2016 – The Year of the 4 B’s – Bowie, Brexit, Broken Friendships and Bigotry

It’s 2017, thank the gods! Like many people around the world, I was very keen to welcome 2017 and see the back of 2016, a bloody awful year. 😦

This year has seen the last vestiges of any innocence die a death, of what remained of life’s rosy tints fade to a newer, harsher reality of what the world is really like rather than what we’d like it to be or thought it was. I’ve always teetered between being daftly optimistic on life or darkly pessimistic, this year has definitely brought out the latter.

That’s the reason I have written this very long post – to cathartically and finally put 2016 and all its negativity behind me, so I can start the new year afresh. To move on, live, love and find the beauty in life again.

Warning: If you’re feeling low at all, just skip on down to the positive stuff at the bottom! 😀

bowie_on_tour[1]The year started terribly, the death of one of my all time heroes who I affectionately described when I was a 6 year old dressing up like him, as my ‘space pirate’, yes, the death of David Bowie hit a lot of people hard. He was this insanely exotic and magical figure, my space pirate, then the Goblin King then as a teenager, he was a refuge, an outsider just like me, someone who didn’t fit in. He looked different and felt different and celebrated that diversity rather than trying to adhere to other’s rules. As a teenager I withdrew from friends, from everyone, from life, the weight of dealing with a family imploding in on itself, was too much to bear, an ultra violent alcoholic and abusive father who was determined to destroy his family and tear his children down. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t worrying about make-up, exams and boyfriends, I was worrying about what lies to tell my friends when they asked why the police were around our place again, why we were seen being chased down the road in bare feet and our bedclothes as he wielded a knife, an axe, a broken bottle. I was worried about being killed, throat slit or head caved in as he threatened or having my mum killed, yet another dreadful statistic of domestic violence. So yes, I sought refuge in fantasy fiction, in writing and drawing and my beloved Bowie, the ultimate outsider.

After Bowie passed, the year saw more of our heroes fall, one after the other, unrelentingly so, most recently Carrie Fisher our beloved Princess Leia and her mother just the day after.

5dea49e85d1672067a19ae1306b8ba353e1eac91be17d09a3ee9a50c3fa7db8d1I admit my mental health has not been great this year. I’ve battled with extreme depression on and off for most of 2016, swinging from manically happy to manically low, and I’m sure this has skewed many things and heightened my reactions to things. The thing about depression is that you can be surrounded by friends yet feel utterly isolated and alone. A couple of times this year things have been very bleak indeed and I’ve teetered on the edge. I’m not excusing myself, even in my blacker moments I’ve never attacked those I love or anyone. But I know I’ve been incredibly angry this year, not like me at all, and the whole Brexit debacle has definitely played a huge role in that.

In February, I was driving to work when a woman smashed into my car ploughing it off the road and writing it off in the process. I was gutted, out of pocket and in pain. As anyone knows who is involved in an accident even a clear cut case like mine where the other party admitted culpability, it drags on for months! 😦 Crash

The year wore on and with it my physical health continued to dip, several trips to the doctors, a couple of collapses and a couple of low key hospital visits together with a shed load of meds later. It’s a drag but it’s not life threatening, pain is something you learn to deal with, its just when the vertigo and vomiting kicks in that you feel like an invalid as you truly can’t walk or even stand and can do nothing but crawl on all fours like a howling toddler. Sigh. But, I know people have it far worse, so I’m grateful for the health that I do have.

The war in Syria continued to escalate, the sheer cost of human suffering is almost unfathomable and yet the West seems utterly unable to help the innocent who are paying the cost with their lives. The world is a very scary place right now. 😦

51s1l6rh6cl-_sx311_bo1204203200_1In April came a wonderful highlight, the launch in Bristol for the awesomely awesome anthology, Fight Like A Girl (a strangely prophetic title given how the year turned out!). Wow, what a wonderful day! Martial arts, gritty readings, a panel and a mass signing, it was like a glorious mini-con and I eventually got to meet fellow AWB matey, the lovely AFE Smith who had travelled all the way to Bristol to support the launch. It was lovely meeting her after nearly 6 years of knowing her! Thank you to BristolCon, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke and the amazing Sammy HK Smith for everything, I do feel very blessed to have you all in my life. Love to you all. ❤

Then we had the toxicity of Brexit. OMG, what can I say?

