Who do you call good?

The title is a quote from the Bible, when someone calls Jesus “Good Teacher” (or something like that) and Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.”

Which from him has a multitude of layers. But it’s also interesting, given how much Westerners like to think of ourselves as “a good person”.

I think I may have found one of the conclusions this blog entry will draw: that no one is “good” but God.

However. That doesn’t mean we may as well stop trying.

[Sidebar: The way Christianity fundamentally works is that Jesus died in order to save us unconditionally ie as soon as we accept him we got our ticket to Heaven, no matter if we just ate a delicious orphan lunch five minutes ago. BUT if you believe Jesus is who he says he is, and saved us, and loves us… then there is a side effect on your behaviour. A goodening effect, but it comes from gratitude and love rather than fear of damnation or being caught.]

This blog entry is about white guilt.

I am what I call “Omo white” based on those overdramatic ads of a white SO WHITE that it shines like the sun. That’s me.

The more history I learn, the more I realise that my life is as good as it is because my ancestors did horrible things. So although I’ve never personally attempted genocide, I benefit tremendously from the racist work of others. (And I’m sure I’m plenty racist myself, too. But today I’m concerned with systemic rather than individual racism eg the fact that my name and skin is white enough that I’m more likely to be hired than an equally qualified person with darker skin, or an accent, or a non-European name.)

Guilt is designed to tell us when we have done something wrong. White guilt is trickier, because it’s (mostly) not ME, the individual, who did the bad thing. But it IS me who benefits. So we get several possible reactions:

-Denial. “I didn’t do anything wrong” (or sometimes, “I earned everything I have from my own merit; history/racism has nothing to do with it.”)

-Repression. “I can’t fix this. Better not to think about it.”

-Anger. “How dare you make me feel bad when I didn’t do anything wrong!”

-Despair. “The world is evil; I’m evil. Everything sucks and can’t be fixed.”

-Assuage guilt. This is where I sit, acknowledging that I benefit from awful things done in the past (and present), and others suffer—and that this is not fair, and concluding that I need to do… something.

Some options for action are:

*Loudly acknowledging the facts, especially where people are angry or in denial. (Much social media liking/meme-ing etc ensues.)

*Give to charities, particularly those that are concerned with global problems.

*Join protests.

*Vote for the left, which tends to be less selfish.

*Devote one’s life to aid work.

*Become a vigilante killer (not recommended).

So much of the Western World is obscene or fantastical to poor people in third world nations (or even homeless or otherwise poor people in the West). Here is my daughter and I on a Ferris Wheel. It cost over $30 for a ride that took a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 11.30.43 am

$30 is sufficiently alarming that we didn’t go on the Ferris Wheel last year, or the year before. But oh, the look of wonder on my son’s face as our gondola began to rise!

But… thirty dollars. For many people around the world, that is a month’s wages.

Should I sell all I have and give my money to the poor? Knowing what a difference my relatively small amount of cash would make in another country (a country that is poor because my ancestors and my politicians treat the people there as subhuman)?

Is it evil for me to buy gifts for my children, as others go hungry?

In Season Three of “The Good Place” TV show, the main characters discover that, as the world gets more complicated, it’s virtually impossible to do anything truly good. Five hundred years ago, you could gather wildflowers to give to your mother. Aw, how nice—and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But today, in a city, you can’t gather wildflowers because all the flowers are in someone’s yard, or public property (for everyone to enjoy, so you shouldn’t take them away). So, gathering flowers is stealing. (Sidebar: you can gather certain weed flowers, which my children do for me regularly.) So you can buy flowers… which means either driving to a flower shop (using petrol, which is bad for the environment and has a bunch of other issues) or using your phone (manufactured in a third-world sweatshop?) and having the flower shop drive (using petrol).

So even with the purest heart, it’s impossible to exist in the West without being connected to pollution/Climate Change (which of course is already hitting the poor hardest), sweatshop labour, and so on.

 

I’ve also been reading a very interesting fantasy series in which magic is literally stealing from the poor. If a person is healed by magic, someone else gets sick. If a beautiful building is made with magic, a building elsewhere falls down. And OF COURSE it’s the pretty pretty Elvish types who use magic to make beautiful clothes, and cities, and art—while the ugly orcish types live in filth and dirt because they are the source of all that magic. And beauty. And art. Eg if an orc has a beautiful singing voice, they sell it to the elves for a few bowls of gruel. They do it willingly, because the system is so crushing that if they don’t sell all they have, they will starve.

Ouch.

See, the thing about sweatshops is that people line up to work in them, because there is no alternative. Or the alternative is to starve. So they work long hours for not-quite-enough. Then they are too tired and hungry to do good work or to work safely, or to find better work.

Welcome to the cycle of poverty.

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 12.39.27 pm

One of the characters is a teenage white female human. She has grown up loved and secure, so when she discovers how magic works she is devastated and immediately challenges it. When she is standing facing the leader of the Elves, she chooses not to kill him, but to lay down her own life and trust that others will give up all they have, like her, because it’s the right thing to do.

Another character is her boyfriend, a black man. He knows about daily systematic injustice, so when he discovers how magic works he believes the only way to stop it is to utterly destroy the elves. Because even if he kills the evil leader of the elves, the next elf leader will still be in a position of power over the orcs. So even if the next elf leader is “good” they can withdraw their favour at any time. That, of course, is why the White Saviour trope is so insidious. Because it keeps the “other” on the bottom, and the powerful White/Elf type people on the top. (I really hope he’s wrong, because I don’t want the Western World destroyed. And I don’t want it to be subservient to other parts of the world, either. I don’t want to be the “other” that has to rely on the goodness of the more powerful class.)

