The Virus Diaries: CoroNaNo?

March 18, 2020 at 6:14 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff, Steampunk, Writing Ranting)

The greatest excitement yesterday was five year-old TJ doing a little bit of reading. More on that later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Chris went to work yesterday, he also went shopping. We’re still in that grey area of prepping for full-blown isolation and rather half-arsing it in the meantime.

The ennui of staying at home has already got to me a little, and I also had the classic school-holiday moment of getting to about 3pm yesterday and just wanting to shut down. Those who are chronically ill will be familiar with the sensation of running low on spoons (you can read about Spoon Theory if you like). I DID get both kids to shower and do some schoolwork, plus of course playing the wii with TJ (Louisette watches TV in her room while drawing, and TJ plays the wii. This is our life now—but while Louisette barely needs anything from me, TJ really wants me to play WITH him. All day, every day). So technically I was A Good Mum (TM) yesterday by my very limited standards, but… tired out, and all too aware of how little I actually did.

I am also “at work” technically (I’ve been working from home for years), but I got almost no writing done this week. (Okay, yes, I wrote a LOT here on the blog, which definitely counts even though it doesn’t get me any money.)

Sunday I was barely functional brain-wise, so decided to call it a ‘Sabbath’ (I try to take one day off per week) and not feel bad.

Monday I didn’t write anything, but I did some outlining.

Tuesday I felt… wrong… about my outline. I went and looked at a different chapter 1 that I wrote and, sure enough, it had a lot more in it. So we’ve established that my outline needs more work. A lot more.

Today is Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Zipper snuggling up to TJ in bed. They are adorable. In Zipper’s early days, TJ tried to feed Zipper crackers and to get her to play with his toys. She is naturally cautious of the noisy and fast-moving TJ but she loves him and trusts his gentleness… especially if he’s unconscious.

Anyway.

Today was meant to be about suggesting at-home projects for people to do, specifically writing a novel. (The title is a reference to NaNoWriMo aka ‘National Novel Writing Month’, in which people around the world attempt to write the first draft of the first 50,000 words of a book in a month.)

I still do recommend that. Is there something around your house you’ve always meant to fix/paint/assemble/disassemble/weed/plant/etc? Now (or soon) is your moment!

Of course that includes writing a novel. Or a short story. Or a poem.

I’ve always been extremely self-motivated and (with the exception of what I eat) self-disciplined. I wrote about 15 novels/a million words (yes I literally lost count) before I was first published. (That first book was my Australian fantasy steampunk novel, Heart of Brass, which you can buy online and I’ll sign and send it to you. It’s now part of a completed and published trilogy. I can send the whole thing to you, in fact, or you can get it at Amazon or your local bookshop.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like today will be a day of thinking about how bad the outline of the book is until something occurs to me that makes it better. To be honest, I think I tend to shove too much plot into a small space, so what I need is to let my character slow down and have lots of little bumps along the way to the main goal.

Yes, that’s the solution. I just need to let it bubble for a bit so I think of some “little bumps” that show character and the environment of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story is called “Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes”. It’s an interactive novel, so the reader will choose the personality and strengths of both Dr Jekyll and Mr/Ms Hyde. Hyde can be evil or not, as the reader chooses. Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler will both appear as romantic options, and there is a murderer on the loose in Victorian London. . .

It’s set in the same magical steampunk universe as all my steampunk tales (there’s a semi-coherent list here that I keep fairly up to date). It’s not my first time using actual historical characters. The above picture is Miss Lavevski, an absolutely real, famous, and accomplished equestrian of the Victorian era who performed in a circus. Isn’t she spectacular? She appears in my longest interactive steampunk tale, Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten. You can get it for your device via iOS or Google Play. There are three stories in the app, and I’m deeply involved in all three. The app has over 1.5 million downloads. (Which is seriously impressive, I gotta say.)

* * *

Let’s talk grocery stores and empty shelves. As you know, I’m immunocompromised, self-isolating, and extremely limited in what I eat.

A day of (relatively) “safe” eating for me would look like this:

Breakfast:

Special K and full cream lactose free milk and two squares of chocolate. (I can eat most other cereals but Special K is probably the healthiest thing I regularly eat. The chocolate gets me out of bed and also keeps me regular.)

