Roz Morris @Roz_Morris

Former ghostwriter coming out of the shadows with books of my own. My Memories of a Future Life. Lifeform Three (longlisted for the World Fantasy Award). Humorous memoir: Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction. Series for writers: Nail Your Novel.

Homepage: http://rozmorris.wordpress.com

Slipped resolutions! Get your writing back on track – Ep 24 FREE podcast for writers

Oh my! We begin with a different song. And it’s a real treat. I promise.

Why did we begin with a different song? Because we’re talking about routines that have gone awry. Specifically, writing routines. Resolutions that seemed possible and exciting and shiny and life-changing… then didn’t work out. And how to change things up to find a routine that will work for you. So we put our beginning music at the end, and a new song at the beginning. You get the idea. We don’t just throw these shows together.

Most of all, your failed writing routine is the chance to build a much better one that works for your particular needs. Honestly.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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All about ghostwriting and its fringes, including book packagers – Ep 23 FREE podcast for writers

In the last episode, we discussed how to make a writing career out of your special expertise and knowledge. This time we turn to another kind of writing career – writing secretly as other people. Aka ghostwriting. Also, writing for book packagers, which is a junior form of ghostwriting.

You might already know I have a secret past as a ghostwriter. Some might call it murky. There are certain things I’ll admit to, certain things I won’t.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me! Peter was dead-keen to get me spilling the beans. For years, he’s been looking around his shelves, stroking his beard and wondering which titles I wrote. This episode contains magnificent silences and the sound of tumbleweed. But a lot of info too. If you’re seriously interested in ghostwriting, I also have a professional course.

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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Make a writing career out of your hobby or day job – Ep 22 FREE podcast for writers

Write what you know. While I’d disagree that this is an absolute rule (let’s not get into that right now), it is nevertheless a sound strategy for developing a writing career. If you’re in a niche that other people want to read about, you might find a ready audience. Your hobby could get you a regular gig on a magazine. Your profession could keep you well supplied with material for books.

That’s what we’re discussing in today’s episode.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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How to read like a writer – Ep21 FREE podcast for writers

How do you ‘read like a writer’? What do you look for? How can you learn to write from the books you read? Does it matter if you’re a slow reader?

That’s what we’re discussing in today’s episode.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

 

If you like that topic, also try this post (Are you a writer? Don’t neglect your reading) and this (Reading vs watching The Night Manager… why I prefer the book).

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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20-ish FAQs about being a writer – Ep20 FREE podcast for writers

Twas our twentieth show!

So we decided that was a magic number, hence this version of Twenty Questions.

These are the questions writers are most often asked. Some are impossible to answer, and my co-host Peter Snell thought long and hard to make sure he asked them, to cause me maximum mumbling and stammering and thought noises. Sit back and enjoy. And if there’s something you wish we’d raised, pop it in the comments. I’m here and ready to answer more!

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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All about blogging and social media for authors – Ep19 FREE podcast for writers

How can authors use blogging and social media effectively? How should they get started? How much time does it take to build an audience? Will you like it?!

That’s what we’re talking about this episode.

A caveat! These shows are a few years old now. We recorded this episode in 2015. Some of the platforms might not be so fashionable or useful for authors now. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter are still going strong and are still the main places I meet readers and writers I want to know better. And blogs? We must have been through several periods where everyone declared blogging was dead – but you are here and I am here and this is a blog and none of it is dead at all.

Moreover, social media have been the entire mechanism by which I built a career as a writer under my own name, without a publisher (in case you don’t know, I have a big secret career writing books under other names). The finer points might have changed – and might well change again. But the methods and principles will still be the same. So I’m hoping this show will still be a useful primer.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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How to un-self-publish: can you remove a book from self-published channels if you want to do something else with it?

I’ve had this question:

Can I free my book from Amazon CreateSpace? I want to seek a traditional deal. I published my first book a few years ago through CreateSpace. It’s a prelude to the one I’m now writing, and I am trying to find a publisher. Is there any way to free it from Amazon to match it to whoever I finally publish with? Sue

If you’re an experienced self-publisher you’ll know this is easy-peasy – so I’ll just say cheerio and see you next time. If not, read on….

Many writers might have an early book on a self-publishing platform, and now want to remove it. Perhaps to try for a traditional deal. Or to rework the material now they’re in a new phase of their writing life.

Here’s how to un-self-publish.

