Summary of a Saga

June 30, 2020 at 12:27 am (funny, MegaList of Awesomeness, Reviews, Top Ten, TV/movie review, With a list)


I just watched the entire MCU Infinity Saga in five days. With twenty-three movies in the saga, I averaged ten hours of movie-watching time a day. I’m keeping a neat-o summary here to remind myself who’s who and what’s what next time I dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And linkety links to all my many MANY thoughts on the Saga.

In Australia, they’re all on Disney + except The Incredible Hulk (I rented it from YouTube; feel free to skip it), Spider-Man: Homecoming (Netflix), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (Amazon Prime).

Phase 1 (all reviewed in full here)

***Iron Man

Stark swears off weapons then immediately makes the best one ever.

*The Incredible Hulk

Dr Banner is found by the government but eventually manages to go back into hiding.

***Iron Man 2

Stark promises that bad people definitely won’t be able to make any iron man suits; two different baddies make iron man suits.


The god of thunder becomes less of a dickhead.

***Captain America: The First Avenger

A good-hearted weakling turns into a good-hearted superhero.

***Marvel’s The Avengers

Loki tries and fails to use a shiny to get more shinies for big bad Thanos.


Phase 1 summary: S.H.I.E.L.D. (specifically Nick Fury) puts together a superhero team made up of playboy genius Iron Man; part time rage-monster Hulk; jock god Thor; honourable 1940s man Captain America; and well-trained humans Hawkeye (arrows) and Black Widow (spy/assassin). They defeat various baddies including an alien hoard led by god of mischief Loki (aka Thor’s adopted brother and temporary minion of big bad Thanos).

Our original six heroes, left to right: Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man.

And here’s Loki.

Phase 2 (reviews part 1 and part 2)

***Iron Man 3

Stark makes way too many suits then blows them all up.

**Thor: The Dark World

Thor and Jane get back together; Loki is slightly less evil.

***Captain America: The Winter Soldier

S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be mostly Hydra (oh no), but Cap’s best friend gets partially un-brainwashed (yay).

***Guardians of the Galaxy

Star-Lord makes friends, and together they keep a shiny orb away from assorted baddies.

*Avengers: Age of Ultron

Stark makes then breaks a bad robot.


An ex-con becomes a superhero in exchange for stealing stuff for a cranky good guy instead of amiable bad guys.

Phase 2 summary: Our superheroes (now including semi-reformed Loki and Winter Soldier) add iron-suited War Machine, flying robot Vision, superfast Quicksilver (already dead), his twin sister Scarlet Witch (who has ill-defined but impressive powers and no personality to speak of); and lovable schmuck Ant-Man to their ranks. They also get (but don’t yet meet) the Guardians of the Galaxy: insecure but music-loving Star-Lord (human); righteously driven ex-baddie Gamora (green); trisyllabic Groot (tree thing; it dies but sprouts another Groot); twisted and damaged Rocket (mutated racoon thing); and literal-minded muscleman Drax (humanoid). They mean well (mostly), but commit various crimes including major property damage, theft, and mass manslaughter.

Picture 1: Scarlet Witch, Falcon (who gets those wings in the next movie), Vision, War Machine (in his Iron Patriot phase; usually he’s not so colourful).

Picture 2: Bucky (recovered from being the Winter Soldier) and Ant-Man (Scott).

And the Guardians, left to right: Groot, Rocket, Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill), Gamora, Drax

Phase 3 (reviews part 1, part 2, part 3 aka Infinity War, part 4, part 5 aka Endgame, part 6)

***Captain America: Civil War

Running low on baddies, the Avengers fight each other.

**Doctor Strange

Dr Strange learns to use his annoyingness for good.

***Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Star-Lord finds and then kills his dad (who is a murderer and also a planet).

***Spider-Man: Homecoming

A dorky teen with superpowers has to save the day alone when the grown-ups get sick of him.

***Thor: Ragnarok

Thor blows up his home planet so his big sister stops playing with it.

***Black Panther

King T’Challa kills a baddie and then does what the baddie wanted.

***Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos gets all the infinity stones and instantly erases half of all living creatures.

***Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp rescue Wasp’s mother from the quantum realm.

***Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel realises she’s Captain friggin’ Marvel.

***Avengers: Endgame

The Avengers kill Thanos (twice).

***Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man gives a potent weapon to a baddie then gets it back again.


Phase 3 summary, excluding Infinity War and Endgame: The goodies add the following to their roster: adorkable kid Spider-Man; witty sidekick Falcon; arrogant wizard Dr Strange (and similarly-powered sorcerer Wong); half-mecha ex-villain Nebula (Gamora’s green sister); empath alien Mantis (now also a Guardian); long-frustrated heroine Wasp; superhero squared Captain Marvel; and the Black Panther and a bunch of epic Wakandan people and weapons (gracious noncombatant Queen Ramonda; genius teenager Princess Shuri; and Okoye, the righteous leader of the bald-headed Dora Milaje all-female army).

Summary of Infinity War and Endgame: Thanos erases half of all living creatures. The heroes get everyone back, except:

a) There’s a five year gap when the world is half empty.

b) Gamora, Loki, Vision, and Black Widow are dead; Captain America is old and retired. Past versions of Gamora and Loki are likely to be around in future.

c) Thanos is definitely for sure gone now.


Picture 1: Spider-Man and Dr Strange

Picture 2: Nebula and Mantis

Picture 3: Captain Marvel (she cuts her hair later) and Black Panther (Wasp not pictured because she’ll be hanging out with Ant-Man, and her look is very similar to his except she has wings):

Thanos is big and purple, and also dead. Not pictured.

