My 2017: No wonder I need a lie down

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

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

“And The Sun Went Out”

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

“And Their Souls Were Eaten”

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

“And Their Heroes Were Lost”

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


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

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

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

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

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

I is happy.


Things are looking up.

Steampunk Stories

I have amused myself for some years by writing a number of stories and novels in a wide range of utterly different formats. Presumably this is due to an unconscious desire to confuse and frustrate the largest possible number of my own readers.

In an effort to give completionists a fair go, this blog entry will always display the full list of all my steampunk tales, where to get them, and whatever else you may need.

Each story is designed to stand on its own without spoilers, but HEART OF BRASS was written first.

In reading order:

  1. Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten. An interactive story set in 1837 Europe, originally released as a serial story through the Tin Man Games company’s Choices That Matter app. It is now complete, and will be released on Steam at some point (probably 2018). I like to pretend the player character is Emmeline’s relative, even though the story has a completely unique premise and plot. It is available as an app for iOs or Google Play. The beginning is free.
  2. Antipodean Queen 1: Heart of Brass. A young adult steampunk novel set mainly in 1854 Australia. Emmeline Muchamore’s origin story. You can buy physical copies through Odyssey Books, who will post it anywhere in the world. You can also order it through any bookshop (the ISBN will help you; it’s 978-1-922200-58-7). You can also buy either print or digital copies from Amazon US, Amazon Australia (kindle only at the time of writing), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Abe Books, The Book Depository, etc. You can read the blurb and beginning here.
  3. After the Flag Fell. A printable interactive story that won the 2015 Windhammer Prize. That version is free here, and an updated version is included with all editions of Heart of Brass. It is set immediately after the events of Heart of Brass.
  4. Antipodean Queen 2: Silver and Stone. The second book of the novel trilogy. Like the first book, it’s available on Amazon US, Kobo, Odyssey, etc, from 10 October 2017 onward. The paperback ISBN is 978-1-925652-20-8. The blurb and beginning are here.
  5. Escape From the Female Factory is a printable short story that happens at the same time as events in Silver and Stone. It should be read after the novel, and is only available as a special feature with the novel.
  6. Stuff and Nonsense is a live-action role-playing game designed for beginners (possible children). It’s a little like those ‘Murder Mystery’ board games, but with actual (silly) games thrown in. The printable version is available by emailing me at with the subject line STUFF AND NONSENSE. I converted it into a Twine game (with images), which is quite different to the original story, and which you can play for free here. It has some very minor spoilers if you read it before the books. Big spoilers if you read it before the role-playing version. THIS STORY TAKES PLACE AT THE SAME TIME AS ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS. Hopefully that’s fun for people who want to explore the world of the novels a bit more. You won’t know the “canon” version of the story without reading the novel, so you can feel free to decide which ending you like the best.
  7. Attack of the Clockwork Army. An interactive story that takes place in the 1860s, mainly in Australia. It allows you to play as one of Emmeline’s siblings if you wish (which will cause spoilers if you haven’t read Heart of Brass) or as an original character in a slightly different and spoiler-free reality. Available here as an app for any device, or it can be read on your browser. Chronologically, it overlaps with the third novel. It uses the ChoiceScript tool. THIS STORY TAKES PLACE AT THE SAME TIME AS ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS. Hopefully that’s fun for people who want to explore the world of the novels a bit more. You won’t know the “canon” version of the story without reading the novel, so you can feel free to decide which ending you like the best.
  8. Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights. The third novel of the trilogy will be released in 2018.

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The simplest way to know when a new story is coming out is to join my mailing list by writing an email to with MAILING LIST in the subject line. I don’t share emails, and I won’t spam you. Usually the mailing list gets about one update a month with major news only (new releases, conference appearances).

PS Here‘s a great article on the whole field of steampunk novels, including links to many many reviews. It’s highly out of date, but the books are still good!

News about “Choices That Matter” story app.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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
























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

Dancing, Duelling, Delicious: The official book launch for HEART OF BRASS

You know what’s cool? Nurofen tablets are sugar coated.


HEART OF BRASS had her official Book Launch yesterday as part of the inaugural Canberra Writers Festival, an absolutely huge event. I was written about (with a cover image) in Canberra Weekly magazine (96,000 readers!) and in the Canberra Times, as well as various other places.

