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

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Download Today: Fitzwarren’s Well

A brand new Robin of Sherwood story is available to download from Spiteful Puppet!

Fitzwarren’s Well is a full cast (acted not narrated) audio story, staring Judi Trott as Marion.

Fancy a trailer care of the Radio Times? (Yes! The Radio Times!!!) Here you go –https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-07-01/robin-of-sherwood-classic-tv-series-returns-for-new-story-recorded-in-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR1AvsHxbXospBSUlL0WKsGLoJChdh_Jx4obcSkArUfNU2cXytGoxmlZD8g

Here’s the blurb-

Will Scarlet is regretting buying new boots as he walks home from Lichfield, desperate to get back to Sherwood. A worried Marion intercepts him with terrible news of a sickness that has laid low the rest of the outlaws.

A journey to the Lady of the Well is their one hope.

But the Lady will only help those she deems worthy… and someone is busy convincing her that they are not.

***

Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD
‘FITZWARREN’S WELL’
By Jennifer Ash

Starring JUDI TROTT as Maid Marion

Featuring JON CULSHAW, SARAH GREENE and IAN OGILVY

With DANIEL ABINERI and BARNABY EATON-JONES

(Set during Series Three, between ‘Rutterkin’ and ‘The Time of the Wolf’)

Artwork: Anthony Lamb
Sound Design: Joseph Fox
Soundtrack: Arpeggio Creative
Produced & Directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones

Television series Robin Of Sherwood © HTV/Goldcrest Films & Television 1983. Created by Richard Carpenter, with grateful thanks to his Estate.

Once upon a time a 14 year old girl fell in love with a story. The Robin Hood story.

Almost 34 years later, that same girl has – by some miracle – found herself writing for Spiteful Puppet – the power behind the new Robin of Sherwood audios and books – and adding, in a very small way, to that same story.

It is such a joy! Not only do I get to write lines for characters from my favourite television show – I also get to write for incredible guest stars.

The story of Fitzwarren’s Well evolved from an idea that Barnaby Eaton Jones – Spiteful Puppet’s producer, script editor, budget juggler, and actor – had not long after lockdown was imposed.

He wanted a tale that reflected – but did not copy – our current socially isolated situation.

The story was to involve two of Robin Hood’s outlaws (Marion and Will Scarlet), and two extra characters with whom they could interact – in this case Herne and a man called Fitzwarren. Obviously, we are in lockdown, so only actors with their own audio equipment could be involved in this production.

You will notice from the cast list above however, that rather than having a cast of four, we have a cast of six. This is because, when I was writing the story I accidentally invented the ‘Lady of the Well’ – and once I’d got her in my head, I couldn’t shift her.

Barnaby- being a forgiving sort- magically found the brilliant Sarah Greene (of Blue Peter fame) to provide the Lady of the Well’s voice. It has to be said, she plays the role to perfection.

At this point, I thought I’d finished writing the story – but then I received a phone call saying that the fantastic Mr Ian Ogilvy- on hearing that there was an opportunity to bring Lord Edgar of Huntingdon back for a cameo – offered his services. And so, there I was, suddenly writing lines for another of my acting heroes.

The result was Fitzwarren’s Well – of which I’ll say no more, for fear of spoiling the story.

You can buy your copy of Fitzwarren’s Well for download from Spiteful Puppet – here.

 

Happy listening,

Jennifer xx

 

Jenny Kane’s Cheese Scones: Sybil approved!

As regular readers to this blog will know, my latest novel, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, has just been published.

You’ll also know that I LOVE a scone – all scones!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Should you read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, you will soon discover that my love of scones is shared by the characters. In particular they are partial to the cheese scones on offer at Sybil’s Tea Rooms in Upwich. a place which bears a remarkable resemblance to the Copper Kettle in Dulverton, Somerset!

