Light And Dark – A Sneak Peek of Book Five in The Ambeth Chronicles #amwriting

As you may or may not know, Light and Dark, the fifth instalment in my Ambeth series, will be coming out soon.

If you subscribe to my newsletter (and if you don’t, maybe check it out – it’s mostly dog photos, kindness, exclusive first-look book news and the occasional giveaway), you’ll have already read the following excerpt (as that’s what my subscribers get – sneak peeks before anyone else 🙂 )

And if you haven’t read it yet, well, please enjoy…

‘Nice necklace, pretty boy.’
Deryck turned, frowning. He was near to the pillars that ran down the side of the Great Hall, the alcoves filled with people laughing and drinking. Something landed with a thud at his feet. He looked down to see a gauntlet of dark chain mail, jewelled with deep red stones. His frown deepened. He bent and picked it up, taking it to a nearby table and dropping it among the glasses and half-empty plates.
‘I think you dropped this?’ He kept his face deliberately tight; no smile, no fear, nothing to betray him. He had no desire to become prey.
‘Maybe I did, maybe it just fell.’ Simeon. Leader of the Dark Hunt. He sat, one arm along the back of the padded seat, his long dark hair around his face, half sneering, half smiling. His armour was jewelled and silvery black, like the gauntlet. ‘And I asked you about your necklace.’
‘What about it?’ All at once Deryck didn’t care what they did to him. Besides, they knew who he was. He might be younger than they were, but his father would destroy them all if they harmed him. His sister had ridden with them, once, although the circumstances had been different. He tried not to think about that day, about Alma, a bright figure against dark green, running across the fields. Yes. Kill him, hunt him, whatever. He didn’t care anymore.
Simeon laughed. ‘You just don’t see many of them, that’s all.’ When he smiled his face lit up, became friendly. ‘So tell me, son of Denoris, do you ride? Do you hunt? Will you follow the moon with us?’
Deryck’s breath caught, his heart pounding, even against the stupor of his stone. These were the ritual words. They were asking him to join the Hunt. Once he was in there would be no turning back. The Hunt rode for the Dark if required, doling out punishment, as they’d tried to do that terrible day at the tournament. The rest of the time they rode for their own pleasure, dangerous and wild, flashing across the hills in pursuit of those unfortunate enough to be marked as prey. He still for the life of him had no idea how Alma had escaped them. He was glad she had. But to join them? Membership was for life, however long that might be. He raised an eyebrow.
‘Why me?’
Simeon laughed, as did the others at the table, all of them, men and women, similarly garbed in dark silver and red jewels, like smoke and blood. One of the young women, her dark hair in two long braids, leaned forward, her cleavage pressing against the deep V-neck of her top. ‘Maybe we like pretty golden boys,’ she said, her voice husky. Deryck swallowed.
‘Or maybe that’s just you, Floria.’ Simeon shot her a glance and she sat back, pouting. He returned his focus to Deryck. ‘I hear you’re a good rider, and we know you’re a vicious fighter. So, if you’re interested, come ride with us. No commitment necessary. Yet.’ He drew out the last word. ‘What do you say? Shall we take you and your magic stone on a journey?’

Light and Dark – Volume Five of The Ambeth Chronicles
‘So you are… the Child of Darkness?’
‘It looks that way,’ he said, ‘and, as you are the Child of Light, it kind of makes sense that we do this together.’
 
Returning to Ambeth was always going to be difficult. Alma had brought them the Sword, and the Cup, but at what cost? There had been so much death, so much sorrow. But there was also love, her ties to Ambeth running deeper than she could have ever imagined. And now the skies were showing a dark star, his path coming to intercept hers as they moved towards the Crown.
 
The board is set, the pieces in play, as the final game between Light and Dark begins.
 
But who will prevail?

