Friday, October 13, 2017

Celebrate the small things: it is finished?

The final edit of a novel is quite painful mainly because you're working on a manuscript which you thought was already finished when you sent it to your editor. You know it's not finished because your eagle-eyed editor will find errors and inconsistencies, but you think it's finished. You've been through 3 or 4 drafts, incorporated or rejected (ie wrestled with) the feedback from your beta readers. You're pretty happy with it, even knowing that for sure it isn't perfect and it is highly likely that you missed some things.

Then the editor and you have some differences of opinion about grammar usage and the effectiveness of some of your metaphors. They might be the first objective reader to say "that doesn't make sense" or "I don't understand that". They might object to the use of certain words and certain non standard syntax and you might feel you're dealing with someone who doesn't understand your work. Perhaps one who doesn't appreciate it.

Armed with an editor's cut, you first of all go through their proposed changes and necessary corrections. Next you read the whole manuscript out loud in as few sittings as possible. (I found this stage really hard, but it is an absolutely vital step.) You try not to feel dismayed as you uncover more errors, like missing words for example, than the editor did. You feel the flow of the narrative, and wince when said flow is interrupted by a clunky construction or an overly verbose metaphor.

Finally, it is finished...ah no. The final proof will be in your inbox before too long and then you'll have to read it again unless you trust the editor and publisher completely. Are you brave enough to do that when previous books went to press with errors, and not just a few of them?

That's where I'm at with Love Sick Love, my fifth novel which is scheduled for release in November from Rogue Phoenix Press It's a great read by the way, so I'll hope you'll buy it, read it and recommend it to everyone you know.

What projects have you thought were finished only to discover they were not? How did you respond?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Celebrate the small things: For king and country

Celebrating writing over 60 assessment tasks this week in preparation for term 4 which starts next week. Huge effort! I congratulate myself.

However I wish to offer more huger (sic) praise to my son James, (on the left in the photo) who will make his international rugby league debut for Thailand this weekend. James' mother is Thai so he is eligible to play for the national 13 in this weekend's series of matches to support the development of rugby league in non traditional league playing countries.

James has been the digital media manager for the Thailand 13 for some time now, and to my surprise this week, when the team was announced, he had made the cut. I didn't even know he was thinking of playing again. He played junior league with the Dapto Canaries, but retired a number of years ago. This is a comeback match and a International Rugby League (IRL) sanctioned match to boot.

Do you reckon a proud dad is writing these words? Go James! Go Thailand!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Celebrate the small things: Goodbye Des and Hello Valiant Man

This should have happened earlier in the year when it was plain the once-were-mighty Bulldogs were playing an outdated and ineffective style of footy which would see them among the 2017 NRL season also-rans. During the week, the Bulldogs announced they and coach Des Hasler had decided to part ways. In other words, he was sacked. Better late than never, right?

I am celebrating Hasler's achievements - we made the finals in all but one of his seasons as head coach, including two grand final appearances. No premierships though, and no progression, especially in this past highly lamentable season of 2017. Goodbye Des. Thanks for your work with us, but I am not sorry to see you go.

And now for something completely different...and unrelated.

On Monday night I finished a facilitators course which I did with a group of great people: serious Christians with big hearts. This course was in preparation for me being a facilitator for the Valiant Man course which commences next month. I did this course last year and it was life changing.

I am very excited at the prospect of being able to help other men discover a new vision for manhood, including taking steps to regain control of their God given sexuality. Sexual problems destroy men, women and families. I am grateful for God's forgiveness and for his strength. I am also thankful to have the opportunity to help other men out of the darkness and shame of sexual sin, and in to the light of God's truth and his grace.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Celebrate the small things: the doctor smiles

The doctor smiles as he reads through my test results. PSI good, cholesterol great, no blood in the stool sample (eew), ECG shows a vital heart. Everything looks good. He recommends an ABI scan to check my circulation and I agree. There's a rash -not the right word, but I can't think of a better one, on my ankles. The doctor thinks it might be odema. The fact I'm a smoker increases my chances of having circulation problems despite the twin facts of healthy diet and active lifestyle. 

I dutifully submit to the ABI which is a first for me, and I also complete a 40-49 year old full health assessment with a nurse who, like the doctor, has nothing negative to say except that I should quit smoking.

On seeing the results of the ABI scan, my doctor again smiles (blood circulation is perfect) and recommends a watch and see approach to the "rash". In the absence of any other symptoms, this seems the best course of action.

I have a check up every year, usually on or around my birthday. This years's is more comprehensive due to the impending half century milestone.

I leave the doctor feeling very happy and thankful. I have no health issues. I'm in good shape. I feel good. I haven't been sick at all, not even a cold, since I moved to Darwin just over a year ago. I am truly, truly grateful.

How's your health? Been to the doctor lately? Been for a check up?

* That's not my doctor in the photo by the way, but he looks like a nice chap.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Celebrate the small things: three words

I've finally been made permanent at work. There's been a huge improvement in class attendance courtesy of an email blitz (the contents of which may or may not have made references to breaches of visa conditions and notifications to the Department of Immigration). I finished the draft of my new anthology, The Devil Wears a Dressing Gown (I need some beta readers btw, if you're interested), and...

After two years in the writing, a lifetime in the making...novel number five, Love Sick Love, is in the hands of my editor, and will be available in November. The cover has just been finalized, and in case you missed it over to your right, at the top, here it is again.



Just a short celebrate post from me today. Have an awesome weekend!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Child of the Heathen

Title:     Child of the Heathen         
Author: Lucia Carter Keates
ISBN: 978-1-62420-331-2
Genre: Horror

Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4

TAGLINE
“Would you sacrifice immortality to save your last remaining son?”

BLURB
1968
People are dying inexplicably in Maskek and the local police are divided as to the cause. It’s been happening for centuries.For Deacon Pierce who has grown up with the legends and mythology of the First Nations Cree, a visit to his teacher’s home unlocks the door to his father’s tortured past.

In 1750, Jonathan Sparkling Eyes Hare signed away his mortal soul and those of hisunborn children, for life eternal: a deal with a demon or a creature of ancient Cree legend? When nightmares and darker visions begin to affect Deacon’s health and sanity, his white, adopted mother is forced to reveal the truth about his bloodline and the sinister events surrounding his father Jonathan and his lover Damien Drew.

Can past and present combine to prevent Deacon’s death?

EXCERPT
Clattering unceremoniously along the driveway, Janine dragged her stole along the ground, snagging it every few yards on the briars protruding from the potted Alberta roses. To keep her balance, she anchored herself on the cedar wood fence running alongside the drive. Behind her the glaring lights faded into the mist-shrouded darkness arising from Loon Lake. It gave an eerie, almost surreal feel to the landscape and distorted the tall conifer trees into bizarre shapes that might have been animal or human. The solitude intensified the sounds of the night; the howl of a wolf, the snarling of a bobcat, the shuffling and snuffling of the smaller nocturnal creatures that owned the night.
Inebriated and angry and still blaming her husband for leaving her, Janine was barely aware of the noises around her until the piercing screech of a red-tailed hawk split the sky, penetrating her alcohol fuddled brain. She recoiled, startled, throwing a nervous glance over her shoulder, but she could see nothing beyond the cedar wood fence and the dim outline of the steel barrier surrounding the limits of the property. It was beginning to register that nobody had passed her since she’d left the house. Not a single car.

Something moved in front of her, stopped for a moment then vanished. Thinking her husband hadn’t really gone without her, she called to him. “Think you can play games with me, Randy, do you? Well I know you’re there. You wouldn’t have the guts to go without me. Come out, come out wherever you are.”

Swearing loudly as the fur caught on a sharp object that wouldn’t let go, she tugged and tugged until it came away, sending her sprawling across the ground. “That’s not funny, Randy. I don’t think much of your stupid jokes.” When she fell, she lost one of her high heeled shoes. She rose unsteadily to her feet, floundering in the dark for the lost shoe. “Where’s my shoe, goddamn it. I need my shoe.”

Chilled, she wrapped the fur stole tightly around her neck and shoulders. Relinquishing warmth for vanity, she had left her summer jacket at the motel and wore only the stole over her backless gold lame dress “Randy, where are you?” Wishing now that she had accepted the offer of a ride home her anger was rapidly dissolving.

The mist coming in from the lake was beginning to take on a reddened hue, slithering across the ground in long tentacles that reached upwards and outwards. As she stood there paralysed by what was taking place, a strong, sickly stench assailed her nostrils, making her feel nauseous. Then she was surrounded by a sense of dread that she was no longer alone. Something cold, almost metallic crawled across her back and parked up at the base of her spine. Nothing tangible, nothing she could see or touch, but it lingered like a festering toothache.

Randy. Where are you?
The night was turning colder, drawing the last vestige of warm intoxication from her stick thin body. She heard the crackle of breaking twigs, as if walked on by a heavy boot or a huge paw, and a sudden gush of icy wind whipped her hair around her face.
Somewhere out there was the placid lake, now obliterated by the expanding mist. She could hear water, loud, churning and angry as if lashed by a ferocious storm. What if she was heading for it and couldn’t see it?

Spurred on by fear, Janine tried to run but restricted by her body clinging full length gown and one high heeled shoe, she stumbled and fell over an object on the ground; the missing shoe. Shoving her foot quickly into the shoe, she was pushed from behind as she stooped to secure the ankle strap. She landed on her stomach with a force that knocked the breath from her body. Thrashing on the ground she tried to stand, catching her leg in the hem of the dress. Whimpering and breathless she struggled to free her legs, tearing the material. Wrapping her arms around the base of a spruce tree, Janine managed to pull herself to her feet. She saw a piece of her dress snagged on the tree. She must have caught her backside on an overhanging branch as she bent down and it had sprung back and hit her. In her unstable condition, she’d lost her balance.

Dissolving into near hysterical laughter, she tried to take stock of her predicament. How hard could it be? Her head was swimming, the ground spinning. It was as if she was walking on sponges. The goddamn mist was red.

