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I don’t know what it is about my writing process, but I work so much better when I have a good run at something, rather than a bits and pieces approach. I guess it comes from the fact that I am either a half-arsed panster or a half-arsed planner and I’m pretty good once I hit my creative stride. (note a panster is someone who writes from the seat of their pants with little planning. A planner is someone who plans their novels out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene). I do a little planning, but not detail planning.

When I had a full time job, writing retreats for at least two weeks really worked for me. I could get a whole bunch of story down and then finesse it during the year. Now that I don’t have the day job (although I do study the Phd most days), I can’t afford to do a retreat in the same way as before. Also, well physical restrictions with RSI and spine problems, which I hate more than anything.

However, NaNoWriMo works for me. NaNoWriMo for those who don’t know is the National Novel Writing in a Month thing that’s been around for ages. It happens in November and the objective is to write a novel of 50,000 words. Most novels are longer than that though and there is an incentive to write more, say 60,000. It is possible to do more if the writer has the chops for it.

As previously mentioned, I am working on Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part 5 and I’m pleased to report it is going great guns. Not readable at this stage as it is a draft, but I’m at over 40,000 words. Picture me happy dancing. Not quite half way with the draft I think but well on the way to meeting the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words. I hope I can keep this up until the draft is done and that it gets done before Christmas because then I’m going to roll on to Moonfall, Dragon Wine Part 6. I didn’t think I’d get to these books until later in 2018. Keep sending me positive vibes so I can get then out in the first part of 2018.

I’m not trying to jinx myself here but finishing another series is a major achievement and I can feel the end point there. That’s not to say that I don’t have ideas for more books. I do. But there is a resting point there at the end of the narrative.

I am also working on the PhD novel and to own the truth I haven’t touched it for a few weeks owing to a technical difficulty. But today I spoke with my PhD supervisor and he suggested a few approaches to me. He hasn’t read the thing. It really is a technical things…like how do I do this to get this effect? I think his suggestion is pretty cool. Well one of them. He had more than one, so I’m now itching to get back to work and try that. For this reason I’m sneaking out off campus early today so I can get back to it. The latest version is on my home computer.

I did my NaNoWriMo writing this morning. I try for an hour in the morning and if I have the will another half an hour before bed. Yesterday, because I was home all morning as the plumber was there I wrote 5000 words. Today was more like 3000 words.

So there you go. For fans of the Dragon Wine series, there is progress. For writers out there maybe some inspiration and for my fellow NaNoWriMo peeps, you can do it.

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I’m up to my knees in NaNoWriMo and Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part Five, and these wonderful things occur to me. I really need to work smarter. As a mature woman you think I would have had all this worked out by now, but I don’t.

It started at first with labelling my hats. You see I make hats and I put them in hat boxes and every time I wanted to show someone a hat I had to pull them all out and look at each one. Then I bought a labeller. OMG! They all have labels now so I can find them a lot easier.

Now we have started labelling food that goes into the fridge and the freezer. Have you ever come across some frozen mass and thought-What the hell is that? Or mmm should it go or should it stay? Or Oh Joy Steak! and then frowned wondering when was the last time your bought steak and was it left overs from your 50th birthday party seven years ago?

So joy! We are labelling shit. The fridge well that just keeps on giving. I swear when I got back from Europe there was take aways in the fridge that I put there before I left. So to preserve lives and sanity, we are labelling stuff. Matthew I am pleased to say is getting on board. No more chances of inadvertently killing some one with some toxic pasta sauce etc. We just use masking tape and marker. Although looking at the packaging for the tape I see Matthew has bought food labelling tape. Good man!

Now why am I writing this and what does it have to do with NaNoWriMo. Well it would really help if I had a detailed plan of what I was writing. Never mind, I think that shit up just before each session and maybe I can get by with just me, my crazy mind and the seat of my pants. What really, really gets me is that I don’t have character descriptions. If I used my Scrivener I could do that as I went. But being lazy I am using word and do you think I wrote this stuff down? I want to write the colour of Eneit’s eyes. I’m pretty sure they are described somewhere in Deathwings or Bloodstorm, but grrr…If only I was more organised.

There is totally a theme here. I am throwing away old clothes. I’m too fat for some and as I no longer work in an office I don’t need others. But in the past, actually my whole bloody life, I think “Hey I have a pair of pants like that. Or where is that dress?” Only to discover after about a week of intense searching that I probably threw them away in the charity bin six months before. You think I would bloody well learn. Nope! So this time I am making a list so that I can check the list instead of doing a rampage search throughout the house and garage complete with expletives and many beeps.

There you go. I have a list. Silver business suit gone. Blue dress that was too short to be decent and you meant to add lace to the hem to lengthen it but you are too fat and old for it now. Gone. Etc. I have an issue with the shimmery blue and shimmery mauve tights though. Because as soon as I get rid of them, I am going to have some costume or some such that calls just for those tights. So they are going in the dress up tub. I just have to buy a tub and you guessed it-label the god damn thing.

