Tag Archives: Sophie E. Tallis

Fantasycon 2015

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nottingham_venue_headerThis year Fantasycon was held on the outskirts of Nottingham at a spiffy Conference Centre with the adjoining Orchard Hotel available for those attendees wanting to stay for the duration.
As ever, the event was well organised, with plenty going on during all three days so that I found myself yearning, once more, for that clone to be able to attend more than one panel/reading/discussion.

Highlights
The overall quality of the panels was very high, with moderators well prepared and the contributors knowledgeable and articulate. I’m a sucker for this aspect of cons, as I love listening to good discussions. The standout panels I attended were:-

Blades, Wands & Lasers: Fighting the Good Fight-Scene
Clifford Beal, Juliet McKenna, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Jo Thomas and Dani Ware, moderated by James Barclay Fantasycon-bannerdiscussed all aspects of fighting, using magic, sharp pointy things and techie gismos. It was a wide-ranging, often funny and insightful exchange, ably facilitated by James Barclay. This was the gold standard of panels…

Stealing from the Past: Fantasy in History
Moderated by Susan Bartholomew, the panel of Jacey Bedford, Susan Boulton, Anne Lyle, Juliet E. McKenna and Toby Venables discussed how they use history or historical events within their writing. Again, this was an excellent panel where the contributors were knowledgeable and entertaining.

Sounds Like a Great Story: the Science and Psychology of Audio Fiction
Alisdair Stuart moderated and the contributors were Emma Newman, Chris Barnes and James Goss. This was a gem, and uncovered a whole world of podcasts that so far had completely eluded me… I came along because I spend a chunk of my hard earned dosh on audio books, principally for my dyslexic granddaughter, and was intrigued to learn how they are produced. But as with the best of panels, I came away with a whole lot more than I’d expected. Awesome stuff.

Round Robin Poetry Slam
Once more the wonderful Allen Ashley organised this event, which this year was held on Friday evening. The standard was higher than ever, with a great range of material and some amazing deliveries – I’m not going to forget the Moby Dick rap in a hurry… I read my poems ‘Sunspots’ and ‘Desertification’.

Readings
It’s always a pleasure to hear authors read their own work. This year I managed to hear Adrian Tchaikovsky read an111_4650 extract from a new shapeshifting fantasy series which sounds fantastic; Janet Edwards read from Earthgirl, which reminded me how awesome it is all over again – read my review of it here. Joanne Hall read from her latest novel Spark and Carousel which is next on my TBR list. And Frances Kay read extracts from her books Micka and Dollywaggler – a clearly accomplished and interesting writer. I also read an extract from Running Out of Space, my space opera adventure novel due to come out soon. Many thanks for those kind souls who turned up to support me during my reading. I was ridiculously nervous, but very glad to get it over with. Hopefully next time won’t be such an ordeal.

Conferences are all about meeting friends and making new ones. It was great to meet up with Janet and John Edwards again, catch up with Susan Bartholomew who was the very first person I spoke to at my first conference back in 2011, and talk to the actual versions of Joanne Hall and Sophie Tallis who I regularly chat with in bloggerland. It was a delight to make new friends, too, such as the awesome Carlie Cullen.

The Dealers’ Room
Packed with gorgeous books to drool over – and buy. Himself and I peeped in promising each other that we wouldn’t weaken and acquire anymore. After all, we ran out of places to put new books sometime last year. Until we came across several we couldn’t resist… It was something of a shock to find we’d come home with 35 additions to our book piles.

Regrets
There were, inevitably events I missed that I wish I hadn’t. The Atrocity Exhibition sadly clashed with the Poetry Round Robin – a shame, it sounded just up my alley. I am also more than a tad devastated to have missed teaandjeopardythe live edition of Tea and Jeopardy with Brandon Sanderson, after checking out the podcasts – marvellous geeky fun. If, like me, you were visiting the Moon when Emma Newman’s wonderful tea lair and her guests were being given crazy things to do, then do track it down. Beats Radio 1 hands down.
Also deeply saddened to have missed Adrian Cole’s lecture on Zombie Sky Sharks and the Fantasycon version of Just A Minute. Ah well, maybe next year…

Many, many thanks to all those hardworking folks who make Fantasycon possible – the organisers, the contributors, the panellists and other attendees. In particularI’d like to give the redcloaks a special mention – those willing souls were always on hand to help out in any way. Fantasycon 2015 was, as ever, a fabulous, friendly event for SSF fans that has come to be one of the high spots of my year.

