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.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun...

Or a group of romantic novelists and their friends had fun at the City Gate in Exeter earlier this week, and you can see from our happy, smiley faces that we extend our Christmas greetings to all our readers, too.

Many thanks to Jane Bidder aka Sophie King aka Jane Corry aka Janey Fraser for remembering to bring her iPad and for smiling nicely at the barman so he took the group photograph.

May 2013 bring all readers of this blog and indeed everyone else happiness and success.

Thank your for dropping by!

Friday, December 14, 2012

National Express Short Story and Recipe Promotion

I'm delighted to reveal that today National Express and my publisher Choc Lit are getting together to promote my Christmas short story The Gift and my own recipe for Chocolate Christmas Charlotte.

This recipe has been extensively tested in my own family and disappears as if by magic every time it appears on the dining table!

If you click on this link http://www.choc-lit.com/html/national_express_offer.html and enter the code SHORT you can download both story and recipe for free. There will be more short stories and recipes from my fellow Choc Lit authors appearing on the link above every day until 24th December.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shaz's Book Blog: Christmas Shorts with... Margaret James

Shaz's Book Blog: Christmas Shorts with... Margaret James: Today's Christmas Shorts guest is Margaret James, author of thirteen  novels to date including The Silver Locket , The Golden Chain and T...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Here comes the hobbit...

...or rather, Mr Armitage, looking unusually fierce and terrifying in a lot of leather and eyeshadow and wielding a big weapon called something or other - oh, I know, it's Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver. So am I a Tolkien nerd, or what?

Only a few more days to wait. I think I might manage it.

Apparently, you can buy coasters depicting Mr Armitage.  What? Put my cup of coffee down on his lovely face? I don't think so, somehow. A coaster depicting Smaug, now - perhaps.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book of the Month - December 2012

My book of the month for December is a charming Christmas story written by a very young (she's eight) and hugely promising author, Indigo Haynes.

A Kitten Called Christmas - gosh, you'll think, it's bound to be sickly and far too sweet, isn't it?  Well, you'd be wrong.  It's an absolute delight, from the first page in which the author reveals that the heroine Jenny's father is a cat breeder which meant he had to sell most of the kittens for money. He's not a bad man. He's just trying to make ends meet and provide for his family.  But still...

A litter of Manx kittens has just been born, but one of them has a stubby tail which means she won't fetch a good price. What will happen to Christmas? This inventive and resourceful author invites us to find out.

Indigo has also written a science fiction story for children entitled Holly and the Rabbits from Mars, which is all about the adventures of a brave young bunny who saves the world from an invasion of gigantic red rabbits, and How Potatoes Saved the Queen, a story featuring Elizabeth I and starring a Tudor dog, whose name is - you've guessed it - Potatoes, and who belongs to Sir Walter Raleigh.

Last year, Indigo won a national short story competition judged by Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books, and I'm sure that in ten years' time (or sooner) she'll be writing bestsellers of her own.

There's a link to the Kindle edition of A Kitten Called Christmas to the right of this post. Click on the cover image to take you there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thank you, Waterstones!

Recently, there's been some controversy about the new Waterstones guidelines on author signings. Some stores have apparently been making authors feel less than welcome at these events.

So I must put it on record that today Hereford Waterstones made Christina Courtenay and me very welcome, offering us drinks and a really good in-store selling position, a signing table and some shop-window publicity. We were encouraged to chat to customers and offer them chocolates, too.

Since we're romantic novelists, the chocolates were hearts and Heroes - of course!

Thank you, Waterstones - and well done, Hereford, we love you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Festival of Romance

I've just got back from a fabulous weekend in Bedford which for a few days was literally turned over to the Festival of Romance.  So everything in the town went pink.  Well, not entirely pink, but fairly pink in places! There were also lots of Regency soldiers, kilted Scotsmen and ladies in long frocks materialising in front of some of Bedford's gorgeous Georgian buildings.

The awards dinner and dance was held at the historic Corn Exchange which went - you guessed it - very pink for the evening - see above!

It was a wonderful night for my own publisher, Choc Lit, which was awarded the hugely coveted title of Publisher of the Year.  Choc Lit's already multi-award-winning author Christina Courtenay also scooped the award for Historical Novel of the Year.  Christina's in the middle, sandwiched between Choc Lit authors Liz Harris and Sue Moorcroft.

The full list of award winners can be found here: http://jerasjamboree.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/festival-of-romance-award-winners-announced/ on Jera's fantastic blog about all things with a literary buzz - thank you, Jera!  There are lots of photographs on this link, too.

Several wildest dreams came true that evening, with three people getting publishing deals from Entice/Piatkus/Little, Brown - congratulations, Celia Anderson, Terri Nixon and Beth Chambers, whose novels will all be published next year. 

