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.

 

Guest Author Marjorie Mallon – The Curse Of Time

Today I have a visitor to the blog. Marjorie Mallon, author of the newly-released YA novel, The Curse of Time, is here to discuss her book and the inspiration behind it. I met Marjorie two years ago at the inaugural Bloggers Bash, where we were among the first to arrive. We’ve always caught up at subsequent Bashes, and I always enjoy our conversations. I’m thrilled that she’s realised her publishing dream and wish her much success!

Welcome to the blog. You’ve recently published your first novel, The Curse of Time. How does it feel to be a published author?

Amazing, but surreal like I’m dreaming, I’m still getting used to the idea!

What was the inspiration behind the story?

There are so many inspirations behind the story but the main ones are:

Light – represented by the beautiful crystal grotto at Juniper Artland in Scotland – The Light That Pours Out of Me by Anya Gallaccio

Time – Dr John C Taylor’s striking Chronopage clock on King’s Parade in Cambridge.

I had the honour of meeting Dr Taylor on the 11th of September. It’s the first time I have ever met an inventor; it was such an amazing experience. Dr Taylor is a rare individual with an extraordinary mind, creativity and vision to create such a stunning clock. I am in awe. Here is my photo of Dr Taylor and I by the clock.

My other sources of inspiration are:

 Art and painting – at the time of writing the first drafts of The Curse of Time my daughter was studying GCSE Art and her enthusiasm for art gave me the idea of art coming alive, forming characters and visual puzzles for the reader to wonder about.

Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray – preserving beauty at all costs.

Photography and Shadows – My interest in blogging meant that I’d taken lots of photographs. For some odd reason I’d photographed shadows and that became my next focus.  With this in mind I created a mysterious, shadowy male central character, Ryder.

Myths, Narcissism, mirrors, and deception!

The book is set in Cambridge. What is it about the city that appeals to you as a writer?

Cambridge is a University City with many beautiful buildings and settings to explore and discover. My favourite locales mentioned in the novel are: Kings Parade (home of the wondrous Chronopage,) the Round Church, and a couple of places that have either burnt down under mysterious circumstances – The Chinese restaurant at Caxton Gibbett, or sadly closed down – Clowns coffee shop. Oh, I forgot to mention that the main character Amelina goes on crazy detours to the crystal encrusted cottage and a ‘spirit walking’ escapade to Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh!

The Chronopage, featured on the front cover, is a real instrument. Tell us more about it, and how you got permission to use the image?

The Chronopage is homage to a functional form of modern art created by the esteemed inventor Dr John C. Taylor OBE. Dr Taylor had a remarkable vision to create a clock that worked in a new, extraordinary way. It had to be durable, sculpted in gold and stainless steel but above all else it had to capture the viewer’s attention to pause, stare and discuss. Each time I pass the Chronopage I am drawn to the motion of the Grasshopper escapement, enthralled by its greedy desire to eat time! You can find out more about the wondrous Chronopage on his website.

I approached Dr John C. Taylor’s publicity department regarding the possibility of using the image of the Chronopage on my front cover. The founder Tina Fotherby asked to read my manuscript. I was thrilled when permission was granted for me to use Dr Taylor’s photographs in my publicity and on the front cover of the book.

And what about the mysterious black cat? I hear he has his own Twitter account now.

The mysterious black cat exists in real life, even though I have not seen him for a long time. He arrived in our garden one day and like the Grasshopper he demanded my attention. I have never seen such a cat – a mini panther with the sleekest black fur, superhuman strength, a desire to be petted and admired but only on his own terms. He refused to sit on my lap but loved attention. I could swear to this day he belonged to a witch. He crept into our garden via the country park woods. I would observe him fascinated by his strange antics. On three separate instances I saw him doing extraordinary things I couldn’t explain. On one occasion, he disappeared from my sight without a trace, another time he appeared on our second storey balcony whining for someone to rescue him. I was astonished how he had managed to climb so high. The one time I picked him up he struggled against me and I was astonished by the strength in his feline body. I swear someone had cast a spell on a young fit man and turned him into a cat!

