Welcome to the 2016 Road Trip

 

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Welcome to the road trip

One of the nice things about retirement is being able to go when and where you want to – provided the weather is conducive, your health is up to scratch, the people you want to visit are going to be home around then, and it’s what you feel like doing at the time. It took a while for all the imponderables to line up, but after much faffing about we drove out of the driveway on a sparkling bright day in late August to take a trip across Australia to visit friends and relos on the other side of this vast continent.

 

We kinda ssaorta planned a route, taking roads through outback Queensland over to South Australia to visit a couple in Adelaide we’d worked with when we had to do that sort of thing. Then we’d take a look at South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula because we never had, pop over to the Eyre Peninsula and Port Lincoln to sample the much-vaunted seafood, and then head west over the Nullarbor. We’d stop for a few days at Esperance, then spend a few more days in Perth before heading North to Karratha to visit other friends. After that, it was up to Broome, then across the top to Charleville to see the waterfalls around the Atherton Tablelands, then home. It sounded like a plan.

One thing we found out on the first day – don’t let your GPS work out the road to your first stopping point. It’s nice to know the time and distance to your first stop – but the bitch will take the fastest route, not the scenic one you’d chosen. So we missed a few places of interest early on. To be precise, while eating breakfast at at the Curra  roadhouse, which we hadn’t expected to see. Oh well. We learnt our lesson and didn’t do that again. But the breakfast was lovely, and cheap, too. You can’t lose ’em all.

First stop for us was St George. We’d never been there, but the name sticks in my memory, especially as we neared the regimented cotton fields, flat except for the irrigation levies at each end. My brother died in one of those fields, sixteen years ago. I wrote an anniversary blog post about that in 2010, for those interested.

Like most Australian towns, St George is on a river. Often there isn’t much water in them, especially this far into the middle of the continent. There’s no flow, but usually the water is held in deep pools, which keeps the animals going until the next rains. As it happened, they’d had some very welcome relief from the long drought up here a few weeks ago, so the Balonne was pretty full, if not bursting its banks.

We stayed the night at a family-run motel and ate breakfast at a local café, so at least we contributed to the town’s economy.

The Balonne river at St George. It's a part of the Murray-Darling system

The Balonne river at St George. It’s a part of the Murray-Darling River system

Amazon is a corporate bully

JusticeThere are a number of reasons why I’m not so prolific in my fiction writing than I was. One of them (a very large ONE) is the problem of getting noticed in a crowded marketplace. We’ve been told, we authors, that getting people to review our books is the way to attract attention – but we can’t pay for reviews, or swap reviews, or get family and close friends to review. And fair enough, you might say. But Amazon is a bully with a big stick.

Please read the experience of my good friend Nya Rawlyns and  do please read about the lucrative scheme netting millions from the Zon.

Seems to me Nya has become collateral damage for a giant flailing around looking for someone to hit.

It stinks.

Confessions of a climate change denier

NASA photo of Earth from space

NASA photo of Earth from space

The issue of climate change is a very hot topic and has been for years, to the extent that now it has become a form of religion, with the same sort of fanaticism you’ll find when staunch Christians and die-hard atheists are toe to toe. The atheist insists on proof that god exists. The Christian sees that and raises it with, “show me proof He doesn’t.” I’m quoting Ivar Giaever’s speech at the Nobel Laureates meeting 1st July 2015 – well worth watching.

It has become increasingly difficult to have a sensible debate on the subject, but since this is my blog, I can state my position.

Okay, I’ve outed myself as a climate change denier. Sort of. But let’s talk about what a “climate change denier” is, and is not. I don’t deny the climate is changing. That’s a bit like saying the Earth is flat, when we have pictures that show uncontroversially that this is not the case.

OF COURSE the climate is changing. It does that. Our planet is, after all, a living entity. Tectonic plates move, islands are created, volcanoes spew their contents into the atmosphere. The “issue” appears to be about whether or not we Humans are responsible for the current changes. (I note we don’t refer to “global warming” anymore.) And regardless of the answer to that question, what are we going to do about it.

