Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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 with Richard Gould: Mid Life Follies

After a break in January, Opening Lines is back!

Kicking off the first blog of the series for 2020 is Richard Gould, with his brand new novel, Mid Life Follies.

Over to you Richard…

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog.

Although I didn’t set out to be categorised as a Romantic Fiction novelist, that’s what I am. In case people haven’t noticed, there aren’t that many blokes writing (nor for that matter, reading) this genre, despite the fact that around 50% of those in relationships are likely to be men. I think the lack of male authors is a pity because a male take on romance can provide fresh insights into the ups and downs of starting, sustaining and ending relationships. I focus on second chance ones, using humour to describe tragi-heroic journeys in pursuit of love, while struggling to cope with cartloads of baggage.

Mid-life follies is well and truly about second chances. Following the early retirement of Hugh, the male protagonist, panic sets in for his wife, Liz. All the old clichés come to the fore – feeling trapped, needing space, fearing ageing – and she takes flight from the comfort of the family home.

My first thoughts about how to cover this theme were centred on the humour as the couple compete for who can have the most embarrassing mid-life crisis. Once I started writing, I recognised that there was considerable poignancy and home truths to add to the humour.

 Blurb

‘When you look in the mirror, do you see someone young and vibrant like you used to be,’ Liz asks her husband, ‘or old and decrepit like you’re going to be?’

This question is the trigger for Liz’s decision to leave the comfortable family home in Cambridge after twenty-three years of contented marriage. A brisk walk to clear her head of the feeling of being trapped doesn’t work. On a brief escape to the seaside, a wholly out of character one-night fling makes things worse.

A baffled Hugh is left to figure out why his wife has abandoned him. Is she suffering a mid-life crisis? Is he experiencing the same affliction?

A succession of twists and turns prevents a restoration to the normality that the couple increasingly crave as their children, parents and friends discover that immaturity is not solely the preserve of the young.

“This tale of self-doubt, adultery and forgiveness is shot through with humour and compassion. A most enjoyable read.” 

David Lister, The Independent 

***

First 500 words…

Soon after my fifty-ninth birthday, a lifelong interest in reading obituaries took a perverse turn for the worse. I began to ignore the parts about inspirational achievements and headed straight for statements about age of death. A vague insecurity arose if someone had passed away around the sixty mark. I would scrutinise the photo to assess whether, compared to me, they had been overweight, balding, wrinkled or showing any other sign that they hadn’t aged well. That all important sentence citing cause of death was of particular interest. I was content if a sixty-year-old had been hit by a bus or murdered by a jealous ex-lover. A long-standing debilitating disease was reasonable too, but what I didn’t want to see was reference to those sudden things that imperil older people, like a heart attack or a stroke. Because that could be my fate next year, next week or even tomorrow.

I was neither ill nor a hypochondriac, in fact a recent annual check-up had revealed that I was remarkably healthy for a fifty-nine year old. Instead, the cause of my anxiety was that a mid-life crisis had been activated. I use the word “activated” because I’m convinced I would never have suffered one had it not been for Liz’s conduct. Men can suffer them at a significantly younger age than my own, but quite simply I’d never seen the need because I’d been more than happy with life – my family, my job, my health, my friendships.

I know the exact date when it all started: 21st July.

The eighteenth of July had been the last day of the academic year and my farewell to teaching at Legends Academy – I was taking early retirement. I’d worked there for almost thirty years, just two since the daft new name had been selected by the governors following a poll to parents that had produced thirty-eight voters out of a school population of over a thousand. “Where Legends are Nurtured” became the school motto.

