Mandy's Musings

Mandy's Musings

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The First Three Chapters...

I am offering an assessment and advice service to writers for the first three chapters of their work. As any writer knows, the first three chapters need to make a big impact and grab the attention of publishers or agents if the work is to stand a chance. Over the last few years I have been helping people privately, but now have decided to open my advice to any writer who feels they might need a bit of help. I am a published writer and also have been a teacher for seventeen years. There will be a small charge. If you are interested, drop me an email  -  mandykjames@hotmail.co.uk and we'll go from there.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

At Last I Have Moved to Cornwall!

Well, we only went and did it! After years of talking about moving to the wonderful county of Cornwall, we are here. Not just my husband and I, (gawd I sound like the queen), but our daughter and family and soon, my parents (both in their mid 80s ) will hopefully make the journey from Bristol too.

I first came here when I was four - about 40 years ago (okay and the rest) and we stayed in Looe. I have vivid memories of running down a very steep hill from our little chalet on the cliff to the beach with my brother every day. When it was time for breakfast, mum would hang a red towel out of the window and we would go back. I also remember walking along a quayside - not sure which one now, and seeing a row of sharks hanging on hooks. There was a big sign saying words to the effect of,  'Do Not Touch The Sharks -Skin Abrasive. So, what did I do? Yes, and I grazed my finger.



Over the years I have returned on numerous occasions. I just seemed to feel at home  in Cornwall and adored the Atlantic north coast in particular. It is more rugged, wild and  - breathtakingly beautiful of course. I do love Falmouth though, especially pootling around the shops there. I feel so lucky now as I never really thought that I would live near the ocean here, despite my endless dreaming.



Newquay





Falmouth High Street

We are about six miles in from Newquay and can just see the sea across the fields out of the bedroom window.




Okay, yes, I would have liked to have bought an old cottage overlooking the ocean, but wouldn't everyone? Our new house is exactly that - brand new. It is small, but perfectly formed and it is beginning to feel more like home with every passing week. There are a few drawbacks, like every time we want to go anywhere we get stuck behind a tractor or a tanker, and the shops we took for granted back in Bristol are at least twenty minutes away, but I think I can put up with that!

The internet took an age to set up , but that was the fault of BT not the signal! Four weeks without it nearly killed me (slight exaggeration), no Twitter or Facebook meant I felt totally out of it. But every cloud has a silver lining, because I used my enforced exile from the outside world to finish my sequel to A Stitch in Time. My next novel, Somewhere Beyond The Sea is out in April and set in the fictional Cornish town of Kellerston. It's weird to think that I was still dreaming of moving when I finished it back in April, and we managed to achieve it by August.



I am sure that this inspirational place will provide more ideas for future books. My next purchase will be a new notebook to take to my favourite beach (Mawgan Porth 15 mins away) just in case I get a new idea or two.

Mawgan Porth


I do realise I am so lucky to be living where I feel most at home, but my recent experience of trying to get published has taught me some valuable lessons. If you believe in yourself and really want something to happen - work bloody hard for it, be determined, never give up... and now and again, it does.





Sunday, 28 July 2013

Somewhere Beyond The Sea

I am beyond thrilled with the beautiful new cover for my new book out next April. It encapsulates the dark mysterious nature of the plot and as many who have seen it have already said, very evocative, and extremely eye-catching!



































I was completely bowled over by my first cover with Choc Lit Publishing, but I have to say that this is another triumph! I have printed it out and put it on the fridge so I can drool over it every time I open the door. Because of the beautiful artwork I have opened the door more often than usual. So if I have over indulged on the chocolate or other goodies, then the cover is to blame. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

So, next April I will be able to hold it in my hands and caress it's gorgeous surface. What do you mean I have a problem? lol. I am sure you will want to do the same.  But if you can't wait until then and haven't read my first novel with Choc Lit, here it is. Just click on the link. A Stitch in Time It is a romantic time travelling tale, full of adventure and heart-stopping trips back to the past.

Right, now I think it's time to visit the fridge again and have another loving look at my new cover...




