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.


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


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


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.


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
"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 let him be.

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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.


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?


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.


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.


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

Website URL:
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?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Perfect Timing

Author Jeffery J. Smith  will be awarding a digital copy of Perfect Timing to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Title: Perfect Timing
Author: Jeffery J. Smith
ISBN: 978-1-62420-321-3
Genre: Sci-fi
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1

Accidentally sucked from the present, caterer Crik must prove he started the trend that led to the future’s utopia—or be returned to waiting bullets.

 Accidentally transported to the future, caterer Crik escapes house-arrest with Tepper, his possible distant descendant. While pursued by volunteer vigilante Voltak, goofball Crik explores Geotopia—where buildings grow, people incorporate animal powers, smart phones know it all, and vehicles defy gravity—seeking clues. If he can discover, understand, and articulate the future’s public policy that works right for everybody, he can prove he was their founder, the lone agent of change who put society on its path toward universal prosperity and harmony with nature. If he fails to convince the Futurite Authorities, they wouldn’t return their unexpected visitor to the exact second he left—something their law requires—to the moment when a hail of gunfire was bearing down on the luckless caterer and college dropout...would they?
 The image of a bellhop perches first on one leg then the other by the edge of a roof of a downtown skyscraper. Gazing downward, with both hands he raises a golf club over his head. The scene occurs on a large monitor.
Far below, the people look like a school of minnows flitting across the downtown central plaza. Others resemble tufts of beach grass clumped around street performers break dancing or juggling. The bellhop arches his back.
In a darkened laboratory, two wide-eyed technicians wearing white coats watch the monitor. In grainy color, the young man bends and stretches. Mouths agape, the viewers take notes and wipe their brows.
"This is your candidate?" the taller researcher says. "This golfer? Crik Duvall?"
The shorter one nods. "He's a bellhop, too."

~ * ~

At the wall atop the city's tallest hotel, Crik in the hotel's uniform lowers his club. The height does not frighten him, rather, the view always intrigues him. People sure look little, Crik thinks. Must be how landlords see us.
Crik takes a few practice swings. He steps back from the edge and tees up. He drives a Whiffle golf ball into the air without a hitch. The headwind blows the hollow ball back to him. He catches it. Yes! He replaces the plastic ball on the tee — yo-yo golf.
Lifting his bellhop cap, Crik runs his fingers through bleached streaks. Yo-yo golf will challenge enthusiasts of all nations, even become an Olympic event. I could pay down my tuition. Even help Randy with his debt. How dumb, messing with dudes from the vodka importers convention. What'd he know about ostrich racing anyway?
Crik's knuckles are tattooed with esoteric symbols. A stud twinkles in one ear but no weighty choker worries his swing. He's up to twenty-three straight successful drives-then-catches, closing in on his personal best.
The word "Fore!" rings out from a phone in his pocket, but he ignores it.
Steadying himself, Crik cocks his club for another swing and drives the white ball into the onrushing breeze.
Crik blinks. The plastic dot sails past him, into the void. Zippers.
"Whenever you don't answer your phone, I know where to find you."
Crik looks over his shoulder, resting the club on his other one.
Randy lets the door close behind him. "My man, break be over." Also a bellhop, Randy has his cap is on backwards. As he crosses the roof, his body lags behind his head, his neck nearly level.
Like offering his empty melon to a guillotine, poor sucker. Crik takes out a twenty-dollar bill. "Another big date before next payday, bro?"
"Man, you are like family." Randy takes the note.

~ * ~

"'Crik'. That short for cricket?" People always ask.
No, Crik was named Crik because Brook was already taken; his older brother got named that.
"Oh, I get it," the hotel manager said when interviewing Crik, "Creek."
Crik nodded. His hair waved, didn't curl, despite him being the black sheep of the family. "Yeah, Crik."
Crik is too busy to finish college. How many decades would it take to pay off the student loan — a necklace of stone — anyway? Especially with good friends unable to budget themselves. Better to have a fun job. Make money and enjoy life.

