Saturday, 3 December 2022

Finding Books in Spain

 

We’re spending a few months touring Spain in a motorhome, my husband and I. This is the third time we’ve done this, and it’s such a wonderful way to escape England’s grey, drizzly winter days. He’s retired and I can write anywhere, so we’re lucky to be able to do it.

Away from home, away from the TV – of course we end up reading a lot. We both have Kindles but we also read paperbacks. One thing we’ve discovered is that it’s amazingly easy to find English-language books to read while away in Spain, particularly while on the Costas.

There are a lot of northern Europeans who, like us, seek out the warmth of southern Spain for winter. British and Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Swiss and Dutch people in abundance. And all bring books with them and then need more to read later in their trips.

In the larger supermarkets, such as Carrefour’s hypermarkets, you can buy books in various languages. All the big name authors will be represented, but you’ll be paying a premium for these books – no discounts at all!

Alternatively some street markets will have stalls selling second hand books for about a euro each. I’ve spent plenty of time happily browsing what’s available there, and yes, I’ll admit, I always check if any of my own books have made it out to Spain! (Never spotted one yet.)




Another option is to use the various book-swap facilities around. Many campsites will have a few shelves of books in various languages, and I’ve also seen them in coffee shops or just in tiny huts in town squares. The deal is you leave one, and take another. Some volumes look as though they’ve been kicking around Spain for years, being passed on over and over again.

One campsite I know well closed down its bookshelves during the Covid crisis. Even so, long term campsite residents found ways to pass on books. When read, a book would be left by the communal washing up sinks. You could guarantee it’d be picked up by someone else within a day.

I’ve found that reading books from book-swaps has introduced me to new authors. There’s a limited choice, of course, which will force you out of your reading comfort zone and get you to try something new. Also, campsite friends of various nationalities have passed interesting books on to me – the quirky but compelling books of Carlos Ruiz Zafon for example, and The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting was given to me by a Norwegian friend who’d read it both in Norwegian and English. (And oh wow, what a fabulous book that was!)

So now when we come to Spain for the winter, we bring a selection of paperbacks that we know we’ll be happy to pass on when read. And we’ll keep our minds open as to what we’ll pick up in exchange for them!



Sunday, 6 November 2022

WRITE YOUR NEXT CHAPTER... CAREER COACHING FOR CREATIVES

Space and time are luxuries most authors crave, but being around writing friends and other creatives can also be hugely inspiring. So, when I was invited to join eight women on a pilot creative coaching programme, of course I said ‘yes’, chuffed to be offered such an opportunity...  but then immediately wondered what exactly I had signed up for!



WHAT IS COACHING? 

I can only share my experience and have no expertise in the field, but the main tool used in sessions was ACTIVE LISTENING. A handy skill for writers too! Tanya Paget of Ellipsis Coaching was warm and friendly, immediately putting me at my ease. The initial focus was on beliefs and goal setting, which helps creatives work through issues in their personal and/or professional lives. Tanya’s business strapline is Write your next chapter... How could I resist! 

Tanya’s fundamental belief is that individuals are creative, resourceful and whole – meaning we have the knowledge to make the changes needed to gain whatever we seek in our lives –balance, confidence, more sleep, the ability to say ‘no’... the list goes on! 

Tanya Paget of Ellipsis Coaching


WHAT IT’S NOT... 

Coaching isn’t therapy. It tends to be goal-focused, looking forward, helping clients identify and work towards next steps. 

WHO WAS INVOLVED?

GROUP SESSIONS 
As I mentioned, part of the pilot coaching project included group sessions with eight fantastically creative women, who were an absolute joy to get to know. Confidentiality is key to these sessions, but I can say that the diverse range of creative disciplines in the room really added to the fun.

INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS 
We were also offered individual sessions, which either took place over Zoom, or as a walking consultation, when there was time to drill down into what I wished to achieve and what was holding me back. Through gentle, incisive questioning, Tanya explored how barriers could be removed, helping me take small steps that have made a big difference. (In amongst new business goals, I now make time for Yoda Nidra – check out Ally Boothroyd’s FREE meditation sessions on You Tube here

Balance Stones


WHERE DID SESSIONS TAKE PLACE? 

I opted for Zoom sessions and was a little concerned that such personal conversations might be awkward on screen, but this wasn’t the case as I quickly forgot that Tanya was in a different location. We also enjoyed a group session at Greenbrae Steading, Hopeman, a co-working space with a log-burning stove and spectacular views over the Moray Firth – a real treat. (A brilliant space for writing workshops too).

