Friday, December 8, 2017

Bubs and work buddies #CTST

Who doesn't love this time of year? The build up to the festive season. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ: a hope, love, peace and joy fest which we call Christmas.

I'm just 3 days away from travelling home to see my family so obviously I'm pumped about that, but this week has been noteworthy for a few other things which have caused me to give thanks and praise to my God.

Last night was our Christmas party for work. We went to the Darwin Sailing Club which funnily enough is situated right on the water. I really love the people I work with. We don't have a manager so we operate as a management team who report to the owners of the business. Smart, hardworking and nice people who all put our students first. We had a great night celebrating 2017, and looking forward to an even better 2018.

Of greater note: two of my cousins have very recently become first time dads. I love being a dad, even though my children are young adults now, so the prospect of my cousins and their wives beginning this journey of parenthood together is both exciting and praiseworthy.

How's your week been? Busy in the lead up to Christmas? What are you plans for the festive season?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Once Upon a Christmas Moon

 Title: Once Upon a Christmas Moon
Authors: Christine Young, C. L. Kraemer, Genie Gabriel
ISBN: ebook: 978-1-62420-369-5   POD: 978-1979071093
Genre: Anthology/Roamnce/Fantasy
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Amazon

A free digital copy of Once Upon a Christmas Moon will be given to a randomly chosen commentor during this blogtour.


A collection of stories about the magic of romance at Christmas time.



When Archer Steele shows up at Calanthe Durand's failing plantation with
an alligator over his shoulder, Cali thinks she's never seen a more
handsome man. During the war she had to defend herself and her servants
from both union and confederate soldiers. Independent and
self-sufficient, she vows to never marry. But Archer Steele has
different ideas. The first time Archer sees Cali in town, he feels an
instant attraction. He decides he will do everything and anything to
convince the beautiful Miss Durand he is worthy of her love. During the
weeks leading up to Christmas, he gives her twelve gifts in hopes she
will fall in love with him.


An ancient evil from the old country has arrived in the high desert of
Oregon. Gnome children are vanishing then re-appearing, showing various
stages of traumatization. Tiamoon, warrior gnome, will put her skills to
use alongside Killian, a handsome warrior, also in need of a cause.


With their world destroyed and their space ship malfunctioning, the
dogizens of Planet Canid have little choice but to crash land on Earth.
They face tortuous experiments at the hands of the Geeks in Green...or
they can trust an eccentric inventor and his zany family to deliver the
Canine Queen's puppies and help them celebrate new lives.

EXCERPTS: Once Upon a Christmas Moon

Twelve Days to Love
Christine Young

Near New Orleans October 2,1867
“Sam! Close the shutters on the back landing. I’ll get the front. Hurry. There’s a storm coming.” Calanthe Durand felt the small hairs on the back of her neck rise and shivers run down her spine. A big storm was on its way, probably a hurricane. Energy and fear poured through her like the pounding rain and flooding that accompanied high winds. Closing the house to the storm was imperative.
Cali took a moment to smile. She’d heard Sam grunt. He didn’t talk much, but she wouldn’t have survived the war or these last two years without Sam and his daughter Daisy. Both sides, the North and the South, had occupied their home. Daisy and Sam were family, the only family she had. She’d do whatever was necessary to protect them. Even with emancipation, life wasn’t easy for blacks in the south.
“I’ve got them, Miss Cali.” Daisy rushed past her and out the door. Wind whipped her hair and tugged at her dress. Branches torn from trees landed on the porch.
Cali followed, the storm swirling around her, her hair beating against her face. Her breath was ragged, and fast as her heart thundered. She pushed and tugged at her skirt, trying to detangle the fabric from her legs. “Get inside!” The tempest raging around them swallowed her voice.
“Not until we’re finished here.” Daisy fastened a shutter before moving on to the next one.
They worked together to protect the windows from the storm on the raised porch which stood five feet off the ground as wind howled around the eaves. A steady rain poured from the black sky, and lightning slashed the darkness.
Cali pushed dripping strands of hair that had slipped from her chignon away from her face. “I’ll light the candles. It could get dark here pretty fast.”
“Horses and livestock are safe for now.” Sam stepped beside her. “Hope it’s not a big one.”
“Hello up there. Hello, bonjour, anyone home?”
Hearing the voice from below, Cali left the protection of the house to lean over the porch railing. Below her a man stood, with cupped hands to his mouth and a dead gator slung over one shoulder a quiver filled with arrows on the other. “Hello. Can I get shelter from the hurricane?”
“Don’t know if it’s a hurricane.” Terrified of unknown men, Cali didn’t want to do the charitable thing. She pursed her lips, thinking, but all that came to surface was memories of troops commandeering her home. Good lord but she’d had to hollow out a bedpost to hide her jewelry. The soldiers had taken everything they could see. Sometimes she felt as if the war had ripped her soul from her body.
“Maybe not a hurricane. Could be just a bad storm, but I don’t want to be on the swamp right now. The water’s rising.” A loud roar and a thunderclap followed his pause. Behind him an old Cyprus tree crashed to the ground, uprooted by the wind.
“You can take shelter in the stable.” Cali watched his back stiffen, while she swallowed hard, but she wasn’t about to back down. The stable was good enough for some wandering man who she owed nothing. Besides, there was a tack room with a bed. No one slept there anymore, but she kept it clean and the moss in the mattress was fresh. Daisy had rolled it out two days ago. Yet a small niggling in the back of her head kept telling her this wasn’t a traveling man but one of means. He was a man she should treat as a gentleman. She’d been taught better but the war had changed all that and the lessons she learned were not served to her with a silver spoon.
“Much obliged.” He nodded before turning toward the barn. His natural swagger and broad shoulders sent a different kind of sensation through her. Warmth swept inside, swirling within and heating her frozen heart. For a moment he looked back, a strange expression on his well-chiseled face.