Friday, 21 June 2013

A Great Month For A Stitch in Time

Regarding the summer weather, June has been a wash out up until the last few days. But for A Stitch in Time it has been amazing! It has been on the Amazon 99p Kindle promo since the beginning of the month and very quickly went to #1 in Time Travel and it is still there! It fluctuates between #2-#3 in Fantasy Futuristic and Ghost, and anywhere between the top 30 and top 50 in Contemporary Romance.



Also this month three people have kindly taken photos of the paperback in airports for me. I have yet to see it on the shelf there as I sadly don't frequent airports nowadays, but it was still a huge thrill to see photos! It's great to think that people buy my book on their way to sunny far flung destinations to read on the plane or the beach. It is something I had only dreamed about in the past.

So a huge thank you to anyone who has bought or helped promote my book on Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. It is SO very much appreciated! Right....back to the sequel :)


Monday, 22 April 2013

Saturday Surgery with Dr Phil Hammond

I had such a great time at BBC Radio Bristol last Saturday. I was the 'dinner guest' and had an hour long chat with Dr Phil Hammond who made me feel very welcome and is such a lovely man too.

We talked about my book A Stitch in Time and the four guests who I would invite to dinner. If you would like to find out who came to our dinner party, click the link below! :)

My chat with Dr Phil. (I am on about 6 mins in)

Here is a photo - I had my eyes shut unfortunately!



Friday, 12 April 2013

A Stitch in Time Launch

Well, A Stitch in Time was launched at Foyles, Bristol last Wednesday (10th of April) and it was brilliant!



After rushing around like a mad woman all week and on the day, I am happy to say despite the nerves, I really enjoyed it. It was just brilliant to see friends old and new turning up to give their support and best wishes. I was overwhelmed that over thirty people came out on a rainy cold evening to listen to me give a talk and a reading.


The little guy in this picture is my grandson, Ronan. He won the hearts of a few I can tell you!



I couldn't believe that I was actually signing books in a real bookstore either! That was something I had only ever dreamed about before.


Some friends and family had travelled from as far as Trowbridge, Westbury, Tetbury and Southampton, Just brilliant. And the refreshments were brilliant too! My fab publishers Choc Lit had sent a case of fizz and the House Of Dorchester had provided the most gorgeous Champagne and Strawberry truffles.


A friend of ours, Yvonne made the cupcakes and they were just as delicious as they look in the photo!





So I want to say a huge thank you to all who came and/or wished me well,
and Robb Norton, the manager of Foyles was a real star and made the whole evening run smoothly, so an extra big thanks to him too.

Below, more pics of the launch :)












Sunday, 7 April 2013

Publication Day!


The day has come at last!! My little book is out in the wide world and it feels... BRILLIANT! I have been spoiled by my wonderful publisher Choc Lit as you can see from the picture of the goodies below, and everyone has been so wonderful about how much they have enjoyed my novel so far. (It has been out as an e-book for a little while.)

It has so far only received 5* reviews - thirteen of them! And I have been overwhelmed by the fantastic comments on Twitter, Facebook and on various lovely blog posts too.

I have already been asked for a sequel by numerous people and that's lucky because I am already writing one! Talking of luck, I feel incredibly lucky to be announcing all this news, because although I have worked damned hard and never given up even when the going was really tough, I wouldn't have been able to do it all without  my lovely family, friends and of course getting the contract with such a fantastic publisher.

I have the launch to look forward to now and if you are around in Bristol on Wednesday the 10th of April, pop into Foyles bookshop, Cabot Circus between 6.30-8pm and have a chat with me. There will be chocolate, drinks and cupcakes too!

Thanks so much to all who have made this day happen, it is very much appreciated!!



If you want to buy a copy, please click the link below:

A Stitch In Time



Friday, 8 March 2013

Mandy's Musings welcomes Carol Hedges


I’d like to say a big welcome to writer, Tweeter and lovely lady to boot, Carol Hedges. Carol has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about herself and I for one can’t wait to find out more!

Now Carol, I will try to ask questions which aren’t asked too many times in interviews. Some may seem a bit off the wall, but I find that answers to those can be very revealing about a person. Oh and would you like coffee, tea, gin?

Coffee please, Mandy. Strong, white no sugar -- ooh and do I see biccies? Do I?