Yesterday, Choc Lit authors Liz Harris, Sarah Tranter, Sue Moorcroft. Christina Courtenay and I were busy selling books and offering chocolate to readers at the book fair in town - see below.

I had a great time and am already looking forward to next year's Festival. But this week it's the Romantic Novelists' Association's Winter Party - so there's more fun, pinkness and glitter coming up!

Who said November is the dreariest month and that's why she was born in it?  I believe it was Jo in Little Women. You should have skipped a century or two and joined the RNA, Jo March! We romantic novelists would have shown you a good time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Choc Lit Short Story Competition

It's National Short Story week, so what better way to celebrate than with a winning story in a national competition?  Oh, and a delicious chocolate experience, too!

Sue Moorcroft, Linda Mitchelmore and I had the pleasure of reading dozens of excellent short stories for Choc Lit's latest competition, and we had a hard time choosing two winners. But, after a lot of discussion and whittling down a longlist, we decided on a winner and runner-up.

So - congratulations to winner Tracy Fells and runner-up Laura E James (no relation). Laura was also the runner-up in the last Choc Lit short story competition. Spooky - but don't worry, people, we judges didn't have any names or other details about the entrants, so the judging process was absolutely fair.

Here's the full shortlist

Phoenix and Marilyn - Tracy Fells
Tell Tales - Laura E James
Objects of Desire - Christine Sutton
A Fountain of Promise - Nicky Parham
False Alarm - Deborah Riccio
Superhero - Celia Coyne

Tracy's story will be live on the Choc Lit website soon.  The winter competition is now open, so keep writing! Details at http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/choc_lit_short_story_competiti.html.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Festival of Romance

Festival of Romance - that sounds glamorous and exciting, doesn't it? Well, I'm excited because so many of my friends are in the shortlists for awards this year, and I'm hoping they'll all win.

I've got my party frock all ready and my dancing shoes polished up.

Here are the people and books on the shortlists - lots of familiar names there, all of them brilliant writers, so I'm glad I'm not the one who's going to have to make any final decisions on Friday 16th November!

Best Ebook Read
Sponsored by E-scape Press
Miranda’s Mount by Phillipa Ashley
Change of Address by Natalie-Nicole Bates
Evie Undercover by Liz Harris
Darcie’s Dilemma by Sue Moorcroft
Tangled Love by Rosemary Morris

Best Romantic Read

Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley
Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman
It Started with a Kiss by Miranda Dickinson
The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick
Vampire State of Mind by Jane Lovering
Dream a Little Dream by Sue Moorcroft

Best Historical Read

Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden
The Painter’s Apprentice by Charlotte Betts
The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay
Desired by Nicola Cornick
Hold on to Hope by Jean Fullerton
The Road Back by Liz Harris

Best Short Romance

Back to You by Natalie-Nicole Bates
The Sanctuary by Cara Cooper
Tomorrow Belongs to Us by Lynda Dunwell
Dancing with Danger by Fiona Harper

Best Author Published Read

Strings Attached by Mandy Baggot
The School Gates by Nicola May
Truth (Glimmering) by Jane Miller
Build a Man by Talli Roland
Mysterious Master by Isabella Rose

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book of the Month - November 2012

My Book of the Month for November is Christine Stovell’s delightful new romantic novel Move Over Darling.  Christine was happy to sit on my virtual sofa and answer a few questions about a story in which two very unlikely lovers find they are perfectly suited, after all.

What first got you writing Move Over Darling, Christine - a place, a person, a situation?
The seeds were sown when I moved to west Wales and discovering that the population of the county I’d moved to was roughly equal to the small Surrey borough I’d just left. However, the image that made me start writing was seeing my hero, Gethin Lewis, returning to Penmorfa, the village he’s turned his back on, to wind up his father’s estate.  I saw him cresting the hill in his hired car and catching his first glimpse of everything he’s left behind.  I could feel his mixed emotions and wondered why he was unhappy to be home. I knew that his intention was to tie up all the loose ends and put Penmorfa behind him for good. So I gave him a couple of problems…

Do you identify strongly with your heroine, Coralie?
My characters – even (some would say especially) the troublesome ones – all share aspects of me, I guess, because they’ve sprung from my imagination. Coralie’s more feminine than me, with her love of vintage clothes and what Gethin calls her ‘girlie clutter’, although she can change a tyre which is more than I can!

Choc Lit novels always feature strong, gorgeous heroes. What's your best tip for other writers trying to create a strong, gorgeous hero? 
Well, of course research is very important and Choc Lit authors are very diligent about that aspect of their work. Seriously, for me it starts with a mental image; Gethin at the wheel of a car, Matthew in Turning the Tide, sitting with his back to the world.  Then I’ll start asking questions – even something simple like, ‘what’s your name’ and weighing up the response until I think I’ve got it right.  Voices are important too - I know when my hero’s arrived when I can hear him speaking.

