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, December 29, 2011

Short Story Competition

I hope everyone who reads this blog had a lovely Christmas and will enjoy a peaceful and happy 2012 - let's live in hope, shall we?

What could be a good way to get the new year off to a great start? Maybe winning a short story competition with a cash prize of £200 for the winner and £50 for the runner-up, too? If you could write a story featuring chocolate in some way - eating it, cooking with it, drinking it, plastering it all over yourself or your partner and licking it all off again (I believe some people do this, but I must admit I haven't ever tried it myself), making truffles or Easter eggs out of it, opening a shop selling it, working in a factory making it - lots of possibilities there - please consider entering the Choc Lit competition, which closes on 31 January.

If you do, good luck!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Blogmas!

The Choc Lit authors' special Christmas blog begins today - lots of giveaways and tips for a merry Christmas from the Choc Lit gang, so please take a look and join in at http://blog.choc-lit.co.uk.

Only a week to go - am hoping my puddings will get the family's approval this year...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


When a novel of mine turns up on Amazon, I start to believe it's real. Yes, I know I've written it, and I've signed a contract in blood, and I've done the initial editing, but I still need to see it on Amazon before I believe it's really going to happen.

This novel is the third story in my Dorset trilogy which began with The Silver Locket and continued with The Golden Chain. The original hardback editions were much shorter and I've added a lot of new material to the paperback versions. As the stories mutated and developed, some elements had to be removed. I don't think I ever want to do this again, because by the end of the process I couldn't really remember what I'd added and what I'd taken away.

But I'm very pleased with the outcome, and I hope my readers will be, too. It's not very long until next May!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Turning Japanese

Last Saturday, I did a booksigning in Abergavenny Waterstone's with Christina Courtenay, which was fun. We handed out chocolates and lollies to shoppers (we're not married to dentists) and they stopped to admire our gorgeous kimonos, which we wore to promote Christina's novel The Scarlet Kimono.

We were so glad we did wrap up warm! The door was open all afternoon, an Arctic wind was blowing through the streets of Abergavenny, and we'd have frozen to death in ordinary clothes.

Most shoppers assumed we were sales assistants and we got asked lots of questions about where they could find jigsaws and perfumes. In a bookshop? Oh, well...

Thanks to lovely Kathryn Eastman for taking the photograph of us.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book of the Month - December 2011

My book of the month for December is Margaret Kaine's 1950s romantic drama Song for a Butterfly, which in addition to being a great romantic read is a compelling snapshot of a time and place which have both vanished forever from the English landscape.

I feel novelists have a duty to record social history, and Margaret does this brilliantly in her series of novels set in the English Potteries.

Here's what Margaret has to say about her inspiration for her fiction:

"It was only when I allowed my imagination to roam free, when I began to use a broader canvas for my writing that I found what editors refer to as ‘my voice’. My novels are all set in the Midlands, with the emphasis on the industrial area of the Potteries with its history and distinctive character. The unique landscape with the blackened kilns and factories is now lost, but the character of its artisans lives on. And the people fascinate me and crowd into my mind, their vivid lives and personalities; paintresses whose life has been one long struggle, master potters, market traders and builders.

"But I love to take my reader out into the wider landscape too. The Midlands also has vast tracts of beautiful countryside and attractive towns. In one of my novels for instance, Roses for Rebecca, I described a romantic scene in Dovedale, taking my couple into the lovely tree-lined gorge with its famous river and stepping-stones.

"I believe in letting fresh air into the reader’s mind, letting them feel the warmth of sunshine with the lightening of mood that blue skies bring. Just as a grey foggy field or a deserted moor can add suspense and even fear to a scene, or a cosy teashop can bring happy memories, so can these shared experiences within a novel bring writer and reader together."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Kindling

I'm going to have to give just-published Cherry Radford a mention on this blog because she's written a novel endorsed by none other than Sir Bruce Forsyth, CBE, and it's about one of my favourite subjects - dancing.

I can't dance - don't ask me - I can't dance - merci beaucoup, as Fred and Ginger sort of said, I think. But I love watching other people dance, and this novel also features one of my other passions, Maltesers.

So - with a box of Maltesers to hand and my laptop on my lap (where else) I'll be looking forward to reading this novel!

It's on Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Men-Dancing-ebook/dp/B00608SLBQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322591245&sr=1-1

Friday, November 25, 2011


It's good to see one of my favourite historical novels has now been Kindled by Belgrave House, an American ebook publisher who does a great job of making authors' backlists available worldwide in many different formats.

A Green Bay Tree is a family saga set in the Midlands during the time of the Industrial Revolution, when it must have been hugely distressing to see the beautiful English countryside being desecrated by mining, factories, ironworks and thousands of forges, workshops and small-scale family industries. But it must have been exciting, too - for this was the time when the UK was the workshop of the world, on the brink of creating the greatest empire the world has ever known, and Britannia really did rule the waves.

This novel is the product of my fascination with this period of English history.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Party Girls

Exeter Writers sent a delegation to the RNA Winter Party this year, and here's the evidence!

