Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Golden Chain Competition Winner!

Thank you to everyone who read and took part in The Golden Chain Blog Tour. There was a competition to win a copy of Margaret's book and a random comment was selected using

Comment number 5 was selected as the winner so well done to Nixnjj. The prize is in the post and on its way to you.

Thank you for all the great answers. If you weren't lucky this time keep an eye out as in a couple of weeks, Sue Moorcroft will be joining me on her Blog Tour for her new book, Love & Freedom.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time for a little whoop!

And not just because I've eaten too many Easter eggs! There have been a couple of things happen that I have neglected to mention on the blog and thought I should get round to it! (I'm not procrastinating, honest!)

Earlier this month I found out I was long-listed in the Flash 500 competition with my story Tweet Net. It was the first time I've entered this competition and was really pleased to get long-listed. I will have to enter again in the future but not before getting the second draft of my novel finished.

The other bit of news is that Writers in Southampton have invited me to do a talk on blogging and social media. I'm scheduled in for February next year so that'll give me enough time to really feel like I know what I'm on about!

And only a week and one day to wait until 100 stories for Queensland comes out!

Now I have to get back to my main work in progress. I'm part way through the second draft and am getting stuck in to complete it ASAP. When I'm done I will do a blog post as an update as I've kept it rather under wraps up until now! Now this is just procrastination. I really must go...

But it's a bank holiday...

And it's sunny...

So I could use them as excuses...

Feasible excuses surely...

Okay, you're right... get back to it, woman!

What do you mean, "Why am I still here?"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grazia Writing Competition (Orange Prize for Fiction)

I just wanted to flag up a great writing competition for unpublished, female writers. In conjunction with the Orange Prize for Fiction, Grazia have launched a first chapter competition.

They have supplied the opening paragraph and you need to finish the chapter in under 1000 words. The closing date is 10th May and the prizes on offer are a bit of a writer's dream! The overall winner gets to attend the Orange Prize for Fiction awards (including hotel & travel) and will receive their award on stage and £1000. Two runner's up will win £500.

The competition closes on 10th May and you can enter via email. All the details can be read on the Grazia website. Do make sure you read all the terms and conditions before entering.

I think even though I am busy on my main WIP this will be worth finding the time to enter. Good luck if you do enter and if you do end up winning... you get to take a guest and yes, I can be available! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Author Interview with Margaret James

Today I would like to welcome Margaret James onto the blog. As part of Margaret's blog tour and to celebrate the upcoming publication of The Golden Chain, Choc Lit are also giving you the chance to win a copy.

Margaret's James new novel The Golden Chain is the second book in a trilogy which starts with The Silver Locket. The first novel tells the story of Dorset landowner's daughter Rose Courtenay, who falls in love with the local bad boy, Alex Denham. Rose's parents want her to marry a baronet's son. By the time Rose realises she is in love with Alex, he is already married to someone else. But Rose is the heroine of a romantic novel, so nothing is going to stop her following her heart and being with the man she loves!

The story opens in 1914 just as the Great War is about to turn everyone's lives upside down and change English society forever. When Rose's parents start putting even more pressure on her to marry a man she doesn't love, she runs away from home and goes to London. There, she becomes very incompetent volunteer nurse in a big London hospital. But she's a persistent and determined girl who eventually makes the grade, and she ends up working in France and Flanders, where she meets Alex again.

At the beginning of The Golden Chain, Rose and Alex are married to each other at last. It's 1931, and their fifteen-year-old adopted daughter Daisy looks all set to give her mother and father as much grief as Rose gave her own parents. Daisy wants to be an actress, and Rose is totally opposed to this, conveniently forgetting she defied her own parents fifteen years ago, and that defying parents is what children tend to do.

Daisy falls in love with aspiring actor Ewan Fraser, who is related to Alex's worst enemy. Then Daisy meets a sophisticated older man, and it looks as if she is going to break Ewan's heart. She's going to have to choose between two men, two families and two ways of life. She's not very good at making the right choices...

What inspired the story?

We were on a family holiday in Dorset and happened to drive past a big, square mansion built of the gorgeous honey- yellow local stone. It was obviously empty and had been neglected for decades, but I could see that once upon a time it must have been a very grand family home. I wondered who had lived there, and a few days later teenager Rose Courtenay walked into my head and told me she did.

'Why don't you write about me?' asked Rose. As soon as I started writing about Rose, Alex Denham turned up and pointed out that although he had no money, hardly any prospects, and would soon be married to someone else, he loved Rose Courtenay, and he was the man Rose was going to love.

