10 December 2016

FFXV (mild spoilers)

Final Fantasy Boy Band came out last week, and I racked up 50-60 hours of gameplay and now it is done.

Another very pretty game, and gameplay-wise it was pretty solid Final Fantasy, with endless side quests and open world stuff that you could meander through at your own speed - at least until you hit the end game railroad.

Like many Final Fantasy fans, I was a bit dubious about the 'boy band' aspect.  No female playable characters at all is disappointing - though not irredeemable to me - there has been at least one all-female FF game, and all male playable characters aren't necessarily a gamebreaker for me.

'Cindy the mechanic' nearly was.  Cindy's outfit was a painful piece of fan service, and boy did they love posing her for viewing pleasure.  The windscreen washing was particularly egregious.  She was also the female character we spent the most time with.  Still, at least she was competent.  Aranea and Lunafreya were both better dressed, and we even got to do a dungeon-crawl with Aranea, who has a nice line of snark and some hilarious dragon cosplay going on.

Unfortunately, FFXV has a massive plot problem.  For one thing, most of the plot isn't in the game, it's in an entirely separate movie called Kingsglaive (which I haven't watched).  And what started as a reasonably enjoyable game dissolved into a shemozzle of epic proportions during the end-game, with most of the characters you met during the first forty hours of the game getting a brief mention rather than satisfactory final scenes, and even the primary 'brotherhood' theme coming off pretty weak since we needed more of the _beginning_ of these four's friendship to really appreciate that friendship being under stress, and then finally enduring.

So, for those trying to decide on whether to play the game - the first two-thirds are great classic FF, if lacking in playable female characters and backstory.  The last third isn't particularly fun to play, and reads more like cliff notes or dot points of a plot rather than a satisfying story.

But it's very pretty, and I play quite a few of these games for the pretty.

19 October 2016

The Towers, the Moon release

France, under the Court of the Moon, is a country of cyclical change, where the true rulers arrive every night to compete among themselves, and humans are backdrop, witnesses, inessential – and yet inextricably intertwined.

It is the reign of the Gilded Tower, and fashions are daring.

Two Wings: Griff Tenning has suffered too much change in the past year, and wishes everything would quiet down for a while - or, better still, would go back to when his parents were alive. But, even so, it's useful that his odd aunt can afford airship tickets to France. On such a quick trip, his hated travel sickness won't be enough to keep him from a chance to stand beneath the impossible Towers of the Moon.

Forfeit: Forfeit is the newest game of the Court of the Moon, and one seemingly designed for humans to lose. But Arianne Seaforth is willing to pay a great deal to help her oldest friend – and she is learning to extract a price of her own.

Death and the Moon: Eluned Tenning can barely remember all the names of the vast network of cousins making her sixteenth birthday party so overwhelming. But she has no problems with would-be actor Milo, who is so calmly quiet and friendly. She'd never step on a stage herself, but she's happy to help him rehearse.
The Towers, the Moon's cover is by the wonderful Likhain.  Covers are one of my favourite parts of any release, and it was awesome to watch this image come to life.
Note: These short stories sit between The Pyramids of London and Tangleways in The Trifold Age series. They contain mild spoilers for The Pyramids of London. "Two Wings" is 7,500 words, "Forfeit" is 20,000 words, and "Death and the Moon" is 2300 words.


Amazon US, UK, DE, FR, AU
Barnes & Noble 
Google (coming)

Trade Paperback


29 September 2016

Epistory (game)

I've not played a typing game before that wasn't designed to teach typing.

Epistory is definitely not here to teach you typing.  In fact, if you're not a plus 50 wpm (and preferably more like plus 80 wpm) typist, I don't recommend this game.

I mean sure, it has an origami girl on a cool origami fox trotting through an origami landscape that unfolds before your eyes.  And you can change the landscape - spawning trees or flowers or removing logs by typing their names.  And the creepy crawlies coming toward you every so often are easily banished with a quick key word or several key words.  And you even get skills to take out multiple enemies at once, and can manage boss battles where a dozen things are heading toward you from all sides and you're typing and owning them with your skills and your three and four and five letter words and then it hits you with nocturnal and polysyllabic and hyperglaecemic and...

