About Felicity Banks

I write books (mainly adventure fantasy for kids and young adults), real-time twittertales, and a blog of Daily Awesomeness. @Louise_Curtis_ and http://twittertales.wordpress.com. My fantasy ebook is on sale at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/278981.

GUI ChoiceScript?

I just found out that various people are working on making ChoiceScript easier to learn and use.

I… probably won’t use these tools because I’ve grown comfortable with using CS directly and don’t want to mess with that (yes, I am old and crotchety. Shut up).

Here‘s the link to much usefulness!

Here’s Zipper, getting better at venturing outside (but still terrified by birds).

IRON LIGHTS review

My fellow Odyssey Books author, Carmel Bendon, reviewed IRON LIGHTS for me on Goodreads. Here’s what she said:

Iron Lights is the third book in Felicity Banks’ The Antipodean Queen trilogy and the next in the adventures of the series’ heroine, Emmeline Muchamore. Iron Lights, however, stands alone as a cohesive read and there is sufficient reference to key elements of the earlier works – mainly in terms of characters common to all three books – to orientate readers who have not read the first two books.

Emmeline is a very appealing lead character, full of energy, optimism and conviction, and totally human in her devotion to her sweetheart, Matilda Newry, and an array of disparate and revolutionary friends, and all this powered by her amazing steam-fired heart of brass. When Emmeline is called into action by the quicksilver-generated vision of the impending fiery and brutal destruction of Melbourne and its inhabitants by an invading [mechanised] army, she responds with courage and determination, gathering her own extraordinary army of humans and machines.

Banks’ imagination has filled the story with mechanical wonders – activated metals with magical qualities and inventions that extend far beyond the usual machines to include such marvels as (deadly) Australian spiders with activated metal inserts that enable them to carry out their mistress’s bidding.

Banks’ evocation, and then subversion and manipulation, of small details of Australian colonial history is clever and got me checking (historical) names and details on more than one occasion. The story’s action is fast-paced & drives the plot forward with a precision akin to the machinery it embraces. At times the pace was almost too fast and I found it hard to keep up with Emmeline’s quickly-made plans and their even quicker implementation that saw her dashing across (and above) grand exhibitions and battlefields, and building and overseeing an extraordinary laboratory in an even more remarkable fortress but, in some ways, the rush added to the fun. In all, Iron Lights is well-written, imaginative, energetic, and a very enjoyable read.

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Zip Zip

The kids are having a sleepover tonight, so the house is unusually quiet.

Zipper is very concerned. She still follows us if we go to the bathroom, so the notion of spending a whole night without two members of her litter is Just Wrong.

Here is a nice pic of her, and a not-that-nice pic of my kids. PRIORITIES!

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In other news, I’ve cut down my chocolate intake—I’ve regained most of the weight I lost earlier this year, so it must be done—and as a result I believe all life is pain, all humans are hateful, and every breath I take is an imposition on both myself and the universe.

This is why I don’t often attempt to lose weight.

In other other news, I am reading the first Harry Potter book aloud to Louisette. It’s an extraordinary experience. My own writing has been going very poorly lately, and it helps to be reminded of what good fiction feels like from the other side.

99 cents

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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More Important Matters

So IRON LIGHTS is out (through my store and Dymocks Belconnen ONLY at the moment—it’ll be available everywhere in October, including digitally), MURDER IN THE MAIL is exhibiting at The Front cafe gallery… and all you really want to know is, “HOW IS THE KITTEN THO?”

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She is good.

As you can see, she prefers her collar half untied (and will unhook it every time I try to neaten it) but it doesn’t freak her out any more. I think she enjoys chewing on it when the rest of us aren’t sufficiently entertaining.

Today is day 15 of her life with us. It feels much longer.

Chris and I quite often wake at 6am or so to hear, “Noooo, nooo, Zipper, nooo, ouch!” in the morning as the kids wake up before us and don’t always remember our new golden rule (“when Zipper is playful on the couch, you go on the floor, and when Zipper is playful on the floor you go on the couch”) but I don’t think she’s actually drawn blood on the kids yet. Of course Chris and I have some (very minor) scratches because we do things like pick her up.