*     *     *

Here are some other MCU reviews etc that I wrote in 2019:

Captain Marvel VS Wonder Woman

Spoiler Free study guide (including the stones, actor names, and a paragraph on each film) for those about to see Infinity War

Spoiler-FILLED prep for Infinity War, for those who want to know what happens in advance

Spoiler-filled post-viewing discussion of Infinity War, with my predictions about Endgame


All Fourteen Best/Worst-of Lists I Wrote Just Now:

Top 5 Best-Written Villains

Best 5 Movies in the Infinity Saga

Best 5 Scenes in the Infinity Saga

5 Best Characters to Cosplay

5 Most Iconic Lines

5 Most Profound Moments in the MCU: Infinity Saga

5 Best Side Characters

5 Best Chrises

5 Best-Written Pieces of Exposition

5 Worst Fathers in the MCU

5 Most Problematic Moments in the Infinity Saga

5 Best Romances in the Infinity Saga

Biggest Writing Challenges for Marvel going forward

After Infinity: Marvel Stuff I’m Looking Forward To

*     *     *

For those concerned about my health, I had a very calm day today. TJ was lonely in the living room, but he was fine with me sleeping as long as I was in the room with him. I’d warned him I needed to rest today, so he very carefully made the living room couch “super comfy” for me so I slept there during the day.

Pictured: super comfy.

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My 2017: No wonder I need a lie down

January 1, 2018 at 4:05 pm (All Steampunk Fiction, Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, MegaList of Awesomeness, My Novels, Pirates, Rahana Stories, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories, Steampunk Series, Writing Ranting)

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

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

“And The Sun Went Out”

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

“And Their Souls Were Eaten”

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

“And Their Heroes Were Lost”

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


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

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

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

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

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

I is happy.


Things are looking up.

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Steampunk Stories

October 2, 2017 at 8:43 pm (All Steampunk Fiction, Interactive Fiction, MegaList of Awesomeness, My Novels, Short stories, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories, Steampunk Series)

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.

Now that the book trilogy is finished I have put together a full STEAM & SORCERY pack that gives you all the physical stories together—the three books and the full version of Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire (which includes jewellery, art, and a song). You can buy the full STEAM & SORCERY pack here for just $100.

ALL my steampunk takes place in the “Steampunk & Sorcery” universe, including the “Antipodean Queen” novel trilogy.

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 the first Antipodean Queen novel, HEART OF BRASS, was written first.

In reading order:

  1. Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten. An interactive story set in 1837 Europe, originally released as a serial story through the Tin Man Games company’s Choices That Matter app. It is now complete, and will be released on Steam at some point (probably 2019). 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. The Case of the Missing Soul. This is an interactive story written using Twine. The main point of difference is that it’s designed for four players to play together. It is still under construction at the time of writing (March 2019). None of the characters appear in any other stories.
  3. Madam Alchemist portable escape room (Canberra only, sorry). This is set in the same year and approximate location as the above stories, but you get to be trapped by soulless monsters with a group of friends. How fun is that? Details here. No spoilers and no in-world knowledge is necessary ie this stands alone.
  4. 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, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Abe Books, The Book Depository, etc. You can read the blurb and beginning here.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. The paperback ISBN is 978-1-925652-20-8. The blurb and beginning are here.
  7. 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.
  8. Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights. The third novel of the trilogy is now available in physical form! Digital availability is coming soon. The paperback ISBN is 9781925652444 and the blurb and beginning are here. It takes place at the same time as “Stuff and Nonsense”, “Attack of the Clockwork Army”, and “Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire”. I recommend reading the novel first.
  9. Stuff and Nonsense is a live-action role-playing game designed for beginners (possibly children). It’s a little like those ‘Murder Mystery’ board games, but with actual (silly) games thrown in. The printable version is available by emailing me at with the subject line STUFF AND NONSENSE. I converted it into a Twine game (with images), which is quite different to the original story, and which you can play for free here. It has some very minor spoilers if you read it before the books. Big spoilers if you read it before the role-playing version. THIS STORY TAKES PLACE AT THE SAME TIME AS ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS. Hopefully that’s fun for people who want to explore the world of the novels a bit more. You won’t know the “canon” version of the story without reading the novel, so you can feel free to decide which ending you like the best. Also, a particular character is definitely not there in the novel. The novel is canon, but the game is just not as fun without [redacted].
  10. 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 the novels) 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. It uses the ChoiceScript tool. THIS STORY TAKES PLACE AT THE SAME TIME AS ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS. Hopefully that’s fun for people who want to explore the world of the novels a bit more. You won’t know the “canon” version of the story without reading the novel, so you can feel free to decide which ending you like the best.
  11. Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s EmpireThis is a short story told DURING THE EVENTS OF ANTIPODEAN QUEEN 3: IRON LIGHTS, in which a side character is the main character. Hopefully that’s fun for people who want to explore the world of the novels a bit more. It also stands alone as a steampunk story. “Magic in the Mail” (and “Murder in the Mail”) are two storytelling formats invented by yours truly. The “classic” version is physically posted to the reader. The parcel contains letters, objects, and artworks that together tell an immersive story that asks the reader to participate (in this case, by building a convertible flying device). This one is special because it’s cheaper ($25 for Australian residents instead of $40; probably $40 for everyone else, including postage of the story). It also includes a song by the Littmus Steampunk Band and a piece of handmade steampunk jewellery made by Liesel Turnbull.  A stripped-down version will be included as a bonus with the Iron Lights novel. It will include a limited number of 2D black-and-white artworks only. You can buy the full version for $50 here.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 8.35.28 PM

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

PS Here‘s a great article on the whole field of steampunk novels (those not written by yours truly), including links to many many reviews. It’s highly out of date, but the books are still good!

PPS The full STEAM & SORCERY pack is here. There’s a special limited edition pack here for Google Play devices that includes all the physical books PLUS codes for the digital tales.

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News about “Choices That Matter” story app.

July 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm (Advanced/Publication, All Steampunk Fiction, I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, MegaList of Awesomeness, My Novels, Steampunk)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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
























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

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

August 28, 2016 at 10:52 am (Advanced/Publication, Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this, Love and CJ, MegaList of Awesomeness, My Novels, Reviews, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories, Steampunk Series, Writing Advice, Writing Ranting)

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


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

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


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

The best and most important thing is people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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


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

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Best Playgrounds in Canberra

February 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm (Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this, MegaList of Awesomeness, Top Ten, Well written)

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

NB These picture are the property of WeekendNotes.

