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Robyn Nyx

Words for Women who Love Women

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Relationship, writing, editor

When your life IS the romance novel…

It took the best part of seven years to write my first complete novel. Another three of submissions and rejections from publishers. Then, fate took over. I was working with an LGBTQ youth group in the city when Bold Strokes Books author, Amy Dunne, emailed to tell us about the launch of a book at Waterstones from older LGBTQ people. On top of that, she wanted to let us know about an LGBTQ book festival taking place the following month, also at Waterstones (tickets for the 10th annual festival available here).

I looked it up. Could it really be? The chance to pitch my book to a publishing company dedicated to the voices of LGBTQ authors? And in my home town?

I emailed the person organising the pitch slots (and the whole festival, in fact) and got my slot. I spent the next two weeks on my pitch; writing, re-writing, and writing it again. I spent the morning before the pitch deciding, re-deciding,  and deciding again on my outfit (I went with a black & purple striped shirt and black jeans, should you be interested in that level of detail). I spent the hour before the pitch going, not going, and then going again.

I womanned up and attended. And it’s a damn good job I did. The woman I pitched to was an American (score on the sexy accent). She was beautiful and blonde. And so funny.

I pitched (trying hard to be charming and interesting), I stayed for some of the festival, and I went home and waited.

There are a lot of details I won’t go into here, for lots of different reasons, but that woman became my wife. She’s my soul mate. My world. And we met through words. Through my first novel, Never Enough.

Words can be so incredibly powerful. They can be used for hateful purpose, for the propogating of narrow minded bigotry. And there are so many places all over the world where exactly that is happening.

But words can be full of love, full of promise, full of light. They can lift us. Console and support us. Bring us together. Foster understanding across cultures and perceived difference.

I take comfort in that. In our lesfic community, words bind us. They give us a common purpose. A chosen family (especially important when our own might not have been supportive of our very being). My wife (fellow author, Brey Willows) and I came together through words. We became part of this wonderful lesfic community through words. And on this inaugural blog hop, organised by the amazing Amanda Radley, celebrating words seemed to be the way to go.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Next up in this blog hop:

Read how Petrina Binney started out at a dinner party with friends, and gradually told herself a story about what would have happened if they’d hated each other and resorted to threats over the cheeseboard. Petrina Binney is the author of the Sex, Death and Dinner series, and hopes one day to be notorious for it. If the notoriety could come sooner rather than later, she’d be delighted. www.binneyblog.wordpress.com

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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 🙂

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.

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