Do you draw any of your inspiration from real life, or do you make everything up?
My fictional locations are entirely made up, although Penmorfa in Move Over Darling is inspired by the romantic rugged landscape of west Wales where I live and Little Spitmarsh in Turning the Tide by places I’ve visited when sailing.
I keep notebooks, too, collecting snippets of news and recording anything that interests me.  Eventually these notes compost down into fertile material for creative writing.

What's the best piece of writing advice you have ever received and would like to pass on?
Well, it’s ‘apply bum to seat’ basically.  More helpfully, it was reading an article by Jane Wenham-Jones in response to a writer who always gave up on his novels at the 10,000 word mark.  It struck a chord with me because I’d always given up around that point too. Jane’s advice was not to worry about getting the first draft right but to just grit your teeth and get it written – once I did that I got published!  If only I’d got on with it sooner!
Thank you, Christine – it was great talking to you. I know you’ve been busy recently, organising your daughter’s wedding. I hope you won’t mind if I post a picture of the three of you – Daughters 1 and 2 and Mother of the Bride – gorgeous, all of you!

If you click on the book image to the right of this post, it will take you to the UK’s Amazon website where you can learn more about Christine’s book. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Perfect Partners

Yes, writing can be a lonely business, sitting in a silent room all by yourself, tapping away on a keyboard, wondering if anyone is ever going to read what you write, let alone say anything nice about it. But writing isn't team work, is it?

Or is it?

I recently heard of two novelists who work in partnership and I couldn't wait to ask them how they do it. Or rather, how they do it successfully, because Liv Thomas and Valerie Olteanu will soon become the artist known as Isabella Connor and will see their debut novel published by multi-award-winning independent Choc Lit.

Hello, Valerie...

Hello, Liv...

They told me a few things which astonished me.  I'd imagined them working in the same room and bouncing ideas off each other, but it turns out they've never met face to face. Liv lives in the UK and Valerie lives in Canada, so they're not only half a world away from each other, they're a whole time zone away, too.They're clearly very good at co-operating, which bodes well for the editorial process soon to be coming their way.

There's an interview with Liv and Valerie in December 2012 Writing Magazine, out now.

I'm really looking forward to reading their novel, and in the meantime I can follow its and their progress  on their dedicated website at www.hartswoodhill.com.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Strictly fun - 2

So we got in.

We had a wonderful evening. It started with the recording of some links for future shows, and this was totally fabulous because I had a chance to listen to one of my absolute heroes performing live. We were told that if we revealed who it was we would be hunted down and executed, so I can't tell you. But he was just amazing, and I was so glad I'd had the chance to see and hear him perform. Then there was the dancing and that was fabulous, too. The judges were mean to Victoria. She wasn't as bad as they said.

We weren't permitted to take photographs during the show, but I nipped around with my camera when I was allowed and here's me with my new cuddly friend -

and DD2 with Bruno, her new cuddly friend. We didn't catch Craig on his way out. We think he was avoiding us!

We had such a great time we're going to apply for tickets for the next series. Apparently, a million people applied this time around. So we're going to have to be very, very, very lucky to go again. We'll make sure we arrive early next time.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Strictly fun - 1

A fortnight ago my lovely daughter rang to say she'd got two tickets for the first live show in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing, and would I like to go? Ooh, I said, you bet I would! So off we went to London to have a snoop around the BBC Television Centre and check out Studio One, which is a great big cavern full of lights, cameras, cranes, auto-cues, monitors - and of course a cast of glamorous people who didn't look as if they really belonged in this world.  They were far too gorgeous - sigh.

It took forever to be admitted to this electronic paradise. When we arrived we nearly fainted at the sight of the queue of people who'd got there before us. We didn't realise it was necessary to arrive at crack of dawn to be sure of gaining admittance. We joined the queue. It poured with rain. The BBC people with scanners and lists moved slowly towards us. The two people in front of us got the last two confirmed tickets, and DD2 and I became Standby 1 and Standby 2. 

But DD 2 prayed hard:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book of the Month - October 2012

My Book of the Month for October is Kate Hardy's Mills and Boon Modern Romance The Hidden Heart of Rico Rossi.

This is a very special novel. Why? Well, because it's an exciting contemporary romance in the best Mills and Boon Modern tradition. It's sexy, it's exciting, it's dramatic and it's fun. It introduces the reader to Ella Chandler, a lovely heroine with whom the reader can easily identify (okay, she's more glamorous than most of us, but she's real and she's believable - she's what we could be if only our genes had been shuffled a little bit differently) and a hero with whom we can all fall in love.

Rico is Italian, which gives him a head start in the gorgeousness stakes. But he's also vulnerable, and this makes him irresistible. At one point he lies to the heroine - oh dear - and so he has a lot of work to do before she'll forgive him and admit she adores him, too.

