Carrbridge in Winter - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography





Saturday, 31 December 2016

THE START OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE by Victoria Cornwall


A big hello and welcome to our newest member Victoria Cornwall. Once again we’re the Not-So-Secret-Seven! We're delighted to welcome Victoria and can't wait to find out a bit more about her. Over to you Victoria.

Thank you for the lovely welcome. As it is New Year's Eve it is not surprising that my first blog post is about the day. New Year’s Eve feels the same as any other day to me … until the sun goes down and the last hours of the year fade away with each chime of the clock. I often feel like I am standing on a precipice of something new and exciting, yet equally fearful that the coming year may not be all that I hope it will be. It is not unusual to have such thoughts in one’s life and find ourselves reflecting, or looking to the future, with a quizzical smile on our face. I have found indulging in a glass or two of wine will often bring such musings to the fore.

So what is in store for us in 2017? Well, I know Novel Points of View will feature in my future a little more than it has done in the past, because I offered (or was I invited) to join the blog as a regular poster. It happened at a party, over a glass of wine and against a noisy backdrop. The exact details of the conversation are somewhat hazy (probably because I was on my second glass), but I saw an opportunity that seemed too good to ignore and my inner self (who is more extrovert than my outer self) screamed “do it”. Perhaps now is a good time to introduce myself.

My name is Victoria Cornwall, which is a very apt name as I grew up on a farm in Cornwall and still live in the county today. I like to write Cornish based historical novels. I have not always been a writer; in fact it came rather late in my life. Originally, I worked as a nurse, a career which lasted for twenty-five years. Eventually, I left the NHS and took a job which gave me more time to write, something I had always wanted to do. To my surprise my initial attempts at writing were short listed for the U.K.’s New Talent Award and twice nominated for the RONÉ Best Indie or Small Published Book Award, U.S.A.

In 2016, I signed with Choc Lit, an independent publisher of
romantic fiction. My debut novel, The Thief’s Daughter, will be published as an eBook on the 3rd January, 2017. I like to write books which have a strong background story, but at the centre is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone. I am married, have two grown up children and a devoted, dopey dog, called Alfie, who has an insatiable appetite for anything that can be swallowed.

I think that is enough about me and my writing journey so far. 2017 is looming at my door with a sack of surprises for me. I know what I hope will happen in 2017, i.e. the release of my book, but for the most part the next phase of my journey through life is largely unknown to me, despite the plans I have made.

For all of us, the coming year will be littered with opportunities (which we should grasp with both hands), people (some of which might just become our new best friend) and good luck, (which we all deserve from time to time). I won’t dwell on the bad things that might happen as I try to be a half full, positive type of gal. Anyway, there will always be the Novel Points of View blog to dip in and out of during the coming months to cheer me.

So if you feel like I do at the start of a new year, excited, but a little fearful of what it might bring, don’t worry. Just turn around and you will see the rest of the world are standing beside you too, having the same hopeful thoughts and feeling the same fears, and you will realise that you are not alone. So get ready to grab those opportunities coming your way, meet those people who want to be your friend and accept any luck that comes out of the blue, because you deserve it.




Happy New Year from us all at Novel Points of View!


What mixture of feelings do you feel at the start of a new year?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

5 WAYS TO ENJOY A HAPPY, HYGGE CHRISTMAS …


Everywhere I’ve turned this festive season there’s been mention of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) - the Danish way of living that brings happiness into the everyday. Book store shelves are groaning with hygge instructional manuals (I’ve bought a few!), magazine articles complete with arty photographs show us the perfect way to create a hygge home, radio phone-ins debate whether it’s even possible to be British and enjoy hygge in all its fullness.

The Art of hygge - one of the most
practical instructional manuals
 Now although I adore Christmas, both the original nativity story as well as the excitement and razzle-dazzle it brings, I’m someone who thrives during the sunshine months and can find the dark winter days draining. As I write this, many readers may still be in the throws of preparing the Christmas meal, welcoming family and friends, wrapping, or perhaps even buying festive gifts. It’s a busy time of year and so anything that helps keep our happiness quotient high is perhaps worth giving a go.

But what exactly is hygge?


