Book Release!!!

So tomorrow, November 21st 2014, sees the release of Boughs of Evergreen, a project I have been involved in with Beaten Track Publishing with whom I published Once Upon a Set of Wheels. For your perusal I thought I’d share with you what this wonderful project is all about and how it may not just be a fantastic Christmas gift for someone, or to indulge in yourself, but how it can also help someone who may need it.BoE_533x700-200x300

 

What is Boughs of Evergreen?

Boughs of Evergreen is an anthology of short stories by the authors currently published by the independent hybrid publisher Beaten Track. All the stories are focussed around a holiday season, mostly Christmas, but others include Hanukah, Thanksgiving and Eid.

 

What prompted the anthology?

Debbie McGowan, amazing author, editor and publisher at Beaten Track asked all those who have had books published by themselves if they’d like to take part in a holiday anthology offering tales of diversity and hope around a holiday event, focussed towards YA.

 

How Many People have contributed?

In total 23 authors have contributed and we have managed to create a two-part anthology.

 

What Diversity is written about?

The main diversity theme written about is LGBT issues, and many of the tales do focus on male relationships, however other differences are seen as well. There is a difference in religious festivals, a difference in race and differences culture, embracing all diversity’s we see in the world today.

 

What is your contribution?

My contribution is A Good Word: 20’000 word story focussed around the Islamic festival of Eid.

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What is the Gist of this story?

In the wake of 9/11 a young Muslim man on the brink of radicalisation and homeless catholic woman may seem like an unlikely pairing, however the paths of Nasir and Mary cross ten years after they knew each other as young children.

Eid and Christmas are falling close together and as they both prepare to celebrate their religious holidays in very different ways, brought together by circumstance they find themselves learning about each others faiths and understanding the pull each has…but can Mary save Nasir from a life of radicalisation, and will Nasir extend Mary any sort of kindness as she tries to pull back her life; even just to ‘utter a good word’ .

 

What gave you the idea for this?

I actually came up with this story when I was 14, but it was a lot different back then and very much focussed on a very ‘black and white’ idea of racism. As I have grown up the world has changed many things have happened. As a result, when I came to think about this story 18 years later I realised it had evolved from it’s original prejudice. What it has evolved into is something I do feel very close to and very passionate about now.

 

You said this also helped others?

Well yes, not only are all the tales ones of hope and looking to the future, all the authors have agreed to forego any profit and donate all proceeds to the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization [USA] providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. For more information, visit:

www.thetrevorproject.org.

 

 

What are the other contributions?

Volume One

“A Friend for Christmas” - JP Walker
“A Midnight Clear” Debbie McGowan
“From All of Us to All of You” - Ofelia Gränd

Find Ofelia on her websiteInstagram (@ofelia.grand), FacebookFacebook Author Page, Goodreads,Google+, and sign up for her mailing list

 

“Homme for the Holidays” Jonathan Penn

Find Jonathan on his blogAmazonTwitterFacebook, and Google+

“Kiss Me At Kwanzaa” LL Bucknor
Find LL on Twitter
“Lion’s Hero” Alexis Woods
Find Alexis on FacebookGoodreads, and Google+
“One Nightstand” Rick Bettencourt
Find Rick on his websiteTwitterFacebookMailing List, and Media Kit
“Shiny Things” Amy Spector
Find Amy on her website and blog and Twitter

“The Bard and his Boyfriend” Kathleen Hayes

“The Christmas Present” Larry Benjamin

Find Larry on his websiteblogTwitter, and Facebook

“The Invasion of Tork” Al Stewart and Claire Davis
“X-Mas Cake: A Modern Fairytale” Raine O’Tierney

Volume Two

“A Christmas Tale” Hans M Hirschi

Find Hans on his websiteblogFacebook, and Twitter

“A Family Christmas” Terry Kerr
“A Good Word” L.M. Steel
“A Little Christmas Magic” K.C. Faelan
Find K.C. on her blogGoodreads, and Twitter
“Always Have, Always Will” Amelia Mann
“An Angel in Eyeliner” Hunter Frost
Find Hunter on her websiteTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads
“Boyfriend Goes Home” Laura Susan Johnson
Find Laura on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+
“Christmas Commitment” Shayla Mist
Find Shayla on BlogspotWordPressGoodreads, and Facebook
“Coming in from the Cold” Ava Penn
“Holidays with Drum and Bell!” Matthias Williamson
“Te Amo, You Mushrooms” S.H. Allan

 

So where can we find it?

Beaten Track Publishing!

Preorder now!

Volume One [Paperback - £9.99/$15.99]

Volume Two [Paperback - £9.99/$15.99]

Volume One [Kindle Edition] Amazon.com

Volume One [Kindle Edition] Amazon UK [Kindle Edition]

Volume Two [Kindle Edition] Amazon.com

Volume Two [Kindle Edition] Amazon UK

Combined Edition [Kindle Edition] Amazon.com

Combined Edition [Kindle Edition] Amazon UK

 

 

Each story will also be published individually as an ebook throughout the month of December, 2014.

