Refugee Sponsorship (and cats, and lego)

July 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm (Daily Awesomeness, general life, With a list)

On the 13th of June (although, as usual in 2020 time, it feels like a million years ago) I switched my rationality off and wrote a big list of stuff I WANT. It ranges from the tragically unattainable (“I want Syria to be okay”) to the obviously psychological (“I want to stop feeling like God is mad at me”) to the shockingly complex (“I want to be a good parent”) to the financial fantasy (“I want a second storey on my house so we can see the mountains”).

A lot of entries are financial fantasy, if I’m honest. (A friend said to me the other day, “You know what your problem is? You’re not rich. I recommend you get rich.”) At the moment our whole household is bent towards replacing our air conditioning system (a really nice—and expensive—system which unfortunately for our finances is necessary for my health). It’s a horribly familiar feeling to be unable to afford medically helpful stuff (like a CPAP machine).

Moving on. Here are some items on the list that are of note:

I want my cats to do their business outside so I never have to deal with it… but at the same time, to be prevented from hunting native birds or animals.

Our yard is narrow (maximum about 3m from the house to the fence) but it wraps around three sides of the house. The main back door leads into a nice area in the corner between two of those sides, where a parent can sit and see the whole yard except for a narrow weed-bound strip that is 1.3m wide next to a windowless wall. We call that bit “the junk area”, “the jungle” (weeds grow over 6 feet there), or “the cat zone” because when the weeds are reduced and there’s bare dirt or mulch, it’s a perfect outside cat toilet.

Zipper likes it, and I’m confident that as Zoom grows bigger she’ll use it too (at the moment she’ll only go outside if there’s a human nearby… or sometimes she’ll follow ZIpper, but not far).

So the first part of the above wish was always relatively simple. The second part, not so much. I’m aware of a product called the ‘Oscillot‘ which basically just attaches to the top of a fence and flips the cat back down to the ground when they try to jump out. It’s simple and brilliant but costs around $50/metre and our yard is long. Then I saw a home-made version of this $700 deluxe cat enclosure:

The thing that inspired me was the very wide holes in the netting. Could we possible hook large pieces of netting between our house and the fence? That would enclose the space without making it too shady or too vulnerable to strong winds (which rip through more solid materials). Since that epiphany we’ve put shadecloth (which we already had) over the cat zone and we’ve mostly dealt with the weeds (and put newspaper underneath to hamper their growth—the shadecloth itself will also make it a less appealing area for weeds). So this dream is looking much more plausible. And we can do it bit by bit, section by section, until it’s done. In theory.

I want a bigger house, so Louisette has more room for her toys and I have more room for my ideas.

Even as a baby, Louisette has always obsessively arranged her favourite toys around her on the floor. This is… not ideal for anyone else. But I recently found out that people with ADD have an odd relationship with object permanence. Yes, technically they know that people and objects still exist when they’re not directly in front of them… but then again, sorta not.

Louisette will often take 6-10 trips from her bedroom to the living room in the morning, bringing out a large number of her toys and arranging them very carefully around her as she watches TV. It helped a LOT to give her an ancient laptop so she can watch TV in her room (and yes, I know that’s terrible parenting). But a few weeks ago we decided to go all-out on supporting her style and we let her have the entire converted garage for herself (sort of… there are still lots of bookshelves in there, and a spare bed). So that’s 6m by 3m. It includes a massive desk (1 metre by 2 metres) which is where the laptop lives AND a-l-l her lego. (One of the few rules I gave her was “No lego on the floor – ever”). So she watches TV and plays with lego (or does art, or plays with her other toys, or whatever). She also has a ‘babies’ area, a ‘Barbies/dollhouse’ area, and a ‘Doc Macstuffins’ area. Plus lots of open shelving.

She is thriving, and she almost never brings toys out to the living room. It’s only been a few weeks, and her room looks incredibly messy at first glance… but it’s arranged and rearranged and played with in very specific and orderly ways. And her lego creations are incredible. It perfectly mixes her inventing ability with her imaginative ability, and lets her both express herself and problem solve at the same time. She’s an 8 year-old lego master.


Of course I ended up with even less room to move/breathe, because I’m the only tidy person in the house (Chris also has ADD, and Tim appreciates tidiness but he’s 6 so there’s only so much self-regulation he’s going to do). Oh well. It’s not like the escape room is operating at the moment anyway, thanks to COVID-19.


