Previous editions of the Journal pages

I will begin 2007 with an enormous sigh.

Thank goodness 2006 is over. I can't say I will miss it! Apart from my novels, last year was a series of traumas, one after another. Five weeks after the fire our car was broken into. A smashed driver's window, a stolen radio/CD plus a ransacked glove compartment. and what was wrong with those sweets? Perfectly good fruit drops, obviously not the thieves' favourite flavour though.

Then my 88-year-old mother's removal date materialised. They say moving house is one of the most stressful of life's little challenges. To move one home is hard enough. To move two within two months is a nightmare, especially with an elderly mother who is not, how shall I put this tactfully, very cooperative?

She has moved into a nice self-contained apartment that has a warden to keep an eye on her, although when I reach her age, I like the idea forwarded to me via an amusing e-mail. Apparently it is cheaper to go on a series of cruises rather than pay for long-term care in a home. If you fully book several cruises back-to-back on the same ship, you get meals cooked and served. There is no housework and no bills to pay beyond personal expenses. No worries about replacing light bulbs or getting the roof fixed. Room service does all the cleaning, there's a free laundry, on board entertainment, swimming pools. you get to travel and meet new people. Plus, after several trips the staff would be great friends. Health is covered by insurance. The downside is having to do the lifejacket formalities at the start of each voyage. I think I can live with that. I've sent for a few brochures. Ah well, one can always dream...

Pirate Code may be a little delayed. I have been prevented from writing for eight weeks, and climbing the walls with frustration. Jesamiah, I have discovered, is a dreadful mitherer. He is not suited to sitting quietly in the background kicking his heels while I deal with real life. Wonder if he'll be there on my old-age long-term retirement cruise?

I have left the best until last. The Hollick family rounded off 2006 with some good news; my daughter Kathy (a.k.a Cutless Kate) became engaged to Ian. Click here for a photo. I am delighted. Ian is a wonderful young man, he makes me laugh, and believe me I have needed laughter these last two months.

My friend and fellow author Raven Dane became a little upset when her father couldn't understand why she was so pleased to receive various pirate related items for Christmas. I suppose he thought an, ahem, middle-aged lady ought to have grown out of such trinkets and trivia. Now my daughter often dresses, and goes out, as a pirate. Ian is also perfect for the role, with his dark hair, beard, moustache and tall height. I notice he's taken to wearing a bandanna, has acquired a cutlass. and occasionally calls himself Black Bob. A pirate look-a-like for a son-in-law? How exciting!

My Jes has a lot to answer for, you know. All rising to a great place is by a winding stair
When I went self publish I knew it could be a huge risk; it would either be the best or the worst thing I had ever done.

I was expecting many people to sneer that self publish was not the same as mainstream, that I had made a huge error of judgment and that I had definitely done the wrong thing. Well, maybe there were a few people like that - although they never said anything to my face, but whatever the opinion of others, a year around and I can unequivocally say it was the best thing!

Not only are all my books back in print, and selling, slowly but steadily - that's fine (remember the hare and the tortoise?) but my publishers BookForce UK are now expanding, and becoming a small independent publishing house, Discovered Authors.

Based at 50 Albemarle Street, London, a location well known in the book world for its wonderful literary history - where John Murray discovered such greats as Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Sir Walter Scott, Discovered Authors intends to offer various routes to publication through a variety of imprints.

Discovered Authors Diamond will now offer a traditional mainstream publishing contract, with their annual nationwide literary competition acting as an in-house agent. Basically, submit your manuscript for the competition - I believe there is a very modest entrance fee to cover administration costs - and if it is good enough for the short list you could be offered a mainstream publishing contract. At least you know your hard work will be read - unlike mainstream publishing where submissions languish for months on the slush pile.

Collectively it is reckoned there are over a million such hopefuls sitting there, never being looked at, let alone read. Now you know why you have never heard anything from that publisher you sent your possible bestseller to!

The competition is judged by a panel of influential publishing figures including John Murray, Hans Offringa - and myself . not that I am very influential but I do know a darn good tale when I read one! I am honoured to be asked to join the panel, and I am looking forward to enjoying some superb entries.

Under the Imprint of Discovered Authors Revivals no established author need worry about their mainstream publisher deciding not to print their backlist of books. Do what I did. Providing you hold the copyright, come across to D.A.R. where for a minimal republication cost, authors can get their work back into print and available for sale.

50 Albemarle Street was made famous by the Murray tradition of having afternoon tea with the most influential literary figures of our time. This took place at 4 o' clock and the group became know as "The Four O'Clock Friends". So, Discovered Authors is also offering a self publishing imprint called Four O' Clock Press - designed to give similar opportunities to new writers.

So, what does all that mean?

It means I am not now a self published author taking a risk with my books, but one of the top authors of a small independent publishing house.

It means I have a wonderful team producing my books and it means I am having a fantastic time.

