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.

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!