Author Archives: Robin Helm

About Robin Helm

Robin Helm has published all three volumes of The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy. She also recently published the Yours by Design Series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours. She and her husband have two adult daughters, two sons-in-law, two granddaughters, and a Yorkie Poo named Toby.

What are you reading now?

I’ve posted about the books of my childhood, the books of my teen years, and the books which influenced me. Obviously, I love books!

You do, too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

So tell me: What are you reading right now?

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My daughter Melanie gave me a set of books for Mother’s Day last year, but real life was keeping me too busy to read anything not on my phone. I read while I wait in doctors’ offices or lines, and I don’t want to carry around paperbacks.

I saw them on a side table yesterday and decided that I’d like to know why these books had captivated her enough that she would spend the money to buy them (in paperback!) and mail them to me.

So far, I have to agree with her. They’re attention-grabbing time sinks. The writing style is different, but I like it. The characters are interesting – not just rewrites of Katniss and Peeta, Bella and Edward, or Tris and Four. Great covers, too!

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It’s Dystopian Young Adult, so if that isn’t your “thing,” skip on by. Remember, I’m the reader who loved the Divergent series, The Hunger Games, and The Twilight Saga. Like those books, this is a series. She gave me the next two as well: Unravel Me and Ignite Me.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if these grab my attention and hold it or not. I’m not worried about whether or not there are erotic scenes, because my daughter would not read or recommend books that portray graphic sex. Romance? Yes, she would like that.

So, what are you reading now? We at Jane Started It want to know.

 

Understanding Elizabeth

Book Release!

understanding-elizabeth-3dMore and more, I understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book,” written nearly 350 years ago. The first line, “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” just about sums up how I felt when I touched the publish button Tuesday night.

A good writer always reveals a part of herself when she writes, and that’s a bit intimidating. In the case of Understanding Elizabeth, there are clues about my childhood and teen years.

I have never been very good at sports or physical games. I should clarify that I was actually hit in the forehead by a fly ball while holding my glove over my face trying to catch it. I was a teenager playing in a church softball game, and I had the attention of our entire small town at the time. Embarrassing? Yes. It knocked me flat on my back, and I think I passed out for a minute or two. Or maybe I just didn’t want to get up and face the crowd.

A similar incident, in which I was hit in my jaw by a ball straight off the bat, happened in elementary school. I was so humiliated that I stuck my finger down my throat so I could pretend to be sick and go home. It worked. I was a tricky little person.

However, I never had any problems with the three R’s, and I loved that aspect of school. I shared in a previous post that my sister Gayle (a natural-born teacher if there ever was one) taught me to read when I was four. She also taught me to play chess. Since I don’t remember when I couldn’t play, I have no idea how old I was.

I was lousy at basketball, softball, or anything else with “ball” in it, but I loved word games and games of strategy. Playing musical instruments came fairly easily as well, because I enjoyed practicing. My entire family was musical. Gayle and I played piano and flute, Layne played clarinet, and all of us (six children!) sang along with Mama and Daddy.

I incorporated that feeling of joy at being good at something into Understanding Elizabeth. My Elizabeth doesn’t ride a horse, though there’s a lovely scene in which Darcy teaches her (le sigh!), but she’s a chess master. She isn’t shy about it, either. They fall in love over books and chess.

Darcy is socially awkward, but he excels in academic and physical pursuits. He’s a man who can discuss favorite books with the heroine. (My husband read all of Jane Austen’s works so he could understand what my daughters and I were talking about. He’s watched the film versions several times, too. Yes, ladies, there really are men like that.)

These are two capable, intelligent people who recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.

I have no problem with knowing your strong points as long as you also know your limitations. To me, that isn’t being proud; it’s giving yourself realistic goals. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s fine to be happy with yourself, as long as you don’t settle for less that what you can do.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Elizabeth as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book is very different from my six previous books. I will be very interested in your feedback.

 

 

Writing Revolution

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I’m in the very final stage of publishing my newest book, Understanding Elizabeth. Because it’s my seventh indie publishing effort, some steps are easier for me, but others have become more complicated.

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My earliest writing (the Guardian Trilogy) consisted of outlining the basic plot, writing the chapters, sending my work to my betas, taking their corrections, posting on Beyond Austen (as well as Derbyshire Writer’s Guild, Darcy & Lizzy, Fanfiction, and Austen Underground), formatting, one final edit, and publishing.

I now understand that it is much easier to format as I write, so that isn’t the huge headache it used to be, but I have become much pickier (real word?) about my writing.

I rushed to publish my first six books, but with this latest one, I have taken six months between completing the writing of the story and publishing it. In addition to all the steps listed above (minus posting on all those forums except Beyond Austen), I have gone through six edits and rewrites. I finished the final rewrite yesterday, and I’m nearly ready to release my child to make her way in the world.

Today, I hope to put the book in the print template so I’ll have a page count for the cover designer. I also want to finish the formatting of the ebook version and send it to my very talented friend, author Wendi Sotis. She’s a wizard at all things tech, and she has the final look at my formatting.

With a little luck, I may publish the ebook Saturday. 

Exciting times!

 

Snowed In

booksWhatever shall we do?

What can we do when we’re stuck at home in a winter storm (other than housecleaning – ugh!)? Read, of course!

I’ve told you about books I love that you probably wouldn’t guess I’d like. I’ve written about my childhood reads. Now – ta da! – here are some of my favorite teen reads:

A Tale of Two Cities

Les Miserables

The Count of Monte Cristo

Pride and Prejudice (right?)

Emma

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Adam Bede

Silas Marner

Fahrenheit 451

Animal Farm

Jane Eyre

Rebecca

All of Victoria Holt’s books

booksI’ll grant you that Dickens is an acquired taste, and Les Miserables, Adam Bede, and Silas Marner are downers, but it takes all sorts of vegetables to make a good stew.

Victoria Holt is not deep or hard to understand. Those books are clean, Gothic romance. So many governesses falling in love with the Lords of the Manor! Just the thing to stimulate a teen girl’s imagination without delving into dirt. Both my daughters read each of them.

All of these titles, with the exception of the Holt books, have been made into films, and Les Miserables is a Broadway hit. The musical scores for “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” are brilliant and memorable.

So, if you don’t want to take down the Christmas tree yet, read one of these books or watch the movie adaptations.

Happy reading!

Goals

Never Give Up

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During these last days of 2016, I have been evaluating my progress towards my goals for the year.

I did lose forty pounds, and I’ve kept the weight off during the holidays. That’s a large check. Yay, me!

However, I wanted to publish two books, and I have yet to publish even one. Yes, I finished writing Understanding Elizabeth, but I’m in the editing process.

Just as the verses say, it’s time for me to forget what I have not achieved and focus on my goal: to publish the book. Dwelling on my failure will only bog me down and defeat me.

Instead, I need to look ahead. Eyes forward. A new year is coming.

I will pass that finish line soon. In fact, I already have an idea for the book that will follow Understanding Elizabeth.

As soon as I hit the publish button on KDP, I will start writing and posting Mr. Darcy’s Dog Tale on BeyondAusten.com.

Happy 2017 to all of you! What are your goals for the new year? If you have no target, you won’t hit it.

My Childhood Reads

Ban them! Ban them all!

I’ve been musing about the books I love. Last week, I showed my geeky, sci-fi, fantasy self. This week, I chose to reminisce about the books I read as a child.

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I was THAT kid who wanted books for Christmas. My mother, a bibliophile, was happy to give them to me. She gave me The Five Little Peppers books, Elsie Dinsmore, Black Beauty, Little Women, Little Men, and many others.

While researching for this post, I found that Elsie Dinsmore and the other books in the series are no longer published. The books are politically incorrect now, and people seem to be unable to get past the idea that a book series originally published between 1867 and 1905 is written from the perspective of a person living in that era. The lady trashing the books and celebrating their demise, Karen Allen Campbell,  is a columnist for BreakPoint. I must say that I don’t remember all the racism, bigotry, and implied pedophilia she found. I would bet that she hates Gone With the Wind, too.

I’m not a person who advocates cleaning up American history. It is what it is, and we need to remember it. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s all wonderful. To the contrary, the mistreatment of Native Americans and slavery were the lowest points in our history. However, if we throw out everything that was written by people of those time periods, we won’t have a clear picture of what actually happened.

One reason I love Jane Austen’s books is that she gives us an accurate idea of what life was like during her time period. I suppose there are people who object to her books, too, on the basis of women being unequal with men. Let’s just burn everything we don’t like.

That’s so Fahrenheit 451.

Traveling in my mind

booksI freely admit that I’m a science fiction geek. I love futuristic stories and fantasy. Series stories, such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, and the Penryn and the End of Days books (which is not a Biblical depiction of angels), capture my imagination. I gobbled up the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. My mind lives in those worlds.

The only book I’ve ever read which truly surprised me with its ending is Ender’s Game. The series is fascinating, though I had to stop reading several books into it. Author Orson Scott Card got too strange, even for me. He introduced elements of witchcraft which made me uncomfortable.

My husband said Ender’s Game has bad language, but I confess I read so fast I didn’t notice it. However, he is very likely right, though I don’t remember it. He counts the swear words in movies, and we don’t watch any with the worst words. I suppose I just block it in my mind when I read.

Ender’s Game is a military science fiction novel. Because Card wrote it realistically, the book is violent and graphic. It’s not for the squeamish. What caught me was the brilliance of the concept. The space training facility was real to me. I forgot I was reading a book. I simply couldn’t put it down. The film version has been toned down and edited, but it is still good. Ender’s Shadow, a prequel about his friend Bean, was also excellent. These books get into the workings of the characters’ minds. Card excels in showing why they do the things they do.

If you love only romance, this book is NOT for you. There is NO romance in the series.

Ender and his companions are children. If children in danger upsets you, don’t read it.

In short, I am not recommending Ender’s Game to everyone.

Please keep in mind that I’m telling you about books which caught my imagination and spurred me on as a writer. I read all sorts of genres.  I know that many of you will not like what I like. Also be aware that I might read what I could never write and publish. I never have swearing, graphic violence, or any unBiblical precepts in my books.