Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 28 May 2016

FACEBOOK FRIENDS Linda Mitchelmore

I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to social media. Facebook? Twitter? I didn't want to know and resisted for as long as I could. However, when I secured a contract on my first novel it was explained to me that being active on social media was all part of the deal and was expected of me. Now, I don't have an addictive personality - chocolate, TV soaps, wine, shoes .... I can take or leave them all - but I did know there would be times when I wouldn't be able to resist having a peak to see who had mentioned me, or not. Of the two, I prefer Facebook. 140 characters is never enough to say all I have to say! What has come as a big surprise about Facebook is the 'friends' I have made. I was hugely surprised to find that I seemed to connect with some people more than others - people I had never met. We seemed to meet in the ether somewhere with shared values and likes and dislikes. Annie Seaton, who lives in NSW, Australia, in a very covetable beach situation and who writes stories in exotic locations for PanMacmillan, Australia, was one of the first I connected with.
What I admire about Annie is that she very generously used her technical know-how to start a closed FB page, Coastal Romance. This has given a platform to other writers, all over the world, who set their novels in coastal locations, and it's introduced me to writers of whom I might otherwise not have heard. Being in Australia and twelve hours ahead of us here in the UK, I often wake to Annie's fabulous sunrise/sunset photos. Thanks, Annie!
Obviously, as a writer, I tend to lean towards other writers because we all speak the same language. We share our highs and lows, our successes and our failures. Sometimes - especially in the short story writing world - there can be a fair few failures. So, it's been great to have Gerri Gill who lives in Belfast come into my world. Gerri is an interior designer, as well as having been a model, and I can guarantee her FB posts will lift my spirits. She puts up the most fabulously glam fashion shots and now knows that I have a passion for black and white, be it clothes and shoes, or interiors and photography - especially photography - and she will often give me a personal mention.
And there are times when I need coffee before beginning my writing day and there will be Gerri joining me with a fab photo. Thanks, Gerri - and I enjoy your poems, too.
When my first novel came out I received a lovely review from someone called Marilyn Chapman. Then I noticed that Marilyn continued to support me with 'likes' and 'shares' and great comments even though we had never met. More book reviews from Marilyn followed for which I was, and still am, very grateful. Marilyn was born in Guernsey and writes a great regular blog, often featuring wonderful photos from that island. I went there, just the once, on holiday so these always bring back great memories. And then Marilyn published Baggy Pants and Bootees, a story of love, loss and betrayal, which is set in the 1960s - my sort of time. I connected further with Marilyn over this book and here I am holding my copy.
Marilyn's second novel, Occupying Love, is due out in July. This time her novel is set in her beloved Guernsey, but at a time when the island was under German occupation during WW11. This book has a fabulous cover and I am so looking forward to reading it.
So ... thank you, ladies, for all the things you have introduced to my world.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Instagram to Instameet

 

Dunnottar Castle by Mark Harris

I have been on Instagram for a number of years and have made friends from all over the world. I received a message from the lovely @katstewart01 who was planning the North - East of Scotland's first Instameet.

 
An Instameet is when a group of people with a passion for photography meet up at a location and spend a few hours or a full day taking photos. It is a chance for Instagrammers to finally connect in the real world with people that they may already follow.
 
So on the 17th April at 0530hrs  I met with a group of around 14 keen Instagrammers at Dunnottar Castle carpark to capture the sunrise over the castle. The members of the group had travelled from far and near, with one intrepid sole camping overnight in his campervan.
 
It had been arranged that the Instameet group could gain access to Dunnottar Castle  prior to it opening to the public but before  this the group explored the landscape around the castle.
Neil Donald

View from beach by Simon Ward
 
 

Once it was time to enter the castle we were joined by a further 4 Instagammers. The Custodian of the Castle Jim Wands gave a brief history of the castle to the group. Walking around the ruins in the peace and quiet of the morning allowed me to feel the history of the location.
View from Window by Mark Harris
 Being able to take photos in a tourist attraction without the tourists was a wonderful experience, as often you are jostling for the best spot.

We spent nearly 2 hours in the castle before taking a walk along the coastal path to Stonehaven.

The picturesque harbour was high on the list to visit but first we visited the War Memorial which was surround by sunny daffodils.

The War Memorial is situated on Black Hill and commemorates  the 200 plus men of Stonehaven who gave their lives in the First World War.
War Memorial by Neil Donald

Daffodil by Mark Harris


After the War Memorial it was walk to the picturesque Stonehaven harbour. After a walk around the seafront it was time for a well deserved plate of fish and chips.
 
Stonehaven Harbour by Neil Donald



The day came to an end and I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, finally meeting people that I had chatted to and had followed. It was agreed that this Instameet was the first of hopefully many more from across the North East.

A Few of the Instagrammers by David Powell
Thank you to everyone that came along and especially for allowing me to use some of your photographs from the day.



Saturday, 14 May 2016

Have you been Ullapool-d?

Apparently is the hot question on many authors’ lips.  And having attended my first Ullapool Book Festival, as a reader I hasten to add, I understand why. Ullapool is a small book festival with a cosy atmosphere that attracts great writing talent.

