An interview on the evolution of Gunfire Lullabies

I was interviewed by Andrea Barton of Brightside Story Studio about my recently released novel, Gunfire Lullabies.

Andrea is an editor I hired during the latter stages of my novel’s development, and I can highly recommend her work.

The article begins like this, but you can read the full interview here

“With her background as an Australian diplomat based in Indonesia and East Timor, Nore is ideally placed to write about East Timor’s independence struggle. Her debut novel places two female characters against the background of this political maelstrom. Join us as we discuss the evolution of Gunfire Lullabies.”

Gunfire Lullabies is released!

I am beside my self with excitement at the release of my novel. It’s taken me years.

You can purchase it here on my website in the Buy My Book tab.

Want to know more? Here’s a bit about it…

Jakarta, 1998. Junior Australian diplomat Ava Vuyk is on her first overseas posting when she’s assigned the conflict-ridden issue of East Timor with its twenty-three year independence struggle. The new Indonesian regime announces a vote in which the East Timorese will choose their future, but the military and local militia oppose it, launching a brutal campaign of terror and destruction. Amid the turmoil, Ava must decide whether she’ll gloss over the spiralling violence as her domineering ambassador demands, or report the truth in the hope the Australian government will intervene. 

In East Timor, teenage farmer Isabel is kidnapped by militia leader Gabriel as his sex slave after her brother escapes into the jungle rather than join his group. Alone but hopeful, she waits to be rescued. When a human rights group asks her to spy on Gabriel, she’s seduced by the promise she’ll be reunited her with her family.

Gunfire Lullabies—written by former diplomat, political advisor and press secretary Nore Hoogstad—is a gut-wrenching fictionalised account inspired by real life events that won’t fail to fascinate and enthral.

“Highly recommended. Nore guides us through the conflict in East Timor, and a clash between official duties in service of the state, versus human convictions and emotions. Each of us has a choice to make, whether to fulfil our contractual duty or our higher moral one; the dictates of the state versus those of the soul.”
J. Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste, 2007-2012

Family Haiku

Tomorrow is an anniversary for one of my parent’s deaths.

Tonight I was watching TV and saw pieces of driftwood being hauled into the sea. It sparked memories of holidays and a driftwood keepsake my father kept as a memento.

I wrote a haiku for his funeral, and here’s another one on the eve of his death anniversary. It’s interesting how the smallest images or smells or sounds can make you remember.

Australia is an increasingly lawless and irrational country

What I’m talking about today is the illegal and irrational conduct of Australian governments in the name of a health crisis. This includes lockdowns, mandates and protest arrests.

You may say these steps are warranted – safety versus freedom, but I think of them as indications of a further slide down an already slippery slope, in part because these actions are not backed by solid scientific data.

If governments can get away with this now, what will be next? A social credit system like China where so-called non-conformist behaviour means you can’t buy a train ticket, get an education, are publicly shamed or put on a blacklist?

I recall what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, which ended in the genocide of millions of Jews, and what I’ve seen with my own eyes what oppression led to in Indonesia and East Timor (now Timor Leste) resulting in their struggles for democracy and independence. I know how real these things can get. 

I thought I’d pick just three issues that demonstrate the concerning direction in which our country and its people are headed.

1. Australian lockdowns have been illegal

Did you know that unless you or your business have been specifically named in an official health order from your state’s health department, you are not required to go into lock down? If you are issued with such an order, it is be valid for only 28 days. You can find out more here. You may think lockdowns have been warranted, but keep reading and you’ll learn they’re not backed by evidence.

Further to this, the arrests of peaceful protesters in Victoria during the 2020 lockdowns are likely to be ruled by the Australian High Court as illegal and unconstitutional, meaning that ‘Australia has witnessed the detention of its first political prisoners’. You can read more about that here. Is this the kind of country we want to be?

Another slippery slope aspect of the Sydney lockdown has been putting (unarmed) Australian Defence Forces personnel onto the streets to help enforce the lockdown. I’ve worked in security sector reform in developing countries, and one of the first things you teach newly democratising security forces is that the role of the police is an internal security, law and order one, while the role of the defence forces is protective external security one. I am disturbed at this growing convergence of roles. As I have seen first hand in Indonesia and East Timor, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police and military has historically been associated with repressive regimes, not democratic ones, with the military having access to far greater force than the police. A military should not use its force or power on its own people.

