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

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End of the Month: From Harry Corbett to MASH via David Nivan

I’m never sure why, seeing as it’s only two or three days shorter than the other months of the year, but February goes to fast. It always feels at least a week shorter than all the other months.

The plus side of this, is that Nell Peters is back already with her latest End of the Month blog.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, and top of the morning to y’all. Come on in out of the cold and grab a hot beverage to warm your cockles, so to speak.

The actor, Harry Corbett was born in Burma on this day in 1925, the youngest of seven children. His father, George, was serving with the British army as part of the Colonial defence forces, but the boy was sent back to England aged just eighteen months to be brought up by his aunt, after his mother died of dysentery. As an adult, Corbett enlisted in the Royal Marines during World War II, serving on the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire. Is there such a thing as a light cruiser, I wonder? In 1945, he was posted to the Far East, and reportedly killed two Japanese soldiers while engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. Yikes.

Back in Blighty, after a spot of desertion, he trained as a radiographer before moving into acting, initially in repertory – it was then he added the middle initial H to his name, to avoid confusion with the guy who found fame with his hand stuck up Sooty’s bottom. If asked, he would claim that the H stood for ‘hennyfink’. What a wag. Although acknowledged as an accomplished Shakespearean actor, Corbett was best known for his role as Harold Steptoe, a rag and bone man who lived with his irascible father, Albert (played by Wilfrid Brambell, who was actually only thirteen years older than Harry) in a dilapidated house, attached to their junkyard and stabling for the cart horse, Hercules. The series ran from 1962 until the Christmas special in 1974.

Must have been interesting on set, as Corbett smoked sixty fags a day (until his first heart attack in 1979, when he cut down to twenty), and Brambell was an alcoholic and gay – at a time when homosexual acts were against the law (decriminalised 1967). It was a second heart attack that killed Harry H in March 1982, aged fifty-seven – he was survived by his second wife, a son and daughter, Susannah, who played Ellie, Peter Pascoe’s wife in Dalziel and Pascoe. Outliving Corbett by almost three years, Brambell died of cancer aged seventy-two, in January 1985.

Over in the Soviet Union, it was on 28th February 1953 that Joseph Stalin had a pow-wow with Beria, Bulganin, Khrushchev & Malenkov – it must have been quite a knees-up because the very next day Stalin suffered a massive stroke, which killed him four days later. Perhaps they were celebrating the births of American wrestler Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, (real name Richard Blood); Ingo Hoffmann, Brazilian racing driver; and Paul Krugman, American economist and New York Times columnist, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008?

Mention deoxyribonucleic acid – the molecule that contains the genetic blueprint for cell reproduction – more commonly known as DNA, and most of us could excavate the names Watson and Crick from the memory bank. Officially, it was on this day in Cambridge, also in 1953, that the two scientists were credited with the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. However, it was at King’s College London, that Rosalind Franklin obtained an image of DNA using X-ray crystallography (the science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids), an idea first broached by Maurice Wilkins.

Franklin’s image, known as Photograph 51, was taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, when he was working as a PhD student under her supervision. It provided critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA and was thus a vital contribution to James Watson and Francis Crick’s creation of their famous two-strand, or double-helix, model. There is some doubt that Franklin gave her permission for the image to be used. Of the four main players – Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Rosalind herself, she was the only one with a background in chemistry, and the only one who did not share the Nobel Prize (Physiology/Medicine) in 1962. She died far too young of ovarian cancer on 16th April 1958 – my sister’s first birthday.

Raymond Massey

Had he not died in 1995, Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE would be loading his birthday cake with a whopping one hundred and ten candles today. He was an English poet, novelist, critic and essayist who highlighted themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work, which came to prominence during the 1930s. He was big pals with WH Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis – they met as Oxford undergraduates, even though Auden and Spender had both been pupils at Gresham’s School in Norfolk – and along with Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice, they were sometimes referred to as the Oxford Poets. Right now, I am getting nowhere fast with this and I can relate to a line in one of Spender’s poems: As I sit staring out of my window…

Who can remember the coronation ceremony of Liu Bang as Emperor Gaozu of Han on the last day of Feb 202BC, which initiated four centuries of the Han Dynasty’s rule over China? No takers? OK, what about the first boat load of gold rush prospectors arriving in San Francisco from the east coast in 1849 – the very same day that jockey Tom Cunningham won the eleventh Grand National riding a horse called Peter Simple? Still no? I’ll make it easy-peasy then – we all know that when he was sworn in, in 1952 (Charles) Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person to serve as Canada’s Governor General since the Canadian Confederation, eight days after his sixty-fifth birthday. We do, don’t we? He was the eighteenth GG, by the way.

