Tag Archives: Ghosts of Winter

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.

Good Queen Bess

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Just a quick post…because it follows on so well from my last one in which I posted photographs of the two Queen Elizabeths. I spent the whole of Monday and the whole of today performing my own interpretation of the first of them at work. The greatest queen ever to rule Britain…as I’ve been telling people all day. I’m not sure whether she is or not, but I certainly believed it while I was still in the wig, costume and make up. What do you think? 🙂

True, my interpretation probably owed more to Miranda Richardson’s fabulous Queenie in Blackadder II than historical accuracy. But I still found myself embodying the character. It struck me how similar creating a character in a novel as a writer is to creating a character as an actress. I always try to embody the characters in my books for a while too. It’s a fascinating process.

And it was amazing fun. I don’t know where the girl who was terrified of public speaking went…but I can’t say I miss her!

Oh, and just in case you wanted to know, I didn’t win the Lambda Award I was nominated for. But I honestly don’t mind at all. I’m thrilled Ghosts of Winter was nominated, it was a real honour. And I don’t write for awards. I’m getting good feedback already for The Locket and the Flintlock. One reader writing to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it…that’s what keeps me going more than any award ever could.

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! 😀

 

 

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.

Wow, what a weekend!

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It’s taken me until Thursday to recover from the 2nd Annual Bold Strokes Books Author Event in Nottingham. I don’t think I realised quite how much I wanted it to be a success, just how important it was to me. Even when all the work that could be done had been done, there was still a certain tension. I suspected it would be wonderful, but I didn’t know for sure.

I shouldn’t have worried, of course. It was wonderful. Although it’s kind of a blur for me, I’ve heard enough feedback to know that people had a interesting and fun time.

Personally, I found it phenomenal that we’d brought together such an ecclectic bunch of people. Mostly women, and mostly gay, but not all. Mostly readers and budding writers, but not all. To see old friends and new chatting together, people from both sides of the Atlantic and from various UK and European destinations all getting on together. There are no words for how exciting that is. They appreciated the books, the readings, and my beautiful Nottingham. New friendships were made and old ones renewed. And knowing that it was, in part, because of me. Wow. There aren’t other words for it. I feel genuinely proud.

And how wonderful it is that words brought these people together. Creativity, inspiration and a love of fiction. This is why I write. I love words, I love imagination, I love escaping into a fictional world. I love to read. To have the ability to create those worlds, to give readers new words to respond to is an amazing thing. Facing a room full of those readers makes me only appreciate it more. And I’m aware of what a gift it is, how lucky I am. I felt humble and proud at the same time. So many discerning readers, mostly older and more widely read than me, and a whole bunch of talented writers…to be part of it was an honour, to know I was one of the reasons it was happening almost astonishing.

Reading from 'Ghosts of Winter'

I’m still vaguely bewildered when someone asks me to sign a book for them. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that. I still have an inner terror that they’ll be disappointed and wish they’d not bought it. I signed a lot of copies of Ghosts of Winter. I’m just beginning to trust that people genuinely want to read it and aren’t just humouring me…And it means the world.

If you are a budding writer, this is for you: Write. Write with all of your heart and soul, as if you’re going to be published. Know, in the back of your mind that you might not be, but believe that you are. Write something you would be proud to see in the world. Don’t limit yourself by what you think the world wants to see. Write what you want to say, what is in your heart. And don’t listen to the people who tell you you’ll never make it. Because you just might. If you want to write, make it part of your journey. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.” (Gloria Gaither). As a writer, the chances are you will stumble a lot. There will be rejection, there might be criticism, envy, or people who tell you it can’t be done. But don’t lose sight of the rainbow or the fact that you CAN fly. This weekend was my rainbow. It was glorious and I am so grateful for it. But I wouldn’t have seen it if I’d not kept writing. Not been afraid to change direction when the first one wasn’t working. Not been afraid to send my words out into the world and see if someone would publish them. In what were very dark times for me, I reached for that rainbow and I wrote. On Saturday and Sunday, I really truly appreciated how vibrant those colours are.

Last year, this event marked my first event as a writer, and also, in many ways, my public coming out. It’s been quite a year since then, personally and as a writer…Without going into depth, it’s been a journey that’s brought me back to myself. To punctuate this phase of my journey with such amazing, special events is a real privilege. But it’s not a full stop, just a comma…there is more to come. Next year’s event will be more amazing. I have another book, The Locket and the Flintlock coming out in May 2012. And I’m still taking one step after another on my journey. I read somewhere recently that “Success is a journey not a destination…” (Ben Sweetland) and it’s true. The success of the wonderful BSB event was amazing. It reflected my own success as a published writer. But I’m going on…I won’t rest on the success and be content. If anything, it drives me forwards.

So I want to say thank you. To everyone who was involved in the BSB event. To my publisher, Bold Strokes Books, for letting my voice out into the world. To Victoria Oldham, for supreme and inspiring organisational skills. To every writer (and editor) on the panel (Gill McKnight, Lesley Davis, Justine Saracen, Stacia Seaman, Cari Hunter, I. Beacham, Jane Fletcher). To Waterstone’s for hosting a queer event in a mainstream bookstore. And especially to the readers, the ones who came, and the ones who couldn’t but wanted to. To everyone who has supported me personally. For every hug and every reminder to breathe. Thank you.

