A Monday Update

Despite the recent easing of lockdown rules in England, life is continuing much as it has been for me and my family. Hubby and I are still working at home and the gorgeous girl, who is in secondary school, is still not back in classes, and won’t be until September.

Still, there are things I miss. I miss my family, of course. It seems madness to me that I can go to a pub and interact with hundreds of strangers, but I can’t have more than two households meeting under my own roof at any one time. However, I’ve spent long stretches of time away from my family before and I suppose this is how I’ve been coping, by treating this as just one more enforced separation.

I also miss getting out and about, though one thing that lockdown has taught me is that I probably wasn’t doing as much of that as I thought I was. I am looking forward to venturing out and exploring this fascinating tiny island again – whether with family or with friends. I’m also looking forward to meetings closer to home, coffee or lunch with friends, big family barbeques, and the occasional ‘out-out’ evening.

I miss travelling, too. We were booked to visit Morocco in early April (and are still waiting for our flight refunds, coughRyanaircough!). I also had a trip to Wales at the end of March to attend a workshop, and another to Avebury in June to join the Silent Eye, but all have been cancelled. At the moment, the idea of getting on a plane is on about the same level for me as going to the pub, so I don’t imagine we’ll be going anywhere we can’t drive to anytime soon. Still, I know I’m fortunate to have been so many places – there will be chances to travel again and, in the meantime, I’ve been revisiting my old Wednesday Wander posts.

I don’t miss the noise, or the busyness of my old life. The feeling of having to be here and there and here again, of trying to fit things in, instead of the days stretching and moulding into a new, more relaxed routine. The hum of the motorway has returned, the buzz of traffic nearby, the rattle and hoot of trains in the valley. But there is still birdsong and buzzing bees whenever I venture out, still flowers and clear skies and long views – I know I’m lucky to have all this on my doorstep.

So I guess this is just an update, really. In some ways, I’m progressing with things, and in others, they stay the same. Writing-wise I’m moving forwards – there are new stories to tell, new worlds to explore. After having four full manuscript requests but no luck (so far) on my vampire novel, I’m shelving it for now and writing something new. My co-author project is picking up pace again, so hopefully I’ll have some news to share on that soon.

Until then, I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. How is lockdown life treating you?

xx

(All photos taken locally on recent walks)


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.

Dragons and A Brand New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday break 🙂

I know I’ve been a bit absent from the blogosphere this past month – I’ve had a terrible virus that stole my breath and sense of smell and taste, so Christmas wasn’t quite the eating festival I envisioned. However, I finally seem to be on the mend and so, I thought, it might be nice to write a post and say hello.

I’ve had dragons on my mind of late. Part of my virus seems to stem from the fact that I am a watery person, and there were times I longed for flames and heat to dislodge the permanent feeling of being underwater – a pet dragon would have been most helpful, though perhaps left me a bit singed around the edges 😉

Now that I’m feeling better, I’m excited about the new year and the promise it holds. I’ve been working on a collaborative project with someone which should come to fruition this year, and my vampire WIP has been ripped apart and reassembled, ready for a fresh round of submissions. I’m also going to be exploring some different fields of study, walking another path. I can feel my wings unfurling, ready to roar.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about this post I wrote, almost five years ago, right at the start of my blogging career. A portent? Perhaps. At the very least, it’s a cool cloud formation. What do you think?

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The other week I saw a dragon in the sky.

Outstretched wings, a long curving neck, all gleaming golden beauty.

‘Do I need to build a windlance?’ I thought.

And then, as I struggled with cold fingers to get my phone unlocked, the dragon drifted and changed, the sky taking him away.

But I think, perhaps, I caught him. No black arrow required.

Wishing you all a powerful 2020!


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.

 

#writephoto – Sunset

Sue Vincent runs an excellent weekly writing prompt called #writephoto, where she shares a wonderful, evocative picture from her collection, and you have until the following Wednesday to write something inspired by it. Here’s this week’s photo, and this is my response:

He liked to leave the house at sunset. Once the lamps had been lit, the dying sun painting licks of fire against the clouds. It hurt, to be outside at such a time, but it was worth it, to feel his soul twist and open against the beauty of the world, a reminder of something he could no longer have.

He remembered hours spent lying under blue skies, golden sun warming his skin. Lazy summer days drifting on rivers, nursing a beer in a pub garden, the sweet-sour taste on his tongue. The way the ocean shifted hue with the sky, the bright green of sunlight through leaves, the miraculous coloured arc of a rainbow.