She smelled it again, cloyingly close, the sickly stench of breath in her face from a mouth she could not see. Felt the warmth of the fetid breath settling on her cheeks. Now the snorting, snuffling creatures of the night gave way to the deepest and long buried nightmares from her childhood of being chased by something that wanted to cause her harm.

The sound of surging water was all round her, filling her head with the force of it. Where was it coming from? Emily told her it was a serene and gentle lake. It didn’t sound anything like a tranquil lake. Might have been a storm wrecked sea from the roaring it made, muffling any other noises she might have encountered.

In running away had she inadvertently turned in the wrong direction? There seemed to be no end to the emptiness. Where was the house? Where were the other guests? Surely, she should have passed or seen somebody by now.

The red mist began to phosphoresce, emitting a foul odour that smelled like putrefied death. In one gut wrenching moment and as impenetrable as a fortress the blackness descended upon her.
 
~ * ~
 
“It’s so much darker here tonight,” Emily said as she and Barnstable followed the contours of the wooden fence. “Janine didn’t come this way or we would have caught up to her by now. She’s going the wrong way.”

The situation opened up a whole new danger. The possibility of winding up in the lake or losing your way in the unforgiving forest was unthinkable. The thickness of the woods meant that light, even during the day, did not penetrate past the first row of trees.

Captain McNally’s Forest and Wildlife Rangers could testify to many a visitor in the area whose body had never been recovered.
Turning abruptly, Emily and Emett quickly headed toward the side of the house, to where the Simpson’s property bordered the Wapiti Hills.
 
~ * ~
 
In the claustrophobic darkness, Janine screamed as an exposed shoulder was scraped by the tip of a sharp, pointed object. Her dark world suddenly rotated as she was spun around sharply, disorientating her. The fetid breath hit her full in the face and she almost vomited.

Before she could recover, the stole tightened around her neck and what now felt like the claw of a large animal, ripped the top of her exposed breast. She struggled with the stole, gasping for breath. She was near to passing out when the fur loosened. Collapsing onto the dew dropped ground she thrust it from her neck as if it contained a serpent.

The obnoxious stink of the thing that stalked her seemed to penetrate her hair, her clothes, even her skin.
Straining to see her attacker her voice raspy and weak, Janine feebly cried out. “Who are you? What do you want?” No vocal response, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she vaguely recognised a shape of huge proportion, not a true figure, more like a deep shadow.

The agonising jolt to her back brought a painful cry from her lips as she was crushed beneath the shadow’s oppressive weight. The creature’s full weight flattened her, forcing her already churning stomach to fill her mouth and spew out, bringing an almost human sound of revulsion from the thing that was pinning her down. Quickly shifting its weight, it moved to the side, releasing her left leg. Survival instinct kicking in Janine raised her leg and kicked with all her strength, catching the shadow-thing in what she hoped was the general area of its groin. Judging by the agonised groaning, she’d landed on her target.

Sheer panic, absolute dread spurring her on, Janine ran, tripped, slipped, and ran again. With little left of her expensive gown to impede her progress, she ploughed through the trees, catching her feet in the gnarled stumps, and clumps of clinging, stinging vegetation. Janine dared not look back, nor spared one second to rest; it was chasing her, rapidly closing the ground between them.
Grabbing her shoulders and spinning her round, the hulking creature forced her backwards. Unaware of the direction in which she was heading, Janine screamed, scratched, kicked, and bit him, getting a mouthful of what could only have been described as thick, coarse hair. It felt greasy as if smothered in brilliantine hair oil. She shivered, repulsed by the sensation it produced.

With courage born of desperation, she drew back her fist and punched the demented creature, not caring where it landed. The abomination held fast.

Her shoulder blade popped, leaving her burning in agony. A rib was next to go. The shadow thing was breaking her.
Feeling her hair standing on end from the static as they approached the electric fence, she tried to look behind her. Just before the blinding flash lit up the sky, Janine Preston saw its face.
 
~ * ~
 
Emily was already sprinting ahead when Janine’s piercing cry split the night air, “Janine, where are you? Janine.”
Catching up to Emily, Emett took her arm, pulling her over to the left where the glowering night seemed blacker than ever. “It came from over here.”

“Why is she so far out? I shouldn’t have let her go alone. We’ve got to find her.” She was panicking now, fearing for Janine’s safety. They did not hear a further cry.

Emily paused, wrinkling her nose. “What’s that awful smell?”

“Stay here. I’ll take a look.”

He didn’t need to venture far before he found the source of the odour. In shock, he returned to Emily.
“What is it, Barney?” she asked, unnerved by his expression, “What’s happened?”
“I think I’ve found Janine. Don’t go over there. Emily, we have to go back and call the police.”
“Why...?” She ran over and abruptly stopped, staggered by what she saw. Sobbing, she sank to the ground, “Oh, Janine.”