First, lovely Jo Cox, an amazing Labour MP, thoroughly decent human being and mother to two young children, was brutally murdered by a fascist right wing nut. She was a staunch supporter of the Pro-Remain side along with the rest of her party, leader and the vast majority of left wingers and Labour party supporters. She died for what she believed in, an inclusive, forward thinking and compassionate country, not an inward looking, anti-immigrant island of ‘them and us’.  It was an utterly brutal and horrific attack. jo-cox-labour-mp1

Did it change the outcome of the Brexit Referendum? No, not one jot.

13510824_10153736311815840_6984061545886519550_n1Myself, along with 16 million other people, the 48% of people in Britain who rejected the right wing rhetoric, the xenophobia, narrow mindness, racism, bigotry and poison spouted during the ‘campaign’, not to mention the endless fear mongering and lies (£350 million going to the NHS eh? Uh, no), truly believed that we lived in a better country than we do. We were proved wrong. I’ve never been so sad and so ashamed of my country. 😦

Massive divisions opened up, and yes, there was mud slinging on both sides. No-one escaped Brexit untouched and unsullied. But what was shocking to me was how intelligence was suddenly vilified, experts in fiscal studies, economics, trade, heads of business, the IMF, corporate CEO’s, scientists, academics, all of them were ignored while ignorance itself and mistruths were applauded, the ‘now we have our country back’ brigade were out in force.

Brexit was utterly toxic, divisive and caused deep rifts in families, friendships and communities up and down the country, rifts that still remain today. lr-by-party1

On a personal level, which I admit has really shaken me, it also heralded the end of a close friendship I had for nearly 5 years. I won’t mention his name, I’m not into ‘outing people’, it’s unfair and unnecessary so most of you will have no clue who I’m talking about, only a very small handful will know and they know anyway.

It was a strange friendship, granted, but a good one I thought. Despite often telling me that we were basically the same age (thanks for that), there was actually 18 years between us, he is nearer to my Mum’s age than mine. Age never mattered to me though, anyone who writes fantasy tends to be young in themselves regardless of the passing of time, but in this case it seemed to play a part. As with much of the country, we fell into the age demographics of Brexit. He was a vehement Pro-Leaver/Brexiteer as most of his ‘baby boomer’ generation were (the 60yr olds +, the ones who benefitted from free education, early retirement, golden handshakes, low cost housing, plentiful jobs etc., opportunities the younger generations could only dream of) and I was a staunch Pro-Remainer along with most people in their 40’s and younger (many of them unable to get on the housing ladder and crippled by huge debts). Of course there are exceptions, my mum and her friends in their early 70’s were all left wingers and Pro-Remainers and a percentage of younger people also voted to Leave, but generally the vote was pretty clear along age, political and educational lines.image1

 

13498097_1209717079039636_4890768423205541922_o1Running up to the Referendum, for weeks we had had awkward conversations on FB, especially privately. He’s a very forceful personality and was actively interjecting his opinions all over FB most notably and deliberately on Pro-Remain posts, to such a degree that a mutual friend threatened to defriend and even block him! It didn’t seem to diminish his fervour, in fact he seemed to actively enjoy the arguments as if it were mere banter. I hated it. I admit I was very fervent myself, very angry, but unlike him I was ONLY commenting on my fellow pro-Remainers posts, a mutual commiserating and supporting of each other during a traumatic time. I’d no sooner start trolling Pro-Brexit posts than fly to the moon! Suffice to say, he was rubbing quite a few people up the wrong way and was either blissfully oblivious or found it a strange ego-boost in some way. I can’t fathom that kind of thinking to be honest, I hate confrontations, I’ve had a lifetime of them and they make me ill, but then I don’t have his unrelenting self-confidence.

