Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Tag: new release Page 1 of 8

Opening Lines with Carol McGrath: The Silken Rose

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath to my blog, as she goes on tour with her brand new historical novel, The Silken Rose.

Why not sit and relax for five minutes, while you enjoy a little background to this, the first of The She Wolf Trilogy – as well as the first 500 words.

Over to you Carol…

The Silken Rose is the first novel in The She Wolf Trilogy, three standalone novels about three medieval queens set during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ailenor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile and Isabella of France were considered she wolves by later writers but they were reviled by many barons during their reigns because of the influence the exercised over their husbands. Ailenor was guilty of nepotism, Eleanor grabbed lands and built up a property empire and, as for Isabella, say no more, she simply deposed her husband and set up her son Edward III as king in his stead. Their thrilling and intriguing stories are intersected with those of three ordinary women, ordinary in rank but independent and from the merchant class. The first appears in The Silken Rose. She is an embroiderer and Rosalind’s story intersects with that of Queen Ailenor.  Enjoy the short blub and extract. The book is published on 2nd April as an e book and as a paperback on 23rd July. The audio is currently available too.

It is 1236

Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is thirteen when she marries Henry III. She is aware of the importance of providing heirs to secure the throne. She will protect England’s throne from those who would snatch it away. She is ruthless in her dealings with Henry’s barons.

Beautiful Ailenor’s shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles can support her, until her power is threatened when Henry’s half-siblings also arrive at court.

Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular, expensive war to protect the last English territories in France, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King’s seneschal. It is the final straw.

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, ‘she-wolf’ Ailenor’s courage is tested to the limit. Can she control her destiny and protect her family?

First 500 words…

Canterbury, January 1236

The road from Dover to Canterbury was mired with mud so progress was slow. Ailenor, Princess of Provence, had never seen such weather. She tugged back the oiled canvas and peered from her long, box-like carriage into the January landscape. A collection of gaunt faces stared back; figures huddled in heavy cloaks, watching the golden lions of Savoy and Provence pass through Canterbury’s gate into the cramped lanes of the city.

Domina Willelma’s rhythmic snores competed with the splashing of hooves moving laboriously through the gateway, the roll of wheels belonging to sumpter carts, the cracking of whips and the protesting snorts of an escort of three hundred horsemen. All the way from Dover, thirteen year-old Ailenor had listened to rain rattling on the curved roof of the carriage. With a hiss, it dripped through a minute crack onto the box of hot charcoal that warmed her feet.

She let the curtain drop and withdrew into her furs. It’s so different to my golden Provençal fields on which sun shines winter and summer.

A tear slid down her cheek. She instinctively drew her mantle closer. This was not what she imagined after Richard of Cornwall, King Henry’s brother, had visited their castle of Les Baux last year and she had listened to his thrilling tales of romance. England was not the magical land she visualised when she wrote her best poem ever, set in Cornwall, verse Prince Richard admired. Nor was it the green country filled with wild flowers she dreamed of when Henry, King of England, sent for her to become his bride.

She shivered in her damp gown. She had not wanted woollen gowns and underskirts. Rather, she desired velvets, silks and satins, and the finest linen for under-garments. But after two days’ travel over the Narrow Sea and on waterlogged roads she understood the need for warmth. She was now to dwell in a land where winter never ended and summer was but a distant prayer.

The carriage jolted to a halt. Uncle William, the Bishop, thrust his head through the heavy hanging.

‘We are approaching the palace. Prepare to descend.’ He almost fell off his horse as he pushed his neck further into the carriage to waggle a long finger at Ailenor’s senior lady. ‘Waken that woman at once. Order her to tidy your dress.’ With a grunt, he withdrew before Ailenor could reply.

‘Domina Willelma, wake up.’ Ailenor gently shook her lady’s shoulder. ‘Uncle William says ‑’

‘By our sainted Lady, my child, forgive me. Why have you permitted me to sleep?’ Lady Willelma sat straight up, her dark eyes wide awake.

‘Because, dear Willelma, you have hardly slept since we left Vienne and that was three weeks ago.’

‘I’m neglecting my duty to your mother.’ Willelma opened the tassels of a velvet bag. My mother, Ailenor thought. If only she were here. She would make jests and have me laugh at it all. How can I face this awful land alone?

***

Buy Link https://tinyurl.com/ssdrk28 

Make sure you don’t miss a single stop on this amazing blog tour!

