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, with the complete series of The Folville Chronicles available for you to enjoy. The were so much fun to write,

 

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

Opening Lines: Witches Knickers by Angela Wooldridge

Today I am delighted to share the first Opening Lines blog of 2021. 

This time, former Imagine student, friend and author, Angela Wooldridge is visiting my site, with her first solo publication –  Witches Knickers.

Over to you Angela…

Spoiler alert! There aren’t any witches in this book. Come to think of it, there aren’t any knickers either. Well, there probably are but they aren’t mentioned (it’s not that sort of book!)

However, I am planning a second collection for my fantasy and sci-fi stories later in the year and there will be witches in that. (Still no knickers though… I’m now feeling the urge to write about knickers…)

But about this book!

Witches’ Knickers is a collection of 14 of my contemporary stories. Some of them have been published in magazines, some have cropped up elsewhere and a few haven’t been seen before.

This extract is from the story that gives the book its title. I like to think that Emma Thompson might have read this as she retweeted my announcement to the world (okay, just Twitter), that she and Poldark were on the cover of the magazine it was in.

(I have had stories in mags with the Queen on the cover, but so far she hasn’t told anyone about it).

Blurb:

Martha is tidying the hedgerows while she tries to ignore what a mess her life is in.

Molly and her sisters are uncovering a family secret.

Kelly is beginning to suspect that this spy training lark isn’t the fun adventure she’d hoped it would be.

Patsy is about to confront an old mistake.

Join them and many other characters in these fourteen contemporary short stories by Angela Wooldridge.

***

Witches’ Knickers (first 500 words)

‘It’s bad enough that my mum’s the crazy woman who collects witches’ knickers,’ Martha heard Zoe complain to her friend. ‘But now she’s talking about it on local radio!’

‘Oh Zoe,’ sighed Martha as she left the house. ‘You don’t know the half of it.’

She chivvied the dog into the car. Why was she doing this? It had started as a crusade, but now it felt like one more rut she couldn’t get out of.

‘Why carry on then?’ Stuart had shrugged. ‘No-one’s asking you to do it.’

She half suspected that if she started pole-dancing in a sleazy dive, Stuart would just shrug and say, ‘OK, whatever.’

‘For goodness sake,’ she wanted to shout at him. ‘Engage!’

Was he like this with everyone? He was working late a lot and locked himself away in the shed most evenings. Wasn’t that one of those signs you were meant to look out for?

‘Don’t go there,’ she told herself. ‘Just… just don’t.’

She switched on the radio and set off.

‘Today we are talking to Martha Hames. Hello Martha.’

      ‘Hello, Judy.’

Martha winced at how squeaky her voice sounded.

‘Now, Martha, you’ve come to our attention because of a rather unusual pastime; collecting Witches’ Knickers.’

      ‘You make it sound a lot more exciting than it really is.’

      ‘Could you explain it to our listeners in your own words?’

      ‘OK, ‘witches’ knickers’ is a rather colourful term used to describe discarded carrier bags that get tangled up in trees and hedges.’

      ‘Litter, in other words.’

‘Yep, that’s the stuff,’ she reached her destination and heaved the car up onto a grassy bank.

‘And you collect this litter.’

      ‘Yep.’ Martha agreed. She fiddled with her phone. It still amazed her that she could continue listening with a few taps of the screen. Of course, she’d never admit that to Zoe, who was convinced that anyone born in the last century couldn’t possibly understand the modern world.

‘C’mon Rufus.’ The dog jumped from the car as she grabbed a bin liner and litter-picker, and they set to work.

‘What inspired you to do this?’

      ‘I’m not sure I remember precisely.’

      Actually she could remember all too well. Zoe had been going through a phase of hating everyone, especially Martha. And Stuart seemed oblivious to everything.

‘I guess I must have been having a bad day.’

‘Understatement,’ she snorted.

‘A shopping bag broke as I was loading the car. “Right, that’s it!” I said. “I don’t need their crummy bags.”’

‘The words I used were a bit stronger than that.’

 ‘“I know where there’s a perfectly good bag. It’s been there for months!” And I drove off to this bag that had been hanging in the hedge for weeks.’

      Judy laughed. ‘What happened then?’

