If you pride yourself on being liberal there comes a time when the biggest elephant you have ever seen will walk across your living room, out into the hall, into the kitchen and then simply refuse to leave. It will stamp its foot until your whole house shakes and threatens to cave in around you. You will try to ignore it and for a while it will sit and pout but it is doing more than sulk. Have you ever tried not to see it? The more you try, the more visible it becomes and the bigger it grows. In fact, there is no escaping that elephant even if you are a conservative by nature because it is an elephant that attempts to turn the tables on its trainer whatever their political views.

Who is the trainer? The trainer is YOU. The elephant wants to be invited to dinner. It wants to sit down with your family and friends and eat you out of house and home. It wants to trample on your goodwill and turn your comfortable values into one steaming mess of elephant dung and it does so by constantly reinforcing the idea that you can’t be one thing if you are to actively embrace another. The elephant in the room is born out of the nature of the herd and its need to agree on all things for the sake of survival. It looks innocent enough, but it wants to suppress sensible discussions and once it has destroyed your tidy living room and broken down your door it invites its nasty friends in to pillage your world.

The elephant in the room

So who is that elephant anyway? The easiest way I can describe it is by its actions and effects on otherwise reasonable human beings. The elephant will claim to be tolerant of something meaningful to you, such as being LGBTQIA. Then it will say:
“If you are L, you shouldn’t like B or T. If you are B, you must be confused or dishonest. If you are T you are not a real person. If you are A you have to be in the closet.”
Or it may say:
“You cannot possibly believe in God if you are any of the above,” or “there is no such thing as a practicing homosexual Christian.”
The elephant will bring its great weight to bear on issues of human rights and try to make you forget one colossal abuse of human rights by saying the once abused race are now even worse abusers of yet another race. The truth of the matter is that two wrongs never cancel each other out but the elephant does not want you to see that truth, the elephant wants to divide so that those less reasonable can more easily take power.
The elephant lives on a diet of maxims and manifestos. It thrives on causing division and chews up real people so they can more easily be used as cannon fodder to fight battles that benefit nobody except those who profit financially from violence and warfare. It claims to be tolerant but is actually very intolerant, it claims to be peaceful but invites conflict at every turn even in the name of peace.
So next time you are entertaining guests or enjoying the company of like-minded friends at the local ale-house and one of them invites the elephant in what will you do?

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Finding a tribe of my own? This is something that never seemed important to me as a youngster. I moved around so much in my childhood that I just learned to mingle with everyone and not become too involved with anyone. The pain of repeatedly making friends and then having to leave them simply switched off my will to try and in many ways I learned to be an island. I know from my reactions to some situations that I am neuro-diverse anyway. It takes a huge amount of energy to do little things at times. Sometimes that is too much energy to invest but equally well, once invested I will usually pursue something through to its conclusion at a frightening pace. I have frequently stayed up all night to edit a story or mix a piece of music that could easily have waited or been spread out over a period of days or even weeks. This can make writing an exhausting task. Music is worse because I will be haunted by the melodies as earworms long after I am finished. Anyway I digress. I wanted to talk about tribes, not obsessive behaviour.

I suppose the time, place and manner of my upbringing steered me away from tribes, peer groups, gangs, classes, cliques, affiliations, denominations – whatever you want to call them. It left me outside looking into several groups, not knowing whether or not I should feel lonely and never quite belonging to any. It also made me more tolerant of differences and disagreements. This is something I cannot actually change and in some ways I am glad. Our world has swung so far towards groups, tribes, niches and nationalism in recent years. I often wonder where it will all end.

Have we not grown out of hatred yet? The answer seems to be no. The most successful politicians have learned to tap into the human desire for conviviality and belonging and, even more worrying, some have tapped into the desire to exclude others because of their differences. Sometimes these differences are obvious such as skin colour or religion; at other times they are less so. The similarities are what interest me more though; the similarities we share with all mankind and indeed with all of Creation itself. Despite rampant diversity in Nature, a close study of genetics shows we really are so similar and for that reason if no other we should learn to respect the desire that is common to all living beings to achieve happiness, to be safe, to be loved. That is my thought for today.

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When I released A Crofter’s Tale several things happened that have never happened before and that frankly I don’t understand.

The first disappointment was that its release coincided with a new policy of not promoting LGBT books and I don’t think this story was promoted as a new release. In the past, any new titles received a first flurry of sales and borrows but that simply did not happen. Why should these books not be promoted widely on Amazon? I think this is because a lot of Gay and Lesbian titles fall into the erotica category. This novella does not. It has some sensual content but is a historical romance with a focus on the history and a love story between two friends that takes the full length of the novel to unfold.

To say I was disappointed at the lack of interest is an understatement. I then attempted to promote the book on a lesfic group, but my post was summarily removed. As the book contains nothing that could be considered offensive or obnoxious to lesfic fans this was a slap in the face to me personally. As a result, it has never picked up any sort of following, which is sad.

