Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Hope you have a great Christmas and New Year. If all else fails go into survival mode...




Thursday, 12 December 2013

What Rocks Your World trailer

This is the video I created for What Rocks Your World.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

What Rocks Your World - in print!



Finally the day has come. The careers book which I’ve edited and proofread has been published in print. There have been a lot of hours put into this project by both the author and myself. The challenge now will be to advertise and market it to the best of my ability. This is going to take press releases and a whole load of social marketing. Without the £7m Christmas advertising budget of John Lewis, we are going to have to get imaginative (or else pull off a major publicity stunt).

The main thing will be to get young people to hear about What Rocks Your World. Because it’s a book which is designed to help them to get their dream jobs and identify their existing skills and talents. It’s these skills which employers are looking for and which young people don’t always know that they have. In fact that is true for all people, not just the young. It’s the collateral which employers know (or should know) has value. The only way that young people can be manipulated into despondency is by persuading them that they don’t have this value. So what the book does is to inspire people and remind them that they have worth.

It has been a labour of passion for the author, who has put in a lot of effort and used her own talents and knowledge to help others. And that is what the book is all about – helping those who are struggling to know what they want to do in life - to capture and channel their imaginations.

If you, or anyone you know, needs some excellent careers direction then please take a look at this resource. It is available now as an ebook and in print from Amazon here.


Also, please take a look at the website www.whatrocksyourworld.com.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A modern ghost story for halloween

Here is a story for halloween 2013. As this blog is called 'Stories Make the World Go 'Round' it would defraud you if there weren't any stories here. It is a re-write of a previous story - this version is a little darker, but without being gory. There are a few experimental techniques in which I am 'telling not showing' and using too much description (writers will know what I mean), but the general idea is to tell a modern ghost story and introduce some foreshadowing through simile and metaphor. The main story acts as a frame story to Ben's mini ghost story. The characters are supposed to be unlikable, but I'm aware that some people like the uglier characters. There are a few other techniques in there but I'll spare you the details. It is supposed to be in the line of Poe, James etc. Enjoy.


Off the shores of England there are many secluded coves. This ancient land is mysterious – and there are still mysteries which are not understood even in the harsh light of science and the dull glow of the digital revolution.
The fear the three privileged English university students felt as they sat on the beach was real enough. They huddled together surrounded by whispers, winds and shadows. And the curtain between worlds was as secure as a shroud (so they felt).
It was dusk, and the moon, now waning, cast the only comforting spell of light. It was not the only spell to be cast that night.
Ben, the unofficial leader of the group had taken them there. It had been his idea. But the fire they had planned to light hadn’t materialised. The pebbly beach wasn’t even comfortable to sit on. The driftwood was wet through from a recent downpour. It had all seemed like such a good idea at the time from the comfort of their expensive tents. The plan had been to go down to the cove, to light a fire, to tell each other ghost stories and to drink champagne. But the fire hadn’t lit and no-one could think of any stories. Besides, it was cold. It was becoming a holiday they wanted to forget.
Ben would have felt the blame emanating from the other two students if he was sensitive. But he wasn’t, he was rich, he was charming, but that was all. He stood up and looked across at the fading light. The rocks at the side of the cove seemed to silhouette eerie faces in the dusk light. Here were the chin and nose of a witch. Further along there appeared to be some kind of claw pointing towards the sky. All of the rocks were rounded from the constant erosion of the tide and wind. The whole cove was familiar with loneliness and dark nights, wise to the sea and its caresses.

“It’s too cold,” said Ellie, “I’m going back to the tent.”
The darkness of the sea seemed to saturate Ellie’s soul like a chill. The way back to their campsite and their three tents was up a set of steep steps and the pull of a warm sleeping bag was strong.

“Don’t be such a girl.” said Ben. “just listen to the sea.”
Ellie didn’t care to listen to the sea. It had become too dark and she reached for her iPhone, stood and took a picture of Ben. The flash from the camera lit up his startled face.
“I’m going to upload this to show everyone what an arse you are.”
“Do what you want,” said Ben, oblivious even to her taunt.
The waves of the sea seemed to scrape across the pebbles in the cove like a claw. The sound became more and more unnerving to the students as the waves dragged the pebbles forward and back.
“Don’t you think it sounds as if the sea is making love to the cove?”
Ben wanted to lighten the mood and he wanted to sleep with Hannah, the third student. He was willing to play along as long as he could get what he wanted. He wanted Ellie to go. He wouldn’t have minded if she had walked into the sea and not come back.
“Go back if you want to Ellie. Hannah will stay, won’t you?”
Hannah nodded but said nothing.
All Ben could think of was that he wanted Ellie to leave. He wanted Hannah to be so scared that she drew near to him so that he could hold her.
Ellie took a swig straight from the champagne bottle and sat down again. She knew what Ben wanted to do and was determined to stop him out of spite and out of the prudishness which she had inherited from her mother.
“Someone tell a story then,” said Hannah.
Ben realised it would have to be him.
“Once upon a time…” he began.
“Once upon a time – who says that anymore?” said Ellie.
“Once upon a time there was a monster named William.”
“This is crap.”
“There was a monster named William who talked to himself…”
“Complete bull…”
“Will you let me at least tell the story? Once upon a time there was a monster named William who haunted a cave in a cove on a beach very much like this one. William, was a talkative monster who often spoke to himself. All he could hear was the echo of his own voice in the cove, being a monster on his own. A lonely monster. So he would talk to himself in the middle of the night….”
“is this autobiographical?”
“…one night William the monster said to himself:” at this point Ben put on a suitably monstrous sounding voice: “‘I have seen ornaments move their heads and wink at me. I have seen dolls turn their heads. I have seen a witch the size of a giant race through a town in broad daylight…I have seen a strange, eerie creature crushed in the middle of a dark Irish road…
“Was it a leprechaun?”
Hannah looked scared and spoke for the first time, being drunk and melancholy on champagne.
“Why was the monster named after your father?”
That was when the whole atmosphere in the cove shifted - like the sudden singing of a lament. Like a turning down of the lights.

