Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Have you read Kate Mayo's article "Dear Columnists, Romance Fiction is not Your Bitch"?  If not, go do so now. I'll wait.


Okay, welcome back.  Interesting, n'est ce pas?  Essentially, the article is about how Romance Fiction and Feminism can co-exist.

One line in particular struck me as most apt: "...there is no shame or stigma in enjoying a book in which a woman's happiness is the measure of its success."

Wow. How often do you hear that about anything else?  And isn't that a powerfully Feminist statement?

Now, I can understand how some schools of Feminist Thought (frex, much of Second Wave Feminisim) can wish to decry the thought that a woman can derive happiness from the romantic attentions of a man (after all, she should be responsible for her own happiness and not depend on a man, goes the line).

But the point of Romance Fiction is not that a woman can only be happy if she has a man in her life, but that a woman can derive happiness from a loving, supporting relationship with another human being.

(Feminism shoots itself in the foot if its promotion of woman is only at the price of denigrating man.  It really should be about promoting human beings regardless of gender, and that no one gender is less than another.)

Much fiction (with the exception of the literary classics you had to read in high school [Her Grace says with her tongue in her cheek]) is about humans seeking happiness.

Chick Lit covers the gamut from Women and Shoes, Women and Shopping to Women and Careers, Women and Family. 

Much contemporary literature serves with Self-Discovery and Self-Identity, especially with who and what the main character interacts with.  Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?

Take Sex and the City.  Was it really about four women seeking sex (and ultimately relationships with men), or was it about four friends on their journey to discover what friendship really means? 

So what if Romance's particular subject matter is about romantic love?  Does that make it anti-feminist?  

Absolutely not.  If it were about anti-feminism, the woman's feelings would not matter. Her goals, her desires, her dreams would be worth nothing.  She'd be nothing more than a convenient hole for some man to park his dick, and then forgotten, until it was dinner time.  As any Romance reader will tell you, that is soooo NOT how it happens in a Romance novel!

In a Romance novel, Our Heroine's dreams, her desires, her goals--everything she wishes for, hopes for--is The Most Important Thing.  By the end of the novel, Our Hero understands and respects that.

That is a positive feminist message.  That is why Romance Fiction and Feminism can exist side-by-side.

Her Grace's foremothers were feminists--college-attenders, political activists, pioneers, self-supporting, loving, hard-working, courageous women.
Also, she can't wait for you to read her novel "Her Endearing Young Charms", where, when it looks like Our Hero can't be there for her, she pulls up her socks and sets off to take care of matters on her own. Why should her happiness depend purely on the whims of someone else?

Monday, 28 April 2014

Top Six Ways to Hide a Book

For those of us addicted to books, we have had times we've needed to hide what we're reading, or even that we were reading. (Hello, my name is Heidi and I'm a chronic reader...)

I've had more than my fair share of getting in trouble in class for reading novels. And then, in the 80's, I had to hide the fact I was reading trashy Historical Romance bodice-rippers with fuschia covers.

Here's my Top Six Ways to Hide a Book:
  1. Hiding it behind another book (usually a textbook). Classic hide. Can also use a folder/clipboard or a magazine. I have seen some Classic Literature book covers to hide our favourite Trashy Books.
  2. Bag it. Keep the book in a purse or a pencil case. Sneak a read while looking to dig around in your purse.
  3. Book covers. In junior high, all our textbooks had to be covered. Most people used brown bag paper--cheap, plentiful and... opaque. So, is that a pocket dictionary or a Jude Deveraux on my desk?
  4. Camoflauge. DVD cases, cereal boxes, anything square-shaped and book-sized can hide a book. Doesn't even have to be square-shaped. I've seen book covers that look like teddy bears (If you consider being seen carrying around a teddy bear preferable to carrying around a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray or Lady Chatterley's Lover). 
  5. eBook reader. If you don't mind letting people know you're reading, but don't want them to what you're reading, an ebook reader hides the identity of your novel from your fellow bus-passengers. Also, it's really easy to disguise an ebook reader as a tablet. Are you reading a cozy mystery, or are you browsing Facebook?
  6. Different format: audiobooks are the commuter's friend. Also, stick your iPod earphones in, and nobody knows you're listening to a book, especially if you include a rhythmic head-bop. Ebooks on phones?  For all your fellow commuters know, you're playing Angry Birds.