COVER REVEAL AND LAUNCH DETAILS COMING SOON – WATCH THIS SPACE (OR SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER )

————————————————————————————————————

Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus you’ll find my books on Amazon (and A Thousand Rooms is available from all good book retailers). Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

Of Letters And Words

I have a collection of letters in a drawer. Letters written to me by my husband in the early days of our romance, when he was travelling overseas and I was in Canada, before we decided to combine our lives. Others are small notes from my daughter, cards and scraps of paper, where she’s written lists of things she loves, or little messages to me. And, wonderfully, there is a letter from my grandmother, received many years after she died, when my uncle found it among her things and sent it to me.

All of them filled with stories. Stories of love and caring and growth and loss. Written in ink on paper in strong hands, curling hands, hesitant hands still learning their letters. Each one unutterably precious to me, releasing memories each time I read them.

One of my favourite books, A Venetian Affair, is a true story built from letters found in the attic of a crumbling palazzo, sent by the owner’s ancestor centuries before to the woman he loved but was unable to marry. History is built on accounts of events from those who were there, but also on the smaller stories found in letters and diaries, details of everyday life that give us a more complete picture of how our forebears lived. Consider how many civilisations are lost to us, simply because their words are lost. The Great Library of Alexandria was partially burned by Julius Caesar, then lost to decline and the rise of Christianity. Spanish missionaries burned priceless Mayan texts, considering them to be un-Christian. The oral traditions of the bards of this island were almost lost, until someone wrote them down. Even so, what remains is only a partial picture of what was. Words are important.

But now we live in a digital age. We have mostly lost the joy of receiving a note from afar, of coloured stamps and spice-scented notepaper, of bright ink on a pale translucent page. Letters have become emails, notes and invitations text messages. Experiences, memories and emotions all swirl through a digital forest of words, deleted, edited, lost forever. Will our descendants be able to comb through these words to find out who we are? Or will we just be known as the Plastic Age, our lives pieced together from packaging slogans and shopping bags from landfill? We are better than that, surely.

Of course, people do still write letters and send cards and keep diaries. But so much of what we write is online these days, including this blog. And we cannot keep chopping down forests to use as shopping lists or toilet tissue or yesterday’s news. But we can choose recycled paper and vintage note sets, or recycle old Christmas and birthday cards into notepads so they can be born again. So make your mark on the page, share your words, write a note to someone you love, or hate. Splash ink and pencil shavings and sealing wax, tie it with a ribbon, stick on a stamp.

But don’t let our words be lost.

Getting there!

The Triad of Albion, the story of Don and Wen and their adventures in the landscape, are now updated and live on Amazon. I’ve been fortunate to spend several magical weekends with Sue and Stu, and they truly do dance between the worlds, stitching threads between the landscape and sky, between mystery and spirit…

France & Vincent

Well, at last! The three books of the Triad of Albion are now live, in paperback and for Kindle… and illustrated in black and white, which finally takes the printing costs, and therefore the sales price, down to a sensible level. It has been bugging us for years… but we have been so busy writing books, that re-writing, redesigning and re-issuing seemed to slip a bit far down the line.

But there is nothing like a deadline to get you moving. Especially when it appears to be a pretty literal one…

In these first three books, Don and Wen stumble across mysteries in the landscape, following the flight of birds along prehistoric pathways to find strange stories hidden in plain sight upon the walls of mediaeval churches. Doors open through time and vision as the two friends find themselves walking the Living Land with people from the far-distant past.

These…

View original post 472 more words

A Tale Of Two Birthdays

I’ve just had a birthday. It was a quiet one, of course – the day spent at home, gifts arriving via post and email, birthday messages virtual for the most part. I was lucky, nonetheless, to hear from so many people, and to have immediate family with whom to spend it. It was very different, though, to how things were a year ago. I had a big number birthday last year, and celebrated via a pub lunch with extended family in a crowded restaurant, then by watching Supergrass at the Alexandra Palace that evening. My parents stayed over for the weekend and, the following evening, we all went to the Royal Albert Hall to watch my daughter dancing in the Schools Spectacular. A wonderful, yet fairly normal weekend… then. Now? Unthinkable.

