The Dust Room

003

You never believe your life can change…until it does.

Kate Neilson’s life, not much of one by her own account, had bumped along in the same unremarkable way for the last three decades now. She had fond memories of being a kid, having adventures, being bold and exciting but all that changed when she was eight. A few weeks after her eighth birthday her mother had been killed in a car accident and her young life took an overnight turn from the fantasies of being a kid into the harsh realities of life. She’d given up on being adventurous after that, she’d given up on being anything really and had perfected the art of drifting – no ambition, no goals, no hassle.

Now at the age of 38, her life had drastically changed again…

Kate sat wedged in a leather chair, a blank expression on her face. She had reached brain overload about two hours before. Most of the morning had been consumed by endless papers, signing codicils, notarising documents, legal jargon and the sort of beaurocratic nonsense that she and Shaw hated. Kate knew that if his lawyer hadn’t been his friend, then Shaw would have ended up without an asset to his name. Shaw had a particular dislike, no, an outright disgust regarding paperwork especially when it came to summarising a human being’s life.

“It’s paper, just f**king paper!” he’d scream, invariably louder than he had to.

Shaw enjoyed making people stiffen in their chairs, is if he were about to assault them. Kate remembered an old friend of his, describing him as a ‘human tsunami’. That was it exactly. It was the most accurate description of him and uncannily prophetic. Shaw really was a human tsunami, whether he intended to be or not. He left people mangled in his wake. To be honest, in all their interviews together, the endless taped conversations and battles of wit, not really a battle, Kate had never won a point. But in all their meetings, she had never really been able to assess his motives. Frustratingly, right up until the end, he had remained as big a mystery as he ever had. Perhaps that was how he wanted it. He had a way of orchestrating things by invisible means, nonetheless, one always suspected Shaw of being involved.

“Right. That’s it. All signed and sealed. The realtor will sort that sign out in the morning. That was a mistake, that should never have gone up.” Shaw’s lawyer towered above her.

“Thank you, Tom.”

Tom McCrury, a great bear of a man, had been Addison Shaw’s lawyer for fifty-one years. He probably knew him better than anyone, but he was keeping tight-lipped about it. What an odd friendship it seemed. This softly spoken monolith of a man and Addison Shaw, loud mouthed, foul-mouthed and with no patience for the pleasantries of life. To Kate, Shaw had always seemed a chewed up gristly character, gristly yes, as if there was no bone or muscle and certainly no fat, just gristle…gnarled on the inside.

“Well,” McCrury drew in a long breath. “Things happen for a reason, right?” He patted Kate on the back. “Place is all yours now, kiddo, enjoy it!”

Tom was in a hurry to leave. He wrestled with the enormous cluster of keys for a moment then dropped then squarely in her hands. He strode out to his car got in and hesitated for a moment.

“Don’t forget, I’m your lawyer now. Call me if you need anything, my number’s on speed dial…lucky number seven!” he smiled, then slamming the door shut with a cursory wave, he was gone. By the rattle of his exhaust, Kate wondered if his old friend had been as generous with him. If anyone deserved to inherit, surely it had to be Tom McCrury not her?!

Kate stood on the steps for a while looking at the jumble of keys, so interconnected she’d never be able to separate them. The place was vast. There had to be a hundred rooms at least. Why on earth had Addison Shaw, reclusive heir to a fortune of billions – no single person seemed to know the full extent of his assets, why…why had he left this to her?!

She couldn’t call it a house, a mansion, or even a palace, it was just an enormous pile of rooms and turrets and grandiose staircases with nothing but the mice to waft up and down. What the hell was she going to do with it? It had to be worth… what was it Tom said?

“Oh, I don’t know, somewhere between fifteen and thirty million. Shaw refused to ever let realtors in…you know Addison.”

No, no she didn’t that was the point. She had worked at a crummy local newspaper writing minor stories and organising the ad section. A job she hated and which routinely underappreciated and underpaid her, but the plain truth was, she was a coward and couldn’t risk leaving it. Then a year ago, out of the blue, her editor had called her into his office. She’d only spoken to the guy maybe twice in five years. Anyone watching him bluster around the offices would have thought he was some hot-shot newspaper kingpin, not the king of a small town rag with an embarrassingly low readership.

