YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!

When it comes to writing or any creative endeavour that you are serious about i.e. not a hobbyist, but that you actually want to make a paying career from (again not fame & fortune, if you crave that you’re in the wrong game – go join a Big Brother house or Britain’s Got (f**k all) Talent), we are so often faced with failure.

So often I feel like the Balrog on the bridge in Khazad-dûm, trying to gain access to a path closed to me, a world full of closing (or slamming) doors.

Just need to add the appropriate sentence ending:

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this slush pile.”

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this competition’s shortlist (or even longlist).”

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this agent’s/publisher’s criteria.”

even “YOU SHALL NOT PASS – this selective writing group.” etc., etc.

Trying to make a living out of any creative field in a marketplace so utterly saturated with other writers and artists, is tantamount to wading through tar to reach that Avalon-like island on the horizon. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work, some random luck, some ‘who you know’ and a decent product that you’re trying to sell.

Unfinished pencil study of James Norton by Sphie E Tallis

Of course writing and art are completely subjective, what one person considers to be masterful, another perceives as being rubbish. But I still think some basic principles apply – the mechanics of writing a good sentence or drawing a good picture, of forming those images whether in the mind or on canvas.

Sadly, the path to success is littered with amazingly talented people who never quite got to grips with marketing, social media, ‘branding’ or simply had the bad luck not to reach that agent or publisher at the right time who might recognise their genius.

Pencil portrait of James Norton.

Pencil portrait of actor, James Norton by Sophie E Tallis

Annoyingly, the path to success is also littered with those who seemingly had only a tenth of the talent needed, but who were either fabulously well-connected (all areas of working life will always have an element of nepotism, the famous name, the ‘who you know’ element etc.), or were either bloody lucky in their timing when approaching said agent/publisher, or were so fantastic at the marketing/branding side that they had tremendous success before people realised the tripe they were actually peddling.

In writing terms, the author E.L. James comes to mind, whose actual writing (aside from the dubious pro-abuser content) is simply dreadful. In terms of the art world, for me, Tracey Emin is also the perfect example of brilliant self publicity/PR with minimal talent required. As a former history of art and fine art student & artist myself, I am not anti-modern art at all, just people like Emin. Damien Hirst may not be to everyone’s taste, but like Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Saville, Rachel Whiteread etc., they had a huge underlying skill level. I actually saw Hirst’s early work before he made it big as part of the 1990’s Brit-Art explosion and the guy is actually very talented. Although I cannot pretend to like a lot of his work, the guy CAN at least draw, his draftsmanship skills are very good, he just chooses to explore abstract and conceptual art. For me, as a drawer and artist, that is my benchmark for art, as it is for writing, that the person needs to have good basic skills in their chosen art-form. Emin cannot and never could draw proficiently, even the most basic forms, her drawing ability is quite frankly poor, and no, the irony that she was employed a few years ago as the Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Art is not lost on me. 😦

Pencil portrait of actor, Trevor Eve

Pencil portrait of actor, Trevor Eve by Sophie E Tallis

But back to writing. At the heart of the matter, the writer/author needs to have skill at stringing words together, at spinning a yarn, telling a compelling story, writing memorable characters etc., etc.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” goes the voice in our heads as we contemplate sending work off to the latest narrowing submission window, chasing any opportunity that passes no matter how fleeting – like too many bees chasing the one elusive queen, or in fantasy speak – butter spread over too much bread. We’re all chasing the same thing, the same elusive target – to be published, to have an agent, to make a living from what we love to create.

For me, so far this year, the successes I have seen have definitely been in my art rather than my writing. As dearly as I would love more people to read my work and review it and yes, love it, I am still yet another small voice amongst the din, I know this (I will be doing a separate post on ‘branding’ with some tips I’ve picked up and stolen!). But, my illustration work has, rather surprisingly, started to take off and accrue a real momentum of its own!

