Light And Dark – A Sneak Peek of Book Five in The Ambeth Chronicles #amwriting

As you may or may not know, Light and Dark, the fifth instalment in my Ambeth series, will be coming out soon.

If you subscribe to my newsletter (and if you don’t, maybe check it out – it’s mostly dog photos, kindness, exclusive first-look book news and the occasional giveaway), you’ll have already read the following excerpt (as that’s what my subscribers get – sneak peeks before anyone else 🙂 )

And if you haven’t read it yet, well, please enjoy…

‘Nice necklace, pretty boy.’
Deryck turned, frowning. He was near to the pillars that ran down the side of the Great Hall, the alcoves filled with people laughing and drinking. Something landed with a thud at his feet. He looked down to see a gauntlet of dark chain mail, jewelled with deep red stones. His frown deepened. He bent and picked it up, taking it to a nearby table and dropping it among the glasses and half-empty plates.
‘I think you dropped this?’ He kept his face deliberately tight; no smile, no fear, nothing to betray him. He had no desire to become prey.
‘Maybe I did, maybe it just fell.’ Simeon. Leader of the Dark Hunt. He sat, one arm along the back of the padded seat, his long dark hair around his face, half sneering, half smiling. His armour was jewelled and silvery black, like the gauntlet. ‘And I asked you about your necklace.’
‘What about it?’ All at once Deryck didn’t care what they did to him. Besides, they knew who he was. He might be younger than they were, but his father would destroy them all if they harmed him. His sister had ridden with them, once, although the circumstances had been different. He tried not to think about that day, about Alma, a bright figure against dark green, running across the fields. Yes. Kill him, hunt him, whatever. He didn’t care anymore.
Simeon laughed. ‘You just don’t see many of them, that’s all.’ When he smiled his face lit up, became friendly. ‘So tell me, son of Denoris, do you ride? Do you hunt? Will you follow the moon with us?’
Deryck’s breath caught, his heart pounding, even against the stupor of his stone. These were the ritual words. They were asking him to join the Hunt. Once he was in there would be no turning back. The Hunt rode for the Dark if required, doling out punishment, as they’d tried to do that terrible day at the tournament. The rest of the time they rode for their own pleasure, dangerous and wild, flashing across the hills in pursuit of those unfortunate enough to be marked as prey. He still for the life of him had no idea how Alma had escaped them. He was glad she had. But to join them? Membership was for life, however long that might be. He raised an eyebrow.
‘Why me?’
Simeon laughed, as did the others at the table, all of them, men and women, similarly garbed in dark silver and red jewels, like smoke and blood. One of the young women, her dark hair in two long braids, leaned forward, her cleavage pressing against the deep V-neck of her top. ‘Maybe we like pretty golden boys,’ she said, her voice husky. Deryck swallowed.
‘Or maybe that’s just you, Floria.’ Simeon shot her a glance and she sat back, pouting. He returned his focus to Deryck. ‘I hear you’re a good rider, and we know you’re a vicious fighter. So, if you’re interested, come ride with us. No commitment necessary. Yet.’ He drew out the last word. ‘What do you say? Shall we take you and your magic stone on a journey?’

Light and Dark – Volume Five of The Ambeth Chronicles
‘So you are… the Child of Darkness?’
‘It looks that way,’ he said, ‘and, as you are the Child of Light, it kind of makes sense that we do this together.’
 
Returning to Ambeth was always going to be difficult. Alma had brought them the Sword, and the Cup, but at what cost? There had been so much death, so much sorrow. But there was also love, her ties to Ambeth running deeper than she could have ever imagined. And now the skies were showing a dark star, his path coming to intercept hers as they moved towards the Crown.
 
The board is set, the pieces in play, as the final game between Light and Dark begins.
 
But who will prevail?

COVER REVEAL AND LAUNCH DETAILS COMING SOON – WATCH THIS SPACE (OR SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER )

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Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus you’ll find my books on Amazon (and A Thousand Rooms is available from all good book retailers). Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

Of Letters And Words

I have a collection of letters in a drawer. Letters written to me by my husband in the early days of our romance, when he was travelling overseas and I was in Canada, before we decided to combine our lives. Others are small notes from my daughter, cards and scraps of paper, where she’s written lists of things she loves, or little messages to me. And, wonderfully, there is a letter from my grandmother, received many years after she died, when my uncle found it among her things and sent it to me.

All of them filled with stories. Stories of love and caring and growth and loss. Written in ink on paper in strong hands, curling hands, hesitant hands still learning their letters. Each one unutterably precious to me, releasing memories each time I read them.

