2015: A Year of Giving Thanks, Meeting Romance Idols, & Making New Friends

2015 has been a very good year for me. I am so thankful. 

This year, I:


Eloisa James with Margaret Locke
The ever-charming Eloisa James and I.
The fabulous Sabrina Jeffries!
The fabulous Sabrina Jeffries!
With Pamela Morsi!
With Pamela Morsi!
With the gracious and knowledge-generous Valerie Bowman
With gracious & knowledge-generous Valerie Bowman.
With the exuberantly charming Cathy Maxwell.
Sue London getting silly at the West Virginia Book Festival
Sue London getting silly at the West Virginia Book Festival.


  • met a ton of new people, and, even more amazingly, new fans! I, little ol’ Margaret, now have fans. What, what? But, yes, I do, like the oh-so-fabulous Annie, who even had lunch with me when she was in town.
Annie is a riot, y'all, and we had so much fun at our far-too-brief lunch in October!
Annie is a riot, y’all, and we had so much fun at our far-too-brief lunch in October!
Long-time friends supported me, too, including my grade-school friend Heather, whose animals apparently also want to read A Matter of Time!
Long-time friends supported me, too, including my grade-school friend Heather, whose animals apparently also want to read A Matter of Time!
Some fans read my books out loud to their babies!
Some fans read my books out loud to their babies!
... While others forced their kids to do things like this!
… While others forced their kids to do things like this!
  • solidified relationships and friendships within my Shenandoah Valley Writers critique group and more, and basically surrounded myself with writer friends the whole year through.
Maggie and Rebekah helped me celebrate debut day!
Maggie and Rebekah helped me celebrate debut day!
And these fine characters cheered me on, critiqued my work, picked me up when I felt down, and celebrated my successes!
And these fine characters cheered me on, critiqued my work, picked me up when I felt down, and celebrated my successes!
  • had the loving support of my family, including my very own computer-science-professor-in-shining-armor husband, who read BOTH of my books, just to support me (and help me find typos). He’s that awesome of a guy.
My real-life romance hero.
My real-life romance hero.

Yes, it’s been a very good year. 

And I owe so much of that to you all.

  • Thank You Word CloudThank you to everyone who took a chance on A Man of Character (and now again on A Matter of Time!).
  • Thank you to the friends and family who’ve supported me, and the new readers who’ve picked up one of my books this year.
  • Thank you to the book bloggers and reviewers who graciously gave their time to review my books.
  • Thank you to Tessa Shapcott, my editor, for her invaluable guidance, and to Joy Lankshear, my cover designer and formatter, for making my books look better than I ever imagined they could.
  • Thank you to the fellow writers I’ve met on Facebook and Twitter, whose companionship brightens my day every day, and whose wisdom is lighting this crazy, twisting and turning path I’m on.
  • Thank you to the people who’ve liked my books enough to join my street team, Locke’s Flock, or to review them on Amazon or GoodReads, or even just to tell someone else about my books and/or me. All of those seemingly little things make a HUGE difference.

Simply put, I wouldn’t be here without you, and I wanted to express my gratitude as 2015 closes out and 2016 gets ready to begin.

What does the next year hold?

#ThrowItForward Thursday: Meet Rebekah Postupak of Flash Friday Fiction!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to feature Rebekah Postupak for this week’s #ThrowItForward Thursday, for if anyone deserves recognition for all she does to promote writing, writers, and writing community, it’s Rebekah.

rebekahBack in the fall of 2013, I was a lonely writer desperately seeking writerly connections. I stumbled upon the Shenandoah Valley Writers Facebook group, and through it met co-founder Rebekah, who also happens to run a little weekly Flash Friday Fiction contest some of you may have heard of. I entered the contest, got kudos for my writing (first public praise of any fiction I’d ever written), and kept participating, both in the contest and the FB group. I met Ms. Postupak in person. I met her again. I hung out with her again and again and again and . . . okay, you get the picture.

