Authentic Fantasy

Fantasy yet authenticTh-rump, th-rump, th-rump, th-rump. Something new had entered Tabitha’s dream’…

You can’t do that!”

What?”

Start your story with a made up word like ‘th-rump’. What kind of a word is that?”

I had allowed an acquaintance (shall we say?) to read an unpublished manuscript after they had pleaded to become a beta-reader. It was a mistake, I decided. I recalled Jesus and prophets in home-towns.

It’s for children,” I protested, “not for your generation. And besides, I can make up as many words as I like. I’m the author. Shakespeare introduced thousands of new words into English.”

Yes, I am the author. I can use words as I want, and make up a world out of my own imagination. The plot is mine, and so are the characters. They do what I want… or do they?

In theory I could get my characters doing anything – but they just won’t. Sure they exist only in my head, but they have minds of their own. Sometimes it amazes me to think that the characters of my White Gates Adventures series don’t actually exist. They aren’t based on any living persons, but somehow they have become real people, each with their own characteristics and traits. They have their hang-ups and short-comings, as well as strengths and caring hearts. They amaze. They make mistakes, and they hurt. (I hate it when they hurt.) When I put them into a setting, they tell me what they are going to do. They even get up to things that never actually get written down, because they wouldn’t want me to; some things should remain private.

There are writers who write only for their readers; they tease, intrigue, arouse and titillate them. They twist, turn and astonish. I don’t seem to be able to do that. Is it strange to say that I write for my characters? For example, Kakko – feisty and extrovert, and always impetuous – demands more adventures in which she can save a significant chunk of the universe. I am dreading what she is going to say when I get to end of the series… It maybe she’ll grow out of her impatience – I don’t know, she hasn’t told me yet.

The thing is, for me, the story has be authentic. I mean, even though the setting is fantasy, the characters and events have to have integrity. I can’t make them do anything I like. Integrity and authenticity – could these be essential for a Christian writer?

Too many people feel that freedom means the ability to do whatever they like, with their own lives as well as in their writing. But we can’t – not if we want to be truly authentic. We can only be a pale shadow of something or someone we are not; yet we are richly authentic when we are genuinely ourselves. That’s true freedom.

And as for ‘th-rump’ – it’s the onomatopoeic sound of a helicopter hovering overhead – and I’m sticking to it!

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What’s in a name?

Called by Name                                            by Trevor Stubbs

It was Maundy Thursday afternoon. The children were at home from school for their Easter holidays, and the church secretary was in a hurry to finish her work. The trouble with working for the church, was that holidays – especially Christmas and Easter – were some of the busiest periods. She had just two tasks to complete – a booklet for a wedding on Easter Monday, and a sheet for the readers at the Easter sunrise service; she would use her computing skills to do them quickly. She linked the two; they would print off one after the other with one instruction. On her computer, she selected the file of a previous wedding booklet. All that was needed was to change the names, and draught in the new hymns. She was so used to this, and with two strokes, all the references to “John”, the former groom, became “Wayne”, and all those to “Mary”, the former bride, became “Louise”. Se checked it had worked: “I, Wayne, take you, Louise…” perfect. She sent them to the copier, which rattled them off, putting them into two separate piles. The secretary pigeon-holed them, and then rushed home to her children.

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Being thirteen can be a trying thing – especially being the daughter of enthusiastic Christian parents. Louise was as tall as her mother, but her body was outstripping her energy. She didn’t mind going to church – well mostly – but she resented having to get up at five a.m. to go to this Easter sunrise service, which meant walking to an exposed cliff-top at six. Even if it wasn’t cloudy, you never saw the sun itself – it just got light. Most years, it was just about braving the cold wind and the rain.

The minister caught sight of Louise’s disdainful body-language. He thought he could make her feel wanted by asking her to read the lesson. Her parents were delighted – Louise was trapped. Her younger brother snickered. He knew exactly how well this was going down with his sister. She shot him a withering glance that was not in the spirit of Easter. Louise took the paper she was given in her gloved hand. It was still dark, and she could barely read it. But she thought she had better look through the reading if she was going to do it. There was no point in making a fool of herself. She got it close to her face. It was the story of Mary Magdalene in the garden when she found the tomb empty, and then met the risen Jesus. Louise knew it well, but she ran through it anyway.

