New Horizons!

SAM_4591Okay, yesterday was my birthday and I’ve never been fond of birthdays, but the last few days have been glorious. All in all 2014 is shaping up to be an amazing year, despite having one hell of a bumpy start. As we pass into out of summer, with its sunshine drenched buzz of activity, and into the darker evenings of Autumn, it is a time of excitement for what is to come and a time to reflect for what has gone.

The beginning of the year couldn’t have been worse. After having spent most of 2013 very ill, I had no choice but to leave my teaching job of the last 12 years. I have always worked, even through college I worked (actually it was a pretty cool job working in a video shop, surrounded by great films all day!), so the prospect of suddenly being unemployed through no fault of my own, was very daunting and pretty scary.

Martin-Hobb-1024x457[1]We haven’t worked out all the kinks yet and things are still tighter than I’d like, certainly the prospect of spending £45 to go and see Robin Hobb and George RR Martin in London on the 19th August, plus travel and hotel expenses, was simply out of my price range.

However, worries over jobs, money and financial matters paled into insignificance when my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Lindsey J Parsons suddenly died on the 5th January 2014, only days after I had spoken to her to wish her a Happy New Year and talk excitedly about what 2014 would bring. Lindsey had so many plans for this coming year. She was going to write and release her third book, Shegal, the final book in her wonderful Return of the Effra trilogy. She and I were planning to go off to Las Vegas together, to a writing convention there. That’s where I would have been this summer if things had turned out differently.

Lindsey’s passing was a dreadful shock to all who knew and loved her, and the sadness of her passing has haunted all of us this year. I have always been an insomniac and so, in the wee small hours of the night when I used to chat to Lindsey til 2 or 3am, I miss her the most.

But her tragic death also did something else. It was a tannoy (loud speaker to my US friends) to the rest of us, that none of us know how long we have on this planet, none of us know which breath will be out last, and so the imperative is upon us to STOP WASTING TIME!!!!

It was then, that I decided to get on with the rest of my life. Put my dreadful experiences of 2013 behind me, not just my illness and having to leave my job, but also some thoroughly rotten experiences with my ex-publishers (who shall remain nameless), but who almost put me off writing anything ever again. Once bitten by a shark, you are very wary to dip your toes in the water again! I won’t spend anymore time or energy on them, as quite frankly they’re not worth it.

I also decided to be more proactive. There has been one really huge accomplishment in my life that I have wanted, really since I turned 30, some ten years ago now, and I am eventually doing something about it. This time next year, I hope to share a very different life story with you.

Another part of being pro-active, was deciding not to be ruled over by fear. I had been paralysed by fear pretty much all of last year. Fear that I would never recover and get better, fear that my goals were simply not achievable, fear of losing my job, of losing my way. One of my fears was that I would never be able to write again.

I’m not talking about the commonal garden variety ‘writer’s block’ which plagues many authors, I’m talking about total physical and mental incapacity! Part of my vestibular illness, apart from the migraines, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and head pain, was short term memory problems and a complete inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. My brain simply couldn’t cope with it. It took me days to write a simple letter, because I couldn’t concentrate for longer than 3 or 4 minutes, and the mental exertion and sheer exhaustion it caused, would flare up my symptoms again.

I’d try reading or writing and I’d be staring at a page of text like a zombie for 40mins, my mind simply ‘zoned’ out. Apparently this was very common with severe vestibular conditions, where the concentration needed to read and write was tantamount to asking a person on crutches to climb a mountain! So the whole of last year, I was crippled by thoughts that I’d never be able to climb back on that horse again and write. That my first novel would be my last!

But, after Lindsey, I decided to stop letting that fear rule me. I WOULD write again, and now, I AM!

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]A HUGE part of that, has been the incredible support I have received from family and friends. A massive shout out to all my Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) brothers and sisters – without you guys, I’d be a sad little shadow of myself and certainly wouldn’t be sat here writing this. smiling-cat[1]

Another incredible turn of fate and good fortune, was finding the most amazing new publishers who were willing to take a chance on me and wanted to publish my first novel, despite it having been published (badly) before.

