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, December 23, 2013

Twelve days of Christmas shorts...

As a gift to readers old and new, my lovely publisher Choc Lit is sending out free Christmas short stories to everyone who fancies a bit of Christmas cheeriness.

If that includes you, please contact the team at info@choclitpublishing.co.uk and today you'll receive Sue Moorcroft's Christmas story.You can also ask for the rest of the stories, too - making twelve festive stories in all. They'll be delivered to your email inbox and we hope you'll enjoy them.  More stories will be coming along for the New Year.

Merry Christmas to everyone who's been reading my posts this year and all best wishes for 2014.

Margaret XXX

Friday, December 13, 2013

Meet Linda Mitchelmore

My guest on my blog today is lovely Linda Mitchelmore, fellow Devonian and also fellow Choc Lit author.

Welcome, Linda! Please make yourself comfortable on my fat and squashy sofa - that desk looks a bit hard - and have a coffee and a cookie or two before I ask you some questions.

Linda's debut historical novel To Turn Full Circle was published in 2012 and its sequel Emma - There's No Turning Back is now available as an ebook on Amazon and all the usual ebook platforms. The print version will be in the shops in January 2014. I'm definitely going to get the print version, but I suspect my twitchy fingers will download the ebook, too!

What about this cover - isn't it gorgeous?


As well as being a fabulous historical novelist, Linda is a hugely successful writer of short stories whose work has been published in just about every UK magazine, online and in many anthologies. Linda's achievements are all the more impressive because several years ago she lost her hearing, but she hasn't let this hold her back in any way.

I think she's finished her cookie now, so let's let Linda speak for herself.

1 - You have a sequel to To Turn Full Circle out this month.  What's going to happen to Emma in this new story?

Emma was barely eighteen-years-old when To Turn Full Circle ended. She was very much in love with Seth Jago then and, at the start of Emma - There's No Turning Back, they are set to marry. But life is never straightforward for Emma and all sorts of obstacles are put in front of her, not least the arrival in her life of a baby, born to Seth's ex-lover. But Emma rises to the challenge of caring for a child her birth mother has rejected, and along the way she turns from a girl herself to a woman. Throw into this melting pot one very charismatic and mysterious man from Emma's own past, Matthew Caunter, and she begins to question what being in love is - and if it's possible to love two men. Only Emma can decide that....but you will have to read the book to find out what her decision is.

2 - You write stories set in Devon, where you live.  What do you find particularly inspirational about Devon?

I was born here so I am probably more than a little bit biased. There's no finer place, is there? It has everything. A rich past, fantastic scenery, weather that is warmer than most parts of the UK. Why else does the rest of the country swarm here for holidays? It was good enough for Agatha Christie and R F Delderfield and now Hilary Mantel has made it her home, so.....a writery sort of place, I would say.

3 - As well as historical fiction, you also write stories set in the present day. What kind of fiction do you enjoy writing most?

My absolute favourite is first person, present tense. Whatever the character I am writing, then I AM that character, be it a good one or a bad one. That said, I've only ever written short stories in first person, present tense. It would be my dream to write a novel like that, too ....maybe one day??

4 - How do you organise your research for your historical fiction?

An interesting question. I tend do things a bit back to front. I almost never write a synopsis until I have finished the first draft of an historical novel (I have, by the way, written contemporary novels and have a contract on one called Red is for Rubies with Choc Lit). I write from a very emotional angle so I like to let my characters do their own story-telling in a way. Obviously, I am aware of the period and the key political and worldwide events in which my story is set before I start and have a very basic library of books around me. But once the first draft is done I will go through it chapter by chapter and add more historical detail. Working like that might not work for everyone, but it works for me.

5 - Do you have any tips or hints for anyone starting to write fiction?

Only do it if you are prepared to take criticism at every level as you learn your craft. It IS a craft and few of us go in at the top of the game. It took me seven novels and almost as many years before I held a book with my name on the front cover in my hand.

Five quick fire questions:

1 - Any New Year Resolutions?

Yes, never to make any - I've found they are more or less pointless as something always happens to upset the applecart, often from circumstances beyond my control.

2 - Most important things or people in your life?

I'm not hugely attached to things, such as antiques or clothes or cars or jewellery. At the back of my mind I always hear my father's voice, 'It doesn't matter if you break things, love, as long as you don't break my heart.' So, my family - husband, children, grandchildren, and grand-dog, Guinness - and I wouldn't want to be without any of them.

