Are you supported? Friendship and passing 27,000 hits!

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Okay, this is not a blog post about supportive bras (sorry guys!), but it is about friendship and support. Do you have people who support you or leave you swinging in the wind?

I am absolutely THRILLED that my tiny little blog has now passed 27,000 visitors and want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have supported this blog, whether you are a one-off fly-by visitor or a regular ‘pull up a chair and chillax’ visitor. You guys are utterly AMAZEBALLS!!!! 😀 xxx

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Well, although this is a time of great changes and sparkly new horizons, all of them positive – like the brand new job and scary new career I’ve just embarked on after having been a full-time teacher for the last 16 yrs; I admit that this post is a bit of a ‘moan-fest’, something I don’t do very often. But I’m eventually venting about something that has bugged the crap out of me for the last two years.

It’s funny, I was recently reading a very heartfelt and extraordinary post by brilliant fantasy writer, Tricia Drammeh, all about how important it is to be supported by family and friends. The post really struck a chord with me, as it did for so many other writers: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/2014/05/21/when-your-family-doesnt-support-your-writing/ Please check out the rest of Tricia’s wonderful blog: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/

Although writing can be exhilarating, life-changing, life-affirming and just a wonderfully fulfilling creative ride…it can also be incredibly isolating, lonely, frustrating, un-rewarding, demoralising and difficult. That rollercoaster journey of success, failure, hopes and dreams, both realised or crushed, is hard enough as it is, but the journey becomes all the more difficult if you are embarking on your creative path without the support of nearest and dearest.

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Now, I count myself as being very lucky, as my family even including Aunts and Uncles, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my writing journey. But, like many other writers,  I too have experienced the opposite. Despite the majority of my friends being amazingly supportive, more than I could ever have hoped for, strangely enough my oldest ‘best friend’ of the last 20 yrs+ has been pretty dreadful.

Daft I know, but it has not only plagued me, but deeply hurt and upset me. I can openly say her name, Joanna, why? Because I know that she will never ever read this. She knows nothing of my writing life and doesn’t care. She doesn’t know that I have a blog, let alone the fact that my little blog has attracted over 27,000 visitors since I started it in Jan 2012. She doesn’t know that I’m on Facebook at all, have a FB book page with over 1,000 likes, have countless followers on Pinterest, set up my own Illustration business, recently had a short story published in a wonderful anthology, Felinity by Grimbold Books41wpCDigqbL[1]She was vaguely aware (though no doubt she has forgotten) that I did a very successful Waterstone’s book signing tour in 2012, but wouldn’t know what towns and cities I visited and certainly didn’t bother attending the one just down the road from where she lives.

Again, Tricia Drammeh’s post really resonated with me. For the last 20+yrs I have supported Jo through thick and thin, for every success, every failure, every relationship, every drama – no matter how big or miniscule. I send cards to congratulate, commiserate or just to buck her up and say I’m thinking of her, even cards when she moves from one rented property in her town, to another just down the road. She is an only child, which in itself shouldn’t mean anything, except to say that in her case she is selfish and totally self-obsessed and has always been used to being the centre of attention and having people ‘do for her’. Now, the silly thing is, I never minded playing second fiddle, being the ‘listening ear’, the sympathetic shoulder, the invisible person who always supports her. I didn’t mind the fact that our friendship was always so one-sided, all about her, never about me. BUT, in 2012 something big happened in my life, the biggest thing that had ever happened to me – my first novel was published.

At the time I tried not to be hurt when I received congratulations cards and even flowers from ALL of my friends, even work colleagues and people I didn’t know well, everyone I knew EXCEPT from her. My novel was available for a limited time to pre-order, and by doing so the people who pre-ordered could have their name printed inside the book. Again, all my friends raced to purchase their pre-ordered copy, but Jo? Despite months of gentle hinting, she didn’t, eventually, with only days to spare, I plucked up the courage to be more assertive and asked her (knowing the answer), if she had bought a copy yet as the deadline was coming up. I had to literally twist her arm. Whereas my close mate, Heather (totally lovely), was the first to buy a copy, Jo was the absolute last. I couldn’t believe how totally and blatantly uninterested and unsupportive she was being, just because for once this was something to do with me and not her. Months continued like this, all my friends asking about the upcoming publication date, wanting to read excerpts, wanting to be involved in any way they could, but Jo, nothing. She never asked questions, never brought it up, it was like the 500 pound elephant in the room, all conversations reverted to the usual drone about her love life, wanting to lose weight, talking about food and Tesco’s or her long list of imagined ills and troubles – i.e. all about her as usual.

