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Archive for the ‘General excitment’ Category

This last weekend (29 September to 1 October) was Conflux, Canberra SF convention. I love these conventions. They are cosy and intimate and surprisingly new faces appear among the old friends. For the first time in my life I had a very busy schedule at an SF convention. I also had a table selling books and a book launch, with some fund raising for GUFF thrown in.

In the week prior to Conflux, I went to Bourke on a creative and cultural trip through the university. More about that in another post. That meant I had to have everything prepared for Conflux and the launch prior to leaving. I was crazy busy doing that. Without my wonderful partner, Matthew, who collected books for me from the post office while I was a way I would have been insane before the convention started.

First up, I was on a panel about Kick arse (ass) heroines in SF on TV. Principally, we were talking about Star Trek Discovery, The Expanse and Lost in Space. I managed to convince Keri Arthur to join the panel as there was just me and Andrew Old. For some reason I thought Andrew was chairing this panel and, unfortunately, I was totally wrong about that. It seems that I was meant to be leading the discussion. We got through that panel all right. I have convinced Andrew Old that Toby Stephens is sexy in Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Now he’s tagging me on Facebook with pictures of Toby Stephens in a singlet and so on. Haha. That’s funny. We all loved these three shows. Keri said Naomi in the Expanse reminded her of Zoe in Firefly.  Firefly was ahead of its time. Or the rest of the universe is catching up. I think Lost in Space is a real, sit up and watch with regards to feminising SF or the feministisation of SF. Love it.

Then it was a short break while I set up for my book launch. As I was away in Bourke, I couldn’t bake so I paid for someone to bake some cupcakes for me. I asked Leife Shallcross who she had do her cupcakes for her launch because they were amazing. There was only a week so not much time to do something too fancy. Listya made vanilla cupcakes with lemon butter filling and butter icing swirls in red and yellow to give the impression of flames, you know dragon flames. They were stunning to look at and drop dead yummy. I ate two of them. I also had bubbly, dips and nibbles and quiches. As it was the last two books in the Dragon Wine series, I was celebrating as well as launching. Many of the people in the audience were people who helped me along the way. I was touched by their support and with friends coming from outside the convention to be at the launch.

Nicole Murphy did my launch speech and it was amazing. She spoke so well (and now I have to learn to improve my public speaking) and I was moved to tears. Not only did she talk about the series and the underlying themes, she also recited the first lines from Shatterwing. She delivered these lines so well.

Here is what she recited.

In the velvet dark of space hovers Shatterwing, the fragments of a broken moon. Vestiges of decaying power crackle and twist in among the debris orbiting Margra, sending rock and dust to rebound off the atmosphere, sometimes piercing its envelope to plummet to the planet’s surface. Yet something approaches, something disturbs the precarious balance. Another piece of dead moon breaks away, larger and more deadly as it plunges to the world below…

What touched me was the words she said about hope and how hope is important for survival and that it was threaded through the work. Thank you awesome Nicole Murphy.

 

I have to say a special thank you to Matthew too. He did the sales for me and he was great. Well done!

 

Launch cupcakes a bit blurred. Sorry!

I was down to give a paper on SF romance and consent. A repeat of my paper I gave at IASPR. Funny thing I was so hyper I spoke very fast. I wasn’t nervous as such, just very revved. I have been for weeks and weeks.

After that, I also attended book launches. Kaaron Warren had her two books launched at Verity in town. Then I snuck off with Keri Arthur and we ate Chinese food at Sammy’s. After that we popped into Koko Black because it was too damn early to go home.

Here are some photos from the club where the launch was held. The first one is the crowd, with Robert Hood talking there. Then Keri Arthur and Leife Shallcross, then Lee Murray doing the launch speech with Kaaron Warren looking on and the last one is a picture of the crowd looking on.

I shared a table with Catherine M Walker and I am so grateful to her and my partner Matthew as they covered the table most of the time while I was off being on panels, going to launches or just saying hello to people.

Sunday I had a panel at 9.30  about Unconventional Publishing, with David Henley, Dion Perry and with chair Ion Newcombe. This was tapped for a radio program and it was interesting and fun too. Dion kept coming up with some really key points and David and I talked about our experiences. I think overall it covered a lot of ground. I was interviewed for a radio show by Elizabeth Newman about writing, publishing and the Dragon Wine series. She was easy to talk to and we went over time, of course!

Then it was a talk about my GUFF trip and the upcoming race to send a fan or fans to Dublin. Except well no one showed at first. There was some competition with other panels and tiredness.  I think the panel should have been called- How to get to Worldcon in Dublin?

Here is a picture of some of the highlights from the GUFF auction. I made the tote bags and some of the stuff was donated by Cat Sparks and Robert Hood and I bought the NZ chocolate in New Zealand.