Boots and Blades
C.L. Kraemer

High Desert, Central Oregon
 Killian stared at the rise of rock from the desert floor. The emerging sun tricked the sky into revealing pink and blue streamers across the horizon exposing the severe lines of craggy mountains. Pine trees scented the air, and the slightest hint of sage tickled his nose.
“Where are they disappearing to? They’re much too young to be running away.”
“Master Killian?”
The young man turned his blue gray eyes from the mountain to answer. “Yes, Ms. Luna. What can I do for you?”
“Are you sitting out here at this early hour worrying about the young ones?” Luna’s black hair was braided down her back and she sported a shawl bright with her clan’s colors. She handed the young man a steaming cup of coffee. “I hope you don’t mind black. I’ve yet to milk the goat.”
Killian flashed her a seldom seen smile. “Ms. Luna, you make the best coffee in the desert. Black is fine.”
Taking up a spot next to him on the porch, she turned her attention to the mountains admiring the soft colors of rose and tan springing to life in the morning sun. “What is it that haunts you so?”
“The illogicality of it all.”
“Aye, I figured that. It is indeed illogical. The children are too responsible to leave unannounced, yet they are snatched from their beds in the middle of the night with no clues.”
Killian sipped the wicked black brew and allowed the liquid to spike his taste buds. The brilliant light of a new day was caressing the landscape and warming the air. “The kinders disappearing are not inclined to run off. They are the eldest and most reliable. These missings make no sense. They don’t happen in the same area or at the same time. They’re completely arbitrary and being so—random—has given me pause to find a method. If I were to discover a pattern, the recovery would be simpler.”
Luna watched the anguish distort his handsome young face. His blue eyes clouded to a dark grey when he spoke of the missing children, and his normally full mouth stretched to a tight slash across his face.
“I don’t wish to sound cruel, but none of these are young ones of your own family. Why take their absence to heart?”
Killian relaxed his scowl a bit, and a smile began to touch his lips. “Because it is they who will be the leaders of our clans in but a few short years. I had hoped to retire my sword someday to warm my boots by a fire. Having a mate and young ones around isn’t such a bad idea.”
He automatically sipped his dark brew. It would indeed be nice to warm my feet by a fire with a mate and children. The problem being I’ve found no person who makes me think in such terms.
“Well, I must admit, Master Killian, I never would have thought you to be the settling type.” She picked up his cup, returning from the kitchen minutes later with fresh coffee in the container.
“Neither had I, Ms. Luna, neither had I, however, aside from our missing young ones, there has been no conflict between the clans, nor have the Others tried to interfere in our affairs in a very long time. It is a good thing for many but for me, what good is a warrior without a war?”
Luna could only agree with his forlorn assessment; what good, indeed, was a warrior without a war? “Maybe a solution will arrive in the near future. You never know.”
Killian shrugged his shoulders. Who knew indeed?

