Brad Zimmer and his twin daughters, Maddison and Mathilda, have just arrived in Strangerville as part of Brad’s newest military posting. Follow their adventures in this strangest of towns.
As I flagged a couple of months ago, I’ve been busy experimenting with the whole “YouTube content creator” thing, by playing and uploading Sims 4 “let’s play” videos. I’ve finished recording one of those story arcs; it’s a short one (only eight videos long), and I thought it was a good one to recommend to anyone who’s curious about that sort of content and what I do specifically — which is basically create stories and narrate them with an Australian accent. (Hawt?)
This year, the Sims 4 team released a downloadable game pack called Strangerville. If you imagine a combination of The X-Files and a zombie movie (but where the zombies don’t eat you, because of the game’s rating), that pretty much sums it up! The entire video playlist can be found here if you’re interested — the last part comes out in two days, so in theory you could binge watch the entire thing before then.
If you like. 😉
If you watch it, I’d love to hear what you think — you can leave comments here or on any of the videos! (I’m still a baby YouTuber, so please be gentle!)
I know I’ve been quiet (Instagram posts notwithstanding) for the last month. I accidentally got caught up in a new side project that isn’t related to my writing — a project that was foreshadowed by my December blog post about The Sims 4.
I started a YouTube gaming channel. (Wut?)
I’ve been pondering investigating this for a while; my son is nine and an avid watcher of “let’s play” gaming videos on YouTube, so much so that he wants to have one himself, one day. I kept telling him that I didn’t know how it worked. (If you watch my channel, it’ll become pretty clear I still don’t! 😉 ) Simultaneously, over the Christmas break I got drawn into watching some Sims 4 let’s plays … and suddenly, in January, it seemed like a good idea to investigate starting one for myself.
My boy finds Sims 4 boring, honestly, but he’s very excited that I’m a YouTuber. He wants me to tell everyone I know so that lots of people follow me and I become super famous. #goals Of course, I’ve told maybe two or three other people, because I’m a middle aged woman and I suspected people might think I’d gone a bit senile!
What made me decide to write this post in the end was the fact that I had the exact same reaction when I was writing Isla’s Inheritance, my first novel. I was embarrassed. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it till it was done. And I get the same enjoyment from writing as I do from making these videos — The Sims 4 lets you create characters and tell all sorts of stories with them. It’s loads of fun, and I’m going to own it.
So, uh, I guess I should post the name of the channel.
BE GENTLE WITH ME, GUYS. The first few videos I posted weren’t great — I had a few problems with the game sound. But the two children I know who watch a lot of this content assure me that my videos are better than average for a starting YouTuber — at least I’m not breathing all over my microphone, apparently! (Phew.)
If you don’t like The Sims 4, my videos won’t be for you … but if you want to have a quick look and make fun of my accent, that’s totally fine too!
I’m still writing. I don’t ever see that changing. And I don’t imagine this blog is going to turn into a Sims 4 blog — I’ll still post reviews and other writing-related news.
But I will do this too.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
My son just turned nine (wut) and had requested a Harry Potter party. Our house is very small with no discernable yard — and it’s winter here — so we decided on a “movie” pyjama party, based on my misguided theory that kids in their PJs would be less likely to run around shouting.
Needless to say, very little movie-watching took place. But fun was had regardless. I thought since it was a book-related party I’d share my experience here, in case it is of benefit to others.
(Note: Check the run time of the movie before you start. I forgot quite how long Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone actually runs — we didn’t quite make it through the movie before the other parents came to collect their kids. It wasn’t a big deal, though, given how little time was spent in front of the TV.)
Our budget didn’t stretch to actual Harry Potter brand food, especially since I’d have had to order it in from the UK, so I made do. We bought lolly snakes, chocolate frogs and other snacks, but then I gave them a Harry Potter theme by labelling each bowl with Honeydukes-inspired labels. (This also meant I could flag the contents of each for those kids with dietary requirements.)
