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Archive for the ‘General excitment’ Category

I am currently in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s cold and wet. Warning this post contains lots of photos and a bit of Vikings.

Here is a post about Oslo and a bit about Bergen. (This pic was taken of Bergen Fjord at 5.30am local time)

 

Norway. Lovely Norway! It is so nice here. I apparently have some Norwegian heritage. With a name like Hanson you would guess so. I think the family name Ericksen is also on that side and appears to be Norwegian too. But without a birth place I will find it hard to discover more. The information I have is from England. Apparently, because of the church in Norway there are continuous records of births, deaths and marriages way, way back. I’ll have to do more family history to find a link.

Anyway, we have an addition to our little party. My son joins us from Shanghai for a week. It felt weird really but I guess I’ll have to get used to the idea of international meet ups, given that my son works overseas and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

He and my daughter have plans to hike near Bergen. So we all met up at Oslo airport on Saturday lunch time and caught the train in.

Apparently, there is an express train but the guy at the train ticket counter said the train was cheaper and took the same amount of time so we bought 24 hour tickets.

We only had a short stay planned in Olso and we had an AirBnB in an unlikely place. It was in the posh area where all the big houses are and on the peninsula that contains a lot of the best museums and the ferry. The ones we wanted to see were the Viking Ships and the Folk Museum.

Our little studio was so cute and within walking distance, like 650 metres from the Viking Ship Museum. First of all we settled in, arranged our wine bottles and my kids went to the supermarket to get supplies. I rested my feet. Funny, that the kids came back with some great food but no tea or milk. So I had to go out and buy some tea and milk and nice cheese. Taamo came with me. It was quite a walk to the little supermarket. I put my iphone on the counter and the cashier made jokes in English about selling it back to me. It was fun really.

If you don’t know, then I’ll tell you. Norway is very expensive. It is one of the most expensive places in the world. We are going to Iceland on Friday and maybe that is more expensive than Norway. Self-catering is a god send and that’s what I love about AirBnB. In our little place we had a cook top, fridge, microwave and a washing machine. My job was to get the laundry done while the kids did the shopping. I didn’t just sit on my ass!

Just a pic from when we arrived in Oslo city and were waiting for our bus. Of the Airbnb’s this host gave the best directions.

So our first night was spent in, eating, drinking wine and catching up. Taamo was jetlagged as he’d come from Shanghai with a 5 hour layover in Moscow so we slept. It was one room but with ear plugs the snoring sounds were muted. My poor daughter was caught between me and Taamo!

Next morning I had arranged to meet Heidi, local SF fan and con organiser. She had offered to take me around the Viking Ship museum. My kids went off to buy a Oslo pass which we determined was good value in the 24 hour option because it gave us access to museums and included unlimited travel within Oslo on trains, trams and busses and included the ferry. We were told we could use an online version but couldn’t find confirmation of this on the website so the kids went to the Maritime Museum which sold the cards and they were going to meet me at the Folk Museum at 1 pm.

I managed to have a brain blowout and mixed up which museum I was meeting Heidi. I had no internet and when I realised it, I went into a panic. I ran back to our accommodation so I could access the wifi and sent a message. There I found one from Heidi saying she was running late. So I said I was coming and went to the Viking Ship museum. But because I was panicked and stressed I couldn’t find my way and worried about getting lost. It was around the corner but when you have a melt down you can’t think logically. Anyway, I got over that and found my way to the museum. Heidi wasn’t there yet so I waited and I saw the robot lawnmower. You’ve seen robot vacuum cleaners right? Well these robots do the lawn. I want one.

I waited a bit longer, rechecked the messages and Heidi said to go in without her so I started to line up. I was in the line when she came in so we bought tickets and Heidi showed me around. Heidi knows a lot about the ships and the museum. She said she’d been there a lot, listened to the guides and was a history buff. She gave me excellent commentary and pointed out things. This is not a big museum in the sense that there is a lot to cover. It is physically big to house the ships and the collection.

Here is a series of shots from the Viking Ship Museum.

Wow! Just wow! These ships were dug up in the 1800s and they were graves so there were grave goods and skeletons. The most substantial ship and grave goods were for a woman, the grave contained two female skeletons – an older woman and a younger woman. They think the grave is for the older woman, a queen perhaps, and  they aren’t too sure about the younger one or what she died of. The ship was decorated and  shallow. Heidi said it was a pleasure boat, not for sea going, but rather quiet waters. In the pictures the lighter coloured wood is where sections have been restored.

The grave goods were amazing, buckets, sewing equipment, animals, food etc. In a similar way to the Egyptians, Viking age graves prepared the way for the afterlife. Goods and personal items were buried with the dead so that they could use them in the afterlife. This included favourite pets, dogs, horses etc. Even favourite slaves.

I took some shots of horse harnesses that were included in the graves. These are for Maxine M. I think the grave goods demonstrated a complex society.

There was a warrior’s burial and his bones were amazing. Thick, sturdy bones. It reminded me of one of the skulls in the Swedish museum. The warrior dude had a really big head and the commentary said his skeleton revealed he was really tall.

These warrior bones showed the sword cuts and they figure he died pretty quickly from his injuries. Pretty blood thirsty those Vikings. His grave had tools, including carpentry items and shovels etc. There was also a short film with one of the ships that was pretty awe inspiring too, showing what the ship looked like at sea. The third boat was pretty destroyed but it did allow you to see some of the destruction. Most of the grave goods were gone and they figure it was looted in the Viking age.

After that trip around that museum, Heidi and I had a cuppa and I tried a hotdog. It was yummy! Then we walked down to the Folksmuseet to meet my kids. They had gone to the Maritime Museum since they bought the Olso cards there. I was able to get my Oslo card off them to use to get into this museum.

The hot dog was on a flattened bread roll and the dog itself was very good with crispy fried onions.

OMG! This place is amazing. It’s like ten museums thrown in together. There is an outdoor part and an indoor part. The outdoor part contains buildings. Yes, buildings that have been transported there from other place, buildings from many eras. I have never seen anything like it. Heidi tells me there are others in a few countries. I was started in the 1800s by King Olaf II (I think-I will need to check this ).