First off, I should make clear that I’m not Danish and have no connections to Denmark, but living in the north-east corner of Scotland means the natural landscape around me is very similar. We share the same long dark winter days, along with easy access to stunning sandy beaches and woodland trails.

Being a writer, one of the first things I do when researching is to read around a subject, and according to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge, hygge is about ‘… the pursuit of everyday happiness.’ Hygge is about good times and nourishing the soul. Count me in!

So here’s 5 quick and easy ways to enjoy a Happy Hygge Christmas

1) Light -

Especially in the form of flickering candles, twinkling fairy lights or crackling open fires - all particularly good at helping create that warm hygge feeling. As well as buying a truckload of candles, I’ve also pinched this idea for fairy-light lanterns from Jonny Jackson & Elias Larsen’s The Art of Hygge.
My fairy lantern creations
Simple instructions:
Take 1 large mason jar and fill with 1 string of LED battery-operated fairy lights, covering the battery pack with a piece of hessian – and hey presto – you’re very own handmade piece of hygge. I’ve made several for friends…

2) Cake

Red velvet cake
For many, indulgent foodie treats play an important part at Christmas-time which is great as they also play a significant role in helping to create that contented hygge feeling too. We’re talking mugful’s of mulled cider, steaming bowls of nutritious soup, hot chocolate with a splash of your favourite tipple after a stomp around the park. Enjoying a hygge moment means it’s ok not to count calories. Instead, enjoy a little of what you fancy - in moderation.

3) Books

Spending time curled up with a great book, in your favourite corner or nook, with only a mug of coffee or tea for company, is also regarded as being particularly hygge. No wonder I fell in love with the concept…

4) Warm Socks and Blankets

Forget dressing to impress. Hygge is all about dressing to be comfortable and to relax. Wearing soft, cosy socks whilst chilling with family and friends – playing games, listening to music or watching a movie cuddled under a blanket will all help generate that happy hygge feeling.

5) Friends -

The festive season is a traditional time to catch up with family and friends. Why not try adopting the hygge principle of remaining in the moment by switching off mobile phones and unplugging from social media for a while? Research has shown that giving time to others helps foster that tender, fuzzy feeling of belonging which in turn helps fend off winter blues. 
Christmas meet-up with the
Writers' Room collective


So what does all this have to do with creativity?

The most important lesson I’ve learned whilst devouring all things hygge, is to make time to notice and enjoy small pleasures – the warm tingle of spices on the tongue with the first sip of mulled wine, feeling tired muscles relax when making time for a scented bubble bath, lighting candles for dinner with the family. Remaining in the moment can be hard at times, but has proven to be particularly nourishing for the creative soul.  

December is traditionally a busy month, when finding time to think about being creative may prove hard. Hygge encourages being gentle on yourself – enjoying nature, spending time with friends, making time to relax. All helpful in refilling the creative well, so when we do eventually emerge from the festive celebrations we feel relaxed, refreshed and raring to go!  

If you’re interested in learning more about Hygge, then you may wish to have a look at my Warming Hygge Tips Pinterest board… 

But before you go, may I take this opportunity on behalf of everyone on the Novel Points of View blog team to wish our wonderful band of loyal readers a very happy, healthy and hygge-filled festive season…

Monday, 19 December 2016

Fun Time in Dublin by Gill Stewart




The Liffey, Dublin

Writing is a solitary occupation, isn’t it? And writers are quiet, reserved people, right? Well, it’s true that we do spend an awful lot of time alone – or alone with our characters. But occasionally we get together and when we do it’s a treat. To meet other writers! To talk – and I mean TALK – about writing. And about lots and lots of other things too. And eat. And drink. Yes, writers certainly know how to party.

This was proved yet again on the amazing mini-cruise organised by my agent, Kate Nash Literary Agency. Ten of us, some with partners, set off from Liverpool docks on Friday. We started with a Very Important Business Meeting (of course). Then had a fantastic meal that we enjoyed so much we had to be gently encouraged to leave the restaurant … Then some of us took a walk around the deck. Going along those narrow bits in the dark was surprisingly scary. Definite plot possibilities for those who write crime and horror. And while a few of us then faded, others went on to join the quiz and enjoy the midnight buffet. As someone who had never been on a cruise before, I didn’t even know midnight buffets existed!

