Farting My ABCs: Chapter 3

April 11, 2020 at 2:20 am (Cat pics, Free story, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff, My Novels)

This weekend is four days long, which means four days in which Chris is Primary Parent instead of me. Which means I get to focus on writing for four full days in a row (that, and sleeping, and resting). It’s terribly exciting. The end of this round of editing The Floating City is nigh (that is, my latest interactive fiction novel, which is climate change fiction). I’ll post a link for y’all to read it for free when it’s ready for more readers.

And here’s today’s Farting My ABCs Chapter 3 reaction video.

Art of the day (I’m still recommending middle grade novels that are well worth reading as an adult): The Narnia series by CS Lewis. If your first language is English, you’ve probably encountered at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (incidentally, rather appropriate for Easter). There are seven books in all.

Some people feel cheated at the Christian content of the books (in which case you probably shouldn’t read my middle grade series either). Others feel that the books are racist and/or sexist, or just generally anti-sex (because of a couple of vital paragraphs about Susan in the final book). I think they’re pretty good in terms of female characters, especially considering they’re written by a man in the 50s. But I can’t comment on racism except to say that one of the Calormenes is a vital and brilliant character in The Horse and His Boy, and that Prince Caspian is a Calormene and the heroic title character of his book (and there is another heroic Calormene in the final book). However, the Calormenes are also described as amazing storytellers, but proud and cruel too.

In story order, the first book is The Magician’s Nephew. In my opinion, all seven books are brilliant.

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Farting My ABCs: Chapter 2

April 10, 2020 at 12:51 am (Cat pics, Free story, Fully Sick, funny, I get paid for this, Mum Stuff, My Novels)

I have some great news about FARTING MY ABCs… but I can’t tell anyone about it yet.

Anyway, here’s Chapter 2!

In other news, TJ is now up to twenty backyard baskets.

Today Louisette is wearing tiara, two tutus, and her dressing gown.

I’m feeling… okay. Four day weekend!!!!

Art of the day: Another middle grade series by a wonderful Aussie author (wonderful at heart as well as talent; I have met both Sandy Fussell and Pamela Freeman and they’re everything you hope a famous author could be): Princess Betony by Pamela Freeman (who also writes historical fiction as Pamela Hart).

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The Virus Diaries: The Floating City

March 29, 2020 at 6:42 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Interactive Fiction, Mum Stuff, My Novels, Slow Writing)

Today is Sunday, which means I get to (mostly) ignore the kids and (theoretically) focus on my writing. I did have a reasonably good day yesterday: I was too tired to do much of anything until the kids were asleep, but then I finished expanding Chapter 11, including adding a section on future quarantine methods (someone from another city is visiting the main city, so he has to have blood, saliva and mucus samples taken, and have a chemical bath, and have his movements tracked for six weeks via his wrist computer). It’s a minor section, but of course I think it’s super cool that my vision of the future has learned a major lesson from COVID-19.

Zipper remains unimpressed.

A long, long time ago, when TJ looked like this…

… I had an idea for a story set in a floating city after the ice caps have melted. The idea bubbled away for years as I worked on other things. I’d always think of it when I went swimming, because of course the population of a floating city would be amazing swimmers (and because swimming laps is not exactly mentally taxing, so it’s an excellent time for random pondering).

I began properly researching for “The Floating City” in very early 2017. Inspired by Trump, I wanted to write some disabled characters (since he was being horrid to disabled citizens, among others). I was generally aware that there are more disabled people in the world than in fiction, so I thought it’d be good to change that balance a little. I was also aware that I knew very little and would need to go to some extra effort to make sure my representation of disabled characters did more good than harm.

I was originally going to have the reader choose whether they were mute, a double amputee, or phobic of deep water. The main issue with that is that the nature of ChoiceScript games is that choices should for the most part be very balanced. So having such a choice implied that those three options were all equally difficult. I couldn’t say whether they are or aren’t, but that just makes it even worse.

I’m fascinated by languages (I actually studied linguistics at uni, although not as a major) so of course the many sign languages in the world are very interesting (things like facial expression or the expansiveness of a gesture showing “tone”, and variations from place to place). Like most people, I’m aware that some Deaf people will elect to NOT get their hearing “fixed” given the option, because there is a whole Deaf subculture that is more important to some people than the ability to hear (the rough unpleasant sound of electronic “hearing” is definitely a factor too). I also liked the idea of a floating city made of glass spheres that people both lived in and travelled through. I imagined there might be sealed hatches that took an annoying few seconds to open. So I figured some basic sign language would be handy for people to communicate through glass, and I invented “Tapping” which is handy for those awkward minutes talking through glass, as well as giving people the option of tapping directly onto a person for a kind of “whisper” effect. Therefore, my floating city had a normal sign language dialect plus Tapping.

And, with Tapping being universally spoken, people would be more open to learning a few regular signs as well, if only to make those through-glass (or underwater) conversations more satisfying. I didn’t think that would be enough to actually have a fully bilingual city, so I made up something else: around a third of the population is Hard of Hearing or Deaf (a rather limited population pool brings out recessive genes).

With all that background, it was natural for most denizens of Kota Perahu to speak both sign language and Tapping. Which of course means being Deaf or Hard of Hearing is no longer a disability there, much as being very shortsighted is not a disability for me, since I can wear glasses.

I really liked the idea of a story showing by its world-building that it’s society rather than physical impairment that makes life difficult for disabled people.

I also really like the fact that certain disabled athletes are literally better than their able-bodied equivalents, because prosthetic technology is really cool. Someone I used to babysit works in the field of making cheap prosthetics for third world countries. People are 3D printing bright pink glittery arms, and tentacles (why not?) and water pistol arms. Kids are designing their own prosthetic limbs for fun.

So of course a person on a floating island could, hypothetically, become a real-life mermaid.

They’d need to be a double above-knee amputee for maximum movement, which would require considerable tech to overcome. But… a real tail? I couldn’t give up the idea.

So I badly wanted at least one profoundly Deaf major character, and a double above-knee amputee for the main character (so readers could ‘experience’ swimming with a real tail).

And that is how the story ended up, disability-wise. But I didn’t expect my research to have such a profound effect on my own family.

Chris has innattentive ADD. If you’ve ever met him you’ll notice he’s not hyperactive. Like… not at ALL. If he was any more laid back he’d stop breathing. But I knew there was a genetic element (apart from anything else, his dad also has ADD) so for the first two years of Lousiette’s life, she didn’t watch TV. That’s recommended for preventing or lessening ADD. This is an epic achievement, and all the more so when you consider how much screen time my kids get nowadays (… all of it).

Louisette as a baby.

 

I also watched her behaviour, and I noticed that actually she had amazing focus, even as an infant. She was, I thought, basically the opposite of someone with ADD.

But then when I was chatting to people about disabilities, someone mentioned “hyperfocus” as a symptom of ADD. The word alone was enough to stop me in my tracks. As the name implies, people with ADD are super duper focused on certain things, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Just like… Louisette.

She was about to start Kindy, so I did some more research and was able to let her teacher know that we suspected she also had innattentive ADD. Twelve months later, it had been overwhelmingly confirmed and she started taking Ritalin at the relatively early age of 6. (Let’s not get into talking about Ritalin here. ADHD is both over- and under-diagnosed and plenty of people mistakenly believe it’s not a real condition or that it’s due to bad parenting and/or have legitimate concerns about Ritalin as it’s a very powerful drug. Yes, I know.)

At this stage—in 2017 I’d been too sick to work for two years, although I didn’t have the fibromyalgia diagnosis for another three years—it also slowly dawned on me that *I* was disabled.

Now obviously chronic illness and disability are technically different things. But there is a whole disabled community, and I’m in it. From that point onwards I grew used to the idea of calling myself “disabled” (It’s been five years now since I was able to do normal work, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever recover). Sure I’m not paralysed (as we always think of when someone says “disabled”). That doesn’t make me able-bodied.

So here I am. Disabled. Connected to others, and experiencing a lot of what other disabled people experience. I applied for a disability parking permit back in 2018 or so, which is SO GOOD and helps me to still be able to do some basic stuff like dropping the kids at school. This year I applied for the disability support pension, and that’s basically the bright shining light at the end of the tunnel of financial failure that is my life. I hope it’s not a train.

Ah, we were all so cute back then.

 

Anyway.

As part of the writing process, I tried to imagine how the current world could plausibly end up looking like the world of The Floating City, especially since the titular floating city was mostly made up of Indonesian refugees (that’s never actually mentioned in the story, although it’s mentioned that most Kota Perahu people have brown skin and most of those living in the underground city of New Sydney are pale).

So I decided that a world that had experienced the stupidity and racism of Trump might have a massive swing in the opposite direction, and briefly face the very real problem of Climate Change—and the immense numbers of climate refugees—head on, prioritising compassion, scientific innovation, and long-term thinking. Including massive investments of capital.

