Meeting Deadlines – Remember to Breathe!

It’s Easter today – Happy Easter everyone! ūüėÄ

As I sit trying to recover from a very scary asthma attack I had at 4am, when I woke up suddenly unable to breathe, it’s forced me to be reflective on the last few weeks.

It was a manic March and so far April has been equally busy. Having kept up with my daily art challenge – The Artmaniac Challenge, for the whole of Jan and Feb, I fell off the art wagon in March, although ironically Sophie E Tallis Illustrations¬†went from strength to strength – most notably being taken on by HarperCollins in February as one of their illustrators! ūüėÄ

This manicness started with a last minute¬†dash to get a dark fantasy short story (Cern) finished¬†for its anthology (Underskinn)¬†deadline of Feb 28th and continued when I had the daft last minute idea of painting a self-portrait to enter the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 (deadline March 3rd)! I blame the inspiration of a few close friends (and cake nutters) for this and their unbridled passion and enthusiasm¬†for just ‘going for it’, taking chances, pushing boundaries, going outside of your comfort zone – “hell why not?”.

I made the deadlines on both with literally 1 minute to spare, yes 1 minute! My short story¬†has been accepted (as far as I know) but in the end my portrait wasn’t shortlisted. But I must say I have absolutely¬†NO regrets, other than starting the painting the day before so it wasn’t finished properly! ūüėÄ

That manic flourish seemed to encapsulate March as I started my next commission, a painting for a New York client and his literary group – for it to adorn the front cover of their literary journal/magazine and website. Seemed like a great opportunity to once again do something different and widen my skill set and reputation for quality original art.

He was a slightly unusual client in that he clearly had never commissioned any artwork before and needed everything to be explained several times. But I’m very patient¬†and being¬†a perfectionist by nature¬†I always want all my clients to be 110% happy and so far they all have been. Some of that perfectionism isn’t just in the standard of the art I produce but in making sure that each client is involved in the whole creative process every step of the way. By doing that, not only are you including the client in the work and all decision making but it becomes a great creative partnership and ensures that you deliver EXACTLY what they want. ūüėÄ

Unfortunately¬†despite going through ‘the process’ with him several times to ensure he understood exactly how¬†each stage¬†works and what to expect, there were often occasions where he seemed to get confused – an example being when I sent him the first inked up artwork and he asked where the colours were even though I had explained that I couldn’t move onto the final painting stage¬†until he was 100% happy with the inked up work!

I chalked it up to a difference in culture and language causing a few blips in communication. Mmmm, I should have listened to my spidey senses.

I had purposely set aside the whole of March for his artwork commission, having at his behest moved other projects to the side (including my own picture book that I have two agents waiting to see. So I won’t be doing that again!). Throughout the entire month he kept asking me when he could see the full colour version, even at the beginning when I was only at the graphite drawing stage.

The day of the deadline came, 31st March, as always I delivered the artwork on the deadline as agreed. That’s when it quickly appeared that there was something rotten in Denmark.

I sent the finished artwork to him with a watermark, as agreed, yet he didn’t even acknowledge it and instead kept asking for the finished work without watermark. A flurry of increasingly weird and then aggressive emails came, demanding the artwork without watermark as I kept explaining that he would get it as agreed the moment payment had been made. I’d spent a whole month working my ass off on this, doing exhaustive research, sending copious sketches, colour samples, drawings, asking 101 questions, etc., just to be screwed at the end by either an incompetent idiot or a crook. I couldn’t believe it. ūüė¶

Friday rolled into Saturday when he then switched tack and suddenly said he didn’t like the artwork. I was bereft, utterly exhausted, stressed and upset that I’d worked so hard, which he knew, had kept giving him the artwork at every stage and given him every opportunity for the work to be amended/changed etc. as required¬†yet he had said nothing until after the deadline. It seemed yet another ploy to get the artwork without watermark so he could use it without paying and shaft me in the process – commission my services, time and artwork for free.

