Subscribe to Letters from Valentina Hepburn and be entered into a monthly draw

Friday, 23 October 2015

Kindle Countdown for 'NOTES ON A REBELLION'


Kindle Countdown for NOTES ON A REBELLION from 25th October until 30th October '15 ~ 99p here

Dear Blogettes,
Another video from the Valentina Hepburn School of Film and Arts. (Ahem). Again, I don't think Steven Spielberg's got anything to worry about, but I had fun. Last week is a dim and distant memory, well almost, and I've got my mojo back. What a difference a few days can make. I think the answer to writer's block, or whatever is was, is to do something, anything, to further the art-form we're so passionate about, and our careers as writers. There are ups and downs in everything, so, take a deep breath, and keep on keeping on.  
Lots of emails of encouragement, so thank you.

Lots of love,
Valentina xxx


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

I've Hit a Wall

Dear Blogettes,


Yes, I really have. And I can't really work out why. I've written so much; articles, websites, menus, sales descriptions...novels, and this is the first time I've experienced it. I've lost my mojo, my muse, my...vision? Maybe I'm tired. But I've felt really tired before and I still continued to write. I haven't written a thing for three days. That's a long time for me. Even my daughter says, 'it's not like you, Mum'. And she's right. It isn't.

Lots of love
Valentina xxx





Friday, 25 September 2015

Talking About Rejection

Hi, Blogettes,

It's Thursday again...blogging day. Actually it's Friday but yesterday went crazy so...here I am. It's been a funny week. I can only liken it to being in the X Factor. Now, I have to tell you I have a good singing voice. I was often chosen for the lead in school musicals, was in an adult rock choir, and still sing to my grandkids who don't run away screaming with terror. However. You would not catch me on the X Factor for a whole year's supply of Haribos. And that's a promise.

Having said that, I had my own X Factor moment this week. A literary agent (someone esteemed in the industry) read my (self-published) book.I spent weeks in a state of stupefying excitement, planning how many books would follow my signing, wondering which publisher I would work with, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Then.

In came (Simon Cowell), who booted me out. It was the nearest, near miss I've ever had. 

I hadn't planned to look for an agent. My plan was self-publishing, and for nearly two years this has been my target. And I've achieved it, and I'm very happy. But y'know, when you get a chance at something you have to take it. So I took it. And I got to judges houses. And he said some wonderful things about my writing. And we parted friends.

Rejection is a huge part of a writer's life. If we're to succeed in finding an agent and a publisher, we must be tenacious at a time when we feel like giving up. Don't. Keep doing the thing that gives you so much pleasure, that gives your life meaning and allows you to escape from the things going on around you. If you're a writer you will never stop writing, because inventing characters and building their lives is in your blood.

And as a card carrying, t-shirt wearing, been there done that self-publisher, will I look for my soul-mate agent again? You betcha!

Lots of love
Valentina xxx

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Prettily Tied Up Endings…and Writing with Honesty

Dear Blogettes,

It's been a little while since I blogged. I always have my blog in the back of my mind, particularly if I haven't posted. My aim was to post once a week, on Thursday, but it seems there's always something more pressing, like writing my new manuscript, posting on social media and writing a synopsis for 'MEADOW'S END' before finishing the manuscript. This is a first for me.

Usually, I go where the story takes me. When writing A DISH OF STONES, I had a clear picture in my head, like a complete capsule of events unfolding just behind my eyes. I saw Kate and Emma, watched them as they struggled to live through circumstances that would make most of us crumble. I knew there must be some kind of happy ending for them. I wanted, maybe needed a happy ending for them. I also knew it wouldn't be a happy, happy ending, because I wanted the story to have an edge of realism. Nothing really ends happy happy...it's more a case of accepting that things don't always go to plan, to be grateful for the sliver of happiness we're offered, one that lifts our spirits and encourages us to continue. Surely, this is real life.

I'm addicted to television drama. The BBC in the UK do this very well, but there's one thing that frustrates me more than anything when I'm viewing. Some of the dramas are stretched out over two or three weeks, maybe longer, so clearly a chunk of time must be invested. My pet hate is when the writers gather up all the loose ends and tie them in a very pretty knot, so that A gets exactly what she wants, B learns to accept it, and C goes to prison because he's a very naughty boy. Sometimes, this is all pulled together very quickly in the last episode, and to be honest, it leaves me feeling very short-changed. This is not realism. Yes, I want escapism ( I write fantasy as well as contemporary fiction, and I love to let rip with the characters, real or imagined) but I hope I write with realism in mind when dealing with the problems we face as human beings. A series I watched recently, and one I absolutely fell in love with was a huge disappointment in the final episode, when everything just conveniently fell into place. It felt uncomfortably like the writer had been told there wasn't another series on offer, so hey, I'd better just wind it all up.

Writing about the problems human beings face in life must surely be approached with realism, otherwise we're not writing with honesty. 'In to each life a little rain must fall' is a truism. It is absolutely correct, and describes the human condition perfectly, providing us as writers with a rich vein to explore, which surely has no end.

