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Thursday 27 October 2016

A SPIRITED BIRTHDAY - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson, to celebrate the first birthday of her amazing debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.  I had the great pleasure of working with Jen as editor of this amazing story (not that it needed very much editing!) - and I can honestly say that anyone who has not read this book has missed a rare treat.  You will have the opportunity to remedy this omission later, but for now, over to you, Jen!

Hi Sue, and thanks for inviting me onto your blog today. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, I was getting things ready for the online launch of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, as well as looking forward to celebrating with a couple of drinks later that evening.

So, it’s happy first birthday to Kindred Spirits! There may be fizz. Actually, I’ve got the day off – there will be fizz, and a much-deserved lunch out in town.

Given that it started life as a fourteen-line poem, and an appalling one at that, it’s definitely a milestone worth noting. The idea that Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have got along really stuck with me, despite the ‘wonderful’ lines:

“Richard and Anne, aligned in their fate, 
destroyed by Tudors, Henrys seven and eight.”

Truly awful, and never even entered into the competition it was written for, but when NaNoWriMo came around, it was just the spark I needed. These last eighteen months has been full of anniversaries thanks to that one little spark. A year since I sent my synopsis and three chapters off to Crooked Cat Publishing. A year since they asked for the full novel (and a frantic read-through to check for massive errors which somehow crept through the edits!). Then the magical one – a year since it was accepted for publication. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited – I remember reading the email again and again, in case there was some hidden double-negative I was missing…

Then came the learning curve. Being my debut novel, I had no clue about how anything worked, so there were the comments from my editor and from the publisher (thanks Sue and Steph!), and researching images for Crooked Cat to use for the front cover (which I can praise to the hilt, given that my only input after said viewing of images was to remove the ‘:’ from the title). Which leads us back to that launch party. I must have looked so anti-social, sitting playing on my phone whilst my parents took me to lunch, but happily, they understood, and the competitions, ‘food’ and ‘drink’ I put on seemed to go down well enough.

The evening was perfect too – being so close to Halloween, the bar area I’d reserved was covered in fake cobwebs and ghostly hangings. I may have pinched a spider-ring as a memento (and subsequently had to put it in a bag labelled ‘spider ring’, so that I don’t find it an accidentally scream blue murder!).

It was a great day, and a feeling I could definitely get used to, so to celebrate Kindred Spirits’ first birthday, the e-book is currently reduced to just 99 p/c, until Halloween – it is a ghost story, after all!

I hope you enjoy it!

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and since graduating has worked as a marine environmental consultant. 

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Amazon link:

Saturday 8 October 2016


Once again, we've reached the time of year when our hedgerows yield a rich harvest of blackberries.  During a country walk a few days ago, we collected enough to make a small quantity of what must surely be one of our favourite preserves: blackberry jelly.  If you fancy having a go at making your own, this is how I do it.

As with my marmalade recipe, I make the jelly in the microwave.  I'm using blackberries here, but the process is the same for any sort of soft fruit.  The timings are based on a 700W microwave oven, and all settings are HIGH throughout.  As a rough guide, each 2lb (approx 1 kilo) of fruit produces four jars of jelly.  

First of all, rinse the fruit, weigh it, and put it into a preserving pan or large saucepan.  

To each 2lb of fruit add one pint of water.  Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring and crushing the fruit with a wooden spoon.  Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes until it reduces to a pulp.  Put the pulp into a jelly bag and leave it suspended over a bowl to allow the juice to filter through.  This normally takes 1-2 hours (or you can leave it overnight if you prefer).  Please resist the temptation to squeeze the bag to speed up the process - this will result in your jelly being cloudy.  Instead, take advantage of the break to do something different. Such as read one of my novels (click on the book covers on the right to find out more about them).

When the bag has stopped dripping, discard the pulp and measure the quantity of the juice which has collected in the bowl.  For each pint of liquid allow one kilo of jam sugar. Please note: ORDINARY SUGAR WON'T DO.  Jam sugar contains extra pectin, which means that your jelly will set with much less boiling and much less effort.

(Other brands of jam sugar are available)

Put the juice into a LARGE microwave-safe bowl.  The bowl needs to be no more than one-third full when cold, because the jelly will expand quite furiously as it boils.  If you have ended up with a lot of juice, you may find that you'll need to make the jelly in more than one batch.

Add one third of the sugar, stir well, then microwave for ten minutes.  Add the remaining sugar, stir well, then microwave for another ten minutes.  Stir again, then microwave for five minutes.  Stir again, then test the jelly by dipping a fork into it.  

If the jelly clings to the space between the prongs, it is ready.  If not, microwave again for another two minutes then test again.  Repeat as necessary.  Don't be deceived by the fact that at this stage the stuff will still look very runny - trust me, it will set as it cools. Do not overboil the jelly or it will set like concrete, and you won't be able to do anything with it except possibly give it to someone you don't like very much.

Put the jelly into clean jars and label them.  Throw the bowl and all the other odds and ends into the dishwasher, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and finish reading my novel.

Oh - and don't forget to spread the stuff on your toast in the morning.