Friday, June 16, 2017

Celebrate the small things: teach me

Student X, whose departure was due this week, but which I celebrated last week, did not attend any classes in his final week. However, he did come and see me before class on his last day to say goodbye. It was a slightly awkward conversation during which I'm pretty sure he never said thank you or sorry, but he did wish me well for the future. I shook his hand and honestly wished him good fortune as well. (even though I don't really believe in fortune as such.) He made me want to be a better teacher and a better person. I should have thanked him, but I did not how to do it. Too late now, but thank you student X.


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) sent me a letter to say they are cancelling my Australian Business Number (ABN) because there is no evidence that I am carrying on a business -which isn't true by the way. I was very surprised to receive this letter, and annoyed that I have to contact a huge government department and argue with them when I know they don't care. Now, I'm thinking about how seldom I have used my ABN, and how much more often I could have potentially used it. And still could. This notification from the ATO re-fired ambition in my heart. (Go figure!)Thank you massive, uncaring government department.

Amazon contacted me to say my latest royalty payment could not be paid because it been rejected by my bank. I don't understand why, and neither was Amazon able to provide an explanation. Big organisations can be very uncreative when it comes to solving their customer's problems. This little irritation reminded me that although I may not be setting the publishing world on fire, I am selling books, so thank you Amazon for your inexplicable banking disturbances.

What little, seemingly negative thing taught you something this week? Or made you feel grateful? (even if that was not your initial reaction)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Last Sunset




Title: My Last Sunset                                
Author: Christian Chiakulas
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62420-322-0
POD ISBN: 978-1546836339

Genre: Mystery/Crime
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Christian will give one digital copy of My Last Sunset to a randomly drawn commenter.

CONTENT WARNING

Although it is not described in detail, this book deals with sexual
abuse.

TAGLINE

An antisocial teen sets out to solve the mystery of why Jessica  Carpenter killed herself in the halls of their high school.

BLURB

My Last Sunset is a hard-boiled detective story set in a contemporary American high school. Damon Riley is an angry, antisocial teenager with a penchant for solving mysteries.  His life is shaken up when Jessica Carpenter, a girl in the grade below his, shoots herself in the halls of the school itself, leaving behind a note that names him as the culprit for driving her to suicide.  Taking the bait, Damon embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to Jessica, leading him through a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and brutality.  Along the way he learns more than he ever dreamed possible about the girl he could never have saved.




EXCERPT

Michael might be having the same idea as me, because he says, "Hey, you hear about that freshman who killed herself?"

"She was a sophomore," I say, staring ahead at the blackboard.

"Oh," Michael says. He's a senior, so it makes sense he wouldn't know."

"That's right, I knew that." Liar. "You heard she did it here?"

"Yeah, in the bathroom downstairs," I say. This class is on the fourth  floor. Jessica killed herself on the second. The music was so loud from the dance that nobody heard the gunshot, and she didn't get found until a janitor came in the next day. She'd been absent from school Thursday and Friday last week, and I heard her mom had reported her missing to the police. Then, for whatever reason, she came back to school to end her life.

What the hell, Jessica.

It's not that I can't believe it. Jessica was a nice girl, I think, and seemed happy a lot of the time, but seeming happy and being happy aren't the same thing; you don't have to be smart to know or even articulate that. Like I said, I didn't know her that well, but I knew her a little; enough to see that, like the rest of us, she had shit going on she didn't talk about. What I didn't see was that she was the kind of person who couldn't deal with it, like we all do.

Or that it was the kind of shit that can't be dealt with."Heard she left a note," Michael says, and now I'm aware that he's looking at me even though his face hasn't moved. His eyes moved.I didn't hear anything about a note. Whatever was going on with her, she definitely wanted to be found, wanted somebody to know.

Or maybe everybody.

Half a dozen more people stream in over the next two or three minutes; this class is pretty small to begin with and there are four absent. The eight o'clock bell rings just as Goldman appears in the doorway. Behind him is Panzer, one of the school's security guards (not his real name,
but it should be).I raise an eyebrow as Goldman enters the classroom and the talking dies down. Then he looks right at me and says, "Damon, could you please go with Mr. Cousins to the dean's office?"