It would take a brave or even foolhardy person to challenge my opinion that the school had never nurtured a legend and was unlikely to ever do so. Our most successful ex-pupils achieved their fame through notoriety. Des Robins was the City trader who didn’t quite manage to bring down the bank where he worked, but it was a jolly close thing. Dino Stringer made his fortune drug dealing, his fleet of cars and lavish mansion the envy of many in the locality. It all came to an end with a car chase around the M25 and he’s still inside five years after the trial. Hazel Broad, aka Flightchick, had some success as a singer, but being smashed on stage diminished her popularity with promoters despite raising it for her audience. Those in the staff room with some interest in her well-being indicated that now she was spending her time opening supermarkets. I’d had high hopes for one of our lads, a promising footballer, but alas, Shane Hughes got no further…

Buy link

e-book             http://myBook.to/midlifefollies

Paperback     https://www.feedaread.com/books/Mid-life-follies-9781839451874.aspx

Bio

R J Gould is published by Endeavour Media and Headline Accent and is the author of four novels:  A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack & Jill Went Downhill and Mid-life follies. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people, all rewarding, but his passion is writing fiction. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Social Media

Website:          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:              rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/richard.gould.14418 

Many thanks Richard.

Wishing you much success with your new novel.

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Lynne Shelby: There She Goes

Opening Lines time is here!

This week Lynne Shelby is with me, sharing the first 500 words- exactly- of her latest romance, There She Goes.

Blurb

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship… 

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

FIRST 500 WORDS…

On shaking legs, I took one step and then another, until I was standing directly in front of the guy. His mouth lifted in a smile, and he put his arms around me, holding me close against his hard chest. My heart started beating so furiously that I felt sure he must be able to hear it. Telling myself firmly that I could do this, that it wasn’t as if it were the first time, I tilted up my face and looked directly into his eyes. He bent his head and kissed me on the mouth, softly at first, just a brush of his lips, but then more firmly, his hands moving smoothly down my back to settle on my hips. When we came up for air, he led me to the bed and drew me down beside him. We lay facing each other on the bare mattress, our bodies pressed together, and kissed for a long time. I tried, unsuccessfully, to remember his name.

I thought, there can be few professions apart from the obvious that require you to simulate desire for a stranger on a regular basis.

The director said, ‘Cut.’

The guy stopped kissing me, and we both sat up. While the director conferred with his assistant, who’d videoed our audition, I stole a glance at my fellow actor’s profile. He was a few years older than me, I thought, in his mid- to late-twenties, and extraordinarily good-looking, with his dark hair falling over his forehead and just the right amount of stubble on his tanned face. I wondered if he might be Italian, or maybe Spanish.

‘We’ve got all we need for today,’ the director said. ‘Thank you.’

The guy (what was his name?) got off the bed and said, ‘Thank you. Good to have met you.’

I swung my legs over the side of the mattress and stood up. I tried to think of

something, anything, to say that might persuade the director to cast me, but decided that throwing myself at his feet and begging (please, please, please, give me the job. I’m an out of work actress, and my rent’s due next week) would be unprofessional. The dark-haired actor was already heading towards the door of the studio, so I echoed his ‘thank you’, snatched up my bag and coat, and hurried after him.

We’d just stepped out into the corridor when the director’s voice drifted after us quite clearly: ‘Like watching paint dry. Absolutely no sexual chemistry between those two.’ Seriously? At nine a.m. in a cold studio, it hadn’t been easy to act like a girl and boy madly in love – or in lust, as the director had put it – but until that moment, I’d thought the dark-haired guy and I had done pretty well. Apparently, I was mistaken.

The guy shut the door and rolled his eyes. I followed him across the reception area, where a crowd of actors were still waiting to audition, and out into the car park…

***

Buy link for There She Goes:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-Lynne-Shelby/dp/1786156555/ref=sr_1_1?crid=R9A40JQVD91D&keywords=there+she+goes+lynne+shelby&qid=1573928576&s=books&sprefix=There+She+Goes+lynn%2Cstripbooks%2C326&sr=1-1 

Bio

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing, was published when it won a national writing competition. Her latest novel, There She Goes, is set in London’s Theatreland. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre, or exploring a foreign city –  Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LynneShelbyWriter/

Twitter: @LynneB1

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Website and Blog: www.lynneshelby.com

***

Many thanks for sharing your great opening lines today Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Richard Gould : Jack & Jill Went Down Hill

Opening Lines is with us once more.