Finally I sent an email threatening¬†legal action. To be honest¬†I’d given up hope of ever being paid by this idiot. What made¬†the situation¬†worse was wasting a whole month of my precious time when I could have been doing other projects. In fact half way through March I had received another email from Terence the Head of Fiction Art at HarperCollins asking if I could do another fantasy map commission (for the lovely Anna Stephens and her highly anticipated grimdark debut, Godblind,¬†published with HC in June 2017). The problem was that this one had a tight deadline.

Because of my professionalism I said I was already committed to another client so couldn’t start the HarperCollins one until after the NY commission, April 1st earliest. Boy, April 1st really ended up being¬†a joke on me! ūüė¶

I was so stressed out by it and upset that of course it made me ill. I didn’t sleep for two nights and was vomiting profusely with all my usual vertigo and migraine symptoms. But I had no time to be ill, I had the HC commission to do so I plunged into it, using it as a great distraction from being screwed over. It was also lovely working with Anna Stephens and Terence from HC, two thoroughly lovely and decent people, the complete opposite to the client I had just had.

The week passed with me stressed out of my gourd until the NY git, under the threat of legal action and realising that he wasn’t going to get any artwork from me for free, finally paid up! OMG!!! :O

To be honest, I was totally shocked, I still am, because of the awful way he was behaving I had completely written off ever being paid by him.

But because of his actions, it also meant that I was having to work 12/13 hour days to try and get the HarperCollins commission finished by the deadline of 14th April.

I managed it, just, and I’m really proud of the final artwork. As always I gave it my all and it does look great. Most importantly Anna and Terence love it. Phew! ūüôā

But of course, all of this has taken a toll – hence my asthma attack last night. ūüė¶

So what have I learned from all this madness?

Sadly, that I now won’t take on any¬†new commissions from¬†individuals I don’t know, it’s just too risky.¬†From now on¬†I’ll stick to HarperCollins commissions only¬†and indie authors I know…at the end of the day life is tough enough without dealing with unscrupulous people and we all need to make a living and protect ourselves especially in the highly changeable creative arts (writing, artwork, acting, singing etc.).

So folks, whatever field you work in/make a living from, PLEASE make sure you protect yourself, your work, your skills, your time and your health!

Hopefully once my lungs start working again properly, I shall return to my picture book project which I have to get ready for the (hopefully still interested) agents who are awaiting it at the end of this month – in only 2 weeks time!

Wish me luck folks! ūüėÄ xxxx

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2016 – The Year of the 4 B’s – Bowie, Brexit, Broken Friendships and Bigotry

It’s¬†2017, thank the gods!¬†Like many people around the world, I¬†was very keen to welcome 2017 and see the back of 2016, a bloody awful year. ūüė¶

This year has seen the last vestiges of any innocence die a death, of what remained of life’s rosy tints fade to a newer, harsher reality of what the world is really like rather than what we’d like it to be or thought it was. I’ve always teetered between being daftly optimistic on life or¬†darkly¬†pessimistic, this year has definitely brought out the latter.

That’s the reason I have written this very long post – to cathartically and finally put 2016 and all its negativity behind me, so I can start the new year afresh. To¬†move on, live, love and find the beauty in life again.

Warning: If you’re feeling low at all, just skip on down to the positive stuff at the bottom! ūüėÄ

bowie_on_tour[1]The year started terribly, the death of one of my all time heroes who I affectionately described¬†when I was¬†a 6 year old dressing up like him, as¬†my ‘space pirate’, yes, the death of David Bowie hit a lot of people hard. He was this insanely exotic and magical figure, my space pirate, then the¬†Goblin King then as a teenager, he was a refuge, an outsider¬†just like me, someone who didn’t fit in. He looked different and felt different and celebrated that diversity rather than trying to adhere to other’s rules. As a teenager I¬†withdrew from friends, from everyone, from life, the weight of dealing with a family imploding¬†in on itself, was too much to bear,¬†an ultra violent alcoholic and abusive father who was determined to destroy his family and tear his children down. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t worrying about make-up, exams¬†and boyfriends, I was worrying about what lies to tell my friends when they asked why the police were around our place again, why we were seen being chased down the road in bare feet and¬†our bedclothes as he wielded a knife, an axe, a broken bottle. I was worried about being killed, throat slit or head caved in as he threatened¬†or having my mum killed, yet another dreadful statistic of domestic violence. So yes, I sought refuge in fantasy fiction, in writing and drawing¬†and my beloved Bowie, the ultimate outsider.

