The Wheel Turns, and a Cover Reveal!

Today was the shortest day, the moment when the wheel of the year turns towards light again. In the old ways it was called Yule, and marked a time of hope, when a spark of light would be lit both symbolically and literally to celebrate the turning of the year.

I love this time of year. I love the sparkling lights on the houses and in the trees, the clear high sunsets and cold nights, the shimmer of frost and the crack of ice. I especially love the idea of hope, of change, of finding the spark within.

It’s interesting that the past week has seen a turning of the wheel in my own life as well. I now have a new plan for the year ahead, and am excited to get back to writing once more. So, to celebrate both the solstice and my rejuvenated writing plan, here is the cover for my next release, Under Stone, the fourth in my Ambeth Chronicles series!

I’m thrilled with the finished product, and think it goes very well with the others. Under Stone will be released very soon, and pre-release copies are available for review – please contact me if you’d like one.

Wishing you all a happy solstice!

Beltaine Fire and Butterfly Dreams

Today is May Day, or Beltaine in the old calendar, the first day of summer and the festival that falls halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.

The garden is green and humming, the blossom almost gone, the promise of Summer’s warmth just over the horizon. Last night I dreamed of a purple butterfly landing on my face, flapping delicate wings as it clung to my cheek. Apparently, to dream of such things is a sign of change, and for the butterfly to land on me signifies that the change will be positive. And to dream of such a thing on May Day Eve? I don’t know, but it seems to add another layer of significance. Or perhaps it was just a dream…

Today the sun aligns with stones, tonight fires will burn on the hillsides, if only in memory, the old customs not yet forgotten. And perhaps I will dream once more…

Note: Ali Isaac, mistress of Irish mythology, has written several posts about the myth and magic behind this festival – click here and here to read more.


If you enjoyed this post and want 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.

Thursday Doors – Haven

img_4972I’ve been posting in Thursday Doors for a while now. Some weeks the doors have been grand, entrances to cathedrals or palaces. Other weeks they’ve been more humble, just like my door this week.

Yet a door, no matter the size or shape, represents possibility. None of us know what lies behind until we choose to open the door and enter. There’s a reason that Let’s Make A Deal, with prizes hidden behind doors 1, 2 and 3, is such an enduring pop culture icon. The idea of doors representing choice, a metaphor for change, is a powerful one. Doors often feature in fairytales, either with a caution that they are not to be opened (usually disobeyed), or as pathways to a quest, representing levels of wisdom or challenge. Spirits in haunted houses are said to wander through doors no longer there, perhaps symbolic of their status as lost souls.

And this little blue door, with its welcoming light, seems to represent a haven. Doesn’t it look welcoming, with the tiled path and the little arch, the plants and the golden light beyond? On a cold dark light it’s almost a beacon, a promise of respite for a weary traveller. This is not my front door – in fact, I have no idea who lives here. But it’s nice to think that, hopefully, they feel happiness when they see their front door, a feeling that they are home.

This was my entry to Thursday Doors, via Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Take The First Step

IMG_0618

It’s Monday. The start of another week. Thanks for stating the obvious, you might be thinking. But as I wandered along on my morning walk back from school, I pondered the idea of beginnings. Starting something – taking the first step, as it were – is often the most difficult part of any journey. Think about it. Walking into a new job or school. Starting a new sport. Beginning a diet. Making change in your life. Whatever the first step may be, it involves conscious choice and a will to proceed. It also can require courage, especially if you’re doing something you’ve never tried before.

I have a friend who is thinking of writing a book and she recently emailed me, saying she didn’t know where to start. This can be the hardest part about writing, I think. Starting. Sitting down and typing that first sentence, the pathway that leads you into the story. There are so many wonderful examples – Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again‘ and Jane Austen’ It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife‘ are two that come to mind straight away. And there are so many awful ones as well – there are even competitions to see who can come up with the absolute worst opening to a novel. The Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is one to look at if you’re interested, named for the man who came up with the immortal ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’

I’d already been writing for many years when I decided to sit down and start the first draft of Oak and Mist. I remember clearly that it took me a while to get my head around the idea of writing a book. An actual book. I didn’t know whether I could do it, whether it would be any good, or whether I even had a complete story to tell. All I had was a starting point, three characters, and an idea of how they might work together.

