The Wheel Turns, and a Cover Reveal!

Today was the shortest day, the moment when the wheel of the year turns towards light again. In the old ways it was called Yule, and marked a time of hope, when a spark of light would be lit both symbolically and literally to celebrate the turning of the year.

I love this time of year. I love the sparkling lights on the houses and in the trees, the clear high sunsets and cold nights, the shimmer of frost and the crack of ice. I especially love the idea of hope, of change, of finding the spark within.

It’s interesting that the past week has seen a turning of the wheel in my own life as well. I now have a new plan for the year ahead, and am excited to get back to writing once more. So, to celebrate both the solstice and my rejuvenated writing plan, here is the cover for my next release, Under Stone, the fourth in my Ambeth Chronicles series!

I’m thrilled with the finished product, and think it goes very well with the others. Under Stone will be released very soon, and pre-release copies are available for review – please contact me if you’d like one.

Wishing you all a happy solstice!

Birthday Bug

I haven’t blogged for about a week, probably the longest break I’ve had since I started blogging just over three years ago. We’ve had a bit of a sickness bug in the house this past week, plus the gorgeous girl had a birthday with various celebrations to plan and enjoy, so it’s been a very busy time.

I even missed my Wednesday Wander last week – I had all good intentions of writing one, but the day just ran away with me. However, I have one planned for tomorrow so will be back to it again.

I haven’t even been able to get out for my usual walks – and I love this time of year. I love the way the sun slants low in the sky, the colours in the clouds and the trees, the last remnants of colour before the starkness of winter arrives. My apple tree still has a few forlorn apples left on it, and there are berries on the bushes – early Christmas decorations, perhaps?

I’ve also been flat out finishing some editing work – Ambeth is getting another instalment soon, as well as some different reading options, so watch this space (or sign up for my newsletter!) for more details.

Hoping to be back to a regular blogging schedule again soon. How is everyone out there? Wishing you all a good week 🙂

 

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 4 – Imbalance

Sigh.

I should have expected this. On the last Silent Eye weekend I’d attended there had been a place that had shaken me, unexpectedly, making my breath shorten, my heart pound. And so it is, I suppose. On these weekends we are challenged as well as inspired, and beauty can hold darkness as well as light. Still, when you reach such a place it is always a shock.

And so it was at Cullerlie. We parked by an old stone wall, and I picked a couple of blackberries to eat as we approached the gate leading to our next site. And then the guardian appeared. A bouncing ball of black and white fur, the collie seemed very pleased to see us all, bounding about on the grass, pausing at intervals on the approach to the circle. My companions (if you read their accounts), saw him as a friendly spirit, welcoming. And I felt the same way… for the most part. To me it felt a little bit as though he wasn’t sure whether or not we should be there, but he led us on nonetheless, pausing every so often to make sure we were following.

Cullerlie stone circle, also known as the Standing Stones of Echt, is described as a circle of red granite standing stones, surrounding eight small burial cairns. The cairns are also circular, and fill the interior of the circle. Hawthorn and willow ash have been found in the cairns, as well as cremated human bones placed there before smaller stones were placed over the top of them. When the circle was constructed in the Bronze Age, the landscape around it was boggy, the stones brought from higher ground to be placed there, in contrast to the other circles we had seen.

The approach to the circle was pretty enough, an avenue of tall trees on soft grass, fairy red toadstools dotting the green. But such toadstools hold poison, despite their beauty – perhaps a metaphor of what was to come. As I approached the circle I’d intended to touch the stones, to travel counter-clockwise and see where felt right, as I had at the other sites. But as I approached the circle it was almost as though I bounced off it, feeling gut-punched, my breath shallow and a pain in my solar plexus. Something, I didn’t know what, was wrong with this place.

