Growing Up

In the excellent miniseries, Big Little Lies, there’s a scene where Reese Witherspoon’s character is talking to her teenage daughter. She says (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) ‘they don’t tell you, but you lose your children. The little girl whose hair I used to braid is gone.’ This line, and the way she delivers it, really hit home. I’m emotional now just thinking about it.

For my gorgeous girl is growing up. She starts secondary school in September, which I find hard to believe. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were counting cats on the way to school, pretending to be dragons puffing ‘smoke’ in the frosty air. When my dancing didn’t make her cringe, and the only phone she had was plastic and sparkly with a puzzle on the front. The gorgeous chubby cheeks I love to kiss are melting away, smooth cheekbones emerging, the legs and arms that once looked as though they had elastic bands around them now long and lean.

I’m excited, of course, for this next stage in her life, seeing her grow into the marvellous young woman she’s already showing signs of becoming. Every part of this process has been a joy. But oh, I get it now, when people shake their heads and say with a smile, ‘It goes so quickly.’ For it does, it does, and the change, when it comes, is sudden, a realisation that childhood days are gone.

For a variety of reasons, she is the only baby I’ll ever get to have, and I count my blessings every day. I’m so glad I got to dance, pick roses, blow bubbles and sing silly songs with her when she was small. Those moments are immeasurably precious, and always will be. I realise the teenage years will have their own set of challenges, and I can only hope I’ve given her a strong enough grounding that she can make good decisions for herself.

So now I must get past my tears, and look forward. For I am the stable bow, and it is time for me to help her fly.

‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth… Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’  Kahlil Gibran


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#writephoto Arch – Through The Window

It’s Thursday, and time for another #writephoto prompt, courtesy of Sue Vincent. This week’s photo brought a character to mind, and here he is:

He liked to watch the world change. Today it was snowy, the little tree purged of leaves by winter, the land beyond carpeted white.

Some days he saw green grass and flowers, butterflies dancing. At other times wind blew the little tree, bending it so he feared it might break, russet and gold leaves streaming into the air. Lightning crashed, bright across the landscape, and sometimes, if he woke at the right time, the sky was clear and full of stars, silence ringing like a bell.

Around and above him the stones wept dampness, green moss blurring what was once carved precision. The rainbow of glass was long gone, the windows wide and open to whatever the elements brought.

But he was beyond it all as he paced the old pathway, no wind coming to touch him, no water cold upon his neck. He wondered at that, standing with arms wide beneath stormy skies, staring up to where the roof had once arched.

He couldn’t remember his name, anymore. All he knew was that he was stuck there. Sometimes other people came to walk the stones with him, but he couldn’t make them hear his voice, no matter how he cried and called to them. Children seemed more aware, jumping when he touched their faces, or trailed his fingers through their hair. One little girl had cried, telling her mother over and over about ‘the man in black.’ But she had gone, just like everyone else, leaving him alone beneath the stone arches.

Watching the world change.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

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#writephoto – When The Water Falls

‘You been here long?’

‘No, not really.’

‘Me either,’ I say, dragging my finger through the water pooling on the sill. ‘Still, it’s weird, isn’t it?’

‘What?’

‘Well, like, I don’t think I’ve been here long. But on the other hand I can’t remember ever not being here… So I don’t know.’

‘I remember singing.’

‘Singing?’ I consider for a moment. Light dawns. ‘Oh yeah, singing. And, like, a lady?’

‘Yeah. In blue? Or was it purple?’

I screw up my face. ‘Purple, I think. I seem to remember purple.’

‘And, were there other people?’

‘Hmmm. You know, I think there might have been. Like, I was here with someone else, and then I heard the singing, and then…’ But I can’t remember anything else except a blur of white light and singing. I definitely remember the singing.

‘It was raining then, too.’

‘It was?’

‘Yeah. My… mum?’ He pauses, as though he’s testing the word. ‘Yeah, my mum, she made me wear wellies that day.’

‘Wellies? What are they?’ But as I think about it I remember, black rubbery boots. And, some sort of uniform. ‘I think maybe, I might have been at… school once.’