Left to right - vice-chairman Sophie Duffy, member Margaret James and chairman Cathie Hartigan. As you can see, we enjoyed ourselves, and we had a good time networking and being networked. We also managed to drink some champagne. All in the line of duty, naturally.

Thanks to lovely Lizzie Lamb for taking the photograph and sharing it on Facebook.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I heard last week that one of my creative writing students has been shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Award, which is sponsored by Legent Press. So I am feeling very smug and am hoping my student wins. I'll let the whole world know if this happens!

It's so lovely when a student does well. It makes me feel I am a good teacher.

So still wearing big grin...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Christmas is coming!

Christmas - hmmm, have mixed feelings about Christmas because my own family is so scattered, and my dream is to have everyone under one roof one fine Christmas Day. I don't know if this will ever happen. What I do know is that it would have to be a pretty big roof!

But anyway, today I got myself organised enough to make a Christmas cake, so the whole house smells of Christmas, and that's put me in a very good mood. This year, I've got it done in time to ice the cake with real royal icing, not that fondant stuff which never sets properly. So that's put a smile on my face, and I'm planning to send slices of my cake to absent friends across the oceans this year. Or that's what I'm thinking now. But I do have two nephews I'll be seeing on Christmas Day, and they're the human equivalents of gannets...

Something else that's put me in the mood for Christmas is Trisha Ashley's lovely new novel The Magic of Christmas, out now and destined to be the Christmas number one, I'm sure. I'm not usually in the business of prophecy, but I think I'm going to be right this time. You read it here first!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book of the Month - November 2011

My Book of the Month for November is Magnolia House by Pauline Barclay, and it's something a bit different - a family story in which the central character is an older woman, and it's a very thought-provoking read.

Here's what Amazon has to say about it:

"When Jane Leonard gave half of her house to her only son, little did she realise that within twelve months she would be forced to sell the home she had lived in for nearly five decades.

The choice for this action was not hers, but the events that led up to her handing over fifty percent of Magnolia House paled by comparison to what happened after the ink had dried on the documents that named the new owners.

As Magnolia House is put on the market for sale, love and betrayal, hopes and dreams and ultimately family loyalty will affect the lives of all of those who become involved."

Pauline adds:

"Magnolia House is not about romance. It's about love and pain and what happens when hearts are broken into tiny pieces."

If all this sounds rather gloomy, please rest assured it's not a gloomy read! It's hopeful and uplifting and ultimately about the triumph of the human spirit. All in all, it's a lovely book.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Early 20th century fashion - love it!

If you're loving Downton Abbey, you're probably also loving the fashions. I'm totally hooked, and have got out my grandmother's pearls to wear with my - er - jeans? I need some new clothes, immediately! Yes, I know - any excuse...

I love reading and writing about this period of history, and hope lots of other readers do, too. Anyone with a Kindle or who wants to download books electronically on to a PC can find my novel The Silver Locket, set during WW1 and featuring a beautiful country house, on offer right now at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Silver-Locket-ebook/dp/B004D4ZYTQ/ref=zg_bs_362279031_37.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Short Story Competition - Win Money and Chocolate!

The first Choc Lit short story competition is now open to anyone - published or unpublished, experienced or new to the game - who fancies writing a story which features chocolate in some way.

The details are on this link at http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/choc_lit_short_story_competiti.html

Mentioning chocolate is the only must-do, apart from the fact that your story can't have been published before. Romantic, mysterious, erotic, suspenseful, paranormal, fantastic - the choice is yours.

Monday, October 10, 2011

National Chocolate Week

It's National Chocolate week - who needs an excuse - and, to celebrate this, independent publisher Choc Lit is promoting some of its Kindle titles at the irresistible price of 86p each.

My own novel The Silver Locket is included in this promotion, and is on this link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Silver-Locket-ebook/dp/B004D4ZYTQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1318237827&sr=1-1. The cover art - isn't it pretty - is to the right of this post.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Choc Lit wins prizes - hurrah!

It's with great pleasure that I am telling you about the success of my fellow Choc Lit authors in the Big Red Read competition, run by Redbridge Libraries. The winners were announced at a ceremony held last night.

Juliet Archer won the Fiction Award for The Importance of Being Emma, and Sue Moorcroft was runner-up with Want to Know a Secret

Christina Courtenay won the Historical Fiction Award with her lovely novel set in Japan, The Scarlet Kimono, a story which is very close to my heart because I read an early draft of it and said I was sure it would be published and do really well some day.

Anyone else who wants their fortune told, please send me a large sum of money now!

You can see photographs of the authors on my post of 30th September.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book of the Month - October 2011

On this unseasonably hot but very welcome Saturday in October, I have great pleasure in presenting my October Book of the Month, which is Star Struck by Jane Lovering. It's about 30 degrees in my back garden - which is lovely, the strawberries are in flower again, poor confused babies - so it's particularly appropriate that I should be telling you about a book set in the Nevada desert.

Jane is a rising star in the world of romantic comedy with a welcome sharp edge to it. She writes about characters who are damaged in some way, but who want to get on with life and love anyway, so the reader always wants them to triumph over their difficulties.