 

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The Footpath: A Halloween Tale!

The sound of leaves dried and withered crunching under foot was the only sound that he could hear on the deserted path. The footfalls that crushed them made no other sound as they seemed to land without thud on the dusty path between the playground and the houses in the distance. Why were they so distant? They had never been that far away before. They were just round the corner from the playing fields along the small footpath flanked by the withering autumn trees. Now on the path, they seemed as though they were far off in the horizon. They had moved, miles and miles away and between here and there was a long, dark winding path flanked by the shadows of dead withered trees casting ghostly claws from twisted and torn, bare leafless branches. Before her was the longest path her had ever seen, disturbing, frighteningly and confusingly long and behind him someone or thing, trod and crunched the dead autumn leaves as they stepped ever closer.

A hoot she heard off in the distance as a small breeze gently moved the warped, twisted branches over head causing the shadows cast on the ground by the crescent moon to look as though they were sharp jagged claws beginning to crawl towards him. Still the sound of crunching, scrunching, rustling dead foliage moved closer behind her.

The Footpath

Bang, bang, bang was the loudest sound of all now as her heart pounded against her rib cage like the mallet of a marching base drum. A bark of a dog and a howl which made this small estate seem like a wild forest just as the breeze whistled longer and harder into a wind and brought over the crescent moon thick, black clouds that began to cry down upon the long winding, dusty path that seemed to never end. The heavy, fat rain drops lashing down on the ground joining the rhythm of her base drum heart like an accompaniment of marching snares and soaking through the dead leaves hence muffling the only sound of the footfalls behind her. The wind blew round and round, swirling the waterfall of rain around her like a cyclone and then found it’s direction down the path, pushing against her hard a fierce like a hundred wet, powerful hands pushing her back down the never ending path. She pushed and she pushed as the sense that who, or what was behind her was now closer and closer still even though she could no longer hear anything. A crash, a rumble and bang as violent angry thunder boomed over head and shook the very ground she tried to run along. A streak, a bolt, a flash across the violent sky lit up everything around her and showed her for certain the large, terrifying shadow that loomed closer and closer behind her and yet still the end of the path seemed to never get closer. She pushed and she fought against weather, against nature and surely, surely she could finally see the lamp post at the end of the footpath that would open up into the street of houses all lit up on this cold, wet, stormy autumn night. Her arms in marching force, her legs pushing with all her might as the wind pushed hard and faster the torrent of rain that was surely all the sky could possibly hold, all against soaking her jeans, her trainers, her coat through to her shirt and her skin. Her long blonde hair flew behind her in long wet strands like old jagged fingers trying to pull her back. Finally she could almost touch and she reached out against the storm to wrap her desperate fingers around the lamp post so she had finally left the terrifying path.

Strong, heavy, powerful fingers landed firm and frightening on her left shoulder and then pulled her back with effortless force.

 

She awoke, gasped and sat bolt upright in the bed and panted hard and fast and shook all over. The rain pelted like a snare drum on her window and her heart beat like marching base drum against her chest and she could hear the howling pipes of the wind as it blew around the street outside. The dream lingered and the clammy, heavy pull of the hand on her shoulder felt as it was still grasping her tightly. She rose uncertainly, unsteady, shaking. Desperately she tried to compose herself and step out of the nightmare…it was just a nightmare. Still she reached trembling fingers for the curtains to look out at the street outside, to look over to the lamp post on the side of her road at the mouth of the small footpath that led down to the playing fields. Holding her breath she gently pulled one curtain slowly and gently to the side to look out…and she screamed!

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Everyone Has A cause

On Sunday we got up at the break of dawn, scoffed down potato sandwich’s to ensure we were fully carb loaded, pulled on our spandex, tied our laces and headed off to SouthSea for the Bupa 25th Annual Great South Run.

We smashed it people! I ran all the way side by side with my beautiful wife and we got in with a very respectable time:

Proof I did it!

Proof I did it!

I did post a couple of weeks ago to say I was doing it and to share my just giving page, thank you if you supported. As you’ll remember I was running to raise money for Cancer Research UK and my darling wife was running for Macmillan Cancer care; two incredibly dear charities to us and we said we were running in memory of my dad who passed away just last year. sadly however we were running for so many more; my grandparents, my wife’s grandparents, her aunty…the list goes on. A dear friend of mine who died in 2001 was just 26 when he lost his life to the terrible disease and left behind three children under 6. Cancer charities hold a place in my heart and sadly the reasons why seem to grown every passing year.

