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.


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Wednesday Wander – Watchet, Somerset

This little harbour town in Somerset is has neither the fame of San Francisco nor the glamour of Biarritz, yet it is where I’m wandering this week.

Watchet is a charming place with an ancient history, situated at the mouth of the River Severn. An Iron age hill-fort nearby, later re-fortified by Alfred the Great, is said to be the origin of the settlement, with the harbour originally named Gow Coed by the Celts, meaning ‘under the wood’. Across the water lie the misty hills of Wales and it is from the harbour, looking at the view, that Coleridge is said to have been inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A statue marks the spot, the Ancient Mariner and his albatross together for eternity.

We stayed in a pink-painted cottage with a view of the sea, walking the cobbled streets to the local pub or fish and chip shop, wandering the bric-a-brac and antique stores (where I scored an excellent pair of vintage boots).

A trip to the nearby beach produced further treasure in the shape of fossils – ammonites and oyster shells frozen in time for millions of years, tumbled among the stones that lined the shore.

As we walked back from the beach we took a bramble-lined path running between the trainline and the sea. In the 19th century, Watchet was a centre of the industrialised paper industry, its products travelling country-wide. Now the tracks are used by commuters and sightseers, and it was a rather special day. The famous Flying Scotsman steam train was in town, taking people on journeys through the beautiful green countryside. People lined the tracks to watch it pass, and so did we.

We had only a couple of days in Watchet, yet it made an impression that lingers, of hidden houses down curving streets, distant hills and fossil beaches, and water that changes with the sky and tides. I hope to go back there one day…

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 – Sanur, Bali

sanurThe winter weather has been pretty cold and dismal of late, so I thought I’d wander to an island paradise, at least in spirit. This is Sanur, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Sanur is located on the opposite side of the island from busy Kuta and, as I remember it, is a much more relaxed sort of place. The beaches are long, the water shimmering, the view one of purple mountains and a cloud-hung volcano. We didn’t stay at Sanur – rather, we were staying in another part of the island but, on the day we visited, red-sailed boats dotted the water, the sun shone, and the wind off the water was warm.

Apart from being Bali’s oldest beach resort area, Sanur is also home to the oldest Balinese artifact, a pillar in the Blanjong Temple inscribed with the story of a Javanese king who visited the island in the tenth century. I didn’t get to see the temple, but plan to visit next time I’m lucky enough to wander to this lush green island.

balinese-figure-1Thanks 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 @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty One – Everybody (also, A Wednesday Wander)

It’s day twenty one of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Everybody.

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The beach near my old house in Australia

It’s also Wednesday, which means I’ll be taking a wander. However, in line with the prompt, this wander will be slightly different in that I’ll be trying to answer a question that just about everybody asks me, once they hear I’ve moved back to England from Australia. And the question is: Why did I leave Australia to come back here?

The short answer is: because my husband’s work brought us over here. But there is more to it than that.

Melbourne and the Yarra River

Melbourne and the Yarra River

In the UK, Australia seems to be sold as a sort of dream destination, an island paradise with white beaches and blue water and a cruisy outdoor lifestyle, where wages are double or almost triple that for the same job in the UK. The people look the same, speak the same language, the cities are comfortably cosmopolitan and it’s just sun, sun, sun all year round. People cannot believe I would leave such a place to come to a small green island that, according to some, gets more than its fair share of rain.

A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child

A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child.

Don’t get me wrong – Australia is a fantastic place. I lived there for seventeen years. My husband is Australian. Our daughter was born there. I have a great deal of love for and fond memories of both Melbourne and Sydney, as well as all the other places I visited. It’s a beautiful country and a lot of people who I love live there.

London

London

Yet, there was always a part of me that longed for mist and green grass and ancient buildings. For cold Christmases and tiny villages, rain-soaked high streets and cool mountains. A part of me that never quite felt at home among the brilliant sunshine and blue water. I remember coming back for a visit to the UK just over nine years ago. We were flying over the coast heading towards London and I looked out of the airplane window. The sun was just rising and I could see the Thames like a silver ribbon, winding inland. My husband leaned over to look out as well, then said to me, ‘How does it feel, coming back here?’ I watched the green landscape unfold beneath us and said, ‘Like coming home.’


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.