I managed to get John Morris to come in and Garry Dalrymple was there too. It was kind of weird because John was in Helsinki and had met the people in some of the photos. After that we had the fan fund auction. Again not a lot of interest from people. It was probably due to no Finnish sweets! They sell really well. But we did have people who were wonderful and supportive. That’s to Simon, Keri, John, Graham, Garry and then Nicole and Kat who popped in. Gillian Polack was also on the GUFF panel and auction and she bought a few things. We did have NZ chocolates! We sold them. A lot of stuff we put away for Continuum next year. We made a reasonable sum. We also sold things from the table. All up not too shabby.

Then there was the amazing Hand of Knaves book launch. Hand of Knaves is the latest anthology from the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and some of the author read from their stories. The readings were top class. I had to get me a copy. There was the banquet after that. It was nice and the company on the table was great. The food was a bit weird, which is strange because Vibe do great food. There was chicken (yum) and a vegetarian meal as the alternate. I got the vegetarian and beside from the sweet potato mash, it was a bit blah. You know, normally, it’s the beef or chicken.

Some pictures from the launch. The first one is Leife Shallcross one of the editors and David Versace, blue t-shirt one of the authors. Robert Porteous is the pirate and he has a story in there too.

Next up two of the readers. I’ll have to come back to put their names in.

Then a shot with Chris Large, the other editor with Leife doing the launch.

 

Next up some shots from my table at the banquet. First up, Keri Arthur, Catherine Walker and Alex.

To my left was Jane Virgo, Graham Cheers, Carton (X) and Amanda Dalziel.

Monday morning it was me, Keri and Dione talking about the 10 things that we wished we knew about self-publishing before we did it. Feedback was that panel was great. We went overtime by accident. We talked about how liberating it was, about how hard it is to market and the amount of admin. We had preplanned all this so it was just go and we had thoughts about ISBNs and Vellum and basically we didn’t get through the ten things and we had 14 of them.

Dawn Meredith launched her book, with the launch speech by Gillan Polack. The cake looked great and was yummy too.

After that, Keri and I were both attending Aiki Flinthart’s Writing Fighting Scenes for Women workshop. It was fantastic. Great stuff Aiki! While we were at the dead dog party, we were convincing Catherine M Walker to do a workshop on police procedural for writers…she’s a cop. Then we sort of had her down for doing workshops at other conventions and so on. I really hope she knows we are serious.

I really like the food at the Vibe Hotel at the airport where Conflux took place, so we went to have dinner there after the convention. It was so good. There was six of us. Good conversation. Great laughs. Delicious food.

Here are some selfies of Keri and me. They are kind of a tradition when we are at the same events.

Now I’m back in the real world, teaching and marking at Uni.

 

The books are launched. Life goes on.

If you are interested in checking out my the Dragon Wine series, then check out this page.

Also, if you are interested I have a newsletter where I share updates, news about cheapies and freebies and I am thinking of doing a contest for a prize soon. I just have to slow down for five seconds. Here is the landing page to sign up for my Newsletter Wing Dust .

I’m all fired up though to write more. Also, I found out that my trip to China in November for two weeks is cancelled. I’m sad not to see my son Taamati in Shanghai, but after I got over it, I realised that I can do NaNoWriMo!

I’ll be heading to Perth at the end of November.

Now I really must get on and focus on this PhD!

Here is my serious, post-Conflux, studious PhD student face, stripped of glam and looking tired.

 

 

 

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I have put together a collection of short stories called, Through These Eyes. It is a collection of magic realism and fantasy stories that span my whole publishing career. From my very first story, ‘Absence of Mind’, published way back in 2001, I think, to two stories that are appearing first in the collection,  ‘Compost Juice’ and ‘In My Father’s Footsteps’.

It seems that I have a preference for magic realism, particularly in my earlier stories. Unlike, Beneath the Floating City, which was all SF, this collection is squarely in the realms of magic realism and fantasy. Some are creepy, but then again that depends on your point of view. One story, ‘Veg Out’ was written as horror, but a reader told me they thought it was funny so I guess it could be read as a comedy too.

Each story has a note about how I came up with the idea or ideas that formed the story.

The stunning cover is by Patty Jansen.

Have you ever wondered what is real?
Are everyday things just as they seem or is there a secret world just beyond our perception? One that bends and shifts as it hides from our sight?

Eleven tales of speculative fiction from Australian author, Donna Maree Hanson

I hope you enjoy!

Edit! I forgot to put in buy links.

Amazon

Kobo

Google

Barnes and Noble

iBooks

Through These Eyes

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I always forget all the things you have to do when you travel and all the costs involved that you don’t think about when you book that fateful ticket!

I had a big score today. My travel insurance is through my credit card and I don’t have to pay extra for coverage. Big win. I did, however, need to pay for a new passport.