Do you have to ‘free your book’?

There are several aspects to this.

First: the rights. Big question: Are you allowed to unpublish the book and republish it elsewhere?

Let’s subdivide this further. Did you

  • use the publishing platform directly, setting up your own account?
  • use a middle man?

You published directly

The main direct platforms for print books are CreateSpace (which is now KDP), Lulu and IngramSpark. For ebooks, the main platforms are KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu and Kobo. There are also aggregators who send your books to multiple retailers – examples are Smashwords, PublishDrive, Streetlib, and Bookbaby.

If you have accounts with any of these, then you have complete control. You can remove the book yourself. Each platform has its own instructions.

So…. You don’t have to ‘free your book’. You are not under contract to these platforms. You simply used them as a printer. It’s not like a publishing deal. So you can do whatever you like with the book.

If it’s an ebook it will disappear from the sales channels.

If it’s a print book, the sales page will remain on Amazon but customers won’t be able to order it. There’s no way around this because it was assigned an ISBN so it forever exists in the limitless memory of book databases.

This might be irksome if you wish to bury the whole thing, but actually, it’s as good as buried. Only the cover, reviews and blurb will be visible to shoppers. In theory there might be second-hand copies available, though that’s unlikely. Even then, the system will probably help you as bots will know the book is scarce and will price the book at hundreds of dollars. (Really.)

So… although the book will look like it’s available, you can be pretty sure no one will buy it.  But you can look at the page from time to time and laugh.

You went through a middle man?

If you went through a middle man, such as a publishing services company, they will have handled the uploading process through their account so you’ll have to ask them to remove the book. They probably printed through the exact same channels – CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lulu or KDP, so the process at their end will be simple.

They might tell you the book can’t be taken out of the catalogues or off Amazon, but they’re referring to the situation I’ve explained in the previous section. The book will be visible but to all intents and purposes, not available (except for a handsome, bot-inflated sum of $700).

Getting trickier…

But… there are cowboy operators in the self-publishing world. Here are two hitches to be aware of.

  • Some try to tie up your rights so that you can’t publish the book elsewhere.
  • Others will make you pay for formatting and then not release the files for you to use yourself unless you pay a further fee. This situation won’t trouble you if you’re going to reuse the work anyway, or bury it for ever. (Here’s a post where I wrote more about this.)

Check the fine print of your agreement with them. With luck, everything will be straightforward. But if there’s a clause you’re unsure of, ask an expert at a professional body such as the Society of Authors or the Authors Guild. You could also try the Alliance of Independent Authors or Victoria Strauss’s blog Writer Beware.

Then…

Once you’ve freed the book, and you want to seek a traditional deal, what then?

A publisher probably won’t be interested in a self-published book if it didn’t do very well. Unfortunately! But if you’re substantially changing it, or re-presenting it as part of a bigger project, then it’s not the same work. When you query it, be clear about its history, and stress how your new use of it will be viable and different.

Lock up after you!

And don’t forget to block off the pathways to the book you’ve unpublished. Check through your blog, social media descriptions – anywhere you might, once upon a time, have laid a pathway for readers to find the book. There will be more than you think! Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… unpick whatever you can.

If you have a blog or website, you might want to write a brief post explaining that you’ve now retired the book. If you have exciting plans for it, write about them. This will help make your site look current – readers are put off if they come to a site that looks unloved and out of date.

Good luck!

Thanks for the keyboard pic Ervins Strauhmanis on Flickr

And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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How to write sparkling, meaningful dialogue – Ep18 FREE podcast for writers

Dialogue is an art in itself. It’s much more than characters talking to each other. Great dialogue can convey subtext, hidden agendas, freudian slips, personality, the author’s themes. It gives the reader the sense of watching a story’s characters in real time, witnessing them with our own eyes. But how do we get all that in? And how do we make it read naturally?

That’s what we’re discussing in today’s episode. Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

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We’ll make you believe the unbelievable – writing fiction that falls between fantasy and reality: an interview with Margarita Montimore @damiella

All writers are in the business of make-believe, from fantasy and science fiction to dead-straight factual.

And then there’s the fiction that likes to play between the two, explore the strange, bend the possible (here’s my own manifesto on that). When I came across Margarita Montimore’s debut novel The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart (Gollancz) ((Oona Out of Order in the US, published by Flatiron Books), where a woman lives her life in non-chronological sequence, I recognised a kindred creative spirit.