Christmas Pawsibilities
Genie Gabriel

“So where is this alien craft?”
Fletcher had never completely trusted Commander Viktor Atrocitor. Since he had taken command of GIG two years ago, the atmosphere at the agency had become cold and suspicious, like the man himself. He seemed carved from six and a half feet of granite, blocky and scowling.
“It has disappeared.” Fletcher knew this statement would draw Atrocitor’s ire and disdain, but what was the use of denying the obvious?
“Fool! Can you do nothing right?” Atrocitor turned to the GIG agents waiting at a wary distance. “Search the neighborhood. Someone must have seen something or is hiding them.”
While Atrocitor berated Fletcher, other GIG agents spread throughout the neighborhood, offending pretty much everyone by demanding they stay in their houses while their property was overrun and searched.
After two hours of fruitless searching, Commander Atrocitor called a halt. “If you want to save your career and this town, you will bring me these aliens within twenty-four hours.”
As Fletcher watched the caravan of GIG vehicles disappear down the road out of Watermark, he felt like a six-year-old kid again. Bullied and humiliated for his belief that beings from distant galaxies simply wanted to explore and build alliances. They weren’t like aliens in movies who wanted to destroy humanity.
That’s why Fletcher started working at Geeks in Green. He thought he found other humans like himself who believed alliances with aliens could benefit everyone. Now he was starting to believe the rumors about Commander Atrocitor being heartless and determined to eliminate aliens were true. How could he know for sure?
His thoughts were interrupted when Agnes staggered out the back door toward the barn. “Who’s disturbing my goats?”
With her hair disheveled and her clothes askew, she did indeed look as if she had spent a raucous night of partying—the after-effects of being zapped by a ray gun.
Laycee and Fletcher followed Agnes into the barn, where the spacecraft was once again visible. Now the hatch was open, with guards standing on either side pointing ray guns at Agnes, Laycee and Fletcher.
“Holy extraterrestrial!”
With a sizzle of purple, one of the alien guards fired his gun and Fletcher crumpled to the ground.
“Why did you do that?” Ryan hustled out of the spacecraft.
“He is of GIG,” one of the guards stated. “He is a danger to our Queen.”
“Is he dead?” Ryan knelt over Fletcher’s inert body.
“Simply stunned. We will revive him when the danger to our Queen is gone.” The two guards loaded Fletcher onto a transport board, which levitated and moved inside the spacecraft.
“Your mouth isn’t moving but I can hear your words.” Laycee’s shocked whisper matched the stunned expression in her eyes.
“Our Canine Queen is birthing and is not to be disturbed.” This time the alien’s mouth moved as he spoke, and he looked like any other human except for a twinkle of star light in his eyes. “Weren’t you getting milk for the royal puppies?”
“Yes.” Ryan refocused his attention on this task, determined to ignore Laycee’s presence. What was she doing here anyway? “Agnes, do you have milk from your goats?”
“My goats don’t much like to be milked.”
“Surely it can’t be that difficult,” Ryan said.
Agnes lifted an eyebrow. “You’re welcome to try. I’ll get a clean bucket.”
Determined to get milk for the Queen’s puppies, Ryan began stalking one of the goats.
“I think it should be a female,” Laycee said.
Ryan felt like a first grader again. “I knew that.”
Laycee coughed behind her hand to cover her laughter. “There’s a girl goat on top of the space ship.”
Ryan looked up the curved, smooth surface. “Maybe there’s another girl somewhere easier to reach.”
He stepped around the space ship and over the boards broken when the craft crashed through the roof. “There’s a girl! Help me get her into a stall.”
While Ryan circled around the nanny goat one way, Laycee closed in on her from the other side. The little goat narrowed her eyes at the humans and, when they were within a couple feet of her, she let out a bleat and ran between Ryan’s legs. Startled, he stumbled and dropped to one knee.
“Watch out!” Laycee’s shout made Ryan turn in time to see an irritated male goat charging toward him.


Christie L. Kraemer Bio
A traveler for most of her life, C. L. Kraemer has settled in the Northwest with her husband and two cats. When not creating a new world or entity, she likes riding next to her husband on their Harleys.

Genie Gabriel
Fur against my face and the soft smell of a dog curled protectively around me existed before my first memories of this life. So began my journey of being more in tune with animals than with people.
I went through the expected motions of marriage, kids, divorce, and career, but usually out of step with most of the human population. This proved to be an advantage in developing an independence and a curiosity about things most people don’t even consider.
A minor health issue led to energy healing and becoming a master level Reiki practitioner. Working at the local animal shelter flipped on the switch to communicating with animals. Each dog I adopted showed miraculous changes most people couldn’t believe.
As a writer, I explored the mysteries of why people behave as they do, and also became fascinated by science, especially quantum physics. But perhaps my favorite way of writing stories is to ask the question, “What if?” and dive into those imagined worlds—surrounded by my beloved furbabies, of course!

