Welcome!

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, May 26, 2017

Morton S Gray - time for a chat with a Choc Lit novelist




Hello, Morton! Welcome to my blog, congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, and thank you for stopping by for a chat.

How did you come to be taken on by the award-winning independent publisher Choc Lit?

I entered Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition in 2016 with my novel The Girl on the Beach and unbelievably I won! The win was made even more special because I’ve had a Choc Lit ribbon (it was wrapped around a book I won in a giveaway) hanging above my desk for many years and love the books they publish. It’s a dream come true to be published by them. My book came out on 24 January 2017.



Tell me about your novel?

The Girl on the Beach is a contemporary romantic suspense novel set in a fictional seaside town.

The initial spark of inspiration for the story came from a school art competition run by a friend who owns an art gallery. When I later saw a news headline (I won’t tell you the subject, because it would be a huge spoiler), the two seemed to merge in my mind and the theme for the novel was born.

I quickly decided on my heroine, Ellie Golden, who is an artist with a troubled past and a teenage son, who she is raising on her own. The hero, Harry Dixon, is a bit of a mystery and provides the question which the book seeks to answer – Who is Harry Dixon? We meet Harry when he takes over as headmaster at Ellie’s son’s school.

The book was great fun to write. I wanted my heroine to be a survivor, sparky with a ‘have a go’ attitude.

Future ambitions writing-wise?

I have been asked to write a series of books based in my fictional seaside town of Borteen and featuring some of my readers' favourite characters from The Girl on the Beach. I also have some aspirations to write historical novels. I have three in draft set in WW1, the English Civil War and 1066.

I would love to see my books as paperbacks and maybe audiobooks. As with all authors, it would be lovely to have one of my stories made into a film one day.



Favourite five?

Five favourite novels –
Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft
Star Gazing by Linda Gillard
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Wintercombe by Pamela Belle

Five favourite holiday destinations –
Bamburgh, Northumberland
Grasmere, Lake District
Woolacombe, North Devon
Llandanawg, North Wales
Rome, Italy

Five other favourite things -
Chocolate
Notebooks
Crafts
Researching family trees
My family

More about The Girl on the Beach by Morton S. Gray

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.





Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.

She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.

She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.

After being shortlisted in several first chapter competitions, she won the Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her contemporary romantic suspense novel The Girl on the Beach.

Previous 'incarnations' were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.

She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.



Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/

Purchasing links for “The Girl on the Beach” at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Exeter Story Prize - the Great Read gets under way...

The Exeter Story Prize has fast become one of the major short story competitions in the UK, attracting entries from all over the world and offering great cash prizes as well as trophies to the winners.

The prize incorporates the Trisha Ashley Award for a humorous story, so as the Big Read of the 2017 entries begins we're hoping to have our ribs tickled by a good few of the entries.

You can find details of past competitions and learn more about Creative Writing Matters here: http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/.

Past winners of our competition prizes include Su Bristow, Simon Kettlewell, Richard Buxton and Clare Harvey, whose fabulous novels you can find on Amazon and elsewhere. We know we're going to discover lots of fresh new talent this month and next. So we're very excited!






Finally - if you'd like to find out what kinds of stories have delighted the judges in the past, check out our selection in this anthology of stories from the 2016 competitions. https://www.amazon.co.uk/2016-Exeter-Story-Prize-Collection-ebook/dp/B01M2CX5J2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1494092308&sr=1-1&keywords=exeter+story+prize



 Good luck to our 2017 entrants!



Monday, April 24, 2017

Girl in Red Velvet

Did you ever make a mistake? A really big, disastrous mistake, followed by a whole series of disastrous mistakes? Lily Denham did.

I'm delighted to tell you that my lovely publisher Choc Lit has produced an ebook version of my latest novel Girl in Red Velvet, in which after many setbacks and challenges Lily finally gets to live the life she knew was right for her all along. Or so she hopes! She won't know for certain until the very last page. 

Lily might be emotionally confused but she is also ambitious and smart and she becomes a successful businesswoman, which goes some way towards compensating for consistently messing up her private life. 




Lily is the granddaughter of Rose Courtenay, the heroine of The Silver Locket, the first novel in my series about the Denham family. Just like Rose, Lily finds she is perfectly capable of making a whole series of wrong decisions and bad choices before she ends up in the place she wants and deserves to be. 

