Monday, 21 September 2015

Cutting Edge vs Accessibility

I recently read a book on Australian women composers, Women of Note. It didn't list every Aussie sheila composer (because there are a lot of us), but listed some of the more influential ones.

Maybe. There were a few I thought who should be in there, but weren't. Like Elissa Milne.

One thing I did notice was that the later composers were all avante garde, on the cutting edge of style.

For example, fellow Perth composer Cat Hope:

This modern atonal, arhythmic style is very much Not My Thing. As a student of music, i can understand the genius behind it, and have performed similar pieces, but does it appeal to my taste? Not really.

I also got to thinking about modern art--you know, the strange, abstract splattered-paint-on-a-canvas kind of art. Again, I don't get it as much as I think the artist wants me to get it. Even if the artist's main point was to get me to think, I fear she  may have failed with me, when my only thought is, "Huh?"

Nevertheless, all Art and all Music does get me thinking on a certain level, namely, What Do I Like?

I spent most of my musical life playing the violin, either as a solo instrument or in an orchestra of some kind. Like all music students from the U of U, I did pick up some piano skills, and later refined them from the AMEB. I find the piano as one of the more indispensable tools for composition.

It is in learning the piano that I discovered what I love most about  music: harmony. I love how sounds blend together, especially how that blending will sing to the human heart.

I've also discovered I have a taste for music with Romantic-era influences. Most of my elective pieces for the past few grades have been from the Romantic era.

Also, thinking about the music I love to listen to, I discovered that I mostly prefer....


Yep, Soundtracks, as in the music you hear on movies, and the music you hear in video games.

Video games?!?

Absolutely. It's beautiful, evocative stuff that is very reminiscent of the 19th Century Romantic-era compositions. Most working composers today earn their crusts through composing sound tracks.

Soundtracks are specifically designed to portray emotionality. It's like they are telling you how you should feel.  For example, nothing says "ridiculous slapstick" like the Benny Hill theme, aka "Yackety Sax". Another example is the spookily addictive bell-like opening tune to Harry Potter. (I set it as my ringtone for several years.)

As Jazz defined the first half of the 20th Century and Rock'n'Roll the second half, I declare the Soundtrack to be the definitive music of the beginning 21st Century.

Why?  Because it's so highly accessible to the masses. Everyone listens to soundtracks, whether they realise it or not. This is what our descendants will note as the definitive and noteworthy music composition of this time.

John Williams (all hail the master!)
Danny Elfman
Nigel Westlake

Even if you might not recognise their names, you'd certainly recognise their music.

Ultimately, I believe art should reflect the Human Experience in a way that many humans can relate to. For this to truly succeed, I feel it needs to be accessible to them.

Soundtracks certainly do that.

Her Grace would be a career composer if she couldn't be a career author.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Passing the Bechdel-Wallace test

When writing heterosexual Romance stories, especially shorter works like a novella, it can be difficult for a story to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. After all, the plot arc is all about Our Hero and Our Heroine getting together for an HEA. Because of that, most of the conversations that happen in the story tend to revolve around characters and their goals. This means most, if not all conversations in a Romance novella will include or be about Our Hero.

I confess I haven't given it much thought until now, but in "FOR RICHER, FOR POORER" my characters have conversations about:

  • genealogy and family history
  • food
  • flowers
  • property development
  • storage and transportation of antiques
  • history

That alone lifts it a level from the usual conversational topics of a Romance novel.

I'm happy to say that my novella "FOR RICHER, FOR POORER" also passes the Bechdel-Wallace test with this conversation:

Francie turned to Beatrice and changed her tactics. She became soft-spoken, though she never lost the steel behind her voice. "My dear Miss Nottham," she began. "I know how much you love family history, especially something so important as this. I'm sure someone as knowledgeable as you has a preservation room…"

Beatrice gave her a startled look? Preservation room? Of course not. Then she quickly looked away, but too late. Francie must have seen her very thoughts on Beatrice's face, for the Englishwoman's smile eased into smooth triumph.

"…but I do question the conditions on the spaceplane. I doubt they will not be too kind to the poor tapestry. Something so old cannot be subjected to three Gees on takeoff and landing."

Beatrice's heart ached. Was Francie right? A spaceplane journey, which only took three hours instead of the usual nine or ten of an airplane flight, did suffer from an increase in gravitational pull as the plane accelerated up to the troposphere. Then, while at the top of the parabola there was the fun yet sometimes nauseating sense of weightlessness. Then there was the descent where the bottom of the parabola increased to three Gees before settling back to the normal one Gee at ground-level. Would the tapestry survive? Goodness knows the flight made her queasy.

