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.

 

The Wheel Turns, and a Cover Reveal!

Today was the shortest day, the moment when the wheel of the year turns towards light again. In the old ways it was called Yule, and marked a time of hope, when a spark of light would be lit both symbolically and literally to celebrate the turning of the year.

I love this time of year. I love the sparkling lights on the houses and in the trees, the clear high sunsets and cold nights, the shimmer of frost and the crack of ice. I especially love the idea of hope, of change, of finding the spark within.

It’s interesting that the past week has seen a turning of the wheel in my own life as well. I now have a new plan for the year ahead, and am excited to get back to writing once more. So, to celebrate both the solstice and my rejuvenated writing plan, here is the cover for my next release, Under Stone, the fourth in my Ambeth Chronicles series!

I’m thrilled with the finished product, and think it goes very well with the others. Under Stone will be released very soon, and pre-release copies are available for review – please contact me if you’d like one.

Wishing you all a happy solstice!

Thank You

It’s evening. The time of day when I’m usually working (other than during the day, when I’m at work). Working, over the past few months, has been editing and formatting and writing, leaving not much time for blog posts or visiting around. I did write a short post the day before yesterday, with some updates on things I’ve been doing, and as soon as I did so comments appeared, people wishing me well, smiles from across the blogosphere travelling to my little space.

I love this blogging community, I honestly do. Blogging has, without exaggeration, changed my life. When I wrote my first post, about three and a half years ago, I had no idea of the journey I was beginning.

I called this blog Journey to Ambeth because it was going to be about writing. All about writing. About me writing books, about the things I learned about writing along the way. But, like so much in life, it has grown and changed into something more, encompassing travel and short stories and ideas and dreams, a space where I can express myself however I choose to do so.

But the biggest thing, the absolute best thing about blogging, has been the people I’ve met along the way. People from across the globe, many of whom I’ve now met in person. Others with whom I’ve had only virtual conversations, yet I know that, when I meet them, it will be like seeing an old friend. I’ve NaNo-d with them, celebrated new releases and publishing deals and life’s milestones, tramped hillsides and stone circles, blogged and bashed and learnt so much, experienced incredible generosity and kindness. I’ve made friends for life, friends I would probably never have met if it wasn’t for writing those first few words.

And I am grateful every day for it. So I just wanted to say thank you πŸ™‚

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,Β  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Nice Surprise – Writing Magazine Story Competition Results

IMG_1640I recently had some rather nice writing news. Last year I decided to devote some time to writing short stories, with the idea that I would submit one per month to anthologies and/or competitions. I figured that, even if I didn’t get anywhere, I’d still end up with a nice collection of short stories, as well as flexing my writing muscles in a slightly different way.

Well, I managed to win second place in the Writing Magazine Modern Fairytale Competition, complete with cash prize and publication on their website! To read my story, Water and Bones, click here. I even got a nice critique from the judges, which made me very happy. (and btw, if you do head over, I recommend reading the winning story as well – it’s excellent). It’s small victories like this, or a good review or a note from a happy reader, that make writing, with all its hair-tearing, plot-twisting and rejection, worthwhile.

Writing short stories has been a good exercise for me. When I write I tend to get quite wordy – I’m forever editing word count down, rather than up. So restricting myself to a much smaller number of words to tell a story meant that I challenged myself to write leaner, to cut out any and every extraneous bit of plot, and think of the most succinct ways to convey my point.

As for my other entries, I came second in one of Esther Newton’s writing competitions, and was shortlisted for another. I also managed to get a further two pieces accepted for an anthology. And I have a few more stories that will, with some more refining, be ready to send out into the marketplace again. Or maybe I’ll just publish them myself!

Happy weekend, everyone πŸ™‚


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,Β  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

A Thousand Rooms Author Interview

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you may be aware that I recently published my fourth novel, A Thousand Rooms. Shortly after I published it I was contacted by author Margarita Morris, who had read and reviewed the book, describing it as ‘sharp, funny and poignant,’ and ‘a joy to read.’ Wow. Thank you – high praise indeed!

Margarita wondered if I’d like to be interviewed on her website – I was very happy to accept, and the interview is live today. Here’s the link:

Author Interview with Helen Jones

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Margarita for her support!

 

An Author Event

img_4169I had an author event this past weekend. That sounds rather grand, doesn’t it? Three of Hertfordshire’s busiest libraries are running independent author events over the next six months, and the first one was this past Saturday, at St Albans Library.

When I arrived I was given a table on which to set up my books – there were five other authors as well, and it was interesting to meet them and discuss the different ways we had all approached self-publishing. Three of them had worked with printers to produce their work – the quality of illustration and the type of book they wanted to produce meant that this was the best option for them. The other three, myself included, had gone the Amazon/Createspace route, with varying degrees of success.

