Friday, 30 January 2015

Interview: Joshua Palmatier

Joshua Palmatier on a good hair day.
Today's author is Joshua Palmatier, author of The Throne of Amenkor series, as well as a whole lotta other good books. Josh was kind enough to sit still long enough for me to ask him a few questions.

1.      HWK: I remember reading “The Skewed Throne” and enjoying it.  Of all your novels, which one is your favourite and why?

JP:  Hmm . . . well, there something in each of them that I love, otherwise I wouldn’t have written them, but I think I’d have to say “The Skewed Throne” is my favorite.  This may be because it was the first novel that I managed to get published, so there’s a ton of high level emotion involved in the book just from that.  Getting that phone call from my agent saying DAW was interest in it, getting the contracts, seeing it for the first time on the shelf at Barnes & Noble—all of those things were new experiences and had a huge impact on me.  But I’d also say that it’s because of the main character, Varis.  I like Varis.  She’s tough, stronger than she thinks, and yet at the same time vulnerable and can be easily hurt.  She’s a survivor.  I like her practicality and perseverance and that no nonsense attitude.  She’s a good person, even though she’s done some terrible things.  I love all of my other main characters, too, of course, but she’s probably the most ruthless of them all.

2.       HWK: What is the greatest thing you have learned as an author?

JP:  Probably that the industry is rough and that, as Kate Elliott once told me, you have to persevere.  Persistence is the key.  There are going to be some highs, but there are also going to be lows, and no matter how great your book is, that doesn’t mean anything when it hits the market (or the agent or the editor).  There are so many factors that go into whether a book is a success or not (or gets sold or not) that you’re going to take some lumps occasionally and you just can’t let those lows get you down.  They will, of course—you’ll be depressed, think you’re a hack, that your writing sucks, etc—but that’s a normal reaction.  You have to pick yourself back up and keep writing.  You have to believe in your writing, that it SHOULD be out there, and that eventually it will be and that it will be recognized.  It’s all about persistence, not just in getting that first novel published, but afterwards as well.

3.       HWK: You have a PhD in Mathematics.  (My second daughter would love you, as that’s her favourite subject.)  Only the truly dedicated (or insane) pursue PhDs.  What do you love about mathematics?

JP:  Well, there’s the benefit that I can use it to get a day job and thus pay my bills, because the writing certainly doesn’t come close to doing that.  Yet.  But it’s more than that, of course.  I’ve always loved mathematics.  It just MAKES SENSE.  And early on, I realized that I was pretty damn good at explaining it to others so that it made sense to them.  So I decided, in sixth grade, that I’d be a math teacher.  (It wasn’t until eighth grade that I decided to be a writer.)  A little later, I decided I’d rather teach at the college level, which of course required the PhD.  There’s a simplicity and perfection about mathematics that I enjoy, a reason for everything, and once you see that, it becomes easy.  Getting people to see that simplicity is the problem.

4.       HWK: In life, what can’t you live without?

Chocolate.  HA!  But seriously, let’s see . . . No, it’s pretty much chocolate.

5.       HWK: If you can talk about it, what’s your next planned project?  Otherwise, what’s your latest project?

My current project is the sequel to SHATTERING THE LEY, called THREADING THE NEEDLE.  It continues the story set up in LEY, which revolves around a society that has tapped into the ley lines as a power source and has used it to build up large cities, the Wielders of the ley sowing towers in a single day, creating flying barges, etc.  Think London or New York City, but with everything being powered by the ley.  In LEY, the Baron controls the ley using his vicious Dogs as a military force and tight control of the Wielders themselves.  But of course there are those that want to break the Baron’s hold on this power, including the barons that control the surrounding cities.  LEY is all about how the Baron’s control is broken.

