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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

THE GIRL WITH THE RED SCARF

I've decided to contact agents in hope of representation for my next novel. I'm currently at the first draft stage and usually, after all the work that goes into writing, choosing covers, and the marketing that must be carried out, I've self-published. However, I feel differently about this one.

When I started to write it I expected to continue on the road that I stepped out onto two years ago. Is it really two years? I can hardly believe it. I've written three novels, and two novellas. The novellas I wrote for fun because I wanted to try everything...explore every genre, but the novel I'm writing at the moment means a great deal to me.

It's about a boy who is adopted from an orphanage in Sarajevo by an English couple, and his experiences as a guy in his twenties when he tries to find his biological parents. This becomes very important to him when he meets the love of his life by chance in a London park. Was it just chance, or that indescribable something that leads one person to another, pushed by the hand of fate? 

I decided to write about adoption and the inevitable questions regarding parentage because my dad was raised in a children's home in the 1920s. Before he died ten years ago he asked me to try to find information about what happened to his mother, Carrie. I didn't hold out much hope. My father and his brother were raised in India until Dad was about eight years old. They lived in absolute luxury. They each had a nanny, and his mother and stepfather employed servants. They lived in a palatial home, a life we probably wouldn't recognise ourselves unless we're watching films or reading books about that time. For reasons yet to be confirmed their stepfather sent my grandmother, my dad, and his brother back to the UK to certain poverty. They returned to Wandsworth, an area of London where my grandmother was born, and were very poor as when they returned to England they were penniless. My grandmother was unable to care for her boys because she had to find work, so they were sent to live in a children's home on the east coast of England. The culture shock must have been horrendous.

It took a very long time to find my grandmother, but eventually I did, which meant I could tell Dad what had happened to her, and how much it meant to her that he and his brother were safe, if not totally happy. I can't tell you how glad and relieved I was to have been able to find the information he needed. It meant that before he died he knew for certain his mother loved him. I have the letters she wrote to the orphanage begging to see her little boys. The authorities were so strict in those days. The letters are heart rending.

So, THE GIRL WITH THE RED SCARF, means a lot to me. Below is a graphic of how I see Ellie, the girl Tom falls in love with. If I'm fortunate enough to find an agent or publisher it will probably never be used, but I keep it beside me. It keeps me going because it embodies the essence of the story.
I hope you like it.
What keeps you going?
Lots of love
Valentina xxx


Friday, 20 May 2016

Don't Invite Me to Your Party... Pleeeease!

I went to a party last week. The truth is, I didn't want to go. I really didn't want to go. Don't get me wrong, there are certain things I like to do in a social sense. The informal lunch, a trip down The Thames with a friend, family get-togethers, a night in the pub, y'know the sort of thing. But parties? Not really.

I've always had an ambivalent attitude towards them. I was never completely mad about them. It was okay when I was young. Then, I was happy to be the centre of attention, and drank enough to conveniently forget about some of the things I did at said parties, which was probably just as well. Unfortunately, much of the attention I receive now is due to the fact that I write.

You might think this would be a good thing, a conversation starter, an interesting discussion. It isn't. Here is a list of the questions and comments I receive on a regular basis (some by the same person at different times) at social gatherings.

The main one...'So, I hear you write.'
Then... 'How long have you been writing?' So far so good.
Then the coup de grace, very early on... 'Who's your publisher?' It's downhill from then on in because the fact that I self-publish is seen as the green light to ask any question, no matter how intrusive.  
'So, you're self-published. How does that work?'
Then, and I guarantee this is where it gets interesting...'How much money are you making?'  

In the world I inhabit asking someone how much they earn is a no-no, so maybe someone can tell me why it's okay for a person to ask me how much money I make from my writing. My stock answer is, 'Enough to keep me happy.' I would like to make it clear here that I don't write because of the financial rewards, in fact, most people I know who are passionate about writing don't do it for that reason because most writers don't make a living from it. It's a nice bonus when it happens. This is just how I view it.  

Then...'What's your book about?' Fair question.
'I don't read fantasy, or contemporary fiction. You should write a Western. I've heard it's the next big thing.' S'pose it might be.
'Maybe you should write something like Fifty Shades of Grey. You might have more luck.'
'I've been thinking of writing a book' or... 'I'm writing a book.' Tells me about book which is fine. Then.
'D'you think it will sell?'
'If I write it will you edit it for me?' (They mean for free.)
'Do you make your own e-books?'
'If I write my book will you do mine for me because, honestly, (there's usually a little laugh here) I don't have a clue about computers.' Not that I'm in any danger here because this has been said many times to me and it's never actually happened.
'Do you do your own covers?'
'Could you do mine?'