AUTHOR BIO:

I was born in Leek, North Staffordshire U.K. Presently living in Derbyshire U.K. I lived and worked in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada for many years, from where I was able to continue my love of and interest in the Native American people and their culture. Child of the Heathen is my first novel to be published (by Rogue Phoenix Press). I have written a sequel; a third book is begun. Some of my other interests include the local theatre company of which I am a member, gothic weekends in Whitby, and all things supernatural.
 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Celebrate the small things: jersey day

Dry July, Blue September, Mo-vember, National Safe Work Month, Women's Health Week, Adult Learner's Week, NAIDOC Week, Diabetes Awareness Week, Big Red Ride, White Balloon Day, National Pyjama Day and Stress Down Day are just some of the many fund and awareness raising campaigns occurring through the year in Australia. The full list can be found on the National Calendar.

Friday September 1 is Jersey Day. Jersey Day is a campaign which seeks to promote awareness of organ donation. On this day, people are encouraged to wear the jersey of their favourite sporting team to work or school in order to support the cause and promote conversations about organ donation. 

Back in the day, people were given the option of nominating themselves as organ donors on their driver's licences. Now, if you want to be an organ donor, you have to visit the website and register. This change resulted in a drop in the number of registered donors. Hence, the advent of Jersey Day which was inspired by the story of Nathan Gremmo who tragically died in an accident in 2015. Nathan's family chose to give the gift of life to others to honour the legacy of Nathan's generous personality.

My favourite team is the Bulldogs, who as you may know if you follow Square Pegs have had a terrible year. However, it was with great pride that I wore my jersey to work on Friday and had a number of conversations with people about organ donation as a result.

Today, I am celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of life. God may breath life into our lungs, but through the miracle of organ donation we too can give the gift of life.

Not a registered donor? Sign up today. register in Australia

Friday, August 25, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a beautiful badge

When I started at my current job, just over one year ago, I was pleased to learn that the company provided a uniform. I was given three white business shirts, and 2 blue polo shirts; all of which bore the company name and logo. My manager also wore the uniform, as did one of my colleagues; sometimes. After the exit of two of my workmates, their replacements did not wear uniforms, and when our manager left, I was the only employee wearing the uniform.

After one year, said uniform began to show its age. The brilliant white now not so brilliant, nor white, and the polos faded. One even had a hole in the side.

Now manager-less, I suggested at one of our team meetings that we should either wear uniforms or name badges in order to improve our professional appearance. I would have preferred uniforms, but in the democracy of the management team, badges were chosen as the way to go.

I took responsibility for designing and ordering the badges. They arrived on Thursday and I was, and am, very pleased. I think they look great, and I'm happy not to have to wear old shirts any more.

The arrival of these magnetic name badges made my week.

What little thing (either magnetic or not) made you happy this week?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Celebrate the small things: the air rushing out

This time last week I had just farewelled mum at the airport after her week visiting us here in Darwin. I know she had a great time, and I certainly loved having her here, especially as her visit coincided with my birthday. Mum was typically meticulous in her planning (despite her son's deficiencies in this area), and exuberant in pursuit of new experiences and knowledge. This is one of the many reasons I love her: she remains active in life, and sharp and inquisitive in the mind. Mum is not one to stagnate, nor will she let life pass her by. In this way, I am very much my mother's son.

When mum left, life resumed its usual cadence, although this past week has been an interesting one, particularly at work. A former employee, more than merely disgruntled as it turns out, lodged a formal complaint against us to the regulatory body which oversees Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in Australia. His allegations are all either false, or at best exaggerated. We have had to assemble evidence to respond to these allegations. In spite of the inconvenience and the disappointment, we feel this investigation against us will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

I finished work early yesterday so Jessie and I went to Berry Springs for a swim. It was a perfectly excellent and super relaxing way to finish off a challenging week. This morning I went to a men's breakfast at church which was great. Not so great was getting a punctured tyre on the drive home. I got a little dirty and pretty sweaty changing the tyre, but at least I had a good spare in the boot.

For mum, and her visit, for my workmates and the way we stick together and help one another, for the beautiful and peaceful Berry Springs, for the men's ministry at church and for my trusty Ford Falcon XR6...I am truly grateful.

What challenges did life throw at you this week? How did they inspire gratitude?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Race for the Spoon

Fortunately I missed the Bulldogs last game. It was another Thursday night game, but I was enjoying dinner with my mum and fiance while my team was once more demonstrating how they have 'packed it in' for NRL season 2017.

This week, against fellow also-rans, the Rabbitohs we managed a goal to end the abysmal  6 week sequence of scoreless first halves. Incidentally, just three years ago the Bulldogs and the Rabbitohs contested the Grand Final. As I said, the mighty have fallen.

Bulldogs coach, Des Hasler, who must shoulder much of the blame for this forgettable season, described the team's performance against the Rabbitohs as 'flat'. 'Flat' seems a woefully inadequate word. We can't score points or stop points- in fact we can't even hold on to the ball, and we haven't won a game since we just beat the last placed Knights by 2 points in round 18, 6 weeks ago. Pathetic seems like a more accurate descriptor.

With three rounds to go until the play-offs, and the teams below us on the table, playing well and actually winning some games, the once-were-mighty Bulldogs could be headed for the ignominy of the Wooden Spoon. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Sad Bulldog

My team, my beloved Bulldogs have been in the feature Thursday night football game for two consecutive weeks. This inevitably leads disgruntled and disappointed fans like myself, to donning our jerseys and settling down to cheer for our team, knowing that we will, in all likelihood, lose the match despite our most insane hopes. Everyone else watching knows it too. 

