Flash Fiction Prompt for Hurricane Relief #Flash4Storms

The lovely Sarah Brentyn over at Lemon Shark is running a Flash Fiction initiative to raise money for those affected by the recent hurricanes. Head over to her blog to see how you can help!

Lemon Shark

Harvey, Irma, Maria… These hurricanes have hit hard, leaving massive damage in their wakes. Here’s how you can help:

1. Write a piece of flash fiction in 50 words or less with the theme: Help 

(This can be any sort of assistance, support, encouragement, or a story of someone or something that needs help. You do not need to use the prompt word. Be creative! It can be 50 words, 15 words…even a six-word story. Anything goes provided it is prose up to 50 words. It doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows but keep it PG and friendly.)

2. Add a new post on your blog with your flash fiction and the hashtag #Flash4Storms in the title

3. Link to this post

4. Leave a comment here with a link to your post so I know you’ve participated

5. Help spread the word on social media with the hashtags:

View original post 183 more words

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 3 – Balance

The next morning I woke early and went to breakfast – to find several of the group already there, including our guide. We hadn’t realised we were staying at the same place, so it was a nice surprise to catch up before the day began. The meeting place for the rest of the group was a short walk away, and I set out after breakfast, wandering past old stone houses and tall pines, glimpses of sunshine giving me hope the day wouldn’t be quite as wet as the previous evening. Nonetheless, I had worn my wet weather gear again. We had several sites to visit that day, and I wasn’t sure when we’d get back to the hotel.

When I think about the second day, the first stone circle we visited remains elusive, for some reason. I cannot quite grasp where we were or what we saw. Perhaps that’s because of what came after, at the place of the dead. Even though the locations of the rest of the weekend are clear, I had to look through my photos to remind myself where we were.

And now I remember. The church at Midmar.

When we arrived, pulling into the small car park, it was wet underfoot but not yet raining, green leaves reflected in puddles along the track that ran nearby. The church itself was charming, blue doors and window frames a bright contrast to the surrounding green and grey. And beyond, just peeping around the building, we could see what looked like part of a stone circle.

The church was built in the 19th century, perhaps deliberately in such a position so as to block the view from the stone circle to a nearby standing stone. The circle itself has been ‘tidied up’, as the sign put it, which meant removing one or two stones completely so hearses or wedding cars could be parked there, as well as replacing several other stones in positions not original to the site.

Despite these adjustments, the stones that remained still spoke, still held power and beauty. The great recumbent lay in place, flanked by its companion stones, their sharp smooth edges, so we were told by our guide, directing the eye to significant solar and lunar events, the circle aligned precisely with the movements of the sky. The church did not diminish their power –rather, there was a sense of unity there, of both temples cohabiting the same site, peaceful on their hillside.

Once again we were invited to find a stone that ‘spoke’ to us, a place where we felt comfortable within the circle. One stone caught both me and another of the companions, inviting us to look closer, to photograph its moss strewn surface, unable, unwilling to leave its side, even when urged to join the rest of the group. It wasn’t until I took a small stone, blessed, from my pocket and bent down, burying it in the earth at the base of the stone, that it released us. As I stood up my companion, who hadn’t been able to see what I was doing, said, ‘Shall we go?’

It was raining, of course, the weather that seemed to follow us from site to site returning, though with none of the wildness of the previous evening. We wandered through the graveyard afterwards, all of us stopping to admire the gravestone of a local artist, decorated with a beautiful tree-of-life sculpture (for more information about this grave, head over to Sue’s account of the day, and the comments by Running Elk).

Before we left, I went to the old tumbled stone wall and, through a space in the trees, took in the beautiful view. Like Easter Aquhorthies, this circle was built almost at the top of a rise – almost, but not quite – for a lovely sense of harmony with the land.

There was a peace to this place, a feel of tree and stone and endless time, even with the more modern church nearby. It felt in balance, as though all things were well. This was in contrast to our next destination…

———————————————————————————————-

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

#writephoto – Wall Hanging

I’m still writing up my weekend away with The Silent Eye, but thought I’d take a quick foray into this week’s #writephoto challenge, courtesy of Sue Vincent.