Get FOR RICHER, FOR POORER by Heidi Kneale from The Wild Rose Press or wherever quality ebooks are sold.

Her Grace wonders, how important is topic diversity to you in a Romance novel?

Monday, 31 August 2015

What will make you put down a book?

While Agent Extraordinaire Janet Reid (aka Miss Snark, aka Query Shark, aka Queen of the Known Universe) is on vacation, she left some topics for us exiles of Carkoon to mull over.

Today's topic: What'll make you not finish reading a book?

Yup, we went to town in the comments.

As Heidi-come-lately, I weighed in with my opinion at the very end, as I'm 12 hours out from everyone else. I thought I'd expand on those thots here. Also, I would like to know what would make you put down a book?

Some of us readers are die-hards. Once we start a book, we are committed to finishing it. (I was once like that, then I got old.) For most of the rest of us, we realise that life is too short to waste on books that simply aren't doing it for us. I have no compunction over not finishing a book if it's not working for me.

Things that'll make me put a book down:
  • Voice'n'style that's difficult to read (including too many grammar/spelling errors--common in indie books published before their time, alas). I love a voice with rhythm and pace, something that carries me along. It's got to have a certain cadence. 
  • Too many swear words. Swear words are powerful, especially the F-bomb. That's why they're used as swear words. Because of their strength, I feel their use needs to be limited. If a text is peppered with them, it throws off the power balance and ruins the tension of the scene for me. But the occasional one, placed for best effect, in my opinion, works very well. 
  • Unlikeable characters. Why on earth would I want to know their story? If I find a character unlikeable, I don't want to spent too much time in their company. And that may mean putting down the book for good. 
  • Rape scenes, more for the unlikeable character aspect, rather than the violence (though that is also a big factor). A rapist is a pretty nasty character. Why would I want to spend company with him or have to cope with the emotional devastation he's racked on his victim(s)? 
  • Sex scenes that don't have significant impact on the plot. I know, I know, I'm a Romance author, but sex scenes for titillation's sake just doesn't do it for me. If a sex scene furthers the plot, I'm okay with it. (Currently, I have no sex scenes in any of my Romance novels, but have a few in my Fantasy novels, and they do serve to forward the plot.) I will skip through some of the more graphic sex scenes in Romance novels as I tend to find them dull. If the novel is mostly sex scenes and the plot or characters aren't working for me, I'll put it down. 
  • Lack of optimism--One of the reasons I refuse to read most literary novels. I've encountered far too many that are all doom'n'gloom with no light at the end of the tunnel. If I'm reading any book (regardless of genre) and it's not got any hope or light or hint of positivity, I'll give up. I read for escapism. I've got enough grief in my life; I don't need to add to it through fiction.
  • Pacing too slow. Ain't nobody got time for that. I like my fiction groove to moove. 
  • Dull plot with no other redeeming characteristics. I love plot. If you don't have a good enough plot, and you don't have anything else to make up for it, it's bye-bye.

I recently read an indie author who had a hooky voice'n'style and appealing characters, but was absolutely hopeless when it came to plot. I read to the end, but felt disappointed in the tepid plot arc. As his voice was a MAJOR redeeming feature for me, I attempted another of his novels. This one was more character-based, and worked better. Still, I believe he could have been one of our literary greats, if it wasn't for his appalling plot skills. So sad.

Her Grace wants to know what will make you put down a book?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Turning of the Tide by Charles Dana Gibson

The contract for "Marry Me" has been turned in and now I get the lovely job of coming up with notes for my cover artist.

While researching links for her info sheet, I came across this beautiful sketch by Gibson (yes, the guy who invented Gibson Girls) that fits the mood of my story perfectly:

No, this illustration will not end up on on the cover, but oh, it so evokes the mood!

Her Grace just might swoon with delight.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Come Party with Long and Short Reviews

Long and Short Reviews is celebrating their 8th Anniversary, and my books are part of the fun!

Have a look at For Richer, For Poorer and As Good As Gold, for your chance to win prizes like Amazon or B&N gift cards, books and more, thanks to LASR.

Her Grace loves a good party.

Monday, 17 August 2015

I'm on Facebook

Love Facebook?  Come like Heidi Kneale, Author and keep up with the news, including project status reports, upcoming promotions and other goodies specific to this up-and-coming Fantasy Romance author.

