Murder for Fun and Profit

January 14, 2018 at 7:55 pm (I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, Murder in the Mail, Short stories)

The Kickstarter for “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” was fully funded, and the story will be officially launched (as part of an art exhibition) in August 2018.

It is available for purchase in its “full” format until September 2019 right here, after which it will be available as a visual novel published by Publisher Obscura.

The full list of contributors is here, with pics (and book covers of the writers).

Here’s the trailer:


Here’s the same (nearly) trailer, but with me yabbering at the end. This is the trailer we used for the Kickstarter (before the store was set up).

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

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

The first story in the series is A Bloody Birthday.

Poster 3

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

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

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

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


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

For example, this picture has five clues in it.


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

(Fun fact: This is not the final version of the pic. Can you spot the difference between this and the “real” one sent to readers?)



During the Kickstarter period, there were a range of unique items for people to purchase, such as premium versions of the story or custom-made art by the featured artists.

There will be a very special launch on 25 August here in Canberra, and an exhibition at the Front Cafe Gallery in Lyneham (within sight of Tillies).

If you want to know more, you can email or visit the official forum at

You can buy it through my store here.

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

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It’s by Adam Lee.

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

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

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

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

Since the Kickstarter, I’ve been selling special box sets at all the conferences/fairs/etc that I attend, ie:

Sydney Supanova (June) in the Artist Alley stall “Publisher Obscura”
GammaCon Canberra (August) in Artist Alley
Canberra Launch (probably as part of the Canberra Writers’ Festival) August
Conflux Canberra (September-October)
Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk and Victoriana Fair (October)

There will be limited quantities of the packaged version, so email me in advance if you’d like to reserve one.

YES there are two “Magic in the Mail” stories in development right now! You can see more at the Magic Forum, and/or check out the whole store here.

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Murder in the Mail

November 22, 2017 at 1:24 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Short stories, Steampunk, Writing Ranting)

I wrote a guest post here about how I fell in love with steampunk. And it’s part of a series by a bunch of steampunky types.

I’m working on a new story called “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” which will be released by Publisher Obscura, Odyssey’s imprint for “beautiful and unusual novelty and gift books by Australian and New Zealand authors and artists”.

The fundamental concept is that it’s a cozy murder mystery that is told entirely through letters, postcards, objects, and art prints—all of which are physically posted to the reader through the mail. There are seven writers altogether (one for each character, including the victim) and six artists (five from Canberra, one from Obscura who lives in Brisbane). The story runs for about eight weeks, and I chose (or in some cases commissioned) art that was both beautiful AND something that helped tell the story.

Yes, some vital clues are hidden inside the artwork itself!

The objects are also clues about the murder (or other secrets), and chosen to be small enough to post but also to engage the senses—hearing, smell, touch, and even taste. Obviously the art is somewhat visual.

I’m deliriously excited about this project, which will probably come together bit by bit over the next 6-12 months.

Here’s one of the pictures that will be in the story (as a physical A4 print):

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This is one of the pieces of art from the story, which means everyone who buys the story gets a high-quality print of this (and seven other pieces in a range of materials). In real life, the photographer is Adam Lee. His website is here.

Update: The tentative release date is August/September 2018, and before then we’ll run a Kickstarter (which will have lots of fun & unique items, and will increase the advance given to all the contributors). And there will be a forum for people to talk murder, mystery, and art. Stay tuned!

Update: The story is well and truly up and running, with the main details here.

There are also Magic in the Mail stories!

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List of all my Interactive Fiction

October 3, 2017 at 11:31 pm (I get paid for this, Interactive Fiction, Murder in the Mail, My Novels, Pirates, Rahana Stories, Short stories, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories)

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

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

[If you’re looking for Murder in the Mail or Magic in the Mail, click here or scroll down the the end of this entry for info. Or just buy them from my store.]

And now I do escape rooms (portable within Canberra). Go figure.

I’m collecting fan art here.

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

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

If you’re attempting to read every steampunk tale I’ve written (aka “Steam & Sorcery”, which includes the “Antipodean Queen” novel trilogy) in a logical order, there’s a reading guide here. Everything steampunk in this list is underlined.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 9.49.44 PM

Cover image provided by Michael Estrada, with permission.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Death at the Rectory is a cozy crime mystery with magic. You’re a writer selected for a retreat at an 140 year-old rectory (based on the gorgeous real-world rectory of St John’s Anglican in Gundagai—not the one in the cover sorry) but when someone is murdered you become a suspect.

All the links (iOS, Google Play, Amazon) are here. The beginning is free.

