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Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Fullness of Time

Last Sunday was Mother's Day in the UK, or Mothering Sunday as it used to be known.  I think I've mentioned here that my mum died quite a long time ago.  Every year on this day I go to the cemetery to put flowers on her grave to thank her for being my mum, twenty-seven times to be precise.  Of course I feel sadness while I'm there but it gives me a chance to reflect.  It also brings me some peace too.  I'm not sure why; cemeteries obviously aren't 'happy' places, but I think it's because I'm able to continue to honour her as I did when I was young - to carry on the tradition of giving her the flowers she loved.  I like to sit for a while and just be really quiet.  It's a good place to think because I've noticed that no one questions why I'm there, what I'm doing, what I'm thinking etc. etc.  Time does kind of stop.

My mum's grave is in a line of headstones of people who died round about the same time.  (I'm not trying to be morbid. There's a point to this, honestly).  In the past those graves have been well tended by loved ones, but not this year.  As each year has passed, I've noticed more and more of the resting places have not been cared for.  I decided this was due to the fullness of time.

It's the one thing we can't stop.  Time carries on no matter what is happening in our lives, and like King Canute trying to hold back the waves, we cannot stop the hands of the clock ticking off the hours.

Unless we write about it.

I got an idea.

I'm currently writing the sequel to Notes on a Rebellion called The Destruction of the Compendium and I've changed the story to include turning back time.  Although I was obviously sad on Sunday, I thanked my mum for helping me find an idea that I hadn't explored before.  I'm having so much fun with it right now, and when I go visit again I'll have lots to report.  Maybe by next year I can tell her my stories are being read, that my books are on the shelves and I'm writing the third in the series.  I hope she's somewhere lovely where she can hear me (not all the time of course.  Now that would be embarrassing) and that I'm working hard to achieve my aim of being a published writer.  Only time will tell.

Is there a place you go to get ideas for your writing?

Lots of love
Valentina xxx

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Secret to Writing a Bestseller.

OK, OK I've never been on the bestseller list.  And I'm not published. (Tut).  But I saw this and thought, you know what?  That's it.  In a nutshell.  So.  This is what I saw.

And it was quite funny that I saw this when I did.  I'd been to a party a few days earlier, and y'know the part when people tell you what they do and then they ask you the same?  Well, I said I was a writer,'s what I am.  I write for companies and I get paid.  Sometimes.  And I write creatively...and this is what I told them.  


I've mentioned in my blog that I have two manuscripts, both finished, one with an agent, and one going to a publisher for review.  My lovely Blogettes have done all this themselves; y'know (been there, done that, worn the T-shirt) and they've wished me luck and hoped for the best for me as I always do for them.  But for some reason the rest of the world seems to find writers a bit of a challenge.

I got the usual "well, what are they about?"  Or, "when are you going to publish your book?  Why hasn't it been published yet?"  I find these questions quite difficult to answer at parties because they usually come at a time when I've almost collapsed from boredom and decided to explore the drinks table. Anyway, I always do my best to do justice to the plots and my characters.  But there's always one or two people who decide (because I'm not published presumably) that they could produce far better work standing on their heads than I could produce sitting upright.  I listened patiently, asked them questions about what they plan to write and how far they've actually got.  To a man, and woman, not one had written a word.  Not. One. Word.

I took a deep breath, because...well, I'm not a confrontational person.  And the party was in someone else's house and I didn't want to be rude, but honestly!  I felt so frustrated because I truly believe that each one thought it was as easy as sticking a few words down and that was it.  My friend, Suzy Campioni had been listening from a distance.  "They haven't got a clue, sweetie."  I just shook my head, because she and Ronnie Levine and my family and my Blogettes know how much passion and relentless effort it takes to write a book  an agent will love; a publisher will love; one that readers want to read - the hours spent slogging away over a hot PC or laptop.  The constant drafting and re-drafting; the changing of plots, timelines, characters. And we don't mind all of that because we just love to write. We have a true passion, could be said, an addiction to writing. That's why I have so much respect for my fellow writers, because I know.  

When I got home, I thought about what had been said.  My stories aren't just ideas.  They're documented; waiting to be told; my characters can't wait to meet their followers and find new people to fall in love with them. And I can't wait to continue writing the sequel to Notes on a Rebellion and to begin all the ideas I have.  All those lovely words are written and waiting to be read.  If I could hug them, I would.

What reaction do you get when you tell people you're a writer?

Lots of love
Valentina x

P.S.  The graphic above came from Jonathan Gunson's blog 'Best Seller Labs.'  Jonathan is a mine of information about writing and offers brilliant advice.  So why not pay him a visit.  He's right here.

