Category Archives: conventions

News: Sherlock Holmes short stories and CrimesceneWA

“I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler.” Mycroft Holmes, ‘The Greek Interpreter’.

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing a lot of Holmesian fiction of late – sometimes in short stories where they are the traditional epic best friends, and sometimes as a romantic couple. (I maintain that all interpretations are valid interpretations.)

Whichever approach I take, the world’s most famous crime fighting duo solve crimes and bicker amiably, and are enormous fun to write.

I’m delighted to announce two upcoming anthologies in which I have Holmes and Watson stories (the epic best friends approach).

Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook is due out in hardcover in November 2017, but the cover was recent revealed along with the list of contributors and the editor, Christopher Sequeira.

Bonnier Publishing’s blurb on the fully illustrated anthology says:

It’s 1890. Holmes’s fame has spread even to the colonies, and he and his stalwart chronicler Watson are swept up in an array of mysteries Down Under. They find themselves summoned from place to place, dealing with exciting and unique mysteries in every corner of this strange island continent.

All the stories are original and are set in Australia. My contribution, ‘The Mystery of the Miner’s Wife’, is set in Ballarat. I’m so excited to be in the company of Lucy Sussex, LJM Owen, Kaaron Warren, Steve Cameron, Jason Franks, Kerry Greenwood and others.

Keep an eye out here or at Bonnier’s imprint, Echo Publishing, for more news closer to the release date.

But wait, there’s more!

I also have a story in MX Publishing’s latest anthology of canon-era Holmes stories. ‘The Case of the Temperamental Terrier’ appears in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part VI: 2017 Annual, which is due for release on 22 May 2017.

Proceeds of the book support the Stepping Stones school for children with learning difficulties that operates out of Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw.

Here’s an excerpt from my story:

“I swear Mrs Hudson, some days after the park, it’s like he’s a different animal!”

These words, overheard as Mrs Hudson spoke to her friend on the front step of 221b Baker Street, were the herald of one of Sherlock Holmes’s oddest cases. In fact, Holmes and I, on our way to a programme of violin concertos in the city, would have passed both women by had Mrs Rees not added, “Though the next day he’s always back to being Charlie the snap-hound again, more’s the pity. Miss Darrow likes him better with some snap, she says. Of course, he doesn’t snap at her. ”

Holmes abruptly ceased his stroll and regarded the white Aberdeen terrier at Mrs Rees’s feet with curiosity. Charlie was a common sight each morning as Mrs Rees, the housekeeper from 189 Baker Street, took her mistress’s pet to the park. The dog was notorious for his dour disapproval of the street boys who frequented Baker Street and his stern persecution of the park squirrels.

Charlie cocked his head and regarded Holmes with as much impudent curiosity as that with which Holmes regarded the dog.

“And which animal does he seem to be today?” Holmes asked.

You can pre-order the paperback or hardcover at:

My final bit of news is that I’ll be a guest at CrimesceneWA in September 2017. You can follow the convention and announcements as they happen at CrimesceneWA’s Facebook page.

 

The Lady Novelist waits in line at San Diego Comic Con

The annual San Diego Comic Con is said to play host to over 130,000 attendees. In 2016, I was one of them. (As proof I offer this picture, wearing the ‘We’re Werewolves not Swear Wolves’ T-shirt – a line from What We Do in the Shadows – which I picked up from Steam Crow).

For those wondering how I scored a ticket, I did it the usual way – I submitted a request, got up at oh-dear-god o’clock in the morning for the lottery, and purchased my entry to whatever days were available when, by good fortune, my name was in the ticket pool for the crucial 15 minute window.

Comic Con was scheduled for the middle week of my three week visit to California – I’m still in the USA as I write and Comic Con ended five days ago. So I’ve had five days to think about my experiences, and to recover a little from the buzz and exhaustion of the event.

San Diego Comic Con: Population shock

The San Diego Comic Con is one of many cons of its type, but currently the largest. It’s getting so big that there are occasional articles in the press about whether it would be better moved to a city with bigger facilities. The organisers are committed to San Diego for a while yet, I understand, but there’s no mistaking that this convention is a great big animal, a leviathan of a convention. A many-headed beast that in part devours itself even as it grows.

