Waterstones Book-Signing Events with Essi Tolling, Autumn 2012

With the Reynolds family at Camberley Waterstones

This autumn I am doing tour of Waterstones bookstores, signing copies of Watchers. It’s been a busy programme, with signings every weekend since the middle of August! I love doing these events: such a great way to meet readers, chat about their favourite books – and, of course, to have a browse around the shelves myself too!

Bookshops are just such fantastic places. I know the market for kindle and e-book sales is rocketing and more and more people are buying online, but nothing can replace the excitement of heading into a real store. It’s a whole different experience to shopping on the Internet. Something unexpected often catches the eye in a way that simply can’t happen unless you’re surrounded by the books themselves. If you’re seeking inspiration you can ask for help from the staff, who often suggest titles you’ve never even heard of. And then there is the simple pleasure of reaching out, opening a book, feeling the paper as you thumb the pages, smelling its unique smell, as you let the words take you off to another place…

That first page is always the one that does it for me!

Don’t get me wrong: I welcome the surge in e-book sales. More people reading more books has to be good news, and I have a hunch that many people who read the electronic versions will go on to buy physical books too. But there will always be a special place in my heart for bookstores, much as I prefer reading from the page rather than the screen.

Maybe it is because it’s a social thing? Although we hunt for titles in our own little “bubble”, when we are in bookstores we share the space with others who love reading – whereas shopping online is a solo experience.

If you enjoy visiting bookstores as much as I do – and if you’d like to meet me sometime soon – you can find me in the following Waterstones stores over the coming weeks:

Saturday November 3rd: Waterstones Trowbridge

Saturday November 10th: Waterstones Bristol Galleries

Saturday November 17th: Waterstones Hereford

Sunday November 25th: Waterstones Southampton West Quay

Saturday December 15th: Waterstones Swindon

All signings are between approximately noon and 3pm. Do come along and say hello. I’d love the chance to meet you!

With Sue Brooks at Cardiff Waterstones

Prometheus, The Annunaki and Tilly Greenway

Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus is perhaps the first to bring in specific references to the Annunaki, the ancient aliens who make their appearance in Sumerian tales dating back to 5,000BC. I’m particularly interested to see this story reaching a more mainstream audience, not least because it has specific relevance to the Tale of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys.

For those of you who do not know about the Annunaki, the first-known stories about them were written in cuneiform on clay tablets some 7,500 years ago. These tablets, of which there are many thousands, have been unearthed from the sands of Iraq, Iran and neighbouring areas. Whilst they range over a wide number of topics, from the creation of the world to the Flood, they all talk of a group of gods and goddesses, called the Annunaki, who visited the Earth some 250,000 years ago.

But are the tales myth or do they refer to real events? Were these gods and goddesses figments of imagination, or were they in fact three-dimensional extra-terrestrials who landed on Earth a quarter of a million years ago? This is a debate that has raged quietly behind closed doors for a long time. Now it is being opened to a wider audience.

Well-known early depiction of one of the Annunaki “gods” – note how much larger he is than the humans shown in the carving

I believe that there are many truths hidden under the label of “myth” or “legend”. So let’s take a look at the story of the Annuna-ki and see if we can find any evidence for them being more than simple flights of fancy.

The Sumerian word Annunaki translates as “those who came to Earth from the sky/heavens”, the “ki” standing for Earth. In the Tilly Greenway tales, I call them simply The Anuna – “those who are from the sky” – because the tablets make it very clear that these early gods/space-travellers visited many other planets as well as our own.

Early in the Prometheus film we hear about a “star map” that gives directions to the planet where the aliens in the movie come from. This star map is real. Artefacts bearing its design have been discovered on every major continent, all virtually identical. (In Watchers, it features very early on, in Tilly’s dream).

This in itself is remarkable, bearing in mind there was not supposed to be much travel between places such as South America and Africa until relatively recently. How, and why, would separate civilizations create the very same story, with identical images, if there were not some unifying agent? The collective subconscious is powerful for sure, but something like this is too much to be dismissed as mere “coincidence”.

Who were the Annunaki and what were they doing here?

In Prometheus, the line of enquiry as to who the Annunaki were and what happened after they arrived on Earth is not answered (perhaps it will be in a second film?). In the Tilly Greenway tales (which are really a modern day rendering of the most widespread and oldest legends) I explore the idea in depth.

In much the same way that myths contain hidden truths, the accepted version of history often conceals many lies. There’s a simple reason for this: victors always seek to wipe out any threat to their control by asserting their own supremacy. You could say that the accepted version of history is as much propaganda as it is a genuine record of events.

