Art for Schools

The full list of MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY contributors is here, but this article is specifically about the art from the exhibition currently showing at The Front cafe & gallery, with teachers and school principals in mind. I have chosen the most school-appropriate image from each artist to recommend (and have neglected Annabelle Lee because her books are too naughty, and I know she’ll forgive me).

These pictures are especially well suited to English, Art, History, and Psychology departments.

YES, Felicity Banks (yours truly; curator, head writer, and novelist) is available for discounted school author visits and the MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY story can be purchased here. It is suitable for 12+.

For schools/libraries, some prices are negotiable if the art is not sold during the exhibition period (especially if you buy more than one picture).

Michelle Bedford (Kija/Jaru people)

Full Moon Beaming

original painting

55 x 65 cm

$600 framed

Why buy it?

Because every school should display some original Indigenous Australian art. Michelle is a Canberra artist and poet who is active in the local community.

This is a great piece celebrating nature and it’s best hung next to a window so the specks of shining paint in the moon can be brought out.

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Shauna O’Meara

 Naomi’s Room

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

limited edition print

42 x 30 cm

$250 framed

Why buy it?

This is an incredibly detailed piece that works best in the context of the MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY story. I can include a folder/display version of the story so students can explore interactive storytelling.

There are five clues in the picture, some of which require specialist knowledge (such as written Japanese) as well as a large number of ‘Easter Eggs’ (such as books by several authors who each wrote a character in the story).

Shauna O’Meara is an award-winning Canberra artist and writer.

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Jane Virgo

Cattitude

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“There’s something you don’t know about me.”

original painting

42 x 60 cm

$500 framed

Why buy it?

This is a painting of Canberra writer Cat Sheely by Canberra writer and painter Jane Virgo.

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 Adam Lee

National Museum

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“I kept her secret because it was hers.”

 photograph

60 x 42 cm

$350framed

Why buy it?

This is a stark and elegant photograph of a Canberra icon by a Canberra photographer.

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Tash Turgoose

Hands

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“When I draw, the world disappears.”

limited edition print

30 x 42 cm

$250framed

Why buy it?

This minimalist picture shows how a skilled artist can use detail to render a simple image powerful—and that it is possible to draw hands well!

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Keely Van Order

Rorschach

fromMurder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday

“It’s over. And also beginning.”

limited edition print

42 x 60 cm

$350framed

Why buy it?

This complicated image has a million different interpretations. Is it wings? Faces? A blot of ink? A person could see a different image every day and never run out of impressions.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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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).

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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 🙂

Say what??

This weekend is the Canberra Writers Festival, and I have not one but TWO book launches.

Saturday is the official launch of MURDER IN THE MAIL: A BLOODY BIRTHDAY (complete with a week-long art installation) at The Front cafe & gallery (Lyneham shops, 3:30-5pm). It’s not officially connected to the Canberra Writers Festival at all, just happening on the same weekend.

Sunday is the official launch of ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS at Kings Hall in Old Parliament House (2:45-3:15pm).

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The organiser told me that Kings Hall had standing room only for up to fifty people, and  no catering available.

This is a pic of Kings Hall from the Museum of Australian Democracy (aka Old Parliament House) web site:

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So it looks like there may have been a typo in the organiser’s info. Just a zero. Nothing much.

The space is suitable for FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE.

From the MOAD web site: “The bronze statue of King George V in the regalia of the Order of the Garter has been a central feature of the hall since the opening of the building in 1927. Open to the public from the earliest days and situated between the House of Representatives and Senate Chambers, it was a busy crossroads. During parliamentary sittings King’s Hall was a hive of activity swarming with members and senators, officers, journalists, secretaries, public servants, lobbyists and tourists.”

It’s really just a foyer/hallway. But WHAT a foyer (from the same web site).

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Since then I’ve spoken to the organiser again, who assured me there’s lots of other stuff going on, and that his description of “standing room only for 50 people” was accurate.

So, in conclusion, the space is SOMEWHERE between tiny and enormous. We may or may not have a microphone. We may have all of Old Parliament House mostly to ourselves, or we may be cramped behind a column in the foyer. Anything could happen!

See you Sunday?

Book Week activity for pre-school to Year 4 kids

Last year, I wrote a story with my daughter’s Kindy class. This year I’m going one better (or at least noisier) and writing a story with my son’s pre-school class. This is a fairly fancy* pre-school, so even in pre-school the kids are encouraged to write their own names, and most can write the first letter.

I start off the class by saying that I’m a writer, and waving a book around—perhaps one of mine; perhaps one from their shelf (pointing out the author name in either case).

Optional parts of the opening (for older kids):

-Talking about how a lot of books have both an author/writer and artist/illustrator.

-Talking about how books can be true stories or made-up stories (fiction and non-fiction), keeping in mind that younger kids genuinely can’t distinguish between reality and fiction in the same way older kids can.

-Talking about how writers send their words to a publisher, who arranges printing and sends the books to a shop.

-Reading a book to the class.

 

The central message of the opening spiel:

I have written a book but it’s not finished and I need your help! There are no names in the book, and no pictures!

 

Preparation:

-A binder with lots of those clear plastic sheets inside, like these.

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-A title page and beginning to the story, an end, and a lot of pages that are complete (and interchangeable) except for requiring a name.

Eg. For pre-schoolers:

Title Page:

1R [or whatever the class is called] Story

Page 1:

One day there was a pre-school class with lots of friends.

Middle (many copies of each):

______ is clever.

______ is kind.

______ is strong.

______ is funny.

Final page: What a great class!     The End

 

I explained that there were four describing words and that all of the kids were all of those four things, but they needed to pick their favourite (and I also had four people—my two kids, and two teachers) stand in different parts of the room to gather their groups (the kind group, the strong group, the clever group, and the funny group). I was quite pleased with how gender-diverse the results were (although of course one boy said “[Girlname] isn’t strong!” and I said, “Yes she is!” and moved on).

Then I handed out the piles to each group, and had the kids write their names and draw a picture on their page, giving them back to me when they finished.

I put them back into the folder in random order, checked it was all legible, and then when everyone was done I gathered them back on the mat and read the finished story. Then I let the class have the finished story. (The teachers can photocopy it and email copies to all the parents if they want.)

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Feel free to use and adapt this lesson as much as you like.

If you feel grateful, buy one of my books from my storeThe Monster Apprentice is suitable for 8+ (it’s like Narnia with pirates) and the Antipodean Queen steampunk fantasy books are suitable for 13+ (with bonus bits of much-mangled Aussie history). In both cases, advanced kids can go ahead and read them at a younger age. I read The Monster Apprentice aloud to Louisette when she was 5, but skipped a couple of scary bits.

*debate the merits of early literacy training in the comments!

Magic in the Mail

The (first?) “Murder in the Mail” Kickstarter was successful, raising thousands of dollars. You can read more about that story here.

As you can probably guess from the title, this led to further shenanigans.

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There are currently TWO “Magic in the Mail” stories in development:

Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae

This is a tale of two missing magical creatures; a phoenix and a water dragon.

Phoenixes and dragons hate one another, so foul play seems likely. Their concerned parents team up with some magic-sensitive mortals to follow the missing “children” and perhaps save their lives. The missing ones have left a trail of art behind them (because an encounter with a magical creature inspires wonderful art).

It is posted in three parcels, and includes artistic objects which you’re going to love!

It is also 100% G-rated.

