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 Anna Legat: A Conspiracy of Silence

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

Blurb:

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

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

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

First 500 words 

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hi, Mum.’

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

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

‘That good!’

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

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

***

What readers are saying about Anna Legat:

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

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

Plenty of twists and turns’

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

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

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

Bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to you Morwenna…

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Blurb

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

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

First 500 words

Prologue

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

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

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

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

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

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

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

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

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

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

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

Richard

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

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

mybook.to/devolution

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

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

She often thinks about that frog.

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

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

Twitter: @MorwennaBlackw1

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

***

Many thanks Morwenna- wishing you huge success.

Happy reading Jenny

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

Interview with Jill Barry: The House Sitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

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

Many thanks for dropping by today, Jill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Social media links:

Facebook    www.facebook.com/JillBarryBooks/

Twitter                   @barry_jill

Website       www.jillbarry.com

***

 

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

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines by Kelly Florentia: Her Secret

For this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Kelly Florentia, with the first 500 words from her romantic suspense novel, Her Secret.

Over to you Kelly…

Her Secret is the sequel to my second novel, No Way Back, and follows the ups and downs of girl-about-town, (well, woman-about-town, she’s forty-two), Audrey Fox. The book is set in affluent Muswell Hill, north London. It’s a romantic suspense novel with a thriller edge. It’s about the consequences of rushing into a marriage, secrets, lies, obsessions and….shoes! Although Her Secret is part of a series it can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel.

BLURB:

You know something.
You can’t share it.
You can’t discuss it.
You can’t stop thinking about it.

Audrey Fox never thought she’d tie the knot, especially after wasting eight years of her life with a man who couldn’t commit. But at the age of forty-two, fate throws her a lifeline and she finally has it all; gorgeous husband, thriving career, beautiful family and fabulous friends. Life couldn’t be better….until someone tells her a secret at a boozy dinner party; something that she wishes she could unhear; something that could wreck lives.
Burdened by the secret, Audrey’s perfect life begins to spiral out of control and the cracks begin to show. She longs to tell her husband but is fearful of the consequences; she’s desperate to discuss it with her friends, but her hands are tied. Then one morning, on impulse, Audrey does something drastic, but will she live to regret it? Because there’s no smoke without fire and everyone has secrets…don’t they?

FIRST 500 WORDS – HER SECRET

IF YOU COULD TURN BACK TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY? I stare at the swirly white writing set against the backdrop of a sunset in wry amusement. It’s just the type of thing you’d expect from Vicky, right up her street. I heart my sister-in-law’s Instagram post, just to show my support, notching up her likes to thirty-six. She’ll love that. I don’t bother adding a comment to the twenty-four already listed. I’m not into dwelling on the past, not anymore. I’ve let go–moved on. I’m a new woman now with a new name.

I slide my thumb up lazily, a picture of a fluffy cat fills the screen followed by a bouquet of flowers, then a photo of my gorgeous nephews with George, my brother, looking awful, eyes half closed, mouth ajar. George will have a fit when he sees it. I laugh as I pinch the screen to zoom in, but as I gaze at their familiar faces on my iPhone, curiosity burns in my chest like a hot rod. I flick back to Vicky’s meme and click on ‘View all 24 comments.’ A quick peek at what her followers think won’t hurt, will it?

Comment 1: I’d stay on at school – Did that and came away with two A levels, not a great help in my job as a junior web designer but nice to have all the same.

Comment 2: I would have had my kids later in life – Of no interest.

I slide my thumb up the screen. Comment 3 (from someone called xx_timetraveller_x99): I’d travel more – I’m not that keen on flying, to be honest. The furthest I’ve travelled is the four and a half hour flight to Cyprus, and that was only to visit my parents, because, much too my protest, they retired there earlier this year. But no sooner had I waved them off at Heathrow Airport blubbing hysterically like a five-year-old child abandoned by her parents, than I was sipping a vodka and tonic on a British Airways flight to Larnaca. Pathetic, I know, for a grown, married woman. What can I say? I miss them terribly.

Comment 4: I’d have started using anti-wrinkle cream as soon as I could read! – I snort at that one. I suppose we’d all like to turn the clock back where youth is concerned. Although, thanks to my mum’s genes, I’m often told I look much younger than my forty-two years. I certainly feel it.