After Bowie passed, the year saw more of our heroes fall, one after the other, unrelentingly so, most recently Carrie Fisher our beloved Princess Leia and her mother just the day after.

5dea49e85d1672067a19ae1306b8ba353e1eac91be17d09a3ee9a50c3fa7db8d1I admit my mental health has not been great this year. I’ve battled with extreme depression on and off for most of 2016, swinging from manically happy to manically low, and I’m sure this has skewed many things and heightened my reactions to things. The thing about depression is that you can be surrounded by friends yet feel utterly isolated and alone. A couple of times this year things have been very bleak indeed and I’ve teetered on the edge. I’m not excusing myself, even in my blacker moments I’ve never attacked those I love or anyone. But I know I’ve been incredibly angry this year, not like me at all, and the whole Brexit debacle has definitely played a huge role in that.

In February, I was driving to work when a woman smashed into my car ploughing¬†it off the road and writing it off in the process. I was gutted, out of pocket and in pain. As anyone knows who is involved in an accident even a clear cut case like mine where the other party admitted culpability, it drags on for months! ūüė¶ Crash

The year wore on and with it my physical health continued to dip, several trips to the doctors, a couple of collapses¬†and a couple of low key hospital visits¬†together with a shed load of meds later.¬†It’s a drag but it’s not life threatening, pain is something you learn to deal with, its¬†just when the vertigo and vomiting kicks in that you feel like an invalid as you truly can’t¬†walk or even stand and can¬†do nothing but crawl on all fours like a howling toddler. Sigh. But, I know people have it far worse, so I’m grateful for the health that I do have.

The war in Syria continued to escalate, the sheer cost of human suffering is almost unfathomable and yet the West seems utterly unable to help the innocent who are paying the cost with their lives. The world is a very scary place right now. ūüė¶

51s1l6rh6cl-_sx311_bo1204203200_1In April came a wonderful highlight, the launch in Bristol for the awesomely awesome anthology, Fight Like A Girl (a strangely prophetic title given how the year turned out!). Wow, what a wonderful day! Martial arts, gritty readings, a panel and a mass signing, it was like a glorious mini-con and I eventually got to meet fellow AWB matey, the lovely AFE Smith who had travelled all the way to Bristol to support the launch. It was lovely meeting her after nearly 6 years of knowing her! Thank you to BristolCon, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke and the amazing Sammy HK Smith for everything, I do feel very blessed to have¬†you all¬†in my life. Love to you all. ‚̧

Then we had the toxicity of Brexit. OMG, what can I say?

First, lovely Jo Cox, an amazing¬†Labour MP, thoroughly decent human being and mother to two young children, was brutally murdered by a fascist right wing nut. She was a staunch supporter of the Pro-Remain side along with the rest of her party, leader and the vast majority of left wingers and Labour party supporters. She died for what she believed in, an inclusive, forward thinking and compassionate country, not an inward looking, anti-immigrant¬†island of ‘them and us’.¬†¬†It was an utterly brutal and horrific attack. jo-cox-labour-mp1

Did it change the outcome of the Brexit Referendum? No, not one jot.

13510824_10153736311815840_6984061545886519550_n1Myself, along with 16 million other people, the 48% of people in Britain who rejected the right wing rhetoric, the xenophobia, narrow mindness, racism, bigotry and poison spouted during the ‘campaign’, not to mention the endless fear mongering and lies (¬£350 million going to the NHS eh? Uh, no), truly believed that we lived in a better country than we do. We were proved wrong. I’ve never been so sad and so ashamed of my country. ūüė¶

Massive divisions opened up, and yes, there was mud slinging on both sides. No-one escaped Brexit untouched and unsullied. But what was shocking to me was how intelligence was suddenly vilified, experts in fiscal studies, economics, trade, heads of business, the IMF, corporate CEO’s, scientists, academics, all¬†of them were¬†ignored while ignorance itself and mistruths were applauded, the ‘now we have our country back’ brigade were out in force.

