Monday, 20 March 2017

A to Z Challenge - Theme Reveal

This year for the A to Z Challenge, I will be posting about...

By career I am a novelist, but by education, I am an astronomer. As a practicing Citizen Scientist, I spend some time nearly every single day in study, analysis or observation of our universe.

The science of Astronomy is not to be confused with the practice of astrology (ie, predicting the future based on your horoscope).  Astronomy is a rigorous science involving physics, chemistry and biology (yes, really) to describe the universe we live in. For us, Mercury retrograde is nothing more than an apparent movement of a planet and not a portent of disaster in one's life, and our Zodiac has thirteen signs because the Sun spends a few days in Ophiuchus.

For the month of April, I intend to share a topic each day from Astronomy. Some things (like S is for Star) might be familiar, and others (C is for Chandrasekhar Limit) may be new to most people. I hope to present something for all levels of understanding, and welcome comments regarding what you think is cool about the universe.

Her Grace is an ambidextrous polymath in pursuit of a MSci in Astronomy from Swinburne University.  And she is an author. To realise your place in the Universe, look to the heavens. To escape your place in the Universe, read her books.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Get HER ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS for free this week

Read an Ebook Week
at Smashwords.

I'm rather fond of ebooks, for their convenience and pricing.  For the rest of this week (until Saturday), you can get an e-copy of HER ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS for free from Smashwords by using the SFREE coupon at checkout.

I'm a big proponent of literacy, especially escapist fiction. If giving away my book for free this week helps someone, then it's a good week.

If you've already got your copy of HER ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS, please share this info with someone else so they can get their hands on a great escapist novel.

If you do get a free copy, I ask that you kindly give it an honest review it at Amazon, Smashwords, GoodReads, or wherever you review novels. This helps other readers find good books.

Her Grace is also getting other Smashwords novels for reading, despite her ever-growing TBR pile.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Tuesday's Tale - Preparation

We had prayed to the Goddess to bless us all, to inspire us in the defence of our town.  I had chosen the lady chapel in which to pour out my trepidation. I had taken much longer than the others in my devotion, for much fear shook my heart, It's hard to receive inspiration when overwhelmed with emotion.

Yet in the end I knew what I needed in my battle against the dragon--a longsword, a short sword, three knives, a crossbow and two bolts.

Two bolts, the Goddess inspired me. I pondered upon the significance of two bolts. One for each eye, perhaps, assuming this was a double-eyed dragon and not one of those with multiple heads.

No, I mused as I raided the castle armory. If it was one of those, swords would have been all but useless, as were axes or other cutting weapons. Remove one head, two more grew in its place.

So, single-headed dragon, possibly two eyes, land-based, or so I presumed. I had yet to see what the Goddess had inspired others to bring. Maybe it would be winged, and someone was inspired to bring nets. With these, they could bring the dragon down and me, with my sword, could kill it.


On my way to the stables, I passed the kitchen.

Elphine was there, making a sandwich.

I stopped. "What are you doing?" Packing lunch? Why? It wasn't as if we had time to stop to eat in the middle of battle.

She lifted her shoulders. "The Goddess inspired me thus."

I blinked.

Before I overcame my confusion, the belltower rang out its warning.


A shudder ran through the stones beneath our feet. A mighty roar echoed through the corridors. Elphine and I froze. Dread pooled in my stomach. A dragon, here? At the castle?  IN the castle?

Elphine slapped her sandwich together, stuffed it in her jerkin and ran after me.

We were almost to the stables when the rest of the Defendors came running back our way.  "Dragon IN the castle!" Tarrand called, terror making his voice break.

Sure enough, his footsteps were dogged by the hungry roars of a dragon in quick pursuit.

I got a glimpse of it before I could unfreeze my feet from fear.

It was one of the serpentine ones, long, and skinny, ideal for hunting its meals through the narrow stone corridors of our keeps. Now the short sword made sense.

Still, it was best we pick our battleground.  Down a long corridor, set up a defence in on open room, with enough space for all of us, but effectively pinning the dragon at the opening?  Attack its head at once with our swords while it hadn't room to manoeuvre?