For example, the snakes became “Basilisk Bites” and our Jelly Belly jellybeans were “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans”. My son and I got around the fact they weren’t every flavour by faking it, which the other adults got in on. “Oh, gross, I just got a soap-flavoured one!”
My son doesn’t like icing (I know, right?) so we decided to do homemade muffins in house-coloured cupcake wrappers instead. I googled “butterscotch muffins”, thinking I’d claim they were butterbeer, and ended up using this recipe from taste.com.au. I found it was a little dry, so added a little extra buttermilk, and because we didn’t use the caramel sauce due to my fear of sticky pre-teens, I added a splash of maple syrup as well. I’m not a baker, generally, so I was pleased at how nicely they turned out.
The one Potter-ish food thing I did order was the cupcake toppers, which were super-easy to apply. I did have to add a very thin layer of icing sugar (with a splash of boiling water to make a paste), just to get the toppers to stick, but I got away with it. 😉
Far and away the most time-consuming (but satisfying) part of the party prep was making the wands. My talented friend Craig and I spent hours on these, though the materials themselves were quite cheap: a packet of wooden chopsticks, a glue gun and a packet of beads. Craig already owned the paint, which would’ve been a huge extra expense if I’d had to get it myself.
Each kid got to chose a wand — there were six children and twelve wands, so I get the spares! — and I’d done up a card for each one with a core and wood based on this page, so they all had unique “powers”. The kids spent the vast majority of the party dividing into tribes and flinging curses at each other. It was a little Lord of the Flies, not gonna lie, but they had fun.
I painted the party hats black and then used my glue gun to stick stars all over them. Quick and easy!
All the kids who came knew their Hogwarts houses in advance (because we’re those sorts of people), but I’d downloaded and printed a couple of origami “sorting hats” from this site, which got quite a bit of use.
Pass the Parseltongue
This was regular pass the parcel, but with toy snakes, lizards and frogs in each layer.
Stick the Sock on the Dobby
I drew Dobby onto a sheet of A3 cardboard and then made socks for the kids to stick on him with sticky tac. I had prizes for those that got their sock into his hand and for the funniest placement (which ended up being an earring).
As well as pausing the music, I used my wand to cast the charm “immobulus” (the freezing charm). It was a bit of a juggle managing both, so I had to get the other parents to judge who was out each round.
I had organised a few other party games that we didn’t get to because the kids wanted to get back to flinging curses.
- A “Celebrity Head” style game — I had a plain black party hat and some stickers that I was going to write Potter character names on so each child could have a turn at guessing who they were.
- Memorise the spell — Starting with a “base spell” word, each kid has to repeat what has been said previously and then add a new word to the spell, going around in a circle, so that you end up with a string of gibberish.
- Transfiguration class — I found a packet of animal noses and was going to get each child to cast a spell on themselves to “transform” and draw a nose from a bag.
Again, I didn’t have a huge budget for prizes, so I went for theme rather than brand. As well as the parseltongue lizards etc, I found a cheap pack of dragons at the local two dollar shop. I stuck some googley eyes on pompoms and called them pygmy puffs. I bought a grey Ikea rat to be Scabbers, and a little while owl to be Hedwig.
I had more prizes than we actually needed, so I divided up what was left into the party bags at the end. (Except for Scabbers. He lives with me now.)
All in all, everyone had fun — including me, as the whole thing appealed to my inner Ravenclaw. My boy has already told me he wants a Doctor Who party next year, which I think will be trickier.
For now, I’ll be over here, collapsed in a pile of wizarding robes and left-over lollies.
This is the first time I’ve sat down to write one of these year in review posts where I’ve felt like my successes have been qualified. Where I haven’t felt as proud of myself as in previous years.
I finished writing, edited and self-published False Awakening, the second book in the Lucid Dreaming duology. But, since then, I haven’t managed to start my next novel, and my promo efforts have been lackluster at best.
I have done other things; I wrote and submitted a short story for an anthology (which I’m still waiting to hear back about), and this month I’ve been working on a novella I originally wrote more than ten years ago. But I had this huge period in the middle of the year where it felt like I didn’t achieve much of anything.
