Mistress of Wolves – the pleasures and pains of having wolfies!

I’ll be writing a blog post about making a living as an artist and my glacial progress on the writing front, but this really is a post for all of you who have fur babies, those four-legged members of the family who are so much more than ‘just a pet’, and the emotional challenges that brings.

This will also, hopefully, be an informative post for those who are dealing with the dreaded degenerative myelopathyDM (previously called CDRM – canine degenerative radiculomyelopathy) a horrendous progressive inherited disease of the spinal cord similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) in humans and which tragically has no cure at the moment. 😦 DM is caused through a breakdown of the myelin sheath protecting the neurons of the spinal cord. The cause of the demyelination itself is unclear, though it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. 😦

As many of you know, I have four beautiful wolf babies, my two 8yr old White German Shepherds, Tolly/Tollam (our long haired boy) and his brother Korrun (short haired) + my two 4yr old Alaskan Malamute brothers, (big) Bere (our 65kg white bundle of gorgeousness) and his brother Fenn (the darkest of our handsome boys).

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love them (and I don’t care how sad that sounds!) 😀 Basically it’s a love-in at our house with them kissing and licking each other all the time and me if I’m not quick enough to avoid the occasional tongue in my ear! Eeeew! 😀

That’s not to say life is perfect. Anyone who knows malamutes knows they’re the toughest most stubborn breed to train (being the nearest dog breed to wolves) and my two are definitely Houdini’s at exploring, escaping through hedges and fences and squeezing through impossibly small places (the sole reason we had to fence in the entire stream!), not to mention being natural-born hunters so all the wildlife in our garden must beware. Cheeky boys! 😀

2 years ago we noticed that our big Alaskan Malamute, Bere, was suddenly losing weight despite having a ravenous appetite and had very loose stools. We didn’t wait, we saw the vet straight away and did a ton of research (including finding out about a cutting edge Bristol University study) and found out that he had EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) a nasty inherited disease where the dog’s own pancreas stops working and doesn’t produce the enzymes needed for digestion and breaking down food. It’s a horrible condition where basically the dog starves to death from the inside as they eat and eat and eat but nothing is absorbed and just passes through. I came across a lot of owners who, on finding out the diagnosis, had their dogs put down. 😦 Sorry, but that ain’t us, we fight for our family and we weren’t going to just let Bere die. Lol, I’m nothing if not tenacious! Long story short, we found a solution, by liquidating pigs pancreas (a natural substitute which is full of those missing enzymes) and mixing it with every meal, Bere went from 40kg to 65kg! Although he has the condition for life, he couldn’t be happier or healthier now. No-one would ever know there was anything wrong with him. It really was like watching a miracle, and yes, a hell of a lot of daily hard work and expense, but he’s so worth it. 🙂 ❤

Then I have my two German Sheps who were rescues which, despite being amazing with wildlife, explains a lot of their social anxieties around people particularly strangers. From the little information we were given by the rescue centre, the RSPCA rescued their mum (who died shortly after) and the whole litter of 10 from what sounded like an awful puppy farm. My views on greedy unscrupulous people, who usually have no qualifications, formal training or morals for that matter, and who are just into using animals to make money, are pretty stringent. I think they’re the lowest of the low basically, often breeding 4 or more litters from a single dog too old to have anymore pups, to squeeze as much money out of them as they can, and yes, sadly, often breeding all sorts of nasty inherited diseases too, which lead to heartbreak for the animal and their owners. 😦

Sadly this time we’ve come up against one of those insidious diseases that we can’t solve – degenerative myelopathy (DM), an awful debilitating progressive spinal cord condition inherited by those carrying the DM gene and most associated with German Shepherds (in fact it used to be called the German Shepherd disease!), that leads to paralysis and sadly kills 100% of those afflicted with it. Tragically at the moment there is NO cure. 😦

We are utterly devastated that our beloved Tolly looks like he has it. 😦 It came out of the blue too which has made this even more difficult. Over Christmas I noticed a slight tremor in his hind legs. We weren’t unduly worried though, our boys do so much running around we’ve often had the odd sprain. But in January Tolly’s hind legs were noticeably shaky and weak, we contacted the vets and were initially told just to monitor him as there were no signs of pain – thankfully that is the ONLY positive thing about DM in that it is a non-painful condition. By February though he was dragging his back paws, particularly on the left side, and his hind legs were crossing over and collapsing on him once or sometimes twice a day. He is still very mobile though, still running brilliantly and is as active as ever, but after resting or sleeping, that’s when you see the back legs go – this apparently is the early stages of DM. Also, Tolly’s two middle claws on both his back feet are also worn down where he has dragged them.

To say we have researched the hell out of degenerative myelopathy would be an understatement. We’ve combed sources, websites, blogs, joined Facebook groups on the subject, sent countless emails off etc etc. So far, all evidence points to DM being an incurable fatal disease with little to no hope once a dog has it. Yes, some dogs have lived for several years with the condition, using mobility carts when their back legs give out on them, which we ourselves will do when the time comes, but in every single case the same inevitable outcome – death. 😦

Tolly is only 8yrs old, and we’re utterly heartbroken for us and him. Worse still, as DM is a hereditary disease, we think his brother Korrun may have it too as we’ve noticed a slight tremor in his hind legs! 😦 xxx

It is true that other conditions like slipped discs, arthritis and hip dysplasia which do cause pain, can have similar signs to DM and that often to gain an actual diagnosis of DM all other conditions have to be ruled out first. But we know our dogs so well, as much as I wish it wasn’t DM, we’re 99% sure it is. 😦

So, what can you do when faced with an incurable fatal disease? –  Fight! Fight like hell against it!

