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:

“I’ve 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.”

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! 😀

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! 😀 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. 🙂

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…! 😉 xxx

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Tis’ the season to be jolly…still?

Well, my lovely bloggers, visitors, friends, fellow nutty inmates…Christmas has come and already passed in a blur of sparkling drinks, party food, crisps, squashed chocolates and merriment! And now New Year has sped past too…!

SAM_5514I for one, have had a lovely Christmas so far and hope you all have too, despite some horrendous weather anomalies both sides of the Atlantic.

For once, I was actually looking forward to the New Year – a milestone I usually dread, after all, who really wants to celebrate getting a year older and reflecting on all those targets you didn’t achieve, things you failed to do or progressive steps you forgot to take? New Year has a way of focusing all the negative things that happened through the year under a fine microscope.

BUT this year…well, this year has been different. It’s been an amazing year in almost every way. Personally, I’ve taken some huge steps forward and the fruition of this should hopefully be evident this time next year…he he he! Professionally, I’ve loved every second of working for my fabulous publishers, Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink. As an author, you simply couldn’t want for more supportive lovely people, we really are all a huge gloriously weird and wacky family, which was so evident at FantasyCon in Nottingham this year. It really was the most fun you can have with your clothes on! 😀 11986568_1137863496242052_4476185573487481831_n[1]

Artistically and creatively, it’s been a great year as not only has my epic illustrated fantasy, White Mountain, been doing rather well, but I’ve been book signing up and down the West Country and Wales, moderated my first fantasy convention panel, was invited as an author and illustrator to take part in the Cirencester Literary Festival (which was awesome and a complete sell out) and managed to not only write a bunch of new short stories (which have been and are being published), but even took part and succeeded in my first ever Nano write! Nano Winner 2015 Certificate

So all in all, it’s been a frenetic, hectic, manic year and although I am completely knackered, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So…what for 2016? Did I make any New Year’s resolutions to be broken a few weeks later?

No.

What I will say, is that 2016 will bring more creative projects. After having struggled with my illness and writing, Nano showed me that I CAN beat my stupid condition and I CAN novel write again. So with renewed vigor, I intend to finish the sequel to White Mountain, Darkling Rise, which has taken me so long (I promise to my beloved White Mountain fans that it WILL be worth the wait!), and I will finish my other dark fantasy novel, Ravenwing, that I wrote 50K words of for Nano and which I am stupidly excited about! I will also finish my first picture book, already written and in stasis while I paint the 24 full page illustrations! Wow! I had NO idea just how much work goes into a picture book when you are writing AND illustrating it…but I must say, it is something rather special. I don’t mind being uncharacteristically optimistic and saying that this could be something huge… 😀 xxx

So, whatever your plans for 2016, my advice is to…

be brave and be bold.

If the last few years have taught me anything, and I apologise for the clichés here…but life really isn’t a rehearsal, it speeds past in the briefest of flashes and before you know it all those hopes and dreams you had are fizzled into nothing. My dear fellow insomniac friend, Lindsey J Parsons, who I used to chat to late into the wee small hours, really grasped life by the horns. She had so many hopes and dreams, she achieved many of them but had many more to accomplish that tragically never came to pass as she died suddenly on 5th January 2014.

295755[1]I think of her often and try to use her wonderful example to spur me on and to ignore that self-doubt, that negative voice that cripples so many writers.

What are you hoping for in 2016?

To steal a phrase from the book and film, ‘We bought a zoo’, (which ironically I have a personal connection too as I used to teach Benjamin Mee’s nieces, so knew all about the family and there predicament and the Hollywood film based on their lives)…

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of INSANE courage…and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

So…what 20 seconds of insane courage do you need this year to accomplish your dreams?

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As my little blog passes 45,000 visitors for which I am truly humbled, honoured and more than a little surprised…it makes me reflect on what life is and what hopes and dreams I have for it. Remember, it is NEVER too late to change your life.

Whatever 2016 brings to you, believe in yourself, be brave and bold and don’t let your fears stop you from following your dreams.

😀 xxxx

A truly AWESOME collection of books, to fulfil every fantasy fan’s wish list! You see? Christmas CAN come more than once a year!