A third character points out that they are acting as if magic is finite. What they need to do is not to destroy all that has been built, but to use magic in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the orcs, but benefits them.

That has a real-world echo. There IS enough food in the world, already. And we could definitely create more resources ethically.

And isn’t that a nice “out” for people like me? Because I’m not a scientist, or a politician, so what can *I* do?

I’m going to leave it there, for now. Mostly because I’ve written quite a bit. Not because I’ve actually found an answer. But maybe the idea that “helpful must mean I suffer” is innately harmful, causing more guilt and fear rather than usefulness. So that’s something, at least.

IF Comp: Roads Not Taken

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 2.58.25 pm

I only did one play-through of this story, which took 40 minutes. “Slice of life” is a good description because it feels autobiographical*—both because of the detailed storytelling (good storytelling) and because it has the rambling uncertainty of real life. A lot of hyperlinks add detail, and the writing is good enough that they’re worth clicking on. Other times there is an obvious hub where one can investigate several options and then return to make a branching choice.

I’ve been avoiding realistic stories because… well, ugh. Who wants to read about real life when they’re already living it? (Real life and I are frenemies at best.)

But this is clearly a very well-written story with a vast amount of options. I suspect there are certain choices that lead to a more positive outcome than I got (so people who like the genre will definitely play multiple times), but mine wasn’t terrible or unsatisfying.

So although this didn’t give me the escapism I look for in a story, it is fundamentally perfect (a few spelling errors, but not enough to detract from the overall tale). So it gets 4 stars. In my system, that means a story that is fundamentally perfect.

*I don’t believe it’s actually autobiographical (more than any other story); it’s just so well written it feels real.

Edit: I actually gave it a 9, because the scores are out of 10.

IF Comp: Dull Grey

Okay, so the title is very off-putting. Gonna play it anyway.

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 2.57.50 pm

I’m enjoying the simple but layered visuals, even if they don’t technically count towards my score (it’s all about the words). But it shows the writer has spent time on making an involving and professional story. Mostly, in my mind, because it means they’ve ironed out a higher number of bugs.

This took me ten minutes to play through once. I could tell it was translated into English because some of the phrasing was just unusual (not quite wrong but not quite right) and some mistakes had gotten through too. Quite a few… but it still felt like a well-written story that just needed one or two more drafts from native English speakers.

It is, as the name suggests, a somewhat depressing story. Which is fine. I made the same choice over and over, and that got me a fairly common ending. I gather than changing one’s mind can change the ending, but I don’t like the story enough to play a second time (only because of personal taste, not because the story is bad).

As I said, the writing is genuinely good throughout. I’m going to give it 4 stars despite the errors, because I respect the effort of translation done well. Some of the errors add to the atmosphere, actually.

Bits and Bobs from “Brass”

I spent last weekend at Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival, and the weekend before that at IronFest in Lithgow, so it’s been a wild steam-powered ride for the last couple of weeks.

But a few old pics related to HEART OF BRASS just came to my attention, so I’m posting them here before they return to the aether and vanish.

First, here are two pics from an unusual book review. Mawson is a bear, and one of my fellow Odyssey authors (he’s published under the more visual “Publisher Obscura” imprint). You can read his full review of HEART OF BRASS here. Here are some photos Mawson took, featuring his friends:

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass 2

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass

(This is the sort of thing that makes writers go “Squee!”)

Now here’s something I don’t think the general public has ever seen before: a picture that the publisher (Odyssey Books) provided way back in the very beginning of the cover-making process. This is a fabulous pic, but we ended up not using it.

You can print it out and colour it in, if you like.

Screen-Shot-2019-05-07-at-10.33.45-AM.png

Lovely, isn’t she?

Goulburn Comic Con & Wagga GammaCon

So I’ll be quite busy for the next 8 days as Goulburn Comic Con is literally tomorrow (free entry, Veolia Arena, 10am-5pm) and Wagga Wagga Gamma Con is literally one week later.

I haven’t been to either event before but I’m very excited about both.

Goulburn Comic Con is actually the reason my kids’ fantasy trilogy is accepted for publication. My publisher was there two years ago and came home desperate to have some more Middle Grade (roughly age 10-14) fiction. Guess who happened to have a completed middle grade trilogy sitting on her hard drive?

I literally received the physical copies of Book 2 yesterday, ready for Comic Con. Here it is!

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 2.28.17 PM

Or, if you prefer to see your books side by side…

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 10.58.15 AM

Look, I know book covers don’t gotta be pretty to be fantastic, but MINE ARE and I’m glad of it.

My parents lived in Wagga not long ago, and both my sister (of “Octopus and Family” fame) and I will have stalls there. ROAD TRIP BABY.

Right now I have the flu and I am semi-delirious. Tomorrow should be an interesting day!

Madam Alchemist

This weekend is CanCon, and I have a stall there, with the tabletop version of my escape room (now called “Madam Alchemist” since it takes place in a mad scientist’s secret laboratory). I ran five play-tests during the day yesterday, and all of them went off without a hitch.

I also had people approaching me asking about party and conference packages. I seem to have discovered a market. *blink blink*

I’m already developing a second room, scifi/horror/comedy called “The Amazing Shrinking House” (adjective may vary) so I can run two different games at the same time… and sell a “Party Package” that lets party guests swap rooms so they can do two in one night.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own products!

Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 6.13.11 PM

This is the CanCon setup; the stall in its entirety. Also corset and tutu 🙂

IMG_2180

It was nice to see fairly equal proportions of men and women, and this notice in the ladies’ bathroom:

Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 6.44.13 PM

Plus plenty of teens, some (usually slightly bored) kids, a range of age and fitness levels, and several gay couples and singles. CanCon is a happy place.

 

Escape Room

I have designed a portable escape room (with a tabletop version that I shall be running at CanCon this weekend). There will be more info soon, but here are some pics in the meantime!

It’s set in the same steampunk fantasy world as all my steampunk, but takes place at the same time (with none of the same characters) as “Choices: And The Sun Went Out”.

 

In case you can’t tell, I’m very excited. I don’t expect this to be a big moneymaker (apart from anything else, it requires a staff member—most likely me—to be present, which means I need to leave the house, ugh!) but it’s awfully fun right now.

I’ve run one test so far (with Chris, Lousiette, and TJ—yep, it’s child friendly), and have more already lined up ready to go.

Dogs, Goths, Kilts, Pirates, and Octopuses

Last weekend was the weekend of the annual Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. It’s always an absolute blast. The standard of garb at Goulburn is always amazing: corsets, top hats, pocket watches, waistcoats, bustles, crinolines, and epic boots galore!

I thought I’d do a super quick blog on some of the side effects of steampunk: some of the grand traditions that are steampunk due to pure coolness factor rather than any rational connections.

Goths of course.

Okay, that connection is obvious. Lace parasols and corsets for both men and women? Yes please! One of the many definitions of steampunk is that it’s what happened when goths discovered brown.

IMG_1109.JPG

(I’m sorry I didn’t turn that pic around the right way. I’m VERY tired. Not only was the Goulburn Steampunk Fair two days long this year—yay!—but I also just completed a 3-day speed game-writing jam. Over the same weekend!)

I believe I mentioned dogs. There’s a dog in my Iron Lights trailer (from the Goulburn Fair last year, in fact*) and there were loads of dogs (many in costume) this year too.

IMG_1096.JPG

Kilts and military attire are both well represented at such events (this year there were real cannons firing across the water, too!)

 

So if you like a man in uniform and/or admiring a man’s legs (or the unpredictable thrills of seeing men in kilts on a very windy day) then you should hang out with steampunks.

Especially if you like them sideways.

 

Ditto pirates and octopuses.

And reimagined superheroes/princesses.  I saw a lot of amazing steampunk Iron Men a few years ago. Lately lots of steampunk Wonder Women, and some really excellent steampunk Belles (especially at Supanova events).

My kids dressed as a unicorn rainbow princess (who then had her face painted as a kitten) and Batman (painted as a scary monster). As you can perhaps tell, my children are at the age when they’re very strong on external expressions of gender identity.

IMG_1204

Steampunks like cats too. Because steampunks are cool. So here’s a pic of Zipper I took today. May it please you.

IMG_6033

 

 

GUI ChoiceScript?

I just found out that various people are working on making ChoiceScript easier to learn and use.

I… probably won’t use these tools because I’ve grown comfortable with using CS directly and don’t want to mess with that (yes, I am old and crotchety. Shut up).

Here‘s the link to much usefulness!

Here’s Zipper, getting better at venturing outside (but still terrified by birds).

Me, me, me!

The brilliant writer and photographer Cat Sparks was kind enough to photograph the IRON LIGHTS launch at Old Parliament House today. If you’ve heard her name linked to the Canberra Writers Festival before, it’s because she was on some of the panels.

There are so many brilliant photos that I’ve decided to save this entry for pics that are specifically of me. Which is, not surprisingly, a lot. I suddenly have a million options for my next Author Photo.

The lady in the top hat is my friend, another Odyssey writer and also an editor for Iron Lights, KJ Taylor.

Tragically, Louisette was absent due to having a birthday party today. So no Sparksian pics of her.

Murder in the Mail Art Exhibition Opening

Today is Saturday, August 25, 2018.

Today MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY was officially launched with the beginning of a week-long art installation at The Front cafe & gallery (1 Wattle St, Lyneham, Canberra).

It featured all eight pieces of story art (you can see them here), plus several bonus pieces (three Octopus pics/puns from Annabelle Lee, who designed both the MURDER and MAGIC logos; a Ditmar Award-winning piece by Shauna O’Meara; a second portrait by Jane Virgo—of the famous writer Isobel Carmody; and one sneak preview of the MAGIC IN THE MAIL exhibition which will run at The Front on precisely this weekend in 2019).

And cake, by Cassie’s Custom Creations, based on the cake drawing by Shauna.

All the Canberra MURDER artists attended—Annabelle Lee, Adam Lee (yes, they’re husband and wife as well as being two extremely different visual artists), Jane Virgo, and Shauna O’Meara. (Tash Turgoose lives in Brisbane and Keely Van Order lives in Melbourne.)

I very much enjoyed having several of “my” artists in the same room, and although all the artists are scattered about Australia and the world, I was able to gather all but one of their books (Phil Hore’s book is soon to be published by Odyssey Books) which was awfully enjoyable for me too.

IMG_0886

You can see them all rather more clearly here, of course. It’s rather a respectable bookshelf—and all Odyssey and Obscura authors, naturally.

But of course you want to see the cake, don’t you?

Well… you can’t.