The launch took place in the National Library of Australia (pictured behind the kids and I), in the Ferguson Room. The Ferguson Room overlooks the foyer of the National Library, which gives it a grand air and means one can watch guests coming in. That was particularly fun for me, since I’d encouraged steampunk/historical garb and was well rewarded for my efforts. My kids loved it too. Louisette got to talk into the microphone before anyone else showed up, and she imitated my own test speech by saying, “I wrote a book”—which in her case is quite true (if you haven’t read “The Adventures of Pirate Captain Louisette”, just scroll down a couple of entries).


I’m usually a very confident public speaker, but I was intensely nervous (enough to have patches of time when I was breathing funny) before this event, even though I was rationally confident it would go well.

The best and most important thing is people.

I was very lucky in that regard. The Ferguson Room is meant to seat forty people, which is rather a lot for a debut author—but within a day of setting up the facebook page (and SMSing and emailing various people to invite them personally), I knew I had at least twenty people. The phrase “book launch” is haunted by the horrifying spectre of a desperately awkward room of four people sitting in a sea of chairs and wishing fervently that they were elsewhere (none more miserably than the author). By the time the big day rolled around I was slightly nervous that the room would be unpleasantly crowded or that we’d run out of books for people to buy (what wonderful issues to have!) I estimated 50-60 guests beforehand, and I was exactly on the money. Someone had added a few more chairs to the room, which was useful. We sold a very healthy number of books without selling out altogether (my publisher and I both had extra stashes of books just in case). I would have liked to sell more, but this means that the National Library bookshop still has copies on the shelf (excellent promotion in itself).

50-60 people is a lot. That’s a larger number than any event I’ve hosted before (with the exception of my wedding), and it was in a location I didn’t know well.

I get panicky in new places. The National Library as a whole is somewhere I’ve been to many times, and I visited the room before the launch to get a sense of the space, but the technical equipment was new on the day. It all worked well (strange but true), including the book trailer and the dancing music. I really enjoyed the location and I wish I could start over so I could have that confidence from the beginning. Bring on Book 2!

Robbie Matthews is a friend, a writer, and a generally charming and funny person who’s well known to the Canberra writing community. He was MC at my wedding, and I was very pleased with myself for thinking of him again for the launch (especially as it prevented me from haranguing other authors who I don’t know as well).

At my wedding reception one of the tables was “the minion table”—full of people who’d helped decorate, give lifts, take photos, etc. As MC Robbie was on that table and he made friends. Then he made a highly memorable speech about the wide range of colourful threats I’d made to all my sweet innocent minions in order to let them know what would happen if they didn’t do their assigned jobs. I vividly recollect how impressed I was at the time that I’d subconsciously tailored original threats to each person.

As the book launch drew closer I wondered what Robbie would say about me, since I hadn’t threatened anybody this time. He got up and explained how we’d met: We did Live Action Role Playing (LARPing is like a play where all the players have a general character and plot outline and then improvise to amuse one another), and I was his fictional daughter. “By the end,” Robbie explained, “she was wearing my spine as a necklace.”

Oh yeah… I’d forgotten about that. (To be fair, my character was under a lot of stress at the time.) One may draw one’s own conclusions about my general mental health…

A lot of book launches are introduced by the writer’s publisher. It’s a very neat way to do things, but I always felt it was a bit sad since the author and publisher are the people who are the most desperate to sell the book. Having Robbie meant that we had a disinterested party recommending the book (which he read before the launch). That made me feel much less like a grasping novice.


I realised belatedly that the reason I was so nervous was that I was, in the most literal sense of the phrase, “selling something” (and to an audience that was trapped for the duration, too). It’s impossible for a writer to truly know if a book is good or not (although being published certainly helps) and that’s why I always find book launch speeches so horrifying. I acquitted myself well enough, I think.

I’d described the launch to Louisette in advance, and she said she wanted to help with my speech, so when I got up I summoned her as well. She is an adorable child and was adorably serious about the entire process—but she stood bravely (by herself, because I needed to stay near the podium microphone). She was very pleased afterwards with her own courage. Hopefully this will lead her to be a confident public speaker, rather than turn her into a full-time writer (creative jobs have a high personal cost that I wouldn’t wish on anyone).


Clothing is tricky while I’m still waiting for my stomach muscles to be put back together (not helped by weird sensory overstimulation stuff that tends to give me panic attacks if I wear new clothes), but I’d had an idea (on Friday) to adjust a favourite skirt, and that very much improved things for me.

