Category Archives: Creative

Fiction in lockdown

On the whole I was not super-productive during lockdown. I was highly stressed and anxious and my concentration during those long bouts of not being allowed to see people, was dire. However, I’ve been self employed for most of my adult life, so I already know how to work from home and how to manage myself without any external input. Things like getting dressed and remembering to move about weren’t so hard for me, so in some ways I had a better time of it than many.

During the first lockdown, I accidentally wrote a book. I didn’t set out to write a book, not least because I never imagined we’d be locked down for so long. But, I wanted something to focus on and to share with friends, and so the Wherefore project was born. In the first few months of UK lockdown I recorded three episodes a week for youtube – with support and input from friends who both offered ideas and responded to what I’d put out.

As lockdown eased, I kept going, dropping from three episodes a week to one or two. By the summer there was a book’s worth of material, but I hadn’t run out of ideas. Which was as well as we went into winter lockdown and I needed to distract myself. 

As a result I now have three books worth of material – silly and speculative fiction set around the Stroud area. I’ve just finished the third series. I may well do more episodes here and there but I’m not going to continue doing them regularly as there’s just too much else I need to be working on.

You can find all 3 series on youtube, and I’ve got pdf versions of series one and two – the third pdf will be along as soon as I can get it sorted.

Series 1 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDjEp1YqIYY6GkVTmG-1qux

https://ko-fi.com/s/2241a51430

Series 2 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPAxwnLOB4MzVJwba0wavMYG

https://ko-fi.com/s/1eb07c4561

Series 3 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDMpi5gY_L1KRrzTQDnQMhp


Art with my ancestors

One of the things I do is to colour comics pages for the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series I do with Tom. Above is a work in progress – we start each chapter with a two page spread. Until now I’ve been doing them with pencils, but am now exploring a mix of pencils and oil pastels.

Pastels are better for colour intensity and covering large areas of paper – especially for land, sea and sky. Pencils are better for details. I can mix the two and get away with it. The oil pastels I’m using belonged to my grandmother. As I was working on this piece I realised that my sea and rocks look very much like her sea and rocks.

For the first twenty years of my life, I regularly spent time watching my grandmother creating art. She mostly did landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes. She was obsessed with tall ships, which I’m not. However, it clearly isn’t a coincidence that I feel most comfortable using oil pastels, and most confident when I’m doing images of land, sea and sky. My grandmother avoided architecture and technology, she tended to avoid people and still life as well. Of necessity, I’ve had to learn how to colour people – I like fabric but honestly faces still scare me. I’ve learned a lot from Dr Abbey about how to handle skin tones and that’s really helped.

We all learn from our families, we all have things passed down to us from our ancestors. Sometimes it’s obvious – but not always. It’s only this week that I’ve thought about the impact it had on me watching my grandmother make art, and just how much I learned from that experience.


Beauty or death – fiction

Beauty or dead.

Doll or human.

Her face is marble smooth. No traces of those imperfections that speak of life and humanity. She could well be a doll. She might be loaded with botox and carved to lifelessness by the cosmetic surgeon’s blade. Equally, that waxy perfection might speak of death and careful preservation.

Life, after all, is messy. Her dress is vibrant, but anyone can put clothes on a doll. Fashion is not proof of life. Look closer and you will see five hundred feathers, each carefully attached to give colour to her costume. It does not seem likely that this bounty came from living birds. You wonder how much of a market there is, killing beauty to profit from the plumage.

You think about the softness of skin that wrinkles with time and use. The way pores open and close in a living face, and changing patterns of blood flow give away mood and emotion. Her pallid features will not flush with desire or embarrassment. She will not sweat in a hot room, or become flushed and undignified from too much alcohol. You will not find a stray hair growing from her chin, or a childhood scar on her forehead.

Still you cannot tell, is she a doll, or is she alive? You try to read her eyes, which are too large and too bright. But even so, you think there is something in her gaze that speaks of longing.

