Indie Author Of The Month: Val Portelli

Hi everyone – it’s been a while since I highlighted an indie author on The Glorious Outsiders. I blame that on Netflix and not reading enough lately! I’ve also been attempting two reading challenges so often my reading choices have to try and fit with those. Anyway. I recently had the pleasure of beta reading a murder mystery novel by Val Portelli. Val has contributed two pieces to my blog since I started my lockdown themed features, so I jumped at the chance of being an early reader for her new novel Alderslay. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely read more of Val’s work in the future. I invited Val on to the blog to tell us all about the new novel and she has written this piece detailing the things that can go wrong while preparing a self-published book for launch day. If you would like to know more about Val and her work, her links are all at the end! Enjoy.

‘Alderslay’ and book gremlins.

I had my first book, a romantic novel called ‘Changes’ published several years ago. Shortly afterwards I wrote the first draft for a mystery novel called ‘Murder of Changes’ to tie in with the theme.

Fast forward and ‘M of C’ as it was affectionally known, sat on the back burner while I self-published other books, contributed to anthologies, wrote short stories, learnt about marketing, web sites, blogs, editing, formatting and how to defeat gremlins.

At one stage I was in contact with an editor who read the book and gave me valuable feedback which I incorporated into a revised draft. Entering a competition, I was delighted to win the opportunity to have a cover designed, so M of C was dragged off the back burner, submitted to beta readers, and became new and improved as I incorporated their suggestions.

A year passed and I was assured the cover design was in hand and would be available shortly. Numerous emails later, the MD of the design company eventually admitted the communication between himself and his employee, my designated contact, had proved lacking, and it was the first he had heard of it. My carefully composed details and suggestions had never been seen by the design team.

Was it jinxed? Should I forget it and move onto something else, perhaps a follow up for a series on one of one other books? Stubborn? Moi? Let’s just say a challenge is a challenge. I mentioned it to a friend and fellow author who had been instrumental in my other cover designs, and despite having other priorities she sent her dragons charging to the rescue. With all the to-ing and fro-ing, I’m not sure why she hasn’t blocked me, but the end result was a cover I loved. Thank you P.

I love writing but my marketing skills have to be seen to be believed- e.g. non-existent. Nevertheless, I endeavoured this time to try to do it properly, put the book on pre-order, diarised to set up the paperback to coincide with the eBook release, and bit my nails. Amazon nudged me with reminders of a countdown for when my final Kindle version should be uploaded, but I was happy the latest version was good to go.

A few hours before the cut-off time I received feed-back from a blogger who loved it, but pointed out in Chapter X I mentioned ‘A’ but in Chapter Y it’s ‘B.’ Aaagh. Reading for the umpteenth million time she was right. Dilemma. Should I try to change the minor discrepancy which most readers probably wouldn’t notice, or update a revised version which could result in throwing all the page set-up out of line. Being a perfectionist, I had to put it right, which was the signal for the world and his wife to interrupt with things that had been hanging around for months but needed a response NOW!

There was also the problem of the chicken and egg syndrome. Many readers these days use Kindles, but others only read paperbacks and wanted to know if/when this option would be available. Knowing Amazon suggest paperbacks can often take 72 hours to be approved, and hearing from other authors the virus had affected normal timescales, I set up a formula to include probability ratios, US versus UK time zones, and whether there was an R in the month.

With an eBook release date of the 3rd March, I waited until the early hours of the 1st March, UK time to press go for the paperback, before trying to catch up with some sleep. The following, or rather the same day, I opened my emails to discover the paperback was already live, having taken only 4 hours to approve and had beaten the eBook publication by two days. So much for trying to be a clever-clogs.

Beta readers had been advised of the approximate release date, in the hope they would leave a review. That’s when I realised they would they would be looking for the publication of ‘M of C.’

Just when I thought all was going to plan, a reader advised me there was a slight problem with the layout on one small area of the paperback which had already been released. Should I ignore it or try to correct it before more sales were made. No time like the present and again I burned the midnight oil. The amendment itself took two minutes, but then the long wait watching the wheel go round while Amazon went through the whole routine from scratch before I could access the revised preview.

Thankfully, it was again available within a few hours and I breathed a sigh of relief. A zoom meeting with a friend who lives abroad started with her asking what had happened to the paperback. She had tried to order in exactly that short timescale while it was awaiting the revision. Who said being an author only involved putting words on a page?

Despite all the problems, my first fantastic 5* review had me bouncing, and was quickly followed by others.

Is it worth all the stress and hassle if the actual income works out around a thousandth of the hourly minimum wage? Of course not, but the satisfaction of knowing someone actually read and enjoyed your book drives you on to write the next one. Sincere thanks to buyers, readers, bloggers, reviewers and supporters who have helped to keep me sane. A short break before the characters start calling, then here we go again!

Val’s Links

Amazon author page https://author.to/ValPortelli

YouTube ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsmbM57q4SzHbOcx3CPbr1Q/

Facebook ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.facebook.com/ValsTales

Twitter

@vals_tales https://twitter.com/ValPortelli

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/wwwgoodreadscomVal_Portelli

Blog http://www.Voinks.wordpress.com

Web site http://www.quirkyunicornbooks.wordpress.com

Guest Post #4 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. Today please welcome author Susie Kearley who released her pandemic themed novel in January of this year. If you would like to know more about Susie and her writing, her links are at the end of the piece!

“Stay at Home” has been the clear message during lockdown in the UK. For me, it’s been easy. I work from home anyway, writing magazine articles, and when my husband joined me in March 2020, I appreciated the company.

Back in the autumn of 2019, I took two months off article writing to complete my novel – it’s a story about a fungal pandemic, which brings about the end of the world! At the start of 2020, I started looking for an agent, and then Covid struck, which I thought made my book really topical!

I had good feedback but no takers, so I finally decided to publish through Amazon in January 2021, because I felt I was missing an opportunity. There’s been a lot of interest in pandemic stories since Covid struck; Dean Koontz’s novel about a Wuhan Virus published in the 1980s saw sales peak. Peter May’s Lockdown, which was previously rejected because publishers said it was unrealistic… was published to great acclaim in 2020.

As the UK went back into lockdown in January 2021, it felt like the right time to publish.

So my time at home in recent times has been productive, despite considerable challenges. A lot of magazines stopped commissioning, preferring to use up stock, given the unpredictable nature of what might happen next. Article writing work was slow, so I spent more time in the garden, went for daily walks, and worked on my photography. We watched a lot of movies in the evenings under lockdown.

I’m grateful that we have a nice home, with guinea pigs, and a garden. It’s so important to like your home, when you’re having to spend a lot of time there. We’re now looking forward to the opportunities the future brings, as the vaccine is rolled out, and hoping that my pandemic book, ‘Pestilence’ will capture people’s imaginations and become the next best seller! Check it out here http://mybook.to/pestilencebook
www.susiekearley.co.uk

FB: www.facebook.com/susie.kearley.writer
TW: www.twitter.com/susiekearley

Many thanks again to Susie for writing this piece for my Hello Home…feature!

See you next week for another guest post!

Guest Post #3 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. This week, please welcome author Paul Waters to the blog with a wonderful piece about a lockdown project that really brought the local community together. Enjoy!

The Blue Book House

During Covid my second home has kept me connected to the world. It’s not what you think. I don’t spread my life between two properties. But I do have a home-from-home with essential creature comforts and it sits on my front fence.

My other house is wooden, double-fronted and painted blue. My carpenter friend, Mick, made it watertight and solid for me. My friend, Wink, friend carefully painted it. My Mum, Patricia, did the lettering. And the creature comforts it contains are a selection of one of life’s essentials – books. Hence the name, the Blue Book House.

It all started before the pandemic when I realised that I had far too many books. It seemed like putting a book house in front of my human house would be a good way to share my surplus and spread the book love. But it has not turned out as I expected.

The message written on both sides of my book house says: “Choose a free book. Read it. Keep it forever. Or pass it on.” And people do. They look through the windows or open the doors for a rummage while standing on the pavement.

But far from reducing my book stock, the book house has boosted it in volume and variety. That’s because people passing by also do two other things. They return books they’ve taken and they kindly add books of their own. Sometimes they slot them in. (I try to keep children’s books on the left and other on the right – though that system and any themed displays I attempt quickly become higgledy-piggledy.) Other times I open my front door to find a pile or bag of books in my porch. Which is lovely, though it wasn’t quite was I was aiming for.

I love books. I read voraciously. I write books – you’ll find my debut historical crime thriller Blackwatertown in shops in the UK, Ireland, France and Spain, and online. I like talking about books – I co-present a books and authors podcast called We’d Like A Word with fellow author, Stevyn Colgan. And I love sharing books and the love of reading. So the Blue Book House fits right in.

But it has also become something else – a point of contact with other people when we are restricted in where we can go and what we can do. It’s a connection at a time of social distancing, loneliness and alienation – and reduced hours or closure for local libraries. Most of the time people dip in and out of the book house without me noticing. The only indication is the books rearranged, some gone, others arrived.

But sometimes I happen to be passing a window when people are browsing. The book house is a reason to pause and rest when walking the dog or getting some exercise. Or perhaps I happen to be coming or going myself and have the chance to exchange socially distanced hellos with neighbours.

Sometimes a note is posted through my letterbox or left inside the book house saying thanks for a particular book. They’re usually anonymous. Sometimes with the handwriting and crayon drawings of a young reader. And that is lovely.

When there’s so much doom and gloom and disruption, the notes and conversations prompted by the Blue Book House bring light into my life.

You’re welcome to look inside and see if there’s a book that tickles your fancy. Or if you’re not in the neighbourhood, you could visit virtually via Twitter @bluebookhouse or Facebook @LittleBlueBookHouse

Even better, you could create your own book house. Just don’t expect it to help you cut down the number of books in your home.

Thank you so much to Paul for contributing this wonderful piece to Hello Home…feature. If you would like to find out more about Paul and his work his bio and links are below!