Again, because of dear Lindsey, I was pro-active and approached this very cool publishing house. To be honest, I felt it was a long-shot and didn’t hold much hope, but hell it was worth a go! I loved the books they produced, how friendly, approachable, honest and professional they were and how they put authors first (the total opposite of the experiences I had had before!).

grimbold-182x300[1]To my utter delight, I signed with them in June! I cannot tell you just what that has meant to me – to have my cherished work taken on and see new life breathed into it (and new life breathed into me!), by unbelievably passionate people who love books and prize quality above everything…wow! I owe Sammy HK Smith and Zoe Harris of Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink, more than I’ll ever be able to express in words…thank you, thank you, thank you! 1782001_779354595426279_1544248234_n[1]

 

2014 is turning out to be utterly AWESOME year after all! White Mountain – Book 1 of the Darkling Chronicles will be published this Autumn with a brilliant new cover and short stories, and I am eventually writing again!!!!

 

ea1ab-10582915_874217609273310_7073274247011447578_o5b15dSo, this week I celebrate not only my birthday, but a year full of promise and opportunities. At the beginning of August it was also the 5th Anniversary of getting my beautiful boys. 5 years ago, two gorgeous white wolves came into my life and it has never been the same since! Happy times and clear skies ahead! 😀 xxxx

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Farewell my Dragon Friend, Lindsey J Parsons.

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*deep sigh*

This is the hardest blog post I have ever had to write, and it breaks my heart in the writing of it. Two days ago, I heard the shocking news that one of my dearest friends, Lindsey J Parsons, had suddenly and tragically passed away.262888_2238622135240_4045698_n[1]

Shocking is the word…at a time when words seem to fail. I simply cannot believe it and I cannot understand it.

Lindsey was not just one of my closest internet friends, she was one of my closest real friends. We talked and laughed almost every day, messaging each other back and forth like a couple of idiots, just being daft on the internet. http://lindseyjparsons.com/

She was one of the first people I’d share my woes with. One of the few truly wonderful people on this planet.

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]I met Lindsey back in 2010, along with my other AWB friends (Alliance of Worldbuilders) – a group of geeky fantasy and sci-fi writers and the largest group/thread on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy. We immediately clicked. Not only were we fantasy writers with a passion for the fantasy genre, we both obsessively and childishly adored dragons! It was true to say that neither of us ever grew up, and I loved that free spirit and lack of cynicism in Lindsey. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was always, ALWAYS, helpful, supportive, positive and encouraging of fellow writers. There was no ego with Lindsey. She shared openly and gave freely of her time and her talents.

432075_3446252725250_133180967_n[1]Our mutual love of dragons was clearly evident in our dragon pictures and internet avatars, though Lindsey’s dragon passion was even greater than mine, with an impressive collection of dragon statues and mementos at her home and a fantastic stone dragon on her roof! 425036_3160213334444_1952181019_n[1]

Lindsey soon became the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, keeping the thread fresh, funny and going when many of us (especially myself) were less than frequent in our attendance.

She was always on hand to share her experiences, share information, knowledge, advice and to encourage others at every opportunity.

Lindsey demonstrated that incredible support and friendship when on the 6th October 2012, she travelled all the way from her home to a small little bookshop in Cirencester, for the launch of my debut novel. All that way to support a fellow dragon friend, someone who at that point, she had never actually met before!

4994981[1]I knew instantly that it was her. The bookshop was very busy, packed in fact, the launch was a big success but was also all rather overwhelming. I didn’t know where to turn, between chatting to customers and children and signing books…all very surreal. Then, amongst the milling crowds, I saw this seemingly quiet and small dark-haired lady, a petite figure with an unmistakable twinkle in her eyes. She waited patiently while I ‘did my thing’ (whatever that was), but we both instantly shared that, “Wow! It’s you!” moment.

