Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Friday, October 13, 2017

Halloween Sale!

From today, Friday October 13th to Halloween, you can pick up the e-book of PUMPYMUCKLES for only 99cents at all online retailers!

* * * *

Ever Greene was just six years-old when she vanished into thin air from the end of Cromer Pier.

Four months later, she reappeared, safe and sound, on the doorstep of her parents' house, more than eighty miles away. The child had no recollection of where she had been or with whom she had spent the time, but in her hand she clasped a silver and enamel brooch intricately fashioned in the image of a seahorse...

* * * *

Ever Greene's childhood was haunted by nightmares and plagued by mysterious events. Now, as a grown woman, she hopes to put all that behind her and lead a purposeful life. She answers an advertisement for the post of governess— a perfectly respectable position for the dignified Edwardian lady.

This attempt to lead an ordinary life seems destined for chaos, however, when she finds herself working for an extraordinary bachelor. Gabriel Hart wants her, not to teach those sweet-faced children she'd envisioned as her pupils, but to transform him into a proper gentleman. A task of no little undertaking and far from what she'd anticipated.

And then Ever’s troubled life takes an infinitely more disturbing turn when the monster she called Pumpymuckles, who once chased her through those childhood nightmares, now stalks her waking hours instead.

But Ever Greene isn't that little girl afraid of the dark anymore.

Indeed, the darkness should be afraid of her.

WANT TO READ MORE? Buy here.

Happy Halloween!

(photo image above of Edwardian actress and singer Lily Elsie)


Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Favourite Season

Autumn happens to be my favourite time of year. I love the leaves changing, and crisp, misty mornings with the scent of wood fires in the air. The heat of summer is usually too oppressive for me, so I look forward to the cooling off, rainy mornings, apple donuts and cozy blankets. I know I'll soon be complaining of too much snow and being cold to the bone, but for now I can enjoy the transition as I rake up leaves and start thinking about Christmas plans.

Halloween is also something I look forward to. When I grew up in England, we didn't dress up and troll the streets for candy. November the 5th -- Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night -- was a bigger event for us, because we had fireworks and jacket potatoes on the horizon. (Funny how jacket potatoes with butter were considered such a treat back then). But now living in the US I get out my Halloween decorations, stock up on "Trick or Treat" candy and get into the spirit of things. Halloween, for me, has become a sort of combination Guy Fawkes and All-Hallow's Eve, since I don't get to enjoy November 5th anymore.

This is the time of year, of course, for scary stories.

When I first started writing, when I was very young, my first genre was horror. Not sure how I got to romance from there! Anyway, horror was my first love, but not the "slasher" type of horror. I like the slow-building, menacing type that gets inside your brain and leaves chills. Something that makes you think. And wonder.

I love the spooky movies on TV -- especially the old ones with Vincent Price. Few things can beat curling up on the couch with hot chocolate to watch "The Pit and the Pendulum" or "House of Usher" (the original 1960 version). I know they're a bit hokie now, but I still enjoy them far more than most new stuff. I have to say the more recent "horror" movies leave me less than impressed. I don't think anything has really scared me since Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". These days -- and now I sound old -- there seems to be too much reliance on CGI and loud bangs. That actually takes all the suspense out for me. I prefer being unsettled in a more subtle, thoughtful way.

Maybe I have a bit of a morbid streak -- I definitely have a dark sense of humor -- because I particularly love the work of Edward Gorey. That's the quiet sort of menace that suits me.

All these things, I suppose, somehow get mixed together and ferment inside me like a big pot of witches brew. Once in a while, a bubble of inspiration rises to the top and I have another story to write, one with a slightly darker edge. That's what happened with SOULS DRYFT and PUMPYMUCKLES. It also happened with the next book on its way THE MUTINOUS CONTEMPLATIONS Of GEMMA GROOT.

Once in a while, I like to write something a bit different to light-hearted romances. I think it's refreshing for me - a palate cleanser, perhaps? And it feels good to stretch myself in another direction for a while, just to stop my mind from getting stuck in a rut.

