Four Reasons Sims 4 is Better Than Real Life — a Writer’s List

I’ve been a fan of the Sims series of games since the first one came out in 2000 (gosh I’m old), and in the last few months I finally caved in and got myself a copy of Sims 4. It is … just as addictive as I remember. To the point where, over the summer break, my son has ordered me to write for a minimum amount of time each day before I’m allowed to play it.

A friend commented that you can tell I’m a writer — I get just as much enjoyment out of creating characters and houses for them to move into as I do out of playing, and even though I try to keep them happy and healthy, when things go wrong, I think “Oooh, plot twist!” and keep going rather than reverting to the last saved game.

There are definite advantages to being a Sim, and especially a writer Sim, despite your shorter lifespan and almost-complete lack of free will. Here’s my list.

Authors who work hard will definitely succeed

Working hard and practicing your craft are obviously of benefit to a real-world writer, but they aren’t a guarantee of financial success. Self-publishing books doesn’t automatically open doors to publishers and critical acclaim, for example. (At least, not in my experience — not so far!)

In the Sims, on the other hand, my author character (named Evelyn Martin because that was the name my character had randomly generated for her in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery — did I mention I suck at naming things?) was able to almost single-handledly finance the building of a lush house for her family. I mean, look at this house. Look at it!

View from the front

View from the rear

My son asked me sadly why we didn’t have a swimming pool. Maybe … maybe this is why he wants me to write every day?

A Sim can write a couple of books a day

On a day off, a Sim can smash out a couple of books and still have time for lunch and “woohoo”. Even on a working day, they can write one book. (Of course, a day for a normal lifespan Sim is roughly equivalent to a year for a human — barring accidents, they live at least 81 days, and yes, I looked that up.)

Plus you get the joy of coming up with hilarious book titles without having to write 70k+ words to back them up. (I love that part.) And when you tell a Sim to write, they can’t get distracted by the internet, or by writing blog posts about addictive computer games. They won’t stop unless they have to.

So compulsorily industrious

Death is sad but not always permanent

Speaking of Sim lifespans, there are ways to extend them via magical potions — if you keep your Sim satisfied, they can buy enough potions to effectiely live forever, barring accidents. They can also become vampires, which are, again, immortal (also barring accidents, like walking in the sun for too long because the game froze — I’m looking at you, Hendrick!).

But if they do die, then the author has a way to bring them back — if you write the book of life and customise it to a particular Sim, you can then use it to summon them from the grave. (I haven’t actually tried this yet so I don’t have a screenshot of that, but I’m pretty excited to give it a go.)

Also, dead Sims can come back as a ghost so you can shoot the breeze. And get selfies.

Spectral selfie of Evelyn’s departed wife

And the reaper is an alright kind of guy, not scary at all. You can chat with him once his work is done; I even had one Sim successfully beg the reaper to spare her adult son (the aforementioned Hendrick), so that was nice! And sometimes he hangs around for a bit after he’s done what he needs to do, which does demystify the whole “death” thing.

The reaper playing Sims after he finished “taking care” of a careless repairman

There are lots of inspiring things to write about

Aside from having vampires in the family, there are lots of other exciting occult things to write about, which is great if your Sim writes speculative fiction. Some of it depends on you buying different expansions, but some of it comes with the base game. Here we see Evelyn exploring a magical hidden glade through a mystical portal … and taking a selfie, because that’s how my Sims role.

It’s basically inspiration fodder for your Sim writer’s muse. And maybe for your own.

If you can turn the game off for long enough to write.


In case you haven’t seen it yet, Smashwords is having an end-of-year sale. All of my ebooks are heavily discounted – and some of them are free! You can find a complete list here (including my elf smut under the Tammy Calder pen name, so, uh, discretion is advised for those ones).

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My 2018 Aussie reads — a gallery

I love to support Australian writers, both by reading and reviewing their works, and by taking pictures of their smexy books and posting them over at my Instagram. Below is a gallery of Aussie books I’ve read this year. Run your eyes over these gorgeous books! Buy them! Leave reviews! (And if you want to throw me a follow over at Instagram, that’d be pretty cool too.)

