The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

Wednesday Wander – An Italian Villa, Tuscany (eventually)

Each week, when it’s time to write another Wednesday Wander, I cast around in my mind to see where I want to go. It’s usually a feeling that inspires me – perhaps the weather reminds me of somewhere I’ve visited, or I find a photograph, or see something on TV or online. This week I thought – Monaco. I haven’t wandered there as yet, though I remember it well. All pink sky and blue sea, roads cut into precipitous green hillsides, the scent of blossom and the glamour of the casino at Monte Carlo, me desperately trying to put together something approaching a sophisticated outfit from the rather less-than-sophisticated contents of my bag.

And yet, when I went to the photo album to grab the photos I definitely remember taking, there was nothing there. Zilch. Nada. I suppose it’s because of the technology of the time – it’s been over twenty years since I was there, and my (pre-digital) camera only worked sporadically on that trip. But at the time I didn’t really care, too taken with the sights I was seeing. I still feel the same way about travelling, keen to take everything in, but I usually end up with about three hundred photos as well, easily able to edit the ones that aren’t so great. And I guess that’s what happened here – the photos I took in Monaco didn’t work out for some reason; they were blurry, or I managed to get a thumb or some hair in the shot (happened more often than I like to think), so I decided to discard them when I got the prints.

There are other places I’ve visited where I’ve taken no photos at all – the Sistine Chapel, for example. If I remember right, we were told not to take any photos as we were herded through the many rooms leading to the chapel, at one point climbing out a window and walking along scaffolding, then climbing back in through another window (I am not making this up), an interesting exercise considering the crowds of people visiting that day (the Pope had just canonised four new saints). Leighton House, in London, is another place where interior photos are forbidden – I don’t know why, exactly.

Anyway, I have no Monaco photos. So, instead, I’ll just wander to this lovely Tuscan villa on the outskirts of Florence. Once a private home, it was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. One night, as I was returning to my room, I walked along the darkened hallway… to see a young woman gliding towards me, her long hair flowing back. My heart almost stopped until I realised it was a young Japanese woman, also on her way to her room. The hall lights were on a timer and had switched off just at that moment, adding to the eerie feeling. For all that, it was a gorgeous place, the manicured gardens and old stone walls reminders of a time past.

So this week, perhaps, was a bit more of a meander than a wander, but thank you for coming along with me – see you next time!


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.

Wednesday Wander – Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy

pisa-2For this week’s Wander I’m visiting one of the most recognisable structures in the world – Italy’s famous leaning Tower Of Pisa.

When I took the photos out of the album I noticed I’d written ‘everything leans!’ next to the images, and I do remember that being true. The Cathedral and Baptistry were also slightly off-kilter, though it is the tower that demonstrates the most profound lean.

pisa-1Construction on the tower started in 1173 and took nearly 200 years to complete – this is partly because of wars halting construction for close to a century. Built of white marble, the tower started to lean during construction, due to inadequate foundations on ground too soft to support the tower’s weight. When construction was halted due to war the tower was only two floors high – this delay allowed the soil beneath the foundation to settle and stabilise, so when building resumed the tower did not fall.

However, it did continue to tilt, and the top is now nearly four metres out of alignment. When I visited, access to the tower was closed off, as it was felt that the tourists tramping up and down it, year after year, had contributed to further lean. That didn’t stop a couple of enterprising young men from coming up to us and telling us they had the keys to the tower if we wanted to go up – no doubt a line, but very entertaining nonetheless! The tower has since been stabilised and re-opened, so perhaps I’ll get to go up one day.

pisa-3The tower has had an interesting history in its long life, including unsubstantiated stories of Galileo conducting experiments in speed and mass by dropping cannonballs from the top of the tower, and it being used as an observation tower by the German forces during WWII. In fact, it was almost targeted in an artillery strike by Allied Forces – only the beauty of the site kept it from being destroyed. Thank goodness for that!

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time.


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.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – If You Could Be Anywhere…

if-you-could-be-anywhereIt’s Wednesday, so time for my usual Wander, and it’s also day twenty-eight of the 30 Day Writing Challenge. Today’s prompt is: If.

Initially, I considered the Rudyard Kipling poem If, and doing a Wander related to that. But Kipling was so well-travelled I couldn’t really settle on one place, and unfortunately I’ve not yet been to India, the place with which he is most often associated. Then I considered – if I could be anywhere, where would I be?

This was a tough question to answer. At the moment, I’m pretty happy where I am. And if I did go anywhere it would be somewhere I’ve not visited before, so I couldn’t post about it anyway. I decided to look back through my posts for inspiration, and realised I’ve taken 54 Wednesday Wanders so far – just over a year’s worth of posts! So, as it’s the last Wander of 2016, I decided to look back at the top ten most popular posts, based upon the number of likes, and leave the answer up to you. If you could be anywhere, where would you be?

Starting with the tenth most popular, here is the list of favourites for the year:

The Lion Monument, Lucerne, Switzerland

The Twelve Apostles, Australia

Surfers Paradise, Australia

Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England

El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Manyana Beach, Australia

Stonehenge, England

Paris, France

Ancient Rome, Italy

And the number one post was:

Niagara Falls, Canada

Thanks for coming along with me on my Wednesday Wanders – I’ve seen a bit of the world but there’s still a lot for me to see, so I’ll keep posting as long as I have places to share

See you next year! xx


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

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 10 – Anywhere In The World

img_1931It’s day 10 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Anywhere in the world. 