Beginner typists simply aren't going to survive.

It was fairly short on the story part, and the control mechanism for the fox is a bit irritating, but for those who are fast typists, this game will give you a nice challenge.

24 September 2016


Much hard work lately, but no releases to show for it!  I'm about three-four chapters from the end of my current project, though, and have nearly figured out how I want to rewrite the beginning of the main story of The Towers, the Moon after feedback.  This means two releases by the end of the year, although I'm not going to set any fixed dates.

I've really been enjoying writing MMO-related stories, though it makes me SO tempted to pick up an MMO and lose myself for a few months.

It's spring here in Sydney, which means lots of flowers, but also more weeding and mowing.  The brand new leaves on deciduous trees are very lovely as well.

24 July 2016

Stranger Things (mild spoilers)

This is a Netflix science fiction series set in the 80s, where the disappearance of a young boy and the arrival of a girl with mysterious powers are linked to strange happenings at a shadowy research facility.  Think Firestarter combined with Super 8.

Like Super 8, there's a small group of boys involved, and a solid chunk of the story is about their friendship.  There's also an older sister who has a boys-related plot, which morphed into something better.  And a Sheriff who never really recovered from losing his daughter.

There's not a lot of...original in this story, but it's fairly gripping in parts (I'm a shameless skipper-ahead when there's boring scenes).  And there was stuff that, inevitably, annoyed me.

The boyfriend related stuff I simply found tiresome, even though they were clearly attempting to deconstruct some of the usual beats of that tale.  But what I disliked about the sister's plotline was where the sister's less-attractive best friend ended up.  Painfully predictable outcome.

I appreciated some of the brave and logical things 'frantic Mum' did.

One of the things that bugged me most, though, is that these D&D-playing, SFF-loving kids, have zero imagination about 'Eleven', the mysterious girl.  They are genre-savvy and she's clearly an escapee, clearly traumatised, has powers...and they are constantly attacking her for being 'creepy', for not explaining things clearly.  The same goes for the two older teens - at times they seem to be acting not out of bravery, but a complete failure to have any awareness of horror narratives, even after seeing more visual proof of creepiness than anyone else.  Who crawls through mucus-filled holes in trees and doesn't expect to find anything horrible on the far side?

It kept my interest to the ending, but then I was again rolling my eyes at the "reset to normality but not" final beat.  So a partial recommendation: some good suspense, a couple of occasions where girls got to step outside expectations, but we're definitely going back to the 80s with this - not anywhere new.

09 July 2016

Inside (game) (no spoilers)

A friend of mine emailed me about this game, noting that she'd seen reviews that said "buy and play and don’t look at reviews first so you get the full wonder of it" - and so I did.

The game starts with a boy, in a forest, who starts to run right...and that's about all I'm planning to tell you about the details of the game.  It really is a game that will reward discovering what happens by yourself.

"Creepy mindfuck" is the most common description I've been able to find for that game...and that fits well enough.  It certainly is an incredibly tense and atmospheric game, with good, mostly not-too-difficult puzzles and multiple moments of wonder, awe and horror.

I'm so-so on the ultimate ending, but this game was definitely more about the journey than the explanation.

You'll get about four hours worth of playtime out of it - and for those without the budget/inclination, this is a game which will probably be enjoyable to watch a few Let's Plays (especially a couple of the more shocking bits).

Potential spoilers in any comments, so if you haven't played don't read them just in case...

18 June 2016

June status and writing side-effects

I was just checking my Goodreads records, and it says I've read 26 books so far this year (as we near the halfway point) and twenty of them were read before March (so six books between March and June).  By contrast, in 2011 I read 159 books in the year.

