Back From A Break

Hey everyone!

It’s been a few months. Well, almost nine months to the day, to be exact, since I went on my break. I’ve missed you all and, I must say, it’s nice to be back. However, I think things will be slightly different this time. One of the things that caused me to take a blogging break was the pressure of having a weekly commitment – my Wednesday Wander. While I loved writing and researching the posts, and they’ve been very popular, coming up with one every week as well as sorting and editing photos started to feel like a chore. So, while I’m still travelling and seeing new places, I won’t be posting about them every Wednesday, just every once in a while. However, I’ll still be doing all my other usual rambling, as well as sharing writing stuff and whatever else comes to mind 🙂

But the main reason I took a break was that I’ve been working on another book. Several books, if I’m honest. You may already be familiar with my Ambeth YA series or A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s contemporary fiction novel. These have all been independently published – I’ve worked with beta readers and editors and cover designers to make them as professional and high quality as possible, and the feedback I’ve received seems to show I’m hitting the mark. However, as much as I enjoy being an indie and the creative control that comes with it, I’ve also been pursuing a dream to be traditionally published alongside my indie works.

To that end, I decided to devote several months to a book I completed last year, called The Last Raven. It’s a book about vampires, so perhaps not so red-hot in the market at the moment. Nonetheless, I had some interest last year from two publishers, as well as a couple of near-misses with agents. Both publishers initially declined but have invited me to re-submit with changes, offering valuable feedback regarding structure, as well as letting me know what they liked about the story (a lot, as it turns out).

So I took my story and pulled it apart, turned it inside out, chopped and changed the structure, increasing the level of detail and building pace. To be fair, it needed it. The story was already good, but spending three months restructuring has taken it to the next level. It’s been a fantastic learning process for me as a writer, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights I’ve learned on the blog. I also had a very promising meeting with an agent earlier this year – I’d initially approached her to assess my submission package, something you can do through the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists website. I wanted to know whether it was worth my going through the submission process again with the revised version of Last Raven, and whether there would be a market for it. As it turned out, she loved what she read and requested the full manuscript! It was a thrilling and enjoyable meeting for a lot of reasons – now I’m just waiting to hear what she thinks (and trying not to refresh my email every five minutes!)

As for the other books I’m working on, I have another YA series taking shape, as well as a non-fiction book about a health issue I encountered several years ago. Basically, after a season of editing, I’m back writing again. And so it seems as good a time as any to get back to blogging, too. After all, I don’t think I’d be the writer I am without this blog and all you lovely people out there.

When I started this blog back in 2014, it was originally going to be about my journey in writing, and what I learned along the way. Since then it’s grown and developed to become much more than that, chronicling my journey through the world. But my writing journey is still ongoing, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you again.

xx


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.

Taking A Break

Hello, lovely fellow bloggers!

I know Wednesday is usually when I take a Wander, but instead I’ve decided to take a break.

I’ve been blogging for the past four years, written over 700 posts, and made some wonderful friends along the way. However, I have a few things I need to focus on at the moment, which mean I’ve not been able to be as present in the blogging world as I’d like to be.

So I’m going to take a break.

I’ll still pop in and out when I can, just to see you all, but won’t be writing posts on a regular basis (if at all). It’s (probably) not forever, just for now.

Thank you all for being so lovely!

See you…

xx

 

#writephoto – Fallen

I do enjoy Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. Her photos are always so evocative, and sometimes the strangest story fragments come to me. This one is probably a bit odd, but then there are legends of standing stones that ‘walk.’ So, maybe they like to lie down for a rest, as well…

‘I don’t know about you, George, but this seems a rather nice place to lie down.’

‘Hmmph! Yes, it does, I suppose.’

‘A bit of shade, some of that nice bracken and the grass is lovely and soft, isn’t it?’

*creaking noise*

‘Are you comfortable, George?’

‘Yes, very.’

‘It’s nice here, isn’t it, with the insects buzzing, the sun warm on my crevices. Makes a fellow sleepy, so it does.’

‘We’re meant to be on our way to that circle over there.’

‘Oh, I know. But we could just lie here. Just for a few minutes. No one would mind.’

‘I guess they wouldn’t.’

‘There are plenty of other stones, anyway. They’ll take ages to set up. They won’t need us for a bit longer yet.’

‘Hmm, I suppose you’re right. And it is very comfortable here.’

*millennia pass, a thousand civilisations rise and fall*

‘Psst! Hey, George! George! You awake?’

*snoring*

‘George! Wake up! We must have dozed off in the sun, er, whenever it was, um… Anyway, they’ve finished. Without us.’

‘Wh-wha?’

‘They’ve finished, the blighters! Haven’t done too good a job of it either.’

*squinting*

‘No, they haven’t. I mean, half the stones are broken, for starters. And look at those two, leaning like that! And all that grass they’ve left growing up around the rest. Honestly, who’s running this build?’

‘Well, it was that guy. The one with the feathers. And the woman. She seemed nice, the one with the gold necklace. They seem to have sloped off now, though. D-you think we should get up, go and join the others? They seem to have left a couple of spaces for us.’