And that was when it happened.
Across the surface of the sea the three students watched horrified as a figure approach them, walking on the water.
"It's a ghost," said Hannah, standing and grabbing Ben’s hand.
"There are no ghosts!" replied Ben. Ben didn’t believe in anything supernatural. He believed in logic, reason, Dawkins and hedonism.

But it was a ghost.
Of a kind.

It came from the sea, a strange silhouette at first. It walked on the surface of the water. The only light which came from it came from its eyes which blazed red, like an old digital clock.
Its head was lowered. But as it approached, the students could see its hair moving like a black nest of snakes.
They wanted to run. All of them wanted to run, but it was as if they couldn’t, it was as if they were in a dream and they were destined to simply watch events.
The ghost spoke to them from the edge of the sea in a siren-call, like the wild song of a high wind.
"Do you think I am a manatee?"
Nobody spoke.
“Do you think I am a mermaid perhaps?”
Ben finally spoke up: ”There are no such things as mermaids or ghosts. They are myths.”
His lip quivered.
The silhouette simply stood there, the dark sea behind.
Ben continued: “We’re just trying to have a laugh."
"A laugh?" whispered the figure.

“You’re a Gorgon,” said Hannah, as if it had been revealed to her from Heaven.
The figure turned slightly allowing a slither of moonlight to illuminate what could never have been called a face. The three students wondered how providence, once so kind, could allow what was happening to them to take place. Wind swept around its snake hair.
“We are destined to make the hearts of our victims grow so very cold. We are the source of the evil-eye of folklore. We are everywhere. And we are ready now.”
Ben was secretly attempting to back away from the whole situation and was about to run. Meanwhile Ellie was fumbling for her iphone. She found the phones camera function and reversed the view. Then she raised her mobile high. Triumphantly.
The silhouette walked closer and looked at itself in the small screen of the camera. And the ancient creature smiled.
“Did you think I will turn myself into stone?” it asked.
Close up the students could see that the creature had barnacles on its skin. For a dress it wore seaweed, bladder-wrack wrapped around its body. And close up the students could see that its hair wasn’t snakes. It was eels. They writhed and squirmed, as if held their against their will.

That was when figure caught the eye of Hannah. The student felt her blood freeze as her heart turned as cold as ice and snow. Then, like snowflakes her body simply blew away in the pummel of a wind which came out from the sea.
It was beautiful. It was like a dandelion being blown. One moment Hannah had been there, the next she had turned to snow and her body blew away in a gust of flakes. The beauty of the destruction was the thing which made it so disturbing to both Ben and Ellie. It was so sudden yet so gentle.
“Where is Hannah?” said Ben, finally believing. Hannah had completely gone and there was not even a trace of her.
“I’m doing this so that a further darkness will fill your country and your kind. So that the hearts of your people will grow colder and colder. So that our kind will thrive.

And the ancient creature stood in the middle of the darkness and laughed a wild siren-song.

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” screamed Ellie, flinging her phone at the creature. It missed and the light disappeared into the sea like hope dying. Ellie turned to Ben, “Do something!” she shouted.


But he was staring at the creature. And it stared back straight into Ben’s eyes.


So the land’s judgment began there. The creature caught the eyes of each student. And each of them felt their blood freeze as their hearts turned as cold as ice and snow. Then, like snowflakes their bodies simply blew away in the pummel of the coastal wind which had come.


And a further darkness filled the country, like the opening of a Pandora’s Box. As if a multitude of furies had been released from storehouses, like snowflakes, each unique. Like an army of cruel ironies, intimate and individual in their messages of death. So that the hearts of the people grew colder.


And the ancient creature stood in the middle of the darkness, knowing that morning, with her gentle mercies would never come.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Alternative view of the future




Firstly I am no prophet.

I recently spent a very tedious hour listening to a video from a popular financial magazine which 'speculated' on the economic future of the UK. They didn't call themselves prophets, just 'informed speculators'. They predicted an economic collapse in Britain. And in the end they offered a handbook for anyone who wanted to know how to protect their money and investments when it all hits the fan (as long as a subscription to their magazine was taken out).

We are in a huge financial crisis and many people are suffering. People are concerned about their jobs and about survival. It's natural. The only people who are talking about Christian revivals and awakenings are Christians and a few of our Illuminati friends who also want to take over the world (joke). Seriously, it isn't about wanting to rule the world for most Christians.

But historically, revivals have happened before and therefore they can happen again. You've got to be pragmatic. Most people don't know quite how much past revivals have influenced communities - they have happened when things have seemed so bleak in countries and they have changed things forever for many people.

This is just a blog entry with some of my (possibly naive) thoughts about the subject and I don't want to go into the definition of revivals or pretend that this is an academic piece. For those who don't know, I am basically talking about a renewed interest in Christianity among the people of a nation. I am talking about a lot of people becoming Christians all at once and existing Christians feeling and showing the love which Christ talked about.

