What does Fergus Burns sound like?

Famous non-classical baritones. (This picture comes straight from the Wikipedia entry List of Baritones in Non-Classical Music


The predominant feeling among the line sevens right now was a baritone eddy of hope. It hadn’t been there before, and it sounded a lot like Fergus.



Back in Linesman, we never really gave much thought to the sound of line seven.  We knew what it did (even back then), but the sound?  There was that one throwaway line about it being a baritone and not much else.

When you’re writing a trilogy you don’t always consider how what you write in book one will impact what you write in future books.

Sometimes, serendipitously, something you write sparks an idea that becomes ‘the’ idea for a new story.

Terry Rossio, writer on Pirates of the Caribbean, once said, “Who knew the throwaway line, ‘Clearly, you’ve never been to Singapore’ would turn into movie three?” [Paraphrased here, because I can’t find the original quote.]

And sometimes you write throwaway lines like ‘a baritone eddy of hope … sounded a lot like Fergus’ and realise later that you never really thought of Fergus Burns as a baritone.  You’ve always thought of him as a tenor.

You can’t change something that’s written.  It took all of book two and part of book three to get into the mindset.  Fergus is a baritone. Fergus is a baritone. His voice is deeper than you think it is.

We’re getting there.

Elvis Presley was a baritone.  So were David Bowie and Johnny Cash.

Right now, we’re imagining his voice as a cross between Elvis Presley and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.






Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz

Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz.

Stop right here if you haven’t tried to answer the questions yourself, and go to last week’s post first.


Continue reading Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz

Quiz Time—Fantasy Whodunnit

I love a good mystery novel. Even better, I love a good speculative fiction whodunnit.

Time for a quiz, I thought.  Science fiction mystery novels.

So I started writing the quiz.  Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time.  They were easy.

I need a minimum of five novels for a quiz.  I googled some more. And stopped, realising that I hadn’t read many of the more modern science fiction mysteries.

O…kay.  Science fiction mystery quiz on hold until I’ve read more of the SF mysteries that have been released in the last ten years, not in the last fifty.

But … I have read some fantasy mysteries more recently.  So, let’s do a quiz about that instead.

This is a mix of urban fantasy, Flintlock fantasy, and what I would call traditional fantasy.  They’re not all murder mysteries.  In at least one of the stories, it’s not a traditional murder but the protagonist is searching for someone. (And that’s as many clues as you get.  🙂 )

These books are from our bookshelves.

Mystery One

Someone is disembowelling children.  Not only that, they’re tattooing the arms (and thighs) of the victims, from wrist to elbow.  I’m from the local policing force; young, but I’ve been around the force a while.  My two companions in the investigation are the man who killed my friends when I was younger (not happy about him being along, as you can imagine), and a dragon.

Mystery Two

I am a constable at the Met (London Metropolitan Police).  While standing guard over a murder site one morning (the victim was beheaded), I speak to a witness.  There’s just a slight problem.  The witness is dead.

Mystery Three

I make a living finding dead people, seeing how they died.  In this first job I get called in to find the body of a missing woman who was murdered in what appears to be a murder-suicide.  Except it wasn’t. It turns out both the victims were murdered.  And in fact, the female victim’s sister was also murdered (a few months earlier).

Mystery Four

I am a disgraced magician.  I draw pictures that tell the truth.  I am forced into taking a lowly-paid job with the town coroner, sketching the newly deceased. My truthful sketch of a young, dead girl shows the child was from a wealthy family, and murdered.

Mystery Five

I live a double life as both myself and my private detective twin brother.  I take a job hunting for a missing aristocrat, who has run off with a mysterious machine that everyone, including the all-powerful Patent Office, is looking for.

How did you go?

Answers next week.




How different would fantasy novels be if there was no tipping?

Australians don’t tip.

Sure we’ll leave the coins at a restaurant after a meal, but that’s as far as we go.

That’s why, whenever you get to a country where tipping is required, you’ll find the first thing the Australians do is talk about tipping. Trying to get a feel of how much to tip, what to tip for, and so on.

We get used to it, but still find it awkward.

I was reminded of this on our recent trip to south-east Asia, because we tipped everywhere, and oftentimes it seemed it wasn’t so much a tip, as actual payment for service.  (I know that’s technically what a tip is, but to me it’s a tip when you are also making another base payment for that service. For example, when you have a meal, you pay for the meal. Then you tip as well.)

It got me thinking about what a tip was, and how different fantasy novels would be if there was no tipping.

Maybe no different at all?

First, we have to decide what is a tip and what is payment for services rendered.

Asking a stranger for information

Petra stopped a man dressed in well-made, but faded, clothing.  A scholar, she guessed, but not in a popular line of study, for otherwise his sponsors would have provided enough to keep him better clothed.

“Excuse me, but could you tell me the way to the Cascades?”

“The Cascades.”  His deep voice didn’t match his skinny frame or the freckles on his face.  He moved, and she saw the purple stains on the inside of his cloak. A chemist.  Definitely not a career someone looking for fame would choose.  “Lady, just follow everyone else.  They’re only going one way.”

Petra glanced at the crowd in front of her. There were six streets off the square. So far as she could see, people were going all ways.

She looked back at the scholar, raised a brow.

He pointed.  Past the square, half-way up the hill on the other side of town.  She could see tiny figures moving over there.  All going uphill.

“Thanks.”  Her feet were sore.  Her legs ached just thinking about the distance.

About now, in a regular fantasy novel, Petra would toss the informant a coin as thanks for his information.

But … in a regular fantasy novel you probably wouldn’t pick this particular guy to get information from, either.  You’d be more likely to choose a beggar, or an innkeeper. Someone who expects to be paid for the information they give.

Paying for bathwater

This one’s easy. Not everyone tips the innkeeper when they bring the hot water and the tub.  Many times you pay beforehand. Fee-for-service.


On reflection, maybe not much would change.  Because often what people do in fantasy is fee-for-service, rather than a tip.

Except perhaps, protagonists might get less information.


We’re back

The flight is only eight hours, and the time difference between the two cities is 2-3 hours (depending on daylight saving) so we shouldn’t be jet-lagged, but Singapore Airlines was determined to feed us. By the time we’d had dinner and settled, it was midnight, and they woke us at 4:00am to start breakfast.

We’re home from our international travels. A little bit tired. It’s an overnight trip from Singapore, leaving at 9pm, getting back into Melbourne at 6am. I even manged a couple of hours sleep, but we’re still sleeping most of today. Overnight travel drains you.

We’ve some local travel still to do (then back to work after Easter, sigh), but we’re back with consistent internet access. I can’t believe how much I rely on (reasonably priced) internet access nowadays.

We’ve a few comments and mails from readers. We’ll start replying to those as soon as we’re coherent enough to form full sentences.