Category Archives: Lesbian

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.

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.

 

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!)

 

Affirmation of faith…in myself…

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Wow, it’s a long time since I posted anything! My excuse is the same as last time. Work, work and more work. Plus, this time, a fair amount of illness and injury too. I’ve been coughing, sneezing and limping just lately. And nearly falling down the stairs too. But I am currently–apart from a strained ligament necessitating a bandaged foot–in pretty good health! Good job, since I’m at work so much!

All of this work was making forget that I’m a writer. I know, that’s a steady theme of this blog, reminding myself I’m a writer. But it’s a constant in my life. People ask what I do and I only usually remember to add that I’m a writer as they’re walking away. My other job is wonderful and fascinating, but I would like to remember I’m a writer from time to time.

Lots of good things have happened lately. I have confidence in my ability to do my job well, and to have fun doing it. I’ve realised just how many friends I really do have to invite to my 30th birthday party. I’ve found I can let go of things hoped for in the past and replace them with new hopes and dreams. That people sometimes really do want to hug me. I’ve taken to wearing clothes I want to wear, not ones to hide behind. I’m being myself in conversations–more of a struggle in the past than you might suspect. I’m branching out in so many ways…emerging from the mournful night into the joyful day. It’s exciting.

But there’s always that undercurrent of doubt in myself. Of not quite believing compliments. Of over-analysing conversations after I’ve had them to see if I said anything stupid. Of not wanting to expose my real self to people. There’s a whole host of reasons and I’m working on making those things melt away.

A lot of those doubts manifest themselves when I think about my writing. Am I really a writer? A real one? With books people want to read? This past week has done a lot to answer those questions. On Saturday 17th March I went to States of Independence, an event for indie publishers held at De Montfort University in Leicester. The corridors and rooms were full of stalls covered in books and pamphlets from all kinds of publishers and writers. I had the privilege of spending time with Bold Strokes Books editor Victoria Oldham and authors Kev Troughton and Andrea Bramhall, behind a table covered in a wide and wonderful selection of BSB books. In the afternoon, we did a 40 minute session on LGBTQ publishing, with readings and a Q&A session. It was wonderful. I had no fear sitting at the front of that room, nor standing up to read my excerpt from Ghosts of Winter. I answered questions happily. And I felt the interest of the people in the room. The acceptance of me as a writer, on my third published novel. A voice of experience, no less. And as a gay woman too. I’ve always struggled to talk about my sexuality in front of people. I shy away from labels and stereotypes. But I found I didn’t mind. And people wanted my advice. They wanted to buy my book. It was astonishing. But it was also amazing. I have rarely felt as comfortable in my skin as I did for those few hours. I have rarely felt so distinctly that I was in the right place, at the right time, doing what I should be. I spent the rest of the day wildly happy and also immensely grateful for the opportunity to feel strong and positive in a way I really haven’t done before.

Bold Strokes Books book at States of Independence

With Andrea and Kev at States of Independence

Then, today, to add to the excitement, the Lambda Literary Awards finalists were announced. And Ghosts of Winter is on the shortlist! Right there in the “Lesbian Romance” category. I’m still stunned, in the best way possible. It’s such an honour. I always thought such lists were for other people’s books. And certainly, I’d been feeling very distant from Ghosts of Winter lately. But to be named there with some other wonderful authors (including the most fabulous showing for Bold Strokes) is amazing beyond words. To know that my book has been read and appreciated…it’s so wonderful and moving to me. I am deeply grateful. Of course I love Ros and Anna, the protagonists of Ghosts all over again. But more than anything, I realise that I wrote a good book. I am a writer. And a good one! I’m incredibly excited.

On Saturday I’m going on a retreat day at an Anglican convent. I signed up because for me it’s vital to explore my faith, whatever shape and form that takes, and to ponder it a while. I’ve only been going to church for a year and I know it will be a journey that lasts the rest of my life. I’ve been exploring and pondering myself for longer and really working on it for a couple of years now. It will also be a constant journey, but I’ve reached a very important waymarker. I think that finally, I know who I am, what I dream of, what I hope for and what I’m good at. What I should be proud of. I have a firm faith in myself.

And that makes moving forward an adventure rather than an ordeal.

Next on the list? The Locket and the Flintlock will be released in May! 😀

 

 

Ramblings…

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I’ve got one or two things to talk to about tonight. Nothing very profound, but still, good things. I’ve been tired lately, I’ve been working so much. At my day job, you understand, at the Galleries of Justice museum, which is many jobs rolled into one. I’ve been a Victorian warder, a Georgian murdress and a servant-whore in the last couple of weeks, as well as working with school groups.

Today was an interesting day at work. The Galleries of Justice also operate the City of Caves, a short distance away. This is a network of caves, accessed through a 1960s shopping centre. The caves, like the hundreds of others beneath the buildings of Nottingham, are manmade, cut into the sandstone rock on which Nottingham stands. It’s the same rock that Nottingham Castle is perched on, and into which the dungeons of my usual haunt at the County Gaol are cut into. They go back as far as medieval times, but found their heyday later, when used as a tannery (where leather was made). Still later, the residents of Drury Hill, an infamous thoroughfare in Victorian and early-twentieth century Nottingham, cut down into the rock to make cellars and extra rooms below their houses. Later still, they were used as air raid shelters during the Second World War. It’s a fascinating place. The history is tangible, and you can see it in layers, like a physical timeline. In one part of the cave system you can look above your head and see the concrete underside of the uncommonly ugly Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. Just below–in places almost touching it–are the remains of the red brick walls of the houses of Drury Hill.

