A Visit To Kings Landing #GameOfThrones

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 8 of Game Of Thrones, so if you’re not all caught up, read further at your own peril. Again, spoilers spoilers spoilers)

A couple of years ago, I shared two posts about visiting Dragonstone, the Targaryen island fortress from Game of Thrones. Of course, I didn’t really visit a fictional location – rather, I visited the two spectacular filming locations in Spain, Itzurun Beach and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a writing holiday with three fabulous friends to my third Game Of Thrones location, the beautiful medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, which stood in for Kings Landing in the show. All of us being GOT fans, we decided to book a two hour guided tour taking in many of the famous locations from the show.

Of course Dubrovnik, a World Heritage site, was a tourist draw long before the Lannisters came to town and, according to our fabulous tour guide, Eva, the hugely popular HBO show hasn’t really done much to change visitor numbers to Dubrovnik. As she put it, ‘the city was already at capacity.’

Eva was uniquely qualified to be our guide, having worked as the stand-in for Cersei, Danaerys and several other of the main female characters on the show, as well as being a Production Assistant to the showrunners, Dan and David. She’d been part of the show since the very beginning, and so was the perfect person to take us around the fictional Kings Landing.

We visited key locations such as Fort Lovrijenac, which was used for several key scenes, including one in the Red Keep courtyard when Cersei uttered her famous line, ‘Power is power.’

We also saw Blackwater Bay, and the long quay where Sansa, Bran and Arya bid Jon farewell in the final series episode.

We stood on the Shame steps, looking up to where the fictional Sept of Baelor stands in the show, and listened to bells ring out across the city from the towers used in the show to signal the Lannisters’ (ultimately futile) surrender.

The tour was two hours long, which, at the end of a very hot day, was enough. We’d done plenty of exploring already, walking the city walls (location for the House of the Undying as well as plenty of other scenes in the show), and taken in the extraordinary romantic views of islands and blue water.We’d sat in the shade of a curving stone tower watching people swim as we chatted and rested our tired feet, and had snuffly wet kisses from a small black pug dog.

We’d wandered along the stone quays, marvelling at the amount of fish in the crystal-clear waters. Swallows darted above, their constant chirping part of the city soundscape, as were the bells from the many towers, striking the hours.

And, as we wandered the streets in subsequent days, along lantern-lit alleyways and curving flights of stairs, through sun-drenched courtyards filled with orange trees, I realised what Eva was telling us.

Game of Thrones has created a mythology around Dubrovnik, that of a city peopled with characters from fantasy. But Dubrovnik was already a place of wonder and magic, a city full of stories – Game of Thrones is just one of many. I’m sure it won’t be the last.


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.

A Walk On Midsummer’s Day

This morning we set out, my faithful companion and I, to wander the woods on Midsummer Day. The paths were cool and shaded green, sun glimmering through the leaves to create patterns of light and dark. In short, it was a pretty magical way to start the day.

I have a long tradition of going to the woods on Midsummer. When I was small, my grandmother used to take me there to look for fairies – whether we found any or not I can’t say, but it always seemed a magical time to me. My grandmother knew the name of every flower and taught it to me, as well as phrases of her native Welsh. We would pick snowdrops in springtime, wandering through the village with our large basket overflowing with tiny white bells and green leaves, which we then parcelled into posies for gifts.

When I lived in Australia, the summer solstice occured just before Christmas, so it was a slightly different celebration. Still, I always tried to surround myself with green leaves, whether walking by the Yarra or driving through the Mornington Peninsula hinterland, where twisted pines reached for the sky and once, magically, kangaroos bounded across the road as dusk was falling, their fur grey as shadow.

Today, however, my canine companion and I took the winding streets and backways until we reached the Little Wood, as it’s called, a small patch of wilderness leading to a green and pleasant meadow, one of doggo’s favourite places to run and play.

The grass was tall, starred with dandelions and buttercups, deep blue speedwell and pink campion, butterflies fluttering here and there. The trees were bursting with green, as though decorated to celebrate the turning of nature’s wheel, the blue sky festooned with clouds.

