Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Happy Easter

I am heading off to a Center Parks in Belgium for Easter.

Can't believe it was 10 years ago when I last went there!

We used to go to Eperheide a lot when we lived in Rotterdam and it has an amazing ball park which I am sure my youngest will love.

Even though I had to add the cost of the ferry, it still worked out cheaper than booking a UK one! And you get to experience a different culture...

So, I hope the rest of you enjoy the week. I can't imagine I'll be online much - but, I will be reading a lot!

Enjoy your time with family, friends, and CHOCOLATE! If you need some ideas for Easter baking click on the LINK

All the best,

Monday, 30 March 2015

Tonia Parronchi and the food of love...

Thank you, Tonia, for agreeing to be featured on my blog.

I read “The Song of the Cypress” after getting a copy via Rosie’s Book Review Team. Here is my review…

4 stars – Review on Amazon and Goodreads

“It's hard to even begin to explain what I thought of "The Song of the Cypress". This novel is so unique and beautifully written that I feel inept at writing down my own views about it.

Ultimately, the story is about the self-discovery of Ann (or Annie). A woman who needs to find herself as a person, spiritual soul, lover and member of a community. Until she dreams of the "Cypress" her life has been depressed. Following the needs of her mother, she has no time for herself. When her mother dies, she finally gets the freedom she desires and leaves everything she has in England to start a new life in a remote cottage set on the mountains in Italy.

Once here, she explores her spiritual side through an eccentric old woman, or local "witch", who guides her in finding out about a connection with the Cypress tree that spans many centuries. The ability of the spirit or soul in this book is interesting and it beckons us (the reader) to seek out our true instinct as human beings and the role we have play with nature.

Her relationship with Joe is interesting and cleverly done, although it did have a ring of perfection that at times felt unbelievable. Every relationship has some trauma. This had barely any. Annie also seems too content in her own skin towards the end. It certainly is something for us all to strive towards.

Without giving any more away, this is a book you can taste (I got hungers pangs from some of the descriptions), smell, feel and almost touch.

My own upbringing in Gibraltar came to mind as the author described the traditions and mannerisms of Italians. My distant relatives were of mixed origin, but many descendants of Gibraltar come from Genoa. We definitely like our food!

I have rated it a 4 because as much as I loved it at times the pace slowed too much for me and I needed more than excellent descriptive writing. But, this is a personal preference.
I highly recommend this and think it should be studied as part of an English course on how to write creatively. I certainly don't think I could ever achieve this level!”

What do you think of my review?

I was very pleased to have this honest review. I was surprised and flattered by your praise and also understand some of your doubts and am glad to have the opportunity here to explain a few things. My intentions do not really matter, as each reader has to get what they feel from a book, but here are my explanations.

Joe - yes, he could be seen as a bit too perfect. However, I wanted someone solid and at home in his own skin, to counterbalance Annie. Joe knows what he wants and has the patience to wait until Annie is ready for life and love. In my head he was the sturdy oak, the gateway to another realm and she the cypress, constantly reaching for the ethereal sky.

I did not base Annie on me but can say that my own spiritual journey has led to me now being very content in my own skin. I tried to make Annie have this awareness and peace as she moved ahead in the book. There will always be moments of stress and upheaval in our lives but if we learn to really know ourselves, shadow side and all, they become easier to deal with.

Finally, the pace of the book, which at times you found a little slow. I tried hard to follow the rhythms of nature within the book and it is certainly not a tale of adventure but of a gentle unfolding of life, love and deep universal connection.

Thank you again for your words.

I certainly felt this way in reading it. It was a journey, beautifully written at that. What inspired you to write this story?

Walking in my Tuscan hills, seeing new life unfurling in the woods in spring, while the ancient cypresses remain unchanged season after season, made me want to capture the beauty in words.