As for the men in her life - there are two of them, Harry Gale and Max Farley, who look very similar but who are completely different in character. Harry is studious, hard-working, ambitious, generous and kind. Max is adventurous, unpredictable and a little bit dangerous, too. So when Lily realises she is falling for both of them, she also realises she's in trouble. 


I so much enjoyed writing this novel, which is partly a tribute to one of my favourite classic authors, Emily Brontë. It could be described as Wuthering Heights fan fiction, but I've tried to give everyone their own special kind of happy-ever-after rather than send them to early graves. This was quite a challenge, but - Lily discovers - a challenge can also fun, can't it? 

The novel is available to buy on all the usual platforms, including:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071RKQ6LR/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1493053575&sr=8-6&keywords=Margaret+James 
https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?Query=Margaret+James 
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/girl-in-red-velvet/id1224665973?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

You can get in touch with me here on this blog or via 





 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ready to pitch a novel to a publisher?

Do you have a novel ready to pitch to a publisher? Do you love reading? Do you like to meet authors face to face? Choc Lit, a multi-award-winning publisher of commercial fiction in a wide range of genres with a fan base consisting mainly (but by no means exclusively) of women is going on tour this year, visiting many UK libraries and hoping to meet lots of readers and writers.

The first stop on the tour is Exeter Central Library of 8th April, where editors and authors (including Linda Mitchelmore, Victoria Cornwall, Evonne Wareham and I) will be talking about our work and inviting questions from the audience.



It should be a fun event with plenty of opportunities for audience participation.  There will be prizes and presents and of course chocolate to take home.

Full details are on this link: http://www.choc-lit.com/choc-lit-on-tour/

No PayPal account? No problem! Just contact Choc Lit direct at info@choc-lit.co.uk and say you'd like to come.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Victoria Cornwall - a historical novelist new to Choc Lit, the multi-award-winning publisher of women's interest fiction

Today, it's a great pleasure for me to chat to Victoria Cornwall, whose first historical novel for Choc Lit is published this month.

Thank you, Margaret, for having me on your blog today.

You're very welcome, Victoria. Do have a chocolate cookie and a cappuccino! Now - remind me how we first met?

That was in early 2015 when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. At the time, I was pursuing my dream of signing with a traditional publisher. Luckily, I signed with the award-winning publisher of women’s fiction, Choc Lit, the following year. Not bad for someone who was not able to take English Literature as a subject in school.



It's not bad at all! What were you doing before you became a novelist? 

Up to this point, my life had been very different. I grew up on a farm in Cornwall and my childhood was filled with chickens, cows, orphaned lambs, cats, dogs and an albino rabbit named Benjamin. 





At 17, I headed for the big city, trained as a nurse and returned to Cornwall to spend the next 20 years nursing. The role held great responsibility, but it was also very humbling to witness ordinary people showing great courage in traumatic or difficult situations. It certainly gives one a new perspective on life.

What sparked your interest in writing fiction?

A change of career finally allowed me the time to write, something I had always wanted to do. I wrote in secret and didn’t tell my extended family until much later. By then I had self-published two novels and they had both been nominated by InD’tale magazine for the RONE Indie and Small Published Book Award, U.S.A. I was also fortunate to be short-listed for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, 2014, U.K. I came to realise that I didn’t need to pass an exam in English Literature in order to tell a good yarn.

Who or what inspires your writing?

I guess all writers draw on their experiences of life. For me it’s my experience of Cornish rural life, witnessing the emotions and reactions of ordinary people to extraordinary events, and I'm also inspired by my love of history and romantic fiction. 

Tell us a little about The Thief's Daughter?

My third book, The Thief’s Daughter, is my debut novel with Choc Lit and my first traditionally published book. It is set in 18th century Cornwall, when England is crippled by debt and poverty and smuggling prospers. Jenna has been brought up in a family of thieves; however, after being terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, she has resolved to be good. After being saved from a brutal marriage by her brother, Silas, she finds herself a widow who owes him her life. So when Silas asks her to pay his creditors and secure his freedom from the debtor’s prison, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the secretive and dangerous world of the smuggling trade.



Jack Penhale has spent years hunting down the smuggling gangs who plague Cornwall in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they soon discover that their lives are more entangled than they first thought. As the line between housekeeper and employer becomes blurred, love and loyalty are tested to the limit, while her blood tie tries to tears them apart. 

The Thief’s Daughter is about divided loyalties, family ties and love, but for me it represents so much more. It is a goal achieved and a dream come true.

