Agents and Taking Chances!

This is kind of a follow on from my last post about the randomness of good luck and how ‘word of mouth’ can set off a chain reaction of happy outcomes. For me last month that started with HarperCollins approaching me because they loved the fantasy map I created for one of their new authors, Anna Smith-Spark, and that led to them wanting me to be an official HarperCollins illustrator!

Pencil portrait of poet Ben Okri by Sophie E Tallis

Pencil portrait of poet Ben Okri by Sophie E Tallis

Well, what I didn’t mention, as it happened so soon afterwards, is that I was also approached by an agent! Yes, an agent! Again, how this happened was so so weird.

I work at a library, a very inconspicuous job and one I love – who wouldn’t love being surrounded by books all day?! Now, apart from doing my normal library duties, I also paint murals on the huge glass panels of the library windows, which not only brighten the whole library up but do encourage kiddies and more people through the doors. I did a Christmas scene from Narnia, a huge homage to Roald Dahl and the latest one, my own version of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’, complete with my old cat, Kitty.

My mural interpretation of Quentin Blake's Roald Dahl character, Fantastic Mr Fox by Sophie E Tallis

My mural interpretation of Quentin Blake’s Roald Dahl character, Fantastic Mr Fox by Sophie E Tallis

Anyway, one random day last year, just before Christmas, a customer came into the library and asked if I did the windows. I said yes, then she asked if I was an illustrator, again I said yes, then she revealed that she worked in publishing, specifically children’s publishing and loved my artwork! I was gobsmacked. I told her I had written a children’s book and was busy illustrating it and she was very keen. We exchanged email addresses and emails then after Christmas she contacted me again and asked to see the book. I sent her the text, layout and a few sample illustrations then waited. About two weeks ago she got back to me. They loved it. It wasn’t an immediate “yes we’ll take it now”, but it definitely wasn’t a “no”, they gave me really detailed feedback to tweak and improve it then want me to re-submit it to them in the next few weeks. OMG! 😀

Pencil portrait of poet Benjamin Zephaniah by Sophie E Tallis

Pencil portrait of poet Benjamin Zephaniah by Sophie E Tallis

It’s just such a bizarre set of circumstances!
So, all this arty madness and my continuing daily Artmaniac Challenge on Facebook, got me thinking…yes luck plays a great part in getting opportunities, what were the chances of an agent coming into the library and approaching me? Zero I would have thought. But, by that same token, we can do more to try and maximise and even create those opportunities. Ten years ago I would never have had the confidence to speak up, if a agent had complimented my work I would have said thank you and left it at that. So yes, we do have to push ourselves out there whenever we can.

Pencil portrait of musician Rick Wakeman by Sophie E Tallis

Pencil portrait of musician Rick Wakeman by Sophie E Tallis

Simple truth – shrinking violets don’t get anywhere.
All that lovely good stuff got me thinking about taking chances, being more proactive beyond the usual internet stuff we all do, which let’s face it, doesn’t really get us anywhere beyond having a good time chatting to our friends.

So, in a mad flurry, I decided to enter the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018, a national art competition which is televised of all things, where professional and amateur artists have four hours to paint a celebrity sitter then have their work judged. Believe me, the last thing I want to do is expose my wobbling chins on television, but this was something so totally out of my comfort zone I just felt I had to at least try.

Pencil portrait of actor Al Pacino by Sophie E Tallis

Pencil portrait of actor Al Pacino by Sophie E Tallis

First stages of my self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

First stages of my self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

Given that I haven’t actually painted in years (and many of my oil paints are so old they’ve gone hard!) and it’s been twenty years since I painted a self-portrait (the pre-requisite for entering the competition), it was a totally mad idea! So, with the deadline being Friday 3rd March midday, I started an oil on canvas self-portrait the day before! INSANE!

Next stage of the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

Next stage of the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

With literally a minute to go (and yes I mean one minute), I finished the portrait Friday morning, quickly filled out the online form and submitted it before I could think too much about it.

Work in progress of the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

Work in progress of the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

A few minutes later, I got the confirmation email saying they had received it, wow, I actually did it! I also got another lovely email from one of their assistant producers asking for a higher res photo of my artwork, which I did.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur here, the likelihood is that my art won’t even be longlisted let alone shortlisted, but you know what, that almost doesn’t matter. I took a chance, a mad chance and really pushed myself out there. I’ve learnt that things I thought I couldn’t do anymore I actually can.