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I’ve begun altering her food from the RSPCA’s preferred brand to a more ordinary kitten-friendly food. The change disturbed her yesterday but she’s definitely eating it so that should be fine.

My sister has two young daughters (6 and 7.5) who visited us yesterday to meet Zipper and have a play. They’re not nearly as familiar with cats as my two, but Zipper was clearly quite interested in them (despite her obvious nerves) and if they ever sat down for more than ten seconds I bet she’d hop on their lap/s.

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It’s very exciting having a cat that’s NOT a long-haired type, because she can actually sit on the couch without leaving it covered in fur. This is a new and wondrous thing—and she certainly looks good on green.

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She still sleeps a lot, usually sitting on one of our dining chairs (hidden by the tablecloth) or in a lap, or at/over my feet. She still follows me to the bathroom and calmly waits for me before following me back into the living room.

It’s rare for her to meow these days, so hopefully she’ll just grow out of it. But keep the habit of saying, “Prrrm?” by way of greeting or query.

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She still plays a lot, and has begun enjoying different toys—the balls we bought for her, crumpled paper, my doona, Louisette’s soft toys. She still doesn’t really ‘get’ the whole treat thing (she tends to sniff at a treat, bat it around a bit, and then walk off).

And she’s still utterly perfect.

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Art for Schools

The full list of MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY contributors is here, but this article is specifically about the art from the exhibition currently showing at The Front cafe & gallery, with teachers and school principals in mind. I have chosen the most school-appropriate image from each artist to recommend (and have neglected Annabelle Lee because her books are too naughty, and I know she’ll forgive me).

These pictures are especially well suited to English, Art, History, and Psychology departments.

YES, Felicity Banks (yours truly; curator, head writer, and novelist) is available for discounted school author visits and the MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY story can be purchased here. It is suitable for 12+.

For schools/libraries, some prices are negotiable if the art is not sold during the exhibition period (especially if you buy more than one picture).

Michelle Bedford (Kija/Jaru people)

Full Moon Beaming

original painting

55 x 65 cm

$600 framed

Why buy it?

Because every school should display some original Indigenous Australian art. Michelle is a Canberra artist and poet who is active in the local community.

This is a great piece celebrating nature and it’s best hung next to a window so the specks of shining paint in the moon can be brought out.

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Shauna O’Meara

 Naomi’s Room

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

limited edition print

42 x 30 cm

$250 framed

Why buy it?

This is an incredibly detailed piece that works best in the context of the MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY story. I can include a folder/display version of the story so students can explore interactive storytelling.

There are five clues in the picture, some of which require specialist knowledge (such as written Japanese) as well as a large number of ‘Easter Eggs’ (such as books by several authors who each wrote a character in the story).

Shauna O’Meara is an award-winning Canberra artist and writer.

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Jane Virgo

Cattitude

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“There’s something you don’t know about me.”

original painting

42 x 60 cm

$500 framed

Why buy it?

This is a painting of Canberra writer Cat Sheely by Canberra writer and painter Jane Virgo.

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 Adam Lee

National Museum

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“I kept her secret because it was hers.”

 photograph

60 x 42 cm

$350framed

Why buy it?

This is a stark and elegant photograph of a Canberra icon by a Canberra photographer.

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Tash Turgoose

Hands

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“When I draw, the world disappears.”

limited edition print

30 x 42 cm

$250framed

Why buy it?

This minimalist picture shows how a skilled artist can use detail to render a simple image powerful—and that it is possible to draw hands well!

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Keely Van Order

Rorschach

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“It’s over. And also beginning.”

limited edition print

42 x 60 cm

$350framed

Why buy it?

This complicated image has a million different interpretations. Is it wings? Faces? A blot of ink? A person could see a different image every day and never run out of impressions.

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“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.

