Publication Day!!!!!

Lol, okay, I’m already late I know, but it’s taken me nearly a week to process what’s happened!

My epic fantasy, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was brilliantly published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books last week on 1st December 2014!!!!

To say I’m ecstatic would be a gross understatement, kind of like saying that George Lucas is only vaguely fond of science fiction!

My wonderful new publishers are a world, in fact, a galaxy far far away from what I had encountered previously and the level of dedication, hard work, expertise and passion with which they have approached the publishing of White Mountain, is more than I could ever have hoped for. From the attention to detail, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the beautiful calligraphy, not to mention the AWESOME original artwork commissioned for the AWESOME new cover!!! Wow! I’ve gone from hell to heaven in one leap!

White Mountain full book jacket

I won’t dwell on the past two years, mostly because this is an incredibly happy time and I don’t want to miss a blissful second of it! I’m humble and thankful beyond words, but mostly, for the first time in ages, I am really truly excited, thrilled and proud to have my novel, a book that took ten years in the writing and researching, finally published as it always should have been!

So, before I continue gushing all over your lovely carpet, what is the book actually about?

Well, beyond the plot itself, a struggle for survival against all odds, the courage it takes to stay the course and an epic showdown between good versus evil, the book is also about identity.

Wendya Undokki

Yes, it’s an epic fantasy in the old-fashioned ‘high fantasy’ tradition, but the themes run deeper than just the action. Throughout the book, the primary issues are around identity, how do we define it, define ourselves? Are we fated to repeat history, to be slaves to our genes? What defines family? Is it the people we are related to through blood that constitute a family or the people we choose to have in our lives, people we love and trust? I have my own personal reasons for being interested in that subject matter. I have said on more than one occasion that I identify with Wendya the most, for many of the same conflicted, complicated reasons.

The book deals with another of my passions, the transformative nature of the world we live in today. Our disappearing natural planet mirrors the growing confines that many of the main characters find themselves in. Humanity is everywhere, how does an ancient pre-existing culture hope to continue surviving, in secret, under such overwhelming pressures? How can the world continue as it is, with the current level of wanton destruction? In many ways the disintegration of the natural world perfectly reflects the disintegration of the characters own archaic civilisation, long past its prime and teetering on the edge of extinction.

I don’t hate every aspect of modern life, like Tolkien generally did, how could I? Where would I be without my blog, my TV, my modern comforts?

But like so many of us armchair activists, I worry for the planet’s future, for nature and the few wild places left. Even in the small rural idyll where I grew up, the bluebell wood at the bottom of the road that I used to play bare foot in, with the little twisting stream running through it, was torn up and replaced by ten ugly Barratt houses. Instead of building much needed houses on brown field sites crying out for rejuvenation or renovating the UK’s many abandoned buildings, our precious woodlands and green spaces are being carved up.

Once lost, those precious green spaces are lost forever.

The Grey Forest

Again, loss is a running theme too. Something we all experience to varying degrees and something that each of the characters have certainly experienced. Loss is as much a part of life as life itself, it is something that can define us, if we let it, or spur us on to achieve our goals while we still have time.

Lol, I’m sounding terribly serious here when I don’t mean to be. The novel has humour and lightness, particularly in the running banter between the characters, but in many ways it is an exploration of the state of humanity through a fantasy lens. That’s probably my favourite genre, not just fantasy, but ‘magic realism’, the blending of the real world with the fantastical one.

Anyway, enough pontificating. Here is a small excerpt from White Mountain, hope you enjoy it! 😀 xxx

*****

The midday sun passed into a hazy afternoon. The last soldiers descended, and the host were on their way again, marching at a great pace to recover lost time. The landscape changed around them. Flat plains and rambling hills of tussock gave way to gnarled weather-beaten rock and thicket beds, their needle like thorns starkly black against the grey granite.

The ground sloped steadily downward before levelling, where the barren expanses of rock fell away into mud, reed and bog. They had reached the Shudras, the silent marshes.

Slimy quagmires stretched out before them as an endless sea. Troughs of stagnant water riddled their way into hazardous deep pools. Foul smelling vapours rose from the ground in choking clouds. The thought of crossing such a place lowered all their spirits.

“This was once a wondrous land,” Hallm said. “These were the water-meadows of the great Kara Kara River. The pure waters fed Fendellin’s rarest orchids here. Grass-pipers, willow larks and meadow-cranes, flitted amongst its grasses. Now, its foul mud clogs every channel and tributary with stagnant filth. Its water sprites and larks have long departed.”

“Our beasts cannot cross this!” King Baillum declared raising his hand. “The pathways should be clear at this time of year. This is the only passage through the swamps…the waters have risen! Another evil M’Sorreck has perpetrated on this land. If we try passing, we shall lose many good horses. Certainly, the wagons cannot cross.”

“How far do these marshes stretch?” Korrun asked Hallm.

“Eight and ten leagues at the shortest crossing, which is here,” he replied.

The King’s stoicism gave way to anger. “How could this happen? We sent scouts ahead to gauge the terrain. Why did they not report this? Bring them here!” he demanded.

Frell whispered into his father’s ear. The dwelf watched the King’s face change, an unmistakable flash of shock. The news was not good. Korrun glanced at Wendya and the wizard. As if reading his mind, Gralen stepped forward.

