Saturday, 29 September 2018

My weekly budget (a metaphor)

I envision the time I have each week as money. I earn $168 per week. Unlike real money, however, I cannot save any surplus for the next week, nor can I borrow on credit. I can only use what I'm given and hope I budget wisely.

So, my budget is thus:

Taxes (at a preferred rate of 30% of my income): $56 
This is the amount of time I choose for sleep. This also includes any pre-bed rituals, like brushing teeth and maybe reading. Unlike real life, I can borrow from the taxes I pay to fund something else, but I end up regretting it. (Okay, maybe that is more like real life than I want to admit.)

Tithing: $12 
Being religious, I believe in giving over a certain percentage of my income to my God. I have a three-hour church block on the Sabbath. I teach Early Morning Seminary five days a week, plus lesson prep time, an hour on Monday for Family Home Evening, and time  here and there for my own scripture study, meditation, prayer and ministering service. Turns out I devote about twelve hours. If this was a true tithing analogue, I should up it to about seventeen hours a week.

Bills:  $36
Gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues. These are time obligations I must fulfill:
Day Job:  $12
School:   $12
Writing:  $12
I try to balance these out. Sometimes school takes up more time, especially if I have a project due; sometimes work takes up more time if they ask me to come in more hours to help complete a project. Sometimes the Day Job feels heavier than it is, because it takes up more spoons than it should. Don't get me wrong; my day job is a perfectly good job. I work in a good environment with a great team. If IT Support is what I wanted to spent the majority of my budget on, it's one of the better jobs out there. But I don't want to do IT Support any more. My issues with dealing with other people's problems are growing. This increases my tax demand, as I burn too much energy on the Day Job.

Travel: $10
This is literal. While I put petrol in the car, I also put time into driving places. On a quiet week, not so much. If I have an occasional dash to Perth or somewhere, that can take a bit more out of my budget.

Child Support & School Fees:  $16
When one has offspring, one must care for them. Your kids need your time, more so when they're younger, but not as little as you'd think when they're older. Help with homework and practice, listening to them, spending time with them, and more are required. While much of my child support budget is spent on individual children, at least there are a few things that I can group together.

Food:  $14
One must nourish the body. One must also nourish the soul. Self-care is essential for good mental health, which then enables one to pay one's other bills.  Things like dedicated meal times, reading time,  piano practice, a nice, hot shower, exercise and other personal-care things are a bill one cannot neglect to pay.

Spousal support:  $10
Gotta support the spouse, or one finds one no longer has a spouse. While some activities (like watching a movie together) can be covered under the Food bill, other things like just listening to how their day was or helping them pull weeds in the garden is purely spousal support. Many people neglect this bill, sadly.

Chores:  $7
As much as I loathe it, chores still need to be done. Dishes, kitty litter, laundry, vacuuming, you name it. One has to keep one's environment tidy. One of these fine days I'll earn enough spendable money to afford to pay someone else to clean my house for me. (Buy my books and make this dream of mine come true.)

Now, at the end of all this, turns out I have approximately $7 left. That appears to be one hour a day. Alas, this one hour a day gets nickle-and-dimed away in the interstitial moments.  Stop to chat with someone at work after a shift, that could be a good fifty cents gone. Waiting at the train station for the daughters after school? Another twenty-five cents spent. Little by little, these few precious dollars evaporate. A minor mishap leads to the Chores bill demanding another dollar. A late child nibbles away twenty cents. Traffic slowdown takes another twenty cents. Another child needs to go shopping to buy something for school? That can take two whole dollars.

Before you know it, those seven dollars are gone, and you're wondering where the money went.

Then there are those weeks where some big event takes over your life, forcing you to borrow from or even abandon some of these bills.  My last week was like that.  A child had a massive homework project she couldn't do alone. An expected death of an uncle gave me a few hours' pause while I gave over to grieving. A planned weekend away, while welcome, meant that many hours I could have spent on other projects went somewhere else.