Drury Hill

You can even see some of the old kerb stones. You are practically standing in the cellars of those houses, looking at the steps they cut into the stone, the broken dividing walls that made them into seperate properties. And you see the sandstone itself, the older caves, the medieval well. Just a little further on and you find an old tavern cellar, divided by just a wall from the railway tunnel that brought about the demolition of the tavern itself. The whole place is a mess of chronology and archaeology, fact and fable.

Part of the Tudorl tannery

It’s hard to be a tour guide there. But what a privilege to spend time in such a meeting point of history. So many human stories, over so many centuries, all gathered in some gloomy holes in the sandstone, cowering under the concrete of progress. But still there, persisting, when they could have been filled in and lost. Even Drury Hill, once so notorious and now invisible from the surface, still lingers there. A ghost of the past. These are the things that move me. These are the things that make me want to write historical novels. I want to find the stories, resurrect the ghosts, find their traces in our present and bring the history back into the light. It makes me feel excited about being a writer again.

On a different–but related–topic, I’m excited to talk about a new anthology. My writing group, Sapphist Writers, have been busy for some time writing and collecting poems and short stories. And now we’ve put it all together into an anthology. Even the wonderfully exuberant front cover was a collaborative effort. This collection is all about celebrating the diversity and creativity of a group of women brought together by a love of words. It will be available online (we’re finalising in which formats) through the Sapphist Writers’ blog, from 28th February. That’s the launch night, and also the night that Sapphist Writers are receiving an award at the Nottinghamshire’s Rainbow Heritage Celebration Evening. The anthology contains two of my poems and two short prose pieces, and a whole host of other wonderful pieces. All proceeds will be going to Nottingham Women’s Centre.

So, good things. And writing about them has made me happy, despite my being hormonally grumpy tonight. I’m finding life’s like that at the moment. There’s lots of depressing, agonising, sad and difficult things. They don’t go away. But the bright, happy, exciting, colourful things are always there too. And that’s wonderful!

Epiphany

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Happy New Year to everyone reading this. I hope it’s a wonderful year for all of you. 😀

So, today is Epiphany. The last day of Christmastide. Twelfth Night (or that could have been last night, depending which calender you follow…) I’ve just finished off the Christmas ice cream and ordered some bathroom scales. A diet begins tomorrow. But I’m not blogging about calorie-related resolutions, you’ll be pleased to hear…

Today is the day that Christians celebrate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. “Epiphany” comes from Greek and Latin, via Middle English, meaning “apparition.” It represents not just some wise men from the “East” paying tribute to a newborn Messiah, but the manifestation of Jesus to the gentiles. That makes a it a very inclusive festival, if you ask me. The message being that Jesus came for everyone. Okay, we don’t all believe in Jesus…but the idea of hope, light and love being something everyone can have a share in is one that I like.

'Adoration of the Magi' by Gentile da Fabriano

I have always been fascinated with the story of the Magi visiting Jesus, ever since I first learned the Nativity story, and that fascination has never gone away. They’re only mentioned in one of the Gospels (Matthew), we don’t know for sure there were three of them, who they were or where they came from. They’re almost mythical, mysterious and exotic. Wise men, astrologers or kings? And those wonderful gifts, gold, frankincense and myhrr. Something otherworldly, symbolic and luxurious in the squalor of a stable.

I lived in Slovenia for a while, and often strayed into other countries, such as Austria and Germany. There, you would see  C + M + B written in chalk about doorways, with the date of the year. A blessing for the house in the coming year, with the traditional initials of the Magi. It has a touch of magic about it, something transcending pure Christianity.

C + M + B 2009 written above a door in the Czech Republic (from Wikipedia)

Giotto di Bondone's 'Adoration of the Magi' showing the Star of Bethlehem as a comet.

And then there’s the matter of the starthey followed. It’s controversial, that star. There’s been plenty of attempts to work out if any real astronomical event could account for it (there are theories, but they don’t really hold up). A miracle? A detail added to fulfill a prophecy? Sent by Satan (as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe)? In the end, we’ll never prove the Star of Bethlehem was real, any more than we’ll ever have proof that God exists (or otherwise). But it’s a wonderful idea. A light, burning in the sky, leading wise men through the desert to a place where they will find the source of peace, love and light, to where they will find meaning. Whatever your beliefs, surely the beauty of that is undeniable. We’re all looking for our star, a light to follow…to lead us forward through desert places, to show us the way, to help us find hope and joy. At the beginning of this new year, I’m keeping my focus on my own personal guiding light…aware of my own epiphany…

Because epiphany isn’t just about wise men in the desert. In our modern terminology, “epiphany” is something more personal. It’s a moment of sudden truth, clarity of perception, or insight. I know that feeling. Okay, there hasn’t been a revelation in a split second. But really, in a whole lifetime, what is “sudden”? In many ways the last year has been my epiphany. Every passing month brought with it a new revelation, a new understanding, a new ability to feel in a way I never dared to. And that brought a new way of looking at the world and my place in it.

