Friday, 31 January 2014

A Feminist Rant

It's TASE day, but I'm not gonna talk. I'm gonna rant.  I'm gonna rant because I adhere to the principle that should a feminist see injustice, she must speak up.

I'm a feminist.  That should not be a surprise.

I tend to follow the First Wave Feminist tradition of the 19th Century, the same tradition that spawned Bluestockings and Suffragettes.  This is because my great-great grandmothers were feminists, and many of the men they associated with supported their feminist sensibilities.

My feminist tradition believes thus:

  • The liberation of everyone, female and male from unjust and outdated expectations. (Frex, they support a man's freedom of choice to be a stay-at-home dad, if he should so choose.)
  • A woman's right to education.
  • A woman's right to a job suitable to her education, skills and life choices, and to be paid as much as a man would be.
  • A woman's right to independence.
  • A woman's right to develop herself in every way so she can be a strong, supportive partner in an interdependence relationship.

...And the list goes on.  My brand of feminism is not the man-hating flavour so often found in Second Wave Feminism (they scare me a bit).  This is important for me to note here, because not everyone realises there are different flavours of feminism.  Yes, many of us like men, and wish them the best.
Last week I had an encounter with an anti-feminist man.  This man has a hatred towards his grandson's chosen wife.  We're talking a bitter, red-raged, nasty, pull-out-his-hair solid going-to-hell hatred.

Why?  Because she isn't a weak and submissive girl who should give up all her own traditions and beliefs and adhere strictly to his (the grandfather's).  

Essentially, his anger is a long-standing temper tantrum because he's not getting his own way.   (In his defence, he has had a hard couple of years with some really bad Life Events throwing a spanner in his works.  That sort of thing can make the nobler choices harder.)  But honestly, I think he needs to get over his anger and forgive.

The grandson's wife is a strong, smart, centered, spiritual woman I am proud to call a friend.  Ever since the grandson and she met about four years ago, she has been nothing but good for him.  She's encouraged and supported him in making the best choices--choices the grandfather generally supports on the whole (in theory).

But will he look at that and forgive the traits that make her who she is?  No.  Instead, he chooses to dwell on the negative.  He even complained about how the napkins were done at the wedding.  I kid you not. He could not be happy about a single thing that day, despite the fact that the Most Important Part was done perfectly. (The napkins?  Honestly!)

I called him on it later, and ended up listening to a diatribe of him using my beloved religion as a thinly-veiled twisted justification on male superiority and female inferiority.  (Just for the record, my religion is chock full of feminism from its inception several hundred years ago. Some time I shall have to tell you beautiful stories of strong, confident women who have changed the world.)


So, I came across him again last week, as I inevitably do, being good friends with the newest generation of this family. He was backbiting his grandson's chosen wife, saying how he wanted to destroy her, because he's dead set that she's going to "completely ruin" his grandson.

Nothing is further than the truth.  All you have to do is look into the grandson's eyes to realise he's a full-grown man who is very content with his choice of bride.  She's brought out the best in him, I opine.

Anyhow, like any good feminist, I spoke up at this rather unfair treatment of a woman who was not currently there to defend herself.

And boy, did I get an earful, not only of her crimes, but of MINE.  He's fully convinced that I'm in league with the Anti-Christ, how my beliefs go against the Church, that I'm out to destroy every man I come across and a whole lot of other blatant untruths.

Will I ever be able to convince him to change his views?  No, no matter how much I wish I could.

But will I stop speaking up?   Never.

Any time I have an experience that makes me consciously think about my feminist values, it makes me reflect on many things, including my portrayal of women and men in my fiction.

I write fantasy, and I write historical.  In my fantasy novels I tend to stay away from gender inequality (and racial inequality, now that I think about it).  When people are at odds, it is because of who the individuals are, and not any particular stereotypes (that I am aware of.  I'm not a hundred percent sure of this, because prejudice is often unconscious).

I write a lot of Regency Romance.  Was there gender inequality during the Regency?  Boy, was there! It was so bad, First Wave Feminism couldn't help but be born.

A lot of that inequality creates some good Conflict in a story (such as the title and inheritance of a man goes to another male heir, and not to his daughters, should he have no son--Pride and Prejudice, anyone?).   Yet when it comes to the individual character development and interrelationship between Our Hero and Our Heroine, I find I must steer well clear of the accepted gender roles of the day.

