Sins as Red as Scarlet – by Janet Few

C17th Historic fiction from the author of Barefoot on the Cobbles

August sees the launch of the second novel from respected historian and genealogist, Janet Few. With a slew of acclaimed non-fiction books in her back catalogue, Janet sat down to write “Barefoot on the Cobbles” a novel based very closely on real events that took place in Clovelly around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Meticulously researched and beautifully written it has sold solidly since publication. We are now looking forward to another bestseller from Janet.

Sins as Red as Scarlet

Sins as Red as Scarlet is a time-slip historical fiction set in 17th century Devon and the present day. Janet Few knows more than most about the century of the English civil war and the Mayflower sailing since she spent many years as a historical reenactor at the Torrington 1646 living history exhibition (now sadly just a cafe) and she still forms an integral part of the Swords and Spindles living history group which came from that exhibition. She also maintains an excellent blog covering aspects of historical research, genealogy, and her writing including her other books on her History Interpreter blog.

2020 and the pandemic

While most of the story takes place in the 17th century, this also interweaves with the life of a modern day student, Martha, who is studying history and meanwhile having problems of her own in 2020 Devon.
Now, as Janet was putting the finishing touches to the story, events of 2020 overtook her, leaving her with a serious dilemma. The writing had to be finished back in May, to give sufficient time to go through two stages of editing, as well as formatting the book ready for printing, followed by proof reading the printed block, and then for the print run to be completed in time to be able to send out ARCs to key reviewers.
All this for a story set partly in the middle of the worst global pandemic in living memory. For consistency reasons, it was not practical to change the modern-day setting to 2019, therefore, a decision was made to largely ignore SARS-CoV2/COVID-19, and to state that the setting is an AU (alternative universe) 2020 in which the disease does not have the impact it does. We hope this small alteration is acceptable and can only apologise that we could not realise it in the real world.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

The true story of a Devon town in turmoil

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

Cover Design by the Branch Line

Janet had a very clear idea how she wanted the cover to look and she engaged local artist Robin Paul a.k.a. The Branch Line to create it. The dark and forbidding image in black, white, and red is striking and beguilingly simple. We chose a font called “Hamlet or Not” to give a suitably C17th feel and this was pillow embossed and bordered with a black stroke and a white outer glow to make it stand out. The result is appropriately sanguine.

Small section of a larger poster of bird pictures by Robin Paul. See The Branch Line for more.

In terms of art style, this cover is a big change from most of Robin’s work which is more obviously suited to children’s books etc. Things like birds and furry animals being common features, like this puffin for example.

Preorder special offer

Now, for those who love their history, both fiction and non-fiction, you may wish to head over to Janet’s blog and pre-order direct from her because she has a brilliant offer available. Here’s what she says.

The first 500 people who pre-order Sins as Red as Scarlet (RRP £9.99), to be sent to a UK address, by 28 August 2020, will receive a copy of my social history of the seventeenth century Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs (RRP £12.95) absolutely free. These will be signed copies. They will also have the opportunity to purchase the accompanying CD for £3 (RRP £4). There will be no charge for UK postage. So if you are interested in this, you need to go to her site here and contact her directly.

Alliance of Independent Authors

I signed up (as Oliver Tooley)  for ALLi which is the Alliance of Independent Authors. It has been highly recommended to me for some time now by various people and I’ve been putting it off, but I think it will be a useful tool in the long run.

Actually, I must confess I haven’t yet really seen how useful it might be but I have high hopes. I’ll let you know in future if it works out.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning on joining yourself, I’ve posted a link below. (sponsored) You can join if you are planning to self publish, or have already self-published a  novel. You can also join if you are a professional author with 50,000 + sales a year, or if you provide author services. (I didn’t think Blue Poppy was quite ready for that side of things yet).

Alliance of Independent Authors /

 

And the Wolf Shall Dwell – Audiobook and FREE Kindle deals

Brand new audio-book available now, FREE Kindle offer coming soon.

When Joni Dee approached Blue Poppy Publishing with “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” I was worried that he was based in London. We were, and still are, a small publisher based in North Devon and it is harder to work at a distance, where you can’t pop round with a box of books.

Nevertheless, the story is a gripping read and Joni did already have a large number of pre-orders for the paperback and hardcover editions which covered the first print run nicely, so how could we refuse?

Now Joni has taken the next step on his publishing journey and produced an audio-book version of this stunning contemporary political espionage thriller.  You can get it here UK Amazon link or from Amazon in your country, universal link .