3 - Biggest mistake you ever made?

Possibly not standing up to my mother who made me leave school when I was seventeen years old, denying me A levels and a University education. But I had a good grounding at Grammar School and life has taught me much. But my weakness then still rankles somewhat.

4 - Biggest success you ever had?

Having babies easily, and more or less painlessly (I know, everyone hates me for saying that!) on a personal level. On a professional level - it has to be the first time I ever saw my name in print....thank you Woman's Own competition way back then.

5 - A fairy godmother grants you one wish - what will you ask?

Is having my hearing back too big a wish??

Let's hope medical science makes some giant leaps forward in 2014, Linda, and that one day your wish will come true!  Thank you for chatting to me, I've enjoy it very much indeed. Do take another cookie to nibble on your journey home!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Creative Writing Student's Handbook

Well, we're nearly there - only a couple more chapters to go and we're done.

We hope the book has proved useful to both experienced and novice writers of fiction. We certainly enjoyed writing it and - thanks to all the great feedback we've received from readers - are confident we will be able to produce a final version in 2014.

If you'd like to read Chapter 11  for free, here's the link:


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Freebie again - this time on Amazon

My latest novel The Wedding Diary is free on Amazon Kindle right now - lots of good reviews, so why not give it a go? It's a funny, frothy romantic comedy, so probably just the ticket for this time of year.

Think hot chocolate, a cosy fire to keep you warm, and lots of love from me to you!



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Making some money...

The latest chapter of The Creative Writing Student's Handbook is about making money from your writing. It's on this link and it's free to read until the end of November. Short stories for magazines, writing competitions, non-fiction articles - these could all help pay for Christmas.


See the Creative Writing Matters website for more suggestions about making money from your writing. Your life story - if it's interesting and you're willing to spend time promoting it, why not get it up there on Kindle, Smashwords and other ebook platforms?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Freebie-deebie-do and hurrah hurrah hurrah!

I am so thrilled to learn that my very own publisher Choc Lit has won the coveted title of Publisher of the Year at the Festival of Romance 2013 tonight.

Beloved by all its authors, Choc Lit shows other publishers how it should be done by asking real readers what they think of all submissions and by involving its authors in the publishing process.

A fabulous result, Choc Lit, and may many more successes follow.

My own latest Choc Lit title The Wedding Diary is free on iTunes for a few days, so anyone with an iPad who would like to try a piece of Choc Lit can do so for nothing now! See what you think and let me know? Here's the link to your freebie - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-wedding-diary/id631166093

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meet Suzy Turner - versatility is her middle name!

Yorkshire-born novelist Suzy Turner is my guest on my blog today - welcome, Suzy! I'll just go and put the kettle on and then we can have a nice natter over coffee and cake. I'm looking forward to hearing all about your new novel Forever Fredless

Suzy has worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor and magazine editor. Early in 2010 however, she began writing full time and has since completed six books for young adults (the Raven Saga and The Morgan Sisters series) and one chick lit novel, Forever Fredless.

Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 15 years, Michael, their two neurotic dogs and a cat who thinks she's a princess, is still her home

When and how did you become a writer of fiction, Suzy?  

I was made redundant from my job as a magazine editor a few years ago and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to follow my dream of becoming an author. Luckily, I have a very supportive husband who encouraged me to do just that! So, after a few rejections from literary agents, I decided to go it alone and self publish and I've just released my seventh novel.

What attracted you to chick lit?

Chick lit is my first love when it comes to books. I grew up reading it, learning all about love and life (and sex!!!). It's just such an enjoyable genre to read and, like a fellow author recently said to me, it's like being surrounded by your best friends.

What comes first with you - story, situation, character, setting?

I think it's different every time. With my first books, it was the setting, the second series it was a character and for Forever Fredless, the situation! My next chick lit book (in the planning stage!) is very much about the setting.

Did the characters in Forever Fredless turn up in your head unannounced, or did you have to work hard at developing them? 

I've been pretty lucky with characters so far, they have always just appeared, often unannounced and I love it when happens because I am often surprised!

Who is your favourite character in Forever Fredless, and why? 

Julianne (editor of Liberty Magazine) was a lot of fun to write but I particularly love Kate's mum. Although she's only in the book a short time, I really loved writing her. She's very unusual in that she lives a nomadic lifestyle in Africa!