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Favourite Dragons in Literature

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I’ve read one or three fantasy books in my time and decided to give a quick roundup of my favourite dragons. I happen to have a really soft spot for these critters and am always fascinated how different authors approach them. So, in no particular order…

Tintaglia from The Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobbdragonkeeper
I love this superbly arrogant blue dragon and the whole backstory of how the dragons come back into being, starting with the Live Ship Traders trilogy and then continuing through the Rain Wilds Chronicles quartet. I’m not in the business of giving spoilers, so I won’t say too much more. But if you have a weakness for dragons and enjoy a really intelligent, nuanced world featuring them, then consider reading Hobb’s books.

TheWhiteDragon(1stEd)Ruth from the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
This clever blend of science fiction and fantasy features dragons used in the fight against Thread, a terrible alien infestation that periodically threatens to wipe out the colonists. The alliance between riders and dragons is very close and a number of dragons are featured throughout the series, but the little white, Ruth, stole my heart. This classic series has stood the test of time and is highly recommended for anyone who has not yet encountered it.

Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowellhow to train your dragon
Yes, I know these are children’s books. Yes, I know you’ve probably seen the films. But if you have, don’t go away with the idea that Cowell’s version of Toothless is remotely like the cool, sensible creature depicted in the films. Toothless in the books is snarky and disobedient, only coming to Hiccup’s rescue when their lives depend upon it. Indeed, the relationship between the Viking youngsters and the dragons in the books is far more nuanced and chaotically funny than the rather tepid versions depicted in the films. Reading sessions of these books with grandchildren regularly descend into giggles.

TemeraireTemeraire from the series by Naomi Novik
This alternate historical series is starts off during the Napoleonic Wars, where dragons are used as men of war by both the English and French. Temeraire is a dragon that hatches prematurely so that his rider and lifelong companion is William Laurence, a Royal Navy captain. Novik has moved the story arc on, having her intrepid duo ranging all over the globe during their enjoyable, well written adventures.

The Blessed Penn from Tooth and Claw by Jo Waltontooth and claw
This marvellous gem from Walton, which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2004, is set in a world not dissimilar to Anthony Trollop’s Framley Parsonage. But you don’t need to have read Trollop’s book to appreciate Tooth and Claw, which inserts dragons and their need for meat and ambition into a world bounded by Victorian sensibilities. It is wonderfully observed, full of delightfully witty touches and one of my most memorable reads.

Other strong contenders – I love Gralen from White Mountain by Sophie E. Tallis, whose strong, outspoken character provides some delightful moments in this enjoyable epic fantasy read. I also really enjoy Jack from The Future FallsBook 3 of The Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff – though I am cheating a little here, because he is somewhere between a dragon and a person. The other dragon series worthy of mention is Stephen Deas’ riveting, if disturbing series The Memory of Flames, where the rather unpleasant humans have been subduing the dragons by magical means…

What about your favourite dragons in literature? Who have I left off this list that has you wincing in disgust? I’d love to hear from you!

Dragon’s Loyalty Award

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I am delighted to accept Charles French’s nomination for the wonderfully named Dragon’s Loyalty Award. Charles French’s Words Reading and Writing blog is subtitled ‘And exploration of writing and reading’ which nicely sums up his whole approach, so it’s not a surprise that he is rapidly growing in popularity with his series of readable and informative articles that he publishes. He is also has a delightfully friendly, inclusive approach which guarantees a dragonawardwarm welcome to any passing visitor. If you haven’t already dropped in, I recommend you do so.