Bio

Paul Waters is the author of Blackwatertown, published in paperback/softcover and ebook by Unbound and audiobook by WF Howes. His website is http://www.paulwatersauthor.com

Books

 Blackwatertown: Amazon.co.uk: Paul Waters: 9781783529254: Books or www.amazon.co.uk/Blackwatertown-Paul-Waters/dp/1783529253/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4G0MXWZ5E4EO&dchild=1&keywords=blackwatertown+paul+waters&qid=1611069602&sprefix=blackwatertown+%2Cdigital-text%2C140&sr=8-1

My 2021 Goals

It’s that time of year again! And the scariest thing is how fast it comes back around…I swear the years are going faster and faster.

Anyway, before I start dwelling too long on my imminent slide into old age and death, here are my goals for 2021! And if you missed my recap of 2020, you can find out here https://chantelleatkins.com/2020/12/10/my-2020-goals-vs-the-reality/ how I got on with the goals I set myself at the end of 2019.

  1. Do even better in the vegetable plot – Improving how much food we grow ourselves was top of my list of goals last year and it is again for 2021. There are so many reasons why this is important to me but I think the main reason is mental health. Gardening absolutely saved my sanity during the first lockdown and home-schooling. It’s addictive. It burns more calories than just about any other exercise and getting dirty is good for you physically and mentally. I could go on and on about how amazing it makes me feel to spend time in the garden, but I think you probably get it. Towards the end of this season I extended the plot and I am still popping in there whenever I can to keep on top of weeds and to add mulch and manure. I cannot wait to start sowing again!
  2. Publish the next two books in the Holds End Trilogy – This should happen. Emily’s Baby and The Search For Summer are both good and ready to go. They need formatting for ebook and paperback, they need their back cover blurbs finalised and they need front covers. All these things are in motion and I hope to release them early next year, possibly February and March.
  3. Revamp and re-release Bird People and Other Stories – This little short story collection needs a makeover. I have already contacted my designer about revamping the front cover and my proofreader is going to go over all the stories after I have. This shouldn’t take long and I hope to re-release it in April.
  4. Finish and release my short story and poetry collection The Old Friend and Other Strange Tales and Poems (working title!!)– This collection just keeps growing and growing but at some point I need to call time on it and get it out there! I will get the same designer to do the cover so that it compliments Bird People and of course there will be several rounds of edits and proofreads before it is ready, so I hope to release it towards the end of the Summer, perhaps July or August.
  5. Start the second draft to my current WIP The Day The Earth Turned- Book One – I am very close to finishing the first draft and really hope to have it done by the end of 2020…so the next step for this one would be a second draft. I was tempted to dive straight into writing book two, but as this is such a complex and challenging book to write (more on that another time!) I now feel going back over Book One would be beneficial before I start Book Two. There are already bits I want to change, for example.
  6. Move things forward with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – now that I have a creative partner, I am really excited about the CIC changing and growing in 2021. We have some exciting plans in motion which we will talk about very soon. Lots and lots of things in the pipeline – so I really hope that after the disaster of 2020 where thanks to Covid I barely earned a thing, I can finally start to see the hard work pay off in 2021.
  7. Carry on writing the screenplay version of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – this is a project I recently started and it’s not a priority. It can’t be, with all the other things going on! But if I have a spare moment in the week, I do enjoy getting back to this. It’s really challenging and fun turning a book into a screenplay and of course, it would be my absolute dream come true to see the series turned into a TV series.
  8. Get better at promoting my books! – I have been shockingly bad at this in 2020. Sometimes I go weeks or even months without so much as tweeting a link. I really need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I think I will get a separate notebook just for promotional activities and ideas and make a load of lists to tick off. This should motivate me a bit more and keep me on track.
  9. Keep adding notes to other book ideas… – I was tempted to add ‘finishing some almost ready books’ to this goals list but I think I would be setting myself up to fail. I got over half way through a first draft of the sequel to The Mess Of Me recently but then decided The Day The Earth Turned had waited long enough and I wouldn’t let The Mess Of Us jump the queue….In 2019 I wrote the first draft of a YA novel with the working title We Hate The Cool Kids. I would also love to tackle a second draft of this but again, it will have to wait. And then there is the spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series…in the fifth book I introduced two characters called Alfie and Tom. They took on a life of their own and I started to plan a spin-off book for them. I’ve actually written fourteen chapters of it in a very small notebook and they are always in my head! But no, no, no, The Day The Earth Turned series and my two collections will take priority in 2021! I have to draw a line somewhere! I will, however, keep adding notes to these books whenever I think of something. They are all very much alive and crowding my head and their time will come.
  10. Continue to Practice Self-Care – it wasn’t until the perimenopause set in last year, followed by Covid 19, that I realised how bad I am at looking after myself. I’m talking about really small, simple things – the small pleasures that calm you down and make you smile, like long baths with a good book and a drink of wine! I started making more of an effort in 2020 and I will carry this on. I will insist on time for myself in this busy, hectic life and I will make sure I get it.

So, that’s my list of goals set for the year ahead. I do hope 2021 is a better year for everyone. We can only hope! Are you setting yourself any goals for the next year? Please feel free to comment and share!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay