Author Archives: rebeccasb

About rebeccasb

I am a writer, my first novel 'Truths' was released by Bold Strokes Books in April 2010. My second 'Ghosts of Winter' came out in April 2011. I also write short stories--watch out for them in various anthologies! I like to blog about writing, politics and life in general...

A journey complete and a new one just beginning…

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I’m relaxing tonight after another wonderful weekend in Nottingham with the writers and readers of Bold Strokes Books, plus other friends who we can count as new readers and even potential writers. It’s been lovely. I intend to write a much longer blog about it at some point because there’s lots I want to say. But for now, there is just something I wanted to post.

From my seat on the panel I had a good view out of the window, across Nottingham. My city. So much of this place has meaning for me. So many memories, so many moments. I like to attach them to geographical places. I like to think “that happened there, at this moment…” That way I know those memories are real, whenever I look at a building or see a view. It seems more solid than trusting my own faculties, or other people’s. We were high up, on the fourth floor of the bookstore. I could see a lot. I won’t go into the memories…some of them are old and faded, fondly handled now and again. Some are more recent and still only released into the past with great reluctance. I couldn’t help but stare and contemplate the journey…

I will undoubtedly write more. But I have a sense right now of having completed the first leg of the journey I’ve been on since I returned to the UK from Slovenia two years ago. The first Bold Strokes event marked the start of it. This one marked the end. The resting place for now while I work out the direction I have to go in next. I remember who I was and where I was. I remember the light inside me flickering weakly, being afraid to let it shine. And I know how I felt this weekend. Emotional, yes. Very. And not all of them good emotions. But not timid or afraid. Not frightened to be me.

These pictures say it all…

July 2010. First Bold Strokes festival.

July 2011. Second Bold Strokes festival.

 

August 2012. Third Bold Strokes festival.

I spent a lot of today on the verge of tears. There’s a lot going on. But I find comfort in remembering the journey. The travelling, the stopping off points, the exact moments of it. The places I’ve found rest and solace. And the ultimate comfort, though the path into the future isn’t clear, is seeing how far I’ve come. The photos prove it. Finally, I worked it out and the light is shining brighter than ever. Now I just have to work out the best way to keep it blazing strong.

Aside

Saturday 4th August and Sunday 5th August, there’s no better place to be if you’re a fan of LGBTQ books, or writing in general, than Waterstones, Nottingham, England. Here’s the info…if you can be there, please do! There’s readings, a chance to buy books…and lots of time for mingling and socialising too!

Sorry I’m only posting this the day before…life’s been crazy just lately…There will be blogs on that topic to follow too…

This event feels huge for me this year. It’s two years since the first one…which took place in a week that was nothing short of life changing for me. To look at where I am, two years on, is amazing and moving. But all that aside, it’s going to be fabulous fun! 🙂

 

 

Crystal Moments

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It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the last two weeks have been life changing for me. Transformative even. In many ways it’s been the culmination of a journey that I’ve been on for a while, making good and determined progress in the last year or so. And yet, though it’s a product of that journey, the moment I’m in now is also something unique and special.

I can’t convey everything in a blog post. Words wouldn’t do it complete justice, and much of it is too personal, not meant to be shared with the world. It is not mine to hold alone, it has been shared where it needs to be shared, and is safe. But I want to write something…

I’ve been keeping a journal over the last year or so. It’s fairly sporadic. As it turns out, I started a new notebook this week…ending my last one with the words “this is the end where I begin.” Today, I sat with a cafe latte and a chocolate brownie (my traditional grounding and comforting food) and wrote “I will remember this moment.” I didn’t mean the delicious chocolate brownie, the blur of rain on the window, or even my optimistic reflections on just having moved into a new home, on my own, for the first time.

What I wanted to remember about the moment was its purity and clarity. There are times when you seem to see the essence of life, of yourself, of compassion and your own truth. They’re moments that seem to turn to crystal…permanent, beautiful, pure and yet complex. And those crystals are points on the timeline of your life, always glistening there. Perhaps they’re pure, clear quartz or gentle rose pink. Happy citrine or protective, healing amethyst. But they remain, clear moments in time, always.

Quartz crystal (Image from Wikipedia.org)

Today was a day of intense emotion. The sort of intense emotion it’s probably best not to face alone. But if someone will come with you on that journey and help contain that emotion, never shy away from it. Ask the difficult questions, allow yourself to be vulnerable. Search and search some more for the places the shadows are hiding. Sometimes the painful intensity is what helps you reach back through the layers to find the essential you. The essential you has fears and faults. But you can’t comfort or forgive yourself unless you go to that place. Neither can you celebrate the qualities that are most important to you, the things that underpin your life.

