A Season For Writing

I’ve recently, after months spent editing and tweaking my vampire novel, started a new WIP. I felt a bit rusty at first, a bit unsure. I knew I could write books, but actually doing so, letting the story pull me along, was something I hadn’t done for a while. So I started slowly, trying not to force it, trying to remember how it felt to let things just flow instead of agonising over each sentence.

A blogger friend once wrote about there being seasons in writing. A season for editing, a season for planning, a season for writing. This resonated with me (well, not so much the planning part, as I’m a dedicated Pantser, but certainly the rest of it). It seems as though I’ve just come out of a very long season of editing and submitting, the wheel swinging around to writing again. I’m very happy about it.

Another blogger friend said recently, and I’m paraphrasing slightly, that I’m at my best when I’m writing. And maybe she’s right. I certainly enjoy creating – there really is nothing like the fire and excitement of a first draft, when the words just flow from my fingers, the story unfurling in my mind. I tend not to write scenes in any particular order – I just start with an idea and see where it takes me, enjoying the revelations that come with each scene, the puzzle of knitting all the threads together.

Way, way back, at the very beginning of my blogging days, I wrote about unearthing stories. This idea was based upon something Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’. He described finding stories as ‘unearthing a fossil,’ and, as soon as I read those words, I could see mine. This is what I wrote back in 2014:

Can still see them, poking out from the forest floor, delicate carapaces of bone or polished wood, it’s hard to tell as I unearth even more of them. One is almost clear of the ground, the story complete, just a bit of polishing required. The others are still offering up new discoveries, new aspects every time I look at them, whether it is a change of only a few words or a whole new idea. But the important thing is that I keep looking at them, keep exploring the angles, the nooks and crevices, until the job is done, the story told.

I’ve unearthed quite a few more since that original post, with five books now published and one more written, but the lovely thing is that I’m still finding them. My new WIP is set on the California coast just near Monterey, and I swear I feel as though I’ve been there just from writing about it; I can almost feel the California sunshine.

That’s the beauty of both reading and writing, I suppose – when this world seems a bit too much, we can escape somewhere else. I’m glad this season has taken me back to California – wonder where it will take me next?

How about you? Do you find your writing also falls into different ‘seasons’? Or do you work on everything at once?


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.

#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.


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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.

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 Turning Of The Season

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Spring is here, at least according to the calendar, and with it the desire to wear something new, tired of the same old boots and puffa jacket, winter’s uniform of black and grey.

It seems the earth feels the same way. Perhaps that’s why spring is so gorgeous, the world clothed in blossom and wildflowers and bright green, buds blooming wherever they get the chance, the sky washed clean clear blue, light like pale golden wine slanting through the clouds.

I realise it’s not Spring everywhere. In Australia, where I used to live, autumn is in full glow, the nights growing cool though the days are still warm, grapes ripening on the hillsides, harvest bounty to be had before winter’s chill arrives. And it does, believe it or not – it was cold enough for frost where we lived down south, the ocean icy with currents from the Antarctic, winter storms pounding the jagged coast.

And so the seasons turn. Happy Spring (or Autumn), everyone!

Autumn Rambling

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Today the gorgeous child found this lovely leaf on the way to school, so we stopped to take a photograph. Autumn is my favourite season, and I love the explosion of warmth and colour just before the dark of winter. I used to live in the east of Canada, where the trees lit up with glory around this time of year, and when I moved to Australia I really missed the changing colours of the season.

IMG_2350It was tough enough with the seasons being back-to-front (at least as far as I was concerned – I’m sure the Australians thought it quite normal). But Christmas in hot weather and bright sunshine never felt right to me. The trees also didn’t change, unless you were in the inner city where native bush gave way to imported species and the streets still swished with leaves when autumn came around. Out where we were on the coast, we had curving moonah, aromatic gums, spiky banksia and twisted ti-tree – all beautiful in their own way, especially in spring when the moonah and ti-tree would flower, small scented white blossoms making them appear as though they had been dusted with snow. But other than that, they were the same all year round. I grew to love the native vegetation, the way the gum trees smelt after rain, the dark bushy leaves and curling ti-tree bark, the beautiful seed pods our backyard banksia produced. And I began to recognise autumn’s arrival in other ways. The nights would grow cooler, though the days were sunny and warm. The tourists would all go home, vines on the hillsides ripening with grapes, the scent of burning wood in the air. And yet, I still felt there was still something missing.

