And the next Bond is..?

This light-hearted post is my way of shaking off the dreadful Covid malaise that has settled over so many of us for the last 18 months. So I’m not talking about mental health, illness, depression, heavy life stuff, art or writing, I’m talking about something entirely daft and wonderfully trivial…who will be the next James Bond?

Barbara Broccoli take note!

Daniel Craig – for many, the definitive Bond.

While I’m a fan of the Bond franchise I don’t count myself as a hardened aficionado, but I am a massive movie geek & cinephile though, so the question of who and how the UK’s most successful movie franchise will continue, does interest me. I’ll discuss the actors touted over the internet and papers as current frontrunners first, about 24 of them by all accounts, then pitch my own out of left field contender & why I think he would be the best choice to take on the new Bond going forward.

Lashana Lynch

Firstly, excluding the idea of a female Bond, for which I think Lashana Lynch is awesome and has more than proved herself a brilliant 00 agent, by all means let’s have a female ass-kicking secret agent, but not a ‘Jane Bond’, but something new instead. As for James Bond, there are several of the male contenders that can be eliminated to narrow the field based on either age/height/acting ability – a short James Bond would be ridiculous! Although to date, Daniel Craig (53yrs) is the shortest James Bond there has been at only 5ft 10″ (most have been 6ft 2″ or slightly under), having a Bond shorter than Craig just wouldn’t work. Even ignoring the ‘tall, dark & handsome’ labels often attributed to Bond by its creator Ian Fleming and subsequent Bond incarnations, at the least Bond is supposed to be physically imposing, someone who can dominate or at least intimidate an opponent either by height/stature or physical size.

There are several frontrunners for the plum role to replace Daniel Craig, these are among the most popular names doing the rounds:

  1. Mad Max’sTom Hardy (44yrs 5ft 9″) – The odds on favourite. Great actor with undoubted versatility & appeal but too physically similar to Craig’s brusque complex Bond and just too short, also, the Venom actor would be one of the oldest Bonds when he starts with only Roger Moore being older.
  2. Luther’sIdris Elba (49yrs 6ft 2″) – Used to be my first choice, wonderful actor who can easily do sexy, suave, dangerous and edgy but now sadly he is just too old.
  3. Superman’sHenry Cavill (38yrs 6ft) – The obvious safe and perhaps boring choice, but rather wooden acting at times and comes with Superman baggage and reported personality problems – bit of a dick. Not keen on yet another private school/posh boy either.
  4. Bridgerton’sRege-Jean Page (31yrs 5ft 11″) – Would make the first Bond of colour which would be great and can certainly do sexy & suave but is he edgy, dark or imposing enough?
  5. Rich Young Asian’sHenry Golding (34yrs 6ft 1″) – Would make the first Bond of non-white Asian descent but too nice a guy? Not dark or edgy enough?
  6. Outlander’sSam Heughan (41yrs 6ft 2″) – Another safe choice, has a good fanbase though not widely known by public and unproven in sole lead role. Perhaps too safe/boring, he is older too and is he edgy enough with enough acting range?
  7. GoT’sRichard Madden (35yrs 5ft 9″) – Too short and still unproven as sole lead.
  8. Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya (32yrs 5ft 7/8″) – Great actor and very charismatic but sadly far too short and not physically imposing enough. If he were a beefed up 6ft he’d be one of top choices.
  9. Spiderman’sTom Holland (25yrs 5ft 6/7″) – Great actor but way too young and far too short/small in stature. Fantastic Spiderman, but Bond, no.
  10. Loki’sTom Hiddleston (40yrs 6ft 1″) – Would be a safe and popular choice. Good actor but is VERY known for Loki and therefore could be too typecast, also, brings humour but is he physically tough & edgy enough?
  11. McMafia’sJames Norton (36yrs 6ft) – Would be the safe choice and nice to have a diabetic actor in the lead role. Has proved he can do dark and brooding in Happy Valley so a possibility? But yet another advantaged private school/posh boy background is not a bonus.
  12. Star War’sJohn Boyega (29yrs 5ft 9″) – Good actor but just too short and some Star Wars baggage.
  13. Peaky Blinder’sCillian Murphy (45yrs 5ft 6/7″) – Good actor but far too short and too old to play a younger Bond.
  14. 50 Shade’sJamie Dornan (39yrs 5ft 9/10″) – Just a bit too short & damaged by 50 shades baggage.
  15. Dracula’sLuke Evans (42yrs 5ft 11″) – If rebooting Bond for a newer younger version, then too old? Also, his wannabe crooner status is a bit of a put off.
  16. David Copperfield’sDev Patel (31yrs 6ft 1″) – Great actor and versatile, would be the first Bond of colour which is great, but could the Green Knight actor be sexy and edgy enough?
  17. 1917’sGeorge MacKay (29yrs 6ft) – Young actor with versatility, could be a young Bond? But is the Captain Fantastic actor too young though and not edgy or sexy enough?
  18. X-Men’sNicholas Hoult (31yrs 6ft 2/3″) – Great and versatile actor, may be a possibility? Is the A Single Man actor too ‘pretty boy’ in looks though and not gruff or edgy enough?
  19. Kiss Ass’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson (31yrs 5ft 11″) – Good actor, though seen perhaps as a ‘pretty boy’ face rather than serious actor? Can do dark, sexy & edgy though as seen in Nocturnal Animals. Possibly a strong contender?
  20. Downton Abbey’sDan Stevens (38yrs 5ft 11″/6ft) – Too ‘sweet & safe’ choice wise and rather uninspiring/boring. Loyal fanbase but not dark, edgy or physically striking/imposing enough.
  21. GoT’sTom Hopper (36yrs 6ft 4″) – Not a well known actor and ironically, his VERY tall stature may be too tall, meaning the likelihood of him being able to ‘blend in’ in a spy context is doubtful, he’d stick out like a 6ft 4″ thumb! Not proven yet acting wise either or as sole lead.
  22. Rocketman’sJamie Bell (35yrs 5ft 7″) – Great and versatile actor who can pretty much play anything, but far too short/small in stature and lacks sex appeal. I’m afraid this is one role he couldn’t pull off.
  23. Viking’sClive Standen (40yrs 6ft 1″) – Not well known actor, so no massive fan base, would be an unusual choice. Is he versatile enough and too old for young Bond?
  24. Dunkirk’sHarry Styles (27yrs 5ft 11″/6ft) – Too young and not physically imposing enough to pull off Bond & FAR too distracting due to pop icon baggage. A total non starter.