Me, me, me!

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.

Addendum: A Bloody Fantastic Cake

Here’s Cassie’s own pic of the cake she made, next to Shauna’s picture. Artists are so amazing! They never cease to impress and delight me.

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It tasted good too.

 

PS The launch for IRON LIGHTS was pretty cool too. Cat Sparks did the photos and I already have them. They’re so incredible I’m going to have to write a seriously impressive blog entry to go with them.

Here’s a pic to tide y’all over until it’s ready:

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Hilariously, the quote behind me is, “I’ve always loved politics. . .”

Murder in the Mail Art Exhibition Opening

Today is Saturday, August 25, 2018.

Today MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY was officially launched with the beginning of a week-long art installation at The Front cafe & gallery (1 Wattle St, Lyneham, Canberra).

It featured all eight pieces of story art (you can see them here), plus several bonus pieces (three Octopus pics/puns from Annabelle Lee, who designed both the MURDER and MAGIC logos; a Ditmar Award-winning piece by Shauna O’Meara; a second portrait by Jane Virgo—of the famous writer Isobel Carmody; and one sneak preview of the MAGIC IN THE MAIL exhibition which will run at The Front on precisely this weekend in 2019).

And cake, by Cassie’s Custom Creations, based on the cake drawing by Shauna.

All the Canberra MURDER artists attended—Annabelle Lee, Adam Lee (yes, they’re husband and wife as well as being two extremely different visual artists), Jane Virgo, and Shauna O’Meara. (Tash Turgoose lives in Brisbane and Keely Van Order lives in Melbourne.)

I very much enjoyed having several of “my” artists in the same room, and although all the artists are scattered about Australia and the world, I was able to gather all but one of their books (Phil Hore’s book is soon to be published by Odyssey Books) which was awfully enjoyable for me too.

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You can see them all rather more clearly here, of course. It’s rather a respectable bookshelf—and all Odyssey and Obscura authors, naturally.

But of course you want to see the cake, don’t you?

Well… you can’t.

The above (and below) photos were taken on my phone just before I packed up. My good friend (and printer) Jason Tankard was the official photographer, and he took about a billion photos, especially of the cake… so I knew it would be most thoroughly documented… and didn’t take a single pic of it myself.

Here’s the art by Shauna O’Meara, if that’s any comfort:

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And here are some lollies. That’s Lindt on the table, and the mini trifle dish has Kool Mints, dark chocolate Maltesers, and Jaffas.

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But of course it’s the art you really want to see. This is a terrible picture, but it’s better than nothing:

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The art will stay at The Front for at least a week. If you like coffee, art, or cafes in general, go and check it out!

The food is rather good too (I was careful to test it, because I’m a professional in such matters).

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That’s ginger and sweet potato hotcakes on the left, and “AVOCADO” on the right (with sourdough bread, beetroot hummus, etc).

The crucial questions:

Did I sell billions of dollars’ worth of stories, books, and art?

Just hundreds.

Did I have fun?

So, so much yes.

Was the cake good?

Yup.

UPDATED: Here is the cake!

I realised alarmingly recently that everything I know about running an art installation I learned from Ocean’s Eight. So there were certainly some bumps along the road (to this day I don’t know what percentage the cafe gets from my sales… somewhere in the vast gulf between 20% and 60%) but the art is in a great public space, MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY is on sale there, and it was an incredible day.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling debrief of the Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights book launch at Kings Hall, Old Parliament House (aka the Museum of Australian Democracy) 2:45-3:15pm.

Or, you know, just come 🙂

Bloody Cake!

So I panicked and ordered a custom-made cake for the MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY opening/launch this Saturday 3:30-5pm at The Front.

Cassie of Cassie’s Custom Creations is the amazing lady whose response to “Canihaveacustom3tiercakebysatudayohplease” was, “YES!”

And this is what she’s working off—the incredibly intricate pic by Shauna O’Meara:

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I can’t wait to see it! And also eat it!