In Star Struck, Skye Threppel is slowly and painfully recovering from a devastating road accident. At the instigation of her best friend's brother she finds herself going to a convention for fans of a science fiction television series, hoping to meet her hero. She does meet him, but she also meets equally damaged screen writer Jack Whitaker, and he's running away from something, too. So - will Jack and Skye be good for each other, or will they be very, very bad?

This lovely book invites us to find out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Awayday in Guildford - Romantic Fiction Workshop at the Appleseed Bookshop, University of Surrey

Sue Moorcroft and Paul Vlitos arrive for the workshop at the Appleseed Bookshop.

Christina Courtenay and Kate Johnson get ready to tell the audience how to write romantic fiction - or how they do it, anyway!

Juliet Archer is delighted with her new-look book jackets for The Importance of Being Emma and Persuade me.

I had a good time yesterday doing a workshop on romantic fiction in the Appleseed Bookshop, which is on the campus of the University of Surrey. My fellow Choc Lit authors and I were warmly welcomed by the bookshop staff and by Paul Vlitos, novelist and member of the Department of English at the university.

Paul started everything off by asking us some good questions such as how do we create our heroes and where do we find inspiration. Then members of the audience joined in, and at one point it looked as if things might get a little bit contentious as we discussed Heathcliff - hero or troll?

I think we left that particular issue unresolved. But we were delighted to be able to take part in a lively discussion, and we enjoyed ourselves very much indeed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I don't know what Blogger thinks it is playing at right now. My lovely followers aren't visible any more, but I've rapped Blogger with my ruler and told it to reveal all your photographs again.

I don't know if Blogger will obey, but please be assured I'm still following you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RNA - Exeter Chapter

Even the horrid headwear didn't weaken the Reverend Austen's resolve...

I had a good time at the local RNA chapter in Exeter today.

We discussed - among other things - the fecundity of Jane Austen's mother. Shame on the Reverend Austen, why couldn't he leave the poor woman alone? Oh, but - if he had left her alone - we probably wouldn't have had Jane, would we?

Obviously, God moves in a mysterious way.

If I'd been organising things, however, Mrs A could have had Jane first, then a couple of those admirals and whatnot, but she needn't have had all eight. She clearly did her best to put the Reverend Austen off by wearing a sort of hideous shower cap with a matching chin strap, as the silhouette above reveals. It equally clearly didn't work.

If there's anyone out there who would like to join the Exeter Chapter, please get in touch with me and I'll give you more information. We meet for an informal lunch in Exeter once a month, and you don't absolutely have to be a member of the RNA, provided you're writing romantic or relationship fiction of some kind.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bookshop Event

The Appleseed Bookshop in Guildford is hosting a romantic fiction event for Choc Lit authors on Thursday 29th September, so it would be lovely to see anyone who lives in Guildford or nearby that evening at six o'clock.

The bookshop is on the campus of the University of Surrey, but anyone interested is very welcome to come along - you don't have to be a student or member of the university.

There should be chocolate...

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I've just read a post on Lucie Wheeler's blog about J K Rowling, and am copying my comment to my own blog now.

I've read and re-read all the Harry Potter books, don't know quite why because I don't read any other children's books unless they've been written by my friends. So it must be magic. At the moment, I am re-reading Order of the Phoenix, which is probably my favourite, even though Sirius dies, boo hoo (sorry if that's a spoiler, guys).

JKR is living proof that some people can have it all, but we're not allowed to write about people like that in novels, are we - we would be accused of making our characters unbelievable. Yes, life is much stranger than fiction...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book of the Month - September 2011

My book of the Month for September is debut novelist Suzie Tullett's lovely romantic comedy Going Underground, which is a great read for anyone who likes their comedy to have a bit of an edge to it.

Tracey Parkes has everything she wants in life. A nice house, a long-awaited baby on the way, and a reliable husband - well, as reliable as a husband can be when he’s keeping a long-held secret.

The unfortunate death of Jonathan's old friend Malcolm provides Tracey with just the opportunity she’s been waiting for – an opportunity she soon wishes she hadn’t taken, because she's squashed into the back of a classic Mini in a desperate attempt to catch up with three men on two vintage scooters...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Snow business

It's always very strange to be writing about a season of the year which is not actually happening outside my study window. Mind you, today we could be forgiven for thinking it's winter already, because it's pouring with rain, it's freezing cold (or almost freezing cold) and I'm sitting here with a pashmina round my shoulders and thinking about looking for my fingerless mittens.

So, as I send my characters off into the snow, I can empathise with them, even though it's August here in Devon. Maybe we'll get a heatwave in December and I can finally acquire my gorgeous golden tan.

I can live in hope.

Or go on holiday to Tunisia, perhaps, and feel some real rays.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Party party party

I went to a writers' party yesterday. Everyone there, apart from a couple of bemused and somewhat maginalised partners, was a writer.

So, for a few hours, we writers were the normal ones, and the rest of the world was out of step with us. Goodness, people can be so rude to writers. What's the best insult I've ever had? Oh, maybe the one which goes I'm going to write a novel one day, perhaps when I'm retired and have time for a new hobby, the implication being that novelists are hobbyists who toss off stories more or less in passing as they get the washing in, cook the dinner and feed the cat.