It sounds brilliant, Victoria!  I'm looking forward to reading The Thief's Daughter very soon and wish you all the luck in the world with this lovely book, which is available here: 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thiefs-Daughter-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B01MT550QT/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483445971&sr=1-2&keywords=the+thief%27s+daughter

Twitter: @VickieCornwall


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Traditional, independent - which is right for you?

Most of my writing life, I've been traditionally (or, if you like, commercially) published. This has been the case with all my longer, novel-length fiction. I'm currently published by a brilliant company which has done me proud in every respect - production, publicity and marketing.

But, when my writing partner Cathie Hartigan and I decided to write some guides for creative writing students, we chose to go independent.

Why?

It would be quicker.

Once we had written the first book, had had it read by several of our writing friends, including our own students, and we had edited it ourselves, it was ready to publish. But, if we'd sent it to a literary agent, who would then have had to find a publisher, who would then have had to find a publishing slot for it, we might have been looking at three years or even more before the book actually became available.


We would have total control over the products. 

We could and we did design and produce the covers. We chose the layout. We typeset the print books in the format we thought was most appropriate - in large type with wide margins, which left plenty of white space for the students to make notes on the books themselves, which we have learned some of them do!

We would be paid promptly every month.

A traditional/commercial publisher's accounting system is usually set up to pay authors royalties every six months. This means that the payment on a book which earns a specific royalty on - for example - 3rd September will probably not reach the author until three months after the end of the publisher's accounting period. So, if the accounting period happened to be September to March, the author would not be paid anything until round about the June of the following year. It's a long time to wait!



We would earn more money.

As the publishers of our books, we would receive 100% of any royalties, rather than a percentage negotiated with a traditional/commercial publisher.

We could set the price.

Traditional/commercial publishers have to make a profit. They're not charities. They have staff to pay, warehousing to find, publicity and marketing to organise. All this costs money. But independent authors are working for themselves and - if they have the time and are prepared to learn the skills - they can do all the jobs for which traditional/commercial publishers have to pay third parties.

We could change the price.

A traditionally/commercially published author has no say in what a book will cost.  What if the author feels a book has been priced so highly that nobody will buy it? Or priced so low that the royalty for the author will be negligible? We started promoting our books at a price we thought was fair to readers and to us, and so it has proved to be. But if we ever want to change our prices - for example, put the books on special offer for a time - we can do so without reference to anyone else.

It would be a challenge.

We like a challenge! We understand that presenting your book to the world can be scary. What if nobody buys it? What if everyone hates it? What if, after the reviews start coming in, it becomes apparent that it's a really bad book? It's a risk all independent authors have to take.  But, when it works, it's great.  As I type, both our guides to creative writing have received good reviews and they sell in gratifying quantities - not brilliantly, but consistently. The print version of The Creative Writing Student's Handbook sells particularly well.

So thank you, Amazon KDP, for making this possible.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Short-Story-Writers-Workbook-CreativeWritingMatters-ebook/dp/B00UC541MQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1475587837&sr=1-2

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Writing-Students-Handbook-CreativeWritingMatters-ebook/dp/B00JS5LQ4M/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475589855&sr=1-3




Monday, September 12, 2016

Christmas is coming...

A Christmas Celebration

Christmas is coming, so this means there is lots to do - presents to buy, nativity plays and various church services to attend, beds to make up, travel arrangements to be made, food to order - the list goes on!



Cathie, Sophie and I can help you get in the right frame of mind!

Our Christmas Celebration is a collection of short stories reflecting all the various aspects of Christmas, which of course means different things to different people.

What about you - will you be going to St Paul's Cathedral, like the characters in one of our stories? Or seeing a local nativity play? Or trying to get used to the presence of a new family member or a partner's relations and feeling a bit awkward about it? Or trying to choose a perfect present? Or going on holiday? Or maybe feeling sad because Christmas isn't always a great time for everyone? What about people who tend to get left out, are lonely, isolated, or positively antisocial? How do they cope with watching other people have the time of their lives? Our stories will suit your mood, whatever form it takes!

We've also included a few quizzes and puzzles, some easy, some not so easy, but all the answers are in the book.

We feel Christmas is a time to think positively and look to the future, even if you can't wait for the holiday season itself to be over, for the shops to be open again, and to meet the challenges of a brand new year.

The book is available as a digital download or an attractive paperback - stocking filler? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Celebration-Stories-Quizzes-Puzzles-ebook/dp/B013ZZN6IE/ref=sr_1_10?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1473678800&sr=1-10