IMG_4596The convention starts on the Wednesday night with preview events. I didn’t get a ticket to this, but rocked up once the registration opened so I’d have my badge ready for the morrow. (Americans signing up get their badges posted to them: those of us coming from overseas have to collect them in person.) I did at least get to see the most adorable little Rey, who’d come as Princess Leia the previous year (her mother told me).

Those who know me know that I’m an extrovert, a real people person. My reaction to being at the San Diego Convention Center with THOUSANDS of people either collecting badges or queuing for preview events? To whimper a bit and try to withdraw, snail-like, into a non-existant shell, and then to escape as quickly as possible to a location where I could relax again. Man, oh man, that number of people in one location was a bit of a shock! It was like sharing space in a single building with the entire population of Darwin or most of Cairns.

The Festival of Queuing

IMG_5169The next day I screwed my courage to the sticking place and went once more into the breach, dear friends. I’d heard that Comic Con was a place of very many people and many long queues, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t been warned.

Thursday in the end was a lot more sensible and less confronting than I’d feared. Yes, there were people everywhere, but since we were no longer lining up to get to the registration desk, the bodies were more widely spaced. The convention center is huge, and while it was always busy, I never found it too congested to move.

My first panel was an industry panel – How to Get News Coverage – with small press comics publishers talking about how they get word out. I was looking from a small book press/writer perspective and was able to confirm some things I was doing right as well as getting new ideas.

Things came a cropper with the next panel I wanted to see – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written a novel about Mycroft Holmes and here was launching a comic, but despite queuing for half an hour, I just couldn’t get in the room. I abandoned the line about 20 minutes after the panel began – I was surrounded by people queuing an hour ahead to get into that room’s wrestling panel – and sought sustenance before trying the next panels on my list.

Those turned out to be 1986: There Can Be Only One, a discussion of the best film of 1986, and then The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con: To Bechdel or Not to Bechdel, which included several fabulous women and a fabulous man talking about the Bechdel Test (do two women have a conversation that is not about a man?) and related tests (the Sexy Lamp Test – can your female character be replaced with a sexy lamp without changing the story? – and the Mako Mori test – does your female character have her own story arc that does not exist to support a male character’s story arc?).

Industry and analysis panels were generally very easy to get into – no queuing, no fuss. No need to show up three panels in advance to stake your claim to a chair, and then hang on for dear life through panels that are not of especial interest just so you can see one panel that appeals.

It was a different story, as you may gather from that last comment, for the pop culture panels relating to TV shows and films, where people might wait in line for 90 minutes (or much, much more) to get into a room three panels ahead of their desired panel.

The lines were well managed, on the whole, even when they got so long they had to be redirected to outside terraces. Tents were set up to shield us from the summer sun, along with chains to keep the attendees in the line. Being a singleton in this situation was challenging – no loo breaks – but many folks waited with groups of friends. Some had brought little foldable stools, or picnics…

Exhibitors Hall: the wait goes on

IMG_4680Another big draw of Comic Con is the massive – and I mean MASSIVE – exhibitor’s hall. The big studios have exhibits here, often with giveaways for those fortunate enough to reach the front of the line. Often, the big companies have special edition action figures and other memorabilia only available at the giant US conventions.

This results not only in queues, but in queues for the queues. Sometimes you have to line up to get a ticket that will enable you to line up again for a chance to buy the thing you want. You might be there for an hour or more. On later days, you didn’t need a ticket but sometimes you still had to wait in a queue to join the queue. Sometimes the second queue was capped because it was so big, so you were sent off to browse elsewhere and try your luck again later.

Again, that’s a lot of time spent in lines, this time to buy something instead of seeing something.

But all is not lost – if you have more freewheeling tastes, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up something special with practically no waiting. That’s how I got my Werewolves not Swearwolves shirt, offered by a smaller company with much more unusual designs. I also had a lovely chat with the woman selling the shirts about What We Do in the Shadows and how much we both loved it, and how excited we are that there’s talk of a sequel all about those Not-Swearwolves in question.

