Australia Burns

‘It was once a beautiful city by the east coast of Australia known for its warm weather, azure blue bays, many majestic park lands, vast open spaces and clean air. That was before the fires came’

I wrote this over a month ago to go with some photos I took from the top of our local Westfield building early one Sunday morning while most of the city was still sleeping. It appealed to my interest in apocalyptic style movies and books, and I had two story lines rolling around my head. One of them I wrote as a short story for a competition, but there was a whole book in me wanting to come out.

This feeling now feels far too close to our reality here in Australia, and my desire to write these stories has been extinguished. The flames devastating this country sucked out the oxygen of the emerging seeds for these stories. The last month has been soul destroying and horrendous. Our firefighters have worked tirelessly for a very long time to keep as many people safe, but not without some losses, both lives and livelyhoods. Our ABC have done a fantastic job in keeping everyone informed https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/

Here is Sydney, where I live, a thick smoke has blanketed our city for what seems forever. The atmosphere is grey and depressing. I flew into Sydney airport on New Year’s day and the ‘view’, if you can call it that, had me in tears. Grey fog like air covered all the loved landmarks, and there was a rancid smell of smoke welcoming us as we descended the steps of the shuttle bus from the plane.

Our air quality, normally clear and healthy, has been skyrocketing on the AQI, some days over 2000. Healthy levels should be less than 100! I don’t suffer from any breathing problems or asthma, but in this smoke even I have noticed a heaviness and shortness in my breath when walking.

But we are the lucky ones here in Sydney. We are not in the fire danger zones and often live in air-conditioned houses with our comfort intact.  Tornado like fires have not ravaged our lives and our homes are not demolished in the tracks of the burning flames. Our lives here in the city are as normal as can be under the circumstances; people are safe and appear to go on like they have before. And yet, do they?

I know I have felt the effects of the fires on my soul. I have cried over the devastation and the horrifying photos and stories posted on Facebook and other websites. I have wanted to stay informed, but part of me have also wanted to shut myself away from it. I have felt helpless and useless. I have reached out and said comforting words where needed, but never felt it was enough. I have adopted a koala and donated money in my small way. I have felt a need to be KIND. To do SOMETHING.

In the last few days I have noticed online posts are changing. We seem to be starting the new decade with a new mantra. From photos of devastation, anger, despair and name blaming; to a deep need to help and be kind to others. So many stories of normal everyday people showing enormous generosity and kindness. Like a chemist on the Sth Coast keeping his business open and providing free medication to people who have fled their homes and lost everything.

Big businesses are getting behind the kindness wave too, e.g. Airbnb have set up a link to Open Homes, for hosts opening up their places for free to people in need of shelter. Many donation links are popping up and groups are being set up to coordinate help. This morning I joined an animal rescue craft group and will knit pouches and nests. It’s a small act, but lots of small gestures add up to big outcomes.

Maybe that is the ONE POSITIVE in this tragedy; people starting to care for each other and for our environment. Something we should have started many many years ago. Why didn’t we? Who knows? Our own greed or maybe our beautiful Australian  relaxed  ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We don’t want to lose that feeling, but we must face reality when needed. Our environment needs looking after NOW or our future generation will never know what it means to breathe in clean air. The fires Australia has witnessed this season feels like nature is giving us a wake up call; shouting ‘sit up and listen to who is boss’; Mother Earth. This has nothing to do with politics; it is something we as humans need to do no matter what we believe in.

If you feel the same as I do and want to help there are many options. I list some of them below, but you can find many more online. Let’s fuel the flames of KINDNESS, and keep this earth and Australia beautiful.

Thank you for reading and for any support you can offer. Please feel free to add any comments or links to sites or groups helping out.

The RFS  https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/volun…/support-your-local-brigade

Vinnies Bushfire Appeal  https://donate.vinnies.org.au/…/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal…

Wires https://www.wires.org.au/

WWF Bushfire Rescue https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency

Wildlife Victoria https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/

Koala Ark https://www.aussieark.org.au/koala-ark/

Salvos https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/

The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/

Givit  http://www.givit.org.au/

Animal Rescue Craft Guild https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/

AirBnB free homes, https://www.airbnb.com.au/openhomes/disaster-relief/bushfire-new-south-wales-

Writing When Not Writing

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Can a writer write when not actually writing?

Of course we can. In fact, ‘non writing’ activities take up a huge chunk of our time. Many of us fill with guilt when not sitting in front of laptop writing, but to be honest so much of our writing ideas and skills come to life when we are not busy writing. These activities may ‘take us away’ from our writing, but I believe they also enrich our writing by providing ideas and additional knowledge and invaluable connections in the writing community.

Here are the top five activities that I have enjoyed ‘taking me away’ from my actual writing time this year.

Writing Groups

I am part of both a writers’ group (FAW) and a writers critique group. We meet 3 Saturday afternoons every month. The writers’ group have some excellent speakers and workshops, and the critique group provides me with valuable feedback on my writing.

Festivals

Attended the Sydney Writers festival and Writers Unleashed in the Shire. Some regional festivals sound awesome and on the radar for next year.