What was the bit about FREE Kindle?

Oh yes, if you haven’t already read “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” and you just want the Kindle edition, you can get it free for a very limited period only, starting on Tuesday 3oth October. Just follow the  universal link or do a  search on Amazon for “And the Wolf Shall Dwell”, by Joni Dee.

Also, if follow Joni Dee on Twitter and RT his tweet about the audio-book then you can be in with a chance to win a free code from Audible.

Old photographs Poles Montaland genealogy france

Other People’s Ancestors

When researching your family tree, you can’t help but turn up interesting stuff about friends of the family who are no relation to yourself. I have been writing about my great grandmother, Fanny Chalk Austin, whose memoirs I have edited and expanded and published on Kindle. UK Link  –  Global link 

I have since been digging out old family photographs and hit a rich vein in a big old scrapbook that my father had. In it, there are photographs and newspaper cuttings relating to lots of my own family, but also some which bear no relation to my tree. (as far as I can tell)

Photographs of a wonderful looking woman who, judging by the pictures, had a vibrant sense of humour and a ‘jolly-hockey-sticks’ approach to life. Her name was Dora Boobyer, and I haven’t the faintest idea how she connects to my family. But it was a pleasure to be able to send the images to a genealogist who has researched her in their tree.

I also have several photographs of a French family who obviously had a major impact on mine but it is not clear why. My great-grandmother honeymooned in Paris, as did my grandmother, at Hôtel Britannique, and it looks likely that at least one family member had strong connections with Britain, but I still haven’t pieced together the puzzle and it isn’t even MY puzzle.

Granny Poles had three children, Louise, Richard, and Harry.

Louise married a M. Montaland apparently in England AND France? 

I’ll continue this story later and add the photos. (ha, I finaly got around to this) I have to go to a bookshop now to promote my physical books a bit.

Unfinished NaNoWriMo Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of my unfinished NaNoWriMo story
If you fancy reading Chapter 1 first, it is here.

2 Heaven

He had died. He laid back on the clouds, with St. Peter standing over him, clipboard in hand, accompanied by angels in white or blue robes. The light was bright, it was warm, not the freezing cold of Earth in winter. He blinked. The light of the Lord was too much, and he would be found unworthy. He tried to shield his eyes, but there was a wire in his hand, and it hurt to move.

St Peter took out a pen, and made a note on the clipboard, as he said, “Don’t try to move just yet, Mr …?”

John didn’t answer. He was confused. Why would St Peter not know his name?

“Where am I?”

“St Luke’s hospital. You passed out in the subway station. We couldn’t find any identifying documents, so we don’t really know much about you. Rather difficult to treat you without medical records.”

John’s head slumped back on the soft pillow. Not a cloud, but a bed. It wasn’t St. Peter, but St Luke. No, not St. Luke, but a doctor. He wasn’t dead. He felt … what did he feel? Everything and nothing. If he had been dead, and this were heaven, it was pretty much alright. Clean sheets, warm enough, and presumably, there would be regular meals. But would he have made the cut. He tried to weigh up his own life without bias. He half laughed at himself for the audacity of such a thing. How could he possibly remain unbiased while deciding if he should be allowed into heaven? He couldn’t even be certain of writing an honest review about his latest song.

St Peter was speaking to one of the other angels, “See if you can find out some details about him. If we can’t I suppose we’ll just have to do the best we can, and then discharge him as soon as he’s fit enough to go home. Assuming he has a home.”

‘Home! Star!’ John remembered he needed to feed the cat. He sensed he was thinking more lucidly again. He could see he was in a hospital, but he felt fine. No broken bones, no cuts or burns, no infection or neoplasm, his heart was beating normally now, and he had no breathing difficulties. He was in fine physical shape. He didn’t need their help. Star, on the other hand couldn’t feed himself. Star was the cat, his name short for Astaroth. Ok, naming your cat after a demon might be a black mark on St Peter’s clipboard, he had to admit. But taking good care of the cat, when he often forgot to look after himself, that was a big plus mark, right? That must be like, fifty heaven points right there. Anyway, it was just a name, and Star could be a right little devil sometimes.

“Nurse.” The word came out as a feeble, almost inaudible, croak; as though a very sleepy frog was trying to get someone to lift a heavy log off their back.

‘Nope, that’s not how my voice is supposed to sound.’ He thought.

He coughed, experimentally, and did the shortest vocal exercise in the history of music. “NURSE!”

