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.

Mega Lolly & Chocolate Review

It’s been a while since I reviewed something heinously unhealthy on this blog, so when I saw a whole bunch of new and exciting permutations of sugar, cocoa, and chemicals at Woolies today I bought them all.

Let’s begin, as every good beginning does, with chocolate.

Lindt Orange Intense

I’m not usually a fan of dark chocolate, but this has almond slivers and orange bits in it which just works. It’s also beautifully thin, with a lovely crack when you break it. It’s also ten squares adding up to 100g, which pleases me immensely.

It’s particularly good at a certain time of the month, when I suddenly want more chocolate.

Not to be confused with their orange creme variety, which I don’t like.

Lindt Fruit Sensation: Raspberry & Cranberry

The fruity centres are quite sickly sweet, which is necessary to hold their own against the dark shell. I don’t think I’ll buy them again, but I may change my mind. I’m a sucker for a round chocolate, especially one that can be eaten without getting sticky fingers, so this wins points for shape and surface texture.

If you like dark chocolate, I think this will suit you. They also have another flavour (orange maybe? I can’t remember).

having said that, I think the candied fruit innards won’t appeal much to adults (who tend to be the ones eating dark chocolate) so I think this is a short-term product only.

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Cadbury Marvellous Creations: Clinkers, Raspberry Chips, Marshmallow

Love it, especially the clinkers. There’s a great range of texture and flavour without being excessively sticky (I’m looking at you, Cadbury Boost Block) or taking away too much important space in the chocolate. The eccentric shape is cute (and, I admit, fun to consume) but an obvious ploy to make the block run out faster.

Excuse me. I’m going to go eat some more right now.

Cadbury Boost Block

I’m a big fan of the Boost bar, and this is. . . not as good as that. It has a little bit of caramel, and plain crunchy things (similar to rice bubbles; no flavour to speak of but a crunch) in a differently-textured chocolate segment.

Yes, it’s fun to eat and a bit different. I don’t expect it to be around forever.

Cadbury Picnic Block

Like the Boost block, this is a variation of a popular (and superior) bar. The white stuff is pleasant but nothing to do with the original bar. I salute the creators for including a good amount of peanuts.

It’s a good way to have peanuts with your chocolate, but inferior to chocolate-coated peanuts, Darrell Lea brand peanut brittle balls/fingers (chocolate coated also; the pinnacle of chocolate/peanut relations and unlikely to ever be outdone in this world) and the Picnic bar itself.

Once again, this is a product that is fun to eat and a bit different for a limited time.

Cadbury Crispy Mint

I adore mint chocolate (I had mint M&Ms at my wedding reception) so I was initially disappointed by this block having those plain crunch things in it—I suspected they were there mainly to fill in space and save money as a result.

In the end, I grew to really like this bar. It has its own flavour (mint, obviously) and a distinct texture with both mini M&Ms (who doesn’t love tiny bits of crunchy coloured candy?) and the plain crunchy bits working together nicely.

Natural Confectionary Carnival Mix

The shapes are not as fun as dinosaurs (my favourite) or snakes (Chris’ favourite) but they are smaller, which might be good when bribing kids with a specific number of lollies. Also, the Cherry Cola and Watermelon flavours use the same shape—which is doubly unfortunate since it makes them difficult to distinguish.

Apparently these are “all new flavours”: Lemonade Float, Strawberries & Cream, Cherry Cola, Watermelon, Apple & Raspberry, Peach Pie.

I found the Lemonade and Cola flavours a bit syrupy; the watermelon, apple raspberry and peach pie were all probably a little too subtle, giving them a jelly-like effect (especially the watermelon; the peach pie also had a white section which offset the low flavour pretty well). The fruit-based flavours were clearly a minor alteration on existing flavours (and the existing flavours are better).

Conclusion: They’re an adequate addition to the range but not one that deserves to stick around.

NB: People on low-FODMAP or low-salicylate diets should be careful with Natural Confectionary, since they purposefully use fruits for flavouring, which is excellent except when one is intolerant of that fruit.

Natural Confectionary Sour Soda Pops

The soda pops are all bottle shapes, so some are quite difficult to distinguish. The flavours are Blackcurrant Soda, Raspberry Lemonade, Orange Fizz, Cola, Lemon Squash, and Lime Pop.

Fundamentally, these are sour lollies (a shocking conclusion, I know). I’m generally not a big fan of sour lollies (the best, in my opinion, are Sour Patch Kids, not least because the sourness goes away as you eat the lolly). They taste exactly as you’d expect a high-quality sour gummy lolly sprinkled with sugar to taste: not too sour, so as not to put off mainstream consumers, and with a nice texture.

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.

 

Avengers: Infinity War (spoilers for those who wanna know in advance)

 

I’m really serious about this spoiler warning, okay?

I’m gonna tell you who dies.

Something unusual happened immediately after the final credits: people were talking. There was no relief, no certainty—and a whole lot that needs talking about.

In a minute I’ll do my own emotional/talky response-analysis thing.

This post is basically just a summary of spoilers. Seriously.

If that’s something you seriously want to know in advance (presumably in order to emotionally prepare yourself), then read on. . .

 


The main “teams” of Infinity War

*Guardians of the Galaxy + Thor. This is the most comedic meeting. Thor and Gamora matter the most here.

*Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Dr Strange (Iron Man and Dr Strange have a lot in common, specifically being up themselves).

*Wakanda: The Wakandans (including Bucky) join up with Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Falcon, Vision, and Scarlet Witch for the major show-down of the film, which takes place in Wakanda. There is a nice moment when three very different women fight together (Scarlet Witch, Okoye, and Black Widow).

Unsurprisingly, the Soul Stone shows up during the film.

Who do I care about most in this film?

Thor. Gamora. Spider-Man. Wakanda.

Who don’t I care about that the film thinks I should?

Vision. Paul Bettany manages to bring a smidgeon of British charm but I still find his relationship with Scarlet Witch (very young and lonely) icky.

Who didn’t even show up, like not at all?

Hawkeye and Ant Man. They’re both men with children to look after (and also both under house arrest), but writing-wise they got left out because they’re just not in the top tier of heroes. Sorry guys. I would have liked to see a tiny glimpse of the two of you in the climax.

Who do I think we’ll never see again?

Heimdall. Loki. Gamora. Vision.

How do I feel about that?

I am annoyed that Marvel killed off two awesome people of colour and their greatest ongoing villain… but I think it was the right thing to do writing-wise. Heimdall has saved Thor enough times, and Loki’s moral dubiousness is no longer surprising. Gamora is far too competent to stick around Star-Lord, and far too soft-hearted/self-assured to go off on her own (unless she had her own film, which would be fantastic but doesn’t seem likely). And good riddance to Vision, who is not interesting enough to keep around. Their deaths were necessarily fast due to a movie packed with heroes, but they still hurt. More so as I think about them afterwards.