~ * ~

In the gloomy laboratory, tall Dr. Alvin Ultra and his short assistant Yuri Ivanov, both middle-aged, emit gasps and wag their heads, jotting down notes.
The monitor, thin as a sheet, hangs from a ceiling in a high corner. It's cabled to a device shaped like an oversized dog biscuit with a sharp point like a syringe, big as a sled, some parts shiny, some opaque. Colored wires twist and run to other odd-shaped devices that whir and jerk.
Crik hides his club on the ledge beyond the perimeter wall.
Dr. Ultra glances at Yuri. "Neither of these two has indicated any interest in social evolution, never mind founding an entirely new way of viewing the world."
Under his beret and bushy eyebrows, Yuri shrugs. "Destinon said to check out this moment."

~ * ~

The two bellhops enter the hotel's darkened conference hall. It's packed like a tent revival on the eve of the Second Coming. Of course. Who hates money?
Strains of Wagner's majestic movements accompany the big-screen video of unabashed luxury: Acres of vineyards remind Crik of the south of France where he'd backpacked one summer. A sleek car barely looking street-legal swerves through hills.
"Tesla Roadster," Crik whispers to Randy. "0 to 60 in 3.7."
On the screen, a limousine grand enough for comfortably hosting small celebrations sits in the driveway of a mansion with the long lines of Frank Lloyd Wright draped over a seaside cliff. Inside, fashion models adorned with jewelry befriend vain hosts sipping champagne. Famous paintings hang on the walls.
Crik leans over to his pal. "I've a print of that Van Gogh."
"With his autograph?" Randy whispers.
Crik frowns. "Ethics teaches us virtue is its own reward."
Randy frowns. "Economics teaches that reward is its own virtue."
My reward would be to never get another bill, late notice, or harassing phone call.
A sharp-dressed salesman in a flawless Armani suit strides onstage. His shiny hair neatly styled, Julian Seizure keeps his posture erect and full-chested, as would a cocksure general before his troops. His blistering smile stretches his narrow-featured face.
Seizure fires his words forcefully and pounds the air with a fist, keeping time with his avarice. "Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire back when a dime bought you a complete breakfast, noted, and I quote: 'It takes hard work to amass a fortune in industry, but any fool can get rich in real estate.'"
Perking up, Randy whispers to Crik, "Did he say any fool?" His eyebrows bounce up and down.
The big screen shows slender beauties gliding in Olympic-size pools and robust businessmen driving golf balls a mile down the links. The pitchman exhales. "The old boy nailed it. Nothing else comes close to how much people pay over the course of their lives for a place to live. Directly or indirectly, a big part of everyone's spending goes to a lease or mortgage."
The sea of heads nod in assent. The speaker opens his hands in empathy. "Since all of us have been foolish at least once …"
Amid the sea of heads, only Randy bobs agreeably — until he sees nobody else owning up and slinks lower into his seat.
"Why are we not all very well off?" The instant-riches guru taps his skull. "Foresight." Seizure stares down his audience. "It's not speculation when you see what's coming."
Crik snorts. Too good to be true. "Why can't telling the unvarnished truth work to sell?"
"I believe!" Randy says.
"Time to go, bro." Crik tugs his friend's sleeve. "I've a better idea. You think Seizure plays golf?"


 Jeffery J. Smith’s credits are in nonfiction, being published in both the popular and academic press on “geonomics” (ecological economics). Before switching to fiction, he edited the news site, the Progress Report and contributed regularly to TruthOut. His newsletter, The Geonomist, won a California Greenlight Award. He taught both English and composition and was a graduate scholar in linguistics. An inventor of games and engines, he lives on the West Coast and winters in Latin America, listening to tall tales.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrate the small things: returning to sugar

With the 2017 A - Z Blogging Challenge done and dusted, life has returned to normal - whatever normal is. I have new blog buddies, new heavy metal bands to enjoy and time to write. My long neglected WIP awaits nought but the return of inspiration and drive.