Naomi Morris outside the magnificent GPO
 Saturday morning was spent wandering around Dublin with the lovely Naomi Morris. It’s a lovely compact city centre, very busy this close to Christmas, and with some great traditional buildings (the GPO, above) and quite peculiar new monuments (the spire, below). Then, in the afternoon, it was party time again when we met up with the RNA Irish Chapter and talked some more about … writing.
The spire (or spike) which we managed to miss on first walking past!
 I can’t believe the whole experience lasted less than 48 hours. It was like being in another world, meeting old and new friends, having everything done for you, eating and drinking loads. Oh, and talking. Did I mention the talking?

What made this a particularly fun experience was not just being with other writers but learning from them – how and when they write, their genres, their dealings with publishers, their successes (and tribulations). I arrived home just a little tired but also very enthused. Thanks to Kate Nash, Sue Fortin, Bella Osbourne, Terri Nixon, Louisa Heaton, Jane Lovering, Nina Kay, Virginia Heath and Naomi Morris.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

LOVELY GRUB .........................................by Linda Mitchelmore

Well, there's no avoiding it. Try as I might to pretend it isn't happening Christmas is nearly here; that time of excess in the culinary department ... and in the liquid refreshment department, too. All that said, I don't go mad with either. Honest.
But this blogpost has got me thinking and I've realised how often I set a short story around characters who are in a cafe or a restaurant - and once on a train in the dining car - remember those? Two friends who meet for coffee is my favourite 1000 word short story situation. One will have a problem which the other will help (often without knowing it) sort while they drink cappuccinos and nibble on pecan danish (anyone who regularly reads my short stories will probably realise I have an over-fondness for pecan danish!). Food always features in some form because it brings the senses together, in my view - the look of it, the smell of it, the taste of it, the feel of it, even the crunch of crumbs can be feature in there. I've just said it will be two friends who meet, but sometimes it is sisters, or a couple who are having a bit of time apart. I've even set a story around strangers who end up having to share a table.
One of my favourite stories to write had a deeper feel to it. Four friends hadn't met for a while - well, three of them had but the fourth had been avoiding the group because her son was in prison. But when she did eventually find the courage to see her friends for lunch (lots of lovely description in there about Italian food!) she found their love and friendship saw her through the darkest days. So, see, it's not just romance that floats my boat.
So, without further ado, while our minds are on lovely grub and Christmas and sharing with loved ones, here's a cocktail for you - cake batter martini - how can you not? HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Favourite Festive Reads - 2016

Well this must surely be one of the most diverse joint blog posts we’ve ever produced! Christmas is all about accepting everyone into the fold and boy we’ve gone wide with our favourite Christmas reads.
From new writing, fresh off the press, to nostalgic choices, which we hope might jog some happy memories too. We’d love if you might share some of your own personal favourites…
   

Rae - It was impossible for me to select only one festive read, so have limited myself to two!

One of my 2016 reading resolutions was to read more short stories and so was delighted to discover that four pieces, originally written for newspapers and magazines, by PD James have been made into a collection entitled The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. PD James was a master of setting and characterisation and her writing very much reminds me of illicit evenings spent under the bedcovers reading Agatha Christie by torchlight. This collection is perfect if you are short on time, but still wish to enjoy pitting your wits against a fantastic crime writer.


I really struggled with my second choice as there are so many
sparkling Christmas reads out there (and so many pretty covers to enjoy). So I've opted to share one which I hope to find tucked in my stocking on Christmas morning - Christmas Under The Stars by Karen Swan. Set in Banff, amongst the majestic snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, I was immediately drawn to its location, as I was lucky enough to visit Banff a couple of summers ago and adored its alpine feel. (I also live not far from Banff - Scotland!) It's the story of couples, of tragedy, of secrets, of jealousy and love. If I'm unable to celebrate Christmas in the Canadian Rockies, then enjoying Christmas Under The Stars sounds like the next best thing. Happy reading!


Gill - I’m going to choose 2 books for this – the first came out only a few weeks ago, the second was practically the first book I ever fell in love with and it was old even then. So, quite a contrast! My first choice is Stella’s Christmas Wish by Kate Blackadder. I’ve read Kate’s short stories and serials before but this is her first full-length novel and it’s truly lovely. Family problems, a gorgeous Scottish setting (of course!) and a great love story. To me it felt like a modern-day D E Stevenson novel, and I can’t praise anything much higher than that.

