Monday, June 27, 2016

Fall apart or fall together

The people in my life know very well that I...tend to rant. Most of the time when I'm online or in public, I tone it down to avoid conflict. If I see injustice, I'll speak out (I try not to when it's trolls because that's what they want), but the rest of the time, I sit here at my computer, so outraged I'm lost for words.

But there are some...complete and utter d***heads in this world, and sometimes, I just want to shake them warmly by the throat.

So, here's a bit of what I think about the UK and the EU. I'll go on the record here as having voted to remain in the EU. Note: this is what I think. It's opinion, and I'm not writing it here for people to tell me why I'm wrong. I'm not.

My reasons are many, but here are some of the more salient ones, in brief:

1. Democracy

If the problem we (the UK, not the bunch of crooks with too much money and power who led the electorate to a poisoned, though thankfully empty chalice) have with the EU is in its organising principles and the costs associated with membership, then it would be better if we stayed seated at the table and contributed to a debate that might lead to reform rather than up-ending our half-finished (very expensive?) dinner and stomping from the room.

There's little else to add here. We will have no say in future decisions that will affect us whether we're in the EU or not. We are, essentially, giving up our (flimsy, limited but hard-fought-for) democratic rights.

2. Immigration

The UK is a population made up of immigrants, and we have to go back a very long way to find the original Britons. So, on any basis, the immigration argument is historically flawed. Add to this the imperial history of Great Britain whereby the British 'colonised' (raped, pillaged) the we really want to remind anyone outside of the UK of our darker moments?

Then there's the disgusting comments being made by a very vocal but thankfully small minority that do little more than highlight their stupidity. However, it's a dangerous stupidity. Before I go any further, I'll be very clear on this. I have NO TIME OR PATIENCE for bigots. I believe in equality and hearing/seeing any form of discrimination (which is nowhere near a strong enough word) makes me have murderous thoughts. Luckily, I'm something of a hermit.

So, let's see. We have European directives and domestic legislation in place that a) allow for free movement of workers around Europe, b) set maximum working hours, and c) guarantee a minimum wage.

On the latter two, we all have the right to accept longer working hours or lower pay. For as long as we have capitalism and all of the selfish gluttony that goes with it, there will always be employers who either can't afford to pay their workers well or are greedy exploiters and will do all they can to wrangle their way out of treating their workers fairly.

What we have seen in the UK since the free movement of labour is that often, those low-paid jobs are taken by people from eastern and southern European countries. They're not 'stealing our jobs' - they're doing jobs that no UK citizen will take (usually because we can't afford to). These workers are contributing to the UK economy, their own country's economy and they're paying for themselves. They are not a 'drain on the state' because they don't use our welfare state, such as there's any of it left to use.

Assuming the free movement of labour ends with the UK's exit from the EU (which it probably won't), what's going to happen? We're governed by a right-wing party that has already stripped down the welfare system. The Cabinet is made up almost entirely of the elite who have no concept of poverty, nor that the majority of the population they serve are living a hand-to-mouth existence. With no requirement to abide by working directives or pay a minimum wage and no 'immigrants' to take up the jobs, who's going to do them?

I'd wager that many of the hate-spitting ignoramuses who have reared their ugly heads over the past couple of days are, in fact, part of the demographic most likely to end up being forced to take those jobs.

How wonderfully ironic.

Only a quarter of the UK's migrant workers are from the EU, which is where the other anti-immigration argument kicks in: we will get back control of our borders. Yes, that will be the borders with Europe that the members of the EU won't have to police for immigrants making their way to the UK. There is also the matter of Ireland - too complex and speculative to consider here.

Actually, I don't give a damn about immigration. Which leads me to the final reason I voted for the UK to remain in the EU.

3. Localism

It is typical of the arrogance of UK culture - a culture where the majority of people speak only English and get offended when we visit other countries and happen to come up against (on rare occasions) someone who doesn't understand English - to believe we are 'bigger' than Europe. The EU does not run roughshod over its member states, all of which maintain sovereignty. If it's too bureaucratic, too slow, too expensive, too controlling, see point one. We need reform (or revolution).