Hard to think strategy when one is on the run.  Not enough breath to shout out one's inspiration.

Like frightened cows, we herded together, instead of separating to surround the beast.  Thus, we were easily shepherded down a corridor until we came to a locked door.

Of course! Not everyone was a fool in the castle. A locked door could easily thwart a dragon, just as it did us.

We pooled together in this dead end, our pleas of succor to the Goddess thickening the air.

Rathan went down first, when the dragon seized him by the leg and dragged him away, screaming. The dragon retreated quickly. Soon, Rathan's noise stopped, whether by distance, or the end of his mortal coil.

We went nowhere. We stopped and stared where the dragon once was. "Now what?" I asked. Then I shook my head. "We know what we're up against."  The others nodded, our sudden surprise ebbing away.

We didn't have much time left to strategise. Either the dragon would be back, or would set off to another part of the castle.  Either way, we needed a plan.

A quick inventory of our Goddess-inspired armaments revealed mostly short swords and daggers, a few ropes, and Elphine's sandwich (which she failed to mention to the others).  Our plan was simple: lasso the dragon, shoot it in the eyes with my crossbow bolts, hack at it until the head came away. Until we knew more about the dragon and its magic, this was the best plan for now.

The dragon could be anything. Who knew what it could do? It didn't breathe fire (that we'd seen). Could it shoot poison? Did it have mesmer skills like the cobra-tamers in the marketplace?  Who knew? I loaded my crossbow with the first bolt while the others fashioned slipknots for lassos.

No sooner did we come up with our plan, then the dragon returned. Why not? It had an entire feast holed up in a dead end.

Granted, this feast came armed.  As the dragon roared through, Tarrand and Lucine looped the lassos about its neck and pulled. I let loose with the bolt, right at its eye.  My hands shook so much, the bolt missed its target and bounced off the dragon's hide.

So that's what the second bolt was for.

Elphine ran in with a scream, to jab at the dragon's nose with her sword while I reloaded.

The dragon didn't like this. It hissed and roared, struggling against the ropes about its neck.

Alas, my second bolt also bounced off. I threw the crossbow away in frustration.  Why would the Goddess inspire me to bring a crossbow?  Perhaps for the same reason she inspired Elphine to bring a sandwich.

Indeed, it was down to me and Elphine to kill the dragon.  Tarrand and Lucine had their hands full with the dragon's ropes, pulling as hard as they could. It didn't seem their efforts to choke the dragon were succeeding, but at least they kept it immobile. It couldn't get away, and it couldn't move.

We went in with swords, stabbing at its eyes, its nose, anywhere that the armour of its scale didn't cause our swords to bounce off.  That wasn't much. Every time we went for an eye, the dragon would blink, thus protecting that orb.  The nose, likewise, had the same sort of strange closing, to keep anything foreign out of its nostrils.

The mouth, with its many needled teeth, was not as vulnerable as we had hoped. It had clamped down on Elphine's sword, thus wrenching it from her hands. She retreated away while I drove at it once more, although my attacks were useless.

My heart thumped. Surely I was not the last defence this castle had against this dragon?  I stabbed again and again, uselessly, until my arms ached with effort.  I pulled back to Elphine, more from exhaustion, than anything else. My second intention, after gaining a rest, was to give Elphine a second sword.

Instead, she pulled out her sandwich, more in awe, than in hunger. She peeled it apart.

Armed with only this, she ran toward the dragon.

It pulled back, but only so far, due to the ropes. Elphine reached out and smeared the sandwich across the dragon's eyelids, then retreated.  I guess when all you've got left is a sandwich, you fight with what you've got.

I had a sword ready for her when she returned.  We braced for the dragon, but it never came forth.

Instead, the dragon blinked and blinked. It attempted to scrape its head against the walls to remove the sandwich. One piece of bread stuck to its eyelid, refusing to be dislodged.

"What kind of sandwich is that?" I breathed.

"Peanut butter," Elphine replied, still in awe.  She doesn't like peanut butter.

Neither did the dragon, apparently. Its roars changed to whines as it fought the ropes. It could not reach a claw around to scrape away the sandwich. Neither could it rub it off on the walls. We watched as its eyes swelled shut and its breathing grew laboured.