I wish it would also help me concentrate on writing the second book in the Sea Witch series, Pirate Code. There are so many exciting distractions. such as writing this newsletter and helping my daughter plan her wedding! Yes, Kathy is to marry Ian in August this year. Hmm, perhaps I had better get back to finishing Code. I think I might need to nudge that trundling tortoise into a jog trot, so please, dear reader, get all your friends to buy my books - I have a wedding to pay for!

Finally, click here for my new Articles section. I've called it MEA, as in mea culpa, Musings, Essays and Articles. I hope to add to this section every quarter or when I can think of something interesting to write.


(The Articles section referenced here was migrated to Helen's various blog sites in March 2012 - use the Blog link in the Main Menu above.) The trouble with our younger writers - they are all in their sixties.

I nearly got caught out, forgetting February was a shorter month, but here I am, on time as always with the newsletter, and I have news! From the 5th March we will be the official residents of the house we have been temporarily decamped to. We are not going back to Number 183, for various reasons, but staying here. Huzzah! I haven't got to worry about moving all over again, I can make this place "home" and, best of all, I can keep my lovely new office.

I am now the proud owner of two computers, one named Atelier running Windows 98, my author's workstation, the other called Quarterdeck running Windows XP, the playground machine where I happily browse and have fun on the Internet. We're in the process of networking them together, to share files and resources.

We also have the ducks at home with us. I don't know what the neighbours think when I trot into the garden every morning to let the three girls out. Especially when I'm down on my hands and knees seaching their little house for duck eggs for our breakfast. They are not too noisy, thank goodness, but they do squabble over who gets to swim in the baby-bath first. I suppose we'll have to dig them a pond!

Pirate Code is very nearly done. It has been hard to write, not because of my character or the content, but I have found it so difficult to feel settled. I still find I am wandering around, especially at night, and I keep getting flashbacks of the ceiling caving in at 183 with the apartment above shooting up in flames. Perhaps now I know I haven't got to go back I can start relaxing. Anyway, the cover for Pirate Code is done, and the writing is almost finished. Jesamiah, bless his boots, gets into an awful lot of trouble once again.

We have changed stable yards. It didn't work out at the other place, so we are back where we started - at a livery yard in Epping Forest. Back to having long discussions about history with the owner in a windswept stable yard. Well actually I've insisted we go and sit in the tackroom now. Ten years ago I didn't mind being out in the cold.

The planning for 1066 the Movie is going great guns; I am very excited about it all.

My daughter has arranged her wedding date, it will be in August 2007 (watch this space!) so I am having to do all I can to boost the sales of my books. Weddings, I have discovered, are expensive things. To this end I have started up two MySpace profiles, one for me where I can have fun and chat to people about history and pirates, and another for Jesamiah, although his page is still under construction. If you are a MySpace account holder, please drop by and become "my friend".

I wish the team at what was BookForce UK the best of luck for the future with their new independent publishing house Discovered Authors, and the rest of their imprints, Four O'Clock Press for example, which launches on March 1st 2007. You are all wonderful people and I am so pleased to be one of the "family". It is our anniversary by the way. I have been with Discovered Authors (BookForce UK) for a whole year - and wow, what a fantastic year!

Finally, March 15th 2007 is publication day for my friend and brilliant author Raven Dane. Her second novel is absolutely stunning; if you like fantasy you will love Blood Lament. Raven is destined to be the UK's answer to Anne Rice.

"Time to play", Raven? Literature is news that stays news
My husband Ron and I spent an afternoon rescuing plants, pots and other garden sundries from our old home at 183 last week. Most of the plants seem to have taken in their new positions at Number 32 - the violets and coltsfoot are producing flowers. They would do even better if the dogs would stop piddling on them and the cats scratching them up.

I'm not sure if we managed to rescue the pear tree though, we'll have to see what happens come the summer. Yes, we even dug up the pear tree. Why? It seems the landlord of our previous place - a huge housing trust - believes in cutting down the garden to ground level when doing renovations. Up to a point I don't mind as we will not be going back there, but I spent 25 years getting that garden looking nice, and the pear tree is a favourite of mine. So we dug it up. We couldn't rescue the japonica, but I did find some fruit that it dropped last year so I'm hoping maybe the seeds will grow.

And the silver birch? Oh I do hope they don't cut down the silver birch! It is twenty-two years old and a beautiful, mature specimen. When I planted it a few months after Kathy's third birthday, it was a puny sapling, about twelve inches high. I fibbed to my husband; I said it would only grow a little bit taller than the shed. Well the "little bit" is about twenty feet! Oh well I suppose I just have to accept 183 is not my garden any longer and start afresh with 32.

We are going to build another pond, a raised one with a brick wall round it and a trickling waterfall, more or less outside my office window. So, come the summer there will be no newsletters, I will be too busy gazing out of the window at the fish! We brought all of them with us - about 20 goldfish. At the moment they are quite happy in a fish tank, but they can't stay there much longer.

The ducks love it when I'm gardening; they have already learnt that trowel equals digging, digging equals worms. They line up along their enclosure fence and watch every move I make. Talk about Big Brother. I wouldn't mind but where are all the eggs they are supposed to be laying?