Pencil portrait of Stephen Fry

Rough pencil study of Stephen Fry by Sophie E Tallis

Some of that is due to content, to being prolific. As a writer I have always been glacially slow, I’d like to think it’s quality over quantity, but in truth I wish I found writing as easy as drawing. I struggle with illness, concentration and mental exhaustion to get the words down, it seems to use a part of the brain that simply is not needed when I’m busily drawing. I don’t have to try to thread complicated plotlines together and continue a narrative over a long period of time when I’m drawing. Art allows you to switch off the brain and just use your eyes, instincts and fingers to form the image you want. Because of this, I have been able to create new artwork every day as part of my daily 365 day Artmaniac Challenge, whereas sadly I seldom manage to write every day no matter how hard I try. 😦

So, success definitely is due at least in part, to being prolific, having more content out there for people to look at, assess, discuss etc. Something I fear I may never achieve with my writing. 😦

Another element which I have seen first hand, is the ‘luck & who you know’ factor I was talking about. In my case it was a simple snowball effect. The lovely Juliet E McKenna heard in fantasy circles and shared contacts that I was an illustrator and specialised in fantasy maps. So she contacted me and I ended up doing a fantasy map for her and her wonderful ‘Secret Histories of the River Kingdom’.

watermarked-300dpi-finished-map-amended-bw-version

Then, because of that and again ‘word of mouth’, the equally lovely Anna Smith-Spark asked me to do a fantasy map for her debut novel, ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, to be published in June 2017 by HarperCollins. That in turn led her editors at HarperCollins to look at the map I did and my other illustration work, which then led to the Head of Fiction Art at HarperCollins contacting me directly to say how much everyone at HC loved my work and to offer me a contract to be an official HarperCollins illustrator (supplier)! *SQUEAL* 😀

The contract came through two weeks ago and yes, I signed it straight away! 😀

Since then I have had almost daily requests from various people to do commissioned artwork for them, including from a New York literary group who want me to do the main image for their magazine and website. It’s insane, I don’t even advertise and am now having to say, “No, sorry, I can’t take anymore commissions on at the moment!”

Madness!

HarperCollins were also lovely enough to tell me that I had been MASSIVELY undercharging people and advised for me to raise my rates. I did, a little, but not as much as they were suggesting otherwise that would stop any Indie Authors from being able to afford me and I know how damn hard it is for indie and self-published authors anyway, so I’m certainly not going to price myself out of their reach. 🙂

So, yes, creating more content and having that ‘word of mouth’ and lucky break does play a massive role in creating success. Now, if only I could apply that and get the same reactions to my written work! 😀

If you’re having the same struggles or successes, do let me know! 😉 xxx

Pencil portrait of Rayleigh Ritchie

Pencil portrait of actor Rayleigh Ritchie by Sophie E Tallis

 

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Jude Houghton!

This is the fifth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our fifth author interview…the epically talented and enigmatic…

Jude Houghton

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Jude, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

In this order:

  1. Coffee (preferably Nespresso machine with lots of capsules, no mess, no fuss)
  2. A vegetable patch.
  3. A comfortable fleece jacket which doubles as a three person tent with handy bathroom extension. (Okay, a bit of artistic license taken with that particular “device”).
  4. Music, audio books and a kindle reader courtesy of a solar powered iPhone*. (One is bound to come out sooner or later. You have to assume the planet has a big bad sun though…)
  5. A sort of crystal thing that provides a light in dark places when all other lights go out.

*Because the iphone’s light will go out once I’ve accidentally dropped it into the puddles of primordial soup a few times. Inevitable I’m afraid.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

The above. Assuming of course there are no other life forms on the ship. In which case they would be number 4 or 5 in the queue.What? No. Kidding. What I meant is: The above. Assuming there is not another ship, carefully stored within the ship, that can be wheeled out just before the whole thing goes poof…Does it have one of those? I can’t remember seeing any on Star Trek, but then again, I kind of didn’t watch it after Deep Space Nine. I mean what was that…?

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

“Dtay Tola! Dtay wonna wanga? Dtay wonna wan go.” Sorry random Bib Fortuna quote. You know, the guy with the pallor and weird snaky neck extension. Well that’s how aliens speak. But anyway… I’d smile sweetly, but keep the blaster cocked and ready. Yes, blaster. I did say I was going to salvage a blaster right? Well, it’s in the second ship actually, in the glove compartment, just by the warp speed lever.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Well…I don’t often read books twice (too many good books, too little time) so the ones that would be with me would likely be the fantasy/sci-fi on my ever growing To-Be-Read list.

However, in this specific case, I would take a couple of trusted books for insurance, just in case the new ones turned out to be stinkers. So Dune, which also seems to be a Grimbold “must have” favourite novel and…is Shakespeare, fantasy? Can we sneak in his complete works? I mean A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The Winter’s Tale? They’re pretty out there. The Tempest is the definition of early fantasy fiction… so yeh, I’m having it. Kill all the lawyers.

So… (he turns quickly to the TBR list, crosses off everything that is not fantasy and sci-fi) the next items queued on the phone and in paperback are:

Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky – it’s been 12 months in the TBR pile. It’s time has finally come!