I threw doggo’s ball for her and she chased it, disappearing into the long grass and emerging decorated with dandelion seeds, lying down to have a rest every once in a while. We saw one of her doggy friends from puppy training and they had a play, then we wandered back past the broken tree, while ravens danced in the high branches.

We left the meadow, taking the main road back home, entering the world of men once more. But I carried a little piece of forest magic with me…

Happy solstice, everyone – may your light shine bright 🙂


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.

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.


 

A Monday Meander – Dragonstone Part 2

As promised, this is the second part of my Game of Thrones location visit, this time to the spectacular San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, on the coast of Spain.

San Juan de Gatzelugatxe is actually the name of the small hermitage located on the islet, a sanctuary dedicated to Saint John and dating back to the 10th century. The name of the islet, Gatzelugatxe, comes from the Basque language and translates roughly to mean ‘craggy fort,’ very appropriate.

The islet is joined to the mainland via a manmade walkway, which twists and turns up the rugged rock face to reach the monastery. There are two ways to reach the walkway – the first is a steep narrow trail, very rough underfoot, only wide enough for two people to pass. It starts at a restaurant perched high on the cliff, with excellent views over the small bay.

As we descended the kilometre or so to the walkway, the people coming uphill the other way looked completely wiped out, sweating and short of breath in the muggy weather. We found it easier going heading down, but our thighs still ached due to the steep and rocky nature of the path. It can be done in sandals (I did it), but I’d recommend runners and comfortable clothing.

As we descended we could hear the bell at the hermitage ringing. The tradition goes that if you ring the bell three times and make a wish, it will come true. Seeing the faces of the people coming uphill, I joked to hubby that perhaps they were wishing they didn’t have to make the climb back up again!

We reached the walkway quite quickly and paused, both to catch our breath and to take in the glorious views. The islet isn’t far along the coast from Zumaia and the spectacular rock formations of Itzurun Beach, so the landscape is quite similar.

With the mist looming low on the nearby hilltops, waves rushing, it wasn’t hard to feel transported to another time and place. The walkway and bridge have both been used in Game of Thrones as the entrance pathway to Dragonstone – it is on these stairs that Jon Snow ducks to the ground after seeing a dragon for the first time.

I saw no dragons, but it doesn’t mean the place is without magic. Aside from the beautiful scenery and wish-granting magic of the bell, there is also a statue of a saint sunk deep into the waters of the small bay. Tuna boats, before they head across the ocean to fish, all come here to circle the statue three times and ask for a blessing on their voyage and catch.

So, did I make a wish? Well, after the walk down, we decided that going all the way to the top wasn’t really for us. And, as we stood on the stairs, I wondered how on earth they’d got a film crew, equipment and actors in costume down the precipitous narrow path we’d just taken.

Then we noticed the road going back up. 😀

It made for an easier ascent, though it took a while. But much easier than we had thought. And I got to visit Dragonstone with my two favourite people. So perhaps my wish was granted, after all.


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.

 

Beltaine Fire and Butterfly Dreams

Today is May Day, or Beltaine in the old calendar, the first day of summer and the festival that falls halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.

The garden is green and humming, the blossom almost gone, the promise of Summer’s warmth just over the horizon. Last night I dreamed of a purple butterfly landing on my face, flapping delicate wings as it clung to my cheek. Apparently, to dream of such things is a sign of change, and for the butterfly to land on me signifies that the change will be positive. And to dream of such a thing on May Day Eve? I don’t know, but it seems to add another layer of significance. Or perhaps it was just a dream…

Today the sun aligns with stones, tonight fires will burn on the hillsides, if only in memory, the old customs not yet forgotten. And perhaps I will dream once more…

Note: Ali Isaac, mistress of Irish mythology, has written several posts about the myth and magic behind this festival – click here and here to read more.


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 – Snowdon, Wales

The results of a public poll to decide the best view in Britain were recently announced, and the winner was the spectacular view you see below. This is the view from the top of Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and it’s where I’ve chosen to wander this week.

