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 with Lizzie Fry: The Coven

I’m delighted to welcome friend, and fellow author, Lizzie Fry to my place today, with the Opening Lines from her debut thriller, The Coven.

BLURB

An electrifying dystopia that imagines a world where a populist demagogue outlaws peaceful witchcraft, The Coven is a page-turning thriller with profound things to say about contemporary global society.

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Green light was leaking under the bedroom door.

The sight of it made Li stop in her tracks and back up, dropping the washing basket she’d been holding. Her brain attempted to push the realisation away in sluggish disbelief. She had prayed to the triple goddesses she would never have to deal with this. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears as anxiety crashed through her body.

The day Li had been putting off had finally arrived.

Until that moment, it had been a completely ordinary Friday in March. Li had been stripping the beds, her usual end-of-the- week routine, when Chloe had returned from college around midday, her lectures finished for the weekend. As usual, Li had asked her daughter how her day had been; as usual, Chloe had rebuffed her with that sneering way of hers. Li tried to not let it bother her. Since puberty had struck around the age of four- teen, Chloe had made it clear she had no time for her parents. At nineteen, almost twenty, she should have grown out of such juvenile power-plays, but Li understood it wasn’t entirely her only child’s fault.

Seeing the green light now, pooling on the floor like liquid, Li knew it was all hers.

Fear gripped her, guilt rushing up behind it. As if in a nightmare, her bones felt as heavy as concrete. She hesitated, unable to raise her arm to push the door and go inside. Blinking back the tears pricking her eyelids, she took her phone from her jeans pocket and pulled up her call log; DANIEL was first on the list.

Bar the odd errand in town, Li saw only two people most days: Daniel and Chloe. Apart from a dozen Facebook and Twitter followers she spoke with online regularly, she had few real-life friends and worked from home. Her love of travel and a degree from a British university twenty years ago had led her to make a life for herself on the other side of the world. Too late, she realised she was isolated and alone when it really counted.

Li finally managed to press the button to call her husband. ‘Hi.’ Daniel’s gravelly voice filtered down the line.
‘You need to—’
The voicemail kicked in. He hadn’t really answered at all.

Keying off, Li swore in Mandarin, the sound of her native tongue discordant in her own ears. Her hands were shaking so much she almost dropped the phone. She redialled again with difficulty, irritation and fear clashing together. Daniel had to pick up this time. Had to. She couldn’t deal with this alone. Not any more.

She would tell him everything…

BIO

Lizzie Fry is a debut author of high concept thriller The Coven (published by Sphere books), but you might know her better as LV Hay. LV’s books previous books were crime fiction: The Other Twin, Do No Harm (Orenda Books) and Never Have I Ever (Hodder). The Other Twin is currently being adapted for the screen by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV.

LINKS

Universal link >> http://myBook.to/covenwitch

Signed copies from Liznojan Books >> http://www.liznojanbooks.co.uk 

***

Many thanks for joining us today, Lizzie,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Pass the coffee

The words, ‘It’s too hot for coffee,’ will never pass my lips.

It’s never too hot for coffee.

With that in mind, I’m sat sipping a cup of my local cafe’s best Americano, while I share a few lines from my very first #romcom with you today.

So why not escape into the shade and have Another Cup of Coffee ?

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

Grab that cuppa, and enjoy an extract from Another Cup of Coffee…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good paperback and ebook retailers, including-

Stay safe.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Will there ever be 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.

Outlaw Justice

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

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim – Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

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.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. 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

A little Cornish Escape

Life is as hectic as ever as I crack on with writing the fourth Mill Grange novel.

While I madly try and meet my latest deadline, 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 

If you enjoy A Cornish Escape, Abi’s adventures continue in A Cornish Wedding.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Return to Mill Grange : Autumn Leaves

In two days time, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, will be published!

To help celebrate, yesterday I shared a little about Thea Thomas, who we first met in book one of the series, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange. Today, I’m sharing an extract from the second book in the series,

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange.

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

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…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t but adore.

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

Extract

Prologue

September 1st

Rolling onto his side, Sam unfolded the letter he’d hidden inside his pillowcase. It was the third time he’d woken that night, and the third time he’d reached for the pale blue Basildon Bond envelope. He held it against his nose. The scent of his mother’s White Satin perfume was beginning to fade.

This was the fourth letter to arrive from Malvern House in the last month. One a week.

He had no idea how his mother had found out where he was living, nor why she wanted to see him after so long.

The letters, almost identical each time, said very little. Just that she and his father would love him to visit if he felt up to it. Sam groaned. ‘If he felt up to it’ was his mother’s way of asking if the debilitating claustrophobia he’d developed while serving in the forces had magically gone away.

As he slid the letter into its envelope, Sam’s gaze dropped from the tent’s canvas roof to Tina’s sleeping body.

The past was the past. He had a future now. He had no intention of looking back.

Chapter One

September 1st

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

Bert fluttered his grey eyelashes as he helped Tina carry a large cardboard box full of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from her car into Mill Grange’s kitchen. ‘I love Mabel to pieces, but she is driving me mad.’

Tina laughed. ‘But it’s only been two months since the restoration project came to an end. Doesn’t Mabel have heaps of committee work to do? She runs every social club this side of Exmoor.’

As he placed the box on the oak table that dominated the manor’s kitchen, Bert’s eyes lost their usual optimistic shine. ‘Since Mill Grange was sold Mabel’s been so aimless. She led the volunteer restorers here for over five years and now that’s over…’

‘Mabel doesn’t mind Sam owning this place, does she?’