I thought that, this weekend, you might like to bake some Sybil style cheese scones.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 55g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 100g mature cheddar –  grated (reserve some for sprinkling on top prior to baking)
  • 100-110ml milk – plus 1 tbsp for glazing

And here’s what you do:

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6
  2. Place the flour, salt, cayenne pepper and baking powder into a bowl, and stir together. (You can sift it if you like- but I can never be bothered!)
  3. Add the butter to the bowl and rub with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs.
  4. Sprinkle almost all the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and stir in.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the milk, a little at a time, until you have a firm dough. (Do not be afraid to add a fraction more milk if required)
  6. Lightly flour a surface and push/fold the dough a few times, until it is approximately 2cm thick. Cut out the scones with a medium (about 8cm) cutter.
  7. Lightly flour a baking sheet, and place the scones on top. Glaze scones with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-ish mins or until cooked through.
  9. Eat with way too much butter  and enjoy without guilt.

I hope Sybil’s scones put a smile on your face!

If you’d like to read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, and see what else the workers at Mill Grange like to eat, you can find all the buy links here.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jenny x

 

Launch Day Opening Lines: Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Drum roll please! Fanfares all round!

Today sees the launch of my brand new, feel good romance,

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

This, the first in a trilogy, introduces you to Thea Thomas, Tina Martin, Shaun Cowlson, Sam Philips, and the unstoppable Mabel Hastings – and takes you into the beautiful Exmoor countryside, on the Somerset/Devon border.

To help celebrate launch day, I thought I’d share the Opening Lines.

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?

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

FIRST 500 WORDS

Thea Thomas checked her mobile. EMERGENCY CALLS ONLY was written in bold type across the top of the screen.

She tried connecting to her Wi-Fi.

Nothing happened.

Relief made her shoulders sag, as a wide smile knocked away some of the nervousness she felt about starting a new job in an unfamiliar part of England.

Here, she could avoid the constant barrage of social media alerts and unwanted texts, calls and emails. Here, she could start over.

*

Positioned at the top of a high rise of land, not far from the southern border of Exmoor, the Victorian manor house called Mill Grange rose from the centre of a gravelled drive, taking command of the surrounding scenery. Three tiers of a once-loved terraced garden fell away from the house in tatty overgrown rows. At the foot of these gardens ran a semi-encircling band of encroaching woodland, which the Ordnance Survey map Thea was clutching declared to stretch down to the River Barle on one side and the meandering River Exe on the other.

Huddled beneath her thick jumper against the sharp March wind, Thea was enfolded in a sensation of freedom and peace. The very stillness of the air, the lack of any visible overhead wires or street lighting, made her feel as if she’d driven into a Victorian time capsule. A Roman historian and archaeologist to the bone, she felt daunted by the prospect of taking on the restoration of a manor centuries removed from her field of expertise. With its fourteen bedrooms, seven bathrooms, numerous associated rooms, outhouses, and the mill after which it was named, a quarter of a mile away on the edge of Upwich village, it was not a task for the faint-hearted. However, the early spring sunshine, which caused the house’s granite walls to glitter with welcoming promise, seemed to be telling her it was going to be alright.

Alongside her Roman studies at university, Thea had trained in industrial archaeology and museum management, and was well-qualified for the job in hand. But this challenge, to turn Mill Grange into a heritage centre, was vastly different from her last posting at the Roman Baths in Bath. She could feel herself prodding the outer edges of her comfort zone.

At least she wouldn’t have to face the unknown alone. Her best friend, Tina, had been associated with the project for some time. Then there was the team of volunteers who’d been working on restoring Mill Grange, on a casual basis, for the last five years. A tingle of anxiety dotted Thea’s palms as she wondered how they’d take to being guided in their endeavours after pleasing themselves for so long.

Flicking an unruly stray brown hair from her eyes, she circuited the outside of the manor house. Thea’s boots made satisfying crunching sounds against the gravel as she attempted to banish her nerves, peering through each window as she went. The eclectic mix of original Victorian and reproduction furniture and artwork she saw within took…

If you’d like to read on, then Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange is now available as an eBook from all good retailers, including…

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Kobo 

Nook

I hope you enjoy your first trip to Mill Grange. If you do, it won’ t be long before you can travel back there again!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

#MillGrange: 6 days to go…

There are only 6 days to go until the first book in the #MillGrange #series is released.

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

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 Devon, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mable 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?

***

I’m so excited about this forthcoming publication!

To celebrate, on 25th June, I will be on Facebook and Twitter sharing extracts from the book, as as well as photographs and memories of Exmoor, (where the novel is set), and of my life as an archaeologist, (which inspired the creation of the book’s protagonist), Thea Thomas.