The above (and below) photos were taken on my phone just before I packed up. My good friend (and printer) Jason Tankard was the official photographer, and he took about a billion photos, especially of the cake… so I knew it would be most thoroughly documented… and didn’t take a single pic of it myself.

Here’s the art by Shauna O’Meara, if that’s any comfort:

Cover.BloodyCake

And here are some lollies. That’s Lindt on the table, and the mini trifle dish has Kool Mints, dark chocolate Maltesers, and Jaffas.

IMG_0888

But of course it’s the art you really want to see. This is a terrible picture, but it’s better than nothing:

IMG_0908

The art will stay at The Front for at least a week. If you like coffee, art, or cafes in general, go and check it out!

The food is rather good too (I was careful to test it, because I’m a professional in such matters).

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 2.21.32 PM

That’s ginger and sweet potato hotcakes on the left, and “AVOCADO” on the right (with sourdough bread, beetroot hummus, etc).

The crucial questions:

Did I sell billions of dollars’ worth of stories, books, and art?

Just hundreds.

Did I have fun?

So, so much yes.

Was the cake good?

Yup.

UPDATED: Here is the cake!

I realised alarmingly recently that everything I know about running an art installation I learned from Ocean’s Eight. So there were certainly some bumps along the road (to this day I don’t know what percentage the cafe gets from my sales… somewhere in the vast gulf between 20% and 60%) but the art is in a great public space, MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY is on sale there, and it was an incredible day.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling debrief of the Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights book launch at Kings Hall, Old Parliament House (aka the Museum of Australian Democracy) 2:45-3:15pm.

Or, you know, just come 🙂

Author Photo

Every so often I get asked for an author photo. Here are some that I use pretty often:

22072_270921942141_3752307_n

Nice and steampunky, but WILDLY out of date.

222786_10150250551320466_7646433_n

Amusing – captured just as the whistle blew, scaring the crap out of me. I’m actually (just barely) pregnant with Louisette in this photo.

Generally author pics want to see one’s face in perilous close-up, however.

14656311_10153766384276640_7537484359326292916_n

A fairly nice pic… but of course having a kid in an author pic is a no-no for anyone who’s not writing picture books. So this is what I use:

Authorpic

These two were taken by Cat Sparks at Conflux 2017. I had makeup on and everythink. Cat Sparks must be acknowledged by anyone who uses these (which is sometimes awkward).

Selfie taken on a miniature train.

IMG_2537

Selfie taken in the mirror, in costume, after my operation.

IMG_3981

 

What would you use if these were your choices, and you were an author trying to look super interesting and absolutely worth reading?

I think my favourite is the miniature train selfie. I look happy, and pretty nice despite the lack of makeup. Good hair and background, and looking away implies imagination.

I always take pics of myself at appearances (when I’m Properly Dressed) but so far they’ve never turned out well. Usually the lighting is bad, and I’ve begged a random passer-by to take the picture. Plus they’re generally full length, so even if my face is looking good it’s not high enough quality for an author photo.

UPDATE: The brilliant Cat Sparks (yes, her again!) took a billion photos of me at my latest book launch. These are the best, and I think the one that I accidentally posted twice is the absolute winner.

43554430344_74a9531555_o42463940160_c95fe3510d_o42463927780_e668c7a196_o42463903310_6ab5bfaffa_o43365902285_b86b3bc7c4_o42463940160_c95fe3510d_o42463927780_e668c7a196_o

Fan Art

Choices That Matter is a serial story hub app by Tin Man Games. KG Tan is the project head and editor. The stories are:

And The Sun Went Out written by KG Tan, Alyce Potter, and myself.

And Their Souls Were Eaten written by yours truly (edited by KG Tan and Phill Berrie).

And Their Heroes Were Lost written by Phill Berrie (edited by KG Tan and yours truly), which is still getting periodically updated at the moment (the ‘serial’ part of the app).

 

All of which is to say that there is a bunch of awesome fan art out there, and it’s high time I collected some here!

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 7.20.22 AM

This is Etienne Sole, one of the love interests in And The Sun Went Out. The artist is Frey. His website is here and his twitter is here.

 

There’s more gorgeous And The Sun Went Out art here (but I can’t figure out how to contact the artist).

And here (same artist as the above link).

If you know of more fan art out there please let me know. I’ll share anything G-rated (and I love knowing about it all, OF COURSE).

Reading My Reviews

It’s no secret that I read my reviews. I enjoy an enraged negative review, as a rule, and I pay attention if the same criticisms come up more than once.

Tin Man Games has an app called “Choices that Matter” on iOS and Google Play, which is an interactive serial story app. I wrote about half of the first story (“And the Sun Went Out”) with Alyce Potter and KG Tan, all of the second story (“And Their Souls Were Eaten”, set in the same universe as all my steampunk fantasy), and I’m editing the third story (“And Their Heroes Were Lost” by Phill Berrie). Google Play has a LOT of reviews, so I spent literally hours last night getting up to date. I made a collection of some of my favourites.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR “AND THE SUN WENT OUT”.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 10.43.36 PM

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 8.18.21 PM

It warms my writerly heart to hear that interactive fiction is making people get back into reading. We hear this a lot!