These are just a few of the things you can do if you think your dog has degenerative myelopathy:

  1. Get a DNA test done (which we’re doing), which can be either through a blood test or mouth swab test. Although a DNA test cannot definitively show if a dog has DM it will show if they are carriers of the faulty DM gene. If they are, then there’s a good chance they have or may develop the disease. If they are not carrying the DM gene then they CANNOT have DM, so it’s definitely worth getting a test and it’s a whole lot cheaper than an MRI/CT scan. DNA tests are generally covered by pet insurance too, but do check first.
  2. Daily exercise is key. Lack of exercise does NOT cause degenerative myelopathy, that’s a completely inaccurate wife’s tale, it is a genetic inherited condition and only dogs carrying the gene may develop it. BUT, daily exercise will hugely help keep slow down the progression of the disease and will aid in your dog’s mobility. I’ve been doing daily runs with Tolly, circuits around our 2 acre garden as well as weaving exercises around the trees. I would recommend avoiding walking on pavements and roads as this will further damage those worn down nails, walking on grass, gravel, sand (different textures is important) but they’ll also be softer on their feet.
  3. Daily leg stretches and massages. I don’t know if these actually help but Tolly certainly loves them and it helps you to feel the muscle mass in their legs, it’s also good to push against/put pressure on their paws/pads.
  4. As advised by the vet, have your pet walk on a variety of surfaces, spiky, smooth, textured, rough, etc., this will encourage the signals from the feet along the spine to the brain and encourage them to pick up their feet a bit more. I’ve done this in the past by placing socks on his feet too.
  5. Hydrotherapy – helps mobility and limb ataxia, eases any pain from related arthritis and problems caused by DM like sprains and is a great exercise for dogs as it supports their weight. BUT, it is very pricey. Our pet insurance will only cover this to £500 so it may well be worth finding your own alternatives – we’ll be taking Tolly for walks through the stream that runs by our house, which is also good for the different textures (sand, gravel, stone, weeds) under foot.
  6. There are no medicinal cures for DM yet but daily supplements and vitamins help hugely in the general health & mobility of your dog and can help alleviate some of the symptoms (the below are for UK residents USA residents can find these from other outlets):
  • Vitamin B complex (100mg) (B12 + B6) (found in Vetzyme products UK)
  • Vitamin E (1000 – 2000mg) (found in Vetzyme products UK)
  • Vitamin C (anti-oxidant 1000 – 2000mg) (VetUK joint supplement)
  • Selenium (works with Vitamin E) no more than 200µg a day
  • Omega 3 (either fish oil, ground flax seeds or fish products are also very rich in these) (Vetzyme high strength product UK)
  • MSM (ProTreat and Vetzyme high strength) MSM is a strong antioxidant, capable of binding and inactivating harmful free radicals. MSM is also a potent anti-inflammatory for autoimmune reactions, it also crosses the blood brain barrier and allows nerve cells to excrete products
  • Turmeric is a great detoxifier (not tablets for humans as these are too strong, use VetUK as these joint supplements are specifically for dogs)
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulphate (VetUK, ProTreat and Vetzyme have these)
  • Nutritional yeast as well.
  • Raw garlic is antibacterial and antifungal as well as having an anti-inflammatory and anti-biotic. Add in ginger for it’s anti-emetic and calming effect along with mustard which improves digestion and bowel function.
  1. Other alternatives to try:
  • CBD oil  – (the legal cannabis oil, stronger than the hemp oil you can buy in supermarkets for cooking but as CBD oil is VERY expensive, if you can’t afford it then please do buy the Hemp Oil). We’ve ordered this but not tried it yet, but from all the things we’ve heard, this can really help relax your dog, help with any pain caused through twisting limbs/sprains and is an antioxidant and is great at combating autoimmune associated disorders.
  • Aminocaproic Acid (EACA)now this is the closest we’ve found to finding a cure! Unfortunately for UK residents it’s nigh on impossible to get over here (but we are still trying and I will post here any that we find!). This amazing USA Vet, Dr Roger Clemmons, is an expert in DM in German Shepherds and from his WestLab facilities in Florida he has had amazing results with aminocaproic acid in 80% of his patients where it slowed down the progression of the disease and even halted it! Be aware, this is extremely expensive!
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – this (easier to get in the UK) was also the other medication Dr Clemmons used with aminocaproic acid for the best results.

So, at the moment we are fighting the good fight. We seem to have swayed our at first very reluctant vet (our usual amazing vet is on maternity leave) to look into aminocaproic acid in the UK as a treatment for him. We have Tolly on all those daily supplements and vitamins above, we’ve ordered the CBD oil which is on its way and will be having the vet do a DNA test hopefully next week, while we are rigorously exercising him every day, doing leg stretches and massages and generally doing everything we can to help him and slow this hideous disease. It’s the very least we can do for our darling Tolly.

We’ve even been looking into stem cell research as some progress has come through recently in regards to MS which is so so similar to DM.

So there you go. For any wolfie lovers out there facing this same awful journey, I hope some of the info on here has been helpful. I would recommend joining the Degenerative Myelopathy group on Facebook, which has been a great source of information particularly for breaking down the different stages of the disease so people know what to look out for and can prepare themselves for what is to come.

Information is always power.

For those that are owners of healthy doggies, just give them a tight squeeze and hug and keep your fingers crossed that you never have to go through this.

May the force be with Tolly and any other wolfies fighting this. We love you! ❤ xxxxxx

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Battling the Great ‘D’!