‘Oops, bit loud.’

He hid under the bedsheet as a nurse bustled over, looking aggrieved.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to shout. Errm, when can I go home?”

“The doctor will need to see you before you can be discharged.”

“I really need to feed the cat.”

She consulted the little fob watch on her pocket absently as she said, “Doctor will be doing his rounds later this afternoon.”

“This afternoon? What time is it?”

The nurse looked again at her watch and said, “Eleven thirty-two.”

John enjoyed, fleetingly, the fact that she had literally just looked at her watch, and then had to look at it again the moment he asked the time. Then he recalled that it had been early evening when he had been chased by the barbarian horsemen; sorry, correction, biker gang. So he had been in hospital overnight? Which meant that the need to get back and feed Star was even greater now.

The nurse bustled away. He looked at the line in his wrist. It wasn’t actually connected to anything. Just there in case they needed it. He gently peeled the retaining tape away and slid the thin metal needle out of the vein. It hurt. John wasn’t brave or tough. He was a musician not a fighter. But this was too important. He replaced the tape with the little wad of lint, and held it in place as it felt like the stickiness was worn away. His jeans and tee shirt were in a bag in the bedside table. His coat, which wasn’t warm enough hung on the chair.


Same rule applies. If you want to read more you just have to ask, and I will post up chapter 3.

I don’t want to bore people.

Chris Mouse time is nearly here

Special Agent Felix Whiter returns in a brand new adventure.

Ok, now I know there will be more people saying “Who?” than “Yay!” about this, but that is going to change over time until everyone knows all about Felix Whiter. If you have already read “For Cats’ Eyes Only” you can scroll down, or click here.

Who is Felix Whiter?

Created to coincide with the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge, with the theme “Animal Agents” Felix is a special agent at A.I.S. (Animal Intelligence Services) based in Beech House. He’s a cool cat who always gets his man, although Swifty the Tortoise often gives him the slip.

His boss is a white mouse called M, and her assistant is a white stag called Jonathan Hart. There is also an owl called Olli who is a few feathers short of a nest.

The series is illustrated by Amii James, an art student currently at Petroc college and going on from there to university to study illustration with a view to becoming a children’s book illustrator.

Chris Mouse

The sequel “Dr. Gnaw” is set in winter, and the animals have a tradition that dates back to one very cold winter, when the animals were all cold and hungry. One brave mouse called Chris set off to find food, accompanied by Old Father Squirrel. They were gone for 7 days and nights, but on their return they brought sacks of cheese, and nuts.

Every winter, the animals remember, by exchanging gifts, and eating good food, and they all wish each other a Happy Chris-Mouse and dress up as old father squirrel in his acorn hat; although Felix isn’t really all that keen on it.

Felix has a new partner; a spaniel called Holly, and he has to get over his dislike of dogs. He and Holly get invited to a posh party at the Akita-Shibu Bank. Felix goes under an assumed name; John McClaw, but soon he is fighting for his life, and Holly’s too when a gang of villains, led by Hans the Rat, take everyone hostage, and try to rob the bank.

If the plot sounds familiar, you should see some of the jokes! Blue Poppy Publishing would like any film companies, or 1970s comedy double acts to send writs, in the first instance, to our contact email. We don’t have any money, but the publicity of a court case could well change that.

Funding a new book by a new author

Teeny Tiny Witch, by Sheila Golding.

Teeny Tiny Witch is, as her name suggests, is quite small. She also prefers the colour red, to black, and in addition, her spells often go catastrophically wrong.

As a result she is banished from Witch Island, and has to leave her mother, and all her friends.

Cold and alone, she befriends a dragon, named Quanga, and his mother, who works for a grumpy old wizard.

While Teeny Tiny Witch may be able to help the wizard to cheer up, but what she really wants is to go back home; and that requires not only all her courage, and strength; but she must to defy the odds, and get a spell right for a change.

Gloriously illustrated by North Devon graphic artist Colin Rowe (Corvus Design) this is a story that will charm younger readers, or make a perfect bedtime story for ages 4-7.

We are crowdfunding to cover the cost of printing and need to raise at least £1,000 Here’s the link to the Kickstarter project. It finishes on the 8th of October, and every pledge and share will help.