A lot of that was due to real-life pressures. My work has been short-staffed all year, and insanely busy since May. I edit for a living, as I’ve said before, and the idea of coming home and sitting in front of a PC after sitting in front of a PC all day was just too exhausting. As a result, I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. Blog posts and reviews, sure, but books? Not so much.
I’ve been working on that over the last couple of months, though not with a novel (yet). Still, I will definitely have a couple of releases for you this year. Woohoo!
This is the first year since I started doing the Goodreads and Australian Women Writers challenges that I haven’t quite met me goals. For the Goodreads one, I set a goal of 40 and read 31. And for the Australian Women Writers challenge, I set a goal of 15 and read 11. At least I got close in both, right? (Right?)
A lot of the blame here goes to Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. When I set my Goodreads goal, I didn’t anticipate discovering (and adoring) this series, and each of these books is over 1000 pages. That’s three regular novels for one Stormlight one. I’m currently listening to the audiobook of the third one in the series, and the download is available in five parts. FIVE. If I hadn’t been reading them, I would have nailed my goal, for sure! 😉
Goodreads produced a handy summary, an extract of which is below. If you’re desperate to stalk my reading (and why wouldn’t you be?!), you can find the rest of the blog post here.
My 2017 reads
In light of all this, my writing resolutions for 2018 are very straightforward:
- Do better.
- Forgive myself at times I don’t do better.
I figure that’s pretty comprehensive!
What about you? How did you do with your reading (and, if applicable, writing) in 2017? Tell me your triumphs, or commiserate with me on your woes. ❤
Before Isla’s Inheritance was released, when I was a wee baby writer (so, like, four years ago), I did a lot of reading on author promo. A lot of those articles talked about how you shouldn’t discuss controversial topics such as politics or religion, because you could offend potential readers and scare them away.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that’s a piece of advice I follow more in the breech than the observance, especially these days. The world gives me many feels, many of them ranty. But here on my blog, and on my Facebook author page, I have tended to maintain more of a bookish focus.
Today I’m changing that, just for a minute.
Those of you who are overseas might not be aware, but Australia (to our shame) has yet to legalise marriage equality. Same-sex couples can be recognised as being in a de facto relationship, the same way heterosexual couples can. But marriage confers additional rights to a spouse that a de facto partner isn’t entitled to, mostly around medical issues and death.
The fact we haven’t gotten it done here is due to a whole lot of reasons that boil down to a lack of intestinal fortitude on both side of politics — but, most recently, the extreme right-wing members of our right-wing government have orchestrated a new delaying tactic: a non-binding, voluntary postal survey to see what Australians think of the idea. Let me just repeat that, so you can really appreciate it for what it is. A NON-BINDING*. VOLUNTARY. POSTAL. SURVEY.
*Non-binding as in members of parliament can choose to ignore the results and vote however they want to.
Opponents of such a survey have worried about the kind of campaigns the no vote folks will put out, and the effect that those will have on LGBTQI kids. The first of those ads, sponsored by a coalition of Christian organisations under the guise of “concerned mothers”, aired this week (before the government has gotten around to passing laws to ensure that the advertising around this campaign can’t be misleading or deceptive; best get on that, pollies!).
Unsurprisingly, the arguments put forward by the ad weren’t about why we shouldn’t give equal rights under the law to couples who choose to get married, regardless of what’s in their pants. They were the “thin edge of the wedge” argument: if we allow gays to marry, this will mean that schools will suddenly start educating our children in things we don’t approve of (presumably like empathy and kindness?).
You can read a brilliant deconstruction of the ad here.
The thing that infuriates and upsets me most about this particular ad are the implied judgements. That a kid who is trans and wants to wear a dress to school is somehow deviant (based on the assumption that a man who wants to be female is weak and wrong, with all the glorious sexism that entails). I feel awful for all the trans girls (and cis girls) who see and internalise that message.
