Thank you for being trans

November 23, 2022 at 11:41 am (Uncategorized)

As twitter implodes, I am moving to mastodon. I made this thread by laboriously writing the whole thing, calculating the number of posts it needed, and then replying manually to each post one by one to link them.

It’s possible I should have just been, you know, brief, like twitter/mastodon are meant to be. Too bad.

Here’s the thread, with pictures just for fun (yes I went to the beach last week).

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Felicity’s Gift Guide 2022

November 11, 2022 at 11:16 am (Uncategorized)

It’s time.

This list is all stuff that I either made (wrote/photographed) myself, or was made by someone I know.

For Young Kids

As you can perhaps guess based on the title, this book is designed for refugee and immigrant kids who are new to Australia. It will be published in English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, and Dari Persian. You can see the whole book here.

The English version is JUST about to go to the printer (but in the world of books that could mean anytime from ‘this week’ to ‘sometime in the next twelve months, probably’) and the launch is on February 11 2023 in Canberra.

The other languages are all in different stages, so although we aim to have all of them done by February 11 we may not make it. But if all else fails, I am keeping careful records of pre-orders and would love more as we’re at the expensive end of production.

For Kids

My kids’ magical pirate trilogy is finally complete! Think “Narnia, but with (more) pirates”. They’re suitable for 8+. And yes, I can sign them for your little pirates. I can also gift wrap them, including a tag.

If you buy them through my online store it will automatically charge postage, so if you live in Canberra feel free to just comment on this post or email FBanksBooks@gmail.com to arrange pickup or delivery.

Here’s the book trailer for “The Monster Apprentice”.

Mini Art/Christmas Cards/Bookmarks/Postcards

These are all $1 each. There are lots of great photos taken around Australia (by me), cat photos (also mostly by me) and prints of amazing art by Afghan woman Jahan Ara Rafi. I promised to pay Jahan $1250 by the end of this year so I’m scrambling to sell enough cards to pay her in a timely manner (obviously I will pay her either way, but it was a stupid promise to make—I love giving money to artists and I got carried away).

Please note: Some designs are sold out already but most have at least ten cards left.

A small number of the scenic photos have also been printed out in a large size and framed—so let me know if you’re interested in those, which cost $100 each.

From the Whitsundays in Queensland (the above is Whitehaven Beach, often voted the most beautiful beach in the world; the first two below are taken from Daydream Island):

Kosciuszko National Park (the cave is Jillabenan Cave in the Yarrangobilly Caves area), NSW.

Bateman’s Bay, NSW.

My mother’s garden in Canberra:

Young Adult Magical Steampunk Set in Australia

These books always sell better than anything else. They’re fun, exciting, and suitable for anyone from 12 to 200 years old. Each book has a bonus interactive short story as well. If you buy the whole trilogy, I’ll include “Emmeline’s Empire” for free (valued at $60). It’s the full version of the interactive story in Book 3 including professionally printed art and physical objects (but there are major spoilers if you read it before reading the trilogy).

I can sign them, naturally. I can also gift wrap, including a tag.

If you buy them through my online store it will automatically charge postage, so if you live in Canberra feel free to just comment on this post or email FBanksBooks@gmail.com to arrange pickup or delivery.

And yes of course there are book trailers for all three. Here’s the first one (the couple in the display image are married now):

Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae

I invented an interactive story system in which stories are told through letters, objects, and artworks. “Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire” is one of those stories, but “Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae” can still be bought in its original form—three parcels that arrive one at a time in the reader’s physical mailbox.

Or you can just get all three at once. I won’t mind.

Here’s the trailer for both “Magic in the Mail” stories:

Each “Magic in the Mail” story costs $60 (although if you want “Emmeline’s Empire” you might as well buy the whole steampunk trilogy and get it for free). All the artwork is professionally printed.

“Feuding Fae” is technically all ages, but probably best for 10+.

Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

The physical, mailed-to-you version of this story is sold out, but you can get it in book form for $23.95.

This story is also told in letters, objects, and artworks—with clues in the art.

It’s a cozy murder mystery (meaning that nothing bad happens… except the murder) suitable for any age not put off by the cover.

I can sign them, naturally. I can also gift wrap, including a tag.

