken goddess, lit from within by moonlight.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause at her appearance, and Charlotte beamed a glorious smile at her adoring admirers. Cries of appreciation bounced about the ballroom like reflected light.

It was only then I saw Owen. Dressed like Edgar Allen Poe, he wore a close-fitting black suit with a silk bow tied loosely around a high white collar. With his dark, tousled hair and solemn expression, he most assuredly recalled the famous poet.

He stood at the edge of the dancers, his eyes devouring Charlotte.

Something inside me withered and withdrew. With Charlotte’s arrival in her diaphanous costume, I felt sure I looked garish and overdone. Whoever or whatever infused me with confidence had fled.

Perhaps this was just what she’d planned. Her image was that of heavenly angel, otherworldly sylph, ethereal sprite. Mine was smoking demon with my tumble of black hair and crimson gown. I might as well have been holding a pitchfork.

As I watched Owen, who looked mesmerized by Charlotte’s silvery figure, a young man appeared before me, extending his hand. I rose without thinking, without seeing his face, and we spun awkwardly about the floor. A jazz number gripped the crowd, and another man stepped forwards and pulled me into the circle of revelers. I moved to unfamiliar music, rocking and bouncing, ungainly and clumsy, back and forth and around.

Drums pounded and horns blared in propulsive syncopation. I continued to dance and dance, unable to catch the tempo. The beat of the music pulsed throughout the room, the rhythmical throb vibrating the floor, and we swayed and dipped through the whirl of sparkling color and grinning faces. I feared I was making a spectacle of myself, but felt trapped in the crush of dancers.

Charlotte drifted through the mob like a cloud, bestowing kisses, dancing with one admirer, and laughing with another. I heard a babble of praise follow her whenever the music paused.

Everything tilted for a second when a waltz seized the room and rolled over the dancers. Another man took my hand and we eddied and swirled, round and round. Yet another man cut in. I hardly acknowledged my partners, barely felt their hand in mine, the other resting at my waist.

 *** 

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  ; or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Thanks for such a great blog Phyllis,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Retreating

It’s time for the Imagine Writing Retreat!

Based in the beautiful Victorian Manor of Northmoor on Exmoor, a small group of writers will be joining myself and my fellow ‘Imaginer’ Alison Knight, for 5 days of writing time, chatter, author talks and – very probably- wine sippage.

I’m banking on being considerably fitter on my return (there are lots of beautiful walks and plenty of stairs up to my attic bedroom)- and, hopefully, I’ll be in a position where my next novel is plotted, my latest proofing commission is complete and all my student workshops for the rest of 2018 are drafted. Do you think maybe I’m asking too much?

Our prime concern however, is to make sure that every single person attending has a fantastic time! We have two amazing guests (Dan Metcalf and Kate Griffin) a quiz, optional one-to-one advice sessions and lots of biscuits. What more could a writer ask?

While I’m on Exmoor the chances of decent Wi-Fi is slim, so there won’t be an Opening Lines blog this week.

If you try to contact me, then please be patient. I will get back to you asap.

See you on the other side…

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 


« Previous Entries Next Entries »


The Romance Reviews
© 2018 Jenny Kane | Site Designed and Maintained by Writer Marketing Services