Greenbrae Steading's fabulous workshop space


WOULD I RECOMMEND COACHING FOR CREATIVES? 

Would I recommend coaching for creatives? Absolutely! I now understand how coaching helps individuals make time to think about their life, career, business, and clarify what should happen next.

Is career coaching an approach that could be used by publishing houses to support their authors  – particularly during such uncertain times? It's an interesting thought.

I would like to thank M:ADE (Moray Arts, Development, Engagement) for funding such a useful initiative.

Finally, just as important as the personal growth I experienced, was spending time with such an interesting, supportive, creative circle of women who love to laugh and share. I wish them all happiness and an abundance of creative success as they begin their next exciting chapter. 





Friday, 30 September 2022

Living and Writing in York

 

Or in Yorkshire.

We retired to York 9 years ago for many non-writing reasons, but basically because we loved the city. However, it wasn't until I got the writing bug and started exploring the area that I realized how remarkable the County was! I mean, ANY county that produces the Bronte sisters, James Herriot, JB. Priestley, WH Auden, Alan Bennett, Val Wood, Kate Atkinson, Laurence Sterne, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Frances Brody, Ava Manelo, Jane Lovering, K LShandwick and Leah Fleming has to have something special going for it.


Of course, in terms of novels actually SET in York, I give you the amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, with its very Gothic presentation of the city. Going back in time, Bernard Cornwell had York – or Jorvik, feature in many of his Uhtred novels! York is such a compact city you can walk around the encircling walls in an hour – and many of the streets have changed little over the last thousand years.


No piece discussing Yorkshire and its writers could be complete without mentioning the fabulous Milly Johnson - who was presented with the Rishard Whiteley Award for giving outstanding inspiration to others within the County.



If you are in the mood for Historical fiction (or fact), a walk around the city can give you a host of plot ideas! As can the city pubs! Ghosts abound – as do real-life characters like Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin and Anne Lister.



Come at the right time of year, and you could find the Romantic Novelists Associationtion hosting an event there too. Recently they have been holding them in the Merchant Taylors Hall. In addition, you may find a writers' conference being held at York University.

Of course, all the attractions bring a downside too. A local paper ran a piece recently entitled "Death by Hen-Party". York being a central transport hub, Friday about 3 pm., the arriving trains start to decant groups of jeunesse dorée all determined to have a good time. To be fair, they are mostly harmless, and there is usually room for everyone.

York's other claim to fame is, of course, chocolate! Terry's and Rountree's were the big players in the chocolate markets of the Victorian era.











Like many chocolate makers of the era, they were Quakers and had a very paternalistic attitude to their workforce. However, they are STILL significant players in the property market. Rowntrees even built a theatre for their workers, and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is in vibrant and popular use today.

When writer's block strikes, take a stroll, think back and imagine these very stones being trodden by King Richard III. You can literally walk in their footsteps. Towton, Stamford Bridge, Marston Moor and Fulford, some of the most infamous and bloody battles fought in England, have been fought here!

Finally – a word about hedgehogs! Our local ones seem to have gone into hibernation already. This is early but not exceptional. We have at least three who regularly visit us and seem to come back every spring.



Hedgehogs from earlier this year.

We are STILL putting the food and camera out – just in case. As it happens, we live next door to an old orchard with a large area of the untended garden. Heaven for hedgies – and they have a hedgehog highway through to our garden. My expert advisor for hedgies, Toni Burrell, says they only take about 15% of their food from what we put out – they get the bulk of their diet from what they forage.

Winter is definatly approaching. It is noticably cold at night, and the nights aare drawing in. Hibernating sounds like a good idea (if only!) Take care over the winter, and curl up with several good books. Hopefully, by the time spring comes around they will be joined by one or more of your OWN books!

Friday, 2 September 2022

Change of Seasons

 As I write this, I'm enjoying the final warm days of summer, but I've noticed that the nights are already drawing in and it's dark by nine o'clock.

Although I love the warm summer months (and we've been more than blessed this year!) there is something enticing about autumn. The first whisper of the cold weather to come, closing curtains as the evening falls and curling up with a good book. There are some advantages to living in a country with so many months of long, dark hours when we can be holed up in our homes making our way through a teetering 'to be read' pile.

And I find that what I read changes with the seasons. During the summer I like to read novels that reflect my life at that time, so holidays, sunshine, village fetes and days out. I absolutely love anything involving a coastal location and a big multi-generational family staying in a vast holiday home. I can feel the tension seeping out from between the pages before I've even opened it! I want to be transported somewhere warm with cocktails and sun-loungers and definitely no work - the summer of my dreams, but never my reality!