      ‘Standing there, holding that stupid little bag felt like the most successful moment I’d had all day. It was completely useless for shopping, of course, all grey and gritty and horrible. But it was fine for holding the other rubbish…

 ***

You can buy Witches Knickers here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Witches-Knickers-other-stories-contemporary-ebook/dp/B08S72ZB42/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=angela+wooldridge&qid=1610040534&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Bio:

Angela Wooldridge lives in Devon, in a rackety old house with her husband and the railway children.

She always wanted to be a writer, ever since the early days of exploring Narnia with the Pevensies and eating sardine sandwiches with the Famous Five.

Her stories have appeared in magazines such as My Weekly and The People’s Friend, in anthologies and been shortlisted in various competitions.

You can read her blog at www.angelawooldridge.wordpress.com.

Or follow her on Twitter: @angwooldridge

***

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous opening lines, Angela.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

OUT TODAY: Outlaw Justice #TheFolvilleChronicles Book Four

The fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles,

Outlaw Justice,

is OUT NOW!!

Outlaw Justice

Following on from The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw and Edward’s Outlaw, the latest adventure for Mathilda of Twyford and the Folville brothers – Outlaw Justice – focuses on another ‘historical happening’ from the Folville brother’s rather chequered lives.

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

You can order either an ebook or a paperback from – Amazon UK and Amazon.com

***

As with the other Folville novels, Robert de Folville and Mathilda draw on the influence of the popular Robin Hood ballads to guide them on their way.

This time – within Outlaw Justice– I have dropped in two nods to my writing hero – Richard Carpenter – and his fabulous television series Robin of Sherwood. If you are a fellow fan, and spot them- do let me know!!

If you missed last week’s Opening Line’s blog– check it out and read the first 500 words from Outlaw Justice.

Happy reading everyone.

Jennifer

Opening Lines with Thom Seddon: Choose Your Own Mediocre

For this week’s ‘Opening Lines’ I’m delighted to welcome poet, entertainer, writer and all round lovely chap- Thom Seddon- to my place. 

Today Thom is sharing the first 500 words from his new book – Choose Your Own Mediocre– which is a fabulous collection of both poetry and prose.

BLURB

‘Choose Your Own Mediocre’ is the brand-new collection of poetry and prose from audacious up-and-comer Thom Seddon. If you love a little bit of everything, from comedic poetry to gritty prose, this could be your latest favourite read by your new favourite writer! What’s the worst that could happen, right? Anything to escape the banality of everyday life. 

In this stomach-churningly exhilarating book, there are dangerous ideas at every turn! Who knows, you could get stuck in a dingy flat always full of wet washing, or have a thrilling encounter with a stranger on a train…

FIRST 500 WORDS –

Dearest, darling Destiny

if you don’t exist you have to tell me.

 

Kissing Boys

Last night I dreamt of kissing boys.

I dreamt that things were not the same.

I dreamt that I’d returned to Noel Street

and I was just a kid again.

 

Grey days when our mouths hung all open

procrastinating in bedsheets.

Pretending life’s a book to write

so all the heartache is a treat.

 

We slipped inside the kitchen cupboard,

we kissed behind the wooden door,

then opened our eyes at 6AM

to find that both my legs were sore.

 

I wish to sleep again tonight

to dream of kissing boys all day.

I no longer wish to be a kid

but wish that life were not this way.

 

Lights Out

“I’ve already told you a story,” he says, and

the twitch of his nature

takes root in the undergrowth of his tongue.

“Surely there’s nothing more I can say?”

My laugh is slippery and nervous; I hate it.

As it slides from my chapped lips, he reaches for the glass dish

to take a greedy bite from my bedtime apple slices.

My cheeks burn crimson as the fruit’s segmented flesh.

 

“OK, one more story,” he says, his mouth juicy, reaching

to stroke the soft heat of my peach pit chin. He gestures, like

I’m watching him strike a match in slow motion.

“One more story,” his reprise,

and he touches two fingers to my throat.

 

His stare reverberating, blood vessels sizzle in my head.

“Just one more,” he soothes, “but then you have to sleep.

 

Go back to your own bed.”

 

Blossoms

We aren’t meant to be so close to the river this late. As the sky relents, only steel blue wisps of cloud remain from a desert dry day. They move along in lackadaisical waves as we throw rocks into the twilight, listening out for the impact. My cracked soft hands are deceitful as they grapple too long in the dirt. You know I’m always rummaging for the heaviest stones. I chance a smile in your direction, show you my nails full of the earth. It’s all I ever wanted; being alone with you.