The mainstream Christian view of revival is that it should be inclusive. I like this version, but true revivals haven't always been like that. So believers argue with each other about whether a revival is good for the people (and selfishly, whether it is good for us).

Is a revival good for jobs? There is a scene in the Bible in which Paul (arguably one of the first revivalists) is opposed by someone who realizes he will lose his business if a revival happens. So he opposes the movement.

Fast forward 2000 years and this scene is replayed today. There are many people who automatically oppose any kind of renewed interest in Christianity because they fear it will be bad for their business. What would happen to Wonga.com and the pay-day lenders? Or, separately, what about the drugs trade?

It is expected that drug dealers would oppose any interest in Christ because they could lose their customers. Love is bad for business, you see?

So is a revival always bad for jobs? What about the arms trade - a huge employer in this country? Would people change jobs? Or the sex-industry? What would happen to it? If a revival causes more people to be more socially active in causes then who would be the winners and who would be the losers in an awakening?

And if a revival is bad for jobs then why not oppose it? Why not fight it along with those with vested interests in opposing it? The secularists already oppose it because of their ideology. The politicians oppose it because it would mean they would need to hold integrity and it is a little too close to a revolution for their liking. The revolutionaries oppose it because it isn't radical enough. The drug dealers oppose it because it would be bad for their business. Some new-age businesses oppose it because it could be bad for the trade in new-age paraphernalia (even if it is seen as part of the long-awaited paradigm shift). And everyone else has huge doubts about whether a revival would be good for the country or not.

Some industries would win out. Those in the caring industry would probably find increased resources and workforces. There could be more people attracted to the caring profession. There would probably be more Christian leaders - but it would mean a whole shedload more work for the Christian leaders as their congregations increased (maybe that is why some Christian leaders oppose it too?). The police, in theory (if historical figures are to be believed), would have less work to do with less crimes taking place. Some people would have to work harder and some people's jobs would get easier. Charities would win out. There would probably be more voluntary workers working for charities as people became increasingly concerned for the many needy people (and animals) in this world. Charitable giving is supposed to increase in revivals.

Would the workforce become more conscientious, making employers happy? Would employers treat their staff better, making employees happy? What about pub landlords? I can't really see a time (even in a revival) where people will not want to use pubs - because people need an escape in all environments. Christ drank alcohol. I don't see how this profession would suffer should it ever happen.

Media could be transformed for the better if the media industry had greater integrity. Politicians would suffer as they were challenged more by the people. But most of the people would win out as crime decreased and the atmosphere in the country changed from one of fear and a lack of love to one which was more loving and less prone to violence. Yes, it is simplistic, but these are just some basic thoughts on what is a possibility for the soul of the nation and not a destiny of it.

A revival would be good for Christians. Hopefully it would include all Christians, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. And a revival would not necessarily be bad for secularists, atheists or people of other faiths. Think of the debates people would have. Those opposed to faith would have the time of their lives debating the whole thing.

Some people would change their jobs, some people would find jobs, some people would probably lose their jobs. Drug-use would decrease. I think this would be particularly good for the country because no-one asks why people take drugs. There are reasons and usually these are mixed motives (hedonism, an escape, seeking meaning, peer pressure, yet more hedonism). But if there is an alternative - if people feel hope for the future then they will resist the urge to short-termism. The point of asking 'is this all there is?' or 'why was I born?' is hugely important. These are questions which faith is supposed to be able to answer.

Would celebrities become Christians? Possibly. Would there be signs and miracles? This hasn't always been the case in revivals but sometimes it happens. We get so much bad stuff happen to us in life that I think we deserve some kind of miracles. But it isn't my call.

In the end, if it ever happened we could expect the politicians to take the credit for things getting better in the country. But at least this would be hotly debated.

I think it would be inclusive, but it would be inclusive by degrees - some people would be happier about it than others but it would make things better for most people. As people became more socially active and politically enlightened there would also be some radical changes in law. I'm not sure what it would mean for some laws - as there are so many views within Christianity on all subjects. I think there would be more love in the debates. I would guess that each side would be able to debate and that these debates would be more focused on coming to a reasoned solution. But I'm just speculating.

One thing it would do. It would make life more interesting.

Politicians fight against it. Most of the establishment wants it to be taboo. Think about it - what would it mean for you? And if you feel it would be bad for you and your interests would you join the establishment in opposing it?

I'm just speculating. You don't have to subscribe.


Acts 19 - The Riot in Ephesus

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia.He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

Monday, 16 September 2013

The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.



The spiritual silly season story of the summer sadly seems to have been slowly suspended (I know, I'm trying to be too clever with the alliteration).

In this case we are talking about the Welsh Outpouring at Victory Church, Wales. To recap, for those at the back, it all started after a reported miracle took place in which a wheelchair user named 'Paul' began to walk during a church meeting. He carried his wheelchair over his head. You can investigate the incident for yourself by looking at the United Christian Broadcasters documentary here:

http://www.victorychurch.co.uk/watch-the-welsh-outpouring-documentary

For those short of time and interest, please watch the video from 2:40 minutes on.

And for those of us who were born cynical, you may be wondering just what all the fuss was about. Isn't it just more bread and circuses for believers?

The trouble is that I have tried to dig up the dirt on this entire thing (believe me dear, longsuffering reader, I've tried so damned hard!!). And there isn't much dirt. The church in question does a lot of good work in their community helping needy people. They don't even seem to be in it for the money.