Sadly, there are four missing, all of which I read as ebooks and didn’t organise a picture of. I suck. They are Seeking Faith and Losing Faith (by Lauren K. McKellar and Jennifer Ryder, respecitvely) and Nothing and Everything (by K. A. Last). You should read those too.

Do iiiiiiit. ❤


Short story: ‘Letting Go’

I’ve been pondering short stories lately, as you do. Despite having a story in the A Hand of Knaves anthology that came out earlier this year, I still feel like short fiction isn’t my natural state. (My current novel WIP was intented to be a novella, and it’s … well, it’s longer than Guardian Angel and I’m still going.) But I think that might be because I’m out of practice — I used to do a lot of writing challenges, but I’ve fallen out of the habit.

The below — which I’ve decided to re-share because yay, Christmas — is an example of that. I wrote it in 2013 as part of a challenge to write out of my usual genre. The original is hosted at The Midnight Type, if you want to show them some love (although the site seems to be inactive now, sadly).


Letting Go

Michelle decorates the house in silence.

In previous years, her home had been filled with carols and laughter. Her family decked the halls to Deck the Halls, and the night was anything but silent. At fifteen, Ben was too cool to hang baubles, and he’d ceded the right to top the tree back to his father after ten years of hogging the privilege. But Michelle caught glimpses of childhood delight behind his surly exterior, and hid her smile behind her hand.

That was before she found the emails.

Now she strings the tinsel alone, performing the familiar ritual not out of celebration but because she’s fallen into a rut with steep sides — too steep to climb. There is no joy in it. She hangs out his stocking next to hers, over the mantelpiece. The pair hang limply.

The phone rings, piercing the silence like a scream. A glass bauble slips from her fingers, shatters on the empty tiles beneath the tree.

“Hello?”

Silence on the other end. Then a familiar voice speaks. “Michelle.”

“Darren.” Her voice is as sharp as the glass shards. Glittering crimson.

“How are you?”

She fishes the dustpan and brush from under the sink, cradling the phone against her shoulder. “Fine,” she says. It’s even sort of true. She is hollow, mercifully empty of emotion behind carefully constructed walls. “Why?”

“Well, it’s the first of December, and I thought…” He trails off.

He knows her. After twenty years of marriage, he ought to. The first of December is when the decorations go up. And she’s alone.

“I’m fine.” A white-hot spot of anger flares, burning away some of the numbness. She grits her teeth, suppresses the emotion. If she lets anger in, the rest will follow. When she speaks, her voice is cool. “The divorce papers arrived yesterday.”

“You don’t have to do anything with them right now. Wait till after the holidays.”

“I signed them already.” She sweeps red shards onto the dustpan.

“Oh.” He sighs. “Did you want some company?”

“No.” She frowns. Why is he pretending to care? He left her after Ben– She can’t even think the word. “Is there anything else? I’m busy.”

He’s quiet for so long she wonders if he hung up and she didn’t notice. Then he says, “Have you read the emails yet?”

This old argument. When will he stop blaming her for what happened? “I read them last year.”

“Read them again. Properly, this time.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Goodbye, Michelle.”

She hangs up and tips the glass in the bin. It patters down onto a shrivelled banana peel, an empty milk carton, Darren’s discarded stocking.

It has been almost a year since her fight with Ben about the emails. Electronic love letters between him and that girl. Brittany. Bad enough that her boy was fourteen. Worse that the girl was so far from the wrong side of the tracks that she couldn’t even see them. Her older sister had died of a drug overdose; her father was an alcoholic who spent all his time at the RSL, feeding his welfare cheque into the pokies.

Ben had stormed out of the house, hared off on his bike. The car hadn’t seen him in the dark.

The guilt claws at the walls around her emotions, tearing through them. Its talons are her grief, its wings her regret. She’s familiar with the beast. But before it can drag her down again, in a tangle of self-loathing and bourbon, a little mouse, curiosity, creeps in behind it.

The next afternoon, when the hangover recedes a little, she reads the emails.

***

The soup kitchen is bustling, the queue almost out the door. The first smell that invades her nose is of salty gravy, the next of unwashed bodies. She holds her breath and ducks inside.

“Hey, no cutting,” a bearded man mumbles, glaring at her from watery eyes.

“I’m not here to eat.” Her stomach churns at the thought. “I’m looking for someone.”