What we fail to remember in all of this posturing, this out-spilling of hatred, this over-exaggeration of the effects of leaving or staying, is that, in the end we are all human beings and we share this planet.  We're on a tiny rock floating in space, and we're stuck on it together. We talk about how the air quality has improved locally while we systematically destroy the Earth, depleting its resources, allowing money to override sense. We revere organic produce and demand 'humane' treatment of animals we breed to kill and eat whilst elsewhere people are dying of starvation. We worry about the chemicals leaking from the plastic into our bottled water when there are millions who do not have access to safe, clean water and heaps of junk in the middle of our oceans that are changing the ecosystem forever. If we break this planet, we're all buggered. Borders won't matter. Differences won't matter. They don't matter now.

I'm out of words, so I'm going to finish with Carl Sagan, a voice of reason in all this madness.

Earth from 4 billion miles away, taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft
(NASA, 1990, public domain)

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot....
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions #amwriting #hbtc #lgbtq

I ignored my calendar nag to post on Monday, so I figured, rather than let the week pass by (again), I'd throw out a snippet from Reunions, which is kind of going well. It's currently a little over 74,000 words, which, my dear friend/editor Andrea tells me, means it's a quarter of the way to finished. I'd laugh, but she's got a point!

Anyway... I'm going to post two snippets, the second being a bonus because Caraway Carter tagged me for a first three lines thing (technical term) on Facebook.

Snippet #1:

This is from chapter two. If you've read the series, you'll know the characters, if you haven't, well, I guess you won't. :D
It had taken almost ten years, and a great deal of campaigning, but the improvements were there for all to see and enjoy: full streetlighting, road resurfacing, speed control measures on every road, kids’ play areas, and new apartments for the few who had stubbornly remained in the condemned tower block, which had finally been demolished. Jono, along with others who had grown up there and formed the residents’ association, watched the demolition from afar. It had been a surprisingly emotional experience. Explosives were loaded on several different floors, concentrated at the base and the midpoint—the seventh floor, Jono’s home for the first twenty years of his life, where his mum had died.

At the moment of detonation, with the belt of dust and debris around the waist of the tower block, for Jono, time had frozen. Mum was a junkie—he’d been born one, too, and had to be weaned off the drug in his first few weeks of life. Although he was sure they weren’t his, he had very clear memories of the pain, the hunger, the brightness of the lights in his incubator. But in that moment, just before the fourteen-storey tower block was razed to the ground, Jono’s mind filled with happy thoughts, times when his mum wasn’t so sick, and of the people who had cared for him, giving him the good start she could not, like Iris Morley. Indeed, five seconds later, when the tower block was no more and Jono realised he was sobbing, it was Iris who hauled him in and hugged him. She’d been sniffling a bit herself, which made him feel less of a wimp. If it was enough to make Iris Morley cry, then it was more than enough for everyone else. She was a tough old bird.
* * * * *

Snippet #2:

This is from chapter three, where we find the Sandison-Morleys preparing for an evening out.
“I feel like a penguin.”

From their location on the sofa, Josh and Libby both slowly turned in perfect unison and stared at the sight that greeted them.

George shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot. “Seriously. Do I have to wear this? I look stupid.”

Other than shifting their eyes sideways to look at each other, his husband and foster daughter remained solemn, motionless and silent. George tugged at the sleeves of his dinner jacket and mumbled unintelligibly into his shirt front. For someone who lived in jeans and t-shirts and only wore a shirt—of the woolly variety—when the weather turned colder, a shirt and tie would have been bad enough. But the whole tux, cummerband and bow tie get-up really wasn’t George at all.

Libby set down her game controller and approached him, grinning, her gaze fixed on his neck, where the satin bow tie hung like a sedated bat. He took a breath in, preparing to be accosted for tie tying and shirt tucking and demands that he go polish his shoes, but at the last second, Libby veered off and darted from the room.
* * * * *

Reunions is Season Seven of Hiding Behind The Couch.

