#keepersbooklaunch – Keepers Is Here!

In case you haven’t heard, Sacha Black has just released Keepers, the first in her Eden East YA series. Sacha has been a blog friend for a while and I’ve been reading about the progress of this story for the past couple of years, so it’s really exciting to see it finally completed!

Eden’s life is balanced…until her soul is bound to her enemy. When her parents are murdered, the realm of Trutinor is threatened. Then a mysterious human arrives and changes everything. As Eden’s world spirals out of control, she doesn’t need a charismatic Siren from her past returning to complicate life. Now, saving Trutinor is the last thing on Eden’s mind.

Three boys.
Two murdered parents.
One deadly choice.

Whew! I have to say, I’ve read it already, and it’s a great story with plenty of twists and turns, all wrapped up in beautiful cover art. I was lucky enough to attend the launch this past weekend – check out these amazing cupcakes!

You can get your copy of Keepers here. Huge congratulations, Sacha – can’t wait to read book two!

 

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.

#writephoto – Gold – The Third Time We Choose

golden-dawnSue Vincent has chosen yet another gorgeous photo for her #writephoto prompt this week, and here is my response:

The Third Time We Choose

She was scared.

Terrified, if she was being honest. But she’d known she couldn’t take another minute stuck in that place. It had felt so good walking into her manager’s office, seeing the surprise on his sweaty hated face when she’d told him she was leaving.

Good luck to him. Or not. She really hadn’t cared at the time, the bubble of euphoria in her chest lasting until she’d got home and put the key in the door and remembered ‘he’ was there. No doubt half asleep on the sofa as usual, half-empty beer cradled in his slack hands. He’d been handsome, once, she remembered. Taking her breath away. But now all he took was what was left of her spirit.

Enough.

Before she’d been able think about it, before he’d heard her at the door, she’d pulled the key out and turned back to the car. Getting in, she’d put it into gear and driven off, not looking back. Again with that bubble in her chest, like champagne bursts of potential, of what could be.

But once again it had dissipated and now here she was, driving along a country lane going who knows where. She should just pull over, she thought. Take a moment to figure out what she was going to do. Maybe even turn around and go home. After all, it wasn’t so bad, was it?

She started to slow the car, the bubble in her chest replaced by the leaden grey of reality. Then, as the road ahead of her curved, golden light, like champagne, like flames, like the promise of a life yet to live, shone through the tunnel of trees, a beacon leading her on.

It felt like freedom. Speeding up again, she drove towards the light, making her choice for the third time.

For herself.


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

What Are You Grateful For?

img_0938It’s Thanksgiving in the US this weekend, a time of year when, traditionally, families gather, vast amounts of food are consumed, and thanks given. Even though we don’t celebrate the festival here, I like the idea of expressing gratitude. Of just taking a moment to think about the things I’m thankful for. About a year and a half ago I was challenged by another blogger to take something called The Gratitude Challenge  -I recently re-visited the post and felt it still rang true.

As it seemed quite timely, I thought I might share it again:

I was tagged in a post by the lovely Dee the other day, challenging me to write about something for which I’m grateful.

I’m actually finding this quite difficult. I’m grateful for most things in my life, to be honest. Therefore, choosing one thing to focus on is tough🙂

And I suppose I should be grateful for that, too – that I have such an abundance in my life. Oh, I don’t mean financial or material abundance – though we’re more fortunate than many on this planet in that we have enough to eat and a roof over our heads. I try and see everything that happens to me as an opportunity to learn – when I had a job I hated, I still tried to learn as much as I could about the role, adding to my experience. I also learned which industries I didn’t want to work in, ever again. When a good friend turned her back on our friendship, I learned how wonderful my other friends were as they rallied around me for support. When I lost family members I tried to remember the joy we shared, rather than focusing on the times we would never have again – there was regret, of course there was, at years and opportunities wasted, but it taught me to value the moment and to make the most of it, to make the effort to keep up with family and friends, as you never know how long you might have with them.

Coming to a place in my life where I choose to be thankful for the things I do have, rather than regretting the things I don’t, has taken work. I’m far from perfect and still have my moments where I feel I let myself down. But if we choose to make a conscious process towards appreciating life, rather than shaking our fist at it, then that’s part of the battle won. I’ve had dear friends come into my life who have taught me to appreciate all that I have. These people came to me when I most needed them, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. If all I’d been focusing on was myself and my own sorrow, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed their arrival.

So I suppose I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for my family and the love that surrounds me. I’m grateful for my friends, for the fact I get to express my creativity every day, for the fact that I can connect with people all around the world with the click of a mouse. I’m grateful I still have the capacity to learn and enjoy new experiences, wherever they may take me. And I’m grateful that I can appreciate it all.

So what are you grateful for?


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

Cleaning House

img_1322I don’t like cleaning. I really don’t. I can think of about a million things I’d rather do than dust and scrub and sweep. However, I do like a clean house, so, until I start selling loads and loads of books and can afford to hire a cleaner, for now the job falls (mostly) to me.

Today I had a free day, a rare beast at this time of year. And I chose, among other things, to do some cleaning. I know, right?! Have I gone mad?? But it was rather specific cleaning. I decided that it was time to tackle the piles of paper taking on rather alarming proportions on my desk. In fact, they had expanded to the windowsill and even the floor, and it was all feeling a bit crowded and cluttered in my tiny study. I know I’ve written previously about the chaotic way I take notes and manage my plans, but every so often I do like to get things in order, otherwise I think my family might find me one day buried under a fluttering piles of paper scraps and sticky notes, whimpering softly. So I moved everything out of the study and started to sort through it.