Does she envy your marked flesh? Can those perfect, glassy eyes see the marks that time has left on you? Does she know that your humanity is written in those countless tiny signs? And you, in your living skin with every story time has etched upon you, are more beautiful by far than she could ever be.

(Art and prompt by Dr Abbey.)


How to become a hero

In the beginning you were just like everyone else. Your sorrow was not remarkable, your setbacks were not the things of legends.  Your hopes were no more ambitious than those of other people. Not at first. It is, after all, very much in the nature of the young to dream and aspire and determine to remake the world in their own image. Even though most do no such thing.

To become a hero is to become the person to whom others attach their longings and hopes. You become the one who can triumph in their place. They imagine that your glory will, in part also be their glory. Sometimes it means they help you. Sometimes they become angry instead and seek to tear you down for being what they longed for but never dared to try.

Always, they bring their own stories and paint them on to you. Over and over. Each new thing you do becomes exaggerated, distorted, sometimes entirely re-written. Your life is no longer the thing of your making – you are what they say you are. Slowly, all sense of yourself is lost to the layers of other people’s hopes and expectations. Other people’s bitterness and resentment.

You are no longer a person like them.

You do not recognise your own face any more when you see it in reflections. Your face frightens you, and you try not to look at it too often.

In the beginning, you wanted to be the hero of the story. You were young, and hopeful. You are carrying so much now that it is heavy and hard. Now and then, you see how the young people look at you, as though you are the system they must overthrow. You are the monstrous tyrant they must take down to remake the world in their image.

(Collaboration with Dr Abbey, who provided the art.)


The crane wife – a poem

The crane wife

Knows herself perfectly, 

Cannot tell if she is human

Or crane.

Transcends these ways of being

Entirely and only herself.

Knows her feminine soul,

Desirous of egg and man,

Not crane or baby.

Walks between worlds

Loves without compromise

Kills when she must.

She is not here

To help you make sense

Of the world.

She is not a parable to guide you

These are not answers

To your unvoiced question.

You are not a crane wife

And must find your own truth.


(Based on a true story about a crane – you can find that over here https://kottke.org/18/08/my-crane-wife )


So dangerous

The girl gives herself to you. It must be so dangerous.

Are you afraid?

What danger does she pose? 

Unless you are afraid to surrender yourself. Afraid to find out who you might be when you are with her. Will she change everything? Is there a dam inside you poised to burst and will her fingers unmake you entirely? Will the flood of your passionate self explode into the world, into your own awareness? 

Does the danger lie in discovering your true self? What would it mean to be fully seen, to be known, to be loved? Does that feel unsafe right now? Too vulnerable, too exposed?

If she breaks you open, there can be no going back. You cannot unknow yourself. It may never be possible to be small and safe and tame again. Are you ready for that? 

Perhaps the person you are afraid of, is yourself. Your secret, unspeakable self, never allowed to show up in the world, always too much, too intense, too dangerous. And you cannot quite believe anyone could see this hidden version of you and welcome that with open arms.

Surely, it is dangerous to dare to imagine that you could be welcomed.

Safer to stay secret, stay hidden, alone and unchanged. If choosing not to live seems like safety. If keeping your soul in a cage seems like the least hazardous choice.

Perhaps it is more dangerous to do nothing, to ignore this call to body and soul.

Of course you are afraid.

You are in danger.

But do you understand the nature of the threat?

(Image and text prompt by Dr Abbey, extended text by me.)


Witchtober

In previous years I’ve tried my hand at Inktober – an October art event where you aim to do an image a day. There are however issues with the person behind this event, and it’s made me not want to engage. This year I’m doing Witchtober instead and I’ve taken my prompts from Jacqui Lovesey and Saffron Russell –

I’m adding black cats, because they’re cute. I’m not great at drawing, I’m a better colourist, but its fun to play and to do things for the joy of it rather than with a work hat on all the time.

Join me on Twitter https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nimuebrown/

for more of this sort of thing!


On the inside – fiction

Don’t be so vain, they said. Your pretty face is skin deep, it means nothing. The accident of good bones, good skin, inherited from your ancestors and just luck. Just because other people praise other girls for the accident of their face, don’t you expect anything. 

