Carrbridge in Winter - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

Saturday, 22 April 2017

5 Brilliant Podcasts for Writers

I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to listening to podcasts but since discovering them, around 18 months ago, I’ve become a firm fan. Family and friends have grown used to me pressing home the joys of stumbling over a great new show.

But why do I love podcasts so much?

Because whatever my mood or writing problem, there’s a podcast which can help. Whether I’m searching for practical writing advice or marketing tips, interesting features, some much needed encouragement or simply wish to learn what’s ‘happening’ in the literary world right now, there’s a podcast that fits.

Don’t have time to listen to podcasts? Think again…

  •        Why not enjoy a new podcast when preparing dinner? It turns cooking into a pleasure rather than a chore - learning about the publishing industry whilst throwing together a bolognaise sauce.

  •         A podcast of a decent length helps quash the tedium of ironing. The Bestseller Experiment is one my favourites. I’ve popped more details and a link below.

  •         When heading off on a long journey, whether driving or going by train or plane, why not stock up on some interesting shows?

  •         Exercising – walking in the mountains, running in the park, hitting the treadmill in the gym, all are made easier when listening to a podcast.
I hope that as well as being informative, the podcasts I’ve chosen to share are also entertaining and fun. So here goes…


The Bestseller Experiment – length approximately 1 hour

In this weekly podcast, writer Mark Stay and trainee author Mark Desvaux, challenge themselves to write, edit, publish and market a self-published, bestselling eBook in just a year - and these guys are having a blast along the way.
Through interviews with publishing experts and bestselling authors, they discover the secrets of writing a bestselling novel.
Each one of the Bestseller Experiment podcasts offers gems of writing wisdom. If you’d like to sample a flavour of the show then I recommend episode 29 - Kate Harrison discussing writing both fiction and non-fiction, episode 24 - Liz Fenwick and the Crows of Doubt, along with episodes 03, 17 & 25 by the amazing multi-million selling indie author Shannon Mayer, and the latest instalment (at time of blogging), which features David Shelley, CEO of Little, Brown and Orion Books, who provides an insight into the future of publishing.
Also, if you sign up to receive a free weekly dose of the Bestseller Experiment, and I highly recommend you do, you’ll receive a free how to write a bestseller e-book, The Vault of Gold, which contains all the best hints and tips from the show. And did I mention it’s FREE!

The Creative Penn – length approximately 1 hour

The Creative Penn is the show that first got me hooked on podcasts. A definite must listen weekly treat for me! Shows are posted on Mondays by author and professional speaker, Joanna Penn, who is a positive powerhouse of creativity, describing herself as an author entrepreneur. The Creative Penn is an uplifting mix of author/publishing insider interviews, book marketing news, inspiration and information on writing and creativity, as well as reporting on new technologies in the fast-moving publishing world.

With a back catalogue of over 300 episodes to enjoy, I recommend you dive in and sample what The Creative Penn has to offer.

Also, when signing up to The Creative Penn podcast, be sure to download your FREE copy of the Author 2.0 Blueprint, which provides tips on how to write, publish and market your book.

 The Worried Writer – length approximately 45 mins

The Worried Writer is produced by best selling novelist, Sarah Painter, whose blurb for the show includes the tag line - Creative Writing for the Timid. Painter unearths useful tips and strategies for coping with fear, self-doubt and procrastination, through informative interviews with experienced authors, including Rachael Lucas, Catherine Ryan Howard, Miranda Dickinson, Annie Lyons and more. Painter’s focus is very much on how to get the job of writing done. She begins each podcast by answering a listener’s writing query, before moving on to interview her guest.

As well as producing the Worried Writer podcast, Painter has also recently published her self- help book for writers - Stop Worrying; Start Writing – one I already have on my TBR pile!

Grammar Girl – Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – length approximately 10-15 minutes

Grammar Girl is my go-to podcast when driving to the supermarket, or collecting teens from school. At 10-15 minutes, each episode is the perfect length for grabbing a grammarly (is that even a word?) workout.

If your memories of grammar lessons are dry and boring then never fear, Grammar Girl - otherwise known as Mignon Fogarty, who creates and hosts the show - specialises in providing quick and dirty grammar tips in a quirky and memorable way.

I already loved Grammar Girl’s posts on Facebook and Twitter, but listening to her podcast makes learning even easier. Grammar Girl provides tips for American English but I haven’t found this to be a problem as she also points out when British English might differ. A short and helpful podcast definitely worth a try.

