The Realities of Writing…

soa_member_rgb1As a member of The Society of Authors (SoA), the longest running society helping authors (actually celebrating its centenary this year) and certainly the nearest we have to an ‘Author Union’, I received my quarterly SoA magazine ‘The Author’ a few weeks ago.

‘The Author’ is always a fascinating read, a thermometer of what’s going on in the literary world, in publishing, what’s trending and in writer’s lives themselves. It’s full of really interesting articles, all written by writers for writers on issues as diverse as copyright, publishing & publishers, literary festivals, contracts, public lending rights (PLR), author events, public liability insurance, awards and grants, writing tips, sales, bookshops, Amazon, research, booktrade news in addition to its own ‘Quarterly News’. Lol, to be honest, the first thing I always do is look to see the names of new members and if I recognise anyone. 😀

Anyway, in amongst the magazine was a ballot paper for this year’s Election to the Management Committee. Now I won’t say who I voted for, I don’t want to invalidate my ballot, but reading their candidate statements was really interesting and, considering most of these people are big names, quite surprising. I don’t know why, but I suppose we all have stereotypes that we fall into from time to time and certainly I imagine that these writers, the ‘big names’, all live a dream life of never having to worry about money or bills or mundane things again, that their writing has brought riches and fame and therefore they are a world away from the harsh realities that myself and my fellow writers live in day in day out. But, to my surprise, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is precisely because these writers have made it big, that makes them so sympathetic and empathetic to the struggles and plights of others because they remember what life was life before that bestseller.

One writer in particular who grabbed my attention was Alice Jolly, talking about writing as a career and how hard it is for most writers just to keep their head above the rising tides.

In her own words:

“The position of the writer is a paradox. On the one hand, authors appear to be powerful. The UK general public love authors. They spend approximately £2.2 billion on books a year and 60% cite ‘author’ as their dream job. The UK has approximately 250 literary festivals some of which attract audiences of 200,000.

But despite all that, the reality of an average author’s life is grim. The median annual income of authors is £11,000 (substantially below the minimum wage based on a forty hour week). The hours are unsocial and authors are continually asked to run workshops or make visits to schools for free.

So how can we writers capitalise on the power we have in order to ensure that writing is a career, not a hobby? How do we make sure that the current seismic changes in the publishing industry take us into a world where writers have more control over their careers?

There is no simple answer but that change certainly will not happen unless we all work together.”

What makes Alice Jolly’s words particularly pertinent is that she has experience in a range of fields, from teaching creative writing at Oxford University, having two novels published through Simon & Schuster, to four plays produced in the theatre to crowdfunding her latest work. It’s somehow reassuring to know that people like Alice, or Joanne Harris who are widely known and respected, are able to relate to the problems and struggles that we small press and indie authors face every day – that struggle not only to write in itself, to get published (in whatever way that means to you), but also to make ends meet, pay the bills, survive.

The romantic notion of the starving artist in their garret or isolated writer in their shed, is all well and good, but starving in reality does not help creativity – it stifles it. If your mind is continually pre-occupied by how you are going to keep the roof over your head and food on your plate, if you are literally starving, you are not going to be concerned by writing the next great tome. Your energies and efforts will be spent on trying to survive so you have a future where you can write.

I find these issues particularly relevant to me and my own situation. Not only have I found writing my second novel particularly hard (due to major writer’s block caused by health issues), though I have been able to write several short stories/novellas, my own personal circumstances are more than a little precarious in both financial and personal terms. All of which, the stress, the worry, health issues and the counting of pennies, really does not help the creative process.

So, what is the answer?

Alice Jolly is right, there are no simple solutions. As with everything in life, the randomness of luck always plays a part, simply being in the right place at the right time, and yes, sadly, the old adage of ‘who you know’ plays a major part. Would Christopher Paolini really have been published and pushed into the limelight if his mother hadn’t been in the industry and placed his novel in front of an agent rather than it doing the rounds of the slushpile? I think not. But we are also masters of our own destinies. I see the flamboyant and endless energy of self-published authors Ben Galley and Debbie Young who both simply do not settle for resting on their laurels. They are so determined, so inventive and so driven they have made it happen for them. Ben Galley recently revealed that he’s selling 400 books a month in the US and tours around the country and can be seen at most conventions, Debbie Young set up her own Literary Festival from scratch (the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival) with Katie FForde herself opening the inaugural event. She’s now planning the 3rd year of the festival next year and is also the main collaborator for ALLi – The Alliance of Independent Authors and tours the country doing talks and events.