Where is it? Ullapool is a picturesque fishing village nestled in the Scottish Highlands.


So why do artists and writers flock to its shores? Well, this is no sleepy hideaway. Ullapool is a forward-thinking community, which knows how to work its strengths. For years it’s been a staple stop-off point on the tourist trail, with both local and foreign visitors enjoying views across the scenic harbour, sampling scrummy fish and chips – and now Ullapool has established itself as an arts hub, attracting musicians, painters and book lovers, by hosting a variety of festivals throughout the year.

It was phrases such as ‘better than any other’ and ‘different to other book festivals,’ that made me decide I wanted to experience the Ullapool Book Festival for myself.

So were its advocates right? Well for starters, the village hall is where it all happens – with a single event running at any time. I attended on Friday this year (the book festival runs from Friday till Sunday) and by the end of the day I’d met other writers, chatted with members of the press, sat next to those involved with Ullapool’s two independent bookstores, made new friends… Another highlight has to be the Fair-trade tent next door, which offers a stunning selection of tray bakes – imagine something Mary Berry would be proud to serve with tea.

But back to books – and here are the writers I was lucky enough to hear…

Chris Dolan – the award-winning novelist, poet and playwright set the tone in his relaxed, humourous style by opening the event as acting chair.

Janice Galloway – is perhaps Scotland’s most famous living short story writer.  Galloway used to be a schoolteacher and knows how to command an audience as she read from her latest collection ‘Jellyfish’.  A fierce enthusiast of the short story form, she likened the process of pulling together a collection as not dissimilar to creating a music album – balancing the long and short, leaving the wonderful crescendo until the end.




Malachy Tallack – having heard Tallack’s travelogue, ‘Sixty Degrees North’,
serialized as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, I was very much looking forward to listening to the man behind the adventures. He described himself as ‘no Bear Grylls.’ The man who was torn away from his childhood home in the south of the England at the tender age of 9 and transported to the island of Shetland. His tales of what it was like to live amongst communities surviving on the very edges of civilization was both educational and entertaining.

J. David Simons – began with an engaging talk of what if felt like to be growing up as a Jewish boy in 1950s Glasgow and how his years working on a kibbutz shaped his writing. ‘The Credit Draper’ and ‘The Liberation of Celia Kahn’ are both novels based in Glasgow’s Jewish community in the 1920’s, whilst his latest work and third in the trilogy – ‘The Land Agent’ – is set in Palestine during the same period.

Jim Carruth – read from his verse novella, ‘Killochries’, which tells the story of a burned-out writer from the city, who spends a year in a remote sheep farm working alongside an elderly, religious farmer. Carruth is a master at saying so much, with few words.

Merryn Glover – born to a missionary family in a former palace in Kathmandu and brought up in
Nepal, India and Pakistan, introduced ‘A House called Askival’. Her debut novel, it follows the epic journey of three generations of an American missionary family through the sights, sounds and often violent history of India from Partition to the present day.

Fiona Rintoul – journalist and translator, gave readings from her debut novel, ‘The Leipzig Affair’, which was published in November 2014 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rintoul also shared her candid experiences of studying at university in East Germany before unification.

All this on one day. If only I’d had the time to enjoy the full three days, this blog might have been twenty pages long!

With such a wide range of thought-provoking work being discussed, I now understand why being Ullapool-d is quickly becoming a badge of prestige for authors on the book festival circuit.


Will I attend the Ullapool Book Festival again? Definitely.

Are there any book festivals you'd like to recommend? 

Small it may be but look out Edinburgh, Ullapool is hot on your heels…

Saturday, 7 May 2016

LOOKING FOR AN AGENT.







LOOKING FOR AN AGENT - like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack and doomed to failure?

There was a discussion started recently on FaceBook from a writer who wants an agent and was having difficulty in attracting one for various reasons. One reason appeared to be because she writes for M&B whose contracts are apparently non-negotiable. Did anyone have some advice for her she asked.

The replies were interesting - varying from, did she really want an agent -  they only take money off you; write something in a different genre that an agent can sell; attend the RNA conference and book a one-to-one session with an agent. The question was also thrown back at her: in this day and age of self-publishing do you really need an agent?

I think the answer is still yes. A good agent whilst taking approximately 18% of your earnings will have access to those large publishers who won’t look at unrepresented ms. They will give advice on your career direction, network on your behalf, offer editorial advice and importantly they can be a buffer between writer and publisher when difficult questions have to be asked. People who have agents tend to say things like ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today without her input’. Agents always get a mention in the acknowledgements of books. Writers talk on social media of ‘having lunch with agent today’ or ‘sent my ms off to my agent today’. I’d happily pay for the privilege of having someone like that in my corner! 

A couple of years ago I queried a few agents and got nowhere - except more and more depressed at my apparent inability to write books agents thought they could sell. So I stopped querying and got on with just writing. 



I’m digitally published these days with CarinaUK/HarperCollins. I didn’t need an agent to approach them but to move up a notch i.e. to get even a small advance and a paperback deal, I know I need to get an agent. So over the next week or two I’ve decided I’m going to start querying again. I’ve got my list of agents I’ve researched and who I think I’d get on with so fingers crossed that this time, with 9 books up on amazon and hundreds of short stories published, somebody will be interested. I’ll let you know how I get on in due course.