The Great ‘D’ – depression.

I’ve battled with this nasty bottom dweller since I was a teen, not just the usual teenage angst but something fundamentally more serious and frightening. Well, it’s true to say that I have been struggling again these last few months.

The problem with depression isn’t merely the ‘being down’, the negative thoughts, the brain paralysing fears and paranoia’s and the black pit of despair, it is also the straight jacket, the feeling of having your hands and feet tied whilst being asked to continue with ‘normal’ daily life. A total impossibility. Depression is a paralyser of creativity, ideas, ‘normal’ cognitive function, it skews and sours everything.

There’s that awful word again – ‘normal’, as when you’re in the grip of depression you feel anything but normal, you imagine your head enlarged, a sign scrawled across your forehead, a big pointy neon sign following you around. Did I mention paranoia? You feel out of control, scrutinised, attacked, beaten, bruised, defeated all at once. It’s the sensation of speeding in an open top car at 110mph with no seat belt while the driver wears a blindfold, yet at the same time feeling as if you’re stuck neck deep in treacle – unable to move, to progress, to do anything. It’s debilitating.

It’s such an insidious condition. I’ve known it’s been creeping up on me for the last few months, that sinking feeling as life’s little or big crisis’s become increasingly more difficult to deal with. None of us can stop life being damn hard, from bad things happening. But when you have depression, you are completely incapable of dealing with them. You become instantly overwhelmed by the smallest thing, and completely smothered by anything larger.

It’s for this reason that I’ve neglected my own lovely blog for so long. I’ve found it virtually impossible to get the energy to blog anything this year and have been utterly incapable of following any of my friend’s wonderful blogs. Every time I saw one of their blog posts pop up on my emails, it just stayed there, accumulating with all the others along with hundreds of emails, probably thousands now. 😦

So, a huge apology to any and all of my friends if I’ve been a bit weird of late. I’m usually a great one for doing a ‘swan impression’, appearing in control, the effortless gliding swan, while in truth the legs are peddling manically beneath. That’s me to a T – so busy trying to convince others and myself that everything is okay, that I’m my usual social, bubbly, happy self, when the reality is anything but that. It’s exhausting and a dreadful ‘Catch-22’ cycle, one I find almost impossible to break. Perhaps it’s a confidence issue, but I’m just so used to putting up a front, the happy exterior that I don’t seem to be able to let that slip and allow people to see me down. Reality bites.

I think the only time in my life that I’ve really ever broken down and cried in public was at my friend’s funeral. So, to anyone who suffers from depression, whether you put on a brave face like me or are able to be open and honest about it, you have my heartfelt sympathies. It sucks. And to anyone who knows someone who is struggling, please be patient with them and if they appear okay, look a little closer. No-one builds a wall better than someone battling depression, we’re experts at hiding from the world, our friends, ourselves.

At the moment, I admit I am drowning slightly. Life worries are weighing heavily and those worst dark impulses are louder than ever. So, trying to be positive and drag myself out of this cycle, I have promised myself to try and list 5 things every day that are positive or make me happy, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.

So here goes:

  1. A notable and prestigious writer has approached me to do a fantasy map commission for her amazing books. I am both thrilled and honoured.
  2. I have a lovely meeting of my gorgeous fellow Grimbold authors and friends at my place this Sunday for a big BBQ. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this and what a light in a dark tunnel it’s been.
  3. I am perpetually thankful for the family that I do have. I love them all dearly.
  4. My four gorgeous doggies bring me laughter and light every day.
  5. Despite my job being terribly low paid, I do absolutely love it and love the people I work with.

There, 5 things to be thankful for. If you are struggling with any kind of depression, mental illness or anything else, then please take the time to breathe, look around you and find 5 things that make your life better/easier/happier. It’s so so easy to be swamped in a negative mire and forget to look up and really see what you have.

I will also try to blog again and when I can (without beating myself up anymore), read and support my lovely friend’s blogs…it may just take me a little time.

Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as well – you can’t help others if you’ve fallen yourself. ❤ xxxx

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Augusta Bruce!

As 2016 continues, so too does our series of interviews. These galactic travels to ‘Distant Worlds’ are a cool way of spotlighting the very best new speculative fiction along with its creators – those hidden gems that are so often ignored by the mainstream. So, as today marks the 4th year anniversary of this little blog, we celebrate with another gem…this time an editor of fantasy fiction!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith, Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring, but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started last year, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our nineteenth interview and one of the newest members of the Grimbold Books family, the mysterious editor at large and fellow cool cat…

Augusta Bruce

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Augusta, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

A kick-ass sword, a water-detector, an endless supply of raspberry jam and butter sandwiches, suncream, a light flowing scarf and a pogo stick.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My diary, my ink pen, my white rabbit, my guitar and my yoga mat (which transforms into a flying carpet).

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I would definitely seek other life-forms for help, and try and make some friends along the way, but I also like the idea of trekking through arid deserts alone for a while.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘The Slow Regard of Silent Things’ – because Auri, the book’s main character, is alone throughout the book, and deals with it brilliantly – never losing hope. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ series, as I would probably be in need of some delectable illustrations and dark humour. Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, for its sumptuous illustrations, as well as this book’s relevance for the person who finds themselves roaming a distant world. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ for the same reason just mentioned. J G Ballard’s ‘The Drowned World’, for its gorgeous, surreal descriptions.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours, Ask the Deep’ by Sóley, ‘Play’ by Moby, ‘Nomade’ by Cat’s Eyes and ‘An American Prayer’ by The Doors.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka, the Bison grass one, a little apple juice and a lime twist wouldn’t go amiss…

Random comet question: Which fantasy world would you choose to live in and why?

