Mandy's Musings

Mandy's Musings

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Little Things

I know the new IKEA advert is quite sentimental, but the tag line stuck in my head. It is something along the lines of - enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will realise that they were the big things. Now, this won't make me rush out and buy IKEA products, but it has encouraged me to think more about the little things. 




My five-year-old grandson picked these for me today as we walked from his school. As we threaded through the crowds of children, he kept stopping and picking them from the verge even though his friends were around. His little face showed love and pride as he presented me with the tiny bouquet. He said, 'These are for you, Mimi.' 

As you can imagine, I found I'd a lump in my throat. Not because he'd picked me daisy's, buttercups and a dandelion, but because he was totally oblivious to the social pressures that some of the older children in his school would be aware of. In a few years time, it will be uncool for him to pick his Mimi flowers, or to do or say lots of other wonderful sweet and innocent things that he amazes me with on a daily basis.

So I will treasure these flowers in their egg cup vase, because they are a symbol of the little things in life being the big things ... in fact, I'd say that they are bloody huge things.






Monday, 2 May 2016

Three Extracts

Well it's May and the last post on here was February - I know, scandalous! So I thought you might like a look at three extracts from my latest works.

First up, Summer in Tintagel - out on the 14th of July, Cast Away Stones, finished a few months ago, and The Calico Cat finished just last week!

I am a bit of a writing machine at the mo, though I think I will have a rest now. The extracts are all very different from each other. I hope you like them! Oh, and if any talent scouts or Hollywood producers fancy getting in touch, just form an orderly queue...




Rosa kneels on the lawn. It is summer, but the grass is damp under her bare legs and she wishes that she had taken the picnic rug that Mummy had tried to give her just now. Mummy said that she was wilful and she’d have to learn by her own mistakes. Rosa wonders what wilful means as she pours water from the plastic teapot into a tiny cup and places it in front of Barney, her oldest teddy bear. Wilful is perhaps the same as stubborn. Daddy often says she is stubborn.
            ‘Would you like tea too, Miss Jemima Puddleduck?’
A stuffed green and brown duck looks at her from its one glassy eye, but says nothing. Rosa nods. ‘Yes, of course you would. You can have a biscuit too.’
            Rosa puts cups in front of all her toys and looks back across the long expanse of grass towards her house. The sun hides itself behind a cloud, but that isn’t the reason she has goosebumps forming along her arms. She feels her heartbeat quicken and she tightens her grip on a biscuit. It crumbles and leaves as sticky smear of chocolate on her fingers. Rosa licks the chocolate, but her stomach rolls and she tries to blot out a voice in her head. Daddy will be angry, very angry.
            A scream pierces the silent afternoon. It comes from the house and it sounds like her mother. Rosa leans her back against a tree and draws her knees up under her chin. She looks at a grass stain on her white sock and her whole body begins to shake. A siren wails up the valley and she knows that something bad has happened. Very bad.
            She has been under the tree what feels like a long time, but then she sees Daddy burst from the house as if he has been fired like a bullet from a gun. His hair is messy and he runs his hands through it with wild jerky movements. Daddy’s tie is pulled to the side and he doesn’t look at all neat. Being neat is something he is very proud of. Rosa tries to make herself small, but he has seen her and runs towards her ... fast.
            Daddy kneels beside her and puts his big hands on her shoulders. He shakes her roughly. ‘This is all you fault! Dabbling in evil always ends in disaster, do you hear me?’
            ‘I ... I ... haven’t done anything ...’
            ‘Don’t lie! All this mumbo jumbo about ghostly old ladies appearing in my house and warning you about ...’ Daddy’s face looks like a Halloween mask and his mouth twists down at the corners.  ‘Never mind. You are going to your room and staying there for the rest of the day!’
            Rosa’s arm hurts where Daddy is squeezing it as he drags her back to the house. Her eyes fill, but she won’t let him see. She is glad she is going to her room, because she doesn’t want to know exactly what has happened; the bad thing that has made Daddy so angry. Rosa has a good idea already and this makes her so sad that she can hardly breathe...