And now for something completely different.

Poster 3

Murder in the Mail is a murder mystery series told entirely through letters, objects, and art sent through the physical mail over the course of several weeks. The first story is A Bloody Birthday, which will have a Kickstarter Feb 17-end May 2018, and will be officially released on 25 August. The “pure” physical version will end 13 months after release, so get it while you can. The whole story costs just $40 including postage, and there’s more info here and a designated forum here.

Magic in the Mail is similar, but fantasy. There are two stories in development. The mini story “Emmeline’s Empire” will be available by June 2018 (but mail-out times will vary depending on jewellery supplies). “Feuding Fae” will have its first mail-out in June 2019.

More info here, and the magic forum is here.

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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.

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The simplest way to know when a new story is coming out is to join my mailing list by writing an email to 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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Killer Idea (PG story)

May 3, 2011 at 8:30 am (Short stories)

Detective-Sargeant Hobson shrugged off a trailing end of crime tape and straightened up to his full height. The flat was only slightly larger than a shoebox, and had slightly less inside. Grey carpet, grey walls, no curtains. He dismissed robbery and diagnosed poverty instead.

There was a mattress against one wall, covered in crumbs. Against the opposite wall a folding table held up a computer and several piles of paper. And there was a dead body stretched out on the floor.

The man was twenty-something, unshaven, and thin with malnutrition. His left wrist gaped open, and the kitchen knife that had opened it lay on the floor beside him. It looked like a suicide, except that the piece of paper beside him was covered in writing. The kind of reddish-brown, dripping writing that could only be the result of a daying man writing in his own blood.

“Johnny Boy did it,” Hobson read aloud. “He loves Aurelia, so does it to impress her. Almost accidental.”

The medical examiner met his eye, blank-faced from years of her work. “No phone, or he could have called for help to keep him alive rather than asking us to give him justice. It must have taken a while to write that.”

“Do we know a Johnny Boy?” Hobson asked. “An Aurelia?”

“We will soon,” came another cop’s voice from outside. “The vic is Thomas Seneca. The neighbour called us in when she didn’t see him at the mailbox. Apparently he’s always there first thing.”

“I wonder why he didn’t ask her for help. He had time to write down the murderer’s name, but not enough time to call out?” Hobson knelt and picked up the top sheet of a jumbled pile of A4 paper beside the computer. “The Morning After,” he read aloud. “By Thomas Seneca.” He turned to the next page. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl. The world knew it, and she knew it. Her name was Aurelia.”

The page slid from his fingers, and narrowly missed Thomas’ pool of blood. He took one step across the room and flicked the light switch.

“Bulb’s blown,” said the M.E.

“No,” said Hobson. “The bulb is fine.” He pushed the power button on the computer. Nothing happened.

The M.E. sat back on her heels. “I know that look, Hobson. What is it? Why does it matter that he hadn’t paid his bills? Are we even surprised?”

“Do you see a pen? Pencil? Crayon?”

“No. If there was, he could have saved himself some trouble leaving us the whodunnit message.”

Hobson leant back against the wall. “There is no Johnny Boy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Thomas was a writer. On a day with no pens and no electricity, he had an idea for his novel. And he wrote it down.”

The End

PS I had this idea literally years ago, but it didn’t coalesce until very recently. As I researched bushrangers this year, I read about a real outlaw that kept a diary (aww) while on the run – using his own blood for ink.

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How much do YOU love the internet?

September 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm (Daily Awesomeness, funny, Short stories, Uncategorized, Writing Ranting)

Ubergeeks John Scalzi and Wil Weaton have done something wonderful. This:

Other than writing stuff themselves, they had various other (in)famous people contribute, plus they ran a competition (based on the picture). Which I didn’t win.

The book itself is, technically, free. You can go read it at But since the whole point of the thing is to raise money for lupus sufferers (Wil and John paid for everything out of their own pockets), see if you can donate $5. Or maybe more.

Because sometimes, it is lupus.

However, here’s the story I wrote. All things being equal, the stories from the book are better than this. So go click on the link and enjoy.

“Kitten Spit”

I woke as my face was scraped raw by warm sandpaper coated in slime. Something monstrous had found me, and its spit dissolved my skin. I opened my eyes to a view of needle-sharp teeth, and gagged at the stench of salmon as the thing yawned.

     “Good kitty,” I croaked.

     It was taller than me, even without the wings spreading from its shoulders. Since my cave had a prudently small opening, only its head could fit inside – if it angled itself so the horn on its forehead didn’t scrape the roof. I scrambled back before it could lick me a second time. Blood dripped down my neck. I healed myself by magic before the thing attacked again.