Morning Tea: Milo.

Lunch: Brie sandwich on white bread (I usually dither between the less-safe alternatives of mi goreng with egg and/or cheese (that’s what I had today), a sandwich with cheese and avocado/beetroot—I don’t like cheese on its own but avocado and beetroot are both equal parts delicious and dangerous due to FODMAPS—or peanut butter and jam—both of which are not safe foods for me as nuts contain salicylates and jam contains fruit).

Afternoon Tea: Milo + cheese and crackers + lollies/chocolate.

Dinner: Roasted Lamb/Chicken and potatoes (safer without gravy or any kind of sauce) or frozen fish and chips. Usually some sweet potato and/or carrots. Zucchini if I’m being extremely impressive (it’s my safest green vegetable). The maple-marinated salmon is pretty good, although I do react a little to peas. I can also have tuna mornay fairly safely.

Supper: Milo and popcorn and lollies (popcorn is mildly unsafe digestively speaking but I figure it’s healthier than more chocolate).

So I basically live on Special K, cheese (which has some lactose but way less than milk), lactose free full cream milk, chocolate, lollies, milo, lamb (chicken just grosses me out for some reason, and so does fish—I can handle each type about once a week but I could easily eat lamb every day), and potatoes.

I have 2-3 weeks’ worth of most things, but only a weeks’ worth of lactose free full cream milk. Chevelle looked for it on Sunday and Chris looked for it yesterday with no luck.

I started stocking up on groceries when there was still toilet paper in the shops, and since Chris was able to find some frozen fish yesterday Louisette will be fine for quite a while. But yes, I’m very anxious about the possibility of running out of my small list of safe foods. So am I, a self-isolating diabetic & chronically ill mother of two, deserving of more milk? Or am I, a fat person who barely even tries to control her blood sugar, takes money from healthy taxpayers, and isn’t able to provide adequate long-term care for her kids, undeserving?

Everyone wants to keep their family safe, and to give them all their usual foods and supplies. I get that. Don’t give someone a death glare just because they’re buying the last pack of toilet paper. They might need it, or they might be getting it for someone who does.

Let’s be clear though: Anyone who has more than 6 weeks’ worth of stuff stocked up and no plans to share it is a terrible person (or, if this is your normal way of living and you had the food before the crisis, a bit of a genius really). That’s where I draw the line.

Any person with a young and healthy household who has recently hoarded more than 2 weeks’ worth of essentials (toilet paper, cleaning products, meat, etc) is also someone who had better be giving that stuff away (or selling it at the normal retail price) to those who need it more, starting now.

Any person who is selling anything essential (any kind of food, hygiene, or cleaning item) for inflated prices needs to stop now and sell them for a normal price. Even twice normal price is okay for a lot of things. I understand that some people make a living selling stuff online, or that selling stuff might be their only source of income at the moment due to casual workers not having work. But this is not a good time to be making a killing. Because people are literally dying, and many many more are suffering in less dramatic ways.

My current toilet paper supply is enough for 1-2 weeks, although there’s still a lot of diarrhea in the house so things could get tricky soon.

My mum has a cold (“OR IS IT MORE???” says the internet) and is now self-isolating. She’s going to finish painting the copper signs for me, so that’s handy!

Chris will be working from home tomorrow, and probably Friday. His work, part of the public service, is doing a clever thing where half the centre works from home each day. Why is that clever (I hear you ask) when that means everyone is still exposed to the total amount of germs at the centre? It’s clever because it’s a great step along the way to having everyone stay home. They will find and figure out a LOT of bugs (the computer kind) by doing this, and hopefully when the time comes for everyone to work from home they will be ready.

I rather hope that when the coronavirus is a memory, a LOT more people, including Chris, will be able to work from home. Chris’ travelling time is over 2 hours a day, over 10 hours a week! He doesn’t mind it but I sure do, especially when it’s 5:00 and there’s still an hour and a half until Daddy gets home, and everyone is hungry and cranky and tired (especially me).