IMG_4640Frankly, the exhibitor’s hall can be entertaining enough just to wander around to look at the goods, or at illustrators drawing at their tables, and, more fun still, the people who are cosplaying. You meet them everywhere, of course: in queues, in the halls, as well as here. Among my favourites were the genderswapped Rey and Kylo Ren.

Speaking of whom… did I wait in line for a special edition action figure? Hell, yes. I dithered about it for days, and figured that if the stars aligned I’d get it. I knew from talking to staff at Hasbro that they had ordered in a LOT of the Kylo Ren collectors’ edition figure, and every morning I checked to see if there were any left. Finally, on the last day, having just about determined that I didn’t really want one anyway, I arrived just as there was room at the end of the queue for the queue. The staff, who were used to seeing me moping about, chivvied me into the line I protested I’d given up on, and half an hour later I had my wee little sulky emo Kylo Ren special edition action figure, and I was pretty bloody happy with that.

Inherent tension

All that queuing though: therein lies the basic tension of attending Comic-Con – the constant stress and weighing up of ‘do I wait in this line for a few hours to buy The Desired Object That I Cannot Buy Online, or to see the cast and previews of the upcoming season of That Show I Like, and miss out on smaller, less showy panels, or do I try to get to the smaller panels and catch up on That Show I Like when the panel is inevitably shown on YouTube later?’

The latter would seem like a logical decision, except that there really is a buzz about being in the same room as The People From That Show and all the fans, that never really communicates in a YouTube clip.

Finding balance

In the end, I did a bit of both. In a move that may surprise some people, I decided I wouldn’t do the lining-up-the-night-before to get a wrist band that would allow me to queue again the next morning for several hours in the hope of probably getting into Hall H to see the cast and creators of Sherlock talk about Season 4 (which is still being filmed as I write, and which would remain assiduously free of spoilers in any case). Doing so would mean missing out on other things. I just didn’t want my Comic Con to be memories of long lines and sore feet.

IMG_4673I did pay separately for a side event: SherlockeDCC, for Sherlock fans. I figured, knowing Comic Con’s reputation for queues, that this way I’d get to at least one thing that really appealed to me.

I met some lovely people, and was pleasantly surprised when an unexpected guest arrived to answer some questions and then mingle – Steven Moffatt, with his son Louis, who’d played young Sherlock in the last episode of the third season, His Last Vow.

But for Comic Con proper?

I saw several smaller industry, writing, and discussion panels. When I did wait in lines, I chatted to the people around me.

I went early into one room to wait for the American Gods panel and was treated to previews of two new comedies: People of Earth, about a support group for people who’ve been kidnapped by aliens, and Powerless, an office comedy that happens to be set in a DC Universe city where heroes and villains battle it out. Alan Tudyk is in that one, and Vanessa Hudgens. Both shows look heaps of fun!

American Gods, by the way, looks brilliant in both casting and execution and I can’t wait.

I also waited in line for ages to slip in early for the end of the Grimm panel so I’d be there for the Supergirl and then Legends of Tomorrow shows. Ballroom 20 is huge (and is the room used for the Saturday night masquerade) so unless you’re up the front, most attendees watch the trailers and the panel itself on screens. But yes, the buzz was there, and it was cool to see new cast members introduced – Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf) for Supergirl and John Barrowman (among others) in Legends of Tomorrow.

I would have stayed for The Flash panel – another show that I love, even if it doesn’t understand time travel or causality any better than Legends of Tomorrow – but I had a date with an old love.

IMG_4846Buckaroo Banzai: Getting the Band Back Together had a queue all right, full of people who know and love that crazy ol’ film from 1984. But within 15 minutes that room was stuffed to the gills to watch four of the old supporting cast talk about the film and the recent developments.

There’s been a lot of excitement recently because Kevin Smith has said he’s making a new TV series based on it. This Blue Blaze Irregular (code name Wookie) is thrilled to pieces and hopes it comes to pass.