Progress on the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

Progress on the self-portrait by Sophie E Tallis

So…the next challenge? I HAVE to put that same energy, that same risk taking, chance taking in my writing. I’ve been frozen on the writing front for so long it’s now a joke. Yes I eventually managed to get to the dodgy first draft stage with my second novel, but I know it’s such a long way from being finished – what the hell has been holding me back? Illness plays a large part, but not all, I’ve been using that as a crutch, I realise that now. It’s fear. Fear that I can’t do it anymore, that all I can do is short stories not novels, fear that the second book will be a failure, that it won’t be as good as the first book, that it will be crap. FEAR.

So folks, this has been my very round about way of saying…

TAKE CHANCES GUYS!

You may fail, most likely we all will, but by god it will help you, inspire you, push you out of that rut you’ve fallen into without even noticing. If you fail, fail gloriously, fail having taken that chance not having stayed on the couch and ‘what if’d’.

So there you go. Opportunities are what we make of them, be brave and challenge yourself. Good luck guys, good luck to all us creative crazies! 😀 ❤ xxx

Final oil on canvas self-portrait completed Friday 3rd March 2017 by Sophie E Tallis

Final oil on canvas self-portrait completed Friday 3rd March 2017 by Sophie E Tallis

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Face to face: face those fears and show them the door!

We are all in our own way battling fears and self doubts, about decisions made, life choices, jobs, creative endeavours, pretty much everything. Yes there are those lucky few who sail through life never second guessing anything they say or do, who have unswerving self-confidence regardless of any reasons pro or against – well good for them. But for the rest of us mere mortals, especially those of us who are pursuing a creative career, writers, illustrators, actors, singers etc., crippling self-doubt kind of comes with the territory. 😦

The fact that you have chosen an entirely subjective career path which by the nature of it, is open to a great deal of criticism, speculation and even ridicule, hardly helps. Neither does the fact that most creative people tend to be very sensitive – almost a precursor to being a writer, poet or artist of any kind.

Pencil portrait of Richard E Grant

So, apart from navigating the choppy waters of crippling self-doubt and external criticism, sometimes, just sometimes you have to man (or woman) up and face your fears.

For me, some of that is allowing myself to be bold enough to actually set goals for myself. To say that this year I am going to achieve ___________.

Setting goals is a scary business, it’s laying your cards face up on a table and saying to the world – this is what I’m going to do and risk that ridicule and criticism if you don’t manage it.

But, as a brilliant writer friend of mine has said, someone who has ambitions and rightly so (watch this space people), what’s holding you back? Face those fears, fly your flag, pin your colours to the main brace and declare “I am here, and here is what I am going to do! I WILL achieve this!”

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So, I am risking the embarrassment of setting out my goals for this year – there is no try, there is only do or do not: 😀

  1. Completely finish writing and edit Darkling Rise (the very long awaited sequel to White Mountain that has taken me FAR too long to write!).
  2. Lose a minimum of two stone (hopefully three) for long-term health benefits and a major life commitment I have made to myself (before I’m too old for it to work) – I’ll be less cryptic when I’m nearer to achieving this goal.
  3. Continue writing short stories and my dark novel, Ravenwing (hopefully to a first draft stage).
  4. Continue building my illustration business. So far I haven’t had to advertise as people have been approaching me, but I need to step up my game and get more commissions going and widen my reputation.*
  5. Build a stronger online presence, as my mate calls it, sort out my ‘brand’, which will help grow followers, fans and help sales as well as getting more reviews and make me more visible to potential opportunities. Yes we’d all love the Game of Thrones success of George R. Martin (though I’ve never fancied the fame bit) but at the end of the day, most of us just want to be able to write and create full-time and make a living from it (enough to pay the bills at least).
  6. Finish my picture book ‘The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile’ (the story is written but I need to finish drawing and painting all 24 illustrations – I had no idea just how much work is involved in making a picture book!).
  7. Bite the bullet and try subbing to agents, both for my picture book and Ravenwing (once it’s finished) and stop being afraid of success or trying to be successful!!!!
  8. Continue the daily Artmaniac Challenge, creating new art EVERY DAY for a whole year!**
  9. Pay more attention to my lovely little blog (yes, you guys) and blog more often – Sorry!