Had you always planned to write a trilogy?

When I first started Rose's story, I hadn't actually planned a trilogy. But it soon became obvious I had a very long novel here which would probably work best as a trilogy telling three love stories. When Rose and Alex finally got married, I couldn't let them go. I wanted to find out what happened to them and their children, so The Golden Chain was born.

So, although The Golden Chain is Daisy's and Ewan's story, and they are the hero and heroine, it continues Rose's and Alex's story, too. Daisy's birth mother comes back on the scene, and eventually Daisy has to choose between two families, two men, and two ways of life. She makes some wrong decisions, some very bad choices, and she breaks lots of promises. But she also grows up, and everything comes right in the end.

As a teacher of creative writing, do you have any top tips for aspiring writers?

I could write a book and one day I probably will! But right now I'll pass on a few things I wish I'd known when I was starting out myself.

If you want to write a novel and see it published, try to write with an ideal reader in mind, rather than just for yourself. I write romantic fiction, so my own readers are likely to be female, and I try to remember this when I'm creating my heroes, who need to be the sort of men most women could love.

Being a writer can be quite lonely, so maybe join some associations and organisations where you'll meet other authors. The Romantic Novelists' Association is a lifeline for writers of all kinds of women's interest fiction - The Crime Writers' Association welcomes people writing crime, thriller and mystery fiction - There's a great online chat forum on this link:

You're a writer, so words are the tools of your trade, and you need to learn how to use them effectively. If your spelling and grammar are a bit shaky, don't just hope for the best. Do something about it by taking a basic language skills course run by a local authority, or a distance learning such as those run by the London School of Journalism. Or perhaps get a trusted friend to read your work and tell you where you're going wrong.

New novelists are always being told to show, not tell. This means using action and dialogue to move the story forward and to reveal character - to show the characters acting in the story by dramatising what they do, rather than describing what happens from the author's own point of view.

What else do you have in the pipeline?

I'm the sort of writer who always has lots of projects in development. I have plans for a contemporary romance, a paranormal romance, a story set in the 1950s, and a new historical trilogy. I'm told all this doing-a-million-things-at-once is part of being a Gemini. But, first of all, I have to revise the next book in this current trilogy, in which the hero is one of Daisy's twin brothers, and the heroine is a completely new character.

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest blogger, Catherine - I've enjoyed it very much indeed.

Margaret is on Facebook and Twitter. She has a blog and website. Make sure you check them out.

The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain are published by Choc Lit

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Golden Chain answer the following question by leaving a comment below. Who is your favourite romantic heroine?

Answers by midnight on 25th April and the winner will be selected at random.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where to place your idea?

One of my writing 'rules' is never to dismiss any story ideas. This is because as a writer it can be all too easy to become convinced ideas are not strong enough or unique enough to be developed into a piece of writing. Often if these sparks of inspiration are given the right treatment they can end up as successful stories.

The key to this can often be finding the right home for a particular idea. I don't limit my writing to one format and this is partly in the hope of housing all my ideas. I consider whether it would best suit flash fiction, short story, novel or drama.

Sometimes knowing where to best place an idea can only come with practice.
I wrote up a short story last year but for some reason it just didn't work. So I used the basis of the story and came up with a one-act play and a monologue, both very different and different again from the original story but as a concept it worked better as a play. A year on and I would like to think that I would have identified earlier on that it wasn't working as a short story. So now I consider these points before deciding what style I should turn to:
  • How many strands to the storyline?
If the answer is more than one than it should be considered for a longer piece of fiction (novel/novella/drama.) For short stories and flash fiction there is normally only one focus and the story should centre around this.
  • How many settings are there?
By settings I mean movement within the story. Not just in different places (character at work/character at home) but within a single place. How much your characters move around the 'set' can dictate the length of a piece of writing. Always consider whether this movement is necessary to the storyline. If it is, then you may want to indulge in it and make it part of the storyline. If it isn't and you are writing a shorter piece you can tighten the story up by limiting the movement.
  • How many characters are there?
It is inevitable that longer pieces will have more characters. I have been guilty of having too many characters in short pieces making it over complicated. Again just make sure you question whether the characters are necessary for the storyline.

These are the factors I always analysis to help decide where to place the idea. The one place I don't put them is in the bin! Twist it round, change it up, flip it over - whatever it takes to make it work - but never extinguish it before you've given it chance to flourish.