 

Say what??

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:

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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).

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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?

Zipper

She’s doing fine. Her playfulness is clearly demarcated from her cuddly times (which is very handy, because the kids know exactly when not to try to pat her), and is getting livelier as she grows in confidence (and presumably recovers from her operation).

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Today she had her first visit to our local vet, who gave us a pack of kitten-oriented info, food, treats, and even a cool toy that is designed to have a treat inside that the cat has to get out (great entertainment and good for their brain).

Zipper handled the vet (and injection) very well, didn’t meow at all on the car trip (a positive sign), and even visited TJ’s pre-school class! I’d been toying with the idea of taking her for a visit, since she’s so good with kids and it’s good for kittens to be exposed to a lot of different people and environments.

She endured the children with perfect patience (I kept her in a pillowcase, held firmly with just her head poking out) and all but one of the kids (who wanted to tickle her a bit roughly) were very gentle and good. Some were very reluctant to go back to their activity, but I can hardly blame them for that because I’ve been known to completely ignore people in favour of cooing over their cats for any number of hours.

Zipper still tends to follow us from room to room, including to the bathroom. It’s a good thing I work from home, or she’d definitely be lonely. She’s gained weight since being with us due to to fact that I’ve never yet let her supply of dry food run out. The up side is that it means she never begs for food, which is awesome. I’ll be careful in my experimentation with limiting her to the recommended amount of food, keeping an eye on her weight (we don’t want her to lose weight either) and behaviour.

I’m toying with possible cat-run ideas so that she can remain an ‘inside’ cat but in a way that lets us stop bothering to deal with kitty litter/keeps her restricted to our backyard. It seems to me that she needs human company far more than a broad range, so it might be possible to keep her both trapped and happy.

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My original observations of her (in the pet shop, with her brother and another cat) were that she was more tentative than the others. That holds true so far. She is both smarter and less curious than the average cat, which makes her less likely to get herself run over and less likely to destroy my stuff (at least, so far).

I bought Chris a bunch of flowers when he was sick last week. For the first two nights I put them in the cupboard overnight, but after that I left them on the dining table, and Zipper left them alone. That shows that (a) She knows the dining table is forbidden, and (b) She’s not the type to habitually disobey behind our backs.

So for a young kitten, she is VERY low-maintenance.

Book Week activity for pre-school to Year 4 kids

Last year, I wrote a story with my daughter’s Kindy class. This year I’m going one better (or at least noisier) and writing a story with my son’s pre-school class. This is a fairly fancy* pre-school, so even in pre-school the kids are encouraged to write their own names, and most can write the first letter.

I start off the class by saying that I’m a writer, and waving a book around—perhaps one of mine; perhaps one from their shelf (pointing out the author name in either case).

Optional parts of the opening (for older kids):

-Talking about how a lot of books have both an author/writer and artist/illustrator.

-Talking about how books can be true stories or made-up stories (fiction and non-fiction), keeping in mind that younger kids genuinely can’t distinguish between reality and fiction in the same way older kids can.

-Talking about how writers send their words to a publisher, who arranges printing and sends the books to a shop.

-Reading a book to the class.

 

The central message of the opening spiel:

I have written a book but it’s not finished and I need your help! There are no names in the book, and no pictures!

 

Preparation:

-A binder with lots of those clear plastic sheets inside, like these.

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-A title page and beginning to the story, an end, and a lot of pages that are complete (and interchangeable) except for requiring a name.

Eg. For pre-schoolers:

Title Page:

1R [or whatever the class is called] Story

Page 1:

One day there was a pre-school class with lots of friends.

Middle (many copies of each):

______ is clever.

______ is kind.

______ is strong.

______ is funny.

Final page: What a great class!     The End

 

I explained that there were four describing words and that all of the kids were all of those four things, but they needed to pick their favourite (and I also had four people—my two kids, and two teachers) stand in different parts of the room to gather their groups (the kind group, the strong group, the clever group, and the funny group). I was quite pleased with how gender-diverse the results were (although of course one boy said “[Girlname] isn’t strong!” and I said, “Yes she is!” and moved on).