Anyway, he’d lowered himself to call her insignificance in for a ‘chat’.

“I got a call this morning,” he paused. He liked pausing for dramatic effect. It just made he seem even more like the jumped up little weasel she thought he was. “A call…from Addison Shaw.”

She had no idea who he was, but she had no intention of letting him know that. One thing Kate was great at, was faking.

“Yes?”

“Addison Shaw? The multi-billionaire? He owns the Shoreside estate?”

“Yes.”

“Hmmm. Well…he wants a reporter and he has personally asked for you.”

Now she was shocked. Nobody personally asked for her, ever. The last time that happened it was over a speeding ticket.

“Me?”

“You know this guy?”

“No…no, not at all.”

Her boss eyed her suspiciously. “Really…well, he seems to know you. Wants you to go out there this afternoon.”

“What?”

“Take your camera. There are no recent pictures of this guy without those damn shades on.”

This afternoon?”

“Yeap.”

“But…but I’ve got the ads to finish.”

“Gary will have to do those. He wants you there at 2.”

“Did he say what it was about?”

“Jesus, Neilson! A story! I don’t think he’s looking for a girlfriend!”

Sarcastic little shit. That meant he’d asked and been told to f**k off. Good.

Kate left the office, for what ended up as the last time. That surreal afternoon she had meet with the mysterious Mr. Shaw and been offered a job as his biographer, a job which easily paid five times the amount she got at the Gazette. Her normal cautiousness had kicked in for about twenty seconds, until she been given a cheque for twenty thousand dollars as an advance. On her return journey home, she had stopped at the local deli, just to phone her editor and tell him to stick his job. Considering that Kate rarely swore, her exact words drew stares from the prissy woman behind the deli counter!

That was a year ago, almost to the day.

Kate stood on the steps and looked up at the colossus of a building behind her. How was she going to live here? The papers she had to sign that morning, stipulated she could not sale, rent or let the property nor could she run any business from it for a period of no less than ten years. After this ten-year enforced habitation, she would have to apply to be released from the clauses and various legal entanglements and could then eventually sell up and reap the rewards…if she refused her grand prize then this impossibly grand house would be torn down with immediate effect. She simply couldn’t abide that, to rip apart something like this for no reason, was crazy!

Yes…it would be criminal…at least after ten years she could sell up, maybe give some money to charity or something or set up a foundation for kids, something.

“Ten years, eh?” she felt the weight of it already.

The money Addison Shaw had left her, too mind-boggling to contemplate, was neatly ascribed to various maintenance areas, the roof, gardens and grounds, stonework, plaster work, upkeep of conservation work etc, then the rest into a ‘living account’, expenses, that kind of thing.

Kate slumped down on the top step. This was all too much. A week ago she still had a relatively normal life, well, sort of. She’d spend most of her days running errands for Mr. Shaw, interviewing him or doing research. Kate really had no idea how to write a biography, but her lack of credentials didn’t seem to bother her new boss.

Despite the better income, she was still living in her one bedroomed apartment trying to work out if she could afford to move to a bigger place. She had used up the advance pretty quickly, paying off debts, and though Shaw gave her the healthiest salary she could have dreamt of, she had been sensible and had squirreled it away into savings and a pension plan. She was rather proud of herself for doing that. Most 38 year olds would have blown it on an expensive house and car…but then again, most 38 year olds were married with kids. Kate didn’t fit the usual mould.

Yes…a week ago Kate was busy with an assignment Shaw had given her and was running late as usual when Mrs Forrenti had cornered her as she fumbled with her front door keys.

The old lady who lived next door to her and knew the movements of everyone in the block, was waving a crumpled envelope in her hand.

Kate smiled. “Good morning Mrs Forrenti. I’m in a bit of a rush this morning.”

“Did you see what she did with that dog?” The old woman was waving manically at her octogenarian nemesis across the balcony.

