Home Again…

Hello everyone!

I’m back from my adventure. The jetlag has worn off, the laundry is (mostly) done, and the holiday seems almost like a dream.

Yet it was real, and it was fantastic – I saw so much and have so much to write about I hardly know where to begin (there will be many blog posts!). New York was everything I’d imagined. I felt immediately at home there, perhaps because it’s a city that’s so pervasive in popular culture – yet it felt as though I knew it, as though I’d been before and was just being reminded of where everything was.

We wandered as much as we could in four days, including a walk through Central Park, where we took in the amazing skyline and I found the obelisk, partner to London’s Cleopatra’s Needle. We saw sights large and small, and didn’t let the weather, which included torrential rain and a snowstorm, stop us from getting outside and experiencing as much as we could.

The weather followed us, snow falling in Toronto on our first day there, Niagara Falls creating ice sculptures, the sun peering out from behind shifting clouds. Yet I basked in the warmth of family and old friends (and by old I mean fabulous), reforging connections and visiting familiar haunts, sad to leave when the time came.

But Boston, and the New England coast beckoned. We walked the Freedom trail, spent time in Salem, then followed the coast southwest through Plymouth, Newport, Mystic and Milford, finally ending up back in New York on a hot and sunny afternoon, ready to catch our overnight flight home.

And now it’s back to reality. The recent warm weather was a wonderful welcome home, and I’m away again this weekend, on a long-planned writing retreat with friends. Stories beckon….

It’s nice to be home x


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.

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Wednesday Wander – Cleopatra’s Needle, London

I had an impromptu trip into London yesterday. I’m currently trying to sort out a new passport for a trip I’m taking in a few weeks time, which has necessitated two trips to the Canadian embassy in Trafalgar Square. Yesterday’s visit was to replace my passport photos with another, equally dire set of images, as the ones I’d originally provided were ‘too glare-y.’

However, I didn’t have to wait too long to be seen by the very helpful staff, so  was soon back out in the sunshine with some time to spare before lunch. I thought I’d take a walk along the Embankment, which is where I encountered my Wander for this week.

This is Cleopatra’s Needle in Westminster, London. One of three similar obelisks in London, New York and Paris, it is actually a pair with the one in New York, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the legendary Egyptian queen (other than being from Egypt).

The Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and originally stood in the city of Heliopolis, where it was erected around 1450 BC by the Pharoah Thutmose III. Originally it had a single column of heiroglyphics on each face, but two more were added around 200 years later, to commemorate the military victories of Ramses II. Around 12BC, the obelisks were moved by the Romans to a temple in Alexandria, where they remained, buried under sand, until 1819, when the ruler of Egypt and Sudan presented one of them to the UK in commemoration of Lord Nelson’s victories in the Battle of the Nile.

The British government were pleased with their gift (one would imagine), but not pleased enough to pay to have the obelisk shipped to the UK. That didn’t happen until 1877, when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a noted anatomist, paid the enormous (at the time) sum of £10,000 out of his own pocket to have the obelisk brought to England. The trip almost ended in disaster when the ship was caught in a storm, but eventually the obelisk arrived, towed up the Thames to its eventual resting place .

When the obelisk was installed in its current position, in 1878, a time capsule was placed in the pedestal base. It contained a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day (!), a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in the erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of contemporary British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the Bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages,[6] a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers. Phew!

The obelisk pedestal has several Egyptian embellishments, and is flanked by two cast-bronze Sphinxes. Placed incorrectly, they are looking at the obelisk, rather than outwards, guarding it. Benches in the area were also designed to reflect the Egyptian theme, with more Sphinxes holding up the seats.

Nowadays the obelisk looks out at the London Eye and The Shard, the waters running past it the cold grey-brown of the Thames, rather than the glistening Nile. It is an oddity, out of place and time, almost lost among the trees and buildings, traffic roaring past. I wonder whether it dreams of palms and blue sky, of desert heat, and a time when it stood, whole and proud, with its twin.

I guess we’ll never know.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me. See you next time!


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.

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Wednesday Wandering…

It’s Wednesday again.

This is usually the time of the week when I go on a Wander. However, this week I’ve not had the chance to do my usual hunt for photos and research, despite (or perhaps because of) being out for a wander yesterday.

My Wednesday Wander posts take a bit of work. I enjoy doing them, and haven’t yet run out of places to feature. However, I’ve had a couple of books take me by the throat and demand I write them, so this year my focus will have to shift slightly when it comes to writing.

I do have more travel booked, a holiday planned for April to somewhere I’ve not been before, so I will definitely be writing more Wanders. However, they may not be every week – I hope you don’t mind.

I thought I’d take a look back and see how many Wanders I’ve written since the first post in November 2015, and was surprised to see there are 92! So, if you’re feeling that you might need a bit of a travel fix, there are 92 destinations right here on this blog, from Paris to Morocco, California to Wales. I even went to Dragonstone last year (though the Targaryens weren’t in, sadly). Just search Wednesday Wander, and you’ll see them all.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering (wandering?), my most popular post, based upon the amount of comments and likes, was to a place not far from where I live. Highgate Cemetery, London, is the most popular Wander I’ve written to date – hop on over and check it out, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for coming on so many Wednesday Wanders with me – see you next time!