BBC Radio 4 Books and Authors – length approximately 30 minutes

BBC Radio4’s Books and Authors podcast contains episodes of both Open Book and A Good Read. In Open Book, the journalist, Mariella Frostrup talks to authors about their work and in A Good Read, writer and broadcaster, Harriett Gilbert invites guests to discuss their favourite books. The Books and Authors podcast is my literary fix. It helps keep me up-to-date with what’s interesting in the publishing industry and stretches my reading as my TBR pile always grows after listening to one of these podcasts!

Please share your favourite podcasts too
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick round up and if you’ve yet to discover the delight of listening to podcasts, then I hope this post might inspire you to try one or two. And if you are already an enthusiastic podcast follower,  please join in by sharing your favourites below. 

Happy podcast listening,


Saturday, 15 April 2017


"Why do you watch this?" asked my husband. "They don't live in the real world. All they do is argue."

This is not the first time my husband has caught me watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I watched him do a U turn out of the room, leaving me to indulge in the American reality show. Despite his protest, he knows to leave me to it. Compromise is the secret to our 31 year old marriage and it is a valuable lesson we have both learnt over the years. However, he had a point. Why do I enjoy watching mega rich, beautiful women, falling out all the time? It is a waste of my precious time and it teaches me nothing ... yet I am hooked.

I know why. While I am watching the Housewives of Wherever Land betraying each other, I am escaping the stresses of the day job, my edits and my attempts to fill in the plot holes of my current project. I am having a rest from the promotional wheel and from worrying about the numerous conflicts in the world. I am not proud of my choice in television programs, but it is a guilty pleasure I enjoy.

A guilty pleasure is something that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard. Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), says "Indulging in some of your guilty pleasures can add years to your life. Whether it’s a “mental health day” off from work, a long bubble bath, nap, massage, chocolate croissant, or serving of tiramisu, treating yourself can bestow numerous health benefits -- especially if you strip away the guilt."

I sometimes think women's lives are ruled by guilt, either trying to avoid it or experiencing it. However, take heart as indulging in your guilty pleasure is thought to be beneficial and something to be encouraged. It allows one to take time out and put distance between oneself and the demands of the day. It helps to recharge those batteries and spreads a feeling of well-being without being too taxing. It might just be what you need to motivate or kick start that creative gene inside you.

So my advice is to give yourself permission to indulge in something that may not appear to have a direct benefit to your day job, or your chores, or your latest creative project, because in the long term it may just have more benefits than you can foresee.

I asked some fellow authors what their guilty pleasures were. I banned chocolate as I had a sneaking suspicion that 95% would choose the coco bean confectionery, besides I had a feeling there were more interesting guilty pleasures lurking in their lives. Below is what they confessed:-

Jennifer Bohnet Looking at expensive houses on the internet - that I can't possibly afford.
Jennifer Young A glass or two of red wine -- in bed -- with a good book, when my husband is away.
Gill Steward Lying on the bed for half an hour after lunch, reading.
Linda Michelmore Expensive lingerie
Rae Cowie Watching Gogglebox while eating Doritos
Morton S.Gray Shower Gels - I love to have a selection and get lots of my book ideas in the shower!
Janet Gover Say Yes to The Dress
Clare Chase Indulging in Youtube spirals (ie top of the pops The story of 1981...)
Chris Stovell Spotify Listenathons (music)
Sheryl Browne Binge watching Kiefer Sutherland and Game of Thrones ... and eating cupcakes.
Kathryn Freeman TV series Arrow on Sky 1
Angela Britnell Say Yes to the Dress
Georgia Hill Doctors on the TV and The Archers and standing in front of the bathroom mirror, holding a shampoo bottle and giving my Oscar acceptance speech
Lisa Hill Doc Martin
Bernie Stevens Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Lynda Stacey Watching the Gilmour Girls
Henriette Gyland Strong liquorice
Jan Brigden Made in Chelsea/Real Housewives of Cheshire and searching out and singing along to old skool/cheesy tunes via YouTube
Kirsty Ferry Celebrity gossip magazines
Christina Courtenay Reading until the early hours of the morning and Thor movies as often as I can
Rhoda Baxter Lego Friends sets
Anne Marie Brear American TV show, The Amazing Race
Amanda James Playing phone app games (songpop, words with friends, begewelled, blitz and cookie jam on Facebook
Jane Cable Shoulder massages
Liz Fenwick Playing Solitaire on my phone

Thank you to all those who were brave enough (and had the sense of humour), to share their guilty pleasures with us. Our guilty pleasures may vary, but at least we are all united in the idea that it is okay to take time out and do something which appears useless, but may have long term health and creative benefits ... or at least that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

As I climbed the stairs to go to bed, I listened to my husband flicking through the channels.
He stopped and settled himself deeper into the sofa cushions and started  to laugh quietly to himself. Curious, I retraced my steps to see what he was watching. It was Family Guy. Hhhmmm, a family that does not live in the real world and fall out all the time. Perhaps our guilty pleasures are not so very different after all!