So, as we move into autumn and the children are going back to school (collective sigh of relief from parents across the country, including myself) I'm looking at my bookcase and putting away the summer novels to start reading something more suitable for the new season.

Whilst I do absolutely love them, I try and save the Christmas books for reading in December (I must stop myself from diving in too early!), so for my autumn reading I turn to darker, slightly mystical books. The sort of slightly spooky, gothic books usually with a historical element or dual timeline that needs to be read in front of a roaring log fire. Just as sitting in the sun adds to the mood when I'm reading a holiday novel, sitting in the dark with the lamp lit, is perfect for reading something atmospheric.

I've pulled out some of the books that are at the top of my 'tbr' pile and I am ready to dive into; I've just finished reading a review copy of Jenni Keer's 'The Legacy of Halesham Hall' so I don't have a copy of that (yet!) but it was brilliant, everything I love in a book for the turn of the seasons - twists and turns, gothic and deliciously dark!

Roll on the autumn nights, my books and I are ready to embrace them!



Friday, 5 August 2022

Hooray! Hooray! For the RNA!

Last month the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association conference was held at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. The pandemic meant the 2020 and 2021 conferences couldn’t take place, so for many of us, this gathering of romance writers was extra special and eagerly anticipated.

Notepad at the ready...


For four blissful days, I was surrounded by my tribe – people who were passionate about writing and, specifically, championing the romance genre. The conference has long been a highlight of my year: a chance to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and mingle with industry professionals. At Harper Adams, both the accommodation and the food are always top notch, and it was my privilege to share a flat with Clare Marchant, Rosie Hendry, Ian Wilfred, Nancy Peach, Kate Smith, Annette Hannah and Debbie Johnston. (What happens at the kitchen party, stays at the kitchen party – right guys!)


A kitchen gathering.

The long weekend is jam-packed full of lectures and panels, with barely a moment to catch your breath. Highlights for me were the talk by Elizabeth Chadwick, a panel on pitching your book to editors, TikTok and Instagram talks, the legend that is Charlotte Ledger, and various talks about diversity and inclusion. I also got to meet my amazing agent, Hannah Schofield of LBA Books, for the first time, as I had signed with her during the pandemic. She’s a real industry superstar, fantastically supportive of romantic fiction, and definitely one to watch.


Myself and the amazing Hannah Schofield

The RNA runs an amazing New Writers’ Scheme to support emerging romance writers. NWS members receive a critique of their manuscript and the opportunity to attend RNA events. Every year, graduates from this scheme are put forward for the Joan Hessayon Award, and this year the awards took place just before the Gala Dinner at the conference. The shortlist was overflowing with talent and the winner was Suzie Hull for her delightful debut “In This Foreign Land”. Congratulations, Suzie. I can highly recommend the book. Link below:

mybook.to/InThisForeignLand

But what I love most about the conference is the things you learn over snatched cups of coffee and late night kitchen parties. THIS is where close friendships are forged, some serious networking takes place, and snippets of publishing gossip are shared. I finally got to chat properly to the very lovely Jessica Redland (after taking her on a magical mystery tour of the campus at midnight… oh, okay, yes, I got us both lost). I had a long overdue hug with my dear friend Mick Arnold, and Morton Gray shared useful underwear tips! But with 240 attendees, I couldn’t possibly shout out to all the wonderful people I talked to in those surprisingly short four days, but suffice to say, I returned home absolutely bouncing and brimming with new ideas. It was a time for me to reflect how much joy our genre brings to people, and gave me the confidence to continue writing what I love.


My book in the bookshop!

A panel about the modern protagonist

Ian Wilfred - who grinned for 4 solid days!

I packed the essentials.

With Elizabeth Chadwick

Diane Saxon - you little beauty!

Roll on summer 2023.

Jenni x




Sunday, 3 July 2022

A Novel Point of View?

Schools in Argyll and Bute finished for the summer holidays yesterday, so at one o’clock I found myself singing my annual rendition of Alice Cooper’s Schools Out for Summer, although with a little less enthusiasm than I perhaps used to when I was a classroom teacher. At least I have six weeks ahead of me without an alarm going off at seven in the morning even if I do have to entertain my kids more often!

sunset on a loch. sky in shades of orange and yellow. woman in pink sea-kayak in middle ground on calm water.


