Readathon UK – My seventh interview in the company of giants!

Nobody tells you, when you embark on this journey, how mesmeric it can be.

Exhausting, yes, hard work, always, painful with little or no obvious gain, sometimes, but also truly magical and inspiring and…well…life-changing! ūüėÄ

I often find that at profound moments in my life I am quite incapable of forming words, let alone coherent sentences. Emotions take over.  That guttural chord within us that lets us know in unequivocal terms, that we are in the middle of something special, a moment to cherish, to define our lives in a certain time and place.

Isn’t that what life is, after all?¬†A series of connected and interconnected moments, and out of that messy melee, one or two fleeting¬†moments suddenly catch fire and flare like stars against the grey.¬†So in moments like these, I find myself¬†through garbled speech and stuttering syllables, uttering¬†inferences like¬†“awesome” “cool” “wow” “amazing” like I’m¬†an awestruck teenager!

Well, another one of those moments happened only a few weeks ago when I was approached by the lovely Debbie Young (http://youngbyname.wordpress.com/) of Readathon UK. In simple terms, Readathon UK is a national charity and reading scheme that gets children to read for pleasure, sparking a passion that can last a lifetime, whilst helping seriously ill children in hospital. What could be a better or more noble endeavour? Рbooks, reading, inspiring young minds and helping sick children?

I admit, to my shame, that I had never heard of Readathon¬†UK before, a fact I find astounding not only due to the close proximity of Readathon’s UK headquarters (only a mile from the school I have taught in for the last eleven years and close to where I used to live!) but due to the long glittering line of literary giants associated with it!

Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Horowitz etc etc…then…ahem…ME?!!!! How bizarre and wonderful?

Check out my interview on Readathon UK’s wonderful website http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

“When we discovered via our local high street bookseller,The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, that a teacher at one of the schools closest to our office had just published her first book, we had to meet her!

And so it was that Sophie E Tallis, author of fantasy novel White Mountain, came to visit us during the half term break, fitting us in between a whirlwind tour of local bookshops, where she is in demand for book-signing events.

Sophie is delighted to be associated with Readathon, being an avid reader who has just installed the twelfth bookcase in her home!”

*****

“It’s great if you can read but the question is: do you read? If you do the world is yours. This is what Readathon is all about.” Michael Rosen, Children’s Laureate 2007-2009

Authors, poets and illustrators love Readathon because it encourages children to enjoy reading for pleasure which brings them many joys and advantages that last a lifetime.

Readathon’s first ever Honorary Chairman was the legendary Roald Dahl, which is one the reasons we now raise money for the charity founded in his memory: Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

After the sad death of Roald Dahl in 1990, this role was taken up by his long-time collaborator Quentin Blake, who the following year was named Children’s Laureate.

The current Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson¬†is also an ardent supporter. She says “Inspiring children to read is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. I’d recommend Readathon to any school or group.”

‚ÄúApart from developing the creative powers of the imagination, reading as a teenager helps you to come to a sense of who you are, to define your own identity.‚ÄĚ Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate 1999-2009 & Chair of Selection Panel for Children’s Laureate 2009-11

“Books open up the windows of the mind while habitual television can brick them up. The more books children read the better. Reading is like jogging for the brain. Get your feet up, kids, and get reading! Good luck to Readathon.” Spike Milligan

“I didn’t discover the joys of reading until late in life because I am dyslexic. I feel I missed so much because of this, so I’m naturally whole-heartedly behind Readathon. It is a wonderful way of encouraging children to read.” Susan Hampshire

“I wish somebody had sponsored me for the hours I spent reading when I as a lad… It is such a good idea to sponsor children reading… The point about Readathon is that it is both an enjoyable and beneficial sponsorship for those taking part – no hardship, no sore feet, no wet clothes, just lots of lovely books, knowledge gained painlessly and unconsciously and enjoyment all the way.” Frank Delaney

‚ÄúAt the heart of every child, new-born, is a unique genius and personality. What we should be doing is to allow the spark of that genius to catch fire, burn brightly and shine.‚ÄĚ Michael Morpurgo, children‚Äôs author, Children’s Laureate 2003-5

Readathon proudly supports both CLIC Sargent and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

CLIC Sargent:¬†Every day 10 children and young people in the UK are told they have cancer.¬† CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, providing care and support for them and their families from diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. We think they‚Äôre amazing. You can find out more here.

