Friday, 13 October 2017

More state of the union

When I am quiet online, it is because I am busy in real life.

My latest newsletter went out a few weeks ago. If you haven't signed up for the Quarterly Newsletter, you missed out on some stuff I don't mention on the blog.

The Day Job is so-so, and I can't wait to transition to full-time author, but for now it provides a steady income without too much stress. Alas, it's not quiiite enough income to support my writing habit, so I've applied for a grant once more. Probably won't get it, as the grant-givers don't appear to support genre fiction. They seem to prefer the literary stuff. Is that prejudice on their part, overt or unconscious? They definitely support Australiana, which is something I expect them to do.

I am working on outlining two possible NaNoWriMo projects. Not sure which one I'll end up with. Depends on which one is ready to go on 1 Nov.  Are you doing NaNo this year? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I know it's only October, but all the End of the Year stuff is happening. Australian school terms go from Feb to Dec, so Their Ladyships are in their fourth term. So much to think about, so much to do! I am looking forward to the end-of-year concerts.

Meanwhile, enjoy this brilliant Microwave Chocolate Cake in a Mug recipe from Cleobuttera. It is the best one I've found.


_____________________________
Her Grace has a perfect plan for a novel trilogy. Only thing it needs is money, or time. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Observations: What you do is more important that what is

Before I get into this week's post, here's some state-of-the-union info:


  • The semester started a few weeks ago. Tools of Modern Astronomy. It's all about the EM spectrum and what kind of light buckets we use to catch falling photons. I feel like it might be just over my head, but I shall persist. Will I pass? Yes. Will I get an HD? Probably not. That's okay. I'm a conceptual astronomer and my job will not depend on how well I can run a telescope.
  • I finished the draft for "Currently Unsupervised".  It took me two NaNoWriMos and a few weeks of "get'er dunne". Now drafting the outline for my Victorian Clockpunk Telescope novel. It is not a coincidence I'm taking Tools at the same time I'm drafting this novel.
  • My Quarterly Newsletter goes out at the end of this week. If you aren't signed up to my newsletter, you won't get it. I tend to tell my newsletter stuff before I tell the rest of the world. And yes, I've got news in there.


Yesterday was WA Day, a public holiday, in Western Australia. All week it's the Royal Show (think 'State Fair', for you 'Mericans). Naturally, Their Ladyships and I went along.  But my story is not about the Royal Show or WA Day.

Last week I went to the local grocery store to purchase tickets for the Royal Show. While I was there, I witnessed a young child throw a nuclear-level temper tantrum because they wanted ice cream. Mum was not going to buy them any. The kid screamed and stamped. Still, Mum said no, and proceeded to walk out the door in a controlled manner. Kid continued to scream and stamp, but followed after. This is because the kid, despite their complete meltdown, knew that Mum meant business and was not going to cave.

I respected her for having a plan and sticking to it. In my eyes, this is a good parenting skill.

At the Royal Show, as Their Ladyships and I were indulging in some expensive gelato, a pair of young parents came up with their young child in a pram (stroller). Like us, they'd bought a cup of expensive gelato to share. Young child got first bite because, as Dad explained, this was the first time she'd ever had chocolate ice cream. We had a pleasant conversation over introducing children to new foods, the benefit of teaching them to value high quality, etc.

Young child dropped something on the floor. Dad picked it up and dropped it into the umbrella they had hanging off the side of the pram. Upon closer observation, I noticed it was full of little bits and bobs. They had turned their umbrella into an improv bucket. "Oh, that is so cool!" I uttered.

"Yeah. We only just thought of it today. But I think we'll keep doing it."

They were really cool people and I'm so glad I encountered them. For many reasons, they became a bright point in my day.  I respected them for their parenting skills because they were able to go with the flow, anticipate things, and were able to come up with creative solutions when the unanticipated came up.

Later on at the show we were at one of the kiddie displays. While there, an incident happened which lead to a young child having a nuclear-level temper tantrum.  Unlike the mother in the grocery store, this mother did not have a single clue. Her coping technique was to try and placate and reason with the unreasonable child right there in the middle of the floor. The child was kicking and screaming. Also, this just happened to be the time a large trolley had rocked up with a delivery.