Sophie Tallis, White Mountain – I realise that is a tad convenient, but I’m telling you the books in the queue right now! So there. Beauty is truth.

Kate Coe, Green Sky and Sparks – Another Indy I’m looking forward to.

Ernest Kline, Armada – Okay so the reviews have been terrible but I liked Ready Player One. If it turns out to be a stinker then… well… I’ll go back to re-reading Dune.

That’s six isn’t it? Well, I don’t know if I’m allowed the Complete Works. If I am, alas poor Ernest, I knew him, Horatio.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Why pick a song, when you can have a whole album? (very true!) So:

Nirvana, Nevermind – A cliché but…oh never mind.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – Good for listening to in the baking sun if it is like the desert planet of Dune!

Massive Attack, Blue Lines – Because I believe in the one love.

Debussy, Nocturnes – More Alien than thou.

Ella Fitzgerald, Greatest Hits – For the alien moonlit nights, the whisky drinking nights, and for the times the rain comes down on the fleece-like man-tent.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka. Sorry, is that even a serious question?

Random comet question: Gandalf or Dumbledore?

One defeats Balrogs, the other has a sorting hat… hmmm… tough one…

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Aghhhhhh! You’re going to eat my brain…. Aghhhhh! Unless…

Autonomy.

It’s about two strangers, born on opposite sides of the world, on the same day in 2035. It’s about Balmoral Murraine, the maimed daughter of a struggling Battery worker, and Pasco Eborgersen, the pampered son of a Sector 1 Elite. It’s about the discovery of a truth so potent, that it will rip mankind apart. And it’s about a world lived through the intermediary of iNet, of the devotions of the Faith and the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, and about the single commodity that has become more plentiful than any other. Man.

Welcome to your future.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

If I am alone; reading, writing, kicking a few of the softer alien rocks around. Maybe set up a couple of goals, and practice finishing with my left foot.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Family. – Everything else is way, way, way behind. No, I mean WAY behind. There you go.
  2. Friends. Another yawning gap.
  3. The green and blue hues peculiar to earth.
  4. The feel of the wind as it whips up from the sea.
  5. The dog.

I know what you’re thinking. The dog should be MUCH higher. But I don’t want her getting a big head. She’s insufferable as it is.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Okay, this list is in reverse order. Just to mix it up.

  1. Is one allowed to say Facebook? Yes? Oh good. You are a one.
  2. Bugs that whine in your ear and then bite you!
  3. Cars of all types, especially when not moving.
  4. Money and what it does to people.
  5. Wars of religion.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Turn back time and change? Historical or personal? Because there was the time I wore that… No, no…can any single thing really be changed without changing everything? Where would it end? Not with a sonic screwdriver and red-lined coat I can tell you.

So if I had a time machine, I’d just observe. What? Well that is the question.

As much as I could before time caught up with me. I’d want to see Cassivellaunus and his charioteers fend off Caesar’s Romans, Henry VIII joust at the Cloth of Gold, sit in the Globe before it burned down, walk through Victorian London with a couple of coppers in my pocket for the match makers and boot blacks (hopefully that wouldn’t change too much).

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I have so many unanswered questions about this adventure that it is impossible to tell. The mad, bad and dangerous to know part of me says Yee Haa! The, where’s my life gone part, says um… let’s get in the ship, the other one, and go home and pick up a few things like…the family, the dog, a few open minded friends and pioneers, and don’t forget the droids.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Anything published by Grimbold Books. Seriously. I have now read: Dollywagglers, The Sea Sword Stone and In Search of Gods and Heroes and I really liked all of them. Queued I have…well all the rest. So that’s about fourteen to go. My self-imposed deadline to finish them is the end of this year. So I’m living that particular recommendation and enjoying every minute of it.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

The future is a series of nows, so don’t wait for tomorrow.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Option 3Jude Houghton in his own words…

Jude Houghton developed a love of fantasy from a relatively early age after realising an innate talent for making stuff up could result in something other than detention. A somnambulist, insomniac, lover of letters, Jude writes late into the night, most nights, tumbling down the rabbit hole to dream of other lives. Jude currently lives in Pennsylvania with an over-enthusiastic family and absurdly entitled dog. And he sometimes talks in the third person.

Inspiration:

Everything around me, particularly the people I love, the books I read and the music I listen to.