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Sarcastic Christmas Letter

December 24, 2012 at 7:22 am (Daily Awesomeness, MegaList of Awesomeness)

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

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


February: Sleeeeepy.


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


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



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

Yep, that’s me wiping up some spew.

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


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

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


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

Make that the third-best.

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

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

*Watch this space 🙂

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

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

We have a new fridge.

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



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



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


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


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


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




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


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

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The future of awesome

November 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm (MegaList of Awesomeness)

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

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

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

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

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

Take the kids to the zoo.

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

Take the kids to Questacon, especially in Winter.

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

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

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

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

Play with frisbees.

Fly a kite.

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

Go camping with my brother and his family.

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

Go paddle boating.

Rent a four-person bike.

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


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

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101 Awesomenesses: Report

March 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm (Articles by others, Daily Awesomeness, MegaList of Awesomeness)

I have taken MANY liberties (mainly shortening and some retitling) with this list, but the original list is here. The pictures below are mine, except for the last one.

There will be more awesome linked lists (top tens and suchlike) soon.

1. Pajama party

In bed. Just you, something (or someone) to snuggle, a laptop, notebook or sketchpad, some rad music, a good movie, and a hot cup of chocolate. It’s the perfect antidote for dreary weather or cancelled plans.

Louise: Agreed. Highly recommended.

2. Sushi

Buy one of those “make your own sushi” kits from the supermarket, and learn to roll your own little roundels of heaven. Once you get good at the traditional Western “chicken teriyaki”, experiment with kooky flavors. My favorite sushi is Avocado, Cream Cheese and Pinapple. No joke.

Louise: I dreaded this, then found that I LOVE sushi.

3. Postcards

Buy a packet of ten postcards and send a note to your friends – even the ones you see every day. Tell them how awesome you think they are, and how much you love hanging out with them. Or, if you want to be less sappy, just quote some Manowar lyrics and tell them they smell. I even make heavy metal postcards for just this purpose!

Louise: My friends received insults in the mail, and simply shrugged. Hmm.

4. Share the Cookie Wuv

You are going to a gig at the local metal bar. Bake a batch of cookies and bring them along to share. You have now made 50 new friends.

Louise: I interpreted “local metal bar” rather loosely, I admit.

5. Poetry

Find poems you like and hang them on your wall or write them on your diary. Every time I read words fitted together like an intricate puzzle, I feel like the whole world is magic.

Louise: Including bonus CJ-reading-Banjo-Patterson video.

6. Dress Up and Dress Up Part Two

Create outifts of ridiculous clothes and accessories to do mundane tasks. Walk the dog in your bondage pants and Pantera shirt, vacuum the house in a tutu and high heels, buy milk at the store in nothing but a trenchcoat. (I’ll let you invent your own definition of “ridiculous”).

Louise: Wearing a ball gown to a writing event is actually rather useful.

7. Magic Trick

Learn a magic trick – it could be something a simple as a card trick or a slight-of-hand. Practise until you’re really good, and delight your friends next time you see them. Don’t give away your secret.

Louise: So easy! I disobeyed the final part of the mission, though.

8. Starry-Eyed

Buy a packet of glow-in-the-dark stick-on stars (you know the ones). Sneak into a friends house while they’re away, and decorate the ceiling of their room. They probably won’t notice till they turn off their light.

Louise: Still don’t know if those kids have slept since this happened.

9. Laugh

Watch a DVD of one of your favorite stand-up comedians. If you don’t have a favorite stand-up comedian, I suggest you get one! Here be my favorites: Dylan Moran, Ed Bryne, Eddie Izzard, Flight of the Conchords.

Louise: yep, HIGHLY recommended.

10. The Royal Bedchamber

Make a canopy and coronet for your bed. Go to the fabric store and choose luxurious fabrics – chintz and brocade and lace and satin – in your favorite colours. Gather them on the ceiling and tie them to the corners of your bed. You can attach curtain rods to the ceiling to create a dramatic canopy. If you have any leftover fabric, make a few simple pillows to match. You are now a princess.

Louise: Ana broke it, not me.

11. Paper Hat

Wear a paper hat. You don’t have to stick to the simple boat-shape. Why not design a paper bowler hat, beret or top hat? I have a mini-top hat with a flower I made entirely from Braille paper, which I do wear out on occasion (I shall find a picture)

Louise: Yeah, this was fun.

12. Healing Stones

Go to one of those hippy shops and buy yourself something weird – a homeopath treatment or some incense or a dreamcatcher or a reiki massage or whatever they’re got on offer. Hell, what have you got to lose?

Louise: Discovered a new allergy.

13. Take a bath

Run yourself a bath. Gather together all your exquisite bathroom pampering treatments – all the luscious soaps and decadent shower gels you haven’t opened because they’re “special” and you don’t want to use them up. Open them all. Use them all. Take the phone off the hook, put up a do-not-disturb sign, pour yourself a glass of wine or mead, put on some relaxing music, and read a book, or stare at the ceiling.

Louise: Again, this is definitely good for playing along at home.

14. Bubbles!

Blow bubbles. You can buy little jars of bubble mixture at those $2 shops, or make a simple bubble mixture at home using dishwashing liquid, water, and sugar or corn syrup. TIP: Storing your solution for a day can actually lead to better bubbles.

Louise: One of the best awesomenesses all year – and it didn’t cost me a cent.

15. Fly a Kite

I never forget the thrill of a kite soaring through the sky, tugging at the string in a desperate attempt to be free. Some shops rent kites – CDH and I rented one from a shop on the Gold Coast once, but you’d have to google your area to find out where they are. Better yet, make your own kite.

Louise: Felt very windswept and romantic (at the local oval).

16. Trim

Find one of those treasure-trove fabric and trimming shops with hundreds of bits of old lace and rooms of buttons and bins of fabric offcuts. Set yourself a budget – say, $15, and find a mad ensemble of items. Take them home and decorate a hat, headband, bag, necklace or bag.

