Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tin Hinan, the Tuareg Queen

My historical romance THE LION'S EMBRACE, which was published by Áccent Press last August, is mostly set in North Africa in 1845. The heroine, Harriet Montague, hires scout Lucas Saintclair to rescue her father, an archaeologist who she believes has been taken hostage in the far South of Algeria. Harriet's father, Oscar Montague, was on the trail of the legendary Garamantes' emerald mines when he discovered the tomb of Tuareg queen Tin Hinan.

I absolutely loved researching the many legends and tales associated with this mysterious queen who is said to have founded the Tuaregs.

Tin Hinan, the queen the Tuaregs still call ‘Our Mother’, is rumoured to have come from the country which would now be Morocco with her maid servant Takamat. They settled at Abalessa, an oasis in Southern Algeria, and their daughters are rumoured to be the founders of all the Tuareg tribes. Her tomb was discovered by archaeologist and adventurer Byron Khun de Prorok (what a name!) in 1925.

In ‘The Lion’s Embrace’, I have used my 'artistic licence' in that Oscar Montague discovers the tomb in 1845 but it is then closed up and left untouched.

However, I kept all the details of the artefacts, of the gold, silver jewellery, precious and semi-precious stones which were found as accurate as possible and stuck very closely to the description of the remains of the Tuareg queen.

When her burial chamber was opened, archaeologists found the queen lying on a bed of hand-carved wood, facing toward the East. She was wrapped in a leather shroud, and wore fifteen solid silver and gold bracelets, a diadem made of emeralds, ostrich feathers and a long cornelian necklace.

In the days before carbon dating, it was the imprint of a coin with the effigy of Emperor Constantine on a sculptured bowl which enabled historians to date the tomb from the 4th century AD. The body of Queen Tin Hinan as well as all the artefacts found in her tomb are now in the Bardo Museum in Algiers.

From the top of the tomb, one can see the beautiful, mysterious Hoggar mountain range, particularly the great Koudia – which the Tuareg have named the ‘Roof of the Sahara’, and where according to local legends, the King of the Djins (the King of the Evil Spirits) lives. One can see the iconic Mount Illiman too.

Even before her tomb was discovered, the numerous legends surrounding Queen Tin Hinan inspired Pierre Benoit to write his classic novel ‘Atlantide’, published in 1919. His heroin, Antinea, and her followers are descendants of the people of ‘Atlantis’ who had taken refuge in the Hoggar after a great disaster destroyed their world. Antinea lives in a palace hidden in the mountains, where she seduced and entrapped lost explorers to the Sahara.

Recently there has been some controversy about the identify of the woman who was buried at Abalessa, with some historians now disputing that the remains belonged to Tin Hinan at all!

Whoever was buried there however was a woman of immense prestige and immense wealth.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Guest Blog by Jenny Kane - Christmas at the Castle: Festive Literary Festival Fun!

Today, I am delighted to welcome multi-talented author Jenny Kane whose latest release, CHRISTMAS AT THE CASTLE, is published by Accent Press.

Hello Jenny and welcome. I was very interested in your post about the Tiverton Literary Festival, all the more than I am shortly to take part in a literary festival with Helena Fairfax and Melinda Hammond in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 21th November.

By the way, I love the cover of your novel!

Last June I took part in one of the most stressful experiences ever devised to part writer-kind from his or her wits. I helped to run a literary festival- the first ever Tiverton Literary Festival. I have long suspected I'm a bit crackers- but taking on an organisational role on a festival committee that only consisted of three people, was the final proof of my insanity.

Furthermore- despite the worry, the sleepless nights, the panic, the very real fear that no one would turn up to hear our wonderful authors speak- I loved it. I loved every single terrifyingly panic making minute of it. I guess it's the timid writer person's equivalent to riding a rollercoaster.

I gained a great deal from my experience as a literary festival organiser, rather than as a literary festival guest, and I certainly confirmed my theory that everything we do in life has a story attached. Every day in Tiverton during the three month run up to last June’s Literary Festival, threw up a new 'incident' that had a storyline running right through it!

What a waste it would have been not to use some of these 'incidents' in my next book? It would have been a crime! And so, for this Christmas's 'Another Cup of...' series novella, I have taken the character of Kit Lambert out of the comfort of Pickwicks Coffee Shop in Richmond, London, and sent her off to a literary festival, not in Devon, but in the beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland.


Christmas at the Castle is a seasonal treat from Jenny Kane, featuring much-loved characters from her bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.
When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.
Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.
Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed...

I chose to set my fictional literary festival in the Deeside area of Scotland because it is one of my favourite places in the country. It was while I lived in the village of Banchory, only three miles from Crathes castle, that I began my career as a writer 11 years ago. I remember thinking at the time, that the castle would be an excellent place for a literary festival...