This is one of the big costs of writing for me - when I'm doing first drafts, I tend to stop reading.  It's too distracting.  I also tend to avoid whatever genre I'm writing, so I've read barely any fantasy (reserving what I do read to re-reads, graphic novels, or fave authors).  Mystery is a useful genre for me since I don't write it, and usually am more able to put it down and go back to what I'm working on.

Anyway, the lack of books read does indicate a lot of writing, and in a couple of weeks I'll be able to send all three stories for the 'side trip to France' off to be edited, and will start working fully on Snug Ship.  If I'm diligent, I should have three whole releases this year, which will be interesting!

Writing 'interstitial' stories is a new experiment for me.  I have a plot-line for the Trifold stories that will be covered in five books.  Stories in between the stories need to be worthwhile in themselves, and yet not substantially impact the main story, allowing the shorts to be optional.  Two Wings, Forfeit and Death and the Moon are all a combination of showing the reader France, and character stories where Griff, Rian and Eluned are all focused on 'who am I just now'.

But I enjoyed it!  I think I will do some more in between stories in Trifold - but not until Tangleways is done.

[Note that there is no story from Eleri's POV - she's a harder voice for me to capture.  Griff is very funny, though.]

30 May 2016

Interview with Intisar Khanani (Memories of Ash Release and Giveaway)

I admit, I first read Intisar Khanani's Sunbolt because her name reminded me of Inisar (the Nuran Setari).  I'm shallow that way. :)

I enjoyed Sunbolt thoroughly - it's a fast-paced novella about Hitomi, a street girl with a secret and a lot of trouble heading her way, and when I saw Intisar was releasing a sequel, Memories of Ash, I grabbed the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the world of Sunbolt, and her plans for the story's future.

So for fans of Intisar, and those hearing of her for the first time, here's a little background to a grand new world (and scroll all the way to the end of the post to enter a giveaway that includes a couple of my books!).


Q: In Sunbolt you use elements that readers currently associate with paranormal/urban fantasy (vampires, weres) in a secondary world – but, of course, they have a long tradition in high fantasy as well.  Do you think there's more scope these days to do interesting things with well-known creatures in secondary worlds?

A: Absolutely. I think the advent of indie publishing has meant a freedom for authors try new things in a way that traditional publishing wouldn't have approved of--if for no other reason than that it would make it difficult to decide which shelf to put the book on. I think there's scope both for trying new things with well-known creatures in secondary worlds, and for bringing in cultures and their mythos and legends that have been traditionally ignored.

For example, in Sunbolt, both Hitomi and Kenta are from a culture that is built around historic Japanese culture. Further, Kenta is a tanuki--a raccoon dog known as both a trickster and a drunk in Japanese folk lore. As Hitomi continues to travel through the Eleven Kingdoms, she will meet with other cultures reminiscent of real-world historical cultures, as well as their attendant fantastical creatures.

The danger with this kind of approach, of course, is cherry-picking cultures for exotic elements. We see that happening in more than a few mainstream fantasy novels that claim the "diversity" label. It's unfortunate, because a culture is more than just a pair of chopsticks, or some unusual architecture, or a few key dishes--or that really cool fantasy creature. For example, jinn seem to be quite the thing nowadays, especially among authors who haven't researched them past the obvious. I find it incredibly frustrating as someone who grew up with stories of jinn and have lived in cultures that maintain a strong tradition of believing in--and even interacting with--jinn. So while there is definitely more scope for incorporating fantastical creatures in all different walks of fantasy, I do believe there's a responsibility on the part of the author to not only do their research, but to incorporate the diverse cultures they are drawing on as fully as possible in their works.

Q: Hitomi starts off her adventure as the classic streetwise orphan – but with established connections to the city's underworld.  Do you prefer your protagonists to have a strong social network, or face new beginnings with new people?

It really depends on the story and the character. In my novel, Thorn, the heroine is not only leaving everything she knows for a new land, but her identity is forcibly stolen from her along the way. She ends up without connections or support beyond a single, magical creature who witnessed the switch. Being on her own, and responsible for choosing her own fate, are critical in Thorn's development over the course of the story. So I guess I've already written both ends of the spectrum! I do really enjoy pulling characters out of their comfort zones and throwing them at a completely new situation. Even in Sunbolt, Hitomi is quickly pulled out of her social network to face some unpleasant situations on her own.

