Tag Archives: Publishing

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.

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.

 

 

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!

Confusion and hope…

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Rainbow flag over Nottingham Castle

Hello World!

I’m still here. Haven’t blogged in a while. Not sure why that makes me feel like I have to reaffirm my existence…but still…here I am, in case you were worried.

It’s been a confusing few weeks. There’s been so many things I would have liked to write blog posts about. There’s been death and marriage…I’ve been a bridesmaid and read a poem at a funeral. I’ve spent a lot of time–by my standards–in church; contemplating, doubting, wondering, believing, crying, debating…I’ve also rediscovered my fascination with crystal healing. I’ve been up and down and in between. I’ve seen a rainbow flag flying from the flag pole at Nottingham Castle…I’ve come to identify with the Wicked Witch of the West…(as she appears in Wicked)

Elphaba, the "Wicked" Witch of the West

I want to talk about religion and spirituality. I want to talk about gay pride and my own pride at living in a country where a rainbow flag can fly high above the city. I want to talk about being gay and yet enjoying the very conventional and maybe even heterosexist event of  a Church of England wedding, complete with bridesmaid’s gown, flowers and sparkles in my hair…I want to talk about so much. But I can’t seem to dwell on one thing for long enough.

Oh and I’m a writer too, by the way. I’m reminding myself, here. When people ask what I do, I want to reply “sales assistant” more often than not. I’ve been asking myself why. I’m phenomenonly proud of being a writer. Ghosts of Winter is doing well, off in the world on its own, and I’ve recieved some lovely compliments about it. But somehow, right now, I feel disconnected from it. I can’t believe I wrote it.

And I’m trying to write short stories for some of the calls for submission I’ve seen recently. I really want to write them. I have ideas aplenty. But they don’t seem to want to emerge onto the page. Which has led me to think a lot about what writing is. There’s that famous quote about inspiration and perspiration. Thing is, I have both of those–I have the spark and I have the willingness to work. What’s missing is space in my brain. My imagination needs room to expand. But it’s being cramped…by real life considerations like work and death…but more than that, by life itself. While I’m contemplating religion and mortality and society and equality, it’s hard to think of stories. Stories themselves don’t even seem that important. What’s a romance compared to questions of faith and morality and the future? Imagination takes up a lot of space… and somehow I’ve been finding other ways of filling that space.

But then, like today, something always reminds me why it’s important to make the space my imagination needs. Two things reminded me of that today. The first is to do with my own personal castle, with big medieval, inpentetrable doors…which needs space in my head to expand and get taller…

Castle doors... (from nationaltrust.org.uk)

 

But I won’t dwell on that. The second is thanks to an e-mail I received from a reader (and a good friend–you know who you are, thank you!). Someone who was touched by Ghosts of Winter, who was inspired by the journey of the characters and the rennovation of Winter Manor…Someone who found a sense of hope in my words. Those words spring from my imagination. Imagination matters. Stories matter.

So I have to find clarity in the mess of confusion, throw out the clutter, and make room again. I want my imagination to grow…I want the flickering flame of hope to grow…until it burns bright enough for my friends, readers, even people I meet for mere moments, to feel that warmth.

What I hope is that all of this confusion, these meandering thoughts, these new avenues, have actually opened up the space in my head and painted the walls of that space in shades and colours I haven’t considered before. So when I find my clarity again–and I plan on meditating, relaxing, deep breathing and working on accepting myself until I do–my imagination is free to expand bigger, and with more colour, than ever before. And then, maybe, I’ll remember I’m a writer again.

Hope out of confusion and distress. Like a bright red poppy on a battlefield.

Poppies (from radiowaves.co.uk)

 

You can find Ghosts of Winter and more fabulous books at www.boldstrokesbooks.com. And remember to come along and meet some of us Bold Strokers at Waterstones in Nottingham on 23rd and 24th July.