It also means suffering through the pre-amble, the pre-match panel discussion which these days is just a tragic reminder of our inadequacies as a rugby league team. Even the commentators know we will lose, and don't pretend to 'talk up' their chances.

Among the usual things said about how we are limited in attack ( a kind way of saying that we suck) and therefore would probably lose, this alarming statistic was shared with viewers around the country: The 2017 Bulldogs have the worst attacking record of any Bulldogs team since 1968. That's 49 years. The same number of years I have been visiting this planet. Back then we weren't even called the Bulldogs. We were known as the Canterbury-Bankstown Berries and with a sissy name like 'Berries', it's a wonder we won any games at all.

We played the Panthers last Thursday night and competed well in the first half. In the second, it was anybody's game, but winning would require a change of gears: a lifting of intensity. The Panthers shifted gears and began to overpower us. In response we maintained maximum effort without changing gears. The final score was 8-16, but it may as well have been 8-36 or worse. 

There was a game earlier in the year against the defending premiers which was likewise in the balance. Ours for the taking, if we were good enough. We weren't. We aren't. Woe are Bulldogs fans. Woe. Woe. Woe.

Maybe we should start calling ourselves the Berries again because we play football as well as fruit does.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: A Visit to Heaven

I believe that earth is a mixture of heaven and hell. People, places and the experiences we have with them and at them. There are times when we feel like we are in Heaven and times when we feel like we are in Hell. However, these turn out be rare when compared with the 'in between' times, which to extend the analogy using a Roman Catholic concept, I will call purgatory: the waiting room. Most of us spend the majority of our time in the waiting room. True highs and lows, the agonies and ecstasies of life are not the norm, but that is exactly why we rejoice in the good times, and, armed with hope, we fight through the hard times. Last week was a week of highs.

Early Wednesday morning, I dropped my daughter at the airport to catch her flight back home to Wollongong via Sydney. The week she spent up here, in what some call paradise (dry season), Darwin, was so great. Wonderful on many levels and for many reasons.

I'm stoked that she came, and that we were able to do heaps of cool and fun stuff together. As Jessie  and I were working through the week, my daughter also had plenty of time to chill and enjoy being on her own: warm, relaxed and unhurried.

Last Saturday we drove to Litchfield National Park which is about 90 minutes from Darwin. It is just one of many places in and around Darwin where nature can be seen at her spectacular and beautiful best. One of the places inside the park we visited was Wangi Falls, and I can't imagine a more heavenly place. It was awesome. The photo, as is normally the case, does not do it justice.

I'm so grateful to have had this time with my daughter, who is now a young woman of whom I am immensely proud. But wait, there's more: this time next week, my mum will be here for a visit, and there's no need to say how much I am looking forward to that.

What's the most beautiful place you have visited? When have you felt like you were in heaven?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bulldogs Blasted

At the conclusion of the match I tore off my jersey and threw it on the floor - I am prone to melodrama. The funny thing is, we scored first. We actually led 6-0, until we remembered that we don't know how to play. What can you say when your team negatively exceeds your low expectations? What can you say when the tiny flicker of hope is rudely and dramatically snuffed out by reality?





To be fair, we had very little possession...what? Wait a minute! The reason we had very little possession is because we either

  1. kept dropping the ball
  2. kept giving away stupid penalties
  3. missed so many tackles that the Broncos either scored, or were able to force drop outs and have repeat attacking sets
The truth is we were appalling as usual. The try we conceded right before half time epitomized how far we have fallen. I'm pretty sure, I could score a try against the Bulldogs at the moment - I mean, by myself.

This game against the Broncos was really our last throw of the dice. We simply had to win to have any hope of making the play-offs (or so they kept saying-as I laughed until my sides ached) and not only did we not win, we did not even come close to winning, and the opposition, The Broncos, were not THAT good.

Final score:     Broncos 42.   Bulldogs 12.

Only deeply ingrained thrift and sentimentality prevented me from tearing my Bulldogs jersey and throwing it away. (They are not cheap and this one was a gift from my children.) It is also true to say that even if we never win another game of rugby league, I will remain loyal to my team even if it kills me to do so.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two Points Guaranteed

Under normal circumstances it would be hard to find something to say about your team's performance -either good or bad- when they did not play on the weekend. However, the demise of the 'once were mighty' Bulldogs is not an ordinary state of affairs.

Yes, we received two competition points for nothing, courtesy of a bye. Each team gets two of these during the season which makes it impossible for any team to finish the season with zero points. The byes are organised around the State of Origin period (New South Wales V Queensland) and are designed to give representative players are little bit of breathing space, and to offset the negative effects felt by teams with a high number of rep players who are unavailable for their clubs the weekend before each Origin game.

The Bulldogs had three players in the NSW team, but did it make any difference to our performances? No. Rep players or not, injured players out or not...it's all the same. We try hard-most of the time-but seem unable to sustain the effort for the whole 80 minutes. In patches we look good, and our defense is not terrible. In fact we are ranked the third best defensive team as measured by number of points conceded.