If you buy them through my online store it will automatically charge postage, so if you live in Canberra feel free to just comment on this post or email FBanksBooks@gmail.com to arrange pickup or delivery.

And here’s the trailer for that one:

Very Large Framed Art

The frames are A1 size, which is enormous (approximately 60cm x 85cm). Both photos are by Sujay’s Photography. They cost $200 each, and can be hand delivered in Canberra only. They’re not available outside of Canberra unless you can come and get them from West Belconnen.

Prints by Qusay Fadheel (a refugee from Iraq)

Qusay has been painting for over forty years in a variety of styles from landscapes to surreal.

Each of these prints is available in A4 size for $25 or framed for $50.

Other sizes are possible too and I have several unique frames including a Royal Doulton “Radiance” frame (worth $200 but selling for $100 including an abstract print by Qusay and its original box).

You can see the full range of available prints in the Etsy store I run for him here but I recommend buying them directly from me.

Digital Tales

I write a LOT of interactive fiction, most of which is sold as phone apps. There’s steampunk, piracy, climate fiction, crime, and more. This list has descriptions and links.

Escape Room

The “Madam Alchemist” magical steampunk escape room is up and running again post-covid so if you’re in Canberra you can give it a go. It’s one of the cheapest escape rooms out there; beginner-friendly and accessible to those with chronic illnesses (there are no physical challenges, and plenty of chairs). It takes an hour and is suitable for 10+ (supervised) or 12+. You need at least two players and can have up to six (but I recommend three or four).

There’s some info here but all you really need to do is call or SMS Chief Minion Carol (0404 188 138) and book a time that suits you and her. It’s portable (for $150), but it’s cheaper ($100) to simply use our primary venue in Macgregor (West Belconnen, Canberra).

Yes there are books in the room. No, it’s not a trap designed to keep you in the room forever.

Charities

I run the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group and the West Belco Free Pantry. The West Belco Free Pantry also runs “Homeward Hampers” for Indigenous Detainees who are being released back into the community.

You can donate to the Castle’s perpetual GoFundMe here, or email FBanksBooks@gmail.com for donations to any of these charities. I can hand-write a thank you card if you like (addressed either to you or to someone else).

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DIY Cat Enclosure, Part 3

November 7, 2022 at 7:20 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

We have a gazebo and a quantity of good quality secondhand netting, so obviously we want to enclose the gazebo, making it part of the cat enclosure.

Zipper supervised the work, guarded the tools, and tested the netting.

It actually really sucked. Chris measured the space between the gazebo pole and the fence, cut the netting, and re-threaded the edging before using a range of techniques (mostly zip ties and a piece of wood cut to the right size) to attach it to the four sides of the space. And that was our weekend.

I unpacked the second cat tunnel and put it on the opposite side of the gazebo from where Chris was working. Zipper went through several times.

Chris has ADHD and works best with supervision/company so while he worked I made a ‘nest’ for myself, the kids, and the cats in the trampoline. Tim joined me for quite a while, and I ultimately fell asleep for about two hours. Both cats investigated the new use of the trampoline too.

Lizzie also tried out the ‘nest’.

So that is where cat stuff is up to. There is a long way to go.

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Writing Survey

October 18, 2022 at 11:09 am (Uncategorized)

A small-publisher friend of mine is studying and asked me to fill out this survey, which I thought was moderately interesting so I asked her permission to blog it.

Writing and publishing history:

  1. When did you begin writing speculative fiction (ie science fiction, fantasy and/or horror fiction)? Late Primary School.
  2. When did you begin to submit your work for publication? Late Primary School
  3. How long after you began to submit your work did it take for your first publication? Early High School
  4. Where – which markets, editors and publishers – did/do you submit your work for publication? The Canberra Times had a Junior Poetry section when I was in High School, and every so often English teachers would tell the class about other contests which they helped me enter. In my teens I used the Australian Writers’ Marketplace to submit dozens of stories to contests, magazines, etc. I wrote my first novella age sixteen which did well in a contest, and then I submitted it to various publishers. It was purchased by the (then) Royal Blind Society to be produced as an audio book (although it was never produced). I continued writing roughly one book per year for fifteen years, and had a novel published by a publisher for the first time in 2016 (with five more since then, as well as about ten interactive novels), when I was thirty-four.
  5. Are you still writing now? Yes.
  6. Are you still submitting your work for publication? If no, please discuss.

