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.

Maiden, Mother, Crone – The Silent Eye Weekend Part 1

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.’

I should have expected it, really. It was, after all, a Silent Eye weekend, and I knew from the previous one I’d attended that the themes and ideas would reveal themselves gradually, and in different ways. Last time, for me at least, it was all about emotion – Joy, Sorrow, Awakening. This time, on a weekend entitled Maiden, Mother, Crone, I thought that the energy I’d feel would be feminine. But it was interesting how this seemed to spill beyond the stones to everyday life, to a larger question that is becoming more relevant in our current society – the role of women.

I am a feminist. Of course I am. To me, feminism is about equality. About women having equal access to the liberties and choices afforded to men. Equal pay, equal rights, access to education, to birth control, to travel, to liberty. To a balance in society where each gender is given the chance to reach their full potential, whatever it may be. For so very long now, women have been relegated. To wife of, daughter of, sister of, mother of, as though our worth were somehow intrinsically bound to the men in our lives. Women go to the same universities, take the same degrees, chase the same qualifications, work at the same companies as men. Yet, somehow, we are lesser. We are expected (regardless of whether we want to or are able to) at some point to give it all up to have children, to ‘just get pregnant and leave’ as though recovery from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth while caring for a tiny helpless child is some sort of lifestyle choice, the ultimate expression of our womanhood and all we are destined for.

I realise, too, that I speak from a place of privilege. That I do have choice in most things. However, there are many others who do not and so, while such imbalance exists, it is up to us to speak out. Our voices are louder now than they have been for thousands of years and with that, perhaps, comes hope. Hope for change, and for balance, another theme revealed on the weekend which, even though I’d only been in Scotland a few hours, had already begun to work its magic.

When I arrived at my hotel in Inverurie I was very early; far too early, I thought, for my room to be ready. But the cheerful woman at reception was more than happy to help me, bringing me a drink and telling me I could get into my room in about fifteen minutes. Having been up since 4:30am to catch my flight, this was welcome news. I had a small amount of time before I had to meet the group, so thought I’d have some lunch and a rest before heading out.

A sleek grey pamphlet caught my eye. ‘Room Twenty One’ it read. It turned out to be a small spa in the hotel and, when I was informed I got a discount for staying there, I decided to book a short massage to relieve the tension of the flight and, also, let’s be honest, as an indulgence.

The young woman who massaged me was friendly and talkative and, I discovered, the best friend of the woman who had checked me in, who turned out to be the daughter of the family who owned the hotel. She was also a single mother and had been offered the job by her friend, enabling her to work around school hours. (Later I heard them talking, her friend asking if her children were all right to be collected from school, her concern gentle and genuine.) Our conversation soon moved to the larger idea of women in society, and how difficult it was to find meaningful work around school hours and childcare, that businesses were missing an opportunity to give educated committed women a chance to work again, even with reduced hours. She spoke of her sister, who had two degrees but was working in a corner shop while her children grew up. She said she was wasted there, far too intelligent, and that she hoped she would get to write the book she’d always wanted to, now her children were getting older. I said I hoped she would too.

When the treatment ended we both expressed how nice it had been to talk, and she wished me a pleasant stay in Inverurie. I went back to my room, got myself ready, and headed out into the grey afternoon to meet the group. I dressed in wet weather gear, carrying spare boots and an extra jacket. We had been promised ‘an introduction to the weekend’, but beyond that no one, except our guides, knew what to expect.…


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 Small Update

Life has been extremely busy of late. Part of it has been getting back into the routine of work and school and extracurricular activities, part of it has been all the writing I’m trying to cram in to every spare moment.

For I am writing a LOT at the moment. Funny, the busier we get the more we seem to get done. They do say if you want something done, give it to a busy person and so it seems to be the case here.

Under Stone, Ambeth book four, is back out for a final read before publishing. Silver and Black, my vampire novel, is almost complete (though I may need a new name now that Marvel has greenlighted a superhero film with the same name). Another story, tentatively titled The Grove, has been demanding to be written, and I also have some editing underway, going back to an older story and revisiting the language.

A Thousand Rooms has been chosen as a feature book for September/October on Chick Lit Central, which is a huge thrill, and we’re giving away a signed copy to celebrate! Click here to visit the site and enter the comp.

But this weekend I’ll be doing something completely different. This morning I’m heading up to Scotland, to join Sue and Stuart and Steve, as well as the rest of the companions, for a Silent Eye weekend. I did one last year – you can read about it here – and it was a completely profound experience.

This time we’ll be wandering the stones with Running Elk, who knows the area well. I’m looking forward to the change in pace (though I’m praying for reasonable weather), and the chance to see somewhere new. I’ll be back Sunday and will blog about the experience, as I’m sure it will be quite something!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙂


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.