I’d love you to join in on the day, (10am-4pm), by sharing your own Exmoor or archaeological memories/photos.

You can join in on 25th June  Twitter – @JennyKaneAuthor- using the hashtag #MillGrange

And on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011235488766

In the meantime, here are those all important Kindle pre-order links…

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Kobo

 

Happy preordering,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Lynne Shelby: The Summer of Taking Chances

This week I’m delighted to welcome Lynne Shelby to my Opening Line’s blog. Today Lynne is sharing the first 500 words from her brand new #romcom, ‘The Summer of Taking Chances.’

Blurb

It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

FIRST 500 WORDS

‘Such a glamorous life we actors lead,’ I said.

Richard stacked the last of the chairs against the wall. ‘I think we’re done,’ he said.

I took one final look around the hall. Satisfied that we’d removed all evidence of the South Quay Players’ rehearsal, and the Mother and Toddlers’ Group would have no cause
for complaint when they arrived at the community centre the following morning –
an unwashed coffee mug lurking in the kitchen sink had caused uproar only last
week – I returned the brush and dustpan I’d used to sweep the floor to the
broom-cupboard.

‘Emma,’ Richard said, ‘before we go and join the rest of the cast, can I ask you something?’

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘What is it?’

Richard hesitated, and then he said, ‘Just between ourselves, what’s your honest opinion of the committee’s choice of play for the summer show?’

‘I think it’s great,’ I said.

‘You don’t think we’re being too ambitious?’

‘Not at all,’ I said. ‘Of course, as I’m playing the female lead, I may be biased.’ The Players might be a small amateur dramatics society who shared their rehearsal space
with the Brownies, a Pilates class and the WI, but the thought that in just a few months’ time I’d be performing as Juliet, my favourite Shakespeare heroine, in front of a live audience made me smile – just as much, I felt sure, as if I was acting in a West End theatre.

‘You were good tonight,’ Richard said, ‘but you’re a naturally talented actress.’

‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘You weren’t too shabby yourself.’ Richard gave an exaggerated bow, reminding me of the time he’d played Dandini in Cinderella.

‘I think I did OK,’ he said, ‘but some of the cast are mangling every line. I can see us being called in for a lot of extra rehearsals this summer.’

‘I’m not saying it won’t be a challenge to get it right,’ I said, ‘but surely it’s good to stretch ourselves as actors?’

‘I think that rather depends on why you took up amateur dramatics,’ Richard said. ‘Why did you join the Players, Emma?’

I stared at him. Where is he going with this? I thought. ‘I love acting,’ I said. ‘I always have. When I was a teenager, the school play was the highlight of my year.’

‘I enjoy acting,’ Richard said, ‘but I can’t help thinking that it stops being enjoyable when the show is a disaster because half the cast aren’t up to it.’

‘It’ll all come together,’ I said, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation appeared to be heading. These were our friends Richard was talking about. ‘It always
does.’

‘Well, we’ll see,’ Richard said. ‘At least I get to wave a sword about.’

‘I’m sure you’ll make a brilliant Tybalt,’ I said.

‘Not that it’s the role I wanted,’ Richard said.

So that’s what this is about, I thought.

‘Henry can’t have done a better audition than me,’ Richard went on, ‘but once again he gets the lead…’

***

Buy link:

Bio

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction and romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing was published after it won a national writing competition. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city with her writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband and has three adult children who live nearby.

Many thanks for coming by today Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

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

 

 

Opening Lines with Tim Walker: Arthur Rex Brittonum

I’m delighted to welcome Tim Walker back to my blog today, with the Opening Lines from the latest novel in his A Light in the Dark Ages series, Arthur Rex Brittonum.

Blurb

From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land

Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend.

Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.

Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Rex Brittonum.

First 500 words

“Pull harder you wretches!” bellowed the captain, turning his warty head away from the pursuing ships to urge his crew to greater effort, gnarled hands gripping the tiller so firmly his knuckles shone white in the gloom. Low grey clouds scudded overhead, driven on by strong westerly gusts that blew into the lone sail intermittently, like puffs of air from bellows feeding a fire. Soft rain slanted across the faces of the desperate crew and passengers on the deck of the thirty-foot merchant rig, its eight oarsmen dashing their oars into the choppy green of the Hibernian Sea as angry whitecaps pointed the way to the green and grey shorelines rising before them.