Do you intend to write more chick lit?

Absolutely! I have so many ideas in my head but I need to finish my next YA book first, and then I can concentrate on my next Chick Lit book which is going to be lots of fun - both researching and writing.

Please tell me five fascinating facts about you?

Fascinating? Oh dear, am I fascinating? 

Yes, of course you're fascinating - all writers are fascinating, aren't we?


1. I chew my tongue when deep in concentration.
2. I grew up in Portugal (where I currently live with my husband).
3. I have a belly button piercing!
4. I worked as the Script Supervisor for a British movie that was recently shot in the Algarve. Find out more here: http://www.therightjuice.net/the-team/
5. I was once interviewed by ITV Yorkshire about living in Portugal, and I'm so embarrassed every time I see it!

Give us a taster of what Forever Fredless is all about?

Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday.

Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

Ooh, sounds great - looking forward to reading!  Thank you for talking to me today. Funny - all the cake seems to have disappeared...

For more details about Suzy and her books, visit:
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/suzyturnerbooks

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Creative Writing Student's Handbook - are you a writer?

It's the beginning of October, which means there is a new chapter of The Creative Writing Student's Handbook up on the Creative Writing Matters website - and it's free for a whole month.

This new chapter deals with the actuality of being a writer.  What do writers do all day? What inspires and what depresses them? Do they think writing is worthwhile? If you decided you wanted to write, where should you start?

After you've read the chapter, please comment if you wish.  Cathie Hartigan and I would love to hear from you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five pretty twinklers...

It's always great to get a good review and so I was delighted to receive this one from Long and Short Reviews, a prestigious US website.


I'm now entitled to display the coveted LASR magic button which comes in Wedding Diary blue. It's so pretty and I am so thrilled!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The bad stuff...

There's plenty to be said for being a self-employed writer, even though most of us don't tend to earn a lot of money. Many of us earn some money, we are our own bosses, we can go to work in our pyjamas and we don't have to join the rat race on the daily commute.

But there are drawbacks, and in this chapter of the online free guide to creative writing, creative writing teachers Cathie Hartigan and I suggest what can drag us down and what we can do about it. Here's the link: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/the-creative-writing-students-handbook.html

Anybody got any more comments/suggestions? Facebook, Twitter, the Creative Writing Matters website or this blog would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

iTunes freebie - this week only!

Rose Courtenay is having a busy week!

Who is Rose Courtenay?

She's the heroine of my Dorset trilogy and you can read the first part of her story free on iTunes this week.

Rose is very dear to my heart.  She's been with me for a very long time. She first walked into my head about ten years ago and told me to tell her story. Nowadays, I probably know more about Rose than I know about myself. I also know about her descendants, and this year I am writing her great-grand-daughter Rosie's story. Actually, I've got a bit out of sequence, because her grand-daughter Lily's story is still to be written. But there's time.

Busy, busy, busy!

Click on this link to download your free book: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-silver-locket/id550223793?mt=11

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Amazon Daily Deal

Yes, it's one of those blink-and-you-miss-it offers. The Kindle version of my Charton Minster Trilogy is only 99p on Amazon's UK site, but only for today, Sunday 21st July. The Daily Deal is just what it says - a bargain for one day only.

It's been very gratifying to see it race up the Kindle chart today. Click on the link below to see if you fancy the books?


Monday, July 15, 2013

RNA Conference 2013 - the hot pix!

The RNA Conference 2013 was held in tropical Sheffield, and my goodness it was hot.  We were based on one of Sheffield University's sites, The Edge, which is a beautifully designed and landscaped place on the edge (fancy that) of the city. The lake was especially lovely and as I walked around it on Saturday morning I was very tempted to kick off my shoes and have a paddle.  But I didn't want to scare the moorhen chicks.

As usual, Conference Organisers Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson did a fantastic job of finding a great conference venue and making sure everything ran like clockwork. Well done, huge thanks and even huger hugs to Jan and Roger - two bright twinklers in the RNA heavens!

I took a few photographs of us all having a great time - that is, working really hard and being inspired by the excellent speakers Jan and Roger lined up for us. I was sad to leave and am already looking forward to the RNA Conference 2014.

