Calling all Women’s Fiction Lovers! Complete the Survey and Win!

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Hello to all you women’s fiction lovers out there! I’m carrying out a survey to get your valuable views on what makes a women’s fiction novel the best ever experience for you.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes I find it difficult to find books I really want to read. Maybe that’s partly why I write what I do – because these are the type of books that really grab me. My fantasy reads that transport me to an entirely different world; one where I’m completely hooked on the characters and what’s happening to them.

 For me, romance on its own isn’t enough.

If there’s a romance in a story, that’s fine, and if I care about the characters I’ll root for them. But on its own? No, it doesn’t do it for me. (I realise I might be in the minority, as romance novels sell like proverbial hot cakes).

I want something more than that though.

I want to read about women who are overcoming challenges of all kinds, not just the romantic kind. Women who are rebuilding their lives or challenging themselves, or dealing with complicated issues. About secrets and how they can eat away at relationships or self-esteem like a cancer. And personally, I’m quite happy to accept events that might not happen in real life if the author helps me to believe in them. Magic, I suppose.

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The compulsion factor

So, right now I’m on a quest to find out more about what other women’s fiction fans want from women’s fiction. I want to see whether I can find people like me, which would be very nice, but also to find other books and authors who can stir and move me, and make me read hungrily into the night. So, I’ve put together a short survey on Women’s Fiction, and, to entice you to spend a few minutes answering my questions, I’m offering a £20/$20 Amazon voucher to one lucky respondent.

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Click image to give your valuable opinion and to be entered into a draw to win a £20/$20 Amazon Gift Card.

So, what are you waiting for? if you enjoy reading good women’s fiction, let me know what matters to you and where and how you enjoy reading by clicking on the link. Oh, and if you have a fantasy place to read, I want to hear about that too!

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Where’s your fantasy place to read? Tell us!

Thanks so much. I can’t wait to read your answers.

Bye for now.

Margaret 

What are literary characters doing this Christmas?

With Christmas fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about the characters in my novels The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club and how they’d be spending Christmas. My characters become very real to me, and live on in my mind like friends. It’s getting quite crowded in there now, but hey, that’s good. We can have a party! In fact, what a great idea. What if the characters from the two books met in real life? Wow, that sounds like a whole new novel!

Anyway, of course the way my characters would spend Christmas would be very different at the start of the novel to the end of the novel. The Goddess Workshop is about what happens when 4 very different women – Reenie, Kate, Janet and Estelle – meet on a course described as “A Woman’s Garden of Earthly Delights.” They arrive at their local church hall to find that a giant illustration from the Kama Sutra has replaced the usual portrait of the Queen. Click here to see the full blurb for the book on Amazon.

Reenie’s house would be heaving with family, the table groaning with delicious fare, all prepared by Reenie. On the surface, everyone would be having a jolly old time, but in reality they’re all very carefully not mentioning the person missing from the table. But everyone’s thinking about him, and that means there’s something fake about all the smiles and the jokes.Image

Kate would be attempting to sleep all day, but it’s doubtful whether her cat or her best friend Geoff will let her do that. She just wants the whole season of flipping good will to be over, but by the end of the day Geoff will have her smiling, even if he does have to ply her with large quantities of Christmas spirit to achieve it.Image

Janet would be doing her very best to make Christmas perfect, with expensive table decorations and Christmas crackers. But festive cooking stresses her out, and something is bound to go wrong. Her husband Ray, will turn up from having drinks at the golf club just in time for the meal to be served up and he’ll turn his nose up at the dry turkey and burnt potatoes. Their grown up daughter will be sulky and uncommunicative because she’s just split up from her boyfriend, and Janet will be left feeling that none of her efforts have been worthwhile. Image

Estelle will spend the day alone – she’s had lots of invitations, but turned them all down. Usually she goes on holiday somewhere exclusive at this time of year, but somehow she didn’t get round to booking anything this time. She’s going to do her company accounts because business has been booming and she just hasn’t had time to sit down and do it. And later, she’s going to have an expensive ready-prepared meal. And she’s definitely not going to mope about being on her own or consider that she’s actually got a lot in common with Kate. Estelle can’t stand Kate. In fact, she can’t understand why she keeps meeting up with any of the other women. Perhaps she shouldn’t go back to the classes in the New Year…

How will their Christmases be by the end of the novel? Well, you’ll have to read the book and make your own judgements on that! But needless to say, they’ll be very different indeed.

And what about my characters from The Dare Club? I think they’d be doing some new challenges. I’ll have to give that some thought.

Margaret XX

www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

 

The Goddess Workshop is available on Amazon.com for the greatly reduced price of $0.99 for a limited time only – from 4th December – 11th December.

 

The Dare Club is available now. Four very different people challenge each other to do scary things to try to forget about their troubles. But will it work?

“Two beta readers and a pint of bear, please.”

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I’m a very lucky woman – I have 2 amazing beta readers – Ann and Juli. Neither of them looks like the bear in this picture – to find out why he’s here, read on.

As you may know, a beta reader is someone who reviews a draft of an author’s manuscript, providing honest, objective feedback about what is and is not working, and makes suggestions for improvement. My beta readers are on my wavelength, and understand what I’m trying to achieve. It isn’t a painful process to receive feedback from either of them – it’s inspiring.

A month ago Ann read the first draft of my upcoming novel The Dare Club, and gave me some extremely helpful – and encouraging – feedback. I made the changes she suggested, and now draft 2 has just winged its way to Australia, for Juli’s attention. Poor Juli – she’s just relocated half way across the world from Scotland, has been house-hunting, house-sitting, unpacking etc, etc. And now she has my manuscript to look at…

Beta readers are worth their weight in gold, and I can’t wait to reply the favour to Ann and Juli, who are both very talented writers. Ann is the author of several novels, and has just released the grippingly exciting Doubtful. Juli is currently working on The Mother In Me, a follow up to her poignant and heart-warming novel Absent Children.

One of the issues I’ve been grappling with in The Dare Club is that of accents. Not only is one of my main characters French, but also the novel is set in Norfolk. I moved to Norfolk 13 years ago, and now it’s my home. I’ve become accustomed to the way they speak here. For example, people say they “are now going” instead of “I’m going now.”

But, since I’m an incomer from the Southeast of England, I don’t know if I’m qualified to include much of the local accent and manner of speaking in my writing. I’d be bound to get it wrong. And in my opinion, when you’re including dialect in a novel, you only want a flavour of it. Otherwise it becomes difficult to read, and can pull you out of the book. After a bit of a struggle, I think I’ve got the balance about right in The Dare Club. I’ll have to wait to see what Juli thinks!

While doing some research about Norfolk speak and the Norfolk accent, I came across a priceless comedy clip on YouTube called: Communicating with a Norfolk Accent. Through listening to it, I realized why I often have to repeat the title of my new book when I’m asked what it’s called. In Norfolk, if someone’s thirsty, they might go into a bar and appear to ask for “a pint of bear.” If they do this, they’re actually hoping for a beer. Or they might say that they’re “over hair,” when they mean they’re over here. So, when I say I’m writing a book called The Dare Club, Norfolk people are unsure whether I’m talking about a challenge, or…well, something with antlers.

Oh dare. I mean, oh dear.

Perhaps I could find a way to combine the two?

A deer challenges itself

A deer sets itself a challenge in The Deer Club?

Building my website and getting ready to publish

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I have been very busy learning new skills this week – first of all I had to learn to put hyperlinks into the Word document of The Goddess Workshop ready for it to be loaded onto Amazon. I had no idea how to do this, and couldn’t work out what to do from Microsoft Help. Then I found a brilliant video on YouTube – E book formatting tips by JoHarris0n. After I’d watched it about a zillion times, I finally twigged what to do, and did it! What a sense of satisfaction!

Then I turned to my website – only started doing this yesterday, so still involved in this particular challenge. I wanted to use a free site that would let me use my own domain name. I’m using Weebly – at least at the moment – and had great fun downloading suitable pictures from istock (including the picture of primulas above, which has great relevance to one of the jokes in the book – not saying what at this stage!)

The challenge continues today – bring it on! Have you set up your own website? What were your challenges? And what was the most challenging thing for you about getting your book ready for Kindle? I’d love to know.

In other news, my follow-up book The Dare Club has been up for review by the members of The Womens’ Fiction Crit Group on http://www.authonomy.com. This has been an amazing experience – so much valuable insight! I have been moved by the time and trouble people have taken with their feedback, and I’m feeling really inspired to get on with the book just as soon as The Goddess Workshop and my website have been launched. Thanks, ladies! (Oh, and one man!)

What do readers want to know about writers?

I’m just starting to work towards creating a website. Feeling excited about it, if a bit daunted. I’ve got lots of ideas about what I want to have on it including a fun quiz, and some fun pictures. One of the pictures will involve me locating a fig tree to try to get a fig leaf. I think I know where there is one not far away. Will have to take the dog past that house when I take him out. The trouble is, I don’t know if fig trees are evergreens. Can’t wait until the spring if not… If the branches are bare, I will have to make one out of paper. If you want to know why I need a fig leaf so urgently, you will just have to wait until the website is live! Shouldn’t be too long, hopefully.

Anyway, I have started writing material for the site, and this morning wrote a bit about myself. It got me wondering what readers want to know about writers. I wanted to give a flavour of myself as a person, rather than just a dry list of achievements. Here is what I’ve written.

I was born in Hertfordshire in the UK, but have also lived in Brighton, London, Nottingham, Ely and now Norwich. Why so many places? Well, sometimes I needed a clean slate, to re-invent myself. Sometimes I fell in love with someone from another city. And sometimes love broke up. Stuff tends to happen if you move somewhere where you don’t know anybody. Good stuff and bad stuff, but it’s all material for a writer. And a good distraction for a broken heart. Travel’s also a good distraction, and broken relationships have spurred me to go to exciting countries likes Belize and Cuba on my own. Thank you, you dumpers! You know who you are!

So, having spent much of my life amassing material for my writing, I’m settled now, in Norwich. Norwich is great place – a beautiful city, but not too big, with lots of green space and countryside and the sea all nearby. It’s the perfect combination of bustle and calm, and a great backdrop for me to write my books and to be a mother and partner. Yes, a family. It took me a long time to acquire one, and now I count my blessings every day. And it’s also a whole new way to go about amassing material for writing…

I love to laugh and to make people laugh, and there is humour in most of the things I write. Since it’s a while since I’ve given myself a challenge, I’m shortly going to be doing some stand-up comedy training… Everyone keeps telling me I’m very brave. Whether I’m a hit or a flop, you can be sure it’s going to end up in a book…

What do you think?