I recently self-published a novel I have been working on since 2017. It has been beta read and edited and is up on Amazon in paperback and eBook. Though it is exciting to put your work out there, it is also scary. But, of course, there is no point in doing it if you're not open to reviews and feedback, positive and/or negative.
So, starting today, the 19th of August, the eBook will be free for 5 days. Does anyone want to have a go at reading it? It would be fantastic to get a stranger's opinion and I am more then happy to return the favor.
Keeper of the Flame
Beth’s grandmother called them The Intruders. A band of invaders who, for millennia, continue to destroy the earth. She spoke of ancient ancestors, repressed rituals and that time was running out.
Her words ignite a fire in Beth, she must know more. Who is this mysterious Neolithic girl? What is a Reawakening Ceremony? Where did humanity go wrong? But one morning she awakes to find that Tara is gone.
Determined to see her again, Beth follows clues from Ireland to Wales and on to America. There she discovers the lost ways of her ancestors and the truth about her grandmother.
Now she must confront her own destiny.
Death Row (dystopian)
We are the prisoners. Incarcerated for unknown crimes. This is the order of things. The prisoners and the free. In the past we must have been convicted and sentenced, but that memory has morphed into the uncertainty of myth, like our origin, like our salvation.
Will the free ever forgive us.
We are the nameless. The anonymous mass, jostling against one another in our fetid prison. It has been posited that our elders are the ones who committed the crimes, their sins now ours as we endure this punishment. But in this place, much is said on a dreary day, trying to make sense of things, what else is there to do.
Day in, day out, the routine remains the same. Waking up. Eating. Shoving. Sleeping. Nowhere to go, just back and forth and around. Sometimes we attack each other to ease the boredom. A fleeting distraction. The air in here is thick with the stench of stress and excrement.
There are those of us that lie down on the hard ground and never rise again: apathy, illness, depression, it makes no difference. We step over them, on them, jostling for room. Eventually the bodies are removed and more take their place.
Some prisoners disappear and then the rumours fly that they have escaped. Yet surely these are tales to ease the terror, we all know they have likely been executed. Didn’t our own eyes see the guards take them away.
Now and again a prisoner has a short flirtation with hope. Head high, they’ll parade around.
“Stay strong, stay strong. A pardon is sure to come. Have no fear!”
It’s not long before their bluster fades and falling back into the crowd they shut up.
In my section of the prison, we’ve got a real loud mouth. He’s been here for a while and thinks he knows what’s what. He’s always going on about us being prisoners of war, and how we must have been brutal warriors to incur such a punishment. Because surely, we all know that there are prisons with less harsh conditions.
Prison is prison, I think. Anyway, we’re too young. The only fighting we know about is the constant scrapping between us. The struggle for dominance. We bear the lacerations.
The new arrivals whimper in the night.
We are the orphans. Abandoned by our mothers, so the myth says. Loud-mouth insists this is a lie. Shaking his head, he charges through us. “We were stolen, we were stolen.”
One time, I got as far away from everyone as I could and closing my eyes, I tried to picture her. But the image of a warm and loving mother who birthed and fed me is as foreign a notion as that of a life other than this, and I could only conjure up blurs of grey. After that I attempted to ignore loud-mouth as much as possible.
Today, I did something unusual. Something I never would have dared to plan. An action driven by a primal impulse that I didn’t know I possessed.
Mealtime. The guards came as always moving their way up the passageway to deliver our food. The scent of sustenance wafting, overriding the foul air. As a guard entered our section, we crowded in on him, clamouring to be the first to eat. In this prison, mealtime serves a double purpose. To immerse oneself in taste and smell is a blessed need and distraction. We are always hungry.
“Back with you, back,” ordered the guard, prodding us to the side. Pushed up against the barrier, I happened to notice the guard had left the doorway ajar. Slipping behind him, I fled down the passageway, heart pounding, legs pumping, I almost leapt for the surge of joy it gave me. Hope stirred in my belly. For what, I don’t know. To find a way out? Or, at least, experience a deviation from this barrenness? But the way persisted with stubborn monotony, section after section of prisoners, terminating in a high wall. Shouts rang out. The thump of footfall intensified behind me. As I was prodded back to my section, I sensed the others turning away, their fragile hope pummeled into resignation
After the guards had gone, loud-mouth informed me that freedom fighters were plotting our liberation. I pushed him away. How could this be possible? The guards are big and strong.
