Saturday, 15 September 2012

William's Heart in Hearts of England

Out today is the Hearts of England Anthology, featuring six stories set in England and written by British authors. The anthology includes stories from Chris Quinton, Lisa Worrall, RJ Scott, Sue Brown, SA Meade and Meredith Russell.

William's Heart is set in Stratford upon Avon, and follows Jude, a British photography student, and Brody, an American writer. From their awkward first meeting to the start of a relationship, this is a story about two men searching for inspiration, and finding each other.

Excerpt from William's Heart

 Chapter 1

 "Nana, come and see!" The young child tugged at the sleeve of her grandmother's coat and shifted impatiently from one foot to the other. She waved toward the river, excited to see two large swans standing at the water's edge. One of the swans stood to its full height and spread its wings out wide. The elegant bird let out a throaty noise as it flapped its wings, causing a plume of soft, white feathers to fall away and float to the ground.

Jude Jennings pointed his Nikon camera at the girl and digitally captured the moment. The young girl was wide-eyed in awe of the oversized birds, and he admired her innocent fascination. Briefly, he dipped the camera and smiled. The world was a magical place when viewed through the eyes of a child.

Looking through the viewer, he slowly adjusted the focus and zoomed in so her face filled the shot. He guessed she was maybe three or four years old as she was out in the middle of a school day. Short blonde curls hung from beneath her pink sunhat and framed her face. Her blue eyes were bright as she laughed excitedly. She was a sweet little thing.

Taking the shot, Jude lowered his camera and looked down at the screen. He took a moment to examine the half-dozen images of the swans, the girl, and her grandmother. The mid-April sunshine provided unique lighting and the warmth of the day radiated from the people within the pictures. April was a strange month for weather and lighting. It was unpredictable at best. In a single month the UK had seen snow, rain, and sunshine. He looked around the park he was sitting in. Today was a brilliant, almost summer-like day, and the weather had brought out an eclectic mix of people.

Both locals and visitors filled the large open space adjacent to the River Avon. Scanning the river bank, he tried to guess a little about his subjects. On the grass, lying on two huge blankets was a group of five scantily-dressed teenagers. He figured, like him, they were from the college. Two of the girls in the group were making notes from an oversized textbook, a third was trying to angle an electronic tablet to read in the sunlight, and the two guys they were with seemed far more interested in getting themselves a tan.

There were teenagers in school uniforms playing football, an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand through the park, each seasoned line on their faces creasing as they stopped and smiled at each other before sharing a kiss.

Jude then spotted a solitary man on a park bench staring out across the water. Against the backdrop of greenery and the reflective surface of the water, the image was stunning. Jude raised his camera and zoomed in, watching the man and grabbing a few shots.

There was a quiet stillness about the way he was just sitting there, staring across the water with clear, green eyes. He was stunning. An open journal lay across his lap. A pen was in his hand, though he didn't seem to be writing anything. He seemed lost, deep in thought, and surrounded by an air of sadness that made Jude's heart ache for him. What was the guy looking at?

Moving the camera, he focused on the building on the opposite side of the river—the theatre. Jude stared at the theatre thoughtfully. He saw no beauty in the orange brick and metal building. Slowly, he turned to gaze at the man sitting on the bench. He tried to imagine what it was the guy saw that he couldn't. People were inspired by different things, and Jude was most inspired by the people who filled his world. There was so much colour and so many different characters and emotions. He marvelled how a single still image could convey so much. Sometimes it was overwhelming.

Adjusting the focus, he snapped a series of images, the last of which left him flustered and hurriedly looking away, as inquisitive, green eyes stared directly down the lens. Did the guy see him? Embarrassed, Jude desperately tried to find something, anything, to look at instead.

At the start of his course his tutor had issued a sheet on the legal stuff about taking photos in public places. So long as he wasn't getting in people's faces, harassing them, peering in bedroom windows, or using images for dodgy stuff, then they were all fair game. He started flicking through the sheets of paper and jotters he carried with him. The sheet was somewhere in one of his bags, he was sure of it.

Just as quickly as he began his search, he stopped, suddenly aware of the shadow that had fallen over him. Someone was behind him. Shit. Hesitantly, with his hand still inside the first of his bags, he looked over his shoulder at a pair of black trainers, protruding from frayed, wide-legged dark jeans. Damn.

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