Tag Archives: Writing

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.

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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.

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

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.

 

 

Christmas!

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I’ve just reached the end of first round edits on The Locket and the Flintlock (coming from Bold Strokes Books in May 2012). It’s exciting. I’ve created characters I love so much I wish I really could bring them to life so I could meet them. And I’m feeling very inspired for the book I want to write next too…very inspired. Like I might actually start writing. Which is all excellent and distracting. I’d barely noticed the passage of time until I went into a supermarket today and noticed the shelves had been stripped bare as though there was a natural disaster on the way. Of course there isn’t. It’s just Christmas…though I don’t know how on earth it got here so quickly…

So, it’s the night before the night before Christmas. It’s quite possibly going to be the strangest Christmas ever. For reasons in my life that I won’t go into, I don’t have a tree…or garlands…or tinsel…or lights. I do have a Christmas pudding. I mean, some things are too important to miss. I don’t have a pile of gifts waiting to be opened (a few, but not a pile). And I don’t care.

This isn’t going to be a “bah humbug” blog post though. I’m not going to bemoan the commerciality of Christmas and be all self-righteous about having opted out of it. I haven’t really. It’s just happened. But I’m incredibly glad it has, even if some of the reasons for it aren’t ones to celebrate.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present (from Wikipedia)

For once, Christmas is about connecting with the spirit of this time of year. Because they’re not being outshone by decorations and lights, each and every card means more to me, and I’m really thinking of the people who took time to send them to me. And there’s quite a crowd on the shelf, which never ceases to surprise me. That many people thought of me for long enough to write a card. Wow. I’ll always be grateful. And there’s all the e-mail greetings, hugs and smiles. All of them mean the world.

I’m also very aware of the meaning of Christmas this year. For me, going to church is involved and that’s been incredibly special. Tomorrow I’ll be at a Christingle service where we will hold oranges representing the earth and candles representing Jesus as the light of the world. In so many ways Christmas–for Christians–represents the beginning of the story, the birth of hope and joy. Whatever religious doubts there are–and I have plenty of my own–it’s hard not to feel some of that. More than that, the coming together of people to celebrate light in the depths of winter is something so much more ancient than Christianity. This is the time of solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Hannukah…and countless other celebrations to banish the darkness and encourage the coming of the light…just because my winter celebration is framed in Christian terms, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel connected to all of those other festivals. All of those people who have celebrated at this time of the year…for centuries…all the people who will celebrate this year. Christmas is a time of community, of being together…and even when I am alone, when I think of Christmas, I am part of something.

Christingle

Christmas is a time of childhood, of course. We sing the carols we’ve always known. We remember waiting for Santa to arrive. As such, for me at least, it’s a time for reflection too. Childhood is over. Santa is not going to come, I’ll never be Mary or an angel in the nativity play. But that’s because I’ve grown up and while there’s a certain amount of loss involved in moving on, in becoming an adult, and while some hopes have to be abandoned, others take their place. I don’t think about what I want for Christmas anymore. I pause and contemplate my hopes for the coming year.

When I was a child, every year without fail, I was dressed in a costume for Christmas. It started with Santa, with a red dressing gown and cotton wool beard. I was a fairy with sequins sewed onto a white vest and a netting skirt. I’ve been a cracker, a parcel, a tree. My mother made these costumes for me. I would put them on and then parade around in front of grandparents, uncles and cousins and be admired. Or should I say, the costume would be admired. According to those who saw this display, the best of them all was the year I dressed as a snowman. It was quite a costume. Made of white, thin foam, it covered me from shoulders to toes, and even had mittens to hide my hands. The head was a huge hollow ball of the same foam with a snowman face (coal black circles of card for a smile and a cardboard carrot nose) glued to the front. I viewed the world through two blue plastic circles to be sure my eyes didn’t detract from the overall effect. Impressive. A fun Christmas memory for my family. But I honestly don’t remember whether I enjoyed being in there or not. It’s a blank. No one else really knew whether I enjoyed it or not either.

I think a lot of Christmases have been like that, even without the costume. And not just for me. We do what we think we should and forget what it’s all about. All that outward festivity and inward stress. All the commerciality in the name of a spiritual festival. All the family celebrations barely masking hidden tensions.

But this year is different. I’m not dressing up as anything. I’m happy to be me. I’m happy for Christmas itself to be stripped back to basics. A time of quiet and peace and allowing the light in to the dark places.

So, tomorrow, my Christingle candle will have a lot of meaning for me. Even if you’re not celebrating the holidays in a way that involves lighting a candle, I would urge you to do it anyway. Just for you. Have your own festival of light. Light a candle. Think of all the other diverse people in the world lighting candles…dancing in the light…or longing for it in darkness. Feel connected and part of something. And think of the year ahead. The message of Christmas is hope. What do you hope for? Allow yourself those hopes and be at peace with them. In doing so, you will allow others their hopes too. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, that is the most wonderful of Christmas gifts.

Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this…and may 2012 bring you joy, love and peace.

And a fabulous Doctor Who Christmas special! Another essential of the season! 😀

Doctor Who at Christmas (from http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho)