Thursday, 2 July 2015

Long hot summer

The temperature over the last couple of days reminds me of 1976, when the summer just went on and on. This was me then...

Promenade Summer by Jan Jones

That summer
When boys came up to my room to sit on my bed and
Gulp cold orange straight from the box
When coruscating music ran around the vaulted stone gallery
And seeped into my Indian cotton skirt as I sat cross-legged
Or lay full length on the wide empty floor to listen
When the heat in the park hit ninety and my stifling
Third-floor bedsit was visited by lads whose grants had run out
Or whose girls had got better degrees than they had
And who loved me because I was there and it was the thing to do
That summer

That summer
When I would refill my fridge daily with two quarts of orange
And a four-pack of lager
When I’d go to bed at two and wake every morning at six
When I was high on London and patched its tatters
Into a flame and russet headband
When I shed my skin eagerly and quickly and thought I had nothing left to learn

I went alone once to listen. Queued alone
Without my girlfriends to tell me which music I would enjoy
Paid twenty pence extra and slipped with guilty pleasure
Into a promenade large with sharing
Immediate with excitement
I rode a boy out of the hall
Made love to him in the park and lost him
Glad really to be alone
That summer


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Georgette Heyer: who's your hero?

On Friday June 5th, English Heritage are putting up a Blue Plaque to Georgette Heyer. This gives me SUCH a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling that I can't even begin to describe it.

I read Georgette Heyer for many reasons. Like Mary Stewart, Diana Wynne Jones and Ngaio Marsh she is the literary equivalent of my comfort blanket.

I read her for her wit, for her ability to create a world within the space of a couple of paragraphs, for the way she invests even the most minor of walk-on characters with lives of their own.

I read her for her heroines, for Serena in Bath Tangle, for Frederica in Frederica, for Elinor Rochdale in The Reluctant Widow - and surely Sophy Stanton-Lacy (The Grand Sophy) is the most glorious creation in any novel anywhere.

But heroes... well now, Georgette Heyer's heroes do cause slightly ambivalent feelings to flutter in my breast.

The problem is not with the chaps themselves, there is no one I would rather have on my side over rough country than ex-Dragoon Captain John Staple (The Toll Gate) or Hugo Darracott (The Unknown Ajax). The problem lies rather in their interactions with their lady of choice.

There are exceptions, but Georgette Heyer's books tend to be very much main-character driven. John and Nell fall in love on sight in The Toll Gate, but it is at heart an adventure story with John playing the starring role (and none the worse for that). In another of my favourites The Grand Sophy, Sophy's foil Charles Rivenhall is masterful enough, but no match on the page for Sophy who sweeps magnificently through the book setting wrongs to rights and dispatching everyone to their proper destiny.

For a complete hero, I want a sense of equality, a sense of respect and willingness to let the other person play their part. Sir Gareth Ludlow and Lady Hester Theale come close to this in Sprig Muslin. Sir Tristram Shield and Sarah Thane come even closer in The Talisman Ring.

But my number one hero is another man entirely. He is the one our heroine trusts above all others, the one she unfailingly turns to, knowing he will have the answer to all life's problems big or small. His one object, throughout the book, is to make her happy.

Yes, he's a surprising choice (and I couldn't live with him myself, I'd want Kit Fancot from False Colours for that), but the crux for me was when - with events going into free fall around him and everyone screaming at him to do something about it - he takes the trouble to read the heroine's long, rambling letter with such concentration that he instantly perceives the one flaw in her plan - AND MAKES IT BETTER, JUST LIKE THAT.

 And then, as if that wasn't enough, he is ready to stand aside and let her go if that is really what she wants.

So, Freddy Standen of Cotillion, take a bow. You are my absolute, number one Georgette Heyer hero, and fortunately Kitty Charing agrees.

~ ~ ~

What about you? Who is your best ever Georgette Heyer hero? And why?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Farewell, Merlin

My lovely Merlin's heart gave out this morning. He had some breakfast and a drink of water, came outside with me to feed the birds, came back in, rubbed around my legs and then lay down in the hall for a snooze.

Merlin kitten in 2003
He stopped breathing as I was stroking him. He looks very peaceful now.

Looks easy...

Merlin in 2014

Saturday, 21 March 2015

World Poetry Day 2015

A poem for World Poetry Day, because time itself might be infinite, but ours really isn't.

Hope you enjoy.

Keepers  by  Jan Jones

Spinning quietly through the country
Sunlit lanes when we least expect them
Stopping for a time-slipped hour to
wander a ruined mill and picture the
men and boys all now gone

And I think, one day we too will be gone
and panic stirs in me and I bin the
diary and the calendar
and I disconnect my computer
and I turn off my phone
and I reclaim this one day for us
just us

To keep in my memory

Just because


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Welcome back, Flora!

A new(ish) Jan Jones mystery!

Once upon a time, I wrote a 2000 word very clever short mystery story. So clever, in fact, that no one but me understood it.

It languished.

