Archive for July, 2016

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog, Steampunk author Felicity Banks whose debut Heart of Brass is released today! Happy Publication Day!!

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At what age did you start writing?

I was seven years old the first time I attempted to write a novel. It featured cats, naturally. I have two children of my own now, which has given me a new perspective on the many illegal activities of my heroines. My daughter is four, and an excellent storyteller. She once told me she couldn’t go and wash her hands because there was a bear in the hallway. That was the beginning of many hours of free entertainment for me. My son is two, and loves the absurd and fantastic. He once drew a picture of me with wings, so I could fly. I also have a cat who brings live mice into the house and does her best to pretend she’s the injured party.

I’ve written fourteen books altogether, not counting an ever-increasing number of Choose Your Own Adventure-style interactive books (all of which are listed and linked under “Felicity Banks” at the Interactive Fiction Database ifdb.tads.org).

“Heart of Brass” was my third book to be accepted, but the first to be published.

Because the interactive fiction world moves faster than the world of print, “Heart of Brass” already has two interactive sequels. “After the Flag Fell” is included with the novel (the main character is one of the minor characters from the novel), and “Attack of the Clockwork Army” is available as an app through various platforms (it allows you to play as one of Emmeline’s siblings, if you wish). Right now I’m writing an huge interactive tale set in the same universe as “Heart of Brass”, but it is set in 1837 Britain (before Emmeline was born) and doesn’t involve Australia (or spoilers). It will begin release on 17 August 2016, with a new section of the story released as an app each week for forty weeks. The publisher is Melbourne-based company Tin Man Games.

I’m delighted and astonished at the huge number of people who are obsessed with app-based interactive fiction. After all these years of writing, I suddenly find myself with readers around the world waiting for my next story!

What’s your background? Where are you from?

The answer to both is Canberra. It’s the middle of July now and I’m in my annual semi-hibernating state until September.

Who are your favourite authors? Who Inspires you?

I adore Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, Pamela Freeman’s Castings series, Philip Reeve’s Larklight trilogy, anything by Gail Carriger, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, the Narnia series by CS Lewis, the Samurai Kids series by Sandy Fussell, anything by Naomi Novik, the Quarters series by Tanya Huff, the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, the Woodcutter Sisters series by Alethea Kontis, the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente, the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson, and so on!

I usually read young adult fantasy, because I like a fast-moving plot that also gives me the sense that absolutely anything could happen. Plus young adult books usually (although not always) have less intense sex and violence. I realised quite a while ago that I get terribly bored writing anything without magic, so my own steampunk tales also feature a unique magic system.

Tell me a little about heart of brass.

I really wanted to write a steampunk story set in Australia—the land of droughts, dreamers, bushrangers, gold rushes, convicts, etc. But I’m not a historian! So before I even wrote an outline I started by reading, reading, reading. Some of my favourite non-fiction writers are Liza Picard (“Victorian London” is wonderful), Krista D. Ball (“Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes” is as good as it sounds), Ruth Goodman (“How to be a Victorian”, including her own experiments), Susanne Alleyn (“Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders”, which is surprisingly useful for the Victorian Era), Bill Bryson (“At Home”—Bryson usually writes funny travel books), and Geoffrey Blainey (for absolutely everything Australian). My overwhelming impression from all the research I conducted was that history is far madder than you might think. Cross-dressing (both ways)? Mad scientists? Bizarre contraptions? Famous lesbians? Charming rogues? Cannibalism? Villains? Heroes? It’s all there.

Heart of Brass is a tale of a convict woman whose life was ruined by one small crime… but who quickly discovered that her life wasn’t ruined after all. It’s a tale of a nation and a person realising that high society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a tale of daring escapes, duels, and literal flight. It’s an Australian story through and through, despite and because of the fact that none of the characters think of themselves as Australian. It’s a tale about a heart that’s powered by magic and steam, but is just as faulty and inconvenient as the usual kind.

heart of brass

Emmeline Muchamore is a well-bred young lady hiding explosive family secrets.

She needs to marry well, and quickly, in order to keep her family respectable. But when her brass heart malfunctions, she makes a desperate choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it and survive.

She is unable to explain her actions without revealing she has a steam-powered heart, so she is arrested for theft and transported to Victoria, Australia – right in the midst of the Gold Rush.

Now that she’s escaped the bounds of high society, iron manacles cannot hold her for long.

The only metal that really matters is gold.

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Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including several Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories that take place in the same magical steampunk universe as Heart of Brass. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” at http://ifdb.tads.org and most of her interactive fiction can be read as an app.