‘…A woman, in long dress of green, crying out ‘It is wrong!” Repeatedly I heard her cries, repeatedly I saw her words ignored by the rest of the community who, seeking to emulate the power held in older sites, built this place, ignoring all but the most basic alignments, fragments of an almost forgotten past. A man of power, his face hard, turning from her, from her cries…’

This circle, our guide explained, was built about two millennia later than the ones we’d already visited. While there were some alignments in place, they were only to do with the passage of the sun – the moon had been ignored when the circle was built. The jumbles of stone in the centre felt muddy and convoluted, their placement simply wrong within the landscape. I didn’t want to touch the standing stones, nor set foot in the circle itself. And I was not alone – several of my other companions also expressed their distress and physical discomfort at the place, the feeling of ‘wrongness’.

Man and woman, sun and moon, light and dark, earth and sky. All necessary opposites on the great wheel of life, part of balance in all things. Perhaps that was what felt so off kilter about this place, the lack of balance, of care. I remarked that it felt like a Disney version of a stone circle, although at least at Disney World we know such things are done in play. Here there was still power, but it seemed broken in some way.

We did not stay long, in the end. Even those who were not initially put off didn’t want to linger, and so we made our way back up the avenue to the waiting cars. I did not look back.

This is the account of my recent weekend away with The Silent Eye in Scotland. Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. ———————————————————————————————-

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.


 

Look For The Helpers

I’ve tried to write this post several times today.

Oh, not because I had no words. I had lots of them. Words of sorrow and fury and fear. Words of love and hope and pride. But none of them seemed big enough or strong enough or wise enough to encompass the despair I felt on hearing of yet another cowardly, senseless event.

So in the end, I turned to someone else’s words. Mr Rogers once said:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

And, from the accounts trickling into the news feed, there were many, many helpers last night. And so it goes, when such things happen; love outweighs hate, the selfless acts of many shining as bright threads in the gathering dark.

May it always be so. For I think I speak for many of us when I say, whether a concert or a marketplace or a nightclub, a holiday resort or football match, we are sick and tired of this bullsh*t.

My heart goes out to all those affected by last night’s attack in Manchester. I cannot imagine your pain xx

 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Thirteen – Forgotten

img_2260Forgotten.

It is a word of sorrow, of lost things. Memories, people, ideas, thoughts – to be forgotten is to disappear.

We search through the forgotten, trying to piece together the past. But the flickers of light that made it real have long since faded, and all we are left with are the shadows of moments, separated from us by distance and time.

Yet each moment, each event, each life lived has left their mark upon this world. Faint impressions like the brush of butterfly wings, or distant smoke, making you wonder if they were ever there at all.

And to remember, even for a moment, is to bring them back.

———————————————————————————————This is my response to today’s writing prompt, part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.

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.

Feeling Light

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I love the way the light falls at this time of year.

There is a golden richness to it, one that invites you to sit outside for a while with hot tea or cold cider, savouring the last sweetness of summer before the long dark of winter sets in. It feels melancholy to me as well – the bittersweet turning of the year seen in the way that the sun sets earlier each night, sending long furls of colour across the sky.

This may sound like a whole lot of waffle – however, light is something that has always fascinated me. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and each had their own light, caught in the feel of the sky and the way the sun hits the land. The high wide skies of Canada, speedwell blue reaching north. The blinding white hot of a Sydney beach at midday, when to be without sunglasses would render you almost blind. The pearl grey light of the Irish coast, mist from the sea softening the sky. The silver-blue-grey of a Melbourne winter, dark nights and frost on the gum trees. The shimmer of Venice, light reflecting from the water onto ancient pastel palazzos, crumbling into the dreaming lagoon.

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I saw the northern lights once. It was in the mountains north of Vancouver, the sky full of stars as there were no man-made lights to obscure their show. I woke in the night to see a slowly expanding starburst of light above me, floating above the dark pine-clad peaks. While it wasn’t the rainbow shimmer of Scandinavia, it was still awe-inspiring to see – one day I hope to go further north and see the curtains of colour ripple across the sky.

I also like the way light behaves at different times of day, and often use it in my descriptions when writing. I think it’s a nice way to convey to the reader what time of day it is, as well as adding mood when necessary. My favourite time of day is sunset, though I do enjoy the early light of dawn as well – there is something about the transition between day and night that I find to be full of potential, stories lying in the shadows between light and dark.

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