I've set up this blog so that all my friends, relations and colleagues in the world of writing can keep up to speed with what I'm doing - from now on, I'll never have to say sorry for not keeping in touch.

Or anyway, that's the plan.

So do please link up with me on Facebook and Twitter - https://www.facebook.com/margaret.james.5268 and https://twitter.com/majanovelist

You can find my novels as digital downloads on Apple iTunes, Kobo, Kindle and Nook, and most are available as print paperbacks, too.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Meet Chris Penhall and learn all about her Ruby Fiction debut

I was excited to hear about writer Chris Penhall's success as both a debut and prizewinning novelist, and I have been looking forward to chatting ever since I heard that Chris had won a competition sponsored by award-winning independent publisher Choc Lit and Your Cat magazine. 

Chris's prize is publication by Choc Lit's sister imprint, Ruby Fiction.

Let's find out more about Chris.

She's a freelance writer and radio producer for her local BBC Radio station, as well as being an Associate Producer for the Richard and Judy Book Club Podcast. Born in South Wales, she has also lived near London and in Portugal, which is where The House that Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it.  She is now working on her second. A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea. Chris has two grown-up daughters and lives in the Essex countryside.

The House that Alice Built is Chris’s first novel. What a gorgeous cover - and look, there's Aphrodite the cat, who partly inspired the story! 

The book is about sensible Alice, who is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she and her ex bought many years previously. She’s throwing all her money and love into that whilst he is off having a mid-life crisis and travelling the world. But when he sends her a postcard telling her he wants to sell the house at the same time as she gets made redundant, she panics.

As far as she’s concerned, he has only paid enough towards it to own the downstairs toilet. But rather than stand up to him, she does something uncharacteristic. She leaves the country. But only goes as far as Portugal where her best friend Kathy is living.

But her ex isn’t going to give up that easily.

Once Alice gets to Portugal, she begins to learn how to let go and find the person she used to be. And of course, there’s a man. There’s also Aphrodite the cat, Elvis the dog, a spot of paddle boarding, and a bit of dancing on top of bars. 

'I wanted to write about escape, learning to let go, and re-inventing yourself,' says Chris.
'But mostly, I wanted my story to be fun, sunny, and uplifting. It’s my love letter to Portugal.'

I'm sure all Chris's readers will agree that The House that Alice Built is a fun, inspiring and engaging read. You can get all the links to buying the e-book or audio by visiting www.chrispenhall.co.uk

Buy the book from Amazon UK: 

Get in touch with Chris:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Writing and Running with Christine Stovell, Author and Athlete

Today, it's a huge pleasure to chat to the author and athlete Christine Stovell, who is a talented poet, novelist, journalist, sailor and also a dedicated runner. 

Here's Christine in running mode...

...and sailing mode...

...and just-being-Christine mode.

Let's ask her to tell us all about what has been going on in 2019.

'New Year, for me, is always a time for reflection. I began 2019 with a long, hard think about writing. A novel I'd loved writing, Follow a Star, didn’t kick-start my fiction career as much as I'd hoped, nor did the novella Moonbeams in a Jar, which came after Follow a Star. I wasn’t short of ideas; a new Little Spitmarsh novel, a house with secrets novel, even the literary novel I’d started as part of an academic course -  heck, even a novel about a detective with superhuman powers all beckoned. But what was really holding me back was the thought of all the hours of hard work I would have to invest in a novel that would probably be priced at 99p on Amazon Kindle and other ebook platforms, leaving me with very little financial return.

'My husband, Tom, had been urging me for years to "do it myself". So, when my son-in-law Simon bought me an extra birthday present of a short course on self-publishing, I decided my New Year's Resolution for 2019 would be to write and publish a book on the subject of something I’m passionate about; running and its endless capacity to heal. What started as an exercise opened floodgates of emotion as I recounted the painful circumstances in which I started running. Words poured from my fingers as I recalled twenty years of running through bad, sad and truly wonderful times.

'The technical process of uploading my book through Amazon KDP was straightforward and, yes, I was slightly daunted because it was my first time. But, gosh, I was so proud when I received the notification that Running Kind was up and running! An early lesson was realising that it was a false economy not to commission a professional cover. It seems readers of running books like to see a runner on the cover … who knew? So, I got in touch with multi-talented fellow author Rhoda Baxter who designed a smart new cover which readers seem to like, too.

'Writing and self-publishing Running Kind has been an enjoyable and positive experience, and I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers - runners and non-runners alike. There is one very special woman in my life who never thought she was the running kind but found the confidence to lace up her trainers after reading my book, and has almost completed a Couch to 5k programme. Even if I never sell another book, that one outcome is the greatest reward of all.'