It’s not surprising, then, that when conventional wisdom is challenged, those who walk the corridors of the Establishment do their best to laugh their challengers out of court. After all, they have a vested interest in maintaining their version of events, no matter how false they may be.

Right now, most modern historians and archaeologists ridicule the idea of an alien race visiting Earth at any point in its history. Yet, as time passes and more and more discoveries are made (many of them, like Gobekli Tepi, forcing us to re-think our concepts of how far back the earliest civilizations go), some are beginning to stand against the tide, especially when it comes to the possibility of early civilizations being far more developed than we have thought.

The Creation Myth – Fact or Fiction?

With over 100,000 clay tablets covered in cuneiform, the Sumerian tales are too long to do more than touch on them in one blog post (we’ll revisit them in future) but the essential story is this: whilst here, the “ones who came to the Earth from the sky” (whether you choose to call them gods or extra-terrestrials is up to you) discovered a primitive hominid, presumably an ape of some kind. They then used advanced techniques to create a hybrid species, mixing their own DNA with that of the hominids to create a “worker” to mine gold for them.

One fascinating point for me here is that the tablets speak specifically of a number of medical procedures that were carried out by Annunaki scientists that were thousands of years ahead of their time. My question here is: how would those who wrote the tablets even have known about transfusions, transplants and so on if they were not happening at that time?

It was not an easy process. The tablets talk of many failed experiments in which the half-hominid, half-Annunaki “babies” were born with serious medical defects. Modern day genetic experiments have come across exactly the same issues, including the sterility of genetically-engineered hybrids – something that crops up in the Sumerian tales.

It is only when the chief Annunaki scientists use surrogate mothers from the Annunaki females (rather than the hominid females) that they are able to produce offspring that can both survive and breed. According to the tablets, these offspring were the forerunners of homeo sapiens.

In other words, thousands of clay tablets from one of the earliest known human civilisations, state quite clearly that our ancestors were all hybrids between a terrestrial and an extra-terrestrial race!

This Ubaid figurine shows a clearly non-human female nursing a non-human child

Is this such a huge leap of faith? It would certainly explain the sudden and extreme advancement in our intellect that happened somewhere between 250,000 and 150,000 years ago, for which no one has yet come up with a good answer. It might also explain other mysteries, but that is something to leave for another time. Let’s just say that the potential for a cover-up is huge, which is why the Tilly Greenway saga is as much a conspiracy-story as a fantasy!

Why would I, or anyone else, suggest that there might be more to these clay tablets than meets the eye (apart from the fact that it makes for an interesting background to a novel!)? One reason is the extraordinary similarity between the Sumerian myths and those told elsewhere. Another is the unmistakable correlation between aspects of the Sumerian tales and passages that are contained within the Bible, where the very same story of the creation of mankind is told, except that the Anunnaki have been replaced by certain aspects of Yahweh.

The parallels are striking. In the Sumerian stories, the first male hybrid created by the Annunaki is called the Adamu. He and his female partner are kept in a place called The Edin. They gain knowledge which displeases some of the Annunaki hierarchy and they are removed from The Edin to fend for themselves.

Bear in mind that the Sumerian tablets pre-date the Bible scrolls by several thousand years. Is it possible, therefore, that they had no influence at all upon the scribes of the most-read “book” in the world?

For me, the “coincidences” are too great to ignore. And it doesn’t stop there.

The Sumerian tales talk of the Annunaki being much taller than humans. Are there references in the Bible to giant creatures? Yes there are. Do the giants in the Bible interbreed with the indigenous population? Yes they (or their offspring, or the “sons of God”) do.

Here are some of them (my italics).

“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” Genesis 6: 1-4

“But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Numbers 13: 30-33

“The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim.” Deuteronomy 2:10

“For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.” Deuteronomy 3:11

You can see from these quotations that the writers accepted the presence of giants on Earth. Note too the echo of the Sumerian word “Annunaki” in the references to the “sons of Anak” and the “Anakim” – both of whom are described as being much taller than regular humans. (For those of you who like your sci-fi, you’ll recall that Darth Vader’s name, before he donned the helmet and heavy-breathing act, was “Anakin”)

Of course, the references to the Nephilim and the sons of God are not clear cut. Are they the same, or different? There is certainly nothing explicit here about aliens from outer-space! But whoever they were, they were clearly giants.

I’ll revisit this topic of the role of giants in our history another time, especially the references to the “Watchers” or Fallen Angels which come into a number of the scrolls that were edited-out of the Bible some 1600 years ago (if you are interested, have a look at the Book of Enoch, Ethiopian text).

Tales of the Fallen Angels run deep in our psyches

To finish-up for today, I’ll just float another interesting point out there.

