Waterstone’s, passing 30,000 and getting ready for the chicken dance!

White Mountain full book jacketFirstly, I just had to showcase my gorgeous new cover…well I had to, look at it…it’s GORGEOUS!

Despite the exuberance, I’m in reflective mood tonight. I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be celebrating. Not only has my little blog passed 30,000 visitors, for which I am profoundly shocked and humbled (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!) but my novel is due to be published in less than two weeks time…my excitement is palpable. SAM_5228

So, it’s November already, still can’t quite grasp how the year is flying past. Already the TV is full of Christmas advertisements, hoping to whip up the masses into our usual hysterical feeding frenzy. Need a new sofa, how about some solid oak furniture or ten frozen homogenised meals for £4? Lol, I admit, despite the cynical side of capitalism, I still LOVE Christmas and all the daft glitzy trappings that come with it. It still conjures the magical memories of my early childhood before the dark days came – that sense of magic and optimism, where anything is possible, has never left me despite the struggles of my life.

As November slides towards the grand event of the year, I find myself having a brief window to breathe before another kind of crazy madness takes me. I talk of course, of doing the chicken dance again.

“The chicken dance?” I hear you ask. “What’s that?”

Well, as all my writer friends know, the chicken dance is what we writers do when a new book, OUR new book, is coming out. Not only does the writer resemble a babbling headless chicken, overcome by a heightened state of euphoria, but suddenly they have the inability to stay focused or remain in one spot for more than a few seconds. The chicken dance involves many things, behaving in a dignified way isn’t one of them, but jumping up and down like a frog on speed may be obligatory!

The chicken dance doesn’t just involve a manic sense of excitement that you struggle to temper when you’re surrounded by more sensible people or at work, but which seeps out in your solitary car journey home. Something like…”Yes, yes, YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!” SAM_5203

You get the idea.

The chicken dance also involves rushing around everywhere, even when you have plenty of time, the NEED to rush, to be permanently active, on the go. ‘Stand still and you’ll die’ kind of feeling. Very much like playing an out of body RPG game, except that it’s your life.

Only fellow writers will understand this, friends, family, no matter how supportive, may want you to start taking medication or ‘seek help’!

In amongst this general hysteria, you are frantically contacting everyone you ever knew, even in passing, even the most transitory meeting, they all NEED to know your exciting news, how could they not be interested?

Did I mention the heightened state of delusion you find yourself in?

Yes, your book, your baby creation is the best thing since Tolstoy and Tolkien, so EVERYONE must know. Lol, delusion plays a large part in most writer’s lives. The tricky part is being honest with yourself about it!

For me, the chicken dance started last Friday when I opened a very special package – two boxes of my gorgeous new book! My reaction was suitably restrained and subdued… SAM_5206

Lol, so my chicken dance has begun again. My epic fantasy novel, White Mountain, the first book of my Darkling Chronicles, is being published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books, on 1st December 2014! Yes, Christmas is coming early for me this year!

BUT, there is a big difference this time round. Having done the chicken dance before, I have at least learnt some lessons now. So, embarking on this journey again, here are my top five tips for trying to survive the chicken dance with your head relatively intact!

1. When getting writer/book resources from Vistaprint, Staples or wherever else you go, remember, YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY EVERYTHING! Getting the staple remover with your book emblazoned on the side or the embroidered napkin, large car magnet, selection of baseball caps, T-shirts (for the size you are now and the size you will slim down to), the 100% cotton linen bags, the pens, the pen holders, the keyrings, the mouse pads, the card holders, the personalised card holder for your wallet or bag, the leaflets, pamphlets, any lets, on and on and on….

Trust me, you could blink and spend a fortune. Your bank balance will thank me!

YOU DON’T NEED IT! You will find three things of real use, and that’s about it. A large banner with your book on it, some business cards with your book & website details on, and either ONE T-shirt to wear for signings (ONE not FIVE!) or possibly a mug. Well, you gotta drink don’t you? Buy some cheap acrylic book stands too to display your epic tomes.