My second selection is actually a children’s book, but one I return to year after year at Christmas-time, like many other Chalet School fans. It is Jo Of The Chalet School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, and contains one of the most perfect
evocations of a traditional Christmas ever. It is set in Austria in the 1920s but the warmth of the characters and the beautiful snow-filled setting are timeless. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it!


Neil - The other half Audrey has taken the reins for this one... over to you Audrey.

Audrey - I must admit I have never knowingly bought or read a festive story since becoming an adult, so this week I received a £2 thank you credit from Amazon.

I decided to be brave and try an E-Book that I could read on my phone, and if that wasn't enough, I
downloaded The Cosy Christmas Teashop by Caroline Roberts.

It wasn't until I scrolled through reviews that I discovered this was the second in a series, however it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the read.

Ellie the main character has breathed life into the teashop at Claversham Castle, expanding her business into wedding cakes and planning. The descriptions of delicious cakes in the teashop will have you reaching for the biscuit tin. I read the majority of this whilst sitting in a coffee shop, so the ambient noise added to Roberts wonderful descriptions of the tearoom. This novel was filled with the just the right amount of Christmas cheer, along with a few weddings and the emotional ups and downs that these bring. The Cosy Christmas Teashop was a fantastic introduction to festive reads.

Merry Christmas, when it comes… Audrey

Jennifer - I’m not a seasonal person. Not that I don’t like Christmas — far from it — but I don’t feel obliged to do everything in a particularly Chrismassy way. You’re more likely to find a summer fruit pavlova on our table on 25 December than a Christmas pudding, and I’m as likely to wear tinsel in summer as in winter.

That applies to reading, too. Over the year I’ve been building up a to-be-read pile so long that it’s a mercy it’s on a Kindle, because I certainly don’t have room for it on my bookshelves. But because it’s been accumulated over so long, there’s no real seasonality about it. I won’t be tucking into A Christmas Carol for the umpteenth time, just because it’s December. 

But I will read. I will read at times I never normally read. I’ll sit down after breakfast with a book. I’ll
read if I wake up unusually early. I’ll read while everyone else is sitting through Love, Actually. And I won’t get through the long list of books, but I’ll make a dent. So, in no particular order, here are just some of the ones I hope to tick off my list:

The Bowes Inheritance by Pam Lecky
The Family at Farrshore by Kate Blackadder
A Way From Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax
The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains by Brevet Col J C Fremont 
Courting the Countess by Anne Stenhouse
The Last Dreamseer by Katy Haye
The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Linda - I'm going off piste with my choice of  'Christmas Reads'. I have yet to have a Christmas where I have time to read much beyond the TV listings even though I doze off in front of what I've chosen
anyway. So.... I've gone for children's Christmas stories, which I do find a window of time to read aloud.  My first choice is Raymond Briggs' classic Father Christmas. My copy is rather dog-eared and the white of the cover and the pages rather less than that now. I bought it for my own children and I now read it to my grandchildren. What I - and they - love is the cartoon-strip way the story is told. The artwork is as good as the writing (imho!!) There is minimal dialogue, which means that the children are happy to have a stab at reading it by themselves. I like that Father Christmas has not one, not two, not three, but four (!!!) bottles of wine on his Christmas dinner table. Well, he would need a stiff drink after all that present-delivering worldwide, wouldn't he?

My other choice is a thick card book, written in rhyme (sort of, more doggerel really) which my five-year-old granddaughter
will happily look at any time of the year. The artwork is simple but bright and very engaging for a child. I've been known to read this one six or seven times in a row.... thank goodness there are only fourteen pages! And my excuse for choosing these over the hundreds of Christmas novels and novellas there are out there is that Christmas is for children. We have to make the time magical for them, I think, and that doesn't mean being swamped with expensive presents. What could be better than snuggling up with Grandma under a fleecy blanket, listening to a story, munching on Christmas chocolate?

Please don't be shy, we'd love to hear what will make it to the top of your festive reading pile... from all at Novel Points of View