#Blogbattle – Iridescent – When The Moon Is Full

IMG_1368It’s Tuesday, and time for Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle. The rules are simple – each week you get a prompt, a genre and have 1000 words to write a response, which has to be posted on the following Tuesday. This week’s prompt was Iridescent, and the genre was Fairy Tale. Here’s my take:

When The Moon Is Full

Once upon a time, when the world was younger, there lived a boy. Tall and lean he was, his skin nut brown over strong muscles, his clothes as tattered as the leaves among which he lived.

No darkness came to stain his days – he was warm and well-fed, the forest providing all that he needed. He roamed along paths he knew like he knew the feel of his skin, or the sound of his breath as he lay alone at night. And as he roamed he hunted, gathering his crop.

But no nuts cracked between his strong white teeth, no berries stained his lips, no blood flowed across his long fingers. Instead, he gathered memories. Bubble light, floating untethered around sleeping travellers taking their rest beneath tangled branches. They would wake unaware that anything had been taken, only a mild headache marring their day as they travelled on to the road beyond the trees.

And so the boy leapt and ran, graceful as any stag, through glowing leaves and past ancient stones, the precious memories tethered to him, dancing like fireflies in the dark of night. When he reached the tree he called home he would sink down among the roots and close his eyes, savouring the sounds and thoughts as they washed over him, nourishing his soul.

But one night, something changed. The moon was full, a golden globe sailing above the treetops, shining through the branches to pick out white flowers like stars dotted along the path. Around him the forest was lush and green with spring, the scent of flower and foliage strong enough to send a man mad. But he drank it in, the wildness of the night running through his veins. Then he saw her.

Dressed in velvet green as the leaves on which she lay, curled at the edge of a small pond. Her long hair was the dark brown of tree bark, her skin golden as his own. He stopped, entranced by her curves, by the rise and fall of her breast as she slept, one slender hand outflung. A bubble of memory appeared, fragile and feather light, floating around her head.

He reached out to take it, all at once desperate to have one small piece of her beauty. But when he touched the bubble her eyes came open and she stared at him. Green, her eyes were, iridescent in the moonlight like dragonfly wings, the pupils night dark. He heard her voice in his head.

‘You have taken something that belongs to me.’

He said nothing, frozen in place, the bubble floating around him like guilt.

‘It’s not right to steal, you know.’

Still he said nothing. He did not know what to do.

‘What is your name?’ She stared up at him, lips dark crimson.

He found his voice. ‘I don’t know.’ He did not.

She frowned, her head tilting to one side. ‘Do you remember nothing?’

The boy thought for a moment. “I have no memories except for those I steal.’

‘Then let me remind you.’

She stood, like a snake uncoiling, and reached for the bubble tethered to the boy, taking it back. As the tether broke he gasped. And he remembered.

He had been sent here, not so long ago. A gift from another realm. But it was not memories he was supposed to steal. It was pain, easing the path of the weary travellers as they passed through the woods. But in his youth and haste he had forgotten, taking memories instead.

‘Do you see?’ Her voice was the whisper of wind through branches, her perfume apple blossom, earthy and sweet.

He nodded, tears in his eyes. ‘I – I am sorry.’

‘Hush,’ she said, coming close to lay one finger gently on his lips. ‘You were young, and you did not know any better. I should have helped you before.’

‘Who are you?’ he whispered.

She smiled, her face close to his. ‘I am the forest,’ she replied. ‘And you are mine.’

***

It is said that the woods bordering the two lands, where the road passes between the trees, is a place of wonder and beauty, where a man might find rest in the most difficult times. It is also said that a spirit lives among the trees, as beautiful as Spring itself, her companion tall and strong.

And sometimes, on a night when the moon is full, they can be seen dancing in the glades, as close together as two vines twisting, their sighs echoing until dawn.

 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Fifteen – Witness

IMG_1084It’s day fifteen, half way through the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Witness

I’d had a little flicker of an Ambeth story running through my mind and it seemed to work with this prompt, the idea of the trees as silent witnesses being quite insistent. If you’ve read the books, you may recognise the incident described here – it was mentioned at the start of book three, though without much detail. But I felt it an important part of the story, nonetheless. Even though I’ve written Ambeth in third person, this story came to me in first person, as though Alma wanted me to tell it through her voice.

Tangled Woods

Walking through the park I pulled my scarf closer around my neck, hunching my shoulders against the cold. The wind flicked at my hair, red strands dancing in front of my eyes. I blinked, putting my head down as I kept going, the cold of the path coming through the soles of my sneakers.