“Uh huh…I’m sure that’s right…”

“What? Are you listening to me dear?”

Kate stared at her. Why couldn’t she politely tell her to sod off and leave her alone? What did she think? That just because she was single she’d want to be best buddies with an eighty-three year old pain in the ass, who stank of garlic and lavender to hide the stench of smoke and rotten teeth? Ughh! Even now, Kate couldn’t pass a perfume counter if it had any lavender scents without wanting to throw up.

“I’m sorry Mrs Forrenti, I really can’t talk…I’m late I’ve got to go…”

“Oh my dear, you’re always late aren’t you?” she smiled. Kate got another waft of smoke-laden garlic.

“I’ll speak to you later, okay?” She turned and rushed away.

“Wait! Wait!” the old woman grabbed her arm. Why couldn’t she just leave her alone? “This is yours. That damn post boy keeps giving me your mail!” She gave her the brown envelope.

Kate stuffed it into her bag and quickly left. Shaw had asked her, on their last round of interviews to do some research for him and the woman at the records office could only see her at 9 sharp. Kate reached there with a minute to spare. She spent the rest of the day scrolling through dated microfilm and newspaper articles. It wasn’t until three, when she had left the records office to grab a sandwich, that she had remembered the envelope. It was a note in Addison Shaw’s scrawling hand. It said simply.

I am yours.

With it was a business card from Tom McCrury. On the back Tom had written – Call me today, urgent!

So she did.

That was how Kate had found out that her boss of the last year, the mysterious, reclusive billionaire, Addison Michael Shaw, had died.

At 11:30 the previous night, he had driven his Bugatti Veyron into the sea and strapped himself in the seat.

That was eight days ago.

The funeral was yesterday. Today, Kate Neilson was a billionairess…

Sophie E Tallis © 2013

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Iain M Banks – 1954-2013

A terribly sad day, as another great writer passes. A prodigious talent and by all accounts, a thoroughly lovely chap. Iain M Banks will be greatly missed by many. 😦

Joanne Hall

Yesterday brought the saddest of news. Iain M Banks, author of The Wasp Factory and creator of the Culture novels, has passed away shortly after being given a terminal diagnosis of advanced gall bladder cancer. He was 59, which is no age at all, really.

iain_banks1

I was lucky enough to meet him a few times, at Newcon, where I ran into him outside the toilets and managed to blether something about how much I’d loved Excession, and at Forbidden Planet, where I mentioned Bristolcon to him and he took a handful of flyers from me and handed them out to everyone who got a book signed, urging them to come along (he wasn’t even a guest, and I didn’t ask him to, he just did it. That’s the kind of guy he was.)

The last time was a Q and A at Waterstones in Bristol, where he talked for an…

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Very Inspiring Again?

Three days ago, in a maelstrom of emotions – more than a little ploughed under with work and the weather, which looks gorgeous but as we all know is utterly treacherous to drive in, I found a truly wonderful surprise waiting for me!

It really couldn’t have come at a better time, a little ray of sunshine in these wintry blustery days.

Tricia Drammeh, fellow fantasy writer, blogger extraordinaire, interviewer, reviewer, mother of four, hugely talented wordsmith and all round lovely person, nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!!!!!

http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/author/authortriciadrammeh/

If you haven’t already checked out her mindbogglingly wonderful blog, well, you’re really missing out! Get over there now folks you won’t regret it! 😀  http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/

She also has the most fantastic website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com/

I’m truly humbled and honoured to be nominated for this award by an author and blogger of such talents! A HUGE thank you to Tricia Drammeh!!! 😀 xx

*****

The Rules of the Award are as follows:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 bloggers for this award and link to them.
  5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Okay, so we go…

