Tick Tock

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The mechanical spider was built by Justin Gershenson-Gates at A Mechanical Mind. The image was used with permission (Image 2 is filtered).

https://www.etsy.com/shop/amechanicalmind/

 

I’m figuring out images for my newest interactive story, “Stuff and Nonsense”. Images are easier if they’re linked to a url. So this entry will continue having pics added.

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September 23, 2016 · 12:13

“Stuff and Nonsense” cover

 

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I’m learning Twine while writing a game for the IF Comp. If I want to put an image into the game, the simplest way is to link to a url. Specifically, this one. Probably. If I’m doing this right.

Photographer: Jody Cherry (Exposure Studios)
Hair & Make-up: Jody Cherry (Cherrish Hair & Make-up Artistry)
Model: Amelia Brown

Cropped to fit and text added (with permission) by Felicity Banks

 

And from The British Museum’s AMAZING collection of historical images:

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And some pictures of a pocket watch that I just took:

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Filed under Daily Awesomeness, Interactive Fiction, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories

Weak Words

I haven’t posted any writing advice in a while, possibly because a lot of my work is out there now and anything I say is likely to be hypocritical and I’m scared of people pointing that out.

But here is a great, simple, well-explained infographic on words that should be dragged out and shot. Take a look!

http://writerswrite.co.za/5-weak-words-to-avoid-and-what-to-use-instead

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Filed under Advanced/Publication, Articles by others, Beginners, Daily Awesomeness, Writing Advice

Adventures in Melbourne

Last Friday morning I flew to Melbourne, meeting my Tin Man Games workmates in 3-D for the first time. I flew home Saturday night.

On Saturday I ran a social meet-up before the Participatory Storytelling Panel at the Brimbank Writers and Readers Festival.

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I’ve been wanting to go to Melbourne for a while, and it was the Participatory Storytelling Panel that gave me the excuse I needed (thank you to Phil Minchin, on the left in the above photo, for all the hard work you do—and for this panel in particular).

I also took the opportunity to deliver 35 copies of “Heart of Brass” to a whole bunch of bookshops, starting at Dymocks Watergardens and including Dymocks Geelong, Geelong Market Square, Knox, Prahran, Southlands, Camberwell, and Doncaster, as well as Andrew’s Book Store (Ivanhoe).

The Watergardens books are signed.

So.

How was Melbourne?

Rainy. It rained all day Friday, and loomed all day Saturday. I spotted small patches of blue sky after the panel was finished (as I was on my way to the airport). It was raining again by the time my plane boarded. (Do I even need to mention that every second person I saw told me how stunning and downright summery the weather had been just before I arrived?)

I really enjoyed the way so many of Melbourne’s central buildings were highlighted in brilliant colour, looking bright and beautiful even in the Melbourney weather. The buildings also worked incredibly hard to be any shape but rectangular. Some created optical illusions with paint. Some were actually curved. Others had random geometric shapes sticking out. The great thing about all the crazy colours and shapes was that they made excellent combinations when viewed from a range of different angles. You’ll have to take my word for it, because I didn’t take a camera (with over 40 books in my suitcase, I was keen to cut down on luggage).

Someone on a bus gave me their seat, presumably believing I was pregnant (absolutely worth it, for once). On another occasion two men got into a punch-up while I sat waiting for a taxi outside a shopping centre. It was terribly exotic, but not exactly a great advertisement for Melbourne.

How was travelling?

I was super, super excited about staying in a hotel. A clean room, AND a room I didn’t have to clean after myself or anyone else? A whole night without anyone screaming at and/or near me? A bed with only my own limbs to injure myself on? Waking up to the sweet tones of my phone alarm instead of spending the first ten seconds of my day immediately dealing with more urine and more screaming? Walking to the bathroom without noticing ten things I should probably fix/clean/move along the way?

Food delivered to my room, where I could eat in bed and watch TV, all without interruptions AND in my PJs??

I stayed in a hotel without room service (WHY EVEN BOTHER TRAVELLING?), that was so small I kept bumping into the walls. But it had a TV and a bed and an ensuite, and that was awesome. And I didn’t hear any screaming, and no one peed on me. So that was special.