Look, Humans are worse than cane toads. We spread, proliferate at the expense of anything that stands in our way (including other humans). But cause climate change? Because we increase the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere? I think there has been a LOT of scare-mongering on that subject. We’re told 97% of scientists agree Man is the cause, but there’s plenty of evidence that this figure is inflated. Sure, quite a few scientists say we are contributing towards climate change. That’s not the same thing at all. I’m not posting links. This stuff is easy enough to find if you’re interested. Are the computer models right? Are the models using enough data? Has the data been tweaked? How do you explain the mini-ice age when the Thames froze at the beginning of the 1800’s? Why is Greenland called – Greenland?  Why is the Arctic melting and the Antarctic is icing up even more? What about Al Gore’s hockey stick graph? Was Tim Flannery right when he said the Murray-Darling basin would never fill again?

Climate is notoriously difficult to model. Supercomputers can’t do much better than a few days in advance. Cyclones are tracked on best guesses. And there’s that awful Chaos butterfly wreaking havoc everywhere. I don’t believe the models can predict what the circumstances will be like in 100 years’ time – for lots of good, factual reasons, not because of some sort of ‘faith’.

Right. I feel better now.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter a stuff what I believe. The climate is changing. Can we do anything to stop it?

The answer to that has to be a resounding ‘no’. We have to learn to live with it. Charging companies who release CO₂ into the atmosphere just puts money into Government coffers. Sure, we can move to other forms of energy, but we need something more reliable than wind or solar power. The price hikes for power in South Australia are testament to how well that worked.

Let’s concentrate on the things we CAN change. Clean up the ocean, cut back on the enormous waste in our way of life, preserve the forests. Encourage people to live in more densely populated cities where people don’t need cars.

I don’t know what you do about the over-population of the planet, which is the main reason we’re in trouble. Maybe AIDS and Ebola were Mother Nature’s attempts at control.

On to this week’s pretties. I’ve selected a few landscapes of the wide brown land because we still have a car to take us to these places. In that respect, I count myself truly fortunate.

Wilpena Pound in South Australia

Wilpena Pound in South Australia

Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre

Esperance beach south-west WA

Esperance beach south-west WA

Water churns through the gap in the cliffs at Horizontal Falls

The ocean churns through the gap in the cliffs at Horizontal Falls

Announcing Book 2 of the Prophecy series – preorder now!

Salvationfinal2Salvation

Book Two of the Prophecy Series

A blessing and a curse…
Seven years ago, a single moment changed the course of Nicholaus Bock’s life forever—the moment his preternatural Gift to heal awakened in him. A gift that made him an invaluable commodity to the known galaxy. Now his mentor’s intriguing and secretive new student goes out of her way to challenge his loyalty to everything he values.

A dark secret…
After facing death and destruction during the Anferthian invasion, Sakura Yamata revels in her new-found Gift to heal. Helping Earth’s survivors keeps her mind off the loss of her family, and the memory of the terrible choices she made. Nick could penetrate her defenses and discover what she’s hiding. She must not let the handsome healer close enough for that to happen.

A race facing annihilation…
When a mysterious disease strikes the hidden sanctuary of the Anferthian dissenters, Nick and Sakura are called in to help. But someone is going to great lengths to ensure the dissenters don’t survive. Nick and Sakura must set aside their differences and work together to save them before the fragile peace between three worlds is shattered.

Coming October 18, 2016
Available for pre-order now at Amazon  B&N  iBooks  Kobo

Excerpt from Salvation:

Very slowly, he reached out until his palm brushed hers and her fingers curled around his hand. A gentle tug from her urged him to follow her. She led him out of the lab and across the common room to the couch.

“Sit.” She patted the cushion next to her. “Right here.”

To say his curiosity was piqued would be an understatement. He lowered himself until he perched on the edge of the couch.

“Now, put your head in my lap.”