So, those are narrowed down to 11 now…still a long list. If you discount anyone 40 or over, to reinvigorate Bond as a new younger Bond (which I think is definitely needed after Daniel Craig’s retiring Bond – re: my pitch idea later), then the list is narrowed further to just 8 possible contenders. Despite the fact that Ian Fleming’s Bond is supposed to be in his mid-late thirties around 37yrs, certainly in Moonraker, given that you would want any new Bond to have as many years as possible playing the role, then you could start looking at dismissing the older of the contenders too (meaning Henry Cavill at 38yrs and with his ‘maturity’ may not have much of a Bond run in him and would certainly struggle to play a Bond much younger than his actual age.) Do I seem fixated on age? There’s a reason for that…

How to overcome the colossal influence of Daniel Craig’s James Bond?

Daniel Craig has undoubtedly made a huge and lasting impression as Bond, for many he is now their favourite all-time Bond, with his mix of rough n’ ready physicality, that brusque side with a slight hint of tenderness beneath. So, how on earth do you follow such a powerful and definitive interpretation? Do you just offer up more of the same? The ONLY thing you can do, is to take Bond in an entirely new and fresh direction. Just continuing in the same vein but with another similar actor like Tom Hardy, just won’t work as brilliant an actor as Tom Hardy is, it would just be too familiar. Daniel Craig mark 2.0.

Here’s my pitch idea…!

The fact that Craig was playing an older Bond getting ready for retirement, means that the only way to really refresh and reboot the series is to take Bond in the opposite direction. Go from an aging older Bond on the point of retiring to a young Bond, in fact, Bond BEFORE he became Bond!

Restart the new series with a new Bond by having a younger actor play a youthful James Bond as a naval officer first, which, after some terrible event where he not only manages to survive against the odds but proves his bravery, cunning and skills, leads to MI6 approaching him and them recruiting him as a new agent! So the film charts how Bond became Bond, from how he was recruited to his training and first missions to what made him a 00 agent, with the film ending with him getting his 00 status and being directed to his first mission as 007. The series would then be up and running for years to come!

Not only would this approach give us something entirely new and fresh, we have NEVER seen a young Bond before he became Bond, what put him on the path, what drove him, what his training was like, what he had to give up, his mistakes etc., but it would give the new reboot a fresh start and one with plenty of mileage!

Francois Arnaud

Now, my other pitch idea – casting…and here’s my out of left field suggestion. The name is Arnaud…Francois Arnaud.

