Tuesday 21 May 2024

Amanda Jones talks to me about her recently published book Kathleen


So, Amanda,your book started life as a CafeLit serial.  How did that work for you? 


Submitting the stories as a serial on CafeLit kept me focused on regularly writing each section. I like the way each ‘chapter’ can be read individually or together and you can dip in and out. It is particularly helpful when writing about difficult subjects both for the writer and the reader. For many years now I have been enjoying CafeLit. As part of this I created videos sharing the links on my social media and this is very useful in marketing and visualising the themes running through the book.


We decided to publish it under the “feisty women” imprint? Was that a good idea?


Publishing under the ‘feisty women’ imprint was a brilliant idea. Mum was a very determined, feisty woman but also sensitive and loving, living through her difficulties. This set me up for life and enabled me to see how to adapt to challenges. Integrity with kindness is essential.


It’s quite a short book – but perfectly formed.  How did you decide which content to put in and which to leave out?


Writing in a short style enabled me to share and process challenges succinctly. Elaborating on themes would have made a sense of overwhelming and the journey is paramount to the book. Learning, accepting and finding the value of the present moment is where I wanted to lead the reader through aspects of love. It is aimed especially at people with experience of young caring and disability so that is the focus. When I was experiencing difficult times reading positive turnarounds really helped and I wanted to emulate this; there is a way through and forward and caring is a huge, impactful reassurance in forming empathy.


We have quite  bit of your mother’s work in the book. Why did you decide to include that?


Including my mother’s work was both a visual and written way to break the story and be a tribute to Mum. The illustrations are all her work before she lost her sight and they were part of a college course in the 1970s. I like the way they show different styles and the positions in the book could spark thought. ‘What does a ball of string represent in life?’ could be something we ask. The detail is all freehand and I am amazed at her talent and it means a lot to me to include them. Mum’s writing at the end of the book somehow summarises everything smoothly, as I selected the pieces from her written calligraphy.


Memoir of biography? or, indeed a bit of both?  


The book is both a memoir and biography. Perspective change is part of the writing style chosen which I toyed with but comfortably settled on. On previous attempts to write about life I found it too challenging hence this style was helpful.


Are you organising any talks or events around the book?


I am talking about the book at the upcoming Quaker Arts Network AGM on 1st June 2024 in Birmingham in a short presentation. Then I’ll see where marketing takes me. Social media is where I share the book links and also share support for young carers and people with disabilities and this is where I would like to continue to increase awareness. Networks in health where I’m a Peer Leader are encouraging me to share the book as personal experience is so vital in working to improve services. I have a list of ideas for future events.


What's the next project?


I’m working on a horror story as a sequel to my book ‘The Doll’s House of Horror’ and enjoying writing this.

Find Kathleen in our online bookshop.  

Sunday 19 May 2024

Celebration Event for the House of Clementine 8 May 2024

Time for Tea did us proud. There was a lovely atmosphere and most people knew each other so the conversations flowed well.

I explained a little about how I’d got the idea for the series: the Peace Child was a child given from one tribe in Papua New Guinea to another to help maintain the peace. The Peace child would understand the points of view of both tribes. That is Kaleem’s mission. He doesn’t deal in compromise. He always delivers win-win.

The first book was part of my PhD, where I examined the nature of the young adult novel. It was an emerging genre then. Between 2003 and 2007, the time it took me to complete my PhD, I pretty well knew every YA book in print. That’s not possible now; the explosion that started between 1996 and 2004 has really spread.

The boundaries keep on being pushed. What shocks the adults delights the young people. The adults then accept that material and for the young people it’s no longer edgy enough.  Something more shocking must appear.

I read some passages form the latest book. How might Kaleem, the ultimate Peace Child have dealt with Brexit? Well he kind of has the chance to find out. Rozia reports in her U-log of what happens after a similar referendum happens in her world:

Rozia's Ulog

Hi all,

Time has just gone by so quickly since I was last in touch. I'm afraid, though it's not such good news at the moment.    

As you know I've been made so welcome here on Zandra and it hadn't ever occurred to me to question whether I belonged at all. But that has all changed in just one day. That routine referendum. Why do so many people want to leave the One World Community all of a sudden? What does that mean for Petri and me? Will they not want us anymore? Will they see us a drain on their resources?

It's all right for Kaleem. At least he looks a bit Zandrian. He is partly Zandrian.

Petri had been doing so well. But then she became ill quite suddenly. It was terrifying. She was obviously in so much pain - worse, I think, than ever before. Although Kaleem was with me when it happened, I really felt alone. We're away from home.