How have you hidden your reading habit?  Or are you out of the closet?  Or are you in a twelve-step?

Her Grace has had an issue with reading when/what she wasn't supposed to.  Thus, the background in literature subterfuge.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Read a short story of mine for free!

My slightly-disturbing short story "A Little off the Top" is available free for download as part of Moonlight Tuber #1.  It's a tale of why some girlfriends become ex-girlfriends. (Actually, I quite enjoy this story, in the vein of  "Bitches be Crazy".)

The other stories are worth a read as well.

Download.  Read.  Comment if you wish.

This is a prime example of Australian Small Press.  We Aussies love our small press.

Her Grace enjoys a good short story from time to time.

My Failed Novels: The Women of West Town series

So this eighteen-year-old budding author gets inspired yet again by something and has to write a novel.

I developed a secret addiction to Historical Romance novels during the 1980's.  They all had covers like this:

Now you know why I had to keep it a secret. Covers like these? Prolly not the best thing to feed a pubescent adolescent.

Fortunately, today, this is what the outside of all romance novels I read looks like:

Anyhow, I digress.  Just accept I had a penchant for Romance.

So, one day I was watching Dr Quinn Medicine Woman on TV and thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to write Historical Romance in the American West?"  I knew a fair bit about American History, thanks to My First Job at a living history museum.

So I gave it a try.  

Thus was born, "Adelaide", "Kathryn" and "Marinda".  (Yeah, I liked the name Adelaide. Moving to Australia fixed me of that soon enough.)

Oh dear.  I did not do a very good job of it. I'd barely finished rough drafts of the novels, but they were sad imitations of the torrid 80's Romance I'd secretly enjoyed. My novels were tepid, boring and tedious. Dull. Snooze-worthy. Trunkable. I still had a lot to learn Craft-wise.

Can't even remember much about the novels, other than one of my heroines fell in love with the town Mortician.

Ah well.  We all gotta make mistakes. These were mine.  About the only thing I learned from these novels was that I should not be writing Western Romance.  My feet are firmly planted in the nice, secure world of Speculative Fiction.

Either about this time, or soon after, the misc.writing Usenet newsgroup (and specifically Erin Cashier) put me on to the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy (OWW-SFF, or simply the 'Orkshop). Back then, it was sponsored by Del Rey and was free. Now it requires paid memberships. Still, it was worth every penny to me.

Man, I love that place! It is responsible for taking me from an apprentice writer to a journeyman.  I can't recommend it enough.  Granted, it better serves short story writers, but the workshop environment taught me more about the Craft than anything else.  I also met some really great people who went on to become really great authors.

People you know and read. OWW is The Place that Birthed This Generation of Authors. 

I cheerfully trunked those three horrid novels and got back to what I love: Fantasy.

Her Grace has some pretty bad novels in her trunk. Don't bother asking to see them. They really aren't that good.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thousand Hand Guan Yin

Romance and Beauty go together.  Or rather, I should say, you can find beauty in anything romantic.

Take a look at this beautiful Thousand Hand Guan Yin.  Is the beauty in their mastery of dance, or is the beauty in the fact that every single one of the dancers is deaf?  When I dance, I am very much reliant on the music. How much in awe am I over the accomplishment of these beautiful dancers.

Her Grace loves to dance, though she is rarely this graceful when she does. Still, that never stops her. She dances any chance she gets.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Top Ten Peeves for Book Lovers

We love our books, but it is an imperfect love. Here is a top ten list of Peeves for Book Lovers.

In no particular order:

  1. Cheap trade paperbacks whose spine glue breaks enough for individual pages to slip out -or- discovering missing pages from a really good book you're reading because of this.
  2. When that spine glue breaks on first opening.
  3. Incomplete series. (I'm looking at you, Anne et Serge.)
  4. Inability to locate a book in a series (ie, it's listed as "missing" at the library, the bookstore doesn't carry it and it never shows up when they order it, Amazon's out of stock, etc.)
  5. You have to wait a whole year before the next book in the series comes out.
  6. That book you had to study in English Lit class. 
  7. Someone recommends a book as Really Good, only it turns out to be full of dull plots, flat characters, blatant bigotry or leprosy-ridden rapists.
  8. Long-winded literary style that bogs down the pace. Also, why does Litrachoor have to be so depressing? (Exception: Paulo Coelho. Go read his stuff.)
  9. Bad cover art:  butt-ugly; has nothing to do with the book; pornographic Fuschia Fabio Lust Covers (aka 1980's Romance bodice-rippers); terrible brown 1970's literary covers.
  10. You finally find a Really Good Book cover-to-cover, and it's too short.