$50 plus postage (or $40 if you buy the boxed set in person at a conference/fair) through the store right here.

The first mail-out will be June **2019** but you can make preorders now.

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This beautiful anuragnathus (yes it’s a real dinosaur) by Alan Lam is part of the story—and yes, the Chinese character is both a clue and a red herring.

What does a dinosaur have to do with a story of magical runaways?

You’ll have to buy the story to find out.

Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire (mini story)

This is a steampunk fantasy tale set in the same world of magical metals as all my other steampunk, including my novels (in fact it takes place at the same time as part of Iron Lights and the game Attack of the Clockwork Army).

A Perfectly Ordinary (she says) shop-keeper named Xiong joins a fledgling rebellion headed up by the famous Emmeline Muchamore. It’s a tale of secrets, hope, aeronauts, lighthouses, an alternate reality Charles Dickens, and fruit ices for all.

$30 plus postage (in a single pack because I’m trying to keep it affordable) from my store here. Available now!

The first mail-out is. . . within 6 months of the first order. Probably more or less instantly. This story is a much smaller operation than the others. I’ll be feeling my way as I go.

A stripped-down version will be included with my third steampunk fantasy novel (available in August 2018), with just two black and white pieces of art included. The full version has a build-your-own hot air balloon, handmade jewellery and a steampunk song by the Littmus Steampunk Band!

Here’s one of the pieces of art. This is a print of an oil painting by Graham Gercken, who takes special orders.

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Since people tend to feel strongly about the genres of both crime and fantasy, “Magic in the Mail” has its own forum, here.

 

All my stories are available through my store here.

Murder for Kick(starter)

Last Saturday at midnight, my first ever Kickstarter Campaign ended, raising funds via pre-orders (and special rewards) for “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday”.

Mistakes were made.

One of my main mistakes was that, after looking at the Australia Post web site, I thought an A4 envelope thinner than 2cm would cost $1.

Turns out they cost $2.

Ouch.

Another was that I sent out my review copies too late. Only one actually arrived in time to get a review during the campaign (and that was mainly because I literally delivered it to her door here in Canberra). You can read that review here, and listen to her interview here.

Other review copies went elsewhere in Australia, to New Zealand, the US, and Canada. Last I’ve heard, NONE of them have been fully received yet. I do know that the first envelope took almost a month to reach Canada.

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(Review copies ready to get their postage on – John Scalzi is on top because his address is public.)

So, as I mentioned, the Kickstarter is over now.

I mentioned “Murder in the Mail” on a few forums when the Kickstarter began (int-fiction and choiceofgames.com, which I’m fond of), and there was a clear bump in US sales as a result, and a little bit of conversation in those forums.

But asking $40 for a thing that doesn’t technically exist yet is a lot! Even though this is dramatically cheaper than anything else similar.

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(That pic is review copies getting put together)

I also didn’t realise in my planning that Kickstarter’s maximum time for a campaign is 60 days. I’d been planning a three-month campaign (which included Melbourne Supanova, as well as giving the writing team more time to get certain bits and pieces done in time for those review copies). So that was… unhelpful.

I also named an extra-high amount because… oh, I can’t even remember properly. I need to sell around 100 copies to break even, but there are so many tiny expenses (seed envelopes, special pens, etc) that I would have to audit myself to figure out the actual cost (as opposed to the estimated cost).

That’s not quite true. I’ve been careful to record everything over about $2, and I do know how much I’ve spent. I’ve just ordered a bunch of stuff printed in batches of 100, so after that invoice comes in I’ll know what the actual total cost per 100 turned out to be (approximately; I bought larger quantities of some of the items because it was cheaper that way). Plus I know Kickstarter can take up to 10% (depending on… stuff I don’t understand enough to calculate) so I figured 100 x $40 = $4000; eh, let’s make it $5000. It all seemed so shiny and easy back then. NB: I don’t have to sell 100 copies during the Kickstarter to break even. Didn’t remember that at the time.

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(Louisette and I making up hand-written packets of sunflowers that we harvested from our own garden. If the reader plants them in late Spring/early Summer, I think they’ll actually grow.)

Ultimately (and very much saved by the loving support of extremely trusting parents and in-laws) the Kickstarter was a success.

I am VERY relieved, as you can imagine! Kickstarter has a rather exciting rule that if you’re not fully funded by the end of the campaign period, you get nothing. All the pledges already made simply vanish into thin air!

So that didn’t happen, but my parents & in-laws are unlikely to save the day so dramatically in future.

So…..

There WILL be a new story. This one will be fantasy, called “Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae”. It will have 3 parcels instead of 8, and although it’ll have a Kickstarter Campaign the goal will be much smaller.

I’ll also be selling special boxes/folders of “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” at all the conferences I attend this year.

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(An array of pretty containers for the story.)

Specifically, these:

Melbourne Supanova (April) in the Artist Alley stall “Aussie Spec Fic”
Nimmitabel Steampunk Fair (May)
Sydney Supanova (June) in the Artist Alley stall “Publisher Obscura”
GammaCon Canberra (August) in Artist Alley
Canberra Launch (probably as part of the Canberra Writers’ Festival) August
Conflux Canberra (September-October)
Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk and Victoriana Fair (October)

There will be limited quantities of the packaged version, so email me in advance if you’d like to reserve one.

You can of course also give me money pretty much whenever (at conferences or online) to get a copy posted to you over the normal 8 week period (or in a single parcel if you absolutely insist).

There will be one “lot” posted out in June-July, another in September-October, and then… more mail-outs sometime after that 🙂

“Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” will be officially launched in August 2018, and will be available to buy until September 2019.

“Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae” won’t be finished until 2019, although if you specifically want to order THAT story then just make it clear when you email me (and/or email MagicintheMailStories@gmail.com). Keeping in mind it MIGHT be cheaper than $40. I’ll probably have a price in a couple of months. I already have some REALLY COOL STUFF AND ART AND THINGS.

The simplest way to get the story is to email me at MurderintheMailStories@gmail.com with your ADDRESS, EMAIL (in case things go wrong), and PAYMENT DETAILS (eg “I just deposited the full payment into your account/PayPal, under the name “Bob Flibbertigibbet”).

Make sure to label your payments with something unique to you (your name and/or the name of the recipient). Labelling things “Murder in the Mail” will NOT be helpful.

PayPal: MurderintheMailStories@gmail.com

Bank details:
Commonwealth Bank (Australia)
06 2692
3320 8197

And here’s a spot the difference game. If you’re very familiar with the Odyssey list, you’ll be able to tell which author was recruited at the last minute from these two pictures.

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Many many thanks go to Shauna O’Meara, the artist, for altering that pic more than once after it was finished. And to A Certain Writer for enthusiastically jumping on board when one of the other writers had to drop out.

Both will most definitely be involved in the next story!

(PS I don’t think anyone actually will solve this picture. There’s a LOT of stuff in it.)

Murderous Kickstarter!

The Kickstarter for the first Murder in the Mail story is now live. It’s packed with unique rewards. Most are available anywhere in the world.

Murder in the Mail tells stories through letters, objects, and artworks mailed to the reader over several weeks.

The first story is A Bloody Birthday.

Naomi, your cousin, is killed at her own birthday party. One of the guests is the killer, and you have asked them all to write to you and send artworks to help you figure out who could have done such a thing.

Every letter, object, and piece of (quality-printed A4 size) art holds at least one clue.

There is a forum for readers to talk to each other at murderinthemail.boards.net.

