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

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Opening Lines: Witches Knickers by Angela Wooldridge

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

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

Over to you Angela…

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

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

But about this book!

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

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

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

Blurb:

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

Molly and her sisters are uncovering a family secret.

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

Patsy is about to confront an old mistake.

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

***

Witches’ Knickers (first 500 words)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She switched on the radio and set off.

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

      ‘Hello, Judy.’

Martha winced at how squeaky her voice sounded.

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

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

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

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

      ‘Litter, in other words.’

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

‘And you collect this litter.’

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

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

‘What inspired you to do this?’

      ‘I’m not sure I remember precisely.’

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

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

‘Understatement,’ she snorted.

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

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

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

      Judy laughed. ‘What happened then?’

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

 ***

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

Bio:

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

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

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

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

Or follow her on Twitter: @angwooldridge

***

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous opening lines, Angela.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Outlaw Justice

With the launch of the fourth- and final- novel in The Folville Chronicles fast approaching. I thought I’d shamelessly steel this week’s Opening Lines blog for my own promotional purposes, and share the first 500 words from

Outlaw Justice

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Blurb

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

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

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

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

Outlaw Justice

First 500 words

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

Chapter One

2nd December 1331

Eustace de Folville shook the parchment in his fist. ‘The king has made him Justice to the Court of the King’s Bench! As if his arrogant head wasn’t swollen enough with power. We need to act. Now!’

Not one of his brothers argued.

Glaring at the crumpled missive, Eustace slammed a palm against the oak table which took centre stage in Ashby Folville manor’s hall. ‘We can delay no longer. Our removal of that leech, Roger Belers, was a bold step towards curbing the corruption that plagues this land. But that particular Baron of the Exchequer was nothing compared to this scourge on society. This… Justice!

‘He steals lands and chattels, using the law to cover his tracks; doing anything to improve his estate’s assets. An estate everyone knows only exists because both he and his father married well; although I pity any woman who has to share his marriage bed and ‑’

‘Justice!’ Walter de Folville spat into the fire, sending angry orange sparks dancing. ‘The fact Willoughby has the right ‑ not to mention the cheek ‑ to call himself a justice…’

Robert de Folville cut across his kin’s escalating outrage, pushing two flagons of ale in their direction. ‘Perhaps you could tell us what the missive actually says, brother?’

Grunting, Eustace glared at the parchment as if it was responsible for the coming storm. ‘It’s from Nicholas Coterel. Word has reached his family in Bakewell that, as of yesterday, the first of December…

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice will be released as both an ebook and paperback on Monday 14th December. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Opening Lines with Thom Seddon: Choose Your Own Mediocre

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

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

BLURB

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

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

FIRST 500 WORDS –

Dearest, darling Destiny

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

 

Kissing Boys

Last night I dreamt of kissing boys.

I dreamt that things were not the same.

I dreamt that I’d returned to Noel Street

and I was just a kid again.

 

Grey days when our mouths hung all open

procrastinating in bedsheets.

Pretending life’s a book to write

so all the heartache is a treat.

 

We slipped inside the kitchen cupboard,

we kissed behind the wooden door,

then opened our eyes at 6AM

to find that both my legs were sore.

 

I wish to sleep again tonight

to dream of kissing boys all day.

I no longer wish to be a kid

but wish that life were not this way.

 

Lights Out

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

the twitch of his nature

takes root in the undergrowth of his tongue.

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

My laugh is slippery and nervous; I hate it.

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

to take a greedy bite from my bedtime apple slices.

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

 

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

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

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

“One more story,” his reprise,

and he touches two fingers to my throat.

 

His stare reverberating, blood vessels sizzle in my head.

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

 

Go back to your own bed.”

 

Blossoms

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

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

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

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

BIO

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

LINKS

Visit www.artholethom.com

Follow @ArtholeThom on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Huge thanks to Thom for joining me today.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: Mine

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

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

Over to you Alison…

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

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

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

FIRST FIVE HUNDRED WORDS 

Bow Church, East London, October 1968

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

***

BLURB- Mine by Alison Knight

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUY LINK: mybook.to/mineknight

 ***

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

BIO-

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

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

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

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

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS – ALISON KNIGHT

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

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

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942

@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter

Many congratulations on your new novel, Alison,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Christmas at the Castle

This week sees the final instalment in the Opening Lines blogs for my Another Cup of…festive specials. Today, I’m sharing the first 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Kit is off to Scotland!