I had written about seven chapters but was unhappy with it when we went away for the summer months on our sailing boat. There, far away from my valley, as I sat mesmerised by the ever-changing waves, I realised that what was missing was the sense of magic I feel when walking there, as if connected to the universe in some strong way. That is how the character of the cypress came into being. The cypress is an ancient spirit that can dream through centuries or concentrate on the intimacy of a second and through its wise council my main characters can gain access to that spiritual dimension we all dream of attaining.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to publish your book? What was the editorial process like?

I decided to self-publish "The Song of the Cypress" because trying to find a UK publisher while living here was not easy. I was lucky to find the lovely Sunpenny Publishing House for my second book, "A Whisper on the Mediterranean", which is a true tale of our family sailing adventures when our son was a small baby. It is a funny book, full of beautiful places to visit and has easy recipes at the end of each chapter. Believe me, if I could make these dishes on a constantly moving boat, anyone can!

A great friend of mine, Valerie Poore, is also with Sunpenny – what a small world!

The process for each book was very different and each had pros and cons. With Sunpenny I had the benefit of a proper editor to sharpen my text and bring it all together well, whereas with this novel I relied on the help of friends, who did a wonderful job but maybe with a different editor I would have ironed out some of the things that did not work for you, Vanessa.

The easy part is writing. Editing is hard because it is not a simple thing to have the proper detachment needed. I wait until months have passed and I am not so emotionally involved before beginning to edit and need to print off pages and read them instead of using the computer or I miss lots of mistakes.

I know all about the editing process! I agree on walking away for a while. Best advice is to forget it for a while.

Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time?

It is very important if one wants to become known. I am a real dinosaur when it comes to technology. I have a mobile phone but turn it on maybe once a week! I have really struggled with this aspect of being a writer but have now managed to set up a website, a Facebook page and am beginning to tweet along merrily, even if it seems a bit potty to me. I try to do all my social media stuff when I wake up, with my second coffee in hand, because my husband is usually still in bed then and I can concentrate better. When I get stuck or have a technical question I have to wait for him to wake up and come rescue me!

Ha ha… my husband is clueless when it comes to technology! I had to work it out for myself – I am a computer geek really J

Do you have a favourite author or genre? Did anyone inspire you to start writing?

Oh, I have so many! How can I give you a favourite? I am an eclectic reader and have been since a child. I love poetry and certain lines stay with me while doing the house work, like song tunes do. Sometimes they then trigger off something that I want to write about in my own way.

I love books with a hint of what Joanne Harris calls "everyday magic" and I really love her books.

I also enjoy a good murder, adventure stories and even science fiction as well as literary fiction. I remember reading "My Sweet Orange Tree", by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, one Christmas morning when I was quite young. It was in my stocking and I always woke early to open that. I started reading and could not stop. I cried my eyes out and my parents were worried that they had chosen the wrong sort of book until, through my tears, I managed to tell them it was the most beautiful thing I had ever read.

Personally, I loved your description of Italy and the food. Can you tell us your favourite places there, and why?

Well, my valley of course, the Valdarno, with its pretty hill villages and wild countryside full of olives and cypresses. It is not as well-known as the Chianti area but for me is far more beautiful. I prefer wild nature to perfectly groomed hills.

I also love the Mediterranean islands that we sail around each summer, in particular Ponza. When you approach Ponza by sea on a spring morning the scent of yellow broom wafts down from the cliffs and Ponza harbour looks like a rainbow with its multicoloured houses rambling up the hillside.

Can you name an Italian dish that you love and another you hate?

Dishes that I like are easy because there are so many. The fresh vegetables used for each seasonal dish are amazing. Right now the asparagus is beginning and last week I bought a slender stemmed bunch and made pasta with asparagus and bacon. 

An unusual dish which is being eaten right now that your readers may not have heard of is fave with pecorino. 

This is perfect picnic food. Fave are small, tender, broad beans which are served in their pods. You break them open, pop out the beans and eat them with fresh pecorino - wonderful.

I used to peal these with my grandmother when I was growing up... I love them!