Bio

Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London.  Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016.  Visit her website:

Carol’s links are all on her website: www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk

***

You can join in with Carol’s ‘virtual’ book launch tomorrow, on Twitter, from 3pm!

Many thanks fro visiting today Carol.

Good luck with your new novel and the rest of your blog tour.

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines with Jules Hayes: The Walls We Build

I’m delighted to welcome Jules Hayes to this week’s Opening Lines, with her new novel, The Walls We Build.

Over to you Jules…

Thank you for having my new book, and me, over on your blog, Jenny.

The Walls We Build is my debut historical novel and written under my pseudonym, Jules Hayes. I also write contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

The Walls We Build, part love story, part thriller, and part mystery, is a sweeping generational dual timeline tale and set in the period between 1928 and 2004. The narrative boldly draws on the figure of Winston Churchill, who takes a small but important cameo role in this labyrinthine story of three childhood friends.

I was inspired to write the story after seeing a photograph of Winston Churchill – Britain’s pugnacious but passionate wartime Prime Minister – addressing battle-weary troops in Libya, North Africa, and only days after the Allied victory in the desert war campaign.

This powerful image compelled me to write a story about one of the men listening to Mr Churchill’s victory speech that day in April 1943. The idea took root, and once I began to write the story became so very clear, as did the characters, settings, and the themes. I wanted to write a mystery, I wanted to write a love story, I wanted to write about relationships, and I wanted Winston Churchill in a cameo role, mirroring my main male protagonist – Frank: An ordinary man and an extraordinary man. How do their paths continue cross over the years?

Blurb

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home, and reverberating through three generations comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.

Three Friends

Two Secrets

One Hidden Life

Growing up around Churchill’s estate, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained. Following Frank’s death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past.

On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on Richard’s too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?

For readers who enjoy the work of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Lucinda Riley, Katherine Webb and Juliet West.

***

First 500 words…

~ Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge

1.

Frank

February 2002

Frank lifted his head a fraction and listened to his wife shuffling around in the bedroom above. She was keeping out of his way, just as she’d been doing for more years than he wanted to admit. He slumped further into the armchair that she’d placed strategically so he could look outside, and not bother her. With his chin resting on his chest, he scrutinised his useless body, knowing he’d never achieve the miraculous recovery his old employer had managed fifty years before.

Finally, Frank turned, his line of vision settling on the glass panels of the patio doors, and through those, towards the silver birch that stood as an arboreal chandelier in the harsh morning frost. He clocked the untidiness of the garden; bushes not pruned, last summer’s bedding plants long dead, and the grass was a bloody mess. He hated to think what was happening down at his allotment, although Richard would happily sort it, the garden too. Frank would love to see more of his favourite grandson, but instead, here he was, confined to this one room, hearing the familiar creak of footsteps on the stairs as Hilda made her way down. He could gauge every one of her movements around the house, always knowing exactly where she was. Now, she’d be loitering on the other side of the sitting room door. Waiting for him to die.

He should call Richard. Do it now. There were secrets he needed to share with his grandson. Where was his mobile? On the table in the hall? Frank pushed himself into standing, but his knees collapsed as a sharp pain ricocheted throughout the front of his skull. Excruciating. Just like the last time, although this was worse. Much. He couldn’t see his wife but sensed she’d crossed the threshold into the room; he tried to call out. No sound came from his lips and in the lull that came before the real tornado he managed to move his head. There she stood, red hair now white and wispy, her face expressionless. He tried again, tried to say the words, Richard and phone. She turned away.

Frank didn’t want this to be the last thing he saw. The back of a woman he’d once loved so much but whom he’d come to despise. Instead, he found what he wanted to see, the full and vibrant image of a life half shared and of a woman so different to his wife, in every conceivable way.

2

Florence

Westerham, Kent

May Day 1928

With her legs splayed out and her back leant against the biggest oak in the village, which was conveniently situated at the rear of the church and away from prying eyes, Florence finished the last puff of her cigarette. She placed it on the parched ground and used the scuffed heel of her boot to extinguish it properly. The countryside’s like a tinderbox, her dad had told her; the last thing she wanted was to start a fire …

***

Buy Links:

Amazon: getbook.at/TheWallsWeBuild

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-walls-we-build/jules-hayes/9781916338005

Biography

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules Hayes’ second historical novel, which is due for publication in late 2020 is another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

***

Website: http://www.jules-hayes.com

Social Media:

Twitter: @JulesHayes6

http://www.twitter.com/JulesHayes6

Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/JulesHayesAuthor

Instagram: JulesHayes6

http://www.instagram.com/juleshayes6

Writing thrillers as JA Corrigan.

