Thursday, 30 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Ze End of Ze Challenge!

I'm glad it's over. 

I don't know if I'll ever blog every single day ever again. I just can't keep up with the time demand. I'd much rather devote most of my time to writing excellent books.

I've read some spectacular blogs from my fellow challengers, and have been enlightened. I've loved seeing what people value and what interests them.

Me, I'm going back to my usual 2-3 posts a week.

Dear readers, what would you like to see more of from me?

I plan on continuing Interviews, whenever I find a victim willing participant (have a couple lined up, pending their schedules). I plan on speaking about ongoing projects such as "Marry Me" and "Victoria Arden" and "Currently Unsupervised" and whatever that other novel is that is knocking about my head.

I'd like to talk about my research into indie publishing as I consider going hybrid (I'm already commercially published). I'm seeing advantages to both systems.

I'd like to talk about the books I'm reading and the books I want to read. I want to tell you about spectacular authors I know like Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Rae Carson. I want to gush about how much I love reading.

I want to have fun with TASE day and Randomosity.

I want to do all this. But not every day.

Her Grace wants a rest.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: What I Want & Y

Because it is April, I thought I'd try a poem.

What I Want & Y

I want to hide away; I've got so much to do.
Not to hide from the do, but from the world.
I need to work this project. I need to work on that.
I want to feel accomplished.Y don't i feel like it?

Your song is way too noisy. You are all staticky.
Must you interfere with my simplicity?
I want to run away and take my blankets too.
And my books and my works and see what I can do.

Let me be. Please go away. I accomplish nothing here.
I beat in six-eight rhythm and you're all five-thirteenths.
Stop that incessant pounding! Stop your needless demands.
Can't you see I'm busy? Can't you see my plans?

I want to slide away. So much for me to do.
Clock, stop your ticking. I'm not listening to you.
Nor to my hunger or to sleep or to the world's demands.
Please, just let me finish this one thing.
And all the rest, it too.

Her Grace's fancy way of saying, "Bugger off."

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: X is a rather annoying letter

Alas. In every Alphabet-themed whatever, one must inevitably come to the letter X. When that happens, it's sooo annoying!

Every schoolchild remembers the long alphabet lists. A is for Apple/Alligator/Aardvark/Ant/etc, B is or Book/Bird/Ball/Botulism.  Every letter of the alphabet has a plethora of words to choose from.

But X?

What begins with X?  Very little.  X-ray and Xylophone are about the only two familiar words available to littlies. Prior to the 20th Century where nobody knew what an X-ray was but did have access to the Classics, there was King Xerxes. Otherwise? Nada.

Even Dr Seuss had issues: "X is very useful if your name is Nixie Knox. X is also useful in spelling axe and extra fox."

Now, the problem with X in the English language is how it functions. Most of its common application is in the middle and end of words. You almost never see it at the beginning of words, unless it's preceeded by E. Example. Explanation. Exactly.

X has a funny sound:  ks. Those two sounds might work at the end of words, but for the beginning it's uncomfortable. When an English word begins with X, it makes a zz sound.

That'll confuse the kiddies.

And why do we even  have it in the first place? It's not like X is a distinctive, unique sound, like B or T or L. We've got other letters that can take the place of X quite nicely.

Yet here we are, stuck with it in our Alphabet, cursed to have to come up with something for the letter X in lists like this A to Z challenge.  I blame the Etruscans.

Her Grace would love to leave out the letter X.

Monday, 27 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: I am a Writer

I am a writer. You cannot read this blog and miss that fact.

I have always been a writer. I've always loved stories.

Technically, I prefer to call myself an author or a novelist, as that's mostly what I do, and what I want my career to focus on.

Honestly, I don't know what I can tell you here about being a writer. I write to escape real life. My fiction reflects that. So to sit here and write about why I write, when the reason I write is so I don't have to face reality works rather counter-productively. My writing and my reality should be invisible to my readers. All they should see is the worlds and characters I've created. I want my readers to escape as well.

Maybe I should tell you what I wouldn't write.

  • True Crime Why: It's about Reality Gone Wrong. Humans are capable of wonderful things. Conversely, they are also capable of very dark deeds. I do not have the emotional capacity to write True Crime. In real life not enough crime is resolved by true justice. Even if a criminal is brought to justice, as our current legal systems know it, I still can't stand True Crime, because I never get to see the redemption of the criminal.
  • Contemporary Fiction. It's too close to reality. There's not much room for something wondrous and otherworldly. I'm okay with historical fiction, because people's lives and circumstances are very, very different through the various periods of history. The Roaring Twenties. The Regency. The Roman Empire. Pre-Revolutionary China. Because these places are very different from the life I've grown up in, they make lovely escapist settings. But contemporary settings? I'm sorry. They are a little too close to home.
  • Political Thrillers. Politics are a rich ground for thrillers because politics are a lose-lose situation. Politics have no shared moral values. It's essentially every one out for themselves, and doing their best to enforce their views on others. There is no such thing as HEA in political thrillers. (Sorry, Janet. I know how much you love them.)
  • Westerns. Westerns seem to be all about the cowboys. I don't like cowboys. I've known enough of them to be turned off by the double-standarded macho attitude. There's too much untrained testosterone going about for my taste. Too rough-and-tumble. Cowboys are very set in their ways. There's no wiggle room.
  • Christian Fiction. My real life is very much a Christ-centered life. But even the most devout of Christians needs a regular break from all the religiosity. It can be hard work being Christian. I have no desire to write Christian fiction because it's not escapist enough.
What genres would you not want to write?

Her Grace is happiest where she is. Now go buy her books. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Victory!

I am pleased to report victory over the HP Laserjet 2015n formatter card issue.

You could google specific instructions like I did, but essentially I reflowed the solder by baking the formatter card in a 200C oven for five minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then replace in printer.

Thanks to my now-working printer, I've printed test prints, high school applications, recipes and newly-composed medleys.