Our Chosen charities Side by side

Our Chosen charities Side by side

As I lined up ready to run on this last breezy Sunday morning I looked around and saw quite clearly I’m not the only who feels like that, the t-shirts were like a sea of determination against adversary out there, from disease to crime, poverty and cruelty, ignorance and heartache, everyone around me had something they were running for.

 

I spent ten adrenaline pumping, muscle burning miles reading the t-shirts and the signs pinned to them stating why that person was running; they were raising money, they were raising awareness, they were running in hope and sadly some in remembrance:

 

Don’t forget The Alzheimers society: in memory of my lovely dad.

brought a tear to my eye as I thought of my dear uncle who suffered from the horrible condition.

Born Free: no Animal should be inprisoned

I couldn’t agree more as I ran and thought of all the animals who can’t because they’re locked up

Dogs Trust: For the best friend I ever had!

I can completely understand that sentiment.

Help for Heroes: for every soldier who needs a hand

I guess they just knew so many after 13 years of war!

The list was endless:

Brain Tumour Research

Diabetes UK

MS Society

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Mind

Clic Sargent- for children with cancer

The Stroke Association

NSPCC 

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research

British Heart Foundation

Guide Dogs

Orangutan Appeal Uk

WWF

Naomi House Childrens Hospice Ltd

The Rowans Hospice

Chestnut Tree House

Seafarers UK

The Raf Association

Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity

A Smile for a Child

Dreams Come True

Shine

Scope

The Rose Road Association

The Honeypot Children’s Charity

That just names a handful, there were just so many, and nearly all were accompanied by pictures or names in whose name or memory they were taking on this challenge.

It was heartbreaking and warming all in one.

The fact that there are so many desperate causes out there is sometimes enough to make you wonder what the point is sometimes. There’s much to fight against, there’s so much pain and heartache. Then I took another look around. 25000 people were running; many clearly not anywhere near athletic and yet they were trying, and they were pushing and they were giving it all they had to raise money, hope or awareness for there cause. 25000 people descended upon Portsmouth to shout that they weren’t willing to give up on their fight, they were gonna do what ever they could, they were gonna run 10  miles when most of them have probably barely walked more than three, so that they could do something, they could contribute in someway to their cause.

 

Everyone has a fight! Everyone has a cause they believe in. That was the real warmth I took away from Sunday…along with my burning thighs!

If you would still like to contribute to cancer research my just giving page is here: https://www.justgiving.com/Lee-Mundy-Steel/

 

But if you have your own cause, something you’re passionate about, why not share and let us know why.

While you do that, I feel I have earned this!

Well Earned!

Well Earned!

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Meet The Character Blog Hop

So I’ve been tagged in  “Meet the Character” Blog Hop by Matthias Williamson. I’ve decided to use the my Short Story: A Good Word which will feature in beaten Tracks Holiday Anthology Boughs of Evergreen.

Let me thank Matthias and introduce to him as well:

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 Matthias Williamson has always had characters in his head. There were times when he was little when he couldn’t go to sleep because there was too much talking going on. He finally stopped one day and started writing what the characters were saying, and stories emerged. Finally, he’s finishing the stories.

 

Matthias story Drum and Bell will also be featuring in the Holiday Anthology and as it’s own stand alone short story. Check out his site and his story.

 

 

 

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Who Is Nasir Mahmood?

Nasir is a young man in his final year of his A Levels looking to apply to a university to study Islamic Politics.

 

Where does A Good Word take place?

A Good Word takes place in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield in the winter of 2001, leading up to both Eid and Christmas of that year. Mainly in and around an Asian Restaurant and a Homeless Soup Kitchen

 

What wont Nasir talk about?

Where he goes in Bradford when he’s supposed to be studying. He’s been going to meetings led by a New Imam who holds intense meetings for young impressionable Muslims. He also doesn’t like to talk about what everyone seems to know, but no-one talks about in his own family…his Uncle Raj

 

What are Nasir’s Goals

His main goal above everything else is to be a good Muslim. His ambition is to be devout and serve his people and his faith in the best way he can.

 

What is the problem?

He doesn’t really know how . He thinks to be a good Muslim is to follow the teachings of the extreme Imam as his family all seem to be too accepting and allowing of westerners and their traditions and lifestyles. He feels none of them are as devout as they should be, but then Mary, a catholic Lesbian  comes into his life and throws everything’s he’s been studying into further turmoil as she starts to teach him about his own faith.

 

To see who else is on the Blog hop look no further than the anthology itself:

debbiemcgowanDebbie McGowan is an author and publisher based in a semi-rural corner of Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven fiction, covering life, love, relationships – the whole shazam. A working class girl, she ‘ran away’ to London at seventeen, was homeless, unemployed and then homeless again, interspersed with animal rights activism (all legal, honest ;)) and volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At twenty-five, she went back to college to study social science – tough with two toddlers, but they had a ‘stay at home’ dad, so it worked itself out. These days, the toddlers are young women (much to their chagrin), and Debbie teaches undergraduate students, writes novels and runs an independent publishing company, occasionally grabbing an hour of sleep where she can!