So moral of the story. Be organised. If you aren’t organised. It is not too late to bring order to your chaos. I am on the last two bits of this series. Do I really need to write character descriptions now. Maybe, damn it maybe!

This post is brought to you by an insane, chaotic writer, who is behind on their NaNoWriMo project but is so happy that she is writing the said project that it is hard to stop dancing around the office and write.

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I had high hopes for my NaNoWriMo effort this year. I hadn’t quite decided what I was going to write but I just knew that I wanted to write something.

My plan was to finish the draft of the PhD novel by the end of October so my plate was clear. That was going along swimmingly until

  1. I hit a snag on a certain part of the novel that required a lot of thinking. No point in rushing it.
  2. Severe sciatica which killed my plans. How much can you write when you are writhing and moaning in pain? Well none if you must know. In the worst parts I couldn’t ever read or watch Netflix so I just invented new ways of crying, moaning, whinging…etc. I really understood for the first time in my life that people would rather die that suffer like that. A bit sobering.

So on comes November and I haven’t finished my PhD novel and I haven’t figured out what I was going to write.

I had this cool idea for a contemporary romance called Getting Jessie Laid (a friends to lovers story with a virgin hero), but I wasn’t 100 per cent convinced and I had the other stuff to do. However, after some deep and meaningful conversations with myself I decided to do NaNoWriMo and also write my PhD novel and other PhD stuff at the same time. I have a report to write on my GUFF trip too, just to spice the work load up a bit.

The worst of the sciatica pain is over. I had a pinched nerve. Actually I still have a pinched nerve. Exhibit A numb thigh muscle. It still works but it’s numb, tingly, burns and itches and twitches and also stabs me if I over do it. I am currently in therapy for that. There goes the savings. But there was nothing left but to get writing or go crazy (ier?).

The result of the deep and meaningful was that I should work on the next part of the Dragon Wine series, Skyfire. I owe it to my readers to finish the series off. This was also prompted by one lady leaving a message on Goodreads asking when the next parts were coming out as she wanted to read them but wouldn’t until she knew she’d have the lot. Something I sympathise with. Then two other women left me high compliments on my Facebook page and how could I not keep writing with such wonderful encouragement? I started NaNoWriMo late (again) and I did 1200 words this morning before leaving for uni. If I have a scene in my it just comes out rapid fire. So I’m a little behind but probably not for long. Last year I wrote 60,000 and most of that was in the last two weeks of NaNoWriMo. my word count is around 7000 words so far. A promising start. I’m about to pick up where Gercomo is at. No spoilers.

Today is my first full day back at Uni. I was sick yesterday (not sure why) and Monday well it was cold and wet and you know old bones and all that. I’ve been stuffing around with admin. I have booked my seat to Indianapolis in March. The Popular Culture Conference falls over part of Easter which makes getting to an SF convention as a side trip out of the question. I am thinking of taking a train to Chicago to check it out. I have some research I need to do there for some stories I wrote back. They are prohibition era werewolf and vampires and mobsters in Chicago. I may be publishing these short stories as a collection or novella so doing the research will help with that.

The other reason for doing NaNoWriMo is that December is usually a write off where writing is concerned so must get cracking.

Signing off. Next post will be about the Indie Publishing Experience and my Bookbub results.

PS Isn’t Thor Ragnarok and awesome movie? So much fun.

 

 

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At the moment I’m recovering from an acute attack of sciatica. The pain is less now but my right thigh is still numb. I’m at the stage where I’m over it. I’m bored. I’m going out of my head. I’m sick of bed rest and pacing around the house.

Today I bit the bullet and set up my standing desk. It’s always just there, but seriously it’s a bit of a leap of faith to actually use it. I’m meant to be working on the PhD novel and I have just now written some notes, but first I thought I’d blog about some books I’ve been reading or listening to on Audible. Why waste these good thoughts?

First up, The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, listened to on Audible. Great narrator btw.

As a fan of Regency romances, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen The Sorcerer to the Crown hit all the right beats for me. As a fan of fantasy, it did as well. I’d call this a post-colonial Regency fantasy. The main characters are Zacharia, an African ex-slave who is the Sorcerer to the Crown and Prunella, the half-Indian female lead. I don’t want to give anything away. I just loved every minute of this story and every aspect of it. I found parts of it highly allegorical with the treatment of women in the Regency and subsequent Victorian period, I love how it tackled racism and magic for that matter. I’m not usually a fan of stories which feature the plethora of creatures from fairy land but in this case it really worked for me. At times the language was so Austeneque I sighed. I loved the ending, a true subtle Regency ending to my mind.

What also intrigued me was reading some of the reviews on Goodreads. It just goes to show that reading is subjective and that what one person loves another person doesn’t. Overall I think the book has good ratings but some people really said negative things. Pooh to that. The Sorcerer to the Crown gets a five stars from me.