Anyway, the buildings for me were uniquely Norwegian. Some were really old like from 1600s and later. The storehouses were the most interesting for me because they bring home the reality of living in this northern climate and also what it was like in the past. The spring and summer involved growing and storing enough food for the winter. The food had to be protected from  rats, fire, and thieves, otherwise the whole family would starve. Heidi was so knowledgeable about the place and she explained about how they were built. They were on staves, wooden supports, but shaped  in such a way that rats couldn’t climb inside. The stairs leading up to the storage houses had a big gap so the rats couldn’t cross over. They were separate from the house so that if there was a fire the food would be safe. They had sturdy doors with locks to protect them from thieves. Some had little balconies where the sour cream was kept cool. Inside some of them were wooden casks that had been used for storing grain and other food stuffs, rough hewn stairs made from a log, big thick wooden logs for the sides. This was an age of big forests and plentiful wood. Heidi explained at the wood and long winters meant that people carved.

The other places were different types of farm houses, a stave built church from circa 1645. This was originally catholic and then with the Lutheran reformation they were denuded of their idols etc. Heidi said that anything the pope said was not to be followed. Catholic priests became Lutheran priests (or died I expect) and the crosses and the Virgin Mary’s were taken down. Heidi said that there had been some renovations of old churches and underneath the floors the stashes of Virgin Marys and other things had been found. So they hadn’t been destroyed just hidden from view. This might be because the original Lutheran clergy were catholic. Who knows but so fascinating.

This will be a photo fest from this museum.

There was so much to do and see in this museum that you need to start early and spend the whole day. There are gardens and animals for kids to interact with. Horse and cart rides. Folk dancing. Music. Baking. I tried the Lefse which we saw made and then baked on a griddle over hot coals by girls in traditional dress. Then as we had to meet my kids by a certain time (they had to duck down to the Viking Ship Museum because they hadn’t seen it) we did a rush job on some other displays. I did go to the weavers’s workshop and bought some yarn! Then we went to an apartment building that had been torn down and some rebuilt on the museum site. This showed the apartments through time, a mid 19 century, a late 19th century, a 1960s and a late 1970s. They were so cute and lovely. I noticed that the rooms had Perspex barriers so you could see in but not touch anything. In a country with high labour costs, it makes sense to police exhibitions that way. We also popped in to see the folk costumes and there was a special exhibition called Queering the Sami. That was interesting with personal stories of being queer and Sami.

We met up with my kids, grabbed my Helsinki pass again, and Heidi said she’d deliver me back to them at the venue for the concert. We had booked tickets to Wardruna. Taamo’s favourite band. It is awhat I would call, Neo Norse. They sing in old Norse and use old instruments that the Vikings or the old Norse would use. They have a personal desire to preserve the past. They are sort of folk sounding but not really. Anyway, we split up for the remainder of the day.

I forgot the stave church.

 

Heidi took me to the ferry, but we stopped at the Indonesian embassy where there was a celebration that was open to the public. Just a random thing. We saw it and thought let’s check it out. We drank/ate some kind of drink with jelly and water melon in it and listened to some singing (Karaoke?) before catching the ferry. Heidi took me to the City Hall, an unusual building and evocative too, when a Norwegian is telling you about it’s history. It was built in the late 1950s I think, post war. The Nazis invaded Norway and did a lot of harm. They shipped Norwegian Jews out to the central European camps and  used a scorched earth policy when they retreated. BTW there is a Jewish Museum there on the peninsula too which we didn’t get to. Just opened this year. Norway was in pretty bad shape after the war and rationing was still in place in the 1950s. There are murals on the walls of City Hall that depict these things but also share a vision of a future Norway, where the old are well fed and dressed and happy, the children are happy, healthy and learning, young people are fit etc. It is really interesting that Norway has achieved a lot of that vision. Heidi also told me about the patron saint of Oslo, St Hallvard. Here is the story of him

https://thornews.com/2012/04/26/oslo-citys-patron-saint-hallvard-defending-a-pregnant-women/

Here is a picture of the city seal.

Next we went to check out the Opera House, the harbour and surrounds. The Opera House is very impressive, a modern construction with grand dimensions. We then went looking for dinner. Heidi took me to the old train station, which was now a Holiday Inn and a building with lots of restaurants. In the end we ate Italian food. The prices were comparable to Australia. We shared a plate of potatoes and aioli and a salad for our starters, and we both had small servings of Tagliatelle Bosciola. It was very delicious and plentiful so we had to abandon our plans for dessert.

Then we took the short walk to where the Wardruna concert was being held. A place called SALT. It is a temporary fixture, a bar, a large sauna, an artistic place. Interesting. We found my kids and I said good bye to Heidi. Heidi thought I might be the oldest person at this concert. So did I at first. Later I discovered I was not the oldest by far.

My kids told me I would have to stand up for the concert as it was outside. I was in a bit of pain by then because I’d been walking and walking all day. So I wasn’t too impressed. My daughter bought me a red wine and we waited for the venue to start letting us in. By 7.30 were in the concert space but things were a bit slow kicking off. People seemed to be eating and drinking and I found a place inside with a seat. So I staked my claim and put my foot up. The kids sat with me for a bit. There was a support act that started about 8 pm, an hour after the official start. My kids said that was normal for a concert. I was like, gee, if this doesn’t kick off soon I’ll fall asleep. Wardruna didn’t kick off until 9.30. What the hell! Two and a half hours after the time we were told. My kids had no problem with that. Me I was starting to fall asleep! But the music was amazing and excellent. The bad played for just over an hour and a half..

Weird haunting music with powerful vocals and extraordinary instruments. My daughter said that it was geeky music that I liked and I agreed that this was so. There were people dressed up in Viking age costumes and people with lots of piercings and leather and tats, and I liked the music just as much as they did.

Some pics from Wardruna concert.

I showed my kids a clip of Nightwish and Taamo called it 1980’s disco. Argh!

 

Here are some photos from the concert.

Here is a link to youtube of Wardruna. You might recall them from the soundtrack of Vikings

https://www.youtube.com/?v=3fnPwj1AMpo

Next morning it was an early train to Bergen. OMG! This train ride was so amazing. Such wonderful mountains, lakes, waterfalls and I was on the boring side of the train. It goes through Finse (where, if memory serves, parts of the The Empire Strikes Back was filmed), Voss, we saw a glacier from the distance. I have photos but too many to post here so I’ll put up a sample.