One of my favourite books, A Venetian Affair, is a true story built from letters found in the attic of a crumbling palazzo, sent by the owner’s ancestor centuries before to the woman he loved but was unable to marry. History is built on accounts of events from those who were there, but also on the smaller stories found in letters and diaries, details of everyday life that give us a more complete picture of how our forebears lived. Consider how many civilisations are lost to us, simply because their words are lost. The Great Library of Alexandria was partially burned by Julius Caesar, then lost to decline and the rise of Christianity. Spanish missionaries burned priceless Mayan texts, considering them to be un-Christian. The oral traditions of the bards of this island were almost lost, until someone wrote them down. Even so, what remains is only a partial picture of what was. Words are important.

But now we live in a digital age. We have mostly lost the joy of receiving a note from afar, of coloured stamps and spice-scented notepaper, of bright ink on a pale translucent page. Letters have become emails, notes and invitations text messages. Experiences, memories and emotions all swirl through a digital forest of words, deleted, edited, lost forever. Will our descendants be able to comb through these words to find out who we are? Or will we just be known as the Plastic Age, our lives pieced together from packaging slogans and shopping bags from landfill? We are better than that, surely.

Of course, people do still write letters and send cards and keep diaries. But so much of what we write is online these days, including this blog. And we cannot keep chopping down forests to use as shopping lists or toilet tissue or yesterday’s news. But we can choose recycled paper and vintage note sets, or recycle old Christmas and birthday cards into notepads so they can be born again. So make your mark on the page, share your words, write a note to someone you love, or hate. Splash ink and pencil shavings and sealing wax, tie it with a ribbon, stick on a stamp.

But don’t let our words be lost.

The Year That Was

As the year winds to a close, it’s customary to look back at all we’ve achieved in the past 365 days.

In a normal year, I suppose, that would be the case.

However, as we all know, this has been anything but a normal year. And so, while I’ve certainly achieved a few *things* this year (51 blog posts, 4 books including a co-author project, 2 short stories published, manuscript requests and rejections, a new website, plus turning the big 5-0) I feel that the story of this year is something much bigger than can be defined by mere numbers.

For this was a year of discoveries, not all of them pleasant. The discovery that teachers should be paid approximately £2546756756 per year, for starters. The discovery that people we like or love can get sucked down conspiracy wormholes, and that the ugliness of human nature is never far from the surface. But it was also a year when we were shown what the world could look like if we just stopped for a moment, the skies clearing, record bird and insect numbers, the wilderness rebounding from years of human pressure. A year when we were challenged in myriad ways, when we were forced to adapt again and again. A year of staying home, rather than going out. It was a year of change, of trying different roles or learning something new, of baking bread, or even just painting that wall in the lounge room yellow. A year when neighbours and friends and families and strangers all stepped up and worked together, a million small acts of kindness mending fractured communities. It was also a year of anxiety and stress and sorrow for so many people, for loss experienced through a screen, for watching years of work and investment crumble away within a few small months. It was a year when the idea of what is important began to shift.

It was a year to count blessings, rather than accomplishments

And so I will say simply this:

Whatever you did or didn’t do this year, if you’ve got through it, that’s enough.

And as we stand together on the cusp of 2021, and the promise of the next 365 days, remember – it may be dark at the moment, but every day brings us closer to the light.

Wishing you a safe, healthy and joyous 2021!

xx

Working On A Co-Author Project

January is almost over (I cannot believe it), and I’ve spent most of this month, as I did December, in the fog of a nasty virus. However, the mists are clearing and I’m finally raring to go with a new writing year.

While I’ve been working on my current WIP (which is now pretty much ready to submit), I’ve also been working on another writing project, co-authoring a middle-grade book. It’s been an interesting process as, while I’ve written for other people before, I’ve not written with someone. And there are some differences.

When writing for a client, you’re trying to write in their voice, not yours. The tone is set by the type of company, the content, and the branding message they’re trying to get across. Your job is to find the words to hook their target market, and to do so in their voice. The same goes for ghostwriting, where you are telling someone else’s story, not your own.

When co-writing a project with someone, you can allow your writer voice to shine through. Creatively, my co-author and I are in tune, sometimes suggesting the same scene at the same time! However, we’ve also set clear delineations as to who is completing which part of the project, making for a smooth and pleasant process.

So, if you’re thinking of setting up your own co-author project, here are a few things you might want to consider before starting:

Who is doing what?

