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Friday, 27 March 2015

Self-publishing. My first year.

It's been nearly a year since I made the decision to self-publish my novels. I'm sure every writer has a different reason for taking the plunge into self-publishing, just as their experiences of it will be different to mine, so this is just a personal take on my first year.

As I get to the twelve month mark of 'doing it for myself', I guess the question to ask is whether I think it has been a positive experience. The answer is, yes, mostly. It has also been frustrating, depressing, and costly. The frustration comes about due to the fact that even though as self-publishers we're not waiting for a decision from an agent or publisher, publishing is always a slow business whether you're self-publishing or going the traditional route. When you've finally published your novel, you're waiting with bated breath to see whether you've made sales. It's great when you do, horrible when you don't. There's no one to put in the frame for whatever happens to your work but yourself, because there are no other decision-makers apart from you; about the subject matter or genre, the way it's written, the voice you chose to write in, the typos that crept in, the lapse in promotion because you're writing something else and you just don't have time, bad timing, lack of knowledge about social media and what works best. Whatever. It's all you. And that's hard. It's kind of like a life-lesson, learning about responsibility and taking responsibility when things sometimes don't go to plan.

At the end of the first twelve months, I will have published three novels - A DISH OF STONES, NOTES ON A REBELLION, and A GIRL CALLED RANDOM which will be published shortly. As you can see from the above lines, I've provided links to my novels on Amazon. This is my way of trying to get you, the reader, to take notice of my writing, to be enthused by the introductions I've written, and to fall in love with the covers. It's what I have to do. There's no point in my writing about my titles unless I'm being a sales-person first and foremost, because if I don't get the message out no one will. If you're not a natural sales person, it's something you must learn. No one else does it for you. But hey, you might get lucky. You might have written a book that takes everyone by storm, that racks up sales without lifting a finger, and now, you can sit back and write your next bestseller. However, during the last year, I've read about only three people in that position, although that's not to say they didn't work very hard. Those names crop up time and time again. Occasionally I read about others who are doing quite well, and good on them, but I think the reality for most of us is somewhat different. It's hard work, harder than I had imagined. Am I put off by it? No, because I like to work. I'm the kind of person that will give everything to whatever I'm doing and I will continue until I get results. I've made sales and had some very good feedback, but yet again, this is difficult to come by. You can't twist someone's arm to write a review simply because they've downloaded a freebie that was on offer to everyone. I do question whether freebies work. We'll see.

There are also costs involved. Unless you're e.pub or whatever savvy, (I'm not), you have to pay for someone else to do it. Createspace is different. The site allows you to upload a pdf of your manuscript on to one of their templates, along with your pre-designed cover. It enables you to make a paperback of your book, which is a great service for the self-publisher. Again, it's all down to you with regard to quality and appearance, but you do get the opportunity to order a proof of your novel, so you can check it out before you publish on Amazon. Be careful here. Make sure the book you upload is the one you want to stick with. You can upload second editions which I have done for my first two novels which have a change of publisher name and ISBN, but they don't always get promoted in front of the first edition which is very frustrating. My second editions are better than my first, and it's a lesson I've learnt. Well, it's all a learning curve. A very steep one.

 A DISH OF STONES
NOTES ON A REBELLION


Along the way, I've 'met' some truly lovely people. This has been one of the great positives apart from seeing my work in print and knowing that people have actually paid for my work, taken precious time to read it, and let me know how much they loved it. When that happens, it's just wonderful. Writers are a very encouraging band of people. They know about the dreams, the frustrations, the highs, the lows, and I've found they're willing to offer advice and practical help if needed. Be prepared to do the same. Pay forward and find some fantastic friends.

In conclusion, the last year has been a roller-coaster. When I see my novels I know I've achieved something great, something a few years ago I would never have been able to achieve. Next week I begin my new novel, and I can't wait. I love the beginning part, a fresh manuscript, knowing that at the end of the year I'll have something new and exciting to offer my readers. You know what they say, 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. It's what you must do to achieve anything. It's what life is for!

Lots of love

Valentina


Monday, 2 March 2015

A DISH OF STONES ~ PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Visit www.valentinahepburn.com for review paperback copies and an author bio.