I read the next few comments with a smile on my face. Vicky’s got some amusing friends, no wonder she spends so much time on social media, despite my brother’s protests. But it’s the eighth comment that catches my attention. That makes me sit bolt upright in my seat.

Comment 8: I wouldn’t have rushed into marriage. The writing becomes a blur and I have to blink a few times, then as I glance up at the road I cry out in horror. “Watch out!” My mobile phone…..

***

Buy a copy from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Secret-page-turning-sequel-Back-ebook/dp/B07CK9JHM1/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=books0c3-21&linkId=0ef3dd3a9d2e1d3c82daf2ed05fb72fb

BIO:

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. HER SECRET (2018) is her third novel and the sequel to NO WAY BACK (2017).

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before penning her debut The Magic Touch, relaunched and updated in 2019, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. To Tell a Tale or Two… is a collection of her short tales. In January 2017, her keen interest in health and fitness led to the release of Smooth Operator – a collection of twenty of her favourite smoothie recipes.

As well as writing, Kelly enjoys reading, running, drinking coffee, scoffing cakes, watching TV dramas and spending way too much time on social media. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Website: www.kellyflorentia.com

Twitter: @kellyflorentia

Facebook: @KellyFlorentiaAuthor

Instagram: @kellyflorentia

***

Many thanks for your opening lines, Kelly.

Happy reading everyone,

Jen xx

Opening Lines: Dark Magic by Tom Williams

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

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

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

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

“Does it have to be a human baby?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Baby’s blood, then.”

There was an uncomfortable nodding of heads.

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

***

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

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

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Fenwick to my site as part of her ‘Never the Twain‘ blog tour.

Over to you Jane…

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

I love people watching. I also love ear wigging! Put the two together and you can see how some, but not all of my characters are born. The rest I would say come from my imagination. Imaginations need feeding of course and that means I read and watch TV and films – a lot. I also daydream.

I always carry a note book about with me. (Not just any old note book however they have to be just right.)

If I’m on a train, in a bar or a coffee shop, in the queue at the supermarket – anywhere really, and I hear a particularly good conversation I jot down any interesting tid bits I overhear. I have a terrible memory so I need to jot it down straight away otherwise by the time I get home its either gone out of my head or I’ve lost the gist of it. Sometimes I hear a phrase or a single word which sparks a thought. Sometimes it is the tone of the whole conversation. Often it is a funny colloquialism or a slang term pertinent to a particular part of the country. Always be careful what you say within earshot of an author – it might end up in a book.

***

I’m a Yorkshire lass so hopefully any Yorkshire in my books comes across as authentic so that the character feels real. When I go to Northumberland for research I make notes about the accent and intonations as the accent is less familiar to me. These accents then help build the characters.

What my characters do as well as say is just as important. Watching body language, a person’s stance or a particular “tic” or gesture someone might have either consciously or unconsciously can also add realism to a character. An action can show you how a character feels without me having to tell the reader ‘she is anxious’.

One aspect of characterisation I struggle with is names. A name can mean different things to different people and getting the name right can influence the character in a big way. Also as an ex teacher I have taught a lot of “names”. I’d never have a romantic character called Wayne. Don’t ask! Add to this that obviously you cannot have a “Kylie” or a “Charlene” in a Victorian novel for obvious reasons and it can become quite restrictive finding just the right name to convey the type of person I want my reader to meet. Names then are very subjective.

However, in Never the Twain I was lucky in that there was a limited choice for my two main characters. The identical twin girls in the story are born either side of midnight as the month turns so they are not only born on different days but different months. Therefore there were only two choices; April or May or May and June. I choose the former.

Particular names are prevalent in different centuries; in Georgian times there was a proliferation of ‘George’s’ and ‘Charlotte’s’ after the king and queen and in the Victorian era there were a lot of ‘Victoria’s’ and ‘Albert’s’ for the same reason. Names also are English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish or even regional or foreign. As Never the Twain is partly set in Scotland I wanted the names of the Scottish characters to reflect this, hence Alistair. But some names are more class driven such as Effie May and Edward. Sometimes a character undergoes a name change as I begin to develop the character and realise the name is not quite working. Again I have a note book and make a note of names I think of or hear which may come in useful. I recently bought a punnet of strawberries that were produced by Sean Figgis. Expect that name to crop up in a future book!

