Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Tag: crime Page 1 of 11

A VERY HAPPY COFFEE AND CAKE FILLED CHRISTMAS

I would like to wish you each and every one of you…

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

blue-christmas-2015-lights-missouri

Many many thanks for all your support over the last year.

I hope you are all having a truly peaceful and huggled Christmas, with extra coffee and a mince pie or three.  Jenny xx

 

 

 

Opening Lines: The Outlaw’s Ransom

For the last Opening Lines of 2019, I thought I’d share the first 500 words of my winter-time medieval crime story, The Outlaw’s Ransom

The first story in The Folville Chronicles, The Outlaw’s Ransom , introduces us to Mathilda of Twyford- a 19 year old potter’s daughter, from fourteenth century Leicestershire.

 

Mathilda thought she was used to the dark, but the night-time gloom of the small room she shared with her brothers at home was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness enveloped her, physically gliding over her clammy skin. It made her breathless, as if it was trying to squeeze the life from her.

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched her arms out to either side, and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, secured in rusted irons, abandoned and rotting. She battled the voice down. Thinking like that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated his only daughter on her level-headedness, and now it was being so thoroughly put to the test, she was determined not to let him down.

Stretching her fingers into the blackness, Mathilda placed the tips of her fingers against the wall behind her. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor.

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

Here’s the blurb to The Outlaw’s Ransom-

When potter’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 using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive 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 betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most infamous men in England.

With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.

Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom for your Kindle or as a paperback from-

Kindle-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519759895&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519760741&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

Paperback-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007697&sr=1-2&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Interview with Jill Barry: The House Sitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

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

Many thanks for dropping by today, Jill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Social media links:

Facebook    www.facebook.com/JillBarryBooks/

Twitter                   @barry_jill

Website       www.jillbarry.com

***

 

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

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Jane Risdon’s criminal mind

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

She’s talking about her criminal mind!

Over to you Jane…

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

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

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

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

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

 

Capitol Records Building

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

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

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

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

Old New Scotland Yard

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

MI5 Building- Thames House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

SWEET SABLE – The Red Siren 

From Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon

Chapter One

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

© Jane Risdon 2019

***

Jane with Only One Woman and Undercover: Crime Shorts

Jane’s Links:

https://janerisdon.com

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

https://wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow2.html

https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon

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

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

Buy Links:

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

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

ISBN: (Waterstones and all good book stores) 9781783757312

ASIN: (Kindle, Tablet, Phone) BO75D88JBP

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

Undercover: Crime Shorts  (Plaisted Publishing House)

ISBN: (Waterstones etc) 9780359397839

ASIN: (Kindle, Tablet, Phone etc) BO7RFRVL4P

https://books2read.com/b/4jD0wo 

***

Huge thanks Jane. What a great blog!

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny. xx

Opening Lines with Anna Legat: Sandman

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ come from Anna Legat, creator of the DI Gillian Marsh Mysteries.

Why not sit back and enjoy the first 500 words (exactly) of her crime novel, Sandman?

Blurb

When the heart declares bankruptcy, bad things happen to good people…

When Christmas shoppers board the 7.15pm train from London Paddington to Bath Spa, they don’t expect to never see their loved ones again. Retired Major Oscar Holt is on that train returning from a fishing expedition with a ten-year old Tommy, and so are Harry and Will – father and son reunited for the first time after a tragedy that occurred years ago in Zimbabwe. Charlie and his mates board that train, on their way to a stag do. Andrzej is driving the train – it is his last job before he goes back to his wife and daughter in Poland.

When a co-ordinated terrorist attack derails the train, the passengers are left fighting for their lives.