I still must keep some elements (such as a father opening his daughter's mail) for realistic world-building.  But otherwise, my characters interact as if they were from the Twenty-First Century.

And nasty, angry, prideful characters who do their best to destroy the happiness of Our Hero or Our Heroine, always get their comeuppance.

Her Grace feels better after having got that off her chest.  She tries her best not to harbour negative feelings, as they are destructive.  Meanwhile, here is a picture of one of her favouritest feminists:
Yes, this is Patrick Stewart.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

eBook Readers

You're looking at a thousand books, in theory.
I love my ebook reader!  What a beautiful little technology.  For bibliophiles such as myself, it's perfect.

In the States the dominant brands are Kindle (from Amazon) and Nook (from Barnes & Noble).  In Australia, the dominant brand is Kobo.

I have a Kobo Aura HD (see illustration).  Love the sucker.

Why I love my ebook reader:

1.  It's technology, baby!  Technology thrills me.  Always has.  Ever since I got a calculator as a wee sproglet, I've been fascinated by gadgets.  No, I don't run out and buy the latest willy-nilly (so, no iPhone 5 for me). My acquisition is a thoughtful choice, guaranteeing that I will use whatever it is I've bought.

2.  So... Many... Books...  An ereader holds a thousand books (or more).   I own over a thousand dead-tree books, and they take up a lot of space.  (Not that I mind.)  Being able to take an ebook reader with me anywhere and have a thousand books at my beck and call is pretty heady.

3. E-ink Technology.  I've used a computer for over thirty years. I've got a laptop.  Got a smart phone, and I often play with a daughter's tablet.  But my poor eyes can only stand so much staring at those bright screens.

E-ink technology is different.  It doesn't glow like a computer screen, it reflects natural light.  I've had no problems looking at its display for hours and hours on end.  It's like looking at a piece of paper.  As soon as they master technicolor and quick refresh, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more computer/notebook/tablet monitors with e-ink technology.

Also, e-ink technology doesn't consume as much energy as, say, a tablet screen.  My ebook reader lasts for weeks on a single charge.

4. Reading in the dark.  Yes, e-ink technology is a reflective technology.  So my Kobo has a light source built in. But instead of shining straight forward, they've got the lights in the bevel of the ereader, so the light reflects off the e-ink surface in a most pleasant manner.  And I can adjust the brightness to suit my needs..

5. Library books.  I can check ebooks out from my local library anytime, anywhere.  Even better, I don't have to worry about damaging the book, or having its spine crack, or losing the book.  At the end of the borrow period, the book checks itself back in.  No late fees!

6. Lightweight.  Doesn't weigh much, so it's easy to carry.  It's thin, and doesn't take up as much space in my bag as a book does.

7. Bells & Whistles.  I can zoom the text to a comfortable size. I turn a page with a touch of my finger (or toe).  I can look up a word in the dictionary. I can dog-ear the page corners.  I can make notes. I can do all sorts of things I can't or shouldn't do to a library book.  That's awesome.

An ebook reader does exactly what I want it to do: let me read books for hours.

Ain't technology grand?
Her Grace has a copy of As Good As Gold on her ebook reader.  She has yet to read it in its finished form, though.  

Monday, 27 January 2014

Happy Book (re)Birthday!

My novella "As Good As Gold" is out today from Amazon!

This is my story from "The Enchanted Faerie" anthology, released as a single title.

Daywen Athalia wants love--true and lasting. Fearing a future of bitter loneliness, she seeks help from a gypsy woman. The price: a hundred pieces of gold. Daywen's never had two shillings to rub together in her life. Where's she going to find a hundred gold pieces? 

Bel MacEuros made a career of theft from fey creatures. When the cursed gold he rightfully stole from a gnome is taken from him by Daywen, the consequences could bless or break his life. 

It is not the gnome's curse or a gypsy's blessing but another magic, far deeper and more powerful, that will change their lives forever.

If you've already got a copy of TEF, you don't have to get As Good As Gold (though I wouldn't mind if you did).

Feel free to give an honest rating on Amazon or Goodreads if you have read this story.

