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Robyn Nyx

Words for Women who Love Women

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Relationship, writing, editor

Tattoos: what and why…

It’s coming to three years ago when my wife, Brey Willows, told me she had a book in her head; a trilogy actually, the Afterlife Inc., series. The trouble was, whilst she was a pretty prolific writer of short stories, she’d never got beyond thirty thousand words on a novel. She’d tried, but she’d shelved everything when she hit 30k. She told me about Alec, who would be the first Fury sister to be featured, and about her ebony black diamond snake tattoos which would come alive and wreak vengeance. I was hooked, and I told her she had to write it.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “No one will want to publish it, and no one will want to read it.”

“That doesn’t matter,” was my response. “I want to read it.” I wanted her words; I wanted her fabulous Fury fantasy to be on paper. But she needed a little motivation…

My girl loves tattoos. HUGE fan. So I said that if she finished the books, I’d have Alec’s snake tattoo. That was all the motivation she needed, and she got to writing. It was hard but she knocked it out of the park, and five months after that conversation, she was given a contract for it by our wonderful publisher, Bold Strokes Books (and you can buy the whole trilogy from their webstore, starting with Fury’s Bridge and Alectho).

So now I had to fulfil my end of the bargain. All of the tattoos I’d had up to that point were done in the States, and I’d just come back from getting my feather tattoo on my right arm (I designed it to represent Brey and I, and our two very different, but complementary personalities). Brianna was an amazing tattooist and I said that she had to be the one to ink Alec’s snake. Problem is, we weren’t going back to Seattle for another couple of years.

In the meantime, I wrote the first in my Extractor trilogy, and Landry has a tattoo that I designed in my head and wanted on my bod. Around the same time, a friend had some work done to cover her self-harm tattoos by an amazing artist called Harry Townsend, at the Old Forge Tattoo Collective in Sheffield, UK. I was so impressed by the work, and I’d done the design myself, that I decided to give the guy a shot.

I’m glad I did, because his work and line drawing was fantastic, and I started to think that maybe he could do my snake. Anyhoo, fast forward six months and a planned trip to Seattle. Yay, it’s snake time! But Brianna had moved on so I decided to get in touch with Harry to discuss what was in my head and how he could make it come to life.

What you’re seeing above is the result. But this is only the start. I’ve given my whole back to Brey’s words. As she writes a new book, so a primary character will have a tattoo. That tattoo will find its way onto a page and onto my back. At the base of my back will be an open book from which the pages have been torn. It’s going to be EPIC!

Anyhoo, back to the meaning. I’ve only ever had tattoos that resonate, that mean something. I’ve never had the urge to look in a design book or pick something off the wall. I want my tattoos to tell a story of my life. I want to see them and be reminded of my history and my present. I want them to be proof of my love for my wife (who is prone to doubting it, and if you’ve reading my blog, “Listening and Hearing,” you’ll know why). And I don’t give two craps as to what they might look like when I’m seventy—I’ll probably be too blind to see them anyway if current eyesight deterioration is anything to go by!

So, that’s the (very long) story behind the newest addition to my body art. Why do you have tattoos? Thanks for reading 🙂

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Listening and hearing…

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week so Brey and I decided to share our story. Not because we’re looking for attention, but because somewhere out there, there could be a person who just might benefit from hearing us be truthful about our experience. To read that they’re not as alone as they might think.

When I met Brey, I thought all my Christmases had come at once. I’d always been a massive Yankophile, and as soon as I heard her voice, I was hooked. Then I saw her and everything else followed suit. How we got together is a long story, and not for this blog, but all you need to know is that it didn’t take me long to fall head over heels, I’d do anything for you, I want to make all your dreams come true, in love.

But there was a problem. Brey had already decided she was checking out of this world. She’d chosen a date. She had a method to escape. She’d picked a place. She’d been methodical in her preparations. A date nowhere near anyone’s birthday, anniversary, or other celebration. A place away from home so home wouldn’t be forever marred with the discovery of her body. A painless method that required no messy clean-up for the people who would be called to the scene.

I’ve been lucky in my life. Almost charmed. I’ve never suffered from mental health issues. My dad has, and still does, but he did the parental thing and never shared his pain and suffering with us as I grew up. Thankfully, he does now, and it’s helped him enormously to have Brey in his life. To share his experience and feelings with her. To feel free of judgement and not have to put on that face that the world expects around us.

