Back To A Working Week

IMG_0303It’s a new year, and a new era for me, as I’ve just returned to office work after more than a decade working freelance. My daughter is older now and soon won’t need me to take her to school any more so, when an opportunity came up, I took it.

I am still writing and marketing, though in a field different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a challenge, and an opportunity to create a role. It’s also part-time hours, in a nice office with nice people, so I feel very fortunate.

The only downside is that I have less time to write my own stories. I have several books on the go – Ambeth Four, Under Stone, is in the editing/about-to-go-to-beta-readers stage, Ambeth Five is three quarters written and Ambeth six is about halfway finished. I also have my vampire novel, Silver and Black, and another idea, called The Grove, which is slowly taking shape. In addition to that, I’m still trying to enter at least one writing competition per month – it’s something I started doing last year and I’ve had some results (although that’s another post). So working five days a week means I’ve had to adjust my writing schedule a little.

Before you all shout at me, of course I know I’ve been really fortunate these past years. Being able to choose my writing time has meant I’ve been able to create a lot of material, so at least now I have a good supply of story ideas to work with. I’m having to be a bit more organised about how and when I do  my own writing, but I’m finding that it’s working so far. Even though I now have less time, I find I’m using it more effectively.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.

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.


Stuck Writing Your Author Bio? Try The (Totally Not Serious) Author Bio Generator

Aren't I fabulous and interesting?

I’m so fabulous and interesting.

So I’ve been noticing a trend recently of, shall we say, somewhat overwrought author bios, in which every detail is teased into something magnificent, a picture of a life fabulously lived. I realise that there are, in fact, authors who do live wonderfully exciting lives but I also seem to remember a time when it wasn’t really important to know about it. A time when an author bio was a few lines at the end of a book, photograph optional, and usually read something like: ‘Author X was born in Wiltshire, and still lives there with her husband and three sons.’ Then, if Author X had written other books/and or won awards, these would also be listed. And that was about it. (I’m basing this on the very scientific research of spending time perusing my own bookcase and reading famous author bios, so you know, it’s totally legit).

But nowadays it seems to not be sufficient that we write stories – we have to live them as well. We have to be a ‘brand’. Okay. I understand the idea of leveraging an interesting life into the idea that you might therefore have interesting stories to tell, but there are plenty of examples that prove you don’t have to live with dragons to write about them. The Bronte sisters lived relatively sheltered lives and Emily, the author of Wuthering Heights, was apparently so shy she would turn her back on people mid-conversation, unable to speak any more. She never married, yet she was able to plumb the heights and depths of passion and create an enduring legend of romance that is still considered one of the greatest literary novels ever.

But that was then and this is now, and we are all writers trying to make our mark on a world saturated with choice. And so the bio is rewritten and inflated by agents and publishers, ostensibly to create interest, though I confess I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, I’m reading a book by X because, did you know, she wrestles alligators and has a pet monkey?’

Therefore, in the interest of giving us all a leg up in the bio-writing stakes, I’ve decided to put together an Easy Author Bio Generator.* It’s basically like Mad Libs – just insert whatever words you think will work:

(your name) was born (time, place) and grew up in (place, dimension etc) learning to (do something odd). They left (your birthplace) for (a far flung destination) where they (did something amazing). (your name) now lives in (somewhere fabulous and unusual) with their (living companions). When not writing bestselling novels, (your name) likes to (do some sort of unusual and creative hobby).

And here’s my attempt:

Helen Jones was born at the turning of the tide on a remote Scottish Island and grew up with gypsies, learning to yodel at the moon. She left the island for the bright lights of Paris, where she wrote dramatic novels in between creating coffee confections for demanding French patrons. She now lives in a yurt hidden in a Welsh valley with her husband, three children and six goats. When not writing bestselling novels, she likes to party with rock stars and dance the tango under a full moon, letting out the occasional yodel.

See? Aren’t I more interesting now? 😀 Go on, give it a try – you know you want to.