So in my version of the future, there is the invention of Glass, which is stronger than regular glass and also acts as a solar panel and a computer screen. The whole city is made of it.

And Australia builds Kota Perahu, and populates it with a balance of skills, prioritising refugees (or those who are in danger of becoming refugees eg those from the Maldives) but sprinkling in others as well. It is well built, sustainable, and fundamentally independent. It has certain regions that it travels through over the course of a year, trading along the way. It is very difficult to gain citizenship, which is darkly amusing when the ice caps finish melting and several major cities (including Sydney) are largely destroyed, making ‘rich’ refugees beg for entry to Kota Perahu. (That doesn’t actually enter in to the final story, but it would definitely have happened in their past.)

Other floating cities are built around the world. Some are done properly, and some are thrown together cheaply or in a hurry. Some thrive, and some are effectively new third world countries.

Here’s an image I’ve bought off Shutterstock for the cover:

Life settles into a new normal in which a lot of animal species have died out, others have adapted, and the chips have fallen into their new pattern. Australia has a new inland sea (never mentioned in the tale, although there’s a floating city there too), there are several major underground cities, and there are a lot more deserts.

And that’s where the story takes place, from the perspective of someone who’s grown up in a rather nice floating city and feels sorry for anyone who hasn’t. And their generation can spend a much longer time underwater than ours (based on a few people groups with amazing skills that exist today).

So. That’s pretty much the deal with The Floating City. I quite often write the first 50,000 words of a book in 4-6 weeks. This one IS technically finished (still editing) and it’s over 100,000 words… but it’s by far the book that’s taken me the longest to write. I don’t fully know why. Maybe because it’s scifi (just barely) rather than fantasy? Or because I knew I needed to research and really think about what I was writing? Maybe because this marks a shift in my writing (it does: my mojo is incredibly weak right now)?

I’m nearly there. Nearly. And I’ll be doing some more tonight. There are five versions of Chapter 12 (the climactic chapter) so it’ll be hard to stay enthusiastic all the way through, but I’m determined to do a good job.

An image for the icon when it’s on sale:

Like all my other ChoiceScript tales, it’ll be a Hosted Game released by Choice of Games.

Eventually.

Resource of the day: Check out all the Hosted Games by Choice of Games here. There are a lot of beauties there (including several that I’m involved in, the most recent of which is the cozy crime tale Death at the Rectory available on pretty much any device). They are a very easy entry into interactive fiction, and super fun.

Recommended donation of the day: Here’s a Tasmanian artist who can post stuff to you.

Recommended personal action of the day: Go for a walk.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Chalk. There’s so much cool chalk art in people’s driveways right now!

 

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Death at the Rectory

October 1, 2019 at 8:01 pm (I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, My Novels, Well written)

It’s been a long, long time but I finally have another ChoiceScript interactive story.

DEATH AT THE RECTORY (iOS, Google Play, Amazon, etc) is a cozy crime mystery (with magic) which was very much inspired by the real-life rectory of St John’s Anglican in Gundagai. Here are some pics from the actual rectory:

 

And here’s a bit of the church, made of the same beautiful local slate:

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I’m no professional photographer, though, so here’s the real cover (and an unrelated church):

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Want those shiny links again? Here they are!

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Bits and Bobs from “Brass”

May 7, 2019 at 10:35 am (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories)

I spent last weekend at Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival, and the weekend before that at IronFest in Lithgow, so it’s been a wild steam-powered ride for the last couple of weeks.

But a few old pics related to HEART OF BRASS just came to my attention, so I’m posting them here before they return to the aether and vanish.

First, here are two pics from an unusual book review. Mawson is a bear, and one of my fellow Odyssey authors (he’s published under the more visual “Publisher Obscura” imprint). You can read his full review of HEART OF BRASS here. Here are some photos Mawson took, featuring his friends:

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass 2

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass

(This is the sort of thing that makes writers go “Squee!”)

Now here’s something I don’t think the general public has ever seen before: a picture that the publisher (Odyssey Books) provided way back in the very beginning of the cover-making process. This is a fabulous pic, but we ended up not using it.

You can print it out and colour it in, if you like.

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Lovely, isn’t she?

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99 cents

September 1, 2018 at 9:30 am (Cat pics, My Novels, Steampunk)

IRON LIGHTS is on Amazon now, which probably means it’s almost everywhere! So to celebrate, Book 1: HEART OF BRASS is having a 99c promo.