...Hoisting up a large box of Christmas decorations, Cameron headed off to find a couple of gardeners, and a very long ladder. It was time to start getting the Victorian-style lanterns draped around the formal garden.

Alice swore under her breath. She wasn’t used to being denied what she wanted during business transactions. She’d worn an extra-short skirt as well. OK, so she knew that flashing a bit of leg in such a cold climate made her request look a bit desperate, but she was still surprised when the local bookshop owner had said no.

Honestly! All she was asking was that he’d buy a selection of books written by all the authors coming to the festival. She wasn’t offering him any financial help, but obviously all the sales money would be his, and she wasn’t going to charge him for the stand at the castle she was proposing he sold his stock from. She was doing him a huge favour, and the chance to boost his Christmas sales. What was wrong with the man? All the city bookshops made this system work.

Turning her Suzuki off-roader into the drive that wound its way up to Crathes Castle, Alice’s satisfied smile returned as she reflected how her flirty magic had worked so much better on the local catering companies and wine merchants. Letting her have goods on sale or return in exchange for sponsorship meant she had a boot full of champagne, red and white wine, and enough ingredients for mulled wine to keep everyone tipsy until July.

Pulling into the staff car park, Alice was surveying the immediate grounds for any willing helpers to carry the crates of alcohol into the storeroom for her, when Cameron came out of the castle’s side door, his arms wrapped around a giant cardboard box.

Lucky box. Alice couldn’t prevent the flutter of lust that rose within her. It was always the same whenever she saw Cameron, with his thick, muscular arms on display to the elbows, his tightly curled ginger hair cropped back army style, and his sturdy frame so strong and capable. She fancied him something rotten, and more – much more – but the fact he wanted more from her as well frightened her to death. And as being afraid was a sign of weakness, and powerful businesswomen did not have time for weakness in their lives, Alice had kept her feelings a secret and walked away.

She was fairly sure she’d broken his heart, but Cameron had never actually said so, and she certainly wasn’t going to act on her lust-fuelled imagination and ask him outright. Anyway, she’d broken her own heart as well, even though he didn’t know that.

Picking up a box of wine, Alice called across the empty car park, ‘Cameron, where do you want the festival booze? Any handy chaps around to help me unload the Jeep?’

Whirling around, Cameron crashed the side of the lanterns box against the solid wooden door that he’d been in process of swinging shut behind him. ‘Damn it, woman, you made me jump.’

‘Sorry. It’s just these are heavy.’ Alice fluttered her eyebrows at him, unable to stop herself from flirting in the line of duty.

‘And I suppose you think this box is feather-light!’ Cameron tried not to glance at Alice’s long, bare legs or ask if she was freezing as he put down his own box and took hers. ‘Over here. I’ve cleared a space in the store of the Horsemill, seeing as that’s where the festival will be mostly taking place.’

Managing to make the words ‘Sounds sensible’ sound like ‘Thank you,’ Alice picked up another box and followed Cameron into the round stone building where once horses had walked in never-ending circles, turning the millstones that had crushed oats. Now the building housed a restaurant and seminar facility. It was the perfect place for a book festival, and once the staff had finished decorating it with traditional garlands and trees from the wood, it would be the very essence of a Scottish Christmas.

Desperate to break the silence that hung between them, Cameron asked how the festival preparations were going.

‘Great. There’s one or two problems to overcome, but there always are with events like this.’

‘Have we sold many tickets?’

‘Not yet. I find it’s always last-minute with bookish things.’

Sensing evasion, Cameron risked his blood pressure increasing and studied Alice properly, ‘My future depends on this Alice. How many tickets, roughly, have been sold for each event?’

‘Approximately none at all.’


‘Keep your kilt on, Cameron. We have ages yet.’ Alice mentally crossed her fingers against the lie she was telling. ‘Literary festivals are always last minute.’

Cameron’s forehead knotted attractively as he stared down at Alice’s shorter frame, his Scottish burr sounding gruff as he asked, ‘and the other problems?’

‘Local bookshop owner is being difficult and my right-hand girl has walked out on me.’

Opening a vast cooling cupboard in which to place the champagne, Cameron said, ‘I can’t imagine John at the bookshop being difficult?’

‘He doesn’t run it any more. John passed it on to his nephew. Believe me, he is a very different kettle of fish.’

Cameron grunted, ‘You mean he wants to make a profit and not a loss?’ Not giving Alice the chance to reply, he went on, ‘So you’ve upset the new bookshop guy. Nice going, Ms Warren...’


If that mini extract has whetted your appetite, you can buy Christmas at the Castle from -

Although this is the fourth book in the Another Cup of series, Christmas at the Castle can be read as a standalone story.

Many thanks,
Jenny xx

Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014). Jenny’s fourth full length romance novel, Another Glass of Champagne, will be published in 2016.
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Coming soon from Hushpuppy)
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at for more details.
Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor
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Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee.