Tag Archives: publishing

My favourite books for 2018…

2018 is going to be a corker of a year for great stories. My next novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, publishes on 14th June, but for this post I’m wearing my reader hat. I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books that will be published this year, so here are my Top 5 recommendations for 2018…

I’ve only included books I’ve actually read in this list, and will of course squeak about more as I read them, but these are my absolute favourites of what I’ve read so far:

DARK PINES by WILL DEAN

Dark Pines

I loved every minute of this dark, twisty, Scandi-thriller. You’re right there in the bleak, claustrophobic town surrounded by dark forests, so much so that you can almost see clouds of your own breath in the wintry landscape as you read. Will’s writing is compelling and his lead character Tuva Moodyson is a star in waiting. Get in on this awesome series right at the beginning and prepare to be swept away! Published 4th January by Point Blank/Oneworld

THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE by JOANNA CANNON

ThreeThingsAboutElsie

Reading a Joanna Cannon book is like being welcomed into the most magical sweet shop and being invited to sample a treat from every jar. Her writing is delightful and evocative, with characters you can picture immediately. This book is warm, heartbreakingly honest but ultimately uplifting. 84-year-old Florence, whose story the book follows, will make you laugh, cry and want to hug her. There’s a mystery and a secret to uncover, too. Wonderful storytelling – a book to savour! Published 11th January by The Borough Press.

THE BONE KEEPER by LUCA VESTE

The Bonekeeper

As a big fan of Luca’s Murphy and Rossi series, I was chuffed to bits to be able to read his first standalone novel. And my life, what a book! Part horror, part crime-thriller, this story grabs you and won’t let go until the highly-charged, terrifying conclusion. Don’t read just before you go to sleep because this story will give you nightmares! I love Luca’s writing and this is his best book yet. Published 8th March by Simon & Schuster.

THE FEAR by CL TAYLOR

The Fear

This book had me gripped from beginning to end and is simply breathtaking. What I love about Cally’s writing is that she makes you side with characters you suspect you maybe shouldn’t be rooting for. I’ve read plenty of psychological thrillers over the last two years, but nothing as dark and multiple-twist-laden as this. It’s shocking, compelling and packed to the bindings with action. Masterful stuff! Published 22nd March by Avon/HarperCollins.

THE MAN I THINK I KNOW by MIKE GAYLE

The Man I Think I Know

A sign of a really wonderful book for me is when I want to hug it at the end. With this book, I was pretty much hugging it from the start and rationing pages towards the end because I didn’t want it to finish. Mike’s writing is warm, honest, unflinching in its observation but most of all gloriously uplifting. The story of James and Danny’s friendship – and the redemptive power of trust and love – absolutely had me in its spell. It’s real, compelling, funny and completely stole my heart. This one is very special and my favourite book for 2018 so far. Published 19th April by Hodder & Stoughton.

Thanks so much to the wonderful authors and publishers (Point Blank/Oneworld; The Borough Press; Simon & Schuster; Avon/HarperCollins; and Hodder & Stoughton) for sending me advance copies of the above books.

Read my favourite books of 2017 HERE…

Which books are you looking forward to this year? Let me know by leaving a comment below, or tweet me @wurdsmyth. Thanks for reading! xx

My Books of the Year 2017

Reading has become my salvation and sanctuary in a really testing year as an author – thankfully I’ve been spoiled for choice for awesome books in 2017. There are lots of ‘best books’ lists, so here’s mine. Some books I was lucky to read as advance copies, most I bought myself. Not all of the books in my Top Twelve below were published in 2017, but I read them this year, which is why they are included. So, without further ado, I proudly present my 2017 Books of the Year:

2017 Best Books image

Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt
I read this as a proof at the beginning of 2017 and completely fell in love with it. Maggie Harcourt’s writing is sublime – at turns funny, touching and clutch-at-your-heart-and-sigh romantic. Her book-within-a-book is downright genius, too. On a personal note, Unconventional was the one that made me fall in love with reading again after a very dry spell that followed losing my dad. It’s a gorgeous, uplifting, original and thoroughly unputdownable book and is pretty damn perfect.

