#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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Birthday Bug

I haven’t blogged for about a week, probably the longest break I’ve had since I started blogging just over three years ago. We’ve had a bit of a sickness bug in the house this past week, plus the gorgeous girl had a birthday with various celebrations to plan and enjoy, so it’s been a very busy time.

I even missed my Wednesday Wander last week – I had all good intentions of writing one, but the day just ran away with me. However, I have one planned for tomorrow so will be back to it again.

I haven’t even been able to get out for my usual walks – and I love this time of year. I love the way the sun slants low in the sky, the colours in the clouds and the trees, the last remnants of colour before the starkness of winter arrives. My apple tree still has a few forlorn apples left on it, and there are berries on the bushes – early Christmas decorations, perhaps?

I’ve also been flat out finishing some editing work – Ambeth is getting another instalment soon, as well as some different reading options, so watch this space (or sign up for my newsletter!) for more details.

Hoping to be back to a regular blogging schedule again soon. How is everyone out there? Wishing you all a good week 🙂

 

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.

A Wild Ride

IMG_0950I tried this whole planning thing. Honestly, I really did. I spent ages making little chart-y things and tables, planning my blog posts and work weeks and monthly goals. I tried writing out chapter lists and character arcs and tying them all together into some sort of marvellous grid that would become a whole big story.

But planning doesn’t work for me.

I’ve always been a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl. The kind of person who’d rather say ‘I tried’ than ‘I wish I’d tried’, then jumps in and gives it a go. Sometimes this ends in failure. Sometimes it ends in triumph. Sometimes it leads to somewhere quite unexpected.

When I worked for other people I was very organised. The fast pace of advertising meant I had to be, starting the day with a list of things which, despite the amount of time I spent crossing them off, seemed longer by the time I went home. I’ve always worked hard, trying to learn something and take away a positive, no matter how negative the work experience (and some have been quite negative). I don’t like being late for things, I run my household pretty tightly, and I’m quite good at prioritising.

But planning isn’t really my thing.

img_0384I think about the future, of course I do. I have a child and a mortgage and an idea of where I’d like to end up. But I’ve learned that life can pick you up and shake you around like dice in a jar, tipping you out to land as fortune takes you. And so, while I squirrel away my hopes like nuts in case of winter, I’m aware that winter might come in quite a different form than I imagined, and so the only thing I can really be prepared for is change.

See? I can’t even plan this post. I had meant to write about the festoons of post-it notes that have replaced my carefully typed lists, the piles of paperwork and scraps of scribbled notes, all of which have a twisted sort of order in my own mind but nowhere else, a system only my brain can understand. I wanted to write about the fact that, when I tell a story, I can forget about planning any part of it other than the main events, as the characters will pull me along in their wake, typing as fast as I can to keep up with their actions. And that I love, absolutely love, the wild ride of it, the feeling of discovery as the story unfolds around me like the petals of a flower.

IMG_0806But instead my mind and tapping fingers have taken me outside the cluttered confines of my desk, pointing out that planning really isn’t something that’s worked out for me, in many aspects of my life. And that I can waste time formatting documents and printing up checklists all I want, but when the jar begins to shake again I’d better be ready for where I’m going to land. That life itself is wild and organic and that I am a dancing leaf on the wind – I can fight it, try and organise it into charts and boxes, or I can simply go along with it to wherever it takes me, bringing all that I have, all that I am, along for the ride.


Note: I wrote this post yesterday when I was still feeling a little shaken for several reasons. I’m not quite so fey as it sounds – I do work hard and focus on what I want to achieve. But setting concrete plans, beyond a couple of big things, is something that has never really worked for me – as soon as I do so the universe has a way of demonstrating that it has other plans for me…

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!

 

 

Photo Prompt – By The River

stairwell

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 🙂

Pictures In The Clouds

It’s a blustery, blowy sort of day here, grey clouds scudding across a silvery sky. Rain is expected later, though I’d much prefer snow. It’s the kind of day when treetops swirl and clouds create shapes, leaves and litter dancing along damp pavements. Much like another winter day, when I saw a dragon in the sky…

This is the post I wrote at the time. Wonder what I’ll see in the clouds today?

IMG_1137

The other week I saw a dragon in the sky.

Outstretched wings, a long curving neck, all gleaming golden beauty.

‘Do I need to build a windlance?’ I thought.

And then, as I struggled with cold fingers to get my phone unlocked, the dragon drifted and changed, the sky taking him away.

But I think, perhaps, I caught him. No black arrow required.

🙂

Also, has anyone else had trouble with WordPress comments? I tried to comment on a few blogs last night, but the comments stubbornly refused to appear when I pressed ‘Post Comment.’ Haven’t tried yet today, so I hope it’s fixed.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!