Her Grace wishes you a Happy Australia Day, mate!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Read Non-Fiction

They read non-fiction in Victoria.
Read non-fiction.  I do.  And not just for research either.

I can hear several of you out there going ick!  (Take a moment to list the reasons why you don't like non-fiction.  Then go find books that don't have those reasons.)

If you don't like non-fiction, you're reading the wrong kind.  Believe me, there's a wide variety of non-fiction out there.  If there is not a selection of non-fiction out there that would appeal to you, you must be a very dull person indeed. (Now, I doubt that, so it must be a case of you not having found it yet.)

When I say non-fiction, what are you thinking?

Have you considered:

Financial books
Magazines and Newspapers
and more?

These are all non-fiction.  Essentially anything found in the "Dewey Decimal Classification" shelves at the library are non-fic.  (Technically, fiction also belongs in DDC, under numbers such as 813, etc.  But they are often shelved separately, as some people have issues telling fantasy from reality.)

If you are not a regular reader of non-fiction, how about you go browse the non-fiction section at the library and select something.  Everything's arranged by category, so like stuff is easy to find.

Don't be afraid of non-fiction.  It has its advantages:

1.  You don't have to read the whole thing.  Really.  You can read bits and pieces and get out of it exactly what you want.
2.  There's always another book just like it, if you do choose to read the whole thing, or want to know more.
3.  If you don't like one book, go find another.  (oh, wait. That works for fiction as well).

So... gonna give it a try?  If you browse through my TBR piles, you'll often see some non-fic in there.
Here's some long-winded opinion on a few of the above-mentioned non-fiction categories:

Memoirs:  These are real-life stories of people who have lived and shared this blue marble with you.  Personally, I find it difficult to read memoirs, especially contemporary memoirs (as my preferred genre is escapist fiction).  However, every once in a while I'll come across a memoir with a subject and theme so compelling I can't help but read it.

Truth can be stranger than fiction.  Frex, I read a memoir last year of a mother who travelled to Central America in search of an exorcism for her rather obnoxious child.  The exorcism worked.  (I know a few children who could benefit from a Central American exorcism.)

In the memoir field, I prefer memoirs from history, or something so other-worldly it takes me away from my contemporary life and satisfies my escapist desires.

Biographies: Biographies are different from Memoirs.  Memoirs are a single story from the life of a person.  Biographies (and their evil twin Autobiographies) are The Story of the life of a person. There are plenty of biographies of people living (Frex, Dawn French's "Dear Fatty". hint: Fatty is the nickname for someone else.) and no longer with us (like Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire).

I'm not terribly into the biographies of living people (with the exception of Dawn French.  And I would completely read Richard Armitage's biography, simply because he keeps so much of himself a mystery).  I prefer the biographies of those who are dead, the longer, the better. Again, it's that escapist in me expressing their preference.

Now, a word about autobiographies. I have a prejudice against them.  I once railed against referencing an autobiography in a series of articles I once wrote.  A miffed reader with a stick up her butt, a chip on her shoulder and an axe to grind took me to task.  "How can you refuse to reference [a particular source].  It's [the article's subject]'s autobiography!  You can't get more authentic than that!"

I strongly beg to differ.  I dislike autobiographies as an "authentic" source mainly because they are auto.  They are self-written.  Unless they have been vetted by a Very Good Editor (which too many of them are not), they are coloured by the author's distorted view of themselves.

I'm sorry, Humanity, but far too many of us do not have an authentic picture of ourselves.  I've read enough autobiographies to know that the authors are trying to present themselves as they wish the world to see them, and not necessarily as the world sees them.

That said, autobiographies do a very subtextually good job in presenting a person as they are.  Y'all remember the kid from high school who thought he was so great?  We all knew he wasn't.

True Crime:  I consider this a cross between memoir and journalism.  Lots of people enjoy true crime.  Those sorts of people like keepin' it real.

I confess I read very little because I'm not a fan of crime on the whole, I dislike reality, and there's never enough info to satisfy my desire for a complete plot arc.  Details go missing, and sometimes the crime does not get solved.  This annoys me.  I'll keep my Crime fictional, thank you very much.  I wanna know whodunnit and that they get their just desserts.

How-To, Manuals, "For Dummies":  Wanna know how to do stuff?  This is the stuff to read.  I especially recommend the "For Dummies" (or "The Idiot's Guide") series.  These things are great!

