#writephoto – Sunset

Sue Vincent runs an excellent weekly writing prompt called #writephoto, where she shares a wonderful, evocative picture from her collection, and you have until the following Wednesday to write something inspired by it. Here’s this week’s photo, and this is my response:

He liked to leave the house at sunset. Once the lamps had been lit, the dying sun painting licks of fire against the clouds. It hurt, to be outside at such a time, but it was worth it, to feel his soul twist and open against the beauty of the world, a reminder of something he could no longer have.

He remembered hours spent lying under blue skies, golden sun warming his skin. Lazy summer days drifting on rivers, nursing a beer in a pub garden, the sweet-sour taste on his tongue. The way the ocean shifted hue with the sky, the bright green of sunlight through leaves, the miraculous coloured arc of a rainbow.

All that was lost to him now. No beer, no warmth, no sunlit skies. It had seemed like such a good deal at the time, immortality an irresistible lure. And she had been so lovely, with her pale skin and red lips and dark promises – how could he have denied her?

But now she was gone. Vanished without so much as a by-your-leave. He was alone, confined to his house by day, wandering the streets by night. He had no taste for blood, despite his endless thirst – and besides, these were his neighbours. The thought of feeding from them was repugnant. So he made do with what he could find, small scurrying creatures that tasted of soil and berries, better than nothing, but nothing like the ecstasy she had promised.

He had no fancy for capes, nor for lurking in coffins. He left his house each evening, taking the curving road that reflected red back into the shimmering sky. One day, he thought, he might just keep walking, see if he could find her again. Or, failing that, someone else like him.

Eternity, after all, is no fun spent alone.


Like this post? Want to read more? 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.

A Wednesday Wander for Roald Dahl Day

img_1684Today is Roald Dahl day, a celebration to mark what would have been the 101st birthday of the author, so I decided to do a Wednesday Wander with a Roald Dahl connection. I’ve visited Dahl’s grave, seen the footsteps of the BFG leading to it, and spent time in the excellent museum nearby (though took no photographs, sadly). However, I’ve also been to the Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, where Roald Dahl’s The Witches was filmed, starring Angelica Houston as the Head Witch. Full disclosure: I have posted about this location before. As it was quite a long while ago and I’ve already meandered elsewhere this week, I thought it might be fun to visit again.

img_1700With magnificent sea views overlooking Fistral Beach, the hotel has a storied history. The so-called Newquay Riots took place during the building of the hotel, when local fisherman claimed the land was common land where they had dried their nets for generations. Out of work miners were eventually brought in to complete the build, but arson, looting and general anarchy carried on for several years.

img_1702However, eventually the hotel was completed, and the first guests arrived in 1900. It was considered the height of luxury at the time, and several royals, including King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, stayed there. However, after the Second World War the hotel fell into decline, until the 1970s when it was purchased by the Armstrong family, who restored it to its former glory.

img_1688Since then, the hotel has been used for many TV and film productions, and is also a very nice place to stay. We were lucky enough to spend a few nights there several years ago, and I can recommend the food, the ambience and the spa, as well as the surfboard storage lockers (very handy when catching a wave out front!)

img_1694It’s not a bad place to watch the sun set, either!

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.

Wednesday Wander – 17 Mile Drive, Monterey

This week I’m wandering to sunny California, and to a stretch of road known as 17 Mile Drive. It runs along the coast of the Monterey Peninsula, a small outcrop of land first mapped by Spanish explorers in 1602.

The road was laid out by a consortium of railroad barons, who purchased the land in the late 1800s and built the Hotel Del Monte. The drive was intended for use by hotel guests, taking in the scenic coastline and clear waters of Monterey Bay. It passed by forest and beaches, past landmarks such as the Lone Cypress and Bird Rock, joining up with Highway 1 to head further south. That was the route we were taking, heading down to Cambria after spending a night in Monterey, on our way to a family wedding.

It was a glorious sunny day, and we stopped several times to look around, amused by the small creatures that looked like a cross between a gopher and a squirrel, perched on the rocks.

We passed some lovely houses, mostly built in variations of a grand Victorian style, all with large windows looking out to sea. Pebble Beach is an exclusive gated community and home to the world famous Pebble Beach golf course, so that affluence can be seen in the waterfront homes along the way. However, I didn’t take any photos of the houses, choosing to focus instead on the lovely views of Monterey Bay.

In the distance you could just see the tips of the kelp forests floating on the surface, home to sea otters and other marine wildlife. We kept stopping to get out, taking photos and foraging for beach finds in the clear blue rockpools. However, we had somewhere to be and couldn’t linger too long, so we left our shells where we found them and hit the road once more.

As 17 Mile Drive joined Highway 1 we picked up speed, heading south along the spectacular California Coast. But that’s another Wednesday Wander. Thanks for coming on this one 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.