But I’m jumping ahead. Let me rewind. I’m an eternal optimist. I’m a glass half-full kind of woman. I love life and all it has to offer. I love colour. I love birds and animals. I love women (though now, just the one). I find delight in the smallest of things, and I wake each morning, glad to be alive and wondering what the day will bring (sure, I’ll give you a minute…here’s a sick bag). When Brey and I smashed together, our worlds collided like a meteor into an already existing crater. Everything changed in that fluffy romantic novel kind of a way. This was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The rest of her life.

Problem was, Brey had already decided before we’d met, that the rest of her life was only going to be another six months (she was waiting until after a particular wedding before she departed). I had a maximum of twenty-six weeks to convince her that life really was worth living, and a life with me would be worth hanging around for.

I’m writing this over three years after that fateful date—which still hangs heavy on our calendar, and every year we do something special to mark what we’ve termed, Brey’s Re-Birthday. The day she chose to give her life another chance. So yes, I convinced her to stick around, and every day I’m thankful for her willingness to make that incredibly brave decision to be open to a different kind of life than she’d been used to.

But Brey’s depression isn’t all about the life she was or is leading. In fact, it has very little to do with that. It’s a black tar, as she calls it, that threatens to pull her down and never relinquish its grip. It’s an angry, vicious, and hateful presence inside her mind that tells her she’s worthless, ugly, and insignificant. It tells her that I’d be better off without her, that I should be with someone far more intelligent, sexier, and thinner than she is. Whether that presence is borne from life, from abuse, from the complex firing or misfiring of synapses in her brain is largely irrelevant. She sought therapy for a good number of years, and her last therapist told her she could no longer help her and sent her away (that therapist should’ve been struck off and never allowed to sit with a vulnerable person ever again). None of it helped.

I tell her every day that she is beautiful, that she’s the sexiest woman in the world, that I feel so lucky to be with her, to have found her, to have this amazing life we share. We play with words as our job and as published authors every day. For me, it can get no better. Some days she hears me. Those moments have increased over the years. But a lot of the time, that tar and that hateful presence is louder than I am. And we all know how hard the bad stuff hits and how easy it is to dismiss the good.

But for Brey, the battle is daily. Yes, she opened her heart and mind to the possibility of a life she thought impossible. Yes, every day she wakes and throws herself into my arms (I’m an early riser and have usually worked two hours before Brey rises from her bed-swamp!). Yes, if you meet her, you’d probably have no idea how hard she has to work to not run away and hide. But still, that depression attacks with merciless abandon. A lovely woo-woo lady, who practically reads your body like a set of Tarot cards when she gives you a massage, told Brey she had to love that part of her that tells her these things. Love it and it will quieten. She’s working on that.

So what about people on the other side of this kind of depression and mental health issue? How do they cope successfully and live with a partner who has to fight for every unhindered breath of a good life? I can only speak to how I handle it, and I’m no expert, but this is how I see it:

1)   I don’t take it personally. It is NOT about me (unless I’m being an asshole, and then some of it might be about me). It’s really easy to think that it is about you. Who reads those Facebook posts that are “anonymous” but directed at someone and immediately thinks, “They’re talking to me” ? When someone is upset in a room and you had a conversation with them three hours ago, who thinks that it was you who probably upset them? It’s human nature. We automatically assume the world revolves around us and our actions, good or bad, egotistically and non-egotistically. I have to park that. Let me say again, it is NOT about me.

2) I’m there. I hear the same things I’ve heard over and over again but every time, I try to hear them with fresh ears. I say the same things. Sometimes she hears them. Sometimes she doesn’t. But she always listens.

3) I make every day the best I can possibly make it. No, it’s not about me or the life I’m providing, but I may as well do my damnedest to make it the best life in the world.

4) When it hurts too much or if I’m struggling to cope, I talk to Brey. I don’t pretend I’m some super hero who’s so strong and like an island and doesn’t need to vent my emotions and feelings. I let them out because otherwise, I fear it might eventually turn to resentment. I don’t think, “She’s not strong enough to hear my pain.” Instead, I think, “We have to share my pain too.”

5)   I love her. I adore her. It’s my life’s mission to show her that she didn’t make a mistake when she chose to stick around and enhance my life. I tell her every day that she’s beautiful. I bring her flowers every week to show her that she’s loved. I stop and make time, no matter what I’m doing. I share myself—all of me. I don’t hold back. I give her everything, good and bad, and she makes me stronger because of that.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and we’re sharing our private and very personal experience because we’re not ashamed. There are hundreds and thousands of people out there suffering every day in silence because nobody listens. That’s all I ask. Listen and hear. Or hear and listen, whichever way that works, do it. When you ask a friend or partner or family member if they’re okay, don’t do it in passing and not really hear the answer. Take the time. Be aware.