Do you have a favourite drama that was written with honesty and would like to recommend, or like me have you been frustrated by prettily tied up endings? I'd love to know.

Love
Valentina x

PS. Please let me know if you would like to hijack my blog, or take part in an interview to discuss your writing experiences. I would be honoured to lend my place in the blogisphere to you for a while!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Why we write...and why we should never give up!


When I was at high school in the early 70s, I was the only person in my class who owned a typewriter. When I say typewriter, I mean a big, black metal thingy that took up most of the desk, It had flat black keys lettered in off-white, (They were white once, but years of usage had taken its toll.) a rubber roll thing at the top which facilitated the movement of the paper upwards, a slender gap in which to feed in the paper, and a chrome carriage return. I remember the paint used to chip off of it if I got too vigorous with my typing, and sometimes the keys would get stuck in the middle, sort of tangled up with each other, and it would take me ages to extricate each key. I wrote all my exam course work on it, and I truly believe I got better grades because I could type, and because everything looked neater than my classmates work.

Each piece I typed I treated like a journalistic article. It makes me laugh when I think of it, but the sense of satisfaction it gave me was enormous. In the winter I would sit in my room huddled up with loads of cardigans or with a blanket wrapped around me and feel like I was achieving something. My room was at the very far end of a house that everyone said was like a train. I suppose it was like a train. It was a converted hat factory, and yes, it was very long.

It was in this room at the end of our house that I wrote my first story. And on that very typewriter. Of course, I'd written stories since childhood, but the first one written here was when I discovered how serious I was about becoming a writer. I could think of nothing else. It was all I wanted.

When our local paper had a careers open day, I went with my mum to discuss with a journalist what I needed to do to be taken on; the qualifications I needed, which were the best colleges in which to learn my trade. The conversation was very short. "Girls aren't taken on as journalists," said the careers guy. "Oh, well," said my mum. "You'll have to do something else." That was the beginning and ending of my journalistic career. It's probably the shortest story ever written.

Recently, I read an article about some of the reasons why people feel the need to write. And for some of us, I do believe it is a need. I've heard said that anyone can write a book, that completing a story, or even a full novel is about getting words on the page in the right order. (Isn't that the challenge?) Consequently, it should be within most people's capabilities to write something of fiction, or a factual piece based on someone's knowledge of a subject. Every subject under the sun is written about. Everywhere we look, there are words that someone somewhere has written. Advertisements, street signs, maps, price tags, menus, birthday cards, cards for anything. School reports, invitations, the list is endless. It got me thinking.

Writing is actually one of the most important things about being human. Writing, and reading. What a privilege. How lucky we are that we have the capability not only to read and write, but to create? This is why I feel about writing the way I do, and why when the journalist guy said girls couldn't be journalists I wouldn't give up. Every job I have had since that day required writing and creating. So I feel I proved him wrong. How I would love to send him my books. And it would be to say, 'told you so.' I don't mind admitting it.

Is there something someone said you couldn't or shouldn't do? Did you believe them and let it change your life, or did you do it anyway? I'd love to know.

Love Valentina xxx

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Self-publishing and turning a new page

As a self-published writer, I feel in quite a good place. I'm really happy with what I've achieved so far. My dream has always been, like every writer of course, to see my work in print, stories that are read by others...not just me. To date, I've published three novels, two in the 'Notes from Random Knight' series, NOTES ON A REBELLION  and A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, and A DISH OF STONES.

I've had a little break, decorated our guest room, primarily used by my grandchildren, made the curtains and the blind, shopped for new stuff and feel pleased with the results. It was something physically creative that I really enjoyed. (I was up and down the stepladder like a gazelle. Ahem). I've also baked Brownie Enrolment cakes with my granddaughter, Scarlet. It's her enrolement this week and she's so excited to become a fully fledged Brownie. And a bit nervous too, I think.

And all the time, I was thinking about the next story.

Readers of A DISH OF STONES have asked what happened to Kate, Emma and Christina, and whether Diana and Joe get together. I had planned to write the third story in the Notes from Random Knight and complete the series, currently titled, 'TICK...TOCK, The Time Has Come', in fact I started to write it a few weeks ago, but something tugged at me. I wanted to know what happened to Christina and Emma, and Kate, too. And did Diana and Joe get together? I couldn't stop thinking about them, and I knew I had to explore their story further.

My daughter, Samantha, who is always very vocal about these things, said, "How can you leave them there? You have to tell us what happened to them, Mum." So, that's what I'm doing. It's so good to be back with them, but they are in a very different place from where they were in 1975. CHRISTINA MCGUIRE is set in 1995, when Christina is seventeen. The fresh page can be rather daunting, but once I'd got the idea in my head it just took off. It helps that Christina, Emma and Kate know exactly where they want to go, and that their emotions and feelings are so familiar to me. I'm so looking forward to writing their story. Tell me, how do you feel when you start a new story? Does it scare you, or does it excite you? I'd love to know.

Lots of love Valentina xxx

Thursday, 2 July 2015

NOTES ON A REBELLION ~ Flash Freebie on Amazon

To introduce A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, I'm offering the first story in the 'Notes from Random Knight', series NOTES ON A REBELLION for free here for one day.