So THREADING THE NEEDLE picks up almost immediately after that, with the people of the city of Erenthrall that the Baron controlled picking up the pieces.  The Nexus that the Prime Wielders used to control and augment the power of the ley has shattered and various groups are now vying for the power and for the resources left over in the ruined city.  But the destruction of the Nexus has damaged the natural order of the ley, creating massive distortions that envelop entire cities, auroral lights that wreak havoc with reality wherever they appear, and seismic quakes brought on by the natural ley trying to reestablish itself.  In NEEDLE, we follow the main characters from LEY—Kara and Allan—as they attempt to keep their friends and family alive in this dangerous new world, while at the same time try to heal the ley . . . before it tears their world completely apart.

I’m writing the last few chapters of THREADING THE NEEDLE right now (I’m actually at the final big scene).  I’m hoping that I can get this revised and handed in so that it appears this year from DAW Books.  After that . . . hopefully I can start work on the third book in the series, REAPING THE AURORA.  Also in the works this year is another anthology project co-edited by Patricia Bray and myself called TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, with stories about objects or gadgets that are acting “temporally” out of order, as opposed to temporarily.  I think the stories for this anthology are going to be loads of fun.

6.       HWK: Which of your novels would you want new fans to read first?

I’d like fans to start at the beginning, with the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy—comprised of THE SKEWED THRONE, THE CRACKED THRONE, and THE VACANT THRONE—mostly because I’d rather people read the books in the order that they were written and appeared in print.  I’d like to think my writing has improved over time, and I’d hate to have someone read a later book, love it, then grab an earlier book and be disappointed with the writing.  But there’s another reason as well:  that trilogy is completed.  You can get all three books and read them BAM! BAM! BAM! Without a wait.  There’s a certain satisfaction in that kind of reading experience.  *grin*

7.       HWK: One final question where you can preach to your heart’s content:  If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?

JP:  To read more!  Not necessarily my books, but I don’t think people are reading as much as they should and I don’t think they realize how much it improves . . . well, pretty much everything about their lives.  And it’s not that they need to be reading “classics” or all of those “good” books suggested in English classes and whatnot.  They can read anything.  But I’m probably preaching to the choir here, so I’ll just leave it at that.  *grin*

Find Joshua on Goodreads, the Web, and his LiveJournal. Haven't read any of his books? You can get The Skewed Throne on Amazon, Kobo Books, and pretty much anywhere good books are sold.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia: home of women with attitude

Happy Australia Day!

Australians have figured out that they can do whatever the heck the want.This attitude has been handed down from generation to generation.

It's this same attitude that got many of the First Fleet sent here.

For example, take one Mary Bryant. Descended of Cornish fisherman's stock, she decided she wanted a better life than that of a fishwife, so she turned highwaywoman. Eventually she got caught for petty theft and sentenced to transportation to Australia. Not satisfied with her imprisonment, she and a few other fellow convicts escaped. Later they got caught and transported back to England.

That's an Aussie for you. Don't like what you've got? Do something about it.

If you're Aussie, you've definitely heard about Edith Cowan. She's on the AU$50 note. If you're not Aussie, you've probably not heard of her, and that's your loss.

Edith Cowan was born on Glengarry Station near Geraldton, Western Australia. (My condolences, Edith.)  Anyhow, she was lucky enough to escape country life and ended up at school in Perth.

As she grew up, she got her feminist ire on over social injustices in the legal system where women and children were concerned. Also, someone needed to get uppity about issues such as education, welfare, women's health and more. Women needed empowerment. For Edith, education was the key. she wanted a place where women "educated themselves for the kind of life they believed they ought to be able to take."

So, she set about starting or supporting organisations for the benefit of women: the Karrakatta Club, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Women's Service Guilds and National Council of Women, for starters.

She got elected to Parliament in Western Australia, where she was most vocal over women's issues, successfully pushing through much legislation regarding women in law careers, women's voting rights, women's family rights and more. Good on ya, lass! Ta muchly.

So what'd we do? We built her a clock, a university (which I have attended), and stuck her face on our money.

You really need to learn more about this most excellent lady

Meanwhile, here's 22 Australian Women who will inspire the heck out of you.

Her Grace wishes the $50 note wasn't such an ugly colour.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Interview

There is no such thing as an "official" selfie.
Back when I was more active on the Online Writing Workshop discussion groups, I liked to welcome new members and ask them a few silly questions. In actuality the questions were designed to give us an insight into the new member.