When she got to the bit where Jesus makes himself known, Louise couldn’t believe what she was seeing:

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Louise!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”

She read it again. Were her eyes playing tricks on her? The name should be ‘Mary’, but the more she stared, the more she read, ‘Louise’. Was God trying to tell her something? She had a vision of Jesus standing there on this exposed cliff-top, looking straight into her eyes, and saying, “Louise!”

Louise felt small and embarrassed. This is definitely, like, my mind playing tricks on me, she told herself. But, even if it was, if you believed in Jesus, and that he died on the cross and was raised for you, he did call you by name. She remembered the words of the bishop at her confirmation service six months before: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (It was a quote from the Old Testament somewhere.) And now, here was Jesus, calling her by name just as he had Mary Magdalene.

Mary hadn’t wanted to be there in the graveyard that morning, any more than Louise wanted to be at this service. She was there because she had to be – because she loved Jesus so much. And Mary had been called by her name! Amazing – Jesus was alive. It had made the whole world a different place for her. And, now, here was the same Jesus making the world a different place for Louise. He knew her, and was calling her by her name. Wow! That’s, like, cool, she thought. And then, Thanks, Jesus. I love you too – honestly – even on this grotty morning.

The service began. Louise read the passage, substituting the name, “Mary”, although the paper still read, “Louise”. No-one else seemed to have noticed.

The service was followed by breakfast in the chapel on the beach – the best part of the whole thing. It was here that she noticed the reference to the reading. In small letters underneath, it read: “The Gospel according to Wayne, 20:1-18”.

Copyright © 2016 Trevor Stubbs

White Gates Adventures Teen’s Page

White Gates Adventures Teens’ Page.

Q. So. Cut the crap! How can someone whom lots of people would regard as “past it”, write for teenagers?

Let’s face it – the dude was born 1948!!

A. I’m reverting. I’m having fun – having adventures… even if I can’t stay up all night any more. (Seriously, don’t get old!!) In my heart I’m having a ball now all that ‘important’ adult stuff is behind me. The thing is both pre-adults and post-adults are on the same side of the Life Arc (the top side). Let me explain.

The Life Arc. (Cool name which I thought up…)

Serious adults will probably want to look at it like this

Life Arc(1)1. You get born at the pink ball and die at the blue one.

2. From pink to brown (pre-adult) your whole life (according to the adults in charge) is about ‘preparing for a successful adulthood’ – education, training, grooming, launching, finding the right partner, learning right from wrong (as decided by the adults in any particular community). You know – you get the picture. A diet of exams and lectures. School isn’t a laugh. (Life just, like, kind of sucks at times.)

3. The top part of the arc is the important bit for adults. Here the adults have power and authority. This is the place for achievement. You can judge the successful adult by the size and location of his/her house, the number and make of his/her cars, the important sounding job titles they have, and the kind of parties they go to. It’s all about making money and stuff.

4. From green to blue at the end of the arc is the slippery slope of decline when the lucky old people get to just relax, go on trips, get fat, do a bit of gardening – and then just die out of the picture.

But we don’t have to have it this way up! Let’s turn it over!Life arc(2)

(This is the exciting part! …)

Here the exciting part is at the top – and the dull adult bit at the bottom.

1. The pre-adult bit is far more than a preparation for being grown-up. It’s a wonderful part of life where we are free from the things that trap adults. Teenagers can be free! You can see things that adults can’t because teens can often see the bigger picture. Teens can step outside the box that is their own culture and experiment. (Of course, there are limits. You know if it’s doing you or someone else harm.)

2. The post-adult bit is the promise of life! Far from declining into a hole, it is a time to explore and adventure anew. It’s about climbing up to greater things. The pink dot (dying) becomes the gateway to new and higher freedoms that make the concerns of serious adults (stuck at the bottom of the life arc) look terribly sad. Post-adults are on the way up! When I was a teenager it wasn’t cool to believe in God – as a post-adult, (do you know what?), I don’t care what people think. God is for real!

So, granddads and grans have a lot in common with teenagers!

  • Oh, just one thing about the green dot. (The time when you just have to give in to being an adult for a few decades.) Many teens quite rightly put it off – gap years and adventure travel, etc. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. On the other hand, around the age of 25, you have to give up and become an adult – you can’t put it off for ever. But don’t worry, your time will come again at

the brown dot – but don’t try and retire too early. In fact, it’s a mistake to just regard retirement as selfish leisure – it’s making a difference in the world that makes for the best adventures. With all that wisdom and experience, a post-adult can actually make a difference for a lot of people. So, let’s join forces (young and old) to change the planet!

