Tag Archives: 2013

I’m in an anthology! [Try saying that 3 times quickly]

Over the last two years, I’ve discovered that I can write short stories. That was quite a surprise as I’ve always thought I waffle too much for the short form. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered that very short flash fiction was even more fun.

To me, flash fiction is almost like the prose version of haiku. You have to paint the scene, create a character[s], and weave a compelling plot – all in 250 words.

It seems almost impossible, doesn’t it? Yet those clever authors on Indies Unlimited seemed to pull off a miracle every single week.

After much lurking, I finally worked up enough courage to try my hand at this flash fiction thingie, and didn’t win. I can honestly say that was no surprise, but as I honed my skills, my stories improved, and then one day, I did win. I was ecstatic! However the best was yet to come. You see, Indies Unlimited takes those 52 flash fiction stories and publishes them at the end of the year.

So…tah dah! My shorty short is now part of the Indies Unlimited: 2013 Flash Fiction Anthology!

I’ve already bought my copy because I know how good the stories are. However for anyone else who may be curious, the links to the ebooks and print versions are below :
Kindle on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Indies-Unlimited-Flash-Fiction-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00I573APW/

B&W (Economy) Print:

http://www.amazon.com/Indies-Unlimited-Flash-Fiction-Anthology/dp/1495250857/

Color (Deluxe) Print:

http://www.amazon.com/Indies-Unlimited-Fiction-Anthology-Deluxe/dp/149526811X/

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/403498

Last but not least, I have to thank all of you for voting for my story.

Great big hugs,

Meeks

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The Tortoise and la mère

tortoise 2 The ‘la mère’ part of the title will be revealed in due course, but first let me tell you about the little guy leaning precariously into my pond for a drink. Just for the record, he’s a tortoise, not a turtle.

Tortoises are land animals. Instead of flippers, they have  stumpy little feet with claws, and as far as I know, they can’t swim. Bear that in mind for later.

When I first noticed this little guy in the garden a couple of weeks ago, I thought he was an escapee, and apart from putting out a bowl of water near his hiding place, I left him alone. In fact, I forgot about him until yesterday when Mogi’s high-pitched barking sent me out into the garden to investigate. I quickly raced back inside for my camera!

tortoise 3

As you can see, Mogi’s presence, and relentless barking didn’t seem to bother Sir Feral Tortoise one little bit, but my presence instantly sent him back into his shell. Clearly he was wary of humans.

Eventually he came out and stuck his head in the water. I assume he was drinking, but he could just as easily have been trying to catch my fish.

Sneaking up for a closer shot, I was just in time to see him topple into the pond head first. He could have just overbalanced, but I suspect I startled him.

Handing the camera to the Daughter, I raced over to the pond and saw him just floating there, a couple of inches below the surface. He looked kind of, surprised, as if falling in had never occurred to him.

Needless to say, I didn’t wait around to see if he could dog-paddle his way out. After fishing him out of the big pond, I put him down next to the little pond, where he’d be able to reach the water without doing tortoise acrobatics.

Since then, I’ve done some research, and apparently we have native Snake-Neck, or Long-Neck tortoises here in Australia. These guys have webbing between their toes and claws so they can swim. Unfortunately, I’m still uncertain whether Sir Feral is a native that just happened to wander onto my property [like the echidna], or an escapee that has acclimatised to our bush conditions.

Whatever Sir Feral may be, he seems quite happy here, and comes out at dusk to drive Mogi crazy. If there are any tortoise experts out there I’d really love to know what kind of tortoise he is!

And now to the ‘la mère’ part of the title. La mère is French for mother, and refers to me. I am a mother, and a bit of a mother hen as well, but to be honest, I was more interested in the sound of the word than its meaning. Plus there’s a nice bit of irony there – I’ve always thought of myself as cautious and plodding, rather than quick and impetuous. 😀

So… this Mère doesn’t do New Year’s Resolutions because, well they’re kind of pointless, aren’t they? I mean, how many of us actually follow through on them? I know I never do.

That said, I do believe that New Year is a great time to take stock of the year that was, and 2013 has been quite a year for me. On the upside, 2013 was the year I self-published two works of fiction, and was included in a third publication.