What do I think will happen in the next movie?

It’s perfectly clear that Doctor Strange has this whole Thanos thing sorted. He specifically looks into the future and sees only one path that doesn’t suck. Then, as he dies, he says, “This was the only way.” Therefore, everything he did was necessary to save the day.

He also specifically states that he would let Iron Man and Spider-Man die in order to protect the Time Stone. Then, when Thanos threatens Iron Man, he immediately gives him the Time Stone. Dr Strange clearly wants Thanos to have it, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that it’s the time stone. Anything can be fixed with the power to rewind.

In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury realises what is happening and clearly has a plan of some kind already. He grabs a device and pushes buttons. . . then drops it as he dies. But one presumes it’s linked to Doctor Strange’s plan.

At his moment of triumph, Thanos sees a vision of Gamora as a child, who he genuinely cared for—and killed in order to fill up his gauntlet. That gives him a possible motive to reverse time and save her. (It also gives her the best chance of all the pre-climax deaths to come back.)

A LOT of people die in the climax. Then, suddenly, the film ends.

 

 

I’ve Seen Infinity War. Here’s What You Want to Know Going In (spoiler free)

Overwhelmed.

Yes, that is a good word.

Stuff happened. The Marvel universe will never be the same.

It’s going to be a long wait until the next Avengers film (a year, I believe).

It’s such a very Marvel movie. Funny, tragic, epic, spectacular.

It IS rushed. It has to be. The elegance of character introductions & relationships is extremely impressive from a writing perspective. It’s theoretically possible to come into this movie as one’s first comic book movie—it would, fundamentally, hold together—but the movie relies on the pre-existing love the audience has for these characters while also giving them speedy intros that pack a lot into a little bit of time.

The trailers lied at least twice.

The stakes are real.

Thanos isn’t nearly as boring as I expected.

The movie is fast-moving and complicated, so it’s worth a quick recap of the last EIGHTEEN movies.

There are many spoilers for past movies here, and a suspicious mind can extrapolate spoilers for Infinity War too. So if you’re trying to stay away from spoilers, stop here. But if you want reminders of who’s who (or you’ve missed some movies along the way), this is the useful bit. I’ll colour in the bits related to the Six Infinity Stones (the Mind Stone looks orange rather than yellow due to legibility concerns), and capitalise the most important characters.

You’re probably already aware that the plot of Infinity War is that Large Purple Humanoid Thanos has an infinity gauntlet designed to let him harness the power of six infinity stones, each of which has specific powers. He believes that the universe will be much improved by instantly killing half its population (no more overpopulation, etc). When he has all six infinity stones, he can kill half the universe by snapping his fingers. That is his goal.

Here’s a useful graphic that has been copied so many times I’m afraid I don’t know where it originally comes from. Please let me know in the comments!

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I’ll completely leave out plots, villains, problems etc that are fundamentally taken care of along the way. I’ll put an asterisk next to movies that are truly excellent.

Phase 1:

*IRON MAN Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a billionaire genius playboy who begins a relationship with his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He is a human who invents a very cool flying iron suit with many useful (military) features. It’s originally invented to save his life (he got some shrapnel in his heart), but gets more portable and deadly over time (in other movies). He is arrogant, charming, and later becomes deathly afraid of Really Bad Stuff Happening (which often causes him to make seriously bad choices). At the end of this movie, he publicly announces his private identity. At the end of the credits, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson with an eye patch) reveals the existence of SHIELD, a superhero group protecting the earth.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK Dr Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, now Mark Ruffalo) is also a genius, who due to SCIENCE sometimes turns into The Incredible Hulk, a giant green monster that smashes things fairly indiscriminately. Over time, he gains control over his ability to transform—but it’s still not 100%. Hulk is stronger than any other Avenger, and tends to get into pissing contests with Thor (but gets on fairly well with Tony Stark because they’re both super genius inventors heavily into SCIENCE).

Tony Stark approaches him in a post-credits scene, asking him to join “a team” (aka SHIELD).

Iron Man 2 Pepper Potts wants Tony Stark to stop nearly getting killed. This is an ongoing source of tension. His heart problem is repaired, but/and he makes more and more suits. Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff, played by Scarlet Johansson) is introduced here, as one of the members of SHIELD. She is human with no powers, but extreme combat ability.

THOR aka the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), has quite a family. His father is Odin, ruler of the world of Asgard, who is worshipped as a Norse God on Earth. His younger brother is LOKI, God of Mischief, who it turns out is actually adopted from a different species. Thor’s hammer is super important and useful. Loki can shapeshift, and is Marvel’s most interesting villain for many years to come (partly because he sometimes does good things, and partly because he’s played by Tom Hiddleston). Thor is super muscly and masculine, and can be quite simplistic about good and evil and hitting things. But he grows up a fair bit here. Idris Elba plays Heimdell, a minor but powerful character who controls and guards the bridge into and out of Asgard.

Thor and SHIELD briefly cross paths. In the end Thor is trapped on Asgard due to sacrificing the rainbow bridge that connects it to the rest of the universe.

The Tesseract aka Space Stone, appears in a post-credits scene. Loki is pursuing it.

*CAPTAIN AMERICA: The First Avenger Steve Rogers is a wimp with a heart of gold who is transformed into a super soldier during World War 2. He consistently remains the superhero best known for his integrity, and has a distinctive shield made of vibranium (which, unbeknownst to all at this stage, is from the African nation of Wakanda) with a star on it. His best friend is Bucky, who is killed as they fight Nazis including the Red Skull (whose head is a… well, a red skull, and who is doing Bad Things with the power of the Tesseract/Space Stone, which ends up with Tony Stark. Steve Rogers is also recruited by SHIELD).

*The Avengers This brings together Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, as well as Hawkeye (he shoots arrows really well, gets mind controlled in this film, and that’s pretty much it; played by Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow. Loki is the main problem (wants to rule Earth) and is ultimately defeated and imprisoned. There is lots of bickering but ultimately the Avengers work as a team and save the world. The Tesseract (glowy blue cube with the SPACE Infinity Stone inside) ends up safely (for now) in Asgard. The Chitauri Sceptre Loki has been using gets moved around to various places and is (much) later broken open, revealing the Mind Stone inside, which is (later still) used to make VISION.

Phase 2:

Iron Man 3 Tony Stark has much shenanigans and then promises Pepper Potts to be normal from now on. She is physically altered by villains in this movie, which helps her survive.

Thor: The Dark World Due to an accident, the Reality Stone is released from safekeeping, causing problems. In the end, it is given to The Collector, a random guy in space, for safekeeping on the planet of Knowhere. Thor is no longer stranded on Asgard, but able to travel again. Loki is apparently killed (but is actually shape-shifted into Odin, and now ruling Asgard).

