Are you prepared for SUCCESS?

Despite not being well at the moment it has been a good year so far. It’s funny, I don’t know if it’s a Brit thing – being humble not ‘hooting your horn’ or wanting to be seen to show off, or if it’s just a me thing, but I’ve always been prepared for failure not success.

On the relationship front – yeap, I’m pretty much a human tsunami, a total disaster zone. It’s true I never wanted to get married or trapped as I saw it (hardly surprising given my childhood and family) but I did and do still want kids…something I’m going to have to do something about sooner rather than later.

On the professional front – I fell into a career (teaching) I never intended to do, and though to my own surprise I was very good at it, it was hugely draining and creatively very unfulfilling. But, I thank that career for my house and mortgage and the boring adult life stuff it gave me.

On the creative front – yes, I’ve always been blessed with the ability to draw and paint to a high standard, even from the age of 3 apparently. It led me to do a National Diploma in Foundation Art followed by a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art/Visual Arts, which I loved every moment of. But, having completed said degree and not having any money, I foolishly turned down the MA place I had secured at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London. Instead, after yet another disastrous relationship break up and a marriage proposal (yes, I still have feelings for him but no I have no regrets saying “No”), I escaped as far away as I could, 15,000 miles away to New Zealand for four months – backpacking in blissful solitude and stunning landscapes! I’d never been happier. 😀

On returning, without a job or prospects of getting one, I did a post-grad teaching course and fell into teaching for 16 long years – many of which were enjoyable but many of which were not.

Life passes so frigging quickly…how the hell did I get here?

Then, my first completed novel, White Mountain, was published. I was ecstatic, a childhood dream and passion had actually come true and to make things more perfect, I had illustrated my epic fantasy novel too, combining my two great loves.

What happened?

Well, an 8 date Waterstones book signing tour and numerous independent bookshops, sold a ton of books, which gave me my membership to the Society of Authors, newspaper interviews, things were moving fast and brilliantly and then…it all promptly collapsed. Despite my jubilation at being published, it was with such a thoroughly unscrupulous and dreadful publisher who had ruined my book (something I had taken ten years to write and research), had given me possibly the worst contract terms in the business, broken that same contract numerous times, bullied me terribly and finally shafted me out of hundreds if not thousands of pounds of royalties. I left them and after only 4 months of the book being out there on shelves and in bookshops, it was withdrawn and I skulked away badly battered and bruised by the whole ordeal.

It very nearly stopped me from ever writing again and certainly contributed to my permanent illness and my problems ‘getting the words down’. 😦

Fast forward, amazing thing upon amazing thing happened and my beloved book was taken on and re-published by another publisher, the wonderful Grimbold Books based in Banbury (and their imprint, Kristell Ink Publishing). It was re-edited, re-formatted, given an amazing new cover from the dreadful one it had been landed with and was completely overhauled and released out into the world once more as a beautiful fresh thing! 😀 ❤

I was thrilled and elated beyond words. That elusory second chance had come along and the book was how I had always dreamed it would be. BUT, despite Grimbold being utterly brilliant, which they are and the book being brilliant too, that initial momentum had been lost. Yes sales were steady, but not the fast flow they had once been and in the intervening time Waterstones had changed their policy about small press authors signing, and so suddenly, despite having sold well in every Waterstones I had signed in, the doors were slammed shut. I believe, slowly, that is beginning to change…we’ll see.

Now, with a crippling illness and mental constrictions on what I can do (short term memory loss and severe mental fatigue as part of my ME/CFS and Vestibular Neuritis), I have struggled on, writing a slew of short stories, novellas and poetry and trying my hardest to still write the second novel and follow up to White Mountain. Now at least I finally have a first draft of Darkling Rise from which to work.

I kept drawing, painting, mostly for myself and friends and started doing book illustrations. Nothing major, all very enjoyable but hardly paying the bills, especially as once my teaching career ended I found I physically and mentally couldn’t work fulltime anymore – I work part-time in a library now, a job I love.

So yes, some ups, undoubtedly, but lots of downs and certainly lots of practice for failing.

Then suddenly, this year after a strange string of ‘word of mouth’ and luck coincided, along with a large dose of THANK YOU to author, Anna Smith-Spark, I was actually approached by the big boys – HarperCollins! 😀

They had seen the hand drawn fantasy map I had done for Anna Smith-Spark and her wonderful fantasy debut, The Court of Broken Knives, and seen my other illustration work and wanted me to be one of their illustrators/suppliers! It was a strange dream, but a wonderful one.

Of course I jumped at the chance and quickly found myself doing a second commission for them only weeks later, for Anna Stephens and her highly anticipated fantasy debut, Godblind.

But here is where the – are you prepared for success?, comes in…

Because I really, REALLY was not ready. Suddenly I had HarperCollins contacting me on almost a daily basis, tight deadlines thrust on me, and yes…MONEY! They were valuing me and my work in a way I was unprepared for.

I was having to deal with purchase orders and invoices. I’d always given clients a receipt if they wanted it, but no, these were bonafide invoices, each one for a different hardback edition then paperback edition of the books the maps would be in and each for a handsome amount.