Louise: The best part was throwing stuff away.

17. Midnight Snackage

Invite someone over for a midnight snack – someone who makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts. Eat nachos from the plate together and giggle. Last night, CDH and I stayed up late watching old favorites from our DVD collection and eating apple and rhubarb crumble.

Louise: Definitely a winner.

18. Hot Stuff

Wear a suspender belt with stockings. All day, every day. Even if you’re a guy.

Louise: I went with boots. They’re uncomfortable, but not THAT uncomfortable.

19. Bells

Wear bells around your ankles. You can buy ankle bells at medieval markets. I love them, although you can never sneak up behind someone to surprise them.

Louise: The best part was the tormented looks from the cats.

20. Healing Stones

Go to a shop like “Lush” and spend some time smelling everything. Then buy yourself a little treat. Many people like to buy incredible handmade soap from Etsy – I don’t, because I live in NZ and the shipping makes it horrendously expensive. Plus you lose out on the smelling – the smelling is the important part.

Louise: Any day you end up with hands smelling of pot is a good day.

21. Hydration

You should drink water more often – it’s good for you and makes you feel happy. But it should also be fun. Buy yourself a water bottle – not one of those one-use plastic ones, but something grymm, like a stainless steel masterpiece or a skull-shaped bottle. Or find yourself a beautiful vintage glass bottle and use that. I bet you’ll feel like a pirate!

Louise: I ALREADY feel like a pirate, so I got all ladylike for this.

22. Shake it

Quote Shakespeare at inappropriate moments. If you’ve never developed an appreciation for Shakespeare, it’s never too late to pick up a copy of Richard III or a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or why not go against the grain and read some Ben Johnson or Thomas Marlowe instead? They were bloody good, too.

Louise: Much ado about “Inception”.

23. Ancient Foibles

If you really, really can’t understand the modern english, read Aristophanes – an ancient greek comic writer. He’s hilarious. Seriously, laugh out loud funny, especially if you have a passing knowledge of ancient greek culture and mythology. Try the Lysistrata, a play about a group of wives who are desperate to stop the war between Athens and Sparta and bring their husbands home to sleep with them – so desperate, they declare a SEX STRIKE until the war is over. Hilarity Ensues.

Louise: Just as funny as it sounds – and twice as rude.

24. Candy to a stranger

Buy or make an amazing gift – like a mix CD of your favorite songs or a beautiful box of chocolates – and wrap it in a bix box with a pretty ribbon. Give it a tag saying “to you”, and place it in the middle of the sidewalk outside your window. Watch how long it takes before someone picks it up.

Louise: I still don’t know what happened. Ooh, mysterious.

25. Watchword

Change your passwords on your email, your bank, your paypal account, everything, to words that make you smile. Banana, elocution, evisceration, duped, muggle, flippant, pumpkmen, snooty, sneed, salacious … the possibilities are endless!

Louise: Why not?

26. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Find a playground in your area. Swing on the swings. Better yet, if you have a backyard with a tree, build a swing for yourself. I find all the world’s problems can be solved by a little swing-time.

Louise: Not recommended for large people.

27. Love Your Fear

If you’re afraid of something, tell yourself you actually love it. I’ve found if you tell yourself something often enough, eventually you’ll believe it. I used to be afraid of thunderstorms, until I started telling myself I loved them: the epic display of nature’s prowess, the anticipation of waiting for thunder, that feeling of being warm and safe inside. Now I love them.

Louise: This really did work for me.

28. To the Theatre

Go and see a play. No, not a movie. An actual display of live theatre. You can find descriptions of plays on theatre websites – local productions cost about the same as a movie ticket, and they often give student discounts.

Louise: Definitely awesome, although you do get what you pay for (usually).

29. Write to your Idols

Compile a list of all the people in the world you want to meet – all the amazing artists, writers, musicians, actors, thinkers, dreamers and activists who’ve inspired you over the years.

Start emailing them and making contact. Tell them everything you’d want to tell them in real life – how they touched your life and inspired your own creativity, which of their works had the greatest impact on you, what you think of their latest project. Ask their opinion on matters concerning the world and point them in the direction of your own work. You never know, you might even get a reply.

Louise: I went one better and went up and spoke to the genius children’s writer Sandy Fussell. Who then came and read my blog! *swoon*

30. Read Outside

There’s something very peaceful about reading a book under a tree, or while sitting on a wooden bench in a deserted rose garden.

Louise: Definitely. . . although Mother Nature can be an irritating companion.

31. Join the Library 

I lived in Auckland for four and a half years before I joined the public library, and, although I had access to the university library, I regret my sojurn from fiction books. Now, I work right next door to the library, and I’m reading a book or two every week.

Louise: How else would I support my habit?

32. Break From Technology

Stop watching TV for a week. Unplug the modem. Live in the real world totally and utterly for a week. Sometimes I feel as though we live too much of our life online, and we make contacts, but no real connections. Get out into the world and experience RL for a week – if nothing else, you’ll have something interesting to write about when you get back to your blog.

Louise: Arg, noooooooo!!! I hated this with the passion of a thousand motherboards.

33. Haiku

The very act of focusing your thoughts into a hiaku relaxes and empowers you. (For those of you who don’t know, a hiaku is style of japanese poetry: the first line has 5 syllables, the second line 7, and the third line 5. Write all your emails in hiaku.

Louise: Haiku awesomeness

is indeed very awesome

but I suck at it.

34. Krieg up your Wallet

I bet you keep your money in a plain leather wallet, don’tchya? Well, find something cooler. What about this fleur-de-lys Stone Hinged wallet? Or this Steampunk Gear leather wallet? Or a gothic cigarette tin wallet?

Louise: Shiny things are shiny.

35. Recreate Your Favourite Dish

Think of your favorite food at your favorite restuarant. Now, scour the internet and all the fancy cookbooks for a likely recipe. Buy all the fresh ingredients and attempt to make your fave dish at home. You probably won’t succeed, but you might come up with something even nicer, or, at the very least, a new appreciation of the skill of your favorite chef.