CAST AWAY STONES


Sunday morning in our street looked the same as it did on every other day except that privet hedges looked less green, the windows hid behind curtains, flowers in gardens seemed a little more faded and the garden gnomes looked hung-over. It was though the week had been so hard to deal with that the collective energy of houses, humans, plants and gnomes alike had been reduced to emergency levels only. Today being the first of August and the third of a heat wave added an extra layer of apathy and inertia, unbroken even by the tolling of St Bartholomew’s bell calling all parishioners, willing or reluctant to morning service.
            Adelaide closed our front door behind her and hurried down the path towards me. 
‘Right, I’m off to church and I have just popped the roast in so it will be well on the way when I get back.’ She cocked her head birdlike to one side and looked me up and down. ‘Now, don’t worry about anything while you’re away. I’ll look after your dad. This is your time, go for it, as you young ones say.’ Her lips twitched at the corners and then lifted for at least two seconds.
            There was an unexpected lump of emotion growing in my throat, and before I could talk myself out of it, I stepped forward and put my arms around her. She felt solid and dependable and I wondered what I’d do without her. Adelaide said something that sounded like, ‘Awumha’ and patted my back a little too hard.
            ‘I can’t begin to thank you for everything you’ve done lately, Adelaide,’ I said looking away from her moist eyes, in case mine tried to copy them.
Adelaide flapped her hand and looked into the boot of my car. ‘Nonsense, I did what any good neighbour worth her salt would have done.’ She eyed the iron and frowned.
‘We both know that’s not true,’ I said, closing the boot and leaning my hip against it. ‘You made me realise it was time to cast away stones and that was the most important thing ever.’
Her mouth twitched again and she nodded. ‘Good. I’m glad. And now I’d better pop off or I’ll be late. Safe journey.’ She touched my cheek lightly and then I watched her small figure hurry away down the street. As she passed each house, it seemed to me that the privet hedges and flowers regained their colour, the windows threw back their curtains and the garden gnomes stood to attention and saluted her. Okay, perhaps the last bit was taking things too far...
                                                
                                              THE CALICO CAT


My sketch pad is at the ready for those wildflowers, and maybe even a dolphin if we get up early enough on this holiday. Sunrise, dolphins and ocean, who could want for more? I hug Algernon to my chest and inhale the scent of wildflowers, ozone and banana and exhale a heart-swell of peace, calm and happiness.
Happiness is funny isn’t it? Elusive for some, taken for granted by others and unrecognised by many. We are encouraged to think that happiness comes wrapped around a new car, house, various expensive this that or the others, or maybe it is hidden in the in arms of a lover – the Mr or Miss Right that we all must find.
This soulmate has to be everything we dreamed they would be, or if they are not, we pretend that they are and hide our disappointment. To go through life without our ‘other halves’ is to show the world that we have failed, that there’s something wrong with us. Then, once we have found our soulmate and amassed our expensive this that and the others, we need to make sure our success is passed on to future generations.  Children are the cherry on the cake, the completion of our world - our happiness.
I worry that while many are in (often futile) pursuit of the all above, they might miss the delicate and wondrous beauty of a wildflower, a butterfly, the scent of the sea, a sun warmed stone, the feel of wet sand under bare feet, the taste of fresh baked bread. Does that make me sound pompous? Self satisfied? I think it might, but I don’t mean it to.
I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, and I know I am very lucky not to have to worry about the practical day-to-day, but I wish people would take their gaze from the monolith of ‘happiness’ more often, slow its relentless build, and instead, truly appreciate the daisy growing through the crack in its brickwork...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Summer in Tintagel out in July!

This is the cover reveal of Summer in Tintagel! Isn't it fab!! I'm so excited and can't wait to see it in the flesh. Here's the blurb:

We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret - in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms. Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why.

Rosa is reluctant - she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go.

Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory...
Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?


You can see my author page and more about Urbane Publications here. I'll keep you posted!!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Win a Signed Copy of Cross Stitch!