 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Eighteen – Warning

IMG_2263It’s day eighteen of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Warning. When I read the prompt it made me think of the weather and how quickly it can change – in Melbourne they say you can experience all four seasons in one day, and when I lived there I soon learned to carry a cardigan, umbrella and sunglasses at all times.

So my response to the prompt is a cascade poem, and here it is:

Rain Dancer

Without warning

The weather changed

As we ran for cover

 

There were rumbles

From the west; clouds gathering

Without warning

 

Rain pelting down

Dark spots on bright cotton

The weather changed

 

She danced, arms wide

Rain cool on sun-warmed skin

As we ran for cover.


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.

Tea, Updates and Vampire Stories

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I know there’s a weekly thing where bloggers catch up as though having coffee, a conversational get-together with updates from the past week. I’m more of a tea drinker, myself, so, if we were having tea, this is what I’d tell you:

So, this happened yesterday.

Yay! I reached my 30,000 word target with Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on of late. It’s far from finished, of course, but I have a good framework in place, as well as the knowledge of where the story needs to go and what the characters have to achieve, so I’m pleased, overall. I’m still thinking about serialising the whole thing on my blog, as the response to the small snippets I’ve posted so far has been pretty good.

The weather here this week has been quite mad, one minute bright sunshine, then the next snow and ice falling from a clear blue sky. At one point last week we were walking through the park on the top of the hill where we live, and all around us, in almost a perfect circle, I could see vast towering grey and white clouds dumping rain and ice, while above us the sky was blue. A bit of Spring weather madness, I guess. But the tide seems to be turning, so to speak, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecast for next week – with May Day just around the corner, this is welcome news.

And I’m also expecting, finally, to be able to publish Hills and Valleys, the third instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles. I knew I was cursing myself by putting a publishing date at the end of No Quarter, and so it came to pass that the whole thing has taken longer than planned. However, the plus side of that has been more time to finetune the book, including finding (and fixing) a small continuity error. Plus, my editor thinks this is the strongest instalment yet, so it’s been worth doing the extra work. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, I guess.

And now it’s the Bank Holiday weekend. Rain is forecast, as is expected, though at the moment we have brilliant sunshine. The gorgeous girl had an excellent school report this week so, as a reward, I’m taking her to one of her favourite places, a craft store where she can do a project in store. They provide the paint, glue, apron and workspace then, for a small fee, she can choose something from the shelves or pottery collection and create a masterpiece. We are also going to visit The Treasure Box, the magical store I wrote about in a previous blog post, where she will no doubt spend time rummaging through the ribbons and buttons, looking for treasure.

Other than that, we’re planning to let the weekend unfold as it will, plans subject to change, depending on the weather. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that the sun shines on you, wherever you are. 🙂

 

 

The Big Sky

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The weather seemed to reflect my mood today.

It was all over the place. Rain was spattering my sunglasses, but I needed them against the bright sunlight coming from behind the clouds. As I emerged onto the park at the top of the hill, the sky opened up around me, grey rain and darkness to one side, blue sky and sunshine above, then rain again.

Because it’s been a funny sort of day. I’m just going through the formatting on my second book, plus I’ve some other writing work to do. I also connected with a dear friend today about collaborating on another writing project. And for the life of me, I couldn’t settle on one thing to write about.

I tried one of Mel’s Writing Menagerie prompts, and ended up with a short (unfinished) piece about being an artist’s model. At least, I think that’s what’s happening, but knowing me it could end up anywhere. I also added and amended some sections in my book, seeing where they were needed as the formatting was completed. I might have spent a bit of time on Twitter. I know I spent a bit of time trying to catch up with everyone’s blogs – though I’m still a bit behind. I uploaded my cover template, ready to be added once the manuscript was finalised. I checked the numbers on my free Kindle downloads, and printed out some royalty reports for the tax office.

Like the weather, I was all over the place.

And yet, as I came up over the hill and saw the sky, I felt like it was going to be okay. That I just need to stick with it and get to the other side. The old arrow drawing back in the bow, the deep breath before the cold plunge. Publishing is like that, doubts rising to plague you as you read through your manuscript for the 8067934th time. But you just have to get on with it. And it will pass.

Like the weather.

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Oak And Mist final cover

Just a reminder – The Kindle version of Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth Chronicles, is free to download from Amazon until tomorrow! myBook.to/oakandmist