Brexit was utterly toxic, divisive and caused deep rifts in families, friendships and communities up and down the country, rifts that still remain today. lr-by-party1

On a personal level, which I admit has really shaken me, it also¬†heralded the end of¬†a close friendship I had for nearly 5 years. I won’t mention his name, I’m not into ‘outing people’, it’s unfair and unnecessary so most of you will have no clue who I’m talking about, only a very small handful will know and they know anyway.

It was a strange friendship, granted, but a good one I thought. Despite often telling me that we were basically the same age (thanks for that), there¬†was actually 18 years between us, he is nearer to my Mum’s age than mine. Age never mattered to me though, anyone who writes fantasy tends to be young in themselves regardless of the passing of time, but in this case it seemed to play a part. As with much of the country, we fell into the age demographics of Brexit. He was¬†a vehement Pro-Leaver/Brexiteer as most of his ‘baby boomer’ generation were (the 60yr olds +, the ones who benefitted from free education, early retirement, golden handshakes, low cost housing, plentiful jobs etc., opportunities the younger generations could only dream of) and I was a staunch Pro-Remainer along with most people in their¬†40’s and younger (many of them unable to get on the housing ladder and crippled by huge debts). Of course there are exceptions, my mum and her friends in their early 70’s were all left wingers and Pro-Remainers and a percentage of younger people also voted to Leave, but generally the vote was pretty clear along age, political¬†and educational lines.image1

 

13498097_1209717079039636_4890768423205541922_o1Running up to the Referendum, for weeks we had had awkward conversations on FB, especially privately. He’s a very forceful personality and was actively interjecting his opinions all over FB most notably and deliberately on Pro-Remain posts, to such a degree that a mutual friend threatened to defriend and even block him! It didn’t seem to diminish his fervour, in fact he seemed to actively enjoy the arguments as if it were mere banter. I hated it. I admit I was very fervent myself, very angry, but unlike him I was ONLY commenting on my fellow pro-Remainers posts, a mutual commiserating and supporting of each other during a traumatic time. I’d no sooner start trolling Pro-Brexit posts than fly to the moon!¬†Suffice to say, he was rubbing quite a few people up the wrong way and was either blissfully¬†oblivious or found it a strange ego-boost in some way. I can’t fathom that kind of thinking to be honest, I hate confrontations, I’ve had a lifetime of them and they make me ill,¬†but then I don’t have¬†his unrelenting self-confidence.

With each new comment¬†I became more shocked at how entrenched he was, which of course, only made me equally intractable, that’s how arguments escalate, like sides in a war. brexit-shorthand-charts-1_11

Things came to a head when, after he had pushed me to the point of breaking, ignoring my repeated pleas to him not to discuss politics¬†(he’s one of those characters that think of themselves as being very sensitive to others when in reality they are utterly clueless and just bulldoze over people) I had asked him to back off, stating that I would not discuss politics with him, that I would walk away every time he commented on something. Fine.

Then came the vote itself. Despite feeling awful at the outcome, he, on the winning side, still continued to blissfully push his opinions on everyone, cheerily telling Remainers who were in shock, dismay and were mourning the result, that things would be rosy and fine, that their genuine fears were wrong РNOT the thing to do! Again, a mutual friend had to forcibly tell him to BACK OFF. Despite all this, I private messaged him offering the olive branch, trying to reconnect with him and explain why I had asked him to back off and had been so emotional.

What did he do? He verbally attacked me. I never knew he had a nasty side, I do now. Among other things, he accused me of calling him a racist, something he knows damn well I never said and never would. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I knew full well his reasons for voting the way he did, he saw the EU as some all¬†evil Empire, it had nothing to do with immigration. I was deeply hurt, outraged, bloody furious, how dare he? After all the crap I’ve put up with from him, the bullshit, the exaggerations, the lies, the ulterior motives. I’d never blamed him for¬†repeatedly recommending me to join our old awful ex-publishers, for pushing them so hard, it was my mistake not his, I had signed with them without checking them out first because I had trusted the opinions of him, my friend. He’d later admitted that he wanted as many people to join them as possible to make them successful and help his own books. The experience scarred me more than I can say and almost stopped me from ever writing again, but I never once blamed him for my own misfortune. It was my mistake, not his. I’d always been supportive, putting my own personal feelings to one side when he did things I didn’t¬†like, as I’m sure he did for me, after all, that’s what friends do, they respect each¬†other’s differences and idiosyncrasies. Having been cheated on myself in the past, I find¬†adultery abhorrent regardless of the circumstances, but when he got involved with a married woman (whose husband was apparently dying), I was genuinely thrilled and supportive for him, because I just wanted to see him happy – again¬†that’s what friends do!