I admit, for the first time ever, my rose-tinted glasses that had been superglued to my head, actually came off and I saw clearly how completely skewed our relationship had become.

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I had visited her down in Devon in the summer of 2012, which was once again a visit ‘all about Jo’ and been shocked and embarrassed when we visited her other friend (who she see’s every few days) and Jo quickly blurted out in the car on the way there that her friend knew nothing about my book so I’d have to tell her. It just re-affirmed how unimportant it was and I was. Bear in mind too, that her ‘friend’ had dabbled in writing for years and has always been a jealous sort, so you can imagine how she reacted to the news. This, btw, was after Jo had admitted to me that she gave her copy of my book away to some guy in Totnes.

Publication day came and went and nothing, no congratulations, no acknowledgement even. Again, in very rare excerpts, I had tried talking about my writing and my new novel and told her I was having a big book launch at Cirencester. I knew she had no dates that clashed with it, but I also knew, from her total silence on the subject, that she had no intention of coming. She would rather spend the weekend with her bf of the time than support her best mate.

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The day of the book launch came and like a fool I was still hoping to see her walk through the door, of course she didn’t. Instead, ALL my family and friends came ‘en mass’, dear Heather travelled nearly two hours with her two little babies to attend, my dear dear Lindsey (who I had never met at that time) travelled for two hours to support, my wonderful close mate, Will Macmillan Jones travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales to be there, everyone EXCEPT for Jo. The book launch was a huge success and sold out in just over an hour, but still, all I could think about was Jo.

And so it continued.

Then I got a true glimpse into why Jo was behaving the way she was. She visited my place with her chain-smoking obnoxious bf at the time. We went for lunch and during lunch I was shocked to have this bf ask me about my book, something Jo never did. I soon understood why. During the lunch I was then subjected to a full-on interrogation. The bf asked me a flurry of aggressive questions about my book, I tried to ignore his condescending tone. As soon as I tried to answer, he just interrupted me with comments like, “Humph, sounds like every other book I’ve read”, “Sounds just like Harry Potter” (which I have NEVER read and don’t personally like) “But what exactly makes it different?”, “You haven’t answered my question!”, “Who did you get your ideas from?” etc., etc. I was being bombarded, I looked across at Jo who not only hadn’t come to my rescue and told her offish bf to BACK THE F**K OFF, but was sitting there, arms folded, totally silent and with the most awful smug expression on her face. Cheshire cat comes to mind. 😦 grinning-chesire-cat[1]

It suddenly dawned on me…these disparaging remarks, the belittling, the arrogance, the condescending attitude, all of it could only have come from Jo. Those were her words spoken through him.

It was finally clear where her lack of support came from, she thought I was an idiot, an immature fool following childish dreams. Who the hell did I think I was – pretending to be a writer? Did I think I was going to be the next big thing? Delusions of grandeur or what? The feeling of disdain, palpable embarrassment towards me, her sad little friend deluding herself into thinking she had achieved something, that I was ‘an author’. I struggled through the lunch, said my courteous goodbyes and burst into tears the moment they left. I felt utterly crushed. 😦

Ever since then, even though her nasty bf then dumped her a few months later, I swore I’d never talk to her about my writing/books again, and I haven’t. It hasn’t been hard as she isn’t interested and never asks. So, we carry on, me going through the motions of a friendship that now seems so hollow. More Jo dramas to support, more imagined problems, exaggerated health issues (which magically only arose when I became ill last year), all the things that still keep Jo at the centre, where she likes to be. Meanwhile and by stark contrast, my real friends are exactly that, REAL. We support each other and can talk to each other about anything. And again, because I know Jo isn’t interested in anything other than herself, I’ve stopped talking to her about anything important to me, about my new job, my plans for the future, my family, any of it. Our last conversation was, as usual, all about her, her ‘bad back’, her problems, etc., etc.