See, Rebekah Postupak is one amazing human being. She is one of the most talented writers I know, and yet she spends hours every week helping other writers achieve their dreams – through running Flash contests, featuring authors like me in Spotlight interviews, promoting the heck out of people wherever she goes, the whole shebang. Her spirit and generosity are endless.

I’m so grateful, therefore, that she somehow found the time to answer my nosy questions. And I’m fiercely proud to call her my friend. Read on for insight into Flash Friday and Ms. Postupak herself. (And if you haven’t ever given flash a whirl, come write this Friday!)

When did you start Flash Friday? What was the impetus behind it?

Oh, what a merry party the weekly flash fiction contest circuit was when I first (thanks to my dear friend, editor/publisher Susan Warren Utley) stumbled across it: a contest (or two, or three!) for every day of the week. Alas, by the end of 2012 many contests were petering out as their hosts started paying attention to (gasp!) their own WIPs. But it was too late for me, as I was already obsessed with this sharp, brilliant form of storytelling. I had no choice but to launch my own contest, which I did that very December.

ffbadgeHow has running Flash Friday impacted your own writing?

I’ve the greatest advantage of anyone, sitting at the gate week after week and watching the stories flood in: it’s like having eighty tutors. You writers are the masters, and I your wide-eyed student. Each Friday y’all teach me something new about just how mindblowing flash fiction can be.

Do you have any idea how much you’ve affected the writers around you?

I’m the one who’s indebted to the flash fiction community. Beyond their consistent writing excellence, they have faithfully supported me by encouraging me in my own writing, and by turning up weekly to write and thus sparing me utter humiliation (like that horrific day shortly after I moved to the United States when I fashion-mistakenly wore yellow socks and a matching yellow sweater vest. I didn’t knoooooooooooooow! Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave me!).

Tell us one favorite story about a Flasher, and seeing them grow through their writing for FF.

Oh, I have so many rich, beautiful stories I could share! So many brave writers for whom FF is the first place they’ve shared their writing publicly; others for whom FF represents the first time they won anything for their writing. It’s infectious: such gorgeous confidence and skill can’t help but keep growing and spreading across the community. Like Tribbles, except useful.

Why, yes, I AM the proud owner of one of these vintage Flash Friday victory badges!
Why, yes, I AM the proud owner of one of these vintage Flash Friday victory badges!

What do you wish people knew about being the figurehead of flash?

I was going to say, “I wish they realized I don’t know anything at all,” except I suspect everyone already knows that. 🙂

Where do you see FF in five years?

Tough question, as we’re already past the average lifespan of this sort of thing. Let’s just say that I love the community so very dearly, and it will be my privilege and joy to continue running Flash! Friday as long as there’s a need for it.

Where do you see your own writing in five years?

In a completed novel or three. But as a fantasy writer, I usually see things that aren’t there…

You’ve emphasized to me a number of times how you value FF as a safe space for writers to come and be validated for their writing. What’s your opinion on feedback? Better when framed positively, or more baldly?

May I be a rascal by answering “neither” to that? 😀 I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about diversity, and one thing that’s become abundantly clear to me is the universal ache for authenticity and humility. So for me “positively or negatively framed criticism?” misses the heart of the problem. Instead, I need to ask myself, How can I pass on to this writer what other writers have taught me? I need to remember not to command, but to share. Not to impose, but to offer. As long as I am careful to approach critiques in this way, then the frame almost won’t matter: an authentic, humble heart will be the only voice heard.

Writers Selfie!
Writers Selfie! Margaret, far left; Tamara Shoemaker, Rebekah Postupak, Kim. Front: Allison Garcia and Annika Keswick.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid; you’re not alone.

What’s one piece of advice you yourself wished you’d had before launching a venture like FF?

Don’t be afraid; you’re not alone. 🙂

Tell us about your own writing career: when did you start? What’s your preferred type of writing? What are your goals for the future?