The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh
I’m a self-confessed huge fan of Emma Kavanagh and have loved every one of her books. The Killer on the Wall is a twisty, psychologically dark crime thriller that tests your loyalties as a reader to the beautifully drawn characters. I loved how Emma drew me into the story and gradually twisted everything around me. It’s so filmic, too – I could picture every location, every scene and every character. Loved it!

The Last Beginning – Lauren James
I hadn’t read any of Lauren’s books before I was asked to take part in a reader event with her at the beginning of this year, so I read The Last Beginning before I met her and am now a firm fan! Clever, funny, mind-bendingly brilliant, this is an across-the-ages tale of true love and mystery. What I love most is the way Lauren’s characters grab you from the first page – you’re right in there, rooting for them.

Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
This is the first of Leigh Bardugo’s books I’ve read and I completely fell for her storytelling. It’s like a heist movie in a fantasy world – a band of outlaws out to get justice against an evil villain. I hadn’t read much fantasy for a while, so picked up Crooked Kingdom to redress the balance and my life, what a ride! Cool, gorgeously written, pacy and hugely compelling.

Then She Was Gone – Luca Veste
In recent years I’ve become a fan of crime thrillers, first reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, then Ann Cleeves’ Vera and Shetland books. I’m a huge fan of the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast (I even have a t-shirt!), which introduced me to the Murphy and Rossi series by Luca Veste. I read Then She Was Gone on holiday in Cornwall in January and it completely hooked me. You know a book is good when you carry it round with you all day, using any opportunity to sneak a read! I adore Murphy and Rossi and love how Luca draws you into their personal lives. Edge-of-your-seat, twisty awesomeness!

The Boy Who Saw – Simon Toyne
I’ve been a fan of Simon Toyne’s books since his debut Sanctus and love his new Solomon Creed series. This is the second book featuring the mysterious protagonist and it’s fantastic. A mystery, a thriller with a touch of the supernatural, The Boy Who Saw is gripping and twisty and so pacy you feel you’re hanging onto the book for dear life. What I love most about Simon’s thrillers is that they are peopled with characters who feel real – not just two-dimensional plot devices. And I really want to hug Solomon, poor lamb. He’s been through a lot

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan
Do you remember the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Sam’s sister cries retelling the story of An Affair to Remember? Well, Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan has that effect on me whenever I talk about it. It’s an achingly gorgeous, utterly original love story set in space and I loved every word. Writing for a living can make it difficult to fully enter into books, so I love it when I’m completely swept away like I was with this story. Absolutely wonderful.

The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
When Rowan Coleman told me she was going to write a time-travel novel, I was so excited. I knew it would be brilliant, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how beguilingly beautiful and affecting The Summer of Impossible Things would be. Luna’s journey to unravel the mystery of her mother’s life – and the huge questions it poses to her own – is utterly compelling, heart-breaking and uplifting. And that ending… Wow!

Together – Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen has long been one of my favourite authors. With every book I think she can’t possibly better it, but every time she does. Together is no exception – in fact, I think it’s her masterpiece. I was very lucky to read an early version and it blew me away. The story of Robbie and Emily is told in reverse, from the day Robbie dies to the first time they meet. What follows is a powerful, brave and heart-breaking story of love against the odds and a terrible secret that both binds them together and threatens to tear them apart.

The Plea – Steve Cavanagh
I don’t often read a book in less than a week, but I devoured The Plea in three days (a personal record for me this year!). It’s a legal thriller with a twist and a lead character who knocks all the others out of the park. Eddie Flynn is brilliantly world-weary, chasing his own demons as much as the bad guys and thrown into so many life-or-death situations I don’t know when he even finds a second to breathe! I loved this book and Steve’s writing is sublime.

The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas
Easily the most original voice of the books I read this year, fifteen-year-old Grace draws you into her world in The State of Grace. Navigating life is challenging enough for a teenager, but when you have Asperger’s and you’re falling in love it can be a rollercoaster. What I loved most about this book is the insight it gives into Grace’s view of the world – and how it makes sense. It’s a celebration of her life and her worldview and is honest, rip-roaringly funny and touching. Loved, loved, loved it!

Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett
The term ‘UpLit’ was coined this year (yuck!) and while I don’t like it or the way the literary media seem to think they’ve created the genre (they haven’t, some of us have been writing uplifting stories for years!), there are some books published this year that are truly uplifting. Calling Major Tom absolutely fits the bill. I was sent an early proof of this book and it completely stole my heart. Packed with fantastic characters and stuffed to the ginnels with brilliant Northern humour, David’s story of a marooned astronaut and the family who reach out to him is the one I can’t stop thinking about. It’s life-affirming, emotional, laugh-out-loud funny and reduced me to tears with its fantastic conclusion. I’ve loved all the books I’ve read in 2017, but Calling Major Tom is my Book of the Year.

Which books have you enjoyed this year? Which should I add to my reading list for 2018? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below or tweet me!

Coming soon – the five books I’m recommending for 2018!

SPARKLEMAS 2: Meet Seren MacArthur

Meet SEREN MACARTHUR – a talented jewellery-maker torn between her family and future.

Seren’s story is told in full in Somewhere Beyond the Sea, but she’s introduced in Christmas in St Ives. I’ve adored writing Seren – she’s bold and practical but also capable of dreaming and fighting through the worst circumstances. She’s determined, strong and capable of so much more than right now she thinks she is.

Here’s an excerpt from Christmas in St Ives:

CSI St Ives EXCERPT - SERENMy dream actor to play Seren in the films of Christmas in St Ives and Somewhere Beyond the Sea (which, of course, will happen…) is CHARLIE B. MURPHY – as seen in Happy Valley, Philomena and the incredible To Walk Invisible.

Charlie Murphy as Seren

Charlie B. Murphy as SEREN MACARTHUR (Photo: IMDB)

Come back tomorrow for another 24 DAYS OF SPARKLEMAS exclusive… Every day between now and Christmas Eve I’ll be sharing all kinds of sparkly goodies. Don’t miss a present from me this December! xx

Footpath to the beach

AVAILABLE NOW

SBTS final front cover

COMING 14th JUNE 2018  – Preorder NOW –

 

WriteFoxy: A New Spin on Book Terms

I’ve had enough of beating myself up as a writer.

I don’t know about you, but the constant lurching between confidence and doubt is exhausting. I think I’ve conquered it and then, right in the middle of writing a new book – when I’m mired in first draft sludge around about 59k words, or going through a line edit where I’m losing sight of the story, it hits me:

Kaablaamo! Dastardly Doubt muscles in and ruins everything.

It’s worse when you hear people dismissing books with well-worn terms: ‘an easy read‘, ‘a holiday book‘, someone read it ‘in one sitting‘, a ‘guilty pleasure‘.

Shudders. Screaming at reviews. Dreading book discussions on social media. Feeling dismissed, undervalued and possibly in the wrong profession. It’s not pretty. Or even remotely fun.

But I’ve been thinking. What if there were a way to flip these terms to see a more positive version?

Let’s take them one at a time. (Brace yourself…)

ABC blocksAN EASY READ

Ugh. The ultimate dismissive term for the book you have invested a year of your life (or longer) lovingly crafting.

Or is it?

I used to work as a copywriter and there was a phrase we used in the design department: when you’ve done your job properly, nobody notices. I think that’s true of writing books, too. An ‘easy read’ seems like a criticism, but look at it this way: an easy read means the story flowed, the pace was good, dialogue felt natural and the reader easily entered into the world the book created.

When something is written well, you don’t notice the workings of it. You just enter in. And trust me, if the book was badly written, it wouldn’t be easy to read. It would be clunky, annoying, a book to be flung across the room rather than raced through.

To write something that flows and compels readers to keep turning the page is a hugely difficult thing to get right. The best comedy is effortless to watch but hides hours of work to perfect the timing, the rhythm, the punch line. It’s hard to write well. It takes skill and perseverance. But when you’ve done it right, nobody notices the effort. They just see the story.

If readers call your book an easy read, it means your pace, flow, characters, world-building and structure worked. That’s a world away from a dismissive term, don’t you think?

Holiday beach imageA HOLIDAY BOOK

A ‘beach read’. A ‘poolside book’.

Argh!

It conjures up images of cheap, trashy pulp fiction bought at the airport and hastily stashed in hand luggage. Something you wouldn’t dream of reading in your everyday life but, like Sambuca shots and stuffed donkeys, is somehow permissible on your week away in the sun.

Hang on, though.