I hope you enjoy all my stories, the merry romances AND the slightly darker sort.

To celebrate the season of Halloween, Guy Fawkes, toffee apples and things that go bump in the night, I'm giving away two signed paperback copies of PUMPYMUCKLES.

If you'd like to enter your name to win, please go to my FACEBOOK page and let me know your favourite thing about autumn.

Thanks for reading!

JF

 
(Illustrations by Edward Gorey)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Little Exercise for the Imagination


            So, just for fun today - I was at a "loose end" and trying not to eat an entire box of chocolate covered cashews sitting in my kitchen -  I started thinking about what would happen if my regency-era, romantic comedy series Ladies Most Unlikely was ever made into a TV series or a movie.

            Yes, I like to amuse myself with these lovely imaginings from time to time. I don't think I ever quite grew up. And who wants to, anyway? I expect a lot of writers do the same thing.

            Out comes my shabby notebook.

            First, of course, I have to cast all the major roles. Not that I would have that opportunity, even if, by some miracle, the stories ever found their way onto a screen, but let's pretend, shall we? Indulge me in my silliness.

            So here then is my imaginary dream cast for the series.

 

            Lady Bramley - Jennifer Saunders (Nobody else will do. The production may as well not go ahead without her!)

            Emma Chance - Eloise Smyth

            Georgiana Hathaway - Emma Watson

            Melinda Goodheart - Rachel Hurd-Wood

            Capt. Guy Hathaway - Luke Pasqualino

            Commander Sir Henry Thrasher - Theo James

            Heath Caulfield - Kit Harrington

            Mrs. Julia Lightbody - Emily Watson

            Viscount Fairbanks - Benedict Cumberbatch

 

            What do you think of my selections? Who would you choose?
 
JF
 
 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Exclusive Excerpt - The Bounce in the Captain's Boots

Today I'm sharing with you an excerpt from The Bounce in the Captain's Boots. Enjoy!


            The male animal, from all that she had read, was mainly drawn to bright colors and pretty, shiny things— military uniforms would not be so decorative the higher a man climbed in rank otherwise. They liked handsome, fast horses, well-trained dogs and two kinds of women— the unquestioning, unchallenging, undemanding sort with a good dowry, or the lively, daring, adventurous type. Mrs. Lightbody used to say that men married the former and kept the latter for mistresses.

            Since Emma did not fit either category, she was best suited to spinsterhood and a governess post. Lady Bramley, so it seemed, was of the same opinion.

            But Captain Hathaway had danced with her and chattered amiably out of kindness, to put her at her ease, and she would always remember that service with warm gratitude. What she felt was nothing more than that, she reassured herself with a stern sniff and a deep, steadying breath.

            She looked down at the solitary pink pearl she'd managed to capture when the necklace broke. It nestled now in her white-gloved palm, a sad, lost little thing without its many sisters. A quarter of an hour ago, this pearl had been dancing with her, feeling the warmth of her skin and the rapid rhythm of the pulse in her neck. Perhaps the memory still clung to it and would be held forever within that smooth orb.

            "Miss Chance, you ran away from me! How could you abandon me?"

            Jolted out of her reverie, she spun around to find Captain Hathaway striding toward her in a purposeful fashion. She backed up to the table.

            In one gloved hand he held her string of pearls. Mended. He had sought every last one that fell and then strung them back together and fixed the clasp.

            "Had a devil of a time to find 'em all," he said proudly. "Even found a few in the punch. Good thing nobody swallowed any, eh? Turn around then."        

            Emma stared. Behind her back, she closed her fist tightly, hiding the one pearl she had saved. He was so pleased with himself that she didn't want to point out that he hadn't found them all. "I didn't run away from you, Captain. I was taken away."

            "Ah." He gestured, holding up a finger and making a little spinning motion with it. "I'll put it back for you. Where it belongs, eh?"

            Was it proper? What would Lady Bramley say? Would she approve?

            Most certainly not.