‘Is it a bit much?’

‘We-ell–‘

‘I mean, it’s nice and bright, isn’t it? The red and the green?’

‘Yes, but–‘

‘And that’s kind of Christmassy too, which goes with the whole reindeer thing.’

‘But-‘

‘I mean, I could have done a whole wall of them, but I though that would definitely be too much.’

‘D’you think–’

‘And the shape is nice, isn’t it? Sort of an upside-down triangle thing. Kind of ties it all together.’

‘I really don’t–‘

‘And you could sort of decorate it- like, hang things from it. Don’t you think?’

‘…’

‘…’

‘…’

‘…’

‘Do you really think it’s the right thing for a baby’s room?’


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Maiden, Mother, Crone – Part 2 – Easter Aquhorthies

I realise that Wednesday is usually my day to wander. However, I’m also writing up my weekend with The Silent Eye. So, I’m combining the two and taking a wander to Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle, near Inverurie, Scotland, for the second part of my experience.‘I must be insane,’ I thought to myself. I was standing in the centre of a stone circle on a Scottish hillside, near-horizontal rain and hail hitting the back of my jacket like millions of ball bearings. My hands were frozen and I could feel that my waterproof trousers were not living up to their name. And yet… even though I knew the rest of the group were as cold and saturated, if not more so, than I was, none of us made any move to leave. It was one of those moments that defies explanation. And yet, wasn’t that what I was there for, after all? …

A hour or so earlier I’d walked into a shop, glad to get inside. The weather had alternated between rain and sort-of-rain as I’d made the ten-minute walk into the town centre, and I was glad I’d put on my wet weather gear before leaving the hotel.

A small sign directed me into the café where I’d be meeting the group of companions, and I entered to see I was almost the last to arrive, a table full of smiling faces greeting me. A warm hug from Sue and several other companions I’d met on my last Silent Eye weekend, and then I was introduced to the rest of the group.

And so the connections continued. I knew Running Elk from blogland, so it was nice to meet him in person. It was also a pleasure to meet his wife and her daughter, who happened to be Canadian. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked, having lived many years in Canada myself. ‘Oh, just outside Toronto,’ came the answer. I smiled. I knew that answer well, as it was one I made myself whenever I was asked where I’d lived when I was there. ‘I went to high school in––‘ I answered, and the shock in both their faces was profound. ‘That’s where we’re from!’ It was a wonderful extra layer to the weekend, and led to a lot of reminiscing.

But first, we were to be taken to the first stop on the tour. Running Elk had planned the weekend, so Sue, Stuart and Steve were as much in the dark as the rest of us as to where we were going to go. We piled into cars and headed out of town, following the (somewhat vague) directions we’d been given. The weather ranged between rain and clear, small patches of blue visible among the grey clouds overhead. Not the best outlook for a weekend we would be spending mostly outdoors, but it wasn’t going to stop us from exploring.

Heading along a private road, the land rising to either side of us, we eventually pulled in to a small car park. A track led away from it into fields bounded by low stone walls and lines of trees, the landscape opening up around us as we neared the stone circle we’d come to visit, Easter Aquhorthies.

The circle is a recumbent type, one of only a few remaining complete, and the name Aquhorthies comes from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning ‘field of prayer.’ Recumbent refers to the large red granite monolith lying on one side, a feature unique to this type of stone circle.

We wandered up the muddy track and through the gate. Upon entry, our guide invited us to enter the circle, and find a place where we felt comfortable. I skirted the outside at first but, as I passed the huge recumbent stone, the one just beyond seemed to call to me.

…‘stay with me, I’ll protect you’ The stone offered shelter and, as I stood in front of it, I felt a warmth on my back, like sunshine, or a hug, or the heat from a fireplace. Welcoming. There was no other stone for me…

Once we’d all found our stones, we listened as our guide explained the significance of each one, the alignments in land and sky. I turned to look beyond my stone, and saw a pointed mountain in the distance, the peak disappearing then reappearing in the swirling mists and cloud, like a mirage of a lost land.

