Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 18 November 2017

WHERE IN THE WORLD Linda Mitchelmore

Okay then, here we go .... a question for you. How many times have you been told on writing courses or by those who have gone before you in the world of writing to 'write what you know'? When my cousin Barbara suggested - many moons ago now - that I write a novel I told her I couldn't possibly do that because I'd never been anywhere - a world traveler I am not, nor ever likely to be, although I have been on a plane and a ship! Barbara's response was 'Rot! Where did Jane Austen every go?' And, of course, she was right. So, I gave what she had said some thought. I came to the conclusion that emotions, feelings, life experiences of all sorts are - for the most part - the same all over the world. Why then, couldn't I transport those feelings to somewhere exotic, or adventurous, or plain scary even though I hadn't been there? What is the internet for if not to explore other worlds from the seat of our chair? Until that moment my stories were very firmly set in places I know well - the beach, the moors, the inside of a cafe where friends/siblings/lovers talk through a problem over cappuccino and a pain au raisin. So why not have the same emotional crises, the same characters in, say, Venice? And why not set it during the annual carnival they have there? It's very easy to find a map of Venice, and I got super-lucky and found a video someone had made as they walked around. Lots of ideas, lots of fabulous images to look at and a serial set in Venice was born.
Where next? I love markets, especially French markets, but up until then my experiences of them had only ever been in Northern France. How different might the market in, say, Antibes be? What sort of fruits and vegetables might they have there in abundance? How could walking through a food market there help a couple save their marriage? Well, in my story it did as she held out a pear for him to take a bite from, then bit from it herself, and so it went on until only the core was left and they had pear juice dribbling down their chins, reaching out to touch and to wipe said juice from each other's chins. Say aaaah ....
I began to get a feel for this sort of travel. It was cheap for a start - no flights to pay for, no special clothes to be bought, no expensive meals out. I have a cousin in Canada who has been to visit me but I haven't - yet - made the journey to visit him. But that didn't stop me using the Rockies for a serial. My heroine was in two minds about her adventurous boyfriend - could she live with the heart-in-the-mouth life he liked to lead, kayaking and climbing, and long-distance walking in remote places? She takes a huge leap of faith and follows him and it is she who ends up saving the day in a remote spot.
This blogpost is just about a sense of place in our stories, and places we don't have personal experience of. But it could be extended to include experiences we haven't had ourselves as writers - divorce, childlessness, serious illness, a tragic bereavement. So what I'm trying to say is don't keep your wings clipped in your writing .... get out there and fly!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

IF ITS NOVEMBER IT MUST BE NaNoWriMo






A shorter than usual blog from me I’m afraid and a question for you all at the end.

For anyone who isn’t aware, November for several years now - since 1999 to be precise - has been National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWritMo for short. The aim during this month is to write fifty thousand words which works out at needing to write under seventeen hundred a day. Not too many then. Not necessarily publishable words either - the editing etc comes later.

Now, I don’t know about my fellow NPOV bloggers but personally I’ve never joined in with this event. It is incredibly popular and I’m sure people do find all the camaraderie that goes with signing up for it amazingly helpful but I’ve learnt over the years, that, for me, events like this don’t work. I was the same at a couple of writing workshops I attended back in the day, asked to write on spec for five minutes I just got brain freeze. 

I can happily work to an editor’s deadline or even a self-imposed one. I can write two thousand words a day - more when I need to, but put me in with a group all trying to reach the same target and I just go off the whole idea and can’t do it! I’m still trying to work out why and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s maybe linked to my aversion to team sports!  


So, do you sign up for events like NaNoWriMo and find them inspirational and good fun? Or, are you like me and run a mile from any internet organised involvement for your writing?


P.S. Good luck if you are attempting NaNoWriMo this month.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

NEOS what a week !!



The Black Mount, Glencoe
My last post I spoke about the upcoming week of North East Open Studios(NEOS). The usual nerves and self doubt reared there ugly heads prior to first weekend of the event. However, once the room was set up those nerves and doubt faded as I looked at the collections of work offered by myself and fellow exhibitors. Between the four of us we managed to fill the whole space.