As you know, Bob, I completely did not blog this week, as my time needed to be focused on other things.  I'm hoping you'll forgive me for this, for I was prepping the final copies for the print version of God of the Dark and getting Bride of the Dark prepped up as well.

And then there were the times I didn't want to do anything at all, but trawl through my cousins' memories of their awesome father.  The thing with an expected death from Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer is that one has plenty of time to come to terms with one's graduation from mortality. Also  helps to be Mormon with the belief that death is not the end, merely a pause.

Now, if only there was a way I could earn more money in a week.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 20

Robin Higgins looks like she needs a good cup of coffee.
Some secrets keep getting deeper and deeper.

Chapter 20: As he headed back, Mikal pondered over what his sister had told him.

Just because you know someone has a secret, or even think you know what that secret is, chances are, you don't know the whole secret.

Poor Mikal. His family would like nothing better than to keep him safe from his sister Adrastea's secret. Still, his proximity to her and to his Uncle Natan means that some things just can't be kept a secret, especially when one's potential future brother-in-law insists on having a little chat.

While whole knowledge of a secret can be a dangerous thing, partial knowledge can be much worse.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 19

Pride cometh before a fall?

Chapter 19: Mor-Lath lay imbedded in the dust of the road, several rocks pressing painfully into his back.

Yeah, sometimes one can get the better of a god, especially if he deserves it.

But only once.


Veering off the path: my daughters likes to aid and abet my corruption as an author. Sometimes she'll send me story ideas that get stuck in my head and won't go away.

One recent one is the quest tale of a man who returns from war with a neighbouring Greek state only to find his wife several months' pregnant... by Zeus. Boy, is he angry! So he sets off to find Zeus with the intention of punching Him in the face. Along the way, he comes across several others who were wronged by this god who can't keep His chiton down. By the time he reaches Mount Olympus, he's in the company of grudgeful half-men/half-beasts, spurned demi-god heroes, and one crotchety old woman who we suspect might be Hera in disguise.

P.S.: Arr, me hearties! Only three weeks left until yon book be available! Hie yer ugly swabs to Ye Olde Book Shoppe and plundar yer pre-order today.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 18

"What's that noise?"
"What noise?"

Chapter 18: Down in the village, Adrastea shuddered at the uncommon silence.

Take some time to close your eyes and listen to all the sounds around you. When the world is at a good status quo, there are certain noises that happen about you. For example, the sound of birds outside.

But when something changes, or danger lurks, the world tends to go silent as they wait for..?

When everything stop talking, it's a good idea to stop and listen as well.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 17

Sick of being blamed for the same-old same-old?

Chapter 17: His actions surprised Adrastea.

You'd think she'd be used to Mor-Lath by now. Yet sometimes he does things that she doesn't expect. 

Like throw her over his shoulder and carry her off for [spoilers].

His action baffles her (as well as enrages her), as she has no idea why she's being abducted in this rather undignified manner. He has his reasons, and he needed to make a point, not just to her, but to the others watching. 

Does he get his point across?

Monday, 10 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 16

Sometimes one received surprising news.

Chapter 16: "What?!" Carles shouted.

We've all heard something that turned our lives upside down. We learned a fact about someone we never expected. We receive an email or a phone call with unwelcome  news--the death of a friend, a marriage, a dream. It doesn't have to be something drastic like a Stage-Four Cancer diagnosis. It can be something like not getting  a job you really wanted, or learning your best friend is moving away.

Suddenly this big change thrusts itself into your life and whether you like it or not, you have to deal with it. Few of us have the space or the energy to take this mighty change in stride. How do we cope? What do we free up to allow us the resources to deal with this?  What impact will it have?

As war threatens the country, refugees flee to Sacred Spring--a village that's already got trouble enough on its own without needing the problems of others. So what happens when Carles Priest from Crossroads shows up in Sacred Spring with a whole lotta problems to dump on Natan Mayor? Sacred Spring shares its own problems with Carles. He's just been handed a bucket of WTF.