Our guide beckoned us into the centre, to stand in a smaller circle around him. I was loath to leave the protection of my stone; the rain, which had been mizzling and drizzling since we’d entered the circle, had increased in intensity, as had the wind. However, it was time to join the others so I stepped away from ‘my’ stone and went to join them. By this point the weather had picked up to storm level and, as we stood there in howling wind and near horizontal rain and hail, straining to hear what he was saying, I must say I doubted my sanity. Yet, at the same time, there was no great desire to leave. The dog of one of our companions, who looked around at us all from time to time with a wonderful expression of doubt, sat still in the wet grass, waiting for whatever we silly humans were doing to finish.

… we were a group, a circle within a circle, listening, no matter what the weather threw at us…

Eventually, there came a point where even our guide had had enough, the wild weather turning blue denim black and filling shoes and pockets with water, even waterproofs not enough to withstand its force. The decision was made to go and so we did, making our way along the muddy track back to the cars.

By the time we got there, only a few minutes later, the sky was showing patches of blue once more.

Later, after warm showers and a change of clothes, we all met for dinner, a convivial evening where we laughed about the afternoon’s events, the weather seeming to most of us to have been a test of sorts. Whether we had passed or not, would be decided when we returned the following day. But there were other sites to visit first…


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Maiden, Mother, Crone – The Silent Eye Weekend Part 1

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.’

I should have expected it, really. It was, after all, a Silent Eye weekend, and I knew from the previous one I’d attended that the themes and ideas would reveal themselves gradually, and in different ways. Last time, for me at least, it was all about emotion – Joy, Sorrow, Awakening. This time, on a weekend entitled Maiden, Mother, Crone, I thought that the energy I’d feel would be feminine. But it was interesting how this seemed to spill beyond the stones to everyday life, to a larger question that is becoming more relevant in our current society – the role of women.

I am a feminist. Of course I am. To me, feminism is about equality. About women having equal access to the liberties and choices afforded to men. Equal pay, equal rights, access to education, to birth control, to travel, to liberty. To a balance in society where each gender is given the chance to reach their full potential, whatever it may be. For so very long now, women have been relegated. To wife of, daughter of, sister of, mother of, as though our worth were somehow intrinsically bound to the men in our lives. Women go to the same universities, take the same degrees, chase the same qualifications, work at the same companies as men. Yet, somehow, we are lesser. We are expected (regardless of whether we want to or are able to) at some point to give it all up to have children, to ‘just get pregnant and leave’ as though recovery from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth while caring for a tiny helpless child is some sort of lifestyle choice, the ultimate expression of our womanhood and all we are destined for.

I realise, too, that I speak from a place of privilege. That I do have choice in most things. However, there are many others who do not and so, while such imbalance exists, it is up to us to speak out. Our voices are louder now than they have been for thousands of years and with that, perhaps, comes hope. Hope for change, and for balance, another theme revealed on the weekend which, even though I’d only been in Scotland a few hours, had already begun to work its magic.

When I arrived at my hotel in Inverurie I was very early; far too early, I thought, for my room to be ready. But the cheerful woman at reception was more than happy to help me, bringing me a drink and telling me I could get into my room in about fifteen minutes. Having been up since 4:30am to catch my flight, this was welcome news. I had a small amount of time before I had to meet the group, so thought I’d have some lunch and a rest before heading out.

A sleek grey pamphlet caught my eye. ‘Room Twenty One’ it read. It turned out to be a small spa in the hotel and, when I was informed I got a discount for staying there, I decided to book a short massage to relieve the tension of the flight and, also, let’s be honest, as an indulgence.

The young woman who massaged me was friendly and talkative and, I discovered, the best friend of the woman who had checked me in, who turned out to be the daughter of the family who owned the hotel. She was also a single mother and had been offered the job by her friend, enabling her to work around school hours. (Later I heard them talking, her friend asking if her children were all right to be collected from school, her concern gentle and genuine.) Our conversation soon moved to the larger idea of women in society, and how difficult it was to find meaningful work around school hours and childcare, that businesses were missing an opportunity to give educated committed women a chance to work again, even with reduced hours. She spoke of her sister, who had two degrees but was working in a corner shop while her children grew up. She said she was wasted there, far too intelligent, and that she hoped she would get to write the book she’d always wanted to, now her children were getting older. I said I hoped she would too.