All that was lost to him now. No beer, no warmth, no sunlit skies. It had seemed like such a good deal at the time, immortality an irresistible lure. And she had been so lovely, with her pale skin and red lips and dark promises – how could he have denied her?

But now she was gone. Vanished without so much as a by-your-leave. He was alone, confined to his house by day, wandering the streets by night. He had no taste for blood, despite his endless thirst – and besides, these were his neighbours. The thought of feeding from them was repugnant. So he made do with what he could find, small scurrying creatures that tasted of soil and berries, better than nothing, but nothing like the ecstasy she had promised.

He had no fancy for capes, nor for lurking in coffins. He left his house each evening, taking the curving road that reflected red back into the shimmering sky. One day, he thought, he might just keep walking, see if he could find her again. Or, failing that, someone else like him.

Eternity, after all, is no fun spent alone.


Like this post? Want to read more? 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.

The Stable Bow

Beautiful girl with rose petalsJuly is almost over and, with it, another round of Camp NaNoWriMo. Don’t ask me why I signed up to do it a second time, but I did, and I’ve just hit my word count goal – yay!

Over two months of writing – April and July Camp – I’ve ended up with 50,000 words and the bones of a vampire novel, Silver and Black. It’s taken some interesting turns, and I think it might turn out to be a not so bad story. But now I need to let it rest for a few weeks, while I focus on other things. (sorry Sacha!)

For it is school holidays, and I have a gorgeous girl at home with me. She’s still young enough that she wants to hang out with me, but I’m under no illusion that these days of cosy companionship are numbered, so I’ll take them while I can get them. She’s already starting to spread her wings and I’m having to step back and let her fly, remembering the words of Kahlil Gibran:

‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth… Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’

I don’t doubt that we will always be close, but it is just that the level of closeness will change. All too soon she will want her own time, her own friends, her own way of doing things, and I just have to hope I’ve given her enough grounding that she can make sensible, capable decisions for herself.  I guess that’s what most parents would want.

When they are small and into everything, and you feel as though you will never ever get another moment to yourself, you look ahead to a time when they can do things for themselves, recalling vaguely how it felt to sit and read, or take a long shower uninterrupted, or go out whenever you feel like it. Yet now, as she approaches that independence, I find myself looking back to precious hours full of games and whispered confidences and small chubby hands, and I count my blessings that I was able to experience them with her.

I can have no more children – that’s just how it is for me. But I’ve been lucky to have one; many who want to are denied even that. So for now, I’m going to make the most of it.

And I remain the stable bow while she is the arrow that flies.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Magens Bay, St Thomas

Magens Bay

This is Magens Bay, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Often appearing on lists of the top beaches in the world, this small slice of Caribbean heaven is reputed to be the place where Sir Francis Drake anchored while waiting for ships to plunder.

Nowadays, it’s a popular destination for tourist and locals on the island. It’s also the place where Edward and Bella filmed some of their honeymoon scenes in Breaking Dawn Part 1.

The Caribbean, for all its beauty, has always struck me as being a place filled with stories, not all of them pleasant. From pirates to vampires, this curve of sand and sea is no exception, its rippling blue waves holding secrets to be told.

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Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you all next time!

#Writephoto – Silver and Black (an excerpt)

Sue's Sunset

Sue has such a wonderful knack for choosing images that inspire stories. Her photo prompt this week does not disappoint and, once again, it seems to tie in with part of my own WIP. Not Ambeth – this time I’m heading back to the world of vampires, Silver and Black. And so here is my excerpt:

At daybreak, the shutters fall. All over the house, metal doors obscuring even the slightest hint of light. I often sleep during the day – after all, there’s not much else to do. But sometimes, when the guards are changing over, there’s a place I go that is mine alone.

And this morning I need to be alone, just for a moment. No-one to hear me or wonder what I’m doing. How can I sleep after last night, anyway?

I push open my door, looking up and down the hallway. Good. No one there. The shutters are sliding down, early golden light from outside being snuffed out – it’s a dangerous time for vampires. But for me, it’s a chance to be free.

I step out of my room and turn right, following the corridor a short way to a door. It’s different than the others lining the hallway, smaller, and made of thick wood studded with nails. I open it. Stairs curve up and away from me, the small window cut deep into the stone already almost closed off. I flick on my small torch then start to climb the tower, my hand trailing along the wall for balance, stone rough under my fingers. The air smells of cool and damp.