On the theme of Regency fantasy I picked up Mary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity. I didn’t realise until well into the book that it was part three but I paid that no nevermind. It was intriguing, complicated, intelligent and fun. It had pirates, magic, Venice and Lord Byron and glass making. What more could you want? I will be reading more of this series. I bought one of Kowal’s books in Iceland but I think that was not a Regency paranormal.

I ready Blood Kissed by Keri Arthur. I’ll tell you now she’s a mate so I can’t claim to be unbiased. Blood Kissed is a Lizzie Grace novel, self-published with a great cover. A departure from her action packed Riley Jensen novels, Lizzie Grace has a nice pace, a gentle introduction to the world of witches and werewolves with a renegade vampire in Australia. The world building was great and it had a nice balance with the introduction to the characters with quite a bit of sexual tension between Lizzie and the star werewolf. Set on a werewolf reservation there is an interesting world here with a witch hierarchy hinted at that left me wanting more.

Speaking of Iceland, I also picked up Towards White by Zena Shapter, at the Conflux SF convention in Canberra when I got back from overseas. I picked up a number of books at launches and am trying to make a serious dent in them. Having a bad back at the moment, reading helps take my mind off the pain. Towards White did that for me. It was pretty much riveting from the opening until the end. I would have finished it in one sitting except my pain killers knocked me out around midnight. Towards White is a book that is Australian but is set in Iceland. It’s a thriller and it certainly delivers in this area. There are some speculative elements to the story, but essentially I think it’s about what happened and what is happening, set against the wonderful landscape of Iceland. As I pretty much love Iceland and the writing was lyrical and fast paced, I found this to be a great read from Zena. I wish I had written this book.

I have a big to read pile, like most of my friends and probably you too. I’ve dipped my nose into Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks that I also picked up at Conflux. It has been on my radar for a while so I’m glad I grabbed a copy. As the title probably tells you it’s steampunk and I like steampunk. I’m thinking of publishing my steampunk duology next year. Maybe. First chapter looks promising and it’s by my bed so I’ll be reading it.

On my iBooks, I’ve started An Accident of Stars by Fox Meadows. I bought this a while back and I’ve been meaning to start it. Like many of you I buy books and they accumulate. I wish I had more time. Back back gives me more reading time, particularly when Netflix doesn’t work in my bedroom. Published by Angry Robot Books, it has a very strong beginning. I’m really looking forward to this.

That’s my reading round up.

 

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As some of you may have seen I’ve been in Europe for nearly two months (August through to end of September) and maybe you thought that I had no publishing results while I was away.

I did a few things before I left Australia to make sure things were ticking over and while I wasn’t fully engaged in the promotion or writing side of Indie publishing, things were happening and somethings are easy to do on the run or the fly so to speak.

It is a bit early in the game to talk of trends, but I’m happy to say that August outperformed July. Let me cast my mind back and check my notes for August.

I had my books still up on Instafreebie by the way and I wrote to my newsletter subscribers to tell them I might be quiet. Travelling meant that I couldn’t participate in a lot of cross promotions. I had had Argenterra for free on a Freebooksy promotion and I left it free when I left. There seemed to be a tail there and ‘shrug’ it couldn’t hurt to leave it for free.

My Freebooksy results were around 2500 thousand copies given away and I earned the cost of it I think with people buying the second and third books.

I had signed up for a number of promos on Kobo which didn’t do anything at all. However, I did make $19 in August from Kobo, mostly people buying from the Silverlands series box set and the Dragon Wine Box set.

The great thing about Kobo is that the promotions are really easy to sign up for. I could do them on my phone. If Kobo accepts your submission for a promo it makes the changes to your prices if required. Some of these promos might be 30% off a box set. I thank case you need to do nothing at all as the promo is applied at point of sale. Most of these promos are free and you pay through a cut in royalties. This is a good thing if a promo doesn’t work for example. There are paid promos and I’ve only ever applied for a cheap one for $12 but haven’t been successful in getting one of those.

Streetlib was a no earner for me in August, but some freebies did go through there via Google Play.

Draft to Digital, which for me is Barnes and Noble, gave me around $35 Australian in earnings. Biggest for me. They would have to be the Freebooksy follow through purchases.

Surprisingly iTunes/iBooks was a big earner for me in August with $82.33 in earnings. Again I think some of that is the Argenterra Freebooksy and other sales are just random or coming from my newsletter.

Smashwords also came through for me with someone buying a whole set of the dragon wine books so about $15 Australian there.

And the big earner for me was Amazon with around $135 Australian in sales.

That’s approximately $285 from sales in August.

I also had a lovely person who had bought the ebooks order the full set of Dragon Wine in print so I can safely say my earnings were $300. Still small bickies but a steady increase. I was also glad I didn’t just take a rejection for Argenterra from Bookbub and used Freebooksy instead. That’s $100 US but that was money that was refunded from previous promotions that didn’t work so well.