  1. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of weird facts, especially world geography, just don’t ask me where the counties of England are!
  2. As a child I wanted to be an astronaut, writer and mermaid (2001 Space Odyssey and…er…the Splash movie had a huge influence!). Well, one out of three is pretty good?
  3. I’m happiest when I’m outside surrounded by nature, staring at the sky, horizon or the sea. It’s as important to me as breathing. Cities make me quite claustrophobic.
  4. As a young child, I started writing and drawing before I was even steady on my feet. I still have terrible balance. As I’m very bendy, I can do most of the yoga poses but cannot balance to save my life!
  5. I don’t drink at all – my taste buds are still as immature as they were when I first tried wine and I’m allergic to most of it. Yuk! But chocolate has an almost hypnotic effect on me!!!! 😛
  6. I love animals and can’t stand cruelty of any kind. I’m a member of most of the animal charities and used to campaign against circus cruelty to elephants.
  7. In fact, I can’t stand cruelty of any kind…To me there’s nothing worse than bullying and aggressive behaviour, there’s just no excuse for it. Why be rude and horrible when you can kind and tolerant? None of us are perfect but as my dear Granny used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.” A simple lesson we could all learn from.

Now for the nominees! Wow, this is really hard. Firstly a lot of my choices were quite rightly chosen by Tricia. Secondly, it’s hard picking just 15 bloggers, there are SO many great ones out there!

So…in no order at all, I nominate the following blogs for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Please DO check out all their amazing blogs!

  1. Ryan Holmes http://griffinsquill.com/
  2. Morgen Bailey http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/
  3. Lindsey J Parsons http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/
  4. Ashen Venema (Course of Mirrors) http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/
  5. Andy Szpuk http://andyszpuk.wordpress.com/
  6. Lisa Scullard http://lisascullard.wordpress.com/
  7. Gretchen Steen http://gretchensteen.blogspot.co.uk/
  8. James Shortland http://fantasybastion.com/
  9. ashsilverlock http://ashsilverlock.wordpress.com/
  10. M T McGuire http://www.mtmcguire.co.uk/
  11. Dominick Swennen http://fantasticalimaginations.wordpress.com/
  12. Jane Dougherty http://janedougherty.wordpress.com/
  13. Freaky Folk Tales http://freakyfolktales.wordpress.com/
  14. Moment Matters http://momentmatters.wordpress.com/
  15. atoasttodragons http://atoasttodragons.wordpress.com/

Gosh…that WAS hard. I also need to mention Sheryl Browne http://sheryls-ramblings.blogspot.com/ , Debbie Young http://youngbyname.wordpress.com/ , Mandy Ward  http://welcometowherever.wordpress.com/ and the wonderful Lisa Wiedmeier http://lisawiedmeier.blogspot.co.uk/ 😀

Michael Morpurgo & Me!

Strange things have been happening…very strange things. It seems that I am stalking Michael Morpurgo!

9260_433372556719113_86475080_nSince my debut novel was published or should I say born into the world on 30th September, I’ve been lost in a wondrous maelstrom of writing, promotion, marketing, newspaper articles and my first book signings.

To date, I have just had my third author signing event, this time at the huge Waterstones branch in Cardiff. Even though each signing is akin to standing in the sports hall of your school during your final year prom, waiting for someone to pick you to dance, i.e. exhilarating and embarrassing in equal measure – talking to people has been wonderful.

I’d like to thank an especially lovely couple yesterday who bought a copy of White Mountain and were so enthusiastic and full of energy about my book and our shared love of writing, illustrations and fantasy, that I could have chatted to them all day!

But yes, life recently has been a complete whirlwind and something of a surreal dream. Surreal is a good word to describe it, though perhaps unreal is nearer the mark.

We all live, for the most part, little innocuous lives. I certainly have for the last 3o something years. Just a quiet bumbling sort of life, lurching from one mishap into another. Fumbling my way through life while I studiously and anonymously scribble away at my stories, dreaming one day that they will proudly sit upon the bookshelves of my lovely local independent bookshop, Waterstones or WHSmith’s, hopefully next to another great literary work.

We all dream, right?

Well, I know I’m never going to be the astronaut I wanted to be (…er…or space pirate!) and dreams of being a mermaid have slipped away as I’ve grown older (notice I don’t say wiser). But being a writer was always a dream I believed would happen…and eventually it has. All good things come to those that wait, eh?

