A Blogging Blip and an Anniversary

Yesterday, as I usually do on a Wednesday, I put together my latest Wednesday Wander post and hit Publish.

But a funny thing happened. While my dashboard assured me that the post was, in fact, published, when I clicked the link to view it all I got was:

Oops, this page doesn’t seem to be here.

Strange, I thought. I went back into the dashboard, thinking perhaps I’d left the page too quickly, negating something mysterious in the process of click to publication. But my post was there, still insisting it was, in fact, published. I could update it if I wanted to, but it was definitely out there.

Except it wasn’t.

After trying a few more times I gave up. Perhaps the Happiness Engineers were tinkering with something, or perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. I went to bed, planning on looking at it again this morning.

But when I woke up, there it was. My shiny new post, published as promised. Whichever gremlin had been holding it had released it from their claws. So that’s one less thing I need to do today.

There is plenty to do around the house this morning, but I plan on taking a moment of reflection. For today is an anniversary. Six years ago I returned to the UK, my family in tow, arriving on a snowy dark day to the land of my birth. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we stayed in Australia. I’m not sure if I’d be writing the books I’m writing. I’m quite sure there are several wonderful friends I would never have met. But, as Aslan says, we are never meant to know ‘What if.’

I’m happy that we’re here, even though there are dear friends and family I miss in Australia. That is the lot of a wanderer, I suppose. And so today I will pause, to reflect on the past and celebrate the present.

Hope your day is wonderful, wherever you are 🙂


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Thank You

It’s evening. The time of day when I’m usually working (other than during the day, when I’m at work). Working, over the past few months, has been editing and formatting and writing, leaving not much time for blog posts or visiting around. I did write a short post the day before yesterday, with some updates on things I’ve been doing, and as soon as I did so comments appeared, people wishing me well, smiles from across the blogosphere travelling to my little space.

I love this blogging community, I honestly do. Blogging has, without exaggeration, changed my life. When I wrote my first post, about three and a half years ago, I had no idea of the journey I was beginning.

I called this blog Journey to Ambeth because it was going to be about writing. All about writing. About me writing books, about the things I learned about writing along the way. But, like so much in life, it has grown and changed into something more, encompassing travel and short stories and ideas and dreams, a space where I can express myself however I choose to do so.

But the biggest thing, the absolute best thing about blogging, has been the people I’ve met along the way. People from across the globe, many of whom I’ve now met in person. Others with whom I’ve had only virtual conversations, yet I know that, when I meet them, it will be like seeing an old friend. I’ve NaNo-d with them, celebrated new releases and publishing deals and life’s milestones, tramped hillsides and stone circles, blogged and bashed and learnt so much, experienced incredible generosity and kindness. I’ve made friends for life, friends I would probably never have met if it wasn’t for writing those first few words.

And I am grateful every day for it. So I just wanted to say thank you 🙂

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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.

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 8 – Farewell

So this was it. The final stop on my weekend with the Silent Eye, not far from where it had begun for me, two days earlier. We were very close to Aberdeen airport, but, other than the occasional plane or helicopter overhead, you wouldn’t have known it.

We were standing on high ground overlooking a river that turned, serpent-like, through a green landscape. A huge boulder sat on the edge of the drop and across the river from us were several homes, nestled among trees. Behind us was a ruined church, roof and windows long gone. Yet it still held secrets.

We went into the tidy churchyard, rows of stone monuments to war dead from both sides reminders of a not-too-distant past. The church itself, dedicated to St Fergus, was built of grey stone, weathered by time like the grave markers surrounding it. Interesting that it was the second church of the weekend – sacred places in the landscape were often overtaken by others as beliefs changed, often as part of the process and against the wishes of the community.

Yet symbols and relics remain, and inside the church were several such reminders of a far more distant past – the Dyce symbol stones. Carved Pictish stones, once again marked with the mysterious symbols we had seen on the Maiden stone and others, stood against the wall just inside the door, a small wooden overhang protecting them from the worst of the elements.

There was a double disc and z-rod, and another of the mysterious beasts that look like a cross between a bull and a dolphin, their message obscured by the passage of years. There were Christian symbols too, reminders of a time when Christianity and mystery dwelt side-by-side. On another carved stone set into the wall itself, white quartz pebbles had been left in offering, a nod to a much older belief system.

