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!

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.



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!


Picas – Turning Photography Into Digital Art

This past week I’ve been playing with Picas, a new filter app for my phone. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a couple of shots I shared there.

The premise of the app is, according to the description, that it ‘combines deep neural networks and artificial intelligence to automatically redraw photos into famous art effects.’ The filters are based upon famous paintings: Munch’s The Scream, Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Hokusai’s Great Wave are all represented, along with many others.

So, how does it work?

Well, the deeper programming mysteries will have to remain just that for the time being, but basically, when you open the app, you have the option to either take a photo or access your photo library. Once you’ve chosen an image you’re taken to the filters screen, where you can scroll through the different filters and apply them, only saving the amended images you want to keep.

img_3827And there are some pretty cool effects. Here’s a photo I took of some red shoes (thinking about the cover for A Thousand Rooms). I then applied a few different filters to get the following:

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And here are some photos of me. First I added a Snapchat filter (see note on copyright below), then I added the Picas filters to get different effects. It only took a few minutes to do, and I think that, if you played around with costumes and make-up, you could create an image to suit just about any genre.

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Overall, I think that Picas has some great effects, and I really enjoyed playing around with my photos. I was a little disappointed with the Klimt filter, as I would have loved to be changed into one of his glorious golden paintings, but at the same time, I appreciate there are such things as copyright laws, so the filters are designed to give your images the same feel as the artworks, rather than converting them to fake masterpieces.

img_3849And, speaking of copyright, there was one caveat I forgot to mention on my Prisma post, and the same would apply here. If you use a filter for a photo which is then used for commercial purposes (ie a book cover), it’s worth checking with the app provider that there are no copyright issues involved in doing so. As for Picas, I’ve already done that bit for you – a quick email exchange with app creator Miya assured me that, once the filters are on your photos, they’re yours to use as you wish.

So. Another great little app full of options for creating cover designs or promotional images, or even just having fun with holiday snaps. It’s easy to use, and it’s free. Available now for Android and i0S.

Note: I was approached by the creators of Picas to provide an honest review and I thought, why the hell not? This is my blog, after all 🙂