I've done everything I can from my lair (beyond dragging my sorry arse to the church in question (due to a lack of personal resources)).

And what I have to report for you are the following things:

1. There is no dirt. The closest you will find are some links to some dubious personalities and a few Christian conspiracy theories (which are always the best). But that means nothing.
2. Some alleged plagiarism on the church website has been discussed on some forums, but again it is meaningless and spurious.
3. A lot of people doubting the motives of the people involved, especially churches in the nearby area who may or may not be envious.
4. There was also one anonymous allegation that the initial healing was false because the person involved continues to smoke. The inhalation of nicotine has rarely been used as this kind of spiritual barometer before - so be very afraid you Christian smokers...

In the end, I have to fall on one side of the fence or the other. My belief is that God did do something miraculous at Victory Church Wales. I hope that he does more for the people of Britain, who may, or may not, be accusing him of negligence.

I don't know. I'm quite mad you know? And this is just a blog...









Thursday, 29 August 2013

Censored

Desert Snowstorm by Adam White


I wrote a blog entry for a particular faith publication a few weeks ago and it was promptly removed by the editor. Naming no names. Normally I wouldn't really complain - I was writing voluntarily and this kind of thing happens all the time. But I thought the blog entry was so anodyne and I just don't understand why it had to be removed. So just for fun and because the entry seems more relevant with the Syria crisis, here is the offending article for you to judge for yourself...


What is the point of writing? What is the point of journalism? Is it to work with the status quo? Is it to re-enforce the latest political agenda? Is it to write propaganda? Or is it to try to question, to criticize and interrogate those with power over our lives? What is the point of using a pen or keyboard? Is it to make things better or worse?


Whenever anyone says ‘It’s the principle of the thing’ they usually have my sympathy. A few years ago I was reading through the media jobs section of a national newspaper and I came across this job ad. It was headed ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’. Reading the advert it became obvious that the job was to be a speechwriter for the Ministry of Defence.
The tagline was ‘A Force for Good’. I cut out the job advert and stuck it in my diary with a few choice words of what I thought of it. It wasn’t just that the Ministry of Defence were paying £66,389 to the successful applicant, it was that they had appropriated the phrase: ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’without any sense of irony.
BBC and ITV news agendas today seem to take a reckless disregard to this principle. This is also true of many national newspapers. Sometimes they will always promote the option of a war. And politicians will seize the day, dismiss alternatives and use emotive language to call for war for a political agenda.
I got over it of course. In this life you tend to do that – sometimes we are powerless to do anything about it and the anger fades (and anyway, anger is such a bullying emotion).
The problem is, naive as I am (and believe me, I have my naive moments), I still can’t get my head around the way that the pen and the sword work together. It seems to me that they are diametrically opposed to each other. The pen should promote peace and healing. The whole point of having a principle like ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is to fight for peace using the written word. Not to promote war.
 I keep reading articles in newspapers or hearing news reports on TV which are so uncritical and supportive of war that I find the old frustration coming back again. And what right have I? I’m naive – we live in a world where reports in newspapers about subjects like the arms trade or the latest war are often uncritical. We live in a world where wars are presented as the only option. That’s the way it is.
 I hope the person who eventually got the job has job satisfaction. But today there really are other options than war. It’s the principle of the thing.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What Rocks Your World


A lot of my time this summer has been spent in editing, proofing and formatting an ebook for publication. The book was written by my wife, Jen, and I'm biased (and wise) enough to say that it really is the best careers book I've ever read.

The book itself is written for young people to help them to discover their skills and talents. Being so close to my wife I know that she genuinely cares about young people and that she is passionate about helping them to succeed in whatever they do.

What I have learnt through it all is that everyone has different skills and talents. These are sometimes the talents which people don't get much credit for. Skills like caring for others, computing or a million other things.

What Jen does in the book is to show young people that they really do have these talents and that they can succeed. There is just so much practical encouragement and care in her words.

I can't recommend this book highly enough for any young person or parent who wants the best for their teenager.

The book is called What Rocks Your World and is available for £3 on Amazon for Kindles or Kindle for PC (soon to be available on iTunes and other online stores). Take a look at it or check out the website www.whatrocksyourworld.com.

This is the Amazon page link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Rocks-Your-World-ebook/dp/B00EBYKU88/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376990129&sr=8-1&keywords=what+rocks+your+world








Friday, 9 August 2013

David Cameron - Christian?



There isn't much which is more damaging to believers than a Prime Minister claiming to be a Christian. It simply reinforces people's perception that Christianity is about defending the status quo (or the rich). It also reinforces the false view that Christians are privileged in society.

Yesterday some brave soul asked Cameron: "What would your response to Jesus be on his instruction to us to sell all our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor?"

Reports suggest that the PM was thrown by the question and had a momentary mental block: "I have never had that question before." he muttered.

Then his political spiel kicked in and he said: "I’m a Christian and I’m an active member of the Church of England, and like all Christians I think I sometimes struggle with some of the sayings and some of the instructions.

But what I think is so good about Jesus’s teachings is there are lots of things that he said that you can still apply very directly to daily life and to bringing up your children.


Simple things like do to others as you would be done by; love your neighbour as yourself, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount.

To me they’re still pretty fresh and good instructions... but the particular one that you mention, I find a little bit more difficult."

You couldn't come out with an answer like that unless you had the devil whispering dark advice in your ear. 

Once again we have the old Government lie: 'God is with us' (and the implication of that: 'He approves of all that we do'). Because that is the subtext of the exchange.