As the manhunt for the terrorists begins, D I Gillian Marsh must act on her instincts to find the ones responsible for this tragic attack.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

A convoy of five jeeps cuts across the desert at blinding speed – a series of five bullets. The vehicles stir the eroded soil and a cloud of dust lifts and lingers, irritating the eyes and nostrils of the men inside. Haji is well used to desert sand, but some of the fighters – youngsters brought up in Europe’s wetlands – don’t have a clue. They haven’t learnt to cover their mouths, so their throats are dry, their voices gravelly and they grind sand between their teeth. They drink gallons of water from plastic bottles recovered from humanitarian relief drops, most of which never reach their intended recipients. The truth of the matter is that the intended recipients are either dead or have long evacuated this area. There is no point letting water go to waste. Water has the value of pure gold in these parts – you don’t say no to it when it falls from the sky free of charge. The youngsters waste it; Haji doesn’t. It would be a sacrilege. Saving water is in his blood. Besides, the more you drink, the more you need. Haji is like a camel – he can go without water for days. He is ready for when there is no water, and that time will come because this is desert.

The whites of the young men’s eyes and teeth flash in their sun-ripened faces as they laugh and make plans for their destiny. They’re excited to make war – they see it as an opportunity to earn glory. For Haji, war is an everyday necessity, like water is for them. In war there is no retirement, only death. You live war – you die war. No exceptions. Haji watches the blossoming youth, his hooded eyes narrowed as if he is dazzled by them. Their beards are black, his is laced with dusty grey – the colour of the desert sand. He has sand embedded in the pores of his skin. Back home, in Afghanistan, his brothers used to say Haji was made of sand, for he could disappear into it without a trace. He is even better at it now that he is sixty years of age, grey and musty – an invisible old man.

He tries to catch up on some sleep while his young comrades boast and joke, and issue bloody threats to Assad and the West as the convoy heads for the Iraqi border. What border, Ismail asks cockily, there are no borders. Show me the border, he shouts and waves his machine gun. The boy is twenty-five at the most, and he sounds the same as those British soldiers that Haji has come across in Helmand Province. Others call him Geordie-Is, and that is supposed to account for his accent. Something to do with where he comes from, not that it makes any difference here except when Geordie-Is gets to appear in a video to send a message – loud and clear – to the Infidels. He loves that. He can talk for Asia, and he takes credit…

***

About the series:

My crime series The DI Gillian Marsh Mysteries include Swimming with Sharks, Nothing to Lose, Thicker than Blood, Sandman and finally Nobody Among Equals, which is due to be published under the Headline-Accent imprint next year.

Sandman is the latest instalment in the series. In this book DI Marsh has to take on a seasoned Afghani veteran of two wars, the war against the Soviets in the eighties and the latest War on Terror. Things turn personal for Gillian when Sandman’s action affect those closest to her, Tara her daughter and her future son-in-law.

Bio

A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna Legat has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications from Wellington College of Education (Victoria University, New Zealand). She inhabited far-flung places where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. She writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Links

https://annalegatblog.wordpress.com/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sandman-betrayal-hunting-justice-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07MZBG5Z3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=anna+legat&qid=1571839304&sr=8-1

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/sandman/anna-legat/9781786154958

Twitter- @LegatWriter

https://www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor/

***

Many thanks for your opening lines Anna,

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.

***
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/?

 

***

Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny

Folville-ing

I’m away on my annual trip to run the Imagine writing retreat this week. In between helping answer writing dilemma’s, restocking bathrooms with toilet toll, and advising folk on how to plot their novels, I will be continuing to work on the fourth of The Folville Chronicles.

It doesn’t seem a minute since I was celebrating the launch of book three in the series, Edward’s Outlaw. In that episode of Mathilda of Twyford and the Folville family’s adventure, I took her into the heart of a murder mystery within Rockingham Castle.

Book Four sees Mathilda- and her new maid Bettrys- go off in a very different direction. The Folvilles and their allies in Derbyshire, the Coterel brothers, find themselves under direct attack from the newest Justice in the area…just as a local noblewoman, Lady Isabel, has gone missing. It falls to Mathilda to find evidence against the Justice- and, if she can, track down Lady Isabel while she’s at it.

As with all of the Folville novels, book four uses actual historical events as the backbone to the plot. The research alone has been SO MUCH FUN! It’s been great to get back to my historian roots for a while.

