A Season For Writing

I’ve recently, after months spent editing and tweaking my vampire novel, started a new WIP. I felt a bit rusty at first, a bit unsure. I knew I could write books, but actually doing so, letting the story pull me along, was something I hadn’t done for a while. So I started slowly, trying not to force it, trying to remember how it felt to let things just flow instead of agonising over each sentence.

A blogger friend once wrote about there being seasons in writing. A season for editing, a season for planning, a season for writing. This resonated with me (well, not so much the planning part, as I’m a dedicated Pantser, but certainly the rest of it). It seems as though I’ve been just come out of very long season of editing and submitting, the wheel swinging around to writing again. I’m very happy about it.

Another blogger friend said recently, and I’m paraphrasing slightly, that I’m at my best when I’m writing. And maybe she’s right. I certainly enjoy creating – there really is nothing like the fire and excitement of a first draft, when the words just flow from my fingers, the story unfurling in my mind. I tend not to write scenes in any particular order – I just start with an idea and see where it takes me, enjoying the revelations that come with each scene, the puzzle of knitting all the threads together.

Way, way back, at the very beginning of my blogging days, I wrote about unearthing stories. This idea was based upon something Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’. He described finding stories as ‘unearthing a fossil,’ and, as soon as I read those words, I could see mine. This is what I wrote back in 2014:

Can still see them, poking out from the forest floor, delicate carapaces of bone or polished wood, it’s hard to tell as I unearth even more of them. One is almost clear of the ground, the story complete, just a bit of polishing required. The others are still offering up new discoveries, new aspects every time I look at them, whether it is a change of only a few words or a whole new idea. But the important thing is that I keep looking at them, keep exploring the angles, the nooks and crevices, until the job is done, the story told.

I’ve unearthed quite a few more since that original post, with five books now published and one more written, but the lovely thing is that I’m still finding them. My new WIP is set on the California coast just near Monterey, and I swear I feel as though I’ve been there just from writing about it; I can almost feel the California sunshine.

That’s the beauty of both reading and writing, I suppose – when this world seems a bit too much, we can escape somewhere else. I’m glad this season has taken me back to California – wonder where it will take me next?

How about you? Do you find your writing also falls into different ‘seasons’? Or do you work on everything at once?


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 to see more.

The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

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.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Fourteen – Home

IMG_1122It’s day fourteen of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Home.

I’ve been at home for most of today, which I’ve enjoyed. It’s a busy time of year and, as a bit of an introvert, home is where I go to recharge.

It’s also where I write. Even though I’m *supposed* to be sorting out Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book, today I’ve been going through Silver and Black, my vampire novel. And I found this little passage that seems to fit the prompt quite well:

The sun is starting to slant towards the west, the blue sky striping with gold and red as I see the familiar gates of home. They are closed. F*ck. Of course they are. Locked and bolted too, I bet. I can’t climb them, either. I start to cry, the disappointment at being so close to home, yet unable to get in, overwhelming me. I cling to the wrought metal then sink down, my legs folding under me. I just can’t stand any more. Wrapping my arms around the metal I rest my head against it, waiting. I have no anti-feed left, so I’m basically a sitting duck. I can only hope the guards find me and realise who I am before they attack. The sky is a flaming bowl above me, the trees shading to purple against the red and gold and blue. It’s completely glorious, yet I feel nothing. It’s as though everything I had is gone from me, drained out by the night’s events and the day’s walk. I stare at the clouds, but I see nothing. Gradually, my head droops, and I slip into a doze.

A hand grabs my arms, squeezing tight so I wake up. ‘Ow!’ I squeal. The squeal becomes a scream as my arm is yanked upwards, pulling me with it, my shoulder twisting painfully.

‘Who are you?’ The guard on the other side of the gate snarls at me, his fingers digging into my arm.


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.

Thirty Day Writing Challenge – Day 2 – Open Door

img_1622Today’s prompt is: Open Door

For this post I’ve pulled a short scene from Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on this past while. It seemed to fit the prompt quite well…

Silver and Black (an excerpt)

‘Are you ready?’

I was. Despite not wanting to leave Kyle, despite the fact that this could go wrong in so many ways, I was ready. Excitement fluttered through me as I stood up, my hand trailing along Kyle’s cool skin. Then I let go and walked to the door.

‘I’m coming out.’ I waited until I heard the outer shutters slam before opening the door, sliding out through the smallest gap possible, not wanting to let any light in. But the room beyond was still dark. I closed the door, sliding the bolt home. And the shutters opened.

My hand went up involuntarily, my eyes dazzled. I had seen the sun rise, but this was different. This was the blazing light of morning, something I had never seen.

‘Here, you’ll need these.’ Something hard was thrust into my hand and I squinted to see a pair of glasses, the lenses tinted dark. I put them on and the relief was instant.

‘Thanks.’