Debbie’s addition to Boughs of Evergreen: A Holiday Anthology(November 2014) is A Midnight Clear.midnight_clear_boe_533x800-199x300

It’s a cold, desperate December when a young girl flees home, in search of food, shelter and the real Santa Claus. Stranded in George and Josh’s hometown, she discovers that the spirit of Christmas can be found in the most unexpected of places. Includes the story of The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen.

You can find Debbie on any of the following social media sites:

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/writerdebmcg
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/beatentrackpublishing
YouTube:  www.youtube.com/deb248211
Tumblr: www.writerdebmcg.tumblr.com
LinkedIn:  www.uk.linkedin.com/in/writerdebmcg
Google+:  www.plus.google.com/+DebbieMcGowan
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/4401329.Debbie_McGowan
Website: www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk

 

 

Ofelia Gränd

 

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish through and through. She is constantly thinking of stories she would love to write. Anything and everything is a source of inspiration that has her lost in thought, staring off into space, in no time at all. Sometimes she turns a street corner, and sees a different world. She is often walking around mumbling to herself and her intended characters. Every so often she is painting mental pictures of their appearances, or wishing that she was better at Photoshop, because she knows exactly what the cover of the story in her mind should look like. Real life, however, interferes all too often, and the stories mostly remains unwritten.

In real life, Ofelia is living with her husband and their three children in a small town on the southwestern Swedish coast. When she isn’t a stay-at-home mom, she is teaching Swedish and Swedish as a second language to teenagers and adults. She has been thinking about teaching English, but since she isn’t fluent in the language, she is sticking to the one she knows well. Therefore, she, more than anyone, is a bit perplexed about why she thought it would be a good idea to try to write in English. But, she’ll probably come to her senses – sometime.OfeliaGrand_FAoUtAoY

Meet Simon: http://ofeliagrand.com/2014/10/05/meet-character/

 

The individual stories of the anthology will be published as ebooks on December 1st 2014. Boughs of Evergreen will be published November 21st 2014.

BoE_533x700-200x300http://amzn.com/1909192899
http://amzn.com/1909192910
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909192899
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909192910

Beaten Track Shop (Preorder)
Volume One: http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/…
Volume Two: http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/…

 

 

 

 

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For The Love of Animals

I think it’s quite safe to say I’m an animal lover, mostly dogs as I was raised with them and I think they’re the most wonderful, loyal, loving companion a growing child or a dedicated adult could ever ask for.  If you’ve read any of my novels you’ll see there’s always a dog in there. (Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that dogs have been in the news more and more for attacks etc, but my honest opinion is: you get a bad dog if you have a bad owner.)

Me and Cracker at Hollingworth Lake

Me and Cracker at Hollingworth Lake

I’m not just stuck on dogs though, I love all animals; cats, mice, horses, sheep, elephant, hippos, bear, rhinos. The list goes on; even the bad guys I love, Killer whales and the like (don’t you think you should hear the Imperial March every time they show up on a wildlife documentary?). Animals are marvellous and wondrous and can bring so much to our lives; including broken hearts!

This week two of my friends have had to say goodbye to their beloved pets. Both cats, both old and lived good long lives for cats, years they probably would never have seen as wild or strays. They have both been ill for a while and they’ve had to make that awful decision that we all know is the kindest thing you can do for them, but still it’s awful. We always say the same thing as well don’t we as we wipe away our tears: ‘it’s so silly, it’s only a cat!’ it’s not silly at all and they most definitely were not ‘only a cat’. They were your cat, your pet, your companion. They have been in your lives for fifteen years and they have brought you comfort, love, happiness and probably immense amount of stress, why it’s almost like having a child. In fact I’m terrible for that, as I call myself mum to my little dog ‘come on, come and sit with your mum.’ And she does! I call her my little girl, because she is.

We adore our animals, we find joy and love in their devotion, their loyalty and their quirky, sweet personalities.

Long gone are the days, at least in many societies, that animals were just property and working commodities. We now recognise them as cognitive, conscious creatures with emotions and personalities that bring a whole new dimension to all of our existence.

 

We have taken our understanding of animals to a whole new level; in New York this week a court is deciding if a chimpanzee has human rights; basically they are deciding if they are to be entitled to “legal personhood.” In the case of Tommy, a former circus chimpanzee, NhRP are claiming he has been falsely imprisoned. He lives in a cage in an outbuilding in New York where he is alone, there are no other chimps or animals to share company with him and his only company is a television on the far wall from which he watches cartoons. Their main hope from the outcome is Tommy will be freed to go and live in a Sanctuary in Florida which homes other chimpanzees, mainly former research animals. They are of course not claiming Tommy is Human, but they are saying that as any human, he has rights that include not being locked in a cage in isolation, especially in his case as there has been no crime or wrong doing. People campaign that dangerous criminals shouldn’t be subjected to such conditions, so why should an innocent chimp.

