A Reader’s Pronunciation Guide

I’ve had some questions about how to pronounce the names of the characters in Shiloh and Seeker. Here’s a little guide to help you out.


From Shiloh:

Amos – AY-muss

Phoebe – FEE-bee

Simeon – SIH-mee-un

Rosalyn – ROZ-uh-lin

Isolde – is-OLD




From Seeker:

Evander – ee-VAN-der

Mina – MEE-nuh

Valour – VAL-er

Maeve – MAYV


Any other pronunciation questions? Drop me a line, and I’ll be glad to clarify.

Happy Reading!



February 20, 2015 Comments Read More

A Better Country


I’ve had four earaches in the last nine months.

Not a very interesting tidbit, I grant you, but it came startingly to mind when I read this passage from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

(discussing clinical studies on grief and bereavement) “Dolphins…had been observed refusing to eat after the death of a mate. Geese had been observed reacting to such a death by flying and calling, searching until they themselves became disoriented and lost. Human beings…showed similar patterns of response. They searched. They stopped eating. They forgot to breathe. They grew faint from lowered oxygen, they clogged their sinuses with unshed tears and ended up in otolaryngologists’ offices with obscure ear infections.”

 How strange.

The epigraph for Seeker (my second book, and the prequel to Shiloh) is taken from a verse in Hebrews. “But now they desire a better country,” it says. I thought there was no better way to sum up the story, to try to convey the chronic grief of the people of Holt, to try to convey their deep longing. My journey in writing the story was painful. I wrote my losses and heartaches into those characters, and I love them, and some of them I’ll never get back. It’s right. Fitting. There are things we can’t recover from, not yet. But it does us good to honor our losses, to acknowledge the sadness of beautiful things fallen to dust, or burned to ash, or dead and buried.

I didn’t know when I wrote Seeker that I would spend a year wrestling with my publisher, receiving guarantee after guarantee about the release date. Each time a new date approached, I geared up. I planned and promoted. My hopes and my heart rose in little nervous flutters. It was almost time to share my story, to introduce readers to Mina (my favorite character I’ve ever written). It was almost time to see how they reacted, if they reacted, to the village of Holt and the magistrate’s weakling son and the wide-eyed Grey and the reckless Knox. It was almost time to introduce the hero, Evander, Father and Light of the Sun Clan.

Readers asked questions. “When will your next book be out?” “Has Seeker been released yet?” Again and again, I told them it would be soon. Delays, delays, delays. I tried to be cheerful, to keep it all in perspective. “This is really a very small problem in the scope of eternity,” I told myself. But my heart was aching. And every time the date was pushed back…further and further…I ached all the more.

There are remarkable similarities between writing a book and having a child. I won’t burden you with all of them, but releasing Seeker, this story that’s so dear to my heart, this tale that I so long to share, has felt a little like being nine months pregnant…for a year. If you’ve been pregnant, or if you’ve been around a pregnant woman who is ready to give birth, you probably understand a little of how this has felt.

Exhausting. Frustrating. Anxious. Desperate. Hysterical.

I tried to rein in my disappointment. “It’ll happen soon,” I said. “Any time. I’m almost there.” And while I thought I already identified with my characters (and my hero in particular), I was forced to enter their desperation, their longing, in ways I could never have foreseen. I’ve been forced to enter into my own desire, to sit with it, unfulfilled, and cling to hope. Perhaps I even “clogged (my) sinuses with unshed tears.”

I hardly know how to frame my feelings now that I’m holding the book in my hands. “This is the story of the Sun Clan, the Lost Clan, and all that was lost with them.” And this is the story of my waiting, my longing, my grief. I’m honoring those losses with a story, a beautiful story, set in the village of Holt, on the edge of the Fayrewood, in the foothills of the Pallid Peaks. I hope it moves you as much as it does me.


January 23, 2015 Comments Read More

A Plethora of Podcasts (It’s really just two.)

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Barry Dunlap of The Twelve Minute Muse and Glenn McCarty of the Eye Wonder Why podcast. We talked about fantasy street cred, seizure drafting, variations on universal themes, and making messes on purpose. If you missed them, or if you’d like to hear more about my writing process for Shiloh, Seeker, and Songbird, you can follow the links here: (scroll down and they’ll appear…it’s magic)


The Twelve Minute Muse – http://www.twelveminutemuse.com/musings/episode-33-chat-helena-sorensen/


Eye Wonder Why Podcast – https://soundcloud.com/glenn-mccarty/episode-2-helena-sorenson

