The border ballads

Hello, hope you’re all having a good week? It’s Jen here, and today, I’m going to share some of my favourite border ballads with you. No, don’t worry, it doesn’t involve me singing – I wouldn’t do that to you… 

I’m talking about the ballads, often poetry set to music, which were performed as entertainment, and were particularly famous during the medieval period. They were a key part of the story-telling world during these times, with limited scope for stories being put to paper – they allowed news of infamous criminals, or exciting escapades, to be passed from village to village, most likely embellished plenty along the way!

I came across a few of the most popular during my research for The Raided Heart, and thought I would share these with you today.

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The impressive defences of Carlisle Castle – these would have taken some breaching for a rescue!

Kinmont Willie, or William Armstrong of Kinmont, is one of the most famous of the reivers, and he had a truly eventful life. Following a Day of Truce (where legal disputes would be settled, and reivers were supposedly safe to travel over the border), Kinmont was captured by the English, who he had been tormenting with raids for years, and taken to Carlisle Castle by the Warden. As the arrest had been done illegally, the Keeper of Liddesdale, who controlled the land where it had happened, protested, but to no avail. More drastic action was needed – the Keeper led a group of men into England, and broke Kinmont out of Carlisle Castle, an impressive feat. This then led to anger between Elizabeth I and James VI, as the countries were meant to be at peace at the time, with no legitimate reason for a raid on one of her border castles.

One of my favourite stories is of Midside Maggie, or Maggie Hardy, who lived in Lauderdale during the 17th century. Although inherently a tale of hardship, it also has a positive feel to it.

As was so often the case in the borderlands, the Hardy’s farm was suffering after a bad winter, and the family was simply unable to pay the rent they owed their landlord, an unpleasant type, unconcerned with the wellbeing of his tenants. When Maggie went to plead for the rent to be waived for that period, he didn’t say no, but set her a challenge: she either had to bring him the rent in June, when it was due, or a snowball in the same month, to prove her point regarding the harsh winter. Now, Maggie had her wits about her, and when she returned home, she gathered as much snow as she could, and packed it tightly into a sheltered crack in the hillside, where the sun never reached. Miraculously, when June rolled around, some of the snow still remained, enough to form a snowball to take to the landowner. In all fairness, he at least stuck to his side of the deal, and over time, the farm recovered. His kindness in this instance was rewarded when he subsequently found himself imprisoned in the Tower of London (a place I know well as a writer!), and Maggie travelled to London, with their saved-up rent from the time he had been away, which she baked into a bannock, and presented it to their landlord. He used the money to buy his release, and on his return home, granted Maggie and her heirs the permanent lease of their land as thanks, showing how much he had changed.

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A definitely not-scabbit sheep (a decidedly cute one, don’t you think?)

See, the reivers were a clever bunch, and the infamous tale of the ‘Scabbit sheep’ tells that nicely.

A group of Charltons had ridden into Cumberland, rather than Scotland (attacks on fellow countrymen were not unheard of – not all attacks crossed the border), and stole several hundred sheep from the Grahams, before riding home and putting the sheep with their own. Within days, they realised all was not well – the Grahams’ sheep had been infected with sheep scab, which they had now passed onto the Charltons’ own herd. They returned to the Grahams’ land, and killed several men, leaving behind a written warning: Next time gentlemen cam to tak ther shepe, they were no to be scabbit.

There are so many others to choose from, and I like to think that the romantic tale of Will and Meg might just have made it into the collection too – what do you think?

 

 

Music and story…

What role does music play in your life? It’s Jen here on the blog today, and for me, music is a vital part of my day.

The Raided Heart

I cannot work in silence, so now I’m working from home, without the general hum of an open-plan office, my Echo Dot is almost permanently tuned to Heart 90s or Fearne Cotton’s new Sounds of the Nineties, keeping motivation high with a never-ending playlist of feelgood cheesy pop.

It’s the same with my writing – I can focus more easily when I have music playing. Usually it’s back to the nineties and noughties, playing old boyband albums I know so well I almost don’t hear them, but then, whilst I was working on The Raided Heart, a friend mentioned that he created Spotify playlists for all of his works-in-progress. The result was this playlist, a combination of songs which made me think of certain scenes, or which simply put me in the mood when I wanted to get into the writing flow.