After spending some time in the chapel we went back out to where the land rose high above the river Don, one of two rivers from which Aberdeen takes its name. We stood in a circle around the large boulder, water below us, the sky wide above, and shared readings and reflection, a last opportunity to consider all that we had seen and experienced over the weekend.

All too soon, it was farewell. We split up into separate cars, with plans to meet down the road for tea and a last chat. However, roadworks scuppered that plan, sending us in different directions until we realised we had no choice but to simply keep going. I ended up at the airport earlier than expected, finding it strange to be all at once alone. However, I’d booked into the lounge so spent a comfortable afternoon watching planes and helicopters take off and land, still half in a dreamworld of mist and rain and dark Scottish pines, grey stones humming with power and warmth. It seemed a million miles from the modern world of steel and internet, and perhaps, in some way, it was.

Later, as I flew above cloudscapes coloured by the setting sun, I reflected on the weekend I’d just spent, the joy of spending time with companions known and the pleasure of meeting companions new. It seemed to me that it would take some time for me to process all I’d experienced and so it has been, this final post coming some six weeks after the fact. Even now, I can feel the resonance of that weekend, of lessons I think I’m still learning on a lot of levels. Scotland was a challenging land, a land that did not compromise, that refused to conform. Yet it was also a place of great beauty and welcome, and somewhere I instantly fell for, no matter the weather it threw at me.

I can’t wait to go back.

This is the final instalment of my account of a recent weekend away in Scotland with The Silent Eye. Click here to read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six and part seven.


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 Ramble In More Ways Than One

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week! Not because I didn’t have anywhere to write about, but because I’ve been deep into Ambeth these past two weeks, doing a fine toothcomb edit of Under Stone, the fourth instalment in the series. The story has taken me over again and I’ve been immersed fully into it, emerging only to eat, sleep, go to work and take care of my (slightly bemused) family. Oh, and watch Game of Thrones, of course, because DRACARYS – how good was the last episode? It took me a day to recover, I swear.

However, last night I edited the final word in the final chapter, and so this morning I decided to take a break and walk to work along the canal, something I’ve not had the chance to do for a few weeks. Not much had changed along there – it was still green, lush branches almost trailing in the still water in some places, creating archways over the slightly muddy path. There were more ripe blackberries than before, reminding me to bring a container next time I walk that way, their juicy goodness destined for my freezer and winter pies. But mostly, it was just the same.

And that was just what I needed. A reminder of the real world. Not so far removed from the green gardens and hidden pathways of Ambeth, but real enough. The grey heron was in his usual spot on the fallen tree at the widest part of the canal, preening his feathers in the sunshine. Canada geese, ducks and swans sailed past, silver fish jumped, canal boats reflected in the dark waters. As I walked I felt in some way as though I were waking up again, from a self-imposed slumber where all I did was dream of another land.

This afternoon after work I watched the gorgeous girl in a show, caught up with friends and had dinner with my family. Later, I might take my tea and sit in the garden as dusk falls, watching the sky change colour and listening to the rustle of birds as I cradle my cup close, enjoying the warmth. The nights are cool, even though it’s August, a hint of autumn around the corner, my favourite time of year. The Perseid meteor shower is happening now, with the peak expected this weekend. If I can, I’ll sit out and watch the stars fall – I did so years ago, driving out to the countryside and sitting in the darkness, light streaking across the sky above. I’ve never forgotten it.

And then it’s back to work. A final edit, some work on the cover design and a few other related items, as well as another story begging to be completed. There are blog posts to write, as well, people to visit in their online domains. But for tonight I think I’ll just sit and consider, taking a moment to breathe and remember who I am before I dive back in again.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend 🙂


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.

How Pinterest Boosted My Blogging Stats (with a little help from my friend)

Even though I’ve been blogging for three years now, I’m still finding my way around some of the other social media platforms. There are so many it can be difficult to find time to work across all of them, especially if you want to, you know, actually get some writing done.

One platform I’d been hearing a lot about, especially from other bloggers, was Pinterest. I’d heard of it years ago, via a designer friend, but hadn’t ever bothered to look into it. It wasn’t until my soon to be sister-in–law was pinning wedding ideas and invited me to take a look, that I decided to set up an account.