I have new pine wardrobes for my bedroom, with new kitchen cupboards coming. Staying here in the new house at 32 is an opportunity to start again. New home, new things, new beginnings.

A friend of mine told me that in the morning after Twelfth Night I had to sweep out all the corners of my office, and open the window to let out the old spirits and let in the new. It seems to be working. Thanks Towse.

I had a lovely day up in London yesterday attending a book-signing by Sir John Nott, who was Defence Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's Government during the Falklands War back in 1982. He has published his book Haven't We Been Here Before which is not exactly memoirs, more like his recollections of that period of conflict. His publisher is the same as mine, Discovered Authors.

In the foreword he says; "'Is it really twenty five years since the Falklands War?' a young friend asked me recently. 'I remember watching it on television as a schoolboy and I can't believe it was that long ago.' Neither can I."

Well Sir John - I can't either. I gave birth to my daughter in May 1982. Is she really going to be 25 this year? Yikes! Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.
Where has April gone? One day of it was spent lost on the railway network in Belgium on my way to Holland - so my very grateful thanks go to the hero who works for Netherlands Railways, who rescued me at Brussels North Station!

The story: I set off on a Eurostar train heading for Eindhoven in Holland to start my second tour lecturing on 1066 - Harold the King. Arrived on time at Brussels Midi, eventually found the right platform for the train I needed, only to discover there was a problem. "You must go to Brussels North, and change at Roosendaal for Eindhoven." Great.

Lug my heavy suitcase up yet another flight of steps, get the train and reach Brussels North. The station is packed with people. Right in front of me as I got off the train was a railway employee. "Excuse me, do you speak English?" He did. "I need to get to Eindhoven."

Being very kind he took my suitcase, sat me down and told me I could travel with him as he was going in the same direction. Just as well. It turned out there was a bomb scare in Antwerp's main station which was now closed, so no through trains at all. I lost count of how many changes we had to make after the fifth one; haven't a clue where my hero bought me a cup of coffee and a cake - and as to where we went??

I know I ended up at Dordrecht waiting for the Eindhoven train and that I should have been with my charming host, Harry Kurt and his lovely wife Mary, by about 3 pm. We finally met up at 7:15 pm. My first talk was scheduled for 8 o'clock pm.

I was about half an hour late, but the talk went well. I think. So thank you to my Netherlands Railway Personal Travel Advisor and to my Guardian Angel for ensuring he was there to look after me. It is a bit alarming only knowing you are "somewhere in Belgium."

The rest of the trip went well, but was very tiring. I did talks in Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Deventer. I saw only two windmills, not one Dutch person wore clogs and I noticed only a few tulips. Just goes to show that stereotypical images of other countries are nearly always false.

I spent a couple of days in Amsterdam (being careful of the red light district. Jesamiah disappeared at this point, however. I suppose it does not take two guesses to decide where he went. What a rogue that pirate is!)

There is a full size replica of a Dutch V.O.C. East Indiaman called the "Amsterdam" in the docks, so I spent a happy few hours exploring her. Have put a few photos on my album for anyone who is interested.

I also met up with a "fan" of mine, Yolanda. I am grateful to her husband Phil for the meal - it was wonderful being with an ordinary, lovely, Dutch family.

And of course, thanks to all my hosts in Holland - and also to Wietske Jonker-taer Veld for sketching my portrait while I was doing my talk at Groningen. As soon as I can get the pictures scanned, I will upload them to the photo album.

My last night was spent in a luxury apartment overlooking the river at Zaandam. Wine and nibbles on the balcony with my hostess; a beautiful blue sky; the river and the marina. What more could a travel-weary author want?

Back home to England. To Nottingham now for the New Writer's UK Festival where I was one of the guest speakers. This is a recently formed group going from strength to strength, designed to give support, encouragement and advice for authors who, for whatever reason, want to self publish. I heartily applaud their objective and wish the group the very best of luck. Thank you to Julie and all the organisers for a fantastic weekend. I'm looking forward to the next festival on 29th September, which again will be near Nottingham.

My condolences to the family of producer Sydney Rose, who died 1st May. He was a firm supporter of our 1066 movie project and will be sadly missed by friends and all who knew him.

In the April newsletter I said that  Pirate Code was nearly finished.

Honest Pirate, it is now even more nearly finished.

We can't all be heroes. Somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
As some of you might have gathered, Pirate Code has missed the tide. Sorry!

My fault, what with everything that has been happening these last few months I fell further behind than I anticipated. Still, the good news is I have finished. All I have to do now is edit it and re-write all the rubbish bits. Ho hum, that can be harder than the writing. My grateful thanks to Jo, my editor, who deserves a medal for her enthusiasm and patience. Sad to say, for various production reasons, publication date will now have to be September 19th - but we are going to coincide with Talk Like A Pirate Daywhich should be fun!

