Meeting Deadlines – Remember to Breathe!

It’s Easter today – Happy Easter everyone! 😀

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what have I learned from all this madness?

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

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

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

Wish me luck folks! 😀 xxxx

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

Medieval_writing_desk

A couple of days ago I was very kindly nominated by multi-talented fantasy author, Kate Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/ , to participate in the ‘My Writing Process Blog Tour’. A HUGE thanks to Kate jack for her nomination.

I’m always fascinated by authors’ writing processes and the journeys they go on to get to where they want to be, as no two authors are ever alike. Each process, each story, each journey is unique to each writer.

So, with that in mind, here is my writing process:

What am I currently working on?

Several projects. Firstly, I’m finishing off the re-worked version of my epic fantasy, White Mountain, due for re-release later this year. Then, I’m also writing the sequel, Race of Shadows – Book 2 of my Darkling Trilogy. I feel like a fantasy seamstress at the moment, weaving all these different threads, plots and sub-plots together! In addition, I have written and am now busily illustrating my very first picture book for young children, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile, a really sweet little story with a twist, that shows that a little determination goes a long way!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Genre is a funny word, meant to clump and pigeon-hole work together for the ease of classification. I love the term magic-realism, as it conjures up ideas of dreams and mythical adventures set in our modern world. So, although my work would be classified as fantasy, specifically epic fantasy, I still cling onto the concepts of magic-realism. Lol, I digress…

Well, every author’s voice is unique, regardless of the different influences that affect us. Ultimately, only we can tell our stories and each of them will carry something different as a result. I’m sure every author thinks their work is unique and I’m certainly no exception. For me, I wanted to defy certain fantasy conventions and give them a fresh twist. Why use other author’s invented people’s when I can have my own? My dragons are fyrrens, my dwarfish equivalents are dworlls, there are no elves in any of my stories only historical references to a defunct ancient culture of aellfrs. I have witches, oracles and wizards (magus) and of course my own unique inventions like wargols, fire-wolves, dark mytes, gorrgos etc. Also, most stories for children and young adults adheres to the set formula that to interest young minds all the main protagonists must be young too. I never understood that set mentality as some of my favourite tales growing up involved older characters, stories of Merlin, magic, Gawain and the knights of the Round Table; 33 year old Hobbits and ancient wizards; the Snow Queen, the White Witch, Aslan, the dragons of Pern, Beowulf, Siegfried & Brunhilda from the Volsung Sagas, none of these were children. As older characters, they had a depth to them, a life lived, experiences that would mould them and influence their choices. Having said all that, Gralen, my dragon, my be 1364 years old but he’s every bit as immature as I am!

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. I’ve been writing stories almost before I could even walk properly. It’s something that has always come as second nature to me. But writing is hard, insular, often un-rewarding, full of doubt, frustration, annoyance at yourself. No-one would willingly subject themselves to it, unless it was it a passion and something they simply HAD to do. For me, being creative in some way is like breathing, something that sustains and lifts me. At intense periods of my life when time and everything is being squeezed, if I don’t write or draw at least something, it actually makes me depressed. It’s something I need to do to stay happy and balanced.

How does my writing process work?

Lol, it’s very ad hoc. I’m dreadful with set timetables. For the last 15 years, I’ve had to juggle writing with a very full-on full-time job, not easy at the best of times. Basically I write whenever I can, but try to ensure that I do something every day, no matter how small. Boy, I WISH I was more efficient and much quicker! Many of my friends write directly onto their laptops and computers. Me? Nope, I’ve always got to do things the hard way. For me, I just HAVE to write it first, the old-fashioned way. First on countless note-pads – scribbling key scenes, dialogue, narrative pieces, snapshots and overviews of a plot. Next, I connect the dots, start to write it out fully, adding and refining those rough scenes. Then, it’s typing it up on the computer, editing as I go until I have a rough first draft. After that, the exhaustive process of re-working, re-drafting, edits, edits, edits must begin. I must have edited White Mountain at least 100 times before it was even seen by another person. Perfectionism is my blight, it means you are never truly satisfied and that you have to be SO careful not to overwork something. The plus side, is that your research will be so in-depth, that it gives wonderful credibility, back story and realism to the world you create, no matter how fantastical it may be.

*****

So, that’s me, the creative nerd and messy perfectionist! 😀

Right, time to pass on the baton…a very tricky task given how many amazing writers there are out there – you’re a talented bunch don’t cha know! 🙂

So, after much head scratching, here are my two nominees, both of them absolutely terrific and talented writers and great bloggers too! :

Will Macmillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

Susan Finlay http://susansbooks37.wordpress.com/

Please check out their blogs, full of fantastic posts and all sorts of treats! 😀

 

 

Authors to watch – My third interview!

Wow! What a day?!

The publication day of my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, or “Happy Book Day!” as one friend put it, and my third interview with the lovely Tricia Drammeh, as part of her ‘Authors to watch’ interview series!

Tricia Drammeh, a fellow fantasy writer, blogger and interviewer extraordinaire very kindly interviewed me about my book, influences, research, writing communities and processes in general and even my future projects.

Check it out folks! :

http://www.authorstowatch.triciadrammeh.com/2012/09/interview-with-sophie-tallis.html

😀

Please check out Tricia’s fantastic blog, featuring her writing, other author interviews, her wonderful fantasy novel, The Claiming Words, and writing tips:

http://www.triciadrammeh.com

http://www.theclaimingwords.triciadrammeh.com/2012/01/claiming-words-series.html

A MASSIVE thank you to Tricia for such a wonderful and fun interview!

Happy days! 😀

Passing 2,000!

Like many of us, I’m sure, it’s true to say that I’ve been doing some frenzied juggling of late.

Between heavy workloads, writing my second book, other creative commitments, family life and life in general, my ‘Daily Hello!’ has undoubtedly become a ‘Weekly Hello’!

So, I am utterly astonished, thrilled and very humbled, that my little blog, which only started life at the end of January this year, has passed the 2,000 hits mark!!!

 

WOO and HOO!!!!!!!!!

Thank you to all my supporters, whether you are frequent visitors, friends or inquisitive one-time frequenters. I welcome you all, and to you all, I give my heartfelt thanks.

I am genuinely touched…a MASSIVE thank you! 😀 xxx

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