On the panel were (left to right in the picture) musician Gerald Peterson (Rug Sucker, a mostly nonspeaking role, but who told me he’d once played for Renee Gayer’s band in Australia), Damon Hines (Scooter Lindley – he now has a PhD), Billy Vera (Pinky Carruthers in the film, and also a musician) and Pepe Serna (Reno Nevada – one of the Hong Kong Cavaliers).

They told stories of making the film, their careers, and that Kevin Smith has confirmed the series is being made and would like to have cast from the film make appearances if he can.

Barrowman LegsFinally, and very much worth the wait, was John Barrowman’s own Anything Goes with John Barrowman. He started his one-man chat with a crowded room by striding out in a little Star-Trekish miniskirt and white boots, proceeded to change the boots to white pumps and sang and danced a little of the song Anything Goes, then told outrageous, ribald stories, giggled with manic charm and generally schmoozed the audience that adored him.

The vibe in the room was fantastic, especially when he had to put on a fluffy rainbow skirt because his knickers were showing. There’s a reason he’s beloved, and his naughty exuberance was just the note to finish on – because it was indeed my last panel of the convention. I left in high spirits, a temperament Barrowman had shared with the whole room.

Comic Con, crowd control and accessibility

A word here for the comic con volunteers and staff, wIMG_4659ho were marvellous in the execution of their duties. They kept lines moving, they kept corridors clear – a particularly important point for general safety but also to ensure that con-goers with mobility issues could navigate more easily. There were special queues for people in wheelchairs and those with hearing difficulties, and plenty of space for mobility devices to move throughout the centre. Not using them myself I can’t speak absolutely for the ease of access, but I often saw people in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, on sticks etc, getting about fairly freely.

Some people got a little bossy by the last day – they were no doubt as exhausted as the rest of us – but on the whole everyone, from attendees to staff, were good natured.

Comic-Con: Worth going?

There’s no doubt that the San Diego Comic Con International is worth attending. If you can snag a ticket, you should go at least once in your life. It’s fantastic if you’re a big fan of pop culture – especially any pop culture related to comics or to the big film franchises like Star Trek.

Be prepared. Go over the program and use the scheduling tool to select the panels you’d like to see. Mix and match so you don’t spend most of the con queuing, but also select which panels are worth queuing for, for you. If possible, go with a friend so you can give each other loo breaks while waiting and generally have fun together.

Cosplay if you want to, but it’s as much fun to talk to the cosplayers and take photos. They’ve put in a lot of effort and appreciate people appreciating them. The little kids are adorable, but I always asked parents if it was  okay to take and post pics – then I usually gave them my card so they could look me up on Twitter later to get copies for themselves if they wanted.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again. The sheer numbers can be overwhelming and exhausting. The stress of constantly trying to find that balance of whether it’s worth queuing for hours is wearing, too.

But I did it this once, and I’m glad I did.

Perhaps next time I can get in as a creator and avoid all the queues…

 

 

The Lady Novelist Enjoys an Outre Museum

IMG_0716Bury St Edmunds is a lovely little market town in Suffolk. Well, that’s one thing it is. It’s also a lot of other things. It’s the place where an Anglo Saxon hamlet stood, and where a monastery was established, and where, in the early 10th century, the remains of Edmund, King of East Anglia (martyred and sainted in the 9th century) were reinterred.

The monastery became and abbey, and the abbey became the excuse for the barons to make a pilgrimage to visit the sainted bones of Edmund, but really to nut out the basics of the Magna Carta (a treasonous act).

The town and the abbey did booming business until Henry VIII was having all that marriage trouble and did that whole reformation/tearing down abbeys thing. His daughter Mary went about burning Protestants here as well. And then things trundled on a bit, the way they do, and some murders were committed, and trials and executions had, some with odd footnotes, and then a science fiction convention was held.

IMG_0624So, our lovely little market town of Bury St Edmunds (the ‘Bury’ is a corruption of ‘borough’ – the town name is not a command) has a long and fascinating history – and nearly all of it is represented in some fashion or other in its marvellous (and sometimes very gruesome) Moyse’s Hall Museum.

IMG_0628To begin with, ground floor of this Norman-era building (so even the stones of this museum are soaked through with history) has remnant stonework and artefacts from the old abbey. They’re also displaying some art from the Wolf Trail (the miracles of Edmund that lead to the sainthood include a very helpful wolf) and a wolf skull.

