Cover Reveal – Sentinals Justice

Book Three of the Sentinal Series

Pre-order eBook now!

Release Day: September 7th, 2021

Blurb

Sentinals Justice is the third book in the saga of Remargaren, a vibrant, ancient world of high fantasy suffused with magic and adventure.

The third installment of the Sentinal series takes us to the frozen north, to the Grand Duchy of Elothia. Border tensions with Elothia force King Benedict to send a diplomatic envoy to sue for peace. Benedict has his hands full with Vespiri and Terolia, he can’t afford a war on his northern border as well. Commander Jerrol Haven is sent to broker peace. Having met Grand Duke Randolph the thirteenth before, Jerrol hopes their previously successful negotiations will assist in a speedy resolution and allow him time to discover how to rescue Birlerion from the Ascendants.

Meanwhile, the Chapterhouse has received a request for a scholar to assist in searching for signs of the Sentinals in Elothia. Taelia is assigned the task, because Scholar Torsion is also missing after the attack at the Watch Towers.

Amidst escalating tensions, and conflicting needs, Jerrol journeys to Elothia, hoping to meet with Randolf before the Ascendants can influence him. Escorting Taelia is an unexpected bonus. Can Jerrol stop Elothia and Vespiri from going to war? Will they find more Sentinals? And can they find out where the Ascendants took Birlerion and Torsion before it is too late.

Sentinals Justice concludes the opening trilogy…though the adventure will continue!

Get ready for Book Three – Purchase the first book Sentinals Awaken now:

Amazon UK:
Paperback
eBook

Amazon US:
Paperback
eBook

Amazon Canada
Paperback
eBook

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Amazon UK:
Paperback
eBook

Amazon US:
Paperback
eBook

Amazon Canada
Paperback
eBook

The Joys of World Building

If you’ve read my novels, you’ll know I created the world of Remargaren. A diverse environment comprised of four kingdoms: Vespiri, Terolia, Elothia and Birtoli. Each has its own political structure, landscape, setting and culture, which drives the behaviour of its inhabitants.

The fun part of world building is that you get to create everything! A lot of the time you are creating backstory, so the story you are writing has depth and makes sense, but it doesn’t mean it is all included in the book. Even though some characters are only mentioned as a legend or ancient history, once upon a time they lived the events that made that history. I have so much backstory that one day there will be a prequel so I can use it all!

My starting point was the deities who created the world of Remargaren in the first place. The sisters Leyandrii and Marguerite. Goddesses who did everything they could to protect the people of Remargaren and its people, and I had my religious structure, and the source of the ancient magic. 

As I started to write the first book, the environment began develop and the idea of basing it on the diverse countries found on the European continent was born.

Vespiri is predominantly forested; a land of trees and rich timber, lush green growth, plentiful water and arable fields. The sentinal trees are scattered across a system of Watches which divide the kingdom into manageable areas. Vespers, Greenswatch, Deepwater, Stoneford, East Watch and Marchwood.

Each Watch has a lord responsible for defending the land, who looks to the king, and each Watch has a council to help with day-to-day management.

Terolia is a hot and arid desert territory ruled by the nomadic Families. Water is scarce as are towns and cities, and sentinals. The Familes are led by a Medera and Sodera, the mother and father, and the family structure is core to their way of life.

There are six Families comprised of three main Familes: the Atolea, the Solari and the Kirshan, and three affiliated lesser Families: Kiker, Gusar and Miner. 

Elothia is an icy territory to the north. Flat plains of icy tundra stretch all the way to ridges of snow-capped mountains. Most of the year, snow covers the land; only the southern reaches are ice free and arable. Food can be scarce when the winters are harsh, and the land remains frozen shortening the growing season and causing strife in the villages.

The Grand Duke rules Elothia, supported by his ministers and the generals that command his army.