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.45.33 PM

I love the poetry of the first one, and the insight of the second. Gonna make sure KG Tan and the others see these ones.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.47.21 PM

This just amused me. More than once.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.48.17 PM

I kinda like it when people get hysterical with need as they wait for updates. ‘Heroes’ is still going strong, just slowly.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.49.40 PM

I adore making readers cry.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.51.46 PM

Chosen because it’s fun to see contrasting opinions right next to each other.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.52.47 PM

“Action-packed, intelligent stories shrouded in mystery” is quite the poster quote.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.53.07 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.53.24 PM

Yay, more crying readers. Love it.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.53.52 PM

Poor, tormented reader.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.55.02 PM

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.56.56 PM

It’s amazing how positive and negative reviews say exactly the same thing (except in reverse).

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.57.34 PM

I love interactive fiction for its inclusivity, particularly on gender and sexuality.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 6.59.24 PM

I love a detailed compliment. It’s always fascinating to see how people see the characters I’ve played a part in writing.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.04.51 PM

I wish I could reply and let them know that there IS a villain path in the third story.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.06.02 PM

That’s startlingly deep.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.06.24 PM

I love it when people favour “Souls” because of course it’s my baby.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.21.40 PM

I just love that last sentence. And yes, that is a sentiment expressed quite often. Yay?

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.22.02 PM

I agree 🙂 Phill and I both have novels published.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.23.25 PM

It’s funny how many people want to turn stories (my novels, too) into movies. I think “And The Sun Went Out” is unfilmable because of Moti, but my steampunk novels could easily be a movie someday (if they caught the right person’s eye, which is vanishingly unlikely).

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.24.03 PM

“And The Sun Went Out” makes a LOT of people cry, so hearing that “And Their Souls Were Eaten” had that kind of impact is absolutely wonderful.

The way it tells you how common your ending is, is a really cool & unique thing in this app. Kudos to Tin Man Games.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.24.17 PM

I love it when readers play a story over and over to get different pieces of the story or different endings.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.24.36 PM

Aw!

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.26.54 PM

A LOT of people (including the writers) want a Moti-con. I like this review because most people automatically default to male with gender-neutral characters, but Wendy has defaulted to female. Yay!

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.27.55 PM

I do write books! Comments like this are both great and frustrating, since I can’t immediately sell them a pile of my novels.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.29.03 PM

It’s funny (and good) how many people have an awareness of the game developers needing to be paid.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.29.28 PM

“Not epic” is a perfect burn. And then the next review is totally different.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.32.04 PM

*love*

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.33.23 PM

Turning people gay is *takes off sunnies* what I do.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.35.33 PM

It’s funny to eavesdrop on a discussion of story methods.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.35.52 PM

Same. We writers are just as in love with Moti as the readers. And yes, we cried too. And we badly want our own Moti-con devices.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.36.17 PM

I am also human *wink*.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.37.10 PM

Not MANY children could write a 600,000+ word branching narrative, but sure. You do you.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 8.12.32 PM

Lol, that’s certainly an up side to interactive fiction.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 8.17.08 PM

I love that she assumes a female writer, and reckons my novels would “storm the shelves”.

I get WAY more reviews (literally thousands more) for my interactive stories than for my novels. It shows how lucky I am to have been born in the right moment to flourish in the digital interactive fiction sphere.

Postcard from “Emmeline’s Empire”

Penny Blake of https://blakeandwight.com is just starting to arrange an “Author Postcard” series (starting in July, I think). I literally finished “Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire” earlier today so I was in the perfect head space.

This postcard is written in character, and designed as an ad for the story (and, because why not? for the Antipodean Queen trilogy too).

WARNING: This contains a spoiler for the general plot of “Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights”.

A3 Poster Emmeline's Empire

To Miss Venture,

I had not expected to find such pleasure in your company, nor to accomplish so much so quickly as we assist Miss Muchamore in her martial endeavours. Yet now I find myself longing to once again find myself beside the sea—and therefore beside you.

Here in the countryside the Australian heat is somewhat blunted by the surrounding hills. There are also several convenient river-side trees behind which a young woman like myself can take the waters in a relatively discreet manner. It is strange to think that this serene valley will soon be over-run by Her Royal Majesty’s troops.

Has Miss Muchamore told you she is writing an autobiography, beginning with the strange history of her magic-infused anatomy? Truly the 1860s are a wonderful time to be alive. Given that the first volume of her intended trilogy is entitled Heart of Brass it seems you and I will soon have one less secret to keep. In fact her trilogy is almost complete, which I confess makes me a little nervous, as the end of Miss Muchamore’s military campaign also draws to its climax. Does she think she is going to die?

My life has been somewhat different to hers. I imagine if I told my own story it would have to be written entirely in letters, rather than in the manner of a regular novel. Perhaps I should compile it, after all! I could call it Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire after Miss Muchamore’s small holding. But letters would not be enough. There would be pictures too, including your beautiful painting of Miss Muchamore’s sister, and a tiny model of our fort for the attentive reader to build, joining our rebellion by proxy. And jewellery, since it is both lovely and small enough to fit in an envelope. Perhaps a tiny heart made of brass.

Or perhaps all this is all a foolish dream. Who would want to read the letters of ordinary women like you and I? We are both of us side characters, not heroines.

And yet.

I think foolish dreams are the most interesting kind, don’t you?

With love from your friend,

Xiong

 

https://murderinthemail.net/2017/10/03/antipodean-queen-1-heart-of-brass/

https://magicinthemail.boards.net

 

Infinity War: Spoiler-Filled Impressions

I just watched this amazing video that has an amazingly high rate of correct theories about “Infinity War” (less so toward the end of the clip).

 

Now. Let’s talk.

I’m going to assume readers have already seen the movie, and need to talk about it.

There’s an entry here for those who just need to know who dies before they see the film.