2013 was also the year I posted a modest little how-to on my blog. I wrote it as a release from frustration, and in the hope that it might help some others who were as non-smart-phone savvy as I was. Realistically, however, I expected that post to sink into the mire of general disinterest. Instead it gathered views like a snowball hurtling down a mountain.

As at December 31, 2013, that modest little how-to has generated 30, 749 views. For those interested in statistics, that’s about three times the number of total views I had during 2012, bringing the total views for my two years of blogging to 62,504.

2013 year end summary

Views for my ordinary posts doubled as well, but the run-away success of my tech writing both thrilled, and dismayed me. After all, I was done with tech writing, wasn’t I?

I have a love/hate relationship with the concept of fate. On the one hand, I believe, utterly and completely, in free will. On the other hand, fate seems to have played a big part in my life, often pushing me in directions I didn’t want to go, directions which turned out to be right, in hindsight.

So was the sudden success of my tech writing down to fate, or just random luck? I will never know, but when I first started looking for a paying job, back in July of 2013, my prospects were rather dismal. I had a lot of computer related skills but, officially at least, they were all far too many years out of date. Then the consultant mentioned that I could upgrade my training qualifications via a 16 week course.

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but I literal felt something go ka-thunk in my mind.

As most of you know, I did the course, and have been applying for training positions since December. I’ve received no offers yet, but I believe 2014 will be the year I Get A Job! At 61, that will be something of an achievement. 😉

So those were the highlights of 2013 for me. I didn’t write as much fiction as I would have liked, but overall, I think 2013 was a very good year.

I hope 2013 was as kind to you as it was to me. Happy New Year and roll on 2014!

-massive hugs-

Meeks


“There is no skeptic at the end of a fire hose”

That line, delivered by Peter Marshall, Secretary of the United Firefighters Union [Victoria Branch] made the crowd at the Climate Change Rally roar its approval, and I yelled right along with them.

Marshall went on to say that in decades past, firefighters would have to deal with just one major fire event every ten years or so. Since 2002 however, there have been NINE major events. They all know that things have changed. They all know that their jobs have become much harder, despite new technology. And they all know that things are going to get even worse if something isn’t done about climate change.

Interestingly, David Packham, an expert on fire behaviour, doesn’t believe the incidence of more frequent, hotter bushfires is because of climate change. He believes it is down to nothing but fuel loads.

Now I have great respect for David Packham, and as a layperson, I agree that fuel loads play a critical role in bushfires, but fuel loads can’t explain the frequency of other, catastrophic natural events around the world. And I do think climate has more than a little to do with the dangers we now face every summer – because I’m old enough to remember the weather patterns we used to have. Maybe some of you will remember as well.

As a child of six I have a very vivid memory of the day the everlasting heat finally broke with a massive thunderstorm. I remember because I, along with my parents, and most of the people on our street, rushed out to dance in the rain. That was in 1959.

Then again at about 16 or 17, I remember lying in bed under the open window, praying for a breath of cool air so I could get some sleep before my exam the following morning. I didn’t get my wish.

The thing to note here is that back then, neither we nor many other people owned fans, much less air-conditioners. Sometimes it got incredibly hot, but most of the time summer was bearable, and going down to the beach was fun.

Maybe I’ve grown soft in my old age, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive without cooling of some sort these days. And I certainly worry about bushfires a whole lot more. The world I knew is changing, fast, and the future promises not relief but more of the same.

That fear for the future was echoed by a lot of other people at the rally on Sunday too.

When I realised that I was effectively a roving reporter for my blog, I gathered up my courage and started talking to people. The three ladies in the picture below were all roughly my age, and they were happy to tell me why they were at the rally.

3 ladiespic

One of the ladies talked about her fears for her grandchildren. The other two expressed similar concerns for the future, and were determined to do what they could to ensure that something was done about Climate Change. The sense of urgency was palpable, despite the pristine blue skies and glorious sunshine.

Looking around me I saw  people from every walk of life and every age bracket. If you look closely at the pictures in my previous post, you will see babies and young children, teenagers and young adults, people in their 30’s and 40’s, and lots of people like me. I even saw one placard that read Baby Boomers for Climate Action. Trust me, we Boomers were out in force, and I felt quite at home.

Sadly, a rally of 30,000 people out of a total population of  roughly 4 million is not going to make Tony Abbott lose much sleep. Even if we double that figure to factor in the people who wanted to come but couldn’t, that’s still only 60,000. Again, not enough people power to force any government to rethink its position. That is the bad news.