And if David Cameron actually does have some kind of relationship with Christ (which I think is debatable) - then he is behaving like a sycophant to Christ.

It is the subtext of the exchange which is the danger. Once again the Government needs the legitimacy that is provided from faith groups. And once again, through both word and action they claim that God is with them and that God is in all that they do, every law that they make, every oppressive statement against the poor. When there are hospital cut backs - God is with them. When minorities are marginalized - God is with them. When things get worse in the country and not better - God is with them and these measures are necessary for future freedom. When arms are traded God is with them. When the poor are oppressed - God is with them. And even if they choose to deny this is the truth - God is with them in that too.

Take a message from another struggling Christian who finds it hard to sell all his possessions Mr Cameron (and I hope that is where the similarities cease):

God is not with the Government. God is with the people.

What the country needs is a Christian revival, not a nominal Christian Prime Minister who is making things worse for both the Christian community and for the poor.








Saturday, 20 July 2013

Whatever happened to public consultation?





There is one thing you can be sure of with Government. And that is that their attitude towards the people they are supposed to serve stinks.

Take for example their attitude towards a group of Staffordshire residents who have been locked in a battle with their local council. It's a battle which the council are most likely going to win. It is about the building of a huge sports hall for a special school where they live.

Very few things are black and white and there really are two sides to most stories. In this one it isn't a simple case of nimbyism versus new school facilities. The first that the residents learned about the major construction work was when they saw and heard the diggers at work. There was no consultation with them. The authorities communicated with everyone they wanted to communicate with – they were all in it together (except for the residents).

A compromise could so easily been reached right at the start simply through dialogue. It was not as if the residents even wanted to fight.

Things got worse when the residents complained. They asserted their right to film a parish council meeting but the Councillors weren't used to it and called an abrupt end to the meeting. You can see the explosive and worrying video above.

Once again there was a communication breakdown. And it was always the residents who had to take the initiative. When the issue began to get wider attention their MP Gavin Williamson issued a press release saying he really did sympathize with the residents’ concerns about night-time noise pollution and other disruption. In the release he more or less blamed the district council.

He said: “I am very concerned about the process that has been followed in relation to this application, as it seems a total nonsense that people who live adjacent to the development site have not been consulted in this application. Even if the proper process has been followed, I don’t believe good practice has been.

And as usual each council department blamed the other for the lack of public consultation. More communication breakdown.

So what’s next? The residents are meeting the massive, wealthy Wolverhampton based construction company Carillion simply to ask for nuisance mitigation guarantees. Carillion have a very cosy relationship with Government and are often contracted to build projects, for example the new Birmingham Library, work with the MOD and contracts in the Middle East. They build hospitals and schools as well. Although some people think some of their extra-curricular activities are a bit dubious.

Will they be able to come to some kind of mutual compromise? Only if Carillion fulfill their much-trumpeted values of openness and collaboration.

The residents have always been willing to talk. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Destiny and Dynasty (the working title of my novel)






The novel is coming on slowly but surely.

But there is a problem.

At the moment my main antagonists could come across as stereotypes. The trouble is that I've specifically written them as caricatures (in the tradition of Dickens (and the trouble is that Dickens is accused of writing stereotypes).

But my trouble is that I know I can do this well. I've discovered from some of my short stories that I have the power to create characters which can make people angry. I'm good at that. It is a strength. And my novel's antagonists are enough to make anyone angry. But I'm losing the plot because I need to evoke other more positive emotions. More to the point, I aim to put beauty into the novel and at the moment these characters are just so ugly.

In 1984 Orwell writes in a way which causes anger in the reader. At least it is an emotion. But I need to break through into something more and grow as a writer. If I can only evoke anger and can't encourage more positive emotions, what is the point?

I've come up with the genre it is at least: it's a neo-gothic supernatural love story.

I'm drawing on some of the more romantic writers and a lot of the literary ghost story tradition. This means influences from Poe and M.R. James and a number of others. I'm blocking out Plath and Orwell.

It is also a very modern British story with the influence of the digital revolution contained within it. It also draws on my spiritual roots. I'm not necessarily aiming for gritty realism, or magic realism even. What I'm aiming at is a writing for the soul.

So unless I break through and make my protagonists more memorable than the antagonists then I'm in trouble should it ever be published.

The story draws on angels, ghosts, miracles, dreams, a megachurch, a castle and a love like an intense fire. If the caricature antagonists are seen as stereotypes then so be it!

I have to write it.




Thursday, 20 June 2013

The seven secrets to happiness?



This week I went to the annual ‘Happiness Lecture’ which took place in the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall.

The Great Hall itself is enough to make even the grumpiest person feel a sense of wonder – it holds around 2000 people and is littered with portraits of important people and huge lanterns which dangle from the high ceiling like something from Harry Potter.

The lecture this year was given by Gyles Brandreth. As I grumpily said to my wife on the way there: “Come on. Let’s go and listen to a rich man lecture us on how to be happy.” He is a former European 'Monopoly' champion after all.

To be fair on Brandreth, he didn’t skirt around the topic and said he would give us his seven secrets of happiness by the end of the hour long lecture.

“Money in itself is not a road to happiness,” he said. Who would even think otherwise?

I suppose you don’t get to be one of the most in-demand speakers by not being topical and funny. And Brandreth was both of these things. But could he deliver when it came to helping us to be happier? It’s good to be entertaining, but was the man actually going to be any help!?