To hear Brey’s side of the story, click here.

The power of words…

Brey and I attended an evening with Philippa Gregory last month. She’s the author of amazing female-driven books such as The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. She was touring her most recent book, Order of Darkness, the fourth in The Dark Tracks series, and talking about writing “the unspeakable.” Almost everything she said resonated deeply with me. I write about the darker side of life because I think it’s easy to live in a bubble and forget about the hardships and horrors of everyday life. During the Second World War, we felt it in England. Men were gone. Women were working in their place. Everyone was on rations. But what about now? What about during the Iraq war? Did you feel it? Unless you had a loved one or you yourself were deployed, I think it’s fair to say you probably didn’t. There are conflicts all over the world; drug wars; civil wars; and yet we go about our lives more or less untouched by them all.

It’s easy to forget what darkness human kind is capable of. It’s easy to forget the atrocities of history. In a recent poll, something like 70% of young people didn’t know whose side Hitler was on in WWII. I don’t believe we should sit idly by and allow that history to fade. The first in my Extractor trilogy, Escape in Time, is set partly in the only women’s concentration camp that existed. I’ve had some negative feedback about the level of violence and malevolent detail in the book. And it got me wondering whether it was necessary. I was sure it was as I was writing it, and after listening to Philippa Gregory speak, I’m even more convinced it was, as she put it, my responsibility as a writer to “write the unspeakable.”

The final book of the trilogy, Death in Time, will be released in June (but you can get copies early by coming to the BSB UK event on May 5/6). As I finished my proofing a few nights ago, I finally decided I was proud of the trilogy. I’m glad that I didn’t shy away from the darker elements of the story, and I don’t think there’s a gratuitous violent moment in any of the 260,000 words. The capacity for humans to undertake “inhumane” action is bottomless. But so is our capacity for love and light. And that’s always what my main characters strive toward.

So don’t read my words if you don’t want to be challenged. Don’t read them if you like the sand in your eyes and ears. Phillipa Gregory looked me in the eye and told me, “It’s your responsibility to write the unspeakable.”

Who am I to argue with such a great woman, historian, and author?

For the Love of it

Going last on a blog tour when the topic is, “What does Christmas mean to me?” equals almost everything important has already been said. Family. Love. Friends. Quiet time. Remembering loved ones. Consequently, I’m unable to break new ground and give you anything spectacularly fresh. What I will give is my experience and my truth.

I loved Christmas as a kid. My brother and I would wake at three or four in the morning, have a “fuddle” (a picnic of chocolatey badness), and then go and wake mum and dad—usually with party poppers (I know, it’s surprising we weren’t smothered with pillows, but instead, one year, they rose earlier than us and returned the obnoxiously loud favour). I don’t remember much else, certainly not because memories were bad, but because I seem to have a pretty terrible memory period regarding much of my childhood. But I remember love, cuddles, and presents. We weren’t a religious family. Mum believed but also believed that you didn’t have to go to church to pray. God would hear you wherever you spoke to him. Apparently.

In 1998, Christmas became all about my little pup, Kev.

Kev was a bundle of brindle bounciness who came into my life by happenstance. I was on an all-inclusive holiday in Fuerte Ventura when I found him tied to a pole at the end of a half-made road in the middle of the desert. He was so thirsty that he drank the only thing I had to offer him: 7-Up. What followed was a love story. One that lasted fourteen years until 2012, when I lost him to a stroke. At some point, when I’m strong enough, I’ll return to writing his story, but I fear that may be some years ahead yet.

But I digress. Christmas became all about Mr. Kev.

I’d shop for him from around August, and I’d lovingly wrap every single present (and there were a lot of presents every year). I’d put all of those presents in a box and wrap the box. The first two hours of Christmas morning featured Mr. Kev carefully removing the wrapping paper, biting into the box, and then carefully unwrapping each present with a dexterous combination of teeth and claws. I’m so glad that I captured this phenomenon on video several times. As memories fade, as the years pass, and his furry little princeness becomes fuzzier to me, I’ll always have those videos (and many, many others of his wild and wonderful escapades, from beating up Labradors to climbing castle walls).

