Stardew Valley and a New Hobby


Jasper’s ‘happy’ portrait. I love his cheek bones.

For Christmas, 2019, I was given a Switch, and Pokemon, Let’s Go Eevee. After I’d played it through to completion, my husband suggested another game I might like. Little did he know that he was going to unleash my newest obsession.

The game was Stardew Valley, and after an intial shaky and confusing start, since he wasn’t particularly forthcoming with advice, I became hooked.

Long story short, I’d just become comfortable with the game when our house was broken into, the Switch stolen (games as well) and, after a brief mourning period, I realized I couldn’t let go of the Valley. So I bought in on PC.

After I’d played the game through to exhaustion (if not completion, since there’s no such thing), the characterisations and setting further inspired me, and I threw myself whole-heartedly into writing fanfiction.

Six months, three and a half stories, and over 300 thousand words later (you can read them on Archive of Our Own, under ‘Lemurkat’), that flame began to wane, and a new Stardew related addiction began.


It began simply with me running them – expanded lands, dialogue, and cut scene (“event”) expansions, as well as a few that did fun stuff like turning my ducks into swans and so forth.

Then I began digging into the code. Now, I taught myself HTML about a billion years ago, back when that was the in thing, and when I was a child I’d programmed our ZX Spectrum, but computers had become a whole lot more sophisticated since then. Although not, as it turned out, more difficult.

After writing and play-testing a few scenes (and learning that computer programming is mostly about writing script then running it until you’ve found all the typos, bugs, and things that just don’t work), I downloaded Aesperite to make my own sprites. Animating them is fun! Modifying the original ones, and creating my own from scratch.

Best NZ$15 I spent in a long time actually (pretty much since I bought Stardew on PC). Aesperite is fairly intuitive and easy to learn – although it took me a while to figure out how to cut and paste parts of my image.


Neutral, happy, sad, amused, embarrassed, angry, with his buddies.

Next step obviously was to create my own characters, so I took Jasper from my Fanfic (although he’s actually a canon character as well, just not one you ever see in the game – yet) and created a portrait of him. Then changed his moods. And refined it. It seemed a shame not to make a sprite after that, so I did that as well, modifying Elliot’s sprite (although Harvey’s would’ve worked well too).

He was well received when I showed the image off on the Stardew Valley Hangout Facebook page, so I have downloaded the ‘NPC template’ for Content Patcher (a must for Stardew Modding since it retains the original files and over-rides them when running the game through the modding API thus meaning you can uninstall them easily) and began working through his dialogue and interests in the hope that I can implement him in game sometime in the not too distant future.

Professor Jasper Thomas is in his early 30s. His father, a miner, was killed in the explosion that turned Pelican Town into a ghost town (pre-game lore, NOT canon) and Jasper decided to attend ZuCU (Zuzu City University) where he studied mythology and anthropology, specializing in the non-human races (goblins, dwarves, shadow people, all canon). Alas, his outlandish theories earned him the scorn of his peers, and in an e


Jasper’s sprites. He sleeps in PJs unlike every other character.

ffort to prove them true, he has returned to Pelican Town to further his studies and seek evidence that the dwarves are actually alien refugees (this IS canon).

He’s boarding in a room connected to the Archaeology House (there’s no door currently in the game. I could add one in but I don’t really want to mess with the ingame tile sheets). His friends are Gunther, Marlon, Rasmodius (the wizard) and the Junimo. He’s polite and shy, and avoids social events (so you won’t see him at festivals, even though I’m sure he’d love the moonlight jellies) and probably won’t be a marriage candidate (mainly because modding in marriage candidates brings in some issues). Whilst shy, once he gets to know you, if you express an interest in his studies he will natter your ears off for ages about his studies.

His daily schedule will include roaming the woods searching for Junimo, or heading up the mountain to hang out in the Adventurer’s Guild. I haven’t programmed his schedule yet as I figure it will require a lot of tinkering to calculate how long it will take him to walk anywhere.