I asked him to show proof of where I had accused him of such a heinous thing (knowing he wouldn’t be able to). He ignored my message for two long weeks. I was devastated. How could a close friend be so vicious, so unkind, so untruthful? I¬†shared my shock¬†on FB, being careful not to mention his name, as I was so upset and¬†needed the comfort of friends. What did he do? – attack me again for sharing my feelings on FB – and here’s where it gets truly nasty. He had done the exact same thing to me, but worse, he had done it the day before (when I was in ignorant bliss of his awful feelings towards me) he had openly vented over FB on a mutual friend’s post, spreading lies about me, about how a close friend of his had called him a racist and how he’d been battling with racism his whole life etc etc. Then in a typically underhanded and hypocritical move of him, he had secretly contacted the mutual friend and asked him to remove the thread, when that friend refused, he then went in and edited out all the crap he said about me – but too late, I had already seen it!¬†To then have the¬†audacity to pretend he was somehow the victim instead of the attacker and accuse me of something he himself had done the day before just beggared belief!

I know how terribly¬†trivial this all sounds, especially given the dreadful global things that have happened this year – the¬†crumbling of a friendship is¬†hardly worth moaning about. But it was one of the worst most hurtful things I’ve gone through in quite a few years, made worse because I was in a vulnerable state and hadn’t expected a friend to behave like that.

To be honest, politics, deceitfulness and verbal attacks aside, the thing that has devastated me the most is the fact that running up to this whole horrible debacle, I had repeatedly told him that I was in a bad head space, that the whole Brexit thing was actually making me ill, that I was really struggling etc., and he couldn’t give a shit.¬†From someone who has been afflicted by depression himself, the ‘black dog’ as he fashionably likes to call it, and as a close friend he knew I had struggled with bad depression for years, including two suicide attempts. I had always been SO fucking supportive of him when he was in a bad head space, even though I know he exaggerates everything, I’d been on the same drugs as him which hadn’t affected me at all, but none of that mattered. I know when it comes to mental health everyone deals with it differently and gets affected by it differently. But here was the crux, I’d always been very supportive and caring of when his bad times hit, and to a certain extent he had been relatively supportive of mine. Yet, when it came to Brexit, he had ignored every single one of my pleas, he didn’t give a shit that I was struggling, that I was repeatedly telling him I was in a bad way, none of that mattered, only that he was right and me along with 16 million others were wrong. His ego, his unwavering self-belief was far far more important than a friend in need. It was the final demonstration, if I needed it, that this was a man so utterly up his own arse that if anyone needed help, he’d be the last person to see it. Like a teenager desperately seeking attention, only HE was the one that mattered, only his depression, his feelings, his opinions.

After two weeks passed he eventually responded to my private message. I admit, I never read it. I was too hurt by the whole thing and could tell straight away that it wasn’t an apology or anything like it. He had attacked me in such a nasty way, he had hurt me terribly to assuage his own bruised ego¬†over¬†most of¬†our mutual friends saying how wrong he was over his Brexit stance and he had taken his frustrations out on me, a soft target. Ironically I saw how he reacted to our mutual friend who had threatened to defriend and block him and who quite rightly told him where to stick his opinions in a hilariously forceful way. Did he attack him back? No, of course not, he replied with a¬†single word answer, “Peace”. Strange how differently he had reacted to me, but then our mutual friend wasn’t a soft target and¬†I was.