Vincent’s younger brother, Raymond Hart Massey, also briefly dabbled on the sidelines of politics when he appeared in a 1964 television advertisement in support of Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater. Massey denounced incumbent US President Lyndon B Johnson’s strategies during the Vietnam War, suggesting that Goldwater had the nous to win the war quickly. Johnson won a landslide victory and the war trundled on until 30th April 1975, when Saigon fell. Taking the hint, perhaps, Raymond went into acting, becoming a US citizen along the way. His film appearances were many and varied and he was no stranger to the TV screen during the 1950s and 60s, most notably playing Dr Gillespie to Richard Chamberlain’s eponymous role as Dr Kildare.

Massey married three times. His high-profile estrangement and divorce from second wife, actress Adrianne Allen, was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s script for the film Adam’s Rib (1949), starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In a You Couldn’t Make It Up scenario, Massey went on to marry the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his by then former wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney. But before they fell out, Massey and Allen produced two children, actors Anna and Daniel Massey.

Like his father, Daniel married three times – first, actress Adrienne Corri (only slightly spooky to pick someone almost sharing his mother’s name); second, actress Penelope Wilton (Calendar Girls (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), The BFG (2016) and all six series of Downton Abbey – to name but a few); and third wife, Linda Wilton, who is one of Penelope’s two sisters. I’m not saying a word.

Incidentally, Raymond Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29th 1983, just shy of his eighty-seventh birthday and on the same day as David Niven, with whom he had co-starred in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Niven would have been one hundred and nine years old tomorrow.

On the home front, the sale of the family house completed on time – never thought #2 and I would manage it, but it was handed over duly stripped of all furniture etc and decades of accumulated ‘stuff’. There was so much paperwork to go through, I had to ship quite a lot back to Norfolk, as it was far too time consuming to do it all on site with the deadline looming. Luckily, we have a few spare bedrooms here and I have been able to stash it out of sight for the time being – can’t put it off forever, though.

However, sorting out utility bills and cancelling the many, many insurances – any eventuality/act of God was covered, sometimes in duplicate or triplicate I suspect – had to take precedence. As usual, a Power of Attorney complicates matters and there are extra hoops to jump through before anyone will actually deign to talk to you, but I think I can see the teeniest chink of light at the end of the very long tunnel now. The biggest relief was waking up on the Monday morning following completion, and realising I didn’t have to whiz off to the station to embark upon the four hour journey to Twickenham, where I would stay until Friday.

On 28th February 1983, the final (2.5 hour, 256th) episode of M*A*S*H aired in the US. It was entitled, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – I think I’ll borrow that and add a cheeky Toodles.

Thanks, Jenny – maybe see you in March?

NP

***

Huge thanks Nell. Another corking blog.

See you next time!

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ come from the pen of Anna Franklin Osborne, who is sharing the beginning of her wartime novel,

Walking Wounded.

I have always worked in health care, and more recently in education, and like so many other parents, hit a tiny crisis a few years ago when I felt that my purpose in life had narrowed to not an awful lot more than dashing between my two jobs and being a mummy taxi.

I managed to find time to begin singing with a choir, and that helped me feel that I might have a more creative side to myself. One evening, my husband was out and, quite suddenly, I decided to Start Writing. I immediately hit the first obstacles of terrible handwriting and a broken laptop, so my writing career began that night in bed, typing into the note section of my smart phone, with no clear idea of what I wanted to say but resulting in a severe case of RSI and several short stories over the next few nights.

My husband was delighted that I had suddenly found this passion and kept encouraging me to write a novel, which I really felt I did NOT have in me. Later that summer, however, we were walking along a D-Day beach for no other grander reason than our ferry home from France being late, and I began telling our kids about my three great-uncles who were part of that day, and my grandmother who sewed parachutes for the paratroopers jumping over Normandy. Neil looked at me and smiled and said, ‘you do actually have a story there, you know….’