I’ll talk some other time about my predictions for how the world will change after this. I think the environment will benefit a LOT as we realise how flexible our entire society can be when we actually try to make big changes. And… I don’t want to celebrate any individual person’s sickness or death (even though many politicians cause widespread suffering including sickness and even death so the world is empirically improved if they are not in it)… but a lot of people who refuse to believe scientists (in this case immunologists) are going to die. And hopefully those heroic scientists who have been shouting about climate change for decades will be listened to at last.

 

Resource of the day:

Do you have a Kindy kid staying home? I wrote a nice and easy home-schooling guide for parents of Kindergarten kids that takes as little as ten minutes a day, and is designed for non-teachers. I’ll probably do one for the rest of Primary School pretty soon.

Recommended donation of the day:

Do you know someone in the medical profession? Ask them what you can do to help while they’re under immense stress (and about to face more). Are you able to mind their kids if the kids are sent home from school (even if it’s just one day, or one day a week)? Can you deliver food/toilet paper care packages so they don’t have to deal with shops AND hospital life? These are the kinds of actions that could literally save lives.

Recommended personal action of the day: If it’s sunny, hang all your cushions and doonas and other often-touched but not machine washable items out in the sun for the day. It’s a brilliant free disinfectant.

Recommended hoarding item of the day:

What do you require in order to do that project you’ve been putting off? Notebooks and sweet stationary to plan your novel? Paint for your art (or your gutters)? Tools? Nails? Now is your moment to prepare for that project.

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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:

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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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Guest Post: What doesn’t kill me. . .

May 6, 2019 at 10:19 am (Fully Sick, Steampunk, Writing Ranting)

Hello and welcome to Karen J Carlisle!

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. http://www.karenjcarlisle.com

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Karen is just about to release The Department of Curiosities. Here’s the blurb:

Miss Matilda Meriwether has a secret. Actually, she has several. One of them has shaped her adult life. Another now controls it. Her Majesty Queen Victoria has control of the Empire. She is the Empire, and creator of its secrets. Sir Avery works for The Department of Curiosities – the keepers of secrets – especially if they are useful to the Empire. When Tillie finds herself in the employment of The Department of Curiosities, she realises this is the perfect opportunity to uncover the truth she has been searching for. But the Queen has other plans for her.

The Department of Curiosities is a steampunk tale of adventure, a heroine, mad scientists, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

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And here’s a guest blog:

What doesn’t kill me…

“Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.”

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher),

Twilight of the Idols (1888)

Today I’m writing about writing processes, the evolution of The Department of Curiosities and a long, long journey through the dark.

In 2012 my life changed. For six months I floundered. I’d worked since I was fifteen. Now, suddenly and unexpectedly, I wasn’t. I was lost. How had this happened? Why had this happened? Why me? Why?

I was given professional advice: do something I like. “Find your bliss,” they said. “Do something for yourself.”

I’d always wanted to be a writer and artist, so I turned to a quirky fantasy story that had been mulling around in my head since the late 1980s. But my mood was too dark for the characters. I didn’t blame them. There were other stories wanting to be freed. I turned to a steampunk story I’d been toying with… An adventure. It had a name: The Department of Curiosities. I started writing.

For almost a year I wrote, as my professional world began to crumble, and finally crashed in 2014. I felt used, abused, betrayed, and abandoned. My mental health was stretched. After twenty-eight years of looking after everyone else – my family, my patients – I had to learn to look after myself (not as easy as it sounds). I felt selfish. I felt exhausted. I felt useless.

I stopped writing.

The characters of The Department of Curiosities slipped back into the shadows not wanting to entertain the Black Dog. I didn’t blame them either. Eventually, Viola Stewart stepped forward, willing to sacrifice herself (and her eye) to support and guide me through the next three years. Jack the Ripper, and various nefarious villains, helped me explore motives and psychology as I delved into the darker side of humanity: why do people do what they do? In the process I confronted my own daemons and my personal Black Dog, which constantly nipped at my heels.

Being trained as a scientist, I needed not only to put a name to my emotions, but to discover why I felt this way. Almost five years of professional help, and I hadn’t progressed beyond: Anxiety, ‘deep breathing’ and ‘finding my happy place’.

In 2018 I changed professionals, and was challenged to confront myself. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I started desensitisation therapy.