This book is especially special because it's Kate's 50th title for Mills and Boon. Kate is celebrating this publishing milestone by having a party on her blog at www.katehardy.blogspot.co.uk, and there are lots of prizes to be won, so do head over and take a look.  She also has a website at www.katehardy.com.

Congratulations, Kate - you've already given enormous reading pleasure to thousands of readers, and here's to the next 50 titles from you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gilli asks the questions...

Questions, questions, questions…

I’m always very happy to answer questions about my writing (and to talk about myself, ahem), so when fellow novelist Gilli Allan sent me some questions for my blog I was more than willing to have a little think!

What is the title of your next book?

The Wedding Diary. 

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I wondered what would happen to a girl who won a fabulous dream wedding in a country house hotel a couple of weeks after her fiancĂ© had walked out.  She’s got the wedding sorted, but what about the bridegroom?

What genre does your book fall under?

Romantic comedy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Tom Hiddleston (aka Henry V) would be perfect for my hero Adam Lawley.  

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Where’s a fairy godmother when you need one?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s to be published in May 2013 by the multi-award-winning independent publisher Choc Lit.  So no pressure there, then.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

That’s a difficult question because stories tend to slosh around in my head for a long time before I write them down, but I suppose about six months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are too many to list, but The Wedding Diary is a story about losing Mr Wrong and finding Mr Right with – I hope – a few new twists and a terrifying secondary character who the focus-group-readers liked a lot.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Last year – 2011 – was a difficult one for me for all sorts of reasons and I wanted to write a story which was fun, light-hearted and happy.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a modern-day take on the Cinderella story, so it features lots of recognisable but hopefully newly-minted characters – a lovely heroine with whom the reader can identify, a handsome prince with whom the reader can fall in love, a fairy godmother and two not-so-ugly sisters. There’s also a fairytale ending.

The novel is now up on Amazon for pre-ordering - click on the book cover image on the right for more information and see if it takes your fancy?

Thank you, Gilli Allan, for inviting me to answer these questions.  You can pop over to Gilli’s own blog at http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/.

If you’re a fan of women’s interest fiction, some other blogs you will enjoy reading include http://lizbaileywritingtips.blogspot.co.uk

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book of the Month - September 2012

This month - can it be September already, what happened to summer - I am delighted to feature Liz Harris's debut novel The Road Back as my Book of the Month.

Liz was happy to chat to me about her novel and her writing life in general, and this is what she said:

"Recently, I returned from Wyoming where I’ve been researching the novel that is to be published by Choc Lit in 2013 - and holidaying a bit, too, of course.

There can be no more exciting way to research a novel than walking on the ground that your characters walked. In the case of my characters, it was the Savery area in South Wyoming which lies in the shadow of the Sierra Madre Mountains. There can be few things more thrilling than to breathe the same air my characters used to breathe. Admittedly, they breathed it in 1887 and it might have been recycled a few times since then, but that’s a small point.

Yes, hands-on research is fantastic. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible.

The Road Back, available on Kindle and coming out in paperback this week, is partly set in Belsize Park, London. Happily, I had no research problems there - I was born and brought up there, and still have family in the area. But it's also set in Ladakh, north of the Himalayas, and that was a different matter. Since going to Ladakh wasn’t an option, I had to research the novel in the only way that I could, namely through books and the internet.

The starting point of my research was an album compiled by my late uncle after he’d visited Ladakh in the 1940s whilst stationed in North India. It was reading his album that gave me the idea of writing The Road Back, and it was with his words and photos that I began to learn about the country.

By the time I’d finished reading the album, I could see clearly the village in which my hero, Kalden, lived. I turned then to more books and the internet, which proved to be excellent resources for learning about a very beautiful high-altitude country in which its people are faced daily with the problems posed by living with a lack of rain.

We have only to think for one moment to realise how much we take having water for granted – to drink; for showers/baths; to wash our clothes and our dishes; for cooking; to flush our loos, and so on. It’s easy to see how difficult it would be if there were no rain to keep on filling our reservoirs and rain barrels.

My research showed me the way in which the Ladakhi solved their problems, an interesting solution which struck at the very core of their lives.

But of course, a novel is much more than just a geographical background and a revelation of how people lived in their environment – it is a story.

I love reading books that have strong stories and which feature characters who display the complexity of human behaviour, and I hope very much that I’ve captured real people in The Road Back, people whose story makes the reader want to keep on turning the pages to find out what happens next."

Good luck with the The Road Back, Liz - and with the next book, too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest blogger - Carol Hedges

It's always good to have guests on my blog and today I am delighted to welcome Young Adult author Carol Hedges, who is going to tell us something about herself and her work.

Carol has a degree in English and Archaeology, which - spookily enough - I do, too. But I expect she has forgotten far more about archaeology than I ever knew, because I worked in the comparatively narrow field of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology as part of a degree course in English Literature, and the last time I got my hands dirty was during an excavation in the Old Kent Road about twenty years ago. 

