Home Again…

Hello everyone!

I’m back from my adventure. The jetlag has worn off, the laundry is (mostly) done, and the holiday seems almost like a dream.

Yet it was real, and it was fantastic – I saw so much and have so much to write about I hardly know where to begin (there will be many blog posts!). New York was everything I’d imagined. I felt immediately at home there, perhaps because it’s a city that’s so pervasive in popular culture – yet it felt as though I knew it, as though I’d been before and was just being reminded of where everything was.

We wandered as much as we could in four days, including a walk through Central Park, where we took in the amazing skyline and I found the obelisk, partner to London’s Cleopatra’s Needle. We saw sights large and small, and didn’t let the weather, which included torrential rain and a snowstorm, stop us from getting outside and experiencing as much as we could.

The weather followed us, snow falling in Toronto on our first day there, Niagara Falls creating ice sculptures, the sun peering out from behind shifting clouds. Yet I basked in the warmth of family and old friends (and by old I mean fabulous), reforging connections and visiting familiar haunts, sad to leave when the time came.

But Boston, and the New England coast beckoned. We walked the Freedom trail, spent time in Salem, then followed the coast southwest through Plymouth, Newport, Mystic and Milford, finally ending up back in New York on a hot and sunny afternoon, ready to catch our overnight flight home.

And now it’s back to reality. The recent warm weather was a wonderful welcome home, and I’m away again this weekend, on a long-planned writing retreat with friends. Stories beckon….

It’s nice to be home x


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.

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New Release: Crossing Bedlam by Charles Yallowitz

Charles Yallowitz has just released his latest book, Crossing Bedlam. He’s also written several fun posts about the story this week, including this helpful list about how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Take it away, Charles!

The Rated-R Post-Apocalyptic Action Comedy Adventure is finally here!

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

The United States of America has been crippled. Violently contained by a global military force and left without its leaders, the country has become shattered and chaotic. A decade has passed since the first strike and a new landscape has emerged where survival is more important than anything else. Who will uncover the truth behind the attack and revive this once great nation?

It certainly won’t be Cassidy and Lloyd since they couldn’t care less about that stuff. She is a young woman on a mission to honor her mother’s dying wish, which is to toss her ashes off the Golden Gate Bridge. He is an infamous serial killer she broke out of Rikers Island since hiring a bodyguard wasn’t working out. Not the perfect plan, but having an insane, oddly charming murder-junkie on your side is a plus in the Shattered States. Bullets and swear words are going to fly as Cassidy and Lloyd travel coast to coast, facing one challenge after another . . . including Nebraska.

Curious about this broken world & these two ‘not even close to being’ heroes?

Then grab a copy for $2.99 on Amazon

&

Mark it as ‘To Read’ on Goodreads

Excerpt: A Relaxing Drive on the Parkway

(Foul language warning)

The jeep hurtles through a large hole in the parkway divider, the threat of incoming traffic nothing more than a faded memory. Only three of their pursuers manage to follow with a fourth smashing into the gap and blocking the path. Not wanting to be an easy target, Cassidy keeps their vehicle swerving from one lane to another. She can hear bullets pinging off the asphalt and the abandoned cars that have been moved to the side of the road. There is another hole in the divider right before an overpass, so she drives through at the last second. Sliding into the tunnel, Cassidy watches the other vehicles pass the gap before making a tire-screeching U-turn to go in the opposite direction. Five motorcycles are heading toward them, but the heavy jeep and its driver’s refusal to get out of the way makes them an easily scattered threat. One of the bikers is unable to swerve to the side and he crashes onto the hood while his ride is sent spinning into an abandoned van.

“Get off my car!” Cassidy shouts as she reaches out the window. Grabbing the man by the ankle, she yanks him off the hood and lets him tumble into the concrete divider. “This is really going to cost me. Do you know what the penalty for your idiocy is? They kill you unless you escape to the mainland. Then you’re exiled until you find something that the Trade Barons want more than revenge. I don’t have time to go on a treasure hunt. Would you take off those sunglasses and stop humming car chase music?”

“I was only trying to complete the scene,” Lloyd argues as he calmly fires a pellet at a sedan driver. Having mixed the three types of ammo, he is happy to see a yellow orb burst on the woman’s mouth.

“There’s the scratching. Now the nausea. We have a spinning and flipping car, folks. Oh, and there goes either the guy in the passenger seat or a really big ragdoll. You know, I’m starting to like what all of you have done with the place.”

“Stop killing people!” the blonde shouts, veering away from a large truck. She narrowly avoids slamming into a small car, the jeep moving off the road to complete the turn. “The more bodies we leave, the harder it will be to regain the Trade Barons’ favor. At least Neddy will send us what we need and . . . this is not the fucking time to change clothes!”

