Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Your Mental First Aid Kit

A Tweet-mate and fellow author got stuck on something. He knew what he wanted to do, but it just wasn't happening. Much sorrow and frustration followed.

I understand. I've been there. I've learned a few tricks over the years.

In every craft, in every skill set, one of the most necessary tools for the professional is their First Aid Kit. These are the tools necessary to fix something when it goes snafu. A violinist has spare strings and a second bow*.  Every car should have a spare tyre and the tools to change it. Every hospital has a crash cart. Every mother has a box of bandaids and an ice pack or three. These are the items of their First Aid Kits.

For those of us who use our brains in creative work, we need a Mental First Aid Kit for those times we get stuck in the mud.

They include (in no particular order):

  1. Sleep.  This is at the top of my list for so many reasons.  Sleep resets the brain chemistry. Sleep also turns off the busybody conscious and lets the pure subconscious get to work without interference. Regardless of what you do, music, writing, calculating, your performance will be better after some good sleep.
  2. Do something else. Anything else. If your brain is fatigued in one direction, move it in another. this is the equivalent of stretching. Draw, dance, sports, mathematics. I'll work out astrophysics equations to give my brain a break.
  3. Eat. Low blood sugar does nobody any good. The human brain requires sufficient glucose to function. If it doesn't have this, it will slow down and even stop working in higher functions in an effort to conserve the glucose for necessary stuff. Like breathing.
  4. Read for pleasure. Now, this is more a writerly thing, but also works for everyone else. Sometimes you've just gotta chill out. Try reading outside yr preferred genres so you don't fall into a familiar rut.
  5. Meditate. Slow your body and brain down. Let it catch up. Shut all words out of your head and Just Be.
  6. Service to other human beings. I really should list this as #2, if I was going in order of importance. Go do something kind for someone. As a Relief Society sister, I can't tell you just how powerful helping someone else is in putting your life and soul back into its proper place. When you forget yourself, that is when your self finds you. Go mow a neighbor's lawn. Offer to take your elderly neighbor shopping. Babysit for a single mother one afternoon. Bake cookies for the lonely kid down the street.
  7. Change your outfit to something fancy. Sometimes we get so stuck in one identity that we need to literally change our clothes so we look different. Remember the old "Hello Dolly" song "Put on your Sunday Clothes when you feel down and out"? There's a reason it works.
  8. Don't force yourself to do something you can't do at the moment. It's like forcing a cat to cuddle you. They simply won't. Sometimes you've got to relax, sit back and let the cat come to you. Whatever it is you need to do, let go for now and it will come back to you. Be patient in this thing.
So when you get stuck, don't let your brain freeze and the Dementors to fly in. If you have a Mental First Aid Kit, know that you can get unstuck. It might not be this very moment, but it can happen.


_____________________________________
*Her Grace has a story for you:

Once upon a time when Her Grace was a mere Ladyship, she had to play the violin for exams. Every performer worries about their pieces--are they playing them well, will they remember how to play the piece, will they remember how to play the violin, will they remember how to breathe?


But nobody ever expects their equipment to fail on them.

That's what happened to Her Ladyship. In the middle of the piece, the head mortise of her bow fell out, sending horsehair flying everywhere. Technical difficulties. To her dismay, she did not have a second bow with her. Fortunately, she had an audience of about a hundred other violinists, one of whom was more than happy to lend her one.  She finished the piece and earned a Superior rating.

Moral of the story: never hurts to have your first aid kit well-stocked.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Romance Spinners wishes you and your family a very...
and a Happy New Year!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Interview - Lauralyn Aaron

Today's Friday Interview features NaNoWriMo winning author Lauralyn Aaron. 2015 was her first year attempting NaNoWriMo. Lauralyn is also the mother of emerging storywriter Felicity Aaron who inspired her to sit down and write her NaNovel.

Author bio: Lauralyn Aaron proves her insanity by homeschooling her five children, who fortunately seem to be turning out to be decent human beings despite their crazy mom. She studied Political Science at the University of Utah back in the dark ages (or at least the '90's), where she met her husband, Norman. Since then, she's been busy dealing with all the fun of motherhood from diapers to chauffeur duty to trying to convince her daughters that algebra will actually be useful to them someday. In her spare time (ha), she loves to read anything she can get her hands on, resorting to the shampoo bottle or cereal box if there's nothing else handy. Of course, smart phones have made that kind of reading fairly obsolete these days as there's always something better on Facebook than what's on the back of the cereal box.

Yes, she's all that and more. Lauralyn was kind enough to share her journey and thoughts with me for Romance Spinners. 

HWK: Congratulations, you won your first NaNoWriMo! What motivated you to give it a go?

LA: Well, I've had an idea (my only idea for a novel) in mind for a few years. My brainstorming process has been lengthy to say the least. What finally got me to do it was teaching a literature and writing class for homeschooled students. Since I was encouraging them to do NaNoWriMo, I needed to lead by example. We had several write-ins at my house, which made it all more fun for all of us.

HWK: What would you like to tell us about your novel? What inspired you to this story?

LA: Like I said, this idea has been floating around for a while now. One thing I suggested to the homeschooled student was to use a classic story or fairy tale and retell it from a different point of view. With that in mind, the trusty "brainstorming in the shower" scenario came into play.