I want to know refugees are looked after and welcomed, not just into safety (in Australia) but into living communities.

I want to know I’m making a difference.

I want my ‘good ideas’ realised.

I want to help Indonesian refugee families (but I’m also super shy and awkward).


If you’re one of the three people who regularly follow this blog (I’d say “Hi Mum” but my mum isn’t one of you), you’ll recollect my ‘castle’ idea from here and here. Basically, I wanted to build a big beautiful house (that looks like a castle, with lifts in the square towers for disabled access) in which to live while also providing short-term accommodation for disabled Indonesian refugee families. Because they’d be in ‘my’ house, I would find it (relatively) easy to support them with stuff like social events, English lessons, driving lessons, play dates with my kids, babysitting, some unskilled paid work (eg gardening/cleaning) to fill in gaps while they looked for regular work, and so on.

Well it looks like the core part of the castle idea—which is not the castle, but assisting refugees—might be coming true as early as 2021.

In 2018, The Refugee Council of Australia, Save the Children Australia, Amnesty International Australia, the Welcome to Australia initiative, Rural Australians for Refugees and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce joined to form the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. The entire idea is that non-profit groups of at least 5 people commit to looking after the financial, emotional, physical, and cultural needs of a refugee or refugee family.
That is EXACTLY what I want to do (and given my shaky health, being part of a committed group is clearly a good idea).
Now, obviously looking after the financial needs of an entire family for twelve months is not a simple or cheap commitment. Even ‘just’ raising that kind of money is going to be really difficult. (If the refugees are able to work, and to get that work quickly, great! But that’s by no means a given, especially if they’re disabled and/or have limited English. And the whole world is reeling economically already so it’s not exactly a good time.)
Send me an email at if you’d like to help financially. I’m asking a lot of people for $100 each, and have had only one ‘no’ so far so I’m well on my way to my first thousand.
And I’m limited in my helpfulness because I’m at my best in my own home but it’s unlikely the refugee family will be able to travel easily, especially at first. Which leads me to a smaller but still impossible dream: to find an investor to rent out the house next door to ours. It’s not technically for sale yet but I’ve been talking to the owners about this for a while and they’re likely to put their house on the market in the next 6-12 months. If a friendly investor bought it, perhaps I could negotiate to use it as a refugee house (so the refugees were nice and close to me). Maybe I could even commit to organising ‘bridge’ payments between groups of rent-paying refugees so the investor was literally better off for working with me.
Easy, right? Plausible, maybe? Why not?
(Are YOU interested in helping refugees and making money doing it? Or do you know someone that’s been thinking about buying a property to rent out to people? Email me…
Anyway, so that’s where things are at for me right now. Certain impossibilities are falling neatly into place. Others remain.

And Zoom jumped into the hammock with me (and TJ) the other day, so that was a win.

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Who do you call good?

October 13, 2019 at 12:59 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

The title is a quote from the Bible, when someone calls Jesus “Good Teacher” (or something like that) and Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.”

Which from him has a multitude of layers. But it’s also interesting, given how much Westerners like to think of ourselves as “a good person”.

I think I may have found one of the conclusions this blog entry will draw: that no one is “good” but God.

However. That doesn’t mean we may as well stop trying.

[Sidebar: The way Christianity fundamentally works is that Jesus died in order to save us unconditionally ie as soon as we accept him we got our ticket to Heaven, no matter if we just ate a delicious orphan lunch five minutes ago. BUT if you believe Jesus is who he says he is, and saved us, and loves us… then there is a side effect on your behaviour. A goodening effect, but it comes from gratitude and love rather than fear of damnation or being caught.]

This blog entry is about white guilt.

I am what I call “Omo white” based on those overdramatic ads of a white SO WHITE that it shines like the sun. That’s me.

The more history I learn, the more I realise that my life is as good as it is because my ancestors did horrible things. So although I’ve never personally attempted genocide, I benefit tremendously from the racist work of others. (And I’m sure I’m plenty racist myself, too. But today I’m concerned with systemic rather than individual racism eg the fact that my name and skin is white enough that I’m more likely to be hired than an equally qualified person with darker skin, or an accent, or a non-European name.)