Yes, this is NOT a British actor (remember Pierce Brosnan is Irish, George Lazenby is Australian), BUT, this French Canadian actor can bring something truly unique to the part. Here are just 10 reasons why:

Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia, a guy not to mess with.
Francois in black Bond tux n’ tie
  1. Brit AccentFrancois Arnaud can do a perfect British accent as seen in his work on The Borgias.
  2. Languages – He is fluent in English, French & Spanish – in today’s multilingual society especially in the world of espionage, spy’s & secret agents, James Bond would HAVE to be able to speak in multiple languages, especially when he was undercover and assuming another identity. How great to have a tri-lingual actor that could do this naturally as well as doing British AND American accents flawlessly, allowing him to change multiple identities effortlessly. James Bond with some subtitles, hell yes!
  3. HeightFrancois Arnaud is 6ft 2″ tall, therefore he has the height, physicality, body and stature needed for the part, and is loved by ladies and men alike!
  4. Looks – He also has the looks (‘tall, dark and handsome’) to pull off a convincing James Bond, from his handsome face and great body to his deep voice and ridiculously thick hair. No (Sean Connery) toupee needed here!
  5. ActingArnaud has great range and acting chops and is one of the most versatile actors working in TV & film today, working in both French speaking and English speaking roles. After winning the Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film Award (VCFF) early in his career in the critically acclaimed I Killed My Mother, he went on to famously play the dark and dangerous Cesare Borgia in The Borgias, displaying an ability to portray brooding, sexy, Machiavellian and violently ruthless characters to the point where he was outshining established star Jeremy Irons. He can play shady, duplicitous characters in TV’s The Blindspot, romantic leads in films like Permission & She’s in Portland, humour and more sex appeal in US TV’s The Moody’s or angst ridden unhinged characters in French film Rabid Dogs and most recently he can be seen as a disturbed ex-military soldier unable to adjust to civilian life in French Canadian film La Switch.
  6. Solo lead/track record – Arnaud is never out of work! Unlike some of the other contenders on the list who have yet to carry a film or project single-handed, Francois Arnaud has already played the lead in both mainstream TV & independent film projects, from Midnight, Texas to French Canadian film Origami and upcoming Norbourg as well as joint lead with Lili Taylor in upcoming US indie film The Winter House. He has never given a duff/bad performance even if he is the only glue holding a project together.
  7. Age – He is 36yrs old but looks younger so could easily play a young Bond recruit in his early-mid-late twenties onwards, giving him possibly the longest run as a new Bond.
  8. FanbaseFrancois Arnaud being a French Canadian actor working in both French speaking & English speaking films he has the benefit of having a solid and very loyal fanbase, including those that love his work in independent films and network television shows like Heat Wave (Les Grandes Chaleurs) and Midnight, Texas. So although he is not a household name in the UK, apart from The Borgias, with the baggage and typecast problems others may have, neither is he an unknown and unproven actor with no following or fanbase.
  9. Hidden talents – Apart from speaking three languages fluently and a bit of Hungarian too, the guy can also play the piano and sing…yes, multi-talented. Could we have a scene with Bond tinkling the ivories?
  10. Something different – It would also be great, and a great forward movement for the franchise, to have an international actor in the role and one who happens to be bisexual too, although this doesn’t have to play any part in the role of Bond, it would show a more inclusive open policy on behalf of the movie makers and a major move away from being seen as old-fashioned and out-of-step.

There, there’s my pitch! I can see Francois Arnaud starting off as a young naval officer who’s unit comes under attack in South America or the Philippines (so he could use his Spanish to get out of his situation) or French speaking Africa etc., where he is able to survive a terrible assault, stop the bad guys, save people etc,. which makes MI6 take notice of him and decide to recruit him as a fresh new agent in training…hence the title of the new film ’00….’, as it charts the story of how James Bond became 007.

Barbara Broccoli, you can send me my cheque in the post! ūüėČ ‚̧ ūüėÄ

Reality Bites – A Year of Art, Wolf Problems and Hard Decisions

2018 has, for¬†many people I know myself included, been a really tough year. In terms of family, we’ve been through a lot of hard times, worst than most, and survived it, though it’s fair to say that my family now is considerably smaller. That means that close family friends we’ve had for years, and in some cases my entire life, really do mean the world to us! ‚̧

I learnt years ago that family is not about blood, it’s about who loves you unconditionally and who you love unconditionally, about¬†special friends, people you can rely on in good times and bad and people you’d do anything for. I’d jump in front of a bullet for either of my darling Goddaughters and would do anything for my lovely supportive mates in deepest darkest Wales who I feel such a kinship with.

