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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Playwrights - new opportunity

Pearson Education Ltd is looking for new plays for young people between the ages of 11 - 14, with "high boy appeal" - that is, featuring monsters, werewolves, zombies, vampires, crime and detection. Thse plays are for use in English lessons in schools.

Essential criteria:

Length - 15,000 - 20,000 words
Large number of parts (10 - 30)
Good mix of roles in terms of gender and race
Short scenes
Good pace of action and dialogue
Minimal swearing, no sex, no smoking, no drugs

Send synopses and scripts to:

Louise Morris
Editorial Team Leader
Pearson Education Ltd
Halley Court
Jordan Hill

See www.pearsonschools.co.uk/playssubmissions

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunshine at last - and something new for writing groups

Hurrah, raspberries are ripening, blackcurrants are getting fat, summer seems to have come at last, but am going to leave photograph of self in winter coat on Facebook page, do not wish to tempt providence.

This came into my inbox today - details of a new website for writing groups, might be of interest to people who can't get to a face-to-face group as often as they would like? See www.ourwritinggroup.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rain and bees

Looks like rain - so come on, half an hour of it, please, then I won't have to go outside and water the garden.

This morning I woke up with a new novel buzzing around my head like a bee trapped in a greenhouse. It will have to get in line behind the dozen or more that are already buzzing around in there. I'm sure other novelists know the feeling.

I'm supposed to be a romantic novelist, so why am I going to Caerleon next month to do a crime writing course, and why is the crime novel I have written up in outline gradually but inexorably turning into a romantic novel? Who is in charge, it or me?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Silver Locket

It's always exciting to see the cover art of a new novel, and this cover is lovely - it's exactly right for the book, it says historical romance, and it should appeal to anyone who enjoys this kind of fiction.

The story is set during the First World War and is - let me quote bestselling novelist Trisha Ashley, who's seen a pre-publication copy:

A dramatic, moving and intensely romantic story set during the First World War, in which a charismatic hero and heroine must fight their own personal battles on many different fronts. A lovely novel by a writer who knows what she is doing, and does it exceptionally well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The dreaded edit

A lot of authors say the most horrible job a writer ever has to do is write an outline or synopsis. In my opinion, they're wrong. The most horrible job I ever have to do is the dreaded edit. You send your work off to the publisher or editor, and quite frankly you're sick and tired of it by now. You never want to see it again.

But, a few weeks or months later, it boomerangs back to you, covered in notes and queries (such as why do you use the word stupid on every page, stupid?) and pointing out your plot holes, your continuity errors and your general hopelessness.

So, with a sinking heart, you start your long trudge through the work again, seeing things that aren't there and vice versa. It drives you slightly mad.

I'm doing a dreaded edit at the moment, but my editor this time has been quite kind to me and queried only stuff that doesn't make sense or is obviously wrong - oops. So I consider myself blessed.

The kind of editor we all hate is the creative, thwarted-would-be-author editor, who suggests changes just for the sake of it, and generally tries to make the author write a completely different book.

I'm rejoicing that I've got off lightly this time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Taking the plunge

Trisha Ashley's shortlisted novel in the Woman's Weekly competition is pictured on the right. The results will be announced in September. I hate waiting for competition results. I expect the people on the shortlists do, too!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Woman's Weekly Romantic Fiction Award

It's turning out to be a good week for my friends in terms of getting into the national magazines, and it's only Wednesday! Plenty of short stories to choose from, and the current edition of Woman's Weekly features the shortlist of 3 best romantic novels written since 1960, which are EVERY WOMAN FOR HERSELF by Trisha Ashley, A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE by Barbara Taylor Bradford and Linda Gillard's STARGAZING.

Actually, to be honest, BTB isn't my friend. I have never met BTB. But Linda and Trisha - woo hoo, way to go, ladies!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We have seen the future - and it's trailers...

These days, all writers need to know who their potential readers might be, or at least to hope they have some potential readers. A good way to find out is to generate your own publicity material, and one new method that's catching on fast is the publicity trailer, which might end up opening up a whole new raft (can you open a raft?) of opportunities for wannabe actors as well as established ones.

It's soon going to be imperative that all novelists know people who can make short films and get those short fims in front of potential readers via the web.

Gemma Burgess, a writer of women's fiction, has blogged about her experiences making a trailer on this link: bookbrunch.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5732&Itemid=117 and she tells me she's definitely going to make a trailer for her second novel, because since making her first trailer her sales have spiked rapidly.

So yes, good plan, might not be possible in all cases, though - my own new novel is set during WW1 and I'm not too confident about turning my back garden into a representation of the Western Front.

Pitching your book to publishers - big success story

It's so difficult, or make that nigh on impossible, to get a publisher interested in a book by an unknown author - isn't it? Well, not always! Jackie McGregor had a great idea, pitched it to independent publisher Accent Press, and it was snapped up straight away.

As the primary carer for her parents, who both developed Alzheimer's, raising money for Alzheimer's charities is a cause close to Jackie's heart. Many Alzheimer's victims respond positively to music, so Jackie hit on the plan of asking well known people to tell her about their favourite music and what it means to them. She now has a great collection of quotes, her book They Can't Take That Away From Me will be published next year, and it should raise lots of money for Alzheimer's charities.

There's an article about Jackie and her work in today's Woman's Own.

So, if you have a good idea for a book, if you have faith, vision and determination, get out there and start pitching - it can be done!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Exeter Writers - short story competition results

The results of the Exeter Writers short story competition 2010 are now on the Exeter Writers website at www.exeterwriters.org.uk. Many congratulations to first prize winner Rowena Macdonald - and to all the runners up!

You can read Rowena's winning story on the on the website now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Hurrah, the sun came out for five minutes this morning, so I rushed outside and took a photograph of my garden, just so that I could be sure summer happened this year. Well, sort of happened...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Creative Writing Course - Exeter

Sophie King, published novelist, journalist and author of many short stories for magazines, is offering a course in creative writing at the Exeter Phoenix Centre in September. Sophie's approach to teaching is down to earth, friendly and accessible. She's a very experienced tutor and a successful writer herself, so she knows what she's talking about!

To book a place on Sophie's course, ring either 07810 480995, or the box office at the Phoenix, on 01392 667080

Monday, June 7, 2010

Winter again

Hmm, looked out of my bedroom window this morning to see summer has packed its bags and gone to Tahiti, and winter has returned in the form of pouring rain and howling gales. My tomato plants look distinctly hacked off.

I blame the people who bought sundresses and sparkly sandals last week. You know who you are!

But the wintry conditions in Exeter meant I had a good excuse to meet up with my writing friends Linda Mitchelmore and Sophie King for a warming lunch and gossip in Strada. So mustn't grumble, eh?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gorgeous June and Gorgeous Vampires

Where is summer, then? It's not doing very well so far, is it? I live at the seaside, and I needed a padded jacket and winter boots on the beach today.

Today, I asked an editor if the Vampire Craze was over, and she said NO!!! She said she was desperate for a paranormal novel which would take the genre to the next level, wherever that might be.

So, unlike June, vampires and werewolves, or their next generation incarnations anyway, are still hot, hot, hot.