In Bergen we stayed at a AirBnB right alongside the fjord. I took a few photos. Our host was lovely. She greeted me with a hug. A bit disconcerting because I was all sweaty from climbing the hill. We were lost. I lost it and had a fight with Taamo. I’m so ashamed. Our host took me in the car to pick up Taamo and Beans and we settled in. Taamo and Beans were going for a hike and I wrote for a day. They made it to Trolltunga (Trollstongue). I wish I had the stamina and the knees for that. They came back early thoroughly knackered from the hike. I enjoyed my time out writing and took a trip to Bergen to check out the old town, Bryggen. Here are some snaps.

Just a few  pics from Bergen.

 

Then we parted ways. We took off to Iceland.

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We were sad to be saying goodby to Helsinki. If a city has a spirit then Helsinki has a gentle and kind one. It is a very pretty place too.

We booked a sauna at our hotel for after breakfast on our last day. We felt we should experience a Finnish sauna in Finland. I’m not keen on saunas but I think I coped with this one quite well. It was a lovely clean room with shower, sauna with glass door and it’s own toilet. I think we were supposed to be quiet in there but we chatted and relaxed.

As we had to check out by 12 and our ferry didn’t leave until 5pm we had the old travellers’ dilemma about what to do with our luggage. We toyed with the idea of leaving it at the hotel and going sight seeing. We discussed taxi versus pushing the damn things to the marina to using the trams. In the end we had the brilliant idea of taking the luggage to the terminal and putting it in a locker. We asked directions about which tram to take and headed off with our bags on wheels. My daughter’s bag is new and the wheels work really well. My bag has temperamental wheels, which means they randomly stop working. We went to the tram stop in front of central station. We waited for a while and realised the rumoured tram number 5 was not appearing on the schedule. We had out our maps and were discussing things and arguing as tourists do when someone took pity on us. We were at the wrong tram stop and we needed tram #4. So this woman pointed us to where we needed to go.

All the trams we’d been riding on had wide doorways with little or no stairs. The tram to the ferry terminal had narrow doorways and three or four stairs. Eek! So we made it on the the tram but where we thought it would be obvious to get off, it wasn’t. Luckily some people on the tram asked us. “Boat? Or No Boat?” We then realised it was our stop so I quick as a flash dragged the bags off. My daughter keeps commenting: you did that so fast!

We walked the bags to the terminal only to find that all the big lockers were taken. We had hours until we were due to board. We used two smaller lockers to put our hand luggage and pushed our suitcases back up the street to the markets and stalls. We thought we could sit with our bags in the lovely sun. Then we got the idea we could do a ferry trip. I did a scout around and the ferry company let us take our bags on so we managed to get the tourist 45 minute tour.

Here is me with our bags in the back of the ferry.

It was an amazing day. The weather was warm, the sky so blue. I took some lovely shots. Here is a shot of the ferry we were going to take to Stockholm.

 

We got to see some of Suomenlinna from the seaward side. Here are some shots. King’s Gate I think.

 

Then when we made it back we sat by the wharf and ate burgers.  I had a reindeer burger and Beans had a vegetarian one without mayo or cheese. She was very impressed with the vegan food options in Helsinki. The seagulls are very aggressive so we had to guard our food from being stolen away. I spied someone eating a plate of meatballs and potatoes and gravy and I had food envy. My burger was fine, but I didn’t taste much difference in the reindeer meet.

Some shots from when we were sitting down, just chilling with the seagulls.

We also took turns checking out the stalls. I found some Finnish yarn! I’m so happy, I bought a mitten kit. It was 27 Euros, a bit pricey but it’s Finnish!

Soon it was time to say goodbye to Helsinki. Picture sad faces. Then we went to check in to the ferry. Upstairs sitting down having a coffee was Sara Lindberg, who we had met at the Welcome to Finland party at Worldcon. So we sat with her and chatted, learned some Swedish and agreed to meet for drinks. She told us about the buffet on board so we planned to get tickets to that.

It wasn’t long before we got on board the massive ferry, Gabriella, run by the Viking Line. It’s a very big ship from my perspective. Then there was the queue for the lifts to reach the berths. We discovered we were on level two, that’s the bottom of the bottom deck! We were under the cars and trucks. Funny! We had a four berth room but luckily we didn’t have to share. Despite the fake window, we were quite comfortable.

Here is a shot of me being silly. Except for the terrible feelings of foreboding and death I slept well.

There was onboard WiFi. I discovered it didn’t work on Deck Two so no morning internet browsing for me. I had to go up to the higher decks to log on. Also, every time I went to the loo or out of range I had to relog on to the internet. We managed to buy buffet tickets for the 6 pm seating. The ship took off and it was so smooth I didn’t even feel us embarking. We took some lovely shots leaving Helsinki from the ship.

The restaurant couldn’t seat us together saying our table was full. However, we had two seats next to us that weren’t used at all. Poor Sara had to eat on her own.

The buffet was an interesting experience. I liken it to starved zombies who had access to five day old corpses. It was if they hadn’t ever been fed and thought that the food would disappear. A lot I couldn’t eat as there was fish of all kinds, fresh, smoked, pickled, tar flavoured, fermented. I got some meat but it was very smokey and salty for a roast meat. Beans said she paid 35 euro for a salad. She found some things to eat, but yeah pricey if you don’t eat most of the things on offer. She was saddened they didn’t have anything vegan and hot.

Later on, we found Sara and she joined us at the table. We had some wine (the buffet included wine and beer on tap) and chatted. Then we went for a stroll and found our way to the bar at the back of the ship. I had a cocktail which was vodka and campari based. We talked some more and then the day’s toil weighed on me and I took myself to bed. Beans stayed up with Sara for a bit. I was woken later by my daughter banging on the bathroom door. Let me out. Let me out.

Me being half asleep it took me a moment to realised she locked the door from her side. I’m saying. I can’t let you out. You need to unlock the door. Panicked sounds. Oh, she says, I locked the door. I went back to bed. It was a long night but perfectly comfortable despite not being able to check the internet in bed.

Next morning, I got up and ready and went upstairs to get an Internet fix. Then I saw the islands! It was so pretty coming into Stockholm. I took photos.

