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

Tag: writing Page 4 of 26

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

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Month: 273 days in

Yes- I know- you don’t want me to mention that another month has gone by…However, it must have because Nell Peters is here with another fabulous end of the month round-up.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, my sweeties – I trust all is well with you on this 273rd day of the year? That means there are just ninety-two to go before we get to sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne again. Tempus certainly does fugit.

Celebrating her Ruby Wedding anniversary today is Mary Louise (better known as Meryl) Streep, who married sculptor Don Gummer in 1978, having been in a relationship with fellow actor, John Cazale (The Deer Hunter, amongst others) until March of that year, when he died of lung cancer. Mother-of-four Streep’s versatility as an actor apparently knows no bounds, and she has won multiple awards, including eight wins out of a huge thirty-one Golden Globe nominations. She even somehow managed to pull off her British-accented roles as Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011), Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette (2015) and sing a passable Abba in Mamma Mia! (2008) although she apparently only appears in flashback in the current sequel. And now I have the song rattling around my head, making a nuisance of itself.

Emmeline Pankhurst

On the same day that Meryl and Don were cutting cake and dodging confetti, American actor, comedian and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (originally the Swedish Berrgren, meaning mountain branch) died – sadly, he was three days into his two week Farewell to Show Business retirement tour. While still in high school aged eleven, he studied a booklet called The Wizard’s Manual – nothing to do with Harry Potter, but a basic lesson in ventriloquism, and he then paid a carpenter $35 to carve the head of his first dummy, Charlie McCarthy, in the likeness of a red-headed Irish newspaper boy he knew. Bergen created the body himself, using a nine-inch length of broomstick for the backbone, with rubber bands and cord to control the lower jaw mechanism of the mouth. Gottle o geer, anyone?

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy

Edgar and his wife, fashion model Frances, had two children – Kris, a film and TV editor, and the actress Candice. Her debut role was in the 1966 film The Group and this year she can be seen as Sharon in Book Club – with a whole lot of other TV and film roles in between. At one time, Bergen and her then boyfriend, Terry Melcher, lived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, which was later the home of Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski. This was where Tate and four others were murdered in August 1969, by disciples of Charles Manson. On September 27 1980, Candice married French film director Louis Malle and they had one child, Chloe Françoise, in 1985. Malle died from cancer a decade later and she went on to marry New York real estate magnate and philanthropist, Marshall Rose, in 2000.

Another American actress, Angeline (Angie) Dickinson, will need eighty-seven candles for her cake today – that’s going to take an awful lot of puffing and blowing. Born in 1931 to Fredericka (née Hehr) and Leo Henry Brown, she shared her date of birth with Teresa Ellen Gorman (née Moore), British Conservative MP for Billericay 1987 to 2001, who died in 2015. Angie became Dickinson when she married Gene, a former football player in 1952, and kept the name when they divorced eight years later. Although she’d had affairs with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and John F Kennedy (quite a line-up!) she married composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, and singer, Burt Bacharach in 1965.

Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson

An American, Bacharach nonetheless studied partly at McGill University in Montreal – a little (actually, a lot!) before my time. While I was there, I vaguely remember chilling out by watching a so-so US TV series called Police Woman, which ran for ninety-one episodes from 1974 to 1978 and starred … drum roll … Angie Dickinson. Based on an original screenplay by Lincoln C. Hilburn, the police procedural featured Sergeant Pepper Anderson (our Angie), as an undercover police officer working for the Criminal Conspiracy Unit of the LAPD. She would typically masquerade as a prostitute, nurse, teacher, flight attendant, prison inmate, dancer, waitress, or similar, to get close to the suspects and gain incriminating evidence that would lead to their arrest. As I recall, Pepper – like the Canadian Mounties – would always get her man (or indeed woman), but Sherlock it wasn’t.

About thirty-five miles to the east of where we live in Norfolk, is the market town of Holt, its name taken from the Anglo Saxon for woodland. Almost all of the town’s original medieval buildings were destroyed by fire in 1708, which explains the abundance of Georgian buildings that now dominate the small, picturesque town. (I’m reminded here of a chap who worked for my dad years ago, who chronically mispronounced words – for example, picturesque was picture-squeak and chaos, choss.)

Back to the plot: Holt is also home to prestigious public school, Gresham’s, opened in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar for forty local boys, following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Augustinian priory at nearby Beeston Regis. Over the years, buildings were added and the footprint expanded, but in the early 1900s there were still less than fifty pupils – until ambitious headmaster, George Howson, arrived on the scene. On this day in 1903, The New School was opened by Field Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood.

Nowadays, Gresham’s is co-ed, having admitted girls from the early 1970s, and is one of the top thirty International Baccalaureate schools in the UK, as you would hope from an institution which charges fees well in excess of £30K a year (what ever happened to free?) for boarders – on a par with Eton. There are approximately eight hundred pupils, but needless to say, we didn’t send the four boys there – my last royalty cheque for 45p wouldn’t make much of a dent in £120K+ … Luckily for Old Greshamians, Sir Nigel Foulkes (Chairman of BAA), Sir Cecil Graves (Director General of the BBC), Lord (Benjamin) Britten of Aldeburgh (Composer), Sir Christopher Cockerell (inventor of the hovercraft),  poets Wystan Hugh (WH) Auden and Sir Stephen Spender, Olivia (first name actually Sarah) Colman (actress), Sir James Dyson (inventor and entrepreneur), and last and possibly least, Jeremy Bamber (convicted murderer) – plus many, many more – their parents weren’t such skinflints.

In 1929, Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, suggested that all living things and objects are six degrees of separation away from each other, so that a ‘friend of a friend’ chain can be made to connect any two in a maximum of six steps. Putting that theory to the test, I have previously mentioned that when Super Blogger, Anne Williams, went to an all-girls grammar in Bangor, she and her fellow pupils would be invited to school discos at what years later became my two older sons’ alma mater, over the Menai Strait in Llanfair PG. The headmaster in post when our sons were at the small, all-boys boarding school on Anglesey had a brother who was also in teaching – their subjects were mathematics and history respectively – oh, and the brother was a deputy head at Gresham’s.

The OH’s solicitor is an Old Greshamian and in turn sent his own nippers there – he was on the Board of Governors, at one time along with aforesaid deputy head. The solicitor’s practice partner is my solicitor, who recently told me her family had increased by one; take a bow, Roxie, super-cute pedigree cocker spaniel. ‘How strange,’ I remarked, ‘our weekend neighbours have just got two cocker spaniel puppies, Hugo and Leo.’ (I am bitterly disappointed that Leo isn’t called Victor!) It turns out that the three wee dogs are from the same litter, Roxie and Hugo being almost identical.