Oh and have you noticed my home page? Well shiver m'timbers if'n ye ain't! Go get yer telescope an' sail on over there matey. The new cover is up, and with it, the first chapter.

Apart from that exciting news, I was privileged to be one of the panel for judging Discovered Authors' annual literary competition. Harder than I thought to do, especially when it came down to deciding the best of three. I was pleased to find that the novel I chose from my preliminary Regional Judging came into those top three. Well done to the winners, I look forward to meeting you all at some point in the future, probably at 50 Albermarle Street, where my publisher, Discovered Authors, is located. This is where John Murray invited such literary greats as Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Sir Walter Scott. How wonderful to sit judging new writing talent in the very room where Jane Austen once sat.

I have also been on holiday - and before you think it, I took my laptop and continued to work on Code, so no I was not shirking. Ron and I went to Devon, staying in the lovely village of Monkleigh. I can heartily recommend the Bell Inn Pub. Please use a Devon accent here; goodly food, goodly company, even goodlier wine and cider. If you are touring Devon, call in at the Bell and say that the author Helen Hollick sent you. While you are there enjoying your pint, browse the pictures on the walls. Local artist Chris Collingwood has several of his historic art paintings on view - go to my photo album for a glimpse of some of his pirate ones. I had the honour of using Chris's work for the first edition of the Kingmaking. A wonderful painting, I still cannot understand why William Heinemann decided to change it for one that was horrendous.

Two wonderful highlights. I had a "merry meeting" with Lizbeth who lives in Cornwall; thank you for the lunch, for the fantastic afternoon, and the view from your garden is to die for!

Ron and I also went to the 1646 museum in Torrington, another place to spend a fabulous afternoon. It is a "living history" museum based around the English Civil War battle at Torrington. The King's men hid the gunpowder in the Church, 80 barrels of it, then later, after Torrington fell, the Parliamentarians put the prisoners there. Gunpowder is extremely volatile. To put things into perspective; when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament, he only required about 35 barrels. I'll leave this explosion to your imagination.

We walked the dogs on the beach at Instow every day. Rum was uncertain of the sea at first, but soon decided paddling was fun - and then happened upon the doggy delight of seagull chasing. Ears flapping, tail wagging off he would go. splashing into the water, not realising the sea can be quite deep in places. Up he came for air huffing and snorting, doggy paddling after those darn gulls who just would not play fair and stay put!

Poor Rum. If only he had more than one brain cell he could be quite a bright dog. The older I get the less important the comma becomes. Let the reader catch his own breath

I am annoyed. Very annoyed.

For the second time this year my car has been broken into. Two windows were smashed this time, and the car stereo taken again. Alright so it is only a car, I am insured, it can be fixed; I am annoyed because it took me five months to get around to replacing the stereo that was stolen last time - this one had only been there for a few weeks. I am, of course, now having to wait in for the glass repair people and the police. Still, it does give me an opportunity to write this newsletter.

I am also fed up with getting wet, although at least, unlike parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands we are not flooded out. As soon as it stops, though, I will have to fetch the broom and sweep away the large puddle that collects by the back doorstep.

The ducks love the rain - I let them out of their pen and they waddle about chattering to each other eating all the slugs and snails that collect in the ivy and round the flower tubs. It is amazing how far a duck can stretch to reach that particular yummy slug! We now have five ducks by the way. Kathy came home with two babies a few weeks ago. They are now at the long, leggy, half-down half-feather stage, and they follow Kathy everywhere thinking she is their mum. I'm waiting for her to jump in their pond and show them how to "uptail all". If it ever stops raining I'll go outside and take a photograph to put in the album. If there isn't one there then you know it is still raining here in London.

Aside from the spreading puddle, I have some wonderful solar lighting scattered around the "patio" which runs along the rear of the house. The brick-built raised pond, which is outside my office window, has a string of blue lights along the back. It all looks very lovely at night. Well it would do if only we had enough sun during the day to power the darn things!

My friend Raven Dane informed me the other day when she came for lunch, that the two big fish that I thought were speckledy goldfish are in fact comets. Well I'll be jiggered, I didn't know that! Mind you, we've only had them for about six years.

I have solar lighting in the pond as well. One light illuminates the castle entrance-arch behind the pond, which is situated in the bird bath/drinking dish. The other two are under the water and shine on the castle turret at the bottom of the pond. The two beams shine through the windows at the bridge spanning a pile of rocks a short way behind. I spend many a happy coffee, or gin-and-tonic, break of an evening, when it's not raining, staring down into that fascinating under-water world.

The fish love the lights, they enjoy playing in the beams. I was out there a few weeks ago at about 1 a.m. I had been up late finishing the editing on Pirate Code and went out there before going to bed. Apart from the gentle splash of the fountain, everything was still and quiet. And then I heard an owl in the trees at the end of the garden. Nothing remarkable you might think. Ah, but I live in the middle of a London suburb!