To me, that was pretty unforgiveable. Like a divorce, the end of a friendship is never easy and always painful. Things went on. We didn’t speak or communicate at all. When my birthday rolled around I knew I wouldn’t be getting a birthday card from him, but I admit, seeing him active on FB that day and not bothering to even press a button to send one of those automatic FB birthday messages, something that takes no effort to do, I finally realised that things were over for good. The pretence that we were friends was over, what was the point of hanging on and just being continually kicked in the gut? So the day after my birthday I finally defriended him. It hurt, it still does to a certain extent, maybe that will give him some pleasure, I don’t know and I no longer care. I only know that after a lifetime of being hurt, of being kicked in the guts physically and figuratively, that I am too old and too worn down to allow so called friends to hurt me, my tolerance for cruelty is zero. I’ve never knowingly hurt anyone in my life, never attacked anyone, never cheated, never lied about someone. I have been a carpet, I admit,¬†but my fiery temperament is definitely taking over now and I’m not prepared to take anymore shit.

None of us deserve to be treated badly, none of us.

I’m all for forgiving people, god knows I’ve forgiven people a hell of a lot and then been shitted on again. But in the end, life is too short, too hard, too fucking difficult to keep climbing that hill with all our baggage while those we hold dear kick us as we stumble. I am very fortunate to have a few very very dear friends, Heather who I’ve known for years and who made me godmother to her first child; Sammy, my amazing publisher but far far more importantly, an amazing and very dear friend who I share so much with, Kate Coe and Jo, two of the truly loveliest people you could meet, Roz too and actually all my fellow Grimbold authors who are such darlings and such truly remarkable and wonderful people. I love them all and am very thankful to have them in my life. ‚̧

But I admit, more than the awfulness of Brexit, of Trump’s hideous bigotry and election win, of our heroes dying, what has marked this year as being particularly awful for me, was the ugly end to what I thought was a great friendship. It leaves me feeling wary, jaded and nervous of trusting people again and I know that is not a good disposition to have.

So…my New Year’s Resolution is simply this – to be open, to be positive and to be happy.

Darkness won in 2016, but even in the dark there is always a light.

So, looking to the positives…this year has also seen a very close family friend of some 50 years, battle and survive cancer, which is to be celebrated! We are so thrilled she has made a full recovery and is doing so well. ūüėÄ ‚̧ The growing closeness of my other friends is something I am so so thankful for and as some of them embark on a whole new chapter in their lives, I am so excited and thrilled for them. shadows-of-the-oak

This year has also seen the publishing of two books with my stories in, the wonderful,¬†Fight Like A Girl in April (with an amazing book launch in Bristol), and most recently, Shadows Of The Oak which also has two of my illustrations in. I am so¬†happy for¬†improved health and happiness of those I hold dear too, especially my mate Sammy who has overcome so many things and is an inspiration to all of us. Love you sweetie. ‚̧

My illustration business has continued to flourish with great word of mouth keeping me very busy. My most prestigious commissions to date were for the wonderful Juliet McKenna and her Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, and now Anna Smith-Spark and her new HarperCollins book due out next year, The Court of Broken Knives.

nano-winner-2016

I also managed to win my second NaNo this year (50K words in a month) which I was thrilled about and have just wrangled into existence a first rough draft of my second novel, Darkling Rise, after struggling for two years with it!

Now, I have two more short stories to write this month for two different anthologies, yet more illustration commissions lined up and Book 2 to knock into shape. 2017 also heralds a very personal milestone that I am going to try my hardest to achieve…watch this space! ūüėÄ

14481949_10157461243935375_3364092516786540302_o1

So, I hope you guys have had a better year than me and wish you a gloriously happy 2017. But if you have had a tough year too, then take heart, things always change and WILL get better. I know 2017 will have a lot of struggles of its own, after all we will all be entering Trumpland, but I truly believe if we remember to treat each other well and not give into hate, that we can make the next year a great one.

Love to you all and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! ūüėÄ ‚̧ xxxxx

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Hope, Hot Cross Buns and Easter Surprises!

hotcrossbuns_397_16x9[1]

It’s Easter already? Where did the year go?

Well, I feel I should share a few of our family rhymes at this time of year:

“Hot cross buns,

Hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters,

Give them to your sons,

One a penny, two a penny

Hot cross buns.”

Lol, although those that know me well know that I’m not a religious person at all, in fact I’m an atheist, I do respect all cultures and religions and people’s personal belief systems. But, despite my non-religious status, I’ve always found Easter to be such a hopeful time. It’s probably to do with Spring being in the air, the first warm days of the year, the first azure blue skies (though not today!), the first new flowers of the year.

