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Robyn Nyx

Words for Women who Love Women

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Relationship, writing, editor

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. Phillips 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?

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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?

Behind the Lens

I love taking photos. Particularly of wildlife and things in motion. Romanticising water is one of my favourites. I always aim to capture the reality and beauty of my subject, even if the beauty isn’t always immediately obvious. I use Photoshop sparingly – mostly to make composite images, rather than touching up originals. I like to make my camera do the work, so don’t get me started on the use of Photoshop on “celebrities” in magazines.

But I’d begun to wonder if I was missing something by looking through the 1cm square viewfinder. The bigger picture. Was my obsession to memorise the moment, to capture it in pristine pixels overriding the sheer joy of the moment?

I think it was.

So I’m finding a balance. I always have a camera with me, but I aim to reside in the present and enjoy it for what it is. And hope that my memory might do those fine, beautiful snapshots justice in my later years. If it doesn’t, at least I know I fully enjoyed that time.

Then I got to thinking about the importance of sharing photos. It’s amazing that someone in Russia who might never leave their country can experience the Grand Canyon via someone else’s images. Vicarious vision. It’s important.

But is it showing off too? On our Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, do we only tend to share the really good stuff to make people think our life is amazing? Not deliberately deceiving people, but maybe convincing ourselves too. Who wants to see pictures of our bed hair, or smell-o-vision of our morning breath? Who wants to look back on a year of posts to find all we did was moan and panic and stress?

I was just thinking, so I shared 😉

What’s your motivation when you take your photos?

A Chosen Family

Wow. It was another fabulous weekend. And when a reader comes to you in tears, saying “It’s just like being with family” when it’s their first ever visit to our event, you know you must be doing something right.

Eleven authors and over eighty people in two days came to the Bold Strokes Books UK Festival at Waterstones, Nottingham. There was lively discussion, a few fluffed lines, and lots of laughter. We were relaxed, amongst friends old and new, and we were safe. We had all blogged beforehand about the importance of safe spaces, and it was really rammed home on the Sunday after the events at London Bridge. And yes, it affected attendance. The City of Nottingham was like a ghost town that day. But we will, like Manchester before it, and as London always does, survive and emerge from our homes to wander into town in defiance.

And whilst the attacks weren’t focused on LGBTQ people, we felt it just as keenly as if it were, because we’re all potential victims to this madness. What’s probably worse, is how easy it is to perpetrate. A hire van. A busy city centre. A highly pedestrianised area. It’s like a sick real-life version of Pac-Man.

I won’t hide. I never have. From those who attacked me for being gay. From those who attack me for being a woman. From those who attack, period. And in the close down of our wonderful event, we’ve received some fantastic feedback from readers who said things like “I have just spent one of the nicest, friendliest weekends that I have had for ages. Thank you sooo much everyone. I have been fan girling. Thank you, Brey and Robyn. Omg! The authors were amazing. Not saying who my favourite was. But omg!!!!” and “Absolutely fantastic weekend in Nottingham with lovely and talented authors and their readers. Many heartfelt thanks to all the organisers and the authors.” It makes what we do, matter. It shows us, as authors, why we should continue to write lesbian fiction for all ages, because our audience ranged from eighteen to over seventy. How amazing is that? That so many generations can gather in one space and still feel like “family”?

It makes me proud.

Proud to be involved with a company like Bold Strokes Books, who spend huge amounts of money to put this event on, despite knowing that book sales will never cover their expenses. A company who know the value of what they’re producing goes far beyond the sale of a book. Our fiction spreads its tendrils into the lives of our readers, and it’s a privilege to be part of that.

Proud to be out there all weekend amongst LGBTQ people of all ages, celebrating our similarities and our differences.

To quote Heather Small, what have you done today to make you feel proud? Come and tell me and Brey at any of the following events:

July 13th: Gay’s the Word bookstore, London 7-9pm

August 5th: Brighton Pride all day

August 7th: Hebden Bridge Pride 7-9pm (venue to be announced)

August 26-29th: Manchester Pride

September 30th – October 6th: Women’s Writing Retreat, Bambu Lesbian Resort, Spain

October 10-15th: Women’s Week, Province Town, USA

November 3rd-5th: DIVA Literary Festival

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