Vitally important. You may choose to split the book on character lines, with one author writing one character and you writing the other, separated into chapters. Or, you may split the narrative between you, sending excerpts back and forth, both of you working on and editing them so the book is a mingling of both your voices. Or you may, as I’m doing, nominate one person to do the bulk of the writing, with the other person contributing ideas, scenes and characters as the story unfolds. There are as many ways to allocate the work as there are stories to be told, but the important part is to be clear about who is doing what beforehand, so there are no disagreements or instances where you’re duplicating work.

Assigning credit

Linked to my point above, decide how the book will be credited in terms of authorship. Will it be one author taking centre stage, with the other author mentioned in the credits? Will you both get equal billing? Again, there are several options and it’s really up to you. However, once again, defining this before the project starts will head off any disagreements (and of course, if the work arrangement between you changes, there can be a discussion at that point).

Finances

Once again, something to be agreed upon before work starts. If you’re getting paid to write the book, how will the fees be divided between you both? How will royalties, advances and rights be divided up? 50/50 is probably the easiest and most equitable way to do this – however, this needs to be defined and possibly set in writing before the project begins.

Finishing touches

Writing the story is only part of the process. Once the book is completed, you need to get it out in the world. If you have a traditional publishing deal, then editing, cover design etc will be taken care of, as will some of the promotion. However, if you’re publishing independently, consider the costs involved in hiring an editor, cover designer etc and work out how these will be split between you both. The same goes for promotion – work out an advertising budget, divide up social media scheduling, photography for various platforms, how you’ll brand and support the release, and who will handle any associated events.

As you can see, there’s a bit more planning involved than when you simply sit down and start writing a book by yourself. However, setting up a detailed plan beforehand, and making sure any agreements are in writing, should mean you’ll avoid any surprises or disagreements down the track.

Combining your creative voice with someone else can be a rewarding experience, challenging you to work outside your writing comfort zone, learning and benefitting from your co-writer’s experience. As the saying goes, sometimes two heads are better than one and you might be surprised by what you achieve. Just have a plan in place, then get to it!


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.

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?

IMG_1137

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.

 

Facing Fear with The Silent Eye, Part 1 – Arrival

I recently attended a workshop, with The Silent Eye, about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part one of my account…

My journey began on Friday 13th, amid the hustle and bustle of St Pancras station, my train waiting beneath the great arcing span of glass. Perhaps it was the day – I’d given myself plenty of time to get there, yet still found myself rushing at the last moment, a wrong turn taken meaning I had to run the length of the station to get to my platform. But I made it on board and settled in for a pleasant journey through London and out into the green, past the dreaming spires of St Albans and further north, buildings of golden brick changing to red, then to grey stone.

This weekend was to be given over to fear, so I reflected on what that could mean as we headed north. I don’t particularly care for spiders, but I wasn’t sure the weekend would involve me facing countless arachnids. Heights? Maybe – we were going to be wandering the moors and high places, so I wondered whether that would be part of the challenge. Then I went deeper, to more primal fears. The loss of family, of home. Of life itself. One thing I knew – to expect the unexpected. These weekends tend to work in mysterious ways, and it was probably best if I just accepted that and went along with things, knowing that I was among friends and in full control as to what, if anything, I chose to experience.

The train discharged me at Sheffield, where I had a 15-minute wait for the local train bearing me into the hills. Once on board, we entered a long tunnel, a strange transition through darkness. On one side the industrial town; on the other, small villages and green hillsides, quaint stations with names like Grindleford and Hathersage. I had only a short journey to Hope, where I’d arranged to be picked up and taken to Tideswell, where I’d be staying for the weekend.

Tideswell is a beautiful village, all grey stone and pointed roofs, mullioned windows winking in the sunshine. It was a glorious day – the sun shining, sky blue, warm enough for a light jacket, even in the hills. Once dropped off, I made my way into the pub where I was staying, being shown to a room with a four-poster bed, of all things, before enjoying an excellent lunch in the small dining room, bounded by ancient oak beams and flagstone floors.

Then it was time to go. Sue and Stu had offered to pick me up and, at the allotted time, I went outside to be greeted with hugs and smiles. Then we hit the road, heading for the village of Eyam. I was excited to be going there, having enjoyed reading Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, a fictionalised version of the events that took place in the mid 1600s when plague came to Eyam. I’d also watched a fascinating documentary about the descendants of the survivors of that terrible time, all of whom still carried antibodies for the plague which also, apparently, rendered them immune to HIV, as both viruses work in a similar manner. (I’m in no way an expert on this – I’m just stating what was reported in the documentary – apparently these antibodies are being studied in the hopes of developing more effective HIV treatment). Eyam, quite simply, was a place with a story. And I love stories.