As soon as the girls were home, they wanted to go to the beach and, as it was too choppy for the paddle boards, they went swimming while I took my kayak out. After a rather dodgy attempt to get into it, I finally managed without either capsizing or being washed up onto the beach. I did, however, discover that my plan to paddle leisurely up and down the shoreline was simply not going to happen. The waves were high enough that the safest option was to head directly into them at ninety degrees, then turn as quickly as possible and head back to shore the same way. (The photos were taken on better days!)

a sunny day looking onto the shore of Loch Long. The water is pale blue and a rolling hill is in the distance.
This meant that I found myself further out into the sea-loch than I usually go, giving me a different perspective of the peninsula I live on. This idea of looking at the place I am so familiar with from a different point of view (a novel point of view?) has always been intriguing to me. It was when I discovered that there had been a Viking fort on the site of a friend’s house, and human remains found in my parent’s garden (in Victorian times — thankfully I didn’t have to even consider the possibility of Mum having buried someone under the patio — maybe I'll save that idea for a future book…) that I thought about setting a Viking series here.

a sunny day looking onto the shore of Loch Long. The water is pale blue and a rolling hill is in the distance.

So little is known about the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde that it doesn
’t often feature in novels and it’s divided from modern Scotland by language — they most likely spoke Brythonic or Cumbric, a language closer to modern Welsh than modern Gaelic — but nevertheless, there are remnants throughout the area of links with the Norsemen if you know where to look. (Knockderry, Luss, Carrick Golf Course, Dumbarton Rock and Govan, to name but a few.) These remnants may not add up (yet) to a significant relationship between the two peoples, so I have kept these interactions minimal in my novels, but there are enough to suggest that there was definitely some level of significant contact.
A sunny day looking onto the shore of Loch Long. The water is pale blue and a rolling hill is in the distance.


It’s not until you are actually out there on the loch that you see the water as forming a connection, rather than it being a division. Places that are far distant by road suddenly become the closest town. People that you would be unlikely to meet on land suddenly become the very people you are most likely to bump into. The long fingers of the peninsulas that form the northern banks of the Firth of Clyde suddenly become accessible to one another, rather than separated by hundreds of miles of long, narrow, winding roads.
An expansse of calm blue water with a sliver of dark land just above the mid-point. A single white sailed yacht sits in the centre.

Perhaps this is something writers always do — distance themselves from places and people and perhaps even themselves — so that they can tell these other stories, but I think, for me, anyway, that it’s more pronounced when writing historical fiction. Looking back at the landscape in front of me from far out on the water, I imagined what it would have looked like then. There would, of course, have been the same basic bare bones of the landscape, but what areas would have been attractive to live on? Where had the best access to the sea-loch and streams? Where is the flattest land for building? What would those buildings look like? Sadly, my artistic skills don’t extend to me drawing an image, so I have to use words and hope that readers can picture it roughly the way I have — or maybe that doesn’t matter? Maybe it’s okay for them to picture it their own way?

a viking man embrcing a woman with long dark hair in a flowing white dress. the bottom of the cover shows a snow-covered landscape.

Our new schedule for the Novel Points of View blog has meant that, rather serendipitously, I have ended up being the one to blog the weekend prior to the release of book three of my series. The Viking’s Princess Bride will be released on Tuesday July 5th. Thanks to various delays, it’s not particularly seasonal as it’s set at Imbolc in early February and features the two main characters snowbound in a shieling high on the moors. Shielings were dwelling houses used primarily by women during the summer when they took the sheep up onto the moors to give them access to richer grasslands. This is Scotland, however, so I’m not going to jinx our summer weather by saying that the presence of snow indicates that the events couldn’t happen in July!

I hope everyone has a lovely summer and sees the sun at least once or twice!

Mairibeth

Sunday, 12 June 2022

TIME FOR CHANGE...


Hello reading friends!

Over the many years the Novel Points of View blog has been running, team members have loved sharing and connecting with readers. However, as the social media landscape has grown, placing added pressure to keep up on both readers and team members, the time for change has come and posts will be monthly (rather than weekly) from now on.

We are also saddened to share that team stalwart, Victoria Cornwall has decided to step back from the blog to concentrate on fiction projects. Throughout her time with the team, Victoria worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the blog ran smoothly and she will be very much missed, so we take this opportunity to thank her for all she has done and also to wish her well with her writing. 

Finally, we wish to thank readers for engaging, sharing and making blogging fun. Going forward, we invite you to come on our journey, as the Novel Points of View team sails towards a bright new adventure...




Best wishes from,

All at Novel Points of View x