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

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Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m up to my eyes in words at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two – while I crack on!

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 (Outlaw Justice), is in the final stages of edits.

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

Cosy with coffee at Christmas

With Christmas getting frighteningly close, it’s time to blow the dust off my three ‘Another Cup of…’ Christmas specials.

Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds and Christmas in the Castle.

These stories (along with the full length novels, Another Cup of Coffee and Another Glass of Champagne), have been taken on by Headline (the same folk that have A Cornish Escape and A Cornish Wedding) – and, as a result, the Christmas novellas now have fabulous new covers!

I love them!

Another Cup of Christmas – Blurb

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Jenny Colgan, this delightful festive short story is sure to warm your heart.

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Buy Link – mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas 

Christmas in the Cotswolds – Blurb

Fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley will love this festive short story, featuring much-loved characters from Jenny Kane’s bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof!

Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can… calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does…

With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night…

Buy Link – mybook.to/ChristmasinCotswolds

Christmas at the Castle – Blurb

Fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley will love this festive short story, featuring much-loved characters from Jenny Kane’s bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

 Buy Link – mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle 

***

If those tales tickle your taste buds- but you’d rather grab all three at once- you can do just that, by buying my Christmas Collection.

 Buy Link – mybook.to/JKChrisCollection 

These Christmas stories can all be read as standalone reads, or they can be read in order, following on from Another Cup of Coffee- and leading on to Another Glass of Champagne.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Read an extract from A Cornish Escape

Life is as hectic as ever over in the cafe corner- so much so that I’ve been neglecting my blog a little lately.

While I zip around editing novels and preparing for my daughter to head off to uni, I thought I’d leave a little something from A Cornish Escape for you to read. 

 

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Phillipa Ashley and Cathy Bramley, this summer romance is sure to warm your heart.

Abi’s life is turned upside down when she is widowed before her thirtieth birthday. Determined to find something positive in the upheaval, Abi decides to make a fresh start somewhere new. With fond childhood memories of holidays in a Cornish cottage, could Cornwall be the place to start over?

With all her belongings in the boot of her car but no real plan, a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Max soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams but things aren’t as simple as Abi hoped.

Can Abi leave her past behind and finally get her happy ending?

(Previously published as Abi’s House)

Chapter One

It was the muffins that had been the last straw. As Abi sat nursing a glass of wine, she thought back to the events of an hour earlier with an exasperated sigh.

Hurrying towards the church hall, Abi parked Luke’s unnecessarily large and ostentatious Porsche 4×4, and headed inside with a stack of Tupperware tubs in her arms. With her handbag slung over her shoulder and her key fob hanging from her teeth, Abi precariously balanced her load as she elbowed the hall door open.

Although she was twenty minutes early, Abi had still managed to be the last to arrive, earning her a silent ‘tut’ from some of the executive wives who were adding the finishing touches to the tables that surrounded three sides of the hall, and sympathetic grimaces from everyone else.

Acting as though she hadn’t noticed the air of disapproval, Abi made a beeline for the cake stall and plastered her best ‘this is for charity so be happy’ expression on her face. Polly Chester-Davies, an exquisitely dressed woman whom Abi always thought of as ‘Perfect Polly’, was adding doilies to plates, making the stall look as though it was stuck in a timewarp.

‘Ah, there you are, Mrs Carter, I’d given you up.’

Biting back the desire to tell Polly she’d been working, and was in fact early anyway, Abi began to unpack her wares, ‘Here you go, two dozen chocolate muffins without frosting, and two dozen with frosting, as requested.’

Polly said nothing, but her imperious stare moved rather pointedly from Abi’s face to the chocolate muffins already in position on the table, and back again.

Her disdainful expression made Abi mumble, ‘Are you expecting to sell lots of chocolate muffins today then?’

‘No, Mrs Carter, I am not. Which is precisely why you were instructed to make chococcino muffins.’

It had been that ‘instructed’ which did it. In that moment Abi felt an overwhelming hit of resentment for every one of the orders she had gracefully accepted from this Stepford harridan of the community.