Roald Dahl‚Äôs Marvellous Children‚Äôs Charity:¬†This charity was set up by Roald Dahl’s widow in 1990. It specialises in helping children with serious neurological or blood conditions, providing children‚Äôs nurses, equipment, carers and toys, working with hospitals and care organisations or directly with patients. This charity is as marvellous as the children it helps. You can find out more here.

Please do check out Readathon Uk’s website and perhaps even get involved yourself! :¬†¬†http://www.readathon.org/

A HUGE thank you to Debbie Young and Readathon UK for showing such interest in a local author and inviting me to part of the magic! ūüėÄ xxx

UPDATE!!!

A wonderful post about the interview on Debbie Young’s other website: http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/

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Techno-idiot gets another award – One Lovely Blog Award!

Okay… *hangs head in shame*¬†nearly two¬†months ago, 24th September in fact, I was nominated by my good friend, fellow fantasy writer and dragon lover, Lindsey J Parsons, for the One Lovely Blog Award.

I was utterly thrilled at the time¬†and thanked Lindsey, intending of course to pay the compliment on as soon as I could. Then, only a few days later my debut novel was published and all hell broke loose…well actually, a glorious, manic, wondrous, bewildering, overwhelming and amazing rollercoaster from which I am only now catching my breath!

But I would love to say a MASSIVE thank you to the lovely Lindsey J Parsons, for very kindly nominating me for this award. Lindsey Parsons is an extraordinary writer, a real visionary with a gift for characterisation, plot and that magical something that makes you fall in love with a story, and I’m very proud to call her my friend. If you haven’t already, please check out her wonderful blog:¬†http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com¬†AND please check out her astonishing debut novel, Vortex, available on Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com in paperback, hardback and ebook:¬† http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vortex-Vol-1-Return-Effra/dp/0957283806/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1352656297&sr=8-2

Product Details

Here are the rules:

Include the blog award logo in your post.

Thank the person who nominated you.

Provide 7 random facts about yourself.

Nominate 7 other blogs and let them know you have done so.

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So,  7 random facts!

1. I am absolutely and irrationally PETRIFIED of spiders!!!!! Snakes don’t bother me, neither do sharks, heights (though I get a bit wobbly in the knees), mice, the dark, jellyfish¬†etc. But let me¬†come across¬†an eight legged freak of nature walking on the ceiling (ready to drop on my head), dangling from a web or scuttling across the floor at a startlingly demonic pace¬†and I FREAK OUT!!! Ughhhhh! What makes matters worse, is that I seem to be incredibly attractive to the horrible little blighter’s. Seriously, if there is a spider in a room or a seven mile radius, it WILL head straight for me – it’s even been noticed by others that I’m like cat-nip for the nasty things….ughhhh!

2. My beautiful gorgeous white wolves, Korrun¬†and Tolly¬†(Tollam),¬†are named after characters in my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles…oh, and¬†my last house, Fendellin, was named after a hidden kingdom in the book! ūüėÄ

3. I have a profoundly deep connection to nature and natural landscapes that I can’t quite explain and which often brings me to tears (daft I know), but I’m never happier than when I’m ‘lost in a landscape’…preferably with no humans around, just silence and water and birdsong…ahhhh!

4. Despite my sensible exterior and very sensible job, I am completely immature and I LOVE the fact that I’ve never grown up and lost that childlike innocence and sense of wonder. I love showing my kids cool lightsabre moves, high-kicking in class, discussing Star Wars etc, I love go-karting, I love watching fantasy and sci-fi films and am obsessed by Marvel and DC comics and films! Really…I want to be a Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a comic book superhero!

5. I know I’ve said this before…but I LOVE Marmite! A very British phenomenon, but I grew up with it and still adore it! ūüėõ

6. I love Italy, the country, the people, the culture, the language, the food…everything about it!

7. If I were ever to emigrate, I’d definitely live in New Zealand. I spent four months travelling around that wondrous country, falling in love with every inch of it and letting the road take me where it wanted…a truly magical place! If you’re lucky enough to go…IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!!!!

*****

Now to nominate 7 other great bloggers for this lovely award…tricky to pick only 7!

