Finding My Way Back #amwriting

I have a new desk.

For writers, this can be kind of a big deal.

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s a bit smaller than my other desk, which makes my tiny study feel bigger. There’s still room for my bits and pieces; trinket boxes, a set of vintage tins I use for pens, some interesting stones and feathers I’ve collected. However, I’ve had to clear out a load of papers, which is not a bad thing. I’ve found some treasure, like a list my daughter wrote a couple of years ago about her ‘Favourite times’. My favourite entry is ‘Being kept warm.’ Such a simple thing, yet to my small girl it was important enough to put on her list, and a reminder to me not to take such privilege for granted.

I also found a list of agents and publishers to whom I submitted Oak and Mist, when it was just a fledgling manuscript. It was in no way ready to be sent out, but I didn’t realise at the time, so I shoved it from its nest out into the big world. It came back to me thoroughly rejected, of course, although I did get a couple of requests for the full manuscript. It was a learning experience, if nothing else, and I suppose part of the process of being a writer.

There’s a lot to go through, and I’m still not quite finished. But I did discover one other thing, which I was very pleased to find. I found my way back. Back to writing again, to writing for my own pleasure as well as for others. This past year has been good for me – it’s challenged me and taken me out of my comfort zone. However, it’s come to an end and I’m happy to be back in my office once more.

In Stephen King’s On Writing (which I think is one of the best writing craft books I’ve read), he talks about returning to writing after his accident, and how he felt rusty at first, that his ‘tricks’ had deserted him. But he persevered, and soon found his way back to the page. In my own far less illustrious way, I feel the same. A little bit rusty, my writing mojo not quite back yet. But today, as I set up my desk, I felt the beginning. As though I were back on the path again.

And that was a great thing to find.


Oak and Mist, the first book in The Ambeth Chronicles, is on sale for 99c/99p until January 31st! Get your copy here

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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.

Ironing, Oak Apples and Editing or, How I Survived A Writing Wobble

I had a bit of a writing wobble earlier this week.

I’ve just begun editing Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series. It recently returned from a professional edit, and so I was taking suggestions and beta read comments on board, polishing the final crevices and tidying up punctuation and prose, ready to go to the next stage.

At least, that’s what I was supposed to be doing.

But something wasn’t right. Even my groaning ironing basket held more allure than playing with words. Even though it’s what I love to do. I mean, editing isn’t my favourite part of the process but there is still something immensely satisfying in taking a book through the final stages before publication, seeing the changes from rough first draft to the end product. So I was ready, I thought.

But I just couldn’t find the thread. The story thread. The Ambeth thread. Whenever I step into that world the voices are clear, the images sharp. I know all of the characters intimately, their backstory, what drives them, where they are going. But, for some reason, they seemed a little… distant. As did the world of Ambeth – the gardens, the Palace, the sighing sea, all felt as though I were viewing them through the wrong end of a telescope.

And so I had a wobble.

After all, it’s been a while since my last Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys, came out. Since then, I’ve published A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s fiction novel, as well as almost finished the first draft of Silver and Black, another standalone work. I’ve also started a new job which is taking quite a bit of my time. So I was worried. What if the story, the wonderful story that started me writing, words pouring out of me, had decided to, well, get up and leave? I mean, I had been working on Ambeth – Under Stone was quite a complex book to write as so many threads from the first three books came together, many of them to be resolved in this book. So it was only a couple of months since I’d last visited. But still – it had been a while.

And I couldn’t find my way back into the story.

So instead I fell into a wormhole of sadness and despair. But, after a pep talk from a lovely writerly friend and a good night’s sleep, I decided to approach things from a different angle. Instead of editing, I decided simply to read the story again. And, it seemed to help. A piece of music I associate with the books started playing in my head, and carefully, slowly, I started to wander back into the woods. I’m not all the way there yet but, thanks to music and oak apples and reading and thought, I think I might get through the Gate again.

And that ironing basket isn’t looking so interesting any more…


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.

Book Review – The Finding Of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

“Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…”

Welcome to the charming, quirky world of Martha Lost. A world of lost things, including Martha, set within the confines of Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

It’s the summer of 1976 and teenage Martha has been at the station since she was a baby, abandoned in the lost property office where she was taken in by the proprietor, the rather unpleasant Mother. Her life is bounded by the station, for, like a modern day Lady of Shalott, she’s been told that if she ever sets foot outside the station it will collapse into the earth, destroying it utterly.

So Martha lives her life under the glass atrium, twirling across the platforms and concourse, interacting with the other residents, some obvious, some not so much. Until a series of events forces her into finding out the secrets of her lost past.

The Finding of Martha Lost is a sweet dream of a book, all cakes and characters and the innocence of youth. Yet there are threads of darkness in Martha’s world. Abuse, loss, death and shame twine with the lighter themes of her story to add a touch of gritty realness and, when the real world intrudes into her life with the arrival of an Australian adventurer carrying a mythical lost case of Beatles memorabilia, events build to breaking point and Martha finds she is no longer lost.

This is a book about the families we build, rather than the ones we are born into, and of how damaged souls can help each other to heal. Martha Lost combines whimsical storytelling with real events and a touch of magic to create a tale that lingers with the reader long after the last page is turned.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received my copy of Finding Martha Lost through NetGalley. All reviews and opinions are my own.

#writephoto – Lanternlight

glaston6-024Sue Vincent has come up with another beautiful image for her latest #writephoto prompt, and my response is the next part to the story I started for another prompt, Sacha Black’s 52 Words in 52 Weeks. And here it is:

Later I sat and pondered his words. Alone in a dark corner, rainbow light from the old windows painting the walls. Across the room the bar and patrons were all light and noise, but I sat separate from it all, the colours camouflage enough.

I did like lost things. Although I didn’t think of them that way. To me they were treasure, holding stories like faint fingerprints, reminders of owners past. Sometimes, if I closed my eyes and it was quiet enough, I could almost hear them talking, smell the disappeared world they’d inhabited.

But the man in the junk shop had shaken me. Made me question why I was so drawn to the detritus of the past. Was the fact that they were lost things speaking to something in me, a space for a missing piece I hadn’t even realised was gone?

Am I lost? I thought, my hands curving around my glass. If I am, who will find me?

And, do I want to be found?


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.

 

Writespiration – 52 Weeks in 52 Words – Lost Things

IMG_2112The fabulous Sacha Black has set a rather good writing challenge for the year. Each week this year she’ll be setting a writing prompt, which you have to respond to using exactly 52 words.

This week’s prompt is: Lost Things. Here is my response:

‘D’you like lost things?’

‘What?’

‘Lost things.’ He smiled, gesturing at the old books, dusty hats, faded postcards. Ornaments filled cabinets, gold lace spilled out of a wardrobe door. ‘All these things belonged to someone once. Now they’re lost.’

I stared at him.

‘Sometimes the people who come here are lost, too.’

Now, it appears there’s another little part to this story, which came to me in response to another prompt. All being well, I’ll share it sometime over the weekend. Happy Friday, everyone!


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.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Thirteen – Forgotten

img_2260Forgotten.

It is a word of sorrow, of lost things. Memories, people, ideas, thoughts – to be forgotten is to disappear.

We search through the forgotten, trying to piece together the past. But the flickers of light that made it real have long since faded, and all we are left with are the shadows of moments, separated from us by distance and time.

Yet each moment, each event, each life lived has left their mark upon this world. Faint impressions like the brush of butterfly wings, or distant smoke, making you wonder if they were ever there at all.

And to remember, even for a moment, is to bring them back.

———————————————————————————————This is my response to today’s writing prompt, part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.

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.