            But Emma Chance was not a child any longer. She ought to be allowed to use her own judgment occasionally, for surely that was all part of finding maturity.

            Turning her back to him, she held her breath while he returned the pearls to her throat. She felt his fingertips struggling with the clasp at her nape. Head bowed, her eyes closed, she drank in every precious, forbidden moment until she had quite forgotten there was anybody else in the kitchen. Or the world.

            He swore under his breath.

            "It's no good. The clasp is too dainty. I cannot manage it with these damned gloves."

            Emma opened her eyes and saw the offending articles tossed to the table. In the next moment his bare thumbs brushed her skin. She caught her breath and her sight became foggy so she closed her eyes again. They were lost once more, just the two of them, in a London Particular. This time it had followed them all the way to Surrey.

            An almost unbearable happiness lifted her heart and quickened the beat, as if there were little wings inside it, fluttering frantically to raise the organ up out of her body and take her spirit with it. But was it happiness or something else? She'd never known the like of it.

            Captain Hathaway was clumsy with that tiny clasp. It took him several minutes to secure it, fumbling and cursing softly under his breath— apologizing each time he did so— and then, even when the task was done, his thumbs did not immediately leave her body. Their caress lingered lightly, but daringly, just an inch or so from the top of her spine, tracing it downward and then back to the necklace. His fingers rested shyly on her shoulders. It was no more than the passing shiver of a breeze and yet her entire body was awakened by it, her eyes wide opened again— an involuntary response to his touch. As if she was afraid of missing something in what little time they had left.

            He cleared his throat quite fiercely, as if annoyed with himself. "Well, there we are. All better, Miss Chance?"

            She turned to face him again, the fingers of her left hand checking the pearls and finding them all in order. All but one, of course. "Yes, sir, much better."

            When he swept a fallen curl back from his brow it stood upright in a draft of warm air, like a question mark.

            "Thank you, Captain." She put both hands behind her back again. "It was very good of you to go to such trouble." He was the first man she'd ever seen, who ought to be untidy, she thought with a sudden, unusual burst of passionately illogical contemplation. Guy Hathaway ought to be rumpled and creased and wet with kisses— oh, she'd better stop herself. The drumbeat of her heart was too hard and lusty. She might die here and now from these violent palpitations. Her crumpled corpse would be most embarrassing for Lady Bramley.

            "It was the least I could do."

            Suddenly he raised his hand again, his naked thumb and forefinger gently touching her chin. Lifting it a half inch.

            "Miss Chance, there is something I must do. Hold very still."

            Still? Impossible. She was all a-quiver inside. Could he not see and feel it? It hurt to breathe and yet, at the same time, she trembled with exhilaration. Her heart's beat thumped harder and faster in her ears, a galloping horse obscuring all other sound, racing wildly with no idea of its destination. Simply running joyously and free for as long as it would be allowed. The ground shook under her feet.

            "With your permission," he said. "There is a stray eyelash fallen to your cheek. Might I be trusted to deliver you of the nuisance?"

            "Oh?" Eyelash? Cheek? What things were these? How strange those words sounded suddenly. Foreign and incomprehensible.

            Apparently he took that small sound for permission. He dampened his naked fingertip with a lick of the tongue and then, slowly and carefully, he removed the tiny thing that had troubled him so.

            "There. Now it won't bother you," he murmured, his voice slightly husky.

            She felt her body tipping forward. Tumbling, rather. To right herself she briefly brought her hands, still clenched into fists, to his chest.

            He cupped her elbows to steady her balance, and she heard a little gasp from one of the kitchen maids. Or was it her own?

            "Captain Hathaway, what are you about with Miss Chance? I thought you were looking for your sister?" Alas, Lady Bramley had returned while Emma was lost in his power, unaware of anybody or anything else in the kitchen. Coming to check upon the stain's removal, the lady had found instead another displeasing sight.

            "Well, young man? Did you not mean to search for your sister?" she demanded, coming to stand between the guilty parties.

            "I did, madam, but your nephew said he—"

            "Then kindly leave Miss Chance to me and go...do... anything else. Shoo, young man." She took his gloves from the table and thrust them at him. "You are not needed here."

            He gave a terse bow, spun around and walked out. But at the door he stopped and looked back. Lady Bramley, by then, was bent over Emma's stained frock again, trying to frighten it into behaving itself.

            Over that well-meaning lady's head, Emma caught Captain Hathaway's sly wink and a smile that went right through her flesh to carve itself on her bones.

*****

Want to read more? You can pre-order your copy now here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

TROUSERS ON SALE!

Get your copy of THE TROUBLE WITH HIS LORDSHIP'S TROUSERS now on sale for a limited time and catch up with the Ladies Most Unlikely before the final book in the series is released on the 13th!

BUY HIS LORDSHIP'S TROUSERS ON SALE HERE!

Don't be caught without your trousers!



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Character Showcase - Emma Chance


            Little Emma Chance is a shy bookworm, born a foundling and left, as a newly-weaned babe, in the questionable care of Mrs. Lightbody, the headmistress of a ladies academy in London. Her father is a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous and has never wanted anything to do with her, although he pays a fee for her to remain at the school - a fact she doesn't learn about until she's older.

 * * * *

(Excerpt below from The Bounce in the Captain's Boots)

             Often Emma was the last one to bed and the first to awake, for there were chores to be done and, as the headmistress frequently reminded her, who should do them other than the girl taken in out of charity? The foundling with no family to pay for her board. The bastard child abandoned to Mrs. Lightbody's care when she was a newly weaned babe.

            Her father, so she was told, desired to remain anonymous, never wanted to know her or be known to her.

            "Is it any wonder at that?" Mrs. Lightbody would exclaim. "Look at you. A sorry piece of flotsam with a face as cheerful as the third consecutive wet Wednesday in October!"

            Emma puzzled over how to have a more pleasing face. It seemed to her a matter of family likeness and the degree of happiness in one's life. Since she had no control over either it seemed to her quite unfair that she be blamed for the unsightly state of her features.

            Besides, she rather liked October, especially when it rained.

            But she kept that to herself. Her opinions were as welcomed in that school as unexpected parental visits.

            "I wouldn't want to know you either," the lady continued, "but alas somebody had to take you in and out of the generosity of my heart I gave you a bed under my roof. Now you repay my kindness and forbearance with scowls, snivelings and mutterings, always hovering about in corners like the grim reaper!"

            In truth, Emma was often found in the corner because she was too shy to stand in the light, too afraid of being examined and found, inevitably, wanting. She muttered under her breath because she disliked the sound of her own voice and knew that anything she said would only be criticized and ridiculed. She much preferred to keep her thoughts in the corner too, out of poking reach. And she scowled because on the few occasions she'd been caught smiling, Mrs. Lightbody had wanted to know why she thought she was so special and what could she possibly have to smile at? Or else she would assume the luckless girl to be laughing spitefully at her and then she'd put her heavy, vicious hands around Emma's throat and choke the laughter out of it.

            Frequently Emma considered how fortunate it was that her guardian did not see what truly went on in her mind— all the many colorful and spectacular ways that woman had been murdered by the hands of her wicked charity pupil in a dream universe. Over and over again.

            Well, a girl had to have some entertainment.

            But thankfully Mrs. Lightbody had no idea; she thought this shadowy wisp of a creature was quiet because she was cowed. Not because she plotted dramatic death scenes for her own pleasure.

            So, all things considered, "Chance" went through her life keeping her thoughts to herself and trying not to be noticed at all.

 * * * *

            So, our heroine, Emma Chance has grown up never quite feeling as if she belongs anywhere. Bullied and abused for most of her early life, she was finally befriended by two new pupils at the
school - Georgiana and Melinda - who instantly took her under their wings and to their hearts. Together the three young ladies came to be known by Mrs. Lightbody as "The Ladies Most Unlikely". She saw them only as troublemakers and ingrates, especially after she lost her post at the school and blamed them for the series of events that got her dismissed.