The wands didn't work. How could the wands not have worked? Had someone interfered with them? I'm really scared that somebody is trying to get at us. The doctor admitted that this kind of thing has happened a few times now. 

I was glad Kaleem was there and that he took us to the medi-centre.

Doctor Joahnsa Brooken was brilliant. I'm not sure that she believed me, though, when I said that I had applied the wands to Petri. But she soon sorted her out, anyway. It was really kind of her to give Petri something to make her calmer before she started applying the meds.

It was all still very worrying, though. The doctor admitted that this kind of thing had happened a few times now. And she doesn't even trust all of her colleagues. What is happening here?

I'm really grateful to her, anyway. I'm going to go to her for the wands in future - not rely on a courier to bring them, just as she suggested. And I'll only take them from her, not from one of her colleagues.  

It took Petri a while to recover, even after we'd got her home. Kaleem stayed with me. He was so kind and I was glad he was there. I hope he hasn't got the wrong impression, though. I do care for him and I know he cares for me and Petri. But I don't think we can ever be together again the way we were. Not after the way he left me. Not with me having to care for Petri.       


Science fiction acts for adolescents and perhaps for adults as anthropomorphism does in picture books. It objectifies the world. Many of the issues in the futuristic world are actually ones that we’re dealing with now.

All of the peace Child books, though, have another story buried within them. This can often be magical or historical or a little of both. This is the second episode about how the House of Clementine was formed:


Obek looked up at the high ceiling of the new Clementine Family Store. It was glorious. The tiles on the walls gleamed. The skylights let in air and light but an automatic system made blinds draw across when the sun shone too fiercely. The polished but slip-proof floors smelt faintly of orange and were orange in colour. The best quality goods were piled high. It was exciting and enticing.

The doors swished open. Tomik, Penni and Harissa came in. Tomik had not brought Flanda.

"It should be family only," he'd said to his father.

Obek thought it was a shame. Flanda would soon be part of the family and she would be a real asset. He was pleased that Harissa had been included, though, and that despite her problems she had been involved with the project: the orange and green theme in the window displays had been her idea and they did seem so right for the House of Clementine.

"Are we all ready?" asked Tomik as they rushed in.

Everyone nodded. If Harissa smiled any harder her face would split in two. Obek was continuously amazed at how well she understood the Order.  

"Okay," said Tomik to the newly-appointed manager. "Let them in."

They looked almost frightened to walk on the sparkling floors at first. This was so different from the dusty little general store they'd been used to. Gradually though, the noise level went up as the sales assistants began to talk to the shoppers.

"We ought to play some background music," said Tomik. "It would stop it getting too noisy."

A good point. Obek nodded. Well this was Tomik's concern now. He could arrange it.

More and more people came into the store. Soon some were leaving, though, and they were carrying bags full of goods. Obek was pleased that there were such nice things for them to choose and that in fact they could afford them: they were able to pay their workers well. Now all of these sales assistants were going to enhance what was already a thriving economy.

A small lunch, accompanied by fresh clementine juice, had been set out for Obek and his party in the meeting room upstairs.

"We can't stay too long." Tomik touched Obek's arm as they sat down. "We have to get to the Elders' meeting."

Ah yes. That. He'd better enjoy this lunch while he could.


The board room in the lodge was getting too small. There were too many Elders now. Obek thought back to the time when it had been mainly he and his father who had dealt with the Order. It hadn't even been this crowded when his father had held meetings about all of his business interests. But the Order was getting very diverse now. It had been Tomik's idea to give the name of Elder to the representatives of each branch of House of Clementine activity.

"It's a bit of a romantic idea, isn't it?" he'd suggested to Tomik.

"I think it will command respect. Anyway, Elders should be elected for their wisdom and experience and you should be the first one."

So, ridiculous as it had sounded, he had become Elder Obek and was in charge of all the work in the clementine orchards. Soon there had been Elders to represent the health care system, the money system and a crude judicial system. Just recently Tomik, at the tender age of twenty-six, had become Elder of Retail. There was no one overruling Elder. That pleased Obek. They took it in turns to chair the sessions. It was Tomik's turn today. Had the boy been a little nervous? Was that why he'd been in such a hurry at lunch time? In the end they'd arrived much too early. Tomik always seemed so confident. Perhaps he wasn't though.

Tomik cleared his throat. "Everyone, will you please take your seats."

Well that seemed assertive enough.

They all sat down and the meeting began. Much of it was very routine. Obek resented a little how all this careful planning took away the excitement he'd felt when he first set up the Order but he supposed it was necessary.

"Any other business?" said Tomik at last.

Good. They would be able to get home soon.

"I have a proposal."

It was Janik Hanson, Elder of Law.

