On A Writing Journey #amwriting

I was going to share a few updates today, about writing and the different things I’ve been working on. But, when I posted the below image to Instagram, with a note about how I’ve been writing a story since June and have just finished the first draft, the comments I received gave me pause.

They were all lovely, positive comments, and they also shared a single theme: ‘Can’t wait to read it!’ And it made me realise something. While I’ve been doing a great deal of writing over the past two years, I haven’t shared any of it with you.

In fact, it’s been *gasp* almost three years since I published the fourth instalment of the Ambeth Chronicles, Under Stone. To those of you who’ve messaged me, asking when the next instalment is coming out, I can only apologise. It is almost written, and my plan is to finish it by the end of this year, get it to my editor, and publish as soon as possible.

So, what have I been doing? I’ve been off exploring other worlds, I suppose. A vampire-filled castle on the south coast of England. A mythical town on the California Coast. And a version of London, set far in the future. It’s been two years of working on my craft, pushing things further, and sending submissions to agents and publications. I’ve written almost 400,000 words, exploring the edges of my creativity, digging deeper and further to see where the ideas will take me. I’ve also dabbled in middle-grade and short stories, sketched out an idea for a non-fiction book, and played around with poetry.

And it’s been worth it, definitely, from a creative point of view. I have some stories with which I’m extremely happy, and know I’m a better writer now than when I started this journey. However, from a writing-more-books-for-people point of view, it’s probably seemed as though I’ve given up writing!

I can assure you I have not. And my hard work is starting to bear fruit. My vampire novel is currently with an agent who requested the full MS (one of several requests I’ve had). Another agent is very keen to read whatever I write next. One of my short stories, A Point of Light, will be in the upcoming issue of Lucent Dreaming (Nov 2020). And the co-author project I’ve been talking about? Well, I can reveal it was with the singer/songwriter (and all around lovely person), Tom Grennan, and that the completed book is now with his label pending the next steps.

So, fingers and toes crossed, I hope that next year will let me share a bumper crop of stories with you all. And I will definitely be publishing the next Ambeth instalment!

Oooh, and while you’re here, I also have a fancy new website, courtesy of Rivia Digital. You can pop by and visit it at helenglynnjones.co.uk. I’ll be blogging both here and there, so hope to see you 🙂

Thanks for bearing with me… more is yet to come!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

 

 

 

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 🙂

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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.

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 🙂


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.

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. 🙂

 

 

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

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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. 🙂