Unfortunately, the kid chose to have their temper tantrum right where the trolley needed to go. Due to crowding, the trolley could not back up, could not move. It blocked the entrance to the display, and nobody could get in or out. The kid in his screaming, struggling mess, came really close to hitting his head against the sharp edge of the trolley. The mother, so wrapped up in trying to placate her child, instead of taking control of the situation, became useless. She was not in control of a situation she should have been.  She had no awareness of her surroundings, the trouble she was creating by not removing her child from the central area, the immediate danger he was in, and, despite the offered help from other parents, could not control her situation.  Essentially, she was just as out of control as her kid.

People had to physically remove her and the child to a safe location, so that the trolley could be moved. She was incapable of doing this herself because she was not in control. At all. Eventually the father showed up. I could tell from the look in his eyes and the actions he took, that this was not the kid's first temper tantrum, nor the mother's first moment of "i can't parent".

When the mother first melted down, my first thought was sympathy. But as I watched her fail to get control over herself and complete strangers had to step in to deal with her situation, I confess my sympathy faded into annoyance. Surely this was not the first time her child has had a temper tantrum. Why did she not have a plan in place for dealing with such a situation?  At least the father had a plan. My annoyance faded into pity. Parenting is hard for all of us. But it can be harder if one doesn't have a plan.

In the space of a week I observed two temper tantrums by young children. One mother earned my respect. The other did not. Yet I am grateful to both women, for they led me to a moment of personal enlightenment.

We will not be judged by how things are. Many things are not completely (or even remotely) in our control.  We will be judged by how we deal with these things.

Having a plan is a good idea. Having enough objectivity when we don't have a plan to come up with a good enough solution, even if that solution is only to buy us more time to think of an even better one, is a good idea. Being in control of ourselves, even when others are not, is a good idea.  Knowing when walking away is the best solution is a good idea.

I hope I have leveled up enough to apply these lessons when my moment comes.

______________________________
Her Grace believes in regular self-reflection and personal improvement. She does not think she can progress otherwise.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Best Thing to be Doing

Mitch Mitchell wants us to read more.
I'm happy to write more books so you can.
"Is this the best thing you can be doing right now?"  I often ask myself that, but not as often as I should.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with our marketing team at the Day Job about the importance of marketing. I realised I'd let my marketing slip on my books. This was half-laziness and half-analysis. I'd been monitoring the marketing I've been doing for my books, weighing costs vs returns. My current methods were not the most effective at the moment. I wasn't getting as good a ROI (return on investment) as I wanted. After a bit more analysis, I noticed what I'd been doing wrong.

The best way to market a book is to have more books out there. I've currently got five standalones plus one permafree short story sampler. In my recent research, this isn't enough.  Even when the some of my books go on sale with promo, I get some nibbles, but not sufficient to compensate for the price of marketing.  Really, one should be getting a ROI colour other than red. (I accept black or green.)

Obviously I need to get more books out, preferably in a series.

Some author/marketers recommend you spend some of every day writing and some marketing. Fair enough, if you've got the inventory. I don't think I have enough inventory.

So I've decided I'll keep doing little bits of marketing here and there, but not the full-scale I really should be doing.

Instead, I'm going to devote that extra time to finishing more novels. This is the best thing I can be doing right now.  The more novels I get out, the more effective my promotional efforts will be.

I just finished "Currently Unsupervised", which is now aging in a printout on my desk. I'm starting the research for my Victorian Clockpunk Telescope Romance and I've applied for a developmental grant for "Of The Dark".  "The Charm of Truth" needs to sit a little longer before I tack another 20K to it, then it'll be ready to go.

If you ask me if I can do something and I say NO, this is why. These novels don't write themselves.

_____________________________
Her Grace encourages you to leave reviews for her work. That's one of the best things you can do for an author.

Monday, 28 August 2017

The Chicken or the Beef?

