Tag Archives: Fiction

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

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

Happy Birthday to me…

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Today, I turn 30. Though I’ve been celebrating my birthday all day, it’s in the next hour that I should really be celebrating. I made my appearance at about 11.30pm on 26th April 1982. 6 weeks early. I’ve always been impatient. I like to think I was anxious to get into the world and start living.

Today, I feel like I’m being born all over again. It is a turning point in so many ways. Not because anything in particular has happened today, but because so many things have happened over the last two years. Today I took some time to contemplate them. To look back at the journey and see the place I’m in now. It’s a good place. A place I thought I would never find. It’s amazing to be here. To know that I kept looking, even when it was dark, for that lingering fragment of hope. And found it. And now it’s lighting up my whole life. And, in that glow, I can see that I’m not at my destination yet. There’s another journey to embark on. Only this time it’s exciting and inspiring and an enticing adventure.

Through the last two years there’s been one song that’s sustained me in dark moments, helped me to put words to my feelings, and filled me with feelings of hope. Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked. I told myself I wouldn’t post a video of it until I felt like I was finally defying gravity. Not when I hoped to be, or wanted to be. When I was actually doing it.

I’m posting it today. And with it, I’m experiencing all the emotions it brings out in me. When I first heard the song, I found it quite sad. “Kiss me goodbye, I’m defying gravity…” There’s a real sense of loss, of letting go, of having to move on however much it hurts. For a long time the chains that bound me to the ground were of that nature. I was holding onto them myself, scared to move on. Filled with overwhelming sadness at leaving anything behind. But you can’t fly if you don’t let go.

Then I felt the fighting spirit, the anger, the need to triumph. “I’m through accepting limits, ’cause someone says they’re so…some things I cannot change, but ’til I try I’ll never know…” I used it to strengthen me. To help me fight, to connect with my own anger and pride in myself.

And now, today, I feel the joy of it too. “So if you care to find me, look to the western sky…as someone told me lately, everyone deserves the chance to fly. And if I’m flying solo, at least I’m flying free…to those who’d ground me, take a message back from me…tell them how I’m defying gravity…I’m flying high defying gravity…”

As Elphaba, the not-so-Wicked Witch of the West, declares: It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap.

This is the first time in my life I can do that. I really do have enough faith to close my eyes, to trust in myself, in fate or God, in the universe…in that sense that things happen for a reason…and to leap. I’m not worried that I won’t fly. I know I will.

I’ve been in two gravity-defying places lately. The top of the London Eye (on 12th April) and the terrace of Nottingham Castle (today). It’s a funny thing to be high up, looking down on the world. Part of it, yet slightly removed. It made me contemplative. What I saw was a place full of excitement and potential. Of new experiences, new feelings, new sights and sounds and smells. An exciting new journey into the future. Which isn’t to say I’m just bundling up the past and discarding it. It’s my journey so far. I’m just tidying it away, keeping it somewhere safe, and not letting it weigh me down.

I’ve also been looking at photos of me from the last few months.  There’s some real variety there, I’ve done so many different things. It’s exciting and almost surprises me. And what I notice is that, whatever I’m doing, wherever I am…I’m always me. Not moulding myself to fit with whoever I’m with or the situation I’m in. But being me. And “me” isn’t fragmented, it’s not an effort to make myself whole. I’m just me. It seems so simple. But, for me, it’s taken some time to get here. But it’s wonderful to be here. I’m imperfect, I have lots of faults and I still have lots of fears. But I’m whole and I’m strong.

And because of that, and with the care and support of a few special people, I can finally fly.

Defying Gravity above London!

It only took me 30 years to get here. Let’s see what I can do with the next 30!

Oh, and The Locket and the Flintlock is almost here. I’d love you to read it, you can order it from the Bold Strokes Books webstore and other good booksellers! And check out this site for news of the Bold Strokes Books author event in Nottingham in August!

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!

Joy, gratitude, and being a real writer…

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Sometimes (as we all know) life is hard. Sometimes I feel like I’m pretending…”all the world’s a stage” as Shakespeare once said, and the men and women just “players”. Like the world sees one face, while behind the scenes is another one. One I’m scared to allow into the spotlight in case it’s not good enough or, worse, so horrible it makes the audience run away. I don’t want to stand in a spotlight on my own, in an empty theatre…And that makes it easier to stay hidden in the wings. Or at least, when I do make it onto the stage, to remember to avoid the glare of the spotlights and make sure I’m wearing a mask.

(image from theater-masks.com)

It’s not that I’m looking for adulation. Just that I’d like to stand on that stage, in the light, and be comfortable with who I am.

This week, I have a constant audience of one. From a photograph, I’ve conjured an image of my younger self. She’s about 6. And I’m spending a lot of time looking into her eyes. Holding her hand. She’s going everywhere with me. Because it’s her that gets frightened and worries about being alone. It’s her that worries about not being good enough and thinks it’s safer to hide. I’ve tried to show her before, what a wonderful thing life can be and how we just have to get out there and enjoy it. But somehow she’s never quite convinced and hangs on to her pink Care Bear and regards me with some doubt in her eyes.

Yesterday, I was able to reassure her that’s she’s worth caring about and she believed me. I was able to let her know it’s okay, one day people will see her and they will like her. And I told her not to worry about what other people do or say, because I’m here to take care of her. We went for a walk in the sunshine and I bought her cake. But I sensed she was still dubious.

Today, she’s watching as I answer questions from friends, fellow authors and readers–and many who fall into more than one of those categories–on my publisher’s facebook page. And I feel proud to have her watching. For once I feel like I haven’t let her down. There’s a lot of questions, all of them insightful and fun. There’s also a lot of appreciation and praise for my books, and for my answers to the questions. People care what I think. People have read my books and enjoyed them. People recognise that I have something interesting to say about writing, fiction, maybe even life. And I’m not pretending. I AM the writer Rebecca S. Buck. Those books are mine, just as the answers to the questions on facebook are mine. And they’re honest too. I’m not holding back or worrying, I’m just being myself and letting people see into my thoughts. I’m telling them I have a new book, The Locket and the Flintlock out in May, and not being concerned that they won’t like it. I hope they like it because I loved writing it and I love to give my readers something they enjoy. But I’m not letting the fear that they won’t stop me telling them about it.

The Locket and the Flintlock, coming May 2012!

I’m getting more excited and more emotional with every comment and question. I’m so touched to be noticed, for my words–and me–to be cared about.

And my younger self is sitting with me.  I can tell her with confidence today that she will grow, and she can make it past the fear. She will be a writer, just like she’s always dreamed. And people will like what she writes too. I can reassure her, and for the first time I don’t feel like I’m doing it under false pretences.

Today I am overflowing with joy. To have the chance to talk about history and writing with a global community of friends is amazing. And I am profoundly grateful. To all the people who have helped me to get here…to all the people who’ve taken time today to talk to me…and to the world, or God, or Fate, or whatever you call the place we all come from and the power that guides our lives, for giving me the ability to write. To be able to view the world in all of its colours and take them into my mind and transform them into words. For the perception to truly see things and the drive to want to express them. I am grateful too for the beauty of the world and the complexity of the people in it. Sometimes the wonder of that miracle is almost overwhelming. I think it is partly in searching for strands of meaning that I write. But I’m grateful it’s not simple. I’m grateful for the challenge.

Today I am grateful for many things. And it gives me the confidence to look into the eyes of my younger-self companion and smile and convince her that life will be good, she will start to reach out for her dreams and some of them will come true. And, looking back at me, I see her delight, and the promise she can’t articulate…she will never, ever take any of this for granted.

 

 

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.