Once set up I pinned a few blog posts, set up a couple of boards, followed some people and left it at that. I didn’t really get any blog views from the site, and I just didn’t have any time to put into it. That was, until a few months ago, when I had a lovely catch up with some blogger friends, including Suzie from Suzie Speaks. Pinterest came up again and the exchange went something like this:

Suzie: ‘How’s your Pinterest page going?’

Me: ‘Well, let’s put it this way – I have three followers, and two of them are sitting on this couch.’

Needless to say, Suzie soon set me straight as to how important Pinterest could be to my blog (well, once she stopped laughing she did). I took her comments on board and started to spend a little more time there, sharing posts and making my images look more enticing (or at least, attempting to). But I still wasn’t really getting anywhere.

Suzie, in the meantime, had been very helpful with suggestions and, taking a look at her own successful Pinterest account, I wondered whether I might benefit from some more targeted assistance. As it turned out, Suzie offered a Pinterest management program where she would, for a monthly fee, work with me to update my Pinterest page. So I signed on.

Suzie and I discussed my likes and dislikes, and the sort of things I’d like to pin. I wandered around Pinterest, losing myself down the occasional wormhole of vintage fashion or travel. Suzie recommended the types of boards to create that would attract new followers, as well as other ways to maximise the account, and I began to make connections. With her help and expert eye my boards were optimised and organised, with shiny new pins created using the Canva app. Suzie also set me up with a group blogging board, as well as joining other blogging boards (something I didn’t even know I could do on Pinterest!).

And the proof, it seems, is in the numbers. We started in January, when my total blog Pinterest views for the month were zero. In February they went up to 75 views, in March 182, then in April 266. The trend continued upward – in May I had 378 views, June 422, and in July they hit an all-time high of 597 views from Pinterest alone!  My followers on Pinterest have gone from 3 to 721, which is pretty amazing, plus I’ve met some great new bloggers, which has been a nice bonus.

In summary, if you’re thinking of adding another social media account to your blogging arsenal, consider Pinterest. And if, like me, you’re not quite sure how to get started, look at getting some help. I’ve certainly found it to be worthwhile!

For more information about Suzie, her blogging tips and social media management options, head over to her blog at suzie81speaks.com. Make sure you say hi; she’s lovely!


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.

The Bloggers Bash – 2017!

Ali Isaac, Sherri Matthews and your truly

This time last week my bag was packed, my outfit chosen, and I was looking forward to attending another Bloggers Bash. I’d decided to stay over this year, as in previous years it all seemed to end too quickly, conversations cut short as the day flashed by.

And I’m so glad I did. The day dawned sunny and bright, and I headed into London on the train, getting off the Tube one stop early so I could walk through the streets to the hotel. As I came into Vincent Square I was greeted by the bucolic vista of the Westminster Boy’s School cricket ground (at least, I think that was what it was called) – hard to believe I was in the heart of London.

When I got to the hotel the first person I saw was Ali Isaac, my roommate for the night. And before our squeals of greeting were finished I saw Noelle from Sayling Away… After that it was a bit of a blur, seeing old friends from previous years, including Graeme Cumming, Lucy from Blondewritemore, Suzie from Suzie Speaks and Sue Vincent, who I hadn’t seen since the Silent Eye weekend I attended last September. I also met other bloggers for the first time, including Sally Cronin, Ellen Best, Elouise De Souza and the lovely Allie Potts – such a pleasure to turn digital conversations into real ones. And of course the rest of the committee – Hugh, Geoff and Sacha – I know I’m going to leave out some names so I do apologise. Let’s just say it was a fantastic crowd of bloggers from all over the world!

The day began with awards, then we were treated to the first of two masterclasses. This was presented by Suzie from Suzie Speaks, about how to monetize your blog. Her ideas were simple yet effective, and certainly gave me food for thought. Then Elena Peters, Canadian Pinterest queen extraordinaire, gave an inspiring class on how to use Pinterest in conjunction with your blog. Both classes were well worth the ticket asking price – in fact, I would have paid more to see both as they were so informative. More awards were given out, Lucy and I managed to sneak out for a lovely chatty lunch in  a cafe down the road, there was a lively panel discussion and Ritu won Best Overal Blog (as well as baking a wonderful array of cakes for the event – where does she find the time!?)