With each new comment I became more shocked at how entrenched he was, which of course, only made me equally intractable, that’s how arguments escalate, like sides in a war. brexit-shorthand-charts-1_11

Things came to a head when, after he had pushed me to the point of breaking, ignoring my repeated pleas to him not to discuss politics (he’s one of those characters that think of themselves as being very sensitive to others when in reality they are utterly clueless and just bulldoze over people) I had asked him to back off, stating that I would not discuss politics with him, that I would walk away every time he commented on something. Fine.

Then came the vote itself. Despite feeling awful at the outcome, he, on the winning side, still continued to blissfully push his opinions on everyone, cheerily telling Remainers who were in shock, dismay and were mourning the result, that things would be rosy and fine, that their genuine fears were wrong – NOT the thing to do! Again, a mutual friend had to forcibly tell him to BACK OFF. Despite all this, I private messaged him offering the olive branch, trying to reconnect with him and explain why I had asked him to back off and had been so emotional.

What did he do? He verbally attacked me. I never knew he had a nasty side, I do now. Among other things, he accused me of calling him a racist, something he knows damn well I never said and never would. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I knew full well his reasons for voting the way he did, he saw the EU as some all evil Empire, it had nothing to do with immigration. I was deeply hurt, outraged, bloody furious, how dare he? After all the crap I’ve put up with from him, the bullshit, the exaggerations, the lies, the ulterior motives. I’d never blamed him for repeatedly recommending me to join our old awful ex-publishers, for pushing them so hard, it was my mistake not his, I had signed with them without checking them out first because I had trusted the opinions of him, my friend. He’d later admitted that he wanted as many people to join them as possible to make them successful and help his own books. The experience scarred me more than I can say and almost stopped me from ever writing again, but I never once blamed him for my own misfortune. It was my mistake, not his. I’d always been supportive, putting my own personal feelings to one side when he did things I didn’t like, as I’m sure he did for me, after all, that’s what friends do, they respect each other’s differences and idiosyncrasies. Having been cheated on myself in the past, I find adultery abhorrent regardless of the circumstances, but when he got involved with a married woman (whose husband was apparently dying), I was genuinely thrilled and supportive for him, because I just wanted to see him happy – again that’s what friends do!

I asked him to show proof of where I had accused him of such a heinous thing (knowing he wouldn’t be able to). He ignored my message for two long weeks. I was devastated. How could a close friend be so vicious, so unkind, so untruthful? I shared my shock on FB, being careful not to mention his name, as I was so upset and needed the comfort of friends. What did he do? – attack me again for sharing my feelings on FB – and here’s where it gets truly nasty. He had done the exact same thing to me, but worse, he had done it the day before (when I was in ignorant bliss of his awful feelings towards me) he had openly vented over FB on a mutual friend’s post, spreading lies about me, about how a close friend of his had called him a racist and how he’d been battling with racism his whole life etc etc. Then in a typically underhanded and hypocritical move of him, he had secretly contacted the mutual friend and asked him to remove the thread, when that friend refused, he then went in and edited out all the crap he said about me – but too late, I had already seen it! To then have the audacity to pretend he was somehow the victim instead of the attacker and accuse me of something he himself had done the day before just beggared belief!

I know how terribly trivial this all sounds, especially given the dreadful global things that have happened this year – the crumbling of a friendship is hardly worth moaning about. But it was one of the worst most hurtful things I’ve gone through in quite a few years, made worse because I was in a vulnerable state and hadn’t expected a friend to behave like that.