This stairway isn’t really used, because it doesn’t really go anywhere. Except outside. I come to another door, and feel in my pocket for the key. Iron cold, heavy in my hand, I put it in the lock and turn it. Then I step through.

Light falls all around me.

It is glorious. Gold and red and orange and turquoise, the sun a ball of fire just above the horizon. Mist is on the trees below, the landscape spread out below me like a half-remembered dream, green and beckoning. I can see the dark mass of forest on our boundary, stretching beyond for miles towards the faint shimmer of the Safe Zone. Sometimes, on the clearest days, I can see the sea.

The air is like velvet, cool and soft on my skin, and I can hear birds chirping. I have no idea what kind – I only know from old films and books that they live in the trees, nesting and flying during the day, then resting at night.

As I stand at the crenelated edge, looking out at the world, my eyes fill with tears. It never fails to move me, whether sunrise or sunset, the turning of the world an endless wonder. And a power only I, among everyone in the house, possess. The power to meet the sun.

I stand there, my vision blurred with tears, as light fills the world and I am free.


You have until June 8th to add your own entry for this photo, and there have already been some great responses. So head on over to Sue’s to check them out, or add one of your own.

Tea, Updates and Vampire Stories

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I know there’s a weekly thing where bloggers catch up as though having coffee, a conversational get-together with updates from the past week. I’m more of a tea drinker, myself, so, if we were having tea, this is what I’d tell you:

So, this happened yesterday.

Yay! I reached my 30,000 word target with Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on of late. It’s far from finished, of course, but I have a good framework in place, as well as the knowledge of where the story needs to go and what the characters have to achieve, so I’m pleased, overall. I’m still thinking about serialising the whole thing on my blog, as the response to the small snippets I’ve posted so far has been pretty good.

The weather here this week has been quite mad, one minute bright sunshine, then the next snow and ice falling from a clear blue sky. At one point last week we were walking through the park on the top of the hill where we live, and all around us, in almost a perfect circle, I could see vast towering grey and white clouds dumping rain and ice, while above us the sky was blue. A bit of Spring weather madness, I guess. But the tide seems to be turning, so to speak, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecast for next week – with May Day just around the corner, this is welcome news.

And I’m also expecting, finally, to be able to publish Hills and Valleys, the third instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles. I knew I was cursing myself by putting a publishing date at the end of No Quarter, and so it came to pass that the whole thing has taken longer than planned. However, the plus side of that has been more time to finetune the book, including finding (and fixing) a small continuity error. Plus, my editor thinks this is the strongest instalment yet, so it’s been worth doing the extra work. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, I guess.

And now it’s the Bank Holiday weekend. Rain is forecast, as is expected, though at the moment we have brilliant sunshine. The gorgeous girl had an excellent school report this week so, as a reward, I’m taking her to one of her favourite places, a craft store where she can do a project in store. They provide the paint, glue, apron and workspace then, for a small fee, she can choose something from the shelves or pottery collection and create a masterpiece. We are also going to visit The Treasure Box, the magical store I wrote about in a previous blog post, where she will no doubt spend time rummaging through the ribbons and buttons, looking for treasure.

Other than that, we’re planning to let the weekend unfold as it will, plans subject to change, depending on the weather. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that the sun shines on you, wherever you are. 🙂

 

 

#blogbattle – A Run In The Dark

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I’ve had a few weeks away from Rachael Ritchey’s #blogbattle, so it’s nice to be back. This week the topic is ‘Voice,’ and my entry is an excerpt from Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on this month as my Camp NaNoWriMo project (only a few thousand words to go!)

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A Run In The Dark

Let me tell you how it is, to run with a vampire. Both my mother and father have carried me before, especially when I was younger, playing games around the long lawns and rolling fields of our estate. But no one else has, ever. Oh, sure, guards in the past have picked me up when I’ve fallen, taking me to the house and safety in seconds. But never has anyone else taken me for a long run, where you cling close and feel as though you are part of the other person, the wind rushing around you both, cleaving you even closer together.

When my father ran with me, it was part terrifying, part exhilarating, and I used to laugh and scream in turn, tears leaking from my closed eyes. I think it amused him.

When my mother ran with me I felt safe, held in a net of love strong and soft as her long hair, which wrapped tendrils around me as though alive.