“Row for your lives, the western savages are gaining on us!” Random words were snatched away by the fitful rage of Manannan, the dread god of sailors, who inhabited the narrow sea between Britannia’s western coast and the land of Hibernia. It was across these waters that wild tribesmen habitually raided the comparatively wealthy and orderly Britannia, now left unguarded following Rome’s withdrawal.

A cluster of six passengers huddled beside the burly captain at the stern, holding onto ropes or the side rail as their ship rolled in the waves that carried them to shore. Those who had voided their guts on deck or over the side turned pale faces to see the three black sails gaining on them through the gathering storm.

Barinthus clasped the charm around his neck and muttered a prayer to Fortuna. “I shall sacrifice the finest kid I can find in your temple at Deva, should you see fit to deliver us there in safety.”

The well-fed Armorican had chartered the ship in the port of Dinan on the northwest coast of what had once been Roman Gaul and was transporting his cargo of fine wines, jars of olive oil, rolls of silk and linen, and some live quails in crates to sell to the nobles of western Britannia. He pulled the fox fur collar of his cloak tighter against the rain and looked down at his sodden calf leather boots, then to the crates of squawking birds that slid from side to side across the deck of the lurching vessel, noting their clucks of displeasure at every roll and shower of sea spray.

“I fear they will soon be upon us!” he yelled at the captain, who fixed him with a filthy look that spoke of regret at accepting the charter. “I have outrun many Frankish pirates around the rocky bays of Armorica where I know the reefs, but these waters are unknown to me. Let us hope we make beach before the rocks rip out our keel.”

They were now in surf that sent rows of churning white-capped waves, like advancing lines of ghostly shield men, towards a shore that revealed itself as a shingle beach before towering pock-marked cliffs. The shrill cries of gulls seemed to foretell their impending doom as the roar of waves breaking on the beach…

You can buy Arthur Rex Brittonum from all good retailers, including-

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ArthurRex

i-book; Kobo; Nook; other: https://books2read.com/ArthurRexBrittonum

Paperback: http://mybook.to/ArthurRexPaperback

 

Bio

Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.

His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.

His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.

Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.

Find out more about the author at – http://www.timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Author Website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/timwalker1666

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/TimWalkerWrites

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666 

Many thanks Tim.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Anna Legat: A Conspiracy of Silence

Today I’m delighted to welcome Anna Legat to my blog. She is not just here to share her Opening Lines, but to reveal the cover for her latest DI Gillian Marsh, detective novel, A Conspiracy of Silence, which you can pre-order now!

Blurb:

When a body is found in the grounds of a prestigious Wiltshire private school, DI Gillian Marsh takes on the case. The young groundsman, Bradley Watson, has been shot dead, pierced through the heart with an arrow.

As the investigation gathers pace, DI Marsh is frustrated to find the Whalehurst staff and students united in silence. This scandal must not taint their reputation. But when Gillian discovers pictures of missing Whalehurst pupil, fifteen-year-old Rachel Snyder, on Bradley’s dead body – photos taken on the night she disappeared, and he was murdered – the link between the two is undeniable.

But what is Whalehurst refusing to reveal? And does Gillian have what it takes to bring about justice?

First 500 words 

Sarah Snyder was waiting in her car. She tapped her blue fingernails in close proximity to the horn, but she held back from sounding it. To kill time, she checked her lipstick in the rear view mirror and rubbed her front teeth to remove a red smudge. She turned on the radio only to hear the part of the news she wasn’t interested in: sport, followed by the weather. She was restless but she was pleased: Rachel was taking her sweet time.

Rachel was chatting to her friends ‑ Rhiannon and a couple of other girls. Only once did she steal a glance in the direction of her mother’s car – just to check Sarah was there, waiting. Reassured, she turned back to her chums and whispered something into Rhiannon’s ear. Whatever she said, it made Rhiannon laugh. Rachel laughed too.

It was an immeasurable relief to see her child happy, having a conversation with other people, and laughing. She was laughing! Sarah was so relieved she wanted to cry.

