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

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Opening Lines: Sin as Red as Scarlet by Janet Few

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

Blurb

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

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

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

First 500 words…

Prologue Bess’ Story

25 August 1682

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

***

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

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

For more information and buy links visit

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

***

 

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Janet.

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

Robin Hood and The Outlaw’s Ransom

With Outlaws Justice – the fourth book in The Folville Chronicles – in the final stages of editing, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back at the beginning of my historical crime/adventure/romance series.

The Outlaw’s Ransom was my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.

Blurb

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart.  Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.

It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.

rh-and-the-monk

Extract

…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’

Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.

‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.

‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’

Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’

Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.

‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.

‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.

‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’

Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’

Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’

***

The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death.

lytell-geste

If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available in the UK for your Kindle here –

https://jennykane.co.uk/historical-fiction/the-outlaws-ransom/ 

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx

 

From Raisins to Jigsaw Island: Lynne McVernon

I’m delighted to welcome fellow author and friend, Lynne McVernon to my place today, to give us an insight into her life and her two novels, Terrible with Raisins and Jigsaw Island.

Grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and have a read.

Over to you Lynne…

One of my husband, Martyn’s, fondest claims is that he’s slept with a woman who hugged a man who slept with Marilyn Monroe. Quite a glamorous three degrees of separation but not strictly true. Reassuringly, the woman he refers to sleeping with is me. The other man is playwright Arthur Miller. And Arthur Miller, as you may know, was Miss Monroe’s third husband. But I didn’t so much hug him as run smack into him while lost in the backstage corridors at the National Theatre. He was a very tall man, I remember, and quite laid back about the collision.

It’s one of many theatrical anecdotes amassed over 25 years’ work encompassing a range of activities from sweeping the stage to directing. As the daughter of a playwright, writing and theatre were instilled in me from birth. So my career was one of director and writer, directing devised, co-written and self-penned material plus everything from Ayckbourn to Shakespeare in regional rep, the Young Vic and the National. I mounted a writers’ festival in Tayside, and founded a young people’s creative writing/performance company, Fable Productions, in Berkshire. With drama students, I devised/co-wrote a complex play, A Country Wedding, based on the life of Peter Breughel, which played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 1985. I also adapted three Dickens novels for Guildford School of Acting, possibly my favourite experiences.

So why am I not doing it these days? Why novels instead of plays? Theatre is a very demanding profession, with periods of unemployment, constantly changing conditions and steep challenges. To be honest, the 70s to 90s weren’t that welcoming to female directors. Very few survived. I’m glad to note women’s opportunities in the field have changed considerably. But for me, back then, it all became too much. Again, over that period, mental health was given comparatively short shrift. I struggled with bottomless bouts of despair for many years. Once, I took a rehearsal while convinced my head was changing shape. At least twice, I went down to a dress size 8 – and I’m 5’ 9”. All that, and a crumbled marriage, made me realise I couldn’t live with it any more.

Serial jobs supported me to write. Some, apart from teaching, which I love, could be fairly dispiriting as I felt like a ‘stranger in a strange land’. Publishing my first novel in 2013 was the first project I’d completed for years. A friend vanished for a long weekend on her fortieth birthday to ‘leave behind all the crap of the last forty years’ and start again. ‘Great idea’ I thought, and, being on the way to fifty myself, wrote about a woman who tries to escape her fiftieth birthday in Greece. Et voilá, Terrible With Raisins. It squeaked in just before I reached my sixtieth. It’s taken seven years to produce the second novel, ‘Jigsaw Island’.

I must be improving as a writer because I’ve had a couple of prizewinning short stories and may even publish an anthology. Still humming and hah-ing on that one. The next novel is probably halfway there. Three others are festering in drawers. Jenny Kane has been a great mentor and, as far as I’m concerned, friend. I am in awe of her output!

Martyn is a wonderful supporter of my writing, an exacting proofreader and has worked with me on the cover designs for the release of Jigsaw Island and the re-release of Terrible With Raisins.