“If wheels are no use, wings will have to do,” he said boldly. “My kin can take the wagons and the oxen if the rest of you can find a way through?”

Korrun smiled. “He is right, Sire. If the fÿrrens can carry the heavier loads, we should be able to cross. I am a tracker and used to finding lost pathways. I’m sure we can find a way.”

“And if the horses are lost?”

“Then my kindred will have more burdens to bear,” replied Gralen simply. “A dworll is lighter than an ox!”

King Baillum managed a brief smile. “No obstacles too great? We shall see,” he said beckoning to Sedgewick above.

Sedgewick and the other dragons swooped down to carry the various wagons and carts, siege-rams and battle gear, too heavy for the marshes. The most careful dragons carried the nervous beasts, zebu, water buffalo and battle oxen, the eighteen leagues north, to dry land.

Following Korrun and Hallm, the army began their arduous crossing of the Shudras.

It was well into the night before the last exhausted traveller reached the delights of hard ground once more. They set up camp, the slimy mud and stench of the marshes clinging to each bedraggled member as an unwelcome reminder of the day. A deep unease fell on them.

Korrun sat quietly by one of the campfires, listening to Lord Tollam and Hallm speculate, in hushed tones on the battle to come.

“It could be a Hal’Torren’s choice all over again,” Hallm commented.

The other dworlls nodded grimly.

“Hal’Torren’s choice? What’s that?” Korrun asked.

Hallm shrugged. “It’s any situation where the outcome is pre- determined or unavoidable, and usually terrible.”

Lord Tollam poked the fire, his violet eyes reflecting the glimmer of the flames. “It is an old legend, but a true story. Hal’Torren was a nobleman, strong, incorruptible, a hero and leader to his people. He lived in Oralam, a beautiful city once. One day he returned home to find his family held hostage by his sworn enemy, M’Sorreck. Hal’Torren loved his family deeply, his wife, his three young children. He offered his life in exchange for theirs. But Morreck wanted something far more precious. He wanted to break Hal’Torren utterly.” Tollam sighed. “No matter what he did, how he bartered and begged, Hal’Torren was given a dreadful choice. Watch ten thousand of his own people perish, innocent children and families like his own, to save just one member of his family, or save his people and watch all his family die. Now Hal’Torren was a great leader, and he loved his people, but like any father, how could he sacrifice his own family?”

Korrun looked at the wise old dworll. “What did he choose?”

“To condemn ten thousand souls to a grisly death, to save one of his family.” He shook his head. “Then he had to make the worst choice of all…which member of his family to save. That is Hal’Torren’s choice. It is no choice at all. You are damned whichever path you take!”

“How did it end?” the dwelf asked quietly.

Lord Tollam sighed and glanced at his son as if thanking the gods that he never had to face such a choice. “Tragically of course…he chose to save his daughter, the youngest of his three children. They were then forced to watch his wife and two sons being murdered before them. Naturally, it traumatised the young girl. Only a few years later her father found her hanging from a willow tree. He promptly hung himself beside her. You see why Hal’Torren’s choice is impossible. Save one, sacrifice others, condemn yourself.”

“Morreck is a fengal beast, a monster!” Korrun said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, of the worst kind…” replied Tollam.

Hallm looked at his father for a moment then turned to the dwelf. “Have you ever faced a Hal’Torren’s choice?” he asked.

Korrun shifted uneasily, his face half hidden in shadow. “Once,” he whispered.

“What happened?” Hallm asked, trying to hide his surprise.

The dwelf stood up, his eyes lost in the fire. “I made the wrong choice,” he said simply, then turned and left.

*****

Fendellin and the Encircling Mountains

White Mountain cover

White Mountain full book jacket

Advertisements

New Horizons!

SAM_4591Okay, yesterday was my birthday and I’ve never been fond of birthdays, but the last few days have been glorious. All in all 2014 is shaping up to be an amazing year, despite having one hell of a bumpy start. As we pass into out of summer, with its sunshine drenched buzz of activity, and into the darker evenings of Autumn, it is a time of excitement for what is to come and a time to reflect for what has gone.

The beginning of the year couldn’t have been worse. After having spent most of 2013 very ill, I had no choice but to leave my teaching job of the last 12 years. I have always worked, even through college I worked (actually it was a pretty cool job working in a video shop, surrounded by great films all day!), so the prospect of suddenly being unemployed through no fault of my own, was very daunting and pretty scary.

Martin-Hobb-1024x457[1]We haven’t worked out all the kinks yet and things are still tighter than I’d like, certainly the prospect of spending £45 to go and see Robin Hobb and George RR Martin in London on the 19th August, plus travel and hotel expenses, was simply out of my price range.

However, worries over jobs, money and financial matters paled into insignificance when my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Lindsey J Parsons suddenly died on the 5th January 2014, only days after I had spoken to her to wish her a Happy New Year and talk excitedly about what 2014 would bring. Lindsey had so many plans for this coming year. She was going to write and release her third book, Shegal, the final book in her wonderful Return of the Effra trilogy. She and I were planning to go off to Las Vegas together, to a writing convention there. That’s where I would have been this summer if things had turned out differently.

Lindsey’s passing was a dreadful shock to all who knew and loved her, and the sadness of her passing has haunted all of us this year. I have always been an insomniac and so, in the wee small hours of the night when I used to chat to Lindsey til 2 or 3am, I miss her the most.