This week I’m welcoming fellow romance writer, Richard Gould to my place to share the first 500 words from his novel,

Jack and Jill Went Down Hill.

 

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog. I write Romance. In case people haven’t noticed, there aren’t that many males writing (nor for that matter, reading) this genre. I didn’t set out to be a romantic fiction author, I just got placed there because I explore relationships, particularly second-chance ones. I use humour to describe my protagonists’ tragi-heroic journeys in pursuit of love, carrying cartloads of baggage as they struggle to balance the pressures of work, friends and families with the search for romance.

Jack & Jill went Downhill starts on Freshers Big Party Night at university. With Jack falling down and Jill tumbling after him, the choice of title became obvious. When they first met, the couple shared the joke that their names matched those of the nursery rhyme, but they fail to recognise that their lives are playing out the plot.

 

Blurb

When Jill terminates the call, she watches as Jack and Sophie walk off, holding hands just as they had done in what seems like a very distant past.

Jack and Jill had experienced fireworks on the night they met – their first night at University. Despite being raised with very different backgrounds, they seem to be the perfect couple. Mutual love can be seen by everyone around them. When they graduate and are thrust into the real world, the cracks start to show. Pressure from work reduces their time together. Family struggles test their loyalties. And inner demons become visible.

Jack is struggling to maintain his focus at work. Succumbing to peer pressure, the late night drinking with colleagues becomes a regular occurrence. Too regular in Jill’s opinion… Can Jill reignite the passion that seems to have withered? Or is Jack too far gone to be rescued? Should Jill walk away to save herself? Whilst dealing with her crumbling marriage, Jill’s own life begins to collapse. Despite the picture-perfect start to their relationship, it becomes clear that the cliché ‘happily ever after’ requires more than just love to make it everlasting.

First 500 words…

For Jack it is love at first sight.

For Jill it is love at first sight.

Freshers Big Party Night at university. The hall is jam-packed with several hundred first year students, alcohol-fuelled to obliterate apprehension. The pre-party big news is that predatory second and third year boys have been banned following the previous year’s behaviour which had been fully exposed in the local press. Britney blasts out of two giant speakers. A floodlit rotating silver ball, suspended from the ceiling, covers the dancers in a shower of white sparkle. Little pairing is yet apparent, this being the first evening. It’s mainly girls dancing with girls, with the boys leaning against walls or by the bar. Looking on, weighing up the talent.

Jill has come along with the girls she’s met on her corridor in the hall of residence. That afternoon they’d reached the kitchen within minutes of each other and had nattered and drunk tea for an hour or so, planning their itinerary for the weekend. The party is a must do and the four of them are now swaying as they karaoke to Craig David’s Fill Me In.

Jack has come alone, uncomfortable, weighing up whether it is the place he wants to be, the ‘it’ referring to the university as well as this event. Earlier that day, having unloaded his car, he’d remained in his room sorting his things, aware of the buzz in the nearby kitchen but unwilling to join his new housemates. That is, of course, assuming he stays.

Freshers Big Party Night is turning out to be a tacky affair. Standing by the bar, he looks down at his plastic beaker and swills the cloudy lukewarm lager before downing the remains and crushing the empty container. Commoners, that’s the unpleasant word he can’t help thinking of to describe the people around him. He watches as they jump up and down on the dance floor, dressed in tasteless cheap clothes. Probably from Primark or H&M or New Look.

Jack catches sight of Jill, who picks up his gaze and their eyes fix. There follows the type of chemistry that no scientist has ever been able to explain, the instant drawing together of a man and woman without having spoken a word.

Jill abandons her newfound friends and approaches Jack. Unsure whether he is her target, he remains slouched against the bar.

“Dance?” she mouths, never shy when it comes to talking to strangers.

“I don’t really,” Jack shouts in a vain effort to be heard above the volume of Pink’s Don’t Let Me Get Me.

“Come on,” she urges, extending her hand. Jack inadvertently presents her with the crumpled bit of plastic. He drops it to the floor then takes hold of her.