Well, those things do have to be fitted in, but novel-writing as a relaxing hobby? Yeah, right...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ebooks - nowhere to hide

I've spent today revising a creative writing course I wrote several years ago, but which now needs updating to keep up with the fast-developing world of publishing reality.

Now Amazon is accepting self-published books and putting them in its Kindle store, I'm sure publishing is going to change radically over the next year or two. I've recently interviewed two self-published ebook novelists for Writing Magazine, people who have written really excellent novels, but who have found it impossible to place these novels with publishers. These two novelists have already sold thousands of downloads, earning themselves thousands of pounds and dollars, without the help of traditional publishers' publicity machines. They've used the readily-available tools of word-of-mouth, saturation-blogging and viral reader-recommendation instead.

So now, ladies and gentlemen, the revolution is upon us. There is nowhere to hide. Nobody will be able to blame their lack of success on the fact that they're not blonde, young, beautiful or Jordan. Ebooks have made publishing a level playing field on which ordinary READERS can make or break any writer you care to name.

So, if you've got a good but unpublished novel under your virtual bed, get it out now and put it on Kindle. It's easy, and there are detailed instructions on the Amazon website. Then see if readers throughout the world agree. Do you want to be a bestselling novelist, or not? It's up to you.

Oh, and before I sign off - get blogging, too...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brit Awards - update for 2011 - 2012

Almost exactly a year ago, I put up a post about the Brit Awards 2010 - for more details of this prize, see www.britwriters.co.uk.

The winner of the 2010 prize commented on my post, and I think what she tells us will be of interest to anyone who is as yet unpublished (or is self-published), and is considering entering the prize for 2012.

Catherine Cooper said...


I've just read your comment above.
I was last years winner of the Brit Writers Awards. My book, The Golden Acorn scooped two awards, the first was for 'Best Story for Children' and I then went on to be awarded 'Best Writer of 2010'. A year has passed since I won the awards so I thought you might like an update. The full press releases can be found on my website at www.pengridion.co.uk but in short, my book went to the Frankfurt, Bologna and London Book Fairs and is now available world wide in several languages. The biggest event was earlier this year when a Hollywood film company approached us. We've now signed the film rights and hopefully, in the not too distant future, I'll be able to see my book on the big screen.

It's been quite a journey... my publishers have a headline for me... From Self-Published to Hollywood in 18 months! You can read the full story of my journey on my website.

I wish everyone who has entered this year's Brit Writers' Awards the very best luck. I'll be at the award ceremony in October so if you are reading this and you get through to the final please come and say hello.

Kind regards,
Catherine Cooper

What I forgot to say to you was... it was my own self-published version of The Golden Acorn that made it into the film producers hands. That might give hope to every self-published author reading your blog.

Bye for now

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Silver Jubilee - special guest post by author Martin King

I have a guest on my blog today - author Martin King, who has set himself the challenge of writing a guest post for 100 blogs and websites over the month of August 2011. Welcome to my blog, Martin, and thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us!

Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee

"This event only came round once, never to be repeated. I can see you are gathering round close in anticipation. The event I am referring to is the Queen’s – and not just any monarch, the Queen of England – Silver Jubilee!

Older people will remember it well and the younger ones won’t at all. But it was a massive event in its time. I was nine at the time and remembered we all got a commemorative silver coin in celebration of the event. The year was 1977 and I attended Gisburn Road School.

To celebrate the event, our school put on a special sports day. So instead of giving us the day off, we still went to school, but everyone got to have fun. Well when I say everyone, that was most kids except me.

The sports event was held in Victory Park and I can remember competing in the ‘egg and spoon’ race and the ‘bean bag’ race already. I loved sports, possibly because I was good at them and also because I had boundless amounts of energy.

Me and a friend were larking about in between events. Nothing bad, we were just letting steam off. Well one teacher didn’t take kindly to what we were doing. We were told off and sent back to school. Imagine that, on such an important day and that teacher deprived me and a friend our chance to have a special memory of such an important and regal occasion."

These blogs are all about fun and sharing. Thank you for reading a ‘#100blogfest’ blog. Please follow this link to find the next blog in the series: http://martinkingauthor.com/blog/7094550076

Ebooks and pretty ladies

Do pretty ladies sell books? I'll soon be finding out if these two can sell mine, because I'm about to have two of the novels from my backlist - A Green Bay Tree and The Ash Grove - published as ebooks by Belgrave House, an American publisher of ebooks which published the ebook version of my paranormal romance Elegy for a Queen.

I was asked a few days ago which of my novels is my favourite. It's a bit like being asked which of my children is my favourite, and really it's impossible to answer a question like that. But I must admit I have a very soft spot for Elegy for a Queen, with whose heroine I identified completely, and even though she's not particularly like me. It's strange, isn't it, how we novelists manage lead such complicated double, treble, or even quadruple lives.