One day I just started thinking about Sleeping Beauty and how everyone in the castle fell asleep with her, but not everyone in the castle had their whole family there. What about families that were split with some working at the castle while others lived elsewhere? So that's where it started. If I'm honest, I felt inspired to write this story because it was the first time I had a viable story idea, but I've always wanted to write a book.

HWK: I love that idea because it touches upon the human experience of those who were left behind. Can I convince you to let me read it some day?

You've always loved literature, especially classics like Anne of Green Gables. What draws you to these books?

LA: I learned to love reading from my mother, who has been known to read while washing dishes, while folding laundry, while walking--basically any repetitive task is an excuse to read.

As a reader, I'm very character driven. A book doesn't need to have a super exciting plot for me to love it as long as I love the characters. I will say that writing does matter to me, but if the characters are relatable and the writing is good, that's all I need.

Older books like Anne of Green Gables are great because the slower pace often allows for the reader to feel close to the characters. Anne, in fact, was my best friend in seventh grade. Socially, those middle school years were rough, and Anne went everywhere with me. I think I read the entire series five or six times in one year. On the flip side, a book like Divergent, which was an absolute page-turner, was not a favorite for me because I didn't like Tris much.

I still love classics. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are amazing. When it comes to mysteries, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Rex Stout are favorites. The only genre that I think is better in more modern reading is fantasy/sci fi. You may want to unfriend me on FB for saying this, but I've never been a big fan of Tolkien or Asimov.

HWK: Fear not for abandonment. I prefer a lighter style of fiction.

LA: Incidentally, I'm impressed that you remembered this about me after so many years...unless you refreshed your memory by Facebook stalking me, in which case, I'm not so impressed.

HWK: (I thought it was you stalking me…) Actually, my remembering that detail is a bit convoluted. I once wrote (and subsequently had published) a story where a couple met through an online group called “Kindred Hearts”. I got the name of the group from a similar one you once belonged to. Every time I glance through that anthology, I sometimes think of you.

How do you believe reading benefits the human race?

LA: Other than the obvious fact that we can pass on knowledge through reading, there are a couple of major benefits:

When we read, we learn that we're not alone in our experiences. Every time a character in a novel goes through an emotion or experience that we relate to, we feel that someone understands how we feel.

At the same time, reading helps us understand experiences and feelings that we haven't gone through. It gives us the chance to see the world through a different point of view. For me, part of being a more mature person is realizing that I can like someone even when we don't agree on things, even when they do things I honestly disapprove of. That is a gift that stories can give us because in real life, we rarely get to see things so thoroughly from the other person's point of view.

LA: 5. Preach it! If you could convince the world of ANYTHING, what would it be?

LA: Be nice.

That's it. I am so tired of how angry and judgmental and critical the world feels. If we would all just try to be a bit kinder instead of being so worried about scoring a witty comment or convincing someone of our political views, things would be better. We don't have to always agree in order to be respectful to each other, so...let's just be nice. (Says the political science major.)

HWK: Normally I post links, cover art and a blurb to an author's book. As you're not marketing at the moment, is there any other web site that you would like me to link to instead?


LA: One person who has been really inspirational to me in writing is my daughter, Felicity. She has loved writing stories since she was ten or eleven. She won her first 50,000 NaNo at the age of thirteen. Dealbreaker is a story she wrote a couple of years ago based on the prompt "In 1500 words or less, write a story in which love is dangerous." 

HWK: [reads...]  Ohmigosh! You guys have got to read this.

No, seriously. Stop right now and go read this story. It's only a thousand words or so. You will not regret reading this beautifully bittersweet tale.
___________________

Many thanks to NaNoWriMo-winning author Lauralyn Aaron for being suckered into willing to be interviewed for Romance Spinners. Remember folks, it doesn't matter if you're published or not. If you're writing novels, you're an author.

And a quick mention for Friday Interviews starting in January and February: The Candy Hearts Romance series is coming out from The Wild Rose Press and I've got a handful of my fellow Candy Hearts authors lined up for your edification and entertainment.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

But That is Real Life, Honey -or- Stop Your Whining, Valedictorian

http://school.phillipmartin.info/
You don't see successful clip artist
Philip Martin whining about his education.
It is the end of the school year here in Australia and I've got a young graduate. Yay. She's done well and aims to keep doing well in the continuation of her education.

Recently I saw a few links to valedictorian speeches come through one of my social media scrolls. Every once in a while you find a brilliant speech (wear sunscreen). However, most tend to be the usual inspirational claptrap full of cliches and then there's the requisite "trying to be different but really just venting" angry ones.

One particular speech caught my attention. It was one of the latter. In this valid-dictator-ial speech  (which I will not be linking to because she doesn't need the additional audience), she whined about the fact that the only reason she was valedictorian was because she got really good at completing assignments and taking tests. She said she didn't get a real education but merely learned how to play the system.

Guess what, honey, you did get an education! You got a brilliant preparation for what the 99% call "The Real World". (Granted, you are from the American Empire, who failed to upgrade their educational and medical systems sufficiently during their evolution, and that does give you a disadvantage compared to the rest of the First World. Heck, it might give you a disadvantage compared to certain parts of the Third World.)