And I found a place where all is still. All is clear. Imagined peace and beauty came into the world with me. There is a release and a relief, dizzying and calming all at once. I became the essential me and appreciated the wonderous nature of what I am. It is a place full of endless joy, a place where gratitude comes quickly and easily. Where I can examine my fears and let them go. Even mourning a loss becomes possible, not all-consuming, because I will go on beyond it, into the future. It inspires confidence and honesty, faith and questioning…and it makes me humble and ready to listen. To learn. To recognise wisdom in the world and disregard the things I don’t need to hear. To hear and trust the voice inside. Whether, for you, that voice is intuition, your God, or something else, you have to listen to hear it properly.

It is a sort of security in myself I’ve never had before. I find I want to be challenged now. I’m ready for the hard questions, the tough decisions, to take on things I’ve never done before. No more shying away. Because I know who I am, and that won’t be diminished by a challenge or a question. It will help me answer. For the first time in my life I am ready to acknowledge that I have been brave. And in claiming that, I find a new bravery. If I’ve done it once, I can do it again. Because the veil has lifted and I feel my connection with the world…And there’s no guilt or fear. Some sadness at moving on, yes. And times when I want a hug and to be cared for. But people don’t stop caring because you’re being brave, like I think I used to worry they would.

I know who I am.

I am thirty years old and I have a good amount of wisdom and understanding for those years. Except most people don’t think I look my age, which is a good thing. I am a woman, who rather enjoys being a woman. I am gay and happy to be born this way, though I don’t think sexuality should define anyone. I am Christian, which is harder to acknowledge than I want it to be and comes with a lot of questions, but I’m getting there. I am a writer, I adore words and I have a vivid imagination, but I want to use my love of words to study too. I cry easily and that’s not a fault. I have been in some dark places but I survived and the darkness has been pushed out by the light. People care about me and I am unceasingly grateful, I will never take it for granted. I am a history geek and know tons of information about all kinds of things: this is not something I need to apologise for. I am perceptive of how other people are feeling, and I care deeply. And I’m actually happy to be me.

And I know what the most important thing in life is, for me. The quality I find when I look deep within myself. When I hold that smooth, shining crystal moment and peer into it. Compassion. The sort of compassion which frees me from the shadows and makes me strong. The sort of compassion which then becomes a light in the world and helps others see in the darkness.

I don’t yet know how I will use that compassion. I have a lot more questions to ask of myself. But I want the difficult questions because finding the answers is an adventure.

Just lately, I’ve found the image of the butterfly cropping up again and again in my life. And it resonates so strongly. I feel reborn. I’m just getting used to the colours of my wings, the feeling of being able to fly. When a butterfly first emerges from the chrysallis, it sits for a while in the sunshine before it takes flight. I’m enjoying the light…forming that perfect crystal moment of light, hope, peace and colour. It will be preserved forever, perfect and pure.

But the air is heavy with the scent of flowers, there’s a warm enticing breeze. There’s a beautiful world to explore. I’m going to spread my wings and fly.

 

An Exciting Day

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Wednesday 13th June, 2012. A pretty fabulous day. At least until I realised I was catching a cold. Before that it was brilliant though. I went to London, with work, to help deliver the education program at the Royal Courts of Justice. But on the way I had a royal encounter…

It just so happened that the Queen was visiting Nottingham as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour that day. Nottingham has quite a history where Diamond Jubilees are concerned–it was as part of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in 1897 that Nottingham was given city status. And the people of this city were certainly excited to see her…they think there were 35,00o just in the Old Market Square. I hadn’t given it much thought though, since I was off to London. Then I arrived at the station and found that the Queen would be arriving shortly and, since I had a train ticket, I could wait in a place beyond the ticket barriers where only a few people were waiting to see her (compared to elsewhere).

So I did. And I reflected on why I wanted to. Politically, I’m fairly ambivalent about the monarchy. I recognise their privilege, the inherent unfairness of anything hereditary and their real irrelevence to the politcal life of this country. And yet…and yet…I can’t help but be a bit of a fan. Perhaps because the Queen seems like a genuinely good person. Perhaps because I recognise that even if we didn’t have a monarchy we would undoubtedly still be led by with privilege and money, so I can’t hold that against them. But mostly I think it’s that I’m aware that I’m looking at history. The figures of the queens of the past fascinate me, all of them, but especially the first Queen Elizabeth. I was awed to see her tomb in Westminster Abbey and to just be a few feet away from her earthly remains. So to see a living queen, plus a future king and his future queen consort is exciting to me. I can’t help it.