There were five questions. Also, rice bowls were mandatory, straitjackets optional.

Thus, we wanted to know:

  • What animal are you?
  • Who are the cats who own you?
  • What is your chocolate preference?
  • What are your views on Star Trek?
  • What lurks in the back of your fridge?

We had a lot of fun with these questions. Not once did we ever get a bit of side-eye with, "Why are you asking those questions?" We asked these questions because they were fun, and my fellow authors got that.

I've missed interviewing my fellow authors, so I'm going to start doing that again. Authors are fascinating people, because their inner world is so populated with marvelous stories and diverse characters. I'll be asking some serious questions (me pretending to be all adult) but will throw in a few fun ones besides.

You know what else we have now that we didn't have fifteen years ago? The silly selfie. So many authors have such professional (and serious!) author portraits. Me, I want to see my fellow authors have some fun. Bring on the duckfaces!

Her Grace would like to know how you would answer the above questions. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Subtle Differences

(Wherein Her Grace indulges in a plethora of parentheses.)

I love escapist fiction. It's what I write, it's what I read.

I tend to avoid subjects that are too close to my real life. I get enough of that in my contemporary living. Any wonder I want to escape?

Yet today I found myself reading a blog post about my faith (granted, it was written by a respectable fellow escapist fiction author).  I tend to avoid most un-official stuff about my faith online, as eventually it leads to crazy sauce in the comments. (And yet, here I am writing the very post I tend not to read.)

I love my faith. I indulge in my faith in little things throughout my day, then I go in big time on Sundays. Needless to say, I am thoroughly sated. To then spend my free time also reading other people's opinions on my faith is overkill and I tend to burn out. Bad thing.

So yeah, as I read this rather good post (and only the one), I saw a banner ad (so NOT the author's fault) with a model in a T-shirt that said, "I can't. I'm Mormon."

Dude!  Really?  This is NOT the best way to promote one's faith. Nobody really wants to belong to a faith that's restrictive and prohibitive (unless you get a kick out of that sort of thing).

Besides, this is completely NOT how the Latter-Day Saint faith works. We're all about the Moral Agency.

Moral Agency is the freedom to make our own choices. All choices come with consequences, which is why Moral Agency is such a powerful thing. All of our teachings are about the choices we have in this life. We encourage the world to choose the choices that will lead to good consequences, not only for ourselves, but for those around us. (You know, the whole 'Love the Lord,' 'Love thy neighbor', 'Love one another' thing.) We also warn that poor choices lead to bad consequences and misery.

We don't want our fellow men to be miserable.

So when I see a T-shirt like this, I must get all huffy and step outside my usual scribatory practices and Say Something. (It's the feminist in me.)

To say, "I can't" is subscribing yourself to woe. "I can't" implies you do not have a choice. "I can't" has a sort of wistfulness about it, a powerlessness. "I can't" suggests that, if you could, you absolutely would, but it's only your big bad nasty religion that's holding you down.

Do you really want to send this kind of message about a faith you claim to believe in?

Wise Mormons know that it's not "I can't", but "I won't."

"I won't" supports the practice of Moral Agency. "I won't" means a decision has been made, and the maker has the stuff and balls to stick with their decision. Sure, they can change their mind if they want.  But if they have made a decision and wish to stick with it, I support them in that right.

Next time you find yourself saying "I can't," consider changing it to "I won't."

Fr'ex, "I can't go out there. There are wolves!"  vs. "I won't go out there. There are wolves."

Which phrase sounds like it was uttered by a cowardly yellow chicken, and which one sounds like it was uttered by a wise woman who is not going to get eaten by wolves?

Now, there are a few things in my faith that are not recommended as wise choices--alcohol and promiscuity, to name two. These come up all the time in the "You Mormons can't do that" conversations.

Well, actually, we could do those things, but we choose not to. We choose freedom from the negative consequences of those actions.

What a lot of Gentiles may not realise is that my faith actively encourages good decisions, such as eat a healthy diet (so that you may "run and not be weary, walk and not faint"), gain an education, indulge in service towards your fellow beings, be a force for good in the world, that sort of thing.