I do hope you enjoy reading The White Gates Adventures. If you want to buy copies I can send you signed ones(!) click here or you can get it in you local library – if it’s not on the shelf, ask at the counter. If that doesn’t work and you don’t have money – let me know… and if you have any ideas for new adventures, comments on the characters, things that you want to ask about, then let me know. I would be pleased to hear from you. Contact me here.

Trevor

White Gates Adventures Teens’ Page.

Q. So. Cut the crap! How can someone whom lots of people would regard as “past it”, write for teenagers?

Let’s face it – the dude was born 1948!!

A. I’m reverting. I’m having fun – having adventures… even if I can’t stay up all night any more. (Seriously, don’t get old!!) In my heart, I’m having a ball now all that ‘important’ adult stuff is behind me.

The Life Arc. (Cool name which I thought up…)

Serious adults will probably want to look at it like this:

Life Arc(1)1. You get born at the pink ball and die at the blue one.

2. From pink to brown (pre-adult) your whole life (according to the adults in charge) is about ‘preparing for a successful adulthood’ – education, training, grooming, launching, finding the right partner, learning right from wrong (as decided by the adults in any particular community). You know – you get the picture. A diet of exams and lectures. School isn’t a laugh. (Life just, like, kind of sucks at times.)

3. The top part of the arc is the important bit for adults. Here the adults have power and authority. This is the place for achievement. You can judge the successful adult by the size and location of his/her house, the number and make of his/her cars, the important sounding job titles they have, and the kind of parties they go to. It’s all about making money and stuff.

4. From green to blue at the end of the arc is the slippery slope of decline when the lucky old people get to just relax, go on trips, get fat, do a bit of gardening – and then just die out of the picture.

But we don’t have to have it this way up! Let’s turn it over!Life arc(2)

(This is the exciting part! …)

Here the exciting part is at the top – and the dull adult bit at the bottom.

1. The pre-adult bit is far more than a preparation for being grown-up. It’s a wonderful part of life where we are free from the things that trap adults. Teenagers can be free! You can see things that adults can’t because teens can often see the bigger picture. Teens can step outside the box that is their own culture and experiment. (Of course, there are limits. You know if it’s doing you or someone else harm.)

2. The post-adult bit is the promise of life! Far from declining into a hole, it is a time to explore and adventure anew. It’s about climbing up to greater things. The pink dot (dying) becomes the gateway to new and higher freedoms that make the concerns of serious adults (stuck at the bottom of the life arc) look terribly sad. Post-adults are on the way up! When I was a teenager it wasn’t cool to believe in God – as a post-adult, (do you know what?), I don’t care what people think. God is for real!

So, granddads and grans have a lot in common with teenagers!

  • Oh, just one thing about the green dot. (The time when you just have to give in to being an adult for a few decades.) Many teens quite rightly put it off – gap years and adventure travel, etc. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. On the other hand, around the age of 25, you have to give up and become an adult – you can’t put it off for ever. But don’t worry, your time will come again at

the brown dot – but don’t try and retire too early. In fact, it’s a mistake to just regard retirement as selfish leisure – it’s making a difference in the world that makes for the best adventures. With all that wisdom and experience, a post-adult can actually make a difference for a lot of people. So, let’s join forces (young and old) to change the planet!

I do hope you enjoy reading The White Gates Adventures. If you want to buy copies I can send you signed ones(!) (link) or you can get it in you local library – if it’s not on the shelf, ask at the counter. If that doesn’t work and you don’t have money – let me know… and if you have any ideas for new adventures, comments on the characters, things that you want to ask about, then let me know. I would be pleased to hear from you(link).

Trevor

LittWorld 2015

From Beijing to Kabul, Melbourne to St Petersburg, Buenos Aires to Jos, Chicago to Capetown – people come from every continent and many languages. They come with words of hope and joy. LittWorld 2015, Singapore (1st-6th November), is the thirteenth, and largest gathering of its kind, staged by Media Associates International (MAI), founded thirty years ago in Chicago to promote Christian writing and publishing worldwide. More than two hundred-and-fifty participants from fifty-four countries signifies the rapid expansion of Christianity in Africa and Asia where relatively new churches, growing in confidence and becoming more articulate, take on the challenges of their particular parts of the planet.