Yes there are a few. *wipes crumbs from mouth* There you go, sorry the chocolate ones have...er...gone. Okay here goes...a nice simple one for starters ...

What do you love doing most in the world and why?

Apart from 'nothing at all' which I guess is what most of us would say, closely followed by: eating cake, I have to say writing. (Well, what do you expect?)

Are you superstitious?

Me? Glances over shoulder. No, not at all *crosses fingers* Don't believe in it  - ooh, was that a black cat? And who left that ladder propped up there?

What is the first book you can remember reading and what impact if any did it have on your writing?

It was a book called 'Orlando the Marmalade Cat' by Kathleen Hale. I was 4 years old and had been dumped in the local library while my mum did some shopping. In those days, library books had boring plain covers, so it was impossible to know what was inside. I opened it up - and there were these AMAZING colourful drawings of cats and kittens. I was hooked on books from that moment.


Do you feel as if you have achieved everything you wanted to achieve in life so far?

Well, I haven't bought the villa in Tuscany, the pink Ferrari or the yacht. But I've had 11 books published, and managed to edge myself into social media, which isn't a bad tally for an oldie!

That’s brilliant, Carol you should be so proud. I know you used to be a teacher. How important do you think compulsory standard education is to a person’s long-term development? Would you change anything if you were in charge of the education system?

I think education is so important. If you look back through history, it was the lack of education that caused poor people to remain in poverty, and rich people who could afford it, to keep them there. What I find wrong with the system right now, as I'm sure you, a fellow ex-teacher would agree, is that it is being run by amateur ideologues, who have never set foot in a classroom, and just want to be known for changing the system for the sake of it. Power to the Teachers, I say!!
                            
I do agree! Okay - please tell us a little about why you started writing and something about your latest book.  Also where can we purchase such a book?

I started writing in my teens - can't remember what I wrote, but I wrote. My first book was published in 1992 (Ring of Silver, Lord of Time). It's out of print now. Currently, I have 4 books in the Spy Girl series, published by Usborne. These feature a feisty 15 year old heroine Jazmin Dawson and have been described as 'Alex Rider meets Nancy Drew'. They can be purchased from any good bookshop, or via Amazon. I also have a self-published YA novel e-book, Jigsaw Pieces, which is only available from Amazon.

Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

I’m just doing the final edits on a Victorian-lite crime novel called Diamond Girl. It's a kind of homage to all those amazing writers like Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. It's also the first full length 'adult' novel that I've written, so I'm quite excited about it. Not sure of the final format. My agent has first refusal, then I'll try some of the lovely smaller publishers. It'd be nice NOT to have to format it myself - Jigsaw Pieces was very hard work to do.

Would you like to add anything? Please feel free.

Thanks. I think I'd just like to end this lovely visit (by the way, you did say there'd be cake, but none has appeared so far) by saying a big thank you to everyone who has made me so welcome on Twitter, Facebook and on their blogs. There are some truly amazing people out there and I've made some wonderful friends. So thank you all.

Thank you so much for being my guest today! *mutters * I never mentioned cake.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Mandy's Musings Welcomes Alison Morton


Thank you for welcoming me to your blog, Mandy.

Tomorrow, my debut novel, INCEPTIO, is published. Hooray! Three years of slog – researching, writing, and polishing – have led to this exciting moment.

That's fantastic! Tell me, how did you become a writer?

I’ve played with words most of my life - storyteller, playwright (aged 7), article writer, local magazine editor and professional translator. Something clicked in my brain one evening in the darkened auditorium of our local multiplex on half-price Wednesday. We were watching a particularly dire film. The photography was gorgeous, the story total rubbish.
‘I could do better than this,’ I whispered in the dark to my other half.
‘So why don’t you?’
Three months later, I had completed the first draft of INCEPTIO, the first of my Roma Nova alternate history thrillers.

 I knew I needed to learn novel-crafting skills so joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme in 2010. Participation in two RNA conferences, an Arvon Foundation course in commercial fiction and the Festival of Writing at York all helped me develop my writing. And I met some knowledgeable, generous and fun people along the way. My history MA had taught me how to research and my six years in the Territorial Army trained me to do ‘guns and mud’. Perfect preparation for INCEPTIO.