Website: http://www.jacorrigan.com

Twitter: @juliannwriter

http://www.twitter.com/juliannwriter

Facebook Author Page: JACorrigan

http://www.facebook.com/jacorrigan

Instagram: corriganjulieann

http://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann

***

Many thanks Jules,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

A sip of champagne

 

I’ve been so busy lately, that I’ve been neglecting my blog. I promise the neglect has been for good reasons- which will result in 4 new novels over the next 12 months.  (Yes- I am insane).

Talking of neglect – one of my novels often gets forgotten about when I’m waving my marketing flag – and that’s Another Glass of Champagne. Which is a shame- because I loved every second of writing it. As the last in a series of books (the Another Cup of… range), I frequently forget to shout about it, even though it stands up as a book in its own right, without you having to read the rest of the series first.While Another Cup of Coffee very much involved the figure of bad-boy Jack, in Another Glass of Champagne  he takes the staring role.

 

The novel opens with, after an absence of a few years from his friend’s lives, Jack is heading back to London, with new opportunities, a new skill set, a determination to avoid romance at all costs, and fresh adventures well within his grasp- all of which could be celebrated with a glass of champagne.

The trouble is, knowing Jack, he might well mess it all up…

Blurb

A warm-hearted, contemporary tale about a group of friends living in a small corner of busy London, by bestselling author Jenny Kane.

Fortysomething Amy is shocked and delighted to discover she s expecting a baby not to mention terrified! Amy wants best friend Jack to be godfather, but he hasn’t been heard from in months. When Jack finally reappears, he s full of good intentions but his new business plan could spell disaster for the beloved Pickwicks Coffee Shop, and ruin a number of old friendships…

Meanwhile his love life is as complicated as ever and yet when he swears off men for good, Jack meets someone who makes him rethink his priorities…but is it too late for a fresh start?

 Author Kit has problems of her own: just when her career has started to take off, she finds herself unable to write and there s a deadline looming, plus two headstrong kids to see through their difficult teenage years…will she be able to cope?

Extract

Staring out of the train window, Jack exhaled a long, slow breath. Was this how Amy had felt when she had first come to Richmond after her years of self-imposed exile in Scotland? Sort of excited, but absolutely terrified at the same time? 

Jack wondered if, once he’d worked up the courage to go and see her, Amy would notice the parallels between their situations. A smile crossed his face. However she reacted, she would forgive him for not being in touch over the past few years. Amy always forgave him. For everything.

In his mind, he’d left Richmond for a good reason. Although he knew Amy accepted he’d needed to leave, he was less sure she understood why – which was why he’d decided to break off even phone and email contact with her. It was also why he hadn’t told any of his friends where he was; just to see if that helped.

It wasn’t that Jack wasn’t happy for Amy and Paul to be living the fairytale, but the fact that they were together, while he was still alone, was sometimes hard to take – especially when he knew Amy’s love could have been his if only he’d been prepared to risk it all those years ago. This nagging thought – one he accepted was utterly ridiculous, as he knew that he’d never have been able to ignore his sexuality, even for Amy – made him a rather less kind human being than he would have liked. He knew that until he could get past feeling he was missing out on something that all his friends took for granted, they were better off without him and the chip on his shoulder. Amy would understand, he was sure. Kit, on the other hand, might not be as understanding…

Jack’s smile disappeared. Years ago, back when they were dating, Kit would have forgiven him anything – but since Amy had come back into his life, and both women had become good friends in their own right, Kit had become much stronger. Jack had learnt that Kit had always hated how he could make her doubt her strength and resilience. These days she was so much more equipped to deal with him and his bullshit – and he knew it.

Perhaps he shouldn’t be coming back. After all, he knew he was as emotionally messed-up as ever – but he had to go somewhere, and anyway, whether he wanted to admit it or not, he’d been getting homesick.  Plus he’d had to get away from Kent…

Opening his eyes, Jack sighed as the train’s sudden slowing announced that they were arriving at St Pancras. Here he was again. Back in London, fleeing from yet another cock-up in his love life, and with nowhere to call home. He wished he hadn’t so rashly sold his place in Mortlake – he’d got far less than it was worth, too, in his haste to make a clean break.  