We discussed a lot, in fact – they were a great group of people and I was happy to meet all of them. We bought books from each other, talked about different kinds of social media, of how to find our desired audience, exchanged contact details and ideas. It was worth attending for that alone.

img_4172The event was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of sales. I think it’s great that libraries, certainly in my area, are starting to get behind independent authors, and I really appreciate their support. I’ll be doing one of the other events, and I’m looking forward to meeting more people there. However, it seemed there might have been some crossed wires with the promotion, as most of us spent our time talking to people who wanted to publish their own books, rather than purchase ours. I even had a lady sit down, pull out pen and paper, and ask me to take her through the process of publishing! Still, I did make a few sales, and I remembered how it was before I published, and the people who so generously shared their knowledge with me.

I don’t much enjoy public speaking, nor do I like being the centre of attention. However, I really enjoyed being part of this event. It made me realise that I don’t mind putting myself out there when it’s to talk about something I enjoy, and writing is definitely something I enjoy. In some ways, blogging has helped too – letting me put my words out there for an audience, and figuring out that maybe, I might have something to say. I’m planning on doing more events now, going out into the real world to find my reading audience, as well as trying to connect with them online.

So, I think the day might have been a success, after all. πŸ™‚

 

 

Cover Reveal! A Thousand Rooms

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-09-25-592Ta da! Here it is, the cover for my latest novel, A Thousand Rooms. I wrote the book about two years ago during NaNoWriMo – since then, I’ve been editing and rewriting to get it ready for publication. I’ve had some wonderful beta readers along the way, including Ali Isaac, Louise Allen and Angelika Offenwanger – thank you so much for all your valuable feedback! Esther Newton lent her editing expertise to give it a final polish, and my brother, Rich Jones at Turning Rebellion, took my photo of red shoes and created a cover which I think perfectly captures the spirit of the story – thank you!

I realise the above paragraph sounds a little bit like one of those award show acceptance speeches, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge how many people it can take to produce a book. I feel very fortunate to have found such a wonderful group of authors and bloggers around the world, and really appreciate your support.

So, what’s the book about?

You don’t wake up expecting to die…

Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. A lost soul hitching rides with the dying, trying to find her way to… wherever she’s supposed to be.

And whoever she’s supposed to be with.

Heaven, it seems, has a thousand rooms. What will it take to find hers?

I’m just finalising the formatting, with a view to publishing, hopefully, within the week. And, once I have published… you’ll be the first to know!

 

Writing An Agent Submission Letter

img_3729After seven days of writing about an otherworldly weekend away with The Silent Eye, it’s back to reality with a rather prosaic thud – this post is all about crafting the agent submission letter.

I’ve written before about submitting your manuscript to agents – while I don’t consider myself by any means an expert, I have had a bit of experience in sending the things out. I also attended a workshop some time back at Bloomsbury, where a couple of London agents shared their idea of a perfect submission letter, and several other agents have commented that my submission package stood out from the others (although no-one has taken me on board as yet – boo-hoo).

So, how do you structure the all-important letter? (I say all-important because it’s the first opportunity you have to make an impression, and we all know how important first impressions are). Well, here are some key points to consider:

  1. The tone of this letter should be professional. It is a business document, being sent to a professional person, and should be written as such. So no nicknames or rambling about personal information or bad language. I know we, as writers, love to get a bit creative, but the submission letter is really not the place for it. Also, address the agent by name – sending a letter which begins ‘Dear Agent,’ really isn’t going to inspire confidence that you’ve done your research into the agency.
  2. Start with your novel title, the genre and word count – ie I am seeking representation for Beneath The Stars, a romance novel of 75,000 words. If it’s your first novel, say so at this point.
  3. Follow this with a brief (back cover blurb size) description of the novel- ie Sally never thought she could love again, until a chance encounter with a stranger at a planetarium changed everything. But he holds a secret that could break them apart. Will she ever find a happy ending? Beneath The Stars explores the themes of learning to love again, and the secret world that hides within us all. (yes, I know this is awful, but it’s just an example – I’m sure you can do much better).
  4. Then follow with a brief paragraph about yourself, citing any relevant experience, books published, writing competitions won etc. Add in any current projects you are working on too.
  5. Finish with a paragraph stating why you think your novel would be a good fit for their list, reiterating the genre and the type of reader it might appeal to – ie After researching several agencies, and your agency in particular, I think Beneath The Stars might be something you’d like to consider. As a romance novel, it would appeal to readers of (bonus points for a title already on their list, but not too similar).
  6. Then sign off.

That’s it. That’s all an agent wants to see. They get loads and loads of these letters every week, so don’t want to wade through details about why your mum thinks you’re the next J.K Rowling, or the fact that you used to play baseball (unless the book you’ve written happens to be about baseball). Of course, whether you choose to do something completely different is up to you and, hey, it might get you noticed. But in an industry as over-saturated with writers as ours is, why give them any extra chances to say no?