One thing I keep reading (when I read the comments, which, I know, is stupid) is that supporters of marriage equality don’t respect religious folks’ rights to equality and to speak their minds. But someone’s opinion that another person doesn’t deserve rights the first person has is not equal to the other’s opinion that they should be treated equally. One is about protecting privilege; the other is about asserting that a citizen of this country has the right to be treated fairly under the law, regardless of their sexual preference.
And people have the right to judge the first person’s exercise of free speech accordingly.
It’s also telling that the cases being made for the no vote are red herrings (horror at school programs promoting tolerance, defence of “free speech”, rejection of “political correctness”). The postal survey doesn’t ask about any of those things; it asks whether people of the same sex should be allowed to marry. But the truth — that some people are religiously or personally uncomfortable with the idea of gay people — is much harder to defend in a way that sways votes.
No one is saying that Christians or followers of any other faith have to marry someone of the same sex. No one is forcing them to officiate a gay wedding, or to attend one. They can regard marriage between a man and a woman as a holy sacrament till the end of days. But they don’t have the moral right to deny others access to the same legal rights under the law that they themselves enjoy. That is the height of arrogance and the definition of privilege.
And, frankly, I’ll never understand why some people are so desperate to interfere in the bedroom lives of other (consenting) adults.
I am a cisgendered middle-aged woman: I identify as the gender I was born with. My awareness of my sexuality has changed over time, from being unquestioningly heterosexual to recognition that I am at least a little bit bisexual. I mean, have you seen Kate McKinnon and Gal Gadot?! (I expect that will be a surprise to anyone in my family that reads this — hi, Mum!) I describe myself as “heterocurious”, generally.
Still, I don’t consider myself to have a direct vested interest in the outcome of the
vote postal survey, because I can’t imagine a situation in my life where I’ll choose to remarry (to either a man or a woman). But, regardless, the result of the survey affects those I love. I have many same-sex attracted friends: gay, lesbian, bisexual and pansexual. I know polyamorous folks who have more than enough love to go around. One of the most amazing children I know is genderqueer (I am learning to say “they” as a singular personal pronoun, something my grammarian heart never thought I’d be able to adapt to). And I know an intersex person — one who was born with genitals that were neither male nor female.
All of these people are valid and almost all of them are potentially affected by the marriage equality vote (with the possible exception of the heterosexual parties to polyamorous relationships; if polygamy becomes legal in my lifetime I’ll be shocked). That makes it my fight.
Both of my book series have LGBT elements, although in neither case is it the main plotline, and the main characters in each case are straight. But the next book I write will be a F/F fantasy steampunk. So I guess this post will have served one purpose if it drives offended readers away from my books: I’ll have filtered them out before I released that book and earned a slew of bad reviews. #winning
Seriously, remember, Australian peeps:
I’ve blogged a little less this year than I did last year — mostly book reviews, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed — but I absolutely can’t miss my tradition of a Christmas wish and a song.
This is the fifth year I’ve done one of these posts. And it’s not the first time I’ve used a Straight No Chaser song, but I only discovered the below today and I’ve been playing it … rather a lot. Not only does it have amazing a cappella, but it has Kristen Bell, who is always a delight. ❤
This year has been quieter for me than 2015 was on a publishing front, though that’s not hard. I self-published Melpomene’s Daughter after the closure of my small press. I also finished writing my Greek-inspired fantasy, and wrote the vast bulk of False Awakening, the sequel to Lucid Dreaming. (I have half a chapter left to go. It’s so close I can smell the champagne and chocolate!)
I can’t wait to sink my teeth into something new. 😀
As I’ve said previously, I’m not a religious person, but I do love the tradition, sharing and joy (primarily my son’s) at Christmas time. We’re going to my parents’ place; most of my family will be there. There’ll be music, pavlova and prawns (not together).
As always, thanks to everyone who has supported me this year — my beta readers, designer, editor, friends and family. Thanks also to anyone that has bought and/or reviewed any of my books. May your Christmas cracker jokes be not too terrible and may your food bountiful and delicious. (Or if you’re not Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful day anyway! There’s a new Pokemon Go event starting — go out and catch all the gyms while the rest of us are busy. Except my gym. You can’t have that.)