What do I dislike? A Roman dish called pagliata, is made from the intestines of an unweaned calf and I cannot bring myself to think about it! 

Ahhh.. this does NOT sound (or look) good at all! I have a feeling my parents have eaten this. Sounds like tripe? I tried it once - and did not like it! 

I am feeling ill now... 

In Gibraltar, we have a lot of Italian descendants. Might explain why the food is so familiar to me. My mother's maiden name is Olivero. 

Where we can find out more about you and buy your books?

You can have a look at my website, www.toniaparronchi.com , for more information. I also write a blog, Tonia Parronchi at Wordpress and am on Facebook. I really love to hear from my readers and make sure to reply to any messages I get as soon as I can.

The best places to buy my books are through Amazon or the Book Depository which has free delivery worldwide. Your local book shop will be able to order the books for you if they are not in stock.

Anything else you want to share with us?

I have just finished a new novel called "The Melting of Miss Angelina Snow" which I hope will make my readers laugh as much as I did while writing it.

Frosty estate agent, the formidable Miss Angelina Snow, has no time for romance or other such frivolities or so she believes, until her well-ordered life is turned upside down by a very troublesome client, Leonardo Marconi.

This book is set in England but with a very Italian hero and I am hoping it will be published this year. Sounds exciting! Best of luck with it.

Now I am thinking about a new story. At the moment it is a jumble of ideas dotted on post-it notes and in notebooks but it is slowly taking shape and will be more similar to my first novel in so far as it will be a literary novel. I am fascinated by our relationship with water and want to explore that realm with all its mysterious charm. A tentative title would be "Mermaids Breathing".

Fantastic! Keep writing and living the dream. Thank you for being here. I look forward to reading your next book!

Monday, 23 March 2015


For the last few weeks I have suffering from a tooth ache and knowing that I had a dental visit waited patiently until today! So, one filling later and after being made fun of by my husband (he was actually really funny) I now talk like a dummy... hopefully, it'll pass!

Anyway, last week I made some progress on my new novel and it is now approaching the 60,000 work mark. I still have no idea if any of it is any good. Major editing will be needed. Even so, it is great to keep going and the love-story part is finally coming together! It's really hard to visualise a wedding 150 years ago in Jamaica, but I tried!

Yesterday, it was my daughter's Birthday Party and it was brilliant - thank you to Pizza Hut for an amazing job.

My daughter made this cake herself - with a little of my "unwanted" help" HA!
If you don't know about it (I didn't) they do kids parties for excellent value - click on the LINK! The staff at the Newport branch on the Isle of Wight could not be praised more. They were amazing...

After this, I took my daughter to see Insurgent in Cineworld in 3D. It was a treat for her - honest! This is a great review of the film by ENTERTAIN THIS, which basically says it all.

I really liked the film and the way it was different from the book. Why do things the same? Kate Winslet pulled off her character, Jeanine (crazy cold-hearted Erudite) really well. I liked the way Tris is portrayed as so tough, but wonder what they are saying about the perfect human being? (for those who know what's coming)

Either way, I would LOVE to see Theo James as the main character, Steven, in my trilogy! Added bonus, he is English - PERFECT for the role! Contacts, anyone? :)

I know, I know... I AM allowed to dream!

I do wonder how successful this franchise will be in the long run. For the third day showing, there were about ten people in the theatre... I personally look forward to the next installment.

Have a great week everyone - let's keep trying to live the dream.

Al the best,

Monday, 16 March 2015

Advertising your eBooks? My experience as a Self-Published Author

Since I published my first ebook, HYBRID, in 2012 I have been plagued with the writers curse... "How to get noticed?"

Some self-published writers seem to effortlessly get to the top of the charts and I am constantly in awe of them!

Let's explain for those who do not know what a self-published writer is nowadays!

In my mind, a SP writer is someone who has published their work themselves.

