Russia fires on and seizes Ukrainian ships.

Here’s your Monday reminder that Russia is still actively invading and committing acts of war against Ukraine, and that tweets from Trump’s toilet aren’t the most important thing happening in the world right now…

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photograph released by Russia's FSB security agency apparently showing an altercation between Russian and Ukrainian ships of the coast of Crimea on November 25 2018

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The Week: 19th – 25th November

One month until Christmas! I’m going to be decorating and wrapping things next weekend…

100 Years at Australian Parliament, Canberra.

Goodreads Choice Awards

Goodreads Choice Awards 2018

Out Now: The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

My review of The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

Chinese writer sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

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

Yes, English matters.

Romance Books Category Romance

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.

The Week: 15th – 21st October

The gorgeous Friday we had in Canberra!

1 Currawong Garden Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 15th october 2018 Australian Birds Nature

2 Currawong Garden Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 15th october 2018 Australian Birds Nature

We had some beautiful spring weather in Canberra this week, but every time I tried to work outside, this currawong would steal my chair the second I stepped away from it!

What a stunning by-election result in Sydney last night. Maybe a message to the Federal Government to remind them Australia didn’t vote for the far-right government we were handed behind closed doors a few weeks ago…? May we please have an election NOW?!

Also, what stunning news out of Queensland. I didn’t expect it.

So many terrible things in the world this week. A question: when a Russian guy goes on a shooting rampage in Ukraine’s Crimea, killing more people than in high-profile Parkland, Florida, why does nobody seem to care? Why do we treat lives in one country as so much more important than lives in any other?

In fact, I was taught in *first semester* journalism at university that the media DOES consider people of different countries to matter more. We were taught (in one of the top two journalism courses in Australia) to start thinking of different countries as holding different levels of importance. It disgusted me back then, and it disgusts me more with each year.

Judy Blume on the Big Screen

My review of The Makings of a Lady by Catherine Tinley

Want to Read: Dominion by Peter Ackroyd

Royal Wedding

12 October 2018 Newlyweds Princess Eugenie of York and Mr. Jack Brooksbank leave following their wedding at St George_s Chapel in Windsor, England. © Getty Images +

Coming Up for Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

Royal Wedding

12 October 2018 Newlyweds Princess Eugenie of York and Mr. Jack Brooksbank leave following their wedding at St George_s Chapel in Windsor, England. © Getty Images +

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I’m no royal watcher, and have no interest whatsoever in the Harry-and-Meghan show, but I did watch the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank on Friday night (Australian time), and loved every minute of it.

Firstly: how beautiful did everybody look! All those gorgeous jewel colours, all that sapphire blue and emerald green (and those gigantic actual emeralds in the tiara!).

Secondly: this wedding was seriously romantic. Give me the goofy groom who can’t stop crying, looks like he’s going to faint half the time, and then puts the dorkiest glasses in the world on to watch his bride come down the aisle over the other royal grooms any day!

I doubt the dorky-English-groom trope is ever going to take off in romantic fiction, but it ought to.

My other favourite royal wedding was when (Australian) Mary Donaldson married the Crown Prince of Denmark, because he cried through that one, too!

1 Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank curtesy to The Queen as they leave St George_s Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding. 12 October 20182 Princess Eugenie and her new husband Jack Brooksbank curtesy to The Queen as they leave St George_s Chapel in Windsor Castle following their wedding. 12 October 2018

Bowing to the Queen

And, thirdly, this was such a royal wedding, with all the beauty and class and traditions. Windsor looked absolutely gorgeous.

And boo to the downright rude Australian journalists who devoted their entire time covering the wedding to insulting Eugenie, her sister, her parents, and comparing it to the last one! Thank God the Royal Family has an official YouTube channel, and thank God they had a gorgeous livestream, sans terrible commentators!