A lot of people were happy to see the end of 2020, and I understand that. For me, however, the turning of the year was tinged with sadness, as 2020 was the last year of the old days, when things were as they used to be. Our world wasn’t perfect – the fact that pollution decreased so dramatically in the first few months of lockdown was an indication that we really needed to stop moving – but it seemed bright, compared to the narrowness of our current existence.

The first lockdown, coming only a week or so after my big birthday weekend, was a shock to the system. Spring was already making an appearance, the weather turning. April and May were glorious with blossom and sunshine, there were rainbows in every house window, and more bees and butterflies than I remember seeing for years. But it was a frightening time as well, none of us sure what would happen next. I was paralysed creatively for the first few weeks, unable to unlock my writing until I joined a virtual Camp NaNo cabin. Yeast took up residence on the back of my hands thanks to the sourdough I tried to ferment, and I confess I did worry a bit about loo roll. I still remember my first trip to the supermarket a few weeks after lockdown (we’d managed to get deliveries until then). I stepped out of the car and it was like a new world, as though I’d never been outside before; the sky gold and purple, the trees heavy with white blossom, the car park almost empty.

Now we are a year into rolling lockdowns. Over 120,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to Covid, and over 2 million people world-wide. It has been an extraordinary year of grief and loss and scientific discovery, a year that will be written into the history books, and that our grandchildren will ask us about. The UK has been working hard to roll out vaccines, and there is hope that all restrictions will be lifted by the summer.

And, the day after my birthday, I received a text inviting me to book my own vaccination appointment. I’m booked in for next Tuesday, for the first of two doses.

Last year, my birthday was a flash of light, a last gasp of the old world. This year it is the first light of hope, of us moving forward towards a brighter future, of life and love and seeing family and friends once more. That’s a pretty great gift, I think.

————————————————————————————————————–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.

The Threads Of Life

I spoke to my mother on the phone yesterday. It’s a fairly regular thing we do, especially as we’re not able to visit each other at the moment. We try to speak at least once a week, catching up on what little news there is to share, and talking of this and that.

This week we spoke about how it’s been almost a year since all the family were together. It was at my birthday celebrations, the week before the first UK lockdown started. We’ve been lucky, though, we agreed, having been able to see family on the few occasions it was allowed, though visits have been few and far between in the past year.

It got me thinking about the threads that bind us together. The threads of blood and family and love and friendship, of the little things we do, the cups of tea and meals shared, the gifts and days out, the people who leave us, and the new ones who arrive. Our lives are tapestries woven of moments – we each thread our own path, linking with others to create a pattern unique to us alone.

Yet this past year for so many of us the threads have been loosened, the pattern drifting. Some threads have broken altogether; lives lost, relationships ending, career paths coming to an abrupt stop. And the smaller weavings; the chance meetings in the street, the nights out with friends, the ‘I’ll just pop round’ visits, the hobbies and workouts and classes taken with others – all of them absent in the pattern of this past year. I worry for those who may be drifting, unanchored, the things that bound them to this world taken away.

And yet we have also adapted, as humans do. New patterns have arisen, new ways of doing things as we go forward. A morning show segment the other day had a reporter asking people in the street if they think things will go back to ‘normal’ once all this is over. And only one person thought they would. The rest all said that they thought it would be different, which is understandable, considering this past year has been an unprecedented global event. But what was interesting was how they thought it would be different. All of them cited positive changes as a result of lockdown, things they hoped to see continued once it was over. An increased focus on fitness, and on going outside. An appreciation of the joy of being able to meet up with friends and family. An increased sense of community, of people helping others, and getting to know their neighbours. A better work/life balance.

So, even though the patterns may have changed, it seems as though the threads are still there, waiting for us to take them up once more. I hope that, as things begin to ease, we are able to pull them tight again, and catch those who may need more help getting back onto the loom.

May the weavings of this year be bright.


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.

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic – Saddle Up!