Historically, On 30 September 1791, the French National Constituent Assembly was dissolved and the people of Paris declared lawyer and politician Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre one of two incorruptible patriots, honouring their purity of principles, modest way of living, and refusal to take bribes – in November, he became the public prosecutor of Paris. He was a big fan of the writing of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially The Social Contract, and the ethos of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. (Incidentally, Jacques Necker, French finance minister to Louis XVI, whose fiscal decisions contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 30 September 1732.) In June 1792, Robespierre proposed an end to the monarchy, and in September the First Republic (officially The French Republic) was founded – after that, it was always going to end badly for Louis and he lost his head on 21 January 1793. One degree of separation, perhaps? So sorry!

The infamous Reign of Terror ensued, during which at least 300,000 suspects were arrested, 17,000 were officially executed, and as many as 10,000 died in prison with or without trial. Scary stuff. Opposition to Robespierre quickly festered on all sides and his influence was challenged within the Committee of Public Safety, resulting in him being declared an outlaw. He severely wounded himself with a bullet to the jaw at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), throwing his few remaining supporters a curveball, and was later arrested there, prior to being  guillotined on July 28 1794 – ironically in front of a cheering mob on the Place de la Révolution (now Place de la Concorde).

On a lighter note, the last day of September in 737 saw the Battle of the Baggage. That’s not two good-time gals fighting over cocktails during Happy Hour, but when Turkic Turgesh tribes drove back an Umayyad invasion of Khuttal, followed them south of the Oxus and captured their baggage train. Nowadays, lost luggage is generally down to the shenanigans of airport baggage handlers.

Henry IV, also known as Henry Bolingbroke, was proclaimed King of England and Lord of Ireland from this day in 1399 and held onto the throne until 1413, asserting the claim of his grandfather, Edward III, to the Kingdom of France along the way.

More recently, this was a day of hope in 1938, when The League of Nations (founded on 10 January 1920, as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended WWI – the first international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace) unanimously outlawed ‘intentional bombing of civilian populations’. That’s on the same day that Britain, France and Italy signed the Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to occupy the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. With the benefit of hindsight, neither of those undertakings really went to plan, did they?

Before you read this, I will have spent a long weekend in London with some of the family. #3 son is flying in from Thailand so that he and #4 can go to the Anthony Joshua v Alexander Povetkin boxing match at Wembley on Saturday 22nd. I’ve no idea what the pugilistic appeal is – I personally think it’s a wholly uncivilised ‘sport’ – but they went to watch Joshua fight last year and so obviously weren’t put off. Next day, the OH and #3 are flying to Johannesburg for a few days and then on to Cape Town as their base for two weeks. The OH spent his formative years in SA and that’s where #3 spent his gap year, so they both have an attachment to the country – plus the ma-in-law will be in J’burg for those first few days and the OH’s youngest sister is working on a film in Cape Town. Don’t feel too sorry for me – I turned down the chance to go. Of course, all this is assuming #3 manages to fly out of Hong Kong, where – as I type – he is stranded because of the typhoon. It’s OK though – he’s found the bar in his hotel …

Someone who also isn’t going anywhere is my mother, who now has a permanent room in the care home where she spent a respite period. Yay! I say permanent, but she can still be thrown out (according to the twenty-one page contract I signed) for conduct unbecoming. Not sure what you’d have to do for that action to be taken – certainly the lady who steals serviettes from the restaurant and hoards them, the one who removes greeting cards and trinkets from residents’ rooms and redistributes them à la ageing Robin Hood, nor the one who periodically rushes up and down the corridors like an octogenarian Jenson Button (Zimmer frame substituted for racing car), squawking for everyone to get out of her way because her taxi has been ordered and she doesn’t want to miss it, have been expelled. Neither has the lady who caused the whole place to go into lock-down one time when I was visiting, because she was trying to escape. She thought she’d spotted a relative in the car park and wanted to go out and see them, but because of the necessary security she couldn’t get through the main doors, so proceeded to try and kick her way out, setting off all sorts of alarms – she was certainly giving it some welly! Once they managed to calm her down, a carer took her outside to show her there was nobody there that she knew, and peace once more prevailed.

Now I need to escape – and I know the security codes!

Thanks, Jenny.

Toodles.

NP

***

Thanks Nell – another corking blog.

See you next month, when we’ll all probably have the heating on and scarves and gloves at the ready!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Hibiscus Tea and Temples: Wind Across the Nile

Today I’m delighted to welcome Chrissie Parker to my blog. I urge you to read this fascinating post all about her love of Egypt- a passion which lead her to write the novel, Wind Across the Nile.

Why not pull up a chair and have a read?

Over to you Chrissie…

I’ve a passion for ancient history, especially when it relates to Egypt. I try to impart to people what an amazing place it is but words never seem to wholly do it justice, I always say, the only way to learn about a country is to go and see it for yourself. Tourism makes up a large percentage of Egypt’s income and in recent years tourist numbers have been lower than normal due to a variety of reasons.

When I talk about Egypt I’m aware of its struggles as a country and the challenges it faces daily, but I’m more aware of what a truly incredible place it is to explore. Egypt’s filled with endless culture and history and modern day life sits neatly alongside ancient sites and monuments that are thousands of years old. Contrary to some reports Egyptian’s are friendly, accommodating people who will welcome you with open arms and make you feel at home, and now couldn’t be a better time to visit. Due to recent low tourist numbers, some sites that would usually be crowded and sometimes difficult to see, have been relatively quiet, giving visitors the chance to spend more time there and really absorb their surroundings, making them feel as though they’re the first people to have stepped into that temple or tomb for generations.

We all know about the famous sites such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, but there are many more wonderful places to see in Egypt. There’s the fantastic mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Luxor, that has some of the best coloured reliefs and accounts of Egyptian life I’ve ever seen. The temple of Isis at Philae is a beautiful temple that only stands today thanks to rescue work undertaken many years ago by UNESCO that saved it from flooding and being lost forever. If you have the time you could journey to the edge of Egypt itself to gaze upon the awe inspiring Abu Simbel, home to two temples built by the greatest of Egyptian rulers, Ramses II. It’s a sight that just takes your breath away and leaves you wanting more. The list is just endless, and with so many temples, tombs and other ancient sites spread throughout the country, visitors are spoilt for choice.

Egypt also has many museums that house its huge collection of ancient treasures. The largest is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, (which is now in the process of moving to the Giza Plateau under the new name of the Grand Egyptian Museum) it contains over a hundred thousand artefacts from across Egypt as well as the impressive collection from Tutankhamun’s tomb, and items belonging to the heretic King Akenaten. If, like me, you have a penchant for the more gory side of Egyptian life you can gaze upon a well preserved collection of mummified bodies of Royalty past in the well laid out mummy room. In Luxor there are two museums, the aptly named Luxor Museum housing a multitude of treasures discovered during excavations in Luxor and Karnak, and the Mummification Museum where every item is dedicated to the ancient art of preserving the dead for the afterlife, including tools and mummies.

