Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Helen!

I like how you describe yourself as a guide to other worlds and times. In that vein, tell us about your most recent release.

Revenge set Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey. Released by Burst, an imprint of Champagne Books, Ellspeth and Windmaster set sail in June 2011 on a romance-filled, action-packed fantasy described by one reader as “a fascinating story that will keep you up all night turning the pages.”

Despite his insolent attitude, Ellspeth is attracted to the dark-haired dockworker she hires to help unload the Falcon’s cargo. When the supposed dockhand reveals he is Lord Dal, the last member of the Council of Wizards, and her passenger, Ellspeth breaks a cardinal rule–fraternizing with the paying customers. Bringing him back from near-death releases her latent powers and threatens her captaincy. For to have magic she must give up the sea.

Dal has his own reasons for Ellspeth to embrace her powers. In accordance with an ancient prophecy, he allows her to be handfasted to him without her knowledge or consent. However, the prophecy doesn’t state whether Ellspeth will return his love. A likelihood threatened as the deception is unveiled and, again when Dal is captured and stripped of his powers by fanatical clerics bent on ridding the world of magic and those who wield it.

Trapped within the Oracle’s Temple and marked for sacrifice, Ellspeth must choose between her own survival, saving the future of magic, or love.

Well, I’m hooked. What’s next?

For the next year, I’ll be jumping back and forth on two different treadmills. Coming in late spring from Burst Books, Dragon Destiny tells the story of Branin, the last dragon shifter born in over 300 years. As a dragshi, he can take the form of his dragon soul twin, Llewlyn and knows the freedom of flight, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates. When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared. Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, Branin searches the world for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia. All that stands between their happiness is destiny—and the Lady Broch who is determined to have Branin for herself.

In June, the newly handfasted Ellspeth and her husband Lord Dal set sail with Windmaster Legacy. Their plans for a quiet matrimonial trip as they escort his mother on a final journey to her ancestral lands change when mercenaries under the control of Bashim, a rogue mage, attack. Dal’s mother is severely wounded and Ellspeth is captured. Her sole hope for escape is Nobyn, an untrained wizard going through the throes of awakening magic. However, Nobyn is Bashim’s apprentice and under the mage’s total control.

Dal’s destiny will change depending on whether he rescues his wife, cures his mother, or thwarts Bashim’s plans. More than who lives or dies is at stake. Dal might be able to live with his guilt over the death of a loved one, but could he survive death of magic for all eternity.

Congrats on your two upcoming releases, Helen. Both sound intriguing. You certainly have a very creative imagination. I’m always interested in how an author became published. Tell us about your journey to publication.

I have been a writer in one form or another for most of my adult life. Computer code and ‘how-to’ manuals gave way as the technical writer shifted focus to a more public audience. A feature-story writer and correspondent, my writing credits include over 300 articles on a number of topics including military and American history, antiques and collectibles. All of which form a great basis for world building. Among the more unusual stories covered were 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). I’m proud of my two local histories, Matawan and Aberdeen – Of Town and Field and Around Matawan and Aberdeen, both published under the Arcadia Press imprint.   

As things come full circle, the urges that I had suppressed years earlier to guide readers through the stars, among worlds of imagination, or back to the Old West re-emerged. Unlike my more youthful attempts at writing fiction, acceptance letters replaced the earlier rejection ones. A science fiction short story led to a fantasy, then more works in the genres were put under contract in ezines and print publications. After those first hesitant steps, I took the plunge. A great critique group, a supportive husband, and my debut novel, Windmaster, was created. The roller coaster ride started when Champagne Books placed Windmaster under contract.

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 blend. And as far as the end of the trip, that is still being written.

I like your statement, “…as far as the end of the trip, that is still being written” and that you describe it as a roller coaster ride. I think that’s true for most authors. You’re a prolific writer and have published in different genres. Do you prefer to write in any particular one, and if so, why?

I’ve always loved to escape into other worlds, it didn’t matter whether I became a fast-gun in the American West, an interplanetary explorer, or international secret agent. Right now, I’ve settled in fantasy. The genre allows me to create environments where magic lives and heroes rule. Being able to hang out with dragons or horses with a touch of magic in their souls are other reasons why I write fantasies.

Romance crept into the adventure and action that fills my stories when a few years back I joined the critique group, wePub. One of the members is the multi-published, award-winning author Carol McPhee. Her numerous titles include Spirited Liaison and Shadowed Pursuit. After being exposed to her work, the romance that lingered through some of my fantasy and science fiction stories blossomed to demand its own emphasis. I would say I officially joined the ranks of romance writers with the appearance of the short story Recov in Romance of My Dreams 2, released for Valentine’s Day 2011 by L&L Dreamspell.

While at this point in time, magic and fantasy fill my writing world. a series of historical western tales clamors louder and louder. Eventually, it will no longer be able to be denied. But, until then I’ll fill my spell book with magic and practice with sword and bow.

I love your term “spell book”. What is your favorite genre to read?

A voracious reader–a trait I inherited from my mother and grandmother–I have poured through genre after genre. I just finished reading Knight of Darkness by Kinley Macgregor. The War Adventure series, Air Combat Stories  and the tales of Cherry Ames, among others from my parent’s bookcase, filled my early reading experience. The enlargement of my county library from a small building on a back street to a modern facility proved a lifesaver as I read shelf after shelf. Westerns to military action, science fiction to fantasy. Today, the bulk of items on my to-be-read shelf are science fiction or fantasy, with a few orphan western volumes mixed in.

