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

book-2179211_640

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.

book-2160539_640

 

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.

takethewfsurvey

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!

beach-1232772_640

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

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

Bye for now.

Margaret 

War Diary October 1915 – Edith Cavell

It is almost one hundred years since the execution of Edith Cavell, a brave nurse from Norfolk who served in Belgium during World War One, and I am reblogging a War Diary in her honour. Scant information is given here, and the matter of fact statement about her death does nothing to give us a picture of how she must have suffered – no matter how brave she appeared – as she wrote letters to her colleagues giving instructions about domestic matters as she waited in her cell for her final moments to arrive. During her trial, Edith revealed that she had helped 200 allied soldiers to escape capture by the Germans, in the full knowledge that in doing so she ran the risk of being court-martialed and executed by firing squad which, indeed, she was at 7.00am on 12th October 1915. It is her bravery, together with that of all the other nurses and medical personnel who served in The Great War which inspired my novel A Nightingale in Winter, and I am proud to live in the same county she was born in. I shall be attending the displays and memorial activities that are to take place here in Norwich this month with great interest and a sense of pride.

ANiW Final Cover

Norfolk in World War One

War Norfolk
German aircraft deployed on the Western Front

The German Fokker comes into service on the Western Front, able to fire forward through the propeller German air superiority is achieved.

Music Hall in Norwich

High Class Vaudeville entertainment comes to the Theatre Royal in Norwich as it changes name to ‘The Empire Music Hall’.

Execution of Edith Cavell

Norfolk-born nurse Edith Cavell is executed by the Germans in Brussels as a spy and for aiding escaped Allied prisoners.

New Social Housing

The master of the rolls declared open for occupation a block of residential flats in Recorder Road, Norwich. Built by Miss Ethel M. Colman and Miss Helen C. Colman, in memory of the Right Honourable James Stuart, they were built as social housing with low rents.

View original post

Preparing for lift-off – Launching Taming Tom Jones

It has been a long time coming, but finally on Friday 2 October, my novel Taming Tom Jones will be launch into the world! Hurrah! Incidentally, it’s available for pre-order, and will magically appear on your kindles on Friday if you buy it now. Hint, hint. Ha ha!
Amazon.co.uTTJ Coverk
Amazon.com
Smashwords
Right, having got that out of the way, let’s talk about launches. I’ve published a fair few books because, apart from my women’s fiction, I’ve written a lot of readers for people learning to speak English. The experience of launching these books has always been a bit of anti-climax. Almost inevitably publication day has been marked by the arrival of a box of books on my doorstep, and this has been the first I’ve known about them being available to the public. Not that I’m knocking receiving a box of gleaming, newly-printed books with my name on the cover – that has always been a delicious treat.

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

However, it’s hardly a red carpet premiere is it? So when my last novel A Nightingale in Winter was due to be published in July, I wanted to celebrate properly. I love writing language readers, and I’m very proud that one of them – Kilimanjaro – has just won a Language Learner Literature Award. But by their nature, language readers demand restricted vocabulary and grammar, and when I write my women’s fiction, I revel in the freedom of being able to write what I want to write in the way I want to write it. So I organised a get together with friends. Sadly though, publication of A Nightingale in Winter was delayed by several weeks due to cover issues, so my friends and I just went out for a drink on what was to have been publication day. We has a good time anyway, but by the time the book was published on 24 August, the summer holidays were in full flow, and people weren’t so available. So apart from raising a glass of wine with my partner, that book’s launch into the world went sort of unmarked too.

Picture

So this time, encouraged by my publishers Crooked Cat Publishing, and all the other lovely Crooked Cat authors, I’m going to try something different – an online launch party. It’s on Friday 2 October 1.30pm – 7.30pm GMT, and you’re all welcome to attend. There will be fun and games as well as tasters of the book, and PRIZES.

ONLINE PARTY INVITATION

Picture

​As well as that, if you’re a writer or a would-be writer, I’m going to be putting my creative writing tutor hat on between 4pm and 5pm to answer any writing-related questions you may have.

Click on your party invitation and then click JOIN to reserve your slot.

Here’s a bit about Taming Tom Jones:

​Jen’s partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, she’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son.

Jen means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis?

Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open.

Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?

I hope to see you on Friday 2 October between 1.30pm – 7.30pm GMT. Tell your friends!