I am the curator as well as writing one of the characters. There are twelve writers/artists altogether.

Murder for Fun and Profit

The Kickstarter for “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” was fully funded, and the story will be officially launched (as part of an art exhibition) in August 2018.

It is available for purchase in its “full” format until September 2019 right here, after which it will be available as a visual novel published by Publisher Obscura.

The full list of contributors is here, with pics (and book covers of the writers).

Here’s the trailer:

 

Here’s the same (nearly) trailer, but with me yabbering at the end. This is the trailer we used for the Kickstarter (before the store was set up).

Murder in the Mail is a story told through letters, objects, and artworks physically posted to the reader over the course of eight weeks.

The reader is a character in the story, invited to guess the identity of the killer each week. The Murder in the Mail forums are a place where readers can compare clues and insights, helping (or hampering) one another. Everything, including the art, contains clues to be unravelled.

The first story in the series is A Bloody Birthday.

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(Like the logo? It’s by Publisher Obscura author Annabelle Lee.)

A group of art students gather at a birthday party where the guest of honour is murdered. One of them is the killer.

You ask the group of friends to write letters to you, talking openly about what happened, and sharing art works they’ve done in the period of time before, during, and after the party.

People say artists show their soul through their art. . . now it’s up to you to discover the darkness inside someone you trusted.

 

There are eight beautiful pieces of art included with this story, all made by Australian artists (almost all of whom I scouted out personally here in Canberra). Every character is written by a different published Odyssey Books author (including Tash Turgoose from the Publisher Obscura imprint). The objects in the story are chosen to involve all the senses, and the art was chosen to be (a) Beautiful (b) Varied in style and medium (c) Packed full of clues.

For example, this picture has five clues in it.

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That beautifully intricate piece is by the artist Shauna O’Meara.

(Fun fact: This is not the final version of the pic. Can you spot the difference between this and the “real” one sent to readers?)

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During the Kickstarter period, there were a range of unique items for people to purchase, such as premium versions of the story or custom-made art by the featured artists.

There will be a very special launch on 25 August here in Canberra, and an exhibition at the Front Cafe Gallery in Lyneham (within sight of Tillies).

If you want to know more, you can email MurderintheMailStories@gmail.com or visit the official forum at MurderintheMail.boards.net.

You can buy it through my store here.

Here is another one of the artworks that will be in the story:

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It’s by Adam Lee.

Eight weeks is a long time to worry which one of your friends is a killer (even when the friends are fictional), and there are also some Easter Eggs and clues that are quite obscure. So go ahead and lurk and/or join the forum here. There’s lots of space to talk about other art and other types of stories. If you are an Australian or New Zealand resident and an artist, please share your style and details there. I will be actively scouting the forum for future stories.

I’ll be going to various conferences this year, and the first cab off the rank is Canberra’s biggest gaming conference, CanCon, in C Pavilion near the vast Games Library.

Feel free to come and chat, buy my books (or Annabelle Lee’s books), playtest some of my interactive fiction, and perhaps order a copy of Murder in the Mail for yourself or someone who would kill for it.

Oh, and there’s a facebook page here where at least one of our early reviewers will be sharing her first impressions.

Since the Kickstarter, I’ve been selling special box sets at all the conferences/fairs/etc that I attend, ie:

Sydney Supanova (June) in the Artist Alley stall “Publisher Obscura”
GammaCon Canberra (August) in Artist Alley
Canberra Launch (probably as part of the Canberra Writers’ Festival) August
Conflux Canberra (September-October)
Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk and Victoriana Fair (October)

There will be limited quantities of the packaged version, so email me in advance if you’d like to reserve one.

YES there are two “Magic in the Mail” stories in development right now! You can see more at the Magic Forum, and/or check out the whole store here.

THE MONSTER APPRENTICE Book Trailer

Yes, books have trailers now.

Yes—as is utterly obvious even on first viewing—I make my own trailers. It would actually be cheaper for me to hire someone else to do it. You can get a professional-looking trailer for around $5 if you know where to look. This trailer cost considerably more than that (I paid for music, actors, and three video clips).

The thing is, although I can barely navigate iMovie (or anything more complicated than a text document with a few hashtags and such for coding interactive fiction), I just adore putting together book trailers. For me they’re a great way to draw people quickly into the mood of the tale. And although I’m overwhelmingly not a visual artist, I admire it when I see it, and I like to dabble.

So without further ado, here is the first trailer for The Monster Apprentice:

 

NB: I accidentally deleted the rest of the credits on the Monster Apprentice trailer, which will eventually read:

With thanks to

ACTORS STEPH MATTHEWS AND ROBBIE MATTHEWS

BATTLE TRAIN MUSIC BY RJ WILX,

VIDEOS BY VIDEODIVE, CAPESCAPE, AND  VIDEOSTUDIO

This trailer kicks off a new series, for a new audience (children/tweens rather than adults/young adult) and is certainly has a different feeling and style to my other trailers. I’ve played it about a dozen times for my kids (and of course, roughly a million times for myself).

Here’s my other two (so far) trailers:

Antipodean Queen 1: Heart of Brass

 

Antipodean Queen 2: Silver and Stone

I will be doing two more this year! One for Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday (that’ll be interesting—the trailer will need to explain how it all works), and one for Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights.

Heest 1: THE MONSTER APPRENTICE

You can buy the first book here, and in all the usual places (both online and in stores).

The heest are enormous monsters that live in the magically-sustained ice of Luar Island. They are both more and less than they seem.

When I was eighteen years old and living in Indonesia, I invented a fantasy world called Rahana. It is a place with thousands of islands and millions of potential stories, where magic is considered to be just another trade. Rahana is like Narnia, but with pirates.

The HEEST trilogy is written for children (but is, as always, the kind of thing I love to read as an adult).

The first book is THE MONSTER APPRENTICE. All three books will be illustrated by the glorious talents of Tash Turgoose and Lucie Mammone.

You can order it into any bookshop or library, buy it on all the usual online retailers, or buy the physical book directly from me (signed*) here.

ISBN: 978-1-925652-13-0 (pbk) | 978-1-925652-14-7 (ebook)

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The cover is here!!

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FYI, if you haven’t read Sandy Fussell’s books, you’re missing out. I especially love the Samurai Kids series. She is also a fantastic human being, which doesn’t hurt!

Here’s the trailer, with sneak peeks at some of the glorious internal illustrations by Tash Turgoose:

 

And here’s the opening:

CHAPTER ONE

I awoke from a dead sleep – for once, a sleep without nightmares. My bedroom was pitch black and silent, but my heart was racing. Then the sound came again – a man shouting at the top of his voice. He pounded at my family’s front door.

“Elder!” The man’s voice was sharp with terror. “Elder, wake up!”

The night air was hot and still. My sheets lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. At the open window my curtains hung in unmoving black lines. No wind slid through to ease the stifling heat. My mane oflong black hair felt heavy around my head. I didn’t dare move.

Dad would check on me before he went to answer the yelling. Ever since my twin sister died, he was that type of dad. Whenever he felt worried about something, I was told to go to my room – to sleep, if it was night time. No matter how many nightmares I had.

He was forever telling me to be careful, – but I was definitely not going to miss out on the fun this time. So I remained curled on my side as if I hadn’t heard a thing. If he didn’t tell me to go back to sleep, sneaking out wasn’t disobeying him. Not exactly.