Instafreebie was still ticking over but giveways were slowing down with no active cross promotion going on.

That’s double July folks.

I also had help from Patty Jansen’s ebookaroo which lifted the tail on the Freebooksy for Argenterra.

And I got news that I had been successful in gaining a Bookbub, International Only, but that’s excellent.

September

I don’t have all the figures in yet but I can work it out. Seeing as some of this money doesn’t get paid for months.
I found out today that Draft2Digital did not have my payment details. However, their tax interview process is so easy it was done in a jiffy.

As I was travelling, the main promotion in September was the International Bookbub for Shatterwing, Part One of the Dragon Wine series. I was so excited by this but didn’t really have anyone to share it with who really understood how amazing it was to finally get one. I think it has to be the wonderful covers from Frauke at Crocodesigns and the cover blurbs from Craig Cormick and Glenda Larke that swung it for me.

The international Bookbub runs in Canada, Australia, UK and India. It was for 99 cents. It cost around $200 to run it. I put all the stores to 99 cents, or so I thought. I didn’t realise that Canada and Australia were listed on Googleplay for $1.99 so the emails from Bookbub said my book was $1.99  and the sales were pretty lame in those countries as a result. Canada wasn’t too bad, Australia maybe I had four sales. I don’t really know. I was devastated and had to work out what happened. I sorted it out but still what a way to blow a good chance. UK sales though were pretty awesome and I must say the sell through in both UK and Canada has been good. So I’m thinking that the Bookbub paid for itself or will do.

I think there is a sweet spot there at 99 cents and $1.99. People are willing to try a book at 99 cents if you are unknown. If you are known and they want your book they will pay $1.99 and up. So in Australia that has to be true, Canada less so because books actually sold there despite the $1.99 price tag.

Here’s the thing, with the international Bookbub you can apply for a US one within 30 days. I did that and was refused. Why? Because my book had been reduced for more that 14 days in the last 90 days. I had to have it explained to me as I was confused. I always thought that you couldn’t offer to Bookbub if you reduced your price in the previous 90 days, but it is actually discounted for more that 14 days, so it’s okay to have a week or a day special price and that doesn’t reset the Bookbub submission clock. I will master these Bookbub rules.

Anyway I was a bit down in the mouth as not only did I stuff my international bookbub, I had stuffed the chance at the USA deal. But lo, a light did shine on me and I put my book in for a free promo Bookbub USA. I figured they could only say no. Yet, I was accepted. This confirms what I’ve been told that there are two different decision processes, paid and free. So I will have a USA Bookbub for Shatterwing in October. This is very cool because that is what I have wanted from the beginning. You can get a massive amount of downloads via Bookbub for a free fantasy book. Shatterwing is currently free because I was advised that Amazon were having difficulties discounting. Yet, as soon as I discounted elsewhere Amazon price matched so I requested the price to zero there too. Fingers crossed this all goes to plan.

Meanwhile I had put out feelers for someone to pitch to iBooks Australia for both my series. First attempt was a no, then out of the blue I get an email saying I’d been accepted for Shatterwing. It was going to be later in the month but then changed to today. So Shattering in iBooks Australia free book of the week. Which is blowing my mind. I did not expect that. Thank you Patrick and iBooks Australia.

So my results for September while I was travelling and couldn’t do much but I had an international bookbub (slightly underdone due to silly me and book settings).

Let me see.

No sales at all through Draft2Digital. This makes sense as my main sales are for Barnes and Noble and I had an International Book Bub which excludes the USA.

Kobo (I had a number of promotions. Some worked. Some were other sales)  $90 (58 books sold). I’m using the raw figure here but that doesn’t account for Kobo’s cut or exchange rates.

iBooks $88 with 59 books sold. Again raw figure, not counting exchange rates etc. Edit. Corrected figure is $118 and a bit more for US sales.

Streetlib was about $3-$4 but I have no idea what currency and have to wait a very long time to be paid given I haven’t reached the payment threshold yet.

Amazon approximately $260. This is an estimate because it’s in different currencies. The bulk of this was books sold for 99 cents, which means I earned 35 cents or pence.

In September I had sales across all my books, the bulk, some 231 copies of Shatterwing at 99 cents or pence. The sell through I think is around 10 per cent for book two and then less for books three and four. I had a couple of sales of the Argenterra series too.

So ebook sales are around $440  $470 so an increase on August. This is also more than the biggest royalty cheque I received from my traditional publishers.

I also had a book launch and print book sales at Conflux at the end of September so I haven’t done the accounting on that yet. I think I made enough to cover the cost of the table and maybe the cost of the books, which is good I think.

That’s me. I may pop back after the Bookbub and the Book of the Week Promo and tell you the results of that.

I consider myself very lucky to have some upward movement so soon after uploading the two series. I’m very lucky to have got a Bookbub relatively quickly. I have been the person who checks the sales figures and sees no sales. Now I see sales. Modest sales but believe me that’s better than none.