Finally I felt a slight ease. Things made sense. There was the odd moment of calm. A smile here and there. Aunt Enid popped by, providing a glimmer of hope in my writing worlds. She was beginning to open the doorway back to my original fantasy story… but I wasn’t (and am not) quite there yet.

Tillie stepped forward. She was ready to be heard. I glanced over my notes, pulled out my original manuscript (of almost 80,000 words). I started at the beginning –rewriting, scribbling down notes and plot changes as I went. The story was a little darker than I’d originally envisaged, but overall was a much lighter story than Viola’s murder mysteries, with adventure at its heart.

The Department of Curiosities is my longest story yet – at 104,000 (ish) words/420 pages. Most of the plot has remained intact, though I’ve rewritten almost everything – cutting back on ‘tell’, rewriting ‘inactive’ sentences and adding extra characters. I’ve learned so much about writing in the past five years! During the process, I discovered Tillie, like me, has been fighting to control her own life.

I’ve heard people describe writing as a form of therapy. But it’s not an easy path (at least not the one I took), and not one for the faint hearted. I confronted some dark themes, shied away from some, and embraced others. I discovered catharsis. I’ve excised a character’s eye in revenge, peeked into the darkness of the soul, confronted the feeling of helplessness, and struggled to free myself (and my characters) from the control (or at least the perceived control) of others. I’ve even visited the happier memories from my childhood.

It’s been a long journey, and looks to be a long, rocky trek ahead. Writing has played a major part, sometimes taking me on unexpected side paths, but all heading in one direction: forward.

I feel like I’m starting to free myself from years of expectations and self-denial and neglect. I’ve found a way to work through some of my darker thoughts. It’s helped me to accept (on good days) that I deserve ‘me time’, to look after myself and my mental health. As Writing has made me stronger. I’m starting to believe in myself again. I’m facing my fears and anxieties one at a time. Sometimes I win. Sometimes they do. Perhaps one day I will bring that Black Dog to heel?

The Department of Curiosities is my fifth book – and my longest (if you don’t count that fantasy book still squirming in the back of my head), not only in word count, but in gestation time. I wrote another five chapters and shuffled two chapters into the second book of the trilogy.

I started this journey in 2013. It’s taken five years to see it to completion. It’s taken a year to finally finish the final version of the manuscript.

The Department of Curiosities will be officially released on 22nd May (Tillie’s birthday). A perfect time for new beginnings…

You can find out more information on where to buy it at: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop Check out the book trailers at https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/

 

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If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour You can sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

Follow me on: · Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle · Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/ · Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/

Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle

 

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What is an escape room?

February 10, 2019 at 10:06 pm (Escape Room, funny, Steampunk, Videos)

An escape room is a team game that involves exploring a room and solving the puzzles you find there in order to get out.

In practise, that means being put into a room with a team and figuring out how to open and/or unlock various things. In Canberra, it is illegal to actually lock the room so although there is usually a large obvious padlock on the exit door, it is purely decorative (eg put on a second handle while the first handle actually opens the door). You can leave at any time (and come back in, eg after going to the bathroom or getting some air).

Most escape rooms take place in a single physical room, although some start in one room and take you through others as you progress through the various puzzles. Mine are one-room games that can be restricted to a tabletop if necessary, and they are macguffin-based ie you ‘escape’ by finding a specific magical item in one of the boxes, rather than by ‘opening’ a door.

Most escape rooms start you off in very dim light, so one of your first challenges is finding more sources of light. The darkness and lack of torches enhances the stress and forces you to work with your team-mates. Stress, frustration, and cooperation are huge elements in a well-designed escape room.

Another vital element is skill-sharing. A good escape room has a wide range of puzzle types, so different team members’ strengths can come to the fore eg. A puzzle box, a simple maths problem, a clue hidden in an unexpected location. I am terrible at puzzle boxes and not super mobile (so I won’t be crawling under tables if I can help it), but I can do maths.

Puzzle rooms tend to steer away from any maths harder than primary school level, because a lot of people hate maths. I have found that having a simple maths problem towards the end of the game is hilarious as people panic and can’t count good no more.