I called him Shadow and found a black cat model to portray him via a fellow blogging friend Samantha Murdoch.  Samantha’s son Alex Marlowe is a budding photographer and had taken some wonderful photographs of Lily, so Lily became my black cat supermodel! I now have a twitter account @curseof_time dedicated to Shadow the cat and to all things Curse of Time.

The Curse of Time is book one – how many books are you planning to have in the series?

I haven’t quite decided but I have the skeleton of Book two which I have entitled The Curse of Time – Golden Healer. I am hoping to have enough material for three books in the series.

When it comes to writing, are you a planner or a pantser?

I am a total pantser; my planning is minimal, which is problematic as I end up doing a ridiculous amount of editing, moving scenes around and the like.

What does a typical writing day entail?

I always write in the morning. Often I wake up with a flood of ideas and rush off to write them down while they are still fresh in my mind. When I am in the writing zone it is difficult to interrupt me, I tend to be obsessional! I have been known to burn the dinner and ignore people talking to me. I even begrudge a trip to the toilet!

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working hard on my promotion of book one  but I hope to have some time soon to work on book two. I’m a member of Cambridge Writers and we get together once a month to critique each other’s work so I hope to take along another chapter for feedback soon.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’ve entered The Curse Of Time in the WritersDB first line and cover contest. To find out more or if you’d like to vote for me, click here.

Thanks for coming to visit, Marjorie, and for giving us some insight into your creative process and inspiration. The Curse Of Time is now available on Amazon, and you can find out more about Marjorie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Goodreads.  She also has a separate Twitter account dedicated to her new release, and runs the Author/Blogger Rainbow Support Group on Facebook.

 


More about Marjorie

I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years. My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and tanka. I love to read and have written over 100 reviews.
My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros! I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my proud parents Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald. My parents dragged me away from my exotic childhood and my much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. In bonnie Edinburgh I mastered Scottish country dancing, and a whole new Och Aye lingo.
As a teenager I travelled to many far-flung destinations to visit my abacus-wielding wayfarer dad. It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and my two enchanted daughters. After such an upbringing my author’s mind has taken total leave of its senses! When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.


The Curse Of Time

On Amelina Scott’s thirteenth birthday, her father disappears under mysterious circumstances. Saddened by this traumatic event, she pieces together details of a curse that has stricken the heart and soul of her family.
Amelina longs for someone to confide in. Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had. The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.
Dreams and a puzzling invitation convince Amelina the answer to her family’s troubles lies within the walls of the illusive Crystal Cottage. Undaunted by her mother’s warnings, Amelina searches for the cottage on an isolated Cambridgeshire pathway where she encounters a charismatic young man, named Ryder. At the right moment, he steps out of the shadows, rescuing her from the unwanted attention of two male troublemakers.
With the help of an enchanted paint set, Amelina meets the eccentric owner of the cottage, Leanne, who instructs her in the art of crystal magic. In time, she earns the right to use three wizard stones. The first awakens her spirit to discover a time of legends, and later, leads her to the Bloodstone, the supreme cleansing crystal which has the power to restore the balance of time. Will Amelina find the power to set her family free?
A YA/middle grade fantasy set in Cambridge, England exploring various themes/aspects: Light, darkness, time, shadows, a curse, magic, deception, crystals, art, poetry, friendships, teen relationships, eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, depression, family, puzzles, mystery, a black cat, music, a mix of sadness, counterbalanced by a touch of humour.


 

Thursday Doors – Hippies on the Canal

As you may be aware from some of my earlier posts, in January I started a new job. I’m very lucky in that it’s close enough to walk to if I choose, and I can walk most of the way along a stretch of the Grand Union Canal, the longest canal in England.

It’s a lovely walk, and one replete with photo opportunities. From golden green vistas

To blossom caught on the water’s surface at an old lock gate

And unique touches on some of the canal boats, like this wonderful knotted mermaid.