At the Saturday night gala dinner - here is the lovely Jan Jones, Conference Organiser and all-round good egg!  Thank so much, Jan - you did a fantastic job.

...and here is Jane Lovering, RNA Major Award Winner in 2012, sitting next to Roger Sanderson, Jan's fellow Organiser and equally good egg.

Of course, my local RNA Chapter - The Devon Violets - sent a contingent to the conference. Here are Su Bristow, Cathie Hartigan and my lovely self getting ready to stuff our faces with roast duck, followed by vanilla bean cheesecake - delicious!

We actually did quite a lot of work.  I talked to lots of writers and now have most of my Writing Magazine articles for 2014 mapped out and organised - thank you, RNA members! 

Finally - here are my fellow Choc Lit authors Christine Stovell and RNA Chairman Pia Fenton, AKA Christina Courtenay, discussing weighty matters like plot, characterisation, structure, narrative viewpoint, and fancying a glass of something cold and white.

I'm sure a great time was had by all. Thank you, RNA - you've been my inspiration throughout my writing life, and I know you will always continue to be.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Time slipping - bargain price...

I would love to write a new time slip novel.  I have lots of outlines in my folders and files, and one day I'm sure I'll get round to it. If I'd had a different life, and made different choices, I would probably have become an archaeologist, so writing time slip perhaps has a natural attraction for me. I can dig into the past in all sorts of ways!

I really enjoyed writing a novel called Elegy for a Queen, which is currently available as an ebook at the bargain price of 77p or $1.17. I'd love to get some up-to-date feedback from readers. What is it about time slip which attracts so many readers and - I have to admit - turns other readers off?

Any thoughts?




Friday, June 28, 2013

The West Country now has its very own Novel Prize

Anyone who ever dared to think the UK's West Country (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Avon) is a cultural desert will now have to think again because as of now we have the Exeter Novel Prize.

This was launched last night at Exeter Central Library in front of a gratifyingly large audience who had braved the wind and rain of a horrible evening to come and find out what it's all about. We rewarded them with cakes! Here's a shot of the organisers and a member of the audience, the novelist Laura James whose debut novel will be published soon. Left to right - Margaret James, Cathie Hartigan, Laura James and Sophie Duffy.

The organisers - Sophie Duffy, Cathie Hartigan and I - explained that this brand new prize is open to yet-to-be-published and published (but currently unagented and uncontracted) writers.  You have to be over 18, to write in English, and your work must be for adults or young adults - readers of 12 or over.  This year, we are not considering stories for children.

The final judge will be Broo Doherty from the London literary agency Wade and Doherty.  The first prize is £500, generously sponsored by Exeter Writers, and five runners-up will each receive £50. The prizes will be paid via Paypal, so currency conversions won't be a problem. There'll be no sterling cheques to cash abroad at vast expense! Entry is open to writers anywhere in the world.

The full terms and conditions are on this link: www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk. This is what our local MP, the Right Honourable Ben Bradshaw, former Labour Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sport, has to say: The Exeter Novel Prize is a great addition to the cultural life of our city and I look forward to it becoming a regular fixture on the arts calendar. Good luck to all entrants and I look forward to hearing about the shortlist and the winning novel.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Novel Event for Everyone

If you live in or near Exeter and would like to become a successful first time novelist, or to kick-start your career all over again, please come and join the Creative Writing Matters team for a free event which will launch the brand new Exeter Novel Prize.

When - Thursday 27 June at 7 pm

Where - Exeter Central Library

What - the Exeter Novel Prize is open to entries from published (but at present unagented and uncontracted) and yet-to-be published novelists. Entry to the event is free.

More details - at www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk.

Please come along and join in the discussion. Our theme for the evening will be: how to be a winner, and -

There will be cakes!

Monday, June 10, 2013

More fun in the sun...

I'm hugely delighted to be a featured author in the forthcoming anthology Sunloungers, which is a collection of fabulous beach reads by authors writing for the women's fiction market.

Here's what our editor Harriet had to say about our stories:

"What is so completely brilliant about this collection is the variety the reader 
gets to experience: heartbreak and heartache, laughter and a feelgood buzz, 
sweet romance and blossoming friendships, mystery and intrigue. There truly is 
something for everyone, crafted with love and care from an extremely talented 
group of women."

I couldn't have put it better myself, so I won't even try!