They dance and dance some more, bumping against a growing number of embryonic couples.

Their attempt to chat is futile.

“Something, something, something, something.”

“What?”

“Something, something, something, something.”

“Sorry, can’t hear you.”

“What?”

“LATER!” this yelled down Jack’s ear.

The absurdity…

***

Buy link

Amazon           mybook.to/JACKANDJILL

Bio

I should start with a confession – my name is Richard and I’m a coward. Since I’m usually placed in Romance or Contemporary Women’s Fiction genres, an agent suggested I use a female pseudonym to increase readership. “No way!” I declared with bold pride, “people are going to have to accept me for who I am.” That evening I considered Rebecca, Rosemary, Rachel and Rita before opting for the cowardly compromise of using R J instead of Richard.

​Following selection onto the New Writers programme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, two novels have been published by Accent Press – ‘A Street Café Named Desire’ (short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award) and ‘The Engagement Party’. ‘Jack & Jill went Downhill’ is my first novel published by Endeavour Media. ​I’ve worked in schools, universities and for a national educational charity and have been published in a wide range of educational journals, newspapers and magazines. Although I enjoy writing non-fiction, my true love is as an author of novels that make the reader reflect on the idiosyncrasies of everyday life.

Social Media

Website:          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:              rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/richard.gould.14418

Many thanks for joining us today Richard,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

Another Cup of Coffee: Amy’s Adventure Begins

Another Cup of Coffee is the story of Amy Crane’s quest to get her life back on track.

This is how her adventure begins…

 

…Once her impulsive decision to go home to England had been made, she’d barely stopped for a break in the haste to work her notice period, sort out the ending of the lease on her rented flat, and arrange somewhere to stay in London. Now that stillness was about to be forced upon her, Amy had to face the reality of what she’d done by throwing in a good job and a nice flat for no job and a rented room in a shared house in London that she’d never even seen.

‘I need coffee,’ she muttered to herself. Hoisting her tatty fabric handbag higher onto her shoulder in a bracing gesture, she headed for the café located next to the departure checkpoint.

Aberdeen airport

…It was only once she’d checked in at Aberdeen airport, her luggage safely stowed, that Amy finally stopped moving. Slumped on a bench, looking around at the people rushing by, she realised that this was the first time she’d been inactive for weeks.

Having successfully managed to purvey her order to the Chinese-speaking assistant via a mixture of words and semaphore, Amy sat down on one of the fiendishly uncomfortable steel seats. Ignoring the unsightly build-up of used cups, half-eaten meals and spilt fizzy pop, Amy briefly allowed herself to contemplate her situation. Almost instantly her nerves regrouped in her gut, and Amy decided to put off any serious thoughts about the future until she was on the plane. That way, any possible temptations to chicken out and stay in Scotland after all would no longer be an option. Major life planning could wait. For now she would just indulge in her drink and watch the world go by. Then she’d have a wander around the meagre collection of shops, and perhaps buy a book or magazine for the flight, putting reality off for a bit longer.

Unable to put off the moment, Amy picked up her backpack and headed over to the departure gate. As she passed the newsagents’ her eyes landed on a copy of one magazine in particular- it had the appropriate headline, New job, New home, New life.

Amy muttered the words over and over in her head like a mantra, as she purchased the magazine fate seemed to have left for her before joining the queue of people who were also turning their back on the Granite City, for to business commitments, holidays, or in her case, for ever.

During the seventy-minute flight, Amy had managed to concoct enough excuses to delay any plan of action as to what to do next for a little longer. She’d examined the flight safety card thoroughly, had uncharacteristically engaged her fellow passengers in mindless conversation, and flicked through her magazine. Amy had read the occasional relevant passage, but had been disappointed not to find an article entitled You’ve Ditched Your Life – So Now What?

Now, trudging down the gloomy concourse at Heathrow to retrieve her luggage and trying to ignore the patina of perspiration on her palms, Amy was suddenly aware that someone was talking to her.

‘You OK?’