A DISH OF STONES


Amazon Review:~ 'Using a unique writing style, Valentina explores the darker side of human nature and the results of bad choices. I followed Kate on her journey to overcome the choices of others and their effect on her steadfast hope in life. Sometimes these darker characters haunted me, kept surprising me, and I grew to understand and care for each of them. Very emotional to read.' ~
Tanya Reimer ~ Author of Petrified and Ghosts on the Prairies ~ 
Thank you to Tanya Reimer for her Amazon review.



It's 1975, the middle of a fabulous, wild decade when rebellious teenagers dance to the parent-defying music of Glam-Rock. Kate McGuire longs to be like other 16-year-old-girls, but she has something else on her mind, like the whereabouts of her missing father, Joe...and how to win her mother's love. The parental role has fallen on Kate's shoulders, but her sister has her own unique way of surviving the fall-out of Joe's disappearance. Wayward and independent, fifteen-year-old Emma sacrifices her innocence to find the intimacy and lifestyle she craves resulting in a chain of events even the engaging and resolute Kate finds impossible to solve.


Valentina Hepburn
can be found at
Reviewers ~ Please contact me on valentina@valentinahepburn.com if you wish to receive a paperback copy of A DISH OF STONES. A link to your blog will be appreciated.
Many thanks
Valentina

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A DISH OF STONES ~ the movie!

I've had some brilliant comments about my YouTube trailer which I'm thrilled about as I created it myself. Hopefully it gives everyone a flavour of what A DISH OF STONES is about, and up to now the novel has received some great reviews, not least because of the very haunting cover, designed by Tim Pryor of Pryority Designs.



People have asked me if the story is based on my own life.  I suppose writers draw from their experiences all the time; it's impossible not to colour our writing with events of the past, no matter how long ago they were.  There are some moments in A DISH OF STONES that are personal; some that made me happy and some that made me sad, perhaps some experiences that changed my life, but although Angie, Kate's mother in 'A Dish of Stones', abuses alcohol when Joe, Kate's father disappears, I can assure you my mum would get squiffy on one sherry. The two sherries she allowed herself on Christmas Day usually resulted in lots of laughter because she was so funny, so she and Angie have nothing in common.

Each of the characters has something about them that I remember from being a teenager in '70s London. I had many new experiences during that time...we were all caught up in the excitement that seemed to accompany every day.  Anything was possible and I had a wonderful time working in the West End, first in a bank on Oxford Circus and then for a government-backed fashion export company.  (I was secretary, client greeter and catwalk model.  Such fun, and so many interesting people.  I even met John Lennon!)  It was a very unique time, and although people constantly talk about the 60s (which I also remember) the years of the 70s were brilliant.

Glam rock was fantastic, as were the clothes and the laid-back culture of the day which made those years so full of fun and without the 60s angst of trying to be cool. We were unconscious of how we were meant to be.  No one thought about it.  We were who we were, and there was a definite shift to being totally independent and out in the world. We were determined to have fun and we did.  And I'll never forget it.

Unfortunately for seventeen-year-old  Kate in  A DISH OF STONES, life is not like that. Her story does document some of my own experiences, but her life is vastly different to how mine was then.  I hope you will read about her and how she fought her way out of the difficulties she was presented with.  I would love to know what you think.  Below is the book trailer for A DISH OF STONES.

Love
Valentina

Monday, 26 January 2015

Book trailer for A DISH OF STONES

Today I uploaded my first video on You Tube for A DISH OF STONES.
I don't think Spielberg's got anything to worry about, but it was fun (and a little frustrating) to make.
Hope you enjoy it!

Love Valentina






Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Glance Back in Time

This is my first blog post in quite a long time.  So much has happened since my last that I hardly know where to begin.  I guess it's just life, doing what it does, moving on without any of us really having any control. Yes, it's quite scary, but hey, it's been like that for quite a long time!

During the latter part of last year I had a plan. I had published two books in six months and I was feeling very happy. I had planned to finish A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, and release it in time for the Christmas rush (ahem!) but it didn't happen.  Again, life decided to take over and point me in another direction...the direction of loving, caring mum and nanny.