Here is the link to anthology website - http://www.va-va-vacation.com/sunlounger-chick-lit-stories. The book itself will be available to download on 1 July and we're all looking forward to finding out what readers think of it. We're going to take you places!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Some fun in the sun...

My friend Cathie Hartigan and I just had a fun weekend in London, and - what's more - the sun actually shone on us.  Hurray, it's summer! Well - maybe...

On Saturday, we arrived at the New Cavendish Club near Marble Arch and got poshed up to go to Foyle's Gallery (yes, that Foyles, in the Charing Cross Road) for the launch of the new Words with Jam anthology in which Cathie has a story The Scent of Lemons. Cathie's story was the second prize winner among the longer stories. Here's a photograph of the writers who attended the launch.  Cathie is second on the left...

...and here's the anthology, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle and as a paperback.  I love the surrealist cover - it's a lot of fun!  The link to buy is below. I made sure I got my print copy signed by as many of these stars as I could catch.

This morning, we headed out to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace (like you do) to see an exhibition of Tudor and Stuart paintings and other artefacts depicting royal clothing. It was a wonderful collection, including clothes, pictures, armour, a terracotta image of a child who could have been Henry VIII, a lace collar belonging to Charles I, a pair of fetching green stockings belonging to William III, and a painting of Charles II as Prince of Wales in full armour as commander of one of the Royalist armies during the Civil War.  Charles was 12 - what were they thinking? Child soldiers are sadly nothing new.

Anyway, just to prove the sun shone, I'll conclude with a snap of moi standing in front of my new house. I'm about to exchange contracts. Do you like? I love the gold scrollery on the gates, but I think some of that flock wallpaper they apparently have inside might have to go...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

All in one volume...

It can be annoying when you read a series of novels out of sequence. I've done this several times, for various reasons - perhaps because I've been given or bought one book, then realised it isn't actually the beginning of a whole story.

So I was very pleased when my publisher decided to bring out my Dorset trilogy as a one-stop Kindle download, and anyone who wanted to read it would be able to do so in sequence.

The Charton Minster Trilogy tells the story of heiress Rose Courtenay, who reaches her late teens in 1914, just in time for the beginning of the First World War, or Great War, as it was known until it was eclipsed in trauma and tragedy by the next one.

The story takes in the enormous upheavals which rocked society during the war and during the depression which followed - a depression which some historians believe led inexorably to the Second World War.

But this trilogy is not a sociological or political document.  It's the story of one woman and her family, her friends and her country. It shows Rose Courtenay (later Denham) making lots of mistakes and paying dearly for them, but also finding love, having children of her own, and having to watch them make mistakes themselves. Rose learns a lot during her long life, but at a great cost.

These are not gloomy books, however, and I have hopefully shown that whenever something bad happens to any of us it can be lightened and made bearable if we can only find the courage to love and be loved in all sorts of ways. Love between friends, siblings, relations and spouses - all are to be found in the Charton Minster Trilogy.

UK readers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Charton-Minster-Trilogy-Choc-ebook/dp/B00CS7OD24/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369338303&sr=1-1&keywords=charton+minster

US readers: http://www.amazon.com/Charton-Minster-Trilogy-Choc-ebook/dp/B00CS7OD24/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369340038&sr=1-1&keywords=charton+minster+trilogy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Meet the authors - Trisha Ashley and me!

Trisha Ashley and I will be in Bath Waterstones on Saturday 18th May from 12 to 2, and we will be very happy to meet and chat with readers. So, if you're in the district, please pop in and see us?

Trisha will be signing copies of her latest novel Good Husband Material and I'll be doing the same with my romantic comedy The Wedding Diary. Anybody spot a theme there? They're both bright, cheerful stories, so anyone need a pick-up or a beach read?

There will probably be more of Trisha's fabulous novels in the store, so please make time to have a browse. Bath is a lovely city. After the signing, Trisha and I intend to eat some Bath buns and go round the Roman ruins. Probably not at the same time...

Monday, May 6, 2013

BBC Radio Devon

I had a fun time today sitting on the Quay in Exeter chatting to the lovely John Govier of BBC Radio Devon. How could I not warm to a man who gave me a great welcome, a big block of chocolate AND a scone piled with clotted cream and jam?  Oh, and who got me eating it on air, too.

So now, anyone who wants to know if I can talk with my mouth full can find out! I'm chatting to John 2.10 hours into the programme.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Free ebook of The Silver Locket

Everyone likes a freebie, so here's one for you.