Melbourne trains don’t go to the airport, which is stupid. Getting to and from airports is often surprisingly complex, so I picked a hotel with a shuttle bus—which turned out to mean catching the skybus from the airport followed by a “loop” bus that goes to a list of hotels. It wasn’t a fast or pleasant process, but it did eventually get me there. I left home at 7am for an 8:30-9:30am flight, and arrived at the hotel around 12. After five hours of travelling I was pretty tired, but I prettied myself up as much as possible in a short time and took out my home-printed google maps to make sure I got to the Tin Man Games office, SMSing as I left the hotel to let them know I was close by.

And so it was that I walked half an hour through steady rain to the place Tin Man Games used to be located, many years ago. I was exhausted, sore, sweaty, and in precisely the wrong direction.

From there I caught a taxi, and reevaluated my abilities—both physical and mental. Everyone does dumb things sometimes, but that was me at my best. I prepared for weeks. I was careful. I had backup plans.

I missed so many things, and made so many mistakes along the way… and I’m going to keep making bizarrely obvious mistakes for at least another couple of years (while my brain recovers from a long period of daily migraines). The simple fact is that I’m not mentally or physically capable of basic functionality outside of my own carefully-constructed routine.

From then on I didn’t really travel alone. People looked after me at various points, and the rest of the time I relied on taxis. Taxis are stupidly expensive, and they often don’t come when/where you need them most. I can’t rely on them to help me.

So I need to have a serious think about whether I can do that sort of thing—independent interstate travel—ever again.

On the other hand, although I’m a bit stiff and sore, I’m incredibly refreshed and optimistic. There’s something about travelling that refreshes me from the inside out. So I need to think about that too.

Professionally…

I very much enjoyed hanging out with my Tin Man Games people. They really are exactly as smart and funny and chilled-out in real life as they are on skype. The up side of networking is that people in the same creative industries as me are often really fun to talk to. We actually ran into a few other people at lunch, which was a nice bonus.

The official IF meetup was small but high-quality, with exactly one person representing almost every single facet of my interactive fiction life: a young adult fantasy author, a Choice of Games writer, a Tin Man Games writer/programmer, the organiser of the Participatory Storytelling Panel, and a coupla randoms. Most of us went to the panel too.

I had thought the panel would feel long, at 1.5 hours, but it didn’t. Each one of us could have easily talked the entire time, because we love our subject manner and spend a large chunk of our waking hours thinking about it. It may well have been the best panel I’ve ever been on. The audience was cool too—smart and thoughtful and involved.

Professionally, the trip was a raging success. I also had a great time in between the travelling parts.

The gentlemen pictured are Wade Dyer, inventor of the tabletop role-playing universe  Fragged Empire, and Phill Krins, who is one of the organisers of the spectacular Swordcraft live-action games.

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I hope someday we meet again.

 

 

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Parenting

Well, it happened. Louisette told me she wanted to be a writer when she grew up.

Being a writer is a terrible idea! My dream for my kids is for them to have steady, 9-5ish jobs with sick leave and annual leave and a pay rise every year. I want them to be healthy and sane. In short, I want them to have everything I never will.

“That’s wonderful!” I said to my sweet innocent child. “And you know what’s great about writing? You can do it AND have another job at the same time!”

Ah, parenting. Finding that magical place between, “Follow your dreams” and “Do your homework.”

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That’s Louisette hugging a dinosaur.

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Drinks with umbrellas in them

The other day I saw a random stock photo of people sitting on banana lounges by a pool sipping tropical drinks from pineapple halves.

I don’t have a bucket list (the last thing I need is another to-do list) but I immediately tweeted that my life was incomplete because I’d never drunk out of a pineapple.

So today, our shopping list included two whole pineapples and a coconut. Chris has long since learned to obey strange requests, so he bought them without comment (he does the shopping).

Here’s what I made, adjusted from here since I’m incapable of just following a recipe (but if you want a proper one with measurements and stuff, go there).

Step 1: Freeze milk into ice cube trays. You will use half of one normal-sized tray.