I'd call this repair a success. Now, off to boast about it at the Daye Jobbe. They'll be suitably impressed.

Her Grace, while fully supportive of paper-free offices, still has a need for a printer from time to time.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Um...

Um... Oops. Forgot a day of the challenge.

Hey, these things happen. I happen to have a very full Real Life. I actually spend very little time online, and even then, mostly for professional reasons.

The challenge has taught me one thing: my previous posting schedule of 2-3 times a week suits me well.  Also, I like my sporadic themes and my series (such as My Novel, and Interviews).

I'm glad this is nearly over, as I prefer my usual blogging rhythm.

How did U do?

Her Grace loves the rhythm of her own song.

A to Z Challenge: Tools

Right now I'm at my kitchen table with a disassembled HP Laserjet 2015 printer. The tools I used were a good old phillip's head screwdriver and a black belt in Google Fu.

I took it apart so I could get at the formatter board. Turns out when the HP 2015 misbehaves (ie, error lights Paper Jam and/or Toner Out come on, and nothing can print), the error may lie with the formatter board.

Turns out that when these particular boards were manufactured, they had swapped to a newer lead-free solder. This solder has difficulty withstanding the operating temperatures of the HP 2015 and when that happens, you get dry solder joints. (This is bad.)

Even if you've got the correct tools for the job (like I do), these things were NOT designed to be soldered by hand. His Grace who's a Level 80 in Soldering and regularly assembles his own circuitry boards, took one look at this board and said "Buckley's."

So I turned to the universal solder reflow tool--the kitchen oven. If it works for all the other computer geeks on YouTube, it should work for me, right?

Then again, for all those for whom this trick failed, it's not like they're going to share it on YouTube, are they?

So?  Did it work?

Tune in tomorrow when I report my results.

Her Grace relies on the tool of a printer from time to time. It's nice when they work.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Short Stories

I don't get to write many short stories of late, but once upon a time, I did.

A few months ago I was thinking of taking up short stories again, but more as flash fiction, and more as bloggy type stuff. Just to stretch the ol' muscles. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

My fellow woodland creature and short story writer extraordinare Colin D Smith has spent his A to Z Challenge by writing short stories. He's well-practiced, so they're pretty good. Go read them.

Because I'm woefully out of shape, I thought I'd give one a go.

I chose five words at random:

...and now I'm going to write a short story.

Margaret leaned out of her apartment window. Mrs Catalan's apartment window was only three meters away, but Mrs Catalan's scorn lay heavy on Margaret's shoulders. "You should have married my Steve," she's shout across the way. "He's a good lad. Goes to church, you know."

Prayer beads were no substitute for love beads, not with the way Steve used them. Margaret's throat still ached. She levered the ladder out from her window to the ledge across the way. When one found oneself suddenly single, one had to get used to doing things by oneself.

Well, Steve had a new home now for three-to-five years. Amazing how easy it was to find new housing when the cops caught you in Intent to Sell. Was it Coban or Armand who slipped that little packet into his jacket?

Mrs Catalan blamed Margaret for that as well, even if she had no proof.

Ever-so-carefully, Margaret made her way across the makeshift scaffold to Mrs Catalan's window. The nasty old biddy was out that afternoon.

A liberal squirt of Liquid Nails along the window frame ensured it would never open again. The rattle of mixer beads in the can of blackout paint sang sweetly in her ears.

Rightly so, Mrs Catalan would blame her for this bit of vandalism.

Margaret could afford the indemnity if it meant those accusing eyes would never accost her again.

Her Grace might stick with novel.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Randomosity

Here is a list of Randomosity:

  1. You can tell how hot a star is based on its colour. The hotter a star is, the bluer it appears. Thus, the red ones are cooler.
  2. Once Feminism reaches its true beneficent goals, it will cease to exist. Feminism is okay with this.
  3. Most flat buttons are either two holes, or four holes. The even numbered holes are easier to sew on by machine. Four-holed buttons provide a stronger connection. However, three hole buttons do exist, even though they tend to be rarer. For some reason, certain snobs think that three hole buttons  means that the buttons must be sewn on by hand. (Like that is any guarantee of quality!)
  4. Popular and wildly successful children's band The Wiggles is descended from an Aussie pub rock band called The Cockroaches.
  5. Everybody's name has a meaning. Mine means "Noble Champion". What does yours mean?
  6. Clinical depression may be a medical condition requiring medication, but the random Blues can be solved by indulging in something uplifting and funny. Don't wallow in the Blues. The Blues, if left untreated, can turn into clinical depression and really, that's not fun.
  7. Read a random article in Wikipedia. Report here what it was.

Her Grace would love to hear a random fact from you. That's what comments are for.

Monday, 20 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: I advise you to Quit.

Very interesting article written by Moira Allen about the fine art of Quitting (or not). Go read it. I'll wait.

Every writer is faced at one time or another with the question of whether or not they should quit.

Sometimes one simply runs out of mojo. I'm okay with giving a writer permission to quit. 

When someone says to you, "I just want to quit writing (or whatever)," they're looking for one of two responses: "No, keep going!" or "It's okay to quit." They pose this because they are unsure and are looking for external validation one way or the other.

Now, whenever I'm presented with that question, I always advise them to quit. This is not because I really want them to quit writing, but because I want them to realise what they truly want to do.

It's all in how they respond to my answer.

If their "You think I should quit?" is accompanied with a worried expression, they're not ready to let go of their writing. If they have doubts about quitting, maybe they should keep writing until they are more sure they want to quit.

But if their response comes with a sigh of relief, even if their words say otherwise, then let them quit, and let them find joy therein.

Advising quitting is a far more honest response, which will serve them best in the long run. True can't-not-write writers will always find a way to write, even when they go in hiatus for a while through the valley of the shadow of death. (We writers often take breaks. It's necessary.)  If writing is not their One True Passion, then quitting will not destroy them. They will go on to find another way to satisfy their souls.