Sometimes at a restaurant one looks at the menu and can't decide. Everything looks so yummy! Should I choose the chicken or the beef? Me, I adore tasting platters or ten-course degustations, where I get to try a bite of everything.

However, sometimes one does not get options like that, and one must choose the chicken or the beef. For some people with bottomless pits where their stomachs reside, they can choose both. Me, I have a teeny-tiny tummy and can barely finish what I do order. I am limited in choosing chicken or beef.

A favourite author Gail Carriger came to a realisation that sometimes it's best to choose one thing over another, if it nourishes you more.

I've been doing much of that, in that what little writing time I've got, I've devoted it to wordage in the novel, rather than blogging or social networking. While the latter two will help in my promo and marketing, ultimately, I need to finish novels.

No novels, nothing to promote.

I am eight thousand words short of finishing a novel. I'm sure you'll forgive me if I focus on that, rather than blogging.

Want to support an author? Go read her books, leave honest reviews.

________________________
Her Grace is half-way through the chainsaw massacre, though you might not recognise it as such once she's done. There will be a glorious catfight, though.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Whaddya mean "Chainsaw Massacre?"

I didn't get into PitchWars, and that's okay, because I've been working on a new book.

So I've been slogging along, getting some serious wordage done, when I noticed I'd finished the novel... way too soon.  Instead of approaching 80K, I'd clocked in at 60-something.

How on earth did my plot calculation end up fifteen thousand-ish words shy of my target goal?

His Grace, not being a fiction author, wasn't terribly sympathetic. "Why can't you stop there?"

Because the frickin' novel needs to be 80K! Reasons.

So, how does one come up with an extra 10-15K when the plot as-is is tight, with no wiggle room?

A subplot usually does the trick, except I wasn't sure how to fit in a(nother) subplot. I've got three already. The timeline of the novel doesn't have much room for such things, as the whole book takes place over the course of a single evening. There's only so much that can go on at a party.

"Throw in a Chainsaw Massacre," suggests His Grace.

I have a look at my RegRom w/ Magic and say, "Why not?"

__________________________________
Her Grace's plot issue may be solved. Will it be at least 10K? Ask her later.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

I entered Pitch Wars!

Of course I did.

#PitchWars has been extra helpful this year with the addition of a ProBoards forum. I found this helpful for improving my query, not so much by the posting and critting of it, but by seeing what everyone else was posting.

I was able to see lots of people making lots of mistakes. For some reason, the more queries I saw, the easier it was to see the mistakes.

When I went back to my own query, I was able to see the mistakes I'd been making. Oops. Once corrected, I feel I got a much stronger query.

Think this is enough to win over a mentor?


 Adrastea, a simple country healer, is surprised to receive a marriage proposal from the Dark God Mor-Lath. As a devotee of a rival god, of course she turns him down. She was raised on chilling tales of this chthonic being who drags the souls of the unrepentant to the underworld. Adrastea loves her simple country life of brewing medicines and saving lives. Marriage to Mor-Lath would greatly complicate things. Besides, why would the Dark God propose to her?

Undaunted by her refusal, Mor-Lath insists on courting her. Sometimes he is charming, winning over the other villagers. Other times, he is ruthless in his actions, refusing to let anyone stand in his way of his pursuit of Adrastesa.

She sees him the dark god he truly is. While he makes it clear he’ll only have her willingly, he’s making it very difficult for her to say no.

Adrastea faces a quandary: her continued refusals puts not only her village under threat of destruction, but possibly the entire land. If she accepts the Dark God's marriage proposal, her soul will never ascend to the Light. Mor-Lath's plaintive desperation hints that even more might be at stake. But what? What is he really after?

Either way, the price is too high. 

OF THE DARK is a 125,000-word Fantasy novel, loosely based on several Greek myths (especially the Adrasteia and Jupiter stories) and is the first of a completed trilogy. 

I'm an Australian author of moderate repute. I've had dozens of short stories and non-fiction articles published and have had several novellas published with The Wild Rose Press. I've been a member of the Online Writing Workshop since its inception. I'm a member of Romance Writers of Australia. By day I work part-time in IT Support. By night I'm an astronomer and citizen scientist, because that's when the stars are out.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

---------------

And here's my first five hundred words.