Everyone can use a few more skillz.  Can you change the oil on your car?  Grab a manual and give it a go. Many libraries have them.  Play the guitar?  Guitar for Dummies, naturally.  Want to make a beautiful three-egg sponge?  Hah!  Cookbook!

Pretty much anything you want to do, there's a book out there on how to do it.

Do manuals and How-To feel a bit overwhelming?  Go lite and google life hacks for some clever and easy stuff.

Self-Help:  Actually, the thought of anything to do with psychology makes my skin crawl (unless you're a neuropsychologist who loves scanning brains to see what makes 'em tick.  That's cool).  Yet there are so many self-help manuals out there.

I confess, I've read a dozen or so, usually at the insistence of other people.  I really should read more, as they do give an interesting insight into how Humans tick.

Reading one and adhering to its principles is, in my opinion, a one-way ticket to Nutsville.  Reading a dozen and gleaning wisdom from the chaff, that's not too bad an idea.

Now, Finance manuals.  How-To or Self-Help?  Dunno.  I absolutely adore them, especially Paul Clitheroe and Mr Money Mustache.

Magazines and Newspapers:   Yes, folks, the majority of these are non-fiction.  And you read them.

Now, go expand your reading repertoire.
Her Grace is awfully fond of reading.  She hopes you are too.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cluey enough?

Last week some fellow book-lovers were complaining about how a book kept spoon-feeding them clues.  They felt a bit disappointed that the author didn't trust them enough to figure out what was going on on their own.

Several years ago a contemporary short story came through our workshop for critique. I quite enjoyed it, but several other readers didn't.  They didn't "get it", they said.

The poor author then had to explain what she was trying to do with the story.  99% of the time when this happens, "If the audience doesn't get it, you didn't write it right."

But this time, that wasn't true.  I loved her story. It was creepy and subtle and made me shiver in delight.  How could the others not get this?

They weren't the audience.   Alas, that author didn't listen to my solo opinion, but the opinion of the masses.  She rewrote her story and pretty much ruined it.  It needed to be subtle to be creepy to be delicious.

At what point is a story too blatant, at what point is it too obscure, and where is the sweet spot in between?

As an author, I struggle with this issue.  I want my readers to get the whole enchilada. I want them to marvel in the subtleties and the nuances of the story.  But if I'm too blatant in my explanations, I'm talking down to my readers.  But if I am too subtle, they miss the clues and miss out on a lovely undercurrent.

I wanted to shake my fellow workshoppers and shout, "Don't you get it?  It's the roommate!  She's doing all this! Don't blame the text!"  But they did blame the text. And that was a shame, because their blame led to the death of the text.  Alas.

Poorly written is poorly written, but if you don't get it, it doesn't necessarily mean a story is poorly-written. You might not be its audience.

Text is written for a certain audience.  Fr'ex, remember the MG series Encyclopedia Brown?  Drank those in whilst a wee lass.  It always amazed me how Leroy always managed to figure out the mystery (especially when so many adults around him could not).  I couldn't figure out the mystery.1  I squirmed in amazement and loved those books. Many years later I gave them a read again.  This time, the clues were laid out so obvious, I wonder how on earth I could have missed them back then.

Eight-year-old me was Sobol's audience.  Forty-something me, not so much.

Ultimately, it all depends on the audience.  If something strikes you as too simplistic or too obscure, you're not its audience.
1 I don't know it was so much that I wasn't clever back then, but more that I was too painfully aware that being clever (like I wanted to be) wasn't The Done Thing.  Little girls like me weren't supposed to be smart and clever and able to solve Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, so I think I might have deliberately dumbed myself down to fit in.  Oh, how I desperately wanted to fit in to the homogenous culture of my childhood!  (I didn't, no matter how hard I tried.)  

Pretty much everyone who surrounded me was neither smart nor clever.  And that hurt.  I never realised just how much it hurt until I grew up and found the smart and clever people.  It was like coming home.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cover Reveal!

My Novella "As Good As Gold" is due for a January 27th exclusive release with World Wide release coming in May 2014 from The Wild Rose Press.