We are the forgotten and unforgiven. I refuse to entertain the idea of pardon or rescue and now live only for the gusts. The gusts belong to the guards, swirling in whenever they arrive. Bringing a transitory newness that lingers on the guards as they move among us. Nameless olfactory messages that tease and fade. I close my eyes and try to understand what they want to tell me.
Lately, I’ve noticed some of the older prisoners getting jumpy when the guards arrive.
“Our time is coming; our time is coming.”
Rumours ripple up and down the corridor of the horrid method of execution. Gas burning eyes, noses, throats and lungs. Screaming and panic as the prisoners struggle to escape. I shake off this horror story as fabrication, but tremors run through my body for the rest of the day.
In the dark hours, fragmented sensations flicker through my mind. So much warmth, then panic and pain and scrambling, scrambling back towards the warmth. I can almost place the source of this warmth; it teases me with familiarity then slips from my reach.
Yesterday the guards took loud-mouth away.
“Execution,” grunts a passing prisoner. “He knew too much.”
I awake suddenly to sound and a wholly new smell in the air. Fear shoots through me. What is going on? It can’t be the usual guards they don’t smell like this. I nudge the prone bodies around me.
“Get up, get up. Something is happening.”
I turn towards the gust as dark figures emerge. I sense fear and excitement as they move towards us whispering and pointing. Light shines into my eyes.
A girl lifts the piglet enfolding him into the cloth of her jacket as the others around her do the same with more piglets.
“Liberation my friend,” she whispers. “The only crime you’ve committed was being born another species”
“Fuck, there are so many,” says another.
A sharp retort, “You know we can’t save them all. Take the lightest.”
Moving to the door, the girl hurries across the yard followed by the others. One by one they scramble through the hole in the fence and towards the waiting van. The rumble of the van is both welcoming and unnerving.
“Come on, come on, let’s go,” calls the driver.
The girl climbs into the van and nuzzles the piglet’s ear. “Can you ever forgive our kind?”
Identity, Change and Respect
Human existence is partly made up of how we identify. Our likes, dislikes and talents, our allegiance to family, community, country. Patriotism. Political affiliation. Religion. It is how others see us. In short, to be human, to become self-aware is to identify with something even if that involves un-identifying with learned identities. Many identities are learned and limited to accepted societal norms.
Change is synonymous with life. Our existence is made up of personal and physical changes, as well as environmental. From daily changes of awake to sleepy. Angry, sad happy. To growing and aging over the years. To our world around us changing with the turn of the seasons and phases of moon and tide.
New words and concepts enter our vocabulary as society evolves (changes). With change comes resistance. Change struggles and pushes against resistance, that in turn, pushes harder against change. The more identification is oppressed, the more boldly it identifies. Like so-called weeds in a garden, they too want respect, we are also here, we also have worth. You can rip us up, but we will keep growing and fighting for the light. This struggle births the change. Change, being an inevitable part of life, will always prevail.
Cisgender denotes the changing perception of gender identity. It acknowledges a wider understanding of gender identification and how it operates in society and how norms limits expression not only for transgender, but all people. It seeks to break through societal norms and break open barriers.
Cisgender is an invitation to align with change and to show respect for all people in and outside of the current norm.
(With the clock ticking down to the deadline, I wrote an published this spur of the moment. Hence, I don't know if it gets my point across or even makes sense.)
I am the edible plants growing wild in the fields, nettle, sorrel, patches of dark green wild garlic.
Or I yearn to be.
Trapped in crates, on shelves, in aisles, there is only the ancient memory of foraging.
Apples, berries, chickweed, dandelion. Burdock, plantain, citrus, aloe vera.
A bounty of reds and greens. Orange, blue and purple.
I dream of woodlands and flourishing fungi. Charcoal Burner, Penny Bun, Lion’s Mane. Jelly Ears, Slippery Jack, Hen of the Woods.
And too of nuts. Almonds, Beechnuts, Walnuts. Butternuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts.
A forest garden versus the monotony of monoculture.
When did wild become a pejorative? An antonym of civilized? Savage, dirty, scary, unholy. Backwards. A hindrance to progression?
When did wild become something other than just a normal way of life?
RAIN IRISH STYLE
soft rain on my hair
droplets dusting the landscape
potato blight weather
Patches of blue sky
Oh, a double rainbow!
Cloud has conceded
Gusts roar across fields
Iced drops slice the air sideways
Head bent, we cower
Grey skies hang heavy
Rain clatters unrelenting
The house is a boat?