Holidays are precious. We save hard for them and count down the days to them each year. Our one week away from work, from the concerns of our normal life, is hard-won and much longed for. So the books we choose to take with us have to be good. People agonise over which books to take: the right book can be a memorable part of your time away; the wrong book feels so much more of a let-down.

So, if someone has chosen to take your book on holiday – and invested time in their already precious time away to spend with your characters and your story – isn’t that the greatest compliment? They chose your book. And it was perfect for that moment. Whenever they see your book on their shelf at home, they’ll remember the beach they read it on, the pool your words kept them company by, and exactly where they were when they read your story.

That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Reading pileI READ IT IN ONE SITTING

You spend countless hours – years, even – perfecting your book. The unseen months of heartache, doubt and sheer hard graft are hidden within the pages of your novel. And then, eight hours after it’s published, someone tweets you to say they read it in an afternoon.

What?!

I understand the shudder of loathing that follows a review where the reader says they read your book in one sitting. It feels dismissive. It cheapens your effort. And it makes you wonder if they noticed all the brilliant, hard-fought paragraphs you sweated buckets over.

Or how about this..?

Imagine they became so caught up in the story you created that nothing else mattered. The piles of crockery remained dirty in the sink. The television was dark and silent. They never made it further than their car in the car park outside the book shop because they couldn’t bear to leave your beautiful book world for even a minute. They held their breath. Pages turned at speed as they rooted for your characters, rode the emotional roller-coaster of your story and raced towards the end because they had to know what happens…

You’ve read books like that. I have, too. And just because you were gripped by the story and dashed through it, I’ll bet you’re still thinking about it now. Imagine if someone said that about your book…

Wow.

Go ahead. Race through my book in one sitting, please!

Guilty imageA GUILTY PLEASURE

Okay, I’ll give you this one. It’s a horrible term. Feel free to kick it to the kerb, strap a jet-pack to its sorry back and blast it away from earth into the endless beyond. Nobody should ever feel guilty about reading. Ever.

…Although, if someone does say that about your book, there are two positives to take away from it. Firstly, it says more about their fear of literary snobs than the merit of your book. Secondly, they secretly loved it.

I would far rather someone termed my book a ‘pleasure’ than a chore. And if they are worried so much about what a snobbish lit-splainer might say, they wouldn’t feel guilty about finding a book hard to read. (Because literary snobs believe ‘difficult’ books are the only ones that matter.) The fact is, they loved your book. And they will probably buy your next one to snuggle up in secret with, too…

Being a writer is tough. We pour our hearts into what we do, but that means we wear our hearts on our sleeve, so it’s easy to get hurt. I hope these flipped book terms help you see them differently next time they are used to describe your books.

Keep doing what you do, lovely author. Keep caring. Because it matters.

HERE IT IS! My Book 9 NEWS!

I know it’s been a long wait, but I’m SO very excited to finally bring you the title and details for my ninth novel! The title will be…

SBTS Holding Cover

Ta-daaaaaa! And you can preorder Somewhere Beyond the Sea HERE…

As many of you know, I adore Cornwall and St Ives in particular. I’ve wanted to set a novel there for many years but I finally found the perfect story to tell. And I’m incredibly proud of the result. It’s a properly romantic story, told from two perspectives, and I think you’re going to fall in love with Seren and Jack.

Here’s the blurb:

Can you fall in love with someone before you’ve even met?

Seren MacArthur is living a life she never intended. Trying to save the Cornish seaside business her late father built – while grieving for his loss – she has put her own dreams on hold and is struggling. Until she discovers a half-finished seaglass star on her favourite beach during an early morning walk. When she completes the star, she sets into motion a chain of events that will steal her heart and challenge everything she believes.

Jack Dixon is trying to secure a better life for daughter Nessie and himself. Left a widower and homeless when his wife died, he’s just about keeping their heads above water. Finding seaglass stars completed on Gwithian beach is a bright spark that slowly rekindles his hope.

Seren and Jack are searching for their missing pieces. But when they meet in real life, it’s on the opposing sides of a battle. Jack is managing the redevelopment of a local landmark, and Seren is leading the community campaign to save it.

Both have reason to fight – Seren for the cause her father believed in, Jack for his livelihood. But only one can win. With so much at stake, will they ever find what they are really looking for?

Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a sparkling tale of love, life and finding magic where you least expect it.

I adored writing this story, and I can’t wait till you can read it. I know May 2018 is a while to wait, but don’t worry, there might be something else I’ll be revealing for you before then…

The cover of Somewhere Beyond the Sea is being designed at the moment – I’ve seen the first design and it’s my most gorgeous cover for years. I’ll be sharing that with you very soon!

Till then, watch my vlogsTwitterInstagram and Facebook page for exclusive snippets, details, behind-the-scenes treats and competitions. It may be eleven months before the book publishes, but I’m going to be packing so many goodies into those months for you. Fancy joining me on the Somewhere Beyond the Sea journey? It’s going to be BRILLIANT fun!

WP_20160909_13_35_46_ProWP_20160907_14_09_38_ProWP_20170118_17_01_58_Pro

Finished! Woo-hoo!

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve FINISHED writing the first draft of my new book! Woo-hoo!

First Draft DONE

(In case the word count is confusing, I have a scene after THE END in this document that I’ve now snuggled into the middle of the book where it belongs…)

It’s taken lots of late nights (including five all-nighters, which I don’t recommend!), countless cups of tea and coffee, at least three different notebooks on the go at once and not an awful lot of sleep, but my ninth novel is finally written and I’m chuffed to bits with it.

Of course, there are edits to come – a structural edit, line edit, copyedit and final proof edit – but for now my book is out of my head and onto the page. All the locations are there, the cast and supporting cast (always important in my books) and a central town setting that is as much a character as the protagonists themselves. I hope you’ll be able to not just imagine yourself there but also experience the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of this story.

It’s my most romantic story to date, I think, written from the dual perspectives of Seren MacArthur and Jack Dixon. I’ve adored writing both their worlds and their voices came to me really quickly, which isn’t always the case. I think you’re going to love them, along with their friends and families. And a dog. There might be a dog…

I’m doing a final read-through today and then sending it to my editor at PanMacmillan tomorrow. It feels like the end of a mammoth journey, which has included moving house, being without internet for a month, things breaking and scary bills (who said being a full-time author was glamorous?!). In reality it’s only the first stage in a journey, but I think this is the most important – not to mention the most fun – where I get to tell myself the story first, before anyone else sees it. From the moment I hit send on the email taking it to my editor tomorrow, this story stops being just mine. And that’s okay because it’s one of the beautiful things about writing novels – your first draft is a single splash in a pool that then sends ripples out further than you can ever see.

But I might just hug my manuscript a little tonight, while it’s still just me and the story…

Author Spotlight: RACHAEL FEATHERSTONE

On my blog I like to bring you interviews and guest posts with authors I think you will like. Today I am delighted to welcome RACHAEL FEATHERSTONE to the Coffee & Roses Author Spotlight with a brilliant guest post to celebrate her very first novel, Puzzle Girl, which publishes today! Over to you, Rachael…
Rachael Featherstone author pic
I never knew if this day would actually come. If my dream that had once felt so far away would become a reality. It’s been a long road to get here and I’ve had some amazing support along the way from my agent, publisher and family and friends. So many people ask me, ‘what does it feel like to have your first novel published?’ I answer, ‘Amazing!’ ‘Incredible!’ ‘A dream come true!’ It can be hard to put into words how much goes into publishing your debut. But the closer I came to publication, the more I began to realise that publishing Puzzle Girl has felt a lot like getting married.

It all started with the proposal: Accent popped the question and I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’

Puzzle Girl cover
We set the date for the big day – 16th March 2017 – and it felt soooo far away. 15 months to wait! But it was probably a good thing because there were so many things to organise.

What was I most excited about? The wedding dress – aka the cover of the book. I was lucky that Accent’s designer took on board my ideas and I love the finished cover!

So many of us dream about having the perfect wedding, we want everything to be just right. And it was no different with publishing Puzzle Girl. We edited with a fine-toothed comb and planned out everything from the perfect wedding invite (aka the blurb of the book) to the perfect honeymoon (my two-week blog tour).

As for the hen night? Well that was my book launch. We celebrated on 2nd March, the event hosted by my best man – my literary agent, David Headley – at Goldsboro Books. It was such a fun evening and I got to sign copies of the limited edition hardbackwhich is exclusive to Goldsboro.