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Royal Albert Hall, London

This week I’m taking a wander to somewhere I visited fairly recently. In fact, it was only yesterday.

It’s half term, so my daughter and I have been spending time together, and yesterday we went to London. We planned to do some shopping in Covent Garden, then head to Embankment to meet hubby. After that, dinner in Kensington beckoned, and a visit to somewhere we’d never been before: The Royal Albert Hall.

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the Hall was built as a memorial to her beloved husband, Albert, who died in 1861. Prior to his death, he had envisioned a series of public buildings in London, and the Hall, with its large monument opposite, was seen as a fitting tribute to his vision. Constructed of red brick and terracotta, the circular Hall is crowned with a huge steel dome, which was constructed off-site and brought in pieces to be placed in situ.

However, the massive dome, while seen as a miracle of engineering, also created acoustic issues – not ideal in a venue designed for performances. Various methods were tried to reduce the echo, but it wasn’t until 1969 that the issue was finally resolved, with the installation of fibreglass acoustic disks. The effect is quite beautiful, like an abstract artwork.

The Hall has seen many famous names grace its stage, from Wagner to Adele, as well as hosting events such as the Eurovision Song Contest and the yearly Proms. Last night it was Cirque Du Soleil, with their latest offering, Ovo. It was a beautiful, mesmerising performance – we were spellbound for the entire two hours.

When it ended, we went out into the cold night, walking past the dark mass of Hyde Park as we looked for a taxi. We sped towards the station and caught the next train home, our minds full of gilt and smoke and tumbling lithe figures.

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


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

A Blogging Blip and an Anniversary

Yesterday, as I usually do on a Wednesday, I put together my latest Wednesday Wander post and hit Publish.

But a funny thing happened. While my dashboard assured me that the post was, in fact, published, when I clicked the link to view it all I got was:

Oops, this page doesn’t seem to be here.

Strange, I thought. I went back into the dashboard, thinking perhaps I’d left the page too quickly, negating something mysterious in the process of click to publication. But my post was there, still insisting it was, in fact, published. I could update it if I wanted to, but it was definitely out there.

Except it wasn’t.

After trying a few more times I gave up. Perhaps the Happiness Engineers were tinkering with something, or perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. I went to bed, planning on looking at it again this morning.

But when I woke up, there it was. My shiny new post, published as promised. Whichever gremlin had been holding it had released it from their claws. So that’s one less thing I need to do today.

There is plenty to do around the house this morning, but I plan on taking a moment of reflection. For today is an anniversary. Six years ago I returned to the UK, my family in tow, arriving on a snowy dark day to the land of my birth. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we stayed in Australia. I’m not sure if I’d be writing the books I’m writing. I’m quite sure there are several wonderful friends I would never have met. But, as Aslan says, we are never meant to know ‘What if.’

I’m happy that we’re here, even though there are dear friends and family I miss in Australia. That is the lot of a wanderer, I suppose. And so today I will pause, to reflect on the past and celebrate the present.

Hope your day is wonderful, wherever you are 🙂


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Rocher De La Vierge, Biarritz

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Biarritz, located on the French coast. I absolutely loved it – the light, the water, the people, the food – it was just wonderful. I’ve written about it here and here, but for today’s Wander I’m going to go back to the town’s origins as a fishing village, before Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie made it such a fashionable place to be.

For centuries, the principal industry in Biarritz was whaling. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became known as a town for bathing, and the 19th century when it became fashionable due to the patronage of the Empress.

Nowadays, there are splendid hotels and a casino along the water’s edge but, if you wander a little further along the beach, you come to the old fishing village and harbour, the water clear turquoise against curving ochre rocks.

The old harbour walls remain and are used today – we spent a few minutes there watching a group of men launching a boat into the water. In the mid 1800s, Napoleon III decided he would like to build a large anchor point and sea-wall, connecting a nearby rock to the coastline. A wooden walkway was built between the two, and a statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on top of the rock to watch over the whalers as they returned to harbour.

The sea can get ferocious in these parts, however, and in the 1880s the wooden walkway was replaced by a metal bridge attributed to Gustav Eiffel (known for a rather more famous metal structure bearing his name). Today you can walk out to the rock and take in the glorious views, past archways of stone over dark blue water, sea birds wheeling overhead.

The day we went was warm and hazy, the water calm, though we had heard that the waves can splash as high as the footbridge on more stormy days.  Also, I think I may have found my dream house…

The Rocher De La Vierge is easily accessed via the coastal walk that runs along the main beach at Biarritz, past the Casino and town centre and leading to the excellent Aquarium. The views looking back are beautiful, as are those beyond, and the walk itself is quite gentle – I highly recommend it.

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


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I’ve been to Caernarfon, located on the picturesque North Wales coast, a few times. But my most memorable visit took place quite a few years ago, when a friend and I were travelling through Wales together. We managed to find, on our meagre budget, a guesthouse with a view of the famous castle, a genial host named Norm, and a very generous breakfast (we may even have taken some extra packets of cereal with us for later in the day – very small travelling budget, as mentioned).