When I was writing a novel called The Morning Promise, which was revised for paperback publication and retitled The Silver Locket, I identified completely with my brave soldier hero, even though I'm a great coward myself. I don't think I'm ever going to stop living parallel lives, but fortunately this is a kind of lunacy which doesn't usually get people put away for the term of their actual lives!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book of the Month - August 2011

My book of the month for August is Sophie Duffy's lovely debut novel The Generation Game, which is one of those families-and-relationships stories that hook the reader from the very first page. Seasoned with plenty of wry, delicious humour, and full of wonderfully-realised characters who stay in the reader's mind, this is a summer must-read.

Sophie's own journey on the rocky road to publication has been a fascinating one, revealing that determination and persistence can pay off. Originally turned down by publishers because they didn't know where to put The Generation Game in their lists, Sophie entered her novel for national awards and won two of them, the second being the Luke Bitmead Bursary sponsored by Luke's family and Legend Press, which has now published Sophie's novel.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Listen up...

Ooh, great excitement - I've just received two advance copies of the audio version of The Silver Locket, which is read by the hugely talented Julie Teal.

Julie has done lots of film (she was in Stephen Poliakoff's Food of Love), television and theatre work, including Waking the Dead and A Touch of Frost. She won a Stella award for her stage portrayal of Paulina in Death and the Maiden.

I'm delighted to have someone so in tune with historical fiction reading my own novel.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flash, flash, flash!

The big literary news this summer seems to be flash fiction. It's suddenly the thing to be writing, and - what's more - there are lots of competitions out there, inviting us to send in our short, short, short stories and win money!

Exeter-based writer and teacher of creative writing Cathie Hartigan is running a flash fiction competition with prizes. You can find details on her website at www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk, so do enter!

Francine Howarth adds:

At Romantic Friday Writers http://fridaynightwriters.blogspot.com we have themed weekly challenges for romance writers: max 400 word count. Published and unpublished authors participate. It really is a fun thing to do, and members post snippets from published novels or that of WIPs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flying high...

... and I mean literally!

Earlier this year, I entered a competition to design a Delft tile for a KLM aeroplane, and - surprise, surprise - I (and about a million other people) won! There's video proof on the link below.

It's quite a pretty plane now. I want to have a ride in it. I wonder if I could get one of my book covers on the side of a rocket or a helicopter or a destroyer or a submarine...

Monday, July 11, 2011

RNA Conference

I've just come back from the RNA Conference, which was great fun. It was lovely to meet up with so many old friends and also to make some new ones. The Caerleon campus was a perfect venue, the food was good, and the drink was cheap. Well, cheapish. Well, not too expensive - when you'd had a few. But I always think two quid for a Coke is a bit steep...

Just so that you all know how glamorous a gaggle of romantic novelists can be, here's a photograph of me and my fellow Choc Lit authors in our best frocks, waiting for the bar to open on Saturday night.

Left to right: Evonne Wareham (she's the new girl - her first novel is out next year), moi, Sue Moorcroft, Christine Stovell, Jane Lovering, Christina Courtenay and Kate Johnson.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book of the Month - July 2011

My book of the month for July is a collection of comments from various celebrities about pieces of music which mean a lot to them. Compiled and edited by Jackie McGregor, this fascinating collection will raise money for dementia charities, a cause close to Jackie's heart because her parents both suffered from this terrible affliction.

Celebrities who contributed to They Can't Take That Away From Me include Joan Collins, Richard Madeley, Lynda Bellingham, Joanna Lumley - the list goes on and on!

We all know someone who has been affected by dementia, either personally or because they care for a loved one with the disease, so we should all be willing to help raise funds for this worthwhile cause.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't do it - how not to have your novel rejected!

I'm about to start writing an article for Writing Magazine about fending off those dreaded rejection letters, of which I have a pretty impressive collection myself. I couldn't paper the whole house with them, but I could probably paper a smallish room!

Anyone got any tips for success? Or want to share what not to do?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

RNA Conference soon, ooh!

RNA Conference soon, am really looking forward to it this year because there will be some great speakers, and also it's in Caerleon, where the food is excellent and the alcohol is cheap(ish). Do I dare hope the good weather I'm enjoying today will last until 8 July?

Summer conferences and festivals are wonderful places to meet other writers, both published and yet-to-be-published. If you want to pitch something to an editor or agent it's much harder for them to say no if you're sharing a bottle of wine over a relaxing meal and the atmosphere is generally good-humoured and convivial.

I know, I've tried it in the past, and it has worked for me - big grin!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A fascinating place...

You never know what might be tucked away behind the facade of a beautiful old house, and I certainly didn't know what lay behind the imposing but also self-effacing white door in Exeter's Cathedral Close.

A friend who is a member of The Devon and Exeter Institution recently asked me if I'd like to look around, so of course I said yes - as a writer, new experiences (well, most of them) are always welcome. But I'd never have expected to find this amazing place, straight out of the nineteenth century, flourishing in our cash-strapped present.

The interior is painted white with touches of that lovely Regency green which somehow manages to be both warm and cooling at the same time. The windows have the best view in Exeter - the gorgeous Norman Cathedral and the Cathedral Green. The library holds a wonderful collection of books and periodicals, many of which can be borrowed by members.