Guilt is designed to tell us when we have done something wrong. White guilt is trickier, because it’s (mostly) not ME, the individual, who did the bad thing. But it IS me who benefits. So we get several possible reactions:

-Denial. “I didn’t do anything wrong” (or sometimes, “I earned everything I have from my own merit; history/racism has nothing to do with it.”)

-Repression. “I can’t fix this. Better not to think about it.”

-Anger. “How dare you make me feel bad when I didn’t do anything wrong!”

-Despair. “The world is evil; I’m evil. Everything sucks and can’t be fixed.”

-Assuage guilt. This is where I sit, acknowledging that I benefit from awful things done in the past (and present), and others suffer—and that this is not fair, and concluding that I need to do… something.

Some options for action are:

*Loudly acknowledging the facts, especially where people are angry or in denial. (Much social media liking/meme-ing etc ensues.)

*Give to charities, particularly those that are concerned with global problems.

*Join protests.

*Vote for the left, which tends to be less selfish.

*Devote one’s life to aid work.

*Become a vigilante killer (not recommended).

So much of the Western World is obscene or fantastical to poor people in third world nations (or even homeless or otherwise poor people in the West). Here is my daughter and I on a Ferris Wheel. It cost over $30 for a ride that took a few minutes.

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$30 is sufficiently alarming that we didn’t go on the Ferris Wheel last year, or the year before. But oh, the look of wonder on my son’s face as our gondola began to rise!

But… thirty dollars. For many people around the world, that is a month’s wages.

Should I sell all I have and give my money to the poor? Knowing what a difference my relatively small amount of cash would make in another country (a country that is poor because my ancestors and my politicians treat the people there as subhuman)?

Is it evil for me to buy gifts for my children, as others go hungry?

In Season Three of “The Good Place” TV show, the main characters discover that, as the world gets more complicated, it’s virtually impossible to do anything truly good. Five hundred years ago, you could gather wildflowers to give to your mother. Aw, how nice—and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But today, in a city, you can’t gather wildflowers because all the flowers are in someone’s yard, or public property (for everyone to enjoy, so you shouldn’t take them away). So, gathering flowers is stealing. (Sidebar: you can gather certain weed flowers, which my children do for me regularly.) So you can buy flowers… which means either driving to a flower shop (using petrol, which is bad for the environment and has a bunch of other issues) or using your phone (manufactured in a third-world sweatshop?) and having the flower shop drive (using petrol).

So even with the purest heart, it’s impossible to exist in the West without being connected to pollution/Climate Change (which of course is already hitting the poor hardest), sweatshop labour, and so on.


I’ve also been reading a very interesting fantasy series in which magic is literally stealing from the poor. If a person is healed by magic, someone else gets sick. If a beautiful building is made with magic, a building elsewhere falls down. And OF COURSE it’s the pretty pretty Elvish types who use magic to make beautiful clothes, and cities, and art—while the ugly orcish types live in filth and dirt because they are the source of all that magic. And beauty. And art. Eg if an orc has a beautiful singing voice, they sell it to the elves for a few bowls of gruel. They do it willingly, because the system is so crushing that if they don’t sell all they have, they will starve.


See, the thing about sweatshops is that people line up to work in them, because there is no alternative. Or the alternative is to starve. So they work long hours for not-quite-enough. Then they are too tired and hungry to do good work or to work safely, or to find better work.

Welcome to the cycle of poverty.

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One of the characters is a teenage white female human. She has grown up loved and secure, so when she discovers how magic works she is devastated and immediately challenges it. When she is standing facing the leader of the Elves, she chooses not to kill him, but to lay down her own life and trust that others will give up all they have, like her, because it’s the right thing to do.

Another character is her boyfriend, a black man. He knows about daily systematic injustice, so when he discovers how magic works he believes the only way to stop it is to utterly destroy the elves. Because even if he kills the evil leader of the elves, the next elf leader will still be in a position of power over the orcs. So even if the next elf leader is “good” they can withdraw their favour at any time. That, of course, is why the White Saviour trope is so insidious. Because it keeps the “other” on the bottom, and the powerful White/Elf type people on the top. (I really hope he’s wrong, because I don’t want the Western World destroyed. And I don’t want it to be subservient to other parts of the world, either. I don’t want to be the “other” that has to rely on the goodness of the more powerful class.)

A third character points out that they are acting as if magic is finite. What they need to do is not to destroy all that has been built, but to use magic in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the orcs, but benefits them.