But yeah. Real Life in the Adult World is all about playing the system. I don't know what sort of job/career you were planning on, but I can guarantee you pretty much all of them involve completing assignments (ie meeting sales targets, adhering to guidelines, upholding service catalogues, quality control, etc) and taking tests (delivering a satisfactory product and/or service).

It doesn't matter what field you're in. Accountant?  Better get your maths correct. Fast food worker? Better meet quality control targets. Ballet dancer? Precision and focus are mandatory. Scientist? Professional development is an ongoing thing. Secretary? Speed and accuracy. Attorney? Research and fact memorisation. Author? Self-starter skills and long hours of repetitive tasks.

Whatever it was you were thinking you failed to learn in your mastery of assignments and test-taking, that sort of stuff doesn't come along until after you've gained practical experience in the entry levels. Creative Consultants, Decision Makers, CEOs... none of this stuff will come to you for at least another twenty years. Stop worrying that you're not ready now.

So if you were looking for something that would "tap into your potential" because "we can do anything we want" and "the sky's the limit" and all the other cliches with which your valedictory speeches are rife, you're in for a dreadful surprise.  There is absolutely no difference between your teacher telling you "Your fifteen questions on page 87 are due on Monday" and your manager telling you "I need this spreadsheet analysis done by Monday."

The only two differences you will find between an education and a day job is this:  When you do your job well (ie complete your assignments and get a good grade), you get paid. When you  don't do your job well (ie keep failing your tests), there's a good chance you can get fired.

Welcome to the Real Life in the Adult World, padowan. Let's see if you can keep up with the big dogs.  Oh, and I need that spreadsheet analysis done by Monday.

________________________
Her Grace, who has a BA in Music and Film from the UofU, a CertGr6  in Piano from AMEB, an MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in OB-GYN from SoHK and soon to have a MSc in Astronomy from SwinU.  All this wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the support of a Day Job full of assignments and tests.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Someone gave me Chicken Poop!

So what arrives in Australia Post today?

Why, a lovely tube of Chicken Poop lip balm, courtesy of Regency Romance author Carolyn Jewel.

I'm a sucker for lip balm and I'm rather fond of chickens. Fortunately, Chicken Poop lip balm doesn't actually contain any chicken poop. Instead, it's got a beautiful lavender scent.

I won it in a contest on The Risky Regencies blog, which also included a copy of their summer anthology Dancing in the Duke's Arms, which I've devoured and must post reviews on Goodreads soon. I'm a sucker for Regency Romance and I'm a sucker for dukes (having married one).

Thank you, Carolyn, for the fabulous prizes and the addiction to more authors who've been added to my TBR pile.

________________________________
Her Grace has happily scented lips. Who knew Chicken Poop could smell so nice?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Cyber Monday deals!

The Wild Rose Press is having a Cyber Monday sale.

Get my novellas at 40% off.

Feel like some escapist fiction with a happy ending?


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.

Regular price: $1.99 
Sale: $1.19
Save: 40% off




FOR RICHER, FOR POORER

The Deveraux line is famous...for a family curse. The rich must marry the poor or lose their prosperity. Peter Baring is the last of the Deveraux and sinking slowly into poverty. But will marriage to his icy business partner save him?

Beatrice Nottham dreams of leaving Earth for a fresh start. But only married couples are allowed to move off-world. Marrying a man she’s unsure she loves will solve that problem...but at what cost?




Regular price: $2.99 
Sale: $1.79
Save: 40% off



______________________
Her Grace plans on lots of Holiday reading.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Astronaut dreams - TASE Day

Taking a break from NaNoWriMo and a momentary panic from a mixup with a galley and a novel that hates me and two final exams to indulge in a bit of TASE Day and some dreaming.

My first dream career (at age 3) was to be an Opera Singer. (FYI, I'm a coloratura mezzo-soprano, though I haven't had much operatunity to sing of late.)

My second dream career (and one that sustained me for the next 40+ years) was to be an author.

My third dream career (at age 8) was to be an astronaut.

Recently learned that NASA's looking for more astronauts.  Anyone can apply if they meet the criteria:

1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution... 


 YES! I got one of those!



....in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics.
 Oh, okay, ne'ermind.  (Regretting not staying in biology for five seconds. However, my Bachelor in Arts has served my career well so far.)

2. Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience...
Ah. I assume they mean STEM experience? Got plenty of the Fine Arts experience. Give me a few more years out staring at the stars and getting papers knocked back by ApJ and this could change.

... or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.

Don't think I've even been a passenger in a plane for a thousand hours, much less clocked that amount of flight time.

2a. An advanced degree is desirable...
 
...and may be substituted for experience as follows: master’s degree = 1 year of experience [etc] ....
Now, my big question is, if my master's is in a STEM field, would that make up for my lack of STEM in my bachelor's degree?

2b. Teaching experience... 

...including experience at the K - 12 levels... 
...is considered to be qualifying experience for the Astronaut Candidate position... 
...provided degree is in a Science, Engineering, or Mathematics field.
Aw man!  Throw me a friggin' bone here!


3. Ability to pass the NASA Astronaut physical, which includes the following specific requirements:
  • Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position
 120/60  -  noice!
  • Standing height between 62 and 75 inches
  I'm 64 inches.
  • Distant and near visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye....
Bother!  My eyesight is bad, alas.  We're not talking a slight nearsightedness. And I've got presbyopia*. The only correctable surgery that would bring my eyesight to the correct acuity would be a reshaping of my orbit cavities. That technology is still a ways off.  Unless they let me wear these funky astronaut eyeglasses, I'm out of the running:

Do you also dream of being an astronaut? Are you better qualified than I am? If so, go apply for Astronaut School and see if you can get in.