You can buy Edward’s Outlaw from Amazon and all good book sellers.

***

So far I’m 35,000 words into Book Four – which I can reveal is to be called ‘Outlaw Justice,’ and will be out around next September.

Hopefully, by the time I’m back from the retreat-  a few more chapters written!

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

 

 

Opening Lines by Lucy V. Hay: Do No Harm

Opening Lines time is upon us.

This week I’m delighted to welcome bestselling author, award winning blogger, writing guru, and owner/manager of the brilliant Bang2Write website, Lucy V. Hay to my place.

Lucy is sharing the first 500 words of debut dark crime/thriller, Do No Harm

BLURB

Till death do us part… After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong… Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives… Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction. ‘Well written, engrossing and brilliantly unique’ – Heat. ‘Prepare to be surprised’ – Closer. ‘A claustrophobic and complex read’ – Culture Fly. ‘Sharp, confident writing’ – Peter James. ‘Original, daring and emotionally truthful’ – Paul Burston.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

I’m early.

I regard the hotel in the wing mirror of my car. I see my own reflection  – my nostrils flaring as I take in the venue. If you’d listened to me, you could have had so much more than this. Modern build on an industrial estate? Ugh.

Behind me I can see the gawdy, fluorescent signs for a chain cinema, a bowling alley, various fast-food restaurants, one of which offers an ‘all you can eat’ buffet bonanza. It’s what the Staceys and Chads like to call an ‘entertainment park’, though I cannot for one second imagine what’s so entertaining about these places. Give me a low-key, low-lit restaurant

with a ludicrously expensive wine list any day.

Oh no, this is no good. If it had been up to me, I would have found you somewhere far more flash to celebrate your nuptials. But that ship has sailed. For now.

I might be down, as they say – but I’m not out.

A group of people appear behind my car. I watch their reflections. They’re in frocks and suits – two couples, the women tottering on high heels, holding on to their men’s elbows. They must be going to your wedding. Then behind them, a tired-looking family: the man is in a shirt and tie, an incongruous pink cloth over one shoulder. He carries a sleeping baby girl in a flowery dress with an overly large bow on the back. The woman wears a trouser suit, the jacket just a smidge too small across her bust. Two little boys in bow ties run ahead of her; she holds her arms out to them as if she’s shepherding geese.

A woman in a purple beautician’s tabard stops next to the wedding party. She smiles and laughs, beckoning them with her. She’s diminutive and young-looking, orange panstick caked on her pale skin. There will be a subterranean salon somewhere in the hotel’s depths. The smell of stale sweat will be masked by scented candles, vanilla or patchouli, but the tang

of human musk will persist. You can scrub the masseuse tables, the floors, the jacuzzi; you can launder the towels, spray liberal amounts of deodorant and air freshener, strip away our clothes, our pretensions. But it’s always there. Flesh – animal, predatory. Demanding domination, submission.

It’s what we all are, underneath it all.

I look at my watch. In just one and a half hours you will be married. I suppose I ought to have prepared myself for this day. I felt sure you would wander – as you claimed you needed to – then return, certain you could do no better. I guess I never thought you would leave me so finally, splashing about in your wake.

I’m such a fool.

***

BIO:

Lucy V Hay is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and is to be adapted by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, was a finalist in the Dead Good Books Readers’ Awards 2019. Her next title is Never Have I Ever for Hodder Books, out this December.

***

Many thanks Lucy. Cracking opening lines, from a very clever story.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m on my travels at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

Adam Calvin’s vision blurred as his eyes streamed in the cold. His breath came in wheezing puffs. He needed to rest, but he daren’t. Not yet.

It was only as the vague outline of a cluster of homes and workshops came into view in the distance that he realised where his legs had been taking him. Slowing his pace, but not stopping, Adam risked a glance over his shoulder. He’d expected to see dogs, horses and men chasing him, but there was nothing. No one.

