Tag Archives: exclusive

#WurdyChristmas 2: What Happens Next?

wurdychristmas-free-short-storyWelcome to the second part of my exclusive #WurdyChristmas treat short story, Silver Bells at Tony & Frank’s. Yesterday, I asked you whether Lucy Smith should open the door or walk away…

Overwhelmingly, you voted for her to open it!

What happens when she steps into the darkened restaurant kitchen, following the strange, echoey Christmas song? Find out below – and then vote in the poll at the end to choose what happens next. Happy reading, lovelies!

SILVER BELLS AT TONY & FRANK’S – PART TWO ©Miranda Dickinson 2016

Should she go in?

Lucy stared at the double doors for just a moment, then pushed them open. In the course of her average day as assistant manager at Tony & Franks she would pass through these doors maybe a hundred times and never even think about it. But this entry into the darkened kitchen felt different – as if by choosing to walk in she could alter the course of her life.

What am I thinking?

As the doors swung shut behind her, Lucy stopped in the middle of the black-and-white chequerboard tiled floor and laughed. The events of the night were obviously taking their toll. She wasn’t on the verge of a life-changing adventure – she was recently dumped, exhausted and stuck in a closed restaurant until she could work out a way to get home for Christmas.

‘Get over yourself, Lucy Smith,’ she said out loud.

Almost in reply, the song swelled in volume.

Silver Bells, Silver Bells

Lucy’s breath caught in her throat.

It was still slower than the song she and Gran had giggled their way through Christmas Eve waltzes to. And it still sounded far away, even though its volume suggested it was nearer

But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

Lucy gazed around the familiar space that in this almost-light now appeared alien. The stainless steel worktables, large flat-top grills imported from New York by the 1950s-diner-inspired restaurant chain and banks of industrial-sized refrigerators formed an unfamiliar landscape, washed in pale blue light. She wondered if any of her workmates had seen the kitchen like this. Maybe Sophie, her manager, possibly Dragan and Malik, the head chefs… Seeing it like this, without its frenzy and noise, felt like a privilege.

Hear them ring… Soon it will be Christmas Day…

Lucy glanced at the clock above the grill. One minute to midnight. But that wasn’t right, was it? It had been past midnight when she’d found herself abandoned in the car park by Aaron. The batteries must need changing. She’d make it her first job on Boxing Day when she returned to work after her too-short Christmas break.

Christmas. She’d only ever envisaged it with Aaron for the last three years but tomorrow – today – or whenever it was – was going to be different. What was she going to do? She’d planned to spend Christmas Day snuggled up with the man she thought she’d be engaged to. It was far too late to make other plans, and her own home was woefully unprepared. Working long shifts at Tony & Frank’s in the run-up to Christmas meant she’d only just bought and decorated the small, slightly wonky tree she’d picked up for half price from the large B&Q across the car park from the restaurant. It reminded her of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree from the cartoon she’d watched over and over on video as a kid with her cousin Kerry, until the ancient VHS tape snapped. ‘More twig than tree,’ Dad would call it.

Mum and Dad would always make room for her at their Christmas table. They never had just family on Christmas Day. Dad said it was Mum’s Italian heritage that dictated every meal should be able to stretch to however many waifs and strays deigned to drop in. Lucy usually loved being part of the eclectic mix of neighbours, friends and virtual strangers her mum invited for Christmas dinner, but now the thought made her shudder. Too many questions. None of which she could answer.

The song had reached an end and for a moment there was silence. Lucy waited. Sure enough, it began again, noticeably louder than before. It echoed around the empty kitchen, calling her closer…

To her surprise, Lucy wasn’t scared, more intrigued to find the source of the music. It definitely wasn’t the sound system – there were no speakers in the kitchen and all the controls were behind the front of house desk by the restaurant’s main entrance. And the music seemed to come from the furthest corner, where Sophie had small office. Tony & Frank’s called it a ‘Team Leader Epicentre’. Most of the staff called it ‘Sophie’s Cardboard Box’. Four wobbly fibreboard walls boxed the tiny space from the main kitchen area. In the summer it was so stifling that Sophie often abandoned it altogether, choosing a booth in the restaurant as her workspace instead.

That’s where the song is coming from!