Writing is my passion, a compulsion and a therapy. It’s also saved my life. I tend to have more good days than bad, but lockdown has been difficult for everyone and the gremlins surface. If you’ve been reticent about your depression or anxiety , or both – they’re fairly unpleasant companions – maybe it’s time to share. Do if you can. And if you’d like to talk to me – I’m here to listen – and I mean listen. lynne@lynnemcvernon.com

Website: https://lynnemcvernon.com/

Facebook: Lynne McVernon – Author Twitter: @lynnemcvernon

One anecdote before I go. I was once ‘on the book’ (prompt book) for a production of Macbeth in Worthing. One night, Lady Macbeth walked on for the sleepwalking scene, stopped, then shuffled off backwards, candle and all. My heart stopped. Almost immediately, she reappeared and the scene went ahead as chillingly as it should. Afterwards, the actress confessed that she’d gone three paces on, remembered she was wearing flip flops, thought ‘Lady Macbeth wouldn’t wear flip flops’ went back to the wings and kicked them off. She was my dear friend, the late Shirley Stelfox, whom you may, perhaps, remember as (many years later) Edna Birch in Emmerdale.

The novels: Paperbacks are available mid-July 2020.

BLURB – TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – Growing up at last?

Clair knew what was coming, ‘…something pretty terrible…Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in i.t’. From ‘The Middle or Blue Period’, Dorothy Parker

There’s a big birthday looming. Clair tries hiding from it on the Aegean island of Symi, Greece. Inevitably it catches up with her. But so do a couple of possibilities, interesting, attractive ones…Encouraged, she departs the Greek idyll to face the reality of her demanding daughter, her hypercritical mother, and the special person in Scotland who keeps her sane. But there’s a secret she keeps from them all. In the coming year, she will swallow a lot of raisins, sweet and sour, in England, Scotland and Florida. She will discover plenty – forget a few things (it was a BIG birthday), and, reluctantly, reveal her secret. Mother, daughter, niece, lover, reluctant teacher and neglected artist – will the real Clair Harkin please grow up?

Read a chapter here  Buy eBook

BLURB JIGSAW ISLAND – Know who your friends are… (released 30 June 2020)

On a holiday escape to the Greek islands, Annie Buchanan discovers what – and then who – is missing from her life…

When single mother, Annie, and son Jude take a break away from Scotland to stay with her brother and friends on the Greek island of Symi, they find the warmth and support they need. As they ease into the relaxed rhythm of life there, old and new acquaintances change the course of their vacation. Whether it’s for better or worse, Annie will discover when she visits the island of Leros. There she may be able to put together some of the missing pieces in her life and learn who her friends really are. But she cannot be prepared for some uncomfortable truths about the past and the dramatic way in which they will change the present for her… and Jude.

Read a chapter here   Buy Ebook 

***

Many thanks Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

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

Here’s the Blurb

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

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

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

2016

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

Here are the buy links-

BURIED TREASURE

mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE

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

author.to/GILLIALLAN

Contact Gilli at

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

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

https://twitter.com/gilliallan

Bio

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wishing you every success with your novel, Gilli.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

The Power of Three: New and Exclusive Robin of Sherwood story

There are many questions an author gets asked on a regular basis.

The top three are-

  1. Where do you get your ideas from?
  2. Have you done everything you write about? (Usually reserved for my erotica books – and no, of course I haven’t!)
  3. How do you actually write a book?

I can add one other question to this list- and I would say it would rank at number 2 on my ‘most asked questions’ list.

When are you going to write another Robin of Sherwood story?

Answer – just done one!

I’m delighted to announce that the lovely folk at Spiteful Puppet (with permission from Chinbeard Books and the Richard Carpenter estate), have commissioned me to write the very first Robin of Sherwood story, that isn’t based on a television episode or an audio recording.

Yep- it’s the very first standalone novel.

Blurb

Why had Herne called Marion to his cavern and not Robin? And why was she afraid to tell him what the Lord of the Trees had shown her?

Forced to face his personal nightmares and his darkest secret, the Hooded Man needs his friends more than ever, but the outlaws are afraid… and no one knows who to trust.

To make matters worse, an old enemy is stalking Sherwood – but which one?

***

It will be available from 22nd May.

You can pre-order from…

The Power of Three (Paperback)

Hope you like it!

Happy reading,

Jen x

Opening Lines with Jules Hayes: The Walls We Build

I’m delighted to welcome Jules Hayes to this week’s Opening Lines, with her new novel, The Walls We Build.

Over to you Jules…

Thank you for having my new book, and me, over on your blog, Jenny.