Keep the date!!! Bold Strokes Books’ event 2011

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I am very excited to share the first flyer for Bold Strokes Books’ second UK event. It’s a chance to meet lots of lovely Bold Strokes writers, editors, and other book fans. And takes place in my beloved Nottingham. I couldn’t be more proud!!
I can’t wait, and I hope to meet lots of you there!!

Bold Strokes hits the UK again!

The magic of browsing the shelves…

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As of April, when my novel, Truths, is published by Bold Strokes Books, I am officially a writer. But before I signed a contract I was just an avid reader with aspirations to be a novelist, with no knowledge of the publishing industry at all. Read a book such as The Writer’s Handbook , or  a similar publication, and the best general advice is to know your market. Publishers will want to know both who your target audience is and which other authors they can compare your work with.

So, as I was beginning to write Truths, I set out to research my market–and to find new books to satisfiy the reader in me. Call me old fashioned, but I headed to my local bookshop, rather than flicking on my computer. I know I can find any book I want to online, but I was curious what actually made it onto the shelves. There is no independent bookshop in Nottingham–only secondhand and religious ones anyway–so my target was my local big name chainstore outlet–Waterstones. But a bookshop is a bookshop and this one is so huge I thought I’d pretty much find anything there.

So I scanned the shelves. I found general fiction, military history, sci-fi, crime, romance, kids, sociology, poetry, erotica…in the end I gave up and asked the assisstant. ‘Do you have a gay and lesbian section?’

The answer was no. As you would expect, I asked why not. Apparently they used to have one but–and this is a quote–it attracted ‘the wrong sort of people’. It was tempting to ask if he meant dykes and gay boys but he was a helpful soul and I didn’t want to turn bitter and militant. In fact, he told me, he was keen to see the section reinstated, with better choice. For which he was going to have to look to American publishers. Ignoring what this says about queer publishing in the UK (Bold Strokes, my publisher, are US based too), I have to applaud his intentions.  Clearly they got him nowhere–nearly a year later there is still no LGBTQ section in the shop.

I’m not saying that Waterstones is discriminating unfairly. I can find nearly every book I want on their website and, if a gay author such as Sarah Waters, has the fortune to cross-over into the mainstream their work can be found in the general fiction section. I honestly don’t know the policy in stores outside of Nottingham. And maybe I shouldn’t want queer books shoved in a special section, a sort of literary ghetto? Maybe I should just accept that if their market isn’t mainstream enough then I’m not going to find them on the shelves of a commercial bookseller–after all, I’m not usually a supporter of postive discrimination. I can just go online and find my books and thank my lucky stars for the internet. Maybe I can even buy an e-book.

However, and it’s a big however, I don’t think anything beats browsing the shelves of a bookshop. The joy of holding a book in your hands–looking at the cover, turning it over to read the blurb, flicking to the first chapter, examining the size of the font, putting that one back and looking at what was next to it on the shelf–is one of the most perfect experiences for any reader. I don’t want to be denied that just because the books I read only appeal to a limited market.  As a writer, I want to see my book on the shelf and observe its companions to better know my market. I have to accept that even the bestselling lesbian books don’t sell in the numbers that general fiction books do and they’re never going to make it into that section of the bookshops. So would it hurt to have a shelf–just one little shelf in a huge shop–for queer books? It would make my book buying adventures easier and more pleasurable.

I did find gay erotica books in that particular section. I’m guessing their market is less than the heterosexual books they share their shelves with, but they’re still there and apparently not attracting the ‘wrong sort of people’. How about a few romances by Radclyffe squeezing out some of the Mills and Boon volumes? I don’t ask for every queer book to find a place on their shelves, but what about just some of the bestsellers? Is that really too much to ask?

There is only one dedicated queer bookshop in the UK now, Gay’s the Word in London. But I don’t live in London. I depend on my local bookshop to meet my needs and I’m afraid, whilst I try to be fair minded and understanding of the commercial needs of a high street bookshop, I can’t help but feel my minority status all too painfully when I look for my kind of books on the shelves and can’t find any of them.