He smiles, gap-toothed. “Is it me?”

“No. Sorry.”

“Well, if you change your mind…” He winks, and she finds herself smiling back. Just a little.

“You might be able to help me. I’m looking for this girl.” She shows him the printout of the photo. It is pixelated, poor quality. Ben took it on his phone.

“Sure, I seen her. She’s up there.”

Michelle turns, squares her shoulders. Walks along the queue till she finds the girl.

“Excuse me.”

Brown eyes turn to her. There is no flash of recognition. Ben never introduced them. “Yes?”

“I’m Ben Rigby’s mother.”

Now there’s recognition. Also anger and grief. Brittany swallows the feelings, but Michelle can see they are old companions. As they are Michelle’s.

“What do you want?” Brittany says, eyes narrowed.

“To see you. I…” Michelle hesitates, looking the girl over. She’s the same age as Ben would have been, still a teenager, but she looks older. Her hands are calloused from work; her bare arms bear faint green and yellow bruises, like bracelets.

“What?” The girl stares back, examining Michelle just as Michelle examines her. “If you came here to yell at me, you can piss off.”

“I didn’t. Actually, I’m planning Christmas dinner, and I wanted to invite you.”

Brittany’s mouth falls open. Then her expression hardens. “I ain’t interested in being your charity case.”

“It’s not about charity. I know you and Ben … cared for each other.” Brittany’s cheeks redden and she lifts her chin. Michelle looks down at her shoes, conspicuously expensive next to Brittany’s scuffed slip-ons. “I’ve spent the last year blaming you for taking him away from me, as much as I blamed myself for driving him away. And, well, Christmas is the season for forgiveness.”

“I don’t want your forgiveness,” Brittany says.

“No.” Michelle looks up, meets her gaze. “But I need to give it. If you’ll let me. I need to let go.”

The girl gnaws her lip, thinks for several moments. “I reckon Ben would want me to,” she murmurs. “Sure, I’ll come.”

Michelle feels something then that she hasn’t felt for almost a year. A tiny piece of joy. She gives the girl a piece of paper with the details written on it. Brittany folds it, slides it inside her purse next to a battered photo. Ben smiles back at Michelle from the image, reminding her of Darren when they’d first met. She can’t help but smile back.

She pulls her phone out of her pocket. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone else I need to invite.”


Review: ‘The Demon’s Surrender’ by Sarah Rees Brennan

DemonsSurrender_cover

The Goblin Market has always been the center of Sin’s world. She’s a dancer and a performer, secure in her place. But now the Market is at war with the magicians, and Sin’s place is in danger. Exiled from the market she loves, Sin is thrown together with Nick and Alan — whom she’s always despised.

Alan has been marked by a magician and can be tortured as the magician pleases. As Sin watches Alan struggle to continue to protect the demon brother he loves, she begins to see him in a new light. When Alan is finally possessed as a punishment for Nick’s disobedience, Sin can only watch helplessly as the boy she has grown to love is destroyed. No one ever comes back from a possession — ever. But no one else has a demon for a brother. How far will Nick go to save Alan? And what will it cost them all?

It was a bit disappointed going into The Demon’s Covenant that Jamie wasn’t the POV character (or Alan; he’s the most unreliable character in the trilogy – but that would make him fun to follow!). Sin was too much of a side character for me, going in, and I didn’t understand why she was the focus.

I think the short answer is that she is the love interest for Alan, and the character who truly knows the Goblin Market, so through her we get to see more of it. I love Alan and his sneakiness and devotion to his brother (plus: charming book nerd), and Sin is a great match for him. I did love that part of the story.

And Sin is a great character in her own right. She is an astute and clever performer, a chameleon, used to doing what she needs to to get things done. She’s a dancer not afraid of using her sexuality to exploit the ignorant – but she knows what her lines are as far as that goes, and she doesn’t compromise on them.

The Goblin Market side of things, though … yeah, that didn’t work for me. The competition Merris insists on between Sin and Mae is super-problematic. Sin is the poor woman of colour who has grown up in, and been trained to run, the market. Mae is the rich white girl used to getting what she wants and who has been to maybe three or four markets. How is this even a competition? I mean, I liked Mae in the previous book, but she needs to get back in her box. How dare she think she’s entitled to what is basically Sin’s birthright? Ugh!