BLURB

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

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

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

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A wonderful short story to fill your heart with warmth and really put you in the mood for Christmas

‘A feel good festive read, with Jenny Kane’s trademark coffee, friendship and gentle humour’

‘This is the perfect book for curling up on the sofa with on a winter’s afternoon. Light-hearted and feel good fun’

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Friday November 13th

Poking her head around the door of the Gift Shop Café, Charlie gave a sigh of relief. She’d managed to arrive before Alice for once.

Selecting their usual table by the window, Charlie smiled. Just for once it was nice not to have Alice, already comfortably settled and looking perfect, watching serenely as she battled her scarf, which always managed to knot itself clumsily, and her hair, blown every which way by the wind.

Hoping this was a good omen for the discussion to come, Charlie waved a greeting to the waitress, Mel.

‘Hi, Erin, Alice isn’t here yet.’ Mel put down a large coffee on Charlie’s table, ‘I’ll bring that weird latte concoction she likes over when she arrives.’

About half of the people in Banchory knew Charlie as Erin. Ever since she’d had her first book published under the name of Erin Spencer five years ago, the local papers had made a feature of her work, and Charlie lived happily with her dual personality.

As she watched the world go by through the window, Charlie’s usual habit of filtering future plotlines through the back of her mind was replaced with wondering how to persuade Alice that they needed more people to help organise Crathes Castle’s first ever literary festival. So far it was just the two of them, and they were drowning in the number of tasks involved with making it a success rather than an embarrassing flop.

Charlie hadn’t finished rehearsing her pleas for more helpers in her head, when Alice arrived.

Waving to Mel that she needed a drink fast (the concoction that Charlie always thought of as pseudo-coffee, which consisted of a decaf coffee, soya milk, and low-sugar caramel latte syrup), Alice sat down regally and swung her long, slim, tight black denim-covered legs elegantly under the table, before pushing her designer glasses off her eyes and up into her hair, neatly pinning it away from her face. If Charlie had tried to do that without the aid of a mirror she knew there would have been tufts of her long bouncy red ringlets sticking out at all angles.

A businesswoman through and through, Alice got straight to the point. ‘Charlie, sweetie, I know you don’t like working with other people much, but if we don’t get some more help soon this festival is going to be the biggest disaster of my career.’ Without giving her stunned friend time to comment, Alice went on, ‘It’s November 13th already. Our Christmas in the Castle Literary Festival is in exactly three weeks and we need another person to help us.’

Charlie was taken aback. Even when they’d been at university together Alice had been an expert at eliciting assistance from people without them even realising that she was getting them to do what she wanted. Never before had Charlie heard her admit she needed help. Studying her friend more carefully, Charlie noticed that there were dark shadows under Alice’s eyes, hinting that…

If you’d like to see what happens next, then you can buy Christmas at the Castle from all good e-retailers or you can find it in the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection paperback on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Christmas

For the next three weeks, I’ll be featuring my ‘Another Cup of….’ festive novellas on the ‘Opening Lines’ blog spot.

Today, I’m starting with the first 500 words from Another Cup of Christmas.

Blurb

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

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

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

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

Join the characters of Jenny Kane’s wonderful debut Another Cup of Coffee once again for a heart-warming festive read!

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A lovely heart-warming tale set at Christmas and a perfect short read for in front of a blazing fire and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)’

‘A great read in the run up to Christmas, highly recommended

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

    Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

    Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

    Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Festive Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

    Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

    ‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table.          ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

    ‘Two and a half weeks!’

    ‘Oh, hell! Really?’

    ‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

    Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

     Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

    Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

    ‘Which is?’

    ‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I…’

If you’d like to read on, Another Cup of Christmas, is available from all good e-book retailers, and as part of the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection, paperback from Amazon.

mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

(You don’t need to have read Another Cup of Coffee to enjoy my festive stories.)

You can her me read a little from Another Cup of Christmas here- https://www.facebook.com/coffeetimesessions/videos/381433993174274

Come back next week, for the first 500 words from Christmas in the Cotswolds,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Sister’s Secret

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

Her Sister’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

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

BLURB:

How far would you travel to find the truth?

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

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

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

***

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

24 August 1943

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

‘Mr Joseph Howells? A telegram for you.’

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

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

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

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

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

The back door opened.

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

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

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

 

Chapter One

Rose

1946

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No. Go away! I’m not coming out.’

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

He hammered on the door with his fists.