I was a little flummoxed early in June. I couldn't understand why all the apples in the fruit bowl on the coffee table in our sitting room were disappearing. Then I caught Rum happily helping himself. Apparently an apple a day keeps the vet away. I removed the bowl, but he still gets an apple as an after doggy-dinner treat. Trouble is, when he has finished licking his bowl clean he now comes and sits in front of me with those big beautiful brown eyes going "wuff, wuff" until I get up and give him his apple. What a funny little dog he is. To think that before we had him he was badly treated - previous owners used to put his food down then kick him. Animals are such forgiving creatures.

I don't know that I would forgive the rotter who broke into my car!

Oh and one further annoyance. Someone has swapped the keys around on my keyboard. If I press 'y' I get 'u', 'o', I get 'p'. It is all very irritating.

There again, I suppose I might be blaming someone unfairly. The problem could be these new contact lens which are a little stronger than the last ones and have altered my focus somewhat. First things first, but not necessarily in that order
Well, apart from the final proof-read it's done; it's finished.

Pirate Code is now with my publisher. Has the stress ended? Am I now relaxed and looking forward to the next project? Nope. I am now worrying that it will be a load of gibberish and no one will like it. Ah, well I will have to wait until the publication day of September 19th to find out what my readers think.

Thank you to my editor, Jo, who did a mammoth last-edit session over the phone from 8 p.m. until about 3 a.m a few nights ago. What a gem she is! I'm expecting more than one or two "typo's" to be found in the proof though.

Pirate Code is set during the rainy/hurricane season in the Caribbean. I wrote quite a few scenes while the rain poured down outside my office window. Um - whoever is in charge of the weather please note: I've finished my research. You can turn the tap off now.

The first chapter of Voyage Three, Bring it Close, a draft of course, can be read here.

Usually at this time of year Kathy is competing at the All England Show Jumping Course at Hickstead, Sussex, in both the Derby Show and the Royal International Horse Show. Am I glad that for various reasons we decided not to go this year. I don't do "knee-deep in mud" any more.

Hickstead was a good day out, but it was not the same as being there as a competitor. Well done the USA team for winning the Nations Cup. Some superb showjumping.

I'm having a bit of hip trouble, it looks like I may have to get my name down for a replacement. Stairs and slopes are getting difficult to manage, and I find low chairs hard to get up from. Sitting at a desk writing all day is probably not helping. It has been worse these last couple of days as I've been on my feet too much and I really should not have taken the dog for a walk round the block, then driven an hour-and-a-half for a day out at Hickstead, sitting on a seat that was too hard, then spent the next evening walking around the St Paul's area of London for over two hours on a Ghost Walk. All fun stuff but I am now in a considerable amount of pain.

The Ghost Walk, organised by Original London Walks was for my daughter's "hen night" prior to her wedding. She wanted to do something different than merely sitting in a pub or wine bar - especially as she doesn't drink. We had a superb evening, our guide, Steve, taking us to several places in the vicinity of St Paul's Cathedral that I never knew existed - and retelling us some rather meaty ghost stories connected with the area. The Old Bailey is built on the site of Newgate Jail - this particular section of the walk was most interesting as my poor pirate, Jesamiah Acorne, will find himself imprisoned in Newgate in a future book. The ghost story connected with it is just right for what I want in Voyage Six - Gallows' Wake. And no, I'm not telling you what the ghost story was. What? Give my plot away?

One of the cats, Scrabble, the ginger one, has taken to sleeping on top of the microwave. I'm sure its not very healthy for him or us, and if he swipes me with his paw again as I go to open the door I'll be swiping him back with the oven-glove. He also sits on guard on the shed beside the duck pen. There is a young cat in the garden behind us, "Tigger", who has been getting a bit too bold with investigating our patch. Scrabble saw the poor thing off yesterday, he chased it right into the duck's pond. One very soggy moggy. I doubt he'll be back for a while.

Kitty our other cat has decided my keyboard is a comfy spot. Fine, except I wish she wouldn't sit here while I'm trying to write.

I'm almost sorted for my daughter's rapidly approaching wedding. So far I have three outfits to wear, and none of them are right. The cream? The blue? The pink and blue flowers? The person doing the flowers let us down. I had a job ordering a cake - thank you to Marks & Spencer's for coming to the rescue. We still haven't worked out a seating plan for the reception. My husband's suit doesn't fit him after all, and has anyone thought to order the champagne?

Anyone else with a daughter about to get married? Take my advice. Encourage her to elope! I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.
The wedding was lovely, the sunshine was lovely and my daughter, Kathy, looked lovely . and I didn't cry! One of the bridesmaids, Caroline, did though. It was quite amusing, me comforting her as the bride and groom drove off to start their honeymoon while Caroline sobbed, 'Oh she looked so beautiful.'

You were quite right Caroline, she did.

I had been a bit tearful the night before, a sudden realisation that my little girl was all grown up and was going to "belong" to someone else now. Silly really, but all parents will know exactly what I mean.