3b61948569022d0457a6b60ad7d39393[1]Yes, I know I should have the guts to simply be honest and have it out with her, but frankly I’ve been worn down by it all. I have great friends around me, I’ve just eventually realised, despite the length of our friendship, that Jo isn’t one of them. 😦

So ‘moan-fest’ over, promise.

How do YOU deal with disappointment and lack of support from those you call friends? How do you move forward?

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THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR LISTENING TO THIS ‘LETTER TO JO’. 😀 xxxx

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

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A couple of days ago I was very kindly nominated by multi-talented fantasy author, Kate Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/ , to participate in the ‘My Writing Process Blog Tour’. A HUGE thanks to Kate jack for her nomination.

I’m always fascinated by authors’ writing processes and the journeys they go on to get to where they want to be, as no two authors are ever alike. Each process, each story, each journey is unique to each writer.

So, with that in mind, here is my writing process:

What am I currently working on?

Several projects. Firstly, I’m finishing off the re-worked version of my epic fantasy, White Mountain, due for re-release later this year. Then, I’m also writing the sequel, Race of Shadows – Book 2 of my Darkling Trilogy. I feel like a fantasy seamstress at the moment, weaving all these different threads, plots and sub-plots together! In addition, I have written and am now busily illustrating my very first picture book for young children, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile, a really sweet little story with a twist, that shows that a little determination goes a long way!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Genre is a funny word, meant to clump and pigeon-hole work together for the ease of classification. I love the term magic-realism, as it conjures up ideas of dreams and mythical adventures set in our modern world. So, although my work would be classified as fantasy, specifically epic fantasy, I still cling onto the concepts of magic-realism. Lol, I digress…

Well, every author’s voice is unique, regardless of the different influences that affect us. Ultimately, only we can tell our stories and each of them will carry something different as a result. I’m sure every author thinks their work is unique and I’m certainly no exception. For me, I wanted to defy certain fantasy conventions and give them a fresh twist. Why use other author’s invented people’s when I can have my own? My dragons are fyrrens, my dwarfish equivalents are dworlls, there are no elves in any of my stories only historical references to a defunct ancient culture of aellfrs. I have witches, oracles and wizards (magus) and of course my own unique inventions like wargols, fire-wolves, dark mytes, gorrgos etc. Also, most stories for children and young adults adheres to the set formula that to interest young minds all the main protagonists must be young too. I never understood that set mentality as some of my favourite tales growing up involved older characters, stories of Merlin, magic, Gawain and the knights of the Round Table; 33 year old Hobbits and ancient wizards; the Snow Queen, the White Witch, Aslan, the dragons of Pern, Beowulf, Siegfried & Brunhilda from the Volsung Sagas, none of these were children. As older characters, they had a depth to them, a life lived, experiences that would mould them and influence their choices. Having said all that, Gralen, my dragon, my be 1364 years old but he’s every bit as immature as I am!

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. I’ve been writing stories almost before I could even walk properly. It’s something that has always come as second nature to me. But writing is hard, insular, often un-rewarding, full of doubt, frustration, annoyance at yourself. No-one would willingly subject themselves to it, unless it was it a passion and something they simply HAD to do. For me, being creative in some way is like breathing, something that sustains and lifts me. At intense periods of my life when time and everything is being squeezed, if I don’t write or draw at least something, it actually makes me depressed. It’s something I need to do to stay happy and balanced.

How does my writing process work?

Lol, it’s very ad hoc. I’m dreadful with set timetables. For the last 15 years, I’ve had to juggle writing with a very full-on full-time job, not easy at the best of times. Basically I write whenever I can, but try to ensure that I do something every day, no matter how small. Boy, I WISH I was more efficient and much quicker! Many of my friends write directly onto their laptops and computers. Me? Nope, I’ve always got to do things the hard way. For me, I just HAVE to write it first, the old-fashioned way. First on countless note-pads – scribbling key scenes, dialogue, narrative pieces, snapshots and overviews of a plot. Next, I connect the dots, start to write it out fully, adding and refining those rough scenes. Then, it’s typing it up on the computer, editing as I go until I have a rough first draft. After that, the exhaustive process of re-working, re-drafting, edits, edits, edits must begin. I must have edited White Mountain at least 100 times before it was even seen by another person. Perfectionism is my blight, it means you are never truly satisfied and that you have to be SO careful not to overwork something. The plus side, is that your research will be so in-depth, that it gives wonderful credibility, back story and realism to the world you create, no matter how fantastical it may be.

