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

Tag: music

Blowing the Dust Off: Alison Rose’s Off the Record

It’s Day 7 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today my friend  and creative writing business partner, Alison Rose, is talking ‘Off the Record.’

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Hello everyone, I’m Alison Rose, and I’m delighted to be Jenny’s guest today in her From the Archives blog.  I met Jenny at a meeting of the Bath and North Wiltshire chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association a few years ago and we’ve been firm friends ever since.  My first book deal was with Jenny’s publisher, Accent Press, and in recent months we’ve become business partners, running Imagine Creative Writing workshops and retreats together.

The book I want to share with you today is my first published novel, Off the Record.  Here’s the blurb:

“This is the chance of a lifetime, so don’t blow it! Journalist Kate Armstrong has always known that music icon Johnson Brand’s platinum-selling first album was written about his break-up with her mother, Alexandra. When Kate’s boss sends her out to interview the star himself, her life is turned upside down when her resemblance to Alexandra prompts Johnson to seek out her mother and renew their relationship. Kate suddenly has a lot on her plate – coming to terms with Alexandra and Johnson’s rekindling relationship, as well as keeping the two of them out of the public eye, all the while trying to resist the advances of Johnson’s playboy son, Paul. She thinks she has everything under control, until a threatening figure from the band’s past rears its ugly head. Will love tear them all apart … again?”

I was inspired to write Off the Record after watching the movie Grease on a rainy afternoon.  Off the Record actually has very little to do with the film, but watching Grease had sparked memories of the year that it came out – 1977 – when I was the English exchange student at a high school in Indiana, USA.  As I watched Grease with my teenaged daughter, I remembered the people I’d known in 1977 and wondered what they were doing now.  One of the boys had been a talented singer and that sparked my idea of a rock star. I was working for a Christian charity at the time and knew a lot of lady vicars… and so it began.

I started asking ‘What if?’ and the characters and story began to form – the divorced, aging rock star; the widowed lady vicar; his record producer son; her journalist daughter.  Could the older couple have anything in common after so many years apart? Would their children be able to overcome their desire to protect their parents and their suspicion of each other? And who was causing so much trouble for them all?

I loved writing Off the Record and I’m proud that it was the first of my books to be published. It was intended to be the story of love rekindled in middle age, but I couldn’t resist the call of the couple’s grown-up children, who shot sparks at each other right from the start.  So in Off the Record you get two love stories for the price of one! I guess I always wanted to be swept off my feet by a sexy rock star and so I had a lot of fun making it happen for Kate and Alexandra.

If you’d like to read Off the Record, here’s the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Off-Record-Alison-Rose-x/dp/1783752491/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502203726&sr=1-7&keywords=off+the+record

Thanks so much to Jenny for inviting me along today and thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you enjoy Off the Record too!

If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, please visit my website at www.alisonroseknight.com and if you want to find out what Jenny and I are up to as Imagine… see www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

Many thanks Alison! Always great to have you pop by.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to find out what Jenny Harper is going to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Guest Post from Karl Drinkwater: Thinking Manchester in the year 2000…

I’m delighted to welcome Karl Drinkwater to my blog today to chat about his writing, and the influence the city of Manchester has had on his words. Why not put your feet up for five minutes and join us for a chat?

Karl Drinkwater

Hi Karl, where are you from?

I’m originally from Manchester. Therefore I grew up miserable. This gradually softened to a perpetual grumpiness and a desire to create a better world through fiction. I now live in Wales. It’s like Manchester with hills and greenery.

Manchester (1)

Which books did you want to talk about today?

Cold Fusion 2000, and 2000 Tunes. They were my most recent novels, both set in Manchester in the year 2000, shortly after I left for Wales. When you leave a place you see it in a different light, the good and the bad. And you see yourself in a different light too. A teeny bit of that will bleed between the covers.

Karl Drinkwater ColdWhat inspired you to write the books?

I think I was getting things out of my system with these books. They’re love letters to Manchester, its music, its city, whilst also being critical of some aspects. And they’re also more traditional love stories after a fashion, about nerds and difficult people being able to find love and happiness and contentment. Both books are set in the same summer with crossover places, themes, situations and characters that sometimes mirror each other.

Karl Drinkwater 2000 TunesWhat type of research did you have to do for your book?

Since both novels were set in a very real place I wanted to reflect that, and show how the geography of an area affects our perception of it. The difficulty was that the city centre had changed a lot in the last sixteen years. Many of the places in the novel have already been lost, renamed, altered or closed. 2000 Tunes opens outside The Haçienda, one of the world’s most famous nightclubs: just before it was demolished for luxury flats. I had to combine my memories of the city at the time with archival photos and discussions; my diaries were useful too. I built the city back up as it used to be and then let the characters breathe into that space.