IMG_2363So it was a pleasure for me today to walk in the leaves and see the trees turn. After dropping off the gorgeous child I had an appointment, so I got off the bus early and walked part of the way, wanting to enjoy the outdoors. The road I walked along is lined with fabulous homes, large detached properties, most in the Arts and Crafts style. There are a few older homes, one of which I particularly covet. It is a half-timber and brick house, complete with diamond paned windows and higgledy-piggledy roof. Its location several feet below the pavement level suggests it is as ancient as it appears and I looked at it in pleasure as I walked past.

Then I noticed a large blue circular plaque next to the front door. These plaques, if you don’t know, are placed on houses where someone of historical significance once spent time, so I was intrigued to see who was connected to my dream home. Craning my head and trying not to seem obvious (as the house is set back from the road), I managed to make out the words: ‘Dr Stephen Ward’ and underneath ‘was arrested here in 1963 for his part in the Profumo Affair.’

I was aware of the Profumo Affair, of course, but not of Dr Ward’s exact role in the whole thing, so I was led down an internet wormhole of vintage sex scandals and British politics as I waited for my appointment. In short, the Profumo Affair took place in the early 1960s and involved a young woman, Christine Keeler, who had brief affairs with both a British politician, John Profumo, and a Soviet Naval attache, Yevgeny Ivanov, at the same time. The issue was two-fold – Profumo was married and the resulting revelation of the affair cost him his position in the Goverment, and the fact that this took place at the height of the Cold War meant that Keeler being intimate with both men could have led to a possible security breach (it didn’t). Stephen Ward was an osteopath who moved in high society – it was he who had introduced Keeler to Profumo, during a legendary house party at Cliveden House. After the affair became public, he was arrested and charged with immorality offences – however, sadly, he committed suicide before the trial was completed. It was later found to be a miscarriage of justice, but too late for him.

IMG_2362So it was fascinating and a little morbid to find that this lovely old house was the scene of recent scandal and sadness, leading to a man’s death. I went home in a reflective state of mind, pausing only to take a photo of the river near my house, the changing leaves being carried along on the water somehow symbolic of how life changes and carries us along with it, sometimes to unexpected places.

Autumn Sky

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I’ve posted photos of this sky before, and it seems to be turning into a bit of a series. The photos are taken somewhere I visit regularly, and at the same time in the evening, so are a good illustration of the seasons as they change. Now the nights are starting to draw in, the leaves burning with autumn colours. Soon it will be full circle again, back to the original image I took.

When I was in high school, I had an Ancient History professor called Mr. Mawson. He was always dapper in jacket and tie, his beard silver, his tone dignified. He had two sayings that he used often – one was, ‘Don’t be sorry, be on time.’ That one is self-explanatory, I think. The other was, ‘Look at the tree.’ This was a little less obvious. When he said it, he would gesture to the tree outside our second-floor classroom, and we would all look at the tree. There would be a moment of silence, then he would go back to discussing Sparta or Corinth or some other city-state, as though nothing had happened.

I never really knew why he said that. We all talked about it, of course. ‘What is the deal with the tree?’ I wondered whether it was to remind us of the impermanence of things, a commentary that everything comes to an end, just like the mighty civilisations he taught us about, their cities and accomplishments returning to dust. Or perhaps it was to mark the passing of the seasons, a reminder that time was marching on, taking us with it. I never asked him, and I wish I had.

And now, as I take pictures of the same tree through the seasons, I wonder if it was just about observation. But I guess I’ll never know.