Many thanks to Patty Jansen for her advice and guidance and to Facebook group for promotion that I belong too. Thanks to the buyers of books and for liking the stories enough to read the series.

Here is a pic of me from my book launch taken by Cat Sparks. I know I posted it in the previous post but hey! Different audience.

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This is the last in my series of GUFF blog posts. The trip is done. I am home and I’ve recovered mostly from jet lag. I still randomly fall asleep and I was out cold by 8.30am last night.

After Bath and London fan meet ups, I went to Brighton, well close by, to stay with my partner’s cousin, Nick. It was a lovely place to base ourselves in. And Nick spoiled us so much with meals and outings and his lovely home that we didn’t want to leave. He also had a love slut for a cat, a ginger British Long Hair called Gus. What can be more welcoming than a cat who comes when called and has his purring bellows going before you even scratch under his chin. The grooming brush sent this fellow into raptures-an amazing thing to see.

So in Brighton I went on the sewer tour which I covered previous post. Later we went to Eastbourne to see the Ravilious exhibition and then for scampi and chips on the pier and then high tea with scones and jam on the Eastbourne Pier too.

IMG_0779IMG_0781Other excursions include the Bluebell steam railway, and Firle. My daughter was due to go to Morocco so I had time to myself. I also met my long, lost cousin, Christine, who came to Brighton and took us out for lunch.

Here is a photo of Firle, Nick at Firle and my long lost cousin, Christine and her husband Robert.IMG_0799.JPG

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London SF fan Patrick McMurray organised a day for me to go in to London and take me walking about and to some museums: The Wellcome and the Soane and we met up with a dozen or so SF fans at the Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub.

After a bit of wrangling, I managed to go from London to Baldock to meet former Australian fan friend but now British fan friend and buddy, Barbara on the Thursday night, but also managed to meet up with my cousin Christine again in Greenwich during the day. This required a massive amount of train mojo btw. Only thwarted twice when I got on the wrong train and then in the evening when the train I was on decided it couldn’t stop in Baldock and Barbara had to come rescue me. It’s a bit of a theme, me being rescued by SF fans. I wish some would come right now and save me from the coconut biscuits I am stuffing into my gob as I type.

Patrick met me at the St Pancras Station and then showed me St Pancras International and the amazing building that had been restored to Victorian splendour.

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We then walked through London as you do to see the sights and to meet Julie, his wife for lunch, and to go to the Wellcome Museum. Apparently the guy who set up this big Pharma company was originally American and then moved to Britain. He collected stuff. Heaps of stuff and you can see it at the museum as well as the temporary exhibitions. The exhibition was about graphic design and how it has been used, in particularly with packaging medics and implied instructions to medical staff. It also covered AIDS advertising among other things. The old collection was really interesting. I took a few photos, but it included sunken heads, sex aids, a dead body from South America, birthing models, bizarre paintings of surgical procedures and births. There was also another exhibition about the human body. I took a photo of this sculpture. I was feeling rather displeased with my body at the time. Also, a library which had other weird stuff in it.

In the gift shop I bought a few items that I figured would go down well in a fan auction. I was due to conduct a fan auction at Conflux in Canberra a few days after I arrived home. I purchased a glow in the dark tentacle and a periodic table tea towel. I would have bought more things but I had decision paralisis.

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We then went for lunch at the Fleet River Bakery and met Julie. It was quite nice there with the salads and excellent coffee. Then there was an unpleasant altercation between some clients of the establishment that put a damper on things. After farewelling Julie we trotted off to the Soane Museum which wasn’t far away at all at Lincoln Inn Fields. Here is the Wikipedia Link to the Museum.

Lucky for me, Nick had given me a book to read about the museum and it’s collection. It is a very eclectic collection. John Soane was an architect and the buildings themselves are a piece of art, add that to the amazing amount of stuff he collected, he has Seti 1’s sarcophagus in the basement, the art and the arrangements which have tried to represent how it was, and you have a unique establishment. To visit the museum is free. No photos unfortunately. We missed the tour of the private apartments but we did buy a guide. It is proving to be popular and it’s very tiny inside because it was basically three houses combined with stuff in it.

At the Olde Cheshire Cheese just off Fleet Street, is a very old pub. It is also deceptive. The bar you walk into is tiny, but it has many more floors below. It was apparently destroyed or damaged during the Great Fire of London but some parts of the pub are meant to be older. We discovered this when we went down the stairs. Patrick and I arrived early so we could grab a table and cider and beer! Patrick had worked up a considerable thirst and as much as I love walking the streets of London my feet needed a break. We table hopped until we had just about enough room for us all. Claire arrived and then the others came along. About a dozen all up. Some people I met before and some I didn’t. I took a few shots. Newly weds. A couple planning to migrate to NZ. An ex Aussie and her British beau, who drew me a dragon! Julie was unwell unfortunately so she didn’t end up joining us. I was staying over with Patrick and Julie so I was hopefully going to see her again. She picked us up from the train station so yay!