Walking Wounded was written over a period of a year, on a tiny tablet which I bought specifically because it fitted into my handbag – as I said, ‘if it’s not with me at all times, this just won’t happen.’ I wrote every day in 10 minute bursts while I sat in the school car-park waiting for my daughter to emerge from school, I wrote parked outside ballet lessons and maths lessons, I wrote early in the mornings  while everyone was asleep.

Walking Wounded is a war story and family saga, focusing on those left behind whilst their men folk went to war, how they survived and how their relationships evolved through periods of violence, loss and reunion. The main story is about May, a young woman struggling to find her own identity as the youngest in a large family, forced into a stormy marriage through a mistake she is too proud to admit, and explores the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shaped the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as WW2 draws to a close. Spanning the period from the Armistice of the Great War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, its internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

So many of you can find this history in our relatives, but not, sadly, for very much longer. But if you look at your own upbringing, your family’s catch phrases, your own family folk-lore – it doesn’t take much insight to recognise that we have all been shaped, for better or for worse, by these seismic world crises.

First 500 words

1918, Mons, Belgium, 5 a.m.

He awoke with a shock as an icy rivulet of water finally penetrated

the gap between his collar and his neck and trickled

down inside his sodden greatcoat.

With a sigh, Sergeant Edward Peters leant back against the

boards, squinting up with resignation into the rain dripping endlessly

into the deep trench. The rain had woken him from a fitful

sleep, punctuated by the sound of snores from his fellow soldiers,

the occasional muffled curse. He shifted his long frame uncomfortably,

and shuddered with disgust as he felt a rat scuttle across

his legs and drop into the stinking mud next to him. No matter

how many trenches he dug, how many wounds he patched up,

how much blood he saw, he reflected grimly, he would never get

used to the rats. He vowed to himself silently that he would never

tolerate one in the house again when he got back home to London,

that he would fill the house with cats and wage his own tiny

and very personal war against the rodents which had plagued his

life for the past four years.

He smiled as he thought how much Edie would love that. She

loved animals but couldn’t have any in the crowded house she

lived in in Muswell Hill, but, one day, he thought firmly, one day,

they would start afresh and fill their own home with pets and

children. He fumbled in the pocket of his greatcoat then, trying to

extricate something with his clumsy fingers, numbed with cold.

Finally, his fingers alighted on the little photo, and he sat drinking

in the sight of his girl, smiling shyly at him all those miles away but

so close he could feel her.

His eyes filled with tears suddenly, and he had to catch his

breath in that bitter November morning to steady himself.

Then the captain stirred and stumbled out of his shack at the

end of the trench.

‘Time to be up, lads,’ he said quietly passing along the line of

men still sleeping in the bottom of the trench, just inches from the

foul mud, ‘time to get ready.’

Edward gazed one last time at the picture in his hand, then

stuffed it carefully back into his pocket. He blew on his hands and

caught the captain’s eye, nodded grimly at what he saw there.

At 6 a.m. he blew the whistle.

 

1918 London 11 a.m.

Florence Johnson stood stiffly to attention, clutching the hand

of her eldest daughter, Edie, as she listened to the bells pealing

out the Armistice on that cold, wintry morning.

As the sound of the last chime died away, it seemed that all of

London erupted at last into cheers, the sounds of laughter and

joy mingling with the echoes of the great bells. Feeling disorientated

and utterly disconnected with the crowd surging around

them, Florence half-turned towards Edie, immediately saw the

tears running down her cheeks and pulled her close, hugging her

tightly.

***

Buying links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walking-Wounded-Anna-Franklin-Osborne/dp/0993569005/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1520597578&sr=1-3

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/buy

Website:

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/

Social media:

Facebook: @GooseWingPublications

Twitter: @HomeOsborne

Many thanks Anna.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

Dealing with the Rollercoaster: A Writer’s Guide to Handling Disappointment

There is simply no avoiding it- writing and disappointment goes hand in hand.