Meanwhile, I might see if they let middle-aged women into Space Camp.


*Presbyopia: you can spot who has presbyopia because they're the middle-aged people who have to hold restaurant menus at arms length in order to be able to read them. I developed presbyopia about five years ago.  His Grace, who exceeds me in age, has yet to develop it (or he might have and doesn't want to admit it).

__________________________________
Her Grace's fourth dream career was to be a teacher. Then she thought about how cool it would be to be an teacher/astronaut and then come back and tell her students about how cool it was to go to outer space, and if they wanted to go themselves, they needed to study real hard.  Then she learned about what happens to schoolteachers who go to outer space.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

November - Month of Insanity

By an act of serendipity, I got the whole of November off from the Day Job.  So glad I did. It's turned out to be a month of insanity.

Originally, I took the time off work for NaNoWriMo. Thought I'd be brilliant and see if I could crank out 100K words. Hah! I dream big, don't I?

I'd forgotten that I am also studying, am a Relief Society secretary and have the end-of-year stuff for the offspring as well.

I have one exam next week and another the week after. We have a new Relief Society presidency; I'm providing necessary momentum for them to get into the swing of things. I've got galley reviews for Marry Me. A close friend has a wedding. I've got a milestone birthday in the family. Thanksgiving and a Christmas party. Support for offspring and end-of-year stuff (as the Australian school year ends in December). Also the usual cleaning, house maintenance, lawnmowing, etc and rhinoviruses that have a terrible sense of timing.

Am I getting everything done?  Yep. Am I making the minimum NaNo goal of 50K?  Maybe. Am I dropping any balls? Sure, plenty of them, but only the ones I know will bounce.

I am learning the fine art of Saying No. Am also ditching the unnecessary bits of the Internet so I can have a few more minutes for the things that Must Be Done.

If it doesn't need to be done, it ain't gettin' done.

And I don't feel a single jot of guilt for it either.

_________________________________
Her Grace: accomplishments mean XP.

Monday, 9 November 2015

"Marry Me" - A Candy Hearts Romance - Official Blurb

MARRY ME by Heidi Wessman Kneale
A Candy Hearts Romance

In 1905 New York City, affluent Millie Moore wants to be outspoken like the suffragettes she admires. She also wants to rid herself of an annoying and controlling suitor. For a well-brought up young lady whose mother fears her impending spinsterhood, speaking her mind is an uphill battle.

When Raymond Wilson sees Millie at a rally, it’s love at first sight. Not wanting his stutter to ruin his chances, he enchants a little candy heart to do his talking for him.

For Millie, Raymond is a breath of fresh air. And maybe, just maybe, someone she could love. But for her social-climbing suitor Guy Wilson, he’s a threat to his plans. And Raymond isn’t the only one who knows something about magic. Now the ante has been upped and Millie is the prize…


_________________________________
Her Grace will have the book launch on Lover's Week, after Valentine's Day. More info pending.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The length of a meter is... Amazon?

As a reader, I don't use Amazon. This is because I'm in Australia. Until  v e r y  recently, Amazon hasn't been terribly Oz-friendly. (They have created amazon.com.au, but that's a digital-only marketplace. If I want a hard copy of a 99c on-sale novel, I still have to pay $20 shipping. Ouch.)
Google Maps understands geographical isolation.

I don't buy physical stuff because shipping is too expensive. I don't buy digital stuff because their format is for the Kindle and I'm a Kobo girl. Amazon doesn't have much with which it can entice me as a customer.

But a significant part of the English-speaking world does use Amazon, and its rating system for novels tends to be the go-to standard because of sheer volume. Success often is measured by Amazon stars and sales rankings.

Want an accurate rating of a book? Go to Amazon. People post their reviews there left, right and centre center. Wanna know how well a book is selling? Check out the sales rank.

As an author I understand the value of Amazon ratings, especially when it comes to marketing. I've read several books by authors I would love to promote by Word-of-Mouth. The place I feel my opinion would have the most bang would be on Amazon. But I can't. I don't buy from Amazon. Amazon won't let me post any reviews because I haven't bought anything from them.

Oh, I'd love to buy my digital books from Amazon just so I could post an honest review. In theory, I could and read them on my laptop with a Kindle app. My only issue is the emissive nature of my laptop screen (ie it glows under its own power).

I love my Kobo ebook reader because of its e-ink display. It's reflective, not emissive. The light by which I view it is due to the ambient light of the room. I find an emissive display hard on the eyes after a few hours. When I read a book, I often find myself immersed for hours, if not days on end. I want to read books in a format that's easy on my eyes. A laptop can't do that. An ereader can.

(I did consider a Kindle once, but it was more expensive than my Kobo, didn't have quite the bells and whistles that my Kobo HD Aura has and, at the time, had poor customer support because I'm Aussie, oy, oy, oy.)

So where do I get my books? The KoboStore. Quick, easy, and new purchases are on my ereader ready to go in a matter of seconds.  The only thing I don't like about the KoboStore is that its users rarely use their star ranking system. I will, but I am only one of a very few handful. Because there are so few ratings, my opinion becomes mostly useless.

