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Archive for the ‘GUFF’ Category

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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Friday was a big day at World con. For me it was all about the Hugos as I was so honoured and delighted to be invited to co-present an award. And my daughter came in with me and also did my hair for World Con. We went with an Austenesque style but we had to do it in the morning with the hope that it would hold until the evening.

We were going to take the tram, but another tram had broken down and we couldn’t see how our tram was going to get through as there was only one track. After thinking about it for like 30 seconds we decided to catch the train in instead. The train and tram are so convenient from our location.

We had packed all our gear in case we needed to change on site. My first item was to go to the Hugo rehearsal session. I had arrived in good time but was so directionally challenged I couldn’t find the hall. In an act of desperation I ran up to a security guard. She said you can’t go there as it is shut. After I explained I was going to the rehearsals she directed me to an inconspicuous door. I would not have found it without help.

I made it in good time and watched a few of the run throughs, met people and then John Purcell turned up and we were able to go through some minor edits I made to the text and then it was our turn. Things were a little rushed and we had marks to move to. John and I did a vocal run through off stage just so we knew we could say it all. We needed one name, and Irish one, to be tutored. Lucky the Hugo Award administrator is Irish and could help out.

After that, there wasn’t much to do. We had lunch and hung out with Robert Hood and then Cat Sparks briefly. Cat has donated a signed copy on her Blue Lotus book for the fan fun auction.

The pre-Hugo reception was to start at 5.30 so my daughter suggested we take the tram back to our hotel and come back again. We were having vigorous discussions about shoes and in the end she decided to go to buy some.

I was going to rest but by the time we got back there wasn’t much time. My daughter went out to buy shoes and a big hand bag. We needed extra shoes because we couldn’t stand in high heels all night!

We made it to the reception with the aid of directions. This is the closest I’m ever going to get to a Hugo so it was a pleasure to be there. It was really quite crowded. I guess you can’t experience the impact of all those names until you see them gathered. There was rumours of food. I did see people eating but by 6.15 there was no more food, but some chocolates out for sweets. Lucky I wasn’t too hungry.

I was handed a cocktail/drink when I arrived. I think it was a long gin with Lingon berries (sp) and I had to make sure that was all I had. On an empty stomach too much alcohol is not a good thing.

I caught up with Carrie Vaughn, Paul Weimer, Nalo Hopkinson, Mihela and others. I met CE Murphy, from Ireland via Alaska she tells me. Then it was photos. I was going to get a photo with Jukka Halme, but I lost Paul Weimer so I had to scrap that idea. Then I lined up with Beans for a photo but just as it was nearly our turn, they announced they were taking official photos of the different categories of nominees so there went our chance.

Later though, Jukka grabbed me and said, come and have a photo with my official photographer and so I got my photo after all.

Then it was time to go in and take our places. We made sure to sit with John and Valerie Purcell (TAFF delegate and his wife) as we were presenting together.

This is the shot from inside the auditorium.

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There was type written script on the screen. It was for the hearing impaired I think but it had problems at times and some of the mispelt words were hilarious.

“I am slighted to be here” etc. I forgot most of them but really, 6000 delegates from 6000 countries. Hahahaha.

Then it was our turn to go on stage. The ceremony is on You Tube I believe and was webcast. We were in the beginning section. There was an International group of people presenting, South Africa, Poland, China, US and Australia. We had to sit on a sofa on stage and then after we presented we had a short interview. Amazing, John and I got to plug the fan auction to like 5000 people! They had John’s name wrong in the script so Karen Lord called him Jeff. We gave John a hard time. So Jeff what did you do with John etc.

After the awards ceremony we were invited to the Hugo Losers’ Party. There was a shuttle bus (a small one) so a lot of people took cabs. We waited with C E Murphy and ? (I’m sorry I forgot your name again) and Nalo Hopkinson, George RR Martin, Pat Catigan and others. A Finish fan guy leaped on the bus and Nalo can I come with you and did.

The venue was Helsinki’s steam punk nightclub. It was crowded by the time we got there. Winners turn up and are boohed and made to wear ridiculous head gear. There was an amazing steampunk cake. Lots of booze. Lots of food and desserts in mini containers. The music was good at first but then we tried to dance and the music went to shit. Go figure. I had a blast but wanted to go home. Beans, my daughter, wanted to party and dance and I didn’t get out of there until around 2 am. But I met people, talked to people. John and Valerie turned up late dressed in their steam punk gear. So cute.

