What’s new? Well, this week, for me, quite a lot… Two things in particular, that I’m excited to share with you.
This week, I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Lockdown, and as I type out this post, I’m very aware that I should have been out in town, celebrating with friends, and having a general giggle about all sort of things. Happily, I am lucky enough to have a very good friend living just a couple of hundred metres from my flat, and I’m hoping, weather-permitting, to pop around to her front garden, and enjoy a slice of cake and glass of fizz, all from a safe distance.
I did still want to celebrate though, and so I’m also offering you all a gift from me. For a limited time this week, I’m delighted to be sharing The Raided Heart, free as an ebook! Click here, to be taken to your local Amazon domain, and download your copy today…
And to tempt you in, here’s what reviewers have been saying so far about The Raided Heart:
“Exciting, passionate and ultimately the ending keeps the spirit of true love alive.”
“The Raided Heart is a Story of forbidden love, a marriage of convenience, heartache, survival and hope.”
“A beautiful, realistic romance with dark undertones…”
And the second thing? Well, I’m thrilled to announce my first non-fiction title is now available for pre-order!
A Novel Approach brings together my 2019/20 series of writing workshops, and a talk I delivered during Swanwick 2019. Have you ever thought about writing long-form fiction? In A Novel Approach, I’ll talk you through every step of the process, from generating ideas, creating believable characters, and tackling the ever-thorny issue of ‘showing vs. telling’, all the way through to developing your presence online.
The book itself will launch on the 8th August, and I’ll be sharing more details as we get nearer to the date.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Today is an exciting day for us here at Ocelot Press, since we’re adding another wonderful title to our stable of historical fiction reads. The Raided Heart, Jennifer C. Wilson’s 15th-century historical romance, set in the Scottish Borders, is published today. It’s available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback.
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…
“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!