Anyone who hears me talk about history will know that I am all about the history of the ordinary people. I love the untold stories, trying to work out the little details of the lives of the poorest people in society. My writing research and my job give me endless opportunity to understand those tales and to try to breathe life into them once again. However, it is impossible to ignore the big events of history, the stories of the powerful, the great and not-so-great. Those stories are interesting too and part of the fabric of this country’s history and culture. I can’t help but enjoy it. I was unashamedly excited to get to see the Queen, and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When I’m an old woman, I’ll be able to say that I saw a Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year. No one’s been able to say that since 1897. It’s an event, a moment in time. And so very British.

So, without further ado, here’s some photographs, for anyone who hasn’t already seen them!

And if that wasn’t excitement enough, then I headed off to London. I love the place. History just oozes from every building and flagstone when you look at the place through my eyes. The Royal Courts of Justice are amazing…to be able to enter that grand doorway and actually have a job to do in there was wonderful. It’s an impressive and awe inspiring place, but I didn’t feel scared of it. When I was at Oxford University all those years ago the sheer grandeur and weight of history of the place terrified me. Now I feel quite at home in those surroundings, I find. I loved it there. Significant historically and such an important place–the highest civil court in the United Kingdom and main court of appeal. Wow.

And then I wandered around the vicinity. The Strand, Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, Old Bailey, Cheapside, Holborn Viaduct. Even then names fascinate me. Bread Lane. Wow. And I saw so much history…not to do with kings and queen and great events…to do with what London has been to Londoners, and Britons, for centuries. The area destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, the churches rebuilt by Wren. The churches which house the bells of the rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’. St Paul’s Cathedral. The site of the old, infamous Newgate Gaol and the public executions outside, now the location of the Central Criminal Courts. The old newspaper offices of Fleet Street, the Temple Bar boundary dragon, site of the old City gate. The oldest tea shop in London. There is so much to see. I tried to soak it all in, but there’s never enough time in London, it seems!

Temple Bar boundary dragon, the Strand

Twinings tea shop, there on the Strand since 1706

I loved this. The site of an old well outside St Clement Danes Church.

The corner of the Central Criminal Courts…the site of the old Newgate Gaol

St Mary-le-Bow church, home of the famous Bow Bells.

Old newspaper offices on Fleet Street.

St Paul’s Cathedral

And the best part of all? I wasn’t remotely intimidated by any of it. Not the grandeur, the history, the hustle and bustle, the crowded tube or the very solemn Evening Prayer service at St Mary-le-Bow. I just enjoyed it all. I don’t know where this new confidence came from exactly and I can’t pinpoint on which day exactly I stopped being scared. But it feels very, very good indeed. 13th June just showed me how far I’ve come. It’s a wonderful adventure.

Good Queen Bess

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Just a quick post…because it follows on so well from my last one in which I posted photographs of the two Queen Elizabeths. I spent the whole of Monday and the whole of today performing my own interpretation of the first of them at work. The greatest queen ever to rule Britain…as I’ve been telling people all day. I’m not sure whether she is or not, but I certainly believed it while I was still in the wig, costume and make up. What do you think? 🙂

True, my interpretation probably owed more to Miranda Richardson’s fabulous Queenie in Blackadder II than historical accuracy. But I still found myself embodying the character. It struck me how similar creating a character in a novel as a writer is to creating a character as an actress. I always try to embody the characters in my books for a while too. It’s a fascinating process.

And it was amazing fun. I don’t know where the girl who was terrified of public speaking went…but I can’t say I miss her!

Oh, and just in case you wanted to know, I didn’t win the Lambda Award I was nominated for. But I honestly don’t mind at all. I’m thrilled Ghosts of Winter was nominated, it was a real honour. And I don’t write for awards. I’m getting good feedback already for The Locket and the Flintlock. One reader writing to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it…that’s what keeps me going more than any award ever could.

Beginning at the end.

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I’ve been enjoying the coverage of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations today. It’s hard not to get a little thrill out of being British on a day like this. I’m mostly ambivalent about monarchy as an institution, but what I have been enjoying is the sense of continuity. The Queen’s been reigning for 60 years, most of us can’t remember another monarch. And we’ve been ruled by (more or less) related kings and queens for centuries (with one notable gap). The river pageant today was the biggest in 300 years. But there was something like it 300 years ago. And it was impossible not to think of the great Tudor river pageants, those of the first Queen Elizabeth in particular.

Elizabeth II (via Wikiepedia)

 

Elizabeth I (via Wikipedia)

I like continuity. Something about it moves me and reassures me. I used to be very frightened of endings, of changes, of moving on. That fear is still there. When something is good, I want it to go on forever. I’ve not tended to have faith that the future will bring something equally good, or better. It’s partly irrational fear, partly lack of faith in myself, and partly lack of belief in other people. I don’t like to lose things. I’ve hoarded possessions, contacted people out of the blue after years, given up huge parts of myself…all in order to hold back change. To stop anything coming to an end.