All too soon it was over and people began to disperse. But, instead of being one of the people leaving, I checked into my lovely hotel room and returned to the lobby, where the rest of those who were staying had congregated. I had a chat with the wonderfully effervescent Susie Lindau, then a group of us wandered out into the warm evening to find dinner and continue the conversation, which lasted, one way or another, into the night.

Me, Allie Potts and Lucy Mitchell

The next morning, after breakfast, Ali and I checked out and walked to Victoria Station, where Ali went on to the airport and I took the Tube to Euston and then home, getting in around lunch time. It was over, for another year… I had the most fabulous time and can’t wait for the next one (June 9th, in case any of you are planning to attend). Congratulations to all the award winners!

PS I also saw Christoph Fischer, Icy Sedgewick, Shelley Wilson, Steve Tanham, Adam Dixon, Marjorie Mallon, Sherri Matthews, Jools Lawson, Lance Greenfield… Sorry, I know I’m forgetting people – it was such a fabulous crowd!


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.

Mad March

I was a bit absent from blogland last month. I seem to be saying that a lot this year, mainly because my work situation has changed, but I was still finding time to check in every once in a while – at least until March came along.

But what a month it was! I can’t complain because it was wonderful. The first weekend happened to coincide with my birthday, and I decided to go to Paris with a dear friend just arrived from Australia. We had a marvellous time despite the rain and a delay on the Eurostar heading back – Paris is truly one of my favourite cities.

The next weekend was spent in London, a family wedding taking us into Shoreditch and to an ancient church for the ceremony. The old Courthouse, now a hotel, was home to family and friends for the weekend and it was an interesting place, the bar still featuring the old holding cells decorated with images of some of their most famous inmates.

The next week saw things return to a semblance of normality, though we were off again on Sunday to see family, then a snot monster descended and held me hostage for most of the following week. It did lead to some interesting writing, but was pretty awful for everything else.

However, I felt better once the weekend arrived, which was a good thing. It was Mothering Sunday and we’d decided to go on a family adventure, visiting Stonehenge on the Saturday and continuing on to the beautiful city of Bath for the night. We ate pizza, visited the ancient Roman baths and wandered the streets, taking in the sights. The weather was glorious, sunny spring days and clear nights, the warm golden stone of the city lit by fairy lights. I absolutely loved it.

And I’ve also been writing, finally finishing the edit for my fourth Ambeth book and sending it out for a second beta read. The responses are coming in now and are (thank goodness) mostly good – just a few small adjustments to make before it goes to the editor.

So I guess this is a long way of saying I’ve been away and now I’m back, looking forward to spending some time visiting in blogland again. Although I did sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month – what was I thinking…?

Happy weekend, everyone! xx


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.

Wednesday Wander, Sacre Coeur, Paris

sacre-coeur-1It’s my birthday in a few weeks’ time, and I’m very excited about it. Not so much for the event itself – I mean, I still quite like birthdays, but they do seem to be adding up in recent years. The reason I’m so excited is that one of my best friends from Australia is coming for a visit, and she and I are going to Paris for the weekend. We’ve booked rooms in a charming small hotel where we’ve both stayed before, although not at the same time, we have seats on the Eurostar, and really, it’s going to be lovely.

The hotel we’re staying in is not far from the Montmartre district and the imposing dome of Sacre Coeur. There is also a nearby street market where, last time I visited, oranges still with their leaves were piled high on tables, while the scent of fresh bread and raspberries filled the air.

sacre-coeur-2Construction on Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, started in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Built as both penance and memorial for the 1871 defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War, the basilica is located high on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s a beautiful building and the interior is spectacular, with four huge stone angels inside the large dome looking down at the worshippers – however, I wasn’t able to take any photographs. A perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted there since 1885, and so for that reason visitors are asked to dress appropriately, be as quiet as possible and take no interior photos, so as not to disturb the worshippers.

The view outside is also spectacular, and you can see Paris in all directions. My then four-year-old daughter took the photo below – I think the view impressed her too.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Paris again, and hope to visit a few other destinations this year. Of course, I’ll share them with you. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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.

Wishing Everyone A Happy New Year!

This was the first dawn of 2016...

Photo taken on the first dawn of 2016…

It’s the last day of the year and so, as is tradition, I’m taking a look back at my blogging year. Oh, I won’t be sharing stats or anything like that – rather, just revisiting some popular posts and summing up my 2016 blogging experience.

For it has been an experience indeed! This year I’ve met some wonderful new bloggers, many of whom have chosen to follow Journey to Ambeth. Thank you to everyone who decided to take the journey with me – your comments and input are so very appreciated.

I also released two new books this year; Hills And Valleys, the third in my Ambeth series, and A Thousand Rooms, a standalone novel. I was amazed by the support of the blogging community, who shared, commented and reblogged, helping me to reach an even larger audience. Thank you so much!

In June I attended the second annual Bloggers Bash in London. I’d attended the original Bash in 2015, where we’d all bonded over lunch in Pizza Express before heading to a local pub. This year we had a room to ourselves in (another) rather nice pub, more than double the number of attendees than the previous year, and the charming Luca from WordPress giving a talk about blogging. I reconnected with old blogging friends and met new blogging friends, as well as being nominated for an award. (I didn’t win, but it was awesome just to be nominated!) Here’s to the the 2017 Bash – can’t wait!

In September I spent a magical weekend in the hills with Sue from The Daily Echo, then November saw an evening of laughter, magic and writing talk with the fabulous Suzie from Suzie Speaks, Lucy from Blondewritemore and Sacha Black. To say that blogging has changed my life would not be an exaggeration – I’ve made some truly wonderful friends and really enjoy being part of such a wonderful online community.

So, as the year winds to a close, here are the ten posts that seemed to resonate most with readers:

Memory Box – I wrote this post way back in January, about a chance discovery during a new year house clean.

Stuck Writing Your Author Bio? Try The (Totally Not Serious) Author Bio Generator – Probably my most popular post of the year, I wrote this as a bit of a piss-take after reading several rather, shall we say, overwrought author bios. However, turns out the Author Bio Generator actually works! Try it and see…

Thinking Aloud – this post was a close second to being most popular, and was written as a response to the idea that, as artists, we should be happy to work for free to gain ‘exposure.’

Hills and Valleys – New Release – self-explanatory, really. However, a very popular post, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Old Meets New, With Bonus Orb – this is one of those posts that just keeps on going. I think I had someone like it just the other day. It was written after a trip to London with a friend, where we were struck by the juxtaposition of architecture in the oldest part of the city. More fun than it sounds, I promise!

What Happens Next? – This post was inspired by a comment Craig Boyack made on one of my Thursday Door posts. He started a story based on my photograph, I wrote a short response, he kept going, then we decided to open it up to everyone. The resulting story was published, in all its glory, in the follow-up post The Crypt – Completed.

Circles Beyond Time – Arrival. This was the first post in my series about a weekend away in the Peak District with the Silent Eye. It was an extraordinary weekend for many reasons…

When The Forest Calls – this was a rambling, stream-of-consciousness sort of post. I’d had a day of doing this and that, but was trying to decide what to write about. And the forest was calling…

Published! A Thousand Rooms – one of the most popular posts for the year, and I’m so grateful to everyone who shared it around.

Under The Moon – this was one of Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompts, and I wrote a piece of prose about a woman and her dream under a full moon. Or was it a dream…?

Wishing each and every one of you a healthy, happy and bright new year – may 2017 bring us all that we wish for! Looking forward to seeing you all in blogland and beyond…  xx


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.

 

 

Writers In The Attic, Friends Around The World

sometimes-all-you-need-is-a-friendToday I’m quite honoured to be visiting author Louise Allan’s blog, as part of her Writers in the Attic series. Please do pop over and take a look, and also check out some of the other writers featured in the series – each of them have a story to tell, whether it’s about how they came to be writers, what writing means to them, and how they approach the creative process.

In her introduction, Louise talks about the idea of penpals, and how our digital friendships fostered through blog posts and email are the modern equivalent – I would absolutely agree. Through messages, comments and emails, Louise and I have forged a friendship I value, and I know that one day, when we eventually meet, we’ll greet each other as old friends.

In fact, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet some wonderful friends through this site, with whom I might never have otherwise connected. And so I just wanted to say thank you.

Happy Monday, everyone 🙂