I have no idea whether any of my fellow NPOV bloggers have an agent - do any of you? If you do, are you happy with what they do for you? If you don't have one - is that out of choice or because like me, you're still searching?


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Our 7 Tricks To Boost Creativity...

We’re delighted to introduce our new series where, on the first Wednesday of each month, our blog team will share ideas related to a topic or question.

What better way to kick-start our creative adventure than by asking:

What tricks do you use to help boost creativity?

We hope you enjoy our creative answers and please share your ideas too!

Rae - Travelling does it for me every time. I was lucky enough recently to visit Washington D.C. and, as a writer, one of the tourist attractions that piqued my interest was the International Spy Museum. Apparently Washington D.C. has the reputation of being the most spied upon city in the world. I’m not sure how they know! Anyway, it's a fascinating exhibition of the history of espionage and spy related ‘toys’, or as the museum puts it ‘the largest collection of espionage artifacts on public display, anywhere in the world’ – think an umbrella gun, lipstick pistol and eyeglasses designed to conceal cyanide pills. Q from Bond would love it.

But perhaps not surprisingly, it was the real-life stories of intelligence professionals, leading double lives often for decades, that I found intriguing. The deception, the lies, the patience, the cunning required - what sort of individual would find that life attractive? Wouldn’t they have family or friends who might give the game away? Had something happened in childhood, which might draw them to such an assignment? Why would they do that? – such inspiration.  Of course I can’t always up-tail and travel abroad each time I require an injection of creativity but shaking things up closer to home seems to work too – eating at a new restaurant, meeting new people, finding a new route to walk or cycle – all help oil those artistic cogs for me.

Gill - My hint for creativity, which is borrowed from the writer Julia Cameron, is to write ‘morning words’. For me these don’t necessarily have to be in the morning, they can be at any time of day. Her idea was that just as you would walk to exercise your body, you should write to exercise your writing ‘muscles’. This can be putting pen to paper, or typing on your computer. It should not be part of your work-in-progress or related to anything specific, it is just thoughts coming out unplanned and unregulated. And it really does work. It’s like turning on a tap. Once you start, you realise you are writing, even though you may have felt you had no ideas and would never write again. And once you are writing something – you can turn that energy to writing what you want to write be it a blog, an article or a story. I thoroughly recommend giving it a try.

Problem, People, Place, Plot
Linda - I use the Four Ps principle. I have four plastic beakers labelled Problem, People, Place, Plot. At random moments (not when I have sticky moments) I pop something on a scrap of paper in each pot. Under Problems the list might be something like this ... car broken down, late for train, child missing, husband/wife having affair. Under People it might read something like this ... policeman, ballet dancer, school dinner lady, an unusual name like Phaedra. Places could be anywhere the story could be set like ... fish and chip shop, theatre, train, boat, plane, swimming pool. Under plot I have very little .... gives up job to pursue dream, turns the house into a B&B ... because once I’ve taken a piece of paper from each pot I have my problem and whose it is, and where, and the plot unfolds itself.

Jennie - I use David Morrells 'talk to your typewriter' technique - an idea he apparently got from Harold Robbins. You sit in front of your computer and keyboard and 'talk' to each other, something like this:

"How are you this morning?"
"Great! I just had this wonderful idea for a story."
"Fabulous. Tell me about it. What's the idea?"
"Well, I'm not sure really it's just that there's this old house down the road that's apparently haunted and I'd like to write about it.'
"Why?

Now I have to answer the question, which will prompt another question from the computer. Sometimes trying to explain/develop my idea I run out of words, so I type one of the following words or phrases. 'What if?', 'why?' and 'so what' are words that prompt me to come up with answers.

By simply sitting in front of the computer basically having a written conversation with yourself it's amazing what the subconscious comes up with!


Plockton, Scotland
Neil - How does a photographer boost creativity? The answer should be simple go out and take more photographs. 
Although I go out and take photos almost daily, depending on the weather, it is often half an hour grabbed here and there, in between family life. 
Making time to go out taking photographs helps boost my creativity, so I like to plan ahead. Enjoying an uninterrupted day to discover somewhere new or rediscover old ground when I have time off from work and family commitments. 
So my tip would be make and plan time for your writing, photography, painting etc. Time that is dedicated to you, without interruptions or any need to rush.  
I don't always use this time to take photographs, as sometimes the weather defeats me, so instead I will read blogs or look through other photographers work, for inspiration and tips.

Lesley - My top tip for creativity is from my last post and the great David Garrick.
“If want comes in, importance must retreat;
Our first great ruling passion - is to eat."


Jennifer - Carry a camera. I take photos of the strangest things, mostly abandoned things such as shoes or (once) a bunch of flowers still in its wrapper, thrust into a bin. But it can be a flower or a tree or a gravestone or just someone walking down a street.

Even if you don't have time to think about these things at the time, if you take a photo there's always something there to remind you. And if it turns out to be no use you can always delete it :)


I've attached a couple of my favourite pictures seen on my travels.