Come the morning of the wedding, the sun was shining and the sky was blue - given the recent amount of rain we couldn't believe our luck. Kathy was as calm as anything. She got me organised, sorted out the bridesmaids, did her hair, her make-up. Did my hair. Caroline fixed my make up; Ron, my husband, ironed Caroline's dress that had become rumpled in transit.

At midday we thought we had plenty of time, then suddenly it was 1.30, the photographer had arrived and everything was happening at once! Next thing I knew I was being whisked off to the church with the bridesmaids and this was it - the wedding was truly under way.

The photographs were mostly taken by my step-granddaughter Nicola, with a few by brother-in-law Tony and friend Paul - browse and enjoy.

It was good to see old friends again, but typical of these sort of do's, somehow I did not get a chance to speak to all our guests. Mind you, I was so tired by the time we got to sit down at the reception that I'm not surprised. The first thing I did was kick my shoes off under the table. I wonder if anyone noticed?

I think (I hope!) a good time was had by all.

Kathy's bouquet was put on my dad's grave. He would have been so proud of her. As am I. And what a handsome son-in-law I now have. He makes a fantastic pirate. Watch this space!

While the happy couple were enjoying themselves on honeymoon, the horses had a holiday in my friend and fellow author Raven Dane's field, and I was left to duck-sit. Yes, I got the ducks to look after. I am certain the new addition is not a duck but a left-over from the days of the dinosaurs. She really is more like one of those fast-running odd-shaped 'raptors - throw her a snail and whoosh, she's there and got it gobbled. The ducks are trying their best to rid the garden of slugs and snails, but it's too late to save the bare, pathetic stalks that once were tomatoes, runner beans, dahlias and my pumpkins. I always make pumpkin soup in the autumn, I am going to have to buy one this year.

I suppose someone somewhere is now going to say 'but slugs and snails have to eat too you know.' Well maybe they do, but they can find themselves a free gourmet meal next door! One success, we have a lily flowering in the pond, quite astonishing as it's a relatively new pond. The fish are getting enormous, probably from all the extra feed I throw them from my office window.

Quick update on the proposed movie: I now edit a MySpace account for 1066 - The Movie. It looks like this blockbuster might actually be filmed - I'm co-scriptwriter; but we still need to get the funding. Keep your fingers crossed.

A few dates for your diary. September 19th is Talk Like A Pirate Day - AND it's the official publication day of Pirate Code. What? You haven't pre-ordered it on Amazon yet? Tut tut, I'll make ye walk the plank f'that.

Also, October 20th is the official launch at the Epping Bookshop, Epping, Essex, UK. 12-2 pm. Come and meet me and a pirate or two, or three. Weddings? I love weddings! Drinks all round!
I am about to embark for a journey northward to Nottingham for the New Writers' Book Festival at Beesthorpe Hall, Caunton, Nottingham.  

Met many of the members last April, so I am looking forward to saying hello again - especially to authors Karen Wright and Pam Littlewood, who made me feel so welcome. Karen has organised the event and is the founder of the group - which is dedicated to helping new writers who are becoming frustrated by the lack of interest shown in new and talented work by mainstream publishing.

Unless you are a chef, footballer, politician's wife or some sort of celebrity, it almost seems that the big publishing houses don't want to know. New Writers is a friendly, welcoming group, where aspiring authors can find advice and encouragement to get their books published. I am to give two talks: the one in the morning is about my books. That's easy I shall just chat about King Harold and Jesamiah, but in the afternoon slot I am supposed to be doing hints and tips for writers.

I was to have been working on what to say today, but have been chasing parcels all afternoon instead, so another late night burning the midnight oil to get some ideas jotted down. If I get finished you will find a hint of what I am to talk about it on my Articles page.

{Note : Articles Section was migrated to Helen's various blog sites in March 2012 - use the Blog link in Main Menu above.}

At least I have a title: Discovering The Diamond. I tell many new authors that writing a novel is often the easy bit. The rough draft is only the beginning, for a story starts as a piece of mud-covered rock. It has to be cleaned up and polished and polished, and, only then, does the diamond shine through.

Frustratingly, I did not look like I was going to have any copies of Pirate Code to take with me to Nottingham, as the UK delivery company had managed to lose them. Given that my address is the only one in the whole of London, this was unbelievable. Thursday afternoon was therefore somewhat fraught as I desperately tried to get an update on the parcel's whereabouts.

By six o'clock in the evening I was resigned. No books. Friday morning, a telephone call. They were found and on their way to me. Somehow, they had been taken to the right road but in a different town. Oh well, at least my assumption that pirates had purloined them was incorrect. I'd spent most of the night believing that someone, somewhere, was having a darn good free read. Fine - but I would have missed out on my royalties.

Kathy has now moved to her own apartment with husband Ian, so this place is full of empty spaces and silent corners. I miss her terribly, not just because she is my only daughter, but she is truly my best friend. As parents we spend years helping our children to grow up, then when they get to that stage we wish they were little again. It is very hard to let go, but I suppose I will just have to keep myself busy. No doubt Jesamiah will fill a few gaps with his mithering at me to get on with the next book.

