Sunday, January 26, 2014

Paths to Publishing: Helen Henderson || IMPRISONED IN STONE

Path to Publishing by Helen Henderson

There were numerous roadblocks on my path to publication, and formal education was among the first of them. Over the years, school assignments dampened the muse’s wings until she could no longer fly. A surprising confession from someone who has turned into a plotter? I hated parsing sentences and the outlining process. Most of the time, I ended up writing the story first, then outlined the completed piece, rather than the other way around. And my first stories? They languished in a drawer and were finally destroyed.

Writing in one form or another has been my livelihood for more than three decades. As a computer programmer, I wrote software code. Then as a system analyst I created the technical documentation and the user "how-to" manuals. After riding the tip of the needle that burst the bubble, I combined the technical and the general to write marketing literature for high-tech and insurance companies until those firms also disappeared.

Many, many years after the initial excursions into publication, I fell through the back door into a different kind of writing—journalism. Among the more unusual topics I've covered over the years are air shows and battlefield archeology. (Yes, I do know a little something about the subject and have participated in digs using both traditional screen and trowel methods and the new-fangled metal detectors). Several hundred articles and a handful of columns, including one reviewing new book releases for an international collector’s magazine, resulted from this publishing avenue. As did something I’m even more proud of, my two local history books, Matawan and Aberdeen – Of Town and Field and Around Matawan and Aberdeen that were published by a then regional, now national press.

Walking a circle, brings one back to the beginnings. Because I crossed from technical writing to marketing, I refused to believe, despite being told repeatedly, that if you write non-fiction, you can't write fiction. Many years after I stopped creating tales that took me to other lands and eras, I returned to the world of imagination. The fan fiction and heroic adventures would be replaced by a more professional eye and an expanded area of interest. I worked on my craft, increased my portfolio. Finally, I took the plunge and started to submit. One by one, pieces left my portfolio to find new homes in e-zines and print anthologies, and eventually to a contract with a small press.

Romance learned to take its place alongside action so that my fantasy novels are at home in either genre. My first novel, Windmaster, was written in a variety of places including hospital rooms and doctor’s offices. For me, the best place to write is the mountains. The porch swing overlooking the woods or the waterfront dock lit with dappled sunlight summons the muse. My characters have learned to hide during the dark days of winter as the barriers to love and happiness grow with the snow drifts.

That first contract yielded to another and a sequel joined Windmaster.

Those books were joined by another series, the Dragshi Chronicles, and a toe is dipped into independent-publication. The first chronicle, Dragon Destiny, will be joined by three more tales of the dragshi, beings who are more than just a man or woman, but two beings—one a dragon, the other a human. The pair share one body in space in time and are able to change forms with the other at will.

To become an author, I had to survive the roadblocks of self-doubt, the economy, and death of a publisher. I traded the international magazines’ circulation of tens of thousands for the uncertainty of fiction. Electronic mediums have replaced print as I’ve celebrated the birth of the word processor that made corrections easier and cursed when modern software overwrites my keystrokes to put in its own words, not mine.

The Internet provided new markets and made works more widely accessible, however it didn’t come without its own gambles. Hazards in today’s path to publication come not just from without but also from within the author community itself as more people write for the exposure and criticize those who blend craft and art into a business.

While at this point in time, magic and fantasy fill my writing world, a series of historical western tales clamors louder and louder. Eventually, the world of six guns and outlaws will refuse to be denied. But, until then I’ll fill my spell book with magic and practice with sword and bow. If I had to describe my journey to publication, I would say it is a winding path up a mountainside. Fiction and fact, the present and the past, all intermingle. And as far as the end of the trip, that is still being written.

Title: Imprisoned in Stone

Date Published: August 2013

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 96K


For the crime of healing without payment, the Brethren imprisoned Dylan’s soul in stone. After centuries, he felt the touch of another’s mind and hope for escape from his eternal prison soars. However, his potential savor is unaware of her latent magic--and her only knowledge of him comes from an eerie message on the wall and nightmarish dreams.

A spell kept secret for generations.
A brotherhood thirsting for power.
Demands that cannot be obeyed.
And in the middle of it all-- a woman who stands to lose everything.