Among its historical treasures is a broken sword from the nearby battle of Fornham in 1173. The silver inlaid inscription translates as ‘Be thou blessed’ on one side and ‘In the name of the Lord’ on the other.

IMG_0704

IMG_0662Naturally, human nature being what it is, not all the mayhem and bloodshed is confined to the field of battle. Two displays from notorious murders are in the Hall’s Justice and Punishment section. The hall was for a time a police station, and among the displays are the mid-19th century truncheons issued to contstables for the exercise of their duties. The truncheons are decorated with arms and the crown demonstrating the officer’s authority – hence, one assumes (and certainly the signage does), the use of the verb ‘to crown’ meaning ‘to hit on the head’.

IMG_0711Rob Murrell, the knowledgable front of house person on the day, also showed me (once we’d fallen into animated conversation) grooves in the stonework that early policeman had worn in through sharpening their cutlasses (as the earliest river police carried) before a busy night of policing.

IMG_0639Most notoriously, the museum has on display a gibbet – that is, an iron cage, in which the bodies of the executed were displayed to dissuade more unsociable behaviour. The very gibbet was used for this purpose n 1794. One John Nichols and his son Nathan murdered Sarah Nichols – daughter and sister to the pair. Nathan’s fate was execution and dissection. John’s was execution and display in the gibbet. The gibbet was found in 1938, buried near the site of the murder, with his skeleton intact inside it.

And there it hangs at Moyse’s Hall Museum, looking like  a prop from a theatre restaurant. But it really, really isn’t.

But that’s not the most gruesome artefact. The other relates to the Red Barn Murder of 1827. William Corder was tried and hanged for the murder of Maria Marten, and his body was used for anatomical research: his skeleton was used to teach anatomy, his skull to advance research on that dodgy science of phrenology. But also, for reasons best known to himself, the dissecting doctor also tanned part of Corder’s scalp and skin, using the latter to bind a copy of the trial records. And these are also on display. (To tell the truth, this is the first thing I’d ever learned about this museum, from The Morbid Anatomy Anthology essay collection, and my prurient curiosity was the main reason I’d wanted to visit.) I’m not going to display pictures of body parts all unexpected here, but click the link to see the image here.

IMG_0645And thus we move trippingly along to displays of items of witchcraft, or to protect oneself from witchcraft (the region notoriosly burned a lot of ‘witches’.) Old shoes were buried inside walls a lot (sadly, along with cats, from time to time) to ward off evil spells. Most of the collection here was found inside one chimney. Along with many shoes, it includes a few mummified cats, some wands and a witch pot.

IMG_0668On the second floor is a display of the region’s proud military history, and the third has a beautiful clock room, filled with timepieces that tick-tock-tick, all on slightly different times, partly due to aging mechanisms affecting accuracy, and partly so that you get a chance to hear each particular tick and chime. It was a surprisingly soothing place to sit, feeling time measuring itself on in delicate ticks, chunky tocks, sudden chirpy songs of the quarter hours – providing a sense that time does not simply march on. Sometimes it skips and dances, sometimes it limps, but it sings to celebrate too. Time moves, and we with it, and it doesn’t have to be a dreadful thing.

There’s the added attraction that it feels like the Doctor is going to show up with his TARDIS at any moment!

IMG_0692

IMG_0678One or two more random things appear as well – musical instruments among them. The strangest, and therefore my favourite, was called the Horse Head Violin, named for the shape of the scroll, but it is in fact made mainly of a cow skull, elements of it stoppered up to obtain the appropriate resonance.

IMG_0675I spoke with Ron Murrell about this extraordinary violin later – I would love to hear it played – and he told me of a conversation with a visitor who had been doing up her Georgian era house and its period music room. They’d taken up the flooring to deal with a water leak, and found the base floor spaces between the joists filled with cow skulls. It turns out this was quite a thing for getting good accoustics in those rooms. Ron mentioned that in the Tudor period, nuts and nutshells were used in flooring to deaden echoes from wooden floors as well.