The first weekend was fantastic as the number of people that came specifically to see my work was amazing. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the supportive people who take time to follow and comment on my Facebook page. By the end of the weekend I was hoarse with talking, although I wouldn't change that. Due to work commitments my time was limited, luckily Audrey was able to step into the breach.
Loch Assynt
The week flew past with a staggering amount of visitors which for a newbie NEOS member was simply fantastic, so much so that before the week was out we'd booked the location again (The White Horse Inn, Balmedie) for 2018. So now I know what is required I am already planning ahead for next year. Preparing prints and frames as I go rather than leaving it to the last minute.
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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Not a Love Story...

Would you? Image from Blind Date With a Book
 Blind Date With a Book 
My husband is not a man for a blind date, of any kind, but even he was tempted but the latest book marketing ploy. It’s a blind date with a book. 

I don’t know whose idea it was, but it’s a cracker. A book sitting on a supermarket shelf, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, tempting you with just five phrases. And he bought into it. ‘Shall I?’ he asked, turning the top one over in his hands and dropping it in the basket without waiting for the reply. 

Sold, in just seven words. Inheritance. Romanovs. Secret diary. Revolution. Love lost.

I won’t say the excitement was mounting as we drove home. That would be a little bit of an overstatement. But when we’d unpacked the shopping and he’d picked up his little treasure and untied the string, I was hovering at his shoulder to see what he’d brought home. 

If it had been a real blind date, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. He’d have hung on out of politeness and endured a terrible evening, leaving the restaurant vowing never to date again . He’s a reader of suspense and history. He loves Nordic noir and Robert Harris, historical detective stories set in Berlin and in the alternative history of Western Europe. What he got was touted itself as perfect for readers of Kate Morton when he’d have preferred something for readers of Philip Kerr. 

The book in question is Gill Paul’s The Secret Wife. Neither of us had heard of it before and it looks, in fairness, a very good book. It has rave reviews. But it isn’t the book for him, nor even for me. 

What went wrong? I think if you’re going to sell a book in a poke, you really have to get the description right — and the missing thing is the genre. Okay, you can say that ‘love lost’ suggests a romance, but does it? He didn’t think so and neither do I, and in fact I don’t know that the description really helps very much. 

The concept might work a little better if the genre is clear, and it might not matter if you’re someone who enjoys reading outside your comfort zone or whose comfort zone is admirably broad. But for me there’s no substitute for browsing before you buy. The Silent Wife is sitting on a side table in the living room, waiting for me to get fed up and read it so that the money wasn’t wasted. maybe I’ll enjoy it, maybe not. 

I'd try this kind of blind-dating myself, I think, and I'd recommend it to an adventurous reader. But I'd pay more attention to the five key phrases. 

Would you? 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

EXCELLENT WRITING TIPS FROM #SCOTSWRITE17

Writing can be a solitary business and so when offered the opportunity to meet like-minded souls at
the inaugural Society of Authors Scottish conference – #ScotsWrite17 – it was a ‘yes’ from me.

Each speaker – a selection of experienced authors, agents, publishers and more –generously offered precious nuggets of useful, encouraging advice which I've shared and hope you find inspiring and helpful too. 

EMPOWERING WRITERS

Joanne's modern day fairy
tale, inspired by a visit to Skye
Joanne Harris – author of an impressive canon of fourteen novels and two cookery books including Chocolat (the bestselling novel turned into an Oscar –nominated movie) opened as a keynote speaker, reminding the audience that playing with words is the closest thing to magic a writer can do. Setting the tone for a magical conference weekend.



GAMEKEEPER TURNED POACHER, PUBLISHER TURNED NOVELIST, A LIFE IN BOOKS

Jane Johnson making time for everyone at
her busy book signing
Jane Johnson – historical novelist (her latest release - Court of Lions is out now), children’s author and Fiction Publishing Director for Harper Collins, encouraged everyone to follow your passions in life. Explaining 
  • That writing is largely an engineering process. Work can always be taken apart and put together again.

  • Flexibility is crucial for a writer. An editor is there to make the writer think again and to explore their work.

  • That finding an agent, someone who will fight your corner, is important. Learn as much as you can about the industry and read, read, read…

Reading encourages us to dream bigger.
  • 90% of what happens to your book is luck – Does it land on the editor’s desk at the right time? Does it fit their list? Have they just signed someone who’s written something very similar?