Birtoli is an archipelago of islands extending to the south. White sands and turquoise seas, although beautiful, mean that without a boat, the islanders are constrained to the island they born on, and tend to coalesce in tight knit clans. The Birtolian Empire is ruled by an Emperor.

Diverse settings provide the opportunity to create different cultures, political structures and of course the vivid landscapes my characters live in, which also contribute to setting the mood an ambiance of a scene.

You can create a world as complex and diverse as you choose, or as simple as needed.  It becomes the canvas on which your characters live their lives. They react to and manoeuvre through the different territories, and the setting provides the opportunity to create more obstacles and conflict and we enjoy their adventures as the characters deal with them. The reading experience becomes immersive because you can imagine the world, and you can picture yourself in that environment, and you can compare your reactions to those of the characters.

World building is a core component of high fantasy as we need to explain the world our characters live in. High fantasy means that the book is not set in the real world. It is not set on Earth; it is not real. An integral part of this is a map. A map helps a reader visualise where the characters are, and as they traverse the world, you can follow their journey as well. The majority of the time, a high fantasy novel will have a map.

The author uses a map to keep track of distance and locations. One of the hardest parts is consistency when writing a novel. It is so easy to be inconsistent, and a map helps you to see that actually Old Vespers is in the west of Vespiri, not the east for example, or that Stoneford Watch is in the east and borders Elothia to the north and Terolia to the east, and that is where it will always be!

I hope you enjoy the world building in the Sentinal Series and fall in love with the wonderful world of Remargaren and its diverse peoples and cultures.

Book One: Sentinals Awaken is set in Vespiri.

Book Two: Sentinals Rising starts in Vespiri and ends up in Terolia.

Book Three: Sentinals Justice, due to release in the fall travels to Elothia.

Why do we doubt ourselves?

I wonder why Imposter syndrome1 is more prevalent in women and minorities than in others? And I think more prevalent in writers as we put our heart on our sleeve and expose our creations to the world and all we expect is criticism.

What is it about us that drives us to think we are not good enough, that we shouldn’t try to achieve such high goals, that someone else is always better than us, prettier than us, more qualified than us. The list could go on and on.

I’m no expert on mental health, as my daughter will be the first to tell you, and here you go, I am going to say it! There are far more qualified folks out there who can advise better than me. But I was thinking about the fact that by the end of this year, I will have published five books in my Sentinal series. FIVE!!!

If that isn’t something to celebrate then what is? Yes the reviews are slow to come in. The sales are not exactly stellar, my Amazon rating is six digits and counting! but I loved every minute of writing them, of editing them, of polishing them as beta readers gave me wonderful feedback along with areas to improve. The covers are beautiful and just resonate with the epic fantasy genre. And I AM PROUD of them. I deserve to call myself an author. A published author at that.

So why do I feel awkward when I call myself an author? as if I am a fraud. I have the proof. The physical books to show I wrote them. How should you measure success? Do you have to hit a certain revenue number, number of books sold, amazon rating, to be a success? Why can’t we accept that writing a book, finishing it, and then publishing it, is a success? Because it really is.

I am about to send the third book of my Sentinal series, Sentinals Justice off to the copy editor and then start biting my nails as I wait for feedback. The cover designer will begin the cover art in a couple of weeks and I am on course to publish in September. I’ve even got some character art for my main characters, Jerrol and Birlerion. I wonder if they are even close to what my readers imagined? Jerrol is above. Isn’t it cool?

So yes, my books have a long way to go before I break even. Profit? Is that a word associated with self-publishing? I have hope. One day. In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing. Why? Because I enjoy it. Because I am an author and I’m good at it.

As Megan Dalla Carmina says in her blog post for PsychologyToday.com, “At the end of the day, remember this: You are here for a reason. In this job, your business, your life, you are worthy. You are better than you think you are. You are smarter than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. Remember that. And remind yourself as often as you need to.”