‘School? Huh. I think maybe I might have been too.’

‘And there was someone, like, a mister someone. They were shouting…’

‘And then there was the singing. And the water…’

‘A bit like today, I guess.’

There is noise, then. The chatter of voices, the clatter of shoes on old stone floors, and the room feels all at once crowded. I hear someone speaking. ‘And this is the very chamber is where the infamous lady lured…’ His voice disappears,  drowned out by a rushing sound. Through the window I can see water pouring from the mouth of an ancient figure carved into the wall. And as it falls it takes with it all my half-remembered ideas, and all that is left is singing, and a glimpse of purple.

…..

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

‘You been here long?’

‘No. Or, I don’t know, really.’

‘Me either’

‘Okay.’


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.

 


 

Back To A Working Week

IMG_0303It’s a new year, and a new era for me, as I’ve just returned to office work after more than a decade working freelance. My daughter is older now and soon won’t need me to take her to school any more so, when an opportunity came up, I took it.

I am still writing and marketing, though in a field different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a challenge, and an opportunity to create a role. It’s also part-time hours, in a nice office with nice people, so I feel very fortunate.

The only downside is that I have less time to write my own stories. I have several books on the go – Ambeth Four, Under Stone, is in the editing/about-to-go-to-beta-readers stage, Ambeth Five is three quarters written and Ambeth six is about halfway finished. I also have my vampire novel, Silver and Black, and another idea, called The Grove, which is slowly taking shape. In addition to that, I’m still trying to enter at least one writing competition per month – it’s something I started doing last year and I’ve had some results (although that’s another post). So working five days a week means I’ve had to adjust my writing schedule a little.

Before you all shout at me, of course I know I’ve been really fortunate these past years. Being able to choose my writing time has meant I’ve been able to create a lot of material, so at least now I have a good supply of story ideas to work with. I’m having to be a bit more organised about how and when I do  my own writing, but I’m finding that it’s working so far. Even though I now have less time, I find I’m using it more effectively.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.


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.

 

Reflections, Fireworks and a Zombie Prom Queen

img_4273I’ve been out and about these last few days, as half term winds down and the celebration season winds up. On Saturday I walked along a stretch of canal I hadn’t visited before – I love reflections, and the calm water made for some interesting shots.

img_4276Yesterday was Devils Night, the precursor to Halloween, and also Diwali, so fireworks and light were all around, crackling in the night sky. The gorgeous girl and I headed into our Old Town, which was having a Halloween celebration complete with street stalls, rides and costumed revellers, culminating in a fireworks display at the nearby park.

img_4286It was great fun, with just enough spooks and thrills to get the atmosphere going, yet very family friendly. We met up with friends and managed to squeeze in a few activities before heading down to the park for the display.

img_4289However. It was a chilly night and a mist had descended, the air hanging still beneath the trees. When the fireworks started the lack of wind meant that the smoke just stayed put, drifting a little across the crowd but mostly just hanging in midair, mixing with the mist to obscure all but the most determined fireworks. Still, there was lots of laughter in the crowd, and cries of ‘That was a good one!’ after particularly loud bangs, even though we could see nothing in the murk.

img_4300Tonight is Halloween proper, or Samhain, in the old tongue. A night where the barriers between life and death are supposed to come down, and spirits walk the night. I will be walking the night as well, or at least the very early evening, accompanied, I am told, by a Zombie Prom Queen. Sweets will be sought and tricks avoided, although it will be a fairly early finish as tomorrow is a school day, sadly for her.

And then it begins. My favourite time of year. Bonfire Night, woodsmoke, the trees shedding the last of their leaves, Jack Frost arriving to line the fields and houses with silvery blue. And lights, everywhere, sparkling on rooftops and lamp-posts and high streets, an antidote to long dark nights. Gathering with friends and family, the warmth indoors counterpoint to the cold outside. Wishing you all a wonderful season, however you choose to celebrate!

 

 

The Stable Bow

Beautiful girl with rose petalsJuly is almost over and, with it, another round of Camp NaNoWriMo. Don’t ask me why I signed up to do it a second time, but I did, and I’ve just hit my word count goal – yay!