I kid you not, all of the above has been said to me at one time or another, usually at someone's party/barbecue. Please understand, I like helping people, really I do, in fact I'm known for it, but sometimes...sometimes I just want to tell people to take a long run off a short pier.
D'you know what I mean?

Lots of love
Valentina xxx

  

Monday, 4 April 2016

Does Lack of Self-Confidence Hold You Back?

Recently, I was very fortunate to be interviewed about my novels and life as a writer by Merrie Housden from www.theinspiredwriters.com One of her questions was, 'What advice would you give to aspiring writers?' This was my answer:-

'I remember when I wrote my first book I was quite scared because it seemed such a mammoth undertaking. I knew what I wanted to write, and the emotions I wanted to convey. My advice would be, 'Have faith in yourself. Believe you can do it and you will. Don't give up, no matter what. Read loads, and remember, every single word you type on the page is one word closer to the end. Good luck'.'

I thought about it afterwards and I realised it's so much easier said than done. One of the things I said was, 'Believe in yourself'. Well, okay, everyone says that to other people. But what does it actually mean? Here is a quote by E.E. Cummings, a poet who wrote, 'I Carry Your Heart with Me'.

'Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.'

We all experience fear of failure, and self doubt. Unfortunately, those two interlopers usually hit when we're about to embark on something new, perhaps something out of our comfort zone. I've been a writer for more years than I care to admit, yet I didn't put my creative work out until quite recently. When I examined the reasons for not doing so, I realised it was fear of ridicule or criticism from agents, publishers and peers. And of course, readers.

In the last two years I've released three novels and two novellas, two written some time ago. I'm currently writing two full-length novels in two series that I've created. Why did I suddenly decide to put my fears behind me and get on with it? I can remember the day I decided to go for it. And I know why I made that decision.

Time doesn't stand still. The older we get, the more swiftly time passes. Or so it seems. We should stretch our abilities, our passions, and our desire to achieve. Stretch them as far as they will go. Why? Because through the centuries, if others hadn't pushed themselves to do more, to discover more, to try more, nothing would have been achieved. 

Don't get me wrong. It's scary sometimes. When I'm about to publish something or send a query to an agent or publisher, I hesitate to tell you how long my finger hovers over the 'send' key. Once, when I was doing just that, my daughter came into my office and without warning pushed my finger down on the key. It was very funny and we laughed...a lot, even though I couldn't believe what she'd done. But she was right. I was hesitating, and hesitation doesn't get anything done.

I'm not an expert on how to cure lack of confidence or self-esteem. I know how it feels to be scared to have the courage of my convictions. There are still times when my resolve shakes because I'm aware my writing abilities are being put on the line. In some ways, putting our work out into the universe is an invitation for others to have negative opinions, but I've had some wonderful feedback from readers, and it's those comments that keep me writing and encourage me to invent new stories and exciting characters. I don't want to look back and regret that I didn't press the 'send' key.

Lots of love 
Valentina

Monday, 21 March 2016

Christmas at Mistletoe Abbey


I've been amazed by the amount of readers who love Christmas no matter what time of the year it is. I love it too. It's so special, a time for families and fun, and I think this is why so many readers are happy to read a Christmas story in the springtime. Thank you to those who share the Christmas love with me. And if you haven't read it yet, here's a free preview of Christmas at Mistletoe Abbey. Enjoy!

Love Valentina

Monday, 14 March 2016

NEVER LET ME GO


This one's a bit saucy, so if that's not your thing...leave it alone!

Love
Valentina xxx

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Martin Willoughby ~ Writer, comedian, and friend.

I'm honoured to be hosting a post from my friend and fellow writer, Martin Willoughby. Martin writes in the literary humour genre, think Douglas Adams meets Terry Pratchett. If this is your favourite genre, may I suggest you read Tempers Fugit. I know you'll love it. Here is my Amazon review.




'This extremely imaginitive novel is loaded with humour and unique characters. Tempers Fugit is the perfect and very clever title of a tale in the space comedy genre, which sits comfortably beside Red Dwarf, and the unique genre Terry Pratchett made so popular. I particularly loved Mae, the teenager developed over a matter of months and I'm sure I've felt like Carla, whose temper certainly flies. If you love Red Dwarf, robots, time travel and an inventive plot, you'll love Tempers Fugit, a novel full of jokes, comedic asides and unique characters. Martin Willoughby's experience as a comedian is shown to great and very enjoyable effect here. The perfect introduction to the Radford family, and the next in the series, Appollo the Thirteenth!'