I’ve been blogging on WordPress for quite a few years ago, and along the way have made wonderful friends, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the flesh (yes, we do come out from behind our keyboards periodically). One of those friends is Sue Vincent. Warm, kind and generous is only a starting point when it comes to describing the wonderful Sue. She is a also a teacher, a guide, and someone who works deeply with the land, walking the ancient ways. I’ve been fortunate to travel with her, from time to time, and have written about my experiences on this blog.

However, Sue is now on a different, and rather challenging path. Last year she was diagnosed with advanced small cell lung cancer, with a rather discouraging prognosis. You can read more about what she’s been going through on her blog, along with her stories of mythology and ancient ruins, magical landscapes and the power within. She also runs one of my favourite blogging prompts, #writephoto, and is tirelessly generous in promoting her fellow bloggers.

So now it’s time for us to give back to her. Charli Mills, over at The Carrot Ranch, has put together a… well, I’ll let Charli explain:

Let’s bring the Rodeo into Sue’s house through her computer, and let’s come together with hearts full of joy. Join us for the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic at the Carrot Ranch – a contest, parade, and celebration all in one!

There are many ways to participate. One is to visit the prompt image, “Hidden”, at the Carrot Ranch. The prompt image and entry form will go live on Monday, February 1st, 2021. Enter a flash or a poem by Friday, February 19th, 2021, and you could win either $100 or a copy of one of Sue’s books. The form will allow you to give a small donation for Sue and her family, and a link can be found on the contest page. The winning entries will be announced at the Carrot Ranch on March 22nd, 2021.

If you’re not ready to rodeo, there’s always the “Parade”. Reblog one of Sue’s posts from any of her sites (Daily Echo or France and Vincent) with a comment about why you found it special. Follow her blogs. Read one of her books, then leave reviews where you can. Several people are already gearing up for the parade – so feel free to check out other people’s blogs for suggestions.

Also, go ahead and reblog, tweet, Facebook, or somehow otherwise share the contest! 99 word literary art is a fantastic way to celebrate a blogging hero and very deserving person.

Saddle up, everyone! It’s time for a Carrot Ranch Rodeo like none ever held before. The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins on Monday, February 1st, and it’ll be a TUFF prompt to fit within 99 words. 
See you at the Ranch, buckaroos!

And there you have it – a great competition for a wonderful cause! Get your best writing boots on and head on over – I’ll see you there!

#writephoto – Guarded

I’m beyond thrilled that the lovely Sue Vincent has revived her #writephoto prompt.

Sue has a knack for taking photographs that contain stories, so it’s lovely that she feels able to share them once again. This week, her prompt is this atmospheric shot of a boulder guarding a pathway. I’ve been on a few journeys through the landscape with Sue, and I can already feel the voices whispering from this particular shot. Here’s what they told me…

‘You shall not pass!’

He boomed the words, his staff banging down onto the muddy path. Then his freckled face split with a grin, childish laughter ringing across the bracken, carried by the wind to wreath around and through the crevices of the ancient boulder that guarded the way.

‘Give over,’ I said, giving him a little shove as I went past, his stick clattering to the ground. He grinned again, picking it up and running ahead as boys do, swiping at leaves and imaginary foes, his blonde hair catching the pale light.

Ahead, the hillside was crowned with ridges and rocks, like the bones of an ancient dragon curled around its mound of treasure. There were stories here, but then there always were, in the old places. Perhaps the ridges were ancient walls, or perhaps the glaciers had left them there, when they retreated in a creak of ice and snow from the land.

A breath blew, cold on my neck, as I passed the stone. All was still, and I realised I could no longer hear the boy, or anything, other than a single heart beat, like a drum in the distance. A spear point dug into my chest, the metal gleaming dull bronze. The ridges on the hilltop rearranged themselves with a noise like teeth grinding, first into castle walls, then a dragon’s tail, flicking back and forth so that boulders tumbled.

‘You shall not pass.’ The words were whispered, this time. Another heartbeat, butterfly wings in my chest.

And, from down the trail, I heard laughter once more.

***

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.

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…

View original post 676 more words