My historical novel The Silver Locket is free on the UK and US Amazon sites and various other platforms for a while, so if you're a romance, adventure and/or historical fiction fan, do pop over and download. If you'd like the ebook signed, I can do that for you if you visit http://www.authorgraph.com

Here are the links:




Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Exeter Novel Prize - could the first winner be you?

Everyone at Creative Writing Matters is very excited today because tomorrow we launch the Exeter Novel Prize. This award carries a first prize of £500 (convertible into any currency, non-UK readers, thanks to Paypal) and five runner-up prizes of £50.

What's more, the first prize is sponsored by lovely Exeter Writers, who are all very enthusiastic about this new West Country venture. The group's website is on this link: www.exeterwriters.org.uk.

We hope people from all over the world will enter the Exeter Novel Prize and that literary agent  Broo Doherty of Wade and Doherty, who will be reading the shortlist of six, will find at least one entry (or even several entries) which will make her think: I can help to turn this writer into a star.

The Creative Writing Matters team - Cathie Hartigan, Sophie Duffy and I - will be hosting a launch party at Exeter Library on Thursday 27 June 2013, in the early evening. We'll confirm times on this blog and on Facebook, Twitter and on the Creative Writing Matters website. So, if you would like to come, please pop in to check updates on this and all the exciting things we have planned. www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk.

It's so hard to make the breakthrough as a debut novelist, and it's perhaps even harder to make a comeback if you've been off the scene for a while.  So we decided to open the competition to both published and yet-to-be-published writers.  Provided you're not already agented or under contract to a commercial publisher, you're very welcome to enter. Sadly, we're not opening the prize to children's writers this time, but every other genre, including YA, is acceptable.

The theme of the launch party will be how to be a winner and we'll open the discussion to everyone.

There will also be cakes, and entry is free, so please join us on 27 June!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Competition to win a copy of my latest paperback - easy!

The Western Morning News is running a competition to win a copy of The Wedding Diary, published in paperback on 7 May.  All you have to do is answer a very easy question and a book could be yours.

What's the name of the heroine?

You'll be able to find out if you click on this link, which also has the contact details for entry.


The closing date is 10 May so you have plenty of time to enter!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Exeter Novel Prize - be the first to win this brand new competition!

It's often been said that everyone has a novel inside them.

Some cynics love to add that inside them is precisely where it should stay.

Cathie Hartigan, Sophie Duffy and I have decided to test this hypothesis. We have set up a brand new fiction award, The Exeter Novel Prize, which in its inaugural year will be sponsored by Exeter Writers and will offer a cash prize of £500, with five prizes of £50 for runners-up.

You can find the details on this link:


Entry will be open to anyone, published or yet-to-be-published, who does not already have a literary agent and is not currently under contract to a publisher. You can choose to write in any genre except for children. YA is likely to be acceptable, but we haven't finalised this aspect of the competition yet. Your novel can be set anywhere and at any time - past, present or future.

Please return to the Creative Writing Matters website for updates, and in the meantime perhaps start writing or polishing up that unpublished novel, ready for entry?

We'll be having a launch event in Exeter in June 2013 to which everyone will be welcome.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ebook arriving!

My new novel The Wedding Diary is up on Amazon Kindle and other ebook platforms from today.

I'm looking forward to finding out what readers think of my first rom com.  Most people know me as a historical novelist, and this is something a bit (no, make that a lot) different.

Where's a fairy godmother when you need one?

I need mine today!

You can click on the image to the right of this post to take you to Amazon's UK website, or click the link below. The cover art is gorgeous!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Rejection - boo hiss...

Rejection - it's a way of life for writers.

I get lots of emails from readers of Writing Magazine who have been bruised and battered by rejection letters.  Or sometimes they get rejection emails sent out on Christmas Day or on Easter Sunday, or sometimes rejection compliment (ha ha ha - oh, the irony) slips with NO scribbled across them, or sometimes there's just a REJECTED rubber stamp on the typescript itself.

OMG these things hurt.

So today, on Easter Monday, I'm drawing everyone's attention to a wonderfully cheering website which should buck up every writer!


Do have a look and be encouraged.

You haven't failed until you have given up and stopped trying.

Story, story, story...

Merry April and equally merry Easter Monday, everyone!