What peeves you off about books?

Her Grace loves books.  But yeah.  There are moments.

Friday, 18 April 2014

My Our Novels: Star Trek Tie-ins!

Live long and prosper.
During my first "proper" semester at University I met my writing mentor and life-long friend Dr Anne Wingate. We were both B I G fans of Star Trek and got along like the proverbial house on fire.  She loved my idea-generation; I loved she was published.

I can't express in an entire blog of entries how much of an impact Anne made on my life and career as a writer. Know that she has my undying gratitude.

So, this crime writer from Texas nurtures me and teaches me the craft. She questions why I am studying something I like and eschewing something I love--writing. Later, she apologised for questioning my life choices, but why apologise for something that was correct?  Of course I was meant to write novels!

Long story short: we wrote Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes together and pitched them to Paramount during the Writers' Strike of the early 90's. Alas, didn't sell. Ah well. (Factlet: had we sold our episodes, I would have beaten David Gerrold as the youngest Star Trek writer evar.)

Had we sold, my life would have been vastly different than it is now. Now that I'm an older, wiser woman, younger me would not have been able to handle the fame that would have come my way. Most likely, I would have crashed and burned, after making a rather big fool of myself.  Glad that didn't happen.  I wasn't the wisest of College Freshmen.

(Oh yeah. We also wrote some novel tie-ins which did make it in front of an editor to be told thanks-but-no-thanks.  Again, I was okay with that.)

From Anne, I learned much about life as a professional writer--lessons I still remember to this day. They've served me well.

Her Grace still remembers a female Ferengi by the name of Tasol. Boy, were those the days!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Silent Times

There are times in a writer's career when it is silent.

Very silent.

Too silent.

The only sound is the clacking of keyboards or the scratching of pens.  No other noise is heard.

It is the quiet while you wait to hear back from beta-readers, agents, editors.  It is the waiting for feedback or reviews.  It is the checking of one's email to reveal no new messages. It is the lack of comments on one's blog, the dearth of replies on Twitter, the absence of pingbacks on Pinterest.

If an author sits really still, one can completely believe that there is no other soul out there. It is an overwhelming sense of isolation.

Even today, the lonely garret still exists.

Do a writer a favour and go tell them something--anything--positive about their career.  Sometimes we need to know we're not working in complete solitude.

Her Grace can't hear crickets. How odd. One would expect at least the creaking of the glacier that is publishing.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Library Love!!

If you love books, chances are you love a library.

I was only three years old when I got my first library card.  I belonged to the Sprague Branch, a beautiful old library in a neighborhood called Sugar House. Isn't it lovely?
From  LarryChristensen agrees with me; it's a pretty library.
So with such an evocative library, how could I not fall in love?  (I must go back some day, just so I can tell it how much I love it.)

Since then, I've belonged to a library, no matter where in the world I've lived. I've even worked at a few.

I love having books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books and books...
...all within my grasp.  I can read until I'm sick of words. I can indulge my literary habit. I can research.  I can explore, gain knowledge, become something more than I was yesterday.

Books were my best friends growing up. A library was my retreat. Nobody bothered you in a library.

They're building a new library near where I live.  It looks nothing like the Sprague branch, but I still feel the same thrill.  I drive by it regularly and tell it hello. I've taken a few shots of it under construction. I already know some of the library staff and they share my enthusiasm. I can't wait for the new library to open!

I shall go there regularly to read, to browse, to schmooze, to write. (Wonder if we can get some NaNoWriMo action going, or maybe the occasional Author in Residence? I volunteer!)

Do you have a library you love?  What makes it so lovable? Tell me about it.

Her Grace shall always have a soft spot in her heart for a library. Despite the invention of the Internet and eBooks, there will always be a place for Libraries in the world.