Now, I will go to GoodReads and post reviews. That has some clout.

Not as much as Amazon, which seems to have been adopted as the gold standard when it comes to overall opinions on what's good and what's bad. If I could get books in .epub format from Amazon, I'd certainly buy more books over there, especially books I intend on reviewing.

Until then, if you are interested in my opinion, I am on GoodReads from time to time.

Do an author a favour; go review someone's book.

________________________________
Her Grace will give her honest, supported opinion for a book. She will say what did and didn't work for her. She wishes more reviewers were the same. "This book sucks!" doesn't do her much good, nor does, "I love this book!"  At least explain why.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

COVER REVEAL - for "Marry Me", a Candy Hearts romance

All I can say is, "How AWESOME is this?!"  I couldn't have asked for a better cover. Fits the story perfectly.



Release date: in time for Valentine's Day, 2016.
__________________________________
Her Grace is giddy with delight over this evocative cover.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Where's my luggage?

A friend of mine recently flew back home. She's arrived. Her luggage is still on its way.  Reminds me of a story from the last time I traveled.

Several years ago I flew international. I checked in my luggage at my local airport. The lovely ladies at check-in took our luggage, tagged it, and off it went. "You're flying a long way today."  Yes, we are.

Wasn't the first time I'd traveled international, so I knew the routine: since we had several hops, we'd fly into the next airport, collect our luggage, check it and us in for the next flight, then twiddle our thumbs for the next several hours. Hong Kong and Narita (Japan) airports are really lovely, clean, have lounge services for coach passengers and are staffed by friendly, soft-speaking multilingual folk.

Several hours/days/years later we end up in SanFran. In contrast, American airports are noisy, loud, dirty, woefully under-serviced and Customer Service is an unknown concept.

Fifth verse, same as the first, we waited at the carousel for the luggage.  His Grace's luggage came. Their Ladyship's luggage came.  Mine....  MIA.

So I went up to the service desk. "Hello." I asked the Woman With Attitude manning the desk,"I'd like to know, where is my luggage?"

Apparently, that was the wrong question to ask. She took my luggage claim check, scanned the barcode, then proceeded to give me a really vigorous lecture about how there was no way she was going to find my luggage and bring it here, and what was I doing asking for my luggage anyway? Besides, there was nothing she could do because my luggage had already been booked onto my connecting flight and she was not going to get it back for me. Sorry, but it was already on its way to the next destination.

Apparently, "where is my luggage" is Merican for "Why is my luggage not immediately right in front of me? Gimme my #@&# luggage NOW!!!" Whereas in Strayan is means, "I'd like to know the location of my luggage, ta."

Well. Time for some Aussie mind games with someone who needs to go back to Customer Service school.  "So, is all luggage automatically transferred to the next flight?" By now His Grace and Their Ladyships had joined me.

Woman With Attitude assured me it was.

"You missed a few," I told her, handing the rest of our luggage over to her.

Then she threw a fit and tried to blame us for taking our luggage when we shouldn't have, et cetera. I was starting to regret having laid eyes on her.

By this time, her manager had noticed and came over. "What's the problem?"

She lays into him with the same attitude and level of voice she used on us, explaining to him how we'd taken (she might have used the word 'stolen') our luggage when we should have just let it go through, and so on...

Meanwhile, us Aussies are rolling our eyes. The manager saw this, shut her up, and asked us for the story.

I told him. Or rather, I started telling him when she interrupted and told me that's not what happened. Apparently, and this was news to me, I'd come over demanding where my luggage was, being real rude and a whole lotta other untruths.

To my delight, he shut her up again and told her to take a break. She stormed off.  May I never see her again.

The manager asked if I had demanded my luggage. I told him no, I simply wanted to know the location of mine. After all we had everyone else's.

He leans over the desk, peers at our destination tags and got a funny frown on his face. "All luggage intended for other destinations should have been checked through." Turns out in the US if luggage isn't at its final destination, it doesn't leave the loading dock, but is loaded directly onto the plane. This saves US Customs unnecessary inspection times in their major incoming ports like SanFran.

He takes our luggage, and gives us an apology for many, many things.

Eventually we fly out of that place and end up at our final destination. I was grateful we got to go through Customs there. I dread to think of what might have happened had we to suffer through yet another example of SanFran's hospitality.

______________________________
Her Grace still loves travel. Just not to the US.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Finding the Strong Place

I'm religious. I make no secret of it, and I openly practice my faith. My faith and the beliefs I learn keep me strong in a drifting world. I'm glad I have this pillar of strength to cling to when the current fights against me.

This week I was saddened to hear about some (more) bad things happening to women (women-I-know and women-who-know-women-I-know).  One of the things that has saddened me is hearing about how prevalent sexual harassment is in Academia. Yes, it is prevalent. I've been a victim of harassment in academia during my undergrad studies. In fact, now that I think about it, I can't name a woman of my acquaintance who has ever said she's never been harassed. That's a sad symptom of a degenerate world.

One issue from Berkeley came to light this week about a supervising professor getting his widdle wrist slapped after four courageous women came forth about his ill treatment of them. Berkeley's response was not sufficient, according to the scientific community at large. However, before you go off and tar Berkeley with the yellow paintbrush of cowardice, please give them some credit for doing something, even if they are woefully out of practice in dealing with such things.