Caroline, her husband whose name escapes me! and so on. And there we were emerging at night to catch the train.

It was lovely to have them all come for a meet up with me, the GUFF delegate. I can’t thank Patrick enough and all the gang who came along. It meant a lot to me. Food was good too.

I took the train with Patrick to his local station and Julie collected us. I was introduced to the cats and then went up to the top floor to the guest bedroom. This was such a comfortable bed. It was so comfortable that I didn’t get up to say goodbye to Julie. Such bad form. I did get up to go get breakfast with Patrick in town and then to catch a train to my cousin, Christine. I left a little present. When I saw Patrick and Julie’s place I knew my present to them would fit right in. A stuffed wombat. My last! Patrick took a photo and sent it to Julie and she loved it too. I was so pleased.

Patrick and I walked into town and had an excellent breakfast. It was really good. Then I caught the train across London, beyond the castle…etc until I reached Lewisham quite by accident as I’d taken the wrong train. Thank god for mobile phones. Christine introduced me to Greenwich, where I’d never been before. We walked under the Thames along this tunnel and came up on the other side, I believe in the Isle of Dogs and then walked back. We shopped at Greenwich Markets and ate lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern. We had a Ploughman’s lunch. It wasn’t bad but the Ploughman’s lunch I had at the Rams Inn in Firle was heaps better. I guess it annoys me when a pub says hand cut ham and you get sliced ham from a packet and commercial pickles and not home made ones etc. But the cheese on the platter was amazing. And the views. Right on the Thames.

From Greenwich I took a ferry to Westminster Pier and walked to Kings Cross Station. I had my phone app to guide me. I got off track a couple of times. It was a long walk. I kept telling myself I could stop and have a coffee and rest but the other part of my brain said don’t because it’s going to rain. I didn’t stop and it started raining just as I was across the road from Kings Cross Station. I count that as a win.

Here are a few shots from the the view of Greenwich from the Isle of Dogs, Trafalgar pub to the Thames, and the Tower Bridge from the Thames, the Tower of London and the Shard.

I made it to Baldock because Barbara picked my up. We ate Indian takeaways and talked about Britain, Australia, SF fans and our mutual friends. Next morning I did a walk around Baldock, had morning tea at the Costa at Tescos there and bought a new carry on bag in the mega Tescos. Then we sat around all day watching telly, talking books and and writing etc and then around 7pm it was time for me to take off again.

A few photos from Baldock. And none of Barbara! Oh dear!

Yes, another long train ride to Gatwick Airport from Baldock to collect Beanie who was coming in from Morocco. That all went to plan except Bean’s plane was delayed and it was already a late arriving plane. After a conversation on messenger with Nick, he said he’d drive to Gatwick to pick us up. Bean’s plane was even later than expected and it would have been very hard to catch a train to Brighton. So Nick, wonderful, lovely Nick drove to Gatwick and we waited together for Beans to emerge then we drove to Brighton. We arrived home around 2 am I think. It’s a bit of a blur. Saturday was to be our last full day this UK trip.

Saturday night was the last night. We had a arranged a lovely meal at Terre A Terre in Brighton that is a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. We had to do lunch because it was booked out in the evening. So Saturday morning was a late start due to coming home at 2 and then going to this fabulous meal. Then we did a spot of shopping in the Laines and then went home. That evening we watched telly and ate a sort of tapas meal. It was very yummy.

Some shots around Brighton. Little laneways between buildings etc.

My stepson lives in Brighton so Beans and I caught up with him on the Sunday for breakfast. We had a lovely vegan meal and then did some more shopping. We really wanted to get presents for family etc. There was a protest that went right by us as we ate breakfast. It was the Labour Party conference in Brighton that weekend.

Here are some final shots of Brighton, the lovely vegetarian tapas plate from Terre a Terre. The boutique decorated with the sewing machines etc.

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After much discussion where Nick didn’t really listen to us, he drove us to Heathrow Airport. It was a slow wind down from the trip and the traffic was slow too. Nick had planned it well and good and we made it to the airport and said our goodbyes.

Then apparently, I am reliably informed, I had a personality change. I became a shrew with no thought in my mind but to check my bags in. Until then I would brook no diversion, no toilet stops, nothing. Even though I had two hours before the train left. Poor Beans.

The long trek home involved a few little spats with Beans, usually to do with spilled water or boarding the plane after a stop over. I managed to pour hot tea down my front in Singapore. When Beans pointed it out, I managed to pour some more into the crotch of my pants. Ow! It was hot.

We arrived home safely to Sydney, but there was the bus. Yes, the bloody bus takes 3.5 hours and it took more like four. After a day on a plane you really don’t want a bus. I think I passed out on the bus and by the time I arrived I could hardly stay awake.