"Go ahead," said Tomik.

Was this about to become interesting?

"I think we should introduce a system of knights."

There was a general murmuring of what sounded mainly like disapproval.

"I don't mean men covered in armour who charge around on horseback. I rather mean a hierarchy of people, working towards being Elders, going through three stages: ordinary knight, knight of the second order, knight of the first order. They could apply or be nominated and they would have to work through a series of tasks. It could be very motivating."

Obek felt wide awake now as they began to debate the matter strenuously.


The documents that Hanson had supplied were spread out over the polished oak table in the larger meeting room of the grand lodge. There was so much paper that this was the only place where they could see them all at once.  

"He's certainly put some work into this." Obek couldn't really fault any of the ideas the Elder of Law had put forward for how the knights on all three levels should be tested and trained. "I like the way the established knights will train and assess newcomers. But how are we going to test the first ones? And who is going to test them?" Tomik was frowning.

"I suppose it will have to be selected members of the committee. It would be only polite to include Hanson. I expect, though, we'll have to put it to a democratic vote." Always that. At times Obek thought he was beginning to lose control of his own order. His son was still frowning. "Do you want to be involved?"

"I don't think I should be."

Of course. Tomik would want to be a knight.

Tomik sighed. "It's important that the first knights are really special."

"Naturally. I'm sure you'll do a great job. There's no need to worry."

Tomik shook his head. "I was thinking of Flanda. She would be superb and she deserves this." 


Flanda looked glorious. She had chosen a white, calf-length dress decorated with a red band which suggested the knights of old.

Tomik had been right. She made a splendid example as the first knight. It hadn't been that easy, even for her, though. Tomik had had to encourage her and even Penni had stepped in from time to time to reassure the young woman. Harissa had been the most helpful in the end. "You can do it, Flanda," she'd said. "You're not a poor empty head like me."

Then Flanda had laughed, stroked the younger girl's hair and said "You're not an empty head. You are the kindest, the most generous person I know. We can all learn so much from you."

"I have a present for you," said Harissa. She handed Flanda a bulky parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

Flanda blushed as she struggled to untie the knots. Harissa was always so good at wrapping up parcels. At last it was open and out tumbled a glorious blue velvet cloak. It was beautifully soft and it would keep her lovely and warm on the colder days. She held it to her cheek. "This is lovely," she whispered. "Thank you so much." She hugged the younger girl.      

Flanda had succeeded and here she was, ready to be knighted. She knelt down in front of Obek. Yes, a democratic process had taken place but the Elders had been unanimous in putting him and Hanson in charge of the Order's knights and everyone had also agreed that he should conduct the first ceremony. Maybe the Order did still belong to him after all. Naturally it had been Tomik's idea that this should still be done with a sword.

He smiled at the young woman. "Flanda Regan, you have proved yourself worthy of the title of Ordinary Knight of the House of Clementine. You have proved that you are worthy physically, mentally and spiritually of this title, so I hereby name you Ordinary Knight of the House of Clementine." He placed the sword on both of her shoulders in turn. "In bestowing this knighthood on you, I tie your loyalty to the House of Clementine for as long as you shall live. Arise, Madam Knight and take up your duties."

Everyone in the crowd clapped vigorously. Flanda blushed then turned to Tomik and grinned. He smiled slowly back but his arms remained crossed over his chest.

"For goodness sake, marry the girl before someone else snaps her up," Obek muttered. What sort of fool was his son exactly?     


I had another reading but didn’t get round to it. I’ll include it here because it shows a gentler side of Kaleem:

He’s helping to ‘wand’ Petri, Rozia’s sick step-daughter:


Kaleem's useless." Petri giggled.

"Don't be such a cheeky little monkey." Rozia was frowning.

"She's right, though, I am. Just like with the kaartjes." Rozia had been so much better at driving those strange little vehicles than he had been when they lived together in the Z Zone.

"Oh, you weren't so bad really. That was a long time ago anyway."

There was now an awkward silence again. Kaleem got a little better control of the wand and it finally gave its double bleep to show that the treatment was complete.

"I'll get going," said Kaleem.

"Don't go just yet. Wait in the lounge while I tuck her in."

Kaleem made his way through to the lounge. Dare he hope? Maybe that conversation about the kaartjes and their time in the Z Zone meant something? And now that Petri's medication was sorted again? 

She seemed to take an age. He had the impression that she was hesitating. At last she came through though.

"I know what you're thinking," she said as she came into the lounge. Her eyes were fixed on the ground and she wouldn't look up at him. "We're still going back though."

"Why? Now that Ella's really fixed the meds? She will take care of you. You know that."