That has a real-world echo. There IS enough food in the world, already. And we could definitely create more resources ethically.

And isn’t that a nice “out” for people like me? Because I’m not a scientist, or a politician, so what can *I* do?

I’m going to leave it there, for now. Mostly because I’ve written quite a bit. Not because I’ve actually found an answer. But maybe the idea that “helpful must mean I suffer” is innately harmful, causing more guilt and fear rather than usefulness. So that’s something, at least.

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IF Comp: Roads Not Taken

October 3, 2019 at 4:11 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

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I only did one play-through of this story, which took 40 minutes. “Slice of life” is a good description because it feels autobiographical*—both because of the detailed storytelling (good storytelling) and because it has the rambling uncertainty of real life. A lot of hyperlinks add detail, and the writing is good enough that they’re worth clicking on. Other times there is an obvious hub where one can investigate several options and then return to make a branching choice.

I’ve been avoiding realistic stories because… well, ugh. Who wants to read about real life when they’re already living it? (Real life and I are frenemies at best.)

But this is clearly a very well-written story with a vast amount of options. I suspect there are certain choices that lead to a more positive outcome than I got (so people who like the genre will definitely play multiple times), but mine wasn’t terrible or unsatisfying.

So although this didn’t give me the escapism I look for in a story, it is fundamentally perfect (a few spelling errors, but not enough to detract from the overall tale). So it gets 4 stars. In my system, that means a story that is fundamentally perfect.

*I don’t believe it’s actually autobiographical (more than any other story); it’s just so well written it feels real.

Edit: I actually gave it a 9, because the scores are out of 10.

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IF Comp: Dull Grey

October 2, 2019 at 4:57 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

Okay, so the title is very off-putting. Gonna play it anyway.

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I’m enjoying the simple but layered visuals, even if they don’t technically count towards my score (it’s all about the words). But it shows the writer has spent time on making an involving and professional story. Mostly, in my mind, because it means they’ve ironed out a higher number of bugs.

This took me ten minutes to play through once. I could tell it was translated into English because some of the phrasing was just unusual (not quite wrong but not quite right) and some mistakes had gotten through too. Quite a few… but it still felt like a well-written story that just needed one or two more drafts from native English speakers.

It is, as the name suggests, a somewhat depressing story. Which is fine. I made the same choice over and over, and that got me a fairly common ending. I gather than changing one’s mind can change the ending, but I don’t like the story enough to play a second time (only because of personal taste, not because the story is bad).

As I said, the writing is genuinely good throughout. I’m going to give it 4 stars despite the errors, because I respect the effort of translation done well. Some of the errors add to the atmosphere, actually.

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Bits and Bobs from “Brass”

May 7, 2019 at 10:35 am (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories)

I spent last weekend at Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival, and the weekend before that at IronFest in Lithgow, so it’s been a wild steam-powered ride for the last couple of weeks.

But a few old pics related to HEART OF BRASS just came to my attention, so I’m posting them here before they return to the aether and vanish.

First, here are two pics from an unusual book review. Mawson is a bear, and one of my fellow Odyssey authors (he’s published under the more visual “Publisher Obscura” imprint). You can read his full review of HEART OF BRASS here. Here are some photos Mawson took, featuring his friends:

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass 2

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass

(This is the sort of thing that makes writers go “Squee!”)

Now here’s something I don’t think the general public has ever seen before: a picture that the publisher (Odyssey Books) provided way back in the very beginning of the cover-making process. This is a fabulous pic, but we ended up not using it.

You can print it out and colour it in, if you like.


Lovely, isn’t she?

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Goulburn Comic Con & Wagga GammaCon

March 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm (Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this)

So I’ll be quite busy for the next 8 days as Goulburn Comic Con is literally tomorrow (free entry, Veolia Arena, 10am-5pm) and Wagga Wagga Gamma Con is literally one week later.

I haven’t been to either event before but I’m very excited about both.

Goulburn Comic Con is actually the reason my kids’ fantasy trilogy is accepted for publication. My publisher was there two years ago and came home desperate to have some more Middle Grade (roughly age 10-14) fiction. Guess who happened to have a completed middle grade trilogy sitting on her hard drive?

I literally received the physical copies of Book 2 yesterday, ready for Comic Con. Here it is!