January 16, 2015 Comments Read More

Seeker Book Trailer

Seeker is almost ready, and I’m overjoyed to be able to share this story with you. At last, you’ll learn the full story of Evander and the Lost Clan. Here’s the trailer to give you an idea what you’ll find in the prequel to Shiloh. (scroll down and the YouTube link will appear)



October 6, 2014 Comments Read More

In Search of the Blue Blaze



The path was marked at the trailhead. I saw the name of the trail: Acadia Mtn. The ascent and difficulty level were clearly marked, along with reminders to bring a map and a water bottle, and to tell someone where you were going. Check, check, check. I climbed the stairs. Already the sun had risen high enough to burn the haze from the sky. It was 7 a.m., and the world above was blue, and I had miles to go. I smiled and clambered up the first ascent, and only then did I realize that there was no trail, not here at least. There was a broad stretch of curving rock, broken by scrubby pines and huckleberry bushes. But that was all. To left and right, the rock curved away, losing itself in rising lines of dappled black and green.

Okay, I thought. I didn’t expect it to be this difficult from the outset, but I’m alright. The car is not far behind. I can always go back. Can’t I?

I turned, catching a glimpse of the road, listening for the drone of cars on 102. But I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to be brave. I just thought there’d be some kind of marker, the print of a shoe, a small cairn. I took a steadying breath and turned my face in the direction I was going when I lost sight of the trail. This way. I was heading this way. I walked on, climbing over granite boulders speckled with pink and gray and silver. And not far down, over the crest of this particular rise, I saw it. A blue blaze. It was perhaps five inches long and two wide, stretched into a long rectangle, like the lines in the middle of the road. The color was bright, a bit like the sky overhead. I sighed. This was the path. I was going the right way.

There were other precarious moments during my hike over Acadia Mountain. I didn’t think two and a half miles was much, even if the trek fell into the “strenuous” category. It was hard going, sure, but exhilarating, too, and the view from the top and the time I spent there, watching birds land on the high, high branches, unperturbed by the great fall down to Somes Sound, were worth sore feet and a bit of sweat. What made the hike truly strenuous, though, was not the tumbled slopes that required me to sit down and ease my legs to the next boulder before scrambling down another and yet another, until I reached a path with roots and soil. What made the journey difficult was the distance between the blazes.

The spacing was funny, seemingly arbitrary at times. I might come upon three bright, clear markers in the space of fifty yards. Then the road might fork or disappear, or branch simultaneously in several directions, and not a drop of blue paint could be found. Some of the blazes were worn almost beyond recognition. They faded into the gray-green lichen that spattered the stones.

And every time I came to one of these barren places (barren not in beauty, but in security, direction), I felt a tiny rush of panic. Where is the blaze? I need the blaze. I felt this tug of fear and urgency even when I was fairly sure of the correct path. I wanted the blazes to appear at nice, predictable intervals. A blue marker every ten feet would have been delightful. Heck, an unbroken blue line that wound up Acadia Mountain and over and down would have been ideal. Then I would never have had a moment’s doubt. I could have turned my full attention to my surroundings. I could have kept my eye on the long, blue line while I dawdled somewhere off the path, sitting on overhangs by copper-colored pools and savoring the scent of balsam in the air.

As I climbed, as I sat on the sunbaked stones at the summit, as I descended, I thought about that feeling of panic, that nagging urgency, and about the comfort of the blue blazes. The feelings were familiar.

There are people in my life who are powerful, people I admire, people whose opinions matter to me. And though I hate to admit it, I long for their approval. I want to create something or do or say something that causes them to turn and smile and applaud. I want them to tell me that I’m doing well, that I’m on the right path. Sometimes I let the panic rise, waiting for these words, and they never come. I think, Have I taken the wrong turning? Or, Am I such a child that I cannot progress ten steps without the nod of a head or a word of encouragement?

There are people I have not met, people whose qualities I have not explored, whose opinions I may not even value. I long for their approval, too. Perhaps their praise would be more powerful, since they are removed from my small circle. Perhaps from a distance, they can see me with greater clarity. Perhaps they know if I am on the right path. Perhaps they can tell me if I’m doing well. I think, Do any of you see me? Am I making a difference anywhere in the wide world?

It’s a shame, isn’t it? The real business of life, of faith, happens between the blue blazes, where the roads diverge and the face of the mountain curves away into shadow. In those places, I am forced to raise my eyes from my feet, to see the sun’s slow arc over the mountain, to watch for signs of another’s passing. In those places, I may have to forge a new path, one utterly bankrupt of blazes.