But her tragic death also did something else. It was a tannoy (loud speaker to my US friends) to the rest of us, that none of us know how long we have on this planet, none of us know which breath will be out last, and so the imperative is upon us to STOP WASTING TIME!!!!

It was then, that I decided to get on with the rest of my life. Put my dreadful experiences of 2013 behind me, not just my illness and having to leave my job, but also some thoroughly rotten experiences with my ex-publishers (who shall remain nameless), but who almost put me off writing anything ever again. Once bitten by a shark, you are very wary to dip your toes in the water again! I won’t spend anymore time or energy on them, as quite frankly they’re not worth it.

I also decided to be more proactive. There has been one really huge accomplishment in my life that I have wanted, really since I turned 30, some ten years ago now, and I am eventually doing something about it. This time next year, I hope to share a very different life story with you.

Another part of being pro-active, was deciding not to be ruled over by fear. I had been paralysed by fear pretty much all of last year. Fear that I would never recover and get better, fear that my goals were simply not achievable, fear of losing my job, of losing my way. One of my fears was that I would never be able to write again.

I’m not talking about the commonal garden variety ‘writer’s block’ which plagues many authors, I’m talking about total physical and mental incapacity! Part of my vestibular illness, apart from the migraines, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and head pain, was short term memory problems and a complete inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. My brain simply couldn’t cope with it. It took me days to write a simple letter, because I couldn’t concentrate for longer than 3 or 4 minutes, and the mental exertion and sheer exhaustion it caused, would flare up my symptoms again.

I’d try reading or writing and I’d be staring at a page of text like a zombie for 40mins, my mind simply ‘zoned’ out. Apparently this was very common with severe vestibular conditions, where the concentration needed to read and write was tantamount to asking a person on crutches to climb a mountain! So the whole of last year, I was crippled by thoughts that I’d never be able to climb back on that horse again and write. That my first novel would be my last!

But, after Lindsey, I decided to stop letting that fear rule me. I WOULD write again, and now, I AM!

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]A HUGE part of that, has been the incredible support I have received from family and friends. A massive shout out to all my Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) brothers and sisters – without you guys, I’d be a sad little shadow of myself and certainly wouldn’t be sat here writing this. smiling-cat[1]

Another incredible turn of fate and good fortune, was finding the most amazing new publishers who were willing to take a chance on me and wanted to publish my first novel, despite it having been published (badly) before.

Again, because of dear Lindsey, I was pro-active and approached this very cool publishing house. To be honest, I felt it was a long-shot and didn’t hold much hope, but hell it was worth a go! I loved the books they produced, how friendly, approachable, honest and professional they were and how they put authors first (the total opposite of the experiences I had had before!).

grimbold-182x300[1]To my utter delight, I signed with them in June! I cannot tell you just what that has meant to me – to have my cherished work taken on and see new life breathed into it (and new life breathed into me!), by unbelievably passionate people who love books and prize quality above everything…wow! I owe Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris of Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink, more than I’ll ever be able to express in words…thank you, thank you, thank you! 1782001_779354595426279_1544248234_n[1]

 

2014 is turning out to be utterly AWESOME year after all! White Mountain – Book 1 of the Darkling Chronicles will be published this Autumn with a brilliant new cover and short stories, and I am eventually writing again!!!!

 

ea1ab-10582915_874217609273310_7073274247011447578_o5b15dSo, this week I celebrate not only my birthday, but a year full of promise and opportunities. At the beginning of August it was also the 5th Anniversary of getting my beautiful boys. 5 years ago, two gorgeous white wolves came into my life and it has never been the same since! Happy times and clear skies ahead! 😀 xxxx

004 (2)

 ea1ab-10582915_874217609273310_7073274247011447578_o5b15d

Are you supported? Friendship and passing 27,000 hits!

cat-friendship[1]

Okay, this is not a blog post about supportive bras (sorry guys!), but it is about friendship and support. Do you have people who support you or leave you swinging in the wind?

I am absolutely THRILLED that my tiny little blog has now passed 27,000 visitors and want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have supported this blog, whether you are a one-off fly-by visitor or a regular ‘pull up a chair and chillax’ visitor. You guys are utterly AMAZEBALLS!!!! 😀 xxx

friendship-73a[1]

Well, although this is a time of great changes and sparkly new horizons, all of them positive – like the brand new job and scary new career I’ve just embarked on after having been a full-time teacher for the last 16 yrs; I admit that this post is a bit of a ‘moan-fest’, something I don’t do very often. But I’m eventually venting about something that has bugged the crap out of me for the last two years.

It’s funny, I was recently reading a very heartfelt and extraordinary post by brilliant fantasy writer, Tricia Drammeh, all about how important it is to be supported by family and friends. The post really struck a chord with me, as it did for so many other writers: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/2014/05/21/when-your-family-doesnt-support-your-writing/ Please check out the rest of Tricia’s wonderful blog: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/

Although writing can be exhilarating, life-changing, life-affirming and just a wonderfully fulfilling creative ride…it can also be incredibly isolating, lonely, frustrating, un-rewarding, demoralising and difficult. That rollercoaster journey of success, failure, hopes and dreams, both realised or crushed, is hard enough as it is, but the journey becomes all the more difficult if you are embarking on your creative path without the support of nearest and dearest.

friendship-quotes-24[1]

Now, I count myself as being very lucky, as my family even including Aunts and Uncles, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my writing journey. But, like many other writers,  I too have experienced the opposite. Despite the majority of my friends being amazingly supportive, more than I could ever have hoped for, strangely enough my oldest ‘best friend’ of the last 20 yrs+ has been pretty dreadful.