“Where did you come from?” I said aloud.

     “Well,” came a voice from outside, “when a unicorn and a pegasus and a cat all love each other very much –”

     “No I meant—oh actually, that does answer one question. May I ask who you both are, and what you and your – er, noble steed – are doing here?”

     “Are you the orc magician?” The voice was curiously flat, as if the man was mortally exhausted.

     My heart sank. Even among other magicians, that question always led to an awkward conversation followed by an even more irritating battle. I had thought living on an active volcano would discourage further inquiry. “Just because I have green skin, pointy ears, and incredibly well-developed muscles doesn’t mean I’m going to kill you.” Under my breath I added, “Like all the others.”

     The kitten retreated as someone tugged on its reins. Not for the first time, I was glad I slept in full armor.

A human stood by the lava river outside my cave. Other than his sweater, he was unarmed.

     I took an involuntary step backward and hit stone. “That’s –”

     “Yes,” he said, looking away. “The clown sweater. I need you to kill me.”

     I looked at his young face and saw the deep worry lines of a man possessed by the most diabolical fiend of our time. “But. . . you’re immune. And besides, we’ve just met.”

     “I’m Wil.”

     “John. But –”

     “I’m not immune.”

     “Then how?”

     “Sometimes, it sleeps.”

     “Can you take it off?” I asked. “Can someone take it off you?”

 His eyes glittered, but he held himself together.  “I used to have three brothers.”

     “Ah. So I’m dead then.”

     “No! Kill me first and save your life. And she’s not a monster. She’s Petunia, and she just likes to play.” He pulled down a golden spear from her back. “Take it!”

     “Don’t make me do this. Killing people is so. . .”

     All colour fled his face, silencing me. “It’s waking up. The clown. It’s coming! Help me!” I saw his eyes turn mad just before he leapt onto Petunia’s back. He lifted the spear and smiled the serene smile of the deranged.

The awkward-conversation part of our friendship was at an end.

     I grabbed my axe and shield and ran outside. Wil seemed decent. The least I could do was sever his head from his body.

     Petunia leapt into the air and bore down on me with her claws splayed. Magic filled me, sparking from my fingertips. I jumped straight into Wil and we both tumbled to the rocks. Petunia crouched to watch us, switching her horse’s tail from side to side in excitement.

     “Unicorns,” I thought frantically, searching for a weakness. “Good for looking picturesque with virgins. Not helpful right at the moment.”

     Wil leapt at me, drooling with fury. I parried and his spear clashed against my armored shoulder.

     “Pegasuses,” I thought. “Pegasi? Good for traveling long distances fast. But flighty.”

     Petunia’s eyes glowed with mad kitten joy. Her pupils darkened and she waggled her rear end, ready to spring.

     Wil spun with impossible speed and I ducked just in time. His foot connected with my head, but I magically dismissed the bright stars of concussion before they got me killed.

     “Kittens,” I thought. “Nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. Attracted to shiny things. Also a source of pure, unadulterated evil.” I blinked, and knew what to do.

Luckily for us, Petunia was already in the mood to play.

     Wil lunged for my throat and I didn’t have time to dodge naturally. My magical defenses shot me fifty feet into the air. I had time to look down as I fell, curious to see if gravity would get a chance to kill me before the rest. Or perhaps I’d think of some further magical brilliance. Either way, I looked forward to finding out what happened next.

     Petunia sprang at me. She batted me sideways in mid-air, knocking me into my cave. I landed on nice soft armor and watched with quiet surprise as magical sparks healed my broken legs. With one hand, I pointed to Wil. Pretty blue sparks danced an irresistible pattern on the clown’s red nose.

Petunia took the bait. She pounced and pinned Wil to the rock with one paw, biting into his sparkly chest as he screamed in pain and rage.

She spat something white and red and grinning into the lava river, where it dissolved. Then she sat on Wil’s legs and licked the hole that used to be his chest.

I staggered outside, dragging up what magic I had to try and heal him. Sparks flew off me into him, building new organs, growing new skin, and filling him with new blood.

It was no use. Petunia’s saliva ate through him faster than I could build him back

Wil didn’t move.

“The sweater is dead,” I said, falling on my knees beside him. “Long live the sweater.”

Petunia yawned emphatically and touched him with the tip of her horn. “Unicorns,” I thought. “Handy for fixing poison. Does that include kitten spit?”


