Saturday, 10 November 2018

From Poppies to Flames

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Tower of London poppies ~ August 2014
From Poppies to Flames by Jan Jones
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Watching the lighting of the Tower moat
I remember four years ago
The first thin stream of poppies
The silence as a thousand strangers stood in the still air
Gripping hands
Aching
Grieving
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Packing the poppies ~ Nov 2014
I was there again on the last day
I saw them dismantled
Packed away until you would
never know there had been a sea of blood

Four years ago. Four years.

In those four years I have lost irreplaceable friends
and so many icons. My history flickering out
Life diminished

A century ago
How many more never returned
Between the thin red line and the torches
Countless lives altered fast and forever

So much waste
And so much waste still
Make it stop

Peace

Not pieces
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Tower of London torches ~ November 2018

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

A Respectable House is now out!

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A Respectable House - the second in the four-book Furze House Irregulars series - is now out.

This one features Kitty Eastwick - Verity Bowman’s half-sister from A Rational Proposal - and starts immediately after the end of that book. It was quite a challenge writing the first couple of pages without cramming in a lot of ‘the story so far...’ from book one. I hope I managed it!

Kitty Eastwick is running for her life. Nicholas Dacre is guarding her. Both are scarred in different ways and must learn to trust each other before anything like a happy ending can be reached.

Once again the story stands alone as far as the love story and mystery is concerned, but woven through it is the whole-series conundrum of the ‘shadow master’ Flint.

The ‘respectable house’ (or at least discreet, as Kitty puts it) of the title refers to Furze House at the top end of Newmarket High Street (which I am convinced ought to be there even though all the maps strangely disclaim any knowledge of it). While I was busy imagining the big, echoing house and adding a laundry, stables, vegetable plot and tiny cottages to the rear, I got a little concerned that I was cramming a lot into quite a modest space.

Grosvenor Yard cottages, now demolished
Imagine my absolute joy at discovering pictorial evidence of the old Grosvenor Arms site a few alleys down!

Old site of Grosvenor Yard, Newmarket
Grosvenor Yard is now a fairly unlovely car park, but in the past there was a large inn (with a ‘jug and bottle’ for off-sales), a decent sized courtyard, an old farmhouse and - yes - two rows of tiny, terraced one-up-one-down cottages! It is moments like that which make a historical novelist's life so glorious.

We really are embedded in the past!

Photo credits of Grosvenor Yard to the Newmarket Local History Society.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Archer

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Archer: Oct 2003-Oct 2018
For Archer   by   Jan Jones

I thought I had run out of grief
I was wrong
It seems there is always one more heartstring to wrench
Always enough space for one more wound

You were the best of cats, Archer
Sleep now
And then run with your brother forever



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Archer in his favourite place

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Archer kitten in 2003


Archer in the sun
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Archer and Merlin in 2011

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Coming soon...

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I am in the very final stages of sorting out A Respectable House ready for publication. Isn't the cover great? Another one from the talented Jane Dixon-Smith.

This is another Newmarket Regency and the second in the Furze House Irregulars series. It concerns Kitty (the half-sister of Verity from A Rational Proposal) and starts immediately after A Rational Proposal finishes.

Picture the scene: a full moon, a gentleman's fast carriage drawn by four matched chestnuts in peak condition, a hunted lady and a devil-may-care gentleman speeding to Newmarket...

Sunday, 23 September 2018

In praise of phone writing

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Yesterday, I had a difficult scene to write. It wasn't difficult because of the action - I could see that in my mind - but it was a difficult subject and I knew it would be very, very tricky to get the tone right. I sat down yesterday morning determined to do it... and proceeded to get no end of other scenes edited, paperwork updated, emails answered and games of spider solitaire played while I was putting it off.

By the evening I still hadn’t written it. I shut the computer down and went downstairs to do the washing up.

And then I wrote the scene.

On my phone.

The thing about using OneNote on my phone is that by its very nature, I know whatever I write won’t be a finished copy. My fingers are so clumsy that there are typos all over the place. The phone makes heroic and occasionally ludicrous attempts to guess what I mean, rendering the text even less readable, and I often can’t see the screen properly to know what I've done wrong anyway.

There is no tabulation, hit and miss punctuation, but the great thing is that none of it matters. I know I am going to email it to myself and correct it on the PC tomorrow.

Here’s a confession. I love editing. I have stupidly high standards. That quote about spending all morning moving a comma and spending all afternoon putting it back again could have been made for me. I adore going over and over a paragraph until it flows properly, getting the words exactly right. It’s just the writing in the first place that’s the tricky bit.

And that is the beauty of writing late at night on my phone. It satisfies my inner deadline (at least I've acheived something by bedtime). It means I can think about the current problem while I wash up - often the right word or phrase will come to me moments after I plunge my hands into the soapy water - knowing I can note it down straight away and email it.

