Wednesday, 26 July 2017

All-You-Can-Eat, I hate you

I got a gastric sleeve back in December, which completely changed my life. For the most part, it's been great and I'm glad I had it done.

However, it does put to flight the concept of All You Can Eat. My current stomach capacity is about 200ml, which is just under a measuring cup.

In theory I eat all I can at every meal, which is about three or four bites of whatever, then a little something to drink. And I'm full.

This puts a cramp in my old habit of enjoying restaurants.

Some friends are planning on going to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque. They're hoping to get a group booking so they can "get the price down to $30/head".  Alas, I can't participate. No way am I paying $30 per bite, er I mean, per head.

If I'm going to pay that much for that little food, it had better be Wagyu beef drenched in truffle sauce.

Another downside to a teeny tiny stomach is I can't participate fully in degustation menus. These are the delightful ten course meals put on by the fanciest restaurants to allow you to sample all their glorious art, er, food. His Grace and I enjoyed going out to degustations a few times a year. While the individual serves are teeny-tiny, believe me, after ten or more courses, at the end your normal stomach can be quite full.

Can't do that any more, at least, not the way I used to.

I might be able to participate in a degustation, but only if the restaurant is happy to accommodate my dietary restrictions. (The best restaurants will cater to dietary restrictions, such as food allergies, religious restrictions, etc.)  I have no idea if they would allow for my particular restrictions.

Can His Grace and I go to a fine restaurant and order one degustation to be shared between two people? I do have a card from my surgeon asking for restaurants to consider letting me order smaller portions. We haven't been game to ask for this consideration. It would be nice if they could. The degustations we indulge in are often $150 per person.

With a degustation, I would literally have one bite of His Grace's plate, and he'd finish the rest. We used to go to a brilliant restaurant that closed a few months ago. They were more than accommodating for issues. I wonder if they would have been accommodating for something like this. Maybe if we had a party of four or more, where they would have been making enough money per head to allow one "freeloader" chair space.

It's now that time of year when we'd go out and indulge.

His Grace and I have some thinking to do as regarding whether we may be able to enjoy the culinary arts equally in the future.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Book Reviews - Finish or Forget

I haven't done book reviews for a while (blame the semester. Planetary science took up more time than I realised).

I've been downloading and reading various books, mostly sourced from BookBub and Fussy Librarian, but also from the occasional recommendation from friends.

I confess, I did not finish reading many of the books I got. At .99c, I can afford to ditch a book that simply does not catch my interest.  I thought I'd go through some of the books I've recently read, including my reasons for finishing or forgetting it.

Note: my tastes may vary from yours, and you might enjoy a book I failed to finish, because what turns me off might be your crack.

________________

Book: The Woman who Saved the World (and was hated for it)
Author: Ebony McKenna
Finish or Forget:  Finish! And read a second time.
Why:  First of all it was a short read, which actually disappointed me. I wanted more. I read everything from this author I can get.  This book was a delightful time-travel story with many layers of nuance.
Many of her books are currently on sale at the moment for .99c or less.

---
Book: Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1)
Author: Alexia Purdy
Finish or Forget: Forget. Got to chapter four
Why:  The plot felt one-dimensional. It simply didn't raise any questions to keep me going. I'm a stickler for complex plots. This didn't seem to have one. Sorry.

---
Book: Marine Biology
Author: GL Carriger (Okay, it's really Gail Carriger writing modern stuff)
Finish or Forget: Finish!
Why: Her voice and style is bright with a bit of humour. Her characters are likeable. While I'm generally not a fan of contemporary real-world settings, this one worked for me, because of how she painted the layer of magic over the contemporary world and made it relevant. Don't know if I'd hand it to most of the teenagers I know, as it's really for grownup people who can handle mermen and werewolves smooching atop ladders.

---
Book: Midnight Marriage
Author: Lucinda Brant
Finish or Forget: Forget. Made it to chapter two.
Why: Style didn't catch me. Also, the secretly arranged, forced marriage between a teenage boy and a twelve-year-old girl (even there was no consummation) felt very squicky to me, partly because of their ages, but also by the men forcing both parties to the marriage. They get married, and then don't see each other again until a decade later. Still, I couldn't feel any chemistry.  Might come back to it. Maybe. If I do, it'll be in hopes of plot complexity.

---
Book: Mademoiselle at Arms
Author: Elizabeth Bailey
Finish or Forget: Forget. Got to chapter three.
Why:  Characters felt too inconsistent. I couldn't get a sense of any depth from them. "Mademoiselle" claims to be English through and through, but always speaks with a French accent. Reader is given no clues why. Also, the style isn't as deep as it could be, with filter phrases distancing me. Also, don't really get a sense of the historical setting.