PS This piece of awesomeness comes free of charge. Your regular schedule of Daily Awesomeness will continue tomorrow.

PPS Please do spread the word about this book. If you’ve ever had a disease of the immune system or known someone who has, you’ll understand why.

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#75: Leave lights/heater on

September 13, 2010 at 2:12 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Short stories)

My “study” is located in the corner of our (large) living room. In Summer or Winter, I try to take my laptop to our (much smaller) bedroom to save on heating and cooling. Yesterday I glanced over my entire 66,000 word realist novel (in case Publisher K requests it this week, which is fairly likely), and as a treat I stayed at my usual desk and turned the big heater on.

It was niiiice.

Here’s a short story, since my exuberant heater use doesn’t make an especially thrilling blog entry. (Writing tips are a-happening today and tomorrow at if you’re into that sort of thing.)

“Why stars are the way they are”

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Fans were charmed when she wore bunny slippers to her first award ceremony, peeking out from under a designer gown. Her face was as expressive as her music, grinning as her blonde hair fell across one eye, or sweetly calling attention to the successes of her favourite charities. People called her the girl of a thousand smiles.

Her only foible was that she did not like having her picture taken. It was a phobia based on the beliefs of certain third-world cultures that cameras could steal a person’s soul. She sat for painted portraits each day, and passed them out to photographers as gifts, hoping to discourage their professional enthusiasm. They merely photographed her handing out the pictures.

Even as she retreated back into restaurants or behind gates, her sharpest rebuke was to say, ‘I don’t want my photo taken, you drip.’ Young girls began using the word ‘drip’ as hip new slang referring to anyone wielding a camera.

Missy and her high school sweetheart were married. The drips were greeted cordially by Missy’s manager, and invited to leave their cameras at the door and enter. The ceremony was performed in the backyard of Missy’s childhood home. Most of the town attended, but they were still outnumbered by photographers, twitching frustrated fingers as Missy sparkled like never before.

As Missy and her husband were permitted by reverent order to kiss, cameras appeared from under seats and inside handbags. The flashes pierced her closed eyes. She broke the kiss and stared around as if caught in a deadly trap. That iconic look of interrupted innocence appeared on the cover of no less than three major magazines within the week.

Something changed in the press that day. They followed Missy in taxis and unmarked vans, taking pictures of her at the beach, with family, and through the windows of her home. Photos appeared of her getting drunk as she sought anonymity by any means. Soon there were pictures of her fighting with her husband, and both of them trying new and harder drugs. A photo of Missy with another man made the photographer’s career. The man went on to star in a hit reality show. Even in the sealed courtroom, as Missy wrangled with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, someone managed to secretly take photo after photo after photo.

As Missy left the courtroom a hoard of paparazzi caught her on the steps in a blaze of light. She shrieked and swore and swung at the nearest. The drip grabbed at her, and snagged a handful of fabric.

‘You want some?’ she shrilled. ‘Take it!’ She tore at the shirt, bursting the buttons, and threw it in his delighted face. Her bra followed, and the respectable skirt she’d worn to court. Famous undies matched the bra on the ground. The flashes were like an electric storm. Missy shielded, not her face or her nakedness, but somewhere near her heart. Soon there was nothing left to take.

Missy Myway was the sweetest of the starlets, and her soul was as great as the ocean. Even the ocean can be emptied, drip by drip.


And, today’s killer robot (from geekologie, I think):

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#184: All day in a wired cafe

August 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Short stories)

I love the smell of cliché in the morning.

Taking advantage of a day when I didn’t have any tutoring, I decided to snap out of my recent pre-conference chocolate binge by distracting myself with writing and pancakes (pancakes being less evil than chocolate, believe me). So I went to the Pancake Parlour, an underground cave of a cafe, and ate a Red Dawn for breakfast:

And yep, that’s bacon and cheese you see baked into the pancake.

Then I wrote. And wrote some more. One of my books has been under major reconstruction for over a year, and it happens to be one I’ve promised to one of my shiny new contacts at a big publisher, so I armed myself with bacon and entered the fray. It wasn’t pretty, but I emerged with a rough new (ish) beginning, which should be good to go in about a month’s time.

I also ate lunch – in this case, cottage fries (with sour cream), and traditional lemonade.

It’s an expensive way to go, but I’ve now gone 8 waking hours without chocolate AND I have a workable opening to “The Princess and the Pirate”.

Play along at home: Are you a student or a writer or someone who sometimes works from home? Try taking your laptop to a cafe and seeing if the new environment helps. Let me know!