SAM_3705

SAM_3701Walking round the garden with my four doggies becomes an almost spiritual experience at this time. The sheep with their baby lambs frolicking in the fields behind, the first green shoots on trees, the swaying sturdy stems of daffodils, the delicate drooping heads of the snake’s head fritillary, the first butterflies and countless birds nesting in every nook and cranny. We love nature and the cyclical nature of life is not lost on us. We put out peanuts and wild bird seed every day for the woodpeckers and various little birds which live with us and corn for the moorhens, but the best thing is brushing all our dogs and placing the discarded fur out on the lawn, then sitting back and watching. It takes literally seconds before the first birds swoop down and start picking out bundles of the white fluffy stuff in their beaks to line their nests. It really is such a wonder to behold. Tiny little chiff chaffs, blue tits, chaffinches, robins and sparrows all¬†sporting long white beards and moustaches, like little miniature mandarins. SOOOOO sweet!

SAM_3722

If you have any pets, cats or dogs (though dogs are best), now is the time to brush them and put out the fur for the birds in your garden, you’ll be amazed by the results!¬†Within an hour, there was no fur left, and it just got me thinking¬†about how important it is to be in harmony with nature and give it a hand whenever you can. SAM_3711

I just love the thought of all our nesting birds having a doggy fur lining to snuggle up in!

But, I digress… SAM_3725

Easter and Spring is about hope, whatever your religious or non religious beliefs. A year of promise and opportunities stands before you. So, what will you do to seize those opportunities?

For me, apart from pursuing my creative endeavours, including setting up my new illustration business http://sophieetallisillustrations.weebly.com/ and hopefully getting back to novel writing, I am also pursuing some personal goals too. One of those I’ll keep quiet about for now (don’t want to jinx myself), but I do want to share a struggle so many of us have – with our weight.

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A few weeks ago I weighed myself, something I’ve learnt not to do often to avoid bad news, and had a nasty surprise – since my illness last year when I really couldn’t do much of anything, I’d put on a whole stone!!! I was shocked when I worked out my BMI. ūüė¶

Although I was a skinny kid and slim in my early teens, after a few traumatic years I started eating for comfort and the pounds piled on. As an adult I have struggled with my weight like many of us. Name a diet and I’ve done it, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conelly, Atkins, fasting, Dukan diet, etc., etc. The best I’ve ever managed to lose is about a stone and a half then plateau for four/five months before giving up utterly dejected and eventually putting the weight back on. ūüė¶

This year, after a year of¬†huge life change, I eventually had an epiphany… SAM_3719

Yes a lot of it was to do with having turned 40, having left a 15 year solid career and embarking on a whole new one, and a lot of it was to do with the sudden shocking death of my dear friend, Lindsey J Parsons, in Jaunary 2014. 827e711c41030a7f023505.L._V144210053_SY470_[1]

My epiphany was simple – life is too damn short to waste a moment of it. Don’t just think about your dreams, or plan for tomorrow, DO SOMETHING about it!

MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!!!

With that in mind I mentally slapped myself and VOWED to lose weight and get healthier. No, I don’t expect to get back to my former skinny self, 22inch waist and all, but it’s not¬†about capturing¬†the past…it’s about creating a future –¬†a healthier, happier future.

SAM_3691I made a schedule for myself, three small healthy meals, eating breakfast (for the first time since I was 13), not eating after 6pm, doing three bouts of exercise daily. No counting calories, carbs, points or anything else, just regulating what I eat, making sure it’s healthy, and smaller portions of course.

Well, only two weeks later since I started and I’ve lost 10lbs so far!!!!!

I have a loooooong journey ahead of me, but I know I can make. For the first time ever, I have¬†HOPE. I’m not sure if it’s Easter hope or Spring hope, but I know I’ll get to where I want to get.

You know the saying, “Hope Springs Eternal.”

So, for all of you out there, whatever your goals, 2014 will be the year you achieve them, just believe in yourself, be pro-active and have HOPE!