Much discussion online ensued.

In Academia, this sort of behaviour, for the most part, is ignored or even flipped against the victims. I hope it leads to more universities having the courage to call their harassers on their bad behaviour. The more they practice these actions, the better at them they will become.

I believe that leaving these harassers unchecked does more harm than good to our science communities. They chase away dozens if not hundreds of potentially strong talent. Those few who remain are hampered because they spend too much energy fighting harassment--energy that could be put to better use doing science.

If the universities think they are doing the better thing by not alienating their champion researchers, they are not. The scientific value of one sexual harasser, no matter how talented, will never outweigh the collective scientific value of all the victims he hampers or chases away. Never.

Part of the perpetual discussions on these and other issues, which always comes out when something like this happens, is how poorly women are still treated, even after two hundred years of feminism.

Yet women still stand up and say something, even when they are threatened with rape, violence and death.

A friend shared a scripture with me for ponderizing this week. It seemed very apt for those who dare to stand for righteousness in a world that would tear them down: Job 27: 5 - God forbid that I should justify you; til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.

A few days ago I spent the weekend enjoying General Conference at church. One of the speakers, Russell M Nelson, gave a beautiful talk entitled, "A Plea to my Sisters"--"We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices."

How rare it is in today's world to hear such a powerful message from good men to women. Elder Nelson also quoted other men who share this same message: "President Packer declared, 'We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. …

“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.'”

It is good to hear men, powerful men--leaders in their communities, utter these words in places where millions can hear them.

I wish more men would say such things more often. Men listen to other men. Until men, on the whole, learn to value and listen to women, perhaps they will listen to men like these.

The world can only be better for it.

_______________________________
Her Grace is glad stuff like this gets preached openly in her faith.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

As Long as I Can See the Sky, I Know Where I am Going

I grew up in a mountainous valley with some distinctive peaks.

No matter where I went, I always knew where I was in relation to those mountains. Also, I had this innate sense of direction that was pretty reliable in knowing which direction was which. If I was in another valley or another state, I knew which way was north.  (Except for one place in Arizona. For some reason, north and south were flipped in my personal compass and I never knew why.)

As an adult, I moved to a place of no mountains. Yes, there is a scarp to the distant east, but it's well below the tree line to be of any navigable use.  It took me some time to get used to. Even now, I still have issues with my personal compass. There are lots of places in my new land that I can't get a handle on which direction is which. I've always wondered if there was some sort of strange magnetic ley lines that messed with my internal compass, or if I was just bad at navigating without any mountains.

Then I realised, I was looking to the land, not the sky. How odd. After all, ever since I was a child, I have always been a stargazer. Even if it was the land that was messing me up, one thing has always remained constant, no matter where on the planet I was, and that was the sky.

Since then, I haven't gotten lost. Daytime or nighttime, as long as I can see the sky, I know where I am going.

____________________________
Her Grace even knows where she is going if it's a dark, cloudy night. She knows she is going to stay put until a navigable point comes along.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Cutting Edge vs Accessibility

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

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

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

For example, fellow Perth composer Cat Hope:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soundtracks.

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

Video games?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soundtracks certainly do that.

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


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Passing the Bechdel-Wallace test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Monday, 31 August 2015

What will make you put down a book?


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

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

Yup, we went to town in the comments.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Turning of the Tide by Charles Dana Gibson

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

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



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

_________________________________________
Her Grace just might swoon with delight.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Come Party with Long and Short Reviews

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



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

_______________________
Her Grace loves a good party.

Monday, 17 August 2015

I'm on Facebook

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


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

Friday, 14 August 2015

Interview: Maggie Elizabeth Marshall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

Visit her webpage, chock full of really good posts, at http://www.maggieelizabethwrites.com/

Saturday, 1 August 2015

What Writers Want You to Know About the Writerly Life

I've got a head cold that's not going away. When I get sick, I get a bit ditzy, so the simplest things make me giggle.

I'm getting a kick out of the Twitter tag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. Yeah, it's awfully long for a tag, but writers are adapting just fine to the truncated tweet. Give it a read and have a window into our secret world...

Journalists are getting a kick out of watching their fellow writers moan about how their writing careers are perceived by non-writers: BBC has a good article, and The Observer was pasted all over the place.

So, here is my list of things that we writers would love you to know about the writerly life:

1. We write because we can't not write. That, and variants on that theme, are the primary reason we do it. Stories fill our heads. Characters natter in our ears. We are perpetually plagued by the question, "What if...?" Something in our souls yearns to be released, and it's through writing.

2. Money is not our meter stick. Granted, it's nice when we get paid for our work, and many of us aim to become financially independent, but it is not the primary driving force behind our career choice. (See #1) This is not a career you enter expecting to be well and equally compensated. But if you want to tap into the more lucrative side of writing, try magazine articles or copywriting. Just know that most of us are in it more for the love than the lucre.

3. We write more than novels. Early in my career I wrote short stories, non-fiction articles, screenplays and more. (If you're still stuck on #2 above, know that my biggest paying job to date was a non-fiction article for a popular parenting magazine. Less than a thousand words, more than a thousand bucks.) Writing covers all sorts of things. This is why writers squirm when, after telling you they're a writer, you ask, "So, what novels have you published?"