The energy and depth of the gathering can fool the casual observer into thinking that the places these people come from are good and happy ones. But this is far from the case. Each comes with stories of marginalisation, suspicion, and persecution as they try to uncover their Christian lights in the world’s darkest and corrupt corners. They operate within the constraints of totalitarian regimes, to write, translate, publish and print material to support mission and Christian care. As well as those who make it to Singapore, we are also well aware that there are many others who dare not or cannot travel. Some who have made it will not allow themselves to be photographed in case it angers the authorities back home. This was especially true of those from the Middle East. Yet the good news is, that Christians there are becoming increasingly bold. No longer being allowed to keep a low profile, they are finding a voice in the face of persecution from Muslim extremism. The hunger for Christian literature is on the rise.

In the West, however, the picture is not so positive. Here Christian literature is by no means immune from the widespread shrinkage of book sales in all areas of life in recent years. The explosion of electronic media has led to rapid reading of the short statement. Concentration spans are reducing. Sentences are brief – thoughts pared to a series of phrases without verbs, articles or grammar. Fewer and fewer people are likely to pick up a book, even an e-reader. The same applies just as much to Christian literature as any other. Andrew Choi of Breakthrough Ltd in China, asks the question, “What in the digital world are we doing?” This causes my head to swim, and I give thanks that I am a writer and not a publisher in today’s fast changing communications scene.

Nevertheless, the art of writing is by no means dead. We hear from Emily Lim, an award-winning children’s author in Singapore, and a group in the Philippines (Lovestruck) getting alongside their vulnerable teenagers with convergences (rallies), books and radio to try and turn the tide of teenage pregnancies. Davis Bunn, a successful author ‘licensed to thrill’ in America, gives novel writers guidance, and Joel Borboryoe of Ghana urges us to authenticate our writing through research. In the final analysis, it is Kornel Herjeczki from Hungary who reminds us that, “[Christian] publishing is not about making books and selling them, but about fulfilling a larger calling: to spread the Good News to our hopeless world, by the help of the Holy Spirit.”

On the final day, we melt into the terminals of Changi airport and head off home in every point of the compass. But we leave encouraged, and determined to do our own bit for the people around us who have not heard in their own language how God can heal and love.
Trevor Stubbs (author of The Kicking Tree and the White Gates Adventures series.)

A Christmas season extract from ‘Tabitha’

Tabitha is a so far unpublished novel in which a fourteen-year-old grows up to discover the world is more wonderful than she had believed as a child. This extract is from a chapter leading up to Christmas 2010.


Over two million died in southern Sudan between 1983 and 2005,” explained Mr Thomas, Ashol’s father. “We owe it to their memory.”

“Two million!” exclaimed Tabitha, amazed. “That’s like … everyone in the whole of West Yorkshire!”

“You see why we pray for justice …” said Mr Thomas.

“… and peace, and love,” continued his wife, Mama Sarah. “Jesus coming into the world is our only hope. We all have to follow him, together, for there to be any chance of peace.”

Tabitha could see how important the Advent wreath with its prayers for justice, peace and love was to the Thomas’s, and why all the Christmas things mattered so much. She had become used to thinking of Christmas as being mostly about pretending things were OK, and secretly knowing (but not admitting) that, in fact, they weren’t. You covered it all up with cheesy Christmasy songs in which everyone was supposedly ‘having fun’, and getting the ‘Christmas feeling’ mostly through an alcoholic haze. It was supposed to be about families coming together, yet actually so many of them were broken – it seemed to her that more people seemed to fall out at Christmas than at any other time of the year. For Tabitha there was the business of going to see her estranged dad which meant leaving her mum on her own to drink to her loneliness. Tabitha never wanted to go, and her mum was always in a foul mood smelling of alcohol and tobacco when she got back. So, for her, the Christmas carols did not often resonate with joy, despite their words. Last Christmas the neighbours at fifty-seven refused to have their family for Christmas because the year before their son-in-law had got drunk and had apparently said some nasty things, which had not been forgotten. And then the people over the road had had a row on Boxing Day when someone was locked out and told to “f*** off”, and a slanging match between the excluded man in the street and someone in an upstairs window when on for over half-an-hour before the police arrived and took him away. So Christmas for Tabitha had not been all that great – she used to look forward to being on her own again in the new year.