Two nights before we’d had a party and no one showed up, but afterwards my parents still had to clean. We’d consumed the spoils of war and shoplifting, until the contents of bright, loud packets dribbled and spat from our laughing gobs. Flamingo pink saliva and citrus scented sick all hit the cream living room carpet. A candyfloss haze now haunts beneath the rug, the mark a recollection of shame. With spoons full of sugar, I take my discipline.

We’ve always favoured painting with textures over pigments. We carve sculptures with words; of birds with metal beaks, and houses like jack-o’-lanterns. We suck at making jewellery out of flowers, preferring to plant poisonous root vegetables. We’ll feed them to the neighbouring children, the ones who made fun of us, just for sitting on the garden wall and venturing no closer…

You can buy Choose Your Own Mediocre now from www.bigwhiteshed.co.uk/shop

BIO

Thom Seddon is an all round creative type based in Nottingham, where he lives with his husband, their two cats, and watches far too much ‘Judge Judy’. By day he is mostly a writer working in fiction, script and poetry, and by night also works as a drag artist (the infamous Nana Arthole). He has published two collections to date, The Smart Mouthed Victim and Death is Awful for the Living, each featuring poetic content that is both social commentary and personal confession. Choose Your Own Mediocre is a collection of poetry and prose that continues in a similar vein, where Thom writes what we are probably thinking but didn’t dare to say aloud.

LINKS

Visit www.artholethom.com

Follow @ArtholeThom on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Huge thanks to Thom for joining me today.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: Mine

Welcoming my good friend, business partner, and all round lovely person, Alison Knight, to my place today.

Put your feet up and enjoy the ‘Opening Lines’ from her brand new novel- Mine.

Over to you Alison…

I’m delighted to be Jenny’s guest today and to share with you the opening lines of my book, Mine, which was published by Darkstroke Books on the 25th November. This novel is very personal for me as it is based on real events in my family. I’m the only one left who can tell this story. It is set in London in the late 1960s and shows how ordinary people ended up in an extraordinary situation.

I wrote it as fiction rather than memoir because much of what really happened is lost. I therefore used memories, newspaper cuttings, court papers and knowledge of the culture of the time to piece together what might have happened.

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, but I also think it’s my best work yet. I hope I’ve done the story justice and brought the people involved to life so that the younger generations of my family can get to know a bit more about the people involved. I can’t say much more than that without giving away spoilers! All I can say is that writing Mine has given me the opportunity to understand things that I was too young to realise at the time. The people involved were victims of the prevailing attitudes of their times. If the same things happened in today’s world, I believe the outcome might have been very different.

FIRST FIVE HUNDRED WORDS 

Bow Church, East London, October 1968

A jangling siren broke through into the quiet interior of the church, disturbing hushed conversations.

“What’s all that noise?” asked Lily’s mum. “It sounds like it’s going to come through the flipping door.”

Lily kept her attention on the stained-glass window behind the altar, watching as the soft autumn sunlight made the blues and yellows glow. She felt so alone in the midst of her extended family as they gathered for her youngest sister’s wedding. Her husband Jack was driving the wedding car, so Lily sat beside her mother in the pew reserved for the close family of the bride.

“It’s an ambulance,” she said as its strident warning got louder and louder and then dwindled away as it sped past the building on its way to save some poor soul’s life. “Or maybe a police car, I don’t know. Either way, someone’s in trouble.”

She felt like rushing out of the church and chasing after it – to get them to take her away and lock her up in a ward or even a prison cell. Maybe then she might find some peace. Instead she had to stay where she was, acting as though everything was all right. But it wasn’t. There was nowhere she could go to forget about what a mess her life had become – at home she was losing every battle and at work she was terrified everyone would find out what a bloody mess she’d made of everything. She was so ashamed. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

 

She hadn’t been happy when her daughter Beverley had decided to hide at the back of the church with her three-month-old baby. If she had to come to the wedding at all, they ought to stick together, hold their heads up high and brazen it out. By hiding in the back, Beverley was accepting that her illegitimate child was something shameful. If she was determined to keep her, Lily told her, she should be prepared for the stares and the comments because they weren’t going to go away. But she’d lost that battle with her daughter as well. She’s mine, Bev had said, and I’m not giving her up. Now everyone would be whispering about how the teenager and her baby had been banished to the back of the church.