He loves some dwarven artifacts, certain gemstomes (who doesn’t?), miners treat,  blueberries, and apples. He likes the dwarven scrolls and other gemstones. He does NOT like beer.

Anyway, after determining these things, I downloaded Tiled. Banged my head against it for ages while I figured out how to use it, and finally managed to work out how to make a bedroom for him (then I added him into it via PSP because why not?):

JaspersRoomSo now I need to finish him off and patch him into the game. Before then, I should release my Immersive Marnie mod (adds a ton of dialogue, 2,4,5,8 and 10 heart cutscenes for Marnie, plus additional dialogue and scenes for Jas, because the poor lass has NO cut scenes of her own, just ones she shares with Penny and Vincent), adds a certain other core character to events, and adjusts Marnie’s behaviour if you befriend her.

I’ve also created a goose, more chickens, and various other bird species for cut scenes or to switch out for existing sprites. Watching the scenes play out as scripted is extremely rewarding!


This is Jeremy. He’s just learning how to fly.

Book Launch: Tiriki’s Great Escape AND the Tamariki Book festival

It has been a quiet few months, but finally, I’m back!

The second in my New Zealand Naturally series, “Tiriki’s Great Escape” will be released on November 24th at the Tamariki book festival in Christchurch. It will be an exciting event for the whole family, with a number of local authors and illustrators, performances from local school groups, authors doing readings, and lots of interactive activities for the children, including some bug handling (well, invertebrates, as not all invertebrates are bugs!). I shall have puppet Tiriki along, and shall be reading the first chapter from my novel, as well as telling the audience a little about the kea. Each guest will have their own little area with interractive features, and mine will likely have a drawing/colouring table upon which people (kids and big kids!) can try their hand at drawing Tiriki the kea, in flight.

Last minute flurry of preparations is currently abounding, with my fingers crossed that my shipment of books will arrive before the event, and that the postcards and stickers I just ordered will also arrive on time!

Anyway, if you are wanting to find something fun to do with the family on Saturday, 24th November, rock on down to Rauora Park, in the central city, and meet some of our local authors, including myself (Angela Oliver), Robinne Weiss, Michele Clark McConnochie, Yulia Potts, and more! Plus lots of fun activities to keep everyone entertained (and I’ve been promised there shall be coffee!). 


In Praise of Aotearoa Authors

I came across this article the other day, from top Kiwi author, Felicity Price, and it saddened me greatly. If someone with the acclaim of Price is ready to retire from writing, what does it say for the rest of us, the undiscovered NZ authors?

I guess it says we need to try hard, strive beyond our shores and seek our success internationally instead. Indeed, Paul Cleave and Nalini Singh are two New Zealand authors who have achieved critical success offshore.

I work in retail, in a place that sells books, and I can report without shade of doubt that New Zealand authors really struggle, especially those writing for the mainstream market, unless they receive a reward or critical acclaim (like “The Luminaries”). The teen market is likewise all but impossible to crack – possibly because teenagers tend to follow the international trends displayed on social media (which is why we saw so many vlogger books coming out). However, I can confirm that NZ children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade, sell very well, and people will actively seek them out (especially for family living internationally with children).

Anyway, at the request of some of my online friends, I bring to you a list of mainstream authors from Aotearoa (in some cases, ex-Aotearoa) that I can whole-heartedly recommend. I hope that you will check them out.

If you like female driven narrative*, try Catherine Robertson

The Hiding PlacesThe Hiding Places by Catherine Robertson
I have previously enjoyed Catherine Robertson’s more chick-lit-styled titles, and thus eagerly snatched up her latest publication. It is not like the earlier ones, this is more of a foray into the merging of historic and contemporary, in a similar manner to Belinda Alexander and Kate Morton – two of my favourite authors. Two time-streams alternate here: the modern storyline, in which April Turner, a grieving mother, has sentenced herself to a life devoid of any beauty and colour and the historic. This follows the childhood of Sunny, Lady Day, whom April meets when she is drawn to Empyrean. The two are woven together skilfully.