So there you go, 9 goals for the year. Will I achieve them all? Only time will tell, but I’m going to try my bloody hardest.

Face your fears…

So, what are YOU going to achieve this year?

Pencil sketch of Christopher Walken by Sophie E Tallis

* Yes, I have some exciting news to share to do with HarperCollins. I have signed a contract with them and will fill you all in very soon! 😀

** The reason for my doing portraits at the moment for the Artmaniac Challenge, is due to the wonderful inspiration that is the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year (and yes, I am thinking about doing it next year!) 😀 xxx

 

Passing 20,000 and planting seeds of success!

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Spring has finally sprung and thank the gods that it has!

Everywhere, I see the signs of winter being discarded like a weary woollen coat that has out-stayed its welcome – too heavy, too grey and too oppressive for the youthful zest of crocus colours, the flash of dazzling daffodil yellow and the yearning of the trees to sprout new growth. Spring is here! YAY!!! 😀

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Well, with all the wonderful signs of nature being awoken and the inherent hope and optimism that brings, together with the oh-so-welcome warmth of our first sunny days, I too have begun to plant some seeds of my own, in the hope of them growing into fresh shoots of success! A few of these seeds I shall keep private for now, but others I wanted to share with you straight away.

So, as my little blog passes the heady heights of 20,000 visitors (for which I am hugely grateful and tremendously humbled), I begin another chapter in my strange little life and take somewhat of a spring leap!

890Having completed a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art, way back in the mists of time when my hair was blonde and I was…ahem…a little lighter on my feet, I was an artist. Yes, a takes-herself-way-to-seriously-full-of angst-entirely-black-clad-deep-and-meaningful-and-more-than-a-little-pretentious artist!

998It was the 1990’s. I was seriously into grunge music, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, even Mother Love Bone and Soul Asylum, as well as heavier rock bands like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. I took to wearing all black, apart from the odd green or red lumberjack loose shirt, a kind of torn uniform for all us Seattle-loving-grunge-rockers. I had the usual paraphernalia in my student room – incense burner with sticks and various yellowed bottles of pungent fragrance, a load of melted candles (much of the wax embedded into the carpet fibres), LOTR posters and music posters, my ‘ghettoblaster’ and Hi-Fi with a large selection of tapes and vinyl and near the end of my student days, some new fangled CD’s, an Indian throw with other ‘very cool and multi-cultural’ objects around the room and yes…the ubiquitous bright orange flashing traffic cone! Don’t ask me why, but every student HAD to have a traffic cone! But amongst all this ‘stuff’, there was me and my ‘art’. Huge canvases, some way too large to transport in my VW Beetle, ‘Mr. Jiffy 2’, even with the roof off, and so these had to be carried right through the centre of Cheltenham up to the art college – a prized moment to show off to people, as the plastic wrappings to protect the canvas would invariably waft open, revealing snatches of the masterwork beneath…dear dear!

050 - CopyAnyway, despite the pretentiousness of all art students, and yes, we’re ALL like it, I really did just love to draw and paint. Above everything, any crap that was happening in my life, any traumas and dramas (for which there were many) …for me, I was never happier than when I was either reading a book, writing a story or holding a paintbrush. I still LOVE the smell of linseed oil, liquin medium (alkyd resin), white spirit…ahhhhh….glorious concoctions in messy jars, palettes so encrusted with paint you could hardly use them but always did, brushes stiff from hardened oils, the excitement at the sight of the massive roll of canvas…then stretching them like giant sails across the floor. A quick trip to B&Q with some tw0-by-fours, a handful of nails, a saw and a staple-gun, and suddenly you had a stretched canvas panel, ready to be primed in white wash, ready to be made into something…astonishing. A world of possibilities just there in that bobbled linen fabric! 🙂

013 (3)Yes, I loved it, every single moment of it. In fact, back then, without the life experience I have now, the only thing I didn’t like about art college, was the selling part – having to ‘talk the talk’, sell yourself as ‘creator extraordinaire’ and your work, as the next big undiscovered super-talent. I simply couldn’t do it back then. I didn’t have the confidence or the inclination. I saw other ‘artists’ who couldn’t draw a damn, had no idea about composition, had lousy technique and really just couldn’t paint to save themselves, excel far above those of us who did have the talent and skills. Why? Because they understood the dynamics of it better than we did. Art to them was a business not a vocation, not a way of soulful expression, but a way of getting ahead, getting to where they wanted to be. They could ‘talk the talk’, spout poetic jargon phrases that made no sense to those of us that knew, yet elicited the cooing responses of the ‘art world crowd’. They made contacts, and used them effectively, they succeeded where the rest of us failed.