Q: Hitomi obviously has quite an adventure still ahead of her.  Do you have plans for other stories within Hitomi's world, or do you like to create a new world for new stories?

I really don't know... I love Hitomi's world, and have put a good deal of time and research into building it. I suspect I'll want to place other stories there, though I sincerely doubt there would be any overlap in timelines. But I haven't decided yet--I'm still just trying to get Hitomi's story down!


Thank you, Intisar, for the interview, and best of luck with the new release!  See below for details of Intisar's books, and to enter in a giveaway for a selection of SFF books - and a Kindle Fire.

15 May 2016

Uncharted 4 (no spoilers)

Uncharted 4 is the conclusion to a long-running action/adventure series that's been around almost as long as Tomb Raider.  I passed over the series when it was originally released because it had a greater focus on gun fights than I'm generally interested in, but when the first three games were released as a remastered collection I played through them (on "I don't care about combat" mode) and enjoyed the spectacular scenery, the strong characterisation, and the cool lost cities.

Story-wise, I'd say Uncharted is stronger than Tomb Raider (both old and new) because it sets up a small cast of 'good' guys and plays off the interaction between them over multiple games.  Uncharted 4 thoroughly delivers on a strong adventure story (and, happily, gets away from the supernatural element that made the conclusions to the the first three games feel...kinda repetitive).  There are two things pulling the story along - Nate's (previously unmentioned) brother, and the conflict between marriage/going straight and an in-born love of adventure.

It was the second point that worried me going into this story, and early on it seemed that my concerns would be realised, with Elena functioning as almost an 'anchor' keeping Nate from the stuff he loves.  Overall, though, I think the game managed to find a good resolution to the problem, and as a series I think it treats female characters reasonably well.

For gameplay (ignoring the gun fights, which still don't much interest me), this was a really well-balanced puzzler, mainly involving trying to figure out how to climb things, or survive buildings (inevitably) collapsing around Nate.  One thing that really stands out as a huge step forward was the companion interaction.  Nate has a companion with him at least half the time, and instead of passively waiting about, the companion will wander around, inspect things, kill the occasional thug, try out different climbing routes - sometimes even taking the lead - and make helpful suggestions if you spend too long faffing about.

Most of all, there was scenery.  Just, freaking awesome scenery.  And wondrous and completely unlikely ruins, soon to be recklessly destroyed by Nate, his friends and opponents - none of whom seem to understand that an object doesn't need to be made of gold to be valuable.

The one thing the game lacked was Chloe (a kick-ass lady from earlier games), but I guess you can't have everything.

23 April 2016


Goetia is a point and click puzzle game where you play a glowing ball of light that rises up from the grave of a girl named Abigail, and spend your time trying to work out what happened to Abigail's family, and why Abigail's family home is abandoned.

Being a glowing ball of light has its advantages - you can pass through walls, for a start, though you soon encounter walls with demonic shields.  And a demon.

This is an eerie, interesting and enjoyable game that will give between five to infinity of gameplay, depending on how good you are at puzzles, or how quickly you give in and cheat.  It's a hard game, with no handy arrows pointing to where you should go next, but mostly logical puzzles that you can solve with a bit of work.  I was very proud of myself for solving the typewriter translation!  I cheated ruthlessly in other parts!

Recommended to fans to spooky point and click.

18 March 2016

Story status, and the Line between Appropriation and Erasure

I'm currently still working on The Towers of the Moon, the small collection of short stories in the Trifold world (showing what happens on the trip to France in between Pyramids and Tangleways).

I am so not a short story writer.

By which I mean I have so far written a novelette (Two Wings) and am halfway through a novella (Forfeit).  Then there should be an actual short story (possibly called The Queen of Hades if I don't outright call it Ned's First Kiss).

