Hey – Australians!

Batlle of Binh Ba Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Canberra Australia 5th June 2019

Everyone in Australia: at 2pm tomorrow the 50th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Binh Ba – a major battle in the Vietnam War – are going to be broadcast live on television from Canberra, and then repeated the day after.

My father has played a huge part in organising this event, and hundreds of soldiers, past and present, are flying in to participate. My parents are in the official party, and will be obvious on TV, and I’ll be sitting… somewhere…! We’ve all been too busy to finalise this.

Afterwards, there’s a function at the Australian War Memorial, and then there’s a huge dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll be staying at the hotel in the city, because there’s just so much going on!

Oh, Sri Lanka…

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo

I’m sorry that this is supposed to be a book blog, but it has recently become a blog about so many other things.

However, I just CAN’T ignore the terror attacks in Sri Lanka today – Easter Sunday.

I’ve lost count of how many Sri Lankan stamps I have in my passports, but there are MANY. I used to stay there before and after every trip I made to India to visit my parents (they used to live there).

Sri Lankans are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Even when the civil war was still on, and there were sandbags and machine guns everywhere, and the airport staff raided your suitcases before they even let you into the building, they were always so nice about it.

I always tell this story, but one time I checked into a resort in Negombo (where over a hundred people were killed in the terror attacks), the elderly gardener saw me carrying a tiny bag up to my room, and came running to help.

I thought he’d want a tip, but by the time I’d got into my room, and turned around to tip him, he was long gone. He literally just wanted to help me. In the hotel world, this is not a normal experience…

Sri Lankans are just like this. Amazing people.

I am so upset about these attacks, and I’m so upset they won’t matter much according to the world’s news.

Notre Dame…

I’m sure everyone has seen the footage of Notre Dame in Paris on fire.

I have spent a lot of time in Paris – much of that time on my own. I used to walk to Notre Dame on many days, and simply sit in the cathedral for a while, occasionally attending a service, even though I’m not religious.

I thought it was terrible when far-right “activists” would go in there and shoot themselves at the altar to protest abortion or whatever. I thought that was as bad as it would get.

There was scaffolding on the part of the building that caught fire. Restoration work is so, so dangerous for historic buildings. Something very similar happened in Belfast when I was there last year.

The Week: 4th – 10th March

National Library of Australia Canberra Heatwave Early Autumn Heatwave Sonya Heaney 3rd March 2019

Sunny afternoon for lunch on the terrace at the National Library.

This week saw the premature deaths of two icons from when I was growing up: Beverly Hills 90210’s Luke Perry and The Prodigy’s Keith Flint. Australia saw another shocking murder of a woman by an ex who wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was a similar situation to the murder of a childhood friend of mine in 2015.

And in Russia, a huge crowd of people lined up to give flowers and bow to a statue of Stalin. Imagine the world’s reaction if they’d done this for Hitler in Germany…

Two brave activists – Yevgeny Suchkov and Olga Savchenko – were arrested for doing THIS at the event.

I was so unprepared for Luke Perry’s death. He defined my generation. I was going into high school when his character was finishing high school.

Even though I had all the Jason Priestley merchandise (t-shirts, diaries, stickers etc.), Perry was the 90210 actor who emerged as the biggest star – and was apparently a great man behind the scenes. He was one of THE faces of the 1990s, enough that he was featured across the board in other iconic pop culture shows like The Simpsons:

Brian Austin Green, Jason Priestley and Luke Perry in the 90210 opening credits:

My review of How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes

The New Cover Trend

Cover Love

Chinese writer sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

An author in China has just been sentenced to over a decade in prison for writing a book with homosexual scenes. You can read more HERE, and I’ve shared a few paragraphs of the story below.

Chinese censorship is extreme. You can’t even access basic sites like Google, Instagram, Facebook – or even Goodreads! – over there. Heaven forbid someone learns something not approved by the government.

The most frustrating thing about travelling in China is the absolute ignorance of social issues the tourists bring with them. It’s one thing to wonder at the Forbidden City, and another thing entirely to be oblivious to the hammer and sickle symbols everywhere, and to not think there’s anything odd about the denial of the massacre in Tiananmen Square (and don’t get me started on what’s happening with Interpol – the whole world should be worried).

A Chinese author of erotic fiction has been sentenced to more than 10 years in jail for writing and selling a novel that featured gay sex scenes

Chinese writer sentenced to 10 years’ jail over book with homoerotic sex scenes

A Chinese author of erotic fiction has been sentenced to more than 10 years in jail for writing and selling a novel that featured gay sex scenes.

The female writer, who uses the pen name Tianyi but was identified in state media by her surname Liu, published the book Occupy in 2017, and sold it through Chinese online shopping site Taobao.

Local media reported police arrested Liu in November last year, and that she confessed to writing the book.

A court in China’s Anhui province sentenced her to 10 years and six months in jail for the crime of making and selling obscene articles for profit.

Yes, English matters.

Since at least the 1990s there has been a belief that the study of English at school isn’t all that important. When I was a teenager, students who prioritised maths over English in their course choices automatically graduated from college (the final two years of high school) with a significantly higher university entrance score, even if they didn’t get a particularly high grade in the subject.

With the recent push for more and more science in schools, an attitude has developed that English is a subject for stupid people. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people in their teens and early twenties refer to English as a “dumb people subject” in recent years.

And now we have this story coming out of New Zealand:

New Zealand students say word ‘trivial’ in exam confused them

High School students in New Zealand who didn’t know what the word “trivial” meant in an exam question have demanded not to be marked down as a result.

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word.

The students were asked to write an essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary.

If people in this world had better reading, comprehension and analytical skills, fewer people would be so susceptible to Russian propaganda and far-right conspiracies. If more people were better at English (or whatever their native language is), and better able to understand the rights and wrongs of the media they come across, we wouldn’t end up with people like Donald Trump running this world.

English isn’t for “dumb people”, and people with poor language skills shouldn’t brag about being smarter than those of us who read and write.

Stacey Abrams – Selena Montgomery: a romance author runs for Governor

Author and Politician Stacey Abrams Selena Montgomery

With the elections in the US taking place this week, I thought I’d mention Stacey Abrams, who is running for Governor of Georgia (and attempting to become the first black woman in the country to achieve such a position).

Why? Because Abrams also happens to be romantic suspense author Selena Montgomery!

The Washington Post had an interview with her a few days ago, where she discussed her books.

I have a subscription to the newspaper, but I’m not sure if you can access it without, so I’ve copied a couple of the questions here:

Q: How has writing romantic suspense novels prepared you to run for — and hold — office?

Leadership requires the ability to engage and to create empathy for communities with disparate needs and ideas. Telling an effective story — especially in romantic suspense — demands a similar skill set. Effective storytelling takes the reader into a life that is both familiar and foreign, enough of both to make space for others to feel empowered to tell their stories.

When I began writing novels, I read Aristotle to learn how to perfect structure, Pearl Cleage to sustain tension and Nora Roberts for characterization. Good romantic suspense can never underestimate the audience, and the best political leaders know how to shape a compelling narrative that respects voters and paints a picture of what is to come.

Q: Many readers find it easy to make fun of romance novels. What do you have to say to critics of the genre?

Telling a well-crafted story is hard. Full stop. Regardless of genre, good writing is good writing. Romance is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, and I’m honored to be in the company of extraordinary writers.