Right, well I’ve got to mention the lovely Lindsey Parsons who so kindly nominated me and I’d also like to mention her list of wonderful bloggers too: Will Macmillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/¬† Kay Kauffman¬†http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/¬† Katrina Jack¬†http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/¬† and Lisa Wiedmeier¬†http://lisawiedmeier.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Now for my 7 nominations (in no order)

Ryan Holmes (Griffin’s Quill) http://griffinsquill.com/

Tricia Drammeh http://theclaimingwords.com/

Ashen Venema http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/

Morgen Bailey http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/

Debbie Young http://youngbyname.me/

Andrea Baker http://www.andreabakerauthor.com/

That Fantasy Blog http://thatfantasyblog.com/

I know it’s bending the rules, but I would also like to mention Mandy Ward’s great blog (Welcome To Wherever) http://welcometowherever.wordpress.com/¬†and Fantasy in Motion http://fantasyinmotion.wordpress.com/

Again¬†HUGE thanks to Lindsey J Parsons for her very kind nomination, thanks honey!¬†ūüėÄ xx

Biting nails, book signing and the road to publication – Part 4

Okay, you’ve written, edited¬†and honed¬†your masterwork. It’s publication ready.

You’ve joined many writer’s sites, built some contacts and hopefully a lot of friends, learned not only your craft but as much as you can about the book business – and believe me there is SO much to learn! I’m still very much¬†a novice myself!

Are you ready?

Well, while I certainly don’t advise rushing to send your work off or¬†sitting on your¬†novel as long as I did, there always comes a time, an¬†indescribable time when you HAVE to take the plunge and just GO FOR IT!

This time is different for everyone.

If there’s one piece of single advice I can give it’s this – every writer’s journey is different.

Your novel is unique, as unique as you, and therefore your journey to publication will also be unique.

Yes, there are times when you find yourself doing that dangerous thing of comparing yourself to others especially those examples of wildly successful writers with inferior books (something shades anyone?), but not only is that dangerous (as it can deflate your confidence) it is also a totally futile exercise like comparing apples to aircraft!

Your writing, your novel cannot be compared directly, neither can you. By all means take advice, look at what fellow authors do, what works, what doesn’t, but in the end the path you chart¬†has to¬†be your own.

So, that next shaky step is approaching publishers and agents. There is a plethora of information out there regarding the good, the bad, and the dodgy.

Do your homework! You’ll regret it if you don’t!

Query letters are arduous but far worse is the waiting process involved, especially if you’re impatient like me, so be warned.

Some publishing houses want to know if you’ve sent submissions off to others. If a house is picky for goodness sake approach these first so you can honestly say that you haven’t approached anyone else…yet!

There is great advice in The Writers & Artists Yearbook on how to write a good letter and examples of bad ones. What I would say though, is use this but also make the letter individual to you. Publishers will know the standard letter, they’ll get hundreds maybe even thousands of them a week. Make yours stand out!

Give yourself the best possible chance!

There is a huge debate as to whether you need an agent or whether you should pursue an agent first or a publisher. Well, certainly I think writers DO need agents, especially if they are hoping to make writing a long-term career, but grabbing one is an entirely different matter. You will find as I said in my previous posts, that trying to get an agent is not only as hard as getting a publisher but is actually harder! A catch-22 scenario – you need an agent to send your ms off to most publishing houses but most agents won’t look at you unless you have a publishing house! Go figure!

My advice for what it’s worth, is that if you and your novel are ready, go for a publisher first. Now, that doesn’t stop you from pursuing agents, but try and get that publishing contract if you can.

Again remember the statistics…¬†Less than 1% of all fiction published in the UK is by new authors‚Ķless than 1%!

Now is as hard a time as ever for getting published. The goal posts are continually changing. Guidelines that publishing houses wanted ten even five years ago, will not be the same now. Certainly I know when I was first writing my novel, some of the Big Six (now Big Five) were accepting unsolicited manuscripts, that certainly is NOT the case now.

Product DetailsBut it’s not all doom and gloom. Some new authors do still manage to breakthrough and snag a major house. One of them most notably¬†is Mark Lawrence, a fellow Bristolian¬†and fantasy writer and all round really lovely guy. His wonderfully epic and visceral¬†novels, Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns, are¬†published by Voyager, HarperCollins¬†and is available in Waterstones, WHSmith’s, Amazon and everywhere else, including my bookshelf…but you can’t have those! ūüėõ

However, for the rest of us the main benefit of the Big Five¬†shutting their doors to all unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts, is¬†that their rigidity has given rise to a whole new breed of publishers.¬†The indie or small press publishing house. This is both a good and bad thing. These independent publishers are invariably quite new on the book scene, but don’t see that as an automatic¬†disadvantage, it hugely depends on the individual house.¬†Some are young, full of energy and often way ahead of the publishing curve and the big houses. They want their books to be a success because they have had to invest in them personally and risk their own money, so they should work harder and go that little bit further than those Big¬†Boys who may have deep pockets but are also spread pretty thin and tend to ignore ‘mid-list’ authors who don’t bring in the big bucks.