“Excuse me?” This adorable stranger looked an awful lot like Sakura Yamata, but was saying things to him she’d never say. “Are you serious?”

“Serious, yes. Thrilled, no. Do not read too much into this.”

He swallowed back a laugh. It’d probably be inappropriate to ask “face first?” She’d slug him for sure then storm to her room without showing him whatever it was she thought was so all-fired important.

“All right.” Nick moved slowly as he stretched his body the full-length of the couch, in case she changed her mind.

Once his head rested on her lap, he met her gaze. Her eyes were such a deep brown they appeared almost black. Studying her face, he saw things he’d never noticed before. The arc of her eyebrows, the sweep of her lashes, the heart shaped bow of her pink lips. How had he lived with all this beauty for weeks and not really noticed?

Author Bio:

Lea KirkLea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romances. Her fascination with science fiction began at six years old when her dad introduced her to the original Star Trek TV series. She fell in love with the show, and was even known to run through her parents’ house wearing the tunic top of her red knit pantsuit and her white go-go boots pretending to be Lieutenant Uhura.

In January of 2016, she published her well-received debut novel, Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series. She followed that up in April with a short story, All of Me, set in the Prophecy Series universe. Another short story, Space Ranger, will be released October 11, 2016 as part of the Pets in Space Anthology. Salvation, her second full-length novel comes out a week later. The third book in her series, Collision, is scheduled for 2017.

Ms. Kirk lives in Northern California with her wonderful hubby of twenty-six years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a whole slew of characters just itching to have their stories told!

~*~

Contact Links:

Website: http://www.leakirk.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeaKirkAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeaKirkWrites

~*~

Other books by Lea Kirk:

Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series

Amazon Universal Link: myBook.to/ProphecyLeaKirk
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/prophecy-lea-kirk/1123164930
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1070616637
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/prophecy-47?

All of Me, A Prophecy Series Short Story

Amazon Universal Link: myBook.to/AllOfMeLeaKirk
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-of-me-lea-kirk/1123494973
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1091353723
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/all-of-me-35?

Space Ranger, A Prophecy Series Short Story
(Part of the Pets in Space Anthology)

Release date: October 11, 2016

Saturday Soapbox

(c) Stock Unlimited 1504852

(c) Stock Unlimited 1504852

Political correctness and inclusion has gone just a bit too far. An article in the Australian prompted this particular rant. You have to subscribe to the newspaper to read the full text, but here’s the first paragraph.

Kids, 5, in sex-change stories uni research trial.

“Children as young as five have been used for storytime sessions featuring books with transgender characters, introducing concepts ranging from cross-dressing to gender reassignment surgery, as part of a university study being used to advocate for the expansion of the Safe Schools program into primary schools”

In this story book mummy explains to her son that she should have been born a man, so now she’s going to be his daddy.

Don’t get me wrong. It happens. I have a friend in the US, father of a son, who has decided to transition to a woman. I have two other friends, born male, who are transitioning to female. It’s a long and difficult journey, made all the more difficult by prejudice and distrust. It’s not an easy decision to start that journey. There has to be a compelling reason why a white male in Western society would want to give up the privilege that comes with that demographic to become a female. As individuals, they have my friendship and respect.

But I do not see any need to raise these issues with tiny children.

Far too often our Western society stops kids from being kids. These sorts of gender complications are surely unnecessary at the tender age of five. Teach them how to read, and spell, and draw. Wait at least until puberty to raise issues of sexuality. I shudder at the thought that kids will start to wonder if they were born the wrong sex. I was the quintessential tomboy in my day. I loathed dolls and anything pink and girly, loved toy guns and played Cowboys and Indians. When I was given a cowgirl suit I threw away the skirt. Was that a sign of a boy born into a girl’s body? I rather doubt it.

