Monday, 7 July 2014

8th July. The cold of winter

July 8th.
The cold of winter.

After the warmest June in recorded history, nature's decided "Right, now we'll give those Kiwis the wettest winter in recorded history."
The Winds! The Rain! The Shivers!
And there is this young guy called Scott Donaldson afloat miles out of New Plymouth in his kayak. There obviously isn't enough stress in his life as he'd decided a few months back to kayak solo from Australia to New Zealand -- and the Tasman is one of the wildest seas in the world. His poor wife. I can't understand why people endanger themselves this way. Can you? He'll probably get a medal next Queen's Birthday.
To matters of the literary word; am now on 45,000 into the last book of the trilogy on the Chinese Diaspora. The Kwangtung Army of Japan has been in Shanghai for a while now and are rampaging across China. They've set up comfort stations in their conquered territories. The war is about to come to Singapore but not for another couple of years.
Meanwhile, I've just had a wonderful review for the first book in the trilogy from ELocal magazine.

Memories in the Bone: He who pursues revenge digs two graves.

Reviewed in ELocal Magazine by Julie Halligan July 14th Edition
‘Memories in the Bone’ By Mee-mee Phipps. Publisher: Seriously Red Books, Auckland. ISBN; 9780473222659 Available; Rating; ***** There is a new star in the firmament of New Zealand fiction writers and her name is Mee-mee Phipps. Until one read this book one had no idea just how ignorant one was in regard to the presence and history of the Chinese in early colonial New Zealand. This is the wonderfully entertaining story of Zhou Yu, a young Chinese rebel who has to flee the terrible retribution of a despotic emperor leaving his home and family to seek refuge and a new life in the goldfields of New South Wales. Zhou Yu finds the fortune he was seeking. However, due to a series of unfortunate events he flees to the Otago goldfields of New Zealand where he falls in love with a Maori slave girl. This is Mee-mee Phipps’ first foray into fiction writing and one must give her credit where credit is due, she is a masterful story teller as this book is a compelling read from start to finish. It is with relief to discover that this title is part of a trilogy as one did not want this story to come to a close. The narrative flows with ease as Ms Phipps leads the story back and forth between Zhou Yu and his father Zhou Fengyi, a man stunted and haunted by having witnessed his own father’s fall from grace and execution as a young boy. This book should really be optioned for either a television series or a film, it has everything and more and this reviewer is looking forward to the next two instalments with relish and anticipation. Congratulations Ms Phipps, very well done, very well done indeed.

You can obtain this book from Fishpond or Amazon. Enjoy and please post a review. Apparently a writer needs 40 reviews on Amazon before she/he gets noticed.
Meanwhile, keep well. May the force be with you! Aha! This is because I am now into Starwars speak. My orchestra is now rehearsing a concert with the entire theme from Starwars.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The passing of a wonderful friend

April 7th. 2014
The passing of a wonderful friend.

Since my last blog exactly three months ago, I have lost a wonderful friend, Miles Hughes who died on the 20th February after a two month fight with pancreatic cancer. The writing establishment of Auckland lost a wonderful man who was unstinting in his time and help. Miles was an engineer who retired early to do his first love -- writing. Within a few short years, he had ten books on Amazon. His knowledge was prolific, his goodness immeasurable. We all miss him. Especially me. He was always on the other end of the phone, knew so much about the sea, the military and the navy, in fact, he was a wonder. We gave him a WRITER'S ROAST at 121 Café in fashionable Ponsonby and amongst the items, was a light hearted skit I wrote playing on his name and the Knights Templar of which he wrote a young adult trilogy. I thought his name Miles and his wife Bronwyn were just the ticket as medieval names. So I made him Sir Miles and her Lady Bronwyn and at the end of the political skit on the local government scene in Auckland, had him starting his own brand of religion -- under the House of the Hughenots... pronounced with a hard g and you get my drift. His entire family turned up to enjoy the afternoon and within ten days he was dead. I miss him when I write, miss him when we all turn up for our Writer's Open Mike at 121 Café and miss him at our Society meetings. He was too young to be taken, ( a youthful 66) and though there might be a better place in heaven, for him the best place of all was here on earth with his wonderful Lady Bronwyn, his friends who all love him and his writing for which he had so much zest.
His works are available on Amazon and Create Space, Fishpond and Ingrams Distributors.
and others for young adults.