+Captain America: The Winter Soldier Steve Rogers’ best friend (and only remaining person who lived in the same age as he did) is being mind controlled. He has also not aged, and is a super soldier too. Towards the end of the film, there are signs he may be breaking free of his mind power. In the meantime, SHIELD has been taken over from within by evil super-company HYDRA, and has to be utterly dismantled. The Falcon (Sam Wilson; a guy with giant mechanical wings played by Anthony Mackie) is introduced here.

*Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord (QUILL; Chris Pratt) steals what turns out to be the Power Infinity Stone (which can do all sorts of trippy things), and gets into a whole lot of trouble while partnering with a rag-tag bunch of criminals (GAMORA, played by a green Zoe Saldana, the adopted daughter of THANOS, who has committed horrific crimes and wants to kill Thanos “more than anyone”), Drax (Big tattooed muscly alien man played by Dave Bautista, who wants to kill Thanos for destroying half his planet including his wife and child—that’s what Thanos does), Rocket (a bloodthirsty modified raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper with motion capture by Sean Gunn) and Groot (a tree voiced by Vin Diesel). Ultimately they put the Power Stone in the Nova Corps Vault on the planet Xandar, and it’s safe. Quill is the only human, kidnapped as a child in the 80s with nothing but the clothes on his back and a rocking 80s mix tape.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Scarlet Witch (who is extremely powerful, created by SCIENCE + the Mind Stone and able to alter minds and reality dramatically) and her brother (who dies) manipulate Tony Stark’s fears, causing him to create Ultron, a villain who does villain-y things. In the end they defeat Ultron and create Vision, who is a computer-y person powered by the Mind Stone in his forehead and played by Paul Bettany. Vision is good—so good he can lift Thor’s hammer (which only the worthy can do). Scarlet Witch joins the good guys, but they’re afraid of her (except for Vision).

+Ant-Man Ant-Man is a loser trying to hold down a job so he can pay child support and still see his daughter. Due to SCIENCE he gets the ability to turn super tiny (but with an even stronger punch).

Phase 3

Avengers: Civil War The usual bickering turns to actual fighting, particularly between Iron Man and Captain America (mostly over Bucky, who is by no means sane). Iron Man has been keeping tabs on a super-powered teen called Peter Parker (SPIDER-MAN, who is extremely agile, strong, and can shoot webs from his wrists) who helps a bit. The team is disbanded in various directions (The Hulk is blasted into space, sacrificing himself).

+Doctor Strange DOCTOR STRANGE (Benedict Cumberpatch) is a brilliant surgeon who’s badly injured in a car accident and goes to find peace under the instructions of The Ancient One. She recruits him into a group that protects reality using Mystic Arts, including the ability to make portals anywhere and alter physical reality. He can alter time as well using the Eye of Agamemnon, which is also the Time Infinity Stone (worn by Doctor Strange on a fancy necklace from now on). The librarian/sidekick Wong is similarly skilled in the Mystic Arts.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 Star-Lord, Gamora, and the others reluctantly join up with Thanos’s other assassin-daughter, Nebula (Karen Gillan; blue and metallic), and an empathetic alien called Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

*Spider-Man: Homecoming Iron Man is (sort of) mentoring Peter Parker, who is extremely enthusiastic and in need of some training. Spider-Man matures somewhat over the film (quickly surpassing his own mentor’s maturity). He is very innocent, and a deeply decent human being who is very careful not to kill the baddie.

*Thor: Ragnarok Odin is dying, and Doctor Strange is concerned when Loki (one of several interplanetary threats he’s monitoring) lands on Earth looking for him, but is mollified that Thor and Loki are working together against their long-buried half sister Hela, God of War. They ultimately defeat her, but she has already destroyed Thor’s hammer. He maintains his powers of lightning because he is, after all, a god. Thor, Loki, and Heimdall rescue some of Asgard’s people (better than none at all), destroying their homeland in the process.

*BLACK PANTHER King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is deciding what kind of king to be. He rules Wakanda, an African nation that has hidden itself, its incredible riches (including a lot of vibranium), and its uniquely advanced technology (much of it invented by his brilliant younger sister, SHURI, played by Letitia Wright) from the world. Ultimately he decides to open up Wakanda to the world. His special forces are the Dora Milaje, shaven-headed warriors led by Okoye (Danai Gurira).

There is a really excellent video summary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97OJjlpbuBc

Groups that already know each other and are connected at the beginning of Infinity War:

*Thor, Loki, Heimdall, and The Hulk are still travelling in space together after destroying Asgard.

*Iron Man is engaged to Pepper Potts and still trying to train/protect Spider-Man.

*Scarlet Witch and Vision are in a relationship and in hiding.

*Captain America (bearded now) is also in hiding since “The Avengers: Civil War”, and connected to Black Widow and the Falcon.

*Ant-Man and Hawkeye are both under house arrest, since they didn’t want to be fugitives. They each have a family with children that they care for.

*Bucky is fully healed with a shiny new arm, living in Wakanda under the care of Shuri and King T’Challa the Black Panther.

*The Guardians of the Galaxy (Star-Lord, Gamora, etc) are in space.

Current Locations of the Infinity Stones:

*Loki stole the Space Stone (aka Tesseract) from Asgard before fleeing into space with Thor, Hulk, Heimdall, and the Asgardian refugees. A long time ago, Thanos sent him to get it.

*Vision has the Mind Stone in his forehead. It is an important part of who he is.

*A moderately bad individual called The Collector (planet Knowhere) has the Reality Stone.

*The Power Stone (aka Orb) is on planet Xandar, in a vault.

*The Time Stone is inside the Eye of Agamemnon, hanging around Doctor Strange’s neck and giving him power over time.

*The Soul Stone is a mystery.

Which movies should you see/re-watch before seeing “Infinity War” (in order of importance):

*Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a great stand-alone movie (funny, charming, great soundtrack, and surprisingly emotionally compelling), has a lot of cast members in “Infinity War”, deals directly with one of the infinity stones & with Thanos, and includes some details of outer space that are relevant to “Infinity War”.

*Black Panther. A brilliant stand-alone movie (in so, so many ways), which once again has a lot of important “Infinity War” characters, and features Wakanda, which is important in “Infinity War”.

*Thor or Thor: Ragnarok or Avengers #1, or all of the above. All of them show the relationship between Thor and Loki. Ragnarok includes the Hulk, and Avengers shows how the whole primary group functions. Thor is the most independent movie, given that it’s all about intro’ing Thor properly.

*Spider-Man: Homecoming because Spidey is going to be more and more important, and because it shows his relationship with Tony Stark (which reveals a great deal about both of them). Also because Tom Holland has overtaken Captain America as the Avenger with the greatest heart. This is another fantastic stand-alone movie.

Nimmitabel Steampunk Fair

You may not have heard of this, on account of 2018 being the first year it’s running.