This grows on from what started about century ago, if probably not before when people looked at animals and saw in them something more than ‘a creature’. They looked into their eyes and they saw souls and knew that they were real and they were feeling and they were alive! Soon came along the people who want to put a stop to the travelling circus’s and the captivity of wild animals: Born Free, WWF, DSWT just to name a few. We realise what human beings are doing to living conscious animals and we want to stop it. To stop cosmetic testing on animals, medical testing on animals.

 

It’s a complete contrast to the other side of the world in African countries where monkeys and primates are still hunted as bush meat. Black market poachers are hunting Elephants, Tigers and Rhino’s to extinction for far Eastern demand stemming from ignorant mythical beliefs and demonstrations of wealth.

In Such countries you can go as the typical Western Tourist and enjoy a monkey show or sit with a live tiger or ride an elephant, and trust me as someone who’s been, it’s soul destroying. You don’t see these magnificent creatures enjoying their natural habitat. They are a commodity to be exploited and you find yourself hating yourself for being apart of that industry and paying that money to sit on an elephant while they trudge round a tiny quarry. Then you watch the baby elephants perform and you can see the soreness on their legs where they have clearly been chained before being brought out to perform for you. baby elephants should be with their mother for a long time, not torn away from them to dance for tourists! The monkey show made me cry! Sat still, not even allowed to preen themselves as they do in the wild while tourists sat to have their photo’s taken with them and then made to perform and entertain.

These are intelligent, conscious, cognitive animals and they are wild and they have rights!

I personally believe that religions that still make sacrifices are as barbaric now as we observe ancient cultures were when they gave human sacrifices to the myths of gods and goddesses. Why is the slaughter of a lamb a justified sacrifice in the name of religion? I don’t understand a god that revels in the death and sacrifice of innocent life.

 

At the beginning of the year I turned vegetarian because of all things, Elephants. You may think that’s strange as I’ve never eaten Elephant and as far I’m aware neither has anyone I know. However I watched a documentary on the orphan Elephants left so because of the atrocious poaching industry built on the illegal trade of ivory built on the demand of wealthy easterners, mainly in China, who think they have some sort of right of ownership of this animals parts.

Many people were interviewed and I watched and it broke my heart, then one of the campaigners made a very powerful, to me anyway, statement:

“They don’t need the ivory, it’s not a necessity, they want it, it’s human greed and desire, that is all, animals are being slaughtered because humans want them. Then the same could be said for the meat industry!”

Bam! Like a bat round the head that hit me. I don’t need to eat meat, I ate it because I liked it, because I enjoyed it, because I wanted it. it was a want, a desire not a necessity. I was partaking in the supply and demand of a product that is built on the mass slaughter of animals everyday.

How could I condemn one instance and not the other?

I couldn’t and now I find myself getting angry with ignorant people who make those declarations of “oh I love meat, I couldn’t give it up, just don’t tell me where it came from!” I wonder if women wearing ivory jewellery say the same thing or the men with their expensive, precious ornaments: Just don’t tell me where it came from!

 

I’m not going to condemn all meat eaters and I’m not going to start having a go at farmers either. We had a farm when I was a child and we lost it due to the egg crisis in 1990 and I know how hard farmers work and that most of them are very aware of their animals and treat them well and with respect. It is from these that my wife, who has not gone vegetarian is now buying her meat. Local farm shops where it’s a little pricier, but we know it hasn’t been mass produced under some factory line of poor animals that are just being bred and farmed out in horrific amounts for profit.

I think most people would do the same if they opened their eyes instead of making the statement Just don’t tell me where it came from.

I think most human beings have empathy, compassion and a certain identification with animals. We reach out to animals and young children in ways which we rarely do for our fellow man; it was seen here in England not so long ago when the Manchester Dogs home was deliberately burnt down and the entire country stepped up, in less than twenty-four hours they had raised half a million pounds and the money just kept going up. To date they have raised £1,466,069.22. Because we reacted to the horror and suffering of innocent animals.

 

Do we humanise them too much? Is giving a chimpanzee the legal right of personhood a step too far? Is calling our cats a and dogs babies and giving them their own indoors beds and rights in our homes too far for animals that were domesticized for work. Is attributing Pigs, dolphins, elephants and monkeys with our intelligence a bit extreme? Or is it just that we are finally evolving enough to understand that the imprisonment, forced labour, exertion of our will over a creature less developed than ourselves is exploitative and just plain wrong. Maybe we realise as the creatures that have evolved with intelligence and conscience that the lesser animal aren’t here to serve us, but we are here to protect and serve them. It is our responsibility to look after this planet and all the living animals on it.