If you get bored with the history, and I promise you won’t, you could meander your way through the many shopping streets and bazaars bartering for some interesting souvenirs, or beautiful hand crafted goods, whilst accepting a friendly stall-holders hospitality of a glass of hibiscus tea. If this isn’t to your taste, the luxurious Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor is an ideal place to have a break for a relaxing lunch overlooking the Nile. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Egypt, whether you choose to visit Cairo, Luxor, or venture further south to Aswan. You could even combine all three by leisurely cruising down the Nile on a Dahabiyya.

So, when considering your next holiday, why not try Egypt? There’s more to see and do than you could ever fit into one visit, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms and feel at home in a country that was just made to be discovered. If that hasn’t quite persuaded you yet then just imagine stepping onto a felucca to sail serenely along the river Nile as the beauty of Egyptian life passes you, whilst the sun slowly sets to leave you with nothing more than a bright shining moon and twinkling stars to guide you gently back to shore.

***

Blurb for Wind Across the Nile

Can she survive where her ancestors failed?
Suffering with grief after the tragic death of her family, Cora Thomas flees to Egypt, desperate to escape the overwhelming loss.
In Luxor, she meets gruff Egyptologist Nick Foster who wants little to do with her, and his employee Sam, who instantly becomes a much sought-after friend.
As she settles into life along the Nile, discovering the country’s vast history and culture, Cora learns about the contents of an old diary discovered in her parents’ home. As the diary’s story unfolds, it reveals hardship, love, tragedy and a potentially life-threatening family feud spanning generations.

From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable family bonds, adversity and self-preservation.

Buy links:

Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wind-Across-Nile-Chrissie-Parker-ebook/dp/B07GC1WTPT/ref

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/191640250X/ref

 

Bio

Chrissie lives in Devon, UK, with her husband. She has published six books including Integrate and Temperance (books one and two of The Moon Series), Among the Olive Groves, Nabataea and The Secrets, a collection of Poems and Short Stories. Wind Across the Nile is her sixth book. Other work includes articles for the Bristolian, The Huffington Post and The Artist Unleashed. Chrissie also writes regularly for the Zakynthos Informer. Chrissie’s poem Maisie was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013. In 2016 Among the Olive Groves won an historical fiction award in the Summer Indie Book Awards. Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two Egyptology courses and an Archaeological Techniques course with Exeter University.

To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com

Social Media links:

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ChrissieParkerAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Chrissie_author

Blog – https://chrissieparkerauthor.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chrissieparkerauthor

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/ChrissieAuthor/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27035030-chrissie-parker

***

Many thanks Chrissie. fantastic blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Kerry Watts: Into Darkness

It’s interview time. This week I’m chatting to Kerry Watts about her serial killer inspired story, Into Darkness

What inspired you to write your book?

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a bizarre fascination with serial killers. I wanted to write a book that delves into the mind and behavior of one of the most well known of these. Ted Bundy’s behavior and crimes have both intrigued and terrified me in equal measure. The character, Paul Gregory, from Into Darkness, is like Bundy in many ways. I wanted to write a book that I would like to read.

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

The research for Into Darkness by spending a seriously long time watching footage of interviews Bundy gave over the years before his execution. I looked for his every mannerism and movement to get an idea of what he was saying non-verbally because what he expressed verbally was in no way the whole story. Another good form of research is to interact with friends on social media to grasp how far to push the boundaries in my writing. There are some topics I would never entertain.

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

I’m a storyteller rather than a wordsmith, so I find my default setting to be third person past narrative. It feels more natural to me. Perhaps it’s the gossip in me that makes that easy!

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

I begin with a plot in several notebooks sometimes, but I do tend to wander because other ideas and scenarios hit me later. Characters have even died unexpectedly on me. The buzz of a new idea is so exciting and if I can’t get my hands on a notebook to scribble in it’s uncomfortable. I need to write. Writing makes happy. It’s an escape.

What is your writing regime?

My writing day pretty much plays out like this. My son goes to school, I make my own breakfast and usually watch something like ‘Most Haunted’ while I eat. (The temptation to binge watch it is hard to resist at times.) I then check my social media which can sometimes be hard to tear myself away from. I will promote some of my books before putting kettle on again for my 4th cup of tea. It is with this tea in hand I start the day’s writing, which is approximately 2000 words, but that target is not set in stone. I prefer to aim for 10000 words a week. Sometimes I write more. Sometimes I write less.

What excites you the most about your book?

The other aspect of Into Darkness that excites me is the romance element. This is book one of my DI Joe Barber series and it is in this book he meets the love of his life. No spoilers but their introduction to each other is definitely not conventional. The book does have several adult scenes, but these are necessary to evolve the relationship towards the shocking conclusion.

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

The first person would be my 11-year-old son for sure. He has the craziest sense of humour and personality. He is a young actor and gaining a following on Instagram, so he could post our exploits on the island I’m sure. The second person would be the character Dexter Morgan because he is the best fictional character ever created. I guess my fascination for serial killers makes him appeal to me. The final person would not be a person but a horse. The race horse Secretariat. Being able to spend time in his company would be awesome as my other obsession is horse racing.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I have a secret! I write erotic romance fiction under a pen name. Ssh! I also once tried acting but found it wasn’t for me. Film totally bombed anyway!

Links

http://mybook.to/intodarkness

twitter.com/@Denmanisfab

https://www.facebook.com/KerryWattsAuthor/

http://kerrywatts.simplesite.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kerry-Watts/e/B01F7D6T5E/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Bio

Kerry Watts was born and raised in Perth and can still be found living in rural Perthshire with her family. She also shares her home with an elderly Border Collie named Misty, a hamster named Buttercup and Domino, her orange Rex house rabbit who is more trouble than a naughty puppy.

She was inspired to pick up a pen and begin scribbling after reading Isla Dewar’s novel, Giving up on ordinary, when she devoured it and thought ‘I quite fancy doing that’ – so she did. She’s been writing for over twenty years but only began sharing her work two years ago. Writers who have inspired her since have been Jeff Lindsay, the creator of her favourite fictional character, Dexter Morgan and Stephen King. She listens to loud nineteen eighties rock when she is writing and for that she is unashamed. She loves Heart, Vixen and Richard Marx among others and wonders where the skinny rock chick she once was went to. She loves going to comedy gigs and binge watching episodes of her favourite shows on Netflix. She also loves dunking digestive biscuits in a sweet tasty brew.