Most importantly, because writing on my phone is so wildly inaccurate, I can gloriously ignore my inner editor. I know it’s going to be full of mistakes, sentences in the wrong place, characters with the wrong names, all dialogue and no action, or all stream of consciousness. None of that matters because it is impossible to do on a phone anyway. The transcending joy for me is that THE WORDS ARE WRITTEN. None of them may survive tomorrow’s edit in the particular way I've written them tonight, but they are there.

Trust me, it is so much easier to edit words in a manuscript when you actually have words to work on.
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Saturday, 4 August 2018

Rights...

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In the past, I have derived a substantial part of my income from women's magazines. I have written many, many stories for them - long, short and medium-length - and a goodly number of serials. They used to pay for First British Serial Rights (meaning they got to publish my words first) and there was usually an agreement that I wouldn't re-sell or re-publish them for a year. The copyright remained with me.

I was, needless to say, entirely happy about the situation. Some magazines paid better than others, but it was all fair, all above board, and I RETAINED THE COPYRIGHT.

One magazine I wrote for rolled out new contracts asking for global rights, but not exclusivity, so I was free to re-sell on myself if I wanted to (I do). I didn't like the idea that they could also re-sell on without paying me anything. I no longer write for them.

Woman's Weekly are now asking for all rights. ALL RIGHTS. Even copyright. So if I sell a piece of work to them once, that's it, it's gone forever and I will never again be paid for the use they get out of it. I will also never be able to expand it, add more story strands, give the characters enriched lives... I won't, in other words, be able to reap the benefits of my own imagination and of the not inconsiderable amout of work it takes to create a believable world.

This is totally unacceptable. I will not write for them again until fair contracts are resumed. The thing is - women's magazine fiction is important. It is often the only fiction people have time to read. The reach of women's magazines is immense. My words have touched countless thousands of lives. By driving good, strong writers like me away, the magazine is impoverishing the very readers who keep them in business. They are dismissing both writers and readers as irrelevant.

Not well played, Woman's Weekly. Not well played at all.
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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Poems as character snapshots

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Poems are helpful for all sorts of things, from celebration to closure. I also use them to capture moments, to capture feelings and sometimes, to capture characters.

This is one I wrote a long, long time ago. Every time I read it, I can conjure her up. And every time, I understand her a little more.


Cutting Chips  by  Jan Jones


She cuts chips the long way
One slice at a time
Thanked me with remote eyes
when I told her how it could be done faster
but said there was more to life than speed

She fills whole afternoons shopping
Looking for things not to buy, reasons not to buy them
Changes her clothes several times a day
as an excuse to move from one room to another

She inhabits the kitchen distantly whilst we crack beers,
Eat dinner at peak acceleration, rattle through the washing up
Sits alone in the lounge in the evenings
with a CD and a glass of sherry on a drinks mat.
He always hated rings.

We ask, does she want to come out with us tonight?
She smiles and shakes her head
She’s going to watch television
There’s a programme later on about making ravioli

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Bargain!

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To celebrate the release of A RATIONAL PROPOSAL on April 19th (which is my fifth Newmarket Regency and the first in the Furze House Irregulars set of books), I have reduced the price of THE KYDD INHERITANCE, which was my first Regency romance.

The price will be 99p in the UK and $1.40 in the US for one week only: April 14th to April 20th 2018.

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THE KYDD INHERITANCE is the prequel to the Newmarket Regency series and stars Nell Kydd and Hugo Derringer. It opens with Nell's brother missing, her father dead and her loathsome uncle not only ruining the family estate with his mismanagement but also trying to marry Nell off to an amiable friend who would drive her demented within days. Then Captain Hugo Derringer comes to stay in the district and nothing will be quite the same ever again.

The Kydd Inheritance was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose award in 2012.
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Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Furze House Irregulars

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Sorry for the recent silence. I'm busy writing the fifth in my Newmarket Regency series, which I'd thought was going to be a stand-alone, but which my idiot brain suddenly had the bright idea of turning into the first of a new set of four (maybe) books set in both Newmarket and London. It was a little like walking into an inn courtyard and discovering an entire new house lurking around the corner.

As this brainstorm happened a third of the way into the writing, it necessitated a fairly lengthy and somewhat panic-struck reappraisal of what was and wasn't going into the book. Also how I would finish it off as a stand-alone, while still leaving room for the other three.

Confused? Yes, me too. Pretty sure all will be well though. Fairly pretty sure.

This book is called A Rational Proposal and will hopefully be out next month. I'm still thinking about covers, but here's a tiny snippet from the opening page.