All is grey sky, road
Lashing down from the heavens
Wipers on high speed
(I'm no Haiku expert, but have always loved them. Fun challenge)
You shouldn't follow me because my presence is very unpredictable. I am only now showing up here after a three year absence. Having said that, I enjoy connecting with people on here and having chats in the comment sections. I have always found this site a welcoming space to express oneself, be that creative writing or political opinion. So, go on and follow me and see what happens!
Sticks and Stones and Words (should people really be free to say anything?)
There is much talk these days about the freedom to say what you want. It's our inalienable right to speak our minds, they are only words, they can't hurt you.
In the 90s, I was in the U Fleků pub in Prague drinking a house-made beer. We had just been to the Old Jewish Cemetery and were discussing, in English, the experience while looking through the book I had purchased at the museum shop.
Into the crowded pub came two skinheads that sat down right next to us in the only available seats, and after glancing at the cover of the book began making disparaging and threatening comments in German about Jews. My boyfriend spoke to the waiter, in English, telling him that these guys were saying horrible things, and that, together with the glances we threw their way, let them know we could understand their words perfectly.
Thankfully, they left after only one drink.
Soon the vacant seats were filled by two American guys. We got to chatting and I told them about what had just happened. I expected them (naively in retrospect) to agree with our wish to have the skinheads confronted, or better, told to leave. Instead, I got a perplexed look, well, more than perplexed, an offended look. They have a right to say what they want, it’s freedom of speech, said the guy I was talking to.
Despite the fact that I grew up in the US, that was my first encounter with this interpretation. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the West Coast, maybe it’s because of my upbringing, but hitherto, my notion of freedom of speech was that you could criticize those in power without fear of persecution, not spewing out hate about others with impunity.
And all these years later, this freedom of speech argument/excuse has grown more apparent. Found in every comment section on the internet, I am thoroughly sick of it. Freedom of speech is being misused and abused.
If what you’re saying has the potential to reinforce marginalization and incite violence, then keep it to yourself. This isn’t censoring or inhibiting freedom of speech. It’s not fascism or extreme political correctness, it's disabling the spread of hate.
It's often the people most vocal about free speech that have something bigoted or racist to say or their opinions have connections to such things. And when people react, they claim they are being cancelled or controlled. So, they want the freedom to say anything, but no one can react? But people will react and that reaction can include telling you to stop. If you want to say nasty or outright horrible things about others, don't feign surprise that the bulk of society turns against you.
Furthermore, if what you are saying or doing aligns with Neo-Nazis, then you need to have a deep think about your actions while, if need be, promptly and publicly disavowing their presence.
But there are those who never seem to do this, instead they hide behind some vague excuse of innocence, dismissing it as nothing to do with them. Nope! If Neo-Nazi’s are drawn to you, or you find their presence in circles that you frequent (online or otherwise) then something is wrong. One should never align themselves with such a mentality for any reason unless you agree with it. There is no blurred line.
People should feel uncomfortable to voice hateful opinions. There should be unspoken taboos about what can be said and, for a time, there were. But steadily, these taboos are being broken. I’m well aware that the US imported Nazis into the country after WW2. I’m, of course, aware of America’s home grown white supremist, the KKK. I’ve seen the film American History X. Yet, when I was a kid it would have been unthinkable to see a brazen display of Nazi salutes in public. Worldwide, this mindset is becoming more visible online and on the streets.
Alas, this is a no win situation. Because if you “censure” people, it makes them likely want to say it more, empowering them with a sense of righteousness.
When does this "freedom of speech" become lies and slander? When does it become propaganda? When is it responsible for violence?
The version of the saying “Sticks and Stones” that I learned as a child ended with, 'but words will never hurt me'. I disagree. Imbued with the feeling of the speaker, words are mighty and can leave deep wounds and long lasting scars.
No matter how you learned that saying, either ending in words can or cannot hurt you, the question is, when do hateful words lead to sticks and stones?
And when will the speakers of these words admit to the hurt and potential violence they can cause. Be they potent innuendos or blatant hate.
Excerpt from chapter four
Amongst the clusters of drinkers, my attention was, immediately, snagged by a guy near the far wall. He was extremely good looking, with longish, blonde hair and finely cut features and he wore a rose coloured beanie, an unusual colour for a guy. I often judged people’s character on their hats or even lack thereof. His said confident and I wondered how that beanie would look on me.
Suppressing my unease, I entered the garden, got a bloody Mary at the outside bar, and with a forced saunter, headed over near to where he stood talking to another guy. I sipped at my drink straining to feel comfortable standing there on my own.
