I’ve been working on a scene set in the Tor-Milanese Ambassador’s house in Lestar, for book 4 (An Empty Fade). I have got one of my characters into a bind and I know he’s going to get out of it, but I’ve been having a lot of trouble working out how. It’s starting to dawn on me now but it needs a bit longer to mature.

So rather than focus on it, I’m going to write a blog entry instead.

(Cue cries of: ‘What are you doing? Get on with writing the book! Haven’t we waited long enough?’)

Bear with me while Professor Adam Grant helps me explain – check out the YouTube link here and then pop back.

So, if I think of procrastination as ‘waiting while it incubates’ rather than ‘being lazy’, what’s to stop me waiting forever (and you never get the book)?

Andrew Kirby (also to be found on YouTube) has a different definition that he feels should be used for procrastination: not using your time wisely. On that basis, I’m not procrastinating at all.

I know from past experience that if I try to sit at the computer right now and knock out the solution that’s just occurred to me, I’ll either be staring at a blank screen for most of the day, produce boring unoriginal writing that I end up deleting or I’ll give up and go do something else that feels more urgent or easier. The last would be fine, I guess; but none of this is getting the scene written.

However, if I type up this blog whilst the idea putters about in my brain generating thoughts on why this would or wouldn’t work in the bigger story, I’m going to pull little strands together that weave something more solid. I’ll remember someone else this will affect; an unexpected impact enters the story and pow! – you, dear reader, end up with a far more satisfying read.

If there’s one thing I don’t want to do it’s short change you with An Empty Fade, especially after you’ve been kind enough to stick with me for three books already. But if the worst comes to the worst, there’s a good chance George RR Martin will finally have The Winds of Winter out to keep you occupied.

I hope that helped explain, thanks for your patience, and if you have a technique that works for your creativity, do let me know and I’ll share it!

Helen


With such a diversity of routes to publishing (and during the last year, so many would-be writers with time to draft a manuscript) there has never been a better time to be a reader.

But how do you as a reader find your way through all this to your kind of story?

This article has a couple of suggestions to short-cut to the books you’ve been looking for.

There were reportedly more than 48 million books available on Amazon (more than 6 million were e-books even back in 2018 according to Wikipedia) so the 2021 figures are going to be even higher. That’s a dauntingly large number of books, and it’s understandable that a lot of people prefer to rely on traditional publishers they trust and the bestseller lists to help them find their next reads. But publishers are businesses, they have to go with the authors who will make money for them. What if you’re a very niche reader?

Diversity is happening in traditional publishing but maybe not as fast as many of us would like. Meanwhile lots of people are publishing less for profit than for the joy of seeing their work out there. They can be a mixed bag, but there’s some exceptional quality writing to be found if you’re prepared to look. Here’s some ideas for ways to find your good stuff among it all.

Follow the right bookbloggers.

This will cut down some of the searching as they will curate books that fit their ethos. Use search to find and follow a few on social media, keep following the ones that appeal and you can save time and money tracking down your kind of read. If you’re after niche stories, the right blogger can save a lot of time and effort. You can find bookbloggers that focus on genres, languages, age groups, non-fiction subjects – pretty much anything.

Here’s one that specialises in less well-known authors and has a very visual site (and has Pinterest and Instagram accounts, if you prefer those Apps to FaceBook and Twitter)
https://www.whisperingstories.com/

Where a selling site uses sophisticated algorithms to feed you suggestions, it never hurts to check them out.

You’ll find suggestions on many book sites (or the stickers on bookshop shelves) along the lines of ‘Customers who viewed this item…’, ‘Inspired by…’ and genre ‘bestsellers’ links relating to the book you’re currently looking at. While some are paid adverts many are not, and checking out likely looking books can lead to yet more suggestions. With bestseller lists though, remember to scroll down a bit. The best books for you aren’t always the ones popular with everyone else!

You like a variety of books but you’re on a tight budget?

Then step away from the book retail sites and check out the ideas in this article, courtesy of How-to Geek:

https://www.howtogeek.com/58500/how-to-find-thousands-of-free-ebooks-online/


I don’t think of myself as a party animal, but writing is a sedentary job and I do need to get out of the chair for something other than a cuppa or a meal. I try to do some kind of exercise 3 times a week plus there’s walking the dogs but of those, only my online MS fitness class gives me a real workout.

Unless I’m some place where 70’s and 80’s soul and funk music is playing. It’s the equivalent of the doctor whacking me on the knee with a little rubber hammer – I just can’t keep still.

