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Posts Tagged ‘GUFF’

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.

IMG_8392.JPG

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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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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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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I’m heading off next Friday!

The GUFF tour begins.

I thought I should put up my itinerary so you can anticipate where I’ll be blogging from.

Friday 4 August, depart Canberra on a bus to airport. Fly Sydney London and arrive 5 August. Take a rest for the day in swanky hotel then fly to Helsinki arriving near midnight. Book into Hilton at the airport. (long story and daughter is not happy with expensive hotel).

Sunday 6th Helsinki move into con hotel, get to know Helsinki and meet locals.

Monday 7th take ferry to Estonia for a day trip and arrive back late.

Tuesday 8th to 14th is Worldcon activities.

14 August take ferry to Stockholm, Sweden. Catch up with local fans.

19th August fly to Oslo, Norway. Catch up with local fans.

21 August take train to Bergen. Hope to meet local SF fans but not confirmed.

25 August fly to Reykjavik, Iceland. Hope to meet up with fans (in progress). Also hope to get a day trip to the geothermal area)

29 August fly to Glasgow (also my daughter’s birthday). Catch up with friend and fans. Train to Edingburgh 31 August for day trip to meet a fan or fans.

1 September fly to Dublin to be hosted by lovely local fans James and Fionna and fan meet up in Dublin on 2nd September.

4 September fly to Manchester (just hanging and being tourist)

7 September train from Manchester to London to meet fans at Ton meeting. Still to organise where I’ll be that night. Daughter will stay in Manchester.

8 September going to a cottage near Bath/Bristol because Craig Cormick showed pictures of this place on Facebook and we fell in love with it. Also, catching up with Cheryl  on the 9th hopefully.

11 September Nottingham

12 September Nottingham

13 September Brighton. I have booked a tour of the sewers.

Then I’ll either be hanging around Brighton or London visiting friends and family until I leave on Sunday 24 September arriving home in the early hours of 26 September then a bus to Canberra…Ug!

 

 

 

 

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(Warning this is a long post)

In July, I had travelled to Wellington to attend POPCAANZ at Massey University. POPCAANZ stands for Popular Culture Association of Australian and New Zealand and it was their annual conference. POPCAANZ to me is like an SF con except it is academics giving papers on interesting topics, such as A Short Flight Safety Briefing: Mark Mullen, which talked about games, including when things go wrong with the production of them and the increasing tendency for big companies to use fans to test the games unpaid and then continually upgrade and rerelease them. Or Slashbaiting, an alternative to queerbaiting: Joseph Brennan. This talk featured quite a lot of commentary on the Merlin show, including compromising ‘manips’ of the bromance duo of Arthur and Merlin. Another one that would probably interest folks is The Queerness of Queen Cersie: Olivia Oliver-Hopkins, an excellent character analysis. Then there was a talk about slow films (who knew there was a genre of slow films), in particular this post-apocalyptic (German?) film Die Wand, Expanses of Time and Solitude behind Die Wand (The Wall) by Claire Henry, which I really must see. Apparently, it’s an excellent tale of a woman and her dog. I gave a paper related to my PhD study called Flirting with Feminism: Retro Mills and Boon and representations of feminism in text, and listened to an excellent talk by Jodi McAlister on historical Australian Gothic called Love and the Mother/Land: Romantic Love in Nineteenth- Century Australian Novels.

So I have established why I was there in Wellington at the appointed time. It was all so innocent and above board. Who knew what lay in store for me? I should have taken the hint the first afternoon when I went for a walk. I stayed in this lovely AirBnB, a little cottage in Newtown, which was meant to be in walking distance of Massey University, College of the Arts campus.

As I arrived around three in the afternoon, I had time to check out how far away it was. I plugged the ‘school of arts’ into my phone, I thought! And went out into the wilds of Wellington with threatening grey skies and a lovely rolling misty rain. I thought I’d be fine. I had a good coat on and who needs an umbrella? Right? Also, it was all new and interesting. Here is a photo of the sky as I headed out for my walk.

Wellington Sunday

But lo, I did get lost. I did walk almost to the waterfront, right past the Massey University School of Arts. I did walk past the War Memorial and everything. By the time I figured I could not find this elusive College of the Arts and turned back, the wind was up, the rain came down and I’d lost my university identification cards in the street. I only knew this because they’d been found and the person who found them located my author page on Facebook. Thank you Facebook. On my lonely, cold and wet walk back to my accommodation I met these lovely people and retrieved my lost cards.