Participated on the committee for our own local Writers Unleashed festival this August. I learnt so much during this on how much is involved in organising an event like this, and connected with a huge number of fantastic writers.

Newsletters & Social Media

Sourcing materials on educational and informative news on all things writing for the monthly newsletter for FAW Sutherland has been fun and increased my own knowledge on what goes on out there in the writers world.

As Social Media officer for the Writers Unleashed I have put together a large number of posts to promote our festival and its many fantastic speakers. This has provided me with new skills and knowledge that I can now use on my own social media updates.

Author Book Launches

Many writers are introverts and public speaking does not always come easy. Attending book launches not only is a way to network and meet likeminded people, but also a way to learn what an audience enjoy and want to hear at book launches. What works and what doesn’t. Small gatherings of close friends and publishing supporters at book stores or libraries seem a winner. Even better with a bit of champagne to relax everyone! I frequently visit our local bookstore Anna’s Shop Around the Corner in Cronulla for some amazing talks. A true gem for writers!

Books & Podcasts

I love Podcasts. They make commuting a breeze! My favourites are @So You Want to be a Writer and Talking Aussie Boooks.

Reading as many books across a varied number of genres is essential. It hones our own craft and supports other writers.

To get as many into my busy days I use different media. My Kindle when travelling light. My audio when driving/exercising or doing housework. And a real book, the best, when I do find time to sit and enjoy the read. Which unfortunately is not always easy working full time as a planner and trying to fit in my writing in my spare time left.

Courses

Any writing course will hone your craft even if not in the genre you’re currently writing in. My MS is a romance suspense novel, but I write short stories across various genres.

My most recent course was on publishing children’s books and was fantastic. Learning expands your mind and never wasted. The AWC have so many great courses both in class and online. Check them out and build up your writer’s tool-kit.

Of course in the end actually sitting down to write is the only thing that will get your MS finished. But all of above still assist when you do sit in front of your laptop.

At least by writing about what gets me away from writing I actually got some writing done!

What do you find gets you away from writing , but also helps you in your writing?

The Tale of Old Silverback

🔥🔥 HOT OFF THE PRESS 🔥🔥

“King of the forest, old Silverback, fell down with a thump on the soft mulch-littered ground, and the whole forest held their breath. They realised something was wrong.”

A teaser for my children’s short story which I am SUPER excited to announce is now finally available in print as part of the Sutherland FAW anthology Webs of Life; a collection of short stories written by the many talented writers in the group.

It has taken several months of planning and organizing, and we can’t wait to officially launch the book at our Writers Unleashed festival on Saturday 17th August at Gymea Tradies in Sydney.

Also had my first taste of a writer’s reading yesterday. My workplace organised a BBQ and had me read the story. Was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. Happy to say the story was well received with lots of laughter and congratulations from everyone.

Enjoyed sharing that part of my life with my colleagues. To work at a place that encourages and supports employees in a life outside of work is heart-warming.

I’m feeling a bit more like a real writer today and it feels damn good.

If you would like a copy please DM me. Pre-orders before the festival at a discounted rate of $12 plus postage.

Deadly Destination

 

train into fog

For centuries it had been frozen in time and in structure. Hidden from civilisation beneath the cold ice; covered in layers of bone chilling snow. Its weapon harmless. Unable to kill. A frozen assassin.

Global warming slowly changed the killer.  Like a hibernating bear, the deadly bacteria stretched and yawned back to life. Slowly leaking out. Coming to the surface. Hungry. Deep in the Canadian mountains it started its roar.

~~~

The train left the station every carriage filled with hundreds of tourists dressed in hiking gear, expensive camera’s adorning their necks and carrying heavy backpacks. The buzz and excitement permeated every part of the train. Strangers connecting over maps and old travel stories.

It was Linda and Paul’s first hiking trip. They kept to themselves; cocooned in their bubble of young passion and excited about their future life together. Paul touched his shirt pocket for the hundredth time. The tiny box still there containing a dainty ring with the most expensive pink diamond he could afford on his meagre intern salary.

Linda looked pale. Paler than usual. Her long dark hair contrasting her porcelain skin. She had wanted to stay in bed that morning, but she couldn’t disappoint Paul.

The train slowed down, stopping at the last station before the climb up the steep mountain covered in an eery fog making it impossible to see to the top. Like it had disappeared. Hiding something.

‘Last stop. A ten minute break for anyone who wants to stretch or grab a snack at the station cafe,’ the voice came over the loudspeaker.

‘Let’s hop off. I need to pee’ Linda urged, feeling the wave of nausea that had plagued her for the last few days.

They jumped off holding hands and made their way to the far end of the platform. Paul noticed Linda shaking.

‘You don’t look well, Linda?’ concern written all over his young face. She just made it into the cubicle, head spinning when her insides rushed up her throat into the rust coloured toilet bowl.

‘Are you ok?’ she heard Paul’s voice outside.

When she didn’t answer he barged into the cubicle.

She looked up at him. The realisation hit. Late period!

Paul took off his neck tie, wet it under the tap and wiped her face covered in perspiration.

‘I think I might be pregnant Paul,’ Linda said quietly.

‘Oh My God! Yes!’ Paul hugged her as they sat huddled on the grimy bathroom tiles oblivious to the ear piercing sound of the train whistle.