April’s self-inflicted penance is tested sorely when she undertakes the responsibility of restorying Empyrean. Firstly, by Sunny, who as she approaches the age of 90, has no-nonsense, hands-on sensibilities and will do her darndest to lure April out of her shell. Then there is Oran, red-haired, impulsive and quick-witted (sometimes to his disadvantage), with a deep dedication to his errant and unfaithful wife. And lastly, Jack, the mysterious man who lives in the woods with his dog and brings with him the wisdom and the compassion that just might help save April from herself.

Wonderfully written, with engaging (albeit at times, also frustrating) characters, a light mystery and a heart-warming, enchanting plot. This is a delicious and comforting read, that will intrigue, engage and possibly even inspire.

If you like Jodi Picoult, try Charity Norman:

(Charity Norman was born in Ugana and studied/lived in the UK, before coming to live in NZ, but for that reason we’ll claim her as one of our own)

See You In SeptemberSee You In September by Charity Norman

It started as Cassy’s OE – a short trip from the UK to NZ before her best friend’s wedding. But when Cassy breaks up with her boyfriend, she accepts an invitation to stay in an idyllic farming collective. Set in a beautiful valley, the lifestyle seems perfect, and Justin, the community’s charismatic leader, is very persuasive. Before long, Cassy is convinced to stay longer, and becomes entrenched in the group’s rituals and beliefs. But can her parents bring her home, before Justin’s prophesied Last Day comes to pass?

Engrossing and extremely difficult to put down once I got started, I can highly recommend this book. Watching the way practical, scientifically-inclined Cassy was manipulated and seduced into the ways of the cult was quite frightening. Her family’s discovery, and the struggle to free her, at times heart-breaking but powerful.

Undeniably one of my Top #5 2017 reads.

If you like light and romantic, try Danielle Hawkins

The Pretty Delicious CafeThe Pretty Delicious Cafe by Danielle Hawkins
“Pretty Delicious,” is a light, sweet and tasty treat of a tale. The characters are endearing and interesting, and the setting – Northland, New Zealand – scenic. Our heroine is Lia, overworked and unlucky-in-love, struggling to keep her cafe running whilst also suffering the angst-ridden attentions of her why-won’t-he-just-go-away ex-boyfriend. Things change the night a sexy stranger turns up on her doorstep, first terrifying her out of her wits, then quietly sidling into her affections. But Jed comes with burdens of his own – not so much his 4-year old son, but more the weight of the emotionally-troubled ex-wife. Will Lia allow herself to follow her heart? Or will she allow insecurity to rule?

The story is relatively light fare, a quick and easy escapism. Liberally sprinkled with wry humour, witty dialogue and dusted with a touch of the bittersweet. There are some darker moments too, when one considers the nature of Jed’s previous relationship, and with the ex-boyfriend skulking in the background. The four-year old son is an absolute delight, charming his way into this cynical reader’s heart. “Pretty Delicious” is a story of determination, of love, of allowing oneself the freedom to follow their dreams rather than allow themselves to be restrained by self-doubt or burdened by that which they cannot control. It is a story of friendship – Lia and Anna – and the power of reconciliation and forgiveness. The characters, with their flaws and neuroses are heart-breakingly real, and thus easy to identify with.

Also includes some mouth-watering recipes, so if the descriptions of the food in the cafe make you hungry, then you can try some out for yourself!

If you like historic fiction, try Deborah Challinor

(Deborah Challinor lived in NZ, then moved to Australia and wrote books set in Australia, but I’m pretty sure she’s back in NZ now, so she’s one of ours – this one’s set in NZ anyway.)
Kitty (The Smuggler's Wife #1)Kitty by Deborah Challinor

After the death of her father in Norfolk, 1638, Kitty and her mother are left impoverished. When Kitty’s innocence is compromised by an unscrupulous adventurer, her reputation is torn to shreds, and she is exiled to live in the colonies with her missionary uncle and his long-suffering wife. Set in the Bay of Islands, in the period leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Kitty first sets up a school, befriends some of the local Maori girls, and undertakes the occasional quiet rebellion. Then the handsome but aloof sea captain, Rian Farrell strolls into her life, and Kitty finds herself drawn to him. However, he’s not just a humble sea captain, he’s also a gun runner, and Kitty will find her loyalties torn and simple life torn asunder, as she is plunged into a lively adventure.

View all my reviews

I could probably share some more, but I think this post has gone on long enough for now! Sorry they’re all female authors – I’ve not read a lot of male NZ authors recently, and cannot recommend them as authoritatively as I would like.

* Traditionally called “women’s fiction” but I hate that term because it sounds prohibitive.

Tail of Two Scions – Chapter One

Forever re-writing it… how does this beginning sound? Not too much, too early?

I really wish I could find the other version I wrote when Aurelia made it to the Night Market and found Mijifajifa was there. Alas, it seems to have been swallowed by the ether and I cannot locate it on any of my multiple devices… there’s just a tiny handwritten bit in a notebook.

Vato is replacing the roles of Jacques and Riana in an earlier draft. Whether either will exist remains to be seen.


Eyes squeezed shut, Aurelia struggled to keep her breath slow and steady, even as butterfly-nerves tickled her belly. Her ears pricked, alert to the noises of the night and her sleeping companions. Lucie, in the hammock above her, breath soft and even, with the slightest whistle on the exhale. Constance, an arms length away, made odd lip-smacking noises, as though she were sucking on a berry. Maryse, whose hammock hung on the far side, snored like an overweight tenrec. Beyond the confines of the treehouse eyrie, crickets trilled and frogs grunted.
Another sound came, a rustle of leaves and the dull, muted thud of feet striking a branch. Aurelia’s heart jolted sharply, and her eyes shot open. Moonlight streamed through the eyrie’s woven walls, tracing a delicate filigree across the slumbering forms of her companions.
He had come then. She had not been sure he’d keep his word — had both hoped and feared he would. She eased herself from the hammock, lowering her feet to brush the floor with barely a whisper of sound. Her fingers closed on Maryse’s dark blue scholar robes — a crumpled heap where she had tossed them — and Aurelia wrapped them about her. They hung loosely on her small frame, but at least would offer her some camouflage. Beyond the walls of the eyrie, he fidgeted restlessly, she could hear his heart racing as frantic as hers.
What they were doing was forbidden, and Ophelia had made it quite clear that punishment would befall those who broke the stringent rules of the Karazana. Aurelia shrugged away her fears — what could Ophelia do that she hadn’t already suffered? — and tip-toed across the platform. A misplaced footstep, a misaligned floorboard, and a low, groaning creak split the night with sound. Lucie snorted sharply. Fear prickled the fur down Aurelia’s spine. She stood motionless. Waited to be caught, to be reprimanded. Nothing. Just a whistling sigh, and Lucie’s breathing returned to normal. Aurelia all but sagged in relief. But there was no time to relax. They could wake at any moment.
She reached the entrance to the eyrie, and eased over the edge, lowering herself onto the rope ladder.
He was beside her in a heartbeat, swift, silent and as dark as a shadow in the night. Aurelia felt her heart clench and a cold chill erupt through her veins. But it wasn’t Noir, the black-hearted hunter. It’s Vato, she reminded herself, drawing in a deep, shaky breath. Kind, steady Vato. Your friend. You’ve asked him to meet you here. Her breathing slowed, heart-rate settled.
Vato’s fingers brushed the fur of her arm, curled around gently. A finger pressed to her lips,  cautioning silence. She nodded her assent, and followed him along the rope bridge, away from the tear-drop shaped eyrie.
“Are you sure about this?” he whispered, his words rippling the fur around her ears.
She nodded mutely, and squeezed his elbow to reassure him; to reassure herself.
“The night market is no place for a novice,” he added.
“I’ll be all right,” Aurelia replied. “I’ve been through some pretty terrifying things, you know.”
He shook his head. “Terrifying isn’t the word for it,” he said. “Bewildering. Enchanting… well, you’ll see.” His golden eyes flicked sharply back to her. “Whatever you do, don’t lick the millipedes.”
Was that a joke? His scent betrayed nothing, nor did his tone. Vato’s nature was as solid as his name. “Millipedes?” she asked, but too late. Vato had slunk ahead, walking four-footed along the rope bridge, pausing to glance back at her. Aurelia cast one glance back at the eyrie, then hopped after him. The cloak moved oddly against her form; it made her balance less than steady. Above, the moon — plump and bright — had barely crested the long dark spires of sandstone, misshapen fingers against a tapestry of stars.
The valley was far from quiet, and in the darkness, any sound carried. Even at night, the Karazana did not sleep; now was the time of the nocturnals. Off in the distance, Aurelia’s pricked ears could pick out the sound of tiny tsidy, their voices high-pitched and excitable, and a tutor barked out instructions to his class.
Vato guided Aurelia around the outskirts off the orchard, away from the snuffling tenrecs,  gobbling up insects and fallen fruit. They stole beneath other eyries, some wrapped around the trunk of trees, others which dangled from the branches like enormous wicker mangoes. The ground fell away sharply into a deep gorge, within which the waters of the Olymanga river ran dark and deep, almost invisible but for the faint shimmer of starlight. Moonlight illuminated a stone bridge in pale, ghostly light.
Vato’s hand came to her shoulder, his fingers pressed to her muzzle, he motioned her to crouch down and pull the cloak over her face. They hunched together, against the trunk of the tree. Voices first, and footsteps, coming nearer.

Happy (Belated) Holiday Tidings to You All!

So, I’m a bit late getting this up there, since everyone is about to go back to work… but anyway, I hope you have enjoyed your holiday season, celebrating in whatever manner you choose. For me, I “celebrated” it with 6-day working weeks and a hearty dose of sleep deprivation, but I am happy to report that we are into 2018 now, and what does that mean?

Well, firstly it means the compulsory: how many of my goals did I achieve in 2017?

The answer? Not as many as I would have liked.

  • None of the writing goals. None of the art goals. I DID celebrate Midsummer’s Eve (and my birthday) in Sweden. It rained, but hey – SWEDEN!
  • Haven’t seen Pumpkins United yet, but I am going to.
  • Saw not only the Darkness but also Avantasia. In Switzerland! So that was a win.
  • Made the reading goal of 100 books, thanks to my husband and his comic collection in the last week. Now, thanks to that, I’m considerably up for this year (yay Giant Days!)
  • Also saw two of my bestest friends married (hopefully this year will see another pair engaged at the very least *nudgenudgewinkwink*).

So what’s gonna be happening in 2018?

Writing Goals:

  • finish writing the book already! (any book)
  • write at least one blog post a month


  • For the love of all that is green and good, DRAW SOMETHING. Anything. And we’re not talking about drawful 2 either.
  • At least draw the annual native-bird-in-a-Christmas-hat (this year, Kereru).


  • Don’t embarrass yourself too much in Japan (don’t be a baka gaijin).
  • Rock out to Helloween (in TOKYO!!!!).
  • Become at least vaguely coherent in Japanese and don’t chicken out of trying to speak it.


  • Read more than 100 books, at least half of which should have more than 100 words per page.

Let’s see if I can achieve any of these this year. I should probably add in something about losing weight, but honestly, I’m more likely to achieve level 40 in Pokemon Go. Of course, the two are definitely not mutually exclusive.

Best wishes for your 2018!

The Joy of Fanfiction

This year, like most years, I’m giving Nanowrimo a go. Not a very enthusiastic go, I’m afraid. I’ve become hooked on Draconius Go*, for a start, and I’m generally experiencing an apathy towards completing my stories. Lacking in motivation to write a story that “matters”, so to speak (as if any stories really matter to anyone except the writer), I picked up a story I’d begun last year, in a last-ditch effort to attain my 2016 NaNo goal.

Yes, I turned to Fanfiction.

I’m not new to the genre (if you can call it that) of Fanfiction. I started with it, back in 2000 with ElfQuest and Pokemon (although you could argue even before that, when I wrote a “Fantasy epic” inspired by my favourite song). I chose ElfQuest because they were semi-feral elves that rode wolves -so different from Tolkien’s statuesque and noble forest dwellers. Pokemon because, animals with magic powers! I also dabbled in a little Xanth (more in a “what if?” situation, as in “what if a feral, REAL, elf found its way into Xanth” but my motivation of introducing my ElfQuest OC to the Xanthian pun-world quickly dwindled) and wrote a song-fic inspired by “The Golden Compass”. These can be read on my page. Warning: They’re raw, lacking almost completely in editing and indubitably contain numerous grammatical errors.

Why is Fanfiction so alluring?

Well, most writers are also readers, or at the very least, enjoy some form of pop culture. Whether it be movies, television, books, cartoons, or even music, there’s generally something that speaks to us, inspires us: Characters that we wish were real people, worlds that we wished we could explore. Stories that we wished we could read. Sometimes the author takes the story in a manner you might not like, ie: kills off or abandons your favourite character, or totally skips over something you would’ve really enjoyed learning more about. As a reader and a writer, you can CHANGE THIS!

Writing in a Fandom universe means that your world comes fully created, no shuffling around trying to define a magic system, or decide how the weather system works, or how the cities and forests are laid out. It’s pre-made. Not only that, but you already have an established fan-base, since people who enjoy a particular fandom may seek further reading.

Original Characters or Canon?

Canon characters are those created  by the original author or franchise: Harry, Ron and Hermoine for example. They do require a bit of delicate handling, and some authors may take offense at their “children” falling into the hands of amateurs, so if you want to write fandom and share it with the wider world, it might pay to check and see if your favourite author appreciates it. Some authors have outright refused to let stories written in their fandom be uploaded to George RR Martin, for example, considers it copyright infringement. If writing with Canon Characters, try and keep them as true to their intended personalities as possible.

Original Characters (OC) also come with risks, specifically when they come across as author-inserts and immediately catch the heart and soul of a beloved Canon character, in an effort of wish fulfillment. OCs must be as well developed as any Canon characters you may choose to incorporate. They must have flaws, and they must face challenges. If they’re perfect, and all the other characters love them, then you might have a problem.

When reading Fanfiction, I tend to be okay with either – as long as it’s well written and the Canon characters seem true to their author’s original voice.

Some of my favourite fanfiction stories are the James Potter series by G Norman Lippert (staring Harry and Ginny’s children, not Harry’s dad), although their American flavour did wear on me after a while. His stories are well written, very professionally marketed, listed on Goodreads and, most importantly, FREE. Because, even if your stories are accepted (if not endorsed) by the author, you cannot make money from them:

  • unless you change them dramatically so that they are no longer recognised as Fanfiction, ala Fifty Shades of Gray and, allegedly, The Mortal Instruments..
  • unless the author has actually asked you to write in her world – the Cassandra Clare spin off short story books, featuring Magnus Bane and Simon’s training in Shadowhunter Academy really do feel like glorified Fanfiction.
  • unless it is based on a story that is out of copyright (or a folk/fairy tale). This is why you see a fair amount of stories from Hook’s PoV, or with similar plot structures to Shakespearian plays and Austen/Bronte novels. Fairy tale retellings could also be considered Fanfiction.

Another excellent Harry Potter Fanfiction is “Better be Slytherin!” which answers a question I’m sure you’ve all been curious about.

Fanfiction also gives you the ability to dabble in crossing characters between your favourite fandom (what if Buffy met Edward?). You can also take minor characters and make them the star of their own story. Fans might get a bit miffed if you start killing off Canon characters (in my “Pookamon” (anthro Pokemon) Fanfiction, I evolved Meowth before killing him off. It didn’t go down particularly well), but overall, it’s the chance to take liberties and have some fun!