And now, my gorgeous, evocative cover:

Daywen Athalia wants love--true and lasting. Fearing a future of bitter loneliness, she seeks help from a gypsy woman. The price: a hundred pieces of gold. Daywen's never had two shillings to rub together in her life. Where's she going to find a hundred gold pieces?

Bel MacEuros made a career of theft from fey creatures. When the cursed gold he rightfully stole from a gnome is taken from him by Daywen, the consequences could bless or break his life.
It is not the gnome's curse or a gypsy's blessing but another magic, far deeper and more powerful, that will change their lives forever.

This is my story from "The Enchanted Faerie" released as a single title.  If you never had a chance to get a copy of "The Enchanted Faerie" but want to read my story, here's your chance.

Friday, 17 January 2014

What's her name?

When it comes to naming character, I'm terrible.  I could tell you all sorts of things about my characters.  I could even tell you all about their great-grandparents. But ask me their name?  I'll draw a blank.

So, I've got a few tools I rely on to name my characters:

Names with Meaning.  I love raiding foreign languages for translated words that match a characteristic of a character.  I've got to put some thought into it, however, because some translations are painfully obvious; calling a character Estupido leaves nothing to the imagination. Lord Malheur is somewhat of an improvement.  How about Mor-Lath?

Some useful tools:   Babelfish, Google Translate and Bing Translator.

Historically Accurate Names.  When I write Regency Romance or Alternate History, I strive to make my names common to the period. Having a name that is uncharacteristic of the period makes it difficult for readers to suspend their disbelief. Even going for a very untraditional spelling can shake the illusion you're trying to create.

Where to find what names were popular when: Baby Name Wizard Voyager, but be careful or you might be drawn in to the Research Trap.

Addendum:  If writing about a specific geographic area, try to stick with names that fit that geographical area.  Don't stick a Juan in Russia or a Matai in England, unless you've got a really, really plausible reason for it.  Until the end of the 20th Century, geography really mattered.

Oh, look! Popular Baby Names in New South Wales.

Anecdote:  I had a character in a village once. She had a rather unusual name that didn't fit with anyone else's; a couple of characters remarked on it. Turns out, her father was from somewhere else, and this was a family name he'd brought with him.

Borrow a Name.  If a character of mine reminds me of someone, I have no shame in borrowing their name (or a close approximation).  So if you see a character featuring your name, be flattered. Unless, of course I don't like you.  Then woe betide your pathetic, doomed character.  I've even changed characters names because I met someone unpleasant who shared a name with them.

Where to find such names?  Your old high school yearbook, your Outlook Address Book at work or your Facebook page.

Throw a Dart.  AKA "I Feel Lucky" aka googling words associated with the idea of my story and take the first name that shows up in the list.  It's random, but it works, if a character's name doesn't have to be anything special.

Baby Name Books.  What writer hasn't perused their pages?  Many a writer has a copy of baby names on their research shelf next to a Rhyming Dictionary, "The Artist's Way" and "On Writing".  Obviously.
Sometimes it's important to me to have a character name right away, or a name will suggest itself. Other times, nothing's striking my fancy.  I'm not above naming a character SSS or MMM as a placeholder until I can come up with a better name.

Sometimes these placeholders morph into the character's name.  I have a King Wasson.  He's the Son of Wacifice.  And Wacifice got his name from What's His Face. Yeah. Real imaginative.

On the whole, Her Grace considers names important.  After all, she did spend many formative years being called 'Emily', and once comforted a young girl who was sick of being called 'Twin'. Stories behind names are interesting. If a family naming tradition holds true, she looks forward to having a grandson named Basil.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My Research Fun (or how to get infected)

I recently finished a short story featuring Gene Therapy applications. Your eyes might glaze over, but I found it fascinating!

For the purpose of my story, essentially, transgenes are inserted into cells via viruses for a beneficial purpose.

I love research.  I learn so many interesting things.  Enthralling. Engrossing. Mesmerising. Sometimes I get carried away, and find out I've spent hours and hours on all sorts of things.  It's a habit I wonder if I should curb or encourage.  Not sure.

Anyhow, back to introducing new DNA/RNA into cells via viruses.  If you were brave enough to click through to the Wikipedia article, you'd have discovered that all sorts of little issues prevent gene therapy from being a Really Useful Technology.  That's a shame. It's a fascinating concept.

It's a good thing I was writing a science fiction story. (Yeah, I write sci-fi too.)