Adrastea descended into the dark. As her feet touched the cellar's stone floor, the scent of brandy enveloped her. It was stronger here, redolent of peaches and hot summer days and possibly forbidden kisses. Something had broken. Oh dear.

Up in the stillroom Ari Healer peered into the cellar, her anxiety palpable. Her skinny hands gripped the top of the ladder and she sniffled. "Was it my barrel? Please tell me it wasn't my barrel."

"I don't know." Something shimmered at the edge of Adrastea's vision. The auras? She pushed away Ari's worry and squinted into the darkness. Was it a bottle of new brandy that broke, or the barrel of old brandy? Please, not the new brandy. Adrastea had worked so hard distilling enough. Her heart ached at the thought of losing even one drop.

But if it had been Ari's barrel, the one that had sat in this cellar for twenty-five years, its precious contents aging to perfection, that would be a greater loss.

Adrastea drew a breath and coughed. The alcohol stung her lungs too much to tell which one had spilled.

A warm light wavered above the cellar door. "Here. Take the lantern."

"No. Too risky." It would do Adrastea no good if the flame of the lamp ignited the brandy fumes.

Ari's voice shuddered. "It is my barrel, isn't it?"

Again, something shimmered out of the corner of her eye, flaring then fading. Now that was interesting. "Could be the barrel."

Ari let out a whimper.

There! The glimmer brightened at the far end of the cellar. How fascinating. Ari's grief sent pulses along the threads that connected her aura to the barrel. That was new. Even without daylight, Adrastea knew exactly where the barrel was.

Mira Priestess once told her everything in Creation was bound by the Lines of Deeper Power. Everything and everyone was connected, whether they knew it or not. Her mother described them as the warp and weft of the world, present, even if most of the time they could not be seen. Adrastea had never given it much thought until now. They'd just been... there.

They reminded her of shafts of sunlight through a window, when motes of dust sparkled in the beams. As a child, Adrastea had always tried to catch those motes. They always evaded her grasp. She had always presumed these Lines were the same.

Out in the daylight, she could barely tell auras were there, just gossamer webs out of the corner of her eye. Down here in the cellar, they came to her much stronger.

Adrastea relaxed and focused inward, drawing a deep breath. Lines from dried herbs and potions she'd prepared lit up and connected to her. She'd made all this. It belonged to her and brought her deep satisfaction. How comforting to know that something she created with her own two hands did some good in the world.

--------------------

I'm especially proud of this opening, as it passes the Bechdel Test.

So here I sit and forget about #PitchWars until 25 August, when mentees will be announced.

If I get in, YAY! 


If not, I have a Plan B. Sooner or later, this book will be published.


_________________________________
Her Grace hopes her first chapter is voicy enough. That's what mentors are looking for.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Tuesday's Tale - A Tale of a Phone Call -or- Checkmate

Over the past several months a friend of mine had a situation with a series of annoying phone calls. In the end she found a solution. I was so impressed with this solution I want to write about it. However, the identity of my friend will remain anonymous, because her solution is considered illegal in the place she lives.  Also, Joe, the true villain of the piece, is not his real name. Coincidentally, his last name sounds very much like my friend's extremely common last name. This  might have added to the confusion.

A few months ago my friend started to get phone calls on her landline from a collection agency, asking for Joe. She said they had the wrong number and there was no Joe at her place.

Saying you have a wrong number is a common tactic for people trying to avoid collection agencies, so this particular agency did not believe this very true bit of info. Thus, they kept calling back, at first once a week, then more often.  She kept telling them that there was no Joe, and that they had the wrong number.

She asked to speak to a supervisor.  The supervisor informed her that they knew they had the correct number because that was the number given on the application, and the company who'd passed on the debt had successfully contacted Joe in the past. As far as the agency was concerned, this was Joe's valid number. Because of that, they had no compunction over calling at annoying times, like early-early in the morning, at dinnertime, etc.  Anything to get my friend to hand them over to Joe.