The Sumerian tablets say that the creation of the Adamu and other hybrids took place in what we call South Africa. This is the very location that the mitochondrial DNA of the first human female, to whom we are ALL related, is now known to have originated. We have only recently discovered this, thanks to the advance in our understanding of genetics.

Could it be just “another coincidence” that stories written 7,500 years ago pointed to exactly the same place of origin as our scientists have only just discovered? Of course it could. But it’s an interesting one…

Whether myth or truth, the whole rigmarole of the “ancient aliens who visited Earth” makes for an exciting back-history to the plot of a series of books, which is why they form the backbone to the Tale of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys, a work of fiction in which I delve deep into our past from a very contemporary setting. The story draws on much documented history and my study of different myths and legends from all over the world, but essentially it is still a story, a new rendering of some of the oldest-known creation-myths of all, rather than an allegory.

What I can promise you, however, is that my research has taken me to some very interesting frontiers, beyond any of those that are currently circulated in public. As such, the series will not draw its head back into a shell, as Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol did. There are some eyebrow-raising revelations to come.

You can certainly expect plenty of dark intrigue and deeds of evil as the series progresses, as well as riddles and prophecies both old and new. Then again you can expect plenty of good old-fashioned adventure, with mythical and magical creatures too!

That’s the fun of blending fact and fiction. At the end of the day, it’s just a story. A bit like life, really.

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

Book Signing in Waterstones today!

After a fortnight of pretty grim weather, the sun is out this morning and it looks set to be a lovely day. I shall be signing copies of Watchers in the Swindon Waterstones (Brunel Plaza Shopping Centre) from around 11.00am until tea-time today, so if you are in the area and fancy popping along, please do. It would be great to see you.

Thanks to all the staff at the Southampton West Quays Waterstones for a great day last Saturday – our best day yet. Extra-special thanks to my daughters for coming along and helping too!

The event today is the last signing I’ll be doing for a couple of months. I’m leaving the summer free to immerse myself in finishing off Book 2 of the series, The Hidden Hand.

For those of you who don’t yet know about the adventures of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys, have a look at the 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Enjoy your weekend!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

Nature Close-Ups: Dandelions

I’m happiest when I’m outside, exploring. The weather has been extraordinarily wet here recently, but I still make sure I get out for at least a part of every day to immerse myself in the wonders of the natural world.

I love to nose around, looking at things close-up, imagining what it might be like to live as a tiny bug, a bird, or flower. With this in mind, I thought I’d do some simple posts to give you a snapshot of some of the things growing in my neck of the woods. Let’s start with this dandelion, its yellow petals now transformed into a miniature snow-ball.

When I was small, we used to play the game with old flower heads like this one, blowing them to see what the time was (however many puffs it took to blow off all the seeds, that would tell you time!).

Another variant, when we got older, was “She loves me! She loves me not!” After each phrase we’d blow at the seeds. If the last seeds blew away on “She loves me!” all was well in our romantic endeavours, but if they blew away on “She loves me not”….well, I don’t suppose we took much notice! (Of course, it was easy to rig this game, giving an extra-strong puff when we wanted to!)

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to examine a dandelion-head really closely until now. Have a look at this. The umbrellas at the end of each seed-stalk look a bit like amoebas…

Or should that be brain cells?

Or universes?

“As above, so below…”

In the flowers where some of the seeds have already blown away, you can see how amazingly each one is constructed, with their miniature parachutes on the outside…

And their barbed seed-heads sticking to the pin-cushion at the centre.

The barbs are for catching onto passers-by, so that the plant does not rely solely on the wind to disperse its seeds.

With this combination of aerodynamic design and adhesive seed-heads, it is not surprising that the fields and hedgerows around here are simply filled with dandelions!

The leaves of the dandelion make wonderful food for rabbits and the root can be ground into a powder for use in a decoction that will help urinary infection. A word of caution, though. If you are going to pick the flowers, wear gloves. The juices are very astringent and can cause a nasty rash!

If you like exploring nature, I think you’ll enjoy my book Watchers, which is the first in a series for both children (12+) and adults. Have a look at some of the 5-star reviews on amazon and see what you think!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

Until next time,

Best wishes, Essi.

A Trip to The Chalice Well Garden

White Tulip at The Chalice Well Garden

The Tilly Greenway books are unusual in that whilst they weave in and out of fantasy, the action takes place in the “real world”. Tilly and Zack, the main protagonists of our tale, visit lots of interesting sites in Wales and England in Book One, including Skenfrith Castle, King Arthur’s Stone, Avebury, Silbury Hill and Glastonbury.