Here is a collection of shots, including the steampunk cake. The steampunk couple are John and Valerie Purcell.

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And well today is Saturday and I must get out of here.

 

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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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Today was the big day. Time to find the way to Messuskeskus (the convention centre) on the train, register and then hang around a meet people while waiting for the opening ceremony.

We had another hotel breakfast, but this time I went for the porridge instead of meatballs, franks and eggs. I also indulged in one of the bread rolls. The Fins really do bread in a big way.  So many kinds of bread. Also, this morning there are more fans here at the hotel. Beans and I made the train okay. It is only one stations and all the trains go to that station (Pasila). We could have taken a tram too.

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As part of our registration we were given a travel pass for free travel for the week. So excellent! First up, I didn’t have a membership. Somehow wires were crossed and it wasn’t processed whatever. It was sorted pretty quickly after I chased down Jukka Halme who was able to vouch for me. All my program stuff was fine so just a glitch. Registration was pretty efficient and I was able to get my badge printed out how I liked.

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There are many Australians at this conventions and also many Canberrans. You could say that there was an infestation of Australians here.

I was pretty overwhelmed at first at the con today. My job as GUFF delegate is to meet people. Preferably people I don’t know. So I can’t just hang with people I know although I can chat and stuff. It was good to have the support network there from the Australians and I really appreciate them and also my daughter to look out for me. Eventually I settled down and was able to meet people. I have a bag with the Australian flag and I have caramel koalas, cherry ripes and clip on Koala bears to give away. They make a nice ice breaker I guess.

So after registering we went in search of tea. Not much was open before 10 am but we found a place and I drank tea. Tea is my life’s blood so I’m finding the lack of tea disturbing. I may have mentioned this in a previous post. Then we walked about checking out the place.

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I pointed out George RR Martin, who was just sitting there by himself to my daughter. I think of myself as an extrovert, but I have fits of shyness. I’ve seen George around at all the worldcon I’ve been to. I’ve not been introduced so I can’t just rock up and say hi. Although I did work up the courage to give him a clip  on Koala and then slink away.

I caught up with Paul Weimer, the DUFF delegate, and handed over some books I promised and a bag of caramel koalas, a few NZ chocolate fish. We also took a bag full of books, Tim Tams and NZ chocolate to Gillian and Kylie’s room so they can be auctioned off on Saturday at the Fan Fund auction. Must earn back the $ spent on bringing me here. Then we had lunch, checked out the dealers room and met people.

I met Rikka, who told me there is a Geekgirl group in Finland. She have me a Fake Geek Girl ribbon and a Feminist ribbon and told me I could get a Finish one. I had to find it and after tweeting and asking about I found their table next to the Dublin World Con Bid table. I was so pleased.

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Meanwhile I was chatting up Finish people and asking how to say things like…how do I say I come from Australia? Olen kotoisin Australiasta.

After checking out the place, I met up with Joshua, who is involved with running the Hugos and with John Purcell, who is the TAFF delegate. We are presenting a Hugo together and Joshua wanted photos for the Hugo Booklet. Also, Joshua wanted to make sure we had the script for the ceremony and our Hugo’s ribbon. We chatted for  a bit and then as John and I were involved in the opening ceremony we had to make our way there. I was making my way to the prep room and I was stopped by a woman who demanded I get to the back of the line. I had to explain that I was participating in the ceremony. I can understand people’s frustrations in queues when people seemed to be pushing in. As it was we were sorta in the wrong place. However, it couldn’t be rectified because the section reserved for us was full anyway so we missed most of the performances as we were backstage.

Here is a shot of Jukka Halme in horns backstage.

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I talked to this Finish lady called Vanessa and she taught me out to say ‘I love Helsinki’ and I gave her chocolate. Then it was our turn to be called out on stage. The Fins have been lovely to us fan fund delegates. They included us in the opening ceremony so we got to stand up there in front of a thousand people with the guests of honour. Amazing. Then we got to say a few words.

I have to admit as soon as I got the email saying we were expected to say a few words it worried me. What few words should I say? My daughter had been teaching me to say “Good day, my name is Donna Maree Hanson, pleased to meet you in Finish. She suggested I say that. During the day and last night we added more Finish to my repertoire and rearranged it. So I was pretty nervous and Finish is a hard language but I gave a little speech in Finish. (I was told I was understandable!). I was supposed to translate it too but forgot as I was nervous.

This is the English version of what I said.