A world that looks like a cartoon – I’m thinking Neil Gaiman or Studio Ghibli… Where all the people are cats…

Which villainous fantasy character would you befriend or be?

I would befriend Bellatrix Lestrange, because I think she’d be a riot, and am convinced she has a softer side.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

N / A – I am a Grimbold editor!

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Taking things really slowly, learning some new skills or crafts, learning how to converse with aliens, becoming bad ass at survival stuff and swordplay.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

My family and friends, the Internet, mud and rain-sodden days (for some reason I always imagine other worlds as primarily desert!), old houses, sushi, art shops.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Fast food chains, tabloid newspapers, pollution, adverts, the loading icon on YouTube.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

I wouldn’t necessarily change anything, but I would love to have the chance to live my life over and over again in different ways, taking different paths each time.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Not sure what constitutes indie…

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Do things at your own pace, heed others’ advice, but don’t let them tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, live madly, follow your instincts, love deeply, always have faith in yourself.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

12404160_10153282860087308_1051064583_n[1]Augusta in her own words…

I am a former Sims addict who now lives in London, where I hoard books and go on city jaunts. I edit the Advaya Magazine, an online quarterly specialising in arts, activism and ecology. When I’m not editing for Grimbold, I tinker away with my own writing webs. I like stepping back, seeing the world for what it is – strange, magical, and utterly surprising. I am inspired by the visionary work of Guillermo del Toro, director of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and, most recently, ‘Crimson Peak’, as well as the work of Angela Carter.

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Bio:

Having graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Manchester, Augusta decided to take a break from institutional structures, to focus on creative writing. This brought her to a highland cottage in Wales, where the sheep did not take to her, despite her best efforts. Now she is based in London, where she edits Advaya Magazine, an online quarterly specialising in arts, activism and ecology. When Augusta is not working, she traipses the streets of London, nurturing her thirst for travel and adventure. The macabre, the eerie, the gothic and the outlandish all appeal to Augusta’s tastes. As a child she was addicted to Sims, and now she is a compulsive hoarder of books. She also greatly enjoys music, yoga, being helpful to others, and refrigerated macaroons.

***

Thank you, Augusta. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing fleet of mining drones has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Tis’ the season to be jolly…still?

Well, my lovely bloggers, visitors, friends, fellow nutty inmates…Christmas has come and already passed in a blur of sparkling drinks, party food, crisps, squashed chocolates and merriment! And now New Year has sped past too…!

SAM_5514I for one, have had a lovely Christmas so far and hope you all have too, despite some horrendous weather anomalies both sides of the Atlantic.

For once, I was actually looking forward to the New Year – a milestone I usually dread, after all, who really wants to celebrate getting a year older and reflecting on all those targets you didn’t achieve, things you failed to do or progressive steps you forgot to take? New Year has a way of focusing all the negative things that happened through the year under a fine microscope.

BUT this year…well, this year has been different. It’s been an amazing year in almost every way. Personally, I’ve taken some huge steps forward and the fruition of this should hopefully be evident this time next year…he he he! Professionally, I’ve loved every second of working for my fabulous publishers, Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink. As an author, you simply couldn’t want for more supportive lovely people, we really are all a huge gloriously weird and wacky family, which was so evident at FantasyCon in Nottingham this year. It really was the most fun you can have with your clothes on! 😀 11986568_1137863496242052_4476185573487481831_n[1]

Artistically and creatively, it’s been a great year as not only has my epic illustrated fantasy, White Mountain, been doing rather well, but I’ve been book signing up and down the West Country and Wales, moderated my first fantasy convention panel, was invited as an author and illustrator to take part in the Cirencester Literary Festival (which was awesome and a complete sell out) and managed to not only write a bunch of new short stories (which have been and are being published), but even took part and succeeded in my first ever Nano write! Nano Winner 2015 Certificate

So all in all, it’s been a frenetic, hectic, manic year and although I am completely knackered, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So…what for 2016? Did I make any New Year’s resolutions to be broken a few weeks later?

No.

What I will say, is that 2016 will bring more creative projects. After having struggled with my illness and writing, Nano showed me that I CAN beat my stupid condition and I CAN novel write again. So with renewed vigor, I intend to finish the sequel to White Mountain, Darkling Rise, which has taken me so long (I promise to my beloved White Mountain fans that it WILL be worth the wait!), and I will finish my other dark fantasy novel, Ravenwing, that I wrote 50K words of for Nano and which I am stupidly excited about! I will also finish my first picture book, already written and in stasis while I paint the 24 full page illustrations! Wow! I had NO idea just how much work goes into a picture book when you are writing AND illustrating it…but I must say, it is something rather special. I don’t mind being uncharacteristically optimistic and saying that this could be something huge… 😀 xxx

So, whatever your plans for 2016, my advice is to…

be brave and be bold.

If the last few years have taught me anything, and I apologise for the clichés here…but life really isn’t a rehearsal, it speeds past in the briefest of flashes and before you know it all those hopes and dreams you had are fizzled into nothing. My dear fellow insomniac friend, Lindsey J Parsons, who I used to chat to late into the wee small hours, really grasped life by the horns. She had so many hopes and dreams, she achieved many of them but had many more to accomplish that tragically never came to pass as she died suddenly on 5th January 2014.

295755[1]I think of her often and try to use her wonderful example to spur me on and to ignore that self-doubt, that negative voice that cripples so many writers.

What are you hoping for in 2016?

