Curmudgeonly Musings


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?

Advertisements

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.

set in stone.jpg

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.

220px-Lobster,_Crab,_and_a_Cucumber_-_1891P32

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…

me_from_poetry_books

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…

whitby 123

A writer is a dreamer who needs space to dream and sometimes the reality of modern day publishing gets in the way. This is true whether one is self-published or published by one of the very many small presses that specialise in particular genres. These days an author constantly needs to push their own agenda, recommend their own books and those of their associates, attend conferences and conventions and be an expert social mover and shaker. Every day I see examples of excellent but introverted writers struggling constantly while the more pushy ones squeeze them out. Whether it is done consciously or unconsciously I honestly do not know but writers do tend to run in packs. My Twitter pack is a multi-genre pack full of generous and sensitive individuals who are non-judgemental, not genre or publisher biased, and share each other’s posts. I am so glad of it. Without my pack on Twitter I could so easily drown. As it is I can barely keep my head out of the water.

Now in some respects I am a little bit of a rarity amongst writers. Not because I am some sort of special snowflake (I know my limitations and they are Legion), or because I am a multi-genre and cross-genre perpetrator (lots of writers are), and not even because I am also a musician (although it is hard to serve two Muses) but because I put my own name on everything I do. Yes, that’s right. My name. I don’t hide my gender behind vague initials or change my name from book to book in case somebody who enjoys one title hates another and feels betrayed. I am not ashamed to be a poet, to write scifi, horror and romance, to include sweet romance and honest steamy sex scenes, I have a mix of LGBT and straight. I am not ashamed of my music either. It is a part of my soul. I write because I feel driven to and I compose for the very same reason.

Despite all that, I am still an introvert and a neurodiverse one at that, being mildly autistic. I hate social occasions. I can only cope in small gatherings unless I am deliberately putting on a show. Then character takes over. It just doesn’t feel comfortable to move around a room pressing hands and making small talk. My best friends and the people I talk to most are my cats. My wildest parties are held on Twitter; openly, in the morning with the news or Victoria Live on the TV or in the evening with Star Trek reruns, my favourite one-starred disaster movies, Casualty or Holby City. I confess I am a bit of a geek. I enjoy science – one of my short stories actually opens with a description of an atomic explosion – and I love doing the research for my stories. It doesn’t all go in of course but I probably err on the side of too much at times.

I don’t really know why I am writing this post except that I do wish self-promotion wasn’t such a “thing” in this world we live in – especially in the arts – schmoozing should not be the artist’s most important weapon but I know I am fighting a lost cause. I do wish readers were the ones to propose books for awards, not authors, and that readers would vote for them, not authors but again, why should they? It is not the norm. It probably never was. OK, I will go back to my lair and hide away for a bit longer; then there’s a grain-free cake to bake, cats to feed and a happy life to live. Have a beautiful day.

This is a post that has been decades in the making. In my lifetime equality issues have made huge strides to the extent that gay and lesbian friends are very much out and part of everyday life. I am less sure about how those friends who are transsexual feel and to be honest the extent of biphobia and bi-erasure from those who should know better never ceases to amaze me. I decided quite early in my writing career to follow the principle that “love just is” and I have never excluded relationships that I felt were germane to the characters in a story. For this reason, I believe I am struggling to find any sort of audience. There are those who would say to me something along these lines:

1. “I can’t buy / read / share your WW2 novel because it has women like that in it.”

2. “Why does everything have to contain lesbians or gays these days?”

3. “There never used to be so many of them. The world is becoming so wicked.”

On the other hand, I also get:

1. “Why did Midge have to marry a man before she discovered herself?”

2. “I wish there were no straight sex scenes in your novel, you know. Without those is would be really good.”

3. “Why did your story have so many men in it? Was that really necessary?”

To me, neither of these attitudes addresses the real problem of bi-erasure, straight-erasure or the LGBT-erasure we (wrongly) assume is over and done with. People who buy books want to look through rose tinted spectacles at a world where any of the following apply:

1. LGBTQIA people do not exist; or only exist on the periphery as sad or comic characters.

2. Men in lesfic – or women in M/M romance – do not play any role in the story, other than a minor part if absolutely necessary.

3. Characters are exclusively gay, lesbian or straight, nobody is ever confused and bisexuality is a wicked perversion that endangers everyone who is actually honest with themselves.

Sadly, my books do not conform to these straitjacketing norms and for that reason I now know that they will probably not be enjoyed by many readers, LGBTQIA or straight, within my lifetime. I have worked so hard over the last five years or so and yet I am still very much on the fringe and at this point in time I am seriously thinking of giving up creative writing altogether and going back to the less frustrating business of composing music.

You know, in my stories, I try my best to make the love scenes open, honest and tasteful; please note I said love. I am not in the business of writing erotica; too many people already do it far better than I ever could. I would just like to find a few more tolerant and open-minded readers who don’t fall into either of the above two categories though. I would like to find some readers who can accept that LGBT characters existed and had (albeit closeted) normal lives before 1970 and others who can accept that their own liberation includes recognising that we are not stereotypes. Real people are not all the same – black or white, hetero-exclusive or homo-exclusive, recognisable genre tropes in day to day existence – nor should we be. My relationships are not second class relationships, either in real life or between the pages of my novels.

Rant over.

Love just is.

Next Page »