Category Archives: Steampunk Australia Stories

Conflux 2016

Conflux is Canberra’s speculative fiction conference. It happens every year on the October long weekend (even when that means starting in September, like in 2016 and 2017).

Each year features guests of honour from around Australia and the world; panels on a variety of topics (including deliciously blatant fanfests); workshops; book launches; pitching sessions; a dealer room; and opportunities to hang out with like-minded people (some of whom happen to be authors with varying degrees of fame). A few people do cosplay, which is always fun.

The reason I’m able to handle conferences when I can barely handle dropping my kids at school is simple: adrenaline. I’m generally moderately with it as long as I feel like I’m performing.

In 2014 TJ was a teensy baby and I had a sudden thought: I hadn’t finished a full original novel since Louisette was born in 2012. Had I lost the knack?

At around the same time I noticed there were five possible pitching sessions at Conflux: A large publisher, three smaller publishers, and an agent. I decided to pitch to every single one with a different book. That meant writing a brand new book in a couple of months (which I pitched to the agent, so I had time to edit it before any publishers saw it). That book is “Flight of Fancy.”

Satalyte accepted my pirate young adult fantasy novel “Stormhunter”. For various reasons it hasn’t been published yet, but it’s going to be published eventually. I love doing pitching sessions with publishers, because they’re always nice people and they like meeting authors.

In 2015 I pitched “Flight of Fancy” and “Heart of Brass”. Odyssey Books ultimately accepted “Heart of Brass”, which meant that this year I FINALLY had a book to actually sell to people!

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This year at Conflux I ran an interactive fiction workshop (lots of writers attend the conference every year), assisted with several panels (especially the steampunk ones), actually attended one session (very rare for me, since I get sore sitting in chairs without masses of adrenaline helping me out), and spent hours hanging out in the dealer room (mostly on the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) table rather than the Odyssey table, because there were four other Odyssey people there and it was crowded). The familiar tension of, “Why am I talking on a panel when I don’t even have a novel published?” was gone (it’s worth pointing out that I haven’t gotten any smarter or more interesting than last year – panellists should be readers, but their writing life is almost always irrelevant), and I enjoyed the new tension of, “I’m absolutely trying to sell my book here”.

Our family car died suddenly the day before Conflux, so travel was complicated (especially with the uncharacteristically vicious weather), which complicated matters. My interview on interactive fiction at the local ABC 666 radio station was an unexpected bonus.

It was definitely fun chilling out with friends (Odyssey, Satalyte, CSFG, and others) and I think I recognised about 60% of the people. Conflux is my “home” conference, and the CSFG (which runs it) is a truly excellent group of people.

I enjoyed taking stupid pictures of my book, too.

 

This year people walked past the bar/restaurant on the way to the conference, so there was plenty of hanging out over food/drinks which was really excellent too.

This Saturday I’ll be at the Book Expo in Parramatta (Sydney), which I’ve never been to before. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like!

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“Stuff and Nonsense” cover

 

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I’m learning Twine while writing a game for the IF Comp. If I want to put an image into the game, the simplest way is to link to a url. Specifically, this one. Probably. If I’m doing this right.

Photographer: Jody Cherry (Exposure Studios)
Hair & Make-up: Jody Cherry (Cherrish Hair & Make-up Artistry)
Model: Amelia Brown

Cropped to fit and text added (with permission) by Felicity Banks

 

And from The British Museum’s AMAZING collection of historical images:

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And some pictures of a pocket watch that I just took:

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Dancing, Duelling, Delicious: The official book launch for HEART OF BRASS

You know what’s cool? Nurofen tablets are sugar coated.

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HEART OF BRASS had her official Book Launch yesterday as part of the inaugural Canberra Writers Festival, an absolutely huge event. I was written about (with a cover image) in Canberra Weekly magazine (96,000 readers!) and in the Canberra Times, as well as various other places.