Daft I know, but it has not only plagued me, but deeply hurt and upset me. I can openly say her name, Joanna, why? Because I know that she will never ever read this. She knows nothing of my writing life and doesn’t care. She doesn’t know that I have a blog, let alone the fact that my little blog has attracted over 27,000 visitors since I started it in Jan 2012. She doesn’t know that I’m on Facebook at all, have a FB book page with over 1,000 likes, have countless followers on Pinterest, set up my own Illustration business, recently had a short story published in a wonderful anthology, Felinity by Grimbold Books41wpCDigqbL[1]She was vaguely aware (though no doubt she has forgotten) that I did a very successful Waterstone’s book signing tour in 2012, but wouldn’t know what towns and cities I visited and certainly didn’t bother attending the one just down the road from where she lives.

Again, Tricia Drammeh’s post really resonated with me. For the last 20+yrs I have supported Jo through thick and thin, for every success, every failure, every relationship, every drama – no matter how big or miniscule. I send cards to congratulate, commiserate or just to buck her up and say I’m thinking of her, even cards when she moves from one rented property in her town, to another just down the road. She is an only child, which in itself shouldn’t mean anything, except to say that in her case she is selfish and totally self-obsessed and has always been used to being the centre of attention and having people ‘do for her’. Now, the silly thing is, I never minded playing second fiddle, being the ‘listening ear’, the sympathetic shoulder, the invisible person who always supports her. I didn’t mind the fact that our friendship was always so one-sided, all about her, never about me. BUT, in 2012 something big happened in my life, the biggest thing that had ever happened to me – my first novel was published.

At the time I tried not to be hurt when I received congratulations cards and even flowers from ALL of my friends, even work colleagues and people I didn’t know well, everyone I knew EXCEPT from her. My novel was available for a limited time to pre-order, and by doing so the people who pre-ordered could have their name printed inside the book. Again, all my friends raced to purchase their pre-ordered copy, but Jo? Despite months of gentle hinting, she didn’t, eventually, with only days to spare, I plucked up the courage to be more assertive and asked her (knowing the answer), if she had bought a copy yet as the deadline was coming up. I had to literally twist her arm. Whereas my close mate, Heather (totally lovely), was the first to buy a copy, Jo was the absolute last. I couldn’t believe how totally and blatantly uninterested and unsupportive she was being, just because for once this was something to do with me and not her. Months continued like this, all my friends asking about the upcoming publication date, wanting to read excerpts, wanting to be involved in any way they could, but Jo, nothing. She never asked questions, never brought it up, it was like the 500 pound elephant in the room, all conversations reverted to the usual drone about her love life, wanting to lose weight, talking about food and Tesco’s or her long list of imagined ills and troubles – i.e. all about her as usual.

I admit, for the first time ever, my rose-tinted glasses that had been superglued to my head, actually came off and I saw clearly how completely skewed our relationship had become.

Friendship-Day-Gifts-Ideas-2012[1]

I had visited her down in Devon in the summer of 2012, which was once again a visit ‘all about Jo’ and been shocked and embarrassed when we visited her other friend (who she see’s every few days) and Jo quickly blurted out in the car on the way there that her friend knew nothing about my book so I’d have to tell her. It just re-affirmed how unimportant it was and I was. Bear in mind too, that her ‘friend’ had dabbled in writing for years and has always been a jealous sort, so you can imagine how she reacted to the news. This, btw, was after Jo had admitted to me that she gave her copy of my book away to some guy in Totnes.

Publication day came and went and nothing, no congratulations, no acknowledgement even. Again, in very rare excerpts, I had tried talking about my writing and my new novel and told her I was having a big book launch at Cirencester. I knew she had no dates that clashed with it, but I also knew, from her total silence on the subject, that she had no intention of coming. She would rather spend the weekend with her bf of the time than support her best mate.

192783-301027-34[1]

The day of the book launch came and like a fool I was still hoping to see her walk through the door, of course she didn’t. Instead, ALL my family and friends came ‘en mass’, dear Heather travelled nearly two hours with her two little babies to attend, my dear dear Lindsey (who I had never met at that time) travelled for two hours to support, my wonderful close mate, Will Macmillan Jones travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales to be there, everyone EXCEPT for Jo. The book launch was a huge success and sold out in just over an hour, but still, all I could think about was Jo.

And so it continued.

Then I got a true glimpse into why Jo was behaving the way she was. She visited my place with her chain-smoking obnoxious bf at the time. We went for lunch and during lunch I was shocked to have this bf ask me about my book, something Jo never did. I soon understood why. During the lunch I was then subjected to a full-on interrogation. The bf asked me a flurry of aggressive questions about my book, I tried to ignore his condescending tone. As soon as I tried to answer, he just interrupted me with comments like, “Humph, sounds like every other book I’ve read”, “Sounds just like Harry Potter” (which I have NEVER read and don’t personally like) “But what exactly makes it different?”, “You haven’t answered my question!”, “Who did you get your ideas from?” etc., etc. I was being bombarded, I looked across at Jo who not only hadn’t come to my rescue and told her offish bf to BACK THE F**K OFF, but was sitting there, arms folded, totally silent and with the most awful smug expression on her face. Cheshire cat comes to mind. 😦 grinning-chesire-cat[1]

It suddenly dawned on me…these disparaging remarks, the belittling, the arrogance, the condescending attitude, all of it could only have come from Jo. Those were her words spoken through him.