Louise: I do this all the time, and it rocks. It never turns out like it does at the restaurant – which is fine, because it means the restaurant is still special.

36. Metal Green Thumb

Buy a weird plant and take care of it. By weird, I mean a deadly nightshade or venus flytrap or sarracenia or nepenthes.

Louise Curtis: I bought a begonia. It’s possible I’m so ragingly unmetal that I almost become metal from the other side.

37. Windchimes

I’ve always loved the tinkle of winchimes and crystals. I lined the entire length of my window in my room at my folk’s house with various chimes – ceramic bells I strung up with beads, clear crystals that sparkle in the sun, blown glass droplets which make an incredible sound when they clink together, a ceramic wind chime, dreamcatchers, african animals with bells … it’s so colorful and cheery.

Louise: Windchimes are cool – but the true steampunk romance I wrote about on the same day was cooler.

38. Talk More Gooder

During my second year of uni, a friend and I embarked on an important and dangerous mission: to banish those horrid words “like” and “totally” from our everyday vocab, when used as a sentence filler “You’re like totally kidding me?” or “I want to, like, find that shirt I lost” or “Metallica were, like, my favorite band ever”. So every time I’d say one of those words, she’s interrupt me and I’d have to say the sentence again, without using “like”. After awhile, your brain gets sick of being interrupted all the time and you stop saying them. It worked for a good two or three years. They’ve crept back into my vocab, and my writing, but I aim to remedy this!

Louise: I really wish more writers would read what I wrote for this awesomeness. (Plus, pretty pics.)

39. Learn Braille

Yes, you read correctly. You’re probably not blind, but you could learn Braille anyway. First, you learn to read the dots with your eyes and interpret them as letters, and then you learn contractions “ed” and “and” and “st”, etc. It’s super easy, like learning a secret code, and will make trips in elevators more fun.

Also, you learn something of what it would be like to lose one of your senses. You understand that, no matter what happens to you, the world keeps turning, and dragging you with it. You can survive anything.

Louise: And at least if I lose my sight now, I’ve learnt a little of what I’ll need.

40. Learn Sign Language

For the same reasons above.

Louise: I gotta teach this to CJ.

41. Wear a Mask

If you’re feeling lonely and self-conscious, why not hide your face with a mask? If you want to hide away, hide behind a wall of latex or leather or sequins or lace. You can find venetian masks at Masquerade Magic or cyber masks at Obscuria.

Louise: This turned out to be “How to terrify Louise #6648”.

42. Exercise

You know exercise is good for you, and it makes you feel good. So exercise! Run around the block, do star jumps in the living room. Find the local ice-skating rink or rock climbing wall, hike through the park, practise yoga, salsa dancing or burlesque (you can find lots of free lessons on youtube).

Louise: I hate most exercise, but like swimming. There’s always something.

43. Archery

I am legally blind. I can barely see three feet in front of my face. Yet I love archery. Strutting around with a massive bow and arrows in your quivver feels awesome. I’m constantly posing like I’m in Lord of the Rings. Archery takes concentration, a steady hand and a keen eye (or a good spotter). It’s a sport you do outdoors, rain or shine, by yourself or with a friend. There’s no shouting, no balls flying everywhere, no team rivalry … just you and a bow and your own internal challenges.

Louise: With a few more practice sessions, I bet my poses would get super good.

44. No One at Home

Change your voicemail message to something hilarious. Mine says “Hello, you’ve reached Steff’s cell. Unfortunately, I can’t come to the phone right now, as I’m preparing for the imminent zombie apocalypse. If you’re listening to this, I suggest you find yourself a sharp implement and head to your nearest shopping mall.” All the messages I receive begin with the callers giggling.

Louise: I changed my message back after one of my students complained about how dorky I was (and yes, she’s met me, so that’s saying something).

45. Explore another faith

Go to a religious service of a religion you don’t belong to and don’t believe in, (only if this is allowed and you’re not offending anyone). Really embrace the experience with an open mind and try to learn something about who these people are, who they believe in and how their faith affects their everyday life.

Louise: Westerners (especially Christians) need to learn more about Islam. Glad to be a part of that.

46. Stilts

Make yourself a pair of stilts. All you need are two sturdy planks or wood, and two wooden squares to act as footholds. Bolt / nail / glue the squares to the wooden planks, sand down the rough edges and practise your high walking!

Louise: Hilarious.

47. Operation Beautiful (and how to write steampunk)

Operation Beautiful‘s mission is to put up annoymous notes in public places for other women to find. The notes say “you are beautiful” and give the Operation Beautiful web address. I’ve put up a few around Auckland, and I hope they made somebody’s day.

Louise: An easy way to be a part of something bigger.

48. Music

Dig out your favorites – the music that makes you feel the world is full of wonder. Play loud, sing along, dance on the bed, throw your arms around, headbang, smash something, slow dance with your cat. My feel-good favorites: Metallica – Ride the Lightning, Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Manowar – Kings of Metal, Venom – Black Metal, Arch Enemy – Doomsday Machine, Bif Naked – I Bificus, The Dresdon Dolls – Dresdon Dolls, Blind Guardian – Nightfall on Middle Earth.

Louise: Music is so intensely emotional.

49. Achieve a Lifelong Dream

Have you ever had a dream come true? I can’t describe the feeling – like everything in your whole life has lead up to that moment, and nothing will ever make you sad again.

Louise: I managed to get this blog mentioned on TV via a funny story about CJ.

50. Decide on a Lifelong Dream

Maybe you’ve never had a dream come true because you don’t have a dream … or you don’t think you do.

Write a list of things you wish you could do before you die.

Louise: Haven’t really started “work” on this one, but I’ll know when it’s the right time.

51. Guilty Pleasure

Whatever it might be. I am partial to eating Tim Tams and watching Dr. Phil, or listening to the Rasmus. Be proud to be silly.

Louise: Another thing I excell at. And you can too (I believe in you!)