Wandering past old pub signs, some portraits and various other elements of town history, I passed a video playing on a loop – narrated by a very familiar voice! No credits appeared, however, so before leaving I spoke to Ron (and this is how we ended up having our very long conversation) and asked – “Is that Paul Darrow doing the narration of your video for the Hall?”

“Why, yes!” said Ron (or something very like it but less like a character from a not-very-good play, “He was here one year for our regular science fiction convention. What a lovely man!”

(Darrow, for those who don’t know or don’t remember, played Kerr Avon in the British SF show, Blake’s Seven, 35-odd years ago).

It turns out that, along with poetry readings (Ron does some of those), ghost walks and history walks, Bury St Edmunds has a regular SF and action film exhibition and convention, for which they encourage cosplay! Past guests have included Dave Prowse (the man in the Darth Vader suit).

This year, the event – which goes from 24th October to 15th November 2015 – will include  a few Star Wars villains and some props from Star Trek, including a costume once worn by Leonard Nimoy.

It seems that Bury St Edmunds isn’t contented to be part of the past. It’s angling to be part of the future as well!

IMG_0626

Continuum 11: Launching Thrive and Building Connections

Mary ThriveI’ve just spent the weekend at Melbourne’s annual Continuum Convention, and had (as usual) an absolute blast. I did a few panels – including one on filking (fannish folk music, basically) which resulted in a new Facebook Melbourne Filking community being set up.

I spent the rest of the time running a table in the dealer’s room (selling books and Kitty and Cadaver jewellery) – but what I mostly did was talk with people.

I reconnected (however briefly – we’ve all got so much on at a convention) with old friends and made some new ones. I commiserated on trials and difficulties in the last year. I celebrated the year’s successes with people. I had great conversations, and learned some things, and if I was lucky I shared some good things that others hadn’t known before.

I was very, very honoured and excited to launch Mary Borsellino’s new book, Thrive, which I was thrilled to edit on behalf of the publisher, Clan Destine Press. Most of my readers probably know how very much I love Mary’s books. Thrive is a superb edition to her body of work: a YA novel set in a dystopian future that’s frighteningly very like our rather dystopian present.

THRIVE coverThe blurb:

In a time and place where the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has grown painfully wide, Olivia lives a life cushioned with abundance. Until the day she is kidnapped and held for ransom by Hannah, a girl from a very different kind of life. Olivia discovers a taste for things not commonly condoned in her world: black-market books, daring friends, wild creativity.

From the depths of factory oppression to the dizzying heights of vigilante rooftops, Olivia travels the margins of society, where the misfits gather and build homes for themselves out of whatever they can get their hands on – and fight to make a life worth living.

This story of Olivia discovering the greater world and its unfairness and suffering is as compellling as Mary’s work usually is. It is filled with horror, violence, cruelty and loss but from that desolate ground, Thrive gives us a rich soil from which grows beauty, love, hope and ways to use ideas to fight for better times without destruction.

Thrive is also a very smart book, literate and funny while cracking along with wonderful characters and huge energy. Delightfully, a re-read is guaranteed to add extra depth to your appreciation, as you realise how cleverly plotted it is, and how so many ideas are intricately woven into the cloth of the whole.

In short, if you want to be challenged and engaged and delighted and wowed, go now to get Thrive from Clan Destine Press!

Thrive launchSo. Yes. I launched a book I love with a passion, I bought a lot of other books that set my reader senses tingling, I had long, lovely talks and much laughter with wonderful people and I spent time connecting once more with the broad family of readers, writers, creators and thinkers in the Australian genre community.

Was it awesome? You bet. Will I be back at Continuum next year? HELLA YEAH!

I’m physically exhausted now, but mentally abuzz with ideas and plans ricocheting around my head, turning my brain into an overcaffeinated hive of thought-bees. Which is both brilliant and a little bit frightening.

Just as it should be.

Genrecon 2013: A Lifting Experience

GC logo 2013 smlI have just returned from another fabulous GenreCon, hosted by the Queensland Writers Centre in sweaty Brisbane. I had a fabulous time! It was enormous fun, but also encouraging, supportive, amazing and educational.