I was stunned. I still am. I just received 6 purchase orders from HarperCollins a few days ago, for me to send back with 6 different invoices. Then, I got contacted by Dutch Publishers, Luitingh-Sijthoff, who want to use the same map too, and Orbit from the USA will be using one of them as well, etc., etc. OMG!!!

It’s been utterly bewildering. For someone not used to any kind of success (other than the fleeting kind), despite all my hard work, efforts and dreams, to have this happening now is frankly bizarre.

To all of you out there, plugging away as I have been, trying to find that magical ingredient to finding a market for your work, or ‘making it big’, finding success, having your dreams realised…take some heart. Although I’d never claim that I’ve ‘made it big’ because I haven’t, I have suddenly found myself in the big leagues in illustrative terms at least, with the prospect of making a good living from what I create – there is now a small space for me at the grand table.

So keep working at it guys, keep having those dreams, don’t give in, work your ass off and grasp every opportunity that comes your way because they don’t last and may not come again.

I for one have no idea where all this will lead me and am convinced it won’t last, but I’m hanging on for the ride with every intention of staying on this rollercoaster for as long as I possibly can! 😀 xxxx ❤

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!

When it comes to writing or any creative endeavour that you are serious about i.e. not a hobbyist, but that you actually want to make a paying career from (again not fame & fortune, if you crave that you’re in the wrong game – go join a Big Brother house or Britain’s Got (f**k all) Talent), we are so often faced with failure.

So often I feel like the Balrog on the bridge in Khazad-dûm, trying to gain access to a path closed to me, a world full of closing (or slamming) doors.

Just need to add the appropriate sentence ending:

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this slush pile.”

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this competition’s shortlist (or even longlist).”

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this agent’s/publisher’s criteria.”

even “YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this selective writing group.” etc., etc.

Trying to make a living out of any creative field in a marketplace so utterly saturated with other writers and artists, is tantamount to wading through tar to reach that Avalon-like island on the horizon. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work, some random luck, some ‘who you know’ and a decent product that you’re trying to sell.

Unfinished pencil study of James Norton by Sphie E Tallis

Of course writing and art are completely subjective, what one person considers to be masterful, another perceives as being rubbish. But I still think some basic principles apply – the mechanics of writing a good sentence or drawing a good picture, of forming those images whether in the mind or on canvas.

Sadly, the path to success is littered with amazingly talented people who never quite got to grips with marketing, social media, ‘branding’ or simply had the bad luck not to reach that agent or publisher at the right time who might recognise their genius.

Pencil portrait of James Norton.

Pencil portrait of actor, James Norton by Sophie E Tallis

Annoyingly, the path to success is also littered with those who seemingly had only a tenth of the talent needed, but who were either fabulously well-connected (all areas of working life will always have an element of nepotism, the famous name, the ‘who you know’ element etc.), or were either bloody lucky in their timing when approaching said agent/publisher, or were so fantastic at the marketing/branding side that they had tremendous success before people realised the tripe they were actually peddling.

In writing terms, the author E.L. James comes to mind, whose actual writing (aside from the dubious pro-abuser content) is simply dreadful. In terms of the art world, for me, Tracey Emin is also the perfect example of brilliant self publicity/PR with minimal talent required. As a former history of art and fine art student & artist myself, I am not anti-modern art at all, just people like Emin. Damien Hirst may not be to everyone’s taste, but like Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Saville, Rachel Whiteread etc., they had a huge underlying skill level. I actually saw Hirst’s early work before he made it big as part of the 1990’s Brit-Art explosion and the guy is actually very talented. Although I cannot pretend to like a lot of his work, the guy CAN at least draw, his draftsmanship skills are very good, he just chooses to explore abstract and conceptual art. For me, as a drawer and artist, that is my benchmark for art, as it is for writing, that the person needs to have good basic skills in their chosen art-form. Emin cannot and never could draw proficiently, even the most basic forms, her drawing ability is quite frankly poor, and no, the irony that she was employed a few years ago as the Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Art is not lost on me. 😦

Pencil portrait of actor, Trevor Eve

Pencil portrait of actor, Trevor Eve by Sophie E Tallis

But back to writing. At the heart of the matter, the writer/author needs to have skill at stringing words together, at spinning a yarn, telling a compelling story, writing memorable characters etc., etc.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” goes the voice in our heads as we contemplate sending work off to the latest narrowing submission window, chasing any opportunity that passes no matter how fleeting – like too many bees chasing the one elusive queen, or in fantasy speak – butter spread over too much bread. We’re all chasing the same thing, the same elusive target – to be published, to have an agent, to make a living from what we love to create.

For me, so far this year, the successes I have seen have definitely been in my art rather than my writing. As dearly as I would love more people to read my work and review it and yes, love it, I am still yet another small voice amongst the din, I know this (I will be doing a separate post on ‘branding’ with some tips I’ve picked up and stolen!). But, my illustration work has, rather surprisingly, started to take off and accrue a real momentum of its own!