The man striding next to her spoke with a soft Irish lilt, ‘You’ve been chatting to yourself ever since we landed.’

‘Oh, God, have I?’ Amy’s face flushed. ‘I’m sorry; I’m always talking to myself. You must think I’m nuts.’

‘No!’ His eyes twinkled at her as he spoke. ‘Well, maybe just a bit.’

Amy wondered how old he was. Roughly her age perhaps; she always found it difficult to tell with men in suits. Amy didn’t want to think about it, or she’d get onto thinking about how much time had passed since she’d last smiled at a man of her own age, let alone spoken to one, and that way lay madness. ‘You’re probably right. I’ve just chucked in my life, so perhaps I’m insane.’

‘A lot on your mind then,’ he nodded his bespectacled head.

Amy carried on rambling. ‘No job, a home I’ve only seen from a brochure, and I’m getting a serious case of cold feet.’

They reached the dimly-lit baggage collection area as the carousel sparked into life. The whole room spoke of transitory lives, and the dank atmosphere made Amy shiver inside.

The man had obviously noticed her growing unease. ‘Look, I know I’m a total stranger, and it’s none of my business; but if it helps, I think it sounds fantastic. Exciting and brave.’

rucksack

Spotting her luggage heading towards her, Amy grimaced. ‘I don’t feel very brave.’ She grabbed her heavy bag before it lumbered out of reach.

‘You have a blank page. A new canvas to start from. I’d swap what I’ve got for that, and so would most of this lot.’ He gestured to the anonymous crowds that surged around them. ‘Go with the flow, have fun, be yourself, and smile. You have a nice smile.’ Then he scooped up his navy executive wheeled case, extended the handle, and rapidly disappeared, his grey suit merging with hundreds of others in the crush.

Amy stood there, oblivious to the fact that she was in everybody’s way. A blank page. For the first time in days excitement overtook the fear, as she hurried off to hail a taxi to transport her into the uncharted wilds of Richmond…

***

Obviously I don’t want to ruin the story for you- so for the really meaty bits you’ll have to buy a copy!!

***

Buy links

Another Cup of Coffee is available as an e-Book and in paperback from all good bookshops/book retailers

Happy Reading,
 
Jenny xx

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 

***

Another fabulous set of opening lines!

Thanks Chris.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Coffee

This week I thought I’d share some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’

How about Another Cup of Coffee ?

 

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

Here are the first 500 words…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good book and eBook retailers, including-

http://www.amazon.com/Another-Cup-Of-Coffee-contemporary-ebook/dp/B00EVYZC7M/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=15EFJ85882KQYAJ71KED

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Cup-Of-Coffee-contemporary-ebook/dp/B00EVYZC7M/ref=pd_sim_kinc_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=12DHKX85NFP0DNJJCKDS

 http://www.bookdepository.com/Another-Cup-Coffee-Jenny-Kane/9781783751129

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines from Kitty Wilson: The Cornish Village School

It’s Thursday! That means it’s time for some ‘Opening Lines.’ This week Kitty Wilson is providing a dose of Cornish sunshine at

The Cornish Village School

 

Thank you, Jenny, for welcoming me to your blog. I wanted to share the first five hundred words of the first book in my Cornish Village School series, Breaking the Rules – because why not start at the start?

The Cornish Village School is a series of light-hearted romantic comedies based around a small primary school in the fictional coastal village of Penmenna. The first book, as featured here, tells the story of Rosy Winter, the headteacher who is faced with a fight to save her school from closure at the same time as she is trying to avoid her new twinkly-eyed neighbour, Matt. I do hope you enjoy it!

***

Blurb – Rosy Winter is definitely not looking for love

Following heartbreak, Rosy has rebuilt her life in the beautiful Cornish village of Penmenna.  Now, headmistress of the local school, she is living by The Rule: no dating anyone in the village. Easy right? But Rosy Winter has a new neighbour, handsome gardener Matt.

