Okay, yesterday was my birthday and I’ve never been fond of birthdays, but the last few days have been glorious. All in all 2014 is shaping up to be an amazing year, despite having one hell of a bumpy start. As we pass into out of summer, with its sunshine drenched buzz of activity, and into the darker evenings of Autumn, it is a time of excitement for what is to come and a time to reflect for what has gone.
The beginning of the year couldn’t have been worse. After having spent most of 2013 very ill, I had no choice but to leave my teaching job of the last 12 years. I have always worked, even through college I worked (actually it was a pretty cool job working in a video shop, surrounded by great films all day!), so the prospect of suddenly being unemployed through no fault of my own, was very daunting and pretty scary.
We haven’t worked out all the kinks yet and things are still tighter than I’d like, certainly the prospect of spending £45 to go and see Robin Hobb and George RR Martin in London on the 19th August, plus travel and hotel expenses, was simply out of my price range.
However, worries over jobs, money and financial matters paled into insignificance when my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Lindsey J Parsons suddenly died on the 5th January 2014, only days after I had spoken to her to wish her a Happy New Year and talk excitedly about what 2014 would bring. Lindsey had so many plans for this coming year. She was going to write and release her third book, Shegal, the final book in her wonderful Return of the Effra trilogy. She and I were planning to go off to Las Vegas together, to a writing convention there. That’s where I would have been this summer if things had turned out differently.
Lindsey’s passing was a dreadful shock to all who knew and loved her, and the sadness of her passing has haunted all of us this year. I have always been an insomniac and so, in the wee small hours of the night when I used to chat to Lindsey til 2 or 3am, I miss her the most.
But her tragic death also did something else. It was a tannoy (loud speaker to my US friends) to the rest of us, that none of us know how long we have on this planet, none of us know which breath will be out last, and so the imperative is upon us to STOP WASTING TIME!!!!
It was then, that I decided to get on with the rest of my life. Put my dreadful experiences of 2013 behind me, not just my illness and having to leave my job, but also some thoroughly rotten experiences with my ex-publishers (who shall remain nameless), but who almost put me off writing anything ever again. Once bitten by a shark, you are very wary to dip your toes in the water again! I won’t spend anymore time or energy on them, as quite frankly they’re not worth it.
I also decided to be more proactive. There has been one really huge accomplishment in my life that I have wanted, really since I turned 30, some ten years ago now, and I am eventually doing something about it. This time next year, I hope to share a very different life story with you.
Another part of being pro-active, was deciding not to be ruled over by fear. I had been paralysed by fear pretty much all of last year. Fear that I would never recover and get better, fear that my goals were simply not achievable, fear of losing my job, of losing my way. One of my fears was that I would never be able to write again.
I’m not talking about the commonal garden variety ‘writer’s block’ which plagues many authors, I’m talking about total physical and mental incapacity! Part of my vestibular illness, apart from the migraines, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and head pain, was short term memory problems and a complete inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. My brain simply couldn’t cope with it. It took me days to write a simple letter, because I couldn’t concentrate for longer than 3 or 4 minutes, and the mental exertion and sheer exhaustion it caused, would flare up my symptoms again.
I’d try reading or writing and I’d be staring at a page of text like a zombie for 40mins, my mind simply ‘zoned’ out. Apparently this was very common with severe vestibular conditions, where the concentration needed to read and write was tantamount to asking a person on crutches to climb a mountain! So the whole of last year, I was crippled by thoughts that I’d never be able to climb back on that horse again and write. That my first novel would be my last!
But, after Lindsey, I decided to stop letting that fear rule me. I WOULD write again, and now, I AM!
A HUGE part of that, has been the incredible support I have received from family and friends. A massive shout out to all my Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) brothers and sisters – without you guys, I’d be a sad little shadow of myself and certainly wouldn’t be sat here writing this.
Another incredible turn of fate and good fortune, was finding the most amazing new publishers who were willing to take a chance on me and wanted to publish my first novel, despite it having been published (badly) before.