Pencil portrait of Stephen Fry

Rough pencil study of Stephen Fry by Sophie E Tallis

Some of that is due to content, to being prolific. As a writer I have always been glacially slow, I’d like to think it’s quality over quantity, but in truth I wish I found writing as easy as drawing. I struggle with illness, concentration and mental exhaustion to get the words down, it seems to use a part of the brain that simply is not needed when I’m busily drawing. I don’t have to try to thread complicated plotlines together and continue a narrative over a long period of time when I’m drawing. Art allows you to switch off the brain and just use your eyes, instincts and fingers to form the image you want. Because of this, I have been able to create new artwork every day as part of my daily 365 day Artmaniac Challenge, whereas sadly I seldom manage to write every day no matter how hard I try. 😦

So, success definitely is due at least in part, to being prolific, having more content out there for people to look at, assess, discuss etc. Something I fear I may never achieve with my writing. 😦

Another element which I have seen first hand, is the ‘luck & who you know’ factor I was talking about. In my case it was a simple snowball effect. The lovely Juliet E McKenna heard in fantasy circles and shared contacts that I was an illustrator and specialised in fantasy maps. So she contacted me and I ended up doing a fantasy map for her and her wonderful ‘Secret Histories of the River Kingdom’.

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Then, because of that and again ‘word of mouth’, the equally lovely Anna Smith-Spark asked me to do a fantasy map for her debut novel, ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, to be published in June 2017 by HarperCollins. That in turn led her editors at HarperCollins to look at the map I did and my other illustration work, which then led to the Head of Fiction Art at HarperCollins contacting me directly to say how much everyone at HC loved my work and to offer me a contract to be an official HarperCollins illustrator (supplier)! *SQUEAL* 😀

The contract came through two weeks ago and yes, I signed it straight away! 😀

Since then I have had almost daily requests from various people to do commissioned artwork for them, including from a New York literary group who want me to do the main image for their magazine and website. It’s insane, I don’t even advertise and am now having to say, “No, sorry, I can’t take anymore commissions on at the moment!”

Madness!

HarperCollins were also lovely enough to tell me that I had been MASSIVELY undercharging people and advised for me to raise my rates. I did, a little, but not as much as they were suggesting otherwise that would stop any Indie Authors from being able to afford me and I know how damn hard it is for indie and self-published authors anyway, so I’m certainly not going to price myself out of their reach. 🙂

So, yes, creating more content and having that ‘word of mouth’ and lucky break does play a massive role in creating success. Now, if only I could apply that and get the same reactions to my written work! 😀

If you’re having the same struggles or successes, do let me know! 😉 xxx

Pencil portrait of Rayleigh Ritchie

Pencil portrait of actor Rayleigh Ritchie by Sophie E Tallis

 

Climbing Mountains – January blues and 31 days of madness!

As we start February I look back at the madness that was January. From the world being plunged into the realities and dangers of Trumpland to the usual January blues. At this dull time of year, after the festivities and fun of the festive period I always think of CS Lewis’s words:

“I’ve always found this a trying time of the year.  The leaves not yet out, mud everywhere you go.  Frosty mornings gone.  Sunny mornings not yet come.  Give me blizzards and frozen pipes, but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world.”

January inevitably, is always a pensive time, a time of anti-climax, of looking back at the past year and looking to the future – sometimes in hope, sometimes in anxiety. I suppose now with the turmeric turd (as I call him) ensconced in the White House, there is more reason than any to be anxious about what the future may bring. For me personally, being such a lover of nature, a conservationist and environmentalist at heart, I worry about his ignorant, unsubstantiated (and quite possibly insane) views and denial of climate change as merely a ‘Chinese hoax’. That instead of listening to the independent views of thousands of scientists and climate experts around the world, of proven facts about climate change resulting from human activity, that Trump’s ego and his love of money and power could easily cause unparalleled environmental damage that may take years to reverse, if it can be at all. We don’t own this world, we are merely custodians, another animal species that rely on it for life itself. This world is such a precious place, its eco systems so fragile, its wildlife under so much threat from humanity already, that 4 years or dare I say it, 8 years of Trump insanity, of arctic drilling, fracking, extra oil, gas and coal exploration and pollution, may well be too much to recover from. Only time will tell.

January is also about setting goals especially life goals which are always tricky, the positive vibes of saying to yourself that THIS year will be different, this year you will lose those annoying pounds (or stones), achieve those long held goals and dreams, that this will be YOUR year.

It’s a double-edged sword. Yes you should have aspirations, goals, dreams, things that make you happy, but the reality of not achieving them can be dreadful. January is also a time of year that I often find myself falling back into bad habits and bad thinking – the time when depression often rears its ugly head.

So, as a way to combat those feelings and that awful January inertia, back in November I had an utterly mad idea…

painting-outside by Sophie E Tallis

Being Facebook friends with the lovely Children’s Laureate, illustrator extraordinaire Chris Riddell, I’ve been watching his posts all through the year. Every day Chris draws or sketches in what he calls his ‘Laureate Log’, a wonderful visual diary of creativity. Well, as Picasso himself said “The best ideas are stolen!”, I decided to do my own daily art record – what I call ‘The Artmaniac Challenge’!

