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Posts Tagged ‘holiday post’

Celebrating the Time Before Beginnings

It’s hard for me to write a holiday post this year. To say I’m not in the Christmas spirit is the understatement of the year. And yet, this is the time of more than just canned Christmas music and out of control commercialism. I’ve always been bah humbug about that. But the fact that we’re in the dark days, the fact that we’re about to find in each of us newness in spite of all that has happened, all that has laid us low in the past year, the fact that we’ve found a commonality a sense of connectedness in those dark days, well that is something I’ve always found worth celebrating. This year, with the loss of my sister, more than ever, I need what those dark days can offer me, that womb of darkness, a place of being and not doing and that’s why I’m sharing this post with you again.

 

As I was walking along the canal the other day between rain showers, watching the moorhens leave water con trails across the surface, I was thinking about why this time of year is such a big deal. It’s dark, it’s dreary, it’s seemingly dead. Really, it seems like something we should just want to skip right through as much as possible, and yet we celebrate this time of year more than any other.  For several years I celebrated the seasons of the year with a Wiccan coven, and one of the best parts of that time in my life was the effort made to understand and live in sync with the changing seasons of the year. That I’ve held onto long after I left the coven. That ebb and flow remains an important part of who I am and how I celebrate.

 

Then, as now, the magic of this time of year intrigued me the most. In the Pagan cycle of the year, the winter months are represented by the direction of north, the cold, dark direction, the place where everything seems dead and silent. The days are short and the nights are long and it’s a temptation to go to bed early and sleep late. In the darkest days it’s even a temptation to follow the example of our bear cousins and sleep the whole dreary time away until the spring returns. The holidays aside, by the time January gets here it’s all about the return of the light. We’ve all had enough dark days, and we want sunshine.

 

So what’s so magical about that? Of course we want the sunshine. Who doesn’t? But the magic comes in the waiting. The dark powers of the north, the dark earth energy of the pagan wheel of the year is dream magic. It’s the time before beginnings. It’s the time when we sit with a cup of tea clenched in our hands and reflect on what has been, while everything in us looks forward to what lies ahead. On the one hand we dream of the past and we say our good-byes to this turning of the year, on the other hand, we dream and scheme and anticipate the future that will begin, just like new life, in the dark place. And we wait for the end that has to happen before the beginning. The time before beginnings. It’s a phrase that has no meaning if we don’t have a past to reflect upon. It’s a phrase that has no meaning if we don’t have a future to anticipate and to dream and scheme for.

 

This time of year the sun, when we do get it, is never very high in the sky, and it’s often a cold anemic sun. This time of year when everything seems so dead, there are already buds fattening on the trees — the beginnings of the leaves that will shelter the birds and shade us from the sun when it’s at its most powerful. This time of year even the winter visitors, the waxwings and the fieldfares, are anticipating new beginnings, feeding up for their return to the north and for the raising of the next generation.

 

It’s in these dark days, in this space in between when it’s not quite the end, but it’s not yet the beginning either, it’s in this liminal space that we experience a magic that’s different from any other time of the year, a magic of stillness, a magic of holding ourselves tightly and inhaling deeply just before the sun returns and we’re off once again, running forward into the headroom and the creative momentum that this time before beginnings has afforded us.

 

Happy Time Before Beginnings!

 

Ancient Ruins and Christmas Lights

P1000814Monday night we returned in the middle of the storm from a week of sunshine and exploring and reminiscing in Rome. It was a fabulous week of pasta and tiramisu, espresso and wine and Roman ruins mixed liberally with the wild hubbub of Christmas preparation. There were leisurely hours of reading simply for pleasure in quiet café’s – something I’ve not had much time for recently, there were long walks beneath the rainbow wave of Christmas lights along the Via Del Corso. There were quick stops into bars in the middle of the afternoon for espresso. There were walks in the Palatine and outings to Tivoli and to Ostia Antica. And there were wonderful memories.

Raymond and I are quite familiar with Rome in the winter. We married in mid-December and spent P1000885part of our honeymoon in Rome and Italy. The place is full of good memories for us. It’s always magical and romantic and irresistibly sexy. It will also be the setting for the third Holly novel, so this was a chance to soak up atmosphere and do a little research.