Only three days ago the picture had been very different. Head down, eyes boring a hole in the ground, Rachel would clutch her bag to her chest and run for the car as if the hounds of hell were after her. She would slump in her seat and mutter under her breath, Drive, Mum, just drive, and not speak for the rest of the day. She would lock herself in her room and brood.

Sarah winced at the memory and pushed it out of her mind. She waited and counted her blessings, of which there were many. She decided she would cancel the GP appointment. There was nothing wrong with Rachel, just the usual growing pains of puberty.

At last Rachel parted company with her friends, waved to someone hidden inside the school, and headed for the car. Her face, still beaming and full of bounce, appeared in the wound-down window.

‘Hi, Mum.’

‘I take it you had a good day?’ Sarah pulled her sunglasses to the tip of her nose and produced an expectant grin.

Rachel made a non-committal noise. She pecked her mother on the cheek and slid into the passenger seat. She was still smiling, addressing her smile to the windscreen and to the view of the tarmac in front of the car, but that was enough for her mother to flick her sunglasses up her nose and start the engine.

‘That good!’

The front right wheel stumbled over the kerb while the rear one rubbed against it as the car lurched sharply across the road to join the line of traffic leaving the school. Were it not a big and sturdy four-wheel-drive, it would have been written off a long time ago. Sarah did not treat it well. She used it more like a bulldozer than a means of transportation.

Accustomed to her mother’s driving antics, Rachel didn’t as much as blink. She bent forward in her seat and began tampering with the radio in search of a…

***

What readers are saying about Anna Legat:

‘Brilliant. I didn’t want to put it down!

‘It’s a rare author who can keep me guessing until the end – and the ending was a shocker

Plenty of twists and turns’

‘A brilliantly complex spaghetti of unrelated sub-plots to challenge any armchair sleuth

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, reading it cover to cover in a weekend’

‘I shall look out for more from Ms Legat’
***

Bio

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications in New Zealand. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

To find out more: https://annalegatblog.wordpress.com/
Good luck with your new novel Anna.
Happy reading everyone
Jenny xx

Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood: The (D)evolution of Us

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I bring you this week’s Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood.

Not only is this Morwenna’s debut novel – but it is also a novel written during my very first set of #novelinayear workshops. To say I’m proud of the work Morwenna has produced is an understatement.

So, put your feet up with a cuppa, and take a look at The (D)evolution of Us.

Over to you Morwenna…

Once upon a time, I heard about a writing workshop run by best-selling author, Jenny Kane.  It was held in my local café, and as ’twas a dark and stormy day and I’d just been given a pen in the shape of a cactus, I thought I’d go.  I loved it, and at the end, Jenny mentioned that she was thinking of running a Novel in a Year course as part of Imagine Creative Writing.  I signed up there and then (with my new pen).  Over the year, I wrote The (D)Evolution of Us, and with the support of Jenny, my local writers’ group and my brilliant husband, I submitted my manuscript to darkstroke, it was released on Star Wars Day, and we all lived happily ever after…?

***

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hiding in libraries; now, I carry my own personal one around in my pocket wherever I go.  This doesn’t mean I don’t still stop and lose track of time in bookshops and bookstalls, though.  In fact, this morning, on my lockdown-permitted-exercise walk, some lovely person had left a storage container full of books at the end of their front garden, with a note on it inviting passers-by to pick one, or leave one for others who might be in need of a random lockdown read.  I couldn’t help myself – I paused for a look.

The thing I love most about reading second-hand books is finding bits of other stories inside them: forgotten bookmarks; ticket stubs; Biro-ed dedications; and best of all, notes scrawled in the margins.  In the books I own, I am a margin-scrawler.  My husband says this is defacing someone else’s work, but to me, it’s adding to it.  Stories are inextricably linked, and in any case, what one reader gets from a book will be different to the next, and that’s the beauty of it.  Perception is everything.

The (D)Evolution of Us is an exploration – or explanation – of those ideas.  The novel is a noir existential thriller, set in a small Devon town at the turn of the 21st century, and is told from the view points of the three protagonists, Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine.  The girls are best friends.  Catherine is dead.