And then some more photos. Beans and Sara joined me and we watched the scenery and then went to breakfast. It was a lot more calmer at breakfast than the buffet the previous night. A full array of food was available. I had crepes, bacon, scrambled eggs and I forget now what else. Some fruit I think.

Because we were on the very bottom of the ship and there were queues when we were getting on, we packed up and were at the front of the line to disembark. It got pretty packed behind the doors, with screaming babies and barking dogs and people saying let us out. I was once again thinking of zombies trying to get out the door. I am not sure my imagination is helpful. Being down in the lower decks I thought that if there was a crisis on the ship we would be the first to die! Anyway, all good.

The journey to our AirBnB was eventful of course but not as eventful as other people. I bought a 24 hour metro ticket and was given the general direction of the bus and a number ’50’. It took us a bit to figure out which direction we should go. There were a lot of busses to Slussen, but we were told to go to Central Station. I asked one bus driver and he said “no’ when I asked if he was going to Central. Another tourist just took any bus. She said that it was bound to put down near a metro stop. She probably had the right idea because Slussen does have a metro stop. So we waited with our huge suitcases. Then a 53 bus came and it did go to central station. Another couple from the ship got on but they had no ticket so had to get off and go find one. Thank heavens we bought our ticket on the ship. We had help finding Central Station and then we followed the signs to the metro. Our instructions were pretty straightforward. We are out in the burbs. Unfortunately, we got lost trying to find the apartment. We started to get stressed and had to ring our host. It did work out, but it was funny. He said I’ll go on the balcony and look for you. So we followed instructions and saw a shirtless guy jumping up and down and waving his hands. Okaay.

After that it was pretty straightforward. We were tired. We had a short break and then went grocery shopping. Sweden don’t use the Euro so we had to do quick mental gymnastics to figure out what things cost. This is the view from where we are staying out in suburbia.

Next blog post is our stay in Stockholm. Warning this next blog post will contain Vikings!

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I thought this post would be delayed. My head is not feeling too good. It may have something to do with the two long gins I had last night while I was at a party. I think it was the Dublin party but it was hard to tell. Or it could be the dreaded con lurgy.

Thursday I went to Messukeskus on my own. My daughter could not be brought to attend. However, she did do my hair for me. I love it. She took a photo while I was blogging yesterday and I said ‘Don’t I have resting old bitch face.’  Here are some shots of my hair. Totally frivolous of me. Usually I just have boring hair and I’m not an elegant person, but I felt it after this.

 

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I had two panels that I was appearing on so I made sure I arrived in time for those. I decided to try the tram. From our hotel it is route 9. I waited on the wrong side because that’s what my daughter and I thought was the right direction. However, I saw people with worldcon name tags on the other side so I skipped over the tracks to the otherside.

I managed to tag on with the free transport card that the city has given to all the worldcon attendees. This is a wonderful thing. Kiitos Palion to Helsinki!

I was sitting there staring into space (as you do) when I hear an Australia voice at the next stop. “How do you use your ticket?” Or something like that. I recognise the voice. It’s Cat Sparks and Rob Hood. We greet each other and then I face forward and see Janeen Webb tottering down the aisle as the tram had pulled away. So we had more greetings and I met Janeen’s friend Dena. It was a happy little group setting out to Worldcon. The tram drops us right out the front of Messukeskus. It’s a wee bit more convenient than the train, but the train is great too.

I had arranged to meet Paul Weimer before our Fan Fund panel, but first up I sat down and put my feet up in a lovely collection of easy chairs. There was an American woman doing the same so I joined her. My feet are still swelling but are thankfully not too painful.

I met some Danish fans while I was waiting for Paul by the bear. We chatted about fanfunds, I gave away chocolate koalas and I also told them about my other panel, Romance and the female gaze in science fiction. They were very keen to see that panel. I did see them there and they waved. My Finish geekgirl ribbon continues to be of interest. I think they have run out.

Paul showed up so went to grab something to eat and a coffee. We tried this little cafe, Street Food I think it is called. It had a few options and all seemed to be regional/Finish. I had a baked potato stuffed with shrimps in a dill mayonnaise. Paul had the crum chicken drumsticks with a coleslaw and the other option I saw was potato salad with bratwurst sausage. These were about 8 Euro each. Coffee was 3 Euro. The coffee (Kahvi) was filter I think. Sometimes that stuff is like sludge. My daughter tells me that Fins drink the most coffee per capita in the world. She reads the guide books. Well I think that means that Fins have caffeine in their blood. You would think that would make them quite tense but they appear quite laid back.

Paul chatted about his DUFF trip report. (He visited Australia from the USA and visited us in Canberra). He pulled out this massive document with great pictures, including the kangaroos near my place and the yummy pavlova. The fanfunds require a written report and these are sold to raise money for the fanfunds. Paul is selling his for $7US. I thought that was too cheap because it is a massive document, really. I mean really big. So I paid $15US for it as I had some money in my Paypal and it’s for a great cause and I’m really, really looking forward to seeing all those pictures of waterfalls etc. If you see Paul you should ask him how to get a copy.

We went to the Green Room to meet our other panelists. It’s a smallish room and I found it a bit overwhelming because it has people in it, people I don’t know and you are there to meet people you don’t know and that can be hard when you don’t know what they look like. However, Paul knows people and we met some people and Jonathan Strahan and then we met Ben, our chair and then the other people. We had a bit of a run through of the order of business and went to our panel. Luckily, this panel had a small audience and that made it cosy instead of daunting.

You know I’m an extrovert but maybe I lost my extrovertness somewhere. No that’s a lie! I had no trouble talking on the panel. In fact I had to stop myself from grabbing the microphone. I met Claire, who I am meeting up with in London and also Marchin from Poland who wants to run for GUFF. He said he was disappointed I did not choose to visit Poland on my GUFF trip. I said I’d like to visit Poland in my next visit to Europe.

Here is a selfie shot of the fanfunds panel, Paul, Mira, John, John and Ben.

IMG_8374

We were chased from the room after the panel as there was a huge crowd waiting to get in. With such a large number of people it is a huge job moving people in and out of rooms and you need to queue early if you want to get into a panel. I had another panel around three and now that I’m writing this blog post I fear I have lost time. I had more books and chocolates to drop off for the FanFund and I was lucky enough to bump into Kylie Ding who took them off my hand.

Oh now I remember, I went to the dealers room and the fan lounge because I saw there was NZ ribbons. I caught  up with Maree, who I haven’t seen for years who is representing the NZ 2020 worldcon bid. As an aside, I’ve met people who are looking forward to coming to NZ 2020 worldcon and who would like to visit Australia too, so we need to have a convention just before or after NZ 2020. I also picked up a mini Whittakers Hokey Pokey slab. Eat your heart out Russell!

I gave away more chocolates and clip on Koalas during the day. However, it was a bit of a whirl so I don’t recall. I saw some kids in costume and gave them one each. One had a Kylo Ren costume and at the Welcome to Finland Party last night we met Nina who said she had been commissioned to make two costumes. I asked if the costume had been made by Nina and the girl said yes. I think she thought I was rather strange…but that is okay.

The Romance and the Female Gaze panel was full. There were probably 10 seats vacant. That was an interesting panel. I met Carrie Vaughan beforehand in the Green Room, but we didn’t spot the other panelists or more importantly the moderator. We had not chatted via email about what we were talking about so there were a few anxious moments until Fiona turned up. She was a great moderator and had some hard and interesting questions. The panel sessions are only 45 minutes long so there wasn’t time for questions after. I had some lovely feedback afterwards and one lady came up to me and said thank you. The gist of my argument is. Why can’t we imagine a world where women can initiate sex as equals? Where there isn’t slut shaming. Maybe I was a wee bit passionate!

And the deed was done!

I went for a walk and took a shot of Gillian Polack doing her book signing. I didn’t get a chance to say hi as she was talking to a reader. I met Houston, a fellow Australian, in the queue.

IMG_8376

I met up with Robert Hood in the small collection of comfy chairs and he was going to see Cat Sparks in an Australian literature panel. I thought I’d join him and support my fellow Aussies. We were amazed that there was already a line forming and we were about number 70 for a room with 100 people and it was half an hour before. As the queue kept growing, I realised that I was taking the space of someone who really wanted to hear about the Australian scene and I already knew about it. So I left to go back to my accommodation and to see my daughter. On the tram, Robert said hello. He’d also had the same idea. We had fun on the tram. We didn’t have a clue where to get out. We struck up a conversation with a Belgian who was married to a Fin and they gave us advice. It all turned out well, Robert spotted his hotel and I found my stop.

I managed to convince my daughter to come back into the convention centre to the parties. An essential part of Worldcon for me is the parties. They are fun. You meet people. You perhaps drink a little or eat strange foods. At first my daughter was no, I’m not coming. I’m tired, she said. So I resigned myself to going alone and said. I really wish you were coming with me. And she changed her mind.

On the way to Messukeskus we saw a police bust. We were quite surprised. A man was stopped and pulled out of a car and placed on the ground and more police arrived. It was strange. People in the street were drinking coffee and gawping at the goings on. Helsinki, according to my daughter, is the safest city in Europe and one of the safest in the world. We had not seen a police bust before.

I thought I should take steps to meet Einar, the Icelandic fan I had made contact with. As it happened we got there early. The parties hadn’t started. We bumped into John Morris and watched him eat dinner while we drank tea. Then we hit the parties. Like the panel sessions you need to get in early. There were lots of people, the free vouchers for drinks and the food was gone. The bar started running out. Apparently there was only one type of beer left and the queue was so long.

After a bit of phone tag, I met Einar and he joined Thomas and my daughter. Einar and I went to get a drink and it was surprising the but the queue moved quickly. The bar staff were very efficient. Then John Morris and Sara Lindberg joined us so we were very multicultural. So with all the crowd around us we talked stuff. I talked convention running and Iceland with Einar. Then when it came time to leave, I called Thomas, James. OMG! Then he told me I called him something else earlier in the day. I’m so embarrassed.

Here is a shot of us.

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I must remember to call him by the correct name. Einar had left and it was then we realised it was 11.30 and there was a mad panic about whether the trams were still running. All was good though, as there were people waiting and the board said the number 9 was due.

We made it home in good time and went to sleep. I’d had two long gins and maybe…that was too much. I am slightly hungover or at least have a headache today.

My daughter asked if I mentioned the green smoothies she makes every morning. You see she had this goal of making me slimmer, healthier and possibly converted to veganism on this trip. As I normally gain weight when I travel I did not fancy her chances on any of her goals. But I do drink the green smoothies she makes. Actually, she stands over me until I drink the last drop.

Here are some photos of the smoothies my daughter lovingly prepares. They contain baby spinach, cucumber, broccoli, apple and banana and water.

I told my daughter about my blog post. She says. ‘I don’t want you to become a vegan! I want you to go on a plant based diet of six months and lose weight.’

I laughed so hard. A plant based diet is vegan!

Before shot because my daughter says it’s pretty.

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The after shot

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The me drinking the smoothie, in bed, in my nightie with my normal hair. The normal, raw me with hangover.

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Also, I should mention that one of my books, Argenterra, an epic fantasy, is free on all eretailers (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble etc)  so if you want to try some of my fiction then help yourself.

And if you see me today at Worldcon 75, stop me and I’ll give you a koala or chocolate. Until I run out. Also, if you see me with glamour hair, that’s because I’m presenting a Hugo Award later on tonight.

 

 

 

 

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Time flies! I meant to write this post when I got back but with one thing and another it got delayed.

I had a fab time. It is such a shame there will be no more reader conventions. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Australian Romance Readers Association will come up with in future because they are badass organisers.

So for a romance writer at a reader convention there are these things called swag or loot where writers give stuff away. It can be corny condoms, chocolate with flyers for books, post it notes, pens etc. A lot of it can be personalised. Often it will just be on a general table. When I went to RT Convention in New Orleans authors and publishers had to pay to put their swag in a special room, where readers could go in and take what they want. So as I knew this was the last convention I thought I’d go for the swag giveaway.

My book Opi Battles the Space Pirates was meant to be out. First, I was going to give away print copies, but I didn’t get the cover in time. Then I didn’t get the cover in time to give away Ebooks. So in the end I copied the Ebook (without cover) to USBs and included them in the loot bags.

