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

Tag: stories

Opening Lines: Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon

This week’s Opening Lines blog features a brand new anthology of stories  – put together by the Exeter Author’s Association – of which I am a tiny part.

The anthology, Tales from Deepest, Darkest Devon, features 19 different stories from 13 authors, all living in and around the county; from Brixham, to Tiverton, Ottery St Mary to Bampton, and many places in between. The stories cover a wide range of genres, and offers a story for every literary taste.

Part of the sales from this book will go to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust


Devon; a land of beauty, of moors, villages and coasts. A place of stories, told by the people who live there.

Take a look beneath the surface of Devon with the Exeter Authors, nineteen tales from thirteen of the county’s finest writers.

Contains some adult (18+) material.

Bobbing. Discover why revenge is a dish best served with cider,

Make a wish. Devon is the place to spend the rest of your life.

The Dartmoor Dragon. Discover the magic on the moor.

Cutty Dyer. Quiet villages can hold deadly secrets

Winter Snow.  The old ways are the best

The Padding Horror. On the moors, an ancient evil is stalking its latest prey.

Under the Hunters Moon. You’re never truly alone on the moor

The Fairmile Green Man. Has Swampy and his protest been forgotten? A green man carving brings a much older story back to life.

Guardians. A peaceful little village hides a dark secret.

And many more.

Contributors: Jenifer Braund, Richard Dee, Maura Beckett, Chip Tolson, Brian Willis, Janet Few, John Hall, K. Y. Eden, Richard Lappas, Tracey Norman, Mark Norman, P.J. Reed and Jenny Kane.

Part of the sale price goes to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

Here are the opening lines from my own story, Bobbing.

Feeling like a malevolent Eve slithering through the Garden of Eden, Libby did a slow twirl in the centre of the old cider barn.

The gauze dress was thin. It caressed her skin with a teasing arousal.

She was fertility herself.

If Robert hadn’t wanted her before, he’d definitely want her now. But then, if she was honest, that had never been a problem. Robert always wanted her. He always wanted everyone. And her boss usually got what he wanted.

The scrumpy’s pungent presence accosted Libby’s nostrils as she ascended the ladder propped against the eight foot high cider barrel. Empting two boxes worth of apples into the liquid, she watched as the fruit bobbed across the foamy alcoholic surface.

Smiling into the vat depths, Libby counted the apples, making sure there were enough for all the guests to have a go at capturing one with their teeth. Then, balancing carefully, she reached up to the ceiling. A stick was hanging horizontally from ropes above the barrel. Tying a beeswax candle to one end and an apple on string to the other, Libby gave the stick a gentle push. She watched with satisfaction as it swung back and forth over the barrel of bobbing cider.

Returning to the ground, Libby checked the collection of silk ties next to the steps. Each one waited patiently to fasten hands behind their backs of potential bobbers; thus eliminating their temptation to cheat.

Libby experienced an unexpected flash of power as she heard Robert’s distinctive footsteps approaching. It was difficult not to grin too widely when she remembered how pleased he’d been when she’d suggested he had the honour of being the first to attempt the ancient apple catching ritual.

Fingering her pentagram shaped pendent, Libby’s mind filled with images of ancient Pagan fertility rites she’d seen in history books.

‘You wanted a traditional Pagan celebration boss, and this is it. There’s alcohol soaked bread to be offered to the trees in the orchard, cider ready to be poured onto the roots to toast the crops health, apple bobbing, and of course, the apple stick.’

Allowing Robert to slip his arms around her waist, Libby wasn’t surprised when he shuffled close enough for her to feel his crotch against her butt.  Rather than examine the beauty of the Celtic scene she’d created, Libby knew Robert would be checking to make sure no one else was in the barn.

He glided his hands from her waist to her tits. She let him. As the moment to execute her plan grew ever closer, Libby’s body had been on the cusp of an increasing impatient sexual high.

As Robert pushed her back against the barrel, he peered up at the hanging stick. ‘It looks impossible! And dangerous.’

Easing away from his grasp, Libby climbed the ladder and lit the end of the swinging candle. Her eyes flared with the fizz of the wick as it caught…


You can buy Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon in paperback or as an eBook from Amazon via…

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Guest Post from Carol McGrath: Stories that have Influenced my Writing

I love this guest post! Carol McGrath has given us a wonderful insight into some of the stories that set her on her own writing path. For me it was Robin Hood who made me pick up a pen, for Carol it was…Well why not grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and come and find out.