There were several Tube connections to Richmond Jack could have chosen to see his old friends straight away, but as he stood in the bustling station, he found himself unable to move a step further.  It wasn’t like him to be assailed by doubt, but this time it was different. Whatever he did, he always managed to upset people. He never meant to; usually he never even saw his offences coming.

On this occasion however, he knew that if he was going to go ahead with his latest plan and really make it work, he was going to cause trouble for some of his friends…

***

If you’d like to find out if Jack finally finds the person of his dreams, and how his latest escapade impacts on the lives of the Pickwicks crew, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshops and from online retailers including-

Happy reading,

Jenny x

PS- Please note that the paperback and ebook covers are different- the inside is the same!

Opening Lines with Richard Gould: Mid Life Follies

After a break in January, Opening Lines is back!

Kicking off the first blog of the series for 2020 is Richard Gould, with his brand new novel, Mid Life Follies.

Over to you Richard…

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog.

Although I didn’t set out to be categorised as a Romantic Fiction novelist, that’s what I am. In case people haven’t noticed, there aren’t that many blokes writing (nor for that matter, reading) this genre, despite the fact that around 50% of those in relationships are likely to be men. I think the lack of male authors is a pity because a male take on romance can provide fresh insights into the ups and downs of starting, sustaining and ending relationships. I focus on second chance ones, using humour to describe tragi-heroic journeys in pursuit of love, while struggling to cope with cartloads of baggage.

Mid-life follies is well and truly about second chances. Following the early retirement of Hugh, the male protagonist, panic sets in for his wife, Liz. All the old clichés come to the fore – feeling trapped, needing space, fearing ageing – and she takes flight from the comfort of the family home.

My first thoughts about how to cover this theme were centred on the humour as the couple compete for who can have the most embarrassing mid-life crisis. Once I started writing, I recognised that there was considerable poignancy and home truths to add to the humour.

 Blurb

‘When you look in the mirror, do you see someone young and vibrant like you used to be,’ Liz asks her husband, ‘or old and decrepit like you’re going to be?’

This question is the trigger for Liz’s decision to leave the comfortable family home in Cambridge after twenty-three years of contented marriage. A brisk walk to clear her head of the feeling of being trapped doesn’t work. On a brief escape to the seaside, a wholly out of character one-night fling makes things worse.

A baffled Hugh is left to figure out why his wife has abandoned him. Is she suffering a mid-life crisis? Is he experiencing the same affliction?

A succession of twists and turns prevents a restoration to the normality that the couple increasingly crave as their children, parents and friends discover that immaturity is not solely the preserve of the young.

“This tale of self-doubt, adultery and forgiveness is shot through with humour and compassion. A most enjoyable read.” 

David Lister, The Independent 

***

First 500 words…

Soon after my fifty-ninth birthday, a lifelong interest in reading obituaries took a perverse turn for the worse. I began to ignore the parts about inspirational achievements and headed straight for statements about age of death. A vague insecurity arose if someone had passed away around the sixty mark. I would scrutinise the photo to assess whether, compared to me, they had been overweight, balding, wrinkled or showing any other sign that they hadn’t aged well. That all important sentence citing cause of death was of particular interest. I was content if a sixty-year-old had been hit by a bus or murdered by a jealous ex-lover. A long-standing debilitating disease was reasonable too, but what I didn’t want to see was reference to those sudden things that imperil older people, like a heart attack or a stroke. Because that could be my fate next year, next week or even tomorrow.

I was neither ill nor a hypochondriac, in fact a recent annual check-up had revealed that I was remarkably healthy for a fifty-nine year old. Instead, the cause of my anxiety was that a mid-life crisis had been activated. I use the word “activated” because I’m convinced I would never have suffered one had it not been for Liz’s conduct. Men can suffer them at a significantly younger age than my own, but quite simply I’d never seen the need because I’d been more than happy with life – my family, my job, my health, my friendships.

I know the exact date when it all started: 21st July.

The eighteenth of July had been the last day of the academic year and my farewell to teaching at Legends Academy – I was taking early retirement. I’d worked there for almost thirty years, just two since the daft new name had been selected by the governors following a poll to parents that had produced thirty-eight voters out of a school population of over a thousand. “Where Legends are Nurtured” became the school motto.