The Walls We Build is my debut historical novel and written under my pseudonym, Jules Hayes. I also write contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

The Walls We Build, part love story, part thriller, and part mystery, is a sweeping generational dual timeline tale and set in the period between 1928 and 2004. The narrative boldly draws on the figure of Winston Churchill, who takes a small but important cameo role in this labyrinthine story of three childhood friends.

I was inspired to write the story after seeing a photograph of Winston Churchill – Britain’s pugnacious but passionate wartime Prime Minister – addressing battle-weary troops in Libya, North Africa, and only days after the Allied victory in the desert war campaign.

This powerful image compelled me to write a story about one of the men listening to Mr Churchill’s victory speech that day in April 1943. The idea took root, and once I began to write the story became so very clear, as did the characters, settings, and the themes. I wanted to write a mystery, I wanted to write a love story, I wanted to write about relationships, and I wanted Winston Churchill in a cameo role, mirroring my main male protagonist – Frank: An ordinary man and an extraordinary man. How do their paths continue cross over the years?

Blurb

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home, and reverberating through three generations comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.

Three Friends

Two Secrets

One Hidden Life

Growing up around Churchill’s estate, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained. Following Frank’s death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past.

On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on Richard’s too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?

For readers who enjoy the work of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Lucinda Riley, Katherine Webb and Juliet West.

***

First 500 words…

~ Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge

1.

Frank

February 2002

Frank lifted his head a fraction and listened to his wife shuffling around in the bedroom above. She was keeping out of his way, just as she’d been doing for more years than he wanted to admit. He slumped further into the armchair that she’d placed strategically so he could look outside, and not bother her. With his chin resting on his chest, he scrutinised his useless body, knowing he’d never achieve the miraculous recovery his old employer had managed fifty years before.

Finally, Frank turned, his line of vision settling on the glass panels of the patio doors, and through those, towards the silver birch that stood as an arboreal chandelier in the harsh morning frost. He clocked the untidiness of the garden; bushes not pruned, last summer’s bedding plants long dead, and the grass was a bloody mess. He hated to think what was happening down at his allotment, although Richard would happily sort it, the garden too. Frank would love to see more of his favourite grandson, but instead, here he was, confined to this one room, hearing the familiar creak of footsteps on the stairs as Hilda made her way down. He could gauge every one of her movements around the house, always knowing exactly where she was. Now, she’d be loitering on the other side of the sitting room door. Waiting for him to die.

He should call Richard. Do it now. There were secrets he needed to share with his grandson. Where was his mobile? On the table in the hall? Frank pushed himself into standing, but his knees collapsed as a sharp pain ricocheted throughout the front of his skull. Excruciating. Just like the last time, although this was worse. Much. He couldn’t see his wife but sensed she’d crossed the threshold into the room; he tried to call out. No sound came from his lips and in the lull that came before the real tornado he managed to move his head. There she stood, red hair now white and wispy, her face expressionless. He tried again, tried to say the words, Richard and phone. She turned away.

Frank didn’t want this to be the last thing he saw. The back of a woman he’d once loved so much but whom he’d come to despise. Instead, he found what he wanted to see, the full and vibrant image of a life half shared and of a woman so different to his wife, in every conceivable way.

2

Florence

Westerham, Kent

May Day 1928

With her legs splayed out and her back leant against the biggest oak in the village, which was conveniently situated at the rear of the church and away from prying eyes, Florence finished the last puff of her cigarette. She placed it on the parched ground and used the scuffed heel of her boot to extinguish it properly. The countryside’s like a tinderbox, her dad had told her; the last thing she wanted was to start a fire …

***

Buy Links:

Amazon: getbook.at/TheWallsWeBuild

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-walls-we-build/jules-hayes/9781916338005

Biography

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules Hayes’ second historical novel, which is due for publication in late 2020 is another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

***

Website: http://www.jules-hayes.com

Social Media:

Twitter: @JulesHayes6

http://www.twitter.com/JulesHayes6

Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/JulesHayesAuthor

Instagram: JulesHayes6

http://www.instagram.com/juleshayes6

Writing thrillers as JA Corrigan.