It was finally clear where her lack of support came from, she thought I was an idiot, an immature fool following childish dreams. Who the hell did I think I was – pretending to be a writer? Did I think I was going to be the next big thing? Delusions of grandeur or what? The feeling of disdain, palpable embarrassment towards me, her sad little friend deluding herself into thinking she had achieved something, that I was ‘an author’. I struggled through the lunch, said my courteous goodbyes and burst into tears the moment they left. I felt utterly crushed. 😦

Ever since then, even though her nasty bf then dumped her a few months later, I swore I’d never talk to her about my writing/books again, and I haven’t. It hasn’t been hard as she isn’t interested and never asks. So, we carry on, me going through the motions of a friendship that now seems so hollow. More Jo dramas to support, more imagined problems, exaggerated health issues (which magically only arose when I became ill last year), all the things that still keep Jo at the centre, where she likes to be. Meanwhile and by stark contrast, my real friends are exactly that, REAL. We support each other and can talk to each other about anything. And again, because I know Jo isn’t interested in anything other than herself, I’ve stopped talking to her about anything important to me, about my new job, my plans for the future, my family, any of it. Our last conversation was, as usual, all about her, her ‘bad back’, her problems, etc., etc.

3b61948569022d0457a6b60ad7d39393[1]Yes, I know I should have the guts to simply be honest and have it out with her, but frankly I’ve been worn down by it all. I have great friends around me, I’ve just eventually realised, despite the length of our friendship, that Jo isn’t one of them. 😦

So ‘moan-fest’ over, promise.

How do YOU deal with disappointment and lack of support from those you call friends? How do you move forward?

friendship[1]

 

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR LISTENING TO THIS ‘LETTER TO JO’. 😀 xxxx

730 days…Tempus Fugit!

master-class-maya-angelou-3-600x411[1]

It’s a strange time. Tomorrow I go to the funeral of my dear friend, Lindsey J Parsons, who tragically passed away earlier in the month. To say her passing was sudden and shocking, would be a huge understatement. At times like these, it’s hard not to be reflective. It’s strange and unsettling, but somehow death has a way of magnifying life and making you realise what is important. c33c5842e5e71ebeff5fc9fcb5a97b5f[1]

Tempus fugit, how time flies! Don’t waste a moment of it.

Talking of passing time, on Sunday it was the 2nd Anniversary of my little blog. 26th January 2012 I plunged head long into the daunting waters of blog writing.

file000174095712

A hell of a lot has happened in those 2 years.

I’d love to think that I have learnt 730 new skills, grown 730 days wiser, or happier. My life has undoubtedly moved on and changed in that time, which is both good and bad. I have gained wonderful new friends and tragically, lost one dear dear friend.

9979197_orig[1]

I have known tremendous success and faced failure up close. Achieved my dreams, and seen them fly away. Been on the highest mountain, the highest pinnacle and found myself completely lost and wandering the wastelands with no cause or direction.

I have battled ill-health and bullies, won and lost, fought for justice and been swamped in confusion. Certainly, it’s true to say that my life has never followed a conventional path, but these past 2 years, have certainly seen it meander into some very strange waters!

maya-angelou-quote[1]Now, believe me, I am as big a coward as they come. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but in my life I have been treated very badly but never seemed to have the courage to face my attackers and tell them what I think. But, somehow, my celtic courage seems at last to be awakening… 167125836141739827W2MFYYTkc[1]

I have been able to break free from a very bad situation where my creativity was being attacked by what I can only describe as a couple of decidedly unstable, unprofessional and wholly nasty little bullies, I won’t name them, frankly I don’t need to. But I feel so immensely relieved to be free of them and disassociated from their poor standards.

I have also somehow found the courage and strength to change my circumstances, to give up a long-term and very stable career to jump into the void and try something new. Will I land on my feet? Only time will tell. Do I miss my old job? Honestly…no. Illness forced me to leave, but in hindsight it may have been a blessing. I loved it for a long time, and still love the teaching side of things and working with children which is always memorable and life affirming, but…it was time to move on. I shall miss my good friends and will keep in touch with them, but I shan’t miss ‘It’.

images279JVYNQ

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the life lessons and wisdom of Maya Angelou, one of my personal heroes.

So…what lessons and wisdom, if any, have I learnt that I could pass on and share with you lovely people?