CHAPTER ONE

Kennet End, Newmarket, October 1817

 
Miss Verity Bowman, undoubtedly by design, was looking particularly fetching, framed in the window seat of the dower house wearing a demure black mourning gown. Only the cut of the material and the subtle sheen of the satin and perhaps the double row of tiny black buttons gave away the fact that it had come from one of the more exclusive establishments on Bond Street.
    Charles Congreve, invited to sit down and be comfortable, appreciated the picture she presented, fully understood why her uncle had made her his heir, and desired nothing more than to strangle the pair of them. Sadly, there was little to be gained in strangling a man who had departed this earth just ten days since. In addition, the legal brotherhood tended to look askance at those of their members who took to throttling clients. Which, he was very much afraid, Verity was about to become.
    Unaware of his less-than-affable thoughts, Verity smiled warmly as he took a seat. “Charles, how lovely, such an age since we have seen you. Mama and I are so glad it is you dealing with this sad business, though I do hope nothing very dreadful has happened to poor Mr Tweedie?” 

    Verity had happened to poor Mr Tweedie. Charles's senior partner had taken one appalled look at the codicil appended to Admiral Harrington's will (a document that had been perfectly sound in wind and limb when it had left his own chambers), made an astringent remark about amateur notaries in Newmarket who didn’t have the wit to know better, and announced himself to be at a delicate stage with several cases, too much so to travel into Suffolk to undertake the process of winding up the late admiral's affairs. Not that there would be any, he'd added as an aside, the admiral being a very clean-living gentleman. Just the small weakness when it came to the turf. He was confident Charles would manage.
    “Thank you,” Charles had replied, feeling anything but grateful. “You have recollected Miss Bowman is my mother’s goddaughter and a particular friend of my sister?”
    Mr Tweedie had looked at him over the rim of his spectacles. “Naturally, I have remembered. A family attorney never forgets anything. Nor, as I am sure I do not need to remind you, does he allow personal considerations to influence his judgement. I repeat, I repose complete confidence in whatever decisions you might find yourself making. You had best leave directly after the funeral.”
    So now Charles murmured his partner’s excuses about having a great deal of urgent work, was pressed to take tea and macaroons by mother and daughter, and his portmanteau was carried up to a guest bedroom just as if he was an invited visitor and not a common attorney. And all he could think of was how far Verity’s intelligent brown eyes were going to widen when he broke the terms of Admiral Harrington’s will to her. And then how far they would narrow. And how he had rarely, if ever, managed to get the upper hand of her in all their dealings together.



Thursday, 8 February 2018

RoNA 2018 shortlists announced

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It must be spring at last - the shortlists for this year's RoNA Awards are now out.

The judges are going to have their work cut out to decide between so many fabulous authors and books!



Tuesday, 28 November 2017

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It's here! It's up!

I have - amazingly on schedule - finished expanding the fourth title in the Penny Plain series of novellas. The Christmas Gift is set just before Christmas and features petty thieving, an old photo of a wartime wedding, Penny's family, Leo's family, a nativity, snow, the boat club and the return of Penny's Aunt Bridget from her globe-trotting adventure.

Now for a break from Salthaven to do some work on my next Newmarket Regency.

I think, though, I really think I'll be back.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Remembering

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The Bloodswept Lands installation three years ago remains one of the most powerful and moving pieces of art I have ever experienced.

Remembering it today.
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Friday, 3 November 2017

Local Secrets

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It's the beginning of November and I'm on track with the expansion and republication of my Penny Plain Mystery series.

LOCAL SECRETS is the third story, full of graffiti, town planning and - appropriately at this time of year - a mystery from WW1 thrown up by the Salthaven war memorial.

Meet Penny's son Noel, home from university for a 'reading' week, and join Penny and Leo as they solve all the puzzles and grow closer together.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Jigsaw Puzzle is back!

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The new, expanded version of The Jigsaw Puzzle, the first story in my Penny Plain series, has now been published on kindle.

New cover, a lot more words, same Penny and Leo.

I'm expanding the second story - Just Desserts - even as we speak. My aim is to have all four of them up by December, ready for new projects next year.









Aren't the covers lovely?
That's the excellent Jane Dixon-Smith at work again.



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

ONLY DANCING in large print

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My 1970s flashback mystery ONLY DANCING is now available in Large Print, so if you prefer your books in  paper-and-ink version do please order it from your local library. Every scrap of Public Lending Right is gratefully received by an author.

Caroline knows revisiting the music of her growing-up years will be painful to her feelings. She has no idea that the David Bowie Is... exhibition will have a profound effect on the rest of her life. What starts in bittersweet nostalgia ends in very present danger.

ONLY DANCING can also be bought in the kindle version.

Whichever format you choose, I hope you enjoy!