So I set up a friendly inclusive group on Facebook – the Artmaniacs – open to anyone to draw, sketch, paint, sculpt, create a new artwork EVERY DAY for 365 days, starting from January 1st 2017 – January 1st 2018 and post it online in the group and anywhere else they fancy! It was a way for focusing the mind, being productive and a way of forcing you to be creative every day, even on days when all you want is a cuppa and a duvet to hide under.

I had no idea if it would work, but it has, we already have 27 members and growing! It’s been a wonderfully positive thing, a great way of driving out those damn January blues and giving a real sense of achievement to those participating. So in the mad 31 days of January, I and others have 31 pieces of art to show for it, an ever-growing portfolio – and the lovely thing is that it doesn’t matter if they are rough sketches, finished drawings, doodles, paintings, experiments, photography, anything goes! 😀

For someone like me, who has found it so hard to put pen to paper in regards to writing, doing this daily challenge has actually helped me in my writing too, because, if I can spare a few minutes to draw every day, if I can force myself to create something every day, then I can do the same for writing! WE CAN DO THIS!!!

So, here is the gallery of my first month of art, some good, lol, some not so good! 😀 xxxx

Dragon and warrior sketch by Sophie E TallisFallen Angel by Sophie E TallisSaw Gerrera character sketch (from Rogue One) by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink sketch of my dog, Korrun by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch from my short story, Silent Running by Sophie E TallisRough sketch of Fenn, given that he only sat still for a few seconds before moving! by Sophie E TallisHand study in pen & ink by Sophie E TallisMy rough illustration from my children's book, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile', by Sophie E TallisThe Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch of Lord Perral from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisRough sketch by Sophie E TallisSketch in blue by Sophie E TallisCouple Portrait by Sophie E TallisFinished Couple Portrait by Sophie E TallisBenedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock character study by Sophie E TallisRough fairy study by Sophie E TallisView of Kallorm 'City of Light' from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisSelf=Portrait in blue by Sophie E TallisStudy in blue by Sophie E TallisMy blue toned drawing of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia by Sophie E TallisWolf study in purple by Sophie E TallisBurnt umber and ochre study by Sophie E TallisLong-Tailed Tit by Sophie E TallisPortrait study in blue by Sophie E TallisFigure study in purple by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink pheasant study by Sophie E TallisOde to John Hurt RIP by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink drawing of my dog, Tolly by Sophie E Tallis'Do not be silenced' watercolour pencil study by Sophie E TallisChinese New Year dragon rough sketch by Sophie E Tallis

Well that’s it – the good, the bad and the ugly! Let’s see what the next month brings. 🙂

N.B. I will also let slip, that a couple of weeks ago, I had some VERY good news involving HarperCollins… I’ll let you all know once everything is signed and sealed. Watch this space…! 😉 xxx

Mapping The Imagination

Maps are a subject I keep returning to again and again and for good reason. Ever since I was a child I’ve held a deep fascination for atlas’s, globes, maps and cartography in general. The mystery of distant countries with exotic names, far flung foreign lands, strange topographic features or intricate maps of fictional worlds have always captivated my imagination and I know I’m not alone in this passion. Maps, particularly when used in fiction, are more popular today than they’ve ever been.

Check out my previous map inspired posts: For the love of maps! & Mapping your fantasy

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In literary terms, the first map I’m aware of studying was probably E.H. Shepherd’s beautifully illustrated ‘100 Acre Wood’ for A.A. Milne’s glorious Winnie The Pooh, that was quickly followed by the maps in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Tove Jansson’s wonderful map of Moomin Valley and CS Lewis’s Narnia map.

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As all lovers of good fantasy fiction know, there is nothing as pleasurable as poring over a map of your favourite fantasy world, whether it be George RR Martin’s Westeros at the heart of his phenomenal Games of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire) series, JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in his Lord of The Rings trilogy, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. 34c29aa5e22785787f24a35d580761c71

 

Now, as an illustrator and author, I create my own detailed hand-drawn fantasy maps for my books and for other authors and publishers. I’ve only illustrated 9 books to date so far but have several projects in the pipeline, and would like to share with you, my fellow map lovers, how I created my latest commission for fabulous fantasy writer, Juliet McKenna and her awesome new River Kingdom series.

Firstly, I cannot tell you what fun it is creating these beautiful objects – “The literal and visual distillation of an author’s imagination through graphite, pen & ink and paint.” It is true that not every great fantasy novel needs a map and some authors like NK Jemisin were initially not keen on them, but for me I love them as I think they create a tangible geographical point of reference from which the story weaves its magic. Funnily enough, Joe Abercromie who apparently wasn’t keen on fantasy maps for his First Law series then included 5 of them in The Heroes (to represent the battle movements)!

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At the end of July I was approached by Juliet McKenna who was looking for someone to do a map for her latest fantasy series, the River Kingdom. That started a really interesting month of creative exploration. Juliet, much like me, is a stickler for detail, which I love. The devil’s in the detail they say and that is particularly true when creating fantasy maps, the more information the better!