I had my sword ready, hoping for an opportunity to move in and finish the job, but Elphine stood in awe. "Is it... allergic?"

I eased my stance. As we watched, the dragon's face swelled, causing the scales to expand, opening its armor and giving us targets to stab for.

We did not wait but ran forth to slip our swords between the scales.

The dragon whimpered and thrashed its head. Eventually it slowed, more from its laboured breathing, rather than our pinpricks.  Tarrand and Lucine kept hold of the ropes, despite their exhaustion. Elphine and I helped them, for there wasn't much more we needed to do than watch the thing die from the shock of a peanut butter sandwich.

Later, we cut off its swollen head just in case.

While the castle servants came to drag the corpse away, we returned to the chapel to give thanks to the Goddess in all her wisdom, for inspiring Elphine.

I still think about the crossbow bolts.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Book Reviews - Japanophile and her Sci-Fi

Last week I acquired "Removed" (The Nogiku Series Book 1) by S. J. Pajonas as a perma-free promotion from one of my book deal mailing lists (BookBub?).

Please be advised that I mention plot spoilers. If you don't like spoilers, go read the books then come back here. The first one's a perma-free. If you don't like it, that's okay. Come back here, save yourself some time and read these spoilers.

But me, I enjoyed the first book enough I went and bought the omnibus. Glad to say this series gave me a week's cheerful reading. Check your brain in at the door and enjoy.

Removed is, essentially, a Japanese-inspired Science Fiction city-in-a-bubble story.  Nishikyo is a city in northern Canada that must exist under a dome, as the Earth's biosphere is pretty much hashed. While this is mere worldbuilding in the first novel, and not much about this comes to play here, I'm mentioning it now, because throughout this series of four books, in every book stuff gets ramped up big-time.  But for now, just know that Our Heroine lives in a dome city that's 75% Japanese, located in northern Canada.

Half-Japanese Sanaa Griffin is an engineer who likes her job, has a friend-with-benefits and lives with her lesbian aunts after being orphaned as a toddler.

Then the middle-aged Mark Sakai comes along and essentially forces a job transfer on her. She's now shoved in some room doing surveillance video analysis.  Who are all these people on Big Bro Cam and why is she watching them and plotting their every move?  Because politics.

But why her?  All Sanaa wants to do is go to her old job, pal about with her besties and dream of love (as every twenty-year-old Japanese girl is supposed to do).

At least Mark Sakai hasn't completely isolated her from the world. That would be creepy. Instead, he introduces her to cute and sexy Jiro, who teaches Sanaa martial arts and self-defence.

So, what is all this for?  Surprise, Sanaa is actually the last surviving descendant from Japan's Last Emperor, and apparently the Empress-to-be of what's left of Japan in Nishikyo. [Whoa! Level up!] No wonder she's gotta bone up on her politics and the Clans.

Her mother, it turns out, was assassinated, and it was believed Sanaa had also died at the same time. But thanks to Mark Sakai, Sanaa was really switched out with her cousin (who did die), thus hiding her from those who would seek to kill the last empress.

So, now that she's a legal adult, she's come out as the empress, and certain clans are unhappy. So much so, they attempt to assassinate her during an earthquake at the kabuki theatre. (Remember that damaged biosphere? Causes issues.)

But Sanaa's a tough bird, and rescues herself from her would-be assassin by cutting off her own hair (because he was using it as a leash) and then cutting off his head with a sword. Bad-ass.

The plot of this book was thick and well-paced and the voice was easy to read.  I had to read the next one.

Released, book 2, starts with Sanaa in isolation while she heals from her ordeal. Her emergence had led to a bit of an escalation in political tensions, especially as many people died in the ninja attack on the kabuki theatre.  Sanaa was not raised to be empress. Her aunts raised her to have a normal life, even going so far to live in a non-Japanese neighbourhood. She is not ready to deal with the emotional baggage of being an empress.

The only steady influence in her life is her boyfriend Jiro. He's solid and unwavering.  Even Mark Sakai, who's taken on a strange sort of head-of-the-clan uncle type, is untrustworthy; he holds too many secrets.