Am I bitter? Certainly not. For me, my art was never about being ‘in fashion’, and I was never about being the focus of attention. I wanted the work to speak for itself, rather than me spout some pretentious twaddle about what a certain brush stroke meant! So no, I had several very successful exhibitions, beat off those art schmoozers and over 10,000 other students across the country to get second place in a very prestigious national photography competition with my work exhibited in London, and sold a few paintings to very happy customers along the way. The point is, I never fell out of love with art, because I never viewed it as a business. I was and am simply small-time me, not showy, not shouting, not glaringly anything. Just little old me, now wearing other colours rather than just black, still listening to my music at ear-splittingly loud levels, still lighting candles and standing in my garden staring at the stars at 2am, still forgetting to wash my brushes properly and sniffing linseed oil like it was Chanel No.5. Just me! 😛

So…why all this elaborate walk down memories past?

Because, finally I get it! Chapter Twenty-One - Into The Light (4)

Much like life itself, things are never really just black or white, we all live in shades of grey…er…no, not that crappy book, lol, I mean…life is beautiful and complex and full of hard edges and soft fuzzy bits…it’s a messed up fruit salad of emotions and happenings and all we can really do, despite our yearnings for control out of chaos, is simply to dip our spoon into the bowl and see what fruit lands on our plate!

In other words…all these years later, I still LOVE to draw and paint, it’s still a huge part of who I am and how I function, but I don’t need to get so damned pernickety about it. Art and business CAN live together, without one diluting the other. I finally got what those students were dong all those years ago, using their heads as well as their hearts.

Sophie E Tallis Watermark - CopyAnd so, with head and heart in tow, I have decided to combine what I love to do with how to make a living. I have started a business, Sophie E Tallis Illustrations!!! Yes, a business, albeit in tiny baby steps, but a business of illustrating books and producing original commissioned artwork for other authors…and I absolutely LOVE IT!!!!

I’ve only done a few commissions so far, one of which involved creating 7 pen & ink illustrations for a children’s book, Snort and Wobbles http://www.willmacmillanjones.com/snort–wobbles.html, by multi-talented author, Will Macmillan Jones http://www.willmacmillanjones.com/, but I adored every second of it. Already, with just a few illustrations on LinkedIn and some other places, I have a small publishing house in Kingston-Upon-Thames who is interested in having me on their books as an illustrator, have several authors asking me to do some illustrations and book covers for them and I have just set up a sparkly new website http://sophieetallisillustrations.weebly.com/ (and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SophieETallisIllustrations) and loaded some of my illustrations and paintings on there! Already the response has been tremendous and utterly overwhelming! Why oh why didn’t I do this years ago???!!!! 😀

Finished Chapter 1 S&W

So, my little Spring seeds…it is never too late to change direction and change your life, to shake things up and remember what it was that you loved all those years ago. For me, it was remembering my loving and wanting to do something creative for a living, and now it is finally happening. What better way to make a living than to combine the two things I cherish most in the world – books and art!!!

Lol, Spring is definitely in the air, as I plant my little art seeds and see them take root and grow…who knows what tomorrow will bring! Check out my new website guys! http://sophieetallisillustrations.weebly.com/ 😀 xxxxxxx

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A HUGE thank you to all my family and friends and my lovely fellow bloggers, all 20,000 of you, who got me through my illness and the last difficult year and who have helped me to stay positive and to see all the marvellous possibilities of life…!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! 😀 xxxxxxxx

The Artist

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She squeezed the cadmium in a bright yellow streak across the palette.

She had painted in every medium, every material possible, but she still loved the richness of oils – that wonderful buttery smear of vivid colour, the smell of the linseed, the texture of the paint as it glided across the canvas.

All of it seemed more real to her than anything else. A life of its own, raw, visceral.

She dipped the sable brush in her own concoction of white spirit and linseed, to thin the paint whilst keeping the gloss. Too much white spirit would dull the verdant hues, too little would make them too sticky, too slick.

Her movements were erratic, not the usual smooth motions of wandering mind and sparkling imagination. She’d often complete a commission in a daze, almost unaware of where she was or what she was doing. Her conscious self, the side of her that was always acutely cautious, would be suppressed, allowing her hands to take over, her fingers to find the form she wanted.

