New Week, New Writing Leaf

Last week I wrote about a writing wobble, and you were all so lovely, giving me encouragement and reminding me what it is I love so much about this blogging community – thank you all so much for your support.

This week I have a week off, the first in while, and I’m back where Ambeth began, the park where Alma disappears between the trees just a few minutes’ drive away. Today I’m heading further west to Wales, where her story continues, and I’m hoping that the combination of some free time and seeing these places again will immerse me fully into that world once more.

For now I am re-reading Under Stone, making small adjustments but not yet quite ready to don my editing hat. Which is kind of a problem, as I’m supposed to be doing Camp NaNo, and the edit is my project. Oh well. We can only do what we can do.

And perhaps, that is the lesson here. That you can’t force things. That, unless we’re lucky enough to be able to write full-time, life has to be addressed. The creative urge is a powerful one, for writers no less than any other, and it can be difficult, sometimes, to find that balance. I know for me that my blogging life is not as active as it once was, and I am woefully behind when it comes to reading, my TBR pile teetering, my Kindle stuffed with unread titles.

Still, it’s not the end of the world, is it? To be able to inhabit other worlds, whether as a writer or a reader, is a privilege. And I remain forever grateful.

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.



Reflections on a Week Past

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week. It wasn’t because I’d run out of places, though – I’ve quite a few locations still to share, and more to visit, so will keep the series going as long as I can. No, it was for a couple of other reasons – one, I was part of a blog tour for a new book, The Finding Of Martha Lost, and my slot was Wednesday. The other was that it’s been a strange sort of week. Understatement, I guess. The tragic incident in Manchester affected me (as it affected a lot of people worldwide), and, once I’d posted about it, I just felt like hanging with family, especially my gorgeous girl, so blogging got put on the back burner for a few days.

I’ve done some walking, too, along my favourite canal route and past the river, taking photos of green calm and reflection. The swans I saw nesting the other week now have cygnets, three little balls of grey fluff following their parents across the water.

I did do some writing this week though, managing to sort out a few plot tangles in Silver and Black, my vampire novel. I know, right? I never thought I’d write a vampire novel, but a writing prompt almost two years ago via Ali Isaac brought me the character of Emelia Raven, and her story was too insistent to ignore. So, I’m pretty close to a finished first draft, which I’ll put away for a couple of months before coming back to, as I find that’s the best way to see what changes need to be made for draft two.

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here as well, meaning Monday is a day off work and school (plus it’s the start of half-term). There’s work to do around the house, plus a bit of family fun, so I have fingers crossed the lovely sunshine we’ve had this past week sticks around.

Wishing you all a peaceful and happy weekend. Back to writing and wandering next week xx

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.


IMG_1099It’s Monday. Monday means something a little different to me now that I’m back working regularly, rather than freelance. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.

I’m still getting my new schedule sorted out though, so please do bear with me. I’m going to keep posting as much as I’m able to, though I’ll be writing a few posts in advance, rather than off the cuff as I usually do. This also means it might take me a little bit longer than usual to respond to comments. But I will respond – I love the conversations I get to have with everyone, and very much appreciate all your lovely comments.

I’ll also be doing my best to keep up with everyone’s blogs – I follow quite a few so have made a list and will check it twice, so to speak. So if you haven’t heard from me in a while, let me know.

Other than that, it’s still writing as usual, though I’ll be doing a bit more at night than I have been. Or perhaps early morning. I am more of a morning person, to be honest.

Right, before I descend too much further into navel-gazing I might sign off. Hope everyone in blogland is well, I’ll be back here again soon xx

Walking A Tangled Path

img_2083I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front of late. Partly because I think I’m still recovering from the Thirty Day Writing Challenge, partly because I’ve actually been recovering from a nasty lingering cold that’s been running rampant around here (even the Queen had it), and partly because I’ve been trying to untangle the structure of Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series.

I wrote the first draft of Under Stone more than three years ago. Since then it’s undergone quite a few edits and rewrites, then was sidelined for a while as I worked on other projects. Now that A Thousand Rooms is out I’m free to roam the forests once more, but the path to this story is still quite tangled.

As the fourth book in the series, Under Stone pulls together a lot of the plot lines set out in books one to three, so I’ve had to do a quick re-read of those books and make sure that I’ve covered everything. Even though Ambeth, the characters, their motivations and their plot lines all live in my head, there are small details I’ve added here and there that I need to keep track of. So far, so good. However, the story itself also needed re-ordering, so I’ve been shuffling scenes around and, in some cases, deleting them.