It would take a brave or even foolhardy person to challenge my opinion that the school had never nurtured a legend and was unlikely to ever do so. Our most successful ex-pupils achieved their fame through notoriety. Des Robins was the City trader who didn’t quite manage to bring down the bank where he worked, but it was a jolly close thing. Dino Stringer made his fortune drug dealing, his fleet of cars and lavish mansion the envy of many in the locality. It all came to an end with a car chase around the M25 and he’s still inside five years after the trial. Hazel Broad, aka Flightchick, had some success as a singer, but being smashed on stage diminished her popularity with promoters despite raising it for her audience. Those in the staff room with some interest in her well-being indicated that now she was spending her time opening supermarkets. I’d had high hopes for one of our lads, a promising footballer, but alas, Shane Hughes got no further…

Buy link

e-book             http://myBook.to/midlifefollies

Paperback     https://www.feedaread.com/books/Mid-life-follies-9781839451874.aspx

Bio

R J Gould is published by Endeavour Media and Headline Accent and is the author of four novels:  A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack & Jill Went Downhill and Mid-life follies. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people, all rewarding, but his passion is writing fiction. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Social Media

Website:          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:              rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/richard.gould.14418 

Many thanks Richard.

Wishing you much success with your new novel.

Jenny x

Interview with Jill Barry: The House Sitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

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

Many thanks for dropping by today, Jill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Social media links:

Facebook    www.facebook.com/JillBarryBooks/

Twitter                   @barry_jill

Website       www.jillbarry.com

***

 

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

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Lynne Shelby: There She Goes

Opening Lines time is here!

This week Lynne Shelby is with me, sharing the first 500 words- exactly- of her latest romance, There She Goes.

Blurb

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship… 

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

FIRST 500 WORDS…

On shaking legs, I took one step and then another, until I was standing directly in front of the guy. His mouth lifted in a smile, and he put his arms around me, holding me close against his hard chest. My heart started beating so furiously that I felt sure he must be able to hear it. Telling myself firmly that I could do this, that it wasn’t as if it were the first time, I tilted up my face and looked directly into his eyes. He bent his head and kissed me on the mouth, softly at first, just a brush of his lips, but then more firmly, his hands moving smoothly down my back to settle on my hips. When we came up for air, he led me to the bed and drew me down beside him. We lay facing each other on the bare mattress, our bodies pressed together, and kissed for a long time. I tried, unsuccessfully, to remember his name.

I thought, there can be few professions apart from the obvious that require you to simulate desire for a stranger on a regular basis.

The director said, ‘Cut.’

The guy stopped kissing me, and we both sat up. While the director conferred with his assistant, who’d videoed our audition, I stole a glance at my fellow actor’s profile. He was a few years older than me, I thought, in his mid- to late-twenties, and extraordinarily good-looking, with his dark hair falling over his forehead and just the right amount of stubble on his tanned face. I wondered if he might be Italian, or maybe Spanish.

‘We’ve got all we need for today,’ the director said. ‘Thank you.’

The guy (what was his name?) got off the bed and said, ‘Thank you. Good to have met you.’

I swung my legs over the side of the mattress and stood up. I tried to think of

something, anything, to say that might persuade the director to cast me, but decided that throwing myself at his feet and begging (please, please, please, give me the job. I’m an out of work actress, and my rent’s due next week) would be unprofessional. The dark-haired actor was already heading towards the door of the studio, so I echoed his ‘thank you’, snatched up my bag and coat, and hurried after him.

We’d just stepped out into the corridor when the director’s voice drifted after us quite clearly: ‘Like watching paint dry. Absolutely no sexual chemistry between those two.’ Seriously? At nine a.m. in a cold studio, it hadn’t been easy to act like a girl and boy madly in love – or in lust, as the director had put it – but until that moment, I’d thought the dark-haired guy and I had done pretty well. Apparently, I was mistaken.

The guy shut the door and rolled his eyes. I followed him across the reception area, where a crowd of actors were still waiting to audition, and out into the car park…

***

Buy link for There She Goes:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-Lynne-Shelby/dp/1786156555/ref=sr_1_1?crid=R9A40JQVD91D&keywords=there+she+goes+lynne+shelby&qid=1573928576&s=books&sprefix=There+She+Goes+lynn%2Cstripbooks%2C326&sr=1-1 

Bio

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing, was published when it won a national writing competition. Her latest novel, There She Goes, is set in London’s Theatreland. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre, or exploring a foreign city –  Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

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

Twitter: @LynneB1

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Website and Blog: www.lynneshelby.com

***

Many thanks for sharing your great opening lines today Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Dark Magic by Tom Williams