That was where the magic lay…not in the end result, but in its creation.

Today was different.

Today, she was painting for her life.

The music swelled to a crescendo, pushing her adrenaline forward, hurrying her hand. The mottled texture of the canvas swirled before her eyes, a flamenco dance of colours.

Titanium white, a flash of cerulean, a dab of burnt umber and then the thinning haze of vermillion, red as flesh, peering out at her, reminding her of her slowing heart, the constrictions of her arteries, the pulsating electricity through her veins, which told her she was running out of time.

She worked fast now, pounding the canvas until the wooden stretcher creaked beneath the pressure.

The outside noises had faded away. No traffic, no loud Saturday night voices and wailing sirens. It was silent everywhere but inside her head.

Mixing now, hurried new hues emerging from the clogged up mess. Phaltho blue enriching the green she had created, a hint of lemon, a sparkle of ultra-marine.

Throat dry now. Hands shaking, fingers slipping on the brush shaft.

She HAD to finish this.

Shadows clouded her vision. The music soared as eyes emerged from the canvas, eyes she knew so well, eyes staring into her soul, accusing her, condemning her, gloating at her demise.

“I won’t give in, I won’t!” she muttered feverishly.

Mars black, thick and glossy, impenetrable, unfathomable…she was losing the fight.

“Why did you leave me?”

Amber liquid pooled in the crevices, little streaks finding a route through the strokes, dripping in splashes at her feet.

She was always fighting gravity, as most women do. Always fighting, yes, her whole life she had been fighting.

Through the gloom, the full image stared back at her.

“So, you finally painted me? Finally… It only took you fifty years,” it sneered.

“I…I couldn’t do it before. I couldn’t see you,” she stuttered.

The painting smiled at her. “Are you pleased with yourself?”

“No…no…I, just had to see you. I had to say sorry.”

“But it’s too late for that now, isn’t it?”

She dropped to her knees. Her chest compressing in on itself, pain shooting through her shoulder, her arm, down her right side. She knew what this was.

“I need you to…forgive me.” She panted, fighting to breathe, her jeans soaking up the puddles of paint on the floor, seeping slowly through the fibres to her bruised knees beneath.

PLEASE!

The painting watched as she slumped forward, struggling to keep conscious, fighting as she had done her whole existence, fighting to try and hold onto something…love.

“Please…” her voice was raspy, desperate, forcing itself through closing valves, through density of flesh, through spasms of life.

The painting stared down at her as the music floundered.

Thump, thump, thump…

“You don’t deserve forgiveness,” it whispered to her coolly. “You know what you deserve.”

Thump, thump…

“Pleaseeee!”

“You let her die, didn’t you? What did you do to save her?”

“I tried…I…”

The painting took pity on the thing before it, crumpled like an old newspaper, suddenly a child itself, curling up as an infant, as her infant had been curled up when she found it, smashed by the roadside, barely recognisable. Her baby, her life, gone, snuffed out in a moment of stupidity and violence.

It had been her fault, she was late. She should have been there as she had promised. Instead her daughter had taken a ride with a friend, a drunken friend. What was left behind didn’t even resemble a car anymore.

It had been her fault.

“Pleaseeee…” she drooled, words slurred, barely audible.

The painting sighed, better to quicken her misery than give her hope. “No.”

Thump…….thump…………

Thump.

*

*

Sophie E Tallis © 2013

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Inspired? Hell, yes!

Well after receiving the Sunshine Blogger Award from the lovely Kay Kauffman http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/ I’m utterly thrilled and humbled to be nominated for another award! The very talented and dragon friendly, Lindsey J Parsons  http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/, has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! Wow, wow and wow! I’m so touched!

A huge thank you to Lindsey J Parsons. Lindsey is a fellow fantasy writer, lover of dragons, breather of fire and inspiring blogger herself. Please check out her wonderful site: http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/ and be inspired yourself! Highly recommended!

The Rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Share seven things about yourself.

3. Nominate other bloggers you think deserve the award, and post on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated.

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Right, ummm…seven things about me, eh? Here goes!