Meanwhile I have this Dragon Loyalty Award, thanks to Charles. The rules are:-

* Display the award certificate on your website.

* Announce your win with a post, and link to whomever presented your award.

* Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.

* Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post.

* Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

So, my 15 nominees are:-

Mhairi Simpson – Crazy Creative

Lizzie Baldwin – My Little Book Blog

Sara Letourneau’s Official Website & Blog

Michael D. Griffiths – Yig Prime

Joanna Maciejewska – Melfka

Sophie E. Tallis

Leiah Cooper – So I Read This Book Today

From Couch to Moon

Anastasia – Read and Survive

Zeke Teflon – Rip-roaring reviews

D. Parker – yadadarcyyada

Ionia Martin – Readful Things Blog

Siamese Mayhem – Musings on YA novels and pop culture

Humanity’s Darker Side – A book review blog

Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Seven Interesting Things About Me – hm… it’s debatable whether the facts below are remotely interesting, but I tried to dredge up details many of my online friends wouldn’t necessarily know about me.

1. I spent a chunk of my childhood in Zambia, and when living with my grandparents I first flew unaccompanied from England to visit my parents in Africa when I was 8.

2. As a left-hander, I turn the paper sideways and write from top to bottom, a strategy I adopted at school to avoid smudging my writing.

3. I’m a writing addict and if I go more than 3 days without putting keyboard to paper, I turn a tad unreasonable.

4. I was born on a Wednesday and so were both of my children and my granddaughter.

5. I am the ultimate monotasker – the multi-tasking skill women are supposed to be endowed with has completely by-passed me.

6. I’m an insomniac.

7. I visualise each of my books as colours when I’m writing them.

Review of KINDLE Ebook White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles by Sophie E. Tallis

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I loaded this book onto my Kindle after meeting Sophie at Bristolcon last year. But what with one thing and another, I hadn’t managed to get around to reading it…

whitemountainAmongst our modern world lies another, an archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. As dark demons awaken from our past, the last remaining wizards are being hunted and murdered by a changeling of terrifying strength. Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself, and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet of humanity… Darkness spreads as friendships, betrayals and horrifying truths await…

If you are looking for some modern twist on the classic epic Fantasy setup, this isn’t it. Tallis gives us a straight Fantasy tale, complete with an evil mastermind who has been plotting the overthrow of the world for ages – and now his plans have finally come to fruition. We have a stark demonstration of the power of said evil mastermind very early into the story. It was at this stage, I bonded with Marval and his grumpy dragon Gralen.

One of the other classic aspects of this book is the semi-omniscient viewpoint Tallis uses. To be frank, it isn’t a favourite viewpoint choice of mine, as writers who use it are too liable to canter through a story long on action and description, while being rather light on characterisation. However, Tallis writes with passion and eloquence that breathes life into her characters. There is plenty of description, but as the tone of the story inexorably darkens and becomes steadily grimmer, those descriptions, imbued with Tallis’s strong visual imagination and fluent writing add rather than detract to the story. sophiedrawingAn enjoyable addition are the beautiful illustrations drawn by Tallis herself, evidently a talented artist.

The initial light and affectionate exchanges between Marval and Gralen abruptly disappear after Marval’s abduction and draining as the tone of the book darkens. There is a real feel of danger – partly because Tallis isn’t afraid to kill off some of her more major characters.

My personal favourite is Gralen, the impulsive and outspoken dragon. He manages to provide shafts of light relief throughout the book, which I very much appreciated as the stakes steadily go on getting ever higher. The climax – the huge battle – was every bit as big a deal as Tallis continually flagged. In fact, while I’d already realised she is a writer of ability and passion, it was her depiction of the major conflict that confirmed her as a gifted storyteller. Did I see the final denouement coming? Yes, but that didn’t really matter – because it’s what the consequences are going to be that will count.

I will certainly be looking out for the second book in this series – and if your taste runs to quality epic Fantasy, then track down White Mountain – you won’t be disappointed.
8/10