#writephoto – Waiting

It’s another #writephoto challenge from Sue Vincent, and this week our prompt is this evocative photo of sunset over the ocean. There seemed to be something melancholy about the image – perhaps it’s the combination of the obelisk and the setting sun. This is the poem that came to me:

Waiting

I wait upon the lonely shore

I wait for boats that come no more

Where water meets stone

Where earth meets sky

I watch the long years passing by

 

No one remembers when I came

They do not even know my name

Yet still I wait

Yet still I stare

In hope that I might see you there

 

As darkness ends another day

And golden shimmers slide away

I cry out loud

To an uncaring sea

‘Come back to me, come back to me.’


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 – Shore – The Meeting

This week Sue’s #writephoto prompt is a lovely image of sea and sand. Here is my (short but hopefully sweet) response:

The Meeting

Curving, carving,

A river through sand

A ribbon of silver

Meeting the sea

 

Dancing, splashing

A foaming blue line

An endless cycle

Meeting the land


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 – Praia da Falesia, Portugal

So, where have I wandered to today? You might be forgiven for thinking these are the red sands of outback Australia or the Arizona desert, or even some sort of Martian landscape. In fact, I’m only a couple of hours (by plane) from home this week – this is Praia Da Falesia on the Algarve, Portugal.

Praia Da Falesia is one of the longest beaches in Portugal, stretching over six kilometres from Vilamoura in the west to Olhos de Agua in the east. Falesia means ‘cliff’ in Portuguese, and these wind and water sculpted shapes are a dramatic backdrop to blue water and sunbathing.

The Algarve has been attracting travellers for millennia, with Roman and Moorish ruins along the coast testament to the civilisations who came and went. It’s the southernmost region of continental Portugal and the name Algarve comes from the Arabic Gharb Al-Andalus, which denotes its position west of the Iberian Peninsula.

The sands really are those magnificent shades of orange, ranging from almost cream to dark umber, brilliant against the blue sky. The photos almost don’t do the colours justice – it was breathtaking to see for the first time. We spent several days on the beach collecting shells, swimming and relaxing, our hotel just a short walk away. Portugal was a place of orange blossom and warmth, delicious seafood and friendly people, and history stretching back for thousands of years. I loved it, and look forward to going back for another visit one day.

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.

 

 

#BlogBattle – Resolved – The Shimmering Shoal

img_1682Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle is a weekly prompt where you’re given a word and a genre, then have to write a story. The stories must be posted on the Tuesday of the week in question, and then you can vote on your favourites.

This week’s prompt was Resolved, and the genre was Tall Tales. For some reason I thought it was supposed to be 1500 words, but apparently it’s only 1000, so unfortunately I think my story might be a bit long. But I still like it so I thought I’d share it anyway. And if you want to add a story of your own, there’s still time – head on over to Blog Battle and check out the prompts!

The Shimmering Shoal

‘Did I ever tell you how I got this scar, the one under my eye?’

Sara shook her head. ‘No, I don’t think I’ve heard that one.’

‘Well,’ he said, his voice a wispy quaver, ‘It’s a rather good one.’

‘Your stories do tend to be,’ she said, wiping a cloth across the small wooden table next to his bed. His gnarled hands were dark gold against the white sheets, his bald head spotted with age.

‘You see how it’s shaped like a star?’

‘Yes.’ She had noticed it, but had thought it a remnant of some youthful folly, like a faded blue tattoo almost lost in the folds of skin under his eye.

‘That’s because it’s from a kiss. A mermaid’s kiss.’

‘Oh now, come on,’ she said, moving over to the shelving unit. She started lifting each small ornament, wiping it carefully before putting it back. ‘There’s no such thing as mermaids, surely.’

‘There are,’ he said, ‘and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’ He started coughing, deep rasp in his chest. Putting down her cloth she went to the trolley by the bed and poured him a glass of water from the jug, handing it to him.

‘Come on,’ she said. ‘You’re getting yourself all worked up. And you know what the doctor said-‘

His hand gripped her wrist, hard, shocking her into momentary silence. His eyes met hers, and for a moment they seemed filled with stars falling, with endless seas, and she caught a glimpse of the handsome young man he had once been. ‘Let me tell you,’ he whispered. ‘It’s the last one, I promise.’

She nodded, and he let go of her wrist. ‘I wore a younger man’s skin in those days,’ he began. ‘Everything where it should be, my hair dark as a raven’s wing.’ He huffed out a laugh. ‘And I loved the sea. Every day I would take the fishing boat out with the rest of the crew, every day. Catching a thousand fish, ten thousand fish, a hundred thousand fish or more, so the deck was awash with scales and the bow so low in the water it was a wonder we made it back to shore.’

This was more like it. He told her a story every week, each one more fantastical than the last. ‘That many fish?’

‘Indeed. The sea was alive with them, shimmering in the waves, so thick in parts we could walk on water if we were fast enough.’ He laughed again. ‘That’s what I was trying to do, the day I met her.’

‘Walk on water?’ She liked playing along with his ridiculous stories. ‘You must be joking.’