Mental illness, personal history, personality and perception drive the actions of all three as they struggle to make sense of their lives and their agency; whilst living in a town where everyone appears to know everything about everyone else, and the days roll away in a work-pub-work-pub cycle.

This is my debut novel, and its origins lie in my own existential dread.  In the end, I decided to wholeheartedly pursue the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do – write – and if there’s ever a starting point to anything, the story of Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine is it for me.

If you come into possession of the paperback, feel free to write in the margins.

***

Blurb

… the water was red and translucent, like when you rinse a paint brush in a jam jar.  The deeper into the water, the darker the red got.  No, the thicker it got.  It wasn’t water, it was human.  It was Cath.

Cath is dead, but why and how isn’t clear cut to her best friend, Kayleigh.  As Kayleigh searches for answers, she is drawn deeper into Cath’s hidden world.  The (D)Evolution of Us questions where a story really begins, and whether the world in our heads is more real than reality.

First 500 words

Prologue

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I reviewed Catherine at The Meadows today. She reported that her OCD was less ‘loud’ than when we last met in November, after the Crisis Team was called. This improvement has coincided with the resuming of clomipramine, which seems likely to have been helpful, as it has been in the past. Catherine agreed to the suggestion that this dose be increased to 200mg: 100mg morning and evening.

Catherine is coping well with life and states that her relationship with Richard is good. However she refuses to tell him about restarting the clomipramine, which is of concern to me. She has also resumed her writing.  I again offered Catherine a course of CBT, but she was resolute that she found it ‘useless’.

Catherine has now found employment in a health food shop but struggles with her OCD when closing down the tills and locking up at the end of the day, though she admits that she recognises that her rituals are entirely irrational.

Overall, in spite of her very significant persisting difficulties, I think that Catherine’s life has improved with the reintroduction of clomipramine.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I met with Kayleigh at The Meadows this morning, where she revealed to me that she is in the first trimester of pregnancy. She had requested the appointment (we were not due to meet again for another six weeks), in order, primarily, to discuss her medication, with regards to her new condition.

I found the fact that she did this encouraging, as I did her general demeanour. She was casually, but neatly, dressed, maintained good eye-contact throughout our interview, and appeared to have a good understanding of her mental health, and how it could impact on her (unborn) child.

We decided together that it would be prudent for Kayleigh to remain taking her lithium for the duration of her pregnancy, with close monitoring from her midwife and the Perinatal Team.

In spite of Kayleigh’s reports of having been ‘stable’ for the last few months, I have suggested that we meet at The Meadows every six weeks for the foreseeable future. I have also asked her to make an appointment for bloods to check her lithium levels as soon as possible – it is critical that she maintains a therapeutic dose.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

Richard

I’m half-listening to the radio, running a bath for my girlfriend, Cath. She’s sitting on the toilet seat, staring at me. I’m standing in the doorway, staring at her. Then I start to laugh. They’re playing that song by Marillion – Kayleigh – the one her hippy twat of a best mate likes to say she was named for, even though she’s too bloody old. I say she’s a hippy twat – I’d still shag her. She needs a good seeing to – and a good slap. She dots her ‘i’s with hearts, for fuck’s sake! And then the phone rings. Bloody witches. I…

You can buy The (D)evolution of Us from all good retailers, including…

mybook.to/devolution

Bio – When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends.  The story was about a frog.  It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.  When she is not writing, she works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Twitter: @MorwennaBlackw1

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

***

Many thanks Morwenna- wishing you huge success.

Happy reading Jenny

PS- She really did turn up with a cactus pen xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Mother’s Secret

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham to Opening Lines, to talk about her debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret.

Over to you, Jan…

‘Her Mother’s Secret’, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘69’, is my debut novel. It is the first 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 mainly or partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was published on April 21st as an ebook and most of it is set on Péfka, a fictional island off the coast of southern Greece. The story opens in 1991when a young Welsh woman, Alexandra Davies, is grieving after the untimely death of her mother. Elin has left her diary to her daughter and on reading it, Alexandra discovers a part of Elin’s life she knew nothing about. She is shocked as the secrets from Elin’s past are revealed and realises she didn’t know her mother as well as she thought. I tried to put myself in Alexandra’s shoes. Having had a very close relationship with her mother, how must she have felt finding out that her mother had kept such secrets from her?