When Sanaa gets out of isolation-hospital, she returns to Nishikyo to a chilly reception. A lot of people blame her for the ninja attack that killed many family members. Everyone's intertwined in one way or another, and family deaths hit them hard.

Also, clan loyalties waver and lots of Old Business comes out.

But she's gotta pull it together and she's got to use her natural charm to help restore peace among the clans. This is very necessary, as there's a desperate need to leave Earth. For decades there's been a plan to evacuate earth for a habitable world known as Yusei. Politics happen, and the coordinates for Yusei got changed. (But nobody questions this, or asks WTF. They just go along with it, trusting that they're told this planetary candidate is viable, and a better option than the other one.)

Sanaa manages to get her act together enough to get the clans to a standstill enough for the first wave to board the starships and take off for this new world. [Whoa! Level up!]   Bye, Earth.

The third book Reunited ups the ante. When the immigrants arrive, they discover the planet Yusei is already inhabited by previous Japanese spacefarers, who left earth over three hundred years ago. [Whoa! Level up!]  A few people knew about this secret, knew exactly which planet the previous travellers had left for, and a couple of the clans knew exactly where they were going, and were hoping to ally themselves with the luddite Fujiwara clan who lived on Yusei. This is so they can finally overthrow Sanaa as empress and get on with their lives.

Also, Sanaa's B/C implant failed, and she's knocked up. Yay, this is what she wanted.

So, the traitorous clans kidnap Sanaa and sell her to Fujiwara, who don't intend on killing her, but "breeding the gaijin out of her bloodline", and thus place her descendants under Fujuwara control.

Lots of people, including Jiro, think this is a bad idea, and they break her out of there before son-of-Fujiwara can get over his brewers droop and his FA preferences.

Alas, with the stress of her rescue, and issues with high metabolisms and imperial stress, Sanaa loses the baby. For this, and other reasons (like misogyny), Sanaa decides Fujiwara's gotta go.  Meanwhile, a local ally's horse seems to like her very much.

Secrets she learns:  Mark Sakai once had the hots for Sanaa's mom, but her mother chose an English gaijin to father her child. Mark then goes off with Sanaa's paternal aunt, fathers the cousin that died when her mother was assassinated, and does his best to make up for past mistakes. Regrets abound.

The last book, Reclaimed, is where Sanaa realises she needs to overthrow the Fujiwara clan and deliver the world back to true and good citizens everywhere. Too many people are dying in the conflict and laying the blame at her feet. But with so many clans against her, she's got to find her allies elsewhere. And those allies are....

...the animals.  Turns out, the previous settlers of Yusei genetically engineered the animals to be able to technologically converse with certain people who had a mind-meld chip. But they also genetically altered the animals to be able to recognise the genes of the emperor's line.  Turns out, Sanaa has the ability (once she gets the chip implanted) to talk with all animals. [Whoa! Level up!] At this point I was seriously questioning my suspension of disbelief, but thought, I'm this far, and I'm reading this for escapist purposes, so I choose to accept this and go with the flow.

Sanaa's ability to communicate with all animals is unique, but not unusual. Lots of other people are able to sync up with a certain type, say, cats, or horses. It's this animal network that provides a planet with severely limited techonology a way of communicating across long distances without having to reply on Imperial post.

There's a big battle at the end, with all the bad guys intending on taking over a tiny little town of artists, because it's a good place to gather armies and plan their major (and final) assault on the empress' city.

Sanaa and her mates sneak into town ahead of the baddies, and spring an ambush on them (with lions and other wildlife assisting) before they can get their act together.  Chalk up a win for the good guys.


So yeah, this series is plot-heavy, though sometimes I think the reasoning behind the plot is stretching it. I read this because I wanted to go on a fun ride, and I got it.

Recommendation:  Yeah. If you like stories heavy with Japanese influences and a surprising amount of Fantasy in your Sci-Fi, you may enjoy this. (Never hurts to try the perma-free.) I do recommend you suspend your disbelief for a lot of stuff.  Don't think too hard about this one. This is brain candy, this is the cupcake in your reading diet.

Will I seek out more from this author? Probably will, but after having indulged in four books over the week, I need a palate-cleanser.