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The first thing I loved, is that her River Kingdom is landlocked i.e. set in the middle of a continent, much like my Fendellin map (see left), and avoids the over used cliché of a coastline and seas. This makes total sense to me – as much as I love coastlines, not every land is going to be coastal and yet if you follow the vast majority of fantasy maps they are all either islands or coastal regions! River Kingdom is inland and is all about the rivers and the regions and peoples they dominate.

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For a starting point Juliet emailed me a few pages of notes about her fabulous River Kingdom world, the main rivers (Tane and Dore) in her kingdom, what they are like (winding? straight? navigable? deep? shallow? rapids? maelstroms? etc), how they flow, the settlements and communities along their banks, the different administrative ruling centres and fiefdoms, what the Hill Country was like and forests, a description of the Nilgeh Mire, how the land lies and towns relate to each other, etc. It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to be something rather special, as so few authors really fully imagine and realise the worlds they create down to the everyday detail.

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From this, we started a wonderful creative collaboration, back and forth. To ensure that my clients are 110% with the artwork they receive, I’m a great believer in asking questions rather than guessing, that way you are able to really crystalize what the author/client wants and are far more likely to deliver it.

More questions and details followed, the colour of the waters of the main rivers, their tributaries, what happens when the two great rivers meet, adding wharfs and quays for river folk to travel and ferries, the types of trees in the forest areas, how high are the mountains, how to represent the towns with different allegiances, motifs to be used to represent the Grainland and Grassland areas and lovely nuances like adding subtle terraces to some of the Downland hills and what the geology and terrain was of drier areas like the High Plateau. Discussions about the lovely maps of 15thC cartographer, John Speed and the red colour of towns depicted etc.

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Then, after the graphite and then inking stages were finished, a whole new conversation took place about colours and tones for the finished painted map. Mountainous regions in reality, vary hugely, another reason why I prefer to hand draw everything rather than using computer programs which just replicate the same mountain shape again and again, some smaller some bigger but none with any individuality. Were the mountainous regions alpine in nature, snow capped and grey granite or like the dry peaks of parts of the Andes or more like the Cairngorms and Snowdonia, greener lower peaks?

What about the woodland areas?

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Most forests depicted in fantasy maps tend to be one generic shape repeated infinitum and if they are coloured, one generic green shade. We decided instead to have individual shapes, colours and shades for the different tree types just like a real mixed forest canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees. Yes these are still stylised trees, drawing an accurate observational study of a tree with all it’s intertwining branches would look dreadful in a map context, like a mass of spider webs and would become too distracting to the overall effect.

captureThen you have the map’s compass. I like to do an individual compass for every map and client, so they are unique to that client’s work. In Juliet’s case, I really wanted to include some of the mythos present in her story, namely the fact that her market towns have shrines to the Sun Goddess & Moon God, so I wanted a compass rose with a sun and moon motif at the centre (lol, Juliet is apparently now thinking of using this compass rose as a cross-stitch design!).  🙂

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When painting the map, I found myself using some truly gorgeous pearlescent paints and gold inks for the details (there are amazing art products out there!), I only wish the sheen of these had fully translated into the final scanned map.

So, after a month and a bit of continuous work, we had a finished painted map for Juliet’s amazing new fantasy, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, which launches at *BristolCon in less than two weeks! Pop along and meet Juliet in person and grab yourself your own signed copy from the author herself! (check out the gorgeous cover by Ben Baldwin!)

*BristolCon – is a fantastic one day SFF convention in Bristol at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel on Saturday 29th October! The programme of events is here. (Juliet will be there signing copies of Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom and appearing on two panels & I’ll be there too supporting my publishers, Grimbold Books and doing a panel and reading – come along and join the fun!)

So, there you go folks…the process of actually creating and making a fantasy map, it ain’t easy but boy is it FUN!  🙂 xxx

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🙂 xxxx

David Bowie – 1947-2016

I have no words…have been in tears all day so I’ve leave it to the wonderful words of my friend, Joanne Hall. Devastating news today, the end of an era and a real vacuum has been left. RIP David Bowie, we all love you. ❤ xxx

Joanne Hall

I’m 38, and I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of David Bowie on some level. His music was always around, it seemed to permeate the air. Even though I was growing up in the eighties, when Bowie had somewhat fallen from favour. I remember seeing the Ashes to Ashes video, and being weirded out by the clowns. I remember feeling sad for poor Major Tom. I remember the garish video for Dancing in the Street on Top of the Pops. Along with many girls my age, seeing The Goblin King in Labyrinth on the big screen was a (ahem!) formative and educational experience…

I got into David Bowie through listening to bands who had been influenced by him. More specifically, I got into David Bowie via my love of Suede, who made no secret of their own love for him – it pretty much…

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White Mountain The Movie – Part II Filming Locations

Taking a slight break from the Distant Worlds author interview series, hopefully this will be a visual treat for all those who love travelling (in real life or in the imagination) and film addicts like me!

As an avid film fan, back in January I had a bit of fun and shared my vision of White Mountain – The Movie, specifically focusing on my dream cast and director.

