Impatience And Loss Beyond The Stars

IMG_0225When I was eight years old, my mother took my brother and I to see the new Star Wars movie. We were both immediately hooked. My brother had the toys; the light sabre, the Millennium Falcon, the X-Wing Fighter, the figurines. I know he wishes he still had them now. I loved the stories – the fantasy, the faraway galaxies, the struggle between light and dark and all the complicated relationships that went along with it. I might have had a crush on Luke Skywalker, too. And I thought Princess Leia was the luckiest princess in all the galaxies, despite all that she went through.

When the sequels were announced, my brother and I devoured every snippet of information, our impatience at the wait between films boundless. This was before the Internet, before pirate footage and leaked set shots, before we had access to fan fiction and groups and tabloids. We were kids, and, while our dad worked with computers from the earliest days, our lives were still far removed from dashing deeds in distant galaxies. When episode VI was announced it was originally called Revenge of the Jedi instead of Return of the Jedi – it was changed after Lucas decided that Jedi did not take revenge, as it was against their code of honour. If only we’d managed to get one of the early promo pieces featuring the original name – they’re worth a fortune today, apparently. What we did collect was bubblegum cards, spending all our pocket money and trading until we each had a complete set of Return of the Jedi cards. I still have my set today.

This Boxing Day just past my brother and I went to see Rogue One together, almost forty years after we saw Star Wars. And just a day later, the original kick-ass princess left us all, gone to a place beyond the stars. 2016 has seen the passing of so many great names and, in its final moments, does not seem to want to go quietly, stealing not just one but three names from my youth: George Michael, Richard Adams and Carrie Fisher.

May they all find peace, in the fields beyond.

This is my response, a day late, to both the 30 Day writing challenge prompt: Impatience, and the lamented passing of Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Richard Adams.

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.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Nineteen – Walk Away

img_2025So, it’s day nineteen of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Walk Away.

I’m starting to wonder why I chose to undertake a thirty day blogging challenge during one of the busiest times of the year. A time where there are lunches and dinners and drinks, shopping and cooking and work and trying to get everything done before the kids break up from school. Oh, I’m not complaining – this is a fabulous time of year and I enjoy it very much. Today, for example, I went to lunch at a friend’s house. She had a whole group of people there and the theme was ‘Disney Christmas.’ So, me being me, I did Star Wars – bundled my hair up like Rey’s and wore combat-style trousers with a low-slung belt and my Star Wars Christmas jumper. Not full-on cosplay, but enough of a nod to the idea that I would fit in if everyone really went for it and dressed up, but not so much that I’d stand out if they didn’t. And it was a lovely afternoon. Most people did really go for it with costumes, we did the mannequin challenge, and when we pulled our crackers out fell little bottles of Baileys and Grey Goose Vodka. Good food, good company, and a generous host – lovely.

But it has left me feeling very relaxed and not at all disposed to sitting at the computer and, you know, actually working. Which brings me around to my original point of wondering why I chose to take this challenge at this time of year. I could just give up, I suppose. Walk away, even. But that’s not really my style. When I start something, I like to see it through to the end. I’m not one to walk away from a challenge.

If only I could think of something to write about…


Apricots, Reblogs and Eurovision

So I woke up today thinking that I should probably write another blog post. I’ve been down the editing wormhole these past few days, as the final MS of Hills And Valleys has come back to me, so my posts and comments have been a bit all over the place.

Then I saw that the lovely Suzie at SuzieSpeaks had reblogged one of my posts, and that it had then been picked up and reblogged a further two times, which made me really happy – thanks, everyone! The post in question was a bit of a laugh, really, about writing a completely made-up author bio. However, Kristin over at The Pursuit of Another Adventure tried my bio generator using details of her actual life and the format still worked, so maybe I’m onto something.

Earlier this week, the gorgeous girl and I made some chocolate covered dried apricots. We make these fairly often, to be honest – they’re pretty easy to make and yet taste wonderfully decadent. Each batch we make is usually gone within twenty-four hours. I had thought I might write a blog post about making them – I’m not a chef or anything, and this isn’t really a ‘food’ blog, but I thought it might be fun. So we assembled our ingredients and started to take some photos. But they were kind of boring.