Of course, there’s no real power in the blaze. I will make it over the mountain, paint or no. But I suspect we’re all still searching for the markers. We comb our social media pages, our email inboxes, sifting for words of affirmation. Our “likes” and our “re-tweets” and our five-star reviews are so wonderful. They leap off the path in dazzling blue, and they shout in triumph: “You’re going the right way!” “Your work is good!” “You can see the fruits of your labor here and now!” “You’ve made the right choices!” “You have nothing to regret!” We search the faces of beloved family members and respected colleagues. Their smiles, their nods, fill us with confidence. So we rush forward a few more steps, momentary elation drowning out the nagging, panicky voice that will too soon make itself heard. And all our questions will rise up from their dank holes to haunt us again.

Don’t get me wrong. Encouragement is necessary and powerful. Don’t stop giving it. When you’ve got a little paint, use it. Dip your brush into the blue and make your mark on the path. Those who follow will be glad of it.

I don’t want to stop giving encouragement. I want to break my dependence on receiving it. I want to run on another fuel. I need to find my security elsewhere, because the blazes are never close enough. They never will be.

I get the idea that Paul didn’t spend much time pining over the blazes behind him. Neither do I imagine him grieving unmarked paths. We know he sought direction from God, and his requests were urgent and specific. But his chief desire was to press on, to reach forward. (Phil. 3) Perhaps there’s something to that. Preschool children could totter along an unbroken blue line. Eventually, they’d find their way over the mountain. But they’d take their time about it. When all the questions have been eliminated, so has the sense of urgency, so has the stirring of desire, so has the power of hope. My steps quicken, just a bit, when the blazes disappear. I have to lean in. I have to reach forward.

So, whether the little blue security blankets come slow and steady or wild and erratic or not at all, I will be alright. One, at least, has already walked this path. As far as I’m aware, He made no promises about blazes. He promised to walk beside me. He promised to wait for me at the end of the road. And when I’m unsure, and aching for a clear marker to affirm my steps, I’ll try prying my gaze from the ground, exchanging the fleeting brightness of the blue blazes for the broader, brighter blue of the sky.

September 12, 2014 Comments Read More

The Redbud Tree


I thought my redbud tree was diseased. Little black nubs grew in clusters, fungus-like, over the trunk and branches. I curled my lip in disgust. Still, I felt a tinge of sadness. It’s a lovely tree, and a red birdhouse sits snug in a crook between two branches. It would be a shame to lose it.

I ran my hands over the bark, easing them toward a little growth that was unlike the others. I leaned in to look. These black nubs were tipped with purple, where the dark skins had pulled away. I smiled and patted the unsightly trunk. This tree wasn’t dying. It was on the verge of flowering. In a matter of days it would be dusted with fragile purple flowers, shedding the deceptive skin that had so repulsed me, the skin that was merely the husk of something deeply beautiful.

My world, both without and within, has looked like that lately. To an outsider, a casual Facebook observer or website visitor, it must seem that I’ve done very little, that my work or my passion has dried up. My professional garments are wrinkled and stale. But behind the scenes, worlds are being mapped, covers designed, manuscripts edited, ISBN’s assigned. There is a flurry of activity in preparation for the birth of a new book.

The landscape of my soul is much the same. I’ve grown dry and scaly. This old skin has shrunk too small, and it chafes. My color is faded, lost beneath a robe of milky scales that pulls away oh, so slowly. It will take friction to loose me, and the initial tear may be painful, morbid, repulsive even. But when I emerge, when another layer of immaturity or impatience or self is sloughed off, I will be brighter. I know my unloveliness. I know my lack. But Jesus is formulating rich new color behind the scenes.

My fingers press lightly against the dry, feathery moss that carpets the ground beneath the redbud. It gives. There’s a gap between the moss and the thick-packed earth. There is air, and there are thin, distilled rays of light. There is life. Worms wriggle, and beetles scurry along unseen paths through the dim dark.

To the casual observer, it doesn’t look like much. But it is. And overhead, a humble redbud tree shames the skeptic, the insensate, flaunting its purple veil and leaning in to the wind.


May 3, 2014 Comments Read More

The Music of Shiloh (listen here…)

More than one of my readers has asked me about setting some of the songs from Shiloh and Seeker to music. While I would desperately love to have some Celtic instruments accompanying these tunes, all I have at the moment are acapella vocals. Here are “Come, Little Nightingale,” “Mariah’s Lament,” and “Song of the Bleeding Flower.”