Compare that to the misguided, if optimistic advice, "No, don't quit! Keep writing!"

Sure, we all want to hear something positive and uplifting, especially when we're down. But sometimes, when we're down, we're tired. We need a break.

But for someone who doesn't realise that it's okay for a writer, even a professional career writer, to take a break, telling them to keep writing might be the last thing they need.

And what if this person, deep down, doesn't want to be a professional career writer? What if, in their innermost soul, they do want to quit?

To tell someone like this to keep going, when really they don't want to, is a bad idea. It puts social pressure on them to persist in something that they really don't want to do, ultimately.

If someone had truly made up their minds to quit writing, they'd not bother with saying, "I want to quit."  They'd simply quit, with little or no fanfare. Writing is no longer an important part of their life. Let their past fade.


If a person is destined to be a writer, at whatever level, let them quit. 

It'll only be temporary and may be just the thing they need.

Her Grace wrote this as a response on a mailing list last month. She liked it so much, she had to share it here.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: P is for Putter

Yep. P is for Putter.

As much as I would like to avoid it, some days I must putter.

Of all the things I wanted to get done today, I haven't touched a speck. Instead, I've puttered about.

At least I did not get bitten by that really big Redback Spider. Normally I'm okay with spiders, but not this one. Not today.

And I must confess it was a good thing I drive like a little old lady, or that Not-Quite-Paying-Attention-Young-Driver might have nailed me instead of the kerb. (I wonder what sort of damage she's done to her tyre?)

I'm sorry, Mr Ficus. You and I have had a good relationship for the past decade or so, but when you go sneaking taproots into the pavement behind my back, I will cut you off. Please don't hold it against me too long.

Last night was a really, really good night. I attended the opening of the Rockingham Writer's Centre. I caught up with some fellow writers and met some new ones. I talked with lots and lots of people who told me about the good things in their lives, and the writing they were doing. I'm so, so glad I went.

I might have used up all my mojo last night. I don't regret that.

But today I must putter. Today I'll just have to accept that.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Her Grace really should be working on Gamma Ray Bursts.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Interview - Corinne O'Flynn

Today I welcome fellow A to Z challenger and and Fantasy author Corinne O'Flynn to our Friday Interviews.  As part of the A to Z Blog Challenge, I encourage you to visit her on  and say hello.

Her official bio says:
Corinne O'Flynn is a native New Yorker who now lives in Colorado and wouldn't trade life in the Rockies for anything. She loves writing flash and experimenting with short fiction. Her novel, THE EXPATRIATES (Oct. 2014) is a YA fantasy adventure with magic and creatures and lots of creepy stuff. HALF MOON GIRLS (April 2015) is a murder mystery/police procedural set on Kauai and was written as part of the launch of Toby Neal's Lei Crime Kindle World. She is a scone aficionado, has an entire section of her kitchen devoted to tea, and is always on the lookout for the elusive Peanut Chews candy.
When she isn’t writing, Corinne works as the executive director of a nonprofit. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can find her online at her websiteFacebook, or Twitter @CorinneOFlynn.

I had some fun chatting with Corinne about several nifty things:

CO'F: Thanks for having me on your blog. I've just released a new novella and I'm hosting a contest for anyone who reads and reviews on Amazon, they can enter to win $25 amazon gift cards or ebook copies of my YA novel. Contest details here:

Cool! We love contests. Y'all have one more week to enter. 

Corinne writes YA Fantasy. Her first book The Expatriates: Song of the Sending is out now. I quite enjoyed it.

HWK: In "The Expatriates: Song of the Sending", James has lived most of his life on Earth. His mother kept the reason for that a secret from him. Having read the book, I understand the wisdom of her decision. That's a hard choice to make. What was going through her head or her heart when she initially made that choice?

CO'F: When his family made the choice to hide Jim, it wasn't a unanimous decision. Without revealing spoilers, I will say that Jim's mom wasn't interested in the greater good or anything political as it would relate to doing this. In fact, she abhorred all of those things. Her choice was driven by the "mama bear" instinct to protect her child and give him the best shot at a decent life, everyone else be damned! If you read the story, you'll know that ends up.

HWK: The Sweetwater clan hid on earth in plain sight as a travelling circus. Was this part of their camouflage, or did the clan have a deeper connection to the performance arts?  Do you have any circus connections?

CO'F: Oh, how I wish I had circus connections, in the fantastical non-animal abuse, nostalgic way! Didn't we all want to run away and join the circus at some point in our childhoods? No, when I think of the circus, it's a romantic, magical place. In The Expatriates, the Sweetwater clan lives in a traveling carnival as a way to stay on Earth without arousing the suspicion of the locals. They aren't the first ones from Bellenor on Earth, and previous clans have been doing this for ages. Since many of them have special abilities, a nomadic life was the best protection. There are carnival clans that live on Bellenor, the world where they are from. It's a part of the culture for these people and, at this point, is a planned feature in future books.  

HWK: What do you love most about publishing in the 21st Century? 

CO'F: Aside from the fact that the barrier to publication no longer exists for anyone willing to do the work, I think the coolest thing about publishing today is the ability to try new things. For example, I was invited to write a novella to help launch Toby Neal's new Lei Crime Kindle World. Half Moon Girls launched last week! The whole concept of Kindle Worlds and the ability to license fan fiction in this way is possible in many ways because of how publishing has changed. I love that the short-story is making a comeback, and anthologies. Indie publishing has made a huge impact there as well. I am fan of publishing in all is flavors. But the changes are empowering, for sure.

HWK: What one writing tool do you wish you had?

CO'F: I wish I had a gigantic visual, wall-sized touchscreen for plotting and outlining. A dynamic flowing beauty like we see in sci-fi and futuristic movies. That would be the one writing tool I'd love to have. Like, right now, please. 

HWK: Your neighbors stage a protest march on your street. What are they protesting and would you join them?

