This week I wanted to share a short excerpt from my recent novella release - 'Unravelling.'
To say that I am proud of this work goes only a small way to convey the emotions caught up in the process of getting to this point. I have always wanted to write poems and stories, but given the chance in recent years to focus upon writing, I have to admit that the poetry came more easily. Writing a story seemed a step too far, an insurmountable task for me. It is not surprising then that my first contributions to the world of indie authors were not in the form of stories. A midlife memoir and a poetry chapbook to be precise. Yet, I guess, both of them are versions of my story, aren't they?
Last year, I enrolled on a creative writing course with the express intention of seeing if I could find some inspiration to start tinkering in the world of fiction. I thought that I might perhaps try writing a short story or two. Just walking into the classroom for the first course session was a difficult task for me. My midlife crisis of confidence did all it could to have me questioning what I was doing. My husband dropped me off that morning and I stood outside the building, taking a few deep breaths before entering, wondering what the next two hours would entail. As it turned out, they would be the starting point for the year's writing, the germ of an idea that slowly took shape in my head to become objects, characters and the plot of the story I would write. Mostly though, stepping outside of my comfort zone to attend that course gave me the growing courage to believe that I might actually have a writing voice. A writing voice that could put a story together, if I stopped overthinking and allowed it the space to be heard.
My previous writing had a lot of me in it. My experiences of midlife, motherhood, mindfulness, menopause - yes, my poems and blog posts were definitely drawing upon my own reality. The adage is to write what you know. Perhaps that is why I felt the unease of diving into fiction writing, wondering how I could possibly just make up so much content to create a whole story. But of course, even in fiction, the author is present in the stories in some way or another. Once I realised this, I had my way in. What started with a simple object in a ten minute writing exercise, grew into the outline of a character in my head. Her name was Doris.
Once Doris was there, she would not leave quietly. Over time, she had family and friends, a past that shaped her present, and a whole set of experiences that I felt duty bound to weave into the pages of her story. Some of these experiences came from shadows of times and places I had known myself, some from research I carried out with others. Her present was caught up in the dementia she was suffering but she was so much more than that. I think that was the main motivation for telling her story. Having lost my father to dementia a few years ago, I was all too aware of how much the condition takes over the person and how others view them that way. This story may have the thread of dementia running through it, but it was written to go far beyond that. It shares the experiences of an ordinary life, the love and strength of an ordinary woman and how that in itself is a powerful tale to be told.
With all that in mind, I am indeed proud to share the following excerpt with you.
Unravelling - A Tale of Strength, Love and Dementia.
Chapter 1 - Just the Ticket
Lucy brushed a tear from her cheek and allowed her gaze to focus through the blur onto the well-thumbed slice of the past that she was holding. Just a simple bus ticket. Insignificant at first glance and easy to discard as so many of its kind would have been in days gone by. Casually thrown away at the end of a mundane journey but this one was different, well it was to Doris.
A half-grin formed as Lucy recalled the day she had retrieved this. The vultures had already picked over the china and trinkets but you cannot put a price on all that is precious. Crouched in a corner of her Gran’s dusty attic, Lucy had discovered the tin of random oddments, protected all these years by nostalgia and sentiment. It would have been so easy for this to have been scooped up with all the other scattered memories due to be cast aside during the house clearance. But Lucy sensed its significance.
Most people had stopped listening to Doris once she had been confined to the nursing home as her conversation lost its thread and her thoughts fox-trotted around. Not Lucy. She loved her Gran’s stories and amongst their confused dance there was the sparkle of an odd gem of truth. At those moments the gentle pools of her gran’s greying, blue eyes invited Lucy in. Just as a spool of old movie footage reveals a scene clicking frame by frame, she caught glimpses of the girl her gran used to be. Doris in her dancing days, in whirling petticoats with tumbling sandy brown locks catching the light as her feet marked the beat.
The rush of young love with a gaze exchanged across the dance floor may have become a faded memory for Doris but the tale of how they met, dodged the raindrops and held hands to take the bus ride home together, was her favourite to recall. In her rocking chair, crocheted blanket upon her knee and Lucy’s wondrous ‘treasure box find’ placed beside a tray of tea, Doris was now content. The broken connections of life’s confusion that usually frustrated Doris were strangely calm this afternoon. Lucy saw this peace reflected in the window pane’s rivulets of rain.
With a determined effort Doris pressed the ticket into Lucy’s palm, clasped her hand tight and returned her focus to the rain.