  • This is just a bit of fun
  • I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of doing this
  • I may, or may not, change up some of my bios to see if anyone even notices
  • I mean no offense to those of you out there who already have fabulous and interesting bios – well done, you.


Breathing Out


I’ve been in a bit of a blog lull this week. This usually happens to me after I’ve finished a big writing project – it’s as though my mind needs a few days to rest before it can get back to the business of working with words again.

I think it’s entirely natural, really. You can’t keep producing work without taking time, every so often, to re-set everything. When you’re inhabiting a particular fictional world for a few weeks, you need to withdraw from it briefly before diving headfirst into the next instalment. You can’t breathe out without first breathing in.

I’ve had a few people ask me already when book three in my Ambeth Chronicles will be out. They’ve already read books one and two (wow!) and are keen for more. This thrills me immensely. 🙂

In answer to their question, book three is already written. It also has a title, Hills and Valleys, and I’m now starting on the structural edit. And before you think that I’m some sort of crazy writing machine, I had written four of my Ambeth books before I published the first one – it just worked out that way, the story pouring out of me over a two year period. I’ve also written the very last line in the sixth and final book, and know just how the story ends. Which is fun, as it means I can add clues into the earlier books that will lead to events in the later books.

A tangle of plotlines...

A tangle of plotlines…

I’ve stated before that I’m a Pantser when it comes to writing – it’s the method that works for me, despite efforts to plan things out. I’ve also likened writing to weaving, bringing threads of different storylines together to make a pattern. And now I can see where threads need to be pulled and rearranged, appearing earlier in the pattern than I had originally thought. Which is where the structural edit comes in.

Finally, a little update on my marketing experiment. Since I ran my free promotion, I’ve had six new ratings on Goodreads (all positive, thank goodness), plus my KENP count is continuing to rise. I’m hoping to see an uptake in sales over the next few weeks, but we’ll see. However, early figures seem to indicate that I’ve definitely increased my reading audience already, which was the aim of my promotion.

And that’s my Friday 🙂 Happy weekend, everyone! Hope it’s a good one.



A Marketing Experiment

Oak And Mist final cover

Tomorrow I’m going to be running a little experiment in marketing.

Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth Chronicles, will be free on Amazon Kindle for five days starting tomorrow. The paperback will still be full price, but the e-book – free.

I realise there are differing schools of thought on whether we should offer our work for free, and I’ve done a bit of reading and thinking before coming to this decision. However, on reflection, there were several reasons it seemed like a good idea:

  1. This is a free promotion that I get from Amazon for being part of their KDP Select programme, so I think it makes sense to take advantage of it at least once.
  2. Oak and Mist is the first book in a series of six, so by offering it free I hope to reach more readers who, hopefully, will enjoy it enough to purchase the next books in the series. Thinking back to my Marketing classes at school, I believe this is called a ‘loss-leader’.
  3. The promotion is for a limited period of time – five days only. I have heard that making the first book in a series free permanently is also a good way to attract readers but, as I’ve not yet published any other books in the series, I’m not ready to do that.
  4. No Quarter, the second book in the Ambeth Chronicles, is very close to being published, so the timing of this promotion will, I hope, generate interest leading to further sales.
  5. I have positive reviews on Amazon UK, US and Australia, as well as Goodreads. Hopefully this promotion will capitalise on the goodwill in those reviews, leading to more people deciding to download my book.
  6. I have far fewer e-book sales than paperback sales, so would be interested to see if I can increase that number.

I’ve also submitted to Robin Reads, E-News Reader Today and Freebooksy, all of whom have accepted Oak and Mist for promotion during my free offer period. I’ll also be promoting the free offer on my Facebook page and Twitter.

So I’ll let you all know how it goes. While this may seem quite a businesslike post, and a departure from my usual scribblings and musings, it is also part of the writing process. As independent authors we should be informed and able to make the right decisions for our book – after all, once we self-publish we are essentially running a business based on our own products. I’ve learnt a great deal from many generous bloggers who have shared information about their own promotions and results. Now I hope to be able to do the same.

xx Helen