The first scene established that Marvel wasn’t kidding about killin’ folks. I was aware that both Loki and Heimdall were at risk (for casting/narrative/contract reasons), and although both are fantastic characters brought to life by brilliant actors, killing them was the right thing to do to make a great film.

The writing throughout this film is tight. Sure, we don’t necessarily feel too close to any one character—that is the price of such an ambitious, hero-filled movie. But the film is fast and exciting and still manages to remind us why we care about each character in incredibly economic ways. For example, when some Avengers arrive in Wakanda and are greeted by King T-Challa, this happens:

Avenger Man #1: [realising the king is right there in front of him, and speaking under his breath] Do we. . . bow, or something?

Avenger Man #2: Of course. He’s a king.

Avenger Man #1: [bows awkwardly]

King T’Challa: We don’t do that here.

Avenger #1: [glances accusingly at #2]

Avenger #2: [grins at him]

This shows us a totally human moment of awkwardness, grounding the movie in an experience familiar to all of us. It also shows some of the character of Avenger #1 (the point of this example is somewhat marred by the fact I can’t remember which two Avengers were in this mini-scene), and his awkward bow, sideways glance, and realisation that he’s been had all show that he doesn’t think highly of himself, and that he can take a joke.

It also shows Avenger #2 has a wicked sense of humour.

It also shows T’Challa’s humility, confidence, and tact. He doesn’t giggle nervously or falter in the slightest when faced with other people’s nervous awkwardness. He clearly explains his ruling style & diplomatic relations in five words, and then smoothly moves on with more important matters.

Marvel is often criticised (these days) for ruining serious moments with humour. But humour used to show character (and often, at the same time, major plot points) is genuinely clever. It’s also Marvel’s signature style, and although I very much admire their courage in having real stakes in this movie (unlike so many), clever character-building humour is almost always worth having.

The characters in this film spark off each other beautifully. Thor (oh so masculine) and Star-Lord (oh so wishes he was half as masculine) are very funny together, and so are Iron Man and Doctor Strange (two arrogant geniuses).

There are man-to-man hugs in this film, which is special (even though the hugs are quite restrained, presumably due to the whole “World’s Ending” issue).

For me, the most emotional moment was when Spider-Man died. Now I KNOW he’s going to be fine. He has another film coming up really soon! But when he realises that they lost, and he’s dying, he reacts like a very brave. . . teenage human. It’s actually lovely seeing him absolutely fall apart. Tony Stark’s face as he immediately knows he’s failed to protect a child is perfect too.

Although I know Spidey can’t die at this time, he can be horribly traumatised. His innocence makes his so vulnerable. Besides, I saw him die, and I’ll breathe a little less easily until I see him in the next movie and know that he’s really truly okay.

Loki’s death was quite lovely too, as he tried all his tricks and mischief only to fail—showing his deep love for his brother in the process. He’s redeemed, and in such a Loki-ish way. I will miss him.

And poor Gamora, laughing in triumph at the idea that Thanos is too evil to love anyone. . . realising far too slowly that he truly cares for her, and that she is the key to his awful triumph. As always, she is ready to sacrifice herself.

And then. . . bubbles.

 

The end of the film was incredibly moving, even as we all know they couldn’t possibly kill off so many characters at once. The confusion is worse than anger or sadness, and it’s beautifully done.

I want to see it again, even though it hurts.

But most of all, I want to see Part 2.

 

These are the important characters in the Marvel universe, and my predictions for their futures:

Tier 1: Have at least one solo film.

Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk.

These are the oldest (from Phase 1), and thus the four most likely to leave the MCU, possibly passing their mantle onto someone else (eg Bucky could become the new Captain America). I’m pretty sure Captain America and Iron Man will die (or genuinely retire) in Infinity War Part 2. Hulk is clearly having trouble switching personas; perhaps he gets to retire and invent things. Thor is rejuvenated by recent movies and is likely to stay on for a few more, but he will need to quit at some point.

Star-Lord (very much part of a group), Doctor Strange, Ant Man, Black Panther (also very much part of a group), Spider-Man.

These guys are new and shiny, and it’s unlikely the MCU is done with them yet. Doctor Strange is the least interesting, and is extremely powerful. So powerful that he’s likely to get killed so he doesn’t just solve everything all the time.

Tier 2: Big Damn Heroes (just not, ya know, THAT big)

Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Loki (some of the time), Heimdall, Bucky (some of the time), The Falcon, War Machine, Wong, Scarlet Witch, Vision.

Hopefully Black Widow will finally get a solo movie at some point. Hawkeye and Nick Fury are both disposable at this point; they can retire or die. Bucky’s trajectory is upwards. He is now called the White Wolf, who is a familiar comics character, but that doesn’t mean he won’t also become Captain America. Not sure about the rest except I think Scarlet Witch will stay because she’s young and it’s a logical choice to use her as part of a literal new generation. She and Spider-Man are similarly aged, very attractive, and with EXTREMELY different outlooks and life experiences. It would take time for them to get close, and it shouldn’t be romantic (Spider-Man has MJ; Scarlet Witch is going to need time to get over Vision) but I think it would be really interesting for both characters. Other than that, anything could happen to the members of this list.

Tier 3: Part of the Group

Guardians: Gamora, Rocket, Groot, Drax, Nebula (some of the time), Mantis.

The sisters had similar skills and issues, so it’s possible we see more of Nebula now—but it’s more likely she simply goes off on her own. Rocket, Groot, Drax, and Mantis are all really fun. . . but it’d still be a great group if Drax and/or Mantis were knocked off.