One of these sites is the Chalice Well Garden. Tucked into the lee of the famous Tor at Glastonbury, the garden is a place of tranquility, even in today’s busy world. With the Red Well springing up inside the garden and the White Well just outside its walls, pilgrims have journeyed to this spot for many hundreds – probably thousands – of years. (Red and White having long been colours of sacredness).

Here is a picture of the Red Spring. You can see how the water has stained the stones red.

The Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Here it is in close-up. It looks uncannily like dragon-skin to me, which is appropriate when you know that Tilly and Zack arrive at the gardens riding on a pair of dragons!

Water in the Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Recently I was contacted by a twelve year old girl called Zoe who emailed me from Australia to let me know that she had just finished reading Watchers and it is now her “favourite book”. You can imagine how wonderful it was to hear that! Zoe also told me that she and her parents were about to visit England for a week and asked if we could meet. I picked Glastonbury as the perfect spot.

The George and Pilgrim, Glastonbury

After lunch in the George and Pilgrim (the oldest inn in the country, which also features in Watchers) we sauntered around some of the crystal shops before walking to the Chalice Well Garden, a scene of great importance in Tilly and Zack’s first adventure.

From the Chalice Well Garden you can look up at the Tor. Here is Zoe in the garden, with the Tor in the background.

Zoe in the Chalice Well Garden with the Tor behind her

Some of you will not have read the book yet so I shan’t spoil the story for you by telling you what happens there, but it was a lot of fun to visit the place with Zoe and to share some of the real locations that she had, until then, only read about in the story.

Here we are, standing under one of the garden’s ancient yew trees.

One significant change had taken place since I had last visited the Garden: the Holy Thorn (said to be grown from a sprig of hawthorn brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea) which magically blossomed at Christmas as well as during the summer, had blown down during the storms.

There are other Holy Thorns in the area, but it was still a shock to see the empty ground where the old tree had once grown. Tilly’s tale will be one of the many things that pays tribute to the now-lost tree.

At this time of year there was just a smattering of colour in the garden, but it still holds a peculiar magic. We’ll revisit it again sometime, but for now I’ll leave you with some of the images from that day, which was a special one for me.

Crab Apple at the Chalice Well Garden

More Crab Apple Blossom

With Zoe and her Mum, Nicky

Chalice Well Angel

Chalice Cowslips

Close-up of the Red Spring

My thanks and gratitude go to my friend Helen, who made the meeting with Zoe and her Mum possible and was such a star, driving into London and then all the way down to Glastonbury to bring them to the West Country. Thanks Helen! It was lovely to see both you and Ella again. 🙂

School Visits and Book-Signings

It’s been a really busy time recently, including a trip across the country to Suffolk to visit some schools and do another book-signing event.

Both legs of the car-ride were through torrential rain: the kind when you can hardly see the car right in front of you. In fact, as I drove around London, the weather reminded me of the beginning of Watchers.

When we first meet Tilly she is woken by rain hammering on the roof of the Greenway’s apartment. It is the fortieth straight day of downpours and clouds hang ominously over the capital. Tilly has no idea that the rain is all part of a devious plot to microchip the population, nor that London is about to be evacuated…

I won’t spoil the story for those of you who haven’t read it yet. Let’s just say that sometimes fact and fiction shake hands and as I drove through the rain-soaked “real” world I could just as easily have been a character in the “story” 🙂

Thanks to everyone who made me so welcome at Bawdsey Primary School and Farlingaye Secondary School last week. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!

Thanks too to all the staff at the Waterstone’s store in Ipswich. Despite the wet and windy weather, we had another great day of sales and I met a lot of wonderful people.

Yet again, it was great to see so many people on the hunt for a good book (or two or three!). Who knows, maybe sales of paperbacks will actually increase on the back of kindle sales? I hope so!

Some of the staff at the Ipswich Waterstone’s

With Janine Smith, Events Manager at Ipswich Waterstone’s

More Waterstone’s Booksignings…

Special thanks to all the staff at Newport Waterstone’s for making me so welcome recently. We could have done without the freezing rain, but other than that the day was perfect!

I have a number of dates booked for more book-signing events at Waterstone’s, some of them later in the summer and autumn. Here are the ones coming soonest.

Saturday 28th April: Ipswich

Saturday May 5th: Plymouth

Saturday May 12th: Abergavenny

Saturday June 2nd: Southampton, West Quay

Saturday June 9th: Haywards Heath

If you are going to be near any of these places on the dates shown, please do come along…

In the meantime, I’m off to meet some children at a couple of schools to talk about Tilly’s adventures, which is always fun!

With best wishes, Essi.