Antipodean Queen 2: SILVER AND STONE

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

The trailer is here (it includes a fast-and-dirty explanation of steampunk and features my daughter).

Silver and Stone cover

Like to read the back cover? Here it is:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Like a sample?


CHAPTER ONE

I don’t deliberately make things explode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Are you?’

‘Why are you holding up the table?’

‘So it doesn’t fall down.’

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

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

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

‘Poking stick,’ I said.

‘Now is hardly the time.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I don’t deliberately make things explode!’

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

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

Crash!

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

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

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

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

At last we were safe.

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

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

‘So I do.’

She slipped her shoes back on, apparently unhurt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang.

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

Bang.

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

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

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

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


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

Antipodean Queen 1: HEART OF BRASS

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

The book trailer is here.

HEARTOFBRASSCover

Like to read the back cover? Here it is:


Emmeline Muchamore is a well-bred young lady hiding explosive family secrets. She needs to marry well, and quickly, in order to keep her family respectable. But when her brass heart malfunctions, she makes a desperate choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it and survive.

She is unable to explain her actions without revealing she has a steam-powered heart, so she is arrested for theft and transported to Victoria, Australia – right in the midst of the Gold Rush.

Now that she’s escaped the bounds of high society, iron manacles cannot hold her for long.

The only metal that really matters is gold.


 

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

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

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

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

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

Like a sample?

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

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

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: 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 2017). 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 fellissimo@hotmail.com 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.
  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.
  8. Antipodean Queen 3 (title undecided). 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 fellissimo@hotmail.com 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!

Procrastination Technique #452: Reviews

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

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

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

Mario Zalout wrote:

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

Theresa Budd wrote:

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

Zachery Fitzpatrick wrote:

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

Trevor Veltema wrote:

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

Johannes Haler wrote:

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

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

Alper Can Buyuk wrote:

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

Franz Airyl Sapit wrote:

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

Kaneki Ken wrote:

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

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

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

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

DERPING Dubstep wrote:

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

Kat Hargis:

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

krazykidfox wrote:

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

I don’t have a name wrote:

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

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I really love that people are passionate about the stories!

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

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

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

Getting into the reader’s mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So. Confession time.

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

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

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

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

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

Greyhound: 53%

Sparrow: 19%

Rat: 18%

Deer: 9%

Otter: 1%

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

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!

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.