Then I handed out the piles to each group, and had the kids write their names and draw a picture on their page, giving them back to me when they finished.

I put them back into the folder in random order, checked it was all legible, and then when everyone was done I gathered them back on the mat and read the finished story. Then I let the class have the finished story. (The teachers can photocopy it and email copies to all the parents if they want.)

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Feel free to use and adapt this lesson as much as you like.

If you feel grateful, buy one of my books from my storeThe Monster Apprentice is suitable for 8+ (it’s like Narnia with pirates) and the Antipodean Queen steampunk fantasy books are suitable for 13+ (with bonus bits of much-mangled Aussie history). In both cases, advanced kids can go ahead and read them at a younger age. I read The Monster Apprentice aloud to Louisette when she was 5, but skipped a couple of scary bits.

*debate the merits of early literacy training in the comments!

Kitten kitten kitten!

Meet Zipper.

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Zipper and her brother were found at a camp site and taken to the RSPCA. I think what happened is someone’s cat had a litter and they were too embarrassed to take them to the RSPCA themselves so when the kittens were old enough they took them into bushland and let them go.

Don’t do that, kids. Cats are stone cold killers and feral cats are terrible for the environment. (Also, desex your cat. The world has enough kittens—which means a LOT, coming from me.)

These two are most assuredly not feral cats. Zipper is clearly familiar with house environments, and is remarkably well-behaved for her age.

When our previous cat, Ana, died, I knew we’d get a new kitten soon. If Australia went to war and my entire family ended up in a refugee camp, I would find a cat and make it part of our shack/tent/whatever. That’s just life.

Chris isn’t a cat person. Whenever I mentioned a cat and checked in on his opinion about getting a new fur baby he described himself as “resigned”. But of course he’s the one most likely to spoil a cat, too.

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I was being Mature and Responsible. I didn’t get a new kitten immediately, which is already impressive, to my mind. I wrote a list of things we were looking for in a cat, and what we’d need to prepare for a kitten (litter & scoop & tray, food, fishing-pole toys so the kids could play with it safely, a scratching post, etc). Bit by bit I acquired everything on the list, including a collar with a tag engraved with my phone number (in case she gets lost and the person who finds her doesn’t know about microchips), and made sure that the small bits of garden in our back yard are suitable for cat toileting (Zipper will stay inside for weeks/months but we had a good thing going with Ana—she always took care of her business outside, and we didn’t have to do a thing).

Definitely not a long-haired cat this time. Definitely not a “difficult” personality, because of my kids. Definitely not a pink nose (it leads to cancer if the owner doesn’t take precautions… which I did for Ana for a while, and always knew I should have done better). Definitely not a vocal cat. Ideally female. Ideally black. Ideally beautiful. Definitely a very young kitten—kittens over 6 months are all very well, but they’re already gangly teenagers, and (for better or worse) beginning to be set in their ways. Plus the wobbly kitten walk only lasts such a short time, and it’ll be 10-20 years before I get another cat.

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Okay, she has a pink nose. Maybe I’ll be a better parent this time.

Okay, she meows a lot. Like, a LOT. The RSPCA didn’t mention her being vocal, but I sat and watched her (and two other cats) for an hour, and during that time she meowed hello at me. So I had my suspicions.

She DID just get desexed (the day before yesterday—her whole belly is shaved as you can see below), which would certainly make me complain*. And she is deeply offended by closed doors (so far we’re restricting her movements to make sure she’s fully in the litter-using habit before she’s unsupervised in the kids’ rooms—plus, we’re observing her particular brand of destruction and cat-proofing accordingly).

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In terms of destruction, she’s pretty mild. It’s clear that it’ll take some doing to get her to exclusively use her scratching post (I bought a flat door-hanger style scratching thing today so she has a horizontal scratcher as well as the vertical ones). So far, she hasn’t climbed much at all—just the back of couches and armchairs, which is fine. She’s been on the dining table a few times, and the training procedure for that & appropriate scratching places has well and truly begun. She’s already pretty good though.

