My new belly button

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

Some thoughts:

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

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

Yes, I have a new belly button.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A little piracy

Last weekend I ran a stall at CanCon for three days. It’s Canberra’s biggest board game gathering, and this was the 40th year.


I wore corsets! It was so exciting! And there was a T-Rex. I’ve already booked the exact same stall location for January 2019.

I also wore my pretty pretty princess outfit:

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I didn’t actually take a proper camera. Most of these photos were taken on my kindle (NOT recommended, but awfully handy at times).

I’m uncommonly proud that I wore my hair three different ways over the three days. I’m often too tired to brush it before leaving the house.

My new and improved post-surgery body held up pretty well, although I was as careful as I could be while still staffing the stall. I rested a lot today, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any permanent injury to myself (I had a lot of ominous blisters and aches and suchlike, but luckily I have a lot of hospital-grade bandages which I used with great care, changing them every day). My wheelchair was handy because it made me feel comfortable sitting down (otherwise I’d feel rude), and because the armrests help support my back.

I sold a massive amount of books, and let a lot of people know about the free pirate ball happening on Saturday 17 February. My daughter also celebrated her 6th birthday on Saturday morning with a dress-up pool party (while my fellow author, Annabelle Lee, manned the stall at CanCon). Two of the younger siblings of her friends are BFFs with my son, so I took one of my favourite sets of photos ever:

These three boys are just as adorable in real life as they look in the pictures.

On the last day of CanCon I received the full set of illustrations for The Monster ApprenticeTash Turgoose does photorealistic pencils and I’ve been dying to see her work. Here are three small versions of some important characters: Captain Sol, an evil pirate; the heroine, Dance, coming face to face with a heest monster; and Ransom, who. . . well, you’ll have to read the books to find out.


You can immediately see that the fantasy world of Rahana was inspired by Indonesia. And that asking to have Tash Turgoose illustrate the books was a genius move on my part. I saw her book, Makeshift Galaxy, and I’ve been in awe ever since.

Why YES, she is one of the authors (and writers for that matter) for Murder in the Mail. Incidentally, I’m already taking pre-orders for Murder in the Mail. Details in the forum here.

The Monster Apprentice will be launched at the pirate ball on Saturday 17 February. It’s Book 1 of the Heest Trilogy, which is suitable for 10-14 year olds (and also people like me, that just like a great story). It’s likely there are more Rahana stories to come after this trilogy, too.

Sandy Fussell is one of my absolute favourite children’s authors (I own the entire Samurai Kids series), so I asked her for a cover quote for The Monster Apprentice. She gave me a selection! Here’s one:

  • The Monster’s Apprentice will transport you somewhere wonderful, unlike any world you’ve imagined. Caught between terrifying Heest monsters and murderous pirates, with only her name for a weapon, Dance must defend the ice island of Luar and its people.

She also said “I wish I had Felicity’s imagination” which is simply ludicrous. If you read any of her books, you’ll know why.

But I don’t mind a little flattery. I am a writer, after all.

And here’s the final trailer for The Monster Apprentice, for the three humans who haven’t seen it yet.


Rice paper rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

-Rice paper (pandaroo brand)

-1 tin coconut milk

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

-1 carrot

-Roasted cashews (a handful)

-Snow peas or capsicum (both is too much)

-Sesame seeds

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

-Mint (as above)

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

Murder for Fun and Profit

STOP PRESS: The Kickstarter is now LIVE until April 14 2018.


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

Murder in the Mail is a story told through letters, objects, and artworks physically posted to the reader over the course of eight weeks.

The reader is a character in the story, invited to guess the identity of the killer each week. The Murder in the Mail forums are a place where readers can compare clues and insights, helping (or hampering) one another. Everything, including the art, contains clues to be unravelled.

The first story in the series is A Bloody Birthday.

Poster 3

(Like the logo? It’s by Publisher Obscura author Annabelle Lee.)

A group of art students gather at a birthday party where the guest of honour is murdered. One of them is the killer.

You ask the group of friends to write letters to you, talking openly about what happened, and sharing art works they’ve done in the period of time before, during, and after the party.

People say artists show their soul through their art. . . now it’s up to you to discover the darkness inside someone you trusted.


There are eight beautiful pieces of art included with this story, all made by Australian artists (almost all of whom I scouted out personally here in Canberra). Every character is written by a different published Odyssey Books author. The objects in the story are chosen to involve all the senses, and the art was chosen to be (a) Beautiful (b) Varied in style and medium (c) Packed full of clues.