Real people are seldom black and white and so it is with characters. People and characters are seldom all good or all bad. In Never the Twain April and May are identical twins who share some character traits but have different personalities nonetheless. I wanted my characters to be well rounded and ‘real’ therefore they are flawed and contradictory on occasions.

It can be fun getting inside someone else’s head and literally putting words in their mouths. Seeing how characters think and react to circumstances is easy once you know your character inside and out. I constantly ask myself how each character would react in a situation and once that is established it is important that they stay true to themselves and don’t suddenly behaviour totally out of character. Yet sometimes we do act out of character under difficult, unfamiliar circumstances. It is a fine line to draw. However the reader will spot if someone suddenly behaves completely erratically unless there is a very good reason. April and May’s twin bond means they have a debt of loyalty to each other but when things get tough May’s dark side manifests itself to April’s detriment.

My characters are like my babies; I watch them grow and develop, change and adapt to their environment. They lead me in all sorts of directions and turn the plot on its head sometimes. As I am a ‘punster’ not a planner I find this exciting and I hope you do too when you read Never the Twain.

Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

GIVEAWAY! – You can take part in the Never the Twain giveaway here- 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be191/?

 

***

Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny

Opening Lines by Lucy V. Hay: Do No Harm

Opening Lines time is upon us.

This week I’m delighted to welcome bestselling author, award winning blogger, writing guru, and owner/manager of the brilliant Bang2Write website, Lucy V. Hay to my place.

Lucy is sharing the first 500 words of debut dark crime/thriller, Do No Harm

BLURB

Till death do us part… After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong… Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives… Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction. ‘Well written, engrossing and brilliantly unique’ – Heat. ‘Prepare to be surprised’ – Closer. ‘A claustrophobic and complex read’ – Culture Fly. ‘Sharp, confident writing’ – Peter James. ‘Original, daring and emotionally truthful’ – Paul Burston.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

I’m early.

I regard the hotel in the wing mirror of my car. I see my own reflection  – my nostrils flaring as I take in the venue. If you’d listened to me, you could have had so much more than this. Modern build on an industrial estate? Ugh.

Behind me I can see the gawdy, fluorescent signs for a chain cinema, a bowling alley, various fast-food restaurants, one of which offers an ‘all you can eat’ buffet bonanza. It’s what the Staceys and Chads like to call an ‘entertainment park’, though I cannot for one second imagine what’s so entertaining about these places. Give me a low-key, low-lit restaurant

with a ludicrously expensive wine list any day.

Oh no, this is no good. If it had been up to me, I would have found you somewhere far more flash to celebrate your nuptials. But that ship has sailed. For now.

I might be down, as they say – but I’m not out.

A group of people appear behind my car. I watch their reflections. They’re in frocks and suits – two couples, the women tottering on high heels, holding on to their men’s elbows. They must be going to your wedding. Then behind them, a tired-looking family: the man is in a shirt and tie, an incongruous pink cloth over one shoulder. He carries a sleeping baby girl in a flowery dress with an overly large bow on the back. The woman wears a trouser suit, the jacket just a smidge too small across her bust. Two little boys in bow ties run ahead of her; she holds her arms out to them as if she’s shepherding geese.

A woman in a purple beautician’s tabard stops next to the wedding party. She smiles and laughs, beckoning them with her. She’s diminutive and young-looking, orange panstick caked on her pale skin. There will be a subterranean salon somewhere in the hotel’s depths. The smell of stale sweat will be masked by scented candles, vanilla or patchouli, but the tang

of human musk will persist. You can scrub the masseuse tables, the floors, the jacuzzi; you can launder the towels, spray liberal amounts of deodorant and air freshener, strip away our clothes, our pretensions. But it’s always there. Flesh – animal, predatory. Demanding domination, submission.

It’s what we all are, underneath it all.

I look at my watch. In just one and a half hours you will be married. I suppose I ought to have prepared myself for this day. I felt sure you would wander – as you claimed you needed to – then return, certain you could do no better. I guess I never thought you would leave me so finally, splashing about in your wake.

I’m such a fool.