Publisher:

Tenebris Books, part of Grimbold Books. www.tenebrisbooks.com

Amazon UK

Amazon US

cover_digital-191x300Songs of Seraphina blurb:

Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience. In this richly painted tale, at whose heart is the unbreakable bond of family and blood, the world of Seraphina collides with our own as three unique girls are dragged into twilight lives past, fighting for vengeance, retribution, and the survival of their exiled people.

***

Thank you, Jude. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing intergalactic transport has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

Space_Planet_fly_in_space_042277_[1]

 Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes C.N. Lesley!

This is the fourth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

Digital-Universe-Planets-Fantasy-Space-Wallpaper-HD-Desktop-Free-Download-9899308945[1]

To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our fourth author interview…the fantastical…

C.N. Lesley

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C.N.Lesley, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

1) A solar panel for power. 2) A roomy hibernation capsule for if it is a long journey. 3) Preserved food for when I find a planet. 4) First aid supplies in case of sickness or injury. 5) My cat and his food as I need him to stop me going mad and this is the reason for the roomy hibernation capsule.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My cat, our food, first aid, water and a weapon.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’d want to see what the life-forms were like before I went near them.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

The golden oldies because I can read and reread. Frank Herbert’s Dune, J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I like classical music and any of the great masters would be fine.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Water straight off a glacier. There is no sweeter drink ever.

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Love. I will admit to having accumulated a hoard when it was mooted Canada might ban it.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Not fair. I am working on several. Actually I do have an elevator pitch for Serpent of the Shangrove. Here it is: Darkspire Reaches is where it started. A creature of water has many roads open. A creature of flames racing to fire. They fought. A battle of wills with an unexpected outcome. Home, an aerie in the clouds. Someone important got left behind in the Shangrove, which feeds off magic creatures. Serpent of the Shangrove, the story continues.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Staying alive.

What things would you miss most about Earth?

Snow.

What things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Sharks and monkeys.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Interfering will distort the time line and may make things worse.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

To distant planets? Yes.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Oh stars, there are way too many good books. Giovanni Giamatao for a great horror/detective series. Jeanne Haskins has some wonderful fantasy and sci fi. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan has a neat series about John Lennon recreated in the far future. Of course, there are loads of others. And then there are the authors in the stables of small publishers. There are some great books with Grimbold Books.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Good covers are the cherry on the top meaning the book has undergone a lot of love and care. The first three chapters, or thereabouts are free on Amazon. This should be enough of a taste to see if the story is good.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Copy of Mum_Edge_FinderC.N.Lesley in her own words…

I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and just above the Badlands where a whole bunch of dinosaur bones are found on a regular basis. My family are my dear husband, my three daughters and their guys and my three grandsons. Other kin are scattered all over the world in France, Greece, Australia, America, Sweden and New Zealand. Inspirations? Always dreams or the tag end of them. Darkspire Reaches started off with a dream about a lynch mob coming for two helpless women, who just escaped before their rickety hut was burned to the ground. Shadow Over Avalon started with a dream about the Lady of the Lake. I got to thinking what DID happen when the king fulfilled his promise and returned to fight man’s worst enemy. Obviously, this had to be a lulu of a baddie and unlike anything that has ever gone before, so the series is set in the far distant future. I was lucky enough to be accepted by Kristell Ink, the best publishers ever!

Amazon UK – Author Page (with all available books)

Amazon US – Author Page (with all available books)

Waterstones

Final version front cover (2)

Latest Book Blurb:

Arthur and Kai have escaped the threat of Emrys, but now they must face life on the surface world—and all the fearsome creatures that dwell there. But just as they assemble the beginnings of a fighting force, they discover a vital component to their safety has been compromised. This means a return to Avalon, where Arthur has an unexpected encounter with the untrustworthy Merlin. The magician’s orders are clear: Arthur must find the sword to save the surface-dwellers and Avalon. There is no alternative. Kiri Ung, leader of the Nestines and ultimate controller of the Terran slaves on the surface, needs Arthur in order to ensure of the continuance of his species. With the Nestine Queen dying, failure means ultimate extinction. Wherever Arthur goes, so goes Kiri Ung. Whoever finds the sword first gains control over all humanity. But simply gaining possession of this powerful artifact is not enough to wield its power. Let the battle commence.

***

C.N.Lesley’s other books available through Amazon and Waterstones:

Digital CoverShadow Over Avalon (2)1

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, C.N. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing long range mining ship has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sammy HK Smith!