Fanfiction I wish existed (and would write if I had the time or ability):

  • Twilight as a psychological thriller.
  • The Battle of Hogwarts: how Ginny, Luna and Neville held Hogwarts against the anarchy and chaos that ensured in book seven.
  • A predator/prey changeling relationship in the Psy Changeling universe.

And if you want to read an excellent story with an original character that is in no way beloved, beautiful and brilliant at everything she does, and like a good dark romance, I strongly recommend FANGIRL_15 by Aimee Roseland. It’s not technically Fanfiction, although one might argue that the brothers do bear a striking resemblance to those in another series, but the main character is a massive fangirl (as the name suggests) who finds herself sucked into the world of the stories she loves – but finds not only is it darker, more frightening and overwhelming in reality, but also that they don’t trust her very much. It’s an amazing book, that even on the second reading almost had me weeping for the main characters. However, the ending is a bit weird.

Another fun Fanfiction inspired book is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes Fanfiction (slash Fanfiction) around a series of books that bears some similarity to a certain boy-wizard. The story was so successful, and the fans so clamorous, that Rowell actually went on to write the Simon Snow story that the protagonist was penning!


* it’s like Pokemon Go, but with more realistic monsters (even though they have ridiculous names and no natural history), quests, duels with opposing team mates and treasure hunts. Yeh, it’s pretty addictive. I’ll post more about it later, promise.


Celebrating Lemurs!

October the 27th is World Lemur Day. A day to celebrate the most endangered clade of mammals on the planet.

Did you know:

  • Lemurs are found exclusively on the island of Madagascar (and some tiny offshore islands)
  • There are over 100 different species of lemur, ranging in size from the dwarf mouse lemur (30 g)  to the indri  (up to 9.5 kg).
  • Of those species, a shocking 90% are endangered, many critically.
  • Lemurs are prosimians, which translates as “before monkey” and are descended from a common ancestor. It is believed this ancestor was carried over to Madagascar on debris, and evolved to fill a variety of different niches.
  • The aye-aye, possibly one of the strangest mammals in the world, was described as having “… the ears of a bat, the tail of a fox, the teeth of a beaver, the fur of a microwaved cat and the hands of a witch…” (from John Cleese’s “In the Wild”). Its middle finger is not actually elongated, but very, very thin, allowing it to probe into crevices to extract delicious bugs and grubs.
  • Most lemur species are vegetarian, with the eastern sifaka species requiring such a diverse array of foliage that they rarely survive (and have not yet flourished) in captivity.
  • The west coast of Madagascar is much drier, and the lemur species found there tend to somewhat more adaptable with their diet.
  • John Cleese loves lemurs – and has a species of avahi (woolly lemur) named after him: Avahi cleesei
  • The lemur “poster boy”, the ring-tailed lemur, is one of the more generalised species. It thrives in zoos, and spends more time on the ground than other species. However, wild populations have suffered a massive decline in recent years.
  • The black lemurs  have been filmed biting millipedes, which causes them to secrete a chemical that not only acts as a natural insecticide, but is also a narcotic.
  • Sclater’s black lemur is the only non-human primate with blue eyes.
  • The bamboo lemur regularly consumes high qualities of cyanide.

Here are some pictures of lemurs that I have drawn over the years:

NaNoWriMo Success Stories

It’s that time of the year again: November. The time of year when Christmas paraphenalia is appearing in stores, the days are getting longer, the weather is settling into drier patterns… and the time of year when authors all over the world will be putting fingers to keyboards, or pens to paper, and scribbling out as many words as they can in a month, all with the same goal: 50,000 words in 30 days.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time again, National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated.

I consider myself a NaNoWriMo veteran, I’ve participated in it more years than not since the earthquakes in 2010. My completion rate is pretty high (albeit that I’ve rehashed the same story so many times it’s starting to get tedious) and I’ve reaped various rewards from a free proof copy, to free copies of my published book (back when Createspace used to contribute to the rewards), a hardback version of Fellowship of the Ringtails (courtesy of Lulu, and possibly the only hardback copy in existence), and last year I purchased Scrivener.