CO'F: Hmmm. There are so many causes igniting passions these days. I could list a dozen. Instead I'll share one that I was talking about just yesterday. Something that's going on around here in Colorado that is troubling many people is the mass-murder of prairie dogs to make way for new development. While many see the prairie dog as vermin, the fact is prairie dogs are what is known as a keystone species--their existence contributes to local wildlife diversity and should they become extinct, that would result in the extinction of species dependent upon it for survival. I love their cousin... the squirrel. I *love* them. I have a pinterest board dedicated solely to the delightful squirrel. And based on that alone, I would absolutely join that march!  

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

CO'F: Oh man... that's a huge question! If I have to pick one thing, I'd like to empower people: It is possible for one person to make a difference in the world. And if you're passionate about something, do it! Don't listen to the people who would hold you back. No matter who they are!

HWK: Thanks for spending some time with us on Romance Spinners.


The Expatriates:

Amazon.comBarnes & NobleiTunesSmashwordsGoodreadsKobo

Half Moon Girls: Kindle Worlds Novella
A kidnapping and murder mystery/police procedural set in Toby Neal's Lei Crime Series


Links to info re: Toby's Kindle World - other writers can write in it if they want!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: My Novel: My New Novel!

Last week when I wasn't excepting it I was struck with the idea for a new novel.

Now, I've been mulling for a few months over what my next project should be. I have very specific plans for this novel. Originally, I was considering a Turn-of-the-Century steampunkish Romance novel involving an enchanted pocketwatch, but it just didn't hook me. Or rather, the characters weren't hooking me.

Oh well. Toss that idea aside. Maybe it'll develop itself later. Still am in need of a novel.

I'd been reading other A to Z Challenge blogs, and one of them spoke about how we needed to bare ourselves on our page. Only then can our novels come alive.

Normally I'm a bit nervous about baring myself on a page because I fear that someone will use my weaknesses against me.

Then I thought, my fear is the Real Me. How honest would it be to explore that on the page?

What if Our Heroine had the same fear and It Came True? The fear of someone deliberately using your weakness against you is a very real fear. I know this because it has happened to me. It's terrifying.

Thus, Our Heroine was born. I realise that she'd been lurking in me for decades. I'd even attempted to draft her into an earlier novel. I trunked that novel because it Hadn't Worked. Now I see why, because I was too busy bolstering up my heroine with hubris so she didn't get hurt. Not an attractive character trait.

I speak from experience; that does not work in real life. Yet that's exactly what too many people do.

(Now that I think about it, elements of her also appeared in my very first novel, when I originally attempted to put my personal experiences down on paper.)

Once I made the decision not to be afraid of Our Heroine's vulnerability, that's when she was truly freed.

Unlike most of my other newly-drafted characters, she even came with a name: Victoria Arden. Now, I'm terrible with names. I've completed final drafts of novels with characters sporting placeholders such as "His Badness" and "Lord MMMM", preferably with terms that are easy enough for search'n'replace without compromising any other text.

Our Story so far:

Miss Victoria Arden is no stranger to loss. She lost both of her brothers during military campaigns against Napoleon. When her father died, she and her genteel mother discovered that he was not as well-off as they thought. There simply wasn't enough money to keep poverty from their door for long.  The only solution: Victoria must marry.

When a cousin offers to host Victoria in London for a Season, naturally she jumps at the chance. He even provided a chaperone in the form of another poor relation.

Alas, the chaperone proves herself inadequate to the task. At a society do, Victoria is lured away by a less-than-savoury character with intentions of compromising her. Thanks to being raised by two brothers, Victoria is capable of surprising her attacker and escaping with her skirts down.

However, she never counted on her attacker's final weapon--gossip. To punish her for getting the best of him, he spreads the rumour that she was compromised. Based on this lie alone, Victoria finds her reputation completely and utterly ruined. The invitations stop coming. In public she receives the cut direct. Society quietly puts Victoria Arden away.

There go her chances of an honourable marriage.

One day when she's moping away, an invitation arrives for an "intimate supper", hosted by the Duke of Whatever. In her experience, "intimate suppers" often feature only a hundred guests or so. Plus, it's hosted by the Duke of Whatever, and he's considered good ton. Naturally, she accepts the invitation.

However, when she and her chaperone (who desires an atonement for her earlier lack of duty) arrive at the Duke's town residence, she discovers it's truly an intimate supper--only Victoria and the Duke.

There, he offers what many a fallen woman would consider a lifeline--carte blanche. A truly compromised young lady might consider such an offer.

But Victoria is furious. She lashes out at him for the insult. It's her lashing out at the unfair stricture that demands a young lady must remain virtuous or she is ruined forever, that a lie was stronger than the truth, and that Society is so shallow that they would seize any opportunity to squish a little ladybird like her purely for entertainment. But deep down, she lashes out at him because he would never have considered her wifely material; she's only good to tumble for a season, then abandoned at whim when he grew bored with her.

Nobody else might believe her, but Victoria is convinced she has some sort of value. If only someone else would recognise it.

So that's the premise. It's like this story is writing itself. I love it when they do that.

However, I need your help.

1. I'm terrible at names. Victoria's name came to me the same day the plot did. Also, the Duke's first name is John:
          "I insist you call me by my Christian name." Amusement tweaked at the corners of his lips.
          Victoria frowned at him. "I will not call you 'John' in front of others. It wouldn't be proper." It'd be too intimate. If she were to embrace such familiarity openly, then the ton would naturally assume she'd accepted his offer. "I won't do it."
          "And I will refuse to answer to any other name. My mother gave it to me. It means 'beloved'."
          Her temper flared. "I most certainly will not call you that in public!"
That's the sort of fun I'm looking for.