My husband took early retirement, I sold my translation business and we decamped to France in May 2010. Surrounded by peace, fresh air and sunshine, I have written two further books in the series. I write most mornings after a short spurt on social media, and do domestic stuff in the afternoons. In the evening, I’ll write a few more lines or research but more likely mess about er, ‘interact with professional colleagues’ on Facebook and Twitter.

Ah yes...I tend to interact with professional colleagues quite a bit too . So, what advice do you have for other writers?

Bash the story out and tell the story; it’s the most important thing. Put it away for at least six weeks, then do the first self-edit, checking the plot structure, deleting the dreadful parts and working on the sloppy bits. Then back into the drawer and start the next project. A few weeks later, take it out of the drawer and scrutinise each sentence, word by word, forcing each one to justify its existence. Then you have something to work with.

So Roma Nova – that’s about Romans?

Stories with Romans are usually about famous emperors, epic battles, depravity, intrigue, wicked empresses and a lot of shouty men with sandals, tunics and swords. But project the Roman theme sixteen hundred years forward into the 21st century, and with a feminist twist - how unlike ours would that world be?

Inventing a different development in history is not for the faint-hearted. I firmly believe you have to know your history reasonably well before sending it in a different direction. I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I was eleven, fascinated by my first mosaic. More importantly, I know what I don’t know and am prepared to track it down.

Can you tell us a little of what INCEPTIO is about?

It starts in New York – present day, alternate reality. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, a ready-made family and a new career. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus who rescued her in America, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it...

INCEPTIO is released tomorrow as both paperback and eBook, in the UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inceptio-Alison-Morton/dp/1781320624

Wow that sounds so unusual! I like the idea of a place ruled by women! Do you have other irons in your productive fire?

Yes. I’m working on PERFIDITAS, the second book in the Roma Nova series.

Thanks for being my guest today, Alison. Can't wait for tomorrow!

You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing at:
www.alison-morton.com, www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor and follow her on Twitter @alison_morton

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Where do you write and does it matter?

As some of you may know, I write. As some of you may also know, I am not a great believer in leaping out of bed, getting showered, dressed, breakfasted and dashing off to a specified area of the house set aside for the writing process. 

Even though I use a modern laptop - (the above picture is just for illustration purposes)  I don't have an office, room, or indeed, shed to write in. I know that many of my writer friends do and feel that it is necessary,  nay, crucial to get their creative juices flowing. A special designated spot away from all distraction is a must for them. Now, I don't like distraction, so why, oh why do I choose to sit on the sofa in my dressing gown alternating between writing, Twitter and Facebook? I have done a post on procrastination in the past, so I won't do one here, but I guess it all ties in to what I'm saying. (see what I did there? No? Hmm neither do I.) 

I have no answers really. There is a large part of me that would love to abandon the sofa for the heady heights of a shed, but alas I am without the means to achieve such a place. There are other rooms in the house however (I am not chained to the sofa with heavy duty manacles) and with very little effort I could make another space welcoming and conducive to juicing the creativity. I must turn over a new leaf and at least get dressed before beginning work for the day. Perhaps then I would feel like I was actually doing a job and wouldn't be tempted to see what the latest is on Twitter and Facebook?

So dear readers, where do you write and does it really matter? I am sure Carol Hedges will have a thing or two to say...she normally does.




Friday, 11 January 2013

2013 a year to remember...





I am just putting finger to keyboard to say Happy New Year to everyone who might sometimes sneak a peek at this blog. I am neglecting it woefully and for that I must apologise.  There are one or two things keeping me from updating regularly. I have been editing, (for my forthcoming novel A Stitch in Time due to be published by Choc Lit this April), writing, spending time with my marvellous Ronan Pie (grandson) and preparing the house for selling. And, yes, as usual - I have been 'faffing' (I LOVE that word) on Twitter and Facebook!


I can't wait for my novel to be published and am so excited about actually seeing my book on a shelf..in a shop - yes a real shelf in a real shop! I am also very excited about the prospect of moving house, and thrilled to little mint balls about the prospect of meeting my second grandchild in July. I think 2013 will be a momentous year filled with excitement, hope and new challenges.

So what are you most looking forward to this year? I would love to know.