I’m posting it here for those of you on an RSS feed.

https://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=felicity+banks

And here’s Zipper, but sideways.

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“Iron Lights” Book Launch

August 28, 2018 at 10:59 am (Advanced/Publication, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories)

Book launches are like holidays*: You look forward to them like crazy, and then when they’re over you’re deeply relieved. Win-win?

The first and third books of my steampunk trilogy were launched at the Canberra Writers Festival (2016 & 2018; the middle book was launched at Conflux 2017).

In 2016 the venue was the National Library of Australia, which was very cool!

This year the venue was Kings Hall in Old Parliament House (aka the Museum of Australian Democracy). It is, technically, a hallway between the senate and the hall of representatives. It’s a very nice hallway.

The pic on the left was taken by a good friend of mine. It’s King George in his Order of the Garter outfit. I’ve never wanted to give ‘best steampunk costume’ to a statue before.

Here’s my friend’s son out the front:

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And one of the chambers, which I was entirely blasé about beforehand, but found very impressive when I actually walked in. The whole museum is brilliant.

MikePic2

The rest of the pics in this blog entry were taken by the brilliant writer and photographer Cat Sparks.

The selfies I took were blurry, but these photos are great. As is this:

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This picture is an absolute classic. TJ was in a stroppy mood all day and his face and posture is so him I adore it. And I like the way my skirt looks, too.

I brought an adorable waistcoat for him, and offered several bribes for him to wear it—all to no avail. Oh well.

The mischief continued throughout the day, although between pouts TJ was not-so-secretly having a grand time. And Cat Sparks caught it all.

But this is my favourite TJ sequence (with my friend’s kid—Louisette was deeply missed but TJ adores him):

 

There were events in the rooms to either side, so foot traffic had a very dramatic ebb and flow as sessions started and ended. I gave TJ a balloon to play with, and many fond looks were cast his way by the passing crowds. Then the balloon popped.

Kings Hall has a highly polished floor and very little furniture. It echoes, amplifying sounds in an incredibly dramatic manner.

The balloon popped… like a gunshot.

The room paused, subtly, as everyone there (and in rooms beyond the hall) thought, “That wasn’t a gunshot. . . was it?”

I called out, “It was a balloon!” so nobody properly freaked out, but even so a couple of security types came and checked that yes, it was harmless.

So that certainly livened things up. I imagine that if a balloon had popped in the foyer across the road (that is, in the current Parliament House, where Barnaby Joyce was speaking) then the response might have been even more exciting.

Moving on.

Dymocks Belconnen supplied all the books for the festival, and did a great job organising everything at their end. (They now have IRON LIGHTS in stock—signed—by the way.)

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Here’s the crowd desperately trying to restrain their ecstasy at the very presence of the famous authoress Felicity Banks.

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Here’s a compilation of volunteers and audience, most of whom are wonderful friends of mine:

 

And here’s Katie, aka the writer KJ Taylor, another Odyssey author who assisted me in editing Iron Lights and then volunteered to introduce me.

You can actually see from the pics why I like her (and not just coz she’s a good editor, a flattering reader, and she bought me flowers).

I did the typical launch thing of blabbing briefly, and then doing a reading. I tend to read opening chapters so the text can explain itself, but I felt there was a bit of exposition and fourth-wall-cracking in the first few pages so I was planning to skip some bits. But then I did my practice reading**. My launch took place after a week of transparently selfish machinations among the Liberal party (turfing out yet another Prime Minister), while also forcing moderates to face the horrifying spectre of the awful Dutton and/or Scott Morrison and/or Tony Abbott (three of the most racist politicians of our time) gaining in power (we now have ScoMo as PM, who is the best of the three… which is not saying much). And it was all too appropriate to read every bit my opening chapter, especially standing in Old Parliament House. Things like. . .

‘I can hardly give your precious police force credit for catching me, since I appeared as expected at the door of Parliament, along with tens of thousands of signatures on the grand petition for women’s suffrage.’ I suppressed a shiver, remembering how frightened I was that day. ‘And what is more, that impressive battalion of police utterly failed to stop me’—I waved generally at myself, indicating my small stature and misbehaving red hair—’giving said petition to the relevant gentleman… which led directly to universal adult suffrage in this great colony.’

Dry clenched his teeth in a manner I found highly amusing.