The launch took place in the National Library of Australia (pictured behind the kids and I), in the Ferguson Room. The Ferguson Room overlooks the foyer of the National Library, which gives it a grand air and means one can watch guests coming in. That was particularly fun for me, since I’d encouraged steampunk/historical garb and was well rewarded for my efforts. My kids loved it too. Louisette got to talk into the microphone before anyone else showed up, and she imitated my own test speech by saying, “I wrote a book”—which in her case is quite true (if you haven’t read “The Adventures of Pirate Captain Louisette”, just scroll down a couple of entries).

 

I’m usually a very confident public speaker, but I was intensely nervous (enough to have patches of time when I was breathing funny) before this event, even though I was rationally confident it would go well.

The best and most important thing is people.

I was very lucky in that regard. The Ferguson Room is meant to seat forty people, which is rather a lot for a debut author—but within a day of setting up the facebook page (and SMSing and emailing various people to invite them personally), I knew I had at least twenty people. The phrase “book launch” is haunted by the horrifying spectre of a desperately awkward room of four people sitting in a sea of chairs and wishing fervently that they were elsewhere (none more miserably than the author). By the time the big day rolled around I was slightly nervous that the room would be unpleasantly crowded or that we’d run out of books for people to buy (what wonderful issues to have!) I estimated 50-60 guests beforehand, and I was exactly on the money. Someone had added a few more chairs to the room, which was useful. We sold a very healthy number of books without selling out altogether (my publisher and I both had extra stashes of books just in case). I would have liked to sell more, but this means that the National Library bookshop still has copies on the shelf (excellent promotion in itself).

50-60 people is a lot. That’s a larger number than any event I’ve hosted before (with the exception of my wedding), and it was in a location I didn’t know well.

I get panicky in new places. The National Library as a whole is somewhere I’ve been to many times, and I visited the room before the launch to get a sense of the space, but the technical equipment was new on the day. It all worked well (strange but true), including the book trailer and the dancing music. I really enjoyed the location and I wish I could start over so I could have that confidence from the beginning. Bring on Book 2!

Robbie Matthews is a friend, a writer, and a generally charming and funny person who’s well known to the Canberra writing community. He was MC at my wedding, and I was very pleased with myself for thinking of him again for the launch (especially as it prevented me from haranguing other authors who I don’t know as well).

At my wedding reception one of the tables was “the minion table”—full of people who’d helped decorate, give lifts, take photos, etc. As MC Robbie was on that table and he made friends. Then he made a highly memorable speech about the wide range of colourful threats I’d made to all my sweet innocent minions in order to let them know what would happen if they didn’t do their assigned jobs. I vividly recollect how impressed I was at the time that I’d subconsciously tailored original threats to each person.

As the book launch drew closer I wondered what Robbie would say about me, since I hadn’t threatened anybody this time. He got up and explained how we’d met: We did Live Action Role Playing (LARPing is like a play where all the players have a general character and plot outline and then improvise to amuse one another), and I was his fictional daughter. “By the end,” Robbie explained, “she was wearing my spine as a necklace.”

Oh yeah… I’d forgotten about that. (To be fair, my character was under a lot of stress at the time.) One may draw one’s own conclusions about my general mental health…

A lot of book launches are introduced by the writer’s publisher. It’s a very neat way to do things, but I always felt it was a bit sad since the author and publisher are the people who are the most desperate to sell the book. Having Robbie meant that we had a disinterested party recommending the book (which he read before the launch). That made me feel much less like a grasping novice.

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I realised belatedly that the reason I was so nervous was that I was, in the most literal sense of the phrase, “selling something” (and to an audience that was trapped for the duration, too). It’s impossible for a writer to truly know if a book is good or not (although being published certainly helps) and that’s why I always find book launch speeches so horrifying. I acquitted myself well enough, I think.

I’d described the launch to Louisette in advance, and she said she wanted to help with my speech, so when I got up I summoned her as well. She is an adorable child and was adorably serious about the entire process—but she stood bravely (by herself, because I needed to stay near the podium microphone). She was very pleased afterwards with her own courage. Hopefully this will lead her to be a confident public speaker, rather than turn her into a full-time writer (creative jobs have a high personal cost that I wouldn’t wish on anyone).

