What a Difference A Day Makes

I took this photo last Friday. The sun was shining, bees were humming among the blossoms, and it felt as though Spring was finally on her way.

What a difference a day makes.

This was Saturday morning. Overnight an arctic blast had come through, the temperature dropping to a face-freezing minus one, snow falling. It hadn’t quite begun to settle on the ground at this point, but it was resting on the tree branches where, less than twenty-four hours before, it had felt like Spring.

Nature has a way of doing the unexpected, doesn’t she?

A day later, this was the scene in my back garden. However, today temperatures are starting to rise, the MiniBeast withdrawing back to the frozen east where it belongs. The spring equinox is almost upon us, and there will be more blossom and bees soon…

…I hope.

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.

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#Writespiration – 52 Words in 52 weeks – The Girl In The Black Hood

Sacha’s prompts are always good fun, and this week she’s challenged us to write about ‘The girl in the black hood.’ 52 words, no more, no less. For some reason this one came to me fairly quickly…

She gritted her teeth, dug her heels in and pulled, the heavy load cutting into her cold fingers. Behind her a trail of blood and fur stained the snow.

Forget about little red riding hood. This girl’s hood was black, and this time the wolf was the hunted, rather than the hunter.

Fancy giving the prompt a try? Head over to Sacha’s blog for more details.

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.

Snow Day

img_4919It snowed here on Friday. And Saturday too. Proper snow, like fat feathers falling from the sky, swirling around and settling on trees and pavements and rooftops. The schools didn’t close and life continued pretty much as usual, but it snowed.

I love snow. If you’ve ever watched the Gilmore Girls, you’ll know that Lorelei Gilmore can sense when the first snow is coming. She smiles in anticipation, hugging herself as she says ‘I can smell snow,’ like it’s some wonderful gift she’s about to be given. I feel the same way about it, though I don’t quite have the same snow sense as she does. Snow is soft and, when it falls, if the wind is just right, you can stand there and watch it float and dance around you like specks of magic. I don’t feel the same way about rain at all. You can’t make rain angels.

img_1020I lived in Ontario for many years and it only takes stepping on a frozen puddle and hearing it crack to take me back to the first winter we lived there, when the temperature dropped well below zero and snow was piled so high at the end of the driveway we dug into it and made a snow cave. I remember the novelty of heavy boots and all-in-one snowsuits, of ice skating on a frozen pond, tobogganing at night and putting on my cross country skis to ski around my neighbourhood. I remember sitting in the kitchen with my brother listening to the radio, waiting to hear whether school was closed and we had a snow day. I also remember being at work one day and coming out to find my car almost completely buried in snow, and another day where I’d left the window slightly open and ended up with a snowdrift on the back seat.

img_4910I met my husband at the snow. Both of us working at a ski resort, the violet lit slopes and winter cold a perfect backdrop to romance. And so when the clouds gather and the first flakes start to fall I’m taken back. To a time as a child when snow seemed to last forever, lit with fairy lights. To a time when my life changed in wonderful ways. Oh, I know snow gets dirty and slushy and tedious after a while, but there is wonder in the first fresh fall, the glitter of light and the unique beauty in each and every snowflake.

I hope it snows again soon.

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.


img_4589It’s Christmas Day. As you read this post I’m with family, probably eating, definitely enjoying myself. I lived away from my family for many years and missed a lot of Christmases, so now I make the most of being in the same country with (most of) them once more.

And at Christmas time I remember. I remember my paternal grandfather in his church, holly and ivy in the snowy churchyard, the old carols I knew and loved ringing along the ancient stone walls. I remember my grandmother setting up the inflatable Santa and reindeers, sitting us in a small sleigh and taking our photos. I remember my nana and grandad’s house, the tree with old-fashioned glass ornaments and glittering tinsel, the way the sky turned purple over the fields as I looked for a star each Christmas eve. I remember Christmas dinners and laughter and most of all, love, like a great golden glow encompassing us all. I remember the time we had together and I’m grateful for it, just as I’m grateful for the memories we’re creating today.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you are.