Over two months of writing – April and July Camp – I’ve ended up with 50,000 words and the bones of a vampire novel, Silver and Black. It’s taken some interesting turns, and I think it might turn out to be a not so bad story. But now I need to let it rest for a few weeks, while I focus on other things. (sorry Sacha!)

For it is school holidays, and I have a gorgeous girl at home with me. She’s still young enough that she wants to hang out with me, but I’m under no illusion that these days of cosy companionship are numbered, so I’ll take them while I can get them. She’s already starting to spread her wings and I’m having to step back and let her fly, remembering the words of Kahlil Gibran:

‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth… Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’

I don’t doubt that we will always be close, but it is just that the level of closeness will change. All too soon she will want her own time, her own friends, her own way of doing things, and I just have to hope I’ve given her enough grounding that she can make sensible, capable decisions for herself.  I guess that’s what most parents would want.

When they are small and into everything, and you feel as though you will never ever get another moment to yourself, you look ahead to a time when they can do things for themselves, recalling vaguely how it felt to sit and read, or take a long shower uninterrupted, or go out whenever you feel like it. Yet now, as she approaches that independence, I find myself looking back to precious hours full of games and whispered confidences and small chubby hands, and I count my blessings that I was able to experience them with her.

I can have no more children – that’s just how it is for me. But I’ve been lucky to have one; many who want to are denied even that. So for now, I’m going to make the most of it.

And I remain the stable bow while she is the arrow that flies.

 

 

#writephoto – Spiral

Sue's Spiral Stair

This morning I woke to the internet being down. Completely off. A recorded announcement from my supplier when I called them assured me an ‘engineer was working to fix the problem,’ which seemed fairly typical.

I use the internet most days, obviously, doing research and reading blogs, catching up on posts I’ve missed and posting work of my own. I’d planned to post a response to Sue’s photo prompt today plus do a few other things, but there I was, cut off.

And you know what? It was not a bad thing. In fact, it reminded me to focus on something I’ve been working on this year – the idea of bringing more balance back into my life. And so I pottered about, looking after family, moving through the day without the nagging feeling that I needed to keep checking this and checking that, a burden I hadn’t realised I’d been carrying lifted.

And then we came back online. My daughter, who’d been horrified when I informed her we had no internet, heaved a sigh of relief (she’s a bit under the weather today, so playing outside wasn’t on the agenda). My husband was able to watch the Aussie Rules football game. And I headed back into blogland, though a little more mindfully than before.

And so here is my response to Sue’s spiral staircase photo. I actually wrote two small stories, each around the 100 word mark. Both stories feature children and, even though I didn’t set out to do so, I think they might be linked. They are also quite dark, which seems to be a thing for me of late. I think as writers we need to sometimes let ourselves go into the darkness, so our books hold both light and shade. Sue wrote a post touching on that the other week, as well. Right. Enough waffling. Here we go:

Freedom.

She could feel its kiss whenever she passed the small window, a glimpse of blue and green, misted fields in early light.

Then her gaze turned upwards, the bucket heavy in her small hands, dripping on the worn stones.

And so she went, day in and day out, cleaning her lady’s chamber. The fields turned from green to gold as water dripped and dust rose, swirling to lie thick on the wooden floor, no matter how she shuttered the windows against it.

But one day, when ice silvered her bucket and the fields beyond, she did not wake, the deep frost taking her as she slept.

Free once more.

——-

‘Come on then!’ He clattered up the old stone stairs, his feet the last thing visible as he rounded the curve. ‘Scaredy cat!’

The words floated down and she frowned, clenching her small fists. ‘Am not!’ She could hear his laughter, faint, the sound of his feet receding. ‘Hmmph!’

She started to climb. Haunted tower or no, she’d see who the scaredy cat was when they got to the top. Then the screaming began, and she grinned. Serve him right, she thought, remembering the dead rat she’d hung there earlier that day.

Then the screaming stopped. And she saw his feet again.

Dangling.