            Mrs. Lightbody means to get her vengeance on those young women and she'll begin with Emma, whom she thinks owes her everything. But the old headmistress has no idea that her charity pupil - once a meek, sickly girl -  has matured into a woman with great inner strength and determination, a woman who is no longer afraid to speak her mind and claim her own happiness in life.

            Emma takes on the world beginning Sept 13th, and you can pre-order The Bounce in the Captain's Boots from AMAZON now!

* * * *

            About the image used above - When looking for a portrait to represent Emma, I had a very hard time finding the right one. I can't help but think she must have been too shy to pose for an artist. And then I found this picture of three young ladies around a tree with a badminton racquet! Amazingly it seems as if my Ladies Most Unlikely were once immortalized by Mr. Charles Edward Perugini in his painting entitled "A Summer Shower". I like to imagine he painted them to commemorate those dreadful events at Lady Bramley's garden party where our series first began. That must be Melinda in the middle with the racquet, Georgiana on her left and, on her right - Emma.


Copyright Jayne Fresina 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

Character Showcase - Captain Guy Hathaway


            The hero in The Bounce in the Captain's Boots, is the eldest son of Mr. Frederick Hathaway- successful businessman, publisher and ambitious status climber. Guy does not share many of his father's views on life, however, and his ambitions have taken him in another direction to the one Mr. Hathaway would have chosen for him.

            At the age of fourteen, Guy left home to join His Majesty's Navy. His father did not approve. Since then it seems as if nothing he does can meet with his father's approval and he is always being compared to Edward, Mr. Hathaway's favorite son. In fact, Guy has long since given up trying to meet any expectations his father might have and has settled in to the post of "disappointing son". Brawls, duels and dangerous women litter his history. With a mischievous sense of humor, a hot temper and a reckless impulse to leap in with both feet, he sails along at a steady clip, determined never to be anchored too long in one place and never risking his heart.

 
           Guy comes home rarely, knowing he's not missed. Since his mother died and his father remarried, moving the family to London in search of more opportunities and to raise their social status, Guy has noted the adverse affect on his father's temper and health. He has seen most of his family grow increasingly unhappy in London and he is glad to stay away. Having no interest in social advancement himself and yearning only for the simpler days of his youth on a Norfolk farm, Guy finds the distance between himself and his father growing ever wider.

            But one day, when on leave and at something of a loose end, Guy is enlisted by Mr. Hathaway for an important task. Guy's sister, Georgiana, has been invited to a ball, along with two of her school friends from the Particular Establishment for the Advantage of Respectable Ladies, and they need an escort. Not a great lover of balls, or giggling young girls, Guy grits his teeth and agrees to provide the service. It's rare for his father to grant him any great responsibility so he feels the pressure to behave himself and be charming on this occasion. Even if he has much on his mind and is far from being in the mood to entertain.

             * * * *

            Guy turned for the next piece of luggage. Thankfully this one was lighter, neater, and tied with a good lock.

            He looked around. "Where is she then?" he exclaimed somewhat impatiently to his sister. "The other one?"

            Again he thought he heard that kittenish squeak. He looked down at his boots, worried he might have stepped on a paw. Georgiana also appeared confused for a moment and then, with a small cry, stepped aside to reveal the faint tracing of a girl in a wilted bonnet. She must have sidled out of the house and lurked behind his sister on the steps.

            "Oh, here she is! This is Miss Emma Chance."

            Parts of her had apparently been lost in the shadows and hidden by his sister's more substantial form, wedged between that and the fence railings which seemed to be holding the lurker upright. It was lucky indeed that she had not fallen through the bars, down the servants' steps and into the coal bunker below.

            Guy had to look twice before she fully emerged into the light as a person of sorts. He bowed. "Miss Chance."

            In reply the girl opened her lips and whispered a very unhappy-sounding, "Lieutenant Hathaway."

            "Not Lieutenant any longer," his sister proudly corrected her friend. "He is now Captain Hathaway."