Having such solid defense should see a team placed higher on the ladder. The best defensive team, Melbourne Storm, are leading the competition and also boost the best attack. Makes sense right? Statistics may not tell the whole story but they don't lie.

Why can't we score points? Here are the three things hindering our attack.


  1. Lack of organisation. The Bulldogs do not have a dominant organizing halfback.
  2. Lack of speed in the play the ball: both in the actual getting up and playing the ball, and in the service from dummy half.
  3. Lack of speed in the backline. The Bulldogs do not have any guns in the backs. The backs score most of the tries.
I rest my case. I can hardly wait to attack my team again next week after we have done battle  with one of the top eight contenders: the Brisbane Broncos. I would wish us luck but we need more than luck.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Celebrate the small things: mawish

Let me begin with a confession: I thought moreish was spelled mawish. I even confidently told a student so. M-A-W-I-S-H, I said, is a synonym for hungry, as in I'm feeling mawish. Yes, shocking isn't it? Not only the wrong spelling, but the wrong definition. Upon realising this grave error-just now- I have determined that I am no longer fit to teach English as a second language, and I will therefore be submitting a letter of resignation on Monday.

The timing is most unfortunate though, as I am soon to be, if my
information is correct, made permanent, having been unwillingly retained as a casual employee for nearly a year. I learned this piece of good news last night at a work dinner held to farewell one of our colleagues who received a better offer, and rightly accepted it.


I chose the restaurant: a little selfishly picking one within walking distance of home, so I could have a few drinks. The restaurant was called Moorish-no kidding. What a coincidence right?

Not at all. The name of this terrific tapas bar and restaurant made me think of the word mawish, which I now know is actually spelled moreish and evidently does not mean hungry, but rather refers to food which makes you want to eat more of it. You know the feeling: you taste something and you love it and you have to eat more of it.

Moorish refers to the Moors (North African Arabs), so Moorish food is cooked in the style of this region. We had a four course tapas banquet which featured a succession of wonderfully flavoured and textured dishes. Everyone was pleased with the food. We had a great night. The place was packed, but the service was sharp. Read my review of Moorish cafe. An all round winner, and the inspiration for this celebrate post in which I was all set to play with the words Moorish and Mawish. Unfortunately, as I explained earlier, mawish is not a word, but Moorish and moreish still works as an example of a pair of homophones.

Homophones? I guess I still have something to offer as an ESL teacher. Perhaps I won't quit after all. Maybe I'l stay and enjoy being made a permanent employee, which effectively means a pay rise. 

What do you think? Should I stay on? Have you eaten Moorish food? What food would you describe as moreish?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Strange Horizon

Title:The Strange Horizon                                     Glimpses into the Mind of a Dreamer

       
 ISBN: Ebook 978-1-62420-324-4

            Print     978-1548336950

Author: G. L. Didaleusky



Genre: Short Stories (mystery, suspense, contemporary, horror, science fiction and fantasy)

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 1


 Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE
A Collage of Short Stories emerged from my imagination--a few actual experiences--and some possibly conjured from a previous life, if you believe in reincarnation and Edgar Casey.

BLURB
The Strange Horizon ranges from stories less than a hundred words to over four thousand words. There isn’t any profanity, gore or sexual innuendo in any of the short stories. The genre varies from mystery, suspense, contemporary, horror, science fiction and fantasy. You may smile, chuckle, express a tear or two, feel a sudden chill or feel a warmth at the end of the story. Emotions are in the mind of the reader and the heart cuddles or rejects those emotions.


EXCERPT
Guiding Spirit

Adam leaned forward and slid his shovel between the sidewalk and six inches of snow. His peripheral vision saw someone walking toward him. He straightened up and gazed at an elderly man wearing a parka. A cold northern wind gently blew at the man’s white hair and long white beard. Adam threw the shoveled snow next to him and said, “How are you?”

“Just fine, thank you.”

“I’m Adam Morris.”

“Please to meet you. I’m Ben Stanton.”

“Didn’t you and your wife move into the old Kramer house last month.”

“Yes. We did.”

“Is everything all right there? It sat vacant for a few years.”

“It’s just fine. We’re very comfortable.”

“I heard you’re going to play Santa Claus at the family shelter on Christmas Eve,” Adam stated.

“Yes. I’m looking forward to it”

“You sure do fit the part. Don’t need an artificial beard.”

“No. I don’t,” Ben said, pulling at his beard.

“I understand you retired a few years ago.”

“That’s right.”

“What kind of work did you do?”

“Public relations for a large global company.”

“Did your wife retire too?”

“You ask a lot of questions. You must be a newspaper reporter.”

“Yes. I am. How did you know that?”

“You’re standing in front of the Northern Star Newspaper office.”

Adam rolled his eyes, grinned. “Never was good as an undercover reporter.”

Ben placed his hands on his large protruding abdomen and chuckled.

“You laugh from your belly just—”

“I know,” interrupted Ben. “Just like Santa on TV or in the movies.”

“Didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t. It doesn’t bother me at all. Matter of fact, I take it as a compliment.”

Two teen-aged boys approached them. “Hey old man, where’s your reindeers?’ asked one of the boys. The other boy snickered.

“Get out of here you juvenile delinquents.” Adam scowled at them.

The boys kicked snow on the shoveled sidewalk in defiance and took off running.

“You little brats.”

“They mean no harm,” interjected Ben. “They got good hearts. Their attitudes just need some guidance.”

“Being in public relations, I would think you’d have negative judgments of people.”

“No. I try to see positive attributes in people. It’s the way I am. Too old to change now.”



~ * ~



About a week before Christmas, the Santa at the mall became sick. Adam heard about it when the manager of the mall came into the newspaper office to place an ad in the paper. He contacted Ben, who accepted the position.

Ben sat in a large, adorned chair. A woman in her late twenties, holding the hand of a girl around six-years-old, walked up the red-carpeted entranceway and stopped a couple feet away from him.

“Hi, Santa,” said the little girl.

“Well, Jasmine, how are you today?”

“How did you know her name?” asked the woman, frowning.

“Santa knows all the boys and girls of the world. Although, I heard you call her name a few minutes ago when you walked behind me.”

“So, Jasmine. What do you want for Christmas?”

“A daddy. Mine died when I was a baby.”

“I’m not sure if Santa can promise you that.” Ben glanced at the mother. A tear ran down her cheek.

Jasmine’s face saddened, as her shoulders slumped. “That’s okay, Santa Claus. I still love you.”

“Bless your heart. What else can Santa bring you Christmas morning?”

“My own bed.”

“Do you share your bed with someone else?”

“Oh. No Santa. The shelter owns my bed.”

The mother leaned forward. “We’re staying at the family shelter in town. It’s just temporary until I earn enough money for a place of our own.”

“I hope things work out for you and your daughter. Have a Merry Christmas. And God bless you.” Ben handed Jasmine a candy cane.



~ * ~



On Christmas day, Adam sat at his dining room table surrounded by family members.

“I heard that Ben and his wife suddenly left town two days ago,” Carl remarked, Adam’s brother. “No one seems to know where they went.”

Adam frowned. “That’s strange. Ben was looking forward to playing Santa Claus at the family shelter.”

Maybe they wanted to spend Christmas with relatives in another town or state.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why’s that?” asked Carl.

“Ben and his wife were ‘only children’ and didn’t have any relatives. At least that’s what he told me a while back.”



~ * ~



“Jasmine, get over here.”

“Karen. She’s okay,” said a young man in his late twenties, sitting next to her on a bench in the mall. Across from them, they were dismantling the Santa Claus stage.

“I still can’t believe how we happened to meet after not seeing each other since high school.”

“Me either. The elderly man that was playing Santa here at the mall came into my store a few days before Christmas. He asked me if I would go to the family shelter on Christmas Eve dressed up like Santa. I couldn’t believe it when I saw you there.”

 Email address: gosky1@outlook.com


Website URL: www.gregdidaleusky.com

Trying to Lose

Sixty percent possession and at least three or four real scoring opportunities ought to guarantee that you take a comfortable lead into half time. Likewise, playing at your spiritual home ground, in front of a full house of loyal fans in a match designated as send off/thank you for one of your most popular players: a player who epitomizes the team and everything they stand for - and yet one who the management of the club has decided to let go to another club - should ensure success.

Playing against a team of mainly rookies who are coming last in the competition and are also rated last in defense, should also guarantee not just a comfortable half time lead, but also a comfortable win and a much needed two competition points.

Perhaps if we were talking about any other club, this post would be redundant because what should have logically happened, would have actually happened. However, I am talking about my beloved Bulldogs who suck, and who furthermore in the dying stages of the game, looked like they were trying to lose.

Check out the highlights if you are interested, but here's what happened in a nutshell. By half time, the Doggies 8-0 lead had been reduced to 8-6, and was ,over the course of most of the second half, turned into a 18-8 deficit. We are ranked 4th in defense, so how, one may well ask, did the last placed team score three tries against us?

The Bulldogs hit back with two tries in five minutes, the last of which was converted with roughly ten seconds to go in the match. Score: Bulldogs 20. Knights 18. While the players were celebrating victory on the sideline, the opposition was rushing for one last kick off and a hail Mary play at the death. The short kick off resulted in the Knights being awarded a penalty with regular time expired.

The penalty was justified. The very same player mentioned earlier, the most popular Bulldog, the heart and soul of the team, committed a deliberate, and completely unnecessary foul to concede the penalty. A successful penalty kick would have locked the scores at 20-20 and forced the game into golden point extra time.

The Knights kicker made an embarrassingly bad attempt at kicking the goal and the Bulldogs won the match.

Was I happy about the win? Not really. It was an ugly win, and saying that a win is a win regardless of by how much you win or how you play, is fine when you are a premiership, or at least a play-offs contender. When you are neither, when you are a monumental disappointment to your fans...such a win feels hollow.