Also, the two girls get on quite well even early on in the story. That it never occurred to either of them to work together, pool their differing talents and share the role, baffles me.

Anyway, I’d still recommend this series – especially the first book, which is wonderful, clever, and focuses on familial love in a way we rarely see in urban fantasy.

 

 


‘Snow Softly Falling’ — a Fanfic Poem from Cass’s Days of Yore

If you have read my novella Guardian Angel, you’ll know that I used a couple of poems as song lyrics, one to introduce the story and one as an integral part of it. (You can read the first poem at the novella page here.) I’m about to sit down and write another set of lyrics for an urban fantasy story idea that I can’t shake, in the hope that it will go away so I can get back to drafting the sci-fi young adult story I’m working on.

Like all angsty teens, I used to write a lot of poems, although most of them are, objectively speaking, sheer garbage. (Sorry, past Cass, but it’s true. I was just flicking through your books of poetry, and yeesh.)

There is one storytelling-style poem that I wrote when I was at university that I think is alright, though, and I thought I’d share it here. It was written back in the day when I was obsessed with Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, and is about a character I’d created for some fanfics I wrote. Knowledge of that world is useful, but I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to follow along.


Snow Softly Falling

The snow was falling softly down onto the icy ground;
The moaning of the winter wind was the only sound
Until the crunch of hoofbeats came, a-breaking through the snow
Plowing through the muddy soil that was concealed below.
The stallion and his rider were both attired in white
And so appeared and vanished through snow-filtered light.
Herald and Companion, making their weary way
Through the fading twilight that comes at end of day,
To a Herald Waystation where they would spend the night
Then up and travel onward, as soon as there was light.
Their heads, they hung down, weary; they hungered and were sore —
The snow was falling softly down onto the forest floor.

Herald and Companion both were Couriers for the Crown
And had just delivered messages into a nearby town,
Warning loyal and local lords of rebels in their fold,
Spies come out of Hardorn, or so the Queen was told.
Couriers travel quickly, and these quicker than most —
Although it’s not the sort of thing of which you’d hear them boast.
The messages sent early, the task already done,
The Herald and Companion’s journey home begun.
They came upon the Waystation and settled for the night,
The glowing of the embers on the hearth the only light.
The night replaced the daytime with nary a sound.
The snow was falling silently onto the icy ground.

Outside the little building, creeping through the trees,
Came four men in cloaks and hoods, silently, with ease.
Each man bore a cruel sword, its blade bright and bare.
Their breath frosted before them upon the frigid air.
Four men came from Hardorn at their lord’s request
To stop the message from reaching the spies’ hidden nest,
To stop the Couriers delivering their message from the Queen.
Four men creeping closer, all silent and unseen.
Their hearts were hardened steel, their faces a blank mask:
Four men with a dark intent to do a grisly task.
The message was delivered, but they could not know.
Four men, dark and deadly, creeping through the snow.

Herald and Companion, both were sound asleep.
Both were sore and weary, and so their sleep was deep,
Yet, suddenly, the Herald felt a foreboding chill
Of fear upon her dreams; she woke and she lay still.
Blinking rapid in the darkness of the little room,
Ears and senses stretching into the pressing gloom.
Mindspeech had the Herald, and so it told her this:
Four people came a-creeping to give her metal’s kiss.
The Herald wondered briefly what had made her wake,
And thanked the Lady Luck herself for the lucky break.
She woke her Companion, she readied her bow.
The Waystation was silent in the field of falling snow.

The four men reached the building and eased open the door;
They saw sleeping Companion, blankets mounded on the floor,
A body huddled under, sleeping without a care.
The first entered the room, approaching with blade bare.
Imagine his surprise when he reached the sleeping form
And discovered piles of clothes! He turned, his friends to warn,
And Herald, hid in shadows black, shot him in the heart,
As the Companion raised his head, making the next man start.
Trembling with anger, the stallion kicked out;
The man fell down, screaming, his limbs thrashing about.
The Herald drew her sword and swiftly dropped her bow.
Two men still stood standing in the falling snow.