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Or, if you prefer to see your books side by side…

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Look, I know book covers don’t gotta be pretty to be fantastic, but MINE ARE and I’m glad of it.

My parents lived in Wagga not long ago, and both my sister (of “Octopus and Family” fame) and I will have stalls there. ROAD TRIP BABY.

Right now I have the flu and I am semi-delirious. Tomorrow should be an interesting day!

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Madam Alchemist

January 27, 2019 at 6:46 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, Interactive Fiction, Steampunk)

This weekend is CanCon, and I have a stall there, with the tabletop version of my escape room (now called “Madam Alchemist” since it takes place in a mad scientist’s secret laboratory). I ran five play-tests during the day yesterday, and all of them went off without a hitch.

I also had people approaching me asking about party and conference packages. I seem to have discovered a market. *blink blink*

I’m already developing a second room, scifi/horror/comedy called “The Amazing Shrinking House” (adjective may vary) so I can run two different games at the same time… and sell a “Party Package” that lets party guests swap rooms so they can do two in one night.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own products!

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This is the CanCon setup; the stall in its entirety. Also corset and tutu 🙂


It was nice to see fairly equal proportions of men and women, and this notice in the ladies’ bathroom:

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Plus plenty of teens, some (usually slightly bored) kids, a range of age and fitness levels, and several gay couples and singles. CanCon is a happy place.


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Escape Room

January 23, 2019 at 1:30 am (Daily Awesomeness)

I have designed a portable escape room (with a tabletop version that I shall be running at CanCon this weekend). There will be more info soon, but here are some pics in the meantime!

It’s set in the same steampunk fantasy world as all my steampunk, but takes place at the same time (with none of the same characters) as “Choices: And The Sun Went Out”.


In case you can’t tell, I’m very excited. I don’t expect this to be a big moneymaker (apart from anything else, it requires a staff member—most likely me—to be present, which means I need to leave the house, ugh!) but it’s awfully fun right now.

I’ve run one test so far (with Chris, Lousiette, and TJ—yep, it’s child friendly), and have more already lined up ready to go.

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Dogs, Goths, Kilts, Pirates, and Octopuses

October 22, 2018 at 10:43 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk)

Last weekend was the weekend of the annual Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. It’s always an absolute blast. The standard of garb at Goulburn is always amazing: corsets, top hats, pocket watches, waistcoats, bustles, crinolines, and epic boots galore!

I thought I’d do a super quick blog on some of the side effects of steampunk: some of the grand traditions that are steampunk due to pure coolness factor rather than any rational connections.

Goths of course.

Okay, that connection is obvious. Lace parasols and corsets for both men and women? Yes please! One of the many definitions of steampunk is that it’s what happened when goths discovered brown.


(I’m sorry I didn’t turn that pic around the right way. I’m VERY tired. Not only was the Goulburn Steampunk Fair two days long this year—yay!—but I also just completed a 3-day speed game-writing jam. Over the same weekend!)

I believe I mentioned dogs. There’s a dog in my Iron Lights trailer (from the Goulburn Fair last year, in fact*) and there were loads of dogs (many in costume) this year too.


Kilts and military attire are both well represented at such events (this year there were real cannons firing across the water, too!)


So if you like a man in uniform and/or admiring a man’s legs (or the unpredictable thrills of seeing men in kilts on a very windy day) then you should hang out with steampunks.

Especially if you like them sideways.


Ditto pirates and octopuses.

And reimagined superheroes/princesses.  I saw a lot of amazing steampunk Iron Men a few years ago. Lately lots of steampunk Wonder Women, and some really excellent steampunk Belles (especially at Supanova events).

My kids dressed as a unicorn rainbow princess (who then had her face painted as a kitten) and Batman (painted as a scary monster). As you can perhaps tell, my children are at the age when they’re very strong on external expressions of gender identity.


Steampunks like cats too. Because steampunks are cool. So here’s a pic of Zipper I took today. May it please you.




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GUI ChoiceScript?

October 16, 2018 at 10:35 am (Daily Awesomeness, Interactive Fiction Tutorials)

I just found out that various people are working on making ChoiceScript easier to learn and use.

I… probably won’t use these tools because I’ve grown comfortable with using CS directly and don’t want to mess with that (yes, I am old and crotchety. Shut up).

Here‘s the link to much usefulness!

Here’s Zipper, getting better at venturing outside (but still terrified by birds).

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