For example, this picture has five clues in it.


That beautifully intricate piece is by the artist Shauna O’Meara.

There will be a Kickstarter campaign beginning on Saturday 17 February and ending on the last day of May. If it goes well, there will be at least one more story in the series (and financial bonuses for all the contributors). During the Kickstarter period, there will be a range of unique items for people to purchase, such as premium versions of the story or custom-made art by the featured artists.

There will be a very special launch on 25 August, here in Canberra and possibly elsewhere in Australia as well.

If you want to know more, you can email

If you want to buy one and can’t hold on to your $40 until the Kickstarter starts, there are three ways you can order your very own Murder in the Mail story:

You need to supply your name, email, and the physical address where the story should be posted. NB: The first mail-out will begin in June-July.

It is VERY important that you clearly label your payment with your name!

  1. If you have PayPal, send your money to
  2. If you don’t have PayPal, you can get it & pay us very easily by going here, entering $40, and clicking on the big blue “Next” button to privately & safely link your bank account to PayPal.
  3. Or just use the following details for a direct deposit:                                           Commonwealth Bank         062-692            3320 8197


Here is another one of the artworks that will be in the story:

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It’s by Adam Lee.

Eight weeks is a long time to worry which one of your friends is a killer (even when the friends are fictional), and there are also some Easter Eggs and clues that are quite obscure. So go ahead and lurk and/or join the forum here. There’s lots of space to talk about other art and other types of stories. If you are an Australian or New Zealand resident and an artist, please share your style and details there. I will be actively scouting the forum for future stories.

I’ll be going to various conferences this year, and the first cab off the rank is Canberra’s biggest gaming conference, CanCon, in C Pavilion near the vast Games Library.

Feel free to come and chat, buy my books (or Annabelle Lee’s books), playtest some of my interactive fiction, and perhaps order a copy of Murder in the Mail for yourself or someone who would kill for it.

Oh, and there’s a facebook page here where at least one of our early reviewers will be sharing her first impressions.

Here’s the trailer:




Yes, books have trailers now.

Yes—as is utterly obvious even on first viewing—I make my own trailers. It would actually be cheaper for me to hire someone else to do it. You can get a professional-looking trailer for around $5 if you know where to look. This trailer cost considerably more than that (I paid for music, actors, and three video clips).

The thing is, although I can barely navigate iMovie (or anything more complicated than a text document with a few hashtags and such for coding interactive fiction), I just adore putting together book trailers. For me they’re a great way to draw people quickly into the mood of the tale. And although I’m overwhelmingly not a visual artist, I admire it when I see it, and I like to dabble.

So without further ado, here is the first trailer for The Monster Apprentice:


NB: I accidentally deleted the rest of the credits on the Monster Apprentice trailer, which will eventually read:

With thanks to




This trailer kicks off a new series, for a new audience (children/tweens rather than adults/young adult) and is certainly has a different feeling and style to my other trailers. I’ve played it about a dozen times for my kids (and of course, roughly a million times for myself).

Here’s my other two (so far) trailers:

Antipodean Queen 1: Heart of Brass


Antipodean Queen 2: Silver and Stone

I will be doing two more this year! One for Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday (that’ll be interesting—the trailer will need to explain how it all works), and one for Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights.


The heest are enormous monsters that live in the magically-sustained ice of Luar Island. They are both more and less than they seem.

When I was eighteen years old and living in Indonesia, I invented a fantasy world called Rahana. It is a place with thousands of islands and millions of potential stories, where magic is considered to be just another trade. Rahana is like Narnia, but with pirates.

The HEEST trilogy is written for children (but is, as always, the kind of thing I love to read as an adult). It will begin release with a Pirate Ball on February 17th 2018 (next month).

The first book is THE MONSTER APPRENTICE. All three books will be illustrated by the glorious talents of Tash Turgoose.

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

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

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The cover is here!!

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FYI, if you haven’t read Sandy Fussell’s books, you’re missing out. I especially love the Samurai Kids series. She is also a fantastic human being, which doesn’t hurt!

While we’re waiting for the cover, here’s the first version of the trailer:


And the final version, with sneak peeks at some of the glorious internal illustrations by Tash Turgoose, is here:


And here’s the opening:


I awoke from a dead sleep – for once, a sleep without nightmares. My bedroom was pitch black and silent, but my heart was racing. Then the sound came again – a man shouting at the top of his voice. He pounded at my family’s front door.