Sci-fi is fun in that you can take some plausible science idea and "tweak" it a bit.  In real life, gene therapy isn't a wide-spread technology, but in my story it is.  Suspend your disbelief and play along at home.  This is why we call it science fiction and not science fact.  You want fact?  Go read Scientific American.  It's cool and is a hotbed for skiffy ideas.

In science fiction the science doesn't have to be exact, but it does have to be plausible. If, to 90% of the readers the science appears to work, they’ll suspend their disbelief and go with the flow.

Stories are about conflict.  Sci-fi takes an idea or a situation and posits, "What if?"

I had some conflict in that a certain number of cells required certain genes to make up for a default.  The best way to introduce those gene was by transduction with a virus. (Transfection, which is a cooler word, is the introduction of genes by a non-viral method. How disappointing. Not as sexy.)

Now, where'd the virus come from, and how do we prevent the body from wiping it out, as bodies are very good at doing?  Thus, an interesting quandary for the story.

The actual conflict comes between two biohacker sisters who are competing to get the best delivery method to save their dying mother.  Could I have written any old story about two competing sisters with a dying mother?  Sure.  But the fact that the potential to save her lies within their grasp adds just that extra bit more of emotional angst.

I also had a few other skiffy elements in the story, namely insurance company-mandated Humour Therapy and a Blues Club (complete with jazz) available by Rx only.

Her Grace is fond of science, especially Biology and most especially Astronomy. How could she not write sci-fi?  Wanna engage her interest? Talk to her about stars and other heavenly bodies. She'll accept the demotion of Pluto, only because it means the re-promotion of Ceres.  If only Rosalind Franklin was given the same love.

2014: a Year of Creativity

This year I have chosen to really indulge in my professional writing career and Get Stuff Done. Turns out, I've chosen a really good year to do this:

  • It's a Year of 7: because of this, it is most open to analysis and research, the seeking of knowledge, scientific and inventive, a year of study and meditation. 
  • It's the Year of the Horse: a year for improvement. (Hey, who can't use with getting better?)  So, high energy, brightness, intelligence and ingenious communication.  
  • It's a Year of Fire:  the sign of creativity and inspiration, also of increase.  As a fire grows greater the more you feed it, so can creative pursuits grow.
Looks like I'll be getting stuff done.

Her Grace, when not figuring out what to do, is busy doing it.  She's hoping to have a more productive publishing year than last year.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Slacking Off is Good for the Soul

Sometimes you've just gotta slack off.

I recently perused a blog post:  "The Case for Slacking Off" by Prof. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries.

No, it's not an apologist piece on laziness or dullness. Quite the opposite. It acknowledges the natural rhythm of creativity.  Sometimes creativity flows and something is made.  Other times, the creative juices run dry and nothing will happen.  

Every writer has experienced this.  You sit down to a blank page and... nothing.  It's not Writer's Block (that's a different post).  It may be that in the natural rhythms of the creative cycle, the writer is sitting at the low point.

And not just writers.  Musicians, artists, choreographers, you name it.  If a person's job is dependent on them cranking the wheels of their brains and creating something, they'll go through highs and lows.

Highs are times of output.  Lows are times not of input, but of rest and recovery.

Sometimes the brain's gotta take a break.

The cycle's got three parts to it: the Input Phase, the Output Phase, the Resting Phase. 

Input Phase:  This is a phase for learning, for gathering info, for studying what others have done.  Writers read (oh, boy, do we read!!). Artists go to galleries. We all view the world. This is when we take in stuff.  Then we tuck this stuff in the back of our head (or the subconscious/unconscious mind, a very powerful tool in the Creative Artist's toolbox).  Later, this info will come back to us during the Output Phase.

Output Phase:  This is the obvious part of Being Creative.  This is when the novels get written, the dances get danced, the pictures get painted.  People can see the results of the creative cycle. All the stuff we've taken in has now been process and we have come up with something to communicate what's gone on in our brains.

Maybe people make the mistake of thinking that just because nothing's being put out during the other two phases, that nothing's happening.  Not true.  Like the tide moves in and out, so must our creativity ebb and flow.

Resting Phase:  After a good bout of creative work, the brain's gonna want some down time.  This is important, otherwise we can experience burnout. 

