Tag Archives: indie writers

Indie Book Review by Kate M. Colby: A Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones

A review by of Helen Jones’ A THOUSAND ROOMS, which I’ve raved about here before. Highly recommended.

Kate M. Colby

a-thousand-roomsA Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katie didn’t wake up expecting to die. And yet, that’s exactly how A Thousand Rooms begins. As Katie stands on the street, watching emergency responders attend to her body, she waits for whatever comes next. Nothing comes, and Katie is forced to drift about the earth alone in search of her individual heaven, the meaning of her life, and any other souls who can help her.

I’ve long been a fan of Helen Jones’s Ambeth series, and I really enjoyed seeing her take on a different genre and world in A Thousand Rooms. The novel reads like contemporary fiction but has a lovely touch of fantasy and a good helping of romance (which came as a pleasant surprise after all of Katie’s struggles!). As usual, Jones’s writing is descriptive and detailed, and she beautifully brings to life the various settings (real…

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A Thousand Rooms: A Guest Post by Helen Jones

Some months ago, my writer friend Helen Jones of Journey to Ambeth was asking if anyone wanted to beta read her latest book, A Thousand Rooms. Yes, please, I said. So she sent it over to me, and I have to say, it’s one of the best indie books I’ve read. And as of yesterday, it’s published! So, in honour of that event, Helen has come over and written a guest post for us here. One of the things she and I have in common is that we’re both Europeans who’ve done a fair bit of travelling, so I asked her to talk about how the things she has seen in her wanderings inspire her writings. Over to Helen:

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‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.’ St Augustine

Recently, a writer in a group I’m part of commented that she was feeling short of ideas, the stories that used to come to her so easily tapering off. The group response was unanimous. ‘Go outside.’ ‘See the world.’ ‘Come back to real life.’

As writers we create, our stories born of inspiration. But where do our ideas come from? I realise that writers need an interior landscape to plunder – after all, the Bronte sisters lived quite sheltered, shy lives, yet were able to write stories of deep passion and emotion. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to live with dragons to write about them. Yet they were no strangers to love and loss and emotion, and that is the landscape they chose to wander with their words, creating tempests from what, in their own lives, may have been more like gentle breezes. We each of us have our own unique life history, our own moments seen and experienced, and each of those moments can be the spark for a story. However, as we told the writer in our group, sometimes you need to step away from the desk and look for ideas elsewhere, or take yourself somewhere where ideas might come and find you. As writers, by nature we are observers, and we pull detail from the world around us wherever we are. I’ve written a short story sparked by an unusual outside light I saw on a walk in my neighbourhood, and another one inspired by a spate of leaks in our newly purchased home.

On my Instagram profile, I describe myself as a traveller. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of this planet, though there are many places I’d still like to visit. But travel is not always about moving through space – in recent years I’ve wandered worlds within imagination, stories taking me to places beyond anywhere I’ve seen.

And yet, they still hold echoes of real world locales, a gleaming palace on the California coast transplanted into the magical gardens of Ambeth, a castle in Wales, favourite childhood haunt, now holding a secret that could change the world. And a dead girl roaming the streets of Sydney, her erstwhile home my old apartment, her old office the same one where I used to work.

My latest novel, A Thousand Rooms, was inspired by a real event. When I lived in Sydney I used to walk to work and, one sunny morning, came around a curve in the road to see a woman lying on the pavement under a blanket, two police officers crouched next to her. The accident hadn’t happened long before – there were no other emergency services there yet, and the bus that had hit her was pulled up to the kerb a little further along, the driver sitting on the verge with his head in his hands. The area wasn’t cordoned off, either – I walked right through the group, past a young woman on her phone in tears saying ‘she’s dead, she’s dead’, past the police officers and the dead woman. As I passed her I looked down. One of her arms was sticking out from under the blanket, the skin smooth and unmarked, adorned with a silver charm bracelet. I remember thinking that she’d got up that morning and chosen that bracelet along with everything else she was wearing, not imagining she’d be dead before lunchtime.