It’s what you have on the inside that really counts.

Try harder, they said. Be faster. Why don’t you know this already? And don’t say it’s because no one taught you or showed you. You must be 100% all the time, and better than all the others at everything. You must be perfect, but you must also be modest. Don’t seek attention, don’t make a fuss, don’t you dare think for a moment that what you do makes you special or important.

But what does she have on the inside? 

Rage. All the rage that has no way into the world. All the frustration of endless striving only to find that she has never reached the goal, never proved good enough fast enough. She is not perfectly perfect and superior to all others, she is only a small girl, full of anger that she is not allowed to show because that would be making a fuss and being a nuisance.

It’s what you have on the inside that really counts.

She is surprised when it emerges, but also relieved. Tearing through what was only ever skin deep. Not so pretty now. Tearing through the people who tried to control her. Not so biddable now. And when she stops tearing at herself with these many hands made of rage, she realises that she is bigger than she knew, and more dangerous than she feared, and she is done with their shit. And no one, no one is going to tell her again who she is supposed to be.

(Art by Dr Abbey)


Plant Guardian – fiction

A plant guardian must travel with her love.

She lost everything except you.

I have taken the earth colours into my skin. The signs and symbols of seeds are on me and inside me. I am the grain, I am the bright flowers feeding the bees. I am the seed who waits in the soil.

I am the seed collector. I take a part of what I find, never all. Vital to leave the makings of new life where I find it. The living plants do not need me to guard them, only to treat them with honour. I am the guardian of the plants who do not yet live, the ones who will flourish in times to come. I carry the seeds to new places, I plant hope.

There was a life before this life. I try not to think about it. I prefer not to remember who I was, or what I saw. There is a hideous monotony to war, to death, to destruction. It may shock and horrify you day by day, but it is only ever reduction, you only have less. There is just fear and grief, and more grief and trying to stay alive. In my mind it is a blur, a haze of pain. I do not want to remember.

I don’t want to hear war stories. I don’t want us to compete over who saw the worst thing, who hurt the most yet somehow lived. We are all marked, inside and out. I have tattoos to cover my scars, so that you will see the art on me first and not the damage. I have put my new story of seeds and life onto my skin to blot out what went before. When I look at my body, I see my chosen symbols, and not the damage done to me.

I am the person I chose to be when I had almost nothing left. My body tells that story well enough. I am not what happened to me, I am everything I decided on for myself.

(Art and first text by Dr Abbey.)


Flower Spirit – fiction

Once there were magicians who made women out of flowers. They wanted women who were pure and innocent, and they understood neither womanhood, nor flowers. For in truth, flowers are promiscuous, happily opening their petals to one and all, welcoming insects, bats, birds, even the wind, depending on their nature. The magicians may have been clever, but they lacked for wisdom.

Why even did they crave purity? Well, the truth of it is that inexperience makes a person slower to detect the failings of others. The less you know, the more easily you may be persuaded that what you are experiencing is normal. Purity is no shield at all. But how can a woman made of flowers be innocent? Made of colour and joy and the exuberant sexual nature of the flowers themselves, the flower women were joyful, sexual, colouringful beings and not the meek creatures the magicians had hoped for.

Then there came a time when the land grew barren. With so many people and so few plants to feed them, the magicians wondered if perhaps they might make flowers out of women. They had learned the art that finds the seeds for all things inside all things, and so it was not difficult for them to make flowers in this way. They did not ask whether anyone wanted to be turned into flowers. However, it was a time of great sorrow and people who are in despair are not always careful of their own interests. 

But still their plans did not meet with great success. They had looked upon women and flowers alike merely as objects for use. It is impossible to truly understand the world if all you can think of is how you might make use of its various parts. For all that they had great magic at their command, they did not put an end to suffering. Because of them, you will still sometimes find women who are really flowers, and flowers that remember being women, and many other strange confusions that their meddling has caused.

(art by Dr Abbey, story may or may not turn out to relate to other projects – I’m not currently sure!)