Notes:

  1. ‘The Reality of Imposter syndrome.’ Megan Dalla Camina, 2018. PsychologyToday.com https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/real-women/201809/the-reality-imposter-syndrome

Do you talk to yourself?

There is one thing I’ve noticed as the lockdown progresses, is that I talk to myself a lot. I am worried I’ll forget once I am back out socializing, and I’ll still find myself saying things meant for inside my head, out loud in public. Can you imagine it? People will be staring at me as if I am crazy!

Well, hopefully not, as I am sure I am not the only one.

It isn’t just because I live alone, and have no one except my cat to talk too. It’s because I talk to my characters as I am writing them. I immerse myself in my world of Remargaren and see it through their eyes. Hopefully, so that I capture it for my readers to experience as well.

But that does mean that I get caught up in conversations, some of which make it into the book and some of which don’t. My characters have been invented by me; I created their backstory, their likes and dislikes, their foibles, and habits, their thoughts and beliefs. Some I know better than others, and others force their way to the front demanding to be fleshed out more, to play a part, to have a voice.

Characters are an important element of a great story. A reader wants to be invested in their story, to be drawn in to their world, to understand why they react the way they do. It is the authors job to give the reader enough information to draw conclusions, infer emotion, too anticipate. A well rounded character resonates; it’s part of what give us that book hang over when we finish. That sense of losing a friend, of misplacing something, because you won’t be able pick up where you left off.

Fortunately, you can always revisit when you want you, that is the joy of re-reading a book and returning to visit old acquaintances, and often learning something new as you glean something you missed the first time you read it.

Then a new characters raises their hand! And says “What about me?” And I take a closer look, and realize that they don’t fit in the world of Remargaren. They have their own world waiting to be described; to be created, for me to put pen to paper and bring it to life.

A smile rises in me at the thought of meeting someone new; to explore who they are, what they have to say. To discover what they have suffered, or are yet to suffer, and who they will become.

I was listening to an Olly Murs album as I edited my third Sentinal novel, and the lyrics from one of his songs just resonated with me. A young woman raised her hand, stared me in the eye, and she said “I have a story for you to tell.” And she does. I have two new protagonists and a whole new world to think about. A whole new conversation to enjoy.

So If you hear me chattering away to myself, don’t dismiss me. I am in the throes of composition, meeting new characters and making new friends.

I hope you come and visit, enjoy the company and return often.

Launch – Sentinals Rising

Book Two of the Sentinal Series

Now Available: March 17th, 2021

Order Now: eBook or Paperback

Have you visited Remargaren yet? An ancient world suffused with magic and adventure. Sentinals Rising continues our action packed journey with Jerrol and his newly awoken Sentinals.

Jerrol Haven, having rescued the king from the clutches of the malevolent Ascendants, knows they haven’t stopped their scheming. While trying to learn more about the mysterious Sentinals he woke from a three-thousand-year sleep, he has to defend his king and country from further magical attacks.

Should he trust the Sentinals in such vital positions? Can he trust them to protect the king and Vespiri? As Jerrol learns more of their capabilities, he realises there are more secrets yet to be revealed. Maybe those questioning their sudden rise in power have a point.

Before he can delve further, a call for help comes from the neighbouring country of Terolia. The nomadic Families are disintegrating into chaotic infighting. The king sends Jerrol to investigate, instructing him to do whatever is needed to protect the Families from the Ascendants

Get ready for Book Two – Purchase the first book Sentinals Awaken now, eBook on special offer at 0.99c for four days only!:

Amazon UK:
Paperback
eBook (On 0.99p special offer March 17th-20th)

Amazon US:
Paperback
eBook (On 0.99c special offer March 17th-20th)

Giveaway!

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Sentinals Rising – sign up to my newsletter and follow me on social for extra entries. Click on image for Link to Rafflecopter entry form.

Cover Reveal – Sentinals Rising

Book Two of the Sentinal Series

Pre-order: eBook Available now!