Matthew was there to collect us. Lovely, adorable and cuddly Matthew. The mighty darling Dweeb!

We were actually home.

Then I had a day or two before I had to prepare for Conflux SF convention. I had a table. A book launch and a fan auction to prepare for.

Fan auction was amazing folks. We made good money! Thank to the generous fans who attended and paid through the nostrils for Finnish sweets. The tentacle and the periodic table tea towel went down like a treat so did the Finnish sweets and Moomin coffee and biscuit tin. Aussie fans are crazy for the Finnish sweets! We also auctioned off a world con souvenir book as it was marvellous and some Finish weird anthologies.

Here are some snaps of the auction goodies. PS I bought the Darth Vader, breathing lolly dispenser.

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Reflections

I think I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I think I’m extroverted but at times it was hard to reach out to people I didn’t know, particularly ones from different cultures. When you travel you are often stressed but you may not be aware of it. I think that is true for me. I was excited to be there, but there was a stress there too from being out of my comfort zone, away from home. I am so happy to have met some wonderful people who reached out to me or me to them, who shared their homes or their cities with me. I love the feeling of community I get. I thank those who went to extra mile to meet me and say hello. I’m very grateful to my daughter, Beans, who came with me and offered support. She did my hair! I think it was hard for her given she doesn’t identify as a fan (though she really is!) and she had to put up with me, my demands, the demands of fandom on my time and the times I just needed to zone out when she really wanted me to be present and attentive. I don’t think I could have done it alone, Beans. Thank you.

Thank you fandom for a wonderful time, a wonderful trip and a fuller, more detailed report is the next thing on my agenda.

Here is a pic taken by Fionna O’Sullivan, one of our GUFF hosts in Dublin, Ireland. She thought it was the author shot. I think it shows me reflecting.

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Here is a photo by Cat Sparks of my book launch, featuring the wonderful Craig Cormick, launcher extraordinaire.

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The 2017 Australian GUFF delegate is signing off now. So long and thanks for the scampi. (I’m allergic to fish).

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Warning: this post contains Vikings! Actually, things about Vikings!

Last post I got us to Stockholm. We arrived on Tuesday and we were in time for the local SF fan meet up at the British Arms Hotel. This pub was quite near where the Viking Line berthed so we thought we could find our way back there by reversing our trip. Our AirBnB host told us about the local transport app. During Winter in Stockholm it is very important to plan your trips and know when buses and trains are arriving so their app was very efficient. We used it to plan our journey back the way we came.

Photo of Stockholm’s central railway station that reminds me of Sydney’s Town Hall.

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We had been invited to come along to this meet up by local fan Johan so it was good to meet local fans. There were Australians there too. Gillian Polack was there visiting with Johan. Then Janice and Stephen turned up, then some USAins. It was quite a national group. They very kindly spoke in English and we had some great conversation. So great was the conversation that we forgot to take photos.

It was an English style pub and one of the bartenders was English and chatted with us. My daughter eats vegan and the vegetarian burger had cheese in the vegetable pattie. I ordered chips for her and the bar tender told me there was a vegan dish available but it wasn’t on the menu. So he very kindly made sure my daughter got a vegan bean stew. I had some potent local cider called Old Rosie.

My daughter had a really good chat with Magnus and Marten and got recommendations for what was she should do in Stockholm and surrounds. Gamla Stan, the Historica museum, a trip to Birka were our order of priority.

Next day we did the tourist thing and took the metro to Gamla Stan, old town. It had cobble stones, the foot killers! I will spare you photos of me with swollen feet (no matter how spectacular) and even stories of using the walking stick! Some days are better than others. But cobble stones are killers.

We made it to Gamla Stan and we had been told the best restaurants are in streets parallel to the main street. First up we found a cafe that did raw food, organic food and vegan stuff. Once again my daughter was in vegan heaven being able to have a good coffee with soy milk and a vegan muffin. I had a pastry and a coffee too. Then we noted there was a vegan restaurant across the road so we pegged that for lunch. Next to that was Geronimo’s Bar and I have a nice picture of their sign.

 

The most important thing in Gamla Stan is the SF bookshop, but I was also on a mission to some needles so I could knit up the Finland wool mittens. I don’t expect to finish them up as I have to watch the old RSI but a few rows now and then might keep me occupied. Google told me there was a yarn shop in Gamla Stan so we went there first, taking a few snaps on the way. They guy on the horse is St George I think, killing the dragon. Or it’s a king who killed a dragon.

 

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The yarn shop was smallish, with some yarn:the local yarn I thought was a bit rough/scratchy and the Icelandic yarn I want to by in Iceland so in the end I only purchased the needles. Then we headed for the SF bookshop. Wow! What a glorious SF bookshop. It has English versions, Swedish translations, DVD, related stuff like TinTin models and then upstairs it had games, Games workshop and Black Library books. My daughter wanted to buy a book and she chose The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. She wanted to by Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman too but we had to worry about weight restrictions. These photos include two external, one internal and one spot the author- Sarah Cawkwell!