If you are interested in Jacobite history, the rebellion of 1745 and how it affected ordinary young men and women or you would enjoy a simple, largely innocent and sensual romance between two highland lasses caught up in events that spiral beyond their control you might enjoy A Crofter’s Tale.

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Poetry was my first love. For me it is a minimalist art. My aim is to say something beautiful or important is as few words as possible. I scrawl ideas down, cross them out, rewrite until all available space on the paper has been filled with ideas and corrections; you would see lines between lines, margins filled, phrases squeezed in vertically, words struck through and rewritten over and over. Then I write it out fresh, read aloud, cross out what sounds superfluous and finally type up with two fingers on my computer. My originals are hidden away all over the house as they are terrible to behold. Sometimes I write on envelopes, paper bags or restaurant napkins – you don’t always have a notebook to hand. I would hone them down further on the computer and then share. Friends told me I should publish, not an easy task in the UK unless you are very well-connected or have an Oxbridge First and so I learned to self-publish. I made the mistake of not holding back the poems that were more personal than public and was rewarded with a one-star rating and a scathing review that ran into the thousands of words. You learn to deal with it. To annoy someone so intensely is an accomplishment in itself.

My first novel, The Cougar was a different animal altogether. To a minimalist poet the sheer word count of a novel was daunting enough. My main character came to me in a dream one night and literally said “Tell my story.” Berenice was a phantom, a denizen of the temperate rainforest of British Columbia, and it was a labour of love. I wanted the reader to experience the beauty of the forest and Lake Alouette as Berenice does – and as I do also. I am in love and in awe of this great wilderness. Each time I see it is as powerful as the first, existing in a perpetual state of flux, its colours changing from second to second. The forest visibly seems to breathe and is the perfect setting for a shapeshifter. I wanted to make that wilderness real and immediate and for some I did – for others not so much.

My biggest problem was expectation of genre. This is an odd beast for someone of my vintage weaned on literature that has a wider embrace of the possible than the modern “niche” approach. For me, as a poet, writing is about expression and the music behind the words as much as feelings and actions. It was never about marketing. This imperfection was what I brought to Berenice’s story along with a total understanding of what it feels like to be a misfit and never quite belong anywhere.

The Cougar has been called an erotic romance by some, but it is not erotica. It is explicit but romantic. At the heart lie two parallel love stories in different timelines. Berenice is in both and is a loyal and highly principled bisexual woman. That caused me problems with some fantasy readers and Christians who couldn’t cope with LGBT love and ironically it also caused problems with some lesbian readers who couldn’t cope with straight love scenes. Oh boy! Yet again a wicked bisexual predator is at large! There are some other odd love angles in the story because life is strange in my experience and love just is what it is. Perhaps my life as a writer would have been easier if Berenice was straight? She certainly would have done better to be a lesbian from the beginning if that was the target audience. Perhaps she would have done better to choose a more manipulative writer?

In any case, like Berenice, I am a ship at sea in a terrible storm with no apparent safe mooring other than love itself. If she chose me it was for a reason that I will probably never be sure of. Perhaps it is because I too know what it is not to be “amatonormative” (thank you Gabriel Constans for that lovely word). I leave you with the thought that to write an “amatonormative” book requires the author to be in no doubt whatsoever about their own gender identity or sexuality. Where would that leave the Berenices of this world? To force her to be something other than she is would surely be unacceptable in this day and age? Perhaps that is why she chose me after all…

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Life is too short. It is certainly too short to worry over ebook sales, or the lack of them. I shot my bolt with A Crofter’s Tale and I didn’t hit any targets. Likewise, my short story collection stalled totally. Two new books with no sales. So for quite a while I agonised over this. I had sold paperback versions, which is unusual in itself, but no ebooks. I would have expected a flurry in the first month on Amazon, but nothing. Zero, zilch. Nada!

“Market” they all told me but I was marketing. I was using paid advertising on Goodreads and AMS and telling all my Twitter followers. By now, not only had my new books only moved in physical form but the older books were slipping behind in the ranks too. Day by day I saw bargain bins of 99c specials pushed out from traditional publishers on my kindle, day by day on social media I saw small groups of independent authors running sales and giving out freebies. I ran a freebie promotion on a novella and got a flyby one star on Goodreads. Nice…

So, back to the beginning. Life is too short to worry over book sales. It would have been nice to make enough for my flight out to see Jewels. Shit, it would have been nice to make enough for a cup of coffee or an ice cream each – but nothing has moved except for that poor doomed freebie. I know I can write – well, I am told by some who have read my work – but I can’t sell at all and unless I can hit that magical twenty five good reviews I won’t sell so I am pulling back from the battle. In six days I travel out to BC to visit my girlfriend and her family and other friends in the area. Unless somebody big, fluffy and fierce eats me in the National Park I will eventually return to England to decide whether to give up writing and composing and look for a job washing up or shelf filling locally. I know, do it just for pleasure, but as life approaches its final third I am circling the drain and time for me is shrinking rapidly. It is either write and starve, or work and eat.