I met so many incredibly talented people doing so many brilliant and amazing things, and who were happy to hear me talk about my Kitty and Cadaver project too. I’m fired up about the possibilities inherent in unusual storytelling projects being undertaken by people like Sue Wright of Tiny Owl and Jodi Cleghorn’s Piper’s Reach epistolary story, which started as an online project and is now being prepared for submission to publishers.

I have been energised and engaged by the speakers on the podiums and the ones I met during meal breaks and at the banquet. I am excited for other people’s books and as much so for my own. Sharing a room with Lindy Cameron, my publisher, has resulted in us becoming better friends as well. I made new friends, deepened acquaintanceships, learned about writing about publishing, had it at least confirmed that some of my approaches are the right ones and generally steeped myself in the rich soil of fellowship with others in my profession.

Genrecon  (2)And I have so many new ideas! I’ll be meeting soon with someone to discuss a way to invite musicians to participate a little more in the world of Kitty and Cadaver. I have copious notes about creating a book trailer for future projects and some ideas of where I want to take that. I’ve joined the Romance Writers of Australia to learn how to become a better writer of romance and erotica, since I’m writing that these days (and enjoying it) and promptly came up with ideas for several new short and long stories. My main trouble now is finding the time to write. Or alternatively to sleep!

For those who follow my Twitter account (@daggyvamp), you’ll recognise the lame pun in the blog heading. For those who missed it, on the night of the Cutlasses and Kimonos banquet, a group of us got trapped in a lift for about twenty minutes.  One of our number, we discovered, was keenly claustrophobic, so there was a focus on staying calm and trying to help her. Apparently, we did this mostly by digging deep for our inner Laconic Aussie and tracking the whole experience on social media. We were all writers, so one or two folks tried to read books. The rest of us Tweeted and Facebooked, and fielded much so-called hilarity from friends who were not likewise trapped in a small, hot, humid lift.

GenreconAt one stage, I took a photo of everyone (and most of us were dressed as pirates) giving the wags the finger and posted it on Twitter. The primary target, a horror writer and heavy metal fan from NSW (you know who you are), pretty much just roared with laughter and declared us ‘hardcore’.

We emerged mostly unscathed, though crumpled. And let’s face it – we’re writers. You can bet at least half of us have already worked out how to use the incident in a novel.

So thank you to Peter Ball and Meg Vann and their team of ninjas for a Genrecon that provided communion with like-minded folks, an excellent program, opportunities to find new projects and partners, and even provide a platform for adventures in elevators!

The next Genrecon won’t be held until 2015, which makes many of us a little sad. On the other hand – there’s no reason we can’t have impromptu get-togethers in the between times. So, if any of you Genrecon folks are in Melbourne and would like to catch up for coffee, chat and mutual energy boosting, drop me a line! We’ll find a time and place to make like cartoon superheroes and combine our energies to encourage awesomeness in each other.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

P.S. – Grammarly: 

I’ve been experimenting with an online tool called Grammarly (they promised me shinies if I did). It’s pretty neat. It helped me pick up some typos and check that when I vary considerably from correct grammar, the creative licence I employed really expresses what I wanted to say.  I could also run the text through a ‘Plagiarism’ algorithm, but mostly it just found I had quoted standard text from my own blog. It was more useful than I expected it to be, and I’ll use it again in future.  It could be handy for running manuscripts through before submissions.

And so, a little endorsement: “I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because with its Plagiarism algorithm I’ll at least know when I’m repeating myself.”

Walking Shadows nominated for a 2012 Chronos Award!

This week I learned that Walking Shadows was nominated for a Chronos Award in the Best Long Fiction category. I’m obviously chuffed to bits, especially as the nominations are sent in by members of Melbourne’s Continuum convention.  Thank you Continuum People!

The Chronos Awards, according to the award site, “recognise excellence in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror by Victorians”. It’s particularly nice to be included in the short list for an award for Victorian creators at a Melbourne convention – and with a book that is set so firmly in my chosen home town.