It’s been eight years since the last time we were in the Eternal City, and we both agree that’s way too long in between trips. Even though there have been plenty of changes over eight years, it still felt like coming home. There were more excavations in the Forum and the Palatine area. Above the Forum there was a different band dressed in Santa Clause suites playing Jingle Bells endlessly in that uncommon alto sax and accordion combo. The pasta and pizza at every little trattoria  was delish, there were too many pastries to sample in three lifetimes, let alone one week, and the rule about not making eye-contact with the drivers during that heart-stopping moment when you P1000918step into the traffic at the crosswalk still applies.

In the Forum, we spent quality time in the ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgin, with its climbing pink roses and with its thin skin of ice on top of the reflecting pools. We were early enough to miss the worst of the crowds.

In the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, we walked among the fountains and plotted wonderfully sexy stories about love run amok in a Renaissance garden. The place was, in no small part, an inspiration for my novella, Surrogates.

We arrived early in the ruins of Ostia Antica and stayed until the whistle blew at the end of the day and we were chased out. I could have lingered for hours in the ruins of the temples from the Roman Republic, the temple of Hercules, and the Domus of Psyche and Eros.

It’s not difficult to understand why Rome is called The Eternal City. It’s not difficult to get caught up in the layer cake of modern and ancient and the manic honk of car horns and the shove and push of Christmas shoppers.

Our flight home was delayed by the heavy wind storms that have plagued the UK the past couple of days. We sat in the lounge at Fiumicino Airport drinking coffee, then wine and reading for pleasure, not really worrying too much. When the window of opportunity presented itself, we left the sunshine for the windy wet British shores. Ours was one of the last planes to land as the storm closed in again, leaving us sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half waiting for a stand. But we made it home, with little prep made for Christmas – though we never have stood on tradition where Christmas is concerned. Ours will be the hodge-podge of our own non-traditional Christmas treats along with the memories of our first Christmas together when we were only just married, living in a cold flat in Croatia, decorating our tiny tree with chocolate ornaments and watching the cornbread for our turkey dressing bake in the oven. True, we had no television, but even more important, the kitchen, in front of the oven, was the warmest place in the house.

Ah, but I digress! The thing is, we celebrated then and we celebrate now. We celebrate not Christmas per se, but all things that are good in our life, and all things that this year’s brought, all things that our life together has brought. We celebrated in Rome, we celebrated in Croatia and we celebrate now in soggy, windy England while we catch up on our laundry and prepare to cook our Christmas favourites.  And we wish all of you many, MANY wonderful reasons to celebrate during this holiday season and many more in the year to come.

 

The Grand Tour of A Very Full Room

writing image 2Every year I mention my fascination with the last week of the year, and 2012 is no exception. The last week isn’t like the rest. It’s almost like there are actually fifty-one weeks in the year, then there’s the crowded room at the end, a place not unlike my grandmother’s living room was, all crowded full of the bits and pieces and memorabilia of eighty-three years of living.

The last week of the year is a mini version of that living room, a mental version, a room that everyone has in their head, no matter how expansive the previous fifty-one weeks have been, this final week is the tiny space into which we crowd everything that’s happened in the past year. Then we settle in to the one comfy chair in that room that isn’t avalanching with memories and emotions, and we reflect.

It’s that time again, the last day in our overly crowded room of 2012. We have to enjoy it now while we can because we only have until midnight on 31st December, and then we’ll have to leave this room, lock the door behind us, never to return, and walk into the brand new huge empty room of 2013.

IMG00329-20120523-0945I’d like to take you on a very brief tour of my crowded room because I’m taking one last inventory of Room 2012, and what a crowded room it is! Careful there, don’t trip over all the gardening tools, and can you just step over that bag of compost. Yep, this was the year we got the allotment, weeds, rickety blue garden shed, asparagus patch and all. Hey, yoohoo! I’m over here, squished in the corner behind the four novels, one novella and three short stories. Yep, that’s me! I know, I know, I look a bit tired. Well it has been one of the most challenging years ever, so that’s not terribly surprising. There’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 450,000 words in all those pages! Oh and then there was all the blog posts, and you know me. I’m noted for being pretty wordy.