A low "Oooooh..." goes through the small class, and I stand up, wondering what the hell I did. Usually when I'm in trouble, I know exactly why. As I cross the room to where Panzer is standing, arms folded across his chest, I notice the two girls who'd been in the room early shooting me nasty looks, like I personally wronged them. I don't even know their names.

Panzer steps aside to let me exit the room first then closes the door after us. I throw my messenger bag over my shoulder and look at him.

"What's this about," I say, a little worried.

"Just walk."

The halls are deserted, and I stare at the floor as we walk to the main nexus where the stairwells are, passing over the blurry reflections of the fluorescent lights in the freshly-waxed floor. The dean's office is on the second floor, right down the hall from the girl's bathroom. I stare at the door as we pass it.

The dean's office is small, considering there are three deans that share it along with a secretary and the school's sole counselor. The hub is a yellow-painted room with the secretary's desk, several file cabinets, a large wooden conference table, doors to the private offices of the deans and counselor, and plastic bins hanging on the walls filled with handouts and leaflets about substance abuse, sexual abuse, good ol' fashioned domestic abuse, birth control, STDs, juvie, and there at the end— suicide.

The three deans are all sitting at the conference table along with the counselor, Mrs. Mullen, and the school's police liaison, Officer Pasture. A pit drops into my stomach. Whatever I did, it must've been
bad
.
"Damon, please sit," Dean Goodfellow says. He's a pudgy man with long blonde hair and a face like a bulldog; if you're picturing him comically, stop, because everyone in this school is terrified of him, including yours truly. The other two, Dean Haskins and Dean Washington, are serious men, but none attack their jobs with the rage-filled passion of Dean Goodfellow. He runs this school like it's the streets of Baltimore in The Wire, keeping detailed, ever-growing files on every student with the misfortune to cross his path and trading favors to some of them for information. I'm not gonna lie, I've gotten out of more than one detention this way. Wouldn't you know it, he's in charge of students
with surnames P-Z.

But they're all three here, which means this is really serious. I pull up the blue plastic seat across from him, willing myself not to break eye contact, and Panzer disappears outside. The secretary isn't here
either. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. What's going on?

"Damon," Goodfellow says, shifting in his seat and locking his fingers together on the table in front of him. Everybody else at the table is staring at their laps; they know the drill. When Goodfellow is
working...interrogating, more like...you let him be.


Website URL: blogspot.com/christianchiakulas

Blog URL: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/radicalchristianmillennial/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/christianchiakulasofficial

Twitter handle: @ChrisChiakulas

Friday, June 9, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: good-bye and good riddance

I'm going off a week early here, but that's because a secondary departure occurred which also pleased me. The primary departure will occur when my my current least favourite student, and arguably my least favourite student of all time, leaves.

I've had a real struggle with him over the six months he has been with me. The first day I met him, he explained that his grammar and spelling were not good, so I told him that we could fix that. He said 'No, we can't.' I knew, therefore, from the get go that he was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to teach. How do you teach unteachable people? How do you open closed minds? I have no idea.

Rather than bore you with the details, I'll save my X (student's name) stories for other occasions. Suffice to say, he has caused me angst and made my job difficult. A mostly negative influence on the class, a bigot and a self confessed misanthrope, he will not be missed. 

Secondary departure occurred when another student, who also possesses a poor attitude and is lazy, decided to transfer to another college to do another course. I desperately wanted to advise him to lose the attitude or he would bomb out of his next course as he did my course. However, as he only showed up for three hours this week (out of 20 required) to do his catch up assessments and exit test, I thought better of it.

My problem is that I care more about the education of my students than most of them do. I love my job and I am thankful for it. I am also thankful for my students-past, present and future, both good and bad. I am thankful that I care, and that after 11 years, I still care, and by the grace of God I have not grown weary in doing my best.

The challenge for me remains though; to love the unlovable. How do you deal with closed-minded and negative people, especially those with whom you spend a fair bit of time?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a crocodile burger

What makes Mindil Beach market special is the location. A mouth-watering collection of food from around the world is available and once you have your food you can walk not more than 50 metres to the beach where you can sit and watch the spectacular sunset.

I don't know if a Darwin sunset is uniquely extraordinary in fact, or by reputation alone, but it is something magnificent to behold. It is a natural light show of stunning beauty.

