Meet The Bloggers Who Are Attending The Third Annual Bloggers Bash #BloggersBash

Very excited to be heading into London tomorrow for the Bash! Looking forward to catching up with some old friends… and maybe making some new ones 🙂

Hugh's Views & News

On behalf of the committee of the Bloggers Bash, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who has confirmed their attendance to the Third Annual Bloggers Bash. Bags are packed, votes have been counted, cakes baked, envelopes sealed, outfits chosen, and the fun begins at 10:30 when Sacha flings opens the doors, and the hugging begins (please – no screaming this year when you see Geoff’s beard or watch Ali multitasking at the registration desk).

Where & When?

Saturday 10th June 2017 at the Wellington Suite in the Grange Wellington Hotel. 71 Vincent Square, Westminster, London SW1P 2PA. Click here for full details on how to get there.

We’ve lots going on during the day, including a panel debate and, of course, the announcements of this year’s bloggers bash award winners. For the very first time, we held a Bloggers Bash writing competition, and the winner will also be announced during…

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Wednesday Wander – Mykonos, Greece

The Greek island of Mykonos, also known as The Island Of Winds, is part of the Cyclades, a group of islands set in Homer’s wine dark Aegean sea.

According to Greek legend, Mykonos got its name from its first ruler, Mykons, said to be a direct descendent of Apollo. Zeus and the Titans were supposed to have had a great battle on Mykonos, and it’s where Hercules killed the invincible giants of Mount Olympus, having lured them to the island. Also, and I love this, because I guess I have a weird sense of humour, the large boulders scattered around the island are reputed to be the fossilised testicles of those same giants, and this legend is the source of the slang term ‘stones’!

Mykonos has a long history dating back to at least the 11th century BC, and has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman rule. However, since 1831, it has been part of Greece, following the revolution in which Manto Mavrogenous, one of the island’s noted inhabitants, played a part. Manto, a wealthy, educated aristocrat, sacrificed her family’s fortune to help the Greeks and became a national heroine – a statue to her honour stands in the main town square.

The island is well known for its vibrant nightlife and nude beaches (sorry, no photos), and also for its famous windmills. Built by Venetians in the 16th century, they were originally used to mill flour – nowadays most have been restored as homes or storage facilities. There are also several fine museums, including one of the oldest archaeological museums in Greece. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I visited none of them, however, quite unusual for me. But Mykonos was a stop on a longer trip and I suppose I just chose to relax, instead. Ah well, I guess I need to go back.

It’s been quite a few years since I visited, but I still have plenty of memories – of meeting Petros the Pelican, the island’s mascot, of tangy feta and fresh bread, of my washing being done and coming back smelling of sunshine and herbs, of an old woman kissing my cheeks and offering me sweets after I bought one of her hand knitted jumpers (which I still have). There was nightlife, of course, dancing and drinking, the streets vibrant all through the night. But my overwhelming memory is one of sunshine and warmth, of brilliant white and deep blue, and through it all, the sound of the sea.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Telling Tales

It came to me a while ago that perhaps we, as humans, are built to be storytellers. That it’s in our DNA, some vital part of us that cannot be denied.

From the dawn of humanity when people gathered around campfires or in sacred spaces, taking their turns to add their voice to a tale, we have always shared stories. Before written word it was how we kept records of our ancestors, of our people, of the things that happened, weaving them into songs or epic poems or tales for the dark nights as winter drew in. We painted pictures on cavern walls, blew bright ochre onto rock faces, describing happenings and visitors and successful hunts, religion and family and daily life. Paintings became carvings, pictures became writing and we kept telling stories, about commerce and battles and dark fantasies from the past, using words to frighten people into submission or to uplift them to their best selves. Bards became a class of their own, keepers of the stories, each one adding their own pieces to the puzzle, carrying our ancestors’ deeds forward in time.

And now, in this modern age, it seems we still have stories to tell. Agents are inundated daily with manuscripts, writing clubs and online communities abound, and competition to be published is fiercer than ever. I cannot count the number of people who, when I tell them I’m a writer, say, ‘I’d like to write a book as well.’ Apparently in Iceland one in ten people will publish a book and most people will write one – an entire country of people with stories to tell.

So what is it that has caused this apparent upsurge in writers appearing, a generation of storytellers born anew? I wonder if social media has something to do with it, giving us all a voice, a chance to share our life with the world whenever we choose to do so. Every person has a story – now with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and blogging all you need is a phone to share it with the whole world. We are encouraged to write every day, to post new statuses, update our stories as they happen, 140 characters to tell of each unfolding event. Small wonder then that this daily writing exercise may have inspired us to do more, awakening the urge to weave a bigger, better, more exciting tale and get it down on paper (so to speak).