My backpack was light but I felt it like a weight upon my back, similar to the one in my chest, an ever-present mass of loss and guilt and sorrow. As I passed two oak trees I flinched, moving further away and almost treading on a small dog who had somehow managed to get underfoot. ‘Sorry,’ I mumbled, stepping over it as it danced and leapt at my legs, paws sliding on my jeans.

Taking another path I headed through the centre of the park past a small café built of grey stone, a few hardy customers still sitting outside at the tables despite the chill in the air. The light was fading, the trees stretching leafless to a sullen purpling sky. It suited me, this weather. There was no light left in me anymore, warm days in sunlit woods and on golden beaches now distant memories too painful to revisit.

At the other side of the park a tall hedge bounded tangled woodland, beyond which the road ran. There were big houses hidden among the trees further along, but this little piece of wild wood was still part of the park. Not many people went in, choosing instead to stick to the well-marked paths and ornamental gardens, or the wide green expanses of grass. But I knew it well, my friends and I playing there when we were younger, emerging dusted with sweet-smelling hawthorn in spring, muddy and damp in autumn. But I was not there to play today.

At a gap in the hedge I turned, taking a muddy path into the woods. Pushing through branches I stepped over brambles, thorns catching at my jacket and hands, leaving faint red marks. I pushed away the memory of when I’d last been in a wood, choking down the terror that accompanied it. There was nothing that could harm me here except my own thoughts. Eventually the path ended in a small natural clearing sheltered by a beech tree. I knelt down, not caring about the mud, and unslung my pack from my back. Then I started digging.

My hands scraped through leaf mulch and soil, the damp grit of it catching beneath my nails as I scrabbled at the cold earth. Finally the hole was big enough. I sat back, wiping my hands on my jeans and leaving muddy streaks. My breath was starting to hitch in my chest, my vision to blur, but I had to do this. Unzipping my pack I took out a small bundle of cream coloured paper, rough edged, and another smaller silk bundle that jangled faintly in the darkening wood. I held them for a moment, then put them into the hole, dark crumbs of soil staining the cream paper, clotting on the coloured silk. All at once I became angry, red fury in me as I pushed and smashed at the dirt, wanting to cover the bundles beyond all finding. Then they were gone. I sobbed, my throat raw, tears dropping hot onto the cold leaves and tumbled earth as I rubbed at my wrist with my other hand, a small patch of red roughened skin a permanent reminder of all that I’d lost.

Eventually I stood, wiping my face, running hands through my hair. I was covered with mud but didn’t care. I just wanted to go home, to leave the trees that stood as silent witness to my pain. There were too many memories, still, in the woods. I wanted no more of them.

Pushing through the trees once more I found the path and started for home. Though my pack was now lighter, the weight was still the same. Perhaps it always would be.


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 Four – Mirror

img_3257It’s day four of the 30 day writing challenge, and today’s prompt is: Mirror.

I had a few different thoughts about how to approach this prompt, but the lines from Tennyson’s Lady Of Shalott kept playing over and over in my head, and so I felt I needed to share them. These particular lines describe Sir Lancelot as he rode across the river running past the mysterious Lady’s tower, his beauty and song luring her from her loom to the window, whereupon she was cursed. The Lady had a mirror as well, a magical one that showed her all the sights of the world as she sat alone in her chambers – when the (unspecified) curse came upon her, it ‘crack’d from side to side.’ Seven years bad luck indeed!

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
From ‘The Lady of Shalott’, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
While describing water as a crystal mirror these days can be seen (with apologies to Tennyson) as a rather over-used simile, I do think it apt. I love the effect of reflection on water, showing us another world in reverse. As above, so below. I’ve taken a few reflection photos in my wanders, so here are some more, courtesy of the ‘crystal mirror.’img_4273img_2093img_0150
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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.

Found Objects – Horseshoe

A few months ago, I mentioned in a post that we were digging out an old raised vegetable bed at the end of our garden, in preparation for a new garden room/shed and decked area. In the course of the excavation our daughter was pottering around, poking through the piles of earth and rubble for items of interest – coloured stones, bits of old pottery, a small plastic teacup all taking her interest. Then, more recently, she found this:

IMG_2311 It’s a horseshoe, obviously. At least, I think it is. Rusty, with most of the nails still in place, and surprisingly light. But it seems a bit smaller than the average horseshoe:

IMG_2315 As you can see, it would easily sit on the palm of my hand, and I’m not a woman with freakishly large hands or anything. So now it’s got me thinking. Our house was built in the 1930s, but before that this area was all forest, running along the valley to what was then a small village about two miles away.