He started by telling us that the pursuit of happiness is a relatively modern notion.
“In the past happiness was to be for the next world. Life was a vale of tears and happiness was not for this world but for the next world.”

That was as deep as he got. Perhaps the superficiality in his tone was a blessing in disguise? Some truths are simple after all. He blamed America for the apparent change in attitude of people towards happiness in this life and then concluded that happiness itself is not a transient feeling so much as a lasting ‘rightness of being’.

Of course when you are as successful as Brandreth, with an ongoing commission on the BBC, you are probably going to experience a certain ‘rightness of being’. You really are going to feel as if God and the universe are affirming you for your hard work. Perhaps the successful always feel this ‘rightness of being’. And in the end you can get to lecture grumpy cynics like me on what happiness really is.

Then he told us what he believed were the seven secrets of happiness. Although he could be lying of course (in order to keep up with the Joneses in the ‘happiness competition’).

  1. Cultivate a passion.
  2. Be a leaf on a tree (attached to some greater organism).
  3. Avoid introspection. "Introspection is death," says Brandreth, "No-one is interested in you!"
  4. Be open to change
  5. Audit your happiness. Do something about it.
  6. Live in the moment.
  7. If you want to be happy - act happy.


“And does it work?” asked Brandreth, momentarily looking introspective, “I’m not sure.”


I wasn't quite sure either. And I’m not even sure if he said anything remotely useful. Because it was the Great Hall itself which really stopped me from feeling so grumpy that night.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Comment on the latest spiritual phenomenon

Richard Taylor

Hallelujah, it’s revival season once again! Revival season is a bit like silly season but a little more of a minefield for the unwary commentator.

Let me hand the blog over to the following quote from the website of Victory Church, Wales to fill you in on the latest phenomenon in the UK Christian community.

“At almost precisely 7.35pm on April 10, 2013 the heavens opened over Wales, in the town of Cwmbran…a man who had been wheelchair-bound for ten years was healed; he picked up his chair and ran around the church with his chair held over his head like a trophy, while his wife jumped and span in grateful awe.”

We are now past day 50 of what has been called: ‘The Welsh Outpouring’.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Christian revival then I can only envy you. Basically it’s a historic phenomenon which debatably results in reduced crime rates, miracles, mass conversions and a kind of spiritual awakening in a particular area.

It is also a minefield. Half of the Christian community adamantly opposes it and say that the whole thing is disturbingly fraudulent. The other half will not hear a bad word spoken about it. And the two groups will go at it like the dysfunctional family we can sometimes be. People get polarised one way or the other and it is not a very beautiful sight.

I sense a little cynicism out there. Don’t worry, you are not alone. But I’m qualified and trained to comment. What I cannot do is perform the miracle of validating a healing which no editor seems interested in commissioning a struggling freelancer like me to write about.

Here are the basic facts.

1.      Victory Church is Elim Pentecostal in denomination.
2.      There are blog reports of 400 people attending the church and queuing outside it.
3.      The leader of the church is named Richard Taylor.
4.      Since April 10 there have been meetings almost every night with more unverified reports of healings.
5.      On Saturday 11th May the church claims that over 60 people were baptised. They intend to baptise more people.
6.      Richard Taylor is an ex-drug user turned pastor who now spends his time trying to help drug users and offenders. He seems genuine and has written a book called ‘To Catch a Thief’. He collaborated with the BBC some years ago to produce a programme designed to help people protect their properties from thieves
.
So is he stealing money from people in a whole new way? Not really. From all accounts any offerings taken are voluntarily placed into buckets. There are no calls for donations in the meetings.

Someone on Mumsnet lamented that the whole thing hadn’t received any news coverage (on a discussion thread called: ’Welsh outpouring not in the news?’).

That’s because people want verification of the healing which is often very hard to get.

Another mum commented: "...the journalist who reported the first genuine healing would be set up for life.”

Hallelujah!? But sadly for your intrepid correspondent, it seems that this scoop will be earned by another. Not even considering the spiritual aspect to the whole story (which anyone who has tried to report on these things will always encounter), there are still certain problems.

1.      Very few writers want to rubbish a genuine revival.
2.      Very few writers want to support a fake revival.
3.      The rest don’t even know what a revival is.


If you want to find out more then there is a Facebook page and a livestream of the church services linked to that. So those of us in need of some kind of healing can experience the dubious joy of watching other people get healed and not ourselves.


At this point I am neither for nor against it. All I know is that this blog entry will please neither side.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Isn't it ironic?


When I look back on my life I see a lot of ironies. For example, in my teenage years I was extremely proud of my intellect. I considered that my mind and thoughts were the one thing I could rely on in any situation. I remember sitting down, like King Nebuchadnezzar and believing that I was completely in control of my little kingdom.

What is ironic about that? The irony was that around about the age of 19 I found out that my mind was not as reliable as I thought. If conscience is a compass, then my compass well and truly broke.

At university I took a lot of recreational drugs. After a while using psychedelic and recreational drugs I began to realize that I wasn’t in control at all. I began to understand that I lived in a world in which I couldn’t win every argument. I began to understand that there was also a spiritual world. It reached such a point that one of my university friends called me ‘Mad Nick’.

My middle name is Christian. That’s a bit ironic considering I am a Christian (and then there is my surname White, (I am white) and my first name is Nicholas (I don’t wear knickers (usually)).

Despite my middle name, aged 19 I was prejudicially anti-Christian in practice. The drug use was largely hedonism and was a mistake I couldn’t see at the time. The further ironies came a few years after I stopped taking drugs. My conscience was still broken.