Over to you Carol…

The Handfasted WifeThe Betrothed Sister

I am delighted to be asked by Jenny to talk a little about books that I have loved in my youth and how these tales inspired me to write- even the novel that I amused myself writing, aged nine years old.

For those reading this, my novels are stories of real historical persons infused with a sense of adventure. I mix real historical characters who are researched with invented characters. The imagined personalities come from deep inside me, from the imaginative pool that grew out of my early reading tastes. Both The Handfasted Wife and The Betrothed Sister, historical novels about the noble women who survived the Battle of Hastings, contain a skald, poet and spy, as their most significant secondary character. His name is Padar.

Padar grew out of my youthful love of the Robin Hood legends, a passion I know that Jenny and I share. Padar owns rebellious characteristics, and becomes outlawed after The Battle of Hastings. Following the Norman Conquest he is constantly in danger. He is a small man in stature, clever, independent and resourceful. When Padar is charged by King Harold to watch over his wife and younger children, after the king’s defeat and death at Senlac, he travels with King Harold’s handfasted wife, Elditha (Edith Swan-Neck) to Ireland where she hopes to reach her sons, help them rebel against Norman rule and reclaim their lands. In The Betrothed Sister, Padar sails with Elditha’s daughter Thea (Gita) into Rus lands where her cousin, King Sweyn of Denmark, has arranged her marriage to a prince of Kiev. Padar, too, finds romance.

Five go to Treasure Island

The earliest novel I attempted to write was based on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I was nine years old, recovering from mumps, living with my family in a lonely home in the country. My childhood oeuvre was another adventure for George, Ann, Julian, Dick and Timmy the dog, set in a haunted house in Donegal- one we fantasised about on childhood holidays. The mountains lay behind and the sea in front so there was lots to imagine- lights flashing at night in the mountains, smugglers on the island we could see from the cottage we rented. I wrote in chapters and with pen and ink- laboriously in one of my Dad’s Ministry of Agriculture notebooks. Goodness knows what became of that valiant effort.

Jane Eyre

As an older child, I was influenced by writers such as Jane Lane and Geoffrey Treece. I had to read from my version of The Children’s Crusade out to an inspector who came to my school- another brave attempt to write a short novel. I loved The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.  It is about Thomas Fairfax, a Parliamentarian military leader during The English Civil War and it gave me an interest in the period. I also read many classics. Jane Eyre was, and still remains my favourite.  During my teens, I read everything I could borrow from the library by Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton and Margaret Irwin. Probably Seton’s Katherine stands out as a long-time influence on my writing today.


Although my main degree is in English and Russian Studies, Medieval History was my subsidiary subject. It is such a strange world, accessible and inaccessible both, a truly foreign country, yet all around us. I have long enjoyed medieval romance as well as the history which reaches into the early Tudor period with its guilds, feast days, superstition, beautiful manuscript work and so on. I jump forward in time now, however because Thomas Hardy was my specialist English degree subject and he gave me a love for landscape and memorable female characters. Yet I also loved William Faulkner and E.M. Foster. Moreover, I read Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago over and over. It was just so romantic, a novel that contains the perfect mix of sweeping historical event and romance.

Far from the Maddening Crowd

Of course, my early stories were never published. Nor did I ever imagine I would one day be published. It was many, many years later that I began to write seriously. Mine was a long apprenticeship involving an MA in creative writing and an MPhil, short story writing, plays and poetry. Yet, I have never forgotten my very early writing experiences or all those wonderful novels I enjoyed reading in my youth. And so, if Padar has been an enduring secondary character in The Handfasted Wife, truthfully he grew out of my love for Robin Hood and stories of high adventure. I would say that my love of writing and for creativity has its foundations in my early reading and a fabulously imaginative childhood that allowed me so much time to read.

pregnant woman working***

Carol McGrath lives in Oxfordshire with her family. She has an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her debut novel, The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 entitled The Daughters of Hastings, was shortlisted for the RoNAS, 2014 in the historical category. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister followed to complete this best-selling trilogy. Carol is the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels Association Conference Oxford September 2016.  Find Carol on her website:

C McGrath twitter

Thank you Carol. It never ceases to amaze me the reach that some stories (in our cases, those of Robin Hood), have. Writing something that touches generations of people must be a truly magical feeling.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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