For almost three years Abi had been doing what this woman asked of her, and never once had she said thank you, or commented on how nice Abi’s cooking was. Probably, Abi thought as she compared her own muffins with those provided by Perfect Polly herself, because mine don’t look like they could pull your fillings out. Nor had any reference ever been made to the fact that she would have to catch up on her own work in the evenings, after helping out with whichever good cause she’d been emotionally blackmailed into supporting this time. Not that Abi was against supporting a good cause, but this was different. These women didn’t raise funds for whichever charity was flavour of the month out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it was what they should be seen to be doing. It went hand in bespoke glove with being the wife of a successful man…

Available as a paperback or in eBook format, you can buy your copy of The Cornish Escape from all good book retailers, including

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Meet Jack: Another Cup of Coffee

It’s a busy week in my cafe writing corner. Not only am I preparing for the launch of Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange next week, I am also editing its sequel, Spring Blossom at Mill Grange.

While I crack on with preparing the new books on my list, I thought I’d share an extract from my very first romcom – the initial novel in the Another Cup of…series, Another Cup of Coffee – with the focus firmly on Jack…

Here’s the 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…

***

Let me introduce you to Jack. It has to be said, that Jack does not start off as the nicest man in the world- a real bad boy. And yet- perhaps for that very reason- he has become the most popular character in the series. This extract comes from very early on, and we find him in the shower, very much wishing he hadn’t sent an old fashioned mix tape to his ex-girlfriend, Amy…

****

The power shower thundered, sending a searing-hot cascade of water down onto Jack’s head. Squeezing far too much shampoo into his hands, he began to viciously scrub his short hair. What the hell had he been thinking? Well, actually, he hadn’t been thinking, had he? He never looked beyond himself. The moment. The day. He was so stupid. So angry with himself.

 

Why had he posted that tape? And more immediately, where was he? And how soon was he going to able to get away from whoever it was he’d spent the night with? Jack could feel the familiar sensation of suffocation closing in on him as he abandoned his hair and began to furiously soap his torso.

He was a shit.

But then you have to be good at something.

And now Amy was coming here. It hadn’t crossed his mind that she’d even visit, let alone move her entire life back south. And not just south, but bloody London. Being back in touch, and hopefully forgiven, was one thing when she was safely tucked away in Scotland. But here. Face to face. Jack hadn’t banked on that at all.

He really didn’t want to see Rob today. It was his fault this had happened. Rob had come into work one day, back in the summer, going on about how worried he and Paul were for Amy. How she seemed to have placed herself completely off the emotional scale. The combination of bright sunshine, happy reminiscences, and the weight of a conversation he and Amy had never had, had brought his buried guilt racing to the surface.

Then, a few days later, Paul had visited Jack and Rob’s bookshop, passing through on one of his rare visits between his archaeological digs. He’d been sorting out some of his university mementos, and had come across a load of photographs.

They were all there, at university, more years ago than was acceptable if Jack was still going to pass himself off as thirty at the clubs he frequented. Amy, Rob and Paul huddled together in a muddy ditch, laughing. Rob, Paul and him, pints of Tiger lager in hand, outside their favourite pub. Paul, Amy and him, all cuddled together on Rob’s battered and suspiciously stained brown sofa. Amy and him. Amy and him together. Smiling. Together.

That had been the killer. That was the photo that had made him think. Her eyes had shone at the camera. If Jack was honest, so had his. So, in a state of happy but unrealistic nostalgia, he’d gone home, dragged a box of assorted junk out from under his bed, and pulled out the tape.

He had weighed the clear plastic box in his hand. It was time to explain. If Amy was half the girl he used to know then she’d forgive him. And suddenly, from nowhere, Jack had found that he really, really needed to be forgiven.

That was why he’d put Unfinished Sympathy on Amy’s tape. He wanted her to understand that he knew he’d hurt her. That he, himself, had been hurt by having to leave her. But for reasons he hadn’t totally understood at the time, he’d felt he had no choice. A fact which had led him to the record the unbearably twee, but wholly accurate, I Will Always Love You. It seemed to say how sorry he was. It said everything he’d wanted to say then, but couldn’t. He was sorry, really he was. But for Amy to turn up here! Bloody hell.

Stepping out of the shower, Jack began to dry himself with a suitably punishing rough brown towel. Now he was going to have to tell Rob he’d returned the tape, and have another go at talking to Kit.

He hadn’t deliberately failed to tell Kit about Amy. Specific conversations about individual exes had never come up. Jack was pretty sure that Rob hadn’t mentioned Amy to Kit either. Amy had been part of their old life, and Kit was part of their current one. Simple.

Jack knew he had to see Kit soon, before someone else filled her in. He wasn’t sure why he’d walked out on her now he came to think about it. At least she’d understand. Kit always understood. After all, they’d remained friends. Great friends. They had moved on smoothly.

