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Robyn Nyx

Words for Women who Love Women

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being…Femme

My lady shared a post the other day. It was a tale of a femme hoping to hear another femme strike out and speak up against what has unarguably been heinous treatment of the ‘femme condition’. The first femme was severely disappointed. The femme on stage made a laughing stock of herself and all other femmes in the process. My lady was unimpressed that the same mysogynistic shit still goes on that she had to cope with when she was just coming out…and for two decades after. 

When I had long hair, I was often advised that I was entering a gay club by the oh-so-helpful bouncers. I was also told by a particularly butch woman that I couldn’t possibly be gay because I had long hair. I cut it. Not because of her or anyone before her, but because it felt better. It suited who I was. Why is it then, that femmes have had to battle constantly for acceptance in our community? Shouldn’t we be glad that the stereotypical lesbian is a fallacy, and we come in all shapes, sizes, and hair cuts? Why do we put up roadblocks for our own people?

The woman on stage said that a femme is apparently identified by the fact that she is unable to mow the lawn. I say, why have a dog and bark yourself? That’s one of the reasons she has me – she lets me mow the lawn!

Art imitating life…

So Spring has sprung on our little island, and suddenly, everyone is either at their local DIY  store or garden centre. We are no exception. I invariably write in the evenings, so when I have some unusual spare time, I’m a sucker for the house and garden improvement.

We moved into our forever house just over six months ago, and we’ve got big plans for it. The sun showed its face this weekend, so the garden was first on our list…I thought our patio slabs were brown, but the pressure washer revealed their true colours (my whimsy  is boundless, as is my love for my lady). And so the weekend disappeared, along with around forty bags of garden rubbish to the local waste recycling centre. The discoloured white gravel has gone; the brown fence is in the process of becoming pale again; some of the lawn has disappeared via my shovel; and we’ve planted red onions.

My favourite piece of work over the weekend though? My watery declaration to the love of my life…

Feel free to vomit #hopeless#romantic

My words are out there…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. On the 25th March, the anthology From Top to Bottom was released, and my words were finally out there for people to read…and judge. Yesterday, I received my author copies of Girls on Campus – the first time my name has been on a printed paperback, and that pretty little gem will be out for general release on May 1st (and I’ll take another stab here at encouraging you, always, to buy your books and eBooks direct from the independent publishers).

How does it feel? Exciting, amazing, and a little bit scary. I’ve read what must be millions of words, from hundreds of authors, and I’ve formed an opinion on every one of them. Now, readers will be doing exactly the same to mine. And once they’re out there, there’s no pulling them back.

From Top to Bottom is doing really well – it was #1 on Amazon.com and #2 on Amazon.co.uk in its category, and all the reviews have been extremely favourable. The thing is, in an anthology, there’s cover, unlike a novel. It’s like playing football in a team of eleven, where there are quiet places on the pitch, compared to playing singles tennis, where there’s nowhere to hide on the court. And I suppose, that’s the more nerve wracking part. In November of this year, a whole book, with my name on every even numbered page, will be out there, for people to read, judge, love, hate, or be completely untouched by it.

It was Oscar Wilde who said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. In seven months, I’m going to find out whether or not the great man was right.

The end is nigh…

I’m in the last few chapters of the first in my Extractor series trilogy, and it’s so exciting, I can barely concentrate on anything else. I can’t wait until the evening comes to sit down and craft the final scenes. One of Bold Strokes Books fantastic authors, Carsen Taite, recently posted she’s in a similar position. She was of the same opinion as I – the words simply can’t get onto the page fast enough.

There’s a downside though. Saying goodbye to the characters who’ve lived inside your head for the past six months. Knowing you’ll never write another line of their snappy dialogue, or get to see the heroines live out their fabulous new romance. I think there has to be a grieving period, a ‘letting go’, and it can be painful…until new characters grab your attention and you begin to mould them.

Or, as in my current case, you’re working on a series and get to carry on chatting with the same women into the next book, and the one after that. I wonder though, if in 2018, when I complete the trilogy, will I fall into a deep pseudo-depression, and miss them all terribly? Will my heart ache to know if all really is well that ends well?