I started thinking about stories set in France while in Paris in 2014, walking along the Seine getting a feel for the landscape and wondering what would France look like in a world where local gods 'Answered' their people, effectively protecting and preserving many cultures that have been erased in our world?  Would it be steampunk Asterix and Obelix?

Okay, I never seriously considered steampunk Asterix and Obelix, but I would pay to see some concept art.

In the end, I chose for the gods of France to not Answer.  France instead was invaded - briefly by Rome, and then the people of the "Green Aesir" (which is what I've been calling the Germanic gods who are very very similar to the Nordic gods) - and later by the Cour d'lune, which are "sort of low gravity Fae dragon people", and don't call themselves gods at all.

Basically, I erased both France's true past, and her early cultural history, and replaced it with an invention of my own.

Writing the Trifold series - any alt-myth series - requires many decisions regarding appropriation and erasure.  I've been thinking this over lately after reading numerous thoughtful essays about JK Rowling's "History of Magic in Northern America", which appears to have involved conflation of multiple different traditions and beliefs.  The essays ask (or state an opinion on) whether it is ever okay to 'mine' other cultures for their beliefs in order to write fantasy.

Now I'm Swedish on my father's side, and Swedish/Danish/Scotch/French/English on my mother's side.  But mainly Australian.  I would not feel at all comfortable embarking on a series that used Australian Aboriginal cultures and beliefs as a basis - the closest I've come to that was a short story, Blue, that positioned the POV character as an outsider who is "welcomed to country" (a tradition that has grown up in Australia to acknowledge that we occupy a land stolen from its peoples).

But while I am not very French, my great-grandfather was.  Does that make France 'open season' for me?  I was born in Sweden: is Loki mine?  If a people runs around invading other countries and attempting to imprint its culture onto the locals (as Rome did), does that make their culture mine?  I'm using the Latin-based alphabet to write this blog, after all.  Half my language is based on Rome's.

And what of Hades?  Can I mine Greek myths, since Rome's gods apparently were rather strongly copied from Greek gods, just with judicious tweaks and renaming?  If I've had Rome's gods Answer, does that mean they're really the Hellenic gods?  And who gets to play in the traditions of Egypt, whose cultural disconnect was so complete that the language was lost - and yet Egypt is surely populated with the descendents of the people of Kemet.

At one point when thinking this through during the drafting of Pyramids I started wondering whether an alt-world/alt-myth series was really a good idea.  Or, at the least, whether I should confine the story very strictly to Sweden and England.  But that's a different form of erasure.  How could I start with our world, with its thousands of cultures, and only ever mention two?  That seemed rather the worse route to take.

The end result is a story that is primarily focused around cultures that I have some connection to, choosing to include cultures that have been part of the 'primary interchange' in Europe (eg. the Hellenes) while acknowledging that there is so much more world out there, and providing an outline of its shape.

This involves a heap of extra research.

The Trifold version of North America, for example, is called Stomruria (at least by the Norse, and the people who were first told about the place by the Norse).  For a book that does not mention that continent at all, I spent a lot of time researching First Nation tribal boundaries and beliefs, all because I wanted to acknowledge the place existed, and give a tiny glimpse of that vast continent by the inclusion of a Wabanaki fencing master (Wabanaki being a country in north-eastern Stomruria).

I don't intend for my characters to visit Stomruria at all in the series, but to write in this world at a point where all the continents are known and interacting with each other, I had to have some idea whether Stomrurian gods had Answered, which of them had Answered, what impact that had had on tribal boundaries, what those boundaries would be after a millenia or so, and what they would call themselves.

There isn't a way to get an alt world 'right'.  Not being completely, immensely, insultingly wrong involves much side-reading.  But I now know (or have at least read - my memory sucks) the names of many African kingdoms that I never knew existed.  I know which side of a continent 'Thunderbird' belongs to.  I now know about the Lady of Yue and her influence on the art of the sword.

Trying not to be insultingly wrong is a reward in itself.