Victoria Cornwall

Saturday, 8 April 2017


Boxes of inspiration?

One of the most infuriating things for me as a writer is when real life gets in the way of those precious minutes (hours?) I need to spend in front of my computer. I’m ‘in the zone’ and I have all the ideas and words ready in my head – and then life interrupts. I really resent the phone calls, chores, trips, etc, etc, that eat in to my valuable writing time. However, I’m trying to be a little more zen about this. I’m trying to Embrace The Interruption.

OK, I know I’m not going to manage that all the time, but there are definitely moments when a distraction from writing can be useful. Here are some examples of when it has turned out to be just what I needed:

  • That time I was driving to pick up one son from an after-school activity and paused at the traffic lights and saw a slim man in a leather jacket, hair pulled back in a pony-tail. He wasn’t exactly handsome but he was exactly who I needed to base the secondary hero of my current book on.
  • The maddening phone call that dragged me out of deep engrossment in a current w-i-p and made me lose my train of thought, but provided me with exactly the dialect I needed for a bit of local colour.
  • The rather unsettling visit by a neighbouring farmer who knocked on the door when I was home alone. The conversation provided me with a realistically aggressive male character. I rarely meet open aggression in my (very middle class) day-to-day life so you have to take it where you find it!
  • And my least favourite one (because we’ve moved house twice in the last 18 months): sorting through long-forgotten possessions, or possessions handed down from other family members. This is boring and time-consuming, but just occasionally I find a little something that gives me an ‘oh, there’s a story here!’ moment. It almost makes all the sorting worthwhile.

One thing that I try to do at all times is to have a notepad to hand, because you never know when one of these little interruptions/helpful inspirations will occur. I can’t count on my memory to retain them all, but a few words in a notepad are usually enough.

So that’s my advice for the day – make the most of those interruptions, and, if you get inspired, don’t forget to note it down.

Saturday, 1 April 2017


Back in 2002, when I was being considered for a cochlear implant, my ENT surgeon asked what I would like to do if he agreed to implant me that I couldn't do now. My reply was instant. I said,'I don't have grandchildren at the moment but if/when I do I'd love to be able to read to them and hear their little voices reading to me.' His reply was instant, too. 'Oh, I think I'll be able to manage that for you.' And he did. I now have two grandchildren, Alex and Emily. For a year now we have had them to stay every weekend and reading to them has become a big part of that. Alex is almost ten and a good reader. He's especially good at sight-reading and now he often reads to his class at school. Emily- aged five - is full of enthusiasm for the written word and has already written her first book! It's called The Three Penguins - cover artwork by Emily also!
I kept most of the books my own children had when they were young. I think I know just about all the Mr Men books off by heart. But I also pick up books in charity shops I think Alex and Emily will enjoy. One recent purchase (all of 50p and it's in hardback!) is The White Sea-Shell by Benno Pludra. This a translation from a Scandinavian language (not sure which) and has, as most children's books do, a moral theme. This one is about friendship but also about 'not giving up when the going gets tough'. Alex read this one aloud to me over four consecutive weekends which was a new experience for him as he had to remember what had gone before and pick up the thread. As this book isn't set in the UK there was a whole different lifestyle for Alex to learn about too.
When I saw The Lonely Scarecrow by Tim Preston (also in hardback and another 50p spent!) I had to buy it. The pages are embossed and I think Emily enjoys running her fingers over the tiny holly berries and the rabbits' footprints as much as she loves listening to the story. There is a poetic feel to the prose in this book and Alex has read this one aloud too, and we both enjoyed it for the clever use of language. 'From the north there came a fierce breeze. A sly breeze that stole the leaves from the trees and the light from the days. A sharp breeze that hurried the animals homewards to their warm burrows and cosy nests.'
So, there we have it - I'm doing my best to encourage the next generation of readers. It's a privilege.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pinterest Tips for Writers and Creatives

The NOVEL POINTS OF VIEW blog is now also on Pinterest! You can find us here. Below are our top tips and opinions on how to get the best out of this social media platform.