Gathering the living ribbons of light, Colwynn wove them into a glittering crown that he slid over Aine's blonde curls. After a moment's respite, he started the protection against any future geas. Although he intended his words to ring out with strength, they sounded barely above a whisper.

"Fire of mountains, strength of iron,
Remove the geas from this innocent's soul.
Crown of sprites, power of life,
Restore the free will that was stole.
Her destiny be hers to decide,
Not obstructed by man, magic, or tide.
So mote it be."

His spell echoed with the hum of fluttering wings. After a moment's respite, he cried out, "Sprites of the clouds, assist me." Summoning power from deep in his being and merging it with that of the eldritch spirits, he created a stronger block than he had believed possible. The glow flowed over the sleeping woman until a golden light encased her entire body. Still, the sprites' song rose in volume. At the crescendo, a flare from the bed blinded Colwynn.

His vision cleared to show a faint sparkling beneath Aine's skin. Aine is guarded from the threat of magic, neither her father nor mine will ever force her to act against her wishes. Now to defend her from the threat of man.

Thoughts swirled in Colwynn's mind as strategies appeared to be speared and dismissed. When the night was over, he would leave. A man of Jarlath's wealth and seniority could not be accused without proof. Once again, Colwynn dug into his reserves of energy. His hands traced the ancient runes of truth in the air.

"Chains of iron forged in magic," he hissed. "Show me the stealer of innocence and will."

Despite the softness of the command, it contained an unyielding force. The mist of the broken control spell formed into a frame. A face appeared in the shimmering surface of the enchanted mirror. As Colwynn expected, Jarlath's face was in the center. Then Nemor's and several other men Colwynn knew were acolytes of the Brethren. Bearded or clean-shaved, some bald, others sporting long curls, image after image appeared until the frame bulged.

An unreasoning fury surged forward. All the Brethren participated. They all knew!

"Show me the man behind the plot," Colwynn yelled. The hovering reflection wavered. When it stopped moving, one final face appeared.

Imprisoned in Stone available at:
Barnes and Noble

Additional locations can be found on the current releases page at 

Author Bio:

A published author, feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. The descendent of a coal-miner's daughter and an aviation flight engineer, her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the realm of fantasy, she is the author of two fantasy series: Windmaster and the Dragshi Chronicles. A western written under the pen name of her ancestress, Jessie Treon, was released in the Dreamspell Goddess Anthology.

Join her on journeys through the stars, back to the past, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination. The trip begins at

Author Links:

A word from the author: 

I often walk through cemeteries, whether to do period research, pick up trash, or upright flags that have fallen over. Add in a full moon and All Hallow’s Eve, and the idea of a soul trapped on Earth with all the consequences of it started to form. An old sea chanty was also one of the muses for Imprisoned in Stone and with new words, the sailor’s work call became one of the spells in the book. The first time I heard the tune was in an episode of the television series, Sea Quest. In that use, a grizzled chief got the crew singing to overcome their despair at their vessel’s damage. In Imprisoned in Stone, while the music rang in my head, my character used the magic inherent in the magic of the rhythm to cast out the spell threatening her ship and crew.
Now that Imprisoned in Stone has been released, my next major project will be to get the rest of the Dragshi Chronicles into print. A collection of short stories from the homefront and the battlefront that is a tribute to family who have served in the military is moving towards the front line.


  1. Thanks, Melissa, for letting me visit. Helen

    1. Hi Helen,
      You're welcome. Thank you for taking part in my P2P blog series. I also used to work in technical writing with software and hardware engineers so I can identify with your experiences. :-)

  2. I really liked your excerpt. Will have to check out the book. Thanks!

  3. Loved your publishing story and the opening line...Gathering the living ribbons of light...beautiful!
    I love the cemeteries of New Orleans. So many beautiful stories etched behind the tombstones.

    1. You're right that there are so many stories to be found in cemeteries. My husband and I used to walk them even before I started working at museums or developed an interest in history. New Orleans is a special place. We spent out honeymoon there, lo those many years ago. And one of the things we did? A cemetery walk of course. Thanks for stopping by. Helen