Put together, what this points to is that governments are blatantly flouting the law and democratic processes, and largely doing it without public questioning or recourse. But I would go one step further and question whether lockdowns are even a valid method stopping COVID-19.

For example, while Sweden’s no-lockdown and no-masks policy with restricted gatherings and physical distancing resulted in more COVID-19 cases, they experienced less deaths, and in July 20201 they hit zero deaths. There could be various factors at play and you can read more about it here, but one I found interesting is that health is actually a longer-term game, and ‘a lower economic hit now means a lower excess death hit later’.

An alliance of Australian doctors called the Covid Medical Network back this up in a statement here about the long Victorian lockdown:

‘The ambition for ‘viral elimination’ and the intent of achieving “zero cases for a period of time”, is both irrational and unachievable, according to the best local and international evidence. The latest evidence suggests that ‘lockdown measures’ in general have limited effectiveness in reducing the viral health impacts in the long term. The Victorian government’s measures are ‘anti-health’ and deny the principles of good medical practice. They constitute a disproportionate approach which relies on a fear-based media narrative as well as inadequate and misleading information. This must cease as soon as possible.’

They also state here that the ‘Doherty modelling report, prepared for the Australian National Cabinet on July 30th 2021, has been used as the grounds for the road map out of the pandemic, paving the way for Australian political leaders to justify rolling lockdowns and restrictions as well as drive an 80% vaccination target for our return to “normality. However, our analysis has shown that science was lacking according to our standards of modelling…It is just another example of how bad the science applied to the pandemic is, begging the question, should we not re-examine the science using real-world experts instead of academia based experts. We need a new approach, and better science.’

2. A protocol exists with a very high success rate for curing COVID-19

Professor Thomas Borody from the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney has created a protocol called the Ivermectin-based Triple Therapy compromising Ivermectin, Doxycycline and zinc. It has been shown in trails to successfully cure COVID-19. In one trial in Bangladesh where COVID-19 levels were high, the cure rate was 100% or all 60 people in the trial. 

There is already significant research supporting this protocol, yet considerable resistance exists against using it. Of note, it’s not being used in Australian hospitals, although some individual doctors are prescribing it for their patients. You can learn more here and here.

Some suggest this is because the drugs are generic (out of patent) and therefore not lucrative, with Dr Borody explaining there is no pharmaceutical company behind the protocol to lobby governments. I’ve seen first hand working in the Australian parliament how immensely powerful lobby groups can be.

What’s really interesting is that earlier this year India, which was reporting over 400,000 new COVID-19 cases and over 4,000 deaths per day, went to barely any cases within five weeks of the addition of Ivermectin into their treatment protocol. You can see the statistics here, and also learn about how Wikipedia is not allowing this information to be shared.

3. No one has talked about the importance of maintaining good health and immunity to prevent COVID-19, whether vaccinated or not

No matter whether you’re vaccinated or not, you can still get COVID-19 and possibly die from it. People with underlying chronic health issues are far more susceptible.

Yet not one public health official I’ve heard has talked about the importance of eating a whole foods diet, reducing and managing stress, moving regularly, drinking adequate water and getting regular sun, let alone doing something about chronic diseases by, for example, losing weight, and reducing sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and junk foods (health food shops are shut during the lockdown, but alcohol shops remain open).

Sound too basic? Not at all. These things are our fuel and we need them to thrive. You wouldn’t put dirty fuel into a car, never service or wash it and expect it to perform well and look good. This is the same with the human body.

We need a multi-pronged plan for the health of this country’s population that includes short-, medium- and long-term strategies that consider all aspects of our health. Simply put, there is no one magic pill for individual or public health, and we need better education and more support.

Vitamin D

Another absence has been to advocate the use of Vitamin D, yet it plays a vital role in general immunity and COVID-19 prevention.