Carol has worked as a librarian, a children's clothes designer, a dinner lady, a classroom assistant at a special needs school and a teacher. She has written eleven published novels and one ebook. She has a grown-up daughter, a husband, a pink 2CV (I am very jealous of the pink 2CV) and a lot of fish.

This is what she has to say about her latest novel Jigsaw Pieces:

"I like the idea of being strong. I've grown up with the concept. It's in my bones and my blood. Strong people survive. They don't go under."
            So speaks 18 year old Annie, the heroine of my new ebook Jigsaw Pieces. My genre is YA Crime Fiction, and for me, there are two ingredients that go to make up a successful book in this genre. The first, clearly, is a crime of some sort. In Jigsaw Pieces, set in 1998, it is the mysterious death of one of Annie's fellow students.
            The second ingredient is a strong female protagonist. So what makes a strong character? Well, it's not enough just to tell readers they are strong. Strong characters have to demonstrate their strength, usually by being pitted against challenging events, or other characters. Annie is taken from her birthplace, Norway, and dumped in an English school, where she has to develop a carapace to survive the daily bullying. Through her determination we learn how strong characters function and survive in difficult situations.
            But strength can be shown in softness: Annie 's compassionate side is made clear when she bonds with the mute World War 1 veteran Billy Donne, whom she meets in a nursing home. Strong characters must also have faults: Annie is far too quick to rush to judgement and jump to conclusions. The reader warms to characters with an inner fault line. Maybe because they are a little like us?
             At the end of Jigsaw Pieces, Annie discovers that there remains a vital piece of the Jigsaw missing from her life. And here we see the final ingredient of a strong character - there must always be a sense that there is more to be grasped, new and different conflicts to be overcome.
            For a strong character, the journey is never complete; there is always another story waiting to be told. I love writing strong female characters like Annie because they are so multifaceted and complex. They challenge me and push me to my limits. I hope they do the same for my readers as well.

Twitter - @carolJhedges
Facebook - Carol Hedges
www. Shewrites.com www.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Something new, something blue...

I've been a historical novelist for many years now.  But last year I decided it was time to try something new. So I wrote a contemporary romantic comedy.

This is a new take on Cinderella, complete with Cinderella herself, a lovely Prince Charming (well, I love him, anyway), an absolutely terrifying Fairy Godmother (well, she scared the life out of me) and two not-so-ugly sisters. As yet, there isn't a pumpkin and the story doesn't feature black rats or white mice, but I have to do the revisions and editorial stuff yet. So there's time...

I don't know if I'll go on writing romantic comedy, but I do know I had great fun writing this book. There's a second romantic comedy bubbling away on my back burner, so I may find I have to write it next.  Sorry, historical novel which is half written but sticking a bit, you might have to wait a while.

If any writer reading this post is wondering about striking out in a new literary direction - go on, give it a try, and you might surprise yourself. 

I surprised me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

On the buses

Last month, I was delighted to be asked to take part in a summer reading promotion organised by National Express, the UK's major coach operator running services to most UK airports. National Express chose my novel The Penny Bangle as one of the holiday reads offered to travellers on their way to hopefully sunnier climates, although today it's very sunny in Devon, where I am lucky enough to live.

The photoshoot was at Birmingham coach station on a very dull and blustery day - we had a lot of those in July - but ace photographer Adam Fradgley worked his magic and produced a happy, smiley photograph of me not looking as if I was about to fall off a wobbling pile of suitcases.

You can read more about my adventures and other book promotions on this link - http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/shuttlextra/lifestyle/9864870.Just_the_ticket_for_a_coach_trip/
But if you want a free book you'll have to be on an airport run from Birmingham coach station some time this summer!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Exeter library talk

Last Wednesday saw hordes of enthusiastic readers and writers converging on Exeter Central Library to hear Romantic Novel of the Year 2012 Award Winner Jane Lovering, prolific short story writer (300 or more published and many more to come) and novelist Linda Mitchelmore and I telling a capacity audience how to do it - write women's interest fiction, of course.

It was a great evening with lots of wine being drunk and lots of books being sold. The three novelists had a good time and were sympathetically supervised by chairman Cathie Hartigan.

It was a huge pleasure to meet Jane Lovering's best friend Lyn Chadwick.  These two were apparently the naughtiest girls in the school. I don't know if they've grown out of being naughty, but they're both lovely people!

The photograph of Lyn, Linda and me was taken by Lyn's son. I don't know where Jane was at that moment. Maybe being naughty somewhere?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book of the Month - August 2012

My book of the month for August has to be Sophie Duffy's wonderful second novel This Holey Life, which is a witty, warm-hearted and thought-provoking story about an ordinary but also extraordinary family.

This is what Sophie has to say about it:

"Vicky is a reluctant curate's wife, struggling to come to terms with her own bereavement and her husband's new-found faith. Then, one Boxing Day, a knock on the door brings her annoying big brother, his teenage son and a cello into her life, turning her world upside down."

