SpecFicNZ web post – Sir Julius Vogel Award Finalists

The Sir Julius Vogel Award finalists are listed at this link from SpecFicNZ.

It’s a fantastic honour that my two of my works are on this list. Thank you to all of my wonderful readers that nominated Ahi Ka and Twisty Christmas Tales for Sir Julius Vogel Awards. It’s great to know that you enjoyed my stories. Without readers, there would be no point in writing! Thanks also to Alicia Ponder, the co-author of Ahi Ka. She’s amazing to work with.

Voting takes place next weekend at Conclave II, the national Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. Wish us luck!

Thanks for nominating me for Sir Julius Vogel Awards


Eileen Mueller receives New Zealand Society of Authors’ Mentorship with Kyle Mewburn.

I’m shouting from the rooftops, grinning!

I’ve been accepted for The New Zealand Society of Authors’ mentorship program. Each year the Society mentors twenty writers, but only two of those twenty can be mentored for children’s works. I’m lucky to be one of those two.  🙂

Kyle with a fan at Te Papa's launch of The Curioseum
Kyle with a fan at Te Papa’s launch of The Curioseum

Kyle Mewburn will be mentoring me. 

Together we’ll work on my junior novel, and whip it into shape. I’m so excited! Without giving any spoilers, this novel has a martial arts theme!

Kyle is  a great author. I first came across his work at kindy when my little girl asked me to read, and re-read, and re-read, and … you get the picture … Kiss Kiss! Yuck Yuck! It was such a fun book that I wished I’d written it myself. Then I started asking her if we could read it! Needless to say, we now have an autographed copy.

I’ve met Kyle a few times and enjoyed his kiss kiss yuck yuckdown-to-earth nature and great sense of humour. He’s written over twenty picture books, numerous junior novels – Dinosaur Rescue series, Pop Hooper series and others –  and many school readers. It’s an honour to be mentored by Kyle.  I look forward to working with him and having fun along the way.

I’m a little nervous to hear what he’ll think of my work! Wouldn’t you be?

My daughter loved Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! What were some of your favourite children’s books? Leave a comment and let me know!

Sir Julius Vogel Award voting – distance votes close 10 April.

Read our nominated story, Ahi Ka, below.
Read our nominated story, Ahi Ka, below.

10 April 2014, is the deadline for Sir Julius Vogel Award voting from afar. If you are not attending Conclave II, the NZ National Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, held over Anzac weekend in Auckland, then you’ll need to vote by tomorrow. (Main voting takes place at national convention.) I have two works that have been shortlisted as finalists for the SJV awards:

  • Best Short Work: Ahi Kā. 
  • Best Collected Work: Twisty Christmas Tales.

Please read Ahi Kā below.
To vote, you need to be a member of SFFANZ, Science Fiction Fantasy Association of NZ. Details are here. If you are a member already, the voting details are here.

 Ahi Kā.

  • (Prose and interwoven sonnet, Truth Lies in Fire and Dies in Flame)
  • Winning entry (first equal) in NZSA NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration Contest
  • By Eileen Mueller and Alicia Ponder

Howls pierced the fog of my dreams. I clutched Ahi, shaking her awake. “Are they real?” Yowling wound through my ear canals, ricocheting inside my head. “The dogs, Ahi, can you hear them?”

She woke, startled. “Hurry, Manaaki. They’re coming.”

We scrambled out of our bush-clad hideout, dashing up the hillside, sliding in the damp earth, ponga fronds whipping our faces.

Frenzied yelps closed in on us. The creatures’ vicious snarling drowned our laboured breathing.

Blue eyes pursued us, hot gas flames in the dark.

Were they real?

I yanked my meds from my pocket. Pills scattered in the dirt. I scrabbled for them. One stuck in my throat before sliding down.


Cry havoc and let us unloose the dogs

the dogs, let slip those hellish brutes of war

for tonight Manaaki will have to choose

to run—


“Hellhounds,” Ahi yelled, bounding up the mud and crumbling rock.