This could be shortest blog ever, because the best advice I can give any writer or aspiring writer is to believe nothing you are promised until you see it in black and white, on a piece of real paper, with signatures on it.

roller coaster

I am aware this sounds cynical, but in fact it is just the reality of the publishing business. Incredible offers are frequently made, and frequently taken away again. I’ve had people offer me the moon in one moment and then taken it away the next. It’s how it is.

These points might help you prepare for those ‘disappointment lows’ –

-Never forget an editor/agent/ publisher is in the business to make money first, and make you (and all the other authors on their books) successful second.

-A genuine promise made in the heat of a friendly conversation will probably never be upheld because circumstances change in publishing on an almost daily basis.

-Getting a contract is 100% incredible, but the come down after your book comes out and doesn’t instantly sell thousands can be hard to take- don’t worry about it- it’s a normal reaction. Market your own work. Use every PR opportunity given- I refer you to my post on books being invisible.

 

The golden rule is to be patient- work hard- and accept there will be massive highs and massive lows. When the lows come, have a strategy to deal with them- pick a place to walk where you can get lost in the scenery- go out with friends- do a top up your wardrobe by holding a cheap and cheerful raid of your nearest charity shop. Whatever makes you happy- do just that. Remember the next high won’t be far away if you keep working at it.

Disappointment

I think my favourite low was when a major publisher (who I will not name), told me I would never be successful because I wrote too intelligently; that I was too broadsheet and wasn’t tabloid enough. I don’t know who that is more insulting to- me or my readers. I was gutted at the time, but I laugh about it now.  

So the moral of this blog is this- if you want to be a writer you will be disappointed often- but the highs, when they come, are so worth it.

Good luck out there every one. Don’t give up!!

Jenny x

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

 

 

 

8 Reasons to go on an Imagine writing retreat

After the wonderful success of our trip to Northmoor House last October, Alison Knight and I are proud to open the booking for Imagine’s second writing retreat…

8 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1. Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2. Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (Don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3. With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4. On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

5. However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6. Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

7. Meet celebrated novelist Kate Lord Brown! Kate will be our guest speaker on the Tuesday evening.

8. Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus help on tap, a chance to meet Kate Lord Brown, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £550 (£50 less if you book before 28th February) is a BARGAIN.

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

 

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT ENDS ON 28th FEB 2019

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx

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

From modern romance to medieval crime

Moving from writing modern contemporary women’s fiction and romantic comedies to creating medieval murder mysteries isn’t necessarily the most obvious career move for a writer to make. For me however, it felt like a natural progression.

I love writing my stories of Cornish romance and coffee shop based friendship dramas as Jenny Kane. In fact, it was when I was writing my modern chick flick romance, Romancing Robin Hood, that I found I was accidentally writing a medieval mystery at the same time.

Within Romancing Robin Hood, the lead character, Grace Harper, is writing a medieval adventure. It hadn’t been my intention to tell the story Grace was writing alongside her own adventure- but that’s what ended up happening. So, when you read Romancing Robin Hood, not only do you read, Robin Hood lover, Grace’s, modern tale, but you read the murder mystery she is writing as well. It just goes to prove that writers have very little control over their characters. Grace told me to write her novel for her- and so I did!

That novel (which is within Romancing Robin Hood) was separately published as The Outlaw’s Ransom, the story of Mathilda of Twyford and her encounter with a criminal gang in Fourteenth century Leicestershire. Even more surprising to me than the fact I was suddenly writing medieval crime fiction, was that Mathilda wasn’t going to be content with just one story of her own. She wanted a whole series all to herself! So, The Folville Chronicles was born.

The Outlaw’s Ransom, which is only a short novel, was followed by the rather longer novel, The Winter Outlaw– and that in turn has now been succeeded by Edward’s Outlaw– where I got seriously involved in the writing and simply couldn’t stop! Mathilda was so busy solving the given crime, that I hadn’t noticed just how long this story was going to be! So far, every new Folville Chronicle has been almost double the size of the one before!

Edward's Outlaw

While The Folville Chronicles are medieval murder mysteries- with plenty of other crime going on in the background- I haven’t strayed too far from my romantic fiction roots. Mathilda and Robert de Folville don’t have the most straight forward of starts on their life together…and they aren’t the only ones destined to end up together….