Website: http://www.jacorrigan.com

Twitter: @juliannwriter

http://www.twitter.com/juliannwriter

Facebook Author Page: JACorrigan

http://www.facebook.com/jacorrigan

Instagram: corriganjulieann

http://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann

***

Many thanks Jules,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Dark Magic by Tom Williams

This week’s Opening Lines is just perfect for Halloween.
Please welcome Tom Williams, with the first 500 words of his latest novella, Dark Magic.
Over to you Tom…
Here’s a Halloween treat – the first 500 words of my novella, Dark Magic. It’s a big change from the historical fiction I usually write. I’m not sure quite how to describe it. It’s part thriller, part supernatural horror story (don’t worry, it’s not scary), and part (I hope) comedy. It grew out of an evening spent with a bunch of magicians and a few drinks and it just sort of grew by itself. It’s being published today, as Halloween seems a particularly appropriate launch date. I hope you love it.
Blurb
Two magic shows: the Maestros of Magic touring the country, playing provincial theatres; the Carnival of Conjurors successful in the West End. When the Maestros learn that the Conjurors are using real magic – Black Magic – to do their tricks they decide that they must use their own, distinctly unmagical, stage skills to stop them. Soon people are dying on stage – but can the Maestros really beat a team that has the devil on their side?
FIRST 500 WORDS
“Baby’s blood?”

“That’s what it says. Mix in baby’s blood and use that to mark the pentagram.”

There were six of them, and Claudia looked from face to face waiting for someone to say that this was a ridiculous idea. She could, she supposed, have said it herself, but it was not as if anybody would have listened. Nobody ever listens to the magician’s beautiful assistant.

In fairness, they didn’t exactly rush to agree with the plan either. When Jerry spoke, he had the decency to sound embarrassed.

“Does it have to be a human baby?”

Jerry’s role in their conjuring show was to do the tricks that appealed mainly to children. It brought in family audiences, but the other magicians secretly – or, to be honest, not that secretly – despised him. Still, Claudia thought that one or two might have taken his side here, but Daniel didn’t allow time for any of them to join Jerry in questioning his plan.

“It’s true that it doesn’t specify human.” Daniel smiled. It was an unconvincing smile and Claudia thought he did it mainly to show off his teeth. They were quite startlingly white, though marred, in her opinion, by rather over-developed canines. “But human seems fairly clear from the context.”

“Well, could we try it with something else first?”

Daniel’s smile vanished. It was as if someone had flipped a switch. Where there had been a big white smile, all you noticed now was a very square jaw and full, but rather sulky, lips. And, if you raised your eyes to his, something about his irises that made you look away again very quickly.

“It’s hardly as if the other ingredients were easily come by. We don’t want to mess it up and have to do it again.”

They were quiet at that. Claudia had the impression that they were all thinking of different things. She reckoned they would say the worst was the virgin’s tears. Despite all the tired old jokes, finding a virgin had been the easy bit. It was keeping her crying for long enough to collect a vial of tears that had been wearing on their nerves.

After a pause, long enough for all of them to remember details they would rather have forgotten, Daniel spoke again.

“Baby’s blood, then.”

There was an uncomfortable nodding of heads.

“How much blood are we talking about?” That was Tor – almost certainly not his real name but there was something about the way he looked at you if you questioned him which discouraged you from asking twice. He was an illusionist, constantly fretting about the mechanical details of his act. “And what about clotting? Are we going to add an anti-clotting agent?” Claudia remembered an illusion that involved an arm being cut off. Tor had been dissatisfied with the stage blood most magicians used and had experimented with various concoctions of his own. Claudia had never enquired as to what they were, but one had clotted and spoiled the act and…

***

Links
Bio
TOM WILLIAMS has published six books of historical fiction but this is his first contemporary story and his first novella (33,000 words). He has spent far too much time hanging round with magicians.

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Many thanks Tom.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny x

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Fenwick to my site as part of her ‘Never the Twain‘ blog tour.

Over to you Jane…

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

I love people watching. I also love ear wigging! Put the two together and you can see how some, but not all of my characters are born. The rest I would say come from my imagination. Imaginations need feeding of course and that means I read and watch TV and films – a lot. I also daydream.

I always carry a note book about with me. (Not just any old note book however they have to be just right.)

If I’m on a train, in a bar or a coffee shop, in the queue at the supermarket – anywhere really, and I hear a particularly good conversation I jot down any interesting tid bits I overhear. I have a terrible memory so I need to jot it down straight away otherwise by the time I get home its either gone out of my head or I’ve lost the gist of it. Sometimes I hear a phrase or a single word which sparks a thought. Sometimes it is the tone of the whole conversation. Often it is a funny colloquialism or a slang term pertinent to a particular part of the country. Always be careful what you say within earshot of an author – it might end up in a book.