But I was not prepared for Eyam…


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.

How To Cope With Negative Reviews #writinglife

When you’re a writer, reviews are part of life. However, for some reason, even if we have twenty-seven five-star reviews, we tend to focus on the single two-star review among them, like obsessing over a rotten apple among a basket of perfect rosy fruit, rather than chucking it out and making a lovely pie with the remainder.

This is because bad reviews hurt. Of course they do. Someone has taken our book baby and said mean things about it, about all the months and years of hard work and pouring our innermost selves onto the page. But it is a reader’s right to do so. And, if you look at it, the occasional bad review isn’t always a negative thing. How can you think that, you shriek, brandishing the offending text. Well, here’s why:

Somebody cared enough to write a review I know, I know – it would be nice if everyone who enjoyed your book left a review. However, the point of art is that it moves people. And if someone felt strongly enough about your book that they needed to leave a review, whether negative or positive, then it means you’ve succeeded in that respect.

They add credibility to your listing We all know that author. The one with ninety-seven reviews, none of which are below four stars. But out of all the people who read their book, is it really believable that the percentage who left reviews (usually 5-10% of total readers), all absolutely loved it? I mean, maybe they did. Maybe that person was just lucky, or wrote a truly exceptional book. However, art usually doesn’t work that way. There are always going to be people who don’t like what you do, for whatever reason. As the saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I’ve known reviewers who tell me they look for the two and three star reviews when buying a new book, as they feel they help to create a more honest and balanced picture of the novel.

Free feedback Okay, this might hurt a bit. However, if you’re getting the same specific element in your work flagged over and over in your reviews, or the negative reviews outweigh the positives, then you might need to consider that there’s an issue with your manuscript. If you’re an indie, you can choose to revise the edition. Or, simply take it on board as a learning experience for your next book.

(Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Reviews that troll, or personally attack the author, are a different thing altogether, and should be addressed by the platform. This happened to an author friend of mine, who was getting pretty good reviews for her first novel. However, one day she received a one-star review that attacked her personally, as an author and a person, rather than focusing on what the reader didn’t like about her book. She put in a complaint to Amazon who, after looking at the review, agreed it contravened their policy and took it down.)

However, none of this changes the fact that a bad review can hurt. Therefore, here are a few coping techniques that may alleviate the sting:

A praise journal. Someone said something nice about your writing? Messaged you personally? Sent out a tweet? Wrote a particularly fab review? Gave you some flattering feedback? Gather all these lovely morsels of goodness together into one document and create your very own praise journal. And, when you get hit with some not-so-great feedback, open your praise journal and read a few soothing excerpts. Focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

Put it into perspective. Think of a book you absolutely love, a five-stars-all-the-way, howcanyounotlikeitareyoucrazy read. Then go and check the reviews. I can guarantee you that, if it’s a bestseller, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of negative reviews. But how can that be, you might ask. This book changed my life/rocked my world/inspired me to new levels of creativity. How can anyone not LOVE it? Well, see my point above about art and take this as a reminder that your book, while undoubtedly excellent, isn’t going to appeal to everyone. If your fave writer in the world gets bad reviews, yet is still a success, the same also applies to you.

Remind yourself that you are a writer, and it’s part of the process. Like piles of rejection letters, or editorial comments about how your story is good but not quite good enough, bad reviews are simply more thorns among the roses of a writing life. Someone (not me) once said, to be a writer, you need a thick skin. We do – but only at this stage in the process. To write good stories, stories filled with emotion and drama and love and loss, our skins need to be parchment-thin, allowing all the glorious words to seep out onto the page. We only need to put our armour back on when it comes to sending it out into the world. So strap on your armour and count it as another war wound, another scar to prove your writerly worth.