‘Not for a minute. For a little while it was all she could talk about. She’s that proud of your young man for buying the very thing that frightens him. For taking his fear of being inside by the scruff of the neck and buying a house to be enjoyed by other people.’

Tina put her box of groceries on the side and laid a hand on Bert’s shoulder. ‘I’ll talk to Sam. There must be something Mabel could do around here.’ She played with her pigtails as she thought. ‘I’m not sure we can afford to pay her yet though.’

‘You wouldn’t have to. Making her feel part of the team again is all I’m asking for.’ Bert’s smile returned to his eyes. ‘How’s it going here anyway? Sam getting into the house at all, or is he still overseeing things from that screen thing outside?’

‘He hasn’t been inside the manor since he bought it.’ Tina focused her attention on emptying the boxes of biscuits ready for Mill Grange’s first visitors, hiding her face from Bert so she wouldn’t see her concern….

Available from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

On Thursday, Spring Blossoms comes out!

If you’d like to join in my launch day celebrations, I will be on Facebook and Twitter all day, chatting about what I love about springtime – plus, I’ll be doing a live reading from the book at 11a.m.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Coffee

This week I thought I’d share some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’

How about Another Cup of Coffee ?

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

 

Here are the first 500 words…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good book retailers, including-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Cup-Coffee-ebook/dp/B07ZJLKXV7/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Another+Cup+of+Coffee+Jenny+KAne&qid=1575632954&sr=8-1

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Judith Barrow: The Memory

This week, I’m delighted to welcome, Judith Barrow, to share the Opening Lines from her incredibly moving novel,

The Memory.

Over to you Judith…

Many people have asked me what was the inspiration for The Memory and my answer is always – memories: memories of being a carer for two of my aunts who lived with us, memories of losing a friend in my childhood; a friend who, although at the time I didn’t realise, was a Downs’ Syndrome child. But why I started to write the story; a story so different from my other four books, I can’t remember. Because it was something I’d begun years ago and was based around the journal I’d kept during that decade of looking after my relatives.

But what did begin to evolve when I settled down to writing The Memory was the realisation of why I’d been so reluctant to delve too far into my memories. The isolation, the loneliness, that Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist, endures; despite being married to Sam, her loving husband, dragged up my own feelings of being alone so much as a child. That awareness of always being on the outside; looking in on other families, relationships and friendships had followed me; had hidden deep inside my subconscious. And now, as a contented wife and mother, with steady enduring friendships, it unsettled me. Many people, and as a creative writing tutor I’m one, say that writing is cathartic. Working through Irene’s memories; especially that one memory that has ruled her life, made me acknowledge my own. And that’s fine. I always say to my students, if you don’t feel the emotions as you write, then neither will your reader. In The Memory I’m hoping the reader will sense the poignant, sad times with Irene, but will also rejoice with her in the happier memories.

BLURB

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

“…A book that is both powerful and moving, exquisitely penetrating. I am drawn in, empathising so intensely with Irene that I feel every twinge of her frustration, resentment, utter weariness and abiding love.” Thorne Moore

“Judith Barrow’s greatest strength is her understanding of her characters and the times in which they live; The Memory is a poignant tale of love and hate in which you will feel every emotion experienced by Irene.” Terry Tyler

The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga.

FIRST 500 WORDS.

Chapter One 2001 – Irene 

There’s a chink of light from the streetlamp coming through the vertical blinds. It spreads across the duvet on my mother’s bed and onto the pillow next to her head. I reach up and pull the curtains closer together. The faint line of light is still there, but blurred around the edges.

Which is how I feel. Blurred around the edges. Except, for me, there is no light.

I move around the bed, straightening the corners, making the inner softness of the duvet match the shape of the outer material; trying to make the cover lie flat but of course I can’t. The small round lump in the middle is my mother. However heavily her head lies on the pillow, however precisely her arms are down by her sides, her feet are never still. The cover twitches until centimetre by centimetre it slides to one side towards the floor like the pink, satin eiderdown used to do on my bed as a child.

In the end I yank her feet up and tuck the duvet underneath. Tonight of all nights I want her to look tidy. I want everything to be right.

She doesn’t like that and opens her eyes, giving up the pretence of being asleep. Lying face upwards, the skin falling back on her cheekbones, her flesh is extraordinarily smooth, pale. Translucent almost. Her eyes are vague under the thick lines of white brows drawn together.

I ignore her; I’m bone weary. That was one of my father’s phrases; he’d come in from working in the bank in the village and say it.

‘I’m bone weary, Lil.’ He’d rub at the lines on his forehead. ‘We had to stay behind for half an hour all because that silly woman’s till didn’t add up.’ Or ‘… because old Watkins insisted I show the new lad twice how I leave my books at night; just so he knows, as though I might not go in tomorrow.’ Old Watkins was the manager, a job my father said he could do standing on his head but never got the chance.

And then, one day, he didn’t go into the bank. Or the day after that. Or ever again.

 

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

‘I can’t go on, Mum.’ I lift my arms from my side, let them drop; my hands too substantial, too solid to hold up. They’re strong – dependable, Sam, my husband, always says. I just think they’re like shovels and I’ve always been resentful that I didn’t inherit my mother’s slender fingers. After all I got her fat arse and thick thighs, why not the nice bits?

I’ve been awake for over a day. I glance at the clock with the extra-large numbers, bought when she could still tell the time. Now it’s just something else for her to stare at, to puzzle…

You can buy The Memory from all good retailers, including-

Honno Page: https://bit.ly/2XL0zCi

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

BIO

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

LINKS

Website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3kMYXRU

LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/3oNJZxq

***

Many thanks for sharing your Opening Lines today, Judith.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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

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