Seven Things:

1.      I have nine lives, as in a cat with nine lives, not previous reincarnated versions of myself…scary thought! I have currently used at least 3 of them as I have nearly died 3 times! I drowned and was brought back to life, was almost decapitated (a real close shave!) and was involved in a motorway pile up which wrecked my car and should have killed me, but left me with only scratches. I’d love to think I’m a superhero aka ‘Unbreakable’, but sadly no. That’s not counting all my mishaps as an adventurous Huckleberry Finn type tomboy, like falling twenty feet out of a tree while trying to build myself a tree house with some rusty nails and scrap pieces of wood I’d found!

I figure I’m doing alright as I still have 6 lives left! 😀

2.     I used to play the piano and reached Stage 4 of my examinations before quitting, something I still regret to this day. I had absolutely no natural ability for it, it was hard slog all the way, but I did enjoy it and my elderly music teacher, Miss Allen was a delight. Although I can’t read music anymore, I still remember and play one piece by heart, called ‘Breakers’ (C major so it’s easy!), which reminds me of the ocean and breaking waves…very soporific! One day I will return to my piano playing days, though I doubt I will ever find a gentler soul than Miss Allen to teach me.

3.     I love art and thankfully, unlike my music, I do have natural talent for it. Before I could walk I was drawing and painting with amazing precision for a two and three year old. At four I was drawing complex designs from art books and the decorative china we had around the house, including a very ornate Japanese cheese dish with birds all over it…don’t know why I remember that! As a young child at school I used draw portraits of people, or anything they liked, for pennies, not sure if I was being a little entrepreneur or a kindergarten con-man!

The first time I went to London and saw Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Madonna of the Rocks’ and Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’, at the National Gallery, I cried. It was so moving and inspirational to me. THAT was how I wanted to draw and paint!

I got a BA (Hons) in Fine Art, with a specialism in drawing, painting, sculptural ceramics and photography (studio & landscape), which I love! Dark rooms are wonderfully magical places!

Anyway, I’ve been a particular fan of Caravaggio’s work my whole life, and though I can’t paint like him, it doesn’t stop me trying! 😛

4.     I once kissed Michael Foot on the cheek! For those of you who are too young to remember or for my overseas friends, Michael Foot was this archaic looking gentleman with a wild scruffy shock of white hair, who was the leader of the Labour Party back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Being a lefty myself, I’ll always believe in helping those less fortunate than myself, but I must say, having a photograph of me kissing this old chap – wasn’t my best move! Ewwwwww!

5.     I do like my food, especially Italian, which is clearly visible on my hips! I adore Marmite – there, I’ve said it. Love it, love it, love it! When I’m on my own, I always prefer to have my dessert first then my savoury. That way, you get the sweet stuff out of the way and then you can fully appreciate and savour your main course! 😀

Alcohol and me don’t mix though. Something about the fermentation process, but so much as a sip of wine or beer and I want to throw up. Of course, it could be that I just have immature taste buds like the rest of me!

6.     I do have some strange quirks I admit. I am incredibly bendy, though you’d never guess it to look at me. Now, although I can no longer do the splits or get my feet behind my head, I can hoist them up to my shoulders and as all the children I have ever taught in my classes can attest, I do an amazing above the door high kick! That’s right…I’m a high kicking teacher! Damn, if only that was a usable skill in life. 😛

7.      Writing will always be my first love and passion. As a kid I was writing stories before I could really do anything else. Novel ideas, poetry, short stories and ideas for world building – some of it in incredible detail. I literally have bags and bags, reams and reams of character bios, story plots, background material for worlds, sketches of planets, ships, dwellings, really mostly rubbish, but it has always just been a part of who I am. The stories that always inspired me the most and fuelled my desire to be a writer, were always fantasy and science-fiction. When I wasn’t playing air guitar or climbing trees, I was buried in some sci-fi or fantasy book. If you cannot claw your way out of your reality, you can grow wings and soar instead!

Now, down to my nominees. There are many fabulous bloggers out there, but these are the ones I am most inspired by.

In no order at all, because they are all equally fabulous for different reasons…

Tricia Drammeh  http://theclaimingwords.com/

Ryan Holmes (Griffin’s Quill)  http://griffinsquill.com/

Morgen Bailey  http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/

Rose Wall http://rosewall.weebly.com/

Hazel Butler http://aadenianink.com/

The Alliance of Worldbuilders http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com/

Mandy Ward (WelcomeTo Wherever)  http://welcometowherever.wordpress.com/

Ashen Venema  http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/

Lesley Carter (Bucket List Publications)  http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/

Again, I would love to nominate Kate Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/,  Will MacMillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/ , Kay Kauffman http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/ and of course Lindsey Parsons herself http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/, but Lindsey has already, quite rightfully, nominated their wonderful blogs, so I won’t repeat. But please do check them out folks, inspiring every single one of them!