One example is The Dance, by Westlife. As I said, I listen to boybands all the time, with Boyzone and Westlife being my favourites, so I must have heard the song so many times before last year, but hearing it again, and the sentiment behind it, suddenly made me think about a key scene in the book. And yes, if I’m honest, I began seeing the scene in front of me, in film, with this song as the soundtrack. I know that’s how some writers picture their scenes, and again, music is a big part of how it would all come together.

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Music can also be a big inspiration for writers. At one of my first Swanwicks, there was a session called Songspiration, listening to both big hits and lesser-known tracks, using the music to generate ideas. For some, the story was clear, putting yourself into the world of Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, for example, but with others, it was more the feeling that the tone of the music generated, and putting that down on paper. It was a wonderful way of coming up with ideas, and one I’ve since used myself in a workshop.

But back to those playlists… I’m currently working on a number of projects, and this time, I’m building the tracks up as I go. The One Before The One is the working title of a contemporary romance, and you can find its playlist here; any thoughts as to what this one might be about? And for the following books in the Historic Hearts series, I’m building this collection, but as you can see, it needs a lot of work!

To other writers out there, what’s your relationship like with music as you write? Does it distract, or inspire? And readers, do you need silence to immerse yourself in the world an author’s created for you?

I’d love to hear from you…

Remembering Richard, and The Last Plantagenet?

Despite the current situation with coronavirus causing events to be cancelled this year, the end of March is an important one now, for Ricardians. As well as remembering birth, death, marriage, coronation, we can also mark reburial. Five years ago, all eyes were on Leicester, as one of England’s most famous kings was laid to rest for the second time.

And one of our authors was lucky enough to be there for part of it. So, for Jennifer’s first post in our regular series taking place on the Ocelot Press blog, do forgive a bit of indulgent personal nostalgia, and tell you a bit about the beginnings of The Last Plantagenet?

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When I put my name into the ballot for a place at one of the events that week in Leicester, I only did it to say I had, to be a part of things, but then, then arrived the envelope… I was going to Compline, the service during which the coffin of Richard III would be brought into the cathedral. And more than that – there was a full Saturday of lectures to attend, and the particularly moving service on Sunday morning at the University of Leicester itself, as they bid farewell to the remains they had studied so carefully, and preserved so well, since they found him in that carpark. Walking down the street behind the hearse for a few moments was a very strange sensation, then heading back to my hotel room and watching the rest of its journey on the BBC news channel.

JCW in Leicester Cathedral

It was a beautiful day all round, and being in Leicester Cathedral to watch the service of Compline is something I shall never forget. There was an odd sense to the day. Yes, it was a funeral, so of course everyone was suitably respectful and sombre in their attitude, but equally, although people had hoped to find King Richard III, it’s not as though anybody was expecting to find him alive, so there was also a sense of celebration to things.

They were even letting people take photos, once the service was over.

That night, after strolling back from the cathedral through the rose-strewn streets of Leicester, I sat in the hotel bar (the smartest-dressed Travelodge clientele I have ever seen!), and pulled out the notebook I’d had in my bag all weekend. I had been playing with an idea for a while, a timeslip novella featuring Richard III, but however hard I tried, couldn’t make it ‘work’. Sitting there, absorbing everything that had happened over the two days, the words flowed. I got my ending, and other than some minor tweaks, the plot was sorted!

The Last Plantagenet? was born… 

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It’s had an exciting journey, first being self-published in October 2017, then joining Ocelot Press in October 2018. And I was thrilled to bits when it was awarded not only a five-star review from the Coffee Pot Book Club Award, but also an Honourable Mention in the blog’s 2019 Book of the Year Awards.

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Special Offer!

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of this important event, and the night I can pin-point as the start of when everything starting happening for me, writing-wise (I got back and began editing my Kindred Spirits series too!), The Last Plantagenet? ebook is free to download for a limited time.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Raided Heart – One week until launch, and an early review…

It’s nearly time for the next release from Jennifer C. Wilson – a historical romance, The Raided Heart, set in the world of the border reivers.

Excitingly, The Raided Heart has already received its first review, along with a coveted Coffee Pot Book Club Award. You can read the full review here, on Mary Anne Yarde’s blog, but we couldn’t resist sharing some snippets, as well as the beautiful award graphic the novel has been awarded…

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Will. Oh, Will. How I adored the hero of this story. It is all so terribly romantic, and Will is just fabulous. I was utterly captivated by Will. He is a marvellous example of what a historical romance hero should be.”