So, with visionary Ridley Scott directing, Christopher Plumber as Mr. Agyk, Rufus Sewell as the voice of Gralen, either Natalie Portman or Gemma Arterton as Wendya, a possible Henry Cavill or Aidan Turner as Korrun and charismatic Michael Fassbender as evil villain Morreck, the cast is ready.

For the full cast and character profiles, check out my original post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/white-mountain-the-movie/

Next we shift our cinematic focus to filming locations for White Mountain – The Movie! 😀

*(Please note that apart from my illustrations and a few of my own photographs, most of the images used to show places/locations are NOT my own unless otherwise stated. Many thanks to their various creators. :D)

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In order of book locations, first up, Mr. Agyk and Gralen’s home, White Mountain itself! Real location: Mont Blanc, Switzerland. (My inspiration: Mount Cook ‘Aoraki’, New Zealand).

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The living room.

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The map room, think of a pyramid room covered in maps and star charts with a central dais and the ‘tapestry of time’ shifting world map on it. (Lol, little bit like the map room in Raiders of the Lost Ark!) 😀

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Next, the ice city of Ïssätun, high up within the Arctic circle. Real location: the Arctic, Svarlbard, and Greenland. (My inspiration: the Franz Josef glacier and glacier terminus, New Zealand).

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The ice dungeons below the city.

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Back to White Mountain and the great library ( I love my libraries!).

Photo of Mount Cook aka White Mountain - CopyWhite Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then travel to the Grey Forest deep within the Russian boreal forest or ‘taiga’. Real location: Russian Urals/Siberia. (My inspiration: Forest of Dean, UK and Wistman’s Woods, Dartmoor, UK).

B5C2A8 Russia Siberia Sayan Mountains And Taiga. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

Russia Siberia Sayan Mountains And Taiga. Image shot 2007.

 

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The pancake rocks that Mr. Agyk & Gralen spent the night on, as hunting firewolves draw near. Real location: Russian taiga/Siberia. (My inspiration: Combestone Tor, Dartmoor, UK & Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand).

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Grey Forest clearing

Wendya’s home – a tumble down cottage in the heart of the forest (less Bavarian fairytale and more decrepit than this though).

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Wendya’s summer retreat, high up in the Llrinaru trees – a treetop sanctuary. Real location: Siberia. (My inspiration: the giant Kauri trees of New Zealand).

View over the Grey Forest from Wendya's summer home.

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The Amazon jungle, following the great river and its tributaries deeper into the rainforest.

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The path to the Oracle.

016Jungle path to the 'Oracle of the West'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dead gully.

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The Oracle’s Lair.

chislehurst_03[1]Then cross the Atlantic to the heart of Africa, the Congo Rainforest, home of the most ancient city in the world, Kallorm (Dwellum of old or Silverden in the Ǽllfr tongue). Real location: Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. (My inspiration: the Waipoa rainforest, North Island of New Zealand and Abel Tasman rainforest, South Island of New Zealand).

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The oldest and largest Dworllian realm, Kallorm – the ‘City of Light’ – a bustling subterranean metropolis of crowded honey coloured sandstone buildings, viaducts, bridges, rivers, forums and market squares deep beneath the jungles of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo). Real locations: Sandstone buildings of Petra, Cairo, Nairobi, Kolcatta, Dwarka. (My inspiration: the narrow crowded architectural streets of Rome, particularly the Roman Forum and the market squares of Florence, Italy).

Firstly, one of the many ancient bridges to cross into Kallorm.

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The White Palace, the Royal House of Kallorm and the Senate, the seat of government. Inspired by Indian and Middle Eastern architecture with some Italian Renaissance thrown in!

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The Falls of Tarro. Real location: the Victoria Falls, border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. (My inspiration: the Huka Falls, New Zealand, Lyford Gorge, Dartmoor, UK and Canonteign Falls, Devon, UK)

69b553d5b8c9dd992b0e4d3076d9469b[1]Falls of Tarro and city of Kallorm

Draellth chambers and catacombs beneath the city of Kallorm. Real location: the Hang Son Dong cave system in Vietnam. (My inspiration: the Waitomo caves, New Zealand and Wookey Hole, Somerset, UK).

The secret passageway behind the Falls of Tarro16fd69ac89d29787b641144be667124d[1]9ebb332cced0f95b3451aa960968cb9a[1]543605b2a694d0cb5add1b5411ccaab2[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ‘Resting Rooms’ of Kallorm, a peaceful sanctuary and haven to heal all wounds amidst the bustle of Kallorm.

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7b25eed066a091d9324ba17a3ebe459c[1]The journey to Fendellin, following the mighty Indus River up to the wild hills and mountains of the Hindu Kush where the demonic snow leopard attacks.

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The Himalayas, searching for the ‘Lost Kingdom of Dragons’, Fendellin.

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Fendellin, ‘The Lost Kingdom of Dragons’ – the vast hidden land within the Himalayas (the Encircling Mountains), originally an Ǽllfren stronghold, now one of the last Dworllian kingdoms and home of all dragon races…also the home of M’Sorreck himself. Real location: Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Himalayan region. (My inspiration: the Southern Alps, South Island of New Zealand and the Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand + the Tibetan legend of Shambhala).