When the treatment ended we both expressed how nice it had been to talk, and she wished me a pleasant stay in Inverurie. I went back to my room, got myself ready, and headed out into the grey afternoon to meet the group. I dressed in wet weather gear, carrying spare boots and an extra jacket. We had been promised ‘an introduction to the weekend’, but beyond that no one, except our guides, knew what to expect.…


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Hello, everyone. I’ve been on a few wanders of late, most recently a trip up to Scotland for a Silent Eye weekend, a trip I’m still processing before writing it up on here. So this week I’ve decided to wander to a place I visited a few weeks earlier – the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The first sight of the Museum is a moment of wonder, the kind you get when seeing iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. It is an instant of disconnect, when you wonder whether what you’re seeing is real. Perched on the edge of the river running through Bilbao, the building seems almost to float upon the water, like a magical ship or giant sea creature, metallic scales reflecting the sky.

A museum of modern and contemporary art, the Guggenheim was designed by the architect Frank Gehry, known for his unique vision. When you come into Bilbao from the east, as we did, the Museum is one of the first things you see, a tumbled cluster of gleaming shapes on the curving edge of the river.

The museum was inaugurated almost exactly twenty years ago, on October 18th 1997. Prior to that, the riverbank was an industrial area, home to piles of curving steel and machinery, said to have partly influenced Gehry’s design. The architect said that ‘the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light’ and they certainly do so, reflecting light and water and shade so that the angles constantly change, each step as you move around the building revealing a different viewpoint.

I particularly liked how the walkway and reflecting pool are positioned to look, from some angles, as though the river runs up to the edge of the building. I also like the red archway that sits astride the road into Bilbao, bringing you immediately into the design.

When we visited, there was a huge dog sculpture covered in real flowers at the front of the building, which we all loved. The spider sculpture, visible at the bottom right of my photo, is permanent and seems to be a popular image associated with the museum, if the tourist trinkets for sale nearby were any indication. Personally, I’m not a fan of spiders, especially huge ones like that!

This is not my first Gehry – I visited the EMP in Seattle a couple of years ago, and also saw El Peix, a fish-shaped canopy on the beachfront in Barcelona. Like most of Gehry’s works, the Guggenheim is impressive, extraordinary in its complexity. We spent ages just walking around the outside, taking in the shapes, wondering at the mind that could create such wonders.

Gehry’s style of architecture has been described as ‘desconstructivism’ though Gehry himself says he does not associate with that movement. Post-modern it certainly is, form without any other function than to catch the light and beguile the eye. Clad in titanium, at times it appears silver, and at others gold. Extraordinarily for a building of this type, the Guggenheim was completed on time and on budget.

Overall, it was a spectacular building to see and experience. I took loads of photos, as you can imagine, and these are some of the ones I liked the most. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

A Small Update

Life has been extremely busy of late. Part of it has been getting back into the routine of work and school and extracurricular activities, part of it has been all the writing I’m trying to cram in to every spare moment.

For I am writing a LOT at the moment. Funny, the busier we get the more we seem to get done. They do say if you want something done, give it to a busy person and so it seems to be the case here.

Under Stone, Ambeth book four, is back out for a final read before publishing. Silver and Black, my vampire novel, is almost complete (though I may need a new name now that Marvel has greenlighted a superhero film with the same name). Another story, tentatively titled The Grove, has been demanding to be written, and I also have some editing underway, going back to an older story and revisiting the language.

A Thousand Rooms has been chosen as a feature book for September/October on Chick Lit Central, which is a huge thrill, and we’re giving away a signed copy to celebrate! Click here to visit the site and enter the comp.

But this weekend I’ll be doing something completely different. This morning I’m heading up to Scotland, to join Sue and Stuart and Steve, as well as the rest of the companions, for a Silent Eye weekend. I did one last year – you can read about it here – and it was a completely profound experience.

This time we’ll be wandering the stones with Running Elk, who knows the area well. I’m looking forward to the change in pace (though I’m praying for reasonable weather), and the chance to see somewhere new. I’ll be back Sunday and will blog about the experience, as I’m sure it will be quite something!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.