‘Talk about my past catching me up,’ he muttered to his sleep-deprived reflection as he dragged a borrowed razor over his chin. ‘It’s pretty much tripped me up, into a pile of shit, and it’s entirely my fault. Bloody sentimental tape!’

 

Approaching his bookshop, Jack peered up at the sign which swung, pub-like, from its low eaves, and silently thanked his grandfather for the money he’d left him.

Even though he’d attained a first degree in Ecology, Jack had never had any intention of taking up a career in that arena. The idea of running a bookshop had started as a faint possibility; an option amongst many. It had developed into a dream, and then, when he’d accidentally come across the empty premises in Kew, it had blossomed into an exciting and challenging project.

Now Reading Nature was a source of real pride, and despite his self-inflicted gloom, Jack got a kick of achievement from seeing its single bay-windowed frontage ahead of him. Through the glass Jack could see Rob’s cropped ginger-haired head bent over the counter. He was busy sorting the mornings post into to do, to send out, bills to pay, and junk to recycle, piles.

‘Morning,’ Rob smiled up at his friend as he came in, but adjusted his expression as he saw the cloud hanging across Jack’s face. ‘What’s up? Club no good last night?’

‘It was fine, busy, you know.’

‘Not really, mate, but then I’m a boring old married fart.’

Jack attempt at a smile failed, ‘I’ve done something stupid. I think.’

Rob pulled a face that clearly said, “No change there then,” but simply said, ‘Go on.’

‘I’ve got in touch with Amy…’

****

If you’d like to read the first novel in the series, it is available as an eBook and as a paperback from all good online stores and bookshops, including…

Happy Reading,

Jenny xx

 

Blackstone Towers: Blog Tour

Today I’m delighted to welcome the rather brilliant Dr Ashley Lister to my place. as part of his Blackstone Towers #blogtour.

Over to you Ash…

First, I’d like to thank @JennyKaneAuthor for allowing me to bring my blog tour here today. This is day five of the blog tour and I’m very excited because I’ve written a really fun horror novel and I want to tell you all about it.

By way of introduction, I should begin by saying my name is Ashley Lister; I write horror fiction and some of the crudest poetry known to mankind; and I’m here talking about a horror novel I’ve written which will be published on August 22nd. It’s called Blackstone Towers and this is what the story is about:

The talismans of the magi control seven realms of the mortal world. One can grant the bearer immortality; another gives its owner unfathomable wealth; a third gives the holder unerring foresight. There is a talisman to control reality, success, the deliberate and the accidental, and a talisman that governs the balance between love and hate.

The planets are now aligning, and one worldly resident of Blackstone Towers knows the talismans urgently need collecting and destroying before they fall into the wrong hands.

The only problem is establishing whose hands are the wrong ones.

One of the commonest questions writers get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I know we all have different ways of responding to this question but, for some bizarre reason, I seem able to remember where inspiration for my horror stories comes from.

I never had such thoughts about my previous genre fiction but, if you were to ask me where I got the idea for Raven and Skull, my horror novel set in a hellish office, I’d tell you it happened one night when I was giving my mother a lift home. She told me she was worried about something. I asked her what was the matter, and she explained that she’d been doing some knitting and was worried it was causing deaths.

I must admit, my first thought was that she needed stronger meds. I asked her to explain the relationship between her knitting and all the deaths, and she said she’d made hats and scarves for a couple of people and they were now no longer with us.

Now, whilst it was sad to think she was displaying symptoms of a mental decline, I was excited because she’d given me a great idea for a story. It was filed in my head under the working title ‘the knitting needles of death’ and it went on to become Raven and Skull.

It’s the same with Blackstone Towers. I remember exactly where I was when the idea came to me. I had been visiting London. We were staying in a lovely hotel near the tower bridge. And we’d got into the lift to go from our room to see a show (I can’t remember if it was Wicked or The Book of Mormon, but I do know we had a great time).

In the elevator there was an old woman. She stared at me for our entire descent to the lobby. She had ghost-white hair, she was dressed in remarkably old-fashioned clothes and, because I was a little unsettled by the intensity of her stare, I wondered if she might be a ghost.