 

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We headed back to the vegan restaurant for the buffet lunch, which was really nice. I had black bean soup, vegetable casserole and salad. We booked the Birka tour so we wanted to make sure we knew where the ferry left from so we did the checking out the venue thing with a map, Google etc. We caught the bus to City Hall, which was only two stops away and did a bit of exploring there. The building looks like a cathedral to me with it’s funny steeple. I took a photo of this mausoleum. Later we were told that it has no body in it, but is a bit of a tourist scam. This lot of photos are from the City Hall and surrounds.

 

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Talking of scams…we needed to pay for the loos. A 5 SEK coin to be exact. The public loos weren’t luxurious or even that clean but you needed to pay to spend a penny. At the railway station it’s 10 SEK.

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We took some nice pictures and then decided to walk back to Gamla Stan as it looked close enough. It was across the bridge on another island. A bit turned around but eventually we made it and went back to the first cafe for an afternoon coffee and snack. Then we headed back to our accommodation.

Where we were staying was quite close to a nature reserve. So after resting my feet for a bit we went for an evening walk. Queue pictures of walk and the lake. People were swimming and having fun. There was a golf course in there. I tried taking a photo for Russell but the sun was setting. We saw deer, Bambi look alikes and a pet cemetery. This is a collection of photos from the nature reserve.

 

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Thursday we had the trip to Birka so major stress to ready and where we needed to be in time. Except we woke up early, well before our alarm. It’s because it’s so light here at night and early in the morning. Even though we were early we just went. It was a beautiful day. Bright blue skies, calm weather etc. After a bit of a wait (happens when you are early) we boarded the ferry. Our tour guide Emil, was wearing historical costume. Not a viking helmet etc, just every day wear. He gave us a bit of a talk about features on our way to Birka. The Raven Rock, the rock where a king jumped off with his horse and lived and so many more.

Here is a collection from Birka. The ferry, the spot for a king with a hat, the guide, the view from the hillfort, the cross (Celtic instead of German), the local cows, me and replica boats, replica boats without me, replica village

 

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Birka is an island where the remains of an early Viking village was found. I was hoping to see archeological digs but alas, it was covered up. We saw burial mounds and where the village is currently under fields, the remains of the hill fort,a  museum and a replica village. The guide was funny and informative. He was an archeologist and so provided some useful information and tips for where to find things in the museums that had been taken from Birka. He was saying there was so much more to explore but funds being limited they will be excavated in the future some time. Only about 5 per cent of the village/city had been excavated so far. The government bought most of the island from the people who live there. Apparently seven people live there, farming etc. We saw sheep and cows.

In the museum shop I bought a Viking inspired T-shirt. Beans bought vegan soap and Thor hammer fridge magnet. We had prebooked our lunch so we were served that on the way back to Stockholm with window side seats.

After a long day we headed home. The ferry ride was lovely and I was a bit sun burnt despite sun block. We did another walk in the nature reserve. The next day, Thursday we had planned to visit the museum historica. Not only was it recommended because of the Viking related exhibits, it was also free. Thursday was rainy so it was a good day to do museum related stuff. We found our way there with the aid of maps and preplanning for the metro. We had purchased a 3 day pass which made travel easy and economical. We had to buy them from the grocery store.

We scored tickets to the English guided tour of the Viking section of the museum and then went to explore the gold room, where the treasure hordes were on display. There were gold torques, and black smithing tools, and coils of gold and silver used in hair or as currency, there were buckles and rings and amazing things. Totally worth the time. We did two trips through this section. The tour guide was a resident Viking woman but due to the rain couldn’t show us what they do outside in the interactive part. We saw skeletons and grave goods and tall panels explaining the layout of the grave goods and their purpose. There were rune stones and swords and it was all fantastic really. We did a second look around after lunch, which was yummy and quite reasonably priced. We went up stairs to look at the Swedish cultural history collection with relics of the church and so on. Overall a really nice museum and the shop was good too but we were heading to Norway and thought we might find a Thor Hammer necklace there.

Some Viking related pics. Turn away if you’re bored!

 

Once we were home we didn’t bother with a walk in the nature park as it continued to be gray and rainy. We had to pack and weigh and work out our departure time and how to get to the airport and also eat the remains of our food. Self catering is really quite fun, except the changing countries part. We had to leave behind some plant based margarine which I had cunningly identified even though I don’t speak Swedish. Now, of course, the margarine is much missed!

And the feared rain was falling quite heavily on the morning of our departure from Stockholm. About 15 minutes to the metro from our lodgings. Man I look so impressed.

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The trip to Norway was uneventful except for the struggle to get on the plane and to our seat. Really! I don’t mean to complain but god! Argh!

I’m going to split this post into a separate one in Norway. I’m still in Norway though! But more Vikings!

 

 

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