I started the moment Princess Periezade leapt on her horse to go fetch the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water after her brothers failed (Arabian Nights), when the four Pevensies plunged deep into the wardrobe (Narnia), when Frodo danced naked on a sunny hilltop (Lord of the Rings), when Harimad-sol raised Gonturan to the sky (The Blue Sword), when Anne saw Barry’s Pond and knew it for The Lake of Shining Waters (Anne of Green Gables), when Caderousse looked into the river to see his hair turned white (The Count of Monte Cristo)…. Which is all to say I fell in love with writing by reading: as a child, on long, hot, monsoon-drenched afternoons when writers across the ages opened the world to me. Since then I’ve been a fantasy writer hobbyist, spinning mostly short stories and flash. I dream of finishing writing one of my novels. It’s a beautiful dream, isn’t it?

writingAre writing flash and writing novels compatible? How does writing shorter pieces aid in constructing longer works?

Oh yes, flash writing boosts novel writing in the same way sprints help in training for a marathon: you learn economy, efficiency, resourcefulness, persistence. Thanks to flash, you can also learn one rarely needs the word “that.”

What’s the most difficult thing about running a venture as large as Flash Friday? What’s the most rewarding thing?

Flash! Friday is a hungry beast: she devours as much time and energy as I’m willing to give her (and often more). Not surprising, however, given the glittering hoard she guards! Your tales, your friendships, your personal and public triumphs, make the whole thing worthwhile.

Thank You Word CloudLast one: with everything else you do, how on earth do you find time to write anything, much less run a huge flash community?

See # 7! It’s a struggle; I’ve yet to finish even one novel. But look at how marvelous all of you are! I feast on your stories week after week after week. Even if I never write “The End,” I will still end my days the richest writer in the world.

My eyes are teary after that last answer. But I guarantee you, Rebekah, your impact stretches far and wide.
Thank you for joining us today.  

Writer Wednesday: Meet Phyllis Duncan

Phyllis DuncanWoo hoo! It’s Writer Wednesday! Everybody dance! Er, or, not. But I AM excited to have Phyllis Duncan with us today, as she is a fellow member of my beloved Shenandoah Valley Writers, and the first SVW friend I ever met in “real life.” (I still claim online life is somewhat real, but that’s a different discussion.)

Phyllis writes spy tales – and, most recently, a spy love story (hooray!). So settle in and get comfortable (but not too comfortable – you never know who’s lurking around the corner) as Phyllis shares a bit about herself and her TWO brand-new releases, My Noble Enemy and The Better Spy.

 What inspires you to write?

Just about anything in contemporary history (Cold War to the present), even current events, but mostly I write about injustice and the rendering of justice, even though the means may be morally questionable. That’s why I love the espionage genre—the “real” stuff, not what you see in James Bond movies. Spies lie, cheat, deceive, and worse to save lives or achieve what they believe is a preferred outcome—depends on which side you’re on, though. I’ve always enjoyed exploring morally dubious characters.

Name two things people don’t know about you.

I was named the Cutest Baby East of the Mississippi a long, long (long) time ago, but that was before I cut most of my long hair off one day in Sunday School.

I was a certificated flight instructor (still a certificated pilot), and I once got to fly the Goodyear blimp. Totally awesome, by the way.

What’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why?

I don’t normally write romance, though I refer to my recently published novella as a love story. I also don’t normally read romance, except for J.D. Robb and Janet Evanovich—and now Margaret Locke!—and I use Robb and Evanovich for my escape-reality reading. My all-time favorite romance is, without question, Jane Eyre. My parents sent me to a Christian school for a couple of years which reminded me of Lowood (and I’m not being figurative), so I identified with the young Jane’s tribulations deeply. (Hmm, perhaps the start of my interest in reversing injustice?) That unlikely love story between Jane and Rochester is timeless and gives you hope for a happy-ever-after. A lot of what I write doesn’t have a happy ending, so I always go back to Jane Eyre. I’ve probably re-read it a dozen or more times in my life, and I’m sure there are more re-readings of it to come.