In Penmenna for his new gardening TV show, this guy next door will do everything he can to persuade her to break her rule and win her heart. Meanwhile, Penmenna Village School is threatened with closure and it’s up to Rosy to rally the local community to #SaveOurSchool. Can she bring her worlds together and accept help from the most unlikely of sources? One thing’s for sure… she won’t be giving up without a fight.

This heartwarming romance is perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant, Holly Martin and A. L. Michael.

First 500 words…

Rosy jumped into her car and sped through the village as quickly as she could without knocking over small children, trying to maintain as professional a look as possible in case she was seen. Headteachers were not allowed to scowl in public, and vehicular manslaughter was obviously a no-no. She whizzed past the last stragglers from school and the thirteenth-century church on the corner, its Grade One listing and historical importance ignored by the teenagers getting off the secondary school bus and sneaking into the graveyard to have one last cigarette before reaching home.

The rows of cottages all jumbled together and daubed with the pastel colours of sage green, baby pink and ice-cream yellow – colours of Cornwall in the summer – receded into the distance as she passed the central hub of the village. The local shop, recently revamped, was now a pale slate grey and stocked with halloumi, hummus and miso paste, a nod to the gentrification of the village as Cornwall had become fashionable again and property prices had shot through the roof. It was at complete odds with its tatty neighbour, the butcher’s, which hadn’t been repainted since the nineties and had a window chock-full of community posters, yellowing and curled at the edges, inviting residents to events long since passed.

She careered past the pub and then the beach, heaving in the summer months but empty at this time of year, and the ice-cream shop, boarded up until Easter when hordes of barefooted families would suddenly appear, snaking all the way back to the sands.

Nearly home and with minutes to spare, she just had to get past the final row of fishermen’s cottages and she could pull up in her driveway and grab the one book she had forgotten this morning.

Her cottage came into sight, the late winter sun bouncing off the granite, lending warmth and making the quartz deep in the stone sparkle. The exposed walls were different from many homes in the village, most of which were prettily painted and as fresh as gin and tonic as the sun sets. Rosy’s cottage was more of a well-loved local ale, one with bits bobbing in it. Its neighbour was the same, both boldly joined together in their rebellion.

As she turned into her drive, Rosy caught sight of the higgledy-piggledyness of the roof, all uneven tiling and indents, and the stunted, windblown cherry tree in the front that exuded character and never, ever failed to make her smile. She had spent many hours wondering how the tree had become windblown, protected as it was by walls all around the front garden. There was just a little space that had been taken out to make way for a drive, and a small gate embedded in the front with its promise of a secret garden.

For her the cottage summed up Cornwall; sometimes wild and grim and grey but, in the right light, welcoming, quirky and warm. The cottage seemed honest, somehow, more in keeping…

Buy links –

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2sltOLD

Kobo UK      http://bit.ly/2JDkzOm

iBooks          https://apple.co/2sRcf7u

GooglePlay  http://bit.ly/2uehjDh

Bio – Kitty Wilson lived in Cornwall for twenty-five years having been dragged there, against her will, as a stroppy teen. She is now remarkably grateful to her parents for their foresight and wisdom – and that her own children aren’t as hideous. Recently she has moved to Bristol, but only for love and on the understanding that she and her partner will be returning to Cornwall to live very soon. She spends most of her time welded to the keyboard, dreaming of the beach or bombing back down the motorway for a quick visit! She has a penchant for very loud music, equally loud dresses and romantic heroines who speak their mind.

Social media –

https://www.facebook.com/kitty.wilson.1610

https://twitter.com/KittyWilson23

***

Many thanks for a great set of opening lines Kitty.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Sue McDonagh: Meet me at the Art Cafe

Opening Lines time is upon us once more. This week I’m delighted to welcome Sue McDonagh to my blog, with the first 500 words from her novel,

Meet Me at the Art Cafe.