So don't get hung up on all the stuff Mormons "can't" do, because there's an awful lot of stuff we can do.

Her Grace will read biographies, but only if the person has been dead at least a hundred years.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Computing: a woman's industry

In my Daye Jobbe, I work in the computer industry. For the most part, this industry, (like many of the STEM subjects) tends to have more men than women

However, did you know that the first computer programmer was a woman?

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician in the early 19th Century who derived the first algorithm to be used by a machine. That's computer programming, folks.

This is what the first computer program looked like:

While the above algorithm may seem simple, Her Grace marvels that someone thought of it first. Go Ada!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Time for a change

Yeah. The hot pink was starting to get to me. Could also be I am in need of a nap.

Blue is so much nicer. You like? I hope so, because I'm not going back to pink.

Meanwhile, here is some Randomosity for you:

  • Comet Lovejoy is visible by the naked eye, of only just. Make the most of it before it fades from view.
  • This Cherry Port Sauce goes well with kangaroo.
  • Risky Regency presents King's College and the Coventry Carol. I really ought to learn the words. I've been playing this music in various orchestras my whole life.
  • Geocaching: worldwide treasure hunt.
  • How to install a zipper:

...because why should we throw out our favourite clothes when the zipper breaks?

Her Grace has done all these things in the past two weeks.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Beauty in Poetry

I've got such a romantic heart. I'm a sucker for poetry, even when it's not April.
Lord Byron, the original emo.

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."

Tell me this isn’t one of the world’s most beautiful poems. Go read the rest of it, and imagine yourself on a Regency balcony under a starry sky with the scent of roses wafting on the gentle summer breeze. Ah, Byron, you darkly romantic soul, you.

I also love Fire and Ice by Robert Frost:

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice."

Her Grace would like to hear some of your favourite poetry.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Back to Adam

A few weeks ago someone remarked to me that it was "impossible to go back more than a few generations" when doing one's family history, much less a thousand years, like my heroine Beatrice in For Richer, For Poorer.

Not true. If you are descended from European nobility who kept very good records, you can easily go back a thousand years. Granted, the further back you go, the harder it is to obtain reliable information. Any genealogist worth their salt knows the best research comes from original sources. Anything else is open to being questioned. Alas, time is not kind to original sources, especially the older they get. After a certain point, the information becomes little more than educated guesses.

Genealogy or Family History has always been important to humans. Ever read the Begats in the Bible? They were totally into it. Every Maori I've ever met has been able to recite generations and generations of ancestors back to the original settling of Aotearoa (New Zealand).  Chinese records date back thousands of years. In fact, any culture that features ancestor worship probably have the records to go with them.

During the Crusades, it was considered cool to buy a scroll with your family history "all the way back to Adam." I guess it could have been used as justification for "reclaiming the Holy Land"?

My great-great-great-uncle William Alfred Pettit Sr was really into Family History (as are many of my modern-day cousins). He managed to get more than a thousand years worth of research. He printed it in a book for the rest of us.

Without further ado, I'd like to present my family history line, with notes. There are some spots where I question the veracity, as some facts don't quite add up.