Yes. I have somewhere between 3 and 5 books in the queue for publication (small publishers are often unreliable) and I’m also working on two interactive novels.

Experiences in publishing:

  • Detail your most memorable experiences in seeking publication – how did you decide where to submit? Briefly detail what those first submissions processes were like.

I was writing and submitting novels from sixteen years of age—long before I knew anything about anything. I looked up publishers online before I started using the Australian Writers’ Marketplace.

One piece of information was so out of date that the publisher’s office had been taken over by some kind of tech company that sent me a bunch of merch. That was a huge thrill.

For about ten years before I was accepted for publication, most publishers would request a full manuscript before rejecting it. On one occasion, one of the ‘big 4’ requested a full manuscript. I followed up once per six months. Altogether, it took them four years to reject that book.

During all that time I continued to write and submit short stories, winning or placing in contests every so often. Something like 1% of my stories would receive some kind of encouragement. The Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Awards were especially encouraging (more money than others that I won, and with an award ceremony with a well-known guest—meeting Kerry Greenwood the same year I won her ‘Malice Domestic’ award was huge even though I usually write fantasy rather than crime).

Once I paid over $90 (a huge amount for a student) for a pitch session with a publisher who said she thought my opening scene was a dream because “it has pirates in it, and pirates aren’t real”. I had checked that this publisher produced fantasy, but clearly that particular acquisitions editor really didn’t. That was one of the worst moments of my so-called ‘career’—not because I was rejected; I’d had hundreds of rejections—but because I’d wasted a fortnight’s income on someone who was so obviously the wrong person.

That book is “The Monster Apprentice”. The whole trilogy is now published, and you can buy signed copies directly from me here, or get it from all the usual retailers (on or offline).

I also ‘won’ a pitch session with a very well-known Australian fantasy publisher which required that I travel to New Zealand to meet with her. She never did publish any of my books (although I kept in touch with her for years and always sent my books to her first), but I met one of my favourite writer friends during those pitch sessions (SC Green, who is a financially successful full-time NZ author of mainly fantasy romance/erotica—she writes many books every year, and they’re good).

Some years later I pitched another book at another face-to-face session and about a year later they actually said yes. A year after that, and before my book was published, the publisher collapsed. That particular book still isn’t published. I may take another look at it some day, but I’m no longer in any hurry.

Because.

In yet another pitch session, I met Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Press, who eventually published my steampunk trilogy and my kids’ pirate fantasy trilogy (above) as well as two other books.

But I get more money (still peanuts, but to a starving person peanuts are extremely important) from Interactive Fiction (published via game companies even though it’s still up to 400,000 words per story, with little or no sound or images).

  • Have you ever been asked to make changes to your work that felt gendered?

When I was planning “Heart of Brass” (first book in my steampunk trilogy) in 2009 or so, I wanted a bisexual heroine, partly because I love the gays (I didn’t know I was bisexual myself until later), and partly because it gave her more interesting romantic options. I discussed it with several high-profile Australian authors who advised me strongly not to have a non-straight romance as it was far less likely to sell. I ultimately decided that it added enough to the story that it was worth it.

However, one of the ‘big 4’ publishers (one who liked it enough to give comments) compared my writing to the work of Erin Morgenstern. Which is highly complementary, but doesn’t actually make sense. We are both fantasy writers, but the only other thing we have in common is having gay characters.

So.

It does look likely that being gay-friendly was a factor in my rejections. But I’ve had plenty of rejections for books that didn’t have any gay characters, so it’s not the only factor.

  • Were you ever asked to write under a pseudonym or initials?

No. But there wouldn’t be any point, as I write from a first person female perspective anyway. If someone is allergic to female authors, they’ll definitely be allergic to a female perspective.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a different name? If so, why?

Yes, when I was younger I used a pen-name because I was underage. I gave it up because I could never remember what my own name was from one moment to another.

  1. Have you found interactions with editing staff you’ve worked with to be supportive and positive?

Yes.

I had one extremely patronising female editor who thinks she ‘brought out’ my story (like a sculptor finding a shape within a block of marble). Actually that story was pretty average and derivative and I always found it odd that it was published at all.