Heart of Brass is her thirteenth completed novel, her third novel accepted for publication, and her first novel to be published.

The Antipodean Queen Series facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/Antipodean-Queen-Fantasy-Steampunk-Books-1123139861084253
https://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/heart-of-brass-cover-reveal/
http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/9781922200587/
YOU CAN BUY A COPY HERE
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It was an ordinary day in September. Summer was nearing its end and a I was about a month into the first term of the new school year. The school day had ended and I walked in the staff room. A few colleagues had the telly on and they were glued to it. I went over to see what was so compelling viewing.

The camera was fixed on the Twin Towers. There was smoke and blast debris and people were screaming. I watched as the tower fell. It all happened in slow motion. Nothing made much sense.

The school where I taught was solid working class and white. I was a teacher of Religious Studies. I had four classes of Year 8s and the term topic was Islam. We’d been having a lot of fun with it. We’d studied the five pillars and my classroom was decorated with a frieze of Islamic-style art that the students had created for homework. We’d discussed the essence of the faith, as best we could understand it. We’d been having a fabulous time. There were a lot of points of difference but we collectively chose respect. We knew that none of us were about to answer the call to prayer, but we rather liked Zakat, the giving of alms.

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That was 2001. The day the world cleaved. Looking back on events since, it’s little wonder theories abound as to who was behind it. Something so pivotal, so worldview shattering, so utterly incomprehensibly devastating and so intricately planned had to be the work of someone at least a little bit clever.

What anyone with eyes can plainly see is how the world has changed and that event triggered it. Bang! A whole system flip. Warmonger Bush went to war with Afghanistan and then Iraq off the back of it. Homeland security and the Patriot Act and the hellhole that was Guantanamo Bay. The war on terror began. The axis of evil was created. And Islamophobia became the order of the day. Never mind the devious and evil plotters who created 9/11. Pay attention to the way it was used, to the hysterical, nonsensical corrupt moral outrage that ensued.

Even a moderate politician like Former WA Premier Carmen Lawrence will tell you that the best way to control a population is to rule by fear. So when Waleed Aly admits to his own apprehension in the face of Sonia Kruger’s ‘ban Muslim immigration’ statement, it’s easy to see how successful the campaign has been.

The way to deal with terror attacks is through education and the fostering of right human relations. Not through the rhetoric of war. Fighting terrorism is a ludicrous stance to take. Since when did fire put out fire? Yes it’s appalling when a guy in a truck barrels into innocent people celebrating on a beach. But that guy, and others like him, are emerging out of the spoils of wars the west declared. They are emerging out of geopolitical battle lines. They are emerging out of the ideology promoted by western-backed Saudi Arabia in the form of Wahhabism. They are emerging out of a deep frustration with white supremacist America imposing its will and its values on the Middle East. We need to understand this bigger picture. We need to understand that the killings, the bombings, the devastation is happening every day not in France, or Britain or Australia, but over there in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen. We need to face up to the fact that we as citizens of western nations have blood on our hands too. I’m not a high school teacher any more, but if I was these are the things I would teach. I’d risk my career over it.

We can try to resist the fear. Choose not to make religion a reason not to be someone’s friend. We can realise that 1.6 billion believers are not a minority group. We can abandon our implicit white supremacist stance and start behaving like human beings with the hearts we were given.

Or we can head down the path we are on. It’s the path to fascism without a doubt. It’s also the path to World War III which was always going to be fought in the Middle East. Didn’t take a soothsayer to work that one out. Some, like Pope Francis, say it’s already begun. We’re just slow to recognise it. It’s this very failure to recognise the gravity of the situation, this lack of ability to rise up out of the fear soup we’re drowning in, that will ultimately be our downfall.

My daughter is a sex worker. Stark fact.

TWERK

When a few years ago Vicky first told me she’d scored a job at a strip club I wasn’t sure how to handle the news. She’s a determined young woman and smart with it. She left uni to join a circus troupe, and quickly mastered aerial silks, hoop and trapeze. Before long, she explored burlesque and became a photographic model. To put some butter on her bread she taught circus skills to others.  For years things were tough. But she persisted. She’s resilient. But as anyone in the performing arts will tell you, don’t give up your day job. Casual teaching is intermittent and unreliable income. So when the chance to take up exotic dancing came her way, she didn’t question it.

And neither did I. Even if my motherly buttons were pressed. Even though I didn’t want all those leery male eyes ogling my daughter’s flesh. Even though I knew she would be judged by members of my family, a slut a tart a whore. Or, worse, lost. That somehow, I, as her mother, had failed her. Families are like that. Society is like that. Quick to judge.