The tiny town of Nimmitabel (pop 320) is about to host its first Steampunk Fair.
5-6 May.
1.5 hours south-ish from Canberra.
OF COURSE I will be there.
(Assuming this weekend’s Supanova Melbourne doesn’t kill me first.)
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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.)

Wattleseed bread, finger limes, and bush tomato

Yesterday I sold books at the Goulburn Reader Writer Festival, and met Fiona, who was selling a range of Australian native foods from Bent Shed Produce.

Naturally I was deliriously excited and I tasted several different things before settling on buying lemon myrtle (which I already know is delicious; it really is as if lemon has magically turned into a herb), forest berry (which is actually made from a particularly aromatic eucalyptus; the smell is delicious and it’s especially good mixed with sugar), bush tomato, wattleseed (I’d heard people used it to make bread), and finger limes.

Bush tomato/Akadjura

I just made tuna mornay (a somewhat bland dish) and sprinkled it with dried and powdered bush tomato. It was incredible! Apparently when it’s dried it’s called Akudjura, so that’s how I described it to the kids (who think they hate tomato). They both said it was great. It’s very similar to sundried tomato in taste, but sweeter (and of course it lasts longer because it’s fully dried). It was utterly delicious simply on it’s own (so I’ll be having it with cheese and crackers very soo—

Excuse me.

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Well that was delicious.

Cheese and crackers and akudjura = yum! I do believe I’ll have some more once I’m finished this blog. I used water crackers (nice and plain; perfect) and Massaman cheese (ditto, although next time I’ll put much more akadjura on).

I’d definitely recommend akudjura for any cheese platter or dukkah (powdered herbs, spices, and nuts for sprinkling or dipping), or with bread and olive oil (macadamia oil would be even better, if only because macadamias are Aussie too). There are lots of really excellent Aussie dukkah recipes out there, and there are several Australian salts (bizarrely, some are saltier than others) too.

I now wish I had a kilo of this glorious substance in my cupboard. The 20g I have may not make it to the weekend.

NOTE: There are several species of bush tomato and some are poisonous, so don’t pick your own unless you know what you’re doing.

Finger Limes

I’d heard a lot about finger limes so I was eager to give them a try. This is what they look like (although different varieties can get a lot bigger, like banana size):

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Unfortunately they’re a semitropical fruit so they’re unlikely to become part of my regular diet (unless they show up in shops, which is already happening). But if I’m ever lost in an Australian rainforest, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these.

Their taste is sour, very much like lemons or limes (or both). Apparently different colours have different tastes, but I couldn’t tell the difference. It’s very cool that the inside echoes the colour of the outside (particularly if one wants to colour-coordinate one’s food). But it’s their texture that really blows my mind. I don’t want to open any right now because I have plans to make finger lime sorbet another day (gonna stir in the finger lime at the last minute to see what happens to the texture; I know they freeze well usually), but you can see a pic (along with instructions on how to grow them yourself) here. A lot of people talk about “finger lime caviar” and that is exactly right. The entire fruit is these tiny, perfect crystals that pop in your mouth with a tiny explosion of juice.

They’d be brilliant on pavlova, on a fruit salad (this recipe recommends sweetening them first, which could be a great technique for all sorts of things), and anything that could do with a zap of citrus. I hear they’re great in drinks, but I badly want to know if they float or not. If they float, that’d be brilliant. If they sink it’d be a waste (you’d have to crush them, which would still have a grand taste, but I’m so in love with the texture I don’t want to do that).

I fed some to several children (aged 3-8) this morning, and they loved how easy it is to break open the limes in the middle (with fingernails or a butterknife or whatever; it’s easy) and then squeeze them (also easy) to get the crystals out. The 8-year old tasted some and said, “It makes my body all tingly!”

Wattleseed

I was extremely excited about trying wattleseed because I’ve recently discovered that Australian Aborigines were probably the first bakers in the world—and wattleseed (one of the few plants I know by sight) was one of the possible ingredients. Given that our neighbour’s wattle bush is hanging over our fence (that makes it ours, right?) I thought I might be able to harvest it myself. Unfortunately, there are several species of wattle trees and some are poisonous, so I won’t be picking my own wattleseed anytime soon.

The wattleseed I bought was roasted and dried, ready to go. The process of making any kind of flour is very labor intensive. (You can read a bit about it here.)

It was immediately obvious that if I made “proper” wattleseed bread it would take a lot more wattleseed, would not rise, and would taste incredibly intense. I suspect (given the intensity combined with the wide range of native flours) that it wasn’t used alone, but in combination with several other ground-up foods. The smell alone was like walking into a starbucks: so much coffee, and chocolate too. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people recommend making wattleseed coffee or hot chocolate.

Hold on. I have an idea.

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I just heated some milk (400mL) with some wattleseed (three teaspoons) in the microwave for 4 minutes (you can see the milk-covered microwave plate in the pic above), then added four teaspooons full of milo and one of sugar. Finally I put canned whipped cream on the top, and sprinkled a 2:1 mixture of sugar:wattleseed on that.

A lot of recipes say wattleseed should be soaked before cooking, which is why I put the wattleseed in the milk before heating it. Certainly it absorbed a lot of milk.

There’s two mugs because I fed one to Chris, who (unlike me) likes coffee. We both very much enjoyed our drinks. The wattleseeds didn’t dissolve at all, and sunk to the bottom. It still tastes nice, but that wasn’t the effect I was going for. It’d probably work better if I either blended it or strained it before serving.

The sugar-based powder on top of the cream, however, was utter genius. Highly recommended, even for anti-coffee freaks like myself. It’d work on anything that would usually be improved with cinnamon sugar (or just cinnamon).

This morning I made wattleseed “damper” (I’m putting damper in quote marks because damper is bread you cook when you’re walking across Australia… which means buttermilk etc is somewhat unlikely). Plus obviously it uses standard refined white flour (which does made a great bread of course). This is the recipe I used, from here.

Bush Damper

Ingredients
2 cups self raising flour
1 Tbspn Ground Wattleseed
1 tspn Ground Lemon Myrtle
1 tspn Ground Mountain Pepper (I used forest berry instead)
250ml well shaken buttermilk (I only had 110g)
1 Tbspn Macadamia Nut Oil (I used peanut oil; a total of 110g to make up for the lack of buttermilk)
Milk for brushing

Preheat oven to 180C
Sift the flour and seasonings into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine the buttermilk and oil and pour into the well. Mix quickly and lightly to a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Shape into a round (or whatever shape you like) and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Brush with milk. Bake for 40-50 minutes (it will sound hollow when tapped).
Serve with Macadamia Nut Dukkah

I mixed and kneaded it in the thermomix and served it with butter (although it was nice by itself too).