BUT you must DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!! Remember, anyone nowadays can set up a publishing house, without the merest sliver of real book publishing experience. The new author must be wary.

I’m afraid for every decent indie publisher, there is a whole sea of unscrupulous presses, which are either wildly inexperienced, incompetent, lazy, fraudulent or a mixture of all. Finding the good ones is not easy. So DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Some¬†indie publishing houses will make highly exaggerated claims, so check the facts. If they say they have offices in London, New York, Paris or Germany, do they? Are these real addresses, real offices with staff and telephones, or are they bogus, merely a post office box in a building which has several thousand other businesses operating out of it? Remember, an¬†‘office’ can be someone’s living room, know what you’re getting yourself¬†into before you sign the contract.¬†What about their contracts? If they don’t pay advances, then the percentage should at least be good. Don’t accept anything under the standard¬†7%, many other houses such as Wild Wolf Publishing give 10% to all their authors. Look at their sales record. Do they have a specific sales and marketing team or are they expecting you to do everything? What about covers? Covers are¬†SO important. Never sign with any house who doesn’t employ professional qualified cover artists. Just because someone¬†in the company¬†dabbles in art, doesn’t mean they’ll have the talent, skills or know how to produce a professional looking cover. So check. Check with the authors too, have any authors left them, if so why?

It is¬†a shark infested sea out there for the inexperienced newbie, so be careful which boat you put your trust in, if it has holes, you’ll regret it!

Having said all this, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. By all means send your¬†MS off to the Big¬†Five and try your luck if you want. If your novel is great but you want it published before you collect your pension cheque, then¬†try for an indie.

Then of course, the other route is also the self-publishing. Now to be honest, I really can’t give much advice here as I really don’t know that side of the book business BUT I can tell you that there is NO shame in pursuing this path and don’t let anyone try to tell you¬†otherwise. Writers are writers, books are books, no snobbery please! Again, remember this is your creation, your journey, you must follow the path that best suits you, your needs and your masterwork.

I personally have some of the most astonishing works of fiction on my bookshelves which happen to be self-published, because the author knew their vision and knew that they wanted complete autonomy over their creation and its birth in the marketplace. I tip my hat to those venturers and their wonderous creations!

Thank you to all those writers, published, self-published and yet to be,¬†for creating fiction that you wish was real! May your dreams continue to take flight…

Good luck! ūüėÄ xx

Biting nails, book signing and the road to publication – Part 2

Now where were we?

Writing advice…ummm. The tricky foothills and thick forests of the publishing world.

Well, you’ve written your grand opus, researched it thoroughly, edited and re-drafted the hell out of it and it’s finally polished enough¬†to be publication ready.

Now that your work is prepared, it’s time to turn the microscope on yourself. Are you, the writer, the creator of your work, ready for the rollercoaster ride? To be sure, I wasn’t.

Despite having joined writing sites years before, like the wonderful UKAuthors and despite having every volume of the Writers & Artists Yearbook from 1998 onwards, and thinking I was ready and pretty savy…I really wasn’t.

The Writers & Artists Yearbook is a terrific resource to be sure and essential reading for all new authors and illustrators, but it is only the first step. As a debut writer you have so SO much to learn and the learning curve is pretty damn steep! …oh, and there’s always more to learn btw, it never stops!

So where do you start?

Well, writing sites are absolutely invaluable. If you think you can do this completely on your own…odds are you can’t. Writing sites are a¬†microcosm¬†for the industry in many ways.¬†You will make new friends and contacts that will stay with you for years, meet dedicated writers with razor-sharp¬†critiquing skills, and¬†yes, you’ll meet the occasional troll, but that’s life, right?

You will learn not only the craft of writing but gain experience in marketing, promotion, entering competitions, raising your online profile, the merry-go-round of enquiry letters, finding publishers and agents or how to chart your own course by doing the self-pub route which in itself has a whole plethora of new skill sets to learn!

My advice?