I also attend Jane’s fantastic breakout session where she donned her editor’s hat sharing what an
Latest historical fiction by Jane Johnson
editor looks for in a submission.
Here’s some of what I learned -

  • Look to surprise your readers
  • Trust your imagination
  • Don’t tell the reader everything that’s going on – know there are things you’re not going to tell
  • Include unexpected imagery, which doesn’t get in the way of the story. She quoted from Stuart MacBride – describing a character’s hair looking as if they’d sellotaped a cairn terrier to their head. (Who doesn’t love a cairn terrier?)
  • Characters are what makes your work tick – create light and shade in characters
  • Editors are always looking for an excuse to say no – don’t give them that excuse. Make your manuscript as polished as it can be
  • Do research and be confident in your writing – keep the writing as authentic as possible
  • If you’re boring yourself, you’re probably boring the reader – do not submit that 20 pages
  • A reader loves to be educated (to learn something). Learn your craft and write as well as you possibly can 

Things to consider when pitching – 

  • What is at the heart of your book?
  • Write your pitch as simply as possible
  • What about your book do you love best?
  • Share the main characters’ motivation

DIVERSIFICATION

The latest action packed teen
adventure from Charlie Higson
Charlie Higsonauthor and writer for radio and television delivered the Penguin Random House keynote on the subject of Diversification. Here are only a handful of his great suggestions.

  • Make use of Twitter – find him @monstroso – writing’s a lonely occupation and Twitter can be a fantastically helpful research tool. Throw a question out on Twitter and within minutes, someone will come back with suggestions
  • Make a Spotify playlist for each novel/ screenplay you’re working on. Listening can help unlock that special voodoo place, where the writing starts to flow
  • When stuck novel writing, try writing a section as a script, which is a good way of opening up other pathways in the brain
  • Spot the good idea amongst all the other ideas you might have. And hang onto that good idea, which sometimes can become lost in the process
  • Catchphrases can be useful for characters
  • Create vivid and interesting dialogue. It doesn’t have to be real but it does need to be sparkling
    Charlie Higson and me!
    and alive


My teenage sons, both avid fans of Charlie’s Young Bond series, couldn’t quite believe I’d had the good fortune of meeting their writing hero. Here's the proof!


Dotted between the keynote speakers was a fantastic selection of breakout sessions including this one:

TRYING NEW FORMS AND LEARNING FROM THEM

Crime author - Denise Mina
 Denise Mina – multi-award winning crime novelist, comic book writer, playwright and regular contributor to TV and radio, on shared a frank and funny review of the ups and downs of
Winner of the 2017 McIlvanney Prize
for Scottish Crime book of the Year
writing for a variety of media. But whatever the form, she encouraged writers to:
  • Induce a sense of recklessness in your writing. Are you being too safe? Do you need to dig deeper?
  • Remember that just because it sells, doesn’t mean it’s good. Publishers pay for placements in WHSmith.
  • Chop up work into paragraphs and chapters to increase narrative pace
  • Give the reader work to do by leaving things out. That way the reader invests in the story.

HOW TO MAKE A LIVING FROM YOUR WRITING 

Joanna Pennhugely successful podcaster (I’ve may have mentioned I'm a massive fan of The Creative Penn podcast on this blog before!) and indie writing guru shared an absolute ton of tips in the final keynote speech of the weekend.

My precious signed copies...
I’ve shared some of what I jotted here, but in all honesty Joanna offered so much that if what you read here whets your appetite, then I highly recommend all of the following - How toMake a Living From Your Writing, TheSuccessful Author Mindset, How toMarket A Book and more…

Here’s an extremely potted version of what she shared:

1) Are you an entrepreneur?
  • A book is a intellectual property asset
  • Made once, it can be sold over and over again – think E-book, Print book, audio


2) Focus on the Customer
  • It’s about the reader
  • What do they want?
  • Only 5% of top selling books include literary fiction
  • Which sub-categories are your competitors selling in?