Usually there are but a handful of people on the beach to say good-bye to the day, but on Thursday nights during the Dry with the market teeming with locals and visitors, the sand is littered with happy and relaxed people. The atmosphere is heavenly.

Last Thursday, Jessie and I were among them. She ate some barbecued octopus while I had my first taste of crocodile. The Road Kill Cafe offered a selection of buffalo, kangaroo and crocodile burgers. Having often eaten and enjoyed kangaroo, and sampled a buffalo pie at the Pink Panther Hotel on our road trip up to the Top End, I wanted to try crocodile.

The verdict? Quite nice. A tender patty which was like a combination of chicken and fish, on a roll with fresh slaw, and sauce. The hot chips which accompanied it were really great, and the whole meal only cost $15. I liked the burger, and I loved the whole experience.

What a sweet life I live. I thank God for it.

What unusual foods have you tried, and what did you think?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Before the Dawn

Title: Before the Dawn: A Howl in the Night Book 3
Author: Courtney Rene
ISBN: 978-1-62420-325-1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble



Courtney will be giving away a digital copy of Before the Dawn.






TAGLINE

Darkness continues to haunt Abby since her escape from the Hunterz. Questions continue to circle.
Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much?


BLURB

Seventeen year old Abby can’t shake the darkness that continues to haunt her since her escape from the Hunterz. She can’t let it go. Questions continue to circle. Questions no one will answer. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much? The answers could be found in a young boy named, Sam. He may be from the Hunterz, but he smells of wolf. Derek wants to believe her, and tries to help, but Abby still hasn’t learned how to accept help from others. Her relationships with her mother and father continue to deteriorate, but Derek is a puzzle. Some days he’s exactly what she wants and others he is all that she despises. Being a shifter isn’t as simple as she thought it would be. The wolf part is easy. It’s the human side that needs a little work.

EXCERPT

I huddled in the darkness, barely aware of the passing hours and days. The wolf ate when she was hungry. She found mice and rodents to catch and devour. I was barely aware of the chase or the joy she found in the hunt. The wolf drank from streams and creeks along her journey. She slept when she was tired and traveled the rest of it.

I was aware the forest was starting to look familiar, but I didn't care enough to wonder why or where I was. When the big white sprawling house came before us, I realized the wolf had brought us to the only other place she knew to go: Aunt Lilly's.

I didn't leave the safety within the wolf when we arrived at the house. I was aware when we stepped onto the porch and dropped to the cool white washed boards where the wolf curled up and slept, but I stayed safe, hidden deep. The wolf and the instincts that drove her protected us. I was happy to let her lead. I was happy to be carried wherever she decided to go. I slept as the wolf did throughout the rest of the night.

When the wolf woke, I woke with her. We were still curled on the porch, but we were within a pile of dogs that had come to keep us safe and warm and offer company. The wolf was happy for the companions, as I was not able to be one. I was silent and empty and had nothing to give right then. I had nothing left to offer her.

I saw my Aunt come out on the porch, and I saw the moment she recognized me for what I was. "Abby, honey. What are you doing here?"

I shrank back deeper within the wolf, and as the wolf had nothing to say to her in that form, Aunt Lilly was left at a loss. She crouched down before us and ran her hands over my head and down my back. "You look a little worse for wear. Do you want to come in and eat? Maybe get a shower and some clothes?"

I wasn't coming out of the wolf form. I realized that had been my intention the whole time. I simply hadn't been ready to face it. I was obviously not very good as a human, so I would try being a wolf for a bit. I used a little more energy and turned my head away from her and dropped it back down on my front paws.

"Abby? What's wrong?"

I had no answer for her, so I didn't move or acknowledge her question. I didn't know what to tell her. I was still feeling sorry for myself, and I didn't have a plan of how to fix it other than to ignore it. I was happy as a wolf. Why did I have to be a human anyway?

She stayed crouched down next to me for a long time. She tried to talk to me, but I didn't answer. Finally, she gave up and stepped back. Her dog friends stayed with me, protecting me in their own way. She surveyed the pile of us then said, "Well, I guess I'll check on you in a bit."