Her Grace loves to escape from reality with a good book. She's got one coming out in February 2016.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Interview: Maggie Elizabeth Marshall

Today I welcome literary writer Maggie Elizabeth Marshall to Romance Spinners. I met Maggie in the My 500 Words writing group. Maggie writes literary short stories and non-fiction articles. We look forward to more inspiring works from her in the future.

HWK: I was interested in your use of patterns in your short story L-A-C-E-Y. What fascinated you so much about Mr Greyson's obsession with the number four?

MEM: Psychology is a relatively new fascination of mine. I love the mind and all it can do and am fascinated in how things go “wrong”. The idea of obsessions is particularly interesting – how the mind can latch onto something so useless. It’s funny, because I was actually diagnosed with OCD a year after I wrote L-A-C-E-Y. I’ve learned a lot about OCD since. While that piece is highly accurate to the OCD experience, my own experience differs very much. While Mr. Greyson ruminates on the number four and is highly concerned about germs, I ruminate on imperfect social situations and whether or not I’ve hurt people. Because of this, Mr. Greyson has become a particularly special character to me. And, as for his obsession with the number four, that was an accident, actually. I picked a random number and it ended up fitting perfectly with the theme of the story – the difference between love and obsession and whether or not they’re even separable. His compulsion – counting – is actually a way to relieve his stress caused by the obsessions. The thing about OCD is that the compulsions themselves become sources of stress when their calming effect wears off, usually almost immediately after the compulsion is acted upon. It’s as painful if not more painful than L-A-C-E-Y makes it out to be.

HWK: I see you have a love of the literary genre. What draws you to this genre?

MEM:I love the idea of writing about realistic situations. I, of course, dabbled in fantasy and historical fiction, but I never felt fully comfortable until I entered the literary genre. I think there is something so fantastic about creating an outrageous situation out of something that could be real. Granted, not all literary fiction is realistic fiction. So, perhaps it is better for me to explain it this way: I love when a story does more than entertain. I love when it makes you think. When it causes you to question things you thought were set in stone. When the language itself has beauty and is crafted just as well as the story. For me, writing in a way that focuses on every tiny aspect of the craft is more thrilling than writing just to entertain.

HWK: You've got quite a few non-fiction article credits to your name. Do you have a preference of fiction or non-fiction? What is your ultimate love?

MEM:My ultimate love is fiction. I have a few half-written fiction novels I hope to publish. I love writing short stories. I write articles for fun and really enjoy it, but it’s not what drives me. Most of my creative non-fiction is driven by my circumstances in life. In fact, almost all of the short, creative  nonfiction pieces I’ve had published were written during a very difficult time in my life. I can work at creating fiction, while nonfiction comes when it comes. And though I enjoy writing articles and running a blog, it is a job to me – something I must do to get by until I can publish my fiction and make that my job. But I’m lucky enough to enjoy the journey to get there!

HWK: What do you consider the greatest benefit of reading is to Humanity?

MEM:Wow, this is a heavy questions for me! I think reading provides so many things, but most of all it provides knowledge about humanity. As a fiction writer, I truly believe that fiction can portray truth in a way even nonfiction cannot. Fiction has a way of creating a story that highlights the truths of humanity, or even the existential questions of humanity. Fiction creates a story that forces readers to acknowledge these truths and questions and deal with them, when so often we are unable to see them in real life. Like L-A-C-E-Y – I hope readers question the connection between love and obsession, as well as see that Mr. Greyson may live a different truth than we do. These connections and viewpoints are almost invisible when we walk around in our own heads. We can’t read our neighbor’s mind, but we can read the mind of a character if the author allows it.

HWK: You have grown deathly allergic to dogs. What other animal do you choose to guard your property?

MEM:I think I would like a vicious peacock or a crazy flock of hummingbirds.

HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of any one thing, what would it be?

MEM:I would love to convince the world of the importance of kindness and awareness. We are so stuck in our own heads. We are all guilty of being selfish, of ignoring others, of thinking our issues are more important. I am guilty of this too! But kindness and awareness go such a long way. Realizing the people around us are not just props in our own play – they are real people with real minds who hurt and cry and suffer just as much, if not more than we do. If we all lived in constant awareness of others, not only would we help others, but we would be helped by others. I see it all too often: someone is hurting and their friends are more concerned about the burden the friend is upon them, rather than the pain that friend is dealing with. If we could reverse that, the world would be a much better place. The only way to relieve the burden off yourself is to also relieve the burden off the other.


We wish Maggie Elizabeth well as she embarks on her adventures at graduate school in creative writing.

Visit her webpage, chock full of really good posts, at