To steal a phrase from the book and film, ‘We bought a zoo’, (which ironically I have a personal connection too as I used to teach Benjamin Mee’s nieces, so knew all about the family and there predicament and the Hollywood film based on their lives)…

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of INSANE courage…and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

So…what 20 seconds of insane courage do you need this year to accomplish your dreams?

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As my little blog passes 45,000 visitors for which I am truly humbled, honoured and more than a little surprised…it makes me reflect on what life is and what hopes and dreams I have for it. Remember, it is NEVER too late to change your life.

Whatever 2016 brings to you, believe in yourself, be brave and bold and don’t let your fears stop you from following your dreams.

😀 xxxx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sam Dogra!

This is the seventeenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our seventeenth author interview, and our fifth AWB member, the Vice Captain (VC) herself, the doctor of chaos and large weapons of mass destruction (she’s soon to be a REAL doctor!), dark paranormal fantasy writer and artist…

Sam Dogra

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Sam, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Wow, talk about being thrown in the deep end! Well, I’d probably want my medical bag (which I take to work; it has all sorts of useful equipment in it), a water bottle/ container of some kind, my smartphone and its solar powered charger (is that two items?), and my old tent.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My paperback copy of Sabriel, a photo of my family, a stash of chocolate/ cake I’d undoubtedly be carrying, my cuddly toy dragon and my sketchbook!

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Seek life-forms for sure, I’m definitely not the outdoors type.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Well, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, as aforementioned. It was the first fantasy book I read and it remains my all-time favourite. I’d also take Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor (if I’m just allowed one it would be the fourth one, The Singing), as this was the first ‘heavy’ fantasy I actually like [sorry to say I am NOT a fan of Tolkein at all!]. I’d also bring Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, as I love how it makes fun of various fantasy Tropes. I’d then bring along the third book of Julia Golding’s Companions Quartet (The Mines of the Minotaur), as it’s a fantastic look into the relationship between mythical creatures and humans. And last but not least, Bardo by Chris McKenna, a fun-filled adventure exploring the theme of reincarnation and rebirth.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

To be honest I’m not that much of a music fan, and my taste is pretty acquired! I’d be happy with my Japanese Vocaloid songs, and I also quite like the talented violin work of Lindsey Stirling. I also like the work of Hiroyuki Sawano, who does a lot of anime soundtracks.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Could I mix the coca-cola with the vodka? (Absolutely!)

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

I’ve never tried it so…something to add to my lists of regrets?

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

Crikey, right then! My book follows Eliza, a girl who falls prey to a curse that forces people to fall in love. She’s ‘Bound’ to Ryan, a bounty hunter with secrets of his own. So, Eliza must break her curse, before Ryan finds out they’re Bound and before his past catches up with him. Of course, Eliza gets more than she bargained for. So, as she searches for a cure that’s not guaranteed to work, and has her heart turned inside out with feelings that aren’t her own, she also needs to come to terms with how her choices affect those around her.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Well once the basics of food, water and shelter were covered, I’d like to explore, study the wildlife and plants, and perhaps draw them in my sketch book. In between sending transmissions for help, of course!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Internet! My family too, along with video games, the concept of dessert, and of course my friends.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Mobile phone companies, traffic, bigoted know-it-alls, deadlines, and people who are two-faced.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Hmm…nothing immediately springs to mind! Perhaps being more sociable at University and that I’d kept in touch with more people.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

To be honest, no! I am firmly on the side of Earth exploration when it comes to whether we should explore space/ home first (and I’ve got a book in the works addressing this topic…)

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Hmm…well I’d recommend Bardo by Chris McKenna as above, as it’s so much fun to read. I’d also recommend Simon Wilson’s Yuko Zen is Somewhere Else, which has an adorable quirky style. The Binding Stone by Lisa Gail Green is a great character study involving djinns, and I’d also recommend Thorn by Intisar Knanani, a very well-written take on an old fairytale for when you just want to be swept away. Finally I’d also recommend The Spirit Keeper by Melissa Garrett, an enchanting romance with Native American themes.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

No idea is stupid, but unless you give it structure it can end up that way! So even if you’re one of those ‘write it as it comes’ authors, please do not underestimate the importance of having a framework to maintain consistency.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself and your inspirations!

Sam DograSam in her own words…

I am an (overworked) doctor working for the NHS. I’m in my final year of General Practice training and exams pending I’ll be a fully-fledged GP by next August. In between seeing patients, writing reports, and doing home visits, I dabble in fantasy fiction writing and digital fantasy art, the latter of which you can sample at http://sam241.deviantart.com .

Unlike most other writers, I’m not particularly inspired by books; I take a lot more from video games and Japanese anime (my age is showing 🙂 ). The Binding came about as I was doing my hospital job shadowing (way back in 2011) and was taking some blood samples to the lab. I just saw an image of a girl sitting alone in a dark forest because she had a vulnerable heart, and everything just sprang from there. As a wild guess I’d say the Kingdom Hearts series (video games) was probably the main influence, as well as the anime Romeo x Juliet as I borrowed a few of the aesthetics from there. Not to mention my general dislike of the romance genre and its mistreatment of plot 😉

Sam’s Amazon UK Author Page

Sam’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

Sam Dogra is a junior doctor working in the UK, and is currently training to become a General Practitioner. Between reviewing drug charts and X-rays, taking blood, saving lives and getting grilled by consultants, she also writes fantasy fiction and is a fantasy artist. She has co-written ‘Fated: A Timeless Series Companion Novel’ with author Lisa Wiedmeier, and has also published her first novel The Binding, and its sequel, The Parting, with a third book in progress.