Both kids have been very slightly scratched. That’s fine: they were warned; they have fishing-pole toys that can be used without danger; they have been thoroughly trained on cat body language; and Zipper isn’t big enough to truly hurt anyone yet. She’s also gently bitten me a few times, which was actually perfect because I’ll be doing most of the direct behavioural training (so when she’s clearly in a playful mood I’ll deliberately put my own hands/feet/face in the danger zone and then tell her off when she inevitably bites or scratches me—this leads to an extremely trustworthy older cat, who will resist even the most egregious temptation).

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So far we know a few things about her: She’s clever enough that she knew her own (previous) name when I met her (that’ll make training either easy or hard, depending on her curiosity level); she’s all about the quality time (probably partly because she was so recently desexed), not much of a climber (which if it sticks will very much help in protecting our stuff) but a bit of a furniture/carpet scratcher.

She hasn’t chewed a single electrical cord, so that’s good!

 

Since I began writing this entry (on Tuesday, aka K-Day), her meowing has reduced significantly. That bodes well! She still sometimes meows when people leave the room—which is a bad habit, but shows how much she loves having company. On her first night, she slept on my pillow. It was clear that she would have liked to drape elegantly across my face and/or inside my ear, but in the end she settled down in a relatively sane manner (I could breathe, which is a priority for me).

TJ is so in tune with her that he came into my room to tell me “Zipper doesn’t like her collar” (absolutely true, although she’s getting used to it now). Louisette is in love, and since my parents’ extremely large puppy knocked her over she’s switched her allegiance from dogs to cats. There are already pics of her and Zipper on her classroom wall.

I imagine Zipper is already in the running to be their perfect listener for all their future emotional crises for the next 10-20 years. She’ll do a fabulous job. And she loves them too—yes, already. If there’s a loud noise or something else distressing, she’ll go to any one of us for comfort.

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Naturally I’m well and truly obsessed. Zipper is just lovely, and life is good. My blood sugar is down, and when Chris was sick for two days this week I did All The Things and coped pretty darn well.

So if anyone asks, she’s my therapy cat. Which is of course perfectly true.

*Huh. Technically I’m getting desexed myself sometime in the next year or so (as treatment for adenomyosis & suspected endometriosis)… for free, and it’s a much smaller op than I had last year. I can’t wait to have another great leap forward in my health!

 

 

Cat Names

Here is our brand new kitten:

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I spent a lot of time considering possible names. I needed something that could be short or long (I tend to shorten names and then lengthen them, eg Annaleise–> Anna–>Anna-bananaramagram), that the kids didn’t hate, that I didn’t mind shouting into the night (not, for example, “Fire” or “Figaro” or “Buttface”), and that wouldn’t be excessively embarrassing to the kids when they’re teenagers.

Here are some that made the shortlist:

Agatha Heterodyne (steampunk mad scientists from Girl Genius graphic novels)

Ada Lovelace (a real-life Victorian countess, inventor, and computer programmer)

Misty (for a white cat)

Leia (except I’m still broken up over Carrie Fisher’s death so I’d feel sad whenever I used it)

Isaiah

Loki (an excellent cat name, thanks to him being the God of Mischief… and Tom Hiddleston. Also it’s wise to use a character who’s dead* since they can’t then go and commit incest or something)

Ariel

 

For a black cat:

Raven

Shadow

Midnight

T’Challa (aka the Black Panther)

Chadwick (the actor who plays King T’Challa so very well)

Shuri (who is sometimes the Black Panther in the comics)

Letitia.

Or literally any other cast member of Black Panther.