Elevator etiquette is a peculiar thing. We travel shoulder to shoulder with strangers. Eye contact is usually forbidden. Talking is kept to the bare minimum. As I brooded on these ideas, I realised that I could have travelled alongside thousands of ghosts in the many elevator journeys I’ve taken during my life, and I had simply ignored those ghosts because this is how we’re expected to treat people in elevators. The idea was disconcerting and I realised I needed to find a hook for the rest of the story so that my elevator ghost could be seen as truly terrifying.

Blackstone Towers is the result.

This YouTube clip of a wickedly inventive elevator prank (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE_HMqzm9Ws) also helped me to organise my thoughts. The results of what I think happens when you meet a ghost in a lift can be seen in the opening chapter of Blackstone Towers.

All of which leads me to the question: if you were a ghost, where would you want to haunt? Haunting an elevator struck me as a fun idea because there would be a relatively captive audience. Haunting a castle would seem classy. Haunting a library would give me all the time I needed to hang around with books. There must be hundreds of inventive places to haunt and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Answer below, if that’s easiest for you.  I’ll be checking back throughout the day.  Answer on Twitter if you prefer, using the hashtag #BlackstoneTowers. If you don’t use Twitter, and don’t like the comments box, please feel free to email me at me@ashleylister.co.uk. I’ll be collecting all the answers and, on the day of publication, I’ll chose my favourite response and send one lucky winner a free copy of one of my novels.

This is day 5 of a 9 day blog tour and, each day up to the launch, I’ll be on a different blog, as detailed below. Each day I’ll be asking a different question. Please feel free to follow me, answer as many questions as you like, and if you’ve got any questions about the book or anything else, I’ll be happy to answer.

Also, if you fancy coming to the online launch, where I’ll be reading from Blackstone Towers and sharing some of my ribald poetry, drop me an email and I’ll send you an invite.

Thank you again to @JennyKaneAuthor and, to all you readers, I look forward to seeing where you would haunt if you were a ghost.

If you want to pre-order a copy of Blackstone Towers, this link should take you through to the Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08F2T2K5M/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1596278235&refinements=p_27%3AAshley+Lister&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Ashley+Lister 

Many thanks for popping by today Ashley.

Happy reading everyone – and don’t forget to let Ashley know your haunting thoughts!

Jenny x

Opening Lines with John Hartless: Full Throttle

For this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Jon Hartless, with the first 500 words from book one in the Poppy Orpington Chronicles: Full Throttle.

Welcome to the relaunch of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles, beginning with Full Throttle.

It was sometime back in 2013 (or thereabouts) I had the idea for a Steampunk motor racing adventure, featuring a heroine by the name of Poppy Orpington, who would drive a huge, fast car called Thunderbus on the racetracks of Britain and Europe.

Inspired by the era of the Bentley Boys – famous racing drivers of the 1920s – I set to it and started writing. And immediately changed my mind and tried to do the story in a completely way. It took some time to realise this was, in fact, a very silly thing to do, and I eventually went back to the original idea and wrote out the entire novel which flowed very nicely, almost as though Poppy was keen to get out and start her career.

Unfortunately, the writing, rewriting, further rewriting and final rewriting, (followed by several more rewrites thereafter), was the easy part. Finding a publisher willing to take on the project was far more difficult, though eventually the novel appeared with Accent Press in 2017. This was followed by the sequel in 2019, and this was followed by Accent being bought out by Headline, which dithered for months before announcing they weren’t actually interested in continuing the Poppy Orpington series.

And so we arrive at 2020, some 7 years later, and Poppy is being reborn via Kindle and self-publishing. It’s been something of a torturous road, (forgive the pun), but we’re finally shifting through the gears and gaining speed and as long as there’s no oil on the road the way ahead is clear and I’ll stop with the awful jokes now.

Anyway, I hope you may want to check the book out, and if so, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks all.

Jon

Blurb:

As expensive steam-powered automobiles speed across the land, Poppy Orpington is trapped and going nowhere – until her father reveals he has perfected a petrol-fuelled car, ready for the racetrack. The vast prize money promises them a better life, but will Poppy and her father be allowed to compete? Racing is the preserve of the wealthy elite and few will welcome the working-classes onto their hallowed ground.

Can Poppy overcome social prejudice and conformity, or will her only chance of a better life be crushed before it can even begin? Join editor James Birkin as he looks back on the life of a near-forgotten, much maligned champion of the racetrack.

Full Throttle; book one of a Steampunk motor racing adventure set in a world of division, intolerance and inequality which modern readers may find disturbingly familiar…

FIRST 500 WORDS

Today, Poppy Orpington is hardly remembered at all.