There were also the elements related to the protagonist nerds. In Cold Fusion 2000 we have Alex, who is obsessed with with poetry … and hardcore physics. Luckily I’ve studied literature and astronomy at university, but I still had to learn more to fully get into his head. In 2000 Tunes Mark is obsessed with the music of Manchester. Again, it’s a love of mine, but the amount of detail I had to research so that I could draw parallels between songs based on dates, musicians, locations and so on as Mark does … that was a whole other level. Some of the research led to a series of blog posts all about the songs Mark thinks are the best examples of Manchester music (and which also form the chapter names in the novel). You’ll find the posts here.

Manchester (4)Why the year 2000?

It was a time when people thought the world might suddenly change for the better. What fools we were. But it’s an interesting liminal time, totally appropriate for coming-of-age stories about obsessive nerds, the amazing women they fall in love with, and the life-changing decisions they confront.

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

It has to be a bit of both. I plot so that macro-scale events work well, with escalation, reversals and so on. So if I sit down to write a scene I know that the two characters will begin arguing, and eventually come to blows, and say things they’ll regret, or reveal things they shouldn’t – but the details of what, and when, and how aren’t decided in advance. They come naturally from the characters interacting. Reviews often praise my realistic dialogue, and I think if you let the words and actions be authentic to the characters then the scene will flow; and often surprise the author.

Links

Website: http://karldrinkwater.uk

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/karldrinkwater

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bIkYp5

Purchase: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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Manchester (6)

Extract from 2000 Tunes

Samantha Rees thrust money into the taxi drivers hand and hurried away. Stopped, smoothed down her black skirt. Was it too short?

Too late if it was.

The white-washed Presbyterian chapel was built on a hill and the graveyard sloped down to dry stone walls. A bank of dying daffodils bent their heads towards her in the breeze. When she was a little girl her uncle had tricked her, making her believe they were really called Taffodils. She shook her head and climbed the steep stone steps, worn from two centuries of comings and goings.

People in black milled around outside under incongruous sunshine. She spied smokers having a quick ciggie behind the holly trees. She’d have joined them if she wasn’t so late. Just a one-off to settle her emotions.

The mourners admitted her, welcomed her. Hugs and questions but she pushed her way through as quickly as she could without seeming rude. It smelt like a flower shop. Overpowering sweetness of the white lilies. Snippets of conversation heard in passing.

“Such a nice day for it …”

“Aye, booked the weather in advance, knowing her.”

“Joined her husband, that’ll be a reunion.”

“Always said they didn’t want to outlive each other.”

“Shouldn’t be in here really, I’m a pub man …”

Inside was dark polished wood set off against pale walls. Pews and a small gallery were filling with those too tired to stand around. She spotted her mam and they hugged. Seconds without words, but which said everything, before Sam moved to arm’s length. “Sorry I’m late. I dropped my bags off at your house first, and the trains were –” but Mam silenced her with a waved hand.

“I knew you’d be here, bach. We waited. She’d have wanted that.”

Despite all the murmurs the atmosphere was hushed, heavy, like a gap in sound before an approaching storm. Noises seemed further away than normal, vitality cut off from conversation, words disconnected from their source, just as Sam’s mother was now disconnected from her source. Organisation rippled through the crowd as people moved to seats. Some mourners had to spill over into the small gallery.

Mamgu was in the coffin at the front. It hurt to look at the box, to picture Mamgu’s face without a living smile on it; so when the minister stepped into the pulpit and began speaking Sam was glad to focus on him instead. The service was in Welsh. Soon there was sniffing and nose blowing as the eulogy continued.

They stood to sing. Calon Lân began, beautiful music and strong voices. Sam tried to sing along but her throat tightened so she mumbled, “Calon lân yn llawn daioni, Tecach yw na’r lili dlos.” A pure heart full of goodness, Is fairer than the pretty lily.

She had to look up as her eyes brimmed, lights hung in threes, the images spilt over and she realised she hadn’t brought a hankie but would definitely need one…

***

Bio

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for nearly twenty years, ever since he went there to do a degree: it was easier to stay than to catch a train back. His longest career was in librarianship (twenty-five years); his shortest was industrial welding (one week).

Sometimes he writes about life and love; sometimes death and decay. He usually flips a coin in the morning, or checks the weather, and decides based on that. His aim is to tell a good story, regardless of genre. When he is not writing or editing he loves exercise, guitars, computer games, board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice and zombies.

http://www.karldrinkwater.uk/p/about.html

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Many thanks for a great blog Karl.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Guest Post by Jan Ruth: Christmas in July.

With Christmas on a hop and a skip away, I’m delighted to bring you a festive themed blog from the lovely Jan Ruth.

Over to you Jan…

Christmas music; what’s the first track that springs to mind? It’s usually always Slade, that staple of commercial radio and drunken office parties. And as much as we may hate this stuff being regurgitated every year, it wouldn’t be the same without it, such is the power of music and the way it can ‘set a scene’.