I know not, but I do know I’m having lots of fun right now so I don’t rightly care! What’re your thoughts? As a writer or reader, how does your emotional connection settle after the conclusion of a book you’ve been invested in?

See the board…

There’s a question authors get asked a lot. Are you a plotster or a pantster? I resist boxes. I don’t just like to think outside the box, I like to believe there is no box. But I’m told by my biggest fan and soul mate, that I have to be ready to answer such a question at book events. So I’ve been ruminating on it.

I have a board for my new trilogy – and for the first thirty chapters of the first book, it simply had the title “The Extractor Series” but now it has a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the book’s culmination. I’ve been working on it for four months now, and I’ve always known, more or less, what’s going to happen, and who it’s happening to. But when I sit down to write, I find myself going off wherever the character leads me. There’s “ooh, she didn’t”, “you didn’t see that coming, did ya”, and “take that!” all over the place (which can be humorous or annoying depending on your POV!).

And that’s what I absolutely love about sitting down to write every day. I have an idea of what’s happening, but what actually comes out can be as surprising as a Vicar letting one rip in Church. Last night, Landry (our time travelling Extractor heroine) asked Delaney what love feels like and her response almost made me weep a little…

You’ll have to wait until 2017 to see if it makes you weep 😉

And I guess I still haven’t answered the initial question outright – to get my full answer, you’ll have to ask me at the Bold Strokes UK Book Festival in June!

Retreat but no surrender.

We’re four days into our writing ‘retreat’, and there is no sign of our surrender! I’ve managed a word count thus far of over 13,000 in four days, and we’ve still managed to partake of a the traditional Cornish cream tea, and other activities I don’t share 😉

It didn’t start so well. The tiny little road to our holiday home was closed for repairs, and our illustrious (and now sacked) C-3PO SatNav took us an alternate route. The alternate route turned out to be gated and padlocked, and it was impossible to turn around. We tried to reverse back up the ridiculously steep hill, but Tabitha (the car) began to smoke and smell like she was about to catch fire, so we tried to turn around. Believe me, we tried. For thirty minutes. And we ended up like Austin Powers in the tunnel. There was nowhere to go. The guy whose house we were outside, finally sauntered over to us to assist (after admitting he’d been watching from the window for a while…and no doubt, taking video of it which you may shortly be able to find on YouTube, perhaps under some derogatory title about female drivers). I’d decided a hacksaw was the way forward, but he claimed not to have one. Now, I’m not one for stereotyping, but what self-respecting guy doesn’t have a hacksaw, either in his house or in his work van?

To shorten the tale, his tiny little 1.3 Suzuki van assisted a little, pulling Tabitha back up the hill, and my clutch was almost entirely burnt out from the experience. I’m picking her up tomorrow from the garage who I asked to call me if they thought the repair was uneconomical. Tabitha, reliable as she is, is only worth around £200, so I was thinking that I’d spend a max of £300 to get her back on the road. If it was more than that, I’d have her towed home, and we’d get a hire car to drive back. I have a lovely guy who’d fix her up for the price I was willing to pay, because I guessed the part itself was about £150.

Back to the garage, a certain M Clark Motors in Looe, Cornwall. What’s the damage? £630. On what planet is that an economical repair, when the exhaust and brakes are about to go too? Now I’m stuck. We have to pay it because there’s no real way to prove it that I didn’t authorise the work. But I wasn’t impressed. Or happy about it. In fact, I was outraged that a tiny little garage can hold holiday-makers to ransom, charge whatever the hell they like, and get away with it.

But I digress, as you’ll find I often do if you continue to follow me. The purpose of this retreat was to hit 3,000 words a day, and we’ve both managed to smash that thus far. We were sitting in a lovely little cafe called Miss Marple’s, enjoying our Cornish cream tea, reflecting on where we were when we here last year, munching on the same delicacy. We were just two writers, my Lady a multi-published short story author but not a novelist. And today, just under a year later? Both multi-contracted authors, and both working on our second novel.