The good news is that we true believers got to see each other, and the seeing was uplifting. I came away from the rally feeling energized by the knowledge that I wasn’t just some mad dog barking away all by myself. Whether my efforts do any real good is moot, but perhaps the combination of lots of small efforts like mine will make a difference. While there’s life there’s hope. 🙂

And perhaps you out there will find yourselves motivated as well. As one of the speakers at the rally said, if every household in Australia invested in solar power, our reliance on dirty coal would be broken, and we’d save money as well. It’s good to dream. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Hugh Howey interview

I am a huge Hugh Howey fan. I’m also 3/4 of the way through Dust. What else could I blog about on a Saturday morning but an interview with one of my favourite science fiction authors? Um, that was a rhetorical…

So without further ado, here is the link to a fascinating interview with an incredibly likable young man!

View story at Medium.com

[Note : my thanks to the Passive Guy for pointing me towards the interview].

Happy Weekend!

Meeks


The end of an era – interesting times indeed

Just watched KRudd’s concession speech online, and the thing that struck me was that he looked as if he had been planning this all along. 

I’m no political pundit, but I’ve wondered for a while what kind of deal the Caucus struck with Kevin Rudd – and Ken Shorten. Now I think I know. I believe that stepping down after the election was on the cards all along. I think that’s how the coup was structured – let KRudd leave in his own time, with his head held high, in exchange for his ability to save Labor from complete and utter defeat.

Well, he did that. Labor is leaner than before, but it is not demoralized. This gives me hope that new Labor will be better than the old. And I fervently hope new Labor will learn the lessons of the past six years – there are some things you just can’t do, not without consequences. 

On the subject of hope, the Daughter and I were talking about who the next Labor leader will be. Obviously Ken Shorten is a contender. Perhaps that’s the deal he struck for his about-face at the last leadership spill. The trouble with Ken Shorten is that he has no charisma.

Is charisma important? God yes. A political party is as much about its ‘faces’ as its policies, and young people like the Daughter go ‘Ken who?’

But if you mention Penny Wong, their faces light up. Not just because she’s a woman. Not just because she’s ‘ethnic’. Not just because she’s gay. But because Penny Wong has charisma as well as integrity. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a female PM who’s young, Chinese and proudly gay? Wouldn’t that say something amazing about how far Australia has come?

Who knows, maybe by the time the next election rolls around we can start being proud of our political system, and our politicians again. I hope so.

Good night all!

Meeks


Meeka Votes

Like most Australians I am politics weary. I want it over with… but despite that, I still care.

1. I would like to punish Labor for backstabbing 1 AND 2. Those machinations revolt me, but

2. I believe Kevin07 deserves a chance to finish what he began. He, like Gough Whitlam, has a vision for the big things. Sadly that vision makes him a bad ‘politician’. But if the NBN, Kyoto and The Apology are all we get out of his two terms of office then that is still a damn good legacy.

3. I hate Tony Abbott. I hate his he-man wannabe posturing. To me that is just vanity, the kind of vanity that makes football stars believe they can do no wrong, especially to women. Not saying Abbott would ever rape anyone. Just saying his posturing appeals to a certain kind of attitude I hate. It may make him come across as an ‘every man’ kind of guy but he certainly doesn’t come across as the ‘every’ man this woman likes.

4. I hate the Greens too. They played politics with Climate Change, and much of what we have, or don’t have six years down the track is thanks to their stupidity and holier-than-thou posturing.

5. I hate the spin. I hate the spin so much I start to feel physically nauseous when I hear politicians start parroting whatever crap the spin doctors think will win hearts and minds. “We will send back the boats”. “We will buy up fishing boats.” Puleeze… Does anyone in Australia really believe the Indonesians are just going to roll over and accept this kind of bullshit?

6. I actually believe this period of hung parliament/independent influence has been a good thing – not in every detail, but as an exercise in co-operation. At best, every ruling party will have just over 50% of the first preference vote. No matter how you play with the numbers, that means an awful lot of people don’t agree with their policies. So forcing parties and independents to co-operate allows more of the voting public to get what they want. The standout exception to this was the Liberal Party. They voted against anything and everything, even the things they originally voted for.