134.  My Daughters
133.  Me
132.  My Dad
131.  My Grandmother
130.  My Great-Grandmother
129.  Mary Isabel Pettit (b 9 Jul 1866, M Henry Green)
128.  Edwin Alfred Pettit (b 16 Feb 1834, M Rebecca Hood Hill)
127.  Jesse Pettit (b 26 Feb 1793, m Mary Pettit, his first cousin)
126.  William Pettit (b 1754, m Catherine Ryder) James Pettit, Sr (b 1757, m Mary Ann Sealey)
125.  Increase Pettit (b 17 Aug 1726, m Martha Eldert)
124.  Joshua Pettit (b 24 Feb 1702, m Sarah (Susannah) Carpenter)
123.  Thomas Pettit III (b 1666, Long Island, New York, m Catharine Branch)
122.  Thomas Pettit II (b 25 June 1630 on the ship "Talbot" in Salem Harbor, Mass, m Hannah Goffe Moore)
121.  Christian Mellows (b abt 1611, Widford, Hertford, Essex, England) m Thomas Pettit I (b 1610)
120.  Martha Bulkeley (b 1572, m Abraham Mellowes)
119.  Reverend Edward Bulkley (b 1540, M Olive Irby)
118.  Thomas Bulkeley (b abt 1520, m Elizabeth Grosevenor)
117.  William Bulkeley (m Beatrice Hill)
116.  Humphrey Bulkeley (m Cecliy Moulton)
115.  Hugh Bulkeley (m Helen Wilbraham)
114.  John Bulkeley (b abt 1325 m Arderne Titley)
113.  Baron Peter De Bulkeley (m Nicola Bird)
112.  Baron Robert de Bulkeley (m Feliece)
111.  Ellen Davenport (b abt 1250, m Baron William de Bulkeley)
110.  Roger De Davenport (b abt 1226, m Mary Salemon),
109.  Vivian De Davenport (b abt 1180, m Beatrix De Hulme),
108.  Amabilia De Venables (b abt 1147, m Richard De Davenport),
107.  Margary (FitzWolfric) De Hatton (b abt 1100, m Gilbert de Venables)  

A bit of a feminist note. Earlier in history (see below), women of noble/royal birth were definitely noted, as they were the mothers of kings. It was worth keeping track of those things. However, with each subsequent generation, the status of women dropped. Queens were mentioned, and wives of noble birth, but their grandparents and then their parents got forgotten. The further down the social totem pole you were, the more likely your parents were forgotten. Frex, check out Margary de Hatton's mother. What? You can't find her? Alas.

This is a frustrating thing about genealogy, especially around the last half of our second millennium. It is too common to trace a line back, only to hit a dead end when the only record you have for a woman is "Mrs [whatever]". Women were once so important. What happened?

106.  Walter de Hatton (1075)

I'm gonna question Wally Hatton here, as he is distinctly NOT a son of Emme Lupus. Is this where my genealogy line breaks down? After all, there is quite a gap between Ivan (b 1026) and Walter de Hatton (1075) 

Is he actually Walthew FitzWolfric de Hatton? (b 1072), son of Wolfric de Hatton?  Could it be possible one of the women of this line is one of Geoffrey Bretagne's daughters (legitimate or otherwise)?  Or is this simply a case of someone once finding one of those mediaeval scrolls in grandpa's attic and assumed that was the family line?

More research may be required.

105.  Emme Lupus (m Ivan Bellomontensis b1026) Apparently, she only had one son and one grandson.
104.  Geoffrey Bretagne (Duke) (b abt 972AD, M Hedwig (Hawise) of Normandy (Countess Brittany) 

While Wikipedia lists only four children for Geoff, other sources list more, including Emme. This is yet another example of research where original sources may be missing or incomplete. Or some researcher connected a family where they shouldn't have. It happens a lot, especially among inexperienced genealogists.

Now, there is a possibility that one of Geoff's other daughters may be the mother/wife of Wally above. I have no way of proving this. If you are a doubter in wild leaps of faith, you can safely assume that Wally is the "provable" end of my genealogy line.

Still, this is nearly a thousand years back. See, it can be done.

But if you're up for more fun...