As well as a Christmas post, this is my response to the 30 Day Writing Challenge – it’s day 25, and today’s prompt is: Remember.

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.

Too Many – 30 Day Writing Challenge

img_4590It’s Christmas Eve, and also day twenty-four of the 30 Day Writing Challenge. Today’s prompt is: Too Many

Now, the obvious thing to write about today would be presents- as in, is there such a thing as ‘too many’? If you asked my daughter I’m sure she’d say no. However, when I cast around for an idea, I only had a fragment come to me:

‘I love snow.’ I rested my chin in my hand, dreamy, watching spiraling white flakes fall against the dark trees. Outside it was cold, the sky a swollen grey, but inside all was warm and cheer. The fire was crackling, a blanket was tucked around me and the smell of baking – really, the only thing that could have made it more like a Christmas card would have been a small child singing carols.

How would you end it? I had a vague idea of the snow turning to a storm, the power going out and the idea that there was such a thing as ‘too many’ snowflakes. However, it seemed a bit of a stretch and so I’ve left them as is, comfortable and warm in their living room, watching the snow fall.

And perhaps that’s where I’ll leave you all too, as night falls and Christmas beckons. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, however you choose to celebrate 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.



Photo Prompt – By The River


Another photo prompt from Sue Vincent, this time an absolutely gorgeous shot of a snowy staircase leading through a stone arch. And yet my mind, as it so often does, has wandered somewhere unexpected…

By The River

The snow was crisp, the kind that crunched underfoot, footsteps left clear as though stepping in wet concrete. I smiled to myself as I headed under the stone archway, a few flakes drifting down from the evergreens above to sit like crystals on my hair and jacket before the alchemy of sun turned them to water once more.

This was the place, I was sure of it. The locals were surprisingly taciturn on the subject, despite their initial friendliness, but I’d gleaned enough information to figure it out. The stone arch, the high steps leading down to the rushing river, tumbled with stones and tree branches, treacherous at the best of times.

But especially if you were a child. A child wearing trainers unsuitable for heavy snow, jacket undone to be found, several days later, tangled in tree roots further downstream, sodden and empty. My smile disappeared as I emerged from under the arch and stood at the top of the stairs, the final step terminating at the edge of the river.

The water wasn’t frozen, moving too fast for winter to catch, though there were tumbles of frosty snow against some of the rocks, more of it lining the steps with slippery treachery. The last step was placed almost at the edge of the river, overlooking a dark pool within a half circle of rocks, like a shimmering mirror for the sky above.

I started down the stairs, careful not to step too quickly, my hands out for balance. A few steps from the bottom I paused and crouched down, bringing up the camera around my neck to shoot a few shots, capturing the mountains rising brown beyond the river, one crowned with stones like shattered teeth, lurching and dark against the pale sky.

Then I turned to the pool, adjusting the camera focus as I looked through the lens. I frowned, squinting. There was something in the water. Something that glittered as the wintry light slanted across the pool. I moved carefully down another step, mindful of the fact that, although the pool looked shallow enough, the pure waters meant it could be far deeper than it looked.

I guess the boy hadn’t realised. He wasn’t from the area, visiting with his family. The locals hadn’t said much about them either, though the lady at the general store had clasped her hands together, whispering with watery eyes that ‘it was unfair, really, they were nice people’, before folding her lips tight, her glance darting to the doorway as though someone was there. I thanked her, storing the information for later, returning to my hotel room to type up the memory while it was still strong, wanting to capture her voice.

And now I was here. Where the boy had gone missing, or at least according to the official report. He’d come out alone for some reason, wandering down to the riverbank where he’d fallen in, unused to the slippery stones and deep rushing currents. ‘Death by misadventure.’ Three small words to describe a family destroyed. My job was to try and make sense of it all, to write a story that could, somehow, encompass their pain.