Wakanda: Shuri, the queen mother Ramonda, Okoye (Dora Milaje leader), Ayo, M’Baku.

Shuri is the new supergenius in town. The queen, as a Parent Of Hero, is likely going to die (very possibly of natural causes) at some point in the next few years. Okoye, Ayo, and M’Baku are always in genuine peril. They’re in that sweet spot for being killed: interesting enough to miss, but not so much to stick around indefinitely.

Tier 4: Their plots exist in relation to the heroes (although they’re often AWESOME in their own right).

Pepper Potts (Iron Man fiance), Jane Foster (Thor girlfriend; apparently broken up), Peggy Carter (girlfriend to Steve Rogers; also became head of SHIELD at one point and had a cruelly short-lived TV series), Agent Coulter (recruited people; killed in the first Avengers movie but got better and has a TV show), Wong (effectively Dr Strange’s assistant), Nebula (Gamora’s sister and Thanos’s daughter).

One hopes that Pepper Potts and Iron Man finally settle down. Either that or horribly ironic death for one or both of them. Jane Foster may never be mentioned again. Peggy Carter died of old age a while back. No one is in love with Wong, so he’ll probably remain in the sidekick zone for plenty of time to come (although Doctor Strange comes across as quite cold, so the writers may kill Wong in order to deepen Doctor Strange). Nebula is unlikely to die I reckon. It would be too similar to Gamora’s death at this stage.

 


Here is my son yelling Wakandan war chants with me:

 

I. . . can’t stop.

 

A little piracy

Last weekend I ran a stall at CanCon for three days. It’s Canberra’s biggest board game gathering, and this was the 40th year.

 

I wore corsets! It was so exciting! And there was a T-Rex. I’ve already booked the exact same stall location for January 2019.

I also wore my pretty pretty princess outfit:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 7.15.34 PM

I didn’t actually take a proper camera. Most of these photos were taken on my kindle (NOT recommended, but awfully handy at times).

I’m uncommonly proud that I wore my hair three different ways over the three days. I’m often too tired to brush it before leaving the house.

My new and improved post-surgery body held up pretty well, although I was as careful as I could be while still staffing the stall. I rested a lot today, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any permanent injury to myself (I had a lot of ominous blisters and aches and suchlike, but luckily I have a lot of hospital-grade bandages which I used with great care, changing them every day). My wheelchair was handy because it made me feel comfortable sitting down (otherwise I’d feel rude), and because the armrests help support my back.

I sold a massive amount of books, and let a lot of people know about the free pirate ball happening on Saturday 17 February. My daughter also celebrated her 6th birthday on Saturday morning with a dress-up pool party (while my fellow author, Annabelle Lee, manned the stall at CanCon). Two of the younger siblings of her friends are BFFs with my son, so I took one of my favourite sets of photos ever:

These three boys are just as adorable in real life as they look in the pictures.

On the last day of CanCon I received the full set of illustrations for The Monster ApprenticeTash Turgoose does photorealistic pencils and I’ve been dying to see her work. Here are three small versions of some important characters: Captain Sol, an evil pirate; the heroine, Dance, coming face to face with a heest monster; and Ransom, who. . . well, you’ll have to read the books to find out.

 

You can immediately see that the fantasy world of Rahana was inspired by Indonesia. And that asking to have Tash Turgoose illustrate the books was a genius move on my part. I saw her book, Makeshift Galaxy, and I’ve been in awe ever since.

Why YES, she is one of the authors (and writers for that matter) for Murder in the Mail. Incidentally, I’m already taking pre-orders for Murder in the Mail. Details in the forum here.

The Monster Apprentice will be launched at the pirate ball on Saturday 17 February. It’s Book 1 of the Heest Trilogy, which is suitable for 10-14 year olds (and also people like me, that just like a great story). It’s likely there are more Rahana stories to come after this trilogy, too.

Sandy Fussell is one of my absolute favourite children’s authors (I own the entire Samurai Kids series), so I asked her for a cover quote for The Monster Apprentice. She gave me a selection! Here’s one:

  • The Monster’s Apprentice will transport you somewhere wonderful, unlike any world you’ve imagined. Caught between terrifying Heest monsters and murderous pirates, with only her name for a weapon, Dance must defend the ice island of Luar and its people.

She also said “I wish I had Felicity’s imagination” which is simply ludicrous. If you read any of her books, you’ll know why.

But I don’t mind a little flattery. I am a writer, after all.

And here’s the final trailer for The Monster Apprentice, for the three humans who haven’t seen it yet.

https://www.youtube.com/my_videos?o=U

 

My 2017: No wonder I need a lie down

What an epic year. I spent over 15 years of my life writing novels that nobody would touch, and now that it’s started to rain it’s pouring (which is a wonderful thing).

I spent vast amounts of time on the Tin Man Games “Choices That Matter” app (Google Play and iOS). It’s a story hub for serial interactive tales and it has over a million downloads of the free sample sections. The three stories so far are:

“And The Sun Went Out”

A near-future scifi which I co-wrote with KG Tan and Alyce Potter. It had 60 updates over 15 months, and clocked in at just over 600,000 words (longer than “War and Peace”). Each read-through is about 150,000 words.

“And Their Souls Were Eaten”

I wrote all of this one (edited by Phill Berrie and KG Tan), set in the same steampunk universe as my Antipodean Queen novels, but with a completely distinct magical problem (and taking place in Europe). The finished tale is 400,000 words long, and after that I had a nice lie down.