She's too modest to add that it's also a charming and fascinating story, so I'll say it.

Sophie came to her Devon book launch yesterday wearing a special yellow dress which complements the book jacket, and she looked lovely, as I'm sure everyone who reads this post will agree!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer fun in Paignton

Just  to remind everyone who lives within easy travelling distance of Paignton in Devon - Sophie Duffy will be signing copies of her new novel This Holey Life at the Torbay Bookshop from 6 pm on Tuesday 31 July.

Matthew and Sarah, who own the bookshop, always make these events very enjoyable, and they're a chance to meet lots of published authors, too.

So, if you want to chat, please bring along any questions for Sophie and the rest of us!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discussing romantic fiction at Exeter Library

On 1 August, two of my fellow romantic novelists and I will be talking about romantic fiction and how to write it at Exeter Central Library. I'll be joined by Jane Lovering, Winner of Romantic Novel of the Year 2012, and Torbay novelist Linda Mitchelmore.

The discussion will be chaired by Cathie Hartigan of Creative Writing Matters - see http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/ -
and we will be delighted to meet anyone who would like to come along.

See this link for more information:

Monday, July 16, 2012

RNA Conference - Part 2

Well - as always, a fab time was had by all. The Lake District setting was lovely, the sun came out for at least twenty minutes, and the company was great. I met lots of old friends and also made some new ones. Or at least I think I made some new ones. I'll know for sure if they avoid me next time.

There's lots of stuff about the conference on Facebook, so I won't describe it all over again, but I must put my thanks to the wonderful Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson on record. They organised the conference, they did all the work, and they made it happen.  So thank you, Jan and Roger, you twinkle brightly.

Thank you also to the speakers whose sessions were all inspirational.  I came home with half a new novel in my head! I need to get it down on screen now.  It will look better there.

As always, the shoes were amazing. You can see some of them on the RNA blog at http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, July 9, 2012

RNA Conference

Just in case anyone has forgotten  - it's the RNA Conference in Penrith this coming weekend. The shoes, the frocks, the networking, the NOISE - I am looking forward to meeting everyone again and having a good time, even if it does rain.

Must remember to pack the Neurofen.

The Lake District is still there, I hope, and hasn't degenerated into one big Lake with no District...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book of the Month - July 2012

My book of the month for July is Christina Courtenay's wonderful new time slip novel, The Silent Touch of Shadows. Christina has already made a name for herself as a great writer of historical fiction, winning major awards for her novels The Scarlet Kimono (set in 17th century Japan) and Highland Storms (set in 18th century Scotland). Christina is meticulous in her research methods, and the result of this in-depth research is that she really takes her readers there.

In The Silent Touch of Shadows, single mother and geneaologist (genealogy is one of Christina's own passions) Melissa goes to visit an ancient manor house and later finds she's dreaming very disturbing and worrying dreams.  What if she's going mad? She can't really be back in the 15th century, can she? Who is this woman Sibell, who seems to have taken over Melissa's mind? Why does Melissa wake from a strange dream with a terrible pain in her back and thinking there must be a farmyard outside her window?

I don't really believe in ghosts, but this novel made me think again about the ways in which we connect with our past lives, and about how what has happened in our collective past might affect our future. Melissa's Steve walked out on Melissa and their child, so will what happens to Melissa in the course of this story give her a second chance of love?

What if, as your husband-to-be panicked at the altar, another man had stepped forward to offer you his gauntlet-clad hand?

If you're a fan of historical and time slip fiction you will love this story, which I think is Christina's best yet.

Click on the image to the right of this post to take you to the UK's Amazon site, where you can find more details of Christina's novel, which is available as a print paperback and an ebook download.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The ebook revolution gathers pace...

Publishing is changing - well, we all know this.

But it's changing in a way that means the reading public will now have much more choice when it comes to making decisions about what they really want to read.

So you're commercially published, but your publisher doesn't get round to putting your books out there as ebook downloads. What do you do?

You do it yourself, as Valerie Holmes is, with her huge backlist (thirty titles and counting) of novelettes originally published by D C Thomson and Ulverscroft.

Valerie's stories are fun, adventurous and feature lively, feisty heroines who get what they want. They make great short reads.


Valerie intends to publish all her novelettes as ebooks and has commissioned a designer to produce attractive artwork for them. She says:

"I thought about trying to bodge up a cover. Then I thought - better try and look professional because I have thirty titles to send out, so why not develop an idea. So I contacted a professional, pitching the idea of committing us both to an ongoing relationship for the duration of the 30. Hence the idea of Valerie Holmes: Romantic Adventures was born.

"The designer came up trumps so long as I settled for illustrations with a themed header. Sounded good to me, so I have taken the plunge. I am now doing over-writes to make all my books that bit better ( I hope).