***

BIO:

Lucy V Hay is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and is to be adapted by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, was a finalist in the Dead Good Books Readers’ Awards 2019. Her next title is Never Have I Ever for Hodder Books, out this December.

***

Many thanks Lucy. Cracking opening lines, from a very clever story.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

Opening Lines with P J Reed: Welcome to Witherleigh

Opening Lines time has arrived once more!

This week I’m delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, P J Reed with the first 500 words from her brand new release,

Welcome to Witherleigh.

Over to you Pam…

I would like to thank Jenny Kane for inviting me onto her wonderful blog to write about my new novel ‘Welcome To Witherleigh.’

I am P.J. Reed, a multi-genre writer, from Devon. My background is in history and archaeology research which I like to use to add authentic flavours to my writing.  I have written several short horror stories, six poetry  collections, and one high fantasy novel. Most of my work is set in Devon, Exmoor, and Dartmoor and explores the darker side of country living. Welcome To Witherleigh is based on the little village of Witheridge, set on the outskirts of Exmoor. If you visit Witheridge after reading this book, you might even recognise some of the buildings described within its pages.

This book concerns a young man, Richard Radcliffe who has left the stresses of London under in order to start a new life for himself in Devon. He finds work as a church appointed playleader and looks forward to the local villagers and living life at a gentler pace. Unfortunately, as soon as he arrives in Witherleigh,he realises that something is very wrong with the village as he is pulled into an alley and warned that he will be next. He then sets out to solve the riddle of the village and to find out why the ghosts of Witherleigh still walk the streets.

This book is a paranormal, murder mystery with a dark vein of humour running through it.

The story appeared to me when one day Richard Radcliffe walked into my walk, sat down next to me, and told me about his adventures in Witherleigh.

First 500 words of Welcome To Witherleigh –

CHAPTER ONE

The car jolted unhappily through the mud-splattered lane. At least he hoped it was mud. Black and white cows peered knowingly at him through breaks in the overgrown hedge. That’s the last time I clean you until we get safely back to London, Richard thought grimly as he slowed to avoid a pair of suicidal pheasants. One stood in the road, frozen in fear, the other ran and disappeared into the hedgerows. He stopped the car and let the pheasant cross safely to rejoin its companion. He saluted the bird and watched as it ran into the lines of gnarled trees which flanked each side of the narrow road. The trees stooped over each side of the road. Their branches joined together above the middle of the lane, like skeletal brown arms twisting into each other, blocking out the late autumn sun. Richard stared at the crowding trees. There were melted faces in the lines of the bark. He shivered as a feeling of panic surged through his body.

Richard gripped the steering wheel. His knuckles whitened as electrical pulses ran up and down his spine. He swallowed and pinged the rubber band around his wrist. The sharp pain broke through his thoughts. The trees straightened, and their faces became lost in the creases of the bark. He twanged the band again. Important things had to be performed twice. Then he restarted the car and drove carefully past the sullen trees.

He had to be at the Witherleigh Day Centre by two o’clock. The ladies of the Anglican ministry were putting on a special cream tea and he could not be late.

The cluttered trees gave way to the rugged open fields of the North Devon wildlands. Undulating fields of dark green, broken by rows of hedges and the occasional windswept tree; dejected and alone amid a sea of grass.  This was a harsh land. Richard felt as if every mile nearer Witherleigh dragged him further backwards in time. He pinged the rubber band around the wrist twice. The change to a simpler life will be good.

‘It’s just what I needed,’ he whispered to himself.

He drove past a long wooden farm fence. A buzzard perched on a fence post sat so still it looked like a wooden carving. The bird flew away disturbed. Richard half-smiled.  He had never seen a bird of prey in flight and was captivated by the effortless majesty of its wings slow movement as it soared into the steel grey sky.

A four-wheel drive beeped loudly. Richard swerved back to his side of the lane, the old cars wheels squelching to a halt in the mud which ran in gulley’s along the side of the road. He let out a deep breath and waved an apology at the red-faced driver who shouted something inaudible as the Range Rover roared past him.

The little white pills were not good for his concentration levels. He shook his head. Perhaps down here he could be rid of them…

***

Welcome To Witherleigh is available to download from kindle on…

amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SVQJ6ZR/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_hist_1

amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SVQJ6ZR/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

***

Bio

P.J. Reed, writer of warlocks. Destroyer of worlds.