This is the third post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

8589130492166-space-planets-wallpaper-hd[1]

To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our third author interview…the galactically cool…

Sammy HK Smith

planeta-junto-al-sol-2885[1]

Sammy, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Oxygen canister and mask, Food replicator (a la Star Trek), my husband’s collection of tools (he has so many!), some sort of weapon, chocolate.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

Bumbles my lion teddy bear (don’t laugh!), my wedding and engagement rings, photograph of my grandparents, my favourite pair of bum-minimising jeans!, my baby boy’s first teddy bear, Logan-bear.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Go it alone.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – beautifully written and exquisite fantasy that shows love in all its glory and with no limits.
  • Geomancer by Ian Irvine – the first fantasy book to truly blow me away. Mr Irvine’s worldbuilding is some of the best I’ve ever come across.
  • White Mountains by John Christopher – the first sci-fi book I read and loved as a child.
  • Rhapsody – Elizabeth Haydon – high fantasy with strong plot and well-executed story. Ok, the love aspect is a bit hackneyed, but it’s a guilty pleasure.
  • Shadowfall – James Clemens – I can’t explain why I love this book so much, but I do. Gods, magic, politics, treachery, betrayal… it’s amazing.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • August and Everything After – Counting Crows. I know all the words to every song on that album. Adore it.
  • Come Find Yourself – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
  • 1989 – Taylor Swift
  • The Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Water. I’d like to survive for as long as possible!

Random comet questions: Sammy, as well as being an awesomely talented writer yourself, you are also a multi-tasking police officer, soon to be mum and the Creative Director and Co-founder of uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, and it’s imprint, Kristell Ink!

How do you manage to juggle so many different and contrasting areas of your life?

Good question! Sometimes I don’t think I do manage to successfully juggle stuff, but then my friends politely remind me that I’m human and therefore allowed a day or week off now and then! I like being kept busy, and because I love our books and authors, it drives me on to want to help them (and us!) succeed. Small baby steps,I guess! I’m very very lucky to have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind me beavering away online late at night as well!

Have any of your experiences as either a police officer, soon to be mum or publisher informed your own creative writing?

Absolutely! Not so much with my fantasy novel, but I guess you can say that was spurred on by escapism…I haven’t met any dragons at work…

Definitely with my soon-to-be-released novel, Anna. The book is about strength of a woman, degradation, rape and abuse and how we, as humans, react differently to scenarios. It’s ok people saying ‘well I wouldn’t do that, I’d fight back and scream’. I want to actually make people think ‘would you, would you really?’ It’s proven that the amygdala side of our brain works on the 5 F’s – fight, flee, freeze, flop, friend – and so we wouldn’t necessarily react in the way we think we might. I set Anna in a dystopic world because, well, I love dystopia!

As an author-friendly UK publisher who focuses on quality, what are you looking for in new authors/submissions?

Enthusiasm, team spirit, a good social media/online presence and obviously, great work! It’s a hard industry and it doesn’t matter if you’re signed to a big publisher or a small publisher, there is an expectation for you to market yourself and your work. We work very much as a team as well and support one another across the board. It’s a very ‘co-operative’ focused set up.

We love working with new writers and if there’s a submission that isn’t quite publication ready but we love it, we’ll often work with the writer to polish it up.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Anna is graceful, Anna is meek, Anna submits. I am not Anna, but I must pretend to be her to survive.

Anna is a literary dystopian tale described as a cross between ‘The Road’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. A story of identity and strength in the face of abject humiliation and abuse, Anna explores the similarities between human nature vs nurture.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Reading, sleeping, and writing. 3 things I’ve barely got time to do at the moment!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Vast varying cultures (inc foods!), Scenery and landscapes, Our beautiful sky on a clear night Animals/Wildlife, Chocolate.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Government, War, Famine, Religion, Spiders.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I could take my loved ones with me, but if not, I doubt it. I’d miss too many people! Also, I’m a bit of a wuss and love my creature comforts…

