“Iron Lights” Book Launch

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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