Learn as much as you can and as quickly as you can, you’ll need all your skills and cunning, believe me. Oh…and if you’re work shy and not fully committed to becoming a writer, as harsh as it sounds, you won’t make it. The hours you will need to put in, to achieve your goal, are nothing short of insane. Forget social life, forget daily routines…it will literally take over your life!

These are some of the best writing sites to join:

www.authonomy.com¬† – The HarperCollins¬†writing site (and home to my beloved The Alliance of Worldbuilders, the biggest thread/group on there, full of wonderful talented writers and fantasy and sci-fi nuts like me! If you pop in, my username is Tollam, a character from my novel…so come and say ‘hello’!)

www.ukauthors.com – The wonderful Andrea runs this site, full of amazing writers creating in every genre possible. Great for poetry too.

www.abctales.com¬†– The first writing site I ever joined. Write a masterpiece and get your work ‘cherry picked’!

www.absolutewrite.com – A one-stop shop for everything writing connected. Great advice too for the new author.

For writing and information sites, these are the best to join and visit:

www.griffinsquiill.com РA great website run by the multi-talented Ryan Holmes, who also has THE coolest job in the world Рhe works for NASA no less! A great place for fantasy writers to showcase their work and help each other. A real haven in a shark infested web!

www.triciadrammeh.com¬†– Fantasy writer Tricia Drammeh’s website where she showcases her own writing,¬†reviews books, hosts guest blogs and interviews authors in her ‘Authors to Watch’ section.

But probably the most comprehensive website/blog I have come across is Morgen Bailey’s.

www.morgenbailey.wordpress.com РEverything you could possibly need or want is here under one wonderful web umbrella! Flash fiction, short stories, author spotlights, blog interviews, writing tips, submission info. for every genre type including scripts and poetry, exercises, poetry writing, the latest competitions Рagain for every genre type , guest blogs, links, writing groups, critiques (no reviews though as Morgen is insanely busy),  and so much more.

For publishers & agents, one of the very best sites is Preditors & Editors.

www.pred-ed.comTHIS IS A MUST SITE! The writing world, like every other, is full of sharks as well as the genuine fish that you’d love to hook or be hooked by. A case of buyer, or writer, beware. This site is invaluable for finding out information on prospective publishers and agents¬†that you are interested in submitting to. A genuinely important resource for all writers.

Also:

www.writersservices.com¬†– An up-to-date site for everything the writer needs. Agents, publishers, editorial services, ‘What’s new’, The Writer’s Magazine, advice from experts and 2,000 pages of information and services. A great site.

www.firstwriter.com РA good resource for finding literary agents specialising in specific genres.

www.agentquery.com – One of the internet’s most trusted databases for literary agents.

www.writers.net – A good general resource for writers, editors, agents and publishers.

In truth, I could go on and on. There really are SO many sites out there to help you on your journey. I’ve only included the ones I have personally used or visited or which have been recommended to me by fellow writers.

Also, for those wanting to navigate the murky waters of what to do next and how to do it – there is help out there. Check out Debbie Young’s new book, ‘Sell Your Books!’ full of invaluable advice for the self-published and small press author alike. Really great stuff! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sell-Your-Books-Promotion-Self-published/dp/1906236348/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351030196&sr=1-1

Product DetailsRemember, the road to publication is usually a long and arduous one and is often littered with the carcasses of those writers and works that didn’t make it for what ever reason. Give yourself the best possible chance.

Be in no doubt – this IS an Everest that you are attempting to climb.

But remember, Everest has been conquered, despite the catalogue of casualties. It¬†is an achievable goal, though a mammoth one. Be prepared. You wouldn’t attempt to scale a mountain without any training, climbing equipment or a friendly guide, would you?¬†Enthusiasm and talent will only get you so far. Time to get serious.

So guys…get your tackle out! (ummm…that sounded wrong!) ūüėõ xx

Blog Awards! The techno-idiot gets two nominations!

Sunshine

Every time I think my IT skills are improving, something happens that reminds me of just what a techno-idiot I am.

I was very VERY kindly nominated by the lovely Kay Kauffman for the Sunshine Blogger Award. What a wonderfully kind and lovely thing to do! I was thrilled that Kay had been nominated and had then nominated me.

BUT, it was only today after being nominated for another blog award, Very Inspiring Blogger Award, by the equally lovely and kind Lindsey Parsons, that the penny finally dropped.