Late last year, 20 health and medical experts from the UK, Europe and US sent an open letter to world governments calling for immediate recommendations to increase Vitamin D intake to 4000 IU per day for healthy adults. They cited evidence from more than 70 studies, including a randomised controlled trial, to support the claim that Vitamin D reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation and death.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common worldwide and impacts many of us. This is due to our diets, lack of sun exposure, lockdowns, stress, chronic disease and other immune challenges. Yet it’s important for cell formation; bone, heart, skin, hair reproductive and pancreatic health; our vascular, respiratory, reproductive, immune and digestive systems; ageing; sleep; mood and more.

If you take just one supplement at the moment, take 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 every day. Optimal levels are between 125-150. Lab normal levels compare you with everyone whose blood gets tested there, meaning they’re often lower than optimal.

Stress

Stress is a big player in all disease. I’ve blogged about this here in my role as a nutritionist, but it shuts your immune system down and impacts the health of every single cell in your body, which are the building blocks of your health and wellbeing. 

The problem with current fear mongering and lockdowns is that stress levels have risen in a big way. With lockdowns, domestic violence in Australia has increased (see this Australian Government report here), in the UK there was an ‘alarming 20% rise in babies being killed or harmed during the first lockdown’ (see the report here), and this article dated June 2021 states that ‘attempted suicide rates among Victorian teenagers have skyrocketed by 184 per cent in the past six months’.

In addition, as the Covid Medical Network state here, ‘The fear and societal anxiety caused by these policies [lockdowns] has delayed presentations of many serious medical conditions, including cancers and heart disease.’ 

On Delta

The Covid Medical Network cites that the Doherty modelling report here says there is ‘limited evidence that the Delta strain is more severe than previous strains. Therefore how can we say with conviction that the delta strain is deadlier than previous strains?’ I am waiting for more information on this strain to come out in September 2021.

Your health has been politicised

Your health and rights over your body have been politicised and our control fo this, and broader future looks increasingly undemocratic. It’s time to get informed and lobby your elected representatives, whose role it is to serve the community (and not the other way around), to create logical, good science-based responses to COVID and other ongoing health concerns.

Also, it’s time to stop being scared. Again, inform yourself, take control of your health, eat well, stress less and TRUST your body. It has amazing abilities to heal and protect itself if given the chance.

Another esample of politicisation is that in 2019 websites that advocated eating real food for health i.e. food as medicine and safe supplements, had their accessibility limited by 40-99% overnight on the basis that so-called ‘alternative health’ is not backed by science, which is simply not true. All my work, for example, is research based. Mine dropped by 45%. What a strange world when empowering people about their own health using food and lifestyle is viewed as being radical and anti-social. What’s really going on here?

A bit about me:

I am pro good science – although science is subjective anyway and a recent study showed that a significant amount of research is biased due to funding compromises – and pro deep rational thinking. My qualifications are in international relations and nutrition, and I’m part-way through a science degree. Also I’m a thinking human being.

Remember the Nuremberg Code

  1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.
    This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that, before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject, there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person, which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment. 
    The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.
  2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.
  3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study, that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.
  4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.
  5. No experiment should be conducted, where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the
    experimental physicians also serve as subjects.
  6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.
  7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.
  8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.
  9. During the course of the experiment, the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end, if he has reached the physical or mental state, where continuation of the experiment seemed to him to be impossible.
  10. During the course of the experiment, the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgement required of him, that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.

[“Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10”, Vol. 2, pp. 181-182. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949.]

Two publishing offers and the decision to self publish

Me the moment I decided to self publish

A couple of years ago I received two publishing offers for my fiction manuscript, Gunfire Lullabies. Can you imagine my joy? I’d slaved over this this book to get it to a high standard, and after considerable interest but no final offer with other publishers, my book and writing was finally about to be formally realised.

One offer was with a small independent publisher and the other was with a more academic publisher, but with restricted conditions. I decided to go with the first offer, even though I’d checked them out and had a few concerns.

After dilly dallying for 18 months, which included months of no communication at all, and missing the golden opportunity to publish my book on the 20th anniversary of the East Timor independence ballot during which it’s set, the publisher pulled out. This was despite a legal opinion from Australia’s top publishing barrister that my novel was good to go.