This week’s Opening Lines is just perfect for Halloween.
Please welcome Tom Williams, with the first 500 words of his latest novella, Dark Magic.
Over to you Tom…
Here’s a Halloween treat – the first 500 words of my novella, Dark Magic. It’s a big change from the historical fiction I usually write. I’m not sure quite how to describe it. It’s part thriller, part supernatural horror story (don’t worry, it’s not scary), and part (I hope) comedy. It grew out of an evening spent with a bunch of magicians and a few drinks and it just sort of grew by itself. It’s being published today, as Halloween seems a particularly appropriate launch date. I hope you love it.
Blurb
Two magic shows: the Maestros of Magic touring the country, playing provincial theatres; the Carnival of Conjurors successful in the West End. When the Maestros learn that the Conjurors are using real magic – Black Magic – to do their tricks they decide that they must use their own, distinctly unmagical, stage skills to stop them. Soon people are dying on stage – but can the Maestros really beat a team that has the devil on their side?
FIRST 500 WORDS
“Baby’s blood?”

“That’s what it says. Mix in baby’s blood and use that to mark the pentagram.”

There were six of them, and Claudia looked from face to face waiting for someone to say that this was a ridiculous idea. She could, she supposed, have said it herself, but it was not as if anybody would have listened. Nobody ever listens to the magician’s beautiful assistant.

In fairness, they didn’t exactly rush to agree with the plan either. When Jerry spoke, he had the decency to sound embarrassed.

“Does it have to be a human baby?”

Jerry’s role in their conjuring show was to do the tricks that appealed mainly to children. It brought in family audiences, but the other magicians secretly – or, to be honest, not that secretly – despised him. Still, Claudia thought that one or two might have taken his side here, but Daniel didn’t allow time for any of them to join Jerry in questioning his plan.

“It’s true that it doesn’t specify human.” Daniel smiled. It was an unconvincing smile and Claudia thought he did it mainly to show off his teeth. They were quite startlingly white, though marred, in her opinion, by rather over-developed canines. “But human seems fairly clear from the context.”

“Well, could we try it with something else first?”

Daniel’s smile vanished. It was as if someone had flipped a switch. Where there had been a big white smile, all you noticed now was a very square jaw and full, but rather sulky, lips. And, if you raised your eyes to his, something about his irises that made you look away again very quickly.

“It’s hardly as if the other ingredients were easily come by. We don’t want to mess it up and have to do it again.”

They were quiet at that. Claudia had the impression that they were all thinking of different things. She reckoned they would say the worst was the virgin’s tears. Despite all the tired old jokes, finding a virgin had been the easy bit. It was keeping her crying for long enough to collect a vial of tears that had been wearing on their nerves.

After a pause, long enough for all of them to remember details they would rather have forgotten, Daniel spoke again.

“Baby’s blood, then.”

There was an uncomfortable nodding of heads.

“How much blood are we talking about?” That was Tor – almost certainly not his real name but there was something about the way he looked at you if you questioned him which discouraged you from asking twice. He was an illusionist, constantly fretting about the mechanical details of his act. “And what about clotting? Are we going to add an anti-clotting agent?” Claudia remembered an illusion that involved an arm being cut off. Tor had been dissatisfied with the stage blood most magicians used and had experimented with various concoctions of his own. Claudia had never enquired as to what they were, but one had clotted and spoiled the act and…

***

Links
Bio
TOM WILLIAMS has published six books of historical fiction but this is his first contemporary story and his first novella (33,000 words). He has spent far too much time hanging round with magicians.

***
Many thanks Tom.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny x

Opening Lines: The Weekender by Fay Keenan

One of the lovely things about running the ‘Opening Lines’ series, is that I get to read so many beginnings from authors I’ve followed for years as well as lots of new voices.

This week I’m welcoming established writer and friend, Fay Keenan, is sharing the first 500 words of her brand new novel, The Weekender.

Over to you Fay…

‘The Weekender’ is the first in a new series of novels set in the fictional town of Willowbury in Somerset, which, in the right light, can look a lot like the iconic town of Glastonbury! Inspired by several things, including an old photograph, a lifelong love of politics, many visits to Glastonbury and the real life campaign to get new generation drugs for cystic fibrosis patients, the novel centres around Holly, a wellbeing shop owner, and Charlie, the new member of parliament for the area. Ideologically they seem to be on different sides, but soon it becomes clear they may have more in common than they think! Set in both Willowbury and Westminster, this book is both a love story and an exploration of what happens when you find yourself in the middle of what could be, literally, a heart breaking matter of life and death.