Anyway, during a rare moment of lucidity, I took a camera with me and popped into some of the local bookshops which are so kindly stocking and supporting my book. What did I find? Well, apart from the indescribable feeling of ACTUALLY seeing your own book on a bookshelf, a feeling I still can’t fully express, one worrying aspect arose…

White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, may be an epic fantasy for the 21st century full of adventure, dark magic, love, loss, friendship and betrayal, but it would also appear that my beloved novel is somewhat of a stalker!

Yes, a STALKER!!!!!

Everywhere I look, White Mountain is determinedly following and sidling up to the wonderful Michael Morpurgo! Yes, my novel is stalking Michael Morpurgo – the illustrious and critically acclaimed writer I have admired for many years who, after the film of his novel ‘War Horse’, is also in great demand!

There, in every shop I visited, sat my novel sitting proudly next to one of his. I can’t tell you the thrill of that!

So…I would like to take the opportunity of not only thanking Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester (www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury (www.yellow-lightedbookshop.co.uk) and Stroud Children’s Bookshop…but I would like to thank a total stranger who is also a bit of a hero for me, the multi-talented, Michael Morpurgo!

Thank you, Michael. Even though you don’t know me from Adam, Eve, or a dude called Bob, my novel and I want to thank you from the bottom of our dragon fuelled hearts!

*deep sigh*

Life can be hard as iron, but sometimes, just sometimes…it can be utterly lovely! 😀 xx

Manically juggling and Hitting 3,000!

Like so many of us, I find myself constantly juggling and always trying to squeeze yet more precious time out of each day. It’s a common malaise nowadays, when we are all working longer hours with heavier workloads and we find the work/life balance completely out of kilter.

For me, between a VERY full-time job, a hectic career with all the usual and unusual stresses and workloads that that entails, writing my second novel, writing other projects and short stories, promoting and marketing my first novel (White Mountain, published 30th September this year), doing my artwork and a busy home life…I find that manic juggling game increasingly more difficult.

With so many balls flying through the air, how do we keep going without dropping the odd one?

For some, it becomes a daily routine of list writing. Charting out each event that needs attending to and prioritising the most important. I must admit, that despite my fierce loathing of anything too organised and too routine, as I’ve always loved ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ so to speak (for me spontaneity IS life), even I have had to grudgingly adopt this formalised structure. I’m sure for those fortunate few to be ‘ladies or gents of leisure’, the choices in life are perhaps easier, but for the rest of us workers, you HAVE to list and prioritise your life to some extent, if you are to prevent those balls from crashing all over the place!

My advice? If writing IS your life…give yourself time to do it! MAKE time to do it…even if that’s at 2 in the morning!

KEEP WRITING!

To that point, I work during the day but am a night owl and DO ensure that I write everyday, whether it’s a section of narrative, some scribbled plot ideas or some poetry.

So, amidst all my frantic juggling, despite my considerable absence of late and the very sporadic blogging from my initial, ‘Daily Hello’ intentions, my little blog has now passed the 3,000 hits mark!

Wow and wow!

I am genuinely amazed and very touched. A HUGE shout out to all my friends, supporters and family who have been utterly amazing in their kindness and support, and who have kept me laughing and inspired in equal measure! I owe you all a great debt.

THANK YOU!

😀

 

‘Aspiring Author’, really?

writing

I was having a discussion with some writer friends recently and this topic came into the conversation. It is also popped up on my publisher’s website, and they are of the same opinion as me. That although it is certainly a very common turn of phrase on writing forums and social media sites, it is also a complete cop-out!

Why ‘Aspiring’? Yes, to be an author may well be a long-held dream, certainly in my case, it has been a lifetime’s ambition, harboured and nurtured since I was a child. So I understand the longing, the desire to achieve ‘Author’ status, what I don’t understand or agree with, is the sentiment behind the word ‘aspiring’. It is such a terribly weak statement.

