Back From A Break

Hey everyone!

It’s been a few months. Well, almost nine months to the day, to be exact, since I went on my break. I’ve missed you all and, I must say, it’s nice to be back. However, I think things will be slightly different this time. One of the things that caused me to take a blogging break was the pressure of having a weekly commitment – my Wednesday Wander. While I loved writing and researching the posts, and they’ve been very popular, coming up with one every week as well as sorting and editing photos started to feel like a chore. So, while I’m still travelling and seeing new places, I won’t be posting about them every Wednesday, just every once in a while. However, I’ll still be doing all my other usual rambling, as well as sharing writing stuff and whatever else comes to mind 🙂

But the main reason I took a break was that I’ve been working on another book. Several books, if I’m honest. You may already be familiar with my Ambeth YA series or A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s contemporary fiction novel. These have all been independently published – I’ve worked with beta readers and editors and cover designers to make them as professional and high quality as possible, and the feedback I’ve received seems to show I’m hitting the mark. However, as much as I enjoy being an indie and the creative control that comes with it, I’ve also been pursuing a dream to be traditionally published alongside my indie works.

To that end, I decided to devote several months to a book I completed last year, called The Last Raven. It’s a book about vampires, so perhaps not so red-hot in the market at the moment. Nonetheless, I had some interest last year from two publishers, as well as a couple of near-misses with agents. Both publishers initially declined but have invited me to re-submit with changes, offering valuable feedback regarding structure, as well as letting me know what they liked about the story (a lot, as it turns out).

So I took my story and pulled it apart, turned it inside out, chopped and changed the structure, increasing the level of detail and building pace. To be fair, it needed it. The story was already good, but spending three months restructuring has taken it to the next level. It’s been a fantastic learning process for me as a writer, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights I’ve learned on the blog. I also had a very promising meeting with an agent earlier this year – I’d initially approached her to assess my submission package, something you can do through the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists website. I wanted to know whether it was worth my going through the submission process again with the revised version of Last Raven, and whether there would be a market for it. As it turned out, she loved what she read and requested the full manuscript! It was a thrilling and enjoyable meeting for a lot of reasons – now I’m just waiting to hear what she thinks (and trying not to refresh my email every five minutes!)

As for the other books I’m working on, I have another YA series taking shape, as well as a non-fiction book about a health issue I encountered several years ago. Basically, after a season of editing, I’m back writing again. And so it seems as good a time as any to get back to blogging, too. After all, I don’t think I’d be the writer I am without this blog and all you lovely people out there.

When I started this blog back in 2014, it was originally going to be about my journey in writing, and what I learned along the way. Since then it’s grown and developed to become much more than that, chronicling my journey through the world. But my writing journey is still ongoing, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you again.

xx


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 to see more.

A Matter Of Punctuation

Earlier this year, as part of a flurry of competition entries, I entered A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s fiction novel, in the 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

It was a long shot. I knew that. One of the most respected independent book competitions around, the contest attracts thousands of entries from around the world. However, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t have a ticket, so I thought it might be worth a try. Another attraction was the fact that I would get, as part of my entry fee, feedback from the judge assigned to my title.

Well, I didn’t make the final shortlist. Oh well. However, I recently received my promised feedback and was very pleased. Feedback scores are ranked from 1 to 5, with 1 being ‘needs improvement’ and 5 being ‘outstanding.’

My scores were as follows:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Furthermore, the judge offered the following comments:

I was really very excited when I discovered that the author has a fantastic writing style and a voice that is perfectly suited for the genre. This is a good book… I love this type of plot line and it certainly kept me entertained and turning the pages. The author has done a great job with strong, fast pacing that doesn’t lag. And an equally great job of realistic dialogue that also presents with a nix (sic) mix of dialogue and narrative. I wish that more authors would focus on this element when it comes to fiction writing. A nice, satisfying ending left me with a smile on my face. This was just simply a solid entry… Best of luck with this book and I hope to read more from this author.

I was very pleased with this feedback, as you can imagine.

However, I haven’t written this post just to sing my own praises 🙂 One of the things I lost marks on was spelling, punctuation and grammar. Now, I had this book professionally edited, so I doubt that spelling was an issue, unless the American judge didn’t like my use of colour, favour, etc. While they didn’t specify spelling as an issue, they did point out one specific issue they saw – my use of single quotation marks throughout the book, which they described as ‘incorrect and an unnecessary distraction.’

Incorrect? Not in this country. In fact, I’m currently reading The Essex Serpent, a British bestseller from last year, and the quotation marks throughout? Single.

Perhaps, had the judge realised I was a UK-based author, they may have been more lenient. However, it was a lesson to me, as a writer who sells books around the world, that I might want to reconsider my use of quotation marks. It’s a small thing, but it may have made the difference to my entry. (Or not, more than likely – I really don’t know).

