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.

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.