Prof KdeV recognised this last step, this Resting Phase, as a very important step, not just for us Creative Types, but anyone whose job is to Think.  (Scientists, Business Executives, anyone?)

I've known for a long time how important this "slacking off" is.

One of the skills I imbued in my offspring was how to meditate. (Not enough people acquire this skill, I opine.)  True meditation involves stilling the mind, letting it rest, and allowing it to function on a higher plane.

One of my offspring is an Artist.  Early on, I recognised she had creative periods and non-creative periods. Sometimes, during her creative periods, she had a tough time turning off her brain so she could go to sleep, so she could be well-rested for school.

So I taught her, and the rest of them, to meditate.  Now she can turn off her brain when she really needs to.

Her Grace is fond of occasionally Slacking Off.  After a day or so, she finds her energy renewed and she can go back to creating awesome stuff.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Gratuitious Richard Armitage Post

Because the man is gorgeous in so many ways, inside and out.  

(Cue TASE Day.  After all, it can't be all work and no play.)

Recently, Risky Regencies had a discussion over whether or not his bare bottom shots were the work of a stunt man or stand-in.

I say he does all his own stuntwork, and I offer this web page (selected from many for its erudite accompanying discussion) with select photos as proof.  There's a reason for the nickname "Peaches".

Meanwhile, here is a gratuitious Colin Firth shot. What makes him so sexy is this wet shirt.

Back to Richard, shirtless.  A wet shirt would make those chesticles look even better.  (Hey, nothing a shirt and a bucket of warm water can't fix.)

By the way, did you know Richard was in Star Wars?  Even had a line, which ended up on the cutting room floor, alas.

Meanwhile, here is a non-exhaustive list of place to kiss Richard Armitage.   Me, here's mine:
In the back of a cab.
In the stairwell.
On set.
Off set.
On a balcony.
On a bridge in the rain.
In a sunny meadow.
At the door.
Over an altar.
At the train station.

Did I forget anywhere?

Her Grace also admires Richard because he's sweet, thoughtful, kind, funny, a hard worker and you never hear a bad thing said about him in the gossip rag, unlike so many other celebrities. Her Grace has been looking to him for fame lessons.  He seems to have it down pat.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Why I Post My TBR Pile

Someone asked me why I regularly post my TBR (To Be Read) pile.
Yeah. Sometimes the TBR Pile
looks like this.

First and foremost, because I want to share what I'm reading. Sometimes it's really good (Like Scott Westerfield's Leviathan series), sometimes it's not so good.  But something about the book hooked me enough to want to read it.

For me, it is not enough to just read a book.  I wanna talk about it. I want to share why I liked it (or not).  I want to talk craft, reader reaction, and more.

Also, I want to help my writerly peeps.  We've worked hard on these books.  They've filled our souls to breaking point and we want to share that with the world.  When I read a book that makes me happy, I'm going to talk about it so other people can read it and be happy as well.

Author Katherine Addison explained why it's so important we buy books, read books and talk about books.

Feel free to share stuff you've read and liked in comments.
Her Grace adores books.  While she can't buy as many as she wishes (for they are rather expensive in Australia), she does her best.  Her bookshelves are full.  She needs more bookshelves.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Power of Words

I love being a writer. I think it's glamorous. It is self-satisfying and completes me.

Some people don't get why I enjoy writing.

It's because words are powerful, far more than people often realise.

Wanna see powerful words in action?

Check out this video: The Power of Words. This is what a good writer can do.

Her Grace is impressed.

Monday, 6 January 2014

This week's TBR pile

In Australia, January is Summer and it's "Readin' Season".  Our schoolies indulge in the Summer Reading Challenge and the rest of us raid the local libraries and bookshops for books to devour.