4. Publication is not the justification gold standard. Just because a writer is unpublished (or pre-published) doesn't mean they're a bad writer. It simply means they have not (yet) been published. That's all. Took me a few years.

A cold, hard, sad fact is that most writers have to put in some serious chops working and perfecting their craft before publication comes along. Also, publication doesn't automatically happen once you've finished something. It's a demand market, and often there are more really good pieces than there are publication spots.

That said, the deghettoisation of indie publishing has gone a long way towards giving many, many good writers an opportunity to reach readers. I've read some spectacular indie-published books. Don't let the fear of getting a dud keep you from picking up an indie book. Like agents and editors are the vetters for traditional publishing, your fellow readers vet indie works very well. Check out a book's ratings on Amazon or Goodreads if you want an indication of its quality.

5. Writing is a real job. Sure, lots of people have it as a hobby. But some of us make a career out of it. Because it takes time to go through our apprenticeships and journeyhoods before we are able to write a quality novel, we are putting in a lot of work before the financial payoff (if any) arrives. Until that happens, we need to source money sufficient for putting food in our bellies, a garret over our head and clothes on our backs.

Gone are the days of rich, titled patrons who sponsored us. Now, it's a tolerant spouse with a full-time job, or arts grants, or working what we fondly call, "The Day Job". So yeah, often we are working at least two jobs so we can pursue what we love and still eat.

6. Writing is not easy. Especially if its good writing. Heck, even slapping down horrible first-draft copy can be difficult at times. A novel is a complex piece of art with many components. Don't think that it's a doddle to write, and the first words that flow from our fingertips are brilliant works of timeless prose. It takes much effort to get it to the lovely stage you see in a printed novel.


Dear readers, we love you. We love you very much and we write marvelous stories to lift your hearts and take you away. A career as an author doesn't follow the same career path as a middle manager or an accountant or schoolteacher. We are the children of the muses and dance to a different tune.

Just thought I'd let you know.

_____________________________
Her Grace is a career author. She's got two novellas currently published, another novella coming out in February and a full-length novel out sometime near the end of the year, followed by a second in the new year.

Go buy her books. Otherwise, convince someone else to buy her books:

AS GOOD AS GOLD - historical fantasy romance - 4/5 stars
FOR RICHER, FOR POORER - SF/Fantasy romance - 4.5/5 stars

Out from The Wild Rose Press and available where all good ebooks are sold.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Regarding yesterday's funeral

I went to a family funeral yesterday.

Arthur "Jack" Johnson, age 92 was laid to rest. He was the patriarch of the Johnson family, to which my nieces belong. I was considered a close enough connection to be able to sit with the family and help attend the nieces while their father helped with the funeral and their mother mourned her grandfather.

I've known Jack, his wife Josie and their family for more than fifteen years and have been connected to them by marriage for nearly as long. Jack was one of those men with a great sense of humour, who instantly brightened a room when he entered it. His pockets were full of lollies and his heart full of jokes.

This is a guy who will be sorely missed.

An interesting thing about Latter-Day Saint funerals, they're  not as grief-stricken as you'd expect. It comes from the Latter-Day Saint beliefs regarding an afterlife and of the eternal nature of family connections. Sure, you'll miss someone when they're gone, but it's not a forever thing. Families are forever. That's what's forever. Not separation, not death.

I thought it was lovely that the great-granddaughters wore pink. Grandma Josie wore green, in which she always looks good. Aunt Margaret, who couldn't be at the funeral because she was on the other side of the planet, sent along a video so she could be part of it. All the men wore a sprig of rosemary for remembrance; I had to explain its significance to a niece, because she thought they'd all lost the flowers to their boutonnieres.

The music was lovely, the jokes were appropriate and the floral tributes were tastefully nice.

Bowra & O'Dea did the funeral and they did a nice, respectful job.

After the funeral we went to a beautiful cemetery for the interment. There were peacocks, which delighted all the grandchildren. For Grandma Josie and a few of the more pregnant members of the family there were chairs.

A few good words were said and the grave was dedicated as per Latter-Day Saint ritual. Then, to some very Jack-appropriate music, the coffin was lowered into the grave, and the family got to toss in rose petals.

Then the tarps were removed from the gravedirt and the men of the family didn't just toss in a symbolic shovel. They got to completely fill in the grave. I thought this was a lovely, cathartic practice. I want this at my funeral.

Lives begin and lives end. I aim to do the best I can in between to make sure my life has as positive an impact as Jack's did.

Rest well, Pappy. We'll see each other again (just, not that soon).

_________________________________
Her Grace is all funeralled out.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Wherein I talk about being a pro author

Finnish poet Aale Tynni knew what it takes.
I have a guest post  over at Maggie Elizabeth Writes on Being a Professional Author. It's not about the money, it's about the attitude.

Maggie's a fellow My 500 Words writer. I'll be featuring her later in my Friday Interview series.

Writing income is variable, and not necessarily the best marker for determining if someone is a professional author. In this industry, it's not the dollars-per-hour that determines your professional status, but how you approach the craft and the discipline. I know several professional authors who have yet to make a dime (note, I said yet). If they continue to persist, their time will come.