Now it's spring (or so we are led to believe), what better time could there be for starting to write that novel or short story you've been thinking about for ages?  Cathie Hartigan and I are here to help with Chapter 3 of our free on-line guide, The Creative Writing Student's Handbook.

Click on the link or the image to the right of this post to take you to Chapter 3, in which we suggest how to make a story.  If you're writing fiction and you don't have a story, you don't have a house - you have just a pile of bricks.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Competition time...

It's almost spring, although if you're in the UK today you wouldn't think so, because an Arctic wind is roiling round my house and I have the central heating on full blast. All the same - March means competition time, especially for writers of short stories.

Exeter Writers is a long-established group which has been running an increasingly successful short story competition for several years now.  This year, the prize for the winner is £500, with further cash prizes for the runners-up.  The entry fee is a fiver, which is quite cheap these days.

The closing date is 31 March 2013 and we'll be getting cracking on the judging in April.  If you have an unpublished short story in any genre, why not enter it?  Let Exeter Writers pay for your summer holiday!

That's if we get a summer.  Let's live in hope.

Here's the link you'll need: http://www.exeterwriters.org.uk/p/competition.html.

Good luck!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Creative Writing Student's Handbook - Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of the interactive guide to creative writing by Cathie Hartigan and me is free on www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk today and for the rest of March. 

To read, please click on the link in this post, or click the book cover to the right of the post. 

We would love to know what you think, so any comments would be much appreciated. You can leave them here or on the Creative Writing Matters website.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

RoNAs 2013

The RoNAs - forget the Booker and the Costa, the RoNAs are awards for novels which hundreds of thousands of people actually read, rather than buy and intend to read one day.

The RoNAs are given by the Romantic Novelists' Association at an annual awards ceremony in late winter or early spring (in 2013, it was yesterday, to be exact), and in May the Romantic Novelist of the Year will be chosen from among the six authors below.

Good luck, ladies - and in the meantime, thank you for writing and sharing some wonderful novels.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Readers will believe anything...

...that's if the author is cunning enough!

I'm a big fan of opera. But it's the music I love. The story lines are almost always absurd.  Or, let's be honest, ridiculous.

Or are they? I went to see a new version of Rigoletto last night, streamed live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York straight into the Picture House in Exeter.  Ooh, so exciting!

The story line of this opera is completely crazy.  Or so I had always believed. It's packed with contradictions and absurdities.  But - last night's production was set in Las Vegas during the Mad Men days of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and all those guys.  The Duke was a singer in a night club, and Gilda was an over-protected girl who never went out, except to go to church, and so it was almost inevitable that she would fall for the first man to give her the glad eye.

I could - for  the first time - believe that Gilda would sacrifice herself for this rotten, awful man with whom she was totally infatuated. I believed she would have killed herself or let herself be killed to save him from any kind of harm. I remembered how much I loved Mick Jagger. I thought of besotted groupies on tour buses, willing to put out for anyone with a guitar. I thought of all those fans who killed themselves when John Lennon died. Making the Duke a handsome crooner who looked about 25 and could have passed for a young Elvis, instead of some fat old bloke in red tights, suddenly made the whole thing believable.

Las Vegas,Verdi, in the 1950s/1960s - you should have thought of that!

There are some fabulous out-takes on this link - http://www.metoperafamily.org/opera/rigoletto-verdi-tickets.aspx

Saturday, February 9, 2013

True confessions - how much do we need to know?

We don't know much about Shakespeare's personal life. Who was Homer, then - apart from a character in The Simpsons? All those people who wrote the Gospels - does it matter that we don't know who they were?

The culture of celebrity and the everlasting poking and prying into people's private lives seems set to go on forever. There are new celebrity gossip magazines coming out all the time, but I'm sure I'd hate it if people really wanted to know all about my own personal life, or they printed photographs of me with my physical faults and failings ringed in thick red marker pen.

Luckily, most authors tend to escape this kind of scrutiny, and I'm sure the vast majority of us are grateful for that. But what if we want the reading public to know our secrets, feel our pain? Well, we can write confessional novels, can't we? 

I don't write confessional fiction myself. I'm going to avoid listening to The Bell Jar on Radio 4 this coming week because I don't think Sylvia Plath wanted people to identify her as the author of this novel, which was originally published under a pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. 