I can feel that in every moment now, as I contemplate the year ahead. Epiphany is the time Christians ask for God’s blessing over the year ahead. I’m doing something very similar. I’m looking ahead to a good year and allowing myself to hope. I don’t remember another year I’ve been so hopeful about. True, there are parts of it I am not looking forward to. But I know how to deal with them now. I am not going to allow myself to be scared of the world, or of the people in it. Or of myself. If keeping to that involves working at it, then I will. And if that sounds trite, so be it. For me, it is an epiphany.

It’s going to be manifest in my writing too. The Locket and the Flintlock will be out in May (from Bold Strokes Books) and I’m very proud of it, as I am of my previous novels Truths and Ghosts of Winter. But I feel something more adventurous inside me, waiting to make its mark on the page. I see the world through wiser, more perceptive eyes. And therefore, I write with more wisdom too. It’s exciting.

So, today, I am celebrating in a quiet way. I feel like I’m at a turning point. My star has led me to a place of hope. And I will ensure that light doesn’t die.

The road less travelled…

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

 
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,  
And sorry I could not travel both  
And be one traveler, long I stood  
And looked down one as far as I could  
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,  
And having perhaps the better claim,  
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;  
Though as for that the passing there  
Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay  
In leaves no step had trodden black.  
Oh, I kept the first for another day!  
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,  
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh  
Somewhere ages and ages hence:  
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference.

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Sometimes, there are moments when life seems to be giving you some kind of message. When more than one unrelated person   uses the same phrase or begins the same conversation. Intuition, instinct, fate, higher power, coincidence…who knows. But I think it’s important to listen. The phrase ‘the road less travelled’ has come up a lot recently, and reminded me of Robert Frost’s words, which I have loved for a long time. And I realised their relevance to me has never been greater than it is now.

I’ve not written a post on this blog for a while, though you can read some of my thoughts on vampires and lesbians over at the Girls Who Bite blog. This wonderful anthology of lesbian vampire erotica from Cleis Press, containing my subtly erotic ‘She Knows I Am Watching’ about a New World vampire in Oxford,  is released in a few days. An exciting reminder that, whatever else I’ve been doing, I am still a writer.

I haven’t blogged on here for a while because, I guess, I feel like I’m lingering at some kind of crossroads, and it’s not really the place for sitting down with my laptop and explaining my thoughts. There’s not just two roads diverging ahead of me. There’s several. There’s also the path stretching out behind me.

I’ve been gazing backwards quite a lot lately. Going through boxes of long-stored artefacts of my childhood and looking into the eyes of my six year old, ten year old and teenage self in photographs that look surprisingly dated. Those moments are a long way back down the path behind me, however well I remember them. I’m nearly thirty. Properly grown up and everything.

I'm the littlest witch with the green hair!

And yet, part of me has been lingering on that pathway. It’s not been a sunshiny, leafy road and there are points where I’ve tripped, fallen, and been chased by monsters. But somehow I’d wandered onto a path with no junctions, no offshoots. I just had to keep going and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to turn. And because I didn’t stray, it became familiar to me. Not safe, perhaps, but known. And by retracing my footsteps, I knew I could always get back to the little girl at the start of the journey.

Of course, eventually, I reached this crossroads. I’d been searching for it, and, as if by magic, suddenly here I was. And the roads ahead looked scary and unfamiliar. Looking backwards seemed to be the best way to keep hold of myself, as though part of me was always going to be on that road behind me. Surely I was defined by the path I’d already taken…

But, in looking back, I realised something. I’m here. I’m at the crossroads. I’m not still on that path. I can look back down it and remember what it was like, but I reached the crossroads, I made it to this point. And I can rest here a while, whole and complete, and contemplate a while. There is time to question. I’m not on my own here either. I have friends, people who care, people to help me. That’s a huge improvement on that lonely old path.

I’m looking at the roads ahead. The one which is well-worn is very obvious to me. But I don’t want to travel the same way as everyone else. It’s no fun, for a start. Plus, I don’t think I could. I’d feel lost, and finding my way by following the crowd is not something I’m comfortable with.

So I have to choose another road.  Looking along some of them, I can see where they might lead, but I’m not sure. There might be unexpected twists and more junctions. I have to decide, because I can’t take all of those roads. It’s a decision with a lot of responsibility, but I will be brave. I might even head out across the untamed land and make a path of my own. I have visions of wild flower meadows, shadowy woodlands, blue skies and dramatic storms; moments of peril and moments of breathtaking beauty. There will be hope, faith and love, just as there are dangers and doubts. I don’t know where the road leads. But I’ll be the one painting the signposts and deciding which way to turn next.

Because, I no longer believe you’re defined by the road you’ve already taken to get to where you are. I believe you’re defined by the road you choose into the future.