They have arranged for the formatting, covers, proofreading, etc by themselves and then gone on to publish via Amazon, Smashwords, etc. They might have paid for some of these services, but ultimately they made all the decisions.

If you have an agent, publisher, or have paid a publisher to do the work for you, then in my books you have not self-published. When you get an agent and publisher who does it all for you and pays you an advance (amazing this) you are traditionally published. If you paid someone to publish it all for you then you are bracketed as using a "vanity" publisher.

Sorry, but this is the way I see it. I understand that you are a writer and might not want the hassle, but then you are not a SP author.

I pride myself in having done most of the work myself. I have been fortunate to have amazing help from people willing to proofread my books, and only recently paid for covers (thank you Shutterstock!) to use for my trilogy for the first time. This will hopefully prove to be a worthwhile investment. BUT, I have spent hours figuring out how to do everything and do not think I did it for vanity! It was a self imposed challenge.

My new covers - what do you think?
This being said, I want my hard work to be seen and to get some feedback for it. This is where it gets hard. Having not used any services there was no one to promote me. Ultimately, paying people to do things for you might get them to spread the word. At least, I'd like to think this is the case, but I do hear of many authors who have paid a lot of money and see no results.

So, the question... how is it done? How do you get seen?

This is my take on "success"...

1) Write a fantastic book. 

Make it different from the rest or follow the trend, and get readers of certain books attracted to yours. For example, for Twilight, Fifty Shades, or Harry Potter fans? A lot of readers like books that are formulaic.

2) Have a Book Launch (either a real one or virtual)

When I finished my trilogy, I held a book launch in Gibraltar and gave a talk on my experience. It was fantastic.

I sold lots of paperbacks, got my name out, was featured in magazines and the local newspaper, and had a ball!

I blogged about it HERE!

I was lucky though - people in Gibraltar are amazing and I have contacts. My dad knows many people...

3) Spread the word via Social Media and hope your friends, family and followers will tell others about it.

This tends to work well at the beginning, but fizzles out fast in my experience. You don't want to annoy close acquaintances by constant promotion. I find Twitter is the only place I tend to schedule posts. I have so many followers that I figure if it annoys anyone they'll simply unfollow me.

I suggest you use something like HOOTSUITE to schedule and CROWDFIRE to keep tabs on followers.

Facebook has a lot of groups that allow you to post your work. How effective this is is questionable. But, you never know... it might lead to some success. I think the reader groups are a better way to make friends and promote. If you are a writer you should be a reader too. If not, are you mad? Ha!

4) Use the Amazon threads to promote your work.

The discussion threads used to be a good place to advertise. Of late, I fear this is no longer the case. Too many promos going on.

5) Advertise with successful companies

In 2015, my plan was to let things go. To stop trying and give up. Then I decided to reinvest some of my takings.

Bear in mind that these promotions were to promote a FREE ebook - that's right, I give it away and then have to PAY to get it noticed! 

I have heard that BookBub is the place to go, but I never get in! I think they favour KDP promotions, or books with lots of reviews. I think this is unfair since the whole point of a giveaway is to get more reviews. But, they have a reputation to uphold so have the right to be picky. Saying this, I have seen some featured which are not the best books! They don't read them - the expression judge a book by it's cover comes to mind!

So, I tried FreeBooksy on a paid promotion. I had got featured on there last year by chance and had success. This worked a treat and my free eBook soared up the US Amazon charts. Since I also publish on smashwords, I also saw a huge increase in downloads via Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. I do have sales for the next books in my trilogy here too which is great. It is not cheap - $100! But, I think it was worth it and the customer service is fantastic. I am trying another in April for $200 - Eek! A series promoter... I'll have to let you know how it goes!

I have also tried a paid promotion for a free eBook feature with Facebook (£5 + £13), AwesomeGang ($10), Bookgoodies ($30), and KUFads (£10 - Book of the Day). All of these were a complete flop! I might as well have given the money away to charity...