To celebrate the paperback publication of Cross Stitch, sequel to A Stitch in Time, I thought I'd run a little competition :)

All you have to do is answer a simple question about A Stitch in Time, AND tell me, if time travel was really possible, (which it is of course ) which time period in history would you travel to and why?

Now for the question - What occupation does Sarah have in A Stitch in Time?

Leave your name and answers as a comment on this blog. If for some reason you can't comment,send your answers in an email to - mandykjames@hotmail.co.uk

I will announce the winner on Saturday 7th of November, which is the official publication day for Cross Stitch! Your copy is here in this box, just waiting for a home,...

Good luck!



Saturday, 16 May 2015

How Many Words Did You Write Today?

At the beginning of the week I decided that I would write a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. I used to write at least twice that and sometimes more, but hell and high water have featured more than I would like in my life lately, so I thought I'd cut myself some slack. Now, when I say hell and high water, I don't want you to worry. I don't have a life-threatening illness or anything like that, just lots of little things keep going wrong and some big ones too. Things to do with my aged parents, problems with material things we own such as our old car, disappointment regarding finding a home for my latest book, that kind of thing. Anyway, things conspired against my thousand words a day and so I managed only three and a bit ( thousand of course, not single words) since Monday.

This morning I decided I would do those thousand words, but so far have only managed one hundred and thirty-one, but I have decided it doesn't matter. They are the first words of chapter six and I think they are pretty good words. I expect they might get swapped around, deleted or changed in some way, but I am happy with them. Isn't that what matters? Surely to have a few words that you are happy with is better than having lots of words that are just okay. Anyway, I thought I would share my one hundred and thirty-one words with you. Hope you like them too.

July dawns were like notes of hope. They reminded the days to be bright, fresh and summery.

 Sometimes the days forgot to read the notes, or preferred to sit under rainclouds or hemmed in by thick walls of pollution. But sometimes they paid attention. Today was a note reading day. I watched from my window as the muted dawn-light revealed the purple shadows and sages of the garden as a base coat, while gradually adding the bolder brushstrokes of sunlight to transform the canvas into a kaleidoscope of dazzling colour. In corner barrels, lupins boasted pink and blue, in hanging baskets, yellow primroses glowed under the blush of red geraniums, and in the foreground, the huge white rose bush Mum had loved presented a myriad of dew-covered buds, pregnant with fragrance.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Mandy’s Lovely Blog Hop

My fellow writer and friend,  Liv Thomas tagged me in – My Lovely Blog Hop – to talk about some of the things that have shaped my life and writing.  It is a great way to discover new blogs too.

First memory

I have a few, but one that is most vivid is a holiday in Cornwall when I was four. We stayed in Looe, in a rickety old chalet on top of a cliff and my older brother Martin and I would run down a sandy path to play on the beach every day. When it was time for breakfast, Mum would wave a red towel from the window and we’d run back up. I thought that was very exciting. On the same holiday we walked around the harbour and saw sharks hanging on hooks by a fishing boat. There was a sign saying – Please do not touch the sharks as their skin is rough, or something like that anyway. I decided I’d test that theory and grazed my finger.  There was something about Cornwall that thrilled me even at the age of four and it stayed with me ever since. I live there now.

Books

Like many people of my age I grew up with Enid Blyton. Not literally of course. She was much older than me and came from a different background. But I did read all her  Famous Five books and the Malory Towers ones. They were set in a boarding school for girls in Cornwall. Perhaps these books reinforced my love of Cornwall. My brother bought me a copy of The Lord of The Rings when I was thirteen and I devoured it. I was totally swept away in the adventure and derring-do. I can’t remember if I read The Hobbit first, I think I did, and later I tried The Silmarillion but was defeated a few chapters in. Perhaps I should try it again now I’m a bit older. As a young adult I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Koontz remains one of my favourite authors and he’s a lovely man too. He actually found the time to answer my letters when I wrote to tell him he’d inspired me to have a go at writing my own novel. This man has sold over 450 million books, but he still found the time to write to me in his own handwriting.  I treasure those letters.