Christine Young
Born in Medford, Oregon, novelist Christine Young has lived in Oregon all of her life. After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in science, she spent another year at Southern Oregon State University working on her teaching certificate, and a few years later received her Master's degree in secondary education and counseling. Now the long, hot days of summer provide the perfect setting for creating romance. She sold her first book, Dakota's Bride, the summer of 1998 and her second book, My Angel to Kensington. Her teaching and writing careers have intertwined with raising three children.  Christine's newest venture is the creation of Rogue Phoenix Press. Christine is the founder, editor and co-owner with her husband. They live in Salem, Oregon.
Christmas, anthology, romance, fantasy, adventure, mystery

Rogue’s Angels

Christine Young
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C. L. Kraemer

Genie Gabriel
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Nuptials and no balls #CTST

I love weddings. I'm divorced but that won't put me off marrying again when the time and the person is right. Last night, I was invited to a low key wedding dinner at Sky City. A student of mine and her long time boyfriend, decided on a registry marriage followed by a small celebratory dinner with a small group of friends. Both the bride and the groom have no family here in Darwin.

It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to attend this celebration. This student started her English course on the same day that I started teaching at Australian Careers College which was August 8, 2016. I've come to think of her as my younger sister, and she considers me not just her teacher, but her friend. It's a good relationship and I was chuffed to be included in the nuptial dinner.

This week also saw the beginning of the Ashes series between Australia and England (that's cricket I'm talking about - and you know how much I love cricket.)

A happy week indeed. May the marriage I celebrated last until death they do part, and may the Aussies smash our oldest sporting enemy: England.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends as well. How did you celebrate? How was the rest of your week?

* 'no balls' is a cricket term which I selected because it starts with the letter 'n'.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I was abducted by aliens

While that is a possible explanation for my lack of 'celebrate' posts over the past few weeks or so, it isn't what happened. I've just been busy. Life gets like that sometimes, and although I feel like the last few weeks passed so quickly they might not have even occurred, alien abduction was not the cause.

It was with great pleasure that I noted, only this morning, that one of our celebrate hosts, Lexa, posted on her blog for the first time in four months. So that's what I'm celebrating this morning. Welcome back Lexa, and all the best with your continued recovery.

I also have a new book out. My fifth novel Love Sick Love, was released on Wednesday, and I have already reached out to some of you to ask for help with promoting it. May I also ask now if any of you would be interested in hosting me with a post about my novel, or an interview? Let me know if you'd like to help.

Finally, this week, just last night in fact, I attended an historic event. The first ever rugby league test match to be played in the Northern Territory. Australia defeated Samoa in the quarter final of the World Cup and I was there to see it. Big smile.

How's your week been? Any 'loss of time' experiences* with aliens or otherwise? 

* no offence intended to Lexa btw

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Available now

Roughly three years after I began writing it, my most important novel so far, I am proud to announce that Love Sick Love, published by Rogue Phoenix Press, is now available to purchase.

Angus has battled an obsession with sex throughout his adult life. Although outwardly a model husband and father with a respectable life and a well-paying job, he has a shameful secret life which he has become highly skilled at hiding.

Cassy is married to Angus and has no idea about his secret life. In fact, with her own worries she has been pulling away from him, emotionally and physically which is making his behaviour worse. Although she does not know it, Cassy is fanning the flames of an inferno which threatens to destroy their marriage.

Lovesickness: the eternal bane of humanity, the inescapable affliction which we simultaneously crave and fear. For Angus and Cassy, already in the thirteenth year of their marriage, the painful journey to true happiness has only just began.

Love Sick Love is a brutally honest and confronting story of love, sexual obsession and hope.

Get your copy here Love Sick Love

Friday, October 20, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Just Do It!

I'm in the habit of going to the gym three or four days each week. It's usually the same days of the week, but I'm flexible. If I have something else to do, I'll skip gym and go the next day.

This week on three occasions, including today, I didn't have anything else to do, but I didn't really want to go and workout. On pone of those occasions, I didn't go. The other two, including today, I forced myself.

Today I forced myself to go and I forced myself to stay. The mini circuit I planned to do had to be dumped because someone else was using the space which caused me to think about going home. I started on some other equipment, and felt weak and unenthusiastic which caused me to think about going home. Another guy working in the same general area as me was making strange sounds, and his body odour was particularly strong, which caused me to think about going home.

With my Adidas shoes, New Balance tank, Nike headband and heavy metal (I can only workout to rock and heavy metal) in my ears via my iPod shuffle, I sweated and groaned as I pushed myself through the pain and apathy. (and the aversion to maladorous men)

I stayed and completed the forty five to fifty minute workout I usually do. I'm glad. I'm celebrating my discipline and hoping that it isn't always going to feel like a chore.

What did you achieve this week when you didn't feel like it, or didn't think you could?

*Useless fact: The word gymnasium comes from the Greek word gymnasion which literally means school for exercising naked.

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

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

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?

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.”


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'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.