She is an outrageously eclectic writer. Reed lives in Devon with her two daughters, a rescue dog, and one feral cat called Sammy.

poetry by P.J. Reed

Flicker

Haiku Yellow

Haiku Sun

Haiku Gold

Haiku Ice

Haiku Nation

Website – https://pjreedwriting.wixsite.com/horror

Twitter – https://twitter.com/PJReed_author

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/p.j.reedauthor

***

Many thanks for sharing your opening lines with us today, Pam.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Ward Zero by Linda Huber

The final opening lines of 2018 is being looked after by suspense writer, Linda Huber.

Over to you Linda…

Writing Ward Zero… the dead ward

I enjoyed writing this book – as an ex-physiotherapist, I loved the hospital setting, modelling Brockburn General on one of the hospitals I worked in, back in the day. I could almost smell that special hospital odour as Sarah visited foster-mum Mim in orthopaedics, and the fustiness of the cellar as she lay there later on, bound and helpless, was equally present in my nose. Ward Zero brought back a lot of happy memories.
The best bit of all, though, was deciding on the cover image. The designer produced a fabulous image of a body, swathed in a white sheet and lying on a trolley. Perfect – but was this Sarah? It looked a bit masculine to me… So we began a hilarious back and forth of cover images, the body having a different bust measurement in each. Eventually, the one the designer christened ‘version supermodel’ was voted winner, and the cover – and the book – went to print.

Here are my first five hundred words:

Prologue

Thursday, 20th July

He stared across the table in the crowded restaurant and his mouth went dry. Sarah. She was so lovely, smiling at him with shiny blonde hair just tipping her shoulders, and her blouse an exact match for the blue of her eyes. And now he would have to kill her too. It was too much to bear.

He reached for his glass, fighting to keep the ‘I’m having the greatest time ever’ expression fixed on his face. But her last remark had confirmed it – she knew way too much. And he, idiot that he was, had just made a monumental mistake. Sarah was busy with her fritters; she hadn’t realised the significance of what he’d said. But she would, and the first thing she’d do was tell that bloody policeman. It was a risk he couldn’t take. Time to switch his emotions off.

He took a deep breath, forcing himself to smile back. All he had to do was keep her busy thinking about other things, and after dessert he would suggest a quick coffee at home. His home. Once he had her safely locked up he could organise her death in peace and quiet. It shouldn’t be too difficult – he’d already had a practice run.

When Sarah was gone too, he’d be safe.

If only he’d never gone to the hospital. He hadn’t wanted things to end like this, not for one minute.

Chapter One

Two weeks earlier: Tuesday, 4th July

Sarah stepped into the arrivals hall at Manchester Airport. What a brilliant feeling – back on British soil for her first long break in two years. And she was ready for it. Teaching in Switzerland and travelling round Europe in the holidays had been exhausting, if exciting. And now – where was Mim?

A glance round the waiting crowd failed to locate her foster mother’s strawberry-blonde head, and Sarah stood still. She hadn’t spoken to Mim since last week, but they’d texted yesterday. At least… Sarah frowned. She had texted her new flight time and Mim had replied with a smiley, which, when you thought about it, wasn’t typical. Mim had the gift of the gab even when she was texting.

‘There you are! Sorry I’m late – I had to park at the back of beyond.’

Sarah spun round to see a short, very pregnant figure beaming up at her, dark curls damp on her brow. ‘Rita! You’re huge! Come here!’

A lump came into her throat as she hugged the other woman, feeling the hardness of Rita’s bump against her own body. Lucky Rita.

Rita hugged back. ‘That’s pregnancy for you. Come on, let’s get out of this rabble.’

Sarah grabbed her case and turned towards the exit. ‘You’re on. But where’s Mim?’

She couldn’t imagine what could have kept Mim away from the airport when the two of them were supposed to be setting off on their long-anticipated tour of Yorkshire that very afternoon.

Rita took her free elbow. ‘Ah. Now don’t shoot the…

***

I’m sure you can guess the 501st word!

***

Ward Zero blurb:

Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?
On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.
Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.

If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.

Bio:
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years being a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.