Photo is a Wellington house with a big seagull on the chimney.

Seagull on chim

Piesign

A random NZ humour thing. Lamb pie. Baa…

lost on walk

I was pretty lost by this time. This is near the War Memorial in Wellington.

cool motto

I liked the message on this building from the Theosophical Society, Wellington.

Hanson street

A totally random Hanson Street, Wellington.

The wind, she blew, she blew right through me! The rain came down and came inside my coat, my tights, my boots, my hair. It came in everywhere. So in an act of utter desperation, I ducked into the supermarket and bought a Watties frozen roast chicken meal and staggered back to my accommodation where I did not move. I slowly thawed out in bed. Upon some quick research (looking at my map app) I realised I had keyed in the College of Performing Arts and that if I’d looked on Google Maps I would have found where the conference was being held. Now after a close acquaintance with the streets, I pretty much didn’t need a map to get there. I walked over 15,000 steps for absolutely nothing, except looking around a city like that is interesting. It just that it was winter and wet and I got the whole Wellington experience or so I thought.

View from Massey University. I think this is Mount Victoria where some scenes of The Lord of the Rings was filmed. I wanted to go up there but the weather was bad (this was after the fog burned off but I was still at the conference).

Mt victoria

Next morning, there was an earth tremor. A small quake. But still. It felt like the cat had jumped on my bed. But my cat wasn’t there. But I made it out the door into the safest building in Wellington. That that building tended to move of its own accord fed my constant expectation of a massive quake in which I would perish while in pursuit of academic mind fill.

While in Wellington, I also experienced fog. Yes, a lovely thick fog, but that’s okay because it did go away and it was a lovely day afterwards.

 

Photo of the fog and the Tower House.

towerhouse fog

However, on day two of the conference people started talking about a big storm coming. I wasn’t leaving that night because for some strange reason I had booked for three days instead of two. I found out that the conference had been three days but had been shortened to two. I was not crazy after all.

Luckily I noticed this issue and put out a call of Facebook to SF fans that I know to say: ‘Hey! I have a day free in Wellington. Anyone want to catch up for lunch or do something?’ And I had a wonderful response. I had already arranged to spend a night with the lovely Lynelle Howell on my way back through Wellington so I was able to say yes to a day with Ross Temple and lunch with Simon Litten, June Young and Rachel Astruc. But the weather had struck by then and it was not a nice day for being out and about. A terrific wind was coming off the waterfront. Thoughtful Ross had a plan B. He picked me up from my accommodation and took me into town to go to the Te Papa Museum. I saw a bloody great squid or was that an octopus? Then we walked up town to meet the others for lunch. We had the wind behind us so that helped.

Some photos from Te Papa. Some crazy arse fish. I have one of Ross but I believe I said I wouldn’t post it. Sorry!

werid fish

It has been a long time since I experienced a New Zealand café. Ross and I had been talking healthy food so I was a good girl and have a yummy vegetable soup, but I had big eyes for the coffee and cake. Simon did not get the healthy food memo and I was envious of his three courses! The conversation had some funny moments. “You’ve had a baby haven’t you Rachel since the last time I saw you.” “I’ve had three.” Time bloody flies doesn’t it? Admittedly, Rachel had had twins!

After lunch we walked against the wind back to the car and then headed to the Weta Cave. The wind was chopping up the sea as we took the scenic coastal route. I was flying out that evening so Ross was going to drop me off at the airport. I’d received a message that my flight was delayed so I was prepared to have a bit of a wait when I got there. Unbeknownst to me but beknownst to Lynelle, she was monitoring the weather, the planes and my progress through my status updates.

Weta Cave!!!! This is the Lord of the Rings worship haven for fans and also for normal people, provided they spend money but not on the things that fans want. I didn’t see any normal people there. Cough!

Photos from Weta Cave. Troll!

trolls

Theodin’s armour

Theodin armour

Sting

sting

Gollum

gollum

So there’s the shop to explore and tours to book. We managed to get on the Weta Cave tour where you can get a behind the scenes look at how things are done. There was a Thunderbirds tour but we didn’t get on that one. I worshipfully gazed upon the merchandise, lamenting the weight and price of some items. I bought for my darling Dweeb two LOTR t-shirts. One featuring Smaug and another a drawing of the Bag End. The Dweeb (my partner Matthew) says I have excellent taste in Dweebie tshirts so I had to hope that my tshirt choosing mojo was still functioning normally (apparently it was). I gazed longingly at the armour on display and Sting and models of Dwarves until it was time for the tour.