She once tried her hand at acting but it wasn’t for her. She prefers to create the characters rather than be them. When she’s not writing she loves spending time on her other passions which are Rescue dogs and Horseracing. She has been involved with a couple of dog rescue charities over the years and is a passionate advocate of the adoption of unwanted dogs. Racehorses stir her soul and the sight of a thoroughbred thundering down the track at over forty miles an hour brings a lump to her throat and tears to her eyes. One day she is going to buy a Racehorse and call him Dexter King.

Her years as a psychiatric nurse and her experiences there often find a place in her books. Forensic psychiatry being her main field of interest. She loves to push the boundaries of the nature versus nurture debate. She wants her readers to question their previous perceptions of what and who is good and evil.

***

Many thanks for dropping by today, Kerry,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

 

Opening Lines: Nostra Dame by Jacqueline Evans

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jacqueline Evans to my blog to share the first 500 words of her book, Nostra Dame

It’s time for some ‘Opening Lines.’

After drawing a blank in my search to find someone who shared a similar ability, I was inspired to write my first book.  The word ‘psychic’ is used so loosely these days and often leaves people either cringing or wanting to know more.  It saddens me that people part with their money in the hope of getting a ‘message’ from a deceased loved one at events or private sittings that promise such things.  It’s nothing like that for me; I don’t profess to speak to dead people!  The thought of being put in the same box prompted me to write my own story.  For me, the definition of psychic is precognitive, spiritual and selfless – it doesn’t come with a price tag or self-glory.  The people in my book – those that lost their lives, are very dear to my heart.  My only hope is that I told the story with dignity.….

First 500 words of Nostra Dame

Chapter One – Preppy

From the start it appeared as if I’d been in training; a ‘preppy’ guided by an unknown force.  As if my path had somehow been pre-determined.  A near-death experience in my mid-twenties triggered a chain of events that completely changed my course.  Not only did it give me the strength to shed years of imposed beliefs but also taught me to trust my instincts.

Only then did a deeper level of empathy and understanding begin to emerge.  Over time, it seemed to turn a series of cogs, which opened me up to the supernatural and to a world far beyond the constructs of science.  A world that knew the future and one that seemed eager to want to share it.  Down to the tiniest detail, I would be given pieces of information that when put together formed a complete picture.

From serious crimes to global disasters, there had been no limits to the intelligence.  It had proven so reliable that I became able to interpret the most complex murders and anticipate big changes one after the other, like on a checklist.

‘It’ knew everything about me too; what made me tick, my likes, my dislikes and my reactions before I reacted.  It appeared to pave the way, engineering every twist and turn; so many turns that it is difficult to know where to start.  Perhaps then, my first memory would be the best place.

It was Christmas day, 1968.  A sparsely decorated tree stood in the corner of the cramped living room, glistening with multi-coloured lights and it felt magical.  We had sat around the table eating dinner, wearing paper hats; and afterwards my sister and I had wanted to play upstairs with our new toys.

We lived in the inner city of Birmingham, in a dingy, Victorian, terraced house.  Our only form of heating had been a paraffin heater and portable electric fire.  My large bedroom, which I shared with my sister, had high ceilings, bare floorboards and no furniture, other than two single beds.  It had been so bitterly cold, that my mother had put the fire in there to take the icy chill off.

Despite her warnings not to go anywhere near it, I couldn’t resist its warm glow and had stood closer than I should have.  The ribbon on my dress had dangled on the red-hot bars and in seconds, flames lashed around my head.  My sister’s screams had thankfully alerted my father, who flew into the room, rolled me in a blanket and took me straight to hospital.  I was just two and nine months, though remember it like it was yesterday.

It had been the reason for us moving to another house which had been far more modern, albeit still urban.  My sister, Diana was two years older and my brother, Stewart was five years older than me.

My dad worked long hours as a lorry driver, whilst my mom stayed at home looking after us.  She had been relentless in keeping us…

***

Nostra Dame, the true story of a woman trying to make sense of a mysterious world. Suppressing what came naturally for most of my early years; a pivotal moment in my mid-twenties opened a door to what lay dormant. The depth of knowledge that ensued began to snowball, leading me to predict global events and high-profile murder investigations. Each piece of information imparted in fractals, like pieces to a puzzle; and it was down to me, to put the pieces together

UK: http://amzn.to/2u5Dazq

US: http://amzn.to/2iQIdh8

Jacqueline was born in the 1960’s and grew up in Birmingham, where she still lives today with her youngest son. From an early age, she became an avid reader and always dreamt of one day becoming a writer. For many years Jacqueline worked in a bank, doing a job that she enjoyed but left to raise her two sons; a move she has never regretted. She loves spending time with family, cooking hearty meals, sewing and gardening. Above all, she likes nothing more than to escape to a quiet corner to read her favourite kind of books; crime-fiction and psychological thrillers. Currently she is working on her second, non-fiction book and excitedly awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter.

https://twitter.com/JEvansthewriter

https://www.facebook.com/JEvansthewriter/ 

***

Many thanks Jacqueline.

Don’t forget to join me next week to read some words from Nicole Dunsford Evans.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Ask a writer: Robin of Sherwood

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Hooded Man Event in Gloucester. This gathering was for fans of the 1980’s television show Robin of Sherwood – a show that I have recently written three brand new audio scripts for.

While I was in Gloucester I was busy selling my novels, so I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I would have liked. Since my return to Devon, I’ve been asked a number of questions relating to the writing of those three scripts – The Waterford BoyMathilda’s Legacy – The Baron’s Daughter.

Today, I’m going to attempt to answer those questions. Obviously the answers I give are from my angle only. I don’t work for Spiteful Puppet or ITV- so I have no knowledge as to what the future holds for RoS.

So- in no particular order….

How difficult is it to switch from writing books to script writing for audio?

Script writing is a whole new world. I had never written a script before, so I was learning fast when I wrote The Waterford Boy. I was kindly lent a couple of scripts that Iain Meadows (The Blood that Binds and The Templar’s Promise) had written in the past, so I knew how to format my work, but beyond that I felt my way along. (With help from Iain and Barnaby)

I’ve been a novelist for 12 years, so it was quite a challenge suddenly writing something where I couldn’t describe a scene properly with words. Everything has to be displayed via dialogue and background sound. This meant that writing about someone’s appearance, for example, has to be done via the comments of other characters. The scene in The Waterford Boy, where Robin, Will and Nasir disguise themselves to blend into Nottingham market, was particularly tricky to put together for that very reason.

It was slightly easier writing the two narrated stories- The forthcoming The Baron’s Daughter however, is a full cast reading…so that needed everything explaining via conversation and sound effects. You’ll find out if I managed that in a few months time!