So my car is f**ed, and the local garage is run by crooks. Am I giving a shit? No, because not only have I achieved my lifelong dream of becoming an author, but my Lady has also done the same.

That’s worth more to me than any amount of money.

 

Reflections on research 

So we’re back from Ravensbrück, Platform 17 and Grunewald Forest. We trod the same soil as over 130,000 women and children, 90,000 of whom were murdered on it. We stood in the crematorium where many of them were burned to ash. We looked out across the impossibly beautiful lake to Fürstenberg from the first floor of a pitched roof villa that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Center Parcs, a villa typical of the accommodation afforded to the guards of Ravensbrück. We stood in the cells where women were tortured and beaten. We saw evidence of the medical experiments, where women were used as ‘guinea pigs’ for the furtherance of Nazi research. We touched the five inch thick, A3 bound book where the name of every single Ravensbrück prisoner is written. We heard the tales of sadism from the mouths of survivors.

IMG_9283
A ‘get well soon’ card for one of the many ‘guinea pigs’ subject to medical experiments.

This was a research trip for my current novel, The Extractor. My hero, Landry Donovan, and her team of Operatives, jump back to Nazi Germany to save the life of a Jewish Doctor, who, had she not been murdered in the concentration camp, would have gone on to find the cure for cancer. As I began to research the camp, and to write the sections set in the 1940’s, it became clear that I needed to visit the places I was writing about. This is a subject that necessitates extremely sensitive treatment, and I felt I could only do that, and do the victims justice, by immersing myself in the place they were imprisoned.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. To think that, as a human race, and as women, we are capable of such inhumane behaviour, beggars belief. But we have evolved, getting steadily more violent, and our advancements in weaponry mean that our violence has the potential to affect millions of people at the press of a button. But this wasn’t that kind of faceless violence. This was barbaric and brutal, personal and targeted. The women at Ravensbrück weren’t just Jewish, they were women from over twenty European countries, mostly held for political reasons, and for being ‘asocial’ (criminals, prostitutes, lesbians). We have our freedom of speech. We have the ability to announce our personal views to a worldwide audience at the touch of a smartphone screen. Unless our views are racist or homophobic, or preach religious hatred, we can pretty much say what the hell we like. That was a freedom not afforded in Nazi Germany, and I wonder how many of us would have become a number in a German KZ. On a daily basis, how many things have you said or done which, in this time, would have resulted in you being imprisoned indefinitely, and without trial? It’s frightening.

Could something like this happen again? I would hope not. But my faith in the human race is not what it once was. It’s suffered a devastating blow, and one from which it may never recover. After all, “Hardly anyone is immune to the temptations of unpunished inhumanity” (Gunther Anders). Look deep inside…can you categorically say, that you would be?

Labels make me and my elephant friend sigh…

My lady shared a post on Facebook a few days ago, “Yes, Some Lesbians and Bi Women Really Do Prefer Butches” and it evoked a lot of chatter. She’s always been a fan of women on the boi-ish/masculine side, and someone commented “Yet I would still say your other half is on the feminine side”. I replied that my lady was just amusing herself with me whilst she waited for Gepeto to find her a real boi.

I’ve worked with young trans and gender fluid ‘kids’ (because everyone under the age of 25 is now a kid to me), and there’s a lot of body dysmorphia and anxiety around the expectations (their own; socially applied; external) of what their body should look like. It pains me.