To be honest, politics, deceitfulness and verbal attacks aside, the thing that has devastated me the most is the fact that running up to this whole horrible debacle, I had repeatedly told him that I was in a bad head space, that the whole Brexit thing was actually making me ill, that I was really struggling etc., and he couldn’t give a shit. From someone who has been afflicted by depression himself, the ‘black dog’ as he fashionably likes to call it, and as a close friend he knew I had struggled with bad depression for years, including two suicide attempts. I had always been SO fucking supportive of him when he was in a bad head space, even though I know he exaggerates everything, I’d been on the same drugs as him which hadn’t affected me at all, but none of that mattered. I know when it comes to mental health everyone deals with it differently and gets affected by it differently. But here was the crux, I’d always been very supportive and caring of when his bad times hit, and to a certain extent he had been relatively supportive of mine. Yet, when it came to Brexit, he had ignored every single one of my pleas, he didn’t give a shit that I was struggling, that I was repeatedly telling him I was in a bad way, none of that mattered, only that he was right and me along with 16 million others were wrong. His ego, his unwavering self-belief was far far more important than a friend in need. It was the final demonstration, if I needed it, that this was a man so utterly up his own arse that if anyone needed help, he’d be the last person to see it. Like a teenager desperately seeking attention, only HE was the one that mattered, only his depression, his feelings, his opinions.

After two weeks passed he eventually responded to my private message. I admit, I never read it. I was too hurt by the whole thing and could tell straight away that it wasn’t an apology or anything like it. He had attacked me in such a nasty way, he had hurt me terribly to assuage his own bruised ego over most of our mutual friends saying how wrong he was over his Brexit stance and he had taken his frustrations out on me, a soft target. Ironically I saw how he reacted to our mutual friend who had threatened to defriend and block him and who quite rightly told him where to stick his opinions in a hilariously forceful way. Did he attack him back? No, of course not, he replied with a single word answer, “Peace”. Strange how differently he had reacted to me, but then our mutual friend wasn’t a soft target and I was.

To me, that was pretty unforgiveable. Like a divorce, the end of a friendship is never easy and always painful. Things went on. We didn’t speak or communicate at all. When my birthday rolled around I knew I wouldn’t be getting a birthday card from him, but I admit, seeing him active on FB that day and not bothering to even press a button to send one of those automatic FB birthday messages, something that takes no effort to do, I finally realised that things were over for good. The pretence that we were friends was over, what was the point of hanging on and just being continually kicked in the gut? So the day after my birthday I finally defriended him. It hurt, it still does to a certain extent, maybe that will give him some pleasure, I don’t know and I no longer care. I only know that after a lifetime of being hurt, of being kicked in the guts physically and figuratively, that I am too old and too worn down to allow so called friends to hurt me, my tolerance for cruelty is zero. I’ve never knowingly hurt anyone in my life, never attacked anyone, never cheated, never lied about someone. I have been a carpet, I admit, but my fiery temperament is definitely taking over now and I’m not prepared to take anymore shit.

None of us deserve to be treated badly, none of us.

I’m all for forgiving people, god knows I’ve forgiven people a hell of a lot and then been shitted on again. But in the end, life is too short, too hard, too fucking difficult to keep climbing that hill with all our baggage while those we hold dear kick us as we stumble. I am very fortunate to have a few very very dear friends, Heather who I’ve known for years and who made me godmother to her first child; Sammy, my amazing publisher but far far more importantly, an amazing and very dear friend who I share so much with, Kate Coe and Jo, two of the truly loveliest people you could meet, Roz too and actually all my fellow Grimbold authors who are such darlings and such truly remarkable and wonderful people. I love them all and am very thankful to have them in my life. ❤

But I admit, more than the awfulness of Brexit, of Trump’s hideous bigotry and election win, of our heroes dying, what has marked this year as being particularly awful for me, was the ugly end to what I thought was a great friendship. It leaves me feeling wary, jaded and nervous of trusting people again and I know that is not a good disposition to have.

So…my New Year’s Resolution is simply this – to be open, to be positive and to be happy.

Darkness won in 2016, but even in the dark there is always a light.

So, looking to the positives…this year has also seen a very close family friend of some 50 years, battle and survive cancer, which is to be celebrated! We are so thrilled she has made a full recovery and is doing so well. 😀 ❤ The growing closeness of my other friends is something I am so so thankful for and as some of them embark on a whole new chapter in their lives, I am so excited and thrilled for them. shadows-of-the-oak

This year has also seen the publishing of two books with my stories in, the wonderful, Fight Like A Girl in April (with an amazing book launch in Bristol), and most recently, Shadows Of The Oak which also has two of my illustrations in. I am so happy for improved health and happiness of those I hold dear too, especially my mate Sammy who has overcome so many things and is an inspiration to all of us. Love you sweetie. ❤

My illustration business has continued to flourish with great word of mouth keeping me very busy. My most prestigious commissions to date were for the wonderful Juliet McKenna and her Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, and now Anna Smith-Spark and her new HarperCollins book due out next year, The Court of Broken Knives.

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I also managed to win my second NaNo this year (50K words in a month) which I was thrilled about and have just wrangled into existence a first rough draft of my second novel, Darkling Rise, after struggling for two years with it!

Now, I have two more short stories to write this month for two different anthologies, yet more illustration commissions lined up and Book 2 to knock into shape. 2017 also heralds a very personal milestone that I am going to try my hardest to achieve…watch this space! 😀

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So, I hope you guys have had a better year than me and wish you a gloriously happy 2017. But if you have had a tough year too, then take heart, things always change and WILL get better. I know 2017 will have a lot of struggles of its own, after all we will all be entering Trumpland, but I truly believe if we remember to treat each other well and not give into hate, that we can make the next year a great one.

Love to you all and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! 😀 ❤ xxxxx

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World Book Day – Let’s Kick Some Book Ass!

Today is World Book Day! Now usually I find myself doing something cool for World Book Day. In years gone by, when I was a teacher, we’d dress up as favourite book characters and spend the day reading cool stories and playing book related games. Then, as a author and illustrator, I found myself doing book signings in Waterstones or some lovely independent bookshops (which I would always urge you all to support – use Amazon to buy other stuff, but PLEASE buy your books locally, it’s the only way to ensure that we still have local bookshops!). More recently, as I now work in a library, we have celebrated World Book Day by having cool events and art activities all with a book theme.

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This year? Well, World Book Day has fallen on a day I don’t work and as I’m concentrating on writing new material this year rather than galloping around the West Country and Wales book signing, I’m actually spending this lovely day in a peaceful creative huddle. Candles lit, music softly playing in the background, dogs asleep (shhhhh!) and laptop on my…er…lap as I type away.

Logos[1]While I wrestle with the sequel to White Mountain, which I am determined to finish in the next few months, I have been very productive on the short story front. So, what better day to tell you all about new stories and new books coming up, than to announce it on World Book Day! 😀

For White Mountain fans, you have two Darkling Tales/short novellas winging their way to you VERY soon. A Friendship Forged – charting how Mr. Agyk and Gralen first met, why dragons have disappeared from the world and the first dark inklings, has just gone through it’s last round of edits (thank you Robyn!) and is looking VERY good! The second story, The Siege of Kallorm – recounts the tragic tale of Korrun of Koralan, how one fateful mistake can change your life forever and his attempts to find redemption. Can you ever atone for your sins? Sooooooo excited about these! 😀

For lovers of dark fairytales, there’s a wonderful anthology – Shadows Of The Oak, by Tenebris Books, on its way very soon and I’ll have a sweetly dark and twisted tale in it, ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’ and two illustrations.

The Orphan and the Iron Troll (borderless)

And for lovers of kick-ass fiction…wow you have a treat coming! A brilliant and prestigious group of the best female sci-fi/fantasy writers in the country all gathered together for one awesome anthology – Fight Like A Girl! The theme is all about strong empowered women, female protagonists who kick ass whether they be natural born fighters, soldiers, mercenaries, assassins, hardened warriors or ordinary women thrown into extraordinary circumstances. What makes this anthology unique, apart from the talent gathered together to create it, is that all the people involved in it are women. Female writers writing about powerful females, women editors (the brilliant Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke), and uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, run by two women (the galactically awesome Sammy HK Smith & Zoe Harris)!

