Saturday, March 26, 2011

Merry Weather Lodge

It’s funny that you should ask for a black and white photo. My husband and I were just discussing the return and popularity of black and white prints and photos. Wouldn’t you know it? Now that we have digital technology, print-on-demand and vivid color at our fingertips everyone wants black and white. While digital photography was largely responsible for the demise of the traditional back and white photo, paradoxically it’s now the catalyst that’s injecting new life into the medium.

The coy, plump little girl, dressed up to the nines, in this photograph is me. I think I was about four years old. It was taken in the woodlot beside my aunt and uncles cottage in England. The cottage is situated on Salisbury Plain, not far from the historical Stonehenge. Every summer when I was a child we would visit this quaint and mysterious place. It was called Scotland Lodge. My uncle worked as a farm hand there, for the local squire. My aunt tended the manor house.

One of the things I looked forward to the most about my holidays at this odd little cottage was spending time in the nearby woods. The trees seemed to have a life-force – a spirit of their own that beckoned me and drew me in. It was like an enchanted forest to me – a fairytale kingdom, with a sinister twist. I would spend hours there, in my own wooded sanctuary, sitting on my favorite log fantasizing, and conjuring up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters in my minds eye, as a young child, then later on paper. This wonderland was a catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy, Merryweather Lodge – Ancient Revenge. In my books I refer to it as the dreaded woodlot, as it had a paradoxical essence of both enchantment and foreboding.

I have this photo on my desk to remind me of why I am writing this story and to help me recall the essence of the place and my experiences there.

What would I say to that little girl today? Be proud of who you are…It’s okay to be different…Fantasize and daydream all you want…Go ahead and talk to your imaginary friend – she’s the only one that understands you anyway…Don’t worry about what people think or say…

Just be yourself…

The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I went back to England and revisited my childhood wonderland (the old place still emanates a strange, eerie essence) and led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy.

I have often wondered – Did my childhood fantasies create the experiences I’m having now? Or, were the fantasies a premonition of my later life?

Book excerpt….We stood at the entrance of the dreaded woodlot, windswept and weary. The giant trees seemed to beckon us, daring us to come closer. I pushed the long red strands of wispy hair off my face and swallowed hard. A tight fist formed in the pit of my stomach. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked as my bottom lip started to tremble. I wasn’t sure if I could muster up enough courage to go in there myself, now.

“It were your idea and ya want to solve the mystery don’t ya?”

“Well, yes.”

“Well, there ain’t no time like the present.” Her voice was firm and final; her countenance displayed an air of intense fortitude. She dropped her tools, took off her rugged gloves, stood in front of me, and fumbled with the silver chain around my neck pulling the pendant out from under my hoodie. “Keep this ‘ere.” she said as she patted it down on the front of my sweatshirt. Then she opened her rain coat, tugged at the inside pocket and pulled out a small bottle of what looked like whiskey. Holding it to her mouth she whipped back her head and took a generous swig. I stood in amazement, my mouth agape. I had never seen Auntie drink hard liquor before. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, let out a loud gut-wrenching burp, then handed the bottle to me. Was she serious? “I’m only fourteen, remember?” She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and went to put the bottle back into her pocket. I grabbed it from her hand and took a quick gulp. “Yuck!” Like hot lava the disgusting brown liquid burnt as it flowed down my throat and into my stomach. “How can any one drink this stuff? It should have a bone and skull on the bottle.” Auntie threw back her head and let out a hearty laugh, but she quickly regained her serious, military-like composure.

“Are you ready, Luv?” she asked as she bent down to pick up her weapons.
I felt a tad light-headed and more confident now. Putting on a brave smile, I took a deep breath and answered, “I’m ready.”