103.  Ermengarde of Anjou (m Conan "the Crooked") Interesting family politics in here. Fulk III "the black" is her brother, apparently.
102.  Geoffrey I Grisegonelle of Anjou (b 11 Nov 958AD, m Adelaide of Vermandois)
101.  Fulk II "the Good" (m Gerverga of Gatinais)
100.  Fulk I "the Red" (m Roscille de Loches)
99.  Adlinde Rescinde de Gatinais (m Ingelgerius)
98.  Geoffrey de Orleans
97.  Bouchard de Fezensac (b 800AD)
96.  Aubri de Fezensac
95.  Bouchard "the constable" de Fezensac
94.  Guerin von Thergovie (b 20 May 722AD, m Adenlindis)
93.  Robert (b abt 700AD, m Williswinda)
92.  Lambert of Hasbaye
91.  Warinus (Guerin) (m Gunza of Metz)
90.  Sigrada Sigree (m Bodilon de Treves)
89.  Erchembaldus (m Ansoud)
88.  Ega (b abt 560AD, m Gerberga of the Franks)
87.  Erchenaud of Moselle
86.  Ausbert of Moselle (m Blithildis of Cologne)
85.  Ferreolus of Metz (b abt 450AD, m Deutria Outeria of Rome)
84.  Ferceolus
83.  Sigimerius
82.  Clodius"the long-haired" (m Basina)  Look, he's got a Wikipedia entry, complete with picture. That's more than I can boast right now. Whether the info listed here is accurate is very much up to debate.
81.  Pharamund (m Argotta, b abt 376AD) May also have been called Merovech, founder of the Merovingian Dynasty of kings. This info is rather hazy and greater scholars than I argue this stuff for a living.
80.  Marcomir
79.  Clodius
78.  Dagobert II (b abt 300AD)
77.  Genebald
76.  Dagobert I
75.  Walter
74.  Clodius III (b before 264AD)
73.  Bartherus
72.  Hilderic
71.  Sunno (Huano)
70.  Farabert (b abt 122AD)
69.  Chlodmir IV (b abt 104AD, m Halfilda)  King of the Franks, apparently.
68.  Athilidus (b abt 90AD, m Marcomir)
67.  Coel I of Britain

This is a classic example of whether or not research is accurate. Some sources claim this is the legendary Old King Cole, whereas others deny it. Even for kings, the records this far back are hazy. Along his mother's line, we have his mother Julia Iceni, Princess of Britain, and her mother Boudicea. Yeah. That Boudicea.

66.  Caradoc
65.  Bran "the blessed" (m. Enygeus "Anna")  This Anna was born in the Middle East, and died in Britain. Quite the traveller. Also, she appears to be the first cousin of the Virgin Mary. Yeah. That Mary.

64.  Penardim (m Lear "Llyr Llediaitha")

Around here is when the line seems to leave the Middle East for Europe. This is around the time of Christ, or just after, when Christianity began to spread.

63.  Anna the Prophetess (m Nasciens)
62.  Joseph "of Arimathaea" ben Matthat
61.  Matthat ben Levi
60.  Levi "Levi ben Melchi" ben Simeon
59.  Simeon "Belchi ben Jannai" ben Judah
58.  Jannai ben Joseph
57.  Joseph ben Mattathias
56.  Mattathias ben Semel
55.  Semein ben Josech
54.  Josech ben Joda
53.  Joda ben Joanan
52.  Jonan ben Rhesa
51.  Rhesa ben Zerubbabel
50.  Zerubbabel of Judah
49.  Salathiel ben Jeconiah
48.  Jeconiah ben Jehoiakim
47.  Yekhonia ben Josiah
46.  Josiah ben Amon
45.  Amon ben Manasseh
44.  Manasseh ben Hezekiah
43.  Hezekiah ben Ahaziah

Essentially, the rest of this is the genealogy of the Bible.

42.  Ahaz
41.  Jotham
40.  Uzziah
39.  Jehoram
38.  Jahosaphat
37.  Asah
36.  Abijah
35.  Rohoboam
34.  Soloman
33.  David
32.  Jessee
31.  Obed
30.  Boaz
29.  Salmon
28.  Nashon
27.  Amminadab
26.  Ram
25.  Hezron
24.  Perez
23.  Judah
22.  Jacob
21.  Issac
20.  Abraham
19.  Terah
18.  Nahor
17.  Serug
16.  Reu
15.  Peleg
14.  Eber
13.  Saleh
12.  Arphaxad
11.  Shem
10.  Noah
9.  Lamech
8.  Methuselah
7.  Enoch
6.  Jared
5.  Mahalaleel
4.  Cainan
3.  Enos
2.  Seth

1.  Adam & Eve

Friday, 9 January 2015

Randomosity at Disneyland

Today we are all about the entertainment (or at least, things that entertain me).