Then this happened, in an attempt to liven up the shots. (That’s BB-8, in case you were wondering – apparently he quite likes chocolate)







And then we decided it would be more fun to just make them and eat them, so we did. However, here’s the recipe, just in case you’re interested:

Chocolate covered dried apricots

You will need:

A small saucepan

A metal bowl (I’ve not tried ceramic, which may also work, but I think metal conducts the heat more efficiently)

A plate or tray lined with baking paper

Some water

A bar of good quality chocolate (I use Lindt or Green & Black, whichever is on special)

Some dried apricots


Fill the saucepan to about 2cm depth with water. Put it on to boil. While you’re waiting for that to happen, break the chocolate bar into small pieces and lay them in a single layer in the metal bowl. (Try not to eat too much of it). Once the water has come to the boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and place the metal bowl on top. It should be a tight fit, so no steam can escape. Then set a timer for five minutes. Make yourself a cuppa, read emails, play with Star Wars figurines, do whatever for five minutes.

When the timer goes off, remove the metal bowl from the saucepan (carefully, as it might be quite hot). Your chocolate will be all melted and runny. Yum! Then, using a spoon, drop your dried apricots into the chocolate and coat them on both sides, then remove and place them on the baking tray. Once you’ve used up all the chocolate, put the tray of coated apricots in the fridge for about half an hour to set. Then enjoy!

I think we might make another batch of these today, as we’re all set to watch the Eurovision final tonight and snacks are an essential part of the viewing experience. Steve from Steve Says is at the final in Sweden (lucky!) and Hugh over at Hugh’s News and Views has written a post listing his predictions for the winners tonight. I’m sure Twitter will be lots of fun as well, so am looking forward to a very entertaining night.

However you choose to spend your weekend, I hope it’s a wonderful one!

A Friday Update


Spring is coming! (now that I’ve said that it will snow, right?)

The first week of school holidays is almost over – too bad the gorgeous girl and I have spent much of it housebound, struck down again by the bug that just won’t go away. However, modern medicine and good old-fashioned rest seem to be doing the trick, as we are both feeling better and actually ventured out today, for brunch and a movie with one of her schoolfriends and his mother. (We saw Zootropolis, which was actually really well done.)

I’ve also been writing. Silver and Black is flying along (so far), the story taking an intriguing shape, and I’m toying with the idea of serialising it on my blog once it’s ready to go. There are a couple of reasons for this: one is that the idea came to me via a series of blog challenges, so perhaps this is the right venue in which to share it, and two, I don’t usually write vampire stories, so it will be interesting to see what sort of feedback it gets.

I’m also looking at joining the Authors Lending and Copyright Society, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK, run for and by writers. The ALCS is, in their own words, ‘dedicated to protecting and promoting authors’ rights’ and one of the ways they do so is by collecting secondary use royalties. These types of royalties can be levied when someone photocopies or digitally reproduces your work, or whenever your books are borrowed from a library. However, I will do a little more research before signing on, and will dedicate a blog post to exploring it more in depth.

Today I read this excellent interview with Hugh Howey via The Story Reading Ape. Hugh is an independent author extraordinaire and, I think I might love him a little. He’s such a passionate advocate for independent publishing, and has so much to say about the current state of the industry – it is well worth a read.

I’ve also been watching the latest Star Wars trailer, for Rogue One. I’ve been a Star Wars fangirl since the very beginning, ever since I was taken to see the first film in the cinema. This newest episode looks fantastic, and I have it down as one of my must-see movies for this year.

Next week the gorgeous girl and I have a few things planned, so hopefully we’ll both be back to full health and ready to go. I’ll still be writing away in Camp NaNo as and when I can, plus looking ahead to marketing and promotional opportunities for Oak and Mist. Hills and Valleys, the third Ambeth book, is now in the final editing stage, so I’m hoping to be able to publish by the end of this month – watch this space for cover reveals and more info.

Wishing you all a good weekend!

Wednesday Wander – A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Or Melbourne. Which is also far, far away from where I’m sitting, and where this (slightly embarassing) photo was taken, several years ago.

Stormtrooper Image

To be honest, it’s not the best photo of me, but then I never really like myself in photos. It is, however, testament to the fact that, even though the prequels were eye-bleedingly bad, my love for the original three Star Wars films never died. I saw them all in the cinema when I was a child, and can still remember the excitement and wonder of each new film.

The photo was taken at Melbourne Fantasy & Sci-Fi Con, the one and only time I’ve ever been to one of these events (though I think I’ll go again one day). It was a great day out, minor stars of film and TV wandering about, signing photos and giving talks. Twilight was big at the time, and there was a Volturi and a werewolf present, if I remember right. My friend and I wandered among the stalls, giggled our way through part of a Superman vs Batman cartoon (before realising that, to many people there, it was deadly serious) and took photos, including the one above.

IMG_0763So in the spirit of my Wednesday Wander, here is a photo of Melbourne as well, just along the river from where the Convention took place. But we will leave Melbourne for now. Leave its eucalypt-scented river walks, Victorian buildings, modern art and excellent coffee.