Although writing scripts is a very different skill to writing a novel- I loved it! Let’s hope I get to do some more one day.

Will Robin of Sherwood audio do anything like prequels or sequels for example prequel Rebels of Loxley or the daughters (sons) of Sherwood? Any plans to expand the Robin of Sherwood universe further?

I’d have to say ‘no’ to that. The licence for what Spiteful Puppet can do is strict- plus, there isn’t the mega multi-national audience that you have for other popular shows such as Doctor Who or Star Trek. The prequel angle has been explored a little bit with Mathilda’s Legacy (the story of how the Earl of Huntington met Robert of Huntington’s mother).

However, if you enjoy all stories Robin Hood, then there are many writers who have been inspired by Robin of Sherwood and have expanded into many other directions, from fantasy to comics to legend redevelopment. You only have to look at my fellow audio script writers Paul Kane (The Red Lord) and Tony Lees (The Trial of John Little– coming soon) to find a collection of Robin Hood stories to keep you going for ages.

Do you make drawings to picture parts of your audio-book stories?

The only art work associated with the audio books is the brilliant cover showing both Robin’s.  I am not responsible for that thankfully – which is probably just as well as I have no artistic skill at all! I wish I did.

Once you knew you were doing more than one audio story, did you put your own returning characters (other than the obvious) into the stories, or was that a temptation too far (against the canon)?

It would be so tempting to do that. I would love to write more about Mathilda of Huntington if the chance ever arose. (Unlikely!) However, the answer to the question is ‘no’. The stories are slotted into the ready made framework of the existing episodes, and so any onward play with my own invented characters wouldn’t be practical – although it would be fun for me as writer.

However, I have enjoyed making reference to the characters we know and love. I took great pleasure, for example, in referencing Lord Edgar in Mathilda’s Legacy– Robert’s mother clearly had very little time for her future brother-in-law….

It is wonderful to be able to play with the nostalgia we all feel for the characters we loved – and the ones we loved to hate.

Which was your favourite of the audio scripts you’ve written?

Tricky one.

The Waterford Boy will always be special because it was my first script- and it made a dream come true. Never did I think I’d write for the best TV show of all time (to me anyway!) Judi Trott read it so beautifully as well. I have to confess to listening to it often just to hear her lovely voice.

The Baron’s Daughter was also special because it was my first full cast script. I got to put words into Michal Praed’s mouth – and who wouldn’t want to do that???

However- if pushed- I think Mathilda’s Legacy is my favourite. Partly because it was the first one I heard as a completed audio. The second I heard Michael Craig read my words- and then the famous theme music burst into life- I was a star struck 14 year old unable to believe that  I was listening to a story I’d created.

It was also quite something being given the responsibility of inventing (to some extent- David of Huntington was married to Mathilda) Robert of Huntingdon’s mother. I hope you all like the woman I created to be a future heroes mother.

Which was your favourite RoS episode?

That is an impossible question. I love them all. To narrow it down – it was either Adam Bell (first one I ever saw) or Herne’s Son parts one and two or The Prisoner…or…..

Many thanks to everyone who has sent questions to me since the HM3. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness showed to me after I fiddled with your favourite stories. I promise, if I am ever lucky enough to write more, I will continue to try as hard as I can to be true to the Robin of Sherwood ethos, and write stories to make you feel as though you have been transported back to 5.35 on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980’s. Well – I’ll try anyway!

Nothing’s forgotten,

Jennifer x

How research into a tricky topic creates magic on the page: Viking healing taken a step further

I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Dahl to my blog today to give us inside information on how she approaches her research.

Over to you Sara…

How research into a tricky topic creates magic on the page: Viking healing taken a step further

“Healer – The Gift of Dreams” is the fifth Tale in the Tales of Freya collection of sensual short stories.

Viking farmer Magnus is plagued by a demon. Since his wife’s death, the dreaded Mara tortures his body and mind. Powerless, he sends for a healer, the unexpectedly young and beautiful Audr … Are her sensual powers and his unleashed virility enough to banish the demon from his bed?

My heroes: the “simple” people

The Tales of Freya are set in the Viking age, and therefore require a lot of research into the period. I’m quite firm when it comes to the historical aspects of daily life and how people lived together then. The big politics and power play bore me. I don’t write kings and queens – my heroes are healers and housewives, warriors and monks. In every Tale I zoom into the lives of “simple people” and their desires and hopes, then give the stories a sensual and erotic twist. In the end, my characters are changed and set on a new path, which doesn’t always have to be a simple Happy Ever After.

Is there an authenticity of emotions?

Authenticity is key. I have trusted Viking age experts and re-enactors at hand to make sure the details are historically correct and events could have happened the way I write them. Even more important and harder to agree on is the psychological aspect, though: What and how did these people probably feel about certain things? What were their morals, expectations, rules of living together? What was their world view? Over time, I became more certain about what makes believable characters here. Luckily, my readers love the stories’ in-depth exploration of emotions and passions just as much as the authenticity to the period. But there is one very central aspect that so far I only touched lightly: Their spiritual world views and thinking.

Embracing the Vikings’ spiritual lives – finally

Because religion and beliefs are a very delicate and hard-to-grasp subject for today’s people (me included), I so far shied away from including too much spirituality in my stories. Yes, gifts to the spirits and gods were common and pagan rituals central to their lives, but: I didn’t want to overload my short stories with too much side-baggage and completely focus on the central plot line. And I admit to some reluctance to interpret too deeply what little we know today of the Viking spiritual lives. But then: as a self-respecting author setting her stories in the Viking age, I couldn’t avoid the topic forever. I didn’t expect it to be central to a sensual short story, though. Until I read a research piece that surprised me.

Sensuality in healing?

In one text about Viking spirituality the author hinted that, in contrast to  our modern religions and healing, Viking healing rituals might very well have included sensual aspects. That of course made me listen up. Sensuality for healing? A hands-on and personal ritual that wasn’t only comforting and physically and mentally healing – but which included sexual aspects? Unfortunately, we don’t know much more. My experts were at a loss, too. Sources are just too scarce to judge. It was just a side note.