And of course, there had to be wedding cake!

Goldsboro Puzzle Girl cupcakes

And today the big day is finally here. My husband and I (my actual husband, not the book!) are having a celebratory lunch. Then this evening we invite all of you to join in for the publication day reception party on Twitter! There will be several Puzzle Girl party bags to be won as well as an hour and a half of Twitter chatter. I hope you can join us! x

Puzzle Girl Twitter Party Invite

Thanks so much to Rachael for a fantastic guest post – and happy P-Day!

Rachael lives in Hampshire with her husband Tim. Puzzle Girl is out today, published by Accent Press. You can follow Rachael on Twitter, on Facebook and visit her website.

Here’s the blurb of Puzzle Girl:

Clued-up career girl Cassy Brookes has life under control until one disastrous morning changes everything. When she finds herself stuck in a doctor’s surgery, a cryptic message left in a crossword magazine sends her on a search to find the mysterious ‘puzzle-man’ behind it. Cassy is soon torn between tracking down her elusive dream guy, and outwitting her nightmare workmate, the devious Martin. Facing a puzzling love life, will she ever be able to fit the pieces together and discover the truth behind this enigmatic man?

You can buy Rachael’s book in ebookpaperback and limited edition hardback.

MirandaWrites 52 – The Christmas Vlog!

Merry Christmas, lovelies!

Well, it’s been a very strange year, with lots of ups and downs, but one silver lining (pardon the pun) has been the fantastic response from you about the return of my vlogs. For this week’s vlog, I asked for your festive questions – and you gave me some great ones!

Which location makes me think of Christmas? Am I going to write any more novels set in New York? How many notebooks do people buy me for Christmas? These questions and more feature in a very festive vlog with special guests, a #LegoElvis exclusive newsflash (so exciting!) and even a bit of singing from me! Plus, I offer my advice for creating great vlogs for anyone interested in becoming a vlogger.

(I mention Hayley’s vlog – check out her YouTube channel here…)

(Read my Elvis-impersonators-fighting-alien-killer-zombies comedy novel, Elvis vs The End of the World here…)

So get ready for a bit of MirandaWrites festive fun – and thanks so much for watching! xx

#WurdyChristmas 4: Where does the door take Lucy?

free-wallpaper-christmas-treeWelcome to the fourth part of my exclusive #WurdyChristmas treat short story. Yesterday, I asked you to choose which door Lucy should walk through  – gold-trimmed or green-trimmed. The lead swung between the two for a while, but you made a good choice!

Do the doors lead anywhere? Are Tony & Frank real or figments of Lucy’s imagination? And does she trust them enough to put her life in their slightly transparent hands? Find out below – and don’t forget to vote in the poll at the bottom to decide what I’ll write for the last part of the story tomorrow! Happy reading, lovelies!

SILVER BELLS AT TONY & FRANK’S ©Miranda Dickinson 2o16

PART FOUR

Gold or green? Gold or green?

Lucy stared at the two red doors that had materialised on the back wall of her manager’s office.

‘Time’s marching on, kid,’ Tony said, appearing by her side. ‘What’s it gonna be?’

Lucy glanced at the clock above the jumble of shelves, boxes and not-so-mythical Founders. It still read one minute to midnight. If time was marching on, it was doing it at a glacial pace.

‘Well?’

‘I’m thinking.’

Tony sighed. ‘Don’t think. Act. Follow your heart.’

Lucy turned from the doors to stare at him. ‘Why? Why is it so important that I choose?’

‘Because you want something to change.’

‘So tell me what’s behind each door so I can see if it’s the change I’m looking for.’

‘Nuh-uh. Can’t do. This has to be your decision. Ask your heart…’

‘Logic works better for me.’

Tony’s surprise registered immediately. ‘It does? That’s not the Lucy Smith I know.’

This was way past a joke now. ‘You don’t know me! I’m stuck in my workplace because my stupid boyfriend – ex-boyfriend – dumped me instead of proposing. I have no transport. I haven’t a hope of a taxi because it’s Christmas Eve. I’m hearing that song over and over again, I’m being asked to make decisions when I don’t even trust my own mind any more because I’m talking to someone who doesn’t exist and… and…’

‘…And you want something to change?’