Do give this book a go, readers. I'm not a runner myself, but the wit, humour and honesty of this lovely story engaged me, even though I don't know if I'll ever find the energy to lace up any trainers myself. This is a bit weird because I somehow managed to produce two daughters who both love extreme sports, but that's another story.

Buy Running Kind here:

Get in touch with Christine:

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/chrisstovell/

Monday, September 2, 2019

Linda Mitchelmore takes us to Cove End

Today, it's a great pleasure to welcome bestselling novelist and prolific short story author Linda Mitchelmore as a guest on my blog. Linda has written three novels set in the seaside town of Cove End and says there are more books to come, hurrah!

Please tell us about the third novel in this lovely series, Linda?

'The Little B&B at Cove End was a book that was, perhaps, crying out to be written. I’ve lived in a seaside town all my life, where the houses in some roads are given over totally to B&B signs swinging outside. 

'When I first married I toyed with the idea of moving to a bigger house nearer the sea and running a B&B myself. However, my husband would probably have preferred to gouge his eyes out with bent paperclips than have strangers in the house all summer long. So we stayed put and it was only family and friends, and foreign students, who came to stay.

'Write what you know is advice given to many aspiring authors and, while I never have got around to running my own B&B, I do have experience of making people welcome, and changing beds on a regular basis as one lot of friends leaves and another lot arrives, and of always having breakfast choices available. I am best friends with the vacuum and the duster and the Flash.

'I had a "what if" moment when I found myself with another book to write as part of my contract with HarperCollins. "What if" my heroine – Cara - has no other option but to turn her beloved home into a B&B? I know my own daughter would have hated it if I had been in that position, so I added a very reluctant teenager – Mae -  to the mix. So then I had a mother/daughter tension scenario – something I also know about.

Here's a photograph of Paignton Harbour, the inspiration for Cove End

'I added art to the mix because, while I’m not an artist myself, I know those who are, and I’ve collected original art works in a small way for years. Art, I think, lifts our spirits.

'Readers who know my books will recognise Seth and Emma Jago (from a trilogy I wrote for Choc Lit) in this one. And a character from a previous HarperCollins novel – Janey in Christmas at  Strand House – pops up in The Little B&B at Cove End.

'As I was writing THE END to my manuscript I had another "what if" moment. What if people coming to stay at Cove End have reasons for being there – secrets? Hmm -  watch this space!'

Thank you, Linda - I'm already looking forward to reading Book 4 in the series, so please get writing! 

Link up with Linda:
https://twitter.com/LindaMitchelmor and https://www.facebook.com/linda.mitchelmore

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Discovering Borteen Bay with Morton S Gray

It's always lovely to meet a new novelist whose work I enjoy, so I was delighted when award-winning author Morton S Gray popped over to my blog to tell me about the inspiration for her Borteen Bay series of stories (three to date - more to come, hurrah) all set in the fictional seaside resort of Borteen.

Morton says she has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen, the plot closely resembling the Errol Flynn films she watched with her grandmother every Sunday afternoon. However, she didn’t take her writing seriously until much later in her life.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won the Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2017. She tells me she is still immensely proud of (and stunned by) the win, which allowed her to achieve a lifetime ambition of holding her own story as a paperback book. 

So - what's the starting point for this first novel?

It follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s new headteacher, Harry Dixon.

Morton based The Girl on the Beach in a fictional seaside town called Borteen and has to date published two other novels set in the town. If you see her staring into space, she says she is most likely walking around the streets of Borteen in her mind and greeting its inhabitants, all of which feel very real to her. A hand drawn map of Borteen hangs on her study wall and she has a document called The Borteen Bible which details all of the buildings and residents of the town and ensures consistency. 

Although each book is stand-alone, fans of Morton’s Borteen series will get enticing glimpses of the characters they know and love in each of the books.

Her second book The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel and tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. The third in the series, Christmas at Borteen Bay, follows the story of Pippa Freeman, who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse in Borteen with her mother, and of local policeman Ethan Gibson. As Christmas approaches, they unravel a family secret.

What does Morton do in her spare time, that's if she has any?

She tells me she enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Inevitably, these hobbies appear in her stories. 

She is also working on several more novels set in Borteen.

You can catch up with Morton on her website and on Facebook and Twitter:

Twitter - @MortonSGray
Facebook - Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/

Buy her books from a platform of your choice here:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Competition time again

The team members at CreativeWritingMatters - Cathie Hartigan, Sophie Duffy and I, pictured below with our Exeter Novel Prize competition judge Broo Doherty - have been busy over the summer setting up new competitions for writers in all kinds of fiction genres.