Menacing growls raced through the underbrush. Ahi yanked a nail from her fingertip. It flared to light, illuminating the black-hackled beast leaping towards us.

“Ahi?” In all our time together, her fingernails had never exploded into fireballs. I stared at her and swallowed another pill, tasting dirt.

The hound, with pain-stricken yelps, was devoured by flame. Wild baying echoed in the valley below. More hellhounds.

Ahi stood, fingertip bleeding. Her hand, with only four nails, reached out. Warm blood sticky in my palm, she yanked me uphill.

Had my medication stopped working?

To be sure, I gulped another down.


Laugh in the shade of the slavering beast

let fire light his eyes and make death tame

the boy is mad—


 The hellhounds thundered behind us. Racing through the darkness, we tripped, smashing our knees on jutting rocks.

I gagged on the stench of the hounds’ hot breath. They snapped at our heels—and bit deep. I screamed.

Ahi ripped off another nail, flinging it over her shoulder. The beast yelped and fled, trailing flames.

Fingers spraying glistening blood in the flame-light, Ahi aimed nail after nail at the perilous beasts, until only two nails remained.


The boy is mad to thwart this hunter’s feast

the dirt he tastes will never bear his name

and yet he stops and turns—


Ahi flung her penultimate nail through snarling fangs.

The beast combusted. Singed fur and burning flesh. A pale demon loomed behind the hellhound’s flaming carcass. Worse than hellhounds. Worse than my lover-turned-stranger beside me, oozing blood from her torn fingertips. Worse than hallucinations.

I screamed.

Ahi smiled through her blood and tears. She tore the final fingernail from her hand and pressed it into mine. “Swallow this,” she whispered.


Truth Lies in Fire and Dies in Flame   

Cry havoc and let us unloose the dogs

the dogs, let slip those hellish brutes of war

for tonight Manaaki will have to choose

to run through fire and flame or face the maw


Laugh in the shade of the slavering beast

Let fire light his eyes and make death tame

The boy is mad to thwart this hunter’s feast

The dirt he tastes will never bear his name


And yet he stops and turns, his wild fear tame

Ahi Kā, Manaaki keep the home fires burning

In blood and fire—with life he stakes his claim

Ahi Kā, let us stand where he is standing


Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;

But burn those who chase Manaaki out of bounds



Ahi Kā was placed first equal in the NZ Society of Authors’ NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration contest, which required two authors to write a short story and a poem, or two short stories. Instead of penning  a short story and a poem individually, Alicia and Eileen chose to collaborate closely, interweaving their work and honing it until it was seamless.

Ahi Kā includes:

  • A sonnet containing direct quotes from Shakespeare.
  • References to the Māori legend of how Maui bought fire to the world via a goddess with flaming fingernails.
  • Political elements—oblique references to Māori land wars through Māori language:
    • Ahi Kā = to keep the home fires burning; burning fires of occupation; gain a title to land through long-term occupation; hold influence over land and defend successfully against challenges, thereby keeping their fires burning.
    • Manaaki = hospitality, support;
    • Ahi = fire;
    • (Source Māori Dictionary online)

Alicia and I hope you enjoyed our work. We’d love it if you’d vote for Ahi Kā and Twisty Christmas Tales (available on Amazon.)

Two stories on the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2014 Shortlist!

Sir Julius Vogel Award
Sir Julius Vogel Award

Thank you! Thank you! & Thank you!

Thanks to my fabulous readers, two of my works have made the shortlist for the 2014 Sir Julius Vogel Awards!

AHI KA, co-authored by Eileen and Alicia Ponder, and winning entry of the  NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration competition, is shortlisted for BEST SHORT STORY.


The full shortlists and long lists for all categories are here.

The final votes will take place at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of NZ (SFFANZ) convention in April. Only SFFANZ members can vote to determine the final recipient of the awards.

I’m thrilled to see that many of my awesome writer friends have also made the shortlists in a wide variety of categories. I’m honoured to be nominated amongst such great company, including Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, editors of Baby Teeth, who accepted my first published short story, Dad’s Wisdom for their anthology.

Congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist. It’s a great achievement. And thanks to my readers for liking my stories enough to nominate me.

Sir Julius Vogel Award Nominations

SJV Award
Sir Julius Vogel Award

Nominations for New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards for science-fiction, horror and fantasy close this Saturday 15 February 2014 at 8pm.

I have two works Ahi Kā and Twisty Christmas Tales, which have been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, however they need to be nominated multiple times to get on the short-list. If you have a few minutes, please send an email or two. 🙂

To see Ahi Kā, go to this link and scroll down past the judges’ comments.   Twisty Christmas Tales is available here   If you’d like me to send you a copy of either of these works, please contact me here.

Rules: You can nominate as many stories as you like, but each nomination must be in a separate email. An individual can only nominate each work once. You must provide your name and email address (see 10 in red below) with each nomination. Please also feel free to nominate other NZ sci-fi or fantasy stories published in 2013.

Email the following to SFFANZ

  1. Title of nominated work: Ahi Kā
  2. Name of Producer / Author / Creator: Eileen Mueller & Alicia Ponder
  3. What the work is: Short story with interwoven sonnet
  4. Year of First Release: 2013
  5. Publisher / Production company name: NorthWrite 2013 website (NZSA Northland Branch)
  6. What category: Professional awards, short story
  7. GENRE:  Fantasy
  8. This work won the NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration contest and appeared on the NorthWrite website in December 2103: http://northwrite.co.nz/northwrite2013-collaborative-competition/
  9. Contact details of the person making the nomination:  Your Name:                   Your email address:

In a separate email: send the following to SFFANZ

  1. Title of nominated work: Twisty Christmas Tales
  2. Name of Producer / Author / Creator: Eileen Mueller, Alicia Ponder, Peter Friend
  3. What the work is: Anthology
  4. Year of First Release: 2013
  5. Publisher / Production company name: Phantom Feather Press
  6. What category: Professional: Collected Work
  7. GENRE:  fantasy
  8. E-book available at http://www.amazon.com/Twisty-Christmas-Tales-Festive-Children-ebook/dp/B00HA070BU
  9. Contact details of the person making the nomination:  Your Name:                   Your email address:


Eileen Receives Special Mention for Homeless Flash Fiction

Just for fun, I recently entered a worldwide flash fiction competition run by Inscribe Media (based in Britain.) The goal was to create emotion using 20 words or less.  I had fun creating a few entries and was surprised when I received a special mention for this little story of 19 words:

Scraps of rotting pumpkin, cast-off shoes….A bitten hotdog! Starving, he shovels it down, stumbling to the next bin.Blanketmanwiki

As a teenager, I bought food for homeless people on the streets of Wellington. When I lived in Switzerland, people were amazed when they saw me buying hot food for those living on their streets — something as simple as a hotdog, a slice of pie, or some fruit to brighten their day. From the reactions of the Swiss, I could tell this was a rare occurrence.

Nowadays, attitudes have changed. The photo above is of Ben Hana, a.k.a ‘blanket man,’ who lived on the Wellington streets. Many showed kindness to Ben, who chose to live on the streets. When he died there was a temporary public memorial set up and a public funeral. He had become a persona and a part of many people’s lives. He was offered accommodation and clothing, but chose to live without both.

Perhaps we can’t make a huge difference in everyone’s lives, but a spot of kindness lets them know that people still care. One small token of love could give them hope to carry on. And if many people could give that token of kindness, then someone could be fed or housed. bin rummaging

I have a close friend who lived on the streets for two years as a part of his young adult life. It started with a choice to see how the other side lived, then he got stuck. He was always grateful for a offers of a night’s accommodation, but often turned them down, going to sleep in a barn or shed, outside, or in the local homeless shelter when the weather was rough. Soup kitchens, kind donations of food and charity organisations helped him get along until he turned his life around. He’s lucky. He’s now has a successful career, a great family and a wife who adores him. Few would ever guess that he has been there.

Another friend of mine said his roughest months were being homeless in winter, in London, living in a cardboard box. Cold and wet, inside a carton? The thought of it always makes me shiver.