The diary takes us back to 1969. Elin Morgan leaves Wales after finishing art college to spend the summer months studying at a painting school in Greece.  She records everything about her summer on the island but, while there, something happens that causes her to never paint again.  The secrets of that summer remain with her until she dies twenty-two years later.

Alexandra makes her own journey to Greece, following in her mother’s footsteps. She arrives on the same beautiful island that made such an impression on her mother. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69 and why it was never mentioned again. Will she understand why her mother closed down that part of her life?

Why Greece? Having had several holidays there now, I first visited the country in the seventies when we stayed with my aunt and Greek uncle. I fell in love with the climate, the vibrancy of the colours of the sea and flowers and the warmth of its people. It seemed to be an ideal place for a young artist to spend her summer. I enjoyed getting to know my Greek characters, some named after or based on people I’ve met and observed on visits over the years. Dimitra, the host at the taverna where Elin stays, is named after a lovely waitress from the hotel we go to in Crete. On a trip to a Cretan village, I watched a woodturner working at his lathe on pieces of olive wood and he became the inspiration for Yiannis who figures largely in Alexandra’s story. Vassilis is named after an elderly Greek who led me onto a taverna dance floor. He tried to teach me traditional dancing and had the bruised toes to prove it! He appears in both Elin’s and Alexandra’s story. I hope I’ve done justice to the country and its people by giving the reader a glimpse of life on my fictional island.

***

BLURB:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

1969, The Peloponnese, Southern Greece

Sofia Simonides let out a scream and tottered backwards. Her pulse struggled to force blood around her veins. The body was slumped against the gnarled trunk of an ancient olive tree, head hanging to one side and resting on the left shoulder.

The man had a blue-grey pallor, his skin a candle-wax translucency. Sofia bent over and touched his cheek. It was icy cold; she gasped, drawing back her hand. Blood from a gash on one wrist had seeped over his thigh and there was a deep red stain in the sand. A long-bladed knife caked in dried blood lay by his side. Sofia eased out the piece of paper he clutched in one fist, unfolded it and read the message.

Falling to her knees, she sobbed.

‘Andreas, no-o-o! No! What have you done?’

A piercing howl from deep inside her shattered the cool, still air of the dawn.

Chapter One

Alexandra

1991, A market town in the heart of rural mid-Wales
The sky was lead-grey, heavy with blue-black rain clouds threatening a downpour. The dreariness of the day reflected my mood as I turned the Mini into the cul-de-sac. A shiny red two-seater was parked in the drive behind my father’s Audi. I pulled up alongside the kerb, took a deep breath, trying to avoid a downpour of my own, and entered the house. There was laughter coming from the kitchen.

‘What’s she doing here?’

My father and his friend turned to face me. His mouth gaped open.

‘Alexandra. Apologise, straight away. Sally, I’m very sorry. She has no right to speak to you like that.’

‘It’s all right, Richard. Alexandra’s upset. I’ll go now. The food’s almost done, anyway. You just need to serve it straight from the oven once the timer rings. Shall I call Claire down on my way out?’

I glared at the woman who stood there taking off Mam’s apron. My heart quickened. Mam? My mind was playing tricks on me. It wasn’t Mam, was it? She should be the one standing there, greeting me, cooking dinner. Not her. I struggled to breathe. How dare she? How dare he?

My father accompanied Sally outside, and I heard the throaty roar of the sports car signal that she’d gone. I braced myself for the row that would ensue, but I wasn’t being unreasonable, was I?

Claire entered the kitchen first. She was four years younger than me, tall and slim with long auburn hair and sage-green eyes. She took after my father’s side of the family. He idolised her.

‘What was all that about and where’s Sally?’ she said.

By then, my father had joined us and they both stared at me. ‘Well?’

‘That woman’s here all the time, wheedling her way in. She’s even taken to wearing Mam’s things.’ I twisted the cotton apron into a ball in my hands and heard my voice rise.

Claire moved to switch off the timer and reached for the oven gloves…

***

 ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=her+mother+s+secret+jan+baynham&ref=nb_sb_noss

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 and a member of the Society of Authors.

You may find out more about Jan here:

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

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

Blog: www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk

***

Many thanks Jan,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny x

 

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