Birthdays, books and blips By Val Portelli.

Birthdays, books and blips.

I didn’t wake up one morning and think ‘I know, I’ll write a book today.’

Life was busy, bills were demanding to be paid, the 8.02 commuter train was cancelled, again, and it was probably raining. Still, I had a great circle of friends, and bars, restaurants and clubs needed our support.

‘May you get what you wish for,’ is an old Chinese curse which came true with a bang, one night some years ago. I’d always loved writing but it had been restricted to short stories for the amusement of my social circle, and the thought of becoming an author remained on the back burner whilst things were so hectic. Enter the magic fairies, or were they demons? who had overheard my plea to ‘stop the world, I want to get off.’

Fast forward to discover the frustrated writer, finally released after a hospital stay following a freak accident, and confined to a bed for a year, going stir crazy. Now was the time to write the book which had been buried for so long, and the beginning of a whole new learning curve investigating the idiosyncrasies of publishers. It’s only with hindsight I appreciate how rare the ‘I want to see more’ email has become, and how unusual it was for a first book to be accepted for publication. This is when I learnt typing ‘The End’ is only the beginning of the story.

Who would have guessed the other factors involved; genres, sub-genres, pen names, cover design, several types of editors, eBook, paperback, hardback, book bloggers, blurbs, writing groups, blog tours, Indies, cowboys, gremlins, metawotsits and oojahs. Oh, and marketing. Go wash your mouth out! Part of the naivety was believing publishers dealt with all that, and just left writers to write. Excuse me for a minute while I break into hysterical laughter.

If you want to know where the blips come into it, these are little gremlins who hide away in your manuscripts, Amazon algorithms and all computer packages. They can lie dormant for many years until they are woken by the euphoria produced when you are ready to publish your book. This is when they will maliciously remove one full stop, which when reinserted obviously throws out all the careful formatting resulting in page 56 becoming page 57, widows and orphans, and having to totally redo your table of contents. Don’t even get me started on needing links and page breaks for one format, and deleting them for another. Hands up who thought writing a book was only about putting words in chronological order?

I can’t speak for all authors, but on the whole we tend to be introverts, happy with our laptop, (or quill pen and papyrus), scribbling away and searching for the key to Narnia when kids, spiders or social media, intervene and stop the magic flow of words for our latest masterpiece. How then can we turn ourselves into slimy salesmen yelling ‘Buy my Book’ from the top of the London eye? Now there’s a thought- at least that way there’s not the embarrassment of someone actually hearing you.

Sorry about that, back to the sob story, er I mean topic. This is where the Internet is part and parcel of a writer’s life. How else could we check every five minutes to celebrate when our book rises from five million and two on Amazon’s best-seller list, to five million and one? Result! Break out the Champagne, order the yacht, throw a party, or, pop round to Grandma’s with a bottle of Sherry, as a thank you for keeping her promise to buy your book.

Then there are the other things, like royalties. Should you accept a deal at 10%, or go it alone for 70%? No brainer, right? Wrong! The 70% is net of publishing costs, distribution costs, delivery costs, editing, formatting and cover design expenses, exchange rates, bank charges for depositing your 50p cheque, tax, accountancy hire for working out the vagaries of living in the UK but having to complete US tax returns, and a large bottle of wine to drown your sorrows or celebrate your first 5* review.

Which leads me nicely onto the subject of birthdays. It seemed a good idea at the time to coincide my big birthday with the eBook birth of ‘Story of a Country Boy.’ It was a shame I forgot my still damaged leg wasn’t up to running in and out dusting off glasses, standing in front of the oven for hours, re-arranging furniture, and giving eviction notices to the dust-bunnies and spiders who had moved in, and hidden in obscure places to avoid paying rent.

At least I had the comfort of knowing my host, Katrina, had the same daft idea of releasing her book on her slightly smaller, big birthday. We authors have to stick together, which is another, more positive thing I have discovered about this crazy world of books and bloggers. They are the first to offer tissues and encouragement for the down times, and will be the first on the invitation list for the party to end all parties when Hollywood comes knocking.

By the way, did I mention I write fiction? 😀

Thanks for letting me ramble, Katie, and best of luck with your own book.

Val x


Val/Voinks author bio

Val lives in a leafy suburb of South London, and began writing professionally under the pen name ‘Voinks.’ The nickname started as a joke then spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published. Despite receiving her first rejection letter, aged nine, from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound.

To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full-length novel ‘Changes.’ This was followed by a second traditionally published book, before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.

She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ Now firmly established in the ‘Authorish’ world, which even her spell checker accepts as a genuine word, she has set up her own publishing company ‘Quirky Unicorn’ which helps to pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

Short blurb:

‘The hard-hitting story of a naïve young man’s journey through 1960s Soho, as he seeks prosperity and reverence. How low is he prepared to sink to achieve his dreams?’


2 thoughts on “Birthdays, books and blips By Val Portelli.

  1. Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Katie. I hope you find Destiny; the last time I saw her she was in the Unicorn field with Twinkle. 😀

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