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.





Still relaxing

The view from the bar on deck eleven. It’s the first real cloudy day we’ve had. No rain though.

I’m sitting in a bar on deck eleven. Behind me, two women have a private dance class.  They’re dancing to Footloose.  I’m not even watching. I’m sitting, facing a full window.  There’s a little patch of grass outside. I can’t determine if it’s real or fake.  It looks real, but I cannot possibly see how the crew can maintain it, so it’s probably fake.  But it’s the realest looking fake grass I have ever seen.

Past that is the sea, and off in the distance I can see land. (I think. I need binoculars to be certain.)  Everyone is at lunch, so up here on the eleventh deck it’s blissfully peaceful.

We’re cruising, and life is relaxing.

The South China Sea is like a millpond.  It’s funny to realise that although we’ve cruised before, we’ve always cruised on the ocean.  This is our first sea, and the ship doesn’t roll much at all.  (This ship is so smooth you can’t even tell when it moves away from port unless you’re actually watching.)

We’re into the last week of our overseas holiday.   Next week we’ll be jet-lagged, but home.

It will be good for the blog, at least. On holiday, it’s hard to think of anything but holiday posts. 🙂

Sailing out of Singapore

There are a lot of boats in Singapore harbor.

Sailing out of Singapore. Boats everywhere. Or do I call them ships?

Our internet will be a little erratic for the next two weeks.

An exercise in world building

Tomb Raider territory. Ta Prohm temple. It was lovely here, mid-afternoon, so quite shaded.

Every life experience is grist for the writing mill, writers are told.  Write what you know.

Right now, we’re in Kampuchea (Cambodia). We’ve visited a number of places in the Angkor heritage area—Angkor Wat (temple), Banteay Srei (temple), Angkor Thom (village), Ta Prohm (temple).

So I decided to take some of our experiences of the last few days and use it as a writing exercise.

Not all of it, for otherwise this would turn into a homage on the engineer(s) who designed Angkor Wat—so heavy its foundations can’t support it, except for that fact they built a massive moat around it (190m wide and it forms a rectangle 1.5 km x 1.3 km) and the water mixes with the earth underneath so it acts like quicksand.


Mid-afternoon, Vianne made Stephan quicken his pace.  “Gates close at sunset,” she reminded him.  “Otherwise we’ll be stuck outside till morning.”  With a hundred cutthroats eyeing their well-made linens, wondering just how fat the purses around their necks were.  And another hundred touts trying to get them to stay at ‘their’ establishment.  For a nominal cost, of course, and probably no longer any purse to pay with in the morning.

“It’s twenty years since I was last in a city that locks its gates.”

“You know your trouble, Stephan.”

“Peace has made me soft.  I know.”  But he quickened his pace.  “If I go any faster even my sweat will be sweating.”  He sighed, a long, heartfelt moment of anticipation. “I’ll be glad to get these boots off, at least.  “

Vianne had changed to sandals two weeks ago.  And long linens to cover her legs so they didn’t get burnt.   She’d insisted on the linens for Stephan as well, but she’d let him keep his boots.  There was only so much you could do for a southerner before they stopped listening.

A trickle of her own sweat obscured her vision.  The sweat was rust-coloured.  As was she, top to bottom.  Her legs were red. Her feet were red.  Her robe was red, and ready to stand up by itself.

She wiped the sweat away.

“And into some clean clothes,” Stephan said.  “I’ve sweat so much I can’t even take a shit without fighting to get my pants back on.”

Vianne just wanted to wash her hair. Or shave it off.  It was thick and heavy, and weighed her down.

They reached the gates with the last of the stragglers.

The guards—perhaps sensing strangers—crossed pikes in front of them.  “You’re too late for tonight,” the darker woman on the left said.  “Gate’s closed.”

Anyone care to take a guess at which bits were actual experience, and which bits were made up?

Writing on the road

Relaxing at Lang Co, somewhere between Hue and Hoi An. Beautiful. Perfect place to write, and actually got some writing in.

This holiday was supposed to be a combined writing/travel holiday. We planned to write the first draft of the second Uncharted Stars book (not yet confirmed as the book to be accepted, but we want to do a quick first draft to see how it goes).

Our tour—and we did book a tour, this being our first time in south-east Asia—supposedly had every two spare days out of five, and lots of spare time.

That hasn’t been the case.  Today is the first day we’ve been able to sit down and write.  Busy, busy, busy.

We’re having a great time, but definitely not writing much.

Still, I planned to write every day.  So, I have.  Even if it was only one sentence.

Learning to cross the road in Hanoi

The traffic in Hanoi. Take a deep breath and have faith. Above all, don’t think about what you’re doing, because if you think about it, you’ll be overcome with fear.

I wasn’t planning on writing about Vietnam (or anywhere on our travels). If you’re interested, Sherylyn will be posting on Facebook, but we’re here, and the other blog I planned is trite and ordinary. Or maybe I’m just in holiday mode, so you might get more holiday posts after all.

Anyway. Vietnam.  Hanoi.  The traffic!

The lady who met us at the airport was lovely.  “Some advice,” she said.  “Crossing the road.  The traffic here in Hanoi can be daunting. Just copy what the locals do, cross when the locals cross. And if you start to cross, don’t hesitate.  Just keep going.”

Believe me, if you need one piece of advice for Vietnam, that’s the advice you need.  Even on the way into Hanoi proper people ran red lights, cut across in front of our driver and did all sorts of crazy things.  We both agreed, we’re never going to drive in Vietnam.

After we booked in to hotel, we decided to go for a walk.

This was Saturday afternoon, mind.  It was crazy, and as for the pedestrians, they just stepped out into the middle of it all.  It was terrifying.

We ended up going around the block, because we were too scared to cross an actual road.

So this morning, we spent a couple of hours practising crossing roads.

It’s a big leap of faith, and still scary as anything, but we managed it.

Now we have to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Aurealis Awards

Came home tonight to find we’ve been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards for best sci-fi novel.

It’s such an unexpected honor to be nominated. We’re almost expecting them to come back and say, “Oops, mistake. Sorry.”

Unexpected, but not unwanted. We’re thrilled to be in such exalted company.

Look at the competition.

Congratulations to everyone else for their nominations. (And not just the sci-fi novel. There’s some great stuff here.)