The smell of bread and wattleseed filled the thermomix, and the house. Here it is, raw and cooked:

 

I sprinkled akudjura on top, which unfortunately just burnt. Other than that, it was great. It had a pleasantly thick texture with a crumbly crust. It’s got a vibe a little like hot cross buns—something that has a distinct flavour, except that the flavour of wattleseed bread is. . . well, distinct. Not much like hot cross buns at all.

It was very good. Someone I fed it too described it as “fresh”—not because it was cooked this morning, but because of the flavour.

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I think, generally, wattleseed is too similar to coffee for me (more so the smell than the taste)—but I’ll still gladly buy it anytime I see it, for sugary sprinkles if nothing else.

Monsters

Spoilers for The Shape of Water.


(And highly unrelated pictures, because I’m hazy on copyright law for movie stills.)

Last night, I saw The Shape of Water, which recently won an Oscar and (more importantly in my world) has been talked up by The Mary Sue.

I walked into the movie saying to Chris, “I have no idea why a movie about fish sex just won Best Picture.”

I walked out saying the same thing. I still don’t get it.

The Shape of Water is a fantastic movie. No doubt about that. So I watched a brilliantly written and acted speculative fiction movie and… the more I think about it, the less I like it.

I certainly do appreciate that this is a movie for and about freaks: a fishman, a mute orphan, a black woman (possibly an atheist), an older gay man, and a Russian scientist. (The villain is an oh so heterosexual white man.) It’s also really cool that the film doesn’t suffer from the “male gaze” problem that so many films do (there’s a “normal” sex scene which made the audience audibly horrified, and sexy scenes with Eliza and the fish man focus on her pleasure via her delighted smile). Guillermo del Toro was very careful to give the fish man a lean, muscular body (and especially butt) for female audience members to appreciate (seriously; he consulted regularly with his wife and others) but there aren’t any lingering shots of the fish man either. It is, in short, not a film that’s all about being sexy to the audience.

However, the movie makes it abundantly clear that yes, Eliza (the main character) and the fish man definitely have sex. In her extremely interesting video on Monster Boyfriends, Linday Ellis says The Shape of Water finally took the monster movie “where scores have women  had wanted it to go for decades”.

I am just not one of those women. I’m a little disappointed in myself, to be honest. Surely my imagination and empathy aren’t letting me down right here in my favourite genre?

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I really like Lindsay Ellis’s take that “Beauty and the Beast” stories are a way for women to talk about their anxiety—and hope—when facing the daunting spectre of arranged marriage. I’ve spoken to quite a few Indonesian people who are in happy arranged marriages and it’s a topic that has fascinated me for years (and that I’m not necessarily opposed to… except of course that it gives men even more power than they already have, with the inevitable awful results in way too many cases).

Elliss’s video has changed my view of the entire “Beauty and the Beast” concept, except of course that (a) Most of the audience is NOT facing arranged marriage, so there’s clearly something else at play (b) The idea of a super-virtuous female changing a bad man into a good man is so awful. First because that’s a classic inverse of famous abuser lines (“I love you, but sometimes you just make me so angry I can’t help it.”), secondly because it relies on fundamental personality change for a relationship to work, which is both patronising (don’t ever go into a relationship thinking you can mould someone to your specifications) and dangerous (false hope and false reality, both of which aren’t healthy).

I DO think that a healthy relationship improves people, but in a mutual and mutually beneficial way. I like a romance where people are partners, and I hate a relationship where someone (pretty much always the woman in a hetero pairing) is the parental figure—either disrespecting their partner, doing more than their fair share of the work, or constantly nurturing someone who doesn’t nurture them back. (This is a topic very close to home as my husband has inattentive ADD, which causes a lot of behaviour that appears childish in a grown man. Luckily-?-my own anxiety and bad health causes a lot of childish-like behaviour in me, too.)

The adjacent idea of “Men will do anything for a pretty woman” is also super problematic. It’s linked to rape culture as well as the infantilising of men (which then links to men not doing their share of household chores, which isn’t good for anyone). I do understand the appeal of that idea. I like the idea of women being powerful, even if only because they own a pair of boobs.

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Ellis’s video also talks about King Kong and other movies, and the shift from hatred of monsters to sympathy. She says that, overall, monsters tend to represent the anxieties of whatever time they’re written in.

Which brings us to King Kong. Unfortunately, any kind of primate tends to represent (unconsciously or otherwise) black people, and it’s no coincidence that the darkest/hairiest monsters tend to be paired with the whitest possible females (Sally Hawkins is incredibly white, and her fish man is dark—another problematic element of The Shape of Water). King Kong isn’t a romance (or is it?) but a story of how a white woman is more powerful than a black man (and/or monster). Which is appealing, even to me, but also deeply messed up as I explained above.

On reflection, I think the romantic “monster” of modern books/movies is all about the “bad boy” thing. (Or, in some cases, a case of “Us freaks have finally found each other” crossed with “OUR romance is special and unique”. Both of which I’m actually fine with.)

I have a really close friend who I respect deeply (and who is an adult, mother, and wife) who loves both Twilight and Beauty and the Beast. Both of us are married to very stable, reliable men. Her life is quite stable and responsible and adult-like because her husband has a stabilising influence (it’s not boring; they can do really cool things with their whole family because they actually do planning and budgeting and stuff); my life is risky and chaotic and exciting because I know my husband will be there when I fail. So I think that might be at the heart of things. The bad boy appeals because he is exciting; ditto monsters. To me the bad boy has no appeal because I am already wild and destructive and risky. I am the monster, so I don’t look for those qualities in a partner.

Yep, I think that’s it. Okay! I feel better about monster movies now.

So what about the movie?

First, let’s talk masturbation. The Mary Sue web site loved the fact that Eliza’s life was perfectly content—she didn’t need a man (amphibious or otherwise). She was sexually satisfied by pleasuring herself, and her daily routine was exactly what she wanted it to be. When I watched the movie I wasn’t sure what the purpose of showing Eliza’s masturbation was—why have a masturbation scene, when it clearly wasn’t to titillate the audience?

I think a lot of it was just to say, “Yes, this is set in the 60s, but people were sexually active then too”, so that it felt more natural for her to have a sexual relationship with someone (the fish man, in this case) that she hasn’t known very long.

And I think it was also to hint that Eliza wasn’t necessarily entirely human herself. She was a foundling discovered by a river, with what looked like knife slashes on her neck that later turn into/turn out to be gills. She masturbates in water because she’s part fish person herself. (The fish man is clearly very comfortable mating with a human, so it’s entirely possible fish people have been interbreeding with humans.)

So that’s fine. I found it slightly jarring that Eliza’s face is quite old for a romantic lead (why, she’s over forty! Which is lovely) but her body is VERY young. Not a wrinkle, freckle, sag, or blemish.

Eh, I’m probably just jealous.