Anyone looking at Lily at this moment would think she was a model of calm. Pride wouldn’t let her show just how spitting mad she was, but her hands shook as she smoothed out an imaginary crease in her new tailored dress, then fiddled with the carnation pinned to the matching jacket. Lily knew she looked good. She worked hard to make sure she always did. But she couldn’t find any joy in it today. She took a deep breath, trying to dispel the huge knot of butterflies in her stomach.

She had a headache. It had been there for weeks, squeezing her temples, making her eyes hurt. From the back of the church she heard a …

***

BLURB- Mine by Alison Knight

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.

Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?

Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

Award-winning author of My Name is Leon, Kit de Waal, said this about Mine:

A heart breaking account of love and loss told by a great storyteller. Alison takes you into the heart of the tragedy with compassion, wit and even humour. A beautiful story.”

BUY LINK: mybook.to/mineknight

 ***

INVITATION TO AN ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: On Saturday 28th November 2020, Alison will be joining four other authors for a joint event via Zoom called Darkstroke Defined: The five writers will talk about their new books, read extracts and answer questions. For your free ticket, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/darkstroke-defined-tickets-125793372363

BIO-

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Mine, published by Darkstroke Books is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with Jenny. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS – ALISON KNIGHT

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942

@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter

Many congratulations on your new novel, Alison,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Remedy in Time: Jennifer Macaire

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire, with some information about her latest adventure/timeslip novel- A Remedy in Time- and a sabretooth tiger…

Over to you Jennifer…

Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog! I’m here to talk about my newest time travel book, ‘A Remedy in Time’, and what inspired me to write it.

I’ve had a passion for time travel ever since I found out about dinosaurs. I admit, I’ve watched the Jurassic Park series about a hundred times. The dinosaurs never get boring for me. When I was in kindergarten, I stood at the blackboard and drew huge dinos. A t-rex chased a triceratops, a stegosaurus lumbered across a swamp, while a huge brontosaurus (now known as apatosaurus, which is a pity, given that brontosaurus meant “thunder lizard”) grazed on high tree tops. One of my teachers discovered my obsession, and she would take me from class to class so I could draw and give a talk about dinosaurs.

Then one day I happened on a Reader’s Digest that featured sabretooth tigers. In the illustration, the tigers are attacking a mammoth that has somehow gotten entrapped in a tar-pit. I stared at that illustration for hours, trying to imagine how the sabretooth tigers could hunt and eat their prey with such massive canines.

That was that for the dinosaurs. Suddenly I was fascinated by a time when woolly mammoths, huge cave bears, and even sloths the size of small houses, roamed the frigid plains of the ice-age tundra. The sabretooth tiger, with its out-sized canines became my spirit animal – I read everything I could about them, and spent my time drawing pictures of extinct mammals. Needless to say, the sabretooth tiger was the beast that really caught my interest.

Years and years later, I stumbled on a blogsite that featured fossils, and it amused me to try and guess the mystery photos the author posted. And then one day, lo and behold, there was a sabretooth tiger! I recognized it right away. In the blog post, the author admitted that scientists still argued about how the animal hunted its prey. I started imagining a trip to the past to film a documentary about sabretooth tigers.

Of course, the trip would start at Tempus U, where my time travel books all start from. And the heroine this time would be a single-minded young woman who not only specialized in paleolithic animals but infectious diseases as well, because when I started writing the book, there had been a breakout of an especially virulent form of typhus in California. And so I wove a story about corporate greed, vaccines, man-made diseases, and a trip to the far, far past. A Remedy in Time is available for preorder, and will be published January 7th, 2021!

And here is the fabulous cover my publisher, Headline Accent, made for it!

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .

Preorder from:

Amazon.com  ; Amazon.co.uk ; Amazon.com.au :  Hachhette UK

Excerpt:

I lay with my face in the grass. I hadn’t vomited, but that’s only because I couldn’t take a full breath. I knew that as soon as my diaphram started working again I’d spill my guts. It didn’t take long. “Why, oh why, did I agree to this,” I said, between bouts of retching and paralyzing pain. Finally, I managed to get to my knees. “What if a sabre tooth tiger had been here? We’d already be eaten, or worse.”

He shook his head. “See how the air around us is faintly blue? We’re protected by the tractor beam for a good hour. Nothing can get in.”