Good day. My name is Donna Maree Hanson. I am from Australia. Pleased to meet you. I am happy to be here. Thank you very much. I love Helsinki!

Pretty standard but I practiced and practiced it. There was cheering. I hope I did not say anything rude!

I was still shaking ten minutes later. The room was packed out and I understand people missed out on the opening ceremony, which is sad. It is also strange I think because often people don’t come to the opening ceremony.

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After the opening ceremony was a tea and chat session with George RR Martin and Peter and Emma Newman. It was called Live Tea and Jeopardy. It was fun and clever. Emma was hilarious.

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After that for me it was catch up with people, then have dinner, then hang around for the parties, which I did. We met more Fins, chatted, drank a long gin and then folded pretty early and was home by ten. Tomorrow I might be later. I’m not sure.

 

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The con starts today, but this post is about yesterday. It maybe shorter because I was sleepier than normal this morning and I played with my phone at 5 am instead of blogging. My bad. Also, forgive typos I haven’t proofed these posts yet.

Yesterday I was hoping to volunteer and stuff bags etc, but the bad foot put me off that idea. Loaded with anti-inflammatory meds and painkillers I slunk down to the port and took the ferry over to Suomenlinna (sp) the fortress with my daughter Beans. I figured I could find a restaurant and plonk myself down and take it easy. By the time I got walking and after a lot of therapeutic stretching I could walk without looking and sounding like Igor.

Helsinki put on a beautiful day. It was so lovely and warm and bright. The trip over to the fortress is pretty quick,a bout 15 mins. There were lots of tourists. Lots more than the weekend. I think the city is filling up with SF fans. So walked over this beautiful and interesting place, which has been used for military defense over the years. Built by the Swedes, used by Russians etc. Now it is a lovely picnic spot. There are heaps of cafes and restaurants, some like Cafe Piper that have lovely views. They do coffee and cake and a few sandwiches. Not good for a vegan. So we had a coffee and looked at the view and then went in search of a place to eat. We walked to the end of the island and found a pizza place. Not that good for vegans either and it was about 14 Euro for a pizza. So we went to look for another place we passed situated near the bridge called Cafe Chapman. This was the place. They had a buffet lunch for 14 Euro, but there was salad and vegetables and stuff that both of us could eat. We felt it was good value compared to a pizza and the building is lovely too. We sat out in the garden.

Then we caught the ferry back and Beans made me shop for a t-shirt. I only bought one with me (Yoda) and it was dirty and she said ugly. So we spent sometime in the shops, went back to the hotel to rest before the City Hall bash. Some delgates were invited to a welcome event at City Hall. It was so well attended. The city hall was once a hotel, built in the Neo-classical style. See photo fest. It was great to see so many attendees in their finery. I caught up with Cheryl Morgan, met Kevin Roche (chair of the next Worldcon in San Jose) and his husband Andrew, then we met Phillipa from Glastonbury and the we introduced ourselves to a young person standing alone. It turned out that Alex was a first time Worldcon attendee, a local too. We got to chat about stuff and I practiced my Finish and learnt a new expression. Then we saw Cat Sparks and Rob Hood, then got to catch up with Jukka Halme and Sari (sp), Craig Cormick, who helped me spell the new Finish expression. Then I met Kylie Ding and saw Gillian, who is amazed how Canberrans tend to flock together. I also met PRK and Tori in the queue. David Gallagher and Emma. I spotted Charlie Stross, but he would not remember me so I didn’t say hi. Also I caught sight of Joe and Gay Haldeman and a few other familiar faces.

There was wine and softdrink and a cold buffet. As I’d eaten so much for lunch I didn’t have much room for more food. However, I did try some. Kiitos Palion to Helsinki for the warm welcome.

 

Then we walked with Cat and Rob to find a supermarket, which we did. And Kesburger! I’m dying to try their haloumi burger. And thence to our hotel and rest and then  sleep.

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Sunday we moved from the wonderful Hilton at the Airport (with its tea and coffee making facilities) to Hotel Arthur via the train. But first, the buffet breakfast at the Hilton was to die for. My daughter who is vegan was amazed. They had seeds and nuts and she was over the moon about them. I discovered a local specialty-rice pancakes.

So to prepare for out trip to the city we did a reconnoiter sans luggage. Pushing and carrying that much stuff is exhausting to getting the lay of the land first was a good plan. Also we didn’t need to check out to 12 and we were awake and in need of exercise. We walked back to the airport terminal and spotted one of the little supermarkets I had read about in the Progress report. There I bought a SIM for my phone that gives me phone and internet access. Yay! I did not need to sign a register or give out all my life secrets to obtain a SIM card. So different to Australia.