It’s also home to some interesting little doors, like this one I photographed earlier in the week. I’ve seen the owner of this boat before on my walks, a friendly fellow with a dog, always ready to say good morning. From the sign I’d say he might have a sense of humour, too.

This is my entry to the Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.

And if you like my photos, follow me on Instagram!


If you enjoyed this post and want 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.

Following My Heart’s Desire

img_3702I published this post in October 2014, back in the early days of my blog. I came across it the other day and realised that it still rang true. So I thought I’d share it again.

As I walked home from school after dropping my daughter off the other morning, I pondered, as I usually do, the latest plot twists in the book I’m writing. Then it struck me that this is what I do now. I thought back to a couple of years ago, before I started writing about Ambeth and all the other stories coming through me and was amazed by how my life has changed.

‘Will I always be like this?’ I thought to myself. ‘Is this it now, or will I look back in a few years time, shaking my head at how obsessed I was, how writing was a compulsion, a daily requirement?’

You know what, I really do think this is it. After forty something years of life, three different continents and a myriad of jobs ranging from martial arts instructor to waitress to casting co-ordinator and photography producer, I think I’ve finally found my groove. My place to stay, my happiness, as they say. Sure, I’ve been writing all my life, just like my bio says, and for the last eleven years or so have been writing for other people. But this is different. This is writing for myself, tapping into the muse and weaving stories to life, words shining silver in the slippery darkness of the pond, fossils emerging from the forest floor. It is discovery and catharsis and creation and desire all rolled into one, a wonderful compulsion to put words on the page, to bring characters to life and tell their stories as they come through me.

So lucky me. I will say this, I have never given up the search for my heart’s desire. Through jobs I’ve hated and tolerated and thought perhaps I liked, through moves across town and state and country lines, I’ve always needed some sort of creative outlet. For a long time it was painting – I’ve sold a few, been exhibited once (just a small show) and several pieces adorn the walls of my own home. There is a peace and joy in painting once I get into the mood, music and brushstrokes a form of meditation. But it is nothing like the fire and excitement I get from writing, the pictures in my mind coming on to the page so much more easily than they did onto the canvas. There are times when I laugh a little and sigh, that my passion is not for some sort of fiendish financial calculation whereby I can make a fortune, but I am rich in so many other ways. Writing has conferred upon me a freedom, a confidence to be myself and express my thoughts, a confidence that grows and brings me back to the true self I came so close to losing some time ago. There is more value in that than in anything else I can think of, for it allows me to love and be free, to care for those around me and appreciate small wonders in the world, seeing them for the story they tell.

I love writing and, even though there are rejections and frustrations to suffer, none of them do anything to change that fact. So I thought I would write a post on how I feel about writing, letting my fingers flow. And so they have, reminding me of why it is that I write now, and why it is that will always be so, as long as I have ideas to dream of.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Stuff And Nonsense

They're called storage boxes because they're for storing stuff, right?
They’re called storage boxes because they’re for storing stuff, right?

It may surprise you to know that I can be a bit of a hoarder. Even with all the moving I’ve done, there are still things that move from house to house in boxes and tubs then head straight into the loft or cupboards, unopened. Sure, some of them are sentimental items that I don’t want to get rid of, but there are plenty of boxes of other things that have no rhyme or reason as to why I need to keep them. Over the years I’ve become better at letting things go, and Marie Kondo’s Magic of Tidying inspired me to clear out a whole load more, but there is still enough in our attic to provide a whole layer of extra insulation for our house.

Because I might need it all one day, you see. I’m not sure where this sense of a potential post-apocalyptic world where I can no longer get linen napkins or random boxes of books has come from, but there it is. And I have, on occasion, been proven right. Many years ago, at a jumble sale in Sydney, I bought three decorative pierced wall plaques, obviously taken from an old home. I think I had an idea of hanging them on the wall as art, but it never happened. So they stayed wrapped in a box through subsequent moves back to Melbourne, to the South coast, and then to the UK. When we bought our most recent house, we redecorated and renovated it top to bottom (a process that’s still ongoing). A couple of the wall vents upstairs needed new covers – hey presto, my decorative panels finally found a use, fifteen years later.