So when we faced the prospect of losing several very close and dear family friends to various cancers, including my lovely Godmother (who thankfully beat all the odds and the grim prognosis she was given); it makes you reassess things and clarify what is really important – a case of “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”.

While I’m able to produce a lot of high quality art relatively quickly, something I admit has always come easily to me, I must stop beating myself up for being less prolific in my writing. As much as I love writing and it’s always been a part of who I am, it does take a greater toll on my health and tends to burn me out quite badly.

Part of recovering from illness is being honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do and not¬†castigating yourself for your limitations. Too many of us are our worst critics and being too critical of oneself¬†can be¬†tantamount to¬†creative paralysis!

So despite being the world’s slowest writer (George R.R. Martin ain’t got nothing on me!) I’m determined¬†not to spend 2019 procrastinating over how slow I am. I WILL finish Book 2 and Book 3 and finish the series, but I’ll have to do that at a pace I can cope with. Ironically, I actually have two¬†brand new short novellas out, A Friendship Forged and The Siege of Kallorm,¬†published by Grimbold Books on December 1st 2018,¬†which are set before the events in my novel White Mountain, so at least that’s something new for my incredibly patient and loyal fans. ūüėÄ ‚̧

This year it’s been great to see my illustration business take off and how ridiculously busy I’ve been with commissions, but the dominating factor has been the¬†sadness surrounding one of my four wolfies becoming disabled. Anyone that knows me, knows how important my boys are to me, I’m called the ‘Mistress Of Wolves’ for a reason! So facing a horrible inherited disease that has no cure, that we can do nothing about and that is always fatal, Degenerative¬†Myelopathy (DM), has been a devastating blow. ūüė¶ My two white German Shepherds turned 9 years in June, not exactly old dogs, but long before that my beloved Tolly was diagnosed with DM. ¬†ūüė¶¬† We’ve spent thousands we can’t afford on trying to fight this horrific disease but to no avail. The only comfort we have is the fact that we’ve tried our very¬†best even using the latest cutting edge¬†veterinary techniques like Platelet Rich Plasma to help combat this disease. It’s been¬†heartbreaking to see¬†Tolly’s¬†startlingly swift decline over the year from running around in the snow¬†in February¬†to being unable to walk or stand by the end of August when he lost the use of his back legs completely and had to have a doggie wheelchair. We now face another devastating realisation that his biological brother, Korrun, is also now showing clear signs of having DM too. ūüė¶

In a strange way, it was Tolly’s illness that pushed me onto creating more artwork this year (to pay for extortionate vet bills) and was the catalyst to me eventually opening my first Etsy Shop – Sophie’s Artisan Arts, which has¬†really helped since setting it up in July. The highlight of the year though was being a shortlisted ‘Best Artist’ in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards and being an Artist-In-Residence for Dan Holloway‘s¬†fabulous Oxford University funded game, Mycelium, which was launched in October and for which I created all the artwork (50 images in total). Still so proud to be involved in such an amazing project.

The other unsaid thing, which will remain unsaid by me for a while until I’m ready to talk about it, has also been all consuming this year. I’ve battled it alone as I just haven’t been in a place where I feel comfortable sharing it with anyone or asking for help (something I’ve always been bad at).

What the future brings, I don’t know…lol, but my life has certainly never followed a conventional path! ūüėÄ

Even when I was a kid I knew that certain paths were not for me. I¬†never wanted¬†that fantasy princess day, walking down the aisle in a white dress, centre of attention, to exchange one man’s name for another. Hell no. I know it works for most people, so good for them, but it’s not for me. I’m a great believer in personal freedom and in everyone choosing the path that suits them best rather than ‘doing the norm’. Life’s too short to waste it following someone else’s idea of how to live rather than what works for you and makes you happy.

With that in mind…I’ve decided NOT to make any New Year resolutions. ūüėÄ

2019 will bring what it will bring. I have aspirations I’d like to achieve, but I know life rarely follows the route you think it will, so I’m just going to plod on, try to learn to say “NO” to people when I know I don’t have time to do something (rather than killing myself to get it done in time)¬†and just ‘roll with the punches’!

So…Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2019 brings you happiness and peace in whatever form that means to YOU.

ūüėÄ ‚̧ xxxx

It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

The lovely and talented Gemma Beynon, a fellow artist I met last year, was kind enough to interview me over the summer and here’s the interview! ūüėÄ If you haven’t checked out Gemma’s blog please do, it’s full of advice gems about creativity and life! ūüėČ

When time is the enemy – manically juggling!

Well it’s true to say that I started 2018 on the ground running – it’s been an utterly¬†manic year already and we’re only a few months in!