What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

In my personal life, I regret not telling my Nanny how much I loved her more. She knew (of course) but she was the most important female figure in my life and I wish I told her just how inspirational I found her.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Songs of Seraphina – Jude Houghton (Tenebris Books) – my first choice is the beautifully written YA split worlds novel by Jude. It’s simply gorgeous. The prose, the stylisation and story, everything. The first time I read this novel I wanted to *be* one of the characters, and nowadays that doesn’t happen to me often! Fantasy that has the charm of Lewis, but the intelligence of Pullman and Gaiman. Breed – K.T Davies (Fox Spirit) – Full of twists and turns, this is clever fantasy with a fresh voice. It follows the ‘quest’ story, but instead makes it original and new. Magic paradoxes are great fun too… The Sun Shard – Rob Bayliss – Epic fantasy tale that I found was written in a very unique voice. It felt quite ominous in places and as though a bard or storyteller was weaving through the scenes. So this gets on the list for unique stylisation and great worldbuilding. Under My Skin – Zoe Markham (Carina) – Described as re-imagining of Frankenstein, this is one I bought recently and read almost in one sitting. YA/Gothic with bits of fantasy and even sci-fi nods, I was really impressed as to how Zoe brought all the genres together. It’s wonderfully written. What The Town Knew – C.W.Farley – I first read this on the author’s blog as they released sections bit by bit. Not my usual genre of choice, but written in the second person tense it drags you into a world of domestic violence, murder, broken relationships and lies. It’s simply excellent.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Read and write what you enjoy and love, not what you think other people want you to do. Passion shines through. If you get knocked down, get straight back up and keep going. Times are hard for writers, but persevere and push.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

untitledSammy in her own words…

Ahhh, you’ve probably realised I’m quite a ‘straight to the point’ person with my responses to this interview, so here goes: I’m a full-time detective in the police, part-time uni student and soon-to-be first time mummy. I live in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with my very patient husband, 14 cats and 2 dogs. I write in lots of genres, but my favourite is fantasy and sci-fi. My debut novel ‘In Search of Gods and Heroes’ is a mythological and metaphysical multiple POV story of gods and mortals set over three worlds. It even has a talking cat… If you like complex characters, dragons, twists and turns and rather unlikeable protagonists, this might be the book for you! I co-run Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink and love to read and promote new authors and writers. I’m inspired by all things, positive and negative, and believe that through literature and stories you can help heal the deepest hurts.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Waterstones

ISOGAH Digital CoverBlurb:

Buried in the scriptures of Ibea lies a story of rivalry, betrayal, stolen love, and the bitter division of the gods into two factions. This rift forced the lesser deities to pledge their divine loyalty either to the shining Eternal Kingdom or the darkness of the Underworld.
When a demon sneaks into the mortal world and murders an innocent girl to get to her sister Chaeli, all pretence of peace between the gods is shattered. For Chaeli is no ordinary mortal, she is a demi-goddess, in hiding for centuries, even from herself. But there are two divine brothers who may have fathered her, and the fate of Ibea rests on the source of her blood.
Chaeli embarks on a journey that tests her heart, her courage, and her humanity. Her only guides are a man who died a thousand years ago in the Dragon Wars, a former assassin for the Underworld, and a changeling who prefers the form of a cat.
The lives of many others – the hideously scarred Anya and her gaoler; the enigmatic and cruel Captain Kerne; the dissolute Prince Dal; and gentle seer Hana – all become entwined. The gods will once more walk the mortal plane spreading love, luck, disease, and despair as they prepare for the final, inevitable battle.
In Search of Gods and Heroes, Book One of Children of Nalowyn, is a true epic of sweeping proportions which becomes progressively darker as the baser side of human nature is explored, the failings and ambitions of the gods is revealed, and lines between sensuality and sadism, love and lust are blurred.

Book Blurb for Latest Book – Anna:

There is an old lie: dulce est decorum est. In a post-apocalyptic world where societal regression has left women branded like prized chattel, one woman fights for the only thing she has left: herself. Stripped of her identity she becomes ‘Anna’, a persona she adopts to protect her true self, and she must learn to accept the loss of everything and everyone she ever loved in the war that tore the world apart. Anna is gracious. Anna is submissive. But Anna is also strong. Kidnapped, raped, and forced into a subservient role by a man who claims to love her, she watches people turn on each other for food, for fuel, for sex, for status and, for fun. Strength comes in many forms, and ANNA tells the story of one woman who becomes someone else in order to free herself.

***

Thank you. Congratulations, Sammy, you are survivor! A passing Starfury and its pilot, Kara Thrace, have honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Steven Poore!

This is the second of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch series, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author series to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To continue the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our second author interview…the fantastic…

Steven Poore

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Steven, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Swiss army knife, one of those tents that spring up straight from the bag, jar of Marmite, and notebook and pen. You won’t get anywhere without a to-do list…

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

To be honest, I’d probably end up burning to death before I managed to make any sort of decision. As long as I’ve got the ipod, Kobo, wind-up charger, and the cat, I think I’m sorted.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Friendly aliens? That never ends well…

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • The Martian (Andy Weir) would be an obvious choice, but I’d go more for The Barbed Coil (JV Jones).
  • Lord of the Rings (yep, him).
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susannah Clarke) because I’d actually have time to read it.
  • Dune (Frank Herbert) for a laugh.
  • …and either Wyrd Sisters or Guards! Guards! (Pratchett, of course).