Another editor, a male who I knew as a friend, put in about ten semi-colons in a single page of text. I gently pointed out what had happened and he apologised profusely and said he didn’t know what he was thinking when he did that.

  1. Does it affect your submission process if you know the editor/s are male or cis-gendered, or if you have reason to believe that the publication promotes a high proportion of male authors?

No. Partly because I usually have that female first person perspective anyway, so there’s nothing I could do to conceal my femininity. Partly because writing fantasy or writing gay characters has been a noticeable barrier but I’ve never had enough information to blame male editors for my assorted failures.

  1. Does it affect your submission process if you know the editor/s are female, trans or non-binary, or if you have reason to believe that the publication promotes a high proportion of female, trans or non-binary authors?

I’d be a lot more likely to submit, and to submit one of my overtly gay/trans-friendly tales. Mostly so they are likely to find a gay audience, since I do love LGBTIQA+ people and I want them/us to see ourselves in stories.

  1. Have you ever chosen not to put yourself forward for an opportunity, or publication, because of your gender or identity, or for a reason associated with your gender or identity?

No. As a writer of interactive fiction (basically, Choose Your Own Adventure stories, usually released as phone apps) it took me a long while to be comfortable promoting myself among gamers (since I’m really really not into computer games) but I just call myself a “niche gamer” these days.

The interactive fiction field is usually very very welcoming and diverse, making it an oasis among the wider (famously sexist and homophobic) gaming community. I’ll always get some reviews complaining about my ‘woke agenda’ but they’re thoroughly drowned out by others who appreciate the story (including a strong minority saying, “This game developer should totally write novels”, which is always funny).

I particularly enjoyed working at Tin Man Games. I worked mainly with one woman and one man, and the three of us had a male boss. Both men were and are fantastic and respectful.

I did hear, long ago, that books with pictures of Women of Colour on the cover were less likely to sell. So it was a priority for me to have Indonesian-looking women on the cover of my kids’ fantasy pirate trilogy (set in a world based on Indonesia).

  1. Do you have any noteworthy examples of editorial feedback you’ve received on your writing you would like to share with this study – either positive or negative, inspirational or demoralising?

Only the stuff mentioned above.

  1. Do you have any awareness or opinion of your possible exclusion from publications or other writer-related events (such as convention panels, writing groups, writing festival events etc) due to your gender or identity?

It’s possible, but if so I didn’t know about it.

  1. Have opportunities been offered to you because of your gender or identity such as publishing projects, mentoring, financial support, appearances at events, or similar?

Nope. Only based on knowledge eg writing steampunk.

Oh, and the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Award is only open to women. That made a real difference to me.

And when I apply to be a panellist at Conflux Speculative Fiction Conference in Canberra each year, I mention any bits of diversity I have (bisexual, Austistic, disabled) so they can put me on relevant panels. But those aren’t paid.

  1. How would you assess how opportunities made or denied to you because of your gender or identity have affected your writing career?

I am not aware of my gender or identity having an effect on my career, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

  1. Are there any other experiences you feel are relevant to this research that you would like to share?

I suspect publishing is like education: More women are present in the field, because it pays less than the average job. But the men that are in the field are more likely to have better pay and greater power. (Similar patterns shake out when you look at race.)

There is one piece of the puzzle that definitely has an effect on me. It’s such a large effect I can’t even blame the industry, exactly. My books feature female characters. They’re on the cover, and they’re the ‘voice’ of the stories. So I always, always sell less books to men.

Presumably every editor I’ve ever had contact with has known that they’ll get around 40% less sales than they would with a male protagonist. So I’m sure that was part of the equations that got me 15 years of novel rejections before I had a novel published for the first time.

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The Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

October 11, 2022 at 1:34 am (Uncategorized)

Why yes, I’m still sorting out photos and videos from our Queensland holiday last March. And my computer and phone are very upset about it all.

I like making videos in iMovie but none of the title options do subtitles well, so here’s the full text of the video (so anyone Hard of Hearing can read them here), with some pics so it’s not too boring.

____________

We live in Canberra, so it was always going to be a pretty long day to get all the way to the Whitsundays. But our kids had never been on a plane before, so it was pretty exciting, and as soon as we arrived at Proserpine Airport we were pretty enchanted with the features of the airport. Then off we went to the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. Not to be confused with the Big4… other place, which is different but in the same area.