Monday, 20 January 2014

It Had Better Be Better

Dear All,
So here we are. 2014.  It seems like only yesterday I was angsting about not being prepared for Christmas.  Well, like everyone else I got there in the end.  I hope you, like me, had a good one.

I s'pose a little should be said about 2013 now it's a dim and distant memory.  All I'll say is 'it did what it said on the tin': the clue is in the title and I'm glad it's over.  I like the look of the numbers in 2014, so I'm hoping this will bode well for all of us.  At least one of our writer buddies is jumping for joy at the moment.  I'm so happy for them because they deserve it.  No one works harder.

 I'm writing every day which has always been my dream.  One of my manuscripts is out on a full with a prestigious UK agent, so I'm waiting with bated breath, crossed fingers and everything else.  Also I've had a request from a recently well-known publisher to see my  work so I'm feverishly polishing like crazy.  I hope to send it to them this week and I must admit I'm feeling excited about it.  And a bit nervous.  I'll keep you posted.

As well as this, I'm still writing The Destruction of the Compendium and formulating a plan for the third in the Random Knight series.

To end the week, I'll be hosting a fourth birthday party for a little boy who is on the autistic spectrum.  His parents are nervous about organising a party at McDonalds or Pizza Hut or even in a hall because he doesn't cope well with places he isn't familiar with, or unfamiliar people.  My breakfast room is big enough to cope with lots of kids and so is my table, so it's the obvious choice, and there's nothing more wonderful than seeing children enjoying themselves.  I expect I'll be cooking up some extras for the party as well as something for the adults.  This is often my role, but I don't mind at all.  Actually, this is real life, isn't it?  I love being in my little den writing away on my own with  my characters for company, but being with family and friends are the times I remember with most joy, and I appreciate every moment.

To see the look of delight on George's face when he sees the Toy Story themed room will be fantastic. (Did anyone see Toy Story 3 on Christmas Day.  I must confess, I shed a tear or two.)  He absolutely loves it and has all the characters in his room: Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, Buzz Lightyear et al.
So, Happy Birthday, gorgeous George.  And here's to a fabulous 2014 for all of us!

Lots of love

Friday, 8 November 2013

The A1 Cookery Book - The Beauty of 'Real' Books

I've just read a blog post by my blogging buddy, Tanya Reimer (Life's Like That) (thank goodness Tanya's blogging again) about an old book she found on her shelf she had forgotten about.  She described the smell of the yellowing and faded book like leaves stuck in a jar; a lovely description and a not unfamiliar one.  Old books do have that certain 'something' about them, and not just the smell.  The appearance too of a book that many may have touched and read with delight and pleasure as they turn the pages is a wonderful image.

While I appreciate that as a writer I should embrace any medium that encourages people to read, (and I do embrace them because I would love people to read my stories no matter how they prefer to read them), I just love books and I think I always will.

As usual my Christmas list suggests a number of books, and hopefully some lovely person will buy me at least a couple of them.  When I take off the gift-wrap on Christmas Day knowing that my wishes have been granted, I have to tear myself away, knowing that as usual I'm on Christmas lunch duty.  My lovely books go on the pile of presents in the living-room, tempting me to open the covers and marvel at how clean and unmarked the title pages are.  (Unfortunately they don't stay like that for long, but only because they're well loved - I read  my books at least twice, most of them more.) The Writer's and Artist's Yearbook is a must. God, how I love that book: the rich colour of the cover; the title that promises so much inside.  I can't wait to get into it. I'm obsessed I'm afraid!

Every year my books go on coffee-table duty; a kind of rota - my older books go to the glass-cupboard on the landing - my new books are shown off on my coffee-table for all to see - because I'm a book snob. My snobbery also does double-duty because when people visit they actually look at the books (they can't really miss them, the pile is a bit high) and it's often an ice-breaker, beginning conversations about books they've read and those they recommend.

The other thing that got me thinking about 'real' books was an old recipe book my great-grandmother, Esther passed down to my nanna, Lilian, then to my mum, Irene, then to me.  I love it because it's so of the time; we would probably never cook the way they did then or use the same ingredients, but the thought that generations of women in my family have touched that book; have used the recipes between the old, tattered covers in their own kitchens thrills me to bits.  Will we do that with e-books I wonder?  I love my old cookery book, and below is a recipe for you to try.  Enjoy!

The "A1" Cookery Book
'Everything essential for those who wish to have plain food daintily prepared'

Boiled Tongue
The tongue should be fresh from the pickle.  Wash it well from the salt and trim off any unsightly parts.  Put it in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Let it come very slowly to the boil, skim off the scum as it rises, and then simmer gently for about four hours.  When done, remove the skin and fasten the tongue down on a board with a couple of forks and a piece of string into the shape of a high-heeled slipper.  When it is cold, glaze and ornament it.