Linda’s writing career began in the nineties, and since then she’s had over fifty short stories and articles published, as well as seven psychological suspense novels. Her books are set in places she knows well – Cornwall (childhood holidays), The Isle of Arran (teenage summers), Yorkshire (visiting family), as well as Bedford and Manchester (visiting friends) and her home town, Glasgow. Her latest project is a series of feel-good novellas written under her pen name, Melinda Huber.

After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

Linda Huber’s website:  www.lindahuber.net
Universal Amazon link: getBook.at/WardZero

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlindahuber/

***

Many thanks to Linda for seeing us out of 2018 in style!

See you next year!

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Here Casts No Shadow by Bronwen Griffiths

This week’s Opening Lines blog comes from Bronwen Griffiths. I’m delighted to be able to introduce the first 500 words (exactly) from

Here Casts No Shadow.

 

Here Casts No Shadow is a novel about war and conflict – told from a woman’s perspective.

I have no direct experience of war but I was on holiday in the southern Libyan Desert in February 2011 when the uprising against Gaddafi began. After a hair-raising time driving through military check-points, our small group was air-lifted out of the country by the Italian military. The consequences of that experience were life-changing, and fed into my first novel.

Here Casts No Shadow is set in a fictitious county also beset by war and ruled by a ruthless dictator. The inspiration for the book has come, in large part, from my campaigning work for Syria, and with Syrian refugees. But for me, what’s most important is that it’s the story of one woman and her fight for justice – a woman who must also face her own demons before she can move forward in life.

 

First 500 words

I’m in my apartment overlooking the square, watching the snow fall. The snow is like stars, you once said. Not stars, but birds, I argued; tiny flying birds.

You were so impatient that day. Do you remember? You kept asking me when the snow would come. ‘Will it be like a fairy tale? How many days will it snow?’ You wouldn’t stop. You were like that. A chatterer. Always asking questions. I never imagined a time when you wouldn’t talk at all.

A Saturday. Early January. Kaz in bed with a cold. Baby Moe yelling his head off downstairs in the kitchen. Ma banging pots. Pa out in the garden shed doing whatever he did out there. You were stood on tiptoes, at the window, your nose pressed against the glass. I was sprawled on the rug, pen in hand, planning a house –a house for Tam and me to live in overlooking the lake where Grandma lived. I so loved Tam. You just can’t imagine it, Pearl, how he dizzied me, how my heart danced every time I set eyes on him. I still love him, though he is long gone now. He kissed me once, in the summer before everything turned. It was one of those hot summer days, the likes of which we never have here; the soles of my shoes stuck to the asphalt, the air shimmered like gossamer. Tam ran down the university steps, where I waited for Kaz. He ran down those steps, flung his arms around my shoulders and kissed me smack on the lips. The kiss didn’t mean much, I knew that. I was only Kaz’s sister, someone Tam liked to flirt with. But I kept hold of the hope his kiss brought me. Maybe one day, I thought, maybe one day life could bring another possibility like that.

You never knew how I felt about Tam. You were too young. You still don’t know. There’s so much you don’t know. So much I should tell you.

 

We’d been out in the garden making snow angels and throwing snowballs, and dancing about like dervishes. Even Kaz had come out to join us, in spite of his cold. But Pearl slipped and got wet; she cried and said she was turning into ice, so Kaz took her back into the house. I was going to follow but then I saw a tall figure at our back gate. My heart jumped – just like the fish Kaz and I had seen leaping for insects by the old stone bridge – because it was Tam.

‘Hi, Mira.’ Tam was breathing fast, as if he’d been running. ‘Is Kaz home?’

‘He’s gone inside with Pearl.’ Don’t you want to talk to me?

Tam was dressed as always: in a long black coat and steel-tipped army boots without laces. He wore these clothes winter and summer. His one concession to the weather was a striped woollen hat: the dark, damp tendrils of his hair curled out from underneath it…

***

Here Casts No Shadow is available from all good bookshops as well via…

Bronwen Griffiths is also the author of A Bird in the House, (2014) and Not Here, Not Us – short stories of Syria, (2016). Her flash fiction and short stories have been widely published. She lives on the Sussex/Kent border.

www.bronwengriff.co.uk

https://twitter.com/bronwengwriter

***

Many thanks for your great opening lines Bronwen.

See you next week for some more opening lines.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

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