***

If you’d like to read any of the stories mentioned above, the links to my books, romance and otherwise, are available via the menu links at the top of the page, or by clicking on the titles of each mentioned book within this post.

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer- or should that be Jenny?

xx

 

 

Dead trees and Xmas gifts

Today I’m welcoming historical fiction novelist, Tom Williams, back to my site with a pre-Christmas message!

Over to you Tom…

Yet again, the news is telling us that paper books are very much here to stay. Honestly, they never went away and, equally honestly, e-book’s have become well established and they’re not going to go away either. It’s a non-story, presumably raising its head particularly at this time of year because with Christmas coming we remember that people still buy books as gifts.

It’s weird, this idea that e-books versus paper is like one of the great divides of human-kind, like Mods vs Rockers, Mac vs PC, Corrie vs East-Enders.

I’m a huge e-book fan. I read mainly on an iPad. It lets me carry lots of books with me. It allows me to highlight and make notes on them. (I know some people do that on paper, but I was brought up to see that as vandalism and I still feel uncomfortable with it.) I don’t lose my place. And it’s massively cheaper and easier to get new books. (Given the amount of 19th century reading I do, it’s often the only remotely realistic way to get hold of obscure out-of-print Victorian volumes.) So am I a paper-hating child of new technology? Hardly.

This is the biggest bookcase in the house, but far from the only one.

Practically every room in the house has at least some books propped up in it somewhere (not the bathroom – the steam makes the paper soggy). Paper books are attractive. It’s easier, sometimes, to browse a shelf full of books than to find something useful in an e-library. E-books are easier to search when you know what you want, but they can be frustrating when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Paper books allow more opportunities for serendipitous discoveries. The original inspiration for Cawnpore was a book I picked up browsing through someone else’s (paper) library, stuck indoors on a wet day. If I’d had an e-reader with me, I’d probably never have come across it.

Bookshops can be very frustrating in their selection of stock. (Try asking for one of my books – or pretty well anything published by a smaller press – at Waterstones and prepare to be told that they can’t get it for you.) But the shelves of temptingly displayed volumes can draw you to books you would never otherwise have discovered.

Paper books can be lent to friends or passed on when they’re finished with. They do, indeed, furnish a room. Old textbooks remind us of our student years, an autographed volume of a special meeting. Most of all, as ‘Super Thursday’ reminds us, paper books can be gifted in a way that e-books cannot. A paper book says that you want to share something you have enjoyed, or that you have thought about the interests and enthusiasms of your friend and sought out a book that matches them. The transfer of digital data from computer to computer does not, for some reason, carry the emotional resonance of the gift of a physical book.

All my books are available in paperback as well as on Kindle. Most good publishers try to produce paper copies, if only for their authors to display proudly on their bookcases. (Second shelf down on the extreme right if you’re checking the photo.) All authors I have ever met want to see their words on paper. It’s odd because, in this digital age, the paperback is probably the first time I’ve seen my book printed out in its entirety. Still, there they are. And you can buy them, and give them to your friends.

Pay attention to that last bit. Buy one for yourself and give others to your friends. And keep a couple spare, for those last-minute gifts.  And remember, a book is for life, not just for Christmas.

Important note

This was a public information announcement on behalf of all writers everywhere. However, I do draw your attention to the fact that paperback copies of all my books cost £5.99 or less. They are available in North America too (though with different covers) and you can buy them on Amazon or through Simon & Schuster.

Details of all my books are on my website (http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk). There is lots to read there (and pretty pictures) so do drop by.

Bio

Tom Williams used to write books for business, but he gave it all up to write things that are more fun. His spy stories set in the Napoleonic Wars feature James Burke, who was a real person, though we can’t guarantee that all his adventures were exactly as described. He was a spy, after all, so many of the details are unknown.

Tom also writes about colonialism in the age of Empire.

When he’s not writing Tom spends far too much time dancing tango.

Tom has a website at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk and a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/ and he tweets as @TomCW99.

***

Many thanks Tom,

Happy reading (and Christmas) everyone,

Jenny x

Christmas at the Castle: Scottish romance and coffee

Christmas at the Castle is the third and final festive tale from my ‘Another Cup of…’ series.

