A New Year

I realise we’re already over three weeks in to the new year, so I’m a bit late to the party. But what a year it’s been already, hey? (wild understatement, I know)

However, I don’t wish to dwell on the darkness that currently surrounds us. There are threads of hope carried in this year, and I hope they flare to full brightness before it ends. Each day is a little bit longer, a little bit lighter, as the wheel of the year turns towards summer, towards bare legs and cool drinks, long lilac evenings and warm breezes, the trees rustling green. And, hopefully, the chance for us to finally start living our lives again.

While this is the time of year when, traditionally, we look ahead to what we’d like to achieve, I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of setting goals. On one hand, I see their usefulness as something to aim towards, concrete markers of achievements met. But also, perhaps, weights pulling you in one direction only, closing the path to other directions, other ideas. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to leave room for flexibility, for adaptation, in our lives.

I count myself fortunate to have family and friends, and for us all (touch wood) to be well at the moment. A family member did contract Covid over the holiday season, but, thankfully, has pulled through. So, perhaps if I do set any goals this year, they’ll be more in the vein of ‘count your blessings,’ ‘enjoy your loved ones,’ ‘look out for others’ and, ‘find joy in small things.’ Anything else I achieve will be a bonus.

Wishing you all a bright new year xx

The Year That Was

As the year winds to a close, it’s customary to look back at all we’ve achieved in the past 365 days.

In a normal year, I suppose, that would be the case.

However, as we all know, this has been anything but a normal year. And so, while I’ve certainly achieved a few *things* this year (51 blog posts, 4 books including a co-author project, 2 short stories published, manuscript requests and rejections, a new website, plus turning the big 5-0) I feel that the story of this year is something much bigger than can be defined by mere numbers.

For this was a year of discoveries, not all of them pleasant. The discovery that teachers should be paid approximately £2546756756 per year, for starters. The discovery that people we like or love can get sucked down conspiracy wormholes, and that the ugliness of human nature is never far from the surface. But it was also a year when we were shown what the world could look like if we just stopped for a moment, the skies clearing, record bird and insect numbers, the wilderness rebounding from years of human pressure. A year when we were challenged in myriad ways, when we were forced to adapt again and again. A year of staying home, rather than going out. It was a year of change, of trying different roles or learning something new, of baking bread, or even just painting that wall in the lounge room yellow. A year when neighbours and friends and families and strangers all stepped up and worked together, a million small acts of kindness mending fractured communities. It was also a year of anxiety and stress and sorrow for so many people, for loss experienced through a screen, for watching years of work and investment crumble away within a few small months. It was a year when the idea of what is important began to shift.

It was a year to count blessings, rather than accomplishments

And so I will say simply this:

Whatever you did or didn’t do this year, if you’ve got through it, that’s enough.

And as we stand together on the cusp of 2021, and the promise of the next 365 days, remember – it may be dark at the moment, but every day brings us closer to the light.

Wishing you a safe, healthy and joyous 2021!

xx

The long night

A gorgeous post from Sue Vincent about the cycle of the seasons, and of life itself. Well worth a read!

The Silent Eye

The seasons turn as we approach the turning point, the Solstice… the longest night… just three short weeks away. And yet, the sky is beautiful this morning, a clear, deep blue graced with the lights of heaven. The world is still and silent, even the birds are hushed as dawn creeps over the horizon of a rain-washed world. The moon lights the village and touches the rooftops with silver. Branches are down in the lane and few are the leaves that still cling tenaciously to the trees, most stripped away by the vicious fingers of winter winds.

There is such strength in the grasp of leaf to twig, both so fragile they can be plucked and broken by a child, yet the bond of life so strong it can withstand the most inclement weather. Until it is time for them to fall.

Even when the leaves fall it is part…

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The Old Oak Tree

There’s an ancient oak tree not far from my house. Standing at the end of a residential street, bigger than a house and taking up a huge piece of land, it has watched over the hillside for at least three hundred years, if the size of it is anything to go by. It’s obviously been a tree of note for many years- the street on which is stands is called Oakdene Road and, further up the hill, are roads named Oak Street and Oak Close.

Within its spreading branches a world may be found, a microcosm of insect and plant life, of flocks of birds and darting squirrels, cawing crows nesting high in its branches. I visit it often, watching the branches change from barren winter to the lush green of summer, leaves dancing and twisting in the light and air. It is a tree of dreams, of winter nights and howling winds, of days when fields stretched beneath its branches, of confidences whispered and sweet beer drunk in its shade.

Sometimes, standing beneath the branches, I get a glimpse of those times. Of how it must have been before houses and streetlights blocked the view of the valley, a time when our town was a collection of small villages around a river. There’s a sense, too, of how fleeting human existence is when compared to such a being – the tree was alive long before I was born, and (I hope) will be around long after I’m gone.

There are times when the bark on the great trunk feels warm, despite the cold air, and other times when it crackles with energy, a sense of connectedness with the landscape around us. Sometimes it is streaked dark with rain, other times dusty with summer heat.