I'm going to apply to join, so all fingers crossed a current member will agree to sponsor me and the DEI will let me in.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anybody else in Devon and surrounding districts out there?

The RNA is famous for its regional chapters, and now there's one in East Devon to which I belong.

If you're a member of the RNA, if you live around here, and you would like to be pointed in the direction of the pub where we meet up once a month, please email me at mail@margaretjames.com and I'll do just that.

I'm all heart. Well, naturally - I am a romantic novelist, after all!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lots of chocolate and also some money to be won, hurrah!

If you have a gorgeous husband, boyfriend, partner, or you just think your best friend is adorable and also hero material, now is the time to enter him in this competition, and win lots of chocolate and some money for both of you!

Just go to this link and click away. You'll need a photograph so the rest of the world can vote for your favourite man. It will only take you a minute or two, so have a go, yes? If your man wins, it could be the start of something big for him, perhaps...


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Talk by E V Thompson

One of the greats of historical fiction, E V Thompson will be giving a talk in Paignton Library on Thursday 23 June at 3 pm. He'll be chatting about his long career and signing copies of his latest novel Churchyard and Hawke.

Tickets for the talk are available at the library itself or at the Torbay Bookshop, and should also be available at the door. I'm really looking forward to this!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jackson Brodie

So this is the televisual incarnation of Jackson Brodie - Draco Malfoy's Dad!

I'm really looking forward to watching Case Histories tomorrow night, and suspect Jason Isaacs is going to be perfect. Well, as long as he's had a haircut...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book of the Month - June 2011

My Book of the Month for June is Pamela Cory's lovely novel which evokes the golden days of Las Vegas, when Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack made it the place to be - to make your name and to become a legend yourself.

Texan beauty Hassie Calhoun wants to be a legend. A beautiful girl with the voice of an angel, she leaves her home town and makes her way to Las Vegas, where she meets people who will use her, want her, abuse her - and love her, too.

A charming story about a girl growing up into womanhood and finding her place in life, this is a great summer read and comes highly recommended by me!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer's coming...

You could be forgiven for thinking it's actually November out there. I've put the central heating back on again today.

But I've been cheered up by the arrival of some gorgeous summer titles which are already getting great reviews - Sue Moorcroft's Love and Freedom and Allie Spencer's Summer Loving. They're going to make the sun shine, aren't they?

Well, even if they don't, at least I'll have something good to read while it rains! There'll be an author profile of Allie in the July issue of Writing Magazine, in the shops soon.

Cornetto, anyone?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Risky business?

I mean research for new novels. What do we novelists do when we need to find out how to poison someone, steal a million dollars, organise a heist?

In the olden days, we'd have read newspaper reports, other people's books, and perhaps private diaries, if we'd managed to get hold of them. We didn't leave any evidence of our research, or at least not much evidence.

Nowadays, of course, we Google or Blackle or whatever, and we leave an electronic trail. I've recently been finding out about different kinds of poisoning, how to do it, how long it takes, if the stuff hangs around in the body, and all that kind of thing. I don't want to poison anyone. I'm going to use the results of my research in a novel, and that's it.

I just thought the world ought to know that now!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I had a great time at Exeter Roman Gate Waterstone's this afternoon, meeting customers and signing copies of The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain.

The event was made special for me because several of my friends from Exeter Writers came along and bought books - thank you, everyone!

Thank you also to Montezuma, who supplied a lovely big box of chocolate truffles and bars of delicious plain chocolate, which proved to be a big hit with customers - except for one iron-willed Marine who stopped to chat for a while, but resolutely refused to sample a truffle as he told me about going on dangerous missions in Afghanistan...

Friday, May 13, 2011


I'm doing a booksigning of my novels The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain at Exeter Roman Gate Waterstone's tomorrow afternoon - that's Saturday 14th May, 2 - 5 pm.

If you come along, there should be a chance to try some of Montezuma's excellent chocolate...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

RNA Interview

What's the RNA? It's the Romantic Novelists' Association, it's based in the UK, and if it hadn't been for the RNA I'd never have become a published novelist. So I owe the organisation just about everything, publication-wise.

Anyone reading my own blog who wants to write romantic, women's interest and/or relationship fiction should consider joining the RNA, because that's the way to get ahead in this profession. If you're already a published novelist, you just join - simple. If you're as yet unpublished, you'll need to apply as a New Writer and hope you're accepted into a scheme which is permanently over-subscribed. But all writers need persistence and determination!

You can read my interview on this link - http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.com/ - and find out more about the RNA, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Book of the Month - Jane Casey

Gosh, is it May already? Where has 2011 gone, or half gone? I'm a day late with my May book of the month posting - must have had a long sleep yesterday!

Anyway - Jane Casey's The Burning is a fantastic read. A crime novel which is the first in a series featuring DC Maeve Kerrigan, this novel is about a serial killer who is targeting young women in central London, and it's a race against time to catch him before he kills yet again. Maeve Kerrigan is the youngest, most inexperienced detective on the team, patronised and sidelined by the men, and often unsure of herself.