 

 

For Cats’ Eyes Only – Preview

Launching soon

UPDATE, For Cats’ Eyes Only launched at Ilfracombe Library on the 19th of July. You can buy the paperback HERE

If you prefer to get the Kindle edition it is HERE for the UK version, and HERE for the rest of the world

For Cats’ Eyes Only was commissioned to coincide with this year’s Big Summer Reading Challenge 2017 (n.b. it is NOT an official BSRC book)

If you are aged 4 – 11 yrs and live in Ilfracombe, you can get a FREE copy just by coming along to Ilfracombe library and signing up for the challenge on Wednesday 19th July

Otherwise, you can still get a copy shortly after that date from all good bookshops, as well as online here or on Amazon.

Young readers in Devon can also come along to their local library and meet the author, as well as do a fun craft session related to the book. See here for confirmed dates. If your local library isn’t on the list, then be sure to ask them why not.

Here’s a sneak preview of the prologue of the book.

Prologue

The End … Or is it?

“Not one more step, Swifty!”

Special Agent Felix Whiter sighted down the barrel of his Buckthorn and Beech .22 pistol at the tortoise, who had thought he was getting away. Swifty knew he could hide in his shell but, either way, there was no escape this time.

“Felix! I wish I could say I’ve been expecting you but, alas, it seems you have the upper hand.”

“Did you really think you could get away with it, Swifty?”

“Well, I guess I didn’t expect that you would be assigned to the investigation. You’re a cool cat, I’ll give you that.”

“My team are already rounding up your minions, and the lettuces are safely back in our warehouse. Now I just have to bring you in to make this a purrfect day.”

As the secret agent spoke, Swifty looked past him with a worried expression.

“I’m not falling for that old trick, Swifty. There’s nothing behind me.”

“Wanna bet?”

Felix swung round and sure enough, a little girl was coming towards them across the grass. She must have seen everything. Desperately he tried to hide the gun behind his back and dropped down onto all fours, purring and flicking his tail, but it was no use. He’d been caught.

The little girl looked at the cat, and then at the tortoise which was trying to look innocent and slowly sidling away towards a large oak stump.

“Did I just see you talking to that tortoise, puss-cat?” the little girl asked.

“Meow?”

“It’s no use pretending, I know I saw you standing up and pointing a stick at the tortoise, and you’re wearing clothes, and you were definitely talking, although I didn’t hear what you were saying.”

“Purr?”

Felix stalked over to the little girl and rubbed hard against her legs with his sides, purring and meowing for all he was worth.

‘Just a few minutes of this and she’s going to forget all about it,’ thought Felix.

Sure enough, the girl began to doubt herself. “I must have imagined it,” she said to herself as she scratched behind the cat’s ears. “I suppose some people do like to dress their cats in clothes as well,” she added.

At that moment, the cat turned its head to look at the point where the tortoise had been, only moments before. It was nowhere to be seen.

‘Drat!’ Felix thought.

Women of the Wise Oak artwork progress update

First pencil sketch

I posted about it earlier, but I’ll just add the first sketch here as well to complete the story.

Preliminary Sketch for “Women of the Wise Oak” cover design.

I’ve just had the latest progress update from Iver Klingenberg who is painting the cover art for Women of the Wise Oak and I have to say, it is going to be absolutely breathtaking.

It features a golden eagle flying over an alpine lake, and Iver is particularly adept at painting water. I don’t know whether to share the half finished painting with you or not. Will it spoil the surprise of seeing the fully finished artwork? Would anyone like to see it? Does anyone even care?

Leave a comment, and if we get enough (let’s say five) then I will post it here. If not then I will send an image to the few who want to see it via email.

Update 27/5/17

O.K. so, we only managed three comments. I guess, that is actually pretty good going for a small and not yet widely followed blog.

Here’s the work in progress. FANFARE!

Isn’t that lush? Can’t wait to see the finished thing.

Finished painting reveal.

Well, I have got a photograph of the finished painting now from Iver Klingenberg and, yes, it is every bit as amazing as I expected it to be.

So, d’ya wanna see it? Do ya? Do ya?

I know you do.

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Scroll down …

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Cover artwork for “Women of the Wise Oak” by Iver Klingenberg.

Sneak peek at a snippet of For Cats Eyes Only

Felix Whiter is a suave, sophisticated, cat detective who works for the Animal Intelligence Service (A.I.S.) and every top detective needs a crack team of dedicated professional experts around him. IT, forensics, gadgets, disguises, and … receptionists.

Olli the Owl’s heart may well be in the right place, but his mind is … well, seemingly elsewhere.

Artwork by Amii James. Olli Tooley would like to make it clear that Olli the Owl is NOT based on him.