Over to you Sue…

Meet Me at the Art Café is a standalone novel, even though we meet some of the earlier characters from Summer at the Art Café, and they are both based on the beautiful Gower peninsula, in South Wales.
Our heroine, Jo, is a single mum who has a small part in the first novel, and I was intrigued about her background and how she’d arrived in Wales. At her age, I too relied solely on pedal power for a year, although I didn’t have to tow a little boy up the hills too!
I’m still a keen cyclist – but I bought an electric bicycle last winter, and it’s been a revelation. There is no hill I cannot cycle up, even with my two replacement hips.

Upcycling, recycling Jo is quite sniffy about motorbikes though, especially when the handsome Ed runs over her beloved bicycle on his vintage motorbike. It doesn’t look like a match made in heaven, does it?
I’m sure the characters wrote their own words for this novel – particularly little Liam, and Beryl, Jo’s neighbour, who often made me laugh aloud. I’d like to go on holiday with her – but I don’t think my liver would cope too well!
I’m especially proud that ChocLit asked me to paint my own book covers! Berni Stevens, the resident cover designer and I worked together on both covers and I love how they’re different but maintain the beach theme.

Blurb

Would you take a chance on a bad boy with a leather jacket and a vintage motorbike?

That’s the question single mum Jo Morris has to ask herself when she collides with local bike mechanic Ed Griffiths on a rainy Welsh hillside. Working at the Art Café, Jo hears the gossip and is all too aware of Ed’s reputation.

But whilst he’s certainly no angel, there is something about Ed’s daredevil antics that Jo can’t ignore. And as she gets to know him better and watches the kind way he deals with her young son Liam, she begins to wonder – is there more to this ‘bad boy’ than meets the eye?

First 500 words…

The middle-aged couple had been dithering over their order for ages. Lemon drizzle, or toasted tea-cake? Jo could hardly blame them. Everything looked and tasted wonderful at The Art Café.

Pinning her ‘take your time, I have all day,’ smile on, Jo’s eyes slid towards the panoramic windows that gave the café its wonderful view over the beach. Even when the blue-green sea was beginning to rumple into colourless waves, as it was now, blurring the divide between sea and sky on the Gower Peninsula and signalling rain, the coastline was always stunning. Jo could hardly remember a time when she knew nothing about South Wales.

Winter had turned the corner into spring, and there had been a steady flow of trade. Since her boss, Lucy, was poised on the brink of TV stardom, people visited as much in the hope of seeing her, as of the food and drink they were all so proud of.

‘Hello? When you’re ready?’ The man rapped on the counter and she jumped. ‘Cappuccino and a pot of tea.’ Flicking a glance over his shoulder at his wife as she found a table, he muttered, ‘And one chocolate fudge cake.’

‘Good choice. It’s delicious.’ Jo smiled. ‘Would you like a second plate and fork, sir?’

‘I’m not sharing it,’ the man said without a trace of humour, his eyes tracking the cake as she slid it onto the plate. ‘She said she didn’t want any.’

That hadn’t been the message that Jo had understood from their overheard conversation but she clamped her lips together and got on with the order. Her mobile phone, stashed in the pocket of her apron, buzzed just as she turned the steam wand on, spitting scalding water onto her hand.

‘Ouch!’ Whirling to run the cold tap, she read St Michael’s Primary on the screen and fumbled the accept button. Her little boy’s school. They never rang.

‘Hello, this is Ms Morris,’ she whispered. ‘Is anything wrong?’

‘Our order …’ the customer reminded her, sharply.

‘I’m so sorry, I’ll have to call you back. I’m at work,’ Jo said hurriedly into the phone, cutting the call. She could barely hear the secretary anyway over the tap and the still steaming nozzle. Despite the woman’s habitual peremptory tone.

Despite her stinging hand, she assembled the tea tray with an apologetic smile to the customer – unreciprocated – and returned the call as soon as he’d sat down.

‘Everything alright Jo?’ Her other boss, Richard, looked up from the other end of the counter where he was re-stocking the cake display. The Art Café had brought together his culinary flair and Lucy’s artistic talents, resulting in an inviting eating place where you could also buy gifts and fine art. Both happily settled with their own partners, they made a great team, and Jo loved working for them.