---
Book: The Last Necromancer
Author: C.J. Archer
Finish or Forget: Finish! And went on to look for more in the series.
Why: The voice! It drew me in and didn't let go. Even the concept of the last necromancer in the world intrigued me enough to abandon my Kobo and secure this one for my Kindle app on my mobile phone. Normally I can't stand reading for too long on light-emitting screens, but this one tempted me. Style was smooth, details rich and the characters distinctive.
I wish Archer had a box set of this series. She's done box sets for her other series. But I wanted to indulge in this series now!

---
Book: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress
Author: Annie Bellet
Finish or Forget: Finish
Why: Voice. I started reading this book because the title sounded so hokey. I honestly was expecting some shallow story about gamers who suddenly discover their AD&D actually casts real spells.
Glad I was wrong! The voice hooked me and made me read contemporary paranormal. The setup and the depth of the main character (who's got really big, nasty secrets) kept me until the end. Might be tempted to read more of the series.

---
Book: The House of Closed Doors
Author: Jane Steen
Finish or Forget: Finish.
Why: This was more a historical novel, rather than anything fantasy-like. Maybe I found the genre refreshing enough to stick through to the end. I liked the main character Nell's journey and how she deals with some of the challenges that come her way. One slight downfall was that plot events felt a bit too idealistic. Personally, I enjoy idealistic, because for me, fiction is escapism. But sometimes, the idealism was a bit too convenient at times. Not sure if I'm ready for the next in the series. Maybe when I need a bit of optimism in my life. It's not frothy, but the heroine doesn't really end up in any dire situations that can't turn out all right in the end.

---
Book: World Whisperer
Author: Rachel Devenish Ford
Finish or Forget: Forget. I persisted to chapter nine in hopes it would get better, but it didn't.
Why: The plot was so dull. Also, characters felt flat.  I'll forgive one or the other, but not both. While there were some interesting world-building elements, the strangeness of each element functioned in isolation and there was insufficient cause-and-effect to make for some really rich worldbuilding. Alas.

---
Book:  Destiny Blues
Author: Sharon Joss
Finish or Forget: Finish.
Why: Because strong characters, interesting plot and voice will trump my meh attitude toward contemporary paranormal. The worldbuilding was well-thought-out in this one, offering the sort of complexity I like to see. I loved how Joss handled the supernatural Djemon et al.  Sucks to be Mattie, but can you blame her? 

---
Book: The Smuggler's Gambit
Author: Sara Whitford
Finish or Forget: Forget. Couldn't even finish chapter one.
Why: It wasn't the voice. There was voice, but it didn't sing to me. Wasn't the setting. Plenty of that. Could have been the plot. I didn't get a sense of the direness of the plot. Yeah, Our Hero Adam gets abandoned to die by some smugglers. But otherwise, I couldn't get any sense of the plot. Maybe it was the characters. I simply didn't connect to them. Another big turnoff for me is when the MC gets bullied first thing. Francis Smythe bullies Adam in chapter one. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for this story. Might give this a try again. If plotty goodness picks up in the next chapter or so,  I might give it another chance. Normally I'm into historical stories about pirates and smugglers.

---
Book: The Devil's Concubine
Author: Jill Braden
Finish or Forget: Finish, and am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Why: Boy, can Braden deliver! Her fantasy worldbuilding so redolent of Southeast Asia was so refreshing. Her characters were well-imagined and round. The plot satisfied my inner drama mama and the depth of the characters only made it better. I wanted to care about these characters. I loved that they had good sides and bad sides. 

---
Book: Naheli's Sacrifice
Author: Rabea Scholz
Finish or Forget: Finish, though this kind of book isn't really my thing.
Why: I tend to find dystopias rather isolating and self-contained. They're often like little bubbles. This one felt like that. It was consistent within, but felt like the island on which it took place was completely isolated from the rest of the world. Might have come from the characters, that had their own sort of dysfunctionality. I did read this to the end, because the main character had her own conflicts, which propelled the story enough for me. Most of the other characters tended to appear rather flat, but Naheli had her own complexities. I like how she wavered between her determination to be the Sacrifice, and to not be the Sacrifice.

---
Book: Mr Dracy to the Rescue
Author: Victoria Kincaid
Finish or Forget: Finish, but driven only by hope. Alas, they were a bit dashed.
Why: I'm a P&P sucker, so I'll read any of the public domain derivatives. This one, while having an excellent premise, failed to deliver on character development. Elizabeth Bennet accepts Mr Collins' proposal out of duty to her father and Mr Darcy realises he's obsessed with her after all. Unfortunately, that's about all the character development that happens. Darcy's obsession doesn't develop, wax or wane. Elizabeth puts up with Collins until he decides to break the engagement. I almost wanted her to gird up her loins and start slaying zombies, but nothing so exciting happens.