 

Sherlock

Mimi (apparently that’s the “Rover” of cat names in China)

Mao (Mandarin for ‘cat’ and Louisette really wanted to call it ‘Meow’ for a while… but that’d definitely cause an increase in vocalisation)

TomTom (fun to say)

Mystique (for the X-Men character, plus it abbreviates to Missy)

Nox and/or Mademoiselle Brunet (one of my characters – good for a female cat that’s black, white, or brown)

Emmeline (ditto)

Matilda (ditto)

Patrick (ditto)

Amelia (after Ms Earhart; Louisette vetoed it on the basis that if the cat walked in while she was having one of our Amelia Earhart books read, the cat could be confused)

Gandalf

Merlin

Frodo

Samwise

Aragorn (shortens to Arrow, which is cool)

Qwerty/Qwertyuiop (I really liked this; the kids were deeply unimpressed)

Blaze/Diamond (based on markings)

Boudica

Scuttlebutt (fun to say, and piratical too)

Ping Pong (fun to say; good description of cat movement)

Snugglepot & Cuddlepie (yes, I suggested to Chris more than once that we get siblings, partly for their benefit and partly for the kids’ benefit… but he was right to say no. Two is too much for me.)

Bubble (again, fun to say)

Hiccup (fun to say, plus the hero from “How to Train Your Dragon” which is a cool movie/s/show/s/book/s)

But the name we finally settled on is….

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Zipper.

I like to say it, the kids see the logic in “she zips around” and it shortens to “Zip” or “Zip-Zip” and lengthens to “Zip-e-dee-do-ya”.

So that’s her name.

She’s another tortoiseshell/white cat. Apparently I have a type (also, the ultimate decision was between two cats, and neither was plain black which is what I was hoping for… but she’s soooo beautiful, isn’t she?)

*probably for reals this time.

Insert Toilet Joke Here

August is an exciting month.

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GammaCon (where that pic was taken) is over for another year (it RULED by the way) but the Canberra Writers’ Festival is approaching (23-26 August) and I’ll be launching TWO books that weekend.

Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday will be launched with a week-long art exhibition at The Front cafe and gallery in Lyneham.

The official launch is 3:30-5:00pm on Saturday 25th, and at least two of the visual artists plan to be there.

——–

And the final book in my steampunk fantasy trilogy, Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights will be launched as an official part of the Canberra Writers Festival at Old Parliament House (aka The Museum of Australian Democracy) in Kings’ Hall 2:45-3:15pm Sunday August 26.

I’ll be selling all my stuff at both launches.

They’re also in stock (including Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday and Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire, which are in the games section) at Dymocks Belconnen, which means all my books/games are super easy to order into any Dymocks store (but especially Tuggeranong, which is linked to Belco).

 

But that’s not why I’m blogging today.

I’m blogging because of an event far rarer and more impressive than a book launch. I usually release a book a year… but this is something that hasn’t happened since TJ was born.

I did a proper clean of the toilet.

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I cleaned the whole room, including the floor and walls (there was quite a bit of blood on the wall*). Just look at how clean it is!

Chris and I are talking fairly seriously about dividing up our house so we can take a tenant (tenant rather than room-mate because they’d have a separate entrance and loo). So that’s why I was suddenly enthusiastic about cleaning… because it’s likely this will be my toilet soon.

Sidebar: I suspect any artworks that are unsold at the end of the exhibition will be in with a chance of making an impromptu gallery in this one tiny clean part of my house. A rather dubious honour, I think. But the above cleanliness is somewhat bland, don’t you agree?

Regular readers will know that we recently said goodbye to Princess Ana after ten fluffy years, and that a house without a cat is unthinkable. (As I write this, the wind is banging the cat flap, and I keep expecting Ana to walk in and glare at me in that adorable cat manner.)

That’s one of the VERY early pic of TJ and Ana. There are many more.

it is to TJ’s credit that he prefers an older cat. I am not a good enough person to adopt an older cat. I enjoy the short, playfully unco months of kittenhood, and I also like a cat that I’ve trained myself.

So at some stage soon we’ll get a kitten. Squeee!