*grinding noise*

‘Absolutely not.’

*sighing*

‘Fine. What do we do now, then?’

‘Dunno.’

‘Me either.’

*muttering*

‘Should’ve stayed in Wales.’


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 🙂

The Bloggers Bash Post Competition – Extended!

Exciting news, fellow bloggers! The Bloggers Bash Post Competition deadline date has been extended – read on to find out more!

The Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition – Deadline for Entries Extended

We’ve listened, and we’ve acted. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve extended the deadline for entries to this year’s Bloggers Bash Blog Post competition. The deadline for entries is now 23:59 on Thursday 22nd March 2018. 

What is the competition about, and how do I enter?  

As you may have noticed, there’s another exciting event happening in London the same day as our Bloggers Bash. Although it won’t be as much fun as our event, the news of a Royal Wedding has undoubtedly given us a lot to think about.  

So, the Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition 2018 is on the theme of ‘Royalty.’ You’ve got a maximum of 300 words to share a flash fiction story, anecdote, poem, or another piece of work or writing on the theme of royalty. You might be inspired by Harry and his princess, or by the venue of this year’s Bloggers Bash (George IV). Or you might have another idea in mind. If you’re a photographer, then publish a post that includes photos of what ‘Royalty’ means to you. 

The Cost: £5 per entry or £8 for two entries – all proceeds go to funding The Bloggers Bash, payment accepted through PayPal only, at the bottom of this post.   

IMPORTANT – How to submit: Publish your entry(ies) on your blog and then drop an email to annualbloggersbash@yahoo.co.uk with the following information:  

  • The link to your blog post(s)  
  • Your Twitter Handle  
  • The identification number on your PayPal payment.  The word count of all the words (excluding the title) in your post  
  • Your name
  • Use the email subject title: BB Blog Post Competition. Prizes 

    1st prize is a £100 Amazon gift card and a winner’s trophy 

    2nd prize is a £30 Amazon gift card 

    3rd prize is a £15 Amazon gift card 

    We welcome entries from all over the world. The competition is open to all bloggers, regardless of if you’re coming to the Bloggers Bash or not. 

    This year, we’re delighted to announce that our judges for the competition are Kaisha Holloway and Jo Robertson. 

    Kaisha Holloway blogs at The Writing Garnet 

    Kaisha won the top award for Most Inspirational Blogger at the 2017 Bloggers Bash and continues to inspire readers all over the world with her incredible book blog. She supports authors by promoting their books and helping with their social media presence. Her passion for all things book related is evident in the number of blog tours she participates in every year.  

    Find Kaisha on Twitter: @kaishajayneh 

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewritinggarnet/  

    Joanne Robertson blogs at My Chestnut Reading Tree 

    Jo won second place in the Hidden Gem category at the 2017 Bloggers Bash and through her fabulous book blog she shares many hidden gems with her readers. She set up My Chestnut Reading Tree in 2016 and enjoys sharing crime and psychological thrillers as well as women’s fiction. As a Top 55 Amazon reviewer, you can rely on Jo’s reviews to guide you towards a great book.  

    Find Jo on Twitter @jocatrobertson 

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mychestnutreadingtree/ 

    The Small Print – Important, Please Read Before Submitting Your Entry 

    • Only entries with the identification number of the PayPal payment and sent by email to annualbloggersbash@yahoo.co.uk will be entered into the competition.  
    • Up to two entries per person are allowed. Anybody found to have entered the competition more than twice will be disqualified.  
    • Members of The Bloggers Bash committee and judging panel are not eligible to enter.  
    • The competition closes at 23:59 GMT on Thursday 22nd March 2018. Entries received after this date will not be included.  
    • Your entry must be a maximum of 300 words (not including the title) and can include: pictures, photos, videos, and artwork.  
    • The competition is only open to adults aged 18 and over.  
    • Winners must agree to have their full name and winning entries published on the blogs of the Bloggers Bash committee.
    • No alternative prizes are available.
    • The judges decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
    • By entering the competition, you agree to abide by these rules.
    • Click here to make your payment for entering the competition. 
      Winners announced at The Bloggers Bash on May 19th, 2018. 

      GOOD LUCK!  

      Click hereto buy a ticket for the Bloggers Bash. 

      Click here to meet the sponsor for this year’s Bloggers Bash awards.

      NEW Bloggers Bash Website COMING SOON! 

#writephoto Sanctuary

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto is one of my favourite blog writing prompts. The photos she chooses are always so inspiring, and she gets such a variety of responses to the same image. I don’t always get a story but, when I do, they come immediately. This one appeared when I saw her image for this week:

‘So, this is the place?’

The man grinned, revealing chipped and blackened teeth, his hair blonde against the blood-spattered furs he wore. His similarly-attired companion shrugged.

‘It is.’

‘Some sanctuary. It doesn’t even have a door.’

‘Huh. C’mon. This is where she’ll be.’

They moved towards the small building, their boots crunching against the snow. More flakes swirled around them, catching in their long tangled hair, melting on the iron blades they carried.

