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.

Wednesday Wander – Ellis Island, New York

There is something quite magical, even on a cold and snowy day, about sailing the narrow strip of water past the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island, with Manhattan in all its glory to the right. It must have been an incredibly exciting, emotional sight for the more than twelve million immigrants who arrived in New York City between 1892 and 1954. However, their journey wasn’t quite over – they still had to pass through immigration which, in those days, meant stopping at nearby Ellis Island.

Ellis Island, named for its eighteenth century owner, Samuel Ellis, was for 62 years the entry point for migrants coming across the Atlantic to the United States. After voyages that could, in some cases, take months, each weary traveller had to carry their possessions through the echoing halls, be examined and questioned and sorted before being allowed access to the tantalisingly close mainland. It must have been heartbreaking for those who had travelled all that distance, leaving all they loved behind, to be turned away almost at the gates, so to speak, the glittering city so close by denying them entry for whatever reason they deemed fair. Yet for all that, Ellis Island was not the haunted place I imagined it to be before I visited – rather, the story there seems to be one of success, of the countless migrants who chose to chase the American dream, many of them finding success and prosperity enough to send for their extended families.

The current buildings on Ellis Island were opened in 1900, after a fire destroyed the original timber buildings in 1897, only five years after they’d been built. Immigration records dating back to 1855 were also lost in the fire, and for several years, while the new buildings were being constructed, the Barge Office at nearby Battery Park was used as the processing station for new arrivals. Once the new buildings were in place, immigrants once again had to stop at the island before being allowed entry to the United States. New arrivals were asked 29 questions by officials, including their name, occupation, and how much money they had, as they were expected to have enough to support themselves. Anyone with visible illnesses or poor health was sent home or held in the nearby hospital, even if the rest of their family had been approved to enter the United States.

In the vaulted Great Hall, migrants were checked for a variety of conditions (including one harrowing check which involved scraping the eyeball with a metal hook!), then sorted into sections to be sent their separate ways. On the day we visited, the hall was almost deserted – it was hard to imagine how noisy it must have been when full, or how many different languages once echoed beneath its lofty ceiling.

In some ways, the Hall itself was a symbol of the American dream. Our guide told us that the beautiful tiles lining the ceiling and floors were made by a family who had passed through the hall themselves only a few years earlier, bringing their expertise in tilemaking from the old world to the new, and finding such success that their products were soon in demand across the country, making them millionaires.

Across the water from the arrivals hall are the hospital and quarantine buildings, which have not yet been restored. It is possible to tour them, though, arranged through prior booking and while wearing a hard hat. We chose not to do so, instead following our guide out to where a curving wall of steel bore the names of all those recorded as having passed through the island to a new life in America.

The city gleamed in the distance, Liberty holding her torch to guide weary travellers with her promise of freedom and justice for all. It was an extraordinary place, with stories enough to fill several libraries, I would imagine. I’m glad I got to see it.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you all next time…


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 🙂

New Year, New Book! Launch Day for Under Stone

What better way to start the new year than with a brand new book? Under Stone, the fourth instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles, is now live on Amazon! Get your copy here.

‘Help will come to you, Alma, you will not be alone.’

Accepting her new powers hasn’t been easy for Alma. Nor has finding out the truth about her father. And she’s still not sure about the prophecy, or about going back to Ambeth. But the Dark are gathering, Denoris on her trail. Deryck hasn’t forgotten about her either… Events past and present converge on a small Welsh town as Alma, and the Dark, choose their path. Who will reach the Cup first?

I’m thrilled to be starting the year with a new title and, for those of you who are new to Ambeth, Oak and Mist, the first book in the series, is 99p/99c to download in the Kindle store, but only until the end of January.

So what are you waiting for? New year, new series – take a journey to Ambeth.

 

Journey To Ambeth And Beyond…

Have you ever wondered why I decided to call my blog, `Journey To Ambeth’?

Ambeth is the fantasy world I created as part of my Ambeth Chronicles – however, when I started blogging a little over three years ago, the books were just drafts and I hadn’t published anything. A friend was starting a blog and I thought I might too – I saw it as a chance to write regularly, and to document a process that was new to me, as well as share anything I learned along the way. I remember hitting publish as I shared my first post, the fear and exhilaration that my words were out in the world for anyone to read.