Daring to interpret and make it my own

The topic simmered in my writer’s brain, and I came up with the idea of a female healer (most were then female) and how she could create magic … to heal a desperate young man. Born was the story of the devastated Magnus, who, after the loss of his wife and child, is mentally and physically unable to go on with life. He calls for a healer, and instead of the old woman he expected he and the readers are surprised by young and attractive Audr. She sets to work with him, in a sensual ritual that includes his body and mind. But are her powers stronger than his demons? When she is gone, he finds that the greatest gift was always right in front of him …

Research reading as source for inspiration

The inspiration for this story came, as often, from reading a research piece, and thinking it further, wondering what the historical findings said about the people’s lives in that era. The research I had to do for Audr’s healing rituals was great fun, but I had to flesh out and interpret a lot. Sources are thinly spread and much is tinted by today’s views on the world. Which in turn also means a lot of writing freedom. I created a very personal and intimate ritual for Magnus, and something ignites between him and his healer that goes beyond what I imagine would be Audr’s approach with other patients. Audr’s spell is just too strong …

Author bio:

Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction (novels and short stories) primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers in German and English. She is interested in everyday life in bygone centuries and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts. Her author page is: sarah-dahl.com

Links: mybook.to/HealerSarahDahl

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BVWD3YD

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07BVWD3YD

Author page: sarah-dahl.com/books

***

Many thanks Sarah; great stuff.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: Country Rose by Nell Peters

Don’t panic- it isn’t the end of the month!!

Nell Peters is with me today to share her ‘Opening Lines’ rather than her bloggish wisdom. So, get cosy to read the beginning of Nell’s work in progress- Country Rose.

 

Hello! How strange to be lurking on Jen’s blog in the middle of the month. Why am I here? Oh yes, it’s Opening Lines …

I’ve chosen Country Rose, the third book in a psychological/crime series and a work in progress – although in truth, the progress bit has been somewhat lacking over the last year or more. My protagonist is DCI Rose Huntingford, an atypical murder detective who’ll not see forty again and who wages a constant but losing battle with her weight, amongst other things. I’m very fond of her.

The real Rose was my paternal Great Grandmother, born in Kingston upon Thames workhouse in 1876. She and her single mother – also Rose and also born in the workhouse – must have experienced an unimaginable degree of poverty and hardship in those patriarchal Victorian days of extreme inequality. However, it seems Rose was made of stern stuff because she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and married a wealthy landowner. Well done her! The only picture I have of Rose is when she’s in her fifties, I would guess.

Blurb for Country Rose:

Rose Huntingford has taken a sabbatical following the violent death of a colleague, and rented a cottage away from it all hoping for a quiet life, while dangerously unaware that someone is watching her every move. When an old lag seeks her out to claim he didn’t commit the murder for which he was imprisoned, he winds up dead in her garden, before Rose herself is viciously attacked. And his corpse is just the first, as skeletons aplenty fall from cupboards and the past comes back to haunt those who wrongly thought they were safe from detection after so many years.

Because this is a WIP, I have roughed (very rough!) up a cover – use of (non-copyright) image with thanks to www.pixcove.com 

 

 

First 500 words…

Glancing up briefly at a sky the colour of a dirty dishrag, Rose tossed a generous handful of bird seed in a low arc, and immediately had to intervene as referee when an unseemly scramble ensued, ‘Hey Jasper, ladies first – remember your manners!’ When he ignored her, she resorted to flattery, ‘You’re looking very dapper this morning, by the way.’ She could have sworn the cockerel’s chest swelled with exaggerated masculine pride.

How typical of the male of any species.

Poking his head around the back door, and giving The Watcher a nasty moment, Drew mock-frowned at her; he didn’t need to say ‘you know you’re talking to the chickens, right?’ because his expression did that most eloquently on his behalf. She grinned, shame-faced. ‘Can you pass me the bag of meal worms, please?’

He reached back to the counter and lobbed it her way, ‘There you go. How come you feed them before me?’

‘You are quite capable of getting your own breakfast, whereas Pavlova, Svetlana and Jasper might struggle turning the gas on.’

‘There’s no hope for you … fancy coming back to bed, take pity on a condemned man?’

She shivered in the cool March breeze and pulled her coat firmly around her girth, ‘If you’re hoping for a sympathy shag, you’re out of luck. I promised to meet Liz in town to have coffee and check over wedding stuff, most importantly outfits.’

Once inside, Drew closed the door behind them, ‘Hers or yours?’

‘Both – since I’m Best Woman, we should at least co-ordinate.’ She dragged her coat off by the sleeves and flung it over a chair back.

‘I can’t believe she didn’t invite me.’ His bottom lip jutted like a spoiled child unused to being denied their own way.

Rose shrugged, ‘She can’t stand you, never could – as you well know, and you really don’t help yourself in that respect with your smart-arse remarks – so when I said you’d most likely be out of the country anyway, she didn’t bother wasting an invitation.’

‘But I’d have been your ‘Plus One’! Just an extra flick of the pen away … unless Rob Roy is hoping to dive in there?’

Ah, lovely Rob Carnegie – what are you doing these days?

‘For goodness sake, will you drop it – I’ll almost certainly go on my own. Have you finished packing?’

‘Now you’re trying to get rid of me – I know when I’m not wanted.’ He sniffed loudly, chronically overacting.

Rose was starting to feel tetchy, a combination of dreading Drew leaving so that she’d be on her own again twenty-four seven, and annoyance at his constant probing – which she accepted was a totally unreasonable reaction, after he’d been such a stellar support to her when she’d hit rock bottom, following Lydia’s death. However, she knew deep down that he really did have her best interests at heart and so made a supreme effort to appear bright and breezy, ‘Toast and scrambled eggs?’

‘If you’re sure the chickens won’t object?’

***

If the Opening Lines of Country Rose grab you and you’d like to read the self-published prequels, you can find them here:

Double You (Book I)       www.myBook.to/doubleyou

Santa’s Slays (Book 2)     www.myBook.to/santa

Thank you for having me, Jenny – great idea for a blog series!

Toodles. NP

***

Thanks Nell! Brilliant as ever.

Don’t forget to come back next Thursday for more Opening Lines with Heide Goody

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

Interview with Terry Lynn Thomas

I’m delighted to be joined by the lovely Terry Lynn Thomas, today.

So, go and grab a cuppa- maybe some cake- and come and put your feet up for a few minutes and join us for a chat.

What inspired you to write your book?

My dad fought in the Navy during the World War II. (I know, dating myself.) And he regaled me with stories of his time in the Pacific theater, stories of bravery and courage in the collected effort of the military and civilians to overcome the axis powers. His stories inspired me to memorialize this period of history lest we never forget this global war. As I dug into the research of the Sierra I quickly became captivated by the events which led up to the war, and the state of the world at that time. In light of the divisive times we live in now, it struck me how United help the people were in their efforts to support the war. People made sacrifices in their everyday life, selflessly committed to those who experienced battle firsthand. The bravery encourage of the people who fought in the war and lived through its difficulties inspired me to write mystery set in this time. As a writer of historical fiction, my goal is to transport my readers into my story and stay out of their way, so they can experience what it felt like to live in the world at this particular point in time.