ONLINE PARTY INVITATION

Helping With Writer’s Block

I was in the newspaper last Saturday – here’s the piece that appeared. It’s the story of how I wrote my forthcoming novel, A Nightingale in Winter, which languished in an attic for sixteen years. I’m putting my experience of overcoming writer’s block to good use in a face-to-face course soon, and in the future I intend to make this into an e-course. If this is something that interests you, sign up to my mailing list or email me at margaretkjohnsonauthor@gmail.com for more information.
————————————————————————————————————————————–Norwich author to use her own experience to help others with writer’s block

Picture

To help writers find their flow, Margaret Johnson has launched the Fiction Writing – Moving Forward course, which will run for ten weeks starting in September.It comes on the back of her own experience after her latest novel, A Nightingale in Winter, was left languishing in her attic for 16 years before she finally decided to put the finishing touches to it.

The course is aimed at those who have an idea for a story or novel but don’t know how to get started, or for those who have already made a start but are now feeling stuck.

Mrs Johnson said: “It took me two years to write the book on top of having a job at a college in Nottingham. I did a great deal of research for it, including going to the Imperial War Museum in London to read original diaries and letters.

“I ended up writing two versions of the story and thoroughly confused myself.

“But with increased experience, I could see exactly what I needed to change to make it work.

“I did not decide to try and publish it until 16 years later – but happily it was quickly accepted by Omnific Publishing.

“I know all about the fears and doubts that can plague aspiring writers and always try to include an element of writing confidence building in the creative writing courses.”

The course will help students to work on their plot and story outline, decide on their story theme, heighten conflict to add interest, decide on the best ending for their story and more.

Mrs Johnson also writes contemporary women’s fiction and fiction for people who are learning to speak English.

Fiction Writing – Moving Forward, will run for ten weeks from 7pm to 9pm, from September 17 at Oak Grove Chapel, Catton Grove Road, Norwich.

To book your place email Mrs Johnson at margaretkjohnsonauthor@gmail.com.

A Nightingale in Winter will be published in paperback and e-book form by Omnific Publishing on August 24 and is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

Picture

The Whydunnit – Making Thrillers Thrilling

I have a thriller novel growing in my head. It’s at the very early stages, and I don’t know as yet exactly which direction it’s going to go in. I do know my two main characters, and I also know what brings them together. But I need to learn more about the genre before I even think of making a start.

As a first step I attended a very stimulating thriller writing master class the other weekend, run by the writer Henry Sutton. It was part of a weeklong crime writing festival in my home city of Norwich, called Noirwich, which also included some great guest speakers.

Noirwich

In the master class, Henry put us on the spot about the books we were planning, giving us feedback that allowed us to really pin our ideas down. He was wonderfully ruthless – not allowing any of us to get away with being woolly.

Henry

He also told us that a thriller should be a Why done it rather than a Who done it. I found that very interesting, because the best fictional villains for me are those you really get to know and understand. This is what I’ve tried to do with my character Leo in my novel A Nightingale In Winter, which should hopefully be making an appearance before too long. One novel I read recently featured a hit man who was just a cold killing machine, and he was an unbelievable character as a result.

Other things I learnt on the master class include:

  • A thriller has to start with a character wanting something desperately.
  • Something, or someone is in the way or out to stop them.
  • The clock is ticking.
  • There is a lot at stake.
  • Unlike as is often the case in detective fiction, the crime in a thriller has not yet taken place at the start of the book.
  • Thrillers should be emotional (this really appeals to me!)

Ways of increasing the level of suspense are to:

  • Switch the point of view to start a new chapter, so that the reader is left in suspense about what is happening to the character in the previous chapter.
  • Keep asking questions but don’t answer them.
  • Make the book turn a corner by introducing another plot strand or another character who disrupts everything.
  • Wrong-foot the reader – allowing them to think they are being taken in a certain direction then making it turn out completely differently to how they expect.

Many of these things apply to all griping fiction writing of course, but the difference with writing a thriller is that the conflict or issues the characters face should be life threatening.

Henry told us that the crime writer Jim Thompson said that there is only one thriller plot – “things are not what they seem.”

Another part of my research into the thriller genre has of course, been to read lots of thrillers. Henry recommended many authors, including Val McDermid, and in particular, A Mermaid Singing. I couldn’t get that book, so I read another one of hers – I was interested by it, but a little disappointed, I have to admit. It seemed to me that she had built one of her main characters very carefully and then made her act completely out of character at the end. It frustrated me. But this is all part of the learning process, isn’t it? Finding out what satisfies you, what intrigues you and what makes you want to keep on reading.

val

Judging by the reviews this novel has, I’m not alone in my opinions about it. But readers are so disappointed that it’s clear Val’s books are usually lots better than this, so I shall persist and read more of them. Incidentally, before the master class, I got one of Henry’s books out of the library, wanting to familiarize myself with the way he writes. I couldn’t finish it – not because it was badly written or the characters acted out of character – but because it was about a struggling writer, and the issues he was grappling with were all so depressingly familiar!

What thrillers do you recommend? Why did you particularly enjoy them? I’d love to know!