ūüėÄ xxxxx

SAM_3720

 

A month of dreams, dizzyness…and passing 13,000!

new photos 012

While those¬†who know me best, know that I tend to roll my sleeves up and just ‘get on with it’. I must admit to having found myself incapacitated recently, a feeling I am NOT used to. No matter how rotten I may be feeling with colds, flu’s, even toothache, I tend to put a brave (often smiling)¬†face on it and just dig deep and carry on – it’s that whole daft ‘stiff upper lip’ mentally we British feel obliged to follow.

“Keep calm, carry on!”

I am if nothing else, a hard worker and a pragmatist who likes to make progress and achieve my goals,¬†even if it’s against the odds. So, imagine my frustration when something comes along that really stops me in my tracks…I speak of the curse of labyrinthitis.

Vestibular SystemSuddenly the simplest tasks that you take for granted become impossible, looking at the television, a mobile, or a computer screen, all incurs dizziness. All you can do is just¬†lie or sit still and hope that it passes. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

But as with all things in life…it’s relative. Just as I was feeling particularly poorly and sorry for myself, I got a sharp reminder that as conditions go, there are FAR worse so I shouldn’t complain. I’ve had dear friends touched by the insidious hand of cancer, who have struggled against that disease with such stern determination and grace, and others fighting type 1 diabetes who take each obstacle in their stride.

wild daffodilsSo, no moans and groans…I shall be thankful for the sunshine, the signs of spring bursting eagerly from beneath leaf mounds and mud, the streaks of blue sky between the cloud, the wild ducks that fly in and argue loudly on the lawn and the fact that my lonely moorhen has found himself a new wife after the cruelty of a harsh winter and hunting mink. SAM_2277

Forget sickness, forget¬†feeling rather low and tearful, life is a wondrous marvel and even if I can’t do very much at the moment, I shall breathe deep and drink in every moment of it and be thankful for small miracles.

Here are just three marvellous moments that have happened in the last few weeks.

file000267804564 (2)Firstly and for no apparent reason at all, other than the strange whimsical nature of the web, my lovely little blog had an amazing few days! From attracting nearly 900 visitors on one day, it then attracted 2,386 the next!!!! Pushing my little blog past 13,000 visitors!

Wow, wow and wow!!!

Then my short story, ‘The Wishing Tree’ was¬†selected by ReadWave¬†http://www.readwave.com/ to be part of their Staff Picks, for tnew photos 236 (2)he very¬† best¬†stories.

Check it out guys, oh and please ‘LIKE’! ¬†http://www.readwave.com/the-wishing-tree-_s2532

I’ve also been featured twice¬†by¬†fellow author, the wonderful Lisa Scullard for her new¬†Hard Ink Cafe blog http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/¬†as ‘Author of the Day’ http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/author-of-the-day-sophie-e-tallis/¬†and again¬†http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/author-essentials-keep-only-the-best-company/

Oh…and it’s featured in The Bedlam Media Daily too in the leisure section! http://paper.li/bedlam_media/1315567686#!leisure

So before my dizziness returns, I just want to say a heartfelt and massive THANK YOU to you all!!!!! You really are the BEST!!!

Here’s a little something to make you all smile…The Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’…rock it boys!!!!

http://youtu.be/Cqh54rSzheg

ūüėÄ xxxx

Cirrhosis of the Soul

Drink

The old man

shuffled under

the weight

of      false

contrition.

Glassy eyes,

black and fleeting,

flicked up for a moment

searching for a sign of acceptance

…hoping for warmth.  Shoes like scraped

chalk,    yellow stinking breath,      shaggy

bearded  growths  flecked  with  grey  from

between the cracks. The figure was a mess.

A creature to be pitied…but the danger still

lurked.      You could sense it just under the

skin,  a  sudden  metallic taste in the mouth,

the feeling of rising bile.¬† ‚ÄėIt‚Äô sat down with

all  the  grace  and triumph of an aged prize

fighter. Its eyes darkly fixed, flickered with

malice and pride.  Its progeny had returned.

It  was  still  important,  still   in   control…

The

puppet

master

had

not

lost

its

strings.

Sophie E Tallis © 2002

Puppet Strings 25/365

Puppet Strings 25/365 (Photo credit: Louish Pixel)