I have always loved mysteries, especially those written during early- to mid-twentieth century. (Think Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth.) So writing a mystery series set in the United Kingdom during the time leading up to World War II was a natural fit. The Silent Woman is set in June 1937. King Edward has abdicated the throne to Mary Wallis Simpson, and the country is in coronation fever as King George takes the crown. While in Germany, Adolf Hitler is conscripting an army and building planes in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. England is headed to war, but her citizens do not know it. I couldn’t ask for a more dramatic backdrop for story. (True confession: I also really like hanging out in an era where people aren’t so connected via its cell phones and computers. I am hoping that young readers will visualize what the world was like without this technology when they read my books.)

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

My favourite topic! When I set out to write a new book, the first thing I do is pick a specific time set for the arc of the story. Once I have a specific date, I read the newspapers during that period of time, paying attention to the small details of day-to-day living. (Sidebar: the personal columns were the equivalent of social media. I’ve come across ads such as this, “Will the woman with the Green Beret please meet me under the old maple tree.” I can’t help but wonder if she met this person, and what they said.)

I also research the socio-political climate at the time read proper novels, and watch movies that were playing at the cinema. The National Archives provides a cornucopia of diaries and papers, so I spent some time researching there as well, and usually budget four weeks for this type of effort. By the time I’m finished with this research, I’m well versed on the world my characters inhabit. Then I step away. It’s important to remember that only a fraction of this information will make it into the book. A light touch is needed, as I don’t want to bore my readers with an info dump.

 

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

I wrote the Sarah Bennett Mysteries in first person, and loved the immediacy in the way I could crawl inside Sarah’s head and show her thoughts and motivations to my readers. I changed point of view with the Cat Carlisle series and now write in third person. The switch has set me free! Third person allows me to let my story unfold from the viewpoint of different characters and-in my opinion-allows me to flex my “deep” point of view writing muscle – I hope my readers are able to bond and empathize with my characters and become emotionally invested in what happens to them in my third person writing. My job as a writer is to write in such a fashion that I get out of the reader’s way and let them sink into the story. I am a third person point of view writer now and I love it!

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

I am a confirmed plotter and have been known to spend as much time working on my treatment as I spend writing a novel. The treatment includes detailed character sketches, scene development, and the most time consuming a detailed plot outline I use the outline as a map, and often compare writing a book to a sea voyage. When I push away from the dock and lose sight of the shore, it’s nice to know where I’m going. Having said that, my outline is never set in stone. More often than not, my story takes an entirely different direction. If that happens — and it often does — all stop and re-outline. I use my outline is a way to track arcs and tie up all the loose ends.

What is your writing regime?

Mornings are best! I like to get up around 4:30 AM, drink a giant (think soup bowl) cup of very strong coffee, and plug away until 7 AM or so. I set a word count (usually 1500 to 2000 words) and try to hit that five days a week. I think it’s important to step away from story a little bit and let things gel. Sundays are my day to spend with my husband and animals. It seems at times that the biggest challenge is to get my you-know-what in the chair. But I do love this job, and I’m grateful that I’m able to entertain readers with my stories.

Links

http://Terrylynnthomas.com

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780008271596/the-silent-woman

https://twitter.com/TLThomasBooks

Bio

Terry Lynn Thomas grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches, windy dunes, and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.

Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. Neptune’ Daughter is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, is slated to release in April 2018.  When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

 ***

Fantastic interview. Thank you so much for coming along today Terry. 

Your mysteries sound wonderful.

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

 

Everything happens for a reason: James D Mortain

I’m delighted to welcome James D Mortain to my blog today. He- like me- is something of an accidental author- although out entry into the wonderful world of words is very different.

Over to you James…

Everything happens for a reason!

I consider myself something of an accidental author.

Why?

Well, up until a sequence of events changed my outlook on life, the concept of writing a novel had simply never crossed my mind.

In 2011, I was a detective in Bath CID with twelve years’ service behind me. My wife and I had been struggling to have a family for a number of years, but in this particular year, we were to be in luck! We had embarked on fertility treatment. For those reading this going through the same process, you know what ‘hope’ really means. It was a challenging pregnancy. My wife was in and out of hospital more times than I can remember. We knew we were going to have a little girl, due in the early part of January, but October came, and so began the sequence of events that would change my life.

It was early October when I received the first calls from my mother stating that my father wasn’t well. He was a strong man. He might have been a grumpy old git from time-to-time, but he was rarely unwell. Days passed. His condition worsened. The family knew it was serious. Mid October and dad was having tests at the hospital. By late October, he was diagnosed with widespread cancer. Just days later, he was gone.

My wife, now heavily pregnant, my commitment to the job, my family, my emotions, everything was spinning, but we had to ensure the health of my wife and our unborn child.

A few weeks later, having said our final goodbyes to my dad, a magical thing happened; my wife began labour pains — not so magical for her — but at last, we had a brief respite of positivity. It was 22nd December. On the 23rd, she was admitted to the maternity unit. We spent the late evening watching the clock — would we have a Christmas Eve baby? The clock went beyond midnight — yes, we would … oh! … No, we wouldn’t. Christmas Eve came and went. Christmas morning arrived and it was snowing outside in the hospital car park. The countdown was on and at just gone midday, my gorgeous daughter, Gracie, was born. The mixture of emotions we felt was obvious, but in my arms I held the most precious of gifts on Christmas Day.

I returned to work a father, having lost my own. Suddenly, priorities were different, concerns were changed and it provided clarity to my wife and I as to what was important and what we wanted the future to hold for little Gracie.

My mother-in-law, Liz, lived in North Devon, a place we loved to visit, particularly Westward Ho! We decided to prospect on the sale of our house in Bath — we had tried previously without a single viewing, but this time we had four full asking price offers on the first day! That was it — our sign. Offers agreed, we found a home in North Devon, but then came the hard part; I had to leave my job. It was a huge shock to all of my colleagues, but the relief and anticipation for me was overwhelming. All I had to do now was find a job in my new neighbourhood — how hard could that be?

August 2012, I was jobless, seriously homesick, missing my mates and missing the buzz of the job. I arranged to meet my old uniform colleagues for a night out in Bath and then the most significant event occurred. Towards the end of the night, I had consumed a skin full of booze. I got chatting to a chap seated alongside me at the end of the bar. He’d been to a book signing event at Toppings & Co. I asked him who he had seen (I had seen the brilliant Lee Child there a year or two before); his response, “It was mine, actually.”  I didn’t have a clue who he was, I apologised for not recognizing him and I asked for his name. Turned out I was chatting with Chris Ryan, ex-SAS veteran and author of many successful books. You can imagine my excitement at meeting a real-life legend. We continued to chat. He told me a little of his life as an author; I told him what I had recently done, and in that short conversation, the spark of creativity within me was ignited.