“Elder!” The man’s voice was sharp with terror. “Elder, wake up!”

The night air was hot and still. My sheets lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. At the open window my curtains hung in unmoving black lines. No wind slid through to ease the stifling heat. My mane oflong black hair felt heavy around my head. I didn’t dare move.

Dad would check on me before he went to answer the yelling. Ever since my twin sister died, he was that type of dad. Whenever he felt worried about something, I was told to go to my room – to sleep, if it was night time. No matter how many nightmares I had.

He was forever telling me to be careful, – but I was definitely not going to miss out on the fun this time. So I remained curled on my side as if I hadn’t heard a thing. If he didn’t tell me to go back to sleep, sneaking out wasn’t disobeying him. Not exactly.

“Elder, please!” The man’s voice broke, and I recognised him. It was Watchman, who spent each night staring out over the sea. I felt my first delicious shiver of real fear.

Still I didn’t move. I stared at my curtains, since they were directly in front of me. The black stripes looked like prison bars. Everyone  single person on the island had jail-bar curtains, since only one ship had brought curtains to Luar in twenty years. Dad could have organised more traders, but he chose instead to keep Luar Island as secret as possible. He wanted everyone to be safe.

Watchman hammered again on our heavy wooden door. I held my breath. Something was happening, and I was going to find out what it was – no matter what.

My bad eye skittered to the side, giving me half a view of the three carved masks hung on hooks on my wall – my most recent school project, worth a king’s ransom on any other island. Luar Island’s odd trees didn’t grow anywhere else – only magic could excuse the fact that explain how they grew at all – and as a result Luar’s art was more delicately carved than anywhere else in the world. And more valuable. We only used it for art – never for houses or burning. And on Luar, everyone was an artist.

“Elder!” cried Watchman. “Elder!”

“I’m here!” Dad called back.

The air tasted thick, like porridge. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of my own sweat, and listened to Dad’s measured footsteps. Dad never hurried anywhere. My door shushed in and out as he checked on me and then went to answer Watchman. Yellow light from his candle danced beneath my door, casting monstrous shadows.

After I counted three of his footsteps, I placed my own feet one by one on the cool trader wood of the floor. I slipped my shoes out from under the bed and put them on, lacing them tightly. Biting my lip, I ignored the clumsiness of my shaking hands.

If Dad called me I’d be dressed and ready: a proper daughter to Luar’s Elder. Just like my sister would have been.

If he didn’t call me, there was always the window.

The front door squeaked as it opened. Watchman stopped yelling. Usually he spent the night huddled on the far hilltop, keeping an eye out for the rare ships that knew to bring grain or cloth to trade for our precious carvings. It was his job to light the beacon fire to guide them to shore.

“Raise the village,” he gasped. “Pirates!”


Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights

That’s right! The title has changed.

This is the final book in my magical steampunk trilogy. The first book is HEART OF BRASS and the second is SILVER AND STONE.

IRON LIGHTS will be released in August 2018, launched at the Canberra Writers’ Festival (assuming they let me in again) and available in time for Canberra’s speculative fiction conference, Conflux, which this year has the theme “The Unconventional Hero”. It’s a perfect theme for 2018 since my Emmeline is short, bisexual, female, and sometimes a bit thick.

The Iron Lights of the title refer to two famous historical lighthouses which play a vital role in the tale. There will be new and dangerous magic, another evolution of the flying machine, a clockwork army, and [redacted].

Here, to taunt you, are the first two sentences (which may also change utterly):


Being called a madwoman is, on the whole, preferable to being burned as a witch.

I looked forward to those occasions when male and female convicts were permitted to exercise at the same time, and I could converse with the man who shot me.

If you’re worried that you won’t have any more of my books to impatiently wait for. . . don’t. I have another full trilogy already written and edited and waiting in the wings.

When I was eighteen years old and living in Indonesia, I invented a fantasy world called Rahana. It is a place with thousands of islands and millions of potential stories, where magic is considered to be just another trade. It’s best described as being a lot like Narnia, but with pirates.

The HEEST trilogy is written for children (but is, as always, just the kind of thing I love to read). It will begin release with a Pirate Ball on February 17th 2018 (next month!).