I welcome suggestions for names for the following characters:

  • John needs a last (family) name and the Duke of ______________.  I was considering claiming an existing title that was currently not in use at the time of the novel. I am open to something made up.
  • Victoria's Cousin. His father was Mrs Arden's brother. He's minorly-titled nobility, late 20's, unmarried, and extremely fond of Victoria in a protective brother sort of way. Isn't above supporting her in some harebrained scheme, but only if it makes sense. Will often act as a voice of reason.
  • The Chaperone. A poor relation. On the far side of middle-age, slightly foolish in many things. Easily distracted. Untitled gentlewoman.
  • The Compromiser. Serial ruiner of poor young debutantes for sport. Victoria spurned his advances and he's the one who spread the initial rumour. Son of gentry, maybe minor nobility, with an overblown sense of entitlement.
  • Society Matron. Moves in the highest circles and insists on proprietry. She's the sort of lady of which the Patronesses of Almack's approve.

2. The Duel. Compromiser is called out in a duel over Victoria's honour. He is shot. Should it be:

  • a minor wound--his pride is dented more than his skin.
  • a major wound that will affect him for the rest of his life.
  • his death. (slow or quick?)

3. Subplotty fun. Cousin needs a subplot. Could be romance, but it doesn't have to be. He needs something to centre his life on other than meddling in the affairs of Victoria.

I'm open to your ideas and suggestions in the comments. If I am influenced by a comment of yours, I'll put your name in the acknowledgements.

Her Grace acknowledges that writing is a lonely profession. However, novels are rarely spawned in a vacuum.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: M3 - Mr Money Mustache

Today is one of several M posts because there are many M things I'd like to talk about, and I couldn't choose just one.

I can't get enough of Financial Independence advocate Mr Money Mustache. His mantra is "Financial Freedom Through Badassity."

Darn tootin'! My cousin put me onto him, and I haven't looked back. I proudly declare myself a Mustachian. Please go read him. He will change your life.

If you have anything to do with money (and what human doesn't)? You really need to read him.

Essentially, his message is that we are cleverer than we realise, and through a simple plan of simplification (some would call it "frugality", but I don't know if that's the best term for it), you spend less than what comes in, save'n'invest your surplus so that in the end, instead of you working for your money, your money works for you. Also, with your attitude adjustment, you will find the happiness you were trying to buy with money.

He's not some accountant or financial guru. He's just some Canadian living in Colorado who once had a regular job AND RETIRED AT AGE 30.

After reading his blog, (I went hard core from the beginning) I see this as entirely doable. I've already put some of his ideas into place and I'm doing so much better for it.

His platform is thus:

  1. We spend too much money on things we shouldn't. "Your current middle-class life is an Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness," says MMM.
  2. We're far too consumerist as a society. And the worst thing is, many of us think that that is how it's supposed to be. 
  3. You don't have to "deny" yourself everything. Just be wiser in how you spend your money. Depriviation is NOT his message. (Frex: do you really need a double-soy latte from Starbucks every single day, when you could make your own at home for less than half the price?)
  4. Investments are simple and any Joe can do it. (He loves Vanguard.)
  5. Don't be a complainypants. That doesn't solve your problem. Proactivity is your friend.
  6. DIY's not that hard. Not only does it save you money, but increases your useful skill set and your self-esteem.
  7. Debt sucks your life as well as your money. How many of us are in a Debt Emergency? If you have debt, it's an emergency.
  8. Know what has true value in your life, and what adds true value. MMM lives a rather luxurious lifestyle by cutting out the junk and embracing what's truly valuable. This guy eats organic every day! His exercise plan keeps him in top shape without costing him a cent. He lives in the kind of efficient and comfortable house most people dream of. And it's all paid off.
It's hard to describe just how successful this bloke is in my solitary blogpost. All I can do is say, go read him. His no-nonsense attitude may be a little strong for those of nervous disposition or who are afraid to look their finances straight in the eye, but he's just the kind of kick in the pants many people need. His attitude towards money is one I think more people need to adopt.

Go Read Him Now!

Her Grace is already on her way to her own Financial Independence, even with her small salary.

A to Z Challenge: M2 - Marketing

Today is one of several M posts because there are many M things I'd like to talk about, and I couldn't choose just one.

One of the necessary evils of being a professional author is the Marketing. Writing the book is the easy part. Getting enough people to know about it enough for them to want to buy it is another.

I thought about writing about how difficult I find marketing, or about various techniques I've employed, or a Top Ten of marketing blogs, how Word-of-Mouth is the best marketing technique around or even just a Link Soup to other people's marketing opinions, but I thought, no. I might as well use this blog entry to share what it is I'm trying to market. that would be the most effective use of a blog entitled "Marketing".

Go buy my books.  Isn't that what marketing is all about?  It helps that I've written some pretty good stories (my editor and publisher agree. So do other readers). If you enjoy Romance and escapist fiction, check them out. Even if you don't buy my books, feel free to Tell Someone About Them.

About the Author

I'm a novelist. I write books, full-length and novellas. I've written a good double-handful of them. Now I'm in the process of polishing the better ones for publication.

I love Escapist fiction. Reality gets me down more often than not, and a good book rescues me from the Black Doghouse. Because of this, I prefer Romance (escapist fiction with a happy ending), Science Fiction and Fantasy.

My novels reflect that.

I have two novellas out currently, with a third due for release in February. Before then, I am working on an indie novella I hope to have released before the end of the year.

Would you like to ask me any questions?

Her Grace's Current Releases

As Good As Gold

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.

This was first published in a collection called The Enchanted Faerie. Later, our publishers The Wild Rose Press decided to release it as a standalone novella.

What I love about this is how Our Heroine Daywen does whatever it takes to find true love, even solicit magic. However, it's not so much the magic that does the work as Daywen herself. The little enchanted faerie she buys from a gypsy woman merely lets her know she's on the right track. Everything else that leads her to discover her love is purely of her own motivation. I like heroines that go after what they want.

Buy Links:
TWRP : Barnes&Noble : Kobo : Google Play :  AllRomance : Amazon

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?