Hmm. This prompt would have been better on a Wednesday, then I could have gone for a wander. However, it’s Saturday and once again it’s been a busy day, so I’ve decided to set myself a timer (ten minutes this time), put some music on and see what I come up with.

Okay, here goes:

‘Tell me, if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?’

‘Well, right here of course.’ I smiled, turning to look up at him. He nodded, looking into the distance. ‘What about you?’ I prompted him, my hand sliding on the warm skin of his arm wrapped around me.

‘Me? Oh, well, I’ve always fancied Italy, I guess. So, Italy.’

‘Oh.’

‘Oh what?’

His brow furrowed as he looked down at me. ‘Nothing,’ I said, shaking my head. I pushed away from him a little, sitting up, leaving the embrace of his arm. I started tidying away the picnic things, putting lids on jars, stacking the plates and cups, deliberately avoiding his gaze. F*cking Italy. Seriously?

‘What is it, babe?’ His hand landed on my hip and I moved, pointedly, away. ‘Oh, so I’m supposed to want the same things as you, all the time? What, you think this place, here, is the best place on earth to be?’

‘It was.’ I shrugged, still not looking at him, putting the rest of the things in the basket and letting the lid drop closed with a satisfying clunk. I sat back, kneeling on my heels, looking up at the pale sky. ‘Then again, if I think about it, maybe I’d rather be somewhere else too. Bali. Or Morocco. Somewhere warm, with beaches and dancing and… well. It doesn’t matter, I guess.’ I stood up, hefting the basket with one hand. ‘Shall we go?’

‘Babe, c’mon.’ He looked up at me, arms spread wide. ‘You know I want to be wherever you are.’

‘And Italy. Don’t forget Italy.’ My mouth was tight and I turned on my heel, walking to the car. Forget it. Why I even bothered with him, I wasn’t sure. I could feel the remnants of the picnic sliding around in the basket, all the carefully made sandwiches, the little baked quiches, cracked and squashed. Whatever. It didn’t matter. At that moment all I wanted was to be somewhere else.

Anywhere else on earth but here.

Well, there you go. You might think, reading that, that I’ve had a bit of a frustrating day. But it’s actually been quite nice. I don’t know where this picnicking couple came from, but I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. Maybe they’ll work things out, maybe they won’t…


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

 

Wednesday Wander – Ancient Rome

I spent most of today wandering around Roman ruins and a museum with a group of children from my daughter’s school. I saw some wonderful mosaics, coffins complete with skeletons, and dozens of finely made Roman artifacts.

So, for my Wednesday Wander this week, I thought I’d take a trip back to where it all began. Where an empire was formed that reached east and west, controlling territory as far away as this misty small island (and possibly further still, if the stories about South American shipwrecks are true).

ancient-rome-2This, my friends, is ancient Rome.

Well, it’s what’s left of it, anyway. I took these shots from a viewing platform overlooking all that is left of that mighty city – the ground level is far lower than that of modern Rome, which is why I appear to be so high above the ruins. I quite like how all the fallen columns seem to have been gathered and placed tidily together – I don’t know whether they’ve been reinstated in the intervening years, but it did seem to me as though work was ongoing at the time.

ancient-rome-1Another thing that struck me, as I looked at these photos, is how much digital photography, particularly on our phones, has changed the way we record things. I took these photos with a regular old film camera, back in the days when you had to drop the film off and wait to see if any of the shots were good. Film wasn’t cheap and I was travelling on a budget, hence why I have only three shots of the city, rather than the eight thousand or so I’d probably take today.

ancient-rome-3I remember Rome as a city of contrasts – full of great beauty and history, yet crowded and dirty. I also visited ancient catacombs along the Appian Way – went underground and saw ancient tombs and painted shrines, roped off areas leading who knows where. I have no photographs of this at all.

I think I might need to go back to Rome…

Thanks for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – see you next time!


You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, plus check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest page for book info, photos, blogs and more…

Wednesday Wander – The Coliseum, Rome

Coliseum 3 Arguably one of the world’s most recognisable structures, and one upon which modern stadiums are based, this is The Coliseum, in Rome. The scale of the building is quite extraordinary, considering it was built two millennia ago, as is the fact it is still standing after all this time. Much of the damage is due to man, rather than time, the Coliseum being used as a source for building materials once it had fallen out of use.

Coliseum 2I visited Rome over twenty years ago now, just a blink of an eye in the life of this building. From outside you can see the different arched levels, as well as get an idea of the scale – it’s not hard to imagine how it would have been in its heyday, when gladiators battled and lives were lost on the turn of an emperor’s thumb.

Coliseum 1

This is a shot across what would have been the floor of the arena. The wooden floor is now long gone, and the walls are the remains of the rooms where gladiators, animals and prisoners would have waited, before being sent out to the mercy of the crowds. In the top right hand corner of the photograph, a cross is just visible – this is a memorial to the Christians martyred in the arena. When we were there, a small crowd of people gathered in front of this cross and started to sing. Everyone else fell silent, listening as the ancient stones echoed with a lament for the dead, the acoustics carrying it up and out of the arena. It was a beautiful moment in a remarkable place.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!