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The ancient steles beside the iceberg lake in Fendellin.

Fendellin - view over glacial lakeiceberg_lake[1]

Mund’harr and the capital, the Golden City. Real location: Architecture of Cambodia, Burma, Laos and Spain.

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Finding a quiet cloister in the city of clouds…

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The Hanging Gardens of Mund’harr. (My inspiration: the hanging gardens of Babylon & Nineveh).

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The blue poppy fields of Fendellin.

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The Tolltek Pass and the road to Morreck.

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The Shudras – the ‘Silent Marshes’.

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Hal’Torren’s choice, the ruins of Oralam. Real location: the deserts of China.

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The salt lake and Kavok’s Peak.

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Valley of darkness, Morreck’s fortress and the stone Sentinels.

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The sentinels

The Cavern of Souls – Morreck’s lair. Real location: Basilica Cistern at Istanbul, Turkey and Petra, Jordan.

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The Flame of Fendellin.

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The cavalcade home.

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Back to White Mountain again.

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***

Lol, there you go, a very looong visual exploration of the cinematic locations for White Mountain – The Movie! You can tell that I’ve spent WAY too much time thinking about all this!

Next time, the beasts and creatures of White Mountain – The Movie! 😀

 

Oh, and for all you lovely White Mountain fans, there’s still a chance to vote for it in The People’s Book Prize. Voting stays open until August 31st, so if you love it please lend your support, every vote really does count! And a HUGE thank you to all the fabulous people who have already voted, White Mountain has garnered the most amazing comments and votes!

THANK YOU! 😀 xxxx

White Mountain

Etymology – What’s in a word? Part III Language and a glossary of objects.

This is the final instalment in my ultra nerdish look at etymology and the derivation of words. Lol, I know I keep saying this but I’m sure this particular post will only be of interest to me and maybe one other person, but it seems right to finish the series looking at the inspirations and roots behind my novel, White Mountain, and the whole of the Darkling Chronicles universe.

White Mountain full book jacket

This last post looks at the finer details of language and gives a general look at the objects and things in White Mountain and their derivation.

Now, although I would never claim to be a linguist or language specialist, I have taught phonetics for the last 16 years and so have a good understanding behind the mechanics of language and word roots. So yes, like a true geek and many other eager teenagers obsessed with JRR Tolkien, I did invent my own working language for White Mountain (although this doesn’t specifically feature in the book, it hopefully gives the background a little more depth/flavour).

My Dworllian language is actually a mixture of Maori, African Ibo & Bantu dialects, Old English, Old Norse and Old Hindi! 😀

One thing you’ll notice that is very prevalent and typical of the Dworllian language, are double ‘ll’ and double ‘rr’. These are most notable in character names which always have these – Korrun, Baillum, Dorrol, Halli, Frell etc., and denote a longer consonant sound in pronunciation. Other races, such as dragons (fÿrrens) do not use these language rules, hence – Gralen, Sedgewick & Varkul. Rollm however is an exception, being so close to the Dworllian race, he has adopted the double ‘ll’ in his name.

Here are two poems/laments from White Mountain in translated Dworllian and English to give you a feel for the language.

***

Tè Takka ò Tarro / The Falls of Tarro

Undokko à ullvi ò arras

Beneath a canopy of stars

E sullo agarr aggallm,

Its whispering waters flow,

Undokko tè utta tunga harr

Beneath the towers standing tall

Takollo ōku manava d wharri.

Lies my heart and home.

 

À tūn megirr ò dworri llri

A city great of Dworllian past

Gllès mundii d à gillgalloharr witarr,

Three mountains and a palace white,

Nevfr getàll ù tirr d brkirr are

Nine gates to pass and bridges arch

Ù urru tè ngarro gllm ò sollal.

To reach the secret realm of light.

 

À kōparr ò sillva, à tunorr rarrrn

A veil of silver, a thundering roar

À kurra dollm, à aggakè haea…

A crystal dome, a rain bowed beam…

È sullirr tè kō ò Dwelldi (Kallorm) k’rran,

I hear the song of Dwellum (Kallorm) call,

Ìri ōku manava, e kōhu mōstan takka.

Within my heart, its mists must fall.

 

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù kanikani d sarri ì Tarro agarri,

To dance and sing in Tarro’s spring,

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù tallo arro koè whakarri mettan.

To rest amongst your sheltered stone.

***

***

Tè Takollo ò Fendelli / The Lay of Fendellin

Pærr neorr ufèrr tè mundii witarr

Pass now beyond the mountains white

Herrwa ïssa kara pekè d agarri

Where frosted rivers leap and spring

Arro tè lldva narra solall

Amongst the golden grasses light

Herrwa fÿrrens llvar d alla d sarri.

Where fÿrrens dwell and soar and sing.