Margarita worked for more than a decade in publishing and social media before she decided to focus full time on the writing dream – and here’s a good moment to mention that Oona is a USA Today bestseller and Good Morning America Book Club pick. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and her dog. She didn’t tell me her dog’s name, but she did mention that Mr Montimore is called Terry. Here are the human Montimores giving a reading at Oona‘s launch night at Powerhouse Arena in New York City.

Pic by MacKenzie Cadenhead

Roz Margarita, you describe yourself as a ‘writer, editor, weirdo’. I love that. I’m going to leap on the standout word for me: weirdo. Why weirdo?

Margarita I’ve been drawn to the left-of-center for as long as I can remember. And I’ve accumulated my own quirks over the years. Nowadays I think of being a weirdo in terms of embracing the unconventional and celebrating original ideas.

Roz All my life, I’ve been told I’m weird or strange. I find that hard to understand – because to me, I’m normal.

Pic by David Swanson

Margarita I grew up in Brooklyn as a Russian immigrant, and being part of one culture while assimilating with another gave me an outsider’s perspective. From the time I was a kid, I was exposed to foods many would consider weird (meat jello, anybody?) and odd superstitions, while also developing an interest in the paranormal and general high strangeness (yes, watching Unsolved Mysteries probably had a lot to do with that). Then there was my goth phase… I think I started out wanting to be normal but embraced the weird as being true to who I am.

Roz My kind of weirdness, at least in terms of my writing, is a taste for the unusual. It might be described as high concept – a strange thing happens, which creates its own physics for the characters and a new way to explore what it is to be human.

Margarita Yes! I’m drawn to this same thing. How ordinary people respond to something extraordinary. I’m also a fan of atypical story structures—playing with timelines, unreliable narrators, etc.

Roz I think our kinds of weird are similar. Your novels are praised for their sense of romance, mystery, suspense, and bold story concept, and also their literary qualities. When we messaged on Facebook, you used a phrase that really captured this – ‘making the unbelievable believable’. What do you aim to create with your fiction?

Margarita I aim to create stories that will entertain, but also offer thought-provoking themes if readers want to dig deeper. I like to present a world that’s a bit off-kilter but rooted in the real and familiar, so that it’s easier for readers to buy into the reality I’m presenting. And I hope that giving people a taste of the less familiar makes them look at things with a fresh perspective (whether it’s the notion of memory or aging or something else).

Roz Tell me about Oona. It’s a charming idea. Readers have commented that it raises questions about living in the moment.

Margarita Writing it also helped me be more cognizant of living in the moment, because I found I was prone to basking in nostalgia or imagining an ideal future. Now I’m trying to take the book’s message to heart and be more present, make the most of every day.

Roz I’d like to add a further interpretation – it shows the remarkable degrees to which we can change, into people we cannot imagine we’ll ever be. And if we look backwards, we find we were people we can’t imagine having been.

Margarita I love this—and I never thought about describing the story in those terms. But it’s true; in some ways, our lives are composed of adopting a series of identities. And when we live chronologically, the transition from one into another usually doesn’t seem as dramatic and disorienting.

Roz So true! We hardly notice change as it’s happening. But open a diary that’s 20 years old and… wow! Was that really me?

Margarita Exactly. It’s like an entirely different person wrote all those things.

Roz Tell me how you came to write Oonaand what you were aiming for.

Margarita Oona was inspired by the moments of disconnect I experienced in my late thirties. It was hard to believe I was pushing forty when there were some days I still felt like a teenager. And then there were others when I felt much older than I was. That got me thinking about a story in which a woman experiences her adult life out of order because she time-travels to a different age every year.

I’ve long been fascinated by time travel as a story device, but I felt like there were ways it could be used to explore more personal narrative. You don’t often get an in-depth look at the effects time travel might have on a person’s day-to-day life, their identity, and their relationships. That’s what I wanted to explore in this novel.

Roz I’ve always been fascinated by time travel too. It could be one of the greatest inventions storytellers have given us. Such a rich playground for so many powerful emotions – regret, the yearning to change something, the temptation to cheat…

Margarita And it’s a great way to explore how we deal with mistakes. Trying to fix them vs. accepting them, realizing how mistakes play into our personal growth, etc.