Libraries

I love the smell of a library and the little cardboard tickets. I know they don’t have little cardboard tickets nowadays, but when I was a kid they did. I always felt calm browsing the rows of books and saw it as a place to relax and take my time. When I was a student the library was a necessity really rather than a place of relaxation, as there always seemed to be a deadline to meet, and latterly I haven’t really used the library. I know. That is really bad and I must get it sorted. Libraries are treasure troves and must be protected.

What’s your passion?

Writing and walking by the sea on the cliff paths around the Cornish coast. I get lots of writing ideas when I’m by the ocean.



Learning

I left school at 16 and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I hated school mostly apart from the social side of things. I didn’t like being told what to do and when to do it – still don’t. The only subjects I liked were English and History. The teachers of those subjects were great, which of course made all the difference to my enjoyment of the lessons. I left school with a Grade 1 CSE in both of these subjects – the equivalent of a C at GCSE nowadays. The rest of my grades were pitiful. I wanted to be a hairdresser until I actually became one. Enough said about that the better. I then worked in a factory until I got married at the age of 18 and had my daughter aged 19. Life has a funny way of turning full circle though and by the time I was 30 I was back at school – this time as a teacher. It would take too long to explain how I came to do A’ levels, a degree and a PGCE, but I did and ended up teaching history for 17 years.

Writing

When I was eight I asked my parents if I could have a petite typewriter for Christmas. Once I got it I never looked back. I wrote poems, songs and short stories which I would read to friends and family. They said they enjoyed them ... I never stopped writing after that. All time I was teaching a little flame of hope flickered at the back of my mind that I would write on day. I never really believed I would be published though. It was still a massive achievement for me to have become a teacher, let alone a writer. I wrote my first novel in 2001 and I eventually had a novel published in 2012. I now have five novels published and a further four waiting in the wings.


I hope you enjoyed reading this blog hop as much as I did writing it, and now I pass the baton on to my friend and writer KellyFlorentia. She will post her blog on Wednesday 8th April.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sharon Goodwin Writes a Fantastic Review for Cross Stitch!

I would like to thank Sharon Goodwin for her brilliant review of my second time travel book - Cross Stitch. Sharon reviews so many authors and I am honoured to have such high praise for my novel. Her wonderful blog can be found here. The review is below. At the end are links to both Cross Stitch and A Stitch in Time :)

Cross Stitch is the sequel to A Stitch in Time  and while there is some backstory in Cross Stitch, to experience the uniqueness of the plot I would recommend you also read A Stitch in Time.

Usually receiving a warning before travelling in time, on her wedding day Sarah receives no warning at all.  This isn’t the only thing that is different (but I can’t say why – no spoilers!).

While those at home are very concerned, Sarah has travelled back to 1939 and Veronica Roth. 

Veronica plays a key part in the story.  I really enjoyed her character development … we see her grow from lack of confidence and fear into quite a spectacular woman.  Telling lies to get into the school where Sarah teaches results in mayhem in the classroom … and this isn’t the only chaos she causes in Sarah’s life!

One of the choices that Sarah makes causes John to be angry (yes easy going John can be a monster when he’s fighting for what he believes in) and their relationship hits a rocky time.  I agreed with both their opposing views so wouldn’t have made a good mediator, unlike John’s dad Harry.

It’s not only their relationship under the spotlight in Cross Stitch, two more important people share a surprise too.  The banter had me grinning.

There’s intrigue with John’s sister Lucy and her husband Corbin.  I loved how this fitted in with the plot.

Totally involved with this story, I read it quickly - I couldn’t wait to see where Sarah would go next, the purpose of her being there or even if she would come back. 

I loved the idea of the ‘Cross Stitch’ and how unpredictable time travel was (and the reason behind it!).  It’s hard to write a review where you really want to share something but you know that if you do, you’ll give a spoiler …

Tension from the challenges faced on the time travel journeys, friendship, family and romance have made this a totally absorbing read for me.

Highly recommended if you like your romances with something different!
 
Amanda James, you are a genius :)




I would like to thank the publishers for providing a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.