The Dare Club – when life imitates literature

THE DARE CLUB cover 2

Question: what do you get if you combine a novel featuring an abseiling woman on the cover, good weather, good friends and a deserving charity?

Answer: The Dare Club abseil challenge in aid of Keeping Abreast, which took place on Saturday 21 June at Aid Rope Access in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

It was a fabulous day – everyone was so brave. Quite a few of the ladies taking part were terrified of heights and were literally shaking as they climbed the steep steps to the top of the 20 metre abseil tower. There were 3 different heights to abseil from, but everyone went from the top, which was a real achievement.

Image

The 20m abseil tower at Aid Rope Access

Image

Me with my fellow Dare Club organisers – The Amazing Abseillers. Love them all!

There were 3 different heights to abseil from, but everyone went from the top, which was a real achievement. One of my friends said she was cursing me since it was my idea, but she did it anyway and felt amazing afterwards. But then I already knew she was brave, because she maintained a steadfastly positive outlook for the whole time she was being treated for breast cancer recently. She was also more than happy to help me with my research when I was writing The Dare Club, in which one of the characters – Colette – has had breast cancer.

As for me, I’d been fairly blasé about the whole thing right from the start – I went up the tower before the event and enjoyed looking at the views and the feeling of the wind in my hair. I’ve never had a problem with heights, so I wasn’t scared as I posed for photos before I began my ascent to the top.

Image

Posing before climbing to the top with the book that inspired it all!

But then I was actually standing at the open hatch with the distant view of the ground below and… well; let’s just say things were suddenly different. I still wasn’t scared of heights, but I was scared of imminent death. But of course that was never a possibility! The guys at Aid Rope Access who hosted the event were amazing, and our safety was never in doubt. And it had to feel scary, or else what was the point? People needed to be impressed to be inspired to donate, and donate they did. We raised almost three thousand pounds for Keeping Abreast, a charity that helps women who’ve had breast cancer by running support groups and providing information about reconstruction surgery.

Image

Coming down!! Eek!!!!!

And so, my novel about a dare club has inspired the existence of a true life dare club, and our inaugural event was a big success. “What’s the next event?” people kept asking me on Saturday. “Cliff diving,” I answered, deadpan. For just a fraction of a section, some of them believed it, but don’t worry, you won’t get me up there on top of a cliff. Now, white-water rafting, maybe.

cliff diving

Any takers for cliff diving?!!!

Joan of Arc was brought up as a pheasant and other gaffs

When I was 11 years old, I had to give a talk about Joan of Arc in a French class. Since I was quite a shy girl this was a fairly big deal for me, but I gamely went out in of the class when it was my turn to speak. Then I opened my mouth, and the trouble started. “Joan of Arc was brought up as a pheasant,” I confidently asserted, and was momentarily disconcerted when the whole class fell about laughing. Seconds later, with flaming red cheeks, I attempted to correct myself. “I mean, a peasant….” But it was too late; the damage was done. Nobody listened to anything else I had to say.

ImageUnsurprisingly, that incident blighted my public speaking carer for some time. Speaking in public became something of a phobia, to the point where I never even put my hand up in class to answer a question. Much later, I decided to do something about it, and gradually chipped away at the problem by setting myself small tasks to achieve. For example, I joined adult education classes and set myself the goal of making 1 contribution per lesson. It was terrifying at first, but gradually my comfort zone expanded until I enrolled on a public speaking course. Gulp! But on that course I made a speech that – intentionally – made people laugh. It was such an amazing feeling! I went on to train to be an adult education tutor, and taught for many years as well as writing fiction.

Three years ago, I gave up teaching because I was earning just enough from my writing to support myself. I was finding it hard to juggle writing with parenthood and teaching, and I needed to free up some brain space. It’s been a highly productive time for me, but I do miss the performance side of teaching, and I do feel the need to keep using my public speaking muscle since it was so hard for me to develop it. I definitely didn’t want to risk reverting to that post Joan-of-Arc-is-a-pheasant me! Maybe that’s why I had a go at stand-up comedy last year. (If you haven’t read about that, here’s the link to the post about it). Certainly, it’s why, just lately, I’ve felt the need to get out there to speak about my writing. My first official author talk took place last week at the All Saint’s WI in Norwich, and I’m glad to say, it seemed to go very well. The group were very welcoming, they were interested in what I had to say, and they all willingly took part in the activity I set them. Hurrah! One of them even summed up what my women’s fiction books are all about by asking, “Are your books about women gaining empowerment?” Yes! Yes, they are.

Thank you, All Saint’s WI, and in fact, thank you Class 1I at The Broxbourne School, because without the memory of you lot, it wouldn’t mean half so much to me to be able to give a talk in front of a group of people I don’t know.