And sometimes, there is treasure left there; raven feathers or a crooked staff, pearlescent mushrooms, the silver trails of snails.

Most recently, it was an emerald-green nest in one of the low branches, soft with moss, festooned with berries and leaves.

To stand in the presence of such a being is to touch history, to connect with the ancient story of the land. The oak is said to be a tree of stories, each acorn holding possibility. I wonder what stories it will tell me, next time I visit…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

Blood Sport – A Vampire Anthology for Charity #amwriting

Another little piece of publishing news to share with you all! I’m thrilled to have had a story chosen for inclusion in Blood Sport, an upcoming vampire anthology, with all proceeds going to the International Red Cross.

Hungry for some blood-curdling action and adventure? Maybe even a little romance? This clan of talented authors is dying to bring you eleven vampy stories you can really sink your teeth into!

One-click today for more vampy tales than you can shake a stake at!

All proceeds from this anthology will benefit The International Red Cross.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been immersed in a vampiric world for the past couple of years, writing a YA novel that is now out on submission. Somewhat unexpectedly, I might add, as it all stemmed from a Halloween writing prompt on Ali Isaac’s blog, some years past.

The short story in Blood Sport was originally something I wrote for a competition that didn’t go anywhere. However, I loved the story and so, when I heard about the submission window for this anthology, I dusted it off, expanded and rewrote sections, and sent it in. It just goes to show that stories may not always end up where we expect them to, but they will, eventually, find a home.

‘Heads or tails?’

A lucky coin. A question. And a meeting in the red-black depths of a St Petersburg nightclub that will change Nikolai’s life forever. But immortality, it turns out, isn’t that much fun. Especially when you have to spend it alone…

The anthology is up for pre-order now – you can get your copy here – and is scheduled to be published on November 30, 2020. Watch this space (and my social media) for giveaway details, ARC copies and publishing updates!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

Living The Lockdown Life… Again #lockdownuk

As the nights draw in, the days getting colder, it seems natural to retreat into our own spaces, to keep warm and dry, cosy socks and slippers the order of the day.

And so it is now, as autumn gives way to winter, the last vestiges of red-gold still clinging to the trees. We’ve had frost here already, the mild panic when you realise it’s time to leave for the school run but the car is still iced over, the crunch of leaves underfoot, lines of glitter scoring the rooftops and windows.

And we’re also in lockdown again. The second one of the year, as Covid infections rise once more after our summer of relative freedom.

Things haven’t changed too much in our house, to be honest. My husband has been working from home since the first lockdown in March, and I’ve been working at home for a few years now. Schools are still open so the kiddo is out of the house, and the dog still needs to be taken for her daily walk, greetings still exchanged in the cool fields and pathways.

It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, to be honest. In many ways, I’m very fortunate that my life hasn’t been curtailed too badly by the current global circumstances. However, it’s also made me realise that, when this is all over, I would like to go out more, do more, see more people in person, rather than just participate online. I had plans to see people this month, but they’ve all been postponed – while the current lockdown is only supposed to be until December 2nd, I feel as though it’s more likely to run until Christmas, at which point I hope we’ll be allowed to mix in small groups, at least.

So for now, I’ll get out when I can with the dog, breathe in woodsmoke-scented air, look across the distant hills and dream of a day when we can all meet up again.

Stay safe and well, everyone xx

PS. I realise there is big news, and a big change, coming from the US. Let’s hope this will lead to brighter days going forwards…

On A Writing Journey #amwriting

I was going to share a few updates today, about writing and the different things I’ve been working on. But, when I posted the below image to Instagram, with a note about how I’ve been writing a story since June and have just finished the first draft, the comments I received gave me pause.

They were all lovely, positive comments, and they also shared a single theme: ‘Can’t wait to read it!’ And it made me realise something. While I’ve been doing a great deal of writing over the past two years, I haven’t shared any of it with you.

In fact, it’s been *gasp* almost three years since I published the fourth instalment of the Ambeth Chronicles, Under Stone. To those of you who’ve messaged me, asking when the next instalment is coming out, I can only apologise. It is almost written, and my plan is to finish it by the end of this year, get it to my editor, and publish as soon as possible.

So, what have I been doing? I’ve been off exploring other worlds, I suppose. A vampire-filled castle on the south coast of England. A mythical town on the California Coast. And a version of London, set far in the future. It’s been two years of working on my craft, pushing things further, and sending submissions to agents and publications. I’ve written almost 400,000 words, exploring the edges of my creativity, digging deeper and further to see where the ideas will take me. I’ve also dabbled in middle-grade and short stories, sketched out an idea for a non-fiction book, and played around with poetry.

And it’s been worth it, definitely, from a creative point of view. I have some stories with which I’m extremely happy, and know I’m a better writer now than when I started this journey. However, from a writing-more-books-for-people point of view, it’s probably seemed as though I’ve given up writing!