The Exeter Story Prize, Exeter Flash and Trisha Ashley Award are open for entry now, but are closing shortly, on 31 August. So, if you would like to enter any of these awards, please get writing and submitting soon! http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/2019-exeter-story-prize-and-trisha-ashley-award.html

The Exeter Novel Prize is also open for entries, but you have until 1 January 2020 to submit. There is more information about it on the CreativeWritingMatters website, which is here: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk

The most recent Exeter Novel Prize awards ceremony was attended by the authors in the shortlist, our judge Broo Doherty of http://www.dhhliteraryagency.com/, and also some of the writers who have won or been shortlisted for previous competitions. There's more information here: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/2018-exeter-novel-prize.html

Finally - yes, we've noticed what you've noticed. There are no men in the line-up. This isn't because we don't want men to enter our competitions, and in fact several men have won the Exeter Story Prize and Trisha Ashley Award, including Simon Kettlewell, Daniel Murphy and Richard Buxton. Please check out our winners pages to see that we're not gender-biased, honestly! http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/our-winners.html

So, any gentlemen reading this, do have a look at our website, especially our winners pages, and believe we want to hear from you too.

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Catching up with Caroline James

Today, it's my great pleasure to welcome the novelist, creative writing tutor and public speaker Caroline James as my guest on my blog.

Caroline has written many bestselling novels, the latest being The Best Boomerville Hotel, where older people can stay and have a really great time. Quite right too! Why should the young have all the fun? After a long working life, don't older people deserve some rest, relaxation and a few new challenges, too? 

'The Best Boomerville Hotel is a retreat for the more mature guest, who can book a stay and participate in various courses,' Caroline told me. 'These activities range from a conventional art or creative writing class to whacky sessions that include getting stoned with a Shaman or séances with Queenie, the resident clairvoyant.

'When I was compiling the research for the novel, I discovered that in the UK today one in three adults over the age of fifty live on their own. This may be - for example - though choice, death of a partner. or divorce. I talked to countless over-fifties and realised that many of them are lonely and unsure of what to do with the rest of their lives. I wanted to inspire readers with the message that it is alright to get older, to embrace this second bite at life, and to find ways to discover new adventures and friends and actively run down the road to happiness, not to stagger unhappily on a Zimmer frame. Boomerville is a book about the older protagonist having fun, but it covers serious issues too, and it has a surprising ending.

'My readers, both male and female, consistently tell me that they wish that there was a real Boomerville Hotel, for they would make a booking immediately!'

Caroline has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and she escapes whenever she can. 

A public speaker, she gives talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, and she's also a consultant and food writer. 

She's  a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association and the Society of Women Writers & Journalists. She writes articles and short stories and she contributes to many publications. She also runs writing workshops.

In her spare time, she can be found trekking up a mountain or relaxing with her head in a book and  her hand in a box of chocolates!

Twitter: @CarolineJames12

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Time to chat to Valerie Holmes

It's a great pleasure to welcome you back to my blog, Valerie. I'm looking forward to hearing about your work and the inspiration for your Yorkshire sagas. 

Here is Valerie walking the North Yorkshire "trods" as these ancient pathways across the moors are known locally. 
'Thank you for inviting me to talk about my work and The Yorkshire Saga series, Margaret.
'I was fortunate that, as a student of creative writing, I had a brilliantly supportive tutor who inspired me to persevere in the face of initial rejections (a vital lesson to take on board for anyone who is serious about making it through to publication).
'My first novella was published in 2003. I love writing novellas and did so for the next fifteen years, having over forty titles published; romance and mystery, historical and contemporary. I look on them as my apprenticeship as authors continually improve their skills the more they write.
'My strap-line is: Love the Adventure! - and I do. 
'Writing is a solitary occupation, the research is all encompassing, editing, drafting, redrafting - the whole process from initial idea to published book is a labour of love.
'The Yorkshire Saga series is set in my birth county of North Yorkshire where I've spent many happy days exploring the coast, moors and forests, discovering its ancient abbeys, stately homes and researching its chequered history. 
'The beautiful coastal bay towns such as Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay, Staithes and Saltburn-by-Sea (my "Ebton" is where To Have and To Hold begins) were places where smuggling thrived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.' 

Above is Valerie's fictional Ebton...

...and one of her favourite churches.
'Although we tend to glorify smugglers nowadays, historically they were plying a violent trade. But taxes were unduly high, war was ongoing, and the government did not care for the plight of the common man.
'With many changes happening both here and abroad, life in both town and countryside was becoming more challenging as machinery replaced cottage industries, so tensions were high.  The period between 1800-1825 fascinates me. It is an excellent era in which to set stories that are packed with mystery, love and drama.'
Thank you for bringing us up to date, Valerie! You can find out more about Valerie and her fiction at: www.valerieholmesauthor.com.