Tea, Updates and Vampire Stories

CNW_Winner_1500-1

I know there’s a weekly thing where bloggers catch up as though having coffee, a conversational get-together with updates from the past week. I’m more of a tea drinker, myself, so, if we were having tea, this is what I’d tell you:

So, this happened yesterday.

Yay! I reached my 30,000 word target with Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on of late. It’s far from finished, of course, but I have a good framework in place, as well as the knowledge of where the story needs to go and what the characters have to achieve, so I’m pleased, overall. I’m still thinking about serialising the whole thing on my blog, as the response to the small snippets I’ve posted so far has been pretty good.

The weather here this week has been quite mad, one minute bright sunshine, then the next snow and ice falling from a clear blue sky. At one point last week we were walking through the park on the top of the hill where we live, and all around us, in almost a perfect circle, I could see vast towering grey and white clouds dumping rain and ice, while above us the sky was blue. A bit of Spring weather madness, I guess. But the tide seems to be turning, so to speak, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecast for next week – with May Day just around the corner, this is welcome news.

And I’m also expecting, finally, to be able to publish Hills and Valleys, the third instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles. I knew I was cursing myself by putting a publishing date at the end of No Quarter, and so it came to pass that the whole thing has taken longer than planned. However, the plus side of that has been more time to finetune the book, including finding (and fixing) a small continuity error. Plus, my editor thinks this is the strongest instalment yet, so it’s been worth doing the extra work. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, I guess.

And now it’s the Bank Holiday weekend. Rain is forecast, as is expected, though at the moment we have brilliant sunshine. The gorgeous girl had an excellent school report this week so, as a reward, I’m taking her to one of her favourite places, a craft store where she can do a project in store. They provide the paint, glue, apron and workspace then, for a small fee, she can choose something from the shelves or pottery collection and create a masterpiece. We are also going to visit The Treasure Box, the magical store I wrote about in a previous blog post, where she will no doubt spend time rummaging through the ribbons and buttons, looking for treasure.

Other than that, we’re planning to let the weekend unfold as it will, plans subject to change, depending on the weather. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that the sun shines on you, wherever you are. πŸ™‚

 

 

Feel The Fear And Publish Anyway

Don't be afraid to shout it out!

Don’t be afraid to shout it out!

I’m currently in the editing stage of my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys. It’s already been out to beta readers and I’ve made several adjustments based on their suggestions, all very much in keeping with the spirit of the story. And I’ve just received editorial notes from my editor, Lucy, who is fantastic in that she really ‘gets’ the story, and therefore makes really useful suggestions when it comes to narrative flow and character development. One of the great things about being an independent author is that it’s then completely up to me as to which suggestions I run with, though, as I’ve said previously, I tend to agree with most points she raises.

I’ve been writing copy for other people for years, which I find quite different to writing my own work. By the time it’s published it’s been edited back and forth, shaped and reworked to fit their vision, not mine, so I usually feel quite detached once I see it in print. But seeing my own work printed, holding my own book in my hand, knowing that the words in there are OUT now, that strangers are reading it, is quite a different thing. And so I want it, therefore, to be the best version it can be. A professional edit is, to me, worth every penny. I’m not privy to endless streams of cash, so I do have to plan ahead and budget, but it’s well worth doing. And beta readers are invaluable for picking up plot holes and inconsistencies, things we are often blind to after staring at our work for so long.

So, all this is a long way of saying: YOU MUST SHOW YOUR WORK TO OTHER PEOPLE.

This may seem completely obvious – after all, we write so that others will read our work, don’t we? And yet, especially when it’s your first book, this is something that’s easier said than done. Sometimes it might seem easier to just press ‘Publish’ and let your story wander out into the world, at the mercy of whichever reader might pick it up, rather than subjecting yourself to the ordeal of feedback from people you actually know. When you’re writing about love or anger or s-e-x, you are drawing on the deeper emotional parts of yourself – to then share these things with people you know is a curiously intimate process and can feel quite confronting.

Yet you have to. You have to do this. I attended a seminar some time ago with several literary agents and one of them made this point very clearly. You have to get used to other people seeing your work. So you have to stamp down that little voice that says it’s not ready, it’s not good enough, no-one will like it. And you will, hopefully, be surprised.

I find it much easier to do now. This blog has helped a great deal in terms of confidence, as have all the comments I’ve had, and the positive reviews. Yet there is still that moment when I see the email come back from a beta reader or editor and think ‘Oh god, did they hate it?’ Which is ridiculous, of course. But nonetheless it is there. And if they do hate it, if several readers pick up on the same thing, then I need to take it on board and make changes. After all, this sort of feedback is kinder coming from people you know before the book is published, rather than anonymously in black and white, preserved for posterity in the reviews.

So, even though it may feel as though you are stripping your soul bare, you need to step back from those words, from the story that for so long has been just the two of you in a quiet room. Share it around, show off a little. After all, writing a book is an accomplishment in itself.