"Yes, yes. She's been very good. You all have. But you'll be going away soon as well."

"My parents will look out for you and if Saratina comes?"

"They would. I know. But it isn't just that. We just don't feel wanted here. By too many other people. My mind's made up." Now she looked at him and he could see the tears in her eyes. That was something at least. It was as hard for her as it was for him.

"I'd best get going then."

Rozia nodded and pressed the buzzer that opened the main door to the apartment.

Kaleem left without another word. He ran down the fourteen flights of stairs and out into the cold night. He jogged home, despite the cold.

He decided he would go and see her again the next day.


The poor, poor child. I wish I didn't have to be so cruel. Yet on the other hand I'm glad. I so often have to suffer physically like that. What they all do hurts me. I am the physical manifestation of their rot.    


And of course that last paragraph is a voice that we hear every so often in the story. I won’t say who it is. I don’t want to give any spoilers.   

There was time for questions and answers and time to sell a few books. 

And as one would expect – the afternoon tea was delicious.   

I am still selling books ta a discount. Details here. 

Sunday 12 May 2024

What about this as a novel way of launching a book?

Peter Street launched his book of poems in a fish and chip shop!   

All members of society have visited a chip shop. Maybe for a sit-down meal, followed by a cup of tea. Wagon drivers, have visited, while on the go. Even the police in their police cars have relieved stress with a bag of chips (with or without fish). It’s the place where a gentle reading of a newly published book would be appreciated.

Ernest Beck of the ‘Wall Street Journal’ summed me up, in a few sentences.

'A new generation of poets like Mr Street – who hail from working class

backgrounds – are bringing verse back home. For many British Poets like Mr Street pushing poetry is now a mission.  Like a wondering medieval minstrel, he’s bringing his art to the people.'

   The story about my chip shop project had appeared in the Sunday Times. It was also on BBC North West Radio and TV.  This had never been done before. I read my work while standing next to the warm display cabinet of the chippy. I also read at the end of the queue, where those waiting, could relax. 

Some customers asked where they could buy my books. Some even talked about their favorite writers: both of poetry and prose. While I was outside on the pavement, children began chalking their own poems or a few lines of a made up story - there and then. It was a community project at its very best. Made so, because everyone knows their chippy and what’s happening there.

Fish and chips have been with the UK since Dickensian times. No-one really knows who the bright spark was, who first added fish to their chips. It has been thought to be a Jewish thing, but no-one is that certain.  Fish and chips are devoured by most religious cultures.  It is who we are. Fish and Chips are known the world over. The BBC World Service made connections with fish and chip lovers in Saudia Arabia, during the Kaleidoscope program: I was presenting at the time.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

News 7 May 2024


Looking forward to my book event tomorrow, 8 May 2024  

I’m launching the fourth of my Peace Child books at the wonderful Time for Tea Café in Prestwich. This is an amazing little café on a busy main road in Prestwich. Yet, the moment you walk through the door you find a haven of peace. There are beautifully laid tables with china cups and saucers as well as delicious cakes and sandwiches.

I’ve had book events there before and you’ll see if you look at the Facebook feed that this really is one of my Creative Cafés. Owner Julie Cornac hosts poetry and musical afternoons.

Look out for details of how it all went into the next newsletter.        

Writing news

I’m still working on edits of Peace Child 6. I’m currently in the middle of one about how description should be added in.  I’m finding that I’m cutting back quite a few words.  That can’t be bad.


Yes, The House of Clementine is out now. Here are the details: https://www.thebridgetowncafebooksshop.co.uk/2024/03/the-house-of-clementine-by-gill-james.html

And here is the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pho20T84UF4 I was very pleased to find an actor that looked exactly as I imagined Meelak.

I’ve also had several pieces published on Talking About My Generation/

There’s my review of A Taste of Honey at the Royal Exchange Theatre. This was an incredibly good production of a classic play, set in Salford. https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/review-a-taste-of-honey-at-the-royal-exchange-manchester

I have also had one my short stories published there: ‘Warm Spaces’ https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/warm-spaces-a-short-story-by-gill-james/

Then I spent a marvellous morning with a bunch of guide dogs and a colleague form TamG: https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/a-day-out-at-the-guide-dogs-tea-party/      

On My Blog

I have been busy of the blog. I consider how  We Need Fans and Followers, not so much Friends and Family Case in point. I have no family coming to my event tomorrow, and just those friends who are interested in literary events.  

I muse on Some Fun Things about Being a Writer

I have an interview with Sally Zigmond who talks about her new short story collection, The Story Weaver.