I am not quite excited yet. I leave on Thursday morning from Canberra, fly to Sydney, then Sydney to Dallas and a late fright from Dallas to Indianapolis. I leave and arrive on the same day. It’s a weird kind of time travel. On my way home, I lose two days.

The other weird thing is that I booked to go earlier  so I could get a cheap flight. Hahahaha! Then I spend $1000 for accommodation for that week that I’m there earlier. That’s just stupid. I put up my hand. Yes, I’m stupid.

Being a writer, however, I can make use of that week, exploring the city, observing the culture, the food, putting all that experience to good use.

The reason I’m going is for the PCA conference where I’m giving a paper on my research. This is the first foray into the research results from the romance writers and readers. A good test run because when I get back I must start on the exegesis, which is an in depth look at the research. Even then, I probably won’t cover all of it as there’s just so much. People are talking about a book. Oh well, if I get funding I suppose I can write the book. I can relax a bit better now that I have the first cut of the presentation done.

I wanted to try to catch an SF convention while I was in the US but the PCA runs into Easter so I can’t. I have a couple of days after and they are hard to fill, mostly because I’m finding it hard to decide. Should I go to Chicago and check that place out. I have some stories set there so I could research the location. Or should I hang around Indiana and go up north to check out the Amish museum and stuff. Should I go or should I stay??? Argh. Then I had a thought to go to Nashville, or just fly to Dallas early and check out that city. Man oh man. Decisions. Decisions. DECISIONS!

I’ve sent Skyfire off to a beta reader for comments. My other beta readers are reading Sihe, my phd novel. I might have mentioned my editor for Dragon Wine Series went back to work at Pan Macmillan so I had to find someone else. That was good. All booked in for early May. That means a lot of hard work in April to get it ready. Yesterday I started on the tidy up of Moonfall, as that has to go to beta readers by the end of April if it’s to get to the editor in June. Who says there aren’t deadlines when you indy publish? You can’t muck people about. If you book something in it has to be ready. If the editor smashes it and tells me it needs more work that’s on me.

Also, while I’m away the Aurealis Awards will be announced. I have finally got Beneath the Floating City in Print. Here is a link to Amazon.

 

 

So the upshot is that I can safely say that Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part Five and Moonfall, Dragon Wine Part Six are coming soon.

A stay tuned for Donna’s travel blogs from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA>

 

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On the bus this morning my Twitter and Facebook feed started going a bit wild. I was wondering why people were congratulating me. When I relaxed enough on the bus I started checking the phone. I had no book with me either.

OMG! I was short listed for an Aurealis Award from my short story collection, Beneath the Floating City.

So many friends are in the short lists. Some have been nominated many times and a number of those have won. Here I am little old me, getting a short listing for my self-published collection. The collection is mostly previously published works of science fiction, from early stories back in 2003, such as ‘Other’ to my later stories. I also published a new story in the collection called ‘Lake Absence’ that was inspired by Lake George when I was taking the bus to Sydney to head to the Denver Worldcon many years ago. I just couldn’t get that story published, though I came close with the Aurealis Magazine with one of the previous editors.

In previous years I would never have thought about publishing a collection of my own stories. Although it make sense to gather them up into one book because they are just there instead of scattered around. This was my first attempt and I gathered together SF stories. I have at least two others in mind. A magic realism collection called Through These Eyes and a fantasy collection, name not conceived yet. Since I’m also Indie publishing these days, the collection was something else I could publish.

I realise now that I just put this out there and I didn’t advertise it widely. I know this because the image for the cover was not in my WordPress archive.So I didn’t even blog about it. I think it was because it was just before I went to Europe.

So here it is. The wonderful cover was produced by Patty Jansen. I give this book away free to newsletter subscribers and it’s for sale in ebook everywhere for $2.99 USD. If you want a free copy, the link to sign up to my newsletter is here.

What does this mean for me?

Well heaps actually. To get this kind of acknowledgement is lovely. I had thought that my short story writing days were over. That there wasn’t any point because you know…well. Authors can sometimes have serious downward mind speak that squashes them down. I have mentioned this before but the whole “I’m not worthy thing” is difficult to control at times. That’s why it is so nice to get feedback, of the nice kind, and to be acknowledged with a short listing or an award or a review. It’s like being patted on the head and told keep going, you’ll get there.

I threw this in for the Aurealis Award without expectation. As someone who has researched Australian speculative fiction in the past I know how much the eligible works lists mean to the researcher, how useful. And I wanted to make sure that the work I put out was in the bigger lists. I wasn’t expecting a short listing.

Now I shall not give up writing short stories. I shall write those ideas that bash around inside my brain eventually.

Many thanks to the judges for their hard work. Congratulations to all the other nominees.

My name appears on a list with such amazing writers, I am over the moon, chuffed. Margo Lanagan, Kate Forsyth, Kim Wilkins, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Peter Ball.  Here is the link. 

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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.

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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.

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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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