Following the music, Lucy crossed the kitchen and pulled the bunch of keys from her pocket to find Sophie’s office key. But when she reached the door, it was already ajar. That was odd. Sophie was a stickler for routine – to leave her office unlocked was most unlike her. Of course she may have been distracted tonight. She’d been keen to get back to her new kittens, the thought of her partner Eric cat-sitting them all night apparently terrifying. ‘Don’t get me wrong,’ she’d told Lucy, ‘Eric is a total sweetheart but my kittens miss me when I’m not there. If they start to play up, I don’t think he’ll cope. They’re like gremlins who still have fur…’

When she stepped inside, the song seemed to suddenly surround her, the volume rising as if in celebration of her arrival. Surprised, Lucy took a step back and yelped as her shin banged into the leg of Sophie’s desk. Her hand shot to the edge of it to steady herself and her fingers brushed against something cold…

Lucy looked down. By her hand was a small silver box. Over its lid a burst of stars had been engraved, the centre of each one sparkling with a tiny diamond. It looked as if it had been carved from ice and sprinkled with starlight. Beside it lay a velvet drawstring bag. The beautiful midnight blue velvet had been printed with a shower of gold stars, tied with a delicate cord that could have been made of spun sugar. Lucy bent to get a closer look – and noticed the note.

Beside the box was a gold-edged sheet of notepaper, a message written in looping script across its surface in bright purple ink:

Hello Lucy Smith.

Tonight, Christmas magic is yours to choose.

But which gift shall it be?

Silver or velvet? Box or bag?

Choose carefully – your choice will change your life…

Lucy stared at the gorgeous gifts. Both were stunning – she had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. Could one of these really be for her? She could hardly believe it. But then, nothing since the end of her shift at Tony & Frank’s had made sense tonight.

Her fingers hovered over the box and the bag.

Which one should she choose?

TO BE CONTINUED… ©Miranda Dickinson 2016

What do YOU think? Should Lucy choose the silver box or the starry velvet bag? Vote NOW in the poll below – and come back tomorrow to find out what happens next!

Miranda Writes 31 – Could YOU appear in Book 7?

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have an amazing competition for you…

I also have another exclusive extract from  I’ll Take New York

I’ve been offering opportunities for my readers to #getinvolved with my books for three years now and I love the way your suggestions spark ideas that feed into my stories. But I’ve never offered a competition like this before. I’ve written a couple of real-life lovelies into my books in the past, but never opened this up to everyone. But I’ve decided to do it now as my way of saying thank you – not just for supporting me and my books for six years, but also for coming with me as I move publishers at the end of this year. Book 7 – Anna Browne’s amazing story – will be my first book for Pan Macmillan and the beginning of a new era for my writing.

So please watch the vlog and then tell me why YOU should join Anna in her story. Leave a comment below or tweet me (using the hashtag #getinvolved). Go for it!

Miranda Writes 28 – Meet Jake Steinmann

All this year I am vlogging about the writing and publishing of my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have another exclusive extract for you, plus your next chance to appear in Book 7!

Thank you all so much for your brilliant coffee shop suggestions for my first #getinvolved challenge. It was a tough decision, but I have a winner at last… and I’ll tell you who they are in the vlog!

I thought it was about time I introduced you to Jake Steinmann – Ed’s brother from Fairytale of New YorkI’ll Take New York is written from both his and Bea’s perspectives – I haven’t written anything from two points of view before but as soon as I began to write the book I felt that I wanted to take readers inside Jake’s head as well as Bea’s. Jake is travelling from his home in San Francisco back to his birth city of New York after his beautiful wife Jessica unexpectedly files for divorce. He is reeling from the revelation, having believed they had a perfect marriage, and chooses to return to New York to be close to his family and start his business again. It’s a painful decision, but to stay in San Francisco is unthinkable if he has to live there without Jess…

“He could stay in San Francisco, pretending that life was untouched by his wife’s decision to leave him. But he knew, deep down, that to stay in a city in which every street, sidewalk and brick seemed imprinted with her name would be the end of him. Better to nurse a broken heart on the other side of the country…”

The full extract is in the vlog – hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think…

M xx

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, “Ee by ‘eck, look at tha’ cap, lass…”

 

Miranda Writes 25 – hear an EXCLUSIVE extract from I’ll Take New York

All year I’m making vlogs to chart the life of my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have a bit of a treat for you – an exclusive extract from the book!

I’ve been promising to share a sneaky snippet of Bea and Jake’s story with you for some time, so I thought it was about time I did it! Below is just a snippet – but watch the vlog to see much more:

…For as long as she could remember, Bea had dreamed of one day owning her own bookstore.

She had loved books all her life. Real books, not electronic ones. Books you could carry in your bag and read on the subway. Books you could pretend to read in neighbourhood coffee shops while people-watching. Books you could snuggle up with and lose yourself in. Books you could fill your apartment with – packed onto shelves, propping up tables and piled up reassuringly by the side of your bed. If she left home without a book, Bea felt naked, bereft. But then, working in a bookshop meant there were always new friends to make and take home. 

Friends who never let her down. Friends she could trust…

I also answer your questions on my favourite characters and whether I have more stories to tell about them after my books are published. Plus, find out which of my characters will be returning in I’ll Take New York – here’s a clue: one of them comes from another of my novels…

Let me know what you think – I’d love to know if the extract I read in the vlog whets your appetite for more! Or ask me a question for next week… Leave a comment below, tweet me @wurdsmyth or email me at mirandawurdy@gmail.com.