***

I’m a Yorkshire lass so hopefully any Yorkshire in my books comes across as authentic so that the character feels real. When I go to Northumberland for research I make notes about the accent and intonations as the accent is less familiar to me. These accents then help build the characters.

What my characters do as well as say is just as important. Watching body language, a person’s stance or a particular “tic” or gesture someone might have either consciously or unconsciously can also add realism to a character. An action can show you how a character feels without me having to tell the reader ‘she is anxious’.

One aspect of characterisation I struggle with is names. A name can mean different things to different people and getting the name right can influence the character in a big way. Also as an ex teacher I have taught a lot of “names”. I’d never have a romantic character called Wayne. Don’t ask! Add to this that obviously you cannot have a “Kylie” or a “Charlene” in a Victorian novel for obvious reasons and it can become quite restrictive finding just the right name to convey the type of person I want my reader to meet. Names then are very subjective.

However, in Never the Twain I was lucky in that there was a limited choice for my two main characters. The identical twin girls in the story are born either side of midnight as the month turns so they are not only born on different days but different months. Therefore there were only two choices; April or May or May and June. I choose the former.

Particular names are prevalent in different centuries; in Georgian times there was a proliferation of ‘George’s’ and ‘Charlotte’s’ after the king and queen and in the Victorian era there were a lot of ‘Victoria’s’ and ‘Albert’s’ for the same reason. Names also are English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish or even regional or foreign. As Never the Twain is partly set in Scotland I wanted the names of the Scottish characters to reflect this, hence Alistair. But some names are more class driven such as Effie May and Edward. Sometimes a character undergoes a name change as I begin to develop the character and realise the name is not quite working. Again I have a note book and make a note of names I think of or hear which may come in useful. I recently bought a punnet of strawberries that were produced by Sean Figgis. Expect that name to crop up in a future book!

Real people are seldom black and white and so it is with characters. People and characters are seldom all good or all bad. In Never the Twain April and May are identical twins who share some character traits but have different personalities nonetheless. I wanted my characters to be well rounded and ‘real’ therefore they are flawed and contradictory on occasions.

It can be fun getting inside someone else’s head and literally putting words in their mouths. Seeing how characters think and react to circumstances is easy once you know your character inside and out. I constantly ask myself how each character would react in a situation and once that is established it is important that they stay true to themselves and don’t suddenly behaviour totally out of character. Yet sometimes we do act out of character under difficult, unfamiliar circumstances. It is a fine line to draw. However the reader will spot if someone suddenly behaves completely erratically unless there is a very good reason. April and May’s twin bond means they have a debt of loyalty to each other but when things get tough May’s dark side manifests itself to April’s detriment.

My characters are like my babies; I watch them grow and develop, change and adapt to their environment. They lead me in all sorts of directions and turn the plot on its head sometimes. As I am a ‘punster’ not a planner I find this exciting and I hope you do too when you read Never the Twain.

Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

GIVEAWAY! – You can take part in the Never the Twain giveaway here- 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be191/?

 

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Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny

Opening Lines with Chris Chalmers: Dinner At The Happy Skeleton

This week’s opening lines features the latest novel by Chris Chalmers.

I have to say, Dinner at the Happy Skeleton, sounds a hell of a lot of fun!

Over to you Chris…

Dinner At The Happy Skeleton – The Blurb:

Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising. With time-out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as the memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life.

From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it.

‘In Dan, Chris Chalmers has created his most appealing protagonist yet … An eye-opening, always entertaining romp through modern sexual mores, with a sweet beating heart of true feeling at its core.’ SUZI FEAY, literary journalist

YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK THE DONALD…

If you’re planning a late summer getaway, here’s a suggestion for a poolside page-turner with a difference.

Literary critic and Booker Prize nominee Philip Hensher called Dinner At The Happy Skeleton, ‘the perfect novel for a sunny afternoon. Full of charm and vim and sauce…’ And unless it’s the last white-chocolate Magnum in the shop, I’m not about to argue with him about anything.

Expect mid-life crises, bed-hopping, fun and adventures off the tourist trail, as Dan the out-of-work advertising man blows his latest redundancy cheque on a hedonistic summer of self discovery. What begins as the chance to take time out from his career turns into a quest to trace the ex that serial-singleton Dan blames for the smouldering ruins of his love-life.