She’s widely travelled, and has enjoyed her visits to France, Germany, Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Rhodes, Turkey, Cyprus, Lesvos, India, Dubai, Australia, Canada and Idaho, Washington, New York, Seattle and Alaska, USA. Her other main interest is fantasy art.

In what little spare time she has, Sam also enjoys reading, baking, shopping, watching movies and anime, astrology, video games, collecting cuddly toy animals, and photography.

Additional Links:

Website/ blog: http://indigolightning.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Chronicles-of-Azaria-Series/229718793739428

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MadDoctorArtist

 Artwork: http://sam241.deviantart.com

The PartingLatest Book Blurb

When your feelings are false, what’s left to believe in?

After the revelation of Ryan’s secret, Eliza is determined to reclaim her lost freedom. Her only hope lies in the Holy Runes—the mysterious symbols linked to the creation of the Binding spell itself. Now with her best friend Adam and the haughty Lady Navinka, Eliza must journey across Azaria to forge a power great enough to break her curse.

The Binding isn’t going down without a fight, though, and the runes aren’t without ill effects of their own. As if that wasn’t enough, a dark cult seeking revenge is out for Eliza, and she must deal with her troubled feelings for Ryan and Adam. Struggling on all fronts just to survive, Eliza’s freedom will be hard-earned, but will the final price be too much to pay?

***

Sam’s other fabulous books!

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Thank you, Sam. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical drone ship has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katrina Jack!

This is the sixteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack (yes, the interview goddess herself is being interviewed this week!) and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our sixteenth author interview, and our forth AWB interview, the Midnight Marauder herself, Queen of interviews and dark urban fantasy, the wonderful…

Katrina Jack

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Katrina, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Hmm, only 5? Hard to choose. Well first would have to be my laptop, so I could write about what I see. Then there’s my cat, Meg, for company. I’d also have to have a box of cat food, ‘cos she nags incessantly to be fed. I’d also have to have a pad and pen to make notes about my adventure. Oh, and several bars of chocolate.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My Kindle, can’t live without that. My comfy slippers, ‘cos I have flat feet. My leopard print pyjamas; alright, I’ve got no taste, but I like ‘em. My favourite fluffy blanket, and last, but not least, a family sized bottle of diet Pepsi.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I probably would seek out other life-forms, but I’d watch them from a distance for a while, to see if they were friendly or likely to bite my head off.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Oh it’d have to be any of Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels, because they make me laugh and his characters are fantastic. And a book I’ve recently discovered, via the TV series, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The series was fantastic. For once the BBC had actually spent money, as the production values were superb. The book is beautifully written, with vivid characterisation and marvellous narrative and dialogue.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Holst’s Planet Suite, Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell, Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, and Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

No brainer – vodka.

Random comet question: If you could live in any fictional world, what would it be and why?

I’d live in Ankh-Morpork, a fabulous city, on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Why? Because it’s a crazy, hilarious place filled with magic. mayhem & wizards.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

Okay. My latest book, still a work in progress, is called Elawyn’s Song, book one in The Songstress Trilogy. Basically this is a follow on from The Silver Flute Trilogy. It details the journey of Elawyn, who possess a singing voice so pure, it can cause cities to topple. At the end of the last book of The Silver Flute Trilogy, Elawyn has been contaminated by demon blood and must find a way to cure herself.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Reading, writing and eating chocolate.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

The parks around where I live. My brother. My house. My friends. Social media.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

The place where I work, although I like the people I work with. All the bloody stupid wars that are going on. Social inequality. Politics. The banking system.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

The loss of my father.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yes, I think I would. They do say travel broadens the mind and mine’s on the verge of stagnation at the moment.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Your good self, as White Mountain is a wonderfully epic journey of a read. The characters are literally magic, and the illustrations superb. Tricia Drammeh, for the same reason. I’ve read book 1 in her Spellbringers series, Spellbound, an absolutely gripping, paranormal story. Jane Dougherty’s The Dark Citadel, book 1 of her The Green Woman series. Set in a dystopian world, it’s a magnificent blend of myth and legend. The Binding, by Sam Dogra. An unusual tale of a girl’s struggle to lead her own life and the often traumatic journey she takes to try and achieve this. And last, but not least, our dear friend, Lyndsey Parson’s Vortex, Return of the Effra. A beautiful classic fantasy. The story is split between this world and one filled with fantastical creatures that seize the reader’s imagination and carry it away into a wonderful blend of war, romance and adventure.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

I always give the same advice: craft your work until it shines, and most importantly, never give up on your dream. As for readers, if you like a book, leave a review.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself and your inspirations!

kjKatrina in her own words…

Well, I’m a fifty something year old woman. I’m single and I reside in the city of my birth, Liverpool, and the source of most of my inspiration, along with different types of music. The inspiration for Land of Midnight Days, and subsequently the other two books, came from The Littlewoods building in Liverpool and a Jethro Tull album. I’ve written since I was aged about fourteen and could read before I even started school. I have three books published, by Ecanus Publishing under the Banner heading The Silver Flute Trilogy. The genre is YA urban fantasy and they’re available from:

Waterstones

Katrina’s Amazon UK Author Page

Katrina’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

I began writing many years ago and Land of Midnight Day was my first published work. A few years back I had a bit of a windfall and invested some of it in obtaining a degree in creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University.

Although I primarily write urban fantasy, I also enjoy other genres, such as murder mysteries, romance and biographies. My favourite authors, in the fantasy genre are: Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, David Gemmell, Jack Vance and many more.