I’m lucky. From a relatively young age, I’ve always been happy with who and what I am. My lady has always been in relationships with butches (stone or otherwise) and early on in our relationship, I asked her if she was okay with “this” and I motioned both hands to me. Because I’m not one for boxes and labels. I am absolutely and categorically content with being a woman. I love being a woman. I love my body and what it can do, and what others (well, now just what one person) can do to it. I work hard in the gym (think headstand press-ups, upside down hanging crunches, and one handed press-ups) to 11209500_651809251619032_4502339364448387722_nmaintain a muscular physique — one that is not typically feminine. I wear ladies tailored trousers and shirts for my meetings with the Ministry of Justice, and women’s True Religion jeans for gallivanting around the globe in. I wear sweats at home in the office. But I also wear braces (suspenders for US readers), waistcoats (vests), engineer boots, baggy men’s jeans, and I’m most comfortable in a vest (tank), comfy fit jeans that hug my ass, a thick leather belt, and big fuck-off boots. I wear other things, but these are the things I’m not allowed to share with you, dear Reader 😉

And depending on how I choose to dress myself on any given day influences how people interact with me. Someone can see my face in a photo with my lady and judge me to be “on the feminine side’. A Sky engineer can come around to our house, see me in a tank and sweats, see lady long hair making him a coffee, and prompt him to say “So, you’re the mannish one then?” A young transgender kid in a club in Manchester can chat to us and say to my lady “I wouldn’t have thought you were gay”, and to me “You’re kind of like Shane from The L Word…do you remember The L Word?” (Yes, I replied, I’m not so old that dementia has set in yet and stolen my memory).

Do I give a shit? Do I care what people I know/don’t know/will never meet again think or say? Am I offended by someone calling me feminine? No. Does it bother me when someone calls me masculine, and says I have too much testosterone? No, because none of these are insults—they’re just observations, based on perceptions, social norms, stereotypes, and media madness. No. I do not. Because I dress how I want to dress, and look how I want to look. And someone else’s opinion matters not a jot to me. As long as I’m happy with the reflection in the shop window, as long as my lady gets insanely hot for what she sees, no one else’s opinion is relevant.

This isn’t a regular state of being for a lot of people, and I’ve come to realise this. I’m pretty sure my confident state of being comes from being raised in a loving family. We didn’t have money, but there was a lot of love. Is that the answer, then? A stable, nurturing family situation, where you’re accepted no matter how you turn out? In my case, I’m all but certain that’s true, so I have a lot to be thankful for.

If only everyone had that chance…

Taking and making time

Last week I signed the contract for my second novel, the first of The Extractor series, and it’s a wonderful feeling. I’m only 38,000 words in, but my publisher has enough faith in my writing to take a chance—and now I have four months to finish it. Next week, my partner-in-filth, writing, business, and life in general, are off to Berlin for a quick research trip, and a week later, we’ll squirrel ourselves away in an apartment overlooking the harbour in Looe, Cornwall, with a target of 18,000 words on each of our novels, and a co-write on a short story in response to the ‘Finding Ms. Write’ Ylva call. I’ve also been looking at cover design for my debut novel ‘Never Enough’ (to be published by Bold Strokes Books on November 15th, 2016). In amongst all of those fun things, I have to secure six figures worth of funding to ensure my staff team and I have a job come April, and our members can still access our services.

Ah, the life. A far cry from where I was eighteen months ago, consumed with a job I adored (and still do today), but managing just three or four hours a week to write. Now, my lady and I sit and write almost every evening, and 38,000 words has made the trip from cerebral cortex to aluminium keyboard in two short months on my new novel. My nights used to be filled with sport and TV, and 38,000 words took me nigh on two years to put down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down my previous life. It was simply a different path.

dream catcherMy point? Taking and making time—how hard we all have to work at making time, no matter what whether it’s to write, or to read a bedtime story to your kid, to take time to really be with your partner, or to make dinner for your son even though you’ve worked until 8pm. Because too often it’s easier to say, “I don’t have time for that”, whatever ‘that’ is, be it visiting the folks, old friends who can’t get out of the house, or fixing that creaky door that’s been bugging you for the past six months. How easily time slips through our fingers. How our dreams and hopes can disappear if we don’t actively pursue them. Human life is precarious and short. Which is what makes it so precious. I believe in making the most of the time and talents we have, and everyone has a talent of some description. I believe in following our dreams and not wasting time with regret.

What’s your talent? And are you making the time to make the most of it?

What are your dreams? And are you chasing them with everything you have?

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