2. Go through your book and find at least three great passages that you can read aloud. Choose excerpts which are exciting and give a good flavour of your book to prospective readers. You’ll need the passages to be of varying length, maybe a short one of only a few minutes, one that can keep you talking for ten minutes and one for longer, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Trust me, you need to do this. My very first book signing went brilliantly, yes, we sold out in just under an hour, fab, eh? Yes, but I made one major gaff. A customer asked me for a reading. I hadn’t thought of that! I stumbled, I stuttered, I flicked through the book in a sweat and nervously wobbled my way through one very brief section. I was not good and didn’t do justice to the passage I was reading. Lesson learnt. Passage preparation! – ye gods that sounds medical!!

As I always say, better to have something and not need it, than need something and not have it!

3. Remember and repeat…YOU ARE NOT A STAR! Just because you have managed to acquire several Waterstone’s signing dates, something rarer than gold dust these days, you are not the star attraction so don’t act like a diva. Be polite ALWAYS, courteous, humble. Listen to the staff, what they want from you, where they want you. Listen, smile, be affable and charming. Remember, even if you only sell one book, you want them to remember you and be happy to let you come back.

4. Remember, Waterstone’s have severely restricted who they let into their shops to do signings precisely because of some dreadful bad apples in the indie barrel who ruined it for the rest of us by harassing customers and virtually frogmarching them to the tills! I happen to vaguely know one of the offenders who is blissfully unaware of what a firestorm she caused and how she contributed to Waterstone’s shutting down the rest of us! I’d take her to task, but to be honest, she has had the roughest of times recently so I’m not one to shovel shit. But remember, DO NOT APPROACH CUSTOMERS. Let them come to you, stay seated at your table and smile. That’s what Waterstone’s want, not some lurking author pouncing out at unsuspecting browsers!

5. Remember, as much as I love Waterstone’s they are not the only bookshops in town, if you support you local independent bookshop, they will support you! Get to know and love the independents, they may be the only shops willing to get behind you and your book, so ignore them at your peril!

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For a few those of you embarking on such a perilous journey, being an author and watching your creation take flight, here are a few insights from when I did my chicken dance two years ago…ahem…I mean my Waterstone’s signing and promotional tour. 😀

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/book-signing-what-you-need-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

Hope it helps or at least prepares you a little for the rollercoaster ride! 😀 xxx

White Mountain coverWhite Mountain full book jacket

😀 xxxx

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Oscars 2014 – predictions and hopes!

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Lol, although I know this post will become dated more quickly than I can sing Happy Birthday to you, as I’m chatting about an event which is happening in only a few hours and will be yesterday’s news…er…yesterday, BUT, I can’t help it…

Okay okay…I’m a REAL cinephile and tonight is the night for all avid film buffs. So, with the Oscars nigh, what are my hopes and predictions for the winners?

Here we go:

Firstly, these are my PREDICTIONS for the people that I think will win:

Best Film: 12 Years A Slave.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (for Gravity).

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (for Dallas Buyers Club).

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (for Blue Jasmine).

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (for Dallas Buyers Club).

Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (for 12 Years A Slave).

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Now, these are the people I would LIKE to win, that I think are most deserving:

Best Film: 12 Years A Slave.

Best Director: Steve McQueen (for 12 Years A Slave).

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor (for 12 Years A Slave).

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (for Gravity).

Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave).

Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle).

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In reality 2013 has been a great year for film and I’d be happy with any of the nominees getting that golden gong as they’re all such wonderful, substantial and beautiful films, with one notable exception. Although I love Cate Blanchett and think she is a phenomenal actress, I really don’t want ANY of the major awards going to a Woody Allen film. My own personal preference here, but on moral grounds, I really cannot condone or support a man who thinks it’s completely acceptable to have a sexual relationship with their daughter, whether she is biologically theirs or adopted. It is a terrible case of child grooming and abuse, and for Hollywood or anyone to just accept it and then give the man adulation and an armful of awards, for me, is just wrong. Rant over.