In the course of the novel, she grows in confidence and even gains the respect of some (if not all) of the men with whom she's working. I'm looking forward to reading the next novel in the series, entitled The Reckoning, and following Maeve's progress over the coming years.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daisy on Delft

I've just made a Delft tile of my latest book cover. Well, with a bit of help from KLM, the Dutch airline I fly with when I visit my daughter and grandson in Minneapolis, which is served by KLM.

If this tile is placed in KLM's competition, Daisy will be flying, too! I have all my fingers crossed and twisted...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking for the next hero

At some point in the near future, I'm going to have to dream up a new hero, and I must admit I'm getting a bit panic-stricken.

I'm afraid the last few who've turned up for interview didn't really have what it takes. A couple of them got through the preliminary stages, but they failed to get the job. Just like Sirallun - or, as he probably prefers to be known nowadays, Lordshugger - in the end I had to say, you're fired.

Richard Armitage is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement, as are Sean Bean and the ever-gorgeous Rufus Sewell. Okay, Trisha Ashley, I know RS is yours. But I need someone new, shining bright and just a bit special for my next novel.

Let's hope he wanders into my head some time soon and I see straight away that he's perfect.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A lovely sight for an author's eyes...

I've been away from home for a week, am now catching up on my emails, and have found a really exciting one among them. A friend of my publisher spotted this display in her local WHS. Aha, I thought, see those stickers - this means they're firm sales, I hope, and the books can't be sent back to the warehouse...

Please don't correct me if I'm wrong - let me cherish my illusion over the Easter weekend!

Who's that girl on the cover, I wonder? Many thanks to lovely Kathryn Eastman, who has almost certainly established the identity of the girl on the front cover of The Silver Locket. But this girl on The Golden Chain - does anyone know who she might be?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Booksigning in Abergavenny

Where on earth is Abergavenny, I hear almost everyone ask. Well, it's a very pretty and charming little town on the Welsh borders, and on Saturday the local Waterstones made Christina Courtenay and me very welcome.

We met lots of customers (we beguiled them with delicious Montezuma chocolate) and chatted to them about our books. We sold some and signed all the rest of our stock, so that was a good result - there won't be any copies making their weary way back to the warehouse.

The sun shone, customers came into the store, and our friends Kathryn Eastman and Maureen Vincent-Northam called in, too.

So, thank you, everyone - we had a great day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lovely day for skiving off...

It's been a glorious spring day, blue sky, bright sunshine, so a friend and I skived off to the lovely Georgian seaside resort of Sidmouth for lunch and an amble around the shops.

Back to work tomorrow - I sort of hope it rains...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book signing...

My fellow historical novelist Christina Courtenay and I will be doing a book signing in Abergavenny Waterstones on Saturday 9th April from 1 pm to 3 pm, and it would be lovely to meet some readers there!

Where is Abergavenny? It's a little town on the Welsh borders. The nearest large town or city is Hereford. Abergavenny has a railway station, and it's very cute. There are lots of lovely, quirky shops and cafes, and the architecture is interesting, too. Look it up on this link: http://www.abergavenny.net

Christina and I are hoping for a sunny afternoon and a good turn-out!

Crafty come-on - there might be chocolate, too...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book of the Month - April 2011

My book of the month for April is a collection of short stories edited by Elaine Everest, Diamonds and Pearls.

This lovely little book is the perfect present for someone who travels to work by public transport and needs something to read on the bus or train. Or for someone who likes to read for five or ten minutes before going to sleep. Or for someone who wants to be entertained, amused and moved rather than confronted, challenged or shocked.

Some proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to cancer charities, a cause close to the editor's heart, because her own life was saved by a brilliant consultant. Now, she wants to raise as much money as possible so that other lives can be saved, too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest blogging

I've been guest blogging today, answering questions about myself and my books. This is quite a novelty because in my capacity as a journalist working for Writing Magazine I am usually the one asking the questions and shining a torch into my victims' eyes as they squirm.

I must be fair and say I haven't been doing any squirming today. The questions I've been asked have been polite and reasonable, so I've been happy to answer them. The interviews and articles will be published next month, there'll be book freebies and giveaways, and maybe chocolate, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Quiller's Place - The View From The Shed: Anti-Conning Writers Day

Quiller's Place - The View From The Shed: Anti-Conning Writers Day: "This post originally appeared on 25th March 2011 on my blog HERE. I thought it was worth giving it a permanent page so that it could be acce..."

No writer likes to be conned, and this article on Sally Quilford's blog points out some things we should all know!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Thank you, Lucie Wheeler, for presenting me with a Stylish Blogger Award!

I'm now supposed to tell readers seven things about me:

1 I've studied Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, and when I was a teenager I wanted to become an archaeologist. But then I got distracted, and that ambition is being held over until I retire. Now I'm getting on a bit, I'd like to contribute by sitting in a comfortable Finds Tent, cleaning up trays full of artefacts, rather than crouching in a muddy old trench doing any digging myself.

2 My all-time favourite novel is Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, closely followed by David Nicholls's modern day take on the same story, One Day.