The men exchanged a wary glance, taken by surprise.
Together, they advanced again with caution in their eyes.
Perhaps fearing the fate of those who’d gone before,
The men approached with caution the broad Waystation door.
Deciding it was better to take the fight outside,
To give the stallion room to move, the Herald room to ride,
Our heroes hurried forward into the wintry night.
The bandits closed in, snarling, and so began the fight.
The Herald’s sword danced, gleaming; the stallion reared up, fierce.
Bright hooves caved a skull in; bright sword a chest did pierce.
Then, exhausted panting remained the only sound.
The icy snow fell softly onto the scarlet ground.

The Herald’s arm hung, bleeding, from a lucky bandit’s strike;
She cleaned it first with salves, then bandaged it up tight,
And of the four assassins, only one yet lived —
The Herald made him name and orders of his master give.
The lord who’d sent the order to protect the hidden spies
Was one who lived within the court, right under Heralds’ eyes!
And, although tired and wounded, the Herald knew they must
Get this news to Haven, reveal this breach of trust.
She used her Gift of Mindspeech to warn the Queen that night;
The traitor was arrested, and thus the tale set right.
Then Herald and Companion resumed their well-earned rest.
The winter snow gleamed whitely, and Valdemar was blessed.

Valdemar and its trappings are copyright to Mercedes Lackey, and no infringement of that copyright is intended.


 

 


Mini-review: ‘Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body’ by Simon Petrie

Tanja Morgenstein, daughter of a wealthy industrialist and a geochemist, is dead from exposure to Titan’s lethal, chilled atmosphere, and Guerline Scarfe must determine why.

This novella blends hard-SF extrapolation with elements of contemporary crime fiction, to envisage a future human society in a hostile environment, in which a young woman’s worst enemies may be those around her.

‘Matters Arising’ won the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novella or Novelette, and was shortlisted in the analogous category in both the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards.

A mini review for a miniature book. 🙂

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body is a great short read for those who like their sci-fi hard and their investigators dogged. I could relate to the fact that Guerline is a single mum and that she just wants to do her job — you go, girl! She’s awesome, and I want to read more about her.

There’s no romance in this novella (if that affects your decision to pick it up one way or the other). I can take romance or leave it, so it worked for me. I mostly guessed the whodunnit angle and the why of it, but the journey was worth it anyway.

I’ll definitely pick up more books by Petrie.

 


Shadows and Spellcraft feature: ‘Shadow Walker’ by Tiffany Shand

Shadows and Spellcraft has your copy of Shadow Walker by Tiffany Shand plus over a dozen more reads at the amazing pre-order price of US$0.99! Order your copy today!

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After her enforcer teammates are killed in a bust gone wrong, Denai witch Charlie McCray struggles to carry on working the job without them. Using her gift of communicating with the dead, she’s determined to get justice and find those responsible no matter what. But her only clue to go on is a mysterious orb with a deadly reputation that everyone wants to get their hands on.

The only one who may be able to help her figure out their deaths, and the connection to the orb is the dark and sexy demon from her past. Convinced she’s his life mate, to her denial, Charlie isn’t happy to see him again. Can they really work together as partners to track down the truth whilst ignoring the ever-growing attraction between them?


Author Bio

Tiffany Shand is a writing mentor, professionally trained copy editor and copy writer who has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. Born in East Anglia, Tiffany still lives in the area, constantly guarding her work space from the two cats she shares her home with.

She began using her pets as a writing inspiration when she was a child, before moving on to write her first novel after successful completion of a creative writing course. Nowadays, Tiffany writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as well as nonfiction books for other writers, all available through Amazon and on her own website.

Tiffany’s favourite quote is ‘writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go’ and it is armed with this that she hopes to be able to help, inspire and mentor many more aspiring authors.

When she has time to unwind, Tiffany enjoys photography, reading and watching endless box sets. She also loves to get out and visit the vast number of castles and historic houses that England has to offer.

You can contact Tiffany Shand, or just see what she is writing about at:

VISIT HER WEBSITE


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If you love to binge on stories that take you away from the ordinary, this boxed set of fifteen books will keep you reading for days. It’s stuffed with vampires, shifters, mages, fae, ghosts and more in everything from modern day Earth to Apocalyptic settings. Bury your nose in this box set now. Order your copy of SHADOWS AND SPELLCRAFT NOW

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