Jennie - I like making secret boards! I’ve made secret boards for inspiration at the beginning of my last three books. If I hit a block, I spend some time on the board looking at all the photos of the setting, the characters, the clothes they wear and I find it helps to get me back on track. Once I’ve written the book, the board goes public. I’ve also got a secret ‘Vision Board’ full of things that I either have in my life or would like. This link is not for a secret board (well it woudn’t be would it?) but it’s the one I turn to when I write my stories set in France.

Rae - Pinterest is one of my favourite social media platforms, as it’s the one I find most relaxing. Now there are two phrases I never thought I’d write in the same sentence – social media and relaxing. But it’s true. Pinterest doesn’t have the urgency of Twitter or produce the same guilt I feel when I miss liking posts on Facebook. Pretty pictures of nature and the world… tick. Inspirational quotes and writing tips… tick. Discovering fantastic authors and their bookshelves… tick. Like a good friend, Pinterest makes little demands. If I’m too busy to share, that’s ok, but it would be great if I could pop by. 
However, as well as being fun, I also find Pinterest useful. When beginning a project, I create a secret board then Pin anything and everything I think might be inspiring – views of the location, food, character pics, character clothing, encouraging quotes, blog posts, interesting websites etc.  I know authors who take this exercise a step further, revealing their secret WIP board when their novel is published, offering readers a sneak peak into the inspiration behind their work. Fantastic for nosy readers like me!

It’s an exciting step, venturing into Pinterest as a blog team, and it would be wonderful if our new Novel Points of View board proves valuable to someone too.

Victoria - When I write a novel, I have a cork board on the wall with images pinned to it of people who best resemble the characters in my story. It acts as a motivator and helps to keep my character's appearance stable. It is easy to start the novel with a brunette, but end it with a heroine having black hair! After the novel is complete the images are thrown away and a new set pinned up to represent my next novel. Pinterest enables me to keep a more permanent record of the images I have used, which in turn helps to prevent me from duplicating the appearance of a character I have used in a previous novel. Pinterest caters for more images than a cork board can hold so I can also include buildings, gardens, other characters and the fashion of the time. It is very satisfying to see the theme of the book emerge and it is a great way to introduce your book to potential readers. They can see, at a glance, the type of book it is without even turning a page. For a moment the reader can get inside the head of the writer, have a search around and get a feel for the book in a very visual way.

Jennifer - The best thing about Pinterest? My favourite thing about Pinterest? Hmmm…
Pinterest is a bit like one of those super-diets that your friends do. It’s a mighty success for them: they lose three stone and they tell you how easy it is, and you look at them, stunning and slim, and you think “gonna do that, all it takes is a bit of self-discipline”. 
You probably see where I’m going with this. It’s the self-discipline bit. I love Pinterest — when other people do it. I’d love to be able to use it as effectively as they do. I love its richness and its colour, though I’m not so keen on some of the things it thinks I might be interested in (I’ve never been a pipe smoker or a basket-weaver, thanks, Pinterest).
Pinterest has been on my to-do list for a long time, and I did once get as far as setting up my account. Now I’m going to have to buckle down and learn to be a Pinterest practitioner. Just now the best thing about it is watching other people do it well. And if I want a bit of that look-good-feel-good vibe…just like the weight loss, I’m going to have to be disciplined about it!  

Gill – I’ve been on Pinterest for over a year (as Gill-Marie Stewart) and have finally moved from the ‘what’s this all about’ phase to the ‘ah that’s how it works’ phase. My principle use is secret boards where I can save things relevant to my current project – or to possible multiple future projects. Having a separate board for each project is an easy way to keep the ideas from getting tangled up with each other. These ease of setting up a new board and the easy way most things on the internet now let you ‘pin’ things is ideal for this.
Having a joint board for our blog is going to take some getting used to. But then that’s true about all things on social media!

Neil - Although there is a Neil Donald Photography Pinterest page it is Audrey that has set that up so I will hand over to her:
I have struggled to get to grips with Pinterest in the past. However, having taken my time to have a look around the site I am slowly getting to grips with it.  I enjoy losing myself in the travel blogs, mentally adding to my must visit list. Neil often receives a nudge when I find a photograph that piques my interest. 
Uploading a selection of Neil's photographs onto Pinterest provides another platform for people to view them and introduce his work to a new audience. See Not My Castles for an example.

Linda - Pinterest is a whole new learning curve for me. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, onto Facebook and Twitter but have seen (and reaped!) the benefits of those in my writing life. So, there’s no reason I won’t come to love Pinterest in time .... I hope!