First up, this video of Gaston being challenged to a push-up contest.

Yeah. he's got egg on his face.

And now, to judge some book covers by their, um, covers, check out these Lousy Book Covers. (Don't do what Donnie Don't does.)  As I browsed through this site, I checked out some of the books behind these awful covers, and some of them were sitting at a respectable 4 & 5 stars on Amazon. Huh. Who knew?  Either that, or those authors have some really dedicated mates.

Alas, most of them are suffering from poor sales. Covers have a rather strong influence in marketing, more than these authors realised.

A note to many indie authors: "indie" doesn't have to mean "amateurish".  You can design your own cover if you want. At the very least, have some random stranger give their honest opinion before you post your cover. There must be some site somewhere that will critique covers before you make the marketing mistake of putting up a bad cover. Oh look, there is.

If you have any vision left in your right eye, soothe it with these winners from the Cover Design Awards.  I'm taking notes from these.

Now, back to Gaston. After his triumphant win over push-up guy, here's a girl who's challenged him to arm wrestling. Go redhead! You're my hero today.

Her Grace hasn't been to Disneyland in about thirty years. Maybe it's time to go back.

The World's Most Boring Cat

I associate with The World's Most Boring Cat. If it wasn't for the fact that I have to open the door for her, I'd hardly notice she's there.

"Must you take my picture?"
"I must."
She's a quiet little thing, keeps to her own. But sometimes, she will come up to you for scritches. However, it must be at the right time, and in the right place.

The World's Most Boring Cat is officially named Lucky Kitty, as in, it's sheer soft-hearted luck she got this far.

Her story is thus:

One day a young mother found a little black scrap of a kitten mewing pitiably on her front porch one cold winter's day. She brought her in and fed her. She inquired around to see if anyone had lost a kitten in the neighborhood. Nobody claimed her.

This young mother was not really a cat person, so she inquired to the vet to see if she'd take this lost kitten. The vet had one look at the kitten's black pelt. "I'm sorry," she said. "Nobody wants black kittens. They consider them bad luck."  She further explained that if she did take the black kitten, most likely, she'd only have to put it down.

The young mother couldn't stand the thought of that, so she sought a second opinion, then a third. Even asked at the Cat Haven, but got the same answer: nobody wants black cats.

So the squishy-hearted squeamish young mother kept the kitten and fed her, and raised her, and fixed her, and let her out whenever she needed to go out, but didn't realise she needed to love her. She grumbled as she vacuumed black cat hair off her pristine white floor. Her husband would tease the cat by jumping out at it whenever it entered the room.

World's Most Boring Cat can't be bothered.
One day the young mother came to her senses. "What are we doing with this cat? We are not cat people." So she advertised in a local rag. One cat, free to a good home.

This was several months after we had lost our beloved Basil, a gorgeous domestic long hair, who had been previously abused by his original owners. We rescued him and gave him a loving long life. We presume he died of old age, for one morning, he did not come home. His soft little body was never found.

After a suitable mourning period, we looked for another cat. There were two ads in the rag for cats that day--one, an orange kitten, and this black cat.

It was simply a case of the young mother returned our phone call first. So I set out with a cat cage and a pocket of catmint.

"You interested in my Super Sekrit Christmas Scarf-making?"
Lucky Kitty was a bit skittish. She had no interest in the catmint. The household little boy accidentally let her out when we were trying to catch her for the cage. Eventually, we got our hands on her, and I was able to bring her home.

Lucky wasn't sure what to make of her new home. It was strange. We kept her inside for an entire week to acclimatize her. Eventually, this worked, once she learned that we meant her no harm, and there was always food to be had.

A couple of days after we had her, we lost her, somewhere in the theatre. So the young daughters wouldn't accidentally let her escape as they went to school, we'd shut her in the theatre. Once the girls were safely at school, I opened the theatre door to let her out.

No cat. She was gone!

How on earth do you lose a cat in a 4x6 room? I scoured that entire room, looking under the couches, behind the TV, up in the windows, everywhere.

No cat.