After 3:15pm on the 25th April, 2012, the heart of Christmas stopped beating for me. No longer did I love to buy gifts or rustle them up all pretty, with ribbon and bows, and the best wrapping Paperchase had to offer. In truth, it affected more than Christmas for a long, long time. It’s only since I met my now-wife, and fellow author, Brey Willows, that Christmas has recaptured its original magic. For reasons that it’s not for me to share, family is super important to Brey. And she treasures mine as if it were her own. I have a better relationship with my mum and dad now because of Brey. Don’t get me wrong, we had a good relationship before, but now it’s great. They’re not just my parents, they’re my friends, and Brey and I love doing cool stuff with them (like picking and carving pumpkins, making gingerbread houses, and having movie nights in our PJs). This Christmas, they’re coming over on Christmas Day and staying through to Boxing Day (despite living just a mile away), and I can’t wait.

My point, through this long-winded and slightly depressing blog, is that Christmas is about love. All kinds of love. Friends. Family. Wifey. It’s about cherishing what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t. It’s about making the most of the time with loved ones because, spoiler alert, neither they nor you are going to be around forever. And when they’re gone, you might well regret that you didn’t find the time for them.

I hate regrets. I always have. “I don’t have regrets” has always been my tagline. Anything I’ve done or said or experienced in my life has built me, in one way or another, even if they knocked me down first. So this Christmas, my first as a wife and with a wife, I’ll be thinking about that love and how damned lucky I am to have it. Because there are so many people in the world that don’t.

I’ll treasure it. I’ll protect it. I’ll remember it.

Happy Christmas, lovely readers 🤗

A little romance and music

I’m working on a new manuscript, and it’s quite a departure from my previous four novels. It’s a…wait for it…pure romance. There’ll be no skinning, no hate fucking, and no one gets beaten up. Like I said, quite the departure. The main character for this little tale originated in Change in Time, the second in the Extractor trilogy (Death in Time is released in May 2018, just in time for the amazing Bold Strokes Books UK Festival, where our regular UK authors will be joined by nearly thirty US authors, including the amazing Carsen Taite, VK Powell, and, drum roll please, the inimitable Radclyffe). I needed a bit part player for a Landry scene, and in popped Louie. Later in the book, Landry was in a gang-run bar, and Louie popped up again, moonlighting as entertainment for the patrons. She helps Landry out of a sticky situation. A few chapters on, and Louie made her final appearance, with Landry asking her about her dreams. Why was she stuck in Chicago? What was her ambition?

It turns out, she wants to move to Nashville to be a song writer. She’s scraping together every dollar she can, working two jobs, to make it happen. Landry makes it happen with one visit to the Bank of America, and Music City Dreamers was born. I’ve taken Louie Francis, pulled her back to modern day, and began to tell her story. She’s a gentle soul, burned by an ex-love, but she’s got the drive to change her future. See if she does late in 2018/early 2019:

Barista by day and hustler by night, Louie Francis wants out. She has a dream, but she’s never had a chance to follow it. Until, that is, a stranger’s generosity provides the means for her to head to Nashville to become a song writer. She grabs her stuff and doesn’t look back.

Heather King had dreams of being the next Country superstar. Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people with the same dream, she became the beleaguered assistant to the label head of Rocky Top Country Music instead. She has an eye for discovering new talent, but her boss takes credit for all her hard work.

When the two women meet at the Bluebird Café, there’s an immediate attraction, but blinkered by self-doubts and ambition, they’re blind to their potential future with each other. Thrust together to work with Country royalty, they must find a way past their ambitions and their desire for each other, or their song will remain unfinished.

DIVA Literary Festival, 2017

So you’ve probably read all about the inaugural DIVA Literary Festival that was held in Birmingham at the beginning of this month, and despite my best intentions, I’m late to the party for blogging about it. Ho hum.

I wanted to say a big thank you to DIVA for making this event happen. Brey and I run a small weekend event in Nottingham every year and that’s tough enough. Something on this scale—it needs a dedicated team, oodles of enthusiasm, and boundless energy…

The DIVA team had exactly that. And they pulled an awesome event off for a lot of grateful folk to enjoy.

My highlights:

1) This one is the same for me at every event—the readers. Meeting new readers is a pleasure, particularly ones that like crime, blood, and guts. Never Enough was a big hit, and that made me a happy author indeed.

2) The sense of safety and community: it’s always amazing to gather a whole host of “our people” in one place to see what happens—and it rarely disappoints. So many smiling faces simply enjoying the weekend and all it had to offer.

3) Stella Duffy’s acceptance speech— hilarious and full of expletives. It made me want to read (and re-read) every word she’s ever written.

4) Being on panels with colleague authors and getting to talk all about words with readers.

5) Getting my glad-rags on and dancing with my beautiful wife.

“Lowlights” (I’m an author,

I can make words up!)

1) It ended.