Release Day: March 17th, 2021

Blurb

Sentinals Rising is the second book in the saga of Remargaren, a vibrant, ancient world of high fantasy suffused with magic and adventure.

Jerrol Haven, having rescued the king from the clutches of the malevolent Ascendants, knows they haven’t stopped their scheming. While trying to learn more about the mysterious Sentinals he woke from a three-thousand-year sleep, he has to defend his king and country from further magical attacks.

Should he trust the Sentinals in such vital positions? Can he trust them to protect the king and Vespiri? As Jerrol learns more of their capabilities, he realises there are more secrets yet to be revealed. Maybe those questioning their sudden rise in power have a point.

Before he can delve further, a call for help comes from the neighbouring country of Terolia. The nomadic Families are disintegrating into chaotic infighting. The king sends Jerrol to investigate, instructing him to do whatever is needed to protect the Families from the Ascendants

Get ready for Book Two – Purchase the first book Sentinals Awaken now:

Amazon UK:
Paperback
eBook

Amazon US:
Paperback
eBook

Is Writing a Catharsis?

I think maybe it is. Many people write memoirs, blogs, poems, paint or create music as a way of dealing with life, problems, complications. I started writing after my mother passed away after a short battle with cancer.  We had been planning to move to the country, and she was going to move in with me. We had lots of plans that never had a chance to happen.

I thought I started writing because I had time on my hands and an empty house. But I’ve come to realise that I  was grieving and releasing that grief through writing, expressing myself through words, and maybe escaping reality for a moment and entering a world I knew she would love.  I had lost my best friend and I was trying to find a replacement for that gaping hole. I wrote seven books. A bit like Forrest Gump running across America, twice!

That new companion became the world of Remargaren and Jerrol and the Sentinals. A world of myth and legend. Of friendship and betrayal. Of ancient forests and magical trees.

I always credit my mum with instilling in me a love of books and reading. I remember my love for the The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton; my first foray in the world of fantasy. To escape into a world where down can be up and the sky can be green, and your imagination rules.

I am happiest when I write, when I visit the world of Remargaren and I am surrounded in possibilities, and a lot of challenges for my characters of course.

I thank my mum for sharing her love of reading. I know she’s looking over my shoulder, making suggestions, loving the stories. I hope you are loving them too.

In these crazy times, it’s strange being a debut author. It wasn’t because of Covid that I started writing, I just happened to have been ready to publish.  So I’m a 2020 author, forever connected to the year of Covid, with virtual book launches and no book signings! and yet there is still good to have come out of this year; Sentinals Awaken for one. Even in times of great difficulty there are good deeds and amazing people. People who put themselves before others, whether it be a nurse in the NHS, the dustman collecting the bins, the man stacking the shelves in the supermarket, parents home-schooling or a King’s Ranger trying to solve a mystery and save his country.

As we enter lockdown again here in the UK, I hope Sentinals Awaken provides some relief and entertainment as well as some hope, away from the continuing restrictions imposed on us all. If you want to chat, you can find me on twitter, Instagram or Facebook or here on my website. If you are following the #tweetbookclub on Twitter, you’ll know I’m always happy to chat about my books. Trying not to give away spoilers is the challenge, because I just want to share! And to discuss Jerrol and Birlerion and all the rest.

Thank you for making it to the end of this blog. Hopefully you are enjoying the results of my catharsis!! Book Two will be along soon…as the self-publishing journey continues. Hope you stay for the ride!

Keep safe and well. Speak soon.

The Home Straight

An author experiences a variety of emotions in the long journey to publishing. Having actually written the book in the first place you then have the long slog of revising and editing, trying to polish your novel until the shine is blinding and you can finally let it go takes a lot longer than you would think. My first blog on this topic was back in May and here we are October!