Making this slightly more complex is the fact that Ambeth deals with multiple character viewpoints. I know, right? A six book series told from the point of view of multiple characters. *shakes head* Also there’s a time twisting element, which sometimes is useful and sometimes really annoying (for the writer), as I have to keep track of what is happening when in two different worlds. But oh, I love it. I love the stories and the characters, and I love it when it all comes together and I can feel the flow. I guess that’s part of the reason I write, for that feeling – it’s a little bit like joy.

I think I’m pretty close to being done now. In fact, I’m hoping I might even be able to get it out to beta readers by the end of this month. So I’ll continue to slash and burn, moving branches and reshuffling scenes, forging a new path through the tangles in the hope I reach my destination soon.

How about you? When you write a story, do you then play around with the order of events to get the best flow? And, if you’ve written a series, how do you keep track of everything? (Notes. It’s notes, isn’t it? I really ought to make more notes when I’m writing.)

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.


Big Magic

Double rainbow from my back garden...

I’ve finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Literally – I just finished reading it a few minutes ago.

It’s the first day of the school holidays, the child still asleep, the husband gone to work and so I had some precious time to finally, finally address the pile of ‘to read’ books sitting next to my bed. I added the luxury of tea and toast brought up to bed, plus an extra pillow behind my head, and settled in to read the last few chapters.

I have been reading the book for a while – I purchased it on our recent trip to the Canada and US West Coast, but the pace of the vacation was such that I didn’t get as much time to read as I had thought. Then when we came back life took over as it does,  and so reading time was pushed to the bottom of the list.

However, Big Magic had already started to resonate with me. I’d recommended it to several people already, even though I hadn’t finished it, including Lucy over at Blondewritemore. I’d had several ‘wow’ moments, when the words I was reading seemed to echo and validate my own thoughts about the creative process, especially the idea of creating because it’s what you do, not for any desired end result. Just do the work and get it out there. Let it go.

I also believed in the idea of Big Magic, that ideas come from somewhere ‘beyond.’ It’s something I’ve always believed, that the stories coming to me were born somewhere else, just waiting for me to unwrap their layers and transfer them to the page.

And so now I am done. And I will say this: read this book. Whether you are a writer, an artist, a musician, a computer programmer, an avid gardener, a trainspotter, whatever. If you have an interest in your life, or if you are seeking the pathway to find what interests you, this book may well change your perspective and set you free to pursue what it is that makes you tick.

Big Magic indeed.


In My Own Voice

Book envy? Me?

Book envy? Me?

Suzie over at Suzie Speaks wrote a great post the other day, all about blog envy. She wrote about how it’s natural to compare our work to others and that, ultimately, we just need to get over it and get on with our own work, which I thought was a great sentiment.

Her post made me consider the fact that, when I’m in the midst of writing a book, I really don’t read much at all. And I’m someone who is normally an avid reader, often having several books on the go at one time. I wondered to myself if maybe, it was book envy that stopped me reading – that to read other published work made my own feel ‘not as good.’

Most authors say that, in order to write, you need to read as well. Stephen King states that he reads every day, citing an impressive list of books read in a single year. He reads for part of the day, then writes for the other part – an easier thing, perhaps, for someone with grown children and an assured income. (not that I am envious, not at all!) I do agree with the fact that it’s helpful to have read a lot before starting to write – after all, reading teaches us much about what we like and don’t like, as well as how to structure a book, embellishing threads of plot into each page to draw the reader deeper into the story. The books we read are part of what forms our own writing, whether consciously or sub-consciously. And the worlds we inhabit during those pages are also part of what inspires us to create our own.

So then I considered that perhaps I don’t read while I’m writing because I’m too deep in my own world. Even when I’m not writing, I’m still working through the plot in my mind, characters creating ideas as I dream, the story drawing me in to a point where to enter another world, no matter how briefly, is a distraction rather than an escape. And perhaps this is closer to the truth.

I’m away from home and my current WIP at the moment and I’ve started reading again for the first time in a while, trying to disengage my writer’s eye from the story and simply inhabit the world that has been created, walking through someone else’s words. Of course there are books I read, prose that fills me with joy, characters and dialogue that simultaneously lift me and throw me into despair that I will never write like that. But I have to remember it’s because that voice belongs to someone else. I have my own voice and, as a writer, that is the voice I need to use.

So, book envy? I’d be lying if I said I’d never had it. But it comes from a place of appreciation, rather than frustration. And I also agree with another thing Suzie said – that you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s no easy thing to write a book, despite the old saying that ‘everyone has a book in them.’ Everyone has a story, certainly, but to craft words into telling that story is as complex a process as painting or composing music.

And that’s what I need to remember. 🙂