Cracker: my little girl

Cracker: my little girl

I believe all animals have the same capability of emotion that we do. I come home from work and my little dog is so happy to see me she tries to wag her tail and her whole goes with it, she is that excited. She runs across the field with me and loves to play. She’s obedient because she wants to be, because she loves me. Many may say we are attributing a human ability and emotion to an animal that is incapable of it, but trust me, she loves me. I look into those gorgeous, sweet brown eyes and I see the soul of a unique, one of a kind creature and I see the love in her eyes for me.

I love her too, as I said, she is my little girl!

 

Am I just a bit over the top? Or am I spot on the money? Maybe I’m not even close? I don’t know; I’m sure all of you will have your own opinions about what animal rights should be and what you believe an animal is and has in regards to personality and soul. But surely we must all agree that we don’t want to leave a planet to our grandchildren where they read about elephants, Rhino’s, Tigers, Orangutans, Whales, and so many other animals as we do about the Dodo. creatures that once were that no longer exist because the viral plague of human beings wiped them from the face of the planet?

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Run Run Run

So just a quick one to let you all know I am still here, I just have so much to do and of course there is not enough hours in the day or days in the week. To top it off I’ve gone and involved myself in more things to take up my time:

I bought a campervan! oh yes, I am to become the travelling scribe. Venturing around Britain with our little dog taking in all this historic country has to offer, and of course I feel I should write about all of it:

The Travelling Scribe

 

I’m also writing a short novella for the Beaten Track Christmas Anthology . Boughs of Evergreen a Holiday Anthology.

Boughs of Evergreen

Boughs of Evergreen

It is to be an anthology of diversity and love, Hope and and overcoming, all focused around the holiday period. I am very excited about being a part of this project and am exploring race, religion and lgbt issues in my story. It’s actually a story I came up with when I was twelve (coughs 20 years ago). I have sat and thought to write it several times, but thanks to the way the world has changed in twenty years, (it really has) the story as evolved from its original, excuse the pun, black and white format. When I came up with it 20 years ago I simply in my 12 year mind called it Prejudice, but that seems to have too much of a negative connotation. So I’m on the look out for a happier, more embracing title. I have three weeks so any ideas throw them at me!

 

I’ve been working on a children video tale, it’s a very early on project so I’m hoping it will come to fruit, but it could end up being one of those things that pans and is never spoken of again. I’m hoping by bringing it up here it will push me to actually achieve something with it, especially as now we have a campervan: it’s based on George The Travelling Troll:

George the travelling Troll

George the travelling Troll

Thanks to my 2 year old niece we have taken to taking him everywhere and snapping shots of him holidaying and exploring, so I feel I Should document his journeys for her and figured why not share it for everyone else as well.

I am still working on my tale I mentioned a few weeks ago based on a script I came up with for the BAFTA writing competition, I feel that actually become this years NaNoWriMo.

 

Finally, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t set myself some crazy physical challenge to get in the way of everything else. In October, just 48 days away, I’ll be running The Great South Run raising money for Cancer Research UK.

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Instead of opening a new Just Giving page for every new challenge I am keeping open the one from May when I completed the Rat race Dirty Weekend. This is of course in memory of my wonderful dad who passed away last year from lung cancer. All and any support is greatly appreciated:

Running for Cancer Research UK:

So Amazing Dads, get to be Amazing Grandads

dad and pip

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A Gay Christian Scientist: Reflection on Vicky Beeching Coming out.

Ok so I know, I’m late to the party on this one, I mean it’s been nearly two weeks right, we’ve all moved on! Although we haven’t because people are still writing about it with a lot of opposing views coming to the table. It’s taken me this long to write not because I’ve been busy or not bothered about it, but because it’s been a constant stream of thought running through my head and mixing up a stream of emotions that surface every now and then and I didn’t want to rush in with a knee jerk reaction.

I’ve written about homosexuality and Christianity before and I always say I’m going to follow it up, and the few people who read this regularly will know I haven’t managed it yet. Not because I get bored or there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to say you could spend your life researching it and just get lost in it all and never come out with an answer.

 

This week I’ve read Vicky’s interview about ten times! I’ve read replies and responses, both positive and negative. Each time I see her response on twitter or in a quote or on Facebook and I’m impressed by her resolve and her strength and her standing as it is in her original interview.

She said that many would and have turned their back on the church but she will not because of her love for God. In response many Christians have come out, however the amount Christians coming out seems small compared to the amount of out gay and lesbians declaring their faith! I guess I’m in the second group…kind of

 

Everyone’s telling a story and I could tell you mine (that might actually make some people stop insisting that my book Judged By Your Peers is my true story: it’s not! But that’s another rant for another time!)