As with most people, I find myself constantly juggling. For me, working part time in a library, means juggling that with working full time as an illustrator, trying to find some time for writing and personal artwork, as well as home responsibilities, personal goals¬†(particularly for this year – more details later in the year on that one) and having four huge wolfies who require a LOT of time and attention. I’m not called the ‘Mistress of Wolves’ for nothing!

Cover artwork by Antonio Javier Caparo.

But recently even I admit that things have¬†been insane. Basically from November 2016 to now, I haven’t stopped. As the writing has taken a back seat, my illustrating has never been in more demand. After a couple of HarperCollins’s commissions and a hastily short deadline for Penguin Random House (for ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Diane Magras, published March 2018) and a¬†few individual commissions, I happily signed up for a very exciting and MASSIVE commission¬†funded by¬†Oxford University and created by writer, self-publishing guru¬†and Creative Thinking World Champion, Dan Holloway. Basically Dan has invented a brilliant new game, Mycelium’, as an amazing¬†training tool and fun game to promote and expand creative thinking. To say its clever and inventive, like it’s creator,¬†is a colossal understatement.

Dan Holloway is one of those rare people you only meet once in a blue moon, a true inspiration. I first knew of him as a fellow writer on the now defunct HarperCollins online writing site, Authonomy, then met him in the flesh at the second Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival¬†founded by Debbie Young.¬†Think of Elon Musk, Bob Dylan and Basquiat and you get close to how talented this chap is. He’s a huge brain, an amazing performance poet, writer and…well, in my opinion, a bit of a¬†genius!

Mycelium final logo which will be on the back of each card.

Anyway, he liked my artwork and wanted me to create the visuals for this amazing game, starting with producing 50 images for the first playing pack of cards. I can’t reveal the artwork I’ve done for this yet, but will as soon as I’m able. ūüėČ

So this is where the juggling really comes in,¬†with time becoming an enemy that you’re constantly chasing.

The irony is that ‘chasing time’ has become a bit of a metaphor for my life, particularly at the moment.¬†¬†Time has flown by so quickly and suddenly your life and life decisions are reduced down to a tiny window of opportunity in an alchemist’s grand experiment! Blink, and you’ll miss that window forever.

Although I’ve done allsorts of commissions and projects¬†which usually take a month to complete, due to fitting illustration work in with a job etc., I’ve never done 50 images for one project before. Gulp! Being the idiot optimist I am, the deadline seemed reasonable, 60 days for 50 images and small images too. Easy, eh? Lol, well of course, me being me, I just cannot rush through anything crap so I created 50 folders, one for each image and trawled through countless books and the internet gathering inspirational images for each piece of artwork before drawing them. Once drawn, they then had to be inked up in permanent ink and then hand painted.

It really has been one of the most amazing, inspiring, varied and challenging commissions I’ve ever done and I have loved every second of it BUT…being such a perfectionist I should have known that creating 50 pictures in only 60 days just wasn’t possible. Unfortunately, despite my very best efforts of time pacing, doing the more complicated images first, I only really realised the sheer amount of work involved when I was already halfway through the commission! My juggling skills were put to the test and I’m afraid they failed me entirely.

For the last 60 days my¬†four wolfies have not had much of a mum, my daily walks with them have all but stopped to just a few hours playing and exercising in the garden, my normal home chores have fallen by the wayside, my library job has, if I’m being honest, not had the best of me, I’ve been absent from all social media and friends and I’ve become somewhat of a stranger to sleep. But try as I have, to my own disappointment and for the first time, I missed my deadline. I was gutted, having worked so damn hard. Dan was wonderful of course and I’ve made¬†sure I’ve rewarded that kindness with awesome images, but yes, I was several weeks late in delivering all 50 finished painted images and only finally finished them a few days ago!

So what do you do when time becomes the enemy, when juggling manically still doesn’t work?

Lol, I really wouldn’t recommend what I have done several times now, drawing in bed on a light-box until 4 or 5am when you suddenly realise that it’s getting light outside and you haven’t slept at all!

The only thing I can think of to help pace your time, when you have an insane amount of things to do and no time to do them in, is, to be honest,¬†create a detailed colour coded weekly schedulebreaking your time into 2 hourly chunks, giving yourself time to eat, do chores, do housey things then back to work. As daft as¬†it seems, it really helps to organise you and¬†maximise productivity¬†from each time period.¬†I’ve also started using an alarm clock set in hour or 2 hour slots, trying to finish one section of work in that time frame before the buzzer goes!