Cue a regular Friday night activity I’ve taken up during lockdown – an online disco. The one I attend is run by Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet, a wonderful team of lunatics in London with partygoers from – well, pretty much anywhere in the world!

They feature various partygoers on their blog and this week, it’s me!

I encourage you to go take a look at their blog and find out some new stuff about me – and maybe get into the party mood with these guys yourselves. If you do, tell them who sent you!

Maybe see you in Nikki’s spotlight at a future Friday Night Boogie?

Helen x


It’s been a horrible year but things are starting to get a bit saner (for the rest of the world at least – for the UK I’m reserving judgement!)

I have revised Melor’s Tale so it’s not a spoiler (much) any more, and am making it permafree for download from my website. (Obviously I’m hoping you love it so much you’ll rush to buy my books, but it’s a sweet little stand-alone wintry story so just enjoy it guilt-free.)

Featuring:
* An ex-pirate
* A dying woman
* Soon-to-be-orphaned kids
* A good dog
* A man in black with a ledger

Melors Tale A Prequel Short Story 2nd Edition Nov2020

I’m happy for you to pass the link on to others, it doesn’t save any email addresses so none of you will get spammed.

Book 4 is making slow but steady progress but no publication date yet – sign up for updates and we can let you know.

Happy Reading and Stay Safe xxx


My game plan, as a writer, was to get the first three novels out in the first two years (done!), and have book 4 ready to go this year with books 5 and 6 not far behind (one’s a prequel, and the other is one of my sci-fi stories but still in the same universe.) By year 10 I’d have a MASSIVE following and 4 more books out, wouldn’t I?

What we’ve got is book 4 still in first draft, The ending of book 5 has only just come to me, book 6 is novella length and needs a darn good look at the science, while books 7 to 10 are sketchy at best.

The good news is I did get a prequel short story done last year. I’m still pleased to have got as far as I have, given I was also diagnosed with MS last year. (I feel that makes an excellent excuse for the syrupy brain and the general desire to flob, so expect me to use it.) The equally good news is the MS is holding steady at the moment, and since I’ve volunteered with the MS Society for more than 15 years I have a good support network around me, so fingers crossed that it keeps behaving.

With the Covid-19 lockdown on it’s hard to know whether this grand plan will pan out. Apart from the timeline moving out a bit for books 4-6, for now the direction of travel still looks much the same. I’ve no time, no places to go and no budget for marketing at the moment, just a burning urge to catch up on book 4 and a good opportunity to do so.

While you’re waiting for me to get my act together, you can get lots of free PDF taster chapters from the blogs or the book tabs on this website, or if you have coughed up to Amazon for Kindle Unlimited, don’t forget you can (re)read the lot there for free.

By Restoring the Light, Vel and Jez have been solidly thrown together and while they both complain about everything, you know they both kind of enjoy it.
When you picture these two huddled damply together on a bit of tarpaulin getting wetter and crosser with each other, you know this relationship is inevitable. Since Renia was busy pining for Kerin (oops, not a spoiler I hope?) and four of them had set off to Ilmaen, these two were always going to have to keep each other company. You knew there were sparks. You just weren’t sure if they were lighting a steady, warming log fire or the towering inferno. But then, neither were they.

The link below is to a short extract that’s typical of their relationship.

Extract from Restoring The Light Chapter 1 Enough was enough

Other highlights to watch out for:
Getting Jesral on the boat (Shadowless Chapter 12)
That awkward first kiss (Restoring the Light Chapter 9) and
First it’s off, then it’s most definitely on again (Restoring the Light Chapter 11).

If you enjoyed this extract, why not try another Vel and Jesral moment, this time from Shadowless.
Or check out the short story prequel to Shadowless, Melor’s Tale

Catch you later!

Melor had given the inn boy a coin to stop his sheep getting out.
He’d said nothing about stopping anything getting in…

The tale of the day a sheep farmer found a dying woman, and made a life-changing decision.
Download the PDF below:
Melors Tale A Prequel Short Story
Photo by Andreas Weiland on Unsplash

Jez running in fear of Renia’s ability is a response Renia’s used to. While it may seem extreme and close-minded to us, these people are living in a future plagued by memories of The Catastrophe – and it is truly a memory, not just a piece of history.
About half of humanity have been born remembering The Catastrophe, able to sense the billions of lives snuffed out in one incident four hundred and fifty years before. Like a nightmare where the feeling doesn’t wear off on waking, they cannot shake off the horror.
The reason they can remember is because they have some of the ability that’s blamed for causing The Catastrophe. So perhaps what they fear now is being blamed themselves, and they are looking for someone else to carry the blame.
Jez is not the kind of person to walk away from what makes her scared, but everyone has their limits…

Extract from Shadowless Ch10 Normal people don’t do that

 

When Renia developed childhood epilepsy, she had no inkling of the way it was going to change her life. She wasn’t seeing fairies: she was seeing Fate.