However this is a blog not a novel. Also I did write my own story and then last night saw a comment from Vicky on Facebook saying how hard the last few days had been due to some of the nastier and more derogatory comments having taken their toll. Today I saw some of those comments and it saddened me greatly, but mostly it made me angry.

 

I was raised in a very Christian home, I went to church/fellowship every Sunday, I went to Sunday school, on Tuesdays we went to bible class, on Thursdays were prayer meetings and on Friday evenings I went to the church youth group: Jesus’ Joyful Juniors, or 3J’s as we called it. When I was 12 I spent a week at church camp and at the end of the week I was stood on a grown mans shoulders in Leeds city centre holding a microphone singing this little light of mine and for some reason I was showing a skill of being able to juggle one handed with my other hand. I was not in any of these instances forced or made to go, it was a an option, it was one for my brother and sister as well. They chose not to go, I wanted to go, I honestly did and more to the point I loved every minute of it.

 

Then I hit my teens! I guess my story is not dissimilar but also very different to Vicky’s.

I was 13 when I first realised I felt differently and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

I prayed over and over and over and over to make it go away . I begged and I begged to make it better, my prayers and my pleading went unanswered for years. As I started to realise it was never going to change, I began to change my life. After 12 years, when I was 25, I went back to university and found more of the answers I was looking for in science and that, along with my sexuality caused me to question my faith and what it was I was actually believing in and why I was punishing myself for something that had never seemed to bring me anything but heartache.

 

The night I came out to one of my best friends, I was 26, I was on the floor in the town centre literally sobbing. My whole body was shaking out of control as I just couldn’t think what else to do.  When I woke up in the following morning, a necklace I had worn for about ten years, a little silver cross with my favourite psalm on it was gone. I have never found it! I felt that I had finally opened up and given up trying to change and for it I had been abandoned!

The truth is I got drunk and angry and upset and the chances are that cheap silver chain got caught and snapped and in my drunken state I hadn’t realised. In my head and in my heart, I had been abandoned by the God I had been begging and turning to for years for help.

I went to counselling to try and change, but all that did was make me realise how angry I was.

I was so angry!

 

I have questioned my faith every single day, I have lost a lot of people I love and I have hurt and tortured myself over how I feel coincides with that upbringing. I have stood and questioned how any of it can be real when I see the evidence in science that shows a very different reality, and when I see the suffering and horror around the world. How can this God of love be real when just about everyday we look around us and find barely any evidence for it? All we see is heartache, struggle, suffering and in some, true and real evil.

My answer was really in my family and my Christian family. I was not disowned by anyone in my family, I was not discarded by the church I was raised in. My old pastor and Sunday school teacher have both been wonderful. You see I isolated myself for all those years presuming from what I was reading that these people would interpret the readings as I had and I would be pushed out in the cold. They haven’t or if they did, they don’t anymore and I have been loved and welcomed home.

 

It’s not been an easy road by any means. I’ve had people tell me I can’t be gay and Christian, I’ve also had people tell me I can’t be a scientist and a Christian. I’ve been shouted at in public for holding my wife’s hand and wearing a cross necklace (I bought another one…it was that simple!) We’ve had stares, we’ve been called names and we’ve been shouted at.

 

18 months ago my father died and again I was so angry. My whole family, we had begged and pleaded for him to come through it and recover, for a while we honestly believed he might, but then he was lost and I was furious with God; he never answered my prayers!

At my own fathers funeral I heard two comments from people, not direct to me but I was in earshot, whom I had known within the church, about how they couldn’t come to accept homosexuality in the church, one even snubbed my wife with some sort of righteous indignation…at my fathers funeral!

That is not Christian love, that is arrogance and ignorance! It’s also petty and quite frankly pathetic!

 

Reading the responses to Vicky’s interview, I realise something more now: I’ve not always been angry with God, I’m angry with people and their hateful spiel of my Christianity and faith. I’m angry with these people who use what is supposed to be a word of love and use it to spread hatred and condemn people who might not think or feel or follow the path they do because their minds can’t consider an alternative.

 

Many are insisting that the bible is the word of God and is final and we can’t change it or question it to suit how we feel. Many use Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of how homosexuality is unacceptable by God. However surely that story when read is the example that we can question God.

Abraham pleaded to god for Sodom; God said he would destroy it and Abraham questioned him and asked: what if there are good men in there? God resolved he would save it for good men. Abraham questioned him again and again until he had resolved with God that if there was only ten good men in all the evil God would not destroy Sodom. I think this shows that if we’re not completely content with what has been said in the bible ‘by God’ we can go to him and question it!

I think it’s also ok to be angry with God; we get angry with our parents all the way through our lives for one thing or another, why can’t we be angry with God as our heavenly father once in a while? When my father died I was angry, I was told that’s natural and it’s ok to be angry with God for that. Yet I was told I can’t be angry with God for me being gay because of what God has made natural. There is nothing more in the natural order of things than dying and I was allowed to be angry about that so why I can’t I be angry about something I don’t feel to be completely in the natural order of things? At least not for me.