(Actually, I know two or three people who would benefit from this recipe.  I think we'll leave it there.)

Lots of love,

Valentina x

Monday, 28 October 2013

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE COMPENDIUM sequel to 'Notes on a Rebellion'

Hi, Blogettes,
It's been a while since I last posted, but as usual I've been extraordinarily busy.  This is the time of year when everyone with a retail website wishes they had organised their Christmas marketing months ago and then realise they're on the back-foot.  I've been working flat-out and it's filled much of my time.  But unlike my last-but-one-post, I'm in a really good place as far as my own writing is concerned, and even with work I'm still finding time to do the thing I love most.

I'm 10,000 words into the sequel to Notes on a Rebellion, and I'm having so much fun with it.  To be honest I was a little scared about starting - hand-on-heart.  I fell madly in love with my characters in Notes on a Rebellion, especially Random Knight, Ethan, Silent Red, Jemima-Jim and Ordinary, and of course the evil Zack, and I was so familiar with the story I didn't want to leave it behind.  But I had always planned a trilogy; Notes from Random Knight, and I knew I just had to get on with it.  So, The Destruction of the Compendium has begun.  Only about 90,000 or so words to go but the thought of it isn't fazing me.  I'm really looking forward to it and my imagination has come up with some great ideas that I can't wait to write into the story.

I've realised that the saying,  'if you want to write...just write' is true.  Something always comes to us doesn't it?  We may think we're stuck for ideas but actually they're there, somewhere in our heads.  They might hide a little, frightened to show their faces until we sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys.  I do both and it really works) and it seems as soon as we do, the ideas, the conversations, the characters come to life for us.  One of my newest characters is a soldier called Apricot Lakshmi and I love her already.  It's this that makes me want to write - finding new characters, revealing their personalities through their conversation, their actions and their foibles.  There's nothing like it.  I love it.

Are you finding time to write?  What are you working on at the moment?

Love Valentina x

Friday, 2 August 2013

PHEW! It's Over!

Hiatus over.  The break has mended, the writing juices replenished, the muse back from vacation.  Thank goodness.  I haven't written anything apart from work stuff for quite a while.   When I say quite a while we're not talking years here, or even months, but it is the longest time for ages that I haven't written anything creatively...and I missed it.

I guess that was what it was all about.  I wanted to see just how much I missed it.  Answer: Lots and lots.
During my rest-period, ideas flooded into my head like waterfalls.  It's been great.  I've whittled them down to one and I've made a start.  Yay, I'm excited again, filled with hopes and dreams.  Just like I used to be.  In fact, I missed all of that just as much as the actual writing.

I missed you, too.  My lovely Blogettes.  What are you up to?

Lots of loveValentina xx

Thursday, 13 June 2013


I haven't blogged for a while. I'm so busy with other stuff I just don't seem to have time. Yes, I could eschew some of my clients who hire my writing service and spend more time writing the follow-up to Notes on a Rebellion, posting on Twitter and blogging, but I can't justify losing money. I also help to run another business which seems to take up more and more time.

I don't think I've got the balance right yet.

Writing has been on my mind a lot though. Of course, in my working life it's all I think about because I'm paid to, but the passion I had for my personal writing has taken a hit. How can I justify the hours I sit at my PC in my down times when there are other things about life I want to explore? Do you ever feel the same?

 I haven't lifted my water-colour brushes for about three years, and it was something I loved to do. So relaxing and creative, and the results were there for all to see. Self-doubt has begun to slide into my thoughts like mercury. Is my creative work not good enough, or is it just that Lady Luck has not smiled down on me? 

And I'm beginning to realise that not only must our manuscripts be perfect, there's a lot of luck involved - the right genre at the right time, the right agent at the right time. The right time!

A writer on a blog I visit regularly has an agent and written several novels, but no publishing deal. She feels worn out with dreams that haven't come true and reading about flashfire publishing deals for kids just out of school. No it's not sour grapes. It's the exhaustion of desire, aspiration and passion. To keep all of that going for years on end without reward takes massive energy and endless enthusiasm, difficult to maintain when rejection after rejection pours into your inbox.  Yes, it's all about the writing, but to maintain momentum I need to know others are reading it too.  Hands up, if I were to get an offer of representation from an agent tomorrow, I know I could rekindle my enthusiasm and love for the craft in a snap.  But I need some encouragement, a sign that to continue is the right thing to do.   At the moment I'm just not sure it is. Where are you now in your journey to publication? Have you stalled?        

Lots of love

 Valentina xxx

The Blogettes