One in five of us in the UK is thought to live with some form of disability, and less than half of those are over working age. A fictional lead character living with a disability, particularly one that opened up an amazing ability, was a natural outcome for me.

Neurological disabilities have long been a feature of my world, from cousins with a talent for sustaining head injuries (all of them blokes, which may or may not be significant) to a mum with MS and a daughter with POTS. However when I started writing this series I wasn’t fully aware of how dangerous epilepsy can be; in a future with limited medical help, it would be even more so. While I didn’t want a character that would dwell on her mortality or let herself be defined by her disability, I did want to convey at least some of her experiences, and how she coped with them.

There are currently thought to be around forty types of epilepsy, so it manifests in many different ways. Sometimes people have an experience, often described as an aura, warning them that an episode may be coming. Renia experiences one example, a sensation of seeing stars. People have reported smells, pains, sounds – all part of the electrical signals starting to misfire. Some don’t have a warning at all beforehand; others don’t know whether they have them or not, as an episode leaves them with memory gaps.

In my stories, Renia’s is a relatively unusual form of epilepsy in that she has vivid, almost intrusive recall, but it’s not of her current surroundings. Focal seizures affect part and not all of the brain and for her, the misfiring has the effect of releasing ‘locked’ sections of the mind, revealing an ability to link to the thoughts of others similarly empowered, even if they are far away. She’s a very smart girl, so with her knowledge of how others with this skill are thinking, she can extrapolate a likely set of events and so see the future. All it needs is for some of the others who are empowered to be part of the events unfolding – as Kerin’s brother Jastur is.

Read the extract from Chapter 6,- Far-seeing

 


I managed to timetable a research trip with a family holiday a couple of years ago. (Luckily: I think the accountant would have raised both eyebrows if I’d tried to put it through the books, and it would have given me sleepless nights to try it anyway.) But as time has gone by, and the main characters are all over the place when we meet them again in An Empty Fade, location research is getting less practical.

So, what are the options as a writer?

1. Stick to tried and trusted locations you’ve already used
This is a bonus for the reader, since they can imagine the place without a lot of superfluous description to get through. It’s a bonus for the writer too; these locations will evoke certain responses in the characters. A place could make them feel comfortable enough to be open, or vulnerable enough to help build tension.

2. If a place has got to be specific in some aspects, let it be vague in others
Aravey doesn’t exist, though I can see it very clearly in my mind’s eye and was inspired by real places elsewhere. So its physical location, like Mylos, is deliberately vague – somewhere south of Lestar where the landscape holds rivers and hills and marshy ground and waterfalls.
Annoyingly, the key battle location I have in my head for An Empty Fade has very specific topography, and I’m not mentally ready to throw it out and try (4.) yet. The search for a matching location and a reason they have to fight just there goes on…

3. Set it all in an imaginary world
A bit of backstory and some consistent world-building, and you’re away. Yeah, like it’s that easy… some authors just nail this though, like CJ Cherryh, Tolkien, Gaiman and Pratchett. Read the ones that work for you and suss out the bits that made it work for you if you’re world-building from scratch.

4. Don’t be afraid to change big stuff
For a long time, An Empty Fade was going to open in a costal town in Naunt or Jiraund – an ocean coast anyway, beaten by big cold winds and with lots of sand dunes around. I had thoughts of seafaring pirates entering the plot. Only I couldn’t get a good feel for the place and couldn’t see the way forward with the story. Then on the aforementioned research trip, I came across what was to become the town of Set on the Mediterranean coast of Toaz – a town with very swish but also rather run-down areas; and sand, lots of sand. And all of a sudden, the plot was rolling out and the characters were coming to life. Now that I’m writing it in earnest it’s still not a complete pushover, but that ‘using landscape to anchor the story’ I’ve spoken about in previous blogs is helping.

I also build an image library for each book of copyright-free or Creative Commons images that inspire me, and keep them in Pinterest. I’m assured I should lob such things into Instagram too, but there’s only one of me to go round and the book won’t write itself. Maybe a future blog, if I get round to doing both?