52. Have something delicious delivered to your house

Don’t go for the normal pizza – see if your favorite italian or moroccan restuarant do deliveries? Will the bakery send you out a fresh-baked loaf? Bask in the glory of ringing someone up and having hot food arrive on your doorstep. It’s a wonderful world we live in.

Louise: It really is.

53. Be a tourist in your own city

Dress up like a tourist (shorts, shirt, camera, “bum bag”, ridiculous hat, guidebook in back pocket) and go do something really touristy: whale-watching, the tourist bus tour, or go to the over-priced amusements. Talk loudly, take hundreds of photos.

Louise: I think this was actually the first one I did from this list. It was a good day.

54. Clothing Attack

Find all the clothes in your wardrobe you don’t really like and attack them with hundreds of studs and spikes. I bet you like them better now, right?

Louise: Ended up with an oddly popular video on YouTube.

55. Make Music

Buy a silly instrument – a harmonica, a tin whistle, a recorder, a djambje, anything as long as it’s inexpensive and makes noise. Be loud and enthusiastic in your playing.

Louise: I went one better and made a bunch of friends join in – and voila! A music video.

56. Feed Ducks

Ducks are my favorite animals, besides cats. Ducks have it all – they can float, they can swin, they can fly and they can waddle adorably.

Louise: The kids were a bonus.

57. Secret Squirrel

Find a secret place. Your secret place should be high up, with a great view. Look for tall trees in the park, abandoned buildings with easily-scaled roofs, or unknown nooks and niches above bridges. Take yourself there when you feel blue, listen to music or read a book and watch the city unfold around you. Be careful climbing to your secret place – falling from your favorite tree won’t cheer you up!

Louise: The tree in this has since been blown down by a storm.

58. Silly Slippers

In the cold of winter, your feet need all the warm they can get. A pair of ridiculous slippers – shaped like dogs, penguins or Eric Adam’s loincloth – cheer you up.

Louise: These slippers just annoyed me. *shrug*

59. Otherwise Known As. . .

I have had many nicknames over the years: Scopes, Steffocles, Double F, Squints, Blinkin’, Blinkie Bill (I detest this), Steffy, Steffy-waffles, Titi, Dozer and Beaker (those last two gens are from my husband. Such a caring fellow.)

Nicknames make a person feel loved, like they’ve reached a new level of intimacy with you.

Louise: Oddly, several of my nicknames stuck. One of my bearded friends is now known only as “Cupcake” to some people.

60. Rise and Shine

Changing your morning routine can alter your whole day. If you shower at night, try showering in the morning, just after you wake up. What do you eat for breakfast? DO you eat breakfast? We need to change that? Do you open the curtains? If not, open them wide! Do you get up too early? Too late? Change up your routine for a week, and measure the affects on you whole persona.

Louise: I learnt that I love my routine.

61. Wake Up Call

Change your alarm clock to something fun. On our epic Europe adventure we had “Morning Manowar”. I tell you, nothing makes you more excited to get up and explore castles than “Hail and Kill” at 7am.

Louise: Huh? What? Erg.

62. Find a totem

A totem is an emblam representing a creature or object you feel a strong connection with. Carrying a totem on your person gives you the sense of being able to draw power from associating yourself with that creature. It’s a little new-agey, but I also think it’s quite metal.

Louise: I think this is when the “Love and CJ” tag was born. I also have a few pieces of jewellery that relate to specific books I’ve written, and I often wear them while editing that particular book.

63. Do something new every day for a week

Find a list of “what’s on in your town”, and for a week, do something new every day. Alternatively, search travel websites for reviews of off-the-beaten track things to do in your area – sometimes backpackers find the gems you’d never otherwise discover, because their hearts and minds are actively searching for those experiences.

Louise: Numbers two and six were unforgettable. Three cheers for free stuff in the nation’s capital!

64. Lego

One day I was feeling crap (I can’t remember why), and CDH snuck out of the house. He returned 20 minutes later carrying a huge box. What was inside? A lego viking ship!

We spent the afternoon making it up and having high seas viking adventures. Best. Cheering. Up. Ever.

Louise: CJ loved this – as I knew he would.

65. Personal Manifesto

Who are you really? What are you about? What makes you tick? What morals and beliefs do you follow?

Louise: Every life is a story, and ever story needs a goal.

66. Share Creatively with the World

If you’re a creative type, why not see if you can sell some work online. Etsy is a great place to sell handmade crafts or vintage collections. You don’t have to try and make millions selling your work, but list a few of your best pieces and see how you go.

Louise: This was the first non-twitter story I shared on the blog – there were many more, and now there’s a “short story” tag on the right.

67. Make Someone’s Day

Mark Twain said “the best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up”. The man speaks truth. Call an old friend up, just to say hi. Text someone and tell them they’re awesome. Take any idea from this list and do it for someone else, instead of for yourself.

Louise: I actually did this one a few times. It’s always fun.

68. Gratitude

Write a Gratitude List – I do this sometimes on the blog. It’s called Up the Irons! and it’s a shout-out to everything good in life. Sometimes, when you concentrate on the bad, you forget all the little things making up the world of good.

Louise: For some reason being grateful makes me feel embarassed. Why is that?

69. De-clutter

Clean out a drawer, cupboard, desk or room you’ve filled up with stuff. Pile up old clothes and books to give to charity shops, and toss the rest away (or recycle it, if you can). You don’t need so much stuff, and having a clean desk/room/drawer feels like having a clean start. I feel instantly fresh and inspired after cleaning my eternally cluttered writing desk.

Louise: One of the most personally satisfying things you can do.

70. Fire

Don’t you find something oddly comforting about a live, roaring fire? My family has always had open fires blazing throughout winter – I’ve never owned a heater till I moved to Auckland and lived in a hostel. We would sit round the fire at night and eat dinner, do our homework, watch TV. Sometimes, Dad would cook crumpets or pikelets on the fire, or we’d roast marshmallows.

Louise: Ditto above comment.