Then I kept walking. I had a busy day ahead, there was nothing I could do to help and I needed to get to work. I made it through the day but that evening, when my now-husband and I were driving somewhere, I made him stop the car, opened the door and threw up. Reaction hit me hard – even now, fifteen years later, I still feel sorrow for that unknown woman and her sudden death.

In A Thousand Rooms my protagonist, Katie, like the woman on the road that morning, dies suddenly. And then nothing happens. No angels or relatives appear, and she doesn’t feel any different – she just remains Katie, wandering around Sydney, unsure what to do next. As I wrote the story it unfolded from that initial event, research taking me through different afterlife mythologies, imagination adding characters and twists. But without that first spark of inspiration, who knows whether I would have written the book at all.

Of course, you don’t need to travel far or be part of dramatic events to find inspiration. When we told the writer in our group that she needed to see the world, we meant only that she needed to find a different outlook, whether that was in her garden, or farther afield. You don’t have to go far to find stories, but you do have to go outside, once in a while, and help them to find you.

dsc_8827Helen Jones was born in the UK, then lived in both Canada and Australia before returning to England several years ago. She has worked as a freelance writer for the past ten years, runs her own blog and has contributed guest posts to others, including the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists site.

When she’s not writing, she likes to walk, paint and study karate. She loves the idea of finding magic in ordinary places; as a child she and her grandmother used to visit the woods on Midsummer’s eve to look for fairies – whether they found any or not, is a story for another time.

She now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and daughter, and spends her days writing, cleaning, thinking, and counting cats on the way to school.

A Thousand Rooms can be found here: myBook.to/AThousandRooms

And  you can follow Helen on her blog, Amazon page or Facebook page:

https://journeytoambeth.com/

https://www.amazon.com/author/helenjones

https://www.facebook.com/authorhelenjones/

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What Happens Next? Add To The Story…

Helen over at Journey to Ambeth started a chain story. Check it out! Read all the comments and join the fun. At the moment we’ve got a green-eyed drooling monster menacing the archaeologist in a gloomy crypt…

Journey To Ambeth

IMG_2594On Thursday I posted my usual Thursday Doors post, although my door this week was blocked up. It happened to tickle the fancy of Craig Boyack, who started to write a tale based upon what he thought was behind the door:

For over a thousand years, the ancient evil remained walled up behind a blessed doorway at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
In the summer of 2016, an overzealous archaeologist detected something behind the wall using electromagnetic sounding equipment…

Then I added another bit:

…entering through the old crypt, the archaeologist made their way through the vaulted chambers, footsteps echoing as they headed deeper into the dark…

Then Craig wrote another bit, adding that maybe we could invite participants:

The smell of moss and rot filled their nostrils. The light failed. A slight dragging noise came from farther down…

So I added another bit:

… the smell grew stronger, but…

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How to Handle Writer Jealousy

This is such an excellent post by Kate M. Colby, I had to reblog it to share with you all. Her advice is actually good for all kinds of jealousy, not just that of one writer for another (so don’t think you have an excuse not to read & apply it). I shall now try to stop feeling jealous of Kate’s writer & blogger success, and do something about mine instead…

Kate M. Colby

envyWe’ve all been there.

Your classmate’s story is praised in workshop, while yours is torn apart.

“Poorly written” romances dominate best-seller lists, while your science fiction novel languishes in Amazon’s 2,000,000 ranking spot.

The author you follow on Instagram posts their third cover reveal this year, while you struggle to finish your manuscript.

There’s a thousand ways that we writers experience jealousy of other authors. We constantly compare ourselves to our peers in writing groups, our Internet friends, or the hallowed greats like Stephen King. We long for the secret to their success. How do they write a first draft so quickly? How do they have so many Pinterest followers? Where do they find time to publish and write a daily blog?

We take other writers’ successes as inherent failures in ourselves as creatives. Newsflash: art isn’t a zero-sum game.

