Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

More Inspiration for Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth – Blokarting!

Having been inspired to use salty landscape as a setting by a segment on a science documentary featuring land sailing, I decided to look into the sport. Lake Lefroy was a long way from home – off the beaten track, as they say – so I looked closer to home and found the Victorian Blokart Association. I contacted them and on a wet and windy day headed into country Victoria to see what I could find out.

I found a small group of dedicated blokarters gathered under an awning by a disused section of a country airfield. They looked a bit bemused by my explanation that I was writing a Doctor Who story and wanted to include blokarts, but soon one of the guys, David, invited me to watch him assemble one of the carts.

Blokarts are smaller craft than land yachts, developed in New Zealand and growing ever more popular worldwide. They’re compact and light enough that they come, disassembled, in a carry bag even I could manage to lift easily, and fit in the back of a Mini (or any car, really, but since I drive a Mini and this did look like a lot of fun, I was particularly interested to note the size in relation to my car).

The blokart came together quickly and easily, then David suggested I have a sail. A helmet was found, and gloves, and next thing I was having a quick, basic lesson. And a quick lesson was all it took before I was zipping… well, okay I was trundling along over the grass, which keeps the speed manageable for beginners… along having enormous fun.

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It was very easy to sail – just a steering wheel and a rope to manipulate – and if you need to slow down or stop you turn the sail into the wind and/or head for a resistant surface like grass. You don’t have to be fit or strong, so it’s an all-ages sport that’s accessible to people with disabilities. And did I mention it was fun?

A few weeks later I headed south to another meet designed to allow people to give blokarting a try. It was quiet at first, so I was able to zoom around a track for about twenty minutes. I found I liked the mental challenge of angling the sail to best catch the wind, as well as the sudden boost of speed when you get it right and the wind picks up.

I am very tempted to buy one, but at the moment I wouldn’t be able to get to the meets, as I got myself a persistent case of plantar fasciitis in my left foot late last year and the Mini is a manuel. Still, the blokarting itself wouldn’t be a problem.

So I’d like to say thanks to all the blokarters who generously answered all my weird questions or let me have a go on their blokarts: David, Russell, Brenton, Bran, Tim and more.

Some links:

Victorian Blokart Association

Blokart New Zealand – the CEO is the guy who invented blokarts

Some videos to show how awesome and accessible it is here and here.

This stylish video shows assembly and sailing.

A longer video featuring the inventor.

The Inspiration for Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth

In interviews about my little Doctor Who novella, I am nearly always asked why I chose the setting, so I thought I’d write a blog post and provide some links about the sources of inspiration behind it.

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Initially I only I wanted the story to take place somewhere very Australian, but not the sort of landscape you see in tourist ads. No huge red rocks or gum trees, white beaches or instantly recognisable opera house and bridge, but a different sort of outback.

I immediately recalled an episode of Catalyst, an Australian science show that has been running, in many incarnations, for decades. In particular, an episode where three of the hosts visited a Lake Lefroy, a salt lake, and tried land sailing before undertaking some scientific tests. The stark white landscape looks like the surface of another planet. Add land yachts and it looks like a science fiction setting.

That got me thinking about salt. I already knew about salinity, an environmental problem caused by european agricultural methods used on land they’re unsuitable for. I had pinned photos of awesome salt crystal caves in Pinterest, thinking I’d have to set a story in one, one day.

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So I considered the salt-related superstitions, stories, and sayings I could remember: tossing a pinch of salt over your shoulder, the story of Lot’s wife being turned to salt, the meaning of sayings like ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘rubbing salt in a wound’, taking something with ‘a pinch of salt’, whether someone is ‘worth one’s salt’. I also considered the properties of salt, adding flavour to food and its use as a disinfectant as well as for preservation (you could almost say it is time-travel for food). I looked up the health risks and benefits, and thought about all the living things that live in salty conditions.

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To expand my knowledge, I bought Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky and discovered how important and valuable salt was in the past, and how salt has been harvested over the years. A fascinating read.

Salt and salty landscapes are such a rich source of ideas that the story came together easily. In fact, salt itself was as much a setting as the salinity-effected land and salt lakes – and you could even say it became a character in the story.

If you are interested to know more about salt, salinity and salt lakes, or just see some of my sources of inspiration, here are some links to follow:

This video/transcript of an article about salt harvesting from another Australian program, Landline.

The video of the Catalyst episode that first got me thinking of salt lakes as a setting.

This fact sheet from the CSIRO explains what salinity is.

These awesome Giant Crystal Caves in Mexico.

Learn about the Lake Peigneur Disaster, and why it’s a seriously bad idea to drill through a lake into a salt mine. This doco has some amazing footage.

And to buy Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth, go here and select an ebook format.

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth Available Now!

I’m bouncing with excitement, because my Doctor Who novella, Salt of the Earth, is available from today!

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The Third Doctor and Jo Grant arrive for a well-deserved holiday of sun and ‘blokarting’ on a salt lake in Australia in 2028. Weird sculptures adorn the landscape – statues carved from the salt. People have been leaving them in the salt lakes for years – but these look different. Grotesque, distorted figures twisted in pain. They don’t last long in the rain and the wind, but they’re just made of salt… Aren’t they?

Time Trips – groundbreaking Doctor Who adventures by some of the most respected writers in the Universe. Short stories that are bigger on the inside…

You can buy it here or via your usual ebook retailer.

Supanova!

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I love Supanova! I wish I had the time and energy to attend all six each year, and make fans happy in all the lucky cities that host Supanova. Since I can’t, I’ve concocted a plan to visit a different pair each year, cycling through them. Barring illness, natural or man-made disasters, deadlines and overseas tours.

This year I’m going to Supanova on the Gold Coast and in my own city of Melbourne. Which means all the fun is just a few weeks away!

I’ll let you know more details, like where to find me and the panels I’m on, the week before.

Website Plans…

Recently I did a bit of scheduling…

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With a new book and an e-novella coming out in the first half of the year, and three events to attend, there was a fair bit on my to-do list including plenty that needs to happen here.

I haven’t blogged in a while because I needed to concentrate on writing Angel of Storms but I want to return to my weekly posting habit now. To prepare, I have plotted a series of posts to write, timed to coincide with book releases and events.

The website needed updating, too, and thanks to the art of delegation, it’s almost done. There is now a page in the menu for the upcoming Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth e-novella (due out March 6th!), as well as pages for the Millennium’s Rule trilogy books (though the pages for the second and third are just place holders for now).

The Report-a-Typo page has been updated, too, and some corrections made to the site. I’ve made little tweaks like moving the Facebook fan page link up to a more visible position, and updating the Featured Titles widget. And I added a little countdown widget to the sidebar to let you know how many days, hours, minutes and seconds there are to go until Thief’s Magic ‘officially’ goes on sale.

So keep an eye on the site – there are exciting things to come!