When Beatrice visits England to research her branch of the Deveraux family tree, she meets Peter and sparks fly. Both question everything they ever believed would fulfill their dreams. If they dare to be together, will the Curse follow them beyond the stars? The answer to breaking its power could lie in the heart of a crumbling tapestry...if they have the courage to try.

When I originally wrote this tale, it was to be the last story in an anthology about the family curse. Every single other story was historical romance. Me, I thought I'd take mine in the other direction--namely the future. I think it might be the only Historical Romance novel set in the future.

Meanwhile, I'm plotting out my latest project tomorrow. Join me for "N" on the A to Z Challenge and have your say in what I write about next.

Her Grace shall always love books.

A to Z Challenge: M1 - Marriage

Today is one of several M posts because there are many M things I'd like to talk about, and I couldn't choose just one.

I read and write lots of historical Romance. One of the Big Goals in HR is Love within Marriage. Marriage is a forever thing (or at least, until death in some faiths), so is it any wonder that it's used as a distinctive marker for the HEA?

Throughout history, for the most part, marriage wasn't a joining of two people in love. It was a political union, most often for every reason BUT love. Yet humans crave that connection.

Today in much of Western culture, love is considered a necessary requirement before engaging in marriage. (In fact, if some governments learn that you are not marrying for love, but for some other reason, they could very well deny your license.)

In Historical Romance, you get two vectors:  Love Matches leading to Marriage -and- Marriage of Convenience leading to Love.  I've played with both. In the end, you get a married couple who love each other very much.

I confess I don't read too much Contemporary Romance (as I read mostly for escapism), so I'm not sure how strong the Marriage trope is when it comes to the realisation of the HEA. (Actually, the last Contemporary Romance I read was a M/M, and even that involved a marriage proposal between Our Heroes.) But in Historical Romance, it's all about finding Love in Marriage.

For me, if there's not a marriage (or at least the promise of marriage), the fulness of the love doesn't feel realised to me. For me, that's like Our Hero and Our Heroine declaring they want to spend the rest of forever together, and for the next eighty years, they shall express their undying devotion by holding hands. (Even I have kissing in my Sweet novels.)  Holding hands may be cute when you're eight or eighty, but in the years between, I'd expect a certain level of Brown Chicken Brown Cow between two people who are in love and have devoted their lives to each other.

I'm honestly trying to think of a Romance novel I've read that didn't feature marriage as a marker of the Couple's HEA. Feel free to suggest one in the comments.

Her Grace can't help but be a romantic.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Lists

I love Lists. I jot them down on the backs of envelopes, I notate them in my phone. Dot points are my friends. This blog has lists from time to time. (I need more, because I find lists fun.) I'm not the only one who loves lists.

To celebrate Lists, here is the Top Ten reasons we need lists:

  1. Lists organise things. It may be in a particular order, or simply as you think of them.
  2. Lists give a sense of satisfaction as you cross things off.
  3. Lists break big tasks down into tiny ones. Or gather a whole bunch of little things into one great whole.
  4. Lists are parseable. You can see what's what at a glance.
  5. Lists are logical. Even when they're apparently not in order, because there is a reason the list items appeared in the order they are in. Consider why your list is as it is the next time you write it down. 
  6. Lists make things accountable. This is the value of recording things.
  7. Lists keep a tally. The human brain can't easily quantify anything over the number five.
  8. Lists calm the mind.
  9. Lists are the reduction of too many firing neurons. What better way to get something off your mind than to write it down?
  10. Lists provide meaning to their contents.

What would you like to see me make a list of?
Her Grace is especially fond of used envelopes especially for listmaking.

Monday, 13 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Kissing

Nothing says Romance like a kiss. I can't think of a single Romance novel I've read that didn't have kissing in it. All of my novels have kissing in them even though most of them are considered "sweet" fantasy. I have yet to write a spicy scene of Brown Chicken Brown Cow, but every one of my Romance must have a kiss.

A romance novel without a kiss must be pretty tame indeed.

So today on Romance Spinners, we're celebrating the Kiss.

Top Ten Synonyms for Kissing

  1. Smooch
  2. Osculate
  3. Buss
  4. Smack
  5. Plant one on
  6. Peck
  7. Swap spit
  8. French
  9. Lock lips
  10. Pash

Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

Kissing in film:

First cinematic kiss "The Kiss" (1898):

Best Cinematic Kiss evahr!!

The one we all know and love:

Best literary description of a kiss: “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind." --"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman (1973)

Famous art featuring a kiss:

Rodin: "The Kiss"

Picasso: "The Kiss"
Klimt: "The Kiss"

Fragonard: "The Stolen Kiss"

Hayez: "The Kiss"

Her Grace loves a good smooch.

Wait. Who are these guys?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Jokes

I love a good Joke. Few things lift my spirit faster than a good joke.

Feeling down? A joke will lift you up. Not enough people realise that an appropriate joke well told is one of the best bandaids for the blues.

Someone in my life has an issue with the monkeys getting her down. As she's at a formative time of her psyche development, I am actively working with her to prevent The Blues from becoming a habit (which will lead to chronic depression). So, whenever she feels blue, I tell her a joke. Now I'm sharing some of them with you.

So if you are ever feeling down, here's a list of jokes to brighten your day:

Q: What happens to a frog's car when it breaks down?
A: It gets toad away.

Q: What's the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts?
A: Beer nuts are about a $1.50. Deer nuts are under a buck.

Q; What do you get when you goose a ghost?
A: You get a handful of sheet.

Q: How do astronomers organize a party?
A: They planet.

Q: Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building?
A: Of course. The Empire State Building can't jump.

I was wondering why the ball kept getting bigger and bigger, and then it hit me.

Here's some more jokes to lift your soul. I should post jokes more often.

Her Grace enjoys a good laugh.

Friday, 10 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Interviews!