I was born in October 1956, in the wonderful city of Liverpool, at the now demolished hospital known as Sefton General, which was so ill equipped in those days, that my poor mother’s drip was hung from an old broom pole! Talk about the lap of luxury, eh? 

I still live in Liverpool, in an area rich in public gardens and parks, plus a cemetery and a crematorium – great for inspiration, believe it or not. Included in some of the wonderful historical buildings in the area, is the mansion house known as Allerton Hall, former home of Richard Lathom, who fought as a Royalist during the civil war and is a grade II listed building. It makes a guest appearance in my novel, under a different guise of course.

dawn horizonLatest Book Blurb

Jeremiah has at last reached the end of a long road, which has led him from his native city, into the Gloaming and ended in the Midnight Land itself. Despair, tragedy, and the precious silver flute, have accompanied him every step of the way. 

He must now face up to whatever awaits him there – good or bad. No matter what the outcome is, he must close the gates to the Midnight Land and restore freedom to, not only his own world, but all the others weighed down by the oppression of evil. 

Will he succeed?

Katrina’s other fabulous books:

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***

Thank you, Katrina. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing military frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

A Year of Wonder…!

Today, is a special day – not just the 1st of a new month (pinch punch sort of thing), and the first day of the festive season (I LOVE Christmas and yes, I already have my trees up and decorated and excitedly switched the lights on this morning before work :D!) … BUT today marks the 1 year anniversary of my novel, WHITE MOUNTAIN, being published! YAY!!!!!! 😀9781909845978[1]

A year ago today, my epic fantasy was born or should I say re-born in all its glory by a fantastic publisher, Grimbold Books, who prizes quality above anything else and who truly GOT IT!

I owe them so many thanks, not least for producing a book of tremendous quality from the awesome cover to the calligraphy inside, from the production values to the formatting of text and my illustrations (a fiddly thing at the best of times…when was the last time you read an illustrated novel?), (thank you to Alex Bardy the God of Typesetting!). Everything was done with care and more than a pinch of love and I genuinely think it shows. Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink also restored my very shaken faith in the integrity and honesty of people after my dreadful first publisher experience. To say Grimbold are the polar opposite to the cretins I first signed with, would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions! So, a massive thank you to Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris for taking a chance on me and everyone at Team Grimbold…I love you guys! 😀 xxx White Mountain full book jacket

So, on this happy book anniversary it seems fitting to take a breath and look back at the wondrous whirlwind year its been and share a few of the highlights!

1st Dec 2014 – My reaction was as always, understated and subtle… 😀 SAM_5228

To my delight, not only did White Mountain gain lots of new readers and admirers but many fans of the first flawed book bought the second improved version too, just to read how the story should have been told. Thank you to all my fans, old and new! I really appreciate your support! ❤ xxx 10407894_10153042995986950_697215546084611716_n[1]

After my first ever Book Fair at the Welsh ICE Book Fair on 29th Nov, I followed that up by my first ever reading in Bristol at the ‘Fairies at the bottom of the garden’ event Sat 13th Dec. I was VERY nervous, but it was great fun. 😀 10614253_846486532082170_6044863703050848758_n[1]

After another successful book signing at the lovely Books & Pontyclun bookshop on December 20th where I formed a great friendship with Book Lady extraordinaire and White Mountain mega-fan, Emily Hannah Rogers now Mrs Emily Hannah King! (She’s on her honeymoon trip around the world…I was hoping to sneak inside her suitcase when I heard she was going to my beloved New Zealand!). SAM_5401

The new year brought yet more wonderful signings and ‘booky’ events. Signing at the fab Books On The Hill Bookshop in Clevedon in February with Alistair Sims and Chloe, lol, and being photographed for the Somerset Times Newspaper…gulp! My signing at Books On The Hill

In March, my second Book Fair and more signings this time at prestigious Chepstow Bookshop in the shoes of my hero David Attenborough! Thank you to Matt and to my lovely mate Will who popped along to say “Hello!”

April, saw me attending my very first Literary Festival as an author and illustrator for the inaugural Hawkesbury-Upton Lit Fest organised by self-published author extraordinaire, Debbie Young, to celebrate World Book Night. 51LK1eQJXNL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_[1]My poetry readings (my first ever) went down a storm and my White Mountain reading got people so hooked they grabbed another few sales! Yay! I also meet famous author, Katie Fforde, who posed for a photo op! 😀 SAM_6754

The month of May was busy busy busy, juggling illustration commissions and lots of events, the highlights being another signing at lovely Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester and my third public book reading as part of BristolCon Fringe alongside fellow fantasy author, Ben Galley. May also saw me going see one of my favourite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, at the Hay Festival – where he signed two books for me and chatted about the prejudice the fantasy genre faces from the literarti, what an awesome experience! SAM_6855 (2)

In June, White Mountain continued to soar in the Amazon charts and gained yet more wonderful REVIEWS – THANK YOU! This little blog seemed to explode, with a couple of days gaining over 600 visitors each day! Yet more illustrations and yes, lots of writing, including a dark fairy-tale short story, ‘The Orphan and The Iron Troll’ The Orphan and the Iron Trollto be published in upcoming dark anthology, Shadows Of The Oak and a gritty sci-fi space opera short story, ‘Silent Running’ for the upcoming awesome Fight Like A Girl anthology alongside big fantasy hitters like Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, K.T. Davies, Kim Lakin-Smith, Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall among others! Wow! Very honoured and rather humbled to be in such company. (gulp) Fight-Like-A-Girl-V2-400ppi[1]