Then People's Friend wanted the occasional long mystery story. I resurrected Curtains (as it was titled then) and made it much longer. Too long, as it turned out, and still too complicated.

I rolled up my sleeves and got out the chain saw.

The 10K story was published in a People's Friend Fiction Special after MUCH sweating-of-blood on my part, now titled Behind Closed Doors.

Reader, I brooded.

The thing is - and I have this problem a lot - writers have a gut feeling for how long a story should be. If you try to stretch a story or squash it to fit someone else's column inches, it might still be a competent piece of work, but to my mind it suffers.

I brooded some more.

Then, along came Self-Publishing! And suddenly I could take my work and make everything the length it was always supposed to be all along!

So I went back to my several originals and reworked them and added a LOT more, and the result is What the Eye Doesn't See, a satisfying (to me, at any rate) 20K mystery featuring village shopkeeper Flora Swift.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

I have ambivalent feelings about the great New Year hype. I think resolutions only work if there is a meaning to them and if you want them to. I hope 2015 is good for you - and if it starts off wrong, then pick a new date of your own choosing.

take heart...
Happy New <insert date here>
by Jan Jones

New Year’s Day is simply
a day, special only
by an accident
of timing

Unless you hold to the theory
that many vibes shake the ether
Everybody’s wishes coalescing
into a universal
strong new beginning

Your new year
your own new year
nobody else’s new year
starts when you decide
things will be different


Tuesday, 11 November 2014


The Tower of London ceramic poppies are now finished. The moat is steeped in red. This is what it looked like on the first day, back in August.

Silent Testimony   by Jan Jones

Poppies pour quietly from an open window
Each a broken body on a broken field far from home
In a while, the Last Post will sound
But for now this is beautiful, and tragic.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

QL SuperBASIC - The Definitive Handbook

Something over thirty years ago, I was head-hunted by my erstwhile colleague Tony Tebby to join him at Sinclair Research Ltd to work on a new project.

The project was the Sinclair QL, a new affordable micro computer using the superfast Motorola 68008 chip. A team was already in place, but someone was needed to work with Tony on designing and building a new programming language for the QL.

That person was me, and the language we designed was SuperBASIC.

The handbook I wrote once the project was finished was published by McGraw-Hill. It has been out of print for very many years and the rights reverted back to me for nearly as long.


But people are still using their Sinclair QLs. The remaining copies of the original edition of my SuperBASIC book appear for sale at fabulous sums (I do wish I'd kept some of my author copies instead of scattering them around family and friends).

So, more as a labour of love, really, and a desire that if something with my name on is going to appear on the internet, then I'd like it to be the best thing with my name on that I can manage at this time, I bring you the new, Kindle edition of...

QL SuperBASIC - The Definitive Handbook


Friday, 31 October 2014

Mildy Disturbing...

On a day when the 31st October hit an astonishing 20 degrees Centigrade here in East Anglia, I bring you this poem...

A Light Fright Night by Jan Jones

It was a balmy All Hallows Eve
When the spirits began to appear
Peering warily round in the sunshine
As if they shouldn’t be here.

The ghost looked askance at her shift
All grey and tattery lace
“I don’t feel decent,” she muttered
And soaped herself in the mill race.

The skeleton scrubbed at his mildew
The zombies sunbathed and crumbled
The golems warmed up nicely
“Why go out?” the witches grumbled.

Ghouls floated like bunting
Across the pub garden
Banshees swigged cider
And lazily gargled. (*gargoyled?*)

The spectre inspector
Gave up in despair
As the vampires took afternoon tea
In their lair.

And the tricks were all treats
And the treaters serene
That unreasonable
Warm Hallowe’en.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Christmas Gift - Penny Plain 4

The fourth in the Penny Plain Mysteries series is now out from Accent Press!

The Christmas Gift starts off innocuously enough with the idea of tracing forgotten photos in the local newspaper files but, as ever with Penny and Leo, it doesn't stay that simple.

There are petty thefts, Christmas nativities, and before they know it Leo is cycling through thick snow on a borrowed bike with a shepherd's crook across the handlebars.

Oh, and about that kiss at the end of Local Secrets ..?

Sorry - you need to buy the book.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Cover for Penny Plain #4

To distract me from a nasty sore throat, I received an email this morning with my cover for the fourth in the Penny Plain Mysteries.

The Christmas Gift will be out in November from Accent Press. I will post more about it then.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

More tea, vicar?

Join me for a Traditional Afternoon Tea at this year's Festival of Romantic Fiction. The event takes place in top tea shop The Green House, Market Square, Leighton Buzzard.

Also pouring tea, buttering scones, slicing cake and chatting about their books will be Christina Courtenay, Talli Roland, Sue Moorcroft, Jean Fullerton, Terri Nixon and Laura Purcell.

It's going to be a great afternoon. Tickets available online here.

Oh, and as a little extra to celebrate FAIRLIGHTS being shortlisted for a Reader Award,  there will be biscuits from Botham's of Whitby for everyone attending. Just stop me and ask...

See you there!