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Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

While I’m all in favor of love and romance and kindness, Valentine’s Day has always felt too commercial to me. When I was growing up it was almost unheard of in Australia. We certainly didn’t exchange cards or do school projects making valentines. It’s very much a recent  phenomenon here, driven mainly by TV and other commercial groups.

So I’m a bit of a grinch about the day. To me, romance and love should be celebrated whenever the mood strikes you, and you shouldn’t have to buy presents, like perfect-looking red roses that have no scent, and chocolates. Chocolates are for everyone, to be eaten and enjoyed at any time, whether you’re in a happy relationship or not.

And that’s another thing  I dislike — the “couple-ness” of Valentines Day, the implication that if you’re single, or widowed or divorced, then you’re some kind of loser.

So go out and subvert the message — give chocolates or flowers or even just a hug to anyone you care about — your gran, the  retired teacher  who taught you so well, the old bloke across the road who watches out for you and brings in your bins, the librarians who work so hard to find you the right book, and who are defending people’s right to read whatever they like.  There are plenty more you could add to this list, but you get the idea.  Valentines’ Day should be a “Love Actually” kind of day — and if you haven’t seen that movie, watch it.

But I don’t feel that, as a romance writer I can let the day pass Completely unnoticed. So here’s a cute little cartoon that I pinched off Facebook. 
Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy New Year

Happy Chinese New Year, that is, or as some prefer to call it,  the Lunar New Year.

I grew up with it being called Chinese New Year even though I know some other cultures have different names for it. But there has been a tradition of celebration and a dragon parade here dating back to the 19th century, starting in the Gold Rush towns, where there were large Chinese populations. (Photo by Sahil Pandita on Unsplash

In the state of Victoria, where I live, there was a very impressive  Chinese procession in the town of Beechworth in 1874 — you can see the engraving  here (scroll down).

And the city of Ballarat has one of the oldest surviving Chinese Dragons around. It was purchased in 1897, and paraded each year until the 1960’s, when it was retired to a museum and a new dragon purchased. If you want to know more about the history of the celebration in Australia, there’s a good article here.

There’s always a big celebration in Melbourne for the Lunar New Year. When I was in high school, my friends and I often used to meet up at a Chinese restaurant in central Melbourne’s “Chinatown” to celebrate several  friends’ end of January/early February  birthdays. A couple of  times the dragon entered the restaurant and cavorted around our table, much to our delight. And when my parents lived in Malaysia, I was lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and be part of a big, noisy, exuberant fun celebration.

I have another, quite personal reason for celebrating Chinese New Year — two years ago, I bought my new house on Chinese New Year, 2022, and it had been the luckiest purchase for me. Ever since, I have displayed a Chinese good luck token hanging on the front door, which is painted red (though not by me) a lucky color, )

I have more tokens hanging in the entrance.  And as you can see from this photo of my living room, I am partial to a bit of color. I even had my old brown lounge suite recovered in red, though not for lucky Chinese reasons. Everything in the house was beige, light brown and pale grey where I bought it, and though I know that’s probably fashionable, I like some color. I debated with a friend about a teal blue covering for the lounge suite, and this red, and though I loved the teal, we decided that the red would go with my rugs better. The bright cover on the couch is a length of fabric I’ve had forever, and I love it.  The cushions I also had before I moved. 
That’s Milly, in her favorite position, keeping watch out of the back door, in case a bird or a cat decide to attack me.

There was so much I want to say about Chinese New Year that I think I’ll blog about it on the Word Wenches on Monday. So I hope you forgive me if there’s a bit of repetition. 

The 2023 RWAust Conference

Here, finally is the report on the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney. I already wrote about it once on the Word Wench Blog, so click here to catch up with that post. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.  (That’s ErinMoiraO’Hara, good fairy  at the “Glitter” cocktail party)

Having not been to any in-person conference since CoVid first hit, it was both exciting and a little confronting to catch up with so many people at once. Some of the events were really crowded — and noisy. When a bunch of writers get together there is a LOT to talk about.  And it was so good to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for three or more years.

On the first night in, I had dinner with my friend, Sharon, who was heading to NZ the next day for her work. I first met Sharon when she enrolled in a one-day workshop with me at the NSW Writers Centre, and helped me get back to my hotel. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Then on Friday, my friend, historical author Isolde Martyn took me out to lunch at one of her favourite restaurants — The Little Snail. This was my entrée. (Here an entrée is the starter course. I was quite confused when I first ate out in the USA and found that entrée was what people called the main course.) It was the only snail dish on the menu, and I decided that since I eat all kinds of shellfish, why not snails? And they were delicious.

I first met Isolde in the USA at a Romance Writers of America conference in Washington DC, where we were both RITA finalists for Best First Book. She won, and we’ve been friends ever since. (I’m the one with the green top.)

Then on Friday night there was the cocktail party. Our cocktail parties are always costume parties, and this year the theme was “Glitter” and wow, you have no idea how much glitter was in evidence. I particularly loved these glittery boots.

But so many people had glittery outfits. I made do with a beaded top I already had—which I’d been given some years ago — and made a silly OTT turban, with a black feather boa, a strip of silver sequined fabric and a purple and diamanté feather headdress I’d worn for a 1920’s theme, several conferences ago.  (I have a fondnesss for turban-type headdresses.) Here I am in my hotel room before the party started.

And here are some more photos of what people were wearing. (Sorry about the wonky arrangement — I can’t seem to get the layout to do what I want.)

Actually I was stunned at how many people had “proper” glittery outfits. Clearly my wardrobe is lacking. The gray beaded top is the only glittery garment I own — though I do have some sparkly scarves.