  • Don’t be afraid – afraid of change, afraid of changing. Maya Angelou, an amazing writer and a personal hero of mine, said in her book, ‘Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now’, that if you don’t like a situation, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Seemingly simplistic advice but full of meaning. imagesGZD6YSB7
  • Take risks – You never know, it may fail but it may work! What have you really got to lose?
  • Life is too damn short – If you’re not living it…then what the hell are you waiting for? Believe me, I’ve wasted time like it’s an Olympic Sport and I’ve been going for gold. Chase your dreams. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come… None of us know how much time we have on this Earth, so you owe it to yourself to make the most of it.
  • Rise above it – You can’t always avoid what I call ‘toxic’ people, recklessly unkind, brutish, deceitful or selfish individuals but you CAN choose to rise above them. Always strive to do the right thing by your own moral compass, don’t be sucked into negative thoughts. Share the love. Life is too short to spend it in negative situations or with negative people, break free, be free!
  • Relish the moment – Try not to take anything for granted. Relish the things and people who make you happy. That’s what life is about.
  • Health is everything – An obvious bit of advice but so so important. Without your health, life is meaningless. This last year has taught me that. Illness prevents you from functioning, limits your freedom and enjoyment of life. So do what you can to look after your health. Avoid stress where you can and stressful people. Be kind to yourself.

I know all this sounds like obvious cheesy advice, but a cliché is a cliché precisely because it’s true.

827e711c41030a7f023505.L._V144210053_SY470_[1]

With the sudden and shocking passing of my dear friend, Lindsey J Parsons, at such a tragically young age, a lot of things suddenly became crystallised.

There is NO time to waste.

imagesYTIE3WWFEmbrace life, in whatever way that means to you. No frivolous New Year resolutions that get instantly broken. This is life stuff – the stuff of life! Promise yourself, that this year you will do what it takes to be happier and more fulfilled than the last year. If you continue to do that every year onward, think what a happier person you’ll be.

I’ve taken some huge steps already, but I intend to continue this year and take as many challenges, opportunities and chances as I can.

I-can-be-changed-by[1]

So…there you go.

730 days have given me purpose and direction. But most of all, I’ve really, finally, understood what is important in life and what is not. quote-each-of-us-has-the-right-and-the-responsibility-to-assess-the-roads-which-lie-ahead-and-if-the-maya-angelou-323351[1]

Would you rather be richer or happier? You know the answer. Good luck my friends, I hope you all find your paths and we wander through journeys with bigger smiles than before.

Love Sophie 😀 xxxxxxxx

maya-angelou-quote-favethingcom-1386278548gk84n[1]

003

😀 xxx

Farewell my Dragon Friend, Lindsey J Parsons.

9979197_orig[1]

*deep sigh*

This is the hardest blog post I have ever had to write, and it breaks my heart in the writing of it. Two days ago, I heard the shocking news that one of my dearest friends, Lindsey J Parsons, had suddenly and tragically passed away.262888_2238622135240_4045698_n[1]

Shocking is the word…at a time when words seem to fail. I simply cannot believe it and I cannot understand it.

Lindsey was not just one of my closest internet friends, she was one of my closest real friends. We talked and laughed almost every day, messaging each other back and forth like a couple of idiots, just being daft on the internet. http://lindseyjparsons.com/

She was one of the first people I’d share my woes with. One of the few truly wonderful people on this planet.

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]I met Lindsey back in 2010, along with my other AWB friends (Alliance of Worldbuilders) – a group of geeky fantasy and sci-fi writers and the largest group/thread on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy. We immediately clicked. Not only were we fantasy writers with a passion for the fantasy genre, we both obsessively and childishly adored dragons! It was true to say that neither of us ever grew up, and I loved that free spirit and lack of cynicism in Lindsey. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was always, ALWAYS, helpful, supportive, positive and encouraging of fellow writers. There was no ego with Lindsey. She shared openly and gave freely of her time and her talents.

432075_3446252725250_133180967_n[1]Our mutual love of dragons was clearly evident in our dragon pictures and internet avatars, though Lindsey’s dragon passion was even greater than mine, with an impressive collection of dragon statues and mementos at her home and a fantastic stone dragon on her roof! 425036_3160213334444_1952181019_n[1]

Lindsey soon became the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, keeping the thread fresh, funny and going when many of us (especially myself) were less than frequent in our attendance.

She was always on hand to share her experiences, share information, knowledge, advice and to encourage others at every opportunity.

Lindsey demonstrated that incredible support and friendship when on the 6th October 2012, she travelled all the way from her home to a small little bookshop in Cirencester, for the launch of my debut novel. All that way to support a fellow dragon friend, someone who at that point, she had never actually met before!

4994981[1]I knew instantly that it was her. The bookshop was very busy, packed in fact, the launch was a big success but was also all rather overwhelming. I didn’t know where to turn, between chatting to customers and children and signing books…all very surreal. Then, amongst the milling crowds, I saw this seemingly quiet and small dark-haired lady, a petite figure with an unmistakable twinkle in her eyes. She waited patiently while I ‘did my thing’ (whatever that was), but we both instantly shared that, “Wow! It’s you!” moment.

Lindsey being Lindsey, stayed for quite a few hours. After the event, Lindsey, myself and my very good mate, Will Macmillan Jones (also another great AWB pal), all went next-door for a coffee, cake and a natter. It was SO lovely to finally meet her face to face after nearly two years of internet friendship, emails, and messages etc. It felt so special, being there with my two close friends talking about writing, our plans for the future and each other’s books. Lindsey was so generous, so excited for me and for herself and her new life as a writer. She had such ambitions and dreams and it was wonderful listening to her and being a part of it all. 531086_373803919378597_1702802832_n[1]

More than that…Lindsey J Parsons WAS and IS a BRILLIANT writer! I’m a hard bugger to please, believe me. I’ve read so many awful books, badly written, boring, nonsensical, badly edited, trite, dull, clichéd etc. But with Lindsey it was easy and a sheer delight, because her books truly were and are wonderful!