For much of what we write these days is digital and it makes me wonder whether our words will be around to be deciphered a millennia from now, or if the ephemeral nature of electronic files means they will simply fade away, a forgotten crackle of energy. Personally, I still enjoy holding a real book in my hand and have published both my books in paperback as well as Kindle versions. And perhaps some scholar, centuries from now, will hold a copy of it in white gloved hands (or maybe it will hover, unsupported, above a pristine surface) to be read, my words analysed for whatever secrets of this present time they may hold.

Interesting to consider, isn’t it?

This post appeared in its original form back in November 2014, when I was participating in my first NaNoWriMo, and far fewer people came to visit my blog. Oh, and that NaNo book? I did finish it, though it took me almost two more years to do so – it became A Thousand Rooms.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wonder Woman, Ladybirds and Girl Power

I just got back from taking my gorgeous girl to see Wonder Woman. She loved it, as did I – the messages overwhelmingly positive, the women on screen powerful characters with their own strength and agency, refreshing to see. As the action progressed every so often I would hear her say ‘awesome!’ and, on several occasions, ‘girl power!’ When Diana emailed Bruce Wayne, she leaned over to me and said ‘Bruce Wayne is Batman, right?’ I nodded. ‘So she’s emailing Batman.’ I nodded again and she grinned.

When the movie ended we walked out into the sunshine. As we headed home I asked her what she thought of the film. She said she loved it. I asked her why. Her answer was simple. ‘Girl power!’ And I was quietly glad. She went on to tell me that women can do what they want to do, be who they want to be, and I was grateful that she felt that way, knowing that if she’d been born in another place or another time, things would be quite different for her. I mentioned how far we’d come in the past 100 years and she agreed, saying that we can now vote, something she seemed very pleased about. Then she went on to say, ‘But I think women should be paid equally.’ This is something that’s concerned her for a while, since seeing a headline stating it would be 2069 before we saw pay parity – that is, the same pay for the same job (not long to wait now, ladies!). I agreed with her, and said that, even though we’ve come a long way, there was still a way to go before equality.

As we walked and she pulled silly faces and did acrobatics, watched bees buzz and kites dance, we talked about women and what equality means. About equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities. We spoke of how the fim’s director, Patty Jenkins, was a woman, and how that was unusual. And that, even though we’d come a long way, there were still women around the world who were being held back by old rules and old ideas, restricted from working or driving or visiting a doctor without a male in tow. I couldn’t explain why there were those who still thought that way.

Towards the end of the walk she stopped me, reaching up to disentangle a ladybird from my hair. We both smiled, then. A ladybird, to us, is my grandmother, a force of nature and one of the strongest women I’ve known. A volunteer since she was a teenager during the war, she ran her own business, was a magistrate and a school governor, in a time when women didn’t usually do those things. She was also a fabulous singer, performing with big bands in her youth, and never missing an opportunity to entertain – at the end of my husband’s and my wedding, when everyone else was flagging, she was still going, playing piano in an impromptu performance for the guests as they left the venue.

So it seemed fitting, on a morning when my daughter and I had celebrated women, and discussed women and all they can do, to be reminded of her.

Btw, Wonder Woman was awesome – five stars!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

I protest #InternationalChildrensDay

I protest…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I protest.

I protest against the poverty and hunger in which so many children are forced to live by failing societies where greed is an economic norm. In the UK, alone, one in four children officially live in poverty… yet it is relative poverty. In many countries, poverty is the norm and means utter deprivation of even the most basic necessities. Every ten seconds, a child dies from hunger and its consequences. Almost nine hundred children die every day because they have no access to clean water.

I protest against the denial of medical care to any child. Every year, over 13 million children less than 5 years die from illnesses which could have been avoided or treated.

I protest against eager minds denied education in a world where so many have access to so much. Over a hundred million children, the adults of our own future, are growing…

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Wednesday Wander – Hampton Court Palace

Okay, so I’ve not wandered too far this week – a train ride, rather than a plane ride, away. Still, it’s to a rather interesting place. London is home to some wonderful palaces – I have another post about the Tower of London still to write – and Hampton Court Palace is one of the finest, a treasure trove of history, design and architecture.