Me? I knew I’d never persuade Vicky out of it. So I had to deal with it. Somehow. I talked to a few girlfriends, all about my age. And their response was ‘Good on her.’ Which surprised me. Perhaps they were lying. Or they weren’t giving it much thought. Or maybe, just maybe, I was being a prude. But I changed. I changed on the spot. I changed my attitude because I love and respect my daughter. If I hadn’t changed, I would forever have judged and condemned her. And lost her.

As a feminist, Vicky’s job has forced me to re-evaluate my principles. I’ve had to expand and nuance my values to accommodate what she does. I’ve learned that virtue is a construct. One that divides women against each other into virgins and whores. When we label our sisters whores it is only because these women we have boxed-up and labelled threaten our chaste upright selfhood.

In the past the feminist in me would have viewed sex workers as betraying my gender, selling out to the enemy, or as victims of patriarchy. My view was similar to that voiced by Ann Summers in her book, Misogyny (I could almost hear the condemning scowl in her voice). I’d have wanted someone to save these misguided souls from themselves (I was never going to go there), while I shunned them as a lost cause. I would never, ever, have wanted one as my daughter.

My values have had to shift. I could labour on about Hestia and the male appropriation of the ‘Vestal Virgins’ at this point, but I won’t. Neither am I going to segue into a discussion of other cultures or cite the endless cases of abuse of sex workers the world over. This offering is  just one mother’s perspective, and how as a mother, like all mothers who grow through their children, Vicky has provided me an opportunity to change.

I like to keep things simple and straightforward. Vicky has made a choice. She has a well-paid job and she works hard at it. Like any other job, much of what she does has become automatic. There’s no evidence that she’s been damaged by it. It isn’t an easy job. The hours are shit, the clientele questionable and there’s an element of risk. Vicky deals with all that, and she’s developed many strengths as a result. She is, to her core, dignified.

As an author, I’m privileged. I can write about things. I haven’t wanted to. It seems a bit like an ‘outing’. And coming out is the relinquishing of shame. Yet Vicky has no shame in what she does, so why should I feel shame on her behalf? Shame in this context is triggered by ‘virtue’; it’s a judgement, a condemnation, a natural feeling ‘virtue’ has appropriated in order to keep us chaste. Therefore, as I fling open the door and let the world in on my private life, I need to state clearly that I am not and never have been ashamed of my sex working daughter.

Last year I asked Vicky to talk me through a lap dance. Yesterday, Backhand Stories published Twerk. It’s my contribution to the discourse. TWERK

new release! The Cabin Sessions – for those who like their horror dark and psychological.

 

FIND MY NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES ON AMAZON

 

 

Something exciting is happening in the world of small presses. It’s called BentoNet, and it’s a way to purchase books online and collect from your local bookstore. My publisher, is among the first to join.
There aren’t too many participating bookstores as yet, but it really is early days. The point is that you can buy a title online via the BentoNet website and collect it from your local bookstore. How amazing is that! You’ll be paying the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) as set by the publisher and shipping is only a couple of bucks, about a 1/4 of standard postal rates.
BentoNet helps to give small presses a share of the market. Bookstores, swamped by the large press catalogues, don’t have the time or energy to check out the book catalogues of small presses. BentoNet gets the books published by small presses right under the bookstores’ noses. And of course the bookstore has made a sale. 
Small presses using the ethical Print on Demand business model currently have to run at a loss to get their books stocked in bookstores, because traditional book distributors take such a huge % cut of the RRP. BentoNet gives small presses a chance to distribute their titles to customers via bookstores, keeping costs to a minimum.
The other thing most don’t know about the book industry is that bookstores run on a sale or return basis. Those unsold books, usually shop worn, are returned to the publisher and then pulped. It’s unethical and the only way to make the business model viable is for publishers to go for large print runs (so that the unit cost is small) and focus on best sellers to spread the risk.
Small presses can’t do a large print run, they’d go broke, and because small print runs and Print on Demand pushes up the unit cost, they can’t absorb the risk of the return of unsold books – it’s just too costly. They also don’t have the market clout to ram titles down our throats and make them bestsellers by swamping mainstream and social media.
If you are in with a bookstore, go nag them about this! Let’s make a revolution happen.
I sound like an advert, but no one is paying me to say this. I currently have 3 titles with Odyssey Books and a 4th due out next month. So call it enlightened self interest.  All I know is that I’m really excited about this new venture. I hope it works.