And what did I find?

A couple of short story notes, a page of Ambeth ideas, some scribbles about Silver and Black. An email from a friend that I’d missed, some drawings from my daughter plus a poem she’d written about me (the best!), three notebooks, some empty file sleeves (now put to use holding those story ideas), a couple of photographs, and some reference notes about publications looking for short stories. I also found dust and picture hooks and pens and sharpeners, a nail file and some (clean) tissues. Papers that should have gone in the bin ages ago, plus more papers that needed to be filed. A reminder to do my taxes, an invitation needing a reply, and a couple of receipts.

img_3731So I filed and sorted and threw away, and now I have a desk much cleaner and clearer than before, a nice space in which to get back to work. I’ve been trying to sort out my next Ambeth book and am hoping this will create the space for me to do so, both physically and mentally.

Which leads to the one sort of cleaning I don’t mind doing. Meditation. For me it’s the mental equivalent of clearing out my desk. I realise it’s not for everyone – it’s just something that happens to work for me. I miss it when I don’t do it, and I feel calmer when I do. Even just a few minutes each day makes a difference. I find when I sit and let thoughts tumble through my mind I can then decide, in a space of calmness, whether to keep them, file them, or let them go. And then, once things are clear and sorted, I’m free to focus elsewhere.

img_0938It’s evening now. I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post, yet here I am, sitting at my nice clean desk, words appearing on the page. I think, despite my aversion, doing a little cleaning can sometimes be a good thing.

Happy weekend, everyone!


You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, and check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest Page for book info, photos, blogs and more.

Plus check out my latest release, A Thousand Rooms, now available on Amazon.

A Head Full Of Should

Winter is coming...

I woke up today with a head full of ‘should.’

Mondays often start that way – a list of things running through my mind, hopeful of accomplishment during the week, usually sadly disappointed. ‘Should’ is often ignored. Today, however, ‘should’ feels louder, and more urgent.

It’s not completely a bad thing. There are, after all, things I ‘should’ be doing. Things I really need to be getting on with, to be honest. But the word ‘should’ and I don’t get along too well. It’s a word I find to be heavy with guilt and expectation, scrabbling fox cub claws in my belly. It’s a word that makes me go ‘why should I?’ in a whiny inner voice, a weird sort of self-sabotage, perhaps, or an instinctive bucking against any sort of restraint.

Somebody recently suggested to me that I replace ‘I should’ with ‘I choose to.’ So I did. And it does make a difference. ‘I choose to’ feels lighter, somehow, and as if I might actually have some control over the proceedings. There is no guilt, no devil on my shoulder nagging – rather, there is the calmness of conscious choice. It’s really rather nice.

However, ‘should’ is a hard habit to break. And so there are days when it comes back to ride me once more, driving me to the embrace of the sofa and crisps, rather than the work I should, I mean, I choose to be doing.

Well, enough of my Monday musings. The day is almost over now, and it’s time to share this post. Not because I should, you understand, but because I choose to ;-D

Wishing you all a happy week x

 

Take The Scenic Route

IMG_2301There are a lot of articles around these days about “Life Hacks’. Ways to do things quickly, so you can move on to the next thing and not waste any precious time. Some of them are actually pretty cool and useful, but at the same time I feel that, as the pace of life grows ever faster, we are losing our capacity to wait for things, to work for things, to enjoy the reward that comes after time spent moving towards something. You see it in queues, in shops and restaurants, people getting frustrated when they can’t have what they want straight away, instant gratification, constant moving between this screen and that screen, updating emails, Instagram, Facebook. Hack, hackity, hack.

I’ve studied martial arts for many years and one of the basic tenets is that ‘The journey is the reward.’ That the years you spend training, improving your technique, working with other students, mastering breathing and focus and control and becoming the best person you can be, is the real reward. At the end of it, sure, you get a belt. A signifier of the journey taken, a signpost in the road. But black belt is only the beginning. There are levels above it requiring even more study and dedication. You can’t hack this stuff. And I believe that to be true of creative endeavours as well. Of course there are always going to be prodigies, people in whom talent shines so bright it is oozing from their pores at an early age, their lives dedicated to that one thing that fills them. But for most of us creativity grows and changes as we do – the things we write or create or dream a product of our experiences, of the journey we’ve been on. And writing a book is a journey in itself. Resting your manuscript is essential, it really is. For a minimum of six weeks. You can’t ‘hack’ this, there’s no way around it, you need to leave it alone.

I sometimes think about ‘what might have been.’ I think most of us do. About what would have happened if I’d chosen a different path. Sacha Black wrote a post the other day asking us why we write, and I responded by saying I wrote stories where characters explore choice and consequences, how one act or decision can change everything. This was actually a bit of an eye-opener to me. While I knew this already on a sub-conscious level, it was interesting to acknowledge it and put it into words. I suppose when they say, ‘write what you know,’ perhaps they mean ‘write what you want to explore.’

So, when I chose not to do the Creative Writing degree I was offered at eighteen, I set myself on a different path. But I don’t think I’d be the writer I am today if I hadn’t had the life I’ve had. That all the years in jobs I really didn’t love, the time spent travelling, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced, have brought me to this point. I know that I’m fortunate to have had a lot of choice in life, and so I choose not to hack any of it. It’s far too much of a gift to fritter away.

I’ll end with a Douglas Adams quote I particularly enjoy: ‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’

This is an updated version of a post first published in 2014, when my blog dwelt alone in a barren wasteland, and no-one ever came to visit. I’ve re-worked the first two paragraphs, but the rest is new.