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • Brave by Marillion.
  • Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.
  • Disintegration by The Cure.
  • The Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
  • …and The Stone Roses.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

I have previous with vodka, so I’d prefer a self-replenishing supply of the Thornbridge Brewery’s wonderful Jaipur IPA (*dry cough*).

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Oh, love it – the yeast must flow…!

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Storyteller’s daughter Cassia joins a quest to resurrect the power of an ancient Northern kingdom, hoping to become a famous storyteller herself. But her new companions haven’t told her the truth, and the curse wards around the kingdom really should never be broken, and… my, those are really big teeth… and if she isn’t careful then Cassia is going to make a very big mistake. You look hungry. Marmite on toast?

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Trying to find the cat, with my luck…

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Roast potatoes, bacon, conventions, narrowboats, and Marmite.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Conservatives, West Bromwich Albion, ITV Be, Sad/Rabid/Vichy Puppies, and that stupid fashion of wearing your jeans below your arse.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it? What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Yes, so I could have another chance to turn back time and change the fact that I hadn’t gone on this deep space adventure, otherwise all my chances to turn back time and change things would never have happened! (Possibly)

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why? (ahem…Steven chose more than 5, but hey, they’re GREAT choices!)

Jo Thomas – 25 Ways To Kill a Werewolf (Fox Spirit Books). Inventive and very comprehensive. Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Whippleshield Books). Claustrophobic alt-history. It won a BSFA Award for a reason. KT Davies – Breed (Fox Spirit Books). Sweary and brilliant. Andrew David Barker – The Electric (Boo Books). Like a Midlands Bradbury. Andrew Reid – Kingdom’s Fall (Wattpad). Episodic epic fantasy from a constantly epic chap. David R Lee – The Road To Thule (via Amazon). I’m cheating – intense post-apocalyptic techno-heathenry from a fellow Sheffield writer.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Will Wheaton said it best: don’t be a dick.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

GetAttachment[1] (3)Steven Poore in his own words…

I’m an Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist! Heir to the North is the first part of Malessar’s Curse, and will be followed by The High King’s Vengeance next year, both released by Kristell Ink. I’m also working on a fantasy set on a narrowboat. Some of my short stories will be featured in forthcoming Pocket anthologies from Fox Spirit Books. I live in Sheffield with my partner, an artist and crafter. We have a three-legged cat and an ever-increasing mass of books.

If you want to know more about me, you can find me on Twitter@stevenjpoore, and on the net at stevenpoore.wordpress.com. If you’d like to know more about the SFSF Social Club, that’s on Twitter too, @SFSFSocial, and online at sfsfsocial.wordpress.com.

10382072_10155105102395375_5143104779488378448_o[1]Blurb:

The North Will Rise Again

The Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell centuries ago, murdering theHigh King Jedrell and his bride, and cursing the land itself. Since that time, the mountain kingdom has become little more than a dark legend, and the bloodline of the High Kings has been lost.

Until now.

Old soldier Baum and heroic warrior Meredith seek to defeat Malessar and his foul curse. Conscripted into their quest, young Cassia quickly realises she could make her name as a storyteller by witnessing such an epic confrontation. But neither of her companions are quite as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories Cassia has not yet heard.

By the time she discovers that both Baum and the Warlock have hidden devastating secrets from each other for centuries, it may be too late. Cassia must decide which side she will stand upon and for whom she will fight – for Malessar, or for The Heir To The North.

***

Thank you. Congratulations, Steven, you are survivor! A passing deep space explorer has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Kate Coe!

Drum roll please…

This is a VERY exciting blog post as it heralds the beginning of a brand new blog series – as I dip my toes for the first time into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch series, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’sMeet the Author‘ series to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our very first author…the awesome…

Kate Coe

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Kate, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Water purification tablets, some kind of shelter (a sleeping bag if not a tent), some kind of emergency ration bars, a knife and some duct tape – yes, I live with an engineer!

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

I would say my laptop but only if it had some sort of portable power source! Let’s go with a notebook and pen, books (multiple books count as one item, right?), my favourite jumper, and probably my two cats as they’re daft enough to not jump out when the ship crashes.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Definitely seek help – who knows what you might find out there?