I’m seriously not complaining here, I’m very thankful for all the work I get especially as I don’t advertise and¬†do recognise that it’s far better to be incredibly busy than to have time on your hands, but once, just once, I wish I really could stretch the space/time continuum! ūüėÄ

On a personal note too, I’ve spent the last year climbing Everest and trying to stretch time to achieve my goals. So yes, as much as we are powerless to stop the march of time, perhaps a healthier more mindful approach to the passing of time would be more beneficial to us all. As clich√©d as it is, we only have one life and it flies past so damn quickly that we owe it to ourselves to take stock and really notice what is happening around us.

Mindfulness has been a key word that has entered the zeitgeist in the last few¬†years, but the principles behind it can be applied to every area of our lives. As an M.E sufferer (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) it’s a very important concept that helps us to regulate our condition and pace ourselves and the daily tasks we do.

As someone who has been overweight for most of my adult life and has decided to make a permanent life change at last, having committed myself to losing weight and getting fitter (my Chris Pratt Challenge) Рmindfulness plays a key rolebeing aware and present in thought over everything you do. Being mindful of everything you put into your body so there is NO mindless snacking, everything is focused on, thought about.

The same too with life and time. Being mindful of your life, of each passing day, each hour, each minute, making you more aware of the choices you make, of the time you are using, of the time you have left.

Don’t sleep walk through your life. Be mindful of it.

So yes, being mindful and applying that to this commission also helped, particularly latterly, in making sure that the work I did was not only the best it could be but that I was working as productively as possible in each timed slot.

In an age of such mindlessness – Trump bigotry & idiocy, Brexit xenophobia & lies, political cruelty, government corruption and inherent unfairness – being mindful has never been more important!

‚̧ xxx

 

2017 – A Year of Art and Climbing Everest!!!

2017 has been a strange year and on more than one occasion I’ve heard myself saying “This can’t be reality?”, as if I’d slipped into some dream state without my knowing…I mean come on, apart from the dreadful and embarrassing debacle that is ‘Brexit’, we’re now living in an odd dystopian universe where an unhinged, dangerously narcissistic, orange, sexual offending, racist twat is the American President with his short fat fingers on the nuclear button!

Yeap, 2017 was a weird year. The saddest thing to hit early in the year was the loss of my hero David Bowie. Anyone with any inkling of creativity in them mourned his loss and feels it still.

But despite the sad loss of Bowie and wonderful actors like John Hurt, 2017 did bring up some revelatory surprises too. For me personally, this was undoubtedly the ‘Year of Art’.

I started the year committing myself to the 365 day Artmaniac Challenge (following in the footsteps of Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell), by creating a new piece of art EVERY DAY for a whole year! I started well, in fact for the first 3 months of the year I did create a brand new piece of art every day, firstly rough sketches and then portraits! It was exhilarating, I hadn’t done any portraits in 20 years and was thrilled that I could still do them!

I also began the year finishing a fantasy map art commission for the lovely fantasy author, Anna Smith-Spark, which became a commission for HarperCollins as they approached me to become one of their illustrators! I was amazed and flabbergasted! A second HarperCollins commission quickly followed for the equally lovely Anna Stephens for another fantasy map. The year continued like that, in a blur of deadlines and commissions. I’ve never been busier and considering I don’t advertise and still use a free weebly website for my illustration business, I was astounded at the interest I was getting.

Both fantasy maps for HarperCollins ended up being picked up and bought by other publishers around the world, Dutch, German, US publishers like Orbit and Random House – I was suddenly glimpsing through the keyhole of big league success – it really is a whole different story to the indie world I’ve lived in for so long!

The year flashed by and before I knew it the giddy pleasures of summer had come and gone in a haze of excitement, silk painting, BBQ’s (with my lovely Grimbold posse)¬†and writing.

It is true to say that 2017 was not a great year for my writing, in fact I haven’t written anything now in months following a crisis of confidence a few months back. I will eventually return to writing as I always have, but I don’t have that belief in my abilities anymore the way I used to, I’m hoping given time that I will find my voice again somewhere but for now I’m happy just to follow my art and get my creative fulfilment that way. BUT, 2017 was a great year for other writers, most notably my amazing publishers, Grimbold Books, who were not only nominated for Best Independent Press in the British Fantasy Society Awards (BFS Awards) … but actually WON IT!!!!!

YAY!!! Go Grimbold go!