My disgust and relief were palpable. It was like escaping an abusive relationship. My gut feeling about this publisher had been spot on, which is far easier to say in hindsight.

I decided to do another line edit that took my novel to a new level and sent it to an agent who was a contact of several published writers I knew. This was a mistake as they had a commercial focus, and my book is crossover literally–commercial. Their response was, shall we say, discordant.

I could have gone back to publishers previously interested in my novel or taken it to others. But I asked myself what did I really want?

The answer was creative control. In the end, it’s simple when you work out what your one priority is.

I’m confident about my novel and don’t want to cut out a character, component or the entire literary element to reduce the word count from 113,00 down to 90,000. I couldn’t bare to receive yet another, may I say divergent opinion on one character or another, or to wait to find out whether someone finds my writing style either beautiful or too something or other. You get the idea. I’m not new to the writing game, and while editors’ and agents’ opinions may be informed by professional experience, they’re nonetheless subjective and vary wildly. And really, you could go on perfecting and altering a manuscript or painting for a lifetime.

So I came the decision to self publish. I’d considered it before, but had previously associated it with failure. These days, many formally published authors are making this same decision for some or all of their work for similar reasons as above.

In part this may be because self publishing is not what it used to be. I’ve watched it develop into a big industry featuring unlimited distribution possibilities and a multitude of support options that didn’t exist even 5 years ago. While competition is fierce and the marketing side feels daunting right now, what doesn’t in the beginning?

In the end, it’s time for me to birth my baby so that others can read my story; it’s time for me to finally hold a copy of my book with my name on the cover in my hands.

We were young again

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It was summer again today. The sun burned the clouds and dew and mist away, and the people lay on the white sand and frolicked in the waves and laughed, and cars cruised by playing loud music and there was beer and fish and chips. And or a brief moment, everyone who’d lost their jobs, held fears for their future, couldn’t get supplies or was working from home, forgot. For a moment, the world was young again.

Australia, who are you?

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I heard a story the other day from someone traveling through Europe.

When asked by a local what nationality they were, this person replied ‘Australian’.The European turned their back on them and walked away. The traveller said this was the first time they had experienced this. Normally as an Australian they were welcomed with open arms.

The other experience I had was at a networking event filled with small business people from diverse cultural backgrounds. I’m a first generation Australian as were quite a few others. A couple were also new immigrants.

This, I thought, is more like real Australia, not like the white, middle class and middle aged men you see on TV.

‘Best country in the world, Australia,’ two of these men insisted.

‘Is it?’ I wondered. It should be. We’ve been so lucky in many ways.

But rather, I feel shame at being a member of a selfish country that doesn’t care about its poor or homeless, the refugees who legally apply for asylum, the climate that is so obviously changing every year, our animals and plants in distress and decline, the little native bush we have left that’s readily given over to poor farming practices, indigenous Australians’ rights, people with different views, privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of choice over mainstream and alternative medicine, supporting developing countries, public education, women, jobs or the rest of the world except maybe for America.

That’s not quite true. We sort of care. But not enough to do something about these things if it means possibly going against our personal interests.

Instead we are a country that voted against a non-existent death tax, and for share franking to continue when we either had no shares, or because we believed we had a right to avoid paying tax on them so we could give our superannuation to our kids. This is the superannuation already taxed at very low levels to allow for self-funded retirement, thus taking the burden off the state. Me me me over eduction, affordable housing, the economy, infrastructure and aid.

Our identity is as a laid back fair go kind of place. What sort of backbone is that? In any case, there isn’t much that’s fair out there in real Australia, even if there are a million and one rules. We are sexist, ageist, racist and we don’t give a damn about people less well off. I understand the world feels more dog eat dog. I feel it too. But where is the national character in us that says ‘This is not right’? Where is the leader who stands up and is willing to make constructive changes for our future, even if it makes us feel a little uncomfortable? Change is growth and growth can be uncomfortable. Rather, we’re content to tread water and drift backwards.

