The music war

Spring is sprung and youths are riding on the back of trains again.  Two of them went by on the 1.04 on Thursday, bandannas round their faces and long blond hair flapping in the wind.  “I’m going to report you,” I yelled after them. You go inside and report them on the two way radio and by the time they reach the next station the driver knows they are there.  Very satisfactorily, these two jumped off and ran away at the next station.  These days I report them as coupling riders. If I report them as train surfers that really panics the control desk.  Train surfers are those who ride on the top of trains and since they are up there with a whole lot of high voltage electrical wiring they are really dicing with death.

It was a pleasure to stand outside in the warm spring sunshine watching the birds squabble over the sprinkling of chips left by a team of teenage footballers.  A man with a stylish haircut, wearing leather trousers and gold and black cats eye glasses (you’ll have to look them up- I couldn’t download a picture) jumped off the train, handed me a lost backpack containing a Nepalese passport and jumped back on.

Another man was singing along loudly and reasonably tunefully to some folksy album on his iphone.  Some thuggy looking 14 year olds arrived, full of attitude, carrying blaring loud rap music. For a while the two kinds of music warred in the waiting room.  The man’s singing was completely out of step with the kid’s music, but he was in his own little world and completely unaware of them. Interestingly enough he won the war and they turned their music down. Their leader, a solid looking girl with red dyed hair, shot me an anxious look.  She clearly thought he was mad.  I guess madness trumps attitude.

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The girl without pants

On a freezing day of sheeting rain, a dark-haired young woman without shoes gets off the 1.44 train. Not only are her feet bare, but so are her legs. I can’t tell if she’s wearing anything on her bottom half. The shirt and hoodies she’s wearing covers her down to the top of her thighs.
I greet her thinking she might be one of the clients of the youth mental health service nearby and in need of directions.
“I’m hungry,” is all she says.
Figuring she needs it more than me, I give her the chocolate bar I have squirreled away for my afternoon treat. I can think of a number of reasons why a young woman would be out in cold rain with no pants or shoes on and none of them are good. She eats it and proceeds to wander around outside the station. After a while she comes back with a cigarette butt she’s picked up outside and asks me for a light which I can’t give her. She tells me she is off to another youth health service in the city. I am much relieved. Hopefully she can get the care she clearly needs there.
If she gets there o.k.
The train is late and for a long time she stands on the edge of the platform staring grimly into the pit. She’s calm – not agitated. Stoned? In shock? The Boss is visiting and she starts to get worried. So do a number of the other people on the platform, many of whom have children in tow. Everyone is watching as the Boss approaches the girl, asks her to come away from the edge and is told, “Don’t treat me like a Fucking Child!”
At this the Boss goes inside and rings Control. The driver is told to come in slow and on the lookout.
As the train creeps in the young woman leaves the coping and walks away down the platform. I shadow her ready to pull her back if need be.
But the train stops without incident and she gets calmly into it. To go where? I wish I knew.
Later that day I ring the place she said she was going, but I only get answering machines. I hope she’s alright. I wish there was more I could have done.

An Art installation?

 

For some reason 🙂 St Patrick’s Day last week made me remember some photos I took back in January.

Why were these bras hanging outside Brunswick Station? Could this be an Art work?  Somehow they didn’t look like it. The fact that there was a backpackers hostel and pub nearby could have been relevant.

I ride past the station on my bike every day and after they’d been there 48 hours, I undid them and put them in the local charity bin. (I noticed they were all the same size.  Relevant?)

I asked the cleaner who is a devout Iraqi Christian (from Mosul, poor man), “Did you see the women’s underwear outside Brunswick.”  He said he had but he didn’t like to remove them. “I thought they might be part of your Australian culture,” he added.

 

A charming thing and a disturbing thing.