On a lighter note, I’m looking forward to the award show. I wish Billy Crystal was doing it as he’s always the funniest and I love the film snippets he does where he puts himself into each frame, but I’m sure Ellen DeGeneres will be great.

So, this film buff has her sleeping bag on standby, snacks at the ready and…ahem…4 doggies to keep me warm as I stay up to watch live coverage in a few hours time.

So, which film do you think deserves the top accolade? Who would get your vote? 😀 xxx

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WOW, EVERY one of my predictions came true!!!! 100% correct!!! Woo and Hoo!!!! I DO wish Sandra Bullock would have won, but didn’t think she’d snag it, wanted Chiwetel Ejiofor to win for 12 Years A Slave, but again thought it would go to McConaughey because the Academy love rewarding actors who have made a come back and have transformed their bodies for a part. Also wish Steve McQueen had won for Best Director, but I DO like Alfonso Cuaron too. My biggest thing, was not wanting any awards to go towards a Woody Allen film, but Cate Blanchett was a shoe-in. Anyway…NEXT year, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and bet on my predictions!!!! 😛

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Michael Morpurgo & Me!

Strange things have been happening…very strange things. It seems that I am stalking Michael Morpurgo!

9260_433372556719113_86475080_nSince my debut novel was published or should I say born into the world on 30th September, I’ve been lost in a wondrous maelstrom of writing, promotion, marketing, newspaper articles and my first book signings.

To date, I have just had my third author signing event, this time at the huge Waterstones branch in Cardiff. Even though each signing is akin to standing in the sports hall of your school during your final year prom, waiting for someone to pick you to dance, i.e. exhilarating and embarrassing in equal measure – talking to people has been wonderful.

I’d like to thank an especially lovely couple yesterday who bought a copy of White Mountain and were so enthusiastic and full of energy about my book and our shared love of writing, illustrations and fantasy, that I could have chatted to them all day!

But yes, life recently has been a complete whirlwind and something of a surreal dream. Surreal is a good word to describe it, though perhaps unreal is nearer the mark.

We all live, for the most part, little innocuous lives. I certainly have for the last 3o something years. Just a quiet bumbling sort of life, lurching from one mishap into another. Fumbling my way through life while I studiously and anonymously scribble away at my stories, dreaming one day that they will proudly sit upon the bookshelves of my lovely local independent bookshop, Waterstones or WHSmith’s, hopefully next to another great literary work.

We all dream, right?

Well, I know I’m never going to be the astronaut I wanted to be (…er…or space pirate!) and dreams of being a mermaid have slipped away as I’ve grown older (notice I don’t say wiser). But being a writer was always a dream I believed would happen…and eventually it has. All good things come to those that wait, eh?

Anyway, during a rare moment of lucidity, I took a camera with me and popped into some of the local bookshops which are so kindly stocking and supporting my book. What did I find? Well, apart from the indescribable feeling of ACTUALLY seeing your own book on a bookshelf, a feeling I still can’t fully express, one worrying aspect arose…

White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, may be an epic fantasy for the 21st century full of adventure, dark magic, love, loss, friendship and betrayal, but it would also appear that my beloved novel is somewhat of a stalker!

Yes, a STALKER!!!!!

Everywhere I look, White Mountain is determinedly following and sidling up to the wonderful Michael Morpurgo! Yes, my novel is stalking Michael Morpurgo – the illustrious and critically acclaimed writer I have admired for many years who, after the film of his novel ‘War Horse’, is also in great demand!

There, in every shop I visited, sat my novel sitting proudly next to one of his. I can’t tell you the thrill of that!

So…I would like to take the opportunity of not only thanking Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester (www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury (www.yellow-lightedbookshop.co.uk) and Stroud Children’s Bookshop…but I would like to thank a total stranger who is also a bit of a hero for me, the multi-talented, Michael Morpurgo!

Thank you, Michael. Even though you don’t know me from Adam, Eve, or a dude called Bob, my novel and I want to thank you from the bottom of our dragon fuelled hearts!