Ten lucky people got the swag with the book on a USB stick. I had another six bags with general loot. Cautionary tale, don’t put the chocolate hearts in until after you have driven from Canberra to Melbourne as the chocolate will sweat in the heat. Other than packing, that was my preparation.

On the way down and on the way back I stopped at my favourite place, Benalla Art Gallery. This is a picture of the view from where I ate my lunch!

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So what was different about this ARRC? This is my third convention attendance and this time it was in Melbourne at the Rydges in Exhibition Street. Great location and great hotel. Always a good start.

I signed up for the extra-curricular activities, such as the high tea at Zumbo’s and the cruise but my first foray into meeting readers was in the lift. I spoke to Tiffany (waves to Tiffany) and asked her if she was there for the convention. We talked favourite genre on the way up in the lift. She reads paranormal and I write it. So good start. Good on me for being friendly and actually saying hi! to someone. I’m an extrovert but I don’t always find it easy.

Next up was saying hello to whoever was around while waiting for the bus to the high tea.

Keri Arthur called me over, then CS Pacat was there. Say hi to these talented and lovely authors!

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I don’t have a photo of her, but a few minutes after this photo was taken, Debbie (chair) introduced Courtney Milan to us and we hung together for the bus ride (ended up being a life dare to ride that thing) to Zumbos. The high tea was amazing. I’m trying not to put on weight so I figured there were parts of the high tea I could skip. No! I couldn’t. It was all different and peculiar and amazing. The food gave everyone something to talk about. I sat next to Keri Arthur, opposite Cat Pacat and with Courtney Milan, but even better I had eight readers on my left side and I got to talk with them all. Here’s the test. Can I remember all their names?

First up was Tiffany who I met in the lift, then Amanda (we became buddies), Yanna (also became a buddy) oh oh…Barbara?, then ???, the Melissa and Melanie….oh I was so close. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Anyway it was so much fun. I talked all manner of science fiction and fantasy as well as romance reading across the table, sharing our faves and also picking up new recommendations. Melanie I knew from Canberra. She’s a librarian and she had already encouraged me to read McMaster Bujold’s Vorkorisgan series. My fun moment was when Courtney Milan realised she was sitting next to CS Pacat and she had a fangirl moment. That must have been very cool for Cat! (hahaha).

Then it was back to the hotel, where there were a few close shaves in the bus. Glad to be still living, we went off to get ready for drinks. I really did go over my limit. More on that later. Got to talk to heaps of people. Got to chat with Kristen Callihan, but I didn’t know who she was. (she gave an awesome talk by the way!) PS I stole this photo from Yanna on Facebook.

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Then came the Trivia Quiz. That was hard. I was tipsy. I snaffled Melanie and Melissa and Amanda with us writers. It was hard. We did well in the movies, abysmally elsewhere. We won Ice Magic topping for our ice cream. We also won Tim Tams. In the end we resorted to making up answers. Being silly was the fun part of it. We didn’t win either.

Next day the conference started. One of the really cool things I did and I think other conventions should steal this idea was author speed dating. (I keep writing hot dating but that just boggles the imagination). Ten authors, ten readers, four minutes each!  It was great for author/reader interaction, which is sometimes hard to do even at a reader convention. I got to give away nine of my goodie bags. I was so pleased. One reader didn’t show. It was a great way for readers to discover new authors too.

Later that day was the book signing. It took place in Bobby McGees nightclub and it was an interesting venue. The prize for the most startling attraction to her table goes to Wanda Wiltshire for a shirtless man with wings. The poor man was freezing but you know it worked! The photo below is from my signing table. I gave away the rest of my goodie bags and sold a book. Woot! Sorry no picture of the bare-chested man or is that fairy?

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I also went along to the Harlequin drinks and had a very interesting conversation with Narelle Harris, who talked about her slash Holmes/Watson book, called A Colonial Boy (I bought the book later). Thank you Harlequin!

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Next big thing was the ARRA Awards dinner. I sat at the table with the most awards. Keri Arthur won for her section and Anne Gracie won about five awards. I really should have taken a photo with Anne and her collection. It was amazing.I sat with Anne Gracie at the signing so I can understand how much that support from readers means to her. I did snag a photo of Keri though.

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Melissa and I went into the bling off. Melissa should have won. She made her outfit but she needed to flash her sequined bra to bring it off. Kate Cuthbert co-judge offered to send her a prize. I wore my amazing Bollywood-type shoes I bought on a shopping expedition with Keri Arthur in New Orleans. Below is Melissa and below that my shoes.

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Yanna and Amanda came over to take a snapshot of us in our finery.

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On Sunday, I chaired a panel on Feminism versus Romance. At the end of this post is a link to a post about that panel. Renee Dahlia took what looks like incredibly detailed notes. I was nervous as all hell. I’d left my computer at my friend’s place in Melbourne, thinking that I wouldn’t be writing then remembered it had all the stuff for the panel on it. Anne Gracie kindly chatted to me in the dealer’s room beforehand. I was pacing. She also had a print out of the questions. Handy!

I thought the panel discussion went well. I’m usually good at public speaking but I did feel nervous. The panel itself was so interesting and right on my PhD topic area. Thank you to the lovely authors, Erica Hayes, Anne Gracie, Amber Bardan and Bronwyn Parry for a great discussion.

After the panel I fell into a heap. I got to hear Courtney Milan’s guest speech and Kristen Callihan’s which were so worth it. I missed Kylie Scott’s which was a shame but I was busy doing other stuff. It was a sad goodbye at the end of the convention. The team really do organise well and there was masses of food and the hotel room was great.

I should give a shout out to my roommate, Catherine Evans. She was fun to hang with and so quiet. We had some fun midnight discussions and she drinks as much tea as I do.

So the convention was over but there was more. Yes, a river cruise and it was in a Tramboat. Very cute little thing. I got to hang out with my mates, Yanna and Amanda and we also had breakfast together. I’d been out for dinner on Sunday night and ate way too much and spent an uncomfortable night so was not feeling the best. But their company cheered me up.

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And that was that. A lovely weekend, great weather. Lovely people. Thank you so much ARRA for a great weekend. Edit! A shout out to Pamela Diaz for great MCing and her general sweetness.