I don’t know whether Norm’s Place, as we affectionately dubbed our guesthouse, is still there, but the castle undoubtedly is. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I, on the site of an earlier Norman fortress. It was one of a series of castles built by Edward after his defeat of the Welsh, to impose English rule on the land. Edward and his queen visited the castle in 1294 when, it is said, Edward II was born, and was designated the first Prince of Wales. Since that time, the title has traditionally been held by the eldest son of the British monarch, with Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, receiving his investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

The castle, despite its auspicious beginnings, has had a turbulent history. Sacked and set aflame by Madog ap Llewellyn during the Welsh uprising in 1295, the castle was recaptured and rebuilt by the English a year later. In the early 1400s it was besieged by Owain Glydwr, with support from the French – later that century, the Welsh Tudors took over the British throne and tensions eased, but the castle, which had been damaged over the years, fell into disrepair.

Despite being a Royalist base during the Civil War, the castle escaped destruction, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that repairs began. In 1911, the first modern Prince of Wales was named there, when Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) was invested by his father, George V.

Image: Manfred Heyde, Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays the castle, dreaming by the water, looks like something from a fairytale, a fortress from a vanished time. It is a popular tourist attraction, with almost 200,000 visitors in 2015, and is also home to the Royal Welsh Fusilliers Museum. It’s well worth a visit due to its wonderful state of preservation and its huge scale – you can see, looking at the size of the people in the photographs, how large it is. It must have been quite imposing in its day. In fact, it still is.

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


Oak and Mist, the first book in The Ambeth Chronicles, is on sale for 99c/99p until January 31st! Get your copy here

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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

Wednesday Wander – California Dreaming

It’s a short Wednesday Wander this week. The sickness bug has returned and taken over the entire household, all of us wandering around miserably, wishing it would go away. We live inland now, quite far from the ocean, and I do notice the difference in that things seem to linger, no fresh breezes or salt air sweeping through to clear away the sickness miasma.

And so my mind has wandered. To a place where the air is balmy, fresh with salt and Pacific breezes sweeping off a blue ocean. Where palm trees dance and seafood is served crisp and hot, fresh from the boats.

These shots were all taken the day we arrived in San Francisco just over two years ago, after a week spent in Vancouver and Seattle. We were about to start the next leg of our journey, heading down the California coast for my brother’s wedding.

We’d arrived, weary after a whirwind week, but excited to meet up with the rest of the family, who were flying in later that day. We checked into our hotel, then went to find food, a local restaurant offering excellent coconut prawns and a water view the perfect antidote to the bustle of airports and luggage and taxis, setting the scene for a wonderful week to come.

And it was my favourite time of day, as well. Sunset, the sky and sea reflections of each other, colours blending above and below. As we strolled back along the water to our hotel, I remember the feeling of warmth, within and without, and of happiness to be somewhere so wonderful with my favourite people in the world.

So, as I feel so rotten this week, I’ve decided to wander back there again. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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.

Wednesday Wander – Natural History Museum, London

It’s Wednesday and time to wander again. This week, I’m not travelling too far from home. I’m lucky enough to live very close to London and all that it holds, including some wonderful (and very famous) museums. This week, I’m wandering to the Natural History Museum, arguably one of the best known.

Situated in the heart of leafy Kensington, the Natural History Museum was opened in 1881, and is home to 80 million specimens from around the world, including those collected by Charles Darwin on his historic voyage. The origin of the museum can be traced back to the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish doctor who sold his collection of specimens to the British government in 1756.

This collection was first held in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, but was so poorly managed by subsequent staff members, including destroying specimens and losing labels, that much of it was lost. In 1856 a palaeontologist named Richard Owen was appointed superintendent of the museum – it was he who finally managed to bring order to the collection, and saw that a new, larger museum space was required.

While attractions such as the dinosaur skeletons and the earthquake room, where you can relive the Kobe earthquake as it happened, are a major pull for visitors, I happen to think the building itself is part of the museum’s allure. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse and inspired by his frequent visits to Europe, the terracotta tiled interior and exterior of the museum are crammed with carving and decoration, beautifully and intricately done.

Interestingly, the relief sculptures of flora and fauna are split into living and extinct species, with living species in the west wing, and extinct species in the east wing. This was at the request of Owen, and is seen as part of his rebuttal of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which stated (in part) that living and extinct species are linked.

We have a family membership to the museum, so we visit quite often – even though admission is free, you have to pay to see the temporary exhibitions, and the pass lets us get in to those for free, as well as jump the queue for popular attractions like the dinosaur skeletons. It’s also a great way to support our wonderful museums, of course! The earthquake room is a particular favourite of the gorgeous girl, as is anything interactive where she can push buttons, listen to whale calls or create waves, among other things.

Dippy the Diplodocus was a feature in the main hall until recently, when he was replaced by a blue whale skeleton diving from the ornamental ceiling – quite an awesome sight! Dippy is now on tour around the country, and is apparently having a marvellous time…

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


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.