I reached out my hand and touched the blue-tinged air. It was a little like being surrounded by a very faint fog. I poked. My finger tingled and stung. “Wo cao!” I said. As I watched, the blue shivered and began to fade. “It’s almost gone. Let’s go. We should send some vidcams out and see if there are any spots that look like a good campsite.”

Donnell looked at his comlink.

“What time is it?” I asked. “Is time here different, I wonder? It was nearly noon when we left the, um, future.” I glanced at my own comlink. “It’s one minute to one. Amazing. We go back ten thousand years in little more than an hour. A-fucking-mazing. Look at this place!” Mouth open in amazement, I gazed around. We were on the side of a grassy hill, and we had a good view of the surrounding area. I forgot about my pain, I was in the past! I was here! I staggered to my feet and looked around. “Wa cao! We’re really here! There is a ta me da giant armadillo down there. Putain, a glyptodon! This is amazing. Look at that! It looks like a walking igloo except it’s brown, not white. Donnell, look!

Donnell didn’t look at the scenery. He looked at me, and said, “Robin, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m really very sorry. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.” He looked truly upset.

I hastened to reassure him. “No need to apologise. Look, I know you didn’t want to have me as a partner. I overheard you talking to the dean. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just make this trip a success. We have many lives depending on us.”

He made a strange noise. Then his face turned ashen, and he gagged like he was about to be sick. I thought he was still feeling the effects of the trip. I bent to help him to his feet, but he gagged again, then screamed.

“What is it? Donnell? What is happening?” I didn’t understand what I was seeing. His leg, his leg was shrinking. He shrieked, grabbed his leg, and his hands sank into his, well, where his thigh should have been, and then he sort of slid and slumped to the ground, convulsing, his body moving as if waves were tossing it, as if he were made of liquid, and his clothes became wet, and the strongest, strangest smell assaulted my nose.

I think I started to scream then too. Then my breath ran out and all I could do was squeak, squeak, squeak, as I tried to drag air into my lungs.

He must have been in dreadful pain. He screamed until the end. Until all that was left was his chest and his head, then those too sank into themselves and all that was left were clothes and boots, and a pink, foamy gel.

I spun around and flailed at the air, at the faint wisp of blue that still lingered. I found my voice. “Help!” I screamed, “Help, help, help!”

No one came. Below me, in the valley, the glyptodon lifted its head and seemed to look in my direction.

I couldn’t stop shaking, and I couldn’t seem to be able to breathe. Black spots danced in front of my vision and I knelt down, bent over, and hit my head on the ground. “No. No. No! That didn’t just happen. It’s a hallucination. You’re still unconscious. You’ll wake up in a minute. Wake up, Robin. Wake the feck up.” I dug my fingers into the dirt and screamed again.

Bio

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves reading, writing, and sultry summer nights. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

Follow Jennifer on twitter & Facebook 

 

Many thanks for dropping by today Jennifer.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

The Barren Author: staring Richard O’Brien and Sophie Aldred

As many of you will know, I have been lucky enough, over the last few years, to work for the brilliant Spiteful Puppet on several Robin of Sherwood projects.  However, there are far more strings to their bow than that. (See what I did there?!!)

Spiteful Puppet’s latest project is something truly special – and how could it not be, with the incredible Richard O’Brien and Sophie Aldred at the helm!

It is my pleasure, to be able to bring you all the info…. why not take a peep?

(Artwork- by Robert Hammond)

‘Rocky Horror’ legend Richard O’Brien
stars in ‘The Barren Author’
a new six-part audio comedy-drama
inspired by the fantastical stories of Baron Munchausen
His co-star is Sophie Aldred – Dr Who companion ‘Ace’

Forty-seven years after he created the sci-fi stage and film cult favourite ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, Richard O’Brien has taken a rare acting role to star in ‘The Barren Author’, a new 6-part audio comedy-drama inspired by the stories of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe.

Richard O’Brien recording ‘The Barren Author’ in his native New Zealand

O’Brien plays The Brigadier, who is telling the tale in sessions via video calls to the mysterious Smith (Sophie Aldred). But is she all she says she is, and what – in fact – is she? A publisher, a psychiatrist, or in league with
forces of evil?
The original Munchausen stories about a fictional German nobleman first appeared in 1785 in the book ‘Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia’.and told of his impossible
achievements as a sportsman, soldier, and traveller including riding on a cannonball, fighting a 40-foot crocodile, and travelling to the Moon.