            Nothing this time. The girl leaned precariously to one side, her eyes downcast. She breathed rather heavily and her fingers wound so tightly around the embroidered purse in her hands that he could almost hear the bones cracking.

            "Is she...alright?" he muttered to his sister. The last thing he needed was one of his charges being ill on their journey. "She's not a swooner, is she? Or somebody who gets sickened by the motion of a carriage? She's white as a ghost."

            "Oh, she's alright, aren't you, Em?" Miss Goodheart cheerily bellowed from inside the carriage. "She just doesn't get out much. I don't suppose she's ever ridden in a private carriage. And she's dreadfully shy."

            In response to this assessment, the poor girl's cheeks flushed scarlet and her gaze remained on the pavement. A single strand of wispy, pale hair fluttered in dejected surrender against the brim of her bonnet.

            "Don't fret, Miss Chance," he said, as brightly as he could, considering his own apathy for the event ahead of them. "You're in safe hands with me." Guy had often been told that he had a talent for putting folk at their ease, a genial ability that buoyed his smile and the spirits of others, even on days when he felt himself sinking.

            But it seemed to have no good affect on this small, droopy creature. "Anyone might think you are on your way to the gallows, not a ball, Miss Chance," he added, teasing amiably. "Surely, all young ladies live for balls?"

            Silence met this remark as both his sister and Miss Goodheart, who now leaned out of the carriage, looked at their pale friend.

            Finally her lips parted and she exhaled a tortured sigh that stretched across the silence like a washing line, her words the limp but carefully spaced, wet shirts and stockings strung upon it. "It's a quarter past the hour of one, and we were meant to leave promptly at noon."

            Suddenly she lost that bony grip on her purse and it fell. Guy's instincts were swift enough to save it in mid-air, but when he held it out to her, she wouldn't take it. In fact, she moved a timid step backward, tripping over an uneven crack in the pavement, leaving his sister to snatch the purse and pass it to her friend.

            "It's my fault, Em," Georgiana explained. "My brother did try to drag me away, but I was in the midst of writing."

            The wisp of a girl now seemed preoccupied with the cracks by her feet, looking down at them as if they might suddenly expand and leave her nothing upon which to stand.

            "Well, let's advance, shall we?" Guy said, forcing another smile. "Since, as Miss Chance pointed out, we're already late."

            When he put out his hand to help the trembling girl up into the carriage, she finally moved forward, stepping carefully to avoid the cracks. Her touch was so light, her fingers resting so briefly against his knuckles that he barely felt the pressure and had to look twice to make certain she had not actually taken flight back inside the house. But no, there she was, as far from him as she could put herself, and seated on Miss Goodheart's left side. Apparently on the verge of tears, she squeezed her knees together, bowed her head, and held her shoulders in a rigid fashion, as if she feared taking up too  much room. The material of her spencer actually appeared to match the seat cover, making her disappear further into the upholstery.

            "I was about to suggest that you sit facing the horses, Miss Chance, and lessen the possibility of feeling nauseated. But I see you thought of that for yourself already." He smiled. "If you need air, open the — ah, I see you already opened the sash window too."

            She merely looked puzzled by his attempts to make her comfortable. Two wide eyes, the color of faded ink, peered out from the shadow of her coal-scuttle bonnet.

            His sister poked him in the side. "Don't startle Miss Chance."

            How the devil could he be accused of that?

            "Stop staring at her," she whispered harshly.

            The subject of Georgiana's remark turned her limp head away and shrank another few inches into her corner.

            "I can assure you I am not staring at Miss Chance," he whispered, the words squeezed out between teeth still gritted in a smile. "There is nothing whatsoever to stare at." His sister stepped up into the carriage, and he followed, muttering. "Let's hope the journey is short."

* * * *

But Guy and Emma's adventure has only just begun and you can join the journey on September 13th with the release of The Bounce in the Captain's Boots - the third and final installment in the Ladies Most Unlikely series.

See you then!
 
copyright Jayne Fresina 2017
 
(image used above is a self-portrait by Leon Cogniet 1818)