But we’ll most likely get a tenant and kitten at around the same time, because kittens are fun and tenants are not. So dangling a future kitten in my mind keeps me motivated to continue figuring out how to fit all our stuff into smaller and smaller spaces.

I’ve donated three large garbage bags of clothes to charity/friends in the last few weeks—mostly my own. A lot of my outfits dated back to pre-Chris romances, which was quite a trip down memory lane. My general body shape has been extremely haywire for the last 8 years due to two enormous babies, various medical conditions, and an operation. Now that I’ve had the stomach op, though, I have a better idea of my proportions relative to one another. That’s helpful.

I kept some of my ‘optimistic’ clothes (including some gorgeous dresses) but put them in a box until next year.

Not for the first time, I noticed that I talk to myself a lot (and also talk to inanimate objects). Yet another reason to get a cat, amirite? That way at least I’m talking to an animal. Ana was always very helpful when a plot wasn’t working right and needed workshopping.

So that’s where life is at the moment. How about you?

*Louisette has really dramatic blood noses. I couldn’t tell you how long ago that particular stain happened; I rarely use that toilet so if you’ve visited us in the last three months… sorry ’bout that. You’ll also be pleased to hear that we changed the toilet seat to an adult sized version instead of the miniature one that we’ve been making people-who-are-not-us use for the last five years.

Author Photo

Every so often I get asked for an author photo. Here are some that I use pretty often:

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Nice and steampunky, but WILDLY out of date.

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Amusing – captured just as the whistle blew, scaring the crap out of me. I’m actually (just barely) pregnant with Louisette in this photo.

Generally author pics want to see one’s face in perilous close-up, however.

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A fairly nice pic… but of course having a kid in an author pic is a no-no for anyone who’s not writing picture books. So this is what I use:

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These two were taken by Cat Sparks at Conflux 2017. I had makeup on and everythink. Cat Sparks must be acknowledged by anyone who uses these (which is sometimes awkward).

Selfie taken on a miniature train.

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Selfie taken in the mirror, in costume, after my operation.

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What would you use if these were your choices, and you were an author trying to look super interesting and absolutely worth reading?

I think my favourite is the miniature train selfie. I look happy, and pretty nice despite the lack of makeup. Good hair and background, and looking away implies imagination.

I always take pics of myself at appearances (when I’m Properly Dressed) but so far they’ve never turned out well. Usually the lighting is bad, and I’ve begged a random passer-by to take the picture. Plus they’re generally full length, so even if my face is looking good it’s not high enough quality for an author photo.

UPDATE: The brilliant Cat Sparks (yes, her again!) took a billion photos of me at my latest book launch. These are the best, and I think the one that I accidentally posted twice is the absolute winner.

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Cover Reveal: Iron Lights

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).

“Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” Contributors

Full alphabetical list of contributors (many of these people are both writers and artists, but I’ve only listed them as artists if that’s their role in “A Bloody Birthday”):

Barr, Julian: Writer

https://jbarrauthor.wordpress.com/

1.postcard.TEMPORARY

Banks, Felicity: Writer & Curator

https://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/

Bendon, Carmel: Writer

https://carmelbendon.com

GrapsingAtWater_cover

 

Denman, Carolyn: Writer

http://carolyndenman.com/

5.Waterfall Banner

Goodin, Laura E: Writer

http://www.lauraegoodin.com/

4.Laramie_postcard_front_Lauras_book_covers

Hore, Phil: Writer

http://philhore.blogspot.com.au/

[Book cover TBA; later in 2018.]

Lee, Adam: Artist

http://www.adamleephotography.com.au/

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Lee, Annabelle: Artist

https://www.amazon.com/Octopus-Family-Annabelle-Lee/dp/1922200840

O’Meara, Shauna: Artist

https://theshaunacorner.wordpress.com/

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Turgoose, Tash: Writer & Artist

www.tashturgoose.com

Van Order, Keely: Artist

http://keelyvanorder.com/

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Virgo, Jane: Artist

https://csfg.wordpress.com/our-members-v2/jane-virgo/

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