She was a truly amazing writer. As a reader, I really am like Marmite, I either love something or I hate it, I can’t be indifferent or ambivalent. No sitting on fences here, that’s how you get splinters in your arse! 7908_475725272508236_169525754_n[1]

When I first picked up Lindsey’s debut novel, Vortex, Book 1 of her Return of the Effra series, I had my doubts. Afterall, I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. I love my fantasy epic and I guess, a little traditional. But WOW! The moment I started reading it, I was hooked. In fact the only other recent book which had me transfixed like that was Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Vortex really is that good. I’m a slow reader, by osmosis I think, but I read it in just two days, I simply couldn’t put the thing down. I then proceeded to re-read it several times after that, something I never do, unless it’s a really good book.

Vortex certainly deserves all of its many 5 star reviews and I was thrilled for Lindsey, that it was doing so well, and so proud of her. She wrote and produced that book on her own terms. She set up her own publishing company, AFS Publishing http://www.afspublishing.com/, and produced a book that had the quality look and feel of any mainstream publication and quite frankly, beat the pants off of many indie publishing houses. Her daughter’s boyfriend, Greg Barons, did the amazing covers, but the book was pure Lindsey. What a legacy! 544830_318401201571709_870759055_n[1]

She went on to write and publish her second novel in the Return of the Effra series, Wicked Game, which I have started to read and absolutely LOVE. Another 5 star book and another much deserved and roaring success for Lindsey. wicked-game-cover-1[2]

But as well as being a terrifically talented writer, Lindsey was also my good friend. A lot of our friendship also centred around the fact that we are both dreadful insomniacs. While all our other friends had gone to sleep, Lindsey and I were almost waking up! We’d speak nearly every day, but often, we’d be chatting til 2, 3 even 4am in the morning. Constantly messaging each other over how daft we were that we couldn’t sleep. But it was so lovely, knowing that when midnight struck and most of my friends had gone offline to bed, me & Linds were only just starting! There was a wonderful comradeship in that, in sharing our insomnia, our idiot ideas at 3am in the morning when both of us had to be up early the next day. Like me, Lindsey seemed to come alive at night, something about the witching hour that got our creative juices flowing. I cannot even begin to express how much I will miss that, how much I will miss her.

It’s fair to say, that I have been in a constant stream of tears these last two days, in fact, quite incapable of not crying. Last night was the worst, not having my friend to talk to through the night. But…this post isn’t about me, it’s about Lindsey and what an extraordinary person she was.

The terrible irony of all this, is that only a matter of weeks ago, Lindsey re-blogged my post about the ‘Passing of a Legend’, namely the death of Nelson Mandela, and then this happens. Lindsey J Parsons may not have been as well-known a figure as Nelson Mandela, but nonetheless, she shared many similarities with him. She was a truly kind and wonderful person, who always thought of others before herself, and she did, in so many ways, touch the lives of not just those around her, but everyone she came into contact with. THAT is a rare gift, but then Lindsey was a rare lady. 295755[1]

734419_10200817040058504_1555471576_n[1]She lived life to the fullest, something so many of us fail to do (myself included). Despite her small frame, she really did have the heart of a dragon – an adventurous and daring nature. She loved pushing herself, seeing what she could achieve and boy, didn’t she achieve a lot! She loved walking, nature, her doggies and horses, being on her farm, horse riding, including bareback riding and, like everything she did, she loved archery and was brilliant at it! She was part of a long bow archery club and competed to a high standard, even winning medals. I SO wish I had made it to her last archery competition in Cheltenham, where she proudly won the bronze medal. She’d certainly give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money! 1953998f444d2c9aaeece3dd3c2b8551[2]

Lindsey threw herself into everything she did. She was a vital and much-loved part of her rural community, even organising events like cinema night at the local village hall. Everyone who knew her loved her, how you could not?

198501_1004765129586_205_n[1]This was no ordinary woman. This was a cowboy boot wearing, dragon-loving, snow-loving, fantasy writing, archery medal winning, awesomely talented author and mother of three children! Apart from being a wonderful friend to me and so many others, Lindsey was also an amazing mum to her three gorgeous children, Cat, Amy-Jane and Tom, who must be utterly shattered by the shocking and sudden loss of their lovely mum. My thoughts and love go out to them and all of Lindsey’s family at this terrible terrible time. None of us can fathom what they must be going through. 😦

Another example of Lindsey’s incredible bravery and zest for life, was when last year she decided to go off to America by herself, to attend a Romance Writing Convention. I did want to join her, but couldn’t due to ill-health, but nonetheless, little Lindsey got on that plane and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas (or Las Vagas as she called it)! I would have pee’d in my pants, but Lindsey took it all in her stride and had a fabulous time! She sent pictures of herself, sitting like a pro at this enormous table in the convention hall, with all her books and booky swag around her. She’d organised everything, things she could take on the flight and things she had to get printed and shipped in the US. Then, she even attended the convention ball, where everyone dressed up, and Lindsey, of course, went in a stunning silver and blue dragon dress, complete with wing flaps!!!! What a girl! 1001089_10201621766816170_2138720117_n[1]

While she was over there, Lindsey also met up with another two AWB members and fellow fantasy friends, Susan and Richard Wentworth, who were thrilled to meet her.