And since this matter of white privilege has come up, have you noticed the condescending attitude of male commentators towards female athletes at the Olympics? No? In case you missed it, here’s one article, complete with attempts to mansplain why the remarks were made. This article says a bit more, from a female point of view. There are plenty of others. This, to me, is a FAR more important issue to raise with kids at a young age. Teach boys to show respect for girls. Stop bullying. Promote equality. With that in place, I’m certain people who decide (when they’re old enough to understand what’s entailed, and that there’s no going back) to transition to another sex will receive a bit more understanding.

And now for this week’s pictures. Since it’s nearly spring time, here’s a few from our Greendale garden.

The spring back border - profusion of colour

The spring back border – profusion of colour

A bee gathers pollen from a clematis

A bee gathers pollen from a clematis

Tulips and Dutch iris under a deciduous tree

Tulips and Dutch iris under a deciduous tree

 

Olympic Games and Census thoughts

1504477Weeks fly by when you’re past a certain age. This one has flitted off into history. But it has a few highlights. The Australian online census for one. As it happens, this household was one of the few that filled in the information and got it into the system before the Denial of Service attack.

Let’s get this clear, folks. Denial of Service is NOT hacking. DoS is what it sounds like – somebody triggers huge volumes of requests to the system so that it becomes overloaded and fails. Which means genuine clients are denied service. It’s impossible to prevent such attacks, but it is possible to mitigate them. That’s where the security failed. Hacking is when somebody gets in and steals data. We may never know if that happened, but personally, I’d be much more worried about my bank, or Centrelink, or a credit assessment company, being hacked.

That said, I think the Government has (hopefully) learned some valuable lessons for when it develops an online voting system.

And then there’s the Olympic Games. I used to be a fan, but my interest has waned over the years. We all had such high hopes when the East German doping scandals were uncovered way back then. Then there was the Chinese state-run doping. Then there was Lance Armstrong. Then there was the paralympic basketball team which won gold, and was then exposed as fraud. I could go on. Fixed cricket matches, drug cheat tennis players, and now the Russians have been exposed as state run dopers. Sorry, but I don’t believe any of it anymore – that covers pretty much all sport, not just the Olympics. It seems today you can’t win in elite sport unless you use banned substances. And even when the athletes are clean, you wonder. Michael Phelps? Chris Froome? It’s all about the money, isn’t it?

Speaking of money, it goes without saying that the International Olympic committee is likely to smell as sweet as FIFA, for the same reasons. But that’s just one part of the pie. National Olympic committees spend millions (at least) on putting up bids. Then when they win, they spend billions on the facilities. And that means in countries like South Africa, India, and Brazil, poor people are kicked out of their homes to make way for car parks and glittering edifices.  And the opening ceremonies are all about doing it better than the last show. I’m not surprised the Brazilian people are not happy. Imagine if all that money had been spent on improving the lot of the people?

Okay, that’s my grumpy-bum rant for this week. Here’s a few raptor pictures.

This osprey has just finished its bath in the shallows

This osprey has just finished its bath in the shallows

A Brahmani kite joins its mate on a rock

A Brahmani kite joins its mate on a rock

A Brahmani kite angles its wings as it flies down the beach

A Brahmani kite angles its wings as it flies down the beach

A spotted harrier cruising to look for food

A spotted harrier cruising to look for food

It’s that time of the year again

Raser Island gets rain something like 300 days a year - this is one of those days. We're in Platypus Bay

Fraser Island gets rain something like 300 days a year – this is one of those days. We’re in Platypus Bay

It’s that time of the year again. The whales are back! Humpbacks are on their annual migration from Antarctica to the Whitsundays to have their babies. They stop off in the shallow, calm waters of Platypus Bay off Fraser Island to fatten their calves, mate, and generally mooch around before heading back down to the rich feeding grounds around the South Pole. This break in the journey gives us humans a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these enormous, curious, gentle giants.

I go whale watching at least once a year, every year. Each trip is different, no trip has been disappointing. Sometimes you see the spectacular breach, sometimes you’ll see mums and bubs, sometimes pods of four or five males doing that macho thing, sometimes a curious juvenile will pause and stick its head above the water to check out the little critters on the boats.

