Nessie, to Planet Amox, Infinity and Beyond

Valentina Franceschi readily admits that she never cared much for writing.  She steered clear of literature, especially heavy and pessimistic Italian prose. 

            ‘I love algebra, geometry, and chemistry,’ she says on Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything, episode 20, which is out today.

Valentina explains that it’s the way her mind works.  She’s autistic, and the school environment was challenging.  Noise, colours affect her, and her mind is hyperactive.  She needs to discipline herself to get at least seven hours of sleep; otherwise, she can lose coordination and feel unwell.

‘But I have an aptitude for languages; it comes easy,’ she adds.

Valentina does not list the many languages she speaks fluently, but she’s able enough to complete a part-time degree course at UHI in Creative Writing. She has published literary works in Japanese and English.  She was born in Venice, but after her parents died, she led a nomadic existence searching for a home that would give her peace.  After a two-year sojourn to Japan to learn the language, she chose Scotland to see the Loch Ness monster.

            ‘I had written a children’s story on the Loch Ness Monster, and I had a yearning to go and settle there.  I’d learned English and was influenced by Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien,’ she explains, ‘it made me want to write.’

            She’s settled in Lossiemouth and works part-time at Moray College.   She writes Sci-fi and fantasy novels in her spare time, influenced by Tolkien.  She has a passion for creating new worlds.  She has self-published three novels called Planet Amox, available on Amazon under her pseudonym Keki Mai.

She explains the pitfalls of self-publishing using traditional platforms like Amazon, ‘you don’t make much return when something sells, perhaps only ten percent with a traditional book.  The highest cost is the paper, and digital sales are the most profitable.’

Valentina likes the control that self-publishing gives her, the freedom to write what she likes but balances this against what she can afford as there are some upfront costs.   However, she doesn’t want to promote her works, at least not yet, as it’s expensive and time-consuming, and she is still feeling her way in the literary world.

But as the two extracts below show, she’s gaining more and more confidence in her writing style and genre.  

Extract from pages 37 and 38

 After a brief funeral and the burial of Clong, everybody returned to their usual chores. Mr Jook’s wagon now had an empty seat. The children were downhearted and Miss Obb’s hard face showed apprehension. Mr Jook took the reins and drove the wagon with his eyes downcast. At dusk, the workers sighted the peaks of the Crystal Mountains. The peaks were transparent and the red sunset made them shine like red rubies beneath the blue starry background. Two waterfalls flowed down the highest peak and, at the base of the mountain, two fresh water streams gushed out of the cracks through the lower rocks. In spite of the dreadful day, this magical place lifted the travellers’ spirits once again. Dan had never seen anything so beautiful and was not surprised to see so many people willing to work in such a glorious place. The oxen had grass to eat and the travellers could fill their tanks with drinking water. The workers had finally reached their destination. Their house had been built near the wells to give them shelter and water since they had to spend several months in that desolate place. They survived by eating the canned food they brought from the East Side; they also grew some vegetables in a kitchen garden they had made out of a patch of blue sand. They could also catch some wild fish which lived in the mountain streams.

    After Clong’s death, the miners felt more compassion for the unlucky voyagers and invited them to share their food around a fire they had lit near one of the wells. The mountains were so brilliant that the light coming from the flames was refracted by the clear quartz crystals, giving way to a carnival of colours. The glare glistened up the peaks drawing tongues of fire on the transparent rocks. No more blue sand, no more blue mood; it was time to rejoice. The smell from the roast fish caught by the miners filled the air with life and laughter. All the sadness of the difficult journey disappeared for a moment.

    Miss Obb had found a new person to argue with while Mr Jook helped the cook as he enjoyed playing the chef. The children went to sit near some miners since one of them was telling stories and that looked interesting. The story teller was slightly drunk. He was a short, stout man. Four of his teeth had been replaced by zircons while one was studded with a red ruby. At the sight of the ruby Dan gulped, as rubies were used to make jewels only and no dentist on the East Side would have done that. That man was surely a foreigner and belonged to a specific tribe from the Black Mountains or the Central Desert.

   ‘This is the legend, children,’ started the man with the red ruby tooth. He noticed that the children had joined in and seemed eager to listen to him. He sniggered like an old witch while rubbing his hands.

Extract from pages 230 and 231

A week after his arrival in town, Gordon received a first visitor at his chosen inn.

   ‘I have a letter for Mr Goner,’ said a tall man dressed in a purple cloak. The receptionist looked for the name Goner on the register. The Sapphire Inn was very busy at that time of the year, and the guests were about to have their lunch served.

   ‘Mr Goner should be in his room, but I will need to inform him personally as he is hard of hearing,’ said the receptionist.

   The man in purpled agreed and waited downstairs while the receptionist climbed the stairwell to inform the semi-deaf guest that there was someone looking for him and lunch was going to be served in a few minutes. By the time the receptionist returned to his post, everyone was sitting at their reserved tables.

   ‘Mr Goner is waiting for you in his room. I’ll arrange for his lunch to be served in his bedroom,’ explained the receptionist.

   The man in purple bowed to thank the receptionist and climbed up the winding stairs. He entered Gordon’s room shutting the door behind him.

  ‘Sit down Morvel. Would you like to have lunch with me?’ asked Gordon.

Lord Morvel ignored Gordon’s question and took a letter out of a purse.

   ‘The West Side has an extra mine; you never told me of that,’ continued Gordon.

   ‘I don’t have to tell you everything,’ answered Lord Morvel passing the letter to Gordon. The visitor then drew the curtains shut. Gordon looked up at his guest with an angry expression.

   ‘Light that lamp, will you Morvel? I can’t see a thing.’

   ‘Sure, “Mr Goner”.’ The aristocrat said it sniggering. ‘Did you choose that name or is it a real one?’

   ‘It’s a real one. That’s the name I found on the chap I knocked down when I came here.’

   ‘Knocked down?’ asked Lord Morvel

   ‘Knocked down forever,’ clarified Gordon.

   ‘I see,’ said Lord Morvel while going to sit on an amethyst chair.

After reading the letter and a scroll with the map of the Royal Palace grounds drawn on it, Gordon stood up and went to open a wooden chest. At that moment, someone knocked on door. Gordon shut the chest and Lord Morvel went to open the door.

   ‘Come in,’ said Gordon.

   A waiter entered the room with a tray. He glanced at the oil lamp flickering in a dead corner of the room and the closed curtains. Lord Morvel darted a deadly look at the incomer, who left the tray on the bed and left the room as white as a ghost.

   ‘You are a scary one Morvel,’ said Gordon opening the wooden chest and retrieving a leather bag. He flung it over to Lord Morvel, who felt it with his fingers and opened it taking out a big ruby.

   ‘I’ll take care of this, don’t worry. This precious stone is in good hands now,’ said Lord Morvel.

   Gordon grunted a yes and Lord Morvel left the place.