Bev was regarding me curiously. ‘You never seen this before?’

I shook my head, careful not to dislodge the glasses. ‘No. I er, I live in the night.’

‘With him?’

‘Um, yeah.’ My head turned towards Kyle’s door and for a second I wanted to be back there in the darkness, the brilliant white light around me feeling as though it was laying me bare, that these people, kind as they were, could see to the heart of me. I could not let them know who I was. ‘He looks after me.’

Bev’s face crinkled up, and she laid a gentle hand on my arm. ‘Just be careful,’ she said. ‘If he tires of you, come here. Be safe.’

I licked my lips, frowning a little. ‘Um, yes, of course. Thank you.’

She stared at me a moment longer, then her face split into a grin. ‘So, Emily, you ready to go outside?’

I nodded. She went to the door, opening it, standing silhouetted in the frame. I could feel the light now, heat warmer than any candle, like standing in front of an open fire. The air was soft against my skin and smelt fresh, the slight breeze coming in through the open door redolent of green, of flowers. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t smell violets.

———————————————————————————————-

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.

 

#Blogbattle – Vampire

Aren't I fabulous and interesting?

Yay! It’s nice to be back at BlogBattle, Rachael Ritchey’s weekly writing challenge. If you’d like to join in, visit the site and check out the next prompt. This week’s prompt is ‘Vampire,’ which ties in with one of my current WIPs. Emelia Raven is the daughter of a great house of vampires, and she’s… a little different. She has lived her whole life under guard in her family’s great house, her world defined by the rise and fall of the great shutters, keeping the daylight out. Left to her own devices most of the time, she explores the house, trying new things – one of those things is wine:

I didn’t drink for a few weeks, not wanting another sick stomach and headache. But gradually the memory faded, and all I was left with were glimmers of how it felt to dance, of the world feeling open and full of joy. And I knew I had to try it again. I watched more movies, trying to learn what I could about the process. I even found a book about different kinds of wine and read it. And what I discovered was that I’d had too much, too fast. I needed to go slower next time. So I tried again, more cautiously, and gradually I learned how much I needed to drink to get drunk. I also learned how much it helped, in the long dark nights when I had only myself for company, blasting music through the library as I danced and whirled, singing at the top of my voice. There was one song I loved by Savage Garden, their name taken, ironically, from a popular vampire novel of their time. They were long gone, but their music remained. And I would dance and drink and wonder about cherry cola, and about wanting someone so much you would die.

And now I needed to get drunk again. The shutters had already closed, but I knew I had some wine hidden in the library, last of my stash brought up the previous month. I left my room, trying not to sigh as the inevitable guard fell into step behind me. I mean, I get it. It’s all I’ve ever known. But lately, I find their presence in my life oppressive. Well, all except for one guard, I guess…

Huh.

I huff out a breath. I really, really need a drink. I turn the corner, heading down the staircase. Two more guards, standing in the foyer, bow as I pass. I nod to them, wishing I could scream or make a face. As I take the long hallway to the library, the guard behind me flashes past in a streak of silver and black, pulling the doors open before I get there.

‘Thank you,’ I mutter. He starts to follow me in and I turn, stopping him. ‘I’m going to have the lights on, so I can read.’ Plus it’s the only way I can be alone, though I keep that to myself.

‘Then I must check the room, my lady,’ he says, nodding at me with a smile. He is young. Young-looking, at least. Handsome, as all vampires are. But his hair is light brown, not black, his eyes blue, not silver-grey. I try not to roll my eyes as he moves swiftly around the room, checking the shuttered windows, looking behind the furniture as though someone might be curled up on the floor behind a chair. Honestly. But it’s over in a few seconds and he comes back to me. A doubtful expression crosses his face. ‘You are sure-‘

‘Yes.’ I frown a little, and his eyes widen. He bows, leaving the library and closing the doors behind him. Finally. F*ck. Shaking my head, I flick the light switch, golden light pooling on the wooden floor, the velvet furnishings. I wander over to the bookshelves, stopping in front of one containing large encyclopaedias, running my finger along them. Was it ‘D’ for drunk? Or ‘W’ for wine? I grin, remembering. ‘F,’ for fun.

And forgetting.

Removing the book from the shelf I place it on a nearby table, blue leather binding smooth under my hands. Reaching to the back of the shelf, I retrieve a bottle, glass and bottle opener. Opening the bottle as quietly as I can, glancing at the door several times, I pour myself a glass, ruby liquid glinting in the light from the wall sconces. Then I drink, welcome heat in my throat relaxing.