Sci-fi and fantasy are two very hot genres now. Who is your favorite fictional character?

There are so many great characters out there, like the commercial says, you can’t take just one. So I’ll stay close to home. The tales of a female gunslinger named Hell Lost have haunted me for years and maybe someday, I’ll ride the high mountain trails with her. At this point in time, while the novel and short stories languish in the future drawer, the tale of one of the events that took place after she hung up her guns has been published. Written under the name of my ancestress, Jessie Treon, Ambush Luck appeared in the Dreamspell Goddess anthology.

A female gunslinger – very intriguing. Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite authors reflect my typical Gemini split personality. I have always felt that I lived in the wrong time. The farm girl is drawn toward western frontier. The side of my personality that designed computers wants to fly a jet and journey in outer space. I read Louis L’Amour to fill the void in my western soul, and Anne McCaffrey, Barbara Hambly, and E. E. Doc Smith when I want to explore and visit other worlds.

What inspires you?

The tranquil setting of a deck of a log cabin overlooking a lake sets my imagination roaming. The muse frequently appears in response to certain pieces of music. Westerns are written while listening to Ashokan Farewell or western movie themes. Celtic harp and flute fill the room when fantasy is in the air. Other triggers for my writing are vintage photographs, and those fleeting thoughts stuck in the dream-catcher.

Perhaps the most unusual inspiration came during my years as a freelance writer and correspondent, One night while walking (in period costume of course) the camp of a Revolutionary War reenactment set up on the site an 18th century battle), I felt like I travelled back in time.

I find music very motivating. When I write action-adventure, hard rock inspires me. For romance – Elton John’s early work. Cannot figure that one out! What one secret would you like to share?

I believe one of the key elements in a successful fantasy story is the believability of the world, even though winged horses or elves might inhabit it. In creating 300+ articles covering antiques and history, including military history, and two local history books, I’ve had to research, research, and do more research. Knowledge of the past is often transferable to the worlds of fantasy. If the reader feels the weight of the sworn dragging down the heroine’s arm, smells the smoke from an inn’s fireplace, or walks through an ancient culture, it brings the world to life for them. No matter what genre I’m writing, one major element carries through them all—I try to make the world I build for the characters real for my readers.

One author I admire who writes historical romance/action-adventure always describes the five senses in her scenes, which pulls me into that time and place. The Dames love romance and I note you have been married to your husband for 30 years. How did you meet and to what do you attribute the longevity of your marriage?

My husband and I actually met at college through a connivance of mutual friends. One night, my husband and I were each invited by to eat dinner with a group of several people we knew. The only two seats open at the table put my future husband and myself together. That first meeting led to invitations to be his date for the senior concert and then the senior prom. A short year later, almost to the day, I found myself on an airplane heading toward Biloxi, Mississippi with a wedding gown neatly folded in my suitcase and a diamond glittering on my finger. When asked by my seatmate on the plane if I was going to visit an airman, I quickly responded, “No, to marry one.” Next year that journey reaches the forty year mark.

As to the second part of the question, I have no freaking idea beyond pure luck and a husband with unboundable levels of love and patience. I found a man who allows me to be myself, and supports my quirks. Our similar philosophies on family, honor, and duty have held us together as we have matured together and are now growing old together. While our individual interests don’t always coincide, they complement the mutual ones. As a correspondent I dragged him to antique fairs and air shows. Over the years, I’ve been the quiet spectator at archaeology digs and metal detector events that my husband participated in. Camping and bicycling are two activities we enjoy doing together. Last year we camped in upstate New York (a stay Hurricane Irene tried and failed to flood out) and bicycled along the towpath of the Erie Canal.

One last thing, Did I say Tom never misses my birthday or anniversary, even though they are two days apart?

My husband and I have been married over 39 years and, like you, I have no idea how we’ve survived this long. We love pets. Do you have any? If not, what’s your favorite animal?

I don’t have any pets at this time. The last one, Tigh, a black and white masked cat we inherited, ran our household for almost eighteen years before he romped beyond the veil. Before I was married, two collies, a sable (no, not named Lassie) and a tri-color named Salt and Pepper, helped control the sheep on my family’s farm.

Having a very large, Shetland pony when growing up must have influenced me. Each of my fantasy worlds is inhabited by a type of magical equine. But as one reader commented, every girl needs a horse. Although don’t let the head stallion of either the fàlaire or the seisag hear you call them a horse. They may look like one, and provide mounts to mages and wizards, but both seisag and fàlaire have abilities beyond that of a true horse.

Having owned horses in the past, I totally agree with your statement that every girl needs a horse. They’re beautiful, magnificent, intelligent, and affectionate animals. Tell us about your neck of the woods.

Although I grew up a farm girl, and am not unfamiliar with the mountains of Pennsylvania coal country, I admit to enjoying life in a small town. The one-square mile waterfront town we live in has a boardwalk with views of several areas of New York City. Each summer, local residents line the railing to watch boats being launched. Crowds gather on the boardwalk to view the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks in New York City. Closer ones are shot over the bay to close the firemen’s fair. On clear nights, the lights of Manhattan are clearly visible, as are the buildings themselves during the day, except the morning the towers fell when clouds of smoke obscured the horizon. The closeness of a converted rail trail that winds through salt marshes and beneath canopied trees allows my husband and me to enjoy two-wheeled journeys along the coast.

Thank you, Helen, for a really intriguing interview!

Thanks for letting me visit the grand ‘Dames.

Helen Henderson
Website: http://helenhenderson-author.webs.com/