“Come, Little Nightingale”


“Mariah’s Lament”


“Song of the Bleeding Flower”



April 3, 2014 Comments Read More

Evander’s World (a sneak peek at the landscape of Seeker)


April 3, 2014 Comments Read More

Fear Grows Large

I haven’t worked out in five years. Five years. Not since I was pregnant with my first child. Off and on, during that time, I thought about getting back into the swing, but it never happened. I had good reasons: sleepless nights and crying babies and diapers and teething and exhaustion and just wanting to collapse into a chair and not think about making an effort to sweat. Lack of exercise isn’t the worst thing. I’m still alive and kicking. The real problem with putting off something important for so long is that it starts to look like a monstrous impossibility.

If fear has any substance at all, then its diet must be chiefly one of time. It begins as a wriggling worm, a parasite, hardly capable of impeding our progress or even attracting our attention. But it gorges on minutes and hours, on days and weeks. Months and years are its greatest and most exquisite feasts, and the longer we allow it to feed, the larger it looms in our vision. It will destroy our health. It will ravage our peace of mind. It will blot out our dreams. If we let it…

It’s the same with writing. There’s a reason the most difficult part of writing is sitting down and starting. The longer I put off that first sentence, the more terrifying the idea becomes. Fear makes me feel as if those words will never come, as if I might actually die in the process of putting them on paper. How ridiculous.

Once you sit down and begin, no matter how poor your beginning, you discover that it really isn’t so bad. The process doesn’t kill you, and your day continues as it would have done. The only difference is that you’ve begun. You’ve taken the first, worst, best step toward achieving your goal. Funny thing about getting started: once you do, you start to get finished.

I’ve been jumping around and working up a sweat for a few weeks now. It’s not that bad. A short morning workout isn’t the central focus of my day, and I’m not in excruciating pain, and I’m feeling kind of good…kind of strong. And if I keep exercising my muscles (my writerly muscles, too), I won’t give fear the time to loom larger and larger. My goals will seem to be what they are: attainable…with just a bit of effort and consistency. Before I know it, I’ll be healthier. I’ll have written more. I’ll start to get finished.

April 3, 2014 Comments Read More

Seeker – Excerpt #2

Action scenes make me nervous, but I’m taking a risk and sharing one from chapter 9 of Seeker. Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger. :)


Evander looked around him. To his right was the Fayrewood. He could just make out the first line of trees, splashing color over the gray landscape. Soon, the pink blossoms would give way to tight buds and then to clear green leaves. Evander wanted to see them when they opened. He could just hear the roar of the wind in the treetops over the din of the villagers and visitors crowded behind him. They called and shouted and speculated, their torches and lanterns a chaos of shifting light. Ahead of him was a dim, broad plain. Beyond, out of sight, stretching impossibly high, until their peaks were lost in Shadow, were the mountains. And somewhere, far ahead and to his left, the falls spilled over a lofty crag in ceaseless thunder.

Rogue stamped beneath him, sensing his anxiety. Frost was nearby, looking as skittish as her competitor. Knox did nothing to calm her. He was not drunk, but neither was he sober. Evander wished he would take this challenge seriously, win it cleanly, and have done with it. It was a vain hope. Knowing Knox, he’d concoct some other reckless plan before the close of Market Day. It made Evander wonder, yet again, if he’d lavished his unflinching loyalty on all the wrong people.

“Would ya like ta make a wager, my friend?” Knox asked.

“No,” Evander replied.

“You’re seated beside a champion, Evander. Why not at least earn some reward fer engaging in this hopeless contest?” Knox raised his brows, spreading his hands magnanimously.

Evander offered him a level gaze. “Alright then, Knox. I forfeit. I surrender. Let us be done with this.”

Knox grinned and motioned for the Magistrate. Nolan positioned himself in front of Rogue and Frost, facing back toward the crowd.

“Torches ready?” he asked. Knox and Evander nodded. They were accustomed to carrying torches, in turns, when they hunted. It took no small strength to carry a torch aloft for an hour or two at a time. But these men were fierce, and hardened by many years’ journeys, and both were expert at riding with one hand.

“Horses ready?” Nolan asked. Frost gave an impatient whinny, and tense laughter rippled through the crowd. The men nodded.

Nolan took a step back, raised a lantern in front of him, and spoke softly. “Knox?” he asked, searching Knox’s face. Knox gave him a defiant grin. “Evander?” He held Evander’s eyes for just a little longer. Evander nodded.

The crowd was silent, every breath held. The torches flickered, and far off, the falls thundered. Nolan opened the glass door at the back of his lantern and blew a little puff of air. The flame was gone. And the horses were off, their riders spurring them on at a maddening pace.