3) Make the most of your intellectual property
  • Understand your contract
  • What rights have you sold? What can you still exploit?
  • Look at territory/language/format/length of time before rights revert back to the author

Joanna's key message was that if you wish to be a successful author then you need to write more books.
  • Try other genres – write both fiction and non-fiction
  • Write a branded series and get readers hooked (may be linked by character or theme)
  • Go short – write a novella (less than 40,000 words long)
  • Go long – with box sets (great value for the customer)
  • Re-invigorate your backlist by re-branding, re-titling, re-covering

Here's Joanna Penn and me with crime author and organiser
extraordinaire, Wendy H Jones
5) Attract an audience
  • Be yourself
  • Share what you are interested in

Finally Joanna shared a hand written note she keeps by her writing desk – have you made art today? A mantra I’ve been happy to steal!

WHAT ELSE?

In addition to the packed writing weekend, we were also treated to a gin tasting session, sponsored by Botanist gin, tried Tia Chia, enjoyed a formal dinner and ceilidh evening, caught up with old friends and made new ones along the way.

All in all, a fantastic conference for writers, conceived and generously pulled together by writers, led by Linda Strachan. Thanks to the team who so kindly gave of their time including, Wendy H. Jones, Merryn Glover, Caroline Dunford, Chris Longmuir, Philip Paris, with apologies to those I've missed.
Cheers! Happy Writing x


Sadly, I can’t cover everything that went on but to see more photographs or discover more fantastic quotes head to Twitter and the #ScotsWrite17 hashtag.

Happy writing!

Rae
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Saturday, 7 October 2017

BEHIND THE SCENES OF A BOOK LAUNCH by Victoria Cornwall


Tuesday was a Double Book Publication Day for me! Yaaayy!
The Thief's Daughter was released as a paperback and The Captain’s Daughter was released as an eBook.

The publication day is the day a new book is launched. For me, the day passed in a bit of a blur as I immersed myself into the social media world to spread the news. But the launch of my new books didn't begin on Tuesday morning or end on Tuesday night. As many writers will know, the publication day is just one day of several events organised to launch a new book. So whereas the publication day itself may last only 24hours, the launch of a new book starts far earlier and lasts quite a bit longer.

For me it started on the day I received my advance copies of The Thief's Daughter in paperback. My experience will differ from other writers and their access to various promotional opportunities will vary depending how well known and successful they are. I can only share mine, so pull up a chair and I will share with you my experience ...

I think most writers will agree that the moment they see their novel in print for the first time is a very special moment. I captured my moment on video just so I could relive it when I wasn't in such a state of shock. I was also relieved they had arrived as I had a book launch event to plan.


Having never been to a book launch myself, I had no idea what it entailed and if anyone would even come. Thankfully it all turned out okay and I sold all of the advanced copies I had brought with me. 


As both novels are about women who face (and overcome) difficulties in their lives, I thought it was fitting to donate a portion of the proceeds from the event to a charitable organisation whose aim is to develop a girl’s potential in order to make a difference to the world – my local Brownies & Guides.


The day before the publication day, I received a lovely review of The Captain's Daughter from writer, reviewer and blogger, Jo Lambert, on her writer's blog. It was just what I needed as the nerves had started to set in. American novelist, Luanne Rice once said, "After 30 novels, release day is still a thrill. It's also a little bittersweet too." I understand what she meant as the books are now out in the big wide world, a bit like a child going to school for the first time. It is also about to be read by other people whose opinions really matter.


Publication Day finally arrived and I spent much of it celebrating the event online. Lots of friends, bloggers, readers and fellow authors sent congratulatory messages and helped me to spread the news. The "book world" is a lovely community, where friends are made and good news is shared. Writing can be quite a solitary career and this online community really helps to make one feel part of something very special.

Although publication day was over by the following day, the launch of the books continued. The day after I was heading for Truro to appear on the Debbie McCrory Show on Radio Cornwall. I have been a guest on Debbie's show once before and when she invited me back to talk about my next release, I jumped at the chance.


Two days after publication, I was hurtling down the road again in my second-hand Honda Jazz to the seaside town of Penzance to appear on Coast Afternoon with John Pestle on CoastFM. This radio program was a first for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. John and the team put me at ease and the 30 minute slot flew by. Thank you to CoastFM for allowing me to use their photograph.


The online blog tour had already kicked off by the time I was sitting down behind a microphone. It's a challenge to keep guest posts fresh and interesting, so I decided to talk about some of the important elements of writing a novel, choosing a particular one for each blog, with the odd fun blog post in-between. Here is the blog tour, if you would like to follow it.