"Moving On is first to be published as it was short-listed for an RNA award most recently. Stolen Treasure will be next so that a historical title follows."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Out and about...

Most writers spend a lot of their time alone in their studies with their imaginations, but sometimes we get out and about. I have two out-and-about events coming up and would be delighted to meet anyone who'd like to meet me.


A date for your diary!

Friday 6th July 2012

Linda Mitchelmore and I will be at The Bookshelf in Saltash, Cornwall:

The Bookshelf
96 Fore Street
PL12 6JW
01752 845804

We will be signing books and talking to customers. Do come in and have a glass of wine with us!

1 pm - 5 pm

A second date for your diary!

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Romantic fiction - do you read it, do you want to write it?

Exeter Central Library
Castle Street Exeter, Devon EX4 3PQ
0845 155 1001

Local writers Jane Lovering (winner of the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2012), Linda Mitchelmore and I will be talking about our novels in a discussion chaired by Cathie Hartigan of http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/, and also signing copies of our books.

7.30 pm- 9.00 pm
Entry - £4.00 - £2.00 redeemable against the cost of books

This and lots of other West Country literary events are on the Cyprus Well website at http://www.cypruswell.com/calendar-news.php - it's well worth a look.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Short Story Competition

The last Choc Lit Short Story Competition was such a big success that a second competition is now under way, and we've roped in hugely successful short story writer and novelist Linda Mitchelmore to help with the judging.

You may be thinking that since you don't write romantic fiction, this competition is not for you. If you do think that, you would be wrong. The competition is open to all writers, and the winning story in the first competition was a moving one about a special kind of courage. This isn't to say the winner of the new competition won't have written a romantic story, but what I can tell you now is that the winner will have written what Sue Moorcroft, Linda Mitchelmore and I consider to be the best story.

See http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/choc_lit_short_story_competiti.html for more details.

We're looking forward to reading some wonderful stories!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book of the Month June 2012

It's always exciting to see a new author making it into print. This month, I'm delighted to congratulate Linda Mitchelmore, whose debut novel To Turn Full Circle is published by award-winning independent Choc Lit. A story set in Linda's home county of Devon, this is the first novel in a trilogy featuring Emma Le Goff and her descendants.

The trilogy begins in 1909, when Emma's mother and brother die in mysterious circumstances and Emma is left alone in a hostile world. Devon might be a beautiful county, but at the beginning of the twentieth century life there was hard for ordinary people. Emma finds an ally in handsome Seth Jago, her landlord's son. But fisherman Matthew Caunter is attracted to Emma, too - and this makes Seth very jealous.

Linda has written a wonderful love story which also features an intriguing mystery. It's certain to become another Choc Lit success!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

RNA Summer Party

Well, it was that time of year again - the frocks, the shoes, the champagne, the gossip, the fun!  Yes, it was the RNA Summer Party, and it was a brilliant one for Choc Lit because this publisher (which happens to be my own, so I'll have a little bask in reflected glory now) scooped both the Major Award for the best romantic novel of the year and the Joan Hessayon Award for a first novel.

I can't recall any publisher mounting a coup of this magnitude in all my years of RNA membership, so I say brilliant, fabulous, and many more superlatives to Choc Lit.

Jane Lovering won the Major Award for her novel Please Don't Stop The Music and Evonne Wareham won the Joan Hessayon Award for her debut novel Never Coming Home. A zillion congratulations to both Jane and Evonne!

Jane looks happy - as well she might!

Evonne and her very proud but slightly stunned mother!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Countdown to publication

It's always exciting when a new novel is published, and I'm excited about seeing my latest title, the paperback version of The Penny Bangle, in print.  It should be hitting selected branches of Waterstones and most of the travel branches of W H Smith on Monday 7 May.

I feel quite sad that I've now finished the Dorset trilogy.  When these novels were published in hardback I hoped they would end up in paperback, and it's great that they have done so, in longer and more in-depth versions than the hardbacks. They're in large print and audio formats, too. It's quite spooky, hearing someone else read your work, but Julie Teal has done a fantastic job of reading mine.

So it's time to say goodbye and get to know some other characters, which is what I am doing now. But Rose Courtenay and her friends and family have been a big part of my imaginative life for so long that I don't think I'll ever forget them!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book of the Month May 2012

My Book of the Month for May 2012 is Gilli Allan's latest Kindle publication, Life Class. I had a chance to interview Gilli about this new book, and this is what she told me.

What is your new novel Life Class about?