Create something new. Isn’t that why we keep doing this, after all? The rush of a new creation coming to life, of words and worlds appearing on the page. Move forward, take what you’ve learned, and keep creating. Just because someone doesn’t like your work, doesn’t mean it’s not good or doesn’t have merit. Take inspiration from the words of the late great David Bowie: ‘Never play to the gallery. Never work for other people in what you do.’ Just keep writing. It’s good for the soul.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t write this post to make myself feel better about getting a couple of not-so-great reviews, or as an invitation to give me a bad review. I’ve been writing for fifteen years, and have had (several!) bad reviews already, as well as many many rejections. Instead, this is about sharing my methods for coping and moving forward, for focusing on the positive, rather than the negative. As writers we’re all out here battling – for visibility, to get that deal, to finish the story, to get a new story idea, to catch a break, to find new readers, to make a living in an increasingly crowded and low-paying marketplace. But we do so because we love it, because we have a fantastic writing community around us, and because we can’t not do it. So, let’s share the love and remind ourselves, we are not alone.

Happy writing!


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.

Creative Flame – How Trying To Write To Market Made Me Lose My Way

I think I mentioned, when I came back to blogging, that I’d taken some time off to work on a book called The Last Raven. It’s one of the most complex stories I’ve ever written so I needed to focus on it, and also on my goal of getting a traditional publishing deal.

So how’s that going? Well, it turns out that The Last Raven, in its current state, is an ‘almost’ book. I’ve had several full manuscript requests, from both agents and publishers, but nothing has actually come of it. Lots of people have liked it, think it’s an original concept, and have given me advice and feedback. I’ve taken my story apart and put it back together again. But still, nothing.

Apparently, when you get to this point, when you’re getting feedback and requests and people are interested, you’re ‘thisclose’ to getting representation or a publishing deal. Which is somewhat heartening. But close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. So, after yet another rejection, I felt it was time for me to revisit the manuscript and see what I could possibly do to it to take it over the line.

A recent re-read had revealed that there were some structural problems. However, these were as a direct result of my chopping and changing scenes around to try and fit the advice I’d been given in order to make the story ‘better.’ Still following that path, I continued chopping and changing things around until Wednesday night, when I stopped, utterly convinced I would never ever get to the heart of the story and I may as well give up on it. Not a great place to be.

I woke yesterday morning, still feeling discouraged. But then, when discussing the situation with some writer friends, I had the following revelation: I’d been so busy trying to make the story into what I thought other people wanted it to be, I’d forgotten what I wanted it to be.

This was profound, dear reader. It was as though a weight dropped from me (to use a cliché). As soon as the thought came into my head, I knew what I needed to do.

The dog needed a walk, so she and I headed out into the early morning, my head spinning with ideas. I knew I needed to revisit the original story as I’d first written it – yes, it was far from perfect, and there was a long saggy middle section that I’d been wise to remove. But there were some scenes in there that I’d chopped in the name of ‘pace’, which I now realised were integral to my main character’s progression. And there were some new scenes popping into my head that made my knees buckle and fleshed things out even further. I needed to go through the story, chapter by chapter, and piece it back together again. It would mean more work, but it was work on my terms, true to my creative vision. My heart full, I headed home.

The thing with this writing game is that it is incredibly competitive. There are SO MANY BOOKS out there. Which is a wonderful thing, if you love books like I do. However, when agents receive thousands of manuscripts a month yet only end up signing maybe five people over the course of a year, getting past the gatekeepers into the world of traditional publishing is a difficult quest, at best. Of course we can watch the market and write what we hope will be the next big thing, but what perhaps can be forgotten in such a pursuit (and certainly was in my case), is that writing is an expression of our creative selves, and we need to honour that creative flame and let it burn. There’s nothing wrong in writing to market – in fact, it’s a good way to make money in this business, so if you can do it I’d recommend it. However, in this instance, when I twisted and changed my story to try and fit an ideal, it lost some integral part of its soul in the process.

My original manuscript did need work – I do recognise that. And some of the chopping and changing did bring new threads and details to the surface which were necessary to the story. However, I went too far, and lost sight of what I’d started out to achieve. To use another metaphor, I was all at sea. I’d tried to make my story into something it wasn’t, or at least not what I’d intended it to be. And in doing so, I lost the creative flame that had sparked it into being. So now I’m heading out to buy a big whiteboard and a stack of sticky notes – strange tinder, I know, but I’m sure it will get the flame burning again.


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.

Pirates Ahoy! A Writer’s Frustration

Being a writer isn’t all lattes in coffee shops and glowing bursts of inspiration. There’s quite a bit of hard work involved too, as many of you know. Writing a novel and then getting it out into the world is a huge effort, especially for independent authors like myself. I work with a professional editor and cover designer, have a critique partner and several beta readers, not to mention the endless rewrites, edits and formatting to get it ready for the reading public. Basically, it’s a big job.