Next day, I enthusiastically relayed my chance encounter to my wife and mentioned something that he had said: that I had the knowledge and real-life experience that most crime writers would dream of having and why didn’t I consider writing a novel? To my astonishment, my wife agreed to the idea.

The trouble was I had no writing experience, no specific writing qualifications and frankly, no idea of what I was doing. However, I tried it anyway and later that same day I opened the laptop and Detective Deans was born. I gave the story a title, I knew the kind of real-life case I wanted to develop and I simply let the story take me where it naturally wanted to go.

What I hadn’t anticipated, was just how addictive writing would be. My story soon became a major focus in my life. I was now employed during the day, my little girl was growing and I was lucky that my wife indulged my ‘whim’. To her, it was my new hobby. To me, it was so much more.

After a year, the draft of STORM LOG-0505 was completed, but what was I going to do with it next? I truly believed in my story. I just couldn’t imagine anyone else being interested, after all, I still didn’t know what I was doing. I finally allowed a few people close to me to read it. They liked it. Some even loved it! I recruited professional help and found an editor. He picked my story apart, but crucially, he liked it too. I reached the stage where I had edited the thing so many times that I was making changes for the sake of it. I decided to take it to the next level and seek an agent. I threw all of my efforts into submissions and amazingly, within 48 hours of my first cast, I had a reply. An agent was keen to see my full manuscript. I sent it off. I waited. Soon I had a reply with lots of helpful tips and further proposed changes. I immediately went to work on the manuscript, and then BANG! I was struck down with viral meningitis.

I was sick. Very sick. For months, I lost control of my cognitive abilities, my vision changed, I suffered with blistering headaches and I battled with chronic fatigue. And with it, my hopes of gaining an agent evaporated, but … everything happens for a reason.

My condition slowly improved, I eased myself back into my day job and I took stock of the situation. I began writing again and I regained control. I wasn’t going to beat myself up and knock myself down with disappointment. It was time to go it alone.

I found a designer, Jessica Bell, who designed a fabulous cover for my story. Suddenly, my book was real. Editors polished the content and formatters made the inside look attractive. And then, in April 2016, STORM LOG-0505 was released to the world. For any author, releasing a new book is a special moment. For me, it was an achievement of Himalayan proportions. I watched the Amazon sales report like a hawk, waiting for those initial sales to start flooding in … but nothing happened, and so began my second publishing crash-course in marketing and promotion. I wasn’t using Facebook or Twitter at the time, but I soon began to build my platform and the sales started to trickle through. Then reviews came … and they were good … in fact, they were amazing! Four and five stars. People were actually enjoying my story AND wanting more! This trend continued until almost a year after its release, and one morning I woke up to discover STORM LOG-0505 had a little orange banner beside it on Amazon Kindle that said, ‘Best Seller’. My novel had reached the top spot in Psychic Suspense. Imagine my bewilderment!

I held author events — I absolutely loved them. Incredibly, people were bothering to hear me talk about my writing. I thought it was bonkers, yet all the while, I was working on the sequel.

Taking a third of the time to write and a third of the cost to publish, in November 2017, DEAD BY DESIGN was released. A week later, it too had a little orange banner beside it on Amazon Kindle.

Today, buoyed by the positive reviews and many kind messages I receive from my readers, I actually ‘feel’ like an author. I strive to improve and learn with each page I write, and each day I wake up and know I am closer to realising my goal of becoming a full-time writer.

Unexpected and magical things can really happen. Six years ago, I was slogging away at my desk, and thanks to a brave decision and a chance encounter, my new pathway in life couldn’t be further removed. We all suffer knockbacks and disappointment and I’m sure for me more will follow, but at least when it does, I can honestly accept that no matter how bad it might feel at the time, everything happens for a reason.

Biography

James D Mortain uses an author pseudonym and brings authenticity to his work through twelve years of police service with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. His father’s death and the birth of his first child shaped a defining period and re-evaluation of his life, resulting in 2012 with his resignation from the police force and a move to North Devon.

Jobless and homesick James returned to Bath visiting friends, where a chance encounter and conversation with successful author, Chris Ryan, motivated him to start writing. Believing everything happens for a reason and nothing happens by chance, James embarked on creating a fresh British detective series influenced by his police experience and infused with paranormal overtones, inspired by a close friend with extraordinary ability.

James has created a character in Detective Deans, who must challenge everything he has been taught to believe. In the first book, STORM LOG-0505, Detective Deans hunts for a missing student, but what he discovers in a small North Devon community exposes him to a ‘paranormal awakening’ and the perilous clutches a sophisticated killer. DEAD BY DESIGN is the series follow-on and pits Deans against his greatest challenge yet. The final part of the trilogy is in the making and will be published in 2019.

Visit James here –
Website:        jamesdmortain.com
Twitter:         @JamesDMortain
Facebook:      James D Mortain & James D Mortain – Books

STORM LOG-0505

The wait is almost over for Detective Andrew Deans; years of agony and despair hanging on the results of his wife’s fertility treatment. But a student is missing. And he must find her.

Compelled to leave his wife in Bath, Deans heads to North Devon, where he encounters Denise Moon, a medium, who exposes him to a psychic dimension he could never have imagined existed, in what soon becomes a murder hunt.

Gripped by a mysterious happening attributed to his own paranormal awakening and alienated from all but his new mystical muse, Deans is closing in on a sophisticated killer, but all is not as it seems and Deans’ future is about to change.

Amazon UK  Amazon US

DEAD BY DESIGN

Detective Deans is back in this highly anticipated crime thriller sequel, but this time he seeks far more than just the truth!

A young couple in their prime is found dead in the marital bed. As they lie naked, staring at each other with eyes wide open – filled with fear, his colleagues assume a double suicide, but Detective Andrew Deans senses that darker forces are at work.

Deans is facing an awakening – a spiritual birth, but he is stuck in a living nightmare. Those around him are watching … judging … expecting him to break.

As he waits to hear the news he dreads most, Deans receives an unmarked DVD and the true meaning of horror is revealed.

Playing by the rules is getting him nowhere. Now, it’s time to do things his way. But death and tragedy haven’t finished with him… yet.

Amazon UK  Amazon US

THE NIGHT SHIFT (A SHORT STORY)

Thursday, 17th August. Ten years before…

When a fly-on-the-wall documentary crew drops in on a night shift in Bath city centre, PC Ellie Grange and her team are fuelled with anticipation at the thought of becoming TV reality stars.

They need it real, they want it uncensored, and they crave a true-to-life experience of the demands faced by Britain’s cops on our streets.

It’s a beautiful evening – the first night shift of a set in the historic Georgian city… what could possibly go wrong?

Amazon UK  Amazon US 

***

Fantastic blog- thank you so much James,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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