I do wonder if my propensity to hang onto things is an extension of how I work creatively. I saw an interview with the late great David Bowie where he stated he was ‘a collector.’ That is, he collected ideas and images and details, which he then used as a starting point to create his own unique style. This was something that resonated with me. While I am by no means an artist of the stature of Bowie, I can relate to the idea of collecting. My Ambeth stories were inspired by a single incident that happened to me when I was a child, then embellished with other details drawn from my life, as well as drawing on the influence of fantasy writers before me, of places I’ve visited and things that I’ve done, living on as fragments of memory and dream. Other stories I have underway also draw on places and people and things that I’ve seen and done and held – collected imagery inserted into a whole new picture, held together with a new idea.

None of us create in a vacuum. We are all part of the same world, with access to the same ideas and images and places to visit. Yet each of us has our own vision of how we choose to interpret the things we encounter. It’s why some people are passionate about collecting thimbles, for example, while others search out concert wristbands, or eccentric hats. It is what speaks to us at our creative core.

So you see, all this stuff gathering dust in my attic isn’t junk. It’s art, right? At least, that’s what I’m going to tell my husband next time he asks…

Tea, Updates and Vampire Stories

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I know there’s a weekly thing where bloggers catch up as though having coffee, a conversational get-together with updates from the past week. I’m more of a tea drinker, myself, so, if we were having tea, this is what I’d tell you:

So, this happened yesterday.

Yay! I reached my 30,000 word target with Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on of late. It’s far from finished, of course, but I have a good framework in place, as well as the knowledge of where the story needs to go and what the characters have to achieve, so I’m pleased, overall. I’m still thinking about serialising the whole thing on my blog, as the response to the small snippets I’ve posted so far has been pretty good.

The weather here this week has been quite mad, one minute bright sunshine, then the next snow and ice falling from a clear blue sky. At one point last week we were walking through the park on the top of the hill where we live, and all around us, in almost a perfect circle, I could see vast towering grey and white clouds dumping rain and ice, while above us the sky was blue. A bit of Spring weather madness, I guess. But the tide seems to be turning, so to speak, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecast for next week – with May Day just around the corner, this is welcome news.

And I’m also expecting, finally, to be able to publish Hills and Valleys, the third instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles. I knew I was cursing myself by putting a publishing date at the end of No Quarter, and so it came to pass that the whole thing has taken longer than planned. However, the plus side of that has been more time to finetune the book, including finding (and fixing) a small continuity error. Plus, my editor thinks this is the strongest instalment yet, so it’s been worth doing the extra work. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, I guess.

And now it’s the Bank Holiday weekend. Rain is forecast, as is expected, though at the moment we have brilliant sunshine. The gorgeous girl had an excellent school report this week so, as a reward, I’m taking her to one of her favourite places, a craft store where she can do a project in store. They provide the paint, glue, apron and workspace then, for a small fee, she can choose something from the shelves or pottery collection and create a masterpiece. We are also going to visit The Treasure Box, the magical store I wrote about in a previous blog post, where she will no doubt spend time rummaging through the ribbons and buttons, looking for treasure.

Other than that, we’re planning to let the weekend unfold as it will, plans subject to change, depending on the weather. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that the sun shines on you, wherever you are. 🙂

 

 

Thursday Doors – El Pachuco, Barcelona

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This week’s entry is yet another door from Barcelona – it’s my third one so far in this challenge. Barcelona is a beautiful city filled with art and history – we visited last year and absolutely loved it. We’d leave the hotel just after breakfast and walk all day, exploring the winding streets and golden beaches, returning late with dusty feet and full hearts.

This roller shutter door was in a back street near to our hotel and I just loved the imagery – very appropriate for a Mexican tapas place.

To see more doors, or to add your own, visit Norm 2.0 and click the link.