My first draft ended up being a monster of over 160,000 words. I managed through successive edits to whittle it down to below 140,000, which I then split into two halves, Oak and Mist and No Quarter. But the cool thing, the thing that really kept me going, is that the story itself didn’t change, nor did the characters – it was the language and structure that needed work. I rewrote and changed the first three chapters so many times I lost count, before finally condensing them into a few short pages. But the beginning incident, the idea that started the whole journey, never changed.

So the important thing with any sort of journey is to start. As you can see, it took time for me to actually sit down and choose to write a book. Then it took even more time to get the beginning of the book the way I wanted it to read. But it didn’t stop me from writing, from continuing on with the story until it was told. For you can always go back. Until the work is published, there is always room to make changes. So don’t let fear hold you back. The story is there, waiting to be told. The journey, there to be taken. All you need to do is take the first step.

(This is an edited and amended version of a post first published in July 2014, when hardly anyone came to visit my blog. Thank you for coming to visit today)

PS I’ve been nominated in the Bloggers Bash Blogging Awards as Best Pal – yay! If you’d like to vote for me, (or even if you wouldn’t), head on over to Sacha’s blog and make your vote count!

Making Magic

IMG_1638

It’s been a funny sort of month. A mixed bag, if you will. Oh, nothing too full on awful – simply a combination of things that have left me feeling a bit down, less inspired than usual. But really, who am I to complain? With the state of the world as it is, I know that I, in my comfortable life, am very fortunate. Plus, I think a post with me burbling on about general feelings of malaise just wouldn’t be that interesting, to be honest.

So today I decided to make some magic. Now, before we go any further, I don’t consider myself any sort of expert practitioner. I have read and experienced some fairly esoteric things, and I certainly believe in Shakespeare’s assertion that ‘there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ I’m also open to the idea of changing one’s energy, of choosing to pursue a more positive path. I know that there are things in life for which it is just not possible or easy to say ‘oh well, I choose to be positive about this,’ but for general feelings of just being a bit down, a bit off, I believe that focus and a positive attitude can make a difference.

And so what is magic, after all? There are varied schools of thoughts on this, but most seem to agree that it comprises both intent and ritual. Intent, in that there is something you wish to achieve, and ritual, a series of steps which focus power and attract the right sort of energy to get things done. And when you think about it, intent is another word for choice, at least when it pertains to our own lives. And ritual is a route to focus, which is what we need to effect change.

Our whole family has been sick this month with a virus that refuses to go away, mutating and moving from head to throat to chest, a fever that comes and goes, chills and tiredness. A month of spluttering and coughing and broken sleep, the house closed against the cold weather. So this morning I woke up and said to my husband, ‘I think I might smudge the house today.’ He nodded in agreement. You see, we’ve had success with this ritual before. When we bought our first house in Australia, it was a busy time. We were both working and living in Melbourne, planning our wedding, then heading down the coast on weekends to renovate our new place, supposedly getting away from the bustle and stress of city living. Yet, every time I slept in our new house, I had the most awful blood-soaked nightmares, the kind from which you wake shaking, wondering what the hell is going on. Our new neighbours had told us some of the history of the house and its previous owners, and what was clear was that it was a place that had not been loved for quite some time. So I decided to give smudging a try. I had read about it but never tried it before – if you’re not familiar with the practice, it involves burning a tightly tied bunch of herbs (usually sage and/or lavender) then wafting the smoke through the rooms of the house, letting open windows take the smoke away and with it any ‘bad energy’ that might be bringing the place down. So I smudged our little beach house, lavender and sage wafting through and out into the blue yonder. Then I slept the most peaceful sleep I’d had there. We ended up living in that house for seven years, and people would always comment on what a nice feel it had. The nightmares never returned, either.

What’s really interesting about smudging is that, even though it’s an ancient practice dating back several thousand years, scientific research has recently discovered that the medicinal smoke generated by the burning herbs actually does cleanse the air of harmful bacteria and pathogens, with the effects lasting up to a month after the initial smudging process. Sounds about perfect for a house full of sick people, don’t you think? So this morning I dug out my smudge stick, picked some extra herbs and flowers then took advantage of the fresh breeze, opening doors and windows and letting the warm scent of burning sage fill the rooms. The house certainly does feel fresher, so it will be interesting to see how my family react when they get home later. And, interestingly, my mood has lifted with the cleansing, my writing kicking back into gear.

That seems pretty magical, don’t you think?