When I was baptised as an adult I was given this scripture as a kind of message from God:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3:5).

What I didn’t know at that point was that the drugs had caused a few changes in my brain which were to result in subsequent mental health problems.

Sitting down, aged 24 on a hospital bed with my kingdom in ruins I realized that, like King Nebuchadnezzar I had lost my power. I had lost my individual sovereignty to mental illness, mostly because of pride. The choices I had made had resulted in an ironic humbling. My drug-use caused my mental health problems. And it was my fault.

I’m trying to make two points with this blog entry. The first is my personal conviction that drug use can cause mental health problems. That is something those involved in the drugs trade don’t want you to believe. They want you believe that those with mental illness have used drugs in the past to self-medicate. Because any other possibility is simply bad for business.

The second point is to ask you to consider whether the ironies in your own life might point to the existence of God and your inherent value as a human being.


Most ironies are negative. If they point to the existence of a God who orchestrates these ironies like a good Author then obviously that leads on to a debate about the character of this Author. And that question, like the question about whether drugs can cause mental illness, is still being debated. Ironic.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

New Media Regulator Plan

(Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament)


Sick of decisions being made over your head? Distrustful of media and Government? Sick of media attitude, bias and intrusion? Worried that the new media regulator won't be independent?

If anybody wants to make a comment to the Department of Culture Media and Sport you have until 23 May to get your voice heard.

Anyone reading the new proposal will immediately realise that the language used in the plan is both archaic and inaccessible. Don't let this put you off, tell the authorities what you think about the whole issue.

You have a right to be heard. A new body will decide how all media complaints are handled. It will also draw up a new code of conduct for journalists and editors.

It would be a cruel irony if the process which is supposed to be instrumental in stopping people being misled is itself misleading and biased.

We are supposed to be equal. But, as Orwell said - 'some animals are more equal than others'. Don't let them bully you.


If you want to get your voice heard then go to the following page, read the document and email the link there.


http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/petitions-for-royal-charters/

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Publishing eBooks




Quite a lot of my spare time is now spent collaborating on a project with a very talented writer. Okay, I’m biased, the writer is my wife.

The book we are working on is called ‘What Rocks Your World’ - a unique careers book for 13-19 year olds.

The difference between this book and your average careers book is that it is written by someone who genuinely cares for young people. She also happens to be well qualified and very experienced in the careers world.

What makes this particular book special is that it is accessible to teenagers. The whole point is to capture the imaginations of young people, to inspire them and give them a sense of purpose in life. So it meets young people where they are at by using the talent show format. It then goes on to show that they too have skills and talents which they can use in many different ways on the world’s stage.

So far we have done a lot of research and trialled out the book with both young people and adults. And we’ve set up a competition for a young designer to design the cover (it seems right that a young person should do this).

Now the book is written and we have gone through most of the proof-reading and editing stages. We have a few more things to do on it before it will be launched but we’re well ahead of our deadline of September.
Doing all this has given me even more experience in proof-reading, editing and eBook publishing at all stages.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve just set myself up as a freelance writer and editor. So one of the reasons for writing this blog entry is to offer my editing and eBook publishing skills to anyone out there who may have written something which they want publishing as an eBook. I can professionally edit your work for a very competitive price. I can also help with the formatting, publishing and cover design.

Please get in touch with me if this is something you would like to do. Take a look around my website www.nickwhitewriting.com.

Also, I’ve started a promotion so that my eBook ‘Compliance is Futile’ is free on Amazon today (1st May 2013) if you haven’t read it already.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Freelance Writer - Nick White Writing




Today I’m setting up my freelance writing business. So this is the launch of Nick White Writing. What has largely been a hobby should, from here on, be a comprehensive writing service.

Back in the noughties I was a freelance journalist for a while so I have an idea of what to expect. I also have the professional training, experience and qualifications. I retrained recently to update my skills for online work.

My specialties are going to be the things I have in-depth knowledge about, which are:

  •          Spirituality, faith and Christianity
  •          Writing itself (most fields/genres)
  •           Mental health
  •           eBook publishing

Along with these subjects I also have good knowledge of computing (including retro gaming), folk-lore, poetry, guinea pigs, cats, politics, current affairs, revivals/awakenings, psychology, eschatology (end-times) and musicals (especially Sondheim). I’m not sure there is currently much of a market for eschatology, Sondheim and revivals/awakenings – but someone has got to know about these things!

I’m also planning to expand my knowledge-base with further research.

So, if you, or anyone you know needs any copywriting, proof-reading or editing done for websites, books, newsletters or anything else then please consider using my skills. I can also help with eBook publishing if you are writing a book.

More information on my website soon (www.nickwhitewriting.com).

Watch this space.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Alternative Easter message: From deep inside the Tomb - thoughts on Christianity in the UK




Today former Archbishop George Carey has said that two thirds of Chistians feel like a persecuted minority (if only my 'killer question' hadn't been stifled at the local BBC election debate!).

The whole subject of Christian freedom in the UK is a minefield. It is impossible to say anything without offending someone or other even if you say the most anodyne, placatory things. Believers who say they have lost jobs and job opportunities because of discrimination regularly suffer character assassination.

There is so much disagreement on the subject of believers freedoms in the UK even among Christians. Many  currently disagree with George Carey. When this subject gets into the news there are always a range of responses from within the Christian community. Culturally, Christians want to be Christ-like and unselfish so many will point to groups who are suffering to a greater extent - for example the poor, for example, needy people in other countries, for example, asylum seekers etc. This is a unique phenomenon particular to faith communities, a kind of tribal characteristic.