Blurb

When Charlie Thorpe met Holly Renton, they were not a match made in heaven…

Holly lives and works in the beautiful town of Willowbury in Somerset. An incorrigible optimist, she is determined to change the world for the better.

Charlie Thorpe on the other hand, is the ultimate pragmatist. As Willowbury’s new member of parliament, he has to be. While he’s determined to prove himself to the town, as far as Holly’s concerned, he’s just another politician on the make.

But when their paths cross again, it’s clear they’ve got more in common than they think. Can Holly and Charlie overcome their differences and work together, or are they destined to be forever on opposite sides? And why does Holly have a funny feeling she has met Charlie before…

Let Fay Keenan whisk you away to a world of glorious country views, unforgettable characters and once-in-a-lifetime love. Perfect for all fans of Fern Britton, Veronica Henry and Erica James.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

‘White sage is all very well,’ Holly Renton reflected, ‘but the ashes are a bugger to get out of the carpet.’ Earlier that morning, before the shop had opened, Holly had carried out a ritual called smudging, which was meant to purify the energy in a building, promote positivity and remove negative energies. Picking up the dustpan and brush, she emptied the pungent remains of the dried herb bundle she’d ignited and then wafted around the windows and doors of the shop into the bin.

‘I know you recommend this all the time for other people’s houses, but why are you so bloody obsessed with doing it in the shop?’ Rachel, Holly’s sister, glanced down at where Holly was still brushing the rug under the mullioned front window of ComIncense, the shop specialising in herbal remedies and well-being aids that Holly ran in the sleepy but nonetheless New Age small town of Willowbury and smiled. Just beyond the shop’s counter, the door that led to Holly’s small back yard was open and Harry, Rachel’s three-year-old son and Holly’s nephew, was playing happily with a set of wooden animal-shaped blocks in their own lorry, which had come from a box of assorted toys that Holly kept specifically for the younger customers. Holly didn’t believe, unlike some of her business-owning neighbours, that children should be banned from places like hers, and since the early-spring weather was warm and pleasant, Harry had trundled out into the sunlight to play.

‘You’ve got to refresh places from time to time,’ Holly replied. ‘Especially when there’s been a lot of negative energy about, and since all of the scandal with Hugo Fitzgerald, I really felt like this place needed a spiritual cleanse!’

‘You can say that again,’ Rachel reached under the wooden apothecary’s dresser that displayed countless jars and pots of dried herbs and flowers, all purporting to be of some spiritual or physical benefit, to retrieve one of the toy llamas that Harry had thrown under it. ‘What a way to go…’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Holly replied, still sweeping. ‘At least, having had a massive coronary, he wouldn’t have known much about it.’

‘But what a waste of a good plate of scones and jam!’ Rachel grinned. ‘Mum told me that his constituency agent found him face down in them at his desk.’

‘I wouldn’t have fancied digging him out of them,’ Holly said. ‘But from the size of him, the heart attack was an accident waiting to happen. And gossip has it, he had his finger in a lot of pies, not just the odd plate of scones.’

‘Oh, you know how the rumour mill goes into overdrive when something like this happens.’ Rachel, who had more of a tendency to see the good in people than her sister did, dismissed Holly’s comments with a wave of her hand. ‘I mean, I’m not saying he wasn’t a prat, but nothing was ever proven about his financial misdemeanours. Although, I have to admit, since…

***

You can pre-order The Weekender via-

tiny.cc/theweekender and on Kobo at https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-weekender-9

Bio

Fay Keenan is the author of the bestselling Little Somerby series of novels. She has led writing workshops with Bristol University and has been a visiting speaker in schools.  She teaches English in a local secondary school and  lives in Somerset. Fay’s new series for Boldwood will begin with The Weekender, in November 2019.

***

Many thanks for your fabulous 500 words Fay.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny 

Opening Lines with Jon Hartless: Rise of the Petrol Queen

For this week’s Opening Lines, I’m delighted to welcome Jon Hartless, to my blog.

Sit back and enjoy the first 500 words of his steampunk novel, Rise of the Petrol Queen; Book 2 in the Poppy Orpington Chronicles.

Over to you Jon…

The Poppy Orpington Chronicles is a Steampunk adventure featuring a young, working-class heroine fighting to survive in a society which dismisses her for her sex, class and disabilities. The saga was inspired by the real-life era of the Bentley Boys, 1920s motor-racing playboys who had the reputation of racing all day and partying all night. The media and public loved them, but reading up on their lives and the time they lived in, all I could see was the elitism, the unfair advantages and opportunities given to those with high birth and money, and the complete invisibility of all those who were not wealthy, titled white men. From that came Full Throttle, the first in the series, followed by the sequel Rise of the Petrol Queen. Book 3, Fall of the Petrol Queen, is almost finished, book 5 is written but nowhere near complete, while book 4 seems to have broken down somewhere….