By the time the tour started the weather was crazy arse blowing a damn gale. Just stepping from the Weta Cave shop to the door where the tour started was an adventure. Cold wind-blown needles of icy rain that found their way into the previously protected warm spots under my coat. I’m from Canberra and Canberra does cold really well, but this was something else. It was a polar blast that turned my teeth into icicles and my knees into undead, fresh from the morgue fridge, lumps of reluctant bones. Argh!

The Weta tour was great. I was inspired. If you see me sculpting dragons in the near future it will be because of the Weta tour. I got to hold a prop gun that was damn heavy (from District 9) and saw lots of other bits and interesting pieces. What a cool place! I wish I as that creative.

After another dash into the Weta Cave shop, Ross took me to the airport. I thanked him for the great day and got out of the car. The wind was impressive. I had my doubts about getting a flight out, given it was already delayed. I was heading to Auckland to visit family and a friend. I updated them on my late arrival—expected to be around midnight. I hadn’t been in the airport long when Air New Zealand announced it had cancelled all regional flights. Big planes were still flying apparently. The South Island of New Zealand had essentially shut down. Planes weren’t getting in but some were still flying. Then I got a text from Jetstar telling me my flight was cancelled.

I did get a photo of Smaug at Wellington Airport. He didn’t look too pleased.

smaug

I didn’t know what to do at that stage. I updated my Facebook status and then got a message from Lynelle. She offered to come get me and put my up on the couch for the night. Fantastic Fan Girl, Lynelle was my super hero. She came to get me in that awful weather and took me to her place. The wind was really up by then and Lynelle said it was expected to get worse. I had rebooked a flight for the next day and had my fingers crossed. Meanwhile Ross had been monitoring the flights and texted saying it looked like my flight had been cancelled. He’d offered me his couch. But I’d already been rescued by Fantastic Fan Girl Lynelle.

Fantastic Fan Girl Lynelle was giving a presentation at a local SF group, Phoenix Science Fiction Society Inc., so she was glad to have me along. As I’d stuffed my face at the airport, there was no dinner required for me. Lynelle gave a talk about her FFANZ trip to the Australian natcon, Continuum, in Melbourne, and then there were Tim Tams and tea! The group of fans were welcoming. They did share their Tim Tams with me after after all! And hearing Lynelle talk about her trip was interesting. She really did get to a lot more panels than I did and had some interesting bar experiences.

Here is Lynette giving her talk. In none of my photos did she have her eyes open.

Lynelle

I was pretty chilled by the time we got back to Lynelle’s place and I didn’t take my coat or boots off. I just couldn’t. The house was being buffeted by wind and I was semi traumatised. I don’t think I’d been in a weather event before. Fantastic Fan Girl lit the fire and I was introduced to her super hero children, Dynamic Dylan and Smasher (Ash) and later to Jousting John, the superhero husband. They took my presence in their stride and I was adopted by the two house cats. I can’t remember their names so I’ll have to give them superhero ones. Slinky Sly and Blighty Bird Killer. I had the privilege of sleeping with Slinky Sly, who pretends to be shy but is actually a love slut!

I slept on the couch with the warm flicker of flame to comfort me while the wind rattled the windows and whooshed at the trees. It was weird sleeping to that sound. Fantastic Fan Girl provided toast and tea. And more tea, once she realised it was my life’s blood and couldn’t function without brown liquid to bathe my brains. Then after hanging about we tried the airport again. This time Lynelle was going to shop close by in case there were problems. On the way to the airport the sea was crashing over the railtracks that ran next to the road. The wind was really bearing down on everything. When I got out of the car my beanie blew off my head and I had to chase it down (unfortunately I lost that hat somehow later on) and when I went back to my bags I was fair blown back. I had serious doubts anything could take off in that. I nearly took off and I wasn’t even wearing a cape.