I wonder whether it came from a small pony, perhaps belonging to a child. Or a dainty palfrey, mount of a lady. Or something else altogether. Potential stories abound. Whoever the mysterious rider was, it must have been annoying to have their horse lose a shoe in the middle of the woods.

And now, however many years later, it’s turned up again. So, horse-y bloggers out there, what do you think? Is this a rather small horseshoe? Or is it normal size? While I love horses, I’ve never spent any great amount of time with them, so would love to know more.

 

Getting Ready for Camp NaNo

If you go down in the woods today...
If you go down in the woods today…

I was going to write ‘It’s Monday.’ Then I realised that it’s Tuesday. The Bank Holiday has thrown me off a little, the week already starting without me realising.

It’s only a few days till I head to my virtual cabin for Camp NaNoWriMo. We have a full cabin, twelve writers in all, and our cabin name is The Wordcount Slayers. Some of the writers I already know, the rest I’m sure I’ll get to know over the next month of writing and commiserating as we slog towards our word count targets.

Camp NaNoWriMo is slightly different to November NaNoWriMo in that you can set your own word count target. Mine is 30,000 words and I’m planning on seeing how far I can get with Silver and Black, my vampire story that’s been arriving in bits and pieces. I have a bit of an outline now and I can feel the characters gearing up, ready to tell their tale. Kyle in particular has been pacing around, impatient to be unleashed upon the page.

Now that may sound quite odd, but I’ve had a few comment conversations recently about the fact that I am a Pantser. Stories come to me with characters, I’m given a few key events and then away we go, the characters pulling me along with them as a sort of scribe, or perhaps a director in that I give them some ideas of what I want from the scene, then they go with it. Or not, as is often the case. I feel quite strongly about my characters as well, wanting to tell their stories as best I’m able, that their voices be heard. After all, they decided to come to me, so it’s only fair I do my best to accommodate them.

So, April will be a month of vampires for me although, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away, these vampires are perhaps a little different than the accepted mythology. At least, I think they are. And my blogging schedule may suffer a little, depending on how the word count and school holidays pan out, so please do bear with me. Scheduled programming will resume, as they say, in May.

See you on the other side!

Sue Vincent – Writing Prompt – The Fairy Door

It’s Thursday, so I normally post a door as part of Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge (and I may yet still, it’s Thursday for a little while longer yet). But Sue Vincent over at  The Daily Echo posted a writing prompt based on this picture she took of a mysterious door in a stone wall, and it inspired me to do something a little different.

hobbit-door

Sue asked that we use a hundred words or less to describe what we think lies beyond the door. I started writing a poem, for some reason – it arrived quite quickly and so, here it is:

Beyond the door the pathway waits,

Through trees and tiny fairy gates,

Lined with velvet petals sweet

Mosses soft beneath your feet

Branches whisper as you pass

Trailing fingers through long grass

Singing sigh of leaves that fall

As you approach the elven hall

Twigs like fingers pull your hair

Vines appearing from thin air

To wrap you in a green embrace

Leaves to cover up your face

Music lulls you deeper still

Pulled into the fairy hill

There to spend your final hours

Bound amongst the scattered flowers

So take the pathway if you dare

You know not what you’ll find in there…

Hmmm. Well, it started off very sweetly but got a bit darker towards the end. Plus it is slightly over 100 words – I hope you don’t mind, Sue!

If you’re feeling inspired, head over to Sue’s blog and add your own response to her photo – the challenge is open until March 1st.

 

A Productive Day

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Yesterday was a fairly productive day, as these things go.

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I had an appointment in a nearby village and afterwards the woods seemed to be calling me. The sun was shining and it was one of those cold clear days, so I followed the call through bare trees and evergreens, photographing velvety moss clothing trees in winter splendour, sun shining pale gold above.

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Refreshed, I went home and managed to finish A Thousand Rooms, the book I posted about on Monday. I ended up having to add about four thousand words to complete it, the final scenes already mapped out and expanding onto the page. And when it was done I had that feeling again, the one you get when the story is finished, the tale told. Your comments and feedback really helped as well, giving me the impetus I needed to get things done, so thank you 🙂 The next step is sending it out to beta readers.

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And, to end my productive day, I received a call from a contact. I’d done some speculative work for him last year, for a project he was trying to get backing for. The character is unlike anyone else I’ve ever written, yet she came to me quite clear not long after our first meeting, waking me with a head full of words that I had to write down. So the phone call was to tell me that things were moving along, and ended with us arranging to meet and discuss the next stages. If it takes off, it will be quite exciting. But that’s all I can say about it for now.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend xx