Sophie Aldred in London

‘The Barren Author’, written by Paul Birch, produced and directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, is not a literal
adaptation of the Munchausen stories but takes instead the satirical, provocative and absurd spirit of the original tales and reimagines them for 2020.

Richard O’Brien said: “I find it enjoyable being allowed to play someone who views the truth as a moveable feast. Should I improve on doing so, I shall, most likely, turn my future ambition towards running some great nation; or other.”
Sophie Aldred said:“This was the best fun I could have hoped for in the airing cupboard all lockdown! I loved being the straight woman to Richard O’Brien’s ridiculous character’s funny. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing spliced together.”
Producer/Director Barnaby Eaton-Jones said: “I’ve always loved the madness and satirical bite of the Baron Munchausen tales, and was bowled over by Terry Gilliam’s film version in 1988 as a youngster, but I’d had an idea kicking around for a while of taking the core concept, keeping some of the well-known elements, and updating the tales in a contemporary setting. I wanted to keep the surreal nature and that blurring of fantasy and reality (is it real or is it not?). I am very lucky to share a sense of humour and a close friendship with the writer I asked to adapt my treatment, Paul Birch, and his six episodes really have flown off into a direction that’s extraordinary. The great thing about audio is all of this scope can be achieved, whereas would have been astronomical for television or film! Right from the very start, I could hear Richard O’Brien’s voice in my head as our main character and I was so bowled over that the scripts excited him enough to take on the role (and suggesting his own creative enhancements to them – which is always the sign of an actor properly engaging with the material). Pairing him with Sophie Aldred, who’s a delight as his confidante and possible future nemesis, just created the perfect chemistry for a must-listen-to-tale in six half hour episodes. My fingers are crossed for people loving it enough to ask for another series of escapades!”

You can listen to a trailer for this fabulous adventure – as well as enjoy an article about The Barron Author in the Radio Times!! (yes- the Radio Times!!!)  – Radio Times article: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/radio/2020-10-30/barren-author-trailer-richard-o-brien-exclusive/

Richard O’Brien
Richard, who was born in 1942, began his life in the world of entertainment in 1965 when, at the age of 23, he rode horses in British-made movies. He had no desire to become a full-time stuntman and, wisely, took himself off to an evening
drama school, which claimed to adhere to the teaching principles of Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and anyone else that had decided to embrace the more ‘naturalistic’ approach to acting, commonly known as the Method.
In 1967, Richard became an ASM and understudy in a musical touring version of ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’, retitled as ‘Robert and Elizabeth’. He worked backstage in many West End theatres, most notably the Cambridge Theatre at Seven Dials, where, among other duties, he shone a limelight upon John Hanson who, at the age of 46, may well have been the oldest Student Prince that the world had ever laid eyes upon. In 1969, Richard joined an ensemble group in a joyous
production of Gulliver’s Travels at the Mermaid Theatre. This show was designed and directed by Sean Kenny.
The choreographer was a young Japanese Canadian called David Toguri and, the following year, Richard auditioned for him once again and joined the cast of the British touring production of the American ‘hippie’ musical ‘Hair’. After Hair came ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, which was directed by Jim Sharman. The following year, 1973, Jim cast Richard in a Sam Shepard
play at the Royal Court Theatre’s Theatre Upstairs. It was here that he met Richard Hartley, his music partner of 40 years. ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ opened in July of the same year and, slowly but surely, became the biggest cult musical of all time.
Other highlights of Richard’s career are, of course, ‘The Crystal Maze’, a game show that warmed the autumn nights for Channel 4; the Child Catcher in the first stage production of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’; performing for the Queen in the
gardens of Buckingham Palace upon Her Majesty’s 80th birthday, and playing Fagin in a New Zealand production of ‘Oliver!’.
In a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, Richard has acted with some of the biggest and best-known names in the industry and, lately, he has won over a new and younger crowd of fans as the voice of Lawrence Fletcher, the father of
‘Phineas and Ferb’, in the Disney cartoon series of the same name.
He is 78 years of age and refuses to make eye contact with the Grim Reaper.