Again, because of dear Lindsey, I was pro-active and approached this very cool publishing house. To be honest, I felt it was a long-shot and didn’t hold much hope, but hell it was worth a go! I loved the books they produced, how friendly, approachable, honest and professional they were and how they put authors first (the total opposite of the experiences I had had before!).
To my utter delight, I signed with them in June! I cannot tell you just what that has meant to me – to have my cherished work taken on and see new life breathed into it (and new life breathed into me!), by unbelievably passionate people who love books and prize quality above everything…wow! I owe Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris of Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink, more than I’ll ever be able to express in words…thank you, thank you, thank you!
2014 is turning out to be utterly AWESOME year after all! White Mountain – Book 1 of the Darkling Chronicles will be published this Autumn with a brilliant new cover and short stories, and I am eventually writing again!!!!
So, this week I celebrate not only my birthday, but a year full of promise and opportunities. At the beginning of August it was also the 5th Anniversary of getting my beautiful boys. 5 years ago, two gorgeous white wolves came into my life and it has never been the same since! Happy times and clear skies ahead! 😀 xxxx
I’m glad things have turned a corner for you, Sophie. And a very happy birthday 😀
Thank you sweetie, that’s so kind of you. Yes, last year was one big black hole really, between my illness, my job and my horrible ex-publishers, it was pretty tough. But all that’s behind me, it’s left scars but also wisdom. I’m just very lucky to have found my health again, a lovely new job and a brilliant new publisher who couldn’t be more different. Cheers honey. 😀 xxx
Happy Birthday, Sophie. I know you’ve faced some incredible challenges over the past year, and I’m so glad to know you’ve found joy again and that your wonderful book is getting new life. You deserve happiness and success. Keep reaching for it!
Ah, thank you, Tricia. That means so much, especially as I know you’ve had your own nightmare struggle with your ex-publisher’s. I know it’s naïve of me, but I’m still astounded that dishonest, incompetent and inexperienced people can set themselves up as publishers and make claims which at best are misleading and at worst, are simply untrue. I really really hope you find your way out of the labyrinth of difficulties that you’ve been pushed into. Let me know how things are going with you sweetie. Take care. 😀 xxx
Wishing you a wonderful year Sophie. Always love to see images of your beautiful dogs. So happy to hear the dark cloud has lifted and new energy breathes you ☼ and how fortunate you found a supportive publisher. The dreamlike new cover of ‘White Mountain’ beautifully conjures the atmosphere of the story. I plan to buy it again 🙂
Regarding ‘Course of Mirror’ – complete since 2 years – I had frustrating months waiting for my publisher to overcome life events and catch up with projects. I considered self publishing, but kept writing instead, so the second in the series is done and going through beta reads. The CoM launch is now planned for Spring 2015. Then let the fun begin …
Thank you SO much Ashen! Yes it certainly has been a bumpy twelve months, I’ve had a few health relapses this year but nothing like as bad as last year, so I know that is mostly all behind me, thank the gods!
Yes, doesn’t ‘White Mountain’ have a beautiful new cover? Lol, no boring white artichoke in sight! I do feel very lucky to have my new publishers, who are so welcoming, friendly, honest and really know their stuff.
I’m so sorry CoM has taken so long, I’ve been desperately wanting to get my hands on a copy! I can imagine how frustrating that has been, but remember they do say that the best things are worth waiting for! Well honey, I personally will be wanting a lovely signed copy when it launches in Spring!!! Well done for all your patience and perseverance, it’s not easy I know but it WILL be worth it! 😀 xxxx
Thanks 🙂 Always good to keep the spirit sails ready for when the breeze picks up.
Definitely!!!! 😀 xxx
Really delighted things are looking up for you. I really sympathise with being ill and having it tough. I guess some years are just… vile. Glad this one was good. Congratulations on your new publishers too! Fantastic stuff. Onwards and upwards. 😉
Thank you honey, yes, eventually out of the woods and into the sunshine! So glad Will and his lovely books are all free too, so to speak! Better no publisher than the wrong publisher! Anyway, onwards and upwards, eh? 😀 xxx