This is my Christmas Week TBR pile.  Mostly light-hearted stuff and casual reading.  I'll get back into my MFA stuff later.  Right now, I'm focused more on the quality of my novel output, rather than the high-falooting-ness of my reading input.  The following is helping me in that:

  • The Great and Dangerous / Chris Westwood  -- YA SF  (random shelf glean)
  • So Yesterday: a novel / Scott Westerfeld  -- YA Contemporary SF (was impressed with his steampunk Leviathan series, I thought I'd give something else of his a go.)
  • The Desert Spear / Peter V. Brett -- Epic Fantasy (book two, I discovered later. Bah. The plot arc is incomplete.)
  • La Novia Perfecta / Stephanie Laurens -- Historical Romance (en EspaƱol.  I'm polishing up my foreign language skills because I can.)
  • The Ultimate Fairies Handbook / Susannah Marriott -- Non-fiction
  • The Ravenscar Dynasty / Barbara Taylor Bradford -- Historical Romance
  • On the Way to the Wedding / Julia Quinn -- Historical Romance (Julia's stuff is good. This is a re-read.)
  • The Flight of Swallows / Audrey Howard  -- Historical Romance
  • Butterfly Swords / Jeannie Lin -- Historical Romance (in China!)

What are you reading for the post-Christmas season?

Her Grace is also considering alphebetising her book shelf.  Right now, it's in random order, pending the building of even more book shelves.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

My 500 Words challenge

Ralf und Thomas have just
 completed their 500 today.
A.Stemmer has proof.
Jeff Goins has challenged me (and thousands of other writers) to participate in the My 500 Words challenge.

We writers do this sort of thing all the time. It's good motivation, add a social aspect to what is sometimes a rather lonely career and we Get Stuff Done.  (These books don't write themselves, you know.)

Essentially, we must write a minimum of 500 words a day, every day, for the month of January.  The goal is not to generate as much as we can (a la NaNoWriMo), but to establish the habit of writing every day.  After all, if we are professional writers, we need to be writing every day.

I write 5-6 days average out of the week.  That said, over the past three weeks, I've written a total of 4 days. (Curse you, Holiday Season!  I've got better things to do than celebrate.)  I had fallen out of the habit of writing.

As I loves me my resolutions, I buckled down on New Year's Day and cranked out some fiction. Did the same thing the next day.  Yesterday I rassled with a mild stomach bug (Curse you, Australia, for not having Pepto Bismol!) but got my 500 done.  Today, we'll see.  It's not too busy a Saturday.  I've got chiro and some yardwork and puh-lenty of time to write... as long as I sit down. Butt-in-chair and Just Do It.

A friend once told me the hardest thing about playing the clarinet is picking up the darn thing.  Writing, same thing.  Casual writers have the luxury of writing when they feel like it and not writing when they don't.  Many apprentices, same thing.  But if you expect to move from apprenticeship to journeyhood, you've got to get going on cranking out your half-million words.

500 will get you there.  I don't mean that if you write 500 words a day you'll hit the half-mil sooner rather than later.  (It'll take a very long time to get that far--a thousand days.)  But getting in the habit of writing 500 will get you to the point of, "Hey, this is easy. I do it every day.  I'll bet I can write a thousand.  Or two thousand (like I did on Wednesday).  

Those are the sorts of totals that quickly add up.

So yeah.  I'll post regular-ish updates here, or on Facebook regarding my progress.  Be warned; I'm sporadic when it comes to being online.
In the spirit of whimsy, Her Grace peppered this blog entry with random yet topical links. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Reading Glasses

Jan van Eyck
had some issues as well.
As I get older, I find myself needing reading glasses.  This happens to, oh, nearly everyone as we age, due to presbyopia.

Being nearsighted, I've worn glasses for the past thirty years. It was only in the past year I've needed (horrors!) multifocals.

Now, multifocals are good for everyday use and casual glancing at the back of a cereal box.  But for voracious readers and musicians (ie me), they can be quite bothersome.  The change of prescription across a lense causes a funny wavery wobble to anything textual.

So I got a second pair of single-vision lenses for playing the piano and reading.

What a boon!  Now all I have to do to be able to read sheet music or a trade paperback was swap glasses.

Reading glasses have been around for centuries.  Originally, that's what they were for--reading.  Since most people didn't do much reading, most people did not bother with spectacles.  Those who did have them did not sport them continuously, but treated them as tools, worn and used only when perusing texts.

But some people wore them enough to be pictured with them in the 1830's.

Do you wear glasses or contact lenses?  Do you have a pair of glasses just for reading?
Her Grace is a voracious reader who needs glasses to read properly, possibly because of her habit of holding books with her feet. An eReader has changed that, in that resizeable text has eliminated the need for glasses and she can now easily turn the pages with a toe.