You are not an ‘aspiring doctor’, or teacher, or lawyer, or dentist…you either ARE a doctor, teacher, lawyer, dentist, or you are NOT. There is no halfway house. Yes, you may be ‘in training’ to join one of those professions, but you should still consider yourself to BE one of them, even if you can’t practise on your patients! Have confidence in your abilities and in where you want to go. You wouldn’t consider yourself an ‘aspiring human’, would you? Ummm…well in some cases that may actually be true! 😀

Have the strength of your convictions and the confidence to see them through.

Putting yourself in the category of ‘Aspiring Author’, merely tells the world that you don’t have confidence in your own writing and that you don’t consider yourself to be a professional. Why should any publishing house take you on and take you seriously, if you don’t take yourself seriously. Publishing houses are not looking for amateurs. Debut novelists, new writers…YES! But ‘Aspiring Authors’? Really?

Your approach and your thinking must always be professional, from the outset. No weak ‘aspiring’ here.

Some consider the sacred term ‘author’ to be based on sales. That you cannot call yourself an author until you are published and those royalty cheques start coming through your letterbox. Again…is this right? If you are basing your status as an author purely on sales…then you are in the wrong profession! Yes, being an author is a professional endeavour, but it is also a highly creative one. Creativity should and MUST always come before hard cash.

Although it is easy to get carried away with stories of instant success and truck loads of money, Christopher Paolini is a good example. If you are writing to get rich…you are DEFINITELY in the wrong profession! These stories hit the headlines precisely because they are so rare. Most writers struggle with sales and building their fan base for years and years, there’s nothing instant about it. It’s hard graft all the way. A good mate of mine, Will, once said that writing the book was the easiest part about it and he’s absolutely right. As hard or as easy as you may find the process of writing and editing your work, that really is the easiest part of being an author.

Think of the great writers of the 19th and 20th century, few of them had instant success with their very first book. They too had to build their readership, hone their craft and get on the carousel of marketing and promotion. Why a carousel? Because it NEVER stops! If they had dismissed themselves as merely ‘aspiring authors’, when their first book languished on the bookshelves due to poor sales, then they probably would never have written a second or third book and thus deprived us readers of some literary masterworks!

Sales has nothing to do with writing or wanting to be a writer. Yes, you’ve got to be professional and yes, good sales are what you want to strive for and achieve, but it should NEVER be a motivational tool or a yardstick by which you class yourself as an author or not.

Be what you want to be. Have confidence in your abilities, your imagination and your writing. There is nothing ‘aspiring’ about it…inspiring, hell yes! Wouldn’t you rather be an inspiring author than an aspiring one?

Whatever your professional day job…You ARE a writer…or you are not. That simple.

For me?

I am and have always been a writer, an author and proud to be one. 😀

When the Griffin met the Dragon – My second interview!

My second in-depth interview! Woo-and Hoo!

(Yes, it is strange that this and Tricia’s blog came out on the same day, but you know…life IS strange and wonderful and bizarre!)

A few weeks ago I was thrilled and VERY humbled to be approached by the multi-talented, Ryan Holmes – a fellow fantasy writer, a skilled ‘Quiz Master General’, blogger extraordinaire and all round lovely guy.

Oh…did I mention that he also has my dream job?

He works for…(drum roll please)…NASA!

Ryan Holmes is also the creator of Griffin’s Quill, a fantastic website “created by authors for authors and their readership.”

Not only does it feature Ryan’s own writing, ‘Dawn of Resurgence’, but it is also dedicated to encouraging and nurturing new writing talent.

A great place and a real haven for writing and writers in general – highly recommended!

Well, over the course of the last few weeks I’ve had an absolute blast, as Ryan has well and truly quizzed me over my reasons for writing and my debut novel, ‘White Mountain’, Book 1 of ‘The Darkling Chronicles’ – published by Safkhet Publishing 30th September 2012.

Massive thanks to Ryan Holmes for all his incredible hard work and for making the interview so much fun! Check out the results here:

http://griffinsquill.com/2012/03/21/sophie-e-tallis/

Griffin’s Quill: http://griffinsquill.com/

😀

P.S. I still want to join NASA!