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Clothing is tricky while I’m still waiting for my stomach muscles to be put back together (not helped by weird sensory overstimulation stuff that tends to give me panic attacks if I wear new clothes), but I’d had an idea (on Friday) to adjust a favourite skirt, and that very much improved things for me.

My other main panic was that I’d simply forget to bring something essential. I started putting things in the car last Thursday, and although there were certain things I meant to do and didn’t, all the important pieces (such as a copy of the book to give away to the best costume, and having my kindle prepped on the podium for my reading) were in place.

This was all very much complicated by the fact that I’d gotten overenthusiastic and decided to write and run a Live Action Role Play game inside Questacon after the launch. But that’ll need its own entry 🙂

The tea duelling and catering was complicated by the fact that no outside food was allowed, and no food was allowed in the room. That meant paying a huge sum to the cafe (which reserved tables for us and did a great job from beginning to end) and having biscuits that were fresh and delicious but not the right kind for duelling. Although the cafe staff were excellent and the location classy, the lack of ability to bring in a pack of plain dry biscuits was annoying. Still, it was entertaining and it looks great in pictures (useful for media coverage, which is useful for selling books, which is the point). And even though we under-catered, most people were so distracted by the duelling that they didn’t eat or drink at all.

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The waltzing was a huge highlight. I had one couple primed to lead the way, and Louisette is an enthusiastic amateur. I figured I’d waltz with Louisette while my dancers hopefully lured a couple or two to join them over the course of the piece.

Actually, I danced with Chris the second the music started, and several other couples willingly took to the floor in an instant. The space was perfect (everyone moved the chairs back); roomy enough to dance without feeling either crowded or lonely.

It’s been a long time since Chris and I waltzed, and it was a lovely moment for both of us. I found out later that one of the other people dancing was stepping out (invited by a nearby acquaintance because Canberra is like that) for the first time since major surgery, and it made her realise she might be healthy enough to dance regularly again soon.

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Adrenalin does wonders in carrying my wreck of a body through things (in fact that’s probably part of why I do things like this—for a while, I feel normal). My muscles were freaking out last night as the adrenalin wore off, and today I’m weirdly sore in a dozen places (hence the nurofen). Luckily I’m not involved in the rest of the Canberra Writers Festival so I don’t need to do anything more strenuous than writing and napping for the rest of the day.

I still can’t quite believe how many people came.

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The launch was as close to perfect as it could be. The festival, venue, and volunteers were all top notch. Ultimately I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Tick, Tick

I’m counting the hours until the launch, and desperately hoping I sleep through most of them.

It’s been a crazy few weeks (not even a month!) since HEART OF BRASS was released.

There are hundreds of moving parts to the launch, each with their own unique quirks, and my publisher and I and the Canberra Writers Festival organisers have been sorting out an array of minor complications (no food allowed in the room; multimedia backup systems; dancers and duellers and minions galore) and right now I’m walking through the day mentally, checking everything’s in order (it is).

The average number of people at a book signing is 4. Fortunately I’ve been connecting with readers and writers and generally cool people for many many years, and I also have great support both personally and professionally. This has led to an enviable problem: My room isn’t big enough.

The launch begins in the Ferguson Room at the National Library of Australia, which seats 40 people. I have significantly more RSVPs than that, and that doesn’t account for the people that don’t know me well enough to RSVP but are still coming. Then there’s the swirling maelstrom of Canberra Writers Festival advertising that’ll bring in even more people.

Speaking of publicity, Canberra Weekly is the biggest magazine in Canberra, and they featured my book cover in an article (including quotes from me!) on page 60 of the August 25 issue. That was yesterday.

Today two different friends took pictures of my book “in the wild” – that is, in a bookshop. Specifically, the National Library Bookshop, which is stocking books for the launch. Dymocks Belconnen also has copies.

So this is what it’s like to be a debut author. Between panic attacks, it feels pretty good.

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Happy Birthday, Heart of Brass

You may have heard a rumour that books take a while to get published.

This is what I looked like around the time I finished the first draft of HEART OF BRASS:

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This is what I looked like when the finished book was shortlisted in the Text Publishing Prize (editing takes a while too):

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And this is what I looked like when the book was accepted for publication, after quite a bit more editing:

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Yep, the book is slightly older than my four-year old.