Evander could hear the shouts and cheers behind him, but the pounding of the horses’ hooves quickly drowned out all other sound but the roar of the falls. He knew that the crowd was following the progress of the torches. It was the only way to gauge the race in such scant light. Even then, the torchlight would be swallowed by mist and darkness before ever the riders reached the falls.

The falls and back, Evander thought. The falls and back. He pushed everything else from his mind and concentrated on his goal. He ignored Knox’s wild laughter, ignored the protest of the torch fires as they struggled against the wind, ignored the panting of his beautiful black horse. His face was set, the muscles in his legs gripping his seat, one hand clutching the torch and the other holding the reins.

Frost pulled ahead, but Rogue dogged her heels. The Fell horses were finding their rhythm, eating up the land between the village and the Pallid Peaks.

A gust of icy wind came careening out of the mountains, and Knox’s torch was snuffed out. Evander rose in his saddle, eyes strained on the figure that pushed ahead into the thickening dark without the slightest hesitation.

“Come on, Rogue,” he said. “We can’t lose ‘im.”

He urged the animal forward, into the roar of the approaching waterfall, into the mist that obscured the ground around it. He came to the edge of the falls. He could hardly think for the rushing din of the water. He stopped, turned Rogue back toward the village, and searched the mist for some sign of Knox. Evander lifted one foot from its stirrup, preparing to dismount. Then, a shadowy form shot past him, laughing, the mist swirling in his wake. Evander growled and set off after Knox. There was no torch to follow, and the lights of the village were not visible from this distance. As near as he could judge, he pointed Rogue south and east, and leaned in to the pursuit.

After a moment, he thought he could just see the vague outline of Knox and Frost. “Let’s go, Rogue!” The falls and back. The falls and back.

A gust of wind, not icy but torrid, extinguished Evander’s torch. He was riding blind. He could not make out the lights of Holt, could see no sign of his friend. The world around him was gray. And blue.

The air stilled to the slow pulse of great wing beats. Screams broke over the roar of the falls, and Evander’s blood went cold. Two Dragons belched blue fire in waves that lit the open plain. Evander saw Knox, perhaps thirty paces ahead. The village was within sight now, its many-colored lights suddenly bathed in the blue of Dragon fire.

Evander spurred Rogue onward, clenching the sides of the horse with his knees, holding tightly to the darkened torch. The air above was hot and foul, and he could think of nothing but his goal. The falls and back. One Dragon swooped down on the assembled crowd. Its immense wings, as ragged and black as if they’d been torn from the Shadow itself, blotted out the lights of the village. Evander could hear distantly, faintly, the cries of his people.

But the other Dragon seemed set on pursuing him alone. The beast swept in on his left, rose, descended on his right. It was toying with him, scorching the grass on either side of his path. Rogue screamed in terror, his eyes wild. Evander was consumed with pity for the horse he could not save, the people he could not reach. A fire was kindled in him. His face shone with it. He leaned against Rogue’s neck and shouted in his ear, “Straight on, Rogue!”

The Dragon pulled back. Its wings beat the air, preparing for a dive. Evander wrapped the reins around the palm of his left hand. He pressed his right hand, still gripping the torch, against the horn of the saddle. He lifted one foot, then the other, onto Rogue’s back. His feet pivoted, turning him around, and he fell into the saddle with his left arm behind him and the reins held at his back.

Overhead, blue eyes marked him.


A sound like the shattering of a mountain of glass broke from the Dragon’s throat. Wave upon wave of blue flame billowed down. Evander thrust his torch into the fire until it caught. He dropped the reins, snatched a dagger from his belt, and hurled it into the Dragon’s mouth. The blue fire sputtered and faltered, and the beast retreated.

Now the cries of the villagers rang in his ears. Women and children, young and old fled from the fury of the remaining Dragon. They rushed to their cottages. They cringed in narrow lanes, cowering beneath the eaves. They ducked into the cave in the hillside. Anything to stay out of sight.

But the men among them came out to fight. Evander breathed his relief as he rode up the hill and found Knox, Hallam, Chase, Lachlan, Lorne, and Alistair moving their horses into formation. Two other bands of hunters did the same, and all eyes were trained on him. He carried with him their only hope, for Dragon fire alone could conquer the Dragons.

He rode to the center of each band of hunters, lighting the torches in the hands of the men at the hub of each Wheel. He guided Rogue around the rubble and wreckage of the tables as the hunters lit their arrows with blue fire, then took his place in the center of his own band.

From the southern end of Holt came the sounds of stones crunching against one another, of slate tiles shattering, of screaming and bleating.

“GROSVENOR!” Evander shouted. And all the hunters echoed his cry.


January 28, 2014 Comments Read More