 

À ettan ǽ llri d fægorr ǽ arras

A land as old and fair as stars

Ò ïsso mund d unasoll n’garr,

Of snowy peaks and moonlit seas,

Ò noktarri naru èrr ettirr affar

Of darkling woods we travel far

Ù selell onù ì sillva lèorr.

To gaze upon its silvery leaves.

 

À ferra whǽ æsell n’korrè fÿrra

A flame that springs eternal fire

À tūn ì tè kōhu atta,

A city in the misty sky,

À bælorra whǽ kēna kaorr elld

A beauty which shall never tire

Arro tè rællan alla harr.

Amongst the banners flying high.

 

À whakarr vas à affar ettan

A sheltered haven, a sacred land

Ǽ llri gllm ò gillga,

An ancient place of Kings,

À sillvorri hirr’kræl, à fÿrri brrin

A shining sword, a fiery brand

Herrwa mahkirri llvar ìri.

Where magic dwells therein.

 

Affar ærr uffè manava fendda vallas

Far east beyond heart’s lost desire

Tè llvmanava ò tè llri vakirr,

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Tōnna akè solla ò wenalla ò fÿrra

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Takollo warrewa Fendelli.

Lies forgotten Fendellin.

Chapter Thirteen - The Encircling Mountains

Here are a few basic and background terms used predominantly in White Mountain:

Ǽllfr – (referred to in myth as ‘elves’ ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – Greek derivation ‘alpha’ meaning first or primary).

Ǽllfren Sanskrit – A very ancient Ǽllfren text and written language similar to the ancient Indian Vedic Sanskrit.

A’Orvas – Ǽllfren word for the First Realm, equivalent to Valhalla, Elysium, Marrduk (Sumerian – Marduk) and Heaven.

Arrametta – Meaning ‘starstone’. A luminescent quartz type stone that produces light (often when held) and acts of a source of illumination for many subterranean cities and kingdoms (see Kallorm). Sometimes referred to as Arrasoll (starlight) or Kaorrsoll (false light). Dworllian derivation ‘arra’ or ‘arras’ meaning ‘star’ + ‘metta’ or ‘mettan’ meaning stone or rock.

Astarri – Ǽllfren goddess of the moon and heavens, commonly referred to as Ibell’una ‘Lady of the Moon’ in the Dworllian tongue, derived from ‘ibell’ meaning woman/female + ‘una’ meaning moon also derived from Roman goddess of the moon ‘luna’ and arachaic latin ‘lūna’.

Cecrops – legend of the half man/half dragon and hero of Cecropia (Athens). Cecropia, derivation from Cecrops, was the capital of ancient Attica named after city saviour Cecrops and later renamed Athens after Greek goddess Athena.

Dworll – (related to ‘dwarfs’ or ‘dwarves’) Derivation from Old English ‘dweorg’ and related to Old Norse ‘dvergr’ meaning dwarf

Fÿrren – A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or fire-drake. Derivation (fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’).

I’Sharri – Dworllian goddess of love and forgiveness. Similar to the Sumerian and Mesopotamia Goddess of love, Ishtar.

Llrinaru – Elder wood. Dworllian derivation ‘Llri’ meaning ancient, old, elder + ‘naru’ meaning wood.

Medeaok – Type of Fendellin alcohol using fermented honey & emmer (ancient type of wheat grown in mountainous regions). Derivation from Old English ‘meodu’ and Welsh ‘medd’ meaning ‘mead’ (wine made from fermented honey).

Mimmirian – Meaning ‘seeing mirror’ from the Dworllian word ‘mimirr’ meaning wisdom or knowledge, derived from the Norse giant Mimir who guarded the well of wisdom near the roots of Yggdrasil. A mimmirian is an ancient mystical communicating device, usually mirror like, with a viewing panel and instrumentation for sound. Derivation from Old French ‘mirer’ and Latin ‘mīrārī’.

Naru’l’tarr – Forest leopard (Amur leopard). Dworllian derivation ‘naru’ or ‘narru’ meaning wood or forest + ‘l’tarr’ meaning swift hunting animal.

Rille – small boat or vessel, often used in funeral ceremonies to carry the dead over a waterfall and into the next world/realm (afterlife). Derivation from ‘rill’ meaning brook or stream also from Old German ‘rille’.

Sillvaf’yrren – Dragonsilver. Dworllian derivation ‘sillva’ meaning silver also derived from Old English ‘siolfor’ & Old Norse ‘silfr’ + dworllian fÿrren meaning dragon (‘fȳrr’ + ‘en’).

Solall – Dworllian meaning ‘light’, derivation from dworllian ‘solla’ meaning sun derived from ‘sol’ the Roman god personifying the Sun and later 15th century Latin ‘sōlāris’ from ‘sōl’ the sun.

Vakirri – V’kirri = Immortals, the first great wizards (grand magi) also known as the ‘magirri’ (magic ones), first order of the wise of which Morreck (M’Sorreck’) is the last remaining one. Mr. Agyk, though an ancient and powerful sorcerer, is not one of the grand magi.

***

There, lol, I’m sure I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on!

If you’re a geek like me, then check out my previous posts on etymology 😀 :

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

and https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-ii-creatures-and-races/

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