But for the Thomas family, despite all the terrible things that had happened and were still happening in Sudan, they really believed that Jesus coming into the world made a difference. It was not just about family, it was about God and his love and heaven for ever. They really felt that God was with them still in 2010. “The world is a very dark place,” stated Mr Thomas, “but God has come into it and shines in the darkness.” That was what the candles were all about Tabitha discovered. She hadn’t thought of that before. When you lit a candle – for justice, love or peace – you were kind of connecting God with it – and he was bright and lovely and actually brought those things to life in the world. Well at least to the Thomas’s and the other people who believed in him. That’s cool, thought Tabitha.

Not for the first time, she asked herself if she believed in God. Ashol and her brother, Deng did. Well, they were brought up to. Did they ever ask themselves if God was real, or did they just know He was? Perhaps they just took it on trust. And their mum and dad before them and so on. God might be someone people had made up at the beginning of human beings – or someone they thought they had seen in a miracle or something – and then just got their kids to believe in it. She supposed that even ordinary things, like new babies being born, must have seemed amazing before anyone knew the science of it. But now doctors knew everything about having babies – even mending them in the womb. So you didn’t need God to explain things any more. Yet Nature, even if you knew how it worked, still seemed wonderful. Tabitha didn’t think she would ever change her mind about that even if she got an A grade in biology. There must be something more to life than just how it worked—

“What are you and your mum doing at Christmas?” asked Mama Sarah, breaking into Tabitha’s reverie.

“Oh,” said Tabitha remembering where she was. The only thing that I have to do is go to Dad’s on Boxing Day. He’s coming for me in the morning and I go for the day. Mum hates it because she has to be on her own and there is nothing to do except watch tele.”

“Would you like to come to us?”

“Well I mustn’t leave my mum any more than I have so. So I can’t. But thanks, it would have been great.” How wonderful to be with these people who actually believed in Christmas – the whole religious bit. They were going to be really happy. But no way could she, or would she, leave her mum. She was all Cindy had.

“No, I mean both of you,” said Mama Sarah. “Why don’t you both come on Christmas Day and then your mum can spend the day with us on Boxing Day while you go to your father’s.”

“And you could come and sleep over,” said Ashol excitedly. “They can come and sleep over can’t they, Mum?”

Ultimate Justice – bombs, children and love …

Want to be free, free of the constraints that family life and social expectations impose upon you … free to think, to dream, to expand your horizons – even beyond those you can imagine? Have you ever fancied exploring strange and unfamiliar worlds, meeting and getting to know new exciting beings? These people may be different, yet they still face the same challenging universe with all its violence and apparent injustices. When you see what bombs can do to children would you blow up an arms factory? Would you go after someone who had robed an old person, or risk your life to save a child? What sort of story would you tell a group of street children? Could you be the one to bring hope and justice into a dark universe where people had given up on ever enjoying the light, ever being free?

In Ultimate Justice, the second in the White Gates Adventure series, rejoin Jack and Jalli, Momori and Matilda from The Kicking Tree. Meet their children growing up on Planet Joh, as they once again travel the universe to new worlds through the white gates the Creator provides for them. Each new adventure is a new task to bring some kind of hope to people they have never met – as well as some they already have.

Perhaps you take after Jalli, now a mother of teenage children, or Kakko her impatient daughter who cannot stand around and wait for someone else to do something. May be you take after Shaun keen to get into the first team, or studious Bandi who, at the age of fourteen, meets Plato and the philosophers for the first time. Some will identify with the older generation, while others know what it is to be disabled like Jack. Young or old, quick or thoughtful, adventurous or down-to-earth, each has his or her own role to play in the Creator’s universe.

In Ultimate Justice there is adventure, action, relationship, and exploration – outwards to the stars, but also inwards to what makes us who we really are and can become.

Ultimate Justice is with the publishers

I am delighted to report that the final manuscript of Ultimate Justice is now with the publishers, Matador. It is going through the necessary processes of editing. A cover for the book is in the process of being designed. Booksellers have been notified. The provisional publication date is 28th March 2015. So readers of The Kicking Tree can now look forward to more white gate adventures with their beloved characters – Jack, Jalli, Matilda and Momori – and lots more new ones.