Sophie Aldred

Sophie Aldred is an English actress and television presenter, best known for her portrayal of Ace alongside Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.
Aldred was born in Greenwich, London, but grew up in nearby Blackheath. She attended Blackheath High School from 1973 until 1980, before enrolling as a drama student at University of Manchester. She graduated in 1983 and decided to embark on a career in children’s theatre.
In 1987, she was cast as Ace in ‘Doctor Who’. Her tenure on the show spanned the last nine stories of the programme’s original run, which ended in 1989.
Both before and since ‘Doctor Who’, Aldred has had a varied and busy television career, particularly in children’s
programming, where she has presented educational programmes such as ‘Corners’, ‘Melvin and Maureen’s Music-a-grams’, long-running BBC series ‘Words and Pictures’ and also CITV paranormal show ‘It’s a Mystery ‘in 1996. She also played the character Minnie The Mini Magician from Series 8 onwards on CITV’s ‘ZZZap!’ between 1999 and 2001.
Aldred has presented and sung in several BBC Schools Radio series, including ‘Singing Together’, ‘Music Workshop’, ‘Time and Tune’ and ‘Music Box’.
She has also performed on radio and in the theatre. She has also reprised her role as Ace in the charity special ‘Dimensions in Time’ and the Doctor Who audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions. Throughout the 2000s she has worked
extensively as a voice-over artist for television advertisements, and has also provided voices for animated series such as ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘Dennis & Gnasher’.
Sophie Aldred married Vince Henderson on 12 July 1997. They have two sons, Adam and William.

Paul Birch (Writer)

Based in York, Paul is an award-winning writer, actor, and practitioner. He has made work for and with the BBC, Birmingham Rep, Cheltenham Everyman Theatre, ITV, and York Theatre Royal; to name but a few. His work has twice won him the play-writing residence at Leeds Playhouse and his adaptation of Spiteful Puppet’s ‘Passport To Oblivion’ won the ‘Best Drama Special’ at the 2020 New York Festival Awards. He is the Artistic Director of Out of Character Theatre Company, devising, writing and directing theatre pieces dealing specifically with mental illness.

Barnaby Eaton-Jones (Producer/Director)
Based in Gloucestershire, Barnaby is an award-winning audio writer, director and producer. He revived ‘The
Goodies’ for Audible in 2019 (with Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, with guest stars Joanna Lumley and Jon Culshaw) and resurrected and toured the classic radio comedy ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again’ for stage; as well as a new series for BBC Radio 4 Extra. He co-adapted, directed and produced the spy
thriller ‘Passport To Oblivion’ (starring George Lazenby, Terence Stamp and Glynis Barber) which recently won Best Drama Special at the New York Festivals Awards in April 2020. He produces, directs and writes the new
‘Robin of Sherwood’ audios (with ITV Global), which features all the original cast of this classic 1980’s television series – Ray Winstone, Jason Connery, Clive Mantle and Nickolas Grace, to name but a few. He is the Creative Director of Spiteful Puppet Entertainment Ltd, who – in 2019 and 2020 – produced the highly successful musical cabaret ‘Musik’, performed by Frances Barber, written by Jonathan Harvey, and with music by the Pet Shop Boys.

Spiteful Puppet

Spiteful Puppet Entertainment Limited has provided audio content for BBC Radio, ITV Global and Audible; as well as
originating theatre work for the Edinburgh Festival, the West End and touring provincial theatres. They have partnered with publisher Chinbeard Books for a range of critically acclaimed books which have encompassed cult television shows and original content. They are primarily known for audio drama and comedy; winning a host of awards for their expertise in this particular field. We always count ourselves very lucky that we get to work with great voice actors, composers, studio engineers and sound designers who enable us to bring our stories to life.

Creative Team
Sound Design Joseph Fox
Music Abigail Fox
Songs Darrel Maclaine
Design and Illustration Robert Hammond
Sound Engineer Nigel Masters at The Boat Shed Studios, New Zealand
Produced by Spiteful Puppet in association with AUK

‘The Barren Author’
is OUT NOW
Price: £3.99 each episode or £19.95 for all 6
if bought together
www.spitefulpuppet.com 

Happy listening,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Sister’s Secret

This week I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham back to my blog with the Opening Lines from her latest novel,