By Fallschirmjäger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3

However, unlike previous weeks, this fabulous photograph is not mine (it’s via Wikimedia Commons). I have been to the top of Snowdon, via the Snowdon Mountain Railway, but my experience was, shall we say, a little different.

Let us travel back in time quite a few years, to a family holiday. The decision was taken to ride to the top of Snowdon, something we’d never done before despite regular visits to Wales. We (my parents, brother and I) boarded the train, sitting by the window, and set off into what soon became a world of grey.

The weather changed, as it often does in the mountains, and thick cloud descended, our journey taking place in a tunnel of pale grey mist. At one point I remember looking out of the window and seeing the mist clear slightly – to reveal a precipitous drop down a green slope and, below, small white dots of sheep grazing. In some ways, I was glad I couldn’t see more.

When we reached the top of the mountain the visitor centre was under construction, so many of the large plate glass windows had been replaced with plastic sheeting that flapped and rustled incessantly in the unseasonable weather. But it wouldn’t have mattered had the windows been there, for all we could see was a solid, uniform grey. It was bitterly cold so we didn’t end up staying too long, catching the train back down to the valley and to green summertime once more.

These two photos are mine, taken on another visit as we went through the Llanberis pass, heading for the coast. It was a glorious day, and there were plenty of hikers heading up the mountain – no doubt the train would have been full as well. However, we had somewhere to be and couldn’t stop, so I was only able to take photographs from below as we went past.

So, while I can say that I have been to the top of Snowdon, I can’t say I’ve seen any of the legendary views. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not marking this as a negative experience. The mountains of North Wales are one of my favourite places on earth, and part of their magic is the mist wreathing their summits like dragon’s breath, a place where legends are made. I know I’ll take the railway again one day and hopefully, next time, I’ll be able to see the view.

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 @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 – Enigma – Your Fault

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge runs every week, and is a prompt based on one of her wonderful photographs. Here’s my response to this week’s image:

‘This is all your fault.’

‘Humph!’

‘Don’t you ‘humph!’ at me. We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t insisted on staying till the last minute. As if you had any chance, fighting against that lot. We should have left when I said, when we saw the first smoke on the horizon.’

*incoherent muttering*

‘Don’t think I can’t hear you, muttering under your breath! The least you could do is answer me. You drive me absolutely crazy, you know that? And now we’re stuck here and you won’t even talk to me?!’

*quietly* ‘I didn’t know this would happen.’

‘Oh no, of course you didn’t! You had all the ideas, didn’t you? Stay here, you said. It’ll be fine, you said. They won’t use magic, you said. Fat lot of good all those ideas are now, aren’t they?’

‘You were the one who had to look back-‘

‘WHAT DID YOU SAY?’

‘You heard me.’

‘Are you seriously saying to me, are you seriously suggesting, that this is somehow my fault? That my wanting to take a last look at our home as we fled in fear thanks to, if I might remind you, your insistence on staying, is somehow to blame for this?’

‘Well, if you hadn’t turned around when you did-‘

‘How on earth was I supposed to know that their druid would be right there? I mean, really. As if I could have known. And our druid – completely useless. I said, didn’t I, I said when they hired him he was no good. And he just disappears at the first sign of danger-‘

‘Well, he couldn’t exactly help it-‘

‘Oh, just because his magic wasn’t as powerful as their druid’s. You get what you pay for, that’s what I always say, you get what you pay for. And mark my words, that council of ours were lining their pockets instead of spending money on a decent druid and now look at us. Turned to stone for goodness knows how long! And you!’

*wearily* ‘What have I done now?’

‘Well, you couldn’t even get petrified facing me. It’s like you did it on purpose, turning away from me like that! What am I supposed to do now, talk to the back of your head?’

*sighing* ‘Well, it’s not like you’ve much choice now is it, dear.’

‘Well, I still think you could have been a bit more considerate. I mean really, am I supposed to spend eternity stuck like this?’

*silence*

‘I asked you a question, Arthur!’

*silence*

‘Arthur? Arthur! Answer me!’

*silence*

‘Arthur?’


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.