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I mentioned earlier that the film is all about freaks, which is lovely. (A mute woman, a gay man, etc.) But I hated hated hated that the gay man’s crush was on a twenty-something. The actors are about forty years different in age, and the crush was framed in the film as sweet and life-affirming and charming. I just found it creepy. I would have found it creepy in any much older person crushing on a much younger person, but so much homophobia is based on the idea that homophobia = pedophilia, and although that’s nonsense, having a huge age gap like that in a film is really unhelpful.

I was surprised and disappointed at how little time was spent developing the relationship between Eliza and the fish man. To me, you get to know someone and have a deep connection with them, then you have sex. In the movie, the fish man learns how to say “egg” and “music” and… that’s it. It’s clear that time is passing and there’s more to their growing friendship that we the audience don’t see, but they never actually have a conversation. Couldn’t we have a scene where Eliza and the fish man actually talk to each other? It doesn’t even need to be in words (or in sign language, or whatever). Although having said that, how about they learn one another’s names? Or invent names for each other?

It just didn’t seem to me as if there was much more to the relationship than a bit of sex and a rescue (which is noble and exciting, but doesn’t make a relationship). Clearly the movie portrays sex AS communication/connection.

Okay, fine. Sorta.

It also disturbed me very much that the fish man was child-like in some ways. That’s never not going to make me hate a romantic pairing. I’m fine with someone having fun and being silly, but I’m not okay with someone having the intelligence of a child and then having sex.

Much is made of the fish man’s intelligence, but he doesn’t behave like an intelligent adult. He behaves like an intelligent child.

Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew.

And I have one more big problem with the movie (an issue linked to the slightly-off choice of a speaking woman actress for a mute character—when it would be so much better to use a mute actress). I feel like the movie contradicts itself. Eliza appears content from the beginning of the movie (in her rather ordinary life), and she has two excellent friends who don’t see her as a mute woman but as a person.

But then she gives an impassioned speech about how the fish man is happy to see her, and doesn’t see her as incomplete.

Sure, that’s nice. But she already has at least two friends who don’t see her as incomplete either. She’s doing just fine. So what is that speech doing there? There are so many other things she could have spoken passionately about at that exact moment.

Then, in a scene that a lot of people love, she is sitting across the table from the fish man knowing she soon has to let him go, and she sings to him and has an imagined dance sequence with him (much like the TV she loves to watch). So she longs to talk—and sing. Fair enough.

Except… she was so content until then. So it’s as if the fish man brings out her unhappiness, making her life and sense of self seem poor and shabby when they were fine before. No relationship should make you feel worse about yourself or your disabilities (a passing moment of wistfulness, sure—but not an iconic movie scene, weighted with meaning).

I would have been so much happier if her impassioned speech was about something—anything—else. The character is so much more than her disability, yet the movie treats her muteness as her most important character trait in the two most emotional scenes. I hate that.

Maybe the masturbation was all bout Eliza longing desperately for a romantic relationship—the one thing her life lacks most (other than a nicer apartment and job, two things that apparently never bother her). But a romance is so much more than sex. In my opinion.

 

And, finally, the body horror of the bad guy’s injured fingers is a total cliche, in my opinion, and something rather unworthy of a film that treats a fish man as beautiful and a mute woman as the hero. Yeah, I get that the bad guy is… well… bad. So does that mean everyone with a physical deformity is bad, too? So muteness is fine but physical disability = evil?

I really wanted to like this film, and there are so many wonderful and original things about it. But I don’t have a thing for monsters, I don’t think adult-child romances are ever cute, and I don’t think being mute is the most interesting (or the most tragic) thing about Eliza.

Chocaroo

I’ll be going to this year’s Goulburn Reader Writer Festival on Saturday 24 March (10am-8pm). The theme is “Feed Your Mind” and there will be a bunch of food-oriented authors. “Murder in the Mail” has two clues that can be consumed (technically you could consume all of them, but I would NOT recommend that) so I’ll fit in nicely, in my own peculiar way.

One of the authors is John Newton, and when I realised he’d written a book on pre-European Australian food I grabbed it at once. The Oldest Foods on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods With Recipes was enthralling and I finished it quickly. . . but of course I had to stop and copy out a recipe while I was there. That recipe was “Kangaroo Loin, Semi-Smoked in Lemon Myrtle” by Indigenous Chef and star of “Wild Kitchen”, Clayton Donovan. You can see the real recipe here. and can follow the movements of the Jaaning Tree Restaurant (it does pop-ups and stuff) here.

The mechanics of smoking the kangaroo reminded me of the epically delicious Chicken and Cashews with Coconut Satay Sauce and Coconut Rice by thermomix cooking genius Quirky Cooking, here.

One of the cool things themomixes can do is cook rice while also steaming meat and reducing the liquid of a sauce. But it’s possible to still cook this recipe without one, especially if you use a rice cooker that can fit a wire frame inside. I’ll leave the Macgyvering up to you.

I found ALL my ingredients in Woolworths except the cooking wine (our Woolies has a separate shop for booze). The kangaroo was very near the chicken (and it cost the same amount to buy the marinated ones, so why not?), and the Masterfoods herb and spice mixture was just below all the herb and spice bottles (I didn’t find any plain lemon myrtle but I did order some online via ebay once I’d tasted it).

I was extremely excited about trying this out, and the results were spectacular. TJ and Chris were both impressed; Louisette refused to eat anything other than the sauce (3 out of 4 happy at dinner time is well above average). It’s incredibly rich, and the meat is lean and tender with a taste similar to lamb but. . . well. . . richer. It may have actually knocked lamb of its podium for me, which is incredible. There’s no fat to trim and no bones to negotiate. You can certainly taste the French influence. It feels weird to have rice with kangaroo, but it worked. The wine turns the rice a gorgeous purple, and the coconut makes it taste delicious.

Ingredients:

4ish kangaroo steaks, marinated in garlic and herbs (ie one pack)

Rice (enough for four people)

100mL red cooking wine

1 can coconut milk

20g bag Masterfoods “Coconut, Lemon Myrtle, and Garlic” Herb and Spice Blend (pictured, after I tore off the top).