In frustration, I called the husband, who repeated my troubleshooting. Still no cat.

I left the door open and spent a panicked morning wondering what had happened to the cat.

Most of my pictures of The World's Most Boring Cat
look like this. She has little tolerance for cameras.
Several hours later, she comes wandering out, not a whisker out of place.

"Where have you been?"

When the husband came home, he re-scouted the theatre. Turns out, she had managed to get into the subwoofer and had hidden there all day.

It took quite some time for Lucky to warm up to us as humans. She still maintains her aloof manner, and will only cuddle you in a place of her choosing and time of her choosing--namely, in the kitchen window on a sunny day, and late at night when I'm in bed, trying to work on the laptop.

Otherwise, she is The Shadow. She is LBC (Little Black Cat). She's The World's Most Boring Cat, who does not like her picture taken.

But occasionally, she will let you know she loves you.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I donated blood today

I'm a regular blood donor (A+, thenkyew). Today was another day at the donor centre.
Me coming out of the donor centre.

Today was a good donation. I admit I had some trepidation today, mostly because my sleep cycle's been off thanks to staying up late for New Year's, and then spending another night up late doing research. (I know, more fool me.)  I don't tolerate well when I'm short on sleep. And really, who likes needles at the best of times?

But this time, the centre was in a quiet hour, the needlestick was smooth, my bloodflow was quick and I didn't bruise at all. Nice!

I chatted with the phlebotomist about interesting things, including our mutual love of chocolate, and what happens if the donor centre has to be evacuated in case of a fire (it's not a simple process).

So I'm good for another three months, unless I choose to donate plasma. I've got Really Good Veins, so I shall have to consider this. Plasma donations can happen every two weeks.

Have you considered donating blood or plasma? Until we develop the technology for blood synthesis, our vital blood supply must be supplied from the arms of healthy humans.

Now go read my books.

Her Grace gives you three chances to guess which arm was drawn today.

Words I Like

Some words have a real likeability to them, either for their sounds or their meanings.

Cellardoor. This is probably the perennial favourite of lots of people for its soft, sibilant consonants and long, smooth vowels. And you have to admit, when that tornado warning siren goes off, a cellardoor is mighty appealing.

Lackadaisical. The word is just full of whimsy, possibly the same whimsy that drives the person who is lackadaisical in their attitudes towards something. I wonder if someone could be described as a "lackadaisy"?

Schadenfreude. Okay, this is a German word that's currently being appropriated into the English language. It has no direct translation but it means taking joy in the pain of others. Normally I wouldn't advocate nurturing a permanent attitude of schadenfreude, but every once in a while, when someone you dislike has something bad happen to them, you can't help but feel a touch of schadenfreude.  Also, any video that features some poor dad getting whacked in the goolies by his kid learning to play T-ball. (I'm sure Mom's around to kiss it better.)

Rhythm. Don't you just love it. Depending on how strict your definition is on vowels, you could consider this word to be vowelless. Nevertheless, give the R a slight roll, and this word becomes a lot of fun to say.

Effervescence.  Essentially, it means bubbly. But unlike "Bubbly", this word doesn't evoke Mr Bubble bubble bath or a glass of Diet Coke. No. This word evokes a luxurious warm bath in a cast iron claw-footed tub with rose-scented bubbles, sipping a glass of fine imported French champagne. With a delicate strawberry in the bottom of the glass. And smooth jazz playing in the background.

Decolletage. What a fancy word for one's bustline, especially the bit of the bust sitting up above the bustline of one's Regency gown. The word "Decolletage" also hints at a bit of sophistication. This is a beautiful bustline that's not too low or overly revealing. Otherwise, you lose your decolletage and end up with something more horrifying like nip-slip. How terribly gauche.

What are some of your favourite words?

Her Grace will sometimes choose certain words over others, simply because of their elegant sound. She is also fond of alliteration.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Weather Today in Australia

Note: the following temperatures are given in Celcius.  Therefore,
42.2C = 110F
19.2C = 65F

Hobart, Perth hates you.

Her Grace is grateful for air conditioning in the Daye Jobbe's office.