71. Fruit and Veg

A diet of highly processed foods deprives us of much-needed nutrients, and nutrients make us happy. So give yourself a nutrient feast – find your local farmers market and spend up large and the freshest, most delicious fruits and vegetables. Toss into a salad, bake into a pie, boil up in a big vat of soup, or just enjoy raw with olive oil and hummus.

Louise: Amusingly (if you’re deeply sick) this caused me to indirectly discover that I’m now allergic to a wide range of fresh food.

72. Board Games

You’re going to need a partner for this. Dig out all your “old school” board games – Monopoly, Hamburger (my favorite, cuz it’s about food), Mousetrap, Trouble, UNO, Blackgammen … whatever you had as a kid, and play them all. Make fairy bread and drink orange juice and wrap yourself in big blankets.

Louise: My parents were so pleased about this one.

73. Get away from it all

I’ve never been an advocate for this method of dealing with an issue, because you’re bound to find the issue waiting for you when you return from your sojourn.

But sometimes, you just need a break from the world. If you know you need to “get away” for a few days, really get away. Skip town, and don’t take your cell phone. Go bush. Pack your tent and billy and find a corner of the wilderness unpopulated with human life. Relish the stillness of a world untouched by urban living. In the clarity of fresh air, all your muddled thoughts sometimes become crystal clear.

Louise: *sigh of relief and joy*

74. The old-fashioned way

I bake bread every day. EVERY DAY. I don’t use a breadmaker, or any prepackaged mix. I make bread the old-fashioned way – the way humankind has made bread for 10 000 years.

Throw away your modern conveniences and learn to make something to “old-fashioned” way. Can your own tomato pasta sauce, squeeze your own orange juice, make your own beer (I’m doing a home-brew course this year – exciting!), bake a loaf of bread from scratch … kneading that bread is theraputic, trust me.

Louise: When the apocalyse comes, those skills will be super useful.

75. Build a Fort

Need I say more?

Louise: I’m with Steff on this one. Cat loved it too.

76. I am an aeronaut!

This isn’t cheap, but I guarantee it will cheer you up. Go on a hot air balloon ride.

Louise: Awesome! And I added some bonus ballooning tales from history.

77. Beach

Maybe it’s just a New Zealand thing, but nothing says relaxing and good times like going to the beach.

Go to a deserted beach – they’re easy to find if you know where to look. Pack a picnic lunch. Roll the legs of your pants up and run through the surf. Clamber over the rocks and find little fishies in the tide pools. Build a sandcastle. Watch the sun set over the water.

Louise: It’s not just a New Zealand thing.

78. Adopt a Pet and

Try, try again

If you feel lonely, give part of your home to an animal without one. Every day, the SPCA and other animal shelters rescue hundreds of unwanted, neglected pets, and if no one comes to adopt them … you know what happens. It’s shameful and we should all do our bit for these animals.

Scientists have proven stroking a cat enduces healing and reduces feelings of lonliness and anxiety. Pets love unconditionally, and they always know just what to do to make you laugh.

Louise: Definitely the most difficult (and surprisingly expensive) – and definitely the most rewarding.

79. Karaoke

Who thought up such a ridiculous idea? And yes, as silly as karaoke seems, it’s immensly popular and lots of fun.

Can’t sing? Neither can anyone else. Just do the best you can. Ham it up, be OTT ridiculous. Death growl if you have to.

Louise: It was exhilarating in much the same way as a near-death experience. Yes, there’s video. (No, I didn’t discover an amazing secret talent.)

80. Sparklers

Wait until fireworks go on sale in November, and stock up on these little packets of joy. Bring out a few sparklers to light up your BBQs over summer, or just dance around the backyard when you feel a little feral. Spell naughty words in the air, have a dual against a tree, or just pretend you are a fire fairy. Sparklers rule.

Louise: Yes they do. My uncle had never seen them before.

81. Ice cream parlour

Find your nearest ice cream parlour, and order the largest, most ridiculous sundae on their menu. Eat it all. Don’t feel guilty.

Or, better yet, make your own concoction at home. Give it a hilarious name, like “Steff’s Epic Metal Sundae Mountain of Doom”, cover it in whipped cream, frosting, crumbled biscuits, cut-up Mars bars, nuts, sprinkles, chocolate chips, cherries, bananas, blueberries, sauce, fudge, sherbert and anything else you can think of. Eat it all. Don’t feel guilty.

Louise: Making it at home is THE BIZ.

82. Old School

Go to the library or a second-hand bookshop and find some of those series books from the nineties: the ones you undoubtedly read: The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Pony Club, Goosebumps, Fear Street. Read them all again. Damn, weren’t they terribly awesome?

Louise: WOW. You really should read the hilarious extracts I posted for your delectation.

83. Community Classes

CDH and I are taking German classes at a nearby high school. It costs us $89 for seven 2 hour lessons, with all materials included. The school runs classes in everything: from burlesque dancing to Metalworking to Indian cooking. They are cheap, they are run by enthusiastic, experienced teachers, they are filled with interesting people, they enable you to learn new skills. In short – community classes are awesome.

Louise: This was a bit too much for me (because I was sick), but still good if you’re not excessively time-stressed.

84. Notebook

Buy yourself a fancy notebook, and a nice pen. I love Black Spot Books and Bibliographica who handbind journals they’ve created using recycled leather and found materials. I also like Immortal Longing’s Shakespeare-inspired journals. Lots of people adore Moleskeine journals, but I honestly don’t see the difference between them and any other notebook.

What will you use your notebook for? Oh, the possibilities!

Louise: Mmm. . . . stationary. . .

85. Random Club

Open your gig guide, close your eyes, and point. That’s where you’re going tonight. Dress inappropriately, and make the best of it.

Louise: I ended up at an under-6s event at the National Museum (borrowed a child for it, too).

86. Starry Night

Find your local observatory or planetarium. Show up for one of their evening lectures – they normally set up telescopes so you can look at celestial bodies. Better yet, take a course in astronomy. Amaze yourself at just how busy it is out there.

Louise: Our observatories are non-functional, so CJ and I lay under the stars on a picnic rug. So cheap, so romantic.