‘In fact, if it wasn’t for sweet little Emmeline Muchamore getting shot,’ I said, ‘my own dear Matilda might not have been included in the victory for women’s suffrage.’

Dry wasn’t the only man to hate the original residents of Australia. I wondered what I would have done if the parliamentarians had spent longer thinking about who they wished to exclude from political rights, and was glad I didn’t have to live in that world.

and. . .

In a darker world, men like Dry would have made sure natives could never have a true political voice. Not as long as white men lived, or as long as their children and their children’s children readily took on the burden of hatred.

If ever my own book was going to make me weep, that was the moment.

—–

Back when PM Kevid Rudd finally apologised to the Stolen Generation, Peter Dutton walked out of the chamber, visibly showing his loathing for a simple apology.

Is there any more damning indictment on the man’s character?

Unfortunately yes. There is his treatment of asylum seekers. But I digress.

 

I said my bit, signed my books, lurked about the place in case the literary- and politics-loving crowd would like a bit of steampunk, and then went home.

The pic on the left above has a quote in the background that begins, “I’ve always loved politics”. It’s part of an exhibition celebrating female politicians.

More than one person has pointed out that Julie Bishop was virtually ignored by her own part during the leadership chaos last week.

What a time to release a (slightly) historical novel. We have come so far, and yet there is so far to go for Australia to be a decent and fair country.

I hope that my over-optimistic, magical, cheerful books can show a little of what Australia could be.

And I’m so glad I write fiction.

*when you have children and/or disabilities.

** on the way to the launch, naturally.

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Me, me, me!

August 26, 2018 at 10:40 pm (Advanced/Publication, Daily Awesomeness, My Novels, Steampunk Australia Stories)

The brilliant writer and photographer Cat Sparks was kind enough to photograph the IRON LIGHTS launch at Old Parliament House today. If you’ve heard her name linked to the Canberra Writers Festival before, it’s because she was on some of the panels.

There are so many brilliant photos that I’ve decided to save this entry for pics that are specifically of me. Which is, not surprisingly, a lot. I suddenly have a million options for my next Author Photo.

The lady in the top hat is my friend, another Odyssey writer and also an editor for Iron Lights, KJ Taylor.

Tragically, Louisette was absent due to having a birthday party today. So no Sparksian pics of her.

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Say what??

August 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm (Advanced/Publication, I get paid for this, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories, Writing Advice)

This weekend is the Canberra Writers Festival, and I have not one but TWO book launches.

Saturday is the official launch of MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY (complete with a week-long art installation) at The Front cafe & gallery (Lyneham shops, 3:30-5pm). It’s not officially connected to the Canberra Writers Festival at all, just happening on the same weekend.

Sunday is the official launch of ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS at Kings Hall in Old Parliament House (2:45-3:15pm).

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The organiser told me that Kings Hall had standing room only for up to fifty people, and  no catering available.

This is a pic of Kings Hall from the Museum of Australian Democracy (aka Old Parliament House) web site:

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.22.26 AM

So it looks like there may have been a typo in the organiser’s info. Just a zero. Nothing much.

The space is suitable for FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE.

From the MOAD web site: “The bronze statue of King George V in the regalia of the Order of the Garter has been a central feature of the hall since the opening of the building in 1927. Open to the public from the earliest days and situated between the House of Representatives and Senate Chambers, it was a busy crossroads. During parliamentary sittings King’s Hall was a hive of activity swarming with members and senators, officers, journalists, secretaries, public servants, lobbyists and tourists.”

It’s really just a foyer/hallway. But WHAT a foyer (from the same web site).

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.30.07 AM

Since then I’ve spoken to the organiser again, who assured me there’s lots of other stuff going on, and that his description of “standing room only for 50 people” was accurate.

So, in conclusion, the space is SOMEWHERE between tiny and enormous. We may or may not have a microphone. We may have all of Old Parliament House mostly to ourselves, or we may be cramped behind a column in the foyer. Anything could happen!

See you Sunday?

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Cover Reveal: Iron Lights

August 3, 2018 at 7:12 pm (My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories, Steampunk Series)

Here she is, in all her end-of-trilogy glory:

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And with her sisters:

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Wow. I can’t wait to have all three on a table.

Speaking of tables, this weekend is GammaCon Canberra, for all your nerdy needs!

You can find out more here, or just show up at Exhibition Park between 9am and 5pm this weekend (or 6-11pm Saturday, for Gamma @ night—yes I’ll still be there, drunk on tiredness).

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