The end of this month, October 31st will see the anniversary of the fire we had at our old place. My goodness has an entire year passed by? The stress, the anxiety and heartbreak has been almost unbearable at times, we lost quite a bit of stuff in the fire. Indeed I am not sure how I managed to get through some of those dreadful days, but get through I did; none of us were hurt and I managed to get Pirate Code written. Must admit, I don't know how. It was very hard to concentrate at times.

Despite the disappointment of lost books (and missing daughters - sorry that was a dreadful pun!)  I have had a very exciting evening doing a radio interview with the U.S. based Bilgemunky Radio - pirate music and pirate musings for pirates everywhere. The interview will be aired on Monday 1st October 2007 in the evening USA time - check the website for full details - or can be listened to online. We chatted for about an hour, with Jesamiah whispering in my ear about all the things I had to remember to say. Gosh that pirate boasts a pirate-sized ego.

And don't forget I will be at the Battle of Hastings re-enactment in Sussex on the 13th & 14th October 2007. You will find me doing book signings in the English Heritage marquee from 12.30 - 2.30 p.m. on both days. And I will be at the Epping Bookshop in Essex at roughly the same time on October 20th - with pirates though, not Saxon warriors. That's if I don't get abducted by Normans.

And that's also if I can find my glasses so I will be able to see what I am signing. I know I put them down somewhere in my office; I have looked in, under, and around everything. No sign of them. I'm worrying now about what is going to go AWOL next .  What's the betting I get lost on the way to Nottingham?

If I am not here for the November newsletter you will know why. Send out a search party.

An advantage of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
I visited the flat above the one where I used to live this evening - the one that caught fire on the evening of Halloween 2006 and subsequently did rather a lot of damage to part of my place. I still can't forget seeing the ceiling come down in my daughter's room, seeing the flames shooting upwards and later, what remained of her bed. The consequences had she been in it, I shudder to think...

We are settled in our new home, it is much lighter, much nicer, so I suppose the fire did us a favour. Even so, I wish I could forget that image. My heart goes out to all those people in California, and in Greece, who have lost everything. One thing I have learnt - possessions can be replaced; love, and lives, cannot.

Those of you who were concerned about my difficulties with vowels that kept sticking on my keyboard will be delighted to hear that I have a bright and shiny and squeaky-clean new one. The cat being sick over the old keyboard was the last straw, so I binned it! This keyboard has several exciting and fancy buttons - if I suddenly disappear you'll know I pressed the one marked "ejector seat" in error. It also came with a safety information booklet. I found that a little alarming - would I be needing a tin hat and seat belt, or fire-proof gloves perhaps? No, but apparently I have to do all sorts of exercises every few minutes to prevent repetitive stress syndrome occurring in my neck, back, arms and legs.

A pity there are no exercises for the repetitive stress called the Problems of Life. You know, those little everyday things like no money in the bank, the need to be extra patient with an elderly, somewhat exasperating mother and unanswerable questions, such as why does my husband not put his apple cores straight into the bin instead of leaving them on the coffee table, and why can't I think of a single word to write?

I had a superb weekend at Battle in mid-October where I sold over a 100 copies of Harold the King and met the very tall and very nice actor Ian Whyte and the wonderful Mark Lester, of Oliver fame. Both of them have parts in the proposed movie 1066; Ian as Harald Hardrada and Mark as King Harold II. The film is now officially in pre-production, although funding is not yet finalised, so it still might not happen . but let's be positive and optimistic, eh? See you at the Oscars folks! My thanks to English Heritage for their hospitality and to the Abbey Hotel, Battle, for a comfortable stay.

October also saw the launch of Pirate Code. We had a good day at the Epping Bookshop - once again my thanks for a warm welcome, and the get-together afterwards in the Duke of Wellington pub was a nice treat. There are some photos of myself and a couple of pirates who ambled along in the album. For those of you in the United Kingdom who are waiting for Amazon UK to deliver your copy, the delay is being resolved. Sorry, just one of those annoying technical problems that are as unanswerable as the questions above. 

I am getting superb feedback for Pirate Code. Jesamiah's fans seem to be enjoying his second adventure very much - apart from my webmaster who said it did not have enough action in it.

Oh well, you can please some of the people some of the time as they say. I will have to get the typographical errors corrected though. Quite simple to do as my publishers, Discovered Authors, use Print On Demand, which literally means books are printed as they are wanted. When Pendragon's Banner was published by William Heinemann some years ago now, the entire print run was produced which meant there was nothing I could do about the 360 or so errors until the book was re-printed as a paperback six months later. One of the errors was Anglican, as in Church of England, instead of Anglian as in East Anglian pagan Saxon. Arghh! And I will never forget Arthur's beard-stubbled chin being printed as his bread -stubbled chin. The image of the noble King Arthur, sword Excalibur glinting in his clasped hand with croutons all over his face is just too hilarious for words.