Bulldogs V Knights Round 18 match highlights

Friday, July 7, 2017

Celebrate the small things: a forest of daleks

I woke up feeling angry this morning, and it wasn't because it was Saturday and I didn't have to go to work -I like my job a lot- but it may have had something to do with the dream from which I awoke.

In a small and crowded backpacker hostel, I was telling everyone, during breakfast, about my cystectomy. The reactions of my extremely proximate house mates ranged from indifference to mild interest. Oh no not again.*

So I had some breakfast and decided to go for a walk, a long walk. I had planned to go to the gym, but I had a fairly heavy workout yesterday after work, and suspected the HiFit class I was planning on joining might kill me.

After 45 minutes I was still feeling agitated despite the perfect Dry Season weather and my favourite tunes filling my ears courtesy of one of my best friends: my iPod shuffle. I entered George Brown Botanic Gardens and was moderately intrigued by the African garden, walked through the Monsoon rainforest, and then I saw this.



I took some photos while reciting the words 'exterminate, exterminate' in my head, and proceeded up a hill because there was one available. (Darwin is generally very flat.) Half way up the hill I realized I wasn't angry anymore. The Dalek trees and the exertion of a brisk hill climb had blown the bad vibes away.

This week was the last student free one as the new term starts on Monday. I've had a very productive term break and I'm looking forward to actually teaching again, as opposed to preparing to teach. As usual I have much for which to be thankful, but particularly today, I'm celebrating Darwin's awesome weather, Dalek trees, hills, iPod shuffles and my job.

What do you do with your anger?

* One of the things I've learned about myself over the last few years is that I am overly interested in the opinions/reactions of others- which is incidentally why I should stay off social media. I can be a little childish in wanting attention. When I started writing about the dream, I was struck by the obvious manifestation of this truth in my dream.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Oh the humanity!

I apologize for the hyperbole, but when you hear my sad story, you will understand and forgive me.

In 1979, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs played the St.George Dragons in the rugby league Grand Final. I was at a relatives house surrounded mostly by Dragons fans. I was 11 years old and it was on this day that my love affair with the Bulldogs began in earnest. I would have gone to live games before with Dad, who was also a Doggies fan, and I would have watched many games on TV, but the Grand Final of 1979 was the moment I first remember being emotionally effected by the performance of a sporting team.

At half time of the aformentioned game the Dogs were behind 17-0, and I, unable to bear it, left the house to spend the second half doing what boys do in backyards. The final score was 17-14. I missed the exciting second half comeback which despite not giving us victory, did help set the platform for a premiership win the following year against the Roosters. (see below) and provide a seminal moment in my life.


That 1980 title win was the first of four for the Bulldogs in that decade. ('84, '85 and '88) We won again in 1995 and once more in 2004. More recently we qualified for the Grand Final in 2012 and 2014 - unfortunately losing on both occasions.

This year we suck! After 17 rounds we are down the bottom of the table with the also-rans who have no hope of making the play-offs this year. I am appalled by how bad we are, so to comfort myself I am going to dedicate Tuesdays for the rest of the season to lamenting and lambasting my beloved Bulldogs.

To close on a positive note, here is a glorious moment from the past. One of the most famous of all Grand Final tries. This is from the 1980 when we were known as The Entertainers of rugby league.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrate the small things: some toilet paper and a spade

Let me say right off the bat that I am not a BCF* guy. Admittedly, we camped on our road trip to Darwin, but we drove from sun up to sunset each day and pitched our super easy to set up tent before eating, showering and sleeping. That's more like just sleeping in a tent rather than camping.

Real Men is the name of the mens' ministry group at my church, and we had a mens' camp last weekend which is why I didn't write a 'celebrate' blog last week. I took the longest time to decide to go on this camp, and a mate of mine was in the same boat. Eventually we talked each other into it in the belief that God wanted us there for some reason: that, despite our reticence, it would be good for us somehow.

The campsite was only accessible by 4WD and there were no amenities. Apart from the abundance of equipment brought along by the BCF guys (that is everyone else) this was real camping complete with campfire on the beach. 

It was a weekend of many firsts for me. I had never driven along a beach in a 4WD for example, but there is one debut experience in particular which I want to share with you.

One of the guys returned from somewhere and drove a spade into the ground. It functioned as a giant toilet roll holder even though there was just one roll on it. After breakfast on the first morning, I grabbed the spade and toilet roll and asked some of the guys for some advice about doing what bears do. 'Dig deep and cover well,' was the pearl of wisdom I received.

To spare you the unsavoury details of my expedition to answer the call of nature, I'll just say this: I really appreciated my toilet when I got home. I'm also very thankful for toilet paper.

Aside from the overabundance of conversations about 4WDs and fishing, I really enjoyed the experience and I now know why I was there. It wasn't for me, but for my mate who I learned had good reason to be very reluctant to go camping. I applaud his bravery and I'm glad I was there.

Have I converted to an outdoorsman? Am I now a BCF guy? No. Will I camp again? Probably. Are you a BCF person? Or do you prefer less adventurous forms of recreation?

* BCF There is a outdoor recreation store in Australia called BCF which stands for Boating Camping Fishing.

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