Beautiful gardens, barbecue areas, lots of really good facilities including a range of camping/room options, water features, go karts, petting zoo…. But of course the main thing is the water park. There are thirteen slides in the waterpark. It closes … I think about 6:00 or 7:00pm each day, which gives you plenty of time to play, and it was Right On for our kids. We had such a good time—all of us. It also features a huge bucket that occasionally drops water all over you if you’re standing underneath.

And there’s the pool, which has two slides, a spa area, and is huge.

This is our cabin, number two, and our rental car. It’s a relatively long way from the pool but very close to reception which turned out to be really handy. Nice outside light; nice balcony. We had a tree frog juuuust here.

You can see a floor plan on the web site: there’s two very lovely bunks with their own little windows. Top shelf: luggage only… so, this is my daughter ‘Luggage’. Actually she’s very safety conscious and would never go up there.

These chairs are not suitable for adults. I did break one, even though I was very careful, so we had to bring in one of the outside chairs but I really don’t blame myself for that.

Here is the kitchenette, which has basically four knives, spoons, forks, etc. No oven; the electric frypan was our friend. Another window. It’s quite a small space but they managed to have seven windows, a fan, and an air conditioner—which was not quite up to the heat of this week, but it was a lot better being inside than outside.

Basic stuff in the cupboard. Unfortunately not shelves, which I would have liked because a lot of the storage space is down so low it wasn’t useful to me. There’s about…. Well, that’s not a gap I can fit into.

The shower has a water-saving showerhead, which is probably for the best. The door opens this way, which makes it pretty difficult for an overweight person to get in. Basically there’s enough room in the bathroom I would say but you know, it’s tricky. Certainly not a place you could access with a wheelchair but I believe they do have wheelchair specific cabins.

Lizzie loved the Autism Room, even though it was pitched a little young for her. Tim became completely obsessed with Mini Golf, and he and Chris went off to play it pretty much every day. But the best thing of all was night-time swimming, especially with the water slides still open until 9pm each night.

I strongly recommend the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. It was excellent.

Video link:

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DIY Cat Enclosure, Part 2

October 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1 is here.

I tried to attach this cat tunnel to our laundry door (where the cat door is) with various combinations of string and temporary hooks. Screws are better, and still somewhat removable.

These cat tunnels cost $59 each and have useful ties at each end, plus reinforced holes and tent pegs.

They’re over 5m long, but a lot of that gets used up when the tunnel needs to turn a corner.

They can also be used to briefly entertain primary-age kids.

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More on Autism

October 5, 2022 at 10:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Like most people who realise they’re autistic as adults, I am unpacking a whole lot of my life through a new lens. Here’s another great twitter thread on autism, with my comments:

I have brilliant time management, but I hate socks and shoes so much that there was a 6-month period of time when I didn’t own a single pair of shoes, and I rarely wear socks even when it’s literally freezing. I also struggle to wear long sleeves, or sleeves at all. I’ll sometimes wear sleeveless tops in winter, despite the cold, because having clothes on my arms is so stressful to me. And obviously that’s one of the main reasons I struggle to wear a mask, too.

Yes, yes, oh hell yes, yes, a bit, dunno.

Not really, or at least not in a big way to any of these (and in answer to your question, ‘T-rex arms’ means standing around with your elbows bent and hands dangling).

Yes, oh so yes (I’ve been getting stressed driving past the Floriade crowds), oh so yes, oh so yes, uh I dunno, oh so yes.

Yes, nah, yes, maybe, maybe, I don’t struggle I enjoy it… as in, when I met Chris and he said he had ADHD my first thought was, “Good. He’ll fit in with my friends.”

I’m a genius at multitasking (although also exhausted by it), uh yes I was diagnosed years ago, better I don’t answer that one, oh so yes (I really really can’t handle funerals UNLESS I’m super close to the deceased because I worry so much about all those who are ‘worse off’ than me, emotionally speaking, that I become a ball of pain too upset to be of use to anyone), oh so yes (I can feel myself ignoring people in favour of animals but can’t seem to stop), no I reckon I’m good at that.