06 February 2016

The Sleeping Life

Back in 2010, I was halfway through writing The Sleeping Life when I decided to embark on self-publishing my backlist, so I set it aside and distracted myself thoroughly in other worlds.  It's a pleasure to come back to this one - although, typically, by the time I had reached the end of this I had thought of at least three other stories I'd like to write in this world!  TOO MANY BOOKS TO WRITE!

The cover, as many of you probably already know, is by Julie Dillon (and is so gorgeous).

Anyway, for my blog readers, here are Smashwords 50% off coupon codes not only for TSL, but for SGM if you don't have it already.  Although TSL is technically a self-contained plot, it is so bound up in the aftermath of SGM that I really don't recommend trying to read it as a standalone.  The coupons are good until 14 February.

Stained Glass MonstersFE73P
The Sleeping LifeVY77R

Fallon DeVries has a sister who lives only in his mind.  Paying the price of magic gone wrong, Aurienne is trapped watching a world she cannot touch, only able to communicate with her brother while he sleeps. And it's slowly killing him. Fallon and Auri's best chance of untangling their lives is to win the help of a mage of unparalleled ability. But how can they ask for help when the warped spell prevents him from speaking? Besides, Rennyn Claire - once the most powerful mage in the world - is a shadow of her former self: ill, injured and unlikely to recover unless she can hunt down the monster who once tried to make her his slave. But that Wicked Uncle is nowhere to be found, and other dangers, once slumbering dormant, are stirring...

Buy Links (I'll update as I receive them):

Amazon US, UK, AU, DE, FR

Survey results and prize winners

Well, as the publication of The Sleeping Life rapidly approaches, it's time to draw the winners of the survey competition!  And the random number generator says: 3 and 55!

Congrats Nina and Kelsey!  Emails will be wending their way to you shortly.

I had plenty of fun reading all the survey results. I totally recommend to other authors that they ask their readers for their favourite moments/re-readable moments in your books, because so many of them are my favourite moments as well. :D

The answer to question 1 was totally unsurprising.

My fave is still Stained Glass Monsters. :D  But also, usually, whatever I'm writing at the moment, in between hating it.  There is always a "Wow, this is so much better than I thought" stage in re-reading a book you've recently written - while the current chapter is always The Worst Thing Ever.

Not long at all now before I can put up links to TSL!  Then onward, ever onward, to all the new books I decided I wanted to write while working on this one.

Edit: Expanding this post as requested to include a few more results.

Fave POV Character: Cass by a long way, but Medair, Ash and Rian also gained a fair number of votes.

Fave Non-POV Character: Kaoren, Aristide, Maze, Ys, Illukar and Illidian.

Story Element: Evenly scattered among categories I've already been writing, with some preference to not go in for too much smut.

Fanfic suggestions:
A lot of fun stuff here, including:
- Arden Ruuel falls in love.
- Daily life fluff.
- Setari School Stories.
- How Fish and Maddie managed to get together.

Fave moment:
My favourite question!
- Lots of people liking that elevator encounter. :)
- The scene where Rennyn calls the lifestealer.
- The crypt in Silence of Medair.
- Thornaster laughing himself into hiccups.
- Trolling the Secret War actors.
- Dragon conjuring!
- 80% mark on And All the Stars.

Looking forward to:

30 January 2016

January 2016 status

The Sleeping Life is off in edits, and unless some gigantic issue turns up I expect it to be out by the end of next week.  This was an interesting book for me - another of my morality of mages pieces, noodling around at the kinds of mages people can become.  Not something I can imagine being commercially published.

Up next should be a couple of short stories set in the Trifold Age universe, and then...well, so many novels to write, and I'm sure as hell not going to get all that I hoped to out this year.  I'll be working on Tangleways and Snug Ship, and probably a third unnamed project that I had to stop myself writing during TSL.

Three Skips

I started accruing my book collection in my late teens.  Not too many early on, since I moved house a lot.  A couple of shelves of books.  T...