Shiver Me Timbers!

I said I had big news. This is it.

My middle grade (age 9-14ish) trilogy, all about fantastical pirates and monsters, has just been officially accepted for publication by Odyssey Books.

The first book is called THE MONSTER APPRENTICE, and will be launched in February 2018 (in time for Goulburn ComiCon).

It’s set in a fantasy world called “Rahana” which I invented seventeen years ago. It’s like Narnia, with pirates.

I wrote the first draft of THE MONSTER APPRENTICE in a New Zealand backpacker in Christchurch when I was twenty-two. I know exactly how old I was because I had just scraped into the upper age bracket for the Young Endeavour Sail Training Vessel (doing writerly research for STORMHUNTER).

I’m thirty-five now, but this is a pic of me at twenty-two on board the Young Endeavour, with New Zealand in the background. The character of Captain Sol in the story was inspired by the tales told by one of the navy staff on the boat (taken and altered with her permission).

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Oh, how I love research!

So it turns out Louisette’s pirate outfit last weekend was extremely appropriate.

People who’ve known me a long, LONG time will know that STORMHUNTER, the first book in my young adult magical pirate trilogy (also Rahana), was accepted for publication a while ago, but that particular publisher isn’t running any more. The story is here and here.

This is the closest I get to non-fictional piracy these days:

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Arrrr!

I really haven’t changed all that much after all.

I’ll start reading THE MONSTER APPRENTICE aloud to Louisette this evening. (Finally, a book of my own I can read to her!) Five year-olds are a tough crowd, so I expect I’ll be doing some more editing based on her reactions.

If you can’t wait until February, I have a definitely-not-suitable-for-children pirate game called SCARLET SAILS already on sale (and the beginning is free) here. Or you can search for “Scarlet Sails Hosted Games” on your favourite app store.

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List of all my Interactive Fiction

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

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

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

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

If you’re attempting to read every steampunk tale I’ve written in a logical order, there’s a reading guide here. Everything steampunk in this list is underlined.

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Cover image provided by Michael Estrada, with permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARR ME HEARTIES!!!

The long weeks at sea have dragged by as the scuttlebutt is whispered from captain to cabin boy… there’s going to be a post-comp release of SCARLET SAILS… it’s twice as long… there are new chapters… there are even more chances to stab, shoot, or magically murder people that annoy you…

It turns out that (just this once) the rumours are true.

The beginning is free, and the rest is $2-$4.

You can buy it as an app through iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or Google Chrome…. or on your computer.

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Interactive Fiction: My Shiny New Obsession

If you’ve set eyes on me for more than thirty seconds at any point this year, you know all about my shiny new obsession: interactive fiction. It’s the digital form of “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels.

As of seven minutes ago, my first publicly-available interactive fiction story is live (and also free… for now) right here – scroll down to the bottom of the linked page and click on this:

 

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You don’t need anything more specialised than a computer, and you’ll read the book within a Firefox browser.

This particular story (which takes about twenty minutes to read) is about what happens when a two perpetual students fall through a portal into the magical, tropical world of Rahana. It’s a place where a pregnant queen’s island is under siege, and where a handshake can kill.

You, dear reader, are one of those perpetual students. You choose whether you’re male or female, happily single or crushing on your best friend (who just happens to fall through the portal with you – you also choose their gender). You decide whether you’re a natural fighter or a master manipulator; a doctor or a jack of all trades. When the battle begins, you can choose to kill or heal, to strategise or inspire. Even if you’re completely useless as a character, you get a good story out of it – and you can be someone completely different the next time you read it, too.

How does it work?

Funny you should ask.

As a player, it’s a simple matter of clicking your mouse (or in some cases your finger, since most interactive fiction can be read on smart phones) on the choice that looks best to you, then on the “Next” button to go to the next page. Your choices make a difference in various ways. Usually, choices change your statistics (for better or worse) – recording your personal traits, your relationships with others, and the skill/s you practise along the way. Later on in the game, those choices change your ability to succeed or fail in certain endeavours. You can check up on your stats along the way (there’s a button at the top of the screen), or ignore them and choose with your heart every time (that’s what I do, especially on the first read-through). I also like having “Achievements” listed as a tantalising hint of some of the story’s possibilities. There’s a button for achievements, too, but it’s not possible to gain all of them in a single play-through.

I really like the American company Choice of Games (yes, that’s why my spelling is suddenly non-patriotic) because they’re fun, non-graphic, and determined not to discriminate. In their games, it’s always possible (when relevant) to pick both your gender and orientation.

The lack of strong female characters in fiction magically disappears when a player chooses his/her own gender – and I love that!

So, that’s a lightning-fast preview of the big news I’ve been hinting at all year. “Down the Wombat Hole” isn’t even my first interactive novel…. but the details of the others will have to wait for another post! Let’s just say my days of steampunk and piracy are just beginning.

Oh, and by the way? It just so happens that “Down the Wombat Hole” is set in the same world as my print novel (coming out in 2016) “Stormhunter”. So if you’ve ever read a fantasy book and wished with all your heart you could visit it yourself, now is your chance.

Edited to add: “Down the Wombat Hole” is now part of a full-length collaborative game called LOST IN THE PAGES (with the new chapter title THE QUEEN’S CHILD, and no wombat).

And the small press Satalyte that was going to publish STORMHUNTER has stopped running, but Odyssey Books has just (as of October 2017) taken on the middle-grade pirate trilogy set in the same world, which suggests STORMHUNTER will sail again (it’s young adult, and set hundreds of years after the middle-grade trilogy, so it makes sense to publish the middle-grade trilogy first).