My other main panic was that I’d simply forget to bring something essential. I started putting things in the car last Thursday, and although there were certain things I meant to do and didn’t, all the important pieces (such as a copy of the book to give away to the best costume, and having my kindle prepped on the podium for my reading) were in place.

This was all very much complicated by the fact that I’d gotten overenthusiastic and decided to write and run a Live Action Role Play game inside Questacon after the launch. But that’ll need its own entry 🙂

The tea duelling and catering was complicated by the fact that no outside food was allowed, and no food was allowed in the room. That meant paying a huge sum to the cafe (which reserved tables for us and did a great job from beginning to end) and having biscuits that were fresh and delicious but not the right kind for duelling. Although the cafe staff were excellent and the location classy, the lack of ability to bring in a pack of plain dry biscuits was annoying. Still, it was entertaining and it looks great in pictures (useful for media coverage, which is useful for selling books, which is the point). And even though we under-catered, most people were so distracted by the duelling that they didn’t eat or drink at all.



The waltzing was a huge highlight. I had one couple primed to lead the way, and Louisette is an enthusiastic amateur. I figured I’d waltz with Louisette while my dancers hopefully lured a couple or two to join them over the course of the piece.

Actually, I danced with Chris the second the music started, and several other couples willingly took to the floor in an instant. The space was perfect (everyone moved the chairs back); roomy enough to dance without feeling either crowded or lonely.

It’s been a long time since Chris and I waltzed, and it was a lovely moment for both of us. I found out later that one of the other people dancing was stepping out (invited by a nearby acquaintance because Canberra is like that) for the first time since major surgery, and it made her realise she might be healthy enough to dance regularly again soon.


Adrenalin does wonders in carrying my wreck of a body through things (in fact that’s probably part of why I do things like this—for a while, I feel normal). My muscles were freaking out last night as the adrenalin wore off, and today I’m weirdly sore in a dozen places (hence the nurofen). Luckily I’m not involved in the rest of the Canberra Writers Festival so I don’t need to do anything more strenuous than writing and napping for the rest of the day.

I still can’t quite believe how many people came.


The launch was as close to perfect as it could be. The festival, venue, and volunteers were all top notch. Ultimately I wouldn’t change a thing.

Best Playgrounds in Canberra

Earlier this year (and adding to previous experience) I set out to become the world expert on Canberra playgrounds. I think I succeeded, and I have the travel articles to prove it. First, a not-very-plausible Tour of Canberra (seriously, all of it) through playgrounds. It really does work for seeing all Canberra’s best bits in a single day, and it involves art, science, culture, history, and music! pic12   Secondly, the best ten playgrounds rated – by imaginative fun, parental seating, safety, toilet facilities, fatal flaws, likelihood of crowding, and more! I write a LOT of travel articles. These two are the best by far, hence being put on the blog. Louisette’s godmother saw the Epic Tour and said she’d like to attempt it! I’ll let you know how far we get before Louisette begs to go home 🙂   pic8

NB These picture are the property of WeekendNotes.

Sarcastic Christmas Letter

This has been a particularly well-photographed year, and a pleasant one, so here’s a superfast mostly-visual rundown of 2012:

January: Louisette was born. Being not pregnant is STILL exciting, outweighed only by the presence of Louisette herself.


February: Sleeeeepy.


March: And then we went to Hong Kong. Because international travel is what ALL the baby books recommend. The fantastic mountains + ocean and islands + skyscrapers of Hong Kong will always be a favourite world location for me, and we took heaps of photos with which to taunt Louisette when she grows up enough to complain that we never go anywhere exciting.


April: And then we went to Beijing (and of course the Great Wall) for the wedding of CJ’s brother. A brilliant trip (with some brief excursions into tiredness hallucinations/psychosis for me – Louisette travelled way better than I did) and the best kind of wedding – the kind where you’re delighted about the bride and groom getting together, and so is absolutely everyone else. This trip is probably why Louisette is so chilled out about changes in temperature, company, and noise. Nothing phases her.



May: I didn’t QUITE win $10,000 for my steampunk novel (I came either second or third in the Text Publishing Prize, and received. . .  a hearty congratulations) – but I did have my first Mothers’ Day.

Yep, that’s me wiping up some spew.