For today I am going to see The Force Awakens, and I have a cinema to get to, and a childhood fantasy to relive.

See you on the other side 🙂

Three Quote Challenge – Day 2


‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ Yoda

Oh yeah, it’s a Star Wars quote. After yesterday’s quote, I suppose this could be seen as being moving from the sublime to the the ridiculous. But there are layers to my choice, reasons that go beyond my love of the films, and so that is why it’s my second choice for the Three Quote Challenge.

I’ve already documented my love for the Star Wars films, and it was definitely a factor in making this choice. However, it’s also what the original films represent to me – my memories of being a kid in the 1970’s and living in the UK, before we moved to Canada and my life changed dramatically in just about every way. I remember my brother and I playing with his Star Wars toys and how cool we thought the whole thing was. Our united quest to each get a full set of Return of the Jedi bubblegum cards, spending our pocket money and trading cards with each other, the whole thing bringing us together at a time when we were very different in terms of our interests.

Then there is the martial arts aspect, another big part of my life. I have heard Yoda described as ‘the ultimate sensei.’ I’ve been fortunate enough to train with some pretty amazing sensei on my own martial arts journey. Though none of them were eight hundred years old or wielded a light sabre, they were all great teachers and I learned something different from each of them. So this is the second layer of my choice – the idea of passing on knowledge, of the master speaking to the initiate.

And finally, I chose this quote because I believe it to be true. Saying ‘I’ll try’ is to entertain the idea of failing. Choosing to do or do not is to commit to the moment, the idea, the possibility. Life is full of opportunities for us to make change every day, but choosing to do or do not is the catalyst to things actually happening. Everything else is just marking time. 🙂


I was nominated by the lovely Eilis Niamh to take this challenge, the rules of which are as follows:

First, you thank the person who’s nominated you.
Then, you post a quote you love.
Finally, on each of the three days you post a different quote, you choose another blogger to carry on. (ooh, not sure about that last one – however, we shall see)

Thank you Eilis! Two quotes down and one to go. I don’t have a nominee today, but if you’re reading this and would like to take up the challenge, please do 🙂


May The Fourth Be With You

I wanted to use a flashy Star Wars image but copyright and all that. So instead, here are my fabulous bubble gum cards :-)

I wanted to use a flashy Star Wars image but copyright and all that. So instead, here are my fabulous bubble gum cards 🙂

Oh yes.

Today is the day when I share with you my deep and abiding love for the original three Star Wars films. (Let us never speak of the other three episodes).

Why today? Well, it’s International Star Wars day and, while I haven’t put my hair in donuts or got my light sabre out (what?), I may sit down and revisit a time long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

I remember the first Star Wars movie coming out (yes, I am dating myself), and I also remember the magic of seeing it for the first time. My brother and I were instantly hooked. I can recall the huge excitement of being taken to see The Empire Strikes Back in the cinemas – the trailer before the main feature was for Alien and it terrified me. And I remember the absolute fever pitch that came when the third movie was announced – Revenge of the Jedi. This was the original title and oh, how I wish we had bought merchandise that featured it. It was changed quite quickly to Return of the Jedi, as Jedi knights don’t take revenge.

My brother had all the stuff and sometimes, he’d let me play with it too. He even had a Darth Vader head that opened up to reveal compartments in which to keep all his action figures. He had a Millennium Falcon big enough to put your mini Han Solo and Chewbacca inside, plus an X-Wing fighter and countless figurines. He had a light sabre and a whole bunch of other stuff. I think he sometimes wishes he still had them, to be honest (I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that).

I still have my complete collection of Return of The Jedi bubble gum cards. My brother and I spent our pocket money for weeks on end, both of us trying to get the full set, trading with each other until we both got there. I don’t think it’s worth much – you see them quite often on Ebay, but to me it’s a reminder of a time when Luke Skywalker’s blue eyes and all-black Jedi outfit stirred something in pre-teen me, when Han Solo kissing Princess Leia was a pretty big deal.

I also have the DVD’s featuring the first set of changes made by George Lucas, when the magic of the originals was still allowed to shine through. (I refuse, absolutely refuse to entertain the idea of Darth Vader shouting at the end when he stops the Emperor killing Luke). And so I shall sit down today and watch them, the thrill of those opening credits in yellow rolling across the darkness of space one that never fades, the familiar music making me smile.

And I am ridiculously, childishly excited by the prospect of the new Star Wars film. It looks to have captured the feel of the original. So how about my fellow bloggers out there – any Star Wars fans among you?

Happy day, everyone. May the Fourth be with you. xx