The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

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.

 

 

Sweet Treats

Here we are only three days into the New Year, and it’s a day of treats!

The first treat comes courtesy of Cher over at The Chicago Files. Just before Christmas she held a blog party, and she chose four of the participating bloggers to win a sweet Chicago treat. And guess what? I’m one of the lucky winners! Thanks so much, Cher – looking forward to receiving my parcel 🙂

The second treat is from Suzie over at Suzie Speaks, who chose Journey To Ambeth as her third ‘Top Blogger To Follow In 2016’! She also sent me this lovely badge to display on my blog page:

Top Blog Badge

Thanks Suzie – very much appreciated!

Well, it’s back to school and work tomorrow, but today has been a lovely end to a nice holiday break. Hope you’re all having a good Sunday too.

xx

 

Memory Box

The other day I opened a box full of memories.

I’ve been having a big clearout recently, inspired by Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying‘. Even though I’ve moved a lot in my life (twenty-four times at last count), clutter still tends to accumulate, especially when you have children.

So into cupboards I went, discarding clothing and dishes with abandon. Then I found this box. I should mention that I love trinket boxes and have quite a collection of them – this was one of the more unusual additions. I was about to put it back in the cupboard, when I decided to open it and look inside.

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And I found treasure.

A photo of me with a friend from Grade Nine. My University Library Card. A note from my brother, over twenty years old. A birthday badge saying ‘I am 24.’ A flower which I think is from my parent’s wedding cake. A necklace I remember playing with as a child, several stones missing. A small velvet bag, full of buttons. A book of matches from the CN Tower, ‘Top of Toronto.’

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All things that, at one time, were part of me.

As mentioned, I’ve moved a lot, with several of those moves being across oceans. And each time I moved, I had to discard bits of myself. Make adjustments. For many years I tried to ‘fit in,’ wanting a sense of belonging that always, despite dear friends and family, seemed just beyond reach. For a while I almost lost myself completely, but I found the road back to discover, like my old friend Dorothy, that home was inside me all along, and all the things I’d experienced were what made me who I am.

So finding this box at the turning of the year felt particularly poignant. It’s a time when I look both to the past and the future, gathering all that I am and all that I have been to carry into the new year. And this box, with its small collection of trinkets, reminded me that, even though I’ve moved through time and space, I don’t always have to look far to find myself.

Sometimes, all I need to do is open a box.

 

 

 

The Turning Of The Year

It’s Thursday, which usually means a door. But it’s also New Year’s Eve, and a chance to look back over the past year.

2015 has been an extraordinary year for me, both in life and in blogging. I published the first two books in my Ambeth series, visited Spain, Andorra, Canada and the US, welcomed a new sister-in-law and nephew and underwent life changing surgery, among other things.

I also took a chance and attended the first Blogger’s Bash in London, and I’m so glad I did! I met so many wonderful bloggers, all of whom were as lovely in person as they appeared on their blogs. And, since then, my blog has grown in leaps and bounds as I discovered more lovely blogging people and they discovered me.

My report came through from WordPress yesterday – you know the one I mean 🙂 I won’t publish it here, but I will share my top five posts for the year. And here they are:

Ghosts of My Grandfather

This post was one of those ones which I wasn’t sure about sharing. It felt very personal, plus I wasn’t sure if people would think I was a bit mad, with my orbs and ghostly figures. How wrong I was! It was my most popular post of the year 🙂

The Gratitude Challenge

This post was a challenge set by blogger Dee, to write about something for which I’m grateful. If I remember correctly, I wrote this very quickly and in one sitting, and certainly didn’t expect it to have the response it did! Another thing to be grateful for.

Birthday

This post was not to celebrate my own birthday, but rather my first blogiversary. So it was nice to see so many people come along to celebrate with me 🙂

Before You Publish

This post came about through a link posted by The Story Reading Ape, about a blogger who was fined for using images without permission. I used to work in advertising negotiating image usage rights, so I was aware of the pitfalls in sharing work and decided to write a post about it. Once again, a surprising response!

Night Scribbles

This post rounded out my top five, and was a musing on the way that ideas which come to us in the middle of the night can appear quite silly in the morning, just dream ravings. It seemed to strike a chord with quite a few of you 😉

Looking back at my top five for the year, I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that I just need to post whatever comes to mind, for it is often those posts I don’t think will do so well that resonate the most. That, and the fact that I’m part of a wonderful community of bloggers – thanks to all of you for reading and sharing this year!

And here is my door, because it is Thursday, after all 🙂

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I’ve chosen a doorway, rather than a door (though I assume a door may have hung here many centuries ago). It seemed appropriate, on the turning of the year, to consider the idea that we stand at the threshold of a new year and all it brings.

This door is from Criccieth Castle in North Wales. The castle is 12th century and ruined now, but has a rich and varied history, as well as a beautiful setting, looking across the bay to mountains. It’s one of my favourite places in the world.

And with that I will finish by wishing you a Happy New Year! See you in 2016…

The InBetween

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I’ve been mostly absent from the blogosphere these past few days. It’s been family time, of course, days spent away from home eating and drinking and sharing time with those I love most. I thought about you all, of course I did, hoping you were all enjoying a happy Christmas time too.

But it was also that I needed a break. I love blogging, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to have a few days where I don’t have to think about much except where the next Ferrero Rocher is coming from. 😉

Also, for some reason, I am spam. The Akismet elves, while protecting my own blog, somehow decided just before Christmas that my comments were in the same category as the ‘excellentwaytopromotecontent’ and ‘estepornovideo’ ones. No idea why but, if I do normally comment on your blog, please check your spam folder just in case.

And finally, editing. Having a few days of not doing much somehow freed my mind, and I have finally managed to sort out the first few chapters of Hills and Valleys. So it’s full steam ahead with the next book, as it’s due with the editor in three weeks time.

And here we are at what I call The Inbetween – the space between Christmas and New Year when I’m not sure what day it is, and my time is (mostly) my own. There is more editing to do, of course, plus, visiting and excursions and the usual things around the house. Yet somehow, the horizon feels open.

So I hope everyone is well and happy, and here’s to an exciting New Year!

xx