A Wild Spirit

It is with sorrow that I write of the passing of Sue Vincent. I often say that blogging has changed my life, and that is absolutely true – what started as a little place to write about writing and whatever was on my mind became so much more, the friendships I’ve made here ones that will last a lifetime. Sue was one such friend. While I didn’t get to spend much time with her in the ‘real world’, I feel truly blessed to have known her. My heart goes out to Stuart, and her family, and all those who loved her.

Sue was someone who often seemed to be magic, a fairy dancing across the hills in dainty shoes and flowing skirts, while the rest of us trudged along behind her in hiking boots and wet-weather gear. Yet she was real, and down to earth, warm and generous and kind, and gave the most wonderful hugs.

When I first heard of her diagnosis, I wrote a post about it. You can read it here. But really, head over to her blog, or that of The Silent Eye, and read all the beautiful words she wrote from her heart, of life and magic and mystery and love, of gentle teachings and magical journeys through the landscape, and of course, the small dog.

She will be greatly missed.

Stuff And Nonsense

They're called storage boxes because they're for storing stuff, right?

They’re called storage boxes because they’re for storing stuff, right?

It may surprise you to know that I can be a bit of a hoarder. Even with all the moving I’ve done, there are still things that move from house to house in boxes and tubs then head straight into the loft or cupboards, unopened. Sure, some of them are sentimental items that I don’t want to get rid of, but there are plenty of boxes of other things that have no rhyme or reason as to why I need to keep them. Over the years I’ve become better at letting things go, and Marie Kondo’s Magic of Tidying inspired me to clear out a whole load more, but there is still enough in our attic to provide a whole layer of extra insulation for our house.

Because I might need it all one day, you see. I’m not sure where this sense of a potential post-apocalyptic world where I can no longer get linen napkins or random boxes of books has come from, but there it is. And I have, on occasion, been proven right. Many years ago, at a jumble sale in Sydney, I bought three decorative pierced wall plaques, obviously taken from an old home. I think I had an idea of hanging them on the wall as art, but it never happened. So they stayed wrapped in a box through subsequent moves back to Melbourne, to the South coast, and then to the UK. When we bought our most recent house, we redecorated and renovated it top to bottom (a process that’s still ongoing). A couple of the wall vents upstairs needed new covers – hey presto, my decorative panels finally found a use, fifteen years later.

I do wonder if my propensity to hang onto things is an extension of how I work creatively. I saw an interview with the late great David Bowie where he stated he was ‘a collector.’ That is, he collected ideas and images and details, which he then used as a starting point to create his own unique style. This was something that resonated with me. While I am by no means an artist of the stature of Bowie, I can relate to the idea of collecting. My Ambeth stories were inspired by a single incident that happened to me when I was a child, then embellished with other details drawn from my life, as well as drawing on the influence of fantasy writers before me, of places I’ve visited and things that I’ve done, living on as fragments of memory and dream. Other stories I have underway also draw on places and people and things that I’ve seen and done and held – collected imagery inserted into a whole new picture, held together with a new idea.

None of us create in a vacuum. We are all part of the same world, with access to the same ideas and images and places to visit. Yet each of us has our own vision of how we choose to interpret the things we encounter. It’s why some people are passionate about collecting thimbles, for example, while others search out concert wristbands, or eccentric hats. It is what speaks to us at our creative core.

So you see, all this stuff gathering dust in my attic isn’t junk. It’s art, right? At least, that’s what I’m going to tell my husband next time he asks…

City Of Dreams

IMG_0219Last night I visited the city again.

A city without a name, yet one which I visit often and know well. Where a river runs through to the ocean and killer whales beach themselves on the shore, where a walk can leave you hanging at the edge of a perilous drop, and the only way forward is to let go. Where familiar streets from other cities join together into a strange new whole, where I know the way but am often lost.

This time was no different. I had a job, and on the way home the subway did the thing it does so often, the track peeling away to turn along an unfamiliar route, leaving me stranded far from where I wanted to be. I knew how to get back, so my faceless companion and I took the walkway through the Asian market, past scented wood and spice and flowers, to end up dangling above city streets before letting go, fear and exhilaration screaming through us as we sailed down to the streets below.

I woke to the yowl of a cat in the street outside, the familiar humped shape of my husband warm comfort as I shuddered with the aftermath of the dream. Then I went to find sleep again. And I was back in my city, though this time twenty five stories up in a building that may or may not have been burning, with people who, for some unfathomable reason, wouldn’t take the stairs with me.

I woke once more, this time to my alarm.

It’s a strange place, my city of dreams, and yet I know it well. I know if I am driving that the road will be endlessly circuitous and choked with cars, never getting me to my destination. That the buildings are a mix of ancient and modern, that whales call in the blue water nearby, salt spray dashing against the stone walls and railings. If I go out of the city to the nearby mountains, another town awaits. One of stone and twisting streets, castellated walls and golden lit windows, shops filled with gleaming merchandise.

It is a place of fear and beauty, my city of dreams.

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.



Letting Go


The light at the end of the publishing tunnel…

I’ve had a few days away from my blog, mainly because I’ve been concentrating on setting up the manuscript for my book. I’m publishing through Createspace, the Amazon print-on-demand platform and, to be honest, it’s been pretty easy so far. I chose my size, downloaded a formatted template and started loading the text. I copied it over one chapter at a time and, besides a small formatting issue (why, Microsoft Word, would I want a line space after every paragraph and line of dialogue? Really?), it’s looking pretty good, if I say so myself. So the last step is to upload and finish the cover template, then, I guess, I can press Publish and that’s it. I’ll be published.

Which is a bit, just a tiny bit, scary.

Many of you who read my blog are writers and most of you have published already, so perhaps you know what I’m talking about. That moment before your work goes live, before you send it out into the world and it is no longer in your control. But I’m going to do it, of course I am. It’s why I’m writing stories, after all. And I’ve done all I can to make this the best product it can be – I’ve had it edited, a professional cover designed and, hopefully and most importantly, written a half-decent story. So it’s time to let go.

I guess this might be why some people refer to their books as their children, or describe birthing a novel. It’s not as intense, of course it isn’t, but it is a similar feeling. As my girl gets older and has to find her own way in the world, I have to slowly let go. Of course she will always be mine but her life will eventually become her own, so to speak. And so it is with my first book. I will send it out there and then it’s on its own. Open to criticism, to unscrupulous people who might copy it without leave, left to sink or swim. I will do all I can to help it, of course. Spread the word. Try to guide it as best I can. And, hopefully, there will be good things as well. Positive reviews. Sales (a few, at least). Sequels to come. More books in the future to keep it company out there. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty excited about it all too. I just have to get on with it.

They say with so many things that the first time is the hardest, and so I think it might be with publishing a book. Have any of you felt the same way?

PS I’m also planning an e-book version as well – will let you all know when it’s out there!