Yes, Lindsey was truly a one-off. She was utterly fearless and had so much more to offer this world.

Over the Christmas just gone, we chatted about going to America together this year and we were both thrilled at the idea, excitedly talking about our plans for 2014. Lindsey wanted to show me the sights and I know we would have had a blast, two dragons together! She also had an Authorcon arranged up in Manchester with fellow AWB friends, Andrea Baker, Hazel Butler and Will Macmillan Jones, a great forum in which to launch her third novel in the Return of the Effra series, Shegal, due out this year. postcard-shegal[1]

Of course now…all those plans are gone, as is our beautiful Lindsey. The world really was her oyster and I truly believe she could have achieved anything she put her mind, heart and talents to.

We spoke on the net on New Year’s Day, wishing each other a wonderful 2014. Hours later that day, while walking, she felt very unwell. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed as having had a burst brain aneurism and was placed into a medical coma. She had an emergency operation which was thought to be successful, but deteriorated and passed away on Sunday 5th January, surrounded by her family.

Words really cannot express the horror and shock of what has happened, or the hole she has left behind for those who loved and cared about her. The random cruelty of nature, life, whatever you call it, is simply abominable and unfathomable. For someone so young and vital, with everything going for her and an incredible writing talent…goodness only knows what else she could have achieved if her life hadn’t been so tragically cut short.

Q1-me-in-cowboy-boots[1]For myself, I mourn the loss of a dear dear friend, my other dragon half, my insomniac confidant, my Lindsey. But for her family, they mourn an incredible sister and a wonderful wonderful mother. I am so SO sorry for their loss. My heart goes out to them.

Lindsey J Parsons, the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, the most talented, kindest and sweetest person I have ever known, who I am privileged to call my friend.

I will miss her every time it snows, every time I write, every time I can’t sleep, every time I have good news to share, or troubles, and every time I see a picture of a horse, a dragon, or a unicorn, I will think of Lindsey. 😦 1015fb6fa1b776958a172468aaf680ba[1]

I’m not a religious person, and I know my tears are inadequate, but I wish you a thousand thank you’s and blessings. If there is a heaven, I’m sure you are there with your cowboy boots on.

May dragon wings soar you to the stars, my friend, where I will see you again one day. All my love, Sophie xxxxxxx

Lindsey J Parsons

827e711c41030a7f023505.L._V144210053_SY470_[1]

R.I.P. xxxxxx

poster[1]

PLEASE support Lindsey and her family by buying these FANTASTIC books and helping Lindsey’s Legacy – getting her the recognition she deserves. http://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-J-Parsons/e/B008D7RXQ6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

7 days!!!!

Just one more week!

7 little days until my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is published and released to the world!!

A new epic fantasy for the 21st century.

Wizards, wargols, dworlls, dragons, fire wolves, an oracle, a witch and a changeling…

Amongst our modern world lies another, an archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. As dark demons awaken from our past, the last remaining wizards are being hunted and murdered by a changeling of terrifying strength. 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…

“An epic fantasy onion – multi-layered and prone to cause tears!”

Wow! All the years of writing, researching, editing and dreaming have all boiled down to this moment.

7 days…just 7 days…

😀

Olympic farewell! The cynic concedes…

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not exactly a sports fanatic, far from it. In fact I often joke that we have a non-sport zone in the house! But despite my cynicism and initial misgivings, especially after what I considered to be a very confusing and convoluted vision from Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, I have been utterly blown away by the Olympics!

Without meaning to, I have found myself on many an occasion watching completely spellbound by the rowing, sprinting, pentathlon, swimming and the cycling…wow…the cycling!

What has made the greatest impression, more than our incredible sporting achievements, which for such a small nation have been monumental – who would ever have guessed that our little isle would be third, beating mighty powerhouses like Russia, Korea and even our sporting rivals Australia in the medal haul! – but the greatest impression has been the sheer infectious optimism which has pored over our country, unifying all of us. The power of the human spirit, eh? A strange and wondrous thing…

So yes, I have thoroughly enjoyed these Olympics despite my jaded tendencies. The cheer of the crowds, don’t we do that well? I’ve often been to concerts in the past when the bands have declared that British audiences are the best for our sheer level of manic enthusiasm and the way we throw ourselves into the spectacle with wild abandon. No stiff upper lips here, just joy and full participation. Now, I’ve never been a flag waving nationalist, but I have felt myself brimming with national pride on many occasions over the course of these Games. Well done Team GB!!!

Somehow, despite the terrible economic situation, the wars, the strifes, the conflicts, the disappointments…we’ve all grown a little taller over these past few magical days. I guess that is what sport in the Olympic tradition really means, a bringing together of nations in peace, away from politics, religion and all the things that divide us. We are one nation, one people under the sun.

And so, after sixteen days of optimism, national pride and sporting excellence we bid a sad farewell to the London 2012 Olympics, which should really be renamed the Britain 2012 Olympics, as every city, town and community has been involved or touched in some way by these Games.

Farewell and thank you for a wonderful sixteen days of drama, achievement, laughter and tears and yes, I must say…amazing sport!

😀 xx