Her throat tightened…

***

‘Her Sister’s Secret’ is available on:

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

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

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

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

You may find out more about Jan here:

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

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

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

BIO

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

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

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

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Mill Grange SALE!!

FOR A SHORT TIME ONLY!!!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

IS FREE ON AMAZON KINDLE!!

AND

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange 

IS ONLY 99p!!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

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

Blurb

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

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

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

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Read an extract from A Cornish Escape

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

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

 

Blurb

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

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

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

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

(Previously published as Abi’s House)

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot

This week I’m extremely excited to welcome the brilliant Mandy Baggott to my place as part of the #blogtour, for her latest release, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

Over to you Mandy…

Thank you so much to Jenny for having me on the blog today! I am so proud to introduce my latest festive read, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

This story brings together some of my very favourite things, so let me quickly introduce them:-

  • Keeley Andrews – A sweet, caring heroine who feels like a friend
  • Ethan Bouchard – A super-hot French hero
  • Paris – The French capital at Christmas time with its delicious food, uber-cool shopping and, of course, the magical Eiffel Tower
  • Pepe – an unexpected feathered friend
  • Romance – A love story I hope will tug at your heartstrings but also give you all the feel-good!

Enjoy!   Mandy xx

Blurb

United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy.

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance.

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He’s ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn’t the right time.

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can’t help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future…

Head to Paris this Christmas and fall in love under the lights of the Eiffel Tower with best-selling author, Mandy Baggot.

First 500 words…

Chapter One

Kensington, London

November

‘Duncan, not that awful disco ball of your mother’s again! Please, I beg of you. Last year it gave Lydia Mumford some sort of aura migraine before I’d even served the Waitrose arancini,’ Lizzie Andrews said, raising her eyes and glaring at her husband who was stood precariously at the top of a stepladder. He was about to fix the large revolving silver sphere to a hook above the kitchen island where, on the hob, something containing cranberries was simmering.

Twenty-six-year-old Keeley hid her face in her mug of super-hot, extra-strong coffee and tried to stop a laugh from escaping her lips. Her parents’ conversation over her long-since-passed-away gran’s festive regalia had been treading the same path since the decorations had been left to them in the will. Her mum had always insisted it was because the old lady never liked her.

Joan loathed me. Loathed me, Duncan. Right from the get-go. Ever since the first time I came to your house with peonies for her and she shoved them in an empty tin of Heinz beans as a vase. That was when the die was cast.

But Keeley liked the decorations. None of them matched together – there were vibrant purples and emerald-greens alongside 1980s-style robots swinging on bunting and Chinese paper lanterns that probably should have caught alight long ago. At first glance, they might not seem to correlate, but somehow they worked. Her sister, Bea, had loved them too. Bea would always be fighting their dad for use of the ladder, having somehow actually worked out complicated things about balance, or the optimum angle to enable the globe to spin in a completely symmetrical way that would please Lizzie’s need for order. Bea had always plunged into things with full-on gusto but never without the knowhow to back it up.

Thoughts of her little sister made Keeley’s heart squeeze and she took another sip of the coffee before the toaster popped with the crumpet she was cooking.

Lizzie shook her brown curly hair and sniffed, nose in the air like a prized perfumier. She dropped the pinecones she was painting to the newspaper-covered work surface. ‘What’s that smell?’

‘Is that one of those giant crumpets I bought yesterday?’ Duncan asked, grinning down from the ladder, both hands still holding the whole giant reflective world in his hands.

‘Yes, it is,’ Keeley replied, trying to wiggle the large crumpet out of the sleeve of the toaster. She had got it in without too much effort, but now it seemed it was impossible to remove.

‘Keeley!’ Lizzie exclaimed in horror. ‘A giant crumpet!’

‘Would you like one, Mum?’ Keeley asked. The crumpet still wasn’t moving and with every pull she was shaving the outer crust away from the body of it. It wasn’t going to stay ‘giant’ for long if it kept this up.

‘What you putting on it, Keeley?’ Duncan asked, tongue sticking out of his mouth, eyes concentrating hard on the hook on the…

***

Pre-order links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MpVrh4

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3072QtL

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3gOPHvv

iBooks: https://apple.co/2D35zuK

Bio

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Follow Mandy:   

Facebook: @mandybaggotauthor

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Follow Aria

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

***

Many thanks for visiting today Mandy. Wishing you good luck with your new novel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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