Her Sister’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

Her Sister’s Secret, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘66’, is my second novel of three I’ve been contracted to write for Ruby Fiction. All three novels involve secrets and forbidden love, explore mother and daughter relationships and are partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Sister’s Secret’ was published on September 15th as an e-book. Much of it is set in beautiful rural mid-Wales and the rest in a fictional area of northern Sicily. The story opens in 1946 when a young Welsh woman, Rose Howells, begins work in the kitchens of a large country house. She has a tempestuous relationship with her father whom she suspects of dealing on the Black Market. When matters come to a head after a particularly serious argument, she leaves home and eventually makes a decision that will have repercussions for the whole family. Her name is never mentioned again and what she did becomes a deeply held family secret. In 1966, that secret is partly revealed and Jennifer Howells travels to Sicily to find out why she and Rose have been kept apart for over eighteen years. In the novel, I try to give a glimpse of what life was like in both eras and how society judged women living in both times. Jen’s search for her true identity takes her to a wonderful island so different from rural mid-Wales in terms of climate, the colours, foods and way of life. I hope the book encourages readers to think about the decisions Rose made and whether, under the circumstances, they were the right ones. The role Aunt Edie plays in both stories is a crucial one.

BLURB:

How far would you travel to find the truth?

It’s 1966 and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.

Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.

But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …

***

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

24 August 1943

A loud knocking echoed along the passageway of the cottage. Joe Howells opened the front door to a solemn-faced young man in uniform.

‘Mr Joseph Howells? A telegram for you.’

The blood drained from Joe’s face. As he took the envelope, his hand shook. His pulse raced so fast, he steadied himself against the hall table. Please, God. Don’t let it be what I think it is.

Walking back into the scullery, he slid a finger under the flap of the envelope and unfolded the telegram with its Post Office logo heralding the message he didn’t want to read.

MR AND MRS J. HOWELLS, 1 PENRHOS, PONTCARREG.

I REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, GUNNER BRIAN JOSEPH HOWELLS (ARMY NUMBER: 864499) OF THE 8TH ARMY, HAS BEEN KILLED IN ACTION NEAR MESSINA IN SICILY.

Joe couldn’t read any more. Transported back to the horror of the trenches in his war, he slumped to the floor and cradled his arms around his head. He tried to shut out the noise of shells exploding around him. He gagged on the stench of bloodied bodies, relived the pain of the gas blistering his skin under his damp uniform, tasted the burning bile in his throat and in his lungs as he tried to breathe. His hand traced the shape of the metal plate in his skull where they’d patched him up. Physically, at least.

The back door opened.

‘Joe. Whatever’s wrong?’ Violet put down the washing basket and rushed to her husband.

It was then she saw the telegram discarded on the flagstone floor beside him.

‘Oh, noo-oo!’ she wailed. ‘Not our beautiful boy.’

 

Chapter One

Rose

1946

‘What do you mean you know what I’m up to, you little madam?’

Joe Howells’s voice rose to a bellow. He went to strike his daughter, but Rose backed away and he caught the back of his hand on the door post instead. He swore and Rose ran upstairs. She slammed the bedroom door behind her and, with tears pricking her eyes, fumbled to turn the key. She clenched her hands so tightly that her nails dug deep into her palms, flung herself on the bed and pictured her father pacing the floor in the kitchen below.

She heard him shouting angrily. ‘The girl’s gone too far this time. She needs to be taught a lesson.’

Her mother’s voice was softer. ‘Why do you two always have to annoy each other? You’re both as bad as each other.’

But her mother didn’t know what was really going on, did she? Her father’s voice was closer now. He was at the foot of the stairs.

‘Come down here at once, Rose, or I’ll break the door down to make you!’

‘No. Go away! I’m not coming out.’

Rose pulled the bed clothes closer to her chest and buried her head in the silky eiderdown to shut out her father’s rage.

He hammered on the door with his fists.

Her throat tightened…

***

‘Her Sister’s Secret’ is available on:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.amazon.com/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=her+sisters+secret+jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-sisters-secret-jan-baynham/1137428123?ean=2940162698852

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous Opening Lines today, Jan,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Mill Grange SALE!!

FOR A SHORT TIME ONLY!!!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

IS FREE ON AMAZON KINDLE!!

AND

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange 

IS ONLY 99p!!

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?

If you’d like to read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange it is now FREE in eBook form

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Meanwhile, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange is ONLY 99p!

Blurb

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

You can pick up your 99p copy of Autuum Leaves here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08HSH1FJ1/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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

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