Her Grace thinks the perma-free model is a great way to draw in new readers.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Palentine's Day!

Yeah, you heard me. Pal-entine's.

Far too many people feel angst at a day where the blatant celebration of romantic relationships is rather painful.

Don't get hung up on thinking that Romance = Woe-mance and Eros is the only love god. If you think 14 Feb is only for people bumping uglies (or attempting to), then you're shortchanging yourself.

Love exists in all forms. The wise woman realises this and celebrates the love she does have in her life, however it appears.

Celebrate your pals (friends) and any other relationships you've got that brings enrichment to your life.

What I did:

1. Brought valentine heart candy for my co-workers at the Day Job. We spent some time talking about what we liked about our jobs (such as the geographical convenience, and we don't have any weird dysfunctional co-workers).

2. Gave Their Ladyships a box of chocolates. Sharing is a kind of love.

I wish I had the wisdom to celebrate Palentine's Day when I was young and (sadly) single. I would have been much happier with myself if I had known this.

Her Grace will still continue to write Romance novels, not so much for the celebration of love, but the celebration of happiness.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tuesday's Tale--What Rock?

After three weeks of ghosting, Brody txt'd me to meet him at Java Jive. Maybe now I could get some answers.

He was late, as usual, not that I was surprised. I'd already grabbed a mocha so I didn't look lame sitting at a table with nothing in my hands. Nothing like a cuppa to excuse away public solitude. Even sat at one of the window tables to keep an eye out for him covered for me as "people-watching".

I nursed that sucker for fifteen minutes until he slid into the seat opposite me. Didn't meet my eyes, didn't even have a frappuccino to keep his nervous hands busy.  "We gotta break up," he muttered.

I blinked at him. "What?"

"Sorry," he mumbled, then slid out of his seat. Head down and tail tucked between his legs, he left Java Jive. Through the window, I watched him approach the car that had been out there for ten minutes. How stupid of me not to recognise it until now. I knew what his mother looked like. Why didn't I spot her before.

Duh, my radar had been trained for Brody.

As Brody slid into the passenger seat, I flew after him, knocking on the car window.  "Hey," I shouted through the glass. "What's up with this."

The automatic window rolled down, but not by Brody.  His mother, who I had only met once and I thought I had liked, leaned over. "Haven't you done enough damage already?"

Excuse me?

"I'm sick of all the midnight calls. I've thrown away everything you've left on the porch and we've already reported the rock through the window and the thefts to the police."

Rock? What rock?  All I could do was stand there, mouth agape. Thefts?

Brody shaded his eyes. I don't blame him. "Mom, can we just go?"

But his mother wasn't finished. "You're the reason we pulled him out of school and sent him to another." Not that I would have noticed such a thing. We went to different schools.  "I've already spoken to his new principal. If you attempt to transfer schools to get near him again, Donna, I'm taking this matter straight to the police."

At her final words, I leaned on the window, then flicked Brody hard on the ear. What I wanted to do was pull him from that vehicle and pound his face into the sidewalk. "Mrs Allen, I'm not Donna. My name is Brenda. And I can assure you that you nor your son will ever see me again."

I turned to him. "You're right, Brody. We're breaking up. You've been cheating on me. Good luck with Donna."

I had a mocha to finish.

Her Grace is just as astonished to have written a contemporary YA tragedy. Such a change from a frothy HEA Romance.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Lovely review of "The White Feather"

Mosey on over to Cupcakes and Popcorn to see their lovely review of "The White Feather".

Part I like the best:

"With no small amount of witty dialogues – courtesy of our dear ghost – and beautiful, innocent romance, this book is certainly something else. While ghost romance has become quite popular recently, I found this one to be a much better choice than other titles of this kind I’ve read."

My thanks to Anastasia and Lydia for this happy review.

As for the rest of you? Have you read it yet? If you have, do me a solid and post your honest review to Amazon, Goodreads or wherever you prefer to review.

Haven't got your copy yet?! (Surely not! Time to rectify.)

Amazon |  B&N | KoboBooks | TWRP

Also available in paperback for those who like heft.

Her Grace plans on having more witty dialogue in "The Charm of Truth", out soon.