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • China Mieville’s The Scar. I took this travelling round the world with me, and it kept me going for three months – it’s readable and re-readable and read-again-able!
  • Gaiman & Pratchett’s Good Omens, because the humour always makes me laugh, and it’s a fun read.
  • Diane Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret. I love the characters and the world she’s created, and it makes me smile – “Eyenose cuzidin lyebeans” is possibly my favourite phrase ever!
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune. I love the universe, the hints of politics and meanings and plotlines that aren’t explored, the people and worlds created that are so alien yet so realised. It’s something I have read multiple times and can always pick up again
  • And finally, one new book! The next in my TBR pile is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, so I’d probably take that as something new to keep me occupied.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • Skylarking by BT; it always makes me smile
  • The Joshua Tree album by U2 – an old favourite.
  • Pachabel’s Canon – also an old favourite. It sent shivers down my spine the first time I heard it as a child, and it’s always been something special for me.
  • Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root; it was nearly the first dance at my wedding but it has a lot of good memories, and always makes me want to dance.
  • And whatever I’m currently writing to. At the moment it’s Forget It by Breaking Benjamin but it tends to change by the day.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

I’d love to choose vodka, but the hangover ain’t worth it…let’s stick with water.

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Sort of meh, actually – it’s ok but I can usually find something nicer to eat.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Catter’s trying to find a legend, and when the Lord-turned-inventor Toru Idalin offers to take him up in his flying machine, he thinks it will solve his quest. But their crash in the mountains is only the start of Catter’s problems, and Toru’s soul-bond to a dying Healer creates even more trouble…

The book is the first in a world of magic that’s just discovering technology, and the changes that electricity, flight and communication bring to the characters and their lives. The series follows a range of people across multiple lands as they adapt, grow, love, grieve and fly.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I’d probably flit between reading, writing and exploring.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

The changing skies, my friends, a reliable source of power for my laptop, the availability of multiple books, and chocolate.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

People, the dark underbelly of the Interwebz, the irritating weather, having a job (more writing time! Wooh!) and having a building site next door.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change? If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Not a Dr Who fan, unfortunately…but I’m always up for an adventure.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Brave New Girls by Mary Fan & Paige Daniels (eds) – a wonderful collection of stories.

I really like Fox Spirits (publisher) – I’m currently working my way through their publishing list! They always have something interesting and some very good writing.

Vermillion by Molly Tanzer – very good writing and an entertaining story.

If you like Steampunk, Tales from the Scriptorian Vaults is a brilliant collection.

And I’m going to have to give a shout-out to Grimbold Books, and particularly a new book by Kate Coe…

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Write and read what you love, make sure your oxygen tank’s full and working before you step out of the spaceship, and don’t eat the green wobbly bit.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

I’m an accidental librarian, DIY enthusiast and write when the cats give me a moment. My inspirations…Terry Pratchett, China Mieville, the sky on a windy day, Redwood trees, anyone and everyone I meet, my oldest friend, Renaissance technology, clockwork…anything and everything, really!

My publishers are the awesome Grimbold Books, with a range that includes fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, dark fiction and anthologies (about cats, too!). Check out their range at http://www.grimboldbooks.com.

***

GetAttachment[1]Kate Coe in her own words…

I’m a librarian with a background in classics and law, I live with an engineer and very grumpy bearded dragon, and I fill my spare time in between writing with web design, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). My favourite character is a sloth with a speed addiction, my best writing moment was when one of my characters fell in love and completely changed the plot, and I write because I can’t imagine not doing it – and it gets the voices out of my head for five minutes…

Kate’s Links – the best place to find out more about Kate and her wonderful writing!

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Kristell Ink

Green-Sky-Final-Front-1Blurb:

In a world of magic, wind, and electricity, Catter Jeck is offered the chance to explore a myth. Travelling from city to city, his search for the centre of the magic catches others in its coils. When the Lord Heir of Meton offers to continue the search in his flying machine, the consequences of their crash—and Toru’s accidental link to a dying Healer—suddenly become of central importance to all of their lives.

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy already, I can highly recommend Kate Coe’s new novel, Green Sky & Sparks. A beautifully written and brilliantly original read! 😀

Thank you, Kate and congratulations, you are survivor! A passing freighter has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My signing at Books On The Hill

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

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

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

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

Cirencester event on Octavia's

Octavia's Cirencester eventWow!

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

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

People's Book Prize page

Do I have a chance of winning?

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

People's Book Prize capture

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

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

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

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

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