7. I believe the role of government should be similar to a not-for-profit. The benefits from taxation should be plowed back into the country to create more wealth and well-being for people. Yet the stated aim of Liberal governments is to create a surplus while supporting business so business will support people. To me this is like putting money in the bank while allowing your kids to go barefoot in winter.

8. And last but not least, Julian Assange and Wikileaks are heroes of mine. The Big Brother mentality triggered by 9/11 is not that different to the anti-communist hysteria that swept the world during the McCarthy era in the US [1950’s]. Destroying people, and their rights, – because you fear some bogey man – is a cure far worse than the disease. Sadly that is what is happening now in this new century. I have to support the few madmen who say this is wrong.

For all those reasons I voted for Labor in the House of Representatives, and Wikileaks in the Senate.

Some people may agree with my reasons, but vehemently disagree with my choices. Others may agree with my choices, but for completely different reasons. Yet more may disagree with absolutely everything I’ve written.

That’s okay. Debate is the single most important benefit of a democracy. All I ask is that any debate that happens here on Meeka’s Mind be reasoned, and respectful of others. Please argue your point with as much passion as you want, but do not try to win that argument by putting others down. That’s just not on, and those kinds of comments will be deleted.

cheers

Meeks


Bushfires in Australia – 2013

I had a small epiphany today, and it was this : when fire runs out of fuel, it stops.

Seems so obvious doesn’t it? That simple fact is behind the theory and practice of firebreaks and containment lines;  take away the fuel in the path of a fire and it will [eventually] stop. Yet despite the obviousness of this fact, we continue to talk about bushfires as if they’re malevolent demons out to get us, while completely ignoring the part we play in our own destruction.

A man died yesterday. I am not saying he was in any way to blame for what happened to him, but his remains were found in the burnt out wreck of his car. I can only assume he was trying to out run the Gippsland bushfire.

The death of this one, unidentified man is a horrific reminder of the 173 who died in the bushfires of Black Saturday. After those fires we had a Royal Commission that recommended all sorts of sensible, practical measures to ensure nothing like that happens again. Coincidentally, we also had a number of years of above average rainfall. That has had consequences.

After eleven years of drought, the rains following Black Saturday were sorely needed, however they triggered a sort of collective amnesia we could have done without. The Bushfires Royal Commission handed down its report, the State Government changed hands, and we all pushed the fear of bushfires onto the back burner. After all, it was raining for godsake!

In the years since Black Saturday, the CFA sounded warnings about how lots of rain also meant lots of new growth, new growth that would dry off over summer and burn, but we largely ignored the warnings, and the fuel load built up.

Now here we are, back in the middle of an unusually dry, hot summer, with bushfires raging in almost every state, and the worst of the fire season still to come [in February].

I look around my own small corner of Victoria and all I see is neglect, and an almost wilful optimism that ‘we’ won’t be affected. Some home-owners have done the right thing, but far too many haven’t. I guess they’re the ones who’ll  leave in a panic and get caught in the bottle-neck of the bridge.

I understand panic, and when we had that fire at Kangaroo Ground recently, I sent the Daughter off without realising that half of Warrandyte would be trying to do the same thing. She was caught in that bottleneck. That won’t happen again, not to her, but I shudder to think how many Warrandyte residents will do the same thing the next time, and pay the price.

Bushfires are incredibly complex phenomena, and no one thing is ever to blame, but there are a few simple facts that we must acknowledge :

– fires need fuel,

– people who do not clear their blocks provide fuel for fires,

– people who do not clear their blocks endanger their own lives because leaving may not be possible, or it may be more dangerous than staying,

– people who do not clear their blocks put all our lives at risk because fires do not stop at the fenceline.

– and Local Councils who budget the barest minimum for fire-mitigation works – because they refuse to acknowledge the part fuel plays in a bushfire –  are culpable and should be tried in a Court of Law for wilful manslaughter.

Too harsh?  Not harsh enough. We can’t change our climate. We can’t change lightning strikes, and we certainly can’t lock up every fire-bug in the country, but we can change attitudes… if we try hard enough, and if there are legal and financial consequences for failure.

I love living in Warrandyte but there are no free lunches here. All that beauty has to be paid for in vigilance and maintenance. Burying your head in the sand won’t save the rest of your body when the fires visit us again. And they will you know, because Warrandyte is a fire-prone area and we’re living on luck, not good management.


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