2) I have to wait another year to do it all again.

Thanks again to everyone I met—you make these events fabulous. And thanks hugely and muchly to Team DIVA! Here’s to next year!

Women’s Week 2017, P’Town

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this week long event. Brey Willows and I were debut authors there and were set to feature on several reading panels. We were also penned in to sign books at the fabulous store, Recovering Hearts. But what would people think? Would they like us? Would they want to read our words?

Including ourselves, there were nearly forty lesfic authors from Bold Strokes Books, the biggest LGBTQ publisher in the world. But boy, what a company! I only published with them in November 2016, but in that short time, I’ve come to discover that, while they want to make money (and who doesn’t?), they’re also absolutely committed to improving and developing the craft of all their authors. And their support is awesome – want to put on your own book reading with four other authors at a London bookstore? They’ll pay for the drinks and nibbles. Want to know how to put together your own book launch? Email Carsen Taite for a checklist. Want to advertise a local event you’re reading at? Contact Ruth Sternglantz. Need books for your readers? They’ll get them printed and sent direct to you. Fancy a spangly poster to advertise your book launch? Carsen can help.

I digress. You get the idea.

So anyway, P’Town is an amazing place year-round, but this week was in the proverbial league of its own. Walking down the street was like walking in a neighbourhood you grew up in, where everyone smiles and looks damn happy. The readers were lovely and generous with their laughter and appreciation. And author colleagues were amazing. It wasn’t easy getting there, and it won’t be something Brey and I will be able to do annually, but we’ll definitely be doing our best to make it back as soon as we can.

What made it so special? A sense of community. Togetherness. A collective sense of self. Of unity in otherness. An overwhelming feeling of acceptance and safety. A place to simply be yourself, and in today’s current climate, that’s not to be under-appreciated.

It was our kind of place 🤗

Pint in a half pint glass

It's half past midnight, and I've just finished packing the car ready for the journey down to Brighton Pride tomorrow. Brey Willows and I spent the past three hours lugging all manner of wonderful LGBTQ Bold Strokes Books, goodies, and giveaways from the loft ready for the lovely people who'll be in Brighton on Saturday. We're really excited to be there for the second year running.

But earlier today I saw a disturbing video on a friend's Facebook feed about a lovely young gay couple who'd been attacked in Brighton. It's clear that the vicious homophobic assault has left more than physical scars. Every year I hear questions about the validity and relevance of our Pride events. Every year there are moments like that which show they are still an absolute necessity. A safe place. Somewhere to call our own, even if only for one day. Somewhere to be among people who won't attack us for our difference.

Bold Strokes Books publish an amazing array of authors who write about LGBTQ characters who have their trials and tribulations, but the boy gets the boy, and the girl gets the girl, and they get the theys all between and along our wonderful spectrum of gender. So when you're out, really OUT, this weekend at Brighton Pride, come and say hello. We'd love to meet you, whoever you is 🤗

Nyx-Willows… Wyx… Nyllows…

We’re getting married. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you’ll know I proposed on Miami Beach at the sunrise of Brey‘s 40th birthday. We were supposed to be waiting until February 2019 to do the deed for a multitude of reasons including saving for a mad honeymoon in Hawaii and to allow Brey’s mom to save up to come back to England.

We lay in bed on Sunday and began to browse venues, because everyone knows the best places book up early. It was then we started to actually think about what we wanted, rather than what might be expected of us.

Moments later, a new plan was hatched: “Let’s get married on my birthday…in seven weeks!” Brey’s mom is visiting, and my mum is certain she won’t see many days after she reaches seventy-three this year (medical history blah) so it made perfect sense. Family is important to us both, so this will be an intimate gathering of our closest family and friends. We also decided to still have a celebration/evening party for a wider circle of friends and family in 2019 to send us off to our dream honeymoon. We’re starting a new way of weddings!

So now we’re madly running around looking at suits, dresses, flowers, restaurants, and all the other stuff. And we’re both crazy happy. And my wonderful best buddy and Best Woman for the wedding has just let me know that she’ll be driving me to the Castle in this little beauty:

Sooner than I ever hoped for, I’ll get to call Brey my wife! For anyone that actually knows me, that’s a massive thing. I never really saw a forever, and I was determined never to get married (because my mum and dad epitomise all that’s perfect about an intimate relationship, and I never felt I had that until now–my own stuff, not anyone else’s).

I’m telling you this so you’ll forgive me over the next six weeks as I instagram the shit out of everything romance and wedding-related. But that’s okay, huh, because if it’s not for love, what’s the point?

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