My early posts were all about writing, in one way or another, and most of my early followers had something to sell. But eventually, I made real connections that have now developed into friendships I value greatly, despite the fact we may never actually meet. And when we do meet? You only have to read my Bloggers Bash posts to see how much fun we have, and how it feels like walking into a room of friends, rather than people I’ve never met before.

A journey indicates travel of some sort, moving from one place to another. Those places do not necessarily have to exist on a map for such a transition to take place. For me, the journey started as one of writing, but has evolved.

Now, of course, Ambeth is just one of the fantasy worlds I explore and my blog is about so much more than writing. It’s a place where I can share snippets of my days, interact with other bloggers, respond to writing prompts and of course travel, on my weekly Wednesday Wanders. But at its heart, it is still documenting a journey – thank you to all of you who have decided to travel with me.

Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend!


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.

Kyrielle Poetry Challenge – Dreaming Trees

Jane's Painting

I’ve said before I don’t fancy myself as any sort of poet, nor is it a writing form I’ve much explored. However, lately, there have been a few blog challenges that have led me to respond in poetry, rather than prose, and I’ve really enjoyed doing so. The latest one is from Jane Dougherty, and the challenge is to write a kyrielle based on the image above, using the words moonlight, tread, wary, secret and swaying.

If you don’t know (and I didn’t, I had to look it up), a kyrielle is a poem comprised of four line stanzas, where each line has to have eight syllables and the end line is repeated in each verse. There are apparently other forms as well, but this is the one I went with. And here is my effort:

The road runs soft into the night
Bathed bright in silver-gold moonlight
But hold! Be wary where you tread
We know not what might lie ahead

The way is clear, the path is true
A journey set for me and you
To take us far from home and bed
We know not what might lie ahead

Swaying branches, a voice unseen,
Are we awake? Or do we dream?
The stars are bright, the darkness dread
We know not what might lie ahead

A secret lies where daylight meets
The dark of night in sunrise sweet
A shout of light to raise the dead
We know not what might lie ahead

We know not what might lie ahead.

 

#writephoto – The Glade

dancing-trees

I do love Sue’s photo prompts – her photos are so evocative, and she gets such a wide range of responses in different styles and genres. My response this week is… well, I guess it’s sort of a poem. I don’t fancy myself as any sort of poet, though, so perhaps it’s more, these are the words that came to me when I saw this image.

I walk,

Crack and snap

Of leaves underfoot,

Moss cool on my tattered skin.

The journey has been long,

And I a traveller

Through stars and time and shattered woodland

To this place where branches twist,

And stones tumble.

Sunlight golden

As I kneel, humbled.

At journey’s end.

To add an entry of your own, simply visit Sue’s blog for more details, then set a pingback to your post (making sure to post by May 25th). And don’t forget to use the #writephoto hashtag in your title!

Spreading My Wings

IMG_1181
Reflection like wings…

‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.’ Lao Tzu

I made my first tweet the other day.

I’d been resisting Twitter for a long while now, simply because I wasn’t sure what I’d have to contribute. But then a lovely post by Eilis Niamh (here) made me reconsider my position, as did the fact that a couple of things happened that I would have tweeted about, had I the chance to do so.

And of course I’ve just published my first book, and the above quote was kind of how I felt about it all. There are so many steps to take in this journey and I feel as though I’m only at the beginning, even though I’ve already written and published a book. I compare it to how it feels when you get your black belt – you realise that, even though you’ve trained for several years to get to this point, you are at the beginning again. That all the learning you’ve done to date was only the preface to all that there is to learn, and that the process goes on for as long as you do. There’s a reason I called this blog ‘Journey To Ambeth’, because I believe that the journey is as valuable as the end result.

I have many more books to write and publish. I still would like to have an agent, one day, but at the same time am content to navigate my own path for now. Ambeth is going to be a series of six books, plus I can feel a short story collection coming along as well. Then there are the other books, one almost written, the others simply collections of notes at this time, waiting until I can sit down and listen for their stories, then pass them on to you.

Thanks for reading, and for being on this journey with me.

Oh, and my Twitter name is @AuthorHelenJ

xx