D’uh! You are supposed to answers questions and nominate fellow bloggers!

Firstly, a HUGE thank you to Kay Kauffman. I’m utterly thrilled and rather humbled!¬†ūüėÄ xx

Here is Kay’s blog http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/ – a wonderful mixture of poetry, short stories and musings on life. Highly recommended!

So, here are the rules for all those that get nominated:

Rules

  • Link the award to the person who gave it to me.
  • Answer questions about myself ‚Äď see below.
  • Nominate ten bloggers for the award.
  • Link my nominees to the post and comment on their blog, letting them know about the award.

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1.What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Although I¬†am a¬†complete film nut, I’m one of those people that loves obscure films and remembers things like directors, release dates, every actors’ name…ummm I’m really sounding like¬†a nut here, but I’m not big on Christmas films. I guess I don’t like anything ‘designed’ to illicit a certain response, which holiday films invariably do. It’s the freak in me that likes to push my own buttons rather than have someone else contrive to do it. So, my choices are remarkably narrow. I’d probably go for either Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, or something wonderfully daft like Trading Places and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (yes, I know it’s not a¬†Christmas movie, but it’s SUCH fun!). ūüėÄ

2.What is your favorite flower?
I love white flowers, the purity and simplicity of them. Daisies, lilies, tulips, anemones…but my favourite are poppies. Poppies are such delicate papery¬†flowers yet they have such a vivacity about them. They herald the coming of summer and warm hazy lazy¬†days. I love red poppies, but white and Himalayan blue poppies are my very favourite!

3.What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?

I drink lots of milk. My favourite drink is a toss up¬†between Shloer, Elderflower cordial or my own kick-ass homemade lemonade. The secret is a squeeze of lime! ūüėČ Do love a good hot chocolate though.

4.What is your passion?
Writing, writing, writing. Other than that, my problem is that I have too many passions really. I love drawing, painting, sculpture and photography –¬†creating something special from a blank canvas, lump of clay or camera lens. For me, being creative is as important as eating and breathing…two things I’m rather fond of! ūüėČ

5.What is your favorite time of year?
Definitely summer…the promise of warmth. I love all the seasons, though Autumn has always meant ‘spider season’ and ‘school’ and another birthday coming round. Spring is a wondrously rejuvenating time of year but so often drenched in rain. I love the quiet peace and stillness of winter, but nothing compares to those precious few days of the year where you can lie on the grass under cerulean skies and feel the sun on your face! Bliss! Summer means adventure and possibilities…

6.What is your favorite time of day?

That’s easy to answer – night owl here! Daytime is for work, job, stresses of life. I love the night, when everyone is asleep and the world is quiet. Those magical few hours of stillness, with nothing but the soft night breeze and a halo of stars drifting above you…that’s when the magic truly happens!

7.What is your favorite physical activity?

Lol! Ummm…I could have been naughty there! I love walking especially in wild places. The wilder the better. The countryside, especially the remoter parts of it, hold such a mystery to me. There is nothing better than climbing a hill or mountain or tor and viewing nature at its best. Very humbling and deeply profound.

8.What is your favorite vacation?

I love Italy. The culture, the history, the people, the food, everything about it. I’ve been about four times now and it is such a special place. I love Rome but Tuscany, Umbria and Florence is my favourite. The art galleries alone are intoxicating. But, more than anywhere I’ve ever travelled to, New Zealand will still always be my favourite. If it is possible to have a¬†‘soul connection’ to a place, then New Zealand is it. Astounding, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, humbling, unforgettable. Back in the winter (their summer) of 1997/98 I spent four months travelling around the North and South Island having adventures and awakening my senses. A real odyssey and life-changing experience. They filmed Lord Of The Rings¬†there for a reason, the place is simply¬†magical! Ahhhh… ūüėÄ

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Right, very difficult to choose just ten, but here are my nominees for the Sunshine Blogger Award  (in no order) :

1. Morgen Bailey http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/

2. Lindsey J Parsons http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/

3. Ryan Holmes (Griffin’s Quill) http://griffinsquill.com/

4. Ashen Venema (Course of Mirrors) http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/

5. Will MacMillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

6. Mandy Ward (Welcome to Wherever) http://welcometowherever.wordpress.com/

7. Fantasy In Motion http://fantasyinmotion.wordpress.com/

8. Andy Szpuk http://andyszpuk.wordpress.com/

9.That Fantasy Blog http://thatfantasyblog.com/

10. Fabulous Realms http://ashsilverlock.com/

I would like to mention the wonderful blogs of Katrina Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/¬†, Tricia Drammeh http://theclaimingwords.com/, A.F.E. Smith http://afesmith.com/ and Emily McKeon http://www.theabsenteeblogger.blogspot.com/ but I’m trying not to mention those which Kay already nominated. ūüėÄ xx

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The joy of writing and building worlds…

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The joy of writing is the act of creation.