Some do know she was a famous racing driver, though only a minority of these are aware her first car was called Thunderbus, not Thunderbolt, a mistake arising from her later company of that name.

Others wrongly dismiss her as the first of the modern celebrities, working the media for fame and money, while a few will scornfully recall near-libellous newspaper reports of harlotry in a Parisian bawdy house whenever her name is mentioned.

Most, however, are familiar only with her tragic fate and stained reputation from the Great War – a reputation, I maintain, that is thoroughly undeserved. However, I must not get ahead of myself. I shall explore everything in the right order and put Poppy in the context of her era. Her exoneration, should you wish to grant it, must be given at the right time and with a full understanding of Poppy’s character.

This, then, is the beginning of the testimony, taken from diaries, letters and personal contemporaneous interviews. Some may think my shaping of this material into a narrative rather than an academic account diminishes the authenticity of the work; I contest that Poppy’s biography is so dramatic in tone, and so rich in style, that it pulled itself naturally into this shape.

Nonetheless, a few disclaimers should be noted. Memory is fragile, and it is unsurprising to see the manner in which events can be transposed, altered and generally misunderstood. Please be assured I have researched all areas as closely as possible and everything in this book did take place, though not necessarily in the order given.

Also, the spoken language at that time was rather more formal than today, especially amongst the upper classes and the well-educated, and this has driven me to lightly edit certain conversations between Poppy, Simeon, Helena and their contemporaries. Please be assured I have always endeavoured to keep the pith of each exchange, sacrificing the semi-archaic speech patterns only for the sake of lucidity.

The reader may ask just why I have devoted so much time to the Orpington archive of diaries, letters and more. Does it really matter what happened to an almost forgotten woman well over a century ago?

Unfortunately, the answer is undoubtedly yes. We can find many parallels between Poppy’s era and our own culture, especially in the treatment of the marginalised and the vulnerable. As such, I have interposed a series of editor’s notes on those aspects of Poppy’s life I feel are still relevant to the way we are today. I shall endeavour to keep these interjections to a minimum, however, as they serve to illuminate rather than to distract.

Join me, then, as we travel back to when motor sport was still open to amateurs – albeit only wealthy amateurs – who could race their own cars side-by-side with the professionals of the day. Back when the sport still boasted heroic individuality rather than corporate wrangling over fuel consumption and weight limits…

Buy Link-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CTN344R/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

 

Bio:

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, steampunk motor racing adventures examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019 – now to be reissued before the release of the third on the series, Fall of the Petrol Queen, schedule for September 2020.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/jonhartlessauthor/

Twitter: @OrpingtonPoppy

 

Many thanks Jon,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

From Raisins to Jigsaw Island: Lynne McVernon

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

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

Over to you Lynne…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: https://lynnemcvernon.com/

Facebook: Lynne McVernon – Author Twitter: @lynnemcvernon

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

The novels: Paperbacks are available mid-July 2020.

BLURB – TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – Growing up at last?

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

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

Read a chapter here  Buy eBook

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

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

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

Read a chapter here   Buy Ebook 

***

Many thanks Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

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

Here’s the Blurb

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

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

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

2016

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

Here are the buy links-

BURIED TREASURE

mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE

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

author.to/GILLIALLAN

Contact Gilli at

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

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

https://twitter.com/gilliallan

Bio

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wishing you every success with your novel, Gilli.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

A Cornish Wedding: 10 days to go

A Cornish Escape will be published in 10 days!

Previously known as Abi’s Neighbour, A Cornish Escape follows on from A Cornish Escape, and continues the story of Abi Carter. This sequel introduces new characters- some nice- and some who are going to take a little getting used to.

Here’s the blurb to help you picture the scene…

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of Abi’s friend Stan to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

To whet your appetite, I thought I’d share a short extract from A Cornish Wedding.

There is a business suited woman standing outside the house next door to Abbey’s House…and she’s not happy…

Extract

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini. ‘Hello, my name’s Maggie, and I’m from –’

Cassandra cut impatiently across the formalities. ‘Sennen Agents, obviously. It’s written across your car.’

‘Oh, yes. So it is.’ Maggie paused, ‘Anyway, I’m sorry I’m late, I got stuck behind a tractor down the lane.’ She jingled a key ring in front of her. ‘I have your keys, Miss Pinkerton.’