***

She watched them approach, fear closing her throat. There was no one left to hear if she screamed, anyway. She closed her eyes, willing herself to stay still, pushing aside her grief. When she got through this, if she got through this, there would be time enough to mourn.

She could hear their breathing as they stepped between the pillars, the clank of their weapons.

They entered the sanctuary.

It seemed as though the forest itself held its breath.

‘What the-‘

From her hiding place she heard a clatter of metal on stone, then a thud. A tear escaped from under her closed eyelids. They had destroyed the offerings, from the sound of it. The bronze bowl she used for scrying now taken as a spoil of war, the stone pillar on which it had rested knocked over.

Anger curled in her stomach, combining with the fear. She felt sick. But there was nothing she could do except wait, and hope.

***

‘She’s gone.’

‘Bitch probably ran into the woods.’

‘Hehe, yeah. She won’t get far.’

‘Let’s go. If the wolves don’t get her, we will.’

They left the small temple, stopping in one final act of desecration to urinate across the threshold, laughing as their piss hit the snow. Then they disappeared among the trees, the crashing of their passage growing fainter until she could hear no more.

***

She took in a deep breath. Uncurled her cramped and cold fingers, shook the snow from her hair. She spoke a word of power, and the branches enclosing her opened, releasing her. She spoke another, and two grey wolves appeared, their soft fur brushing her hands as they circled her, awaiting her command. ‘Go,’ she said, and they bounded away, golden eyes sharp with the thrill of the hunt. She listened as the howling grew louder, thought she heard a distant scream. Then she stepped inside her temple and began the work of cleansing.

She hadn’t been able to save her village.

But she could still avenge them.


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 🙂

Finding My Way Back #amwriting

I have a new desk.

For writers, this can be kind of a big deal.

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s a bit smaller than my other desk, which makes my tiny study feel bigger. There’s still room for my bits and pieces; trinket boxes, a set of vintage tins I use for pens, some interesting stones and feathers I’ve collected. However, I’ve had to clear out a load of papers, which is not a bad thing. I’ve found some treasure, like a list my daughter wrote a couple of years ago about her ‘Favourite times’. My favourite entry is ‘Being kept warm.’ Such a simple thing, yet to my small girl it was important enough to put on her list, and a reminder to me not to take such privilege for granted.

I also found a list of agents and publishers to whom I submitted Oak and Mist, when it was just a fledgling manuscript. It was in no way ready to be sent out, but I didn’t realise at the time, so I shoved it from its nest out into the big world. It came back to me thoroughly rejected, of course, although I did get a couple of requests for the full manuscript. It was a learning experience, if nothing else, and I suppose part of the process of being a writer.

There’s a lot to go through, and I’m still not quite finished. But I did discover one other thing, which I was very pleased to find. I found my way back. Back to writing again, to writing for my own pleasure as well as for others. This past year has been good for me – it’s challenged me and taken me out of my comfort zone. However, it’s come to an end and I’m happy to be back in my office once more.

In Stephen King’s On Writing (which I think is one of the best writing craft books I’ve read), he talks about returning to writing after his accident, and how he felt rusty at first, that his ‘tricks’ had deserted him. But he persevered, and soon found his way back to the page. In my own far less illustrious way, I feel the same. A little bit rusty, my writing mojo not quite back yet. But today, as I set up my desk, I felt the beginning. As though I were back on the path again.

And that was a great thing to find.


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

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

Woken By Words #amediting

I was woken this morning by words. Not by my neighbour, although the sound of her workmen banging and drilling at 8am was enough to send sleep away. I was up well before then, the story I’m working on poking and prodding at my brain. ‘Come on!’ it said. ‘Let’s go! We need to sort out this first chapter structure and I think I know how to do it.’

I tried to ignore it, rolling over with the covers around my ears, eyes closed tight. But it was insistent, worming its way into my dozing dreams, flickers of silver and black. ‘Wake up! It’ll be fun.’

Sure. Fun.

I’m not a huge fan of editing. I know it’s necessary, I know it needs to be done over and over eleventy bajillion times before I can send a book baby out into the world, but I much prefer the fire and flow of writing. That feeling when the story just comes out, so many words gushing forth it’s hard to get them on the page. I love that. But, as is accepted lore among writers, the first draft is usually crap. Upon re-reading, a host of errors will make themselves apparent and then it’s time to get out the red pen, usually with a sigh.

And that’s where I am now. I actually quite like this first draft. There’s a lot of good in it, and the story holds up well. However, there are scenes in the wrong order and a few repetitive events that need to be either combined or excised altogether, so my brain has been working overtime to reassemble the scattered pieces into something that still holds the spontaneity of the first draft, but won’t make the reader go ‘huh?’ when they get to see the finished product.

Have I sorted it? Hmmm. Not sure. What seemed so clear at 6:30am isn’t quite so obvious now, although I have made progress. Still, it’s a good sign. It seems this story is quite keen to get out into the world and so is pushing me. I’ll go with it, for now.

How about you? Do your stories yell at you to finish them? Gently prod you awake in the middle of the night to write plot points? The life of a writer is strange indeed…


Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth series, is on sale now until the end of January! Get your copy here.