I was supposed to launch my book on Saturday.

Sure, it went live but when it came to tooting the horn and blasting out a fanfare, I just couldn’t.

candlesLike most people, I’d been staring in horror at rolling news reports from Paris till the wee hours of Saturday morning. This on top of the shocking events in Garissa, Kenya and Beirut, Lebanon. Followed by the predictable knee-jerk reactions from people who precede their divisive fear-mongering with phrases like, “I’m not a racist, but…” At least that made my Facebook clear out easier. Closer to home, two friends received seriously worrying health news. Announcing my latest novel not only seemed insensitive and crass, but my heart wasn’t in it. Who cares?

Then I heard that a group of writing colleagues and I had managed to achieve something wonderful with a team effort. News stories of kindness, heroism and strength in the face of terror began appearing below the headlines. Another friend and I hatched a plan to raise a smile from someone who’s not had much to smile about this year. Finally, a fellow author wrote to congratulate me on my new book and share her review. It brought more tears to my eyes, but this time of gratitude. I wrote back and explained my inertia. This was her reply.

Your storytelling and the reading pleasure it gives is like a little candle. And it gets added to all life’s other many little candles of decent, ordinary pleasures to remind us that the darkness doesn’t always have to win.

That hit home. For many years, my mantra has been “Do No Harm”. Don’t wreck the environment, hurt people’s feelings, spread fear and paranoia, judge others (well, apart from their tastes in music), destroy achievements or be cruel to anyone or anything.

Anne’s inspiring comment makes me realise that’s not enough. I need to do more good. To practise random acts of kindness, make art, offer refuge, create beauty, engage and empathise, support and applaud. To light another little candle.

So here’s today’s.

Human Rites, available everywhere as ebook and in print.

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