---
Book: Box set: The Dragon Blood Collection, books 1-3 (Blade's Edge, Death maker, Blood Charged)
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Finish or Forget: Finish and went looking for more. 
Why: Excellent blend of steampunk and magic. Aeroplanes! Dirigibles! Pirates! Betrayal! Complex characters, imaginative worldbuilding and an easy-to-read style that carries you along.


---
Book: Dragon Seed: The Story of China at War
Author: Pearl S Buck
Finish or Forget: Finished, but disappointed in this well-beloved author
Why: I first read The Good Earth as a child, I loved it. It was an interesting look into the peasant life of Pre-revolutionary China. As her books have appeared on my Kobo list, at really good prices, I've been buying and reading them up. Unfortunately, while this one started out as expected, the plot fizzled out toward's the end. I think she could have ditched the story of the daughter who went away, and just stayed with the main character.


---
Book: Twice a Rake
Author: Catherine Gayle
Finish or Forget: Finish
Why:  I'm a sucker for Regency Romance. I enjoy reading them, but I tend to forget about most of them after the final page. This one had an interesting enough plot with a heroine who writes scandalous fiction in her diary. Naturally, the diary gets lost, and wacky hijinks ensue. Worth reading once.


---
Book: To Wed the Widow
Author: Megan Bryce 
Finish or Forget: Forget. Got to chapter eleven, and couldn't stand the company of the characters any longer. 
Why: They felt too contemporary, like the popular kids in high school. Not my tribe. Didn't really want to know how their HEA turned out.


---
Book: Slave, Warrior, Queen (Of Crowns and Glory, Book 1)
Author: Morgan Rice
Finish or Forget: Forget. Chapter five, and I'm happy to abandon this.
Why:  The plot. It's like everything is hand-placed in front of Our Heroine Ceres so she can succeed. I don't get any sense of anything happening because of her own actions, nor did I get enough sense of the consequences for her choices. It's almost as if she's drunk too much felix felices. The other characters feel flat.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Curse of Time

No, I'm not talking about lack thereof. That happens to us all.

I'm talking about how we measure time, according to our planet's circadian cycle, and the fact that we've colonised all 360ยบ of it.

Recently I've been hanging out on Twitter for pitch parties and the such. Alas, most of the fun on Twitter happens when the US is awake. That's my middle of the night.

Eastern Standard Time is diametrically opposite Western Australian Standard Time.  Also, WA does not have Daylight Savings Time, because we're smart. See, we have a greater awareness of how time zones can affect others. Perth is the only major city within our time zone. When we need to conduct business with Adelaide, Sydney, Auckland, London or New York, we've got to deal with different time zones. Daylight Savings Time, that leftover dinosaur from a time when most people did not have electric lights and the Internet, is useless in the 21st Century. Spring Forward and Fall Back does no one any favours, and causes more problems than it solves.

But I'm not here to rant about DST. It's your own bad luck if you live in a DST Zone. DST can change. It can be legislated out of existence. Really.

I'm talking about things that governments can't change: science. Planet is round. You are on one side, I am on the other. If you're a diurnal creature like me, chances are we won't be awake at the same time. This bums me out.

This affects my professional life.  As an author, I spend half my time writing and the other half marketing/networking. My ideal work day would be to get up early, get about four hours' writing time done, then spend the warm afternoon in promo and socialising.

But I can't, because most of my audience is asleep during my afternoon. If I am to be social and interact with everyone, I've got to do it first thing, before everyone goes to bed.  Scheduling tweets and blogposts doesn't do me any good, because I'm not there to interact.

This is not an ideal schedule, as I'd much rather spend my more brain-awake hours working on great novels, not marvelling at the witty sayings of social media. Going nocturnal for the sake of my career isn't an option at this point, as I still have children at home.

I see lots of authors having great networking success because of Twitter. It's a shame I can't take full advantage of its power simply because I'm on the wrong side of the planet.

__________________________
Her Grace, in spite of geographical isolation, prefers the lifestyle of Perth and Australia. She gets paid a living wage and does not need to fear that one little medical issue could send her bankrupt.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

PitchWars 2017 - Pimp My Bio (Heidi Kneale - Adult Fantasy Romance)

Prologue

I'm Australian. G'day mate. But I'm not completely dinky-di, as I was born in the US; howdy. Being a dual citizen has its advantages and disadvantages.

Chapter One

I'm Heidi Kneale and this is my bio.  Welcome to PitchWars and PimpMyBio.

Yep, I'm obnoxious.
I write Fantasy and Romance, usually blending the two. My previous works have been compared to Gail Carriger's and Mary Robinette Kowal's.  I'm currently published with a reputable small press (as you do when you're a Romance author) and have recently gone hybrid (as you do when you're a 21st Century author). Now's the time to take my game to the next level.

I've learned much along my publishing journey, enough to know I wanna join all my published mates from the OWW who've done rather well for themselves.