The brief – to myself – was three, longish-short stories set in my usual comfort zone of Snowdonia, North Wales, UK. I wanted to make them all very different from each other, and I’ve chosen three pieces of music which I feel sure heavily influenced my dormant festive muse. I started my Christmas selection back in July and it was a tall order to find the mood when the sun was beating down on the parched Welsh mountains. This is where music plays a massive part, well, that and mince pies. I relied quite heavily on baked goods as husband objected to Christmas music in high summer, and even considering earpieces there’s always a certain level of wailing-along to contend with. So, an empty house, a dangly piece of bald tinsel and plenty of icing sugar…

Home for Christmas Cover LARGE EBOOK

Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Reindeer

Rick isn’t looking forward to his lonely corporate Christmas, but it’s the season of goodwill and magic is in the air.

An off-beat love story, with all the hierarchy of the Christmas office party to contend with. It’s time Rick wore his heart on his sleeve, or is it too late? Lessons in love from an unlikely source, in this case, Rudolph. This story has its wry fun, but Rick-the-Reserved is in major denial. Oh, he’s the tall dark sensitive sort but there’s a limit to self-preservation and he’s in danger of losing what’s under his nose. Rejoice by Katherine Jenkins is one of those tracks that seems to become richer with every listen, rather like peeling away the layers of doubt and indecision – something my main character needs to examine. Rick would do well to listen to the lyrics of this track and take some of them to heart. Above all, it managed to transport me to the snowy forest in the story. Can you hear the snow dripping and the fire crackling in the grate?

katherine-jenkins-this-is-christmas-1-1351615556-view-0

Jim’s Christmas Carol

Santa and Satan pay a visit. One brings presents, the other an unwelcome presence.

Paranormal reality? Jim’s played with fire and it’s time he got his comeuppance, but from who? Paranormal isn’t something I seek out to read, let alone write, but Sarah Brightman’s track Angel, was one of the triggers for this story. Jim’s Christmas Carol isn’t a serious tale, it does have an element of farce about it, but Brightman’s track (and especially the video) is interesting in that the words and the imagery can be interpreted in many different ways, a bit like Jim’s Christmas Carol. And a lot like our kaleidoscope of beliefs when it comes to religion, guardian angels and all things paranormal.

sarah-brightman-b87a48c3751965b8

Home for Christmas

Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa la-la la-la, la-la la-la. Tis the Season to be jolly…

Romantic-comedy. Pip might accidentally find her true vocation, but the folly of her fibs are about to catch up with her… The local village play, Deck the Halls, not only saves Philippa Lewisham from herself but promises an entirely different direction for New Year. She’s something of an old-fashioned girl, hiding behind a carefully fabricated façade of career-driven feminism – but she’s very much a fun-loving party-girl too, who’s perhaps lost her way a little.

kirsty-449581

I love the drunken fun of the Pogues song, Fairytale of New York. It never fails to make me feel Christmassy, and lots of scenes in Deck the Halls take place in the village pub and the old school hall with a jangly old piano. In this story I flirt with romantic-comedy and yes it does have a happy ever after, but I can’t bear mushy sentiment in books, film or music, so for me, The Pogues track IS Christmas.

Merry Christmas! Nadolig Llawen!

Buy link for HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: myBook.to/Home4Xmas

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B&W lake

Bio

Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK.

This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for Jan’s fiction, or simply day-dreaming in the heather. Jan writes contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour, drama, dogs and horses.

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Many thanks Jan- and a very Happy Christmas.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

A Musical Effect

When I was a teenager I would listen, hour after hour (via the wonder of my Sony Walkman- remember those?), to the music of Clannad. It will be of no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog, to learn that I was first introduced to their music when they composed the theme tune and musical soundtrack to the eighties television series Robin of Sherwood.

RH- Michael and Judi

Each tune was haunting, moving, uplifting, and occasionally beautifully sombre. Looking back now, I can see how their dreamy lyrics and tunes impacted on my imagination- you only have to look at my forthcoming novel, Romancing Robin Hood to see that!

Whenever I got stuck during the writing of my part contemporary and part historical romance, I did what Grace, the lead character in Romancing Robin Hood would have done- I listened to Legend– the aforementioned Clannad soundtrack.

By this time- if you hadn’t already realised- you’ll see that I really am as obsessed with that particular TV series as I claim! (Should it worry me that I can still recite the words from several of the episodes word for word?)

Dr Grace Harper is a figure that grew out of that obsession. It was great fun to take my own historical and literary interest and make it, not only Grace’s life’s work, but takeover her whole life. Before Grace realises it, she’s in her early thirties, has built a dream career on her all consuming hobby, and is poised to write two books all about it- but at what cost? No one is waiting for her when she gets home. After all, what man could ever match up to a legendary hero?

romancing robin hood

I am blessed with two children; both enjoy writing stories, and both spend just as much time listening to music as I did as a teenager. Their musical tastes however, are vastly different to my childhood lyrical preferences. As they immerse themselves in gothic rock I wonder how it will shape their imaginations…I predict many a dark fantasy story leaking from their pens in their future.

Happy Reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

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