Scanning the scene ahead, making sure he wasn’t running into trouble as well as away from it, Adam exhaled heavily and aimed for a building he hoped was still standing.

The last time he’d visited the tiny village of Walesby there had been an old grain store on its outskirts. Built too close to the point where the frequently flooding Rivers Maun and Meden merged, the grain store had paid the price of a poor location. Long since abandoned in favour of a superior bake house, it was a perfect temporary hiding place for a man on the run.

Adam had no breath left with which to sigh for relief when he saw the neglected grain store. Uttering a prayer of thanks to Our Lady for the fact the building hadn’t been pulled down, he lifted the worn latch. He eased his way into the damp space, which was stuffed with rotting sacks containing all manner of rubbish.

Scrabbling awkwardly over the first few rows of musty sacks, Adam made himself a man-sized gap at the back of the room. Sinking down as far as he could, hoping both the sacks and the dark would shield him long enough for his cramped limbs to rest, he did his best to ignore the putrid stench and allowed his mind to catch up on events.

Only a few hours ago everything in Adam’s life had been as it should be.

He’d been fast asleep in his cot in the small private room his status as steward to Lord John de Markham gave him.

Had given him.

Adam wasn’t sure what time it had been when he’d been shaken to his senses from sleep by Ulric, the kitchen boy. He suspected it hadn’t been much more than an hour after he’d bedded down for the night.

Ulric, who’d frantically reported that a hue and cry had been called to capture Adam, had urged his master to move quickly. The sheriff had unexpectedly arrived and there had been a brief meeting between him, the Lord Markham and one other unknown man. An anxious Ulric had said that rumours were flying around like snowflakes in the wind.

Some of the household staff were saying Adam had stolen something, some that there had been a death; a murder.

Either way, for his own safety, Steward Calvin had to leave. Fast.

Confused, scared and angry that his good name was being questioned; without having time to find out what was going on or defend himself, Adam had grabbed his scrip. Pulling on his boots and cloak, with Ulric’s help he’d headed through the manor via the servants’ walkways.

The only item Adam hadn’t been able to find to take with him was his knife. Contenting himself with lifting one from Cook’s precious supplies as he ran through the kitchen, he’d left the manor that had been his home for the past twenty years.

With a fleeting nod of gratitude to his young helper, Adam had fled into the frosty night. Only minutes later he’d heard the calls of the hue and cry; echoes of the posse’s footfalls thudding against the hard, icy earth.

Now, wiping tears of exhaustion away with the back of his hand, Adam strained his ears through the winter air. All he could hear was the busy work of the mice or rats who were taking as much advantage of the building as he was.

Glad of the water pouch Ulric had stuffed in his scrip, Adam took a tiny sip. He didn’t know how long it would have to last him. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against the sacks that boxed him in and tried to think.

Had he outstripped the hue and cry? If they were nearby, taking the chance to rest while waiting for him to run again, then Adam was sure he’d have heard something ‑ but there were no muttered voices, no horses panting and no hounds barking at his scent.

Adam managed to get his breathing under control. He’d been part of the hue and cry on occasions himself, and he knew such groups didn’t tend to chase their quarry far, or for long. Especially not on a cold winter’s night, when they could be tucked up in bed before the demands of the next working day.

With growing confidence that he’d chosen his bolthole well, Adam allowed himself to relax a fraction. Few people lived in Walesby since the most recent of many destructive floods, and its location meant he was only a few steps from the edge of Sherwood Forest. A desperate man could easily disappear into the woodland’s depths.

As the hours ticked on, Adam became convinced that the pursuit had stopped. However, he knew that by the morning the hue and cry would be replaced with soldiers if the sheriff barked the order. His bolthole wouldn’t stay safe for long.

Yet that wasn’t what concerned Adam the most. He wanted to know what he was supposed to have done that warranted his midnight flight. How could he even begin to go about clearing his name if he didn’t know what he was accused of?

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am! The first three novels – one short – two long – are out in the world – and book four is in the planning stages!

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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