Blurb:

Poppy Orpington is going racing. With or without your approval.

Following a controversial loss at the Purley Cup, Poppy Orpington and her petrol-fuelled race car, Thunderbus, are dominating the headlines. But not one article is complimentary, or even unbiased.

In spite of these daily slanderous reports on her character, Poppy is determined to make something of herself. She continues racing, she starts up her own factory hoping to sell her father’s patented petrol-run cars, she buys her own house and speaks up for the down-trodden. But all the while she is still seen as just a woman.

A woman unwilling to squeeze into the female mould created by men of power – and so the mould must be broken.

FIRST 500 WORDSRise of the Petrol Queen, book 2 of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles.

Preface

James Henry Birkin, editor

Writing this second book on Poppy Orpington has proved somewhat problematic, not least because a biography demands a traditional linear structure of cause and effect – from birth to success and from success to death. Volume I, Full Throttle, covered Poppy’s early years up to her stunning debut on the Purley racetrack, but despite her tragically curtailed life we are not yet ready to focus upon her passing.

Volume II, Rise of the Petrol Queen, instead concentrates upon the months of February to November 1904 – a time encompassing Poppy’s first full season as a racing driver and also the founding of her famous car company, Thunderbolt Motors. 1904 also witnessed the first sustained outpouring of hatred toward her from the popular press, of which the worst offender was the Daily Post, founded by Lord William Wrohan to propagate his loathing of the poor, the working class, women and foreigners.

Sadly, the paper still operates to the same values today. Not once have the proprietors admitted their culpability in libelling Poppy, nor have they ever admitted to the criminal actions against her by their editor of that time, Harvey McArdle. His behaviour at Poppy’s cottage has been an open secret within the newspaper industry for years, yet this volume – astonishingly – is the first account of the attack ever put before the public.

It was the Post, incidentally, which hung the disparaging nickname of the “Petrol Queen” upon Poppy – a mocking label repeated across many other newspapers. I have included several contemporary articles to demonstrate the media’s attitude toward Poppy and the inevitable strain this placed upon her.

A far better view into Poppy’s character can be gleaned from her numerous letters and diary entries, all vital resources in my attempt to rehabilitate Poppy’s reputation. Unfortunately, this is the last time I can offer a definite insight into her state of mind as Poppy became far more circumspect about recording her feelings after her traumatic encounter with McArdle. For Volumes III and IV, legitimate guesswork coupled with external sources such as letters from third parties, press reports and other publications from the era will have to suffice.

In conclusion, I hope the reader enjoys this return visit to Poppy’s world – her life, her victories and her defeats – and will come away with a little more sympathy and understanding of a most wronged woman whose worst days sadly lay ahead of her.

Chapter One

‘Can my father return home?’ enquired Poppy of the specialist, Doctor Joseph Baxter.

‘Good Lord, no. Although he has been quite lucid this morning, on other days he will suffer a relapse and will be quite helpless in looking after himself – and he then potentially becomes dangerous to others.’

‘Is he still having violent episodes?’ asked Poppy, anguish showing on her face. She had been asking the same question for weeks. As she sat in the hard button-back chair across from Baxter’s polished desk, she hoped today’s answer would be different.

‘There have been a…

***

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07TKLDQ3G/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i1

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Throttle-Jon-Hartless-ebook/dp/B06X95NQ6V/ref=pd_sbs_351_1/258-5208768-1596127?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B06X95NQ6V&pd_rd_r=d7b731a9-9e6d-40df-a3d4-0866c1e574d0&pd_rd_w=JQHAV&pd_rd_wg=Yh1gl&pf_rd_p=2b420a2f-6593-478e-8b5f-cb43865ff16f&pf_rd_r=84VFM718S960WN0NWNJZ&psc=1&refRID=84VFM718S960WN0NWNJZ

Bio:

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, a steampunk motor racing adventure examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019, both published by Accent Press.

Social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JHartlessauthor?prefetchTimestamp=1569265278580

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

***

Many thanks for your fabulous starting words, Jon.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

Meet The Winter Outlaw

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

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

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

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

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

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had given him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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