Onwards and upwards. Next year’s going to be amazing!

Discussing the publishing process...

No more limits…

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Today I spent four hours in Waterstone’s in Nottingham sitting behind–and occasionally meandering around–a table piled with copies of both of my published books, Truths and Ghosts of Winter. My first solo book signing. Or my first solo sitting-on-my-own-in-a-bookstore-hoping-I-at-least-sell-one-copy.

Truths

I set my target low. One copy. And I beat that target, several times over. No, I didn’t sell lots of books, and many of those I did were to people I already know. But I certainly sold more than would have ever been picked up from the shelves of Waterstone’s on an average Saturday. I also got to hang out with some great people, who came to keep me company, who I most likely wouldn’t know if I wasn’t a writer, including my fellow Bold Strokes author Lisa Girolami. And I got to sit and look at my books. MY books. All published and shiny in their beautiful covers, with my name on the front.

To begin with, it was intimidating. To be all on my own, with my books, in a store full of wonderful books of all kinds, and lots of literature-hungry customers. I couldn’t quite get past the idea that I was a fraud and that anyone who bought my books would be disappointed and wish they’d bought one of the thousands of other books in the store. I’ve always been in awe of Waterstone’s, of the brilliant volumes on the shelves and their myriad of compelling covers. So it was hard to make myself “part” of it. I felt like an intruder.

Ghosts of Winter

But then something happened. I wandered around and picked up some of those books. I revisited favourites, let titles catch my eye, examined the covers. I read the blurbs. So many intriguing stories. And my overall impression was one of a world without limits. Fiction really can go wherever it wants to. Within five minutes I’d found a book about the second coming of Christ in modern day New York, a depiction of a medieval queen, a Regency romance, and a book of vampire erotica. And that was such a small sample of what surrounded me.

Of course, I’m hardly saying anything new. Part of the point of fiction is that it is unlimited. The writer sets the rules of their own world and everything takes second place to the story. Those rules bend however a writer wants them to. However, writers can be limited. I was. My first novel, provisionally titled Butterfly will never be published. It’s not badly written and I very much like some of my characters.  But I wrote it with limits. I considered that my friends and family would read it. I considered that I didn’t really understand people that well and thus in dealing with the psychological mind-set of my characters, and didn’t want to present unrealistic thought patterns or motivations. I indulged in characterisation and description, but I never let my mind soar free. The result is something rather mundane and constrained.

The limits have relaxed a little. Becoming aware of my sexuality and finally grasping hold of my individuality led to Truths, written very quickly, in a time when I no longer worried what my relatives would think. Ghosts of Winter is unusual in some ways, but I was still frightened what people would think, so I made sure to stay “safe” with my second novel. There are really no controversial characters or ideas, nothing complicated to understand. Emotionally, it was a challenge to write, but it also fit nicely into the limits of what I thought I could achieve. There is nothing outspoken. Maybe nothing outstanding. That’s not a derogatory comment, but an acknowledgement of the fact that my novels are unlikely to provoke much comment or thought. I even worried a lot about the idea of including a short romance between gay men in a novel with a lesbian target market.

If I’m honest, I was scared to go further. Talk about religion, for better or worse? Include a character who does not have their wicked side in check, but is still appealing? Challenge expectations–of both the heterosexist world and the lesbian community? Many brilliant novels do none of these things. But the reason mine don’t, I realise, is that I didn’t feel capable. Who am I to delve into the mind of a villain? Who am I to present a confident, experienced, witty protagonist? Who am I to use psychological, philsophical or theological ideas as part of my plot?

Today I realised that I can do all of those things, and more, because I’m a writer. I DO have a talent for it. I can create worlds with my words. And in those worlds, I make the rules. I am the powerful one. The only limits are the ones I choose to impose. Any bookstore is a repository of worlds created by other writers. I’m as good as them. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But I’m a writer just like any other. When I pick up one of their books and admire their bravery, at tackling a difficult or in-depth topic as part of their plot, or for taking on a twisty, complicated structure, I don’t need to be intimidated. I need to remember I’m a writer too, and I have no more limits than any of them. I can be intelligent, witty, wicked and fun…thoughtful, controversial, romantic, far-reaching. I can soar on the wings of imagination.

So, on with the writing. But I’m going to indulge that teenage rebellion I never allowed myself before. I’m going to open all the doors of my mind and see what’s lurking. I’m going to embrace my curiosity and the paths my intellect leads me down. I’ll even look in the dark places, the questioning places, and the fun places.

And I will trust my readers to come with me into that world. I’ll seduce and charm them with words until my rules are the ones that form the boundaries.

I finally believe that I can do it. I was perfectly legitimately placed in that bookstore today. Writing is the gift I was given and I am a writer.  That means I’m unlimited.

And, maybe, life will imitate art. 😀

By the way, I’m very much looking forward to the Bold Strokes Books 2nd Annual Author Event on 23rd and 24th of THIS MONTH!