On Romance Spinners, Fridays are for Interviews, where I often interview my fellow writers and other people of interest.

I find my fellow authors fascinating. I'm lucky I get to ask them about stuff.

I'll ask them about their books, their writing careers and fun, random questions. They also get a moment to Preach It! wherein they share what they would convince the world, if they could.

I've included some fun, thematically-appropriate interviews as part of my A to Z Challenge. 

Your chance to weigh in: what questions should I ask future interviewee authors? Let me know in the comments.

Her Grace loves to get a glimpse into the worlds of other authors.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: HEA (Happily Ever After)

One of the biggest reasons I love the Romance genre is because of the HEA (Happily Ever After).

I'm an optimist by nature, and an idealist. I love the concept that things will turn out all right in the end.

To be qualified as a Romance, a story must have an HEA or a Happily Ever After. This means Our Hero and Our Heroine get together and have their dreams come true.

Well, okay, within the story they do. We all know it doesn't work out like that in real life.

Boy, does it not work out like that in real life! Bah, humbug! If there is an HEA in reality, it's because the person or persons are actively working at it.

Life is a challenge. It is a test. We get all sorts of nasty stuff thrown at us during our time in Mortalilty. Life can really suck.

When life sucks, I love to escape into a book. When my life is miserable, the last thing I want to read is more misery.  (This is why I detest most "Literary" works. They're so depressing. But not Paolo Coehlo. He's a delightful bundle of joy that everyone should read.)

I read for escapism. When my life looks bleak, at least I can read a tale where someone else is having a better time in life.

Romance guarantees that. Sure, Our Hero and Our Heroine are also taking a rather painful road to get there, but They Get There, and that's what matters to me.

I wish I could go with them.
Her Grace shall always love Romance.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Good 'n' Gooey!

Today I am going to talk about something that's Good 'n' Gooey. I am also going to challenge you to attempt said Good 'n' Gooeyness in hopes that you can experience, first-hand, the delicious joy I've been enjoying for the past week.

Every year I make Easter cake. This cake is highly reminiscent of the Hostess Snowballs I loved as a child.
Hostess Snowballs. Yum.

This year, my cake-making was a disaster thirty-six ways to Sunday. First, I mistook bulk-buy pudding mix for my bulk-buy chocolate sponge cake mix, (Raw eggs and pudding mix do not a cake make.) Then I completely fuffed up an easy six-egg sponge by sifting the sugar (considered a "wet" ingredient) into the dry, instead of into the beaten eggs. Result.... um, let's just call them giant cookies. And really, you don't need to hear about the rest of the disasters. Far too many, and far too depressing.

In the end, I went to bed in disappointment. No Easter cake.

The next day I picked myself up and thought I'd try again. I wasn't game to try for a sponge cake, after four disasters yesty, plus I was nearly out of eggs.

Alas, this was Good Friday. Australia shuts down for Good Friday. Completely shuts down. There was no way I was able to go buy a chocolate cake mix, so I was going to have to make one from scratch.

So I googled any recipe for Devil's Food Cake (what? Devil's Food on Easter?  Well, yes. After all, Angel's Food Cake is for my birthday).

I found one that claimed to be "The Only Chocolate Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need."

This one here: 

It was rated five stars.

F I V E  .  S T A R S .

Not 4.8 or even 4.9.  Five. Stars. By hundreds of people.

So I gave it a go.

SUCCESS!!  Oh, my goodness! It was so easy to make up, baked up delightful, and was an absolute dream in moistness, texture, you-name-it. This one earned its place in the Family Cookbook.


I only baked up the cake. I didn't give their icing a go, because, after all, this was my Easter Cake.

And Easter Cake must be topped with marshmallow.

Home Made.

Shop-bought marshmallows are nothing compared to home-made marshmallow.

This recipe is out of the Wessman Family Cookbook. It's simple, though requires a touch of precision. If you've never made candy before, I recommend giving it a try as it's difficult to mess up, but I recommend using a thermometer for getting the temperature right.

Note, my original recipe is in American. I translated it into Australian for those metrically-minded (which is, let's face it, most of the world).


2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin (15 g powdered gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Karo syrup (Glucose syrup)
3/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
dash of salt

In a large mixing bowl sprinkle gelatin over the 1/2 cup cold water. Let sit and absorb for about ten minutes or so.

Bring to a boil: 3/4 cup water, glucose syrup, sugar and salt.  Boil until softball stage, approx 235°F (115°C).  You do not need to be exact in this temperature.

Pour boiled syrup over gelatin and beat with a beater at highest speed until it becomes light and fluffy with stiff peaks. This'll take about ten minutes or so. (Recommend a stand mixer for best results.)

Once you've made your marshmallow, you can do whatever you want with it. Pour it into a buttered dish, let set for 30 minutes in fridge, then cut into squares. eat plain, or roll in Jello crystals. Or pour into individual moulds, to be dipped in chocolate later. Or, as I intended, cover the World's Best Devil's Food Cake with it.

So there you have it. Cover a Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow and coat with coconut.  This is Her Grace's Easter Cake.

Okay, I couldn't find any coconut in my pantry. I could have sworn I had some, but it was not making an appearance.

I can forgive myself that slight oversight. As you can see, this cake has been delighting Our Graces for a few days now.

Your Challenge:  Try this cake recipe and let me know if you agree it is one of the best.

Her Grace has contented herself over her earlier disasters with a successful cake.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Forgiveness

I'm religious. I quite enjoy how my particular faith fills my life and gives me meaning, purpose and direction.

My faith has a lay priesthood, so every member is trained to be a leader. I like this method of leadership, because, on the whole, it makes us strong and capable as individuals and as a group. Currently, I serve as a teacher. One of my more powerful lessons is one I taught last year (or two years ago?) on Forgiveness. I thought I'd share bits of it again here, because not enough people in the world understand what forgiveness is or how to apply it.