If you are looking for your next tender historical romance, then look no further than The Raided Heart (Historic Hearts, #1) by Jennifer C. Wilson. I, for one, cannot wait to read the second book in what promises to be a fantastic series.”

If that tempts you in, don’t forget to join in the Virtual Launch, on Facebook, on the 15th November!

Meet the Ocelots: The Last Plantagenet?

Hi everyone, and happy Tuesday! I’m thrilled to be the first of the Ocelots taking over the blog today, ahead of our upcoming Blog Hop. Soon, you’ll be able to meet the lovely Tom, from The Last Plantagenet?, but I thought I should set the scene first, and tell you a little bit about the background to the book… 

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First, here’s the blurb, to whet your appetite:

The fireplace hadn’t looked like a time-portal.

All Kate had wanted was a fun, relaxing day out, watching the knights jousting at Nottingham Castle. What she ended up with was something quite different.

Transported in a heartbeat from 2011 to 1485, how will Kate handle life at the Ricardian court? Even more importantly, how will she cope when she catches the eye of the king himself?

Find out in this ‘giddily romantic’ romp, set just prior to the Battle of Bosworth.

In TLP (let’s go with the shortened version for the rest of the post!), Kate is doing what Kate loves best, wandering around a castle, taking in the sights and sounds of a re-enactment, when everything goes black, and suddenly, she’s in 1485, and at the court of Richard III, who genuinely was in Nottingham in July of that year, as he was preparing himself for the expected arrival of Henry Tudor. We all know how that one ends, so let’s not dwell.

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Nottingham Castle Today

Finding herself in the kitchens of the castle, Kate is immediately yelled at to collect refreshments and bring them to the great hall. Who is doing the shouting? Tom, one of Richard’s trusted servants, who has been with the king for years. Although the story belongs to Kate and Richard, Tom is instrumental in helping Kate find her feet in her new, and frankly bewildering, surroundings.

I think the story needed Tom, in order to make sense of some things, as well as being a friend to Kate. Much as I’m sure most historical fiction readers and writers have fantasised about travelling back in time to their favourite era, and meeting the people they admire, the practicalities would certainly not always be easy. I know I ‘think’ I would love to live in a medieval castle, but really, have you tried hurrying down a spiral staircase in jeans and trainers, let alone in a flowing gown? And with no central heating? No thank you, I fear…

Kate does experience these things, and plenty more, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing about her adventures, just as much as I hope you enjoy reading about them! And I’m looking forward to you getting to meet Tom more too.

The Raided Heart: Cover reveal!

It’s cover reveal time for Jennifer C. Wilson’s upcoming historical romance, The Raided Heart, due for release in November 2019. What do you think?

Jennifer C. Wilson

It’s time… 

The Raided Heart

I’m really excited to share with you the cover of The Raided Heart – and I would love to know what you think! I’ve already shared the opening paragraph with you, and so now, here’s the blurb:

Meg Mathers, the headstrong youngest sibling of a reiving family on the English-Scottish border, is determined to remain at her childhood home, caring for the land and village she’s grown up with. When an accident brings her a broken ankle and six weeks in the resentful company of ambitious and angry young reiver Will, attraction starts to build. Both begin to realise they might have met their match, and the love of their lives, but 15th century border living is not that simple, as Meg soon finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of a tyrannical neighbour, Alexander Gray. When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back…

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The Last Plantagenet? – Now available in paperback!

It’s always an exciting thing to announce a new release, and this week, Jennifer C. Wilson’s timeslip romance has made its debut in paperback! And as you can see, the proof copy was even approved by the book’s leading man, Richard III…

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The Last Plantagenet?, available on Amazon here, has already been classed as a ‘Discovered Diamond,’ by the Discovering Diamonds review blog, as well as having been awarded the Coffee Pot Book Club Award, by the Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots blog.

Here’s the blurb, to whet your appetite:

The fireplace hadn’t looked like a time-portal.

All Kate had wanted was a fun, relaxing day out, watching the knights jousting at Nottingham Castle. What she ended up with was something quite different.

Transported in a heartbeat from 2011 to 1485, how will Kate handle life at the Ricardian court? Even more importantly, how will she cope when she catches the eye of the king himself?

Find out in this ‘giddily romantic’ romp, set just prior to the Battle of Bosworth.

If that’s tempted you in, you can read a sample of the book here!