On my own front, The Ming Admiral: A Chinese Odyssey is out on Kindle, Create Space and Fishpond as is Destinies Divided: A World War 1 romance of the Chinese Diaspora. These are of course historical novels and have both garnered glowing reviews from Red City Reviews and Flaxseed.c
So I hope you will look into them and enjoy them. Till next time. Addios, Amigos.

Easter 2014


A happy holiday dear readers and for you church-goers, a blessed one.
Here in New Zealand, this Easter is one of raging bad weather thereby dampening holiday plans.
But for most bad weather brings solace in books and movies, even family re-unions.

Next Friday is ANZAC DAY when we commemorate the two world wars. Above is my contribution to the nearly 200,000 Chinese labourers who worked, and died in the trenches of France. They worked on the side of the Allies and made the horror of that dreadful war, slightly less dreadful. They dug the trenches, put up the barb wires, removed the barb wires, buried the dead.

 But DESTINIES DIVIDED is also the story of how mixed-race Chinese Maoris from New Zealand struggled in both their parents' countries to find acceptance only to find it finally in that most terrible place where so many millions died in such unspeakable conditions.
It is a story of love in its broadest sense, of missionaries in China during the Boxer Rebellion and their children who survived it only to meet up again in Flanders. It is available on Kindle, Create Space and Fishpond.

For us DownUnder, Easter is the beginning of the cold weather but for you in the Northern Hemisphere it is the herald to Spring and Summer. May you have wonderful sun and warmth.
Enjoy Destinies Divided. This is the book that took my heart and soul in the writing. I hope it finds itself to your heart and soul.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The year of the Earth Horst

I wish all of you a very happy new year, the Chinese Lunar one begins at the end of this month or early next. You'll all know it as it will be well advertised in your cities. It will be the year of the Earth Horse, as even though there are twelve animals in the Chinese Calendar, each is divided into the Five Elements. Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and one other, escapes my mind at the moment. It will come back to me at 3 am. So if you are celebrating your 12th, 24th, 36th, 48 th etc, birthday, then this is your year. You can look it up on Chinese horoscope sites for free and find out your character type. My gorgeous daughter is an Earth Horse, and her great free spirit and sense of adventure is also tempered by a well-grounded common sense. So she is very true to type.
I am a Wood Monkey -- yes! That is the 5th element WOOD! So even though I have the capriciousness of a monkey and the ability to mimic, I am also very set in some ways, like a block of wood. Though I like to think of myself as the finest Kauri (the best NZ native) or perhaps a majestic Sequoia. I think all in all the best way to know your type is to marry both Chinese and Western horoscopes. Then you get the most detailed reading.

Well this is going to be my very good year. I have just put out THE MING ADMIRAL: A CHINESE ODYSSEY which is now out on all book sites. You can get a paperback version from Create Space. This was very well reviewed, garnering a 5 Star. It is what some people call a 'rollicking good read' which means it is fast paced, and full of adventure, pain, and pathos. Look for it on your favourite e-book site.

The Chinese Characters here is ZHENGHE, the name of the Ming Admiral who was castrated and put into service of the Warrior Prince Zhu Di who later seized the throne from his nephew with the help of ZhengHe. ZhengHe was a great soldier, poet, diplomat and finally a Great Admiral. There are temples to him all over Asia where he is regarded as a saint.
The book takes him from his early life in the mountains of Yunnan to the end of the Emperor' s reign. A tempestuous and dangerous relationship between two of the most incredible men in China's long history.
Also to be published soon is the sequel to  MEMORIES IN THE BONE. This second book in the trilogy of the Chinese Diaspora is called DESTINIES DIVIDED and follows the lives of the mixed-race children of ZHOU YU and HOROWHAI, the Maori slave girl he saved.
It will be out by March, which is fortuitous and really quite unplanned, because 2014 is the commemorative year of WW1.
I am sure most of you are unaware of the Chinese involvement in that war. Well, nearly 200,000 of them served in Flanders on the side of the Allies. Find out why from DESTINIES DIVIDED.
Till my next blog, I wish you all a wonderful new year. May 2014 bring you all the health, wealth and happiness you all deserve.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Hi all,
It's been two months since I last posted an entry here and apart from feeling like a dead sloth warmed up in the Amazonian jungle, I keep inventing reasons to the sloth.
Well, I went down to nurse my terminally sick ex-hubby in Christchurch, South Island New Zealand. The Maoris used to call the place Te Wai Pounamu. Gorgeous, meaning Water of the Greenstone. They are now petitioning for New Zealand to be renamed and want the South Island to revert to that name. Which is very romantic, but would probably play hell for foreign visitors not used to Maori.