Enjoy! xx

 

 

Feel the Love – a FREE exclusive short story for you!

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovelies!

Whether you love it or loathe it, I’ve deemed today my #FeeltheLove Day of Sparkliness, aiming to give everyone a reason to smile…

So, here’s an exclusive short story, written especially for you. Click on the image below to read and download it.

Enjoy! xx

First Steps in Selfishness cover

Take A Look At Me Now – EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT!

As promised, following a website erroneously offering a free download excerpt of Take A Look At Me Now, here is an official, EXCLUSIVE first-look from my new novel, out this Thursday!

Take A Look At Me Now by Miranda Dickinso

This is the scene when Nell arrives in San Francisco, after being made unexpectedly redundant and deciding to blow her redundancy cheque on a trip of a lifetime to visit her cousin Lizzie in the City By The Bay. Hope you enjoy it! xx

Excerpt from Take A Look At Me Now ©Miranda Dickinson 2013. May NOT be reproduced without permission of Miranda Dickinson and AVON (HarperCollins).

‘First time in San Francisco, Ma’am?’ the huge Immigration officer asked, his politeness at odds with the fact that he looked as if he could quite easily snap my neck like a pencil if he wanted to.

‘Yes it is.’

He held up my passport, dark eyes beneath his thickset brow flicking between my face and my totally embarrassing passport photo. Just as the scrutiny was beginning to verge on uncomfortable, he handed it back. ‘Thank you. Enjoy your trip.’

As heartfelt sentiments go, this wasn’t a contender for welcome of the year, but I smiled my thanks and scurried away in case the neck-snapping option began to appeal to him.

Even though I was surrounded by my fellow passengers from England and France, the moment I walked into the baggage hall I knew I was in America. The noise in the cavernous hangar was distinctive in tone, the phrases on the overhead signs a little dissimilar to those at Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle – even the atmosphere of the admittedly impersonal surroundings seemed different.

Emerging from the long tunnel-like walkway into the blast of noise, light and activity, I struggled momentarily to gain my bearings. Scanning along the selection of name signs being held by the barriers, I spotted Lizzie, grinning like a Cheshire Cat on happy gas and brandishing a sheet of card framed in what looked like a cerise feather boa, my name artfully spelled out in multicoloured glitter-glue and sequins. I was struck by how beautifully relaxed she looked. Her wavy blonde hair was loosely pinned up, her sunglasses tucked into it at the crown of her head, and her tanned skin glowed against the loose white blouse and pale blue shorts she wore.

‘Nellie!’ she yelled, ducking underneath the stretched elastic barrier, shedding bright pink feathers as she went.

‘Hi!’

I was hit with the full force of my cousin’s embrace as she nearly rugby-tackled me to the shiny-tiled airport floor.

‘I’m so glad you’re here! How are you? How was the flight? Are you hungry? I bet you’re hungry. Well we’re catching a cab home so we can pretty much stop anywhere. You just tell me what you fancy and we’ll find it. This is San Francisco, after all. Coffee! I bet you need coffee. Your first shot of American Joe is always special, trust me . . .’ She paused long enough to draw breath and gave me a rueful smile. ‘I’m talking too much, aren’t I?’

I had to laugh. ‘Um . . .’

‘Oh I’m sorry. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited, so I had my first coffee at five a.m. Consequently, I’m buzzing a bit. So – welcome to San Francisco!’

I laughed. ‘Thank you. Nice sign, by the way.’

‘It’s a bit showbiz, isn’t it?’ Lizzie giggled and shook the sign, sending a small cloud of glitter and stray feathers fluttering to the floor. ‘I told the kids at the after-school club I run about you and they wanted to help. I’ll have you know this is a unique, one-of-a-kind welcome sign.’

‘Well, I’m honoured.’

‘You’ll have to come and meet the kids while you’re here. They’re so excited to meet “another English”. You’ll feel like a celebrity.’ Lizzie took my suitcase and we walked through the terminal building towards the exit. ‘Now, we can do whatever you like. I’d recommend not sleeping yet, to lessen the chance of jetlag beating you up. That flight used to slay me every time.’

I was tired – the kind of weariness you feel aching in the very marrow of your bones – but I was also suddenly ravenously hungry. And, like a kid in the early hours of Christmas morning, I was determined not to miss a second of the day that lay ahead. Sleep could wait: I had a brand new city to meet.

Our cab driver, a portly Greek man in his early fifties, introduced himself as Apollo as we pulled away from the airport terminal and joined the lines of traffic heading onto the freeway.

‘Your first time in San Fran? You’ll love it, lady! I been here sixteen years this fall, and it’s the best place I ever lived. Bar none. I make my home here, I meet my wife here, I raise my kids here. It’s a special place.’