The end of summer came (and my dreaded birthday) and I was neck deep in prep for October’s BristolCon where I’d be exhibiting my artwork – gulp, my first art exhibition for 20 years! I was nervous to say the least but it went amazingly well, better than I could have dreamed of in fact! ūüėÄ

A huge thank you to my Grimbold family and to awesome authors like Gareth L Powell who actually helped me put up some of my pictures (and who also very kindly told me about the V&A Illustrator’s Competition for illustrations published in 2017!) THANK YOU! ‚̧

After the wonderful BristolCon I was then approached by Penguin Random House for a commission for them! A few¬†weeks later I also¬†started my latest commission for the inspirational Dan Holloway and Oxford University – a massive commission for 50 unique images! I’m manically producing them as I type this last blog entry for the year! ūüėÄ

2017 has definitely been a peculiar year, a year of creative highs and depressive lows, of hopes and dreams and major steps forward for the future. Professionally – it’s been the best year of my life as an illustrator and I feel very blessed and lucky! Personally –¬†it’s been more of a rollercoaster ride. I’ve found myself in the grips and depths of depression a couple of times this year, which has been a struggle and heartbreakingly, another friend, the amazing Lisa Scullard suddenly and shockingly died while 38 weeks pregnant. She had so many hopes for this year and next and they were suddenly snatched away. ūüė¶

The only positive I can draw from such a cruel tragedy is that it really put a rocket up my arse – life is fucking short and precious folks, if you haven’t accomplished what you want, DO IT. If you doing something you don’t want to be – STOP and CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Life goes in a flash. So yes, I am following one dream in particular, a dream I’ve had for the last 14 years and I am doing everything I can to achieve it. Hopefully this time next year my life will be dramatically different…please keep all your fingers, toes and everything else crossed for me, I have an Everest to climb, the odds are against me, but still I’m pursuing this goal – 2018 will be make or break.

So, as the year closes, with only minutes to spare…I want to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a coming year of dreams and hopes.

Hold your heart in your hands and cradle those dreams, whatever they are, and never give up. Love to you all. ‚̧ xxxxx

Climbing Mountains – January blues and 31 days of madness!

As we start February I look back at the madness that was January. From the world being plunged into the realities and dangers¬†of Trumpland to the usual January blues. At this dull time of year, after the festivities and fun of the festive period¬†I always think of CS Lewis’s words:

‚ÄúI‚Äôve always found this a trying time of the year.¬† The leaves not yet out, mud everywhere you go.¬† Frosty mornings gone.¬† Sunny mornings not yet come.¬† Give me blizzards and frozen pipes, but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world.‚ÄĚ

January inevitably, is always a pensive time, a time of anti-climax, of looking back at the past year and looking to the future – sometimes in hope, sometimes in anxiety. I suppose now with the turmeric turd (as I call him) ensconced in the White House, there is more reason than any to be anxious about what the future may bring. For me personally, being such a lover of nature, a conservationist and environmentalist at heart, I worry about his¬†ignorant, unsubstantiated (and quite possibly insane) views and denial of climate change as merely a ‘Chinese hoax’. That instead of listening to the independent views of thousands of scientists and climate experts around the world, of proven facts about climate change resulting from human activity, that Trump’s ego and his love of money and power could easily cause unparalleled environmental damage that may take years to reverse, if it can be at all. We don’t own this world, we are merely custodians, another animal species that rely on it for life itself. This world is such a precious place, its eco systems so fragile, its wildlife under so much threat from humanity already, that 4 years¬†or dare I say it, 8 years of Trump insanity, of arctic drilling, fracking, extra oil, gas and coal exploration and pollution, may well be too much to recover from. Only time will tell.

January is also about setting goals especially life goals which are always tricky, the positive vibes of saying to yourself that THIS year will be different, this year you will lose those annoying pounds (or stones), achieve those long held goals and dreams, that this will be YOUR year.

It’s a double-edged sword. Yes you should have aspirations, goals, dreams, things that make you happy, but the reality of not achieving them can be dreadful. January is also a time of year that I often find myself falling back into bad habits and bad thinking – the time when depression often rears its ugly head.

So, as a way to combat those feelings and that awful January inertia, back in November¬†I had an utterly mad¬†idea…

painting-outside by Sophie E Tallis

Being Facebook friends with the lovely Children’s Laureate, illustrator extraordinaire Chris Riddell, I’ve been watching his posts all through the year. Every day Chris draws or sketches in what he calls his ‘Laureate Log’, a wonderful visual diary of creativity. Well, as Picasso himself said “The best ideas are stolen!”, I decided to do my own daily art record – what I call ‘The Artmaniac Challenge’!