So, is this the future and answer to making writing a career that can actually pay the bills? The honest answer is…I don’t know. I’m thrilled for both Ben Galley and Debbie Young, both of whom are not only thoroughly lovely people but also terrific writers. My problem is this, as much as I would dearly love to be a full-time writer (it’s been my dream since I was a kid) and be able to make an actual living from it as with any other career (yes, writing paying bills), I simply do not have the stamina or funds to do half the things that they do, I dearly wish I could. This year for instance, as I’ve been concentrating on writing so much, my marketing and publicity has, in all fairness, been crap. I’ve just found it far too hard to be able to do both things effectively.

So, the question remains, what is the answer? If you’re unable to travel much, are not techy at all (I’m an IT idiot tbh and still don’t understand what the hell, Thunderclap is!), and health and circumstances curtail what you can do, then how do you turn your imagination into something that can actually pay those bills?

Well, in truth I’m still working on that one. What I will say is in a strange parallel to other industries such as farming for instance, I think a big part of success or at least survival and self-sufficiency, is by diversifying. Look at what you can do, what you’re good at (apart from writing) and try using those skills to aid not only your writing but to also pay the bills.

For me, that has meant illustration work: –  Sophie E Tallis Illustrations. Being a trained traditional artist, with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and an MA place, I illustrate books and do fantasy maps (having just completed a commission for the wonderful Juliet McKenna and her fantastic ‘Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom’ and am currently working on a map commission for grimdark author, Anna Smith-Spark and her upcoming Harper Voyager book, ‘The Court of Broken Knives’). In fact as I can adapt to any illustration style wanted, I can pretty much do whatever the client wants (lol, though not digital art, my computer skills are crap!). Now, although I’m not raking in huge amounts, as far as paying for those damn bills, it is definitely helping!

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So, for we small authors to continue writing as a career not a hobby, we have to use every trick in our arsenal, diversify, think outside of the box, focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

Good luck guys, may we all succeed at that elusive goal – full-time writing AND survival! 😀 ❤ xxx

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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

AWB Illustration Unicorn BattleAWB Illustration Archer

😀 ❤ xxxxx

6 months of magic and mayhem…with more to follow!

Today’s post is a rather reflective one, so apologies for getting a little misty-eyed and overawed!

Six months ago on the 1st December 2014 my debut novel, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was gloriously published by Grimbold Books & their imprint Kristell Ink Publishing. I knew at the time that the merry-go-round of madness was about to begin, but boy what a rollercoaster ride it’s been!

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White Mountain, as most of my friends, family and supporters know, was a complete labour of love that took over ten years to write, research and worldbuild (yes, I am a VERY slow writer! I promise that Book 2 WILL be finished and ready next year, so no decade to wait!). All my interests in ancient history, world mythology, geography, geology, natural history, ecology, anthropology etc., etc., dripped into the history and worldbuilding behind the story of White Mountain; and my personal experiences and complicated relationships seeped into the characters and their lives.

No matter what genre you write in, no matter how fantastical or other-worldly it may be, use your life in what you write.

For me it was a wonderful cathartic experience of writing about dysfunctional relationships I knew, about friendships, inner turmoil, feelings of atonement, guilt, rage, loneliness and yes, it was liberating to write my villain, a thoroughly nasty, manipulative, violent and cruel character who I have openly admitted is based on my father. Do I have baggage to write about? Hell, yes…don’t we all?

Anyway, White Mountain was born into the world with its awesome new cover and that’s when all the fun began!

My signing at Books On The Hill

The last six months has been a manic ride. I attended my very first fantasy/sci-fi convention, BristolCon, (huge thanks to the multi-talented and fellow fantasy writer, Joanne Hall who founded & runs it brilliantly). I went to my first book fair and did my first public reading (terrifying but brilliant!). I then embarked on a hectic book-signing tour around Wales and the West Country, signing in some truly gorgeous and prestigious bookshops and meeting some terrifically awesome people along the way. Best of all though, has to be that sense of tingling excitement when someone buys your book! I don’t think I’ll ever feel blasé about that, it’s a truly humbling experience chatting to customers, signing and dedicating books to them and loved ones. Simply put, it’s just one of the most magical experiences and completely eclipses the awkwardness and embarrassment of sitting in a bookshop feeling like a lemon waiting to be squeezed! SAM_6855 (2)

Chepstow BookshopAmongst the book-signing tour and newspaper articles I went to my first literary festival as an author, to do a poetry and fiction reading. The tiny but potent, Hawkesbury Upton (HULit) Literary Festival, founded by local indie author, Debbie Young, who is a one-woman self-publishing whizz and who managed to not only organise the whole event but to even attract big name authors such as Katie Fforde – who opened the event, read from her book and graciously took a photo op with little old me!

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White Mountain, continued to pick up momentum and great reviews, including gaining a 5 star review and shiny medal from Reader’s Favorite and from very popular websites, Girl Who Reads and Brainfluff among others. Of course we authors are always desperate for more reviews as we know that getting reviews is absolutely crucial to whether a book succeeds or fails. So if you read a book you love, help that book and author and post a review! Reader's Favorite review

Then, amongst the book signings and readings, I was asked to participate in the Cirencester Literary Festival in July, as an author and illustrator and run my own illustration workshop for children in Bingham Gallery!

Cirencester event on Octavia's

Octavia's Cirencester eventWow!

With more bookshop signings and book fairs on the horizon in addition to BristolCon 2015 and FantasyCon coming up in the Autumn, it has been a gloriously nutty few months!

Then…to top it all off, White Mountain, has been shortlisted in The People’s Book Prize! The People’s Book Prize is the only major literary award voted by the people, as a way of finding new books and new talent which may have been overlooked by mainstream markets. Founded by Dame Beryl Bainbridge and with Frederick Forsythe as it’s current Patron, it is wonderful to be nominated.

People's Book Prize page

Do I have a chance of winning?

I’d certainly LOVE to win as it’s a fantastic way of raising your book’s profile, with the awards ceremony even being televised on SKY News, but honestly I don’t hold out much hope. White Mountain is in the Children’s category and the competition is very stiff with the most likely winner being a larger mainstream author who sells in Waterstones, has a larger fanbase and has won it before. BUT, you never know…could David defeat Goliath?

People's Book Prize capture

So here’s my shameless plugging bit…can I ask EVERYONE reading this to PLEASE lend your support and give the underdog a chance by voting for White Mountain? It only takes a few moments of your time, is totally FREE and really would make all the difference to a little indie author like me. Voting continues until August, but every single vote counts! Just pop on the website, register by giving your name and email, they will then send you a password. Then click back onto my book, put in your name, password, VOTE and leave a short comment. http://www.peoplesbookprize.com/book.php?id=1295

A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who has already voted, especially those who have left comments too, and to those who are going to vote. It really is hugely appreciated, so thank you guys, you are the best! Lol, I won’t hold my breath, but I’ll quietly keep my fingers, toes and dragon wings crossed! 😉

So, there you go…as my little blog passes 39,000 visitors (a truly humbling number for such a tiny online diary about writing), I can only wonder what the next six months will bring… 😀

A HUGE thank you to all of you who keep the fires burning in this quiet cloister of the internet! You are all amazing and uber-cool dudes and dudettes! THANK YOU!!!!!! 😀 xxxx

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‘The Next Big Thing’ – I’ve been tagged!

Still chasing my tail here, but a few weeks ago I was very kindly tagged in “The Next Big Thing” – a blog hop where you answer a series of questions about your work in progress or your NEXT BIG THING, before nominating others for the same award. http://youngbyname.me/2012/11/14/my-next-big-thing/

I was tagged by fellow indie author, Debbie Young, who had her first book, ‘Sell Your Books!’ published only two weeks after my own.