Lloyd stops with his head peeking out of his blood-covered shirt, which is high enough to reveal his scarred stomach. Figuring that he has come too far to stop, he yanks off the garment and hurls it out the window. He pouts when it flies over a car instead of covering the driver’s side of the windshield and causing a crash. Blindly reaching back, he takes a random shirt out of his bags and examines the black top in the side view mirror. The red and black mask of an old comic book character stares back at him,the face giving the illusion of grinning beneath the fabric.

“I remember reading this guy’s series before the Internet made him so popular and he turned up everywhere. Ugh, that sounded so pretentious that I’m tempted to stab myself. Hey, can we still see movies because I want to see his?” Lloyd asks while tying the laces of the black sneakers he hastily put on before making a mess at the Coliseum. “I really like t-shirts with pictures on them. They bring attention to what I’m wearing instead of my face. You can start a conversation about them too. Nice way to meet people and find out if they’re worth leaving alive or not. For example, I have a shirt with another hero and if somebody tells me that the bastard can defeat every other character then I know they have to die. I mean, he’s nothing more than a child-endangering bill-”

“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd!”

“Don’t be angry, kid. You’re doing great.”

“I can’t even figure out if we’re going in the right direction.”

“Turn around and start shooting at their tires.”

“I can’t because I need to save bullets.”

“For what?”

“Nebraska!”

Charles E YallowitzAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Twitter: @cyallowitz

Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Want the same level of action with a lot of magic & no cursing?

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Click here for the $4.99 Bundle to start your journey into Windemere!

Mountains and Surf

I took a couple of days off over the weekend.

There were a couple of reasons for doing so: the first was that I’d finally pressed ‘Publish‘ on No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth Series. The second was that my husband had booked himself and our daughter in for sessions at Snowdonia Surf, the outdoor surf pool in North Wales.

Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car

Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car

I may have mentioned this before, but North Wales is one of my absolute favourite places on earth. Something about the landscape, the light, the grey stone and green dreaming mountains speaks to me, connecting to something deep in my bones. Most of my family come from Wales, so perhaps it is my blood calling me home – I don’t know, but whatever the case may be, I always feel a little bit like it’s Christmas morning when I’m there (and I’m a big fan of Christmas morning).

Friday night we headed out, stopping first at my parents’ house for dinner and an overnight stay, then leaving early the next morning and heading over the border into Wales. We stopped on the outskirts of Wrexham, in the small village where my grandmother was born. We were staying with family there as well, and an afternoon in Llangollen beckoned.

Canal walk

Canal walk

Our afternoon in Llangollen was lovely – the sun shone and we walked along the canal into the town centre, enjoying lunch at an ancient mill on the banks of the River Dee. A party of white water rafters became stuck in the shallows directly in front of the large restaurant terrace and bumbled around for about fifteen minutes trying to get free, to increasingly loud calls and hilarity from the crowds on the riverbank – we all clapped and cheered when they finally worked themselves loose and headed off down the river, no doubt glad to see the back of us.

The River Dee - rafters gone on their way

The River Dee – rafters gone on their way

 

After lunch we visited Courtyard Books, one of my favourite independent bookstores. After a couple of purchases we headed back along the canal to the car and I snapped a photo of Castle Dinas Bran through the trees. On my post about Rivendell last week, Barbara commented that she thought the ruins of Dinas Bran would make a great Weathertop, and I have to agree – what do you think?

You might have to zoom in a little...

You might have to zoom in a little…

 

 

The next day dawned bright and sunny and we headed off early to make our booking time. We took the A5 through Llangollen and into the mountains, driving through leafy tree tunnels opening out into valleys starting to gleam with autumn, looming mountainsides patched with bronze. I’ve driven along a few of the world’s scenic routes – the Sea to Sky Highway in Vancouver, the Great Ocean Road in Australia, the California Coast road through Big Sur and Monterey, and I have to say that I think this drive compares in beauty, especially when the sun is shining. So I was definitely in my happy place as we headed into the Conwy Valley, where the Surf Snowdonia pool is located.

IMG_2301Other than the prototype in Spain, Surf Snowdonia is the first facility of its kind in the world, and is pretty amazing. It’s a large man-made lagoon with a long pier stretching down the middle – this is where the waves are created. A large block moving along a track under the pier pushes the water ahead of it, creating a perfect surf wave. There are zones for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers, and the fact that you have to book a time means the waves are never crowded.