We are all community members, and we can make a difference. But what can we do?

Seven years ago, I started an initiative to collect grocery items for battered women. I used an existing group to channel the collection. I was amazed when we were told that, each year, our weekend collection provided enough food for 6 months. Women who had left their homes in desperation when being abused and gone to the Wellington Women’s Refuge, could receive a few of our groceries to help them get on their feet until state assistance came through. We expanded the collection and included furniture and mountain buggies for kids, twin prams etc, kindly donated by a local company that we approached. Now, I am no longer involved, but that legacy lives on and that annual collection still takes place.

A few years ago, I engaged my local church to bake Christmas cookies for the homeless. Each year since then,  this group has donated goods at Christmas time. Initially, we donated hygiene kits (toiletry items etc) and cookies to the ‘Wellington Night Shelter’  – a homeless shelter for men. Soon others in our neighbourhood heard what we were doing and started to donate home baking  as well.

Sometimes we also reached out to include homeless women at the ‘Wellington Women’s Boarding House.’  Their toiletries were packed in gift wrap, to be given to each new resident as a welcoming gift. They received home baking at Christmas. I advertised their plight in a local news article and more donations came flooding in – turkeys for Christmas dinner and gifts for the women and children.

In 2013, that same church group delivered survival kits to the Night Shelter. These were home-sewn bags which contained essential survival items (torches, water, food, survival blankets, first aid items etc) to be used in the event of an emergency (earthquake, flood etc.) I was happy to see that, although I wasn’t involved, this same group had expanded and built upon my initial idea and were continuing to provide for those in need.

Get involved. Start a collection through your school or community group. Help out at a local food bank, make a donation to a local charity, do something kind for the next ten homeless people you see. Then keep on giving. It’s a great feeling, and highly addictive. 🙂

Eileen was awarded a New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Award for her community service.

I’m on SpecFicNZ’s blog

SpecFicNZ (SpSpecFicNZeculative Fiction New Zealand) featured a post about us winning the NorthWrite 2013 Collaborative contest with our collaborative short literary work, Ahi Kā. Go here to see SpecFicNZ’s post.
Alicia Ponder and I won first equal in this competition.

Two other SpecFicNZ writers are mentioned for receiving an honourable mention in the same contest, for their collaborative short story: Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray.
SpecFicNZ is a great organisation that supports both NZ writers  and readers of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror.) If you write, or love all things fantasy, horror, or sci-fi, I encourage you to join.



Ahi Kā – Winning Entry in NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration

gold-3d-number-one-medal-vectorAlicia and I were thrilled to win first equal in the NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration contest with our short work Ahi Kā. (The contest was run by run by the Northland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors.)

It was the first time that I had attempted collaborative writing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story started as a pair of teenagers running through the bush from something menacing, but grew until  it included Māori mythology, mental illness, some kiwi history, Shakespearean influences, paranormal creatures and a frenzied pace of action. The line between reality and fantasy is thin as Ahi and Manaaki desperately try to outrun demons.

To read our story online go to this ‘NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration – Judges Comments and Winning Entries post.’ You’ll need to scroll down past the judges comments about the entries, then ours is the top story.

To understand our references to New Zealand mythology, see the Māori legend about how Maui bought fire to the world. Political elements are also included via oblique references to Māori land wars (see below). The contest required a 2 short stories or a short story and a poem, so our piece includes a sonnet and some direct quotes from Shakespeare within that sonnet.  This work is completely different to anything I’ve written before and was a very intense collaborative writing process. My earlier post details that process.

Note: These translations may help when reading our work. Manaaki = hospitality, support; Ahi = fire; Ahi Kā = to keep the home fires burning; burning fires of occupation; gain a title to land through long-term occupation; hold influence over land and defend successfully against challenges, thereby keeping their fires burning.  (Source Māori Dictionary online)

Have fun reading. We hope you enjoy the other entries as well.