I wonder if she would have wanted it to stay that way, and I also wonder if she felt she had made a big mistake in publishing it, or even if it contributed to her early death? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Creative Writing Student's Handbook launched - and it's free!

Happy February, fellow bloggers!

The worst of the winter is behind us and we can all look forward to spring.

Or that's the theory, anyway.

Spring is a time when many of us decide we're going to achieve something this year - oh yes we will.  So, for those of you who have been putting off starting to write any kind of fiction, here's a little incentive. My fellow creative writing teacher Cathie Hartigan and I have produced an interactive handbook for creative writing students which will be available in free monthly instalments on www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk. Just click on the icon to the right of this post to take you straight there.

We want this book to be a useful resource for any writer. We welcome comments, suggestions and feedback.  The more people comment, the more useful this book will be.

The monthly parts will build up into a complete book which you'll eventually be able to buy. But, if you do the exercises we suggest, you could also treat this as a free online creative writing course.

Let's all get writing!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teaching and learning...

Cathie Hartigan and I are very excited today because we have finished our new guide to creative writing - The Creative Writing Student's Handbook.

We have both been teachers of creative writing for a very long time and have had the huge pleasure of seeing many of our students become published writers.

But what distinguishes the commercially published writer from one who is still trying hard to climb the mountain?

We came to the conclusion that the students who do well tend to be the ones who are good learners.  So we've written a book which we hope will help all students to be good learners. You'll find the book on this website - www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk - in free instalments beginning on February 1st  2013.

We hope you'll find it useful and entertaining.  Do let us know what you think!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Seven little things...

What is it about the number seven?

Lucky seven, seven year itch, seven brides for seven brothers, seventh son of a seventh son, seven swans a-swimming, it's one of those numbers with which we all seem to connect.

I was very flattered when my friend Christina Courtenay nominated me  to receive a Very Important Blogger Award - thank you, Christina - and here's the Award itself:

Now it's my turn to tell readers seven hopefully interesting things about me:

1 I speak perfect Franglais.

2 I would like to be a vegetarian but can't quite resist the lure of bacon sandwiches - bacon from outdoor and organically reared pork, of course.

3 I'd like to have been an archaeologist but am equally happy excavating the plot holes in my own stories.

4 I am very good at wasting my time.

5 I like orange Smarties.

6 If I were to come back as an animal, I would like to be a whippet, preferably a fat, spoiled and lazy whippet.

7 I like sloe gin.

Christina has a fascinating blog at http://christinacourtenay.com. Do pop over and have a look!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Short stories for short winter days

So, it's still January, which some people feel is the gloomiest month of the year. My personal non-favourite is November, with January running it a close second.

But spring is on its way, we hope, and in the meantime we Choc Lit authors are doing our bit to brighten up our readers' lives by offering them a delicious selection of stories and recipes.

What else can you get for under a quid which will cheer you up and inspire you to go into the kitchen, if you see what I mean? If you're in mourning for Christmas, you'll find some recipes to give you that warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling again, but we've made sure that our suggestions are acceptable all year round!

You'll see the cover of this collection is now adorned with pretty blue irises, which are one of my own favourite flowers. They don't last long in water, but they give me enormous pleasure for the short time they are around.  We hope our short stories will give our readers some pleasure, too.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What will 2013 bring?

We in the English-speaking world start our new year on 1 January, just after the sun has started edging its way towards us again, or rather as our planet tilts on its axis and we edge a little bit nearer the sun. Let's hope the UK has a better summer this year, with some actual sunshine from time to time!

I see a lot of my Facebook friends are making New Year resolutions, but a lot of them aren't. I think it's always a good plan to take stock once a year or so, and 1 January seems as good a time as any to do it.

My resolution is to use my time more effectively and try to have something to show for every working day, even if it's only a full litter bin. Sometimes, I find I have to write myself into a corner before I can turn round, growling fiercely, and write myself right out of it again. Let's be inspired by the success of a certain E L James, who The Guardian newspaper reckons earned a massive £42,000,000 last year!




Okay, money isn't everything. But wouldn't it be lovely to be able to play around with such a fantastic sum? I wonder what E L James will do with all that dosh? Maybe she'll tell us one day. She looks very happy, anyway...

The photograph is taken from The Guardian link above and is by Michael Lionstar.

Happy New Year, readers, wherever you are and whatever you do - and may the sun shine on you.