Tag Archives: Waterstones

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.

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!

Clarity

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The name Pandora translates as “all giving”. In Greek mythology she was the first woman. The one with the box. When she opened it, all the evil escaped and swirled around, spreading out into all the world. All that was left in Pandora’s box, was hope. My last blog post, it strikes me, was called “Confusion and Hope”. Interesting.

I’ve felt a lot like Pandora. Without wishing to sound at all martyr-like, I’ve given a lot of myself, tried very hard to please…been as worried about disappointing people as Pandora was of disappointing Zeus when she disobeyed him and opened the box. And I’ve blamed myself for opening that box, letting lots of bad things swirl around me and confuse me, letting them hurt other people.

"Pandora" by Rossetti

But, in the last days, that murk is clearing. I can see what’s left in the box. It’s hope. It’s bright and it’s strong. It’s a butterfly, with glowing wings, waiting to fly into the blue skies.

I always knew it was there. Hope never vanished. Only now, it seems tangible. It seems strong. I can see it clearly. It’s more than hope. It’s a belief in my future.

Suddenly, I find I have clarity. It’s an interesting experience. To see myself for what I am, and to realise I have to define myself. Not in opposition to anything or in relation to anyone. Just as me. Just for me.

Who am I? Now there’s a question. I’ve started to tell people I’m a writer again. Just yesterday someone told me that my novel, Ghosts of Winter touched their heart very deeply. Those were my words, my characters. I’m proud to be a writer. I feel part of my writing ambition remains unfulfilled. In my next novel, I will do something about that. When I work out how to write it…

 

I’m gay. I struggle a little more telling people that than I do telling them I’m a writer. I’m still trying to work out why. The word “lesbian” makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why that is either. Sometimes women in general make me uncomfortable, especially en masse. It’s strange. But it’s part of me.

 

 

I’m exploring my spirituality. I’m doing so within the “family” of a Church of England church. Such established, orthodox, paternalist, heterosexist religion is in direct contradiction to much of what I believe in. And yet, I’m asking questions. Why is it okay for someone to interrogate their spiritual beliefs and come to a faith in Mother Earth or Budda without condemnation? Some religions seem to be trendy. Why am I frightened of the Christian church? Surely all it is–like every religion and belief system–is another way of exploring the idea that there is something more than our fleeting existence. I’ve met with more acceptance in that church than I have within my own family. It was easier to come out to the vicar than it was my own mother. I’m not sure what I believe. But I find I can explore it now…without fear and with confidence in my conclusions…

Window at St. Margaret's Church, Aspley, Nottingham

I finally feel like an adult. Everyone I know has assumed their proper age in my mind, and no longer do I feel inferior to, and more naive than, everyone I meet. I have something worthwhile to contribute. I sometimes know more than other people…

And I have dreams again. I know they’re dreams and, as such, might not come true. But they are exciting, something to aim for. They are part of how I will relate to the world in the coming months. Having the clarity of mind to know my dreams is more wonderful than I could ever expect it to be.

In clarity, you see, there is no certainty. My dreams may deviate, or never come true at all. My mind is full of questions, about myself and the world. But that’s the point of clarity. When the view is clear, you can see all the way to the horizon. You can see all that lies before you and look at it carefully, in all of its vivid colours. You see the beauty and the mystery. Sometimes you see the problems too. But the point is, you see them clearly. And that means you can meet them head on.

My favourite quotation: “If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”  (Henry David Thoreau)

I can see my castle now. I can see the foundations I’ve been building under it for the last year. They’re strong. Now I can start to fill the rooms, paint the walls…and look out from the tower and see the view. The skies are clear.

 

I’m about to start work on my next novel, though it’s a secret for now. I’m not writing a proposal, that doesn’t work for me. I’m taking a risk. How does Victorian Gothic sound? Ghosts of Winter is doing well. And next month is the BSB event at Waterstones. All good stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bold Strokes Books UK event 2011

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Save the date!! Bold Strokes hits the UK again in July 2011. I am so very excited and proud that the event is taking place in Nottingham, and delighted that we have the support of Waterstones for the second year in a row. The authors who will be attending for sure are: Me (Rebecca S. Buck), Lesley Davis, Gill McKnight, Jane Fletcher, Justine Saracen, I. Beacham, Cari Hunter and VK Powell. Editors in attendence will be Stacia Seaman and Victoria Oldham. Check out www.boldstrokesbooks.com for more information on these writers, editors, and our wonderful publisher 😀

Please note that the event is actually two events–one on the Saturday afternoon and one on the Sunday morning. We’re also hoping for a fun, informal social event on the Saturday evening. More details to follow!

Here’s the latest flyer:

BSB in the UK!

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!