Linda's Book Bag 05/10/2017
The perfect hero

Choc Lit 6/10/2017
The fourth character

Jaffareadstoo 11/10/2017
The perfect heroine

Morton S.Gray Blog 16/10/2017
The heroine of The Captain's Daughter sharing her secret thoughts

Jera's Jamboree 18/10/2017
Q&A

Portobello Book Blog 23/10/2017
The perfect antagonist

With Love for Books 30/10/2017
Talking about prejudice against the past

So the past few weeks have been busy and I look forward to putting up my feet. In the meantime, perhaps I should tell you a little about each book.

The Captain's Daughter


The Captain's Daughter was inspired by the kitchens and servants' quarters of Lanhydrock House, which is a National Trust property in Cornwall. I was also inspired by my visits to Bodmin's historic jail and court house. Both are wonderfully atmospheric buildings with a vast history behind them.

Book Blurb

Sometimes you need to discover your own strength in order to survive …

After a family tragedy, Janey Carhart was forced from her comfortable life as a captain’s daughter into domestic service. Determined to make something of herself, Janey eventually finds work as a lady’s maid at the imposing Bosvenna Manor on the edge of Bodmin Moor, but is soon caught between the two worlds of upstairs and downstairs, and accepted by neither, as she cares for her mistress.

Desperately lonely, Janey catches the attention of two men – James Brockenshaw and Daniel Kellow. James is heir to the Bosvenna estate, a man whose eloquent letters to his mother warm Janey’s heart. Daniel Kellow is a neighbouring farmer with a dark past and a brooding nature, yet with a magnetism that disturbs Janey. Two men. Who should she choose? Or will fate decide. 


Available to download from all eBook platforms.
Coming to audio at a future date.


The Thief's Daughter


The Thief's Daughter was inspired by Bodmin's debtors' prison and a rocky inlet on the North Cornish Coast, called Pepper Cove. The cove was named after the large quantities of spices smuggled into Cornwall during the 18th and early 19th century. It provided the perfect backdrop and plot for my characters to live through.

Book Blurb

Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …

Available to download from all eBook platforms.
Paperback available to order from Amazon and all good bookshops.
Coming to audio at a future date.

Thank you for my publisher, Choc Lit, and the Choc Lit Panel and Stars for bringing my novels to publication.
Also thank you to all the bloggers and reviewers who helped make the book launch a success. Finally, thank you to you for sharing in the celebrations of my double book launch by reading this post. I have enjoyed sharing my novels and book launch preparations with you.

Now where is the wine and soft fluffy socks? It's time I put those feet up for a rest!




Saturday, 30 September 2017

READING NON-FICTION - WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND? by Gill Stewart



One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year (I’m a great fan of NY Resolutions!) was to read more non-fiction. And I have definitely tried. Looking back at my Books Read list, so far this year I have read 18 non-fiction, which isn’t bad.  OK, my preference is still by far to read fiction (fiction books read stand at 104) but I’ve done better than last year when I only read 16 non-fiction in the whole year. And now it's autum. The trees are changing colour, the wind is howling and the days shortening. It's definitely the time to retire indoors and get more of that reading done. And to ensure that I read plenty of non-fiction, I've enrolled to do a Masters in Applied Economics. Of course, that's not the main reason for deciding to study further, but it is certainly influencing my reading.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of TomorrowBefore I started the course, my non-fiction choices were split roughly equally between biography and politics. My current favourites, if anyone is looking for a recommendation, are the engrossing biography of the six Mitford sisters, Take Six Girls, by Laura Thompson and the thought-provoking Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

Now, however, I’m being forced to venture into more academic books, to read things I wouldn’t necessarily choose for myself, and to read things that I know are going to be challenging. And – take a deep breath – I’m finding that this is a good thing! I’m enjoying having my brain stretched, being made to express myself with intellectual rigour, to source all the evidence I produce in an essay. It’s a great contrast to the way I normally write, which is to use my imagination, and to incorporate research in a way that suits the story rather than the facts (although facts are important, obviously).
Reading for the future?
This is only the beginning of a two-year course, so time will tell what influence it will have on me in the long run. I’m hoping that the contrasts between the two types of reading, and the two types of writing, will have a positive impact on my fiction. It’s certainly making for an interesting life!

If you were to recommend one non-fiction book, what would it be?