Click me!

Past meets future when feisty 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 novel set in 2046 when fears for our world in a changing climate result in 'The Warming'.
'Is this the end of life or just the beginning?' 
Random Knight ~ Pray she succeeds!


NOTES ON A REBELLION is the first story in the NOTES FROM RANDOM KNIGHT series, and sets the scene perfectly for A GIRL CALLED RANDOM. 

'Love is mightier than the sword'.
The Warming has caused turmoil on Earth. Seeking vengeance against Random Knight and the exiles for taking his castle, power obsessed Zacharias Azazel enlists a grotesque accomplice, Chaos the Navigator, and his ghost ship, The Morvydd, to help him commit a crime that will make every parent shudder with fear. As Lord Azazel grooms the Scion of the Knights as his heir and prepares his soldiers to retake Castle Firamodor, Random and her companions run a gauntlet of obstacles in The Compendium, while Chaos forms Les Marionnettes, an army of children stolen from a century past and turned to stone. 
Set against a tale of sibling rivalry, time travel, and an under-sea war of angels between the Sachiel and Marceline, past and future collide to create a heart rending story of loss, discovery...and the most wonderful love of all.

Enjoy, lovely Blogettes.

Lots of love
Valentina xxx

Thursday, 18 June 2015

MIREILLE ~ The beautiful new novel by Molly Cochran ~ New York Times Bestselling Author

Mireille
By Molly Cochran

There's nothing that grabs me more than reading about a woman in difficult circumstances who has the grit and determination to fight her way out of her struggles and make a life. Mireille is one such woman. Her story is set in France at the end of World War II, when it seems that all of Europe celebrates, rejoicing the return to a 'normal' life. Flags are raised in triumph, music plays in the street, and people dance with strangers, all of one mind, all looking forward to a future of freedom. 
Not so for Mireille. 

When I saw the cover for 'Mireille', it sent shivers down my spine. I knew immediately it was a story I wanted to read. I wasn't mistaken. I couldn't put it down. Mireille's story unfolds as it follows her life through the days after WWII, and the path she is forced to take to survive. 

Mireille is stunningly beautiful. She uses her beauty to become one of the most sought after courtesans ever known. She is known as l'Ange, 'Angel', and although her lifestyle brings her riches and fame, in her heart she is in turmoil, her grief for the the man she loves, the father of her daughter, never leaving her. The novel is perfectly paced, the story intriguing. I championed Mireille from the very beginning, right through to the glorious ending. 

‘Near the end of World War II, seventeen-year-old Mireille de Jouarre flees the home of her stepfather, a Nazi collaborator and abusive drunk. She finds shelter with her childhood friend Stefan, and the two fall deeply in love. But as the fighting escalates, Mireille must escape alone to Paris, where she discovers she’s pregnant and lacking a way to provide for her child.

So begins her new life as l’Ange—the Angel. After an unlikely meeting with a wealthy aristocrat in a Parisian hotel—and her acceptance of his solicitation—Mireille becomes the most celebrated poule in all of France, eliciting huge fees and invitations to exclusive parties. At one of these events, Mireille meets Oliver Jordan, an American womanizer and film producer, and is soon launching a promising film career. As her star rises, Mireille is determined to bury her past. But her success isn’t as carefree and glittery as it seems, and when her daughter’s future is threatened, Mireille must make a deadly decision in a desperate attempt to finally choose her own path.’

You can find Molly Cochran's wonderful novel here

'Mireille'
(US)
(UK)

Love from Valentina xx

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A GIRL CALLED RANDOM

Hi Blogettes,

The release date for A GIRL CALLED RANDOM is nearly here. I'm so excited about it, not least because writing it has stretched me to the limit. (Until the next one!)

I feel kind of proud of myself that I got to the end, 'cos truthfully, I did wonder if it would happen.
A GIRL CALLED RANDOM is a much darker novel than NOTES ON A REBELLION, and although still fantasy, the subject matter is close to all our hearts: A parent's love for a child.

Here's the blurb..................
‘Love is mightier than the sword’
The Warming has caused turmoil on Earth. Seeking vengeance against Random Knight and the exiles for taking his castle, power obsessed Zacharias Azazel enlists a grotesque accomplice, Chaos the Navigator, and his ghost ship, The Morvydd, to help him commit a crime that will make every parent shudder with fear.  

As Lord Azazel grooms the Scion of the Knights as his heir, and prepares his soldiers to retake Castle Firamodor, Random and her companions run a gauntlet of obstacles in The Compendium, while Chaos forms Les Marionnettes, an army of children stolen from a century past and turned to stone.

Set against a tale of sibling rivalry, time-travel, and a war of angels between the Sachiel and the Marceline, past and future collide to create a heart-breaking story of loss, discovery...and the most wonderful love of all.






I'm planning a promo on Amazon where you can get Notes on a Rebellion for free on the purchase of A GIRL CALLED RANDOM, and a Giveaway on my website www.valentinahepburn.com 
Would love to see you there.
Lots of love

Valentina xxx

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






The Blogettes