~~~

‘A trip of a lifetime missed by 1 second, but two lives saved ‘ according to the evening news read by a grim faced reporter.

‘A tourist train met with a deadly destination today. SOS signals from the driver at 11am sent rescue teams to investigate. No survivors except a young couple who missed re-boarding at Trinytie. All carriages covered in unidentified pus. Cause of death unknown.’

Review of ‘A Lifetime of Impossible Days’ by Tabitha Bird

The sign of a great book for me is when I can’t wait to read how it finishes, but when I do I want to continue reading and stay in the story; stay with the characters that have come to life, come into my life. When seeing ‘the end’ makes me feel both sad and good inside.

That is exactly how I felt reading and finishing A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird. One of the better books I have read lately; a book that will stay with me for a long time.

It’s a beautifully written story about the Willas, one female character during three stages of her life; eight, thirty-three and ninety-three. Each character with their own distinct voice yet linked together expertly. It’s a story of life, healing and acceptance woven into a wonderful concept of time travel and being able to meet your younger and older self.

Some of my favourite lines in the book were:

‘Fabulous wrinkles from talking and laughing and crying. Living and wrinkles, they go together’

‘Because it’s good to share ourselves. That’s what happens over bikkies and a good cuppa’

I could go on but I will let you read the book and find your own little gems.

I can highly recommend this book. It’s sad and uplifting, and totally draws you into the world of the Willas.

In the back of the book there is a list of book club questions.

This one intrigued me:

If you could time travel back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

For me it would be ‘ Don’t stress about what you can’t control or change. Most challenges are not life threatening and work themselves out with time’

What would you tell your younger self?

Love to hear your answers, or feedback if you have already read this great book.

Three Little Words

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‘I love you!’

Charlene longed to hear those three words, but after nine months of going out with Mark, she was still waiting. She loved Mark, and many times she had almost blurted the words out. But she worried he would freak out and run. So many had in the past. Mark had been single since his wife died 4 years ago. She knew she had to go slow.

‘Valentine’s day. I’ll tell him then,’ Charlene planned.

‘Go get yourself some sexy underwear,’ her crazy girlfriend Nicky had suggested.

That’s how Charlene found herself for the first time in a sexy lingerie shop. More of a cotton brief girl she never understood why something ten times smaller cost ten times more.

‘Can I help you?’ the beautiful young shop assistant enquired.

‘I’m just browsing’ Charlene muttered.

Didn’t stop the assistant. ‘Can I offer you a measure?’ she asked. ‘So important to wear the right fit or you will never feel comfortable.’

Two minutes later Charlene was in the change room being measured every which way.

‘Is this for a special occasion?’ the assistant asked.

‘Yes it is,’ Charlene replied without elaborating.

‘You’re a standard 14C. Let me show you a few of our special items.’

Before Charlene knew what was happening, the assistant led her to the far corner of the shop. The mood was ‘special occasion’. A large ruby red electric candle sent flickering shadows onto the exquisite lingerie making the pearls and sequins sparkle.

‘How about this one?’ The assistant held up a black lacy one-piece. ‘Try it on if you like it.’

Charlene had to admit it was a big step up from her usual big cotton briefs, but wondered how she would ever get to the bathroom in time with that on.

As if the assistant read her mind she held up the crutch area ‘easy access too for emergency visits to the bathroom.’

Charlene blushed. What does this young woman know about emergency? Her bladder turned into a roaring faucet as soon as she put her key in the front door.

‘Or maybe a set like this one?’ the assistant suggested removing a burgundy lacy bra and knicker set from the rack. ‘Made to hold everything in place.’

With gravity pulling her body parts in the wrong direction, and a sweet tooth adding to the roundness of her maturing body, Charlene liked her bits being held in place.

She struggled to get the items on in the change room, but with the help and praise from the assistant she finally looked at herself in the 3-way mirror. At first only for a few seconds, avoiding the full inspection. Then with surprise. Even with her cotton brief underneath she had to admit she looked damn good. She stood straighter and noticed even her eyes sparkled. She felt proud and looked straight into her own eyes in the mirror.

‘I love you! I am buying this for you old girl. Happy Valentine’s day Charlene.’

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Living – Citrus Poached Salmon

I love salmon, and this recipe would have to be my favourite so far. It’s simple, quick to prepare and totally delicious.

Citrus Poached Salmon with Asparagus.

  1. Mix juice of one large lemon and one orange.
  2. Put aside 1/4 cup for dressing
  3. Add rest of citrus juice to pan with cup of water.
  4. Bring to simmer and add skinless salmon
  5. Simmer covered for 4 minutes
  6. Add fresh asparagus, woody part cut away
  7. Simmer covered another 4 minutes
  8. Meanwhile add finely cut up parsley to the citrus dressing and mix with salt, pepper and lemon rind
  9. Add small dollop of butter on top of salmon.
  10. Serve on plate with asparagus and drizzle with parsley citrus dressing

Enjoy! 😊 👌