Let me get personal for a minute. Throughout high school and university, I longed to…

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Camp NaNo, Once Again

cnw_participantJust three-and-a-half more weeks, and April’s Camp NaNoWriMo will be upon us! I just went and built us a cabin, so if you want to join the Word Count Slayers (that’s our cabin name. I know, right?) hop on over to the Camp NaNoWriMo site, make yourself a profile (if you haven’t got one yet), create a project, then let me know your username (either in the comments, or shoot me a mail at amo@amovitam.ca), and I’ll invite you.

The nice thing about Camp NaNoWriMo is that the word count on it is flexible, so you don’t have to aim for the 50,000 words that the full-sized November NaNo requires. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to write a novel at all – you can work on whatever writing project suits your fancy. For last year’s July session, I spent the time editing Checkmate. This April, I’m planning to work on Star Bright, Septimus Book 4.

So, come on, I dare you! Pillow fights, marshmallow roasts, ghost stories at night (and they’re good ghost stories – we’re writers, after all!), and best of all, friends to hang out with! That’s been the really awesome part: I’ve made real friends during Camp NaNoWriMo (not to mention any names, Kate and Kara and Zach and Judy and Amanda and Whitney and…). Can’t wait for April!

Life, the Universe, and Camp NaNoWriMo. Who’s up for a campfire singalong?

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Check It Out: MAGIC MOST DEADLY, by E. L. Bates

I just finished re-reading E. L. BatesMagic Most Deadly. It’s Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter – or, to put it another way, Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence crossed with Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (which, in turn, is Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer with magic). Ugh, too many analogies, which only the true aficionados among you will understand.

To put it quite plainly: Magic Most Deadly is a 1920’s murder mystery with magic. And it’s great.

The main character is Maia Whitney, a young woman who served as a nurse in the Great War. Maia is eminently likeable, and what’s more, quite real. She’s intelligent, she’s capable – but she reads quite true as a young woman who needs to find out who she really is. What I particularly like about her is that even though she has no qualms about taking  drastic action when the situation calls for it, she doesn’t just shrug off the experience and go on her merry  way – she needs time to process it, to come to terms with her actions and with its consequences. Maia is both sensible and sensitive, and the reader gets to appreciate both of those sides to her, and to enjoy her growth as she makes her way through the events of this story.

Maia’s relationship with Len is very believable, too, and the more so for Maia’s not spending most of the book bellyaching about him and how she should react or relate to him – and vice versa. The focus of the plot is the mystery – in a sense, a “magic mystery” as much of a “murder mystery”. We know fairly early on “whodunnit” (at least we think we do – did he actually do it, or not?), but the real question is what is really going on – and what’s it all have to do with magic, which Maia is only just discovering exists.

It’s an intriguing story which keeps me reading, and keeps me rooting for the characters. And at the end of it it leaves me wanting more. I sure hope to see more Maia and Len stories in the future!

And here’s the official blurb, with links to where to buy it at the bottom:

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Magic Most Deadly

Book One in the Intelligent Magic series

by E.L. Bates

For Maia Whitney, life after the Great War is dull, monotonous, and drab. Nursing soldiers in the bloody fields of France hadn’t been easy, but it was better than life at home, standing in her sisters’ shadows. There seems no chance for a change until the night she witnesses a murder in the woods.

The last thing Magic Intelligence Agent Lennox Davies needs is this outspoken, independent lady crashing his investigation. Bad enough that a murder happened on his watch; much less that she had to see it happen. He works alone, and he does not have time for Miss Maia Whitney’s interference.

But as Maia’s own magical talent blossoms and danger thickens around the two with every step they take, before long Len and Maia must rely on each other in a fashion neither has ever done before. If they can’t learn to work together, England itself might topple. Even worse, if Maia doesn’t learn to control her magic soon, she might do more to destroy them even than their shadowy enemy.

Can they set aside their stubbornness and self-reliance in time to save themselves—and all England?

Available through Amazon, Smashwords, Nook, and soon-to-come iTunes.

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