   Now why I title this post Things to be Thankful for is because we must really count our blessings. And top of my list is good health. Seeing my ex- die slowly of myeloma and cancer in his lymphs, seeing a tall, strong active man die slowly as his bones crumble and leach excess calcium and protein into his blood stream makes me realise that nothing in the world is more precious to oneself than good health.

     The second most important thing is family and friends. Many of us forget the human touch, forget the humanity that actually keeps our world as we know it, going.

   The third is opportunities. I have usually made the most of mine, though sometimes, laziness comes in the way and swat that away. As I get older and more vulnerable, I must remember to be aware.

Anyway, my news over the past two months is that THE MING ADMIRAL: A CHINESE ODYSSEY  will be ready and out on CREATE SPACE, AMAZON  and other e-sites before Christmas. Below is a brief synopsis which I hope interests you enough to want to read it.


China 1382

 A new emperor has been on the throne since 1368 and proceeds to purge the empire of the supporters of the previous Muslim Mongol dynasty. The village of Kunyang in Yunnan is destroyed and its young taken into slavery. Out of this chaos, an exceptionally gifted boy grows up to become ZhengHe, the right-hand man of the founding emperor’s third son, the Warrior Prince Zhu Di. He helps Zhu Di take the throne from his nephew, the mandated heir.

As Emperor Yongle, Zhu Di makes the former Mongol capital of Dadu his own and calls it Beijing. He builds The Forbidden City and moves the entire court there.  He instigates the writing of world’s greatest encyclopaedia and builds the Great Treasure Fleets, bringing all nations encountered under the thrall of China in the first instance of gunboat diplomacy. But the Emperor’s drive comes at great cost to those closest to him. His closest friend and ally, ZhengHe is not only forced to endure indignity and suffering at his hand, but also gains greatness as Grand Admiral of the Treasure Fleets. The tumultuous love-hate relationship between two of the greatest men in Chinese history lies at the heart of this sweeping novel.

“MeeMee Phipps has done credit to her heritage in bringing this story to life.” Miles Hughes, author of Catalan, The Coconut War, Richmond Road.

“Phipps’ attention to detail brought 14th Century China so alive for me I could smell the spices of the market place.” Tom Ryan, author of The Field of Blackbirds.

“All in all, a wonderful book that is a true testament to the author’s strengths in writing such a well-organized and complex tale in the genre of Chinese historical fiction.” 5 STARS:  Red City Review.
And now, the final of The Connection.

 “Live for him, Chingmei. Live for our son!”

 Chingmei was dragged away. The sound of Honglun’s wails continued to drift over the top of the Wall. It took many days for him to die.

       Up on the hill in the pleasure house, Chingmei heard him calling for her as her own wasted body was used over and over again by the drunken guards. She wished for death, but death would not come for her. On the seventh night Honglun let out one last heartrending cry.


Then there was silence. She knew he was dead and for the first time since she arrived her thoughts turned to Xinfook. Before the next dawn, she took food and a pair of shoes from the kitchen and stole away into the night. She began her return to Lungshan. The land, parched from a summer of no rain offered little sustenance and she lived like a wild mountain cat foraging for food in the crags along the mountain tracks. Little passed between her cracked and bleeding lips until she found her way back to the villages she had passed weeks earlier. She laboured and begged from one bereft village to another. The vision of her little boy’s face drove her on. 

She arrived home as the chill of the winter winds swept in from the Western Desert– howling through the night like the men at the Wall.

No one ever came back from the Great Wall but Lungshan did start to regenerate. By the time Xinfook was eight years old, another baby was born, then another, and another. By the time he was fifteen, a semblance of normalcy returned.          

Fifteen years of darkness, fifteen years of pain diminished.

Chingmei with Xinfook by her side planted and harvested the sorghum and they made the wine together. At the end of each day she would climb the hill by the river and look towards the setting sun. Though a thousand li away in distance, she could see the Wall in her mind’s eye, straddling the horizon like a long sleeping dragon that had feasted well, and in the Wall she could see Honglun strapped to his post, his eyes turned heavenward. Neither the sun nor the moon cast their light on him. Neither the rain nor the snow dampened him.

Each day the Emperor’s armies rode over Honglun as they moved from one end of the Empire to the other. Chingmei taught Xinfook that the strength of the Wall came from his father and the Empire was mighty through the might of his father.


I looked at my granddaughter and she was thoughtful. She rubbed her finger at a spot on the table. I knew what was coming next.

‘Am I named after the Chingmei in your story?’

‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘In our family it has been the name given to the first born girl ever since Xinfook started his family. So you see you are special in two ways, to be a first born girl and to bear the name of a remarkable woman.’

My daughter and Gerald nodded in agreement.

Something glistened in my granddaughter’s eyes. She was looking at me a little differently.  A change I think. 

‘I need to go to bed now,’ she said and stood up.

 ‘Ping An, Chingmei,’ I said.   

‘Goodnight Pohpoh, ping an.’
I hope you enjoyed the story. I shall try to unsloth myself and post a blog before Christmas. If I can't manage that, I wish you all the best for the season.


Sunday, 22 September 2013


 Well I must say, this was the first I'd been invited to participate in the above, and forgive me for blowing my wee trumpet, I was very successful as a speaker. Had the house in laughter throughout the 45 minute session. What it takes to become famous!!! I don't know if I would advise it, but of course I lie. I loved every minute of this festival and would love to do a hundred more.

           Another thing that's happening since I last blogged is the America's Cup Race in San Francisco. Now, I know most people in the US or UK or anywhere else are not interested in this Rumble of Rich Boys. But we, the NZ taxpayers, forked out $36 million to challenge it and all of us are very involved. Many of us might never have got on a boat except the Inter-Island Ferries or the the Waikheke Island ferries, but suddenly, we've all become expert sailors and are using sailing jargon. Of course, I am able to lay claim for a bit of knowledge as I used to own the TE AROHA a historical schooner which we used around the Hauraki Gulf here in Auckland and had personally done a season in the Ladies' Races out of our Squadron. So at least a know what a gyp is, or a halyard.

Now for those not in the know about this particular race, it originate on the East Coast of the USA over a hundred years ago and the US had always won---- until along came Sir Peter Blake, our very own super yachtsman who brought it to NZ. And it's been in our blood ever since. For the Blake campaign, we all bought red socks and are still wearing them, at least the diehards are, when they watch the races. You see, Oracle USA is basically Larry Larsen, the billionaire. But Team NZ is the entire country of 4.300,000 people. So we are all rooting for a victory especially as we are a country of sailors. Sailing is part of the national psyche.

       And NZ needs only one more win before getting it back here to Auckland. It's been a biting, nerve-wrecking thing to watch. The giant cats are so huge, so state of the art science. They are the equivalent of rockets on water. The technology on them is absolutely the best ever. Anyway, I shouldn't rave on about this because it might be boring for non-sailors. For those interested, you can google it. I've now decided that strong, masculine men do light my fire.!!??

Anyway, to continue with the story of THE CONNECTION. I wasn't able to do it last month as I got rudely interrupted by someone or something since forgotten. But I do hope you enjoy it. For those who have just come on the blog, you can read back serials.

Soon Chingmei’s food ran out.

There were many villages scattered across the valleys where she exchanged work in the fields for food - work normally done by men. At each place she stopped the stories were similar to Lungshan. The men had been taken and none returned.

When the day finally came and she saw the curving monument looming on the distant mountains, her spirits lifted. She walked faster. It took most of the day but she reached the wall just as the sun was sinking. It cast shadows across her path like a demon looking for a soul.

Thousands of wooden shacks cluttered the hillsides and thousands of men worked cutting and chiselling stones out of the mountains. Above the din, the shouting of the work commanders and the occasional crack of a whip mingled with the neighing of horses as mounted soldiers rode back and forth.

Exhausted, Chingmei slumped weeping to the ground. How could she hope to find her husband and father amongst all these men? Her clothes and eighth pair of shoes were in tatters, her calloused feet bled but her resolve was still strong. She decided to rest for the night and in the morning she would begin her search for Honglun and her father.

Chingmei rose with the sun.  

She stopped a passing guard. “Sir, can you show me where I can find the men from Lungshan? They came three years ago, three hundred men in all.”

“Be gone, woman, who is to know where anyone comes from?” He strode away.

Dispirited, Chingmei walked on further. She walked over many hills. Late in the afternoon she found a man who knew the way.

‘Sister, see that large gate over there?  The men you seek are just beside it.’

 She ran to the gate. She shouted the names she knew. Faces turned, tongue-tied, these ghosts of her beloved kinsmen. Finally one found his voice. “Hong, Hong, your wife is here!” From a distance, a skeletal figure with sunken eyes, cracked lips and sinewy arms held stiffly apart, moved towards her. The sight of the advancing man appalled Chingmei but she recognised her husband and rushed to him.