I’m so honoured and proud to be included amongst them! Huge thanks to Kate! 😀 xx

Please check out Katrina Jack’s wonderful blog guys! http://kateannejack.wordpress.com

KATE JACK'S BLOG

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Passing 8,000 and looking to the future…what will 2013 bring you?

This is none of your business, get a life!

Well, 2013 is here, all shiny and new and wanting our attention like a hyperactive puppy.

But before looking to the future, take a moment to reflect on the past 12 months. What kind of a year was 2012 for you?

For me, it was a mad year, a one-off never to be forgotten year. Full of incredible hard work, a lot of stresses, but some truly amazing highs.

The year started in a chaotic fashion. I’d literally moved house two days before Christmas. Having bought the last scrawny looking tree for £8 in B&Q, I was putting it up Christmas Eve amidst a sea of boxes! Although moving house is always exciting, the Christmas of 2011 was a difficult one. Everything that could go wrong with the house did. We lost our electricity, had no central heating, the oven imploded, the plumbing leaked if it worked at all…basically we were cold and hungry, oh, and we had no phones until the second week of January. It’s weird, but you never know how much you rely on phones and the internet until you have none, especially at Christmas time!349

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Things get fixed, better than they were before. Our money pit of a house turned into a dream home and my gorgeous white wolves have never been happier!

But 2012 really kicked off with my childhood dream of becoming a published writer coming true…!

Amazon UK

And of course, I started this little unassuming blog on January 26th, as a way of charting my life and experiences to date, my journey towards publication, sharing writing tips and ideas, poems and stories, little life lessons learnt etc. Writing, fantasy, epic storytelling, life, creativity and everything in between!

THAT was my motto and still is.

Well, in less than a year that ‘little unassuming blog’ has enjoyed tremendous success with over 8,500 views, far beyond anything I could have envisioned!

2012 rolled on…and with each passing month came a new milestone.

My first book, my first interview, then my second and third and fourth and so on. Long before my debut novel, White Mountain, was even published the pre-orders started pouring in. A HUGE thank you to all those wonderful early supporters, my Dragon Friends, thank you thank you thank you! Chapter Eighteen - Turn Of The Blade

Then came blog awards, newspaper articles and feature interviews. The momentum had taken on a life of its own.

Then, a few weeks after my birthday came the day I’d been waiting for since I was a 5 yr old kid. My first novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, was published 30th September 2012. A date indelibly imprinted on my brain and SUCH a good time to publish, part of that magical infamous Autumn push!

A week later and I had my book launch at Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester, a very prestigious independent bookshop which was voted runner-up in the Best Small Shops in Britain Awards by The Telegraph and was then shortlisted for Best Children’s Independent Bookshop in The Bookseller Industry Awards. It’s owner, Octavia Karavla, is a real mover and shaker in the book business and was shortlisted for Young Bookseller of the Year and has just been named one of The Bookseller’s ‘Rising Stars’. http://www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012

Well, despite my nerves at my very first book signing event, the book launch was an enormous success and we SOLD OUT in just under two hours!!!! Not a single copy left! I just couldn’t believe it. Customers had to have their orders taken by Octavia and make do with a chat from me and a look at my illustrations!

thumbs_sophie-e-tallis[1]What a bizarre dream. The book had clearly found its feet and the buzz about was growing.

More interviews, more newspaper articles, a listing in The Cotswold Life Magazine, then I was approached by Readathon UK, a national reading charity supported by the likes of Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen, Anthony Horowitz, Julia Donaldson etc. THEY were interested in talking to me? Really? http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

I was dreaming…

The first reviews started coming in, no family members or sock puppets, no, genuine reviews and they were all loving the book. At one point and to my utter delight, White Mountain even found itself at no.9 of Amazon’s epic fantasy books!!!!

A hugely successful Waterstones book signing tour followed with high sales, a growing following and a real buzz about the book…my wildest dreams had come true!

That was my 2012…wow! I’m still waiting to catch my breath. 😀

Now to the New Year.

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions…do we ever really keep them? But amongst the chaos, I’m busily writing Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles due out this Autumn, then the whole crazy game starts over again! 😀

Another goal for the year I’m intent on keeping, is to keep blogging.

So what will 2013 bring to YOU?

😀 xx