1 tsp sugar (optional)

20g crushed macadamias (I crushed them on speed 6 for 1 second in the thermomix; putting them in a clean back and hitting them would also work)

2 tablespoons dark chocolate, broken (choc chips are handy)

1 tablespoon cranberry jelly/sauce

1 tsp stock (I used thermomix vegie stock; I recommend beef stock if you don’t have a thermomix)

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  1. Pour the coconut milk and red wine into the thermomix/rice cooker. Place the rice in the thermomix basket and rinse thoroughly with water (or it doesn’t cook right).
  2. Place the kangaroo steaks on the top layer of the wire rack/thermomix steamer (the lower layer stays empty, or can be used for vegetables).
  3. Mix the herb and spice mix with the sugar and 1/2 of the macadamias. Sprinkle half the resulting herb mixture over the rice, and another tablespoonful (or two) over the kangaroo steaks. Keep the rest for now (taste it; it’s salty but delicious).
  4. Put the thermomix basket (with the rice) into the thermomix, with the steamer (containing the kangaroo) on top. Then cook rice as normal (Varoma temperature, Speed 4, twenty minutes).
  5. When the rice is finished, put it in the thermo server (or other closed container) and mix in half the remaining macadamias. Put the steamer (with the kangaroo) on top of the rice (instead of the thermoserver lid) or cover it with an al foil tent.
  6. To make the chocolate sauce, add the chocolate (first, so it has time to melt), jam, and stock to the coconut milk and wine mixture remaining in the thermomix jug. Mix it on speed 1 for up to five minutes (until everything else is ready).
  7. Thinly slice the kangaroo and arrange it on plates with the rice. Add little piles of the herb mixture and macadamias to the side of the plate for diners to use for dipping (I literally couldn’t decide which flavour combination was the greatest). Pour chocolate sauce over and beside the kangaroo.

Serves 4

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Useful stuff:

As with all meat, the kangaroo will be best if you leave it at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before cooking (but I didn’t do that and it was glorious).

Take your time making the sauce. It’s good for the kangaroo to ‘rest’ for up to ten minutes before getting sliced.

The sauce is amazing, and would also go beautifully with a pavlova (keeping in mind that this version will have some juice dripped down from the kangaroo, so you’ll need to use it fairly soon or make a fresh batch solo).

I’ve heard kangaroo is difficult to cook, and there seems to be a consensus that it’s important to leave it rare. But this was a winner on my first go. I’ll be cooking it VERY frequently from now on.

Kangaroo is a brilliantly lean, tasty, sustainable meat. One of the reasons it’s sustainable is that sheep and cows harden the ground they walk on, but kangaroos don’t.

The familarrr

Edit: For those of you who keep telling me you wish you could make it to one of my Interactive Fiction workshops (I generally run one at Conflux every October long weekend), here’s a video course I made on udemy: Introduction to Interactive Fiction. It’s $20.


 

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This was, of course, taken at the Pirate Ball & Book Launch last night.

Here’s some more:

 

Time for a rest!

My next public event is a talk/workshop on Interactive Fiction at the University of Canberra on Friday 2 March 5:30-7:30pm. It’s a rare opportunity to talk IF with me for free, and it’s open to the public.

If you read the dedication to Silver and Stone you’ll know that this group took me in when I was scrambling to write the second Antipodean Queen book. They’re a smart & friendly crowd and I recommend checking them out.

Their facebook page is here.

Monstrous Interviews

If you thought you heard me on One Way FM Canberra this morning, you’re quite right. Priscilla and I got on so well I’ll be returning on Thursday 22nd to talk about how the pirate ball went. And… I might just give a book away on air.

Here are some fun bits of online-only content linked to The Monster Apprentice!

​Here is info on the Pirate Ball this Saturday. (Or here, if you prefer facebook.)

And here’s ANOTHER interview, this time by Megan Higginson, as a blog entry (rather than a podcast or radio interview).

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I haven’t decided on my full outfit, but I’ll definitely be sporting a white puffy shirt and an ever-so-buckled overshirt.

The Monster Apprentice is available for pre-order through Odyssey Books, and I’ve also seen it for pre-order on Amazon Australia, which means it is or soon will be at all the usual online places, and will gradually trickle into some bookshops. You can order it into any bookshop or library.

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

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.

Monster Apprentice Easter Eggs

I was eighteen years old, sitting on a folding chair on a polished concrete floor in an Indonesian classroom. It was hot, and I was daydreaming, and I had an idea.

What if I invented a world complicated enough and rich enough that I could write all kinds of books in it? What if that world was different to all the straight-white-male-authored fantasy that I’d read growing up?

So I invented Rahana, a world based on Indonesia, where every island is physically and culturally different to the rest, where the weather is always tropical, and where magic is so common that physical strength is irrelevant.

Over the years since then I’ve written many stories set in Rahana, and expanded my horizons by travelling on the Young Endeavour sail training vessel. Now, almost twenty years later, my first Rahana book is about to be released.

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I am absolutely thrilled that Tash Turgoose (author of “Makeshift Galaxy”, and now one of my “Murder in the Mail” writer/artists too) is doing internal illustrations for this series. These are some of the pictures that had to be left out for reasons of space:

 

And here is a real-world recipe for Toffee Fish:

Ingredients:

-Four salmon fillets

-Four tablespoons maple syrup

-One tablespoon sesame oil

-One tablespoon butter

-Four cups cooked rice

-One cup peas

-One cup corn kernels

-Two teaspoons sesame seeds

 

Method:

  1. Marinate the salmon in the sesame oil and maple syrup for up to twenty-four hours.
  2. Melt butter in a frying pan and add the rice, peas, and corn. Stir occasionally.
  3. Line a tray with aluminium foil and lay out the salmon fillets (skin side up if you are using fillets with skin), drizzling a teaspoonful of the remaining marinade mixture on top of each fillet. Cook at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
  4. While that is cooking, add the rest of the marinade mixture to the rice mixture and continue cooking it until the salmon is ready.
  5. When preparing the plates, put the salmon on top of the rice (skinless side up if you are using fillets with skin) and sprinkle it with sesame seeds.

 

Serves four

 

Bloody Kickstarter

The “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” Kickstarter campaign starts this Saturday (very much aligned with THE MONSTER APPRENTICE Book Launch & Pirate Ball, because I’m not one to waste an audience), and there are some EPIC rewards on offer.

One of the rewards will be the chance to have a custom cake made for the launch on August 25. A cake based on this picture (“Bloody Cake” by Shauna O’Meara):

felicitycakepicdone

It’s a tribute to Shauna that I want so, so badly to eat that cake, even with the blood dripping all over it (I’d eat around the blood, okay??) and the fact that it’s black and white.

 

My new belly button

It’s been about ten weeks since my stomach operation, and although I’m not fully healed I was just given the go-ahead to swim (my favourite and most effective exercise) yesterday so I’m pretty much in the clear.

Some thoughts:

It really really hurt a lot. There were times when I wasn’t sure it was worth it. (But it clearly was.)

Post-operative infections suck. Especially when you’ve allowed a month off and then suddenly it isn’t close to enough (it was more like taking two months out of my life, although I did get some work done in that time).

Yes, I have a new belly button.

I can fit clothes! This is still extremely exciting.*

My blood glucose has been within target ranges EVERY SINGLE TIME ever since the operation. Under the advice of my doctor, I’m slowly cutting out the diabetes medications that I take—continuing to monitor my blood sugar all the time. It’s too early to be certain, but it looks suspiciously like my stomach operation instantly fixed my diabetes. THAT IS AWESOME. It is also another reason this operation should absolutely be covered under Medicare. How many other mothers have severe health problems because their internal organs just haven’t “bounced back” after a massive physical event?