“Elder, please!” The man’s voice broke, and I recognised him. It was Watchman, who spent each night staring out over the sea. I felt my first delicious shiver of real fear.

Still I didn’t move. I stared at my curtains, since they were directly in front of me. The black stripes looked like prison bars. Everyone  single person on the island had jail-bar curtains, since only one ship had brought curtains to Luar in twenty years. Dad could have organised more traders, but he chose instead to keep Luar Island as secret as possible. He wanted everyone to be safe.

Watchman hammered again on our heavy wooden door. I held my breath. Something was happening, and I was going to find out what it was – no matter what.

My bad eye skittered to the side, giving me half a view of the three carved masks hung on hooks on my wall – my most recent school project, worth a king’s ransom on any other island. Luar Island’s odd trees didn’t grow anywhere else – only magic could excuse the fact that explain how they grew at all – and as a result Luar’s art was more delicately carved than anywhere else in the world. And more valuable. We only used it for art – never for houses or burning. And on Luar, everyone was an artist.

“Elder!” cried Watchman. “Elder!”

“I’m here!” Dad called back.

The air tasted thick, like porridge. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of my own sweat, and listened to Dad’s measured footsteps. Dad never hurried anywhere. My door shushed in and out as he checked on me and then went to answer Watchman. Yellow light from his candle danced beneath my door, casting monstrous shadows.

After I counted three of his footsteps, I placed my own feet one by one on the cool trader wood of the floor. I slipped my shoes out from under the bed and put them on, lacing them tightly. Biting my lip, I ignored the clumsiness of my shaking hands.

If Dad called me I’d be dressed and ready: a proper daughter to Luar’s Elder. Just like my sister would have been.

If he didn’t call me, there was always the window.

The front door squeaked as it opened. Watchman stopped yelling. Usually he spent the night huddled on the far hilltop, keeping an eye out for the rare ships that knew to bring grain or cloth to trade for our precious carvings. It was his job to light the beacon fire to guide them to shore.

“Raise the village,” he gasped. “Pirates!”

 

Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights

That’s right! The title has changed.

This is the final book in my magical steampunk trilogy. The first book is HEART OF BRASS and the second is SILVER AND STONE.

You can buy IRON LIGHTS here or a full Steam & Sorcery pack here (it includes all three novels, and the full version of Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire), or at Dymocks Belconnen.

It’ll be all over the place, in both print and digital formats, this October.

Emmeline Muchamore was respectable once. Her sweetheart, Matilda Newry, certainly put a stop to that. But when Emmeline gains magical insight into a disastrous future battle, she weaponises her wild reputation in order to draw trouble and death away from her adopted home…risking everything and everyone she loves in the process.

Iron Lightsis a steam-powered tale of honour, love, magic, adventure, and mechanical spiders.

The book was launched at the Canberra Writers’ Festival (26 August 2018) and is now available in paperback via my store. Digital versions at Amazon etc will be out soon.

ISBN: 9781925652444 (paperback)

The Iron Lights of the title refer to two famous historical lighthouses which play a vital role in the tale. There will be new and dangerous magic, another evolution of the flying machine, a clockwork army, and [redacted].

Here’s the opening:

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If you’re worried that you won’t have any more of my books to impatiently wait for. . . don’t. I have another full trilogy already written and edited and waiting in the wings.

When I was eighteen years old and living in Indonesia, I invented a fantasy world called Rahana. It is a place with thousands of islands and millions of potential stories, where magic is considered to be just another trade. It’s best described as being a lot like Narnia, but with pirates.

The HEEST trilogy is written for children (but is, as always, just the kind of thing I love to read).

The first book is THE MONSTER APPRENTICE.

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.

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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.

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Things are looking up.

Pirate Ball

It’s official. I can wear corsets again.

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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

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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

What I earned this year

Full-time writers in Australia have an average income of around $12,000 (I know, yikes). In Canberra, which has a lot of good public service jobs, the average income is around $52,000.

I just did my taxes, and worked out that I earned just under $20,000 last financial year while working full-time. 100% of that came from writing (the vast majority from interactive fiction). So depending on one’s perspective, that’s either really impressively awesome, or shockingly awful.

If I was healthy and single and childless, I could probably survive on $20,000 a year. It wouldn’t be easy, but I’ve lived on the edge before. (I once spent $5/week on food for several months—but that was certainly not sustainable, even for a young and healthy person during friendly weather.) On the other hand, if I’d been babysitting for the same number of hours I spent writing, I’d have earned at least twice as much.

So, again, whether it’s awesomely good or awesomely bad is a matter of perspective.

It should be noted that I’m not healthy, or single, or childless. I keep a complicated house running fairly smoothly, and I look after two little people (and, in some respects, Chris—he is my carer in many ways, and I am his in some ways too). I am overwhelmingly not a healthy person, and some days I barely function at all.

So. $20,000. It’s both a huge and a tiny amount, and it’s $20,000 more than I earned for most of my writing career. Plus I can say “writing career” without sarcastic quotes these days.

It’s in my nature to always push myself for more. I’m sure that if I earned $100,000 last financial year I’d be looking for ways to earn more, or work less, or something. A lot of creative people look at others and think, “Wow. If my career was where theirs is, I’d be so satisfied!” I definitely remember specifically aiming for the impossible amount of $20,000/year at some point—a point at which $20,000 was as laughable as $100,000 is now.

I also have a book published—two, in fact, and at least four more on the way. I’m so famous that people seek me out at conferences, waiting for my latest book. I get fan mail quite often. I get people—quite a few people—saying “This is the best story I’ve ever read”. I even get actual reputable game companies emailing me to offer me work (I have two REALLY COOL projects on the go at the moment that I can’t talk about). My income doesn’t even cover our mortgage (or the medical expenses of this year), but why should it? I’m the closest thing to a stay at home parent our household has, so I’m doing a bunch of important and often difficult work before I earn a cent.

Have I convinced you that I’m not just messing around with this writing thing (after more than twenty years of devoting myself to the craft)? More importantly, have I convinced myself? Maybe a little bit. Certainly it’s time to pause and celebrate how far I’ve come, and to shift some of my pile of insecurities into the “irrational” pile.

So, yay. Much yay. And I suspect this financial year will be even better!

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Artist’s impression of a life of leisure.

List of all my Interactive Fiction

I make most of my writing income from interactive fiction. (As soon as I say “writing income” out loud, my fellow authors want to know more.)

Most people who find me via my blog know me as a novelist, so I’ll pitch this entry as if you’re hearing about modern IF (interactive fiction) for the first time.

[If you’re looking for Murder in the Mail or Magic in the Mail, click here or scroll down the the end of this entry for info. Or just buy them from my store.]

I’m collecting fan art here.

It’s a lot like those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books from the 80s, which would give readers a choice every few pages. Some ‘Goosebumps’ stories also let readers steer the story. The main difference is that almost all modern IF is released as a digital app. Not only is it outrageously popular (everyone loves an app), but the digital format gives it an amazing potential for more subtle, personal choices such as gender, sexuality, and even the main character’s name.

Almost all of my interactive fiction is listed under my name on the Interactive Fiction Database. That’s a great place to find reviews and ratings.

If you’re attempting to read every steampunk tale I’ve written (aka “Steam & Sorcery”, which includes the “Antipodean Queen” novel trilogy) in a logical order, there’s a reading guide here. Everything steampunk in this list is underlined.

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Cover image provided by Michael Estrada, with permission.