Thanks for reading.
Deb x

Monday, June 13, 2016

No matter how many #amwriting #lammy #orlandostrong

Every Monday, iCal nags me. De-Blog...De-Blog...De-Blog...every half an hour until I either dismiss it (which defeats the purpose of me having set it to nag me in the first place), or I write a blog post.

Today. I have so much to say, and I don't know how to make the words. So. I'm going with factual, probably a little bit rambling, and heavily edited to leave out the ranting.

Last Monday evening saw the 28th Lambda Literary Awards ceremony take place in NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Seeing as it was in NY and I am in the UK, for me, it was the early hours of Tuesday morning when the awards were announced. I watched them via the @LambdaLiterary Twitter feed.

I actually shook Nige awake to tell him. I won!

My historical romance, When Skies Have Fallen, won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance, which IS exciting. I'm still in a daze, but it's sinking in. I think. I added the medal to my cover, and my lovely author friends pestered me to brag, because I'm not good at that. And my award is on its way...

When I received the finalist medal, Beth and I had much fun trying to place it on the cover (for a while, it was 'Arty's' nose, and then 'Jim's'), but in the end, I opted for placing it pretty much where they did for the awards ceremony.

Yeah, I won a Lammy. :)

If my delivery of the news is...a little tame, I hope you'll forgive me. You see, on the same day I won a Lammy, it was also my dad's funeral. He was 80, 'had a good innings', and his passing was fairly quick and, we think, painless. All good things, because we've all gotta go sometime. My dad taught me to read - when I was only three! Admittedly, it was a side effect of me pestering him for bedtime stories, but all this writing, reading and editing malarkey? It's safe to say he's at least partly to blame.

So, Tuesday was something of an emotional overload (especially for a stoic introvert who 'doesn't do crying'), and things are settling down. Or they were...

Today, I intended, as advised by Nige, to post my 'acceptance speech'. This is not what I planned to write, but it's the closest I can get to what I need to say.

Thank you for this prestigious award. I accept both it and the responsibility that goes with it as an author of LGBTQ fiction and a member of the LGBTQ community.

Yesterday, a gunman killed 49 and injured many more at Pulse - a gay club in Orlando, Florida. It was a hate crime against LGBTQ people.

When I first began writing When Skies Have Fallen, I had a very clear vision of what the story needed to be. The story's prompter set up a beautiful starting point - two men who fall in love in wartime - but she requested that the story focus on what happened to them after the war. She had taken as her inspiration a quotation from DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover:
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
It was the many interpretations of 'skies have fallen' that, for the first time in all my years of writing and however many novels I've cast out into the world, just kind of dumped the story, wholesale, in my head. The beginning, the ending, the key events - they were all there. And there was a clear historical context, real events, massive social upheaval, the fight for LGBTQ rights and equality, all happening through the window of my story...

Which made it the hardest story I've ever written. Arty and Jim are true representations of life for gay men in the postwar UK. It was never my intention to write a rip-roaring wartime story. It was a story about love, and the right to love. I believe fiction has the power to change hearts and minds, but I also feel strongly that it should leave readers in a positive state of mind. So Arty and Jim got their happy ending. Many did not.

It was also more than 'writing a love story'. I wanted it to be an accurate depiction of a time in history when people were persecuted for no other reason than for whom they loved.

A time in history...

I am at a loss.

It's hard to remember sometimes that one hate-fuelled lunatic does not reflect a majority (and by that I mean the world, not just the particular culture/religion the gunman belonged to). It's even harder to hold on to my no-violence/educate-the-ignorant philosophy when I read or see the dismissiveness or downright disgusting approval of politicians, TV presenters, and so on.

But the next person who tells me LGBTQ pride is unnecessary...well, just don't.
Now that the state has decreed us innocent, we can finally come out into the open, but there is still so much more to be done. We are not sick. We are not predators. We were not “turned this way” by inadequate mothers, or perverts who took our innocence. We were born this way, and the love we share is as sacred and real as your love for each other.
(When Skies Have Fallen - epilogue)

Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Sonnet to Orlando' (Tony Awards)

My wife's the reason anything gets done,
She nudges me toward promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one,
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they're finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love
is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
Thanks for reading,
Deb x