Lindsey being Lindsey, stayed for quite a few hours. After the event, Lindsey, myself and my very good mate, Will Macmillan Jones (also another great AWB pal), all went next-door for a coffee, cake and a natter. It was SO lovely to finally meet her face to face after nearly two years of internet friendship, emails, and messages etc. It felt so special, being there with my two close friends talking about writing, our plans for the future and each other’s books. Lindsey was so generous, so excited for me and for herself and her new life as a writer. She had such ambitions and dreams and it was wonderful listening to her and being a part of it all. 531086_373803919378597_1702802832_n[1]

More than that…Lindsey J Parsons WAS and IS a BRILLIANT writer! I’m a hard bugger to please, believe me. I’ve read so many awful books, badly written, boring, nonsensical, badly edited, trite, dull, clichéd etc. But with Lindsey it was easy and a sheer delight, because her books truly were and are wonderful!

She was a truly amazing writer. As a reader, I really am like Marmite, I either love something or I hate it, I can’t be indifferent or ambivalent. No sitting on fences here, that’s how you get splinters in your arse! 7908_475725272508236_169525754_n[1]

When I first picked up Lindsey’s debut novel, Vortex, Book 1 of her Return of the Effra series, I had my doubts. Afterall, I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. I love my fantasy epic and I guess, a little traditional. But WOW! The moment I started reading it, I was hooked. In fact the only other recent book which had me transfixed like that was Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Vortex really is that good. I’m a slow reader, by osmosis I think, but I read it in just two days, I simply couldn’t put the thing down. I then proceeded to re-read it several times after that, something I never do, unless it’s a really good book.

Vortex certainly deserves all of its many 5 star reviews and I was thrilled for Lindsey, that it was doing so well, and so proud of her. She wrote and produced that book on her own terms. She set up her own publishing company, AFS Publishing http://www.afspublishing.com/, and produced a book that had the quality look and feel of any mainstream publication and quite frankly, beat the pants off of many indie publishing houses. Her daughter’s boyfriend, Greg Barons, did the amazing covers, but the book was pure Lindsey. What a legacy! 544830_318401201571709_870759055_n[1]

She went on to write and publish her second novel in the Return of the Effra series, Wicked Game, which I have started to read and absolutely LOVE. Another 5 star book and another much deserved and roaring success for Lindsey. wicked-game-cover-1[2]

But as well as being a terrifically talented writer, Lindsey was also my good friend. A lot of our friendship also centred around the fact that we are both dreadful insomniacs. While all our other friends had gone to sleep, Lindsey and I were almost waking up! We’d speak nearly every day, but often, we’d be chatting til 2, 3 even 4am in the morning. Constantly messaging each other over how daft we were that we couldn’t sleep. But it was so lovely, knowing that when midnight struck and most of my friends had gone offline to bed, me & Linds were only just starting! There was a wonderful comradeship in that, in sharing our insomnia, our idiot ideas at 3am in the morning when both of us had to be up early the next day. Like me, Lindsey seemed to come alive at night, something about the witching hour that got our creative juices flowing. I cannot even begin to express how much I will miss that, how much I will miss her.

It’s fair to say, that I have been in a constant stream of tears these last two days, in fact, quite incapable of not crying. Last night was the worst, not having my friend to talk to through the night. But…this post isn’t about me, it’s about Lindsey and what an extraordinary person she was.

The terrible irony of all this, is that only a matter of weeks ago, Lindsey re-blogged my post about the ‘Passing of a Legend’, namely the death of Nelson Mandela, and then this happens. Lindsey J Parsons may not have been as well-known a figure as Nelson Mandela, but nonetheless, she shared many similarities with him. She was a truly kind and wonderful person, who always thought of others before herself, and she did, in so many ways, touch the lives of not just those around her, but everyone she came into contact with. THAT is a rare gift, but then Lindsey was a rare lady. 295755[1]

734419_10200817040058504_1555471576_n[1]She lived life to the fullest, something so many of us fail to do (myself included). Despite her small frame, she really did have the heart of a dragon – an adventurous and daring nature. She loved pushing herself, seeing what she could achieve and boy, didn’t she achieve a lot! She loved walking, nature, her doggies and horses, being on her farm, horse riding, including bareback riding and, like everything she did, she loved archery and was brilliant at it! She was part of a long bow archery club and competed to a high standard, even winning medals. I SO wish I had made it to her last archery competition in Cheltenham, where she proudly won the bronze medal. She’d certainly give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money! 1953998f444d2c9aaeece3dd3c2b8551[2]

Lindsey threw herself into everything she did. She was a vital and much-loved part of her rural community, even organising events like cinema night at the local village hall. Everyone who knew her loved her, how you could not?