The life class meets once a week to draw the human figure. For four of its members, life hasn’t lived up to expectations. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted. They gradually come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to a different and unimagined future.
Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. As a part-time lab technician in a local STI clinic she’s confronted everyday by the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationship. Dory has returned to her home town. She questions why she’s allowed her sister, Fran, to push her into joining the life class. The time seems right to make up her mind about what she does really want in life. Love doesn’t figure in her view of the future – she’s always been a clear eyed realist – and yet she finds herself chasing a dream.
Stefan is a single-minded loner. His only and overriding ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. To supplement his income he’s taken a job as a part-time art teacher. He finds himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back. Although love is an emotion he long ago closed off - it only leads to regret and shame - it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat?
Fran - Dory’s older sister - is a wife and a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. She studied art as a girl but the life class is her only creative outlet now. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.
Dominic is a damaged child. He has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? By accepting the help and love that’s on offer here and now, he has a chance to transform his life.

As a novelist, what subjects and themes excite and inspire you?

When I was young I read every variety of fiction voraciously. Fantasy, sci fi, romance and historical novels were hoovered-up alongside the rest, but I rarely read those genres these days. What interests me now, to read and to write, is contemporary fiction which is rooted in a reality I recognise. I want to explore characters I can identify with. I want them to have the regrets, the problems and the obstacles to their ambitions any of us might have. After all, real life is not a fairy tale; it can rarely be wrapped up neatly.  
Looking back over my books to date, I can see that creative people often figure in my plots. Maybe this is because I am an artist as well as a writer and I instinctively have sympathy and understanding for creative types. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy, and know a bit more about the arts than I do about other subjects. The idea of having to research an aeronautics engineer is daunting!

You're not a "lipsticked mouths, hearts and flowers, and bare, muscled chests" type novelist. How would you describe your kind of writing, and what do you set out to do?

I’ll answer the last part of the question first. I very much enjoy subverting the ‘romance’ stereo-types. Though I wouldn’t claim I ‘set out’ to do this, it is a recurring element in my writing. As I said in the previous answer, I try to create believable scenarios, peopled by real individuals. Reality, in my view extends to their appearance. I don’t go so far as to make my characters plug-ugly, but I am determined not to have drop-dead gorgeous heroines. Maybe I’m peculiar, but the heroine who is described as having a figure that any man would lust over, emerald eyes and ‘creamy blonde curls falling like whipped cream to her shoulders’ (I read that once and it stuck in my mind!) immediately loses my sympathy! Why on earth is this woman having trouble finding a man?
I am equally determined not to create archetypal tall, dark, handsome, rich and successful heroes. The only hero of mine who conformed to the above description was in my first novel, Just Before Dawn, which I was aiming at HM&B, but HM&B didn’t want it. I might have created an appropriate hero but I was unable to keep the rest of the plot on the straight and narrow!  
To answer the first part of the question is a little harder to explain. I freely admit I am speaking from a position of almost complete ignorance of modern romance fiction, so feel free to shoot me down! But I am very put-off by the kind of jacket design the quote describes. The models are always impossibly beautiful and honed individuals, whose trials and tribulations I’m not interested in for all the aforementioned reasons. And the implication behind the inevitable clinch on the cover is that love and sex is going to be the total focus of the story. Of course love is important. It’s the engine of the plot in the books I write, but it is never the be all and end all of the story.
I have no problem with sex in the books I read (or write). Sex is fine. But if there’s too much and it’s too raunchy, I don’t want to continue reading - I want to do it - so in my view, it distracts from the story. But most of all, I dislike reading books in which sex is always awesome and never has any consequences, apart from ‘falling in love’! Sex can be awkward and embarrassing, even if you think you’re in love.  And, apart from the potential of disease and pregnancy, sex outside of a committed partnership very often has deep and troubling emotional and psychological fallout.

Who are your own favourite novelists?

I have to confess I don’t read much within the romantic fiction genre. I can never switch off my inner editor, relax into a story and just enjoy it. So my usual reading is crime fiction. For many years Ruth Rendell (also writing as Barbara Vine) was my favourite author, and more specifically, her psychological ‘chillers’. They keep your heart in your mouth - you know something awful is going to happen, but you don’t know what. Nor are you sure who is going to be the perpetrator or who the victim.
These days Ruth has rivals. Other contemporary crime writers I enjoy are Mark Billingham and Sophie Hannah - the latter is a peerless plotter. And, having said I don’t read historical fiction, the exception proves the rule. I absolutely adore C J Sansom who writes crime fiction set in the reign of Henry VIII.  
An author who uses the crime genre to explore the human condition, and who does so with wit and style, is Kate Atkinson - her ‘Jackson Brodie’ novels are to be treasured. All these are authors whose next book I impatiently wait for.

            Do you have any hints and tips for other would be novelists?

To be a writer you have to have grit and determination, a degree of selfishness and, dare I say it, a large helping of bloody-mindedness. And if you truly believe you’ve got what it takes, don’t just talk about it, do it. There are always reasons to put it off. But don’t wait until you have the time, until the children are off your hands, until you’ve gone part-time or you’ve retired. If you procrastinate now, you may never begin, let alone finish. If you really have a book (or books) in you, you will find a way.