This standalone story takes author Kit Lambert away from the comfort of Pickwicks Coffee Shop, into the beautiful Deeside region of Scotland…

Blurb

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

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

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

tartan christmas

***

Here’s a tasty taster for you… Author Charlie, and her business woman friend Alice are in a café in Banchory, Scotland, discussing the literary festival they are trying to run. Charlie is convinced that Alice is holding out on her- but she doesn’t know why…

“…Charlie was convinced her friend was lying, but she wasn’t sure why. ‘Loads of Scottish towns have festivals. Come on, Alice, why did you choose here?’

‘It’s a beautiful place. More people should see it; although I grant you the festival is three miles away at the castle, so not everyone will come into the town itself.’

‘I can’t argue with the knock-out location argument,’ Charlie said, ‘but why really? Please don’t do the mysterious hot-shot businesswoman bit with me Alice..’

Not looking at her companion, Alice reached into her designer bag and pulled out a notebook and matching pen, and mumbled, ‘Cameron asked me to.’

Charlie’s cheeks instantly went red. ‘Cameron Hunter? He doesn’t live here anymore. I thought you guys were a thing of the past?’

‘We are. But I owe him. He asked me for help. He’s working up at Crathes Castle, running the estate management team. Tasked with bringing in new events to improve the out-of-season tourist figures.’

Speaking slowly, as if trying to get her head around a difficult sum, Charlie said, ‘Cameron Hunter is back? Cameron who treats me as though I’m invisible?’

Alice rolled her eyes. ‘He never thought you were invisible! Honestly, Charlie, I can’t believe you’re still going on about that. I thought you were paranoid at the time, but it was five years ago! And you wouldn’t want him now anyway, would you?’ She studied her friend more shrewdly. ‘Or would you?’

‘Not even if he was soaked in chocolate, but that is not the point.’ Charlie couldn’t believe Alice had put her in this position. ‘He made me feel small and worthless. I bet if you mentioned me by name to him he wouldn’t know who the hell you were talking about.’ Charlie closed her eyes for a second while she tried to calm the anger that was rapidly tightening in her chest. ‘We used to spend hours chatting while he waited around for you to beautify yourself, and yet the second you arrived he acted as though you two were the only people in the world.’

Alice raised her eyebrows. ‘Don’t be ridiculous, it was never like that. And it’s hardly his fault you got a crush on him.’ Shaking her head as if to dismiss a non-existent problem, like she would at work, Alice said, ‘The thing is, his job at Crathes is currently temporary. Cameron has to secure a profit-making event in the first four months of his job for it to become permanent.’

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle

Charlie’s palms had gone as clammy as if it was the middle of summer. ‘But we’re holding the festival at the castle.’

‘That’s what I’m saying! Cameron couldn’t find anyone willing to run an event at such short notice so close to Christmas. Craft fairs have been done to death and it’s too cold for outdoor theatre. So he came to my company for ideas.’

‘The man whose heart you broke. The man you left without a word so you could go and be a big city success?’ Charlie couldn’t get her head straight. ‘Why didn’t you tell me he was here, or that it was his festival I was helping plan?’

Sensing that she might have pushed Charlie’s good nature too far, Alice said, ‘Because you’re my friend. You’re helping me, not Cameron. I need you, sweetie. My reputation is on the line. I promised I’d make this one hell of an event.’

Seeing the thunderous expression on the normally calm Charlie’s face, Alice realised she was close to losing the help of the person she’d been depending on most. ‘Please, Charlie! I’ve secured a top line-up of authors and no one wants to see them!’

Speaking through gritted teeth, Charlie said, ‘You mean I’ve secured you a top line-up of authors.’

‘Yes, well, same thing,’ Alice flipped open her notebook. ‘But despite that, this festival isn’t getting any local interest.’

Keeping quiet her thought that things not going to plan for once could do Alice a lot of good, Charlie had to agree that even though the posters displayed all over town proclaimed a line-up of bestselling authors that would be the envy of many established festivals, the situation was far from rosy.

There were eight main events, but not one ticket had been sold. The website for the festival was up and running, but no one had visited it yet. The Facebook and Twitter pages were in full working order, but the number of followers was lacklustre to say the least. People obviously had more important things to spend their money on so near to Christmas.