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So, that’s me, the creative nerd and messy perfectionist! 😀

Right, time to pass on the baton…a very tricky task given how many amazing writers there are out there – you’re a talented bunch don’t cha know! 🙂

So, after much head scratching, here are my two nominees, both of them absolutely terrific and talented writers and great bloggers too! :

Will Macmillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

Susan Finlay http://susansbooks37.wordpress.com/

Please check out their blogs, full of fantastic posts and all sorts of treats! 😀

 

 

Feline Blue?

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Being a HUGE lover of animals, cats and doggies in particular, today’s post has a distinctly furry feel. Way back in September 2013, while I was still struggling with my illness, I entered a rather exciting feline-themed short story competition for lovely UK publishers, Kristell Ink owned by Grimbold Books.

To my utter delight, my short story, ‘Feline Blue’, was well received and the editor of Grimbold Books, Sammy HK Smith, wanted to include it in their brilliant new anthology of short stories, Felinity, which will be published 18th May 2014 – in just one week’s time!

I’m SO excited!!!! 😀

In addition to writing my shape-shifting short story, ‘Feline Blue’, I also illustrated it. 😀

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To give you all a flavour of the book, here are a few words from the publishers:

‘Grimbold Books is proud to present our first Kristell Inkling, a collection of feline inspired flash fiction stories written by authors from all around the world. This collection celebrates what we regard as the most important factor when writing: write foremost for pleasure. The stories showcased in this book are full of laughter, grit, odd contraptions and a lot of fur, with a loud purring nod to our beloved genres of science fiction and fantasy.

Felinity, noun, plural fel-in-ities. 1. The quality of being cat-like. 2. A divine being, a cat.

With over twenty stories that celebrate the feline form, our first collection of flash fiction contains stories from seasoned and new writers.

41wpCDigqbL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_[1]Here are the sales link:

UK: http://www.amazon.com/Felinity-F-E-Smith-ebook/dp/B00JSC8VSY/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1399394925&sr=8-1&keywords=felinity

US: http://www.amazon.com/Felinity-F-E-Smith-ebook/dp/B00JSC8VSY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399721614&sr=1-1&keywords=felinity

From the publishers:

‘These stories were originally written as entries for our first birthday competition. We knew we wanted to incorporate the fantastical feline form, and so our five hundred word flash fiction brief was born: science fiction, fantasy, and even a combination of both. We received so many high quality stories, the best of which made us laugh, cry, and think.

Our youngest author is just eleven years old and her story, Diamond of Earth, reminds us how deep a child’s imagination goes. We loved her tale, and the time she took to enter the competition.

Contained herein are stories involving other worlds, feline overlords, shape-shifters, portals, immortality, and many more…

This collection celebrates the idea that writing should be fun and something enjoyed by all ages.

Our competition winner, A F E Smith penned the charming story, ‘Nein Lives’, and so we open the book with her contribution. We would like to thank both AFE Smith and carocaroediting.co.uk for editing and proofreading services.’

I must say, that apart from the wonderful short stories and illustrations, Felinity also boasts some awesome cover art, by the talented Hazel Butler.

Check it out folks! 😀 xx

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So, whether you like furry four-legged friends, science-fiction, fantasy or just excellent writing and quirky original short stories, Felinity is definitely for you! Enjoy! 😀 xx

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In memory of my own gorgeous feline friend, Mimi, who died suddenly last November and who’s 19th birthday it was on Saturday (1996-2013). xxxxx

The writing’s on the wall…er…tablet?

I don’t usually re-blog my own posts, in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done it before, but I saw this post I blogged in May last year and just loved the subject matter – writing and the history of writing! Enjoy! 😀 xx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gil... The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, the writing’s on the tablet and I’m not talking computer tablets here, in terms of writing and technology, it seems we’ve come full circle! 😀

Like many of us, when I was a child I believed that the ancient Egyptians invented writing. That hieroglyphics were man’s earliest endeavour at making sense of the world in written form.

Of course, we all know this to be untrue now, that actually Sumer (southern Mesopotamia) and the ancient Sumerians invented writing, Sumerian cuneiform by writing on clay tablets with a reed called a stylus, at least 200 years before the Egyptians.

"The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the mo...
“The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like…

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