Roz We both have an afterlifey novel. Mine is My Memories of a Future Life. Yours is Asleep From Day – about a woman whose memory is erased in a car crash, who finds herself in a mysterious world, haunted by mysterious dreams.

Asleep From Day reminds me of Iain Banks’s novel The Bridge, where we enter the consciousness of a man in a coma on a strange version of the Forth Bridge. Funnily enough, The Bridge was a touchstone for me when I was developing My Memories of a Future Life. I was inspired by its daring vision, a fantasy where you think you know the real-life version of what you’re seeing but you can’t be sure. And also the fully fleshed characters – Banks spent as much time on their complicated lives and outlook as he did on his high-level concept. With my novel, I did something different from Banks, but Banks was a lighthouse for me. Did you have any lighthouse texts for either of your novels?

Margarita I wouldn’t say Oona Out of Order was directly inspired by any single book, though I do understand the comparisons to The Time Traveller’s Wife, a novel that I love.

Roz Me too! I admire the way she worked the concept so thoroughly.

Margarita If anything, I resisted writing about time travel for a while because Audrey Niffenegger already did it spectacularly. But once I felt I could approach the concept with a different perspective (having a female protagonist do the time-hopping, focusing on broader coming-of-age themes in place of TTW’s epic love story, etc.) I was comfortable developing this story.

Roz You like to flirt with multiple genres, don’t you? I do too. My first novel is contemporary suspense. My second is sci-fi. What will you surprise us with next?

Margarita I love to flirt with multiple genres because I feel like it gives stories more interesting dimensions. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just that what I write tends to incorporate aspects of various genres. I don’t have specific genres in mind, but I do enjoy giving my work a surreal/speculative quality, so I expect that will flavor whatever I write next.

Roz The publishing industry generally prefers authors to stick within one box. Do you anticipate any problems with your versatility?  

Margarita The problem was getting a foot in the door early on, when agents were complimentary about my work but expressed concern over how to position it. Some suggested I rework my stories for YA, where genre-bending is more prevalent. Others encouraged me to follow a more conventional plot structure, especially with Oona (fun fact: early versions of the manuscript were rejected by 200+ agents!). Thankfully, it was published with its quirk intact and embraced as book club fiction. I’ve been able to avoid being pigeonholed so far, so I’m less concerned about it being an issue moving forward.

Roz Is there a quality or theme that readers might recognise as central to all your work? I find I’m often writing about people who are haunted in some way, who feel out of place and restless, are looking for the thing they need to change in order to settle. Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. How about you?

Margarita We definitely have some overlap here. If there’s a unifying theme to my work, it’s people who are looking for home. And I use the term broadly. Home can be a place, a person, or even something we find within ourselves. It’s where we feel the most secure, where we can feel a sense of belonging while being our truest selves.

Roz Yes – a sense of belonging and security. I’m with you totally. My characters are also looking for that. Perhaps we could call it ‘inner home’.

Margarita “Inner home” is a great way to put it.

Roz You self-published Asleep From Day, didn’t you? Can you talk about that decision? Did you seek a traditional deal for it first?

Margarita The agent I worked with prior to this one submitted Asleep From Day for me and sent it to editors who specialized in literary fiction, women’s fiction, suspense, and mystery, though the novel didn’t neatly fit into any of those genres, and thus it wasn’t acquired. I decided it was best to part ways with that agent and try my hand at self-publishing. Roz, what led you to self-publish? Do you think you’ll ever consider the traditional route with any future work?

Roz My path to self-publishing was similar to yours. I had agents for each of my novels. I had enthusiasm from a range of publishers and was also being tipped for book clubs, but each time the editors worried that I wasn’t a neat genre fit. A few publishers suggested changes that might please the marketing departments, but they compromised my vision too much. Fortunately, I knew all the editorial disciplines because I’d run a publisher’s editorial department and I’d also self-published non-fiction successfully. So off I went.

As for the next novel, I’ll certainly seek a traditional home for it. I’d love to find a publisher who’s a good partner for my work. And I think it’s always worth querying to see what’s possible for each individual book.

Margarita I wish you luck with it. Hopefully, publishers are noticing that readers enjoy genre-bending fiction that doesn’t strictly adhere to formulas.

Roz What was your process for getting all the feedback and support necessary for a polished book?

Margarita I was a book coach at Author Accelerator at the time, so I had access to multiple talented editors, one of whom I hired to work on Asleep from Day. After that, I hired a proofreader.