Step 2: Gather ingredients:

-Milk frozen into cubes (as above)

-2 pineapples (For me, the edible parts added up to about 500g including juice.)

-Milk from one coconut (roughly 200mL) or a can (400mL)

-Natural, vanilla, or coconut yogurt

-A pack of those teeny paper umbrellas

-Straws (plastic or metal can stand straight up in a pineapple cup, but you’ll need to be careful to clean them immediately after drinking or they’ll get super gross).

 

Optional:

-Some banana (but be cautious; the drink needs to be able to get through a straw if you don’t want to eat it with a spoon).

-Grated coconut (possibly fresh, if you’re up for it)

-Ice (again, keeping in mind that one can’t drink from the rim of a pineapple so you’ll probably have to use either huge large blocks that stay out of your straw’s way, or crush your ice VERY finely).

-A thermomix. Thermomix smash!

 

Could be interesting/awesome:

-Other tropical fruits (mango?)

-Avocado

-Sweetened condensed milk

Step 3: Extract most of the pineapple from your pineapples without stabbing them through (or stabbing yourself at all).

I used a large knife to cut them in half (making four “cups”) then made a cross-hatch through the fruity part (like a noughts-and-crosses board with the pineapple core in the centre). Then I used a metal spoon to scoop out various bits, sorting them into fruit and core and cutting again as needed (I took the good fruit out first, then cut a + into the core so I could take it out in pieces). Every so often your “cup” will get super juicy – just pour it into your blender and keep going.

Leave plenty of pineapple in the “cup”.

Step 4: Get the milk out of the coconut. I stabbed it with a skewer and then drained it through a strainer (to catch any random bits from the outside of the coconut) into a bowl. (It works better if you stab more than one eye; for me only one worked. I ended up standing over the sink shaking the coconut until it was empty which took a couple of minutes and was actually kind of fun.)

Step 5: Thoroughly blend pineapple chunks, coconut milk, your frozen milk cubes, and four good dollops of yogurt.

Step 6: Check the taste and texture, and adjust if necessary.

Step 7: Pour into pineapple cups and (if you have time) stick it in the fridge for up to an hour and/or add ice cubes. Leftovers will need a jug or something.

Step 8: Add straws, metal spoons (enthusiastic people can manually extract more pineapple from their cups), and (optional) grated coconut to garnish.

Serves four, including multiple refills.

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Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten

I’ve been working very hard on this story app for Tin Man Games all this year, and I’m incredibly proud of it.

The beginning is free, and the rest costs a few dollars (or a LOT of ads if you choose that option on Android).

It’s a subscription story that releases a new section each week. There are between 2 and 7 strands happening at any one time, with both delayed and instant branching.

Some of you are already subscribed to the award-winning “Choices: And the Sun Went Out” (I’m a co-writer there). In that case, you’re already subscribed to “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten”. (Congratulations!)

The original story, the near-future scifi game “Choices: And The Sun Went Out” will end in December this year. The second story, “Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten” will be “medium-length”. Ultimately it’ll work out to be around half a million words.

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On Apple, a subscription to either story gets you a subscription to both.

You can choose to have certain character/s speak to you through your apple watch, if you have one. (That, the music, and the sound effects can all be switched on or off – I like the music off but the sound effects on.)

On Android, you can buy (or earn by watching a LOT of ads) Story Passes, which can be spent on either story.

“Choices: And Their Souls Were Eaten” is my project from the start; a steampunk adventure set in 1830s Europe when Queen Victoria was a teen princess and strange monsters roamed Europe. It uses the same magical steampunk universe as my novel “Heart of Brass2” and the ChoiceScript game “Attack of the Clockwork Army” but there aren’t any spoilers.

One of the features of the subscription system is that the writers (I have paid editors who happen to be excellent writers as well, and I encourage them to add cool bits) can adjust the story based on suggestions from readers. I’ve been known to add pirates, name characters after fans, and so on—all based on what people seem to like.

Place your random requests here, if you like!

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Filed under Advanced/Publication, All Steampunk Fiction, Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Series, Writing Advice