Then we went looking for the train. We had to get directions being brain dead with jetlag. We discovered we needed to use the lift to get down and found that too. Then we had more tea before doing the deed. The trip into Helsinki was lovely and smooth on very new looking trains. Our accommodation was within walking distance of central station. I admit to getting lost but fortunately my daughter, Beans took control. The Hotel Arthur is a quaint old place. Our room was ready early and we negotiated the lifts, which looked like fridges and were as big as a fridge too and found our way to our room.

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Lift that doubles as a fridge

The room is as cute as a cupboard. Inside is just right for us and the shower is really good once you figure out the handwaving technique to get it started (it has a sensor switch) and stop crying when it turns itself off.

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Our little room at the Hotel Arthur

The only downside is there is no hot water jug or tea making facilities. I find the lack of tea making facilities disturbing…

We went downstairs and begged for some hot water which we transported in paper cups to our room. I feel now that I am getting acquainted with my uncaffeinated self. I’m telling myself while I sip water that I shall be improved in health after I have totally got used to not being able to sip tea in bed in the mornings. Meanwhile, I’m pouncing on coffee as I find it.

Our big plan was an outing to Tallinn, Estonia, which is a couple of hours by ferry from Helsinki. Our first plan was to look around but at the same time work out where the ferry left from and time how long it would take to walk there. So we headed off. It was quite a walk, around 35 mins. Longer going there because we didn’t know where we were going.

Helsinki is so lovely. We walked down to the docks and we bought giant mutant black cherries grown in Holland. Actually, probably not mutant but so big, they were like small plums and so yummy and also blueberries. There were lots of things to buy but we didn’t. Mostly because our flights to Iceland involve 15 kilos checked bags and it’s going be tough with what we have. Looks like no shopping until UK in the last two weeks of this odyssey. I’ll put up some photos of the walk. We found the Viking Line Terminal and then timed the walk back with some adjustments for time out for photos. We figured we needed 30 mins to walk to the ferry, allowing half an hour for check in time.

Cue photos of Helsinki

 

 

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Then we went for dinner at a Nepalese place close by. It was so good and so much food I was fit to burst. Then we went to bed early. Like 9 pm. It was still light outside.

Man, that night was the longest of the longest nights. I woke up at 1.30am thinking it was 5 am. Then I woke up on the hour and couldn’t really sleep. By the time Beans woke up I was exasperated. We had breakfast at 6.30am so we could start our journey on time. We had booked breakfast on the ferry so we planned two breakfasts, mostly because we didn’t know breakfast came with the room.

The hotel breakfast is not as luxurious as the Hilton but it is still pretty good. Rice pancakes, little franks, meatballs, scrambled eggs etc. Loads of bread of all kinds. You could seriously eat yourself to death with the bread. Coffee. Tea! Cheese, salami, fruits, yogurts, porridge etc. I took a food photo so beware.

Then we set off at a quick pace for the ferry. It was faster than we expected, but it was weird. The terminal was pretty quiet. We arrived to find our ferry cancelled. OMG! Cancelled? Something we had not anticipated. Technical fault the Viking Line said. And the next trip was 11.30 am and already fully booked. So we were told to find one of their competitors. So we sat in terminal thinking up what to do next. In the end we went walking on the other side of the docks looking for an alternative. It did not help that there were no people. Everything was closed. Then we realised that you need to book online that people did not come at 9am. We also couldn’t read the signs so we just couldn’t work it out. It was very frustrating and disappointing. Finally we tried booking online as there was a 10.30am ferry. But the Direct Ferries site wouldn’t let us book for a ferry leaving that day. Then we tried direct to the provider site but it wouldn’t let us book that one, only the 1.30pm one and we tried that but didn’t work either. Then I googled Catamaran and found the Linda Line. We’d been at the Linda Line terminal earlier but didn’t understand the signs and didn’t think they did Tallinn (but they all do we realised later). So we tried booking a 10.00 am trip and we got it almost booked then my bank wanted a netcode to authorise the transaction. I was on my Finland sim. Oh no! We were so close.

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Spotted this while searching for a ferry to Tallinn. Thank you Helsinki!