Uh…. my mum made a deal with me at age 16ish to sit up straight for 6 weeks in exchange for a prize (which I did, then immediately went back to slouching), yes, I love change but handle it really badly, oh so yes, oh so yes, yes.

I like to plan and then break my own plans. But if people don’t go along with my plans I often have panic attacks. No, oh so yes, uh… I’m best self-employed for exactly this reason, oh so yes, uh yes (even before I was sick).

Thank you, @neuro_lou!

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DIY Cat Enclosure

September 30, 2022 at 12:35 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Roughly fifteen years ago—before I met Chris—I gained a kitten, and solemnly promised that, since she had a white nose (making her vulnerable to cancer) I would get a cat enclosure as soon as I could.

This is that cat, Princess Ana, when Lizzie was a toddler:

That cat died several years ago (and not of cancer, which makes me feel a little better about my promise). But I never forgot my promise.

These are our current cats, Zipper and Zoom. Zipper tends to look cranky, and Zoom tends to look aggressively innocent. They’re not related. Once you go calico, you can’t go back.

As you can see, they also have white noses.

During Term 3 of this year, I took on a temporary job that pushed my health far beyond what is safe—confirming that I should NOT be doing more than about 6 hours of paid work per week, and also giving us a brief period where we could buy a few things that weren’t immediately necessary for survival.

So we bought/gained:

A very narrow shed for $500.

A greenhouse for $250.

Two ‘outside pet tunnels’ for $60 each.

3m x 5m of really nice flexible netting, free from a friend (but definitely has chook poo on and in it).

Our own old trampoline, with a 1.8m diameter and high netting all around (plus shadecloth we clipped over the top years ago. The kids have very much outgrown it, but we didn’t manage to give it away so it shall be absorbed into this project.

These are the ingredients with which we shall try to put together a cat enclosure. We’ll probably need another cat tunnel, but we’ll see how far we can get.

Our yard is mostly an L shape; only about 3m wide on the longer side. At the end of the narrower side it continues on around the house (so SORT of a C-shape yard really), with a 1.12m-wide patch of bare dirt and weeds. We have strongly encouraged our cats to use it as a toilet, and they do (but of course also use the neighbours’ yards). We want to keep that area as a cat toilet, so that is what the shed is for: to ‘enclose’ the cats’ toilet while also giving us a teensy bit of extra storage (for items that we don’t mind smelling bad).

Rejoice with us, because after about 8 hours of work by two healthy and intelligent men, the “simple” shed now exists in the real world, complete with a cat ‘door’ cut into the metal shed door.

Tim also helped.

I’ve weeded a bit more since taking these photos. We’ll also tape up the sharp side of the cat door. (You’ll notice it can be folded back into place to almost ‘fix’ the door if that’s useful in future.)

For now, we have put normal kitty litter inside and done our best to let the cats know they’re allowed in there (Zoom is less skittish so we physically picked her up and put her inside; if we did that to Zipper she would swear an oath to never enter it again—but since Zoom has been inside, she knows she’s allowed). We are leaving the door open and letting them take their time getting used to it.

Eventually, we’ll close the main shed door and attach one end of a cat tunnel to the cat hole—but only when all the rest of the cat enclosure is done.

This was, hopefully, the most difficult part. It’s also the most rewarding, since it means we can continue to never deal with kitty litter.

Next step: Attaching one of the cat tunnels to our laundry door, which is where we have a proper cat flap—which means the cats will have to go through the tunnel to get in or out of the house (which will also let slightly outside air into the laundry, yay).

We’ll leave it open at the other end while they get used to it.

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The Great Book Sort, Part 5—rape

September 16, 2022 at 5:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Way too many hack writers use rape as either backstory, drama, or peril for female characters (and all the more so if it provides handy motivation for the male character—double ugh).

Way too many actually-pretty-good writers use rape too.

And so do some brilliant writers.

It’s an instant red flag for me as a reader. I relate hard to my fictional characters and if they get traumatised there’s a strong risk that I will also be traumatised. I wish all books came with content warnings, like movies and TV, so at least I had a choice about whether I was about to be tricked into imagining being sexually assaulted! Those who claim it’s important for “historical accuracy” (oddly enough, especially in fantasy worlds) are welcome to it. But it’s definitely not for me.