She swallowed, knowing this wouldn’t be a popular request, but there was no-one else who could go to the school. She was on her own. ‘Richard…

***

Praise for Meet Me at the Art Cafe:

~ The author’s ability to make her characters come alive is outstanding and I urge you to buy this book and visit the beautiful, if slightly damp at times, Welsh coast, and the Art Café, once more.
~ Great story of totally relatable characters, Ed and Jo. There is a bit everything in this book, mystery, humour, love and drama! The star of the book for me though was Liam (aged 4 nearly 5), his comic comments had me giggling away.
~ Back to the Art Cafe and it is just as wonderful as the first visit – check out Summer at the Art Cafe if you missed it! – and I just adored every aspect of this book!
~ I loved this book. The story has a lovely flow, the characters are all engaging, the descriptions are realistic: in some ways the author takes a back seat and lets the story shine.

Buy Link to Meet Me at the Art Caféhttps://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/embed?asin=B07NCTYTHB&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_K2M.CbD52NWDF

Kobo link: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/meet-me-at-the-art-cafe-choc-lit 

***

About Sue:
My career as a policewoman in the Essex Police was interrupted when I was twenty four, by ovarian cancer. A year of surgery and chemotherapy meant a successful recovery, which led to a convalescent year in the Essex Police Press Office. This suited me as I’d always fancied being a journalist, and meant that I could play with joined up writing and stationary.

When I moved to Wales to marry a man widowed by cancer and became instant mum to his two little boys, I used my Press Office skills and wrote press releases and eventually, blog posts for the various clubs and organisations I was involved with.

Art evolved into a full time occupation and I made a living teaching and sketching portraits on the spot at agricultural and seaside shows, moving into more considered work as time went on and appearing on Sky TV in 2014 in the regional finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.

I now work almost exclusively to commission, but also give demonstrations and talks to art societies and other groups, which I enjoy. 2019 saw my first solo show for some years, together with the launch of my paperback, Summer at the Art Café.

In 1982, following chemotherapy, I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in ten days, fundraising over £8000 towards a cancer scanner for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where I was treated.

After my first hip replacement twelve years ago, I and three friends walked 45 miles across the Peak District in 16 hours and raised £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support.

When my second hip needed replacing, I thought about commemorating it with a further bonkers fundraising idea, but to everyone’s relief, found my excitement in writing.

Nearly ten years ago I learned to ride a motorbike, and now help to run Curvy Riders, a national, women only, motorbike club. I am the regional rep for the bottom half of Wales, and regularly ride out on my Honda CBF1000F.

If I balance on my bedroom windowsill, I can see the sea, a mile away. My Border terrier, Scribble, comes to work in my open-to-the-public studio/gallery in Cowbridge with me, and thinks the customers only come in to see him. Sometimes, I think that too…

Many thanks for a great blog Sue. Wonderful opening lines- and fantastic book cover too.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ comes from friend and fellow author, Gilli Allan.

Buried Treasure is out now!

Blurb

Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems. 

First 500 words of Buried Treasure…

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 she 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

“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 stupid had she been?…

***

Buy BURIED TREASURE via mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE  

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

https://accentpressbooks.com/collections/gilli-allan

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilli-Allan/e/B004W7GG7I

Find Gilli at:

http://twitter.com/gilliallan   (@gilliallan)

https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1027644.Gilli_Allan

https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/rna_author/gilli-allan/ 

***

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 fiction.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, 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.

She is published by Accent Press and each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.

***

Many thanks for visiting today Gilli. Good luck and wishing you many happy sales.

Jenny x

 

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

Opening Lines is back! 

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

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

Book Blog Tour.

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

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

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

Blurb

My brother, not my responsibility

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

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

But is Michelle settling for second best?

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

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

***

First 500 words…

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

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

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

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

As young men, they established who they really were.

ROBERT

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

You can Buy Not My Brother’s Keeper on Amazon

Bio

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

Facebook Author page

@colettemcauthor

Colette McCormick on Books and Life in General

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

Wishing you a successful blog tour.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

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