A whole fantasy world made manifest – turning blank pages into battles of character, plot and the subtleties of prose.

But for me, the joy of writing is not merely the act of creating a story which engages and enthralls its readers but in creating a world I can immerse myself in. World building is a skill and one of the many challenges that fantasy and sci-fi writers face when weaving their tales. When done correctly, it compliments the story giving depth and gravitas to ground the fantasy. When done poorly, it smothers the story Рturning it into an incidental neighbour you forgot to invite to the party, or worst still, jars with the story due to its utter lack of realism.file3121313815879[1]

The temptation for all writers who world build, is simply that it becomes¬†SO enjoyable to construct your worlds, that you can get easily seduced by your own cleverness – by the intricacies of cultures, the development of language, the botany and animal life, geology, geography and rich histories of your creations. Now that’s fine, if you intend being the only reader of your novel. But, if you’re looking for¬†a readership of more than one, you have to curtail your inner nerd…just a little!

I speak from experience here. Being a teacher of phonetics among other things, I love linguistics and the construction of language. As a result, between my love of phonics and etymology, I have constructed a working language for my characters – ancient Dworllish¬†complete with a basic 24 character Dworllian alphabet based on Maori, Old English, Old Norse and African Bantu dialects! Yes…I did mention nerd, didn’t I?

So, did I include this language and all its nuisances in my book? No. Elements, occasional references and words, but that’s all. I want my novel to have as wide an appeal as possible and readers, even language loving nerds like me, simply don’t need all that information and certainly the story doesn’t.file0001006582285[1]

Okay, so you’ve curtailed your inner¬†geek and taken out those character genealogies¬†you were working on, but what makes a world work? If your novel is a fantasy, whether it be urban, steam punk, classic, high, crossover, contemporary¬†or gothic, do you need to make your world real? HELL YES! No matter how fantastical your creations are, if they are not grounded in realism it makes it damn hard for the reader to connect or care about them.

Think of basic scientific laws, gravity, light speed, evolution etc, of course to bring the magic in, you’ll need to break or subvert these laws but you’ll need to bring realism in somewhere else. This for me, is my next joy…research, research, research!file000816536459[1]

SO much fun it should be illegal! If you’re writing about histories, cultures, mountains, desserts,¬†jungles – research. Let me say that again…RESEARCH! (my nerdy self¬†revels in this)

Even if you only use a fraction of your research in your novel, it will give an integrity and depth of realism to your world that you won’t be able to replicate without. But again, don’t overload it, use sparingly.

For White Mountain and the world behind The Darkling Chronicles, my research runs into three or four large box files and a plethora of books. Ancient history Рparticularly Sumeria, the Hittites and the Indus Valley civilisation. Indigenous people Рlike the Chukchi, Nenets, Khanty and Evenki of Russia and the Siberian tundra. The geography and geology of the real locations my characters travel to. Botany and wildlife etc etc. Make it REAL!

Kallorm ‘City of Light’, my subterranean metropolis beneath the Congolese jungles, in central Africa, feels real because¬†so many things¬†around it¬†ARE¬†real, from the colour of the earth in that region to the sapele¬†and iroko¬†trees that grow there.¬†For my Fendellin ‘Kingdom of Dragons’, a lost realm amongst the Himalayas, I based on Tibetan¬†Buddhist myths and Indian folklore about Shambhala – the same legend that inspired James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon¬†and his Shangri-La.

Oh…and any places you travel to, use them for inspiration too. The landscapes of Dartmoor and New Zealand have been particularly rich for me.

So, you’ve done your research, built your world, made it real but not overpowered or forgotten your story (remember – story and characters take gold & silver, setting –¬†bronze), then you are on your way!

Ah…the joy of writing and building worlds… ūüėÄ

For some useful advice on the subject, check out Fantasy Faction and their post ‘Why World Build?’ http://fantasy-faction.com/2012/why-would-build/

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