Carrbridge in Winter - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography





Saturday, 21 January 2017



HOW DOES TV INFLUENCE YOUR LIFE?

Recently I was asked if I’d like to contribute to a feature for one of the writing magazines about TV and how it affected my writing. Unfortunately it didn’t work out but it got me thinking about how big an impact television has had on everybody’s lives over the last half century.

When the children were growing up, for several years we were that unusual family who, horrors of horrors, didn’t have a television. But we did of course give in eventually. It took a long time though, for me to shake off the guilty feelings about watching daytime TV instilled in me by my grandmother. Along with most of the population we did get hooked into a routine of watching TV every evening for a few years. And then we came to France where for a few years TV simply didn’t exist in our world. It does now though - can’t believe the size of the television we now have, mainly for watching dvds on!
Living in France I barely watch TV for entertainment these days - the language is still something of a problem for me and French TV has a certain reputation. Anyone who has ever watched French TV will know that it lags a long way behind what is on offer just the other side of the Channel. Although to be fair, these days shows like Downton Abbey and The Collection are being shown here  - dubbed in French, which is just a step too far for me! And ‘Friends’ seems to be on a continual repeat loop on some channel or other. Somehow it misses the mark completely with the language dubbed. The French too, love all the American police series - the more violent the better.




Entertainment programmes on the three terrestrial channels here start at nine o’clock in the evening. The hours six thirty to nine are filled with news programmes. And there is no watershed in French producers lives. Violent programmes are just as likely as the latest edition of Oui Oui (Noddy to you and me) to be advertised at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning - in between the cartoons designed to keep the little darlings occupied while Mum and Dad have a lie in.
These days I watch the BBC news via my computer and watch UK entertainment / documentary programmes via iPlayer. I write contemporary women’s fiction for an English language based readership, so watching TV programs like this enables me to keep up to date with all the social and cultural activities going on across the channel. 
One of the questions the feature was going to look at was: Are there any ways in which watching TV/dvds has improved your writing? Not sure about directly improving but Youtube has lots of writing related videos and I’ve watched a number of them and I’ve invariably come away with a new tip or a writing exercise to try. The Ted interviews are particularly good for motivation.
And finally for all of you who have ever wondered about what happens to old TV and computer screens a fun picture!






















Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Best Laid Plans.....


A last minute decision for New Year was made, we would head up to the West Coast in a caravan !!
To be fair Christmas had been unusually mild and the weather looked fairly promising to hold. Audrey has spent previous New Years at the caravan and promised me fantastic lighting, looking over her old photos I had to agree.
So as the bags were being packed I was mentally preparing a plan of action of where I was going to visit and when.
The drive up was pleasant enough until half way when the scenery comes in to its own, at that point the heavens opened and stayed open. This put a dampener on my spirits as I had planned to stop on the way up. No point grumbling I continued to the site and arrived in the gloaming at three o'clock.
Tomorrow is another day they say, woke up to an over cast morning with biting winds and sporadic showers not ideal and not in my plan. But the kids needed to let off steam having been cooped up for 4 hours the previous day so we wrapped up and headed to the beach.

 
Boardwalk to Clachtoll Beach
The kids had a ball running from the waves, luckily the tide was on the way out as the waves were still impressive.
For me however the day was too overcast, dark and dull. Also the sporadic showers of rain/sleet made it nearly impossible. The last day of 2016  had been a photographic let down for me.

Hopefully 2017 would be bring better weather.

Woke to strong winds and more sleet however by lunchtime it had cleared, so I took the opportunity and away I went camera in hand.
I headed for Loch Assynt to capture the trees and Ardvreck Castle.
The skies still weren't great but the sun was beginning to shine and it lifted my hopes of  being able to take some good photos.
As I round the corner my hopes of taking the shot I wanted of Ardvreck Castle were dashed, the heavy rains had caused the loch to rise cutting the Castle off on an island.


Ardvreck Castle
Quick rethink, repositioning and all was not lost. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth coming all the way up for a few days when you couldn't guarantee the weather. I remember then that the uncertainty of the weather and lighting conditions sometimes gave way  to beautiful photographs. So I continued on...
And embraced the inclement weather.


Loch Assynt Trees

On returning to the caravan I complained to Audrey about the weather and that I would struggle on regardless, her reply quite rightly was "to be fair its the middle of winter, the weather hasn't been that bad" she is always the optimist to my pessimist.
 I managed to get out the following day as well, taking full advantage of the drier weather. The overcast clouds and darkening skies gave a real sense foreboding and highlighted the remoteness of this area. When a storm comes in all you can do is batten down the hatches and huddle round the fire.

So now when plans don't go to plan I realise that it's not the end of the world and things have a way of working themselves out.


Clashnessie Beach
Cottage at Clashnessie

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Adventures in Stationery Porn

From this...
My name is Jennifer and I’m addicted to stationery.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not belittling addiction to things that can damage your health (though I suppose there is such a thing as a poison pen). But it struck me, as I was hanging around outside an upmarket stationery shop the other day, that the art of a writer is not necessarily to write about what they feel, but to amplify their own, rather trivial experiences to create drama, passion and emotion. (There’s a book by Linda Edelstein, Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, which shows you exactly how a relatively harmless trait becomes a harmful one).

I’ve always liked a nice notebook. These days they’re come on a long way from the bright red-backed exercise books you bought in WH Smith or Woollies. These days you can buy arty ones, ones with pretty patterns, with slogans, with matching pens and pencils, files and folders. Sometimes, if I have a plot in mind, I buy a notebook TO MATCH THE PLOT! You can even get them personalised. And I always welcome a notebook as a gift.

...to this.
At the last count I had — ahem — well over forty of the things. That includes the old ones, which I keep. I have a new notebook for each novel or series of novels. I have notebooks with nothing but an opening sentence, waiting for the rest of the book. I have notebooks of my travel journals, some of them years old (and mind-bogglingly innocent when I read them back).

On a recent trip to America I realised I had inexplicably forgotten to bring a notebook with me. When I came back I had eight — a pack of three plain ones, which did for an emergency, and two other multipacks too nice to leave behind (and you can’t get them in the UK, so…).

I justify my stationery problem by referring to Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, in which her opening advice to aspiring writers — written, admittedly, when most people worked longhand — is to find the right pen and paper. That’s a licence to buy good stationery. If only it were a justification to claim it back against tax. I will use all the ones I have; but by then I will have more.

Outside that stationery shop my addiction reached a new low — or should that be a new high? On impulse, I went in and asked to try the pens. I ended up buying a beautiful pen set so that I can write longhand in my lovely notebooks with something that feels good. It was half price. And it came with a free leather pouch worth (sorry, priced at) £17.50, so that makes it okay. 


Doesn’t it?

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.