Forgetting her determination not to let her hair do its unruly impression of a haystack, Charlie ran a hand through its curls and let out a strangled cry of frustration as she got to her feet.

‘You’re right, you do need help.’ Charlie grabbed her bag and scarf. ‘I’m glad you’ve finally worked out you can’t always be a one-woman band. In a small town, you need lots of volunteers to run something like this. You also need to learn how to ask nicely for that help, rather than assuming one flutter of your eyelashes will do the trick.

‘Obviously, I won’t be helping any more. You knew that I wouldn’t be able to once I learned Cameron was involved, which is presumable why you didn’t tell me before.’ Without pausing, Charlie leant across the table and whispered, ‘You let me watch while you took what you wanted from Cameron, knowing I liked him more than you did, and then, once he’d fallen for you hook, line, and sinker, you disappeared and dumped him by text. I made a total fool of myself trying to comfort him. The relief I felt when he left was huge, and yet, fool that I am, I still missed seeing him around. The only good thing I ever got from Cameron was the plot to The Love-Blind Boy!’

Catching her breath, gratified by the shocked expression on Alice’s face, Charlie added, ‘As it happens, I don’t want this festival to fail. Too many hardworking authors are travelling a long way to come here.’ She scribbled two names onto a paper napkin. ‘These people might help, if you’re nice to them.’

Slamming the napkin onto the table, Charlie gathered her coat into her arms and walked away, leaving a stunned Alice staring after her…

***

If that has whetted your appetite, you can find out what happens next, and if there is a literary festival left, by the time Kit Lambert leaves London for Scotland, you can buy Christmas at the Castle from-

Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-at-Castle-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B015J87DTI/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442588560&sr=1-2&keywords=christmas+at+the+castle

Amazon US

http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Castle-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B015J87DTI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442603723&sr=1-1&keywords=christmas+at+the+castle

Or you can buy it as part of the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection (which also contains Another Cup of Christmas and Christmas in the Cotswolds)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenny-Kanes-Christmas-Collection-Short-ebook/dp/B01M0ICD7A/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474386377&sr=8-2&keywords=jenny+kane%27s+christmas+collection

https://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Kanes-Christmas-Collection-Short-ebook/dp/B01M0ICD7A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474387008&sr=8-1&keywords=jenny+kane%27s+christmas+collection

This can be read as a standalone story or as a sequel to Another Cup of Coffee, Another Cup of Christmas and Christmas in the Cotswolds.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Coffee, Champagne and Writer’s Block

In our look back at my Another Cup of series…we reach the final novel to feature Amy, Kit, Jack and friends: Another Glass of Champagne.

Blurb

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

Fortysomething Amy is shocked and delighted to discover she’s expecting a baby – not to mention terrified! Amy wants best friend Jack to be godfather, but he hasn’t been heard from in months.

When Jack finally reappears, he’s full of good intentions – but his new business plan could spell disaster for the beloved Pickwicks Coffee Shop, and ruin a number of old friendships… Meanwhile his love life is as complicated as ever – and yet when he swears off men for good, Jack meets someone who makes him rethink his priorities…but is it too late for a fresh start?

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

A follow-up to the runaway success Another Cup of Coffee.

Available from:

Paperback edition available from Amazon UK and Amazon US, and eBook version available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Audio bookhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Glass-of-Champagne/dp/1520035659/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

https://www.amazon.com/Another-Glass-of-Champagne/dp/1520035659/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

***

In the final novel of the series, Another Glass of Champagne, Kit, mum of twins, and wife to bookshop owner Phil, suddenly finds herself unable to write at all, but he can’t understand why. Surely writer’s block is something that can be easily shaken off- or is just a myth invented by those who can’t be bothered to write today…or is it?

Not even sitting at her usual table in the corner of Pickwicks Coffee House, (run by her friend Peggy) is helping the words become unstuck…

writers block

Extract

When she got back, Kit found Peggy looking thoughtful, ‘Why have you closed your work down, honey? I usually steal a read of your latest work in progress when I think you’re not looking.’ ‘I haven’t got much done today.’