My ex-husband, David, became very ill and unfortunately died in October.  Of course, my girls were devastated, still are, and needed some mum-shaped support and guidance. Sadness overwhelmed the whole family.  I'm guessing many of you have experienced the depth of grief that overcomes us when we lose someone close, someone who has had a very profound effect on our lives.  I know my girls can still hardly believe they won't see their dad again. When a person departs our lives it leaves such a huge void.

Now that another New Year beckons, I think it's a time for reflection on moments I haven't thought about in a while.  Even though David and I had gone our separate ways a long time ago, I've taken some time to remember him; his wicked sense of humour, his irreverence, and his commitment to living his life his way.  Good on him!  Perhaps we should all have a little of that in us.

My hope is that my wonderful, loving daughters will be able to move on into 2015, complete with their cherished memories of their dad and looking forward to the future with their own families.  We have a new arrival joining the family in February and I'm sure that little boy will bring renewed optimism; a little bundle of love we can all share.

My wish for my family, friends, followers, readers, and all of those who have helped me so much during the last twelve months, is a fabulous New Year celebration, and a happy, healthy, successful 2015.  Thank you for your enduring belief and support.  It won't be forgotten.

Happy New Year

LoveValentina xxx



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cover Release for A GIRL CALLED RANDOM...and a fun interview!


A GIRL CALLED RANDOM ~ 
to be released December 2014

Hi, everyone.  Here is the cover for A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, the second in the Notes from Random Knight series.  I'm so excited about it because it takes Random and her friends into a whole new realm of adventure, love, bravery and yes...evil!  
Pre-order NOW!
NOTES ON A REBELLION, the first in the series is available from Amazon

And a fun interview with Doug Schwartz from Checkered Scissors

Q1 ~ What is your name? ~ My pseudonymn is Valentina Hepburn.  I chose this name because my mum looked like Audrey Hepburn and I wanted something which meant 'love', so I thought of Valentine's Day, hence Valentina.  Valentina's me a few years ago.

Q2 ~ When did you decide to be a writer? ~ I wrote my first book when I was seven, called Mischa and The Eskimo.  My lovely mum sewed it into a book and I was astonished when it wasn't picked up by a publisher!  Anyway fast forward to now (a few years down the line) and I'm still writing.  I'm not sure a person can decide to be a writer.  I think we write because we have a passion.

Q3 ~ What did you most recently publish? ~ I've just released NOTES ON A REBELLION, a fantasy/dystopian/romance, the first in the Notes from Random Knight Series.  The second in the series, A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, is due to be released in December.  I've also recently released A DISH OF STONES, a family saga already released as an ebook on Kindle.

Q4 ~ What is your next project? ~ My next project is a stand alone novel called SCARRED, in the thriller genre.

Q5 ~ Which paths have you taken: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or both? ~ I decided to  self-publish a few months ago.  To date the process has been very enjoyable and a massive learning curve.  I've connected with some wonderful people and looking forward to releasing more novels.

Q6 ~ Why should people consider reading your work? ~ I hope my novels have real depth of emotion and connect with readers who like to escape into a story.  I've worked hard on world-building and to ensure my characters art believable.  I hope anyone who reads NOTES ON A REBELLION, and 
A DISH OF STONES, will love the characters and their unfolding story and will want to follow them through the series.

Q7 ~ How do you describe your writing style? ~ In the Notes from Random Knight Series, I write in a confiding, caring, sometimes feisty style.  Her observations about her fellow raiders and their experiences in the rebellion of 2046 reflect her personality; the fact she misses her mum, dad and brother, her love for her dog, Ordinary, and her unfolding love for Ethan Smith who is also part of the raiding party.  She also cares deeply about the battle in front of her and the cause she's fighting for.

Q8 ~ Where and when do you like to write? ~ I write every day, regardless of where I am.  I write a lot at home, but where ever I am, I have either my laptop or a notebook and pen with me.  I've learnt the hard way to always have something to write with and on!