On the other hand, the period between meeting my publisher and being in print was lightning fast, taking less than a year.

As of today, the book is fully released in both print and digital formats. You can buy a digital copy from Amazon or Kobo, or buy a physical copy from Odyssey Books, who will post it anywhere in the world.

If you’re confused about the order of all my steampunk stories, here’s the lowdown:

Each one is designed to stand on its own without spoilers, but HEART OF BRASS was written first.

In-story chronological order:

  1. Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten. An interactive story set in 1837 Europe, to begin release as a subscription story (with new sections each week until it’s finished in 2017) by Australian gaming company Tin Man Games in August 2016 (at the time of writing it hasn’t started yet). I like to pretend the player character is Emmeline’s relative. It will be available as an app for itunes or Android.
  2.  Heart of Brass. A young adult steampunk novel set mainly in 1854 Australia. Emmeline Muchamore’s origin story. Available digitally on Amazon, Kobo, etc, and you can buy physical copies through Odyssey Books, who will post it anywhere in the world. There will definitely be a second and third book in the trilogy, most likely published in October-ish 2017 and 2018.
  3. After the Flag Fell. A printable interactive story that won the 2015 Windhammer Prize. That version is free here, and an updated version is included with all editions of Heart of Brass. It is set immediately after the events of Heart of Brass.
  4. Attack of the Clockwork Army. An interactive story that takes place in the 1860s, mainly in Australia. It allows you to play as one of Emmeline’s siblings if you wish (which will cause spoilers if you haven’t read Heart of Brass) or as an original character in a slightly different and spoiler-free reality. Available here as an app for any device, or it can be read on your browser.

5? Stuff and Nonsense. It’s likely I’ll write a silly interactive short story to go along with the official book launch on 27 August (it’ll be specifically designed to be played by two or more people/groups, ideally on foot in Canberra’s awesome Questacon science centre). It’ll cost $25 (or $5 if you’re a Questacon member), and RSVPing is strongly recommended!

Details to come…

So four (and a half) different stories, four different main characters, four different formats.

Strange but true!

Edited to add: I converted “Stuff and Nonsense” into a Twine game. You can read it for free here. Chronologically, it comes in between 3 and 4 above.

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HEART OF BRASS cover reveal

Here it is…

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On the publisher’s website it has an official release date less than a week away!

If you’re in Canberra and you want your copy signed, email me at fellissimo@hotmail.com and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll also be at certain conferences this year, including:

Brimbank Writers and Readers Festival

1-11 September (I’ll be there on Saturday 10th only), Melbourne

Including a 2-hour panel on Interactive Fiction, and a get-together for IF lovers at the cafe around the corner (at 11am). Plus a possible spontaneous game.

 

Conflux 12

September 30-October 3, Canberra

Including a workshop on how to write profitable IF, plus a panel or two.

Conflux always includes one-on-one pitching opportunities, which happens to be how “Heart of Brass” found its home at Odyssey Books Australia.

 

Book Expo

8-9 October, Sydney

Including a panel or two, probably (to be advised).

 

Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk and Victoriana Fair

Saturday 15 October, Goulburn

Including hanging out with several other authors (including Tara Moss), free horse and carriage rides, dancing, makers, and other marvels of the steampunk world!

 

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Draft Book Trailer

Well, we’re 20 minutes into June here and the novel HEART OF BRASS isn’t out yet. TRY NOT TO PANIC.

I’ve known for a little while that it was unlikely to be finished in May (as previously announced). Stuff happened. Non-fatal stuff, which is my favourite kind of stuff (especially when it comes to getting my books published).

It’s still on track to be printed in the next couple of months. There’s a tiny chance it’ll be out in time for Supanova Sydney (mid-June), in which case I’ll be there, at the Odyssey Books stall.

In the meantime, here’s the not-quite-finished-but-mostly-done (including permissions) book trailer:

 

Also, for those in the Southern Hemisphere, this day is a day for celebration: Just three months until Spring!

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