‘No, you don’t.’ ‘I don’t?’ The estate agent frowned, looking away from the woman that stood before her in expensive couture with crossed arms and a far from happy expression. Flicking through the papers on her clipboard, Maggie said, ‘I was instructed by a Mr Justin Smythe that you would be accepting the keys on his behalf?’

‘I meant, no, my name is not Miss Pinkerton. It is Ms Henley-Pinkerton.’

‘Oh. I see.’ Maggie refrained from further comment as she clutched the keys a little tighter.

Determined to make sure the situation was clearly understood, Cassandra pulled her jacket on, turning herself back into the sharp-suited businesswoman she was. ‘In addition to your error regarding my name, there appears to have been a further mistake.’

‘There has?’

‘Mr Smythe has not purchased this property. He has merely rented it, with an additional agreement to sublet it as a holiday home. I am here for two months to make the place suitable.’ Cassandra ran a disdainful eye over the beautiful exterior stonework. ‘It would seem that my work is going to be well and truly cut out.’

‘This is a much sought-after street, Ms HenleyPinkerton. And this particular property is in excellent period condition.’ Feeling defensive on behalf of the old miner’s cottage, Maggie bit her tongue and flicked through her paperwork faster. Extracting a copy of the bill of sale, she passed it to the slim, angular blonde. ‘I think the misunderstanding must be yours. Mr Smythe has purchased number two Miners Row outright. It was a cash sale.’

Snatching the papers from Maggie’s fingers, Cassandra’s shoulders tensed into painful knots. Why hadn’t Justin told her he’d done this? She was convinced she was right. And anyway, he’d never deliberately make her appear foolish in front of a country bumpkin estate agent…  Yet as Cassandra scanned the document before her, she could see there’d been no mistake. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten, before opening them again to regard the badly dressed woman before her, who was once again holding out the offending set of keys…

A Cornish Wedding is available for preorder from all good retailers, including-

Amazon- mybook.to/CornishWedding

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-cornish-wedding/jenny-kane/9781786157843 

Happy reading!!

Jenny xx

Why Mill Grange?

It’s 10 days until the doors of Mill Grange open!

Based on Exmoor- near the Devon/Somerset border – Mill Grange is a beautiful Victorian manor in need of a little restoration. That’s where Thea Thomas comes in…

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Blurb

A warm-hearted, feel-good romance from Jenny Kane, a Kindle #1 bestselling author.

Thea Thomas needs to get away from her old life… and the interfering ex who won’t leave her alone. When she lands a job heading up the restoration of Mill Grange, a stunning Victorian manor in Somerset, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mabel Hastings, would be about accepting new leadership. And with the deadline looming before the grand opening, Thea is in desperate need of more volunteers.

A broadcast appeal on the local news attracts the interest of arrogant but undeniably attractive celebrity historian Shaun Cowlson, who wants to make a TV programme about the restoration. It’s hard enough adding one more big personality to the mix – but then her ex turns up as one of the volunteers! What seemed like a dream come true is fast becoming a total disaster! Can Thea find a way to save the manor?

***

While the leading character in the first of the Mill Grange books is certainly Thea- the house itself is also a major player. It was important to me as I wrote the series, that Mill Grange would be as appealing as the people I’ve created to care for it, live in it, and restore it.

I’ve always loved old buildings; so much so, that when I was an archaeology student many years ago, I took several modules concentrating on industrial, ecclesiastical and castle architecture. I also studied English Local History. All of these courses gave me some insight into the building of, use of, and love of old buildings- large and small.

I had long wanted to employ my passion for old buildings in a novel scenario, and so it seemed natural, when I had an idea about writing a story involving a historian leaving the Roman Baths to start a new life, to send her on a mission to restore a building. But what sort of building? And where?

The answer came to me only a few weeks later when I visited the stunning Northmoor House on Exmoor. The visit, with my friend and Imagine business partner, Alison Knight, was intended to be a scouting mission to see if Northmoor was situation to hire as a location for a writing retreat.

It was love at first sight. Within minutes of arriving in the grounds of this stunning house, I knew I’d found the place where Thea was destined to go.

Northmoor just oozes character and history. Everything about it has a story to tell- and I was determined to add a story or two of my own!

I’ll be sharing some more pictures from Northmoor on social media, on launch day, on 25th June

If you would like to preorder Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, you can order it from all good e-retailers, including Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Happy reading everyone,

Stay safe

Jenny x

 

 

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