We decided to hurry to the Linda Line terminal to book in person. Only one person there doing check in. No sales booths. I’m nearly in tears, Beans tries to book with her credit card. Meanwhile people are queuing to board the 10.00 am and we are in the check in line. The transaction goes through and we could line up.

Yay! Celebrations. We were on our way to Tallinn and we could meet up with Cat and Jonathan and Aidan after all. It was a bit choppy. The catamaran is small. All was doing fine and I checked the time 11.18am. I thought it will be over soon as the advertised time was just over 1.5 hours. That was highly optimistic. About this time, the catamaran turned into vomit fest. Kids puking and the poor parents. Then a guy behind us starts to go and the smell hits us. Beans and I leap out of our seats. Me being sympathetic and all start to feel unwell. Beans can’t sit down. I go out the back. It’s a bit bumpy and wet but it was better than heaving. I spent the rest of the journey clinging to the rail and watching the horizon. I visited the loo before disembarking and there was vomit on the carpet and the walls. Oh dear.

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The Karolin-Catamaran

Tallinn

What a lovely place! I could have bought such cute souvenirs but as stated previously baggage allowances prevented it. Here we had lunch in middle eastern food.

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Me at the restaurant

It was so good. Beans enjoyed hers and I had beef with peanut sauce. I tried to contact Cat but my internet didn’t work in Estonia and there was no wifi as far as I could tell.

 

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The old town in Tallinn was so pretty and quaint. Cue photos. Then near the Tourist Information Centre I found free wifi and found Cat and the location of the public loos. OMG! The loos from hell. They weren’t quite the worst in the world, but they public loos consisted of two Portaloos with like an open container of sewerage. There was no water to wash your hands. I’m so white privileged. When Beans had to use them it was hilarious. She went in and came back out again, hyperventilating. She couldn’t but then the other one with a broken lock was in better form so it got sorted in the end.

We met up briefly with Cat, Rob, Jonathan, Francis, Aiden and Alex and walked around with them for a bit.

IMG_8291[1] By then my foot was paining me so I had to get out my walking stick. I haven’t quite worked out how to use it yet. We went up to get a good view and then parted ways. Our catamaran was leaving at 5.00 pm. Our previous plan was to catch a 8 pm ferry back and have dinner there. We were grateful for our time in Tallinn. Even though it was an adventure and a half getting there.

The trip back was smooth as anything and no vomit! So the weather must have been bad then in the morning. I heard that it rained in Helsinki but it was very pleasant weather in Tallinn.

Finally, we made it back to Helsinki and then walked back to our rooms. There we both discovered we had swollen feet, mine sore foot was really swollen. It is probably just the flights combined with cobble stones. We bandaged up my foot and crashed out.

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Pear shaped ankle

I can say that we both slept really well and our body clocks have caught up with us.

 

 

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Last month I posted about my Indie Publishing experience from a beginner’s perspective. That post is here.

There I discussed coming close to earning $100 in that month from my Indie publishing efforts. I did notionally make $100.

Well this month I’m over that amount. Earnings figures are notional by the way, because the money comes in at a different time. For instance Kobo calls them estimated earnings.  So this month notional earnings are around $140 $150.

Mind you I had to work hard for those few dollars!

I also gave away heaps of books this month but more on that later.

Sales

I used Kobo promotions a lot this month and that where I had most of my sales. Kobo are really easy to deal with and they offer a wide range of promotions, about half have no upfront costs just percentage of takings. I wasn’t successful in getting all that I bid for but I did okay. It takes time and I think getting my name seen will mean eventually people will buy. It also helps to have a number of titles.

Next biggest sales were iBooks, surprisingly. It is not easy to promote on iBooks. There is no easy way for Indies to promote on iBooks. I hope one day they will adopt the Kobo model.  Then Amazon was the next chunk of sales. Nothing earth shattering but better than a big fat zero! You cannot bid for promos on Amazon. Amazon put together their Daily Deals by themselves.

Promotion

As mentioned above I have a promo tab on Kobo. I directly list with them to access this. I had two or three promos with different books through the month: paranormal romance and dark fantasy.

I tried for a Bookbub a couple of times through the month with different titles and met with rejection so I decided to do something with another provider. It can be dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket, particularly when the basket holder is swatting your eggs away!

I used Freebooksy to get the word out that Argenterra was free on 28 July. I made it free earlier than that and it’s currently free. Interestingly, this means I won’t be able to tout for a Bookbub for this title for three months as Bookbub exclude books that have been discounted for three months. Freebooksy is not cheap. It was $100 US to list for a day. However, they are a great group to work with and they have been very considerate of my other efforts with Bargainbooksy.