 

The Bible is a book and it was not written by God; it was written by men, and then interpreted by men and then assembled from hundreds of scriptures by men. It was influenced by culture and by the civilisations and empires that ruled through that history, which is why the original scriptures are in several different ancient languages. It is very much open for interpretation. It is biographical and it is factual for some events that took place: there was a flood in the East in ancient times, there’s evidence of an armies remains under the red sea, there was a comet that went across the sky two thousand years that would’ve been a visible trail in the middle east. The Bible accounts for historical events, but it was still written by men interpreting these events and what they understood God to be saying to them.

 

There were also dinosaurs, Neanderthals, sabre-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, a comet that wiped out nearly all life on earth and there is a universe out there that is much bigger than our little world and there is of course evolution! These things are undeniable and they are not in the bible.

The Bible is not everything, just like any history book you pick up is not the entirety of history. Every text book you pick up for any subject is not the entirety of that subject.

People are forever researching and learning about science, development and also about history and the papers and theologies and understanding of them are constantly changing. It’s ok for that to happen with religion, theology and faith too. There are other scriptures that didn’t make it into the Bible: the apocrypha, the pseudepigrahal and deuterocanonical books are some we’re aware of. The Dead Sea Scrolls weren’t even discovered till 1946 and are of a  lot of historic, religious and linguistic importance to many different faiths.

 

The fact that I say all this has caused a lot of people to ask me the same point Vicky made in her interview. Many who come out turn away from the church and from their faith as they can’t reconcile it. My friends have said: well just stop believing in it if it bothers you that much!

I can’t!

I can sit here and say I have stopped believing in it, and I can use every logical persuasion and scientific reasoning to justify that and back me up. I would however be being to myself in that regards, what I did to myself for many years with regards to my sexuality; I’d be lying. I’d be lying to you and to myself. I can try and convince myself that I don’t believe in it, that I don’t follow it and I don’t feel this way towards God, but I did that already with an important part of my life that it hurt and almost broke me, I’d like to think I’ve learned from that mistake.

As much as I would like to stop believing because it causes a constant internal questioning and conflict, I can’t just make myself stop having faith anymore than I could just stop myself from being Gay, as much I wanted and tried to for a long time.

They are two parts of my very being that I cannot change and are at conflict with one another on many platforms.

 

Not long after my dad died a friend I have known for years said she suddenly realised what was wrong with me all those years.

She said that even when I had seemed at my happiest  there was something behind my eyes that had seemed faded and lost. In the last couple of years, since my coming out, it was gone and I had seemed truly happy. When my father died she said it was back, and she now realised that all that time, from when I was a teenager, I was grieving!

 

There are five stages to grief (generally)

 

1.Denial and Isolation: Oh yes, I definitely did this.

 

  1. Anger: I feel I’ve just rambled about that at length (not sure how much sense it makes)

 

  1. Bargaining – I begged and pleaded and prayed for it to go away and every account I’ve read has been the same.

 

  1. Depression; for most of my late teens and early twenties: it’s exhausting trying not to hate yourself.

 

5 Acceptance: I think I’m there.

I accept that nothing I am really marries well with another part of me, maybe that’s why I write so much, maybe that’s where my weird personality comes form, maybe I’ll be trying to reconcile those parts of my life and forever be questioning.

And maybe, that’s ok!

 

People have used the Bible for centuries to justify hate and segregation against different types of people. Race, religions, creeds, gender, culture and now it’s sexualities turn.

Vicky as a public figure in the church is challenging that on a very open level and I can’t even begin to imagine how scary that is. I found it scary just to do it in my little world.

I’m Gay, I’m a Christian, I’m a Scientist.

It can’t be impossible for that to happen, people can’t say you can’t be all three or two of them, because I am all three and I exist. As do many others and in our little worlds we are standing with her in challenging those stances.

Unfortunately Vicky Beeching will hear hate and judgement and there will be people fighting her all the way. Some days it will hurt and some days it will be too much and she’ll probably want to run away and hide somewhere. She’ll probably get very angry and she’ll get very upset and she’ll wish she’d just kept a very private person and not said anything.

In those times I hope she knows there are so many of us who are not against her, but with her. She is not alone and there are a lot of us who have an amazing admiration for a very brave woman.

 

Yesterday I was blessed to celebrate my first anniversary with my beautiful wife, next year we will convert our civil partnership to a marriage under the UK laws. What would make it perfect would be a blessing or church ceremony, maybe with the strength and convictions of the Vicky Beechings in this world that will one day be possible.

 

I cannot believe that to feel this happy and this loved can in anyway be a sin or be wrong and I truly hope Vicky Beeching finds that happiness, and the love she deserves in her faith, in her church and in her personal life.

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