A photo photo of the weather on the drive to the airport day two. They had to stop the trains because of the waves.

to the airport

I walked into the terminal and I received a text saying my flight had been cancelled again. What? Like just now as I walked in? Talk about timing. I had a few ideas about how I was going to cope with that. On the night before I got an email saying Jetstar would cover the cost of my hotel and dinner. I got that after I’d been rescued so I thought maybe it was worth lining up and seeing what they could do this time. First I checked the information desk. Maybe I could drive up to Auckland? Surely the weather would settle by the time I got out of Wellington. The friendly help desk guy gave me directions to the car rental places. He said I’d have no trouble getting a car. He then added, I just wouldn’t be driving anywhere. When I said I was heading to Auckland, he said the roads were out, the storm was due in New Plymouth and I had buckley’s. I texted my mate Russell, Insane Map Boy, back in Canberra and asked his opinion. By the time his answer came back I’d already decided driving was not an option. Russell said bad weather and unknown roads would mostly likely end in an accident.

Then I joined by queue to the Jetstar service desk. The queue was long and full of people like me.

Photo of queue second day of flight cancellations.

queue

After two cancelled flights getting another flight out the next day was going to be difficult. In the queue I learned that because the flight was cancelled due to weather Jetstar would not put me up. People were hanging around because while they found a hotel they couldn’t check in until 2 pm and they weren’t going out in that weather for nothing. Meanwhile Fantastic fan, the mighty rescuer was sending messages and requesting updates. Ross also was sending messages and I asked to bunk on his couch that night. I have to share this fan girl around as I was already booked to hang with Fantastic Fan Girl on the return journey.

Fantastic Fan Girl rescued me once again and took on the super human task of organising everything from how to get me to Ross’s place to what we were going to have for dinner. And we got to hang out some more, with the fire…and on the net as you do. Meanwhile the storm is blowing still and in the news there were flying trampolines that had taken out power lines and damaged cars and the South Island was really getting a battering. Jousting John was heading near Ross’s for his sword practice so he undertook to deliver me, after we ate fish and chips. I can’t do fish so the place where Fantastic Fan Girl, in her flashy super cape, ordered also offered stuffed mushrooms and potato scallops ( they call them potato fritters—scandalous) and I was happy. Also yummy chips and no allergic reactions. Things were looking up.

Smasher was having a sleep over, so it was a good thing that Ross had come to the rescue. Not that there was a problem with that, Fantastic Fan Girl said. I’m trying to think up a super hero name for Ross…let me see…he’s dignified and gallant so I think the Elegant Crusader works for me (Lynelle suggests Normandale Knight for Ross). Ross will probably punch me on the nose! Anyway, Ross welcomed me to his place. Lynelle had warned him that I drink tea, lots of tea, and he brought out the big guns. Tea bags. Lots of tea bags. Meanwhile the wind was raging and the rain was raining. Ross’s power had been out earlier in the day but had come back on in time to warm the house. We talked family history (Ross has some amazing artefacts from his rellies) and science fiction shows and movies and books, as you do, until after midnight.

I slept well, even though the wind was still loud and the house rocked a bit. The next day Ross offered to take me out. I could check out the local mall etc. We looked out the window at the blustery weather and I said, “No thank you. I’m quite happy just here.” So I took out my laptop and worked on my proofing corrections and Ross tinkered on the internet. We chatted occasionally and I introduced him to the Katering Show and he introduced me to other You Tube goodness. After supplying me with yummy warm soup, we continued to relax until it was time to get the plane. I wasn’t able to get an early flight so I was on the 5.30 pm. However, that was delayed again, but as the weather had improved somewhat and planes were landing we were pretty confident that my third time would be lucky. If not, I had decided I had to give up on trying to get to Auckland because I’d have to come straight back again.

The Elegant Crusader dropped me to the airport and I had time to kill. Previously I had tried the pork ribs and they were might fine so I tried the Alabama Butter Milk Fried Chicken and well that wasn’t too exciting. I thought I should buy chocolate but when I looked around the kiosk had shut and a lot of the shops were shutting. I had heaps of time to kill and despaired. No retail therapy? I snuck downstairs and the kiosk was still open so I bought some Whittaker’s chocolate supplies and ate some! I did a fair bit of pacing around Wellington Airport. It’s actually quite small. I looked up and saw Eagles. Big Eagles from the Lord of the Rings’ movies with Gandalf on one. I took photos and geeked out, as you do, then gave up on pacing and went through to the boarding lounge.