Working on the principle that asking any author for an objective view of their novel is like asking Donald Trump to recommend a skyscraper, I’ll say no more. Try the first 500 words of Dinner At The Happy Skeleton for yourself. And if you like them, get in quick because the ebook is 99p till the end of August.

I call that sauce for your sun-lounger and a bargain to boot.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

CHAPTER ONE

I love waking up next to Jack. He is five foot five, comedy small, so not what you’d call any of my types. But his skin is naturally smooth as a baby’s; a bonus in a man of thirty-four. I nuzzle his head under my chin and try not to think of the spider-legs running amok over my own shoulders. The red lights on his ceiling say 07:18. Another seven minutes till we are officially behind schedule.

‘I need a slash,’ he growls, in a voice cracked by dawn.

‘Do Thunderbird Four,’ I say. ‘If you loved me you would …’

Jack is cute, with chipmunk eyes and cheeks you want to bite. He is a living Action Man, compact and perfectly proportioned with hair like a tennis ball. But he doesn’t love me really.

Thank God.

He tuts as his head disappears. The hummock under the duvet shifts and deflates until his feet appear at the bottom of the bed. The rest of him follows as he folds into a heap on the carpet and crawls for the door … It lacks the smooth entry and splosh of the little yellow submarine exiting the belly of Thunderbird Two. But it makes me laugh, every time.

At that moment there’s a clink of china and a swish of designer silk as the bedroom door opens, narrowly missing Jack’s head.

‘Brew,’ says Phil, stepping over him.

He puts three mugs on the bedside table. Then he slips out of his dressing gown and climbs back into the bed.

*

A threesome isn’t something you go looking for. No, scratch that – it’s exactly what you go looking for when you’ve been around the block as many times as I have. You just don’t expect it to turn into anything.

I met Jack and Phil online the previous August. We chatted, suggestively, two or three times. I enjoyed the frisson of not knowing which of the two guys in the photos I was talking to, and since for once they were both quite tasty,it didn’t matter.

As for the day we met – well, that was all quite Cynthia Payne …

So I’m sweaty and hungover, eager for fun if knackered from the night before, as I trudge up Denmark Hill with a rucksack full of sex toys. It takes me a while to find the address in a neat and tidy street that feels (no pun intended) anally suburban. Multi-hued children on tricycles clatter over paving stones, and though the net curtains don’t actually twitch like flamenco hems it feels like they should.

The taller one answers the door and shows me into the kitchen, where the shorter one is emptying the dishwasher from Sunday lunch. A tiny telly plays on the granite worktop as I tear a can of Fosters from the four-pack I picked up at Sainsbury’s.

‘I didn’t know what to bring,’ I say, my rucksack betraying otherwise as it thuds on the terracotta flags.

BIO and SOCIAL LINKS:

Chris Chalmers lives in South-West London with his partner, a quite famous concert pianist. He has been the understudy on Mastermind, visited 40 different countries, and swum with iguanas. Aside from his novels, his proudest literary achievement is making Martina Navratilova ROFLAO on Twitter.

You’ll find him on Facebook @chrischalmersnovelist, on Twitter @CCsw19, and at www.chrischalmers.net

BUY LINK, paperback and ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dinner-Happy-Skeleton-Chris-Chalmers-ebook/dp/B076X98C31/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1566576917&sr=8-1 

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Another fabulous set of opening lines!

Thanks Chris.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Kellie Butler: The Broken Tree

It’s Opening Lines time again.

This week I’m delighted to welcome Kellie Butler, with the first 500 words from her brand new novel, The Broken Tree.

 

Hi, my name is Kellie Butler and I’m back again for another installment of the first 500 words from my new book The Broken Tree. Thanks so much for having me back, Jenny!

The  Laurelhurst Chronicles family saga follows the Cavert family from the beginning of the Second World War through the mid-1970s. It centers on siblings  Lydie Cavert and her brother Edward. My initial inspiration for this series was writing about trauma from the perspective of an adolescent that endures a lot of things we go through in life and then some. Every family has secrets, and her family certainly has a bevy full. I draw inspiration from classic film, television, literature, and historical research.