Kit mumbled. ‘It’s been a mulling things over sort of a day.’ Changing the subject, she said, ‘Scott says there are some sandwiches ready for your lunch when Megan comes back through.’

‘Good, I’m starving.’

‘Are you and Megan managing alright with only two of you on the serving team? It’s already busy, but by July it’s going to be packed between eleven and two.’

‘Actually, Scott and I were talking about that over the weekend. Would your Helena fancy giving us a hand and earning some money before she heads off to university? Where is she going again?’ Flinching slightly, and hoping Peggy hadn’t noticed, Kit said, ‘She’s aiming for Bath to do Chemistry, and Thomas’s hoping to be off to Exeter. Assuming they get their grades, that is.’

‘Of course they will. What’s Thomas going to study?’

‘History.’

‘Sounds good. So, do you think Helena will want the job? It would save me a lot of bother with adverts and stuff.’

Kit nodded. She knew exactly how much time it took to go through interviews and training staff in this place, so someone who was already familiar with Pickwicks layout would be a real advantage to Peggy. ‘I’ll ask her. Helena’s bank balance could certainly do with a top-up. Goodness knows it’s time she stood on her own two feet financially.’

Megan came back into the café and Peggy got up to go and have her lunch before another influx of customers forced her to forego her only real break of the day. As an afterthought, she turned back to Kit. ‘If you’d rather your daughter wasn’t here during the day, just say. I mean, this is your office after all!’

‘I don’t mind at all. I’ll ask her this evening, assuming she comes home She seems to live at her mates’ houses these days.’

‘Making the most of seeing her friends before she heads west, I suppose.’

Peggy waved as she disappeared into the kitchen, to what Kit hoped wasn’t a tuna sandwich, before she could see the tell-tale glint of tears fighting to form at the corner of her eyes. Cross with herself for being so emotional, Kit looked at her screen. Peggy had opened a new document and typed the words You can talk to me, you know. Love Peggy xx across the top of the page.

Kit should have known that she couldn’t hide anything from Peggy. The manageress knew her habits better than anyone, having been host to them for the past decade or so. Kit didn’t even want to guess how many cups of coffee, scones, and slices of toast she’d consumed at that table in that time. Just the thought of the amount of butter she’d spread over her early morning snacks was enough to make her feel as though her hips were expanding right there on the seat.

Making her mind up to talk to Peggy soon, she picked up her mobile and sent Helena a text, telling her about the possible employment opportunity at Pickwicks. Kit wasn’t sure if she did actually want Helena around all day while she was writing. But then, she thought, I’m not exactly writing now, am I…

***

You may be thinking that Kit sounds like a real writer you’ve come across- and you’d be right. Kit and I are pretty much the same person- but with huge exaggerations into fiction of course!! For a start, I do not have twins!

However, a little while ago I did suffer a bout of writer’s block. I had been a little flippant about the condition until then- but now I know it is truly horrid. Feeling all the words backing up in your head and not being able to get them out is just awful- especially when you live for your words! I lost weeks to the confusion of not being able to compose even the simplest sentences.

If you want to discover if Kit manages to get to the root of her own word block, and see what else the Pickwick’s crew are up to, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshops and eBook retailers, including-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/188-7813436-7626710?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

***

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Retreating

It’s time for the Imagine Writing Retreat!

Based in the beautiful Victorian Manor of Northmoor on Exmoor, a small group of writers will be joining myself and my fellow ‘Imaginer’ Alison Knight, for 5 days of writing time, chatter, author talks and – very probably- wine sippage.

I’m banking on being considerably fitter on my return (there are lots of beautiful walks and plenty of stairs up to my attic bedroom)- and, hopefully, I’ll be in a position where my next novel is plotted, my latest proofing commission is complete and all my student workshops for the rest of 2018 are drafted. Do you think maybe I’m asking too much?

Our prime concern however, is to make sure that every single person attending has a fantastic time! We have two amazing guests (Dan Metcalf and Kate Griffin) a quiz, optional one-to-one advice sessions and lots of biscuits. What more could a writer ask?

While I’m on Exmoor the chances of decent Wi-Fi is slim, so there won’t be an Opening Lines blog this week.

If you try to contact me, then please be patient. I will get back to you asap.

See you on the other side…

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

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