I can assure you I have not. And my hard work is starting to bear fruit. My vampire novel is currently with an agent who requested the full MS (one of several requests I’ve had). Another agent is very keen to read whatever I write next. One of my short stories, A Point of Light, will be in the upcoming issue of Lucent Dreaming (Nov 2020). And the co-author project I’ve been talking about? Well, I can reveal it was with the singer/songwriter (and all around lovely person), Tom Grennan, and that the completed book is now with his label pending the next steps.

So, fingers and toes crossed, I hope that next year will let me share a bumper crop of stories with you all. And I will definitely be publishing the next Ambeth instalment!

Oooh, and while you’re here, I also have a fancy new website, courtesy of Rivia Digital. You can pop by and visit it at helenglynnjones.co.uk. I’ll be blogging both here and there, so hope to see you 🙂

Thanks for bearing with me… more is yet to come!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

 

 

 

First, catch your..? #cancer

A powerful reminder from Sue that, even though we are the midst of a pandemic, it is vitally important to speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your health…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

“… knowing you are going to die makes clearing out the cupboards so much easier!”

The sound of choked laughter came through the phone. “You should write that,” said my friend, once his calm was once more regained. The sentiment had, I think, taken him off guard, but it was a simple observation. Even in such circumstances, there are up-sides.

Like, I seem to have pretty much ‘retired’. At least, temporarily. I certainly won’t be back at work until the chemotherapy is done… and who knows after that? And all my worries, although they are exactly same as ever, are now definitely finite. Except, that has always been true, I just know now that they are. And that conscious knowledge is the only thing that separates me from any other person in the street.

We are all dying by degrees, as part of the natural lifecycle… but being aware of…

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Wednesday Wander Revisited – Belarusian Memorial Chapel

Another Wednesday and, with it, a wander. The skies are high and blue, the sun shining and, even though travel is limited, it feels like a day to get out and about. This Wander isn’t too far from where I live, but felt like a window into another world, another time. Hope you enjoy it…

You might think this little wooden church is somewhere in Russia, or Eastern Europe, but in fact it is in London, England. It’s the first wooden church built in the city since the Great Fire of 1666, and also the first memorial in Western Europe dedicated to the Chernobyl Disaster. This is the Church of St Cyril of Turau and All The Patron Saints of the Belarusian People, also known as the Belarusian Memorial Chapel.

My husband is of Belarusian heritage via his mother, and has visited Belarus (where he still has family). He’s always been interested in this side of his heritage and, when we moved here, he was pleased to find a Belarusian society in London. We attended Christmas festivities there one year, which included a traditional puppet show, obviously an anticipated and much-loved part of their Christmas season. And, when the new church was built, we attended the consecration, which took place on December 17, 2016.

We are neither of us particularly religious – spiritual is probably a better term, as we ascribe to no particular faith. Still, we respect the faith of others, and felt it an honour to be there on consecration day. Many important figures from the Belarusian church travelled to attend the event, which was conducted mainly in their native tongue.

The church is built entirely of wood and glass – even the pegs holding it together are timber. It was featured in the 2017 London Festival of Architecture, and received the RIBA London Regional Award of the London Institute of British Architects. The design is based upon traditional rural wooden churches in Belarus, and has a beauty and simplicity which is timeless. As we listened to the voices chanting, smelt the incense, the red and gold and white robes against the pale wood, it felt like a window into history, into an older time.

Later we stood outside in the clear cold air as the clergy walked in procession, blessing the building. Once the service concluded we departed, heading for lunch in a comfortable pub, blankets wrapped around our cold feet as we drank beer and ate pizza. It felt strange, stepping back into the ‘real’ world. A trip in more ways than one.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

For My Friend

‘When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him will be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

Ah, good old Kahlil Gibran, always trying to find the positive, the lesson, in the sometimes-tangled mess of life. I suppose this was his way of saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but sometimes absence is just that, a hole in your life, where something or someone once was and they cannot be replaced.

I’ve parted from several friends in my life, simply due to having moved so often and so far, but most of us are still in touch. Each on our own journey, but our paths still intersect from time to time. However, sometimes you get the news that a friend is on another kind of journey, one which we all must take one day, and from which there is no return. That kind of news is always hard to hear, and doubly so in this time of solitude and shielding, where the only comfort you can offer is words, and there is no guarantee that you will actually get to see each other again.

And so it has been for me this week. I am heartsore, and cannot imagine how it must be for her family, for her beloved, to have to deal with this news. Our friendship has been mostly virtual, but we have spent a handful of days together. And oh, such days, where time has stretched and twisted, allowing glimpses of other realms, and some of the most profound experiences of my life. Days of tears and laughter, of good food and company, of ritual and song. Days that have changed the course of my own life, helping me to explore who I truly am. And through them all, a thread of warmth and learning and friendship, of generosity of spirit and understanding that I’ll never forget.

‘I’m still here,’ I can hear her saying. And of course she is. And she will be for a while yet.

So perhaps I’ll finish up here with another quote, this time from Tennesee Williams. ‘Time doesn’t take away from friendship, nor does separation.’

I know you’ll get to see the heather bloom again. And I hope I get to see it with you.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.