Louisette turned out to be a surprisingly generous gift-giver, however, so it’s all good.


June: I cut back heavily on my writing – for the first time in my life, I had something better (and more fun) to do: watch Louisette take on the world. (This did not mean stopping twittertales, blogging, or sending books to publishers.)

I became a playgroup addict, going to three a week.


July: My sister and her family came back to Canberra from Perth, meaning that all Louisette’s cousins now live in the same city. Other than, well, having Louisette, this was the best thing that happened this year.

Make that the third-best.

I also began working a significant number of hours per week (babysitting with two primary-age girls and taking Louisette with me), and I’m still heartily enjoying my sharp increase in sanity (after seven years of crazy, that would be the second-best thing that happened this year**). The connection between “less writing” and “more sanity” has not been lost on me, although the sanity definitely came first.

The first picture is Louisette with all her cousins*, and the second is with my after-school girls.

*Watch this space 🙂

The fourth, fifth and sixth-place winners are, in order:

Louisette refused to breastfeed past a few months of age – THANK YOU, baby.

We have a new fridge.

Bil and Bonnie’s wedding in April (okay, yes, they’re outranked by our fridge. If you knew our fridge, you’d understand).



August: Louisette’s youngest cousin was born – her new favourite chew toy. Meanwhile, Louisette suddenly got mobile. She hasn’t stopped laughing maniacally to herself since.



September: CJ’s first Fathers’ Day. I began working full-time (four jobs altogether, all of which let me take Louisette along) – and, until I got bronchitis, it was awesome. (Since then two of my families have shifted but my workload is similar.)


October: Louisette was born with a tiny skin tag on her face. She had it removed – and was an absolute champion the whole time.


November: It became clear that independent standing and walking isn’t far away. Soon she will be a toddler – literally.


December: Beach trip!! Staying at a lighthouse!! With my my entire family!! (All my side, anyway – I have grandiose plans to get ALL our close family together just once in February – including Bil and Bonnie and Louisette’s godparents – all of whom live overseas).




All in all, an amazing year. Merry Christmas, everyone. Remember to eat a lot – but choose your food wisely. Glitter looks a lot better than it tastes.


PS I forgot (*gasp*) to post the month of daily photos this month, so that’ll happen on Wednesday.

The future of awesome

This week has been a lot better physically than last week, and I’m feeling good as I count down the weeks (eight to go).  

I did have a peculiar incident yesterday. When I woke up, I stretched – like a mad fool. The muscles in my left leg snapped into a bad cramp – and after the initial severe pain wore off it stuck around (in fact it’s not entirely gone now). I literally crawled to the bathroom and was able to limp back. Unfortunately, lying down made it much worse and when I tried to get up an hour later CJ had to come and massage me before I could turn over (somewhat necessary in order to get my legs to the floor). I limped severely all day, but luckily I didn’t need to drive anywhere. Although it was painful, it had plenty of novelty value so I kind of enjoyed it.

It’s probably caused by a lack of magnesium (that or calcium, but since I drink almost a litre of milk a day it’s pretty obviously not that).

Louisette has started hiccuping, and was kind enough to hiccup while CJ was home last week, so he could feel the movement.

And on to today’s official topic! Here, in no particular order, are some of the plans CJ and I are looking forward to doing with our future children (and yes, there are some significant differences in the costs or age-relevence of these items):

Take the kids to the zoo.

Buy a house with a yard (but make the kids share a room – if we can all stand it).

Take the kids to Questacon, especially in Winter.

Play with plasticine, and playdough, and make potato stencils.

Buy primary-school popularity for the kids by having a pool.

Expand the house (or shove CJ out of his study) so the kids get their own rooms around the onset of puberty.

Have a granny flat so the kids can be “neighbours” for a while between living at home and moving out. Charge rent based on their income, until it reaches market value.

Play with frisbees.

Fly a kite.

Take them to Canberra’s best playgrounds (the castle, and the snake playground).

Go camping with my brother and his family.

Lots of cousin time! (My sister and her family might even be living in Canberra, which would mean all my direct siblings are here in one city!!)

Go paddle boating.

Rent a four-person bike.

When the kids are old enough, teach them how to look after fish. . . then a cat or dog. It’s a brilliant gift for them, and it teaches responsibility for others.


Do you have kids? Feel free to steal an idea (or four)! Or tell me some more awesome kid-related suggestions in the comments.