That’s it, that’s it, careful there, just squeeze past the telly and around the stack of old Metro Holly 9 July 2012newspapers. 2012 was the year I made my first ever national television appearance on channel 5 news, thanks to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey and the wild popularity of the eBook reader. I almost didn’t get there after being sent to the wrong studio, then being stuffed into a cab to get across London in twenty minutes before show time. What an adventure that was! I also got to be on the radio with Phil Rickman. I love radio. It’s still titillates the imagination for me. And then there were newspapers! Wow, I had mug shots and everything! The Daily Express even sent a photographer and a make-up artist so they could capture the smutter in her natural environment.

Careful there, don’t knock over the pile of used train tickets and hotel receipts. It took me ages to get them stacked that neatly. 2012 was packed with readings and launches and adventures in London. And then there were the talks in the libraries in the Midlands! That was definitely one of the highlights of my writing year. The Initiation of Ms Holly was chosen by the wonderful Between the Sheets Project, as one of the top 30 erotica books to be included on the shelves in public libraries in the UK. Between the Sheets was a month-long celebration of erotica including a website and blog and talks by erotica writers in libraries around the UK. I felt like I was a part of history being made. And when Kay Jaybee and I went to speak in the Dudley area libraries near Birmingham, we were bowled over by the excitement and the enthusiasm for erotica and by the wonderful hospitality of the people from the Black Country.

This was the year I became another person. Everyone knows K D Grace writes very naughty erotica. But this was the year when I decided romance should come to the forefront, and Xcite agreed with me. That being the case, Grace Marshall made her debut with romance served hot, and the first course was An Executive Decision, book one of the Executive Decisions Trilogy, which was released in September and very well received, so well in fact that Xcite asked me to hurry on with the rest of the trilogy. That’s what I’ve been up to since the middle of October. The second book, Identity Crisis, has just been finished and is due to make its appearance early in 2013, and book three, The Exhibition, won’t be far behind.

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This was the year we got our allotment. Yes I know, I mentioned that, but since you keep tripping over garden tools and you noticed the freezer full of our over-abundant runner bean harvest, I thought I’d bring it up again. The plot we were allotted in April was about four, maybe five times our entire back garden and it was well-grown with weeds. We still managed a lovely crop of sweet corn, cabbage, French and runner beans and courgettes. And there was asparagus!

IMG00466-20121101-1054I can’t recall a year that I’ve ever worked so hard, and even with all of the excitement and the adventure I’ve never had a year that I’ve suffered so much from self-doubt, some of that, I’m sure, came from the stress of writing four novels as two different authors in one year, plus a 40 thousand word novella. This was a year that tested me and stretched me in ways I could have never imagined at the beginning, when I first walked into this room of 2012, back when it was the empty room. Now, as I reflect, I’m amazed that one year could contain so very, very much, and there’s so much more I could share with you, but really, I’m looking forward to the tour of YOUR crowded 2012!

For me, sales are good and the response to my work has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m already excited about the projects that are ahead of me. As I look back at this very full room of 2012, I feel like the luckiest woman on the planet.

I spend my days doing what I love most, writing stories. I spend my evenings and nights with a man who loves me and is very supportive of my work. I’m surrounded by wonderful colleagues and friends, who encourage me and empathise with me and share the excitement, and I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I already know some of the fun I can expect in 2013, and it will include at least two more novels; the third of The Executive Decisions novels and, at long last, a sequel to The Initiation of Ms Holly. There are also some schemes and plans I’m not quite ready to share yet, but I will definitely be crowing about them when the time comes. Oh yes, I’m going to have great fun filling the empty room of 2013. The key is already twitching in my hand!

Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter if we’re sitting reflecting on all that fills our individual 2012 room, or if we’re frantically trying to fill it still  December Sunset after first hard frostfuller; at midnight tonight, we’ll all take a deep breath, open the door and walk out into the empty room waiting for us in 2013. All we’ll take with us is our memories of the room we left and our hopes for how we’ll fill this bright new room that stretches promisingly before us. Some of us make New Years resolutions, some of us just plow in without a plan of action, but one thing is for certain, this time next year, if we live that long, we’ll be sitting in the full room again reflecting on how the experiences of 2013 have shaped us, anticipating how we’ll take the experiences into the next empty room.

My wish for you is that your reflections in your full room be good ones, satisfying ones. And at the stroke of midnight, that you will enter that bright new empty room with hope and joy and anticipation of how wonderfully you’ll fill it up.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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