And then its copy editing, interior design and layout, and proof reading, and then the vicious circle of wanting to put a review link in the ebook to make it easier for readers to leave a review, but you have to upload your book to get the link. And to get the link you have to commit to a publishing date – which Amazon then chase you (which is good and bad) and threaten to ban you from using their services for a whole year if you miss it. If that doesn’t stress you out, then nothing will!

If I have learnt anything on this journey, it is that everything takes a darned site longer than you would like. And the amount of days you spend chewing your nails waiting for a file to come back so you can review again is excruciating.

There is much to learn, and I may begin to post some podcasts (If I can find the time as I need to be editing book two!) about the different elements of the journey, because as a first-time author, it truly is eye-opening. And if my learnings can help someone else navigate this road more easily then that is all too the good.

But, as the title of this blog says, this is the home straight. I am now on the final leg rushing towards that winning line. The book is uploaded to Amazon and filtering through all the affiliate sites. It may even be live in paperback in some locations already – as you are advised to upload a week before publishing to let the sites sync, but you can’t set the publishing date, Amazon set that when the book goes live—so do you wait or do you upload?

You upload! So you can get the proof copies and author copies, and oh! The first time you hold your book in your hands. A-maz-ing! I feel so proud and so happy. Such an achievement.

My launch date is October 11th, and I am going to do a virtual book launch via Zoom, because, when it comes down to it, you only ever get to do your first ever book launch once. And I think that is something that should be celebrated. Even if it is just me talking into a screen, I will still raise a glass as Sentinals Awaken sets sail on her ocean voyage around the world.

So I have set up a Zoom call, created my rafflecopter giveaway, sent out the invites and now it’s a case of waiting to see if anyone accepts. This is more nerve wracking than publishing the book.

Come hell or highwater, I will be launching my book on Sunday. If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy, then join me at 7pm UK time to raise a toast.

DM me for the link to the launch at helen.garraway@hotmail.com

To Sentinals Awaken. My first ever novel. Published.

Long may she entertain.

Sentinals Awaken- Book One Cover Reveal!

I am so excited! My cover is finished!

So here is the big reveal! Would you stop and take a look inside? I hope so, let me know what you think via the contact page.

Cover by Jeff Brown of jeffbrowngraphics.com

From a rough sketch, which my cover designer, Jeff mocked up in front of my eyes as we chatted on a video conference call, (see left), to more formalised 80% done (see below right) to the finished article (above!)

Jeff has created a beautiful work of art as well as a book cover, and I can’t wait to see it as a poster.

So a big thank you to Jeff from Jeff Brown Graphics (www.jeffbrowngraphics.com) for designing such a beautiful cover; from the Lady and the Moon symbol to the grand panoramic scene (see at bottom of post) as Jerrol and his Sentinals ride through an encroaching storm to attempt to rescue the King of Vespiri.

With the advent of online bookstores and eReaders, the cover must be eye-catching as a thumbnail image, which means the main image must be more prominent, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be artistic.

The cover is one of the most important aspects of a novel, it is what catches the readers eye in the first place, to take note and stop and browse, and hopefully, to pick up out of the choice of many, and then the first few lines of the book catch your attention and draw you in.

Want to know what’s inside Sentinals Awaken? – Sneak peek!

Chapter 1
Lady’s Temple Gardens, Old Vespers

The sword missed his nose by an inch, if that. A momentary relief as solid steel thunked into the ground and Jerrol jerked back like a snake about to strike and then slithered away, inhaling the scent of soggy grass, dirt and roses. Roses?

His brow wrinkled in confusion as he scuttled away and regained his feet. Backing towards the tall Sentinal tree arching over the Lady’s temple, he strained to see his assailants. He leaned against the trunk as he scanned the gardens. He would have to apologise later; staying alive was more important than the sanctity of the temple gardens.

There were three guards, large and brutal: Chancellor’s men eager to deliver him up more dead than alive. The complaint of him snooping around the Chancellor’s business would be enough to get him placed on report, if not demoted. He wasn’t supposed to be near Chancellor Isseran, let alone following him.

Gritting his teeth, Jerrol considered his options. He couldn’t kill them, not on the Lady’s soil, yet he couldn’t let them report back, either. The satin-smooth bark of the tree beneath his fingers warmed for a moment as he hesitated. The image of a tall, black-haired man stood before him. This apparition wore a silvery green high-necked uniform that glimmered in the swirling mist. He was striking to look at, unnaturally pale, with distinctive features and straight, black eyebrows over silver eyes that gleamed in the dim light.

Jerrol gaped at him, unable to stop staring. It wasn’t possible. Lady help him, it wasn’t possible, was it? He recoiled as the man spoke, taking a step back.

“Captain? Is it time?” the man asked, his silver eyes burning bright.

He was young – younger than he was, Jerrol thought. Yet his expression was grave. There was a sense of a burden understood and accepted; of experience over youth. He had a sword strapped to his hip and a bow across his back, and he looked like he knew how to use them.

Jerrol frowned. “Time?” he asked, and the image faded.


Sentinals Awaken, is set in the word of Remargaren, a world where magic was banished by the deity Leyandrii over three thousand years ago along with the malevolent Ascendants. Jerrol Haven, a Captain of the King’s Rangers discovers treason at the highest level and although the ailing King tries to help him, the Crown Prince sentences Jerrol to death. Jerrol must escape, discover why magic is returning to his world and discover the source of an insidious disease spreading through the Watches. After accidentally awakening a Lady’s Sentinal he needs to discover how to awaken more Sentinals and rescue the King – but even then, his troubles are only just beginning.

I hope the cover and opening excerpt tempt you to order Sentinals Awaken when it launches in the autumn and you enjoy reading the book. Please ensure you leave a review when you do, reviews drive visibility and keep an independent author like me writing!

If you’re interested in delving into the world of Remargaren and would like to visualise the Kingdom of Vespiri, I have been collecting some images on a Pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.co.uk/helengarraway/vespiri-world-of-remargaren/

Sign up to my newsletter below, to find out first when Sentinals Awaken will be available for order! And to gain access to the bonus content on the members only corner when it goes live.

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Just look at that scenery, gorgeous!

What are books made of?

Trees, wood pulp, and lots of imagination...

… creativity, dedication and perseverance.

But what if there was no wood, or wood pulp, or grasses and other natural vegetation? Our lives would be very different without paper; and by extension, without the creation of books, we would lose that wonderful feeling of holding knowledge or experiencing escapism into every subject under the sun.

I recently responded to a Defra Tree consultation on the English Tree Strategy, and I was shocked to realise that fewer than 10% of our English native woodland is considered to be in good condition for nature. That means it can’t support the creatures that live in it. Not only are we not investing in planting more trees, but we’re also not even looking after what is left.

How sad is that?

Isn’t it funny how we all take everything for granted? Even though we know trees are vital to sustaining our environment, to help clean the air we breathe, to synthesise the colour into our world, we still don’t protect them. We don’t plant enough new trees. No one takes responsibility.

When I was a child, our garden had a rowan tree, lilac tree, oak and beech and a massive horse chestnut. I would stand beneath and look up into the branches, much as I imagine a Sentinal tree would hover protectively over us.  I wonder how many of those survive today? Not many, I’m sure. And how many children today would know the difference between all of them? It is our responsibility to ensure these trees are accessible for all, in natural spaces, of which many could easily sustain trees.

DEFRA Tree Strategy consultation for England

Have your say and respond to the Defra Tree Strategy Consultation for England.

Protect our woods, invest in regeneration and plant more trees. Help sustain the tree nurseries. Ensure we can continue to hold a book in our hands in the future, in a world full of magical creatures breathing clean air.

You can respond here, make sure you do by September 11th 2020: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/england-tree-strategy/

Image credits: Top – Annie Pratt, Unsplash. Bottom – Dave Hoefler, Unsplash