Wednesday 31 December 2014

5 Essential Questions to Ask on New Year's Eve

1. What colour underpants are you wearing?

My Spanish family instilled in me the sensible belief that one must wear red knickers on New Year's Eve. My Colombian husband says the colour of my underpants should be yellow. After a little research, it would appear that it's predominantly Latin countries that seem obsessed with the colour of their new year skivvies, and that different colours are worn in the hope of specific outcomes. Red is for love, and yellow is for money, and both are entirely acceptable. Next problem, how to wear them? According to a Bolivian site I stumbled across, if you wear them backwards all night you're making a wish for a new wardrobe in the new year!

2. What are you going to burn?

I used to think you were supposed to burn your new year red knickers, but I think my Spanish family must have been teasing me, because we never actually did any ritualistic burning of undergarments. Not knickers, but Año Viejo (Old Year) is what I'll be burning with my Colombian family this year. He takes the form of a scarecrow, much like Guy Fawkes. A nice addition to the proceeding is to write down on a strip of paper what you don't want from the last year, and what you want for the new year, and burn that too. Therapeutic, I reckon.
3. Is your suitcase ready?

Just after midnight in Colombia people run around the block with an empty suitcase to ensure a year filled with travel. Tonight will be my first experience of this. The best bit about it is you don't actually have to pack!

4. Who is bringing the grapes?

My friends in London were baffled when I asked before one New Year's party who was bringing the grapes. It made me realise I must have spent most of my new year's in Spain or at home with my family. In Spain, people eat twelve grapes, one at each dong of the bell at midnight. The TV presenters televised from La Puerta del Sol in Madrid chatter away until that moment, always looking freezing cold in their glamorous outfits. Eating 12 grapes is a lot more fun when you're a little kid and you can't eat them fast enough and then you get the giggles. If you don't fancy grapes, then why not eat a spoonful of lentils as they do in Chile?

5. Have you scribbled down your New Year's Resolutions?

On 31st December in 1661, Samuel Pepys wrote down his New Year's Resolutions. I think they involved starting back at the gym and giving up drinking in January. Could this hint at New Year's Resolutions being a British tradition? I need at least one! Don't worry, I'm not going to write out a long list here, I'm still working on last year's New Year's Visualisations!

Whichever colour underpants you decide to wear, whether you choose to eat twelve grapes or drink twelve shots, whether your first meal on New Year's Day is lentils or alka seltzer - I wish you all the love, good health and prosperity for the New Year

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Stocking Filling Tips for Christmas!


Tuesday 23 December 2014

The Temp Book Trailer - the making of...

So you want to make a book trailer for The Temp? That's weird because it's not your book, but I appreciate your enthusiasm! Here's how we did it...  

1. Buy some plastic bananas off ebay 

2. Buy some fluorescent spray paint 

3. Feel bad about how toxic spray paint is then spray plastic bananas anyway 

4. Be married/ friends with someone who thinks spending the day walking from one end of London to another filming bright pink bananas is a perfectly good use of a day... 

5. Muster the courage to hang bananas on Buckingham palace railing 

6. Realise British police are so friendly that you didn't need to muster the courage after all 

7. Ditto for Downing Street 

8. Chase after a Beefeater at The Tower of London (just like in the novel) 

9. Talk gibberish to Beefeater while husband gets correct angle for filming

10. Be friends with a cameraman for creative shots in pub (thanks Pablo!)

11. Get performance poet friend to record voiceover in your living room (thanks Rachel!)

12. Be impressed by husband's editing skills  

13. Reassure patient nephew you'll only be five more minutes then you can play Fifa

14. Add competition details to the description 

15. Upload video to You Tube 

16. Lose at Fifa

17. Start sharing video!

18. Blog about the making of... and post the video on the blog! Here it is ->


Thanks for watching - if you enjoyed it please share! 