But with Kyle, it was different altogether. Of course it was. For despite how stupid I felt, what a disaster the evening had been, he was right. I had enjoyed myself for a while in there. Because of him. And now, with my head pressed against his shoulder, my mouth oh-so-close to his caramel skin, his arms strong around me, I wished the run would last forever, that we could run to the Safe Zone and the distant sea and spend time there together, just the two of us. The night was a blur of velvety dark, stars and moon striping silver around us so it was as if we ran under a giant bowl, the world turning under his feet as he sped me towards the safety of home. I saw the gateposts flash past, darker silhouette of raven statues against the sky, the thud of earth changing to the crunch of gravel as we ran up the long drive towards the main house.

‘Raven claw, blood and stone!’ he called out, as we passed each set of guards stationed at the gate and along the drive, each of them responding in turn with the night’s password. They could see who it was he carried, anyway.

Then it was over. He stopped at the base of the steps, the tall pillars striped paler against the darkness. The front door opened and I could see a faint glow of candlelight, my mother silhouetted against it.

‘Emelia?’

She came down the stairs in a rustle of silk, and I could hear the worry in her voice. I found mine.

‘I’m all right. I was just tired, that’s all.’ I was still clinging to Kyle, but he had moved me slightly away from his body, cool air between us. ‘Uh, sorry. ‘ I let go of his neck, my arm and hand stiff from holding tight, my hair feeling stretched and windblown. I ran my hand through it as Kyle carefully set me down, then staggered. He caught me, his hand against my waist. Then Mother was there, her arms around me, hands stroking my hair.

‘Come, lovely girl. There is tea for you, and you can tell me all about it.’ Then she turned to Kyle. ‘And I have arranged a special meal for you, downstairs.’

He stood to attention, heels together, then bowed. ‘I thank you, my lady.’ Then his glance flicked to me. ‘Sleep well, Emelia.’

‘Thanks.’ But he was gone and I felt all at once cold, despite my mother’s arms around me, as she led me into the warmth of the house.


And that’s all! For more entries, to vote, or add an entry of your own, head over to Rachael’s blog and click the Blog Battle link.

Getting Ready for Camp NaNo

If you go down in the woods today...

If you go down in the woods today…

I was going to write ‘It’s Monday.’ Then I realised that it’s Tuesday. The Bank Holiday has thrown me off a little, the week already starting without me realising.

It’s only a few days till I head to my virtual cabin for Camp NaNoWriMo. We have a full cabin, twelve writers in all, and our cabin name is The Wordcount Slayers. Some of the writers I already know, the rest I’m sure I’ll get to know over the next month of writing and commiserating as we slog towards our word count targets.

Camp NaNoWriMo is slightly different to November NaNoWriMo in that you can set your own word count target. Mine is 30,000 words and I’m planning on seeing how far I can get with Silver and Black, my vampire story that’s been arriving in bits and pieces. I have a bit of an outline now and I can feel the characters gearing up, ready to tell their tale. Kyle in particular has been pacing around, impatient to be unleashed upon the page.

Now that may sound quite odd, but I’ve had a few comment conversations recently about the fact that I am a Pantser. Stories come to me with characters, I’m given a few key events and then away we go, the characters pulling me along with them as a sort of scribe, or perhaps a director in that I give them some ideas of what I want from the scene, then they go with it. Or not, as is often the case. I feel quite strongly about my characters as well, wanting to tell their stories as best I’m able, that their voices be heard. After all, they decided to come to me, so it’s only fair I do my best to accommodate them.

So, April will be a month of vampires for me although, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away, these vampires are perhaps a little different than the accepted mythology. At least, I think they are. And my blogging schedule may suffer a little, depending on how the word count and school holidays pan out, so please do bear with me. Scheduled programming will resume, as they say, in May.

See you on the other side!

#BlogBattle – One Year Anniversary Edition

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I’m fairly new to Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle, but am really enjoying the challenges so far. And, guess what, I won one! My entry Behind The Mask, for the theme word ‘Hair,’ was voted last week’s winner, so thank you very much to everyone who read and voted for the story.

This week’s theme is a little different. As it’s the one year anniversary of BlogBattle, Rachael has asked us to re-post one of our entries from the past year. As mentioned, I haven’t been doing this too long so don’t have a massive back catalogue of stories to choose from. However, I’ve decided to re-post the first one I wrote, which was for the theme word ‘Forest.’

It’s a vampire story, which now seems to be growing into a full length novel – in fact, I’ll be heading into the virtual woods at Camp NaNoWriMo next month in the hopes of writing a good chunk of it. I only shared this story a few weeks ago, so apologies to those of you who’ve read it already – however, for those of you who haven’t, I hope you enjoy it.

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. 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?’

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And that’s all, folks! Visit Rachael’s page to vote, read more entries or even add your own.