My good friend, Raven Dane, author of the Legacy of the Dark Kind series (Blood Tears and Blood Lament superb books about Vampires with a difference. If you like Anne Rice you will love Raven Dane) was at the Whitby Goth Festival last weekend. She had a wonderful couple of days chatting with people strolling around that beautiful old Yorkshire coastal town dressed as fabulous Goths - and pirates.

Pirates! I wish I had known, I would have gone with her. I'll be there next year, that's a promise - I've already booked the hotel. Well, I will be there if I ever manage to write more than the first chapter of Bring It Close, the next in the Sea Witch series. A single chapter on its oncey is going to make a rather short novel. It does have a lot of action in that chapter, though, Mr Webmaster.

I am free to put what words I like on a page - and people actually pay money to read them!
I had a cell phone text from the actor Mark Lester, who is to play King Harold II in the proposed movie 1066. He is reading the book of the battle - my Harold the King - and he sent words to the effect that he couldn't put it down, was engrossed and would be honoured to play the character.  Ok I'll stop preening.  Still, if you don't tootle your own trumpet occasionally, no-one else is going to do it for you are they?

There are a few photographs of the October re-enactment at Battle Abbey, Sussex, in the album . The day turned so hot, this was mid-October mind you, that we had to grab sunhats. Have a chuckle at Bronwen's improvised headgear. That's what I like about my singer/composer friend Broni. She's down to earth, loves a laugh and doesn't give two hoots about mingling with film-star celebs and famous authors. Like me she is nurturing a deliberate air of being eccentric. It hides a multitude of embarrassments. We have already decided what we are going to wear at the Oscars when 1066 gets nominated. One can but dream. We are going to walk together down that red carpet in frocks that clash dreadfully. That'll get us noticed! Move over Keira Knightly and Helen Mirren. (But stay where you are Johnny Depp. Please.)

Bronwen has recently launched her new website for Guesswork Music; she has a few tasters of her songs there, and the wedding dress she is wearing in the video was mine. Enjoy.

It is no wonder my hair has gone grey - ahem - silver. There was a maddening delay by Amazon Books (UK) in getting Pirate Code available for sale. The books were delivered but managed to vanish into thin air somewhere in the Amazon warehouse (or sailed up the Amazon, ha ha!) After weeks of asking nicely, progressing to pleading, screaming and finally threatening to keelhaul them, Pirate Code is now available. So, scurry across there immediately you have finished reading this, you swabs, and order copies as Christmas presents - only click on the link to Amazon from my home page please, that way I get to earn a few pieces-of-eight as commission. I still need some feedback and make-me-blush reviews; and if you refer back to last month's newsletter, to know whether you agree with my webmaster about an apparent (his view) lack of action. Well, those who agree with him need not answer, I can't have that can I?

Sadly Jennie from my publisher, Discovered Authors, has moved on to offices new. I wish her every success and luck in her new venture. It was Jennie's friendliness that persuaded me to go to BookForce, as it was then. I have not had reason to regret my decision, although there have been one or two minor hiccups - but I had as many at Random House. Not least the five author managers in four years, one of whom I never met.

The nuisance at Amaon.co.uk has been the main annoyance. And now I discover they have ran out of stock of my Pendragon's Banner trilogy and Harold the King, so delivery will not be until after Christmas. Scream! Reaches for the telephone again. Don't worry folks this will be fixed.

If you would kindly put in orders for the books it will be fixed even quicker. and it would be nice to prove to the Amazonian powers-that-be that all my squawking about Pirate Code not being on their list was justified. Sigh. It would be so pleasant to get really high on the Amazon sales ranking list. Not that anyone has ever managed to deduce how it actually works. Anything above the 9,000 mark means you are doing well, so I've been told. Big hint.

My Pirate's fan site has accumulated over 1,500 "friends" and has had over 6,000 views. Pity those figures are not book sales though, eh? I am pleased that so many people enjoy the site - looking at the pictures of tall ships, having a go at the two quizzes, smiling at the Pirate's Alphabet and reading about Jesamiah and the Sea Witch series.

I am supposed to be writing Voyage Three, Bring It Close, but am momentarily stuck in thought and consideration. I know where I want to go with the story but am unsure of how to get started. Part of the hesitation is confidence. Even having written seven adult books and one children's book I am still concerned that no one is going to want to read my scribbles. But Jesamiah is my darling, the fictional love of my life, so when he has finally drunk all the rum and manages to stagger and swagger back into my office for long enough to nudge some ideas into my head I'll be rattling away at the keyboard like there's no tomorrow.

Except that it will probably happen when Christmas is upon us and I will be expected to shut up shop for the duration of the festivities. What? You must be joking! Once my presents are opened I'll be back in here typing away, with the candles in my variety of lanterns that adorn the window-sill next to my desk lit, mince-pie in one hand and a flagon of Christmas cheer in the other. Me, insane? Pah. Who wants reality? I don't.

All the best for the Christmas Season to you all.

Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.