*deep sigh*

Life can be hard as iron, but sometimes, just sometimes…it can be utterly lovely! 😀 xx

Make Hay not war! …A tribute to Hay, Ray and Sir Terry!

I’ll admit that my expectations of the Hay Festival were high…and I was NOT disappointed!

Returning home last night, at nearly 11pm, utterly exhausted and elated with a boot full of books, I found myself in a blissful state of delirium. What an experience! Not just the festival itself, with its Tibetan-like rainbow flags (perhaps fluttering in homage to the God of Books), its eco credentials and bohemian artsy feel, but the whole town and how each compliments the other. The entire vibe of the place…this little idyll, this heaven for book lovers nestled amongst the most breathtaking landscapes. Just bliss!

In a time of grim realities, economic meltdown, political confusion, conflict and war, to be immersed in such a haven is nothing short of magical. There are so few places where the written word is so celebrated. The minute my writer friend and I stepped foot in the town, you could almost feel a palpable tingle in the air. Everyone was there for the same reason…an unbridled love of books.

The rain, thankfully not as heavy as predicted, couldn’t dampen our spirits. So with twitching debit cards we started our foray into Hay’s wonderfully eclectic bookshops.

My advice for any visiting Hay-On-Wye? Bring a backpack…you can squeeze more books into it and leave your hands free to hold more!

Heading from one bookshop to another, via a cappuccino and slice of coffee cake, my growing rucksack and I quickly learned the ‘squeeze-squeeze-side shuffle’ needed in tight spaces and stacked shelves.

Amongst my prized buys of the day – a beautiful first edition 1866 green leather-bound collection of Lord Tennyson poems with gold-edged hand cut pages, gold ‘Arts & Crafts’ embossing on the front and back AND…(discovered only this morning as I took delight in placing all my books on the correct bookcases)…gorgeous illustrations by Hunt, Millais & Gabriel Dante Rossetti, the founders and geniuses of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement!

Wow! I can’t believe I’ve found such a treat for the senses for a mere £6.50! What a find…now you don’t get that from a kindle!

My other highlight? Well, after some serious trawling round Hay, we headed back to the festival and its billowing tents for the main event, an hour-long talk from Sir Terry Pratchett! What a thrill! We jostled our way into the Barclays Pavillion and settled down to watch and listen to a master of the fantasy genre. A real privilege.

Terry spoke candidly about his work and life. Poignant but always humourous and sharply witted, the hour regrettably flew past, despite the continuous munching of the man mountain sitting in front of me and the irritating fidgeting of the teeny girls next to me whose constant moving kept rocking my chair and making me sea-sick!

Of course, during the course of day, the news also broke of the sad passing of another great author, the astonishing Ray Bradbury, whose seminal novels including Fahrenheit 451, have been incredibly influential and inspiring to readers and writers alike. Terry Pratchett himself commented on the sad event, saying what a wonderful writer and what a lovely person he was.

Together with the loss of Anne McCaffrey earlier in the year, it has been a time of literary loss, particularly in the fantasy and science fiction genres, but the legacy such writers and their astonishing body of work leaves behind, ensures their immortality in the pantheon of great writers and artists.

After the fabulous talk, we inevitably took the shuttle back into town for some more book grazing. Hay, rather splendidly, leaves many of the bookshops open into the evening.

We wandered over to the castle, a beautiful ruin of a place, and poured over yet more shelves of delights before reluctantly having to say goodbye to a truly wondrous little place.

May the sun never set on you Hay. I shall definitely be returning for a longer stay!

I raise a glass to the glory of Hay, Ray and Sir Terry…marvels all!

See you next year! 😀

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Tragically, Sir Terry Pratchett lost his long struggle against Alzheimer’s on the 12th March 2015, he will be greatly missed by all. I for one, shall think of him when I visit the Hay Festival again this year. A literary giant in his own life time, one of our brightest lights has been extinguished, may he shine on in the heavens and give Death a run for his money! xxx

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