I find it interesting that Amazon doesn’t let people promoted except by AMS ads which I don’t find effective at all because these email services are making heaps of money from marketing specials and freeboots to their subscribers.

Listing Argenterra for free is a loss leader tactic used by many vendors since forever. Technically I don’t like giving books away for nothing. I think it lowers the value of your work. On the other hand, giving away book one with the hope that:

  • the person downloading will read it (preferably sooner rather than later);
  • having read book one they will like it enough to buy book 2 and 3;
  • after reading books 2 and 3 will like my writing enough to try another series, and
  • after reading my work they become a fan of my writing and stick to me like spat gum to a shoe!

I don’t know if there are any figures out there, but from past experience and my own behaviour I know that free books downloaded may never get read, but as I said before I’m looking to find my audience so one must take a chance.

Before the Freebooksy promo I let people know it was free. Not in a big way. Patty Jansen put it on the Facebook page for Ebookaroo and I asked some people to include it in their newsletter. I don’t know if people did but about 60-70 copies had been downloaded before promo day. On promo day, I got about 1700 downloads on Amazon and about another 100 on iBooks. No figures from Kobo as their freeboot counter is out. But I had a tail, next day more books downloaded. This could have been due to late email opens and people clicking and finding the book still free, or because with the 1700 downloads I had reached #123 overall Amazon freeboots and #1 in three sub categories of Epic, Sword and Sorcery and Coming of Age. Then Patty Jansen included Argenterra in her regular newsletter and then more downloads happened. So far maybe an extra 300-400. I just had another look at the figures, maybe that’s closer to 500 downloads from a newsletter. That’s so fab. I’m so grateful for the little leg up.

I didn’t see a lot of buy through to the rest of the series. Maybe one or two. If only one percent of those 2400 people (maybe more) go on to buy the series that’s still 24 people who might go on to buy the series. The promo will pay for itself eventually. Also, people have my book so there is always a chance.

Newsletters and Instafreebie

Technically sending newsletters and listing books on Instafreebie are promotion too. Shatterwing was included in a group Instafreebie/Bookfunnel promotion and wow! It was the best yet. Probably 700 new subscribers who downloaded Shatterwing, Dragon Wine Part One over four days. I think the covers have something to do with that.

I think some of my sales come through my newsletter subscribers. Not heaps as yet, but I get a lot of people checking out the buy links on my website.

I also had a few deals going for newsletter subscribers. Not exclusive to them but being a subscriber allows them to find out about it.

Escape Publishing kindly discounted Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Spiritbound (Dani Kristoff) to 99 cents. The announcements for these were included in my newsletter and there were some sales. I don’t know how much because I can’t see because the books are controlled by the publisher. These books were included in Ebookaroo (Patty Jansen’s general newsletter) and there were some sales as a result. I was happy to give something to the newsletter subscribers and I don’t often get discounts from my traditional published books.

Also, to broaden things a bit and have something new to keep my subscribers interested, I published Beneath the Floating City, a sci fi, short fiction collection and put it on Instafreebie, mostly with a private link for my subscribers but it is also there for anyone to download. All bar one story has been previously published over the 17 years of my publishing life. I’m going to put together other collections. The next will be Compost Juice, magic realism and fantastical tales. I won’t do that until I get back from overseas. Maybe for Christmas. I also published this collection to all the eretailers.

Print versions

A major suck for my energy, time and dollars this month has been laying out books for print. Indesign gave me a kick up the butt and my photoshop skills are Neanderthal level, but I managed.

Shatterwing, Skywatcher, Deathwings, and Bloodstorm are out in print with the new covers. These are available on Amazon through Createspace and elsewhere as distributed by Ingrams. So yes, technically the library or your books store can order them in.

booksAlso, Oathbound and Ungiven Land join Argenterra, in print.

The Sorcerer’s Spell is in print too, but just through Createspace. It will appear in bookstores as well as Amazon over time, such as Book Depository. Opi Battles the Space Pirates was already in print, same deal through Createspace. You can buy a copy on Book Depository no problems.

This means that for the book launch at Conflux over the long weekend, 29 Sept to 1 October, I have books all to hand.

I have done all the things!

Phew!

Now to take off on Friday for nearly two months. Worldcon 75 and Helsinki here I come. I am the GUFF delegate, taking Australian fandom to Europe. See previous post for where I’ll be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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