Down By The Canal

It’s getting warmer here, summer finally on its way. Not quite as hot as the European mainland, sweltering in 40 degrees plus, but we are set to top 30 degrees on Saturday, which is quite warm for this little green isle.

I’ve lived in hotter places, but no longer have the benefit of a sea breeze to cool things down. So instead, I like to walk along the canal path, where willows dip over shaded water, and the air always feels a couple of degrees cooler.

Where an open gate leads to an old pub, and a cool drink on green grass. And where my canine companion can cool off her paws before the long walk back home.

Not a bad place to be, on a warm summer’s day.


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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A Ramble In More Ways Than One

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week! Not because I didn’t have anywhere to write about, but because I’ve been deep into Ambeth these past two weeks, doing a fine toothcomb edit of Under Stone, the fourth instalment in the series. The story has taken me over again and I’ve been immersed fully into it, emerging only to eat, sleep, go to work and take care of my (slightly bemused) family. Oh, and watch Game of Thrones, of course, because DRACARYS – how good was the last episode? It took me a day to recover, I swear.

However, last night I edited the final word in the final chapter, and so this morning I decided to take a break and walk to work along the canal, something I’ve not had the chance to do for a few weeks. Not much had changed along there – it was still green, lush branches almost trailing in the still water in some places, creating archways over the slightly muddy path. There were more ripe blackberries than before, reminding me to bring a container next time I walk that way, their juicy goodness destined for my freezer and winter pies. But mostly, it was just the same.

And that was just what I needed. A reminder of the real world. Not so far removed from the green gardens and hidden pathways of Ambeth, but real enough. The grey heron was in his usual spot on the fallen tree at the widest part of the canal, preening his feathers in the sunshine. Canada geese, ducks and swans sailed past, silver fish jumped, canal boats reflected in the dark waters. As I walked I felt in some way as though I were waking up again, from a self-imposed slumber where all I did was dream of another land.

This afternoon after work I watched the gorgeous girl in a show, caught up with friends and had dinner with my family. Later, I might take my tea and sit in the garden as dusk falls, watching the sky change colour and listening to the rustle of birds as I cradle my cup close, enjoying the warmth. The nights are cool, even though it’s August, a hint of autumn around the corner, my favourite time of year. The Perseid meteor shower is happening now, with the peak expected this weekend. If I can, I’ll sit out and watch the stars fall – I did so years ago, driving out to the countryside and sitting in the darkness, light streaking across the sky above. I’ve never forgotten it.

And then it’s back to work. A final edit, some work on the cover design and a few other related items, as well as another story begging to be completed. There are blog posts to write, as well, people to visit in their online domains. But for tonight I think I’ll just sit and consider, taking a moment to breathe and remember who I am before I dive back in again.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend 🙂


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.

A Nice Day For A Walk

I haven’t walked to work along the canal for the past couple of weeks. Early starts and unusual weather have meant I’ve not been able to do so. But this past Friday I managed to get myself organised and headed down the hill, backpack on, looking forward to the walk.

It takes me just over half an hour to get to the office when I walk, and it’s a time for me to think and clear my head. The canal, despite being close to a main road and crossed by a major trainline, is a quiet place. Birds sing, water laps, leaves rustle. It is green and lush at this time of year, the water still and smooth.

Cows were beneath the hawthorn trees, and the tiny cygnets I’d seen only weeks ago were now almost swans (although still very fluffy).

The old tree stump seat was almost overgrown with brambles and nettles, while the roses growing up the side of the old lock-keeper’s cottage had bloomed.

There were new boats moored along the way, some of them with bright potted gardens and unusual decorations.

I also found some fragments of pottery, blue and white. Probably over a hundred years old, little pieces of history tumbled among the flint and gravel, treasure to no one but me.

Along one stretch I walk on a narrow strip of land, the canal to one side of me and, hidden beyond a hedge, an angler’s lake to the other side. It’s an interesting feeling, almost like walking on water, even though I know the earth beneath me is solid.

I also found inspiration on my walk, a couple of blog posts and some more plotlines coming to me. I’ve been missing my old freedom these past few months – while I’m enjoying my new job and all that comes with it, I miss the time I had in the past to just walk and think. So I’ll make sure to do the canal walk regularly from now on.———————————————————————————————-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.

 

Book Review – The Finding Of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

“Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…”

Welcome to the charming, quirky world of Martha Lost. A world of lost things, including Martha, set within the confines of Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

It’s the summer of 1976 and teenage Martha has been at the station since she was a baby, abandoned in the lost property office where she was taken in by the proprietor, the rather unpleasant Mother. Her life is bounded by the station, for, like a modern day Lady of Shalott, she’s been told that if she ever sets foot outside the station it will collapse into the earth, destroying it utterly.

So Martha lives her life under the glass atrium, twirling across the platforms and concourse, interacting with the other residents, some obvious, some not so much. Until a series of events forces her into finding out the secrets of her lost past.

The Finding of Martha Lost is a sweet dream of a book, all cakes and characters and the innocence of youth. Yet there are threads of darkness in Martha’s world. Abuse, loss, death and shame twine with the lighter themes of her story to add a touch of gritty realness and, when the real world intrudes into her life with the arrival of an Australian adventurer carrying a mythical lost case of Beatles memorabilia, events build to breaking point and Martha finds she is no longer lost.

This is a book about the families we build, rather than the ones we are born into, and of how damaged souls can help each other to heal. Martha Lost combines whimsical storytelling with real events and a touch of magic to create a tale that lingers with the reader long after the last page is turned.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received my copy of Finding Martha Lost through NetGalley. All reviews and opinions are my own.

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.

Of Blackberries and Back To School

IMG_3404The gorgeous girl started back at school today. I know, it’s odd to start back on a Friday, but that’s how the school has chosen to schedule it this year (I think we get an extra day off somewhere else). And it’s kind of nice, in a way. Only one day at school means that, after the shock of an early start this morning, we then have the weekend to recover and get ready for the week ahead. And it wasn’t so bad. We even left the house early – though a blister from the new school shoes meant our walk was a bit slower than usual.

IMG_3389And now I miss her. I know I write about this every time she goes back to school, but it’s true. For me the end of summer holidays is bittersweet. I miss the golden days, the feeling of having no schedule and nowhere particular to be. I miss the time spent with her, because I know that next summer she will be different, and the older she gets the less likely it is she’ll want to hang out with me. Ever since she started school I’ve felt this way. Still, I count my blessings and get on with things.

And I do have a lot to get on with. Work needs to pick up again, so I will be getting back to writing and pitching and formatting, getting my next book ready to publish. There’s promotion and scheduling and all that stuff, plus catching up with my bloggy pals and seeing what you’ve all been up to over the summer.

IMG_3412So what have I done today, on my first day alone since July? I went blackberrying. I do this every year, and usually make a big batch of jam then freeze the leftover berries, perfect for crumbles and cheesecakes through the winter months. And I did well. I took four containers with me, which I thought was a bit optimistic, but honestly, I could have filled a couple more. The berries were huge, hanging in clusters almost like grapes and falling into my hands. I have the first batch of jam on the go right now, the rest of the berries washed and bagged and into the freezer.

So. This is a bit of a rambling post, but it’s been a bit of a rambling day, wandering the country lanes. I’m away this weekend, then Monday will see me back to work. Looking forward to it!

And what have you been up to? Is it back to school in your world? Or are you simply lamenting the end of summer? Happy weekend, everyone 🙂