After the Flag Fell is a nice gentle way to get into modern IF, mostly because it’s so old-school that you can literally print it out. It’s also short, and free. (I edited it a little after it won the Windhammer Contest, and tacked it onto the HEART OF BRASS novel.) You can read it online here. Be warned, though, that there are spoilers if you haven’t read the novel. It’s a fascinating tale based on the true history of the real-life Peter Lalor.

Escape From the Female Factory is even more user-friendly than “After the Flag Fell”, since it has no statistics or inventory at all. It is also a printable short story, since I wrote it especially to go with the SILVER AND STONE novel. I planned to convert it into Twine and enter it in the 2017 IF Comp, but I ran out of time. I may expand and digitalise it some day. There are spoilers if you haven’t read the novel. It’s a story that branches with every choice, and gives you many many many tragic endings—and two good ones. You play a suffragette in a women’s prison trying to stay alive, keep your friends alive, and gain your freedom.

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Scarlet Sails is a Hosted Game (hosted by Choice of Games, but not under their premier label) that can be read on your browser or virtually any device. It placed seventh in the IF Comp 2015, and that version is free to read on your browser here. I wrote a lot more before publishing it here (click through to see all the different formats). It is a pirate game filled with violence, drinking, mutineers, and monsters. You can choose to embrace or defy the pirate lifestyle in a variety of ways.

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Choices That Matter is a serial story app released by Tin Man Games. I came on board as co-writer on Arc 4 of “And The Sun Went Out” (with Alyce Potter and KG Tan; KG is also the project head and final line of editing), wrote “And Their Souls Were Eaten“, and I’m editing “And Their Heroes Were Lost” (written by Phill Berrie, who edited “Souls”), which will be completed in 2018. Google Play and iOS have different payment systems; on Google Play you can earn “choice tickets” by watching ads, and avoid payment altogether. But it takes a long time.

And the Sun Went Out” is a near-future scifi in which the sun vanished for three hours and then reappeared. Scientists around the world are getting murdered, and it’s your job to try and find out whether the sun is back for good… or not so much. You are also educating Moti, an AI character that looks like a smart watch (and if you have an apple watch, you can choose to have Moti ‘speak’ to you through the watch).

“And Their Souls Were Eaten” is my longest and most popular story. It’s steampunk fantasy set in 1837 Europe. You’ve spent years living a solitary life, avoiding both your costly magical destiny and the horrifyingly intelligent albino bear that is stalking your family and has already killed your sister. But your quiet life is over, and it’s up to you what you do next.

And Their Heroes Were Lost” is a scifi tale that I can’t say too much about. You wake up in what people call ‘Camp Amnesia”, unable to remember anything about yourself—even your own name. It soon becomes clear that there’s a reason you and the others are separated from the other prisoners.

Attack of the Clockwork Army is the first ChoiceScript story I ever wrote. I remain proud of the ‘fatal flaw’ innovation, and the epilogue. It’s steampunk fantasy set mainly in Australia. Your long-dead sister is alive and asking you to come to Australia, where tensions are running high between the British and the colonials. It soon becomes clear that you’re about to land right in the middle of the war for a nation… but who will you fight for?

Stuff and Nonsense was originally written as a live-action roleplaying game (similar to those ‘Murder Mystery Dinner’ board games). I converted it to Twine and added a bunch of pictures (and, be warned, some abrupt music at the end). It’s very silly, and is best enjoyed as a side trip away from the other steampunk tales. You’re part of a band of colonial rebels visiting an Australian Grand Exhibition, and Queen Victoria herself is set to visit.

Starship Adventures (here) and Lost in the Pages (here) are both games I wrote with other people. They’re both Hosted Games, so you can click through to read them on your browser or see the wide variety of app stores where they’re available.

“Starship Adventures” is a retro scifi space adventure complete with carnivorous plants, strategically-ripped uniforms, and (if you like) a floral unitard for you to do your heroics in.

“Lost in the Pages” is a book-portal story. You travel through a range of very different stories trying to rescue your eccentric Uncle Irwin from a malevolent force.

Home/Sick was edited and used in the collaborative game Lost in the Pages. I think there’s an early version of it via here, that was written in three hours for a contest.

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Enchanted (here, and free I think) is a story told entirely through SMSes (including a soundtrack I rather like, and many images). Warning: Time delays are part of the story! I’ve lost track of how people are actually able to play it. Kik messenger is best, facebook seemed clumsy to me, and there may be other places. If you figure it out, let me know.

If you play it, you need to pick one romantic interest and stick with it, or the story won’t make sense. You’re a young adult in a small town in which there are vampires, witches, and were-creatures. They all get alone fine… sorta. Along the way you’ll find out what kind of creature you are, who loves you, and some of the many dangers lurking in your peaceful magical backwater.

Counting Spoons (free here) is a game about a day in the life of a mentally & physically ill person. It needs an edit but I’m scared to re-read it because of the topic (thinking about depression makes me depressed, which is why it’s short). It was originally written for the Noted festival 2016.

 

And now for something completely different.

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Murder in the Mail is a murder mystery series told entirely through letters, objects, and art sent through the physical mail over the course of several weeks. The first story is A Bloody Birthday, which will have a Kickstarter Feb 17-end May 2018, and will be officially released on 25 August. The “pure” physical version will end 13 months after release, so get it while you can. The whole story costs just $40 including postage, and there’s more info here and a designated forum here.

Magic in the Mail is similar, but fantasy. There are two stories in development. The mini story “Emmeline’s Empire” will be available by June 2018 (but mail-out times will vary depending on jewellery supplies). “Feuding Fae” will have its first mail-out in June 2019.

More info here, and the magic forum is here.

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Antipodean Queen 2: SILVER AND STONE

SILVER AND STONE is the middle book of my Australian steampunk fantasy trilogy, which began with HEART OF BRASS and will end in 2018 with IRON LIGHTS.

You can buy SILVER AND STONE here (I’ll even sign it for you), or the full STEAM & SORCERY pack here (all three novels plus the full version of Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire).

If that embedded video doesn’t work, you can also watch the trailer here (it includes a fast-and-dirty explanation of steampunk, and features my daughter).

Silver and Stone cover

Like to read the back cover? Here it is:


Getting into prison is easy.
Getting out is hard.
Getting away is nearly impossible.
Getting the power to control your own destiny might cost everything you have.

Emmeline, Matilda, and Patrick are sworn to rescue Patrick’s mother from the infamous Female Factory prison, but when a vengeful police officer tracks down their hideout, things get worse fast.

Soon they’re framed for a double murder and fighting a magical monster in the eerie and unfamiliar island of Tasmania. Patrick’s mother hides crucial papers in a tin under her prison smock, and her best friend Fei Fei is dying in the overcrowded prison.

More than one woman’s life hangs in the balance.


You can order it via Odyssey Books or Amazon US, or Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound, or Amazon Australia. It’s also for sale through Kobo, Abe Books, and The Book Depository.

As a rule, it’s easier to search for “Felicity Banks” than “Silver and Stone”.

The ISBN is 978-1-925652-20-8 (pbk) | 978-1-925652-2-15 (ebook)

You can use that number to quickly and easily order it into any bookshop you like. Most Australian bookshops and libraries should stock it already. If you’re in Canberra, Harry Hartog’s in Woden does a good job of keeping my books in stock.

SILVER AND STONE can always be bought in physical form directly through the publisher (who will post it to you—Odyssey is linked to printers in Australia, the US, and the UK, so if you’re in one of those nations the postage cost will be domestic).