At work, after four short weeks due to a procession of public holidays concluding with May Day (which I didn't even know about until the Friday before), my pay packets will return this week to full, thus permitting my financial belt to be loosened.

About two months ago, an alien starting growing on my forearm. Initially diagnosed as a wart and treated as such, it eventually became apparent that this alien was not a wart. It turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma which is a non melanoma form of skin cancer. Having been named and shamed by a skin specialist, the alien invader was removed with a scalpel and I received six stitches in its place. The stitches were removed last Friday and as a result, today I was able to return to the gym. Speaking of results; tests conducted on the alien showed it was non-malignant and I am in the clear. Thank God.

For reasons I won't go into now, I had been using white sugar in my tea since shifting to the Top End, but with the move into my new CBD apartment, I have returned to raw sugar, and bless me, it is great. I love the smell of raw sugar and it tastes sweeter too I reckon.

How has your week been? Any returns?

Roughly two out of every three Australians will be treated for some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70. 750 000 people are treated for no-melanoma cancers every year, and the incidence is almost double for men compared to women.
a pictorial guide to skin cancer

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge reflections post

Let the reflective countdown begin:

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror; but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." - 1 Corinthians 13:12

5. Five reasons why this worked:

1.     The switch from a linkylist to using Facebook posts was a master stroke by the A - Z team. Much easier to participate and only active participants posted.
2.     I met, as always (this was my 4th year in the Challenge), some new people, discovered some cool blogs and learned a few things.
3.     From most of the blogs I visited and commented on, I received reciprocal action.
4.     I successfully challenged some people's perceptions of heavy metal.
5.     I enjoyed myself through discovering a whole bunch of new bands and expanding my knowledge of the diversity of my favourite music genre.

4. Four new bands I now want to hear more of because I've 'fallen in love" with them:

1.     A Breach of Silence (Australian metalcore)
2.     Hiranya (Spanish metalcore)
3.     Insomnium (Finnish melodic death metal)
4.     Taberah (Australian heavy metal)

3. Three bands which just missed the 26 cut. There were other worthy contenders but three notables who were very close were:

1.     Nightwitch   (US heavy metal)
2.     Barbie on Death Trip (German metalcore)
3.     Barbarion (Australian parodic metal)

2. Two top commentors. My thanks to all who visited and commented, but in particular let me name the following bloggers:
  1. Keith Hillman Keith's Ramblings
  2. Geraint Issit Penguin Ponderings
1. One reason why this was my best year so far in the A - Z: 
This year I wrote for myself. I wasn't trying to sell/promote my books, or increase traffic to/followers of my blog, I simply wrote about one of my passions. I guessed it would not be popular, but that wasn't the point. I write for myself, and that is the biggest thing I am taking away from the challenge this year.

I wish success and happiness to all of you, however you define those things, and I'll catch in 2018.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for Zombies Ate My Girlfriend

No judgments about whether the consumption of said girlfriend by
the un-dead is a good thing or bad thing, but this South African band was born in Capetown in 2012. They play high energy 'modern metal' with lyrical focus on social commentary and the human journey (and perhaps the inhuman journey as well). 

I don't know what 'modern metal' is, unless it is the context of ancient metal like Bach, but more accurately, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend's genres are melodic death metal and groove metalThey've also won awards and are considered one of South Africa's premier heavy metal bands.  

Gavin Marchbank (vocals), Adriano Rodrgues and Chris Hall (guitars), Marc Olwage (bass) and Ferdi Groenewald (drums) are the band members, and their debut full length release, Retrocide (2015) features this track: Jahan

I took quite a risk choosing heavy metal as my theme. I've come across very few metal head bloggers and although I am a member of a headbangers Facebook group, they are not very interactive and none of them visited me during the A to Z Challenge.

I very rarely meet people who enjoy heavy metal to the extent that I do, to the degree that they would happily name it as their favourite genre, and call themselves headbangers. Amongst my friends and family, I have no one with whom to share my music apart from my son who as I mentioned in a previous post still enjoys a bit of metalcore. My ex-wife often described heavy metal as music for people with mental problems, and my current partner has a similar view, although she is more tolerant of bands at the milder end of the spectrum.