For the third installment in the series, I was initially inspired by a camping story a friend of mine from Lancashire told me about lightning striking a tree up on Pendle Hill. It reminded me of a story I had heard long ago of a tree holding the curse of a young boy who was shunned by his community for the practice of divination, even though he had made his community wealthy. If the tree ever broke or fell, the curse would come alive. It inspired me to research the Lancashire Witch Trials and craft a story of how events from those times during the summer of 1612 would affect the Cavert family in the late 1950’s.

Here’s the blurb of this captivating story of love, loss, and betrayal.

An anxious homecoming. A three-hundred-year-old curse. A betrayal that threatens to tear the Cavert and Bainbridge families apart. Welcome home to Laurelhurst.

Lancashire, Summer 1959. Fifteen years ago, Lydie Cavert Bainbridge left the dark memories of her youth at Laurelhurst Manor behind her.

Now thirty-two, an expectant Lydie returns with her family of five with two goals: to protect her children from her horrific experience at Laurelhurst and to spend a peaceful summer before the arrival of her fourth child.

When Lydie comes across an ancient oak tree split in the middle on the edge of the estate, an old secret from three hundred years ago involving an enemy is revealed, along with  specters of the past she had hoped to leave behind.

As the tree casts a shadow upon the house and loyalties are tested, Lydie must choose between the love she holds for her family and the love for her brother. Can the Cavert family stay together, or will splinter like the tree found on the moors?

***

First 500 words…

On a balmy June afternoon in 1959, the waters of Morecambe Bay shimmered in the sun. Yet underneath the surface, danger lurked for any unfortunate person who might have misjudged the swift currents and shifting sands, as five of Lancashire’s rivers emptied into the bay. Lydie had relayed to her husband, Henry, the stories she had heard in school of fishermen who had perilously misjudged the sands and lost their lives in search of a bountiful catch of cockles. She had warned him on their way towards the beach not to venture too far from the shore, as some areas of the bay contained quicksand. Henry took the story to heart.

Lydie lounged on a blanket while Henry played with their three children—Robert (Bobby), Eleanor (Nora), and Soon-Li (Suzy). While the children were far away from danger, Lydie still placed an instinctive hand upon her pink gingham shirtdress. She was four months pregnant, and she barely showed.

Henry tossed a frisbee while he kept a watchful eye on all three tots. Lydie’s lips curled into a smile as she watched his tall, trim body, lean muscles rippling underneath his short-sleeved white cotton shirt and khaki shorts.  His short, golden brown hair, still cut in the same sleek cut he had sported since his Ivy League days, appeared like caramel in the sun.  Lydie knew she was blessed to have such a wonderful husband. She heard many stories in the beauty parlors and at the occasional bridge game she attended with young mothers. Stories of husbands who told their wives they were working late in the city while they were actually out carousing around.  She knew two women in her neighborhood who sat alone many a night without a word from their husbands.

The years hadn’t always been easy. Only three months after they had married, almost nine summers ago, the army had drafted Henry into service in Korea under the Doctor’s Draft of 1950. Within months, Henry had left for several weeks of basic training and by the time they had rung in 1951, he had been on a flight west, missing their first anniversary together.

Henry’s homecoming came at the end of summer in 1953. Lydie had met him at Idlewild Airport in their Buick Roadmaster and drove him to a cabin just north of Ithaca near Tannenhough State Park. After a surprise welcome home party, they had spent a week making up for lost time. Bobby and Nora were conceived on a hot August night by the shores of Cayuga Lake. The sound of the lapping waves had lulled them to sleep after their ardent lovemaking. The twins arrived in 1954, and Suzy, who was the same age as the twins, became a part of their family in 1955.

Lydie watched their beautiful twins as they joined another group of children in play. Suzy and Henry retreated to the blanket. Now in the late afternoon sun, she smiled on her happy family and reached over to hold …

***

If you want to read more, go to http://getbook.at/brokentree  for the paperback and Kindle editions. You can also purchase the eBook through Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and other retailers at this link: https://books2read.com/u/3JJkxE. Thank you very much for reading!

About the Author: Kellie Butler is the author of The Laurelhurst Chronicles, which has received excellent reviews.  A freelance writer and paralegal, she lives in a quaint small town in the southeastern United States. She enjoys  hiking, cooking, knitting, reading, and walks with her dog, Chip. Visit her website www.kellierbutler.com to connect with her on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram) and to sign up for her newsletter.

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Many thanks for joining us today Kellie,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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