Q9 ~ At what time, day or night do you feel the most creative?  For me the best time to write is first thing in the morning, but I'll write at any time.  Often I'll get ideas at night and I can't wait to get them down, so at night is good too.

Q10 ~ Which authors inspire you the most, and how? ~ I love Adriana Trigiani, Kate Mosse, Lesley Downer, Arthur Golden, Molly Cochran, to name a few of my favourite authors.  Of course I love the classics,  That's a given.

Q11 ~ How do you overcome the writer's demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt? ~ I used to suffer greatly from these two demons, but maturity (?) has taught me to push them away and just go for it.  Occasionally they rear their ugly heads, but I keep writing anyway.

Q12 ~ What aspect of your writing is strongest, and what needs the most improvement? ~ I think my character development and world-building are my strongest writing skills.  I'll leave it to others to decide the answer to the second question.

Q13 ~ What was the best part of the worst thing you've written? ~ That the manuscript is buried under the patio never to be released on to an unsuspecting world!

Q14 ~ What advice do you have for others who want to be writers? ~ Write, write and then...write.

Q15 ~ What form of marketing works best for promoting your work? ~ I'm trying everything, but at the moment my favourite is Goodreads.  I think great reviews and word-of-mouth has to be best.

Q16 ~ If life is a bowl of cherries, what does life as a bowl of cherries look like? ~ Happy, healthy and safe family, great book reviews and sales, and a study looking out of French windows onto a beautiful garden.

Q17 ~ Who is your rock, the one who encourages you the most and why? ~ My husband has always believed in me, as have my daughters.  My seven-year-old granddaughter, Scarlet is very proud to be my personal assistant.  They have never once discouraged me or disrespected my dream.

Q18 ~ What do you do apart from writing? ~ I help my husband run our countryside management business.  I like to walk somewhere lovely every weekend, and I try to get to London, a few miles away and where I was born, as often as possible.  I seem to do lots of baking, usually with my grandchildren.  I also like to paint in watercolour.

Q19 ~ Where can people find more about you and your work? ~ I have a website www.valentinahepburn.com, I'm on Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon. Also if readers want to contact me, they can send emails to valentina@valentinahepburn.com

Q20 ~ What one question should this interviewer have asked and how would you answer it? ~ 
Q~ Will you ever stop writing?
A~ Never!

Many thanks to Doug Schwartz for this interview

Love
Valentina xx

Sunday, 7 September 2014

This is...ETHAN SMITH from Notes on a Rebellion

Yeah, it was s'posed to be an adventure going to the UK after my dad died in 2044. I was on leave from my soccer club, The New York Red Bulls. I hadn't planned on it turning out the way it did.  Sure, I knew about The Warming.  You'd have to be living under a rock not to know about it.  The whole world was affected.  Everything went...crazy!  Storms, tsunami, hurricanes, you name it. Food stocks were at a minimum and everything just kind of went out of control. Was I scared?  Guys aren't supposed to admit it are they?  But, hell, yeah. And I'm even more scared now.

Living in the prison shelter is something else. Why the hell I'm in here I don't know.  We were just shoved into trucks and taken to the countryside where we were locked in the compound. I know I didn't do anything wrong.  All I did was walk peacefully through the centre of London like everyone else on the march.  I also know that it was never meant to be violent.  The Government soldiers made that happen.  And now they're in control.  The Thayne have their own army and they're leaving us to starve to death.  We're gonna be wasted if they have their way.

What do I miss?  I miss my dad.  I miss my friends...soccer.  The beach. Running water, decent johns, all that kind of stuff. Y'know...it's hard to name everything I miss because this life I have now is nothing like the one I had before, so I guess I miss my life!

And then there's Random.  Boy, she's one feisty chick.  But...she's kinda got to me.  I don't know what it is about her, I just know she's special.  Is she the one?  Well, I never expected to meet my forever-girl in a crap prison shelter, but...yeah, she's the one!  That's another things guys aren't supposed to admit, but everyone knows how I feel about her.  I love her.  And I want to be with her whatever happens during the raid on Castle Firamodor.  She's brave and opinionated and tells it like it is.  And she's beautiful and honest and caring. Random's my girl.

The Blogettes