Built by Cardinal Wolsey and taken over several years later by Henry VIII, the palace was constructed between 1515 and 1694. Not much of the original Tudor palace remains in its original state, as successive monarchs each sought to put their stamp on the building.The palace remained a royal residence until Victorian times, though George II was the last monarch to reside there. However, the monarch with whom the palace is most closely associated is Henry VIII. Oranges carved over an internal doorway are symbols of Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, while the clock above is the Hampton Court astronomical clock, set in the Anne Boleyn gate, named for his second wife. Jane Seymour, his third wife, gave birth to their son Edward, and subsequently died there, two weeks later. It was also at Hampton Court that Henry learned of the infidelity of his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Imprisoned in her rooms, it is said she escaped and ran the length of the Haunted Gallery, screaming for mercy, but was recaptured and, eventually, executed.

Large landscaped gardens surround the building, running alongside the river Thames. One of the original 16th century tiltyard towers remains, part of Henry VIII’s jousting range, as does his Royal Tennis Court. My friend and I also walked the Hampton Court Maze, planted between 1689 and 1695 for William of Orange, the ancient green hedges taller than we were.

This is the Fountain Court, designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the reign of William and Mary, when a huge program of renovation took place at the palace. William and Mary wanted the design to reflect their status as equal monarchs, so two sets of apartments, equal in size and stature, were designed, as well as two identical interior staircases. However, when Mary passed away, William lost interest in the renovation project and work ceased.With all this history, it’s not surprising that the palace is reputed to be haunted. Several tourists have reported strange occurences, and then there’s ‘Skeletor’, a famous image captured on the CCTV cameras which has not been adequately explained. We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did see a rather dishy fellow, a cross between Damien Lewis and Tom HIddleston, decked out in full Elizabethan regalia, including a single pearl drop earring. Seeing him on the train later in civilian clothes rather spoiled the illusion… 😀

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Book Launch! 13 Steps To Evil, by Sacha Black

It’s here! Sacha Black’s first book, 13 Steps to Evil, is now available – I’ve already got my copy and am looking forward to diving in! A guide to writing the best possible villains, the book uses examples from contemporary writing to illustrate the different types of villains, as well as how to avoid cliches and tired tropes, making your villains the stand-out character they deserve to be.

In Sacha’s own words:

13 Steps To Evil has been carefully designed to give writers like you, a detailed guide to creating the most kick-ass villain you can.

Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain?

In the book you’ll learn all kinds of awesome stuff like,

  • How to develop a villain mindset
  • The step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
  • Why getting to the core of your villain’s personality is essential to make them credible and believable
  • What evil pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs

Finally, there’s a comprehensive writing guide to help you create Superbad villains. I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and interviewing writers to make sure 13 Steps To Evil is tailored to your exact needs.

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge. It will also help you master the perfect balance of good and evil as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.

You’ll get the same dark humor, you find in my blog posts and newsletters and I use a ton of well-known examples to help explain the steps.

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HERE’S A SHORT EXCERPT

Why Writers Fudge Up Their Villains

Villains are like newborn infants. So much glorious potential. Until we writers get our grubby mitts on them and balls it up. With the careless flick of a pen, we can turn a finely sculpted baby villain into a cringe-worthy cliché because we didn’t make him bad enough, or we create something so heinously evil it’s unrealistic.

A villain might be a plot device, but he still needs a purpose and a goal, or he’s unworthy as an opponent for your hero (See STEP 3 for motives and goals).

While researching this book, writers told me all kinds of problems they encountered while creating their villains. From getting the dialogue right and avoiding clichés, to knowing how evil to make a villain, to how to reveal her motives without using blatant exposition.

Behind all these issues lie two basic barriers that are the Achilles in every writer’s villainous heel:

  1. Depending on the point of view (POV) the book’s written in, the villain is usually seen through the eyes of your hero.

A solitary POV gives you a page-limited amount of time to show your villain’s best, most authentic and devilishly evil side. Page-limited to the point it makes it eye-wateringly difficult to convey her backstory effectively without information dumping. You have to be better, clearer, more tactical and more concise with your words to create superbad villains.

  1. Writers are hero worshippers.

We love our heroes and protagonists more than our spouses. And as a result, we spend shameful amounts of time honing our protagonist’s muscular heroics into shape. But that relegates our villain (the plot-driving conflict-creator) to the corner of our book, complete with a nobody-loves-you-anyway hat. In other words, writers don’t pay enough attention to their villain.

Intrigued? Want to read more? For one week only, you can pick up 13 Steps for the special price of just £1.99. For more info and links, head over to Sacha’s blog. Happy villainous writing! Muahahaha….