It is extremely helpful to me for readers to leave reviews at Amazon and/or Goodreads. The more you say why you like/dislike it, the more other readers will know if it suits them or not. I do read reviews but I’m not bothered by negative ones (sometimes I even learn something), so go ahead and be honest!

Like a sample?


CHAPTER ONE

I don’t deliberately make things explode.

Patrick O’Connell stomped on the trap door above my head. Bang, bang, bang.

Three bangs was Patrick’s signal for ‘May I come in?’ He was quite well-mannered for a bushranger―or perhaps by now he’d simply walked in on Matilda and I kissing one too many times. I grabbed my six-foot iron poking stick and tapped the three bangs back to him through the ceiling to indicate he was welcome to enter.

The trap door creaked open and Patrick looked down at me, shaking his head like a disappointed parent. ‘How do you expect me to get the grease out of that dress?’

I looked down and noticed that my apron had, as usual, failed to protect my clothing. There were several spots of oil here and there, as well as dust and soot and tiny burn marks from my magically altered and occasionally self-combusting rats.

‘I don’t expect you to get the grease out,’ I said. ‘We’ll buy a new one next time we go to town.’

He grunted in reply and descended the ladder to pass me a tin mug of black tea. I tasted it, noting there was plenty of honey, just the way I liked it. So he wasn’t truly cross after all, just anxious. Patrick had good reason to be tense, given his mother’s location. He cast a glance over my desk, which lined the entire underground room on four sides. I resisted the urge to hide certain diagrams. It wouldn’t have done any good, since I’d already made several models and was experimenting to see whether the effects of magical metal scaled consistently between miniature and life-size machines.

I had to get it right―for Patrick more than anyone. His mother was a suffragette trapped in Tasmania’s ‘Female Factory’ prison, and we were going to get her out. All I had to do was figure out how to extract Mrs O’Connell without getting us all killed.

Patrick moved closer to the largest of my models: a steel train engine featuring twenty segmented metal legs designed to compensate for difficult terrain and/or a lack of railway tracks. The black silk balloon linked to the train’s roof was potentially useful to reduce the train’s weight and perhaps even harvest the heated air from the engine―but that was assuming Patrick let me cannibalise his precious hot air balloon for a radical new method of travel. From what I’d heard, Tasmania was much more inclined to dramatic vistas than was entirely convenient.

‘Are you sure it’s safe?’ he asked, rubbing his hands through his hair and making it stick up like straw. He chose not to say aloud what we were both thinking: There was little point in rescuing Shauna O’Connell only to burst into flames immediately afterward.

‘Not yet,’ I said stiffly. ‘I’m pushing the boundaries of what is possible.’

‘Hmm.’ He eyed the largest of the craters in the wall and rubbed the gunpowder burn on his cheek.

‘Would you like to see the train working?’ I asked, popping my goggles over my eyes in preparation.

‘Err. . . maybe when it’s ready for an open-air display,’ he said, and went back toward the trap door just as someone else stomped on it three times. Bang, bang, bang.

Patrick waited as Matilda descended, then he went back up the ladder into his father’s house.

Matilda examined me with a proprietary air. ‘You look unusually tidy today, but never fear―that’s easily fixed.’

She removed the pins from my hair one by one, and my red curls tumbled over my shoulders and just touched the top of my brass corset. I wore magical brass when I wanted its help to notice the most elusive details of my experiments, but sometimes it just made me notice Matilda more forcefully than ever. Matilda and I had both been working hard, knowing all the while that every delay meant another day of misery for Mrs O’Connell. Now that she was close my corset heated up, making me flush, and then deliberately opened all my senses to the woman I loved. Brass can be impertinent, and I wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation to be distracted.

Matilda smelled of smoke and eucalyptus from her time spent burning off the nearby forest: a delicious mixture of our temporary outback home all tangled up with elemental fire. And she smelled of her own unique spice, making me want to lean forward and inhale until I swooned. Her coppery-brown eyes shone in the lantern-light, ready to laugh. Her lips parted. Her breath quickened. . .

I kissed her, and forgot I was holding a square of tin. It binged in emphatic delight, and I dropped it, hoping to defuse its magical enthusiasm. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except it landed on one of my rats, who immediately combusted in surprise, burning yet another large hole in the wooden floor. The tin parped in distress and Matilda stepped back. Her heel caught in the new crater.

She fell backward with a shriek, and I instinctively dived forward to catch her. As we both tumbled to the ground, I grabbed for something to hold on to. My hand hit the wooden strut holding up the opposite side of my workbench. The strut snapped in two, and the back half of the bench creaked alarmingly. I rolled off Matilda and crouched under the desk, bracing it with my hands and shoulders.

Matilda sat up, twisting around to face me. ‘Emmeline! Are you all right?’

‘Are you?’

‘Why are you holding up the table?’

‘So it doesn’t fall down.’

‘Ah.’ She stood and hastily moved objects from the collapsing bench onto the sections of the work table that were still secure.

‘It really is quite heavy,’ I said through gritted teeth.

Matilda moved faster, grabbing models and papers and cogs and jars and pliers at top speed. It wasn’t fast enough.

‘Poking stick,’ I said.

‘Now is hardly the time.’

‘Use the big iron stick to hold up the table. It’s strong, but it needs to be cut down to size.’

She grabbed the length of iron and laid it across two of the solid workbenches, making a triangle shape. There was an axe hanging on the wall so she grabbed it and hit the poking stick hard. It was no use. She cast the useless axe aside. Her frantic gaze landed on my rats.

‘Matilda, no!’ Just because the rats recovered quickly from deaths in the family didn’t mean they should be exploded willy-nilly.

She didn’t listen. She grabbed a rat and some string, and tied the innocent creature to the midpoint of the iron rod before grabbing the axe once more and crouching to meet the rat eye to eye. ‘Burn through that metal, or I’ll cut off your tail.’

The rat squeaked in terror and exploded outright, snapping the iron bar and casting a fine spray of blood, fur, and mechanical parts onto the nearby walls and floor. Matilda grabbed the remains of the poking stick and jammed both halves under my bench.

I slid out gratefully and rubbed my aching shoulders. ‘You killed my rat, but you did it in such a timely manner I can’t complain. Are you sure you don’t want to officially become my lovely assistant?’

‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘Although I confess I understand your penchant for explosions a little better now. That was fun.’

‘I don’t deliberately make things explode!’

‘What a shame,’ she said. ‘It’s a very attractive quality.’

‘Oh really?’ So this was flirting. I hadn’t had much practice at such things before I was transported to Australia. The other convicts had all known just what to do―I remembered my friend Lizzie with a sigh―but I hadn’t practised when I had the chance. It was a tragic oversight, but Matilda appeared to like me anyway. I leant casually on the workbench and tried to raise an eyebrow.

Crash!

The shored-up workbench collapsed, throwing papers, cogs, inkwells, and screwdrivers every which way. One lens of my goggles blackened with ink, and several small cogs landed and then stuck in the brass frame. Through the other lens I saw my match-tin spring open and several phosphorus matches spill out onto the rough floor, igniting at once.

Unfortunately, I had spilled enough grease over the course of several weeks to thoroughly soak the wooden floor, which promptly caught fire. My skirts were well within range of the flames, and I leapt up onto the more solid part of my workbench at once, laying more or less flat so I didn’t collapse another section. I was all too familiar with the flammability of my crinolines.