His dark eyes twinkled as he looked in the rear view mirror at Lizzie and I in the back seat. I smiled back, overwhelmed by the feeling of being at home, despite being a thousand miles away from it.

Warm Californian sun flooded into the car and even though my sudden entry into the middle of the morning in a brand new country had left my brain a little befuddled, the scenery whizzing past the windows was enough to grab my attention. Tall hills rose in the far distance, blue skies arced overhead and everything seemed to catch the sun.

‘I can’t believe you’re here,’ Lizzie said, linking her arm through mine. ‘It’s just so good to see you.’

‘You too. It’s been too long.’

‘It has. But we have eight whole weeks to make up for lost time, so let’s make the most of it. Now, I’ve taken a week off from my piano students, so I can show you around.’

‘That’s really kind – but are you sure? I know holidays are like gold dust over here.’

My cousin dismissed my concern. ‘It will be my pleasure.’ Her smile faded a little and she took both my hands in hers. ‘Now, honestly, tell me how you are. Losing your job must have been dreadful.’

‘I don’t know how I am,’ I answered truthfully. ‘It hurt me that they didn’t want me any more but I think I channelled my anger into action to get here. It’s going to take some time for me to work through it.’

‘Take all the time you need, it’s a huge thing to deal with.’ Lizzie squeezed my hands. ‘Have you thought about what you want to do while you’re here?’

‘A little. But I’m up for almost anything. Any sugges- tions will be gratefully received.’

Lizzie observed me, a sly grin appearing. ‘That is not the Nell Sullivan I knew. You were always Miss Five- Year Plan, even when we were growing up. What’s changed?’

‘My five-year plan has. Which had actually become a six-year plan, without me realising. And then became a defunct plan. Up until last week I let it guide my decisions, but now it’s been taken away I don’t have to stick to the programme any longer. I just want to know what it feels like to have no plan – to step out into my life and see what happens.’

‘Amazing.’ Lizzie stared at me as if seeing her cousin for the first time. ‘And what happens if it isn’t what you want?’

I shrugged, loving the rush of positivity I felt. ‘Then two months isn’t a long time to stick it out before I go home and pick up where I left off.’

‘You go for it, glikia mu,’ Apollo interjected. ‘You only get one chance to live your life. What’s the worst that can happen, eh?’

‘Thanks, Apollo,’ I replied, as Lizzie buried her face in her neck-scarf to stifle her giggles. ‘I’ll remember that.’

‘All’s part of the service.’ His super-white smile rivalled the Californian sun for brightness as it flashed at me in the rear view mirror.

Then, suddenly, the glittering cityscape of San Francisco appeared on the horizon and I lost my breath.

San Fran from the Bay

‘Oh wow . . .’

Lizzie smiled and squeezed my shoulder as I sat upright, drinking in the sight. ‘There she is. Gorgeous, eh?’

‘It’s beautiful. I had no idea.’

‘I told you it’s a special place,’ Apollo grinned over his shoulder, before launching into his own commentary on the sights passing by. The pride he had in his adopted city was infectious and soon Lizzie and I were both nodding along to everything he told us as we began to pass through downtown San Francisco streets that appeared to have come straight out of a film.

We turned a corner into a wide street lined with kooky Victorian houses beneath which were a variety of busi- nesses. The street was lined with trees and every shop sign was hand-painted. Elaborately chalked A-boards promised everything from t-shirts, ice cream and herbal teas to vintage records and books, while bright awnings hung over gaudily coloured shop window displays filled with vintage clothing, hand-crafted items and candles, next to restaurants and bars that spilled out onto the broad sidewalk.

‘Welcome to Haight-Ashbury,’ Lizzie grinned. ‘Your home for the next eight weeks!’

Lizzie's 1

The taxi came to a halt outside a three-storey building with two floors of hexagonal-shaped windows above a New Age clothing and music store, which wrapped around the corner of Haight Street and Cole Street. At one side was an enormous rainbow mosaic, which covered the wall to the next shop further up Cole Street, and a large tree on the sidewalk shaded the entrance to the shop. In the far end of the rainbow mosaic was a door covered in a hand-painted mural to look like acacia blossoms climbing over a dark green brick wall.

Lizzie turned and smiled at me. ‘Here we are.’

We paid Apollo and I thanked him as he unloaded my suitcase from the boot.

‘You have a great time,’ he grinned.

‘I will, thank you.’

Lizzie laughed as we walked up two flights of stairs to her apartment on the top floor. ‘You’ll certainly meet a lot of characters like Apollo while you’re here.’ She opened her front door and ushered me inside. ‘Here it is – home sweet home…’

Excerpt from Take A Look At Me Now ©Miranda Dickinson 2013. May not be reproduced without permission of Miranda Dickinson and AVON (HarperCollins).