I have a fifty-year career plan. This includes getting an agent and getting published by some Random Penguins. PitchWars could be that one thing that helps me take that next step. So here I am, hoping to impress a mentor, then impress an agent.


Many faces of me?
In my life I have a wealth of ambidextrous polymath skills upon which I can call: (mezzosoprano-schoolteacher-braillereader-swimmer-greenbelt-composer-painter-astrobiologist-chorister-reliefsocietysister-itsupportofficer-webcontenteditor-director-conceptualastronomer-filmmaker-violinist-camper-seamstress-jeparlefrancais-mastercostumer-watercolourer-excellentcook-mother-soundengineer-driver-critter-gardener-womanofcourage-potter-pianist-idealist-driver-richardarmitagesgirlfriend-gamer-habloespanol-supportteam-problemsolver-letterwriter-catfeeder-worldtraveller-mormon-tlhInganHolvIjatlh-leader-volunteer-lawnmower-quilter-and-more).  I won't bother to go into them here in depth, because while this is my bio, it's really about me as an author.

Chapter Two

I write books. I've always wanted to write books, ever since I was eight.

Okay, I first wanted to be an opera singer (age 3), then an astronomer (age 6), then a teacher-astronomer (age 7), then a shuttle went boom (age 8), and I thought it might be better to remain on Earth. That said, I do spend a lot of time here as part of my MSci degree:

But yeah. I was a voracious reader from a very young age, and was impressed to learn that people wrote books, and could do that as a living! So at age 10 I wrote my first novel. Currently working on my 20-somethingth novel.

I've written a handful of books, some of which will never see the light of day and some that I believe will do well published, but the Of The Dark series must be my favourite three children.

I wuves 'em soooo much with much muchness!


Chapter Three

"Waitaminnute," you ask. "Didn't you sub that last year for PitchWars?"

Indeed I did. And I'm subbing it again this year because I love it with all the wuvs in the world and I don't have another novel that's sub-ready. I have done some revision. And I really hope I can find an agent who understands how much love and heart and soul and work and everything I've poured into this beautiful little tale, and that it really needs to be shared with the world.


Like Greek myths?  Of The Dark might be for you. It's based off the Adrasteia and Jupiter stories, but I've thrown in a whole bunch of other Greek myth elements, like Jupiter and Juno, Pluto and Proserpina, as well as a few others. If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you will recognise elements here and there.

But I've not set it in Ancient Greece. Instead, I based my secondary worldbuilding from a period of history I know very well: 19th Century America.

I've got a chthonic god and a bewildered maiden and some rather unfinished business. I have men of courage and women of devotion. I have people with secrets and people with agendas. I have a rich tapestry of a village where actions roll out ripples of consequences.

Chapter Four

Is it a sweet little Romance with a neat and tidy HEA?

No.

The vibe is more like this:

Yeah. There's a bit of darkness in the tale. It's not light and fluffy like all my other published stuff. There's coersion. There's death. There's the breakdown of a village. There's mass murder. There's invasions and battles and betrayals and all sorts of knots of woe. Comp authors: Dave Duncan and Emma Hamm. My regular bevy of Regency Romance with Magic fans may or may not enjoy it. My beta readers are going to wet themselves if I can't get this published. Unlike my other works, the two main characters are not kept apart by circumstances, but by each other.  Relationships are not easy. Sometime the biggest hurdle to a happily ever after is one's own self.

Chapter Five

And the plot. I looove the plot!  It's like this:



My beta readers were impressed. They were all...


Yes, you do. I am not afraid to kill off your favourite characters. And those are the ones who got off easy.

I don't Tweet much, having a life and all, but I'll do my best to keep up and make the occasional lame comment. I love the sense of community with PitchWars. 

Fortune smiled upon me when I got into #MenteesHelpingMentees where the lovely Maxym M. Martineau is helping me get my act together-er.  Even if I don't get in to PitchWars, I plan to pay forward this favour to someone.

End Book One


Book Two: Wherein Her Grace manages to finish her #MenteesHelpingMentees revisions, support and cheer her fellow future mentee potentials, and hopes to have something polished enough to win over hearts.

Book Three: Wherein Her Grace gets into PitchWars, impresses a lot of people, and takes the next step in her career.  Or doesn't get into PitchWars and finds another path for the next step in her career. Regardless of what happens, stuff is going to happen, by gum! I simply prefer one path over another at the moment.

Potential follow-on series: Fail to find an agent with Of The Dark, go indie with it, finish this next Regency Romance with Magic book and query/pitch it next year. Sooner or later I shall woo an agent. It is really hard to have written nearly a million words and not get something right.

______________________________
Her Grace would like to reassure you that yes, that's how Aussies play footy. She still remembers a commentator's tossed out line of "It's only a broken jaw. He'll be fine," from the first game she ever watched.