Friday, 11 April 2014

My Novel: My first publication

When I was seventeen I submitted a Fantasy poem to a literary magazine.  To my rapturous joy, they accepted it.  Thus, was I published.

I might have a copy of it somewhere on the other side of the planet.

Essentially, the poem was about the magical Otherworld that comes out once the sun sets. (Okay, it also had a touch of self-insertion as the narrative "I" goes for a romp.)

I do remember the final line: "I fall back to my earth. It is morning."

Her Grace's first publication still has a special place in her heart. Since then, every publication has had a touch of that same magic.

My Favouritest Novel: "Of The Dark" - First Draft

Her Grace thinks
Richard Armitage
would play a good Mor-Lath.
Seventeen-year-old me had read lots and lots of books. I'd started developing a (secret) penchant for Epic Fantasy and Historical Romance. I still read mysteries and Sci-Fi and pretty much anything I could lay my hands on, but Fantasy really snagged my imagination.

But with every Fantasy novel I read, the characters/plot/author went one way when I wanted them to go another.

I gathered all those Roads Less Travelled and fomented them into a pretty good plot that satisfied my soul to its farthest corners.

Thus, I came up with "Of The Dark".

What do you do when the God of the Dark proposes marriage? Say no, of course.

Adrastea Healer is a good girl who walks in the Light. So why is Mor-Lath, God of the Dark interested in her?  Can't be for any benevolent reason. Thus, she refuses his proposal.

But can one really say no to a god?

Originally I planned OTD to be a single standalone novel.  However, as I developed the plot, I realised its three Acts were rather large in scope.  Ah well.  Fantasies were heading the way of Trilogies and Serials.  It took me a couple of years to finish the first draft. Then I put it aside as new ideas caught hold of my imagination.

Eventually, I kept coming back to OTD. More on further drafts later.

Her Grace quite enjoys this novel.  It sings to her soul.  Her Beta readers are of violently mixed reactions.  Sooner or later, one of them will lynch her, but for varying reasons.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

April Is...

...National Poetry Month.
An allegory of poetry.  Oh, the angst!

You can't help but love poetry, for its beauty, its use of words, the way it touches your soul (for good or bad).

I wrote poetry when I was young.  My first sale was a poem.

In honour of (Inter)National Poetry Month, go read a poem. I recommend April Is... Tumblr page. You can subscribe to their mailing list to receive one poem a day for every day in April.  I've been subscribed for years.  (LOVE IT!!)

Because it is April, I will attempt to write a poem before the end of the month. I'll post it when I'm done.

Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in 1990:

Celestial Cat

I took
a look
at men on earth
I knew
they too
must have some worth.

Her Grace loves the beauty of language. But her best poetry only comes when her heart is aching, yearning, or broken. Consider this stanza of following Teenage Angst Poetry, written when she was sixteen:

Gather your blossoms and kiss them goodbye.
They fall away in splendor blown.
Say gone, gone, we are dead.
Wake me nevermore.

Monday, 7 April 2014

"A book did put me in hospital once..."

Had an interesting chat with the phlebotomy nurse who interviewed me for my blood draw last week.

When she learned I was an author, naturally, she was interested in my books, especially as she loved historical romance. Yay!

Alas, when she learned my latest book was ebook only, she winced.  "I prefer real [dead tree] books. There's just something about a real book."

I don't blame her. There will always be something romantic about the print format that ruled a half-millennium.

Young Elspeth in Bed with a Book
by Robert Sivell
"That said, A book did put me in hospital once."

Normally when books put people into hospitals, it's because they've dropped a Biology textbook on their toes, or someone whacked them across the back of the head with a Literary Classic (those litrachoor books can make for some very violent readers). Also, authors are committed by the handful, as they work on One Too Many Edits.  Sends one round the bend, it does.

This lovely bibliophile had come across a beautiful old copy of "Wuthering Heights", so old that the pages cracked apart as she read it.

Alas, this moldy old tome was, well, moldy. As she devoured this Bronte, she also inhaled mold spores that made her very sick--thus, the trip to the hospital.

We had a chat about eReaders (especially how much I love mine) and how convenient they were.  Their convenience makes up for the lost romance of  "romans".  I told her about eInk and how an eReader could hold hundreds and hundreds of books.