This year a couple of friends and I went out to see what was around. The weather had been poor, with wind and rain, but the bay settled down for us, with a breeze from the south – which meant Platypus Bay was protected by Fraser Island. We encountered a number of pods, most of which were pretty quiet (as in no breaching etc) but the boat was ‘mugged’ by a group of five juveniles which hung around VERY close to the boat and swum under the hull. We saw some tail stands, a bit of tail slapping, and one whale breached on the other side of the boat from where I stood with my camera.

Yes, I took photos. But (clears throat) I pretty much deleted all of them. Operator error I’m afraid. The shutter speed wasn’t high enough to stop the action – which is good sometimes – but not always. However, all is not lost. I have lots of whale pictures. So here’s this week’s photo gallery. I have whale photos on all the sites where I sell pictures. Take a look at Red Bubble or at Dreamstime or at My Profile on Can Stock Photo

A young whale spy hopping - checking out the people on the boat

A young whale spy hopping – checking out the people on the boat

Check out the size of the whales against this runabout - and they're not even bog ones

Check out the size of the whales against this runabout – and they’re not even big ones

A whale leaves a footprint made by the huge tail

A whale leaves a footprint made by the huge tail

Rainbow in the spray. It has just exhaled

Rainbow in the spray. It has just exhaled

This was so close I couldn't catch all the action

This was so close I couldn’t catch all the action

But I did with this one.

But I did with this one.

Musings on my week

This is where we live - NASA

This is where we live – NASA

This week is all a bit introspective and doom and gloom, so feel free to  scroll down to the photos.

I read an interesting article recently about the times we live in, and how many of us (including me) think it’s a very dangerous time. Is it me or is the world going crazy? Well worth a read. There’s a lot to like about what he has to say, and certainly the spread of social media has had a profound impact on where we source our news, and what we read.

And yet… Humanity never seems to learn. Since 2014, and for a few years yet, we have ‘celebrated’ the centennial of the Great War, with regular articles of one battle after another. We don’t get that for the Napoleonic Wars – just Waterloo, and Trafalgar. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe and its population it took decades for mainland Europe to recover, and incidentally, that was one of the reasons why Britain, which went through relatively unscathed, came to dominate the Western world. [Gets off history lectern]

Me, I’m a bit over heroism and sacrifice and fighting for our future, our very way of life.  Sorry, Australian troops in WW1 were certainly heroic and sacrificed their lives or their health in these awful battles. But they were cannon fodder, used up and spat out in a war which had even less to do with them than it had to do with the rural villagers of Britain, mown down by the German machine guns. All that war did was sow the seeds for the next one, in which our soldiers did indeed fight for our future, our very way of life – with their backs to wall.

Which brings me back to what’s happening now.  More and more, the world is beginning to resemble the political playing fields of the nineteen thirties. Putin is effectively dictator of Russia, making no secret of his expansionist policies. Erdogan, in Turkey, manufactured a coup to help seal his own despotic rule, to me reminiscent of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives. The West is worried about Islamism (not ordinary people worshipping a God but fanatical nut jobs bent on murdering innocent people – which is reminiscent of the spread of Islam in the 8th and 9th century). The USA is turning ever further right wing, mass shootings have become commonplace.  “Democracy” is failing. And when will the West learn that you cannot force democracy on people? Nor can the West hope to assimilate millions of refugees with radically different beliefs and societal mores. You have only to look at the experience of women in German cities attending New Years Eve celebrations, where they were set upon and sexually assaulted by hordes of young men.

Seems to this old biddy that we’re heading into dangerous global waters. But meanwhile, here’s a few more insect shots for us all to enjoy.

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do

IMG_2727

A European bee and tiny native Australian bees all drawn to the nectar on a waterlily

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

I’m giving up on Romance

(c) StockUnlimited Image ID : 1510419

(c) StockUnlimited Image ID : 1510419

I’m giving up on Romance. Not romance as in boy meets girl and love blossoms (or boy meets boy, girl meets girl – I don’t give a rats what happens in other peoples’ bedrooms) I mean Romance as in genre. It’s pure and simple escapist fantasy. Which is probably one of the reasons I never read much of it.