(ML: Aw, shucks. I’m delighted you read A Man of Character, and hosted me for an interview! I’m one spoiled author!)

Here’s the blurb for My Noble Enemy:

nobleenemyEdwin Terrell, Jr., has enjoyed his life as a consultant after leaving the CIA. He lives comfortably, has amassed a decent stock portfolio, and, even though he’s in his sixties, he can look forward to years to come, increasing his net worth. That is, until a diagnosis forces him to face the end of his life sooner rather than later.

He finds himself in The Hague, where his former lover, Mai Fisher, works for the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. Terrell wants to die on his own terms, and he wants Mai to see to that. The only problem is, years before, Mai’s husband, Alexei Bukharin, had declared her and Terrell’s now-platonic relationship off limits.

Mai, however, will not let her friend die alone, even if it means putting her marriage in jeopardy. Terrell abandons his plans to go to a French hospice and intends to spend his last days with the woman he could never have. Alexei soon realizes the only thing keeping the dying man alive is that Mai won’t let him go. To honor the friendship he and Terrell once had, Alexei has to convince her things need to end, now.

In the midst of a dying relationship, a possible new one gets a start in an unlikely place, and old enemies may or may not resolve their differences.

Wow. Very moving. Pick up your copy now!

And here’s the blurb for The Better Spy, releasing on Kindle July 28th, 2015!

BetterSpyThe defining mission of UN covert operative Mai Fisher’s career came in the mid-1980s when she went undercover in the IRA. It was a mission she barely survived, when a shipment of Semtex she intended to destroy before the IRA would distribute it to various cells exploded too soon. Nine people, including a man she’d come to love, died, and she carried the guilt for the rest of her career. Nearly three decades later, a dying soldier has a secret he wants to tell her, one that will change everything.

Pre-order The Better Spy today!

Want to connect with Phyllis? Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her Website.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Phyllis. It was joy to have you, and I can’t wait to read my new copy of My Noble Enemy, which is sitting next to me as I type! 

The Joy of a Writing Community

Writers Selfie!
Writers Selfie!

Two years ago, I joined a local writing group. Although I had known of the group for a while and even attended a conference they’d organized in the fall of 2011, joining the group was, for a long time, too intimidating.

When I did finally work up the nerve, I was ecstatic; here was a group of like-minded people, all of whom were writers. Some wrote short stories, some non-fiction, others were working on novels, but all were writers. Sadly, that group disbanded shortly after I joined. For a while, I was on my own again. The good news was, I was working on my first book. The bad news was, I was doing so in isolation. I knew I needed to find writers who were willing to critique my work, and willing to support me in my quest to write and publish. I wanted to do the same for them.

As luck would have it, I stumbled across the Shenandoah Valley Writers, an online group composed of writers from up and down this area of Virginia. I’ve met a number of SVW members in person. I found the Flash Friday Fiction community. I started a new in-person critique group that has attracted a solid group of writers, some of whom were already part of SVW, and others who were new.

My friendship circle is evolving and expanding to include numerous people for whom writing is a primary focus.I can’t tell you how thrilling this is. Many of my daily conversations now touch on writing in some way. Not only is it fun, but it’s helping me feel more like a true writer, if that makes any sense; I discuss and share this craft with others, and they do the same with me.

This week a newish but already beloved writer friend travelled from an hour away to attend the critique group, just because she wanted to see what we did in said group. Afterwards, she, several other critique group friends, and I headed out for a quick bite and lots of writerly conversation. We talked about writing for nearly two hours, people. No one got tired of it. It energized us, it fueled our interactions. It. Was. Awesome.

I want to thank them, and all the other wonderful people I’ve met throughout this journey, whether SVW members or the Flash Friday community or critique friends, or writers I’ve become friends with through Facebook and Twitter (yes, it’s happened!).

My life – and my writing – is so much richer because of you all.