We marched into the dreaded thicket like soldiers on a mission, steadily advancing bit by bit towards the battlefield. “Find that there massive tree, girl.” Auntie said in a solemn voice as she stepped aside, allowing me to take the lead. With eyes peeled I searched for clues, something familiar that would point us in the right direction. I could feel my heart going thump, thump, thump under my sweater, fully aware of the possible danger lurking behind every tree. The rich, pungent smell of pine cones, rotting wood and damp moss rose up from the ground. The wind roared and the heavy branches of the formidable giant trees flayed around like the arms of a giant octopus. I spotted a large patch of blue bells under a chestnut tree. I was sure that I had seen them before. The perfusion of delicate blue-mauve bells was alluring but I couldn’t stop, not even for a quick sniff. It’s this way, I said pointing in the direction that looked familiar. Like a human bulldozer, Auntie pushed in front of me and ploughed her way through the dense bush, slashing at the tangled branches furiously, using her shovel as a machete. Everything started to look familiar, the towering evergreens, cascading chestnuts, clusters of birch, thicket, brambles and patches of wild flowers.

“Is it this way, Luv? Is it this way?” Auntie’s voice was breathless and bewildered.

“I don’t know. Let me go in front.” She moved aside as I barged past her. The cool wind whirled and whistled around us, whipping my hair about my face. A large hawk squawked angrily overhead. More tangled bushes, more blue bells, more of the same. “It’s no use.” I cried. “I can’t remember.” My echo rang through the forest. I stopped, perplexed and took some long deep breaths to still my hammering heart. Auntie leaned against the trunk of a birch tree, her face flushed, puffing and panting, like a deflating yellow blimp. Then, out of the corner of my eye, through a screen of pines, I caught a glimpse of something moving. “I just saw something. Come on.” I headed in its direction, waving my arms for Auntie to follow. Burdened by her heavy load, her stubby little legs struggled to keep up with my long stride. Then I saw it. I froze.

Blurb…When Emily Fletcher meets the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur she is infatuated and consumed with passion. Will he go with her to the dreaded woodlot, to remove the bloody ancient curse, before it’s too late? In the first half of my story Emily is fourteen years old. In the second half she is forced to return to the cottage, at the age of twenty. My novel contains elements of horror, humor, fantasy, romance and sex. I have created a world into which my readers can escape and an atmosphere that will evoke their imagination, stir their emotions and engage their senses. This book was inspired by my own experiences in a remote little cottage near Stonehenge.

Official Apex Reviews Rating: 5 stars..
Young Emily has been looking forward to visiting her aunt and uncle’s cozy
cottage near Stonehenge for quite some time – but when she’s accosted one night by an evil spirit, her enthusiasm may just come to a crashing halt...before long, she finds herself entranced by the mysterious history of not only the old cottage, but also the entire area – and the less the locals want to talk about it, the more Emily’s curiosity is piqued...soon, she becomes infatuated with the handsome Jonathan McArthur at the same time that she strives to get to the bottom of the hidden ancient legends that surround her – but if she isn’t careful, she may just find herself the target of a vengeful ghost’s time-tested wrath...

In Merryweather Lodge, author Pauline Holyoak successfully blends the elements of mystery and romance to craft an engaging suspense thriller with a paranormal twist. Inspired by her own real life experiences, Holyoak’s imaginative tale introduces the reader to a fantastical world of magic, sorcery, love, and revenge that effectively suspends disbelief and features one surprising twist after another. Because of its true-life implications, Merryweather Lodge boasts a particularly salient appeal, as the reader is left to wonder just which parts of Holyoak’s compelling narrative are fiction – and which actually occurred.
Regardless of your final analysis, though, Merryweather Lodge makes for a fun, entertaining read sure to keep you on your toes until the very end.

In the last book of my trilogy I will reveal which parts of my story are fiction and which ones are real.

Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. Go into this book if you dare and experience my protagonist’s strange and eerie journey there.

Please visit me at my website, read more about my book and view my video…

Available at…


  1. Hi Pauline!

    Thanks for being my guest this week. I love the old black and white photos too, they invoke a feeling of soulfulness I never really get from color. Sometimes I photoshop color images into black and white just to see what kind of a feeling they invoke.

    The places i grew up haven;t yet found their way into my writing but I feel their influence, just as you say.


  2. Thank you for having me Garce. Happy writing!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.