Interesting that this post is on 10 Sept.  In 2001, I learned on 10 September that I was pregnant.  Now, I'd been pregnant before, but always lost my babies. This news for me, on this day, was one of both dread and joy. Yay, I was pregnant. But would it be a keeper?

The next day a friend calls us on the phone. "You watching TV?"  No.  "Turn on the TV."  Why?  "Just turn it on."

So we did.  And so did the rest of the world.

Her Grace thinks she might be one of the very few people who remembers 10 Sept 2001.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

What is the deal with Pumpkin Spice Lattes?

As the revolution of the Earth starts pointing the Northern Hemisphere away from the Sun, Americans start talking about something called Pumpkin Spice Lattes (and their variants). As I am Australian and Mormon, could somebody please explain to me what this is? I admit bemusement, especially as sooo many of you seem annually addicted to it.

Now, I know what pumpkin pie is, having lived in the States for some time, but I left long before lattes became A Thing, ne'ermind pumpkin spice lattes, or even before Starbucks reached Utah. (I find it ironic that the HQ for Starbucks in Seattle is located on a street called "Utah Avenue".)

So... my best guess is that it's a pumpkin-flavoured (?!) milky coffee with a combination of spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves as one might use in a pumpkin pie.  Now, spiced coffee has been around for a Very Long Time, and Chai tea for the same amount of time. I'm just wondering who thought, "Hey, let's throw some pumpkin into our coffee and see who'll drink it."

I have had spiced pumpkin-flavoured milkshakes in Utah several decades ago, so a pumpkin-flavoured drinks isn't a new idea, but pumpkin-flavoured coffee?


Now, if it isn't pumpkin flavoured, why is it called "pumpkin spice latte"?  Why not just call it a spice latte?

Much 'splaining to be had, pleeze?

Australians don't do the pumpkin spice latte thing, either because it's not culturally connected, or they consider it a ridiculous idea, or they call it by a completely different name.  Also, there are no Starbucks in Western Australia. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 15

When you're used to living alone, if your housemate situation changes, so can your sleep schedule.

Chapter 15: Natan woke early because Mikal woke early.

Normally, I'm a 5am kind of gal for Reasons. But on the weekends, I love to have me a snooze.

Unfortunately, my cat does not understand the concept of 'weekend sleep-in'.

Natan Mayor, despite his best to turn off his mayoral brain, is extra-sensitive to the changes in his world. When his early-rising nephew Mikal stays with him, he can't help but respond to the changes in his world, even if it means no more sleeping in.

Meh. Rest is for the wicked.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 14

JMCollins needs a cup of coffee.
No such thing as a secret in a small town.

Chapter 14: Sheelagh was true to her word; she kept away from Marta and said nothing about their spat.

When one lives in a small-ish community, when one person's life gets disrupted it can ripple through everyone.

For her own reasons, Sheelagh is rather pro-Adrastea. Marta, because of Adrastea's mother, sits on the other side of the fence. Any wonder that their opinions would soon collide? Significant events in both women's lives came about directly because of Adrastea's secret.

Sharp words were exchanged, but nobody had ever expected it to come to blows.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Cover Reveal: God of the Dark

Several ideas were considered for the cover.  I rejected the idea of stock photos of random Fantasy chicks, because everyone does that. I considered an illustration, but again, that's what everyone does. Instead, I took inspiration from Grecian urns with their umber backgrounds and nearly B&W art. Grecian urns often depicted stories and legends.

This one looked nice: I handed it over to my graphic artist and turned her loose in Photoshop.

Finally! I've got the cover for God of the Dark.

This is the print edition cover, with front and back. I love how the quakie leaves wrap around the spine.

Book up for pre-order on the following platforms:

Amazon | KoboBooks | Barnes & NobleSmashwords | Books2Read

and pretty much anywhere good ebooks are sold.

Otherwise, once the book is out in October, you can request it at your local library. (I encourage this, even if you acquire your own copy.)

Her Grace wrote this series for readers to enjoy. Help share the love.