A pic of me taken by Amanda. Drinking tea as I do.

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Notes to Feminism versus Romance panel discussion. Here.

Hugs!

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Yesterday, just by happenstance, the ability to lose myself in a story and the loss of my university access cards, I finished drafting Book Three of the Silverlands, Ungiven Land. 8,000 words yesterday. I was knackered. I haven’t pulled one of those in ages. (A massage, hot pack,  hot shower, more hot pack was required to recuperate).

It’s not finished per se. I have to tidy the draft up a bit before sending to beta readers. There is probably a few talking heads and some scenes that need to be moved around plus other tweaking. I was fairly pumping out the words and the scenes unraveled in my head. I get all excited near the end and I plough through. I think I read in the same way. Also, I lost track of time. Didn’t eat dinner. Didn’t prepare dinner. Looked up and Matthew was home.

But damn. I got the story out. I did it. I finished my first trilogy. (picture me hands in the air, dancing on the spot) I have written in series format before say for the Love and Space Pirates series (I want to write another one) and under Dani Kristoff I’ve finished the third book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. But a trilogy is a whole new ball game. You start out thinking what’s going into those three books that make up the ONE story and time and lack of note taking can seriously derail that.

As an aspiring writer, I had lots of advice about whether to write the whole series or just the first book. The prevailing advice was don’t invest in a series you haven’t sold. So I devoted myself to a number of first books in series hoping to sell them. Lucky for me I also did writers’ retreats where I could devote myself to writing for two weeks. And in the past I had drafted second books or parts of books. I have 153,000 words of the second book (or second two books) in the Dragon Wine series btw.

That may be good advice, on the other hand, if you haven’t got notes and it’s a big complex story and you do sell the first book, the pressure would be immense. I’m not a fan of working on one book for ten years. I’d rather work on ten books over ten years. It’s all learning and I love ideas and exploring story and genre. If I had my time again, maybe I would have at least drafted the remainder of the trilogies I worked on while it was all fresh in my head and concentrated on selling the first one. It would have made this year easier.

You may recall that The Silverlands Trilogy is my self-publishing/indie publishing investment. Argenterra came out in late April. That book had been revised and edited etc many times over many years. Basically, the crafting of a load of crap into something worth reading over 15 years. I hope so!

Book Two was drafted but probably only ever a tidied draft. It was a much better draft than Argenterra was originally as I had progressed as a writer. No one had read it except me. I’m about to do a final revision, tweak and polish before sending it for an edit. You might ask why I haven’t already done this. Well, I was working on book three. I had thought I had 50,000 words of the third book written. Gah! I did but the words were shit. They had to be rewritten and most of it chucked out. I was in despair. Somewhere around 70,000 words the draft felt like it was coming together. Now at 121,000 words I’m pretty pleased. It’s done. The story works…well for now .Beta readers may bash me in the head.

This probably doesn’t answer the question. Why work on book three when two was waiting for a revision? Because finishing book three allowed me to work out all the kinks and to see if it was going to work before I went back to book two. I could still change things in book two before I set them in concrete by publishing it. Rescue a character who had sunk beyond redemption, for example. Set up things in book two that I had brought to a head in book three. I guess it’s a form of cheating. But hey, it worked. This is probably why I’m advocating writing the whole series in one go. Why I wish I had. But my best advice is just write what you want, how you want. I figure this book three is better than any I envisaged say ten years ago. Totally much better. I’m a better writer than I was. Ideas just smashed together well this time.

This week and maybe part of the next I’ll be tidying it up ready for beta readers. Then I’ll be back on book two, Oathbound.Now I’m ready to push forward. I believe the next two books will come out pretty close together. I have the covers. I just need the edit. I do my own laying out and book packaging. The cover layout I get help with. Technically I could do that I just have to buy Photoshop!

Then I guess I’ll get serious about marketing. My main goal so far has been to get reviews of Argenterra while I’m working on the other books. Reviews will help me if I want to do some paid promotion, such as Book Bub. If you read Argenterra and liked it please leave a review somewhere. It helps!

What have I learnt so far? I already knew writing well is hard work. Self-publishing/indie publishing is hard work if you want to do it well, but it has bells on. I’ve been stressed. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve invested my capital in my indie publishing gig. I have not spent time in promoting or whatever magic these successful indie writers do. My hat goes off to them. But I will when I get these books out.

The other thing successful indie writers do is they keep writing and keep producing. It sounds exhausting. I mean I do that too, but it’s driven by what stories interest me and my own creative practice. Maybe I should be more business like in my approach.

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Buy link for Argenterra, Book One-Silverlands

Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon.com Here

Amazon.com.au Here

Kobo Here

ibooks Here

Print (Amazon.com) Here.

Print elsewhere. Available from Createspace and Ingram Sparks.

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So this week has been busy!

My son who works in China developing computer games was visiting this week. So there was him and grandchildren and daughters and stuff.

I read mostly romances this week and following on from my previous post, most had no social issues. The Charlotte Lamb I sampled were full on Bronte channeling with a rampaging Heathcliff in one. However, at present I am reading a Love Swept title featuring a deaf hero so of course it deals with discrimination. So I have a happy face.

My academic paper will be back in front of me on Monday. I was taking a breather and waiting for comments from my supervisor.

As for Canberra, it was chilly this week although today is glorious!

And for the other me, Dani Kristoff, this news.

 

 

 

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Phew! What an amazing ride! A big thank you to my many hosts. I could not have done it without you. Thank you for the amazing array of questions and article topics. I count 24 separate posts!!!! The blog tour took place from 16 December 2015 to 8 January 2016. The draw for the books will take place on 15 January. You are welcome to leave a comment here to be in the draw. Meanwhile I’ll be trawling through social media shares etc and blog comments to compile the draw list.

Below I list and link blog posts from the blog tour. If you press the link it will open a new page in your browser.  If you are planning one of these blog tours be prepared for a lot of work and a little bit of organisation. I love how this whole process was so collegiate–other writers helping other writers! I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself so hard and talked about so many things.