 

On Friday one of the zoo volunteers told me she’d been working in animal enrichment all day – making popcorn for the elephants. Apparently they’re not allowed any sugar or fat on their popcorn. She left on the train before I could find out more – leaving me with a vision of elephants frolicking through vats and vats of popcorn.
That was the charming thing.
Then I listened with great pleasure to the HooDoo Guru’s tuning up for their evening concert inside the zoo. I remember going to see them when I was in my mid-twenties. They still sounded good. Then someone told me that their current tour is being sponsored by APIA – Australian Pensioners Insurance.   OMG!!! I’m 54!!! How did that happen????
Disturbing!

Inquiring minds want to know

So on the last day of the year a little old man potters into the waiting room  – carrying a pick.  I’m so curious and just a tiny bit concerned. What sort of person carries a pick on the train? Is he a miner? A madman? An assassin?  .

The old guy looks rather sweet.   He seems to know me – we must have spoken before.

“They making you work even now,” he says sympathetically.

“I see you are too,” I say, hoping for more information.

“Oh I’m still working on that primary school. But I’m a volunteer and can stop whenever I like,” he says and potters off down the platform.

WITHOUT GIVING ANY EXPLANATION OF THE PICK! ARGGHH!

I hope the primary school is still there when the children get back from holidays.

Happy New Year to you All.

 

 

A home for M and C

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I haven’t seen my homeless friends M and C for a while but, fingers crossed, this is a good thing. A couple of months ago they dropped by the station and told me that after five years on the housing list living in boarding houses and sleeping rough, they’d been placed in social housing. They both hope they’ll be able to get some of their children back. Terrific news! A happy ending at last!
M said – Now I’ll be able to make a cup of tea in my underpants and never have to beg again!
Then he gave me a cheeky grin and asked me for 20 dollars so that they could spend their last homeless night in a motel. I passed the money over feeling foolish but as the weeks roll by and I no longer see them begging at their old haunts, I feel more and more that it was money well spent. So relieved.
Merry Christmas everybody! And may all your homes be warm and cozy or cool and comfy depending on your hemisphere!

Alison Goodman

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Alison Goodman first hit the New York Times Best Seller list with the Eon books. Now she’s back with Lady Helen and The Dark Days Club.

From the blurb –  London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?”

If you like the sound of this, read on …

 

Tell us about The Dark Days Club.

The Dark Days Club (the Australian title is Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club) is the first book in a supernatural adventure trilogy set in the Regency. I think of it as Georgette Heyer meets the paranormal girl power of Buffy. Each book is set in one of the society seasons during 1812: Book 1 is set in London for The Season; Book 2 is in Brighton during the summer Season; and book 3 is in Bath for the winter Season. The trilogy is also historically accurate with some cameos from historical figures such as Lord Byron and Beau Brummell.  However, I have to admit that the demons I have created, called Deceivers, may not be so historically accurate.

What initially inspired you to write it?

The idea for the book came to me while I was on a tram coming home from a writers’ conference. I had been to a session about researching the Regency era, and as I sat looking out of the tram window, I idly asked myself what kind of Regency novel would I like to read now? The answer came in a rush: a mix of everything I loved about Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer together with the excitement and delight of a supernatural adventure. I scrabbled for a pen and paper and by the time I got to my tram stop, I had the outline of The Dark Days Club.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, I’m waiting for the copy edit of The Dark Days Pact, Book 2 in the series, which is due for release this coming Christmas/New Year. I’m also working on Book 3, and I’ve just completed a novelette from Lord Carlston’s point of view (the main male character in the series), which will be available soon.

How do you start out with your stories?  In the middle, beginning or end?

I write from beginning to end, and don’t jump ahead. My books always have an element of suspense to them and I find that I can build that more effectively if I write the book chronologically.

DarkDaysClub

 

What’s your writing process for your solo books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

Before I actually start writing, I spend a lot of time working on structure and building a strong through-line of cause and effect. Alongside that, I also spend quite a while researching. In fact, for the Lady Helen series, I researched the Regency era full-time for over eight months before I began writing the first book. So, while I am working out structure and doing my research, I also write the first chapter to develop voice and build a solid launching point for the novel. Once all of these three elements are in place then I am ready to roll. Generally, I write every day, even if life gets in the way and I only have time to fiddle with a few sentences. That way I keep the momentum. Of course, when a deadline is approaching, then I can be at the computer for ten hours!