To each his/her own of course. If Romance is your thing, that’s fine. I know it’s the biggest selling genre out there, I know it’s not rubbish, I know it’s not easy to write. This is not a ‘take-down’ of the Romance genre, it’s a statement of why it doesn’t work for me as a writer. And really, that’s all about the tropes. By the way, if you think you’ll find that offensive, thanks for coming, but you’d better leave now.

I cannot believe that a multi-billionaire who has no doubt left a trail of girlfriends behind is suddenly going to fall so head-over -heels in love with the new PA or secretary or whatever, that he never even looks at another woman. <cough> Trump. Same with sheikhs (maybe even more so). But I can certainly believe that people in rocky marriages, far from home, might find themselves falling in love with someone else. Call it adultery if you will. It’s normal, common behaviour.

I do believe in ‘love at first sight’ – I know of too many instances where it has happened.  Sure, it usually starts as lust at first sight, but if it evolves into the real thing, so what?

Which brings us to the ‘happy for now’ or ‘happy ever after’ upbeat endings. This is a requirement of Romance. That’s fine, if everybody agrees it’s not about realism. The fact is an awful lot of marriages end in divorce. Fairy tales fall apart. Just look at the cover headlines on the women’s magazines while you’re waiting to go through the checkout.

Now as it happens, my books always have an upbeat ending because the world is bad enough without me adding to the misery even in a tiny way. That’s why I don’t read (or watch) horror. Despite my love of SF, I have not and will not watch the Alien movies. I have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. Same deal. I read to escape.

Having said that, I don’t have a problem with adultery, or mistresses, or even casual sex within the context of a novel. In The Iron Admiral books, Allysha commits adultery. So does her ne’er do well husband. In Morgan’s Choice, Ravindra goes through women like changes of underwear. It’s not a big deal, but I make it plain that’s how it goes – even after he has a relationship with Morgan. But that’s just sex, you see, and within his society, quite normal. He had been married off to a suitable woman at a young age, which is exactly what happened on our little planet in the past, and in fact what still happens right now. Imagine being a princess, married off as an infant to some royal prince, to cement the relationship between the two kings? I can understand a woman running away to escape being married off in just such a way, and that’s the plot of A Matter of Trust. But I expect the story would have been unacceptable to Romance if Amira was married, and trying to escape a loveless or abusive relationship.

So I suppose what I’m saying is that, because I don’t really understand the Romance trope, I write about romance the way I see it in the world – messy, up and down, evolving. Ergo, I don’t write Romance.

I guess I’d better remove all my books from the ‘science fiction romance’ category, and stick with space opera. I won’t win, though, because all the SF die-hards will moan about the soppy bits.

Just as well I don’t do this writing thing to try to earn a living.

And a photo, because I’m hoping you’ve come to expect them. This is the dawning of a new day. Singularly appropriate if you ask me.

(c) Greta van der Rol

(c) Greta van der Rol

It’s been a busy week

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

I’m soooo tired of the f*cking American presidential election. Sorry (if you’re an American and think it all makes sense) but I think it’s a huge waste of money – billions spent over what feels like a couple of years, every four years, and for what? Unless the President has the support of the House of Reps and the Senate, s/he is pretty much a figurehead blamed for everything that isn’t working. Still and all, that’s America’s business, just as Brexit was British business, and our own too-long election was Australian business.

All of them show a pattern, though. We’re all sick of professional politicians. And that’s all I’ll say. This blog is all about ME.

backgroundI’ve published my latest novelette, Him Outdoors and I have been shifting a mountain of mulch, (see above) and I’ve recommenced work on the nameless story. I also did a fun graphic, just because.

And this week’s pictures is a continuation of the insects theme.

 

 

 

The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don't think there was too much consent involved.

The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don’t think there was too much consent involved.

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

Butterfly laying eggs

Butterfly laying eggs