198501_1004765129586_205_n[1]This was no ordinary woman. This was a cowboy boot wearing, dragon-loving, snow-loving, fantasy writing, archery medal winning, awesomely talented author and mother of three children! Apart from being a wonderful friend to me and so many others, Lindsey was also an amazing mum to her three gorgeous children, Cat, Amy-Jane and Tom, who must be utterly shattered by the shocking and sudden loss of their lovely mum. My thoughts and love go out to them and all of Lindsey’s family at this terrible terrible time. None of us can fathom what they must be going through. 😦

Another example of Lindsey’s incredible bravery and zest for life, was when last year she decided to go off to America by herself, to attend a Romance Writing Convention. I did want to join her, but couldn’t due to ill-health, but nonetheless, little Lindsey got on that plane and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas (or Las Vagas as she called it)! I would have pee’d in my pants, but Lindsey took it all in her stride and had a fabulous time! She sent pictures of herself, sitting like a pro at this enormous table in the convention hall, with all her books and booky swag around her. She’d organised everything, things she could take on the flight and things she had to get printed and shipped in the US. Then, she even attended the convention ball, where everyone dressed up, and Lindsey, of course, went in a stunning silver and blue dragon dress, complete with wing flaps!!!! What a girl! 1001089_10201621766816170_2138720117_n[1]

While she was over there, Lindsey also met up with another two AWB members and fellow fantasy friends, Susan and Richard Wentworth, who were thrilled to meet her.

Yes, Lindsey was truly a one-off. She was utterly fearless and had so much more to offer this world.

Over the Christmas just gone, we chatted about going to America together this year and we were both thrilled at the idea, excitedly talking about our plans for 2014. Lindsey wanted to show me the sights and I know we would have had a blast, two dragons together! She also had an Authorcon arranged up in Manchester with fellow AWB friends, Andrea Baker, Hazel Butler and Will Macmillan Jones, a great forum in which to launch her third novel in the Return of the Effra series, Shegal, due out this year. postcard-shegal[1]

Of course now…all those plans are gone, as is our beautiful Lindsey. The world really was her oyster and I truly believe she could have achieved anything she put her mind, heart and talents to.

We spoke on the net on New Year’s Day, wishing each other a wonderful 2014. Hours later that day, while walking, she felt very unwell. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed as having had a burst brain aneurism and was placed into a medical coma. She had an emergency operation which was thought to be successful, but deteriorated and passed away on Sunday 5th January, surrounded by her family.

Words really cannot express the horror and shock of what has happened, or the hole she has left behind for those who loved and cared about her. The random cruelty of nature, life, whatever you call it, is simply abominable and unfathomable. For someone so young and vital, with everything going for her and an incredible writing talent…goodness only knows what else she could have achieved if her life hadn’t been so tragically cut short.

Q1-me-in-cowboy-boots[1]For myself, I mourn the loss of a dear dear friend, my other dragon half, my insomniac confidant, my Lindsey. But for her family, they mourn an incredible sister and a wonderful wonderful mother. I am so SO sorry for their loss. My heart goes out to them.

Lindsey J Parsons, the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, the most talented, kindest and sweetest person I have ever known, who I am privileged to call my friend.

I will miss her every time it snows, every time I write, every time I can’t sleep, every time I have good news to share, or troubles, and every time I see a picture of a horse, a dragon, or a unicorn, I will think of Lindsey. 😦 1015fb6fa1b776958a172468aaf680ba[1]

I’m not a religious person, and I know my tears are inadequate, but I wish you a thousand thank you’s and blessings. If there is a heaven, I’m sure you are there with your cowboy boots on.

May dragon wings soar you to the stars, my friend, where I will see you again one day. All my love, Sophie xxxxxxx

Lindsey J Parsons

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R.I.P. xxxxxx

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PLEASE support Lindsey and her family by buying these FANTASTIC books and helping Lindsey’s Legacy – getting her the recognition she deserves. http://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-J-Parsons/e/B008D7RXQ6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1