But whilst I’ve had marginal success, selling maybe a couple of dozen copies of 2010’s Aroha’s Grand Adventure and even fewer of Fellowship of the Ringtails (the sequel is my never-ending Work-in-Progress), there are some authors that have gone on not only to finish their 50k manuscripts, but to polish them to the point where they were published – and became strong sellers.

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites:

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enter the lyrical and haunting world of the Night Circus. It will draw you in, entrance you and whisk you away to a different time and place. With its evocative language, and gently flowing plot, it reminded me rather of “Jonathan Strange” and some of Neil Gaiman’s work. The descriptions are lush and vivid, the characters entrancing. It haunted me long after the final page. However, there is a blemish to every jewel and in this one it was the constantly shifting time periods – each chapter would jump back or forward some years, which left me feeling a little disorientated. It was to good purpose though, to aid the ebb and flow of the tale.

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this kind of book – it has characters I can relate to and situations I can identify with (even though they are now lost in my distant past). This book hooked me with its candid writing, appealing prose, witty dialogue and interludes to a fiction within a fiction.

Fanfiction has become a really big thing currently, and has had quite a bit of prevalence in the media – the taking of other people’s characters and worlds and creating your own stories, and different directions, is a real art. Rowell explores this in her novel, where introvert Cath must cope with going to college, meeting boys, her manic father, a twin sister who is seeking distance and the responsiblities and so-forth of her future life.

I also loved the fact that Levi is not your typical sexy hunk – his personality was a true delight and I enjoyed the descriptions of his gangly nature, receeding hairline and the smile that lit up the room. I rather wish I could meet him.

Wool by Hugh Howey

A science fiction/dystopian novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the human race is confined to giant silos, whilst the world outside has been reduced to ruin. The first book is divided into four parts, and was initially released independently and individually, to great acclaim, before Howey received a publishing contract and they were bound up into one book. There are several follow-ups to the series, but I have only read the first one.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, this is the tale of a young man who runs away to join the circus – literally. Here he befriends the elephant, Rosie, and falls in love with one of the equestrian stars. Beautifully written, deeply compelling, it became a bestseller and was turned into a movie, staring Robert Pattinson. An absolutely wonderful read, and one I highly recommend.

Cinder by Melissa Meyer

A unique and unusual re-telling of Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic, living in a futuristic, high tech city of New Beijing, where androids, humans and cyborgs crowd the streets. When her life becomes entwined with Prince Kai, she becomes caught up in an intergalactic  struggle. I listened to it on audio book and found it somewhat strange, but definitely different and very entertaining.

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Wish Upon a Southern Star Book Launch

The Southern Cross shines high above a fairy tale wood. Come step inside. Drink dew from the leaves with tiny Tommelise. Eat egg sandwiches with a toothy young troll. Escape with Rapunzel. Trick Rumpelstiltskin. Shiver in the snow. Climb the beanstalk. Pray to the Piper. Be a cat. In and out of the wood, whether in this world or another, these stories will take you to new places. Explore how far you can go in this anthology of twenty-one fairy tale retellings by New Zealand and Australian authors. 

When: Saturday 2nd September, 2-4 pm
Where: South Library, 66 Colombo Street, Cashmere

Who: Meet 17 of the contributing authors, including:
Mahoney Adair, Stacey Campbell, Shelley Chappell, Hannah Davison, Graham Davidson, Simon Fogarty, MAria Hansen, S.M. Harris, K.S. Liggett, Sara Litchfield, John Lowe, Virginia Lowe, Megan Norris, Kate O’NEil, J.L. O’Rourke, Leigh Roswen and ME, Angela Oliver.

My short story, Kissa the Cat, is included in the collection, which will also be available for purchase on the day.

We authors will also be selling our books or other merchandise, therefore bringing cold, hard cash is recommended (or paper, paper money is fine!).