‘Yes!’

‘So pick a door.’

It was impossible. Everything that had happened since she’d returned to Tony & Frank’s was impossible. And now she couldn’t even win an argument with a figment of her imagination.

But he was right, wasn’t he? Ever since Aaron had driven away instead of asking her to marry him, the only thing Lucy Smith had wanted was for things to be different. She might be staring at two doors that couldn’t possibly be there, invited to do so by a suave Italian-American restaurant owner who absolutely couldn’t be there either, but she did have a choice.

Gold. Or green.

‘How do I choose?’ She whispered, tears stealing her voice.

‘Just go through the one that feels right, kid. There’s no wrong answer.’

‘There aren’t any –’ Lucy could hardly believe she was about to ask this, ‘– monsters through there, are there?’

‘Not unless you want them to be. So go already.’

Lucy Smith closed her eyes and wished with all her heart. Then she walked towards the back wall of the office and pushed open the red door with the gold metal trim…

* * * *

Intense, blinding white light immediately burst into her vision and Lucy had to shield her eyes against it. She was also aware of an intensely cold air – as if she had stepped into a refrigerator. A flurry of soft, cold pinpricks batted against her face. It felt like – no, that was impossible. There was no way she could believe it was snowing inside Tony & Frank’s… Pulling her coat tightly around her body she blinked until faint outlines began to appear through the all-white light. What met her eyes stole her breath faster than the freezing atmosphere.

A vast, gently undulating snowscape stretched out before her. Rolling hills dotted with wind-bent trees and hardy dry-stone walls were visible from the left, while to the right snow-covered cliffs fell dramatically to a midnight blue, half-frozen sea. Between hills and ocean a tiny village huddled, its lights studding the view like a host of sparkling stars. And not very far from the natural snowdrift that now half-claimed her shoes stood a bandstand.

It was beautiful – like a perfect scene from a Christmas card – and Lucy turned back to look at Tony and Frank. But the Founders were nowhere to be seen, along with the red and gold door that had brought her here.

And just like that, Lucy Smith was alone.

She tried to rationalise it but could find no explanation that worked. This couldn’t be the car park on the out-of-town retail park where Tony & Frank’s stood alongside a cinema and other chain restaurants. There it was midnight, or thereabouts; here the midday sun reflected by the snow was dazzling. So where was she? And how on earth could she get back?

Silver Bells, Silver Bells

That song again! But this time it sounded incredibly close and was playing at the right speed. As Lucy looked a couple appeared on the wooden platform of the bandstand, dancing together to the music. They looked happy and in love. Lucy was instantly drawn to them. She began to walk towards the bandstand, her shoes crunching and squeaking in the freshly fallen snow. Tiny lights began to appear along the white-painted cast iron sides of the bandstand, one at a time, like stars bursting into life in a marshmallow-white sky, until the whole structure was ablaze with twinkling light.

The song swelled and changed as Lucy neared the bandstand’s steps. It was no longer the familiar recording she had fallen in love with. It was now a tender, intimate duet between two people in love – the couple on the bandstand who hadn’t even noticed they were being watched. The man twirled his partner, momentarily breaking hold to perform a solo spin – and Lucy gasped as she recognised him.

‘Bing Crosby?’

The man stopped dancing and gave Lucy a little half-salute. ‘Hey there. Pleased to meet you, Miss–’

‘Lucy,’ said his partner. ‘Miss Lucy May Smith.’

Lucy knew that voice. It was unmistakable – a much-missed sound she still longed to hear three years since it disappeared from her life… ‘Gran?’

Gran gave a grin that was uniquely hers. ‘Hello poppet.’

‘What are doing here? You’re –’

Gran held up a hand. ‘Ooh, shh-shh, we don’t like to use the D-word around here. People get proper uppity. I had to be here, Lucybobs. I had to see you.’

‘But – what are you doing with Bing Crosby?’

Gran’s cheeks reddened like they always used to when she’d been found out. ‘Well, I assumed it was the foxtrot but it could have been the quickstep…’

‘Gran…’

‘He’s a friend,’ she beamed, mouthing, From the other side. ‘Lovely, isn’t he? We clicked right away. I think he might like me for more than my fancy footwork.’