There are other Christians who don't want to rock the boat. So they will say that nothing is wrong because they are afraid that things will get worse. Fear is a powerful motivator (but kind of understandable when you take into account the history of Christian persecution and the existing persecution in other countries).

On top of this, aggressive secularists will always state that believers are complaining and whinging (the inference being that we are spoilt children). They say that Christianity gets preferential treatment as evidenced by the presence of bishops in the House of Lords and BBC (British Biased Corporation) treatment of Christianity.

Now the whole subject is getting linked to the gay marriage debate. It has to be said that there are many Christians who are not against gay marriage. There is a powerful argument for it - not least the call to love others. I am for gay marriage but understand that there is a reasonable argument against it. But the problem with Christians 'winning' the gay marriage debate is that we don't win at all. All that would happen would be that Christians get the blame for infringing on other people's freedoms. The only way to win that battle is to lose it. That way Christians can complain about the whole thing when it becomes law. And we don't get the blame.

We are not persecuted but there are huge biases against Christians in the UK, biases which are often encouraged by those in powerful positions.

What the country needs to make things better is a Christian revival. Please remember I said so at the time.

(Publish and be damned).




Sunday, 24 March 2013

Castle

I just really like this picture...


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A message to my loyal readers

This blog post is about your future. And it contains an apology to you.

When I trained as a journalist my tutor would often tell me to re-write my news introductions.

"You need to give your intros more of a hook," He would say.

My intros were always boring. They were boring partly because I didn't want to defraud readers. Because I couldn't easily turn water into wine. I didn't want to write stories which didn't deliver.

First impressions count, not just in the world of business but also in the world of writing. Both in journalism and in creative writing. Especially when it comes to writing for the internet.

So why is this blog post about your future?

It's about your future because, as a reader it will help you to understand the tricks of the writing trade and to think about the attitudes of writers.

What counts, in writing, is how much the writer cares about you. Can you trust them? If the writer cares about you at all then they will learn the skills necessary to engage.

A sign that a writer couldn't care whether you live or die is that their writing will either be bad or full of bull. It will insult your intelligence. The attitude of the writer is what counts. If the writer just wants your money, if the writer is only interested in brinkmanship then sometimes it will show. A sure sign is that the writer is unwilling to learn.

Read what you need to read to survive and hopefully to thrive.

There is so much information and half of it comes from people with an attitude to their readers which is downright offensive. If the people who write what you read don't care about your well-being then refuse to read them. They will get the message.

I'm sorry for not caring as much as I could about you.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Hollow Statue and Stranded in Eternity

I wanted to write a blog entry about how I came up with the ideas for my latest published short stories.

The Hollow Statue was written as a first draft a long time ago.

I wondered at that time what a society would look like in which everyone had that same blind faith in the authorities. Then I combined this with some apocalyptic themes.

What emerged was not particularly beautiful, but it was honest about my feelings at the time. If I wrote it again I would try to balance the darkness with more light.

The other story, Stranded in Eternity was written over a long period and after many drafts. It began at a writers workshop where everyone was given a first line to use to write a story. My first line was 'He revived with a smile on his face'.

A little while later I went to church and heard a sermon about how indescribable heaven will be. That it would be beyond imagination. So I thought I would try to imagine a version of heaven, beyond the idea of fluffy clouds. I also introduced a few other themes which interested me. And most importantly I selected a Christian as the hero - I did this on purpose because there are so few positive portrayals of Christians.

There was a lot more to the writing of both stories, but this was how they came to be written in the first place. They are written only for readers to enjoy and have no hidden message.

Both stories are available in the science fiction anthology Otherwhere and Elsewhen.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cross cases: European Court of Human Rights judgement on Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin Jan 15




Christians lose and win their protests at the European Court of Human Rights. 



British Airways employee Nadia Eweida has won her fight at the European Court of Human Rights. But nurse Shirley Chaplin has lost her protest.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin were disciplined by British Airways and the NHS respectively for wearing crosses at work.

This is from the press release from the European Court released on Tuesday January 15:


Right to manifest religion at work is protected but must be balanced against rights of others.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom the
European Court of Human Rights held:

by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of
the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned Ms Eweida;

unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 9 of the European Convention,
taken alone or in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), as
concerned Ms Chaplin

Ms Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Ms Chaplin, a geriatrics nurse, complained that their employers placed restrictions on their visibly wearing Christian crosses around their necks while at work.

The Court did not consider that the lack of explicit protection in UK law to regulate the
wearing of religious clothing and symbols in the workplace in itself meant that the right
to manifest religion was breached, since the issues could be and were considered by the
domestic courts in the context of discrimination claims brought by the applicants.

In Ms Eweida’s case, the Court held that on one side of the scales was Ms Eweida’s
desire to manifest her religious belief. On the other side of the scales was the employer’s
wish to project a certain corporate image. While this aim was undoubtedly legitimate,
the domestic courts accorded it too much weight.

As regards Ms Chaplin, the importance for her to be allowed to bear witness to her
Christian faith by wearing her cross visibly at work weighed heavily in the balance.
However, the reason for asking her to remove the cross, namely the protection of health
and safety on a hospital ward, was inherently more important than that which applied in
respect of Ms Eweida and the hospital managers were well placed to make decisions
about clinical safety.




See my blog entry 'Show 'em Your Cross' for comment on this.

Also see eChurch blog for more comment.