By the end of the conversation, she was leaning towards giving it a try, especially if it meant she could take several books with her when she travelled.

Next time I shall have to show her this ebook cover:
This one Run For Cover is available from Red5.

Or this one:
Strawberry Roan made her own. Clever!  Must try.
She's got step-by-step instructions.
Naturally, I pointed her in the direction of my book, which, coincidentally was free last week.  I hope she picked it up and enjoyed it.

That's why I write books; I want to make readers happy.

And not to infect them with mold spores.

Her Grace confesses she would like to infect readers with an insatiable thirst for her novels.  She's had that disease in the past before and highly recommends it.

Friday, 4 April 2014

My Fanfic Novel: "The Great Adelaide"

After the heartbreak of "Legacy of Leporis" (Alas, I killed you for the wrong reasons), I thought sixteen-year-old me would soothe her soul as only a teenage girl could by throwing herself headlong into Mary Sue Fan Fiction.

Which fandom? Why, all of them!  No holds barred, forget about timelines and worlds and you name it.  Escapist self-gratifying fiction at its best!  Extra exclamation points!!!

Sure, I told people I was writing a novel. Didn't tell 'em about what (in hopes of preventing another Leg-of-Lep debacle). By gum, I was writing this for me!

And boy, did it feel good! Filled several notebooks with the sucker.  Only came in about 40K words, but who cares?  It wasn't as if I was going to publish it.

And I never will.

So, in celebration of a completely unpublishable book (in any form, even on fanfic websites) written just for me, here's a whole lotta pictures of Mary Sue stuff:

Her Grace thinks fanfic has its place. It's cathartic, it's fun, it explores ideas that novels never covered and had she had the Internet as a child, Her Grace would have nursed a fanfic addiction in her wild youth.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Today I gave blood.

I have donated in the States before.
This was my first Australian donation.
Today I went to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and donated whole blood. It's been a good twenty years since I last donated. I thought I should volunteer once again. Service is good for the soul. I recommend it.

Bloody facts:

  • Blood is medically important, providing substances that humankind simply cannot synthesise yet.
  • Australia has one of the safest blood supplies in the world.
  • There are three types of donations: whole blood, plasma and platelets. Plasma is very useful.
  • O negative blood is the universal donator and can be given to anyone. (I'm A positive.)
  • AB positive is the universal receiver and can receive any blood type.
  • AB negative is the rarest blood type. My mother is AB negative.
  • O positive is the commonest blood type. My dad is O positive.
  • More blood is always needed; there is never enough.
  • In Australia, blood is always donated--never sold (as plasma can be sold in the States).

Happy Donator!
My doctor okayed my suitability to donate blood, so I went to my local Red Cross. There, I filled out a questionaire regarding suitability (namely, a few health practice questions and travel questions), then I got a pinprick and a few droplets of claret squeezed out of me to check for iron levels and a few other things. (I passed with flying colours.)

Then I entered the donation room, where I got to hang out on a comfy reclining chair and donate whole blood. The staff were pleasant and my needle most sharp. Didn't even feel it going in (though I could certainly feel it in my vein). The phlebotomists said I had nice veins and should donate plasma more often. (We'll see. There are, yanno, needles involved.)

I pumped out enough blood rather quickly--good flow there, and that was that.

The last time I donated blood, I got a weeny cup of orange juice and a few cookies. Here in Australia, they really know how to feed you!

Aside of the lovely spread you see above (that's a cup of apple juice), I also had my choice of muffins, sandwiches, chocolate, and more. Blood donors are well-fed.

Will I be donating blood again? Absolutely. I had a most pleasant experience (except for, perhaps a lance, and a 16-gauge needle. Okay, the lance hurt more than the needle. But, yanno, needles).

Newspaper guys showed up. Not for me, of course, but for another donor, who was giving his 200th plasma donation. Good on you, lad!

Author Robert A Heinlein would cheerfully give his autograph to those who donated blood. Science Fiction fans in Utah regularly hold a Robert A Heinlein Memorial blood drive. They'll dress up as characters and descend upon a donation centre. It's quite a sight to see a Klingon with a needle in his arm. (I might have a photograph somewhere.)

Have you ever donated blood? What was your experience like?

Her Grace hopes that, if you're not squeamish, you'll have a look at one more photograph:
Last chance to click away.