My point is that most people like popular music, that is pop and rock. Heavy metal, particularly the more extreme genres are not 'popular' music, so I was never going to attract a huge amount of comments, followers or whatever, but that wasn't the point.

I love heavy metal music, and I hope if you've visited me and checked out some of the bands, then perhaps your perceptions of heavy metal have been altered somewhat. 

Anyway, it's been a hoot. Thanks for joining me.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for Yaksa

The world's most populous nation was bound to provide at least one of the featured headbanging bands in this A to Z. Hailing from the Chinese capital, Beijing, Yaksa are described  as nu-metal by Wikipedia, but they are metalcore, and I like them.

They are Hu Song (vocals). Huang Yao and Dao Xu (guitars), Gao Yufeng (bass), and Ma Lin (drums). In 2016, they released their fifth studio album, Undercurrent. This track is the title track from their previous record, You are not the Loser.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for X-Mantra

Nepal? Really? The hardest letter of the A to Z 'X', and I find a
heavy metal band in this little Himalayan  nation of just over 20 million people. Well why not? These Kathmandau homies (Rojesh Shesthra on vocals, Sandeep Tuladhar, guitars, BJ Shresthra, bass, Bikram Shrestha, drums, and Nabin Mahajarn, guitars) got together in Y2K and have been rocking the subcontinent with their thrash metal ever since.

Their most recent release was Pralaya and this track is called 2012

I back my van up to the loading dock with the metal tunes blaring to gain the attention of the backroom boys at Chemistwarehouse. In fact the music does not do the trick so I press the bell, and talk with the young fellow who opens the door for me. Turns out he's a metal fan too. 'Do you like Trivium?' he says. 'Never heard of them," I reply.

Next time I rock up to collect their used syringes- a job I did with distinction for many years- the young headbanger has a disc for me. "Have a listen to this," he says.

The disc was Ascendancy, and as a result of it and the generousity of the guy at Chemistwarehouse, I became a Trivium fan. The year was 2007, and the band was between releases Shogun to come, featuring one of Trivium's all time classics, Down from the Sky, and The Crusade which in my opinion is one of the best heavy metal albums of all time.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for Wrust

Botswana melodic death metal band Wrust were formed in 2000, in the city of Gaberone, and consist of Stux Daemon (vocals and guitar), Ben Phaks (bass), Oppy Gae (guitar) and Dem Lord Master (drums).
Heavy metal is considered a niche genre in Africa which perhaps explains why there aren't many bands from this continent.

Wrust's sophomore album Intellectual Metamorphosis was released in 2013, and from it is this track called Hate 'Em All

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Voivod

One of the big four Canadian thrash metal bands, Voivod are from Quebec and, like many bands which achieve any longevity, they have evolved and experimented with different genres over the years: from speed to progressive to thrash. 

Formed in 2002, Voivod have released 13 studio albums as well as a number of demos, live recordings and compilations. They've been through a few line-up changes as well. Current members are Snake, Chewy, Black and Away, and they feature on the band's most recent release, Target Earth (2013), and this track is of the same name. Target Earth

A young fella at church gave me a copy of a CD by a metalcore band called As I Lay Dying, and I liked it a lot. So much so that I bought another of their releases, (and every one since.) This a truly great metal band in my opinion-or should I say was. In 2014, lead singer and lyricist, Tim Lambesis was arrested, charged and convicted for conspiracy to commit murder. He went to jail, and the band went into indefinite hiatus. Lambesis was released from prison in February this year, but AILD has not resurfaced; the remaining members having got themselves another singer, changed their name and their style a little as well.

Lambesis' lyrics are some of the most profound I have ever heard, and I still love to listening to AILD. I don't know any of the details of what led him to hire someone to kill his ex-wife, but I hope and pray that he is okay, and that he will once again start writing.