Meantime I have a new hobby. I used the sunny weather this week to get out in the yard and play with my Dremel. I have been meaning to for months; it was my favourite Christmas present but is far too dusty to play with indoors. There is something decidedly therapeutic in picking up an amorphous chunk of limestone and turning it into a decorative object. My Persian cat needs polishing, my little statue of Bastet is a work in progress. The joy of this new hobby is that it is totally pointless – except for the diamond bits, of course. It takes days to make one little ushabti and nobody would buy one of my primitive efforts even for the minimum wage which is fine by me. I am doing it for love and I will give them to people whom I love. Come to that, I was writing for love too but somehow nobody else understood that. I had a post of my new novel deleted from an author invitation thread on a Facebook group where it should have been appropriate to post. Nevermind, I don’t really get on with Facebook and there is much I do not understand. I expect I shall write again in the future but I had to stop doing it right then because my heart was breaking.

Will my stone statues go on forever? No they won’t. When the sun swallows all the planets nothing anyone has ever done will matter. We will all be recycled as star stuff somewhere, somehow. Our great deeds will all be forgotten, our book sales will be pointless, our great achievements will all be obliterated. Nothing has permanence. There is little point in struggling when our time is so short and so very precious. Why miss out on sunshine and joy? Nothing actually has any meaning beyond the instant of its creation. I am smiling as I say this; the only thing that exists is emptiness and that is fine by me…

I think I have earned the right to make this post as an older writer. My generation were probably the last to be actively discriminated against for their sexual “preference”. This is a term I hate because it has nothing to do with preference and everything to do with the way people are born. My generation lived under the shadow of Section 28; a horrible law that prevented education of students in LGBT matters under the pretence of “not promoting homosexuality”. It was a stupid and flawed Act of Parliament. You can’t promote homosexuality of course, nor can you alter it or pretend it does not exist. All that happens is that you cause confusion and depression. Then, if Grandma does come out, family and friends snigger in corners and LGBT groups may well shun her for not being braver in her youth. If you could promote any sexual preference, would we have any LGBT people left? To this day, in every single aspect of life, heterosexual norms are heavily promoted by media, peer groups, family and religion and yet LGBTQIA people exist despite all this pressure to conform.

Of course the real result of Section 28 was to force LGBT teachers into the closet or out of the profession and it was pretty dark in that cupboard under the stairs. These days we have very few closets in the civilised world but there are still many battles to fight. One of these is the assumption that you cannot be Christian and LGBT. That is the Elephant in the Room. It is so untrue and to those who say Christians have to follow the Bible’s teachings in every respect, nobody ever does. If you must quote your Bible, for Heaven’s sake read it ALL. Not even the most orthodox Christian would want to keep up with the wholesale ritual slaughter of bulls, goats, lambs and turtle doves demanded in Leviticus – even if they could afford to burn all that meat. We don’t keep slaves anymore and very few people observe the food laws.

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When’s the last time you ate lobster, oysters or bacon?

All of these – and many more – are abominations you know.

I will leave it at that.

Love just is…

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Ok, I admit it. This title is a little tongue in cheek. I was thinking more of the drawbacks of multi-genre authorship but I wanted you to read beyond the title. Come to think of it, that is always a good idea. Any author who has ever done a giveaway or a free book promotion will understand why we want you to do just that. I have talked previously about my “tribe” on Twitter. These are nice people, writers, musicians and artists who share work with their followers. We don’t all write, paint or play in one style. If we did, the world would be a poorer place. Whatever the genre, I share because I appreciate the writer. Sometimes I will have read and loved a story or its style. At other times, I may not have read the story but I know the person behind it. I might be sharing an erotic story, a space opera or a book about finding God and when I share that story I know people will follow me because I shared it. I don’t always know the motives but I trust that they will not be unkind.

The same goes for books as for people. Please don’t believe that because you enjoyed some erotic content in one book that my others will necessarily contain something similar. Whether I am writing poetry or fiction my deeper concerns might be love, but that is not necessarily erotic. If you buy Pussy’s Little Problem it is NOT porn, it is a manual on toilet training cats with a problem. On Wenlock Edge 100 Years On is not a period drama, it is a study of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams with musical examples. A sweet romance like Coming Home For Christmas will NOT include sex scenes; it is a clean read. That is what sweet romance means. The Cougar contains several explicit love scenes but although it has an F/F relationship at its heart it also contains other relationships and you will need to be accepting and broadminded to appreciate it.

I don’t want to upset anyone. Honestly! I would only ask that before you read the word “FREE” and get all excited, you actually read the description. I really don’t want to raise your expectations and a “sweet lesbian romance” is not going to provide one-handed reading for a single bloke who enjoys explicitly sexual lesfic and goes on to award me a 1* rating, nor are my books either man-free or LGBT-free. I certainly won’t countenance bi-erasure. I haven’t felt the need to turn my hand to Christfic yet but I don’t rule out any inspiration, whatever the source. Life just is, in all its variation and splendour, man is as God made him but just a little bit worse, that goes for women too. I know.

Love just is…