Matilda was wearing rational dress―a rather distracting set of trousers―by way of a compromise between dressing like her father’s British notions or her mother’s native ones. She kicked off her heels and used her bare feet to stomp out the fire while I lay helplessly on top of several homemade models designed to combine magic, steam, and silk in order to design a better airship. One of them slipped and drifted to the ground. It didn’t smash onto the floor, but floated gracefully. How marvellous. It worked. I resisted the urge to distract Matilda by pointing out my latest success.

The fire was almost out, and I carefully lowered myself to the ground, trying not to damage any more of my laboratory. Matilda stomped out the last of the fire and I just watched her, guiltily delighted at the sight of her black and blond tresses falling loose around her face.

At last we were safe.

She looked at me and laughed. ‘You were saying?’

‘Something about not exploding things,’ I admitted. ‘To be fair, you did specifically say that you enjoy the occasional fireball.’

‘So I do.’

She slipped her shoes back on, apparently unhurt.

‘Did Patrick ask you when we’ll be ready to rescue Shauna?’ she asked, casting a guilty glance upward, where Patrick and his father were stoking the kitchen engine ready to bake bread for lunch.

‘He’s focusing on safety today,’ I said. ‘He seems so calm, but he’s fetched me seven cups of tea already―and not mentioned Mrs O’Connell once.’

She nodded. We both knew how much Patrick wanted to rescue his mother; a passion matched only by his desire to keep Matilda and I safe from similar harm. Too bad he hadn’t made friends with a pair of girls who would gladly wait at home while he faced all the danger.

I picked up the model that had drifted to the ground. It was little more than a hot air balloon with a propeller and a rubber band to represent a steam engine. With enough magical aluminium, we could neutralise the considerable weight of a steam engine and thus solve one of the greatest problems of airship construction.

The issue of how to fill the varnished silk with air had stymied me until now. ‘What if we hurled ourselves off a cliff?’ I said thoughtfully.

‘Sounds good,’ Matilda said with just the tiniest hint of sarcasm. ‘Can I tell Patrick? His face will make quite the picture.’

Bang.

‘Sounds like you’ll get a chance right now,’ I said.

Bang.

Matilda and I waited in silence for the third stomp on the trapdoor. It never came.

‘Uh-oh,’ said Matilda, dropping her frivolity like an old coat. ‘Two bangs. Isn’t that code for―’

I pressed my fingers to her lips and nodded, mouthing, ‘Our time just ran out.’

She took both my hands in hers and squeezed my fingers until I thought they might snap in two.


The third and final book in the Antipodean Queen Trilogy will be released in 2018 (probably August).

Antipodean Queen 1: HEART OF BRASS

HEART OF BRASS is my first published novel; the beginning of all my (mostly Australian) steampunk fantasy stories.

You can buy it here, and in all the usual book places (online and offline).

You can also buy the full Steam & Sorcery pack here (all three novels plus Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire).

Book 2 is SILVER AND STONE.

Book 3 is IRON LIGHTS.

The book trailer is here.

 

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Like to read the back cover? Here it is:


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.


 

The ISBN is 978-1-922200-58-7 (pbk) | 978-1-922200-59-4 (ebook)

You can use that number to quickly and easily order it into any bookshop you like. Most Australian bookshops and libraries should stock it already. If you’re in Canberra, Harry Hartog’s in Woden does a good job of keeping it in stock.

HEART OF BRASS can be bought in physical form directly through the publisher (who will post it to you—Odyssey is linked to printers in Australia, the US, and the UK, so if you’re in one of those nations the postage cost will be domestic).

You can also buy either print or digital copies from Amazon US, Amazon Australia (kindle only at the time of writing), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Abe Books, The Book Depository, etc.

It is extremely helpful to me for readers to leave reviews at Amazon and/or Goodreads. The more you say why you like/dislike it, the more other readers will know if it suits them or not. I do read reviews but I’m not bothered by negative ones (sometimes I even learn something), so go ahead and be honest!

Like a sample?

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Full disclosure: I screenshotted the beginning of my book from Amazon (where there’s a longer sample) because I don’t know how to take the final editing marks out of the copy I have. Sad but true.

Antipodean Queen 2: SILVER AND STONE will be released on October 10 2017 (you can pre-order through OdysseyBooks.com.au) and the third book in the trilogy will be released in 2018 (probably August).

News about “Choices That Matter” story app.

Eep, I really haven’t written for a while.

In my defence, I am in a whirlwind of writing as I finish “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten”, write the sequel to “Heart of Brass” (it’ll be a trilogy by the end of next year), and research and write [redacted] for [redacted], which is terribly exciting.

First things first, the Tin Man Games story app formerly known as “Choices: And The Sun Went Out” (after the first story, which I also co-wrote) is now known as “Choices That Matter”. It’s still on iOS and Google Play, and the finished tales will eventually show up on Steam.

So, I co-wrote the first story, “And The Sun Went Out” (from arc 4 onwards)

I wrote the second story, “And Their Souls Were Eaten”

I shall be editing the third story, “And Their Heroes Were Lost”.

All in all, KG Tan and I have made sure our fingerprints are all over all three stories. (For those not in the know, KG Tan is the project head of both “Choices That Matter” and “Miss Fisher” and he wrote rather a lot of “And The Sun Went Out”. He’s the last line of defence when it comes to editing, especially coding errors, and he is a spectacularly gifted person as well as a genuine friend.)

Phill Berrie was the first-line editor for “And Their Souls Were Eaten” and he is the writer of “And Their Heroes Were Lost” (which is seriously excellent!)

 

So let’s talk “And Their Souls Were Eaten”, since it’s my big beautiful baby. It had forty updates over 10 months, and the final update will come out within days. The final word count is around 377,000 (which is impressive until you compare it to the 15-month “And The Sun Went Out”, which came in just over 600,000 words).

YES in case you were wondering, it is connected to my other steampunk stories (they’re all connected). It takes place in 1836 Europe, well before any of the other stories, and the central problem of the story is different to all the rest.

Whenever I write interactive steampunk, I decide one one version of the story that is the “canon” version—the least contradictory version. When it comes to “And Their Souls Were Eaten” the canon version is as follows:

 

SPOILER SPACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The character is male (or appears to be), and after eating the soul of Charles Dickens they ultimately “become” the Charles Dickens that we know from “real” history (minus the horrible behaviour toward women, because I want to like him and it’s my story dammit). He writes all the Dickens stories just as they exist in our real world. The character might just show up in the novels (as “Charles Dickens”). He certainly shows up in “Stuff and Nonsense”.
  2. The soulless problem is 100% dealt with and although a few people continue to build anti-soulless towers and to keep an eye out in case any soulless escaped, by the time Emmeline Muchamore (hero of the novels) is causing trouble it’s rare to hear “soulless” or “Great Ones” even mentioned. In fact, they don’t come up in the novels at all (conveniently for those who read the novels but not “And Their Souls Were Eaten”.
  3. Activated gold is discovered during “And Their Souls Were Eaten”, and a few other magical metals are discovered in the 1840s, before the novels begin in 1853.

Procrastination Technique #452: Reviews

I’ve written about reviews before, and I’m always fascinated, whether the review is positive or. . . not so much.

The Tin Man Games app “Choices: And The Sun Went Out” (including the second story, my steampunk fantasy, “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten”) has just under a hundred reviews (mostly just stars) on itunes and has just passed 600 reviews on Android.