July was hot and awesome in equal measure…but the highlight of highlights had to be the honour of being invited as an author and illustrator to take part in the prestigious Cirencester Literary Festival, running my own illustration workshop as one of the main events! The place, Bingham Gallery in Cirencester, was absolutely PACKED! The event was a tremendous success and went brilliantly, and I even managed to control my nerves! July also saw me starting my Distant Worlds author interview series on this blog, which has been such fun and has had such a tremendous response. 😀 CJi9mo3WEAAGHFn[1] (2)11059440_1736544409906170_5015057545228280997_n[1]11822572_1736544419906169_8415676657590741700_n[1]11406151_1717954358431842_1815668094057261589_o1[1]

September, apart from my birthday (gulp), saw the eventual release of the Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) first anthology, A World Of Their Own, the fruition of four years hard work. The anthology is dedicated to my dear friend and fellow AWB member, Lindsey J Parsons who died so suddenly in January 2014, with ALL profits from the book going to charity – so it makes the perfect Christmas present. 10628434_901588523202885_688426025216875644_n[1]

I still miss Linds so much, especially late at night when my insomnia kicks in and I need to talk to someone and bounce ideas of…or chat stupidly like we often did until 3am! 😦

Anyway, after the anthology publication the rest of the month was dominated by the insanely cool BristolCon run by Joanne Hall. It took place at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Bristol, where I was not only attending as an author on my first ever panel (alongside Jasper Fforde) but was also CHAIRING a panel on the apt subject of Libraries. I also got to finally meet Emma Newman which was very cool as was seeing my mate, Joanne Hall, have her awesome book launch! SAM_7710

October was a mad blur of more book fairs and signings but the highlight was an epically AWESOME 5 days up in Nottingham with my fellow Grimbold band of brothers and sisters for FantasyCon!!!! WOW!!! Where to start? Such cool panels, talks, lots of fun events, me singing Blondie and Adele at my first ever Karaoke…and yes, I didn’t completely embarrass myself! Meeting Brandon Sanderson, hanging out with my new cool friends, eating copious amounts of pizza, cake and burgers (diet was on hiatus), Steven Poore (fellow Grimbold cat) having his awesome book launch at the Con, SAM_8039playing Cards Against Humanity and my 1981 board-game, Dark Tower and cheering on the wonderful Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books as they won Best Independent Press at the British Fantasy Awards. SAM_8064Highlights, have to be my decision to make a visual record of the Con by sketching people. Amongst some decidedly dodgy drawings (sorry Jo, I will draw you again honey and do a better job!), I got to eventually meet the very cool Jen Williams who I’d missed at BristolCon. Not only did Jen and Brandon sign the sketches I did of them, Jen very kindly posed for a piccie with it too! SO COOL!!! 😀 SAM_7981Had SUCH an amazing time! SAM_8100SAM_7917

Then, suddenly it was November and my fellow cool Grimbold cat and talented writer, Kate Coe (who I shared a hotel room with and who had to put up with my snoring!), had encouraged me to do something I have been avoiding since 1999…National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWrMo (Nano)! NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square[1]

Knowing what a slow sod I am when it comes to writing, yes hopefully I write quality stuff, but do I need to be so goddamn slow? – well, knowing that, how could I of all people possibly hope to write a massive 50,000 words in just one month. Geared up by Kate’s enthusiasm that I could in fact do it…I plunged into it head long! I also took part in a little sword fighting play at Kate’s place for one of the Nano Write-In’s with Adrian Faulkner, a master swordsman and very cool fantasy writer. 12196097_10153633033412254_1672540370840878677_n[1]SAM_7910

So, November was spent ignoring emails, ignoring the TV, Facebook, friends and relatives and just writing, writing, writing…and…on Sunday 29th November, a whole day early for my first ever Nano…I achieved my impossible goal, I reached 50,143 words of my new dark fantasy, RAVENWING. Ravenwing

That was two days ago, and I’m still reeling from it. For me, this Nano challenge was also a deeply personal and important one. I wasn’t just challenging myself to write a huge amount of words in a short time, I was challenging my illness and saying YES, I CAN DO THIS! Nano Winner 2015 Certificate

As many of my friends know, I was struck down by a nasty illness a couple of years ago and that has badly impacted on my writing, making me slower again but also making the sheer effort and mental strain of concentrating for the longer periods needed to write, very very difficult indeed. This has meant that the sequel to my beloved, White Mountain, has been very slow in the making (a big thank you again to my VERY patient publishers!). So…for me, Nano was also an opportunity to show myself that I can do it, to kickstart my White Mountain sequel, and that’s what I intend to do!

So…to start as I mean to continue, here is an exclusive for all my White Mountain fans…

The sequel, DARKLING RISEis coming (promise), but to tide you all over…there will be two brand NEW White Mountain short stories published next year!!!!

A Friendship Forged – is a wonderful back story of how Mr. Agyk and Gralen first meet with some awesome fight sequences and more than a few hints about Book 2 and tie-in events from White Mountain.

The Siege of Kallorm – is the back story of Korrun, why he is such an angst character. It charts his fateful fall from grace, from being a hero figure, the Captain of the Kallorm City Guard to becoming a vilified, hated figure after he makes the worst of mistakes. Can you ever atone for your sins? The Siege of Kallorm sketch

Both new stories are coming soon…watch this space!

***

So…there you go, a year of madness, mayhem, wonderful weirdness, lots of ‘firsts’, and a real personal turning point.

I wonder…what on earth will the next year bring?!

See you all there, for yet more fun…roll on 2016! 😀 xxxxx

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😀 ❤ xxxxx