IMG_2307Additionally, and a bonus for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sitting on beaches for hours on end, there’s a very nice restaurant alongside the pool, so you can sit in comfort and watch the surfers go past. However, I found I spent a lot of time outside – the weather was so glorious and the pool so fascinating to watch I couldn’t resist.

IMG_2303The final verdict was one word: awesome! Both surfers had a great time and, as we headed home under the super moon hanging like a golden lantern in the sky, we took a moment to appreciate the weekend and all we’d experienced.

 

And now IMG_2327I’m sharing it with you 🙂

 

A Family Adventure

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The clouds were gathering, rain threatening, but it was Bank Holiday Weekend so we were going on a family adventure, no matter what 🙂

After discussion and consultation of maps, Avebury was decided upon. It’s somewhere I’ve always been keen to visit and, as it was only an hour and a bit away, it was deemed appropriate for a day trip. And we enjoy exploring, we really do. My husband is still finding his way around the country, while I’m rediscovering places I remember from childhood. And the gorgeous child is always up for a day out, keen to see somewhere new.

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So rain jackets and umbrellas were packed, the car filled with petrol and we were off, fingers crossed that the M25 would be more forgiving today, painful memories of almost missed flights and bumper-to-bumper traffic making us wary. But all went well and an hour or so later we were approaching the massive henge, so large that a village has been built in what was once the centre.

And I lost all reception on my phone. Which was a bit odd.

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We parked, then made our way along the overhung-with-green pathway leading to the looming ridge surrounding the circle. There were a few other people out but not too many, as the rain had started to fall in earnest. We walked the short avenue leading into the first quadrant of the circle, marvelling at the huge stones and wondering how on earth they had been brought here and put into place. I reached out to touch one, laying my hand flat against the cold stone, rough under my palm.

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And I felt a buzzing, tingling sensation, like pins and needles. My daughter put her hand on the stone and she could feel it as well, though perhaps we were both just kidding ourselves. There was a humming in the air too, but only I could hear that – water on the ear, perhaps? I thought to myself how extraordinary a sight it must have been when all the stones were in place, like a dance across the green field bounded by chalk.

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We kept going along the curve of stones, noticing flowers left as offerings in the nooks and crannies, the rain still coming down. Crossing the road that cuts the circle in half one way, we found ourselves in the next quadrant. There were more stones here, a smaller circle within the large one, and steps leading to the top of the ridge. Making our way up to the top we started along the chalky path, marvelling at the depth of the ditch and the work it must have taken to dig.

Beneath the trees at the edge of the circle a group of women in bright clothing were gathered. Some were whooping, others dancing and hugging each other as a drum began to pound out a rhythm. There was a full moon last night, and I felt maybe that was what they were celebrating, though I couldn’t be sure. Then, as the ridge curved around we saw a small group of trees, so close together they seemed as one, the roots twisting and twining fantastically along the earth, while the branches were hung with ribbons and tokens.

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This seemed a magical place indeed, and the gorgeous child was disappointed she didn’t have a ribbon to leave there. But we decided a large chocolate button was a nice compromise and so one was left, I didn’t see where, and a wish was made.

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Down the ridge we went, to the second road cutting through the ancient henge, where we crossed into the third quadrant. This one was home to sheep and goats, some of them incontinent, it seemed, by the minefield of droppings we had to negotiate as we walked along the ridge. We made it fairly unscathed into the field where two large stones known as ‘The Cove’ stood close together, both of them over twice my height and massive. Another loomed behind the wall of a picturesque old barn enclosure, and I wondered what it would be like to live in the shadow of these stones.

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We crossed the road once more and entered the fourth and final quadrant, leading us to the old church and manor house. Once again the remaining stones were imposing, one pocked with small holes that looked like faces. We passed through into the old farm and manor grounds, spending time in the Barn and Museum where we learnt more about the history of this extraordinary place, and men such as the one nicknamed ‘The Stonekiller’ who sought to destroy the stones, knocking them down, breaking and burning them, before building them into the walls of the houses nearby.

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As we came out of the Barn, gorgeous child pointed up to the top of the church tower. ‘Look at all the birds,’ she said. I turned to see ravens perched on every corbel and point of the old tower, at least thirty of them. But as soon as I looked at them they took off, each and every one, a black squawking crowd passing overhead. Which was kind of odd, again.

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We came full circle past the Manor House and old Church, past cottages and brick homes, before taking the green path back to our car. The rain had stopped, the stones wet and gray against the vivid green grass. As we left the henge behind we saw a cricket game being played, a perfect summer village image.

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And for a moment, there might have been a hum in the air. Then it was gone.

Update: The lovely Sue Vincent, who is very familiar with Avebury, told me that the buzzing and humming are well documented phenomenon at the site. How cool that I got to experience it!