“And Their Heroes Were Lost”

Phill Berrie is writing, and KG and I are editing (oh how the tables are turned, hey Phill?) This is also sci-fi, but I don’t want to give away any more than that! Phill is still working on this story, and his fans are clamouring for each new update.

IMG_2537

I also wrote, edited, and published the novel “Antipodean Queen 2: Silver and Stone“, and will be finishing that trilogy in 2018 with “Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights” (that’s right: the title has changed since Book 2 was published).

AND my actually-rather-good pirate fantasy trilogy for kids (like Narnia, but with pirates) that I wrote many years ago has been accepted for publication and shall begin release with a free pirate mini-ball (live music, prizes, costumes, and everything!!) on Saturday February 17th.

“The Monster Apprentice” is the first book. And it’ll be illustrated, too! Plus (shh don’t tell) one of my very very very favourite Aussie authors is going to read it and give me a cover quote!

And I have three other very exciting projects coming out in 2018! One I can’t talk about yet, one will be published on the premium label at Choice of Games (they pay VERY well for books that make the premium grade), and one is called “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” and is a murder mystery told entirely through postcards, letters, objects, and art. That link is to the shiny new forum where readers will be able to talk to one another about who they think is the killer, and how much they love all the art I chose!

2017 was a great year for my writing, and 2018 is going to be even better.

I is happy.

IMG_4036

Things are looking up.

Dear Star Wars: Here is Your Script

I don’t often write fan fiction.

So this kind of happened as I wrote my thoughts after seeing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (I had so many feels it took me days to write and is 3000 words long.) It’s a VERY interesting  film for writers, and so of course I analysed it in that vein.

The full (very spoiler-y) article is here, on a shiny new forum I’ve set up for the “Murder in the Mail” series. You can read the article immediately, but you need to register to comment. (If you register, you’ll get about three emails a year about the “Murder in the Mail” series, unless you unsubscribe.)

The “Murder in the Mail” series is a set of cozy mystery stories (one story so far, to be released in August/September 2018) told entirely through letters, postcards, objects, and art posted to the reader over the course of eight weeks. The forum is for fun (discussing things like Star Wars, and so on), and also for readers to talk amongst themselves and try to figure out the identity of the murderer before the final letter arrives.

There is (arguably) a VERY mild general character-based Star Wars spoiler below.

Basically I figured out the One True Way to resolve all the possible romances of the current Star Wars trilogy. Because I am a genius.

Insert anti-spoiler kitty!

 

IMG_3975

 

Rose: *Takes Rey to a storage area where they can talk privately* So you’re a big hero, just like Finn. I guess you guys are… you know…
Rey: Um. *blushes furiously* Well I might sort of kind of think of him a little tiny bit that way. Maybe.
Finn: *Emerges bleary-eyed and shirtless from under canvas, and clutches it around his hips so the girls don’t see EVERYTHING* Rose? Rey? What are you doing here?
Rose and Rey: *wide-eyed panic*
Rey: You. . . heard us talking?
Finn: Me? Nope. Nuh-uh. Didn’t hear a thing. *Accidentally-on-purpose jabs his elbow into the canvas*
Poe: *Emerges bleary-eyed and shirtless from under canvas, clutching canvas around his hips, and hastily donning That Jacket* Oh, hi Rose. Hi Rey.
Rose and Rey: Ohhhhh! Er, we’ll just be going now.
Rose and Rey: *become best friends*
Finn and Poe: *adopt half a dozen children and live on a porg farm forever*

Pirate Ball

It’s official. I can wear corsets again.

IMG_3981

And with three book launches this year, it’s not a moment too soon.

Do you live in Australia?

Do you live reasonably close to Canberra?

Do you love the Narnia books?

Do you love pirates?

Do you love live music?

Do you love dancing (and/or watching others dance)?

Do you love dressing up (and/or seeing those who do)?

Do you love chocolate coins and fairy bread?

Do you love prizes?

On Saturday February 17th 2018, the first book in my tween magical pirate trilogy will be released with an enormous free PIRATE BALL hosted by the epic Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy.

They have agreed to run a pirate ball for their monthly extravaganza (7pm-11pm, $25) AND a free mini-ball/book launch for me from 6:30-7pm with lots of great beginner dances for all ages. My kids will be there, that’s for sure.

There will be prizes for best dressed, and for the treasure hunt.

There will be live music.

There will be professional dancers scattered among the crowd.

There will be wonderful and enthralling outfits both piratical and historical.

There will be free food.

There will be my Rather Excellent fantasy pirate novel, The Monster Apprentice, on sale and ripe for signings (along with Heart of Brass and Silver and Stone, naturally).

Date:

Saturday February 17th 2018

Location:

Canberra Baptist Church Hall, Currie St, Kingston

Times:

Free book launch and mini-ball 6:30pm-7:00pm including prizes and activities.

$25 full pirate ball 7:00pm-11:00pm

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 11.42.33 AM

Avast! Unlock yer daughters and belay any other plans!

Feel free to RSVP in the comments, and let me know if you’d like me to wrangle some discount ball tickets for you. I might just be able to find some… one way or another.

New News!!

To get discount tickets to the full-length ball (7-11pm), go to:

www.earthlydelights.com.au/upcoming

Adult Tickets are $25 at the door

Online Tickets are $22.50 for adults

If your friends buy online using the code PIRATES they can buy them for $20.00 each