‘At last, at last,’ she sobbed. ‘Where is Father?’ Her legs, weakened by her arduous journey collapsed under her and she fell to the ground.

Honglun knelt beside her, clutching her thin shoulders with his bleeding fingers. Tears rolled down his leathered cheeks.

           ‘Chingmei, your father died on the march here as did mine,’ Honglun said. ‘We had to leave them where they fell. There were many others who died that way. Only the young survived.’

            The life had gone from his eyes, the fire from his belly. In despair Chingmei looked at the men around her and her hopes died with the realisation that few would return to their homes.

            “Honglun, we have a son,” Chingmei said.

            She saw a spark of light in his eye.

            “Hey! Get back to work, you lazy pack of mules!”

            Several guards descended upon them.

A whip lashed the men’s backs. With yelps of pain they dispersed back to their work. Honglun held Chingmei, ignoring the order.

The head guard, flanked by others came towards them.

 “Ha!  What have we here? A woman!”

He flicked her hair from her face with his whip and studied her with a toothless sneer.

“Please! I came only to find my husband.”

 “Well, and you have. Ha! But you’re no good to him here, lady. However…” he leered.

She cried out as they tore her from Honglun’s arms. With a bellow of rage, Honglun leapt at the guards. He was struck on the head with a cudgel. ‘Put him in the Wall!’ The guard shouted to the other workers. ‘You! Wall him up, do you hear? Or you will all be walled up.”

Chingmei watched in horror as the men of her village dragged Honglun’s unconscious body towards the Wall. They lowered him inside and tied him against one of the wooden supports then proceeded to stack blocks of stone around him.

 “This is how we bury the dead, sister,” a guard laughed.

  As the stones slowly piled higher, Chingmei heard Honglun moan.

“He’s not dead! Let him go! Please let him go! Please.”

She struggled to free herself. But the guard gripping her arm held tight.

The men stopped.

“Continue! Or you join him inside!” ordered the supervisor.

Chingmei screamed.

A hush fell around them as other workmen in the vicinity were attracted to the commotion. Honglun fixed his eyes on Chingmei as his friends piled on more stones. Then he started bellowing.

 Chingmei cried out. ‘I love you, my husband!’

 “What’s his name? What is our son’s name?” called Honglun.

To be continued.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


26th August 2013

Well, hi Readers,
       You must be wondering why I've named this blog The Titan. That, dear friends, and I hope there are some music lovers amongst you, is the name of Mahler's first symphony. I have just played it with the MANUKAU SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA here in Auckland on Saturday night and it will be a night to remember. It is an incredible work, in four parts, the longest being Part 4. It has all the passion and pathos of a truly great drama and for variety and pace, it outstrips Wagner's Ring Cycle or anything that Wagner wrote and I am a fan of the man.
       Let me tell you about the Manukau Symphony. It was formed 20 years ago (Saturday was our anniversary which was celebrated with wine and cake post-concert) and was named after Manukau City. Auckland at that time was divided into 4 cities, so spread out is it. But now we've gone back to being one and the mayor presides over more people than the Prime Minister can command as a third of the population lives in Auckland. It is also the most diverse, culturally and is the Polynesian city of the world, there being more Polynesians here than all over the South Pacific and most of them live in Manukau. However, the Polynesian aspect stops there as both the orchestral players and the audience are mainly Europeans or Asians (Chinese and Korean). But changing the name is difficult and we have built our reputation on it.
     Anyway, The Titan concert was magnificient. We had a full hall and the audience leapt up and gave us at least a ten minute standing ovation. So we twenty years, we have finally come of age. We now play to packed halls and with each concert, we go up a notch, having done Rachmaninov's piano concertos, Tchaikovsky's several symphonies, Elgar, Beethoven, etc. in all their glory.
      To having blown my trumpet on behalf of my orchestra, I shall continue giving a report about my literary work. At this time A CHINESE ODYSSEY: THE MING ADMIRAL has been  edited and I am in the process of making the corrections. While the editing was being done, I carried with THE CHINESE DIASPORA: A LIFE DIVIDED which is now nearing the end. This third part of the book covers the Chinese Labour Corp in the First World War in the trenches of France. I'm sure this is news to many of you because that war basically involved Britain, France and Germany though Turks and Anzacs were also heavily involved. But over 140,000 Chinese were shipped and trained there to be coolies and they leave their graves in various parts of France and Belgium. The Ming Admrial will be out by Christmas. Now I haven't time to continue with the short story series which will continue asap. Ciao Everybody.