This went on for months. My friend, who'd had this phone number for several years, tried everything she could think of to get them to stop. She tried sending them notarised proof of her identity and ownership of the address and phone number. Company didn't care. They'd only accept proof that Joe didn't live there "any more" (their words).  This baffled her, as the Agency's records did not list her actual address as an address-on-record for Joe.

It would have been too much hassle to change the number, as this was a number she used for her home business. She tried getting the number blocked, but whatever regulating body she'd gone to said that this couldn't be done without proof that this person was harassing her.

But how to prove the harassment?  My friend came up with this idea:

The next time they called, she answered the phone and listened to them rant on about how they were going to escalate, blah, blah. About five minutes in, she told them, "By the way, I'm recording this conversation without your permission." Indeed she was. She'd set up a recording device and was capturing the lot.

Agency:  You can't do that. It's illegal.

My Friend:  Yes. I know. There's nothing you can do to stop me.

Their reply: they hung up.

However, this did not stop them from further phone calls. Every time they called, she hit "record" and then informed them about five minutes in that she was recording their conversation without their permission. They'd hang up.

Until two weeks later.

My Friend (five minutes in): I'm recording this conversation without your permission.

Agency Supervisor: We are aware of your actions and have decided to take this to the next level. We have reported your actions to our attorneys, who will be taking legal action against this.

Normally, this would rattle the usual blowhards who such tactics as recording phone calls as bullying actions, but taking things to the next level was exactly what my friend wanted.

My Friend: Excellent. I'm glad you've chosen to get your attorneys involved. See, in order to serve notice, or contact me in any way, they'd have to verify that I am who I say I am, and then serve me with notice. They will finally be able to prove to you that one thing that you've refused to accept all this time; I am not Joe, nor am I associated with Joe in any way, shape or form.

Agency: We do not have to prove you are Joe to serve you with notice to stop your illegal recording.

My Friend: No. But it will drag your sorry butts into the courtroom. You will provide evidence in the form of your records stating I've informed you I'm illegally recording your phone calls. I will then provide evidence of those recorded phone calls, which are many, including the ones I might have recorded without informing you earlier.

Agency: You will be found guilty. This will have an impact on..... blah blah, stuff about legal ramifications regarding her job, her credit rating, and that it's not worth all this trouble to protect Joe when it would be much easier to just get Joe to pay, yadda, yadda. Usual agency bully tactics.

My Friend: Actually, it will serve to prove that you've been calling me and harassing me. All the information you have regarding Joe will become a record of the court, thus giving me access to his information.

(Note: she didn't have access to this information before, as the agency wouldn't release any information beyond Joe's first and very common last name, so my friend couldn't sleuth out any further info, including the company who had reported the debt. Essentially, she had been held an information prisoner.)

My Friend: Once we've established beyond a reasonable doubt that all these phone calls I've been recording have come from you, looking for Joe, and I am able to track down Joe, me and my attorneys can then file harassment suits against your company, with Joe as a witness to corroborate that he has never lived here, nor was this ever his phone number. We shall also include the original company in our suit for providing false information. Either way, somewhere someone has listed an incorrect number for Joe, a number you've been using to harass me. I'm going to tell you, for the very last time, that you have the wrong number. You might wish to consider contacting the original company. Could it be they accidentally gave you an incorrect phone number, and nobody at your agency has bothered to check this when I kept telling you you had the wrong number?

By this time, my friend had had enough. She told them if they called her once more, they would hear from her attorneys.

A few days later, the agency called back. My friend informed them she was recording their call, hung up, and then contacted an attorney.

The attorney wrote a stiffly-worded letter to the agency recommending they re-check the phone number with the company. Also, if the company verified the number as correct, and were so sure it belonged to Joe, that they contact my friend's attorney. Any further direct contact with my friend that didn't go through her attorney, would results in charges being filed.

My friend reports she's not received another phone call from the agency. However, she does not discuss any contact her attorney might have received.

That makes me wonder. Did the agency learn they did, after all, have the wrong number and the story is over, or that there's some upcoming legal action my friend can't talk about?

The problem with true stories is that sometimes you don't get to know the ending.