87. Sleepy Time

If you can spare the dough, buy new sheets and a duvet for your bed. Find something completely luxurious in a your favorite colour. Make Over your bed, and you make over your sleep.

Louise: Heck, I’m impressed just by clean sheets.

88. Facebook Friends

You know all those random “friends of friends’ who keep adding you on Facebook? Strike up a conversation with one of them. You know you already have something in common, and they added you so they can’t think your a serial killer or anything. Who knows, a “friend of a friend” might turn into an actual friend.

Louise: Hi Ross, if you’re out there.

89. Dinner and a Movie

By Yourself. Yes, go out on a “typical” date all by yourself. Eat at your favorite restuarant (and don’t bring a book. You don’t need to distract yourself from your own company), and then go to a movie you really want to see. Buy yourself all the treats YOU want to eat, sit wherever you want (I love sitting right in the front row, and I fold all the armrests up and lie down. Cushiney!)

Louise: This felt a bit weird. If I’m gonna leave CJ behind, I’d rather have an all-girls get-together.

90. Love Letter

Write someone a love letter in chalk on the steps up to their apartment or the pavement outside their flat. Use several colours. Hide and watch their reaction when they see it.

Louise: Chalk still hasn’t fully come off. D’oh!

91. Signature Cocktail

Pull all the liquer bottles out of your cabinet and line then up on the bench. Now, go to the fridge and pull out all the liquids and fruits. Do the same with the pantry. Now, line up all your shot glasses and start mixing! You’re searching for the perfect signature cocktail. This involves lots of taste-testing. Be daring, be crazy. Give your drink a wacky name.

This is an excellent way to use all those liquer bottles people have left with half a centimetre of liquid inside.

Louise: Definitely recommended for all those of drinking age. I’m rather proud of my creations. . . even the one with soy sauce.

92. Road Trip

Road trips kick ass. A car, good music, an adventure, bad food, what more could you want? I love a trip when you know roughly where you’re going, but you don’t have a specific schedule, so you can stop and look at random things on the way. On the last road trip I went on – up to a campsite by a lake – we stopped to take air-guitar pictures outside a picturesque white chapel in the middle of a rolling field. Next, we made faces underneath a duck-crossing sign.

Louise: We visited my favourite sculpture, in the small town of Collector. Imagine seeing this (for the first time) looming from sheer dark on a moonless night. . . as I did.

93. Collect Something Interesting

It could be anything – I collect miniature trinket boxes (I want to start collecting pill or snuff boxes exclusively), and fossils, and I used to collect locks of hair. CDH collects vintage books about trains. I have a friend who collects typewriters, another who collects statues of elephants.

Once you’ve decided on your collection, spend hours scouring eBay or Amazon and making a huge wishlist of all the items you want to add to your collection. You probably can’t afford to buy them all, but maybe splash out on just one.

Louise: The final stunning result is here.

94. Pay off debt

Owing people money stresses me out. I feel like a failure if I haven’t budgeted accordingly to be able to pay for something in cash, or I have to borrow money from a friend.

So sit down and make a plan.

Louise: Debt kills awesomeness.

95. Paddle

You can buy a decent-sized paddling pool at the Warehouse or Para rubber or whatever the equivelent house-of-plastic-crap is in your country. Fill it with water (warm or hot) and bubble bath. Pour yourself a glass of wine and have your own private paddle spa in your backyard. I like to do this at night when you can see the stars.

Louise: This turned out to be “How to terrify Louise #6649” due to the knowledge there was . . . something. . . in the water.

96. Random Holidays

You might have realised by now, I’m a big fan of celebrating random and made-up holidays. I’ve written before about remembering Dimebag Darryl and having a metal Christmas, but I’m sure you can think of lots of ideas for random or made-up holidays.

Celebrate the birthdays of your favorite writers, musicians and artists. Celebrate crazy religious holidays – Gala Darling wrote about celebrating Holi – a hindi festival where everyone throws coloured powder over everyone else. It looks like the most fun ever.

Louise: Do it. This is what google is for.

97. Let go of people

On a couple of occasions I’ve had to let go of friends who were hurting me. They were good friends and good people and I loved them and didn’t realise what a negative effect they had on my life, until it was too late. Sometimes, loving someone isn’t enough, when they expect you to carry them too.

Louise: Since I’m not going to blog about dumping friends, I celebrated the conclusion of my work with a student (he graduated).

98. Embrace another culture

Choose a culture or time period you don’t know anything about, but have always been fascinated with, and start reading books and websites. Whether you choose ancient Egypt, Communist Russia, Imperial China, the Maori or the Inuit, start a love affair with another time or place.

Louise: This was an epiphany.

99. Sprinkles

Bake a cake for a friend, or for your colleagues at work. For no reason, except “just because”. I find the act of baking theraputic – no matter what’s going on in the world, you still stir the batter, lick the bowl, and make your house smell amazing. Plus, you get to surprise someone with cake.

Louise: My mum commented plaintively to ask why I didn’t save any of the meringes I made for her. Sorry mum!

100. Hug Someone

I love hugs – they’re my favoritest thing in the whole world. If you hug someone (a friend, a parent, a lover, a stranger), chances are, they’ll hug you back. Yay, hugs for everyone!

Louise: A close friend’s hug is worth gold.

101. Talk to Steff

Even if no one else cares, even if no one in the whole wide world wants to listen to you moan or growl or cry or scream or laugh or sob or growl or smile – I do. Shoot me an email at – I always answer.

Louise: I talk to Steff about our writing, and she always has something positive and useful to say.

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Final Megalist for Year of Awesomeness

March 25, 2011 at 10:51 am (Daily Awesomeness, MegaList of Awesomeness)

If you click on the “megalist of awesomeness” tag, you get a list of links to all the awesomenesses of the past twelve months – I’ll shortly be compiling a greatest hits list with proper links just for you (and of course revisiting the steffmetal list that started it all).

As always, I’ve reposted some of the best pictures, and put an asterisk next to the entries I think are the best written.













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