Australia, I feel, is also a country that reacts with fear rather than finding the courage to follow a vision. In truth, we have no vision. We’d rather knock that down, continuing our unhealthy tall poppy tradition. So we roll over on the things we don’t like and shrug saying ‘Nothing I can do about it’ or ‘I don’t follow politics’. Must protect the status quo.

We have no Magna Carta equivalent and I think we need one that also considers the rights of our first inhabitants. If we properly address our past, we might be better able to build our future. From this process we can forge a stronger identity and define values to guide us during these challenging times.

I used to feel proud in East Timor of the job our soldiers did. I used to feel proud as a diplomat to put forward certain values, politics aside. I’m glad I don’t have to do that now because I couldn’t do it and sleep at night. Compartmentalisation can only go so far.

But getting back to my initial story, while I don’t fully know why the European turned away from the Australian, in my heart of hearts I do. I suspect they might see us as a lucky, spoilt young country that refuses to grow up and be responsible.

And if this was the case, I would agree.

[Before you tell me to go back to where I came from (even though I was born here), I’m writing this because I care. Not because I don’t.]

How long should grief last?

[Written on 26 July]

It’s three years today since my mother died, joining my father in death and  leaving my brothers and I alone, and me the oldest in the family as well as the matriarch. That came a hell of a realisation, I can tell you.  

My mother planned to live until she was in her nineties. But I knew this was unlikely.

Deeply suspicious of the medical establishment, and rightly so given her woeful treatment by male gynaecologists who happily stole her fertility and thrust her into early menopause, she refused to deal with them.

Then when she was forced to, she trusted another male doctor who once again let her down, ironically because he gave her what he thought she wanted even though it meant an earlier than necessary death, which I know she did not want at all. But would he listen? No. He would look at me like some interfering busy body as she told to him time and again the lies she told herself.

But that’s all in the past. What is it that I miss about her today, a day of many challenges?

Perhaps I miss that I have no one and nowhere to go to.  

Not that my mother ever understood me or my problems, or was someone I could easily turn to. I could in theory, but in reality I whenever I tried I found myself feeling more alone than ever, more unrecognised with every attempt. 

I don’t blame my mother for her remoteness. Abandoned by her father in her teens in the worst kind of way, reviled by a jealous and competitive mother, and a survivor of all sorts of childhood travesties including during World War II, she didn’t let that overcome her. Instead she immigrated, had a family and created her dream of being a psychologist. 

I admire and respect that and am filled with awe for her.

She could have been a bitter and angry person, she could have inflicted upon us what was done to her. But she wasn’t and she didn’t. She chose to help people. But with me, we were forever ships in the other’s night, reaching out but finding the other too far away to grab hold of. I could not find her being behind her mask of survival and control. 

Perhaps what I miss today – and what I’ve continued to struggle to come to terms with these three years – is what we were not and what we can now never be. Her once soft belly and warm full breast of the mother of my dreams would never be realised. All those times I called her up and fell mute when she failed to hear me. That time, days before her death, when I cried into the phone that I never truly felt her love other than as some intellectual exercise. Finally she convinced me it was there, and for some moments it finally was laid bare.

Right now I would settle for even for five minutes of the frustration with her. I would get in my car to be with her, a person who despite it all, welcomed me no matter what. 

So perhaps what I really miss is not just her strangled kind of love, but that her death has forced me to grow up. Perhaps I miss being a child. Her death has indeed forced me to be alone at a time when I could very much do with an escape. 

And there it is. There is no escape. There is only, and has only ever been, me. And that is the greatest realisation and hurt right there. That she dared to leave me. That she could never rescue me. That I am alone, just as I always was. And neither she nor anyone was ever going to be able to allay that truth. 

Maybe there is a part of me too that regrets those struggles we had, who wished I wasn’t so busy with my life during her middle years, who wished I had been more generous with my time and made my mother more welcome, who was less driven mad by her incessant self talk.

Perhaps there is part of me also who, with time, has imagined she could have been different, that she could have changed. But the truth is that no matter how hard I tried, she was never going to be different. She could never step into that hopeful void I made for her to step into. 

So as much as all of that, and in the very end, I simply miss my mother. Bravo, mother. Bravo. I love and miss you no matter it all.