Winners – NorthWrite 2013: Collaboration

Alicia Ponder and I have just won ‘NorthWrite 2013: Collaboration’ contest with our short work Ahi Kā. This competition required writers to work together to produce short fiction written by two authors, comprising either:NorthWrite 2013: Collaboration

  • 2 short stories
  • 2 poems
  • or a poem and a short story.

We were placed first equal with another pair of writers. The results of the competition are at NorthWrite’s site.

Alicia and I had such tight schedules that we weren’t sure whether we should enter. Two weeks before the competition deadline, we decided to go for it, despite me being away with my husband for New Zealand’s Got Talent semi-final filming. With our combined poetry and writing experience, we decided that NorthWrite 2103: Collaboration was an opportunity too good to miss!

We wanted to collaborate. Last year’s contestants had mentioned that they didn’t have time to collaborate extensively, because they only started two weeks before deadline. We were determined that even though we also only had two weeks we would collaborate, COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE!!!

From other blog posts I’ve read about collaborative efforts, most authors seem to write one story then the other author writes a reply. Alicia and I decided we wouldn’t. Instead we brainstormed, spending over an hour on the phone to come up with our basic plot and characters. We didn’t fill in all the dots, but left enough concepts fluid that there was space to evolve. We were determined to write everything together.

One of us wrote the short story. Then we both modified and tweaked it, via email and editing while on the phone. Both were essential. Tweaking via email was great for clarity and tightening the prose. Discussing the story on the phone (while one of us edited the document), kept our ideas fresh and dynamic. We bounced our suggestions off one another until they rapidly snowballed. As a result, we utilised more dimensions than either of us could have written alone.

The poetry gradually grew as an extension of the story, until a sonnet was born, tinged with Shakespearean influence. Elements of Māori mythology were interwoven into our story. Incomplete stanzas of our poem were scattered throughout. We used Māori names that gave hidden layers of meaning to our story’s themes. Finally we added political elements as an undercurrent.

Our work will be live on the NorthWrite 2013: collaboration site soon. I’ll post a link to the winning entries when they go live.

Note: These translations may help when reading our work. Manaaki = hospitality, support; Ahi = fire; Ahi Kā = to keep the home fires burning; burning fires of occupation; gain a title to land through long-term occupation; hold influence over land and defend successfully against challenges, thereby keeping their fires burning.  (Source Māori Dictionary online)

To understand our references to New Zealand mythology, see the Māori legend about how Maui bought fire to the world.

Congratulations to Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray, editors of Baby Teeth and friends of ours, who received an honourable mention in the contest.

New Zealander of The Year Local Hero Award – Literacy and Community Service efforts

A few weeks ago, I was presented with a Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Local Hero  Award.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Eileen Mueller and Kiwibank CE,Paul Brock
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Eileen Mueller and Kiwibank CE,Paul Brock

These awards are given to kiwis who make a difference in their communities through volunteer work.

So what did I do?

Over the past seven years, I’ve organised numerous community service projects in my role as Director of Public Affairs for my church, but the highlight has to be ‘Books For Fiji.’

Books For Fiji: In 2011, I ran a campaign that collected over 45,000 second hand books, which were donated to 82 schools in outlying islands of Fiji. See the video below.

Books for Fiji came about after I found out that Her Excellency Ms Mere Tora, Acting Head of Mission for the Fijian High Commission (Wellington, New Zealand) bought books at garage sales and school fairs all year long. Every year at Christmas when she visited Fiji, Ms Tora took boxes of books home and donated them to local schools.

I was impressed with her dedication to children’s literacy and wanted to help.

Although my initial idea was to collect a few boxes of books to give to Ms Tora, my vision grew as enthusiasm from the kiwis spurred me into action. Books came flooding in. Local schools cleared out their libraries and donated boxes packed with books. Business donated stationery and provided free advertising. The media jumped on board, and books kept piling up. The community wanted to help raise the English literacy of Fijian children.