3 I've written all my novels and everything else sitting at the same desk, a Victorian one I bought nearly forty years ago, first of all on a Smith Corona typewriter, then on a green screen PC, then on a more modern PC, then on a laptop. It doesn't get any easier.

4 My children haven't inherited my story-telling DNA - one is a physicist and the other is a doctor. My grandson hasn't yet decided what he's going to be, but since he's only five he has time to make up his mind.

5 I'm not sure if I really believe in ghosts. But a few somebodies out there talk to me, and sometimes I quite like having them around.

6 I was born in a Victorian workhouse, like Oliver Twist. But by the time I put in an appearance, it had become one of the first NHS hospitals. Its address was Workhouse Walk.

7 I celebrated Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Day in the same hospital, having cut my head open by falling off my tricycle into a rockery, ouch. I had rather a lot of stitches!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Off on my travels...

I have a new novel out on 1 May, so now's the time to start promoting it and making people aware of its existence. It's called The Golden Chain and is the sequel to The Silver Locket. You'll find cover images which include links to buy (just click on the cover itself) to the right of this post.

I'll be spending some time over the next few months travelling and doing publicity, but not always literally. These days, writers make blog tours, so I'm lining up some bloggers who will hopefully want to talk to me about me and my books.

If anyone out there is running a writing-related blog and would like to speak to me about any aspect of writing, or run a competition to win one of my books, or just chat about the literary world in general, do please get in touch via mail@margaretjames.com.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Going global

It's always interesting (or at least that's my excuse) for bloggers to look at their blog stats and see where their blog traffic is coming from these days.

I'd expect to see dark green blobs on English-speaking parts of the world, but today I notice China has gone dark green. I wonder why? Anyone out there in China reading my books?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Harry Bowling Prize

If you've written a novel (or even if you've just started a novel) which has an urban setting anywhere in the world, and if you haven't yet had a novel for adults commercially published, you might like to consider entering your work for the Harry Bowling Prize 2012.

The shortlisted entrants are invited to a party where the winner will receive £1,000 and the runner-up £100. At the party, you'll get to meet a top London agent, some of the Headline editorial team, and probably several published novelists, too.

More details - see www.harrybowlingprize.co.uk. The closing date is 30 September 2011, which seems a long way off now, but these things have a habit of creeping up on us...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ebooks - PS

I was just wondering - if ebooks do take over, what are the charity shops going to sell, apart from old clothes and unwanted gifts of evil-smelling bath foam?

I buy lots of books from charity shops and I always recycle them, even though I know some other authors don't approve of this. In my view, I'm supporting the charity rather than robbing the author. But that's an argument which will run and run...

What will we have in future, used ebook hubs?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ebooks - the takeover begins...

Or actually, it began years ago when someone first realised you could sell books this way. Most publishers these days buy ebook rights as a matter of course, and some authors find ebooks outsell print copies easily.

How long will it be before the printed book goes the way of the spinning wheel and the manual typewriter? I've still got my own Smith Corona manual, on which I typed my first novel, tucked away in the back of a cupboard for when the revolution comes and I need it. But could I touch-type perfectly now? I doubt it!

I read my first whole book on an ipad last weekend. I enjoyed the reading experience. So now I feel like a traitor. But should I?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book of the Month March 2011

My Book of the Month for March is Jill Mansell's delightful romantic comedy, To the Moon and Back. If you need an antidote to all the gloom and misery of these depressing times, give Jill's lovely books a go - they're bound to cheer you up!

The mass market paperback isn't available just yet, but the book is already in several other formats. So if you can't wait for the paperback, why not consider the hardback or ebook?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

World Book Day

There'll be lots of book giveaways on World Book Day, which is on 3 March 2011.

So I'm joining in and will give away a copy of my novel The Silver Locket to the first person whose name comes out of my virtual hat when I do my own personal draw on 10 March 2011.

If you'd like to win, please email me at mail@margaretjames.com, heading up your email with the subject TSL Draw, any time between now and 9 March 2011.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wannabe A Writer We've Heard Of?

Yes, I do! So how do I go about it?

Jane Wenham-Jones is a columnist on Booktime magazine, which is free in all independent bookshops. On Tuesday 1 March at 3 o'clock Jane will be giving a talk in Paignton Library on how to make it in this most challenging of professions. She's a brilliant speaker, and I'm sure her listeners will learn a lot. I'm going along, anyway.

Tickets for this talk cost £3 and are available from the Torbay Bookshop, Paignton Library, or at the door on the day of the talk. If you can't get into Paignton to buy a ticket in advance, it might be wise to ring either the bookshop or the library to check there are tickets still available, and/or to reserve yours.

Jane is a published novelist herself, her how-to books are bestsellers, and she has a hot-shot agent AKA The Fearsome One, so she's definitely in the loop. Anyone who wants to be in the loop with Jane needs to go along and listen to what she has to say.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Award

Perfect Valentine's Day gift for me - message from Single Titles to say:
"CataNetwork reviewers have chosen your book The Silver Locket as one of the best books that they have reviewed for Single Titles this year. Thank you for sharing your talent with all the readers as you entertain us with your stories."