The two of them were having a conversation about the pros and cons of the available, alternative energy sources. Sipping my drink very slowly, I thought about ways to join their conversation. Soon my glass was empty. I sucked and crunched on the ice, ate the celery and the olives, then looked around at the other people. I kind of wished I smoked. I didn’t want to stand there gawking at everyone, especially not at him or resort to looking at my phone. Although, my old, second-hand phone on display next to all their brand-new iPhones would be funny. I knew Tara would approve that I hadn’t succumbed to the lure of upgrading. This crowd, obviously, did the intruder thing.
Still, I didn’t particularly want to leave. Should I get another drink and come back over to this guy, or just go back to the motel? I looked down into my empty glass and stared at the bottom, far too long, glued into idiocy by my indecision and self-consciousness.
“Looks undeniably empty.” I lifted my head. The guy wearing the rose beanie was staring at me. “Your drink,” he added pointing to my glass. “Here take this.” And he poured some beer out of a pitcher into another glass and handed it to me. “Cheers!”
Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about him. I didn’t like the way he handed me the beer, almost pushing it into my hand and then immediately clinking firmly against my glass with his. I had no chance to say no to that drink or the toast, he wasn’t allowing for any refusals. The garden wall behind me was practically touching my back, and with him standing right in front of me, that bit taller, I felt closed in.
Soon I realised he wasn’t actually taller than I was. His height was an illusion. An overbearing manner made manifest in a trick of stature. His expression was arrogant, his eyes in a slight scowl, but arrogance tinged with a trembling confidence. Underneath it all I could see his insecurity. He pre-empted any refusals, dominating and directing a situation before someone had time to think. An imperceptible dance between us ensued, a silent accompaniment to our chit chat.
“I’m in my last year at college and come to this bar all the time,” he said inching forwards “but I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Uh, just passing through.” I edged backwards. “Felt like a drink.”
His head leaned subtly towards me. “Where are you from? Is that an Irish accent?”
I tilted my head slightly away from him. “Yep.” With minute movements, I moved my arm inwards until my beer glass was pressed against my chest. “Just here on a short visit.”
He stretched his arm out and put his hand against the wall near to my head. “How long is short?”
Feeling trapped, I babbled out some unnecessary information. “Well, I’m here for a short stay in town and then in the country longer to see, I don’t know, what happens. Just, you know, go with the flow.”
“OK, I’m intrigued,” he leaned closer.
Moving back flat against the wall I looked at him expecting to see victory, but worry had moved into his eyes. He was certainly not used to rejection. The undercurrents were shifting. Enjoying my surge of power, I spotted a cut on his neck and stuck out my finger towards it, lightly grazing his skin.
“Cut yourself shaving?” My tone playfully mean, as if he were a silly little boy playing with big boys’ tools. His hand lifted towards his neck, his fingers hovering over the scratch. He readjusted his scarf.
“No,” The scowl was back.
Abruptly the dynamics shifted, again tipping in his favour. Suddenly, I felt mean. What had happened to him? Maybe he was hiding more injuries. “Sorry” I said, feeling guilty for asking.
“For what?” I could see in his eyes that he was beginning to wonder about me.
I was desperate to change the direction we were heading in. “I just mean, I shouldn’t have asked because it’s personal.”
He rolled his eyes. “It’s just a scratch.?”
“I just thought maybe there was more to the story…”
“What?” He shook his head.
I fumbled forwards. “I mean. It’s none of my business. I mean maybe you’re covering it.”
His eyes now confirmed that I definitely was odd.” He laughed. It was a snotty laugh.
We stared at each other. The moment was racing and expanding simultaneously.
“Never mind,” I blurted out. And I had a sense of satisfaction for ending the conversation.
“You’re big on your mysteries?” he smiled, “Not enough thrills in your life?”
“What?” I snapped.
“I’m just joking chill,” he said.
But it had struck a nerve. My imagination was always bringing me into fantasy. Sometimes I dwelled there for a while finding it more pleasurable than my real life. And wasn’t I here after all chasing a mystery.
“If you must know, a cat scratched me,” he said with a gentler tone.
I laughed, “Oh! Ow.” The tension lifted, but mortification, a familiar feeling, still hovered around me. Often I swung from high to low. Too familiar with being in a position of inferiority, I was easily dragged down.
Behind him a girl approached. Busty, curvy and glossy.
He turned his head and his body followed, his energy now fully retracted from me and beamed at her. The girl flicked a quick look my way as if to say, who the hell is that loser?