Android apps have a cool feature where they say how many people have installed an app, and this app, our app, has been installed over 50,000 times! It boggles my mind that so many people are reading words that I write, and it makes me evil laugh when I read the desperate pleas of addicted readers hanging out for their weekly story fix:

Mario Zalout wrote:

Love it It’s hard for me to find games like this. I constantly crave the story, wanting more. However, I’ve caught up with And Their Souls Were Eaten about 3 times, and I always hate the break I have to take in between. And The Sun Went Out helps with that though, and since I know it’s considerably longer I work at it whenever Souls needs an update.

Theresa Budd wrote:

Great game but… This is a really great game but I wish they would update the bear version. I was having so much fun playing it and now I’ve got as far as can but they need to update it so I can finish the story please.

Zachery Fitzpatrick wrote:

You’ll love the story …..untill you get a nice distance in…. then the book shuts itself on your fingers and then throws itself into a fire and tells you wait for a update.

Trevor Veltema wrote:

So good Honestly the best game I’ve played, I was on it from 12am to 7 am, it’s very addicting

Johannes Haler wrote:

UPDATE MORE PLEASE The story And The Sun Went Out is easily one of THE best stories I’ve ever read. The plot about how the sun disappesring and stuff is just amazing! Please, I’ve reached the part where update is needed and I NEED MORE! Thank you Tin Man Games, for making reading fun, and making one of the best books I’ve read!

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There’s a whole sub-group who are angry that you have to pay (or watch ads) to read the whole story. Since I know exactly how much I earn (hint: not an enormous amount), I’m not entirely sympathetic to these:

Alper Can Buyuk wrote:

Ad-fest So you need “choice-tickets” to make decisions and progress the story. The only way to get these is either purchasing them, or buying a pass which allows you to progress through the app. The other option is watching a 30 second ad for a measly 3 tickets, completely breaking the immersion. Shouldn’t be a free app in the first place if this is the way the devs are gonna go about it.

Franz Airyl Sapit wrote:

TOO PRICEY. NOT WORTH IT. In my local currency, two Story Pass (needed to play this,”pay to play”) of this game is worth as much as Dragon Age Origins, a PC game. Imagine that.

Kaneki Ken wrote:

Money-grubbing morons. Whoever is the developer(s) of this game is seriously an annoying one. Not only do you deem it, unfavourable to have a narrator. To continue the story, you force us to give you money? How cheap is that of a practice! You don’t deserve money of you’re too lazy to have a voice actor!

In their defence, ebooks are sold in a much simpler system. There’s a big yellow button that says “free sample” and it’s easy to understand that the free sample is specifically designed to suck you into buying the book. These story apps are exactly the same thing, but app stores list them as “free, with in-app purchases” which isn’t deliberately misleading but it feels like it is.

Sadly, there are sometimes bugs and those reviews are always awful. The only up side is that bug-fixing horrors are someone else’s job to fix. Yay?

I love it when reviewers give useful information (and even more when they rebut the “I don’t want to pay/watch ads” reviewers).

DERPING Dubstep wrote:

Worth the read Don’t expect this to be an adventure game with managing inventory and fight enemies. If your looking for that you better off getting something else but don’t let that deter you from this experience. Like it is described by the developers the story is really choice based. I noticed how different the story was when i looked at the screen shots and compared it to mine, i was surprised. (And their souls were eaten seems really interesting hope we get an update soon)

Kat Hargis:

Amazing Currently reading The Sun Went Out- and the story is compelling and leaves me craving more. It is definitely worth to purchase the Story Tickets pass or whatever it’s called. Not only does it support the creative geniuses behind the story, but it also keeps me satisfied with long reads rather than short ones. Compared to other choice-based novels, this one is probably my top pick, beating even TellTale games. Once again, definitely worth that I initially spent. Looking forward to the updates on the story!

krazykidfox wrote:

Fantastic I’ve read both stories up to date. They’re both fantastic, and I’m eagerly waiting for more content. Pick this game up, hands down. While yes, you do have to either watch ads or buy tickets to progress through the stories, it’s honestly a very fair and generous system that stands out from all of the Free-To-Pay mobile games out there. Props to you, devs. Get this, you won’t be let down.

I don’t have a name wrote:

Awesome (Currently reading “And The Sun Went Out”)Intriguing, mysterious, smart and a bit dangerous. I love the fact that, although the choices you have are both natural and logical and not extremely different from each other, any choice you make has a huge impact on the story, changing it in major but still subtle ways. The only downside, in my opinion is the fact that you can’t redo a choice. You have the option to start the whole story from the beginning but I don’t want to repeat everything just for one mistake

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I really love that people are passionate about the stories!

The first story has been running over 14 months and is well over 500,000 words altogether (although each read-through would be about 100,000 words – the length of a regular book). 

The person known as “I don’t have a name” is going to love the stuff that happens towards the end of the first story, when literally hundreds of seemingly insignificant choices have the power to save the world. . . or doom it forever.

The final final final piece of the story will be released roughly on Christmas Day. If you want to read the whole story from beginning to end—possibly several times, so you get different experiences—then this is your moment to jump on board!!

Getting into the reader’s mind

NB There are structural spoilers ahead for “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten”, and more mid-level spoilers in the comments.

Regular readers will know that I live and breathe “Choices: And The Sun Went Out”, a serial interactive story produced by Tin Man Games. (It’s a massive story app available on Android or itunes, with new sections every week and the ability to choose where the protagonist goes and what they do.)

Although the app is called “Choices: And The Sun Went Out”, it contains two stories (so far!)

I was hired as a co-writer on the original story, and I have literally one section left to write. After FIFTEEN MONTHS and SIXTY updates, the story is ending. It’s an amazing feeling for everyone involved. Do buy the app as a Christmas gift from you to you. It’s a lot of fun.

But that’s utterly not what I’m writing about. The second story in the app, “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten” is my own project, set in the magical steampunk world of my novel and various other stories.

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Here’s one of the unique things about the entire “Choices: And The Sun Went Out” app: every four weeks there is a super-significant choice, usually a choice of which location to go to next. The reader gets to pick where they go… and then a dial appears to tell them what percentage of readers chose to go to the same place.

The writers can also see what all our readers are choosing.

So. Confession time.

Each super-choice is meant to be equally appealing, but at the end of Arc 1 it became clear to me that almost all of my readers had chosen one particular path. (I’m going to go back and edit the Arc 1 text to make the other choices more appealing.)

Arc 3 has just ended, and I was dying to find out what choices people made there. In Arc 3, the player chooses their animal form. They can shift into their animal form at various times during the rest of the story, and it’s often useful (or just fun and awesome). Certain animals have certain skills (did you know rats have an absolutely amazing sense of smell? Research, baby!)

There are five possible animal forms, but the reader was given a choice of only two animals, based on two of their previous choices. For example, if they had chosen to avoid physical conflict as much as possible, and to stay in the forest rather than seeking out people, they might be a deer. If you email me privately to ask for more detail, I’ll tell you more.

The five animal choices were: Sparrow, Otter, Deer, Greyhound, or Rat.

The statistics were always going to be skewed due to the Arc 1 choice, but here are the results:

Greyhound: 53%

Sparrow: 19%

Rat: 18%

Deer: 9%

Otter: 1%

All I really wanted to say was that if you’re an otter, you have read quite a different story to everyone else. Congratulations.