…in yourself and you can achieve anything! 😀 xx

Blog Awards! The techno-idiot gets two nominations!

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Every time I think my IT skills are improving, something happens that reminds me of just what a techno-idiot I am.

I was very VERY kindly nominated by the lovely Kay Kauffman for the Sunshine Blogger Award. What a wonderfully kind and lovely thing to do! I was thrilled that Kay had been nominated and had then nominated me.

BUT, it was only today after being nominated for another blog award, Very Inspiring Blogger Award, by the equally lovely and kind Lindsey Parsons, that the penny finally dropped.

D’uh! You are supposed to answers questions and nominate fellow bloggers!

Firstly, a HUGE thank you to Kay Kauffman. I’m utterly thrilled and rather humbled! 😀 xx

Here is Kay’s blog http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/ – a wonderful mixture of poetry, short stories and musings on life. Highly recommended!

So, here are the rules for all those that get nominated:

Rules

  • Link the award to the person who gave it to me.
  • Answer questions about myself – see below.
  • Nominate ten bloggers for the award.
  • Link my nominees to the post and comment on their blog, letting them know about the award.

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1.What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Although I am a complete film nut, I’m one of those people that loves obscure films and remembers things like directors, release dates, every actors’ name…ummm I’m really sounding like a nut here, but I’m not big on Christmas films. I guess I don’t like anything ‘designed’ to illicit a certain response, which holiday films invariably do. It’s the freak in me that likes to push my own buttons rather than have someone else contrive to do it. So, my choices are remarkably narrow. I’d probably go for either Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, or something wonderfully daft like Trading Places and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (yes, I know it’s not a Christmas movie, but it’s SUCH fun!). 😀

2.What is your favorite flower?
I love white flowers, the purity and simplicity of them. Daisies, lilies, tulips, anemones…but my favourite are poppies. Poppies are such delicate papery flowers yet they have such a vivacity about them. They herald the coming of summer and warm hazy lazy days. I love red poppies, but white and Himalayan blue poppies are my very favourite!

3.What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?

I drink lots of milk. My favourite drink is a toss up between Shloer, Elderflower cordial or my own kick-ass homemade lemonade. The secret is a squeeze of lime! 😉 Do love a good hot chocolate though.

4.What is your passion?
Writing, writing, writing. Other than that, my problem is that I have too many passions really. I love drawing, painting, sculpture and photography – creating something special from a blank canvas, lump of clay or camera lens. For me, being creative is as important as eating and breathing…two things I’m rather fond of! 😉

5.What is your favorite time of year?
Definitely summer…the promise of warmth. I love all the seasons, though Autumn has always meant ‘spider season’ and ‘school’ and another birthday coming round. Spring is a wondrously rejuvenating time of year but so often drenched in rain. I love the quiet peace and stillness of winter, but nothing compares to those precious few days of the year where you can lie on the grass under cerulean skies and feel the sun on your face! Bliss! Summer means adventure and possibilities…

6.What is your favorite time of day?

That’s easy to answer – night owl here! Daytime is for work, job, stresses of life. I love the night, when everyone is asleep and the world is quiet. Those magical few hours of stillness, with nothing but the soft night breeze and a halo of stars drifting above you…that’s when the magic truly happens!

7.What is your favorite physical activity?

Lol! Ummm…I could have been naughty there! I love walking especially in wild places. The wilder the better. The countryside, especially the remoter parts of it, hold such a mystery to me. There is nothing better than climbing a hill or mountain or tor and viewing nature at its best. Very humbling and deeply profound.

8.What is your favorite vacation?