I looked back up the stone stairs, the snowy steps trodden down with footsteps from all the people who had been up and down in recent days, searching the river for signs. Then I noticed something odd. A purple shimmer was hanging in the air, like a summer mirage rippling against the wintry backdrop. I stared, frowning, wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me. Then it started to move, sliding down the stone steps towards me. All at once there was a buzzing in my mind, a feel as though the ice hanging from the trees was now sliding down my spine, my muscles tensing to hold me in place when all I wanted to do was run. The trees seemed to be curving in around me, the river rising like a glass bowl to cover me and all at once I was in the water, the shock so fierce it blew the breath from me. I struggled, frantic, turning in the depths as my heavy clothing pulled me down towards the ominous glitter at the bottom of the pool, the rocks like hooded shadows circling above and, spreading across the water like an oil stain, the purple shimmer, locking me away from the surface. I opened my mouth in a silent scream and water rushed in, choking me, silver bubbles the last thing I saw before everything went black.

I was choking, gasping, my lungs on fire. Someone or something was hitting me, hard blows between my shoulder blades, my hair in cold strands across my face. I gurgled then water spewed from me, letting in air, the world coming to life around me as I gulped. I could hear voices

‘the river has fed already this season’

‘it’s getting’ greedy, it should not take another’

‘hush yourself, she’s coming round’

I opened my eyes to see boots in front of me. Then they became knees and I managed to turn my head to see a man wearing a flat cap kneeling next to me, whiskey brown eyes creased at the corners.

‘You all right, lass?’

I tried to speak but my throat was raw, so I nodded instead. He had dark curling hair peeking out from the edges of the cap and was probably no older than I was, yet he was speaking to me as though I were a child.

‘Help her sit up.’

This was another voice, then an arm was under my shoulder and I was pushed into a sitting position. My chest hurt, my throat was on fire and I was shivering uncontrollably.

But I was alive.

To be continued…

To read more responses to the prompt, or add one of your own, visit Sue’s blog 🙂

An Observation, Part 5 – A Glimpse of Snow


It was a hot Melbourne day, the kind where the air is heavy and damp before 9am, holding the city hostage until a cool change blows in from the west. I was waiting for a train at one of the red brick rail stations so ubiquitous in the inner city, federation bungalows and Victorian houses backing onto the tracks. If it weren’t for the prickly pear and palm trees lining the embankments and the sticky, overbearing heat, you could almost be in old England, wrought iron arches and curving brickwork evoking somewhere half a world away. Perhaps that was what they wanted, the architects of this city by the bay – a reminder of faraway home.

I sat on a bench in the shade as I waited for my train to arrive, fanning myself with my hand, though all it did was move the warm air around. The platform was almost deserted. The only other occupant was a tiny old lady with a wrinkled face and improbably black hair, dressed in dark layers that looked stifling in the heat, her small feet stuffed into black shoes. She came to sit next to me and I smiled at her. She smiled back, flash of bright eyes in her lined face.

‘Hot day,’ she said, her strongly accented English betraying her European roots.

I nodded. ‘Sure is.’

‘Where you from?’ she said, lifting her chin at me.

‘Canada,’ I said. It was my answer at the time, my most recent address before coming to Melbourne, the twang in my voice giving me away.

‘Ohh,’ she said, nodding. ‘It’s cold there. Lots of snow.’

I think I said something about how nice it would be to have some snow as we both wilted in the heat, air shimmering on the tracks nearby.

She agreed then leaned in, as though about to share a confidence.

‘When I was a little girl in Italy, we sometimes have snow. Not very often, but I remember one time when I was at school. Our classroom had a balcony with big doors and we all ran out to touch the snow as it fell. When the teacher called us back in, we threw snowballs at her.’

Then she giggled, her legs swinging back and forth like the little girl she used to be, transporting both of us back to a place where snow fell and children laughed. Eventually the train came and we both went on to our destinations – I never saw her at the station again. But I always remembered her story, the small glimpse she gave a stranger of snow on a hot day.