I’m also very proud to be sharing nomination in that category with great writers like Jason Nahrung, Paul Collins and Felicity Dowker and fabulous editors Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene for their Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror collection. Whatever the results of the award, it’s fabulous to be in such excellent company, in this and the other categories as well.

The Chronos Awards are very handsome too: sort of steampunky. (Here is a photo of Kirstyn McDermott’s 2011 award for Madigan Mine, which is another terrific book.)

Whether or not you’re going to Continuum or intend to vote in the Chronos Awards, have a look at the nominations and sample some of the great work being done by Victorian-based writers, artists, editors and bloggers, including:

If you’re a member of the convention, you can vote in the Chronos Awards before 20 May 2013. If you’re not a member of the convention, you can join up! I’ll be on several panels, including a short version of my Writing Sex and Intimacy workshop (strictly for the over 18s). And if you can’t get to the con but would like to vote, you can get a voting membership for $5.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Genrecon: Help! My brain is full!

Well, it’s Saturday afternoon at Genrecon, and my brain is way too full. I need to jump up and down a bit, like packing flour into a container, to let the contents settle and make room for more.  Instead, I’m taking some time out to sit quietly, drink a hot beverage and update my blog. Outside I can see cloudy skies and a gusty wind having its salacious way with the fronds of a palm tree. Ah, Parramatta, you sexy beast, you.

Genrecon is a conference for writers of genre fiction, and Rydges Hotel in Parramatta is full of writers of romance, crime, fantasy, SF and horror (and a lot of other genres besides). It’s also full of editors, publishers (both large and small press) and agents.

So far I’ve attended panels on Writing Effective Fight Scenes conducted by writer and martial artist Simon Higgins, how to make a living as a writer in an era of the dwindling advance, and ways of approaching Villains, Monsters and Cads in your writing. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to panels on The Future of Agenting and The Three Stages of The Writers’s Career.I’ll also be participating in a debate about how approaching plot outlines – I’ll be speaking for the Plotters against the Pantsers (‘flying by the seat of your pants’).

Things I’ve learned so far?

  • Historically, the deadliest ninjas were girls.
  • Adrenalin gives short bursts of power, but there’s a cost for it.
  • Even big, tough men can cry if they are unexpectedly punched in the face.
  • Anyone who is in writing to get rich is both hilarious and deluded. (Or JK Rowling.)
  • Almost all writers get income from something other than their writing. If they’re lucky, they get it through public speaking and workshops.
  • When creating villains, it’s a great idea to take something traditional and then approach it from a different perspective.
  • While the villain is the hero of his/her own story, the gothic anti-hero knows that they are the villain of their own story, and must overcome his/her own flaws.
  • (I think BBC Sherlock is may be a gothic antihero in this sense.)
  • Traditionally, female villains are either thwarted in love or trying to make their son Emporer. Surely there are other motivations out there.
  • Kim Wilkins feels there are not enough Vikings in literature. I find myself suddenly agreeing with her.

Other things I’ve gained, outside the panels, is that it’s wonderful to spend time swapping war stories and successes with fellow writers; that it’s encouraging and even necessary for your own motivation to hear people say they like what you do and to tell others how much you like their work too.

Writers generally work in such isolation that it’s a huge relief to talk to others about their writing habits, approaches that work (or not) for them, to see that others struggle, and others succeed, so you know you’re not alone and that success is possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from an industry conference for writers, but so far I’m finding it intensely stimulating, challenging, inspirational and reassuring. The Queensland Writers Centre has done a great job of organising guests, panels, workshops and an opportunity for writers to talk to agents. Bless them all!

(As an aside, I had the best street conversation ever on my walk to the venue today: some kids asked me if I’d seen a goat. Yes. A goat. Yes, I did ask twice, to check they meant ‘goat’ and not ‘coat’. Having ascertained that indeed, a goat was what they meant, I confessed that I had not seen one, but if I should, where should I direct the beast? “To the school” they said, pointing. As both a writer and as a human being, I was very disappointed not to see the goat between the school and the conference venue. I sincerely hope the horror, crime or thriller writers in attendance were not responsible for its disappearance. If the romance writers were involved, I definitely don’t want to know.)