I’m not so hungry. I snack much less often, and don’t feel as weak, shaky and fatigued as I did before the operation. Stomachs are designed to be enclosed by abdominal muscles, and that goes a LONG way towards explaining why I’ve doubled in weight since having kids… my stomach just wasn’t working, and both my hunger and my fatigue were telling me I wasn’t getting enough food.

I’ve lost a bunch of weight since the operation without trying (or being hangry, which is a big problem for me as it connects to my existing mental conditions in dramatic ways). Hopefully this is a trend that will continue! Honestly I know that things will get harder and harder as I have less weight to lose, but this is certainly helping a LOT.

And sure, I’m still massively overweight, and I still have at least two other conditions that make standing/walking a big problem. But my health has improved hugely, and my optimism for the future—maybe even, one day, a healthy future—is greatly improved.

 

*I actually bought a full-on ball gown the other day, on a whim, because (a) It fit, which is an amazing thing. (b) It’s very pretty, (c) It was at Vinnies, so it cost $50 instead of $500. (d) It was near my birthday.

Full disclosure: I can’t actually do up the zip at the back. Yet.

But I promise to post a pic someday. I’m thinking I might wear it as part of the Kickstarter video for “Murder in the Mail”, which I need to film and put together this week.

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:

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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

 

Rice paper rolls

Lately I’ve been weirdly obsessed with rice paper rolls. Luckily for me, the Vietnamese shop “Roll’d” rapidly became the supplier for my latest addiction. It seems like every day I end up at Roll’d and walk away with those delicious parcels of yum. (I also strongly recommend their sweet potato chips, and I’m dying to try their Bao buns.)

A gluten-free friend of mine (Wendy Jensen, in fact) brought rice paper rolls to a party at my house once, many years ago, which is definitely how this entire habit-forming journey began. I attempted to make them shortly after that, but I had to go and make them “more healthy” by leaving out the vermicelli noodles. It was a disaster.

Last Thursday I ran into another friend, Meg, near Roll’d and we talked rice paper rolls. She said the brand of rice paper is essential, recommending the “pinky-purply” packet that isn’t stocked by Coles.

Today I was chatting to Brooke at church and I was contemplating putting a sauce of my own invention inside the rice paper rolls to make them neater. She said that method only works if they’re served right away—otherwise, the rolls disintegrate. Good to know!

So today, out of dinner ideas but with rice paper and vermicelli noodles (also called ‘glass noodles’, apparently*) all newly-bought on the table (thanks to Chris’ grocery shopping). . . I made rice paper rolls. And they were fantastic.**

My thermomix came in very handy, so I’ll write this as a thermomix recipe. I trust anyone who attempts it sans thermomix will find their own technique.

Obviously, this recipe is dedicated to Wendy, Meg, and Brooke.

Ingredients:

-Vermicelli noodles (those super thin ones; pandaroo brand is good)

-Rice paper (pandaroo brand)

-1 tin coconut milk

-Half or less of a BBQ roast chicken (or other leftover/cold meat). Roughly 400gms. Chopped into bits/lengths.

-1 carrot

-Roasted cashews (a handful)

-Snow peas or capsicum (both is too much)

-Sesame seeds

-Coriander (I used dried coriander but fresh leaves look and taste great)

-Mint (as above)

-Sauces eg Hoisin, Nuoc mam (the Vietnamese one; recommended), Soy, Sweet soy sauce, or a half-half mixture of mayo and maple syrup (recommended).

Method:

  1. Put the coconut milk in a saucepan, add the same amount of water, and set it to boil. Boil the rice noodles for two minutes (they get soft fast, so it’s easy to push them down into the relatively small amount of milk/water) then drain and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Smash your cashews in the thermomix (4 seconds on 6), mix in a teaspoon of mint, and set aside (in a small bowl is nice).
  3. Finely chop your carrot in the thermomix (some cashew powder in the mix is fine; 6 seconds on 6, possibly in two bursts), mix in half a teaspoon of mint and a teaspoon of coriander, and set aside.
  4. Prep your snow peas by cutting the tops and bottoms off./Cut your cucumber into sticks.
  5. Use tepid water to soak and lay out two tea-towels.
  6. Take out 8 rice paper circles (so you can work quickly).
  7. There are probably better ways of doing Step 8 but this worked for me:
  8. Run a gentle stream of tepid water into the sink, and quickly wet (not soak) each side of your rice circles, laying them out on the tea-towels. Do this twice (they will be much floppier the second time).
  9. Prep all your rolls (you don’t need to hurry, but don’t wander off and leave them on the towels or they’ll dry out):
    1. Optional. Lay out any leaves you’re using (instead of dried herbs, like I used) on the rice paper circles.
    2. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a rough line across the centre of each rice paper circle (leave a few centimetres of empty rice paper at either end).
    3. Add 1-2 bits of snow peas/cucumber; 3-4 bits of meat, 1ish spoons of nut mixture, coupla spoons of carrot mixture, and a handful of rice noodles (you’ll need to physically pull it apart from the noodley mass because they’re so long). Basically, you want your contents to make a fat sausage shape with plenty of room all around.
    4. Fold up both short ends of your roll, then physically roll it up (squashing the rice noodles; they can take it). I found that it worked well to make my first fold of the roll over the top of the mixture (rather than trying to fit all the mixture into each turn of the rolling procedure). Whatever your most dodgy rice paper edge is, place the roll with that side down while you do the rest. It’ll be better ‘glued’ in about thirty seconds.
    5. Serve cold with dipping sauces.

If kept in the fridge, I think these are good to eat for 2-3 days.

But be warned: Although they look perfectly neat and convenient, the inevitable forces of chaos will always cause you to drop rice noodle fragments everywhere and/or helplessly mouth-flail as your rice noodle package loses all structural integrity during the last few bites. Trust me on this.

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A lot of the steps can be done well in advance (the whole meal, of course, can also be done in advance and refrigerated), so it’s relatively good for people like me who can’t stand up for long. With the notable exception of Step #9.

 

*In Malaysia (but not, I think, Indonesia), they’re called bee hoon; in China they’re mie fen; in Thailand they’re sen mee and in Vietnam they’re bahn hoi.

**Roll’d adds a sprinkling of crispy fried onions which is pure genius. I may experiment with crushed chips in future (since I’m intolerant of onions).

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 (hopefully as part of an art exhibition) in August 2018.

It is available for purchase in its “full” format until September 2019 (instructions below or at the forum), after which it will be available as a visual novel published by Publisher Obscura.

 

After tossing around ideas and a lot of, “Wouldn’t it be cool if….”, it’s really happening.

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.

Poster 3

(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.

felicityroom-fini

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?)

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.

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.

Here’s the trailer:

 

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.