Friday 12 December 2014

My First Experience of Making a Webinar

Photo by Yasmin Desai, Monkfeet
Yesterday I had my first experience of filming a webinar. I hadn't planned to do one, but the very persuasive lady at Monkfeet, Yasmin Desai, who had previously booked me for a blog workshop, had asked me if I would be up for it. Monkfeet would be financing it; hiring the room and the production team. It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

I said I'd do it in February, she suggested the following week. Did I mention I say 'Yes' to everything?

At the slick and spacious Black and White Building in Shoreditch, I was introduced to the cheerful cameramen, Diogo and Phil. I had spent hours preparing a script and writing bullet points up on my computer so I'd be able to use them as prompts, but I still felt like I didn't know what was going to come out of my mouth when they started filming. 
As I sat in front of the camera, my notes flickering on my computer screen just out of sight, it dawned on me that I hadn't memorised a single line since secondary school.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your... what had Mark Anthony wanted to borrow?

It was tough going. I had to stare into the camera and I couldn't glance at my notes while it was rolling.  My mind kept going blank. I only seemed to be able to remember one point at a time. What I found so easy and natural in a normal workshop environment suddenly became such a challenge. Looking back, I think a bit of heating would've helped my memory! Luckily the camera guys were encouraging and as we were all about to flag, the sandwiches arrived.

I spent six hours in the studio filming a one hour blog webinar. There were moments when I thought, why did I agree to this?, but I'm glad I did it. Every step outside your comfort zone forces you to grow.

That night after the webinar, I found my script running through my head so fluently. I thought to myself, that if we were to film it now, I'd remember it all!

I'm curious to see the end product. I'm hoping Diogo will work some magic when he edits it! If you're interested in watching the blog webinar when it comes out, just sign up to my newsletter. I'll be sure to share it soon!


Visit for more info on their affordable evening classes.

Contact Diogo at for more info on making webinars.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

7 Books, 7 Christmas Presents Potentially Sorted

I'm enjoying Foyles' Christmas marketing campaign. I'm all for buying books for Christmas. Books are easy to wrap, don't have a consume by date, don't come with loads of plastic packaging and might change your life, if only for a while...   

Behind each book there's someone who has worked really hard to get those words in a coherent order. Even the ones with the celebs on the front cover. Think of all those poor ghost writers who had to wear a bed sheet  throughout the whole process... 

Books can swallow you up and take you places, a bit like the tube. I was on the tube today but I can't remember it because I was somewhere in 1910, no 1918, no 1947, oh wait 1910 again... if you've read Life After Life you'll know what I mean...    

I've made a Christmas shopping list of books for your friends and family. I've labelled them clearly so you know who to give what... 

1. For the first person to talk about the weather

What I say: 
"Their Twitter account  @soverybritish is hilarious
the book is bound to be too!" 

Ideal for: 
Anyone too polite to tell you they don't like their present!

Foreigners may not get it. My husband didn't seem to find it as funny as I did. 

2. For the relative with the biggest book shelf 

What I say: 
"Full of quirky book facts and entertaining anecdotes about book shops from all over the British Isles and beyond..." 

Ideal for: 
People who wax lyrical about the smell of books.

Not for people who prefer the smell of a kindle.

3. For the friend who likes a dollop of gory crime with a dash of time travel 

What I say: 
"Most original crime novel I've ever read... a real page turner

Ideal for: 
Someone who would rather be watching an action film than playing charades...

Not for relatives of a sensitive disposition. Bit violent. I wouldn't give it to my Gramma.  

4. For the one wishing they had written one of the books you had bought...

What I say: 
"I love Nicola Morgan's no nonsense writing style, every writer aspiring to be published should read this!

Ideal for: 
Anyone who tells you they have an idea for a book.

It only works if they write the book. They can't just talk about it.

5. For the relative who might have hoarding tendencies...

What I say: 
"A really moving, beautifully written book about a family falling apart, and coming again to see what went wrong..."  

Ideal for: 
Readers who prefer a slow burn than an explosion of helicopters... 