I’ve written at least one character who was raped, and now that I’m older I do regret it.

Any child who is a good reader will read a rape scene far too young.

But sometimes a story with rape in it is worth it, even for me.

Favourites

Pamela Freeman’s “Deep Waters” trilogy (+ 1) series has plenty of rape, some of it ‘on-screen’ (always more traumatic to read) and I have to brace myself before reading it. But the series is so incredibly good that it’s worth it.

As I sort my kindle books, I’ve re-discovered another amazing Aussie author, Glenda Larke. She has several trilogies, and the Isles of Glory trilogy was the first one I read this time around. There is a LOT of rape, and torture (explicitly described), and even a post-rape baby that is genuinely evil (which I imagine is extremely triggering for some people). But this series still made the ‘Favourites’ pile, in part because it’s female-led and the women basically treat rape and torture in the same way—it really really sucks, and is frightening, but it doesn’t change anything about who you are. If your friends are in danger and you know you’ll get raped if you help them—well, you’re gonna choose to get raped.

I definitely still brace myself before reading anything by Larke—partly for all the violence, and partly because I get so badly drawn in that I’m not 100% in real life until the trilogy is finished.

I’ve also read her “Mirage Makers” trilogy very recently, and it was just as compelling without nearly as much rape (but rape was still very much a thing—in this case, lots and lots of rape of male child slaves before the stories began—fortunately I’m pretty sure it was all ‘off-screen’ and without detail).

Nah

Juliet Marillier is famous enough that I don’t need to remember how to spell her name. If I search for anything similar, her actual name will come up. She also has quite a lot of books, and I’ve bought a solid chunk of them.

This is the one that traumatised me as a child, and then again as an adult. It’s definitely not the most awful rape scene ever, but there are several elements that make it extra difficult, the main one being that you’re in the moment with the heroine.

Now, all her books are really good! The ‘tiny pale-skinned heroine with magic and enormous hulking brothers and/or love interest/s’ gets a little tiring after a while. I could definitely handle reading these books again…. but I have other books that are just as good that don’t require me to go through that experience again. Plenty of her other books also have rape or attempted rape, but I think this is the one with the most detail.

Nope

“The Book of the Unnamed Midwife” by Meg Elison is a good book, but I never want to go into that world again. There’s been an apocalypse that wiped out most women and children, and made childbirth deadly. The heroine basically finds women who have been claimed by a gang of men (that is, they are prisoners who get raped a bunch by all of them), and gives them contraceptives so at least they don’t get pregnant.

It’s a profound angle on post-apocalyptic literature (memo to self: in the apocalypse, make sure to loot the contraceptives as a lot of people will really need them) and is well-written and well-developed. Not surprisingly, there’s lots of sex and violence. Although the book is definitely not devoid of hope, it’s way too dark for me.

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The Great Book Sort, Part 4

August 28, 2022 at 12:09 pm (Uncategorized)

This coming Saturday, the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group has our big annual fundraiser, an Open Garden event at 67 Vagabond Cr McKellar (Canberra), on Saturday September 3rd from 10am-4pm featuring stalls, food, music, contests, plants to buy, and so much more.

So I’m going to try and keep this entry brief.

Favourites

T. Kingfisher (who writes as Ursula K Vernon when she’s writing for kids) is a gift to this world. She has strong inclinations towards writing horror, but she writes with such incredible warmth that devouring her books is worth my newfound fear of the sound tock… tock…. TOCK (from her book “The Twisted Ones”).

Here’s a quick screenshot from “Summer in Orcas”, which is probably the least scary of all her books.

This author is just amazing, with a wide range of styles. I’m so glad she exists.

Nah

Tamsyn Muir, “Gideon the Ninth” etc.

A lot of people, including my partner, really really love this book. It’s well-written, fascinating, and unique. Probably a bit too dark and/or nihilistic for me.

Nope

Ursula Vernon, “Black Dogs”

I just really, really didn’t like it. I found it childish. Which seems like an odd insult to a children’s book, but I write children’s books myself that are highly enjoyable for adults to read. So here we are. Even the glorious Kingfisher doesn’t always write what I like. And in fact, “Summer in Orcas” reads like that kind of stunning, ageless fantasy to me. It even has a child protagonist.

But what do I know?

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