‘I swear it, on my sainted mother’s grave,’ he said. ‘So there I was, lowering myself over the side of the boat, the fish churning and splashing like a great rippling silver carpet. I had my net in hand and my sturdiest boots on, and I stood on the back of the great shoal and felt the power of their mass rolling through the soles of my feet. I dipped my net once, throwing the fish on board, then again, then a third time. But the net grew so heavy I couldn’t lift it, dragging me down through the shoal and into the deep blue waters below.’ He coughed again as though reliving the moment, taking a sip of water before continuing.

‘Why didn’t you let go?’ She’d finished the ornaments and was wiping along the slats of the blind, each one rattling faintly against the glass.

‘Oh no, I couldn’t let go. That net had been woven by seven maids from their own hair, each one more fine and delicate than the last, yet together stronger than steel. It was a great treasure, it was.’

‘So what happened?’

‘Down I went, my lungs feeling as though they were about to pop. Then I saw her.’

He paused, and Sara realised he was waiting for her response. ‘Who?’

‘The mermaid. First her face, pale ivory in the gloom. I thought it a mask at first, a dead man’s caul, some witchery come to take me. She smiled, and her teeth gleamed like pearls. She had the net in her hands, smooth slender fingers curved through the knots. It was she who had pulled me down. “Let it go” I said, but she shook her head, laughing all the while, hair greenish brown around her.’

‘But how-‘

‘Could I speak? I used the last of my air, words forming in bubbles above my head before fading away. We floated there together, staring at each other. Then she put her hand on my arm and, all at once, I could breathe. I could hear her in my mind. “I like your net,’’ she said. ‘’And I wish to keep it.’’ ‘’But it’s mine,’’ I said. At this she frowned. ‘’Every day you take what is mine. So why should I not get something in return?”

Sara raised her eyebrows. Sliding the cloth along the last of the slats, she pulled the blind up, letting in pale sunshine. ‘What did she mean?’

‘Well, it was the fish, of course. Turns out she was some sort of sea shepherdess, the shoal of fish her flock. Each day she’d bring them to our part of the ocean, and we’d come with our boat and take part of it away. Of course we hadn’t realised what we were doing.’ He huffed out another laugh, the bed creaking as he moved. Sara went over to help him, plumping up the pillows behind him.

‘So how did you escape? And why did she kiss you?’

‘Well…’ His voice trailed off and he winked at Sara. ‘Why do you think?’

‘Oh, don’t tell me you charmed your way out of it.’

‘I was a charming fellow in those days. You don’t get a net made from the hair of seven maids for nothing, you know.’

‘So, what did you do?’

‘I pulled the net closer, meaning to trap her in it, but she was too fast for me. With a flick of her green tail she had me trussed up like a caterpillar, then she towed me away, the shoal around us all slithering scales, like a great cloud. I could see the hull of our boat getting smaller and smaller, and I thought I was done for, truly I did.’

Sara shook her head. ‘Well I never.’

‘She took me to a little island, a rocky outcrop way out in the sea. We all steered clear of it on account of the rocks below the surface like sharks teeth, ready to tear the hull of your boat. She pulled me onto a little bit of sand, towering rocks all around us, the murmur of the sea in our ears. Then she unwrapped me.’

‘Unwrapped you?’

‘Completely, if you get my drift.’

‘Ooh, you be careful!’ Sara laughed, moving over to one of the pictures on the wall and wiping the glass.

‘Oh, there was nothing careful about it. She was about to have her wicked way with me when there was a shout from the ocean, and there I saw the head and shoulders of a noble looking fellow, all silvery hair and beard, holding some sort of trident, bobbing in the waves. When she heard the shout she flinched, pulling back. Our eyes met, and she leaned in and kissed me. I think she meant to get my mouth but I turned my head and she got me just below the eye. Turns out mermaids are venomous, y’see.’

‘Oh, now I know you’re having me on.’ Sara realised she’d been cleaning the same picture frame for far too long and went on to the next one.

‘I swear on my blessed father’s grave I’m not,’ he said, a twinkle in his eye. ‘Before she slipped between the waves, leaving me half-unconscious, she put a shell in my hand to remember her by. Blue and pearl it was, green as the sea. And I resolved that I’d see her again, one day, and finish what we started, but I never did.’

‘Oh, you and your tall tales,’ said Sara. ‘Right, I’d better get on, I’ve plenty of other rooms to clean. See you tomorrow.’

The next morning Sara knocked on his door. But when it opened the room was empty, the bed made up. Someone came up behind her and she turned to see one of the night nurses. ‘Where’s he gone?’

‘Died in the night, he did. Funny, though.’

‘What was funny?’

‘Well, when I went in to check on him, there was a smell everywhere, like the sea, you know? And he gave me this, said it was for you. The next thing we knew he’d gone.’

She dug in the breast pocket of her tunic and pulled something out. ‘Here.’

Stunned, Sara held out her hand. The nurse dropped something in it.

It was a shell, blue and pearl, green as the sea.


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.