Forgiveness is simply this: letting go of the negative feelings in your heart. And that's it. Nothing more.

Forgiveness is an individual practice that has nothing to do with other people.

The biggest mistake people make regarding forgiveness is thinking that it has something to do with other people. Often the negative feelings in our hearts have something to do with something someone else did to hurt us. But to let go of our negative feelings doesn't depend on other people.

People think that forgiveness means saying that whatever it is that someone did to us is like saying what they did is okay. It's not okay. Their actions, whether deliberate or accidental, caused you pain. Forgiveness is not excusing what they did or even giving it justification. Sin cannot be justified. The person who believes this will often say, "I can't forgive him," because they believe (erroneously) that to forgive is to give justification to the wrong that was done them.

Every time you use the word "forgive", try substituting, "let go of the pain" and see if your meaning shifts.

Forgiveness is letting go of the pain in your heart so you can progress. Holding on to the pain does not punish the other person, or even vindicate the wrong that was done.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with other people. It's all about you. The pain you feel hurts you, not them. Do not hold on to that pain.

To truly forgive is to let go of that pain. It does not eliminate justice, it has no bearing on the effects of another's sin on that other. They will have to deal with that, either through true repentance or consequences and punishment. And that will have to be between them and God (and their confessor and maybe the laws of the land).

Even if the one who offended you doesn't get brought to immediate justice, that doesn't mean you must continue to hold on to the pain. They will receive their just desserts sooner or later regardless of how long you are suffering. You hurting for five minutes or five years will not change the severity of what was done.

But you holding on to that pain will affect you, and not for the better. Why suffer longer than you need to? And the longer you hold on to it, the harder it will be to let it go, as it becomes familiar and a habit.

Forgiveness is letting go of the negative feelings in your heart. It's that simple. Not necessarily that easy. It takes practice.

Sometimes you can forgive for thirty seconds. Sometimes you can keep that negativity away for a short while. If you can do that, you've started on the road to permanent forgiveness. The longer you can let go, the better off you'll be. Get into the habit of releasing the negativity every time it tries to creep into your heart.

And creep back it will. Every time it does, push it away. You do not deserve to be unhappy, but happiness isn't granted. You've got to maintain it. The longer you work at releasing negativity, the easier it becomes. Eventually, you'll be able to forgive for thirty years. Or three hundred. Or permanently.

Letting pain settle in your heart as a permanent resident will hinder your progress through life.

Do not let your ability to let go of pain be dependent on the justice of whatever it was that brought you pain. Do not be deceived into saying, "I'll only forgive her after she apologises." "I'll only forgive them once the judge pronounces them guilty." If you do, you might be waiting an awfully long time.

Not forgiving will harm you spiritually, mentally and physically. It is in your best interest not to get tangled up in whatever grief you have been given.

Let it go.

You will be happier for it.

Her Grace believes in Christ and the healing power of His Atonement. This belief gives her strength when she needs to forgive.

Monday, 6 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Envelopes

I confess a fondness for envelopes.

Whenever we get post, I'll carefully slit open the envelope at the left end (never the top!) and slide out the post. Most of the time it's something like a bill or school communication or even well-dressed junk mail. Whatever. That gets filed (cabinet, folder or round) depending on its significance, but the envelope is what I truly wanted.

On my desk, under my keyboard, is where the empty envelopes go.

This is my collection of scratch paper. I will sketch out my lists and notes on the backs of these envelopes (that's why they must be opened carefully, so to preserve their neatness and integrity).

I tried a regular notepad, but it simply didn't do. I don't know what it is about the envelopes, but they have an appealing charm. Maybe they are the right size and heft, to give my lists a substantiability.

The envelopes have to be used. I cannot use a pristine, unposted envelope. I feel I'm ruining its potential when I use it thus. But the posted ones, the ones that most people would simply throw away?

To me, they are gold.

Her Grace is a listmaker. Also, for brainstorming, she prefers the sturdiness of an old envelope, as napkins, the traditional brainstormer's stationery, are too flimsy for her taste.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Double-spacing after every sentence

I learned to type about thirty-something years ago on a real typewriter. Loud clackety thing it was. I was about ten or so, and took a summer class. I loved to type, even though I wasn't very quick at it.

A couple of years later I took a typing class at junior high. Alas, I was the slowest kid in class, clocking in at a very slow thirty words a minute. I barely passed that class because of my (lack of) speed.

Yet I continued to keep typing. I loved typing because it make me feel like a real writer. So I typed lots and lots.

Pretty soon, I got up to a decent speed. Then someone introduced me to computers. I was hooked.

With the ability to make on-the-go corrections, I was able to get my speed up to a respectable 100 wpm, a speed I can still maintain to this day when I'm in the Zone.

One of the earliest skills I learned was to double-space between sentences. This was a practice left over from the early typesetting days and is called English-spacing. In typesetting, the em-space was often used between sentences to make it easier to read the text. On a proportionately-spaced typewriter, this was indicated by two spaces.

Since I practiced typing for years and year, you can bet that practice of double-spacing after every sentence was well-ingrained. Single-spacing was used after typesetting for stylistic purposes. It was called French spacing. After all, anything odd or out-of-the-ordinary must be French, right?

Computer really changed the art of typing (or 'keyboarding' as it was later called). Suddenly one did not need to have to know how to set tabs on a machine, and carriage returns at the end of every line became a thing of the past. Word processors enabled formatting of all sorts, and one did not have to apply formatting as one went.  Finished typing a document? You could go back and make changes of all kinds. Including replacing all those double-spaces with singles.

Mignon Fogarty, the Grammar Girl offers this easy suggestion: "On a typewriter, double-space. On a computer, single-space." So, what happens when you have one of these?

I have seen editors who insist that double-spacing is a No-No. (Fortunately, a search'n'replace can get rid of them.) But as much as I would love to please them, I can't seem to get rid of this double-spacing habit.

Her Grace is grateful for Ctrl-H.