It's like this in the Fine Arts. You've got to put in your chops and prove yourself before you can see a financial return. Or as the musicians put it, "gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues."

Feel free to comment on Maggie Elizabeth's blog if you agree or disagree with what I've stated.

______________________________
Her Grace's biggest secret to being a professional is daily persistence and high prioritisation.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Fan-fiction: what it means for the professional author

My moment of parasol.
About five years ago fellow author Gail Garriger wrote a thoughtful post about "Fan-Fic, Fan-Make & Other Issues". Worth a read, since she's so very good at putting things in a genteel manner. The reason I mention it now is because some writerly friends of mine were discussing that post the other day.

Also, I reference to this first because of all the authorial opinions I've read (JK Rowling, GRR Martin, et al), this is one of the best-phrased.

I confess I haven't thought much before about fan-fiction, and the impact on a professional author. Perhaps I should. After all, I plan on being very prolific as an author over the next fifty years and that's bound to attract several fans, some of whom will be inspired by my works.

Now I've got to consider fan-fic from the point of a pro author. For me, this is something new.

I confess to a teenage indulgence in fan-fic, both the reading and writing thereof. As I realised it was taking precious writing time away from my personal projects, I weaned myself off it. (note: any fan-fiction I ever wrote was pre-Internet and has never been posted online. I kept it rather personal. Any existing copies are handwritten in notebooks and are probably mouldering away in some cardboard box in my parents' basement.)

Will I ever write fan-fiction again? Most likely not. I've got far too many novels of my own clamouring to be written.

Fan-fic was fun. Fan-fic was great. It allowed me to play in someone else's created universe, especially during a time when book releases were a year or more apart. It was good training during my apprentice years in some aspects of the craft. But my dalliance with fan-fic was from the view of a fan. First and foremost in a fan's heart is love of someone else's created world. That's what drives most of fan-fiction.

It's the fraction of fan-fiction driven by other motivations that have caused me to put some thought into this subject now.

Several years ago I was entranced with the thought that someone would want to write fan-fic of my works. I considered it a potential compliment. Had I inspired a reader enough for them to want to spend more time in the worlds I created? Did I ignite a creative spark within them? To me, it was a form of flattery.

My attitude is changing.

In 2012 LiveJournaler "Oh No They Didn't!" featured a post with several authors' opinions regarding fan-fiction. General consensus: opposed to various degrees. I see their point, especially from the professional author's point of view.

As for fan-fiction derived from my novels and characters--my thoughts? I like Gail's attitude. If anything has been written regarding anything in my creative sphere (worlds, characters, storylines) that I didn't write, I can't read it. Don't ask me to read your fan fic, don't post it somewhere I am likely to come across, don't email/post/sing it to me. I can't know about it.

And by all means, certainly do not make a profit from it. If anyone with legal financial interest in my creative works (i.e.: my agent, my publisher, my estate, etc) comes across fan-fiction (or unauthorised anything, really) based on said creative works that has created profit, you can bet there will be some legal action going down. You're not just dealing with me. You're dealing with everyone who is supported by my writing. And they may not be as nice as I am.

Writing fiction is my job. I work so many hours a day at it in return for some financial compensation. This financial compensation buys food, pays school tuition and more.

I am happy that my books have sparked an ember of joy in your hearts. That's why I published. But if you are so inspired to write, and you are driven to profit, I recommend you do as I did and seek to profit from your own 100% original works.

__________________________
Her Grace must now let the cat inside.


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Time for backups

I realise it's been about two weeks since my last blog post. I apologise. Life stuff got in the way. Despite that, I've been able to write and I've been able to back up my work.

The other day fellow Romance author Julia Quinn suffered a computer hiccup that caused three newly-written pages of her WIP to go missing. That sort of thing make you want to freak out when it happens to you.

Thanks to a clue from a fan and some deeper digging, she was able to find a copy of those three pages hidden on her computer.

And there was much rejoicing and grateful sharing of some really nice prose on her Facebook page.

Most writing programs have a little temporary file backup they create of works in progress, just in case the computer goes *hiccup*, as they are wont to do. These backup files have saved my sweet rear end more than once. (They have also made me look like Scotty at work on occasion.) However, if the computer works as it should, and you close down the program properly, those temp files most likely are not kept.

By day, I'm an IT professional and have been for the past twenty-five years. I know a LOT about computers, how they work, how they fail, and have personally seen some of the absolute worst things that could possibly happen to data.

Back up your work.

Do it regularly, do it frequently, do it multiple times, places, methods. Don't just rely on a single thumb drive to hold the unique contents of your laptop. Make more than one copy, and store at least one of those copies off-site. Don't keep all your backup copies together in the same location as your original, ie, that thumb drive in your laptop bag.  (Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not disparaging the delightful thumb drive--far better than the floppy disks they replaced. Just don't make a thumb drive your only backup.)

If your computer dies, if your laptop is stolen, if your house burns down, do you have access to your backup copies, should you need to restore to new hardware?  Consider keeping DVD copies of your work at a friend's house or at the day job, and keeping stuff in some cloud somewhere.

Losing three pages of brilliant prose can hurt. Imagine losing three years or even three decades of work.

Back up your work, folks, back up your work.

You have been warned.

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Her Grace has always believed in backups, since her first storage medium was the failure-prone 5.25" floppy disk.