Secretary of Fijian High Commission Niraj Mudaliar, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Eileen Mueller with the Mayor's childhood books that she donated to Fijian school children to improve their literacy
Secretary of Fijian High Commission Niraj Mudaliar, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Eileen Mueller with the Mayor’s childhood books that she donated to Fijian school children to improve their literacy

Wellington Mayor Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown donated her childhood books, and Porirua Mayor His Worship Nick Leggett provided his libraries as collection points. All across the lower North Island of New Zealand, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers took donation boxes to their schools, workplaces and local supermarkets.

A deluge of donations came in. Then the hard work began. We sorted every book by hand, categorizing them into subject matter or, for fiction books, age categories. We created a mix of books for each school, so they received a balanced shipment containing board books, early readers, chapter books, novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books about  a variety of topics.

Sorting 43,000 books!
Sorting 43,000 books!

I worked with the Fijian government to ensure we targeted the most needy schools. Then we shipped the books out the door and sighed in relief that the hard work was over!

While the books were en route to Fiji, a camera crew from church headquarters became interested in our project. I met them in Fiji to present the first shipment of books to a school on Bau Island, the chiefly island of Fiji – an area steeped in prestige and tradition.

The best part of the entire project was seeing the children unpack their books and start reading. They opened the boxes, and with wonder in their eyes, each took a book off the top, sat down on the grass and started reading. They didn’t rummage through the boxes or yell in excitement. They just sat down and started reading.

Children on Bau Island with books from Books For FijiTheir quiet page turning bought more joy into my heart than any shouts of excitement could have. They wanted those books. They loved those books. They were reading English books and had previously had none on their island. They were being taught English, but had no materials to read. Their literacy could take a leap forward, thanks to the kindness of their neighbours – kiwis in New Zealand.

How can we make a difference?

Eileen with 100 items made for Wellington Neonatal Unit.
Eileen with 101 items made for Wellington Neonatal Unit.

Often a need is right under our noses. We don’t have to organise thousands of books to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If you see a need, contact a local volunteer organisation or charity and ask how you can help.

I have been lucky enough to have Mormon Helping Hands volunteers enthusiastically embrace every project I’ve organised. We’ve quilted for neonatal babies, cleaned the local homeless shelter (Wellington Night Shelter), baked cookies for its guests, and assembled hygiene kits for them. Thousands of trees have been planted across the region by keen volunteers, schools have been made over – not just tidied, but demolition work done, buildings, rooves and libraries painted, chairs upholstered, and carpet laid. Volunteers have blazed trails, mulched and weeded in the hot sun, and battled with gorse (thorny bushes) to provide recreational area for the local community.

Community service is also about building relationships with those you would never otherwise meet. For two years I was a member of The Wellington Interfaith Council Executive, putting time and energy into building more love and understanding between those of different faiths. We talked together, planted trees together, sang and danced together, and walked in each others shoes a little as we learned more about one another. It was a rewarding and fulfilling experience to see Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Sikhs and Baha’i planting trees on the slopes of Wellington, laughing and getting to know one another.

Planting, trail blazing, blackberry eradication and planting in 2013 with local rangers, politicians and a few volunteers. (Eileen is far right, back row)
Planting, trail blazing, blackberry eradication and planting in 2013 with local rangers, politicians and a few volunteers. (Eileen is far right, back row)

It was humbling to accept my New Zealander of the Year Local Hero medal, knowing that although I had brainstormed and organised these projects, none of them would have happened without hundreds of volunteers seeing the vision of a better community and giving their time and effort to make it happen.

I’d like to thank my generous husband and cool kids. Without their support and enthusiastic participation, I would never have gotten one project off the ground. Thanks to them a childhood dream I’d had of helping those in a less wealthy country has come to fruition.

Cook Strait News ran a story here about my Local Hero award.

I’d also like to thank politicians, church leaders and the many organisations that have assisted with projects. My thanks and deep appreciation go to the amazing helpers who have donated their time, sweat and service to help make our community a better place.

You can be a local hero too

We are all part of the jigsaw which makes up our community, our country and our world. I encourage you to look around, see a need, and contact a local organisation to see how you can help to make our world a better place. Who knows, maybe one day you will be a local hero too!

Article on Mormon newsroom

More information about New Zealander of the Year Awards can be found here.