For the last three years Lucy had dreamed of one more chance to see her grandmother. It made no sense whatsoever. So why try? ‘Oh Gran, I’ve missed you so much. I didn’t get chance to say goodbye before you…’ Lucy stopped as a horrible thought occurred. ‘Wait a minute – am I dead?’

‘Of course not, dear. But I am glad you chose our door.’

‘Me, too. So, where are we?’

‘I haven’t the foggiest, dearie. But it’s rather lovely, eh?’

‘Then why am I here?’

‘Didn’t Tony and Frank tell you?’ She rolled her eyes. ‘They really are forgetful, those two. You’re here because you want something to change. And I want that for you, too. So much.’

‘Hey, Edith, this your grandkid?’ Bing was leaning against one of the bandstand’s barriers, puffing on a tobacco-stuffed pipe.

‘It is, Bing. Isn’t she pretty?’

‘Beautiful,’ Bing replied, flashing a huge smile at Lucy. ‘So, you ready?’

‘What for?’

‘To choose.’

Another choice? Lucy’s head hurt. How was any of this helping her, other than granting one secret wish to see her Gran again? ‘I don’t know.’

‘Edith, the kid needs some help,’ Bing said.

When Lucy looked up at him she saw a younger man standing beside the famous crooner. He had hair the colour of a clear midnight sky and winter-blue eyes that twinkled in the light from the bandstand. He smiled at her and the silver and diamond-star box she still held glowed again.

‘Lucy, this is Seth. Dance with him.’ Gran’s cheeks bloomed like roses. ‘He’s rather lovely. And he dances like a dream.’

Seth smiled – and Lucy felt the world spin a little. ‘Would you like to dance with me?’

‘Is this the choice?’ Lucy asked, thinking that it might just be the easiest one she’d faced lately. Could she dance? She’d never tried before. But even if it was her first and only attempt, dancing with the handsome stranger seemed the most perfect idea.

Seth shook his head. ‘No. But dancing helps to focus your mind.’ He held out his hand and it was warm and familiar when Lucy took it.

Soon it will be Christmas Day

For the first time in her life, Lucy felt free. In Seth’s arms she moved effortlessly around the magically lit bandstand, the fairy lights blurring into twirling, swirling arcs of spun gold. She felt no fear, no pain from her newly broken heart. Just joy.

I could stay here forever, she thought, just as the music came to an abrupt halt. Seth gave a small bow and stepped away.

‘Time to choose, Lucybobs,’ Gran smiled, a wash of wistfulness passing across her face.

‘What’s my choice?’

‘You can stay here. Permanently. And you’d never want for anything, never feel lonely again.’ Gran looked up at the softly falling snowflakes. ‘Or you can go back. Make things different in the way you’d like them to be. It’s your choice.’

‘Would I see you? If I stay here?’

‘Maybe. Sometimes. Possibly more.’

‘And if I go home?’

Gran smiled, her eyes glistening. ‘I will always be with you.’

‘You have a beautiful heart,’ Seth said, stepping forward. Lucy felt her heart lurch. ‘I think wherever you are you’ll find happiness.’

‘Time to choose, kiddo,’ said Bing. ‘What’ll it be?’

Lucy took a breath of icy winter air and closed her eyes. It was time to ask herself the question she’d been too scared to consider.

What do I really want?

TO BE CONTINUED…©Miranda Dickinson 2016

What do YOU think? Should Lucy stay in the beautiful winter world or go back to face real life? Vote NOW in the poll below – and come back tomorrow to find out what happens next!

#WouldLoveThisBook – spreading book love!

After the success of #LoveThisBook on Twitter, I asked twitterers which books they are most excited to read in 2017. Again, the response was huge – with more conversations, delighted authors and general book excitement…

I’ve really loved talking about books on Twitter this weekend! As with #LoveThisBook, #WouldLoveThisBook brought a wealth of book recommendations, with people tweeting their own wishlists and others discovering titles to add to theirs.

The list is still growing – and you can add your most-wanted books for 2017 by tweeting me @wurdsmyth, using the hashtag #WeLoveThisBook. But I’ve Storified the current selection as nominated by readers and authors today – I’ll keep updating it as more tweets arrive. Get your book wishlists ready and happy reading!