Each escape room has a fictional scenario to fire the imagination, and a timer counting down (usually the time limit is 1 hour, or 1.5-3 hours for much more complicated rooms).

During the last week both my parents and my siblings attempted my magical steampunk game, MADAM ALCHEMIST, and each session was filmed. If you’d like a better idea of how escape rooms work, I recommend watching the first and second videos. If you just like watching people alternatively swear and cheer, the third video is pretty much just that.

The first video includes an opening spiel by yours truly, and a few minutes of play by my parents.

The second shows a cut-down version of my brother and sister playing the room from beginning to end (complete with my patented sarcastic subtitles). It contains very mild spoilers ie you can still enjoy the game fully after watching (I edited it very carefully), but if you’re an experienced player I recommend playing the room before watching it. Of course, if you don’t live in Canberra/NSW then you might as well watch it.

There is some mild swearing.

The third is a super-short montage of my brother and sister’s play-through (all of which is also part of video #2). There’s almost no context, just the usual escape room experience of intermingled frustration, bickering, cooperation, and joy.

 

All clear? Good.

You can book through the store link above, or email me at MagicInTheMailStories@gmail.com to arrange a time and place of your choosing.

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Madam Alchemist

January 27, 2019 at 6:46 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, Interactive Fiction, Steampunk)

This weekend is CanCon, and I have a stall there, with the tabletop version of my escape room (now called “Madam Alchemist” since it takes place in a mad scientist’s secret laboratory). I ran five play-tests during the day yesterday, and all of them went off without a hitch.

I also had people approaching me asking about party and conference packages. I seem to have discovered a market. *blink blink*

I’m already developing a second room, scifi/horror/comedy called “The Amazing Shrinking House” (adjective may vary) so I can run two different games at the same time… and sell a “Party Package” that lets party guests swap rooms so they can do two in one night.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own products!

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This is the CanCon setup; the stall in its entirety. Also corset and tutu 🙂

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It was nice to see fairly equal proportions of men and women, and this notice in the ladies’ bathroom:

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Plus plenty of teens, some (usually slightly bored) kids, a range of age and fitness levels, and several gay couples and singles. CanCon is a happy place.

 

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Dogs, Goths, Kilts, Pirates, and Octopuses

October 22, 2018 at 10:43 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk)

Last weekend was the weekend of the annual Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. It’s always an absolute blast. The standard of garb at Goulburn is always amazing: corsets, top hats, pocket watches, waistcoats, bustles, crinolines, and epic boots galore!

I thought I’d do a super quick blog on some of the side effects of steampunk: some of the grand traditions that are steampunk due to pure coolness factor rather than any rational connections.

Goths of course.

Okay, that connection is obvious. Lace parasols and corsets for both men and women? Yes please! One of the many definitions of steampunk is that it’s what happened when goths discovered brown.

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(I’m sorry I didn’t turn that pic around the right way. I’m VERY tired. Not only was the Goulburn Steampunk Fair two days long this year—yay!—but I also just completed a 3-day speed game-writing jam. Over the same weekend!)

I believe I mentioned dogs. There’s a dog in my Iron Lights trailer (from the Goulburn Fair last year, in fact*) and there were loads of dogs (many in costume) this year too.

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Kilts and military attire are both well represented at such events (this year there were real cannons firing across the water, too!)

 

So if you like a man in uniform and/or admiring a man’s legs (or the unpredictable thrills of seeing men in kilts on a very windy day) then you should hang out with steampunks.

Especially if you like them sideways.

 

Ditto pirates and octopuses.

And reimagined superheroes/princesses.  I saw a lot of amazing steampunk Iron Men a few years ago. Lately lots of steampunk Wonder Women, and some really excellent steampunk Belles (especially at Supanova events).

My kids dressed as a unicorn rainbow princess (who then had her face painted as a kitten) and Batman (painted as a scary monster). As you can perhaps tell, my children are at the age when they’re very strong on external expressions of gender identity.

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Steampunks like cats too. Because steampunks are cool. So here’s a pic of Zipper I took today. May it please you.

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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.

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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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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:

IronLightsCover.FULLSize.jpg

And with her sisters:

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 7.23.40 PM

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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