I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I spent the next few days hardly moving a muscle. What was the point? Aside from getting up to empty my bladder or get a drink of water, I stayed on the porch, quiet and still. Aunt Lilly stopped trying to talk to me, but she did continue to sit with me and offer what comfort she could by way of gentle caresses or tidbits of food she could tempt me with, or just simple water. The best part was when she sat in the white rocker and just rocked. Her being there was enough. Sometimes when she sat there, I would get up and sit next to her, just to be close to someone who gave a damn about me. Just me. Not what I could do for her, or what I could do for the clan. She just cared about me.

Why was I so unlovable by everyone else? Why didn't my mother want me anymore? Why did my father only see me for what I offered the clan? Why didn't Derek just want me? Why. Why. Why! What was so wrong with just being me?

It was times like those that even in wolf form I was able to cry. When the hurt of the world grew to immense I could not hold it in anymore. I cried the sounds of the wolf, even if it didn't come with the tears of a human. Aunt Lilly wouldn't press or talk, she was simply there with me as I tried to handle the sadness overwhelming me. She'd caress my head and continue to rock.

I don't know how long things went on like that. Maybe a few days, maybe it was an entire week. I do know when it came to an abrupt end. Morning arrived with a definite chill in the air. I didn't notice the cold all that much, thanks to my warm fur, but also because Aunt Lilly's dogs took shifts with what I thought of as protecting me. There were always a handful of them, either lying next to me or with me, or whatever. I was never cold or alone. They knew I was hurting and they in their animal wisdom stayed with me as comfort. Animals are awesome. People…suck.

AUTHOR BIO:

Courtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children. She is a graduate and
member of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night and the Shadow Dancer series, published through Rogue Phoenix Press. For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot com or feel free to contact her at ctnyrene@aol.com.

Website URL: Www.Courtneyrene.com
Twitter handle: @ctnyrene


Friday, May 26, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a bit of greenery

Cities are not typically associated with trees. I know most cities have parks and they have trees, but, for me anyway, when I think of cities I think of tall buildings and lots of cars of people. Noise, street signs, advertising, busyness etcetera, which I think is the reason I like Darwin. Darwin doesn't really feel like a city.

There are tall buildings: offices, hotels and apartments, and there are cars and people, but not many. It's pretty quiet all around. It's also quite green. Our street, which is a short narrow one running between two main streets, has trees and even a grass verge to separate the sidewalk from the road. The two aforementioned streets are lined with trees, serious trees: large and leafy ones which overhang the road and provide shade for the smokers.

Darwin is a green city. During the dry season ubiquitous built-in irrigation systems sustain the faunic (another new word there - when will this end?) thirst, and of course when the rains come, the city shifts to a whole new level of green.

Finally, this week, I am thankful for the arrival of green into our apartment. Jessie decided we needed some plants on the balcony because, she said, it will help keep the apartment cool - even though that's what the air conditioning is for (I didn't say). I like the plants because they make this place feel like a home instead of a hotel apartment.

I reckon out of everything you can do to make a house feel like a home, adding plants is right up there. What do you think?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Celebrate the small things: Would you like a beer with your haircut?

Before any of you smarty pants want to comment about my lack of hair and the therefore completely redundant need for me to visit a hairdresser, I should tell you that the guy at the salon we visited had the same cut as me and he insisted that his girls 'layered it' for him, and told him it looked good.

Jessie Rose was the one who booked a haircut at HD Hair Studio in Smith St, Darwin. Reluctantly I accepted her invitation to accompany her, comforting myself with the thought that I would be able to get some reading done while Jessie had her wash, blow and cut.

Upon our arrival at the salon, we were greeted by the aforementioned handsome fellow, who offered us a seat and a drink. Water, coffee, tea, wine or beer? I looked at him wondering if he knew he was in a hair salon not a bar. 'It's complimentary,' he said. 'Yes,' I replied with excessive enthusiasm - because I like beer and 'free' is my favourite price. I have never heard of complimentary alcoholic beverages at hair salons, but I rarely visit them, so perhaps HD is not unique.

I had two free beers (Millers Chill with lime) while I read The Count of Monte Cristo on my phone and listened to a selection of 80s classics. 

I have never had a more enjoyable visit to a hairdresser and they didn't even touch my head. It cost $90 which Jessie assured me was a reasonable price, and she was happy with the cut so it was all good. Everyone's a winner, baby!

What's the service like where you get your hair done?