Product DetailsDebbie Young also works for Readathon UK http://www.readathon.org an amazing national organisation that promotes children’s reading in schools and libraries across the country. I was utterly thrilled when Debbie and Readathon UK approached me to do an interview, especially considering the literary giants such as Michael Morpurgo, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) who support them. Great company to be in! http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

Anyway, back to ‘The Next Big Thing’!

Ummm, right, my next project/work in progress…well, I have many (head stuffed with ideas thankfully), but I am currently writing the second book of my epic fantasy trilogy!

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The sequel to White Mountain and Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles? Well to be honest that is a tricky question to answer. I had always envisioned and planned for the book to be called ‘Darkling Rise’, a title I love and an appropriate one for the story, as it revolves around the rise of a ‘darkling’ – a growing dark power. However, this may not be the final title…

2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

032Years ago, when I first had the genus for White Mountain, I knew the general direction the story was heading in. I actually have the ending for Book 3 in my head, though the journey to get there isn’t worked out yet! A lot of The Darkling Chronicles story was inspired by my four-month odyssey around New Zealand back in 1997, an astounding country of epic scenery and breathtaking views. This was truly an inspiring and life-changing experience and one I have written about in my series of travelogues on this blog. The other ideas for the story simply came from my own personal life and experiences, many of which have been rather traumatic and verging on the melodramatic to say the least. I am very pleased to say that those times are behind me and life is now a myriad of happy days…or should I say…a happy daze! 😀

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Chapter Twenty-One - Into The LightEpic fantasy! Sometimes referred to as ‘classic’ or ‘high’ fantasy. Having said that, it is also a contemporary fantasy as the story is set now within our modern world. It is also an adventure story, a mystery, a romance, an adrenaline fuelled action thriller, a children’s book, a Young Adult (YA) novel and a poetic saga!

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

To be honest, I do have a rough screenplay of White Mountain. It would make an AMAZING film as it is so epic and cinematic in scope, so who knows? Maybe one day…

But I do LOVE this game! Christopher Plummer or Patrick Stewart would be my first choice for Mr Marval Agyk due to his natural gravitas, similar appearance and receding hairline not to mention that wondrous voice! Besides the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen has portrayed Gandalf so well, that any other wizard part would draw too many comparisons. Rufus Sewell would be stunning for the voice of Gralen, that lovely blend of age and sulkiness. Either Henry Cavill, James Purefoy or Tom Hardy as brooding Korrun and new British actress, Felicity Jones or Gemma Arterton or even Anne Hathaway as Wendya. Peter O’Toole would be simply perfect as eccentric and frail King Dorrol and maybe even Gary Oldman as King Baillum? As for my arch-villain, Morreck, I always saw the character as a mixture of Brad Pitt and Pol Pot! A character electrifying, charismatic and handsome, described as ‘perilously fair’, a person you would be instantly attracted and drawn to, but a figure who despite his beauty, is rotten to the core. I’m sure Brad Pitt is a lovely person, but as he is a great actor and is, let’s face it, gorgeous to look at – he would be PERFECT to play Morreck The Corruptor! 😀

If I had my pick of directors…it would have to be Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott, two real visionaries!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

For White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet and destroying humanity…

For ‘Darkling Rise’ – Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Darkness spreads as prophetic warnings come to pass and a series of disturbing murders and disappearances multiply across the globe – the hunt is on and the war to end all wars is upon us…!

6) When will your book be published?

Book 2 will be published in September/October 2013, with Book 3 due for publication in 2014.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ahem…I’m still writing it! My first book had a gestation of over 10 years, yes, 10 years! – creating the back story, the world and universe that the story takes place in, not to mention my exhaustive research. My time frame for writing Book 2 is considerably shorter! 😀

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Wow! That’s hard. Certainly readers of Book 1 have compared it to J.R.R. Tolkien, David Gemmell, Terry Goodkind, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan even G.R.R.Martin in it’s epic scope. I would place my work somewhere in there, hopefully between the poetic nature of Tolkien and the dark gift for character of Pullman and George Martin.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, personal life experiences good and bad. Places I’ve been to, natural landscapes hold a real magic for me and of course, I had an epic story I wanted to tell. Book 1 is the beginning of that story and is an inspiration in itself, but now the story has a life of its own and it wants to come out!