I'd also like to thank Martin for his support with my own writing. Martin has read virtually everything I've written. I greatly value his opinion as a writer. So, Martin, it's over to you...

You Never Know
By Martin Willoughby

I run a couple of pages on Facebook, one of which is for a drama group. It’s been going for a couple of years now and I write the occasional post advertising our plays and fund-raisers. Sometimes I put up a relevant humourous picture. One of these pictures has recently gone viral.




Now, if you are involved in a drama group that picture will raise a smile or seven, and I posted it several months ago with that intention. For some reason, in late December 2015, it was picked up by a random individual and within two weeks had reached nearly 150,000 people. The latest count is over 200,000. Of those people, over 70 became followers of the drama group’s Facebook page, trebling the number.

Why did this happen? No idea.

However, I do know the mechanism at play. It’s been seen before in a number of places and at a number of times in the past. All it takes for things like this to leap from obscurity is one or two well connected and influential people who like what they see, mention it to others then you have a cascade of interest from elsewhere.

It’s not something you can manipulate either. If the person doesn’t like it, you can’t make them.
Past examples include Hush Puppies which, after a severe dip in popularity suddenly took off in the cooler parts of New York after some influential club goers started wearing them. Think of Burberry coats in the 90s and 00s after being worn by some celebrities. The same applies to books promoted by Richard and Judy and anything that Delia Smith touches.

What’s this got to do with writing or anything else you’re involved with? Unless you know the right people, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get noticed, but as the example of the drama group picture shows, it can happen randomly and at any time. You just have to keep going.
In short: never give up.



Martin is a founder member of the Starfish Publishing Co-op (www.starfishpc.co.uk) and an author in his own right who writes a blog full of humour and randomness (www.mwilloughby.blogpsot.com).

My thanks to Martin for an insightful piece of writing, and for the sense of fun he brings to the writing life.

Love
Valentina


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

NOTES ON A REBELLION ~ FREE PREVIEW

Hi, Blogettes,
For an introduction to Random Knight's changing world after The Warming, click below.  Here's the blurb...
'Past meets future when seventeen-year-old Random Knight takes control of the timing of her own death. After joining a renegade bunch of raiders, including her soul mate, Ethan Smith, in an attack on Castle Firamodor, Random must make a judgement that throws her into the path of a brutal and terrifying adversary. Notes on a Rebellion is a powerful fantasy novel set in 2046 when fears for our world in a changing climate result in 'The Warming.'

Enjoy!

Love Valentina


Many thanks to Guy Vestal for this wonderful review...

'I started this a long time ago, but everything in the world that could go wrong, did. But I finally got it back in my hands, and I'm glad I did! The world and character building are far above average, which is actually rare for authors coming out. I was really surprised at the change of landscape, especially the temperature. A fantasy dystopia of a world being ravagede by winged beasts, and a small group of humans that have realized they're already dead, so what do they have to lose in fighting back? The worst possible scenario an enemy, or in this case, enemies, can face. An opponent whose every forward moving step is a victory. The drastic changes in the weather, vegetation, texture, animals and beings, elevations, and the like make this an easier read, when you start to understand the world they are living in.
The relationship between the protagonist and her dog is actually realistic. I hate the dog/master scenario that would never emulate you and your pet in real life, but this one actually makes you glad to see her dog is just like yours.
The other "warriors", (a title inwardly deserved, not via sword and brawn) on the journey are who I would want, if I was on the same quest. It is so cliche to have the same elite fighter force of ranging steroid and max power heroes, that folks never realize maybe the courage and genius of the guy that might be nothing more than an average guy bagging your groceries, was what was really needed.
The protagonist has a personal agenda of answers she is searching for, as is expected with all stories. The difference here, is that the so-called "Heroine" is just an ordinary girl with a slingshot, someone easily underestimated, until that indifference towards her turns out to be her greatest strength.
Everyone is a liability in their own way on this adventure, but everyone has a special strength that makes up for the liability of another, making this group of everyday nobodies as relatable as being you and your neighbors down the street.
The book is excellent in quality. Dark readable type, wonderful size. Quality pages. I never even cared about the editing because there were no real errors anywhere, and if there were, I had no interest in them because of the readability of the story. The cover is what sold me before reading, and when the book arrived it looked even better in person. I paid $11.65 at Amazon, and after receiving it I would have paid as much as $12.95 for it. It would be worth at least another dollar quality wise.'

The Blogettes