But things do change. The royal court today is not remotely like that of the first Elizabeth. Part of what we’re celebrating in this Jubilee year is how much change there has been while Elizabeth II has been on the throne. Yes, she is a fixed point, but nothing else is. The element of continuity is lovely, but change cannot be avoided and, in fact, it should be celebrated.

 

I found some baby pictures recently. I loved looking through them, they made me quite emotional.

Me and my Mum c. 1983

My Dad and me c. 1983

 

I’ve always wanted to go back. To a time when things were pure, undamaged, when I was full of potential and nothing bad had ever happened. I didn’t like the feeling that the happy little girl, with her happy parents, was someone else, such a long time ago. I didn’t like the loss of continuity with her. I felt guilty that my choices had taken me away from her. It felt like so long ago and so far away. Which made me feel a little stranded in my present self. And frightened of losing anything else, of any more endings.

But change is impossible to avoid. Time ticks on and things have to change, there has to be a moving on. There has to be an ending. When I’m reading a good book, I realise it can’t go on forever. There will be a conclusion. There might well be a sequel in which I can revisit the things I liked about it. But I do have to close that particular book and put it on the shelf. I can admire the spine, think over the story, take it out and look at it, flick through the pages. But you can’t have a never ending book.

This has probably been the hardest part of life for me to accept. There’s a whole host of reasons, but I’ve always struggled with it. Just recently it’s been bothering me even more because I’m at a massive turning point. Not even a turning point, but a real ending in many ways. I reached a point, during the night last Friday when the sadness overwhelmed me in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. It’s rare that I can’t stop crying and the tears are more articulate than any words. But it felt that way. I couldn’t shake it for the whole of the next day.

Then, in one of those weird convoluted ways that amazing things happen, I heard a song. ‘The End Where I Begin’ by The Script (from their self-titled album).

The lyrics caught me:

Sometimes tears say all there is to say / Sometimes your first scars won’t ever fade away / Tried to break my heart / Well it’s broke / Tried to hang me high / Well I’m choked / Wanted rain on me / Well I’m soaked Soaked to the skin / It’s the end where I begin.
Sometimes we don’t learn from our mistakes / Sometimes we’ve no choice but to walk away…It’s the end where I begin 
Now I’m alive and my ghosts are gone / I’ve shed all the pain I’ve been holding on / The cure for a heart / Is to move along, is to move along…What don’t kill a heart / Only makes it strong
It’s the End where I begin

Sometimes we don’t learn from our mistakes Sometimes we’ve no choice but to walk away…

And suddenly, the sense of the continuity of life struck me again. I am so grateful that I found my way to this song. You see, I realise I have the scars, I’ve been soaked the skin, my heart has been broken. It’s already happened and can’t be undone. But it has made me stronger. I survived it. I am that little girl, even now, and I’ve come through the rain and the battles. Scars are healed wounds, the bleeding has stopped, but they are reminders. And it’s time to walk away, to move on. To accept the end as a beginning. It’s like a circle. Every time you try to find where it ends, you also find where it begins.

It’s interesting too. I’ve been going to church a lot lately and yet it’s only just struck me that the central story of Christianity (whether you believe, take it as truth, or a metaphor) is one of an ending being a beginning. That’s what the story of Crucifixion and Resurrection is all about. If it was not for that terrible ending–of brutal death on a cross–there could not be the new beginning–the Resurrrection–the message of light and hope and eternal love. The end is the beginning.

I can’t go back to be that little girl in the pictures. But I can remember that she is part of me. Childhood ended, but I simply began again. There are always endings. I will endure loss. Some things will remain, they will stay with me while other things end. Other things will return, like the characters in sequels to well-loved novels. I can’t always control it.

But I can begin at the end and go through it and past it and onto things that are better, deeper, brighter, more fun. I will still be me. I will still be the happy child. But I’ll be the complex adult too. I’ll take some things with me and move on from others.

Now, this moment, summer 2012, in a year where continuity is being celebrated. This is the end where I begin.

 

(and by the way, my latest novel, The Locket and the Flintlock, is now available in both ebook and paperback form!)

 

Aside

Just wanted to point you to the Bold Strokes Books authors’ blog, where you can read my two recent posts on the theme of writing historical fiction and why I’m especially enthusiastic about my new release, The Locket and the Flintlock!

I’m very excited. I’ve had some wonderful feedback so far. 😀

Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog