The Best Revenge

One afternoon in early summer in the year 2000, my life changed forever. I’d been to the shops to buy bread so my partner could take sandwiches to work the next day. When I returned home his car was in the drive, but the house was silent. This was very unusual – noise followed Andy around like a cloud of flies. He wasn’t the kind of person who could handle being on his own very well, and normally when I came in he’d be laughing with a friend on the phone, or at the very least playing loud music. I went into the sitting room, and there he was, just sitting. The TV wasn’t even on. Immediately, I was worried. The previous December my dad had died, and the previous July Andy’s best friend had been killed in a cycling accident. All my instincts told me that something else big had happened.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked and sat beside him, taking his hand. Andy couldn’t meet my eyes. I thought it was because he was trying not to cry. But no, it was because he was bowed down by guilt. ‘I’ve met someone else,’ he said.

Twenty minutes later I left the house, taking only the dog and a small bag with me. It took me 4 years to rebuild my life.

What has all this got to do with Getting Published and Getting laughs, you may ask? Well, a great deal actually. Because the experience of this has given me a huge amount of material for my writing! In my novel The Goddess Workshop, my character Kate is very bitter following a similar break-up. Kate resorts to acts of revenge to try to assuage her feelings. So did I, but in a more subtle and much more satisfying way than Kate. I imagine most of us have heard of tales of wronged women stuffing prawns in curtain rails or cutting up their ex’s trousers. Andy clearly thought I would do such things, as he posted one of his friends in the house when I went to collect the rest of my things. He didn’t trust me to be there on my own.

But instead of seafood and scissors, I moved to a new city and got a new job. Then I saved my money and went on an adventure holiday to Cuba. Andy and I had been learning Spanish with a view to travelling somewhere exotic, and I knew Cuba would be top on his list of destinations. The whole time I was there, I was imagining how jealous he’d be if he found out. When I got back, I used the country as one of the settings in a book. The book was a reader for people learning to speak English and I called it Murder Maker.

Murder Maker

Murder Maker begins with the main character Carla being dumped by the love of her life. Here’s how it starts:

I used to think that murderers were born murderers, but now I know differently. Now I know they can be made.

            In my case, it was shock that did it. Four brutal words that changed my life forever. And who spoke those words?

            You.

            Congratulations, you created a murderer.

Can you guess what the 4 words were? Yes – I’ve met someone else. Carla goes on to become a serial killer, and the whole story is narrated by Carla to her ex. I changed names, but there are no prizes for guessing who her ex is based on. And satisfyingly, by the end of the book, we know time is running out for him…

After Murder Maker was a published, it was on sale in a specialist bookshop in Cambridge, near to where I used to live with Andy. And the best revenge of all? Well, a mutual friend told me that Andy had walked by the bookshop and seen it in the window. He’d been compelled to go in and buy it!

Murder Maker has since sold thousands of copies around the world and still continues to earn me money. Best of all, my experience of dealing with heartbreak and of rebuilding my life has continued to provide me with meaty material for writing. In my latest novel – The Dare Club – my characters meet at a course for the newly divorced and separated. I did such a course myself when I moved to a new city.

But more about that another day…

www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

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Join The Dare Club!

Drum roll please ….Today’s the day! The Dare Club is published!

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For this book I have scared myself stupid swinging through the trees high up in the forest canopy at Go Ape.

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I have also done something I never imagined I would do in my wildest dreams – I actually went up on stage and performed stand-up comedy! I know, I said the same thing too – “I could never do that!” But I did, and there’s a YouTube clip to prove it!

Watch me performing at Up The Creek in Greenwich here.

So join Aleysha, Nick, Colette and Emma as they attempt to scare themselves into forgetting about their problems. Will it go smoothly? Of course not! But they’ll have a lot of fun trying!

And as a special bonus to celebrate the launch of The Dare club, my novel The Goddess Workshop is available for 1 week only for the bargain price of 99p! That’s until 11pm on Sunday 1 December.

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What have daring things have you done? I’d love to know!

Margaret X

www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

 

Cover Reveal – The Dare Club

Not long to go now – The Dare Club, my follow-up book to The Goddess Workshop, should be hitting the virtual shelves next week!

The Dare Club follows the fates of 4 very different people – Aleysha, Nick, Colette and Emma – who meet on a Lift Up Course for the newly divorced and separated. After initial tensions, the group bond and Colette has the idea of setting up a dare club to help them to forget their problems.  If they’re cavorting several metres off the ground, or standing under a spotlight, it’s bound to help them to forget about their troubles, isn’t it? At the very least, they’ll have some fun, and who knows? It might just change their lives forever.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing scary research for this novel – like my characters, I feel changed forever after doing things like swinging through the tree tops and performing stand-up comedy. I look forward to many more scary challenges in the future!

So, without further ado, here’s the cover for The Dare Club. I think my illustrator, Jane Newland, has got it just right.

THE DARE CLUB cover 2

www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

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“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?

Beating Word into Submission and Telling Jokes to the Mirror

It’s been a busy few weeks and the house is not looking its best. I’ve done the basics – washing, food shopping and preparation and essential dog walking and child organisation. But that’s it.

I’ve had my nose to the grindstone trying to publish The Goddess Workshop as a paperback via Create Space. A writer friend I know through the Women’s Fiction Crit Group on http://www.authonomy.com told me that “publishing through Create Space is a matter of beating Word into submission” and, I can tell you, she’s right! I now know such things as how to have page numbers in some places and not in others and how to stop the widows and orphans control function. Don’t worry, I haven’t been going about being unpleasant to  any bereaved people – it just means that now the bottoms of all the pages in my book line up the way the tops all do. Might sound like a small thing, and obviously the story is what counts, but you don’t want to have anything to distract readers from the story, do you? But hopefully everything’s OK now – a proof copy should be winging its way to me as I type, and then provided it’s all right, it should be all systems’s go. Hurrah!

I haven’t wanted to lose momentum with The Dare Club while I’ve been occupied with all this stuff, so I’ve been doing an hour’s writing every morning before my son wakes up, starting around 6.00am. I know, dedicated or what? Some might prefer to say crazy, I realize.

Anyway, next Tuesday – 21st – it will be time for me to go to London to complete my comedy challenge by performing for 3 minutes in front of an audience. So I will be doing lots of talking to myself as I practice and memorize my routine. Not to mention choosing the outfit to wear on stage… Is this an excuse for a shopping trip I wonder?

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I’m trying to look goofy, silly! It’s all part of the act!

And then I’ll definitely have to turn my attention to my house, because my mother-in-law is staying overnight to help out with childcare, and if you could see how pristine her house always is, you’d understand why I turn into a whirling housework dervish every time she visits.

Think of me next Tuesday night! 🙂

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Click here to see The Goddess Workshop on http://www.amazon.co.uk

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