Circles Beyond Time – Awakening

img_3649This is the continued account of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for parts one, two, three and four.

(Before I begin this part of the story, I realise I’ve not said much about the companions. I suppose that’s because these posts are about my own personal journey, but it would be remiss not to mention them. Sue and Stu were there of course, leading the weekend, but there were five others on the journey, all of whom could not have been nicer. They welcomed me, looked after me, and made sure I had transport to the various sites (as I was the only one who had not arrived by car). They were lovely people, all of them, and I look forward to seeing them again one day.)

After lunch in Baslow my spirits lifted, and I was ready to explore the Bronze Age burial ground at Barbrook, our next destination. I’d finished writing my poem the night before and the notebook was in my backpack. I wondered where I’d be asked to read it. After leaving the village we went back into the hills, ending up not far from where we had spent the morning. A gate led us into the moors, a riverbed to the left of us, the sloping hills beyond home to ancient hut circles and the settlement marks of those who had buried their dead here.

Barbrook was a calm and beautiful place, small stone cairns dotting the landscape. We entered anti-clockwise, stepping off the modern access track to follow a route Sue and Stu had discovered previously. We discussed the idea of anti-clockwise, or widdershins, and it did feel like the most natural way to enter the landscape. Some of the cairns had been disturbed, their inner cists now open to the air, while others were as they had been made, grasses and heather softening the stones. Eventually, we arrived at the first of two stone circles we were to explore. This one was unusual in that it was built up, a low stone wall encircling the stones, with an entrance at one side. We took a seat around the circle, and were invited to share readings and poems (though not mine, not yet).

img_3655Wasps were a particular nuisance all weekend. Tangling in my hair, interrupting lunch. Honestly, they are the only reason I would contemplate the existence of flying spiders. And, as I sat on the ancient stone wall, trying to listen to an emotional poem being recited by one of the group, I felt a tickle and looked down to see one on my hand. I shook my hand, trying to dislodge it without disturbing the beautiful words of the reader, and the bloody thing stung me, leaving a red mark on the back of my hand. No pain though, oddly – guess I got rid of it in time.

img_3657After the readings (and a move across the circle, away from the persistent wasps), we worked briefly with pendulums, all of us remarking how certain of the stones caused them to move while others did not. Then we resumed the path, continuing in a circular fashion to loop around and back on a lower route past a calm and lovely lake just perfect for women brandishing swords, fairy toadstools dotting the nearby slope. Then we arrived at the second circle. Once again we were invited to take a seat, though this time the stones stood alone, no encircling wall around them.

img_3659This circle felt different than the other one. Reeds choked the centre, almost overwhelming the low stones. It just felt like it was there, rather than anything more profound, like a group of garden ornaments. The circle was asleep, Sue explained, and we were going to try and awaken it. Now was the time for my poem. I was to read the first verse, then we would wait, then I would read the second verse when prompted. As I was about to begin, a man and his dog wandered into the circle. We paused, then paused again as he decided to join us, taking a seat upon the one remaining stone. That made us a company of nine.

…as the ritual words were spoken, and the group began to focus, the energy in the circle started to transform. Slowly at first, but gaining in speed and power, circling around the stones in an anti-clockwise direction. There was a buzz, and a warmth like sunshine. Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams…

After, as we waited at the base of the slope for our turn to greet the seer, our new companion stayed to talk, his beautiful white dog deigning to have her silky ears stroked as he told us he was local bred and born, and walked this ancient landscape every day. We nodded in agreement when he mentioned the burial cairns and the other stone circle. ‘But there’s another one,’ he added. ‘Up on the ridge somewhere. I’ve never been able to find it though…’

His lovely dog started growling, low in her throat. Further along the path we could see another dog, a golden retriever, white-blonde against the bracken. It seemed oddly disturbed, pacing back and forth but refusing to come any nearer. Its owner, laughing and shaking her head in frustration, waved her arms and called to it, but it just wouldn’t come. Then, as the last supplicant left the circle, the ritual complete, the dog changed, bounding along the path to rejoin its owner, who shrugged, laughing again as she headed further along the ridge.

After bidding farewell to our new friend, we walked the last stretch of the moors to where the cars waited. Dinner was beckoning, then an early night ready for an early start tomorrow. It had been an… interesting day. Three places of the dead. Three very different experiences. And tomorrow we were heading to Arbor Low. But first we would greet the dawn…

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Stones lie sleeping

Where once they stood in majesty

Stones lie sleeping

Knowledge lost beyond safekeeping

Yet power here still ranges free

It beats within the heart of me

Stones lie sleeping

Where land meets sky

And all is not quite as it seems

Where land meets sky

Stones tell a tale of years gone by

Secrets revealed by sunlit gleams

Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams

Where land meets sky