So I set up a friendly inclusive group on Facebook – the Artmaniacs –¬†open to anyone to draw, sketch, paint, sculpt, create a new artwork EVERY DAY for 365 days, starting from January 1st 2017 – January 1st 2018 and post it online in the group and anywhere else they fancy! It was a way for focusing the mind, being productive and a way of forcing you to be creative every day, even on days when all you want is a cuppa and a duvet to hide under.

I had no idea if it would work, but it has, we already have 27 members and growing! It’s been a wonderfully positive thing, a great way of driving out those damn January blues and giving a real sense of achievement to those participating. So in the mad 31 days of January, I and others have 31 pieces of art to show for it, an ever-growing portfolio¬†– and the¬†lovely thing is that it doesn’t matter if¬†they are rough sketches, finished drawings, doodles, paintings, experiments, photography, anything goes! ūüėÄ

For someone like me, who has found it so hard to put pen to paper in regards to writing, doing this daily challenge has actually helped me in my writing too, because, if I can spare a few minutes to draw every day, if I can force myself to create something every day, then I can do the same for writing! WE CAN DO THIS!!!

So, here is the gallery of my first month of art, some good, lol, some not so good! ūüėÄ xxxx

Dragon and warrior sketch by Sophie E TallisFallen Angel by Sophie E TallisSaw Gerrera character sketch (from Rogue One) by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink sketch of my dog, Korrun by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch from my short story, Silent Running by Sophie E TallisRough sketch of Fenn, given that he only sat still for a few seconds before moving! by Sophie E TallisHand study in pen & ink by Sophie E TallisMy rough illustration from my children's book, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile', by Sophie E TallisThe Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch of Lord Perral from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisRough sketch by Sophie E TallisSketch in blue by Sophie E TallisCouple Portrait by Sophie E TallisFinished Couple Portrait by Sophie E TallisBenedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock character study by Sophie E TallisRough fairy study by Sophie E TallisView of Kallorm 'City of Light' from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisSelf=Portrait in blue by Sophie E TallisStudy in blue by Sophie E TallisMy blue toned drawing of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia by Sophie E TallisWolf study in purple by Sophie E TallisBurnt umber and ochre study by Sophie E TallisLong-Tailed Tit by Sophie E TallisPortrait study in blue by Sophie E TallisFigure study in purple by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink pheasant study by Sophie E TallisOde to John Hurt RIP by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink drawing of my dog, Tolly by Sophie E Tallis'Do not be silenced' watercolour pencil study by Sophie E TallisChinese New Year dragon rough sketch by Sophie E Tallis

Well that’s it – the good, the bad and the ugly! Let’s see what the next month brings. ūüôā

N.B. I will also let slip, that a couple of weeks ago, I had some VERY good news involving HarperCollins… I’ll let you all know once everything is signed and sealed. Watch this space…! ūüėČ xxx

Battling the Great ‘D’!

The Great ‘D’ – depression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here goes:

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

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

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

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

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Pancake Galore!

It’s Sugar and Lemon Day, so I had to reblog this from an earlier post I did!

Yeap…it’s Shrove Tuesday. The one day a year where we dust off the frying pan with the dodgy teflon coating and the wobbly handle.

Flour, milk and an egg later, I’m whisking my batter like no batter has been whisked before!

Freshly cut lemons waiting on the side, dogs out of tossing range…er…I hope. Only one thing left…I’ve GOT to sing the song my late Granny taught us:

“Shrove Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday,

Poor Jack went to work.

His mother made him some pancakes,

But she didn’t know how.

She tossed them, she turned them,

She made them quite black…

She put so much pepper in

That she poisoned poor Jack.‚ÄĚ

That‚Äôs a little ‚ÄėGrimm‚Äôs Fairy Tales‚Äô for you like the old nursery rhymes which were rather dark really, but I‚Äôve been hearing that song my whole life and a pancake just isn‚Äôt a pancake without it! ūüėõ

Happy Pancake Day everyone, may your flipping and tossing be mighty! ūüėÄ xxx

FryingPan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My signing at Books On The Hill

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

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

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

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

Cirencester event on Octavia's

Octavia's Cirencester eventWow!

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

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

People's Book Prize page

Do I have a chance of winning?

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

People's Book Prize capture

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote this post two years ago, but it is particularly poignant today, given the tragic news that Sir Terry Pratchett has lost his long fight with Alzheimer’s. He was a colossus of the fantasy genre and one of our brightest literary lights. He will be sadly missed by those who knew him and the millions of fans worldwide that wish they did. RIP Terry, you’re one in a billion! ūüė¶ xxxx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

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…

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