Fight-Like-A-Girl-V2-400ppi[1]Having said all that, the book is designed to appeal to both genders. It’s choc full of battles, violence, dark humour and cool kick-ass action! The grand launch is on Saturday 2nd April at the Hatchet Inn in Bristol where there will be a panel, readings and even some swordplay! Fighting and buffet food too – grab your tickets now!* 😀

I must confess I’m rather honoured and more than a little humbled to be included in this collection amongst such prestigious writers with my own gritty sci-fi tale – ‘Silent Running’, nestled amongst a host of other great stories from luminaries like Juliet McKenna, Julia Knight, KT Davies, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gaie Sebold, Danie Ware, Dolly Garland, Lou Morgan, KR Green, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke, Fran Terminiello, Nadine West and Kelda Crich!

It’s true that there are a lot of exciting bookish things happening this year, but being a part of this anthology is definitely one them!

*This book launch event has been kindly funded by the BristolCon Foundation
For more information: http://www.bristolcon.org/?page_id=2654
For tickets – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fight-like-a-girl-flag-launch-event-tickets-20658444965

Wherever you are and whatever you’re reading – Happy World Book Day!!!! 😀 xxxx

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hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Meet the Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

 

One of my all time favourite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, here in a brilliant ‘Meet the Author’ from the BBC. Many thanks to the lovely Morgen Bailey for highlighting this! 😀 xxx

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Writing Guru

MTA Kazuo IshiguroThere’s a brilliant section of the BBC website called ‘Meet the Author’.

The latest <10-minute video interview to be offered is with Kazuo Ishiguro and can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-31815725 where there are also links to previous videos.

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The writing’s on the wall…er…tablet?

I don’t usually re-blog my own posts, in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done it before, but I saw this post I blogged in May last year and just loved the subject matter – writing and the history of writing! Enjoy! 😀 xx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gil... The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, the writing’s on the tablet and I’m not talking computer tablets here, in terms of writing and technology, it seems we’ve come full circle! 😀

Like many of us, when I was a child I believed that the ancient Egyptians invented writing. That hieroglyphics were man’s earliest endeavour at making sense of the world in written form.

Of course, we all know this to be untrue now, that actually Sumer (southern Mesopotamia) and the ancient Sumerians invented writing, Sumerian cuneiform by writing on clay tablets with a reed called a stylus, at least 200 years before the Egyptians.

&quot;The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the mo...
“The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like…

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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

Happy World Book Day!!!

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Today, Thursday 6th March is World Book Day, a day of celebration for reading, writing, books and all things bookish!!! YAY!!!!

What makes World Book Day so wonderful and so unique, is the way it engages with children, in schools and libraries, on the web, radio and in bookshops. It focuses people into really thinking about the importance that literature and books play in our lives, how they inspire and enrich all of us, fill our dreams, push us onwards or simply provide a wondrous escape from the daily grime.

But for children, World Book Day really is magical. A chance to dress up as your favourite book character, costumes, swords, wands and wigs galore!!!! Puzzles, games, author readings and workshops, book reviews, book events, drawing character wanted posters, even making foody treats that your book characters eat…all great fun, and of course, a chance to read from your favourite book and talk about why you love a certain story and its characters as much as you do.

I can think of no nobler endeavour, than to instil in children, a life-long love of reading and books. VERY cool!!!!!

So Happy 17th World Book Day!!!!! May you continue inspiring all of us for many more glorious years to come!!

Check out their fabulous website http://www.worldbookday.com/ for plenty of book fun and free downloadable resources from mazes, colouring in sheets, to ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, for Nursery, Primary and Secondary School aged children! Miss it, miss out!!

If YOU could be any book character for a day, who would you choose and why?

😀 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