And here’s your “Peace Hostage” companion pic for today, from

PS: While at the cafe, I received news that one of my stories was honorably mentioned in a short-short story competiton. This is the tale:


They say it’s impossible to defy a dragon. But I manag–

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S#54: Clothing Attack

August 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Short stories)

My heart is racing, I’m out of breath, and my torso is strangely constricted.

I’ve been a-sewing.

Warning: If you don’t like Hollywood blood and/or you’re under 12 years old, this is probably not the blog entry for you.

Many years ago, I acquired this shirt due to winning the youth section of the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto awards (you can read the story if you don’t mind blood, murder, and terrible formatting – it’s at The other story I mention in the video (again, blood and murder and so on) is at Both are under the name “Felicity Bloomfield” because they’re not child-safe.

I’d have preferred a shirt in my size, but that’s just not the way it works in this mixed-up world. Today’s awesomeness was suggested by Steff Metal, who as a metal chick is constantly forced to wear the XL shirts female metal fans are so often reduced to. So Steff, this one’s for you.

I’ve cut the boring bits from the video, but didn’t stop the timer. That whole adjustment really did take exactly five minutes, including putting it on at the end – and cutting off all the dangling threads.

For those of you who either don’t have video, lack psychic powers, and/or genuinely want to try this, here’s how.

You need:

1. A fully threaded-up sewing machine (with long dangling threads at the needle every time you start a new seam). Alternatively, try hiring a roomful of seven-year olds. I hear they’re good at this sort of thing.*

2. A good pair of scissors – ideally fabric scissors, but seams hide all manner of sins.

Here’s what you do:

1. Lay the T-shirt flat on a table and cut off large chunks from each side, including the entire sleeves (I realised later that it might have been good to allow a teensy bit extra for my womanly curves). These are the bits I cut off (the pins are strictly decorative – I almost never use pins or measurements, and I don’t own an iron):

2. To make a sleeve, pick a spot along the recently-cut line that’s roughly where your armpit should eventually be. Fold the material over along that edge and sew the fold in place (that’s your seam). You need to fold it so the rough edge is inside the shirt, and sew upward from your armpit, past the top seam, and about the same length down the other side (make the sleeves big, because you can always make them smaller later).

3. When you’ve done two sleeves (and the shirt is flapping open like a poncho), turn the shirt inside out and sew along the sides from the bottom end of the shirt to the armpit spot (your sleeve sewing and side sewing will overlap). Your aim is for the shirt to end up closed and the arm-holes open. When you start your side seams from the bottom edge, you know it’ll at least appear to match up. In the video, I did one whole side before starting on the second sleeve, and I’m pretty sure I failed to begin from the bottom of the shirt, too.

4. Cut off all the dangling threads. Warning: do not cut off your fingers. Fingers are useful.

5. Your XL T-shirt is now a S/XS/M tank top. Congratulations. Advanced players, unlike me, will end up with a shirt in the correct size, rather than the too-small variety. Ah well.

Alternative ending – a piece I’ve entitled, “Oops. Was that meant to happen?” or, “Boy, those scissors sure are sharp.”

Play along at home: Hey kids! Ask an adult for help before slicing up your wardrobe (or theirs).

And here’s today’s entirely unadjusted rainforest picture, from

* But you may not want to give them sharp objects. Your call.

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#97: Cancel Fu

August 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Short stories)

These days, everyone is running around, stressed over this and that and “I said I’d get right on to such-and-such”. We hold on so tightly to our plans. So, when we let something go, it’s a wonderful feeling.

That is my awesomeness for today – not doing anything awesome today (whoaa, what a paradox). Personally, I’m going back to bed.

What are you going to not do today?

And here’s a true story (published in a “Short and Twisted” anthology a few years ago). It happened to Ben.

Naked Man in the Bushes

There’s not much to do in Canberra.

I walked home from Belconnen Interchange on a Wednesday night. It was ten o’clock, so there were no more buses. Drunk men were everywhere, and they all seemed to be stalking their ex-wives. They talked to contacts on mobiles. ‘Yes, she’s going toward Ginninderra Drive now. See if you can head her off.’

My concern rose significantly when I noticed an adult male crouching in bushes by the roadside. He was nude.

I kept my eyes forward and debated whether or not I should call someone. Unable to remember the number for the naked stalker hotline, I walked by on the other side of the road. A second naked man burst from a tree immediately in front of me and sprinted to the traffic island splitting Belconnen Way.

‘Marco!’ he yelled.

‘Polo!’ came the reply.


And here’s today’s picture:

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