Photos from Wellington Airport. Eagles and Gandalf. The weird thing was I only noticed them the third time I was at the airport.

eagles close up

 

gandalf

eaglesThe boarding time kept getting put back five minutes at a time. The plane we were flying out on had not arrived. Still I was hopeful that I’d get to Auckland that night. If I didn’t there wasn’t much point in going as I was due back on the Monday and it was now Friday. But we did fly out but really late. I got to my family’s place around midnight. But you know what? It was quiet. There was no wind. During the night I woke up and I’d been dreaming about the wind. I think I was a tad traumatised.

One sun filled day in Auckland. View from Browns Bay toward Rangitoto Island

sunny auckland

After some sun filled days (two actually) where I caught up with my family and my friend who split me evenly down the middle, I was flying back to Wellington to be collected once again by the amazing and wonderful, Fantastic Fan Girl! For this was the planned part of the trip and not the rescuing the Aussie Fan Girl Choose Your Adventure series moments. I’d been invited to an SF thing, Biblio, I think but by then I was tired and over being sociable, except with Fantastic Fan Girl, who understands that a fan girl just wants to play with her phone and stare into space some of the time. So I didn’t go to that. Instead we did the planned shopping for chocolate adventure. NZ has the best chocolate and so many flavours and there were orders Insane Map Boy and Kaaron Warren and my son Taamati, who would collect them for his birthday on his way back to Shanghai, via Canberra. Fantastic Fan Girl took me to ‘Pack n Save’ and introduced me to the wall—the giant wall of chocolate. I have little restraint and I amazed even myself. I had chocolate and chocolate and more chocolate. We even ate a block of the Jelly Tip Whitaker’s chocolate by the fire.

This is five kilos of chocolate.

chocolate

Fantastic Fan Girl had prepared homemade hamburgers for dinner and we watched an episode of Game of Thrones! As you do! With chocolate.

Also, Lynelle had amazing ducks on her glass.

Lynelles ducks

My fannish adventures were drawing to a close. The weather was back to normal. My flight home was going to plan. I have to thank my fannish super heroes for looking after me. I was looked after, cared for and never lonely. I contemplated the alternatives. Forced to book into hotels, hanging about until I can check in, then taking a taxi back to the airport and then being sent away to find another hotel and repeating this over. I did not have travel insurance. I don’t know why I didn’t.

This is a view of the top of the South Island as I was flying out. You an see there’d been snow.

snow mountains plane

A fan girl need superheroes. For me this was like a pre-GUFF (Get Up and Over Fan Fund-I’m the 2017 delegate) trip adventure that demonstrated the wonderful community of fandom. Fantastic Fan Girl has never been to my house. We’ve met in person twice before, once eight years ago at a NZ con, where we hung out. Ross put me up but he’s only ever met me a cons. And Simon and June and Rachel have only met me at cons and on social media. This was a wonderful display of super human kindness and it made me glad that I was a fan who went to Wellington and reached out to the SF community.

Pass the hobbit why don’t you?

 

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I was in the running to be the GUFF delegate this year. The Get Up and Over Fan Fund is a SF fan run scheme that sends an Australian fan to Europe one year and then sends a European/UK fan to Australia the next.

Amazing news! I won! I’m heading to World Con in Helsinki in August. That’s just so fab I am finding it hard to digest. Also, I get to meet fans there, get hosted and travel around a bit. I’ll also take some time to do my own stuff while there (and I’ll be working on my PhD novel too). So now I am crazy busy doing some planning as I need to get my ticket while they are relatively cheap.

I’ve been to World Cons before and they are magic, truly mind blowing stuff.If you haven’t been to one, you should. My first was in Glasgow in 2005, then Denver, Montreal, Melbourne and London. Why do I like them? Wall to wall authors and fans. I mean really big names and even just ogling them in the traders room or standing next to them in the lift-picture fan girl squeeing or listening to them read. I’ve heard George RR Martin read three times. Amazeballs. Also, just meeting people who love the things you do and learning new stuff. I’ve learned so much about the genre just going to conventions and I have made life long friends. Even finding out about authors who I had never heard of, be they old or new.

I don’t get to go often to World SF conventions so this is special indeed. It is fab to be the GUFF delegate. There are other fan funds too. DUFF brings someone from the USA here and vice versa. Also NZ to Australia etc.

Here is a link about GUFF in case you’re interested. Click here.

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