Humanity beware – you’re in for a nasty awakening!

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The fact that it is an epic fantasy in the classic sense but with a contemporary twist and that it is set within our modern world. Humans and millenia old magic are about to clash…head on! Can our technology save us from an ancient force determined to cleanse the planet of the plague of humanity?

*****

Now to highlight and ‘tag’ some other writers for “The Next Big Thing”! In no order…

Product DetailsAndrea Baker – A great writer of paranormal fantasy, Worlds Apart’ – Leah, from deepest darkest Warwickshire! Check out her wonderful debut novel…

Leah knows that her mother died in a car accident when Leah was small and that her father, who used to be the gentlest dad in the world, has become increasingly controlling and occasionally violent. She also knows that her recurring dreams are telling her something more about how and why her mother died, and why her dad turned nasty, but they are becoming progressively more disturbing and confusing. When Leah meets Ben, she is excited to have a friend she can confide in and have fun with, but is he what he seems? The voice of Leah’s mother repeatedly tells her to rely on her instincts, but when Leah is run over in a freak accident and Ben’s family take over her welfare, are they protecting her or using her? And why would anyone, good or evil, bother with an ordinary girl just about to go to university? http://www.andreabakerauthor.com/
*****
Image of Lindsey J Parsons

Lindsey Parsons – A fantastic fantasy writer with a huge imagination! Check out her debut novel…

Product DetailsVortex is a fantasy romance novel aimed at the upper teen/young adult market. It is the first book in a trilogy called The Return of The Effra. Back cover description: On a night when prophecies stir, an outraged dragon vents his anger, Damian is ripped from everything he knows and Sam’s nightmares become real… Sam isn’t enjoying university life, she’s disillusioned with her course and having second thoughts about her future. It doesn’t help that she keeps having a scary, recurring nightmare and when she thinks things couldn’t get worse a creepy man follows her back to her room. Damian is unique, he has silver eyes, horns and wings, he is also being visited by a ghost girl. She looks so sad and frightened he feels compelled to help her, but the night he reaches out to save her from a dragon’s fiery breath he gets ripped from his life, his world, from everything he knows. Now it’s Damian who’s lost in an unfamiliar world that’s devoid of magic and full of strange monsters. His only connection with home is Sam who he recognises as the ghost girl. Sam has to put aside her fear and disbelief in Damian’s explanations about himself to try and help him find his way home. But in a world without magic is this possible? http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/

*****

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsWill Macmillan Jones – A prolific razor-sharp wit and laugh a minute purveyor of comic fantasy. He makes Sir Terry Pratchett seem only mildly funny! Check out his latest novel, the third in his wildly hilarious and anarchic, The Banned Underground series…! http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

The Vampire Mechanic, the third book in the Banned Underground series, is a unique mix of fantasy and Terry Pratchett-style humor for the rock generation and their kids. Different from other comedic fantasies, it parodies the touring music scene, bureaucracy, taxation and with its tongue-in-cheek slapstick humor, witty puns and word games.

*****

Katrina Jack – An excellent writer of gritty urban fantasy. Land of Midnight Days (The Silver Flute Trilogy) available in Kindle Edition and soon to be released as a hardback! Check out her first novel…Product Details

What would you do if your life was filled with fear: hide, run away – or would you fight back?

In a city at war with itself, Jeremiah Tully already knows how to survive, now he must learn how to live. Mute from birth, of mixed race heritage and his only possession a charmed flute, Jeremiah tries to
discover where his remarkable talent as a musician will take him. http://kateannejack.wordpress.com

*****

Many thanks again to the lovely Debbie Young for tagging me! It’s been great fun and a real honour.

Please check out her websites: http://youngbyname.me/ & http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/newsblog/

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! 😀

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? – books, 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.”

“Apart 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.” 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

“At 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.” Michael Morpurgo, children’s 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’re amazing. You can find out more here.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s 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’s 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! 😀 xxx

UPDATE!!!

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

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 – A great website run by the multi-talented Ryan Holmes, who also has THE coolest job in the world – he 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 – Everything 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 – again 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 – A 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!) 😛 xx