I love Italy. The culture, the history, the people, the food, everything about it. I’ve been about four times now and it is such a special place. I love Rome but Tuscany, Umbria and Florence is my favourite. The art galleries alone are intoxicating. But, more than anywhere I’ve ever travelled to, New Zealand will still always be my favourite. If it is possible to have a ‘soul connection’ to a place, then New Zealand is it. Astounding, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, humbling, unforgettable. Back in the winter (their summer) of 1997/98 I spent four months travelling around the North and South Island having adventures and awakening my senses. A real odyssey and life-changing experience. They filmed Lord Of The Rings there for a reason, the place is simply magical! Ahhhh… 😀

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Right, very difficult to choose just ten, but here are my nominees for the Sunshine Blogger Award  (in no order) :

1. Morgen Bailey http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/

2. Lindsey J Parsons http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/

3. Ryan Holmes (Griffin’s Quill) http://griffinsquill.com/

4. Ashen Venema (Course of Mirrors) http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/

5. Will MacMillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

6. Mandy Ward (Welcome to Wherever) http://welcometowherever.wordpress.com/

7. Fantasy In Motion http://fantasyinmotion.wordpress.com/

8. Andy Szpuk http://andyszpuk.wordpress.com/

9.That Fantasy Blog http://thatfantasyblog.com/

10. Fabulous Realms http://ashsilverlock.com/

I would like to mention the wonderful blogs of Katrina Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/ , Tricia Drammeh http://theclaimingwords.com/, A.F.E. Smith http://afesmith.com/ and Emily McKeon http://www.theabsenteeblogger.blogspot.com/ but I’m trying not to mention those which Kay already nominated. 😀 xx

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New Zealand Odyssey Part IV – Desert Island Discs.

I left the magical Waipoua Forest with its towering kauri trees and took a breathtaking drive eastward across North Island to the Bay of Islands. The sun was shining and the old rental car I’d hired was humming along with the rhythm of the road. I arrived in Paihia, a quiet little coastal town and gateway to the Bay of Islands, surrounded by scenic forested hills and sail boats drifting lazily in the inlets and marinas.

I rented a self-contained unit by the beach, my base for the next few weeks. The apartment had a small balcony overlooking a little garden with an enormous flowering pohutukawa tree, the ‘New Zealand Christmas Tree’, its blooms a suitably vivid red for December. The air was warm and sweet somehow. A tui bird (found only in NZ) was perched outside my window singing furiously, while it proudly puffed its white chest plumage out.

Dumping my enormous backpack for a lighter day one, I headed out into the sunshine and the startling blue skies, apparently the second ‘bluest’ in the world after Rio de Janeiro (but obviously not in my photos!). Leaving the car for the first few days, I explored Paihia, looking every bit the awe-struck tourist. It didn’t matter though, the vibe of the whole place was friendly and ultra relaxed. I followed suit. Going under my own steam, I did the tourist thing, taking a ferry out to see the pods of dolphins that were famous to the area. If it’s possible to see pure joy in a wild animal, this was it. I watched enthralled as the twenty or so dolphins launched themselves out of the water beside the boat, doing back flips and somersaults, little did I know that in a couple of months I would have an even closer encounter at Kaikoura in the South Island!

I spent glorious day after glorious day soaking up the atmosphere and watching the incredible sunsets ignite the sky. Taking another boat, I sailed to Cape Brett and the hole in the wall rock, before returning to visit the historic town of Russell, a picturesque place with a rowdy sea-faring ‘wild west’ past!

But once again, it was my solitary travels away from the tourist trail that proved the most inspiring.

Waking early and packing a small provision along with my sketch pads, I took a ferry trip around some of the 150 islands scattered around, that make up the Bay of Islands. To describe them as miniature havens, islands of paradise, would not do them justice. But, most thrilling, after charting a small boat, and with a bit of persuasion, I was dropped off on a small deserted island just off the coast of Urupukapuka Island.

I was so excited I could hardly speak, as I saw the boat disappear from view. All I kept playing in my head was the theme tune to ‘Desert Island Discs’! Here I was, totally alone on my very own desert island…well, at least until 5:30pm!

Peeling off layers and clunky boots, I wandered barefoot over the island, not much more than a strip of rock with some trees and vegetation and a couple of beaches…but it was perfect! Boats sailed or powered by, but the place was quiet and incredibly serene. I sunk my feet into the sand and watched the light dance off the surface of the water. Life just didn’t get better than this.

I whiled away the day sketching and writing and dreaming, words and images tumbling out of me faster than I could grasp them. If there was a heaven, this was it. Blissful solitude with nothing but the clear sky above and nature around me. Again, snatches of the story that would become ‘White Mountain’ came to me. So as I dozed under the shade of another pohutukawa tree, I dreamed of dragons and ancient hidden civilisations, still surviving in our modern world…