Roz How did you develop and decide the cover?

Margarita The cover was designed by my husband, Terry, who’s a professional graphic designer and illustrator. I gave him a number of ideas but also encouraged him to develop his own concepts. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted the cover to convey a dreamy quality. He ended up doing about 20 different designs before I picked the final one.

Roz I notice it’s now out of print. Can you talk more about that?

Margarita I decided to take it down so that my publishers at home and abroad could position Oona as my official debut. I may republish it at a later point in time, but for now I’d rather readers focus on Oona, which I believe to be a better book.

Roz Here’s Margarita out of order, 1999 to 2019.

Roz Oona is your second novel, and your debut in traditional publishing. How did that deal come about?

Margarita In very much the traditional way. I sent out queries, got an agent, and the book was submitted to editors. To my utter shock and delight, more than one editor expressed interest, so I was given the chance to speak to each one to get a sense of their vision for the book. An auction followed and I selected the editor/publisher I felt would be the best fit for Oona. Not long after that, it sold in the UK.

Roz Before your novels, you worked in publishing and social media. You also have a degree in creative writing. And you blog at cool places. What was the path from those to your books?

Margarita I initially thought I’d have a career in publishing, but after working at a literary agency, I realized agenting wasn’t going to be the right fit for me. Working at HarperCollins offered a glimpse at many more types of career paths and I loved the years I spent there, but I just couldn’t find my niche in the industry. Transitioning into social media was a lucky break, and I was fortunate to work at some of the places I did, but as I advanced career-wise, I had less and less creative energy to put into my own projects. It wasn’t until I left New York and my hectic work life behind that I could truly focus on writing books.

Roz How has that background helped?

Margarita Having a background in both the agent and publisher side of the industry has come in handy. The technology has changed (there was a lot of photocopying back in my day!)

Roz Oh lord, there was! You’ve just reminded me. When manuscripts arrived… when we marked them up and sent them for typesetting… when galleys came in… when we sent them out again…

Margarita Many of the basics are the same. If nothing else, understanding the gauntlet a manuscript has to run before it’s represented by an agent and then sold to a publisher made me aware of the long timelines and tough odds I was up against. On the social media side, having that professional background has helped me develop my author platform online.

Roz You also freelance as a book coach and editor. Tell me about that.

Margarita I don’t take on as much editorial work these days so that I have more time to write (I don’t draft quickly). But I find it deeply gratifying to help other writers develop their stories and it’s also helped me take a more objective approach to my own work.

Roz Likewise, on all counts. I also freelance as a book coach and editor. I love figuring out what a writer wants a book to be and helping them achieve it. And I often find I learn a lot from their brave attempts.

Margarita Yes, isn’t it funny when you find yourself correcting a particular issue in someone else’s work over and over, only to find the same issue in your own work later on? Editing can be a good way to become a more self-aware writer.

Roz It’s the best education. Or: our students can be our best teachers.

Margarita And we can learn something from just about any piece of writing. Even when it misses the mark, it gets us thinking about how to improve it and what makes for a satisfying story.

Roz What’s it like to be publishing in these strange times?

Margarita It’s a strange time to be doing book promotion. But I’m also amazed by how the writing and book community is unifying in the face of this global crisis. Whether it’s independent bookstore owners hand-delivering books to their customers, book clubs shifting their meetings to online discussions, the numerous reading lists being shared, or the countless ways authors are supporting each other’s work. I hope people will continue to turn to books as a source of comfort and a positive escape. And I’m proud to be part of a creative community that is determined to thrive in difficult circumstances.

Roz Amen to that. Here’s where Margarita hangs out on line. Tweet her on @damiella , find her on Facebook track her down on Instagram , sign up for her newsletter and find her website and her books.

And here’s an update on my own strange times

 

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What’s it like to be an independent bookseller? Ep 17 FREE podcast for writers and booklovers

This was one of my favourite episodes. Until now, we’ve mostly concentrated on writing and publishing. But what’s it like to be an independent bookseller? What keeps them awake at night? What keeps the lights on? How do they decide which books to stock and promote? How do they see authors and the publishing world? How should authors approach them? How do they survive in a world of online giants? What goes into a good book event? What do they wish we all understood better about bookselling?

Usually it’s me answering the questions, but today I am definitely doing the asking. My co-host is, as ever, independent bookseller Peter Snell.

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.

 

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