I remember hearing your talk about your interest in gender relations in the Regency Romance.  Did you manage to explore it in The Dark Days club?

Yes, female empowerment and gender relations are two of my passions, and the Regency is a great setting in which to explore these themes. Women were, legally, chattels and were thought to have little intellectual capacity although there were many women at that time whose writings, art and social endeavours countered these misogynistic beliefs. In The Dark Days Club, the character of Helen’s uncle is a man who holds these beliefs, and I have based his attitudes on the writings about women that appeared in major newspapers and journals of the time. They are at once hilarious and absolutely awful.

 How do you go with social media?  What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have a website, a Twitter account, an Instagram account and Facebook author page. I’m not constantly on any of these platforms, but I do offer a writing tip of the day on Twitter, and post photos regularly on Instagram. I also post a journal of what’s been happening, book wise, on my website as well as maintaining a calendar of upcoming appearances. I don’t like to post minutiae about my life (I don’t want to bore everyone senseless) so I generally post when I have some news or I have an interesting picture to share. My focus is on writing the books. My tip would be to choose which of the platforms suit you best and post on those rather than try do them all. Also, if possible link the accounts so that posting on one will post on the others as well.

For anyone interested, here are my platforms:

Website: www.darkdaysclub.com

Twitter: @Alison Goodman

Instagram: @alisongoodmanauthor

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/AlisonGoodmanAuthorPage

 

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

Only three? Okay, let me try and narrow it down.

Anything by Joss Whedon, but in particular the Buffy TV series and Firefly. Genre blending at its best.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. So much fun.

The art of Francis Bacon, which is seriously disturbing, and the beautiful Regency portraits of Lawrence.

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Interview with Glenda Larke – winner of the Inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award.

This fortnight’s interviewee, Aurealis Award winner Glenda Larke brings her lifetime experiences of living in exotic places to the creation of wonderful fantasy worlds.

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Congratulations on winning the inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award for the best Australian speculative fiction series completed between 2011 and 2014 with your Stormlord trilogy – The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising and The Stormlords Exile. https://aurealisawards.org/2016/03/25/the-winners-of-the-2015-aurealis-awards

Could you tell us something about the Stormlord Trilogy?

The first book, The Last Stormlord, introduces a world where it never rains, at least not naturally. Stormlords — men or women with power over water — use their magical control to bring water to the desert land. Unfortunately, the Stormlords have been dying off and water allowances are being reduced, prompting unrest and rebellion. As the land is torn apart by war, the unscrupulous attempt to control the only two young people who might one day just have enough power to provide solutions. The story continues in Stormlord Rising and concludes in The Stormlord’s Exile. Along the way, there’s love, battles, bravery, betrayal, tragedy, compromise, and ingenious use of water magic…

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the books? Reviewer Jason Nahrung suggested your experience of living in arid climates like WA and Tunisia may have influenced your use of the theme of water in these books.

 As a kid, I remember a West Australian summer on our farm when a rat fell into the rainwater tank. That was our only drinking water. We had to drain the tank and rely on the generosity of neighbours while we waited for rain — so I’ve always known how precious water is.

We lived in Tunis in North Africa for two years. When the wind blew from the south, there would be sand heaped against the outer walls of our house — sand from the Sahara. I visited a town in Algeria where, when it rains, they distribute rainwater from the wadi when it flows according to how many people in each household. We were there on the first wet day they had that year; it was in December. Now we live near Perth W.A., where the waterflow into the dams that serve the city has decreased from an average of about 400 gigalitres a year prior to 1975, to last year’s 12 gigalitres.

We take two minute showers now, and don’t plant a lawn.