It may cause tear spillage. I was joking in the title. It won't help you if you are a hoarder, because you won't be able to throw it away it's so good. 

6. For anyone getting stressed over Christmas

What I say: 
"I open this book whenever I'm feeling frustrated... I always land on the part I need to hear. It keeps me sane." 

Ideal for: 
Whoever thinks they're missing something.  


You will never finish this book. Nor will you want to. 

And finally... 

7.  For the little ones who don't know how to read yet... 

What I say:
"I'm in love with all the That's not my... book, but this one's especially Christmassy!'

Ideal for: 
Poking with sticky hands and dribbling over


After 300 reads through, the story may start to lose its charm.

Please add your book suggestions in the comments! We will not let the Christmas Shopping defeat us, will we? 

Tuesday 2 December 2014

A blogger’s best friend: the editorial calendar

Guest Post by Robin Houghton

A blog is a commitment – once started, it takes time to build up a readership, and a big part of that is being able to regularly produce interesting content. But what about those days when you just can’t think of anything blog about? Or you’re just too busy to blog?

If a blog falls silent it can look abandoned, and readers may turn their attention elsewhere. Not only that, but it will drop out of the search results. But there’s a simple trick for keeping your blog vibrant - create an editorial calendar.

It may sound a bit over-the-top to have an editorial calendar for a blog with just one editor/contributor. But trust me, it’s time well spent. The principle is just this: plan ahead and you’ll never run out of content. Here’s how to get started.

1. Decide on a realistic posting schedule for your blog, based on what you want the blog to achieve, your priorities and your resources. 

2. Draw a grid on a sheet of paper, or open a blank spreadsheet document. Across the top, label the columns ‘week 1’, ‘week 2’ and so on –  just do one month (4 weeks) to begin with. 

3. Down the side, label each row with a ‘type’ of blog post. Think about the blogs you enjoy reading. Which posts are the ones you always click on, or share? Useful information – ‘ten top tips...’? Reviews of books, or events? Opinion pieces on something topical? Keep going – thinking about who you want to read your blog.

4. Now go through each week and select two blog post types for that week, bearing in mind both your own agenda and also anything topical or seasonal for that week.

5. And that’s it - a month’s worth of blog posts all planned out. The following month, copy and paste (rather than overwrite) the previous month, so you keep a record of everything you’ve blogged about. 

6. Don’t feel you have to write every post yourself – maybe a blogging buddy would like to contribute a guest piece now and then.  Or on platforms like WordPress or Tumblr it’s easy to reblog someone else’s blog post – it all spreads the love!

Set time aside for this process at the beginning of the month (or do it every three months if you’re up for planning that far ahead). Over time you’ll know which are the most popular posts and you’ll do more of that ‘type’. Like all forward plans, allow yourself some flexibility. But with a calendar in place you’ll never be stuck for ideas of what to blog about.

Guest Post by Robin Houghton

Blogging for Writers, published by Ilex Press (UK) and Writers Digest Books (US) November 2014, is Robin’s second commissioned ‘how to’ blogging book. Available from all good bookshops and online.

Robin Houghton has over two decades of experience in marketing and communications, formerly with Nike, then running her own business Eggbox Marketing since 2002 specialising in online. She now works primarily with writers and publishing industry professionals to help them make the best use of social media. Robin writes blogs on social media and poetry and has been a guest blogger for a number of sites including Social Media Today and MarketingProfs. She is a published poet and a commercial copywriter for web and print, and an experienced trainer and conference speaker. Her first book 'Blogging for Creatives' was a best-seller and resulted in two more commissions, 'Blogging for Writers' and forthcoming in 2015 'The Rules of Blogging (and How to Break Them)', both published by Ilex in the UK and Writers Digest Books in the US.

US Cover

Follow Robin on Twitter: @robinhoughton

Connect on LinkedIn:

Social Media for Writers (blog and email newsletter)

Buy the book in the Writers Digest Shop 
or from Amazon UK