So, not the end of the world. I received excellent feedback, and I learned a lesson. Not bad for a competition entry. And I thought I might share it with you.


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.

 

A Small Update

Life has been extremely busy of late. Part of it has been getting back into the routine of work and school and extracurricular activities, part of it has been all the writing I’m trying to cram in to every spare moment.

For I am writing a LOT at the moment. Funny, the busier we get the more we seem to get done. They do say if you want something done, give it to a busy person and so it seems to be the case here.

Under Stone, Ambeth book four, is back out for a final read before publishing. Silver and Black, my vampire novel, is almost complete (though I may need a new name now that Marvel has greenlighted a superhero film with the same name). Another story, tentatively titled The Grove, has been demanding to be written, and I also have some editing underway, going back to an older story and revisiting the language.

A Thousand Rooms has been chosen as a feature book for September/October on Chick Lit Central, which is a huge thrill, and we’re giving away a signed copy to celebrate! Click here to visit the site and enter the comp.

But this weekend I’ll be doing something completely different. This morning I’m heading up to Scotland, to join Sue and Stuart and Steve, as well as the rest of the companions, for a Silent Eye weekend. I did one last year – you can read about it here – and it was a completely profound experience.

This time we’ll be wandering the stones with Running Elk, who knows the area well. I’m looking forward to the change in pace (though I’m praying for reasonable weather), and the chance to see somewhere new. I’ll be back Sunday and will blog about the experience, as I’m sure it will be quite something!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙂


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.

Ironing, Oak Apples and Editing or, How I Survived A Writing Wobble

I had a bit of a writing wobble earlier this week.

I’ve just begun editing Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series. It recently returned from a professional edit, and so I was taking suggestions and beta read comments on board, polishing the final crevices and tidying up punctuation and prose, ready to go to the next stage.

At least, that’s what I was supposed to be doing.

But something wasn’t right. Even my groaning ironing basket held more allure than playing with words. Even though it’s what I love to do. I mean, editing isn’t my favourite part of the process but there is still something immensely satisfying in taking a book through the final stages before publication, seeing the changes from rough first draft to the end product. So I was ready, I thought.

But I just couldn’t find the thread. The story thread. The Ambeth thread. Whenever I step into that world the voices are clear, the images sharp. I know all of the characters intimately, their backstory, what drives them, where they are going. But, for some reason, they seemed a little… distant. As did the world of Ambeth – the gardens, the Palace, the sighing sea, all felt as though I were viewing them through the wrong end of a telescope.

And so I had a wobble.

After all, it’s been a while since my last Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys, came out. Since then, I’ve published A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s fiction novel, as well as almost finished the first draft of Silver and Black, another standalone work. I’ve also started a new job which is taking quite a bit of my time. So I was worried. What if the story, the wonderful story that started me writing, words pouring out of me, had decided to, well, get up and leave? I mean, I had been working on Ambeth – Under Stone was quite a complex book to write as so many threads from the first three books came together, many of them to be resolved in this book. So it was only a couple of months since I’d last visited. But still – it had been a while.

And I couldn’t find my way back into the story.

So instead I fell into a wormhole of sadness and despair. But, after a pep talk from a lovely writerly friend and a good night’s sleep, I decided to approach things from a different angle. Instead of editing, I decided simply to read the story again. And, it seemed to help. A piece of music I associate with the books started playing in my head, and carefully, slowly, I started to wander back into the woods. I’m not all the way there yet but, thanks to music and oak apples and reading and thought, I think I might get through the Gate again.

And that ironing basket isn’t looking so interesting any more…


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.

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

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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 Of The Month – A Thousand Rooms – by Helen Jones @AuthorHelenJ

It’s the first day of the new year and what better way to start than as a featured guest over at Hugh’s Views and News! Hugh has chosen my book, A Thousand Rooms, as his book of the month (yay!), and so I dropped by to talk a little more about the story. Thanks for having me, Hugh!
And, as a reminder, if you like short stories with bite, check out Hugh’s new release, Glimpses. He’s even running a giveaway for an Amazon £100 Gift Card! Visit his site for more details…

Hugh's Views & News  

A very warm welcome to Helen Jones whose book, A Thousand Rooms, is this month’s book of the month.

Over to you, Helen…

Well, I must say I’m completely thrilled to have been invited over to Hugh’s blog. It’s lovely to be he– what’s that, Hugh? 

Right, of course. I’m here to talk about my latest release, A Thousand Rooms, which Hugh has very kindly chosen as his ‘Book Recommendation of the Month.’

What’s the name of the book?

A Thousand Rooms.

Helen Jones's latest book - A Thousand Rooms The latest book from Helen Jones – A Thousand Rooms

Tell us a little about the story and the characters.

It’s centred around the main protagonist, Katie. She’s thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. Hit by a car while texting, now left to wander the streets of Sydney alone, a lost soul. No angels appear, no long-lost loved ones – everything is just how it…

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