6) FREE eBook promotion

As I have said in 5) I have paid for promotions to increase the visibility of my free ebook, HYBRID. Some of you might be asking how it is always free. Well, Amazon have a price-match policy. I have published my book via smashwords for FREE, which distributes to Barnes&Noble, Apple, etc. when Amazon see it is free they match it. You might have to inform them via their website though if it does not happen automatically.

This is a good idea if you have a series, or if you have many books to promote and want to offer one of your older books for free.

Again, the effectiveness of this is dubious now. When I first published in 2012, free eBooks were snapped up like hotcakes! However, with the constant offers via Amazon or mainstream publishers, us SP authors are no longer as attractive.

Readers are no longer attracted since they have had bad experiences with free eBooks. I admit this also happened to me, and many free ebooks I download disappoint me. Saying this, because it is free I am ruthless. I simply do not read it!

This is the downside. A free ebook will not inspire readers to review. I find myself more willing to review something I have paid for. Weird but true. So to all you readers out there, please review free books! (Like that's going to work!)

I do have a great site to recommend, which allows you to place your book for free. It may not work but it's free to try - Author Marketing Club

7) Sell your paperbacks at local events

I have tried this a few times. The first few times it was exciting, but I am not an aggressive salesperson! If you are you'll do just great :)

8) Participate in Reader forums like Goodreads

This is a great way to sell books, especially if you were a reader before you wrote a book!

Again, I have not found the confidence to pull this off well yet. But, I know others do a super job!

9) Write Another book

This is my worst offence at the moment. So I wrote a trilogy... and? You have to keep on writing to sell more books. If readers like what they see they will want to read more of your work. If you procrastinate and publish nothing new then what's the point?

Saying this, I also wonder what motivates some authors to continue. If you can't sell the books you have why publish?

My husband tells me I am too vain! I think maybe he has a point. I need some feedback or sales to make me believe that I am doing a good job. How sad am I?!

Ultimately, I have never continued with something that I have seen limited results for. I want to succeed. If I can't do it via writing I'll find something else to do with my time.

10) Think about why you write...

BUT, the truth is I NEED TO WRITE. I will always write... I know this now.

Today, I continued writing my next book and felt like writing this post. So I did. Sometimes, you have to vent in the direction your mind goes.

If by writing an idea down you find some peace or escapism from the world around you then you have succeeded no matter how low your sales are. I'll just keep telling myself this...

Thanks for reading & I hope this helps in some way.

All the best,

*~Okay, so now I can pitch my work!~*

HYBRID (The Evolution Trilogy) is FREE

Smashwords http://ow.ly/AbP0V


Get the entire trilogy (and prequel, EMILY) in a boxset via Amazon only http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00K24EA0U

Friday, 6 March 2015


After HOURS of "fun" I have managed to update my covers and paperbacks! As well as publish a paperback for EMILY! I will celebrate this somehow (not sure how exactly at the moment).

I am thrilled with the final result and hope someone appreciates my efforts. So far the response from a lot of you has been extremely positive. You can click on the link on the side of this blog to go to my page to find out more about my trilogy or CLICK HERE!

In the meantime, can I remind you all that HYBRID is *~FREE to download~*

Barnes & Noble

Please take the time to review it if you have read it already. It would be amazing to get 100 reviews one day. Recently, I have had a series of feedback from readers and they all seem to like it.

You have no idea what this means, or how relieved I get hearing it!

This one is from Amazon UK - 4 Stars :)

"Vanessa Wester's vampires are unlike the familiar fanged protagonists of other paranormal capers. Their humanity is at odds with their physical requirements and the lengths they go to to contain their needs lend the novel a realism not usually found in the genre. Hybrid is an enjoyable read with just enough mystery, romance and suspense."

Woo hoo!

Since it is also Read An eBook Week on smashwords you will find that Emily is free, and Complications & Return are half price via a promo code available on the site!


This offer expires on the 7th March so head on over there...

Thanks again for your continued support.

All the best