I’ve had a couple of nasty chest infections recently and so Ive written about how illness and creativity interact: Illness and Creativity

The Young Person’s Library

Making up for lost time, this month I’ve added three books:

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal, a story for young adults and including vampires.

Wilding by Isabella Tree and Angela Harding is a beautifully illustrated book about rewilding. It’s hard to put an age group on this one and it might well appeal just as much to adults.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner This is the second book in the Maze Runner series. It is fast paced and shows a dystopian world. Suitable for teens.   

Recommended read

This month I’m recommending Wilding by Isabella Tree and Angela Harding.

It is a book about rewilding and Angela Harding’s illustrations are exquisite.

We read the story of how Isabella and her husband Charlie returned their 3,500 acres of land at Knepp in West Sussex to nature. There is so much information packed into this book. There is the history of the land and the rewilding, there are details about the kinds of wild life that live there and about the types of plants. There are examples of other rewilding projects and also hints and tips about if you would like to do your own rewilding

It is a bautriufl book and also very tactile.  It was marketed as a book for children but I believe many adults would also enjoy it.   

Find your copy here 

Sample pages

If you like what you’re reading you can click through and find out ways of buying the book. However, I’m still happy to give you a free copy if you’re strapped for cash and / or you’re willing to review.  Just contact me.  

This month I’m offering Girl in a Smart Uniform

23 March 1932 : food fight? 

The doorbell rang. I didn’t want to get up and answer it straight away. I was too absorbed in my history project. Whoever was there rang again and again. Then they kept their finger on the bell. It got louder and louder and started to hurt my ears. All right then. I opened the door, and there was Thomas standing on the step.

“Will you do something for me?”

“What? Why?”

“My mother’s expecting a parcel and I've got to go out.”

“Why can’t you wait for it?”

“Because we’re going on a hike, and we’re going to build a campfire and cook on it.” His eyes were shining.

“Well I hope you don’t mess up your lovely new uniform.” I felt a bit mean as soon as I’d said it.

“You could join the Jungmädel.”

Hmm. Herr Silber kept saying he would buy me the uniform and Kurt thought it would be a good idea. Bear, though, said I would have plenty of time for those sorts of things later. Mutti just smiled and shrugged her shoulders every time the subject came up. Anyway, back then, I wasn’t sure I was thant keen on creepy crawlies and sleeping outside. I wished, though, that I could enjoy things like Thomas did.

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“Well, can you take this parcel or not?”

“Yeah, I guess. Just leave a note on the door.” 

“Well I hope you don’t get the hook-nose.”


“He’s a Jew.”


Thomas rolled his eyes. “Don’t you know anything? You know. Jesus-hater. Home-wrecker. Work-stealer.”

What was he talking about? “Oh, just put a note on the door and tell him to come here.”

      Thomas jumped on the spot and clapped his hands. “Thanks.” 

I shut the door and returned to my project. What an idiot! Getting so excited about going out into the countryside with a load of other idiots. 

Soon I was once again trying to work out who German people were really supposed to be. Herr Lindemann was always going on about how we should be proud to be German and we should look at all the history books to see how great Germans really were. But we’re not. We’re poor and we keep losing wars.

Then I heard Bear coming down the stairs.

“Hey, Giselchen. Are you doing your homework on a nice sunny day like today? You should be out getting some fresh air.”

I smiled to myself. I knew why he was in such a good mood. He’d come back on leave last night and he’d gone for a walk with Helga Brassel. Maybe they’d kissed. I was a bit jealous in a way. Maybe when he came home now he wouldn’t have so much time for me. Never mind, though, I was glad he was happy. He was so nice, my big Bear brother. Especially when he was cheerful. And that always made it nicer for me as well.

He leaned over to see what I was writing. “Oh, oh, oh. The glorious German people. Do you think so, really?”

“It’s what Herr Lindemann says.”

 “Well, if it’s what your teacher says, I suppose it must be true. Or at least you’d better pretend to agree just in case.”

As if I’d ever not do what my teacher told me. What was he thinking?

The doorbell rang again. Before I could get up out of my seat Bear had rushed to the front door and opened it. It was the parcel man. I could tell by the conversation.

“That right Giselchen? You’re to take in a parcel for Thomas’s Mutti?”

Did he have to call me that in front of other people? I quite liked it when we were at home together as a family. But I was growing up now and ought to be called by my proper name. “Yes,” I called.

 Read more here

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

I’ve added a couple of posts this month. I’m now looking at many topics that will be useful for the next novel.

I look generally at resistance to Hitler and specifically at assassination attempts.    

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.


Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my books and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     


Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.


The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.    


Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  


Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.


A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   


The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   


CaféLit Stories Find these here


Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.


Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.


The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.


Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.  I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.     


Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.