It’s a start, anyway. But I need something else. A movie. Or music. Or something. Or both. Heading over to the large glass fronted cabinet containing the DVDs, I peruse the selection, glass in hand. Perfect. Choice made, I crack open the fragile plastic case, sliding the disc into the machine and pressing play. The familiar pounding beat gets my feet tapping as the titles appear on the screen. Saturday Night Fever. I love this film. It pre-dates the Rising by quite a few decades, and to me it’s a glimpse into another world. The accents, the clothes, the idea of being human and living in a big city, trying to make something of yourself. Of sex and dancing and a man and a woman trying to connect. Even though they could live in the day, all that was exciting seemed to happen at night. And I lose myself, finally, in the music, imagining lights flashing, a man holding me that way, as I drink and dance and try to forget.

—–

I must have fallen asleep. Wine does that to me, sometimes. The drunken feeling passing, replaced by lethargy. I woke as arms lifted me, glimpsing a flickering screen, the overhead lights turned off. Bertrand, I thought, closing my eyes and relaxing as we moved through the halls to my room. I opened my eyes briefly as he laid me on my bed, catching a glimpse of glossy black hair, a flash of silver in the candlelight. Odd, I thought, Bertrand has grey hair. And then I slept.

 

#BlogBattle – Silver And Black

IMG_1368

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the number of challenges offered by bloggers throughout the community. For writers there’s everything from sixty second flash fiction to short story competitions, and photographers could post something every day of the week and never run out of different blogspirations.

One writing challenge I’ve noticed is Rachel Ritchey’s #Blog Battle, and this week I’ve decided to give it a go. The theme is ‘Forest,’ so it’s right up my alley. The story below is a shorter section of a book which seems to be coming to me in dribs and drabs – it first appeared as part of a Flash Fiction Challenge by Ali Isaac, then another piece came along as one of Sacha Black’s Writespirations. This piece appeared when I saw the word ‘Forest.’

It’s a vampire story. I never thought I’d write a vampire story. I mean, I quite like them, loved the Lestat books back in the day, but my fantasy imaginings lean more towards  fantastical otherworldly stuff. So it’s been kind of neat to get a new kind of story in my head and I’m embracing it as it comes. Perhaps I’ll write the whole book as a series of blog challenges!

So here is my entry for this week’s Blog Battle:

Silver And Black

‘C’mon.’

He held out his hand, a darker silhouette against trees silvered by the moon. I knew his eyes were a similar shade, but I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see a damn thing, really, other than faint lines of pale branches against a clotted blackness.

‘You know I can’t-‘

‘Can’t?’ The silhouette tilted his head. I knew he was smiling, could hear it in his voice. But I couldn’t hear as well as he could. Another thing that pissed me off. And I had to be so careful how I moved, what expression showed on my face. I smoothed down my skirt with damp hands. This was stupid. I should just go home.

All at once he was in front of me, and I glimpsed a faint gleam in his silvery eyes before he bent his head to kiss me, sharp teeth grazing my lips, hot/cold breath turning my insides to honey. Okay, maybe I could do this, I thought as I clung to him, my hands sliding inside his jacket.

Then he was gone, just as fast, leaving me alone in the clearing. I froze.

‘Kyle?’

No answer. I tried to control my breathing, but I was starting to panic. Was this a trap? I strained my ears, listening, eyes wide against the darkness under the trees. Was something moving there?

Okay. Screw this.

I kept my face smooth, just in case he was somewhere, watching me. The branches creaked, eerie in the cold night, the forest whispering around me. I unzipped the pocket of my leather jacket, pulling out my phone. My mouth twisted a bit then, I couldn’t help it. But I had no choice. I had to call my mother.

The screen came to life under my fingers and I scrolled through. Not that there were many contacts on my phone. But before I could make the call arms came around me, and I felt teeth grazing my ear. I jerked involuntarily and the arms softened, letting go. Then Kyle was in front of me, one hand coming up to touch my cheek, smoothing away a tear that had snuck out, despite my best efforts.

‘Hey,’ he said. His voice was soft, all the teasing gone. ‘I’m sorry. I forget.’

I couldn’t say anything for a moment, mingled relief and anger choking me. I shook my head, tucking my phone back in my pocket then swallowed, clearing my throat. ‘I want to go home,’ I said, my voice higher than normal.

‘No.’ He breathed the word, his arms coming around my waist, his body close to mine. ‘I really am sorry. Will you stay with me, a while longer? There’s somewhere I’d like to show you. And then I’ll take you home, I promise.’

I purposely didn’t look at him. I didn’t need him trying to glamour me. Did I want to stay with him? My body was screaming, yes, Ohmygod, are you crazy, staystaystay. Then my mind joined in. Damn.

‘Fine,’ I said. Possibly a little ungracious but then, hey, he was the one who’d left me out here alone. ‘But,’ I went on, looking at him. ‘Don’t leave me again, or I am going.’

‘I promise,’ he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his mouth. I tensed. He smiled, his tongue flicking out against my fingers before he kissed them and let go. I took in a shaking breath.

‘So, where are we going?’

————————————————————————————————————

Check out the other#BlogBattle entries, or maybe add one of your own!