But I love to write and share my stories, which is why I do it. However, one of the big downsides, especially with the rise of e-books, is piracy on the web. I know my books are out there as free downloads or, even more irritatingly, to purchase, on various pirate sites. I tried Blasty for a while, but now just do the occasional search and destroy method, following tips from fellow authors or online trails. I’m resigned to the fact I’ll never get all of them, but finding and deleting a title every once in a while makes me feel as though I’m doing something at least.

I was recently alerted to Kiss Library (google them, I’m not going to do them the favour of sharing their link) and, when I went to their site, I found both Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth series, and A Thousand Rooms, my standalone novel, available to purchase. Oak and Mist is exclusive to Amazon – I can’t even sell it from my own website – so it was galling to see both my books available for sale on some pirate site, with none of the proceeds coming my way.

Kiss Library purports to be fully compliant with copyright laws, and has a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Form) link at the bottom of their site, which takes you to a simple form. You fill in a few details, add the link to your (pirated) books – there’s even a space to leave them a message if you so desire. It all seems very polite and above board. So I filled in the form, adding a few choice comments about them making money from my work, and pressed submit.

Within a few minutes of submitting the form, I received an email from them apologising and saying they were ‘very sorry about this situation – we’ve had an influx of copyright complaints recently which we haven’t seen before. Apparently someone has found a way to work around our copyright protection mechanism.’ A quick search of review forums found that this is a standard email they’ve been sending for at least a year, so I very much doubt this influx is ‘recent.’ They also said they would contact the parties involved and make sure I received any payments outstanding. Sure…

Several of the reviewers on the forums mentioned they’ve had their credit card/bank details stolen as well, so I don’t think I’ll be giving Kiss Library any further information, even if they do offer payment. And, in the meantime, if you’re an author, check the site to make sure your books aren’t on there. And if you’re a reader… buy your books from a reputable retailer. We authors really appreciate it!


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.

A Visit To Kings Landing #GameOfThrones

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 8 of Game Of Thrones, so if you’re not all caught up, read further at your own peril. Again, spoilers spoilers spoilers)

A couple of years ago, I shared two posts about visiting Dragonstone, the Targaryen island fortress from Game of Thrones. Of course, I didn’t really visit a fictional location – rather, I visited the two spectacular filming locations in Spain, Itzurun Beach and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a writing holiday with three fabulous friends to my third Game Of Thrones location, the beautiful medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, which stood in for Kings Landing in the show. All of us being GOT fans, we decided to book a two hour guided tour taking in many of the famous locations from the show.

Of course Dubrovnik, a World Heritage site, was a tourist draw long before the Lannisters came to town and, according to our fabulous tour guide, Eva, the hugely popular HBO show hasn’t really done much to change visitor numbers to Dubrovnik. As she put it, ‘the city was already at capacity.’

Eva was uniquely qualified to be our guide, having worked as the stand-in for Cersei, Danaerys and several other of the main female characters on the show, as well as being a Production Assistant to the showrunners, Dan and David. She’d been part of the show since the very beginning, and so was the perfect person to take us around the fictional Kings Landing.

We visited key locations such as Fort Lovrijenac, which was used for several key scenes, including one in the Red Keep courtyard when Cersei uttered her famous line, ‘Power is power.’

We also saw Blackwater Bay, and the long quay where Sansa, Bran and Arya bid Jon farewell in the final series episode.

We stood on the Shame steps, looking up to where the fictional Sept of Baelor stands in the show, and listened to bells ring out across the city from the towers used in the show to signal the Lannisters’ (ultimately futile) surrender.

The tour was two hours long, which, at the end of a very hot day, was enough. We’d done plenty of exploring already, walking the city walls (location for the House of the Undying as well as plenty of other scenes in the show), and taken in the extraordinary romantic views of islands and blue water.We’d sat in the shade of a curving stone tower watching people swim as we chatted and rested our tired feet, and had snuffly wet kisses from a small black pug dog.

We’d wandered along the stone quays, marvelling at the amount of fish in the crystal-clear waters. Swallows darted above, their constant chirping part of the city soundscape, as were the bells from the many towers, striking the hours.

And, as we wandered the streets in subsequent days, along lantern-lit alleyways and curving flights of stairs, through sun-drenched courtyards filled with orange trees, I realised what Eva was telling us.

Game of Thrones has created a mythology around Dubrovnik, that of a city peopled with characters from fantasy. But Dubrovnik was already a place of wonder and magic, a city full of stories – Game of Thrones is just one of many. I’m sure it won’t be the last.


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