  1. Amanda Bridgeman over in Perth. You should check out her SF Aurora series. This post was an excerpt from Shatterwing. A nice way to ease me into the flow. Here.
  2. Alan Baxter in the ‘Gong, who asked me to talk about the inspiration to the world building for Dragon Wine. Here.
  3. With Matthew over on Smash Dragons. I believe Matthew is in Bathurst. I wrote a short article on what makes fantasy dark. Here.
  4. Alis Franklin also from Canberra asked me for five pieces of advice to the younger writer me. Here.
  5. This one was fun! Matthew Farrer my partner and I in conversation where I’m trying to get him to host me on his blog. The Dweeb and the Dweebette. Here.
  6. This in-depth interview is two-pronged. Ian McHugh (Canberra)  interviewed me and it appeared on his blog and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s (CSFG blog). Ian did an amazing job, a follow up to his in-depth interview last year. Here and Here.
  7. Over in Canada with Liz Munro,  West Coast Book Reviews, who asked me some quick quirky questions and has been a great supporter since she review both Dragon Wine books. Liz is a spec fic author too. Here.
  8. Glenda Larke in Western Australia. If you haven’t read Glenda then you should right now! Glenda interviewed me with some probing questions. Here.
  9.  David McDonald (Melbourne) included me in his Paying for our Passion series. Here
  10. A Christmas post by me. Here.
  11. Keith Stevenson, also from the ‘Gong, asked me a few questions about the inspiration behind the world and story of Dragon Wine. Here.
  12. Fellow Canberran, Chris Andrews asked me to talk about my darkest hour (writing). Here.
  13. Sydneysider, Joanne Anderton, asked me about my work life balance or lack there of. Here.
  14. Patty Jansen, also from Sydney, asked me to talk about romance in speculative fiction. Here.
  15. Leife Shallcross, fellow Canberran, asked me about my research habits or my own personal research rabbit hole. Here.
  16. Dawn Meredith who is a fellow CSFGer, but lives in the Blue Mountains, let me talk about how reading helps my writing. Here.
  17. Me again for my New Year’s Post. Here.
  18. Romance author, Maggie Mundy, had me talking about romance in Dragon Wine. Now I consider Dragon Wine to be unromantic because it’s dark and nasty, but I did find that I had two love triangles. Who knew?  Here.
  19. Allan Walsh from Queensland had me talk about world building. Here.
  20. DL Richardson had me over for a wonderful and fun coffee chat. Such a fab idea. Love it! Here.
  21. Kim Cleary had me on her blog to talk about why sweet little ol’ me wrote such a nasty story. Here.
  22. Nalini from Dark Matter Ezine had me over to talk about Female Heroes. I’d like to extend this blog post at a latter time as I was quite knackered when I wrote it and there’s so much more to say. Here.
  23. Last stop was MJ Oliver, currently resident in Indonesia, where I talk about how writing is not all about the writing. You know that promo stuff. Here.
  24. This probably went out first. It was an article in Scott Robinson’s newsletter- some writing advice . His website is here.  I’ll put the text of the article here. Writing in the zone. One of the best things about writing is finding the zone. I used to call it the zen zone-the frame of mind where I’m into the story, I’m creating stuff and I’m getting a buzz. Often I’d only get into the zone on a writing retreat. The peak time for the zen zone would be Wednesday of week two. These days I can’t rely on retreats to get me into the zen zone. I need the portacot type of zen zone. One I can assemble and set up and use anytime.I think that is doable, but finding out how to do that requires some self reflection and understanding of what inspires one to write.

    I don’t think I have met a writer who hasn’t had a crisis of faith in their writing, or their writing career. This can be brought about from lack of success in getting anything published, or lack of achievement in finishing the novel or even after being published and having that novel they have worked on for ten years not selling. All of these things can be detrimental to the mind set of putting your head down, believing in yourself and writing.

    Now I don’t have a one size fits all solution to this. I have some suggestions for finding out how to tap into your own zen zone, mostly from my experiences.

    1. Don’t buy into the self-doubt talk down.

    This is where you obsess about not being good enough. For example, you’ve just read the best book ever and you feel that it’s all over, you’ll never be that good and why should you even try. Bollocks. There’s always going to be someone, no matter how good you are, that’s done something more interesting, more popular or award winning than you. It’s not about them it’s about you. Writing what you love, what you enjoy and doing it to the best of your ability. Don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you to give up. Not if you really want to succeed. If you’re not the best you can be yet, then keep at it, keep practicing. You’ll get there if you really want it.

    1. Figure out how you work best.

    I heard an interview with a writer recently who studied when she was the most productive. Although she was a morning person, she found she actually wrote more at certain times in the afternoon. Some people like writing to music. Or they have to be in a certain space in a certain chair. Others like writing in coffee shops. The thing is to actually think about what contributes to writing well for you. If you stop writing and spend all your time on the internet then think about leaving your phone off, and disconnecting from the internet. If you watch tv instead of writing, think about not watching television at all. Whatever distracts you or makes you feel out of frame, you need to identify it and address it. That will help you get into the zone.

    1. Be kind to your body.

    As a person who has developed RSI and spinal issues over time then I am all for looking after yourself. Take breaks. Use a timer. Take a walk or do something physical. We weren’t built to be on the computer all day. Writing requires that. Unless, of course, you try dictation software or standing up or both. Whatever you do balance the physical with the mental. That way you can enjoy your zen zone to the max.

    1. Read widely and often.

    Reading teaches and it also opens your mind up to possibilities whether you are reading fiction or non-fiction you are shoving stuff in your head that’s going to come out in your writing either the next week or the next year or five years from now. You can learn from other fiction writers about techniques, taking risks or just opening up your mind to possibilities. This is like fertiliser for the zen zone. You have built up enough fuel to give your zen zone blast off.

    1. Try to do the best you can do.

    My motto here and it’s only recently adapted into my approach: Enough isn’t good enough. I am trying to put some perfection into my writing. Maybe this is because I’m pretty sorted with story and plot and world building, although I think I can do better with characters all around. But I don’t want to be just competent or good, I want to go for more. For me that might be patience and subtlety in my story telling. It might mean one day aspiring to write the literary genre masterpiece. All I know is that writing is a continuum and I want to climb up that line of achievement and explore what I can be as a writer. Seeing a goal also gives meaning to my zen zone. When I’m there it’s so right and good and sigh…I just want to be there always.

And here is the exhausted me!

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

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