I was reminded of my first teen encounters with guys. Once again I was an unwanted clod, foolish to remain but not sure how to go. I just stood there, the feeling like lead in my stomach. Sipping the beer, I allowed myself to go fully into the feeling instead of letting it weigh me down. Slowly a warm kind of peaceful feeling replaced it. Fuck it, I thought, who am I trying to impress? So what if they don’t like me, laugh at me, ignore me. I don’t live here anyway.”
“Hey.” I tapped his shoulder.
He looked back at me surprised. The girl’s surprise quickly shifted to startled and then a subtle three-way dance began. She moved in nearer to him, he turned more towards me and I held my ground, the hub it all revolved around. But I wasn’t nervous. Impartial to the outcome, I had nothing to lose.
“What?” He said to me.
“You want a beer?”
“You want one too?” I asked the girl.
Her eyes narrowed and she shook her head. “Nah, I’m good.”
Up at the bar, I looked back a few times to see her moving in on him, but when I returned, he focused on me and she directed her attention to another guy. I was back to liking him. Though still strangely impartial.
“So, what did you mean by passing through?” he asked.
“I’ve come to visit someone, and well, find someone.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Never mind,” I said, “it’s complicated.”
“O.K. whatever” Knocking back his beer, he smiled and got us more. The alcohol seemed to be softening his manner and my impartiality about whether he liked me or not wavered with his growing appeal. I wanted to keep his attention.
“Well, actually I’m looking for her.” I took the photo out of my bag, handed it to him and continued, “I have plans to…”
“What?” he said, looking up from the photo. “How did you know?”
My stomach tingled. “Know what?”
“I saw you walk into the bar, you came right this way.”
Not sure how to answer that, I just shook my head.
Eyes wide, he grinned. “This is just fuckin weird, because I’ve met this woman.”
*Keeper of the Flame-Literay-Adult-circa 80.000-Lisa Verdekal-
KotF revolves around the relationship between humans and the natural world, the biggest issue of our time-
Beth’s grandmother called them The Intruders. A band of invaders who, for millennia, continue to destroy the environment. Urged by a dream, Beth resumes an ancestral tradition of communing with nature, and realizes she must confront her destiny.-
This is a story about the environment and humanity’s relationship with it. It is also a love story and an adventure. It is is set in both a contemporary Ireland and the US, although the emphasis is not on Irish or Americans, but humanity at large. The natural environment of both countries is a strong feature in regards to setting.-
Any age really, but primarily 30 to 60- Born and bred in LA, I now live on the west coast of Ireland-https://www.instagram.com/- Masters in Advanced language Skills German-I’ve been published in several on line magazines- I enjoy how a story unfolds, imagination aided by life experience, social, spiritual and political views and the burgeoning autonomy of the characters.*
Go Talk to a Tree
For anyone protesting about the obligatory wearing of masks as a loss of freedom. For those who don’t like being told what to do.
What is your opinion on passports?
Before your last holiday, did you go online to complain or gather in front of government buildings to protest about having to possess a passport for travel?
Now there’s an impingement on your freedom.
If you want to travel, you MUST get a passport. You MUST show it at a border. You are obliged to pay for it, yet it can be taken off you. It gives officials access to your personal information. If they don’t like you or your details, they have the right to detain you. If you do not own a passport, you have no global freedom of movement. Personally, I think that is a huge human rights issue! I’d wager that some people complaining about masks quite like passports because it keeps out people that they consider undesirable.
It’s nice when human rights violations work in your favor.
For those who think they are free thinkers, truth seekers and too smart to be a sheep. From the moment we do what a parent asks us, we are obedient. The day you answer to your name, you are obedient. The day you identify with a nationality, gender, age etc, you are obiedient. The fact a western male doesn’t wear a dress, is obedience. Obiedience keeps you from dancing and singing on the street, or in a shop. Adhering to Covid restrictions doesn’t change anything, you have always been obiedient. The only difference is that YOU feel affected by current restriction. It doesn’t suit you. Yet people outside of Europe and the US (including indigenous Austrailians and New Zealanders, and US, Canadian tribes) have been struggling with freedom restrictions and forced obiedience for centuries. Did you care? Do you care?
Do you care that some people can’t afford a passport? Do you care that in Austrailia, for example, asylum seekers can be detained for years in a prison-like setting? Do you care that there are people imprisoned for years simply because they used cannabis?
If you are concerned about your freedom of movement and thought. Disconnect your phone from the internet. Don’t allow yourself to be traceable 24/7. Don’t buy a new iPhone because everyone does. Get off social media and go talk to a tree. You’ll get more truth there.