All that is what inspired me to write the Watergivers trilogy. It wasn’t difficult to think of a scenario. Control of water has already been a weapon of war; the dictator Sadam Hussein quashed criticism and destroyed the culture and livelihoods of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq by draining their marshes. Control of water is already an economic weapon. Who has the right to water in California: the cities or the farmers? Who can use the water of the Rio Grande: USA or Mexico? Israel controls much of Palestine’s access to the water of the Jordan River basin — imagine how well that works out!

I hope readers immerse themselves in the story and care about the characters. I hope they find the can’t put the books down because of the tale of adventure it tells. But I also hope that some readers think about the issues, issues which are already shaping the world we live in. Unfortunately we don’t have magic to fix things. We only have ourselves.

What are you working on now?

 I’ve just finished another trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, based on the idea that if the Spice Islands of Asia had possessed magic when Europe tried to colonise them to control the spice trade, there may have been a different outcome. The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger. (“Lascar” is a word given to Asian sailors who worked on European ships…) The trilogy has everything from pirates and sea battles to conniving queens, sorcerers — and a very sneaky dagger.

I’m working on a standalone fantasy now, as yet untitled, which might be the first in a series, if it’s successful. (My only other standalone was my very first published book, Havenstar.)

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

 I am a very messy writer. I did try meticulous planning once, but by the time I arrived at Chapter 3, I was way off the plan. I kept on thinking of better directions for the plot to go in!

Before I begin a book, there are three things I must have: an understanding of what makes the main characters tick; the ending (although it may change); and a vague theme — i.e. something that keeps the plot from running away in too many directions. I usually have a strong visual impression of some of the early scenes. But apart from that, I’m an explorer without a map, and yes, sometimes I get lost, I have to backtrack, or throw away the useless diversions. I rewrite a lot. (I always smile when neophyte writers ask, “How many times do you re-write? Two? Three?” The real answer to that is: “However many it takes.” Some parts will be perfect as soon as I write them; other parts might have 30 rewrites.)

As for how often I write: that too depends. Most of my books were written in between a day job and family commitments. I worked on a project basis, so when my day job was tough, writing was laid aside, sometimes for weeks. When job and publishing commitments clashed, things could get interesting. I remember reading the proofs of a novel at night in a pup tent in the rainforest during a tropical rainstorm — by candlelight. I wrote part of one of the Stormlord books chugging along on the deck of a slow fishing boat on the Kinabatangan River.

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Glenda Larke with friend

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Social media devours much more of my time than it should! I have no idea whether it’s terribly helpful with regards to selling books, although I try to keep people informed of what I’m up to. It’s so hard to assess what generates sales, and anyway, nowadays there is so much noise out there on social media that the occasional peep from an individual author just gets lost in the roar.

For me, I think social media is more important as a means of information and help (e.g. from fellow authors) to me. I value my online friendships because I find people can be so supportive and inspiring, even if we’ve never met. This is especially true of the Australian spec fic scene — readers, writers, industry professionals, convention organisers, etc — fabulous folk. Without them, I might have given up years ago.

You worked as a field ornithologist in Malaysia. Did this career have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. Birds had a big part to play in The Isles of Glory books, and also in The Dagger’s Path. I think those avifaunal story lines succeeded only because I know my wild birds…

As well as that, when I worked in the field on bird conservation, I saw wonderful places — islands, cliffs, swamps, rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers — scenes that inspired parts of different books.

 What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

It’s always been books, books, books with me (although I love classical music, especially 18th and 19th century symphonies, which I play while writing. I once lived just beside a path called Beethovengang…)

It’s hard to pinpoint special books out of the thousands. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising was probably one of the first to set on a path to writing fantasy, although I actually decided I was going to be a writer when I was about eight and still into Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!  Oh, and Lord Juster’s present to the King in “The Fall of the Dagger” was  inspired by the Burghley Nef saltcellar of 1527, which you can see in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

If you want to know more about Glenda try:
http://glendalarke.com

http://glendalarke.blogspot.com

Twitter: @glendalarke

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/105625628881/

 The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London